Just Over A Year Later…

Posted by: on Aug 3, 2012 | No Comments

Well, it’s been about a year since we moved from the east coast to the west. In so many ways, moving across the country was easier than I anticipated. We went from living in a little house to an even smaller apartment. It turns out we needed even fewer things than we thought.

Herbs on the terrace

Food and flowers are so central to what makes me happy. I love my little herb garden on our patio, but I do miss having a real garden. Mostly, I miss the potential of having my own dirt and space. I loved romanticizing our plot of land. It was all very Gone With The Wind, at least in my mind.

Here, I do get to take pictures of other people’s flowers.

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These gardenias were just hanging out in front of a bank like they weren’t anything special at all. I casually stalked them until they finally bloomed.

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Of course, there are palm trees here.

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There are oak trees and redwoods too, but the palm trees make me feel like we are really living someplace else.

Trees

I have become completely spoiled by year-round farmers’ markets, evening walks to Turkish cafes, and never really needing a winter coat.

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Despite missing east coast family and friends, we are happy here.  California is home for now, and it turns out moving isn’t so scary after all.

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Easy Vegan Eggplant Parmesan

Posted by: on Aug 2, 2012 | One Comment

Easy Vegan Eggplant Parmesan

My Italian grandmother used to make the best Eggplant Parmesan. She would fry delicate slices of eggplant and bake the layers covered in cheese and sauce. This is not that dish. In fact, she would probably shudder at this quick version. But, that’s okay because it’s really delicious and a perfect quick weeknight meal. Roasting the eggplant prior to adding the sauce eliminates the need to fry it and makes for a much less messy process.

I feel like a need to add a quick word about vegan ‘cheese’…most of it is awful. Sorry, it just is. I think you just need to try a few kinds and see what tastes best to you. I don’t eat it often and only serve it melted. If you eat dairy, it would also be great with regular mozzarella cheese!

I always like to top baked dishes like this with fresh herbs. When I made this I had some fresh oregano on hand. It is also great topped with chopped fresh basil or parsley.

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Vegan Eggplant ‘Parmesan’

8 Japanese Eggplant
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves of garlic
2 1/2 cups tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups vegan or regular mozzarella
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil or oregano for serving

Slice the eggplant into 1/2 inch thick rounds and top with salt, pepper, oregano, garlic and olive oil, arrange in a single layer in a baking dish or individual heatproof dishes, bake 450 for twenty minutes, remove from the oven and add sauce and cheese and bake for another 20 minutes Raise the heat to broil and bake two additional minutes or until the cheese is bubbly. Allow to cool for about five minutes prior to serving. Top with freshly chopped herbs.

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Banana Chai Smoothie

Posted by: on Jul 25, 2012 | 5 Comments

Banana Chai Smoothie

I sometimes feel a little silly posting smoothie ‘recipes’ since they are so simple, but I know I am always looking for new ideas. The coconut flour in this makes it a little thicker and creamier. This trick works fairly well as a substitute for yogurt if you don’t eat dairy.  I used a strong chai blend of black tea, cardamon, black pepper, cinnamon and other spices.The spiciness of the chai pairs well with the banana and adds just enough sweetness. You could always add a bit of honey if your banana is under ripe or you just prefer it a little sweeter.

Banana Chai Smoothie

1 very ripe banana
1 cup  strongly brewed chai (2 teabags or equivalent per 1 cup of water)
1 tbsp coconut flour
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
2 cups ice

Brew the chai and allow to cool completely. Combine all the ingredients and pulse in a blender until completely smooth! This makes about 2-3 servings.

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Vanilla Extract: Phase One

Posted by: on Jul 10, 2012 | 2 Comments

Vanilla Extract: Phase 1

It may be July, but I already have Christmas gifts on my mind. I knew I wanted to give vanilla extract a try after seeing how easy it can be to make. I recruited my mother-in-law to help with the project. We pick up several liters of decent vodka. I had ordered these pretty bottles with airtight stoppers and Madagascar vanilla beans. Each vanilla bean was slit in half with two per bottle. Each 8.5 fl. oz. bottle were filled to the base of the neck with vodka and now they will sit for several months. The color will darken to a deep amber as the vanilla steeps. When I head back the west coast, my mother-in-law has generously agreed to shake them every few weeks so they will be ready for Christmas gifts in December.

To see examples of the what the finished product will (hopefully) look like check out: Annie’s Eats and Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy.

Vanilla Extract

1/4 pound Madagascar Vanilla Beans
12 8.5 fl. oz. airtight bottles (or any airtight bottle you have on hand)
4 1.75 liters of vodka

Split the vanilla beans, drop at least two pods into each bottle and fill with vodka and allow to sit for at least two months in a cool dark location shaking occasionally.

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Scenes From The Shore…

Posted by: on Jul 9, 2012 | No Comments

Point Pleasant

My weekend at the shore on the east coast had all the necessary elements for a great short vacation with family. We spent a day on the beach and the boardwalk. New Jersey beaches are one of the more entertaining spots for people watching.

Lobsters by the shore

My brother cooked us lobsters for dinner two nights in a row. He even pre-cracked the shells making it a fully indulgent experience.

Beaten by one point

In my family, no beach vacation is ever complete without a Scrabble tournament. My dad is somewhat of a master of the game. He only beat me by a point in our last game, and I am already ready for our rematch.

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Happy 4th of July!

Posted by: on Jul 4, 2012 | 2 Comments

Wedding Fireworks

I hope you are having a great fourth of July! I am enjoying the possibility of a low-key day and maybe some evening fireworks over the Hudson River.

* The photo above is by Hendrickson Photography from our wedding, but I think it applies.

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Apple and Sage Turkey Sausage

Posted by: on Jun 16, 2012 | 3 Comments

HipstaPrintHomemade Apple Sage Turkey Sausage

Sunny Side Up

This was breakfast today. Yes, I broke the yolk. This happens in real life. Yesterday, I dropped a whole omelette on the floor so today was an improvement. These turkey sausage patties are actually better the next day making them perfect for reheating. I have a ton of fresh sage and was thinking of a way to start using some of it. It is one of the few herbs that is loving the partial shade on our terrace. (I, however, am not loving it and am thinking of sneaking my tomato plants in with the apartment’s landscaping…) Sage can be really strong, but turkey can be pretty bland. The combination with the apples and onions give these a great texture. Don’t worry about making flat patties as you are forming them. They will be very delicate before you cook them. I just flattened them once they were in the pan. They will cook quite quickly, and I found frying them to be easiest as two man job if you can recruit the help. Of course, these are great with a sunny side up egg.

I am now somewhat obsessed with the idea on making sausage links. Real sausage. Last night I took the first step: adding the grinder attachment for my standing mixer and natural sausage casings to my wishlist on a certain website.

Apple and Sage Turkey Sausage

1.5 pounds lean ground turkey
1 Granny Smith apple, diced
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp fresh sage, finely minced
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, form the mixture into small rounded patties. Heat enough oil to coat the bottom of a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Place the patties into the oil and press with a spatula to flatten. They will cook fairly quickly and need about 2-3 minutes per side.

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Scenes From Today…

Posted by: on Jun 14, 2012 | No Comments

Sometimes, I like baking for no reason…

Baking Banana Bread

and letting my dog nap in a warm pile of clean laundry…

Sleeping in Clean Laundry

I also really enjoy browsing pictures to procrastinate when I should be finishing a project. Oh, look a heart shaped kiwi from the farmer’s market! Cute, no? Photos are the best distractions.

Heart Shaped Kiwi

Okay, back to work. I will be back soon with a bunch of new recipes, including a remarkably delicious but un-photogenic guacamole recipe.

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A Wall of Jasmine and Bougainvillea

Posted by: on Jun 7, 2012 | No Comments

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J: Are you going to stop and take a picture of this every single time?

Me: Yep.

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Lentil and Almond Granola

Posted by: on Jun 4, 2012 | 5 Comments

Cinnamon Lentil Granola

When I saw this recipe for Lentil Granola at Stone Soup, I knew I would have to try it immediately. I used to eat oatmeal and granola all the time before I went grain-free for health reasons a year ago. I made a few changes to the recipe to make it Specific Carbohydrate Diet friendly. This includes soaking the lentils overnight to remove some of the starch. This does change the texture a bit and affect the cooking time so you could follow the original recipe if this isn’t an issue for you. Many people don’t eat coconut on the SCD, so you could also leave it out and this would still work well. For anyone following this diet, you know it can be difficult to find substitutions for grains, but this is really good.

The mellow flavor of the red lentils is absolutely key for this recipe, and you can find them in just about any market. They are my go-to choice for soups so I actually had all these ingredients on hand. You could add dried fruit or other nuts to this granola. I found that I really liked it with just lentils and coconut. I will be posting another variation of this recipe soon that is perfect if you prefer your granola to have more crunchy clusters.

Lentil and Almond Granola
Adapted from Stone Soup

4 cups pre-soaked lentils *see note below
1/2 cup honey
3 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup desiccated unsweetened coconut
1 cup raw almonds
1/4 cup extra virgin coconut oil

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the lentil. Cook for about 2 minutes. Drain well and allow to cool. In the warm pot stir together the honey, coconut oil, cinnamon and vanilla. Add the lentils and combine well. You can taste it at this point to check for sweetness. Spread the mixture onto a parchment lined sheet pan and bake for about 15 minutes. Add the almonds and stir well. Bake for another 45 minutes stirring after about every 15 minutes. Add the coconut after 45 minutes have passed. Turn the oven up to 325 degrees and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the lentils are golden brown. Allow to cool in the oven for a crispier granola. I kept this refrigerated in an airtight container.

* To prepare the lentils, rinse well in cold water. Soak overnight in the refrigerator and rinse again prior to use. I have an hand held strainer that I can fit into a large bowl to prevent this from turning into a huge mess!

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