Sunday, November 29, 2009

the final decision.

Ha. I say "final decision" with such certainty! There's always a possibility I'll change my mind on this list again, since I do have nearly three weeks before the baking extravaganza, but I decided to take Courtney's advice and scrap both bar recipes, since bars tend to get squished in transport. I also axed the malted chocolate cookie since it called for several ingredients I don't typically keep on hand, and would find using up the leftovers difficult. However, one cannot have Christmas without a little bit of chocolate, so I added the Mexican Chocolate Cookies I made last year to the list -- an easy drop cookie with fancy flavors!!

Here are all nine final contenders:

sea salt caramels
my grandma's Christmas cookies with buttercream and sprinkles
Gingerbread Cutout Cookies
Lemon-Rosemary Butter Cookies
Anise Tea Crescents
German Honey Cookies
Yummy Molasses Crackles
Mexican Chocolate Cookies

If only I could hit fast-forward, because I can't wait to tackle all of this baking!

What are your holiday baking plans this year?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

V.V. important question re: cookies

I posed my Christmas Cookie baking plan a few days ago, and as I've started to get a little bit more organized, I'm realizing something . . .

I'm crazy.

ELEVEN different cookies/bars/candies?? WHAT? The "20 cups flour" item on the shopping list put me over the edge a little bit!

So, here's what I need from you . . . what would you cross off the list? Please check out the following recipes and suggest cookies to eliminate from the lineup, or alternately, cookies you insist I make:

(I only reposted the "maybe" cookies, since I'm unwavering on a few varieties.)

Cream Cheese-Swirled Brownies (I'm going to add some peppermint extract to the cream cheese layer)
Fig and Cream Cheese Bars
Gingerbread Cutout Cookies
Chocolate Malted Cookies
Lemon-Rosemary Butter Cookies
Anise Tea Crescents
German Honey Cookies

Thank you! All opinions welcomed and appreciated!

Friday, November 27, 2009

food for 2, for 2

Continuing our attempt to shop for the two of us, for two weeks at a time, I had one major haul to walk home from the co-op tonight! (Dan's busy recording with one of the bands, and has the car.) Forgive me for not laying everything out pretty-like, but I was mighty tired by the time I arrived home!

organic French green lentils
local slivered raw almonds
local raw walnut pieces
local, organic cornmeal
locally-roasted, organic, fair-trade coffee
local, organic yellow popcorn
organic, fair-trade, natural granulated sugar

local queso fresco
local part-skim mozzarella
local sharp cheddar

organic orange juice concentrate (local company)
organic cookies & cream ice cream

Preserve razor refills

locally-bottled, organic curry powder
kava kava root

chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
organic ginger tea
locally-bottled, organic vanilla extract
organic diced tomatoes
organic, fire-roasted, diced tomatoes
harvest whole wheat crackers (like Triscuits)
Seventh Generation dish soap

local, organic broccoli
organic celery
local, organic carrots
organic cucumber
organic bananas
organic avocado
organic brussels sprouts
organic green kale
organic spinach
local, organic white button mushrooms
local, organic yellow onions
organic green onions
organic green bell pepper
local, hydroponic lettuce
local, hydroponic tomatoes
local cranberries
organic navel oranges
local, organic apples
organic mini sweet peppers

local sour cream
5-grain tempeh
firm tofu
grapefruit juice
local, organic plain yogurt
organic flour tortillas


I am super-proud of this grocery shop! We came in WAY under budget, still managed to buy mostly organic, got everything on the list except maple syrup (I'll pick some up at the FM tomorrow, since it's much cheaper,) and saved a TON of money on sale items! Woo! Oh yeah, and we managed 46% local, even though our growing season is definitely over.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

cookie plan, as requested . . .

Lauren, this one's for you!

Here's my Christmas Cookie plan for this year:

sea salt caramels
Cream Cheese-Swirled Brownies (I'm going to add some peppermint extract to the cream cheese layer)
Fig and Cream Cheese Bars
my grandma's Christmas cookies with buttercream and sprinkles
Gingerbread Cutout Cookies
Chocolate Malted Cookies
Lemon-Rosemary Butter Cookies
Anise Tea Crescents
German Honey Cookies
Yummy Molasses Crackles

Yes . . . call me crazy . . . but I'm having an impossible time narrowing down the list, so I'll probably make all ELEVEN different things! (If anything gets the axe, it will be the brownies and/or the chocolate malted cookies. Weird that I'd cut both chocolate recipes I chose!)

Monday, November 23, 2009

I did yoga tonight!

It was much needed. :)

I probably won't be posting again until after the holiday, so happy Turkey-Free Day to all!

Friday, November 20, 2009

meals from the week and a mini-shop

Many of you out there can probably relate to the beginning of this post -- I've learned over the past six months or so that it takes a LONG time to adjust to living with a partner. Don't get me wrong -- I wouldn't go back to living alone if you paid me -- it's just that we're still working out the "kinks." For example, how in the HECK are we supposed to get all of the laundry, cleaning, dishes, whatnot done, and still have time left to hang out together, (AND see family and friends,) with my long work days and Dan's busy schedule??? We thought a little more about this issue this week, and have sorted out a couple of potential solutions, including doing the grocery shopping during the week, Dan being responsible for a little more of the housework right away when he gets home from work, (since he gets home so much earlier than I,) and both of us focusing on staying on top of the "clutter" in our teensie-tiny apartment. We are also seriously considering shopping every other week, and last weekend was kind of a trial effort. Here are meals from week one of this experiment:

A simple casserole to throw together the night before and pop in the oven after work:

VT's recipe for Asparagus Mushroom Bread Pudding pleased both the lighter eater (me) and the pig-out guy (Dan) in one pan! Even though I don't care much for eggs, I loved the light texture and load of veggies in this one, and Dan loved the filling bread and layer of goat cheese on top! Side salads rounded out our meal, and it also made fine leftovers for lunches the next day!

I've been working the Crock Pot more than ever these days, and managed to forget to snap a picture of a sweet potato stew I loaded in there on Tuesday night for Wednesday's dinner. (The busiest night of my week -- fifteen minute turnaround between getting home from work and having to leave for choir practice!)

The butterscotch pudding was such a hit, I made a batch of vanilla-chai pudding later in the week:


Thai Soup with tofu and lemongrass is a frequent request of Dan's:

Even though this recipe has a couple of major steps to it, (including straining the broth before adding the mushrooms and tofu,) it's pretty quick to the table -- only about an hour!

I used a lump of Artisan Bread dough and some leftover fresh basil as excuses to make pizza:

Mmmmm Margherita!

AND, since we polished off such a huge grocery shop last weekend, our list was so short this week I was able to sneak off to Mississippi Market during my break and fill in the gaps for this week:

(Pardon all of the lettuce -- we're bringing a green salad to Thanksgiving!) I picked up red and gold beets, organic baby mixed greens, local hydroponic lettuce, parchment paper, parmesan, goat cheese, fresh mozzarella, pecans, non-GMO cornstarch, whole-wheat pasta, and locally-roased, organic, fair-trade coffee! Even though I had to haul the groceries home on the bus, it's nice to have that errand out of the way so we can enjoy our weekend a little more!


We're taking a beet and goat cheese salad to Thanksgiving. The great debate is . . .

Walnuts vs. Pecans.

Please offer your opinion!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

"I always have time for garlic".

To explain the title of this post . . .

Dan has a habit of asking if I need help with anything in the kitchen, listening to a job/assignment I offer, then stating, "I just have to _______ first." (Insert whatever you think appropriate in that blank -- finish this newspaper article, go to the bathroom, check email, etc!) By the time he's ready to help, I'm usually past the stage where I'd need that job done, so I do it myself.

You'd think I'd find this behavior frustrating; I just think it's hilarious!

So, this afternoon, as I was busy making pizza for our lunch, I exclaimed that I had forgotten to slice up a few garlic cloves to top our pizza; Dan immediately hopped up from the computer, grabbed a cutting board and knife, and went to work.

Needless to say, I was surprised, especially since Dan HATES peeling garlic. When I described my surprise, Dan's response?

"I always have time for garlic."

You'd think he was of Italian ancestry or something.

Anyhow, here's that glorious pizza:

AND, the baked mac and cheese with broccoli I made for dinner:

I promise you we each consumed two side salads over the course of the day, too! One cannot survive on cheese and carbs alone. :)


Not much to look at, but this was some fantastic homemade butterscotch pudding! Yum, yum, sweet and caramelly goodness!

I'm thrilled to report that today I also prepped a bunch of greens for consumption later this week, washed and spun a bunch of lettuce for salads, whipped through a batch of granola, baked a pan of oatmeal-raspberry bars, and made our ENTIRE dinner for tomorrow night, save baking it off and making a salad. Woo! I love being prepared for the week!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

boiling whole grains

To answer your question, Crystal, some whole grains stand up really well to boiling, just like pasta! I mostly do brown rice, but I think this would work well for oat groats, wheat berries, rye, any other sturdy, usually long-cooking grain. How to do it?

1. Bring a pot of water with a pinch of salt to a boil. (Covering the pot obviously makes the water boil faster.)

2. Add whole grains. Return to a boil. Stir. Lower the heat a little so the grains don't boil over, but keep at a near-rolling boil, until the grains are done. I don't usually cover the pot at this point, 'cause I don't cover pasta either. Brown rice takes 20 to 25 minutes, depending on how fresh it is.

3. Drain grains in a colander and serve!

And don't worry, I didn't come up with this on my own -- Mark Bittman rocks.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

fast food . . .

. . . FOOD SNOB style!

Fast food #1:

Tortilla, cheese, leftover beans and rice, fold up, bake until crispy, voila! Nearly instant burritos. And we all know it takes less than five minutes to make a salad. :) Feel free to top your burrito with extra salsa -- I just happened to have purchased "extra hot" salsa at the FM last weekend, so the beans and rice were plenty spicy for me without anything extra. (The man who sold me my salsa said, "You like spicy? You will like this -- it will take you to Mexico!" Awesome -- I need a vacation anyway!)

P.S. Aren't you proud of Dan for picking up whole-wheat tortillas?

Fast food #2:

I can have curry on the table in the time it makes to make a pot of brown rice. (And mind you, I boil my whole grains, so brown rice takes at most 25 minutes.) Fry up the pressed tofu in hot oil, pull it out so you have room to quickly cook the veggies and ginger, add coconut milk, curry paste, low-sodium soy sauce, and a little sriracha, (water, too, if needed,) and simmer until thick. Stir the tofu in at the end, and dinner's served! Yum.

We've been enjoying a lot of squash curry lately, since squash is plentiful, cheap, and local. What "unconventional" ways have you been enjoying squash this fall?

Sunday, November 08, 2009

unseasonably warm weather

We've been having unusually warm weather these past few days, (highs in the 60s!) and since Dan was trapped inside the recording studio all day yesterday, we decided to go for a hike this afternoon, even though it was kind of cloudy and threatening to rain. We drove north and west to Lake Maria State Park, which we visited last on my birthday in May! A few pretty shots from the afternoon:


I've been cooking like a crazy person as usual this weekend, but I have few photos to show for all of my efforts! I somehow managed to make pizza AND chocolate chip cookies, and forgot to take pictures of each! Disaster! Here's what I did manage to capture . . .

Lunch today:

ACH. Blogger is rotating pictures that I did not rotate! Anyhow, tilt your head to the side and feast your eyes on this feast! Tofu Mom's Lentil Loaf, (vegetarian version,) roasted fingerling potatoes, and steamed brussels sprouts doused in garlic butter. I was initially disappointed in the lentil loaf because it did not set up or hold together well for me, but after my first bite, I'm in LOVE. Amazing, amazing, amazing!!!!! I think if left unattended, I could have eaten the entire pan myself. Make this now!!!! Total veg comfort food -- not going to fool any die-hard meatloaf fan, but this is its own fantastically delicious, rich, tasty creation. YUM!

And, dinner tonight:

More fried rice! Yum again! Dan's brother came over for an impromptu get-together tonight, and this simple, delicious meal made everyone happy. Both guys went back for seconds! Alright!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

finishing up the shopping

I met up with my friend Courtney this morning, and finished up the weekly shopping. First, we hit up the Farmer's Market:

A smaller load this week, running only $15, but I still got tons of good stuff! Bell peppers (!), green onions, yellow onions, garlic, salsa, beets, and brussels sprouts! Yum all around.

After the FM, we made the long walk to the Asian grocery store:

Coconut milk, tofu, ginger candies, and persimmons! I'm very excited persimmons are in season right now, but no one is more excited than Courtney. :) She buys them a case at a time!!

I plan to get a head start on my cooking projects today, since Dan's MIA all day long -- super rockstar that he is, he's recording until 10 PM. More later!

Friday, November 06, 2009

return to the kitchen

I haven't cooked since Monday night! (Really, unless you count serving soup out of the Crock Pot and making quesadillas cooking, I haven't cooked since Sunday.) Egad! I guess I did bake Monday night, (muffins and granola,) but still . . . the moral of the story is, it was good to get back into my kitchen tonight. Dinner:

Millet-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms, from Vegetarian Times, with a side of garlicky, balsamic-vinegary kale. I really don't care for millet, but I enjoy it in this recipe for some odd reason. Good thing, because it's damn tasty! Dan almost considered a second mushroom half, but restrained himself.

I think he was saving room, because he convinced me to go for a walk with him, promising me an ice cream cone at the end of our travels! We started our walk at the co-op, since Dan wanted to pick up some tea and we needed groceries anyway:

local, organic, whole-wheat pastry flour
local, organic rolled oats
locally-roasted, organic, fair-trade coffee

local part-skim mozzarella
sharp cheddar

organic paprika from a local company

baking soda
organic tomato sauce
whole-wheat panko
Seventh Generation dish soap

organic bananas
organic white button mushrooms
local hydroponic lettuce

local, organic plain yogurt
local, organic eggs

I have plans to hit the Farmer's Market and Asian grocery store tomorrow, to pick up a few additional things.

In the end, the ice cream cone was worth the effort put in to obtaining it! Pumpkin ice cream is a good, good thing.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

boo, food, hipster kitty

First off, happy very belated Halloween! Hope you had a good one. Dan and I had a pretty low-key day -- we ran errands in the morning/afternoon, went to a play/puppet show thing in a park that a friend was playing music for, and had leftovers for dinner. :) We did finally carve our pumpkin, though, and had plenty of seeds to roast! Yum.

On to food . . .

Lunch Sunday:

Buttery cabbage and onions over egg noodles, with sides of homemade applesauce, and rye bread and butter. Humble and tasty!

Dinner Sunday:

Fried rice! How is it possible that I've forgotten about this simple, quick, and delicious meal for so long! You'll be seeing more fried rice in my not-so-distant future, for certain.

Dinner Monday:

Despite the quesadilla looking like the star of this meal, that humble black bean soup in the background was delicious! (Well, so was the quesadilla, but the soup recipe was new.) I picked up Love Soup by Anna Thomas a few weeks ago, and this is the first chance I've had to cook from it. I made "Black Bean and Squash Soup," on page 140, and it was SO easy and SO delicious! (And doesn't really taste like squash, which is a good thing when squash is in season but you have an anti-squash partner.) I didn't really follow the directions in the recipe, just chucked everything except the salt in my Crock Pot (dried beans included!), turned it on, and went to work. Came home, added salt and veggie broth base, pureed with the stick blender, and voila! Yum. We've been eating this soup all week for work lunches, and I'm still not sick of it!

Last but not least, you know all the hipster cats wear their scarves inside during cold weather:

I don't make a point of torturing the cat very often, but this was worth it!