Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Get Your Craft On

You know you have issues when your husband sees your latest project and comments, "The girl is crafty like ice is cold." That's right -- my recent foray into the craftosphere has made Dave go all Beastie Boys on me.

Now that Kara is old enough to actually participate, I thought it would be fun to make some gifts this year. My mom gave me an a copy of Family Fun Magazine that came to her office, and I saw these two projects. One is a woven fleece scarf and the other is stenciled dish towels. (By the way, it's moment like this - ie typing the words "stenciled dish towels" - that I think that I have gone way way over the edge.)

The towels are still a work in progress, but we are on our way with the scarves. Here is one I did on Saturday. It's true, I am so cool that I craft on weekends.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Holiday Jobs


While it is nice to have the kids home all day on Thanksgiving, there comes a point when I am in need of some serious distraction. How many times can I answer the question, "When are they going to get here?" with the appropriate amount of parental civility? When my little girl starts to really ramp up the irritating, I find that nothing works better than giving her a job. She is a master potato masher. She can set the table. She is excellent at anything that involves bossing around her brother, or father for that matter.

This year I found a new job: place card creator. Very effective in getting her out of the kitchen. Very cute result for our Thanksgiving table.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Vegan Dumplings

A couple of weeks ago my friend Katie brought her new boyfriend over for dinner. Once again, I was struck by an irrational need to really impress her new guy. (This neurosis was exacerbated by the fact that said boyfriend in French. Not fair, but true.) It turns out that David, the new guy, is a vegetarian which fits right in with our current eating habits. In any case, I decided to use this occasion to try something entirely new: Vegan dumplings.

After much combing of vegan and vegetarian websites, I finally settled on this recipe for Vegetarian Potstickers on Herbavoracious (an awesome site, btw). My issue with veggie dumplings is always that they are too mushy without any meat to give them some firmness. This recipe seemed like it could counteract the mush factor by using tempeh in the filling.

This recipe is "easy" in the sense that it is straightforward; it doesn't require strange ingredients or any advanced cooking supplied. However, it is time consuming. Folding all of those little dumplings took at least 45 min. While the filling tasted delicious, I added more cabbage than he calls for plus some shredded carrot an finely chopped mushroom. I was pleased that the tempeh did, in fact, make the filling nice and firm. Not a trace of mush.

As I was frying up dumplings, chopping ingredients for our main course of bi bim bop, and whipping up the sauce for both dishes, Dave commented that this might be the most high-maintenance dinner ever. He may have been right, but it was worth it. How often do you get to cook for your friend's French boyfriend? If ever there was a time to go all out...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Peanut Butter Noodles

I was perusing Dinner a Love Story, one on my favorite blogs, and Jenny mentioned that the recipe for peanut butter noodles was one of the most often viewed on her site. Considering that I check out her blog pretty much every day, I wasn't sure how I missed that recipe. Not only did I read it, I made it last night. Fabulous.

A few notes on the recipe:
-I found that 2/3 cup water was a little too much, so I just added a little more peanut butter.
-I also added a splash of mirin. If you like cooking food with Asian flavors, Mirin is a great thing to have in your pantry.  Mirin is Japanese sweet rice wine, though Kikkoman labels it as "Sweet Rice Seasoning" which is pretty accurate. I first learned about mirin when I was working in New York and one of my coworkers told me that, "Mirin is the thing that makes Asian dressings taste, well, Asian." She was right. Like the carrot-ginger salad dressing that comes with your pre-sushi salad? It probably has mirin in it as a sweetener. Enough about mirin. Get some. It's great stuff.
-This recipe makes a pretty good sized batch of sauce. Plenty for two meals.
-Sadly, this recipe did not have the magical effect described in the post -- my kids didn't really like it. Dave and I thought it was phenomenal, however, which makes it a success in my book.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Tahini Dressing

Another lesson from the vegan adventure: It's all about the condiments. If you are going to put grains, beans, tofu and veggies in the center of your diet, you better have some good dressings and marinades to go with it all.

In my vegan research I read Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Life. Don't laugh. While it is enthusiastic in the extreme, she has some good tips and more than a few good recipes. One of the best was her tahini dressing. Tahini is sesame seed paste. It is delicious.

Of course, I am not a big follower of dressing recipes, so I will just give you the gist of it.

This one is most easily made in a food processor. I used my Mini-Cuisinart.
-Put in the food processor 2 cloves of garlic and a chunk of ginger. Chop up.
-Add 2 tbsp tahini, a squeeze of lemon juice, a dash of soy sauce, a couple of tablespoons of rice vinegar and mirin. Blend until smooth.
-Finally add olive oil until you get the consistency you like. Blend. I also added a little agave to sweeten it up. Honey would work well, too.

This will keep in the refrigerator for several days. It is great on salad, cooked vegetables, rice, beans, falafel, tofu. You name it.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Eleven Madison Park Granola

I saw this recipe for granola in the New York Times Magazine on Sunday. Ok, I am pretty skeptical about most granola recipes. I am really wary of recipes that come from super fancy New York restaurants. This formula is not so different from the Mark Bittman template I usually follow. But something about including olive oil and coconut chips just inspired me to give this a try.

It turned out that I didn't actually have any coconut chips, and neither did Trader Joe's. But I did have pepitas, oats, grated coconut and a variety of dried fruits. The key to this granola is the brown sugar, maple syrup and olive oil that make up the coating for the oat mixture. When you bake the granola, this sugary mix becomes heavenly.

Hands down, this is the best granola I have ever produced. It is definitely sweeter and richer than my typical recipe, but I am still willing to bet that it is far healthier than the average store-bought granola. Give it a try.