Friday, November 30, 2012

Batch of links

- In time for Christmas: The owners of Montreal’s two culinary bookstores (anglophone and francophone) choose their favorite cookbooks of the year.

- The Huffington Post makes fun of Jamie Oliver for his dyslexia. Um, how about a portrait of a man who has an incredibly successful career, including as a best-selling author, in spite of dyslexia? Wouldn’t that be more fair?

- Since Hostess is closing its doors, here’s the Twinkie manifesto, by Paul Krugman.

- The tricky ways Fox News uses to manipulate statistics on its graphics: Am I the only one who think some of these methods should be illegal?

- Scientists have used nose cells to help paralyzed dogs regain some mobility in their hind legs It’s not going to be a cure for humans, but it’s a step in the right direction (no pun intended).

- A touching photo essay: When a kid’s room isn’t a room.

- Dealing with food allergies as a host. This post on The Kitchn was meant as tips on how to prepare food when you are hosting and you know one of your guests has a food allergy. Reading the more than 200 comments, though, it devolved into an argument, where most people fall in one of two camps: either hosts who will make what they damn well please regardless of guests’ food restrictions, and guests with food restrictions acknowledging that, while they realize it’s a hassle and they wouldn’t want the entire meal to center around them, still tend to value staying alive more than other concerns. I understand that there’s really no way to make something like a potluck absolutely safe for everyone, but if you’re inviting a small number of people for dinner, don’t you want to feed them without killing them? What’s the point of making your typical dish if the guest physically cannot eat it? Personally, when I go over to someone’s house for dinner, I tell them in advance that I am lactose-intolerant. While I do not expect the entire meal to be lactose-free, I DO expect not to be served a cheese fondue as a main course. I just don’t understand these hosts who don’t care about allergies (or dietary choices); perhaps it’s not an issue because they don’t have any friends left to invite?

- Awesome project by a female engineer: A construction game for girls.

- Red states have more fatal traffic accidents than blue states. I’m a little surprised, and a little not.

- Still have Thanksgiving leftovers? Here are some ideas for fresh meals (I could really go for those turkey spring rolls). Oh, and why not: a recipe for veggieducken. There’s always next year!

- Watch eggs get broken in super slow motion. Strangely satisfying.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Curried Grain Salad

I like (mild) curry, but I don’t like when it overpowers a dish. Not too long ago, I made aloo matar (potato and pea curry), but the flavors were too much and I got sick of it quickly. More recently, I tried an interesting two-in-one dish: curried quinoa pilaf with roasted squash and yogurt-marinated chicken; the first night, it was a chicken breast on the side of a quinoa-stuffed acorn squash; the second night, it was a quinoa salad with cubed squash and chicken that went on to feed us an extra day beyond that. Unfortunately, I didn’t find it good enough to make it again. But then, I made this curried grain salad from Bon Appétit (the original recipe called for spelt, but I used farro). This is a dish where the curry plays a supporting role, and it’s delicious. The only thing I would change would be to use lemon juice instead of lemon rind next time, as some forkfuls had no lemon taste at all and others tasted powerfully like lemon. Note that you can roast your own chicken if you want, of course, or omit it for a vegan or vegetarian meal.

2 cups spelt, semi-pearled farro, or whole wheat berries, rinsed
1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 ½ tsp. curry powder (I always use mild curry)
2 tsp. yellow mustard seeds
¾ tsp. ground cardamom
¾ tsp. ground coriander
6 small carrots, peeled, cut into ¼-inch dice
freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup thinly sliced red onion (about ½ large onion)
½ lemon cut lengthwise, ends removed, finely chopped with peel (about ½ cup; or lemon juice, as said above)
3 cups shredded cooked chicken (from 1 rotisserie chicken; optional)
2 cups baby or wild arugula
2 cups (packed) cilantro sprigs with tender stems plus more for garnish (I used leaves)
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Place spelt and 1 tsp. kosher salt in a medium pot. Add water to cover by 1 ½ inches. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until spelt is tender and water is mostly absorbed, about 1 hour (or 12–15 minutes if using semi-pearled farro). Drain; place in a large bowl.

Meanwhile, heat vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add curry, mustard seeds, cardamom, and coriander; cook, stirring often, until spices are fragrant and mustard seeds begin to pop, 2–3 minutes. Stir in carrots and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until carrots are crisp-tender, 5–6 minutes (I cooked mine longer).

Add vinegar and stir until evaporated, 1–2 minutes. Stir in onion and lemon. Remove pan from heat and stir until onion is wilted, 1–2 minutes (I put it back on the heat to wilt the onion to my taste). Add vegetable mixture to bowl with spelt. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let cool.

Add chicken (if using), arugula, 2 cups cilantro, and olive oil to spelt mixture; toss to combine. Transfer salad to a large platter. Garnish with cilantro sprigs.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A perfect long weekend

It’s not often we get long weekends like these. Since the Engineer worked from home Wednesday, it felt like a 5-day weekend for us. It was enough time to do everything: run errands, do chores, spend a day cooking for Thanksgiving (post to come), go see a movie, spend extra time together, lounge around and do nothing, plus make some major headway into a small home renovation project.

I’d like to mention how wonderful the movie Life of Pi is (we saw it last Friday). I had read the book a year or two after it came out, and the Engineer read it last year. The book is great, but we were aware that it was nearly un-adaptable for the big screen, so we couldn’t help being a little apprehensive about it. It turns out that Ang Lee is a genius! This movie had wonderful special effects (while I normally dislike 3D movies, this was totally worth it), but more importantly, the story was told coherently and as faithfully as one could hope, in a way that kept the viewers’ attention. I loved the actors, and there’s even a scene that made me unexpectedly homesick for Montreal. [I forgot to mention that we got such a craving for Indian food that we had dinner at India Oven the following night.] I really recommend this movie!

As long as I’m recommending stuff, here’s what I’ve been reading this fall. There were two books about dogs: The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein, and A Dog’s Purpose, by W. Bruce Cameron. Both are written from the point of view of a dog, though in the first case, the dog has a human-like understanding of what goes on around him, while in the second case, the dog processes things like you’d expect a dog to do. Both books were excellent, though I had a preference for A Dog’s Purpose. It should come with a box of tissues, too – I can read a book about the Holocaust without shedding a tear, but if the dog dies, I’m just sobbing like it was my own dog.

On a happier note, I also read the hilarious Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, by Jenny Lawson, better known as The Bloggess. This autobiography is probably most interesting to people who are fans of her blog; I know the Engineer stopped reading after a chapter because he couldn’t keep up with her thought process (I’m not sure what it says about me that I enjoy it). And then there was Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. She’s the author of Dear Sugar, of which I’m already a big fan (I talked about it here; and here’s a link to column #87 as an example). Wild is the story of the summer she spent hiking the Pacific Crest Trail by herself at the age of 26; it was a fascinating read, both funny and poignant, and extremely well written. I heard via Twitter that it will be made into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon; as much as I like her, I was picturing Sonya Walger or Anna Torv to play Cheryl Strayed. Anyway… I also read The Truth About Style, by Stacy London. I’ve always loved her on What Not To Wear, and when I found a bookstore that sold autographed copies online, I couldn’t resist. In this book, she opens up about many of her insecurities, then relates to other women and explains how style can help them overcome their difficulties. Anyone who’s a fan of the show will enjoy this, but it’s also a good read for neophytes. [And here’s a feature on Stacy London and her closet on The Coveteur.]

I’m currently reading The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain. It’s a fictional account of Ernest Hemmingway’s relationship with his first wife, Hadley Richardson, and their years in Paris in the 1920s. I’m only halfway through, but I’m really enjoying this novel!

[Note that the books I talk about here are available in my Amazon store, so if you want to buy them online, I’d appreciate it if you could use that link, as I would get a small percentage of the proceeds. Not that I have anyone really using the store yet.]

Vegan Senate Bean Soup

Another post without a good picture. I considered not posting it at all, but I think the soup was too good not to share. I really should have taken the time to style it during good daylight hours, like I did with the roasted peanut soup, but somehow I never thought of it during the day. I do want to share the recipe, though, because it was really good, and really fast to make.

I adapted the recipe from The Family Kitchen on Babble. The story behind it is that the original recipe is the only soup that is served daily in the United States Senate cafeteria. It calls for ham hock, which has been replaced by liquid smoke in this recipe. It was my first time using liquid smoke, but it won’t be my last! It really adds a lot of “barbecued meat” flavor, without any meat. (Plus, the kitchen smelled wonderful, which had the Engineer salivating from the moment he set foot in the house after work.) I doubled the recipe before writing it below, so that it can serve 4 to 6 people, and I simplified the preparation of the potato as well as the blending of the soup (if you have an immersion blender, it’s so much easier here than a blender or food processor!). Instead of using 4 Tbsp. of hot sauce, which seemed like an obscene amount, I used 2 tsp. of Korean pepper, which is pretty mild. The end result, though, was surprisingly spicy, and borderline comfortable for me (I had to keep eating my pretzel roll to give my mouth some respite). Use hot spices at your discretion here. Also, while I used 4 tsp. of liquid smoke, it may have been a bit much; I’d use 2 or 3 tsp. next time and adjust to taste if necessary.

2 cans (15 oz. each) Navy beans, rinsed and drained
2 ½ cups water
1 large bay leaf
1 tsp. salt
½ red onion, chopped
2 branches celery, chopped
1 large potato, cubed (or equivalent, like 8 red potatoes for me)
½ cup chopped parsley
4 garlic cloves and 1 Tbsp. garlic powder (OR 8 garlic cloves OR 2 Tbsp. garlic powder)
2 to 4 tsp. vegan liquid smoke (adjust according to taste)
½ tsp. black pepper (I eyeballed it)
1 tsp. Korean pepper (or more, or chili pepper or hot sauce, to taste)
6 Tbsp. vegan margarine
¼ to ½ cup or more soy creamer (or soy milk, or more water), as needed to thin soup
(optional: you can also add nutritional yeast or lentils, or top with crackers or croutons)

In a soup pot, add the drained beans, water, bay leaf, salt, onion, celery, potato, parsley, garlic, liquid smoke, black pepper, Korean pepper, and vegan margarine. Bring to a boil and simmer while potato cooks through.

Remove bay leaf from soup. Using an immersion blender, blend until the soup is puréed (you can leave some beans whole if you’d like). Add as much soy creamer as you’d like to thin out the soup.

Simmer on stove until ready to serve.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Soda, by any other name...

I recently did some research to find out the differences between soda, club soda, sparkling water and the like. This was sparked by the desire to own a SodaStream. (They come in various price points on Amazon, and soda siphons are even cheaper. Plus, how nice does an old-fashioned seltzer bottle look?) I had visions of fruit sodas and simple syrups, things you’d find in a book like The Artisan Soda Workshop Cookbook, for example, or at Brooklyn Soda Works. Blueberry lavender? Cranberry, orange and ginger? Hibiscus, cinnamon and ginger? Strawberry and basil? Concord grape and fennel seed? Red currant and shiso? Anything with real vanilla? The sky is the limit!

I had seen, years ago, a device that allowed one to squirt carbonation into any liquid or even solid, like berries. I assumed that’s how soda makers worked, but everything I read says that the carbonation must only be added to water, which is then mixed with flavorings (and sweeteners). So I decided that I had to find out exactly what plain carbonated water tastes like, since I tend not to like sparkling mineral water and similar beverages and mixers. (That being said, the owners of Brooklyn Soda Works say it’s fine to carbonate fruit juices directly, as long as you clean the siphon thoroughly afterwards.)

What’s confusing is that there are a lot of different terms that are often used interchangeably by people, even though they really are different. Here’s a little glossary I’ve come up with, for those of you who are interested:
- Sparkling water / Carbonated water: water to which carbon dioxide has been added
- Seltzer (water): naturally carbonated mineral spring water from Selters, Germany (it was originally a trademark, but is now used as a generic term for sparkling water)
- Club soda: essentially sparkling water with sodium salts
- Soda water: effervescent water that contains bicarbonate of sodium, which has a distinctive taste
- Soda (pop): carbonated water with flavoring and sweeteners
- Tonic (water): carbonated water in which quinine is dissolved; known for its bitter taste

(By the way, you should really take a look at this awesome party trick found via Pinterest: it turns out that quinine glows under a black light, so you can use tonic water to make things like glow-in-the-dark cupcakes!)

I then bought sparkling water and tried two soda recipes: a honey herb soda from Not Without Salt (honey thyme, in my case, as I have plenty of thyme in the garden) and a ginger ale with fresh mint from Bon Appétit (again, with mint from the garden). While both syrup bases were delicious, it turns out that carbonated water does have a distinctive, bitter taste. According to Wikipedia, this is because the pH of carbon dioxide is acidic, and the addition of an alkaline salt can balance it out. This would suggest that I’d have better luck with soda water than sparkling water, but I didn’t know that at the time. I actually thought it was the mineral taste I didn’t like, but it was the carbon dioxide all along! This came as a surprise to me, because I love sparkling drinks (sodas or fruit juices), but I guess that’s because there’s enough sweetener in there to mask the bitter taste. I must say, though, that I now drink mostly carbonated fruit juices instead of naturally sweetened sodas, because less sugar is better, and I very rarely have “regular” sodas like Coke. It used to be that the only sparkling juice out there was Ocean Spray (in either cranberry or blueberry-pomegranate), but now V8 fusion has joined the fun with flavors like tangerine-raspberry, black cherry-pomegranate and strawberry lemonade. I feel like the fruit juice pulp separates from the carbonated water a bit and I don’t really like that, but the flavors themselves are good, and the Engineer is actually a big fan.

So in conclusion, I will not be buying a SodaStream. While I enjoy the varied flavors of soda I can make at home, I think it’ll suit me better if I can buy a carbonated mixer I like, or just use plain water, and enjoy the flavors of the homemade syrup.

Now that the SodaStream is crossed off my list, though, I wonder if I could justify the extra space taken up by a VitaMix 300… Or a new attachment for the KitchenAid stand mixer…

Un autre macaroni au fromage crémeux

Je n’étais pas certaine d’écrire un billet pour cette recette. Après tout, j’en ai déjà publié plusieurs, des recettes de macaroni au fromage sans lactose. Mais finalement, je pense que cette recette, tirée de The Kitchn, vaut la peine d’être partagée. Elle se fait rapidement, sans roux, et même si j’ai trouvé le plat un peu ordinaire le soir-même, je pense qu’il était nettement meilleur le deuxième soir! J’ajoute aussi du poivre dans la recette, parce que je trouve que c’était nécessaire (la photo a été prise avant l’ajout de poivre).

1 lb. de pâtes courtes (orechiette dans mon cas)
1 ½ tasse de lait sans lactose (entier ou 2 %)
2 c. à soupe de farine tout usage
2 à 3 tasses de fromage râpé (du cheddar extra-fort de marque Tillamook dans mon cas)
½ c. à thé de sel
¼ c. à thé de poivre
¼ c. à thé de moutarde en poudre
Facultatif : extras cuits (jambon, bacon, oignons, pois, champignons, poivrons, etc.)

Amener un chaudron d’eau à ébullition, saler, puis ajouter les pâtes. Cuire jusqu’à ce que les pâtes soient al dente, environ 8 minutes.

Une fois les pâtes cuites, préparer la sauce au fromage. Commencer par réchauffer 1 tasse de lait dans le chaudron. Mélanger ensemble la ½ tasse de lait restante et la farine, jusqu’à ce qu’il n’y ait plus de grumeaux. Quand il commence tout juste à y avoir des filets de vapeur s’élevant du lait dans le chaudron, ajouter le mélange lait-farine et continuer à mélanger jusqu’à ce que le lait épaississe un peu pour avoir une consistance semblable à de la crème, soit 3 ou 4 minutes.

Baisser le feu et commencer à incorporer des poignées de fromage au lait. Ajouter le sel, le poivre et la moutarde. Mélanger jusqu’à ce que tout le fromage soit fondu, et la sauce, crémeuse. Goûter et ajuster l’assaisonnement au goût. Retirer du feu.

Dans un grand bol (ou directement dans le chaudron et tout d’un coup, pour vous éviter de la vaisselle), combiner les pâtes avec la moitié de la sauce. Mélanger pour que la sauce recouvre les pâtes de façon homogène. Ajouter le reste de la sauce et les extras, puis mélanger de nouveau.

Variation : on peut aussi mettre le macaroni ainsi préparé dans un plat allant au four, le couvrir de papier aluminium et faire cuire à 350 °F pendant 30 minutes. On peut alors enlever le papier, recouvrir le macaroni de chapelure et de quelques noisettes de beurre, et cuire à découvert pendant encore 15 ou 20 minutes, jusqu’à ce que le dessus soit doré, et l’intérieur, bouillonnant.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Honey-Thyme Roasted Pork Loin

This dish, from Serious Eats, had been in my bookmarks for a long time. I ended up putting it off because I try to eat chicken instead of pork most of the time, and I had recently made roasted pork tenderloin with mustard and herbes de Provence at the Engineer’s request. But then I decided that since pork tenderloin is practically white meat, I could give myself permission to have it more often to get through some of those recipes (hence the recent pork with apple and mushroom sauce). This pork was a hit! The Engineer said it had a delicate, light flavor, and he enjoyed it very much as well. I would say that the chicken broth sauce is good, but optional. I served the dish with honey-roasted red potatoes (sensing a theme?). If you do the same thing, I’d recommend putting the pork in the oven at the same time as the potatoes, as the potatoes should then finish roasting while the pork is resting.

a 1 ¼-lb. pork tenderloin
kosher salt
freshly cracked black pepper
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 tablespoons fresh thyme
¼ cup thyme or lavender honey (I used lavender honey from Bleu Lavande)
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature (or margarine)
¼ cup low-sodium organic chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 375 °F. Take the pork out of the fridge 15 minutes before you want to use it. Pat it dry with a paper towel, and season the pork liberally on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, sear the pork until golden brown on all sides, about 3 minutes per sides, or 12 minutes total. Take the pork out of the pan, and add the chicken stock. Scrape up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan, and reserve the sauce.

While the pork is searing, whisk together the thyme, honey, and butter until completely incorporated. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Carefully rub the mixture all over the outside of the seared pork.

Place the honeyed pork on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet that has been lightly oiled. Use a spoon to pour any of the honey mixture that runs off the meat back on top of the pork loin. Pour the chicken stock from the searing pan into the baking sheet. Roast the pork in the oven until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145 °F. (I see this in many recipes, and while it is true that pork is best when still rosy inside, I tend to trust my digital thermometer, which recommends 170 °F.) Take the pork out of the oven, tent with foil, and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Slice into medallions, and serve with the pan sauce and a few extra sprigs of fresh thyme.

Honey-Roasted Red Potatoes

This recipe is fantastic! I simply loved these potatoes. The outside is slightly crispy, while the inside is almost creamy. I would double the recipe below to serve 4, because we were holding back as it was, but I would definitely have gone for seconds if there had been enough. (Normally, I hate when recipes call for just a little bit of chopped onion instead of half or a whole onion, but in this case I planned ahead and just set aside 2 Tbsp. when I was making my sweet potato and red bean soup.) I served the potatoes with honey-thyme roasted pork loin.

1 lb. red potatoes, quartered
2 Tbsp. diced onion
2 Tbsp. butter, melted (you could use margarine)
1 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 pinch salt
1 pinch ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 °F. Lightly coat an 11”x7” baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Place potatoes in a single layer in prepared dish, and top with onion. In a small bowl, combine melted butter, honey, mustard, salt and pepper; drizzle over potatoes and onion.

Bake for 35 minutes or until tender, stirring halfway through the cooking time.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Batch of links

- What to consider before selling a recipe.

- Hostess has announced it will be closing, though another company might take over production of its confections. That being said, you can always make them yourself, at which point it’s no longer junk food.

- An article by Mark Bittman titled The Food Movement Takes a Beating. Here’s an excerpt I like: “Money, lies and mistakes crushed the forward-thinking votes in California, but these are battles lost in a war that will be won. The notions that we need to know what’s in our food and that food should not be harmful have not been defeated. It’s a question of finding the right strategy.” (And hopefully, after this, I’ll stop talking about Prop. 37.)

- The aptly titled Obama’s Game of Chicken, or how the administration tried to stand up to Big Food in defense of independent farmers, then either lost or gave up. Here’s an excerpt: “Farmers are still expected to own their own land and to bear all the risks of investing in facilities, like chicken houses, just as they did when they sold into fully open and competitive markets. But almost all the authority over how they run their farm and what they earn now belongs to the companies. ‘A modern plantation system is what it is,’ said Robert Taylor, a professor of agriculture economics at Auburn University who has worked with poultry farmers for close to three decades. ‘Except this is worse, because the grower provides not just the labor, but the capital, too.’”

- The Center for Disease Control warns about rampant, dangerous use of antibiotics on livestock, but unfortunately lacks the legal authority to do anything about it.

- And finally, because I want to end this on a good note: various requests made by presidents to the White House chef for Thanksgiving. I’d like to have dessert with the Obamas this year!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Soupe aux haricots rouges et aux patates douces

Je me trouve poche de ne pas avoir de meilleure photo… Il s’agit d’une soupe que j’ai adaptée de Coup de Pouce, notamment en remplaçant le poivron vert par des épinards. Il y avait du orange, du jaune, du vert, des légumineuses… Et c’était absolument délicieux! J’ai vraiment adoré ça, et simple comme c’est, je pense bien en refaire cet hiver. Vous pouvez servir la soupe avec des croûtons sur le dessus, ou alors avec du pain. Pour une fois, j’ai privilégié des croustilles – une nouvelle sorte au romarin et au thym, avec des ingrédients naturels, de Central Market. Miam!

1 boîte de 19 oz de haricots rouges, rincés et égouttés
3 c. à soupe d'huile végétale
1 oignon haché
2 gousses d'ail hachées finement
1 c. à thé de basilic séché (j’ai plutôt utilisé de l’origan et du thym séché)
¼ c. à thé de sel
¼ c. à thé de poivre noir du moulin
4 tasses de bouillon de légumes réduit en sodium
2 tasses de patates douces pelées et coupées en petits cubes
2 tasses d’épinards
½ tasse de maïs en grains surgelé

Réduire environ le tiers des haricots en purée avec une fourchette.

Dans une grande casserole, chauffer l'huile à feu moyen. Ajouter l'oignon, l'ail, le basilic, le sel et le poivre et cuire, en brassant de temps à autre, pendant environ 5 minutes ou jusqu'à ce que l'oignon ait ramolli. Ajouter les haricots en purée et entiers, le bouillon et les patates douces.

Porter à ébullition. Réduire le feu et laisser mijoter pendant environ 10 minutes ou jusqu'à ce que la patate douce soit tendre. Ajouter les épinards et le maïs et réchauffer.

Mexican Chocolate Tofu Pudding

The first time I made this chocolate pudding, the Engineer and I both agreed that it was delicious, but that it didn’t taste enough like chocolate. I ended up making it again and doubling the amount of chocolate in it, and I think we have a winner! Since this adds up to one pound (!) of chocolate, I’d advise you to go with the best quality you can find. I used Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate, but I’d consider something richer next time.

¾ cup sugar
¾ cup water
1 lb. silken tofu (take it out of the fridge early)
16 oz. high-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. chili powder, or to taste (I used only a pinch)
chocolate shavings (optional).

In a small pot, combine sugar with water; bring to a boil and cook until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly.

Put all ingredients except for chocolate shavings in a blender and purée until completely smooth, stopping machine to scrape down its sides if necessary. (If your tofu is too cold, the chocolate might seize up, so it’s important to take it out of the fridge early.) Divide among 4 to 6 bowls or ramekins and chill for at least 30 minutes. If you like, garnish with chocolate shavings before serving.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Chocolate Shavings

First, I’d like to say hello to everyone visiting me from Chocolate and Zucchini! A link to my kale salad with avocado, apricots and parmesan was just featured. If you want more kale salads, try garlicky kale salad, kale salad with peanut dressing or Emerald City salad. And if you’re wondering what to have for dessert, peanut butter ice cream might hit the spot.

I found this recipe on Gluten-Free Goddess. I’m changing it a little here, because I found it much too thick, and it’s rock-hard in the freezer. I think the xanthan gum is definitely not necessary, so I omitted it below. It’s delicious ice cream, though, rich in flavor, and vegan to boot. I think the secret is the coconut oil.

My trick for the chocolate shavings is to get a bar of chocolate (like Ghiradelli’s semi-sweet chocolate) at room temperature, then shave off pieces with a vegetable peeler. I got beautiful curls that way, but of course they were broken into itty-bitty pieces in the ice cream maker. It might be a good idea to save some for topping the ice cream.

1 14-oz. can organic coconut milk, chilled
¾ cup light brown sugar
½ cup organic natural peanut butter with sea salt
1 Tbsp. organic coconut oil, at room temperature (liquid)
1 tsp. good vanilla extract
3 Tbsp. dark chocolate shavings

Combine the chilled coconut milk, light brown sugar, natural peanut butter, coconut oil, and vanilla extract in a blender or food processor. Whip until all the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is creamy and frothy.

If the mixture is warm-ish, chill it before adding it to the ice cream maker. (Note that if you has chilled your coconut milk beforehand, this step won’t be necessary.) Freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. Just before turning off the ice cream maker, add the shaved dark chocolate.

Scoop into a freezable quart container, cover and freeze.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ms. Lonelyheart's Peanut Butter Cakelet

This is a cake that I made on a whim (and renamed, also on a whim). I had a jar of peanut butter to use up before the expiry date (it was from our emergency kit), and there were two egg whites in the fridge left over from one of the Engineer’s cookie recipes. I made it using dairy milk instead of almond milk, and since that’s the only change I made, I can only assume that’s why my cake is totally different from the one promised on Foodie Fiasco (weird name for a food blog, too). It was supposed to be a flat, fudgy cake, but mine was super tall and dry, albeit spongy. This is when it pays off to have a decently clean microwave, for impromptu pictures! I didn’t unmold it, because the rim of the muffin top was stuck to the ramekin, but the stump of it was, in fact, free from the ramekin. It was good, but I’m not sure I’d make it again – though perhaps I’d try it with non-dairy milk, just to see. Note that this cake can be made vegan, and it is naturally gluten-free.

1 Tbsp. peanut butter
2 Tbsp. almond milk (I used lactose-free dairy milk)
2 egg whites, or 1 Tbsp. egg replacer mixed with 4 Tbsp. water for a vegan version
2 Tbsp. coconut flour
½ tsp. baking powder
pinch salt
sweetener to taste (I used 1 Tbsp. of sugar, though I could have done with more)

In a small microwaveable bowl, add the peanut butter and almond milk. Nuke for 45 seconds to a minutes, stir, and let sit for a few minutes. Add in the rest of the ingredients and stir until everything is evenly incorporated. Spoon the batter into a greased mug or ramekin and smooth out the top. Microwave for about 2 minutes, keeping a close eye on it to cook it shorter or longer as needed because microwave cooking times vary so greatly. Let cool for a few minutes before unmolding. You can also make a glaze for it by warming 1 tsp. almond milk and 1 tsp. peanut butter for 30 seconds, mixing it well and pouring it over the cake. Given how tall my cake was, I decided to leave it alone.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Rosemary Garlic Chickpea Soup

You know how I love chickpeas. Sometimes, I try a new recipe that doesn’t quite work out (like a couscous with chickpeas, fennel and citrus, which wasn’t all that good, or chickpea curry patties with a cucumber yogurt sauce, which were good, but not so good that I’d make them instead of any other chickpea patty I have). Other times, I try them prepared differently, like roasted and crispy. This time, with a new recipe that prepared chickpeas differently, I was rewarded enough to make up for all the ho-hum meals. This soup was awesome, super easy to make, and practically free (I have rosemary in the garden and everything else is basically a pantry staple, and a cheap one at that). I found the recipe on the aptly named Bowllicking. I served the soup with some sea salt pita chips. This recipe makes about 6 servings. (You’ll have to excuse the picture: I only took one at dinner, when it was dark and the soup had sloshed around in the bowl. I fully intended to style this dish a little better at lunch the next day, and it completely slipped my mind. I was just focused on eating it!)

3 Tbsp. grapeseed or other neutral-flavored oil
8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary (or thyme)
½ tsp. dried red pepper flakes (I used Korean pepper)
3 15-oz. cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 cups vegetable stock
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
acid to taste (start with 1 Tbsp. sherry vinegar or 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice and go from there)
kosher salt

Garnish (optional):
a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
a pinch of red pepper flakes
freshly cracked black pepper
a sprig of fresh rosemary

Heat the grapeseed oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over low-medium heat. Add the garlic, rosemary and red pepper flakes, stirring frequently until the garlic just starts to brown and is fragrant (about 5 minutes). Add the drained chickpeas, continue stirring and cook for 2 minutes. Add the vegetable stock, bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.

Blend until smooth either using an immersion blender (my preference) or by transferring to a blender or food processor in batches. (This soup would probably be good even without being blended, but the blended chickpeas give it a wonderful creaminess.) Blend in the olive oil, acid, and kosher salt; I start with 1 tsp. salt and adjust to taste – it usually ends up closer to 1 ½ tsp., but it’s largely dependent on the saltiness of the stock used.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with olive oil, red pepper flakes, black pepper and rosemary.

Batch of links

- Many of the people in the path of Hurricane Sandy lost power for so long that they had to throw away all the contents of their fridge (and freezer) and stock it from scratch. Here’s what the editors at Saveur would buy to restock their fridge.

- And speaking of Sandy, it’s been pointed out to me that while one death is tragic, a million deaths are a statistic. The vast majority of news outlets did not report the names of the deceased or the circumstances of their death, which does nothing to humanize the victims. A blogger did all the hard work, though: here are the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

- A British study found that women become “perfect cooks” at age 55 (though they reach most of their culinary milestones in their 20s). If it’s true that one needs 10,000 hours of practice before mastering something, then that age might make sense. (Et comme on dit au Québec, il me reste encore des croûtes à manger!)

- A great article by Montrealer Joe Schwarcz on why he trusts science, even though it’s not always perfect.

- The Dandelion King, a timely article for us, as our lawn is invaded with weeds. The homeowners’ association does not like that, of course, and neither do we. Not to mention that our dog is allergic to our lawn! However, there’s only so much you can do with manual weeding, especially when you want to limit the amount of herbicides in your immediate environment. The author of the article comes to the same conclusion we’ve come to: “The war on weeds, though not unwinnable, isn’t winnable at a morally acceptable cost.”

- You’ve probably heard by now, but California’s Proposition 37 didn’t pass (oh well, at least we’ve got Obama for four more years). I can’t even tell you how much this disappoints me – what’s so hard about a dot of ink that tells people what’s in their food, alongside the calorie counts and whether or not it was cross-contaminated by allergens? Here’s a recap on what was at stake, along with Michael Pollan’s editorial (which I’m sorry to say I hadn’t linked to before), in which he explains that it’s less about GMOs than it is about the power of Big Food corporations. I don’t know if the fake front groups had anything to do with Prop 37 being rejected. (For those of you who didn’t hear: days before the election, voters got fliers in the mail that seemed to come from cops or the Democratic Party, advising them to vote No on Prop 37, when the Democratic Party’s official position was to endorse the proposition.) I don’t know how much the decision was influenced by dirty tricks like these, by Big Food misleading the public and far outspending grassroots supporters, how much it reflects low-information voters, and how much it means that a majority of the population genuinely did not want to know what was in their food. (I find the latter hard to believe, but it’s possible. According to this map, it would appear that major cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles voted yes and more rural places voted no, somewhat like blue and red votes in Texas.) At least, a lot of awareness was raised, and the fight goes on – Washington State is next, and there is such a foodie movement in Seattle that I can’t help but think it bodes well. Hopefully, they’ll remember what the Californians learned when Prop 37 was defeated.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Featherweight wrap, and a tip or two

My latest knitting project was this Featherweight Wrap. I once again used 4 skeins of yarn from See Jayne Knit Yarns, this time a 100% superwash merino that is 105 grams for 500 yards, in the gorgeous color called Cranberry. On paper, it’s lighter than what the pattern called for, but I still ended up with something heavier than I was expecting. I think the yarn also stretched a bit after being wet, and the edges of the collar band are now pointy. As I did last time, I made the sleeves a little bit shorter than what the pattern called for, so they’d hit at the elbows. The detail I like, which you can see further down, is that underneath each armpit and down the back are two decorative rows of little holes, created with a yarn over.

I ran into a bit of a problem: while I know that hand-dyed yarns should be knit alternating skeins (the shop owner even suggested I do so), I’ve never had a problem before, so I just used one skein after another. But it turns out I have a visible color demarcation in the lower part of my cardigan… It’s my own fault, but I’ll still wear the shirt instead of frogging it and starting over. I’ve got too many things to knit to just make the same shirt over again right now. From now on, though, I’ll be more thorough.

The edge of this shirt has 3 rows of purl stitches and 4 rows of knit stitches before being bound off. While it looks beautiful, it does have the unfortunate tendency of curling up, even after being blocked. Luckily, though, I found this trick via Pinterest. Basically, after finishing the edge called for in the pattern, instead of binding off, you purl one row, then work an inch or two in rib stitch. You then only need to fold the ribbing under the edge and tack it into place with matching yarn, and the extra structure there will keep the edge straight! It’s brilliant, really. So I did that on the bottom edge, but left the collar and sleeves as they were, since I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough yarn for all of that. This is a tip I’ll definitely keep as well!

Outing recap

We’ve kept up with the monthly outings since coming back from our summer migration. Our August outing was seeing the bats fly out from under the I-35 bridge near the Pearl Brewery, which I enjoyed. Due to circumstances beyond our control, our September outing was postponed until October; I’m talking about our weekend in Austin, which was fabulous.

The actual October outing, which happened the following weekend, was seeing Ballet San Antonio perform Dracula. The Engineer had never been to the ballet, and I hadn’t been in years and years, so it was a nice change. Ballet San Antonio performs at the Lila Cockrell Theater, which is a very modern theater in the Convention Center complex (Lila Cockrell herself is a former mayor of San Antonio and was the first female mayor of a major American city); it’s so new that it doesn’t have much charm, to my view, but it had a certain minimalist beauty that I liked. It turned out the ballet master, Raul Salamanca, had most recently danced with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, too, so we immediately liked him. The reason I picked Dracula was because we already knew the story quite well, so I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to follow along. Even though the booklet explained the plot, I’m glad I already had the background information! While I thought the dancers were really great, the overall ballet didn’t impress me – maybe because it seemed short, maybe because the first ballet I had seen impressed me more, I don’t know. I nonetheless enjoyed the experience, and I’m really glad we went.

Finally, our November outing was going to the Witte Museum. Since it seemed like a small museum, somewhat geared toward children, we waited until there was a worthwhile exhibit to see along with the permanent collection. We found what we were looking for with Mummies of the World. When I think of mummies, the main image that comes to mind for me is that of an Egyptian mummy in a sarcophagus. While there were some of those on display, I enjoyed the fact that there were also mummies from South America, Oceania, Asia and even Europe. There were “accidental” mummies (which were preserved due to natural conditions rather than careful embalming), animals mummies, background info as to how they were found, how they were made, what CT scans and carbon dating had revealed… I also saw some art that clashed with what little I knew about Ancient Egyptian art, as it was likenesses of the dead painted in color on wood and wrapped with the mummy, and the art looked almost more European to me than the Egyptian hieroglyphic style I’ve come to expect. We continued our exploration of the Witte with the newly opened South Texas Heritage Center, which I thought was nice because I know very little about the history of where we now live. While parts of it were really interesting (not to mention oddly creepy, if you count the motion-animated freighter mannequin that starts talking to you at the entrance), I found the exhibit really quite small, and as I said, geared toward children. The dinosaur gallery, which is the first thing you walk into after buying tickets, basically has a triceratops skeleton and an artist’s rendering of a pterodactyl, plus a map showing which areas in Texas had dinosaurs during which time period. That’s it. We quickly toured the second floor, where we saw some background information on how to dig up and preserve mummies, plus an exhibit about travelling circuses. The grounds of the museum are beautiful, with gardens and an amphitheater overlooking the San Antonio River; we would have enjoyed them longer had we not been starving. (There’s a Chipotle directly across the street, so we didn’t have to look too far.) So in conclusion, while I’m happy to know what’s in that museum now, I wouldn’t go back unless I had young children. The McNay remains my favorite museum so far.

In December, my parents are coming over, so I’m sure we’ll have several outings – not to mention that the Engineer and I are going to see Batman Live; we’ve been impatiently waiting for the North American tour for what must be two years, now!

Tuesday, November 06, 2012


I’m feeling pressure to make posts more important when they have impressive numbers. Like this one, which is my 900th post. But my knitting doesn’t seem up to the task, nor does soda or soup or peanut butter cake or the Witte Museum (all upcoming). So I’m taking this self-imposed pressure off with a nice animated .gif of what it feels like when I meet someone else who is lactose-intolerant.


Filet de porc, sauce aux pommes et aux champignons

Une petite recette en français, pour faire changement! Il s’agit d’un rôti de porc créé par Miss Diane, adapté, que je trouvais saisonnier pour les pommes (malgré qu’il fait encore chaud, au Texas). Chez nous, un filet de porc, ça fait autour de 3 portions, alors j’ai fait cuire deux filets pour être certaine d’avoir des restants pour un deuxième souper, avec deux pommes plutôt qu’une. Finalement, il y en a eu bien plus qu’il fallait, et les restants des restants du filet ont été tranchés et mangés en sandwichs. Nous avons trouvé le tout délicieux, même si j’ai un peu brûlé la sauce en étant distraite par autre chose (elle aurait dû être plus blonde que brune). J’ai servi ça avec de la roquette et une excellente vinaigrette au tahini.

1 filet de porc (ou 2)
3 c. à soupe d'huile d'olive
mélange d'herbes de Provence, ou autre mélange au goût
2 échalotes françaises, en tranches minces
6 à 12 champignons de Paris, selon leur grosseur
2 tasses de jus de pomme, en deux quantités de 1 tasse
½ tasse de crème de soya
1 c. à thé de moutarde de Dijon
sel et poivre du moulin
1 ou 2 pommes, coupées en tranches minces
un peu de beurre ou de margarine

Préchauffer le four à 300 °F.

Parer le filet de porc et l'enduire du mélange d'herbes, additionné de sel et de poivre.

Faire chauffer l'huile dans une grande poêle et y faire saisir le filet de porc, de tous les côtés. Ne pas piquer la viande, pour qu'elle conserve son jus.

Verser 1 tasse de jus de pomme dans un plat en pyrex allant au four et y déposer le filet de porc. Cuire à découvert jusqu'à ce que la viande ait atteint 145 °F (mes filets étaient gros, alors il a fallu presque 30 minutes). La viande doit être légèrement rosée à la fin de la cuisson.

Dans la poêle, chauffer un peu d'huile d'olive et faire revenir, à feu très doux, l'échalote française et les champignons. Augmenter le feu à maximum et déglacer avec 1 tasse de jus de pommes. Laisser réduire pendant environ 5 minutes. Ajouter la moutarde de Dijon, saler et poivrer et ajouter la crème; réduire le feu. Laisser sur feu doux environ 5 minutes en remuant de temps à autre.

Pendant ce temps, faire chauffer le beurre dans une autre poêle et cuire les pommes doucement.

Lorsqu'il est cuit, trancher le filet de porc en rondelles et accompagner des pommes et de la sauce aux champignons.

*Mise à jour : En fait, j’ai suivi les conseils de mon thermomètre numérique, qui préconise une température de 170 °F pour le porc.*

Monday, November 05, 2012

Tea Chiffon Cake

I’m still resorting to baking to use up some of the tea in my pantry. I’ve found some recipes that call for Green Darjeeling, including one for duck, so I’m looking forward to those next. But for now, I’ve been using up tea bags from a mixed box. I started by making a chocolate tea cake with a mixture of English breakfast tea and Earl Grey. While the cake was good, it did not taste like tea at all, so I considered it a wasted effort. Then I tried this tea chiffon cake from Happy Home Baking. While it did not rise like I expected it to, it was very good! I used two bags of black tea and one bag of ruby tea that contained cinnamon bark; I pulsed everything in the spice mill to get a powdery texture, which blends in the cake better. There were pieces of cinnamon bark that were still too big, but I must say I loved the taste of cinnamon here and would consider adding cinnamon powder as an ingredient, if it goes with the tea. I adapted the recipe a bit for the North American frame of reference. I’m happy with the result and would make this again. You could also keep this idea and add tea powder to an angel food cake.

1 Tbsp. Earl Grey tea powder (about 3 bags), or tea of your choice
1 cup cake flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. cinnamon (optional; if it goes with your tea)
3 eggs, separated, then brought to room temperature
½ cup sugar, divided into two ¼ cup amounts
3 ½ Tbsp. vegetable oil (I used safflower oil)
5 Tbsp. water

Preheat oven to 350 °F.

Sift tea, flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.

Place the egg yolks in a large mixing bowl. In 3 separate additions, add ¼ cup of the sugar and whisk (manually) until the mixture becomes sticky and turns pale.

Drizzle in the oil, whisking at the same time until the mixture is well combined. Repeat with the water. Add the flour mixture and whisk until it is fully incorporated into the batter.

In a clean, dry mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until the mixture becomes frothy and foamy. Gradually beat in the remaining ¼ cup sugar and beat on high speed until soft peaks form.

Fold the egg white mixture in the batter in 3 separate additions, each time folding gently until just blended.

Pour batter into an angel food cake pan (or tube pan). Tap the pan lightly on the countertop to get rid of any trapped air bubbles in the batter. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the cake surface turns golden brown and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from oven and, if you are feeling bold, invert the pan immediately. In any case, let cool completely before unmolding by running a knife around the inside of the pan and center core.

Democracy hindered

I’m writing this a bit in the heat of the moment, and I’ve decided to post it right away, because of how important and timely the subject is. (And as a side note, Word auto-corrected “Romney” to “money” when I wrote it in the second-to-last paragraph, which I found very à-propos.)

When I first heard about the new law in Pennsylvania stating that people would now need picture ID, such as a driver’s license, to vote, I was very surprised. You see, in Quebec, this is already the law and has been for a long time. It seems unthinkable to me that one could vote without proper identification. But then again, in Quebec, everyone has FREE photo ID, thanks to the carte soleil. There are places in the U.S. where people are so poor that they cannot afford a driver’s license (let alone a car). It just so happens that those people usually vote for the Democrat candidate. And while it might seem like voter fraud would be a problem, it turns out that there are only 10 actual cases of voter fraud since 2000 in the United States! So it isn’t something that’s as big a problem as people think. Let me make it clear, though: I think this hinders democracy because House Majority Leader Mike Turzai was caught on tape boasting about this: "... First pro-life legislation – abortion facility regulations – in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done." So it’s one thing to make better laws, but it’s quite another to make laws for the purpose of skewing an election – that’s not serving the people.

A new way to hinder democracy is happening now in places like Columbus, Ohio, and Miami, Florida, which also typically vote Democrat. The Republican governors of Ohio and Florida have made it so that early voters waited up to 7 HOURS in line to vote in places like those, to try to discourage Democrat voters from having their voices heard. Partisan design has no place in democracy. I think if the Republicans were true patriots, the party leaders would oppose such measures.

Another thing that bothers me is biased new sources. It’s one thing to be a “low-information voter” if you choose not to read the newspaper, for example, but it’s quite another if your newspaper of choice doesn’t report the truth. One of the big problems in this campaign (on both sides, mind you) was that politicians didn’t stick to facts. Some twisted the truth, some flat-out pulled “facts” out of their ass, and the media reported it all. Politicians suffered no consequences for falsifying facts. The public received corrupted data. I understand that most journalists don’t have the time to fact-check the content of a politician’s speech, and even if they did, it would be hard to point out a politician’s mistakes and lies without appearing to be rooting for his opponent. Journalists report what was said, not whether or not it was true. However, I don’t think it’s fair or reasonable to expect voters to systematically verify things with non-partisan source to get the facts. Being informed should be easy; if you have to dedicate your morning to it, it’s not working. Civic duty doesn’t mean much if you have to jump through hoops to do it. I feel that given how big a problem this was in 2012, the government should put in place an official non-partisan organization to do all the fact-checking and should make its findings mandatory publications in every news source. (For example, a newspaper would have to say “Candidate X. said this and that in his speech. But while this is true, that is false.” So people would know that if they want to vote for Candidate X., they can’t do so on the basis of “that”, and as a matter of fact, they should wonder why the candidate even said “that”.) And perhaps there should be consequences like fines, in increasing amounts, for politicians who continue to say things that are not true.

This isn’t even about who my favorite candidate is. Yes, I’d absolutely vote for Obama if I could, and I have trouble understanding a lot of people who wouldn’t, but Canadian citizens don’t get a say. I don’t even care that Romney paid zero taxes between 1996 and 2009, I just think he’s out of touch with the majority of the population, doesn’t realize that the government is a not-for-profit entity, and says whatever he thinks he should say to get elected instead of where he actually stands. I think that while Romney believes he has good intentions, he would hinder society at large. And while Romney is a problem, Ryan is a menace. I believe that because of partisan news sources and non-accountability for politicians making up data, many people have been blinded to the truth and will vote against their personal interests without even realizing what they’re doing. I mean, I understand that a rich, socially conservative, business owner would be better served by Romney, but I think Obama is better for the greater number of citizens, and is therefore a better choice for the country.

I hope we don’t end up with a political debacle like in 2000; I hope that everyone who is eligible to vote tomorrow gets the chance to do so, and I hope things continue to get better over the next four years as they have over the last four.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Batch of links

- The Justice Department will be opening a criminal investigation on the “No on 37” campaign, led by Monsanto and Pepsico, who have misled voters in various ways. This is happening today.

- Brilliant TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson about creativity and the education system.

- Rough week for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, which is virtually putting an end to half of its stand-alone publications and laying off 12% of its staff.

- Did you know that not only can pasta be cooked (well!) in shallow water, but the water doesn’t even have to be boiling? It’s true! I don’t have an Italian grandmother, but if I did, I imagine she’d be rolling in her grave right now.

- An essay about the importance of food writing, by Michael Ruhlman.

- Two articles on similar topics: Why we are so rude online and A special investigation in the dark world of trolling.

- And I obviously don’t need to point out everything that’s happened in New England because of Hurricane Sandy. If you want to donate, please do so through a reputable charity, such as the American Red Cross. Also, please keep in mind that even though the vast majority of the news coverage focused on New York, many other places have been affected as well, such as Haiti (still reeling from the earthquake and Hurricane Isaac, it was further gutted by Sandy; its inhabitants are dealing with lack of food and shelter, on top of crumbling infrastructure and cholera outbreaks).

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Roasted Potatoes with Minted Spinach Pesto

These potatoes from Not Without Salt were wonderful. Tons of spinach hidden in the pesto, a little parmesan for richness, plus garlic and lemon and mint… Fabulous. I used pecans instead of almonds because that’s what I had on hand, but I think this pesto would be good without nuts, too. The recipe below should make 6 to 8 servings as a side, according to the recipe, so I halved it when I made it, but I should have made more, though perhaps I’d reduce the amount of garlic a bit. I recommend using potatoes of different colors to make this, because it’s prettier on the plate, but if you only have red new potatoes, that’s fine too. I served it with a wonderful chicken with mustard, which can be baked in the oven at the same time as the potatoes.

For the potatoes
2 lbs. new potatoes, halved
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
¼ tsp. kosher salt

Pre-heat your oven to 400 °F. Place potatoes on a parchment lined sheet tray. Drizzle olive oil and salt over top and sprinkle salt. Stir the potatoes to evenly coat. Roast for 20-30 minutes or until cooked through and deep golden in parts. Stir a couple times during the cooking process to ensure even cooking.

For the pesto
2 garlic cloves (I’d use a bit less)
½ cup toasted almonds (I used pecans; you could always omit them if you want)
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
4 cups spinach leaves, packed
½ cup mint leaves
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. water
1 cup grated parmesan (I used about half that, because I didn’t have enough left)
¼ – ½ tsp. kosher salt

In the bowl of a food processor add the garlic, almonds and zest. Process until finely minced. Add to that the spinach, mint and lemon juice. Process until greens are chopped fine. While the machine is running add the olive oil and water, scraping down the sides of the bowl when necessary. Lastly, pulse in the parmesan. Taste and add salt to your preference.

While the potatoes are still warm, toss with pesto. You may have leftover pesto or you may decide to use it all, either way is fine with me. Garnish with more parmesan and serve warm.

Best Mustard Chicken

I have a recipe for roasted chicken marinated in Dijon mustard with mayonnaise, and sprinkled with tarragon. It’s good enough, and I didn’t pay much attention to other mustard chicken recipes. This recipe by Rachel Schultz, however, is fantastic! It’s better than my old one, so I’ll be making this instead now when I want mustard chicken. I served it with roasted potatoes with minted spinach pesto, which was a delicious pairing. It was also serendipitous that they are roasted in the oven at the same temperature as the chicken, so they can be made at the same time.

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
½ cup Dijon mustard
¼ cup maple syrup
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
fresh rosemary (mine was from the garden)

Preheat oven to 425 °F. In a small bowl, mix together mustard, syrup, and vinegar. Place chicken breasts into 9”×13” baking dish. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour mustard mixture over chicken; no need to marinate. Bake for about 35-50 minutes or until meat thermometer reads 165 °F (this seems like a wide window, but it depends on the size of your chicken breasts). Season with fresh rosemary. Prepare for people to ask you to make it again.

Awesome Sauce with Roasted Tofu

I found this recipe on Gluten-Free Girl, where it was originally called Roasted Tofu with Tamari Dipping Sauce. However, upon tasting it, the Engineer declared his undying love to this sauce. It made him so happy! Just like something that would be served in a good sushi restaurant, and he even said he would like to swim in it. So this is definitely a keeper!

The secret in the sauce is the wasabi powder. The amount used here was just borderline comfortable for me, though if you like spicy food, you could add more – but taste the sauce first. Mixed in with the other flavors in powder form, it wasn’t overwhelming like wasabi paste can be. (By the way, did you know that most commercial wasabi paste does not contain wasabi? It’s actually got mustard in it, which is why it sometimes feels like it comes back up your nose like Dijon mustard. And, surprisingly, wasabi paste often contains lactose as an additive. What an unexpected place for it!)

The recipe below is meant as a snack, where you dip the roasted tofu in the awesome sauce (which is a nice superlative). Since I wanted to make a dinner of it, I threw in some rice (though in hindsight I should have made gomashio and I’m kicking myself for not thinking of it), red bell pepper for dipping and caramelized onions. Note that the sauce could also be used as a dressing, or as a marinade for seared salmon or roasted chicken, for example.

16 oz. firm tofu
kosher salt and cracked black pepper
2 Tbsp. grapeseed oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 nub ginger, peeled (about the size of half your pinky finger)
2 Tbsp. wheat-free tamari sauce (or soy sauce)
2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1/8 tsp. wasabi powder (optional, but it really makes this sauce what it is)
3 Tbsp. sesame oil
9 Tbsp. grapeseed oil

Preheat the oven to 450 °F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes. (I made mine smaller, but next time, I would follow directions.) Season the tofu with salt and pepper. Pour the oil over the tofu cubes and gently toss them with oil to coat. It’s probably best to do this with your fingertips, taking care to not crumble the tofu. You want solid cubes.
Tumble the seasoned tofu onto the baking sheet. Slide it into the oven and roast the tofu for 15 minutes. Take the baking sheet out of the oven and flip over all the tofu cubes. Slide the baking sheet into the oven again and roast until the tofu cubes are puffed up and browned, about another 15 minutes.

While the tofu is roasting, toss the garlic cloves and ginger to a food processor. (You could also use a blender for this.) Whirl them up until they are pulpy. Add the tamari, rice wine vinegar, and wasabi powder and mix up the sauce. With the food processor running, pour in the sesame and grapeseed oils, slowly, a bit at a time. This will emulsify the dipping sauce, which means the ingredients will hold together.

Remove the tofu cubes from the oven. When they are cool enough to handle, dip them in the sauce and eat.