12 Things I Did While Not Updating My Blog For The Last Two Weeks

You guys. I’m sorry. I messed up, got lazy, and let the blog go. I wish I had some great excuse, like my house was attacked by a legion of zombie ninjas, but I don’t, and it wasn’t.

I simply neglected to write anything of substance for the last two weeks. Which is not to say I completely slacked off and did nothing besides eat cake on the couch while my boyfriend went to gym by himself (although that did happen once); I did stuff! I cooked and baked and drank wine and danced to Lil John & The Eastside Boyz. And here, to prove to you that I am not the world’s laziest person, is a list of 12 things I did while not updating my blog:

1. Took the 10-month-old I nanny to Victoria’s Secret to buy lingerie. For me, not for him! I needed some new stuff and figured nobody knows my body more intimately than my little charge. After all, he’s spent the last 10 months of his life nestled in my asymmetrical bosom and impatiently fussing over my legs while I attempt bowel movements in stalls of public restrooms. We are tight, and I value his opinion. (I’m happy to report that together we found some really nice stuff – he loves lace.)

2. Baked a Salted Caramel Apple Pie. Twice. My boss (that’s correct, the 10-month-old’s mother) and I decided to bake the same dessert for Thanksgiving, so the day before the big event, I helped her with hers and then hurried home to drink wine and work on mine. Both turned out beautifully, the only difference being hers was defaced by her husband in a fit of pre-Thanksgiving munchies. She was (obvs!) devastated, and I’m quite certain she would have ended up on an episode of Snapped! if they were gun-enthusiasts, but thankfully, they don’t keep firearms in the house. Her husband lived to see another day, and her lopsided pie was served to their dinner guests, who were reportedly delighted. This pie is good, y’all. And it has an adorable, decorative top crust that really ups the presentation. (Recipe to follow.)

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Salted Caramel Apple Pie with Whole Wheat Pie Crust

3. Interviewed with a nanny agency, where I accidentally replaced “certificate,” with “control,” when informing the director I had brought my “birth _____,” along with me.

4. Caught my dog, Toot eating the recycling four times. Decided I should start keeping it on top of the washing machine once I realized she had eaten the wrapper from a bar of dark chocolate.

5. Ate nearly an entire bar of dark chocolate while watching American Horror Story with Clay. Feigned enthusiasm when asked to share said bar of dark chocolate. Still sad I don’t have anymore chocolate at my house.

6. Watched Clay make fried chicken for his birthday dinner. Poured Frank’s Hot Sauce on the fried chicken and ate it faster than anyone else at the table. Went back for a second helping hoping nobody would notice I was also reaching in the fridge for ranch dressing. You know, as an added garnish.

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Fried chicken with German Potato Salad and Braised Brussel Sprouts

7. Had a Black Friday dance party with my BFF and her family in their living room. Drank half a bottle of Rocky Mountain Blackberry Flavored Whiskey. Downloaded Lil John’s “Get Low,” on my iPhone, not realizing it was the edited version. Downloaded the right version (seriously, that song doesn’t even have lyrics when it’s edited!), played it on repeat, and choreographed an interpretive dance. Ah-SKEET-SKEET-GOT-DAMN.

8. Baked my mother-in-law’s Swedish Nut Cake for Clay’s birthday. (Recipe to follow.)

9. Ate a piece of Swedish Nut Cake (with Bluebell Butter Pecan Ice Cream) for lunch while Clay went to the gym alone. Promptly fell asleep.

10. Walked home from work six times. That’s 18 miles. Totes cancels out the cake lunch.

11. Crushed a bag of Veggie Booty on the drive home from the grocery store. My friend Heather almost lost an arm when she reached for a handful. Had indigestion for the next 24 hours.

12. Felt bad for neglecting my blog, especially after showing such initial enthusiasm. Decided I have poor follow-through and need to start showing better initiative. Just as soon as I was finished reading Jezebel on my phone in the bath tub.

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Soup So Good, You Won’t Know It’s Vegan: White Bean and Kale Soup

White Bean and Kale Soup

Y’all. Thisssss soup. This soup. OMG. This soup.

I used to be vegan. For just about two years I subsisted on an entirely plant-based diet. This was during graduate school, so most of my calories were from distilled potatoes and cereal with almond milk, but still. I was vegan. I was glowing and healthy and humane.

I’m not vegan anymore. And I’ll tell you why: because it’s incredibly difficult to feed yourself (not to mention your family) deliciously and cost-effectively strictly on a plant-based diet. It just is. Veganism is a wonderful personal solution to animal cruelty, global warming, heart disease and cellulite, but straight up, it’s just not very practical. (Cue all my vegan friends un-friending me on Facebook and PETA requesting my resignation from my unpaid blogging gig.)

That said, I still find myself doing a lot of vegan cooking. We don’t eat a ton of meat in our house, and there are plenty of reasons to eat vegan as often as you can: it’s lower in cholesterol and saturated fat, rich in nutrients and fiber, and reduces our carbon footprint. (Not to mention it’s compassionate!)

Inspired by Whole Foods’ version of this soup, I made this last night expecting just another hot pot of veggie gruel. I was amazed how flavorful and hearty the end result was. This recipe calls for a lot of garlic and a whole onion – don’t be shy, it’s crucial for the flavor.

Flowering Kale.

Once the garlic and onion are sautéed in olive oil, you add the kale and wilt it (I used a whole head of the flowering variety, but you can use any kind you like). The pungent aroma of the earthy kale and spicy garlic and onion are appetizing on their own, and once you add the tomatoes, beans and veggie broth, it’s really on. This soup doesn’t just smell good, it’s beautiful to look at – the bright green leafy kale, juicy red tomatoes, and crisp white beans beckon you for a taste.

Beautiful and aromatic!

The flavors in this soup are distinct and pleasant, and the texture is not mushy (unlike Whole Foods’ version!). I had two bowls for dinner, and plan on a another for lunch. Even my meat-loving boyfriend enjoyed it, which to me, is saying a lot. Bon Appetit!

White Bean and Kale Soup

(serves 6)

1 tablespoon olive oil

8 large garlic cloves, minced

1 medium yellow onion, diced

4 cups chopped raw kale

4 cups vegetable broth (I always use Better Than Bullion, it really surpasses any pre-made broth or bullion cube option)

2 15-ounce cans white beans, drained and rinsed

4 plum tomatoes, chopped

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup chopped Italian parsley

1. In a large pot, heat olive oil. Add garlic and onion; saute until soft. Add kale and saute, stirring, until wilted. Add 3 cups of broth, 2 cups of beans, half of the parsley, and all of the tomato, herbs, salt and pepper. Simmer 5 minutes. In a blender or food processor, mix the remaining beans and broth until smooth. Stir into soup to thicken. Simmer 15 minutes. Ladle into bowls; sprinkle with remaining chopped parsley.

Thanksgiving Foreplay: Pecan Pie Muffins

Foreplay is important. You can’t just rush into the big event – you have to make sure everyone is adequately prepared. It’s like a prelude to the main attraction; a little taste of what’s to come.

I’m talking about Thanksgiving, of course! And if you’re anything like me, you love any excuse to eat and drink yourself silly in the company of friends and family. As soon as October is finished, I’m anticipating turkey, gravy, stuffing, pie, and that weird green bean casserole that nobody actually likes, but still eats in an effort to get a serving of vegetables.

Call me a premature Thanksgiving-er, but I simply cannot wait for Thursday’s feast. Which is why today, I made a tasty little preview: Pecan Pie Muffins.

These are super simple and very, very delicious. They really do taste like homemade pecan pie, in a heavenly little muffin package. The batch yields a dozen; I’ll be surprised if they last until Thursday.

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Thanksgiving Foreplay: Pecan Pie Muffins

Pecan Pie Muffins

(yields one dozen)

1 cup packed light brown sugar
½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup chopped pecans
⅔ cups softened butter
2 whole eggs, beaten

1. Preheat oven 350 F. Grease your muffin pan (I used Baker’s Joy baking spray).

2. In a medium bowl, stir together brown sugar, flour and pecans. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and eggs together until smooth. Stir into the dry ingredients just until combined.

3. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Cups should be about 2/3 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on wire racks when done.

Serve warm with a pat of butter. Get excited for the big day.

Mama’s Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

I’m a soup snob. A “snoup.”

Homemade chicken noodle soup was one of the first things I made once I was living on my own, and I was really impressed with myself. A whole pot of hot food. And I had made it all by myself.

Fast forward nine years later (Nine? Yikes.) and I am still impressing myself with boiling hot pots of homemade soup. I make soup weekly (sometimes more than once a week), because it is delicious, nutritious, and provides several meals worth of food. Also, soup has so much creative potential, it’s almost magical. You can put (almost) anything in a pot, cook it, and call it soup. It’s incredible.

My signature chicken noodle soup recipe has evolved, thanks to many years of tweaking. I still like a basic chicken noodle soup when someone is sick, but when everyone is healthy and hungry, I like a sexier version of the original. I’ll substitute orzo for noodles and add lemon juice right at the end. I call it, “Mama’s Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup,” because I made it up and can call it whatever I want.

The soup base is from scratch, I always use a rotisserie chicken carcass for the broth. This requires some carcass-cleaning up-front, so if you’re squeamish about this, ask a friend to help you or just sack up. I’m a former vegan and after a few times of doing it, I’m like elbow-deep in that thing, just ripping it to shreds.

Once you’ve got the bird cleaned, you boil the carcass and skin in a soup sack for an hour-and-a-half, add the pasta and lemon, and you’re done. It’s seriously that easy, and I promise nobody will ever know. Tonight, I used a carcass leftover from last night’s chicken enchiladas – the meat was minimal, but just enough to give the soup some bulk. The taste is clean and bright, thanks to the lemon, and hearty and filling thanks to the chicken stock. I always serve this with crusty bread for dipping and a side salad. And a glass of wine never hurts, either.

It’s no Mona Lisa, but carcass and onions make for an unmistakeable signature soup stock!

Mama’s Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

(makes 4 dinner-sized servings or 6 appetizer-sized servings)

1 rotisserie chicken, cleaned; meat separated from bones and skin

1 soup bag

1 stalk celery, sliced

1 large carrot, un-peeled, sliced

1 sweet yellow onion, diced

8-9 cups of chicken broth

1 bay leaf

salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup orzo

juice of four lemons, plus zest from 1 lemon

1. Make stock: Clean meat from rotisserie chicken, set aside. Collect bones and skin and remaining carcass into soup sack, tie closed. Place in large stock pot. Add onions, celery, carrot and cover with chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce to medium-low heat, add bay leaf. Simmer for an hour-and-a-half to two hours, until vegetables are tender.

2. Remove soup sack and discard. Add orzo and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and simmer for 7 to 9 minutes, or until pasta is tender. Add chicken meat, cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Reduce heat to low, add lemon juice and zest. Season with salt and pepper to taste, if necessary. Cook for another 1-2 minutes, stirring. Serve hot with crusty bread for dipping and wine for sipping!

Bon Appetit!

The Ninety-Nine-Percenter’s Cheesy Stuffed Pumpkins

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Today was an interesting day. I showed up to my full-time nanny gig this morning and learned that the family I work for will no longer be needing help after the start of 2013. Their situation is changing, and they understandably want to adjust accordingly. As anxious as I can sometimes be about employment and income, I was weirdly relieved. While I have my Master’s in Social Work, I have had zero luck landing a job in the field since I graduated last spring. I’ve relied on nannying for income, which pays the bills, but lacks professional development and advancement opportunities. I returned to writing this summer, hoping to build some momentum to find work in journalism or marketing, but again, haven’t had any luck.

Blame Obama, blame the Fiscal Cliff, blame one of the Bush’s, but the fact is: the job market sucks. A seemingly endless year-and-a-half search for work in one of my desired fields left me recently feeling demoralized and uninspired. Until today.

Mid-day, the kids and I met up with my dear friend Chanelle for lunch and currency exchange for an ethically raised bison meat share we are doing. Due to the four-year-old’s late morning ballet class, we found ourselves in the Cherry Creek neighborhood, originally planning for a quick coffee. Realizing our hunger would not be satiated by lattes and blueberry bread (however, delicious!), we moved on to one of the city’s new hot spots: True Food Kitchen.

The brainchild of Dr. Andrew Weil, head of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, True Food Kitchen serves seasonal foods that are cultivated locally. The four-year-old picked at her plate of grilled chicken breast, carrot sticks, apple slices and blanched broccoli, while Chanelle and I feasted on an Autumn Ingredient Salad, edamame dumplings and carrot ginger soup.

“Well, what do you want to do?” asked Chanelle, after I informed her of my newly “for hire” status. “More importantly, how do you want to feel?” The question wasn’t a difficult one to answer; I knew right away. “I want to do something with food. I want to be creative. I want to write. I want to use social media. I want to follow a pulse. I want to work on a team. I want to feel energetic, have fun and connect with people.” I said, emphatically.

Chanelle slurped her soup pensively, and paused for a moment before responding. “Well, let’s figure out how to cultivate that,” she said.

Moments later, the 10-month-old had an antibiotic-induced diarrhea explosion that cut lunch abruptly short. After a full-blown sponge bath in the handicap stall of the women’s restroom, we headed home for the afternoon. One proper bubble bath later, and the baby was down for a nap. Meanwhile, the four-year-old and I played “dress-up” in her room. As I sat cross-legged on the floor, Chanelle’s words ran through my mind: “…how to cultivate that…how to cultivate that…” I opened the job search application on my phone and typed in the letters “f-o-o-d.” I scrolled through the countless dishwasher and waitress positions until the words, “Marketing Foodie,” caught my eye.

“Shut up,” I said out loud. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. A perfect combination of marketing, social media, and food…as if I had written the job description myself.

“What Kewy?” the four-year-old responded. She walked over to me, stood behind me and wrapped her tiny arms around my neck. “I wuv you Kewy,” she sighed. Her words, so tender and genuine, hit me like a ton of bricks. It was then that I realized how much I was going to miss seeing her and her baby brother every day. This family feels like my own, and it will be tough to say goodbye. My eyes misted, and my jaw tightened. I cleared my throat. “I love you too, baby.” And I do. But I also know, it’s time to move on.

*****

When I unlocked and opened the front door this evening, I found the recycling bin completely raided by our Golden Retriever, Clementine. Trash was shredded and strewn about the apartment as she greeted me shamefully at the door. She hung her head, and I hung mine. “What are we going to do, Clem?” I begged her. “Cultivate,” I said again, out loud. “Cultivate.”

Moving to the kitchen, I did what any normal person would do in a moment of obscurity and gloom: I began slicing onions. It had been a long day: both inspirational and exhausting. But all that aside, I had dinner to make.

The plan was Cheesy Pumpkins with Sunchokes and Porcini Mushrooms, a recipe I adapted from last week’s Wall Street Journal. Originally intended as a vegetarian side-dish, we had it as the main entree. The original recipe calls for four ounces of dried porcini mushrooms, which run about eight dollars an ounce. I guess the One-Percenters on Wall Street run around spending 35 dollars on one-meal’s worth of fungi, but I’m a (soon to be unemployed) nanny, so I don’t have that kind of scrilla to blow, nahmean?

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Dried porcini mushrooms, available at Whole Foods.

I cut the amount of mushrooms in half, and substituted crumbled saltine crackers for breadcrumbs (I know, barbaric!). I also used sharp white cheddar cheese in place of Taleggio cheese, because I don’t even know what Taleggio cheese is. (I’m guessing it’s a special cheese harvested from the milk of AKC Certified Standard Poodles that live on Park Avenue.) Using money-saving adjustments (however crude), I’ve turned what was once a recipe for the elite into something even common folk can enjoy: The Ninety-Nine-Percenter’s Cheesy Stuffed Pumpkins.

I love using gourds in any capacity during fall and winter. When we moved two weeks ago we brought with us literally 30 pounds of assorted squash. I rely on them for soups, pies, and more recently, containers to be filled with deliciousness like sauteed veggies and cheese. For this recipe, you can use either kabocha squash or pie pumpkins; I went with the latter. The preparation is fairly simple, and once they are assembled you just bake them for a couple of hours.

The filling is a combination of cipollini onions, porcini mushrooms, and sunchokes, which resemble ginger root but pretty much taste like a potato. The gourds are topped off with fried sage leaves, cheese cubes, and breadcrumbs, making for a deliciously layered volcano of hearty goodness. The flavor is herby and autumnal, thanks to the sage and nutmeg, and the texture is chewy and gooey, thanks to the mushrooms and cheese. I only made one pumpkin, and it was more than enough food for two people. This recipe is fun and still has potential for tweaking, so I plan on making it again.

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Sliced sunchokes and cipollini onions.

The Ninety-Nine-Percenter’s Cheesy Stuffed Pumpkins

(serves 4)

2 pie pumpkins or kabocha squash

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

ground nutmeg

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms *or* 2 medium portabella mushroom caps, chopped

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus some for drizzling

8 large cipollini onions, thinly sliced

3/4 pound sunchokes, thinly sliced (unpeeled)

3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

1 cup breadcrumbs or a handful of crushed saltine crackers (gasp!)

1/2 pound sharp white cheddar cheese, or what the hell, whatever kind of cheese you like, cubed

1. Preheat oven to 350*. Cut off top quarter of pumpkins, scrape out all seeds and strings. Generously season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, Drop 1 tablespoon butter in each cavity.

2. Make filling: Put mushrooms in large bowl, cover in boiling water, set aside. (This is only if you are using dried mushrooms. If you are using portabellas or any other variety that is not dried, skip this step.) In large satue pan over medium-high heat, warm oil. Add onions, cooking 5 minutes or until translucent. Season with salt. Add sunchokes, cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium, cover, cook 5 minutes more. Meanwhile, drain mushrooms, roughly chop. Add to pan, cook 1-2 more minutes.Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.

3. Stuff pumpkins: put gourds on rimmed baking sheet, divide filling between the two, and fill to the top. Drizzle with oil, cover with tin-foil, and bake until tender, about 2 hours. Meanwhile, in saute pan over medium-high heat, melt remaining butter. Add sage and cook 1 minute. Add breadcrumbs, cook 2 minutes more or until toasted. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

4. Mound top of pumpkins with cheese, return to oven until cheese melts. Divide breadcrumbs between two gourds, sprinkle on top, return to over for 2 minutes more. Remove and let set for 5 minutes before serving. Serve pumpkins whole and scoop out pumpkin flesh along with filling.

As I said, we had these as a main course, but they would make a wonderful side-dish for a grilled pork chop or roasted chicken. Bon Apetit!

*****

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As I examined the sunchokes and pumpkin flesh on the end of my fork, I thought about Chanelle’s words a little further. “Well how do we cultivate that?.” I turned it over in my head several more times, until I realized that I do not in fact know the answer. I don’t know what’s next, which is oddly liberating. I do know what I need and how I want to feel, which seems like a good enough place to start. In the meantime I will just continue to do what I’ve done all along: have fun, love people, and cook good food. And maybe, just maybe, that will cultivate something.

Fat Kid Funday Sunday: Crock-Pot Szechuan Chicken Wings and Chocolate Gingerbread

Sundays are glorious in our house. Especially during football season.

I couldn’t possibly care less about football, but Clay will gladly watch it (both European and American variations of the sport) all day. He’ll slip in and out of attentiveness, sipping coffee, and occasionally rustling through the Sunday Times. Meanwhile, I’ll stay occupied in my favorite room of the apartment: the kitchen.

I look forward to Sundays – we do our grocery shopping, so I have every opportunity to plan dishes (new or old) and ensure adequate preparedness for execution. Between brunch, lunch, dinner and dessert, we eat all day. Which is why, in our house, Sundays are affectionately referred to as “Fat Kid Funday Sunday.”

For dinner tonight, I went for an old favorite – Crock-Pot Szechuan Chicken Wings, a ridiculously easy, no-mess dish that requires very little preparation and supervision. You literally just throw everything in the Crock-Pot and walk away. You have to come back six to eight hours later, but the incentive is a deliciously tender Chinese-takeout-flavored chicken wing, so that’s no trouble at all.

See. You just throw all that stuff in there and you’re done.

I like pairing these with steamed rice (brown, white, whatever you have) and a stir-fry vegetable. Tonight we did it with stir-fry bok choy, because I am recently on this cabbage-variant kick. The finished result was delicious – savory, sweet, and just a bit spicy. Not to mention the smell in our apartment all day: drool-inducing. I’ve made these for my family for Christmas Eve, a group of drunken friends for a New Year’s Ski Trip, and a Super Bowl Party – they always disappear quickly, and any leftovers are devoured in a blur of drunken munchies later in the evening. Everyone loves them, and I think you will too.

Served with spicy bok choy and steamed brown rice, these wings are far from average Football Night in America fare.

Crock-Pot Szechuan Chicken Wings

(serves 4)

12 – 18 chicken wings (about 2 pounds)

1/3 cup soy sauce

1 teaspoon ginger

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 green onions, chopped

1 tablespoon honey

2 teaspoons oil (I prefer vegetable, since olive oil tends to have a more dominant flavor)

1-2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

1. Combine all ingredients in Crock-Pot, toss to coat wings.

2. Cook on low for six to eight hours.

3. (Optional) Finish in the oven on broil – no more than two minutes a side, watch closely so as not to burn. This gives the wings a little crispier finish, so it’s really a matter of preference if you choose to do this step or not.

While those were in the Crock-Pot causing everyone including the dog to sit in puddles of their own saliva all day, I decided to bake. As much as I love baking, I don’t really eat very many sweets. Thankfully, I have a garbage disposal of a boyfriend who will eat almost anything. Seriously. (Last night he ate TACO BELL. I saw it with my own eyes.)

In the spirit of the fall season and my passion for dessert bread, I decided to adapt Lara Ferroni’s Chocolate Gingerbread, using whole wheat pastry flour in place of all-purpose. I prefer whole wheat pastry flour for almost all baking – it’s a healthier alternative that gives breads and pastries a bit more density and flavor.

The assembly was quick and painless, but baking time was increased due to elevation and the flour substitution. The recipe calls for chocolate, crystalized ginger and molases – a savory combination that created quite an olfactory collaboration with the chicken wings. Our apartment was cause for an all day taste-bud boner.

Crystalized ginger and coarsely chopped semi-sweet chocolate chips.

After dinner, I served this bread with Alden’s Organic Butter Brittle Ice Cream, and was dazzled! The flavor was deeply satisfying – chocolately, spicy, and sweet, complemented by the butteriness of the ice cream. The crystalized ginger and chocolate chips made for delicious volcanic morsels tucked inside the moist, crumbly bread. My thighs begged me not to go for seconds, but screw them! It’s jegging season anyway. This bread is hardly too sweet to be served at breakfast with a hot cup of coffee or for an afternoon snack with a smear of cream cheese. I’ll probably be making these for Christmas presents, so friends and family, get excited.

Chocolate Gingerbread

For a rich and spicy dessert, serve warm, ala mode.

Chocolate Gingerbread

(makes one standard loaf or two small paper loafs)

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

a pinch of ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/3 cup molasses

2 tablespoons flaxseed meal

2 tablespoons crystalized ginger chips

3/4 cup chocolate, coarsely chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 350* and lightly grease a baking pan (I used unsalted butter because I was out of cooking spray)

2. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Set aside.

3. Cream the butter & brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Mix the buttermilk, molasses and flaxseed meal together, and add all at once to the butter mixture. (It’s normal for it to look a bit curdled.) Add the flour mixture and mix just until you get a smooth batter. Fold in the crystalized ginger and chocolate chips. Do not overmix.

4. Bake until a cake tester comes clean, about 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack before serving.

Bon Apetite!

Ambitions Of A Food Blog: Easy Tangy Baked Salmon and Saffron Coconut Baby Bok Choy

If there’s one thing a foray into food blogging taught me, it’s this: my presentation is a far-cry from food porn. And my dishes are really 1970’s.

This blog was conceived as a way for me to stay active and busy in my writing during FlipCollective’s winter break. My goal is to write almost daily, which sounds like a daunting task. “What the hell am I going to write about?” I asked myself. “What do I spend more time and energy on than anything else?” The answer was simple: food.

I cook dinner for myself and my boyfriend at least five nights a week. (Go ahead and remind him how lucky he is next time you get the chance.) We have our produce delivered by a local CSA, and often find ourselves with items we’ve never even heard of. Delicata squash? Baby bok choy? We’re forced to be creative and try new things almost every night. So we do.

Last night was my go-to Easy Tangy Baked Salmon and something new: Saffron Coconut Baby Bok Choy. Baby bok choy resembles full-size bok choy, but is obviously smaller. The flavor is mild, and reminiscent of cabbage. And it’s packed with Vitamins C and A. The original recipe I was considering called for curry instead of saffron, but I used the rest of my curry powder earlier this week, so I had to be creative. The result was delicious – the bok choy was crunchy, and the sauce was warm and bitter, with a hint of citrus (from the lime) and herby aroma (from the cilantro). These flavors complemented the sweet and sour flavors of the salmon, which was marinated in lemon juice, mustard, and orange zest. Paired with a dry white wine and basmati rice, this meal was perfect for a chilly fall evening!

“Ew, that looks gross.” – Clay (Be patient while I learn the secrets of food porn.)

Easy Tangy Baked Salmon
(serves 4)

2 8 oz. Atlantic salmon filets
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
zest of 1/2 an orange
2 Tbsp. stoneground or dijion mustard

1. Preheat oven to 375*. Coat the bottom of a glass baking dish (preferably one with a cover) with the oilve oil, and place salmon filets in baking dish, side-by-side.
3. Pour lemon juice over filets.
4. Rub each filet with 1 Tbsp. mustard, each.
5. Sprinkle each with half of the orange zest.
6. Bake for 15-20 minutes, DO NOT OVERCOOK! (Keeping a close eye on the salmon is important; if you overcook it, the flesh will become tough and rubbery. The fish is done when it is flaky and a dark pink color all the way through.)

Saffron Coconut Baby Bok Choy
(serves 4)

1 large bok choy or 4 baby bok choy
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
juice of two small limes
1 can coconut milk
2 Tbsp. saffron powder
2 tsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
3/4 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. olive oil

1. Cut bok choy into bite size pieces, keeping the stems separate from the leaves.
2. In a medium saute pan, heat oil. Stir in saffrom powder, salt, and red pepper flakes. Cook about 1 minute. Add bok choy stems on the bottom of the pan and layer the greens on top. Pour coconut milk over the top. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until stems are tender and the greens are wilted.
3. Remove from heat and stir in sugar, lime juice and cilantro.
4. Serve warm over a bed of Basmati rice.

As you can see, I neglected the bed of rice, and our plates were soupy. You cook, you learn.

Cheers!