April 15, 2014

Cooking in the land of smiles (and MSG)

preparing papaya salad :)

First of all, many apologies for abandoning the blog and you wonderful readers these past few months! I have no excuse except that I was having lots of fun exploring the southeast of Asia. And as much as I would have liked to write some posts, blogging from a phone without all my photos was just never that appealing…

So now here I am, back in my home with a much-too-quickly fading tan and an inspired spirit that always lingers after being in another culture for a while. And more wanderlust, which seems to grow exponentially with each trip I take. Luckily, this was only part 1 of my grand adventures of 2014, with moving to Australia coming up in merely a month!

But let’s talk about Southeast Asia. Without doing much research beforehand, I had few expectations for this 2-month backpack adventure except to be able to travel cheaply and eat some good food. I was not disappointed :)

(And, having few expectations helps me appreciate every place I go so much more — a key to happy travels I’ve learned throughout the past).

Chiang Mai Flower Festival

Flower Festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Our first stop was Thailand, where I was eager to take a cooking class and learn what authentic Thai food is all about. I found our first tastes of Thai fare in Bangkok to be quite heavy and rich, and much smaller portions than we’re used to – which was a good thing! Along with the sweltering humidity, cramped city feel, and bad traffic made horrendous due to ongoing political protests, I was ready to get my massage on the street and get outta there.

A (long) train ride later Forrest and I breathed a sigh of relief and fresh air as we stepped into Chiang Mai. Our songthaew (pick-up taxi) ride from the train station drove us to the moated old city where flower-coated parade floats lined the streets and a colorful, neon-lighted concert was blasting its music to the whole city. We arrived in this super cultural northern city smack in the middle of the annual flower festival – lucky us!

The laid-back, down-to-earth city of Chiang Mai has all the Thai culture your senses could care to soak up. And more. It was such a relief to be there after overwhelming Bangkok, especially at a time of such celebration and blooming flowers galore! Forrest and I had fun trying to navigate through the narrow alleys fringed with tropical plants and quaint cafes to find majestic temple after temple, each with their own style and color and peaceful aura. We’d pick up a street food snack and a Thai iced coffee (the best) and continue our day of exploring or people-watching in the park until it was time to experience the craziness that is the night market.

Then the day came to indulge our tastebuds, stuff our stomachs and learn what it is that makes Thai fare so rich and flavorful. We were recommended a school called Smart Cook Thai Cookery School, and the full day involved browsing the morning market to learn about essential Thai ingredients and then heading to the open-air kitchen to learn how to prepare six different dishes. (Yes, that’s a lot of eating!) Continue reading

January 23, 2014

nanatella muffins

banana nutella muffins

I can’t think of a single person who actually dislikes banana bread. And I dare you to find someone who doesn’t like that oh so dreamy creamy cocoa hazelnut spread (aka nutella). They’re two very lovable things, and when combined will put a smile on anyone’s face.

So what happens when you mix banana bread with nutella? Well, there could be many outcomes, but mine just happened to be these banana-nutella swirl muffins. And given 98% of our population’s fondness of the two components, these muffins are the perfect treat to bring to a party, a potluck, or a very special friend’s birthday… as I did for my very special friend Corey. Continue reading

January 10, 2014

the best all-purpose yogurt sauce + a warm winter salad

sweet potato-carrot-apple cake with sweet chili cilantro yogurt sauce

You know you’re doing alright with healthy eating when you open the fridge and your leftovers consist of cooked quinoa, chickpeas, and extra batter from these sweet potato-carrot-apple cakes. I’m lucky enough to naturally enjoy eating (and taking the time to cook) all these foods over the processed, fried and fast foods inundating our supermarkets and restaurants. But where I don’t have such an easy time is my unrelenting sweet tooth…. will it ever go away?!

Healthy eating is also much easier when you already have prepared foods on hand – like leftover quinoa, chickpeas, and veggies that are ready to be tossed into a salad the minute you decide you are starving for lunch. Sounds a bit like me today! Sometimes my leftover concoctions turn out to be not as appetizing as I’d hoped, but this was one that magically combined so nicely that I had to write up the recipe to share with you – and so that I can make it again!

a warm winter 'leftovers' salad

Sometimes I find it hard to eat salads as often in the winter. Cold and crunchy just doesn’t do it for me when it’s 14 degrees out! This salad was nice because I put a warm pan-fried veggie cake on top of spinach and arugula (rather than lettuce which does not stand up well under something hot) along with reheated quinoa and chickpeas and some fresh veggies. A warm, hearty and filling wintertime salad – perfect. Continue reading

January 6, 2014

New Year Soup

very green lentil soup for the new year

Happiest new year to everyone! Hope you are staying warm and happy and healthy and are ready to enjoy everything 2014 brings…. I have some pretty big ventures planned this year so I sure am :]

I know I didn’t post any holiday treats this season, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t indulging in them the whole month of december (see christmas cookies below….) Continue reading

November 21, 2013

brussels sprout – grape – canadian bacon roast with maple walnuts

roasted brussels sprouts, red grapes, canadian bacon + maple walnuts

This is one of those times when what you happen to have in the fridge goes into the oven and what comes out is unexpectedly awesome. [Along with being unexpected, I was unprepared and had to make do with my iPhone as a camera and dim, yellow kitchen lighting..]

All I wanted to do for dinner was roast some brussels sprouts, just plain and all by themselves, because I hadn’t had them yet this fall and I love them. But when I go to search on the internet “how to roast the perfect brussels sprouts,” all these exciting things come up. Maple brussels sprouts with bacon, brussels sprouts with apples and walnuts… now my creative juices started to flow a bit. I didn’t have an apple, but I had big red grapes. No bacon, but leaner Canadian bacon which would be delicious all roasted and crispy. Rosemary, because it’s my favorite herb in the fall and the bush outside our house is getting rather large. And maple walnuts, because I had just bought a large bag of walnuts for no particular reason, and candied nuts are such a fall thing [in my head at least].

roasted brussels sprouts, grapes, canadian bacon + maple walnuts

I had a good feeling when I mixed it all up and put the pan in the oven. And 30 minutes later, the realization came that my brussels-sprouts-roasting had gone to ten new levels. I stacked my fork with each element to get a monster bite which included just about every texture, every flavor – sweet, salty, meaty, herby, nutty, charred – and tasted like cozy sweet fall on a fork. I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

At that point I realized this dish deserved a place on the blog, and then I spent too many minutes fooling with my iphone camera and ugly yellow dim lighting to attempt to do it justice in a photo. But just trust me, this dish tastes way better than it looks on here! Continue reading

November 14, 2013

light & quick hazelnut currant scones

hazelnut currant scones

fiery fall foliage

Bring me to a pastry shop, and scones are just about the only thing that’ll get my attention. I’m not one to fall for those buttery, flaky filled croissants or tarts or really anything with a pie-like crust. But scones are in their own wonderful category of pastry. They’re like big fluffy cookie-biscuits, and I love everything about that.

Even with my love for scones, I never seem to justify buying one, knowing how butter and cream and sugar laden they are. Sounds great for a treat, but not quite the nutritious breakfast I’m going for.

I was inspired to experiment myself by way of a scone recipe on a bag of hazelnut flour. First of all, anything made with hazelnut flour is going to be divine, right? Not to mention there will also be currants, and together this goodness will be baked into scones? Gotta try it. Continue reading

October 29, 2013

Italy, in food & photos

little bit of italy.

After a lovely two-week adventure through Italy with my mom and sisters this fall, I came up with one solid piece of advice to future travelers out there:

Don’t ever go to Italy if you plan on being on a diet. And here’s why: Continue reading

October 17, 2013

green kitchari

green kitchari

This is kitchari. Indian comfort food. A traditional Ayurvedic cleansing dish used for detoxifying and healing.

Grounding, calming, warming, balancing.

kitchari ingredients

Kitchari can be made in infinite ways, but in its basic form is a stew/porridge-like mixture of split mung beans and grain warmed with spices and enhanced by vegetables. Perfect for giving your digestion a break while still providing the body with a nourishing and filling meal. And even more perfect now that it’s fall and the cold is starting to seep into my bones, when I desire nothing more than curling up on the couch with a steaming bowl of comfort.

In this specific recipe I use both whole and split mung beans for extra protein and fiber, but adding a grain like brown rice/quinoa/barley etc. to the mix is the traditional way and tastes just as well. Use whatever veggies you’re into or whatever can be found in the fridge; this time I felt like sticking to solid greens. Continue reading

September 10, 2013

weekend joy

Snippets from an eventful and tasty weekend…heirloom rainbow

An heirloom rainbow, all from the organic farm I work on.

Saturday market

Another Saturday market. Selling our never-ending heirloom tomatoes and the beginning of our fall harvest — sweet potatoes, acorn squash, rutabaga greens, beet greens & radishes.

F&M

Forrest & I at a family-friend’s lovely wedding on Cold Saturday Farm in MD. The big stone farmhouse behind us used to be a hospital during the Civil War.

wedding things

Cute and functional wedding favors!

this guy

this guy…

tahini buckwheat granola

My first attempt at buckwheat granola – and it is crunchy! Perfect in a bowl of kefir and peaches because it doesn’t get soggy so quick like other cereals. I used hello veggy’s recipe and subbed tahini for the nut butter for an earthy sesame flavor. mmm :)

farm party!

My weekend concluded with an end-of-summer potluck up on a hill at my neighbor’s farm. Delicious, healthy food, a beautiful sunset, and chatting with good friends until the only light left was the stars. Hoping to make this the first of many seasonal farm dinners!

Hope everyone’s having a happy week : ) -mich

September 5, 2013

my 23rd cake

beachcolors

This is my happy place. Carova Beach, Outer Banks, NC. Once a year I get to be here with the best company for two weeks of laughter, play, sun, salt, relaxation, sandy doggies and lots of good cooking. Oh, and it also involves my birthday, so cake and fancy drinks are always part of the shenanigans.

margaritas + birthday cake!

My 23rd birthday cake to celebrate this new year of life: a blueberry cornmeal cake with lemon curd – neufchâtel frosting. I thought up the flavor combination when blueberry season was just beginning and had been craving it ever since. So when the day came, I handed the special job over to my boyfriend and supervised carefully to make sure he made it exactly how I imagined :) He did great, topping it off with a decorative blueberry swirl. Thanks Forrest!

*Note: my birthday was in July; I am just now realizing I never got to posting this cake recipe which needs to be preserved forever and ever. And I’m reminiscing of those wonderful two weeks at the beach. Summer, don’t go so fast! Continue reading

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