It’s been two weeks since I’ve been home in the US and I already miss making treats. Cookies, bars, cakes, granola, cobblers… there was always something to be concocted and it was a breeze, or should I say piece of cake ;) in our—thanks to my lovely mother—well-stocked pantry and well-equipped kitchen. How I took that all for granted! Whipping up a batch of after dinner peanut butter cookies isn’t quite as simple when my current pantry has zero ingredients, and my kitchen not a spatula, mixing bowl nor cookie sheet. I know, poor poor me… :)
Happy spring! Happy Easter! Happy sunshine, happy blooming flowers, happy chirping birds, happy sprouting seeds. It’s a happy time of year, a time for breathing in that fresh air, stretching those legs, planting that garden, and celebrating life.
Springtime always evokes in me a desire to eat cleanly and cleanse my body from all the heavy comfort foods of winter. I get excited for all the vegetables and fruits to grow and ripen in the next several months, and vow to take full advantage. In the midst of this inspired mood, though, is Easter and all its sweet temptations.
This year we decided to have a low-key brunch with our “neighborhood family.” Lots of yummy indulgent food was planned, prepared, shared and eaten. And although we try to avoid the highly processed Easter candy, it somehow sneaks its way into our house and we are left to fall to its seductions. Needless to say I (and probably everyone but I’ll speak for myself ;) indulged too much over the course of the day and went to bed feeling like a stuffed roly-poly.
It was the most fun Easter I’ve had since I was a wee little egg hunter at Grandma’s house though, and I do not regret a single moment or bite of chocolate cake. The day started with licking my chocolate torte batter from the bowl and ended by plopping into bed, exhausted like a child who played outside all day long. In between there was lots of cooking, brunch enjoying, hiding easter eggs in the woods, a walk on the farm which ended in an long dog chase, and yard games and honey wine up on “the hill.” Most importantly, it was all in wonderful company.
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).
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!)
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!
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.
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….)
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].
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!
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.
An heirloom rainbow, all from the organic farm I work on.
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.
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.
Cute and functional wedding favors!
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 :)
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
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.
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!
I’m finding my eating habits to be more and more in tune with the seasons as I grow older. Except for chocolate, which will always be in season to me.
Growing up in a rural area and seeing everything around me blossom, fruit and die in cycles with the seasons has certainly made me aware, as has working on an organic farm, having local food so easily available, and tasting the difference between sweet corn grown 2 miles away versus sweet corn from the opposite coast in the dead of winter. Although it’s been hard to learn that I can’t have it all whenever I want it, anticipating the summer months and watching my edible garden grow makes in-season produce that much more special. It’s like my mom used to say when I asked why she couldn’t make her amazing Christmas cookies all year long — “because then they wouldn’t be so good!”
Now it allll makes sense.
The good things are certainly worth waiting for, especially when it comes to juicy sweet corn, heirloom tomatoes and zucchini in the summer. I enjoy this dish as soon as the first sweet corn arrives at the market and for as long as the season lasts. It was one of my blog’s early recipes: Calabacitas con elote, or Mexican Zucchini with Corn. The past few summers we had enjoyed it as a side dish, but this year I’ve decided to take advantage of its versatility. The sautéed squash, corn and tomatoes are such a simple combination, but something about them simmering together in their ripe juices with a little fresh oregano gives the dish a rich flavor I can only describe as purely summer.
Lately we tried adding local pork chorizo from our neighbors at the farmer’s market, which was a delicious way to make a one-pot meal — and quite the rich & hearty one. For a lighter option you could add pulled chicken, taco-seasoned ground turkey or tofu, or black beans to the mix for a filling and nutritious entree. Another thing I want to try is using the veggie dish as a taco or enchilada filling or adding a little broth to make a summery soup. So many possibilities for this simple dish!