Category Archives: Food + Drink

Small batch kumquat marmalade

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One of the beautiful things about Winter is the explosion of citrus—a burst of sunshine amidst all that dreary cold weather. Mother Nature takes care of us, doesn’t she?

My mother has a couple of citrus trees that are exploding with fruit right now. Jack and I have been checking them every week waiting for them to ripen. Finally, the kumquats have gotten big, fat and super sweet. I think I ate as many as I picked off the tree. Mmmmrrmm, good.

But there’s no way I can eat that many kumquats so I went looking for ways to preserve them. Opposite of a traditional orange the peel of a kumquat is sweet while the inside is bitter, therefore, it’s important to do something that uses the rind.

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As it happens, orange marmalade is my favorite spread so kumquat marmalade seemed a logical direction. I’ve never made it before, but most of the recipes that I checked online complain about the labor intensity. Ugh. Long drawn out recipes are so not for me. I don’t have that kind of time. So, I tried a few different things and found a tip that gets you marmalade in a snap.

Here are the ups and downs. See if it works for you.

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Ice cream sandwiches made easy

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For Jack’s birthday weekend I cooked up a storm of good grub, including an experimental vegan version of pecan pie. My man is from Oklahoma where pecan pies are a food staple, like milk, butter and bread. He knows and loves his pecan pie. I should have known starting out that my vegan version would be a disaster.

Don’t get me wrong, it tasted good, but it didn’t taste like the “traditional” pecan pie that folks from the South know and love. Jack took one bite and lifted an eyebrow at me, “This is a lot of things, but it is NOT pecan pie.” And then a 5-minute lecture ensued about what “pecan pie” is supposed to taste like.

Sigh. Okay.

Birthday pie (actually, it was more of a tart) was a no-go. It just sat on the counter looking lonely and dissed. I felt so bad for it and berated myself for calling it “pecan pie”, a loaded term if ever there was one. Augh! I should have called it something else, like “loony pie” and it would have at least been enjoyed for the delish freakishness that it was.

Fine. On to Plan B.

Well, after all that cooking (and subsequent rejection) I was not about to spend a minute more on birthday dessert than I had to. I was feeling a little deflated.

I opened the freezer door and stared inside it for a full minute hoping a coconut cake would magically appear. Not for Jack, but for me!

It didn’t.

Instead, I pulled out these frozen muffin top things that I had recently bought thinking we might try them out for an easy semi-healthy weeknight dessert. And then I pulled out a pint of vegan ice cream. (If you haven’t had Coconut Bliss’s Dark Chocolate, it’s awesome!)

Easy ice cream sandwiches would save the day. Jack jumped on it. Yay.

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While I toasted up the muffin tops, Jack took the pint of ice cream and started sawing at it with a bread knife.

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What the …?? Oh, my gosh! What are you doing, you crazy dude?

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Whoa. Uh …

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… that’s kind of … snort … brilliant.

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Instant ice cream sandwich. No mess, no fuss.

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So easy. So satisfying.

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And the birthday was saved.

Radicchio is ridiculous

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We eat pizza fairly regularly in this house. Jack makes a mean pizza dough.

This is a total left turn, but you know how there are certain things that one spouse does better than the other? Well, pizza dough, fresh bread, homemade pasta, hummus and apple pies are a part of Jack’s genius. I have long since given up even attempting these things. When it’s suggested that I make apple pie, I spontaneously lose my hearing? Heh? Apple pie? I’m sorry, yo no hablo English!

It’s gotten to the point that Mr. Genius will even remind me, “Baby, you can’t make hummus good as me!”

And you know what? He’s right. He IS much better at it then I am. Therefore, I no longer attempt making hummus, leaving it to the genius instead. I feel the same way about cleaning the floors. He’s WAY better at it than I am.

Ha! Who’s the genius now, eh?

Anyhow, back to pizza. We’re constantly experimenting with our pizza toppings. A couple months ago we sprinkled radicchio on top (it’s in season now and therefore, cheap, and therefore, it makes its way into my fridge.) Wooooo, we loved it! So much that we had radicchio pizza the next night, too. And then several times since.

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Radicchio is a member of the chicory family so it has a bitterness to it when raw. However, if you roast it then that bitterness will turn nutty. Like magic!

And the beauty of this topping is that it’s very easy to prepare and doesn’t need anything to accompany it. Here’s a quick recipe:

  1. Slice up half a head of radicchio. I have found that to be more than enough for one medium to large sized pizza.
  2. Sprinkle with a little oil (I particularly like it with walnut oil), balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.
  3. Then massage the oil and vinegar into the radicchio with your hands to get it nice and coated. Plus, who doesn’t like a little massage?
  4. Sprinkle radicchio on top of pizza and cook at high heat for however long your pizza takes (approx. 10-12 minutes).

Cheater method:
And then here’s my version of the “personal” pizza using some leftover Indian naan bread. I toast the naan in a toaster oven for 2-3 minutes first. Add a very thin layer of mayo (or not, I just love mayo on everything), add the radicchio and then toast the pizza again for another 5 minutes. (Don’t pay any attention to how disgusting and burned my oven pan looks. Eeek.)

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Don’t worry that the radicchio turns brown, that’s a good thing.

There you have it, a personal pizza with just one topping that it scrumptious and ready in less than 10 minutes.

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Enjoy!

Sweet potato mushroom sliders—a huge thumb’s up

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For my birthday Jack got me a dehydrator. How romantic, you scoff? Actually, it was.

I have been wanting a dehydrator for YEARS—like, ten years. And Jack being Jack, did all kinds of research before settling on the Excalibur. I love it and use it frequently experimenting with crackers and kale chips and cookies. Some were flops, and some really hit it home. This mushroom slider recipe was one of the successes. As Jack put it, “It’s like Thanksgiving stuffing in a bun.” He couldn’t get enough of them.

If you don’t have a dehydrator you can make these sliders in your oven on a low setting. For the recipe I’m going to point you to Rawmazing—which is where I got the recipe—and the easy-to-follow photo steps. But here’s what I did a little differently …

  1. I halved the recipe, which made a dozen sliders, more than enough for the two of us to eat over the course of a weekend.
  2. I made my patties a little larger, about 3-1/2 inches wide. I used a round mold to keep each patty consistent.
  3. I knew up front that I wanted to put these sliders on English muffins for breakfast sandwiches and they were fantastic! A little vegenaise, a slice of Jalapeno vegan cheddar, pressed salad slaw (I have a recipe for that coming soon) for tang and crunchiness and man, these babies were addictive.

Best of all, the recipe is as easy as it is tasty.

The Fremont Diner, Sonoma

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I’m a diner girl, it’s my favorite kind of restaurant. Given any opportunity to go to a diner, I’ll go. I love it even more if the waitress calls you “honey”.

Do you remember that old American TV show, Alice, from the late 70s? I used to love that show. “Mel, you can just Kiss. My. Grits!” I have always wanted to say that to someone, but I don’t think I could pull it off.

Anyway, for my birthday Jack and I went out to Sonoma County for a day of fun, and on the way home we stopped for an early dinner at the Fremont Diner, a little roadside joint that is so unassuming it’s easy to miss. For those lucky enough to take notice and stop, it’s a treat.

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Happy Vietnamese New Year: Spiced almonds with a kick

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Last year when I was in Vietnam for Tet I got to experience one of the most common Vietnamese New Year’s traditions: visiting family and friends on New Year’s day to wish them joy and luck in the New Year. They will always invite you inside to sit down for tea and snacks. On everyone’s coffee table is a box divided into little compartments filled with different kinds of nuts, dried coconut … little goodies. So, you sip tea, snack on nuts and chat. You don’t have to stay for long, twenty minutes or so is typical. The important thing is that you make it a point to spend some time together. It’s a nice tradition, eh?

Inspired by those coffee table boxes of goodies, here’s a quick and easy recipe for spiced almonds. From our house to yours, Happy New Year!

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Happy Vietnamese New Year: Daikon and carrot pickles plus a mushroom bánh mì

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One of my favorite Vietnamese dishes is the traditional sandwich, also known as bánh mì. They’ve caught on with tremendous popularity in the U.S. and I can understand why, they’re absolutely delicious. I talk about it a little more here >>>

One of the essential ingredients of bánh mì is a condiment: daikon and carrot pickles. So, today I’m going to share how to make this simple, but delicious condiment and then a quick and easy mushroom bánh mì that is so warm and comforting, it’s perfect for winter.

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Happy Vietnamese New Year: Buddha’s Hand tea and vinaigrette dressing

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It’s less than a week to Vietnamese New Year, Tet 2012, the year of the dragon. To get us into the celebratory mood I thought I would share some Vietnamese and New Year-inspired recipes and traditions.

First up, we’re using Buddha’s Hand citron. My mom has a citron tree in her front yard and throughout Fall and Winter it produces prodigiously. Lucky us. They’re crazy looking fruit, aren’t they? I think the biggest question is always: “What in the world do I do with it?” Good question. I wondered the same for many years.

The Buddha’s Hand citron is a really mellow lemon that is all peel and spongy pith. You can actually eat this gem raw, the pith does not have the bitterness that we generally associate with more commonly known lemons. The lemony flavor is quite soft and very aromatic. You can slice up the fingers and body of the fruit into long thin slices, add it to salads or pastries. You can use it with braised meats the same way that you would traditional lemons. (I think it would make an amazing glaze for salmon.) It can work beautifully to infuse vodka or to make limoncello. However, it’s most commonly found candied: cooked in a sugar syrup for long-term preservation amd use in sweets or even over ice cream. David Leibovitz has a great recipe for candied citron.

Today, I’m showing you a quick tea and a beautiful vinaigrette that brings a taste of Spring into the dead of Winter.

To make tea just steep a few slices or chunks of raw citron in hot water to make a gentle, mild lemon tea. Once brewed (~5 minutes) enjoy straight or add a little honey and oh, my—it’s a gentle, aromatic essence—soooo good!

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Now, for the vinaigrette we’re going to make a wonderful base vinaigrette that can sit in your fridge for months. It’s so fresh and Springy, it feels decadent.

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Nutty chocolate bon bons

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Every January people go insane with New Year’s resolutions to be healthier, wealthier and wiser.

Well, here’s my little contribution to the healthier and wiser bit: chocolate bon bons.

WHAT? Bon bons ain’t no health food!

Well, yes … and no. These nutty chocolatey, scrumptious bon bons are packed with antioxidants and good for you ingredients. There’s no dairy, no processed sugar, no unhealthy fats.

AND they’re crazy fast and easy to whip up. So enjoy these babies guilt-free and know that you’re being to kind to your body. Woo hoo! Happy New Year to all of us!

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