In like a lion

Ah, March. Historically I’ve had a bit of hard time with this month, and I know I’m not alone in this. It feels like everyone you know is off somewhere warm and green, eating local citrus fruit, sipping cocktails out of coconuts and diving into impossibly blue water. I know this isn’t true, but it’s where your mind goes when you find yourself staring at your own walls and messy cupboards. I remember one March in college when I housesat for a dear family friend who was taking her annual trip to Mexico. While everyone else in the world was on vacation, I sat on the floor of her glassed-in front porch with her black lab, Puccini, and wrote a poem about a dying fish who belonged to my best friend’s roommate. This fish floated sideways in it’s tank going up and down, up and down, and I wrote some lines about trying to find your equilibrium. I bet I could find this poem if I looked around, it has become the thing that I now think of when it becomes March.

img_8073

But March is also a time of renewal and rebirth, and even if we can’t see it through the rain-snow and mud, warm, green days are on the way. And if you can’t get out of dodge, one way that I have started to look at March is as an opportunity to shake things up a little bit and maybe get out of a few ruts. A few years ago, inspired by one of my favorite yoga teachers, I decided to create my own version of a “cleanse” right around the time of the spring equinox. For about 12 days I gave up coffee, dairy, sugar and alcohol and I ran most mornings before work. I started each day by drinking warm water with lemon and I cooked vegan dinners by night. As a vegetarian who cooks most meals using whole and mainly organic ingredients, this wasn’t too much of a stretch and I didn’t feel very different at the end of the 12 days, but I did learn that you can put avocado in smoothies instead of yogurt, that I could live without coffee and beer and that even though getting out of bed 40 minutes earlier- in the dark- is rough, that it feels really good when you get home from your jog and the sun is just coming up. And I also discovered some new favorite recipes and a blog that I still love to this day. So, I’m going for it again. I’m not giving up coffee this time (let’s not get too crazy here), but I did drink it black this morning, instead of with my regular heavy pour of 1/2 and 1/2. I’m going to keep making overnight oats with whole milk for Dan and half-moon, but I’ll have my oatmeal plain with raisins and walnuts. And I’m going to cook dinners from the extensive- and underutilized- collection of vegan cookbooks sitting on my shelf.

img_8083

I’m not going to buy dairy alternatives like fake cheese or almond milk- the strange list of unknown ingredients weirds me out- but hell yeah I’ll make walnut + lentil loaf with ketchup on top. Last night I made chili, that just happens to be vegan if you don’t add sour cream or cheese on top.

img_8057

It’s still cold and damp outside, so warm, hearty meals are in order- but this is a good time to cook farro for the first time or try a new recipe for new soup. Or go to a different yoga class or buy a new plant or finally get those three empty jars of honey out of your cupboard. Instead of writing the whole month off, do something that helps you look at the world with fresh eyes, even if from your own kitchen. If you get creative, there are seemingly small things you can do to help you look at the world a little differently. March is your oyster.

____________________________________

Pinto and Black Bean Chili

Ingredients:

1 cup dried pinto beans
1/2 cup dried black beans
Olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 onion, chopped,
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cans tomatoes (diced or San marzano style- or combination)
2 cups water or veggie broth
Salt
Chili powder
Cayenne pepper (optional)
Toppings:
Fresh squeezed lime juice
Cilantro
Green onions

Directions:
Presoak beans for a couple of hours in a big pot, and then bring to a boil and let simmer for a couple of hours until cooked and water is mostly absorbed. Place the beans in a bowl, and then add olive oil to the pot. When the oil is warm, add the garlic, onion and celery and sauté for a few minutes. Add the chili powder and cayenne, if you like the heat, and salt, and sauté for another minute. Add the beans back to the pan, and add the tomatoes and broth. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for a few minutes (or longer) before serving. Taste for salt and cayenne. Top chili with lime juice, cilantro and green onions.
____________________________________

Do you have a way that you like to “celebrate” March? I’d love to hear it. Happy almost spring, my friends.

A spot of tea

This will be all about muffins and tea. If you don’t like muffins or tea, it’s okay if you want to read this instead. Or this.

img_7570All right, all you muffin and tea lovers, let’s get started. This winter I had the pleasure of writing an article about herbal tea for Edible Madison magazine. I grew up with a Scottish grandmother who drank tea every night after dinner, so I have fond memories of family dinners when the tea pot and china cups would come clinking out of the kitchen, someone would pour me a cup of black tea and I would fill it the rest of the way with milk. But when I received the Edible Madison assignment, I didn’t know much about the subject of tea, so this article was a hoot to research and write. I also got to hang out with some interesting tea people at some delightful places like Anthony at Macha on East Johnson St.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I received a message from a farmer named Tony who was wondering if I would be interesting in sampling his “living” herbal teas that he grows on a farm in Mondovi, Wis. I have a soft spot in my heart for farmers, and a new appreciation for tea, so I of course said yes. A few days later I received some Sacred Blossom tea in the mail.

I love these teas, mostly because they are so beautiful when they are steeping (and they taste really delicious, too.) But also because it’s obvious that these herbs were grown with a lot of love and care. Please check out Tony’s website and his kickstarter campaign to support a Wisconsin farmer who is doing something really special in the world of teas.

And while that tea steeps, start making some muffins! My parents found the recipe for these Morning Glory muffins in the New York Times. I made them last weekend and baked another batch yesterday. I am in love with them. They are a little finicky (you need to shred carrots and apples, toast walnuts, melt coconut oil, etc.) but I think it’s fun and they turn out really well. I consider myself to be a lousy baker, but I’ve been having luck lately with muffins. I will post the recipe as appears, not as I did it, because if you followed my directions it would be something like this: Measure flour, (don’t) measure cinnamon, spend nine minutes looking for baking powder, realize half-moon is sitting on the television, read Reggie Jackson, read Reggie Jackson, read Reggie Jackson, read the Bunny Book, read Reggie Jackson, read Reggie Jackson, realize you were supposed to use the large mixing bowl for the wet ingredients, measure the baking soda, read Reggie Jackson, abandon muffins completely and run out the door to meet a friend for happy hour when your significant other gets home from work, remember the next day after yoga that you started making muffins, locate (wrong-sized) bowl of dry ingredients, locate left-for-dead carrots in veggie drawer, make a cup of tea, finish mixing batter, bake muffins, eat most of the (still warm) muffins while standing at the kitchen counter.

img_7646

But here’s how the newspaper said to make them:

_______________

Morning Glory Muffins

From the New York Times

INGREDIENTS
1 cup/120 grams all-purpose flour
¾ cup/85 grams whole-wheat flour
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup/177 milliliters whole milk
¾ cup/160 grams packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
¾ cup/90 grams shredded carrot (from 2 medium carrots)
½ cup/77 grams shredded apple (from 1 medium apple)
½ cup/57 grams unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted
¾ cup/90 grams finely chopped walnuts, toasted
¾ cup/112 grams raisins
½ cup/118 milliliters melted coconut oil

PREPARATION
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup standard muffin tin with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together milk, dark brown sugar and eggs until smooth. Stir carrot, apple, coconut, 1/2 cup of the walnuts and 1/2 cup of the raisins into the wet mixture. Stir in the melted coconut oil.
With a large rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined. Do not overmix. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cups. Sprinkle the remaining walnuts and raisins evenly over the tops of the muffins.
Bake until puffed and set and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer the muffins, in the tin, to a rack to cool for 5 minutes. Then remove the muffins from the tin and let cool completely on the rack. Once cool, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

_______________________________

And while it feels like spring out there today, I am hoping for more winter days with a steeping cup of hot tea and a batch of muffins in the oven. Happy Saturday.

An alternative universe

It feels a bit like we’re living in some sort of parallel universe right now. I’m spending a lot of time on the internet switching between reading headlines and looking at photos of marches and emailing senators and drooling over the flavors of doughnuts at my favorite recurring pop-up event. Things feel like they are trying to be normal- but they’re not. We alternate between statements like, “Did you know what he did today?…Is it even possible to place a media blackout on the EPA?,” and “We have to make sure to get to there in time to get a pineapple doughnut.”

img_6969

But it finally snowed today. A wet, sloppy, heavy snow- but it’s still snow- and it feels a lot more normal than the foggy, rainy 40-degree days we’ve been experiencing. So I started building a snow fort using one of those plastic brick molds that I haven’t used in about 30 years (but the fort has since collapsed.) And Dan is finishing up a project for the cats that he started a few weeks ago. Half-moon discovered shoveling and had his first cup of hot chocolate, and we ate leftover curry for lunch… life as we know it in this alternative universe.

After looking up some curries, I made up this recipe the other night when I happened to have a can of coconut milk and didn’t want to run to the store (I’m trying to break my “visit-the-co-op-everyday” habit.) It turned out really well and I’m happy to add it to the regular rotation. Served over brown rice, it’s bright and hearty and full of whatever vegetables you can find in the fridge.

_________________________________________________

Coconut Curry with Kale and Carrots (or whatever veg you have)

Ingredients

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 onion, sliced
Some fresh ginger, grated or minced
1/2 or 1 whole bunch kale
2 carrots, sliced
Additional veggies optional (I used leftover bell pepper and cauliflower florets)
1 can regular (full fat) coconut milk
2 cups veggie broth (I use vegetable base bouillon + hot water)
Curry powder
Salt to taste

For serving:
Cooked brown rice (or quinoa)
Lemon juice
Cilantro
Chili flakes

Directions

Melt the coconut oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion and ginger to the pot, and cook about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the carrots, kale and any other veggies, a pinch of salt and cook about 3-5 minutes more. Add curry powder, coconut milk and veggie broth and taste for salt. Bring to a simmer, then lower heat and cook 15-20 more minutes, paritially covered. Serve over brown rice with a generous squeeze of lemon juice and top with cilantro and red chili flakes, if you like. Then consider making a donation to the ACLU.

______________________________________________________________

Although things seem really, really wrong right now, I like this resistance movement that continues to heat up. And as my incredibly insightful and inspiring yoga teacher made us all declare last Saturday morning, “We’re in charge.” At least in how we handle ourselves and what actions we take in these next few months. It’s time to keep fighting back, my friends.

Light a fire

I wrote my first blog post here on November 14, 2010, so it’s almost been six (six!) years. Wild.

img_5016

I may have been neglecting this space a bit lately, but I’m happy it’s still here. And if you just read that last line, then I’m happy you’re still here, too.

It’s been a really beautiful, warm fall. We took Half-moon to his first pumpkin patch a couple of weeks ago (as of press time, the pumpkins remain uncarved. Maybe it’s better late than never?) We had a delicious picnic dinner  in Tenney Park from the Underground food truck and Sitka Salmon folks and discovered that Half-moon LOVES smoked salmon. I went catting with a notorious Madisonian (more on this in this coming week’s Isthmus) and we’ve been enjoying late afternoon happy hour fires. I have also been making lots and lots of rice bowls with veggies and tofu. The funny thing is, I was inspired to make these bowls by a meal that we had in Seattle about five years ago when we took the train to visit my sister. One night my old roommate from Wyoming, Brett (who had since moved to Seattle) and his wife, Kate, had us over for a super fun dinner where we created our own bowls with rice, salmon, and vegetables- I remember shredded beets- and a delicious, herbaceous sauce.

So I found myself thinking about this meal one morning about a month and a half ago, which turned out to be the same day Brett found me on Instagram, after having not communicated for at least over a year. Cosmic energy, my friends.

And from checking out Brett and Kate’s instagram pages, it turns out that they know the farmer behind one of my all-time favorite blogs, so I need to get to that bottom of that, too. All right, rice bowls. I had a realization sometime in the last couple of years that I am not very good at making stir-fry- it always ends up too greasy for my liking. Instead of sautéing veggies, I prefer them raw (or cooked separately ahead of time- like roasted brussel sprouts) served with a salty, umami-y sauce + fresh herbs (like cilantro) + sesame seeds or peanuts. Here is how I like to make rice bowls:

_______________________________________________________

Rice Bowls with Tofu and Seasonal Vegetables

Ingredients

Brown rice (cooked according to directions- about a cup uncooked rice for 2-3 people)

Vegetables: any combination of shredded napa cabbage (really good marinated in sesame oil- reminds me of the wok seared sesame noodles from when I worked at Noodles and Co.), green beans, shredded beets, sliced radishes, green onions, thinly sliced kale, brussels sprouts, etc.

Baked tofu (see this blog post for marinade and baking directions)

Sauce: Play around! Here are a couple of combinations to try-

soy sauce + (dark) miso + sesame oil + lime/lemon juice + chopped cilantro

gochujang (fermented chile paste) + soy sauce + water

Toppings: peanuts or sesame seeds, (more) fresh cilantro

Directions

Place cooked rice in bowl. Top with tofu, vegetables, sauce, peanuts or sesame seeds and fresh herbs.

__________________________________________________

Tonight we’ll have to light a fire to embrace the early darkness. Happy fall.

 

 

 

Just like that

And just like that, Half-moon is one. And in love with pushing things around, like plastic lawn chairs, his stroller and empty beer bottles.

image

I’ve been feeling really nostalgic this week about the week he was born; mainly for how unbelievably incredible it was to bring a human into the world (and the people who helped make this happen) and for all of the iced coconut lattes I drink that week from Indie Coffee while we were in the hospital. I had one latte on his birthday and I plan on having at least two more before the weekend.

image

We celebrated Half-moon’s birthday with some of his favorite foods, including pickled beets, watermelon, Batch Bakehouse bread, and cucumbers. My mom made carrot cake cupcakes (YUM) and I made a farro salad with asparagus, kale, peas and lemon. It couldn’t be easier to make (don’t bother cooking the asparagus, use frozen peas) and it’s even better the next day with some shredded Parmesan cheese.

______________________________________________

Farro Salad with Asparagus, Kale and Peas

Ingredients:

1 cup cooked Farro*
1/2 pound asparagus (raw), chopped into bite-sized pieces
Several kale leaves, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 cup frozen peas (thawed)
Parsley
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of a lemon
Splash of white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Cook the Farro (*cover Farro with water in a pot and cook at medium-high until water is absorbed- 25-35 minutes. Add more water, if necessary, until Farro is cooked to your desired texture… I like mine a little chewy.) Let Farro cool.
Mix olive oil, lemon, parsley, and vinegar in a large bowl. Add asparagus, kale, and peas and allow to marinate in vinaigrette for 30 minutes or so. When Farro has cooled, add it to the vegetables. Mix up the salad and add salt and pepper, if you like.
_______________________________________________

Cheers.

 

Late spring potato salad with lovage

Last weekend Dan, half-moon and I ventured up to the square to go to our first farmer’s market of the season. I really had an ulterior motive, which was to go to Field Table for doughnuts and iced coffees. I was never much of a huge doughnut lover, but when visiting my cousin in Brooklyn a couple of years ago, I kind of fell in love.

IMG_1450

The doughnuts at Field Table were crazy good. We got one of each- Raspberry, Miso Butterscotch and Maple Bacon (that was just Dan’s.) And then one more Raspberry. I can’t stop thinking about that frosting.

image

After a quick stop for cheese curds from Bleu Mont Dairy (the best, in my opinion) we ducked in and out of the crowds to grab some spinach and organic potatoes from Driftless. Later that day we were headed to a get-together and I wanted to make potato salad. So this is the potato salad I started to write about the other day, when half-moon decided to bang some club soda against the floor and then I told you about rhubarb shrub.

image

While I didn’t clearly state this in my last post, but  may have seemed obvious, I love vinegar. I prefer it to mayo in salads any old day. I also had some lovage that I wanted to use; it was the lovage that my mom gave me after she had waved it around in half-moon’s face while the two were sitting in her yard. Waving leafy green things (dandelions, chives, etc.) in his face is one of her favorite activities and he likes it, too.I also threw in some capers for good measure. I could have cooked the potatoes for two more minutes, but it was a hit, and it was a lovely afternoon in our friends’ backyard. Half-moon ate cheese curds for the first time, had his first apple juice box (straws are tricky!) and we lingered into the evening. Welcome, summer.

_______________________________________________

Late Spring Potato Salad with Lovage and Capers

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds organic potatoes (I used a combination of fingerling and yellow)
One handful of lovage and garlic greens (the shoots that come up before the scrapes), chopped (I think chives would be good here, too)
1-2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon stone ground mustard
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 tablespoons capers
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Wash and cook the potatoes. Cover the potatoes with water in a stock pot (I don’t peel them) and bring to a boil. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are tender, but not falling apart (I guess if they are falling apart, it’s too late… I don’t claim to be a recipe writer.) Drain the potatoes and allow to cool. If you are in a hurry, run cold water over them and let them sit in some cold water.
Mix the remaining ingredients (except salt and pepper) in a large bowl. Adjust the amounts of vinegar, olive oil,mustard and capers to your liking.
When the potatoes have cooled, cut them into bite-sized chunks and toss them into the dressing. Give it a taste and add salt and pepper, if you like. Take it to a party, or eat it all yourself.

______________________________________________

Happy long weekend.

Keep me on my toes

This post started as one thing and now has turned into something else entirely, but that’s how things go sometimes, isn’t it? I was going to write about potato salad, but fate intervened in the form of a mobile half-moon, and now I am going to tell you about rhubarb shrub (the drinking vinegar, not a bush.)

IMG_7303

Half-moon has been cruising around for a little while now, but he’s really gotten interested in everything lately and has a certain hankering for the cat food bowl, beer bottles, kitchen cabinets, the contents of the blender, dresser drawers and dirt. Now for a montage.

So this morning when I had my back turned, half-moon happened upon a bottle of fancy club soda and by the time I got to him, he had somehow managed to partially open it. Not wanting it to go to waste, my mind worked quickly (not something that happens much lately)… I have rhubarb!* I have vinegar! There is ice in the freezer!

IMG_7429

And that’s how I ended up typing one-handed, listening to this much-needed spring rain, and sipping a delicious and refreshing rhubarb shrub and club soda. If I didn’t have yoga later, you can bet there would be some booze in it.

*All credit goes to my friend Allison, whose wonderful neighbor, Tom, gave me the rhubarb last weekend and Allison for suggesting I make a shrub out of it.

___________________________

Rhubarb Shrub

Ingredients:

5 or 6 large rhubarb stalks, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup (organic) sugar

Directions:

Place rhubarb, vinegar and sugar in a medium-sized sauce pan and cook over medium heat, stirring a bit, until it comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for 20-30 minutes. Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the liquid into a bowl and allow to sit for about 30 minutes to make sure you get all the liquid. (I plan on saving the rhubarb mixture to mix into yogurt. Editor’s note: Don’t do this- super vinegar-y rhubarb mush does not taste good in yogurt.) Mix the liquid (the shrub!) with club soda, or club soda with a splash of gin or vodka. Serve over ice and enjoy! Keep the leftover shrub in the fridge for up to a week or so.
____________________________

I hope something is keeping you on your toes these days… you never know what unexpected good things might come from it.