P is for Pomegranates

Pomegranates are the most ironic fruit.  Here you have a some-what universal symbol for fertility and you can’t get the f*cking edible part out of it’s cage of fibery doom!  Perhaps drinking the juice makes you wise because you have figured out how to release it in the first place. Every so often I challenge myself to buy an ingredient I have not used before. To conquer the pomegranate challenge I tried both of these tips. First is the spoon technique. Second is the aquatic method.   How did I do?poms The aquatic method is the way to go if you were bad a sports as a child.  Here’s the problem with the spoon technique, I was unable to produce enough force to expel the seeds because I was too fearful of smacking my hand with the spoon.   The water was much easier to just gently tear away the seeds and let them sink.  Truly a feminine fruit, it wanted to be massaged before it released what you want. I added layered the seeds with plain yogurt, honey, and graham cpom yogurtrackers to make a Pom Parfait for my lunch.   The dark mother would be pleased by this tangy, crunchy, creamy snack you should pack next Mabon or when you feel like you are trapped in work hell.   (number 32 on the pagan blog project week 31)

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L is for Living Garden

Fresh herbs have been a struggle for me.  Even with the plastic baggie/paper towel method they would go bad too fast.  I’ve bought too many clamshells of trader joe’s basil only to have them go fuzzy within a day.  So I learned to eat them fast or turn them into pesto and chimichurri.  But it’s summer time and I want leaves of basil in my antipasti and mint for my cocktails.

chimichurri: cilantro, olive oil, garlic, parsley

chimichurri: cilantro, olive oil, garlic, parsley, red pepper

Back in California there were many failed gardening attempts.  Things just don’t want to grow in the desert and indoor plants do not do well with my fur babies.   Seriously, I caught my cat Elphie eating my cactus garden, so nothing is safe.  Now that I am in Indiana with a big backyard it was time to evoke my green thumb.

Let me first tell you about Redneck Target Rural King.  It’s my Midwest version of PETCO, Orchard Supply, and Target combined.  I can buy 6 weeks of high quality pet food, k-cups, and engine oil for $100 while my husband, who grew up at the beach, is exposed to such culture shifts as camo couches, antler chandeliers, and day-glow overalls.  They are a seasonal store, so in the winter I stocked up on long underwear and wool socks.  This last Mother’s Day was their garden sale and I took advantage.  In addition to my herbs, I got foxgloves, lavender, perennials, tomatoes, kale, and citronella.  We found a half wine barrel at Menards for $35 (reg. $120) and I got to planting.

herb garden : hedged paths

lemon balm, mint, thai basil, thyme, with a kale border

The mint is growing slower than I anticipated but the basil, thyme, and lemon balm are thriving.  Being able to step out on the porch right off my kitchen and snip what I need brings such joy.  Having living herbs reduces my waste and makes me feel more connected to my cooking.  I tend to these little guys and they give me delicious bits.  It really made me want to get chickens, but sadly I am not zoned for farm animals here.  So I’ll have to make due with my plant friends.

(post number 35 on the pagan blog project week 23)

Vanilla Blackberry Cashew Cake

It was time again to be brave and tackle a dessert I found on Pinterest, a raw blackberry lemon lavender vegan “cheesecake” from Fragrant Vanilla Cake.  I choose this mainly because I had hazelnuts and dates left over from my last dessert experiment.

So this thing is suppose to look really pretty.

Guess which one is mine!

Guess which one is mine!

I have come to the point where I am okay with the fact I lack two skills that would make me a great food blogger.  One is photography and the other is making pretty desserts.  My sister witch makes pretty desserts, but she follows recipes.   I don’t really like recipes or directions.  I am more of a what do I have that would work sort of cook.  I favor technique and flavor and cannot be trusted to build IKEA furniture.

I just accept that if it tastes good is the same texture and shape I was going for it’s a job well done.   In the spirit of imperfection, let’s do this!

Vanilla Blackberry Cashew Cake
gather things like this

for the filling
3 cups of soaked cashews
1/2 cup of shredded coconut
juice half a lemon, add some zest if you are fancy
unscrew the honey bear and add two big squeezes
pinch of salt
1/2 of liquid state coconut oil
1 teaspoon each of coconut and vanilla extract
a couple vanilla beans if you happened to find them in the back of the pantry almost dried
some sugar
berries (frozen is fine)

for the crust
equal parts hazelnuts and shredded coconut, about a 1/3 cup each
a couple graham crackers
enough pitted dates to make it stick together (like 5ish)

to start
Make the crust by placing the crust things in your food processor, you may want to chop up the dates like the source material said because the whole dates caused my Cuisinart to smoke like we were summoning the Dark Lord.
Once your crust is mixed, squish it into the bottom of your pan. I have a spring baking pan from IKEA that I had never used before so that made me feel accomplished.

now your filling
IMG_1451Wipe out your food processor and add in all the filling things except for the coconut oil, berries, and sugar. Zoom until your cashews are broken down a bit and everything is mixed up. Then while on slowly add the oil to emulsify. I let this mix for like 8 minutes while I continued to squish my crust but the filling still looked lumpy. I found looking lumpy is fine as long as there aren’t any palatable chunks. Add half the filling to the top of the crust. To make the berry layer, warm up your berries in a bit of water and the sugar until they are ice cream topping soft. Then add your berry mix to your remaining filling and zoom in processor and add to the top.IMG_1455

set in freezer overnight
transfer to fridge in the morning
should be set by the time you want dessert after work

 

K is for Kale

It was Thanksgiving 2011 and I had to bring a side dish to family dinner.  It started innocently enough with a Food and Wine recipe for it pan fried with cranberries but soon I felt compelled to repurchase the bushy green bundles each week.  It wasn’t until much later I realized when I was irritated at my husband for buying curly instead of dino that I had a kale problem.

There are worse bandwagons to jump on.  As a mostly vegetarian the bacon craze was mostly missed except for watching Anonywitch eat it covered in chocolate on the day we decided calories didn’t count.  I am guilty of a pantry stocked with wheat berries, chai seeds, soaked cashews, two kinds of lentils, no less than three types of vinegar, and a vat of coconut oil.  When did this become less normal than doritos, oreos, boxed mac&cheese, or pepsi? Food is nourishment and my daily ritual. Dark leafy greens are available to me year round and have replaced spring mix as my go to.

I watch pretty much every food documentary I come across, so I cannot remember which one my favorite kale salad came from.  Simple, creamy, and tangy it’s the perfect food for when you plan on drinking a lot of beer for dinner.

Happy Ending Kale Salad
gather these things
one large avocado
bunch o’kale
juice of one lemon
salt
dill (if you like)

do these things
mash the avocado in the bottom of your salad bowl
mix in your lemon juice
add your chopped up kale
salt and dill to taste
massage with hands until kale is relaxed to your pleasure
open a local brew to wash down your greens

(number 19 on the pagan blog project week 22)

mojito tea

The snow is beginning to melt and the driveway is now a collection of puddles rather than a sheet of ice. My husband told me yesterday that I do not go outside unless I am leaving the house completely. He’s only half-right. While I am not stepping foot outside, I am traveling through pots of tea. Today I visited Spain via Hemmingway’s Hills like White Elephants and several cups of mojito tea. Mint, lime, and sweet are the flavors of leisure. Nothing to do but sit and sip waiting for the stir of things to begin again.

IMG_1306

mojito tea

prepare the brew (yields one pot)
1/4 of a lime
two bags of irish breakfast tea
1/4 cup loose mint
1 tablespoon honey to taste

cilantro contingencies

cilantro storageMy local grocery store has challenged me to a cilantro throw-down.  Large bunches are my only option and I am not one to waste.  I had tried wrapping the bunch of herbs in paper towels and placing in ziploc bags only to find a mushy dark green ooze in the middle days later.  I next tried to store it like I do green onions, in a flower vase with a little water at the bottom and  plastic bag over it.  This produced yellow leaves in less than a week.  Preservation felt out of grasp.  Then I remembered how I had scoffed at the salad in a jar idea until I tried it and it really did keep things fresh.  I went about stripping the leaves off my fresh batch of cilantro, rising & spinning them down, and placing the clean leaves in mason jars.  Two weeks later and it’s fresh as the day I bought it.  And the stems go right in the freezer bag for stock.  A little more effort after shopping but no more spoiled greens.

Blood Orange Fix

IMG_1268

Blood oranges are in season, but I never really know what to do with them.  They are a bit too tart for me to eat alone or whole.  But they are just so pretty I want to take them all home and find a use.  So today, I decided to get them drunk.

Blood Orange Fix

gather these things
one large blood orange
vodka
honey
ice
shaker

for two glasses, do this
juice the blood orange into your ice filled shaker
add 2 ounces vodka (Tito’s preferred)
add 2 teaspoons honey
shake, shake, shake!
strain over ice and enjoy

(this is tangy boozy drink, for those who want less bite add some fizzy drink)

Buzzed Nut Energy Bars

crumbs everywhere

I am going to start with a negative.  I do not like to make messes.  I also do not like crumbs.  I especially do not like recipes that create a mess of crumbs.  I probably would never have made these energy bars again if my husband did not express how much he enjoyed them.  And sometimes, for love, you can over come a kitchen full of crumbs.

gather these things
2 cups walnuts
1/2 cup hazelnuts
3 cups date paste
1 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp espresso powder or ground coffee
1/2 cup chocolate chips
pinch sea salt

do this
zoom half your nuts in the food processor until crumbs and set aside
if you have a small processor, split your crumbly nuts, salt, date paste, and espresso into two batches and zoom until they are one
if you have a large processor you can add all your crumbly nuts, espresso, salt and date paste and zoom until they are one
take your crumbly nut/date paste and fold in you remaining nuts, and chocolate chips
place into a wax paper lined baking dish and squish into a bar
add weights to the top and let sit overnight to set
the next day, remove from the baking dish and cut into squares

energy nut bars

I find a lot of inspiration on Pinterest, these are a riff on a recipe by the Minimalist Baker.

It All Comes Together Eventually Chili

Somethings I think I am doing too many things at once that seem in conflict.  It used to things like teamwork building and individual goals and now it’s finishing school while finding a job.  I just keep throwing things into my pot and hoping I turn out fine.  But I’ve found when given enough time and the proper motivation, everything does come together eventually and often in a new way.

When I make chili I try to use whatever I happen to have on hand.  Today I went to Mejier and found hominy and chipolte salsa on the bottom shelf of the vaguely “Mexican” section.  If I don’t use hominy I’ll add sweet potato chunks or roasted corn.  You need a balance of sweet and heat to give the earthy beans and acidic tomato sauce some interest.  It’s always the people who make you laugh or who make your blood boil that cause your day to change in one direction in the other.  Too much heat will make it hard to swallow and too much sweet will become boring after awhile.  Everything will come together when you cannot taste too much of either in the mix and are left with a gentle buzz of both.

chili one

it all comes together eventually chili

edible requirements
one large onion
3-4 small or 1-2 large sweet peppers; bells, hungarian, poblano, hatch are all good choices
1-2 hot peppers; add fresh jalapenos during cooking for extra heat or picked jalapenos as garish to control your spice
one can of crushed tomatoes
three cans of beans, black/pinto/red
one can of hominy or one sweet potato, or 2 cups roasted corn
one small can of chipolte salsa or chili paste/sauce of choice
more of cumin, coriander, chili powder, salt/pepper; less of nutmeg, honey, paprika
garnish options: avocado, sour cream, green onion, cilantro, lime
oil of choice

chili two

do these things
in your largest cauldron add chopped oil, chopped onions and peppers
once your peppers and onions are nutty and brown add your spices to toast

cumin and coriander are the main notes and are backed up with a little nutmeg and paprika; add as much honey as you need to add sweetness missing in your starch choice

rinse your canned beans and add them to the pot to mix with the veggies and spices
add in the can of crushed tomatoes, stir, and bring to a low simmer
allow the mix to sit in the heat with the occasional stir to keep the bottom from burning until desired thickness
recipe will yield many bowls with no two tasting exactly the same


chili three

Potions Class: bitters final day

After seven weeks of waiting, my bitters was still very pungent.  My flavorings did not overcome the Everclear and I needed to use a bit of magic to intervene.

bitters strained

I started by straining both the solid parts from potions one and two and setting aside the liquor.  The solids were placed in a pot with 2 cups of water and another 1/2 of orange zest and 1 cup of passionflower.  This mix was left to come to a boil on the stove and steep for 30 mins.   After straining, this mix created about a cup of flavor tea that I could use to dilute the alcohol.  I mixed equal parts of the water and the liquor concentrates to finish.

bitters on stove

The final product is a dark murky potion that tastes like bitter coca-cola syrup and looks like swamp water.  I am none too pleased.  I’ve tried it in a couple cocktails and found it much too bitter.   I may just pour the whole project down the drain or bottle it for new puppy owners to discourage chewing.  It’s truly that bad.  Failures are just part of experimentation, better to try and end up with a dog training aid!