Sunday, June 27, 2010

Carrot Sauce

What's the opposite of a Domestic Goddess? A "Domestic Delinquent perhaps? Whatever it is, that's me. I suppose I could be worse. There are certain things I get done regularly, like grocery shopping, cooking, and doing the dishes. I could be feeding Todd and I dinners of Ritz crackers and Cheese Whiz from the corner store and letting dirty takeout containers pile up in the sink. But, I could never admit to you the number of times in my life that I've, for instance, thoroughly cleaned a refrigerator , or how regularly I mop my floors or dust. I'm sure there's things I'm should do that I don't even have any idea I should be doing. And, when I do these sorts of things, I'm really not efficient at it due to my lack of practice.
I want to turn over a new leaf, however. Well, sort of. I know I enjoy the house being clean, I just don't enjoy the process or want to take the time to do it. I can ALWAYS find something else to be doing. So, I hired someone to clean the apartment every other week. It took Todd and I a bit to wrap our head around the idea that this was a justifiable thing to do. It is, after all, only the two of us, and our place is small. But, reality is we both work a lot of hours and don't want to spend our weekends taking care of that stuff, so it just doesn't get done at the frequency it should. We've had our apartment cleaned three times now and so far it's great. I know it's a luxury that I won't always be able to have, but I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts. And with the dusting and floor washing done, it leaves me time to be scouring the fridge and all those other things I'll have to figure out. Feel free to advise (Mom). I should also mention here, for the record,that my mother keeps her house very clean, and this is not something I've inherited from her.
But, back to one of my more redeeming household qualities- cooking. I made this sauce specifically to go over some five grain croquettes I made a couple of months ago, but the sauce is versatile and would work well over most grains and some veggies as well. The recipe calls for carrot juice which I had to buy at the store because I don't have a juicer, but prefer to be able to make my own.

Carrot Sauce
2 tspns olive oil
2 scallions, trimmed, white parts thinly sliced
1 tspn finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
sea salt
2 cups fresh carrot juice
2 tspns freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 2-inch strip lemon zest
2 tblspns arrowroot powder
2 tblspns cold water
2 tspns finely chopped fresh parsley

1. In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the scallions, thyme, and a pinch of salt. Saute for 1 minute, cover and cook over the lowest possible heat for 5 minutes. Do not let the scallions brown.
2. Add the carrot juice, lemon juice and lemon zest. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered for 2 minutes.
3. In a small bowl, dissolve the arrowroot in water. Add it to the pan and stir continuously until the sauce thickens. Remove and discard the lemon zest. Add the parsley and simmer for 1 minute. (If you want something with a little more kick, you could add a pinch of cayenne here as well.)
4. Serve immediately or cool to room temperature and refrigerate. The sauce will keep for up to 2 days.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sweet Potato Walnut Salad

Today was a gorgeous day. I started it with a trip to a farmers market, my first this season. I went with two missions: 1) get some veggies 2)take some portrait shots for this week's photography class assignments. I did just a little of both. I walked away with bok choy, swiss chard, red leaf lettuce, strawberries, a greenhouse tomato, and maybe one portrait shot that I can turn in for this week. Later I was regretting not getting some arugula because it would be so good with some strawberries and shaved Parmesan. Well, maybe next week.
Mike gave me a lesson on shutter speed and aperture amidst the hanging tomato plants and lettuces. It helped a lot, and I'm still trying to wrap my head around it all. I think it's going to take a while.
Speaking of strawberries, I cannot stand putting them in the fridge, but I also can't stand having them go moldy after a day. Any ideas on this? I came home from the market and had to spend time throwing away some old produce that had gone bad before I got a chance to use it, including some lettuce. Mike also gave me a good suggestion regarding keeping lettuce fresh: put a paper towel in with your lettuce. It will help absorb the moisture and increase the life of the lettuce pretty dramatically. I will try it this week.
Of f to see my parents tomorrow to celebrate Fathers' Day. We will be making this salad as part of our meal. I made it a couple of weeks ago and it was better than I had anticipated. This also came from Moosewood Cooking for Health.

Sweet Potato Walnut Salad
Dressing
1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
2 tblspns white vinegar
2 tblspns chopped sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil (I did not use these)
1 tspn dijon mustard
1/2 tspn salt
1/4 tspn ground blk pepper

3 large sweet potatoes (I used 2)
2 cups trimmed and halved green beans
1 cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
salt and black pepper

1. Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
2. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into 3/4 inch cubes. Steam until just tender.
3. Steam the green beans until just tender.
4. In a bowl, toss the sweet potatoes, green beans, walnuts, parsley and dressing.
5. This can be served, warm, at room temperature or chilled. Serve it as a side or over arugula.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Granola

Ooooooooooooooooommmmmmmm. I repeated that many times this week, along with lots of downward facing dogs, deep breaths and goddess poses (Kathy M, if you read this, please do not critique the pose I am portraying in the picture. I know it needs work!). For my time off this month, I decided on a practice that's become popular in the sluggish economy - a "staycation". I didn't stay home all week, but I did stay local. I had originally considered going to Boulder to visit my friend Lauri and spend a night at a yoga retreat center outside of Fort Collins, but I traveled a couple of times for work in May and I just didn't feel like getting on a plane again. So, I looked into Kripalu, a yoga center out in the Berkshires, less than a 3 hour drive from Boston. I had heard lots about it over the years and thought it was time I check it out. They offer lots of topical programs that focus mostly on yoga and health, but I decided to just go for the program-free Retreat and Renewal where you can attend yoga classes and other talks and workshops throughout the day.
When I first made my reservations, I booked a three night stay, but then I was hearing mixed reviews about the place, and realized I was going to miss Bike Night at Redbones, so I cut it back to two. I went in with very low expectations, and I think this tactic worked because I ended up having a very nice time. I enjoyed the yoga classes I took, had a couple of healing arts treatments, learned about Ayurvedic practices, sampled lots of the healthy food options, and met a new friend, Jennifer, from Maine.
The first thing I noticed when I got there is that everyone was walking around and looking up, totally aware of their surroundings, meaning they weren't texting or talking on the phone while going from one place to the next. There are very strict rules about where one can talk on a cell phone. Even as a self-proclaimed text addict, I found this to be very pleasant. In many ways they try to draw you into the moment, to be mindful of what you're doing. Even breakfast is totally silent. Imagine being in a large dining hall, with hundreds of people in it, and they are all just eating - not even reading or playing games on their phone. I'm all for technology, but it was nice to have a break. Of course, I'll admit I was playing Scrabble and texting the second I got into my room, but I put my phone away the rest of the time.
I'm not sure if I'll text less now that I'm home, but I am looking to work meditation into my daily routine. I also bought a cookbook to continue my exploration on the topic. You may see some recipes in the near future. Again, I was reminded to eat fresh food as much as possible. While I do a decent job with this, I think I can do a bit better.
Since I had some free time upon my return, I decided to make my own granola. I've been meaning to do this for a while and thought it a perfect task during a staycation. It came out pretty tasty, so here it is. I took it from one of my Moosewood cookbooks (Cooking for Health). I hope you enjoy it. Namaste.

Granola
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup honey or pure maple syrup ( I used agave nectar)
1 tspn salt
1 tblsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups coarsely chopped nuts
6 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup sunflower or pumpkin seeds
2 tbslpn brown sesame seeds (I didn't have any, so didn't use)
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (optional, but I did use)

1. Preheat the oven to 325.
2. In a small saucepan on low heat, warm the oil and sweetener of choice. Stir in the vanilla.
3. Place the oats nuts and seeds in a large bowl. While stirring, gradually pour in the warm oil mixture until everything is coated.
4. Spread the granola on an un-oiled baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring after 20 minutes.
5. Remove from the oven and stir every 10 minutes or so, until cool to prevent clumping.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Crunchy Quinoa Salad

I'm in the midst of Birthday Week. So far, I have to say, I'm having a lot more fun celebrating 41 than I did 40. It's not that I had a bad time for my 40th. I think I just felt compelled to do something really memorable and I couldn't decide what that should be so I just became paralyzed with indecision and didn't plan much of anything. This turned out to be the year of the Ipad. I bought Todd one for his birthday a couple of weeks ago, not knowing he had already ordered one for me. It's probably a good thing, because I don't think either of us would be into sharing. And besides receiving that and other great gifts, I'm really enjoying myself. Thursday, my actual birthday, was Mission: Ice-cream. Imagine my delight when I realized one of the flavors for the month at J.P. Licks was fresh banana oreo, just like last year. Todd, Steve and I went for a casual dinner in Davis Square, followed by a calcium fix. To my relief, fresh banana oreo was just as good as I remembered it and I'm going to have to get over there at least once more before the end of the month. Friday was my real birthday dinner. Todd, Sallie, Mike, Catherine and I met at Oleana. I've heard many times how fantastic this place was and made the reservations 2 months ago. I ordered the vegetarian tasting menu and everything was great. I think the table favorite was the falafel appetizer Sallie ordered. Each falafel ball was laid out in it's own adorable little wrap. It's perfect for a special occasion and we will be going back. Hopefully next time we will get patio seating. Tomorrow, I go see Patty Griffin with Susan. We haven't had a music date in a while so I'm looking forward to it. Then, next week, I'm on vacation.
I found this recipe in a newer cookbook of mine, The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen. I needed something to bring to a Memorial Day cookout. In the midst of making it I suddenly panicked as I realized, "Oh no, I've done it again. I've made some weird thing that no one will want to eat." As it turned out, my worries were unfounded because most of it was not only consumed, but enjoyed. Sarahjoy, the host, was particularly fond of it. I mentioned her in my last post as I had volunteered to bring a veggie dish to her wedding weekend party. It looks like I will now be bringing quinoa salad instead! It's great for a picnic or outdoor setting because it stays pretty crunchy. Be warned, there are quite a few ingredients, so it requires a bit of time to make, but it's worth the effort.

Crunchy Quinoa Salad
Salad:
1/3 cup hulled sesame seeds
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/2 cups water
1/2 tspn sea salt
1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
Kernels from 2 ears of corn, or 1 cup frozed corn kernels defrosted
1 red onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
4-6 radishes, trimmed and cut into matchsticks
1 large carrot, grated

Marinade:
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small bunch cilantro (about 1 cup), trimmed, leaves and tender stems chopped
2 scallions, white and green parts, trimmed and sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 garlic clove, minced
sea salt
fresh milled pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375.
2. Spread the seeds on baking sheet and toast in the oven for 12 minutes or until golden brown (Not too much though! There is a fine line between toasted and burned.) Pour them in a bowl and set aside to cool.
3. In a small saucepan over high heat, bring the 1 1/2 cups of water and salt to a boil. Add the quinoa. When the water returns to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or until all of the water has been absorbed. Spread on a baking sheet to cool.
4. In a pot with a fitted steamer, combine the corn kernels with the red onion. Steam for 3 to 5 minutes until tender crisp. Remove to a colander and chill under cold running water. Drain thoroughly.
5. Make marinade. In a large mixing bowl, combine the vinegar, oil, cilantro, scallions, jalapeno pepper, garlic, 2 teaspoons salt, and black pepper to taste. Whisk well.
6. Add seeds, quinoa, steamed vegetable, red pepper, radishes, and carrot to the marinade. Mix well. Refrigerate for 20 minutes to blend flavors.