Saturday, December 31, 2011

Best of 2011 List

this is a potpourri of the best things of 2011 that I enjoyed this year:

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Best Song:

  • “Firework” Katy Perry

Best Movie:

  • Inside Job
  • The King’s Speech  (technically they are 2010, but I am a netflix gal)
  • The Social Network
  • A Crude Awakening
  • The girl with the dragon tattoo, played with fire, hornets nest, etc. (the originals)

Best TV Series (watched one episode after another on Netlfix instant play):

  • Glee
  • Gossip Girl
  • Weeds

Best Music video:

  • Will Schuster in Glee, Season 1 Acafellas

Best Villain:

  • Sue Sylvester

Best Books: (technically, audiobooks)

Best Laugh:

Best Kitchen Gadget:

  • Tripli non-stick saute pan, Giada Di Laurentiis for Target (still looks like brand new after 2 months).
  • (2010 it was the Vitamix)

Best Electronic Gadgets:

Most mourned deaths:

  • Steve Jobs
  • Amy Winehouse
  • Elisabeth Taylor

Thing most wasted time on:

  • Watching Kim Kardashian’s Fairytale Wedding

Let’s see what next year brings. Happy 2012!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Ice Beach

The days between Christmas and New Year are spent by many people at either one of 2 locations: the cold mountains, skiing, snowboarding, Aspen and the like, or at a warm beach, like St Barts or Miami. Yesterday, I took my last trip of 2011 to the ocean at Mount Desert Island, and I did not have to choose, I had both, the ocean, the beach and the snow and the ice. A beautiful atmosphere. 

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Vacation includes fine dining. Mine was tapas at the ever beautiful Cleonice in Ellsworth.
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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Winter Cat

Chanelle told me he has blog envy, with all the other cats being featured on the blog. So, here you go, darling, no need to be jealous (in my best Lisa Vanderpumps voice).

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Lentil patties

I mentioned them the other day, the baked lentil patties. They are great as sides, salad ingredients, for sandwiches and just as snacks. I made several versions since then, and they are all very tasty, hot as well as cold. One version is vegan using a flax egg, and the other uses eggwhites, which seems to hold the patties  together better. I also baked them in the oven and fried them (with very little oil). Fried was better because the baked ones stuck to the foil.
The fabulous ingredients about these patties is still the chopped medjool dates, which makes them surprisingly sweet with the smokey-ness of cumin and mexican oregano in the background. I like vegan dishes spicy, so I added some Sriracha to the mixture. Herbs like thyme would be great, too.
  • 1/2 cup dried lentils (red, green or beluga, or all of them)
  • 1/4 cup dried chickpeas
  • 1 bay leaves
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 cups water (as soaking liquid)
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 flax eggs or 2 eggwhites (flax egg: 1 TB ground linseeds, 2 TB water, mixing and waiting for 5 min for them to gel)
  • 1 ts cumin
  • 1/2 ts sweet paprika
  • 1 ts mexican oregano
  • 4 TB Trader Joes red pepper spread
  • 1 TB hot sauce (Sriracha, optional)
  • salt, pepper to taste
  • 5 medjool dates, chopped
Fill the lentils and chickpeas into a jar with sufficient space, and fill up with water. Let stand for about 10h until the lentils and the chickpeas soaked up the water and doubled in volume. Now, pour the lentils and chickpeas with the soaking liquid in a pot, add more water so that the lentil are covered, add a peeled, sliced garlic clove and 1 bay leaf, bring to a boil and let simmer on medium-low for 40 min until the lentils and chickpeas are tender. 

lentils_soaked
Drain the lentils and chickpeas, remove the bay leaf, keep the garlic clove, and pulse the mixture coarsely in a food processor. The mixture should keep a lot of texture and not be too smooth.
In a mixing bowl, mix the chopped lentils and chickpeas with the remaining ingredients. Mix well. Heat a pan with some olive oil so that the patties won’t stick. Form little patties (I got about 25 small patties from the mixture) and fry on medium heat, about 10min on the first side, and 4 min on the second side. You want to leave them in the pan (or griddle) longer at first so that they stay intact when you turn them over. Serve!
Lentilpatties

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Hidden Treasures

Today I did something that I normally don’t allow myself doing. Visit the Humane Society. Because one of these wonderful animals always tugs at my heart strings and I end up with a new cat (I have 4). But how can you walk away? So, instead I would like to ask you to visit your local Humane Society and see if you find a wonderful animal who you adopt into your family. Or just go and play with the cats and dogs for a bit, bring them a toy, a treat, make their day. 

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Here is the first inmate I entertained today. A wonderful 2-year old long-haired gray-white girl. Very smart, very loving. And while I played someone stuck a sticker on her kennel. “I’ve been adopted !”. I am not surprised. 

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I almost adopted her myself. 

HS3

And then there was the nursery. With 4 little, 3-months old brothers, 3 orange tabbies and one gray kitten, scared to death. The only place to hide was the litterbox.
 
HS4

Or behind the cushions.

HS5

Maybe, the litterbox is better after all. 

HS6

So, go, and explore and maybe you have room for one more kitten or cat or dog.

Winter in New England

There is some snow, not as much as usual yet, but it still makes for the wintery atmosphere we associate with New England. Looking at the photos it reminds me of the winter scenes of Valley of the Dolls, the 60s movie about four different women. Not much has changed. At least not in the wintery scenes of New England. It is serene, quiet and beautiful. 

frozen river
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winter NewEngland

Monday, December 26, 2011

Potato, Potahto. It’s all just a lahtke to me.

We got a few inches of snow last night, not much to speak of, but cold temperatures and after days of being sequestered under the Christmas tree I took the chance for a ski. The air was crisp, the sun peeked through the trees, and there was enough snow to glide above the surface working up a sweat. This called for a pre-ski snack. The frozen latkes I had picked up at Trader Joes last time came in handy. I heated up a latke straight from the freezer, it took maybe 10 min and tasted like freshly made --- crispy on the outside and smooth-potato-ey on the inside. I also heated a few of the spicy lentil patties, which I had baked instead of fried. The chopped medjool dates gave them a wonderful sweetness in contrast to the smokey and spicy flavor and burger-like texture. All rounded out with some mixed green, black cherry vinaigrette, and sauteed mushrooms. 

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Someone around here asked Santa for a Christmas sweater… doesn’t she look happy? 

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The sparkly spark solstice

It is Christmas week, hard to believe. It still seems so busy and not slowing down at all. I guess it does happen when Christmas Eve falls on a Saturday. Work finally did slowed down and I made a pre-holiday trek to the Big City to stock up on Trader Joes and Whole Foods groceries. Whole Foods had Emi Fondue to sample (which is the best, beside home-made fondue from scratch) and Trader Joes latkes. Flowers, cheese platters, cured olives in bulk at ‘extreme’ low prices, even caviar at Trader Joes,….holiday items in full swing, the holiday crowds not (yet). Loved the stores in the mall that already sold their merchandise at 40% off because they would do anyway next week. Sparkly spark for shoes, glittery dresses. It might be the darkest day of the year, but humans invented glitter and candlelight.
 
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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Winter Vegetables

It is colder outside, milder than usual this time of the year in Maine, but a mix of rain and snow and a gray sky makes for warm comfort food. Salads are typically a combination of chopped raw vegetables, but a winter version is a combination of precooked or prebaked winter vegetables ---- in my case today it was a freshly sauteed portalla mushroom with olive oil thyme baked butternut squash cubes, chickpeas and french string beans baked with red onion slivers, all heated in a skillet and served with feta crumbles. My kind of winter salad. Looks the ground outside, mostly green with a few snow flakes.

winter_vegetables

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Adventures in Nut Butters

This morning, I saw several home-made almond butters as gifts for the holidays. They looked so luxurious and with a texture just like the Justin’s maple almond butter I am out of, so I decided to give nut butter my first try. A cup of raw almonds, mixed with 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, a tablespoon of chia seeds and a tablespoon of dark flax seed as well as 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and a 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt. I mixed it all up, and distributed the almonds on a baking sheet, and roasted them at 300F for about 20min. Now, the food processor got to work. And to work,  it did get.

I poured all the almonds in the food processor, added a 1/2 TB of honey and pulsed the nuts. I scraped down the walls a  few times, and then let it run. And let it run. And let it run. According to the recipe it should be buttery after 10min. But after 10 min it still looked like coarse dark almond meal (center picture). So, I let the processor run for another 5 min, and another 5 min, and another 5 min….. For a while there I suspected that the only thing that would get to a liquid consistency would be the food processor’s motor. But I put faith in those recipes telling me “Be patient!” After about 30min, I gave it a rest (and the food processor a cool down). It looked like the picture in the bottom right, a thick fudge like consistency. After another 1/2 hour I added a tablespoon of sunflower seed oil, and let the food processor do its thing a while longer. 

Overall, it took about 1 hour until the almond butter had the required consistency (top right picture). Phew! Tastes good, though. And the food processor survived, too. 

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Does your cat still need a holiday present?

Here are a few ideas. Some, he/she will appreciate, others not so much. Worst case, the yarn itself will always be welcomed. 

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Mini Apple Pie, just for me!

Williams Sonoma sells these adorable (and practical!) ruffled mini pie pans from Henry Emile. I own the big one in white, but I don’t bake large pies that often, but the small one came in handy for those spontaneous mini pies. Crust or not, I tried it out today with some of the last apples from the farmers market that had lost their crisp, and would be perfect for as baked apples. I peeled 2 large apples, cored and diced them, and mixed them with 2 TB of multigrain flakes (or rolled oats), a teaspoon of lemon, a tablespoon of maple syrup, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract and a pinch of ground cloves. They were so sweet that sugar was not necessary. Once everything was mixed I poured the apples in the mini pie pan and baked them at 400F for 40min. A dollop of sweetened Greek yogurt with fresh orange zest rounded out the apple pie. Which was eaten at once.

mini_apple_mini

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Spicy Lentil Patties

THIS looks simple amazing. Check out the recipe over at veggie num num!

lentil-patty-pockets-2

Food tracking in today’s time

Sometimes we wonder why the skinny jeans sit tight. We’ve been good, right? Did everything right? Ate the right thing, and worked (out) hard? How frustrating!! But some explanatory theories are plain wrong like for example “the scale is gone off the deep end…" (or ‘I must get new batteries') or “I am getting older and now have a weird metabolism that is why I am not loosing” or “Diets are a complete mystery that have not been really solved despite the multimillion dollar industry behind it”. 

In reality, the laws of thermodynamics are intact: calories in versus calories out. However, it is more likely that our inner calorie calculator is off and we incorrectly assess calorie content of our daily meals. It can be because we underestimate the real weight of the portion and eyeball it (but then 3oz start to become more like 6oz), or we don’t know what is really in a dish when eating out (all that flavor enhancing butter smuggled into the veggies?), or simply let some ‘snacks’ or ‘that glass of wine’ slip our minds (and accounting). However, our trusty bodies account correctly. Getting the calorie equation right (that includes correct assessing how much we burn every day and not use the treadmill number at the gym which is likely based on a 180 pound 6 ft man) does works.

In our modern technology times, there are a new ways of being accountable: beside using a device like the BodyMedia sensor to track daily caloric expenditure automatically and accurately, Evernote has a new application for the IPhone to track food intact using the phone’s camera and the application. The data can be synch with a laptop-based application, and next time the jeans are tight again we can go back and wonder “did I really eat all these cookies at the holiday party?”  That is, if you take picts of the cookies, and not of the cute date next to you…. 

Also, check out Fitsugar’s How easy it is to gain a pound a week.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cinnamon-Spiced Candied Nuts

I love some crunch on my lunch time salads --- not just simple crunch with healthy nuts, but luxurious crunch with nuts candied in a tad of butter, brown sugar and sometimes a pinch of cayenne pepper. But it is the holidays, and time to change things up: time for vanilla and cinnamon. Delicious (and not just as a salad topping)! 

Cinnamon spiced candied nuts
  • 3/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 3/4 cup walnut halves, chopped into medium sized pieces (or chopped pecans)
  • 1/2 TB butter
  • 1 ts vanilla extract
  • 2 TB brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 ts ground cinnamon
  • pinch of ground cloves (cautious, this is a strong flavor, add very little).
In a large skillet melt the butter on medium heat and add the vanilla extract. Turn down the heat to low, and add the nuts, the brown sugar and the spices and salt  (it might be good to premix the spices and the sugar before adding them to the pan). Stir the mixture until all nuts are well coated. Slowly turn the heat higher to medium heat and constantly gently stir the mix. It will take about 2-3 min until you see the sugar melting and becoming candy-like, stir for 1 more minute, turn of the heat and take the pan off the stove. Gently stir the mixture for about 1 min until it is slightly cooled off, and then distributed in a single layer on a paper towel lined baking sheet. Wait about 15 min until the candied nuts are cooled and can be stored in an airtight container.

cinnamon_spiced_nuts
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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Baked sugar rush

One of my favorite salad and meal ingredients in the fall/winter is baked squash from my winter squash collection. With a big serrated bread knife I cautiously forcefully cut the red kuri/kabocha squash into sections, remove the seeds, and line the slices on a foil-linned baking sheet. Same with a delicata squash. Some salt and pepper, and baking for 35min at 425F. Baked squash is sweet…. like sugar.

baked_kuri

Saturday, December 3, 2011

And this is why it is called winter chard

We had snow and our first snow storm. We are back to lawn greenness and there is one plant in the garden who thrives on this weather and is enticed to growth spurts – the winter chard. Once the 1 ft of snow was gone the swiss chard reemerged with a few extra leaves. The kale is also not deterred by the weather yet.

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

The sparklies

I am in holiday spirits but I am so crazy busy with work that I don’t get around to cook anything elaborate right now or at all. So, I leave you with my eye candy adventures these days of other blogs. For example this ridiculously beautiful holiday sparkly cake? Anyone need to bring a dessert for a holiday party and has the time to make it? The Jungle Frog’s Mascarpone Raspberry Trifle should do it!

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