Monthly Archives: January 2012

Two Left

My kitchen was full of food when I left town last week. I had spent Friday grocery shopping, baking bread, and making cookies. I wanted to make sure Lee would have enough to eat while I was gone without subsisting on chips+salsa.

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Look at those crunchy, buttery edges and chewy, oaty mountains of cookie!

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He ate pretty well on his own. Most of the sourdough loaf I’d baked was gone when I got home last night and Lee had left me a few cookies (four to be exact). Given the deliciousness of the cookies, I’m surprised he was able to restrain himself. These particular cookies came from the Foodzie Cookies & Confections Cooking Box that my mom sent me a few weeks ago. We ordered boxes for each other when they went on sale post-Christmas. I’ve had my eye on Foodzie’s extravagant Tasting and Cooking Boxes for a while but couldn’t justify buying one for myself. Isn’t that what moms are for? It was a perfect gift exchange.

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I photographed the goods as soon as they arrived.

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Only the recipe and one of the ingredients were really in the box. The rest came from my pantry.

After Lee and I each ate one for dessert last night, only two cookies remained. I have a feeling they’ll be gone by tomorrow!

I can’t decide which I love more: the cute recipe cards with cookies recipes from fantastic bloggers or the mouth-watering selection of special ingredients for those cookies. The edibles are ample supply for cookie baking and then some. The cards will add some heft to the cookie section of my recipe box and will probably be butter-stained in no time.

The recipe for Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Cherries and Pistachios from The Vintage Mixer caught my eye first. I’m just an oatmeal cookie kind of girl. Every chewy, sweet bite of oats brings me complete dessert happiness and satisfaction, no milk dunking necessary. Rather than a vehicle for chocolate, sugar, or frosting, an oatmeal cookie is a real food all by itself. It’s what’s inside that counts. In this case, the Benjamin Twiggs Michigan Dried Red Cherries went a long way towards making an excellent cookie.

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I must confess, I used the walnuts and pecans that were already in my pantry rather than buying pistachios for this recipe. It’s hard to find shelled pistachios that aren’t already roasted and coated in salt! The nuts I used were great but I’m determined to have green hunks of goodness in my next batch of Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Cherries and Pistachios.

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Filed under desserts, inspiration and musings

Vegan Lemon Chia Seed Muffins

It’s raining in San Francisco today. We’ve been mourning the lack of moisture all over the West this winter, which is nothing like past winters I’ve spent in the bay area. I remember walking the length of campus in the pouring rain to get to a midterm. The class was held in a frigid basement room of the old women’s gymnasium, next door to the anthropology collection, and I thought I was going to freeze to death before finishing that midterm. My pants and feet were soaking wet and I’m sure my toes turned blue. I remember not really caring about the test any more. I just wanted to finish it and get out of there! Ah, those were the days.

The fool in me thinks You should go back to school! You’re certainly not getting a job so you don’t have anything better to do! Ha. No way. The smarter part of me remembers that I promised to never repeat the thesis-writing experience.

What can I do instead, now that I’m without employment, internships, or medical crises to keep me occupied? I’m thinking about learning to sing or dance (I’ve been watching way too much Glee on Netflix). Or maybe I’ll through myself headlong into organizing and decorating the house, something that might never get done otherwise.

Before I get to whiny, let me get to the point: These muffins are bright sunny spots on this grey day and on my recent dark mood. The solutions to my boredom and idleness are of cooking and blogging, of course. A job would help too. I have at least one really, really incredible prospect in my sights.

Meanwhile, I’ll be making these muffins over and over again until I get tired of them. They are undoubtedly the best thing I’ve made in a long time. I knew they would be as soon as the idea hit me. What about lemon poppy seed muffins but with chia seeds instead! They could be vegan!

Lemon poppy seed muffins have always struck me as the most dainty, sophisticated muffin. They don’t have much substance and often toe the line between cupcake and muffin. With chia seeds, though, and whole wheat pastry flour, these muffins are like undercover spies in the world of frivolous pastries. A modest amount of honey adds the perfect sweetness and the lemon flavor is surprisingly strong, in a good way.

If you have not tried chia seeds I encourage you to get some. As gross as this may sound, their coagulating abilities are just so…cool. I mostly use them in hot cereal and overnight oats but now that I’ve baked with them once I think they will join flax seed meal as an essential part of my vegan baking.

Lemon Chia Seed Muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds + 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sour non-dairy milk + juice from half a lemon
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line a muffin tin with silicone or paper cups.
  3. Combine chia seeds with water, whisking them together. Allow them to sit for 5-10 minutes.
  4. In a large bowl, blend flour, baking powder, and salt.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine lemon zest, soy milk, and lemon juice.
  6. Add honey and chia gel to soy milk mixture, stirring until honey dissolves and is thoroughly blended.
  7. Stir in vanilla extract.
  8. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir gently till barely combined.
  9. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin and bake for approximately 20 minutes.
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Franken-me

As promised, here is the long story of my very busy December. If you’re worried, stop worrying. I want to start the new year with less worrying.

By busy, I mean no free weekends to enjoy our new house or do anything outdoorsey. I’ll pick up where I left off here, when I had to leave town abruptly before a planned road trip to Oregon to get my dog. That unplanned flight to Los Angeles had to do with the melanoma that turned up on my shoulder back in November. Okay, so it had been there for a while. November was just when I got the results of biopsy from a recent dermatologist visit.

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Doc did eventually make it home to us. As a side note: on our trip to pick him up I left my phone on top of my car, it fell off, and was run over multiple times. Fortunately someone found it and it still worked! With a new screen is was almost good as new!

The funny/ironic/sad thing about me having a melanoma is that my dad has always been known as somewhat of a skin cancer Nazi among family and friends. Even though we wore much, much more sunscreen than the average kids growing up in the 90’s, my brother and I used to feel like we’d committed some kind of crime when we got sunburned. We are fair skinned, blue-eyed, and doomed to live in fear of the sun for the rest of our lives.

My melanoma (doesn’t that have an endearing ring to it?) was large enough to warrant a pretty extensive surgery to remove the area around it as well as the nearby lymph nodes where cancer cells might have migrated. I was working on getting an appointment for that procedure at UCSF but wasn’t having much luck so my dad pulled some strings at the university cancer center where he works. With less than a days notice, I was flying to SoCal.

I spent an entire day in exam rooms, alongside ultrasound machines, and under the care of several wonderful doctors. I went home with a biopsied lymph node in my armpit, three stitched-up biopsy spots where a dermatologist decided to test some of my other moles, and an appointment to return for the surgery on January 18th. All those biopsies came back negative but January 18th wasn’t soon enough for the surgery as far as my dad was concerned.

Three days before Christmas Eve, when my dad called me at work to tell me there was a opening and the doctor could do the surgery on December 22, I was not happy. I did not want to fly South to be cut open. I didn’t want to be recovering over Christmas and miss out on those last precious days before the holiday itself arrived. Reluctantly, though, I gave in and my dad made the arrangements. I know he was worried about me and it would have ruined his Christmas to have to keep worrying.

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This guy kept me sane through it all.

My second visit to LA involved a pre-surgery procedure and an early morning in the operating room. The day I arrived, they injected radioactive stuff under the skin at the melanoma site (ouch!). That stuff – okay it was an isotope, lets get technical – flowed to the nearest lymph nodes, which happened to be in my armpit, and helped the surgeon find them the next morning.

I had a deeeeelicious dinner at an Italian restaurant with my dad that night and Pinkberry (a special treat) for dessert. We stayed in a hotel because my dad’s apartment is so tiny.

On surgery morning, I got to the hospital at 5 am and began the two-hour process of changing into a gown, funny hat, and socks and having 7 different people ask me the same questions. What is your name? What are you here for today? What shoulder is it on? Do you have any allergies? When was the last time you had something to eat?

I’d never had any kind of surgery requiring general anesthesia before. The whole pre-op room was super interesting, which was nice cause without all those diverting conversations to overhear and people to watch I would never have been able to stay awake to answer all the questions. At 7:30am I finally went into the operating room. That is, the anesthesiologist gave me an injection of “stuff to make me calm and happy”, which also made me forget everything after they wheeled me out of the pre-op room. I know the surgeon was there in his suspenders. That made me happy. Suspenders are cool.

When I woke up I was in the recovery room and a nurse was trying to talk to me. Waking up from Anesthesia was one of the strangest experiences I have ever had. I was so frustrated because I just couldn’t stay awake no matter how hard I tried. It took me all afternoon to wake up and a couple of tries to get out of the room. The first time I got up, went to the bathroom, and realized that my body wasn’t ready to be vertical yet. I went back to bed and back to sleep. On my second attempt, the nurse helped me get dressed and someone wheeled me out to meet my dad in his car. He got me a chocolate banana smoothie from Starbucks, per my request for a smoothie. It tasted wonderful and staid down.

My shoulder hurt. They had taken out five lymph nodes but found all of them normal. I had dressings on the top/front of my left shoulder and under my left arm. I was still so tired. Pain medication and lots of pillows helped me get through the night but by the morning it was clear that super-duper pain meds make me sick. I stopped taking them.

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Some yummy eats from the past month. I’ve been making lots of pizza!

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I did a lot of cooking+eating but not much exercising thanks to my wounds.

I negotiated the rest of the holiday season with my left arm in a sling and a limited range of motion in my shoulder. The sling mostly kept my arm from resting on my swollen armpit and discouraged movements that might have ripped wounds open. I kept the waterproof dressings on for as long as possible so I didn’t see my actual incisions for a while. When I finally took all the bandages off (two weeks post-surgery) it was worse than I thought! I almost passed out when the surgeon unveiled my shoulder incision, complete with 7 staples! Those came out last week (3 weeks post-surgery) so now I look a little less like Frankenstein.

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Two Quince, a Recipe Swap

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I had a whole post written about what I’ve been up to in the past month and offering excuses for why I haven’t been blogging. That post is filed away for next time and this month’s Recipe Swap is taking precedent!

For more than a year, Christianna at Burwell General Store has been sharing vintage recipes with a growing number of talented bloggers. I joined the group a few months ago and look forward to every swap as a new opportunity to really let my creativity loose on a recipe. We all have to come up with something closely or very loosely based on the original recipe. The results are always quite different!

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This was the first recipe I didn’t fall in love with at first sight. Zabaglione is not the kind of dessert I would ever order in a restaurant or make myself at home. I guess I have simpler taste in sweets and don’t normally go for boozy food.

It was clear that this swap would take some thought. Unfortunately, I had A LOT going on, as you will read in a future post. My brain just wasn’t on blogging. I bought marsala wine. I bought eggs. Hey, maybe I’d just make zabaglione! I did lots of research. Everyone loves food research.Then, this evening, I made quince preserves.

Quince preserves? Yes. The odd and new-to-me fruit that I picked up in a little market on Mission was calling my name, begging me to simmer it with wine and sugar. I read that quince are like a cross between a pear and an apple but cannot be eaten raw. Many poached quince recipes popped up in my google searches and one of my cookbooks has a recipe for quince preserves.

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Fruit put my mind at ease. The marsala addition was my adventuresome throw-back to the zabaglione recipe. One a busy winter night, just back from some weekend traveling, I made two jars of preserves. Could we consider that a reference to the “…for two” part of the original swap recipe?

While I did not do a very good job with this dish from a preserving perspective and I don’t necessarily recommend that you can the mixture this recipe makes, I do recommend that you cook some quince in marsala wine. This recipe would make an excellent compote for ice cream, cake, or even granola+yogurt. It didn’t quite make enough liquid to fill my jars and I didn’t chop the quince finely enough to make spreadable preserves but the result is ridiculously good. I don’t even like wine and the flavors of the marsala and the fruit are so happy together that I have to pat myself on the back for this one.

Really, these are the people with the awesome food.

 

 

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Marsala Quince Compote

2 ripe quince, peeled, cored and finely chopped
1/2 cup dry marsala wine
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Combine wine, water, and sugar in a medium saucepan over moderate heat. Stir to dissolve sugar.
Bring liquids to a boil.
Add chopped quince and return mixture to a boil.
Cook on high for 15-20 minutes, or until fruit is soft and partly transparent and the liquid does not immediately flow back together when you drag a spoon across the bottom of the pan.
Pour compote into glass storage or serving dish (heat up the dish in a warm oven first).
Allow the mixture to cool and then cover and refrigerate or use immediately.

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Filed under condiments, desserts