Tag Archives: lifestyle

Crispy Chocolate-Granola Haystacks

Road tripping ain’t what it used to be, friends.

Gone are our lazy days of puttering down the coast, of long lunches with spectacular views, of starting and stopping and pitching camp where and when we like.

We’re all business now.  It’s I-5 all the way from Seattle to Northern California, aggressive packing of PB&J fixings so we don’t need long lunches, and hardly noticing the view because of the song and dance I’m doing in the back seat to entertain the girls.

That’s right, we packed the whole family into the minivan (which I like to call the “Man Van” now, both to distance myself from it and to convey to J how sexy it is for him to take the kids to swimming lessons).  And we drove all afternoon and night, and much of the next day, and lived to tell the tale.

Here are some of the things that we did in the car to entertain three children aged 1, 3, and 5: made a list of things to do, read books, sang songs, colored, napped, watched a video, ate snacks, played peek-a-boo, and let the baby pull out an entire package of floss.

Here is something we did not do in the car: eat these chocolately granola treats.  We meant to, we really did.  Hannah said they were road food and I’m inclined to agree, but once I made them we had to taste one and then, wow, another, and they were so crispy and chocolately and then it was the next day and J was asking me to please take a photo of the things already so he could keep eating them and just like that…gone, as fast as the miles roll by when you’re having a good time out there on the road.

Continue reading Crispy Chocolate-Granola Haystacks (click for recipe)

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Grilled Eggplant with Cumin-Basil Yogurt Sauce

Seattle being Seattle (read: located above the 47th parallel), we are expecting almost 16 hours of sunlight on the summer solstice this week.  These long hours of light don’t always herald summer’s arrival, though.  We usually say that summer starts after the Fourth of July in Seattle.  We hope.

You know what else doesn’t start until July?  My CSAs.  Yes, that’s right, plural, CSAs.  Two big boxes of gorgeous produce–one mostly fruit and the other mostly veggies–for twenty weeks.  I can’t wait.

For those of you in the Seattle area who haven’t thrown your lot in with a CSA yet, there are lots of great options in our area, but I truly love the two that we are getting this year.  The first is from Tonnemaker’s organic farm and orchards, which provides a weekly box of unbelievably fragrant and impossibly delicious summer fruit: cherries, apricots, peaches, melons, pears, and apples were some of the highlights last year.  They grow many varieties that I had never heard of, let alone tasted, and a few months of their fruit was enough to make me truly mournful about having to get through the winter without it.  Tonnemaker’s is located in Eastern Washington, so they also provide some of the hot-weather produce that we’re starved for on this side of the Cascades: Tomatoes!  Eggplants!  Peppers!

The other CSA, our old standby now, is Nash’s Organic Produce.  They’re located out on the Olympic Peninsula, but they deliver to a few Seattle farmers markets.  Nash’s hooked us years ago with the Sweetest Carrots I Know, then reeled us in with greens galore and broccoli that tastes like a different vegetable from what you buy in a store.  Nash Huber and his team are also known for their activism and innovation in environmental conservation and protecting farmland, for which Nash received the 2008 Steward of the Land award from the American Farmland Trust, so that’s nice too.

Of course it’s not too late to sign up for either CSA!  Just click those links above (or–you’re so lazy!–click here for Tonnemaker’s and click here for Nash’s).  And once those boxes start rolling in, we’re going to be in veggie heaven around here.

In anticipation of summer vegetables, I grilled a couple eggplants based on this recipe from Food and Wine that my mother-in-law recommended.  I could have eaten the marinade with a spoon, but it was quite subtle in the finished dish, so if you want to take the easy way out you could just sprinkle the eggplant with olive oil and salt.  Most of what you’ll taste here is the smoky eggplant and cooling yogurt sauce with a background of cumin and big, herbaceous basil flavor as you crunch into the torn leaves.  In other words, it tastes like summer.

Continue reading Grilled Eggplant with Cumin-Basil Yogurt Sauce (click for recipe)

Smoked Salmon Spaghetti alla Carbonara with Spicy Peppers

There are currently only three chickens in our backyard flock: Ducky, Feather, and Feather.  Yes, two Feathers, both black.  I’ll gloss over the details of what happened to the original black Feather, and just tell you that when we got chicks the following spring, my oldest exclaimed in delight: “This time we have two Feathers!”  And so we do.

The Girls (by which, at the moment, I mean the three chickens, not the three little girls who live inside with us; it does get confusing sometimes) usually keep us amply supplied with eggs.  Today we had run out, though, so I was pleased that an afternoon visit to the coop yielded the two eggs I needed to make this recipe.  Taking fresh-laid eggs straight to the table never gets old for me.

This recipe is inspired by the Carbonara with Mama Lil’s Peppers on Michael Natkin’s delightfully-named vegetarian blog Herbivoracious (and check out his new Herbivoracious cookbook as well).  I love Mama Lil’s Peppers and think they’re an inspired addition to pastas, pizzas, antipasto plates, and much more.  (I even gave J a jar of the spicy ones as part of his Fathers Day present.  But use the mild ones for this recipe!)  A vegetarian carbonara is untraditional, of course–usually it gets a hit of smoky salt from bacon–and I departed from Michael’s departure from tradition by adding hot-smoked salmon instead. Continue reading Smoked Salmon Spaghetti alla Carbonara with Spicy Peppers (click for recipe)

Quinoa Salad with Radishes, Peas, Arugula, and Cilantro-Sweet Corn Dressing

Today is one of those nice days where a lot of people I love are together under one roof.  My in-laws are visiting, and my brother and his wife are passing through town with our favorite nephew (also, yes, only nephew).  I got to putter around in the garden for a while, sneaking up on weeds and picking ingredients for this salad while my mother-in-law, who is an amazing cook, made the rest of the meal.

I know I once said I couldn’t tolerate a one-color meal, but it turns out that maybe I can if the color is springtime green.  I wish that I had taken a picture of it all together, but you will just have to imagine how lovely the table looked with this salad alongside a bright green pea-and-basil soup and followed by an equally brilliant avocado mousse.  So green!

The top left picture below is the creamy cilantro and sweet corn dressing that I used for the salad.  It’s just corn, cilantro, lime, and salt, but it has such a creamy texture and bright, sweet flavor that I’m already thinking about how else I’m going to use it this summer.  Suggestions, as always, are warmly welcomed–you guys have such good ideas, thank you for sharing them!

Continue reading Quinoa Salad with Radishes, Peas, Arugula, and Cilantro-Sweet Corn Dressing (click for recipe)

Easy Cheddar and Onion Egg Bake for a Crowd

Now that I have confessed that I have a minivan, I might as well tell you about another way in which I’ve become an old fogey without even noticing: these days, I like having parties in the morning.  The kids are in good moods, the house hasn’t been wrecked yet by the the daily tornado of  family life, and you can drink mimosas.  But most of all, brunch is such an easy meal to prepare for a crowd.  All you need are big bowl of fruit, a cake (or two, in the case of J’s recent birthday) these eggs, and lots and lots of coffee.

This dish, or something like it, is one of the easiest ways I know to cook up a dozen or more eggs at once.  You can vary the filling by adding any vegetables, cheese, or meat you’d like.  I kept this one simple because I love the flavor combination of sharp cheddar and cooked-until-sweet onions…and also, I will admit, because monochromatic foods are usually a hit with the kids and we were expecting many, many kids. Continue reading Cheddar and Onion Egg Bake for a Crowd (click for recipe)

Salted Caramel Ice Cream, No Ice Cream Maker Required

The truth about how J and I met is kind of boring, so we usually make something up when people ask us.  For a long time we used to say that we’d met in an internet chat room, back when that sounded scandalous, but now everyone meets online and we have to be more creative.  We met underwater off the Great Barrier Reef?  We were seated side by side for jury duty in small claims court?  We both worked at Baskin Robbins in high school?

That last one is true, actually, although the establishments in question were thousands of miles apart.  But it proves an important point: we have a long history with ice cream around here.

So I am well-qualified to tell you that this one is outstanding.  I already sang its praises here, but I feel wrong depriving you of this recipe for Seattle’s iconic ice cream flavor from Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream.  Especially since, get this, you don’t need an ice cream maker to make it. Some magic having to do with the salt and the cream keeps the texture sublime, even if you make it with a pan and fork instead (directions below).  If you do have an ice cream maker, you can save yourself a few minutes of stirring. Either way, this recipe will make your summer better.  And probably the entire rest of your life. Continue reading Salted Caramel Ice Cream (click for recipe)

Sorta-Caesar Salad

Well, the nice thing about this endless Seattle gloom is that the lettuce isn’t bolting.

When I first moved to Seattle, J and I lived in a tiny house, and one of the first things we did was put in a tiny garden.  We built four raised beds in the grassy strip between the sidewalk and the street.  Everyone does that now, I know, but this was more than a decade ago and I liked to think of us as pioneering urban farmers back then.  (We got chickens too, of course.)

There was just one problem.  I’m from California.  And when I moved to Seattle, I was cold.  I consulted with my local garden store about what kind of vegetables I could grow in this inhospitable climate and planted things like lettuce, arugula, and broccoli.  And then I bundled them up as warm as I could.  I put hoops over the beds and sheathed them in clear plastic, trapping the heat to create toasty little greenhouses for my tender plants.  They thought it was high summer and went happily straight to seed, of course.  Learning that some plants prefer cooler temperatures was the beginning of my education about the benefits that a cool climate has to offer.  (Others include not needing much of a summer wardrobe, only needing an air conditioner a few days each year, and the blueberries.  Oh, the blueberries!)

In any case, delightful lettuces grow in this part of the world nearly year-round.  They are floppy or pert, frilly or reserved, pastel green, deep maroon, or freckled.  They are the stars of the show at springtime farmers markets, and I find them irresistible.  Here’s a nice thing to do with any sturdy, crunchy lettuce.  (Romaine is the classic, of course, as we’re riffing on the Caesar salad here, but it gets much more exciting than that.) Continue reading Sorta-Ceasar Salad (click for recipe)

Soft Rye Pretzels

Let’s start with this: I’m not at all above feeding my kids a box of mac and cheese, or declaring that it’s leftover night and wishing everyone good luck, or piling us all into the car to go out for ramen.  But I do try to make dinner for my family with some frequency.

Do you know this nice blog called “Dinner: A Love Story“?  I was just introduced to it recently.  It’s all about feeding your family dinner every night and of course they have a new cookbook (who doesn’t these days?), apparently full of recipes and strategies for feeding a family of picky eaters without going crazy.  I should probably get that cookbook.

But in the meantime I thought I’d share a tip of my own.  One of the ways in which I manage to get dinner on the table on a regular basis is by using the term “dinner” fairly loosely.  Some examples: breakfast for dinner?  Sure.  Sandwiches?  If necessary.  Tonight’s dinner?  These pretzels.  The girls gleefully chose their own dips (peanut butter, rhubarb jam, and applesauce), and the grown-ups had theirs with a sweet grainy mustard.  I made a pot of that great turnip soup soup as well, but it was certainly the accompaniment to the pretzels and not the other way around.It’s a little time-consuming to make pretzels (you boil these in a baking-soda bath in addition to letting them rise twice), but it was a fun project to do with the girls and the resulting pretzels were very good.  They have just the right combination of crispy bottom and chewy center, with a little tang that I assumed was from the rye flour, but Kim Boyce tells me is from the baking soda instead.  This recipe is adapted from Boyce’s Good to the Grain cookbook, which I want to cook from front to back after having started with those Rhubarb-Strawberry Cornmeal Tarts recently.

There’s a great-looking recipe for graham crackers, do you think I’ll be able to get away with calling those dinner? Continue reading Soft Rye Pretzels (click for recipe)

Aloo Gobi: Indian-Spiced Potatoes, Cauliflower, and Peas

What is your super power in the kitchen?

I usually joke that mine is the ability to cook when it’s messy (it’s always messy), but in truth I think it’s that I like to eat.  So as I cook, I ask myself, does this taste good? What would make it better? Do I want a finely chopped vegetable here, or big chunks?  This description makes my cooking sound more planned-out than it usually is, but I just mean that these are the things that go through my head on the fly.  I believe that constantly thinking about the end product and tasting occasionally as I go increase my chances of producing something delicious.  (There are plenty of failures too, of course–I’ve been thinking lately that I should start taking pictures of those as well for an Emmy Cooks bloopers reel.)

But this ability to envision the eventual dish fails me when it comes to cuisines that I am less comfortable cooking.  Indian food falls into this category, which is why I appreciate starting with a good recipe that will rely less on my intuition and more on my ability to follow directions.  So mostly I stick to recipes from Vij’s At Home.  But dazzled by the success of that saag paneer I keep making (thank you, Kolpona Cuisine!), I decided to branch out to this aloo gobi recipe from the gorgeous vegan blog v:gourmet.  I followed the recipe exactly, except for the splash of cream I added at the end.  What can I say?  My super power told me to.

This dish plus the saag paneer and rice make a respectable Indian-themed feast for company.  And whether or not you’re making multiple dishes, consider making this one a day ahead.  The flavor was even better the following day. Continue reading Aloo Gobi: Indian-Spiced Potatoes, Cauliflower, and Peas (click for recipe)

Fast Food: Tomato and Mozzarella Frittata with Greens

Eggs are the original fast food, as far as I’m concerned.  I have been reasonably successful in cooking other things too lately, but that doesn’t mean that eggs don’t continue to make a regular appearance on our table (often shortly after they make their appearance in our backyard chicken coop).  Here’s the glorious thing about an egg: treated properly, it elevates any hodgepodge of leftover vegetables into a meal.  Think of those chard stems!

So odds and ends often end up in little single-serving frittatas around here.  To anyone who thinks they don’t have time to cook, I say, get an 8″ cast iron skillet.  Two eggs, a few generous handfuls of vegetables, a pinch of salt and your meal is ready in ten minutes.  And you know as well as I do that eggs aren’t just for breakfast.  Fancy them up like this and you can serve them for any meal of the day.

The usual rule applies: use what you have.  I was working with leftovers from that arugula salad I kept making, but you might have other tidbits in your fridge.  The eggs cook quickly, so you’ll want to briefly cook most of the other ingredients first, then add the eggs.  I usually cook the veggies, add the eggs for a few minutes, sprinkle a bit of cheese on top, and then broil the pan for minute or two to set the eggs.  Fresh herbs are nice sprinkled on top after cooking (basil would have been perfect here if I had it).  Usually I’d say to avoid wet ingredients like tomatoes on top of a frittata, but this little one cooks so fast that they don’t have time to melt into a juicy mess.

So keep this little preparation in mind.  Next time you find yourself considering a fast food order, see if you have an egg handy first.

Continue reading Tomato and Mozzarella Frittata with Greens (click for recipe)