A blog of hopeful, inspired living: cooking & baking & growing & harvesting & preserving & gleaning & eating & sharing food... while bringing positive change to my kitchen and our food system.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Hot! Hot! Cocoa

I always think I'll have so much more time than I actually do for making holiday crafts, cookies, candies and other treats. I start squirreling away frozen logs of cookies and ingredients during Thanksgiving, make a pile of my recipes, jars, fabric, labels and twine... and then all of a sudden it's December 20th and I'm swearing and sweating in the kitchen as my pecans burn and cookies crumble, not a glimmer of holiday spirit to be found. Alas, a holiday treat that is pain-free: simple, quick, delicious and easy to package. Hot, hot cocoa keeps well, so the timing is not as critical as some other holiday edibles.

This is a delicious, simple mix that can easily be turned into hot cocoa with some warm milk, or added to coffee  for a mocha, or mixed in with a hot Mexican Coffee or even a chocolate martini. It makes a great gift, packaged into small mason jars or other sealed containers, with a small instruction tag. You could even get fancy and add a baggie of homemade marshmallows, too...

Hot, Hot Cocoa
Makes 4 cups
2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
2 1/4 t ground ginger
1 1/4 t cayenne powder
1 t nutmeg
2 t sea salt
1. Combine all ingredients in a seal-able container, like a Tupperware. Shake to mix.
2. Store in an airtight container or divide up into smaller airtight containers to give as gifts.
3. Directions for making hot cocoa: Mix 2 Tablespoons (or to taste) in a cup of hot milk.

Enjoy with family and friends... with lots of non-swearing, non-sweating holiday spirit!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Black Beans with Sweet Potatoes and Purple Kale

This recipe was the result of an evening after a long day at work, when I looked sleepily into the fridge and the stars aligned for a quick and easy meal that tasted like it was well planned out and a long time in the making. Delish and done in 30 minutes. A satisfying, nutrient-rich vegan meal.  I recommend making enough to have the next day as leftovers, as the flavors just keep getting better. This is a go-to meal in our house, but one that is rarely made with the exact same ingredients:

It's such a great time of year for greens and roots. I picked up the purple kale at the farmers' market out of curiosity -- usually I use one of the green types of kale, Swiss chard, or spinach. Any of these could be used instead of the purple kale.

I roasted the sweet potatoes while everything else was cooking on the stove top.  You could just as well use butternut or kabocha squash, but I'd cut them up small to help them cook faster.

Black beans are my favorite for this dish, and I haven't tried with anything else, but I'm sure another kind of bean would be yummy, too. 

I served this dish over quinoa, which is quick (15 minutes) and cooks up while I'm sauteing everything, but you could also use couscous, rice, millet or any grain that suits your fancy.

red kale

Black Beans with Sweet Potatoes and Purple Kale
2 medium sized sweet potatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds), peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
8 - 10 cloves garlic, separated from the head but unpeeled (optional)
2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed
1 bunch kale, the thick center spines removed, leaves cut into small pieces
1 medium onion, diced
2 - 3 cloves garlic, diced
juice of half an orange (2 Tablespoons) or water
2 teaspoons cumin
1 - 2 teaspoons New Mexico chili powder
salt to taste
olive oil
coconut oil (optional)
cilantro (optional)

Quinoa or grain of your choice. 

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. In a rimmed baking sheet, toss the sweet potato pieces and garlic cloves (if using) with just enough olive oil to lightly coat. Sprinkle with salt and 1/2 teaspoon cumin. Bake while you prepare the rest of the meal, about 30 minutes. Stir/flip the sweet potatoes after about 15 minutes.
3. If using quinoa, start that now. The typical quinoa recipe is 1 cup quinoa to 1.5 cups water. Rinse your quinoa before cooking with it. Bring the quinoa and water to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 15 minutes.
4. While the quinoa cooks, heat a large skillet or wok over medium heat and add about 1 1/2 Tablespoons total of a mixture of olive oil and coconut oil (or just olive oil).
5. When hot, add the onions, stirring. Cook onions for about 3 - 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until translucent and soft.
6. Add cumin, chili powder and diced garlic, stir.
7. Add kale and the orange juice or water, stirring.
8. Cook for about 5 minutes, until kale is wilted.
9. Add the beans, stirring to integrate and heat.
10. To plate the dish, serve a scoop of quinoa, with a scoop of the beans on top, and a serving of the hot sweet potatoes and roasted garlic (note: to eat the garlic, simply slide the roasted clove out of the skin with your teeth, or do them all at once before serving, using a sharp pointy knife and your fingers). Garnish with cilantro. Another option is to mix the sweet potatoes directly into the beans before serving.

Enjoy and relax!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Double Chocolate Peppermint Bark

It's holiday time! This dark, cold time of the year that is warmed by the (hopefully!) warm fuzzies of the holiday spirit. Thanksgiving kicks us off with a good helping of Family, and then we roll on through December, gaining the momentum of the holiday season.

As I pile my holiday cards on the table for stamping, I check through my list to make sure I have everyone from all parts of my family. I have two moms and two dads, lots of aunts and uncles and cousins -- steps, halves, wholes, and other fractions and derivatives.  In many ways, the biggest ways, I am so fortunate to have multiple families. In some ways it is a dance to navigate. There are a lot of wonderful people, a lot of different relationships, a lot of history. It's all still unfolding as I continue to 'grow up' and start another part of the sprawling family with Bill.

Getting married brings a lot up, too -- for me and for all those in my family. It's crazy that you can buy 1,000 books about how to pick the right wedding dress, shoes and flowers, but barely a one that discusses the complexities of bringing your family and friends together for the first time ever in this rite of passage that is a wedding.

Luckily the holiday season is a great distraction from planning a wedding. And it's a good thing there are also 1,000 books about homemade Christmas crafts, cookies and candies. This recipe is easier than cookies, keeps well and is super tasty.

Last year I made it with white chocolate only and that was great, too. I think if I make it again, I'll make it with the white chocolate and then drip the dark chocolate over in ribbons, rather than coat the entire thing -- just to make it look different. This way is addictively delicious.

Double Chocolate Peppermint Bark
22 ounces good quality white chocolate
10 ounces semi-sweet or dark chocolate 
6 candy canes or peppermint candies, crushed (I pound mine with a small hammer inside a Ziplock bag)
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

1. Line a standard-sized cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler, stirring frequently and watching the whole time.
3. Stir in the crushed candy canes or peppermint candies and peppermint extract.
4. Spread the white chocolate mixture evenly out onto the cookie sheet. 
5. Melt the semi-sweet or dark chocolate in the same double boiler (no need to wash if you have scraped out the white chocolate mixture well). 
6. Pour the semi-sweet or dark chocolate on top of the white chocolate and spread evenly. 
7. Let cool for an hour or more at room temperature, or a half hour in the fridge before breaking into pieces. 

Enjoy and share!
This makes great gifts, packaged in small tins or baggies. It will keep well for a couple weeks (maybe even more -- I'm not sure because it's never around that long! 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Drinks on Me: Round 2

Good grief -- it's only Tuesday night?! I swear it's the weekend already, or Christmas, or New Years Eve. It feels like it should be break time, the weekend, vacation. I think I have holiday fever, with the dark days and the Christmas lights everywhere. I find myself curled up on the couch earlier in the night, and more often. A good read and a good glass of beer or wine don't necessarily bend time, but they make things more interesting.

This week's beer curiosities started with a hot-pink oddity that Bill picked up at Whole Foods. It's a new-ish beer from Rogue, in Newport, Oregon. Rogue and the famous Voodoo Doughnuts, in nearby Portland, joined forces to make this... bacon, maple ale. Hmm. If you are a vegetarian, this is not your beer* -- there is real, smoked bacon in here. And it's not hiding. This (light) brown ale, at 5.6% ABV, bottled in bright pink and dancing with images of piglets and maple leaves, has a super strong maple and bacon flavor, with lots of smoky bacon aftertaste and maple sweetness. It has big smoky aroma, too.  If ever there was a breakfast beer, it's this one. It was worth the novelty to try it and share with you... but we laughed with each sip, not sure about the weirdness of it all.  *Note: believe it or not, numerous beers are not vegetarian/vegan, but the other stuff you buy in the store from Rogue (unless it has bacon on the ingredients list) is vegan.

Later in the week we had more of a winner in this Dog Fish Head beer: Pearl Jam Twenty: Faithful Ale. It was rightfully enjoyed while watching the documentary of the famed band (which was a lot more interesting than I imagined... I was skeptical, despite hearing really good reviews). This is a Belgian ale, but it's a slightly darker Belgian and carries nice, yet subtle spice flavor and 7% ABV. Perhaps the spice is due to the currants it's brewed with? Dogfish Head, of Delaware, is known for interesting experimental ingredients and flavors, and while this one is no exception, it's less intense than a lot of the Dog Fish flavors I've tried -- it's pretty safe if those sorts of crazy spices and berries and fruits and nuts make you (or your taste buds) nervous. Give it a try -- and the documentary, too. 

Bottoms up!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Rooted and Root Vegetables

I have a difficult time making plans on Sundays. I like the luxury of slowness and routine on Sunday morning.  If you have young children, you probably hate hearing me talk about lazy Sunday mornings... but I don't have kids yet and one day when I do, my slow Sundays will be something I reminisce about. Waking up leisurely, walking downtown to the local coffee shop leisurely, drinking a hot latte and reading the Sunday paper... leisurely.  Last but not least is a stop at the weekly farmers' market, which we are lucky to have year round. I savor this simple routine, the time with my partner, being disconnected from responsibility and technology, and spending time in the town where I live. It makes me feel more rooted.

I've lived in the Bay Area for almost six years. I've lived in my current town for just over a year. I moved out here from the east coast. From a place that I really knew well: friends and family nearby in all directions, local music and dancing hot spots, my favorite yoga teacher, farmer friends, artist friends, favorite foraging spots for mushrooms, wild leeks and fiddlehead ferns. It takes time to feel at home in a new place... especially if you keep moving homes. I'm still working on rooting here. Sundays help. So does returning to familiar recipes. These roasted root vegetables are a quintessential dish -- a great reminder of my roots, of family, of friends. When I make this recipe I am transported back to days working on Hampshire College's farm, Red Fire Farm, to the make-shift root cellar in the yurt I lived in, to Thanksgiving, to that leisurely Sunday feeling.

This time of year the farmers' market is spilling over with all sorts of veggies that are perfect for roasting. They are so beautiful and delicious roasted simply together. You can use whatever vegetables you have available. Here's what is in the mix here:

Roasted Root Vegetables
Any or all of the following:
Beets -- any color, or a mix of colors
Sweet potato
Onions (I prefer sweet or red onion)
Garlic (separate the cloves, but leave the cloves whole and unpeeled)
Celery root (not pictured, but also a delicious root to add, peeled)
Fennel (not a root, but great in the mix)
Butternut Squash (another great non-root!)

Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Rosemary, chopped finely

1. You can make these by feel, based on how ever many veggies you have or want to make.
2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
3. Peel (if necessary) and cut the vegetables into pieces that are about the same size. Onions and fennel can be cut bigger.
4. Toss with olive oil, just enough so the olive oil lightly coats the vegetables. Sprinkle with sea salt and rosemary, to taste.
5. Spread in one layer in one or multiple rimmed baking pans.
6. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes. The vegetables should be tender and a bit caramelized. Serve hot.

What makes you feel rooted?