Friday, March 25, 2011

I ♥ Canning

Is winter over yet?? That seems to be a sentiment I’m hearing from a lot of people, and I’m afraid I have to concur. I know that technically we just had the first day of spring, but in my neck of the woods it feels like the sun will never shine again. Ok, so maybe that’s being a little dramatic, but I can’t help it, I’m ready for some sun! That’s why today I’m going to talk about canning, because those jars up there are like bottled sunshine to me.
Sounds silly I know, but that’s just how much joy this little hobby has brought me over the past year. My first venture into the world of canning and preserving was when I canned some apricot and strawberry jams for a special little party last summer. Unfortunately for the recipients, the jams could have used a little bit of work. Sorry guys! It was only my first attempt! But I at least learned the canning process, and after one time I was hooked. I quickly started getting my hands on as much fresh produce as I could and became a canning fool. Every trip to the farmer’s market was an exciting adventure into what I could can next. What could I put-up with fruits such as these?
And what tasty creations would come from these beautiful veggies?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What I've Been Eating!

Here's a quick little glimpse into a few meals I've cooked over the past couple of months that I've really enjoyed. I know posts have been a little sparse around these parts; I think I tend to go through phases where I get more caught up in the preparation and consumption of the food I make, and the photo taking and blog writing fall by the wayside a bit. That being said, I realized today that there has been some really tasty stuff being eaten that I should have been sharing with you all, so I'm going to try and do that right now. Sound good? Ok then.

Let's start with the Sea Bass with Swiss Chard and Piquillo Pepper Sauce pictured above. The recipe for that came from Cindy Pawlcyn's Big Small Plates cookbook, which I absolutely adore. I also absolutely adore Cindy Pawlcyn, who is a local celebrity chef, and the owner of 3 restaurants in the Napa Valley. I've seen her out and about at the farmer's market a few times, and at her restaurants a couple of times, so I think I can say that the two of us are friends now right? She even signed my copy of her cookbook, so I mean, yeah, were friends.

So my friend Cindy has some pretty great recipes, and this is one of them. The fish is simply prepared with salt and pepper, sauteed in a little olive oil, and served over some spicy Swiss chard with a flavorful and smooth piquillo pepper sauce. Yes I realize the sauce in that photo appears a very strange neon color, but trust me that in person it doesn't look as if it was something out of a zombie movie. Another meal that didn't exactly photograph brilliantly, is this oh-so-gosh-darn-good seafood curry:
I don't think that curry is one of those things that usually photographs well though, especially the brown and red ones. Even though they may taste amazing, they can be a little unappealing visually in my opinion. But maybe that's because I'm kind of late to the game when it comes to curry, and never really tried it until last year. I didn't know what I was missing out on though. It has quickly become one of my favorite things to eat, and this recipe that I tried out of Bon Appetit magazine has quickly become one of my favorite meals.

The curry paste is easy to make, and just involves a quick blend of some ginger, jalapeno, herbs and spices. That gets sauteed in a pan for a few minutes, and then a can of coconut milk goes in, and you've got a delicious green curry sauce. Just toss in some veggies & some seafood (I usually do green beans, red pepper, shrimp, and scallops), and you've got yourself a delicious dinner. I don't usually repeat recipes that often, but I've made this at least 3-4 times over the past few months.
And then there was the day I ate these pancakes. Hoo boy these were ridiculous. Ricotta pancakes, topped with toasted almonds, mango, strawberries and an orange maple syrup. They were very loosely adapted from this recipe in Food and Wine Magazine, and were light and fluffy and I loved the combination of orange and maple syrup. Yum.

Now back to dinner foods. I made these Chipotle Winter Greens & Buttermilk Grits one cold and yucky night and they warmed us right up. Once again, maybe not the most appealing looking bowl of food, but trust me when I say it was delicious. Smoky and slightly spicy winter greens, served over a healthy helping of creamy grits. I sauteed some mushrooms with the greens for a little extra protein, and added Parmesan cheese to the grits, because cheese is always a good thing.
Last but not least, I want to share with you the meal I made for Valentine's Day this year. Clockwise from upper left, Fried Chickpeas with Sage & Lemon, Parsley and Endive Salad, Homemade Pasta with Lobster Cream Sauce, and Champagne, which is an essential part of the cooking process. I loved every single one of these recipes, and will definitely be sharing them with you all in full detail in the future. But for now here's just a taste.
Thanks for letting me share! Hope all of you out there are enjoying some good eating yourselves!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Guinness Chocolate Pudding

There's nothing like a nice tall glass of Guinness on St. Patrick's Day. A nice tall glass of Guinness chocolate pudding that is! This delicious treat is made up of a dark and decadent chocolate pudding made with the Irish stout, topped with a "head" of softly whipped Guinness flavored cream. I've made Guinness flavored desserts in the past, but for the most part I've found that the flavor of the stout doesn't really shine through. That's not to say its super strong in this dessert either, but the dark chocolate and Guinness combination brings the stout flavor to the front a little more, as does adding Guinness that's been reduced to a thick syrup to the whipped cream topping. It's just the perfect amount of flavoring. Not so strong that it turns off those that are not a fan of stout, but a big enough presence that those who love stout will be able to appreciate it.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Stuff I love!

It's been that kind of evening...  The mushrooms I was counting on for tonight's dinner have vanished from the refrigerator, my homemade pesto tastes more like pumpkin seeds than basil, and sharing my yoga mat with a pug and his chew toy was not exactly relaxing. Oh, and my UCLA Bruins are down 16 points in the second half.

I've decided not to fight the forces that be.  Instead, I'm going to share some of the lovely things that have caught my attention recently, in the hopes that sharing some positive energy will turn my night around.  So without further delay, here is some stuff I love:

My juicer!  A birthday gift to myself, this baby has changed my morning routine forever.  I'm such a picky eater when it comes to breakfast.  I don't like anything too sweet, too heavy, or too rich, and cereal has never really rocked my world.   To make my princess tiara a little bigger, I'll add that I don't like fruit that's bruised, or eating fruit that's on a core (i.e. a whole apple or pear) while at work.  And I find smoothies too thick and heavy.  But none of that matters anymore, because I just juice every piece of fruit, no matter how decrepit, and the end result is delicious.  My fruit bowl used to languish in the corner, and now I can't get back to the farmers' market fast enough.  It's also been an amazing way to crank up my veggie intake, as carrots, beets, celery, and cucumber are all delicious when juiced and mixed with fruit.  So go get a juicer!

Quantum Wellness by Kathy Freston.  Kathy is hot and blonde, and she's BFFs with Oprah.  She's also a vegan and a wellness guru, and I have a big life crush on her.  When I went vegan a few months ago, it really motivated me to make other little life tweaks to tap into more energy and happiness.  This book is great for anyone who is inspired to live with more mindfulness and purpose, but doesn't quite know how to make it happen.  The book isn't perfect (at one point she encourages her drug addict readers to "cook an organic meal for friends" instead of smoking crack), but it's a refreshing and motivating read.

Photo from

Native Foods Culver City This is not your kooky aunt's vegan restaurant.  Right now Native Foods is my favorite place to eat in LA, period.  It's withing walking distance from my house, but absolutely worth a trek across town if you have to.  Chef Tanya has a full menu of apps, salads, and rice bowls, but in my humble meatless opinion, it's her sandwiches and wraps that steal the show.  The Ruben sandwich is to DIE for.  Oh, and all you readers who are lactose intolerant should go buy some of the dairy-free ranch dressing.  I am a ranch enthusiast, and would not be able to tell in a million years that theirs doesn't have any sour cream or buttermilk. -  Holy time suck Batman!  I could get lost in this website for hours.  We're refreshing our place, and Apartment Therapy is a never ending source of inspiration.  While we can all dream about Viking ranges and marble backsplashes, it's just as fun to watch couples in Chicago master their DIY projects, or New Yorkers make it work in their tiny studios.

Those are the things that are making my world go round this week...  What about you all?  Have a great weekend!  xoxo, M

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