Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Roasted Kale and Coconut Salad

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Sometimes I just have a day when there doesn't seem to be enough chocolate in the world. Please tell me you have those days. You start eating mini Milky Ways at 8am, and you only stop briefly for meals. Don't worry, I know how ridiculous that sounds. It's OK, it's only for today. Tomorrow, we'll have a banana smoothie for breakfast, vegan soup for lunch, and veggie stir fry with brown rice for dinner. Right? Tomorrow we'll get back on track. But today it's Twix for breakfast, crab rangoon for dinner, and two cupcakes before bed because hey, we just gave up.

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This salad is the perfect reprieve for your poor little digestive system; a gift for your body on a day when you are not doing it any favors. It starts with kale and coconut chips, which I must urge you to locate as soon as possible. Coconut chips are a far cry from shredded coconut - they're crispy and crunchy, and really taste of coconut. A miracle. The kale and coconut are tossed in a soy and sesame dressing that will blow your mind. I cried a little. I licked my bowl. I think there should maybe be a spa treatment involving this dressing. It's that delicious. Then it all gets roasted, resulting in a crunchy, chewy delight of a salad.

Roasted Kale and Coconut Salad
adapted from Super Natural Every Day, Shutterbean, and Joy the Baker.

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon sriracha
6 cups (2 bunches) lightly packed chopped kale, ribs removed
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place olive oil, soy sauce, sesame oil and sriracha in a jar with a tight-fitting lid, and shake well. Place kale and coconut in a large bowl and pour most of the dressing over. Toss well, and spread mixture in one layer over two rimmed baking sheets. Roast 12-15 minutes, until coconut is well toasted, stirring once about halfway through the cooking time. Remove from oven, return to the bowl, and toss with remaining dressing. Serve over hot farro or brown rice.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Red Beans and Rice

red beans and rice

Last night, a friend and I got together to talk over our Lenten plans. A little more prayer, a few days of fasting, and some new spiritual reading. I love the cycles of the church year - the times of feasting and fasting, the ever-present chance for renewal and growth and deeper relationships.We enter the spirit of Lent by admitting that there is work to be done. And it makes the joy of Easter so much greater!

For today, though, it's still Mardi Gras. So we'll have a comforting bowl of rice and creamy beans - and maybe a drink or two - a little decadence before our forty-day fast.

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The holy trinity of cajun and creole cooking. Cue heavenly light and angels singing.

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What are your plans for Lent? Are you a give-up-chocolate-and-call-it-good type of person? Do you usually overcommit yourself and end up feeling like a dismal failure? How do you feel about fasting?

Red Beans and Rice
adapted from Heirloom Beans

Note: You are welcome to soak the beans overnight before making this. But if you want it for dinner tonight, I've found that the soaking is unnecessary. This would also be a perfect crock pot recipe, if you're so inclined. Dump it all in the slow cooker in the morning, and then when you get home, just make some rice and you're good to go!

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 slices bacon, chopped
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 celery ribs, chopped
1/2 medium green bell pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound small red beans
1 ham shank or 3/4 cup diced ham
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
creole seasoning, black pepper, and cayenne to taste
cooked long-grain white rice, for serving
1 pound andouille sausage or kielbasa, in 1/4-inch rounds
sliced green onions, for serving

In a soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, add the olive oil and bacon and cook until bacon is crispy. Remove bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and save for another use (or, ahem, eat it as a healthy snack while you're cooking). Add the onion, celery, green pepper, and garlic and sauté until soft and fragrant, about ten minutes. Add the beans and ham, and add enough cold water to cover the beans by one inch. Add bay leaf, thyme, and oregano, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, until the beans are tender, about 2-3 hours, adding more water if necessary. Season to taste with creole seasoning, black pepper, and cayenne.

Raise the heat and boil the beans uncovered for 15-20 minutes, to thicken. Use a wooden spoon to mash some of the beans on the side of the pot. Meanwhile, sauté the sausage in a large nonstick skillet until browned on both sides and heated through. To serve, place a scoop of rice in a shallow bowl and spoon beans over. Arrange a few slices of sausage on top, and sprinkle with green onions.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

It's Mardi Gras!


Mix up a pitcher of these pink beauties, and let the tropical, boozy goodness transport you to sunny New Orleans. Drink up! Lent starts tomorrow!

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1 1/2 cups pineapple juice
2 cups orange juice
3/4 cup grenadine
1/2 cup simple syrup
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 1/2 cups light rum
2 tablespoons dark rum
orange slices and maraschino cherries, for garnish

In a pitcher, combine juices, grenadine, and simple syrup. Mix together. Add light and dark rum and stir to combine. Serve in glasses with plenty of ice and an orange slice and cherry in each glass. Laissez les bon temps rouler!

serves 4-6

Monday, February 20, 2012

Café du Monde: Beignets et Café au Lait

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For our first anniversary, the Coppertop Guy and I went to New Orleans for a long weekend. I arrived clutching a list of must-try dishes, which included po'boys, alligator, gumbo, bananas foster, and of course, beignets and café au lait at the famous Café du Monde.

cafe du monde 1

cafe du monde

Beignets are bits of dough that are fried until puffy and brown and then, as you can see, covered in a mountain of powdered sugar that gets all over you while you eat. It's part of the experience. Be careful not to breathe in as you take a bite - the sugar goes right down your windpipe, and that's not fun for anybody.

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(My mom has the most adorable collection of antique teacups - perfect for café au lait)

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Recreating this decadent treat at home could not be simpler: there's a just-add-water mix! I see it at the grocery store a lot around this time of year, or you can order it online. Usually I'm not a fan of such things, preferring to make from scratch, but there's an element of nostalgia when you open this box, knowing that it came straight from the source. It's as if there's a bit of New Orleans stowed away inside.

Café au Lait

3 cups milk
1/4 cup ground coffee, such as French roast or Café du Monde coffee and chicory

Heat milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until steaming. Do not boil. Prepare coffee in a stovetop espresso maker. Pour coffee into the hot milk and stir to combine.

Serves 4.

Friday, February 17, 2012

30 Days (or 3 months...) of Gratitude

Remember when I said I was going to do a 30-day photo challenge? Back in November? Well, I just finished. Better late than never, I always say!

Gratitude Day 1: Favorite Food  Day 2: Smile Day 3: Happiness Day 4: Leaves Day 5: Morning Sky Day 6: Books Day 7: Something Funny Day 8: Favorite Color
Day 9: Inspiring person Day 10: Nature Day 11: Something Old Day 12: Hands Day 13: Written Words Day 14: Movement Day 15: Technology Day 16: Animals Day 17: Memories Day 18: Something New Day 19: Best Friend Day 20: Seasonal Day 21: Where you sleep Day 22: Clothing Day 23: In your closet Day 24: Gratitude Day 25: Artwork Day 26: Transportation Day 27: Daily routine Day 28: Nighttime Day 29: Light Day 30: Self Portrait

(I originally got this idea from Positively Present. Here's a link to the original challenge. Let me know if you decide to do it - I'd love to see your photos!)


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Logan Square Pastry Market + Bridgeport Coffee

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This Saturday, I visited the Valentine's Pastry Market at the Logan Square Kitchen, and I had a fabulous time. As soon as I walked in, I was assailed by that lovely smell that only comes from the marriage of flour, butter, and sugar. Ahhhh pastry. There were many bakers and artisans sampling their wares, from cream puffs and pie to baklava and truffles. It was sugarholic heaven.

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Cream puffs from Puffs of Doom. She's filling that box up for me! I got bourbon banana gingersnap, cardamom white chocolate rice pudding, strawberry lemon drop, chocolate caramel pecan, and butterfinger.

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Honey Pie Cafe

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Whoopie pies and other treats from Pomegranate Sweets and Savories.

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Handmade baklava from Sheekar Delights.

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Hand-decorated artisanal chocolates from Veruca Chocolates.

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Among all these swoon-inducing sweets, the real standout in my mind was the Bridgeport Coffee Company, who were doing custom pours of three of their blends. I had the Peru, which was full-bodied, smooth and chocolaty, with a clean finish. I also picked up an info sheet which explained some of the challenges the Peruvian growers face, and the ecologically sensitive farming and drying practiced they have employed. As I sipped my coffee, I spoke with Mike Pilkington, founder of Bridgeport Coffee, who is knowledgeable and obviously passionate about his product. He takes pride in the company's commitment to developing personal relationships with its growers, and understanding the unique economic, political and climatic challenges they face. He shared with me how eighty percent of the world's specialty coffee is actually grown organically, for simple economic reasons, but that only ten percent of it is certified organic. Small farmers, who produce seventy percent of the world's coffee supply, are often denied access to organic and fair trade certifications because of cost, paperwork, and bureaucracy. From 1972-1990, El Salvador was racked with civil wars, and farming families fled to the cities in search of safety. A generation later, farmers still live in the cities and commute to the farms to work. Because of this technicality, most of these farmers are ineligible for fair trade certification, though they exceed fair trade requirements. Bridgeport Coffee sidesteps the middle man and builds relationships with farmers, eliminating the need for official certification. And they make a darn good cup of coffee.