Friday, March 29, 2013

sleeping bunnies




There is a nursery rhyme:

See the little bunnies sleeping until noon
Come let us wake them with a merry tune
They're so still, are they ill?
Wake up little bunnies, hop, hop, hop
Hop, hop, hop, hop, hop, hop.
Wake up little bunnies, hop, hop, hop
Hop. Hop. Hop.

Hannah sings it to her little ones. I love to watch them "sleep" and then wake - hopping here, there and everywhere. I cherish a pretty memory of a golden afternoon, Jane in a diaper and white onesie, her pretty hair a bright flame against the dark floor as she keeps her eyes tightly closed waiting for the call to wake and hop, a tiny smile trembling on her lips. Sleeping bunnies = Jane (for me)

I spent a fun afternoon playing with felt and fabrics making MerMag's bunny treat bags. Eight grandbabies means eight treat bags - each a little different. The original bags are made of felt (always a great choice) but I had a bit of great striped linen that was begging to be a bunny. I cut that bag on the bias so that the inevitable fraying wouldn't be a disaster and lined his ears with a bit of red felt - a reverse of the felt bags and fabric-lined ears of the other bunnies.  For fun I embellished the ears with bits of Japanese fabrics from my stash and filled them with cheap tiny games, a Kinder Surprise and a few chocolate eggs. 

Ysa and Aubrie were my test market. Ysa was snoring for her bunny within seconds. lol.

There is a DIY for 'sleeping' bunny treat bags here. Fast, easy and fun to make. Maybe a late idea for this year ... maybe not though. If you don't spend (too) long playing with fabric combinations each bag takes about 10 minutes to stitch up.

I am thinking wistfully of dying eggs. Maybe I will.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

ruby salad




Sometimes I feel so uninspired in the kitchen. Those are the busy, crazy days when what to eat takes a backseat to getting all the other stuff done and food is just necessary fuel - the nothing fancy, auto-pilot meals. Nothing really wrong with that but it isn't a lot of fun. Other times the queue of recipes I am dying to try is so long that I worry (yes actually worry, lol) that I will forget some of them. A bit ridiculous for sure, but there you go, I am a bit ridiculous some of the time :) Anyway.... I am in the middle of one of the long-lists-of-exciting-ideas times and this salad was top of the list. Super easy, super healthy, super yummy, and really pretty, it will be in regular rotation at our house from now on.

I first made it for a lunch with my quilting group, a friend in the group made it the next night for a potluck party at church, then I made it again as part of a meal we shared with some very special friends. To be honest I am not certain if everyone is as in love with it as I am (because being in love I have rosy coloured glasses on) but it seemed to me it was a big hit.

The recipe is Fergus Henderson's Red Salad from Beyond Nose to Tail and if that doesn't make you want to try it I am at a loss for what to say. I mean nose to tail and red salad?! He calls it red salad but the whole time I was making it all I could think of was ruby slippers. I don't know so don't ask me but ruby, ruby, ruby was the word in my mind. Dorothy would have been delighted with this salad I am convinced.

The only downside is shredding the beets. I have to admit it makes everything ruby coloured - even if you use a food processor. Small price to pay so don't be faint hearted - kitchens and hands clean easily.

Fergus suggests garnishing this with a dollop of creme fraiche and a bit of chervil. Chervil escaped my search and I forgot about the creme fraiche so we ate the salad in its solitary ruby glory. If the chervil and creme fraiche make it better I don't think I can take it.

ruby salad
(inspired by Fergus Henderson's Red Salad from Beyond Nose to Tail)

2 medium sized beets (about 2" in diameter)
1/2 small red cabbage
1/4 red onion

dressing:
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp small capers
sea salt and  freshly ground black pepper

Slice the red onion very finely and soak in a small bowl of very cold water to mellow the bite while you prepare the rest of the salad. Shred the beets - you want a fine shred. Shred or slice the cabbage very finely and add to the beets in a large-ish bowl. Drain the onions and add to the other vegetables.

Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, capers and salt and pepper (I was quite generous with the pepper). Pour over the cabbage, beets, and onions and toss to combine. Everything becomes gorgeously ruby coloured and irresistibly beet-y. (I told you I was in love.)





Saturday, March 23, 2013

sweet saturday morning







Lazy, easy. Early sun through blinds striping the walls in my kitchen. Quiet and soft. So so sweet to wake and stretch, to take a deep breath, to feel the calm. I rarely sleep late - I have always been a morning person - but it is lovely to not have to leap out of bed and hit the ground running.

Before bed last night I took 5 quick minutes to compile an easy breakfast bake to toss in the oven this morning in my quiet, sunny kitchen. Nice to snuggle back into the soft sheets, to think and read, while breakfast baked and the house filled with warm smells. So worth the few simple minutes last night.

I have had breakfast-bake-things before and to be honest they have left me unimpressed. Sweet enough to make my teeth hurt for the most part and that is quite a feat (refer to my previous confessions re: sugar). But I love the idea of preparing the night before for a lazy morning and late last night I thought that it couldn't be so hard to combine the concept with a happy result - or at least one that I would like. I was pretty happy this morning; yummy and warm, healthy, tasty but not too sweet. Just right. 

I used sprouted whole wheat bread because I am converted to the idea of sprouting grains to release more of the goodness but use whatever bread you prefer. For the apple, I chose Jazz for the way they hold their form when baked and the sweet/tart flavour. The recipe as written makes enough to feed two but if you are feeding a larger crowd, it is easy to adjust for more by doubling (use an 8x8" baking dish) or even quadrupling the amounts (use a 9x13"). 

cinnamon apple raisin  breakfast bake

5 slices whole grain bread
1 medium sized apple, thinly sliced
1/4 cup dark raisins
3 large eggs
2/3 cup milk (I used coconut milk from the dairy case)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp butter

Butter a 9x3" loaf pan. Cut or tear the bread slices into quarters and stack the slices on the sides in the buttered pan. Don't pack them in tightly - you'll see why. Slip an apple slice between each piece of bread and scatter the raisins over the top, pushing a few down between the slices with the apples.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and sea salt. Pour over the bread and fruit in the pan. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for a few hours.

In the morning, turn the oven on to 350 degrees F. Uncover the 'bake' and dot the top with the butter. Slip it in the oven for 45-50 minutes and slip yourself back to bed to enjoy the softness of a sweet weekend morning.

Serve with maple syrup to taste.

Monday, March 18, 2013

a little almond chocolate mug cake

aka (almost) immediate gratification






At the end of the day, sometimes we take ourselves downstairs to the sofa in front of the tv and enjoy watching a movie. It isn't a daily event just a sometimes event. Most of those sometimes we take a cup of something hot to drink and enjoy that but other times we just need something else. We had that need the other night but having just returned from our trip there was nothing else to be had. But needs cannot be ignored (thank goodness!) and I remembered that I had been wanting to try a recipe that I 'pinned' ages ago. My memory of the recipe was that it was pretty immediate gratification for the kind of need we had and it turns out that my memory was right. Sadly although I was right on that score, the cupboard was bare of a few key ingredients. I was not to be deterred by such small obstacles though - a need is a need after all - and determining that a few substitutions could likely be successful, I carried on to happy (almost instant) gratification. 

There are recipes galore for 'mug cakes', the one on which I based my foray would (I am sure) have been delicious. One thing I know is that it was generous - the recipe for one would have been plenty for both David and I. What I suggest here is to share that amount between two mugs so each person gets their own mug cake, but if you are really hungry or have a huge need go for the gusto and have it all in one mug - it will fit but only just :) Part of the fun of this recipe is making one tiny little cake all for yourself ... in a little minute of time.

The changes I made were based on necessity - because I didn't have any Nutella in the cupboard and because I wanted to use what seem to me to be better choices for a few of the ingredients. Whatever the case the end result was excitingly good and immediate. In the excitement of needing I forgot that we were trying to do without the microwave but when I made the cakes again today I did half (or one mug) in the oven and the other in the microwave just to see how it would work. I am pleased to report that either option produces a very good result and the oven is still remarkably immediate. The choice is yours.

a little almond chocolate mug cake
( adapted from this little street)

3 Tbsp almond butter
3 Tbsp coconut palm sugar
3 Tbsp coconut oil
1 egg
3 Tbsp coconut milk
3 Tbsp cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
4 Tbsp flour**
a healthy pinch* of baking powder, and baking soda
pinch of sea salt
two chunks of good quality dark chocolate

Put all the ingredients (except the chocolate chunks) together in a small bowl and stir to combine. Divide equally between two mugs and add a chunk of chocolate to each mug. We wanted lovely, chocolatey gooinessmore like lava cake than a cupcake; if that sounds good to you as well cook your little cakes for exactly 1 minute 10 seconds in a microwave oven or for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees F in an oven. Let cool for about as long as it takes to scoop some ice cream  or pour a bit of cream onto the top and dig in. 

Simple, speedy, and absolutely fills the need.

*about 1/16 tsp
**I used my gluten-free flour mix for one trial, regular all-purpose flour for the other with equal success.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

mabo nasu




There is no doubt that Tokyo can be a very expensive place to eat. There are more Michelin starred restaurants there than any other city on earth. Some might say with 88,000 restaurants and counting, that is not much of a feat - I don't know much about stats but I can say there is an abundance of incredible food wherever you turn. You can spend 400.00 on a meal .... or you can buy yourself a plateful of heaven for less than 10.00. One of the lovely things is that you don't have to search for good food, you pretty much stumble across it...as we did when we walked from the Kappabashi district toward Ueno. We decided to stop for a bite, slid open the door of a tiny shop on a corner, and ordered up some most delicious deliciousness. I had mabo nasu and don't recall at all what David ate - it was all a blur after my first bite. Mabu dofu has long been a go-to favourite in our house but I had never known mabo nasu. A small tragedy that, but all is well now. I was immediately determined to try my own version as soon as we returned home.

Well, we have been home almost exactly 48 hours and we had mabo nasu for dinner tonight. I was at the Farmer's Market this afternoon and my eye was caught by a bin of perfect, beautiful eggplants. I knew right away what I would do with them. So I bought them, came home and cooked up a pot of pretty awesome (modestly amazed) mabo nasu. No looking back now.

Nasu is simply eggplant - I would much rather call that elegant vegetable aubergine or nasu; eggplant simply sounds nasty to me and I am guessing that most children would agree. A rose by any other name may still smell as sweet but call an elegant vegetable by an unappealing name and you will have a hard time getting it past the lips of most little ones. 
This recipe for mabu nasu is not exactly as we had it in Tokyo - I loved what I ordered for lunch that day but it was a bit heavy on oil. Yummy but perhaps not terribly wise. This is lighter - something you may have a hard time believing when you look at the amount of oil in the recipe :) I used coconut oil for much of the oil (you can use another oil if you prefer or can't find coconut oil - this for my dear friends in Japan where coconut oil is not to be found. I think I would choose grapeseed oil in that case). My choice of coconut oil was motivated as much by knowing that we are urged to get up to three or four tablespoons of coconut oil per day in our diets as it was by taste. You can adjust the heat by using more or less toban jan. Same with the chili oil. But do try the heat - it just isn't the same if it is bland. 

mabo nasu

2 medium sized eggplants
1 lb ground beef
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 onion, finely chopped
3 tsp toban jan (chili garlic paste)
1 Tbsp sugar (I use coconut palm sugar)
1 Tbsp mirin (optional)
1/4 cup red miso paste
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 cups dashi (or chicken broth)
4 Tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp cornstarch
chili oil

Cut the eggplant into rough 3/4" 'cubes'. Heat 2 Tbsp of the coconut oil in a skillet, add the chopped eggplant and saute until lightly browned. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add another 2 Tbsp of coconut oil to the skillet and add the onion, garlic, and ginger to the pan; cook until the onion is beginning to soften. Add the ground beef and cook, breaking up the beef with the back of a spoon or spatula. When the pink almost gone from the beef add the reserved eggplant back into the skillet.

In a bowl combine toban jan, sugar, mirin, miso paste, soy sauce, salt, and dashi. Add to the mixture in the pan and stir gently. Bring to a simmer and let cook gently while you stir together the 2 Tbsp cornstarch with 1/4 cup of water. Stir the cornstarch mixture into the ingredients in the pan and allow to thicken. Stir in 2 Tbsp sesame oil. Add chili oil to taste - or pass it at the table.






Thursday, March 7, 2013

This article in the New York Times presents a very compelling argument for eating whole foods; for preparing them in a way that is consistent with personal values. When one buys and eats prepackaged, prepared, convenience foods one is often abdicating choice and will. A sad state of affairs.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/magazine/the-extraordinary-science-of-junk-food.html

Sunday, March 3, 2013

banana bread oatmeal

aka: banana bread slow cooker steel-cut oats


This was the email:

Hi Mom and Eden,
I made (up!) this incredible oatmeal that is honestly the BEST oatmeal I have ever eaten - which is saying a lot because it's not really my favorite. I should give credit where credit is due - as with most of my culinary victories this was also based on two of mom's recipes and I just combined them. 

: )
2 ripe banana's, mashed up (I used the hand mixer and added a bit of coconut milk)
1 cup steel cut oats
2 cups water
2 cups coconut milk
1 cup dried flaked coconut
1 Tbsp vanilla

Butter the inside of the pot, put it all in the slow cooker, stir it up and turn it on low overnight. When 
you wake up it smells like banana bread!! Chop a couple of handfuls of walnuts and put them on each serving. So good. 

Hope you guys are having a good day!

xo

The email-writer is Jonathon (my first-born) and although I may have to take issue with this being the best oatmeal I certainly agree that it ranks way up the list. It will be in the regular breakfast rotation here and that is evidence of 'way up the list' because I am very attached to my breakfasts and like to eat my faves regularly and often (just had a thought - maybe I should just eat breakfast more than once a day?). 

The banana bread recipe he refers to is our family's very favourite banana bread. Made with coconut it elevates the humble loaf more than just a little. 

Jonathon is a very good and innovative cook - he curates everything in his life and the way he eats is no different. I think he deserves the lion's share of credit for this culinary triumph.

I make a couple of small additions to the recipe and the method when I make this. It makes enough for four hearty bowls - which is just the way I like it. As there are usually only two at the breakfast table in our house I pack up half of the recipe for another day. It heats up beautifully. 

I like a drizzle of maple syrup - the real stuff and another pour of coconut milk over the top of mine.

banana bread oatmeal
(Jonathon's own)

2 ripe bananas
1 cup steel cut oats
2 cups water
2 cups coconut milk
1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
1 Tbsp vanilla
1/8 tsp sea salt

For topping (per bowl):
2 tsp cocao nibs
1 1/2 tsp hemp seed hearts
1 Tbsp chopped pecans

Butter the insert of your slow cooker. Add the oats, water coconut milk, coconut, vanilla and salt. Mash the bananas (I use a potato masher - quick and easy - never thought of using the mixer but there you go!) and add to the other ingredients in the slow cooker. Stir to mix. Cover.

Just before turning out the lights for the day turn the slow cooker on low. This is somewhat important because if you cook this for 8-10 hours you will be disappointed. I figure 7 hours is about the max. Too long and you have a very crusty slow cooker. When you wake up in the morning - which is a lot easier than most days because of the amazing aroma coming from the kitchen - make a beeline for the kitchen and turn off the slow cooker. Give the oats and all a stir, scraping the crusty bits off the sides. Put the lid back on and go off to have a shower or check your email or whatever you do for a bit. When you come back your oats will be the perfect temperature and if you give them a brisk stir the crusty bits mix in very nicely.

To reheat: we are going microwave-free these days so to reheat I put the cold, stiff oat mixture into a pot with a little more water - about 1/3 of a cup - turn the heat under the pot to low and stir gently until. After a very few minutes you have smooth, warm, lovely oats to help another day off to a great start. Or you can simplify and use the microwave; quick and easy.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

While I was swanning around with handsome men and adorable children ( a month ago or so) my ever-so-clever daughter was busy recording the truth of that. In the very unlikely event there is anyone reading here who does not also read Eden's blog , she posted a bunch of pictures that totally support my claims of handsome men and adorable children. The photos are superlative defying - I simply cannot think of one that is perfect enough to use. Go take a look if you haven't or take another look if you have :)

edenlangpictures.com