Portlandia, pickle

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Snowdrops

Snowdrops by Malcolm R Bell
Snowdrops, a photo by Malcolm R Bell on Flickr.

Spring is on its way! I’ve spied dozens of snowdrops, a few daffodils, some precious purple crocuses and seen buds bursting from the branches of flowering trees.

But while it’s still a bit chilly out, try this recipe from our friend Jean. Another kid-classic turned slightly sophisticated.

Grilled Taleggio Sandwiches with Roasted Grapes

Wash and pat dry red or green grapes, removing stems. Line grapes on baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Add a dusting of fresh pepper and sea salt and put in oven for about 10 minutes at 450 F. Grapes should loose some plumpness, but not be shriveled. The flavor intensifies, turning the grapes into little juicy packages of sweetness with a tangy twist.

Meanwhile, grill buttered country bread sandwiched with generous slices of ultra-creamy Taleggio cheese on skillet. Taleggio is a cheese made for melting!

Personally, I halved my grapes and snuck them into my sandwich, but even if you opt to keep a little distance between them, they should be eaten together!

Enjoy with a Malbec or Pinot Blanc.

Happy Valentine’s!

We were too tired to do a big romantic dinner so we had a slightly spiffed up version of PB & J for dinner – Ekekiel 4:9 cinnamon raisin bread grilled lightly, with warm and gooey almond butter and strawberry preserves, washed down with Port City beer (some Tidings left over from the last holiday). Comfort kid food, but now were old enough to eat the crusts! And for dessert… my new fave – s’mores cooked over the gas burner of our stove (hopefully that method of cooking isn’t carcinogenic or anything)! I can’t seem to eat s’mores without covering my face in chocolate! Thankfully this is our 7th Valentine’s Day together so we’re not embarrassed by chocolate goatees.

bearskin rug

Saw this today on NPR about designer Brock Davis. Love it.

by Brock Davis

I can’t say it’s the first gummy bear art I’ve seen, though. A few years back, I remember Dan carefully bitting and then assembling 3 gummy bears (one green, one white, one red) to create a Italian gummy bear. We actually had it on the dashboard of our car for a while. Ha ha.

And for all you hip barista babes:

coffee cup jacket literal

by Brock Davis

A jacket for your java… Happy Friday!

the best banana bread (it’s vegan too!)

I know I talk about food a lot but don’t often give recipes. Well, this is a recipe I make constantly and it’s always moist and tasty! I like to add chunks of apple and chocolate chips to the mix!

Lower-Fat Banana Bread from Veganomicon via The Baking Bird

Makes one loaf

  • 2 large or 3 small very ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. In a large mixing bowl, mash the bananas really well. Add the sugar, applesauce, oil, and molasses, and whisk briskly to incorporate. Sift in the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. Use a wooden spoon to mix until the wet and dry ingredients are just combined. If you’re using chocolate chips or nuts, fold them in here. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes. The top should be lightly browned and a knife inserted through the center should come out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool! (More info from Kylie here).

Let me know if you like it! I do a fair bit of vegan baking and have made awesome vegan breads, cakes and brownies…. but yet to have found a vegan cookie recipe that compares to those with butter & eggs. Any suggestions?

Holiday in England

20120209-194440.jpgAlready our holiday in England seems like ages ago. Back in the throes of work and activities, I’m alarmed at the pace of life. Shouldn’t we still be hibernating? At the very least, let’s reminisce back to our holiday!

We saw great sights, had brilliant company and feasted on goregous food. One of the best things about the trip was eating the most delectable meals and not cooking a single one of them! Plus, with everyone chipping in, the clean-up for our lavish banquets was an ease. To be honest, I don’t mind cooking, it’s the dishes and clean-up afterwords I can’t stand!

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We spent Christmas with Dan’s phenomenal Granny, who’s 97 and still does a fitness regime every morning and mostly looks after herself! As Granny recovered from the full Christmas meal (very much like an American’s Thanksgiving sans pumpkin pie), we enjoyed a shot of sunlight while walking in the Clent Hills.

Christmas PuddingI have to confess, I’m not a huge fan of British Christmas desserts – they all seem like a variation on the same. Christmas Cake is like fruit cake with super-sweet frosting (though, I’ll happily eat the thin layer of marzipan!); Christmas Pudding is fruitcake dosed in Brandy (though I do like when they light it on fire!); and Mincepies are more dried fruits and booze, but baked into little tarts. However, I adore Brandy cream and Brandy Butter – which are a delightful addition to any dessert and may have even appeared on my toast at breakfast.

D&P’s house is always a place of supreme serenity. Pietro coaxes flowers into bloom even in the winter and the lighting is always cozy and perfect for snuggling. Dee made Bana Caldo, an immensely creamy anchovy fondu we greedily dipped an assortment of root vegetables into.

After dashing about the sales in Oxford, we regained our equilibrium with lobster bisque and samphire, a delicate green that grows on the British coasts. We’ve discovered that men’s clothing that is small enough to fit Dan does not exist in the US, so we made the most of the Top Man sales while in England. My dad, upon hearing of a store that sold Dan-sized clothing, mixed up the name, calling it “Little Man”!

We met up with friends in Aylesbury and London – our mini-reunions with Dan’s school friends are always great! Next, we were off to Nat & Umbi’s beautiful flat in Canterbury.

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In addition to it’s fame from Chaucer’s tale, Canterbury has many charms. The old walled city has a large pedestrian-only area with an eclectic mix of cafes and shops that entice you inside. We went for a walk in the seaside town of Whitstable, and took shelter in a small yet picturesque castle when it began to rain. Plus, we discovered a lovely path along the river that allowed us to run on trails, without the customary ankle-deep British mud.

On New Year’s Eve (remembering to wear our red underwear for good luck!) we all headed to London to Matt & Pete’s flat. They have the top floor of a terraced house, complete with clawfoot tub, gas fireplace and tiny garden too! Matt had fixed us a feast for lunch and Pete had made a scrumptious stollen, which I will have to ask for the recipe for.

After lunch, we participated in our annual book exchange, a tradition Dee began, in which we all bring books we have enjoyed to swap with others. We do this in lieu of presents and agree it’s a great way to give something meaningful, without falling into the holiday consumerism trap. This year I gave, Our America, a powerful yet disturbing book based on a project in which 2 young teens were given microphones and cassette recorders to interview people from their Chicago’s South Side neighborhood. If only more of our news was not just about the poor, but from their perspective, what changes there would be!

The book I received is God of the Small Things by Indian author Arundhati Roy. I haven’t read it yet, but it won a Booker Prize and many Pizzo’s recommended it!

That evening, after a curry supper, we headed up the hill to Ally Pally with mulled wine in hand. The park overlooks practically the whole of London and so eyes darted back and forth, watching fireworks light up the silhouettes of St. Pauls, Big Ben and the London eye against a velvet sky. In front of us, revelers set of small fireworks and sparklers, while in the distance larger displays sparkled on and off spastically. It was dizzying trying to watch all the colourful sparks.

At that was it, good-bye 2011, hello 2012!

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February

Dreamcatcher by Betsy Walton

It feels like spring is just around the corner! I know February can be one of the coldest months here, but the days are getting longer, the ground is soft, and today the air is warm. The first of February greeted us with highs of 65°F/18°C!

Tonight I made this phenomenal one-pot meal – Quinoa with Sweet Potatoes – from my new Moosewood Cookbook. The link sneakily doesn’t show quantities, but you get the idea – quinoa with sweet potatoes, spinach, currents, and toasted pine nuts. Delicious, nutritious and very filling!

Unfortunately, I still have to do the dishes!

P.S. Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad!