27 November 2015

Thanksgiving afterglow: leftover heaven

The meal was great the first time, but the leftovers are a gift that keep on giving.  Get creative in your snacking this weekend, and if you're lucky enough to still have some leftovers by Monday, you can pack a blissful reminder of your holiday break to eat as your sad desk lunch.

Mashed Potato Biscuits: These work well as English muffin-type breakfast food, slathered with cranberry sauce. If you really want a window into my dark soul, I like to split one apart, melt thin slices of sharp white cheddar on each half in the toaster oven, and then slather with cranberry sauce.  Delicious.

Mixed Roasted Potatoes: You know how I love breakfast, right?  Warm these back up in the oven or toaster oven (never the microwave--they are sad and soggy beyond words when you do that) and serve underneath eggs cooked to your liking with cooked greens and a little curry ketchup on the side.

Braised Radishes with Orange: You're not going to have any leftovers of this.  Have you tried them?  They're insane.  But if you do, sprinkle with red chili flakes and toss with pasta and steamed broccoli.  Throw some pine nuts on top if you want to get all fancy about it.

Wasabi Green Beans: These work in any kind of stir fry or Thai curry; just throw them in to any Asian-inspired recipe that calls for green beans. In fact, throw in the leftovers from the stuffed squash and you've got the meal in minutes!

Cheesy baked potato soup
Serves 4
2 tablespoons butter
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
4 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into small cubes (or a combination of russet and sweet)
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup sour cream or Greek style plain yogurt
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 green onions, finely chopped
2 slices crisp bacon or Morningstar Breakfast Strips, crumbled (optional)

Heat the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat; when it foams, add the onion.  Sauté  until onion is translucent, about 4 minutes.  Add salt, garlic and chopped potato and sauté another 3 or 4 minutes, stirring constantly to keep potato from sticking.  Add 2 cups of the vegetable broth, stir, cover and bring to a boil.  Once boil begins, lower to a simmer and cook about 15 minutes, until potato is soft enough to mash. 
Mash the potato mixture in the pan with a hand masher or use an immersion blender to create creamy mashed potatoes. Add the other 2 cups of broth, sour cream and cheese and stir to incorporate.  Cover  and lower heat to medium-low until cheese is melted into soup, about 5 minutes.  Add black pepper to taste.  Garnish with chopped green onion and bacon, if desired (you can also top with additional cheese and sour cream if you have it). 

Chicken Vatapa
Serves 6
1 teaspoon canola oil
½ cup finely chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon peeled, grated fresh ginger (purchase ready-to-go in the produce section of Safeway on 3rd Ave.)
1 jalapeno pepper, minced (remove seeds for milder flavoring)
1 cup water
1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes with juice
1 (12 oz.) can light beer
¼ cup dry-roasted peanuts
3 cups cooked chicken or turkey
½ cup coconut milk
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon lime juice
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add onion, garlic, ginger, and jalapeno and sauté 2 minutes or until onion is soft.  Stir in water, tomatoes in their juice, and beer.  Bring to boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes. 

Place peanuts in a spice or coffee grinder (or a good old-fashioned nut grinder) and process until finely ground.  Add ground peanuts, chicken, and coconut milk to Dutch oven, stirring to combine.  Increase heat to medium.  Bring mixture to a simmer and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in parsley, cilantro, lime juice, salt, and pepper. 

24 November 2015

Countdown to Thanksgiving: the food


Screw the boring, gamey turkey and make a Beer Braised Pork Shoulder or roast a chicken.  I'm curious to try this Cola Ham with Maple & Mustard Glaze, myself. Or, if you must, at least have the sense to fry your turkey.

Vegetarian entrees...

Don't be an asshole and make the vegetarians subsist on green beans and mashed potatoes. Stuffed squash, Mushroom and Potato Pie, and Spaghetti Squash Smothered in Indian-flavored Vegetables have all been chronicled here before, and they still work.


Braised Radishes with Orange are ridiculously good, and your green beans will definitely be more delicious when spiked with wasabi. Please promise me you will make your own cranberry sauce from scratch (boil together 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup orange juice, a cinnamon stick, 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and one 12-ounce bag cranberries). And please, for the love of Buddha, roast your white and sweet potatoes together with some nice herbs.  No marshmallows!


Pumpkin Pie is better with coconut milk, and cranberries are delicious in a cornmeal shortbread. But I'm not opposed to a little Apple-Rhubarb Crumble, either...

20 November 2015

Countdown to Thanksgiving: hosting guests

It's the weekend before Thanksgiving, and it's also Friday; either way, I hope you're prepping your bar and whipping up some snacks for guests!

Cocktail Hour...

As soon as people arrive, you should have some options for them to drink and snack.  Because maybe they're super excited to get the party started, or maybe they need the booze to survive a conversation with you and the snacks to fill the awkward pauses.  Either way, it's only polite to have some simple offerings on hand.

Drinks: keep it simple.  If it takes you 20 minutes to make the drinks, you're not really enjoying the visit, are you?

Cold weather drinks with rye, rum, and bourbon

Lighter cocktails: mimosa, sangria, and the classic Bloody Mary

Thanksgiving cocktails: cranberry margarita and rosemary gin and tonic


A nice wine and cheese arrangement does the trick, too.

Snacks: you need something to sop up the booze.  Bowls of nuts, mixed olives, and some bread will do.  I, however, am very partial to dips.

Chipotle-Crab Dip
Guacamole (trust me, this one's good)
Hot Rosemary-Garlic Ricotta Dip
Hummus (don't buy it, dingbat!)
Roasted Red Pepper Dip (aka North African Party Dip)
Tuscan White Bean Dip
Walnut-Feta Spread

This is a little more work, but aren't deviled eggs delicious, too?  You never make them just for yourself, right? But having guests over is a great excuse!

If you've got house guests, it's your job to make the morning.  Get up earlier than them and have something delicious for them to eat (or not--don't be pushy).  It doesn't matter if you don't want to get up, just do it!  There is nothing ruder than a host who leaves the guests to roam the halls in silence, snooping around for a mug and a coffee maker like a sleepy thief.  Don't make your guests feel like vultures.

Everything with a  *  can be made ahead and frozen or refrigerated until ready to serve.

Blueberry Breakfast Cake *
Breakfast Quinoa
Breakfast Rice Pudding
Chocolate Muffins *
Lemon-Tahini Muffins *
Rye & Rhubarb (or raspberry) Cake *

Breakfast Burritos *
Crustless Quinoa and Greens Quiche *
Heavenly Egg Casserole *
Mini Quiches *
Sweet Potato Hash

17 November 2015

Countdown to Thanksgiving: leaving town

Bitch, please.  Those are the crappy biscuits you dropped on the ground. 

I love Thanksgiving.  It's based on food with no requisite gift-giving tradition, it takes place in the fall (the best time of year), and it's not religious. It is based on a myth that our European ancestors were respectful to the indigenous population, but I think that's a lie we can all get behind here in America. So, let the celebration begin!

Maybe you will host a fatty Thanksgiving party at your abode, which is what the rest of these posts will detail. But if you're planning on traveling for the holiday like me, you're probably starting to slowly gather items, apps, and the like to make the car or plane ride comfortable.

If by air...

Did you know that you can download hundreds of free magazines and newspapers to read on your phone or tablet once you get to the airport?  Download the free Inflight Reader app and you'll have tons of reading to help ignore that annoying kid who keeps turning around and staring at you from his seat.

Did you also know that when you're in the airport, you can "?.jpg" to the end of any url to bypass having to pay for WiFi?

I love this infographic, "Should I Pack It?" Of course, if I'm flying to my parents' house, I pack absolutely nothing beyond underwear and a toothbrush.  I will wear my Mom's oversized sweaters and puffy floor-length winter coat all week, no problem.

If by land...

I know I've told you this before, and if you haven't already done it I'm going to be kind of pissed.  Download the Gas Buddy app to search for the cheapest gas wherever you are.

Keep a winter travel kit in your car if you live in a part of the country where winter happens: space blanket, sleeping bag, candles & matches, an extra coat, mittens, hat, and scarf, extra socks, emergency flares, and everything you need to jump start your battery & change a flat.

Pack snacks so you're not stuck eating Doritos at the gas station: nuts, chocolate, fruit, yogurt, plenty of water, and those Emergen'C packets make pretty tasty Kool-Aid. Make sure you've got napkins or facial tissue and some plastic silverware, too.  I don't know why, but I always need a spoon when I don't have one.

Check and see if you have these apps for your trip!

Being the best guest you can be...

Bring gifts--that's what this section is about. You are causing a great deal of work to take place on your behalf, from forcing your host to vacuum (suck) to washing all your soiled bed clothes and towels after you're gone (gross).  The least you can do is say thank you with some junk.

You can always buy something if you're flying--I totally trust the Serious Eats list on buying tasty, affordable Scotch, and Food and Wine definitely has their stuff together when it comes to recommending cheap wine you won't be embarrassed to bring to the party. Flowers are nice, and I'm not much of a smelly candle person, but I always love a good (small, inexpensive) little kitchen gadget. Or revisit my "Gifts fit for a food lover" post from last year.

If you're close enough that you can make something to bring over, consider infusing your own vodka, creating your own tea blend (a decent loose black tea pairs well with lavender, vanilla bean, and any number of dried fruits, for instance), a mulled wine packet (dried orange slices, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, star anise), or homemade herbal vinegar (gently heat white wine vinegar for about 5 minutes with the herb or fruit peel of your choice, strain, and pour into an airtight container).  Any kind of baked good is also fair game, of course.

Happy travels, and don't be a jerk!

13 November 2015

Duluth in two days

I was touring Minnesota last week (yes, it was cold), and I visited several towns.  Yes, Minneapolis is a cool city, and I've already talked about what I like in the Fargo/Moorhead area, but today I want to tell you about an oft-overlooked little city called Duluth.  I think this place will probably suck in the winter, because the fog and icy wind coming off Lake Superior was already getting a little old after two days, but it's a lovely lakeside town with a charming downtown area and a friendly population. If you go,...

7 West Taphouse

We went here for lunch, and then came back for the huge beer list at night! Fried cheese curds, onion rings, creative burgers, and lots of local brews make this really worth visiting.

Lake Superior Bakehouse

This place was our savior on a cold, gray morning before teaching at 9am (and after post-concert drinks at 7 West). Great breakfast sandwiches, baked goods, coffee, and tea.

Tweed Museum, UMD  

Bent Paddle taproom
Right across the hall from where I was teaching flute class and performing a recital, there was a great little museum with modern pieces and classical European art, all presented in an educational, interactive setting.  What an inspiring setting in which to learn!


I was not in town long enough to enjoy some of Duluth's delicious local beer in their original homes, but there are a ton of breweries in the area: Bent Paddle (which is on tap all over the city, and it is delicious), Fitgers, Black List, Canal Park, and Lake Superior are all in Duluth, and surrounding towns have a few to contribute, as well.  Beer is so appropriately loved here that there is a "Beer Trail" that serves as a directory to them all.

10 November 2015

Curried yogurt sauce

Last week I was in Minneapolis for a concert, and I ate some Indian food at Malabari Kitchen near the university. It was all good, but by far my favorite item was a yogurt curry, which was really just a runny, spiced yogurt sauce which was meant to be eaten as a digestive with rice at the end of the meal. It was bright, tangy, and delicious, and as I was cooking up some brown rice and mung beans for lunch after I got back, I thought it would be the perfect compliment.

This recipe at least gave me some clue of what goes in a yogurt curry, and the photo looked exactly like what I ate in Minneapolis, but I cannot imagine acquiring all of these ingredients easily, and I didn't particularly feel like cooking the whole thing (boiling dairy products never goes well for me). So I heavily adapted the recipe and came up with a respectable copy that is easy to make and is delicious as a sauce over lentils or mung beans and rice (as I did below). 

Kerala Yogurt Curry
Makes about 2 cups
1 cup plain yogurt
½ cup water
1 teaspoon lemon juice (or more, to taste)
½ teaspoon prepared mustard
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon each: curry powder, turmeric, and cumin
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 serrano pepper
½ small garlic clove
Black pepper to taste

Combine the yogurt, water, lemon juice, mustard, salt, and powdered spices in a small serving bowl and set aside.

In a mortar and pestle or food processor, mash the ginger, serrano, and garlic into a paste with a little drizzle of olive oil. Stir into the yogurt mixture and serve room temperature or cold. 

06 November 2015

corn + peanuts = delicious

I have long been a fan of food writer/photographer Heidi Swanson, and I even reviewed her cookbook, Super Natural Everyday, here on this blog a while back.  Her latest in-print creation is Near And Far, and it is a glorious, if slightly strange, melding of travel diary and recipe collection. What's strange about it, from my perspective, are the recipes, which basically amount to warm and cold salads, dips, and soups.  Many of them are great, but need to have rice or pasta added to round out a meal.  Case in point, her Vaghareli Makai, which is basically Indian stir-fried corn and peanuts.  It's so delicious and simple it's ridiculous!  But you need to put some rice underneath it for lunch or dinner.  I also added steamed green beans, because I had them and thought it would be tasty.  It was.

So, here's my version:

Vaghareli Makai

Serves 4

1 medium serrano chile, stemmed, seeded (if desired), and sliced
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
One 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
¾ teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1 tablespoon peanut oil (or other neutral oil)
1 ½ teaspoons yellow or brown mustard seeds
3 cups corn (frozen fine; rinse under warm water and drain)
1 cup steamed green beans
½ cup roasted peanuts
1 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
3 cups cooked jasmine or brown rice, for serving
lemon or lime wedges, for serving

With a mini food processor, grind the chile, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and salt to a paste.

Heat the oil in a wide skillet. Add the mustard seeds and cook, stirring until they pop, which will take a minute or two. Stir in the corn kernels and cook a few minutes, stirring frequently, until they just start to feel tender, which will take a couple of minutes.

Stir in the peanuts, green beans, half of the cilantro and the chile paste. Cook for another minute then taste. If desired, for additional heat, add more of the chile paste and perhaps a bit of salt.

Serve the spiced corn over rice, topped with the remaining cilantro and sesame seeds  Serve with lime or lemon wedges--don't skip this step!

03 November 2015

Even with an extra hour of sleep, I could use some coffee

We always complain when the time changes, don't we?  Sunday we got an extra hour, but it's not good enough, because now it's too dark in the morning.  In the spring, we get more light at night, but we lost a whole hour!  Damn it, life is hard. Whatever your current whining session, coffee will fix it.  I'll help you out,if you happen to be in any of the following select cities: 

Great American Coffee Houses

 Houndstooth Coffee, Austin. TX

Happy Coffee Co. , Denver, CO

Ipsento , Chicago, IL

Boxcar Coffee,  Boulder and Denver, CO

Joe Bean . Rochestrer, NY

 Café D’Bolla, Salt Lake City, UT

Cognoscenti . Los Angeles, CA

Render Coffee, Boston, MA

Gimme Coffee, New York, NY

Sqirl, Los Angeles, CA

Bad Wolf Coffee. Chicago, IL

Kaffe 1668, New York, NY

Daylight Mind, Kona, HI

Coava  Coffee, Portland, OR

Jubala, Raleigh, NC

Barista Parlor, Nashville, TN

Fourbarrel, San Francisco, CA

Barista, Portland, OR

Volta Coffee, Gainseville, FL

Spyhouse Coffee, Minneapolis, MN

Pavement, Boston, MA

Colectivo  Coffee, Milwaukee, WI

Sunergos, Louisville, KY

Heart Roasters, Portland, OR

Anodyne Coffee Roasters, Milwaukee, WI

Artifact Coffee, Baltimore, MD

Panther Coffee, Miami, FL

Milstead & Co., Seattle, WA

Peregrine Espresso, Washington, D.C.

Ultimo Coffee, Philadelphia, PA

 Go Get Em Tiger, Los Angeles, LA