Tuesday, June 21, 2016

On Change, and Curried Tuna Salad

As a lover of all things food, I love love love trying new foods and new recipes.  There aren't enough days in the year (or in my lifetime!) for me to be able to try all of the thousands of recipes that I've bookmarked or saved throughout the years.  New ingredients?  Change of technique?  Sign me up!

But change in other areas of my life?  Sort of tough.  I just recently decided to leave my previous job and company of ten years for another company.  Same industry, but different set of responsibilities and - after ten years of stress and deadlines - a much slower pace.  It's been hard for me to swallow (see what I did there?).  I went from being somewhat of a known fixture at my old company (lots of responsibilities!  She knows it all, she's an expert!) to being the new girl again, and boy is it tough.  New routines, new coworkers, new everything.  No one knows me or my talents yet, and it's been a bit humbling.  I wish I could transport back to my 24 year old self who didn't know any better and who took a job blindly, without ten years of built up opinions, judgments, and comparisons of new environments.  

However, this new job has provided me with, among other things (higher pay and less travel, woohoo!) a clearness of mind that I haven't had in awhile.  It's like I'm waking up after a long, stressful nap - a nap full of bad dreams about deadlines and juggling too many projects.  I'm awake, and now sort of taking a long hard look at my life to figure out what it is that I want to do.  This job is much more of an 8-5 gig, where checking emails after hours is almost unheard of and working on the weekends just doesn't happen.  While it's less of a creative role, it's allowed me to fully engage with my family again and slow down my life in areas that I never thought needed slowing down.  I had become addicted to "being busy", and I didn't understand what it was doing to me.  

So here's to new adventures and learning to slow down.  And being comfortable with not being so busy all of the time.

AND to trying new versions of tuna salad.  I made this recipe last week and my husband is still talking about.  So if you want to break from your routine tuna salad recipe, give it a try.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Valentine's Day Graham Cracker Crunch

This treat came about because of a flop I had during Christmas.  I somehow managed to mess up a recipe for a peanut butter + chocoloate + graham cracker layered bar recipe, but then chose to roll up that entire mess into truffles.  I of course puffed and huffed the entire time, annoyed with myself, but the truffles turned out to be pretty good.  However, before I could see the light at the end of that tunnel, I had rushed out in an angry haze to the grocery store, determined to buy more graham crackers to fix my mistake.

Once the truffles turned out and were packaged up, my new box of graham crackers sat in the cupboard, sadly forgotten.  Until now!  If you need a recipe to use up a bunch of graham crackers, this is your recipe.

I liked this because a) it came together super easy, b) used up stuff in my pantry that I already had and c) did not require any fussy rolling or cutting or anything.  Just spread, heat, spread some more, then break up into pieces!  My lucky valentines who received this treat had no complaints whatsoever.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Grilled Bread and Kale Salad

This entire summer, I've been fortunate to be a part of this CSA program here in Memphis, which means I - along with my participating coworkers - get a large bag of fresh, local veggies and fruits once a week.  With this bounty of food, it has kept me quite busy as far as keeping ahead of the supply and making sure it is all used up properly.  I've been fairly successful in that last goal, and I'm pretty pleased with myself.  A few of the recipes I've made with our loot:

Hashbrown Crust Quiche (with squash)

But here is a recipe that I was required to find because I stupidly bought even more produce and goodies at the grocery store (not to mention the extras that we bought at a last-minute planned trip to the farmers market - because who doesn't love strolling around the market on a Saturday morning, especially when they have popsicles to keep a certain toddler happy?). 

I made this salad for myself on Sunday afternoon.  The whole day lent itself to staying in my not-quite pajamas but not-quite suitable for leaving the house clothes, with my hair tied back and glasses on.  Seriously, I looked completely sloppy which seemed totally at odds with this elegant salad once I had finished assembling it.  I felt like I should have been in my Sunday best and sipping a glass of champagne at brunch. 

This salad used up everything that I had laying around (figs, leftover baguette, Parmesan cheese, walnuts, lonely red onion).  It came together quickly, although it made for a few more dirty dishes than I cared for.  Next time I'll streamline that, and I think next time I'll also massage the kale in some lemon juice.  Quickly sautéing it here did not entirely break down the kale's chewiness.  But other than that, this salad was interesting in its components and the flavor combination was a real winner.  So, if you're in your Sunday lazy clothes, go ahead and make this salad - you'll start to feel glamorous (or shamed that you're still so frumpy at 2 pm!) once you eat this salad.

Try it: Grilled Bread and Kale Salad

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Rye and Raisin Bread

If anyone's household is like mine, then your weeknights go something like this:

- clock out of work as soon as possible, even though you feel like you could stay forever and still not get everything done
- hurriedly drive home, since husband is picking up toddler
- frantically start making dinner, because it's not almost 6 pm, daddy and toddler are home, and said toddler is hungry
- if you're lucky, you get the adult dinner done and adults and toddler can eat together
- toddler asks for bbq sauce.  You give him bbq sauce and then he cries because it's not ketchup
- unsuccessful dinner with tears and whining
- clean up/load up dishes
- upstairs for bath, story time, and bedtime
- adults are now free!  It's already almost 9 pm
- adults go to bed
- repeat the next day

Seriously, I feel like between Monday and Friday, there is simply no way I can do anything except the steps listed above.  It makes me (sometimes) longingly wish for those pre-kid days where after work, I had the whole, vast, gloriously empty evening to myself.  Luxurious trip to Target?  Sure!  Pick up something fun for dinner on the way home?  Yes! Eat dinner at 8 pm with a lazy glass of wine?  Yes, please!  Or maybe let's go see a movie?  I mean, really.  What did I do with all that time?

Ok, so back on track.  My husband actually bookmarked this recipe after he watched an episode of that British bake-off show that aired sometime late last year.  It was a cool show in that they did really neat baking exercises, their commentary was wickedly smart and funny, and the end results were sometimes glorious, sometimes not (which is life, right?).  Somehow he found this link and sent it to me.

If you're still reading and nodding your head to my above bullet points, then you can make this bread.  Seriously.  Assuming you can find rye flour (thanks, Amazon!  See above for reasons why I have no time to browse through Whole Foods), this bread will cater to your schedule.  I soaked the raisins (for only 2-3 hours in hot water) and then mixed the dough that night.  I put it in the fridge for almost a full 24 hours, then the next night I took the dough out of the fridge and let it come to room temp.  While toddler whined about dinner, I preheated the oven, and then after bedtime I shaped the dough and let it rise for about 30 minutes.  Bake for 35-40 minutes, and before you know it could too can be in your kitchen, alone, eating a slice of slightly warm bread that has been slathered in salted butter.  See?  Who needs fun trips to Target?  I HAVE BREAD.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Cinnamon Apple Oatmeal Bites

Do you need something sweet yet healthy for breakfast?  I did a few weekends ago.  We typically do some type of egg dish (with a bit of sausage or bacon, although we are slowly cutting back on that!) and then a bunch of fruit (grapefruits lately) and then maybe a sweet carb.  I don't know if it's the fact that I was basically raised on carbs (hello anything made by General Mills or Little Debbie!) but I always, ALWAYS crave some carb at breakfast but I cannot justify eating pancakes and muffins all the time.  I found this recipe on a lovely blog and gave it a shot.  Here are the modifications I made (ok so I made them less healthy with these additions but oh well, momma needed something sweetish to go with her morning coffee).

- added 1 tbsp brown sugar
- added a streusel topping - 1-1/2 tblsp butter mixed with a bit of flour and sugar, then sprinkled on top
- also added a splash more milk than she called for

It made (12) muffins and my toddler LOVED them.  Like, ate three and then wanted more.  AMAZING.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Super Bowl Chex Mix

I'm sure lots of people fall in this camp, but I couldn't care less about sports, and even more so the Super Bowl.  Sure, the half time show may reel me in for a few minutes, but honestly I'd rather spend my night doing anything else.  We actually ended up eating dinner at a (very empty) Mexican restaurant where we luckily got to catch the shark show at halftime (I also loved the mechanical lion (?) she rode in on at some point but those sharks won the Super Bowl for me - and apparently the Internet today).

But as someone who loves to cook I always get sucked into the Super Bowl eating/cooking/party frenzy.  Everyone else is eating junk on Super Bowl Sunday, and so should we! It just gives me an excuse to make something I normally don't make during the weekend (read: something that is not healthy and in no way contributes to an actual meal).  So, here's some Chex Mix for you.  I think I stood in the kitchen and snacked on this for a full 10 minutes before I realized how much I had eaten. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Almond Butter Banana Bread

baking cinnamon ornaments with my buddy at christmas

Now that the holidays are over and my workload at my job has slowed down a bit (although not much - this weekend was the first full weekend I had off work!), I've been hit with the ORGANIZE and CLEAN EVERYTHING IN SITE bug and suddenly nothing is safe.  I cleaned out all of my old and unused cookbooks and then organized all of my cooking magazines by month (!) so I can refer to them seasonally.  I wiped down the top of the fridge and cleaned out the inside of my trash cans.  I tossed all the old stuff lurking in the freezer.  I haven't tackled the pantry yet, but that is next on my list. 

All of that to say that I really really wanted to bake something on Saturday afternoon and as I much as I wanted to make cookies, we actually still have Christmas cookies in the freezer that we are slowly nibbling on.  Plus I really wanted to use up ingredients that I already had on hand so I could keep up my purging/cleaning kick.  I have millions of  several bananas in the freezer as well as almond butter and almond flour so I went searching for a different type of banana quick bread.  I usually use a Dorie Greenspan recipe but this time I wanted something less sweet, with a bit more substance/heft to it.  I settled on a recipe that uses almond butter in the batter and it turned out great!  The tweaks I made:

- used 3/8 cup oil, 3/8 cup applesauce
- used 1 cup AP flour, 1/4 cup cornmeal, 1/4 cup almond flour - the cornmeal gave the bread a subtle crunch which I loved.

This bread keeps well in the freezer, and toasts up beautifully.

Link to original recipe here.