“Where are you going and what do you wish?

The old moon asked the three.

“We have come to fish for the herring fish;

that live in the beautiful see.'”

-Wynken, Blynken and Nod. Eugene Field

Where am I going and what do I wish? Two questions which have sat with me all summer and into the early turns of fall. Day to day life has continued to move forward:

  • I started my masters program in September and it feels nice to be back in school. Although I long for those hazy college days where school was priority number one, friends number 1.1, and work was something you did on the side.
  • I read some books. Some memorable. Some forgetful. Most just for fun. Recently, these graced my nightstand: The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams. The Second Machine Age, by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAffee. The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna. Three starkly different, yet thought provoking.
  • I went on a beautiful family vacation from Germany to Venice, through coastal towns and many countries, ending in Greece. The pictures and memories are beautiful (see a few below).
  • I stepped into a leadership role on my volunteer board. It’s challenging, because I want to make it my top priority (it’s so much fun!), but of course life throws other priorities at us.
  • I played far too much Guild Wars 2. And now there’s an expansion happening at the end of the month. I will try to control myself.

I still cook and enjoy planning the week’s menu over a delicious, creamy cup of coffee. I still enjoy cooking and enjoy photography. I am, however, worn out by the idea of cooking 5+ meals a week. Perhaps it’s some first world problem fatigue…though I don’t really care to investigate the why.

And I’m okay with that. There’s not a perfect, easy answer or a clear why behind what we do.

Back to those questions: Where am I going and what do I wish?

Finding those answers will be an adventure in itself.

I can’t promise how much I’ll be around, or how often. I may pop up every now and then with a new recipe or adventure. Thanks for following along with me.

Take a break walking the wall in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Take a break walking the wall in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Navigating the Corinth Canal, Greece

Navigating the Corinth Canal, Greece

Taking in the colors. Hydra, Greece

Taking in the colors. Hydra, Greece

I’ve definitely been absent, floating around in some space between work busy and life busy, all pulling towards that busy-ness vortex. While I try to stay above it, employ clever word tricks like saying I’m “productive” rather than busy, or buy books on how to be more productive, I should just call it what it is: the last month has been a blur. A mix of work blur and life blur, followed by an odd, complacent calm. The erie calm before the storm, as the cliche goes.

Here’s what we’ve been up to during that time — I’ll spare the work details. We all have crazy work days and periods of sillyness we go through and it feels like pretty silly complaining (look at me, I have a job that keeps me busy, that I enjoy, that pays me! feel sorry for me. Rather, don’t.)

We took an impromptu trip to Sedona. After finishing up a Saturday in the office, I came home, finished over packing my bag, and away we went. I feel asleep halfway through a weekend something or other on NPR, with the warm Arizona sun streamlng through the passanger window. Casey was totally feeling it, too. Safe driver that he is, he swtiched us from radio to podcast, and right into episode four of Serial we went. Fashionably behind the times: that’s what we are!

Sedona

In Sedona, we enjoyed cool crisp air, red rocks; huge veggie filled omlettes; and, a pretty sweet hike. Look at me, taking my life into my own hands and crossing Devil’s Bridge.

Devil's Bridge

I kept the local library in business during my unannounced time off. The public library is a quiet treasure chest, waiting for you to remember it exists and surprising you with goodies when you finally do remember. It smells of books — or atleast, mine does. The staff curates a celection of most wanted items, with cookbooks and book-books just sitting their waiting to be read.

I kept Amazon Prime in business (you’re welcome, Amazon; I don’t think I’m your only customer, but still, you’re welcome). I may have spent what was forecasted to be a rainy March weekend on the couch, basking in film adaptation glory and watching all seven episodes of Outlander, Season 1, Part 1. Consecutively. Parker, on the other hand, enjoyed the late afternoon soon streaming through the windows. Lyla imitated as best she could later that night.

Parker in the Afternoon Flat Cat

And now we’re at the end of March, where I told myself I would have a few details figured out. And of course I don’t. I do know I’ll be back with food posts soon. Until then, here’s a montage of life through pictures.

Chocolate Rye Muffins

 

Healthy and chocolate are often said in the same sentence. I get a long with chocolate pretty well; and I’m trying to continue to be healthier. So these muffins, well — in my head, the math adds up!

Chocolate Rye Muffins

from Green Kitchen Stories

  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 6 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp coarse sea salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 2/3 cup of maple syrup*
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 100g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine and mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl and mix it together. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients, except the dark chocolate. Add the dry and wet ingredients together. Mix it well together. Add roughly half the chopped chocolate to the mixture.

Prep a muffin tin with paper cups. Put roughly 1/4 cup of batter in the cups. Top with the remaining chocolate.

Bake for 18 minutes.

*Accidentally, I only had 1/3 cup of maple syrup when I made this recipe. A less sweet muffin, more deep chocolate flavors.

Chocolate Rye Muffins

Chocolate Rye Muffins

Roasted Chickpea and Sweet Potato Salad

 

Dear Salad, I’ve decided I like you. Once, a long time ago, I pushed you around on my plate and picked at you. Now, you’ve become dinner. Thank you adulthood.

Real posting might return next week, if the world slows down a bit. For now, enjoy this salad. 

 

Roasted Chickpea and Sweet Potato Kale Salad

Adapted from I Will Not Eat Oysters

For the roasted chickpeas:

  • 1 15 oz cans of chickpeas, rinsed, drained, and dried
  • Salt, pepper, and chile powder to taste

Roasted for 20 minutes at 375 degrees.

For the roasted sweet potatoes:

  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Roast for 20 minutes at 375 degrees. Can be roasted together with the chickpeas.

For the salad:

  • 3 cups of kale, washed and chopped into small, bite sized strips
  • 1 cup of red quinoa, cooked.
  • 1 cup crumbled feta
  • Tahini Sauce (from Trade Joe’s)

Roast your chickpeas and sweet potatoes in a 375 degree oven. In a large bowl, mix together the kale, feta, sweet potatoes, quinoa, and chickpeas. Sprinkle the tahini sauce on the salad, about 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time. Toss and coat. Enjoy.

 

Roasted Chickpea and Sweet Potato Salad

 

Roasted Chickpea and Sweet Potato Salad

Weekend Reading

That’s my weekend and non weekend reading in the photo. I’ve started with the Diana Henry book, “A Change of Appetite.” I’m enjoying the fresh dishes and simple preparations. Can’t wait to cook from it. For reading around the web, here’s a few links I found interesting:

  • The realities of creative life, a series from Medium
  • A look inside the Consumer Reports testing process. I know that I review CR for big purchases, most recently for toilets. Gladly, that testing process is not discussed in the article.
  • A different perspective on fairy tales and bed time stories.

I spent the day in the rain today, enjoying conversation with friends and the occasional golf game at the Phoenix Open. I’m hoping for a wet, rainy Saturday to enjoy some reading and cup of tea.

At the Open

Sugar Puffs | Kitchen Notes and Other Sundries

Some recipes look inherently fussy. Fussy enough, at least, that us in-our-spare time bloggers think long and hard about spending a weekend conquering the recipe. At least, I do that. So through some bizarre desire, I came home from a half day work on Sunday and tried out chouquettes, a puffed dough akin to cream puffs. Which prior to this experience, I would have put in the “fussy” category.

Much like my experiences making homemade potstickers or fruit jam on weekday nights, I discovered the reality didn’t live up to the fussiness hype. Airy and delicious, these cream puffs were a pure weekend treat. So much so that I may have eaten six in a sitting (oops!).

As you’re putting the recipe together, make sure that your melted butter/water mixture is actually hot before adding the flour. During my first attempt, while I was also mindlessly watching Gilmore Girls (from the beginning, thank you Netflix), I didn’t allow the first step to get warm enough and ended up with soup. Lesson learned and passed on!

Chouquettes, or French Sugar Puffs

from David Lebovitz and The Smitten Kitchen

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (90g) unsalted butter, cut into small chuncks
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 large, room temperature eggs
  • Crystal sugar, available in specialty stores and on Amazon.com

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

In a small saucepan, heat the water, sugar, salt, and butter. Stir until the butter is melted and is just starting to simmer. I recommend using medium-low or medium heat depending on the temperature of your stove.

Remove from the heat. Pour all the flour into the pot at once. Rapidly stir the mixture until the dough pulls away from the sides and is thick. Allow this mixture to cool for 5 minutes.

Briskly beat in the eggs, one egg at a time. The batter should start to turn more golden in color. It will be runny at first when you add an egg, but the egg will incorporate fully into the batter.

Scoop the dough between two spoons and scrape onto the baking sheet. Alternatively, you can get fancy with a piping bag. Two spoons work just fine for me. Be sure to place the dough evenly apart on the baking sheet, as they will puff up.

Brush the top of each mound with an egg glaze (if desired, recipe below) and the press the sugar crystals over the tops and sides of the mounds. Use more than you would think.

Bake for roughly 35 minutes. My first batch was done in 20-25, so using your oven window and light to check on the browning of the puffs is helpful.

As both David and Deb say in their recipes, these are best the same day they’re made. I did freeze some of mine after they were cooled and am looking forward to defrosting and reheating them, via David’s instructions.

For the egg glaze:

1 egg yolk, mixed with 1 teaspoon milk.

Use a brush to glaze the uncooked puffs before adding the sugar. This step is optional.

Sugar Puffs | Kitchen Notes

 

1. View of the San Francisco Peaks driving in Flagstaff, AZ.

2. A small treat in Gallup, NM.

3. Fog on the road in Gallup, NM.

4. Sun over the number 8 chairlift in Durango, CO.

5 – 8. Views from the 8 in Durango, CO

9. Coming down the I17 heading towards Phoenix, AZ.

 

Red Lentil, Cauliflower, and Thai Red Curry Soup

You’re looking at a full head of cauliflower. Trust me, it never looked this good. Not even when it’s roasted in the oven whole, the current en vogue style. It’s also super hip because this cauliflower and red lentil thai spiced soup is a riff on a Yotam Ottlenghi recipe from Plenty More. And you know, because I needed to post another soup recipe on this blog.

I don’t have any pithy words or cute stories that accompany this soup. We’ve just gotten home from a family ski vacation, in which we tackled two-deck rummy; managed to not injure ourselves; skied big moguls safely, albeit not artfully; and, stapled dollar bills to a wall. So coming home to this beauty after a long weekend away, a full day of work, and minimal groceries in the house is pure delight.

Thai Red Lentil and Cauliflower Soup

Inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty More

  • 3 tbsp cooking oil, like olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1 head of cauliflower, stem removed and florets roughly chopped
  • 2 stalks of lemongrass, trimmed and lightly bashed
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • Juice of one lime
  • Cilantro, coarsely chopped

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium low heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent and starting to soften, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the curry paste and cook for an additional minute. Add the cauliflower. Stir to combine. Cook for 1-2 minutes.

Add the water, lentils, lemongrass, lime leaves. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Bring the soup to a boil. Return heat to a simmer and cook until the lentils and the cauliflower are soft, roughly 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the lemongrass and the kaffir lime leaves.

Allow the soup to cool on the stove. Puree using an immersion blender. Stir in the coconut milk and the lime juice. Serve with freshly chopped cilantro. Toasted pita bread is also a tasty accomplishment.

*If you’d like to freeze the soup, leave the coconut milk and lime juice out. Thaw your frozen soup and reheat on the stove. Then stir in the coconut milk and lime juice.

Thai Red Lentil and Cauliflower Soup

 

Weekend Reading | Kitchen Notes

We’re off to Colorado this holiday weekend for a little family time, skiing, and R&R. This will be Casey’s first year on the “big skis” after over a decade skating around on snow blades. I’m excited to see how he likes them! On the drive, here’s what we’ll be listening to:

Stuff You Missed in History. We’ve been with this podcast for at least 4 years now. It’s a good way for me to get my history nerd on.

Serial. This has been all over the internets as of late and I’m eager to find out if we like it. Nothing like an 8 hour car trip to test out something new

And for reading, here are my favorites for the week:

– Bec over at My Bloggable Day posted incredible pictures of blue, serene water. Nothing like beach pictures during the winter!

– I’ve been working only improving my photo processing with Adobe Lightroom and enjoyed this matte Lightroom tutorial over at Eat the Love.

– I just finished Anthony Ryan’s Blood Song. It’s been a while since an epic fantasy style novel has engrossed me — I cared about the main character and his evolution and didn’t want to put the book down.

Chicken and Dumplings

Sometimes, you get to a point in your relationship with a magazine you’ve subscribed to for years where you start to forget why you subscribed in the first place. And then, given that it’s a new year and you find yourself re-evaluating how you spend, waste, and use your time, you discover something profound. That really, it may be your perspective on the publication that stalled your relationship.

When January’s Cooking Light came in the mail, my first reaction was a sarcastic mental comment, “Gee, wow — chicken on the cover. Surprise, surprise.” And yet there I was, leafing through the pages before going to bed, paying attention to the recipes as I sipped my morning coffee. A complete departure from haphazardly scanning the entire magazine, which is what my relationship with Cooking Light had become over the last 6-8 months.

We’ve been talking a lot of mindfulness and being present, both at home and at work. With this, that, and the other pulling on our time (what do mean there’s a new season of White Collar on Netflix?), it’s easy to be “there” but not present. Which is how I’d approached Cooking Light previously — there, but not “present.”

This mindfulness paid off — with a delicious, warming chicken and dumpling soup. And because I wasn’t paying total attention, the dumplings came out a bit larger and “rustic” looking.

Chicken and Dumplings Soup, adapted from Cooking Light

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons dried tarragon
  • 2 leaks, trimmed, washed and cut into thin half moons
  • 2 celery stalks, cut along the diagonal into thin slices
  • 2 carrots, cut diagonally into thin slices
  • 1/5 cup sugar snap peas, cut identically to the carrots and celery
  • 2 garlic cloves, push through the garlic press
  • 3/4 pound of shredded, cooked chicken breast
  • 4 cups of chicken stock, unsalted or home made
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4.5 ounces of flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup of milk

In a large Dutch oven, sauté the leeks over medium head. Add salt, pepper, and half of the tarragon. Saute for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add the celery, carrots, garlic to the pan. Saute for an additional 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock, bringing the whole contents to a boil. Allow to cook for 10 minutes, until vegetables are just tender. Add the chicken to the dish, cover to keep warm.

Combine the flour, baking power and remaining tarragon with salt and pepper in a bowl. Using a pastry cutter or fork, cut in the butter until the mixture is course and meal like. Add the milk, combine until just moist. Using 2 teaspoons, drop the dough into the stock, forming 16 small or 8 large dumplings. Cover and simmer for 7-9 minutes, until the dumplings are cooked through.

Chicken and Dumplings

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