Monday, March 31, 2008

I am SUCH a bad blog mom!

If my blog were a child, CPS would have intervened long ago. Fortunately, it's an e-baby, although I hope none of you have suffered from severe pangs of neglect. There was that week before vacation where I had four 16-hour days in a row, then a 22-hour day of work and travel. Then there was vacation in a charming B&B with no Internet access...and no kitchen, so what's the point, right? Then there was the week of being back from vacation in which I did cook, but didn't blog. Instead, I was trying to put my house/job/life back together. And do my taxes.

However, some cooking did take place, some of it more worthy than some of the rest. Let me start off with the best--tonight's dinner. I felt like I was hanging out somewhere in the Middle East. DH and I cuddled up on the couch with a big, Moroccan-designed platter between us. It was heaped with spicy chickpeas, fresh slices of jalapenos, tomatoes, and onions, a dollop of Greek yogurt, and tiny little lime wedges. A basket of warm, soft naan was there as well. It became an orgy of scoop, stack, and eat. Martha Stewart, from whom the recipe for Spicy Chickpeas with Fresh Green Chiles came, would probably have blushed with embarrassment at our happy sounds--all from the food, I assure you. An added bonus? This is the kind of recipe that you can start one step, then do the next bit of prep while the first part cooks. Dinner made it to the table...or about 30 minutes. Nothin' to complain about there. This is one of my new favorite meals. I think this one will qualify for the ARF/5-A-Day Roundup hosted by Sweetnicks, too. Be sure to stop over there and check it out.

Just to bring you up to speed, I'll fill you in on a couple of other dishes that came out of the kitchen this past week, although I don't have photos to share. (All of these, by the way, are Martha recipes, from the same cookbook.) Yesterday, we had a fabulous grain salad that could quickly become a summer staple. Farro with Thinly Sliced Zucchini, Pine Nuts, and Lemon Zest went together quickly (I had precooked the barley, which I used in place of farro), is loaded with fiber, and literally explodes with fragrance. There is one step in the recipe in which pine nuts are sauteed in olive oil instead of being dry toasted. Once they begin to brown, you blast the pan with lemon zest. Oh, man, did that smell good! This would be very versatile with other summer veggies such as asparagus, broccoli, or whatever grabs your fancy. It can also be made with whatever grain really floats your boat, so have fun with it.

I also have a couple of bags of Whole-Wheat Pasta with Lentils, Spinach, and Leeks in the freezer after eating a large dinner and a couple of lunches from the original recipe. This is good, earthy peasant food. However, to plow through the rest of it later, I want to come up with something a bit more exciting. I'm thinking of trying the olive oil/pine nut/lemon zest trick on this, with the possible addition of some sun-dried tomatoes. Whaddya think? Sound good? I'm open to other ideas, as well.

The last recipe to share tonight is Jamaican Rice and Beans. In this recipe, almost a cup of dried red beans simmers in a coconut milk bath with crushed garlic and bay leaves. Another winner in the home-fragrance department. Who needs air fresheners? After an hour or so of this, rice and more liquid are added, more simmering ensues, and the result is a beautifully fluffy, light side dish. I did make this as a main dish, but wouldn't recommend it. There just isn't enough substance to it. However, I have plans for this dish in the future, as part of a meal--just not the centerpiece.

There is lots more cooking planned, from yet another new cookbook: Vegan Express. Some of the recipes sound delicious, and I can't wait to try them. I actually have menus planned for the next four weeks, along with my shopping list, courtesy of the hour and a half wait at the carwash yesterday. I may not get the recipes posted nightly, but I'll sure give it a try.

It's good to be back!

Monday, March 10, 2008

A cold winter day

Well, not really--unless you consider 80 degrees cold. It is still winter, though. While other parts of the country were shivering under blankets of snow, we were totally enjoying the springtime weather. Before you hate me too much, though, I will say that I worked 12+ hours on Saturday, then spent all day Sunday trying to get ready to take my tax stuff to the accountant. Still not ready, either. However, when I did get to look out my window for a few minutes, we were delighted to see this pair of cardinals snacking on our quail block. For those not in the know, the male is bright red, and the female is almost all brown, but with the signature crest and yellow beak. This is the first time we've seen the pair in the yard together. They usually take turns. And I have to say, it thrills me every time I see them. They just don't seem to belong in the middle of the desert.

On a more blogger-ish note, we're leaving for San Francisco Friday night. I have work events every night between now and then, so I can tell you that there just won't be any food posts here. Hopefully, we'll be shooting some great photos of great food while we're in SF. I can't wait to get there!