Batter Licker

February 23, 2011

chard-wrapped lentil sloppy joe’s

Many people have fond memories of eating sloppy joe’s for dinner as a kid. I am not one of those people. Yes, my mom occasionally made sloppy joe’s. And yes, I generally enjoyed eating them – until my family went to Knott’s Berry Farm. During that trip, my sister Kate ate a ton of barbecue beans. And then we went on some swirly rides. Eventually, we were driven home and got into bed. Totally uneventful. Several hours into the middle of the night, I woke up to the kind of surprise that ruins barbecue anything for a very long time: projectile barbecue beans. Kate had sat straight up in bed and spewed all over the room, spattering my bed in the process.

That memory scarred me so deeply that, to this day, I still can’t stomach barbecue beans. But lentils are a different story altogether.

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Lentils I love in any form, especially with Indian spices but also flavored only with a spoonful of sambal oelek Asian chili paste and a dollop of Greek yogurt. They’re healthy, easy to make, cook fairly quickly, pair nicely with a variety of vegetables and herbs (which is especially convenient when I have ones that need to be used quite badly), and hold up well enough in the refrigerator to provide an entire week’s worth of lunches. So I always keep some in my pantry.

When I found myself with some extra bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes laying around, not to mention a craving for meat on a vegan weeknight, I turned to lentils. They hold their shape and have just enough substance to make you forget these sloppy joe’s are meatless. And besides, the veggie-laden barbecue sauce is delicious, even if you choose to use ground meat instead. (more…)

February 18, 2011

toasted steel-cut oatmeal with dried cherries, apricots and walnuts

Valentine’s Day is supposed to be a day to celebrate love. But showing loved ones you care needn’t mean showering them with chocolate, roses, and other pink and red items. (Not that I’d object to any of those, so long as those chocolate truffles aren’t Walgreens-quality.) And Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be the only day you tell the loved ones in your life – from family to friends to fiancĂ©es – how much you treasure them.

To me, the most meaningful way to show your appreciation is through little gestures or actions throughout each day. A kiss on the forehead of your still-sleeping significant other on your way out the door to work; a phone call to your grandmother when you know winter weather is keeping her unbearably housebound; bringing Blue Bottle coffee to a friend who is stuck at work on a gorgeous Saturday morning. And taking the time to make steel-cut oatmeal for anyone, even just yourself, for breakfast.

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Jay’s uncle Andy first introduced us to steel-cut oatmeal a couple years ago when we visited Chicago for Jay’s cousin’s bar mitzvah. When Andy heated up the pan to prepare the oatmeal, I had no idea that the breakfast in store for me would be nothing like the gloppy, gluey oatmeal I had grown up with. Rather, these oats had a delightful, slightly chewy texture, and were comfortingly warm and filling on that particularly cold, gray and rainy morning. Yes, the steel-cut oats took a longer time to cook, but the wait was entirely worth it.

While I have enjoyed many bowls since then, it wasn’t until last Spring, when I purchased Kim Boyce’s incredible cookbook on whole grain baking, that I ever thought to toast the oats before submerging them in water. I can’t imagine why I never thought to try this, as I’ve toasted everything else from nuts and spices to rice and farro. But I can now say that if you’re taking the time to make steel-cut oatmeal in the first place, you absolutely must take the couple extra minutes to pre-toast the oat grains. Like many other toasted foods, it lends such a wonderfully nutty, condensed flavor to the oatmeal that you might just eat it without adornments.

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February 15, 2011

vodka and elderflower sparkling lemonade

Filed under: drinks,vegan — Tags: , , , , , , , — Kristen @ 2:00 pm

Elderflower liqueur is something I never would have thought to try had a friend not recommended it a few years ago. And ever since then, I’ve been adding it to all sorts of drinks. As far as cocktails go, this sweetly floral liqueur has been truly changed my world.

A little splash of St. Germain with a gin and tonic, vodka and club soda, or glass of sparkling wine has really lifted my standard cocktails of choice to a new level. That goes doubly for less-than-stellar glasses of sparkling wine (or even regular white wine). In all seriousness, this liqueur has saved many a bottle of almost-undrinkable white wine gifts from the trash. (more…)

February 10, 2011

versatile unseasoned bread crumbs

Filed under: bread — Tags: , , , , , — Kristen @ 9:01 am

I love bread, but I don’t purchase it often. Sometimes, I get a little ambitious and make it myself. Other times, I do end up purchasing fresh bread, only to end up with unwanted scraps, end pieces, and extra hunks or slices that wind up getting stale. When you’re buy a one-pound loaf for two people, there’s just not much hope of going through it all within the first 24 hours while it’s still fresh. These sad, neglected bits of bread are the inevitable result.

As part of my ongoing effort to waste less food by finding new ways to use every edible item I buy (even the ones that have seen better days), I started shoving bread into the freezer, promising myself that I would decide what to do with it later. A few months and a freezer bag full of unloved bread scraps later, I decided to make bread crumbs.

When I decided to make my own bread crumbs, I initially flip-flopped over whether to season them. I decided against seasoning for a few reasons. (more…)

February 7, 2011

fudge with chopped macadamia nuts

Filed under: bars,candy,dessert — Tags: , , , — Kristen @ 10:38 am

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and all chocolate lovers – whether single and ready to mingle or happily committed – can appreciate this homemade fudge. Studded with chopped macademia nuts, this fudge is rich, chocolatey, and smooth with just a bit of crunch from the nuts. And it’s been a family hit for decades, although I recently opted to swap out traditional walnuts for macademia nuts. Then again, any of your favorite nuts will do.

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Like my pistachio and chocolate-topped toffee, fudge makes an always-devoured finger food dessert for dinner parties and a wonderful “just because law school left me with crippling debt while I also need to save up for my wedding” Christmas gifts “just because I love you enough to make you homemade candy” gifts to friends, family, and significant others. (more…)

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