Happy New Year.

roux couch

This is the time of year that everyone posts their “Top Whatever List of Things that Blah Blah in 2015.” Top ten posts. Top ten books. Top ten recipes.

And it’s also the time that everyone posts their “New Year, New Me” posts. Resolutions and hopes and ideas of change.

It’s hard for me to look back at a year and remember what was what. What happened this year?

I started working for a virtual company, and have grown within that company to a Director-level position. I have cooked a TON. I have eaten a lot of veggies. I have become closer to my family. I became a grand-aunt. I turned 37, my marriage turned 16, my husband turned 38, my blog turned 10. My cat got old. We made new friends, we lost old ones. I suddenly like spicy food.

There are also things that didn’t happen. I didn’t lose weight. I didn’t stop drinking. I didn’t stop eating out, or pay off debt, or start exercising. I didn’t go back to crafting, I didn’t read lots of books, I didn’t learn to play the violin. I didn’t learn French, I didn’t go to the beach, I didn’t make my own pasta. I didn’t let depression win, I didn’t collapse under stress, I didn’t give up on happiness.

And for the New Year, New Me part? Most of me knows that resolutions don’t work. That just because it’s January 1, it doesn’t mean life will be different from this point on. But I still want more from this year. No, I want more from myself this year. My 2016 horoscope says that this year is gonna be great. That’s a pretty good start.

I hope you all have a fantastic year, that you meet your goals, that you don’t give up, that you know you are loved. And now, cookies. ;)

Lately

I realized this is another very long post. I seem to go back and forth between very long and very short.

Eating

Lots of cooking, lots of veggies. I added links to recipes when I could, though I will say that most of the time I just base things on a recipe and then veer off quite a bit based on what I have on hand or what I feel like doing. 😃

12-29-15 eating

  1. Veggie bowls. Lettuce sprinkled with salt :: avocado :: cherry tomatoes cooked in butter over medium heat until soft and delicious :: cabbage wedges charred on both sides in oil over medium-high heat :: a mix of leftover rice, leftover venison sausage, and a bit of corn that I had stockpiled away in the freezer from this summer.
  2. Pork and kimchi dumplings. I made the kimchi since we had a giant head of Napa cabbage to use up.
  3. Broccoli-cheddar soup.
  4. Vegan chocolate cake with coconut-cocoa frosting. I hated the frosting, which I didn’t realize until after I tasted it with the cake, so the whole thing went to waste. The cake is really good, though. I think lots of people would love the frosting, but it just had too much coconut oiliness for me. Next time I’ll make the chocolate-peanut butter frosting I originally used. Actually, I think I’ll bake that right now.
  5. Potato, spinach, and tomato soup – an oldie but goodie.
  6. Veggie bowls. Rice :: lettuce sprinkled with salt (better with a spritz of lemon, but we were out) :: ground beef cooked with cabbage and tomatoes :: turnips braised in butter and broth. (I got the idea here.)
  7. Gelato at Gelateria Gemelli. I got a scoop each of chocolate and peanut butter stracciatella. Justin got a negroni. Gelato and amaro, the perfect combination.
  8. Pasta with cauliflower and pancetta. I adapted this – cooked the cauliflower longer, sprinkled with panko, added more cheese, used pancetta instead of bacon, no basil, no sun-dried tomatoes. I also am totally in love with this pasta: fusilli corti bucati.
  9. Tofu, broccoli, and cherry tomatoes with peanut-curry sauce over rice and spaghetti squash. Another oldie but goodie.

Reading

kitchen year

My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl. I got this back in October and I’ve been savoring it. I want to make every recipe in this book.

raven cycle

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Steifvater: The Raven Boys :: The Dream Thieves :: Blue Lily, Lily Blue. Justin and I are reading these together, and we’re in the middle of book three. I’m anxious about the story ending with book four, The Raven King. It doesn’t come out until April. April! Yeesh.

There are some weird things that aren’t explained, but overall it’s fun, and I really love the characters. Especially Ronan. I adore Ronan in all his sharpness and gloom. And there some really great bits, where the words just tumble together so perfectly:

The night smelled foxy and damp, all rain and failed leaf fires.

A handsome devil with one eye the color of a promise and the other the color of a secret.

Gansey studied Adam’s erratic handwriting. His letters always looked like they were running from something.

Robert Parrish was a big thing, colorless as August, grown from the dust that surrounded the trailers.

…she sat on the end of Blue’s bed, looking as soft as a poem in the dim light.

Watching

star wars

STAR WARS OMG. I really loved The Force Awakens. It felt like an homage to the originals, with inside jokes and reminders that only us oldies would remember. Sort of like Jurassic World – just paying tribute to the original. I won’t go into any details, except to say STAR WARS.

Enjoying

On the Food Trail: Cake Salé

Long time no see! Okay, onward.

I thought I’d give you a glimpse of my crazy food brain. I was relaying some of this to Justin, and he was interested to see the path of my food thoughts. I’ve gone through this with Caramel Slice and Numasan. Today’s case in point: Cake Salé.

bread-done

WARNING: This is very, very long. :)

Step One:
I’m breezing through Snapchat bits and come across this lovely photo on the Sweet channel. The photo is nice, but really, I just love that the place is called Brunette Wine Bar, so I decide to look it up.

brunette sweet

Step Two:
I’m perusing Brunette’s website and loving the front page with its simplicity and “Currently” features. This makes me want to blog for some reason. Of course I view the menu, because food.

Step Three:
I’m scanning through the menu, thinking that I’d probably order the Rkatsiteli, because I’ve never had a wine from Georgia before, and it has a cool name. Under the Snacks, I see Cake Salé. It sounds vaguely familiar, and I think of a book I brought back from Paris. I read the description: Savory Quick Bread with Ham, Gruyere, Thyme. Now I’m sure I’ve seen this before.

brunette instagram
Source: @brunettewinebar

Step Four:
I ransack my cookbook shelves to find the cookbook: Recettes des 3 Sœurs Pour Petites Festins entre Amis. And there it is, savory quick bread with a variety of ingredients. The book doesn’t refer to it as cake salé, so I have no idea why I recognized that name, but whatever.

3-soeurs-book

I love this book. Everything is hand-illustrated. There are three cake salé recipes: Cake Bollywood, Cake Kamikaze, and Cake Luigi, all listed under the Picnic section. What a great picnic snack!

book-open

I check out the 3 Sœurs website and find an entire post on the mistakes/omissions from their most recent book. They are very clever in providing illustrations to glue into your book for each correction, but it makes me nervous to follow a baking recipe from their book.

Step Five:
It’s time to scour the internet. What is this thing? Why is it not on menus? What recipes can I find? I come across this NY Times article from 2010. Turns out cake salé is a humble bread. Something you’d serve at family gatherings (or picnics), not something that you’d find in a restaurant. My favorite line:

“Cake salé is like a homey and crumbly equivalent of the delicate cheese puffs gougères: a salty, cheesy excuse to open a bottle of wine.”

The article references Sophie Dudemaine, who published Les Cakes de Sophie with lots of savory cake recipes. I move on to researching Sophie.

Step Six:
I’ve found tons of recipes for “Sophie Cake.” I read over them, translate into English, and compare ingredients and methods. I find recipes on French blogs and links on Pinterest. (This leads to a Pinterest spiral of recipe —> look at blog post —> check out the rest of the blog —> add the cool ones to my Feedly. Then back to the task at hand.) I realize that this is basically like a cheese bread, though most recipes I’ve seen call for yeast.

Step Seven:
I decide on a few basic recipes I want to merge and play with. In translating, there are a few odd things to figure out. For example:

  • One recipe calls for levure (yeast), but I know it’s a quick bread, and others have called for levure chimique (baking powder), so I decide on baking powder.
  • One recipe calls for 1 scht of baking powder. Commence web search for what the heck a scht is: it’s short for sachet. 1 sachet = 10g = a little over 2 teaspoons. However, teaspoons are referred to as a cuillère à café, which is a coffee spoon. A bit of research shows that a coffee spoon may be a bit smaller than a teaspoon, but that generally, it’s about 5 ml. I settle on about 2 teaspoons, because I can imagine that a French grandma would just grab a coffee spoon from the drawer and call it a day. Close enough.
  • As with any foreign recipe I’m trying, I need to convert centiliters to ounces, though I leave all gram measurements as is, since I can use my kitchen scale.

Step Eight:
I want to make this thing. I head to the kitchen to see what ingredients I have on hand. I have a hard time choosing between ham, bacon, or venison sausage (which my brother-in-law gave me from his recent hunts). A lot of the recipes I found were ham-cheese-olive, but we only have sliced ham, so meh. I know that if I use frozen meat, I’ll have leftovers of it, so I start thinking about how to use up the rest. If I cook bacon, I could use it for dinner over a broccoli-cheese-rice gratin mash up. In the end, I decide to use the sausage and cook the remainder in a pasta-sausage-broccoli dish. I remember that I have some frozen green chiles and tomatoes I can add, so I thaw that out, too.

Step Nine:
I turn on the music and get cooking. I follow the basic recipe, which is really weird in that you whisk together the eggs and flour first, then add hot milk and oil. I add the cooked sausage, cheese, and some green chiles that I’ve wrung out as dry as possible. Bake. (In the meantime, I doctor up the remaining green chiles to make my mom’s salsa recipe.)

Step Ten:
I pull the bread out early because it looks done and a toothpick comes out clean. It’s not very tall, but it looks pretty. It cools on the counter and falls into a flat weird loaf. Sadness at the way it looks. I slice it open and taste it, and it’s heaven. It just looks weird. Commence research on why it didn’t rise. Probably not baked long enough, possibly old baking powder, possibly too little baking powder. I think of how Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood would shake their heads and say, “Such a shame. The flavors are there, but this is just not a good bake.” We still devour it.

bread-slice

And there you have it, an obsessive person’s Sunday baking project. I’ll definitely make cake salé again, bake it longer, maybe replace my baking powder, add a bit more, stir a bit less, add different fillings. And then on to the next project. Possibly soup dumplings. :)

Crapton of veggies.

veggie bowl

So I really like this post on Zen Habits about a simple health plan. There are two guidelines:

  1. Eat a crapton of vegetables.
  2. Do something active and fun every day.

It’s really that simple, isn’t it? If you eat tons of veggies before you eat anything else, you’re pretty much guaranteed to crowd out all the unhealthy stuff.

We get a bushel from Farmhouse Delivery every week, and it has really helped us eat more veggies and fruits. On a regular grocery shopping trip, I might buy broccoli or bell peppers, tomatoes and avocados. But each week, we receive, cook, and eat things like fresh hull peas or lima beans, sweet potatoes, collard greens, sweet corn, okra, eggplant, Asian pears, persimmons, melons, figs… things that I probably wouldn’t have bought on my own in a single week.

I’m grateful for the culinary knowledge I’ve gained, so that I have the skills and confidence to cook all this produce and make it delicious.

You always hear that healthy eating is about balance, and that sounds like such a cliché. It’s hard to find that balance, and what is the right balance anyway? One day I eat a completely vegan, veggie-packed meal, and the next day I’m at Matt’s El Rancho eating queso and drinking margaritas. Is that balance?

Here’s what I know: For every day of gluttony, there is a day of clean eating, and for every margarita, there is a green smoothie. That’s balance enough for me.