Tag Archives: something sweet

all is revealed

I679859_522448151100932_725830429_o had a food processor at age four. I should have seen food in my future.

My name is Lindsey, I’m 27 years old, and it finally happened: The Job. Your reading and supporting this blog is a huge part of it, so THANK YOU.
Let’s rewind:

new 525In 2008, I graduated from college with my Social Work degree. Like most grads interested in future employment, I began job-hunting midway through senior year. I really wanted to work for a small nonprofit, with a special interest in homelessness or senior citizens. I went to the job fairs, wrote a stellar resume, e-mailed organizations left and right. (Oh, and this is during the height of America’s current recession). Nada.

Later in 2008, Andrew and I married and he got The Job shortly before our wedd369_526374195049_468_ning. He majored in film and landed a spectacular job in television (that he still loves), while Little Miss Social Work Major has no luck. For several months I was churning out resumes full-time, my heart filled-to-the-brim with discouragement and self-doubts. Planning our nightly dinner menu was the most exciting part of my day. And then I realized I had a knack for cooking. Later, at Andrew’s insistence, I began this blog about that passion.

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Is it becoming clear now how I spent my time?

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In 2010, I began graduate school for Nutrition. I still had a great interest in working with the homeless, but actually began the program thinking I might start an independent company to serve marginalized seniors. I focused most of my grad projects on food insecurity and hunger in the District of Columbia, as my full-time job in Elementary Special Ed had me interested in meeting the nutritional needs of children. Getting a full-time job as an instructional assistant (4 miles from my house) while in grad school was an amazing and fulfilling opportunity. But the lingo was frustrating; I didn’t complete 7 years of collegiate work to think about standardized tests or gain know-how on severe behavioral issues. And I worked for three years beside many passionate, inspiring teachers so devoted to their work. I admired how much joy they took in their work, because it was the profession they had set out to do. Despite my absolute dedication to my very special students, I felt afflicted like Shel Silverstein’s Missing Piece, wanting so much to find the place where I really felt my life’s calling.

And then it’s that chance thing: I ran into my friend Nate Ho at our gym’s water fountain when he asked me about my job hunt. I shared my discouragement, having now completed graduate school and always making it to the final round of job interviews with limited experience leaving me out in the end. Nate said, “Try informational interviews.” And that, my friends, nearly a year later, finally did it. IF YOU ARE SEEKING EMPLOYMENT AND KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO DO: CONSIDER INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS! So I went to nearly every foodbank in Virginia, Washington D.C., and one in southern Maryland; I introduced myself to Executive Directors, asked them to talk for an hour  (often more!) about the work they do and how my skill-set might fit into the food assistance field.


I began my informational interviews in August 2012, and got The Job Offer just two weeks ago in May 2013. Since 2007, I had sent out countless resumes, cover letters, and applications—then I changed my approach. That’s six years, people. Six years. But it happened.

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Now I am the NUTRITION EDUCATOR for a large foodbank. (And it’s one of those nonprofits Doing It Right, I love that.) I just started this week! My job will entail traveling to homeless centers, women’s shelters, schools and community centers to demonstrate healthy cooking techniques and do food tastings. Back at the warehouse, I will also do food demos and tastings for clients waiting in line for food boxes, and hold regular nutrition classes for clients. It is humbling and rewarding work already.

THANK YOU for allowing A Pear to Remember to be a place where I really began the journey of teaching others to cook and explore healthy eating habits. Your comments and encouragement strengthened my confidence in this field, and gave me something pretty groovy to put on my resume. You’re the best.

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the only exception

I’m not usually drawn to recipes that require specialty ingredient substitutions to make a dish healthier. Brewer’s yeast, soy cheese, nut cream—not my thing. I often find little other uses for expensive health alternatives.

Oh, but today’s cookie—a whole different (do-able) story.

Pear readers know not to bother visiting this spot for dessert recipes. It’s not that I don’t like desserts—if I could bake, I would eat the entire pan of whatever chocolate-y goodness popped out of my oven. Thankfully, I flop at nearly everything I bake, which means it’s easier to be healthy when there’s no cookies in the house.

Let’s also clarify something: ours is a healthy home, so I don’t really endorse daily cookie eating. Or recipes that call for funky ingredients and substitutions. BUT HERE’S WHERE I’M WILLING TO MAKE A PERMANENT EXCEPTION.

When Vegetarian Times magazine called this “The Heart-Healthiest Chocolate Chip Cookie in the World”—let’s say I was intrigued.

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I am an oatmeal-for-breakfast girl through and through (berries + cinnamon + honey = mmm mmm), and typically I would raise an eyebrow at you if you ever tried to put my breakfast in a dessert. But seriously, people: the exception.

Besides that this is deliciously chocolatey and moist, let’s talk nutrition facts for a sec. Take a Mrs. Fields’ Oatmeal Chocolate Chip (65 grams) made with butter, brown sugar, whole eggs, vanilla, salt and baking soda—standard cookie ingredients…

MRS. FIELDS                                   THIS COOKIE

280 calories                                      173 calories

13 g fat                                                 10 g fat

8 g sat. fat                                           3 g sat. fat

40 g carbs                                           21 g carbs

140 mg sodium                                122 mg sodium

35 mg cholesterol                           0 mg cholesterol

1 g fiber                                               2 g fiber

17 g sugar                                           12 g sugar

Two big points I take away from this cookie comparison is the fat content—both cookies are high in fat per serving, but the cookie with walnuts and oat flour has less saturated (artery-clogging) fat. The cookie here is also cholesterol free.

It is not time to start substituting cookies for breakfast or a nutritious snack, but this is a great dessert alternative for get-togethers—a huge hit among a crowd of family members that might have freaked if I mentioned the word “vegan”… With nine people in the house the weekend I cooked these in Delaware, they were gone by morning! This cookie is work, but not complicated work. This cookie is worth it.

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Note: I found oat flour in Giant’s “Natural” health aisle. (Does it drive anyone else bonkers that a commercial FOOD store has a single aisle devoted to “healthy” products?)

The Heart-Healthiest Chocolate Chip Cookies in the World

Vegetarian Times, February 2009

makes 30 cookies, active time: less than 30 minutes

3 Tbs. canola oil

2 cups walnuts

1 cup light brown sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1½ cups oat flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

2 cups rolled oats

3 3.5-oz. bars bittersweet or dark chocolate, chopped, or 12 oz. dark chocolate chips

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Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 2 baking sheets with cooking spray, or line with parchment paper.

Blend walnuts in food processor 30 seconds, or until ground into a fine meal. Add canola oil, and blend 2 to 3 minutes more, or until mixture has the consistency of natural peanut butter, scraping down sides of food processor occasionally. Transfer to bowl.

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Whisk together brown sugar and ½ cup water in small saucepan, and bring mixture to a boil. Pour brown sugar mixture over ground walnut butter, add vanilla extract, and stir until no lumps remain.

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Whisk together oat flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in separate bowl. Stir oat flour mixture into walnut mixture. Cool 10 minutes. Fold in oats, then chocolate chips.

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Shape cookie dough into 2-inch balls, and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Flatten cookies with bottom of drinking glass dipped in water.

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Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until cookies begin to brown and tops look dry. Cool 3 minutes on baking sheets, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

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There aren’t too many desserts here, as baking is simply not my strong suit (ironic that I was employed as a baker four years ago…) Still, there are a few desserts I love to recreate. Find my galette, brown-butter krispies, fresh berry tart, watermelon bites, chocolate peanut-butter pie and more here.

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pantry picnic

If you live on the East Coast, you know Mother N. hit the fast-forward button straight from winter to summer. I’m rocking sundresses on a daily basis these (80-degree) days and ready to eat outside. Andrew and I have re-opened Cafe Lindrew for the season—that is, our little stone patio looking out to the woods. This week has been barbeque with cousins and Mickey Mouse birthdays, and Happy Hour on the patio with the hubs (yuengling for Andrew, textbook for me).

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Isn’t it clear it’s time to get outside for some Vitamin D? In keeping with our humble canned-food quest, here’s a two-minute slaw to take on your next picnic—even if it’s in your backyard. Yes, I realize the contradiction: canned food + a $150 food processor? A big ol’ food processor makes this salad lightening-fast. In case you don’t have a large food processor, you could make this in batches in a small $14 food processor, or just chop up all the ingredients and stir in a big bowl! I never have luck with these hand choppers, but this slaw is the perfect use for one if you’ve got it!

I was missing several ingredients (indicated below) and this was still delightful—like the chicken salad solution for vegetarians. A surprising hit in both the teacher’s lounge and my hubby’s sneak taste-test. “Wow, that smells awesome,” he said over my shoulder. “Am I allowed to have some?” Don’t mention it’s missing meat 😉

Chunky Artichoke and Chickpea Salad

Vegetarian Times, serves 6

For a spring picnic or lunch, serve this dish as a dip with crackers or spread on pumpernickel and top with tomato.Or enjoy with your favorite sandwich (apple and cheddar). Don’t freak out at the number of ingredients until you see how many steps follow.
1  16-oz. can / jar artichoke hearts packed in water, drained
1  12-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¼ cup chopped onion
¼ cup chopped cornichons (French baby pickles)—I used a bread & butter spear
¼ cup chopped green bell pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh celery
¼ cup vegan mayonnaise (I used regular Hellmans)
2 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. capers (I omitted)
1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
1 tsp. seafood seasoning, such as Old Bay (I omitted)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard (I omitted)

Pulse all ingredients in food processor until chunky. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Chill at least 30 minutes, or overnight.

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Thank you Vegetarian Times for the nutrition facts! Per 1/2-cup serving (note the majority of the fat is not saturated):

Calories: 148, Protein: 5 g, Total Fat: 9 g, Saturated Fat: 1 g, Carbohydrates: 17 g, Cholesterol: 2 mg, Sodium: 435 mg, Fiber: 6 mg, Sugar: 3 g

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a salad to weather the weather

It’s April, and I find myself discussing “Spring” with the kindergarteners each day. Spring, however, is a confusing concept on the east coast of the United States of America in the year Two-Thousand Thirteen.

Last week was Spring Break; I spent three days in the mountains with my in-laws and the remaining weeks shivering with my folks at the beach.

Spring break day one (at a magical mountain cottage) looked like this:

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our NEIGHbors

Spring break day two looked like this:

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Last week I wore short sleeves to work; the following night’s forecast was sleet and flurries. This weather certainly leaves one stumped about dinner. Something potato-laden, bubbling with cheese? Or shaved asparagus with lemon, crisp and chilled? Here’s a very special salad featuring some buttery comfort from the oven and simple fresh veggies.

$19 mandolinFIRST, SECRETS TO A SUPERB SALAD: I get lots of compliments from guests about my salads, and this is the real texture secret: a mandolin. I have a $10 mandolin from Home Goods and love using it to slice peppers, apples or pears to toss with salad greens, lemon juice and olive oil (those last ingredients are Secret Number Two). The salad is uniformly thin, fork-friendly and crisp. No more salads weighted down with thick cuts of carrots and radishes that require endless chomping. I used my mandolin (carefully, so carefully) to quickly slice the onions and bell pepper for this recipe. You can find a mandolin at Target, Wal-Mart, TJMaxx, Amazon, etc. (Other kitchen essentials here).

Andrew and I loved this restaurant-quality dressing, exciting enough to enjoy the salad for two dinners—and use up the leftover buttermilk for fruit-topped pancakes on night three.

Time-saver Note: I whipped up Trader Joe’s Cornbread Mix in two minutes and baked this while prepping the remaining salad. I have still included a from-scratch cornbread recipe I’ll try on a weekend 😉

Corn Bread Salad

Adapted by Deb from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

1 recipe Crispy Corn Bread (below) or 3 cups of 1-inch cornbread cubes
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes (4 to 6 medium or halved cherry tomatoes)
6 cups roughly torn sturdy fresh lettuce, such as Bibb, butter or Boston
2 cups bitter greens, such as arugula (crucial!)
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 large Vidalia onion, trimmed, peeled, sliced crosswise as thinly as possible and separated into rings
1 recipe Buttermilk-Lime Dressing (below)

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Preheat oven to 250°. Scatter the corn bread in a single layer on a half-sheet pan and bake until the pieces are lightly toasted, about 7 minutes.

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Chop the tomatoes with the skin on. Place lettuce, greens, 3 cups of toasted corn bread, onion and tomatoes to a large bowl and toss to combine. Drizzle with buttermilk dressing, season with salt and pepper, and toss again. Serve immediately.

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Deb’s do ahead tip: If you’re making this for a picnic or pot-luck — and oh, you should — she suggests keeping the croutons in one container, the dressing in another and the salad mixture in a third; this is best freshly assembled, or in the 30 minutes after.

Buttermilk-Lime Dressing
Adapted by Deb from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

3/4 cup whole or lowfat buttermilk
5 tabespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (they say from 3 to 4 limes; I only needed 1 1/2)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (optional, this was my addition to give it more zing)
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup finely minced fresh basil
1/4 cup finely minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup finely minced green onions
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

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Whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl until combined. Can covered tightly and stored in the fridge up to two days.

Note from Lindsey: I kept this hand-chopped and chunky, but I think it would be creamier (and faster) in a blender. Since this is a repeat recipe, I plan to puree next time. This recipe is a fabulous twist on my favorite couldn’t-be-easier salad, Panzanella. Try it here.

if you’re not making the cornbread from a mix, read on…

Thin, Crispy Corn Bread
Adapted by Deb from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups stone-ground cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups whole or lowfat buttermilk (whole is preferred, here’s how you can make your own)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Grease a 12-inch skillet with one tablespoon of the lard or butter, leaving any excess in the pan, and place it in the oven.

In a large bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg until frothy and then whisk in the buttermilk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix thoroughly. Melt the remaining butter in a small skill (or your microwave) and whisk the butter into your batter.

While the fat in the large skillet is smoking, carefully remove the skillet from the oven and swirl the fat around to coat the bottom and sides evenly. Pour the batter into the skillet; it should “sizzle alluringly”, says the Lee Brothers. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the top of the bread is golden brown and the edge has pulled away from the side of the skillet. Remove from the oven and either serve hot, in six wedges, or let cool and reserve for Corn Bread Salad (above).

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sweet nothings

Last time, I was talking about a sweet discovery. Today, I offer another—an indulgent recipe this nutrition student makes once every other year 😉 Because there is nothing nutritious about this dessert—perhaps dessert’s very definition? I served this as an easy end to a gourmet family dinner. This was everyone’s facial response to my announcement:

Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats

Smitten Kitchen, makes 16 2-inch squares or 32 1- x 2-inch small bars

4 ounces (1/4 pound or 1 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for the pan

1 10-ounce bag marshmallows

1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt

6 cups Rice Krispies cereal (use slightly less than half a 12-ounce box)

Butter (or coat with non-stick spray) an 8-inch square cake pan with 2-inch sides. I use a 9 x 13 glass pyrex.

In a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty.

Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. Don’t take your eyes off the pot as while you may be impatient for it to start browning, the period between the time the butter begins to take on color and the point where it burns is often less than a minute.

As soon as the butter takes on a nutty color, turn the heat off and stir in the marshmallows. The residual heat from the melted butter should be enough to melt them, but if it is not, turn it back on low until the marshmallows are smooth.

Remove the pot from the stove and stir in the salt and cereal together.

Quickly spread into prepared pan. Use a buttered piece of waxed or parchment paper to press it firmly and evenly into the edges and corners.

Let cool, cut into squares, get ready to smile. Ah, nostalgia.

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a firenze frenzy

This Sunday, I plan to eat delicious snacks and salty things as an ode to my American culture. I have no plans, however, to watch sporting events. My lifelong indifference to athletics led only to my parents teasing me I would surely marry a man who wanted to watch football every Sunday. Well, I married a film major (brags blogger wife whose laptop rests upon a 4th edition of The Screenwriter’s Bible). We’ll probably take the day to enjoy our own movie marathon. And eat snacks.

Last Super Bowl Sunday, I was home sick and eating this. This year, I am on the rebound to good health and endorsing some healthy appetizers (inspired by serious steroid-related weight gain). These were such a smash at our housewarming in August, and a nice treat again this week at a neighborly happy hour. Tis not the season for tomatoes and strawberries—I know, I know—but grape tomatoes help make the most of this Tuscan treat.

Note: I made this for 50 guests with nary a leftover and multiplied the recipe by six. Because the toasts and topping make excellent leftovers, it is worth at least doubling the recipe. I also used a multigrain baguette the second time around, and it was fantastic.

Crostini di Firenze

from Desperation Entertaining by Beverly Mills & Alicia Ross

makes 20 crostini

1 baguette (at least 12 inches long)

1 large clove fresh garlic

3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1/4 lb. ripe strawberries (about 1/2 cup chopped)

1 lb. grape tomatoes, halved

5 or 6, fresh mint leaves (2 tsp. chopped)

Make the crostini

Turn on the broiler. Cut off one end of the baguette, then cut 20 slices, each about 1/2 inch wide. Place the bread slices on a baking sheet and toast in the hot broiler about 3 inches from the heat source until golden brown, about 1 minute. Remove, turn the slices over, and toast until golden brown on the second side, about 45 seconds. Remove the toasted bread from the baking sheet and let cool to room temperature.

Mix the topping

Mince the garlic (on a microplane, or like this) and place in a small bowl. Add the olive oil, vinegar, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk well to blend and set aside at room temperature until ready to serve. The vinaigrette and toast slices can be stored at this point for up to 8 hours. Cover the vinaigrette. Place the toast slices in an airtight container at room temperature.

Rinse and drain the strawberries thoroughly. Remove the leaf caps of the strawberries and cut the berries in half. Place the strawberry halves on a cutting board and chop coarsely to 1/4-inch pieces. Put the strawberries in a mixing bowl with the chopped tomatoes. Rinse and dry the mint leaves; finely chop and add to the fruit mixture. The strawberry-and-tomato mixture can be refrigerated and covered up to 2 hours.

Assemble the firenze

Whisk the vinaigrette to remix, pour over the fruit mixture and stir well to blend. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to your preference. Arrange the toasts on a serving platter and spoon the topping onto each slice.

Let the crostini stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes before serving to allow the vinaigrette to penetrate the bread. They will get soggy if standing too long, so better to assemble in batches—I promise, even in the midst of a party, this is a breeze. They will go fast.

Click to some other favorite dips and appetizers from A Pear to Remember

Jalapeno-Feta Dip

Mushroom Turnovers

Watermelon-Feta Bites

Blue Cheese and Walnut Crackers

5-Ingredient Trail Mix

Smoked Paprika Chickpeas

Savory Tartlettes

Goat Cheese Bruschetta

Stuffed Peppadews

Roasted Red Pepper Dip with Pita Chips

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pears well with meals

I promise you would not need a fancy-schmancy pot to make the following, but it adds a little fun if you do. Allow me to introduce my birthday and Christmas surprises, Mademoiselle Plum and Monsieur Pesto:

 

I grew up on applesauce, and that’s not a criticism. Sometimes on our drives home from Grammy and Pop-pop’s house, we stopped at Catoctin Orchards for jars of cider, applesauce, and other fresh goodies. I’ve had a thing for homemade applesauce ever since.

Tried the peel, slice, core, simmer with juice technique—it’s a long wait. If you have a casserole dish with a tight lid, this apple-pear sauce will make itself. With a friend and two peelers, this is especially fun.

A quiet New Year’s Eve with close friends just screamed for roasted pear sauce, and here it is, dear readers, a side dish for the years to come. Because this is ideal for breakfast, dessert, and an accompaniment to of each course, double the recipe below, as we did.

Roasted Apple and Pear Sauce

from Ina Garten, makes 2 quarts

zest and juice of 2 large navel oranges

zest and juice of 1 lemon

3 lbs. sweet red apples (8 apples, any kind will really do)

3 lbs. ripe Bosc pears (7 pears; do use Bosc)

1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

2 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

peel leisurely at the kitchen table with a friend, you would never believe this is work

Place the zest and juice of the oranges and lemon in a nonreactive Dutch oven (or large covered casserole). Peel, quarter, and core the apples and pears and toss them in the juice. Lindsey’s note: I core the apples very quickly by peeling, quartering through the stem, and—with the quarter flat on the board—making a diagonal slice just beyond the seeds and stem. This preps the fruit in one swift step.

Add the brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon and cover the pot.

Bake for about an hour and a half, until the apples and pears are tender. Mix with a whisk until smooth, but still a little chunky. Serve warm or at room temperature. Or eat right from the fridge.

this pear sauce isn't so bad with beef brisket, grilled haricots vert, and potato-brie gratin

 

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better to give (than to eat all the cookies)

The holidays storm in each winter just moments before we get around to our pocketfuls of good intentions. Like the grand notion of baking for every family on our new street. We had a day in mind, and Andrew swore he would stand by my side and not allow yet another baking disaster. But we found endless errands to run on Baking Day, and Christmas week was upon us.

In the end, we attempted a less complicated recipe. Naturally—as December tasks go—at the last minute.  On my only previous attempt, I had produced a succesful batch meringues. And. They. Are. So. Dang. Simple. While I don’t know if they really count as cookies, they were well-appreciated and enjoyed by our neighbors. Fewer neighbors than we planned, as only one-third baked as pretty enough to give as gifts. The remainder resembled teeny toadstools, and were utterly delicious.

Note: we doubled this recipe, and they lasted well for four days in an airtight container on the counter. Maybe they last longer, but they all were eaten by then. Also, if you do not want to purchase superfine sugar, you can pulse regular cane sugar in a food processor. I used Ghirardelli 60% dark chocolate chips; you could also use a dark chocolate bar.

Dark Chocolate Chip Meringue Cookies

adapted from Emeril’s recipe, yields four dozen small cookies

2 large egg whites, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

2/3 cup superfine granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until fluffy but not at all dry. (Be careful not to over beat.) Add the sugar gradually, about 3 tablespoons at a time. When 1/2 of the sugar has been added, add the vanilla extract. Continue beating and adding remaining sugar in batches, until all of the sugar is dissolved and the meringue is very shiny and tight. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in the chopped chocolate.

Working one teaspoon at a time, push a teaspoonful of meringue from the tip of 1 teaspoon with the back of another teaspoon onto the lined baking sheets, leaving 1-inch of space between cookies. Or, quickly spoon mixture into a plastic gallon zip-bag with the tip cut and dollop onto the parchment. Place baking sheets in the preheated oven and turn the oven off. Leave the cookies (undisturbed) in the oven for at least 2 hours and up to overnight, or until cookies are crisp and dry. I like to leave them overnight, but only when I have another dessert in the house to hold me over.

In case the neighbors want to know…

Per Cookie: (48); Calories: 44; Total Fat: 2.5 grams; Saturated Fat:0.5 grams; Protein: 1 gram; Total carbohydrates: 5 grams; Sugar: 5 grams; Fiber: 0 grams; Cholesterol: 0 milligrams; Sodium: 3 milligrams

Now I did not create this blog as a venue for profanities, but I had to chuckle when one meringue recipient stated, “These are fucking unbelievable.”

Some other gifts I whipped up last week:

This pillow for Mom’s birthday I stitched over an insert. It was the sweater I wore in my high school senior portrait.

And a few handmade scarves I presented in these darling World Market take-out boxes to my co-workers. Andrew called them Lindsey’s Scarf LoMein.

What’s your favorite gift you gave away this year?

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full of thanks

the people and things for which I’m giving thanks this year.

1. my adoption  oh sure, it happened nearly 26 years ago now, but it’s the piece of my life that makes all the rest possible. my adoption is the best thing that ever happened to me; a life without the family, husband, home I love is one I cannot really imagine.

2. my hubby  surely I could write 10,000 words here about Andrew, but that would not express how grateful I am to laugh with him every day. he eats all my veggies, poor guy, and supports me in everything. he is my best self. we met twelve years ago, and it seems he has been my life always.

3. my family  from my parents who don’t forget me for a minute, to my amaaazing in-laws, to my sweet cousins that are more like siblings, I am thankful to be surrounded by abundant love and encouragement. their love teaches me how to care for others in my life.

4. our new home  our apartment was sweetly wonderful, but our new condo is so “us” and better suited for our life. we finally have room for my piano, all of Andrew’s guitars, beds for guests, and a seriously spacious kitchen. it may not be glamorous, but I have more room to cook and share the room with company.

5. my job  our world is full of loss right now, and I am incredibly grateful to be employed and work in a positive, giving place. my students are precious and special in every way, and I spend my day learning from some remarkable, patient people. I give thanks for a job that allows me time to come home and spend the evening relaxing with my best friend.

6. great food  there are so many people without food, without grocery stores or markets, without the means to afford healthy meals. I am grateful for the freedom to stop at the store whenever I want for lovely things like asparagus and cheese and sometimes ice cream sandwiches. I am grateful I have enough to share, and hope I never fail to do so.

7. grad school  I love, love, love learning and surrounding myself with great thinkers who share my passion for exploring solutions to the poverty and hunger and health issues our neighbors face every day. while I find myself complaining for the sake of complaining about homework, I am so grateful for my education.  I know this where learning how to serve others really begins.

8. good health  I get teased for my broccoli enthusiasm, but I’ve spent a lot of time in the past feeling unwell. I am thankful for renewed energy, restored health, and being able to afford wholesome foods.

9. friends old and new  Andrew and I keep in touch with friends we’ve known most of our life, but we have recently crossed paths with spectacular new friends who enrich our lives. friends who remind of us the kind of people we strive to be. in the three years we’ve been married, our social schedule has never been so full. we are both grateful to feel acknowledged, loved, and appreciated by the friends with whom we have begun sharing our life.

10. our church  faith is a very personal aspect of one’s life, along with the decision to have it. unfortunately, I’ve witnessed a lot of communities that promote a life of self-doubt, perfectionism, exclusivity and prosperity as a means to living a “blessed” life. I am filled with thanks for finding a home in the Episcopal church among authentic and accepting people who embrace a message of love. our church provides a place for the hungry and homeless, and is a place I get the chance to cook for and dine with neighbors so often forgotten. I am especially grateful for this.

11. you  who says a Top Ten list can’t sneak in an eleven? I am humbled you stop here to read about meals I hope you’ll find the ingredients and encouragement to make. teaching a cooking class is not very high up on my list of aspirations (travel the world, open a B&B with Andrew, publish a book of poetry, end world hunger, etc.), but I want so much to encourage others to explore culinary creations and find the joy I attempt to bring here. we have to eat, so why not enjoy something unforgettably delicious? thank you for your comments and recipes and virtual smiles.

What or who in your life can you not live without?

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Filed under health, here to share

sweet birthday balsamic

Hello old friends (and new)! We moved fully into our new home in a mere 8 days, but are still without internet—hence the lack of recent posts. With the new school year and grad school semester in full swing, you might notice increasing last-minute, budget-friendly recipes. Because, let’s face it, that’s all we all have time for these days.

Sometimes the most pleasant bites come from last-minute refrigerator raids—remember our blue cheese crackers? When we received an invitation to Michelle’s birthday dinner (friend since 1st grade, on a historical note), I knew I could not show up with just Bonnie and Clyde—the pewter birds I purchased earlier.

Michelle, her brother Steven and their cousins joined me for a Saturday morning market trip to savor the scenery I’ll miss most about summer.

Including this massive melon.

So here they are friends, gobble ’em up before we embrace the season of squash.

Balsamic Watermelon Bites

inspired by Feast on the Cheap, adjust the size according to your crowd

watermelon, cubed into 1-inch pieces

feta, diced

fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped

balsamic vinegar, at least 1/2 cup

Balsamic reduction, a fabulous and easy syrup, can last for some time in the fridge, so better to make more and drizzle the rest over salad or other fruits and veggies. In a small saucepan, heat 1/2 cup (or more) balsamic vinegar over medium heat. Swirl the vinegar occasionally and keep over moderate heat until it reduces by about half. You’ll know it’s ready when the syrup coats a spoon, or the pan surface upon tilting. Set the syrup aside, off the heat.

Use a small measuring spoon to scoop out a portion in the center of each cube.

Pour the syrup about halfway into each cup.

Nestle the feta cubes gently atop the pools of syrup and sprinkle the platter with fresh mint.

This is quick and less-messy when assembled directly on a large serving platter covered in wax/parchment paper or a paper towel. Gently slide the watermelon off before serving—these also travel wonderfully when wrapped tight in several layers of saran.

Appetizer? Dessert? You decide. A sweet birthday tweet treat. Right, Michelle?

Which piece of summer will you miss most?

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Filed under budget, dessert, health, lickety-quick, small bites