quinoa with roasted vegetables & wine-glazed chicken

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I’m currently working three different jobs right now (two of them food-related), which along with other things, makes for a rather busy and energy-draining schedule. This brilliant dish, slightly adapted from How To Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman, is something I’ve come to depend on for a much needed healthy meal, and it holds its own beautifully whether you’re eating it freshly made or re-heating it for lunch the next day.

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strawberry mango arugula smoothie

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When things get heavy, it’s good to lighten up and change the regular rhythm of daily life a bit. It’s Spring, after all, or at least it’s trying to be, putting forth its best effort to shed the layers of winter and show itself off. I’m all for that, because it’s something like a make-over, of the earth as it were, and I love makeovers.

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green lentil cakes with mustard vinaigrette

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I stumbled on this recipe while thumbing through How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman, and commenced making it a number of times, making little variations each time. My husband loves lentils, and since the only other thing I’ve ever made with them is soup, I figured it would be worth a try. Lentils are high in protein, don’t require pre-soaking, cook in a short amount of time, and come in an interesting range of colors (red, brown, black, yellow, and green). As Bittman suggests, green or brown lentils are best for these cakes because they hold their shape fairly well after cooking. Although the original recipe bakes the cakes in the oven, I liked the texture I got when frying them in a cast-iron pan with a little olive oil, resulting in a nicely caramelized top and bottom, while still leaving a tender inner crumb.

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cocoa sunflower seed butter

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Lately, for variety’s sake, I’ve been trying a simple homemade sunflower seed butter in my smoothies. For whatever reason, for me the sunflower seed butter tends to have a certain aftertaste I don’t like, making it a less favorable choice than the almond or cashew butter I also make at home. I don’t remember where I came across the suggestion to combine the flavors of chocolate and sunflower seeds, but when I did I filed it away for an opportune moment to experiment. Certainly, mixing chocolate with nut butters is fairly common, such as chocolate and hazelnut, or chocolate and peanut butter, but somehow I didn’t think it would work with sunflower seeds too. As it turns out, chocolate works very well; with a few other complementary ingredients, it nicely rounds out that pesky aftertaste, and then some.

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mini almond cakes with lemon ganache

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Technology, when it makes life simpler, is a very helpful thing. I’ve finally, at long last, gotten the latest version of that phone, the one that when first introduced proceeded to revolutionize the world’s mobile habits, and I’m so very happy with how much easier it is to organize my life with it. And because it is so much easier, that underlying frustration that comes with having to tolerate something that didn’t work well is gone, gone, gone; and good riddance to it.

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11 kitchen tips

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Every kitchen has its own rhythm. It takes time to create a flow, and to become accustomed to a new pattern when you move to a new place. After awhile, with practice, you move through your space without having to think too much about it. What was once like a rehearsal, with repeated stops and starts, eventually becomes like a well-performed dance from refrigerator to pantry to stove to sink. I love the kitchen dance. I don’t feel alone when it’s a solo turn, because I’m surrounded by the smells and sounds of food, and I get to play with whatever colors my cupboard holds. Sometimes, with two people in the kitchen, the dance is a duet, and sometimes it’s a competition. With several people, it’s a choreographed piece that goes smoothly if everyone remembers their moves, or quickly whirls out of control if someone forgets their place. You might think, in these days of celebrity chefs, or on a very good day in your kitchen, that the cook is the star, but you’d be mistaken. It’s always the food. In my kitchen, I’m just happy to be a part of the show.

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triple sec cranberry sauce

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I’m trying to keep things simple this month, largely because this moving stuff is all-consuming, and a girl can only do so much. Thankfully, when it comes to cooking, simplicity can be and often is the best approach. This cranberry sauce infused with triple sec is my simple take on a pretty standard Thanksgiving side dish. But why save it for Thanksgiving alone? I say use it to complement as many things as you can. Stir it into a scone recipe, spread it on a turkey sandwich, use as a filling for a rustic tart, or whatever else comes to mind. And wherever you are, I hope you share the Thanksgiving holiday among family and friends. 

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hiro’s sweet potato treats

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It’s about time I made some new treats for Hiro; I’ve gotten lazy and have fallen into the bad habit of making do by just grabbing a bit of the kibble from his regular food, and using that as a treat or reward. Most of the time, Hiro’s okay with that, but occasionally, he’ll prefer hanging on to his chew toy over getting more kibble, and you can’t blame him. “What! Lamb and rice kibble again?” he may (or may not) be thinking. Since he’s been such a trooper during our recent move, despite having been yanked from his old backyard with a view to one with a brick wall, I think he deserves a little better. So here you go, buddy, I’ve made these sweet potato treats especially for you. Who’s a good boy? 

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coffee crusted ahi tuna with curry cream sauce

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For several days last week, the overcast and drizzly weather created this sort of slow, relaxed atmosphere. While I worked in the kitchen, it felt like all my movements had this meditative quality, and I was exactly in that moment and nowhere else. Perhaps it’s the fall season beginning to sneak in, and that’s okay with me. When I was growing up, summer was my favorite time of year for obvious reasons; no school and endless days of swimming and playing. During those days, I was easily lost in moments without notice of time passing until the day’s end was signaled by the setting of the sun. But in the long years since then, fall, with its mellow feel has become the time of year I most enjoy, and maybe it echoes the time of life I’m in too. Dusk, when the sun begins to set, is my favorite time of day too, and a good meal is the best way to enjoy it.

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pear and lavender butter

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The more food I make at home, the more I try to simplify or streamline the process. This means making the most of a few ingredients and yet still getting as much flavor as possible. Roasting is an easy way to intensify flavor in just about everything, and is a standard method in our kitchen for cooking chicken and vegetables. It’s also a great approach to cooking fruit, and the technique I use to make this pear and lavender butter. For the roasting temperature, I took Mark Bittman’s advice in How To Cook Everything Vegetarian, and then lengthened the time suggested to an hour to get a nice caramelization on the pears. The extra fifteen minutes was literally the golden ticket to flavor for the pears, creating a deep gold in the puréed butter.

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