Dinner @ 226 - Braised Purple Cabbage

I was recently stuck on an idea for a German themed dinner club get together.  All the meat and potatoes dishes had been taken, which was fine with me, because I'm not really a meat and potatoes sort of gal.  But, after a quick Google search for German vegetable side dishes that yielded very few, if any, authentic German dishes, I was at a loss.

I started to think I should just cheat.  I'll make Borscht.  It's Russian, but no one would care, right?  Plus, I have a dangerously good Amish recipe for Borscht that turns even the most Persnickety Beet Averse to Marveling Beet Enthusiasts.  Plus, you know, it's pinky-purple.  And who doesn't like to eat pinky-purple food?

After some hemming and hawing, it turns out, I'm a Themed-Party-Purist and I couldn't cheat.  Not even a little.  Somehow copying three quarters of my Junior Year Honors English Final Essay from an essay that a college aged babysitter gave me was totally fine.  Making a Russian dish for a German dinner party?  Not so fine.  Perhaps my moral fiber has grown stronger over the years.  Let's hope so.   As good as my Borscht would be (and it would have been) I would know its geographical origin.  And good food never comes from Russia lies.

I needed reinforcements.  Or, more specifically, I needed my sister.  Any question that I ever have regarding food, cooking or literature are texted or emailed exclusively to her.  She is my one stop resource for those topics.  There are times that we have 17 minute long text sessions about the right way to approach the Salade Nicoise or if you should peel or break off the tough stems of asparagus.

It's pinky-purple.  All is right in the world.
"Why text?" you ask.  Well, with my two crazies and her adorable little crazy, it makes actual conversations rather challenging.  Inevitably, one of us has to leave the conversation unexpectedly to change a ripe diaper or to yell at gently ask a certain four year old boy to stop eating the pieces of pasta he finds in the couch cushion.

"If you liked it, then you better put an egg on it."  My breakfast philosophy.
Her articulate response to my asking for ideas for a German vegetable side dish?  "Fuuuuuuuck!  Veg is def not the Germans' strong suit."  After a little marination, she did come up with a fantastic idea that we've both made and loved for years.  Why was it slipping my mind?  I don't know.  That's why I have a sister.

Braised Purple Cabbage - This dish is all great things.  It takes very little active prep time.  And the result is so divine.  The day after dinner club, I ate it for breakfast lunch and dinner.  Reed declared that we must plant purple cabbage so that we could make this all summer long.  It would be tremendous with a side of pork or sausages or as a tangy accent to any and all rich egg dishes, like this quiche.  Please don't wait around for German themed festivities.  I recommend you double this recipe if you have a pot big enough.  It keeps in the fridge for at least a week.  Adapted barely from this recipe.

2 tablespoons oil (most anything works, I used grapeseed)
1/2 small red onion, trimmed and finely chopped
1 large head of purple cabbage, cored and thinly sliced (use the largest knife you have to make this job easier)
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled and shredded on the large holes of a grater
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 generous tablespoon of honey
1 teaspoon salt
a scant 1/4 teaspoon of caraway seeds

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large heavy pot or dutch oven.  Add the red onion and sauté until translucent and fragrant, (do not brown) about five minutes.  Add the cabbage, apple, vinegar, honey, salt and caraway seeds.  Turn the heat down to medium low and cover.  Stir every 15 minutes, for an hour or so.

The cabbage should be silky and soft, but still maintain it's individual shape.  We're not making baby food.

Serve warm.  And let the salivating commence.


{Rule Number Four}

4.  In addition to whatever type of newfangled reading apparatuses exist, support your local library and read real books.  

Find the first three Rules here.

Dinner @ 226 - Enchilada Sauce (Part 2)

What is a burrito if not swathed in Enchilada Style, tomato based, spicy sauce?  If you ask me, nada!  I know it's not normal burrito assembly procedure to pour a healthy cup of reddish brown sauce over your tray of rolled up tortillas.  Or, to drag the whole wheat tortillas through a puddle of the sauce before wrapping them around their cozy filling.  None of it's normal.  None of it's traditional.  Let's get crazy and break some burrito standards.  

If I tell you the savory result is so much better than when you follow the rules, as is true with most things...will you do it?  Come on, let's smoke cigarettes in the locker room, steal your dad's Pontiac and make out behind the bleachers.  And put enchilada sauce on our burritos.  We'll be so much better for it.

Beckett approves of the sacrilegious burrito wannabe meal.  You can tell by the chipmunk cheeks and the focus.

Part One of this Several Part Recipe

Enchilada Sauce - This recipe is so good poured over a tray of burritos or enchiladas.  But, you can use it as a dipping sauce for quesadillas or on top of some rice and beans.  Add a little zesty indulgence wherever you see fit.

3 tablespoons chili powder
3 tablespoons flour
1 heaping teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 cups water
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce

In the bottom of a small saucepan (off the heat) mix all the dry spices.  Whisk in enough water to create a thinnish paste.  Set pan over medium heat and add the rest of the water.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens.  When the sauce coats the back of your spoon (25 minutes) stir in the tomato sauce.  Simmer a few minutes more.

Enchilada sauce can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.


Don't Be Jealous

but, my wonderful parents (who live part of the year in Key West, FL) just left with both of my children for a weeklong, tropical adventure.  To be even more specific, my dad (solo) is currently on a plane from Atlanta to Key West, the second leg of a six hour trip, with a four and five year old.  Is he a hero, or what?  I wouldn't even sign up for that.  He is more than capable and he does have this magical-Pops-aura that elicits good behavior where there is usually less than.

The kids left me with these gems:

I guess we have a thing for neon shoes.

If I could spend the entire week with a cup of tea in one hand and a book in the other, I probably would.  I would maybe take some breaks to catch up on Downton Abbey, bake bread, write in my journal and nap.  And, I plan on doing a lot of all that.  But, unfortunately, my husband runs a rather tight ship (the opposite of me: he finds it nearly impossible to relax) and insists that we clean the basement before their return.  I guess I need to get something done, right?  And the basement needs some (ahem) attention, so who am I to baulk?

What would you guys do if you had a week to yourself?

To be a little sappy, I will admit that I will miss my Valentines tomorrow...just a little.  Valentine's Day was always sort of blah until they came on to the scene.  Now, we get to play in glitter and make tacky cards and bake all kinds of chocolate and sprinkled deliciousness.  I will miss that, but I know they're in good hands and there are rumors of pink cupcakes at Meems' house!

p.s. Here are their finished Valentines!  Cute, huh?  Thank you's go out to my sister and double-sided tape.

They're erasers, get it?

I wish Reed didn't like washi tape as much as I do.  She calls it fancy tape and wants to put it on everything (as do I)!


Psssst...I bought myself a Valentine's Day present and I am beyond excited to receive it and put it to use.  Do you guys do Valentine's Day gifts for each other?  For yourselves?  For your kids or family?

What We're Reading @ 226

Harlem's Little Blackbird is one of our current favorites, but I have a suspicion that it will linger in our favorites list for years and years.  It's the empowering and inspiring story of Florence Mills, the legendary entertainer and mesmerizing songstress, whose career began at the age of six but flourished at the beginning of the Harlem Renaissance.  The lessons of racial injustice and perseverance through unfavorable odds are captivating (and important!) for little audiences.  The illustrations are colorful and lovely as well.

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble is a joyful read about a donkey who finds a magic pebble that can turn him into anything.  In an unfortunate incident, he accidentally turns himself into a rock and his mother and father worry that they've lost him forever.  In the end, after a joyful reunion with his parents, he decides that the Magic Pebble is nice, but maybe his life with his family is the nicest.  This a classic (1970), but the message remains poignant.


Weekending @ 226

What are you lovelies up to this weekend?  I'm gearing up for a low key game night with some friends at my house tonight.  I'm really trying to initiate some adult outings and get togethers lately.  As parents (and busy adults) I think we make excuses because we're too tired or too busy (or one of 1,000 other excuses), but I think it's so restorative to spend time with other adults.  Do you guys have trouble making time for your social lives?

Saturday will be all about crafting some adorable Valentine's decorations and cards for classmates.  Reed wants to make necklaces for her friends and Beckett wants to buy his friends chopsticks.  Such fun ideas!  I'm accepting tag lines for the chopsticks Valentines.  I haven't been able to come up with anything besides, "you pick me up, Valentine!," which is clearly the lamest thing ever.  I feel my sister will have about 1/2 dozen brilliant ideas as soon as she reads this...no pressure, Jess.

Here's a roundup of some other great candy-free Valentines.

Have you guys heard of this app?  You can send postcards to all your peeps right from your phone.  Perfect for Valentine's Day!

Jason showed me this this morning.  Have you heard of Jeb Corliss?  He can fly.  Wow.

I'm in between books right now.  Any recommendations?  Maybe I should use this website.  So cool.

Have you all seen this documentary?  Nauseating.  What about this one?  Inspiring and a little tear-jerking.

My blogger friend made these with some leftover denim pant legs.  So cute, right?

I'll take 17 3, please.  (P.S. Can someone bring this to game night, pretty please?)

Are you ready for this sort of thing?  My body is not, but the rest of me is all in.

I think I'm making pinto bean nachos for tonight's game night.  Nachos, gahhhhh.

I really want to start making my own cleaning products.  Any ideas on where to start?

I also want to make my own fruit leathers.  Maybe next week's project!

I posted this ages ago.  But, it really is such a great chocolate cake.  Channel your inner French Grandmother and bake it for Valentine's Day!

Have a great one, people!

one of the last pictures of the boy with shaggy hair :(

fake smile, everyone has one!

Dinner @ 226 - Quick Pickled Red Onions (Part 1)

I have a silly (and slightly annoying) personality trait that compels me to walk away from every meal, brainstorming ways it could have been better.  Fortunately, I don't blab on and on about these improvements for the sake of my family who would surely make me live in the garage with some crumpled up newspapers for blankets if I did so.  After all, a good meal can be ruined by the chef's narrative.

But, in my head they're constantly there.  More heat.  More texture.  Overcooked.  Under seasoned.  Too much tang.  Not enough herbs.  Needs to be fresher.  I want more crunch.  And every so often, I just walk away not being able to precisely pinpoint the shortcomings.  It just wasn't right.  It wasn't enough.

So was the way with my burritos for the last three years.  They're good and I kept making them better.  Everyone eats them and really likes them.  But, a good burrito can take you to a different place, like say the porch of a beach shack in La Jolla, looking out onto the Pacific.  That's what I wanted out of my burritos and I wasn't getting it.  I understand that this is a bit compulsive or obsessive, or both.  But, if I don't set the standards high then what will I work on for the next few decades.  Just leave well enough alone and keep serving the same tired burritos?  Nah.  Not a chance.

Well, it happened last night.  The perfect burrito happened.  It was a fresher, less indulgent version of one I tasted ate every last morsel of in San Francisco last year.  Taqueria CanCun was on Market Street in the Mission District and walking in made me anxious.  I wanted to hide my giant camera and the sign on my head that read "Total Tourist.  From the Midwest.  Where Are The Tractors?  Does Not Know Anything."  The people were ordering in hip lingo that I didn't understand and there was an obvious ritual to seating yourselves but we couldn't catch on to that either.  I muttered something like, "vegetarian burrito, whichever way is most popular and delicious...ummm, por favor." Wet?  Dry?  I don't know, I'm from Ohio.  I guess it didn't matter because the place served up some serious burrito business.  

Little Baskets of Sunshine

1003 Market St.

The burrito was was so great, but only because it had all my favorite elements in and on it.  It broke some burrito rules and made new ones.  It's like they looked at a perfectly great burrito and kept adding elements that would make it greater and greater until there was no place left to go.  The Anxiety Inducing Taqueria CanCun Burrito would be my muse.  And a short six months later, I created my perfect burrito.  It's not the same as the classic Mission Burrito, but it is my lover everything I've ever dreamed of in a rolled up tortilla.

Quick Pickled Red Onions - makes enough for six burritos.  Generally, the burritos in San Fran don't have pickled onions on them.  But, I think every good burrito should.

I fear that if I give you the whole burrito recipe in one post, you will be put off by how many steps there are.  If I told you it was a 30 minute meal, I would be lying and it's most certainly not light on the dishes either.  Remember what I said about "all my favorite elements," that means there's Cilantro Spiced Rice, Cumin Scented Pinto Beans, Enchilada Sauce, Grilled Peppers and Corn, and Pickled Onions.  Not to mention tortillas and toppings.  But, do you think Julia Child whipped up her famous Boeuf Bourguignon in 30 minutes?  Most good food takes time, except this, of course.  You can make many of the elements ahead of time and then assemble and bake for the finale.  We shall start with the pickled onions, which you can use in many applications.  On sub sandwiches, salads, pizzas, or mixed in with any other roasted vegetable, like cauliflower for example.  The rest of the burrito recipe will be coming next week, as to not overwhelm.

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon salt
2 peppercorns
2 cups water
1/2 a large red onion, thinly sliced

Whisk all ingredients, except the onion, together in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a gentle boil.  Add onion and let simmer or 3-4 minutes.  Strain and pick out peppercorns.  These onions will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.


Snack @ 226 - Grain Free Crackers

Life without a good camera is leaving me totally uninspired.  I look at the pictures on my phone and know the food that I made had all the qualities of a bloggable meal, but with the weird shadows and the awful reflections on my iPhone, I don't like what I see.  So, it makes me hesitant to blog about it.

Luckily, I am friends with some pretty inspiring people (thanks, Kimber).  So, I can't sad-sack for too long.  One of them posted pictures of a few homemade snacks she had made and I promptly requested the recipes.   She promptly inboxed me (thanks again, Kimber).

None of us are wheat free or suffer from wheat allergies of any kind.  Actually, none of us have any allergies at all.  We're freaking lucky in that regard.  But, I just feel like (unless it's in treat form like coconut cake or whoopie pies) flour is an empty ingredient.  (If you're interested in knowing more, this is a great read about the developments in the wheat industry in the last 60 years and the rise of Celiacs and gluten sensitivities.) And, if I can replace it with something more substantial and still end up with tasty results, I'm so in.

We tried to roll out the scraps and use a cookie cutter with decent results.
Well, that happened with these crackers.  They're fairly mind-blowing.  I made them with the babes after school and they were out of the oven by 4:00 p.m.  That means it took us a total of 30 minutes to make 60 crackers.  I can't wait to try them with hummus but they'd also be good with a slice of cheddar.  We ate nearly half the bag plain so we didn't get to, ahem, experiment much.  So much for being uninspired.  As for the photos, they still are.  Please accept my apology.

Awesome Grain Free Crackers - adapted from this recipe

1 1/2 cup unsalted sunflower seed or pepitas or some mixture thereof (I used half and half)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon salt free seasoning mix (I used Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute)
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup sesame seeds
about 1/4 cup water

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Whiz the sunflower seeds (and/or pepitas, if you're using), sea salt, seasoning, and garlic in the food processor until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.  Add the sesame seeds and pulse a few times to mix.  Now, lightly drizzle in the water while the machine is running until a dough ball forms.  I used exactly 1/4 cup.

Roll the dough out between two sheets of parchment paper, until the crackers are 1/8 of an inch thick.  You can always opt for a thicker cracker and leave them at 1/4 inch, but I really liked mine crispy.  Once they're rolled out, remove the top sheet of parchment and slide them onto a cookie sheet.  Take a sharp knife and slice the crackers into the size of Wheat Thins, approximately.  You can leave the misshapen edges and have some irregular crackers or you can remove the scraps and roll them out and repeat the process again.

Poke each cracker twice with a fork and then bake them for 12-15 minutes.  Keep an eye on them because the time will depend on how thin you rolled them out.  Remove from the oven and let them cool in the pan.  Break apart the crackers along the scored lines and munch away.


What We're Reading @ 226

Reading is one of my favorite things.  We don't only read to our children before bed, but throughout the day.  Especially on rainy, cold days.  Sometimes they just wander over to the book corner when its quiet and other times we pop popcorn, make tea and bring a big stack of books down to a blanket on the floor.  You know, like a reading picnic.

I'll find any excuse to escape to my room to read and I really want to pass that on to my kids.  A good book is the cheapest and most fulfilling adventure.  And, in my mind, you can never be bored if you love to read.  Like, ever...so long as you have a library card.

Kids books can have me mesmerized for hours.  They make up the majority of the gifts that I get for other kids (and my kids) and Amazon.com can have me reading summaries and reviews for way too long, deciding what our next book will be.  So, in case you're in a reading rut, I'm going to regularly put a few recommendations here to help out.  Please feel free to leave your own recommendations in the comments.

This is a hilarious book by Oliver Jeffers, whom I love.  And whose most famous/popular book is probably I Want My Hat Back, which is a pretty great one.   This Moose Belongs to Me is all about a little boy named Wilfred who finds a moose, and therefore thinks the moose belongs to him.  He teaches him rules and they go everywhere together, until the moose gets lost/wanders off.  The boy and the moose have to reach a compromise.  And while hilarious, it's a great lesson about healthy relationships, ownership and the compromises we make to get there.

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch is one of my all-time favorite classics.  It sort of comes as a surprise because his other book is so terrifying (and yet so popular, how?) that I had to remove it from our shelves.  But this one couldn't be more different.  It's about a sassy young princess whose prince gets kidnapped by a fierce dragon.  She embarks on a voyage to rescue the prince and by the time she's there, she is a ragged and dirty mess, having outsmarted the dragon.  The prince is critical of her appearance and unsupportive of her heroic arrival.  Essentially, she says...peace out, I don't need you.  I love the not so subtle moral.

Happy Reading!


Dinner @ 226 - Lettuce Wraps

This weekend I found things to celebrate:  refinancing our house to save over $300 per month, a new baby arriving shortly amongst our group of friends, the tastiest lettuce wraps outside of China, the best coconut cake I have ever eaten or made, sleeping in until 9am on Sunday, two friend-get-togethers in one weekend (thank you, Super Bowl), and the conclusion of Project Hoosier Cabinet.  All mighty good things.

The garland turned out a wee bit more country than I'm into, but it served its purpose.  And, it was too late to change it.

I also, unfortunately, found things to lament:  a giant crack in the bowl of my food processor rendering it out of commission, the screen on my Canon repeatedly displaying ERR 99 leaving it without the ability to take a photo, and the sudden and unexpected last gasp from my 1991 Volvo.  Three things, gone.  Or at least in a dire state of disrepair.  I am equally dependent on each of these modern appliances and I'm not looking forward to braving the dreary world without them.  But, onward I must go.

The finished Hoosier Cabinet.  The iPhone doesn't do it justice, it is the most amazing color of mustard and I am so in love with it, I find myself ogling.  Oh, and that middle platter was filled with Banana Whoopie Pies with Peanut Butter Filling.  They flew! 
Baby Face Game, pretty funny.
 For now, let us focus on the mighty good things, because they really were terrific.  The baby shower went so well, even though these iPhone pictures are all that remain (Read above:  ERR 99.)  I found out just how many people fit comfortably in an 1800 square foot house.  The answer is: fewer than the number of people that were here.  Crowded-ness aside, it was a great time.  We set up a game for guests to make a composite of the mom's and dad's faces on a baby silhouette, attempting to predict his appearance.  Or, more accurately, attempting to be stupid.  It was pretty hilarious and I recommend it for a couples shower where you don't want overly girly/sentimental games.

My lettuce wrap, the morning after.  I added a fried egg to help cure my hangover because I thought it would be tasty.  It was.

I made gobs of Asian inspired food like vegetable summer rolls with peanut sauce, crab and mango salad in wonton cups and lettuce wraps.  Though the lettuce wraps weren't as Mingle Friendly as I'd hoped, they are super stinking good.  We make them a lot for dinner and it's fun for the kids to build them and pile on the toppings.

Hopefully you found a lot to celebrate this weekend.  And, your camera/car/favorite kitchen appliance didn't peter out leaving you with a feeling of emptiness.  Make these lettuce wraps for dinner tonight and you'll have one more thing to celebrate.

Tofu and/or Beef Lettuce Wraps - You can make the "meat" of this dish with whatever you like.  Most of the time I use tofu and mushrooms for ours.  But, in the past I've used lean ground beef or chicken, lentils or a mixture thereof.  Serves 4.

For the sauce:
1 teaspoon Sriracha or bottled chili garlic sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce, low sodium
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 garlic cloves, finely minced

For the filling:
1 teaspoon grapeseed oil (or other flavorless oil)
3 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
6 green onions, sliced, green parts set aside for topping
2 bell peppers chopped, one set aside for topping*
1 pound of "meat" ie: cooked lentils, tofu (drained and cut into small cubes), lean ground meat, or diced mushrooms
1 8 ounce can of water chestnuts, chopped

For assembly:
1 head of Bibb lettuce, carefully washed and trimmed
chopped red pepper
sliced green onion, green part
lightly salted peanuts
slices of lime
fresh cilantro or basil (optional, but a definite plus)

Whisk the sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Heat the oil over medium and add the ginger, onion whites and pepper (and any other vegetable you're adding, see not below).  Do not burn the ginger, just let it get fragrant and soft, about 3 minutes.

Add the "meat" and cook it through.  You know, either brown the meat, or warm the lentils or tofu through.  Add the reserved sauce and the water chestnuts.  Let everything mingle in the hot pan for about 5 minutes, stirring every few minutes to make sure nothing is sticking.

Put all your toppings in separate bowls like it's taco night.  Fill the lettuce leaves with the saucy-meat mixture and then top with your favorites.  In my case, it's a little of everything.

And obvi, put a fried egg on the leftovers.  I really hope you love this.

*sometimes I throw a bunch of finely chopped or shredded vegetables in, depending on what I have or how much chopping I'm in the mood for.  Carrots, celery, snap peas and mushrooms have all been known to work (and go undetected by the vegetable-wary crowd).