Pluot sorbet

I’ll be spending most of the rest of the summer reading.  I’m taking my qualifying exams for my PhD in the fall and there’s lots of prep work to do.  Conveniently, we have a little patch of grass in our backyard, so I can sit out in the sun and surround myself with library books, post-its and notepads (things could definitely be worse).  The only downside is that once I’m out in the sun I quickly forget about my books and start thinking about sorbet.

There’s few things I like better on a summer day than sorbet.  Particularly one that’s not too sweet.  I think this pluot sorbet is just perfect.  So perfect, in fact, that I pretty much ate the whole batch as I hunched over a book yesterday. Continue reading

Squash blossoms stuffed with fava beans, quinoa and chevre

While my body’s been back in the US for two weeks now, I think my head was still in Thailand until a couple days ago.  A trip to the farmer’s market finally transported me back home.  I was so excited about all the produce, I just wanted to go rush home and cook in our California kitchen!  No more longing for scooters and noodles.  At least, for now.

So, here’s a recipe that, to me, is quintessential California: light, fresh and healthy.  Maybe it’s a  little heretical to eat squash blossoms raw (the Italians wouldn’t approve), but they’re good, so why not? Continue reading

Thai green curry

While I was in the middle of writing about the best vegetarian green curry of all time, Alex and I boarded a plane and then a ferry, trading Bangkok for Koh Phi Phi.

In Koh Phi Phi, my blog plans were thwarted.  Our hotel didn’t really have internet.  So, we focused on SCUBA diving, hiking  and a bit of lounging on the beach…

One of the fun things about going to the beach in Thailand is that the beach-side restaurants sell Thai food (shocker!).  After a snorkel, we’d crawl out of the water, land on some chairs in the sand, and order up soups and curries. Continue reading

Rhubarb ice cream

I went to the farmer’s market yesterday morning hell-bent on finding some rhubarb.  At the grocery store I’ve only seen pitiful little green stems from Oregon and Washington (where they’re apparently grown in a hot house), but it’s Spring and it’s rhubarb time!  Right?  I thought so, until I tore around the farmer’s market and couldn’t find any.  I finally gave up my rhubarb jam aspirations for the week and went about buying some other fruits and veggies (including a full flat of strawberries!).  Then, lo and behold, behind some chard I spied two beaten up, squat little stalks of pink rhubarb.  It wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for (I was picturing bushels of long and perky stalks), but it was my very first rhubarb of the season.  Yay!

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Weighing white and whole wheat flour

Before Alex and I became a bit obsessed with pizza dough, I don’t think I’d ever made the same bread product again and again (…and again and again…).  In doing so, I learned I had a hard time consistently making the same dough.  Sometimes my dough was perfect and chewy, sometimes it was too dense.  After a long time of shifting guilt around the kitchen (did I not knead long enough?  did I knead too long?  is this yeast not good?  did I put in too much salt?), I finally started eying up my flour.

Around the same time, I also happened to encounter several different articles on food blogs and in cookbooks that were beseeching home cooks (like yours truly) to measure flour with a scale, not by the cup.  This article, by Gluten Free Girl, was especially compelling.  I started talking about ordering a scale.  And then, about a week later, I came home to a package on the door step addressed to me.  Alex bought me a scale without telling me (isn’t he the best?!).

So many things to measure!  We were grabbing stuff from around the house and piling the scale high.  Does Alex’s iPod weigh 101g, like it says on the package?  Why, yes, it does.

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Stinging Nettle Pasta Ribbons with Roasted Cauliflower

In my recent food blog roamings I’ve been seeing Spring nettle recipes.  So, when I stumbled across nettles at the farmer’s market over the weekend I was curious.  I picked up a bag and grabbed one of the heads of cauliflower overflowing from the stands around the market.  I also vowed to plant tulips next year (or, really, plant anything at all…).

Nettles in hand, I took to the internet when we got home.  After inspiration from these beautiful recipes for nettle ravioli and pasta, I decided that was it — I would make nettle pasta!  So, for the first time since 2004, I pulled out my pasta roller. (Yes — that’s 7 years, 4 different states and 3 cross-country drives since I last used it.  Totally absurd.)

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After a couple weeks on the road eating and drinking a bit too much, we’re trying to make this week extra healthy.  So far, there’s been lots of salad, roasted veggies, hummus and lentils (…and a couple ice cream sundaes…oops).  Now we’re moving into smoothies, our go-to when we want to put ourselves on a healthy path.  I love, love, love our smoothies for packing a big vitamin and fiber punch.  We also mix in enough veggies that they’re substantial, while reasonably low in calories.

To make a smoothie, I start with the same base every time (with a little variation here and there):

  • 1 orange
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/3 – 1/2 banana (I like just a touch for creaminess and potassium, without giving the smoothie too strong of a banana flavor)

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The search for the perfect lunch containers

“For the Working Girl” from coralvintage on Etsy

I try to bring my lunch to school/work whenever I can — it’s healthier, saves me money and typically tastes better (the Berkeley campus food could be worse…but it also could be better…).

Finding the perfect containers to pack lunch in is a big challenge, though!  I want something that is lightweight, won’t break, microwaves, washes easily, fits in my bag and doesn’t leak…even when I put soup in it.  Maybe that’s too much to ask?

For a while I thought I found the miracle containers that met all my needs.  I used them for years and was very, very happy.

And then I learned about Bisphenol A (BPA).  I don’t know for certain, but I’m pretty sure my miracle containers are chock full of it.  On my “wide mouth storage jars” are not specifically identified as containers for food storage.  I’d rather avoid whatever is potentially in my non-food grade plastic containers, including BPA, so I’m trying to phase them out of my life.  I haven’t done it quickly, though, because it’s been difficult to find a great substitute. Continue reading

Savory French Lentil and Barley Soup

This hearty and healthy soup is a perfect meal to quickly pull together on a Monday or Tuesday evening and then eat for the rest of the week.  The taste is best a day or two day after it’s made and the flavors are totally melded.

I make French lentil and barley soup a lot, since all the ingredients are things I always keep on hand at our house.  You’ll notice there are many ingredients used in both this soup and my Hoppin’ John.  In general, my bean and grain soups share several of the same base ingredients, making it easier to shop and keep the pantry streamlined.

If you haven’t had French lentils before, they are my absolute favorite for soups and salads.  They maintain their shape, unlike most lentils, which tend to break down as they are cooked.  I like their firm and chewy consistency.  I also like how they are often available in bulk bins in grocery stores.  At my local grocery store, the French lentils used in this recipe cost us about $1.40.

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Sunday baking and attempts at naturally dyed frosting

I spent several days working on a big King’s Cake cupcake post…only to flop the frosting (yes, frosting is a bit of a departure from the normal King’s Cake) at the last minute and run out of the ingredients/time to re-do things.  So, here’s what I learned: it is really, really hard to make vibrant frosting colors naturally.  I tried to the make purple frosting with crushed blueberries and green frosting with spirulina powder.  Both came out very Easter-pastel instead of Mardi Gras-bold.  In addition, the green frosting tasted terrible.  I love spirulina in my smoothies, but I don’t think it belongs in cream cheese frosting.

I frosted two cupcakes and gave up.  Until next year!  (Thankfully, this year we still have Hurricanes.)

Now to devour the remaining cupcakes frosting-free…