Happy Cinco de Mayo!
Celebrate with margaritas, tacos topped with Spicy Mexican Pickled Carrots, and don’t let others sway your heart by telling you store bought salsa is better than home-made salsa. Never waver in your love or faith and build yourself a firm foundation that you are proud to stand on. Be separate from the crowd even if it means making your own corn tortillas instead of buying them in the store; at least you know the ingredient list and the “eat before” date isn’t valid for four months. Never waver in your love or faith.
And don’t compromise yourself for the sake of temporal groovyness.
It will be short lived. The heat from these carrots, on the other hand, will not be.
source: The Home Sick Texan
- 1 Lb carrots cut into dimes
- 1 C water
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 C white vinegar
- 1 oz. chiles de arbol, stemmed removed (see notes)
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp mexican oregano
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 C slivered white onion
- 1 minced garlic clove
- 1 jalapeno seeded and cut into rings
- In a medium pot combine the water, oil, vinegar and chiles. Bring to boil then reduce the heat to medium. Cook for five minutes uncovered.
- After five minutes add in the cumin, oregano, pepper and salt. Continue cooking five more minutes. Then add the carrots, onions, garlic and jalapeno. Cook for another ten minutes or until the carrots have reached your desired tenderness.
- Cool completely then refrigerate. The carrots should keep up to one month if stored in an air tight container in your fridge.
- I couldn’t find fresh chiles de arbol in The Middle Of No Where. I did, however, find a 1 oz. package of dried chiles de arbol. I pulled off the stems, shook out a few of the seeds, and they worked great. Adjust the amount of peppers according to the amount of heat you like in your food. These carrots are not crazy spicy but they do depart a nice amount of warmth. These carrots are perfect as a taco topping, but are also great served as a side dish.
- The very first time we were in Mexico, many, many years back, we were served carrots something like this at a tiny, roadside taco stand. I had forgotten all about them until I saw this recipe. Not only did the recipe bring bag memories of a sunny trip, but also the ridiculous amount of water (ohhhh, who am I kidding, it was bottles of Dos Equis) I drank to combat the authentic Mexican spice of the roadside carrots.
- I have, since that first bite of glorious chili infused heat, upped my tolerance of spicy foods (Mennonites in The Middle Of No Where don’t grow up with many spices other than salt.).
- It was also on this trip where I saw four Mexicans and my husband all huddled together, trying to open the “trunk” of our ghetto, white, VW bug convertible. Good times….
I was lucky enough to spend some time recently, with dear friends who live many miles away (hence the prolonged absence of posts). I feel blessed to count these people as friends and I’m always a little sad to return home. Coming home from a vacation is always difficult for me, but especially troublesome when I have to leave people I really care about. It brings to light how much I am not a part of their daily lives and routines and they are not a part of mine. Returning to the mundaneness of my same old running route, my same old recipe for banana bread, and my same old pair of sweats (because who truly needs a Burberry coat and Philip Lim pants when they live in The Middle Of No Where?) can be a bit cumbersome.
But who says I have to run the same route? Or that I can’t jazz up my banana bread? Or go really crazy and wear high heels and lipstick to the grocery store? Because no matter where we are, or how far apart we may physically be, my best friend, my dear university friends, my new friends, and old friends recently reacquainted: when we look up into the sky we all see the same sun.
source: inspired by the interwebs
- 2.5 C all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 C butter at room temperature
- 3/4 C vanilla yogurt (I use non fat)
- 1 C brown sugar
- 1/2 granulated sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 3 eggs or 3/4 C egg beaters
- 3 to 4 really ripe bananas
- Zest of one lemon
- 3/4 C toasted, sweetened coconut
- 1/2 C macadamia nuts
- 1/2 C chopped pineapple
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease two loaf pans.
- Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
- Beat together the butter sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Next beat in your vanilla and yogurt.
- By hand or with your mixer add in the bananas. Once fully incorporated add in your flour mixture until just combined. Then stir in the lemon zest, coconut and macadamia nuts and pineapple if using.
- Divide the batter between your two pans and bake the loaves for about 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick (or knife, whatever you want) inserted comes out clean.
- Cool your loaves on wire wracks until the loaves are cool enough to handle… then eat!
- The riper the banana the sweeter your baked goods will be. I often let mine turn BLACK on the counter, peel them, then chuck them in the freezer. Just take the ripened bananas out to thaw before you need them for baking.
- If you’re making the lower fat version (ie sans nuts and eggs) you might want to freeze the bread first. Does anyone know why low fat stuff tastes better after it’s been frozen?
- If you make the low fat version as per above and cut each loaf into 10 slices, each slice will contain about 225 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 43 grams of carbs and your friends will thank you for making something so yummy and healthy.
The minute I heard my first love story I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was. Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.
Jalal Ad-Din Muhammad Rumi
I love the romantic notions of that quote. To think that a part of my true love has always been with me and I with him. It’s so inspiring to think I’ve never been alone in spirit. Kind of cheesy and corny I know. But I’m a girl, I love pink, and high heels, flowers, and chocolate. I’ll own up to it.
A darling and antiquated notion, I know: true love that transcends time. A single soulmate for life. Unfailing. Yet I count on it.
A good friend once told me you’re never alone if you have chocolate. Sort of the same idea… chocolate. It’s always there for me. And I am always there for it. I have always loved chocolate and I am reasonably chocolate has loved me for all of time.
Kind of like this buttermilk chocolate cake: old-fashioned and sweet. It never fails. I’ve known it forever.
And who’s to argue with true love?
source: an old family recipe slightly adapted to “defat”
- 1 C butter
- 1/2 C dark cocoa plus 2 Tbsp black cocoa (regular cocoa if you don’t have black cocoa)
- 1 1/2 C water
- 3 C flour
- 3 C packed brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp instant espresso powder
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 eggs slightly beaten
- 3/4 C buttermilk
- 1/2 C non-fat vanilla yogurt
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Get our your largest baking sheet. I mean large. 13″ x 17″ x 2″.
- In a saucepan combine the butter, cocoa and water. Bring to a boil stirring often, then remove from heat and allow to cool.
- In a very large bowl sift the flour, sugar, espresso powder, baking soda and salt until all incorporated. It’s important to do this so you don’t have to over mix your batter later which can result in a tougher baked good.
- Combine the eggs, buttermilk, yogurt and vanilla. Mix until very well combined.
- Pour the hot chocolate mixture over the flour mixture. Stir until combined. Make a well in the mixture and add in the buttermilk mixture. By hand, stir until just combined and there are no more clumps of flour.
- Bake for 22-27 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake, comes out clean.
- 6 Tbsp dark cocoa
- 1/4 C butter
- 5 Tbsp buttermilk
- 4-5 C icing sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla
- In a small saucepan, over medium low heat, combine the cocoa, butter and buttermilk. Heat until the butter has melted and everything is combined, being sure to stir the entire time.
- Cool slightly then mix with the icing sugar and vanilla. You might need more or less icing sugar depending on how thick you like your icing. I make it pretty thick for this cake.
- Allow the cake to cool to room temperature before icing. If you ice it while the cake is too hot the icing will just melt off (not that I know from experience). If you ice the cake when it’s just barely warm (and I mean hardly discernible) the icing will get enough warmth to get nice and smooth and shiny on top, without melting off the sides of your cake and all over your counter.
- This recipe is an old family favorite. I’m always reminded of happy family times when I sit down and savor a bite. It’s been adapted over the years (much less butter, the addition of espresso powder, darker cocoa, etc) but the essence stays the same. It’s perfect for birthday parties, family get-togethers, or to serve your loved one.
- I always have a stash in the freezer. Just in case a chocolate craving calls me… or my true love…
We’ve all heard it before: don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Yet, we’re all guilty of it. I think we can mostly agree that deciding to dislike (or very rarely, like) something before experiencing it, is a total cop-out. Whether it’s country music, working with yeast dough, or road biking… how can I truly say I’m opposed to something before I even know what I’m talking about?
So I’m on a mission: to be more open minded and free thinking. I’m making a list (is that the opposite of free thinking?) and I’m going to try new things. I’m going to order something different at a my favorite restaurant. I’m going to sign up for a class where I don’t know anyone. I’m going to download a country playlist (and actually listen to it). I’m going to watch a science fiction movie. Maybe even read a book that takes place on the East Coast. I’m going to try a hatha yoga class.
I’m going to be brave. And strong. And face new ideas head on.
I’m going to make buns.
Sweet Honey Buns from The Pastry Affair
- 2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 C barely warm water
- 3 C all purpose flour
- 1/4 C honey + 1 Tbsp
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 1 Tbsp butter, melted
- In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let it sit for 5 minutes.
- Gently beat the egg with a fork. Add the egg, honey and salt to the water/yeast. Stir it until it’s well blended.
- Add the flour until the dough comes together. This is a VERY sticky dough. Don’t add more flour because you think the dough is too sticky.
- On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for about 8 minutes. Resist adding to much flour. The longer you work the dough, the more workable it will become. I did not find the need to add more flour at all, however, if the dough keeps sticking to your counter top add a small amount of flour. Very small.
- Lightly oil a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and roll it around so all the dough gets coated. Cover the bowl lightly with plastic wrap and a warm kitchen towel. Leave the dough to rise in a warm, draft free area until it doubles in size, about 2 hours.
- Punch the dough down (how fun!). Divide the dough into 12 portions and shape each into a ball. Place the dough balls on a pan or baking sheet that is lightly coated with cooking spray. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise about another 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
- In a small bowl combine the honey and melted butter. Brush over the the dough.
- Place the buns in the oven and bake about 10-13 minutes or until lightly browned.
- These are fairly sweet buns. I think they would be great at Easter with a little cream cheese icing. I might even try tossing a little orange zest and a few dried cranberries or cherries into the dough next time around.
- Next up on my list: a new sport. I might even break down and try golf. It is, after all Master’s weekend….
Freethinkers are those who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing to understand things that clash with their own customs, privileges, or beliefs. Leo Tolstoy
Can one be both hip and humble? Is it possible to carry the latest Chloe bag and not be seen as vain? Can one be sporting the latest Chanel le Vernis in black pearl and not be seen only as a hipster? Iced latte in one hand, and peanut free, gluten free, everything free pastry in the other hand…
But behold the lowly peanut. Often touted as a poor man’s food and the butt of many disparaging jokes; it is a humble food. It usually doesn’t take center stage in cooking, used more often to highlight the main flavor. It is most oft reduced to the bottom of the bowl when around it’s peers as the pecans, almonds, and walnuts get picked first. It’s nickname is Goober Bean. How can one not be humble with that moniker?
Despite it’s humble origins though, the lowly peanut packs a lot of nutrition. And how hip isn’t it to be amping up the nutritional power of what we’re ingesting these days. It’s a saucy little number that sneaks up on you in au current cuisine; when is the last time you went to the latest hipster joint and didn’t see some reincarnation of the classic PB&J sandwich?
Spice up the lowly legume, let it take center stage…
Put on your chuck taylors and own that “it” bag.
Hip & humble.
Source: me and a mish-mash of the internet, inspired by snacks at Joe Jack’s Fish Shack (The hip place in PV ~ but no worries. You can show up straight from the beach in Havaianas.)
- 4 C unsalted, dry roasted peanuts
- 2 1/2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp sweet paprika
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or pure chili powder (as in chilies you have ground to a powder. NOT the chili powder you would add to chili. It doesn’t have enough heat and is really a mixture of chilies, oregano, etc)
- 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
- Combine everything and place on a parchment covered baking sheet. Bake at 250 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring half way through.
- Zest of one lime
- 1 rounded tsp sugar
- 1 rounded tsp kosher salt
- Combine rubbing the zest into the sugar and salt with your fingers.
- Sprinkle over the peanuts once they’re removed from the oven.
- Store the nuts in an airtight container. If they get a little soggy after time, put them back in the oven for about 15 minutes at 250 degrees.
- Enjoy the humble but hip-ly spicy peanuts with a Dos Equis and pretend you’re someplace tropical!
Gratitude is the memory of the heart.
Jean Baptiste Massieu
I try, once a day usually in the morning, to humble myself and have a little gratitude session. It goes kinda like this:
Today I am grateful for ______________.
It isn’t fancy. It’s not always deep or super-contemplative. It just is.
It reminds me of all the positive things in my life (even if the best I can come up with is that I’m grateful I have long hair or I’m grateful that I’m out running or that the sun is shining). On days when the sun isn’t shining (outside my sparkling clean windows in the grey prairie sky, or in my not so sparkling mind) it serves to remind me of what is really important. It often reminds me that my world is so much bigger than me – to be thankful for others. It even helps to see some of the negatives things in my life in a new light.
Now, you may be wondering, how can a lowly brownie recipe be linked to gratitude? Very simply.
I am grateful for my Mom (have patience… you’ll see the link soon enough). I inherited my love for all things sweet, chocolate-y, home-baked and sinfully high in calories from my Mom. In a negative light one might deem this a curse. After all, it leads to numerous extra treadmill sessions, hours spent baking in the kitchen instead of accomplishing other “worthy” tasks, and really, really high grocery bills. But in a mindset of gratitude that love for a good chocolate dessert has lead to a commonality with my Mom, time spent together as she passes down her knowledge and skills. It has lead to fabulous desserts shared around a table of friends and family. I think it might have even lead to this blog and it most certainly led me to try out the wicked brownie recipe below.
On a more serious note: I am truly grateful for my Mom. She gave me my roots and my wings.
And my love for chocolate.
The BAKED Brownie
source: Baked New Frontiers in Baking
- 1 1/4 C all purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp dark, unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 1/3 C dark chocolate (60-72% cacao), coarsely chopped
- 1 C unsalted butter chopped into 1″ pieces
- 1 tsp. instant espresso powder
- 1 1/2 C sugar
- 1/2 C firmly packed brown sugar
- 5 large eggs at room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×13 baking pan.
- Whisk together the flour, salt, and cocoa powder.
- Put the chocolate, butter and espresso powder in a large bowl. Set the bowl in a saucepan of gently simmering water. Sir the mixture until completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat and whisk in the sugars. Let the mixture come to room temperature.
- Add three eggs to the chocolate mixture and mix until combined. Add the remaining two eggs and whisk again until combined.
- Add the vanilla and whisk another fifteen seconds or so.
- **Do NOT over beat the brownie mixture at this point or your brownies will be cakey. This is NOT a cakey brownie recipe.
- Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a spatula (not a whisk. NO over beating!) fold the flour mix into the chocolate until just a tiny bit of flour mixture is still visible.
- Pour the brownie mixture into your greased pan and bake about 30-32 minutes. Your brownies are done when you insert a toothpick in the center and a few moist crumbs stick to it.
- If you can wait, let the brownies cool…. then enjoy!
- There will be no nutritional information for this recipe.
Romance might happen every day. Lust might even happen every day. But finding true love?
About as rare as finding the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.
A recipe that you want in your recipe box forever, that you don’t need to change or alter to make better. A recipe that stands the test of time. One which you are proud to bring to family gatherings and there is never a crumb left on the plate. A chocolate chip cookie so good that on a bad day just the smell emitting from the oven elicits a smile.
Luckily for me, I have both. And since I’m so generous I’ll share one of them with you. But hands off the other one ladies.
- 3/4 C butter at room temperature
- 1 C packed brown sugar
- 1/2 C granulated sugar
- 2 eggs at room temperature
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 2 C all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 C slightly rounded oatmeal
- 1 C dark chocolate chips
- Bake in moderate oven until done.
- Ok, ok… if you need a little more instruction then the recipe handed down to me here you go:
- Cream the butter and sugars until lightly fluffy. One at a time, beat in the eggs until well incorporated. Beat in the vanilla for about 30 seconds.
- Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and oatmeal.
- Add to the butter mixture and beat until just combined.
- Add in the chocolate chips until evenly distributed.
- Put the dough in the fridge and let sit for at least 24 hours before rolling the dough into about 30 cookies.
- Bake about 9-12 minutes at 350 degrees.
- I got ahold of 72% cocoa baking feves last time I was in Montreal. They make the most amazing cookies! Beware though: if you are not a fan of dark chocolate the cookies might not be sweet enough for you. If you want to make your own purchase of baking feves try Valrhona Araguani Dark 72% Cocoa from Venezuela. Not that I would know (cough, cough) but you can order from chocosphere.com. They deliver the massive 6.6 lb box right to your door complete with a cool pack.
- If you really, truly don’t like dark chocolate (booo on you) then you may (grudgingly) substitute your favorite, but inferior, milk chocolate chips.
- Sorry for the long absence in posts. In addition to having the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe and true love I am lucky enough that my parents let me join them for a few weeks at their condo in the sun.
Isn’t there some statistic that says three out of four North Americans suffer from some kind of mental illness? So take a look at the three closest people around you. Do they seem “normal”? You know what that means? You’re the crazy one.
I think we’re all a little nuts in our own way, in our own time. I say own it. Fly that freak flag. Break out your neon purple sparkly eyeshadow. Run 15 miles with wind then phone for a ride home. Write a 500 page book and self publish it. Wear a bikini to hot yoga.
And while you’re enjoying your own crazy have a few candied vanilla pecans… because we’re all a little nuts sometimes.
source: the world wide interwebs
- 4 C or roughly 1 Lb. pecans
- 1 egg white
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 Tbsp water
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 heaping tsp sea salt
- 3/4C vanilla sugar (If you don’t have vanilla sugar, make some. The recipe is below. Or substitute regular sugar and increase the vanilla extract to 1 tsp.)
- Preheat your oven to 250 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Mix together the sugar, cinnamon and sea salt.
- In a large bowl combine the egg white, vanilla and water. Beat the egg until it’s light and frothy. Stir in the pecans and mix well. Pour in the sugar mixture and stir until all the pecans are coated.
- Dump the mixture onto your large baking sheet and spread the nuts out evenly.
- Bake about 1 hour making sure to stir every 15 minutes and break up any large clumps.
- Cool completely on the baking sheet on a wire cooling rack.
- Once cooled: eat. Like a crazy lady. Then store any left overs in an air tight container or share with all the other lovely crazies in your life.
source: the world wide interwebs
- 1 vanilla bean
- 2 C granulated sugar
- Slice the vanilla bean and with the back of your knife scrape the seeds into an airtight container with the sugar. Bury the bean in the sugar, give everything a stir and seal tightly. Let the mixture sit for at least two weeks.
- You may replace the sugar so you use it as long as your vanilla bean is still fragrant.
- This sugar is really good as a substitute for regular sugar in iced tea. It would also be good in any sweet baked goods like chocolate chips cookies. Yum…..
Ooooh the genetic heritage that befalls a woman of Mennonite heritage. Painfully uncool adolescent years where one wonders if they pass the grade of normal society or will forever be doomed, like the adults around then, to cankles, thunder thighs and the itty-bitty-tittie committee.
Us Mennonite woman are often plain (I dare you to find a super model, make that any model, with the last name Penner, Thiessen, or Klassen) but we are oh-so-eternally cheerful no matter what the circumstances. We are blessed with robust health, but long sinewy legs? No. High, graceful cheekbones? Not really. Exotically lush lips? Pft, that might lead to kissing. Porcelain skin? Puhlease. But, we do have bouyant personalities.
We are often taught that vainglorious is wrong. I love the word vainglorious. That in and of itself should already signal trouble. And I must admit, I love my long, flowing, and high-lighted (not to mention low lighted, reversed balayaged, glossed, and whatever else my sytlist whips up) hair. Which I admire in the mirror on quite a regular basis. My darkly painted finger nails. My wickedly awesome baroque tattoo. And skinny jeans. I am literally running from my genes to fit into my jeans which at this point seems to be serving me well.
However, I have a feeling those Mennonite genes will eventually assert themselves and take over. But until they completely dominate, I will use everything in my arsenal to pass the muster of inclusion into fashionable society including tottering around in ridiculously high heels and sweating through countless hot yoga sessions: thunder-thighs be damned. I have even joined the ranks of Meatless Monday cooking on account of it being “healthy” and thereby reducing the onset of cankles. (Such is not heard of in a good Mennonite household: meat, potatoes, buns and butter. Then a little more meat. And a little more butter. And always dessert. Always.)
source: the non-Mennonite version of me
- 1 Lb black beans
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 large carrot, shredded
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 jalapeno, chopped (seeded if you want to control the heat)
- 1 chipotle pepper with adobo sauce (seeded if you want a little less heat)
- 1 heaping tsp cumin
- 1 heaping tsp chipotle chili powder
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 strips bacon
- 1 C Heinz chili sauce
- 8-12 cups chicken stock
- 3/4 C sherry
- Soak the beans in water overnight. Make sure the beans are covered with at least 2″ of water.
- Fry the three strips of bacon in your soup pot. Remove and set aside.
- In your soup pot cook the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and jalapeno until tender (drain off the bacon drippings so as to eliminate the nasty fat and hinder onset of Mennonite genes). Generously season your veggies with pepper. And a little salt if you need. Once the veggies are tender add the chipotle pepper, cumin, chili powder and bay leaves.
- Drain the black beans and add to your soup pot. Add 8 cups of stock, the chili sauce and the bacon. Bring to a boil. Reduce your heat to low, cover and simmer for 3 to 4 hours until the beans are soft. Stir occasionally. If your soup is getting to dry add more stock. Once the beans are soft turn off the heat and stir in the sherry.
- Let your soup cool then puree.
- To serve, heat and top with whatever your heart desires. I would add cilantro, pickled jalapenos and a few pieces of avacado. Those without a Mennonite surname might add tortillas chips, sour cream, and large handful of sharp cheddar cheese.
- I used all 12 cups of stock. I thought my soup looked a little too liquidy at the end, but once it was blended it turned out just the right consistency.
- For 12 servings there are approximately 220 calories, 4 grams fat, and 30 grams carbs per serving.
- I did not let the soup cool enough before pureeing. To help out those as vainglorious and impatient as me: if you do not have a handy immersion blender and have not donned an apron do not wear a shimmery, violet hued silk t-shirt when blending dark, hot liquids.