Friday, December 26, 2014

baked spaghetti squash and kale fritters





(A fairly unnecessary confession to start things off: I think that 90% of the reason I like spaghetti squash is that I find it immensely entertaining to pretend I am the spaghetti monster and pull apart the strands with a fork.

Because I am nineteen going on five.)


By the beginning of this week, all of my holiday baking boxes had been brown paper packaged, tied up with string, and delivered, and I was left with flour-dusted countertops, a dishwasher full of mixing bowls, and no desire to see another stick of butter or cup of sugar ever again.

But what better cure for cookie fatigue than kale?


Over the weekend, I like to take time to prep dinners for later in the week: i.e., dicing onions and mincing garlic, roasting chunks of sweet potatoes and squash, steaming carrots and brussel sprouts, and so on. Last weekend, I'd roasted a spaghetti squash that ended up filling two giant tupperware containers, so I used that as the basis for these.

It's important to drain as much liquid as you can from these (I'd recommend wringing out the squash in a cheesecloth/paper towel layers in 2-3 batches); otherwise they get a bit soggy in the middle, especially because they're baked. Otherwise, they're a cinch; if you are particularly averse to kale, sub in collard greens or spinach, or your favorite leafy green. I imagine you could even sub in the spaghetti squash with mashed sweet potato/butternut squash/pumpkin and it'd still be delicious (albeit a little mushier because of the added moisture content). I added cumin and a bit of cayenne to mine, but I'm already planning on repeating these with a little basil and oregano instead, or rosemary and a few gratings of Parmesan-- go with whatever seasonings speak to you!




I baked the fritters with a little olive oil at 400 degrees F; I did try to pan-fry one, but found the fritters a bit too delicate to hold together well when flipped in the pan. If you'd prefer to cook them on the stovetop, I'd recommend adding an extra egg white and a little more flour, to better bind the patties.



The kale curls and crisps in the heat of the oven, and the spaghetti squash lends itself nicely to burnished, golden-lacy edges, and billowy-smooth centers. They kept wonderfully in the fridge, stacked in clingwrapped layers; just warm them in a toaster oven/under the broiler for a few minutes, and they'll crisp back up.

And now, I am off to re-flour my countertops in preparation for New Year's Eve potlucks and all of the last 2014 cookies; hope you all are having a wonderful week of holiday-ing!

much love,
j

Spaghetti Squash and Kale Fritters Recipe
(makes 13-16 fritters)

1 spaghetti squash, cut lengthwise
1 1/2 c kale, torn into bite-sized pieces
1/4 c onion, diced
2 stalks green onion, chopped (separate white and green parts)
2 eggs
1 tbsp olive oil (and a little extra to oil the baking sheet or pan)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c whole wheat flour
1/3 c oats, roughly ground (pulse a few times in a food processor)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper


To prep spaghetti squash:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and lightly oil a baking sheet. Place halves of spaghetti squash face down on baking sheet and bake for 40-50 minutes, until tender. Remove squash from oven and let sit until cool enough to handle. Use a fork to scrape squash into long strands. In manageable clumps, wring out as much moisture as possible from squash using a cheesecloth (or layers of paper towel/a clean cotton dishcloth, if you don't have a cheesecloth). Set squash aside.

For fritters:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large glass mixing bowl, combine squash, kale, onion, and green parts of the green onion. In a smaller bowl, whisk together olive oil, eggs, minced garlic, and white parts of green onion. Add egg-oil mixture to squash-kale and mix thoroughly. Set aside until kale has darkened and wilted a little.
After kale has wilted, add dry ingredients and seasonings to the mixture, stirring until thoroughly combined.
Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly oil. Compact the fritter mixture into a 1/3 cup measure, and scoop out onto baking sheets. The mixture may fall apart a little once scooped--just use your hands to reform the fritters; they'll firm up in the oven. Fritters should be a little over an inch tall. Once all of the mixture has been scooped, place baking sheets in the center of oven. Bake for 15 minutes, and then flip fritters to the other side. Bake for another 5-10 minutes, until fritters are uniformly golden brown on both sides. Take fritters out and let cool for a few minutes; fritters will remain crisp for about half an hour, but will keep for 3-4 days in the fridge. To reheat, place fritters under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, or in a toaster oven at high heat for 3-5 minutes. Enjoy!









Wednesday, December 17, 2014

zucchini banana bread


The holidays are a time for honesty (except in regards to Christmas presents) and openness (except in regards to Christmas presents) and putting everything on the table (including Christmas presents).
So for the sake of full disclosure, I feel like I have to tell you that this recipe happened because I bought cucumbers instead of zucchini when I was grocery shopping.

Before you make fun of me, the grocery store by my neighborhood, for reasons unknown, always stocks cucumbers next to squash. So I saw the yellow zucchini, assumed that the green/vaguely cylindrical vegetables next to it were green zucchini, and ended up with six cucumbers instead.

Still not sure what I'm going to do with those.

By the time I got home and realized it, it had started snowing; but I was stubborn determined to get my holiday baking started, so I just grated what zucchini we had in the fridge, and threw a banana in with it. And all was well!



Two things regarding the zucchini/banana:
1.) As with banana bread, the browner/riper the banana, the better.
2.) Don't wring out the grated zucchini!

Without the moisture from the squash, the dough gets dry and clumpy and woefully unappetizing. But otherwise, this recipe is foolproof; it uses olive oil instead of butter, but you can't taste the grassiness of the oil at all. If the thought of using olive oil really does bother you or if you don't have it at home, feel free to replace it with a more neutral/accessible oil (i.e. vegetable oil, canola oil, etc.).

This bread is redolent with fall spices, plush, with a tender crumb and candied pecans strewn on the top. The zucchini and banana melt into the bread, and with all that vegetable, it's positively virtuous!




The white sugar gives the loaf its crisp edges and caramelized, crackly crust, but the molasses in the brown sugar is where all of the flavor is (well, that plus a heavy dose of vanilla extract and cinnamon).





I am one of those people that loves to sneak the clumps off granola, or the crumb topping off bread, so this recipe makes a lot of the crumble; if you're more inclined to minimalism in your quick breads, feel free to scale down the topping, or to omit it entirely! I promise the bread will still be delicious.

To make the crumble, I used my fingers to work two tablespoons of softened butter into a mixture of brown sugar, flour, and pecans. I had been a bit worried that the pecans would burn, but the sugar and butter kept them toasted and caramelly and all sorts of lovely.

(a fair warning though: these chunks are satisfyingly... well, chunky, but that also means that it's a bit obvious when someone steals crumbs off the top.)



Hope you all are having a wonderful December!
all my love,
j

Zucchini Banana Bread Recipe
(makes two 8x4 loaves)

 For bread:

2 c all-purpose flour
1 c whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c olive oil
1 c white sugar
1 c brown sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 c grated zucchini (about 3 medium zucchinis)
1 banana, mashed

For crumb topping:
2 tbsp butter, softened
1/3 c whole wheat flour
1/4 c chopped pecans
1/3 c brown sugar
1 tsp maple syrup (or honey)

Grease and flour two 8x4 in. loaf pans. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). 

grate zucchini into a medium-sized bowl, and mix in mashed banana. Set aside.

Mix oil, sugars, and vanilla in a large bowl until combined. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until mixture is glossy and thick. Add baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. With a spoon or spatula, add flour in, one cup at a time. Mix well. 

Add the zucchini and mashed banana in two parts, gently folding into the batter until well combined. Pour into loaf pans.

In a small bowl,  combine flour, nuts, and sugar. With a fork or fingers, work butter and maple syrup gently into the mixture until combined. Sprinkle liberally across loaves.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, until a skewer inserted inside the center comes out clean. Cool on rack for 20 minutes, then take loaves out of pan to cool completely. Slice and enjoy!







Saturday, December 13, 2014

Lyon Street Café


There is a faint glimmer of a possibility that I drink too much coffee.

Maybe.


This past summer, when I was working in Evanston, I spent all of my days off the exact same way: browsing discount racks at the secondhand bookstore, eating lunch on the rocks by Lake Michigan, and then reading for a few blissful hours at the local Peets.



So even though it's the middle of a Michigan winter and I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, I am (a bit contradictorily) still clinging to cold-brewed coffee with almond milk, because it reminds me in the best ways of summer sand and sunshine lanyards and rain-drenched dancing with my favorite people.


In other caffeine-related news, I started writing this post in the corner booth of a gorgeous new coffee place that just opened in town-the Lyon Street Café. It's all honeyed woodwork and exposed brick and chalkboard paint and warm lighting, tucked into a shop roughly the size of a tea cozy.


 



They serve hot chocolate and an assortment of teas, in addition to coffee, but even the most adorable of teapots couldn't deter me from my hunt for the perfect espresso (today, at least).




All of their drink options are listed on this giant chalkboard behind the cash register; and as you're approaching the counter, there are glass cases and jars filled with all things pastry, if sugar is your love language instead.
 





 
The cortado I ordered was pretty sublime, as was their straight coffee. I found my sister's almond milk café miel a bit too sweet, but it was a nice surprise that they had almond milk available as a substitute.

cortado- espresso cut with warmed milk
pour over coffee (holiday blend)
café miel- espresso, steamed (almond) milk, cinnamon, honey
almond milk iced coffee for the road!


If you're from the area, the Lyon Street Café is well-worth the visit. It's a bit pricey, and seems to always be full, but table turnover is pretty quick and they have free wifi. I went to attempt to  get some winter reading done, and a lot of the customers seemed to be students studying for finals/writing papers/etc. I'm a fan of white noise when I do work, so I didn't find the conversations buzzing in the background to be particularly disruptive (although people who like quiet when they study might find it a bit overwhelming). Incidentally, the music selection was pretty great when we were there. But drop by for a bit, and decide for yourself! (I am personally of the opinion that there can never be too many coffee places in town...)

much (holiday!) love,
j

Monday, December 8, 2014

holiday hibernation


A couple weeks ago, I finished fall term finals and got home for winter break. I'm pretty sure I slept through the first week, but now that the post-exam-hibernation's over, I've been spending more and more time in the kitchen.

Also doing laundry.

Also lying on the floor watching How I Met Your Mother.

Also eating breakfast for every meal. (I swear I didn't eat this much cereal until I started college...)

At any rate, I know there are a zillion and one recipes for oatmeal online already, but this is the one that I've been using for breakfast (and lunch, and dinner, and midnight snacking) since I've been home. It has toasted grains and warming spices and caramelized fruit, and makes the entire house smell like the sugarplum fairy and the gingerbread man set up shop.

 oats and oats and oats
 and farro and bran and grains

 bananas (sometimes, I sing this song when I'm eating a banana)

toasting and caramelizing and Maillard reactions, anyone?

I've also been a bit giddy because it's December; and holiday season is my favorite season. I love Christmas music and string lights and snow-dusted pine trees and hidden presents, and I also have an unhealthy love for lists that's only exacerbated by all of planning that happens right around this time of year. Lists just make me feel organized and put-together (which is not at all true. but still.) Also I get to use color-coded pens. I know it's weird. Shh.

I have present lists (written and rewritten and re-rewritten) and baking lists (for gifting! and also snacking) and cooking lists (for parties and potlucks and picnics and also probably other things that don't start with p, but I can't quite recall them right now) and grocery lists for the baking and cooking, and more present lists (one for friends and one for family) and shopping lists for those presents. And this year, I also have a packing list, because I've just started packing for London (!!!), where I'll be studying all of winter term. It's head-spinning and exciting right now, but will probably be horrifically nerve-wracking when I board the plane in January.

But. Now is not nerve-wracking time. Now is December-ing time. The problem is that as I've gotten older, I feel like I've lost a bit of Christmas cheer. Don't get me wrong, it's 110% still my favorite season; but every year, I feel like I get less and less excited about the holidays. So before I go to London this year, I am committing myself to a rediscovery of the holiday spirit. And to really organize and map out the hunt for Christmas cheer I... wrote a list. Surprise, surprise. And now I'm putting it on the great wide web because now I'll feel just a little bit more accountable for it. Maybe. We'll see how it goes?

Anyways. A very very very merry holiday season to you and yours. Hope it's full of baking and breakfasts and naps and cheer!

much love,
j


teatime = always


Oatmeal Recipe
 (1 serving)
1/3 c old-fashioned rolled oats
1-2 tbsp mixed grains (farro, quinoa, barley, bran, etc.)
1 1/4 c water
1/3 banana (I like to freeze overripe banana chunks to use in oatmeal)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
other spices to taste (ginger, cloves, etc. )
toppings of your choice (dried figs, berries, apple chunks, nuts, honey, etc.)

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, toast oats and other grains (stirring frequently) until they are golden brown and smell a little nutty. Add banana, and let sit for a a minute or so, until the banana chunks get a little bit of color/caramelize. Pour in 1 c water, and cover saucepan for a few minutes-- keep an eye out though, in case things start to boil over!
After a few minutes, uncover the saucepan and let oatmeal thicken (about 10-15 minutes), stirring occasionally if bits get stuck at the bottom. Add cinnamon and other spices, if using. If oatmeal begins to get to thick, add water a tablespoon at a time. When oatmeal is at your desired consistency, turn off the heat, and pour into separate bowl; add desired toppings.

Variations: 

Caramel Apple: Chop half an apple into pea-sized chunks and mix with oats as they are toasting. Apples should release juices and caramelize. Then prepare oatmeal as instructed above; before removing oatmeal from heat, add thinly sliced dried figs, a tsp of honey, and a dash of sea salt. 

Almond-Jam: Add a tbsp of almond butter and a few thinly sliced strawberries to the oatmeal after removing from heat.
 


(this is not oatmeal. this is yogurt. I promise I am not using strange, bleached, magically
billowy oats.)