September

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Autumn seems to be arriving right on time this year, which is so lovely, because September is often peak fire season and heatwaves are not uncommon this time of year around here. This September, however, has been cooler and we’ve even had rain! The leaves on the trees up here in the mountains have a tinge of yellow, so we’ll have some brilliant color very soon. I’ve decided to keep track of what’s been going on for the last few weeks and then just publish a post at the end of the month, so here we go!

In September I finished a most enjoyable series of books called The Lunar Chronicles. I actually read the first one, Cinder, at the beginning of the summer and then requested the others from my library. I had to wait a bit for Scarlet, the second book, and then immediately read the last two, Cress and Winter over Labor Day weekend. I’m not sure how to classify them other than sci-fi/steampunk/fairy tale retellings, but it was a fun series that I highly recommend.

Speaking of fairy tales, I usually also have an audiobook going for my drive to and from work, and this month I finished As You Wish, followed by a screening of The Princess Bride (currently on Netflix). It was charming and fun, and reminded me how much I loved the movie. I highly recommend the audio version of the book, it’s read by Cary Elwes himself, and features many of the other cast members too.

I try to bring my lunch to work most days. I’m always on the lookout for good salad recipes and usually will prep all the ingredients and then eat the same salad for a few days. I found a couple winners via Pinterest this month. First up was Lamb and Dill Meatballs with Horitaki salad. The meatballs were really simple and so delicious. As soon as I was done with the first batch of meatballs I bought more ground lamb for the freezer so I could make them again soon. Basically, everything in this salad is my favorite, so it’s a big winner.

lamb meatball salad

Another new and delicious find was this Moroccan Steak Salad. The prep for this one was more intensive, but worth it. The pomegranate seeds were a nice touch.

steak salad

Here are some of my favorite finds this month:

  • Draw Every Day, Draw Every Way – I’m not an artist, but I decided to start practicing drawing. This is a fun book, full of prompts and different types of paper for sketching. So far I have created some terrible drawings, and a couple that I actually like. I may share more on Instagram eventually.
  • Duolingo <– the link goes to the website, but I’m using the phone app. Twenty-something years ago I was pretty good at speaking Dutch. When you don’t use a language for that many years you get a little rusty. I’ve been practicing with 5-minute sessions and it’s coming back!
  • Hillview Yarns is an Etsy shop recently opened by my friend Vivian. I’ve invested in a few skeins for some hat designs I’ve been working on, and I just love the colors she’s been coming up with, especially her blues and greens. I just got a skein of Socky McSockface for a pair of elaborately cabled socks that I can’t wait to cast on.
  • I’m working on my first sweater made from my handspun yarn, and have another handspun sweater quantity in the works, but I really want to make Mohr from the new Brooklyn Tweed collection.
  • I invested in the handiest piece of jewelry ever: Wrist Ruler (I have the medium leather), also available at Tolt

I like collecting my favorites for the month and just throwing them up here. I think I’ll keep doing this each month.

something delicious

I can’t decide what to do with this here little blog. I don’t know that I have anything terribly unique to say, but I do  like having a record of the things I make and find and like. Instagram and Pinterest make it easy to share and save a lot of those things, but I think this can be a space to elaborate a little more on some of them. So that’s what I’m going to do more regularly here, I think. We’ll see how it goes.

chipotle mushrooms

Here’s a little something delicious to try. Recently Mr. Heylucy and I went out to eat at a local cantina. I was intrigued to find a mushroom appetizer on the menu, since I don’t usually think of mushrooms when I think of Mexican food. They were so delicious that I had to try to replicate them at home. It took a couple of attempts, but they were really quite easy to make. This is my usual non-recipe recipe, exact measurements aren’t essential and should be adjusted for your own tastes, and for the number of servings you need.

You’ll need:
Cremini Mushrooms, thickly sliced
Minced Garlic
Minced Yellow Onion
Canned Chipotles in Adobo, minced
Optional, if you can get it: Epazote, minced
Butter

For two servings I use about half a pound of mushrooms, a couple big cloves of garlic, and an equal amount of onion, and one chipotle along with whatever adobo sticks to it when removing it from the can.

Melt a generous knob of butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and onion and saute until softened. Add the mushrooms and turn up the heat just a bit to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to get a little brown. Add more butter if the pan starts to look dry. Add the chipotle and epazote if you have it, and stir to combine well with the mushrooms. Cook, stirring regularly just a few minutes more, until the mushrooms are tender and a little crisp around the edges.

These are delicious just as they are, but you can sprinkle a some queso fresco on top and just eat them like that. They make a nice taco filling if you have some good, fresh corn tortillas, and they would be perfect as a side with some carne asada.

autumn to-do list

Now it really is starting to feel like autumn up here in the mountains, and the cottonwoods have the barest tinge of yellow. Something about the change of seasons makes me want to get some things done. I made a list, and I’ve already started working on it:

  • Wash and re-block hand knits.
    I pulled out a couple scarves, and they’re not dirty, just a bit crumpled from being shoved in a drawer all summer. A good blocking will do them all some good.
  • Take a crochet class.
    I went on Saturday for a class, and it was so helpful! I’ve done a little crochet on my own, but was never sure if I was doing it right. I especially never felt very comfortable juggling the hook and the yarn. In my class I learned a good way to hold them both, and I can single and double crochet quite well now. I even found a pattern for a ripple blanket and started on the first stripe. I actually had tried to do a similar pattern years ago, but I was never happy with the way it looked. I thought it would be a great project to use up leftover bits of worsted weight yarns. I’ll be working on it for a long time, but it will be a nice break to do a stripe here and there. 

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  • Make roast goose.
    So, I’ll be brief on this one. We had two mean geese. They were noisy and unpleasant and I found someone who was willing to “process” them for me. And now they are in the freezer. I’m still working myself up to it, but I found a good tutorial for when I am ready.
  • Get some more chickens.
    My girls aren’t laying much, and two of the six hens are now six years old, so it’s time for some fresh young hens. I’ll let my old ladies enjoy the rest of their days in our yard, though. They don’t try to nip at me when I feed them.
  • Finish website re-design/cleanup.
    I want to keep things clean and simple around here. I’ll probably do  a little here and there on this one, but I’m still not in a mood to spend my evenings in front of the computer.
  • Learn to use Lightroom, and organize my photos.
    I’ve started doing this too. In fact, I’ve even switched to shooting in RAW. I’m not totally sure what that even means, but I’m doing it! 
  • Bake a cake (flourless, of course).
    Done, and it was good, but I’m still searching for a really good grain-free cake recipe. I used this recipe, and it was dense and moist, which I expected. It was just a little too sweet for me (which might have been the pears I used, they were very ripe and sweet), and a little heavy. But it was so fun to bake again. I won’t be making it a regular habit, just a now and then treat.  

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  • Make a scarf from a piece of Liberty fabric I’ve been hoarding.
    This should take about ten minutes, I’ve got a yard, so I think I’ll just cut it in half and sew it end-to-end for length. 
  • Make a sweater for Pulley
    He doesn’t have fur like the other dogs, I think he’s going to need some warm clothes for the winter. 
  • Start making soup.
    I need to find some new soup recipes. Do you have any good ones? 
  • Knit the perfect cabled sweater.
    I want something cozy and slouchy. This might be just the thing. I have to decide what kind of yarn to use. 
  • Buy a lot of pumpkins and decorate the porch.
    I’ve got two so far, but I’m going to need some more.

Bonus items:

The Autumn pin board.
I also just needed to share the fact that you can follow an astronaut on pinterest.

pickled

I’m so happy there are more farmer’s markets popping up around here. I went to a tiny one at a nursery in a nearby town the other night and came home with a bunch of little golden beets. Mr. Heylucy hates beets. The man will eat anything, except for beets and liver. Luckily, he wasn’t home that night, so I roasted my beet greens with a little olive oil and salt to eat for dinner, along with some salmon. Then I got to work on the beets themselves.

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I looked at a few pickled beet recipes, but I wanted to keep it simple, so I boiled them until they were just tender, and then peeled and sliced them with my trusty cheese plane (aka my poor-man’s mandolin). Next I made a brine with water, apple cider vinegar, pepper corns, mustard seed, bay leaf, salt, and sugar, which I heated just until it started to boil. I poured it over the beets and let it cool. Then I just stuck the jar in the fridge to chill overnight. The next day, I had some delicious (and pretty!) golden pickled beets.

beet salad

I had some in a salad with feta and a simple vinaigrette, but mostly I’ve just been eating them straight out of the jar.

I am going to have to see if I can’t get him to try just one little pickle. He loves pickles.

 

pinterest for dinner

I didn’t really ‘get’ pinterest at first. I have a tumblr blog where I’ve always just posted little inspirations as I come across them, and didn’t think I needed yet another social website to keep track of. In fact, I deleted my account after a few weeks. Then I tried it again, and now I totally get it. It’s the first place I look when I want to find out how to do something. It’s always great when I need a little shot of inspiration. Especially when I need inspiration for dinner.

So this past weekend, while we were still nursing our colds, and any exertion required a 30 minute nap afterward, I wanted something easy, healthy, and delicious for dinner. As usual, pinterest was the solution. I mean really, bacon-wrapped king prawns on rosemary skewers, what could go wrong? Nothing, that’s what. We have a few enormous, overgrown rosemary bushes, so any time I can use some of it, I’m happy. Everything about the prawn recipe sounded good since we haven’t actually felt like eating much lately, and it was really easy and quick. Avocados are at their peak right now, so we are eating them nearly every day, and a simple salad was a nice change from the usual guacamole. I just used some homemade shallot mustard vinaigrette, because I had some in the fridge, but the salad dressing explanation at the link is worth a read if you don’t yet make your own. It’s so easy and so worth it. Have you looked at the ingredients on a bottle of salad dressing these days? It’s a chemistry experiment in a jar.

dinner

Corn has started making an appearance at the farm stand, so I cooked up a couple ears, and it was so good with everything else. How do you like your corn-on-the-cob? I think butter/salt/lime/Cholula hot sauce is pretty much a perfect combination.

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Do you use pinterest for cooking? I find that I am much more likely to make a recipe that I pin to my food board than when I would stumble across a recipe on a website and just think that I’d remember it and make it someday. I’ve already made quite a few things that I’ve pinned, some of which have made it into the regular rotation around here.

list of the week

  1. Have you heard of Skillshare? I’m taking a class to learn the basics of Adobe Illustrator. I think it will be fun, even for a non-artist like me.
  2. Another photo printing app: Printic prints cute little photos that look like Polaroids and come in a cheery orange envelope. I think they make a nice thank you gift. printic
  3. A few books that I’ve read recently and really liked (you’ve probably already heard of most of these, but just in case): The Fault in Our Stars (YA, and I listened to the audiobook. my advice: don’t listen in the car on the way to work. my mascara was just ruined one day), Phantom (the best in the Harry Hole series, I hope it’s not the last), The Paris Wife (now I want to read A Moveable Feast and re-read A Farewell to Arms), Dark Places (Gillian Flynn’s second novel, I liked it better than Sharp Objects, although it was dark, it didn’t have quite the twists and turns of Gone Girl). I’ve been reading the Isabel Dalhousie series, but now that I’m on to book four I’m realizing that I don’t care all that much for Isabel, so I don’t know that I’ll go any farther.
  4. I made this and it was really rich, but also really delicious.cheese shrimp flatbread

french apple tart

I know, I know, yesterday I wrote all about how sugar makes me depressed and how I'm continuing to eat as well as I can, and now I'm going to talk about this lovely, sweet, decadent dessert. Really, though, I don't think I'm as hypocritical as I might seem. I've been busy doing a lot of work around the house and just wanted a break to do something quiet and pleasant, like bake. Plus, I will probably be sharing a large portion of this tart with a friend when I see her tomorrow, and I didn't use too much sugar and will probably be happy with just a small slice. Have I justified myself enough now?  

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I can't claim that this is authentically French, but I did make it in a French tart pan, and used creme fraiche, hence the "french" in the name. There's a hint of cinnamon throughout, and I used a new to me apple, called Pacific Rose. The last few years it seems that there are more apple varieties available in my local grocery store. I'm not actually a huge apple fan, but baked in a tangy custard with a nutty almond crust? Well, considered me converted to the apple.  

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I used coconut sugar in the filling, just because I bought some awhile ago, thinking that it might be healthier than refined sugar, but it probably isn't any better. You should be able to substitute the sweetener of your choosing. This was an experiment, but I'm happy to say that it was a successful one! So this time I'm sharing an actual, real recipe. How do you like them apples? Oh, and it should go without saying that it's completely gluten-free. 

image from www.flickr.com

French Apple Tart

Crust
1 ½ cups almond meal
½ t. vanilla paste
4 T. butter, melted
2 T. sugar (raw, brown or white)
Dash of cinnamon

Filling
2-3 apples, peeled and sliced thin
1 c. crème fraiche
1 large egg
1 t. vanilla paste
¼ c. coconut sugar (or sugar of your choice)
½ t. cinnamon
2 T. coconut flour

Topping
4 T. butter, softened
2 T. almond meal
¼ c.  brown sugar
Dash of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust: Combine all ingredients and press into the bottom and up the sides of a 14” x 4.5” tart pan. Bake for 5 minutes.

For the filling: Combine all the ingredients except for the apple slices. Arrange the apple slices on the crust in the pan. Carefully pour the cream mixture over the apples.

For the topping: Mash all the ingredients together with a fork. It will be crumbly! Sprinkle on top of the filling.

Place tart pan in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, until apples are tender, and filling is set and golden brown. Let cool, remove sides from tart pan, and slice and enjoy!

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I even made a PDF download, if you'd like to print it, just click the link below! 

Download French Apple Tart 

real food part two

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 Grilled, grass-fed steak salad with bleu cheese vinaigrette

I thought a follow up was in order for my real food post from last summer. Traveling and holidays were somewhat challenging, and I probably had too much sugar, too many white potatoes (in various forms, including fries), and too many seed oils while eating out. Still, despite a few setbacks, for the most part I have continued to eat primarily whole, fresh foods and very few processed foods and grains, and now I am back to eating the way I talked about in that previous post.

A few weekends ago I splurged and had a small slice of pizza. Then I went to Ikea and had some meatballs, because why would you go to Ikea and not have Swedish meatballs? I have learned my lesson, however. First of all, the meatballs were not quite as good as I remembered. Second, I'm pretty sure there is flour in some form in not only the meatballs, but also the sauce (if this is accurate, then yes, it's in both). While my first reaction to a little flour is nausea and then other digestion problems, I was surprised to wake up the following Monday with terrible aching joints. I had forgotten that I had regularly felt that way, and would wake up stiff and sore nearly every morning. As I thought back, I realized that I just accepted that feeling as part of getting older, although I wasn't really that old, and was disappointed to think that it would only get worse with each passing year. I'm not saying that I will never eat pizza again, but most of the time it's not going to be worth the consequences. 

Another lesson I learned recently: I was going to run some errands, including shopping for a new pair of jeans-I needed a smaller size, which was a very happy thing. I stopped at my local coffee shop and decided to treat myself with a fancy, warm drink, since it was a cold day. The barista recommended something she had just made for herself-an egg nog steamer with hazelnut syrup. Sounds delicious, right? I've always been an egg nog fan, so I took my drink and went on my way. I sipped as I drove, and it was just so, so sweet. Still, I kept sipping and probably made it through about 2/3 of the cup before I just had to stop and throw it away. I ran my errands and stopped at the Gap outlet for my new! jeans! I took four of five pair into the dressing room and was trying them on when the sugar crash hit. It was crazy, I went from happy and energetic to completely depressed in a matter of minutes. I was so down that I just couldn't face trying on any more clothes and left empty handed. I went straight home and took a nap. I had never connected my sugar consumption to the depression I've battled with in the past, but I think there really is a correllation. 

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Greens and mushroom gratin

I'll be honest, I am losing weight very, very slowly. My relationship with food, however, is so much better. I always considered myself an emotional eater. The problem was that any emotion was a reason to eat, especially sugary and processed foods. Sad? How about package of Chips Ahoy? Stressed? Maybe some crunchy potato chips would help with that. Happy? Let's celebrate with a treat from the bakery! Tired? Better go to a drive-thru and pick up something for dinner. The problem was that none of those foods have enough nutrition to really feed my body, so I would just want more and more. And then of course I would beat myself up for my lack of willpower. Willpower is a bunch of nonsense when it comes to eating. Hunger is a physical need, you can't eat a thousand calories worth of cookies and expect to assuage the physical need your body has for the nutrients it wants to run and repair itself. When I eat well, I find that I have no interest in that package of cookies, and my sweet tooth is satisfied with a little bit of dark chocolate or a few bites of good ice cream. I find myself having very interesting cravings now, for things like kale or salmon. It's as if my body can really tell me what it needs to function better now.

This week I've been having a weird dairy craving. I'm not sure what it is that I need, but I'm drinking tea with cream and eating cheese like crazy. And yet I've lost two pounds this week. Which brings me to another point. Fat! I eat lots and lots of good fat (coconut oil, olive oil, butter, and egg yolks are my staples). It's what fills me up, and I think it also helps eliminate that joint pain, not to mention making my skin glow and my hair shiny and healthy. What happened when we were all told that a diet low in fat and high in "healthy whole grains" was good for us in the late 1970s? We now have an epidemic of diabeties and obesity. I really think there is a connection, not to mention the mutant strains of wheat and corn which are found in pretty much everything, and snack foods are concoctoed by "food chemists" for maximum palatability (in other words, when you eat them, you will want to continue eating them). I want to eat food made from actual food, cooked by me or a chef, not concocted in a lab by chemists. Okay, enough of that little rant, sorry! 

 

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Twice-baked cauliflower (not something I would regularly make, but boy did it help with the dairy cravings!)

I want to encourage anyone with health problems to consider the way they are eating. I'm not saying that modern medicine isn't a wonderful thing, but I really do think we can heal so many ailments by eating well. There was a comment from Adee on one of my food posts about a month after I wrote that original real food post, and it made me so, so happy:

Adee aka kiwigirl42 said…

thank you so much for your early Aug blog post about healthier eating habits and paleo/ primal eating. It really struck a chord with me – I've now been fully primal for 5 wks, lost 9lb and my fibromyalgia pain is 90% improved. Its made such a difference to my life. I've even got some lacto fermented sauerkraut brewing on the bench! (from 'Nourishing Traditions' by Sally Fallon, really great book)

 

I hope you're still doing well Adee! I hope that others with similar health issues will also give it a try and see the same kind of improvements!

P.S. I have lost a total of 35 pounds since I started eating this way last April and hope to lose another 25 this year, it has been painless and requires very little willpower, but does mean that I have to be dedicated to cooking for myself every day, and making good choices when I do (seldom) eat out. Grocery shopping and meal planning have gotten easier now that I have more experience cooking this way, so if it seems hard at first, just keep at it! 

P.S.S. The greens and mushroom gratin is this recipe, which I found via Pink of Perfection, and it is amazingly delicious. Leftovers were a fantastic breakfast the next morning, topped with an egg, over easy.

The cauliflower recipe I found here, but I didn't use any low-fat ingredients, they seem too franken-foodish to me, I would rather just eat the real thing. It was deliciously rich and satisfying. I eat (organic and raw) dairy regularly, although not usually that much at one time, so I wouldn't consider this an every day kind of thing, but boy, was it good!

build a better salad

I am a pretty good salad maker. I don't mean a little afterthought side salad as part of a meal, little more than a way to add a few extra vegetables to the table. I'm talking about a meal in itself, one that will keep you going for hours. Most days, I eat a late breakfast and then have a late lunch/early dinner. When I went into an office every day, I kept a stockpile of salad ingredients in the communal fridge and made a meal that was the envy of my co-workers. I've missed my salads, and while we've been craving warm and comforting meals lately, it's sunny and almost warm today, so I'm going to make a salad.

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Saturday's haul from the farmer's market: lots of salad ingredients!

I thought I'd share my salad formula, because salad is good for everyone, and no one should have to suffer through another boring salad.

Obviously, get what is fresh and looks good. We're lucky to have decent tomatoes year-round here, but when I've lived elsewhere, I didn't buy them this time of year. They will only taste like cardboard and bring your salad down. But root vegetables and greens are fresh, delicious, and readily available right now, so build your salad around them and wait until summer for those tomatoes. 

I like to think of my salad ingredients in categories, and then assemble a salad by using one or more items from each category. First up, of course, is the greens category. 

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Of course there all the usual lettuces: romaine, baby greens, red leaf, even iceberg is good for some kinds of salads; I also like arugula, and of coarse, baby spinach. Raw cabbage makes a nice crunchy backdrop. Kale is a sturdy green that I most often cook to eat, but it makes a hearty salad green when raw and paired with a warm bacon or sausage dressing. Sometimes I stick with one kind of green and just let it be the background for the other ingredients, or sometimes I'll mix and match several different greens. 

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 After the greens, what most often determines the direction I take a salad is the protein. This is a meal, and it's protein (and fat) that keep me full. I've used every kind of protein you could imagine in a salad. Grilled or poached chicken or fish, leftover steak, eggs, various types of charcuterie, kofta kebabs or gyro meat, canned tuna. Whatever your preference, it will make an excellent salad ingredient.

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Next up, I fill up my salad bowl with vegetables, raw and/or cooked. This is where salads really become seasonal. The farmer's market was full of root vegetables this past weekend, so I got radishes, beets, and small, sweet carrots. Roasted, the beets and carrots will add an earthy comfort. Raw carrots and radishes will add freshness and crunch. Vegetables really allow you to add texture and color, which I think is the secret to a good salad. 

 

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I also like to finish off a salad with an extra flourish (or two). Maybe some nuts for crunch, and dried fruit for chewy sweetness, or salty olives and capers. These are especially nice in a salad with salmon or tuna. Sun-dried tomatoes are an excellent solution for a winter salad. A few crumbles of a strong cheese like feta or gorgonzola make a salad feel just a little more special. Fresh herbs are another way to add an unexpected flavor. 

As for dressing my salads, I stick to simple vinegarettes, and most of the time I'm super lazy and just drizzle everything with olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice. If I'm feeling more ambitious, I'll shake the ingredients up in a jar, and add some herbs and spices and maybe a little dijon mustard.

I also often go with ethnic ingredients and let the cuisine of a country influence what I put in a salad. Here are a few examples of some favorite salad combinations, if you get stuck: 

Antipasto:

Arugula, artichoke hearts, prosciutto and/or salami, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh mozzerella, with olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Mexican:

Romaine and/or iceberg lettuce, grilled chicken, cilantro, fresh corn, tomatoes, jicama, red or yellow bell peppers, thinly sliced jalapeno, avocado. Top with salsa and a drizzle of crema or sour cream for dressing and sprinkle some cheddar or queso freca on top.

Turkish/Middle Eastern:

This is a chopped salad, dice everything roughly the same size: fresh tomatoes, cucumbers (I love the little Persian ones), bell peppers in assorted colors, a little onion, if you dare! Add some good olives, and toss with olive oil and lemon juice and sprinkle with sumac and chopped, fresh parsley. I like this with any kind of kebab, particularly kofta kebabs (seasoned ground lamb and beef), and a dollop of thick, Greek style yogurt.

Nicoise:

Mixed greens, grilled salmon or canned tuna, blanched green beans and boiled or roasted new potatoes, nicoise or kalamata olives and a hard boiled egg, quartered. Sprinkle with capers and dress with a lemon vinegarette. And imagine you are in the south of France.

 

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Sometimes, I even have salad for breakfast (roasted beet greens and an egg, over-easy).

What do you like to include in your salads? 

farmer’s market

I went to the farmer's market in Little Italy this morning. It was a beautiful day. Sometimes it's really nice to live in California.

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