kitchen inspirations

Lately I’ve had two pretty terrific sources of cooking inspiration.

One is this truly fantastic whole grain cinnamon swirl bread from Smitten Kitchen. Yeah, chew on that.

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Let me count the ways:

– It’s 100% whole grain

– The dough is astonishingly cooperative transforming from a sticky bundle to a perfectly pliant and supple loaf with minimal input

– It looks fancy but is easy

– It takes like dessert but is healthy

– It makes two loaves; one to chuck in the freezer and one to eat immediately

– It can be made into a versatile plain loaf with no cinnamon stuff

– It tastes like absolute heaven with cream cheese and jelly. DSC04656

My aunt Dena would always make me cinnamon swirl toast with cream cheese and jelly for breakfast when I’d go to her house as a kid. My 8-year-old self might be slightly suspicious of the hippified version I made, with lower-fat Neufchatel cheese and organic low sugar strawberry jam.

But damn it is good.

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Cinnamon raisin money shot.

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I am particularly inspiring, to toot my own horn, to be cooking up a storm the way I did given that until quite recently the back of my stove/oven looked like this.

Way to give me confidence in my safety from electrocution, shady apartment management company. Kudos.

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Anyway that got fixed. I housed all that bread on the breakfast front. As for the dinner front, I was all about this bad boy:

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I am totally a Madhur Jaffrey groupie. I think she is a genius. All of her recipes are so perfectly concise. They don’t have anything extraneous, and thus are simple to make. And at the same time, every ingredient contributes, creating perfection. Perfection!

I had some pals over for an extremely casual dinner party. I made Tunisian-style lentils that involved lots of olive oil, turmeric, chili powder, and cumin. Everyone loved them; including my vegetarian guest and two carnivorey boys.

I also made Persian-style carrots with dried apricots. The ingredients looked vair pretty all chopped up together.

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I also made something I discovered more or less by accident:

Take some romaine lettuce, either from the heart or the outer leaves is fine. Wash, and let it stay a little damp. Toss it with olive oil (a good amount), salt, and garlic powder. Put into a hot oven, like you’d use for kale chips.

The thin edges of the leaves get crispy and faux-fried like kale chips. The thick center of the leaves taste LIKE BRAISED ENDIVE!

My relatives who read the blog can, I know, recount the amazingness my grandmother would create with Belgian endive. She was able to shop at the commissary (my grandfather was an army officer) and could get affordable, beautiful produce, including endive. I have no such luck at my own local grocery store (shocking), but was absolutely ecstatic to learn I could approximate it with the much more common and cheap Romaine.

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Also made some coconut rice so the boys would have some nice filling starch.

Mmm this was a meal. I know it’s not that impressive looking, but it’s a lot of simple deliciousness.

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I’d rescued some bruised apples from work and turned them into a crisp. It was good as a vanilla ice cream vehicle (obviously) but a little dull on its own. I’d just gotten it from a random website via a Google search. Goes to show you you should get your recipe inspiration from credible sources 🙂

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homecomings

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I went home for a super speedy visit a few weekends ago. It wasn’t a holiday or a special occasion or anything- and maybe that was the point! It’s so nice to hang out with the fam with no agenda.

My sister and I took a springtimey walk on my favorite W and OD trail and saw a big deer party.

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My mom nicely treated us to a grad school celebration dinner at Busboys and Poets. This was my first time sitting in this section of the restaurant- loved the mural!

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As always, it was packed. Lots of people watching- there were some extremely adorable babies.

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We split the vegan nachos as an appetizer. WOW they were good!

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First of all, the black eyed peas were inspired! So meaty. Second of all, it was my first time trying Daiya cheese, which I know all the vegans rave about. It totally tasted like CHEETOS!

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My mama got the seared tuna and bok choy, both of which were awesome.

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My sister got the creatively-presented shrimp and grits.

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And I got my favorite vegan tuna salad! Apparently this is a big vegan thing but Busboys and Poets was the first place I ever had it, and now I keep going back for more! The salad involves chickpeas, vegan mayonnaise, pickle relish, and all sorts of yummy little crunchy bits. It is SO GOOD! I fantasized about the Busboys and Poets sweet potato fries but in an unusual moment of restraint I got a side salad instead.

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I took home basically half of this meal (see the nachos above to figure out why!) and then left it in the refrigerator. Arrrgh. Malindi, Mom, I hope you thoroughly enjoyed it.

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My last trip home was for Greek (F)Easter. That’s a post in and of itself, but this post will provide an all important Scottie update. This is Jasper, named for my late grandfather. His life has become a bit trying since his bossy little sister came home.

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Can you even with his cute furry face?

So exhausted. I rubbed his back for a long time.

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This is Alice. She is a delight! Despite her bossiness.

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My auntie and I spent a lot of time hanging out on her heavenly porch.

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I worked hard on various important projects.

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Jeanie was kind enough to get me some takeout sushi at her business lunch earlier in the day.

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And gave me these incredibly awesome bunny chopsticks to use.

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Miso soup (for which my allergy-wracked throat was deeply grateful, since I was on the way to sing at the Good Friday service), salad with yummy ginger dressing, and one each shrimp tempura and spicy tuna roll.

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Sushiiiiii.This was good stuff. The shrimp tempura had really good asparagus, and both had a nice, low rice ratio. I hate the cheapo places that give you no filling and tons of flavorless rice.

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Sushi in the golden hour. The porch view is uh-mazing. Someday when I’m a grownup I want my house to look like this.

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eats lately

I ate this magnificent dinner two nights in a row.

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It involved:

– lentils, sweet potatoes, and rice, cooked up with salsa. The rice was an amalgamations of several sets of leftovers from meals out (one risotto-y with herbs, one mujaddary-y with onions and lentils, and one Mexican-y with tomatoes and spices)

– lotsa avocado

– queso

– fried egg on top.

I seriously can’t think of when I’ve felt more satisfied (that’s what she said).

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So I typically really like tuna and tuna sandwiches but I went awhile without eating tuna. Then, I was craving a comfort food tuna noodle casserole. I made a bunch (intending to eat leftovers for a few days), and found myself more and more disgusted by it as it cooked on my stove. I choked down a single helping and then flung it in my freezer.

Fast forward a few weeks and I wanted to deal with it. Plus Steve was coming over for dinner and he encourages my cooking experiments. So I decided to thoroughly disguise the tuna noodle spinach creamy casserole by thawing it, mashing it up with eggs using a potato masher, breading it with breadcrumbs, and making croquettes! End product looked like this:

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So they were baking away in the oven (just greased a broiler pan and sprayed some olive oil spray on top of them) and I was attempting to do an online kickboxing workout.

And then the smell of tuna wafted through my apartment and I thought I was going to vomit/pass out.

I hid in my room and buried my face in the pillow.

But then rallied, and made a nice Sriracha mayo to complement the flavors of the croquettes. (Well, complement for Steve. Disguise for me.)

It ended up being pretty successful.

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Rounded out the meal with some lovely fresh asparagus, sauteed in olive oil with salt.

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It was even pretty on the plate. I daresay this looked like an amusing Muppet-esque face.

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And Steve LOVED it. Which is good, since the thought of reheating these things and smelling them made me feel queasy all over again, so I sent them home with Steve.

No, I’m not pregnant.

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Speaking of Steve, he cooked me a really great meal lately.

I began by slicing this seed-licious loaf of bread from Weaver Street market.

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Meanwhile, Steve was cooking up nummy eggs (also from Weaver Street Market, where you can get eggs from chickens who live 20 minutes away).

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Both were designed to accompany this wonderful sweet potato- squash- okra- corn soup. Perfectly spiced- gentle heat!

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Molly wanted some real bad. (That purple thing behind her? I don’t know if it was once a Teletubby or what but man all that dog wants to do- other than beg for human food- is yank that toy out of my hand.

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We sat down to beautifully plated soup, artfully sprinkled with toasted pepitas, with a perfectly fried egg on top.

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Plus some delish red wine.

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And a salad with parmesan, eggs, and strawberries, dressed with olive oil and lime.

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(fun fact- the strawberries were ever so slightly still frozen. It really livened up my first bite of salad!)

Annnnnd that wonderful bread, toasted with generous Steve portions of butter on top. 

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Serenityyyyyyyy.

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