Chocolate – and the pleasures of life

I like chocolate in just about any form… candy bars, white chocolate, hot cocoa, ice cream, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, semi sweet, cocoa, Nutella, cake, cookies, cocoa nibs… the list is endless!

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It’s really, really easy for me to just keep eating/munching/sipping on chocolate. Admittedly, when you’ve had enough, you’ve had enough, like with super rich, amazing hot cocoa.

It helps that chocolate, especially the darker it gets, is actually good for you! I don’t feel as guilty munching on it then.

Which brings me to something I’ve slowly come to realize… even when food is good for you, you don’t need to pig out on it!

This is something I’ve come to realize from reading French Women Don’t Get Fat, by Mireille Guiliano. She points out that you don’t need to have lots of something to enjoy it, and often your treat tastes best in the first few bites.

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What sparked the idea for this blog post was a bag of dark chocolate chips on the table, which I naturally took advantage of by putting some chocolate chips in a little cup and munching on them while I worked on a few things in the kitchen. What’s strange is that, practically from the beginning, I planned on getting a second helping before leaving the room. I was nearly done with my first batch, when I suddenly realized I didn’t really feel like having anymore! Naturally, I wanted more, but I had had enough.

I have fallen into the bad habit of thinking I need more to really be satisfied… and that chocolate, or something else, is the only thing that will satisfy me. As Hannah and I realized recently, and laughed over for about 10 minutes, was that we fall into the habit of saying the extra collection we get of some treat (weather it’s chips, chocolate or fruit) is our treat, and all the rest of the munching didn’t really count!

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Food is a good thing – well, most of the time. And there is nothing wrong with eating! As I have mentioned before, cooking makes me happy… food makes me happy!

But one problem I realize I’ve had is relying on food to make me happy.

I have just as much, if not more sometimes, pleasure in the company of friends and family, or the early blossoms of March, or a nice cup of tea, or finishing Northanger Abbey, or taking a walk, or loving my dog, or listening/playing music. I don’t need food, even chocolate, to make any of those things better than they already are.

What about you? What are some of your favorite simple, awesome pleasures? I’d love to hear about them!

Hope everyone continues to have a great week!

Sarah

 

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Saturday Random Recipe: Quinoa!

Here’s a recipe I’ve been meaning to share with you for a quite a while. For weeks I’ve been building up to it, so now I’ll finally get to it!

This recipe was a part of my collection of Summer Recipes, great for doing when you don’t feel like heating up the house, and generally enjoying the produce of the Summer. Unfortunately, Summer is practically over, and my thoughts are turning to soups and apples. However, I will share this recipe in celebration of Summer. September is generally the best of Summer anyway, when we can usually get access to good Summer fruit, and enjoy cooler days.

I think I’ve already mentioned this recipe, from Mireille Guiliano‘s cookbook, for Fruit Salad with Quinoa, which serves 4-6. Here it is:

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice (or lemon juice)
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon zest lime (or lemon, or omit)
  • 1 pound mixed fruit (strawberries, peaches, grapes, melon, blackberries, raspberries)
  • Fresh mint sprigs

Cook the quinoa according to the package instructions. Drain and cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together the liquid ingredients

Prepare the fruit. Place all the fruit in a serving bowl and add the cooled quinoa. Add the liquid mixture and toss to combine. Garnish with mint and serve.

dscn7895First of all, this recipe is really flexible and fun. You can probably use whatever fruit you have on hand. I find I really like peaches or nectarines with it. (and don’t worry about measuring how much fruit you use. Just do as much as you want)

A few important things to know:

rinse the quinoa! I didn’t for a while, but it really helps to lessen the unusual, sort of bitter flavor. Also, the mint garnish is very important. It provides a fun, fresh flavor. Plus, be ready to add more lemon juice or honey, depending on what you want.

I also find that it’s not necessary to let the quinoa cool completely. I like how it softens the fruit a little when it’s warm, but this salad is best cooler.

I really, really like this salad. It kind of helped me get into quinoa, which I find has it’s own personality that you have to get used to. I also really like this recipe for get-togethers with friends (they have to be the right friends. If you bring a fruit salad with funny looking soppy bits, they may not get the idea). It provides a fresh, unusual, side dish thing that, conveniently, provides some protein, which is sometimes needed with these random get-togethers.

And there we go! That wasn’t so hard…

Oh, and keep Mireille Guiliano in mind, because I’ll be bringing her up again soon.

By the way, I’d love to hear what your favorite quinoa recipe is! I’m still trying to figure it out, so I’d love to hear from you!

Hope you continue to have a great weekend,

Sarah

Random Recipe Saturday: Applesauce Muffins

So, as you might have noticed, we’ve been slightly distracted lately – not posting as often or as consistently, getting sidetracked, forgetting all about stuff that we meant to talk about. Sigh! Poor readers… There are all sorts of reasons: Olympics, visiting neighbor-cats, sales on Etsy (yay!), forgetfulness, etc..

One of the biggest distractions is that this month we are trying out gluten-free! Many people talk about how healthy it is to cut wheat out of your diet, so we decided to do a scientific 31 day attempt at it to see how we do. With a couple of minor slips, so far so good! No miraculous cures, but it’s been fun.

We’ll talk about this experiment in more depth later. Meanwhile, here’s a lovely gluten-free recipe that I made up, which is really good! (I think I forgot to take a picture before we ate them all…):

Gluten-Free Applesauce Muffins

Grease two muffin tins and preheat the oven to 425 F. In the same cup, pour and allow to sit:

  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ cup milk

Mix together:

  • 2 cups oat flour
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1 cup other flour (I used quinoa, which has a distinct flavor and therefore might not be to everyone’s taste)
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ to 1 cup chopped nuts (optional): add at after mixing everything else

Mix in a large bowl

  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup apples sauce
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • The milk and vinegar mixture
 

Mix the dry ingredients into the wet, stir thoroughly, and allow to sit for about ½ hour (which helps the flours to absorb the moisture). Divide the dough into the muffin tins, filling each cup about ¾ way full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, switching the tins’ places about halfway, until golden brown and the tops spring back when dented lightly with a finger.

Makes about 24.

  • Dairy-free: Substitute extra apple sauce or apple juice for the milk. Doesn’t have to sit, of course
  • Nut-free: Leave out the nuts! (ok, that was a little snarky…)
  • Substitute wheat flour (half-white, half-whole grain) for a non-gluten-free version
  • Substitute honey or maple syrup for the sugar (though the muffins might burn easily!)
  • Add raisins or chopped apples

Enjoy by themselves, or with a bit of butter or jam or cream cheese. Or with a steamy mug of hot cocoa for an autumnal treat (I keep telling myself it’ll be here soon)!

-Abigail-

Patriotic Popcorn!

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We love playing with popcorn recipes, and this is one of my personal favorites! Popcorn is already a distinctly American food, so we added a kettle-corn flavor, and some red-white-and-blue:

  • Popped corn, about 1/2 cup (see basic recipe here)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp. red sugar sprinkles (approximately)  – the kind used to decorate cookies
  • 1 tsp. blue sugar sprinkles (approximately)
  • 1 tsp. salt (or less!)
  • A grind or two of fresh white pepper (optional)

Drizzle popcorn with butter and oil while still hot. Then sprinkle generously with salt and sugars, creating an awesome patriotic look.

Enjoy!

-Abigail-

 

Saturday Random Recipe: Ice

It’s hot outside. Actually, it’s not too hot right now. But it will be hot. And this year, I’m trying to embrace that.

IMG_1072I’m getting more annoyed at the heat than I usually do, possibly because it seems a little more humid than some times. But I’m trying to figure out ways that make me happy with it being hot.

There’s the practical side, such as the fact that, I think, grapes – and therefore wine – taste better when it’s a hot year. So this year should have some really good wine!

Also, there’s more reason for you to take Annie’s example – on the left – and get wet and have fun.

I’m also trying to figure out other methods of having fun being hot, as well as figure out ways to keep cool.

First of all, the worst way to cool down when you’re out in the sun is to fume and moan about how hot it is. It’s easy for me to do that, even if it’s just in my head. But it just makes it worse. So I’m trying to embrace it- lizard style- with cicadas chirping mildly in the background and an occasional butterfly fluttering by.

IMG_1060  I’m also trying to figure out what this one style of music is, which we have only a few songs of, that reminds me of a certain kind of temperament that allows the sun to pass over you in golden downpour while you enjoy the doze of a Summer afternoon. As Abigail put it recently: “People have been sweating for years.”

So, one way I have to keep cool, which practically contradicts everything I just said with the fact that it’s so cool, is Icicle Tea, pictured on the right.

I was inspired to try this when I had some snow cones. It’s like iced tea, but hardcore.

IMG_1051Basically, I can’t give any specific instructions for this ‘recipe’, because it depends entirely on what you want. Personally, I suggest you make some tea, preferably with tea bags and extremely strong. I like mint or green/mint best for this, with some fresh mint leaves on the side.

Crush ice in a blender, with some of the tea – I like enough ice to have a small iceberg, as pictured.

Note: this is surprisingly messy, and you will need a lot of ice if you’re doing this for several people. Also, you will have to make the tea a little in advance so it has time to cool and get stronger.

Icicle Tea is surprisingly, wonderfully refreshing and extremely simple. Serve it in a pretty, clear glass, with a spoon, for people to enjoy the ice, which is gently flavored with tea. I also recommend that you sit and enjoy the beverage, under a patio or back porch if you prefer, for a few minutes, to properly enjoy the flavor.

I hope everyone’s having a good Summer so far! If you’re anywhere near where we are – at least in temperature – then it’s far from over. Summer’s still one of my favorite seasons, although we’re in the dull part, so I’m not too sorry. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the heat, or beat it, and I’d love to hear what everyone has to say!

Hope you continue to have a good weekend!

Sarah

P.S. I just remembered! Another way I’m enjoying the Summer is by having sort of desert animals as my computer background. Backgrounds are very important for me, and kind of signify what I want to do, how I feel about the month, or just simply to add a bit of fun in there. For instance, August is a very dull month, so I’ll probably have some funny backgrounds.

This second half of July, I decided to go with giraffes, because they’re so cute and fun and embody the meaning of having fun in the sun. Well, one of the embodiments…

POPCORN!!!

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One of the greatest snacks has got to be popcorn.

It’s simple, low calorie, cholesterol free, salt free, gluten free…! Of course, it also sometimes gets stuck in your teeth, but nothing’s perfect.

I speak of the kind of popcorn that doesn’t come premixed in a microwavable bag, or covered in caramel, or in vats at a movie theater: This is classic popcorn, easy to make and delicious (with a little help).

Popcorn has been part of our family for as long we can remember – the most basic of comfort foods. We always had it on Sunday nights, maybe with a cup of chocolate milk and a British mystery on TV, dressed with butter and Spike or Vegit and maybe bottled parmesan cheese. I (ahem!) never really liked it. Then a few years ago we started experimenting with different toppings, and a whole world of wonderful popcorn-ness opened up!

We’ll share some of our favorite recipes with you in the coming weeks, but first the basics:

  • Air Popper. Seriously; get one! It is the easiest way to make popcorn without burning it or risking one of those odd bags. And, poppers are usually affordable and don’t take up much space.
  • Popcorn. Available everywhere! Pop about 1/4 cup.
  • Butter. Yes, this is essential – and that sort of messes up the healthiness. Oh well! Melt 2 Tbsp., or a mix of butter and aromatic oil such as extra virgin olive or coconut.
  • Toppings. The simplest is salt – not more than a light sprinkle!

And there you go! Almost as simple as chips-and-honey! Here are a few more topping suggestions:

  • Salt and pepper
  • Salt and a smidge of sugar
  • Parmesan or other hard cheese, finely grated
  • Your favorite salt-free seasoning (like the above-mentioned Spike and Vegit)
  • Desert Garden’s Green Chile or Chipotle seasoning (delicious! but may cause sneezing)
  • Cinnamon-sugar

Have fun! Some themed mixes to follow, but please create and share with us some of your favorite ways to have popcorn!

-Abigail-

Saturday Random Recipe: Sweet and Golden

So, I thought I’d do a short, probably sporadic series of recipes that are good for Summertime. When someone says ‘Summer food‘ I generally think fresh stuff, preferably with a lot of fruit. But it doesn’t necessarily have to mean that. In this case, I mean food that you can make quickly, easily and generally without much cooking. In fact – raw. I think that’s the latest thing.

IMG_1271Today, I thought I’d feature a simple treat we enjoy in New Mexico. It’s possibly the simplest, most humble delicacy you can come by – either of our own invention, or an actual New Mexican discovery.

Chips and honey. There’s really not much more I need to say.

What you need: crisp tortilla chips and good, strong honey (preferably from New Mexico)

Chips and honey are best after a dish or bite of green chili. Part of the reason is that honey is good for calming the fire. Another good way to stop the burning is tea, milk or, of course, sour cream.

This recipe is simple, crunchy, salty and sweet. Plus, it’s really easy, and takes all of about 3 minutes to prepare, if you know where everything is. I’ve managed it in about a minute!

IMG_1277This was going to be the shortest blog post I’d ever write, but then I started thinking it would be fun to find out some favorite, regional treats. So, I got on the Etsy forums, and got some absolutely fascinating and funny answers.

Paulie was the first to answer with – ‘Dutch’ Shoe Fly Pie, whoopie pies, red beet pickled eggs, scrapple and corn meal mush.

In the Pacific Northwest there’s a fry sauce that can be served with French fries, but is also good on burgers, hot dogs and chicken tenders. On the subject of French fries, Letha from New Jersey mentioned they’re sometimes served with gravy or taylor ham. (by the way, fries are also good with 505)

Susan mentioned that rhubarb used to grow wild where she lived, and she loves rhubarb pie. She also mentioned that pickled watermelon rind is a favorite in Pennsylvania. I haven’t tried it yet, but at least I’ve heard of it.

Several other, interesting treats were mentioned, but I probably can’t go over all of them. Some of them were moon pies, tomato pie from NY, maple candy from Maine and fluffernutter (gesundheit).

But I saved the best for last. Quoting Tot Brill:

Yorkshire curd tart made with beastings, Wendlesdale or Coverdale cheese with fruit cake or apple pie and savory duck (a kind of spicy, herby sausagey bake made with liver and other bits and so totally not a duck”

I enjoyed seeing what interesting food there is around the world and the US. Food is fascinating!

I’d love to hear what treats you love, either regional, summertime, or just something you’ve got to always have on hand. Just leave a comment! This is food we’re talking about – there’s never enough said! 🙂

Sarah