Two things

One: a picture of Daisy, the hen Nina sponsors at the Refuge. When I was visiting a couple of days ago, she couldn’t wait to rush over and give me a smooch.

daisy kisses

Two: a favorite way to eat chickpeas. Because sometimes a big mess of gooey, savory-sweet chickpeas is all it takes to make me happy. Especially served over sticky rice.

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Teriyaki chickpeas

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This recipe is adapted from a teriyaki sauce my friend Kevin Archer made for one of our cooking classes. Truth be told, I often have a giant jar of this hanging out in the fridge for drizzling into stir fries or dipping spring rolls, it’s that good. If you want to do the same thing, just quadruple the recipe; it should keep for a couple of weeks. I use an enamel-coated cast iron skillet when making these chickpeas. If you’ve ever had to scrape something sticky out of a regular cast iron skillet and then re-season it, you’ll know where I’m coming from.

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1 teaspoon corn starch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
3/4 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon tamari
3 tablespoons agave nectar or maple syrup
splash rice vinegar
2 cups cooked chickpeas (or one 15-ounce can), drained

Dissolve the cornstarch, adding an additional tablespoon of water if necessary. Whisk in everything else except the chickpeas. Warm up a large skillet over medium heat. Add the drained chickpeas, then the teriyaki mixture. Toss to coat. Simmer until the sauce has reduced to a thick glaze, stirring occasionally to keep the chickpeas from sticking.

Prep time: 5 minutes | Cook time: 10 minutes

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brain candy

the-great-blizzard-of-2014Fifteens minutes, then the flakes turned to drizzle.

My first semester of law school ended a week and a half ago, and it’s already faded from memory. I’m drunk on the elixir of free time!

I have two more weeks to catch up on all things not-law-school, immerse myself in the holidays, plan for Nina’s birthday, welcome a dear friend for her annual New Year’s visit. There are books to read, podcasts to listen to, recipes to play with, museums to visit, toys and hats and mitts to knit, movies to watch, television series to finish and new ones to begin. If I read a New Yorker a day, I’ll be just caught up on the ever-growing stack next to our couch.

I don’t need to take notes on any of the above-mentioned things. No outlining or self-quizzing will happen in the next two weeks. My brain is free to wander off on as many tangents as it likes. My catch-up list is just a starting point; I might chuck it all for a Gilmore Girls marathon with Nina.

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Here’s where my brain has wandered lately; a bit of brain candy.

-A favorite song by my second favorite Nina in the world. The short version here (with a fantastic video and audio mix by Sakis Han). The long version here.

-If you’ve watched the final scene of this movie as often as I have and wondered if Celine’s moves are true to Ms. Simone’s, at around 3:15 of the long version, you’ll have your answer.

-And since we’re on the subject, my very un-romantic, sentimentality-eschewing self swoons at this song.

-How I intend to make a dent in my glass jar stash. Maybe next winter, maybe for Christmas in July. Gingerbread terrariums.

-This series of photographs.

-Postponing re-reads of Salinger and Franzen to dig into Atwood’s latest.

-What I suspect it’s like to have a conversation with either me or Nina. Two Loraleis under the same roof can be exhausting. (Not for Nina and I, but probably everyone who gets caught in our frantic/manic energy field.)

16037652746_32f605caef_oOur total snowfall that morning.

autumn + a simple apple crumble

What autumn means to me, so far this year:

  • dahlias that thrive from the union of cool, misty mornings and sun-dappled afternoons;
  • becoming a soccer mom;
  • taking Nina to her first college football game, a real nail-biter that was a blur of pompoms and cacophony of cheering;
  • apples, ergo the quest to perfect baked apple cider doughnuts;
  • and this lovely apple crumble.

What a lovely start to my favorite season.

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Apple crumble with muscovado and rye

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I’ve been on a dark rye + muscovado kick lately, and when my neighbors gifted me several pounds of apples, I knew exactly what I wanted to make. This recipe is a marriage of an apple crumble filling from Nigel Slater, and a rye crumble topping from Kim Boyce. A mixture of apple varieties is best in my opinion, so that some bits are tart, some are sweet, some melt into a slush and some remain slightly firm. The thing about Slater’s recipe I love most is that the apples are tossed with sugar then quickly browned before baking, giving the finished dish undertones of toffee or caramel. I think this tastes best without the addition of any spices, although I wouldn’t object to tucking a couple of bruised sage leaves into the dish just before baking. Another grain that pairs well with muscovado sugar is buckwheat, which also happens to be gluten free.

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Filling:
2 1/2 to 3 pounds apples, preferably a mix of tart and sweet
Juice from half a lemon
1/3 cup muscovado sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons coconut oil, used in two teaspoon increments

Crumble:
1 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup dark rye flour (or buckwheat to make this gluten free)
1/3 cup almond meal
6 tablespoons turbinado sugar
Large pinch of fine grain sea salt
3 to 5 tablespoons melted coconut oil

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 F / 180 C. Lightly oil a 1.5 quart casserole dish and set aside.

Peel, core, and chop the apples into 3/4-inch chunks. In a large bowl, combine the apples, lemon juice and sugar; stir to combine.

In a heavy bottomed pot, melt two teaspoons of the coconut oil. When the oil is nice and hot, arrange a layer of the apples on the bottom of the pan. Resist the urge to nudge the apple pieces around; the goal here is for them to begin to caramelize. After three to four minutes the apples will begin to brown in spots; transfer them to the casserole dish. Repeat the process until all of the apples have had their turn in the pot. If there are any sticky bits in the pot, add a splash of water, loosen them up, and add them to the casserole dish.

To make the crumble, combine all of the dry ingredients (everything except the coconut oil) in a food processor and pulse a few times until the oats are coarsely ground. Transfer to a bowl and add three tablespoons of the melted coconut oil. Using your hands, stir to combine, squeezing as you stir to create small crumbly bits. If the mixture falls apart when squeezed, add another tablespoon of coconut oil. You want the crumble topping to have a dusty texture, similar to breadcrumbs.

Sprinkle the crumble topping evenly over the apples. Transfer to the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is crisp and golden brown. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Prep time: 30 minutes | Cook time: 30 minutes

amendment

I found this in Nina’s homework folder last night.

If there was ever any doubt about thoroughly explaining the debeaking process to a seven-year old, well, we underestimate these little people far too often.

Oof, I love her so.

Nina's amendment

If I could write my own law or rule for the constitution, it would be…

to not torture animals and cut off their beaks and tails.

I would write this law because…

it hurts and can kill the animals just with pain.

serious business

As I head into week five (six?) of law school, things are starting to get serious.

Three legal pads full of writing assignments and case briefs, a comprehensive midterm one week away, my favorite book bag discarded because it wasn’t up to hauling around 80+ pounds of books at a time —

of course, all of this pales in comparison to Second Grade.

There is soccer practice, as evidenced by the tangle of shoes and shorts I stumbled over the other night.

team purple

There is science!, which means there are petri dishes and vials, slides and cover slips, tweezers and specimens — all scattered across the kitchen table for long, indefinite stretches of time.

science!

Nina and I took a break from our serious endeavors to make this cake.

rosemary chocolate cake rosemary chocolate olive oil cake

Olive oil cake with bittersweet chocolate and rosemary

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Another adaptation from my rainy day, desert island, if I could only choose one cookbook, Good to the Grain.

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Olive oil for the pan
3/4 cup almond meal flour
1 1/2 cups spelt flour
3/4 cup natural cane sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
3/4 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons plain, unsweetened soy yogurt
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60-70% cacao), chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 F / 180 C. Oil a 9 1/2-inch fluted tart pan. If your pan does not have a removable bottom, line the bottom with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder and soda, salt, and rosemary. In another bowl, whisk together the soy milk, olive oil, yogurt and apple cider vinegar. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, gently mixing until incorporated. Fold in the chocolate. Pour the batter into the pan and smooth out the top. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the edges have started to brown and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool before cutting — unless you don’t mind an ooey gooey mess of chocolate.

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 40 minutes

Daisy

meeting Daisy

The animal sanctuary I work with recently became home to several hens and turkeys who were rescued from the factory farming industry. Nina has been waiting weeks to meet the flock, but they’ve been in quarantine, a necessary precaution as they settle into their new home. Nina understands all of this, but that didn’t stop her from asking me approximately two hundred times a day, “When can I hold Daisy?

This question has recently been replaced by several others, out of concern that Daisy won’t be able to eat. Every single one of these birds has been debeaked, something Nina noticed almost right away from their photographs. There were  questions, and tears, and discussions. Tears turned to outrage, and discussions turned towards solutions. Nina took it upon herself to inform her entire class — in the first week back at school(!) — about debeaking. She hatched a plan to teach Daisy how to use a straw, such was her concern over this tiny bird’s ability to eat and drink.

turkeys

Over the weekend Nina and I went out to the sanctuary to meet everyone, feed them snacks, give them hugs, and set Nina’s mind at ease.  I see this becoming a weekly event, and I’m ever so thankful that this opportunity to educate through animal kindness is just a short drive from our home.

Daisywith Daisy

squash sauce

With temps nearing 100 today, I’m keeping things in the kitchen simple, focusing all efforts on soaking up the last flush of summer.

This means my blender is seeing a lot of action: the family-sized green smoothie it makes every day, followed by a giant batch of butternut queso.

My garden didn’t yield any butternuts this year, but there were plenty at the farmers’ market. This sauce is easy to make with both fresh and frozen butternut squash, so I snatched several up to prep and freeze later this month.

squash sauce

 

Butternut queso

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This is one of those recipes that was born of not-in-the-mood-for-anything meals + staple ingredients. Items are grabbed from the pantry, tossed into the blender, and the rest of the meal figures itself out. If using a medium/large butternut, the neck portion will yield 2 to 2 1/2 cups cubed squash. The concentrated sweetness of dried tomatoes rounds out the flavor of this sauce and lends it a hint of color. We go easy on the garlic, but mine is a homegrown variety, more pungent than what’s found in most markets. This tastes good with a dash (or three) of smoked paprika; sadly, my family is too wimpy to handle such a thing. Sometimes, I sneak in a few dashes of ground chipotle – just as much flavor, but less discernible heat. You’ll notice I don’t add any oil or butter – this isn’t because I’m avoiding fat; the sauce is rich enough without it (especially after the flavors have melded in the fridge for a few hours). Some similar recipes on the web include Earth Balance, and I’m sure throwing in a knob would taste good to some palates, but we enjoy it without.

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2 cups 1/2-inch cubed butternut squash
1 medium yellow-fleshed potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, or more to taste
4 thumb-sized sundried tomato pieces (preferably not oil packed)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon tamari
1/2 cup raw cashews, either pre-soaked/drained or pulverized in a spice grinder
1 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, more to taste
a few grinds white pepper, more to taste

Combine the squash, potato, garlic and sundried tomatoes in a large, wide pot. Add just enough water to cover and bring to a low boil. Lower to a simmer and cook until the potato and squash are fork tender, about 10 minutes. Taking care not to burn yourself, transfer the contents of the pot to the blender. Add the lemon juice and tamari, and blend until smooth. Add the cashews, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper, and blend again until smooth. Add additional water if necessary to make the sauce thinner, if you prefer. The sauce will thicken slightly when cooled.

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 15 minutes | Yield: about 3 cups