January 27, 2012

whole wheat cardamom-cinnamon rolls with orange-almond glaze

Once, while at a ladies' retreat in the mountains, a few of us decided to escape the camp food and explore the quaint college town below for a few hours. Eventually we ended up at a funky little coffee shop where I found a large, luscious cinnamon roll covered with thick cream cheese icing. Time was short, so we piled in the car, me with my sweet treasure in hand, and headed back up to the camp. In the back seat, I took a large bite of my cinnamon roll and let out a sigh of ecstasy, making my friends laugh while one said, man, that must be some cinnamon roll.

January 20, 2012

roasted vegetable purée

Vegetables. They're something I try to eat often, and I always feel better for it. When the mercury falls, vegetables take their place in hearty soups, rich roasts, and cheesy casseroles. For certain vegetables, there's another option to consider, something that can replace the common staple of mashed potatoes in really interesting ways. It might even get you to eat those vegetables you haven't ventured yet, for whatever reason, and finally fulfill that request your mom or dad may have made while you were growing up. You know the one I mean, that request to eat your vegetables. Maybe if I'd had this option I could have avoided the time I got spanked for not telling the truth when I was growing up, all because I didn't want to eat my vegetables. I bet you would have hidden those lima beans in your napkin, too.

January 13, 2012

cuban black beans (frijoles negroes)

Cocina Al Minuto, a well-loved Cuban cookbook by Nitza Villapol and Martha Martinez, is the source of inspiration for this version of Cuban black beans. Nitza Villapol, considered Cuba's version of Julia Child, was a chef who also used television to teach many home cooks how to achieve success in the kitchen. In our household, we have two copies of the cookbook. One is a photocopied version that my husband's mother gave us of the original cookbook that was published in Cuba. Throughout its 414 pages, in addition to the recipes, the cookbook has printed ads for brand-name ingredients that are also used in the recipes. The second is a Spanish language edition published in the United States that I ordered online, and is a bit shorter at 336 pages. This version leaves out the printed ads, brand names, and also a two-page section from the original that tells how to make homemade butter, cheese, tea, and of course the famously sugar-fortified Cuban coffee.

For Nitza's version of Frijoles Negroes, I've slightly adapted the ingredients and cooking approach. If you've had Cuban black beans, the familiar, earthy flavor with a tinge of acidity is still all there. If you haven't, this version will give you a wonderful taste of an iconic dish of Cuba.

January 6, 2012

while my garden gently sleeps...

Over the past several weeks, the straw mulch that was stacked on the soil of our raised garden beds has slowly gotten shorter. It is now almost level with the top of the wood sides. In addition, tall patches of grass have begun to grow from the straw, and this makes me wonder if the straw I purchased was completely seedless. I could clip the grass back, though this is where having a goat would come in handy. Unfortunately, tract home associations, close-proximity neighbors and our dog Hiro would not mix well with a goat in a small backyard. Like other suburban households, what will most likely happen is that the lawn maintenance man, my husband, will eventually take his weed-whacker to those rogue blades of grass.

I know some people are braving the weather for vegetables that grow well in the cold, or maybe planting things that can be planted in the cold for a late winter or early spring harvest. But right now I'm taking some time for rejuvenation, and like our garden, hibernation is my current mode. Even in hibernation though, nothing living is completely still; in sleep mode the heart still beats, and underneath the straw mulch the microbes and bacteria and earthworms in the soil are no doubt working away. Likewise, while hibernating, I'm busy either working in the kitchen, reading, writing an upcoming post, or attending to the ever-present duties of the household.