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Monthly Archives: March 2022

Cook Happy Project Week 13

Happy Sunday to you! 

This morning I am pondering the concept of “decolonizing my time,” an idea I have been exposed to via healers and teachers such as Justin Michael Williams and Tricia Hersey of The Nap Ministry.  

Capitalism, and racial capitalism more specifically, which valorizes productivity and output, would have us toil and grind to the point of exhaustion. This approach to living is rooted in white supremacy, a connection that Hersey eloquently clarifies in her writings.   

Williams, too, distinguishes between “colonized creativity,” whereby we engage in creative projects with a focus on production and deadlines and profit and perfection, versus “decolonized creativity,” which allows us to immerse ourselves in the process and focus on finding joy through our creative pursuits. 

I have experienced this distinction in my writing life as I have wavered back and forth about whether or not to complete a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. I genuinely wanted to improve my craft, but I also found myself focused on the degree title and the thesis as a product and “getting ahead” with my writing career. I view this blogging effort as progress when it comes to focusing on process, joy, and straightforward self-expression. 

Cooking is another avenue for “decolonized creativity,” I have found. This week I found contentment in preparing a buttery sauteed kale mixture, including cranberries, shallot, leek, and mushrooms, apricot oat bars that would likely appeal to toddlers and children, but also served me well for breakfast, as well as a sundried tomato and goat cheese angel hair pasta that made for a satisfying supper. 

In the coming week, I hope you give yourself some space and time to tap into your inner creativity, whether that means weeding your driveway, making your bed, or preparing a simple meal. Go ahead and disregard the outcome. In the meantime, give one of these recipes a try. 

Peace.
Ginger

Sauteed Kale, Mushrooms, and Cranberries
Adapted from Weeknights with Giada: Quick and Simple Recipes to Revamp Dinner

Ingredients
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1 medium leek, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced and rinsed  
8 ounces button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (4 cups)
Kosher salt and black pepper
12 ounces kale, stemmed and torn into large leaves
¼ cup chicken or vegetable broth
⅓ cup dried cranberries

Directions

  • Prep all your ingredients. 
  • Warm a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and olive oil, allowing the butter to melt. Add the sliced shallot, leek, and mushrooms, as well as 1 ½ teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables soften, approximately 8 minutes. 
  • Add the kale and cook until wilted, about 6 minutes. 
  • Add the broth and the cranberries. Bring to a boil and scrape away any brown bits at the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Voila! 

Apricot Oat Bars
Adapted from Weeknights with Giada: Quick and Simple Recipes to Revamp Dinner

Ingredients
Butter or baking spray
1 ¼ cups apricot jam or preserves
8 dried apricots, chopped into small pieces (about ⅓ cup)
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 packed cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon Kosher salt
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 ¾ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup (4 ounces) coarsely chopped walnuts
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg, beaten, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

Directions 

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • Grease a 9x13x2 baking dish.
  • In a small bowl, mix the jam and the apricots.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda. Fold in the oats and the walnuts. Add the butter, egg, and vanilla, and stir until incorporated. 
  • Lightly press half of the crust mixture onto the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Using a spatula, spread the filling over the crust, leaving a 1/2 -inch border around the edge of the pan. 
  • Cover the filling with the remaining crust mixture and gently press to flatten. 
  • Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until light golden. Cool for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. 

Angel Hair Pasta With Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese
Adapted from Everyday Pasta: A Cookbook

Ingredients
1 10 oz jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, chopped (oil reserved)
1 small onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup tomato paste
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 pound angel hair pasta
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
½ teaspoon pepper
4 oz log, goat cheese, coarsely crumbled

Directions

  • Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add the onion and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. 
  • Add the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. 
  • Add the broth and chopped sun-dried tomatoes and simmer until the liquid reduces by half, about 2 minutes. 
  • Add the chopped parsley and the goat cheese, breaking the cheese up to distribute evenly. 
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 4 minutes. Drain. 
  • Dump the drained pasta back into the pot and add the sauce, mixing together. 
  • Consider adding a few more sun-dried tomatoes, if you have another jar 🙂

Cook Happy Project Week Twelve

Good Morning. 

Hope you are well. 

I have developed the practice of picking a word for the year every January. This year’s word is “rise,” drawing on the idea of starting anew, rebuilding, looking forward. For me, the word “rise” conjures an image of a bustling and vividly colorful market, maybe in India somewhere, rich with smells, sights, and activity. I can often be negative and pessimistic, so this word, with its upward momentum and invigorating energy, helps set me on a more positive course mentally and emotionally. I try to remember to return to this concept of “rising” when I feel discouraged, reciting the word as if it were a mantra. 

In the past few weeks I have also been contemplating the word “shed.” Shedding myself of habits, relationships, even mindsets that no longer serve me. Loss is OK when I think of it as a process of shedding, of dusting myself off to reveal the alert, bright, budding life within. Maybe loss is even a positive thing when viewed this way. 

In my kitchen, I am shedding any expectation of complex and grandiose projects (although there is a place for that, perhaps, under different circumstances. I recently learned that a co-worker and her partner attempt new and intricate dishes every weekend, with the help of spreadsheets.) For me, right now, I am keeping it simple.

The fruits of that mindset are moist and enjoyably tart lemon raspberry muffins, recipe below, requiring two large bowls and a spatula–no electric mixer. And for a lip-smacking snack, a half pound of spiced pecans. Again, keeping it simple … I invite you to try this recipe, shedding any detailed and meticulous instructions, let your hair down, smell the fresh spring air, and enjoy breakfast for dinner. 

We can find abundance in simplicity. The beauty of fresh fruit peeking through a thick batter. The zinging scent of lemon rind on a rasp grater. Watching nuts brown to a candy-like consistency in the oven. 

There’s beauty to be had in this life, even though this life is hard. I shed what no longer serves me. I invite you to do the same. Peace to you this week, and always. 

Ginger

Raspberry Lemon Muffins
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Breakfast & Brunch

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
⅔ cup canola oil
1 ⅓ cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1 cup raspberries (or really any berries, fresh or frozen)

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners (or generously grease the cups if you don’t have liners).
  • Using a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
  • In a separate large bowl, whisk together the eggs and the milk. Add the oil, brown sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla, and almond extract, whisking to combine.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet; mix, using a spatula, until just blended. (Be careful not to overmix.) Fold in the berries.
  • Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins.
  • Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, approximately 25 minutes. (You may need to bake a few extra minutes if using frozen berries.)
  • Transfer tin to a wire rack and cool for 15 minutes or so.
  • Turn the muffins out and serve warm or at room temperature with a generous smear of butter.
  • Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Spiced Pecans
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast: Small Plates

Ingredients
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
8 oz chopped pecans

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Line a small rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  • Using a medium saucepan, combine butter, curry powder, salt, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne, and brown sugar over medium heat. Cook for approximately 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the butter is melted and the spices are fragrant.
  • Add the nuts to the saucepan and stir with a spatula until they are evenly coated.
  • Spread them on the prepared baking sheet in an even layer.
  • Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until they are a deep golden brown.
  • Slide the foil onto a wire rack and let cool completely before serving.

Cook Happy Project Week Eleven

Good Evening!

I have done absolutely no cooking this week. In fact, I count it as one of life’s simple pleasures that I can waltz into the grocery store, sans list, and simply select items off the shelf that catch my eye, because I have no one else in my household to report to.

Ah, simple, single-gal meals: A bowl of cottage cheese with fresh blueberries. A large Honeycrisp apple, slathered with peanut butter. A wedge of cheese to accompany baby carrots with store-bought dill dip and a handful of dried apricots. You get the idea. Light fare.

And yet, I find myself drawn back to this project and the accountability it gives me to keep my commitment to a regular home cooking practice, so I don’t fall too far down the well of carry out and microwave meals and snacking through dinner.

That being said, this week I have two recipes to share as a follow-up to my hurried post from two weeks ago: the aforementioned chicken salad and orange streusel cake.

Oh, and one more tool in my joy and contentment toolkit: the podcast (and blog), The Amateur Traveler. From Berlin to Israel to Joshua Tree National Park, there’s surely an episode to suit your personal travel fantasies. 

I wish you healing and happiness in your kitchen this week, mixed with a healthy dose of wanderlust.

Peace.
Ginger

Homemade Chicken Salad
Adapted from Cristina Ferrare’s Big Bowl of Love

Ingredients
2 cups diced chicken breasts 
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons finely chopped scallions
2 teaspoons finely chopped parsley
1-2 teaspoons finely chopped basil 
2 tablespoons finely chopped celery 
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions 
Cook two boneless, skinless chicken breasts using the “Whole 30 Perfect Chicken” method:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Generously season both sides of the breasts with salt and pepper.
  • In a large, oven-safe skillet, melt a generous scoop of Ghee over medium-high heat, swirling to coat the pan. Wait a few moments for the fat to heat up, then place the chicken in the pan, rounded-side down, and sear for approximately four minutes.
  • Use kitchen tongs to flip the chicken to the other side, then immediately place the pan in the oven to finish cooking for another 13 minutes. (If you’re using a meat thermometer, the internal temperature of the fully cooked chicken should be 160 degrees Fahrenheit.)
  • Let the meat rest for at least 5 minutes before dicing into bite-sized chunks. Meanwhile, chop and measure out the other ingredients and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the diced chicken and mix everything together. If you have extra chicken, double the other ingredients.
  • This serves beautifully on a piece of whole-grain toast with a slice of tomato and avocado. Enjoy.

Orange Streusel Cake
Adapted from The Joys of Baking

Streusel Ingredients
1/2 cup all-purpose flour 
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Cake Ingredients
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, ideally at room temp, plus more for the pan
1 entire seedless navel orange, scrubbed and cut into large chunks
1/4 cup sour cream, ideally at room temp
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup granulated sugar 
2 large eggs, ideally at room temp

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Prepare the streusel: Combine the flour, brown sugar, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Pour in the melted butter so the mixture clumps together. Add the sliced almonds.
  • Prepare the cake: Generously butter an 8-inch square baking dish. 
  • Place the orange chunks in a food processor and run the blade until they have the consistency of applesauce. You should have approximately 1 cup of orange purée. Mix with the sour cream.
  • In another medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar together until light and fluffy, approximately 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition.
  • Add half of the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Beat in the orange mixture, then incorporate the remaining half of the flour mixture.
  • Transfer the batter to the prepared dish and smooth the top. Sprinkle the streusel mixture over the cake batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with moist crumbs attached, 40 to 45 minutes.
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