Tuesday, January 31, 2012

There's a hummus among us

H ummus is one of those basic recipes that is so so handy to have in your repertoire. Whip up a little hummus with crackers and cheese, add some to a Greek salad or wrap, use it as a dip for veggies... the options are many.

Hummus is also one of those foods that I can remember eating for the first time (again with the food memories!), mostly because up until the very first bite I was resolutely convinced that chickpeas (garbanzos, as I was raised to call them) were the devil's food. Granted, I mostly ate them at church potlucks in traditional over-dressed-and-over-marinated three-bean salads. (Well, in true childhood eating fashion, I probably had them ONCE and made a judgment of Never Again.) But with that first bite, my mind was about to be blown...

Fastforward to 1991 and a girlfriend who loved to experiment with food. She was quite ingenious with a newlywed grocery budget--she knew how to turn random ingredients into a great meal. One of these meals regularly involved hummus. Imagine my surprise at how actually delicious it was; flavorful and unlike anything chickpea-ish I'd ever tasted before.

I go through hummus phases, where I make it a lot, then take a break... a few months later, I think, where's the hummus? and away we go again on a hummus jag. The past couple of weeks? Yeah, we're on a jag...

Makes 2+ cups
1 16 oz can (2 cups if you've cooked your own) chickpeas or garbanzo beans
1/4+ cup liquid from can of chickpeas (or water, if not using canned)
3-5 Tbsp lemon juice (depending on your taste)
1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
2 cloves garlic, crushed (roasted garlic is great for flavor, and you can up the number to 3-4 cloves, since the flavor is more mellow)
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

Put the garlic cloves in your food processor and whiz until they are chopped fine. Add the chickpeas, liquids, tahini, cumin, salt and olive oil, and puree until smooth. Taste and then adjust as you desire. (Here is where I often add another garlic clove, thinking it needs a little "boost," and then regret it later...)

For smoother hummus, legend has it (well, online sources, but it sounds like the work of a legend) that peeling the individual garbanzo bean is the way to go for truly creamy hummus. One day I may have just that much time on my hands. But I have a hard time actually thinking that the smooth would be worth it... who knows, maybe once I've done it, I'll never go back?

I DO know that letting hummus sit overnight in the fridge improves its flavor greatly, if you have that kind of patience. For me, I usually double the recipe and enjoy the first night, then have leftovers the second night and remark to myself how a) wonderful it is, I should always leave it to deepen the flavors, or b) wow, why did I add that third garlic clove?

And, lastly, there are always lovely variations to be had with hummus. I think one of my favorites is roasted red pepper, which is easily accomplished with  a few strips of either fresh or canned roasted red peppers hopping in the food processor along with the rest of the ingredients. And I always like a few chopped kalamata olives on top or mixed into the hummus as well (see picture above!).

If you enjoy hummus as much as I enjoy hummus, let me know what variation you prefer or if there's an ingredient you add that I'm missing. I'm always up for a new twist.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Weekend link love

What a lovely (but short) weekend! I am still smiling from a lovely brunch this morning with girlfriends, brought together by a visit over the mountains from our dear mutual friend, Kate. And now I'm plotting how, exactly, I could arrange a long and yummy brunch like that every weekend!! I suppose the rarity of this outing helps make it the jewel of an occasion that it was, though...

In my gatherings around the interwebs, here are a few things that have caught my eye recently. I thought I'd share:

A poem about celery. It made me chuckle.

Lists of Note: Things to worry about, from F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter (that's them, above). Quite lovely.

Series on have faith by hollywoodhousewife. There are seven installments, so I had to leave it to the weekend to read the whole lot at once... very thoughtful and thought-provoking.

I really did mean to make black-eyed peas and a mess of greens at the new year... for good luck and all that. Do you think it's OK to still make them now? I found a vegetarian version that looks like it might be worthwhile, any ole time.

In praise of gluten? That hardly seems possible anymore, but this article made me nostalgic for the gluten steaks of my childhood...

Seems rather obvious that a Super Bowl menu list would have a bunch of football shaped items, but I swear this is the first year I've noticed such a plethora of little brown cake/brownie/whatevers... Will I watch the game? Hardly, maybe a bit here and there. Will I make football shaped anythings? Unlikely. But they're certainly cute.

Friendships are such valued things to me, they--as a concept--are bound to come up in conversation at times, with husband and intimates... this link was sent to me by a dear friend as we have recently discussed the evolution of friendships--a necessary thing, but sometimes difficult. Pretty commonsense tips, but worth a reflection...

This link also came via a friend, this time on Facebook. A ponderful article about the conversations at the end of life and how family and love and faith factor in.

I finally got my act together enough to begin a sourdough starter this weekend. This is something I've been meaning to do FOREVER, but this post last week tipped me over. As it expands, my little two-day bubbly mass makes me very happy. Can't wait to make some bread with it!

Hope there's a link or two there to pique your interest! Now, on to the week. Make it count.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday night grateful list

Peaceful and twilight as I begin my list for this week... the three of us, cozied up for the weekend. I've said it before: that sentence alone pretty much sums up my gratitude. But of course, there are indeed other things to be grateful for...

Laughter. Yesterday I came really close to losing it with laughter (at work, yikes), and today had a few good laughs as well. I'm lucky to get to work with some funny guys. At least I find them humorous... so far! (Except, yesterday I was laughing at myself... and not in a good way. Must curb.)

Music. There's a song that's been going through my head ALL WEEK. I'm really in love with it, have been since I first heard it years ago, and then this version tipped me over again... I have enjoyed so many different iterations, I think I feel a mix CD coming up... the All Hallelujah CD. Sounds about right.

Here's a version that YouTube let me actually embed, also a big favorite of mine!


A good chat with my hair stylist. And, an actual sit in the chair at said hair stylist, complete with foils and a trim. (I know, you were thinking this was all natural. Sure you were.)

Speaking the joys of Pinterest. I seem to spread the Pinterest gospel wherever I go... wondering if there's a commission in it at some point? But then, they'd actually have to have a money-making model, wouldn't they? Still, I do so love to share my love for all things pinning!

IM with my oldest and dearest Corinne. We haven't seen each other in too long... thankfully we can Google chat through the awards shows and catch up briefly at odd points during the week. Being known and loved by someone for so long is really something that I do not take for granted.

My guys. I am blessed in my home life, and I know it.

Words, words and more words... always grateful for the power of words.

And so, on that note, I leave you to your weekend, and go begin mine! What are you grateful for this week? I hope the list is long!

Wishing you lots of rest and peace in the coming hours.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thursday 13: 13 random thoughts

It's that kind of week around here: random! Here goes:

1. Today should be Friday. I've taken a poll, and every one I've talked with agrees. Can we just make it so?
2. As much as I wanted snow, I am very glad it's gone. If that was snow, it can be somewhere else. What we had was some strange ice-snow hybrid, heavy on the ice.
3. There are some scents that are universally wonderful, don't you think? I made French onion soup last night, and the house smells amazing, still. Can't wait to eat some tonight! Cheese...
4. Pinterest continues to be funny, inspiring, silly and sometimes redundant. I need to figure out how to have fewer of the same pins show up... I know it helps if I pin from "outside," which I do, but not every day.
5. I read The Power of Less this week. It took me about as long as I thought (not long) and had a few good points but nothing earth-shattering. Who knew writing a few common sense tips could get you a book contract? But if you're trying to minimize the clutter, mentally and physically, he has some good starting points.
6. Wind is one of those freaky weather things that I wish I truly understood. The fact that it seems the entire northern part of the West Coast was battered by wind on Tuesday night seems really odd, but it's true. How is that possible? 
7. Further to No. 3 above: It's crossed my mind to write a cheese blog. Wouldn't that just be great? (For me, just to be clear. All that tasting!)
8. It occurred to me recently, once again, that I'm not much of a joiner. The bigger something gets--a group, a movement, almost anything, really--the more skeptical I am. It's not something I think is a good aspect of my personality, or necessarily a bad thing. It just rears it's head every once in awhile.
9. I love dried cranberries. Whoever thought those up: genius. It was probably someone who left their cranberries out too long, and didn't want to throw them out. I am always interested in where things come from, how they began... like hard-boiled eggs or the idea of cooking an artichoke and then eating it. There's probably a book about it somewhere, but I like mulling the mysteries.
10. I'm looking like I went about a month too long on the hair cut/color thing. I am greatly anticipating sitting in the salon chair tomorrow and taking a few years off my grayness.
11. I love oats, oatmeal, good and hearty breakfasts... I used to make a breakfast cookie back in the catering days and really enjoyed eating them, as well. I think this weekend I'm going to experiment with that recipe again; I remember it as a fabulous grab-and-go option for the mornings.
12. You would think with all the permutations of personalities in the world, somehow there would be similar family dynamics between some families, somewhere. But if that exists, I haven't seen it. Seems like every family has their own distinct flavor, and no two families are alike. While that's good, it also makes families hard to understand from the outside.
13. Do you talk to yourself? I do, a lot. I also talk to "people" on my computer--emails or silly (stupid) Facebook posts, or--just this morning--people who don't link stuff properly online and then expect you to click over. Click over where? How about a link?

OK, that's it for the random over here. Off to the salt mines as my mother used to say... Glad I don't actually have to mine salt today!

How are things in your world? What's new? Tell me!

For more Thursday 13s, go here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ten Word Tuesday: Inspired by reading "Power of Less"

Each editing pass eliminates clutter, in writing and in life.

Update, following my advice above:
In life, as in writing, each editing provides additional clarity.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Common Miracle project

“Rejoicing in ordinary things is not sentimental or trite. It actually takes guts. Each time we drop our complaints and allow everyday good fortune to inspire us, we enter the warrior’s world.”
–Pema Chodron 

My Common Miracles for today:

A note (and a very thoughtful package) in the mail from a dear, missed friend: "In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it's wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices." -Elizabeth Gilbert

Thank you, Shauna. This one's going in the keeper folder.

And this image: 

This little fountain is in our bird feeding area, just off the house entrance, and it hasn't gurgled since before Christmas. With the snow and now the melting, all of a sudden, it just started doing its thing this morning. 'Twas the strangest spring-like moment, in the midst of snow, still.

Those two moments sang to me today, as I slushed and slid around in the melting ice/snow. 

To see how the Common Miracle project began, go here.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Peanut sauce

P eanut sauce is such a favorite of mine, I can't believe I haven't posted an actual recipe here before. I know I've talked about it quite a bit over the blog-years (did a search this afternoon to reassure myself that I didn't post it but then space it!), but it appears I haven't actually shared my take on it.

I remember the day I tried peanut sauce for the first time, which, given that it was more than 20 years ago, seems a little odd. But then, food memories (for me) can be a bit that way... I was in Sydney, Australia, 1988, sometime in November. OK, so not *the* day. But I remember what I ordered--a Thai peanut pizza at a little pizzeria in the bottom of the Queen Victoria Building. Why I would order that pizza when I'd never had peanut sauce is a little lost on me, but apparently I was feeling adventurous. And since then, I've made it countless times, as I quickly ascertained that the bottled versions in the store taste NOTHING like freshly-made.

 This recipe has been my standby through the years. There are many variations to experiment with--some sweeter, some hotter, some with coconut milk--but I have always returned to the reliability of this pretty basic (but of course, adapted a wee bit) blend.

Peanut sauce
Adapted from foodnetworkcom (the recipe for chicken satay that is featured with the peanut sauce is also quite lovely)
1 garlic clove
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons red chili paste, such as sambal (I've also used chili oil or even red pepper flakes, in a pinch)
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 limes, juiced
1/2 cup hot water
1/4 cup chopped peanuts, optional, for garnish

Put the garlic clove and ginger in the food processor (or blender). Whiz quickly to break up the garlic. Add the peanut butter, soy sauce, red chili paste, brown sugar and lime juice, and puree to combine. While the motor is running, drizzle in the hot water to thin out the sauce (you may not need all of the water for a dipping sauce, but if you're wanting to make this as a salad dressing, you may want a little more). Pour the sauce into a serving bowl and garnish with the chopped peanuts.

I have used this recipe in many ways--over chicken breasts and baked, as a dipping sauce for chicken satay skewers or spring rolls, over a stirfry and brown rice, with noodles and tofu, thinned as a salad dressing over cabbage and peppers for an Asian salad... it is one flavor I can eat over and over and very rarely get tired of!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday night grateful moment

Just last Friday night I bemoaned feeling a bit like I'm in a rut with my grateful list. (And then on Monday I celebrated the Common Miracle that is my rituals. Anyone get that lovely contradiction? Yeah, me either. Until just this moment!)

Anyway, tonight I was looking through some photos on my iPhone and thought... I'll share these. A couple I took tonight to round out my list, but most were taken throughout the week as life happened. It's a picture of my grateful life...

I'm grateful for exercise, to work muscles and move my body. Even when I think I'm too tired, it totally picks me up!

I'm always grateful for my computer. It works like a charm and is pretty to boot. I'm also entirely grateful for technology and the possibilities it opens up. Yeah for possibilities!

I'm SO grateful I took the time to learn how to read crochet instructions. Most obvious statement of the day: it's taken my crochet skills to a whole "other" level. It's so much fun to be able to follow along and know what I'm doing--even if I do sometimes get all distracted and have to pull out a row or two, it's still great.

Ever-so-grateful for my men. And that I get a peaceful weekend with the husband. Cabin fever? Not us.

I'm grateful for a bit of spring in the middle of this winteriest of weeks. Thanks, Melissa, for my paperwhite! The timing of the bloom couldn't be better.

For mittens to protect from the cold, I have been most grateful this week. (And a sweet gift from a sweet friend, as well.)

This week I was grateful for hot chocolate! With whipped cream. In the most appropriate mug!

I was tickled to get to play with this wee pup at a meeting at the Blue Mountain Humane Society this week. I admit, I was a bit distracted by the unbearable cuteness, but I'm grateful my meeting mates didn't object to my distraction. After some serious play time, pup then fell asleep under my chair. Extra-cute!

Here's what I've been wishing for all winter. Well, I was actually wishing for snow; this is actually frozen ice bits pretending to be snow. I am actually grateful we got some white in our view... and that it's supposed to warm up again soon.

That actually does look like snow I'm standing in, doesn't it? Must have caught that picture in the five minutes before the freezing rain started... I'm grateful for my boot collection, which, though small, got a serious workout this week.

I'm grateful for love, and that I'm blessed to know it in such abundance. I'm also glad and grateful for those in my life who have found love again, the second time around, so to speak. (I respect and admire all you long-timers too, but to find it, better than ever, when you thought you might not again? Pretty sweet.)

I'm grateful for color and texture and the joy of creation.

I feel rejuvenated, just busting out of my text routine with some pictures! Must remember that for the future...

What's on your grateful list this week? I hope it's a long one!

Whatever your weekend holds, may it bring you peace.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thursday 13: Thirteen Etsy shops to share

It's been quite a long time since I have shared current Etsy shop loves (2010, actually). And while I am quite sure there are more than 13 in my favorites folder that deserve a viewing, I will be good and dole out only 13 (and then maybe come back sooner than a year from now to share again). How's that?

Pinterest has a way of bringing new shops to one's attention, and then my dear mother tipped me off to a few other ways to have your time completely sucked away by Etsy: daily emails that highlight shops along a particular theme or holiday or color or whatever strikes a fancy that day. So the behemoth that is Etsy becomes much more manageable (or so the theory goes), with these handy little tools in your arsenal. Add to that the various blogs and such that point to this shop and that shop, and it just might be more information than you need. But want? Want is a whole other matter.

OK, on to the shops!

1. Cat nap cottage. Vintage! This shop reminds me of hanging out at my grandmothers' houses as a child. Lots of textures and colors and styles that really harken back to that era for me.

2. Garnet girl designs. Upscale jewelry, very classic and classy.

3. The loft full of goodies. A beautiful marriage of felt and embroidery.

4. Old Barn Rescue Company. Lovely quotes in text treatments for you to put on your walls.

5. Sparrow's Nest Script. I adore this calligraphy shop!

6. Love and Knit. Some Etsy shops are real idea places for me, and even though I crochet and this is all knit, there are some great ideas here. Love the style.

7. Little Bit Funky. What color! What fun!

8. Lonkoosh. Billed as bridal jewelry, I think beautiful little pieces could be worn any time!

9. Brookish. A Jane Austen-inspired shop. How brilliant, eh?!

10. Pool Pony. Such great colors in fabulous mid-century styles. I have one girlfriend in particular who I could buy every piece in this shop for!

11. A place to flourish. I love being inspired by beautiful lettering!

 12. Super Sock Monkeys. Who's having a baby? I am all about these cute, colorful little animals.

13. Helen Rawlinson. These gorgeous screenprinted linens would cheer up any kitchen. Love them!

It's probably no accident that on this snowy/icy/messy Thursday, I have splashed a swath of color across my world. I hope you enjoy looking at these images as much as I enjoyed finding them to share!

Do you have a favorite Etsy shop? I'd love to hear about it!

Happy Thursday, wherever you are!

For more Thursday 13 participants, go here.
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