Monday, January 09, 2017

Raspberry-Cardamom Smoothie! Yay clean eating! Sigh.

I would post fewer dull, earnestclean recipes in January and more luscious, yummy recipes in December, except the December recipes are really just “Put out some wonderful cheese and open a bottle of red wine” or “Get the leftover ham out of the fridge and let everyone saw at it with steak knives” or “Get your son to make you a maple-bourbon old-fashioned, then order a pizza.” Sigh. Those were the days!
Michael is very funny with his leftovers labeling. Thanks, hon! Michael is actually cooking some for himself and the kids, which is another terrific silver lining.
Now it’s all very almond milk and kale and soaked cashews. We went to our favorite taqueria last night, and I heroically ate not one single tortilla chip, even though they were hot and I could see the salt glittering on them, could hear and smell their corny wonderfulness as my family crunched around me. I made everyone congratulate me on my discipline and stoicism. “Tortilla chips!” I said. “My second favorite food after cheese!” They were sympathetic, but also, I think, a little bit like, “So eat some.” Fair enough.

More from the annals of my personal heroism: I made pecan sticky buns for a houseful of teenagers and guess how many I ate? You guessed it. I made everyone describe how good they were, though. It was like a bad creative writing exercise. (This is Smitten's recipe, and it seemed like they came out really great! Sigh.)
But I am eating well, too—I mean, deliciously—and I was just realizing that it’s because, while the content of the meals is abstemious (no alcohol, caffeine, dairy, gluten, meat, sugar), the form is incredibly decadent: I am cooking for myself, my own tastes. And I kind of love the freedom. So I can make my little dish of curried vegetables, and put tons of weird-tasting turmeric in it, which I love, and worry not at all about anyone else’s preferences and pet peeves and general dietary feelings. It’s kind of great.

This style of curry, shown here with Dominion cards and medium-boiled egg, is my new favorite thing to eat: celery, mushrooms (not in the this one), kale, and chickpeas (or other veggies), sauteed in coconut oil, with spices, including curry powder and extra turmeric, coriander, garlic powder, and cumin, added at the end, then a few spoonfuls coconut cream, a dab of tomato paste, and salt. A little hot sauce over the egg. So delicious.
Another favorite thing: I ask the fish folks at Whole Foods to sell me a $3 piece of center-cut salmon (it's about an inch of fish), with the skin cut off. Then I eat it raw, with avocado. Given that you'd pay $15 for this meal at a sushi place, and given that it's my favorite, it feels like an outrageous steal.
This smoothie is a new one for me this year, and I love it’s bright berry flavor backed by the deep and almost incense-y aromatic cardamom. It’s a variation on the Strawberry, Coconut, and Cardamom Smoothie in AnnaJones’s lovely book A Modern Way to Cook, which, if you live here and are waiting for it at the library, I’m sorry about having for so long. She uses strawberries and agave. I use raspberries and dates. I also add vanilla, and I skip her addition of dried coconut because I feel like it adds more grit than flavor. You can do whatever you like! It’s just a smoothie!

Fancy smoothie mise-en-scene
Note: I’ve stopped putting greens in my smoothie because I really like salad and I really like fruit smoothies, so why not just go ahead and keep them separate? Just my thought for the day, given that I’m not, like, in outer space with only the one smoothie to get all my nutrients from. Although I will say that on the very first morning of 2017, I made my first clean meal by opening the fridge, spying a week-old dressed salad in a Tupperware, and putting it in the blender. Thereby setting the bar so low that every meal since has felt like a small triumph.

Real-life smoothie mise-en-scene
I hope your back-to-everything week went okay, and that you are gearing up for the revolution and feeling great about all the money we donated. "Another year that we're not building a mudroom?" Ben asked, watching over my shoulder as I happily donated all the money. Exactly! No peace, no mudroom! I should paint it on the protest sign. That I'm bringing to the MARCH IN WASHINGTON D.C. Join me there if you can! xo

This happened to us! His name is Snapper. More soon.
Raspberry-Cardamom Smoothie
If you’re not trying to make a meal of this, please feel free to skip the almonds.

1 – 1 ½ cups coconut milk (the put-on-your-cereal kind) or another milk of your choosing, such as actual milk
2 tablespoons whole almonds, soaked overnight
½ cup fresh or frozen raspberries
1 teaspoon vanilla
The seeds from 1 green cardamom pod (or a large pinch ground cardamom)
2 small dates or 1 large dates or 1 cup of white sugar (Kidding! Not about the dates!)

Whir everything together until smooth and frothy, adding an ice cube or two if you want it slushier, or if your berries aren’t frozen. Enjoy your own blooming health and energy. 

Saturday, December 31, 2016

What We Did, All of Us Here

Happy New Year, my darlings. I hope you have had a lovely holiday season, and are feeling happy and rested. We are going to have our work cut out for us in 2017--or, more likely, we will be cutting it out as we go. I am so proud to share information here about the money we raised and donated to the Environmental Defense Fund, the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Planned Parenthood, and Partners in Health. Thank you for being so game and generous and wonderful. I love you. xo


Monday, December 19, 2016

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Gift Guide Earnings Update

As of today, the gift guide has earned

Can you see that? My lame screenshot? $3851.34 

You ROCK! Please stay tuned as we figure out where to donate it. 

Yours, in love and solidarity, always. xo

Friday, December 09, 2016

Eggnog Cheesecake Squares

If you're here for the gift guide, it's just below, over here. (And we have made over $2000 to donate so far, WHAT? Seriously. Let's try to make it $5000! I am ambitious and charitably greedy.) But I'm posting this recipe by special request, since it turns out never to have migrated over from the old columns! Please stay tuned, because I'm also going to be posting an eggnog bundt cake recipe. #likeagoodjew

Eggnog Cheesecake Squares
Makes 16
Active time: 20 minutes; total time: 1 hour

This is an adaptation of a recipe that was in Martha Stewart Living. I stole the ginger-snap crust from another old recipe of mine because ginger snaps are so much, well, snappier than graham crackers, if you ask me. Also, we substituted Jack Daniels for brandy because it's what we had.

1 1/2 cups finely smashed ginger snaps (this is a 10-ounce bag minus ten cookies)
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 a stick of butter, melted
1 pound cream cheese at room temperature
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup eggnog
1 heaping tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon brandy (or Jack Daniels)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)

Heat the oven to 350. Coat a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray (or butter it). Stir together the ginger snap crumbs, 3 tablespoons of the sugar, and the melted butter. Press this mixture into the bottom of the pan. Bake 12 minutes and let it cool while you finish with the rest of the filling.

Meanwhile, beat the cream cheese with the remaining sugar in a mixer on medium speed until fluffy about 2 minutes. Add beat in the eggs one at a time, then the yolk, eggnog, flour, liquor, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt; beat until smooth, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure there's no lurking cream cheese. Pour the filling over the crust, then set the pan in a roasting pan, and add enough boiling water to come halfway up sides of baking pan.

Bake until just set, about 45 minutes. Remove the baking pan from water bath and transfer it to a wire rack. Let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Use a very sharp knife to cut it into 16 squares, then dust with more nutmeg before serving.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Gift Guide 2016 (Now with bonus charitable fundraising!)

Charitable, in the post title, autocorrected to irritable, which made me laugh.
So. The holidays. Seriously? Seriously! Because I really don’t want my kids to remember this as the year they reached into their Christmas ( / Hanukkah) stockings and pulled out honorary donations to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, a subscription to the Washington Post, a canvas NPR tote bag, and a book about Hitler’s rise to power even if, yes, that’s what all the grown-ups are getting. More than ever, though, I do want to support writers and artists and musicians: I’m paying for and giving music and books—even though there is the library and Spotify—because we need to invest in the things we care about. Also art and art supplies and, yes, board games. Because non-consumer activities are the key to our salvation. Also, because we like to play new games on Christmas like the good atheist gaming Jews that we are.

The charitable piece: If you click over to Amazon from any of the links in this blog, then I make a significant commission on everything you buy from that round of shopping, whether or not you buy something I actually recommended. We will be donating all that commission money at the end of the month. (I promise it will be way more than the Amazon Smile program would make for your organization—so don’t click over to that, even if Amazon tries to tempt you.) I’ll take a screen shot of the total on December 31st, and you can stay tuned and weigh in on where to give it. (I’ll take a screen shot of the donation too, so you don’t picture me secretly luxuriating in the Bahamas because you bought a jigsaw puzzle.) In fact, if you wanted to leave a comment about that now—where to give the money—I’d be grateful. Planned Parenthood and the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center leap to mind, but there's also Partners in Health and other international organizations that might be suffering, donation-wise, because of our troubles at home. Please share your thoughts. (And for your own giving, this is a great post-election guide.)

Last year's gift ideas are here.
The year before, here.
The year before that, here
And the year before that, here.
As always, the master list of games is here.

Gift Guide 2016

Gifts for Kids, Artists, and Gamers

Cathedral makes a great gift because it’s wooden and lovely and seems kind of heirloomy in that nice holiday way. It's in the game family of Quoridor and Quarto and Gobblet—the games we refer to as "the wood games," as in, "I don't know. Maybe one of the wood games?" when someone asks you what you want to play, and there are only two of you playing. Logic + spatial relations = I rarely win. But I like playing.

photo from the League of Nonsensical Gamers website
Patchwork is another two-person game, which someone recommended here last year, and even though there’s a ton of strategy in it, it’s fairly quick and straightforward, with a fun Blokus-type quilt-themed puzzle element to it. Please note: the game box is depressingly ugly, like a quilt made by somebody’s misanthropic and colorblind great aunt, but the pieces inside are totally different and very attractive. (I am kind of a game aesthetics snob.)

Lanterns is a gorgeous tile-laying game also recommended here last year, by a reader named Amanda. I gave it to the kids last Christmas, and then we went away for two days and played nonstop for two days in our motel room. We’ve played a lot since, too. It’s a matching game crossed with a set-collecting game and, like all good games, every time you play it you feel like you're finally hitting upon the one true strategy—only to find, the next time you play it, that you weren't. It's super-pretty too, and not that hard to learn—certainly not nearly as hard as some board games (Agricola, I’m looking at you.)

My friend Asha’s husband invented the game Tiffin, and it’s a really good game. It’s a total gamer’s game, 2-4 players, fairly complex but not super-long. The (awesome) concept is that each player is delivering hot lunches by bicycle in Mumbai, and you need to make as many deliveries as you can to score points—but, that said, it’s pretty abstract while you’re playing, and it’s more about collecting and timing. It reminds us a little of the also-fabulous Ticket to Ride, if that’s a game you know.

Okay, shhhh, I’m giving Sushi Go Party to Birdy this year. We play a lot of the basic version of Sushi Go when we don’t have a ton of time and can’t think of what else we’d want to play, and that’s partly because it’s a clever, satisfying game, and partly because the cards are so cute with their sushi little cutie faces. This expanded version has more cute cards. I think that’s kind of it! But I feel like we need that in our lives, more cute cards.

Asmodee Timeline: Inventions. The way this game works is that everyone has a hand of cards, and you take turns laying them in order, trying to get the chronology of different inventions right—once you play your card, you get to look at the date on the back. So you might lay “light bulb” between “mammoth-bone weapon” and “ipod nano,” and you’d be right! It’s actually subtler than that—it’s kind of a cross between trivia and deductive reasoning—and I like the inventions version (there are lots of games in the Timeline series) because if I don’t feel as stupid not knowing whether “hair dryer” comes before or after “electric toaster” as I would not knowing whether “Cuban Missile Crisis” comes before or after “The French Revolution.” Also, it’s a very tiny and portable game, and fun to keep in your bag for any waiting you might have to do.

I read about these Paper Games in some fancy gift guide, and got a set for the kids this year: five 150-page pads of tear-off two-person pen-and-paper games, including three-dimensional Tic-Tac-Toe, Dots and Boxes, Hedron, Nim, and Hex. (I think I only know Dots and Boxes!) The presentation is deeply attractive, and I love the idea of keeping a pad or two in the car and in my bag, since you can always draw or write on the backs of the pages.
This is a pad of “artist’s tiles,” which basically means perfect six-inch squares of high-quality paper that tear off perforatedly. They are so nice, and the pad is so chunky, and all in all it seems reasonably priced for such good paper that you can sketch on or fold up into cards or use for writing your elected officials.

And while you’re at it, this is an excellent set of black pens for the artists or writers in your life—a perennial favorite gift of ours. As far as colored pens go, we’ve given many sets of these in the past couple of years, and they are wonderful.

I am beautiful on the inside!
Forgive me if this is too particular/peculiar to be helpful, but Birdy has been wanting and wanting a long-throated stapler, so I am finally giving her one. If you’ve got a person in your family who is forever folding up paper into zines and books and pamphlets, but then they can’t figure out how to get a stapler to reach all the way in to the fold, then this is a gift you might consider.

I’m recommending my friend Kate’s book again here, because the world needs more of Kate’s books, and because it is a profoundly excellent book for anyone of any age: Rad WomenWorldwide. It’s a collection of mini biographies of extraordinary women doing extraordinary, bad-ass things—even more extraordinary than the ordinary things that all of us everyday women are doing so extraordinarily bad-assedly, if you know what I mean. Forty profiles—from the better-known 20th century Mexican painter Frida Kahlo to the lesser-known Grace "Granuaile" O'Malley, a 16th-century Irish sea captain—all illustrated with Miriam Stahl’s incredible paper-cut art. This is the team that brought you Rad American Women A to Z, so you know it’s good.

I also got The Gutsy Girl for Birdy, because even though it looks a lot like a tough-girl version of our belovedly ungendered Unbored, I can’t resist feeding that girl’s love of adventure and courage and independence.

Are you are giving gifts to very small people this year? I’m realizing that I’ve have never had occasion to recommend my three all-time favorite little-kid pretend-play presents, two of which are extremely inexpensive:

Guest check pads (10 for $8). Ben got a pad of guest checks as a party favor when he was a preschooler, and it added a great deal of pizzazz to years and years of the children’s pretend restaurants. This is either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your tolerance for sitting on a tiny chair while somebody painfully writes the words “eg sallid sambwidge” on a pad, tears off your copy, and then brings you a plastic crab inside a tiny enamel pot, but still. A set of pretend money is a great accompaniment to this gift.

A roll of generic tickets (these come in lots of colors). Same as above, only for performances: concerts, circuses, magic shows, dance recitals, poetry readings, surrealist plays about LEGO and farm animals. The tickets always lent just the exact right detail of realism that the kids were craving. Again, use your discretion, since maybe you’re not looking to encourage your children to put on even more soul-crushingly meandering and infinite performances than you’re already enduring.

Play silks. Over many, many years of dressing up and making believe, this rainbow assortment of silky fabric squares has been everything to my kids: capes and skirts; rivers and forests in theatrical sets; doll slings and hammocks and curtains; tea-party table cloths and fluttering flags. If I were to calculate cost per use, it would be something like one gazillionth of a cent. And Ben and Birdy still use them.

Gifts for Everyone

Hamilton: TheRevolution. What can I say? We got the bug. We listen to the soundtrack day and night, the way normal people did a year ago. And even though this is an expensive book, it’s cheaper than trying to actually go to the show. Total savings: $3775.

These parachute-nylon hammocks are all the rage in our particular outdoor-themed world, and for good reason: they’re light, strong, pretty, comfortable, and super-easy to hang up. We love ours. It would make a great gift for campers or more domestic backyard types.

We are puzzlers of all kinds around here—crossword, logic, and, yes, jigsaw. I know I mentioned this puzzle briefly last December, but this year I’m putting it officially in the gift guide because it’s a perfect puzzle (and because its designer is a reader here). And lest I recommend some crazy puzzle with no cookie theme, this is another great puzzle that we did earlier this year during a multi-family weekend trip. Perfection.

Gifts for Grown-ups: Two Novels, Socks, and Cooking Stuff

Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad. If, like me, you’re having a hard time right now with reading matter that falls at all short of life-and-death importance, but you still like a good novel, then this is the book for you. I couldn’t put it down. Get it for yourself, but give it as a wrapped gift and ask to borrow it as soon as the person unwraps it.

After one of my most trusted reading friends recommended it to me, I got the new Zadie Smith book for my dad, in the hopes that I might borrow it more or less asap, as above. I’m sure it will be excellent.

I’ve been giving a pair of these socks to my mother every year because they are wool and they are gorgeous and they come with an unconditional lifetime guarantee. (Um, yeah, hi, I doused my socks in gasoline? And lit a match? And they burned up! So, like, can I get my money back?) I also like that this style is called “witch crew,” since they really do look like the legs sticking out after Dorothy’s house falls onto that wicked somebody.

Yes, this Whiskware Dressing Shaker is a total one-trick pony of a gadget, but I confess to loving it. For the past twenty years, our salad dressing has left leaves oily mason-jar rings on the counter every night. No more! This is a leak-proof glass shaker bottle that has a dripless spout and a weird metal ball in it that looks like a cat toy but pretty well emulsifies your vinaigrette. I know, I know. You’ve already got a free mayonnaise jar, and so do all your friends and relations. But trust me on this.

Mine look more like dirty rags now, but still.
Abeego Beeswax Wrappers. The big ones. My friend Nicole gave these to me for Christmas, either last year or the year before, and I use them every day. They’re great non-plastic bowl covers, yes, and you can wrap cheese in them or anything else, but what I mostly use them for is packing Birdy’s school-lunch sandwiches: they’re easy, reusable, and nontoxic, and they smell pleasantly of beeswax. If you have the kind of friend who would love a great solution to an everyday problem, this is the gift for him or her. Don’t give it to your dad, though, unless he’s, like, Sting. 

This is a huge splurge, but I bought it earlier in the year because Michael was still cooking eggs in a horrible old nonstick pan, and I swore that I would replace it with something that would neither poison us all continually nor be as needy and high-maintenance as our cast-iron pans. Voila. This is my go-to pan for everything. You have to follow the directions lovingly when you first get it—heating it gently with oil or butter, never dry—and then it will love you back, so that even eggs and tofu slide right out. Plus, it’s gorgeous: heavy and lovely, but not fussy. It comes in many colors (and sizes too, though 10 1/4 is what I have and love for a pair of fried eggs or a couple of chops) and is crazy expensive because Le Creuset.

This is the first year in a while that I didn't recommend you buy your *kids* some or other crazy knife! 
Years ago, I recommended a little Kyocera ceramic paring knife—which I stand by; it is a wonderful knife—and now I’m recommending the 5½ inch knife in the same series. I basically never use my metal knives any more because this knife is always sharp and great and exactly what I want to use. I love it, love it, love it, and recommend it as a gift for your cooking friends and family. Plus, it comes in lots of pretty colors!

One last thing: this calendar. I bought it for myself at Paper Source (my favorite store of things) and it was a huge splurge because for the past twelve years we've been using the free Norman Rockwell calendar from the bank, so every day when I go to write "root canal" or "set self on fire because of the election" I am stuck looking at a basket of puppies or a rosy-cheeked boy bent over so that the teacher who's scolding him can also be whapping his behind with a paddle. Suffice it to say: I am IN LOVE with this calendar. Every page is some perfectly gorgeous arrangement of paint chips, and it's huge, and it's very matte and lovely to write on. I bought one as a present too.

Okay. I'm excited. I hope you end up with some awesome gifts and that we end up with a lot of money to give too! To that end, please share this guide as widely as possible! <3 p="">