Going Green

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[Forgot to post this a while back!  Enjoy!]

Stop.

Before you scroll down, see the photo of my recent lunch and run for the hills, give me a second to explain myself.

It is spring.  Well, very nearly summer but we'll pretend it's just spring since I've been lax in my posting lately.  It is spring and it is allllmost farmer's market time.  This gets my insides all tingly and warm with visions of marinated tomatoes swirling about in my veggie-loving brain. 

Though I suppose a tomato is a fruit.  Whatever.

Anyway.  I love veggies.  A-dore them.  Honestly, I could go the rest of my life without fruit, bread, meat, coffee...but take away my greenery and I'm a cuh-razy woman.  Okay, I lied. I'd need bread.  But really, vegetables rank above all else in my book.

I lived in Africa for nearly a year post-college and loved most everything about the experience.  But the one thing I (honestly) couldn't handle was not having access to fresh greenery.  Don't get me wrong, we had many, many fresh fruits and some veggies but these were mostly potatoes, corn, and sukumawiki (I think that's how you say it, African friends correct me if I'm wrong!), which is a type of grassy green veg which only tastes good simmered in beef buillon.  Or chicken stock. 

So, yes, the green thing was rough for me.  I suffered many a day (and night) of, well, digestive issues.  But it's all a part of the experience.  On the flip side, their fruit was AMAZING.  I dream of African pineapple.  Dream of it.  And the mangoes, the papaya, the limes!!! 

But no greens. 

This was (I swear), extremely difficult for this vegephile.

I am one of those obsessed individuals who very nearly has to have something green at every meal (minus breakfast, but often I'll make an omelet with an array of veggies so I really do sneak them in the first meal quite often).  I do not go more than a day without broccoli or spinach, not more than a week without avocadoes, peas, green beans, or edamame.  I just love them all.

Every. Single. One.

Now.  The below lunch was the epitome of all that I adore.  Each bite savored to the very last.

It was a green goddess' dream.

I like to think of myself as a green goddess sometimes.  Don't judge.  We all have our quirks.

I have many.  Moving on.

So what is this blessed sandwich?

I like to call it The Green Goddess, a beautiful blend of spinach, cucumbers, and what I deem "Asian Hummus".  I made that last one up, but it's the best way to categorize this spread. 

Here she is:


 
This is the part where you may freak a bit.  Yes, I just said "freak".  Because all of you veg-haters, or even those who don't delve into the "weird" grains/produce/legumes world, might wonder what in the world I was thinking mixing this blend of odd ingredients together.

Just let me hold your hand, we'll go slowly, baby steps, my friends....

Okay- really, you have to just dive in with this one.  There's no other way.

So what is this Asian Hummus?

Mung beans. 

Uh-huh.  Mung beans and avocadoes, smashed together, with a fabulous blend of garlic powder, a few drops of sesame seed oil (I absolutely LOVE sesame seed oil- perfectly roasty and nutty and adds a BAM of Asian flavor) and Asian fish sauce- yep.  Have you TRIED that stuff?  Holy yum.  It's more salty than fishy and you just need a tiny bit to jack up the flavor of any sauce or spread.

Now before you run away screaming, let me defend myself.  Here was my inspiration (or PINspiration, rather, since it was found on Pinterest):



Yum yum.  Doesn't that look harmless? 
Or utterly divine??

This person used pureed, shelled edamame.  Another Asian bean.  So I'm not THAT weird.  Thankyouverymuch.  Some of you may not even be aware of what a mung bean is.

It's so good, that's what it is.

The Chinese call it a green pea, though I don't find it to be anything like the peas we are used to here.  It more like a pea-sized bean that boast remarkable flavor and has insane health benefits.  You can usually find them at your local Asian market, or a health food store.  You cook them like any other bean (soak, boil, simmer) and can use them in an array of dishes, sauces, soups, and spreads.

I was first introduced to the mung bean while in China one summer in college.  My Chinese friend said I just had to try this drink she loved.  She then bought me what looked like a green smoothie.  I, being non-judgy and adventurous decided, why not?  I took a sip and sure enough, a bean smoothie (ha) but a bit sweet and, honestly, very good.  I loved it.  I bought at least three a day for the rest of the trip and even delved into other mung bean items.  Like ice cream. 

Uh-huh.  Mung bean ice cream.  The Chinese love this little green guy, apparently. 

So, when in Rome...or China, rather. 

But really- the ice cream was fab.  Not kidding.  I've been converted.  I'm a believer.  So much so that I searched for the beans when I returned home, found them, and have now been cooking with 'em ever since.  They are that. good.

So anyway.  Here's to going "green"!  And yay spring!  Well, almost summer.

A Bit of Cheese

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So, if you haven't heard, it's Valentine's Day.

Yeah, yeah- I know.  That one day a year people either love or hate.  Yet another commercial day to "celebrate" with loads of candy, card-sending, and unnecessary money spent on (sometimes extravagant) gifts. 

It can be pretty cheesy, to say the least.  Speaking of cheese....well, hold that thought.

If you are like me and have been married a while, February 14th is just another day (that may or may not involve a meal out or possibly a homemade card of some sort...).  My husband and I, while madly in love with each other, don't need a special "day" to celebrate ourselves.  But I suppose it's nice for some people.  You know, to get diamonds and all that.

I would much rather have a few new ramekins or a garlic press (hint, hint, HINT).

All joking aside, I have three wonderful boys at home and (really, truly) that's all I need.  Cue the "awww."  Anyway.  Yes, to us, it's just another day.  BUT, we do like to make it special in some small way.  And, of course, food is a great way to make a day special.

Especially the sugary kind. 

Enter Valentine's Day.

We are having a nice meal tonight:  Grilled steak, mashed sweet potatoes with bacon and touch of maple syrup, a spinach salad with citrus dressing topped with feta/dried cranberries/red onion/toasted pecans, and homemade rolls-- but the star will, of course, be the final course.

The icing on the cake is always saved for last, my friends, and this one is no exception.  Tonight, I'm celebrating my husband with his favorite dessert (shh, don't tell him- good thing he doesn't read this often!) and while it's a favorite of many, it isn't my tip top choice.

But, again, it's HIS and thus my gift to him.

Plain jane, old-fashioned, rich & decadent:  Cheesecake.

Mmmhmm.

A bit of cheese on this day is entirely appropriate, I think.  He'll be thrilled.  I rarely make it so I'm anxious to see his reaction. 

Because I'm not a huge fan (I know, I'm weird, shock and awe), I'm adding a triple berry topping to make it a little bit more enticing.  I like a little something extra.  I may even drizzle chocolate sauce over top, get all crazy like that. 

But Mr. K?  He likes his slice with absolutely no adornments.  Just plain ol' cheese.

If you knew him, you would understand.  He's a quiet man, doesn't take to the flashy or accessorized.
I'm kind of glad, that would be weird. 

Anyway.

Let me show you how this thing'll shape up.  Shall we?

Plain Ol' Cheesecake w/Triple Berry Topping

Ingredients:
- 2 Cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1/2 Cup butter, melted
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 4 (8oz) pkgs cream cheese, softened
- 1 1/3 Cups sugar
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 3 eggs
- 1 Cup plain Greek yogurt (do NOT substitute any other kind of yogurt but the Greek variety, if you need to subsitute something else, use sour cream).

For berry topping:
- 2 Cups fresh or frozen berries, I like a mix of raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries (if frozen, allow time to thaw)
- 1/2 Cup sugar
- 2 Tbsp water

Instructions:
1) In small bowl toss together graham cracker crumbs, butter, and 2 Tbsp sugar.  Press crumb mixture onto bottom and up sides of a 9" springform pan.  Chill in freezer while preparing filling.

2) In large mixing bowl beat cream cheese on medium speed until fluffy.  Add 1 1/3 Cups sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, and lemon juice.  Beat until combined.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined after each addition.  Stir in Greek yogurt.

3) Pour into chilled crust.  Bake at 325 degrees about 1 hour, 15 min or until center is almost set.  Turn oven off and open door.  Let the cake cool in oven (with door open) another 10 minutes.  Take out of oven and cool on wire rack for an additional 45 minutes more.  Chill in fridge at least 3 hours. 

4) For topping, add berries, sugar, and water to a saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook about 4-5 minutes.  Turn off heat and allow to cool slightly.  Pour berry blend over cheesecake before placing cake in the fridge OR place berry topping in a separate bowl and chill until ready to eat, then allow people to top with berries, as desired.


Like I said, the final product is nothing short of love at first bite.



What're your thoughts on Valentine's Day?
Do you partake in the cheesy?

In this family we prefer our cheese eaten,
thankyouverymuch.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Cozy.

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This.


Plus this.


Plus this.


Or this.


Equals bliss.

Or...if you are my son, this equals bliss.



What are your warm weather favorites?

Happy snow day!

Perusing the Pantry

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Hi friends.

I've been MIA since, oh, November.  No apologies though.  I've been taking some much-needed relaxation time away from my PC.  I decided I'm no longer going to beat myself up if my posts are few and far between.  Instead, I'll simply post when and if I feel like it.

This is such a breath of fresh air.

I'm not sure what it is about blogging, but so many people believe if they start a blog, they MUST post every day.

Myself included.

It's a bizarre feeling, having an unknown group of followers and feeling as though you are letting them down somehow...when in truth, they probably don't even notice.  Really.  As a blog reader, as well as a blog writer, I have a few sites I regularly peruse but I don't get agitated when someone doesn't blog daily.  Thus I'm assuming nobody gives a hoot if my posts aren't regular.

Correct me if I'm wrong.

Anyway- I generally only post about desserty/carby concoctions and I'm sure, with it being the new year and all, people aren't missing my calorie-laden posts :)  However, this one is no exception so I'm sorry in advance.

But it WILL allow you to use up any lingering sweets and sugary items leftover from the holidays!  It's all about perspective, right?

So what's on the docket?  Something you generally have had a million times, I'm sure. And likely have had it a million ways.

Death by chocolate trifle.

Yes.  It's one of my favorites.  Mainly because it's a cinch to make- just layering things in any given order, and I always have an array of yummy items I could throw together to make one version or another.  The traditional DBCT uses a layering of brownie chunks, chocolate mousse, whipped cream, and toffee bits.  But who likes to maintain tradition?  I'm all about using what you have.

Instead of brownies, use chocolate chip cookies and butterscotch pudding with praline pecans. 

Or ginger snaps with a pumpkin mousse and candied walnuts.

Or shortbread with lemon curd and raspberries. 

Or homemade dark chocolate sea salted brownies with leftover French silk pie filling, homemade Southern Comfort whipped cream, and Snickers bar chunks.

Uh huh.  That last version?  That's the one seen below.


Use what'cha got, folks.
In this case, I had very fabulous items to work with.


It's all in the name of cleaning the pantry, right?



I'm sure you agree.

What are some of your pantry-clearing recipes? 
Here's another one I featured a while back, Enchilada Casserole.

Make yourself the casserole, with a little trifle for dessert, and you can feel good about your resourcefulness.

Enjoy your pantry, you may be surprised at what you come up with.