Tuesday, February 23, 2010

SIMPLE FOOD, SIMPLE MEALSOccasionally, I get in a food rut. Nothing sounds that good, I can't think of anything to cook, I make the same thing over and over, etc. I usually start to feel that way around the end of January. I am tired of root veggies, rice, beans, etc. I am ready for the fresh fruits and vegetables of spring and summer. I am uninspired. When I feel that way, I know a simple, sure-fire way to get my kitchen creativity going is to head to my local bakery and produce stand. Conversations with the owners, buying foods that I am not very familiar with, and just being around the fresh, local foods always gets me excited to be in the kitchen again.
I also love to eat really simply. I gravitate towards foods that require little more seasoning than olive oil, sea salt, fresh cracked pepper, maybe a little squeeze of lemon or a sprig of rosemary. If it can be made in a cast iron skillet and go straight from oven to table, all the better. Today for lunch, a baked sweet potato with butter and cinnamon, a bed of spinach with apples, pecans, and a drizzle of olive oil, and a wedge of that lovely artichoke and onion focaccia, pictured above, from the bakery. Easy, inexpensive, delicious. Some other foods that have been coming out of my kitchen the past few days...

-Smitten Kitchen's Chewy Granola Bars. I substituted honey for the corn syrup and next time will probably drastically reduce or eliminate the sugar...it was a little too sweet for me but my husband and kids LOVED them. It was fun to realize (via facebook) that Aimee and I were making these at the same time yesterday. Love friends with similar food ideas!

-Roasted Brussel Sprouts. I had never had a brussel sprout in my life, until my friend Lis made a big platter of them last week. Drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with sea salt, they were almost like candy and incredibly delicious. I went to the store straightway.

-Creme Brulee is my husband's favorite dessert, but I had never made it before, until last night. With only four ingredients (vanilla bean, heavy cream, egg yolks, and a little sugar) it was a pleasure to make, and easy (though time consuming).

-Overnight french toast. Big crusty pieces of french bread snuggled up together in my biggest cast iron skillet, covered in a mixture of eggs, whole milk, and a little sugar. The tops were sprinkled with a little grating of nutmeg and cinnamon. Five minutes of time spent putting it together the night before, and into the oven this morning. A sprinkling of powdered sugar and a drizzle of pure maple syrup over the top made it delicious. It would have been really yummy with a side of stewed apples too.

And some of my friend's are cooking up...

-Raw Foods

-Simple Breakfasts

-Chocolate Avocado Pudding

-Romantic Dinner

-Roasted Beets

What are you cooking in February? Are you still enjoying winter meals or are you counting down the days until fresh fruits and vegetables come in to season?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

CHOCOLATEI was never much of a chocolate lover until about six months ago, when Wilder was born. I don't know what happened then, but ever since, I have been a chocolate fanatic. This last month or so, my chocolate obsession was taken to new heights when I discovered this chocolate bar. Whoever first had the idea to put dark chocolate and sea salt together was a food genius. The love of that chocolate bar led to trying this Giada recipe (minus the cinnamon). It had to be made twice, once with dark chocolate and once with semi sweet (research, of course). So, my friend, Ellen came over and we made it together, and then made ourselves sick on it while watching (what else?) Chocolat. Ah, that movie never gets old.
Today, I made a chocolate panini, which I sprinkled with sea salt. It wasn't bad, but I am definitely a bigger fan of just straight chocolate. I mean, when you have good quality dark chocolate, why muddle it up with other ingredients? That's just a personal opinion, of course, and I am no food expert. I'm just a housewife that digs chocolate.

Several comments from this discussion validated my opinion on the dark chocolate-with-sea-salt combo.

And this helpful guide to organic dark chocolate has left me with several different chocolates on my wish list. I am thinking this one might be a little from-me-to-me for my birthday.

What about you? Are you crazy for chocolate? Are you a dark chocolate fan or do you prefer milk chocolate? How dark do you like it? And what's your favorite way to eat it? Straight or in a recipe?