Cleanse & Mend

Yeah, yeah. So you came here last Tuesday and noticed my blog had disappeared, eh? That news is sooooo last week. Ironically enough, it seems that being hacked is just the motivation I was looking for to revamp the site, clean it up a bit so to speak. So to the slimy douchebag out there who decided to ruin my day last Tuesday, I can now say, “thanks, asshat, because now i made my blog fancy.” I can neither confirm nor deny other obscenities that may have come across my innocent lips. And yes, I stuck my tongue out at him, too.

Anyway, I hope you like the new look. Thanks for coming back.

In other news, I thought this would be a good time to fill you in on that weird comment I made the other day about eating vegan for 2 days. It really wasn’t a big deal, but to me, noticeably not eating meat for that long isn’t something I intend to do on the regular (I say this while pounding back a hearty dish of jambalaya – more on that in the future). Sure, I often times go many days without eating meat, but not because I am forcing myself to, but because I choose to (which is different, I promise), because I do enjoy many a vegetarian entree. The vegan eating is the one that gets me – the no dairy, no cheese, no honey, etc.

Nonetheless, I did do it. One day involved a full-on juice detox from a company called Juice to You. I saw a coupon come across one of the many email subscriptions I receive, and since it seemed interesting, and since the bottles were pretty, I figured I may as well give it a try. I survived, and I did eat pretty healthily for a week. The juices were extra tasty, filling, and relatively easy to drink. Did I feel differently? Not really, but it was only a day. Maybe I’ll try the 3-day detox next time – if they release another coupon, that is. Or maybe I’ll just get that juicer I have on my wishlist and make my own.

The juice detox reminded me of a drink/smoothie I hadn’t made since living in Chicago. I’m sure there have got to be a handful of you still reading at this point, and hopefully you aren’t about to “X” out after I tell you this: it was full of spinach and flax seeds, totally vegan, and one of my very favorite smoothies.

Still there?

Okay – there’s a banana and some sweetener in there, too. And oats. I tell ya – there is not one moment where I drink this smoothie and think to myself, “man, this tastes like freaking spinach”. It’s all oat-y and banana-y and milk-y, and you should try it just to see if I’m telling the truth or not. But I promise you, I am. The juice detox reminded me that I need more greens in my diet, and blending them up in a creamy beverage each morning is mindnumbingly easy.

Plus, it saves me from having to drink tea and coffee every morning, putting me on the brink of being addicted again, and thus turning into a total crazy lady in the process of weaning off of said caffeine-ation once I start to feel guilty about it. Clearly, that’s a bad cycle, you see. Now that I say this, consider this smoothie my gift to you in more than one way. You’re welcome.

Spinach, Banana, & Oat Smoothie
makes 1 drink

time commitment: 5 minutes

this drink is super flexible and great for forcing some veggies and fruits into your diet. i’ve added raspberries, an apple, and cranberries before (not together, at different times), and have also added in pomegranate juice and other juices in place of or in addition to the milk. if i had some blueberries, i bet that’d be tasty too.

printable version

ingredients
1 T whole flax seeds
1 1/2 c baby spinach
1 banana
1/4 c oat bran
1 1/4 c vanilla soy milk
1 T agave nectar or honey
ice

instructions
in a blender, whiz the flax seeds around to grind up for about 30 seconds. add spinach, banana, oat bran milk, and agave nectar/honey (in this order to weigh down the spinach) and mix for about 2 minutes until well blended. add ice and blend until desired texture (i usually add about 8 pieces of ice).

Crêpe Master

I consider myself a pretty decent cook. Alright, a good cook. I’m not sure how much of what I know was learned in culinary school versus by experimentation and reading many a food magazine and book, but nonetheless, I feel pretty comfortable making most things.

Su-prem-ing? I’ve got that in the bag. Homemade pumpernickel? Hells yeah. Even gorgeous marshmallows, which are soft and pillowy and not hard on the outside like the ones from the store.

Crêpes? They scare(d) the bejeezuz out of me. You see, in culinary school we were forced to make certain “must-knows”, and crêpes were one of them. That’s what I get for having a French instructor right? Fortunately, it was only a few miserable hours of my precious time, and after a few duds and torn pieces of what would have been a crêpe had I pieced it together,  I was able to move on to the next task, tail between legs. I decided then and there that I would never make crêpes at my B&B (yes, the one waiting for me in Napa….), no matter how soft and buttery and downright lovely they are. Those guests best like their waffles and poached eggs, that’s all I gots to say!

I’d finally gotten over my inability to crêpe (I think I made that up…), and then I sous chefed for my now super preggers friend Caroline a couple of months back and watched her bust out crêpes for 8. Needless to say, I was jealous, but inspired. And when figuring out what French-inspired dessert to make for the bouillabaise-slash-Rockband-failure party (also referred to as the lots-of-wine-between-four-people-in-five-hours party), I knew I had to master the crêpe, or go down trying. And what better way than after a few bottles of wine? Plus, it was either that or the soufflé, and my soufflé record was also 0 for 1.

Fear no more, friends! Turns out crêpes are not only easy, but fun to make once you’ve got the technique down pat. And did I mention how perfect they are with homemade nutella and bananas? {Secretly, I was simply dying to make nutella and besides a lone spoon, there isn’t any better way to serve it than with crêpes, non?} Turns out all you need is batter of the perfect consistency, a small amount of it at a time, and a non-stick skillet. Hence, I now blame my crêpe faux pas on the crappy school skillets, or perhaps my inability to procure one of the good ones.

I might also add, while I’m confessing here, that I was so confident in my crêping (made up again?) skillz I bragged to Caroline a couple of weeks ago during another of my sous chef appearances and in effect, got to try my hand at ’em again.  This just in: they’re even easier sober, and I’ve officially deemed myself a real-deal crêpe masta!

Next up, the macaron, and maybe one day, another soufflé. But don’t hold your breath for that one….


ps – thanks to my friend, Katherine, host of the bouillabaise-Rockband-fail party, for the lovely crêpe pictures!

What’s your favorite type of crêpe?

Whole Wheat Crêpes w/ Nutella & Bananas
makes at least 8 crêpes with plenty of leftover nutella

i’m not gonna lie here – this is a must-make and totally worth the work, which isn’t much. the crêpe batter can be made well in advance, and the nutella truly comes together in minutes once you shell the hazelnuts (which I bet you can buy toasted and shelled) and is far better than the over-processed stuff from the store. it’s creamy, rich, and my one stray from traditional adds a hint of coconut. also – made with natural sugars, and you can adjust the consistency of the final product to your liking by adding water or more agave nectar. make this.

printable version (full recipe)

ingredients
1 recipe whole-wheat crêpes (below)
1 recipe homemade nutella (below)
2-3 bananas, sliced

instructions
make nutella and crêpes. spread nutella (however much you want) over crêpe and load with sliced bananas. fold up and chow down :).

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Homemade Nutella
makes ~1 1/2 cups

leftovers go great anywhere – on a spoon, on an english muffin, with fruit, whatevs. store in fridge.

printable version (nutella only)

ingredients
2 c hazelnuts
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 t coconut extract, optional
1/2 c agave nectar
1/4 c powdered sugar
1/4 c water
1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
pinch of salt

instructions
preheat oven to 350 F. spread hazelnuts evenly onto baking sheet. bake ~7 minutes, or until fragrant. remove and immediately wrap in kitchen towel (allowing steam to further remove shells). after about 10 minutes, rub towel vigorously to remove remaining shells (this method should get most of them off, but you may have to go in and rub again!). put shelled hazelnuts in food processor and process until a coarse, pasty consistency. Add remaining ingredients and mix until smooth chocolatey consistency. if chunky, add water by the tablespoon until desired texture.

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Whole-Wheat Crêpes
makes at least 8

printable version (crêpes only)

ingredients
2 eggs
pinch of salt
3 T sugar
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c all purpose flour
1 c milk
butter, room temp
water, if needed

instructions
whisk eggs in medium sized bowl. add salt through milk and mix until smooth; will appear “runny” (we ain’t makin’ pancakes here, we want thin). if not using immediately, refrigerate, but let sit out at room temperature for about 30 minutes before using.

get a small non-stick skillet and warm it up over medium-hi heat. using your room temp butter, rub it into your pan (if the pan is hot enough, the butter will bubble a little). using a ladle or measuring cup, measure out 1/4 c of batter and place into middle of skillet. pick the skillet up and move the batter around by tilting the skillet in a circular motion so that it covers the bottom of the skillet. let the crêpe cook until the tops are bubbling (1-2 minutes), then use a thin spatula and slowly lift the crepe (since you’re using butter and a non-stick skillet, it should lift super easily). flip crêpe and cook on the other side until browned in some spots. remove and repeat until out of batter!

troubleshooting: if the crêpes are browning to fast, turn the heat down a little. if the crêpes are thicker than you like, put less batter in the skillet, or use a little water to thin out the batter.