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).

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All Grown Up

I hope you all had yourselves a lovely weekend. Over our way, it was a perfect June Saturday and Sunday (maybe even a little atypical for us, from what I’ve heard). We kept busy on Saturday by having a tasty dim sum brunch with new friends, shopping for layers (key here people, key!), and hanging with more friends over food and wine.

Sunday involved the regular grocery shopping and farmers’ market events, and then a challenging bike to the Golden Gate Bridge, at which point Chris drove over and met me where we proceeded to have a nice lounging hour looking at our gorgeous new city. Of course, Sunday also included a nice conversation with my Pops.

I’ve talked about my Pops quite a few times, from tales about his old-fashioned habits to bonding when Gramma died to cutting up chicken. But my favorite blogstory involved a discussion about one of his best meals – breakfast. Every Saturday & Sunday, the ‘samich’ would surface: plain, white untoasted bread, extra-crispy bacon, floppy American Kraft cheese (only the best, friends), and a heavily peppered fried egg left out at room temperature on that cream colored plate with the brown rim, a chip on its edge. It was my very favorite breakfast, for a lot of reasons.

Breakfasts around these parts are generally nothing to write home about – a bowl of cereal or oatmeal, a smoothie, or maybe a homemade granola bar if I’m feeling motivated, is about all we muster up. If I ever do become one of those people who like to be awake at the crack of dawn though, you best believe we’d begin our day with these samiches, French toast, pastries, egg casseroles, and fresh coffee, maybe even some homemade juice from the juicer I’ve yet to buy.

This week was a little different, since I’ve been craving something that included the words “cheese” and “bacon”. It seemed that there was no better time than Sunday to make my own version of the sandwich I woke up to every weekend morning of my childhood. This one is a little bit fancier, a little more mature, in way – loaded with all the local Bay Area ingredients I could find, including a new addiction of mine, sourdough bread (where has it been all my life?!). Also, the bread is crunchy, a total no-no according to my Pops, at least in the way of breakfast samiches.

Bells and whistles aside, at its core this samich is nothing but pure comfort, through and through. It’s crunchy, it’s cheesy, and it reminds me of those samiches I used to eat so often, only it’s a little bit different. Nonetheless, I doesn’t change my memory of them; it just makes it even better.

I would say these same things to my Pops when talking about our relationship. Sure, I’m much older now and yeah, you could say I’m more mature than I used to be, for the most part. And of course, I’ve moved away not just once but three different times, each a little further away than before, but knowing those facts doesn’t change too much. At the end of the day, I’m still his little (grown up) girl, no matter where I am.

My Bacon, Egg, & Cheese Sandwich
inspired by my Pops; makes 2

printable version

ingredients
4 pieces of thick-cut bacon
2 eggs
salt & pepper
2 T butter
2 slices of sharp cheddar cheese
4 slices of sourdough bread, ~1/2″ thick
small handful of baby spinach

instructions
cook bacon in a large saucepan until nice and crispy; let drain on paper towel-lined plate. remove some bacon fat from the pan, if it seems like a lot.

over medium-high heat, crack both eggs into the same pan; sprinkle with salt and pepper. cook on one side for a minute or so, then flip and cook on the other side another minute or so. remove and set aside.

wipe down the pan, and over medium-high heat, melt butter. on one slice of bread, add a slice of cheese, an egg, then 2 pieces of bacon; top with another slice of bread. once butter is melted, put sandwiches into the pan, pressing down on them with a spatula. after a couple of minutes, use spatula to flip sandwich and cook on the other side. remove from heat and plate; place spinach between top slice of bread and bacon.

Farro & Away

I don’t want to give the impression that things around Chez Wetzel are always complicated, and full of fancy brining techniques, tacos with multiple components, and the like. Sometimes it is, but sometimes things are way simple.

And even though I have a freezer FULL of meat that I fully intend to eat, thanks to my CSA, sometimes we still eat vegetarian, even in this house of avid meat-eaters.

Simple doesn’t have to mean boring, run of the mill food. Simple doesn’t have to mean cereal or spaghetti with Newman’s Own red sauce that’s been in the cupboard for years. Although let’s make this clear as a bell – I will quickly devour either of those dishes and have on many occasion.

But sometimes, I enjoy the promise of a one-dish-meal that allows me to get some protein, some veggies, and to use some fancy ingredients that have been hanging out alongside that store-bought pasta sauce.

Enter tahini and pomegranate molasses – both jars whose contents are used far less often than they should be. The tahini? Sure, I’ve made some hummus with it a time or two, but those ground sesame seeds have more or less just taken up room in the cupboard. And the pomegranate molasses? Let’s just say that I prefer my molasses as plain as day, although this dish almost led me to reconsider.

Here though, a simple-appearing dish of healthy grains dresses up a little bit and for just a moment, it seems fancy.

Fancy, but easier to make than simple syrup. This little dish smells like a trip to an exotic island, it tastes nutty thanks be to the sesame and the toasted farro, and the drizzle of molasses atop the bowl adds a perfect amount of sweetness and tang. The farro is soft, but not too soft, and firm enough that it has a springiness when bitten. To look at it, you’d never expect it to evoke anything really exciting, but it does.

Sometimes, it’s the simple things in life that make it all worth living, not to mention making all those fancy things all the more special.

And with that, we’re off! In fact, we may even be in Oregon by now, speeding down the road with the top down, if it’s warm enough. Hopefully we’ll make a stop for cheese, gorgeous views of the coast, and some Oregon beer. Be sure to hop on the new facebook page, where I’ll try to update our travels from Portland to LAX and everywhere in between.

Toasted Farro w/ Greens & Tahini
Adapted from Kevin Gillespie via Food & Wine; September 2010; serves 2-4

printable version

ingredients
3/4 cup farro
1 T tahini
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 T canola oil
2 packed c spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 c parsley leaves
1/4 c fennel fronds
2 T fresh lemon juice
Salt
Pomegranate molasses, for drizzling

instructions
In a saucepan, cover the farro with water and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over moderate heat until just tender, 12 minutes. Drain and transfer to a small sheet pan or bowl. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes, until chilled.

In a small bowl, whisk 2 tablespoons of water with the tahini and olive oil.

In a skillet, heat the canola oil. Add the farro in an even layer and cook over high heat, stirring once, until toasted, about 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of water and the greens and cook over moderate heat, stirring a few times, until the greens are just tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in the parsley, fennel fronds, and the tahini mixture and remove from the heat. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt. Transfer the farro to a bowl, drizzle with pomegranate molasses and serve.