Sea Salt & Chocolate Pleasure

20 Mon, 2010 § 8 Comments

Only five days until Christmas?  Really?

Wow.

In need of a last-minute gift or a little something to enhance an offering?  I was.  Natalie saved me with her suggestion.

Simple, pretty & I needed only three ingredients.

  • 1 bag [12 oz?] of dark chocolate chips [I used Guittard 60% cacao, non-dairy]
  • ~1 cup almonds [I had leftover almond crumbs, but I’m sure I can think of something to do with these. ;)]
  • sea salt, to taste

I Love Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt.

It is my current favorite combination.  Salt brings out the complexity of dark chocolate, & I’ve been CRAVING it recently.  It didn’t take much to convince me to make this bark, & it definitely lived up to expectations.

Mmmm…now I don’t want to share.

Line an 8×8 baking sheet with parchment paper if you have it — or take your husband up on his offer to run back to the store when you realize you forgot it — it is worth it for the ease of cleanup & removing the chocolate from the pan.  Use a larger baking sheet if you want thinner bark.

Toast the almonds, chop [the food processor is great for this] & spread them over the parchment paper.

Melt the chocolate.  You can do this in a microwave or using a double boiler. I love melting chocolate with my double boiler — there is something therapeutic about stirring the chips & watching as they slowly melt into dark, rich liquid.

Pour the melted chocolate over the almonds, spreading gently if needed.

Sprinkle with sea salt, to taste by sight — ok, so you can’t really taste test yet; I just guessed & thought it best to error on the lighter side for the sake of general taste [of others].  Start with a light dusting & increase the amount on your next batches if desired — you’ll want to make more.  Promise.

Allow to cool & harden [I left mine in the fridge overnight].

Remove the harden bark from the baking sheet & break into pretty pieces.  [This is fun.]

Fill a clean mason jar with chocolate bark pieces.

Tie a couple pretty ribbons around the jar for a nice, finishing touch.  I also cut a circle out of gold tissue paper & inserted it between the lid & screw-top to hide the not-so-pretty, generic writing.

This made enough to fill two 12-ounce jars.

I keep thinking how pretty pink, Himalayan sea salt would be…but these are still very pretty.

Natalie also brought up that pistachios & dried cranberries would be a festive alternative to almonds.  That would be a fun combination — let me know if anyone tries it — you simply can’t go wrong with almonds though.

Thanks again for your help Natalie!

~

Friday was downstairs.  Here’s a little look at the upstairs.

Hook a left & meet the linen closet & full bath.

Keep hooking & you’re in the spare room.

I love the storage space in our rental.  This closet will be perfect for our outdoor gear.

The spare has become the workout room for now.

If you hook a right at the top of the stairs:

another nice closet…which has some of Eisley’s things, & she knows it. 🙂

Our bedroom

I like the tree right outside, & yes that is our bed for the time being “rolled” up against the wall.  The memory foam mattress pad is perfectly cozy for me, but Dave’s heavy, broad shoulders sink to the floor…I can see how that could be a bit uncomfortable.  We padded it with thick blankets underneath, so he doesn’t hit the hard floor any longer.  I like having it out of the way during the day — plenty of play room for me & Eis — but I’m sure we’ll be getting an actual bed soon.

Aw…& a walk-in closet.

In case you don’t see enough of Eisley 😉

& want close-up of the “bed”.

Sometimes she reminds me of a deer.

~

What “last minute” things do you need to take care of this week before the holidays?  I think I just have one two gifts left & some cards to make — oh yeah, & a family portrait to take.

Hope you enjoy your Monday!

Chickpea & Townhome Promises

17 Fri, 2010 § 7 Comments

I promised a friend I would post a recipe for roasting chickpeas as soon as we settled into our new place.  One problem: apparently I didn’t bring any pots.  Not one.  I think I had this “plan” of saving packing room & getting a nice set of stainless steel ones once we had moved.  Since I prefer cast-iron skillets, I don’t need a full set; but, it is a little more difficult to find pot-only sets than I had anticipated…plus there’s the issue of the “budget” I mentioned Wednesday.

Looking over our week’s menu, not having a single pot was going to be a dilemma for more than just cooking chickpeas.  Fortunately, I found a stainless steel stock pot on a great sale at Sears — only $8!

Phew!  Close one!

So far, it has worked wonderfully — even if it’s been a little tricky having only one pot in the kitchen, but I’m crafty like that 😉 & now we can finally roast chickpeas!

Now, this isn’t exactly a “recipe”, because you don’t really need one.  These are simple, versatile & should be made to suit your own taste; but I think I have the cooking method down after trying several different oven temperatures.

I have made these with everything from garlic salt & savory herbs to spicy cayenne to Indian spices to smokey paprika [probably my second favorite] to sweet, warming spices like cardamon & cinnamon.

My favorite way to have these though is simple, classic olive oil & sea salt.

Soak dried chickpeas overnight [you’ll want at least 1 cup — they shrink back down after roasting] & cook, covered, in simmering water with kombu 2.5 – 3 hours until just cooked [they don’t have to be extremely soft because you are going to bake them].

OR

Drain & rinse canned garbanzo beans/chickpeas for convenience.

Preheat oven to 375*F.

Spread cooked or canned chickpeas out on a rimmed baking sheet.

Drizzle with olive oil [~1T] & toss/shake the pan around.

Sprinkle with sea salt to taste or seasonings of choice & toss again.

Roast chickpeas for 45 – 60 minutes, watching closely & shaking every 15 – 20 minutes to promote even roasting.  You might have to rotate your baking sheet as well since the back of the oven is often hotter.  Cook until they are golden & start to split open.  They will “crisp” up more as they cool, so don’t overcook.

These protein-&-fiber-packed snacks are delicious tossed over salads, with trail mix or just eaten by the handful.  It’s a great change up from the usual movie night popcorn too!

~

BONUS:

Here’s a little something extra for anyone who is curious.  I hate taking such plain photos [with the flash no less], but I promised Ashley simple, snapshots of our layout.  Here’s a little downstairs tour

We weren’t able to get a townhome with a fence after all. 😦  Maybe it wouldn’t have been worth the extra $30/month…(sigh), we’ll never know.

As you walk inside, you are met by the stairs, but we’re not going up there today. 😉

The carpet isn’t that brown.  It looks awful in the photo, but it’s closer to taupe.

There is a nice coat closet to the right of the front door.  See how the hooks hang inside & backwards?  That’s how all of the “rods” are throughout the house.

When facing the stairway, if you turn right, you are in the living room,

which has a large window on that right wall…& doesn’t house much other than our camp chairs currently. 🙂

It’s a pretty small space.  I’m sure we’ll really feel that once the piano is in here.  Homey, we’ll call it. 😉

If you go left of the staircase, you would be in the dining area,

& view our sole holiday decorations [for the time-being].  There are french doors on the left wall,

& a bar opposite these.

I really like the bar & am excited for it to not look like a mess.

Around the bar.

Across from the stove.

The rest of the kitchen.

A nifty little broom closet next to the fridge, perfect for the garbage can.  [That’s my kitchen laundry bag hanging on the door.]

I love the pantry that faces the fridge & broom closet, & it’s not too deep — I basically had to dive into our former one to retrieve anything from the back.

If you go past the pantry & closet, there is a half bath which leads into the utility room with the W/D hookups.  This might be a great space for Dave’s work bench.  Bodhi’s litter box is in there around the corner, & his crate is in the doorway [because we forgot the kiddie gate] to deter Eisley from enjoying canine “Almond Roca” [cat poop].  Yeah, my pup is gross, but your dog would like it too. 😉

So there you have it…even if you all didn’t ask for it.

Happy Friday 🙂

~

I think the best part will be decorating & expressing our personalities in a new space.  What’s your favorite thing about moving into a new place?

Ever tried roasting chickpeas?  Which seasonings do you like/think you would like best?

Take-Out & In

16 Thu, 2010 § 9 Comments

Pizza seems to be the quintessential “moving day” food.  With Christine’s help, we even found a pizza place that offers vegan pizzas & local, seasonal ingredients: New Jersey Pizza Company.

The “vegan” pizzas aren’t anything fancy, but at least they seem open to a request to leave cheese off — which usually wins me the are-you-Crazy? glance — & they even offer vegan cheese.  The in-house crust, made daily, is fresh & amazing: slightly crisp yet still soft on the inside.  They also have a house-made mozzarella which Dave quickly approved.  My vegan calzone hit the spot.

Our quick-assembly cardboard box dining table fit right in with our “moving day” theme.  All that was left was something cold to wash it down.

We bumped into a woman at the store looking for a saffron-infused beer, & I was more than happy to help her find it.  If I had to choose only one spice for the rest of my life — which would just be cruel anyway — it would be saffron.  It’s difficult to describe what saffron tastes like, so I tend to agree that “to taste saffron is to know how unnecessary words are in the vocabulary of joy.”  Honeyed musk just came to mind, so maybe that’s a good description.

We almost missed the “cold” part of our drinks, because we didn’t realize the fridge was off.  Nothing a quick chill in the freezer [while roasting a side of broccoli] didn’t remedy.

I usually go for a glass of wine & am a dark beer gal when I grab a beer, but I enjoyed this Midas Touch by Dogfish Head Brewery.  The bitterness of the barley played well with the subtle sweetness of the honey & grapes as well as the delicacy of the saffron.  I don’t really think of beer as an after dinner drink, but this is really nice!

That was our take-out…& while it’s easy to get caught up in the take-out mood during move-in week, we opted to quickly fill the pantry & cook a delicious meal that still satisfies that mood.

Natalia discovered mochi recently & reignited my excitement over what has sort of become a staple in our home.  This kicked me out of my typical mochi waffle mode & has made me think of other ways to use it.

Mochi Dumplings are a favorite.

I really want to love dumplings when we dine out, but they are usually somewhat of a disappointment to me; they are generally too chewy, & it’s rare to find them without pork.  I love this so much more than any I have ever tried at a restaurant.

Baked mochi creates a dumpling that is chewy on the inside but still crisp on the outside.  They make a quick & versatile meal; you basically make stir-fry then stuff.  It is a perfect way to use up aging produce & the best method I have found to sneak cabbage into Dave — mwahaha — he didn’t even taste it!  Plus any excuse to make peanut sauce rocks.

Cabbage & Leek Stuffed Mochi

filled 12 mochi dumplings

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

  • 1 leek, thinly sliced into half moons

Saute ~3 minutes.

  • 10 small, baby bella mushrooms

Remove & discard stems [save for other use — I fed these to Eisley].

Thinly slice caps.

  • ½ a small head of cabbage, sliced thinly [~1 cup] or other winter green

Add mushroom & cabbage to skillet & saute 8 – 10 minutes.

Deglaze with braggs or tamari if needed.

  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1 daikon radish, grated
  • 1 T mirin

Add & saute 5 – 8 minutes more, or until tender & most of the liquid has cooked out.

Stir in sesame seeds [ground sunflower seeds are a good substitute if you happen to forget sesame seeds like I did].

  • 1 12-oz package of mochi, cut into 2″ squares & baked according to package directions [I really like the super seed one by Grainaissance].  Should make 12 squares.

[I put the mochi in the oven around the time I add the cabbage & mushrooms.]

Allow the puffed mochi to cool enough to handle.

Carefully slit each one open with a knife & use a fork to stuff with stir-fry.  This is a bit sticky & awkward; they don’t have to be pretty — they will still be delicious.

Peanut Dipping Sauce

  • 3 T coconut milk
  • ¼ C natural peanut butter [we like chunky]
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes [a nice sub for red chili sauce a.k.a cock sauce]
  • 1 T honey or other sweetener
  • 1 T toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp lemon zest [I would have preferred lime juice, but a lemon was all I had.  I just used the zest to give it a hint of citrus without making it too “lemony”]

Combine all ingredients in a blender & puree until smooth.

~

What is your favorite take-out?

What is your favorite homemade take on a favorite take-out?

Poor Man’s Pomegranate Vinaigrette

15 Wed, 2010 § 7 Comments

We just moved into our new place & desperately needed to restock the pantry.  Because we are still on one income, I’m very aware of the budget.

I could not justify spending $10 – $15 on pure pomegranate juice after shelling out nearly $10 on a bottle of mirin.  What can I say?  I can’t would rather not live without it.  I love the stuff & use “just a dash” constantly.  Fortunately Dave didn’t ask me to live without it.  Don’t I have the best husband?!

I really wanted fabulous salads for Sunday’s dinner & was not about to sway too far from the planned menu.

ta-dah

A blend of pomegranate, cranberry & apple juices, only $3 & still 100% juice.  Perfect!

We tossed the mixed winter greens & thin slices of pear with the pomegranate dressing, then topped with additional pear slices, oven-roasted & salted pumpkin seeds & finally pomegranate seeds.  The next day for lunch I added bee pollen as well, which I’ve been told is a great protein source for vegetarians.  [Thanks Lindsey!]

This baby herb salad mix is tasty.  The only downfall is the risk of an occasional bite of cilantro.  Blah, not a fan.  A very nice bite that did complement the pomegranate, pears & seeds was fresh dill.  I know; I wasn’t expecting that either.  It makes me think just a little dill might be a nice addition to the dressing.  Better yet, if you have fresh dill on hand, toss a few sprigs into your salad mix.

Pomegranate Vinaigrette

makes ~1 cup

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • ½ C pomegranate juice blend [add less if using pure pom juice]
  • ½ C extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1 T stoneground mustard
  • sea salt to taste

Combine & blend all ingredients in a blender or whisk by hand.

Vinaigrette will keep for 1 week in the refrigerator.

This went really well with a side of sausages: Dave had a couple delicious smelling turkey chorizo, & I enjoyed a Field Roast Smoked Apple-Sage — my favorite yet.

~

Not only is our pantry getting back into the swing of things, but our activity level is too!  Dave has been biking to work, & yesterday morning I decided to tag along for the 10.5 mi round-trip.  What a nice ride, especially compared to what we are used to in SLC.  It is extremely bike-commuter friendly here!  One of the main bike lanes is an extra-wide sidewalk with a pretty moderate incline/decline.  It runs parallel to the train tracks which is pretty neat, & part of it is actually a section of the original highway #66 — rad bus stop & all.  Did I mention we only have to go through a couple lights [as opposed to dozens]?!  Glorious.  It felt great to get back on my pedals!  I mean, it was cold; my fingers hurt & I couldn’t feel my feet for about an hour afterward, but it was worth it.

~

December can be a rough “fitness”month; how are you staying active?

Do you eat salads often in winter?

Into the Void

11 Sat, 2010 § 4 Comments

These last couple months have felt like a hiatus.  We couldn’t shake the feeling we were just on a long vacation & not actually moving to AZ.

Today, the hiatus is evaporating as we move into our own place.

~

Dave is still in the early stages of his new job.

I’m hoping to find work as a PT Tech.

We don’t really know what life in Flagstaff holds for us…

but we’re excited to find out.

~

Thanks for sharing this journey with us.

Thanks Christine for being so generous & letting us crash with you & upset your life these past weeks.

Thanks to our parents & the rest of our family & friends for supporting our decision.

Please enjoy your weekend — enjoy every day!

a.Sliver

26 Tue, 2010 § 9 Comments

Quaint boutiques & shops; cozy, local cafes & restaurants; & trendy outdoor gear stops inhabit the narrow streets of downtown Flagstaff.

Our first impression:

Local.Homey.Eclectic

It feels like a “young” town

with spirit.

Granted we only experienced a slice of this city & there is still much more to see, but we like it.  The sparse traffic & obvious bike lanes make for a friendlier pedal commute & everyone seems to love dogs [it could just be Eisley — she’s pretty lovable — I think I will make a lot of friends with her help ;)].

No city is perfect, but it is nice to see a community that is leaning toward eco-friendly practices rather than moving away from it…

& musicians whose songs warm the chilly October air — I love this.

I am definitely not above stalking out the lovely violinist serenading one of the corners of San Fransisco Street. 😉

The only time during the day we sort of raised our eyebrows & 😦 :

The indoor climbing gym, which looks just ok [the bouldering section is small], is $$$.  Day pass = $16 & it will cost Dave & I $200 just to get a membership — that does not include the membership fee each month!

Good thing the outdoor bouldering ROCKS.  We only touched the boulders in one area on Saturday at Priest Draw, & even though my tummy & core did not feel that great, I connected with the style.  We played on a beautiful, horizontal roof, & I am anxious to go back.  I was more concerned with having spotters than photographers, but I cannot wait to show you bouldering photos — soon!

So why did we leave our jobs in Utah & move to Arizona?    What made us leap without much of a safety net?

We wanted a fresh start in a new area where we could embrace our passions.  We are not interested in “waiting” to live, working 20+ years, banking on retirement to finally have “the time” & a chance to live like we have always envisioned.  One of those visions is traveling & experiencing new places, even if it means living simply.

Simple & happy — that is our intention.  We are figuring out the basic needs & luxuries we cannot live without & those we can.  We are embracing life & the aspects that truly enhance the experience rather than distract from it.

How often do you find yourself looking forward to the weekend?  Tired of yearning for the weekend to come & watching the weeks fly by [is it October already?], we changed our perspective & actions to look forward to each day.

Life is Now.

~

Have you ever made a drastic life change you knew would bring you happiness even if it seemed “risky” in the conventional sense?

Off to See the Wizard

16 Sat, 2010 § 4 Comments

I don’t know how we managed

but with a bit of magic & some finagling

we packed our house into

one

two

three

vehicles

& a trailer

I would say that is not too shabby — forget magic — this was all thanks to the maneuvering & muscles of Dave, dad[IL], best friend Dylan & our wonderful neighbor Sonny.  Great job & THANK YOU.

~

As we leave Utah this morning, I leave you with one of my favorite autumn cookies.  I am pretty proud of this recipe — not to mention the thumbs up from the guy who doesn’t care for oatmeal cookies or pumpkin.

[Happy Moving Day]Oatmeal Pumpkin Cookies

~16 cookies

  • 1 C Spelt Flour
  • 2/3 C Oats
  • ½ tsp Baking Soda
  • ½ tsp Sea Salt
  • ½ Cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp Nutmeg

Combine.

  • 1/3 C Brown Rice Syrup
  • 1/3 C Maple Syrup
  • 1/3 C Grapeseed Oil
  • ½ C Pumpkin puree
  • ½ tsp Vanilla
  • ½ T ground Flaxseeds

Combine in a separate bowl.

 

Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, being careful not to over mix.

Fold in ¼ C dark vegan chocolate & ¼ C raisins, optional.

Chill batter in the fridge for ~10 minutes.

Drop by the tablespoonful onto a cookie sheet.

Flatten.

Bake 16 minutes.

Cool on parchment paper on a wire cooling rack.

~

We’ll see you when we get to AZ !

Salt Lake

15 Fri, 2010 § 5 Comments

As a child I played in the gaps between buildings…fallow land, abandoned lots, open fields, muddy bogs…& untouched sand mines.  Formed through misplanning, they were our empire, the empire of children.

Ours was a dirty, unused place with snakes, lizards, frogs, insects of every category & wild vegetation.

Children instinctively understand the language of nature.  They can read it, if only they’re allowed to climb the fence & play undisturbed.

But the city gardeners arrive — the eliminators of mystery, the killers of empty spaces.  They move, pave & plant in zones where children & teenagers once played.

They pave the paths people may walk upon & frame the off-limit grass with perfectly composed borders.  The flowers live in identical pots of cement.

Naturalness is understood as the annihilation of spontaneity through perfect gardening.

-adapted from Design Anarchy

 

Salt Lake City is beautiful in many ways & special to me.  Coming from a small town, its vast population introduced me to diversity & taught me there exists infinite ways of thinking.  I learned tolerance & began to appreciate individual uniqueness that lends to the world’s beauty.  I took my first steps here on the road to truly finding myself — rather than selecting from a pre-designed list — & embraced inner searching.

It is here that I met Dave, finally embraced loved activities & discovered many new passions like rock climbing, biking, food, kayaking, knitting & photography.  SLC shook me out of my rut & helped me to openly love life & myself.

Now, sometimes it is difficult to still see all the reasons I loved SLC…as it moves farther from nature & a sense of community.

Anymore, even during these beautiful, intimate glimpses nature permits us, there is still the nagging voice of “civilization” [often hummed in form of marketing] lingering in the background or muffling the open spaces that people once strolled…together.

Yes, we do still find some escape & cherish its beauty,

yet even here, we are still smothered by the exhaust-filled canyons.

It is time to move on…maybe for a time…maybe forever…

~

I love Salt Lake, I do.  As we come to this crossroad, I say my goodbyes to a place that intimately shaped who I am now, taking with me what I have learned & love.  I am ready to create new experiences, continue to search & live.

~

Have you ever said goodbye?  Have you ever stayed in a place long enough to watch it move farther from what you loved?

 

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