pasta w. cannelini beans & tomatoes.

The perfect weeknight pasta! Hurrah!

(I’ve had this recipe posted on my fridge for months; it came from a compilation of vegan recipes all by Mr. Bittman. Worth a look! Thanks, Mark! … like we’re friends… in my sad little dreams.)

This recipe lends itself to lots of interpretations and improvisation. The basic combination? Garlic, olive oil, crushed tomatoes, and white beans. I like to add a few dashes of oregano, a pinch of red pepper  flakes for some heat, and chopped kalamata olives and sundried tomatoes. They make this unfancy dish feel fancier.

Without further adieu… a healthy, satisfying, and quick addition to your weeknight meal repertoire.

Pasta with Beans & Tomatoes

Serves 4

3/4 lb. Penne pasta

Fresh or canned tomatoes
Canned or cooked white beans
Garlic
Olive oil
Basil

Optional:
Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
Oregano to taste
Kalamata olives, chopped
Sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
Kosher salt, pepper to taste

Sauté a couple of cloves of chopped garlic in olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat.

Add 2 cups of chopped fresh or canned tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes, or until saucy; add 1½ cups canned white beans (or about 1 cup of cooked beans) and heat until bubbly.

Add a little more minced garlic, then a pound of cooked penne pasta.

Add fresh basil and a bit more oil and serve.

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a spring dinner.

It’s been so long since I last posted that I incorrectly typed my middle name in the URL. And no, folks, no hyperbole here. That is probably more indicative of my general inability to concentrate than the duration of time that’s passed. You see, it’s the end of the quarter. And grading (lots of grading) calls. It is by far my least favorite part of this profession.

In spite of the large piles of paper that are swallowing me whole, I’ve managed to cook regularly. It’s always a refuge from stress for me. I made a big pot of Tuscan bean soup with swiss chard, a deliciously indulgent pancake brunch on Saturday, lentils braised in red wine, and noodles with ginger and cucumber. Simple and good recipes I’m excited to share with you over the coming days as my work load recedes.

Let’s start with the noodles. This dish is light and tasty, like a Bahn Mi sandwich in noodle bowl form. We served ours with tofu for extra protein.

How have you been, friends and readers? I hope your Spring is off to a delicious start.

lv, molly

Ginger Noodle Bowl*

*You may wish to serve with a side of tofu; it helped the dish feel more like a meal, less like a side

soba noodles – 1 9oz packet. (I used a different variety based on what I had on hand)
salt & pepper to taste
sesame seeds – 2 Tbsp lightly toasted.
cucumber thinly julienned or chopped
carrots thinly julienned or chopped
Cilantro to taste

For sweet ginger scallion sauce:

1 1/2 finely chopped scallions
2 Tbl ginger minced
1/4 C chopped cilantro
2-3 Tbl neutral oil (canola, sesame)
2 tsp chili oil
1 Tbl soy sauce
2 Tbl rice wine vinegar
2 Tbl honey
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients for sauce in a bowl, check for the seasoning. Keep it aside for 10 -15 minutes for the flavors to develop.

Boil the soba noodles as per the instruction on the package. Drain well, and rinse with cold water.

Add the sauce, sesame seeds, and veggies, and toss the noodles well, check for the seasoning one last time. Sprinkle lime juice if you like. Enjoy!

roasted brussels sprouts with grapes & walnuts.

As I said yesterday, you don’t yet know that you want this.

But then you’ll make it, and oh, you’ll know. I found this recipe in Whole Living, and the pictures of it were so gorgeous that I felt compelled to make it for dinner when we had one of my closest friends over. I also made apple cake and stuffed acorn squash, but this dish was the stand out. [This lady spoke highly of them too (and took some beautiful photos– far better than mine)!]

Let me know how you enjoy these! I’m excited to make this as a side for Thanksgiving.

lv, molly

But… before the recipe… have you see Stanford’s mascot? Christian is currently watching a football game about which I know nothing, but we keep giggling at the Stanford mascot. So creepy! Hide your kids!

Sorry for that… Wait, no, I’m not.

Bahaha.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Grapes & Walnuts

2 stalks brussels sprouts (sprouts halved) — about 24 oz or 8 cups
2 C red seedless grapes
A few sprigs fresh thyme
2 Tbl olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
½ C walnuts, toasted and chopped
kosher salt & pepper to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange brussels sprouts and grapes on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with sprigs of thyme, and season with salt and pepper. Toss so sprouts and grapes are evenly coated.

Roast until caramelized and tender, about 20 minutes.

Once out of the oven, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and scrape up any caramelized bits with a wooden spoon. Toss with walnuts. Yum!

iranian sweet rice– the highlight of an ambitious dinner.

I know if I were a contestant on “American Chef” or whatever the new scary Gordan Ramsay reality show is, I’d be told that this dinner didn’t match. What was I possibly thinking? Well, I got carried away with a good cookbook. And I wanted to experiment with its different ideas and recipes. Can you blame me?

Cover Image

I have made so many delicious recipes from Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East: Vegetarian Cooking that I can’t recommend this cookbook highly enough. (I wrote about this book here and here too.) While I’m a fan of glossy cookbooks filled with beautiful photographs, this cookbook is far more substantive than the average and features quality recipes with sweet anecdotes. Know a vegetarian or want to treat yourself? This is your ticket to lots of delicious and healthy meals.

For dinner tonight, I cooked a feast with dishes from India, China, and Iran. Totally different cuisines, no doubt, and I’m not sure I care that none of it went together. My clothes don’t always match, and I guess my dinners don’t either.

All of the meal’s disparate parts, regardless of how they complemented other dishes, were delicious. Next time I might just stick with one country’s cuisine.

One of the benefits of living with someone (or being in a relationship or having good friends or just being social in general) is that sometimes you cook to please others’ tastes. Christian was flipping through the cookbook and thought the Iranian sweet orange rice sounded delicious. I would never have thought that rice, golden raisins, carrots, orange zest, and sugar were meant to be bedfellows, but Ms. Jaffrey proved me wrong. I love this dish, and I can’t wait to have leftovers tomorrow. It’s one of the most subtle, interesting side dishes I’ve ever made, and I think it’d go wonderfully with orange tempeh or tofu. Yet another reason this cookbook rocks; it pushes me out of my Western centric cooking methods and habits, and it introduces me to new tastes and textures.

What are your favorite cookbooks?

Wishing you a very happy weekend, lovely friends and visitors! Enjoy these dishes (and the lovely flowers from Janna and Dan’s garden that they so sweetly brought me!). lv, molly

Sweet Rice with Orange Rind and Almonds

This sweet pilaf is traditionally served on holidays. But I think it’s so good that you should make it whenever you fancy.

2 C long-grain white rice
2 medium-sized carrots
4 Tbl unsalted butter or oil
Zest from 1 orange
3/4 C sugar
1/2 C slivered, blanched almonds
1/2 tsp leaf saffron (saffron is relatively inexpensive at Trader Joe’s, FYI)
2 Tbl golden raisins
3/4 tsp salt

Rinse the rice several times. Put in a bowl; add 5 cups of water, and leave to soak for 1 hour. Drain and set aside in a sieve set over a bowl.
Peel the carrot, and slice into thin trips. Melt the butter in saute pan, and stir fry the carrots until they’re lightly browned– about 5 minutes. Remove the carrots with a slotted spoon, and leave any remaining butter to set aside.
In a heavy saucepan, combine the zest, sugar, almonds, saffron, and 1/2 C water. Bring to a boil. Turn down heat, and simmer gently for 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Then add the carrots and raisins. Simmer for another 5 minutes. This mixture should be thick and syrupy. Be careful not to burn it.
Preheat oven to 325 degree. Stir fry the rice in the butter for 4-5 minutes. Add 2 2/3 C water and the salt. Stir gently, and cook until water has almost evaporated. Put in an oven proof pan, and quickly spread the peel mixture over the rice. Cover tightly and place in the oven for 25 minutes.

Spicy Green Beans

1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
2 Tbl vegetable or olive oil
1 Tbl black mustard seed
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 dried red chile pepper, crushed
1/2 tsp white sugar
ground black pepper to taste
1 Tbl Tamari (or soy sauce)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Blanch the beans. (Boil them for 3 minutes and then put in a bowl of ice cold water to preserve their color.)
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the mustard seed and garlic, and cook until golden brown. Mix in the chile pepper. Place the green beans in the skillet, and season with pepper, red pepper flakes, sugar, and tamari. Cook and stir 8 minutes, or until tender.

Red Lentil Dal with Garlic & Ginger

(Side note: Christian wasn’t as wild about the dal as I was. I love love love dal, but some people prefer curries that have more texture.)

1 cup small red azuki beans (or red lentils– see note)
2 whole garlic cloves, peeled
2 quarter-sized slices of fresh ginger
1 whole dried hot pepper
1 Tbl. lime or lemon juice
3/4 to 1 tsp. salt
1/3 tsp. garam masala
1/3 heavy cream or less (optional)
3 Tbl. ghee or vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. finely minced garlic
1/2 tsp. finely minced fresh ginger
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper or tandoori masala

*Note: if you use red lentils, this dish cooks much more quickly. Use 2 1/2 cups of water rather than 5, and boil the garlic and ginger with the lentils. With red lentils, this dish takes 40 minutes. Azuki beans have a more complex flavor and are worth a try, but when in a pinch, go for the red lentils to halve the cooking time.

Put the beans and 5 cups of water in a heavy 2 1/2 quart pot, and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low, and simmer for 2 minutes.
Turn off the heat and let the beans sit, uncovered, for 1 hour. Add the whole garlic cloves, slices of ginger, and whole red pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover so the lid is slightly ajar, lower heat, and simmer gently for 1 hour.
Mash the garlic cloves against the sides of the pot. Remove and discard the ginger slices and the whole red pepper.
Take 2 cups of the beans and liquid, and blend in a food processor or blender until smooth. Pour this paste back into the pot with the beans. Make sure the cream is at room temperature before you add it; otherwise it will curdle. Add the lime juice, salt, garam masala, and cream.
Stir and taste. Leave the beans uncovered over a low flame. Heat the ghee in a small skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the minced garlic and ginger. Allow to brown slightly. Add the cayenne, stir once, and pour the ghee-spice mixture over the beans. Cover immediately, and turn the heat off.
Serve with brown rice or other whole grains and a side of steamed or sauteed vegetables.

And what music fueled all of this cooking? None other than Florence & The Machine. This album is incredible, and I may have annoyed anyone who lives in the vicinity by playing it at least four times consecutively. I’d like to be friends with this lady… or at least see her live and dance.

bad movies & a good salad.

Fresh chard from J&D's garden!

This was one of the freshest dinners I’ve had in a while; it took 10 minutes of active work time; and it has caramelized onions (yum!). But before I divulge the recipe, I think we need to discuss a little something called Transformers in 3D because, frankly, I can’t take my mind off this train wreck.

Michael Bay: the offender

3D dazzles me. No matter the quality of the film, if I see it in 3D, I automatically assume it’s somehow better than if it were in 2D and want to hand an Oscar to it. The first half I could hardly stop myself from gasping and aawing every time I perceived something to be coming off the screen and at my face (and then peering around to see if other audience members were equally in awe; most seemed nonplussed by the feats of 3D).

But this movie is so, so bad that 3D couldn’t redeem it. There are a series of shots of the obligatory doe-eyed girlfriend seemingly contemplating the explosions around her (or coming to some great realization– who can tell?). This was welcome comic relief because it grows tiresome watching machines blow each other up, especially when Michael Bay tries to evoke the audience’s sympathy for said machines.

We went to see it knowing that it would be absolutely ridiculous, but please, I beg of you; don’t let Michael Bay take 2 1/2 hours of your life. See the movie about elephants in 3D instead. I think you may learn something and not feel as though your brain was turned to mush.

There are some movies, however, that are so bad they’re good. Christian and I watched the ultimate this week, as per my little brother’s suggestion. THE ROOM. Despite my fascination with the absurdity of this movie, it leaves me speechless, so watch the preview, laugh, and then go rent it. You probably won’t regret it, though I can’t say for sure because it’s absolutely terrible– but at least there aren’t explosions that sustain an entire hour of your time. And the whole thing is comic relief.

Variety Magazine called this the worst movie of all time

And now on to what this post should be about: a recipe I like.

Janna and Dan brought us a bunch of vegetables from their garden yesterday, and I was excited to use as many as I could in a salad. But salads for dinner should be more substantive and include protein, so I added lentils too. Beluga lentils are tiny and delicate, and you can buy pre-cooked ones from Trader Joe’s, which are super convenient.

And now, the recipe… I will leave you with a quote from the ever-inspiring Optimus Prime: “Decepticons will never leave your planet alone.” lv, molly

P.S. What are your favorite protein-rich salads? I’m always on the look more ideas.

Lentil and Swiss Chard Salad

For the salad:
1 C beluga or le puy lentils, cooked
1 tbl capers
4 spring onions, chopped
1 onion, sliced thinly
1 Tbl butter
1 bunch Swiss Chard, roughly chopped

For the dressing:
(I used Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette because I was short on time, but this is the dressing I would make…)
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the onions and butter in a pan over medium-low heat for 20-30 minutes, until they’re browned and slightly sweet. Then toss with the lentils, until heated. Meanwhile, make the dressing (or open the bottle of Newman’s Own…). Toss everything together and voila! A light summer dinner’s served.

So much better than Transformers

chickpea salad with curry + lemon.

It’s my grandmother’s 87th birthday today! We’re having a potluck dinner to celebrate the fact that she’s, in her own words, “still upright.”

My Grandma inspires me because she works hard every day to maintain her wellness. She walks, does crossword puzzles, reads avidly, and keeps herself up-to-date on international news. I’m in awe of her sharp mind, wit, and adventuresome spirit. Just this winter she traveled to Panama and took a boat down the Panama River. I can only hope to be like her when I’m older.

{My grandma rocking an awesome bathing suit}

And what better way to celebrate her adventuresome, healthy spirit than by bringing a healthful and unusual dish to her birthday dinner. I decided on a Pan-Fried Chickpea Salad from Heidi Swanson but altered it to accommodate the large crowd, and I upped the curry flavor a bit because I love really flavorful salads. Additionally, I added toasted, sliced almonds for a little crunch and an extra punch of protein.

My version serves 10-12 as a side dish and would be an excellent thing to bring to a potluck or picnic, as it’s best served at room temperature. Happy birthday, Grandma! I love you! Molly

Pan-fried Chickpea Salad with Curry + Lemon

For the salad:
2 Tbl olive or coconut oil
3 cans chickpeas, patted completely dry with clean dish towel
1 leek, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
zest of 2 lemons
1 C loosely packed fresh cilantro, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1 C sliced almonds, toasted in a skillet

For the dressing:
2/3 cup plain yogurt (I prefer low-fat Greek)
3-4 tsp Indian-style curry powder (or to taste)
1/2 tsp salt
1 or 2 tablespoons warm water

Heat the oil in a large skillet, and add the chickpeas. Saute over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, and allow them to get golden brown on all sides– roughly 10 minutes. Stir in the leeks and cook for an additional 5 minutes, until soft and somewhat translucent. When done, stir in the garlic, lemon zest, and toasted almonds; remove from heat, and set aside to cool.
While the chickpeas cool, make the yogurt dressing by whisking together the yogurt, curry powder, and salt in a small bowl. If you need to thin it out a bit, particularly if you are using Greek yogurt, whisk in warm water a tablespoon at a time. Taste, adjust, and set aside.
When it’s time to serve, toss the chickpea mixture with most of the cilantro and most of the chopped red onion. Add about 1/2 of the yogurt dressing and toss again. If you like more dressing, keep adding ’til your heart’s content. Serve on a large platter or in a pretty bowl; sprinkle with remaining cilantro and red onion.

blue valentine + moroccan tomatoes.

I’ve been gone a while– to Tennessee, Michigan, the Hoh rainforest, moving apartments, etc. etc.! (Two etceteras seem appropriate.) And I’ve started looking for a teaching job; I’m eager to get a job teaching youngsters starting this fall, and I hope I’ll be able to procure a job in this somewhat dismal market, which is particularly bad for public school teaching positions. To keep my head up in the inevitably demoralizing process of job-applying, I’ve been cooking, running, organizing my new place, listening to music, and thinking about which PBS adaptation of a Jane Austen novel I should watch (this is fairly normal behavior for me).

In my newfound freetime, I watched Blue Valentine. (Shockingly enough, this is not made for PBS.) It’s absolutely beautifully shot and realistic and tragic, and your heart goes out to everyone in the movie. He playfully sings to her; she dances; they look absolutely in love, like children, and he holds her as they ride the subway. It reminded me that permanence isn’t a guarantee unless we deserve it. We have to be embodiments of tenderness and understanding, and we need to continue to grow and learn as those in our lives do. And I don’t mean to be preachy; it was a solid reminder for me, a kind warning, to love people actively– to grow and become a better communicator, to treat everyone with kindness, to be weary of complacency. The film is beautiful and tender, the acting incredible, and I highly recommend it. (And the music is gorgeous, reminiscent of Eliot Smith’s songs for Good Will Hunting. I’ve posted a song below.)

And now on to a non-sad movie-related topic: tomatoes.

Theoretically, I love tomatoes. They’re beautiful; they’re summer incarnate; they’re a staple ingredient in pizza, and everyone loves pizza. But I never eat tomatoes whole because the consistency of raw tomatoes makes me want to run for the hills (and I’m used to people thinking that’s inconceivable or weird). So here’s where the stuffed tomato comes in, friends.

You get all the goodness of a delicious, ripe tomato in its original form, without the mealiness of a raw tomato. Yes, please. This recipe was adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day cookbook (I like more harissa to add a little kick and the richness of Greek yogurt), and it was well-enjoyed at a small gathering I had with friends.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I do. I’m glad to be back writing about food (amongst all the other things I generally post about), and I hope this finds you well, eating delicious food, and appreciating those around you. lv, molly

Moroccan Stuffed Tomatoes

6 medium-large ripe tomatoes
1/2 C plain Greek yogurt
2 Tablespoons harissa paste (or more)
1 Tbl olive oil, plus a drizzle to serve
12 fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 shallots, minced
Kosher or sea salt
1/2 C whole wheat couscous

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a medium making dish that can fit all the tomatoes nestled next to each other.
Using a serrated knife, cut the top 10% of each tomato. Over a bowl, scoop the flesh from each tomato so that the juice and chunks fall into the bowl. Try not to pierce the walls of the tomato. You can use your hands too, to help break up any chunks in the tomato that the spoon can’t get. They should now look like little tomato bowls.
In a separate bowl, combine 2/3 C of the tomato chunks and juice, the yogurt, harissa, olive oil, most of the basil, shallots, and 1/4 tsp. of salt. Taste, and see if you need more harissa or salt. The more harissa, the spicier these will be (yum!).
Bake for 50-60 mins, until the couscous is cooked, and the tomatoes start to wrinkle a bit. When done, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with the remaining basil. Serve to happy guests.

brussels sprouts salad.

When sliced thinly, brussels sprouts make excellent salad material. And when paired with an apple cider vinaigrette?! Woo! So delicious! If I’m invited to any parties this summer (yeah, right!), I’ll be bringing this with me. lv, molly

Fresh Brussels Sprouts Salad

1/2 lb brussels sprouts, white stems removed
1 green apple
2 green onions, white and pale green part only OR 1/4 C diced chives
1/2 C walnut or pecans, preferably toasted and chopped

2 Tbl apple cider vinegar
1/4 C olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp Dijon style mustard
Freshly ground black pepper

Shred the brussels sprouts using a mandolin or sharp knife (be careful, and have patience! I often don’t, and then I end up with cut fingers). Thinly slice the apple; then cut each slice into matchsticks. Thinly slice the green onions or chives, and toss with the shredded brussels sprouts and apple pieces.
In a small bowl, combine the cider vinegar, olive oil, salt and Dijon mustard. Toss the dressing with the salad; season with freshly ground pepper to taste, and add the toasted nuts.

Enjoy!

IT’S TIME TO BAKE!

{look how awkward I am! / look how nice the muffins turned out!}

Hello, it’s me! I’m back; I’m running and baking regularly again! Today I chose to make Banana Chocolate Chip Espresso Muffins, and trust me, these are ridiculously good. Plus, muffins freeze well for up to a month, so I’ll freeze the majority of these, then pop them in the microwave when I want a muffin on a cold morning.

I don’t want to talk more about them because I want to go cook more, and I think the name and the pictures speak for themselves. Do yourself and your loved ones a favor: bake these muffins this weekend (or for Mother’s Day!).
lv, molly

Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins
From Baked: New Frontiers in Baking
Yields 12-16 muffins (I got 14)

1-1/2 C mashed, very ripe bananas (about 4)
1/2 C sugar
1/4 C firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 C (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 C whole milk
1 large egg
1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 tsp instant espresso powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 C semisweet chocolate chips

{yes, please!}

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray. In a medium bowl, stir together the bananas, sugars, butter, milk, and egg. In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, instant espresso powder, baking soda and salt. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the well and stir just until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips. Do not over-mix, or the muffins will be too tough.
Fill each cup about 3/4 full. Bake in the center of the oven for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffin comes out clean. Move the muffin pan to a cooling rack, and let cool for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove the muffins from the pan, and let them finish cooling on the cooling rack. Muffins can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days or in the freezer for up to a month.

a knock your socks off dinner.

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MAKE THIS!

I posted this recipe a few months back, and I’m re-posting because I made it last night and was quite taken by how unbelievably delicious this is. How could I have forgotten? (Am I being immodest?)

This dish is sweet and spicy, and it’s made its way into my list of favorite dinners, hell (!), foods. The soy sauce, butter, and pinch of sugar create a rich sauce that’s flavored with shallots, ginger, and eight cloves of garlic.

It’s slightly more labor-intensive than most dinners I make, but it’s totally worth it. (Buy a garlic press if you don’t have one. It’ll save you some trouble; plus, I think they’re fun to use.)

My boyfriend said this is the best tofu dish he’s ever had, and I think I may agree, save for Tamarind Tree’s Lemongrass Tofu. I just checked the fridge hoping for leftovers but none in sight! Enjoy!!

lv, molly

Black Pepper Tofu

Serves 3 generously

Adapted (AKA “healthified) from Lottie + Doof

600 grams extra firm tofu, pressed
All purpose flour
Vegetable or olive oil
3″ piece ginger, chopped finely
1 serano chili, seeds removed, sliced thinly
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots (about 2 large)
8 large garlic cloves, minced
3-4 Tbl unsalted butter
2 Tbl peppercorns, coarsely crushed
3 Tbl tamari (strongly flavored soy sauce)
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp caster sugar (superfine sugar)
10 thin scallions, chopped into 1/2″ segments
Jasmine or brown rice, for serving

Cut the tofu into 1/2″ blocks and toss them in flour, shaking off the excess. Pour enough oil into a nonstick frying pan to create a shallow coat, and bring up to frying heat. Cook the tofu in batches in the oil, turning the pieces as you go. Once they are golden all around, and have a thin crust, transfer to a paper towel to drain excess oil.
Remove the oil and any sediment from the pan, and add the butter. Once it has melted, add the shallots, chillies, garlic and ginger, and sauté for about 15 minutes on low-medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the contents of the pan are shiny and totally soft. While you wait, crush the peppercorns, using a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder. They should be quite coarse.
When the shallots and chillies are soft, add the soy sauces and the sugar, stir; then stir in the crushed pepper. Warm the tofu in the sauce for about a minute, then add the spring onion and stir through. Serve hot with steamed rice and a side of vegetables.

Black Pepper Tofu

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simple breakfast bars.

Recently I’ve been posting more fashion than food, which is a shame because I really love food and writing about it. But this whole giving-up sugar-thing has put a serious damper on my baking, and I haven’t had enough time to make anything particularly blog-post-worthy for dinner as of late. (I’m in the throws of completing my teaching certificate project and am going mildly insane.)

This weekend, time permitting, I’d like to experiment with some white sugar substitutes for baked goods: fruits, stevia (will this kill me???), agave, honey, etc.

In the mean time, I’d like to share a recipe that I’ve made frequently over the past few years but never posted because I’ve deemed it too hippy-ish and not particularly exciting. But I really enjoy it– so why not share? Plus, it has peanut butter. Have I mentioned my undying love for peanut butter?

These bars are inspired by a breakfast bar I had a bakery here in Seattle that’s rich with peanut butter, oats, sunflower seeds, and dried fruit. I normally find breakfast bars boring or overly sweet, but this is the perfect mix between salty and sweet, and it packs a protein punch, perfect for us vegetarians and vegans. Plus, it’s super easy and great for breakfasts on-the-go. lv, molly

P.S. I haven’t made these in the last couple months, so no picture! But they look good!

Peanut Butter + Oat Breakfast Bars

1 ripe mashed banana
1 1/2 C oats
1/2 c shredded coconut (I use unsweetened… alternatively, you can sub an extra 1/2 C oats)
1/2 C raisins (or any dried fruit, preferably unsweetened)
1/4 C sunflower seeds
1/2 C agave or honey
1/2 C natural peanut butter (or any nut butter– e.g., almond– but preferably unsweetened and without hydrogenated oils)
1.5 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbl flax seeds (optional)

Mash the banana. Mix in the peanut butter and agave. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a separate bowl. Then mix everything together. Press the mixture into an 8″x8″ pan. Pop in the freezer for a few hours, and then cut into 10 bars. Wrap each in plastic wrap. These freeze well. Perfect for a breakfast on the go!

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happy weekend! (+ a unique salad)

search_for_inspiration via thirfty solutions

Hello! I hope you have a wonderful weekend ahead of you. I’m going to go on a long run, to a soccer game, and hopefully I’ll make a delicious Irish coffee tomorrow.

Sunday’s all about some serious lesson planning, as next week I’m teaching (and video-taping– hello, awkward!) the lessons for my teacher certification project. Serious stress ahead.

I’m also going to make one of my favorite salads: a blood orange salad with fennel. It’s light, crisp, and flavorful– just the thing I’m craving. I hope fun awaits you! lv, molly

Fennel + Blood Orange Salad

2 medium-sized fennel bulbs
1 Tbl blood orange juice
2 Tbl extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 blood oranges

Trim the base and tops of the fennel and discard (keep a few clean fennel fronds if you were lucky enough to get them; you can use these in soup). Place the blood orange juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl and whisk well.
Slice across the fennel bulb very finely, almost shaving it, then toss the sliced fennel in the dressing. (This makes me wish I had a mandolin even more.)
Trim off the ends of each orange, and discard. Cut off the peel, and then slice the orange finely crosswise.
Form a stack of sliced fennel and orange on plates. Drizzle with any remaining dressing and serve.

And lastly… an awesome video. I want to go dancing now.

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happy weekend!

{what i want to wear all weekend}

I hope you have a good one!

I’m making soup, going to a concert, and doing an ungodly amount of grading. The students wrote speeches about historical figures who inspire them, and I’m actually really excited to read them. I think they’ll be charming and potentially quite amusing.

Wishing you a great weekend! Here are a few entertaining links and a delicious soup recipe from The New York Timeslv, molly

* An excellent “Daily Show” episode focused on education; I love Jon Stewart even more (features an NYU professor too, holler!)

* Polenta + Poppyseed Cupcakes

* Cocktail dresses

* Tom Waits + Robert Frank in NYC

UPDATE: I TOTALLY MESSED UP THIS SOUP! IT WAS GROSS! Maybe because I didn’t actually puree it! But something was seriously off. Any tips? My mom’s made this innumerable times, and it was delicious. Blargh!!!!!

Red Lentil Soup with Lemon

Serves 4

3 Tbl olive oil, more for drizzling
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbl tomato paste
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp kosher salt, more to taste
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Pinch of ground chili powder or cayenne, more to taste
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
1 C red lentils
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
Juice of 1/2 lemon, more to taste
3 Tbl chopped fresh cilantro

In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons oil over high heat until hot and shimmering. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until golden, about 4 minutes.
Stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt, black pepper and chili powder or cayenne, and sauté for 2 minutes longer.
Add broth, 2 cups water, lentils and carrot. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover pot and turn heat to medium-low. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary.
Using an immersion or regular blender or a food processor, purée half the soup then add it back to pot. Soup should be somewhat chunky.
Reheat soup if necessary; then stir in lemon juice and cilantro. Serve soup drizzled with good olive oil and dusted lightly with chili powder if desired.

snow day = fun day.

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I’m totally sad that I had to sleep in past 5:30 a.m. today. It was horrible.

There are approximately 2″ of snow on the ground, and schools are cancelled because Seattlelites freak out about snow. Chaos ensues when the first flake drops, and suddenly cars and busses have broken down, and everyone’s in hysterics. It’s great for me/ wildly unproductive and inefficient for the city.

Snow day plan: confront a daunting project whose existence has been the bane of my existence, get my hair cut by a professional (read: not myself because I’m starting to look unkempt), clean my apartment, work out, and make a stir-fry with tofu because I’m feeling mildly protein-deprived. This is one of my favorite easy stir-fries.

Enjoy your day– snow or otherwise. lv, molly

Spicy Stir-Fried Tofu + Broccoli

Serves 2

1/2 lb firm tofu
2 Tbl peanut oil
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut in thin strips
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbl minced fresh ginger
2 scallions, white and light green parts separated from the dark green, chopped
1/2 lb baby broccoli, stems sliced, leaves or florets left whole
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tsp Asian chili paste, such as sambal oelek
Salt to taste
3 Tbl water

Press tofu, and cut into cubes.
Heat ~1 Tbl oil over medium-high heat in a skillet or wok, and stir-fry the tofu until lightly colored. Remove from the heat, and drain on paper towels.
Add the remaining oil to the pan, and saute the red pepper for 3 mins. Add the garlic, ginger and the light part of the scallions. Stir-fry for ~30 secs, and then add the broccoli. Stir-fry for about one minute, until coated with oil and beginning to wilt, and add the water. Cook, stirring, until the water evaporates, about 2 mins, and stir in the tofu, the soy sauce and chili paste. Stir-fry for a couple of minutes, until the ingredients are well-seasoned. Remove from the heat, sprinkle on the green part of the scallions and serve with brown rice.