Monthly Archives: February 2017
Happy World Pistachio Day!
Pistachios are one of my favorite nuts and one of my favorite desserts involves pistachios. This is a variation of the pistachio dream dessert that my Aunt Jan made. This version is what Bob Ross might call a happy accident. Instead of the traditional three layers, the first two were accidentally combined. The results were delish and this is the version that lived on at every Thanksgiving and Christmas my family held together while my grandmother was alive.
Aunt Jan’s Awesome Pistachio Dessert
For the crust:
- Cut together
- 1 1/2 c.flour
- 1/2 c. chilled butter, cubed
- 1/4 c. walnuts or pecans
- Press into 13 x 9 inch pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 12 to 15 minutes. Cool completely.
For the pistachio layer:
- Beat together until smooth
- 1 8-oz. package cream cheese
- 1/4 c. milk
- Add and beat together until slightly thickened (about 2 minutes)
- 2 3/4 c. milk
- 2 packages of pistachio instant pudding
- Spread immediately over cooled crust.
For top layer, spread 1 8-0z. container of prepared whipped topping. Refrigerate 1 hour before serving.
Serves: 1 if I’m present 😉
February is apparently the month when we’re stuck inside and become obsessed with food and food celebrations. February 25 is National Chocolate Covered Nuts Day.
I made a version of this recipe but I used semi-sweet morsels rather than dark chocolate and added some spices for a little extra kick.
Spicy Chocolate Dipped Walnuts with Sea Salt
- 4 ounces walnut halves
- 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Place chocolate, cinnamon, cayenne, and nutmeg in a microwave-safe bowl and heat on high for in 30 seconds increments, stirring, until smooth and creamy.
Dip each walnut half in the chocolate and place on a tray lined with parchment paper.
Sprinkle with sea salt then refrigerate walnuts until chocolate sets, 30 minutes or longer.
Takeaways: I will make this again and will toast the walnuts lightly first. And I found these pleasantly spicy but you can adjust the amount of cayenne if you don’t like heat.
Black Bean Dip
Combine in food processor until smooth:
- 1 19- or 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed
- 1/2 cup prepared salsa
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 2 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- salt & pepper, to taste
Every fourth Thursday in February is National Chili Day. Whether you’re a fan of the soup-like or the thicker version, chili makes a great food for cold weather. I decided to try a recipe that I’ve had for a while from Weight Watchers but not made. I made some adaptations to use what I had on hand and because I like the soupier version of chili.
Lentil and Bean Chili
- 1 1/2 cups dried lentils, picked over for debris
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 large sweet red pepper, diced
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 2 14.5-0unce cans diced tomatoes, with onions and garlic, undrained
- 14.5 ounces of water from rinsed tomato can
- 1 14.5-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 14.5-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup cilantro, fresh, chopped
- Place lentils in a large sauce pan and cover with water by several inches; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until lentils are al dente, about 10 to 15 minutes; drain well and set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook onion, pepper and garlic, stirring often, until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes.
- In a small bowl, combine chili powder, oregano, cumin, cayenne and salt; add to skillet and stir well to combine. Cook, stirring often, about 1 minute.
- Add tomatoes and their juice, water and beans to the skillet; still well to combine. Cover skillet and simmer so flavors can blend, about 10 to 15 minutes. Fold in lentils and cilantro and serve.
Today is Pink Shirt Day (Canada), a day to rally against bullying. Two Nova Scotia high school students, David Shepherd and Travis Price, rallied friends and fellow students to wear pink after another student was bullied for wearing a pink shirt on the first day of school.
Unfortunately, bullying seems to be more prevalent in all areas of our society. So if you see bullying, speak up and stand up.Make a #pinkshirtpromise to spread love, compassion, and other positive energy through your actions and words. We can all take inspiration from Shiridi Sai Baba, “Before you speak, ask yourself: Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it true? Does it improve upon the silence?”.
Kindness and compassion are not naive or weak; they are what makes the world a better place.
In peace and love,
February 21 is National Sticky Bun Day! I have an incredible sweet tooth, so the prospect of this day was both exciting (Yay! Sticky buns!) and daunting (Uh oh! I will eat all of the sticky buns!). So I decided to do a search for healthier alternatives. While a couple of recipes seemed promising, they still may way too many sticky buns for one person – especially one with very little self-control regarding sweets.
The alternative? Tweak a recipe that I already use and do more of an ode to sticky buns than the real thing. This recipe is based on one from Betty Crocker to make what they call a puffy oven pancake, but is what I would call a Dutch baby.
Ode to Sticky Buns Oven Pancake
- Set oven to 400 degrees. While the oven is heating, insert an 8-inch cast iron skillet or pie pan inside and melt 1 1/2 tablespoons butter.
- While oven is heating, combine until just moistened (batter will be lumpy)
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Once batter is combined, remove skillet from oven and brush melted butter across bottom and up sides to prevent the batter from sticking.
- Sprinkle the bottom of the pan with cinnamon and brown sugar. Add nuts – traditionally pecans or used but I had walnuts, so that’s what I used. I also don’t always measure, so I just put in what I thought looked good. I would guess less than a teaspoon of cinnamon, about a tablespoon of sugar, and a half cup of nuts, but you can adjust to how much you like each.
- Pour the batter over the cinnamon-sugar-nut mixture and bake 25 to 30 minutes. This will get super puffy in the oven, so don’t panic. I usually like to take it out when the top still looks moist, otherwise the bottom may become overdone.
- Remove from oven and loosen pancake with a pancake turner if necessary. Flip onto a serving plate, slice and serve immediately.
Hope you enjoy!
Monday, February 20, is National Love Your Pet Day! According to the ASPCA, about 37% to 47% of American households have dogs and 30% to 37% have cats. Clearly we love our pets.
Benefits of Pet Ownership
Owning a pet has many benefits.
- Increasingly, studies are showing that exposure to animals help reduce incidents of asthma and allergies in children;
- Having pets is a great way to connect to other people; and
- Pet ownership is calming, which can help reduce anxiety, depression, and loneliness, and lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels.
Ways to Celebrate
Pets do so much for us, so a day to do something for them makes sense. Here are a few ideas.
- If your pet loves a special treat, make or give them some;
- Take your pet on a long walk or special adventure;
- Make your cat or dog a toy;
- Simply give your fur-baby a little extra love and attention today; and
- If you don’t have your own pet, visit a shelter and play with and socialize the animals there.
February 17 is National Cabbage Day. Cabbage is a great source of vitamin C, has hardly any calories, and is great cooked or raw. It’s also a great late season crop for those looking to eat a seasonal diet. Root vegetables like beets, carrots, and parsnips also over-winter well, so my thoughts turned to borscht. I once again turned to Carla Snyder and Meredith Deeds 300 Sensational Soups. This is a wonderful tasting soup and is very pretty to boot.
Serves 6 to 8
- 1 lb. beets, trimmed
- 3 slices bacon, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 parsnips, diced
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 6 cups chicken stock (I used vegetable stock)
- 3 cups shredded Savoy cabbage
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar (I used Balsamic)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons honey (I used sugar)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
- Preheat over to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
- Wrap beets in foil and bake until tender , about 1 hour. Cool slightly, peel, then dice.
- In a large, heavy pot, saute bacon over medium heat until it starts to brown. Add carrots, parsnips, onion, and garlic; saute until softened. Add stock, cabbage, and beets; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in vinegar and honey; add salt and pepper to taste.
- In small bowl, combine sour cream and dill.
- Ladle soup into heated bowls and top each with a dollop of dilled sour cream. Can also be served cold: refrigerate for 3 hours and serve in chilled bowls.
You can make this without the bacon and sour cream, and it’s still deliscious.
Today is National Almond Day in the U.S. so I decided to make a recipe that’s been in my “to-make” folder for a while: Mr. Food’s Chocolate Biscotti. Prior to this, I’ve only made biscotti once; while they were delicious, I thought afterward that it wasn’t worth the hassle.
What You’ll Need:
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup baking cocoa
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 5 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup whole almonds
What To Do:
- Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Coat a 10″ x 15″ rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except almonds; mix well with a spoon. Stir in almonds until well blended; dough will be thick and sticky. Pour half the dough onto prepared baking sheet, forming a slightly rounded 4″ x 12″ loaf that is about 3/4 inch thick. Repeat with remaining batter and bake 30 minutes.
- Remove from oven and reduce temperature to 325 degree F. Allow loaves to cool 20 to 25 minutes then cut into 1/2-inch slices. Lay slices cut-side down on baking sheet and bake 15 more minutes. Turn cookies over and bake 15 more minutes. Allow to cool then store in an airtight container.
Makes about 4 dozen cookies.
I made a few changes to the recipe (because I just usually do). I used slivered almonds because I wanted them to be more evenly distributed throughout. I also mixed the sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl, and sifted the rest of the dry ingredients together before combining the two. Not sure why except that seemed like a thing.
They are good and I’ll definitely make them again. I think, however, I’ll use almond extract instead of vanilla and see how that goes.
February 15 is Susan B. Anthony Day, a day to commemorate the birth of Susan B. Anthony and women’s suffrage in the United States. Anthony was an abolitionist, suffragist, writer, speaker, and political leader whose tireless energy and activism led to the passage of the 19th Amendment giving all American women the right to vote.
I could take this opportunity to get into a long discussion of women’s rights and women’s history (which are actually human rights and human history), the nature of equality, and a whole host of topics that can invite controversy. Maybe at some point I will offer up those discussions (full disclosure: I have a B.A. in political science with minors in English and women’s studies), but for now I would like to encourage folks to take a couple of actions: embrace education and get compassionately involved. It’s easy to say, “Be the change,” but it is another thing entirely to do it and to do it with compassion.
Democracy is a wonderful and gloriously messy affair. The U.S. Constitution is a brilliant document. Try your knowledge and see if you can pass a citizenship test. If you want to better understand how government works, find a local citizens government academy like this one, or take a course online or at a nearby college. Get to know who your representatives are and contact them about issues that are important to you. And vote, vote, vote, vote, vote. Vote locally, not just nationally. The only vote that doesn’t count is the one that isn’t cast.
For those wondering how politics can relate to yoga or think I shouldn’t talk about it on my blog, you are certainly entitled to your opinion or can choose to ignore this post. But here’s why I don’t think this is out of place: from my 20 years of doing yoga, I have found that yogis as a group are generally thoughtful, compassionate people. And aren’t those the kind of people we need more of in the world?
Stepping off my soap box for now,