Kale Is Dead

I wanted to give you the news first, so that you won’t have to read about it in a yuppie lifestyle magazine that’s based out of Brooklyn.  THIS JUST IN: Kale is no longer the new spinach.  Kale is not even the beets of 2010.  Kale is now iceberg lettuce.  It was last spotted at an Olive Garden, hiding beneath xanthan gum based dressing, like some sort of victim under witness protection. Can you even imagine? The horror of it all.

Hang onto your Calamine lotion people, it’s all about attacking edible foliage, nowadays. Stinging nettle is THE new kale.  You can’t find it at normal grocery stores, unless your normal grocery store employs hippies-without-kids to forage for these emerald gems, full-time.  And besides, stinging nettle is far too superior to be hanging out besides limp shredded carrots, in a salad bin, at a Whore Foods near you.  Rev up your Subarus and leave your dog behind, there are nettles in the moist areas near you to be collected, blanched and eaten, after being Instagrammed under the double hashtag #KALEISDEAD and #NETTLESMAKEMEFEELSOALIVE.  Okay, so you don’t have to do the second hashtag, but it does make you sound edgy when talking wild produce.

At 5:55PM yesterday, my fiancé rushed out of work, leaving behind a few sev 2s.  We had some exciting things planned that involved acting poor.  I packed a few plastic bags, two pairs of thick gloves and scissors.  Seattle has a ban on plastic bags.  I get mine from the Asian grocery stores.  The law doesn’t seem to apply there.  It’s like culinary anarchy.

6:20PM:  We are knee deep in blackberry brambles, and my lovely man is talking non-stop about all of the health benefits of stinging nettle.  Namely, that it increases egg production in hens and milk production in cows.  I inform him that I am not currently looking to boost my edible egg or milk production, but he will be the first to know of it when I do.

6:30PM:  Fellow Seattlelite with two dogs stops to ask us what we are foraging for.  She lights up when we tell her stinging nettle.  Then she gives us recipes and techniques.  We love this city.  Interesting/weird/crazy people are everywhere.

6:35PM:  We pick two bags of nettle and a handful of wild daffodils.  Then we walk home in the rain.  We secretly enjoy the drizzle.  Dinner tastes better when there is quiet suffering involved.

6:50PM:  I fill a bowl with water and a splash of white vinegar to clean the greens.  I rinse a few times and blanch in boiling water.  Then I made pesto.  Then we ate it.  It was amazing.

In case you are the type to enjoy photos, here are some from our evening of foraging fun.

Nettles field.  Apple tree to the left (fruits are ready in the fall) and blackberry brambles to the right (summertime picking).  Stinging nettles seem to enjoy the same areas that blackberries do.

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Stinging nettles under blackberry brambles.Image

Our loot: Two bags of nettle and a small bunch of wild daffodils.Image

Rinse the nettle in cold water, plus white vinegar.  Don’t touch it.  Use tongs or chopsticks. My fiancé’s chopstickery skills are insane, as you can see.

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When blanched, the greens can be handled with bare hands and are ready to be added to soups, salads and sauces.Image

I never use a recipe for pesto, but it’s basically a few handfuls of blanched nettle (or spinach), fresh basil, a few cloves of garlic, extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts and nutritional yeast (if made vegan) or grated hard cheese (if not).  Salt and pepper to taste.  Image

Pesto!  With portobello mushrooms.  It’s the direct flight route to a vegan man’s heart.Image

 

 

A Day To Drink Green Stuff

I kind of figured St. Patrick’s Day was fast approaching when I had to sidestep a pile of vomit en route to my local coffee shop.  It was vibrant green, like liquid Kryptonite.  I thought this variation in puke color added a nice festive touch to the whole affair.  After purchasing my usual coffee and milk, I made a mental note to avoid green beer this year.  I mean, there’s nothing wrong with the drink itself.  Generations of people have been happily getting drunk off of the emerald colored beverage.  I just haven’t developed a palette for FD&C Green Dye #3 yet.  Maybe in a few years.  It’s probably an acquired taste.

For those of you who aren’t a big fan of food dyes either, here’s the drink I use to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with.  It’s green.  It gets you tipsy.  It’s the Mexican Martini.  Nothing screams “Irish Holiday” like some good ole Mexican Martini.  This drink is sort of like a margarita but better.  Let me explain.  The history of this martini is somewhat hazy.  Like all stories that take place in a bar, the beginning is a bit fuzzy and no one seems to remember much in the end.  But most agree that it was invented in Austin, Texas in the 1970′s.  Or maybe it was the 80′s.  I’m just going to go with the 70′s on this one since they had better hair than the next decade.  Simply put, the Mexican Martini has been a proud sponsor of random-bar-hook-ups in Austin for the past four decades.  That’s pretty impressive.

Unlike other city-centric drinks like the Manhattan or Singapore Sling, the Mexican Martini failed to adopt the name of its city of origin and is almost unheard of outside of Austin.  So, when I’m in Seattle and feeling homesick for Austin, I make this drink.  Then I sip it slowly by the heater while wearing sunglasses and pretending that it’s 95 degrees and sunny outside.  It works pretty well until my fiancé comes into the room and asks me why I have the heater on so high.

Mexican Martini Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces of tequila
  • 1.5 ounces of Grand Marnier (or another orange liqueur)
  • 2 ounces of sweet and sour mix (the recipe for it is below this one)
  • 1 ounce lime/lemon juice
  • 1 ounce fresh orange juice
  • Splash of lemon/lime soda
  • Olives
  • Salt for the rim

Tips:

  • For the lemon/lime soda, go with Sprite if you just can’t get enough of that high fructose corn syrup flavor.  I, myself, prefer DRY Soda in Wild Lime flavor.  It has four ingredients, is all natural and contains fewer calories than a regular soda.  You’ll find it in the aisle where the hemp shoes wearing people are milling around in.  Say “Hello” to my fiancé while you’re there, will you?
  • The jalapeño stuffed olives are the best for this recipe, if you like spicy.  But get whatever kind you like.  I picked up some super green ones with stems attached from Whore Foods…er, Whole Foods.
  • Your drink will taste better if you make your own sweet and sour mix.  Trust me.

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Sweet & Sour Mix:

  • Dissolve 1 cup of sugar in 1 cup of water
  • Mix it with 1 cup of lime juice and 1 cup of lemon juice
  • Refrigerate

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Directions:

  • Pour all of the liquids into an ice filled shaker.  Shake.
  • Rim a martini glass with salt.
  • Pour drink into glassware and serve with a few olives.

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I should also mention that you can serve it “Nascar Style”.  That’s when you forgo the pretentiousness of glassware and drink it straight out of the shaker, through a straw.  It is a Texas drink, after all.  Don’t worry.  We carded the dog beforehand.  We know the rules.

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Vegan Gingerbread Doghouse

I looked at the dog one day in December and thought, “You know what you need, Mo? A doghouse made out of gingerbread”. You know, just your normal everyday thought process.

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Obviously, I’m not the only one around who is willing to construct gingerbread doghouses so here’s my recipe for building the above mentioned Vegan Gingerbread Doghouse.

Gingerbread Recipe

2/3 cup vegan butter, at room temperature.  (My resident vegan prefers Earth Balance)
2 cups packed brown sugar (Go ahead and get generic, I won’t judge…unless it’s that Wal-Mart brand)
2 cups sweet molasses (No one ever knows where this is but it’s in the syrup section. You’re welcome)
1.5 cups of water (Glacier melted ice water purified in a “green” facility built from sustainable virgin forest wood is best, but plain ole tap will do as well.  I guess)
12 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp. baking soda
1.5 tsp. kosher salt (It really doesn’t have to be kosher.  I thought it might make this recipe sound fancier if I threw that in)
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. cloves

Vegan Royal Icing Recipe

2 lbs confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup powdered soy milk (I just get the soy protein powder in the bulk food bin.  Same thing)
12 cups soy milk (almond or rice milk works as well)
12 tbsp light corn syrup

Assembly Materials

1 rectangular cardboard box that is able to fit your dog
2 boxes of graham crackers (I use one box for the house while eating another box, I assume you will probably do the same)
1 large flat cardboard piece that’s big enough to form a “roof” for your doghouse
Stale trail mixes, candies, fruit.  Whatever is colorful and abundant and has been sitting in your pantry since last year

Step 1: You’re going to have to wake up for this.

Step 2: Put down the Bloody Mary.  Ok, now we can start.

Step 3:  In a large bowl, mix together the vegan butter, brown sugar, molasses and 1 cup of water.  No need for a fancy KitchenAid mixer when you have a Czech man.  I told him to channel his inner kolache making skills.Image

Step 4: In another large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and allspice.  Helpful Tip: I know it says “all-purpose flour” but seriously, who has 12 cups of that stuff lying around?  I just use whatever is in my pantry that resembles flour (as long as it’s not self-rising).  Spelt, wheat, rye, rice…go ahead, clean out that pantry.

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Step 5: Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.  Then add a little bit of water to make a dough.  Not too mushy and not too dry, is the key.  You want it to feel like Play-Doh.  Not the one that’s been sitting out drying because you were too lazy to put it back in the can.  The freshly opened variety.

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Step 6: Form your Play-Doh inspired gingerbread dough into eight equal balls. Wrap each dough with (here comes the product placement) Saran wrap and refrigerate for a few hours.

Step 7: Preheat the oven to 350º.  You can now line some baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly grease it.  Helpful Tip: Forego the parchment and use Silpat.  It creates miracles.

Step 8: Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin.  Unwrap one ball of dough at a time and roll each out to about 1/4 of an inch.

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Cut it out to the shape you want it and tap the surface with a pair of chopsticks (so the dough doesn’t bubble up when baking).  Remember to cut it out in exact measurement to your cardboard box.

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Step 9: Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the surface is firm to the touch.  You should probably stop opening the oven door while it bakes.

Step 10:  Transfer baked sheets onto a wire rack and let cool.  Go ahead and send out that text.  Here Comes Honey Boo Boo should have a new episode as well.

Step 11:  Since it was a vegan gingerbread house, it was a little bit softer than the regular recipe so I used a box for structural reinforcement.  Cut out peaks to either side of your box using the flaps on opposing sides, and then tape down the rest of the flaps.

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Step 12: Mix together all of the ingredients for the vegan royal icing.  It doesn’t matter in what order.  Don’t let anyone tell you that it does.  It doesn’t.

Step 13: Using a brush, I adhered each panel of gingerbread to its corresponding area on the cardboard box.

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Step 14: Cut out the cardboard roof, making sure to let it hang over the sides a bit.

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Step 15: I later added graham crackers to the cardboard to make the roof shingles since it resembles the real stuff.  But more importantly, I ran out of flour for the gingerbread recipe and was too lazy to go buy more.

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Helpful Tip: Use a piping bag for thin beads of icing, use a brush for heavy duty adhesion.

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Step 16: Start sorting through your candy/fruit/nuts.  Again, I just use up random stuff in my pantry.  Like the cranberries I bought two months prior from a cranberry bog because I was peer pressured into buying two gallons of the fruit by a beagle loving cranberry farmer.

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Helpful Tip: I also decorated some of the individual sheets of graham crackers to use later as windows.  To attach the windows to the house itself, I added icing to the backing and held it into place with toothpicks.  Take out the toothpicks when the icing is hardened.

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Step 17: Vegan royal icing is super strong but runnier than regular icing. It did the job but was messier than I anticipated. The dog appreciated the drips of sugar on the floor though.

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Helpful Tip: Try to work on one side at a time and let the icing completely harden before moving onto another side.  With all the sitting around time you have while waiting for it to dry, now might be a good time to restock your liquor cabinet.

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Step 1 (I know this is the second Step 1 but after restocking the liquor cabinet, I’ve lost count, sorry): I picked up a tub of that pre-made frosting while I was buying alcohol.  I made sure it was the vegan-approved variety though.  Get the super white one.  You want it to look like snow.  Put some of that good stuff into a piping bag and pipe away.  I made icicles with it, cause I’m fancy like that.

ImageSide view of the gingerbread doghouse.

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Mo waiting for her house to be done like every other impatient new homeowner.

ImageDone!  Four days and a few bottles of wine later.

ImageTo make it into a doghouse, I needed to saw a door through it but didn’t have the heart to poke a hole through the front since I had spent so much time on it.  So, I sawed a hole through the roof instead.  If the roof is good enough for Santa and his seven dwarves or eight reindeers or whatever he has, it’s certainly good enough for our dog, Mo.Image

Getting in a few good licks.

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Crazy eyes pop out for sugar.

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Leaving the sugar alone once we threatened to toss her out without her collar if she didn’t stop eating her new house.

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Best dog ever. We intend to charge her mortgage payments within 30 days of move-in though.

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