Monday, December 31, 2012

Eggs in Passata || Travel Cooking

Robbie thinks I need to get more recipes up here, like 'the old days'; and I'd like to oblige, but things just haven't been going to plan lately. We've been traveling since October, in and out of rented houses and friends' houses and hotel rooms, and though I still like to cook for sanity and value on the road, my desire to try out new things seems to get shuffled out of my own kitchen. I've been leaving experimentation to local bars and restaurants, collecting ideas as keepsakes - apples in BBQ sandwiches (seaside Cayucos, CA), or corn meal and veggie burritos (old town Tucson, AZ), or pear vodka and ginger beer cocktails (upscale Scottsdale, AZ). Oh yes. 

And at home, whichever home that is at the moment, I've been concentrating on what I know I can do with simple things like eggs and butter and plain flour, beans and rice and passata and sour cream. In fact, almost all my culinary experiments of late have been big. fat. failures. 

Salad tacos? Success. 
Pita pizzas? Success. 
Peanut butter popcorn cookies? Fail. 
and so on. 

But this, this recipe's both new and simple - using ingredients I buy every time we rent a house somewhere: eggs, passata (tomato puree), sour cream, toast and butter, and in this case parsley. A great in-cabin breakfast before heading into town for a hot coffee, something that might work just as well on an early campfire or BBQ, next to sizzling slabs of bacon. If you're that way inclined. 

And now, thanks to that, I'm laying in bed with my laptop in lap envisioning the camping trips we'll take next year ... forming vague, dreamy resolutions that we'll get out of this house or that house more, wake to birds and stretch out the kinks and make food in hot sand or hot coals or our little Weber ... 

Bring it.
Happy 2013, 
Amanda xx 

Eggs in Passata
serves 3-4
adapted from Saveur

I used parsley here, but that's what I happened to have in the fridge - you could try any number of different herbs like cilantro, basil or fennel - but the best thing is that you can use up the stalks you'd typically discard and save the leaves for garnish or salads or other meals. Feel free to substitute thick, plain yogurt for the sour cream if you prefer, or if that's what you have on-hand. Add chilies, cheese, or nothing at all. 

The time
20-30 min

The ingredients
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped finely
3/4 cup finely chopped parsley stalks (or herb of choice)
3 cups passata, or tomato puree (~1 jar passata or 2 14oz cans puree)
1/2 tsp sea salt
6 organic eggs

sour cream + parsley leaves + buttered sourdough toast, to serve

*Try to use organic when you can

The process
1.  In a large skillet over med heat, saute the onion in the olive oil until soft. Add the passata, herbs, and salt, bring to a low boil and then lower the heat to a simmer.

2. Break the eggs into the tomato puree in the skillet - you may like to break them into dips to keep them somewhat separate, or let them all run across the top together. Either way, cover the skillet with a lid (or, in my case, a cookie sheet) and simmer away on low heat till the eggs are cooked. Peek at them now and then, and remove the skillet from heat when the eggs are how you like them - soft-poached and runny or cooked through. Though the original recipe says this part took just 5 minutes, it was closer to 10-15 min for me. Keep checking your eggs.

3. To serve, scoop 1-2 eggs and ample sauce from the skillet and set atop toasted, buttered slices of sourdough. Try not to break the yolks, if you've left the eggs runny. Dollop sour cream onto each plate and sprinkle with parsley leaves, to serve. Enjoy!

The cost
This organic family breakfast came in under $10 for me. Not including coffee.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

How to Desert

There can be such beauty in the prickly things, the tiny fine points, and walking out here in the desert makes me hungry for isolation. Camping, wood fires, primal living. Who needs TV if I've got my coffee and a family-sized sleeping bag? We could do it, us three, subsist on sweet, magenta-fleshed prickly pear and bird eggs and now and then, we'd roast a javelina on a spit. {Because even vegetarians have to compromise if they've gone wild, sorry dear javelinas, and we'll just pretend that chipotle and adobo are seasons in the peccarian afterlife}.

The open spaces, the hazy blueness and greenness, the danger lurking in crevices under rocks. I imagine the silence of deserting.

But ... no, life isn't about silence and isolation. So I walk with a 5 year old singing 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' behind me at the top of her lungs, and what was that awesome tamale thing I had at lunch, and a couple fighter planes from across the mountain rumble the rocks around me. But still. 

Still. I can find what I need in this place.

We're walking the desert near Tucson - Robbie and Nelle and I - exploring a place where saguaros are like trees they're so big and so many. The museum tells us it takes these giants 15 years to stretch a foot or two tall, and I feel so young out here, so young and soft. Nothing like her, of course, but our time here's making me feel stronger and more fragile all at once.

The same feelings I want to - somehow - give my baby to grow within her all glowing and warm. Be strong, darling, be sweet, and kind. Be you you you.

No, no, we're not going to run off into the desert after all, not this time. Instead we'll head back to our temporary home with the hummingbirds on the back deck and the quinoa pasta for dinner and a glass {or two} of wine. And in this moment, with her arms wrapped around my neck, I still carry with me all I need.
Amanda xx

Friday, December 14, 2012


one two three four five six seven eight nine ten eleven twelve thirteen fourteen fifteen sixteen seventeen eighteen nineteen twenty twentyone twentytwo twentythree twentyfour twentyfive twentysix twentyseven and for twenty of those santa was coming and fuck, I know those parents will have presents tucked away in closets and will they ever be able to open those doors again. and this morning, the worst of my day was the smell of cat piss pervading the street outside and now that's nothing, absolutely nothing to this terrible acid sadness, and part of me wants to run away to a cave somewhere and let my hair grow all long and shaggy, and I'll meditate on dripping water and wandering insects and the hum of the world, or will I run to Nelle's preschool now, right now, who gives a shit what time of day it is, I need my daughter; and all these people are walking around and do they have no idea? have you not heard this, don't you know? or maybe they just can't picture imagine fathom the anguish the sinking of your own heart into a place so deep it hardly even feels like your own body anymore, so I run and run and find my baby who's all growing up and I hold her to me and mummy why are you crying and are you upset and mummy I'm hungry and yes, one day I'll wake up and I'll be gone or she'll be gone but I don't want that now, not now, not in any countable number of breaths, not when her mouth is so small and sweet and candy-cane scented and her eyes still see a world so precious and perfect; not her, not her, not ever. and come here, sweetie, I bury my head in her tangle of hair and forget the outside world for moments at a time and she looks up at me and asks: what was your favourite part of today?

with love and sadness,
Amanda xx

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Simple Salad Tacos | Rewriting History

Last year, I told you this was the 'next generation taco' - and I stick by that. But it didn't get the response I was hoping for. I mean, wasn't your world shaken by this announcement? No, the post sat all quiet and sad ... until yesterday. And when I pulled the recipe out of the archives, I knew. How on earth did I manage to complicate a SALAD TACO like this?

So I'm re-writing the recipe. And in fact, in the process of extracting this post, I managed to erase the original ... so technically, it's not even re-writing anymore. Kind of like memories, I guess - you write over the original so many times it becomes a new reality.

Welcome. To my dreamworld.

We're back in the desert, in our hired house, living a semi-transient life that does not lend itself well to multi-step taco construction. But does life EVER? What we need, friends, is this: simplicity.

And tacos.

Simple Salad Tacos
1. lettuce leaves - of a variety that lends itself to folding
2. a can of quality refried beans - you can afford to splurge on refried beans
3. full-fat sour cream
4. your favourite salsa
5. shredded cheese
6. homemade guacamole

Done. Kabam. 

The guacamole
3 avocados, mashed
lime juice and sea salt, to taste
minced fresh cilantro, if you have it

The assembly
Put as much stuff on the leaf as you can, fold, and eat.

Be feliz,
Amanda xx

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Happiness is ... What Happiness Is

I know I'm supposed to feel happy because this blade of grass turned toward the sun, all dewy and inspiring; or because my almost-starting-school-age daughter just now curled up on my lap in that space she used to occupy so small and fetal; or because some new treatment promises to save every life in the world; 

and yeah, these things make me happy.

But I think there's a conception out there that happiness has to be profound - meaningful. And I say, bullshit. Happiness is what makes me, you, him or her happy. That's it. 

Let me give you some examples:
1. On Saturday, we picked up our rental car from the airport in Phoenix: a 44-day rental with insurance and everything for some ridiculously low $/day that turned out to be a VW JETTA sedan with 365 MILES on the odometer, bucket seats, and an engine that purrs like a baby tiger. 
Helloooo, Tucson. Mojave desert. San Fran. LA.

Totally, materialistically, happy.

2. Last night, I sipped microbrew beer out of a Waterford crystal wine glass I found at Goodwill for $1.99. You can make this glass sing if you tap it, really sing. This is classy in a way I aspire to, but will only afford via scavenging. And yes, everything tastes better out of Waterford - even Phoenix tap water.

Profound? No. Happy? Yes.

3. Yesterday on our frantic freeway-drive-into-ASU {'work' at the moment}, my FAVOURITE EVER PAT BENATAR song came on the radio.

We Belong
My God, what a song.

I blasted it. I belted it. My husband and daughter squirmed and tolerated and probably lost hearing {which should make me unhappy, theoretically ... but I was into my moment. You understand.}

Again, is this life shattering? No. Did it give me an endorphin rush that lasted all day? Yes. {Thank you, Pat}

So I guess my point is, that we should embrace all the things - big and little - that make us happy*. And try not to feel too guilty about them; try not to feel like they're insignificant and somehow wrong. 

Happy is what happy is.
Amanda xx

*Note: unless the stuff that makes you happy is evil, and then you must seek help.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Behind the Scenes

I'd like you to imagine my morning like this:

Brightfaced with sunshine, I glide through the kitchen. I'm in my jammies, but who cares: I'm radiant. And my jammies are kinda casually sexy, anyway. The week behind has already slipped off me like water, or silk, or maybe ... melted chocolate. 

I pause, consider that.

Pancakes appear, raspberries appear, hot dark caffeine appears. My child skips past, already dressed  and ready for kidgames and stories and parkdates and all those things we'll do together after breakfast. We share a smile, barely perceptible through the white gleam around us.

Now I feel two warm arms slip around me from behind, and a kiss appears on my neck. Ah, he's awake, too, my love, and I ache just a bit - but gratefully - when he moves away to plate up the table and lasso our daughter. Mismatched chairs scrape out, we sit eagerly and heavily. 

We gather. 

Over and on and around our plates, the air is scented with fresh-ground coffee and hot, saucy raspberries and a hint of peppermint, from the light quick cleaning I did before. We're starving and happy and we talk about good and important things, the three of us. 
Good morning, darlings.

And I was going to tell you now how things really were - pancakes extracted from tupperwares and warmed in the microwave; the mixtape soundtrack of Saturday morning cartoons and leafblowers next door; daughter at the table, pushing away this breakfast I made and asking for cereal; husband still in bed, because he had insomnia last night and was awake till 3; dishes scattered across the counter like some kind of apocalypse; stay at the table; finish your breakfast; Robbie! Wake up! ...

But who needs to hear that? Better you imagine my perfect life. 
Happy weekend - perfect or otherwise,
Amanda xx

Cornmeal Pancakes
makes 10-12
adapted from Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Cookbook, circa 1961

I found this recipe in a thrift-store cookbook, a fifteen-center I picked up in the wilds of Arizona. I'd promised my daughter pancakes and we'd run out of flour, but had cornmeal on hand from Thanksgiving cornbread. I made a double batch, and we had them sweet and savoury both over a series of days: with sour cream and pumpkin; leftover spinach curry; saucy raspberries and slathered sour cream. And once Robbie got over the idea that you can't | shouldn't | wha?? have pancakes for dinner, it was all good. They were all good.

The time
Longer than you can imagine. Stir, flip and get meditating.

The ingredients
1 c cornmeal or polenta
1 c plain unbleached flour
1 T baking powder
1 T raw sugar
1 tsp sea salt
2 cups organic milk
2 organic eggs
4 T melted butter

+ butter, syrup, berries, cream, sour cream whatever for serving
*Try to use organic when you can.

The process
1. Mix everything and stir well. Amy Vanderbilt liked to think you could stir things together bits at a time - wet then dry and so on. She probably always wore an apron, too. The reality is, your kids are likely dumping eggs and everything in whatever order suits their fancy, so go with that. It'll be ok.

2. Heat up a griddle till hot, then reduce the heat to med and soak its surface in butter. Dollop on the batter in 1/4 cup-ish quantitites and flip each pancake when it starts to bubble through. They're done when golden and edge-browned - you know what that looks like. Set aside and cover with foil till the whole lot is finished. 

Serve as you like, in ball gowns or jammies.

The cost
So cheap. These are basics, friends, and stuff you could mostly get from your cow and chickens if you had them.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

At the Zoo

Sometimes I wonder ...

who's watching who.

Amanda xx

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Four-Point-Five Years

I just rewrote my cancer page, and thought you might like to hear what I've got to say. It's 4 1/2 years now, and I've got fresh views on the matter, and I look at these photos my friend Juanita took and they shake me like a thunderclap. In a good way. 

Remembering is better than forgetting, it keeps my heart moving in the right direction. 
Amanda xx

I wanted to write a page about breast cancer because I never in a million lifetimes thought it would happen to me.

And then, it did. 

I was 31 when I was diagnosed, young and healthy. I'd just picnicked away my first real-mother Mother's Day with Robbie and Nelle, who was 8 months old and cheek-pinchingly delicious. One doctor had already told me not to worry too much about the lump in my breast. I was breastfeeding, after all. I used to run marathons.

But I did worry, and got a second opinion - and so it began. The mammogram | the ultrasound | the biopsy | the diagnosis | the tears | the surgery | the waiting | the bone scan | the CT scan | the prognosis | the chemotherapy | the needles | the poison | the infertility | the baldness | the fatigue | the radiation | the sore skin | the menopause | the tamoxifen | the uncertainty | the check ups | the MRI scans | the oophorectomy ...

The closing of some doors and opening of others.

Ha. Maybe you think I'm joking, but breast cancer has opened doors, and defined me, in unexpected ways. I'm not going to say that it was the greatest thing ever to happen to me {because it wasn't - it was shit}, or that it was worth it for all I learned {because I was blissfully happy being immortal}. But I have learned from cancer, I have gained from it.

I met lovely friends - some of whom are gone now, and deeply missed; I acquired the ability to say no, without feeling guilty; I reconsidered my career path, and found a new direction that's truer to my priorities; I no longer live like I'm immortal; I take care of myself; I don't wait around to do things; I try to gain as many experiences as possible; and I Love. With a capital L.

Four-point-five years out, I still think about cancer in some form or another every day. I think about dying; I drink a glass of wine and then feel guilty about it; a glance at my daughter makes me teary; I scan medical research for treatments or prognoses or ideas and email my oncologist.
I'm like that. It's my traitorous body.

Sometimes, these days, I get meditative ... and mortality seems more natural, more ok. It happens to all of us - we become particles of the world around us again, and that's pretty fucking cool. I'm just not ready to go through cancer again - my daughter's only just starting school, I'm only just starting my post-doc | real-job | freelance writing life.

So to quench my doubts, I have another prophylactic - a workout, a cup of green tea, a tamoxifen, a cuddle, an oophorectomy - and give recurrence the virtual finger.

I guess what I really want to say is that it's important to get your own Self checked out, when you feel like something | anything might be wrong. Close your eyes and listen. Cancer in younger women is often overlooked, mis-diagnosed; and tends to be faster-growing and more aggressive, so it's even more important to detect it early. And though us girls are collectively busy - trying to start careers and have babies and suffer through dates and god-knows-what-we're-up-to - we have to get ourselves checked out.

Pinky promise you will.

Anyway, don't be sad, or scared. I'm not. Everything's going to be ok, I know that. I'll spread my little dandelion seeds into the world and then move on, just like we all do. I'm just going to hang around here till I'm old and gray and getting told off by my grandchildren for doing too much. 

Till then, as far as I'm concerned, cancer can fuck off.
Amanda xx

PS. If you'd like to check out the photoessay my talented friend Juanita created {including these and more photos}, or some of the other articles about cancer in young women, I've created a page here.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christmas Gift Ideas | New Years Trends

The turkey's been carved and gravied and made into soup; the sales have been shopped; and it's officially Christmas season. Here are a few Christmas gift ideas to get you thinking ... 

1. Who says print is dead? There's a magazine revival happening, friends, halleluiah and amen. Yes, yes, you can get your magazine fix electronically, but why? Buy a real-live subscription to thumb through at your favourite coffee shop.
These are my picks - offering beautiful images, clever writing, and peeks through the windows of inherently inspiring people:  

2. Express who you are ... or who you want to be ... with a little independent art. This is the year to make your laptop purty; dress that empty wall in the dining room; send real, handwritten letters to friends.
Here are my fave places to buy art straight from the artist:
society6 | Etsy | 500px

3. And, on that note, handmade stuff rocks too. I love the idea of being crafty, but when it comes to handmade hair clips for my niece? I'd have to set my wine down. And we can't have that.
These are the sites I go to:
Etsy | madeit

4. Ah, but I'm willing to put down my drink to make food. Ironic, don't you think? This is the time of year to fill up jars and tins and cello bags with love; to share a recipe you adore; to say - hey, look, I made this for you because you're awesome! Just don't overcommit yourself - make stuff that's cost-effective, or uses up market-fresh produce, or that you can do in large batches. Or just head down to your favourite roasters and wrap up some quality coffee.
Some of my gifting goodies:
biscotti | loaves | cookies | jam | citrus curds | awesome coffee

5. I love print, I do; but I also love short, sweet ebooks that make you think. Books resistant to distraction; that teach something, even from the viewpoint of a goat; that can be picked up and devoured on an airplane or while your child watches Angelina Ballerina for the hundredth time.  
These are some of the best I read this year:
Midnight's Tale | Wool | The Heart of Haiku | Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives | Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

6. And finally, for those you love best of all, the gift of silence ... headphones not included. These last few years, I've really embraced the audiobook - especially when traveling. The best audiobooks - in my opinion - are those that can be shared and enjoyed as a whole family, snuggled on the couch in front of a woodfire. Or your next roadtrip.
I recommend these beautifully-narrated classics:
Peter Pan | A Bear Called Paddington | 101 Dalmatians | The Wizard of Oz

So here you are! A few of my favourite things to share for Christmas, fa la la la la,
Amanda xx 

Friday, November 16, 2012

More Pie | Less Sadness

A couple weekends ago, we ate pie. This, in itself, is not momentous, but the fact we sampled something like 10 different pies is. We sat on the grass, surrounded by cool-looking people with big shades and shoulder tattoos and sugar-crazed kids. On our plates, ice cream melted over bananas foster pie, dripping into the creamy spaces between soft, caramelised bananas.

And if you think that sounds suggestive, or provacative, I say: 
hell yeah.

This is an annual event, the Pie Social and Croquet Tournament - and an excellent reason to find yourself in downtown Phoenix on a Saturday afternoon in November. I didn't see much croquet happening, but maybe that happens when all the pie is gone and everyone either gets up and starts moving again or melts into the grass between the plastic forks and dribbled apple filling.

Pie on its own is good.
But it's even better when you share it with friends and strangers, in the sunshine, 
with live music.
Amanda xx

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Artichoke Flowers and Grown-Up Wings

This morning, I woke up early. The house hummed quietly; light peeked in through gray clouds and white blinds. If I was silent enough, I could just reach my book without waking the others, pull the covers up close, and capture that dreamy, waking-up-moment all to myself. 
And then, I read this poem.

by Joseph Hutchison
O heart weighed down by so many wings

Such a simple line; but it woke me up instantly. This was me.

In these years after my PhD, I've done a lot of exploring within my own heart. Who am I? Who do I want to be? Somehow, after more than a decade of focused scientific training, it took a cluster of cancer to open me back up. And, over time, I've gained wings. I have a feeling now that I can do anything - I can write and make pictures and still be a scientist and a great mother and friend. I'm my 8 year old self again. I'm free.

But I'm not 8 anymore, and sometimes grown-up freedom is heavy; options can weigh on a heart. Can I do this, and still be that? Can I make choices, and then change my mind? Where the hell is this path taking me?

I guess the thing to remember about artichokes is this: left to their own devices, the heart develops into something more.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

pie and sadness

This morning as I drove into work, Nelle sat strapped into her flowery, big-girl car seat talking to Grammy and Grandpa. 

In her heart.

They've both died in recent years; Grandpa two years ago now ... a progressive and confused slide into darkness. I fear Nelle hardly remembers him now, the hours spent cuddling his bony figure on that oversized leather armchair. But she still talks to him.

When Grandpa was dying, I did my research. I wanted Nelle to feel the pain of his death, but in a way she could understand, deal with; I wanted her to feel close to him, even when his body lay under shovelfuls of suburban soil. So death, as we explained it, is when someone leaves their body - a body that's old or sick or badly hurt, that doesn't work anymore - and goes into the hearts of everyone who's loved them. We all get a piece of soul, to carry with us. 
A final gift. 

She was just 3, almost 3, when he left us. In death, he lay on a hospital bed - freshly made, for his passing. She wanted to see him, see his body. She brought a picture she drew and we tucked it under his cool, spindly fingers and he carried it with him. I'll never forget those moments of courage and compassion and sadness. 

We had another year and a half with Grammy. We took no moments for granted; we knew when it was happening, when those terrible irreverent cells overcame her. We weren't to make the same mistake again - she knew she was leaving; we knew she was leaving; we said our goodbyes. But, her leaving was a gouge that hasn't healed yet - I don't know if I even want it to. 

The drive this morning reminded me of remembering. How do we hold on and let go? Do I just keep picking open the hole in my chest, to avoid forgetting? To help my daughter remember? Or is it inevitable ... that one day, Grammy'll just be photographs and misremembered moments? I don't want that. For her, for him, for me.

Maybe that's what this is all about. Me. Knowing that one day, I'll die, too ... and fly quietly into the hearts of the people who've loved me ... to be remembered through photos and blog posts and newspaper clippings ...

Nelle sat behind me as the freeway slid by, talking quietly to Grammy and Grandpa in her heart, wishing every moment they were there in the flesh to read her stories and cuddle with her and play made-up games and feeling sadness that's both good and bad, and inexplicable. And I thought about my life and hers and hoped I was doing this right. All of it.

I want to hold my baby girl in my arms forever.
Amanda xx

Friday, November 9, 2012

Sea Salt and Other DIY Health-Store Goodies

Sometimes things are just better when you make them fresh. Yes, sea salt is sodium chloride - just like table salt; and maybe the trace minerals in salts don't amount to much in the quantities we consume. Maybe sea salt tastes better; maybe it's less-processed; maybe it has better 'mouth-feel'. People argue both ways. 

You know what? I don't really care. I like the idea that I can find myself a clean, unpolluted patch of ocean somewhere, collect some salty-slush or seawater, and make my own salt. With whatever pure, mineral goodness happens to exist in that stretch of blue.

But salt's just the beginning. There are a lot of 'health-store' goodies to be made - salts and sprinkles, chips and nutmilks. Stuff to enhance flavours and make a girl feel pretty damn industrious. Even if she's pulling stuff out of the archives.

Moral of the weekend?
Seek salt.
Amanda xx

1. Sea salt
Find a pristine stretch of ocean; collect sea water or slushy salt that's started to dry out in sunny rocky crevices; follow Ashley's recipe: lots of boiling, lots of straining, but lots of fun. Use for everything. I *have* actually done this. I just don't have pictures for you. Sorry.

Dry-toast sesame seeds {+ optional 2-3 Tbs pumpkin seeds} in a skillet over med heat until nicely browned. Grind with a few pinches of sea salt in a spice grinder, until finely powdered. Use on stir fries, plain rice, pasta - or anywhere you want a non-oily sesame flavour without losing all your seeds to the bottom of the pan. My original post is here.

I don't particularly like kale chips, but I do like kale ... and I know it's a kick-ass superfood, so my compromise is to buy lots of fresh organic kale at the market to make this sprinkle. I sprinkle it on salads, buttered pasta or rice, in soups, or whereever I feel the need for a dash of green. It's easy - just wash, dry, oil, bake, and crumble. My original post is here.

'Activating' nuts just means you soak them to remove some of the enzyme inhibitors; then you can eat them plump and soft, or you can {gently} re-dry them. I prefer the latter. Soak the nuts overnight {more or less, depending on the type}, then dry them with a clean tea towel and spread them across a baking tray. Bake in a low-temp oven for 6-24 hrs till dry and crisp-like. My original post is here.

5. Nut milk
While we're on the topic of nuts ... all you have to do to make amazing nut milk is add water and blend. Seriously. My favourite is cashew milk - made with equal portions toasted {but not salted} cashews and water, blended in a good-quality blender. I've used it for smoothies, soups, pancakes and ice cream - and if you want a real treat, cut down on the amount of water and you'll have cashew cream, a perfect companion for pumpkin pie. My original post is here.

6. Powdered zest
Last but not least, the sprinkles you've been waiting for. And if you haven't? It's because you didn't know they existed. This is how you honour thy citrus - by using every part of it, including the peel. Just under the surface is where all those fragrant oils reside, anyway. You don't want to waste them! Simply wash and dry your citrus; peel off the skins, trying to avoid any of the bitter white pith; dry out the peels in a warm oven {~60C | 120F} until they're crisp; grind them into a fine powder in a spice grinder. Store the powder in your cupboard for those 'doh' moments when you have a house full of hungry guacamole-seekers and not a lime in sight. Or to finish off a pasta dish. Or for vanilla ice cream. The world is truly your zest. My original post is here.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Baileys Affogato | Why You Should Always Travel With a Stovetop Espresso Maker

I must confess.

I travel with a stash of coffee, and a stovetop espresso maker. Even to remote Australian islands where I'm only allowed to check 12kg of luggage total. Even to the US, where I know I'm going home with a {leaden} suitcase of secondhand books. But hey - I've made beautiful espresso in fire-warmed sand on the beach; on gas cookers in mountain cabins; on fancy stoves and BBQs. I could even sustain myself for that pin-drop-quiet week between Christmas and New Years in my hometown in Iowa.

And here's why I do it. Life is too short for bad coffee. 
For bad anything, really. Remember that.

And this here recipe is pretty much all the excuse you need to buy yourself an espresso maker of some fashion - and then travel with it everywhere.

Happy Elections,
Amanda xx

Baileys Affogato

Affogato in Italian means drowned; though in this case it's a particularly wonderful kind of drowning. The kind that involves rich vanilla ice cream immersed in hot, dark coffee. And Baileys.

I'd be ok with drowning in Baileys.

The time
less than 10 minutes

The ingredients
1 shot (or 1/4 c) of espresso + 1 shot (or 1/4 c) of Baileys + 2 scoops organic vanilla ice cream per adult

NOTE: you can use regular or decaf espresso, and feel free to omit the Baileys if you wish. Chocolate or coffee ice cream would work here, too.

The process
1. Brew yourself some espresso. Set aside, but don't let it cool. It's nice to pour over hot.

2. Scoop yourself some ice cream, into a glass or mug.

3. Pour over the Baileys, then the coffee.

4. Serve straight away {with a spoon}, before the ice cream does any severe melting. Let your face acquire a pensive, dreamy look. Drown in contentment.

The cost
Does it matter? Not tonight.

The cost really depends on the quality of the coffee and the ice cream. I recommend locally-roasted organic coffee and ice cream that's made from ingredients like cream, eggs, sugar, and vanilla rather than xanthan gum and other filler | thickener ingredients.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Train to Writesville | Pre- New Year's Resolutions |

There have been a lot of things inspiring me lately ... but sadly, cooking hasn't been one of them. I don't know what it is ... or maybe ... I do.

I'm on a train to writesville. 

PS. I know this is not a train.

For years now, I've been looking up the empty track; watching tumbleweeds; playing with my new old camera and buying fresh fine-point pens and untainted notebooks. Afraid the train won't come. Afraid it will. Afraid of where I'll end up. Afraid of going nowhere. But I've done it. I've committed to this dark and dusty route. Hello, future. Here I come. I'm a writer, damn it.

Progressively, I've felt my brain open back up after all those years of blinding focus | on tadpoles and temperature and my own ego |. I've started to see things again in the world around me, and I feel intensely that I want to share these things with you. With everyone out there. 

So I'm writing. Writing queries to magazines I love. Writing articles for magazines I love. Writing on this blog. Taking notes for that novel that's been hanging out in the back of my head for no fewer than 4 years. Reading a shitload of magazines and filling my notebooks with words.

This is a time for me to pare away some of the other stuff - the blogs I'm not committed to, the skin care products that - really - I want you all to want to make for yourself. Because you can. And it's best that way.

Don't worry, Easy Peasy Organic will still be here. This is my happy place, after all. You all make it that way! But I might not always give you recipes. Sometimes I might just share my inspirations; or photos. No pressure. I know you'll enjoy the ride with me!

Have a lovely rest of your week, friends,
and we'll talk soon.
Amanda xx

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pita Pizzas || A Cabin in the Country

We were playing Scrabble in front of a roaring fire when she walked out of her bedroom, that guilty smile on her face. This was way past her bedtime. Leaning against the couch, she looked at us innocently -
"Do you always play games when I go to bed?"
 {not always, darling ... } But then we let her stay up with us anyway. Because we were on holiday, after all.

For four nights, we had a cabin in the mountains; with a wood-burning fireplace and golden-hued trees; animal heads adorning living room walls and the comfiest beds imaginable. The nights were cold in that perfect autumn way. 

We made simple things for dinner, like pasta; boiled potatoes dolloped with sour cream; pizzas made from pita bread. We drank golden microbrews with hints of apricot or raspberry. We drank lots of coffee, too, hot and black from the stovetop espresso maker we travel with.

It was awesome.

And you probably don't need a recipe for pita pizzas ... I just wanted to share the idea with you. Because pitas are great for lunches on the go, but also make fab pizza bases for all those things you have left at the end of a trip. 

So what do you need? A hot oven - set to 180C (360F) or so; 1-2 small pitas per person; tomato sauce and/or leftover red pepper soup and/or olive oil; thinly sliced veggies and/or lunchmeats; thin slices or shreds of cheese {I used pecorino}. Bake till the base is crispy and the cheese is browned and melty. Remove from the oven and eat as soon as they're cool enough.

{NOTE: Do not leave pizzas unattended in the company of your husband.}

And now, we're back in civilisation again. Back in the big smoke. And there's no fire tonight to make our cheeks warm and glowy ... but there's a comfy couch and great friends and a stack of magazines to get through.

Happy weekend, friends.
Amanda xx

HIGHLIGHTS :: Tonto Natural Bridge State Park | Mogollon Rim | fall colours | pine trees | wood-burning fires | dusty thrift stores | squirrels | getting lost on winding forestry roads | Kinfolk

Friday, October 19, 2012

Custard Pops {From Scratch}

Vanilla-studded custard or pudding or whatever you want to call it - is one of my favourite foods ever. I was ever so obsessed when I was pregnant, and even now I'm not one to pass up some cold creme anglaise, straight from the carton fridge.

But I don't like the added colours and stabilisers and thickeners in the store-bought stuff. Or the lumpiness that eventuates when I try to make custard from scratch. Or the fact that most custard recipes rely on cream {because I almost never have any in the fridge when I desire custard}. 

So I was pretty happy to find a super-easy recipe for milk-based vanilla custard from the BBC.

At the moment, I'm traveling, writing this from a hotel room in Tempe, Arizona, while my daughter devours Babybel cheese and baby carrots on the couch. We've had coffee and swimming and are totally going here later for happy hour and bruschetta. {I'll let you know how it is!}. But I love these custard pops, and brought the photos along with me because I think you'll love them, too.

And please forgive the slightly-pornographic popsicle molds. That's what you get for going with stainless steel over plastic, and I don't know about you but I'm happy to have phallus-shaped popsicles if they're BPA-free :)
Amanda xx

Vanilla Custard Pops
makes 2.5 cups' worth

This is a light-ish vanilla custard, and retains just enough of that graininess that I can never seem to escape with the homemade variety. BUT if you freeze it in your favourite popsicle molds, you won't even notice. It'll taste amazing, and it'll have that beautiful, thick, slightly-crumbly texture that frozen custard has. Do it.

The time
30 min cooking + 2 hrs freezing

The ingredients
2 cups whole milk 
100g raw sugar
seeds from 1 vanilla pod*
3 large, organic egg yolks
50g cornflour {cornstarch}

*remove the seeds in step 1 below, then toss the pod into a jar of sugar, for vanilla-scented sugar; add it to your jar of homemade vanilla extract; or make it into cookies, like Heidi does.

**try to use organic when you can!

The process
1. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod into a saucepan {save the pod for the ideas above}, and stir in the milk and 1/2 of the sugar. Warm over medium heat - stirring pretty regularly, if not constantly - until the mixture is gently boiling. Then remove from heat and set aside.

2. Place the 3 egg yolks into a separate bowl with the rest of the sugar and the cornstarch. Mix thoroughly.
3. Then, progressively pour 1/2 the warm milk mixture into the yolk mixture, stirring as you go.

4. Return the remaining milk to a gentle boil. Stirring quickly and continuously, add the yolk/milk mixture to the gently boiling milk and mix until it thickens to the texture of a runny custard. It should coat your spoon, but probably won't glop off of it. {And yes, I just made up the word glop. Like it?}

5. Cover and cool the custard before pouring it into popsicle molds and freezing till solid {about 2 hrs}.

The cost
$2-$3 for a hefty batch of organic vanilla custard pops. And a great excuse to buy marked-down milk!