strawberry salad & goodbye summer & link up

Everyone is posting about pumpkin spice and here I am with a humble summery Strawberry Salad. Like many recipes living on my hard drive, I didn't have a chance to share when it was actually summer. To my credit, it still feels like summer in LA despite what the calendar says. So if you happen to source a pint of strawberries from some farmer at the farmer's market or if better yet you purchase some in a clear plastic box from --gasp-- the supermarket that sources them from Chile, be sure to keep this green wonderfulness in mind.

The theme of this month's link-up from the Kosher Connection is "The one food you'd want if you were stranded on an island." The answer would be that I truly don't have a clue. I love lots of different things but can't isolate one that would be at the forefront of my mind. But I really would love a big bowl of this salad. It would be truly refreshing on an island.

Couscous Roast Chicken

I am slowly submerging from the holiday marathon and the unavoidable food overdose. There were so many meals shared and so many lasting memories, but it's also nice to be back to the humdrum of daily life, countless laundry loads and all.

I kept my holiday menu very simple but I did peak into a few cookbooks for inspiration. I mentioned in the previous post about The Monday Morning Cooking Club and their first book, which I used for the honey cake. I also got this Couscous Roast Chicken from there.
Since I don't eat red meat, chicken makes copious appearances at our meals. I cook chicken in so many ways, with so many different flavors, using so many techniques. I don't tire of it at all, but sometimes there is a recipe that stands out and that I keep close by. This is one of them. The first time I made it, I had many guests over and they all loved it, the compliments were pouring in. The sincere kind, not the perfunctory "it's so good", but the ones said wholeheartedly due to sheer enjoyment.

The meat comes out tender and juicy and the stuffing is part savory, part citrus-y, part sweet and has a great crunch from the pistachios. It's truly a wonderful one pan meal that comes together nicely with minimal mess (a major bonus in my eyes).

The Monday Morning Cooking Club boasts many more amazing recipes, some of which I have yet to try like their Pear Tarte Tatin. But my favorite part of this cookbook and of their newer cookbook The Feast Goes On, is the blurbs to each recipe from the contributor. I love the memories they share, the glimpse into different cultures and the emotional connection to each recipe. It's adds depth and joy in the kitchen, a delightful companion this cookbook is. Thanks Debbi for this chicken recipe.

Honey Cake

I wanted to stop by and wish you all a Shana Tova! We're inching closer to Yom Kippur and I hope that every one of you will be written in the Book Life, with health, happiness and success. I love this time of year with the chaos and joy of the holidays, as weighty as they may be. Yes, we're being judged, but I look forward to the flashes of introspection I squeeze into my hectic routine. Many changes, new goals, and unexpected opportunities await. I'm trying to keep my aspirations short and realistic, but I'm a hopeless idealist and so the lengthy laundry list is getting constant additions, edits and scribbles. Blogging and photographing more is definitely on there, right with time management skills, exercise, printing pictures, and having a pinterest-esque stocked freezer full of dinners. There are some lofty, spiritual goals sprinkled in and of course conflicting ones like going to sleep early, but overall, I have a plan to tackle the new year. Ironically, it's a mere copy of last year's, a fact I find amusing. The cliche is true: some things never change. Alas, I'll focus on the little victories, try to be more present and mindful and grateful. I think things will fall into place.
Let's talk about more important matters like this honey cake I made for Rosh Hashana. It's delicate and sweet with a pronounced honey taste. I pulled this recipe from the Monday Morning Cooking Club, a cookbook by a group of ladies from Australia. I've cooked from this book a few times in the past year or so that I've had it. It is truly lovely. Firstly, it's written with some Australian terms like castor sugar, cake tin, and mum, which categorizes it as a tinge exotic and lets me practice my British/Australian accent. Yes, blasphemous--I  grouped the British with Australians, to my unaccustomed ear they sound the same and I love them both. I digress. Secondly, the book carries a beautiful message of how food unites the past and the present, it's at the basis of this sisterhood and propels memories old and new. There are many traditional recipes and some modern ones, each one comes with an interesting blurb of the recipe's history. I'll talk more about it when I post the Couscous Roast Chicken I made from it. For now let's get back to cake, and honey, and the new year. May this year be as sweet as honey and infinitely fulfilling.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Confession: sometimes I wish I didn't care what my children eat. I envy those oblivious mothers who hand out candies and cookies without batting an eye. They might uphold common restrictions like not eating too much before dinner, but for the most part they don't stress over their child's diet.

I, on the other hand, get irrational mental visions of decaying cells gasping for real nutrients when I see my kids eating junk, especially candy (sugar + food coloring, gasp!). I know what's good and what's bad for them. I know how it affects them. And I know that in today's society it's almost impossible for every food to be perfectly nutritious. There's always something wrong: it's GMO, it has sugar, look! the box says no high fructose corn syrup, oh but it has plain corn syrup, it's unhealthy fat (who eats cotton seeds?), there are 3 ingredients that have 9 letters that are unpronounceable, etc. Being so aware is at once discouraging and empowering. We have to make choices and lots of compromises.

Our family's diet isn't perfect (you'll find some pretty nutritiously questionable items in the pantry and freezer, of which the husband is to blame) but I've learned to focus on what I can control and to let go of what I can't. I aim to give my kids enough freedom to try things, but I do my best to educate them on what's good for our body and what isn't. You don't want to be behind us at the snack isle where you'll likely witness a crying toddler grasping some kind of flashy red sugary snack and the unfazed mother (moi) calmly switching it with a jumbo-sized Bamba bag. It's the little things.

But anyway let's talk about this bread. Or cake, I should say. I don't know who named this loaf zucchini bread, it really should be zucchini cake. Cake, cake, cake. This loaf of what I'll call Chocolate Zucchini Cake (despite what the title says) has a nice dense crumb. It's just sweet and healthy enough to call breakfast. I made it refined sugar-free and used whole wheat flour (I can imagine that substituting with gluten free flour or almond flour would also work, but it wouldn't have the same height), and best of all it has zucchini, a green vegetable. We can never have too many green vegetables.

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