I have a kid who has developed a smallish obsession with iced coffee and alterna-milk. If she goes to the fridge on any particular morning and finds that there is only milk from a cow, she questions me, in a way that only a 14 year old can, “why do you hate me?” And, honestly, I am mostly happy to make it for her, because I am a mom, and caring for my people with food is what I do. The thing that gets me, though, is I really hate waste. I am a big fan of nose to tail, leaf to root, bark to pulp, and whatever other neat phrase you can think of to convey “use it all”. As such, I am sometimes reluctant to make the nut milk, because I know I will need a second plan to utilize the left over meat. Sometimes this is easy to do but sometimes, well, I just don’t feel like it.
Faced with a morning where we had run out of the last batch and neither of us thought ahead to soak some almonds the night before, I turned to our good friend, Cashew. Cashews don’t need the big soak that almonds do so they are great for the last minute whirr through the Ninja. She went running, I got to milking. A couple of cups of nuts (or, I guess, technically, seeds) went into the blender along with two dates, a splash of vanilla and then water about double the amount of cashews. Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. At this point, you seasoned nut milk makers and drinkers might be thinking, “but you can totally drink un-strained cashew milk.” Sure, you can. We don’t. Too, um, cashew-y? So I got this kind of thing going on.
Milk went into the fridge next to the cold brew and I was left staring at this.
That spoon, by the way is the one that comes with our Ice Cream Sundae Delivery service. You heard that right: ice cream sundae. Delivered to your door. With cute reusable spoon. We live in a magical place.
But, back to the task at hand, staring at this soggy cashew meat, I decided to turn it into some little chocolate snacks, so I squeezed it through some cheese cloth, mixed in cocoa powder, honey, a bit of nut butter and oats that I toasted (just takes a few minutes).
On the first go it didn’t quite have the right consistency so I added a bit more nut butter to go from this
And yes, that is a lego man in the background, because small people.
Roll’em up. pop ’em in the fridge for a few minutes and then this one, in from her run
could sit down to this
Want to try these for yourself? As you could see, I didn’t have a recipe and you can do the same. I believe in you! My rough amounts were 2 cups of cashew paste, 2 tbsp honey, 2-3 tbsp nut butter, 1/4 cup cocoa powder and half-ish cup oats. But just mix and try, taste and squeeze. When it tastes and feels right, it’s right. I wish you a very good day of running and rolling.
For a year after high school and before I trucked off to college, I had a glorious break hanging with family and their new little dude. It was the late eighties and the food trends were things like California rolls, blooming onions, 7 layer dip, dips in bread bowls (haha this is still a staple of our Thanksgiving weekend), and blackened anything. And there were also yuppies. And yuppies who ate things like cold sesame noodles. And so this is where I first knew of this dish’s existence – in a yuppie house (said with love) in NJ with a baby after high school. Sounds vaguely like a twisted children’s book – but I digress.
Cold sesame noodles, sometimes called cold peanut noodles, sometimes with sesame paste (aka tahini), sometimes peanut butter, sometimes both. Often with cucumber, sometimes carrots, sometimes spicy, sometimes not, now just as likely with zoodles or squoodles or sprouted things. Sometimes udon, sometimes, soba, sometimes regular old linguini. No matter, though, because it is all about the sauce. Unctious, umami-rich, a little salt, a little tang, a lotta yum, the sauce is the dish. That makes it expansively adaptable, as long as you’ve got that tasty sauce. I actually hadn’t had or thought of these cold noodles in quite a while and I am not sure what brought them back to me these last weeks – perhaps the recent visit from that baby who is now (yikes, what?!) 30, a stellar chef and star creator of all things smoked, or perhaps the constant search for non-hot things to serve in these dog days – but I am sure glad to have gotten reacquainted. What follows is my current version. Enjoy with or without neon jellies and a Tab.
8 oz package of udon noodles (can sub any other long pasta)
8 oz vegetable noodles – zucchini, carrot, squash, etc
½ cup peanut butter
2 tbsps tahini (ok to omit)
4 tbsps soy sauce
2 tbsps rice vinegar
2 tbsps sesame oil
2 tbsps brown sugar
5-6 tbsps hot water
1 tsp sriracha or hot sauce of choice
1 tbsp sesame seeds
Boil water for the noodles. While the pasta noodles cook (don’t put the veg noodles in the water yet), prepare the sauce by placing the peanut butter, tahini, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, brown sugar, water, and hot sauce in a blender. Blend on high until well incorporated. If it seems too thick add more water. When the noodles are close to done, after 8-10 minutes, depending on your noodles, add the vegetable noodles to the same boiling water. Cook these for 1-2 minutes, until they just soften a bit but don’t get mushy. Drain all into a colander. In a large bowl, toss the noodles and sauce together until all the noodles are well covered with sauce. Top with sesame seeds before serving.
In the local division of my business I crank it out in the kitchen every week-end, baking ordered goods that I then deliver around town to eager sweets fans. I imagine them waiting expectantly and excitedly at the window, dancing like that chihuahua on the chair in that video that went viral a year or two ago. Ok, that might be embellishing, but I feel like a kid in a candy shop when I deliver, so I can’t help but imagine my customers are as excited as I am. I love showing up at my neighbors’ houses, box of treats and love in hand, and being able to say hello and sneak a small peek into their joy that comes with the promise of a goody to come. It would only be better if I could be a fly on the wall to hear the (hopefully) subsequent “yums”. And this should tell you something – that I, as a socially anxious person, so love the connection to that simple moment that I am willing to (yikes) interact with people. I especially love it when I am delivering blueberry muffins. Not any blueberry muffins, but Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins. From the recipe in Yankee Magazine. To my New England neighbors. For the girl who grew up on and fell in love with Holiday Inn and White Christmas and The Windmill Summer – all of which paint perfect portraits of New England quaintness – this is all practically too much.
If you are not from around here, you might not know that Jordan Marsh was a Place and their muffins were a Thing. If you speak to someone who grew up in or near Boston, they know the Marsh and the Muffins. I never had the real deal. As a newbie (only lived here 25ish years), I never had the chance. (Though I did have a reboot when we took our kids to the revived Enchanted Village that moved from Jordan Marsh to Jordan’s, another Boston area legend.) You hear the stories, though, so when I ran across the recipe I knew I had to try them. Not surprisingly, they have been one of my biggest sellers. I don’t often use others’ recipes and rarely without some sort of tweaking or changes, but from this one I do not stray. I suggest you don’t, either. (and, yes, I used a stock blueberry image for this post because the last few times I made these they legit disappeared before I could get a decent picture)
Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins, by way of Yankee Magazine
- 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2-1/2 cups large fresh blueberries
- 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons sugar (for top of muffins)
Preheat oven to 375°F.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy; add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
In a second bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter and sugar mixture along with the milk and vanilla.
Optionally, mash 1/2 cup of the blueberries, and stir in by hand (this will turn batter a light shade of blue and add a touch of blueberry flavor. This step may be skipped, if you wish, but I don’t think you wish). Add the remaining whole berries and stir in gently by hand.
Line a muffin tin with paper cups and fill. Generously sprinkle with sugar.
Bake at 375°F for 25-30 minutes. Cool in pan. Run a knife around the edge of each muffin after several minutes to free it from the pan and cool on wire racks.
What is it that etches some memories in the brain more deeply than others? I would think it would be largely a matter of impact or importance, big moments vs mundane days, but in my experience, and I am guessing yours, that isn’t necessarily the case. Every summer with the first really steamy day – the sun is intense, even through the haze, the air is damp and not a hint of coolness is to be found, not even in the breeze, if there is one – I am vividly transported back to mid to late 70’s upstate NY. It’s flip-flops and cut off shorts. It’s hoses washing wood panelled station wagons, Steve Miller Band on fm, nights of neighborhood-wide games of kick the can, and my friend’s pool. It is also, and here we get to the point, the Worst Sunburn Of My Life. Maybe it’s Severe Pain that is the strongest etching tool, haha, because, boy, do I remember that day. I had been at this friend’s yard, at the pool but also helping with…something. That part hasn’t stuck around. What has stuck with me is the aftermath, sitting on the couch, watching The Hobbit, my mother plying me with grape Kool-Aid and salty chips (from the metal tin that came from the chip delivery man – WTH was that? The 70’s were weird – and wonderful). So that flavor memory, for whatever mysterious reason, has strongly stuck with me. Years ago my husband and I spent way too much money on one meal, a fancy tasting menu by a fancy city chef and I barely remember one or two courses. Chips and kool-aid? With me forever. Go figure. In any case, it has been so persistent an impression that I figured that I needed to do something with it. The first thought to come to mind was to try a cake. I made a cake that had the kool aid mixed into it with crushed chps in the frosting, and one with finely ground chips added to the cake with a kool aid frosting.
Served them both to the fam. The consensus? Decidedly MEH. Boo. Ok, that’s fine. Back to the drawing board, because I am determined to work this hounding devil of a flavor monkey out. Stay tuned, but if you want to try the cakes out yourself, have at it. (Basically, add 1/4 cup powdered kool-aid to your favorite yellow cake or 1/2 cup frinely crushed potato chips. Or whip it into a butter cream. I am not going to bother with a recipe since I wasn’t satisfied with the outcome). Better yet, if you come up with a tasty version, please share! Hmmm…maybe a cocktail for my next attempt…
Another day, another set of random bits in my refrigerator that can’t really be used for anything on their own, so time for a mash up. Today I found these boys.
Not unusable, but a little too far gone to be tasty on a sandwich or dipped into anything. Then this friend joined the party (has been zested and a portion juiced for a different recipe – looking pretty!).
Some more scrounging around and before long, I had this going on, the makings of a spread/jam.
Tomatoes, pepper, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, honey, knob of butter (had been using it to grease pans for baking), sprig of tarragon from friend’s garden, decent pinch of red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Boil it up.
This really needs smell-tech. Also, if you turn your attention away and it happens to start to get more cooked than you planned, you now have delicious Charred Tomato Jam/Spread/Business. With added depth of flavor. Really – this did not ruin anything and in fact added dimension to it. I just made sure to avoid the black bits as much as possible when I was scraping it out of the pan.
And there you have it. I pureed it smooth, my daughter would have done it chunky. Your choice. We spread it on bread, dolloped it on eggs, dipped vegetables and shrimp in it. Get creative! Now, listen, I will write out the recipe for what I did here, but promise me you won’t feel like you need a recipe to do this with your own fridge bits. Just remember to cover all your balance bases – acid, fat, sweet, salty, and spice if you like. Be bold, do not be afraid. Cook fearlessly!
3 slightly mushy tomatoes
1 wrinkly pepper
juice from 2/3 of a lemon
tbspish apple cider vinegar
a stem of tarragon
1 tbspish brown sugar
1 tbspish honey
2 tbspish butter
large pinch of pepper flakes
Pop it all in a pan, bring it to a boil and then keep it at a lively simmer for about 20 minutes, until it thickens. Add a little water if it goes too far. Remove the tarragon stem and puree totally or leave it chunky. Yum it up.
Even though a couple of the kids still have a day and a half of school left, summer has really started here. We opened up the pool and it has been, as they say, like flies to molasses – sudden swarms of children, big and small. Not that I think of them as flies, of course. They are all way less icky and far less buzzy and annoying – most of the time. We love having the packs of kids around all summer and feel lucky to be able to host over the next 8-12 weeks what essentially is a flow and ebb of release and relief, sunscreen and sunburns, snacks and drinks and teen energy and little kid over-tireds and laughs and lemonade and back into the pool after-darks. Their exhaustion and explosion of energy at the close of the school year and throughout the weeks of freedom fills the house and backyard like that of excited but tired puppies. It’s cool. It also makes them hungry. So, while I walk around with sighs and small head shakes to pick up the scattered towels or wipe the spilled sunscreen the regular refrain in my head is, “how do I feed this mass without always just tossing the super-sized bag of chips on the table?”. Honestly, sometimes it is just the chips, since it is easy to keep a supply around all the time for the last minute break out of “mom, people are coming over, ok? Like, right now.” When I have more advance notice, things like grilled pizza, salads with protein and even some mac and cheese are great to fill those hungry bellies. When I don’t, these are some of my go-tos to satiate the hordes – I hope you enjoy and you share them with at least one person who you don’t think is at all like a fly.
2 cans chickpeas, drained
Juice of ½ lemon
2 tbsps tahini
1 clove garlic
Tsp kosher salt
⅓ cup olive oil
Blend all ingredients in a cuisinart or high speed blender. Adjust salt and oil level to your liking. Serve with cut vegetables and bread/chips of your choice.
Creamy Vegetable Dip
1 ½ cups plain greek yogurt (can sub sour cream)
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp dried oregano
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp dried dill
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix together yogurt or sour cream and mayonnaise. Add all other ingredients and mix until fully incorporated. Serve with any combination of cut vegetables, pretzels, pita chips.
16 oz plain greek yogurt
¼ cup orange juice
2 tbsps honey
Splash of vanilla
Optional: tbsp finely chopped mint
Mix all ingredients well. Serve with your choice of cut fruit.