If you are in gift-buying mode this month, here’s some ideas to help make 2015 *SANEr for someone that you care about. If you know people who are ready to make some healthy changes, you can get them started on the right path.
You could also pass this list along to someone who cares about you, hint hint. If you’ve been eyeing up some of the more expensive kitchen gadgets to make a SANE lifestyle easier and faster, this might be your big chance to have a new toy show up on your doorstep.
Here’s the kitchen equipment staples that will make *SANE cooking faster, and easier.
Clicking on the images below will take you straight to the item on Amazon. It doesn’t get any easier that that.
Plus (hee hee) the most perfect gifts for a *SANE lifestyle – cookbooks! It doesn’t mater if your friends aren’t *SANE, these cookbooks are filled with delicious, easy recipes that everyone will love. If you want to introduce friends to how delicious healthy can be, this a great way to do it!
Clicking on the images below will take you straight to the item on Amazon. It doesn’t get any easier that that.
Pork, it seems to me, is entirely underrated, more often than not waiting idly in the wings while chicken and beef take center stage. Unless we’re talking bacon, of course. Everyone knows that everything tastes better with bacon, and given free rein a lot of us would gleefully eat bacon at every meal. When it comes to underrated I was thinking more of pork chops and pork dishes using other cuts.
So for the first Friday Night Dinner I decided it had to be pork, especially since Wildman was coming over and that man eats, in my opinion, far too much chicken. It t is true, though, that he is a masterful chicken griller, so I can see the appeal. He has a grill the size of a small kitchen island right there on his front deck and it seems like every time I catch him cooking dinner, he’s grilling up a chicken breast. At least he now has some SANE BBQ Sauce to spread all over it.
The idea of sage came to me while I was out exploring the Yakima River. It was a beautiful, clear late Fall day as I strolled over the suspension bridge, complete with hat, ski gloves, and a jacket built to withstand temperatures of minus 30. Yes, it was a tad nippy. I started into the canyon where everything was covered with a thick, sparkling frost, and hiked in the wintry sunshine. The air was heavily scented with sage, the cold air filling my nostrils with its sweet, woody aroma. I gathered up a bunch of sage and put it on the dashboard over the heater vent. I still get the most glorious wafts of gentle sage drifting up my nose as I drive. Thanks, Wildman – sage on the dashboard is a mighty fine idea.
And really, that was all it took. Sage it would be.
I served this simple Sage and Onion Pork with Tarragon Green Beans, and Celery Leek Stir-fry (coming soon!) Wildman was Happyman afterwards, especially over the green beans. He said they were the best green beans he’s ever eaten, and boy! he’s had a lot of green beans in his time.
Wouldn’t it be fun, I thought, to drive to Whistler out of season before the snow flies. Because I’d never been to Whistler and it’s a short 5-hour drive from my door to the door of The Cascade Lodge Hotel – a perfect driving distance for a long weekend. Plus, it’s in Canada, and Canada, I always thought, is wonderful. Way back when I was studying at The National Bakery School in London I spent time working as pastry chef in Canada – Invermere, BC to be exact – and I have loved the country ever since. And then there are all those oh-so-friendly and adorable Canadians. Plus moose. Canada has moose. What’s not to love?
So I packed up the 4-Runner like I was going to the Arctic, just in case I ran into some snow or ice on the towering mountain passes that I was planning to motor over. I headed for the I-5, which, if you drive North on for long enough dumps you right at Peace Arch with its rows of gun-toting border control officers in their rather fancy little huts where they busy themselves with scanning passports and finding out just what you plan to be doing on the other side of the STOP line, and for how long. No, I was not going to do any business, and no, I was not going to meet up with anyone I knew. No, I was not carrying a gun, and no, I was not going to stay for longer than the weekend. What was I planning to do in Whistler?
This. I was planning to do this. A lot.
In case you were wondering – yes I know what you’re like (!) – that photo comes courtesy of my camera buddy – aka Wildman – who came along to introduce me to the magical world of video. Hey, if you’re going to have video lessons why not do it in Whistler where there are jaw-dropping views at every turn? Plus Fall. Hello, color!
Here’s what went down between the video lessons.
One day included a bunch of fog, a thoroughly misty morning, and drizzle. It might not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but landscape photographers generally get all kinds of enthusiastic when the day dawns to reveal various forms of water in the sky. Mist and fog can be entirely magical, and rain can make just about anything glisten and shine. Brandywine Falls are a short jaunt south from Whistler. The Falls themselves are breathtaking, but the forest walk to see them is like fairyland. I didn’t want to leave, despite getting increasingly damp around the edges. It was impossible to capture the utter awe of this vista. I stood there for a full 5 minutes with my mouth open, just staring out over the valley. I wish you could have been there.
Another day, in contrast, included a brilliant blue and cloudless sky, a jaw-dropping drive over some honking great mountains, meandering through a lush, green valley, and a glorious sunset. Wildman and I videoed traversing the mountain pass back to Whistler from start to finish, although I am not sure we’ll ever post it. It was highly experimental, and part of my video learning curve.
The mountain pass from Whistler to Lillooet was simply magnificent. The valley from Lillooet to Lytton, divine. The sun was low in the sky and the photographic ‘magic hour’ seemed to last all day.
Oh. Yes. The other thing I should mention about Whistler is pizza. If you cannot resist pizza, don’t venture near Whistler. I have never seen so many pizza places in such close proximity. And, there appears to be a shortage of vegetables, too. One restaurant we went to, where we asked to swap out the potatoes for veggies, told us, “There’s kind of nothing left if you take the potato off the plate. And we don’t have any vegetables anyway.” A restaurant with no vegetables. What the what??
Regardless of the dodgy food situation, Whistler was just the ticket for a weekend of photography and videoing. And I was reminded, once again, how wonderful I think Canada is. Eh?
Whatever makes you feel good, do more of that.
PS. Yes, lovely readers, this does mean there are cooking videos in your very near future. Never let it be said that I don’t listen to your requests. You clamored for cooking videos, and cooking videos you shall have.
You often tell me how much you love the stories and little asides that I add to my recipe posts and cookbooks. It occurred to me though that I am feeling rather anxious about having abandoned you during my elongated absence from creating recipes. To ease my anxiety I am going to focus on simply getting a bunch of recipes to you, and that means I’ll forego much of the writing until I feel like I have redeemed myself. Besides which, you learned more about me in 2014 than you might ever have wanted to know. Let’s just say I think I front-loaded all the writing this year.
That said, let’s get back to the cooking!
No Friday Night Dinner – or *SANE meal any day of the week – would be complete without a bunch of veggies heaped on the plate. While I was mulling over what veggies to dish up with the Baked BBQ Chicken the other week, I decided to do a salad for speed, but I wanted it to feel warm and comforting, not cold and fresh. A winter salad, if you will. Spinach immediately popped into my mind, probably because it’s not a crispy, crunchy green. It’s softer and floppier and feels warmer, even when it’s raw. I also wanted something that wouldn’t compete with the SANE BBQ Sauce smothering the chicken. With warm, mellow-flavored leaves as a starting point I pondered which foods evoke thoughts of colder months: pears, dried apricots, walnuts; and before I knew it I had a salad on my hands.
I whisked up a super simple dressing, added scallions (green onions) for a touch of ‘bite’, and finished it off with some goat cheese. Food doesn’t have to be complicated to be delicious. A good recipe and fresh, real-food ingredients and you’re there.
Wildman is a big fan of spinach salads, and this one was a winner for him. He loved the soft, sweet pear pieces and the mild, creamy goat cheese, with a light dressing that was there but didn’t overpower any of the other flavors.
I find the easiest and fastest way to chop dried apricots is to use kitchen scissors.
Leave the goat cheese in the fridge until the last minute as it can get very soft to handle at room temperature
Goodness. I got sucked into a black hole for a bit there, didn’t I? The last 2½ months have been a particularly enjoyable and energetic black hole while I road-tripped all over Mother Earth. Zooming round and round Washington, down into Oregon, and up into the Great White North, except it wasn’t white yet because it was only the end of October. I’ve mostly been chasing volcanoes, seeing how many mountain passes I could romp over before the snow flies, and shooting stuff with a studly camera that’s been hopelessly underused this year. I also met up with and enjoyed a *SANE meal with some of you. Frankly, I’ve had a rip-roaring time, and it was sorely needed.
Somehow it’s now Thanksgiving and I must admit I’m glad to be home this week, in a kitty-filled house, with a steaming mug of Candy Cane Green Tea (Oh, Trader Joe’s not a day too soon did you get it back in the stores!), the dishwasher whirring ever-so-quietly in the background, a bowl of Cheesecake Ice Cream custard lolling in the fridge waiting for its 20 minutes of fame in the churner. I am soaking up the silence, wallowing in my fat, fluffy slippers, with a hair-do that is channeling Pebbles. And, while there is no one here to cook for today, nor was there yesterday or the day before that, I am pretty darn excited that for the first Thanksgiving in 8 years (EIGHT YEARS!) I am going to be sharing my turkey.
As evidenced by my post earlier this week, I am cooking again. And it feels mighty fine I have to tell you.
It started when a couple of Fridays ago I revisited my fiendish plan to inveigle unsuspecting friends over on a Friday night to eat dinner with me, and in the process unwittingly become taste-testers for a slew of delicious new *SANE recipes. Just like that the Friday Night Dinners are back on! Whoop!
Mmmmmm. Juicy, crisp chicken thighs slathered in BBQ Sauce. Wildman *really* loved those thighs, and because he likes a lot of sauce he had extra on the side. It’s SANE, why not have an extra dollop on your plate?
Fast, no mess, and simple as can be. Sling the chicken in marinade the night or morning before, toss them in the oven to bake, smother them in SANE BBQ Sauce and finish them off under the broiler (grill). Throw together a salad. Dinner = done.
(NOTE: I also cooked two skinless chicken breasts using the exact same method to see how they fared. Not to be recommended. Significantly drier than the skin-on thighs.)