Ahhh, 2016—feels like yesterday. Reflecting back to the good old days, one strong current that kept me off the beach was the Buddha Bowl trend.
I’ve been composing bowls and plates filled with an assortment of nutritional goodness (usually a compilation of leftovers) well before the name was penned.
Quinoa with Spaghetti Squash and Dill-Almond Pesto (circa 2010)
But I was loathe to be trapped in the Buddha Bowl wave, revisiting old recipes of healthy goodness and rewriting their names so that they could find their way to a Pinterest board.
It’s the name. Buddha Bowl. Did Siddhartha feast with a Buddha Bowl to celebrate his enlightenment? The concept brings to mind the granola and nutrition bar aisles in supermarkets. Such excessive branding as they fight to capture the latest food fad flag, yet most are loaded with fat and sugar.
And yet. Buddha Bowl. It caught the wave. Great alliteration.
I was delighted to find a lonely beet hidden beneath some potatoes to julienne, stir-fry and add to my Buddha Bowl.
A quick Google of Buddah Bowls yields recipes with a common theme: a layer of grains or seeds (quinoa, farro, couscous, rice) that is attractively garnished with proteins (tofu, nuts, beans) and veggies (roasted, sautéed, raw) all topped with savory dressing, if desired.
Essentially a Mom & Pop diner’s meat and three, hold the beef.
I stirred a stocking stuffer into the composition I made just before eating it—Frank’s Rajila Sweet Ginger Sauce. Goodness, that stuff would make cardboard taste delicious. Oops! Silly me. It’s loaded with sugar.
Ah well. Here’s a toast to sliding off the yoga mat from time to time. Happy New Year!
A bottle of wine dressed up in a festive bag is the usual accessory when invited to a holiday gathering. But it’s fun to mix it up. With available time for most folks in such short supply, gifts from the kitchen are becoming a rare gem.
This gift idea is almost as simple as purchasing a bottle: make a riff on Bailey’s Irish Cream–the one perenially stocked in the liquor department.
I made my own Irish Cream, divided it between Bell Jars and put a plaid ribbon around the lip. I delivered it to some favorite cousins, who claim ancestry in the Emerald Isle. Here’s the recipe:
In a blender, combine 1-2 cups of Irish whiskey, 1, 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk, 2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup, 2-3 teaspoons instant expresso (or coffee). Blend on high until combined. Stir in the cream until incorporated. Keep refrigerated and serve chilled. (Lasts as long as the expiration date on the cream that you used.)
Yogurt and Fig Cake
Something demanding more time, but a simple recipe all the same, is Yogurt and Fig Cake. (Featured in the recipe below.) A friend and incredible pastry chef, Anna Marie Ascher, once told me that the perfect cake is one you would enjoy eating for breakfast. This certainly meets that criteria.
I might add that the perfect cake for gifts is the size of a loaf pan and easily portable. When cool, wrap the cake in brown parchment paper (so that the topping doesn’t stick), tie with a bit of twine and stick a sprig of holly between the string and paper. Voila!
I can savor this cake for a good two weeks, if tightly wrapped and refrigerated. Try serving with a dollop of freshly whipped cream enhanced with a liqueur, such as Grand Marnier to complement the orange zest. It also freezes well up to a couple of months, ready to thaw when the occasion demands.
Chocolate Truffles with Bacon
Or step it up yet another notch and make your own chocolate truffles. Take a look at the recipes–they really aren’t as hard as you’d think. Craft shops carry small boxes that are perfect for these morsals.
Women that grew up in countries outside of the United States, immigrated to America as young adults, raised families and have grandkids, capture my imagination. They’ve escaped war, poverty and oppression, many bringing only the shirts on their back and the recipes from their homelands. And their stories? Makes my life look like a pony ride at a country fair.
The recipe yields about 10 servings. I made four ramekins and one mold, to be sliced into 6 pieces. Whatever works for you.. I’m serving it for 2 meals to different guests.
Having lived my adult life in a multi-cultural college town, I’ve befriended many of these women who’ve immigrated to the United States. And they’ve expanded my culinary horizons. Immeasurably.
I’ve posted hundreds of blogs borrowed from their memories through the years. Most recent posts–Babcia’sStuffed Cabbage Leaves, and Abeula’sPumpkin Flan below…these recipes are from my (semi) fictionalized Polish and Cuban grandmothers who express their love for their family with food.
I just received a comment on a recent cookie post. Julie was channelling her Belfast gran’s sage advise for making cookies, and sharing it with us. Thank you, Julie. Thank you, Gran! R.I.P.
To all of you–I’d love to hear your grandmother’s culinary words of wisdom. It’s some granny thing I’ve got going these days–makes me feel cuddled, safe and loved!
Molds must be baked in a water bath (bain marie).
Last week I posted that prior mentioned recipe for stuffed cabbage leaves. Abuela’s Pumpkin Flan, as well, needs advance thought and planning. Unless, of course, you are an Abuela, which is the Cuban endearment for grandmother. (Or Aubuelita, or Lita. Depending.) An Abuela can whip up a flan as fast as she can denounce Fidel’s dictatorship. Abuelo’s are greased lightening. Poetry in motion.
If you want to laugh out loud, seriously laugh out loud for four solid minutes, take a look at this YouTube. It compares a grandma raised in the American South to an Abuela raised in Cuba. Maybe it’s because I had Alabama grannies, whatever, but this was sidesplittingly funny to me.
Melting the sugar…
I asked my friend, Guillermo, whose mother was born and raised in Cuba, if this Abuela is a stereotype. I’ve met his mother, a lovely women, and she didn’t seem to fit the category. He said, indeed, his mother was not so easily pigeon-holed. But this YouTube’s rendering of a typical Abeula, from his experience with his Cuban family and friends was accurate, he said. And very amusing.
The caramel is ready! Careful! It can yield a nasty burn.
Back to flan. Not only have I been in Grandmother nostalgia land of late, I’ve also been craving pudding-ish desserts. Perhaps it’s the comforting texture. I adore Creme Brulée and Panna Cotta, yet, until now, haven’t made a custardy flan. Flan is enjoyed in various guises all over the world, most certainly Cuba.
Besides the ubiquitous Cuban Black Beans and Rice, flan commands center stage at the end of every meal, at every home and restaurant on the island. It can be dolled up with guava cheese, coconut, rum, pumpkin, or expresso. I”m thinking cranberry for next month? Nah. Just seems wrong.
The garnish is optional, but the cardamon flavors in the pumpkin seeds take the dish from delicious to extraordinary.
As I do with all recipes that tread foreign soil, I scrutinized many, many recipes for flans prior to making this. I made the first draft (the recipe below) and, honestly, can stop. Done. It doesn’t need another walk around the park. It is simply delicious. Especially with the optional garnish. Promise.
It’s a combination of half a dozen recipes from Cuban home kitchens that I found on-line. It will be the perfect finish to my Thanksgiving table, or rather two Thanksgiving tables (it’s complicated)–a creamy, lighter departure from the more traditional pumpkin pie.
So, friends, Happy Thanksgiving! I am thankful for you, dear readers, who enjoy this blog. I am thankful for the myriad folks from around the world who have found safe haven in the United States, and whose recipes have made their way into my kitchen. I am, especially, thankful for grandmothers.
You’ll find my favorite holiday recipes by clicking the gold holiday ball in the right hand column.
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