Friday, November 30, 2012

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

This recipe originally come from Smitten Kitchen, and I've been making it for a few years, with lots of adaptations and adjustments, all to good effect.  The only trick is you really need to let it cook for a while for all the flavors to meld, otherwise is just tastes like nothing.  Also, it is not photogenic, at all.

This time I substituted Basque chorizo instead of the ham, and so added it at the beginning to crisp up a little.  I also refuse to puree the beans, because that would involve having to wash the food processor, so instead I just mash them up a bit once I add them to the pot.

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup, from Smitten Kitchen

3 links Basque chorizo, diced
2 Tbsp olive oil (if needed)
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp + 2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes

1 can diced tomatoes
2 cans (15.5 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups beef broth
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (either from a roasted pumpkin, or about 1 can)
1/2 cup dry Sherry
3-4 Tbsp Sherry vinegar (optional)
1-2 Tbsp sour cream (for serving)

In a large, heavy pot, cook chorizo until browned and it has released some of oil.  Add olive oil if needed to cook onion, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper, and red pepper until onion is soft and beginning to brown.  Stir if tomatoes to de-glaze the pan and scrap up any brown bits on the bottom.  Then add black beans, broth, pumpkin, and Sherry, stir until combined and simmer, uncovered for about 25 minutes or until it starts to taste like something.

Add vinegar just before serving, and you can garnish with sour cream.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Various Cruelties - If It Wasn't For You

Various Cruelties is a mod/goth/pop group formed by Liam O'Donnell in London, England, in 2010.  Their self-titled debut album came out in the UK this past April and will come out in the US on February 26, 2013.

I've really been enjoying the song, "If It Wasn't For You," and you can also stream some of their other music on their website.

Their songs "Chemicals" and "Great Unknown" are also pretty great.  I've been listening to "Chemicals" on repeat recently.

Image via.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Currently Craving: Cyber Monday Sales

Are any of you guys taking advantage of the Cyber Monday sales?  There are some great ones going on.

Here are some of the best, and some of the items I'm craving.

*Shopbop is 20-35% off everything with code BIGEVENT12.
*J. Crew is 25% off and free shipping with code MONDAY.
*ASOS is 30% off with code CYBERMONDAYSPECIAL.
*Nordstrom is having a huge sale.
*J.Crew Factory is having a huge sale - 50% off everything - with code YOURGIFT.
*Net-a-porter is having a huge sale.

However, I don't know that I'll be partaking this year, although that Chloe purse is calling my name, but as my sister said, it isn't silly to want it, but it's silly to buy it.

Chloe Marcie-Small Nubuck Leather Shoulder Bag - Nordstrom.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Father John Misty - Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings

Father John Misty is the band name of performer Joshua Tillman, a former member of Saxon Shore and Fleet Foxes.  He's got great, funny lyrics on his most recent album, Fear Fun, and has moved away from the more lonesome, somber tone of his previous work.

He's currently touring in Europe, but will be touring in the US in January before heading to Australia in February.  His music video for "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings" features Aubrey Plaza from Parks & Rec.

Father John Misty - Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings from thatgo on Vimeo.

Album cover via.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Winter Salads

They may not be pretty, but I have a couple of tasty salads that you can make during the winter months to share today.  Sometimes big warm stews are exactly what I want when the weather gets cold, but then sometimes you just need a little freshness and lightness in the mix.  These two salads are both delicious and keep well, which make them great for lunches.

The first is a warm butternut squash and garbanzo bean salad with tahini dressing from Orangette, and the second is a carrot quinoa salad my sister adapted from The Muffin Myth.

Warm Butternut and Chickpea Salad with Tahini Dressing, adapted from Orangette:

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut in 1 inch piecies
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. ground allspice (optional)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 of a medium red onion, finely chopped (and briefly rinsed with hot water to curb bite, if desired)
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced with a pinch of salt
4 Tbsp. lemon juice
3 Tbsp. tahini, well-stirred
2 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Put peeled, seeded, cubed butternut squash on a large baking sheet.  Sprinkle olive oil and spices over the squash (omitting the allspice if you're not a fan) and mix around with your hands to approximate an even coating on all squash pieces.  Bake for 20-30 minutes or until soft.  Let cool.

Meanwhile, make tahini dressing in a small bowl.  Whisk together the garlic and lemon juice, then add the tahini and whisk to blend.  Add the water and olive oil, and whisk well until all incorporated.  Taste for seasoning.

Combine the squash, chickpeas, onion, and cilantro in a mixing bowl.  Add tahini sauce to taste and toss carefully.  (Tossing the salad with the dressing makes it look not so great though - see above - so if you're trying to be fancy, I would leave the salad undressed and let your guests dress it at the table.)

Serve either warm or cold.

Carrot and Quinoa Salad, adapted from The Muffin Myth:

1 cup uncooked quinoa
6-8 large carrots, shredded with box grater or food processor
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
2 limes
olive oil
Bragg's liquid amino acids or soy sauce
1/2 tsp. cayenne
salt and pepper

Rinse quinoa in a fine mesh sieve, and then put in a small pot with 1 1/2 cups water and a pinch of salt.  Cover the pot and bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to low.  Simmer for about 10 minutes, and then fluff with a fork.

Make dressing in the bottom of a large bowl.  Whisk together juice of two limes, olive oil, amino acid or soy, a pinch of cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste.  Add cooked quinoa, shredded carrots, and chopped cilantro.  Mix well and taste for seasoning.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tegan and Sara - Closer

Today's music comes on a recommendation from my darling friend Laura.  She played this for me the other day while we were getting ready for a Halloween party with the preface, this is my new favorite song, which is saying something because she has excellent taste in music.  It took me a couple of listens through to get hooked, but now it's playing on repeat.

"Closer" is the newest single from Tegan and Sara (out on September 25th), before their album "Heartthrob" comes out in January.  They are a Canadian twin sister duo, and if you haven't heard of them before, you should go check out some of their archives, particularly "Walking With A Ghost," "Back In Your Head," and "Call It Off."  They're on tour right now with The Kills.

Image via.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Pumpkin Bread

As promised, I finally made pumpkin bread and so have the recipe and picture to share.  It was my contribution to the veritable feast we had over at my friend Steph's house while watching the Oregon-USC football game last weekend.

I usually process a pumpkin at least once a year, but I hadn't gotten around to it yet this year, so this batch was made with canned pumpkin.  You get about the right amount from two 14.5 ounce cans, available widely this time of year (Trader Joe's, etc).  If you've never processed a pumpkin before, here is a good how-to from The Muffin Myth.  I like to leave my pumpkin puree a little chunky, that way you get a little bit of texture and burst of flavor in the middle of your bread.

Pumpkin Bread Recipe:

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
3 cups solid pack pumpkin puree
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 Tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 Tablespoons packed dark brown sugar

Grease and flour two 9 x 5 inch bread pans.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Measure flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and spices into a large bowl and stir to blend.  Add pumpkin, oil, eggs and vanilla.  Beat until well combined.  Pour batter into prepared pans. (You can also include 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts if you like, add with wet ingredients.)
In a small bowl, mix together the topping ingredients.  Sprinkle them evenly over the batter in the two pans.
Bake for approximately 1 hour, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Megan also made Orangette's Caramel Corn, which was delicious.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Frank Ocean - Thinkin Bout You

His first full-length album (Channel Orange) came out back in July, but I've just recently been listening to "Thinkin Bout You" on repeat.  His falsetto kills me every time.

You may have heard of Frank Ocean as part of Odd Future, because he collaborated on Watch the Throne, or because of his brave decision to share via tumblr the story of his first love, which was with a man.  He recently performed on SNL, which you can watch here.

Image via NYTimes.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Currently Craving: Nail Bracelet

So, Cartier came out with this Juste Un Clou bracelet a while ago, but Kristen Stewart has been wearing hers all over the place on this most recent press tour for the latest Twilight movie, and it reminded me that I wanted one.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Pink Lemonade Cake

It was the lovely Aggie's birthday on Monday, so my sister and I made her a cake.  Aggie's mom used to always make her a lemon cake for her birthday while she was growing up, and she loves all things pink, so we decided on a pink lemonade cake and used the recipe from Better Homes and Gardens.

It was a big success, and such a pretty cake.  The cake itself wasn't quite as lemony as we wanted, so we went ahead and added a jam layer along with some of the buttercream frosting between cake layers to punch up the flavor.

It is hefty and dense though.  When Megan was at the store buying all the marshmallow fluff for the frosting, the store clerk asked if she was trying to give her friend diabetes for her birthday.  Which maybe brings us to the point, that while the idea and visual from BHG was brilliant, we maybe should have evaluated the source and adapted a Dorie Greenspan lemon cake recipe instead.  The BHG recipe only relies on lemonade concentrate thawed and lemon extract for the lemon flavor, while I think adding lemon zest to the batter would give it that almost punch you in the mouth flavor and tartness I prefer in lemon baked goods.

All together though, I would call it a success, and an appropriate way to celebrate Aggie's birthday.
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