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Balance through Depletion from LaughingLemonPie.com

July 14, 2014
by Emily Klopstein
4 Comments

Balance through Depletion

In other words…Efforts to attain a more Mindful Pantry; Liberation through Reduction; and/or Managing the Well-Stocked Life. How’s that fer #firstworldproblems?

I’ve been following the Pantry Challenge over at Good Cheap Eats in an effort to once again be able to see the back of my freezer. But…being a type-A person, it isn’t enough for me just to clean out my pantry/freezer. Once I get rolling, LOOK OUT!Balance through Depletion from LaughingLemonPie.com

For me, this Pantry Challenge has re-ignited my drive to work through all the shampoo, lotion, cleaning supplies, perfume, vitamins & supplements, spices, teas, sunscreen, scented candles, and any/all other old funky stuff I’ve been stocking up on. Not to mention all manner of hair products that were supposed to change my life. Oh wait, I guess I just mentioned that, huh?

I’ve managed to avoid confronting all this stuff so far despite all the anti-clutter chatter because I keep it all out of sight and (relatively) organized, therefore it can’t be “clutter,” right? However, since it isn’t cluttering in a visible way it has just been growing. The curse of storage space! (Never thought I’d say that).

Now, I can’t control the fact that it is going to take forever to work through the backlog – We can only use so much lotion, so much shampoo, so much sunscreen. But I can control my buying – ie NO MORE BUYING!

Balance through Depletion from LaughingLemonPie.comImagine the “savings!” No new shampoos until all the shampoos in the linen closet are used up. No new cleaning products until all the ones I already bought are used up (and then replace them with natural alternatives). No new lotion until all the bottles of lotion floating around the house are empty and recycled. No new sunscreen until every one of the 50 bottles I already own are gone. Sigh.

How do you balance abundance with reason?

Moving from a 600 sq ft apartment in Los Angeles to beautiful CO (where you can buy 3 houses for the price of 1 LA abode)…well, I might have gone a bit overboard (ie: just because I have a 100 sq ft pantry doesn’t mean I need to stock every square foot of it). LA was a place where I needed to be prepared for days or weeks with no shopping, but had no room to store all that entailed. Here in CO I have all the space in the world, but no impending Armageddon. Tack on to that the life-change of going down to one income and having the time to coupon…Well we’re in need of balance, let’s leave it at that.

Last summer I started delving into mindfulness, and it has helped in every aspect of my life but most superficially (or not?) in my house. While not a main tenet of the practice, heightened awareness has me questioning just about everything around me: Why is that couch there? Why are the toys stored this way? Why do I have all these spices? Why am I keeping every sample I ever got from Clinique?Balance through Depletion from LaughingLemonPie.com What is all this stuff, and if I’m not using it what is it for? If I’m not using it, then who am I saving this for? or for what special occasion?

Balance and abundance are key words around here – but how to BALANCE the ABUNDANCE?

I’m slowly coming to believe that Target is always going to be there. The grocery store will always be there. There is nothing that I really and truly NEED, you know? Can I just be grateful enough to recognize that I technically have everything that I need? I live an abundant, privileged, beautiful life. WHOA. Profundo.

For me I also see an aspect of recovery to this – getting over couponing, getting over scarcity, getting over LA and the emergency-mindset, getting over myself, getting over the shock of early motherhood. The mental recovery is leading to recovery of physical space and the mindfulness to make creative, progressive, and healthy choices about the things I collect and surround myself with (even if they are well organized and out of sight). Again – WHOA.

If you’ve read this far, to you especially I say: Use the things you are “saving” for a special occasion – YOU are a special occasion! Life is a special occasion. Being alive today in this moment is a special occasion. Truly. I’m not just burping butterflies, I mean it!

So…how to balance the abundance? I don’t know! Yet. But I think I’m on the road to find out. And of course, I’ll let you know what I learn along the way.

Have you been through this? Have any tips about managing the well-stocked life to share?

Banana Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies from LaughingLemonPie.com

July 7, 2014
by Emily Klopstein
0 comments

Banana Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (GF, vegan)

Confession: I bought a beautiful bunch of yellow bananas, secretly hoping they’d go brown. Banana Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies from LaughingLemonPie.com

You know you have a problem when you pack a banana as a ‘just in case’ snack, while simultaneously knowing full well that it’ll come home uneaten, bruised, and battered. Ah, Perfect! When the brown spots outnumber the yellow you can make…Banana Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies! (There has GOT to be a better name for these, right? BABCCCs? Not enough vowels to make a neat acronym.) ;)

Not much to write about these cookies. They are just plain awesome.

Step 1 – wait for bananas to brown

Step 2 – make these cookies

Step 3 – be happy

Step 4 – thank me. Oh wait – I’ll save you some time…You’re Welcome!! :D

Banana Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies from LaughingLemonPie.com

Banana Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (GF, vegan)

Ingredients

  • 1 small gnarly old banana*
  • 1/2 cup Almond Butter
  • 1/4 cup Brown Sugar
  • 3/4 cup Quick Cooking Oats (gluten-free oats, if living gf)
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 cup Chocolate Chips (vegan or carob chips, if vegan)

Instructions

  1. Mash the banana either with a fork, in a food processor, or with an immersion blender.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Add the almond butter to the mashed banana, mash them up together to form a uniformly wonderful paste.
  4. Incorporate the brown sugar into the banana almond butter mash (you could still be doing this all in your food processor or with the immersion blender, or with a good old fork).
  5. In a separate bowl whisk the oats, salt, and baking soda together.
  6. Toss the dry ingredients into the banana almond butter mash, and combine.
  7. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  8. Drop dough by rounded spoonfuls onto a greased or Silpat-lined baking sheet.
  9. Bake at 350 for 11-13 minutes - these do not want to be undercooked! Wait until you see some brown on top, and place them on a rack near the heating element - that'll give you a nice caramel-y banana flavor.
  10. Let cool 5-10 minutes on baking sheets to set up.
  11. *About bananas - As you may have noticed, bananas vary in size. 1/4 cup is a good amount in this recipe, however I have made it also with a larger banana which mashed to 2/3 cup and it worked well enough (though I would have been better off doubling the dry ingredients to offset the excess banana). So - your banana, your call! Overall, 1/4-1/2 cup mashed banana should result in a pleasing cookie.
  12. Note: these are SUPER moist - the usual airtight/Tupperware storage isn't going to be the best for these little yummers.
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Wait, what’s that you say? You’re house isn’t super into almond butter? Not a staple of your fridge? I understand, I was once like you. You can make your own pretty easily, assuming you have a food processor and a bunch of almonds on hand. Alternately, this recipe should work and be delicious with peanut butter instead.

Let us know if you try it with PB, or make any other improvements to the recipe! Share in the comments below.

 

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June 30, 2014
by Emily Klopstein
0 comments

Restaurant Report: 5280 Burger Bar & Creamery

I love the trend lately of high end burger joints.

The Denver area has its fair share of really great fast-casual burger places—Larkburger and Smashburger come to mind—where you can get a better burger (made from better ingredients) than you could ever dream of at a fast food place. And I am all over that.

5280 Burger Bar is following that trend, but trying to distinguish itself by being more of a sit-down restaurant experience (although you can still order at the counter), making everything from the buns to the pickles to the ketchup in house, and churning out a bevy of beautiful burgers and tasty treats in the process.
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Lemon Chia Seed Scones from LaughingLemonPie.com

June 23, 2014
by Emily Klopstein
0 comments

Lemon Chia Seed Scones

Lemon Chia Seed Scones from LaughingLemonPie.comI feel so grateful for the cool mornings in Colorado so that despite the summer heat I can still bake (without my whole house feeling like an oven) if I wake up early enough. Temperatures on the front range can easily change 30-40 degrees in a matter of hours – wake up to 50-60 degree temps and by noon it could be 90. The best of both worlds all in one day!

A lot of recipes have been coming out lately featuring Chia Seeds, the new super-food du jour. Most Lemon Chia recipes fall into the muffin category, like a trendy riff on Lemon Poppyseed muffins. That got me thinking…What about my all-time-favorite breakfast item? Mmmm….scones!

Lemon Chia Seed Scones from LaughingLemonPie.comYes, you guessed it! These are the selfsame seeds as those made famous by the wondrous Chia Pets (TM, I’m sure). What’s so great about chia? Calcium, omega-3s, fiber, antioxidants, and protein among other beneficial nutrients. Read more at Mind Body Green here and here. OMG & LOL – there is even a YouTube video by the Chia Pets people promoting chia seeds. I buy them in the bulk food section at our local natural foods store. And personally I don’t use them very often – I find the way they plump up in contact with liquid to be too boba-y. I like them dry and crunchy – hence the scones…

Lemon Chia Seed Scones

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 2 T sugar
  • 4 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter (cut into rough cubes or bits)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 3-4 T chia seeds
  • 1/3 cup half-and-half
  • 2 eggs
  • Lemon Glaze (don't skip the glaze - these scones have very little sugar on their own):
  • 4 t lemon juice (from that same lemon you just zested)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • *Toothpicks (trust me)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Get out your food processor and put in the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, butter, and lemon zest.
  3. Give it a good whirl - you want to fully incorporate the butter and get the oil from the lemon zest all over every molecule.
  4. Dump the flour/butter mix into a medium bowl, and stir in the chia seeds.
  5. Measure the half&half into a cup, add the eggs to same cup, and combine.
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the flour/butter/chia mixture, and combine.
  7. Knead in the bowl - grab the not-so-very-sticky dough with clean hands. Push and knead it about 5 times to get it all to the same consistency. Pat it together into a disk as thick or thin as you like.
  8. Place dough disk on a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet - pat it into shape. Score into 8 wedges with a knife.
  9. Bake 15-17 minutes at 400 degrees until just beginning to brown.
  10. Once the scones cool a bit, whisk the powdered sugar and the lemon juice to make a glaze.
  11. Enjoy, with toothpicks at the ready.
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Recipe-readers will notice that I use (and recommend using) a food processor when making scones rather than cutting butter in by hand. I always thought of this as cheating, my dirty little scone secret. Mega-redemption on the food processor scone front – I recently discovered that the illustrious and irrefutable Cooks Illustrated totally backs me up on this: “The discovery that the food processor did a great job of cutting the butter into the flour was a boon, making it even easier to make these treats.” So I no longer process in shame, and can instead proudly share this easy scone-making tip with you!Lemon Chia Seed Scones from LaughingLemonPie.com

So you’re saying to yourself…”but Emily, the market is full of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries! Shouldn’t I/we/you be making scones with fresh seasonal fruit? I can get lemons in January, ya know?” I felt a little bad about posting a recipe for a winter-fruit, winter-scone at a time when 20 different kinds of fresh produce are at market…but to be honest with you fresh-fruit scones don’t really do it for me. They always look fabulous in a magazine, and I fall for it every time – but in the end I find that the find they get funky and soggy and just generally disappointing over time. So I’ve stopped (so I say…we’ll see if I can stick to my guns the next time a too-good-to-be-true photo of a blueberry scone comes into my line of sight). I bake fresh fruit scones if I know for certain they’ll all be eaten the same day, but for the daily breakfast treat needs of our small family dried fruit, chocolate chip, or citrus-flavored scones are the go-to. Even in summer.

If you’re desperate for something to do with fresh fruit I will say I do LOVE a good blueberry coffee cake – and for some reason somehow the fresh berries hold up in these two recipes: Alton Brown’s Blueberry Buckle (my old stand-by) and Blueberry Coffeecake with Almond Streusel (my new fave).

Have thoughts, feelings, questions about Chia seeds? Scone-making? Summer baking? Baking with fresh fruit? I know I do! Share below and let’s talk!

The clear-out-your-fridge Smoothie from LaughingLemonPie.com

June 9, 2014
by Emily Klopstein
0 comments

Going somewhere? The clear-out-your-fridge Smoothie

Summer is here! Do you have nice big juicy plans for getting the heck out of Dodge? The clear-out-your-fridge Smoothie from LaughingLemonPie.com

One of my favorite aspects of going away is the chance to re-org and clear out the fridge. Yes, I’m a weirdo. I just love a clean slate, and having a good reason to clean one.

So before we traveled last week I took stock of all the vegetables, fruit, and yogurt that we weren’t going to be able to eat in the day before our departure. Yogurt + veg + fruit + blender…you see where we’re headed? Smoothie-ville!

Taking a quick trip to Smoothie-ville before you fly has so many benefits!:

  • Not coming home to funky spoiled food
  • A clean conscience knowing that your investment in produce wasn’t wasted
  • Boosting your vitamin intake before entering the dubious landscape of vacation-food
  • Filling your tummy with something yummy
  • The chance to actually SEE what on earth is in your fridge
  • Added super-bonus: Protecting your health with an immunity boost before sharing air with 100s of strangers on a plane.

First step? Assess! Ask yourself: What’s on the counter-top, in a bowl, and in or on top of the fridge that will go bad before we get back? Make a pile, and then divide that into 1-4 piles based on:

  1. What can be frozen?
  2. What produce could be gifted to a friend, neighbor, or co-worker today?
  3. What needs to be composted or thrown out?
  4. What would make for a fantastic smoothie?

Toss whatever you’ve designated as smoothie-worthy into the blender and…blend!

The clear-out-your-fridge Smoothie from LaughingLemonPie.comThe smoothie I made most recently included kale, roasted beets, apple, carrot, frozen blueberries, banana, yogurt, maple syrup, and cinnamon. I don’t really follow a recipe when I make smoothies, hence my not offering one here. If it seems in need of more liquid I generally use more yogurt or milk, but some/many people like orange juice for a smoothie-liquifier. It all depends on what you’ve got and what consistency says “YUM” (or at the very least “palatable”) to you.

If you are scratching your head about the inclusion of beets, let me take a moment in promotion or defense of them. Beets are naturally very sweet – they have the highest sugar content of any vegetable. So in that regard it isn’t too outlandish to use them in a smoothie. Then on top of that are the health benefits – A not-even-comprehensive list of their nutrients includes potassium, magnesium, fiber, iron, a partial-alphabet of vitamins, beta-carotene, antioxidants, and folic acid. In my experience, beets blend best if they’ve been steamed (in microwave or on the stovetop) or roasted first (unless perhaps you have a Vitamix or other $100+ blender. In which case: Lucky You!). Maybe/hopefully you’re already on the beet band wagon, but if not, consider stretching yourself in their direction.

Soooo…where ya off to? And what kind of smoothie are you making before departure? Share below so we can all live vicariously!

Keepers book review from LaughingLemonPie.com

May 26, 2014
by Emily Klopstein
0 comments

Book Review: Keepers

Have you come across Keepers yet?: Keepers: Two Home Cooks Share Their Tried-And-True Weeknight Recipes and the Secrets to Happiness in the Kitchen. It came out last year but…I just now finally got around to putting holds on NPR’s Best-of-2013 book lists. That’s life.

What I lack in timeliness I can make up for with enthusiasm! Keepers is my new favorite cookbook to recommend. In it, 2 homecooks share recipes that work for them and their families. They’ve tried hundreds (thousands?) of recipes, and these are the “keepers” – get it? Not only does Keepers have 125+ recipes, it also has a wonderful preface section covering tips for planning out the week, grocery shopping with kids, organizing the kitchen, and more called “How to Get From Monday to Friday with Your Sanity – and Kitchen – Intact.” Ha!

The authors, Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion, are mom foodie co-worker friends (that’s a thing, right?) from when they were editors at Saveur magazine together. The book has such a practical vibe – for example there are no specialty, exotic, out of the way, or overly expensive ingredients. International recipes, yes. But not the ones that require a trip to any place other than your regular grocery store.

Better still – that 125+ isn’t fluffed out with breakfast or dessert recipes either! It’s honest to goodness wall to wall recipes you can use tonight, tomorrow night, and so on (OK some of the 125 are for dressings and sauces, but still…you get my point).

I’ve tried and made 7 of the recipes so far. The pics below are of my attempts – I don’t want to malign the publisher and professional photographer by having anyone think these photos were in the book – lol. Perhaps these will make up for my photo-less previous post!

Sichuan-Style Pork with Tofu (page 87) – Mapo Tofu + my taste buds = best buds. This is an excellent rendition of the dish. I used snap peas and added julienned carrots, and garnished with peanuts.

Lentil and Chorizo Soup (as if my lentil-obsession needed further fuel…page 140) – this was SO. GOOD. Maybe because it was a rainy night, but still and all just really good. I used fresh chorizo-spiced ground chicken from the butcher, not the traditional dry salami-like chorizo links. After the mirepoix had cooked for about 10 minutes, I pushed it to the side and browned the meat. My husband likes neither soup nor lentils, yet he went back for seconds – nuff sed.

Raw Beet Salad (OK, if you say so…page 181) – finally a reason to use my julienne slicer, and finally a vegetable that would cooperate with the darn thing. This recipe is such a unique and refreshing take on the ubiquitous beet-and-goat-cheese-salad trope. Choose a mild and not-additionally-flavored goat cheese. I added spiced salad nuts for a bit of contrast and crunch.

Warm Lentils Vinaigrette (again, with the lentils…page 193) – ummm…there is a reason there were no pictures of this in the book. Looks awful, tastes great. Kale and parm were my idea/additions. This recipe would be a fabulous and simple way to use lentils you’d cooked in the rice cooker. In fact, this recipe pushed me to make lentils on the stovetop for the first time – and probably my last! Having now tried the “right” way, I’m even more committed to the rice cooker hack. I would serve these lentils alongside some sausage links and call it a day. Or maybe a soft boiled egg instead…oh. yum.

Because great minds think alike…Carrot-Ginger Dressing (page 220) – I am heartened to find that theirs doesn’t pour either! I’m still perfecting my recipe along these lines, and pour-ability is proving to be the stumper.

Swiss Chard Pesto (alright alright…page 225)

Roasted Orange Chipotle Shrimp (page 20) – SO spicy! SO tasty! I blended the chipotles with their seeds sooo…that one’s on me. Super good, but slightly painful. Since I only made enough shrimp for 2 people we have a nice bit of sauce leftover – this would be (will be!) excellent on grilled chicken and to-die-for on a nice piece of salmon. I kinda dialed it to 11 by adding the zest of an enormous orange as well as the juice.

Haven’t tried these recipes yet, but sooooo looking forward to doing so!:

Deviled Panko-Crusted Chicken Thighs (page 45) – making this for dinner tonight!

Maple Barbecue Sauce (summer is coming! page 50)

Smoky Turkey Chili (I am such a sucker for a chili recipe…page 64)

Kale Carbonara (oh yeah, I’m all over this…page 126)

Find Keepers at your local library by using WorldCat or buy it from Powell’s. And share with us your favorite recipe or family fave – one of their keepers, or one of your own!

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May 24, 2014
by Lacy
0 comments

Foodie Magazine “Diet” Challenge — Week 1 Recap

So let’s just cut right to the chase here, shall we?

week1

 

That’s a screen-grab from my Weight Watchers tracker showing my weight loss for week 1 of my Foodie Magazine “Diet” Challenge!

(If you missed what we’re talking about, check out the original Foodie Magazine “Diet” post here.)

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Flatbread Salad from LaughingLemonPie.com

May 19, 2014
by Lacy
5 Comments

The Foodie Magazine “Diet” Challenge

I had a crazy thought today, and I think I’m going to try to run with it.   (Because crazy thoughts are USUALLY the best.)

You see, winter wasn’t kind to my waistline, and I need to get back into the swing of paying attention to what I eat. (Anybody else feel me there??)

My first reaction came from YEARS of conditioning: I need to go on a diet! It took a lot of time (and a nice therapist) to realize that this is actually my eating disorder talking.  YUP! I was diagnosed several years ago with “disordered eating” which is a generalized eating disorder in which, to put it bluntly, you let food run your life. (I’m doing much better these days; but I think this sort of diagnosis is a little like alcoholism, in that you’re never “cured” but recovering.)

Anyway, before my logical brain caught up to me, I was thinking the big D word.  I thought at first I might try a Paleo-style diet, because one of my writing clients right now is a health coach, and it’s what she recommends for many of her clients—but y’all know how I feel about giving things up. ;)

So then I had this marvelously crazy idea: What if I went the other way instead? What if I tried to show that you can get back down to your fighting weight while eating like a foodie? (It’s not that big of a stretch; I’ve done it before.)

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