31 May 2012

My New Crush: Pinterest

I’ve been in a creative slump.

Since moving to SoCal, many of my former magazine subscriptions have now lapsed – including one I accidentally let slide away (Sunset, don’t worry: you’ll be back on my doorstep next month). And while I love my cookbooks (I wrote an entire post devoted to them), I also long to try fresh tastes and trends. And yet I’ve found myself relying on old standby’s and Trader Joe’s’ freezer section to get us through spring.

I was feeling flummoxed – somewhat despondent, even (I really hate that word. It feels so Sylvia Plath. And yet, it is spot-on.). Everything I prepared was beginning to taste stale and the same. And I was bo-red!

And then I met my muse. Oh, Pinterest. You are a soul-saver.

Pinterest is like my own personal magazine – chock full of exactly the sections I want to read. Since meeting her, I’ve found loads of new recipes, DIY crafting projects, and countless must-have items for my closet. Oh, and a lot of pink-hair ideas.

This month, I set myself a goal to cook at least one pinned item each week. I’m keeping track, too – adding a quick note/thought to my pin to recall if I’ve made the recipe. The results have been pretty terrific, so I wanted to share with you which recipes I’ve enjoyed:

  • Summer corn cakes – This is a spot-on recipe, bursting with summer flavors. The only thing I changed is making the cakes a bit larger than recommended.
  • 4-ingredient chicken – Pretty tasty. I used boneless thighs and baked for 25 minutes. Next time I might add some fresh ginger to amp it up.
  • Pomegranate and quinoa “super food” salad – I love that this girl’s from Iowa, just like my mom! This salad is texturally and tastily pleasing. Next time, I’ll buy some fresh shrimp and bake them like this as a topper.
  • Raw basil-dressed vegan salad – Yum, yum, yum! Even though I didn’t use the avocado (not ripe enough), this turned out great. A wonderful base recipe – something to turn to when I have a fridge full of half-used produce.
  • Red lentil coconut soup – A perfect balance of spicy and sweet.
  • Handpies – As I wrote earlier this month, I wanted these to be jammier, sweeter. But the basic concept is perfect, and I’ll be trying different combinations of these all summer. In fact, the softening apples on the counter may just make their way into a cheddar-apple version tonight….
  • Gingerbread waffles – ahMAZing. Next time I may whip some orange butter together for an extra nod toward the Jitterbug CafĂ© in Wallingford (RIP), but these are fab just on their own.

Looking back on this list, I think it would make a mighty fine menu for an outdoor summer soiree. Add a Jack & Diane to wash it down, and you’re good!

What about you? What are your favorite pins? And while we’re at it, what’s your Pinterest handle? You can find me @amydishes, of course! 

(PS: Any blogger whizzes out there? I can't get the silly "Pin this" button added to my site... Need help - thanks!)

01 May 2012

No Fuss - California Style

Since moving to SoCal 6 months ago, I've been thinking a lot about what defines California style.

This applies both to fashion as well as cooking.

So much of my Seattle wardrobe doesn't make sense here, not just because it's too hot but also because it's too fussy. No one wears high-heeled boots or even strapped wedges to the beach except for in fashion shoots. Forget about constructed dresses and hairspray. None of these are practical in an outdoor lifestyle consumed by the beach and warm sun. When we first arrived, I consistently found myself overdressed at events. It's usually best to be a little dressier, but I felt over-done. I've since traded most of my heels for flats and sandals, stopped blow drying and coloring my hair, and stashed away the more tailored pieces of my wardrobe. Instead, my favorite well-worn jeans plus a light tee have become the staple. Maybe a scarf or some jewelry for an accent, but that's about it.

The same goes for cooking. I'd struggled to find my style here in the SoCal kitchen. In Seattle, the home chef reigns as the skies rain, sending us deep into cookbooks and the bowels of quirky markets looking for super ingredients to delight and even one-up our foodie friends. Here, that's just too much. There's no need for a cabinet full of high tech gadgets and fussy ingredients. In fact, I hardly even cook anymore - it's too warm and too enjoyable to spend excess time in the kitchen (and too crazy at the grocery store to take any more time than needed to get the staples). Plus the ingredients are so fresh, it's nice to simply prepare them to let them shine, cleanly.

Our focus has changed. We eat well - but we and eat and move on. No more fuss.
Case in point are the fresh strawberry hand-pies I made Sunday night, after gaining inspiration from Pinterest. These represent everything about California style - they're casual, flirty, and impossibly simple. They feature fresh, limited ingredients, don't take much time to prepare, and are a light treat. These could easily be adapted to feature whatever filling suits your fancy - I'm thinking peaches in the summer, apples in fall, and even lemon curd into winter. Be flexible and fun with your ingredients - just don't be fussy.

PS: This post and pies made to Father John Misty's new album, Fear Fun, as is most everything I do these days. It perfectly captures Los Angeles living (J. Tillman, formerly of Fleet Foxes and Seattle, is also now an LA resident). I think he likes it here, too: "How was I to know that milk and honey flowed just a couple states below?"