Pickled Carrots

Homemade Pickled Vegetables Recipe
Like a tennis player that’s been training all year for their first match, I walk into the kitchen, full of bravado, throw the culinary ball into the air, serve it across the net and hear the words “FAULT,” followed by the words, “DOUBLE FAULT,” soon after.

Two cookie recipes in as many days – two epic fails.

Disappointment. It’s officially six days into Cookie Baking Season and I feel like a big o’ Failure. I’m a baker above anything else and this should be my time to SHINE, rather than falter. Blame the recipe. Blame the quality of the ingredients. Blame my mindset. I sound like John McEnroe.

My first attempt, an anise-scented honey cookie lightly glazed and decorated with candied orange peel, was an unmitigated disaster. The texture was all wrong – too dense – and the anise too strong, resulting in a cookie reminiscent of those hard Scandinavian licorice lozenges.

The second recipe, baked yesterday, was supposed to be delicate sandwich cookies filled with mint and dipped in milk chocolate. I was hoping for an elevated version of Trader Joe’s Candy Cane Joe Joe’s (an addiction of mine) crossed with a Girl Scout Thin Mint. What I actually created were misshapen oval disks sandwiching a dollop of minty goo similar to Crest toothpaste. I didn’t even bother with the chocolate dip – in to the trash they went as well.

Rather than squander another pound of butter, I thought I would take a break today, step away from the cookies, and try something else entirely – something that didn’t require baking. I settled on these spice-laden pickled carrots – a better late-night snacking option to a plate of cookies anyway. An array of colorful pickled veggies like these, using a variety of spice combinations, would make a great alternative to the standard holiday crudité platter – no baking required.


Pickled Carrots

  • Servings: 2 quart jars
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This pickling recipe would work with whatever fresh veggies you happened to have on hand – cauliflower, onions, beans, or beets – to name just a few.

Ingredients

  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 8 peppercorns
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 2 Tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons allspice berries
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 6-8 carrots, peeled, cut into sticks and lightly blanched
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 ½ Tablespoon salt
  • Hot water

Directions

  1. Divide garlic, thyme, mustard seeds, allspice berries, coriander seeds, red pepper flakes, ginger, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks,peppercorns and cloves between two quart jars. Pack blanched carrot sticks tightly into jars.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar and salt and heat until boiling. Pour hot liquid into jars filling ¼” from top. If there isn’t enough vinegar mixture, fill remaining space in jars with hot water.
  3. Close jars and refrigerate at least 24 hours and up to 2 weeks.

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Thai Peanut Chicken Rice Bowls

thai-peanut-chicken-rice-bowl

Thai Peanut Chicken Rice Bowl

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup bottled peanut sauce
  • 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup edamame, sprinkled with salt
  • 1 cup cooked chicken breast, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped

Directions

  1. To marinate cucumbers, combine first 7 ingredients and let sit for at least 30 minutes, but preferably overnight.
  2. To make dressing, combine next three ingredients and set aside.
  3. Divide rice between four bowls. Arrange edamame, chicken and cilantro on top of rice. Add marinated cucumbers.
  4. Drizzle with peanut dressing

Beginning to See the Light Granola

I’ve been going through an interminable five month depression, primarily brought on by a work schedule impossible to maintain. Work has finally slowed and I’m beginning to come up for air – sixteen pounds heavier, toxic and worn out. In an effort to find my health again, I joined a gym and hired a personal trainer last week. After eating a full bag of Pepperidge Farm Maui cookies on Monday and three quarters of a bag of Newton’s blueberry Fruit Thins on Wednesday, I decided my diet needs an overhaul, too, but any willpower I may possess is melted by crispy, crunchy, chewy, buttery sweet carbs. Pastries make me happy like Prozac. In an effort to channel my love of a good cookie into something a bit more healthful, I whipped up a batch of granola this morning, capturing the flavors and textures without all the wheat, sugar and fat.

Granola

Beginning to See the Light Granola

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
3 cups assorted nuts and seeds (unsalted and unroasted, if possible)
½ – ¾ t. salt
½ t. cinnamon
½ t. cardamom
¼ t. ginger
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup liquid sweetener (such as honey, maple syrup or agave syrup)
1 t. vanilla
1 cup dried fruit, chopped if needed (unsweetened and unsulfured, if possible)

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine oats, nuts and seeds in a large bowl (I used chopped almonds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. I also used about ¼ cup toasted flax seeds, but added them at the end since they were pre-toasted). Add salt and spices. Add oil, sweetener and vanilla. Stir until moistened and combined. Turn out on to a Silpat covered sheet pan.

Bake for about 30-35 minutes, stirring at the following times: 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 25 minutes, 30 minutes, and 35 minutes. Chop and measure fruit while granola bakes. If you use coconut, add coconut at the 20 minute mark. Add dried fruit (and any toasted nuts) to the hot granola. I used coconut, dried blueberries, dried cranberries, and apricots and also added the flax at this time. Cool granola and store.

Note: I like to pour almond milk over the still hot granola to make a tummy-warming snack to nibble while the rest of the granola cools.

Relapse

Part of the challenge, once you’ve left Rancho La Puerta, is “bringing the ranch home”, taking your new healthy wisdom and applying it to your everyday life.  This week, I was feeling good about my success – I was drinking more water and less coffee.  I was eating healthier – no meat and lots of healthy grains, fresh fruit and fresh vegetables.  My desserts consisted of freshly baked fruit sprinkled with the Ranch’s granola or one (only one!) of the Ranch’s infamous cookies.

Unfortunately,   I had a major relapse last night.  Perhaps fueled by the ending of the work-week or maybe just a mental collapse of willpower, last night’s dinner consisted of two (not one, but two) 14 oz. milkshakes made with whole milk and homemade leftover 4th of July nectarine ice cream followed by four thick slices of Costco salami (given to me by a saboteur on July 4th) and a snack of two slices of overly-processed cheese.  I was comatose this morning and slept until noon.

I’m trying to un-do the mess this morning.