defintion heading

post- a prefix meaning: after in time/apocalyptic def: a prophetic disclosure; a revelation/princess def: a woman who is a ruler of a principality Post-Apocalyptic Princess def: A woman who became an award-winning apparel designer, found her prince, battled breast cancer, lost over 100 pounds, adored her time behind the counter in the wonderful world of retail, has more than a few neuroses, lived in L. A., moved to a little town in Maine, and is attempting to make a go of a retail shop while trying to figure out a way to get back to L.A. before she loses her mind and savings

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Land of Fruits and Nuts....Granola 101

Having lived in California for the better part of my adult life, I'm well acquainted with the Archie Bunker-like term "the land of fruits and nuts".  It's usually lobbed at residents of the Golden State by people who have never set foot in California, fancy themselves quite the comedian, and consider pork rinds the cornerstone of a healthy diet.  As a loud-mouthed, feminist who's made a career for herself in the arts, I suppose over half the country lumps me in that big ol' nutty fruit basket which, truth be told, is just peachy by me.

But getting to the real subject of this post....Granola.  Fruit and nuts, other connotations aside, are healthy, tasty, and packed with nutrients.  Making granola is quite straight-  forward and there isn't a ton of prep.  Even though you bake it, it's not "baking".  I regard granola as a "what's in the larder" recipe where you can pick and choose based on a few basic parameters.  Once you get the hang of it, you can experiment with different combinations of ingredients.

Basic Granola Recipe

4 cups old-fashioned oats (not quick cooking oats)
1 to 1 1/2 cups dried fruit, such as raisins, cranberries, figs, cherries, apricots,
             blueberries, or currants (or a combination of the above)
1 1/2 cups nuts, such as walnut halves, almonds, cashews, or pistachios (or a
             combination of the above)
1 cup shredded, unsweetened, large-flake coconut
1 tsp. cinnamon
grated zest of one orange (optional)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup liquid sweetener, such as maple syrup, agave, honey, or molasses
1/3 cup butter

Preheat oven to 300 degrees and place the racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven.  Combine the oats, dried fruit, nuts, coconut, cinnamon, orange zest, and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Heat the butter in a small saucepan over low heat.  When melted, whisk in the liquid sweetener until it is thoroughly combined.  Pour the butter mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until everything is well mixed and the oats look coated.  Divide the mixture between two rimmed baking sheets.  Spread the mixture evenly over the baking sheets in a thin layer.

Bake the granola for 40 to 50 minutes.  With a spatula, turn the granola a couple times during the baking.  I also find it's helpful to turn the baking sheets from front to back as my oven doesn't cook evenly (the back always cooks faster).  You can also rotate the baking sheets from top to bottom for the same reason.  The granola, when finished, should be a deep golden brown.  Take care not to let it get too dark!  Remove the cookie sheets and let cool completely.  The granola will crisp up as it cools.  When it has cooled completely, transfer to an airtight container and store at room temperature.

After you've made it once or twice, you can start to modify the basic recipe.  If you like your granola a little sweeter, up the amount of syrup.  If you don't like the coconut, just omit it.  Same for the butter.  If you like it a little richer and more decadent, increase the amount of butter.  There's no right or wrong....just what you like.

Granola is perfect with a little milk or yogurt for breakfast.  It's great by the handful as a healthy snack right out of the container.  If you're on the go, pop a little in a zip-lock bag and away you go.  And if you're really lucky, someday you might get to eat your granola in the most perfect way you hike along the beautiful California coast!


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Big Chill

The origin of the title of this blog, The Post-Apocalyptic Princess, is probably not known to anyone other than my husband.  Truth be told, it's something of an inside joke.  Years ago I read a book by Jean Hegland called Into the Forest.  It was one of the most memorable books I've ever read.  It was also one of only two books.... Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver being the other... that I purchased multiple copies of and handed out to friends and family.  Somewhere between reading Into the Forest, living through the over hyped non-event of Y2K, and watching a few too many episodes of Doomsday Preppers I made a statement to Dan that if there was ever an apocalyptic event I would come out of it with flying colors.  That, my friends, is most dubious.  But that was the scenario that created the title.  I suppose one could say it really came about as a result of a nightmare client I once had and survived or the fact I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 35 years of age or any one of a number of other life changing events, but no.  It all came down to an urban girl who could barely survive not having a Michael Kors boutique, an adorable French restaurant, and a Whole Foods within walking distance let alone a natural disaster.  Interestingly, I actually do manage without all three of those things every day now that we live in Maine, but I digress....

Little Next Door on West 3rd in L.A.
Dan and I have long had a peculiar way of maneuvering through weather or emergency events.  When we were living in Pennsylvania and there was an impending blizzard, we were the idiots happily standing in the grocery line with champagne and brie instead of milk and bread.  We ended up surviving that storm as well as all those sensible "milk and bread" people, though I venture to say we may have had more fun.  We lived for years in Southern California and never had anything remotely resembling an earthquake survival kit unless a bottle of vodka in the freezer and a box of Band-Aids in the medicine cabinet count.  And then, we moved to Maine.

I took a fancy to shoveling snow and prided myself on being one of the first people to dash out of their warm, cozy houses to clear the sidewalk.  Depression didn't set in when the daylight decreased to lasting less than the length of an average Oliver Stone movie.  Delusion allowed me to believe I hadn't gotten soft during the L.A. years and I could be resourceful and MacGyver-like in a pinch.  And that was all well and good until the snow turned to ice and the ice turned off the lights....and the heat.....and the stove....and the TV.....and the computer....and, say it ain't so, the Internet.  I was left clutching my cell phone with only three bars remaining lit by a very pathetic battery-powered book light purchased in 1995.

In the grand scheme of the Christmas 2013 Ice Storm, we were lucky.  Our power was only out for 30 hours or so and the temperatures had yet to drop below zero.  We didn't have children or infants in our home as so many did.  We always knew, if things got really cold in the house, we could go warm up and charge our phones in our car.  Yes, that was the plan and it seemed like a good one until the temperatures dropped to that of a pint of Gelato Fiasco submerged in liquid nitrogen at which point the battery in the car died.  A few hours later the dead battery didn't matter a wit as the whole car became encased in a bubble of ice and the interior was no longer accessible.

The concept of "camping" for me is less tent and more Barclay Butera designed Airstream.  Growing up, my camping experience was limited to a couple days at Camp Tweedale while in junior high school during which time I sat with the camp's three black labs rather than do "camp" things.  Dan, on the other hand, was quite the intrepid camper in another life.  In the end, would I say we were resourceful?  Yes.  Could we have survived many more days without a source of heat.  Probably not comfortably, but we would have in our own quirky way.  We had piled on layers and layers of clothes and huddled together with book lights....Dan's attached to Double Down and mine to Eating on the Wild Side.  Dinner was served on top of piles of duvets and blankets illuminated by candlelight.  We made coffee in a French press for which we heated the water in a fondue pot over a canister of Stern-O.  Even though it took the better part of 30 minutes to get the water to barely boil, I was pretty pleased we not only managed our daily allotment of Peet's coffee, but also found a use for that fondue pot that was collecting dust on the shelf.

A romantic, albeit chilly, dinner in bed
But all joking aside, there were a lot of people who were hurt, suffered severe property damage, or lost their life during the storm and for that our hearts ache.  We felt terribly guilty when our power was restored on Christmas Eve and that of our friends, neighbors, and fellow peninsula residents remained out.  When the power came back on, I cried.  Plain and simple.  I cried.  It was the best Christmas gift we could have received.  So much is taken for granted these days.  I will never complain about being hot again.... because I now know what it means to be cold.  My experience of being cold lasted less than two days.  For many, it extended much longer.  And for some, there is no such thing as heat.

Were we humbled?  Absolutely.  Did we realize we needed a better plan?  Damn straight. As such, we are now the proud owners of a Coleman camp stove, indoor propane heater, solar/crank radio/charger, portable car battery charger, 6 canisters of propane, oodles of batteries, water purification tablets, four cans of tuna, and two L.L. Bean lanterns (thanks, Mom).  I knew I wasn't in L.A. anymore when I found myself standing in the camping aisle at Walmart pondering camp stoves and canisters of propane.  Does surviving one ice storm crown me The Post-Apocalyptic Princess?  Hardly.  Are we better prepared for future problematic weather events.  A little.  Will we still prep with champagne and Cowgirl Creamery cheese if there's another storm on the horizon?  Probably.  Moral of the story?  You can take the girl out of L.A., you can't entirely take L.A. out of the girl, but when push comes to shove an L.A. woman can rise to the occasion anywhere or anytime....even during an ice storm in Downeast Maine.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Some Like It Hot.....

And some like it hotter.  After a winter in Maine some of you might think I'm talking about the climate, but this is about "hot in the pot".  As winter approached, we heard many of the year-round residents talk about how they hibernate and eat soup during winter.  We thought they were exaggerating, but apparently not.  In light of the fact there were many days when we looked outside and didn't see a person, car, or light in a window they were totally serious.  At one point, Dan commented he wouldn't be surprised to see tumbleweed rolling down Main Street.  This post is dedicated to all the year-round soup-eaters in Castine.
My first cookbook was The Nancy Drew Cookbook.  The Case of the Smothered Pork Chops could have been the beginning and end of my culinary adventures if my father hadn't been so kind and complimentary.  In hindsight, I'm thankful his stomach didn't rupture as I failed to understand rice increases with size and if you add more because what the recipe calls for doesn't look like a lot, you have to add more liquid.  Needless to say, the rice was more than a little crunchy.  Live and learn.

As I entered my teens and started dabbling with vegetarianism, I purchased Moosewood Cookbook.  Fast forward thirty-five years to the opposite coast as I was perusing the cookbooks at a bookstore in Pasadena.  There on the shelf was Moosewood Restaurant Cooking For Health.  How could I resist but have a glance inside.  I guess we've all grown up because there wasn't a kugel recipe insight and I wasn't wearing Birkenstocks. 

So what's with the hot factor?  The recipe calls for chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.  I had never tried or cooked with chipotles until we were living in L.A.  For anyone who loves cuisine with a kick, you understand there's hot and then there's hot with flavor.  Hot just for the sake of being hot isn't the name of the game.  Chipotles, on the other hand, have a divine smokiness, a sublime flavor, and fabulous heat.  They are the crowning glory in this recipe.  So who in our family likes it "hot" and who likes it "hotter"?  Let's just say I'm all about the burn.

Sweet Potato, Apple, and Chipotle Soup

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups chopped onions
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup thinly sliced celery
5 large peeled sweet potatoes, thinly sliced
2 cups peeled apples, chopped
1 tablespoon minced canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
4 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Warm the oil in a large soup pot on high heat.  Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring continually, until the onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes.  Add the celery, sweet potatoes, apples, chipotle peppers, vegetable broth, salt, black pepper, and enough water to cover the veggies.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer gently until the sweet potatoes and apples are soft, about 20 minutes.

Puree the soup in a blender in batches until smooth and creamy.  You may need to add a little water if the soup is too thick or if it refuses to puree easily in the blender.  Blend in more chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, and/or black pepper to suit your taste.  I've taken to drizzling the adobo on top of the soup after it's in the bowl as I don't want to burn Dan's taste buds off.

Note:  the above is a slight variation of the original recipe.  I've also discovered (in the depths of winter when the pantry is a little empty) you can substitute water for the vegetable broth. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Calm Before the Storm

When the going gets tough, the not-so-tough get baking.  Go figure.  Last night I made a loaf of Rye Soda Bread and I just finished making a batch of mini corn bread loaves.  This morning I am asking myself why on Earth all my friends and family wanted me to move out of California for fear of earthquakes.  As Hurricane Sandy approaches the Northeast, a thirty second earthquake doesn't seem all that forboding. 

I am a control freak.  I think we have already established that in many of my previous posts.  The worst part of this storm is the uncertainty.  At this point, we all know it is going to be bad....especially for those in the Mid-Atlantic states, Manhattan, and Long Island.  I am planning on staying put no matter what, but I do have offers to hunker down with friends who have generators.  Dan and I are rarely apart and this is one of those unusual times.  I am thankful he weathered the storm without much ado in Charleston, but now worry about him returning home amid all the potential damage and power outages.  The plan is for him to stay put until we're sure he has a clear shot home.

I have never been  a corn bread girl, but this is the second time I've made it since arriving in Maine.  There's something warm and cozy about it....whether served with soup, eggs, or just topped with a little says "home".  So here I sit in my home in my new hometown of Castine with wonderful friends who continue to extend great kindness and comfort during uncertain times. 

Corn Bread

1 cup yellow corm meal
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup organic cane sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup real buttermilk
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 425˚Grease a 9 x 9 x 2 inch pan or six mini loaf muffin tins.  Combine corn meal, whole wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  In another bowl, mix the oil, buttermilk, and egg together and add to the dry ingredients mixing just until the batter is combined and uniform.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan or mini loaf tins and bake for 20 to 25 minutes if using the 9 x 9 x 2 inch pan or 15 to 20 minutes if making the mini loaves.  I think it is best eaten when still warm.

To everyone in the path of Hurricane Sandy, please be safe, take cover, and know prayers and positive thoughts are with you.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Time to Wise Up

Falling off the wagon happens all the time.  The trick, however, when one does fall off the wagon is to not get run over by the semi following you.  This year has been a whirlwind....deciding to leave L.A., moving to Maine, setting up a business, working seven days a week....that has left me off-kilter.  Last week I came to the realization that my lack of balance had left me teetering precariously on the brink of falling into the carton of Camp Coffee and living a seemingly blissful existence in an ice cream coma.

Okay....the ice cream wasn't the only culprit.  There was the ooey gooey jalapeno pizza from our favorite local bar, the hard apple cider that ushered in Autumn, and the ultimate over the top food frenzy of Belgian fries fried in duckfat.  Yes, my friends, it was time to wise up.  So here I sit on Day 5 of my return to sane eating listening to Aimee Mann sing Wise new anthem.

My foray into healthy eating three years ago didn't have as much to do with looking good in jeans as it did with feeling good and living an active life.  Four days without white flour and white sugar has left me, once again, with more energy and a clearer head.  Four days is a big deal.  From my experience and according to many books I've read, four days is the length of time it takes to eliminate "the white poisons" from the body.  After you clear that hurdle, it becomes surprisingly easy.  From there, as with any wagon's just one day at a time. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Tail End of the Lobster

Dan's impression of Woody Allen in Annie Hall
It may be the last day of the month, but I was bound and determined to get the Lobster Tale Trilogy finished by month's end and got it in just under the wire.  For awhile I pondered doing a lobster linguine to pay homage to my favorite dish at The Pentagoet Inn, but asked myself what on Earth was I thinking trying to replicate such an exquisite entree.  As a result, I decided this was the perfect time to create a Maine-based version of Eggs Benedict.

Dan and I have made a habit of coming up with different takes on our favorite....albeit deadly to one's waistline....breakfasts.  My favorite has always been Eggs Bjornstein which substitutes smoked salmon for the ham.  Dan, on the other hand, still being a carnivore at heart has embraced the Eggs Benedetto.  The Benedetto variation pays tribute to one of our favorite singers, Tony Bennett, and Dan's Italian heritage with prosciutto stepping in for the American oink.

Eggs Emoggin is the newest addition to the roster.  Unless you happen to be from this area of the country, the name probably has you stymied.  Eggemoggin Reach is a body of water that separates the Blue Hill Peninsula from Deer Isle and plays host to the Eggemoggin Reach Regatta.  The Deer Isle Bridge is a suspension bridge completed in 1939 which spans Eggemoggin Reach and provides the only vehicular connection between the mainland and Little Deer Isle.

The Easy Hollandaise Sauce is from The Black Dog: Summer on the Vineyard Cookbook and has never left me down.  While chefs may cringe with this quick take on the classic sauce, it's made my Sunday mornings far more enjoyable.

Eggs Emoggin

4 poached eggs
2 pieces toasted multigrain bread
2 lobster tails, cooked and cut into 1" medallions
1 cup baby spinach
1/2 cup Easy Hollandaise Sauce (recipe below)
2 teaspoons capers
freshly ground pepper

Poach eggs to your liking.  I've always been a runny yolk girl, but Dan has only recently discovered the wonders of the runny yolk.  While the eggs are poaching, lightly toast the bread and butter it if you like.  Place the spinach on the bread and top with the poached eggs.  Top with the lobster and drizzle with the Hollandaise sauce.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and garnish with the capers.

Easy Hollandaise Sauce

2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 stick butter, melted
splash of Tabasco sauce
dash of cayenne pepper
salt to taste

Combine the egg yolks and lemon juice in a food processor or blender.  Turn on and slowly pour in the melted butter.  The sauce will emulsify.  Season with Tabasco, salt, and cayenne pepper.  Yields 1/2 cup.