Saturday, December 29, 2012

Spicy Moroccan Stew

There's nothing quite like a spicy stew to warm you up on a chilly evening. This vegan Moroccan stew is hearty and healthy, loaded with vegetables and a good dose of spices: cumin, cinnamon, coriander, cayenne and allspice. It smells amazing as it simmers on the stove, and is perfect served over couscous. 

If you don't like eggplant, you can omit it from the recipe, or peel it if you don't care for the skins. My husband is a little funny about the texture of eggplant. The first night we ate this stew, the eggplant was too firm and the skin not as tender as he likes. The second and third nights, the eggplant was much softer and we both liked it better. The next time I make this dish, I might peel the eggplant. I hope you give this delicious stew a try. 

Before this year comes to an end, I'd like to thank each and every one of you for visiting My Little Bungalow. I appreciate you all so much. Have a happy and healthy New Year!

Spicy Moroccan Stew

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced large
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I used 1/2 teaspoon, and we found the stew to be pretty spicy, especially the second and third nights!)
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
4 to 5 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1" pieces
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 small eggplant, cut into 1" pieces (if you don't like eggplant, omit it; you can also peel the eggplant if you don't like the skin)
1 can (15.5 oz.) chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1) In an 8-quart Dutch oven or stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add cumin, cinnamon, coriander, cayenne and allspice and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add carrots, potatoes, squash, tomatoes and their juice and vegetable broth (vegetables should be covered by liquid; add some water if needed). Season with coarse salt and ground pepper. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

2) Add eggplant, if using, and stir to combine. Simmer until eggplant is tender, about 30 minutes (if not using eggplant, make sure the carrots and potatoes are cooked until tender before continuing). Stir in chickpeas. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and cook until chickpeas are warmed through, about 5 minutes. Serve stew over cooked couscous.
Note: this recipe makes a large pot of stew; you can freeze some of it for up to 3 months.

Adapted from Everyday Food

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Home Tour: Hillary's House

My friend Hillary lives with her husband and daughter in a charming 1927 brick bungalow which they have spent much time and elbow grease restoring to its original charm. I credit Hillary in large part for my interest in collecting things such as vintage ornaments and antique telephones and my interest in antiques in general. Entering her home is like stepping back in time. Their attention to detail is incredible, even down to the light switches, which they replaced with period-style push-button switches, as shown in one of the photos below.

Last weekend, Hillary was gracious enough to allow me to photograph her home, which is beautifully decorated for the holidays. In the living room is a large tree, decked out in vintage ornaments. Notice how their artwork is hung from picture molding using wire and hooks. We also have this molding in our home and hang our artwork this way, which I adore. Plus, it's so practical in old homes with plaster walls.

In this broader view of the living room you can see the beautiful built-in floor-to-ceiling bookcase built by Hillary's very talented husband. It provides wonderful storage and also hides the family's television. On the left side of the room is an antique Victrola, for which they have quite a collection of old records.

The built-in below -- one of two in the dining room on either side of glass-paned French doors -- is also the handiwork of Hillary's husband. It looks original to the house, doesn't it? Notice the vintage artwork and frames, and how the dried hydrangeas pick up the warm tones from the painting.

I've always loved this crystal chandelier in the dining room, which is original to the house. The wall color in this room is Crewel Tan by Sherwin Williams. My husband and I liked this color so much we used it in our guest bedroom.

A beautiful antique sideboard in the dining room is adorned with greenery, lights and more vintage Christmas decorations. The wine cork wreath on the swinging door that leads to the breakfast nook is one of many that Hillary and her daughter make as gifts for friends. Notice the push-button switch on the wall, to the left of the silver tree.

An original built-in cabinet between the dining room and kitchen provides plenty of storage for china and serving pieces. Across from the built-in is a breakfast nook with a Craftsman-style light fixture.

The kitchen, which the couple completely renovated, features a built-in Viking cook top and oven, custom cabinets and solid maple counters.

The large kitchen sink -- with two integrated drain boards -- was purchased at a salvage shop in Georgia before the couple even owned this house. They know a good thing when they see it! It works perfectly in this kitchen.

Adjacent to the modern refrigerator sits a small-scaled Sellers-brand vintage cabinet which holds a mixer and a couple of vintage juicers, and conceals a microwave. See that brick column? When my friends bought the house, the kitchen was clad in old (probably 1960's) "scenes of Paris" paneling, which they spent countless hours chipping away at. In doing so, they exposed this brick column. I like the earthiness it adds to the room. The original pine floors are also very warm and beautiful.

A vintage wall phone and cherry-red step stool add to the charm of their vintage-style kitchen.

Even the shelf below the vintage medicine cabinet in the bathroom has been adorned with Christmas decorations.

I hope you have enjoyed this tour of a lovingly restored 1920's home. Thank you, Hillary, for sharing your family's beautiful dwelling with us! Happy holidays, everyone!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Our New Fence

Back in October, I posted about some big changes to our yard. We started by removing a large tree from beside our house. Then in November we replaced all the chain link fence with wooden privacy and picket fencing. The fence that separated our yard from our neighbors to the left was in bad shape, so we approached them about removing their fence and putting up a new fence on our property, and they agreed. You can see the before photos here. 

Here is the new side entrance. I love the little gate and the copper caps on the posts. I couldn't resist adding a Christmas wreath to the gate since this is the entrance we use most often. It adds a nice touch of holiday cheer!

Here's the new double gate into back yard. I'm envisioning a hydrangea bush in the corner, outside the fence. Or maybe a rose bush ...

Below is a view of the new privacy fence in back yard. The old chain link was fairly close to the bird feeder. See how much space we gained by moving the fence back to just inside our property line? I'd like to plant a few tall-growing junipers along the back of the fence for additional privacy, with one in the corner to hide the ugly telephone pole. My husband and I love Japanese maples so we'd like to incorporate at least one into the landscape plans. We've talked about adding a floating deck next year -- and maybe a fire pit, depending on our budget. 

It will take some time, but I think our yard will eventually be a peaceful and beautiful place for us to relax and entertain. If you have any landscaping suggestions, please share them! I'd love to hear your ideas.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pistachio-Chocolate Biscotti

I've been wanting to make biscotti for quite some time, but like so many other recipes, biscotti remained on my list of "things to make." Well, I finally did it, choosing this delicious pistachio-chocolate variety. Now I'm hooked. I can't wait to try different biscotti flavors: almond-ginger, cranberry-walnut, whole wheat raisin. Can you guess how I'm going to spend some time off at the holidays? 

Here's the recipe I adapted for pistachio-chocolate biscotti. If you haven't tried making biscotti at home, you must. It's easy, and I think these would make lovely Christmas presents, don't you? 

Pistachio-Chocolate Biscotti


2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shelled unsalted pistachios
1/2 cup mini chunk dark chocolate pieces
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup Hershey's extra dark cocoa powder


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in pistachios and chocolate chunks.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, melted butter, vanilla and cocoa powder. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir until combined (dough will be stiff; mix with hands if necessary).

3. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment and sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar. Divide dough in half and place on sheet. Shape each half into a 2-1/2" x 12" log and sprinkle tops with 1 tablespoon sugar, divided evenly. Bake until risen and firm, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely on sheet, about 30 minutes.

4. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees. Using a serrated knife, cut logs crosswise into 1/2" thick slices. Arrange slices in a single layer on baking sheet. Bake until biscotti are dry, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. To store, keep in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 1 week.

Adapted from Everyday Food

Friday, December 7, 2012

Christmas Cards

I discovered Great Arrow cards several years ago at a local store and fell in love with them. These beautiful cards are silk-screened by hand and made in the U.S. from recycled materials. Their designs are modern and graphic, their colors rich and vivid, and they have the most wonderful velvety feel. 

Messages are simple: "Season's Greetings" and "Warmest Holiday Wishes." This year, each of the cards I'm sending out have 3-dimensional details -- the copper-colored deer on one and the torso of the snowman's body on the other. They're like little works of art, aren't they? Imagine how much fun it would be to design them!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Cardamom Coffee Cake

Are you familiar with the spice cardamom? I know it from our favorite Indian restaurant where they use it to flavor kheer (rice pudding), but I hadn't cooked with it until I made this fabulous coffee cake last week. The flavor of cardamom is unique -- similar to ginger with a hint of clove and nutmeg. I was curious to learn more about the spice, and found this page on Wikipedia, which states that cardamom is the world's third most expensive spice (following saffron and vanilla), and that Guatemala is the largest producer and exporter of cardamom in the world. Interesting.

The morning after Thanksgiving I wanted to make this cardamom coffee cake (like I hadn't spent enough time in the kitchen), but I didn't have any cardamom. So I phoned my husband, who was on an early morning outing with the dogs, and asked him to stop by Whole Foods. They sell it in bulk, which is good because I didn't need a lot. Priced at about $24 a pound, a small amount came to roughly $1.60. I needed 3/4 teaspoon for this cake, and I have just shy of three tablespoons remaining.

While the cake was still slightly warm, I cut a small piece. It's delightful! When my husband tasted it, he raved, saying it's one of his favorite cakes. I agree. In the days following, I heated each piece briefly in the microwave for 17 to 20 seconds. Fabulous! We ate it morning, noon and night until it was gone four days later. 

The cardamom lends a warm spiciness to the cake, making it perfect for the winter months. Enjoy it with a cup of afternoon tea. Or with breakfast. Or as dessert. Below is the recipe, which I changed slightly (used orange zest instead of lemon). Enjoy!

Cardamom Coffee Cake
3 cups flour, spooned and leveled
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 sticks cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2/3 cup milk (I used skim milk)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup sour cream (I used reduced fat sour cream)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 heaping teaspoon of finely grated orange zest (or you can use lemon zest)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9" square baking pan with cooking spray and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. With a pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter until crumbs form. Reserve 1 cup crumb mixture.

2) Whisk milk, eggs, sour cream, vanilla, cardamom and orange zest into remaining crumb mixture until combined. Spread batter in prepared pan and sprinkle reserved crumb mixture on top. Bake until top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store cooled cake in an airtight container at room temperature up to three days.

adapted from Everyday Food
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