In keeping with my habit of listing favorite things, here's what I love this year:
photo by Art Heffron
Vintage ovens. Whether you crave the sleek simplicity of vintage design or just want an inexpensive, well-made appliance, a vintage oven might be the perfect choice for your kitchen. They are superior in quality, relatively simple to maintain (and fix), and just plain gorgeous. I found my 1950's O'Keefe and Merritt on craigslist for a very reasonable price and partially restored it myself. Examining gas lines and cleaning gunk with the hood propped is like working on an old car (the thing weighs nearly as much!), and I feel knowledgeable and hardcore and connected to something timeless every time I so much as boil water.
Raw cacao nibs. It's always some kind of chocolate, isn't it? Raw chocolate can be found as whole beans, powder, handcrafted chocolates, and nibs, and I really appreciate the latter. When I want something to sprinkle on my Vanilla Bean Frozen Custard or tuck into raw granola, this is what I reach for. A little goes a long way, and at $10 per pound--which will last for months--these are an economical way to try raw chocolate.
Making your own salad dressings. Becoming a kitchen alchemist and adorning salads with your potions is fresher, less expensive, and usually tastier than buying the bottled stuff. Here's an easy and delicious one:
Agave Mustard Poppyseed Dressing
Serve this simple fat-free dressing over a giant salad of baby romaine, shredded carrots, grape tomatoes, avocado, red onion, sunflower seeds, raisins, and sprouts.
3 tablespoons agave nectar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
Whisk everything together in a small bowl. The dressing will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.
Publishing a cookbook. I just had to include this one; writing a cookbook is a sure favorite. It was a complete delight to create, and Cook, Eat, Thrive: Vegan Recipes from Everyday to Exotic will be available very soon. Having the support and encouragement of fantastic readers is a close second.
Vegan road trips. Oh, they used to be so difficult. We were limited to subway sandwiches and truck stop coffee, and it was awful. But not anymore. I just returned from a 3,000 mile road trip on which I visited almost 20 vegan-friendly restaurants. And thanks to a well-stocked cooler, I enjoyed snacks like chevre encrusted in black pepper, raw cacao brownies, and an endless supply of fresh fruit. More on this soon--it was amazing.
Chia seeds. Also called salba, these tiny gems are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and amino acids, and swell when mixed with water, like tapioca. I keep them soaked in a jar in the refrigerator (mix about 1/3 cup seeds with 2 cups water and stir well), to quickly use in drinks. My favorite? A simple drink sparkling with orange and vanilla:
Chia Creamsicle Fizz
2-3 tablespoons soaked chia seeds
1 packet stevia, or 2 teaspoons agave nectar
juice of 1 orange--I ream it directly into the glass
seeds scraped from 1" of vanilla bean, or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
about 1 cup (sometimes more, sometimes less) sparkling water
In a tall glass, combine all ingredients except sparkling water, and stir well. Pour in water slowly to prevent it from flowing over, and give it another stir. Serve immediately.
These are a few of my favorite things. How about yours?