Ginger Molasses Cookies + Ice Cream Sandwiches

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These are representative of my annual negotiation with a warm weather Australian Christmas. Most days in December are too hot to bake – but without baking, Love Actually, and Buble’s Christmas crooning – what else is there to get me in the mood?

Malls are stressful, the post office tries one’s patience, and every women’s magazine is telling you to avoid canapés, load up on crudités and choose low-fat turkey breast (no skin!) over ham to avoid that holiday bloat!

My response is simple: butter, molasses and brown sugar. I seek solace and holiday cheer in the kitchen and bake like there’s a freaking blizzard outside.

Boldly spiced and chewy, these are my ultimate festive cookies. They taste like Christmas, even if it doesn’t totally feel like Christmas.

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3-Seed Fennel Slaw

3-seed slaw2

Truth time: I used to love me some KFC.

These days I don’t find myself at fast food restaurants that much…or at all. But as a pre-teen and teenager I was all about an extra-crispy meal with potato wedges and a biscuit. Ohhh the biscuits.

Between the heavily seasoned crunchy chicken and biscuit/potato double-carb-punch, the whole situation was near perfect for my 15-year-old palate. The one and only problem was that nasty little styrofoam container filled with mayo-laden, tasteless coleslaw. I just couldn’t get into it. I liked vegetables and salad (albeit less than fried chicken), but this was not that.

So I went along in life thinking of myself as an anti-slaw kind of lady; until one day it occurred to me that slaw could be made into something I could enjoy. I’m a total texture and crunch fan, so I knew we could make this work.

We could keep the cabbage and carrots aspect and add some fennel for gourmet flair, but we’d have to ditch that mayo business. In its place, we can use a Greek yogurt and vinegar-based dressing along with lots of seeds for tang and spice. (This method also works for eliminating mayo from tuna and egg salads.)

I’m bonkers for the fennel’s aniseed flavor and crunch and for the taste and texture of toasted sesame, fennel and cumin seeds. I like the lightness of the dressing and how it allows the spices and vegetables to shine through.

This is how we shall do slaw from this day forward in my house.

Bring on the (non-Kentucky) fried chicken. (Or veggie burgers.)

3-seed slaw 1

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Eggplant and Butternut Squash Bake

eggplant and butternut lasagna

I know, I know. I’m the worst.

I haven’t written. I’ve been in a hole of nine-to-five-ing. During the week I’ve been getting up to exercise at 6 am and not getting back home until almost 7 pm.

I’ve been cooking all along, but mostly after the sun is almost gone and there’s no pretty light. The food itself  hasn’t been the cutest. It’s been nourishing combinations of vegetables that don’t necessarily look that great, but it’s exactly what I need.

And eggs. There’s been a lot of eggs consumed.

On the weekends, I’ve been cooking too – and even taking a few pictures of the process. But mentally I’ve just been too lazy to put words to paper/screen. That’s real life.

I’m going to do better. I just need to find a new rhythm to my writing, cooking and photography that fits in with my real person job.

It’s a work in progress, but I’ll get there.

With the late summer and early fall weather we’ve gotten both butternut squash and eggplant in our vegetable delivery box for a few weeks in a row. I’ve cooked these two together in quite a few ways – with Moroccan spices in the slow cooker and roasted on a baking sheet. With quinoa, atop a bed of greens, with lashings of sriracha, and with a poached egg on top.

I would never necessarily think to put these two vegetables together, but they’ve been a surprising hit. They’re meaty and filling, complex and satisfying – the butternut squash brings a sweetness and the eggplant, an earthiness.

I thought about calling this a pasta-less lasagna but I landed on Vegetable Bake. The layering aspect along with the ricotta, pesto and tomato sauce is totally reminiscent of lasagna, but calling a pasta-based dish pasta-less is just straight up inconsiderate.

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Summer Lentil Salad

lentil summer salad #voraciousvander

What’s your favorite way to spend a lazy day?

On a rainy Sunday are you inclined to a.) curl up on the chaise lounge with a good book b.) scribble in your journal for an hour or two c.) have a movie marathon d.) bake something that fills the house with a crazy-good smell of butter and sugar and spice (?)

I’m not very inventive when it comes to the lazy Sunday. I’m all about tackling a TV series or two. I mean, this is really the only way to watch Homeland, in my opinion. Downton after Downton episode? Oooh yes please.

Catfish? Ugh, I might be addicted in a this-makes-me-nervous-and-I-can’t-stop-watching kinda way.

I also enjoy copious amounts of cookies and tea with my embarrassing entertainment  choices. And maybe a lunch that involves a baguette, at least two types of cheese and some sort of pesto.

I love when I can fully enjoy being lazy. Not feeling like I should be doing anything else besides hanging out on the couch with my man.

This Monday, I’m starting the first full-time office job I’ve had in a long while. Of course, I’m a little nervous. I’m concerned about what to wear, wondering what my co-workers will be like, and just plain eager to get that first day behind me.

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Slow Cooker Moroccan Eggplant

voraciousvander -eggplant

Oh hey slow cooker, hey.

You’re looking really great over there on the counter, all warm and stuff.

But not too warm that you heat up the whole dang apartment like that gauche oven. No. You’re super classy and independent  You take your time, do your job well and I don’ t even have to supervise you.  You’re like the perfect job candidate.

Sorry.

I was just…ah, having a fake conversation with my slow cooker to provide a weird/funny introduction to a recipe that I cooked in my slow cooker. NBD, guys.

Slow cookers make me think of meaty stews and thick soups, so at first, they don’t really seem to fit in with summer cooking. But they’re actually pretty perfect for summer (and obviously winter, spring, and fall.) No oven, no stove. Just toss a bunch of things in there, leave it alone, and come back to find a whole meal of cooked food!

Great right?

I love our slow cooker, it’s easy to clean and takes everything from pork neck to big summer eggplants to flavor nation.

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Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Pasta Salad

sundried tomato pasta salad #voraciousvander

This pasta salad is summer. It’s backyard barbecues and days at the beach.

I hated summer camp as a kid. Loved summer (duh), hated summer camp. I went to one of those day camps with my best friend at the local high school. I mean, we were in a school during the summer – what’s that about?

We spent our days trying to avoid playing volleyball and kickball and sitting around in our overalls, making friendship bracelets and talking about which Now and Then character we were. The highlight of my day was getting a frozen Snickers or a Gatorade from the vending machine.

Another thing I always looked forward to was lunch (yes, some things are very much the same.) I think my mom knew I hated camp, (I may have made it painfully obvious. In fact, that may have been the summer I perfected my signature eye roll.) so she sent me off with some extra special lunches in the summer months. Ones like this one, that I still think about.

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The FAT: Feta, Avocado and Tomato

voraciousvander - fetaavo

I’ve lived on Fire Island, Long Island, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and even in a fancy part London for a spell. I think those experiences grant me the right to say that Bondi Beach is the strangest place I have ever lived.

Everyone is beautiful. Everyone is fit. Everyone is tan.

And it is exhausting just to look at sometimes.

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