Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sesame and Chocolate Puppy Chow

The old and the new - this constitutes life.

Old beliefs and new philosophies.  Grandparents and newborns.  Old hobbies and new interests.  Old fossils and new species.  The old grounds us in its nostalgia and wisdom; the new taking us to places we haven't yet been to explore fresh sights and sounds and tastes.

And now my reading habits have come to embrace this yin and yang.

Because I'm a dork, spending time in a used bookstore is one of the best things ever.  Ever.  Row upon row, shelf upon shelf of book. All the books about all the things!  Such order!  And all the books just waiting, waiting to be picked up and taken home to be loved.

I have a special fondness for those old books.  The ones with some heft to their covers and that wonderful musty smell.  My personal bests so far include:
-Mary Cullen's Northwest Cookbook from 1946
-Adam Bede from sometime in the 1800s
-a 1943 Nancy Drew.

Recently, because I'm perpetually late to the game in just about everything, I've also come to love reading books on my phone.  No more clunky booklight during a bout of 2 am insomnia! Convenience! So portable! Maybe I can sneak a few pages of reading while the toddler wears his concentration face to engage in the exacting task of gluing Greater Kudus onto construction paper!

There is room in my heart for both forms of books.  And there is room in my heart for two Puppy Chows.  The old one - here - is a glorious Halloween celebration in a giant plastic container.  And contains notes of Nutella and some butterscotch.  This new one is a bit subtler - slightly less garish, slightly more pastel, and much more sesame.  Specifically, in the form of roasted sesame seeds and tahini.  And pretzel M&Ms for some of that salty/sweet deliciousness.

Adapted from

9 cups Rice Chex cereal
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons roasted sesame seeds
vanilla salt and/or fleur de sel
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 package pretzel m&ms

In a large bowl, pour in the Chex cereal. In a medium glass bowl, place chocolate chips, tahini, and butter. Carefully microwave for 30 seconds, then stir. Carefully microwave again if needed.  You want the mixture to be melted together. Stir in vanilla. Pour the chocolate mixture over the cereal. Get the cereal as evenly coated as possible, then sprinkle with the salt and sesame seeds, and then the powdered sugar. Place the mixture on waxed paper to dry. Mix the M&Ms with the cereal mixture once it has dried. Place in an airtight container.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lemony-Pepper Browned Butter Vinaigrette Pasta with Asparagus and Mushrooms

You know those people who are so nature-y....the ones who go on hikes instead of walks, who camp instead of staying in facilities with toilets, who bike and have edible gardens and are just so "one with nature."

I'm not one of them.

I wish I was. But I'm not.

I pee a lot. Like a lot. As soon as emailing became a thing my best friend (hi Jess!) was forwarding me links to pharmaceuticals helping overactive bladder.

So I get nervous being away from civilization. Away from toilets. Away from toilet paper.

And correlated with (caused by?) this issue, I drink a lot of water. And water is heavy. So I never have enough. And I get hungry. And food supplies must be hauled around as well.

And I sunburn. Ohhhh I sunburn. This wasn't always the case. In my younger days I was able to procure a respectable tan. But not anymore. Now all I can get is a respectable burn.

So while I totally promote environmentalist values and advocate a response to climate change (seriously, what's going on with that? aren't we going to at least try to do something??), I'm much better at experiencing nature from afar (unless we count the beach, I'm pro-beach). I'd much rather be at home on the couch with some popcorn and water and a toilet just footsteps away, watching Planet Earth.  And instead of raising my own produce, I will go to a market to obtain them - in this case, asparagus, and mushrooms, and spinach.  And then head to the kitchen, with its pots and pans and utensils, and turn those into a meal with pasta and browned butter vinaigrette.  I am forever grateful for civilization.

Adapted from Cooking Light's Roasted Asparagus with Browned Butter and Balsamic Vinegar.

2 bundles of asparagus, ends removed, chopped into 1-inch pieces
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 ounces whole wheat elbow noodles
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped
3 cups spinach leaves

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons lemon juice
lots of freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan cheese, for serving

Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water, according to package directions.

To make the asparagus: Heat oven to 400.  Drizzle oil on asparagus.  Sprinkle salt and pepper.  Roast for 10-15 minutes, until they have some of that delicious brown color.  Once done, remove from oven and set aside.

To make the mushrooms: Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the chopped mushrooms. Stir continuously, allowing the mushrooms to absorb the butter and oil mixture. After a few minutes, the mushrooms will brown. Set aside.

To make the vinaigrette: Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat; let it cook for about three minutes or until it has turned brown and has a nutty fragrance.  Remove from heat.  Stir in soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, lemon zest, and lemon juice.  Add a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.

In a large pot (I just used the pot that was used for making the pasta), mix asparagus, pasta, and mushrooms all together.  Toss in the spinach leaves.  Drizzle dressing over the pasta and vegetables.  Use tongs to coat.  Gently heat the pasta over low heat.  Once the pasta has been warmed and the spinach is slightly wilted, serve.  Top each pasta bowl with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Roasted Marrow Bones with Blood Oranges, Microbroccoli, and Vanilla Salt

These are unabashedly bones.

A love of chicken wings did not come easily to either of us.  To this day, I feel just a teensy bit icky about eating them.  The bones in chicken wings were (are) a hindrance, a barrier, to the good stuff - the meat and sauce.  Not just a barrier, but a hidden barrier encountered after eating has commenced.

There is no deception with this.  Which perhaps explains why my love came so quickly for roasted bones. You don't run into a bone whilst trying to pick at some chicken meat. The bone is the vessel.  Little vessels of meaty, buttery marrow.  So nakedly primal - so loudly, so truly bone.

We love to spread the marrow on little crostini and top it with blood orange juice, vanilla salt, and micro-broccoli.

6-8 marrow bones
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
pinch kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

1 baguette, sliced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

micro broccoli, broccoli sprouts or other micro green
juice from two small blood oranges

*Vanilla Salt
1 cup kosher salt
vanilla bean, split in half

*For the Vanilla Salt:  Place salt and vanilla bean in an airtight container.  Leave them to mingle for a couple days before using.

Heat oven to 450. Drizzle marrow bones with a bit of olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast for 20-30 minutes, until the marrow inside of the bones is soft.

Heat oven to 375. Place the baguette slices on a baking sheet (I used a Silpat to line mine). Pour 1/4 cup olive oil in a bowl, and brush the oil on each slice. Sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper on each. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden-brown.

Spread marrow on crostini, then top with some micro broccoli, blood orange juice, and vanilla salt.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Almost Instant Banana, Chocolate, and Peanut Butter "Pudding"

Ugh, I hate those recipes that pretend to be one thing but in reality are nothing like it.  I'm looking at you pureed cauliflower masquerading as fettucine alfredo.

Afterwards, you are all sad and regretful because you ate something that was not delicious.  Unless you are like Anton Ego, living the philosophy of  "If I don't love it, I don't swallow."  In which case you are still hungry.

It occurs to you that you should have just made the real thing - with you know, cream and butter and cheese - then maybe just stuff a handful of spinach in your face and be done with it.

It is hard for me to tell if I am breaking my own rule.  Maybe this really is nothing like pudding.  But calling it a "pudding-like substance" doesn't exactly flow.  And maybe I hate myself a bit for even posting this.

But even if this is not pudding, but technically a "pudding-like substance," I did at least convince the toddler that this was a dessert - something to demand, to crave.  He can be a tough crowd, a pint-sized but nonetheless fervent subscriber to Anton Ego's food philosophy .  Case in point - never serve this child homemade biscuits that are not fresh from the oven - lest one offend his his delicate sensibilities.

1 frozen banana
1 banana
1 1/2 tablespoons dark cocoa powder
1 tablespoon natural peanut butter
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of cinnamon (roasted Saigon cinnamon works really well)
pinch sea salt

Put everything into a bowl and blend with an immersion blender.  Alternatively, put everything in a blender to blend.  That's it!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sriracha-Glazed Bacon and Apple Scallion Sliders with Coconut Cashew Spread

It is funny how life has a way of making things disappear, only to reappear when you least expect it.  After the hope has evaporated.  And by life, I mean cats and toddlers.

For Valentine's Day, Max picked out a pack of pink balls to give to the cats. One of these, a tiny pink soccer ball, was given to Rambo.  Within five minutes, the ball was lost. We ( I ) looked and looked in all the usual places, eventually giving up the search.

It was lost, but not forgotten, as Max would ask me for the pink ball just about every day.  It became a sort of joke between us. Randomly, he would ask for it, and smile, and I would say I don't know and he would giggle.

Magically, just a few days ago, the elusive pink ball appeared in Max's hand as we made our way down the stairs.  I've tried asking where he found it, but I get no response to my inquiry.

Silence is the same response given to questions about the mysterious whereabouts of JiJi's collar.  Though not as surprising, since they are cats and all.

About 4 years ago,  when our puff cat was tiny and resembled more of a "puff" than an actual cat, we gave her a collar.  A red collar.  And that red collar, or so we thought, looked super cute on her.  At this time, our puff preferred staying in our bedroom, away from our pig cat.  A new home and big feline brother were a lot for this puff to take in.

The puff and pig would occasionally play paw games under the door.  A toe spot paw would wave its little black spot and the pig cat would come and play with her.  One day, this game evolved into "pass the collar under the door."  JiJi was caught passing her collar under the door to Rambo, who, we can only imagine, had instructions to hide it.  A not-so-subtle sign that she was not happy about that collar.

A few months later, no longer wanting to be confined to the bedroom, the collar completely disappeared.  Not even stumbled upon during our move to Dana Point.  We figured it was lost to the nether.

About four months ago, years after the move, a red collar was mysteriously placed on the floor of our bedroom.  A taunt.  A "Haha you thought it was gone, but we knew where it was the whole time," kind of taunt.  It was picked up and placed in a drawer.

Nut butter has made a similar, though not as dramatic, disappearance and reappearance in our lives.  Seth has never really liked nut butter, except in some savory dishes.  For me, it was something I enjoyed as a child, but not so much now.  Useful as an ingredient, but never the star of the show.  My affections for the stuff never ran deep, and it was never a pantry staple until Max came around.

Then we got word of March's Creative Cooking Crew challenge - a Chopped-style assignment using the following four ingredients in one dish - Granny Smith apple, bacon, vinegar and nut butter.

Here we were, face to face with nut butter, a not so beloved ingredient.  We decided to make our own nut butter with our favorite nut - the cashew (okay okay it isn't really a nut, but it totally acts like a nut, so we are just going with it).

Making our own cashew butter has actually forced a reevaluation of our nut butter stance.  We were seriously smitten with it.  Using a spoon to shovel the stuff right from the jar smitten.  It was so good, we decided to do a post just for the cashew butter.

The real reason for it, however, was as a spread for these bacon sliders.  We glazed the bacon with maple syrup and Sriracha.  The apples and vinegar became a salad/slaw concoction - a crispy, fresh, and tart counterpoint to the rich bacon.  The cashew coconut spread and a minty basil leaf added complexity to each bite.

Now the yelps of other nuts can be heard, begging to be turned into butter as well.  And we will gladly oblige their requests. The stuff will not be disappearing from our lives again.  And neither will these sliders.  To check out the rest of the CCC posts for this month, click here!

Sriracha and Maple Glazed Bacon
8 strips bacon
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons Sriracha

Apple and Scallion Salad
1 large apple, julienned
1/4 cup chopped strawberries
2 scallions, chopped
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon ume plum vinegar
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cashew Coconut Spread
2/3 cup cashew butter
1/4 cup coconut milk
2 teaspoons lime juice

slider rolls or mini Kaiser rolls
basil leaves

For the glazed bacon:
Heat oven to 400.  In a small bowl, mix maple syrup and Sriracha.  Place bacon on parchment-lined baking sheet.  Brush syrup mixture on bacon strips.  Bake for 13-15 minutes, or until browned and crispy around the edges.

For the apple salad:
Toss apple, strawberries, and scallions in a large bowl.  Drizzle oil and vinegar, and coat the apple mixture.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

For the cashew coconut spread:
In a medium bowl, stir together the cashew butter, coconut milk, and lime juice.

To assemble the sliders:
Toast the rolls.  Spread the cashew spread on the top bun.  On the bottom half, layer the glazed bacon, a basil leaf and then a generous helping of the apple salad.  Close the sandwich and eat!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Homemade Cashew Butter

My mind is is filled with clouds.  Some are stratus clouds, keeping running mental lists of groceries, chores and projects to complete, activities to do with Max.

Some are more like the wispy cirrus kind, with nascent, fleeting thoughts.  The sliver of a Max story to remember to tell Seth.  The name of the book I absolutely need to read. Ohh my god, I need a muffin.  The stream of consciousness stuff.

Some are puffy cumulus clouds, obsessing about watching the next episode of West Wing (yes, we are like a decade late to this), or what I want to eat for dinner.  Or exactly what kind of sweet treat I'm in the mood for (we've all experienced the crushing disappointment of eating cookies when really, you need some ice cream).  There are probably a lot of food clouds floating around.  Okay, there are DEFINITELY lots of food clouds.

Then there are the nimbus clouds, brooding over climate change and foolhardy austerity measures.   Wondering what it all means when someone who was all about Gap Dream grew up into someone more like a Gap Om. Fretting about growing income inequality and finances.  Worrying that WE ALL ARE JUST CHARACTERS in a book (never again will Pat the Bunny and Goodnight Moon be the same).  Grieving over the cancellation of Don't Trust the B in Apt 23 (Dawson forever!!), etc.

With all the clouds swirling around, I can sometimes be oblivious to things going on around me.  The physical world.  The tangible.

Until the physical finally brushes up against me.  Or, I brush up against it.

Like the other night. When my hairbrush went up against the largest knot I have ever had the joy (dismay) of experiencing. Just hanging there. All tangled and big. Did I mention tangled?  Bringing up the extremely pressing questions of "how long has this been there" and "how did I not notice this before??!??" Errands, playground trips, all likely done by the girl with the giant knot in her hair.

This cloudy world I inhabit seems to also have obscured the deliciousness of cashews.  I've always liked them, but never did I realize how wonderful they are.  It is more than just like - it is love.  I have begun to make up for lost time by throwing them in everything that remotely appears to be a good match for them.  Like this chicken salad, or these meringues.  And now they have been turned into cashew butter.  It's got a flavor that will part the clouds any day.

10 ounces roasted and salted cashews
2 1/2 teaspoons wild dandelion honey
2 tablespoons walnut or other nut oil
2 tablespoons canola oil (feel free to use more if needed)
pinch kosher salt

Run the cashews in a food processor until very fine.  Add in the honey and walnut oil and process until everything comes together (this may take a bit, just be patient).  Slowly add in the canola oil and process until the mixture reaches your desired consistency.  I made mine on the thick side, as it would work better in a recipe I was using it in.  Add kosher salt to taste.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Hidden Talents and Super Delicious Veggie Chips from Green Giant

I hate being in the spotlight. I'm more on the shy, reserved, bookish side of the spectrum. I'm self-conscious and anxious. It takes awhile for me to be comfortable in showing all my cards, so to speak.

So when you have all these traits, they converge into a person who will never dance in public (among other things - see also public speaking). A wallflower, perhaps. But I prefer to think of it as "sitting back and observing the human condition."

But back to the dancing. It just doesn't happen. I was never interested in going to clubs. Pubs, yes. But not clubs.

However, once I'm back home...with Seth and Max and the cats...that's when I can let go of inhibitions. And dance!

Not at all in a coordinated manner. But at least a passionate one. One looking to experience the joy of (clumsy) movement.

And Seth and Max and Rambo and JiJi definitely get a show. A full spectrum of dance exploration. Maybe some ballet leaps and pirouettes. Then maybe a can-can followed by a sort of running man style move.  And animated facial expressions to go right along with it.

Just like I have this hidden talent (or non-talent, depending on your definition of the words "dance" and "talent"), this (arguably) more fun side that gets a chance to come out and experience the world, Green Giant does as well! They don't just do the frozen and canned vegetables. The steamed broccoli as your side dish. The peas you add into your pasta to round out the meal. They too have a hidden talent, a fun side, a snack side. Chips!

Glorious, glorious chips. Two different kinds - a Roasted Veggie Tortilla Chip with Zesty Cheddar Flavor and a Multigrain Sweet Potato Chip with Sea Salt. These were both seriously so, so good. Crispy!  Flavorful!  And contain vegetables!  It was love at first bite.

Here is a nutritional rundown on these goodies:
The Green Giant™ Roasted Veggie Tortilla Chips – Zesty Cheddar Flavor are made with real vegetables (like bell peppers and corn!), 17 grams of whole grain per serving (48g are recommended daily), and are naturally flavored.
The Green Giant™ Multigrain Sweet Potato Chips – Sea Salt Flavor are made with real sweet potatoes and made with 14 grams of whole grain. Plus, they contains 40 percent less fat than regular potato chips.

So if you want to experience more surprise talents (which you totally do!), check out Green Giant's Facebook page or YouTube channel.  And if you want a coupon for 85 cents of Veggie Snack Chips (you definitely do), click here!

Thank you to The Green Giant™ for being a sponsor. Show the Giant your surprise talent at  All opinions are my own.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Brown Sugar Meringues Dipped in Coconuty Chocolate and Chopped Cashews

I could perhaps justify the malformed nature of these baked goods by:

a) rambling on about creating miniature abstract art sculptures, expressing myself by forming meringue batter into individual confections, each one displaying its own personality, its own story, through its unique set of peaks and valleys


b) blaming the toddler, who after getting to watch egg whites billow up into fluffiness, desperately wanted to help put the said fluffiness onto baking sheets

In a way, I guess these are sort of true. Max insisted on scooping some of the batter onto  trays.  And I do sometimes stiffen under the demands of Pinterest worthy beauty.

In reality though, it all comes down to my inability to make things look pretty.  I've yet to do anything that resembles piping (Seth can do this...see Bus Cake).  I've picked up pastry bags and tips and tried to do the things you do with them, but it just doesn't work out.  My fingers and hands and wrists never communicate to each other in ways that produce even and controlled results.  They instead choose to create blobs.  Blobs of meringue.  Blobs of frosting.  And after the failure to produce "pretty," I once again hide the bags and tips in the back of a drawer until one day I optimistically, defiantly, get it into my head that I can get this.  So it goes.

These meringues (adapted from this Cooking Light recipe), made with dark brown sugar and vanilla, are baked to a crispy, almost caramely goodness, and then dipped into a mixture of chocolate and coconut oil (with just a bit of espresso powder to intensify the chocolate taste).  A roll in some chopped cashews finishes these off.  Maybe they have appearance issues, but they make up for it in taste.  A perfectly imperfect cookie.

5 egg whites
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon espresso powder
1/3 cup roasted and salted cashews, finely chopped

Heat oven to 250.  Pour egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Whip the egg whites until foamy, then add the cream of tartar and salt.  Once the mixture reaches soft peaks, gradually add in sugar and vanilla and continue beating until stiff peaks form.  Line two baking sheets, and either neatly pipe the meringue mixture into rounds, or just spoon the mixture Bake for an hour, until they are dry and no longer sticky.  Turn the oven off, and leave the meringues in the oven for another hour.  Put chocolate chips, coconut oil, and espresso powder in a microwaveable bowl and microwave on low power in 30 second intervals (stirring in between) until melted.  Put the chopped cashews in a bowl.  Dip the meringues in the chocolate and then the cashews.  Let the chocolate set before eating.  Or not.  Totally up to you!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Mango Kiwi Cashew Chicken Salad in an Avocado Coconut Sauce

Regrets litter our lives.  Words spoken in haste, sentiments left unspoken.  Ideas remaining only ideas.   Bad decisions made. Actions rashly performed.

Recent regrets include, but are not limited to, the following:
-Choosing to wear flimsy pink ballet flats while spending approximately 12 hours walking around outside.
-Teaching our offspring about the wonders of popcorn and ice cream so that every single day of the week involves toddler demands for these two items.
-Adding butternut squash to macaroni and cheese, tainting the glorious cheese and pasta combination with a cloying sweetness.
-Eating marinara sauce while having a giant canker sore.
-Failing to put sunblock on my back, resulting in painful redness.
-Adding butternut squash a second time to a batch of macaroni and cheese.
-Eating a Granny Smith apple while having a giant canker sore.
-Wearing the flimsy pink ballet flats AGAIN while spending copious hours walking outside.
-Doing that super embarrassing mom move where you lick your hand to pat down a renegade hair on a child, the repercussions of this involved tiny saliva filled hands being wiped on my skin and hair.
-Eating Granny Smith apple in a salad containing both vinegar and lemon juice while having that giant canker sore.
-Picking up way too many avocados at the exact same stage of ripeness, forcing us to eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for two days straight.

I am not a quick learner.

Future regrets include:
-Watching the upcoming season of Secret Life of the American Teenager.  Now would have been perfect time to stop the addiction.

Looking back, one good thing did result from this surfeit of avocados.  A salad of chicken, mango, kiwi, cashews and cilantro coated in a gingery coconut and avocado sauce.  Most definitely not a regret.

2 chicken breasts
canola oil
1 teaspoon Madras curry powder
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 mango, peeled, pitted and diced
3 kiwifruit, peeled and diced
1/2 cup roasted and salted cashews
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 avocado, pit and peel removed
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
2 teaspoons lemon juice
bit of lemon zest
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Sprinkle chicken with curry powder, salt, and pepper, brown each side in canola oil over high heat. Turn heat to low to finish cooking.  Once it has cooked, take off heat and let cool.  Slice into chunks. Place in a bowl with the mango, kiwi, cashews, and cilantro.

In a medium bowl,  stir the avocado and milk together.  Add in the ginger, lemon juice and zest.  Mix in the chicken mixture.  Adjust salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste.  Serve with baguette slices or on a sandwich.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Veggie and Herb Cream Cheese on Everything Bagel, Topped with Smoked Salmon, Radish, and Chives

It is said that Albert Einstein defined insanity as, "doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results."

I am, perhaps, insane.  Every spring, once I spot a container of potted herbs being sold at the farmers' market, I snatch one up.  How can I resist? So vibrant and lush, brimming with parsley and basil and thyme and rosemary and sage and cilantro and chives, one cannot help but be reeled in by their scent, their color, and the promise of delicious food to come.

Then I prance back home with my container.  Visions of herbs flavoring breakfasts, lunches, and dinners dance in my head.

And then each herb withers away.  I think I somehow manage to over-water and under-water all at once.  Usually cilantro goes first.  Or parsley.  Then the chives.  And then the rest follow suit, each meeting their own demise.  All except the thyme.  That, apparently, likes me.  Its affections are not unappreciated.

So there they are - my dreams of plucking fresh herbs right from the container on the deck lying shattered on the ground, replaced by the reality of having to purchase them from a store instead.

This plays out every year. It won't be too long until that container is spotted once again at the farmers' market.  And I of course will try, try again.  The chives and basil came from a store this time.  However, I remain optimistic that the future will be sprinkled with my own fresh herbs.  Perhaps this optimism is indeed insanity.  It is all so subjective.

1 block cold cream cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/2 cup chopped basil leaves
2 scallions, chopped
1-2 tablespoons minced jalapeno
3 stalks celery, minced
1 cup baby spinach
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons lemon juice

everything bagel, toasted
smoked salmon
radishes, sliced
handful chopped chives

Beat the cream cheese and butter in a stand mixer.  Then toss in the herbs, scallions, jalapeno, celery, spinach, lemon juice and zest.  Beat again until everything is incorporated.  Spread on toasted everything bagel.  Top with pieces of smoked salmon, radish slices, and more chives.

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