I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. - Mark Twain

Saturday, December 17, 2011

I'm dreaming of a Crawlspace Christmas

The front yard had been flooded for so long I had started to take it for granted. We had a boatload o' rain in November and guess I just thought the sump pump was still dealing with the residuals.

That's what I get for thinking.

On my way to work last Monday, I looked under the crawlspace again (during daylight hours this time) to see why the pump was running and hark! The pressure tank was spewing water to beat the band. Back inside, I turned off the breaker for the well pump, called work and let the supervisor know that Houston had a problem, then called the plumber to deliver the same message. They could get here the same day, yay, but not till after lunch.

By 3 pm, I was the proud owner of a brand new pressure tank and $650 worth of additional credit card debt. Note that I have been waiting for this tank to die for years, and when the plumber told me they are usually good for 20 years and the date of install was 1978, I consoled myself with the fact that ye ol' pressure tank was 13 years beyond its lifespan.

However. Holiday spending is now rather curtailed, not that it is ever over the top here anyway. There is a Poinsettia that was purchased before the pressure tank incident, which will now serve as the main decoration, along with some nandina berries (see preceding picture) scattered here and there. Perhaps the pressure tank could serve as the Christmas tree- I imagine it would be rather festive all strung up with lights 'n ornaments, however one would have to be in the crawlspace to appreciate it. So I have declared this year to be my Crawlspace Christmas.

One thing that is relatively cheap as far as holiday spending goes is food, if you do things right. Food may be the gift of choice this season. My middle brother and his family usually host Christmas dinner every year, and in the past I have often taken a baked pasta florentine (i.e., with spinach) as an alternative main to the turkey and/or ham they always serve. This year my sister in law requested the pasta dish specifically, and I am all aflutter because I will FINALLY have a wonderful non-dairy ricotta I am not afraid to use in my favorite baked pasta recipe, (read: I am not afraid that family members will say "Blechh, what the heck did you put in the pasta?") I have always broken down and used dairy ricotta in the past, which is not my preference. (The pasta florentine recipe will be posted at a later date).

Many, many non-dairy ricotta recipes were reviewed before I arrived at this one. It could be much simpler than this and would likely be just fine as a component of a recipe with other ingredients, but I was trying to recreate a ricotta that was relatively neutral, yet still had a "rounded" flavor. Those notes aside, if you want to eliminate the more esoteric ingredients (miso powder and maca powder, to be specific) I'm sure the recipe would still work. In keeping with the goal of a relatively neutral flavor, I did not add the typical Italian seasonings often suggested for non-dairy ricotta, as those will be added with other ingredients in the finished dish.

Maca powder is probably the most exotic, but it is available at many health food stores, and for most recipes I've seen is used in very small quantities (usually less than a tablespoon at a time). It is sometimes recommended for non-dairy cheese recipes.

Miso powder can likely be replaced with light miso paste, although I'm not sure of the conversion between dry and paste miso. Start with a teaspoon of paste miso, if that's what you have, and decide if it needs anything else.

Tofu Cashew Ricotta

Makes 2 cups, perfect for replacing a 15-16 oz. container of dairy ricotta

½ cup very finely ground raw cashews
(start with about a generous 1/3 cup cashew pieces, and use a spice grinder for finest grind)
1 Tbs. nutritional yeast
1 tsp. dried miso powder
1 tsp. maca powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
¼ tsp. granulated garlic, optional (powder should work too)
¼ tsp. granulated onion, optional (powder should work too)
1 Tbs. neutral tasting oil, such as canola
1 Tbs. lemon juice, more to taste

14 - 16 oz. extra firm tofu, drained but not pressed

Combine cashews through lemon juice in a medium bowl and blend together.

Crumble half the tofu into the bowl and mix with the other ingredients, then crumble in the remaining tofu and continue mixing to thoroughly incorporate all ingredients.

Adjust seasonings, oil, and lemon juice to taste as desired, and refrigerate until use.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Leftover thanks, and everything

All of the leftovers are long gone by now, not that I had that many to start out with. When Thanksgiving is at somebody else's house every year, you go home with the remains of what you brought (although sometimes I sneak a hunk 'o pie in to take back for breakfast the next day). This year I took cranberry sauce as usual, but simpled it up compared to what I usually bring.

For the past several years, I've done a cranberry chutney, which I of course love, but it seems only a few other people in the family do (don't think I've posted it before, so I will do so before Christmas for anyone who likes a little more adventure in their sauce). This year I did almost straight cranberry sauce as instructed on the Trader Joe's package, but added three peeled, cored, and diced Jazz apples, and 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice. Wowza! I am usually so tired of cranberry sauce after a few days that it ends up getting thrown, but this was so good it was gone in two days. And I am actually happy that there is an extra bag of cranberries in the fridge! More sauce!

I cooked it longer than you would a straight cranberry sauce to get the apples to soften, and frankly it could have cooked even more with no harm done. It was definitely a cross between cranberry sauce and a chunky applesauce, which means it was great on a toasted "everything" bagel with Tofutti cream cheese. No kidding, you have to try this. If I had any bagels left I would make some cran-apple sauce NOW just for this purpose.

This year I also had mashed potato duty. It's easy to make really good mashed potatoes if you return the potatoes to the pan after cooking to dry them out a bit, and then add the milk/butter/salt/pepper. But I didn't get the full mashed potato experience because my family does gravy from the bird so I passed on that, since I like my gravy bird-less. There was a small container of mashed potatoes that returned home with me, and alas, no gravy.

BUT. As luck would have it, Tofu Mom did a month of gravy posts during Vegan MoFo, and what did I find there but a recipe for cashew gravy that I swear has made gravy a food group at my house. Now I love gravy anyway, but it always seems more trouble than it's worth. Not so here, even with my substitutions it was basically blend the beejeepers out of the raw ingredients and then heat through to thicken up (although Tofu Mom's original recipe is not at all time consuming, I am pathologically incapable of doing anybody's recipe as written the first time around).

I ended up using vegetarian broth made with "Better Than Bouillon" Vegan Chicken Broth paste instead of water, upping the cashews to 1/2 cup instead of 1/3 cup, reducing the tamari to 1 Tbs., increasing the nutritional yeast to 2 Tbs., taking out the onion powder/garlic powder, and using a half tsp. of poultry seasoning instead of the sage. Better Than Bouillon is really good as an instant broth, but it is quite generous with the salt so I could have probably gotten away with no tamari, or only a teaspoon or so.

And the results were...

Gravy noodles! Please try not to faint from excitement...

OK, OK, plopping boiled noodles on a plate and dumping on the gravy is not exactly cuisine, but this is the kind of leftovers I'd want if Thanksgiving were at my house. So no worries, I had to make some of my own leftovers after the fact, but in addition to mashed 'taters or noodles, guess what else "leftover" gravy is good on?

Toasted "everything" bagels! No kidding again, this is just as legit as chipped beef gravy on a biscuit- there just ain't no cow chips in the gravy!

This is a rather late wish, but I hope everyone had a fab Thanksgiving, and lots of leftovers for which to give thanks. Bring on the rest of the holidays! (I think...)

Friday, November 25, 2011

America's oldest seed company needs YOU!

With this coming Saturday designated as Small Business Saturday, the following plea is eerily appropriate.

Gardeners, cookers, and eaters of all stripes, lend me your ear. I am way late to this situation but maybe not too late to help at least a little. America's oldest seed company needs assistance to ride out this economy and remain as one of America's best, and oldest, small businesses. Use the button below to make a donation, or go to the website and buy a catalog for $5.40. They are one of my favorite seed suppliers, and I just found out about this, but it's not too late! I was just about to get my seed list together for the coming year, so this will kick the ol' butt into gear a little faster.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Vote for Blue Water Baltimore and transform parking lots into oases

Vote for Blue Water Baltimore at www.50statesforgood.com!

Tom's of Maine's "50 States for Good" initiative supports community projects and needs your help! Vote today.

Vote for Blue Water Baltimore and help them win a grant to turn school parking lots into Bay-friendly recreational oases for students. You can vote once a day until September 13!

Check out Blue Water Baltimore at:
Blue Water Baltimore

Sunday, July 31, 2011

In praise of nibbles

It is so infrequent that I make an actual 'meal' at mealtime, I thought it appropriate to declare that henceforth, appetizers (aka nibbles) will be placed in the meal category here at WTM.

Look, often multi-course nonsense is just that. Ain't none of us out workin' the back forty anymore (well at least not most of us). Most of the time we should be eating smaller meals, to match our smaller calorie expenditures, and hopefully realizing smaller waistlines as a result.

Not that nibbling has made my waistline any smaller as of this post. But the trend towards at least giving lip service to small meals eaten more frequently is a good thing, and if I finally work the 'push-away-from-the-table' exercise into my daily routine maybe the inches will be pushed away too.

So especially in a summer when the temps in the Mid-A have been kissing 100°F on far too many occasions, I confess that meals have most frequently been nibbles of late. One bake, many takes. But they don't have to be limited to junky fat-salt-sugar bombs, although those have crept in too, mostly during on-the-road eating (need a twelve step program for french fries dipped in ketchup- halp!)

Plus this week somehow I came down with a sinus infection and have Exploding Head, so there is no desire to cook. How in the world do you get a sinus infection in July?

Here follows my take on Baba Ganoush, one of the most fabulous nibble type meals on the planet, and probably included in every food blog on the planet, as well. The recipe was adapted from one in Paula Wolfert's undeniable bible on The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean. My copy is unfortunately packed in my brother's garage at the moment, so I can't check the original ingredients against what I am currently using. However the original recipe is on ze interwebz (just do a search for "Paula Wolfert"+"Baba Ganoush") if the reader would like to check it out.

David Lebovitz posted his version a couple of years ago and likes it smoky. I haven't tried it his way, but I do a 'cheater' take here by adding smoked paprika. Smoky is good but I am probably not in the same league as the hard-core smoke aficionados, so this is likely quite a bit tamer than David's. He also advises that you can cheat by using a bit of smoked salt. I didn't try it in the current batch, but having recently acquired a supply of the alderwood variety online, I will add it to the next batch of Baba and do an update to this post if it is a keeper.

One other thing. I have no idea what the correct spelling in English is for Baba Ganoush. There are so many spellings I gave up, so here I use the simplest one I have come across.

Baba Ganoush

1 medium-largish eggplant (about 1-1¼ pounds)
¼ cup tahini
1 medium-large clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 lemon, juiced (about 3 Tbs.)
1 tsp. salt (use a bit of smoked salt if desired)
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs. olive oil
½ tsp. smoked paprika (or half smoked and half sweet paprika, or all sweet if you don't like smoky)

chopped parsley
ground paprika or Aleppo pepper
drizzle of olive oil (I leave this out, but a little tiny drizzle makes a nice presentation at parties)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Pierce eggplant all over with a fork.

Place eggplant in a shallow baking pan and roast until collapsing, about 45-50 minutes. You may turn over halfway through roasting, but I didn't and it collapsed just fine.

Remove eggplant from oven and allow to cool until it is easy to handle. Remove peel, placing pulp in a colander. Rinse pulp lightly and press to remove any bitter juices.

Add eggplant pulp and remaining ingredients to a food processor and puree. Adjust seasonings to taste. If time allows, refrigerate for a couple of hours so flavors may blend.

Spread in a shallow dish and garnish as desired. Serve at room temperature with pita chips (toasted is best!), cucumber slices, carrot sticks, and other crudites.

Alternatively, serve as a sandwich in a split pita with accompaniments such as crisp torn lettuce, shredded carrot, diced tomato and cucumber, and slivered radish.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Food in jars

No, not the kind that you might find at the wonderful blog of the same name. Here there be jars of a different stripe.

My recently purchased new kitchen essential was silent for a couple of weeks while other stuff was going on (and I am missing the smoothie love as a result). Tonight, however, it had to earn its keep because I needed a fast dinner. I think I'm in love. Tonight I had Alfredo sauce from a jar, except for it came from a blender jar. This was so easy and so good it should be illegal.

The BlendTec has a soup making setting (the VitaMix does too I think) where you pulverize everything and heat it up in the process. What other kind of cooking is this easy? That is the setting I ended up using while trying to get this recipe right. It gives a nice long blending period, which you need for smoothly blended mixtures that include nuts. Plus the sauce was already warmed up! No turning on another burner!

Semi-related side note: another monster thunder storm just blew through tonight, knocking over all the plants on the patio, but did it do a freakin bit of good blowing out the heat and humidity too? Not. A. Bit. So one fewer burner going in the kitchen is a good thing.

I ended up with a much bigger batch of sauce than I had intended, because I had to keep adding here and there to get the proportions right. The recipe could easily be cut in half or in thirds if you want, but I think since there is a quart of sauce left from tonight's activity, this would be splendid in a scalloped potato casserole tomorrow. Even though it's the middle of despicable summer and I'd much rather have scalloped potatoes in February.

This recipe was inspired by the "Cashew Cheez Sauce" in Jo Stepaniak's "The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook", as well as by several other non-dairy Alfredo sauce recipes that have been making the rounds on the internet the past couple of years.

If you don't have a high-powered blender, don't fret, just blend for several minutes in a regular blender and check from time to time to see if it's there yet.

Big Batch Blender Alfredo Sauce

3 cups soy milk, or other unsweetened non-dairy milk
6 Tbs. cashew pieces
6 Tbs. nutritional yeast
3 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice or 3/4 tsp. citric acid or vegan lactic acid powder
1 Tbs. white miso (it is actually yellow-ish)
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1½ tsp. onion granules
1½ tsp. garlic granules
3/4 tsp. salt

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend at high speed until sauce is creamy and cashews are thoroughly blended. In a Blendtec, use the 'Sauce' setting. Adjust seasonings to taste. Transfer to a saucepan to heat through before serving, if necessary.

Serve over pasta of choice (a tri-colored pasta like I used here is especially fun, if pasta can be fun), or use for a baked pasta or potato casserole. Top with paprika, freshly grated pepper, and/or an herb seasoning blend if you are feeling adventurous.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Smoothing into summer

Happy summer solstice, all!

In honor of the one month anniversary of my last post, here is the latest from the WTM kitchen (well actually not the latest, but the only thing I currently have a picture for):

Smoothies and lemongrass!


Recently acquired is a kick ass blender. This has been coveted for a couple of years and though I had no business shelling out over $350 for this gadget, I will defend said purchase to my dying breath. High powered blenders annihilate EVERYTHING. Which is great if you want to eat more in the way of whole fruits and veggies but don't like a lot of them in the raw state with their clothes on (the skins).

Enter your basic BlendTec or Vitamix. I chose a BlendTec because it can do dry or wet ingredients in the same jar, at least it claims to, and the Vitamix wants you to purchase a separate jar for dry blending. So far I have just been making smoothies to try to get more fruit into my overfed, undernourished self, and this I believe: smoothies rock!

My blender came with a boatload of recipes (and typos, by the way- can these companies not afford copy editors?) but many involve more than just fruit. My craving right now is for the raw ingredients, no ice, no milk, no flavorings, no nada (although I added soy milk a couple of times and it was fine, it's equally fine without).

Favorite smoothie blend follows. Oh, and the lemongrass? Next post I'm afraid- I don't have a picture yet of the little guys that were rooting during the smoothie shoot, and subsequently blossomed into plants. There were six in the bunch, purchased from the Asian grocer, and the root ends were cut off and placed in water- all rooted.

It makes a difference to try rooting tropical plants in warm weather instead of January. January doesn't work (been there- Fail). Even though you are trying to root them indoors, somehow they know.

Watermelon Smoothies

4 cups watermelon chunks, cut small (about 1")
6 strawberries, tops removed
1 banana, cut in 2" chunks
1 firm apple (such as Gala or Fuji), quartered, seeded, and cut in 1" chunks
1 cup soy or almond milk, if you insist

Place fruit in the blender in the order listed and process until smooth, or press "Smoothie" on a BlendTec and let 'er rip. This will just about fill a 32 oz. jar, and make 2 generous servings (or more, if you are reasonable about the serving size).

Sunday, May 22, 2011

No fishies need apply

As promised, this is the non-anchovy version of Worcestershire sauce I use when Wooster is required.

The commercial version I buy on occasion uses tamarind paste and shiitake mushrooms, and I will experiment with a recipe containing those ingredients in the near future, but the recipe following serves rather well in the meantime, and uses readily available ingredients.

Vegetarian Worcestershire Sauce

Inspired by a recipe in Joanne Stepaniak's original "Uncheese Cookbook"

¾ cups water
½ cup tamari soy sauce (use wheat/gluten-free if desired, or whatever soy sauce you have at hand)
6 Tbs. agave nectar (almost everybody carries this now)
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbs. molasses
2 tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. garlic granules
½ tsp. onion granules
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. New Mexico chile powder (just the chile itself, dried and ground) or cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. ground cloves

Place all the ingredients in a blender, puree until smooth, and refrigerate- a recycled 16 oz. bottle should be just the ticket for storing.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Checking in

Another rather lengthy hiatus since putting pen to blog. Maybe someday I'll get all disciplined about this thing but no promises.

There's been some cooking, there's been some seed starting (I lied in my last post- I'm going to grow something this year dang it, even if I don't know when or where the next garden is going to be) and there continues to be a lot of chaos in getting the house ready to sell.

Actually I've decided chaos is the new normal- structure and order are for sissies!

But I digress- on to some recent kitchen kapers. One of my new favorite yummies is Mushroom Stroganoff. I don't think I ever had beef stroganoff, so I really can't say I know what a stroganoff should taste like, but I've loved this recipe every time I've made it. It started life as a recipe here but as usual didn't end up quite the same.

Mushroom Stroganoff

3 Tbs. butter
1 large onion, diced
12 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1½ cups vegetable broth, divided (1¼ cups + ¼ cup)
¼ cup dry red wine
2 tsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. vegan Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
½ cup vegan sour cream
2 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley or dill (optional)
½ tsp. salt, to taste
½ tsp. pepper, to taste

12 oz. noodles of choice, such as fettuccine or fusilli (depending on whether you like flats or shapes)

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add noodles, and cook until al dente. Remove from heat, drain, and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring until softened (if time allows, cook long enough for the onions to caramelize). Increase the heat to medium-high, and add mushrooms and garlic. Cook until the mushrooms are tender. Remove to a bowl, and set aside.

In the saucepan, stir in 1¼ cups vegetable broth and wine through Worcestershire sauce, stirring up any browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Combine remaining broth with flour in a small bowl, whisk until smooth, and add to saucepan, stirring thoroughly. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, and stir in the mushroom and onion mixture.

Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the sour cream, and cook over low heat, just until the sauce thickens. Stir in the parsley or dill if using, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over cooked noodles.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The garden in my mind

Just a quickie post with a link to my new favorite seed envelope template and some recent dabblings. There will most likely be no garden this year, however that doesn't stop me from pretending there is.

Maybe there will be an herb pot here or there, maybe a few, but there definitely won't be anything that puts actual food on the table until the move is complete. Which has become somewhat of a sore point, since every time I get something fixed two other broken things pop up to take its place.

I know we are on the wrong end of the season for gathering and storing seeds for next year, but it doesn't hurt to plan ahead for those of us who will have a garden!

Put in a 'mater plant for me, if you have a little extra room...

Update 4/9/11: Have added a few more envelope sets on the Scribd page, where the link below resides.

Garden Medley

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Savoring success

A beefy style seitan has finally been achieved! (The previous attempt is documented here). Well, if not exactly 'beefy', it is at least darker than my standby turkey seitan, and it has officially been added to the WTM recipe files.

The way it slices up is not much different from the turkey seitan, but it has a deeper flavor and will definitely be more suited to dishes that need that beefy edge.

Often I question the necessity of long ingredient lists in recipes, but I would say none of the ingredients are superfluous in the recipe below; they all contribute to the flavor and texture of the end product. Now if you absolutely can't find one of the seasoning ingredients, give it a go anyway, especially if you will be using the seitan in another dish, and not just all be itself. It will still be good!

I tried to use as many 'real' ingredients as I had on hand for this recipe- i.e., minced onion and garlic instead of dried/granulated, but I also tried soy protein powder, which is of course a highly refined product. It worked great, and I don't eat boatloads of soy protein powder by any stretch, so it's not a concern here. You can use another flour instead of the soy protein if you do have a concern; I typically use garbanzo bean flour for sausages or turkey seitan.

Vegan beef-style broth powder, Marmite, and Liquid Smoke are also refined and/or concentrated products, but the small amounts used in the recipe contribute greatly in the flavor department. OK, that finishes the justification of the non-whole food ingredients!

Vegan Worcestershire (Wooster) sauce is becoming more widely available, so don't skip it if you can find it. Google it to find a recipe for homemade if your store doesn't carry it. The link is for a Martha Stewart (of all people) vegan Wooster sauce- go figure... I will post my version at some point, but usually get the Wizard brand if in a pinch.

There is no table salt added, as there is plenty of salty going on in the Tamari and Marmite, at least for my taste. And the black pepper seemed to be just enough- I get a hint on the back of the tongue, nothing that screams "Pepper!" I think sometimes people over-season meat and dairy alternatives to try to 'make up' for them not being meat or dairy. It's just not always necessary. At any rate the seasonings may be adjusted to taste.

Using a combination of steaming and baking makes this tender, yet plenty firm enough for thin slicing. I think steaming/baking has become my method of choice for larger seitan roasts, but I will likely continue to use just steaming for smaller sausages that cook more quickly. They seem to firm up just fine with steam all by its lonesome.

Savory Seitan Roast
Makes ~ 3 lbs.

Dry ingredients (will be about 4 cups, not packed):
2½ cups vital wheat gluten (two 6.5 oz. boxes of Hodgson Mill)
½ cup soy protein powder
½ cup finely ground almonds
½ cup nutritional yeast
1 Tbs. vegan beef-style broth powder (or 2 vegan beef-style bouillon cubes, blended with the wet ingredients to dissolve)
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Wet ingredients (will be about 28 oz.):
15 oz. can kidney beans, rinsed and drained, or about 1-2/3 cups home cooked (start with 4 oz. dry beans)
1½ cups water
½ cup minced onion (about half of a medium onion)
¼ cup Tamari or regular soy sauce
¼ cup neutral tasting oil (such as light olive oil or canola oil)
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1 Tbs. minced garlic (about 2 medium-large cloves)
1 Tbs. vegan Worcestershire sauce (preferred), or steak sauce
2 tsp. Marmite (available in the 'international' section of the grocery store)
2 tsp. liquid smoke

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients. In a blender, puree the wet ingredients. Scrape the wet puree into the dry mix, blend well, and knead to form a smooth dough. Shape into a loaf about 4" in diameter. Now it's a roast!

Prepare a steamer with at least an inch of water in the bottom, and bring water to a boil.

While water is coming to a boil, cut about a 24" length of foil and place roast in the middle of the foil, long sides of roast parallel to long sides of foil. You can wrap the roast in parchment first if you prefer- some people don't like the foil contacting the seitan, but I don't think these conditions are going to leach aluminum into the food.

Wrap foil up snugly around the roast, place in the covered steamer, and steam with heat reduced to maintain a steady simmer for 30 minutes.

Turn roast over in the steamer, meanwhile preheating the oven to 350° F, and allow to steam covered for 15 more minutes.

When finished steaming, place roast in the preheated oven and bake for 30-40 minutes. I took this roast out after 30 minutes, and it turned out great, but will try 40 minutes next time to see if it gets even a little firmer without drying out.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool a bit before slicing. The roast will firm up even more after refrigeration.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super [Something] Bowl Sunday

Since I've never exactly been a football fan, today is not being spent prepping for the Super Bowl, but painting doors and occasionally checking in on the Toilet Bowl! The all day bath renovation blow-out extravaganza on the DIY (Do-it-Yourself) network!

I have picked two squares in the Super Bowl pool at work, however, and fully expect to NOT win any quarter, as in the past. But if by some miracle my numbers win (8-0 or 2-7, Steelers-Packers) that could mean two gallons of paint per quarter, woo-hoo! So I may have to switch from the TB to the SB to check the game from time to time, just to see how much paint I've won!

The brothers and Dad are gathering at his house to consume mass quantities watch the game, so yesterday I took over some supplies- Dad's weekly ration of Banana Bread, and Chocolate Chip Oatmeal cookies, to make sure they get their sugar quota met. The bro's will take care of the salt, fat, and alcohol quota.

Oatmeal cookies are my absolute favorites and frankly I could skip the chocolate component, but once in a while some chips are OK. This batch started out with the original Nestle Choc-Oat-Chip Cookies recipe, and is dead-easy to make plant-based. Unfortunately the store I went to at the last minute didn't have non-dairy chips, so I did get the dairy kind for this batch, but next time I will plan ahead and stop at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods to get just plain ol' no milk chocolate chips.

For this batch I only made half a recipe (although the quantities below are for a full recipe), used Earth Balance and soy milk for the original butter and dairy milk, and egg replacer for the egg. Also I doubled the soy milk since the batter seemed a bit dry, and may add a tablespoon or so more next time, so they spread out a little better. Finally- no nuts! These cookies are chunky enough for my taste, but if you want, add a cup of chopped nuts with the chocolate chips, as per the original recipe.

These guys are scrumptious but very rich, so proceed with caution! I advise following cookie consumption with lengthy dog-walking, if you are not yelling yourself silly at a Super (or Toilet) Bowl party.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Makes 5 dozen ~2½" cookies

1¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt

1¼ cups packed brown sugar
1 cup Earth Balance
½ cup granulated sugar

2 prepared egg replacer servings
4 Tbs. soy or almond milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract

2½ cups quick or old-fashioned oats
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Combine flour through salt in small bowl. Blend brown sugar through granulated sugar in a large bowl until creamy. Blend in egg replacer through vanilla.

Gradually blend in the flour mixture. Stir in oats and chocolate chips and mix well. Place rounded tablespoons on ungreased baking sheets. I got thirty 2½" cookies from a half recipe, so expect sixty of the same size for the full recipe.

Bake 9-10 minutes for chewy cookies or 12-13 minutes for crispy cookies. My preference is crispy, and 13 minutes should be perfect, but I let them go for 15 minutes last time and some of the chips at the bottom of the cookies burned a bit.

Remove pans from the oven and cool for a couple of minutes in the pans, then remove cookies from the pans and place on wire racks to finish cooling. Store in an airtight container.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Longing for a little magic

It is 19 unspeakable degrees F outside and doesn't promise to get much warmer today. Or for the next several days (except for it MIGHT get above freezing on Tuesday, hoo boy!)

Must keep repeating to self, over and over: "it's OK, the days are getting longer, the days are getting longer..."

Not fast enough for me, but it sure feels good to complain. So what are the upsides, if any, to the deep freeze of 2010-2011?

The apple trees in the Mid-A will be happy as clams when spring arrives. They've had lots of chill hours.

Maybe some of the garden pests won't survive? Always worth a hope.

Hibernating critters will get to snooze longer.

We will be so gosh darn happy to see spring arrive that the real estate market will stage a miraculous comeback and my house will sell in no time flat.

(Raucous laughter from the internet).

So last month or thereabouts, while longing for the new grilling season, I found this recipe online. The author owns several traditional barbecue restaurants but hey, even they must serve something veggie here and there on occasion (something? anything?)! I've already used this to season seitan, and will try on oven fried potatoes next. It's essentially another all-purpose seasoning, such as one I posted about here (but with more kick, less salt), and has several ingredients in common.

I split out the garlic granules with onion granules just to soften the bite a bit (the original recipe did not call for onion granules) and cut the recipe quantity in half. This filled an 8 oz. jar, which will supply my grilling/roasting needs for a good long time. The reader may of course choose to keep the original recipe ingredients intact, depending on individual garlic tolerance. This was pretty kicky, so I will reduce the cayenne from a tablespoon to a teaspoon next time, or take it out altogether- there's still a healthy couple of tablespoons of chili powder in there and that's enough heat for me.

4 Tbs. sweet paprika
2 Tbs. chili powder (my favorite: New Mexico)
2 Tbs. ground cumin
2 Tbs. salt
2 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. granulated garlic
1 Tbs. granulated onion
1 Tbs. mustard powder
1 Tbs. ground black pepper
1 tsp. ground cayenne pepper

Pulse everything in a food processor to combine and store in an airtight jar in the pantry. A recycled 8 oz. mayo jar was perfect for this quantity.

If you want a front label, just Google "Magic Dust" and grab one from the images. If you want a back label, print one up according to the ingredients you used (I printed mine 2.5" high and 2" wide to fit my jar). It's handy to have the ingredients listed on the back of the jar for quick refills (but I will need a new label for the next batch to reflect the reduced or eliminated cayenne- such a wimp!)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Give us this day

Waking up to a lovely ice covered world this morning, I sighed and took the dog out while taking micro steps across the treacherous terrain that only yesterday was an innocent deck. This day was not starting out well I thought. Waiting until later in the morning to go to work proved to be a good idea though as the drive in was not fatal. OK so the day wasn't going to be a total loss after all.

Winter is once again proving to be a disgusting, worthless season in the Mid-A. Thank god the oven works and I didn't put both bread machines in the storage unit. A mess in the kitchen always makes me feel better, so here is another one of my not-quite-ready-for-artisan bread recipes using the bread machine for prep.

I include dried herbs and garlic here more just for scenting, to make the house smell terrific while the bread is baking, but they can certainly be increased (or replaced with fresh) for a more pronounced 'herb bread' effect. The recipe would also work using a food processor or just a couple of good strong hands for the first kneading/rise.

The potato flour helps keep the bread fresher longer, and the ascorbic acid and diastatic malt help with the rise. If you don't have these ingredients on hand, no worries, you should still get a very nice loaf. I also use the cold oven method to start the baking, as per this recipe, but if you want a more crackly crust you can preheat the oven first.

Daily Bread

1¼ - 1½ cups water (I used 1½ cups for the most recent loaf)
2 Tbs. olive oil
1¾ cups white whole wheat flour
1 ¾ cups bread flour
2 Tbs. vital wheat gluten
2 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. potato flour (not starch)
1½ tsp. salt
½ - 1 tsp. mixed herbs, such as fines herbes
¼ - ½ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. diastatic malt powder
¼ tsp. ascorbic acid
1¾ tsp. SAF instant yeast, or 2¼ tsp. active dry yeast

Place water and oil in bread machine. Add dry ingredients next in the order listed, and mix together a bit. Set bread machine to dough setting and start (add a bit more water or flour as necessary, if required for dough to form a good ball).

When the first rise is complete, remove dough from machine, deflate, and knead briefly to shape into an oval for a country style loaf, or fit into a bread pan for a sandwich style loaf. Slash the top a couple of times, cover loosely, and allow to rise until doubled in size, 1 - 1 ½ hours. I let mine rise in the unheated oven or the microwave with the door slightly ajar so that the light stays on, and provides a bit of warmth.

Place in a cold oven and set to 350°F. Bake for about 40 minutes or until golden and done. Allow to cool before slicing.