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

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like mayhem

How the heck did this happen? Once again Christmas is at our throats (not original, I stole this from a client a few years ago.) Wasn't it July just a day or so ago?

The HOLIDAYS!!! are demanding our attention, family is coming in January, the house is a dump, and I need to develop motivation YESTERDAY to get this monkey in motion.

Dear God, if you please just get me through this, I promise to become organized, efficient, and productive in 2009.

Swear to you.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Virtuous sauce

This sauce was born due to a lack of tomato paste in the pantry. Tonight I got a hankerin' for pizza, and while perusing sauce recipes on the net, I discovered they all required tomato paste. It no doubt lends richness to the sauce, but the crushed tomatoes I decided to use here are contenders too.

If available, fresh herbs and real garlic and onion will of course be superior to the dried versions, but this was pretty darn good (and simple) for lickety-split sauce-making.

I used a whole wheat/white wheat combo for the dough, which is a little trickier to press out than a straight white dough, but hey! it makes me feel more virtuous!

Would've turned out great except for cooking it too long; it was more like a large pizza cracker (note to self: 8 minutes at 450 degrees, not 18 minutes at 450 degrees...)

Pizza Sauce

1 (15 ounce) can crushed tomatoes (I used Furmano’s)
1 Tbs. olive oil
1½ tsp. sugar
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. garlic granules
½ tsp. onion granules
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan, heat to a low boil, and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste, allow sauce to cool, and spread on prepared dough.

Note: if time allows, use a couple of tablespoons of diced onion and a minced garlic clove (or more to taste) instead of the granules.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Chilly nights, warm tums

Once again summer turned to winter on a dime in the Mid-A.

Atkins and South Beach be gone, pasta is King in these here parts until further notice.

Linguine With Sausage Marinara
for 4 generous servings

2 tsp. olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 small green bell pepper, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
1 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp salt, to taste
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

4 oz. veggie sausage, cut up or crumbled (purchased, or try VeganDad's recipe here or Julie Hasson's recipe here)

1 lb. whole wheat or white linguine

Over medium heat, saute onion and green pepper in olive oil for 5-10 minutes, to soften. Add minced garlic for another minute or so to infuse the vegetables. Add the tomatoes, paste, spices, and veggie sausage, mixing thoroughly, and simmer for 30 minutes, or however much time you have before dinner.

Meanwhile, cook pasta to al dente, drain, and set aside. Toss with a little more olive oil to keep from sticking, if desired.

Toss pasta with sausage marinara and serve with a good green salad, country bread, and nice red wine. Life is good.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Roll your own

Recipe updated 12/21/2009

Veggie sausage is all over the internet these days. Since trying it for the first time a couple of months ago, I am hooked. There is no need to ever buy it again, unless I'm in a hurry- it does take some time, but the active part is mostly just forming links, and the steaming is pretty much unattended.

My first sausages were kind of a combo of VeganDad's and Julie Hasson's and they worked great. I think I used the higher amount of gluten flour in Julie's recipe, and 1+1/2 cups of pintos, but per VeganDad's advice, I upped the spices (and might up a little more next time.)

This time out I tried the breakfast sausages from VeganDad. Again I used a higher amount of beans (1+1/2 cups, since I like the sausages to be more than just wheat), but they turned out a little too wet as a result, so I finished them by baking at 350F for about a half hour.

As you can see from the photo, my wrapping technique needs refining. The sausages were rather non-uniform, and some of them squished out of the ends of the foil, so I topped and tailed all of them to make them a little more evenly shaped (not a problem, I got to eat the trimmings). Now they look like Lincoln Logs of various sizes, but what the muck, I'm still learning how to 'roll my own'! The foil pieces should have been a little bigger to contain the expanding sausages.

Now I use less beans and add some more flour. And more spices, as these were fairly gently seasoned (since I don't have kids, there's no one to complain about the heat!)

So here are the tweaks for my current fave b-fast sausage recipe:

Veggie Breakfast Sausages

Wet ingredients:
1 cup cooked pinto beans (or other beans of choice)
1 cup water or broth
3 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. maple syrup

Dry ingredients:
1-1/4 cups vital wheat gluten (a 6.5 oz. box of Hodgson Mill's)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup chickpea flour
1-1/2 tsp. onion granules or powder
1 tsp. garlic granules or powder
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. porcini mushroom powder, optional, but a great flavor addition
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground fennel seed
1 tsp. ground sage
1 tsp. ground thyme
1 tsp. ground rosemary
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. crushed chili flakes or 1/4 tsp. ground cayenne

8"x8" (or larger) foil pieces for rolling

Blend the wet ingredients in a blender. Blend the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Combine wet with dry in the bowl, knead a bit to incorporate ingredients, and allow to rest for 30 minutes if you have the time.

Prepare a steamer with a couple of inches of water in the bottom, and bring to a boil.

Form mixture into 24 links, wrap in foil squares, and steam for 25 minutes.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A little sprinkle

The empty bottle of Simply Organic All-Seasons Salt has been sitting on the counter for a week so today was the day to fix the emptiness. Buying pre-made spice mixes is probably not going to take anybody broke, but hey, why not make your own if it's a simple process. And it is for the most part.

After calculating the approximate proportion of salt in the original version (compare sodium content in one serving of season salt to sodium content in one serving of table salt) and estimating the other seasonings according to their place in the ingredient list, you get a pretty good blend. I maybe leaned a little heavier on the "red stuff" because I really like paprika (my Mom always called it "red stuff"- to this day we have to have lots of "red stuff" sprinkled on Mom's potato salad or it's just not complete).

Famous Brand All Seasons Salt Imposter Recipe

Ingredients for about 4.75 ounces, which will fit in the original 4.73 ounce jar:

6 Tbs. sea salt
4 Tbs. paprika (for a little kick, use 1 Tbs. hot, 3 Tbs. sweet, or even half and half)
2 tsp. sugar
1.5 tsp. garlic granules or powder
1.5 tsp. onion granules or powder
1 tsp. ground celery seed
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. turmeric powder (I might try a little dry mustard instead next time, since turmeric really doesn't do much but add color)

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor or blender to thoroughly combine. Store in a tightly sealed jar in a cool, dry place.

The original commercial formula uses silicon dioxide as an anti-caking agent. The FDA requires anti-caking agents to be less than 2% by weight of the product, so about 2 grams would be 1.5% for this recipe.

I'm just keeping a 500 mg calcium carbonate tablet in the jar to see if that helps prevent clumps.

Update 1/25/09: so far so good, no serious clumps. I think this trick is a keeper.

Update 3/21/09: Still no clumps! The original bottle contents turned into a brick before being used up and needed frequent breaking up. I guess the summer humidity will be the true test...

Update 9/5/09: Test results final- the calcium tablet works great. Pulled out the jar, saw the contents were a little stuck together, and gave it two or three shakes. Free flowing once again!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Apple season begins

The local garden store had Summer Rambo apples this past week. Summer Rambo is a good apple variety for Maryland (not a keeper though, like all summer apples). It is a large apple, and meant for pies, sauce, and apple butter. Good for eating if you allow to fully ripen. I adore apple butter and that may be the destination for a couple of these guys, if they don't all make it into cobbler first. They are big!

Update 9/20/08: Actually, after sitting around for too long, they had to become applesauce. But it was wunderbar; I will use Rambos again.

Crockpot Applesauce

7 large Rambos, peeled, cored and sliced
4 Tbs. brown sugar
1 tsp. apple pie spice
maybe a pinch of salt

Place all in a crockpot on high for about three hours, and mash to the desired consistency. I like mine a little on the chunky side.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Late start

The early seeds didn't fare too well; most of them have not gone into the ground. Some are in pots, some may go into the ground if I clear out a bed, but it may be curtains for most of them.

So what do we do? Start more seeds in the middle of July, when they're sure to be fried. Did some herbs, some annuals, some veggies, and next will start on the perennials. Which should be started now anyway, so they can get some roots going before winter. And of course if I decide I'm really going to sell the house and move somewhere with enough sun for a greenhouse, everything is probably going to get sacrificed in the move.

But it's still fun to watch the little monkeys sprout. The Pot of Gold chard in particular will be a nice color accent this fall, even if I'm not here to admire it.

Update 9/21/08: Still here, and probably will not move until next year, but the Pot of Gold chard just started making true leaves.

Moral: do not start chard in the blistering heat of summer, it will rebel.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Little criminals

Viola labradorica is one of my favorite violets. I think the color is better in the shade, new growth is a deep dusky purplish. The leaves here only get a twinge of purple, since they get blasting sun in the afternoon. So I have been trying to save the seeds, and they're hard to snag, due to the species being one of those bursting capsule types that flings open as soon as you've turned your back.

Well I managed to capture a few, and had them on the counter in a dish to let them dry out before storage, but they kept disappearing. Blamed it on the cats, figured they were playing swat the bug with the seed capsules. Got a few again, put them on the stove top (which is full of cuttings trying to root, so pretty crowded for cats), and this morning I caught the thieves!

Antz stealed my seedz! Actually they were trying to steal, but kept dropping them all over the stove, so I rescued most (of the seeds, that is).

The ant invasion was pretty late this year; they usually show up in the kitchen by April, but it wasn't til June before I saw the first of them. They are slowly petering out now- guess the water table has dropped to tolerable, ant-wise.

I also guess it never occurred to me that they might fancy tiny little seeds (good thing I'm not an ant.)

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Summer salads rule

Cucumbers beat potatoes, coleslaw, and all the rest hands down when it comes to the essence of summer in a bowl.

Matter of fact, maybe it's not too late to start some seeds now for the end of summer crop...

Cucumber Salad

4 large cucumbers, peeled and sliced very thinly
1/4 cup diced red onion
3 Tbs. white wine vinegar
4 tsp. sugar
1 Tbs. fresh minced or 1 tsp. dried dill weed
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (or white, if you don't like the specks)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate long enough to chill. Adjust seasonings to taste.

I tend to go light on the vinegar and sugar, but if you need more zing, by all means, splash it on.

If you have really good tomatoes, cucumber-tomato salad may not be far behind. Dice a large tomato, drain if too juicy (or keep the wonderful juiciness in), and mix in with the other ingredients.

Starting the starter. Again.

Atticus ate the first starter on day two, and it was really kickin' A (so I almost started kickin' A as a result.) Today I mixed up the second batch, this time from Peter Reinhart's "Whole Grain Breads" (page 61.) He uses pineapple juice, whole wheat flour, and malt powder to give it an extra nudge.

The pineapple juice is supposed to thwart leuconostoc bacteria, which can make all kinds of nastiness in your sourdough.
So we'll see what's up with this little half cup of breeding ground tomorrow.

Update 9/21/08: the first starter was great, and developing fast, with no pineapple juice (but Atticus ate it); the second try turned into a microbial mess. What the muck? I will re-read Peter's chapter about starting the starter, as I must have introduced some nastiness myself (it was freakin' hot in July, probably made lots of bacterial critters real happy.) Maybe the cooler temps of late will be more conducive to slow, steady sourdough development.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

'08, full speed ahead

Resolutions (approved by Atticus):

~Will finally learn to use the freakin camera and all the recently purchased but largely unused gear.

~Will start cooking again and take lunches to work and stop wasting food and purge the unused cookbooks.

~Will start seeds according to the PROPER SCHEDULE and not according to when I feel like it.

~Will put up the greenhouse so it can actually be used before the season starts.

~Will not buy any more books until I read the ones I have. Snicker.

~Will sweep the house of all unnecessary junk and get back to making said house a home.

~Will not get too angry with myself when I utterly fail at any of these resolutions.