Busted. Yep, you caught me. It’s been a little while since I have blogged. The summer was busy with the kids, family, work, training for a marathon (yes, it’s this weekend finally!), house/garden work and other assorted shenanigans that occur during warmer weather. But I am back. And I bring you pie (actually, a rather large cookie like dessert) so you can’t be too mad, right?
Another reason for my absence is a valid one that directly relates to this blog. Many of my blog posts intermix food and food politics/ethics. I have been internally juggling many different feelings about how I should be eating. One day I think that eating animals is okay, the next I am making vegan recipes. Quite frankly I am getting tired with this one-sided conversation with myself. I am guessing Mark Bittman thought the same thing when he came up with his “Vegan before 6pm” lifestyle. I think this is something I can adapt to and have resolved also to make any meat consumed from local sources, and no factory farmed animal or product.
Why am I sharing this with you? First of all, I want to be honest. Many of my recipes are vegetarian or vegan and I do not want to pretend that I am 100% vegetarian/vegan. Second, I know some friends who are also struggling with this concept and thought we could support each other and offer ideas and recipes to make things easier. Your comments have and always will be very welcome to me – a huge reason why I do this – so please throw me your thoughts and opinions, and I will provide tasty vegetarian recipes. Deal?
Okay, enough of the emotional stuff…bring on the pie!
This is a recipe I found in Have your Cake and Vegan Too, a glorious cookbook by Kris Holechek. It’s pretty easy and tastes so much like those little cakes I used to devour in middle school. I would cut the raisins to only 3/4 of a cup though as it has a little heavier raisin taste than I prefer. Kids loved it and it did not last long in our house (goes great with coffee in the morning).
This is a rant post. Those that know me well understand that when I get fired up about something, I get, well…pretty PO’d. The cause of this fury was located in my mailbox. Being a person with a passion for cooking, I subscribe to Bon Appetit magazine. I adored Gourmet magazine and was devastated when it folded. Well apparently BA has a new sheriff in town (editor/sheriff/crapmaster) and the format has changed. The editor was the former editor of GQ and is looking to shaking things up other than martinis. The new format reads like Maxim magazine with short attention span articles that are the length of a visit to the toilet. I always enjoyed the at-length adventure stories that whisked me away to other cultures with interesting, tasty recipes to follow.
Now what do I get? I get Gwyneth Paltrow telling me how to cook. Nu-uh. Not going to happen my friend. I won’t even put a link to show you my disdain for someone who dabbles in a bunch of everything and is mediocre at best (okay, I did like her as an actor, but her singing, blogging, cooking – ugh!). What fired me up was that her recipes were beyond blah and that the magazine actually printed her “advice” when cooking:
“Drink while you cook!”
“Clean as you go!”
“State the obvious for those that cook all the time!”
Okay, the last one was mine, but REALLY – “Drink while you cook!” What a startling revelation! Why didn’t I think of that?
So in summary, thumbs down to Bon Appetit and the new hazmat…oops, I mean format. So in response, I will post a recipe for Black Bean Enchiladas that I modified from America’s Test Kitchen, one of the few sources I still trust. Now if Christopher Kimball starts appearing on Glee, we’re all in trouble.
Black Bean Enchiladas
Makes 12 Enchiladas, serving 4 or 5
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil or corn oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
3 medium cloves of garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 cans black beans, drained, rinsed and mashed
2 cans tomato sauce (8 ounces each)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 can diced green chilis
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese , grated (2 cups)
Tortillas and Toppings
12 corn tortillas (six-inch)
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 cup sour cream(optional)
The more I cook, the more I find myself using less seasoning when I cook. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a spice drawer that is slowly overtaking my kitchen (Thank you Penzeys). Salt, pepper, and oil olive have now become my taste bud trinity. This recipe is no exception. Now you could get crazy and add other types of seasoning like curry or a little cayenne for some kick. But sometimes simple is good.
I like this recipe since you can do them in the oven or on the grill. My kids eat them up like regular fries and I appreciate how easy they are to make. When selecting the potatoes, try to get ones that are symmetrical as they are easier to cut up and make for more uniform looking fries.
Sweet Potato Fries
3 large sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Wash and peel the potatoes. Cut in half and once again and then cut into strips, like steak fry size. Place on large cookies sheet. Drizzle oil over the potatoes and using your hands toss the potatoes so they are covered in oil. Sprinkle salt and pepper evenly over the fries. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
I was raised in a middle-class suburban town with little exposure to any different cultures and heritages. We grew up eating a meat and potatoes type diet with the occasional walk on the wild side. Betty Crocker Chop Suey and Ortega taco night was as crazy as it got.
My first exposure to authentic Mexican cuisine was at my first job out of college. There was a potluck lunch and a co-worker brought homemade tamales that his mom spent the better part of a day making. If you are not familiar with tamales (as was I at the time) the actual edible part of the tamales is wrapped up in a corn husk. The filling is encapsulated in the corn husk and steamed to cook it all up and add some yummy flavor imparted by the corn husk. Well, my first time eating a tamale, I was not aware of the fact that you don’t eat the corn husk! I thought to myself…”These are terrible! It’s like chewing, well…on corn husks!” Someone spotted my foodie faux pas and immediately let me know I was doing it wrong.
Fast forward many years later, I became smitten with trying something I have never cooked before. I enjoyed making these oh-so yummy Red Pepper Tamales – a vegetarian version of the tamale. The feta cheese, red pepper, corn and awesome corn meal flavors blend very well and are addictive. They do take about 1 1/2 hours to prepare and another 1 1/2 hours to steam, but me and my nine year old had a fun mother-daughter cooking moment. These would be great to make ahead of time and steam when you need ‘em.
A few notes:
- Start off the recipe by soaking the corn husks (I really hate when you read a recipe and halfway through the recipe, they say “meanwhile, you should be doing XXX”. Why don’t you just tell me that at the beginning?)
- Masa Harina and corn meal are NOT interchangeable. I found it at Walmart of all places. It’s got lime in it, that’s what makes it a completely different product than corn meal.
The longer I cook, the more often I find myself eye-balling measurements of ingredients. It’s not that I see myself as this awesome ninja chef with some mad cooking skills. The truth is I hate doing dishes and I figure the less I have to wash, the better. However, one arena of cooking where I don’t throw caution to the wind is when I bake. The balance of ingredients like baking soda, baking powder and salt can really cause culinary chaos when your ratios are off. So you can imagine my dork-like excitement when I opened up one of my Christmas gifts to find new measuring spoons and cups. But these were just no ordinary measuring devices…they were magnetic!
The magic of these measurement devices is that they have a spoon on each end and you only need to wash the spoon you use and you get two uses out of each spoon. And with their magnetic-ability they stay together when you need them to and apart when you don’t. It’s genius if you ask me. So when making this new recipe for Apple-Cinnamon Crumb Cake Muffins, I busted out both the spoons and the cups.
These small but fluffy muffins are so light and airy, I will warn you: it is possible to consume more than one at a time. Since they are not huge, it’s a great size for the kids. I am not a big fan of super sweet breakfast pastries, as these are perfectly balanced with not being too sweet. The apple adds a fun taste for the buds and keeps them from drying out (I HATE the word *moist*). These are based on a recipe from Isa Chandra’s Vegan with a Vengeance cookbook. You may notice the lack of eggs (as they are based off a vegan recipe) but you would never know the are eggless. In my opinion Isa has mastered the art of baking without dairy and eggs. Try them and you will not be disappointed.
Apple-Cinnamon Crumb Cake Muffins
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup apple juice
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup grated apple
1/2 cup chopped apple (1/4 inch pieces)
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
Pinch of salt
2 Tbs canola oil
Prepare the topping by mixing all the dry topping ingredients together in a small bowl. Drizzle the oil while mixing with your fingertips until crumbs form. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease a 12 – muffin tin.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together all the dry muffin ingredients. Create a well in the center and add the apple juice, oil, and vanilla. Mix, then fold in the grated and chopped apple.
Fill each muffin cup 2/3 full. Sprinkle the crumb topping over each muffin. Bake for 20-22 minutes.
Yesterday I did not have a very good day. In the grand scheme of life, it was just a bitty blip on the bad day radar. But still I was stressed and found a way to relieve some of that ickyness. So what did I do? Some yoga? Hit the bottle? No, I busted out my pasta maker. For Christmas my husband got me a pasta maker attachment for my KitchenAid and the downward spiral has officially started. For those that know me well, many of them have been surprised I have not entered the experience of homemade pasta. I had a fear. I knew that once I made fresh pasta, anything out of a box would be inferior in taste and I would be destined to make fresh all the time. I was not ready to take that path, until yesterday.
Within a blech kind of day I found solace and comfort in cooking and here’s why. What I realized while boiling the pasta water was that I appreciated the consistency of cooking. My pasta water would always boil at 212 degrees. My blueberry coffee cake would always take 45 minutes to bake. Cooking makes no judgment on you and best of all, cooking will always be there for you. I will always have to cook and I appreciate that stability in life’s ups and downs.
So how did I use my fresh fettuccine? I made Fettuccine with Peas and Asparagus – a nice light and appealing dish where using fresh pasta really makes the dish. I did not use pancetta (I just used a little olive oil to serve as the fat) or fresh basil. Sorry…I missed taking a photo since we gobbled it up so fast (if you click on the recipe link there is a great picture there).
Today has been a better day and perspective has kicked in as well…but after last night’s dinner therapy, I may have to attend another type of meeting…those addicted to making fresh pasta. Crap, I knew this would happen.
Or also titled: How a Stoner from Wisconsin Brought our Family Closer. I’ll get to that in a minute.
This recipe for Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal was born in my bedroom. This past weekend all three kids piled into my bed and found a surprise visitor…my husband. He was supposed to have been fishing in Wisconsin for the weekend, but when the guys arrived at the cabin late at night they found the grandson of the cabin’s owner having his own personal pot party. Needless to say even though the trip was a bust(should have been a drug bust instead), the kids and I enjoyed the new-found time with Daddy.
As all five of us cuddled in bed, we talked about what we should make for breakfast. We are a big oatmeal family, eating it a few times a week. I make a big batch in the morning as it is cheap, fast and you can make it at least 73 tasty different ways. My son said we should make banana oatmeal, a kind I have made before. But then my oldest daughter upped the ante…”Banana oatmeal with chocolate chips.” I think we all ran downstairs, faster than I have moved in a while for anything. I made this one up on the spot and it will now be a part of our oatmeal routine.
This is a great recipe for a breakfast treat, as it is quite sweet.
Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal
3 cups oats – not quick cooking kind or instant
2 cups almond milk (you can use plain milk too)
3 cups water
3 Tbs dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 bananas – really mashed
1/4 cup or more chocolate chips
Pour oats, milk and water into a large pot and heat on medium. Bring to a boil and stir moderately. When it starts to thicken and it’s not so watery add the bananas, sugar and salt. Cook until oatmeal looks, well done and looks like oatmeal. Serve in bowls and top each serving with a few (or a ton) of chocolate chips.
*Best way to eat is to wait a few minutes after putting chips on top, then stir to blend.