Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Summer Vegetable Risotto & Garden Loot

Check out the recent loot from my garden!!

A gentry squash (yellow), an eight ball zucchini, Cascade Beans (thanks KimberlyNE!), and some mysterious purple beans... sadly these all go green when you cook them.

Two more gentry squash looking rather like they're birds enjoying a conversation.

Not featured, snap peas! While the humid, rainy weather and otherwise cool temperatures are not doing my tomatoes well (I've got late blight. :( ), the squash plants and beans and peas are doing very well!! Now starts the process of trying to creatively use tons of beans, peas, and squash from the garden! I still had a quart of homemade vegetable broth left in the freezer from my last huge batch this winter, so I decided to use it to make a nice summer vegetable risotto. I used a yellow squash, beans, snap peas, and a half of a yellow bell pepper I had in the fridge. I also sauteed up a handful of shiitake and oyster mushrooms and added it to my portion. At the very end I stirred in a generous handful of fresh basil chiffonade (leaves rolled up like a cigar and cut into thin strips), sprinkled it with faux Parmesan sprinkles from the Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook (I make mine with half pine nuts and half sesame seeds. SO GOOD!) and it was divine!!

This recipe is really more of a technique. You can use any veggies you have in the house and as many of them as you've got. You can use less arborio rice if you want less risotto as long as you keep the 4:1 liquid to rice ratio.

Summer Vegetable Risotto
1.5 cups Arborio Rice
6 cups vegetable stock, simmering on the stove
1 tbsp olive oil + more for sauteeing vegetables
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 summer squash, diced
3/4 cups each green beans and snap peas, cut into small pieces
1/2 bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a sautee pan, heat a little oil and sautee the veggies (minus garlic) until they are tender-crisp, about 5 minutes

2. In a large pot (3 quarts at least), heat the tbsp of oil and sautee the garlic for a minute until it starts to sizzle, then add the rice and stir it around so it get coated in oil. Once coated, add a few ladles full of the hot broth. Stir.

3. When the liquid is mostly absorbed into the rice, add a couple more ladles full of broth. Stir. Stir it every few minutes at least, and keep adding more liquid until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender. It will get very creamy! This process should take around 20 minutes.

4. Fold the veggies and basil into the rice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, sprinkled with your Parma sprinkles.

Blueberry-Lemon Muffins

I am so happy it's summer again because that means I can eat tons and tons of fresh fruit, including one of my personal favorites, blueberries. Often times they're buy one pint get one pint free, and that means I get to BOTH eat them AND bake with time! Double win! Lately it's been blueberry lemon muffins. They are really delicious. They're very moist and tender with a nice citrus zing without being tart. I've given them away to several friends with rave reviews! I've also swapped out the blueberries for peaches, and cut out the lemon zest and juice and make peach muffins, which were equally delicious, so if you have another fruit you'd prefer, stick them in instead!

Blueberry-Lemon Muffins
Makes 24 Muffins
3 cups white whole wheat flour
3/4 cups brown sugar
3/4 cups white sugar
1 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup apple sauce
1/2 cup plain or vanilla soy yogurt
2/3 cup rice milk
Zest and juice of one lemon (not mixed together)
2 cups fresh blueberries

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and put cupcake papers in 24 muffin cups.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugars, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and lemon zest.

3. In a small bowl, mix the oil, applesauce, milk, yogurt, and lemon juice.

4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed. Fold in the blueberries.

5. Bake for 20-23 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Tortellini with Pesto

It's BASIL SEASON! I bought a massive bunch of basil at the coop two weekends ago, as my own efforts to grow massive bunches of basil have been thwarted by the cool weather and excessive rain. I needed a wee bit to make the Quinoa, Pineapple, and Cashew stir fry from Veganomicon, and then I used the rest to make a batch of pesto. Being the genius that I am, I didn't write down what I put in the pesto... It was basically a massive bunch of basil pureed with some olive oil, garlic powder, lemon juice, toasted pine nuts, and salt.

Once pesto was achieved, it raised the more important question... what do I DO with all this pesto? I suddenly got a mad craving for tortellini -- but I've never actually seen vegan tortellini before! Rising Moon Organics and Soyboy both make vegan ravioli, but it's just not the same thing! You know what came next right? I broke out the pasta maker, a round cookie cutter and made my own. I made a whole wheat and semolina dough and filled it with cashew ricotta from Veganomicon. Tonight I had them for dinner with the pesto I'd frozen and it was delicious! I served it with some snap peas and beans from the garden and a zucchini I had in the fridge sauteed in some olive oil with garlic and rosemary from the garden. It was really incredably delicious.

So barring the things I winged (pesto, veggies) and the recipe I stole (cashew ricotta), here is the recipe I used for pasta dough, and a pictoral on how to make your own tortellini!

Pasta Dough
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2/3 cup semolina flour
1/2 cup chickpea flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
2/3 cup water

** I do all of this in my Kitchenaid. It certainly could be done by hand as well.

1. Mix together the flours and salt in a large mixing bowl.

2. Mix the water and oil together in a measuring cup (i.e. a pyrex), then add it to the dry ingredients.

3. Stir the wet and dry ingredients together until it forms a ball. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour, if it's too dry, add a little more water. Pastas pretty forgiving and you can go back and forth with this for a while.

4. Knead the dough, by hand or machine, for about 10 minutes until it is a nice smooth ball. Leave the dough to rest, covered with plastic, for at least 15 minutes (though if it'll be a long while, stick it in the fridge).

5. After it rests you can use according to your pasta machine's instructions.... or grab a rolling pin and roll it out really, really thin.

Folding Tortellini

I used about a 2.5 or 3 inch round cookie cutter for the circles.

Place about 1/2 tsp of filling just below the middle of your pasta circle in a line

Dampen the edges with water using your finger, then fold over, pressing around the sides of the filling out to get rid of the air

Roll the pasta into a little cigar shape from the bigger side to the smaller side

Now you can either press the two ends together like hands praying
Or fold on end in on the other, like the tortellini is hugging itself.

Once you've made your tortellini either cook them immediately (boil water, then reduce the heat to a high simmer, carefully add the tortellini and simmer until they float -- about 2-3 minutes) place them on a cookie sheet on some waxed paper sprinkled with corn meal and put them in the freezer. Once they are frozen, you can put them in another container or bag together and they won't (* shouldn't) stick together. To cook them from frozen, do the exact same thing as from fresh, only it'll probably take another minute.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Banana Fudgesicles & Garden Bounty

I don't like bananas once they've got brown on them. I can take a wee bit, but as soon as they start to get spotty I declare them overripe and have to find other things to do with them. I'm not much of a smoothie drinkers, so though I freeze them sometimes I forget about them. I make banana bread and banana muffins but it seems like more of a winter thing to me. In order to remedy my banana problem I did the only logical thing... I invented BANANA FUDGESICLES!! This frozen treat is remarkably healthy for a fudgesicle. It is mostly sweetened by the ripe bananas, and a little bit of agave. They only take a few minutes to put together, then however long it takes for them to freeze. My one warning about this recipe, however, is that the measures will vary for you depending on how big your bananas are, and how big your ice pop molds are. For me, this makes 4 ice pops, sometimes a little more full and sometimes a little less (again, banana size). So use this as a guideline and then adjust as necessary.

I know, lame picture right? I heard the boy going into the freezer for the last one last night and I said "WAAAIT I NEED A PICTURE FOR MY BLOG!!" so he came into my office and let me take a picture before he ate... much.

Banana Fudgesicles
2 very ripe bananas
1/3-1/2 cup rice milk
2 heaping tbsp cocoa powder
1-2 tbsp agave nectar (depending on how brown your bananas are! more ripe = less agave)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Puree all the ingredients together. I use my immersion blender and the cup it came with. It's the perfect size and has a pour spout. Pour the mixture into ice pop molds. Freeze for at least 4 hours or until solid. Run the mold under warm water to release to fudgesicle.

Varation: Add 2-3 tbsp of peanut butter to the mix to make PEANUT BUTTER BANANA FUDGESICLES!

Onto my second topic: Check out what I picked in my garden this morning! A couple handfuls of sugar snap peas and some interesting purple striped beans. If anyone can identify them, I'd be most grateful!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sweet Potato Muffins and Mutant Corn

Have I mentioned my obsession with sweet potatoes yet?

I'm obsessed with sweet potatoes.

I see no good reason why roasted sweet potatoes aren't a meal in and of themselves. In fact, they often are a meal for me, especially when I've had late lunch and aren't terribly hungry for dinner but know I should eat something.

Once I baked one too many sweet potatoes, though I forget why, and had to find a use for the remaining sweet potato, and sweet potato muffins were born. If you can have pumpkin muffins, why not sweet potato muffins too? No reason, that's why. I altered the Pumpkin Muffin recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance... then altered it some more... then some more... (people keep requesting I make these, so I do), and now I have a version that I pretty much use every time. One thing to note about these muffins is the sugar thing -- I cut the sugar way back from the original pumpkin muffin recipe. I think they're perfect like this, the boy would prefer them a bit sweeter -- but I'm the baker so guess who wins? You may want to play around with the sugar too if it isn't sweet enough for your taste. They are so moist and fluffy and sweet potatoey I don't think you'll be disappointed.

I think baked sweet potatoes work best for this recipe because the baking concentrates the flavor and sugars in the potato. Boiled would probably be too watery. Microwaved would work if you're going for the quick route to mashable sweet potato.

Sweet Potato Muffins
1 3/4 cup white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1 cup well mashed or pureed sweet potato
1/2 cup rice milk
1/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tbsp molasses
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line your 12 muffin tin with cupcake papers (Why don't they make muffin papers? What's with all the haters? But I digress..)

2. Mix the wet ingredients well together in one bowl. Dry ingredients (including sugar) in another. Add the wet to the dry, and stir until just mixed.

3. Fill the muffin papers (ha!) 2/3 to 3/4 full of batter -- whatever makes it divided evenly into 12 spaces. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean

Which brings me to my next order of business...

I found this little beauty at the supermarket this weekend
It's a CORN ON THE COB WITH TWO PARASITIC TWINS!!! Isn't it fantastic?? (Does that make it parasitic triplets? I'm not sure.) I bought it because I knew no one would love it like I do. I have this thing for mutant fruits and veggies, and produce with faces, that sort of thing (one day I'll have to post my collection of photos of eggplants with noses).

Husked, it turns out that they were TWO ALBINO MUTANT PARASITIC CORNS!!

I steamed the big guy lightly and had him for dinner with my lentils, and I tossed the other two (plus husks from these and other corns I made for the boy for dinner) in the compost pile. I'm sure there are going to be some happy squirrels tonight. They love this sort of thing too.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

How does your garden grow?

These recent posts seem to be straying from cooking to food in general.

Lately we've been getting rain nearly every day. We've only had a handful of days above 80 this summer so far. I would absolutely love the mild weather if it wasn't for my garden! Finally, I have my own house with a big yard and the freedom to do with it what I please, and the weather has not been cooperating. I had an early mishap when the tomatoes went on a bender and turned purple and droopy, but they have since recovered. I planted my peas in full sun -- only to find that when the trees filled in a few weeks later they were shaded. With all the rain and little sun and even less heat, it's been a slow start overall, but it finally seems to be picking up some! Hopefully I'll start being able to prepare home grown meals soon!!

And so.. here are a few pictures of the garden...

Snap peas, beets in the front of the box, kale in the back

Assorted tomatoes and eggplant

More snap peas to make up for the ones that got shaded

Pole beans, a tomato, some eggplants, broccoli, and four varieties of squash in the front

The Garden :)

Baby Snap Pea

Baby Pole Beans with neat Purple Stripes
Baby Tomatoes
Baby Eight Ball Zucchini

Baby Gentry Squash

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Weird fruit: Gooseberries

A few weeks back, a woman in my line at the co-op was RAVING about dried gooseberries. She said they were SO wonderful and refreshing and just cleansed your palate and had the best flavor. She tried to give me some that she had just bought, but I said no thanks (money hands + taking a stranger's food + I'm not allowed to eat at my register) and that I'd get my own. I bought about a dozen of them (for about $.75) and tried one. HOLY YOW. First you chew and it's kind of seedy... and sort of chewy... and rather neutral. Then, suddenly, BAM! SOUR! SOURSOURSOUR! Gets you right in the corners of your jaw! SURPRISE! Gooseberry!! It was interesting. I had to have another one just to see if it was always like that. It is.

Fast forward to this week. The co-op has fresh gooseberries, and fresh currents, neither of which I've eaten fresh. I looked them both up online, which told me that gooseberries are only good eaten out of hand (that is, not cooked with heaps of sugar) when they're purpley, and currents taste weird. So... I figured if they had purpley ones, I'd try them, if not, I'd go with currents. Well, they were purpley.

They're a really interesting looking fruit. Grape-sized, with stripes kind of like a mini beach ball. Biting into it, the outside is firm with a grape-like skin, and the inside is soft and seedy, almost like raspberry flesh without the thin skin holding the juice in. The fruit itself is very floral and citrusy, with a tang reminiscent of a lemon or an orange, with a definite berry like flavor. It is very very tart, but not necessarily in an unpleasant way.

Overall, definitely worth trying. I don't think that it is the kind of thing I'm going to snack on like a bowl of cherries or blueberries or grapes, but the flavor is intruiging and pleasant, if you don't mind tart things. I looked it up and you only need one bush to produce fruit, and they produce a lot of fruit, and do well in extreme temperatures and partial shade, so I think I'm going to stick one in the yard next year. I think they'd make fantastic jam.

Super Peanut Butter Cookies

The boy asked me this week if I would make him "super peanut butter" cookies. I asked him what that meant, and he just said really peanut buttery peanut butter cookies. Sure, why not. These couldn't be your ordinary run-of-the-mill peanut butter crosshatch cookies though. Instead I created a crisp peanut butter cookie filled with a chewy, crunchy, slightly chocolately peanut butter filling. I mostly stole the filling from Peanut Butter Chocolate Pillows from the ppk blog, only I added in some chocolate to the filling since the "crust" was also peanut butter. Needless to say, these went over VERY well in my household. I believe he ate about 8 of them last night when I mdae them. Very yum. This recipe yields about 30 cookies... which will probably all be gone by the end of the weekend.

Super Peanut Butter Cookies

1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) softened margarine
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tbsp molasses
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup soy yogurt, plain or vanilla

3/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
2/3 cup powdered sugar
2-3 tbsp rice milk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 oz dark or ricemilk chocolate, chopped fine or grated

1. Cream together the margarine, peanut butter, and sugars. When it's light and fluffy, add the molasses, vanilla, and yogurt. Mix until combined.

2. Sift togther the dry ingredients, and then gradually add them to the wet until just mixed.

3. Cover and Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

4. Make the filling by mixing together all the filling ingredients. Start with 2 tbsp of milk, adding more if the mixture is too dry and crumbly.

5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

6. (I used a 1.5 tbsp cookie scoop and 2 tsp cookie scoop for the dough and filling respectively) Scoop the dough into ping-pong ball sized balls. Flatten the ball into a disc with your hand, then add a heaping tsp of the filling, and wrap the dough around it so it's sealed. Reroll into a ball and flatten slightly with your hand. Repeat for the rest of the dough.

7. Bake for 12-13 minutes or until the cookies are just slightly golden. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a cooking rack.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Crockpot Baked Beans

Do I need to explain every time I don't post in a month and a half that my life is insane and I'm always going in 20 different directions??

Good, cause that would get boring.

After 15 years as a vegetarian, I sometimes still find myself stuck in an omni mindset about certain foods. Baked beans, for example, are a side dish -- right? .... Why? I use beans as a protein source in a million other things, why can't baked beans take center stage for dinner? Because I'm prejudiced, that's why. In an effort to expand my horizons (and damn do I love baked beans) I decided I was going to make some for dinner one night, with some fabulous other sides. That night was tonight. I had planned them with collard greens and roasted sweet potatoes, but then I was thinking biscuits would be great to sop up the baked bean juice (sauce? gravy? liquid?) so I made whole wheat biscuits instead.

My quest to find the perfect baked bean recipe took a few weeks, and even still the one I made I altered. I was finding that most baked bean recipes were baked onion recipes with beans mixed in. Alright, forgive my use of hyperbole, but I don't see why one would need 2 onions in baked beans. Other recipes were basically beans in premade BBQ sauce or ketchup with some spices. BLEH. What I ended up with does have some onion powder, which I'm fine with, and some ketchup, also ok, but I think beans are really the star. The sauce is sweet, but not TOO sweet, and mildly smokey. Some fake bacon bits round out the dish in the way only odd smokey salty bits of facon can.

This also is also part of my continued quest to learn to cook legumes from dry, instead of from a can. A can will probably always be my favorite for convenience, but man is dry cheaper, and for something like this I think they really absorb a lot of the sauce. If you want to use canned beans instead, go for it. You'd need about 4 cans of beans, drained and rinsed, to equal the dry, and you'd want to cook it much shorter or on a lower temperature since they're already soft.

Crockpot Baked Beans

1 lbs bag of navy beans (dry)
Water for soaking
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
2 tbsp facon bits (You can usually find these at the supermarket labelled something like "Bac'n" -- read the ingredients, you'll be surprised)
1.5 tsp salt
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses (or whatever molasses you keep on hand)
1 tbsp mustard powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp liquid smoke

1. Soak the navy beans overnight in the fridge (about 12 hrs) in about 4X as much water as you've got beans.

2. Drain and rinse the beans and put them in a medium pot with about 3X as much water as beans. Bring the beans to a boil and boil for about two minutes, then drain ... again.

3. In the crock pot, add all the other ingredients and whisk together into a smooth sauce. Stir in the beans. Cover and set the crock pot to high, and cook for 8 hrs or until the beans are soft (this could vary depending on how fresh the beans are, how hard your water is, how long they soaked, etc... Mine were perfectly tender after 8 hrs, and may have been sooner, but I wasn't home).