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May 25, 2010 in PIE, vegetarian2 comments

annnnd…it’s PIE season

the perfect slice of rhubarb pie

It’s asparagus season, it’s baseball season, it’s school music program season, it’s kitten season.

nom nom nom

All of these pale, though, compared to the One Season to Rule Them All.

rhubarb pie, motherfuckers

Pie season. Read more on annnnd…it’s PIE season…

May 31, 2010 in sides, vegetarian1 comment

asparagus risotto

asparagus risotto

Rice is born in water and must die in wine. – Italian proverb

Mm, risotto. The creamy arborio rice dish accepts all sorts of additions, especially vegetables of all kinds. One of my favorite risottos, right up there with mushroom, is asparagus risotto. When the asparagus season wanes and we’ve had our fill of steamed or pan-roasted, or oven-roasted, or with-an-egg-on-top asparagus, I like to make this risotto before the weather turns too hot to want to attend a stove for half an hour or more. Read more on asparagus risotto…

banana-oat pancakes

banana-oat pancakes on the griddle

Dear banana-oat pancakes,

It’s not you. It’s me. I love bananas, oats, and ohmigod pancakes. And you’re fine. Better than fine. You’re sweet and oat-nutty and you never leave your dirty socks on the floor. Oh, sure, you might be a bit temperamental about griddle temperatures, but what pancake isn’t?

But you see, you’re too good for me. You’re so busy with those flavors you have going on. I know, I know, they work together! You’d be the perfect pancake for someone who looks for more in a pancake.

Me, however, I can’t help loving the simple pancakes best.

The buttermilk pancakes with their mad guitar skillz and artfully mussed emo hair. With the occasional earrings of blueberries.

The spelt pancakes with their Greenpeace stickers, dark soulful eyes, and selfless desire to change the world.

The buckwheat pancakes with their six-pack abs, skin-tight t-shirts, and the smell of clean sweat, oil, and black dirt.

banana-oat pancakes with maple syrup

You’re good, banana-oat pancakes. Really good. Kids would really go for you. You can easily catch yourself another woman, or even another man, if that’s the way you want to swing. The bananas make you sweet and smooth, while the coarse oat flour makes you a bit rugged and hearty.

I’m sure others will love you better than I can. I’ll stick with spelt pancakes, but you’ll always hold a special place in my heart tummy. And that’s why I’m going to share your recipe; so that the world may appreciate you for who you are. Read more on banana-oat pancakes…

April 18, 2011 in desserts, vegetarian8 comments

Birthday Beignets, Anyone? A Whole Wheat Beignet Recipe

beignets3.jpg

Sugar beets are a communal crop. It’s rare for one farmer to have both the specialized harvesting equipment and the manpower required to harvest all of his sugar beets by himself. It’s also a busy crop: as the beets are pulled from the ground by the mechanical harvester they are dumped into a truck driven alongside it in the field, and they need to be driven to the sugar plant ASAP. As a result, several farmers work together in the fall to get everyone’s sugar beet crop in on time. Read more on Birthday Beignets, Anyone? A Whole Wheat Beignet Recipe…

black bean and couscous salad

black bean and couscous salad

Ohnoes. A pantry meal — in June!

It may be spring — almost summer — but the garden’s getting a slow start around here. A very wet spring kept us from planting until late May. We’ve already burned past the asparagus and rhubarb, and strawberries are due any day now, but normally at this time we’d have lettuce and radishes at the very least.

But it was not to be. The radishes are just about big enough to snack on, but there just isn’t a lot going on yet. I’m not in the mood for hot, heavy, stick-to-your ribs food now, though, so I turned to a main-course salad and dug out this black bean and couscous salad recipe.

Couscous is one of my favorite pastas/grains. I like whole-wheat couscous (obviously!) and it’s one of the whole-grain products that doesn’t seem any different from non-whole-grain variety. It isn’t even prepared differently; perhaps a touch more water or broth when making it, but it turns out fine without such watchfulness. Couscous also pairs amazingly with beans, and I’m partial to black beans. A lot of which goes to explain why I enjoy this salad so much. Read more on black bean and couscous salad…

Blueberry chocolate coconut protein smoothie

Blueberry chocolate smoothies

That’s right. You heard me. Blueberry. Chocolate. Coconut. And to make it all sound healthy, protein. Shake. We really could pretty much just stop now, because you’ve got the ingredients right there, every single one of them.

Read more on Blueberry chocolate coconut protein smoothie…

caprese skewers

plate o' caprese skewers

Want an easy, colorful, summery, fancy-schmancy looking appetizer to serve guests? These little fellas fit the bill, the bright crunch of juicy tomato mingling with sweet basil and fresh mozzarella, all drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette.

There. The food porn description is out of the way.

tomato, basil, mozzarella, together at last. just like nuts and gum.

We threw a surprise party for Mom Saturday. As I apparently noted several times near the end of the night, it was a smashing success. Why several times? Seems I got drunk off my ass by the end. As planned. It wasn’t an accident ffs.

Look at that awesome cake Stacy’s mom made for the surprise party

Mom's birthday cake

People kept asking ahead of time how surprisey it was going to be. I briefly wondered at the wisdom of shocking someone with a history of heart problems, and laconically waved those concerns aside. “Not much, I think,” I told them. “We’re doing family pictures right before the party, and we expect people will begin showing up and we’ll be setting up right in front of her.”

Thanks to the big ass house, though, we were able to pull off a complete surprise. While the final pictures were being shot in the living room, Jennifer and I rushed off to the family room to get tables and chairs out and set out the cake. By the time we led Mom to the family room, most of the partygoers had arrived, and wound up giving her a proper “Surprise!” shout.

They're like little tomato soldiers, aren't they?

Oh, my point? One of the things I made was caprese skewers. I also made corn and crab dip. Crap. It’s gone. I didn’t get pics of it. Oh well, caprese skewers will do for now.

P.S. two to three of these is a 100-calorie snack. Believe me, you won’t have a chance to get your hands on more. Go for three. The calorie listing includes all of the balsamic vinaigrette, and I only wound up using about half of it. Read more on caprese skewers…

April 15, 2010 in main course, vegetarian1 comment

cheesy baked penne with fake italian sausage

cheesy baked penne with fake italian sausage

This baked penne recipe is entirely vegetarian, yet it’ll keep carnivores happy with its fennel-scented tomato sauce and meatless Italian sausage crumbles.

And it’s “baked penne” because I’ve never been able to replicate Italian restaurants’ baked ziti. I suspect their secret is oil and cheese in much more copious amounts than one can bear to consider under home kitchen conditions. Maybe it’s a hotter oven, or a shove under the broiler when it’s done. You know, if anybody knows the reason, inform me. I’m mostly pretty bumbling when it comes to reverse engineering.

cook some damn celery and mushrooms, already

But I’m zen about it, because the approximations to restaurant baked ziti are pretty good on their own. They might be missing the goat dandruff secret ingredient or whatever, but it’s hard to go wrong with pasta, mozzarella, a rich tomato sauce, mushrooms, and fake Italian sausage crumbles. Read more on cheesy baked penne with fake italian sausage…

December 23, 2009 in cookies, vegetarian3 comments

chewy oatmeal cutouts

chewy oatmeal cutout cookies, dusted with cinnamon sugar

Time now to quit with the endless family stories and begin slamming out these cookie recipes. Today I made progress on this month’s Daring Bakers Challenge. It’s a secret, to be revealed on the 27th. Which is a shame, because it’s sort of festive. :p

cutting out some chewy oatmeal cutout cookies!

Also began filling the chocolate mint cookie sandwiches. Damn, those little chocolate disks taste just like Oreos. And I learned why Grandma made them so honkin’ big (I made them about 1-1/2 inches round instead) — the recipe made approximately 270 cookie halves. Yes, that’s 135 sandwiches. I’ll post a final total when I finish and get the recipe up. Of course, it will be a tad off due to shrinkage. Shrinkage in this case being little (and big) hands snatching them up and popping them into mouths during the filling process.

bake, gingerbread man, bake

ohnoes, the gingerbread man in searing 350 degree heat!

And tomorrow evening I’ll be decorating these chewy oatmeal cutouts with Justin and Maggie. What a pleasant surprise these were. Thumbs up from kids and adults alike, and that was just the ones I tossed cinnamon sugar onto. Crispy on the edges, chewy in the middle, easy to roll and a good deal of whole grains inside. Read more on chewy oatmeal cutouts…

currant sorbet

currant sorbet

Check out this awesome bowl Dad found under the house.

Under the house, you say? Why yes, under the house. Why do you ask?

Oh, you didn’t know. My house got a new foundation this spring.

Wow, those plum blossoms in the background sure look pretty.

So yesterday Dad, his cousin, and the guy who works with him were putting new beams under the house. At one point I was out in garden, valiantly hacking at the giant weeds with a hoe, when Dad called out, “Amy…I found something for you!”

the moat and gangplank, er, the foundation

Great, I said to myself. Probably a burlap sack he wants me to turn into a dress. Sorry, family joke.

It was actually the little white bowl above, caked in dirt. It had no chips and cleaned up nicely.

get to the currant sorbet already

Isn’t that currant sorbet a lovely shade of pink? It’s super refreshing on a hot summer day, and a whiff of summer in the dead of winter. If you can get your hands on some red currants, make some currant juice and get this sorbet into your freezer posthaste.

The inherent sweetness of the berries can vary. The main liquid/sweetening agent in this sorbet is a simple syrup. Simple syrup is traditionally just a 1:1 ratio of water and sugar, heated until it forms a clear liquid. In fact, simple syrup can be used in all sorts of sorbets. If you find the sorbet a little tart, try increasing the simple syrup to 3/4 cup water and 3/4 cup granulated sugar. Read more on currant sorbet…

daring bakers: nanaimo bars

nanaimo bars stacked

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca. Recipes for whole wheat graham crackers and Nanaimo bars at the end of the post.

Read more on daring bakers: nanaimo bars…

February 19, 2011 in main course, vegan, vegetarian2 comments

Dazed and Confused Sesame Peanut Stir Fry, with Bonus Babylon 5 Reference

sesamebroccolistirfry.jpg

Ever run into a recipe that is so easy and so tasty that you are dazed under its spell, obeying its command to make it again, and again, and again, until two weeks later you blink and say to yourself, “Damn, that was good.”

Read more on Dazed and Confused Sesame Peanut Stir Fry, with Bonus Babylon 5 Reference…

September 21, 2009 in breakfast / brunch, how to, vegetarian7 comments

easy one-egg omelet

here omelet omelet

Neat, this made Foodie Views of the day! They gave me a pretty button to go with it:

Routine is a good thing. I lost 60 pounds eating the same thing for breakfast every morning, and anecdotally people suggest that eating the same thing for breakfast and lunch, and mixing it up for supper is good too. Some crazy theory that not having to think about what you’re going to eat makes it easier to keep track.

But you’re still fat! you say, glancing at that picture over to your left.

So? A little is better than nothing at all. And I’ll do it again. So there. Everyone who’s done a marathon here raise your hand.

*raises*

I love that comeback. All the training and suffering was worth it. Just to be able to say that for the rest of my life. Any time, for any reason. :D

My routine breakfast used to be Shredded Wheat and Bran, soymilk, sliced banana, and orange juice. After a year or two of this I still wasn’t bored with it.

But then the damn blood center began dissing me when I went to donate.

Your iron’s too low to donate.

*month passes*

Your iron’s too low to donate.

*month passes*

Your iron’s too low to donate.

*tear out hair*

Apparently some people (Michigan Community Blood Center, I’m looking at you) seem to think a hemocrit of 37, 36, or 35 is too low to be allowed to give blood. Hmph.

I tried small measures: more beans, some more leafies. Didn’t help. So I turned to the most iron-fortified food on the planet, or at the very least, in my cupboard: Malt-O-Meal, fortified with 60% of the RDA for iron, guaranteed to give you Popeye arms.

And, I actually like it. I don’t know why everyone makes that sour face. Malt-O-Meal is awesome.

But it introduced a problem. A serving of Malt-O-Meal does not a breakfast make, at least not one that’s going to stick with you more than half an hour. I couldn’t have cereal with it, because I had this inkling that that would be stupid.

eggs laid by easter egg chickens! i kid you not

Where to get protein? Oh! An egg! I have all sorts of pretty-colored eggs, thanks to friends who raise chickens that lay Easter eggs. Not kidding. It’s some special variety.

So I got out my little sauté pan and made up a one-egg omelet. All by myself. And it was good. And it made it into the new breakfast routine. I seriously think the green onion makes it. I wouldn’t want it without. The green onion is cooked with the egg. Then I dice up one of the smaller Stupice tomatoes and add other ingredients if they sound good.

As for insides, try:

• tomato
• green pepper
• crumbled bacon
• cheese, even feta
• shredded zucchini

In five minutes, you too can have a little showpiece omelet. Read more on easy one-egg omelet…

November 29, 2009 in 24x24, desserts, vegetarian15 comments

foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: girly cousins baking day! making grandma’s old world pastries

many miloste mingling merrily

Weddings. Baby showers. Christmas.

These are the some of the family gatherings where miloste, a Bohemian fried pastry, graced the banquet tables and spreads. Don’t bother googling; “miloste” is a phonetic spelling. We have no idea what the “real” name for these treats is. Hell, we usually call them “those fried things with beer in them and powdered sugar on top.” Read more on foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: girly cousins baking day! making grandma’s old world pastries…

foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: rhubarb — it’s not just for pie anymore

rhubarb salsa

Rhubarb with caramelized onions? Rhubarb salsa? Rhubarb and lentil potage? I can hear you now, the ornery ones of you that is: What the hell, woman…rhubarb’s for pie. Crisps. Crunches.

prepping peppers, onion, jalapeño, and cilantro for the rhubarb salsa

For April’s Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 event, I decided to explore the savory side of rhubarb, since there’s a ton of it growing about 50 feet from my front door. As rhubarb is technically a vegetable/herb, why not try some recipes that utilize rhubarb as a vegetable?

chop the rhubarb for the salsa finely. you don't wanna crunch into a big honkin' piece of this stuff.

Hey, salsa has a tangy bite. I bet rhubarb could work in salsa. So I tracked down a viable candidate in The Joy of Rhubarb: The Versatile Summer Delight. It’s a classic Mexican salsa, with fresh cilantro, green onion (which made me happy; I can’t stand regular onions raw), lime juice, jalapeño for a bit of bite, barely-blanched rhubarb, and lots of sweet peppers and more sugar than salsa normally would have, to counteract the rhubarb’s bite.

colorful rhubarb salsa ingredients :)

Dad’s verdict? “It would be great on hamburgers. By the way, we’re having hamburgers tonight….” Subtle hint there, Dad. ;-) Yeah, he went home with some rhubarb salsa. Linda thought it had a bit of a bitter rhubarb taste to it and suggested more sweetener. I loved it. Fresh, crisp, clean salsa taste with the rhubarb adding uniqueness without overpowering it.

Overall verdict for rhubarb salsa: Two snaps up. Read more on foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: rhubarb — it’s not just for pie anymore…

Foodbuzz 24×24: Don’t Get Chocolate on My Cards! Game Night Featuring Non-messy Finger Foods

tropical trail mix

Greetings and hello from the lovely planet Venus, where it’s cloudy and rains all the time. For our purposes, Venus is also known as Michigan.

For this month’s Foodbuzz 24×24 event, I hosted a Game Night — that’s with a capital G and N — and made oodles of easy-on-the-expensive-games snacks. I’m here to show you just how easy it is to have people over and serve amazing finger foods like tropical trail mix (above), asparagus frittata bites, blueberry-vanilla goat cheese on polenta dolce, cantonese roasted vegetables, and much, much more!

dishes carnage

Err…just try not to make these foods all at once. These dishes dirtied themselves for your benefit in testing all the recipes out. I wouldn’t recommending doing this all at once!

At the end of this post you’re also getting the easiest recipe of them all: tropical trail mix. Read more on Foodbuzz 24×24: Don’t Get Chocolate on My Cards! Game Night Featuring Non-messy Finger Foods…

fresh blueberry pie

i had to rip this out of someone's hands to get a pic before the whole pie was gone

Blueberry pie ranks right up there. Number two after sour cherry pie, for sure. I’d always had blueberry pie that was baked, but the blueberries this year are so fabulous — large, and the perfect sweet-tart combination — that I wanted to do one that was more strawberry pie-style.

the blueberry and cornstarch mixture just as it begins to cook

In other words, blueberries mixed with a thickening agent and set inside a prebaked shell of some sort. So the flavor of the fresh berries would burst through.

the cooked and thickened blueberry mixture. time to add in the fresh ones!

KAF came through! That’s the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book. Remember that, because I’m not going to repeat it.

cool, we've dumped in the fresh blueberries!

The original recipe in KAF called for 1 cup of sugar. Based on scientific evidence — Mom had just made a fresh blueberry pie using another recipe calling for 3/4 cup sugar and turns out is was JUST. TOO. SWEET. — I cut it to 1/4 cup. I don’t know why you’d want more, unless you’re some kind of stereotypical sugar-loving animal whose name escapes me at the moment. Plus if you use the walnut-oat crust, you’re getting some more sugar there. Read more on fresh blueberry pie…

September 29, 2010 in main course, soup / chili, vegan, vegetarian3 comments

gazpacho sevillano

gazpacho sevillano

Breakfast in Spain is unsubstantial, to my taste: a toasted and buttered bolillo (a large roll) and café con leche, Spain’s rich and tasty version of the latte. (I don’t like coffee or even lattes particularly, but I’ll take a café con leche any day.) Supper, as well, is fairly insubstantial: fried finger foods or a light platter of leftovers, served at 11 p.m., midnight, or even later, depending on the night-owlishness of your household. Read more on gazpacho sevillano…

german chocolate cake with coconut-pecan frosting

a wee slice of German chocolate cake

Today is Mom’s birthday. Go Mom! I won’t tell you which birthday it is, since she’s a tad shy about that. I’m just gonna say she had me when she was very very young. Nearly criminally young. Not that she’s a criminal. I don’t think.

Got anything to confess, Mom?

Grandma used to make this, her favorite cake, for her on her birthday. Which was pretty nice of her considering she wasn’t her mom, but her mother-in-law.

german chocolate cake

Naturally I assumed it was some secret family recipe, scrawled in chickenscratch cursive on a spattered and yellowed recipe card. Lovingly tucked into a battered tin box. Like something in a soft-focus “Mom, what do you do on those not so fresh days?” commercial.

I asked Mom the other day where to find the recipe.

“It’s on the back of the Baker’s Sweet Chocolate box,” she said.

Oh. Okay, then.

the cake is a lie

It’s not handed down from German immigrants. It’s named after the guy who owned the Baker’s chocolate company. His last name was German. No, it wasn’t German. It was German. As in Bob German. Or Phil German.

I know. It’s confusing. Have some cake; you’ll feel better. And for gods’ sake, whatever you do, do not read the nutrition information at the bottom of the recipe. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

egg whites: soft peaks v. stiff peaks

And the recipe was invented by a homemaker in 1957 and published in a Dallas newspaper. The rest, as they say, is history.

I’m going to keep calling it “German chocolate cake” though. It just makes life easier.

the cake is real. ta da.

Ta da. German chocolate cake

It turned out really well. I used pecans Aunt Geri sent as packing material in the gift box a couple Christmases back. Pretty handy having relatives with pecan trees.

Mom and Sis said it was as good as Grandma made it. It’s a pretty sweet cake, not in the cool sense but in the omg diabetic coma sense. I made it as written, because for some reason my white whole wheat flour, which is my go-to flour for quick substitution, tastes stale. I think it came that way, because I got it into the freezer the moment I brought it home.

So what we have here is a very moist cake made with 4 ounces of sweet German chocolate. It’s a bit labor intensive what with the beating of the egg whites and stuff, but that’s what keeps it light as well. It’s not dense-feeling at all.

buttermilk, pecans, and flour/soda/salt

The frosting is sheer decadence. Four egg yolks, butter, sugar, evaporated milk, sweetened coconut, and chopped toasted pecans. I mean shit, this cake has everything.

Look. You don’t frost the sides. You’re not supposed to frost the sides on this cake. Trust me. You’ve had enough sugar already. I don’t need you bouncing off the walls even more. Read more on german chocolate cake with coconut-pecan frosting…

gluten-free chocolate chip cookies

gluten-free chocolate chip cookies

Ignore the “gluten-free” in the title. These are not some saintly cardboardy cookie things.

And I’m really not trying to be All About Baking here. Honestly.

And I’m not trying to be all health nut vegetarian gluten-free, either. FSM knows I’m a crappy vegetarian and an even more piss-poor health nut.

But you know what? These cookies are really good. I don’t even care that as far as cookies go, they are on the saintly side. They’re vegan. They’re whole grain. They even have ground flax seed.

These cookies have no right to be as yummy as they are. They should taste like nice healthy cardboard, but instead they have some kind of awesome nutty oaty crunchy thing going on.

I ran across them a while back when I didn’t have eggs, and I didn’t have the time or the patience to wait for butter to soften, but wanted chocolate chip cookies. You know when that is. At night, in winter, when some horrid wind is howling outside and PMS is prodding you to find something sweet and chocolate now or it’s going to get really cranky and take you along with it.

my little helper and some cookie dough

Oh, look. I had a helper. This is why these cookies happened today. Little voices.

“AUNT AMY, CAN WE MAKE COOKIES? I WANT TO MAKE COOKIES. LET’S MAKE COOKIES. I WANT TO HELP. I CAN HELP. LET ME POUR THAT IN. I DIDN’T SPILL IT ON PURPOSE. I DON’T KNOW HOW THE DOUGH GOT ON THE FLOOR. THIS LOOKS FUNNY. HOW CAN YOU MAKE COOKIES WITHOUT BUTTER?”

Let’s see. These chocolate chip cookies bake pretty flat. They aren’t fluffsters. They are also better crunchy; when you bake them til they are medium brown. They’re good with nuts but I also think they’re good without nuts, which is rare — I tend to prefer nuts in my chocolate chip cookies. The recipe only makes about 18 cookies, so double it up if you want lots.

To be sure about the gluten-free-ness, make sure to use gluten-free vanilla, and check your canola oil and oats. Oats are naturally gluten-free but apparently some cross-contamination can occur or something in processing bla bla. Read more on gluten-free chocolate chip cookies…

July 11, 2009 in main course, vegetarian2 comments

green fried rice

green fried rice

Hey, look, another super simple recipe that is super yummy.

I know. Fried rice is intended as a leftover-user. Day-old rice? Make fried rice with it! Unfortunately for the rice, fried rice is so good on its own that it gets made a lot on purpose here and never makes it to day-old status.

In fact, I make it so much it seems I’ve begun doing that thing where you tweak. I’d heard of this, where people don’t follow recipes directly and instead, like, change them. How odd.

What finally made this tweak awesome was green onions and sesame oil. Oh, hay (sorry, got horses on the brain), there are green bunching onions in the garden! Look:

green onions growing in the garden

The green in this fried rice is the green onion, peas, and broccoli. I always use frozen for the peas and broccoli, though I’m sure fresh would be delicious. Fried rice just doesn’t seem the place to be putting garden fresh peas and broccoli, though, you know what I mean? Fresh broccoli is meant for raw crunching, or light steaming, or broccoli salad. Fresh peas are meant for chomping right out of the pod, or quick cooking with a teeny bit of butter melted in at the end, and maybe some chives. But frozen? Go to town in the grocery’s freezer section. Inexpensive and more nutritious than in the produce department and will keep forever. Well, forever-ish.

umami — what?

The green onions added that umami the fried rice was needing. And I figured out a while back that fried rice must have sesame oil in it. If you don’t drizzle some sesame oil into the mix, it’s going to taste bland, no matter what you do.

And apparently, technically green onions don’t have umami flavor. I don’t care. I’m proclaiming umami to be a generic term for “makes it taste awesomer.”

the fried rice trick

I don’t know the right way to make fried rice. I’m sure there’s some proper method that I’m too lazy to discover.

So here’s the trick I developed: Read more on green fried rice…

how to flash freeze blueberries

flash frozen blueberries in a freezer bag

Skip ahead to to the blue text if you want the instructions without the incoherent babbling.

Flash freezing has been done in the food industry for ages to quickly preserve and seal in nutrients and freshness. It’s why nutritionists say frozen seafood, vegetables, and so forth are technically “fresher” than their fresh cousins you find in the grocery store.

Of course, if you’re practicing locavore-oriented shopping, you don’t have that problem now, do you? It’s not hard, and you don’t have to be a hardass about it. You’re just growing a garden, or befriending people who do, or participating in a CSA. Okay, I had to act like I knew what a CSA was. Hey look, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture.

Oh, wow. There’s one in my area. Crap, now you know where I live. No stalking!

Back to locavore stuff. You’re doing the above, and/or you’re looking for locally-grown produce at the supermarket, you’re befriending people with chickens for eggs, etc. It doesn’t have to be all intensive like the people who do “we’ll only eat anything grown within 100 miles” experiments.

So if you’re me, one locavore thing you’ve done recently is go to a local orchard and buy or pick blueberries. You picked a lot of blueberries. And you might as well throw some in the freezer for winter.

There’s something sparkly about pulling berries out of the freezer in the dead of winter, and making a smoothie, or cobbler, or pie. In like, February. You want to do this with your pretty local berries.

Note: This method can be used with nearly anything solid. I freeze tablespoons of tomato paste this way. Adobo chiles. Some people flash freeze lemon slices, or mushrooms. I don’t know if I trust frozen mushrooms, but they can’t hurt if being thrown into a lasagna or something. Read more on how to flash freeze blueberries…

how to freeze sweet corn

mmm corn

Dad plants sweet corn for all of us every year, staggered a week or two apart so we have sweet corn for longer. I don’t know exactly how far apart; I’m sure someone will read this and correct me since I seem to get something wrong in every post.

getting the silk off, a stack of corn, another stack by the stove, and corncobs with the corn cutter

It’s like when there’s a story in the paper that you were part of or know everything about. You read the article, and you find one thing reported incorrectly, then another, and another, and you come away wondering why you bother to believe anything you read or hear on the news ever.

cooling the just-blanched sweet corn!

Sweet corn is one vegetable that you want to freeze yourself if you can get hold of some fresh in season, because frozen store-bought just isn’t the same. Now, this isn’t true for all vegetables, as Mom and I concurred the other day. Yes, we talk about this kind of thing. We’re boring. We agreed that green beans, on the other hand, are pretty damn awesome frozen from the store. But sweet corn? Not so much.

no, she is not high

linda's using the kickass corn cutter

So get to a farmer’s market or a roadside stand right quick, get yourself some just-picked sweet corn, cajole a partner — you really, really want to do this with a partner — and set aside a few hours to freeze sweet corn. Read more on how to freeze sweet corn…

January 31, 2010 in condiments, vegan, vegetarian5 comments

how to make horseradish, plus a horseradish giveaway

half-pint jar of horseradish. mmm.

That funny looking thing that looked like a cross between a post-nuclear-holocaust carrot and an anime tentacle monster?

cleaned horseradish in pail

Horseradish. It grows in the front of my yard near the ditch, and in Mom and Dad’s in a little “patch” near the field. All I know is it grows on its own and it’s nearly impossible to kill.

horseradish plant

Photo credit: Ruslan V. Albitsky via Wiki Commons. Because someone dug up all the horseradish around here.

Every year before Christmas, Dad digs up the horseradish roots and makes the condiment we call horseradish. Not to be confused with the plant itself. Except for the whole sharing-a-name thing.

two clumps of horseradish

It starts out like this, a pile of gnarled, muddy roots.

muddy horseradish roots, just dug up

Dad puts them on the low screened table I use to cure onions.

the power washer

Then, hook up the power washer! Read more on how to make horseradish, plus a horseradish giveaway…

April 23, 2010 in sides, vegetarian2 comments

how to prepare the first asparagus of the season

*this* is what you do with the first asparagus of the season

Do you have an asparagus patch or access to one? If you have any bit of yard at all and you like asparagus, there’s really no reason not to put some in. Asparagus is a perennial, takes up little room, and requires practically no care. Seriously. Mow or cut it down in the fall after it’s gone to seed, and that’s about it. This is one vegetable that absolutely weighs in on the positive end of the scale of labor cost v. return on investment.

the asparagus controversy: fat or thin stalks?

asparagus: nice first of the season fatties

Nearly every cookbook I’ve ever seen that talks about asparagus says the thinnest stalks are tenderest and most flavorful.

And nearly every cookbook is wrong.

Read more on how to prepare the first asparagus of the season…

i-can’t-believe-it’s-meatless tomato sauce

red wine tomato sauce

Hello, my pretties. We’ll be quick today in honor of tax season. I have a zillion e-mail records to go through (the bane of online work) and missing 1099s to calculate by hand. My tax preparer, who also happens to be my best friend from grade school, is in 90 degree-plus Virginia this week, so I really can’t say which of us has it worse.

mmm, red wine

This red wine tomato sauce recipe can be subbed for a jar of any red store-bought pasta sauce. I like to double or triple the recipe and freeze it because hey, if I’m going to the work of making my own sauce, I may as well have some for next time.

sautéed onions, coated in the spices

But is it really work? Read more on i-can’t-believe-it’s-meatless tomato sauce…

November 10, 2009 in canning and freezing, vegan, vegetarian13 comments

in which Facebook is vilified, and swiss chard is frozen

super mega fast chopping!

To skip the Facebook rant and get right to the recipe instructions, scroll down to “Let’s freeze some chard!”

Hola, amigos. How’s it going with you? I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya. Okay, I’m channeling Read more on in which Facebook is vilified, and swiss chard is frozen…

March 2, 2010 in gluten-free, salad, vegan, vegetarian5 comments

indonesian tofu, bean sprout, and cucumber salad with spicy peanut dressing

Indonesian tofu, bean sprout, and cucumber salad with spicy peanut dressing

This recipe featured on Wanderfood Wednesday and Real Food Wednesday!

This is the time of year when we write posts about how tired we are of winter. But I’m not. I’m totally over being tired of winter. I already gave in a few weeks ago to the allure of fresh produce, abandoning the frozen corn, green beans, and zucchini in favor of bean sprouts, cucumbers, and oh my lord grape tomatoes as big as your thumb.

There’s still part of a cabbage in the fridge — my cabbages grow to gigantic proportions, I don’t know why — but the last of fall’s carrots was gone over a month ago and yes, I tired of the old. I wanted the crunch of nutrients I hadn’t had fresh in months.

I abandoned locavore eating. Just until spring, and just once in a while. There’s something about fresh sprouts. They’re a promise. They’re potentiality. They could have become beans, but instead they’re going into my tummy. They’re earthy and new and taste of beginnings.

And this salad. Oh, this salad is Read more on indonesian tofu, bean sprout, and cucumber salad with spicy peanut dressing…

look, we canned pears

too bad i hate pears

Yup, we sure did.

I provided the kitchen and the canner and my aunt picked the pears, cleaned the pears, peeled the pears, cut the pears, packed the pears, and processed the pears.

I practically did it all by myself!

the canning stuff, yawn

yer basic hot water bath canning setup

Right there you see the basic canning setup on the stovetop. I began doing this a few years ago, absorbed in some weird home ec flashback. I say weird, because home ec was actually more about how to not kill yourself in the kitchen and how to hand sew misshapen stuffed animals made of highly-flammable polyester. And less about useful stuff like, you know, canning.

Since this stuff often hits Facebook, I bet some of you were in that 7th grade home ec class, or had one yourself. Did you honestly ever cook anything more involved than no-bake chocolate cookies? If that. But I digress, as I am wont to do.

6 pints in 2 hours, man

We (she) canned 6 pints of pears in 2 hours. Of course, many pears do not make it into little jars, and instead find themselves eaten by nephews and ignored by super adorable kittens.

justin, jen, pear, kitteh
Read more on look, we canned pears…

maple granola

maple granola. yummmmmmo

This March was in like a lion, out like a lamb, just as it’s supposed to be, right and good. It’s a slow-brewing Easter revelation: for the past several days, we’ve had our eye on the forecast and those double digits creeping up from 40s to 50s to 70s. We’ve been talking about the weather forecast in awed, hushed tones: it’s going to be 75°F by Thursday! Maybe 80°F on Friday!

We so want to be true believers in meteorology, just this once. We’re ready, after months of snow and ice and wind and mud, to prostrate ourselves at the altar of the Mighty Blue Screen of Meteorological Prophecy.

And today, we are believers. It’s 56°F right now. We see whispers on Facebook: our Chicago friends wax poetic in their status updates about their glorious weather, and we close our eyes and smile, knowing that what’s in Chicago today will be here tomorrow.

in the hippie spirit

maple granola ingredients

And since I’m in this warm hippie spirit, I’ll offer up a foodstuff so linked to hippes that it became an adjective all its own. Read more on maple granola…

March 25, 2010 in vegetarianno comments yet

midnight snack: ravioli

ravioli with olive oil, parmesan, and pepper

Mrs. Q of Fed Up With Lunch was on Good Morning America this morning. She’s a school teacher who made the crazy New Year’s resolution to eat lunch in her school’s cafeteria every day this year…and has found it truly appalling.

Ever notice how, if you already know what a news story is about, it always, always has errors in the reporting? GMA, for instance, gleefully reported that she ate a year of school lunches last year. Dudes, do five seconds of research, mmkay? It really makes you wonder how much is just plain wrong in news stories you see and hear that you don’t have prior knowledge of.

GMA redeemed itself by shooting the interview in classic undercover-whistleblower style, with cloak-and-dagger shadows and voice masking to help keep her identity secret. (She’s afraid she’ll lose her job if and when she’s found out.)

Check out the interview and check out her blog. I knew school lunches had gotten worse than they were back in my day when we wore an onion on our belts, but man, it’s…it’s shocking. Everything disposable and nuked from frozen.

get to the ravioli already

Yeah, so, what did I do with an evening snack craving that didn’t involve sugar? Read more on midnight snack: ravioli…

mini palmiers: what to do with leftover puff pastry

mini palmiers

Here’s one amazing thing to do with leftover scraps of puff pastry: make mini palmiers. A good idea for snacks for a crowd. They’ll go fast, though!

Warning: drunken post ahead

My cousin Tone is in town, and he brought a big ass RV and several other modes of transportation with him. I countted five: the RV, the pickup, motorcycle, 4-wheeler and…kayak.

He’s set up house across the driveway. Yay.

He’s from Texas, like his mom —my aunt — who paradoxically was originally from right here. Like, right in this house. The oldest of my paternal triumvirant, Geriann, is his mom, and okay, this is getting both involved and a bit pedantic.

obliterating my ass at 500 rummy

He came over tonight and we played 500 rummy. Four times. He completely, totally obliterated my ass the first two times. He played it a bit gin rummy style, holding things back to kick my ass, playing mind games, and so forth.

I fixed that right quick

no, mini palmiers are not eyeglasses

Here, have some Wal-Mart wine, Tone.

Did you know that Wal-Mart, like Trader Joe’s, has a house brand of wine that will blow you away? In fact, I think the Wal-Mart brand is even better. It must be, because I’m having to spell-check this very carefully, and I don’t get this buzzed unless the alcohol is very good.

Wal-Mart markets two (at least) wonderful varieties under the Oak Leaf label: cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc. Since I’m partial to reds, I buy the cabernet quite often. It used to be $2.97, and therefore comparable to two-buck chuck. I think it’s better. They just raised it — today— to $3.49, but I still think it’s a steal.

And I’m not some rube. I’ve had some very good wines in my day. This compares.

The first two games of rummy he smoked my ass. However, he was drinking this lovely cabernet the whole time, and by the third game I was able to smoke him, 605 to 390. Yay! I have to say he was a good foil; I’d never played 500 rummy with someone who played so strategically.

And man that was hard to spell.

Ultimately, we went through 2 and a half bottles of Wal-Mart cabernet. He is going to go buy more tomorrow if he knows what is good for him.

remnants of the pink brandywine

As for snacks, we began by stabbing, literally, at a pink brandywine. My tomatoes just succumbed to late blight, and I’m pulling all the tomatoes off the vines. It is very sad, and let us all share a moment of silence for them. He loved it; it was nearly as flavorful as my previous crop of pink brandywines, which means very smoky and rich.

the mini palmiers are almost gone, AND I'M WINNING

A bit afterwards, in the third game actually — coincidentally, the one where I smoked him — he got peckish again. The cad.

how dare he get peckish

I had a smallish pat of scraps of homemade puff pastry in the fridge, and I whipped it out, sprinkled some cinnamon sugar on it, and made a bit over a dozen mini palmiers from it.

He snarfed them.

Granted, anything puff pastry is going to be melt-in-your-mouth delicious, but include cinnamon sugar and you have little bursts of melty spiciness.

yay, he's totally drunk and snarfing mini palmiers

P.S. Did I mention I won the third game? Yeah, the one where the mini palmiers came out.

Song for this recipe: Carrion by British Sea Power. Read more on mini palmiers: what to do with leftover puff pastry…

December 18, 2009 in cookies, vegetarian2 comments

nutty crescents

nutty crescents

Man, the Christmas cookie recipes and pics are piling up. Hmm, I seem to have developed an obsession with them this year.

see? six inches!

I had some trepidation about posting this particular Christmas cookie. As I wrestled with rolling out endless walnut-sized lumps of dough, making crescents seemed a lot fussier to me than it did last year. I distinctly remember the dough being a joy to work with: smooth and pliable, not like silly putty, but better. Read more on nutty crescents…

Off to Iraq! Falafel Sandwich with Tahini Sauce

falafel sandwich

Helen: Hmm, Pita. Well, I don’t know about food from the Middle East. Isn’t that whole area a little iffy?
Hostess: [laughs] Hey, I’m no geographer. You and I — why don’t we call it pocket bread, huh?
Maude: [reading the ingredients list] Umm, what’s tahini?
Hostess: Flavor sauce.
Edna: And falafel?
Hostess: Crunch patties. Read more on Off to Iraq! Falafel Sandwich with Tahini Sauce…

Read more on Off to Iraq! Falafel Sandwich with Tahini Sauce…

May 17, 2010 in sides, vegetarian3 comments

pan-roasted asparagus

pan-roasted asparagus recipe

Everyone knows that a little fat in cooking is a Good Thing. Butter or olive oil brings out flavor, coats food, and makes it glisten and look pretty. What I want to know is the name of the god person who got the brilliant idea to use both at once.

butter and olive oil, together at last

butter, olive oil, salt, and garlic

The plain, quick-simmered aspargus I slapped up earlier is a homey preparation, perfect for quick weekday suppers. This asparagus, cut the same into 1-inch niblets, is fried in olive oil, butter, salt, and garlic for about 8 minutes or so. Infused with flavor, it works when you have company, or a bit more time to hover over the stove with the asparagus. Wait, what was that above? Let’s reiterate. Read more on pan-roasted asparagus…

pickles, to make you jealous

canned homemade dill pickles

Truly, these pickles only appear before you because I’m dead tired. Been working on a house all week and I’m a tad unused to hours of physical labor every day. It’s a good tired, I guess. There’s overdone tired and there’s muscles kind of achy but in the well-used and getting stronger way, and it’s the latter.

Read more on pickles, to make you jealous…

roasted red pepper and kalamata olive pasta sauce

nom nom nom

Sis and Mom were thrilled with the dinner party. “You can do this anytime,” they cooed conspiratorially, and they began plotting holiday schedules. “Thanksgiving, Christmas…no, Mom will still do Christmas…Easter….”

calm before the PARTY STORM

I hadn’t hosted an event of this magnitude before. A bit over a month ago my sponsor, Foodbuzz, contacted me with the offer to host a pasta and wine-pairing dinner party using free coupons supplied by Buitoni Riserva. That shit’s expensive, so I jumped at the chance. Read more on roasted red pepper and kalamata olive pasta sauce…

February 11, 2010 in 100 calorie snack, vegan, vegetarian8 comments

roasted tofu

roasted tofu

About damn time we talked about tofu here, isn’t it? I mean, right up top there, it says “vegetarian, whole foods, and local foods recipes.” And yet, it’s taken all these months for humble tofu to even get a mention. Let’s rectify that now.

You can do this tofu roasted in a sesame and soy marinade in bite-sized pieces or in planks for sandwiches. Chewy and salty, with that smoky depth sesame lends, this roasted tofu is pretty irresistible. I have to forcefully resist just snacking on it as is until it’s all gone, it’s that good. Toss the bits into salads, or fried rice, or whatever strikes your fancy.

why should i care about bean curd?

Tofu’s the much-maligned vegetarian staple, inexorably linked with dirty hippies and horribly inappropriate preparations. Let’s run down some objections to tofu and then airily explain them away. Read more on roasted tofu…

February 2, 2011 in main course, vegetarian1 comment

Step 1: Open a Bag of Fritos

In honor of Snowpocalypse 2011, try this quick to assemble Mexican-style dish made from ingredients that are probably already in your pantry. Makes a yummy Super Bowl treat too!

frito pie, i reckon. mm hmm.

Do you ever read something, get entirely the wrong impression, and walk around carrying that impression, like a treasured memento or a nursed wound, for ages before realizing you were mistaken? Read more on Step 1: Open a Bag of Fritos…

June 18, 2009 in cake, desserts, vegetarian2 comments

strawberry buttermilk shortcake

strawberry buttermilk shortcake

Strawberry season is full-bore, yay! We don’t grow them in our garden, though my grandma used to. Sis has a patch in her garden, though. The only thing fun about picking strawberries is popping them in your mouth while you do it. Otherwise it’s hunched-over, hunt-and-peck labor.

So we order them from a local grower. How do we know when they’re ready? When the ad appears in the local weekly announcing they are taking orders. Then I wind up with 4, 8, 16 quarts or more and knowing what I’ll be doing with some but not all.

And the first thing that gets done with them is to make strawberry shortcake. The recipe is from my dad’s mom, though I can’t guarantee old-world charm: It wasn’t until I was grown up that I discovered their special chocolate chip cookie recipe was the same as the one on the Toll House chocolate chip bag.

It’s a biscuit-like cake, not a sweet, spongy one. Those discs you see in the grocery store? Pure heresy. If you’ve never had a biscuit-like shortcake, you have to try this one. The combination of the barely-sweet buttermilk-scented crumbly cake with sweetened strawberries and whipped cream is to die for. Read more on strawberry buttermilk shortcake…

strawberry freezer jam-boree

mm, jamalicious

I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve never had to learn how to make strawberry freezer jam. I’ve been even more fortunate in that I never even tasted store-bought jam until I was practically an adult.

As a result, I’m spoiled. Spoiled rotten. I turn up my nose at Smucker’s, and even those fancy top-shelf brand jams can’t satisfy.

I never had to learn how to make strawberry freezer jam because every year I saw my mom make it right in front of me. Sis and I got drafted to help pick strawberries in our grandparents’ strawberry patch. I recall crouching low, pushing through the leaves, and searching for the elusive strawberries Grandma insisted were still there even though we were sure we’d gotten them all. Read more on strawberry freezer jam-boree…

December 6, 2009 in salad, vegetarian10 comments

the best coleslaw

coleslaw

Two things, and then the recipe for the best basic coleslaw you’ve ever had.

cabbage, to be sacrificed to the food processor gods

First, we went to Hello Sushi tonight. You may recall that I became a bit cranky on my last visit. Tonight, however, was delightful. Just like last time we were coming off a day working at my aunt’s house, but this time I was with my aunt, Linda, instead of my cousin, and this time we’d changed clothes and cleaned up a bit. We had futo maki and Alaskan soup to begin with. The Alaskan soup was a fishy broth with crab and fluffy cooked egg floating around. Next we had one of the specials, mushrooms stuffed with spicy tuna and deep fried. This one had a lot of flavor and texture going on: salty, umami, creamy, chewy, and then little teeny pops from the roe that was sprinkled on top. To finish Linda ordered a spider roll and I ordered a yellowtail nigiri, both also awesome of course, and she had ginger ice cream (ick) for dessert.

And I didn’t take a single picture. Yeah, I bet reading all that was real exciting. Apparently food writing needs pictures. Read more on the best coleslaw…

the best dill dip evar

the best dill dip evar

Oh my. The garden asplode. Zucchini, broccoli, carrots, green beans, broccoli. And the broccoli isn’t sporting those horribly invisible green worms yet. I think.

There’s still lettuce and peas, though that’s ending now that hot temps have arrived, and cucumbers coming along, and some poblanos that are looking mighty big, and swiss chard with leaves 2 feet long, I kid you not.

fresh dill, about to get snipped to a zillion little pieces

Not to mention dill.

Rather than dump it in, I sprinkled it in JUST FOR YOU

I haven’t felt much like cooking the veggies yet, so I mixed up this dill dip that I love. Did I mention there’s dill in the garden too? Oh, I did. Guess what, it’s a perennial if you let it be so. Well, it’ll die away completely in the fall. But it’ll drop a zillion seeds, all of which will come right on up the next spring. So now there’s a loosely-defined “dill section” in the garden. Get some dill seed or plants for yourself, and you too can effortlessly have fresh dill from spring to fall, every year.

ha ha, she said “dip”

now it's time to stir the whole dill dip shebang together!

This dill dip is polite, yet ruthlessly efficient at what it does — delicately seasoned with a bit of parsley and a touch of seasoned salt and onion warming the background, it’s a dip where the freshness of dill dominates. I just consumed 1 large zucchini, 2 small carrots, and a good number of broccoli florets thanks to this dip. Go veggies! Read more on the best dill dip evar…

September 29, 2009 in daring bakers, vegetarian3 comments

vols-au-vent

vols-au-vent filled with roasted summer vegetables

The September 2009 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

When I read that my first Daring Bakers challenge would be to make puff pastry, and then form them into vols-au-vent — a French phrase that roughly translates to “windblown” for their lightness and airy height — I was trepidatious. Why couldn’t my de-virgination be a nice cake or something? Sure, it might be a complicated cake, but it would have a basis in something recognizable.

brushing egg wash on the vols-au-vent

After several weeks, I took a deep breath and jumped in.

baked empty vols-au-vent shell

The result was light, flaky, buttery pastry baked in shaped shells, begging to be stuffed with fillings sweet or savory. Read more on vols-au-vent…

August 23, 2009 in desserts, gluten-free, PIE, vegetarian23 comments

walnut-oat pie crust

mmm, gluten-free walnut-oat pie or tart crust, ready for your abuse

Now there’s a mouthful. Know why? Because it’s so versatile. It works for the gluten-free folks. It works for the pie folks. It works for the tart folks. It works for the don’t-make-me-get-out-the-rolling-pin folks.

Even better, this walnut-oat pie crust recipe is just a prelude to the fresh blueberry pie I made it with, coming up soon. Thought I’d get you going with this amazing crust first, because it will work with more than just blueberry pies. It’ll work with cheesecake, other pies, all sorts of tarts.

And it’s press-in-the-pan easy. Read more on walnut-oat pie crust…

January 24, 2010 in 24x24, appetizers, desserts, vegan, vegetarian5 comments

We love seaweed, yes we do

This was maybe 1/3 of the sushi we made

We love seaweed, how about you?

People were confused when I told them my aunt Linda and I would be making sushi for January’s 24, 24, 24 event. “Isn’t that raw fish?” they asked, knowing I’m not a huge fan of animal foods. Technically, sushi is rice that’s been specially prepared with vinegar and a little sugar, and topped with or rolled with…something.

nigiri sushi of brown rice with carrot on top, and pickled beet

It could be a shaped piece of rice with a slice of lightly steamed bias-cut carrot on top, tied with a scallion. This is nigiri sushi.

futo maki (big roll) of brown rice sushi with crab, scallion, tamago, and cucumber

It could be a fat roll of rice bound in nori (seaweed) and filled with imitation crab strips, tamago (japanese omelet), scallion, and cucumber. This is futo maki.

inside-out brown rice sushi with avocado, imitation crab, and pickled beets

It could be an inside out roll, with the rice outside the seaweed, all enveloping imitation crab, avocado, and pickled beets. This is uramaki. But everyone calls it inside out roll. ;-)

sweet nigiri sushi with kiwi and candied ginger

It could even be dessert.

Other forms of sushi include battleship roll (gunkan), which we didn’t make, temaki, which we didn’t make, and hosomaki, or thin rolls, which we did make, but I didn’t get any closeups of. Thin rolls use half a sheet of nori and are filled with only one or two ingredients besides the sushi rice.

what’s in this post, and what isn’t

Read more on We love seaweed, yes we do…

what to do with fresh blueberries

What *I* like to do with fresh blueberries!

I have a confession to make.

I cannot bring myself to bake or cook with fresh berries.

Why not? Their season is so short, it seems such a waste to transform them with heat, when frozen berries will do the job just as well. And you can whip out frozen blueberries in the dead of winter, anytime.

But fresh berries in the dead of winter? You know they’re out of season, so they’re being shipped thousands of miles, and hey! *snaps fingers* we’re trying to eat more local here. In that process of being shipped across continents, they’re losing freshness and flavor, and won’t be worth much fresh anyway, in my opinion.

Why not practice a more seasonally-aware cuisine? Gorge on fresh when it’s available, and freeze or preserve once you’ve gotten sick on fresh blueberries. (Tomorrow I’ll be freezing blueberries, and show you how, which is hardly necessary, as it’s so damn easy you’ll wonder why you haven’t done it before.)

In the spirit of practicing a more seasonally-aware cuisine, we’re now eating 99% blueberries and sweet corn. Ha ha.

13 ways of looking at a blueberry

Simple, as usual, is better. There are approximately 3 general ways to go with fresh blueberries. First is sweet, and mixed with dairy and/or grains. Second and third are savory, in salads or salsa.

We’ll get the obvious out of the way first. Read more on what to do with fresh blueberries…

December 14, 2009 in cookies, vegetarian11 comments

whole grain mexican wedding cakes

mexican wedding cakes, russian tea cakes, made with whole barley flour

Guess what? I actually got off my arse and did some research for y’all this time.

moops?

See, the cookie we call Mexican wedding cakes, or Russian tea cakes, or polvorones in Spain, or melting moments in Australia actually has a common descendent: the “sandie” type cookie first developed by the Moors in the Middle Ages, medieval Arabs being very fond of sweets.

mexican wedding cakes, russian tea cakes, made with whole barley flour - notice how they're a bit darker than those made with all-purpose flour

Most commonly known as Mexican wedding cakes or Russian tea cakes here in the U.S., they’re a buttery, not-too-sweet cookie made with finely chopped nuts. The cookie is shaped like a ball, and rolled twice in powdered sugar after baking. The first dusting of sugar is done while warm, which allows the sugar to absorb slightly into the cookie and keeps its crust from getting hard. Since the first sugar dusting usually melts into near-invisibility, a second coating of sugar is applied to make the cookies pretty.

ooh, dramatic!

It’s important to note that Mexican wedding cakes are never baked until browned (else they’d be dry and overdone), so one has to trust one’s recipe for the time and one’s nose for clues as to when they’re done. It’s amazing how many things, when cooking, are “done” when you begin to smell them. Read more on whole grain mexican wedding cakes…

July 23, 2009 in breads, desserts, vegetarian2 comments

whole wheat banana-chocolate chip muffins

whole wheat banana-chocolate chip muffins...mmm

Oh gods. Rotting bananas on the counter again.

I don’t want banana bread. I’ll just put half of it in the freezer and forget it’s there.

Oh! A recipe for banana-chocolate chip muffins. I like chocolate chips, yes I do.

whole wheat banana-chocolate chip muffins have neat insides!

And about 45 minutes later these babies came out of the oven, all gently crisped tops and warm, moist, finely-textured insides. Crap. That sounds really dirty.

Don’t act so smug. I know I’m not the only one who went there.

those moist, finely-textured insides have chocolate chips!

Sis said these muffins were like a spice cake with banana flavor. The brother-in-law only got a bite and wanted more, pestering Sis until she made her own (not this recipe, oddly) the next day. She used mini chips and liked that even better.

Personally, I like the extra depth the cinnamon and nutmeg lend to the hearty whole wheat, rottingly sweet bananas, and chocolate. But if for some wacky, crazy, insane reason you don’t, just omit them from the recipe.

one whole wheat banana chocolate chip muffin, so lonely

What do you like to do with overripe bananas, anyway? Read more on whole wheat banana-chocolate chip muffins…

February 15, 2010 in breads, how to, vegan, vegetarian1 comment

whole wheat levain, day 1

whole wheat levain for sourdough, day 1

Sis told me yesterday she began the starter for Amish friendship bread, which apparently involves mixing flour, sugar, and yeast and letting it sit on the counter. After it develops for several days, you can make sourdough bread from part of the starter, keep the rest of it going, and continue making bread.

I’ve always been a bit meh on the whole sourdough concept. It’s been a rare occasion when I’ve really dug a sourdough bread, but on the times I have, I’ve really, really dug it. The King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking cookbook has a whole chapter devoted to whole grain sourdoughs. I’d avoided it because the whole process seemed so wasteful (I’ll explain why shortly). However, a few months back I bought a different brand of whole wheat flour that was such a coarse grind that I found it incredibly difficult to bake with. I stuck it in the freezer, labeled it “coarse ww flour,” and forgot about it, figuring some use would arise for it sometime.

That time is now. Read more on whole wheat levain, day 1…

February 16, 2010 in breads, how to, vegan, vegetarianno comments yet

whole wheat levain, day 2

whole wheat levain, day 2

This is your brain on SmokeMonster!Locke.

Okay, it’s just the whole wheat levain before stirring it up on Day 2. You know what that liquid is on top? Sourdough breadmakers have a highly technical term for it. They call it hooch, because it’s about 15-20 proof. It’s a result of the fermentation process of the yeast. That would be the wild yeast that I set out this lovely catnip of flour and water to attract. There’s nothing wrong with hooch, so go ahead and mix it back in.

You can tell from the hooch that something’s going on now, but there isn’t a lot of bubbling or expansion going on yet. The levain has a comforting, sweet and fresh flour smell. Read more on whole wheat levain, day 2…

February 17, 2010 in breads, how to, vegan, vegetarianno comments yet

whole wheat levain, day 3

whole wheat levain for sourdough, day 3 - marker

How about a nice tall glass of levain?

Today is Day 3, when we begin feeding the levain twice a day versus the once per day of days 1 and 2. That pic is at 3.5. I’ve put the levain into a tall, clear glass and marked it. In 12 hours we’ll see how much the yeast activity has made it expand.

whole wheat levain for sourdough, day 3 - stirred

Notice all those bubbles, made by that friendly wild yeast I’ve attracted. The catnip is this simple flour-and-water combination, at room temperature. The levain is sticky, and stretches when I stir it before discarding/feeding.

Its developed a slightly fruity, tangy smell, yet still with that sweet and fresh smell to it. I tasted a bit of the levain and yes, there was a hint of sour to it. Fingers crossed — it seems to be coming along nicely. Let’s hope I don’t eff it up somehow. Read more on whole wheat levain, day 3…

March 8, 2010 in breads, how to, vegan, vegetarianno comments yet

whole wheat levain, day 4 and on

whole wheat levain, day 4

Some of you have been expressing…concern…as to what happened with the whole big levain/sourdough plot. I’ll tell you what happened. A winter storm happened. Unripe levain happened. Flat bread happened. And a possibly unconnected but mysteriously coincidental horrible sinus flareup happened.

By day 4, I had a feeling the levain was ripe and active. Compare the above pic to day 3 and see how much the yeast activity made the levain rise in 12 hours. So I put it back into its normal container and fed it again that evening and planned to bake whole wheat sourdough the next day.

When I checked it in the morning, I frowned. Read more on whole wheat levain, day 4 and on…

July 20, 2009 in breads, vegan, vegetarian16 comments

whole wheat tortillas

whole wheat tortillas, all stacked up

Don’t you just get bored with bread sometimes? Bla bla sandwich, bla bla toast. Wouldn’t it be so much more fun to stuff egg salad or beans and lettuce or —

Stop the presses! Shut. Down. EVERYTHING. (We’ll intersperse some tortilla-making photos during this break.)

a rolled out whole wheat tortilla, ready for the pan

The latest casting news for the upcoming HBO production of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series is OUT!

SOIAF, as the series is affectionately acronymed, is the first book series I’ve deigned to read that isn’t finished yet. Let me tell you a story about that. Several years ago people recommended I begin SOIAF. But I don’t like fantasy, I said. You’ll like this one, they said. But the series isn’t finished yet, I said, I’ll be left hanging for years after finishing the last installment. There is that, they conceded.

Plus, and remember this was years ago, there was worry about the Wheel of Time series. The series was dragging on much longer than originally envisioned, readers complained, observing that it seemed much like Jordan was planning to milk it for the rest of his ilfe. They also worried he’d die before finishing it.

That came true.

what a mess!

But, against my better judgement, I began SOIAF anyway. And was blown away, in spite of some over-the-top mustache twirling in the first book, e.g., “Look! They’re so evil they’d nonchalantly kill a little child!” And no, that’s not a spoiler, because as you discover, a heck of a lot of people get nonchalantly killed in this series…but that first one is groan-worthy.

So I read all four books in this trilogy-turned-septology (originally slated for three books, now the plan is seven, and what the hell, is that even a word?) and we’re now waiting on the fifth.

In the meantime, there’s been talk about some kind of movie or series based on the books. Finally, HBO signed on to do a series, and they’re doing the casting now for A Game of Thrones (the first book, slated to be one season, I believe), and we hear about it in dribs and drabs.

get to the SOIAF’ing point already

The news just came out! Guess who’s playing Ned Stark?

Boromir, er, Sean Bean, er, Ned Stark

Boromir! AKA Sean Bean. And I doubt he’s going to be plotting to catapult the ring into Mordor this time. Bean’s a great fit for the look of the character; in fact, all of the casting I’ve seen so far looks to be spot-on. It’s kind of scary.

Maybe I should call these Ned-tillas in honor of the day. No. Oh gods, that’s horrible. They’re whole wheat tortillas, and they’re totally easier than they sound. Seriously. It’s stirring. Then rolling-into-balls. Then rolling-out-balls and slapping-into-hot-pan for 2 minutes. In the middle of that there’s some resting. And the actual making of the tortillas is nearly half an hour stove time, kind of like when making risotto, except without all that tiring stirring.

P.S. These are really fresh, flavorful tortillas.

two more pointless photos of whole wheat tortillas

Did you ever think you’d be making your own tortillas? I mean seriously. I want to know. And before the break, here’s two more really neat pics of the whole wheat tortillas. Read more on whole wheat tortillas…

January 6, 2010 in main course, soup / chili, vegan, vegetarian3 comments

winter soup of carrots, lentils, apple, and sweet potato

How about a nice bowl of cheery orange-colored soup to warm your tummy on a cold winter night? I only recently began to appreciate soup, having been too lazy to properly appreciate it in the past — soup isn’t often stick-to-your-ribs fare and I’m pretty side-dish impaired, as far as getting out bread or making a salad to go with the soup. Read more on winter soup of carrots, lentils, apple, and sweet potato…

December 13, 2011 in main course, sandwiches, vegetarian1 comment

Yummy Black Bean Burgers

black bean burgers

“Naw, I don’t need anything,” I said.

Linda and I were in Panini’s Deli, a sandwich shop right in the middle of the Discount Health Foods store. I’d link you but, you know, they’re too cool to have a website. We were eating the best sandwiches you can find in this godforsaken restaurant desert of a town, but that doesn’t do them justice. These sandwiches are the bomb, made with fresh, semi-trendy ingredients like red pepper alioli or basil pesto mayo, with several vegetarian sandwiches that — surprise! — aren’t all variations of “avocado, tomato and bean sprouts.” Read more on Yummy Black Bean Burgers…