Saturday, December 11, 2010

Moving time

Ok, so it's official! I have moved my blog. If you want to keep following along, I'll be at:

It was time. My mental meanderings have meandered a little too far. I needed something a little more streamlined. A little more focused...get it? Also, though blogger has a lot of things going for it, their set up has irked me for awhile. It's never been as free flowing and user friendly as I know it could be. Getting my site to look in the ballpark of what I was hoping took more work than was necessary (and what fed into my posting procrastination). So I'm excited for my fresh start over with wordpress! Like I said, it's like a band new notebook on the first day of class and my pencil is ready!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Checking in not checking out

Confession: I have more hobbies than can comfortably fit into an average human lifespan.
Blogging is one of them and it fights for my attention. And it fights dirty. A quick link to this very site sits along my bookmarked tabs at the top of my internet browser. It eyes me disapprovingly every time I hop online to send an email, catch up on my Google Reader, check my bank account, look up a saved recipe. I wonder to myself if this is what it's like to have a Jewish grandmother. Guilt that seeps into your very bones. Eats at your soul until you start to do self deprecating things, like write long apology notes to webpages.
My name is Kristy and inanimate objects give me guilt.
I blame this on my grandpa. He said one time that you should never retire until you have plenty of hobbies to keep you busy. Not only did I take this sentiment to heart, I jumped the gun by about 30 years.
So what have I been up to? Well, I've gone to Boston and back. I designed a template for and crocheted a baby blanket for a Husker fan. (Still hard to acknowledge that one). I made one heckuva mac n' cheese and one not so great, but could be fabulous ginger carrot dish. Thanksgiving happened at some point in time. I've learned even more about my fabulous camera thanks to my uncle. I've gotten all my Christmas shopping done. I was told I "lucked into some great shots" by a couple of people. (Thanks???) I ate meat. I've acquired recipes for some very special holiday treats. I started running again. I've read several books. I went on some b-e-a-utiful bike rides. And I've done an inordinate amount of media interviews for work. Print, TV, radio, local events. Huh??? This is not bragging, this is bafflement.
All the while thinking: I wish I...
and went to Murray's...

So I've decided that if I want to make this blog work I need 1) a focus and 2) a mandate. I think I'm going to move the blog. Like a brand new notebook at the beginning of the year, I need a fresh page to gather my thoughts and concentrate. If you're one my followers (secret or otherwise) stay tuned. Any maybe some encouragement? Maybe my public blogging should become private journalling?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fall Foliage

Last weekend was one heck of a whirl-wind. It was homecoming here in CoMo and College Game Day even came to the party along with some old college friends. LP and I had a packed house. Then Mizzou brought home a win in a big, BIG way. Epic - as in the proper noun. But it was also a long day. 5:30-2:30. AM to AM. Phew!

Then Sunday morning (after a bit of a rally) it was off to Kansas City to meet up with my fellow foodie friend Emily. There was a little talk about the upcoming Italy/Switzerland trip and a lot of talk about restaurant plans. It was exciting to get to do some brainstorming on how this vision would come to fruition! And then on Sunday we tromped around the city to get some fall shots. Overall it's been a dry fall around here so the colors haven't popped as much this season as I'd hoped, but I still think both of us managed to get some great shots. Especially Emily.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fall Festival Festivities with Freddie

Did I ever tell you how I love alliteration?

Other things I love: fall festivals. Especially those revolving around food. Here are a few of my favorite shots from this year's Roots N' Blues N' BBQ festival (which gave my my horrendous cold, btw) and the Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival. If the shots get your tummy to grumblin' I've also included a recipe for pumpkin bread. We're one and a half loaves into the three I made Friday in my house. And go for the from-an-actual-pumpkin version. You'll be surprised how ridiculously easy it is!

Civil Liberties
I'll take two bags, please.
Momma Whitney
Corndog Candid
Smokin' Suds
Chips N' Kids
His name is Gourdon

Anti-Establishment Pumpkin Bread
(named in honor of Larry)

1 pie pumpkin (they're small, only about 8" or so in diameter)
3 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup canola oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 cup water
1 cup chopped pecans

Wash pumpkin in warm water thoroughly. Cut pumpkin in half and remove seeds and stringy pulp. An ice cream scoop works great for this. Cut pumpkin down into wedges roughly 3" x 3" (or small enough to fit in microwave safe casserole dish). Add pumpkin wedges into casserole dish along with 1 to 1 1/2 inches of water, cover and microwave for 15-20 minutes or until pumpkin is spoon-tender all the way through. Let pumpkin cool a bit, then remove rinds. If pumpkin is cooked all the way, rinds should peel off easily by hand or with the help of a butter knife. Toss pumpkin meat into food processor (or blender) and alternate running processor and stirring contents until pumpkin's consistency is a smooth puree.

Preheat oven to 350 and grease two 9x5" loaf pans. In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and spices. In a separate bowl, mix together 2 cups of the pumpkin puree*, eggs, water and oil. Slowly incorporate wet mixture into dry mixture. Add in pecans. Divide batter evenly between two loaf pans. Bake for 60 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let loaves cool for 15 minutes, then remove from pans and let cool completely on racks. Wrap tightly in saran wrap to store. Loaves can be frozen if you can imagine not finishing them both in the near future.

*I got three cups of pumpkin puree out of my one pumpkin. You can either save the extra puree for another recipe or adjust the recipe to utilize all 3 cups and yield an extra loaf of bread.

Pumpkin Pie Brownies, What?!

I have too many hobbies. Sometimes it feels like I have so many that I don't actually have time to do any of them. As if they all cancel each other out.

Take for example this blog. This blog focuses a bit on photography, which focuses on food (haha...pun!), which focuses on my explorations in the kitchen, which focuses on my love of the awesomeness that is food and nutrition. So in order to have time to blog I must also have time to buy food, prep food, cook food/bake food, photograph food, eat food, clean up after mess of making food, upload pictures of food, then waaaaaaay down that yellow brick road blog about the whole shebang. And since I'm the kind of person who's always thinking about the end game I'm exhausted before I even make my shopping list.

I think I've set too many expectations on what I have to accomplish in any one day/week/month for me to be considered "good" at something. Guilt sets in if I don't post for over a week, and that seems silly since (in theory) I blog for the enjoyment of it, not the stress. This is not a requirement in my life.

But I love do doing it, so this is me publicly announcing that I'm lowering my expectations of myself. Huzzah! Cheers to the imperfect blog!
Ironically, todays culinary entries actually came out perfectly. And I'm glad, too; my psyche needed it. Fall is my faaaaaavorite season of the year, but also the busiest. Strike one against my cooking efforts. Then right smack in the middle of it all I got some sort of something that had me living off rice noodles and popsicles for a week (when I was awake enough to eat anything). Strike two. Strike three? There was no strike three, baby. Once I rallied enough energy to get back into my kitchen I hit it out of the park. And the crowd goes wild!!!
They're the same dishes I had alluded to a few posts back.
My old stand-by, vegetarian chili, and a recipe I've had bookmarked for months, pumpkin pie brownies. Oh baby. If you enjoy a fudgy, fall-spiked treat, this brownie is for you. But if you love a flavor-packed, sweet on the front, spicy on the finish chili, well then you'll just have to come over to my place because this recipe is not up for grabs. Assuming that I have a recipe. Chili is so gracious to my experimental tweaks that I have yet to make the same batch twice. That's why this is the dish I love to make over and over again. And I'm not wanting to argue I make the best chili out there, but for me this is my best pot to date. Though I'm staying mum on my extra special add-ins I did include a snap shot of my spice blend. I wouldn't be surprised if there are folks out there who could identify some or all of them! But here's a freebie in case it passed your notice, a touch of garlic is involved.
But I encourage you to make the brownies.
Adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (yes, they're vegan)

For the brownie layer
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted
1 cup pureed pumpkin
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
1 Tbsp tapioca flour -or- arrowroot -or- cornstarch
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
For the pumpkin layer
1 cup pureed pumpkin
2 Tbsp tapioca flour -or- arrowroot -or- cornstarch
1/2 cup soy milk (or cow's milk)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch ground nutmeg
pinch ground allspice

Handful of chocolate chips to decorate

Preheat oven to 350 and grease 9 inch square pan.
To make the brownie layer:
Melt the chocolate (10 second intervals in the microwave works for me, stir between each). In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin, sugar, oil and vanilla. In small bowl combine flour, cocoa powder, tapioca, baking soda and salt, then slowly incorporate into wet mix. Last, mix in the melted chocolate.
To make the pumpkin layer:
Add all ingredients into a large mixing bowl and stir to combine.
To assemble:
Use a spatulate to spread the brownie mixture into your prepared pan. Make sure the batter goes all the way to the edges. Once the batter settles, use your spatula to indent a shallow pit for the pumpkin pie layer to settle into, leaving a 1/2 inch un-sunken border all around. Slowly pour in your pumpkin layer, trying to keep it from overflowing your border. It will seem like to much mix to fit, but if you pour slowly the pumpkin puree is thick enough to build up on itself instead of out. Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the center of the pumpkin layer looks fairly firm and the edges of the pumpkin layer begin to turn a burnt orange color.
Let cool on the counter for 20 minutes, then transfer to the fridge for another 1 and 1/2 hours to chill and set completely. Then decorate with chocolate chips and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Inanimate Animations

Dear blog,

I miss you. Not only that, I miss reading everyone else's blogs, too. I think Google Reader is getting aggravated with me right now. He's become bloated - ready to bust at the seams over this past week. Just aching to tell me lots of interesting things. If only I had the time.

I have interesting things to share, too. But not tonight. Not tomorrow night either. Thursday's a maybe, but I'm not holding my breath. Friday? Maybe Friday. I should probably cook something on Friday though. I forgot to mention that the kitchen feels snubbed as well. Though as I write this I'm starting to feel like my life is spent pleasing inanimate objects. Freddie did get some lovin' this weekend, but again, that's for another day.

Until that other day...hope all is well.

Lots of love,

Monday, September 27, 2010

On the town with Freddie

I know. The last one. You're thinking, "A ceiling fan?"

I took Freddie out for an inaugural spin this weekend. Nothing fancy. I was too scared to take him anywhere until I got a camera bag, and once I walked out of the store with him nestled in the carrier I figured now was as good a time as any to get some shots. Mostly just testing the waters. I learn how to use things best by doing vs. reading so I just wandered around for an hour or so snapping shots of whatever caught my eye. Stretching my camera's legs if you will.

But I know, the ceiling fan. I don't know what it is about that shot. It was so off the cuff I don't even remember framing the shot. It was more: point, focus, shoot. But I'm obsessed! I think I just like how the whole shot has a golden hue and the camera caught the motion of the blades without it being completely blurry. Maybe this is my next calling in life? Fan photography? Somewhere out there an interior designer is agony.

Any who-dinger...for those parties interested (is anyone out there interested?) cooking is also back on my itinerary. A fall chill is finally in the air and this calls for a welcome shift in my recipe selection. So as long as work doesn't consume my life - as it threatens to this week - I should have some food posts on the horizon. Two dishes in particular. One is and old favorite of mine, which I consider to be the genesis of my passion for cooking. The second is a recipe I've had tucked away in one of my cookbooks since APRIL! I've been dying to bake this one up and, God willing, I'll have the chance to this week.

Until then..

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Freeze Frame

My oh my oh my I love this camera.
This sweetie, who henceforth will be named Freddie, won my heart over faster than you can say "shutter speed". Any sense of buyers remorse I felt in the wee hours of Sunday night have washed away. Me and this camera will be makin' a lot of sweet shots together.
A week ago I would have blogged about the who, what, where, when and why of how I came to get a camera such as this, but not tonight. No, tonight is like falling in love. You could recap everything that got you to that point of falling in love with your significant other, but frankly, who the hell cares. You're only thinking about the future. Better macro shots with food photography; deeply saturated and crisp fall foliage shoots; sweeping Italian vistas...oh the list can go on! Must go now, though. I feel the urge to do pirouettes around my room.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Edamame and Mango Salad

I got the morning off today. First on the itinerary was sleeping in as much as possible considering my bedroom window overlooks a major street (I just can't NOT have the windows open in the fall) and morning traffic is one thing I can't sleep through. I realized that this doesn't mean you actually have to get out of bed, and since I still can't run on my bum ankle I enjoyed the rainy, fall weather with a book until my stomach lured me down to the kitchen. Now, post-breakfast, I figured this would be a good opportunity to catch up on some blogging. Last time I referred to a bunch of cooking I had done over the labor day weekend, which included this asian-infused salad.
I love making salads like this because of their adaptability to whatever you have in your vegetable bin or whatever flavors you're craving at the moment. This salad, in all honesty, came to fruition because of bit of leftover jalapeño pepper I had in the fridge, which made me crave a spicy-sweet combo, which caused a special 1-ingredient stop at the grocery store for mangos which went well with the edamame I've had lying in wait in my freezer for just such an opportunity as this. About 40 minutes later I had dinner. And lunch for almost a week.

If this combo sounds good to you, I've typed up the recipe below. Take into consideration how you're going to use it, though. I'm a big fan of getting in some green and leafy veggies whenever I can, so I liked this over some spinach or dark romaine leaves and because of this I went heavy on both the flavor and volume of dressing I made. If you're planning on eating it on it's own, or as a topper to toasted slices of chewy french bread then I would dial it back. All in the quantities I listed below are a starting point. Taste, add and mix as you go. The grain you use is also equally variable. I came across a mix of grains that Kashi puts out in the grocery store the week prior so I gave that a spin. Quinoa, barley or simply some brown rice is equally interchangeable.

Also, this salad tastes great warm, but the leftovers are just as tasty served cold. If you want to prepare it ahead of time to eat later I would add a bit of lime juice into the mix, otherwise the mango juices begin to brown the whole salad - and who wants to eat a brown salad?
Edamame and Mango Salad
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 Tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp soy sauce
1 large clove garlic, minced

2 cups cooked grains
10 oz shelled edamame
1 mango, diced
2 small bell peppers, diced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced very small
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup shredded cabbage
1 bunch green onion, chopped

salt to taste

Cook grains in a large pot per their individual cooking times. Usually though, this gives you 30-50 minutes to chop everything else.
While grains are cooking away, thaw frozen edamame in some hot (but not boiling water). I do this by putting the edamame in a small colander, then putting the colander in a large bowl of hot water and letting them soak. You'll want to change out the water once in the beginning because it will cool down quickly with the frozen beans.
Next, add dressing ingredients into a small, airtight container and shake until well mixed.
Finally, combine grains, edamame, mango and veggies (except cilantro) into a large bowl. Pour dressing over salad and toss until everything is thoroughly coated. Taste and add a little of this or a lot of that until it's just right.
Serve over a bed of greens, toasted bread or solo, garnished with some fresh cilantro.

As you can see, I also added some orange zest as an after thought. If I had any on hand, I think freshly grated ginger would have been a good addition, too.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Orange Curacau Macaroons

I did a LOT of cooking over the 3 day weekend and now I have SO many recipes I want to write about! So many that I've put it off for days because I simply did not know where to start. Finally I thought, start with the most delicious! And so I give you Orange Curacau Macaroons.
But before the recipe, a bit of backstory. This was actually the third baked good I produced over the Labor Day weekend. The first was a blueberry cake that piqued my interest due to its use of molasses instead of conventional sweeteners like sugar or honey. Now, in the notes of the blog post she (Heidi) mentions that if you don't like molasses you likely won't enjoy this cake. But I had never really cooked with molasses before and my love of trying new ingredients plus a gallon sized bag of frozen blueberries in my freezer overruled any downside to this recipe. So the recipe shot up to the top of my to-make list. It turned out beautiful! But alas, I do not love molasses. (sad face) At least...I do not love molasses that much. I tried really hard to. All weekend I kept cutting little sliver-slices of the cake, taking a bit and then (over the trash can) exclaiming, "I do not like this cake!"

*Sigh* Silver lining: it gave me an idea for another cake using this same concept but with peaches and honey. Hmmmm, I have both right now...we'll see...
Next up was actually a research cake for work. As a diabetes educator and dietitian, it's part of my job to know the inter-workings of Splenda. So when a colleague of mine came to me with a one-step pineapple upside down cake recipe with some nutritional highlights (nuts, fruit and low in saturated fat) and she wanted to know if it would taste just as good to replace the sugar with splenda. Enter Kristy. This was actually great experience for me as I've never baked with splenda before. I'm all for upping the nutritional ante in recipes, but I've never really tried to fake-out sugar. I think it's the lingering Julia Child in me. Anyway, the cake tasted great - diabetics rejoice! But I screwed up this tiny little insignificant ingredient called baking powder.
This is why baking and I haven't gotten along in the past. It's too much of a science vs. an art. You miss an ingredient and your cake will taunt you for it. I imagine the Pillsbury doughboy turning his nose up in disgust, cock his chef's hat back and march out of my kitchen on his nubby, doughy legs only to stop, turn his head back to look at me with the slightest tinge of pity/disdain and then walk out of my life forever. Whatever. Go knead yourself dough boy. Did you SEE my recent lattice work? Not that I completely missed the baking powder. I just didn't have the recipe on me and figured I could do it from memory. If I were cooking, this thought process would have worked I tell you! It would have worked!!!!

Sooooo anyway. I needed a baking boost. A reminder that I knew what the heck I was doing. And these macaroons saved me from the brink, because they are gooooooooooooooooooood. And by good I mean GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD! They are a bright, sweet orange flavor, which I keep getting a wiff of every time I open up the container I'm keeping them in. Four out of four taste testers agreed, these cookies are frickin' delectable. They melt in your mouth like pillows of wonderfulness. Mmm! The sweet taste of success!

OK, so the recipe. I got the idea from Heidi's Limoncello Macaroons which she riffed off of Patrick Lemble's Pinched Orange Macaroons. Since I already had a bottle of curacao from a trip to Curacao two years ago sitting in my pantry my batch turned out to be an orange version somewhere between the two of theirs. I had been waiting for a good reason to use the curacao, but since I'm not a huge fan of fruity, umbrella drinks that occasion never seemed to arrive. This, however, seemed like the perfect reason. Side note: did you know that true curacao only can be purchased in Curacao? They don't export the stuff. Everything we buy here in the US is a knock off. Kind of like buying "champagne" made in California. And one final note, if you've never used almond paste before, you can make it from scratch, or find it in the baking aisle of your grocery store.
Orange Curacao Macaroons

14 oz (or two 8 oz cans if that's what you can find) almond paste
1 large egg white
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 + ~1/4 cup powdered sugar + LOTS more for counter and coating
1 Tbsp curacao
Zest of 1 orange (~ 1 heaping Tbsp)
1/2 tsp fine grain salt (i.e. not kosher)

Preheat oven to 350F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In large bowl use mixer to beat together almond paste, egg, almond extract and 1/2 cup sugar until creamy. Next add in liquor, zest and salt and beat until well combined. Now gauge your dough. You want it to be sticky, but not the completely unworkable sort of sticky. If it's too much of the latter, add a couple of tablespoons of the reserve powdered sugar at a time until the dough is still quite sticky, but not oozing.

Heavily "flour" your counter with some of the reserve powdered sugar and get out a flat, clean knife. You'll use this to cut the rolled dough into 3/4-1" pieces. I used a metal icing spatula, but a bread spatula or even a non-serrated butter knife would work well.

Break your dough into fourths and, one at a time, roll it out on your sugared countertop until the rolls are approximately 1" in diameter. You can do half the dough at once, but considering the tackiness of the dough I feel it's MUCH more manageable in smaller chunks. Keep dusting the countertop with extra powdered sugar as needed. I found I needed much more powdered sugar than I would have expected due to keep the dough from sticking to counter.

Once you have a section of dough rolled out, use your knife to cut it into 3/4-1" pieces with a quick sweeping motion. If your knife starts to stick into your dough, coat it with a bit of sugar as you go, which will help. Transfer all your macaroons to your baking sheets and let rest for 30 minutes.

You'll likely use this time to reclaim your countertop.

After 30 minutes, you can either bake the macaroons as is, or use a light 3-finger pinch to shape the cookies into a rounded pyramid. Let bake for 15 minutes or until a light golden-brown color. Remove from oven and let cool completely before storing in an air-tight container.

Makes approximately 4 dozen macaroons.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I don't bake Blackberry PIE!

Once upon a time baking scared the bejesus out of me. This particular once upon a time was about 9 months ago. Boxed cupcake mix gave me anxiety. An-xi-e-ty. Then on Monday I was out to dinner for my friend Alex's birthday and my Chocolate Cherry Coma Cookies came up. I had made a batch to give as part of a wedding gift that weekend and a few friends got the leftovers. Since there were a few people out with us that I didn't know super well one of them asked, "So you're a baker?" I almost laughed out loud that someone would even suggest that. Me?! Heck no I don't bake! I cook!
During the same dinner conversation another friend, Nick, gave me grief that I never made the blackberry pie that I had allegedly promised via a facebook conversation. He was mistaken. I do not bake pies.
Then guilt set in.
And somehow I made this.
So as I was waiting for my pie (my first pie) to finish baking, I got to thinking. Over the past few months I have pulled out of my oven: pound cake, soft pretzels, a couple of types of scones, endless batches of cookies and, in a few minutes, a pie. All from scratch. All using bags of flour and sugar that I've been buying as regularly as cereal.
So...shucks...I guess I am a baker.
No recipe post today. I have yet to taste the finished product since I'm still full from dinner so that will have to wait for another day. Each individual item tasted lovely, so I have high hopes. If you'd like to use the recipe I tried, check this chica's site out.
And sorry to not only be MIA for over a month, but to leave you on such a DOWNER post! Eek! More to come...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Insomnia bites

I can't sleep.
I'm pretty sure it's the combination of a too long nap this afternoon + too much food in the evening + too much on my mind tonight. Being unable to sleep is like being trapped. Being trapped in my head, in my bed, in my room, in the night. The perfect cure for everything right now would be a walk, but that just doesn't seem like the best thing to do by myself at 1am. This makes me wish I had a dog. A big, calm, easy natured dog that could go on a walk with me any time of the day.
Alas, no dog. Just a blog.
Instead I peruse some of my favorite foodie internet sites for meal inspiration. I've been craving poached eggs lately - and there just ain't an animal free substitute for that one. Bummer. I'm sure I'll have an egg again someday. Albeit a egg from a chicken that actually lives like a chicken ought to live. I have nothing against eating animals or things that come from animals - I just have an aversion to eating things that are raised in conditions that keep them on the brink of death (or, let's be honest, push them over the brink) in the kind of conditions that remind me more of that human battery scene from The Matrix than Old McDonald's Farm. Without a second thought we spend the extra money to buy toilet paper that's two-ply and quilted to pamper our backsides but pay so little attention to the quality of food we fuel our bodies with. I gives me indigestion.
I have patients that go days - DAYS! - without eating a single piece of unprocessed produce. Breakfast: two sausage burritos and a diet coke. Lunch: fettucini with chicken and texas toast. Snack: crystal light and cheetos. Dinner: fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, ice cream for dessert. Repeat.
They use better gas in their cars, better fertilizer on their lawn, better shampoo for their hair. Absolute crap in their body. The sad thing is you only get one body. New car every 5 years, new lawn every spring, new inch of hair every 2 months. One body.
Somewhere in the last few generations we forgot how to cook. How to make things like broccoli or carrots taste good instead of boiling it into mushy submission and then assuming they always taste that aweful. Instead we all hung up our aprons and started paying minimum wage to short order cooks like Marie Callenders, Dave Wendy, Chef Boyardee, and Stouffers (because nothing comes closer to home). Why are we surprised when we "suddenly" have heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, knee replacements, slipped disks, sleep apnea, stroke, hypertension, trouble conceiving, lethargy...
Everyone blames the environment we live in. I agree, it's a huge factor. But WE create the environment we live in. Think about it. You do, every last bit of it. We created the demand for a McDonald's in every town in America, not the CEO of McDonald's. It's the simple economics of supply and demand. Demand less, supply goes down, environment changes.
But it's true, once you get to a certain point it's hard to turn the tides to a healthier lifestyle, but you have to start somewhere don't you? Or would you just rather continue to get sicker and sicker? The way I see it, it's try or die folks, try or die. But maybe I'm just tired....

Monday, June 7, 2010

Whole Wheat Strawberry Rhubarb Scones

I delved a little further into the world of baking this weekend.
I already mentioned that I had picked up this book from the library and Saturday I marked the 3rd recipe I've gotten to try from it. I have to alter 90% of the recipes to make them vegan, and most of the flours I don't already have on hand, but I'm still contemplating outright purchasing this book. I love how it stretches the limits of what you can do with both typical and atypical flours and grains. Since I can modify most any of the recipes to fit what my pantry actually contains it allows you todecide how ordinary or extraordinary I want to make each recipe.
I had gotten some fresh rhubarb from a coworker this week and have been trying to decide how I wanted to use it. I haven't been brave enough to try a pie just yet, and didn't feel like the dainty, showiness of making tarts so when I came across a recipe for Strawberry Barley Scones it hit a foodie taste bud. Since I recently splurged on a bag of quinoa flour, and I have plans to buy some bread flour for another recipe in this book I opted out of using the barley flour it calls for, instead swapping in some whole wheat flour.
The real highlight of yesterday's cooking was actually the strawberry rhubarb compote. After I did a midpoint taste test I actually said (to no one in particular, mind you) "Oh Wow!" I've never made any sort of jam or compote before and it's so infinitely better (even from a novice's standpoint) that I can't ever imagine justifying using the store bought stuff in the future. In all these created a great and filling breakfast scone. Don't expect a copy of the uber-sweet versions Panera sells. This is better.
So, for the recipes! First, as you can expect, the batter for the scones is adjusted to be vegan, but I noted her [Kim Boyce's] original ingredients in case you want to go that direction. Second, I used the last of my non-frozen strawberries in the compote and added a touch of balsamic vinegar thanks to a suggestion made in Good to the Grain. Third, if you'd like to try the barley flour, just replace it 1:1 for the whole wheat flour I used.
Since is should be sufficiently cooled off now, I'm off to have a slice of homemade lasagna! And when I say homemade I mean homemade. 3 1/2 hours homemade. Recipe to follow...
Strawberry Rhubarb Compote
7-8 rhubarb stalks, rinsed
1 1/2 cups strawberries, rinsed and stemmed (sliced if strawberries are larger than 1")
1 + 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar (optional)

Slice the rhubarb in half lengthwise and cut on the diagonal into 3/4" chunks. Put 3/4 of the rhubarb in a large pot along with the 1 cup of brown sugar. Hold the rest of the rhubarb to the side for later.
Turn heat onto medium-low and stir to mix the sugar and rhubarb. Cover and cook for 15 minutes until the rhubarb starts to release most of it's juices.
Remove the cover, add in the strawberries and increase the heat to medium. Stir the sauce regularly for the next 15-17 minutes until it thickens up enough that your spoon can leave a trail at the bottom of the pan. Add the last of the rhubarb and balsamic vinegar and let cook just 1-2 minutes more. About now is when you should taste test to see if you'd like it sweeter; if so add the last 1/4 cup of brown sugar.
Pour the compote into a bowl to cool. This will be much more than you need for the scones recipe. The rest (roughly 2 cups) will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Whole Wheat Strawberry Rhubarb Scones
1 cup + 2 Tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 cup AP flour
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces cold Earth Balance Buttery Sticks (or 4 ounces unsalted butter)
1/2 cup soy milk mixed with 1/2 Tablespoon vinegar (or 1/2 cup buttermilk)
1 Tablespoon ground flax seed mixed with 3 Tablespoons hot water (or 1 egg)
~1 cup Strawberry Rhubarb Compote (or store bought jam)
1-2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350F. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper, spray lightly with non-stick spray and set to the side.
Sift together all the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Cut the "butter" into 1/2" pieces and add them to the dry mixture. Use your fingers to break the butter into the flour until it's the size of grains of rice to flattened peas. As Kim notes, the more quickly you do this, the more the "butter" will stay solid, which is important for the success of the recipe. I actually stuck my "butter" in the freezer for a bit so it was less likely to melt in the bowl.
In one small bowl mix the soy milk and vinegar, stir and let sit for ~10 minutes, in another combine the ground flax and HOT water and let sit for ~3 minutes so it can thicken up (see picture really does have the same thick/emulsifying affects of an egg). Once they've set up, combine the two mixtures into one bowl, stir well, and then add to the dry mix. Mix the batter until all the ingredients are just barely combined.
Transfer the batter onto a well-floured surface. If it's too sticky to handle, add a little more flour until it's more workable. Divide the dough into two pieces. Flour your hands and pat each of the two pieces until they're 3/4" thick and approximately 7" in diameter. Make sure they aren't sticking to your work surface once you're done, otherwise you'll have some troubles moving the finished scones to the baking sheet!
Cover one disk with the compote and top with the second disk, gently pressing them together so that the dough settles into the jam. Sprinkle the top with sugar then use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 8 slices - just like a pie.
Move the scones to your baking sheet and bake for 22-26 minutes, making sure to rotate halfway through. You'll know when the scones are done because they're tops will be golden brown and some of the compote will bubble over onto the pan. Eat while they're still warm or later the same day for best taste.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ribollita and Quinoa Cookies

It's been awhile. Mostly because I've been out of town to celebrate the nuptials of this lovely lady:
My kitchen wasn't any less busy, though. Last weekend, despite the hot and humid temperatures, I made my first pot of Ribollita, a rustic peasant dish meant to use up day old bread. About a week ago I had bought a bag of french rolls from the farmers market. Unfortunately, I was out and about most every night that week and the rolls went practically untouched. Before I knew it they were on the verge of going stale. Not being one to waste good food I threw them all into the freezer and googled recipes for day old bread. And voilá, ribollita! I browsed through about five or six recipes to get the gist of this soup dish and finally ended up with the recipe below. I can't say it's from any one recipe in particular, but I did use this one as my base, if you will, and made the adjustments noted below. I'm a lover of soup, so it doesn't phase me to eat hot dishes like this when it's 85 degrees out. However, the heartiness of the dish as a whole with the flavor bursts from the olives would make this a great pick-me-up heart warmer in the dead of winter. Goes even better with a glass of semi-dry red wine. Mmmmm.

Next up were Quinoa Cookies. For these I adapted recipe from, who adapted a recipe from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce, a cookbook devoted to using whole grains in baked goods. If you're like me and are curious about when the heck you are supposed to use things like teff flour then you'd probably dig this cookbook, too. I actually bought this book as a hostess gift for a friend of mine and have been debating getting a copy for myself ever since. Kim (understandably - considering she's a Pastry Chef) is heavy on the whole fat dairy products, including butter, making this cookbook very much un-vegan. Therefore, I'm borrowing a copy from my library (I say it all the time - one of the best things taxes have ever paid for) to see if I'm able to adapt enough recipes to make it worth the countertop space. This is the 2nd recipe I've tasted out of the cookbook, 1st one I've made myself - both good. This one is a spin on the classic chocolate chip cookie using quinoa flour (made from the same grain I talked about here) and rolling out the dough to make cookie cutter shapes. Being my first dive into quinoa flour it definitely came as a surprise how much different these cookies tasted straight from the oven vs. day 2. You taste the grain a lot more on day 2 and the cookies take on a very prominent earthy/nutty taste. I want to make these again, but next time I plan on starting from Kim's original recipe, adjusting for veganness, then adding some finely chopped walnuts or pistachios to the mix to harmonize with the flour a little more. The chocolate isn't a bad add-in, but the flavors felt like they were competing too much after day 1. I'll post this recipe after I test out the above changes.

Last up isn't a recipe, just an ingredient lying in wait for me. Strawberries. Lots of them. What you see here is roughly 1/3 of the plunder I took when I went strawberry picking on Thursday. I got away with 8 1/2 lbs in all that afternoon (not including the pound I think I ate right off the bushes). The ones you see here have been cleaned, de-stemmed and frozen so that I can use them in my oatmeal over the winter. I'm debating about going back to pick another 5 lbs or so this week and try my hand at canning jam. It will all depend on if I can find a strawberry jam recipe that doesn't add in sugar, but instead uses juice and juice concentrates. I know it's been done, I just have to figure out how. And find a very, very large pot. I'll keep you posted.




Olive Oil (3-4 glugs, or enough to cook all the mirepoix, aka celery, onion and carrot)
4 celery stalks, chopped
4 medium cloves garlic, chopped
3 medium carrots chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped
15 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 heaping teaspoon dried thyme (or substitute Herbs de Provence if you have it)
1 heaping teaspoon dried basil
1 heaping teaspoon dried oregano
1 bunch kale, stems trimmed off and leaves chopped to 1" pieces
3 cups cooked white beans (I used navy beans) + 1 cup cooked white beans hand mashed
8 cups vegetable broth (you can substitute water in a pinch but more broth = more flavor)
~1/2 pound bread/4 dinner rolls/1/2 loaf, torn into big, but bite-sized pieces
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 1/2 Tablespoons lemon juice
good black olives - the kind you get from an olive bar, not a can - pitted and chopped

Combine olive oil, celery, garlic, carrot, and red onion in large stock pot and let sweat over medium heat for 10-15 minutes. If you're starting to brown/saute your veggies the heat is too high. Add in the tomatoes, red pepper flakes and herbs and simmer for another 10 minutes. Then add in the kale, 3 cups beans and broth and turn up heat to bring to a boil. Once boiling turn the heat down to a simmer and continue cooking until the kale is tender (10-15 minutes). Next, stir in the 1 cup of beans and torn bread. Continue to let the soup simmer for 20-30 minutes so that the bread can break down and the soup will start to thicken up. Before serving, while still on the burner, stir in the lemon juice and salt (if needed - depends on if you used broth and fresh or canned beans). Pull the soup off the burner and let sit for another 10-15 minutes to allow the soup time to thicken up a little more (and cool). Dish out into bowls and top with chopped olives.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Americano e Italiano Feasting

Right now I'm enjoying one of my favorite parts of the week: Saturday mornings. Everything is quite and only the true early risers of the world are awake - a decidedly cheery and optimistic group of people. I'm sure I've inherited this gene through the male line in my family. My dad and my dad's dad all seem to enjoy this time of the day as much as I do and I have memories going way back of me and my grandpa eating Eggo waffles with dark Karo syrup before anyone else gets up or me watching Saturday morning cartoons and eating Raisin Bran while my dad reads the paper. So while I wait for my steel cut oats to finish cooking (soon to be mixed with Vietnamese cinnamon and blackberries) I thought I'd do some blog updating.

Yesterday I got to make a feast for some friends who were coming over, one of them being my friend Emily who's also been going vegan. Needless to say, I was excited. On the menu? Chips and my homemade salsa as an appetizer then fiesta corn salad with edamame (which in hindsight needed more dressing), curried wild rice, green apple slaw and lots of grilled veggies. Dessert was peanut butter chocolate banana pops which I'm kicking myself for not taking a picture of. They are a MESS to make but so worth it!

We spent the rest of the night around my friend Abby's fire pit laying down the framework of our Italy 2011 trip, a mere 1 year away! Right now the plan is to start in NE Italy (Venice) and work our way down in a big, elongated "C" going through Tuscany, Rome, Pompeii, Pisa, Naples and ending up in Sicily with Emily and I potentially starting the trip a little earlier in Switzerland.

I've listed the things I'm most excited for in descending order:
  1. The food in general
  2. Wandering around Rome with no map and no agenda
  3. Cafe con leche and a croissant for breakfast...every morning
  4. Seeing the Alps again
  5. Getting to speak the little Italian I know, the word due (two) in particular.
*Sigh* The only plus to it being a year away is that it gives me another 52 weeks to save up money to go. But for today I'm going to spend my love on CoMo. I'm done with my oatmeal and now I'm off to the farmer's market, then a few hours of landscaping at church and after that the possibilities are wide open.

Ciao, ciao!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Until we meat again

The past week has been whirl-wind. Up to Michigan and back with a layover in St. Louis, buffered by one or two 13 hour work days. Needless to say I've barely been sleeping, let alone blogging. However, in the interim I'm happy to announce that I have officially veganized!! Woohoo!

Prior to my Michigan departure (hi MI crew! Miss you!) I finished off the last of my non-vegan food stuffs knowing that when I entered my house again it would be as a veg-only lady. And although the trip up there wasn't for the best of reasons, being the optimist that I am there were two pluses. First, it was so nice to spend a solid three days with some cousins I don't get to see nearly often enough. And second, it was my final test in the veganization process - travel. I may not be a pro at navigating the vegan lifestyle yet but over the last month I've definitely learned how to maneuver all the potential hazard situations: eating out, catered events and travel.

I've made or tasted LOTS of deliciouso foods over the past week which I'd love to tell you all about, however I'm exhausted (note sleep-deprived comment made above). I just hated that it had been so long since I updated this thing. So instead I leave you with this image. It's me holding Fritz's frozen custard (NOT to be confused with ice cream!). I wasn't actually craving Fritz's at the time, but I was driving back home knowing that once I got there, there was no turning back. Fritz's just seemed like the perfect send off. It's a summer tradition of mine dating all the way back to my booster seat years. I have memories of getting maraschino cherry juice in such a mess everywhere my parents had to pull the booster seat out of the car and hose it down. So this quick roadside stop was more of an homage to the memories than a last ditch dairy binge.

And the flavor? This use to be a 10 minute ordeal, deciding my Fritz's concrete flavor. Sunday it was easy - oreo cookie concrete. The Kristy classic. A tried and true flavor that never fails me. Yum.

So cheers to you steak and salmon, ice cream and omelets, brie and barbeque. Until we meat again...

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Drat! Foiled again!

Yesterday while perusing the ingredients section of my aforementioned 2nd favorite cereal I came across some sad news. Frosted Mini Wheats cereal has gelatin in it. Saaaaadd! Unfortunately gelatin is an animal product and therefore non-vegan. Why FMW needs gelatin in it, I have no clue so I'm hoping there's an alternative source of frosted, wheat-y goodness out there. In the meantime I'm no longer blogging about any prepackaged/boxed/manufactured food products as I seem to be a jinx.

We made some great memories FMW. Until we meet again...

Monday, April 26, 2010

"You're pretty proud of yourself, aren't you?"

I was thinking I should do an everyday vegan post to make sure I wasn't creating an illusion that vegan cooking is an all day event. I'm having a few friends over on Friday for dinner before seeing an encore screening of the movie Holy Wars at our church. It originally played at this year's local film festival and the director is coming back for this showing Friday. Overall it should be a great night from start to finish.

So I had been brainstorming things to cook for dinner on Friday and risotto crossed my mind. Actually, a better description would be that it came to me, and then stuck there...all day. Since I've never made risotto before I thought I'd better try a run through tonight to avoid any Friday night calamities. I also thought it would go well with fish (and roasted carrots), which gave me a great opportunity to finish off the last bit of tilapia I had in my freezer.

If you caught that slip there your suspicions are correct. Fish is not vegan. My diet hasn't been 100% veganized yet primarily because I've been working on finishing off some non-vegan foods in my pantry and freezer. But there's only one thing standing in my way after tonight, though. Me and those stinkin' MorningStar sausages I posted about a few weeks back. Ironic?

Luckily, if I ever find myself missing those sausages I can just stir myself up a pot of this risotto! A+! I taste tested the risotto to decide if it was finished or not and the "Mmmmm" from my lips and the grin on my face must have been ridiculous because my roommate looked at me and said, "You're pretty proud of yourself, aren't you?" Whether you make my version or not, if you want to get more into cooking definitely give this dish a shot. It's a relatively simple meal to make, but it carries this air of sophistication that will make you feel accomplished. I also like that it forces you to not read a recipe, but go with your gut. I think the biggest leap between a recipe follower and a chef extraordinaire is having the confidence in your own intuition and taste buds to make a delicious meal.

I looked through a few recipes to get the gist of the risotto concept, but didn't follow one what so ever - though I was tempted. Therefore the recipe below is a Kristy-original. But I highly encourage you to disregard everything I type below and create your own risotto-original, which I'm now calling "Risotto-O's".

Mushroom and Broccoli Risotto
Serves 4-5 as a side dish

~4 cups vegetable stock, heated
1 small onion, diced
2 "glugs" EVOO (~2 Tbsp)
dash salt
2 cloves minced garlic
1 large handful mushrooms, chopped
1 cup arborio rice (what makes risotto Risotto)
3 "glugs" dry white wine (if you forced me, I'd say it was 3/4 cup)
2 cups broccoli (thawed/warmed if frozen)

Warm the vegetable stock in a pot on a back burner of your stove. Meanwhile, heat EVOO in a large, deep skillet and add onions and a dash of salt. Saute the onions until they begin to caramelize and then add in the mushrooms and garlic and saute for another 30 seconds or so. Make sure the oil isn't so hot that your garlic will burn. Add arborio rice and wine and stir consistently for about 1 minute. The wine will start to infuse into the rice and become very fragrant. Go ahead and pour a glass for yourself at this point.

From the pot on the back burner, add in one ladle full of broth and stir every couple of minutes until most of broth is absorbed. Add in another ladle full. Repeat this process until the rice is cooked through. You'll be able to tell when it's getting close because it starts looking more and more creamy. You may or may not use all of your broth, so go by your sense of taste, not by how much broth you used. If you plan on adding any extra veggies do so 1/2 to 3/4 of the way through the broth adding process. Sooner for heartier veggies, later for more delicate. My broccoli was par-cooked so I added it with my last ladle of broth.

If you're being all fancy-pants you could garnish with rosemary, sliced and toasted almonds or green onions.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Onward we march

Here we go, another week another Saturday filled with experimental vegan cooking. This past Saturday was particularly productive. By 7am I was out of bed by my own accord. I've always thought sleeping in on a Saturday is a waste of precious free time, unless of course "sleeping in" is actually laying in bed relaxing. Relaxing and sleeping in are two completely different occupations in my book.

By 8 I was dressed and had cleaned a few rooms, paid bills and started making breakfast (steel cut oats - my weekend favorite). By 9 I had enjoyed breakfast, cleaned the kitchen and was in route to the farmers market. From 9 to about 11am I was lost in foodie heaven somewhere between the farmers market, the new HyVee and Clovers, with a quick swing by work to pick up my gym bag I left on Friday.

By the time I got home I was in that agonizing crossroads where you're starving but nothing sounds good to eat, until I remembered that I had impulse-bought a box of frosted mini wheats, my second favorite breakfast cereal, earlier that week. If you're wondering, my first-favorite cereal is cocoa puffs, but since I have a hard time calling this "breakfast" cereal (it's more like puffed dessert-in-a-box) I can't justify buying it more than once every 3 years or so. This means I won't see cocoa puffs in my pantry again until sometime in early 2012 or so. But I digress...

I had spent all morning on the hunt for ingredients for this weekend's feast. I took a small hiatus to visit some friends, Abby and Garrett, and see their new puppy - Titan, a very cute lab/chow mix, and finally, finally watch The Hangover. But by the time I came home it was apron on and sleeves up.

First up, I got an Indian dish called Palak Daal started. The best way to describe it would be a Indian-flavored lentil stew with chopped spinach and tomato. I got this recipe off a favorite site of mine - I highly recommend checking it out. While that was simmering away I switched into baking mode. I had spent a good chunk of my Friday looking for a vegan peanut butter cookie recipe, and the hunt came down to two recipes. One that was also from 101cookbooks and another from a great cookbook called Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by the same authors of Veganomicon, which Emily had sent me via email after asking her for some help (Emily's a much better baker than I am). In the end I chose the latter because it seemed like a much heartier cookie. It's chuck-a-buck full of oats, which was what I was in the mood for this weekend.

So here we are Sunday with the reviews. The Palak Daal was a let down. I've enjoyed several different Indian dishes in the past, and this one wasn't terrible, just not something you really want seconds of. I will give it one plus - it does fill me up. And for those keeping tabs, it's a great source of, what? Protein! I'll be working on the leftovers all week and am hoping to find a way to tweak it into savory submission.

Now the cookies...oh the cookies. The cookies fulfilled every meaning of the word scrumptious. They aren't your traditional criss-cross peanut butter cookie, but they are a chewy, oaty, peanut buttery delight. Definitely the kind of cookie that would pair well with a cold glass of milk whether it's cow, soy or almond. I've posted the original recipe from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar below but I made a few adjustments to my version. I used whole wheat pastry flour instead of AP, almond extract instead of vanilla and instead of rolling the cookies in nuts I used chunky peanut butter. I have a thought on switching out the brown sugar for maple syrup next time. So if anyone happens to try these and make that switch, please let me know how it turns out!

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies
Makes 2-1/2 dozen

Peanut butter and oatmeal partner up to create another stick-to-your-ribs oatmeal cookie, even wholesome enough for breakfast if you must eat cookies then. Briefly rolling the dough in salted peanuts really makes this one, so definitely use those over the unsalted variety. For serious ice cream sandwiches, serve this excellent cookie with vanilla chocolate chip dairy-free ice cream.

1 1/3 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups oats
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup creamy natural PB
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup nondairy milk
4 teaspoons ground flax seed
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup roasted, salted peanuts, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two baking sheets.
2. In a medium-size bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Sir in the oats and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, beat together oil, peanut butter, sugar, brown sugar, nondairy milk, flax seeds, and vanilla until smooth. Fold in half of flour/oat mixture to moisten, then fold in the remaining half.
4. Place the chopped peanuts in a shallow dish. Drop 1 generous, rounded tablespoon of dough per cookie into the peanuts, pressing the nuts into the dough. Move the dough onto the cookie sheets, leaving about 2 inches of space between each cookie. Flatten slightly with moistened fingers.
5. Baked for 12-14 minutes until the edges just start to brown. Let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to racks to complete cooling.