All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast. ~John Gunther

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

justify my love: the garlic edition

over brunch this weekend, the food blog came up. here's how the food blog has changed my life: I have discovered that I have a serious garlic issue. I won't call it a problem, but let's just say that my instinct with garlic is to lean hard on the extreme; I always at the very least double the number of cloves required for a recipe and, when just free-wheelin' in the kitchen, tend to throw in a good half head or so for a simple stir fry. my hands tend to reek of garlic at all times, let alone the impression that my breath can leave.

thank goodness, then, that the NYTimes has my back: Unlocking the Benefits of Garlic. not only does this explain that garlic is good for you, but it emphasizes that a lot of garlic is good for you. y'all should be thanking me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

brussel sprouts return to the neighborhood

here's my theory: people who don't like brussel sprouts just don't know they like brussel sprouts. here's the corollary: brussel sprouts are the enigma of mainstream vegetable life. here's my example: how many folks out there know that brussel sprouts look like this prior to packaging:

it's a stalk - cool, right? and so my premise is that if most people don't even know how brussel sprouts come into the world, how can they possibly know how to treat them right? here's my suggestion for a night on the town with your dear friend, monsieur b. sprout, chaperoned by my culinary panacea, garlic.

1. preheat the oven to 350.

2. mince a lot of garlic. like, five cloves at least. go nuts. or hold back, but know that I would be going nuts with the garlic if I were you.

3. wash your brussel sprouts and peel off the top leaves. cut brussel sprouts in half and lay them on a baking sheet with the newly cut side facing up. the number of brussel sprouts is really of no importance. how many people are you feeding? what else are you serving? are you nervous about the taste? (don't be. keep washing and cutting brussel sprouts. this is good.)

4. when you've maxed out your sprouts, sprinkle them with olive oil and minced garlic. I like to toss on a sesame seed-seaweed-sea salt mixture as well, but you can skip that entirely, or use plain salt and pepper.

(also, please take a moment to observe my DIY pot lid on the back burner. nice, huh?)

5. check on the brussel sprouts after 20 minutes. you want the insides to be soft and the outside leaves to be crunchy. a good hint is to examine the state of the garlic. if it's still brown and roasting, you're fine. if it's looking burnt, well, take those puppies out of the oven.

6. if you're feeling crazy, scrape all the brussel sprouts and garlic-olive oil mixture into a bowl and toss before serving. otherwise, just use a spatula and place these on a plate. it's good stuff. I had these with brown rice for lunch this week, added them to a soup for extra flavor, and just ate them cold out of the fridge. seriously. this will change your mind about brussel sprouts.

and if I'm wrong, you're not using enough garlic.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

bumpin' garlic bread

garlic bread is super easy to make. also, it involves garlic, which means it is awesome. at sarah elisabeth's prompting, I'm going to share a little garlic bread recipe. I think this recipe may have just come straight out of my head and I'm pretty certain I make it slightly differently each time, so please feel free to tweak where it seems necessary. the version I'm writing down right now may not have reached its optimal garlic-ness.

1) begin with a loaf or half loaf of bread. the exact kind of bread doesn't really matter, but it should stem from the same philosophy as the baguette - crusty on the outside and soft in the middle. I'm a sucker for sourdough, but sarah elisabeth is not (among others). pop the bread into the oven as you preheat to 325.

2) while the oven (and bread) are preheating, mince yourself some garlic. if you're hardcore about hand mincing, be my guest. however, I like the garlic press in this instance, because you get more of a garlic paste that works better for spreading. I use a lot of garlic. like, five cloves minimum, but that's because I think garlic will save us all.

3) take the bread out of the oven. it should be warm and a bit toasty, but not burnt. slice it into inch-wide pieces, leaving the loaf connected at the bottom. like gills. you want to make bread gills.

4) with a knife, spread some buttery thing (I use earth balance, but real butter has been known to work as well) in between the slices. it doesn't have to be perfectly spread or fully covered. this is going to work as a...palette setter for the garlic. plus, buttery-tasting things are generally a hit.

5) with your fingers, insert the garlic or garlic paste in between the bread gills. rub the insides of the slices with the garlic so that there's a complete coating. consider the bread a house for garlic-y goodness.

6) wrap the loaf up in tin foil. I have a theory that this keeps the garlic from escaping into the ether, but maybe I made that up. either way, it will keep the bread from burning when you pop it back in the oven.

7) take the bread out of the oven after 15-20 minutes. check it. maybe put it in for longer. or don't. really, this is your call.

7.5) now, I do have to say that I have been occasionally criticized for having actual pieces of garlic in my garlic bread. apparently some people just want the garlic flavor without the garlic. if you must, take a fork and scrape out the pieces of garlic before you serve your garlic bread. just don't do it when you have me over because I will be offended on behalf of the garlic.

8) place loaf on a pretty plate. serve. allow people to rip off pieces and enjoy.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

onion soup could use some improvement

So I want to start by highly recommending something. It is vegetarian, but not quite vegan, and it tastes yummy, and it comes in a box and all you have to do is heat it up:
Pacific French Onion soup is very yummy, you just heat it up, and, add croutons and some grated hard cheese, and, voila!

It's just broth though, so I thought it would be yummy to saute some onions to put in the soup. This came out pretty well, but could have been better. I put some olive oil in the pan and then chopped a very pungent onion from the farm share and sauteed on low for like 20 minutes. The onions weren't as translucent/brown as I wanted them, but we were hungry, and I figured that I'd add the soup and they would keep getting limper.

sauteeing onions:

It came out perfectly nice to eat, but I think it would have been nice if the onions had been much limper and more caramelized - who wants crispy onions in their french onion soup? next time I think I will put the heat on a little higher and saute the onions a lot longer. c'est la vie.

We ate it with some bumpin' vegan garlic bread though, which sarah emily made and I'm hoping she'll post about it soon :)

Monday, November 12, 2007

beef stew - are you tired of my weekend yet?

So here comes, finally, the beef stew I've been threatening to make for ages. I just realized I forgot to take a picture of the finished product, but you'll just have to deal with seeing the process.

Also, will someone please buy me a digital camera? the phone camera sucks.

Once again, as with the spaghetti sauce, this is my dad's recipe. but all mistakes are mine :)

For starters you need 1.5 pounds of beef. I like to just buy the precut stewing beef, because then you don't have to trim it. I still cut it into smaller pieces though. If you can't get it precut or it's much cheaper not too, get a nice piece of beef and trim off the fat on the outside and cut it into cubes about 3/4 inch.

I bought stewing meat, so I just made the pieces smaller and then dumped them into my big pot and turned the gas on about medium. I stirred every so often until the meat was pretty brown on all sides. This creates some nice juicyness and drippings that will make the stew taste good. add some salt and pepper at this point as well. while it's cooking chop one small-medium sized onion or half a large onion. when the meat is pretty brown, add in the onion. and then it will look like this:

Next it's time for spices. lots of spices. add dried thyme, basil, and marjoram (marjoram is key - it's totally what makes it taste/smell like stew!) I usually add about 1-2 tablespoons of each - but mostly I just play it by ear. whatever I have enough of. Stir.

Then comes the tricky part - not that tricky, but my dad made it sound tricky when he was first explaining it to me. add 2 tablespoons of flour, like this:

stir the flour until the meat and onions are nicely coated. this is what will thicken the broth into a tasty, thick stew.

next add water. I like to add a lot. the general rule is 2 cups of water for every bullion cube that you are going to add, and you need to bring the water level up at least as twice as high as the meat, but I like to bring it up much higher. This time I added 6 cups of water, but then I added more later, so it might be prudent to add it all at the beginning. now turn the heat up to high. then I added 3 beef bullion cubes - however, these were extra large bullion cubes, and I think made the stew a bit saltier than I liked it, so if you used extra large bullion cubes, I'd go with 8 cups of water for 3 bullion cubes.

Next use a wooden spoon to scrape the sides and bottom of the pot so all those nice drippings the meat made earlier get mixed into the broth.

Add a bay leaf.

now lower the heat so that the soup is simmering, not boiling. just little bubbles. Let it sit on the stove simmering for about an hour. if you only have half an hour, that's ok, but longer is better.

While it's doing that chop your vegetables. My dad always says 3/4 cup of carrots and 3/4 of a cup of potatoes, but I always add more than that because that's my favorite part. I think I chopped 1 1/2 cups of carrots and 2 cups of potatoes (peeled first) and it was about right.

The carrot was actually all one carrot, because it was an enormous carrot from my farmshare. the potatoes were also from the farm share, but unlike the carrot, were not so spectacularly large as to require me to take a picture of them:

Look how big that is!!!

After an hour, add the carrots, and stir.

let the carrots simmer for ten minutes in the stew, and then add the potatoes.

finally, add the secret ingredient:

2 tablespoons of plain tomato paste, and stir. You will see that this completely changes the color of the stew, and makes it amaaaaazing.

cook until the potatoes are nice and tender - but take it off the heat before they get mushy!

You can check the salt and pepper at this time and adjust to taste as needed. I say less salt, but sometimes really peppery stew is excellent.

you can serve it right off the stove once the potatoes are done, but it is best 1-2 days later out of the fridge. if the broth has dissipated, feel good about adding a fair bit of water to it before it hits the stove/microwave for reheating. The leftovers are always better than the original.

blueberry muffins. so not vegan.

On Sunday morning I woke up and made blueberry muffins. blueberries were on sale at wholefoods, but still ridiculously expensive. nonetheless, I powered through - I combined two recipes from the internet and then modified them - because I'm awesome like that.

I hadn't made muffins in ages, so I was a little worried, and I ran into several snafus, but then gina marie told me they were the best muffins she's every had, and then I felt good about it. they are really freaking good.

so first I went to whole foods in my pajamas and slippers because I had forgotten to buy muffin cups. I am now the proud owner of 60 organic unbleached muffin cups.

then I sprayed the muffin pan with Pam and spread it around in there with a paper towel. Then I put a muffin cup in each little round. I had 4 foil cups yet so I used those to see if there was any measurable difference - there wasn't.

then I began the long and arduous process of making the muffins, which was a pain in the butt because I have no mixer (it turned out I had my hand blender, but I couldn't find it at the time.)

because of the lack of mixer, I but a stick of butter (1/2 cup) in the microwave for 20 seconds so that it would be somewhat beatable, then I added 1 1/4 cups sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and went to town with a wooden spoon for about twenty minutes. (read some new york times and checked my email while I was doing it). When I felt like I couldn't stand to make it any "fluffier" I gave up and mixed 1 3/4 cups white flour and 2 teaspoons of baking powder in a separate bowl. I decided against buttermilk because, really, who needs buttermilk? so I measured out 1/2 cup of organic 2% milk and I alternated mixing in spoonfuls of the flour mixture and pours of milk until it was all well blended with my eternally useful wooden spoon.

I was feeling saucy so I also added a little more than 1/2 a teaspoon of lemon flavoring to the batter, just to see what would happen.

I had 4 of those little-bitty plastic containers of blueberries. I mashed one of the containers in a bowl with the back of a spoon, and stirred it into the batter. I took the other 3 and tossed them with a 1/4 cup of flour in a larger bowl. then I took the flour-dusted blueberries out of the bowl and mixed into the batter what was left of the flour I used to coat the blueberries. Finally, I gently folded in the flour-dusted blueberries.

Then I used my wooden spoon and my blueberry crushing spoon and dumped a sizeable amount of batter into each muffin cup (there were 12) and tried to keep it even until I had used all the batter (they get very full! - it's ok!)

Finally, I sprinkled the tops with sugar.

Then I put them in the preheated 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes - really I just waited till the tops were light brown because my oven timer didn't work (I'm kind of incompetent with that.

The results... mmm...

yay! aren't you proud of me?

Vegan Blueberry Buckle

On Saturday I had a vegan potluck on my list of things to do, and I had promised to make a dessert. This was maybe not the best idea since I am no vegan baking expert, but I turned to the internet, which is always my friend in times of baking crisis. On the Post-Punk Kitchen website (created by the same vegan chef extraordinaire referred to in sarah emily's last post) I found a user-submitted recipe for blueberry buckle.

I have never made a buckle before, and certainly not a blueberry one, but it seemed like a good adventure. My roommate was using the cake pan to make Jello (she offered it up to me, but I decided I would just be crazy) so I decided to make it in a casserole pan. Why not?!

Here's what I did (lightly adapted from this recipe:

I used my hands to rub earth balance around the inside of my casserole pan.

In a big silver mixing bowl I mixed:
1/4 cup corn oil
1/2 cup sugar (so maybe some vegans won't eat that. so sue me. I'm not about to waste by buying sucanat when I have white sugar sitting in my kitchen!)
1/4 cup soy yogurt (plain plain plain unsweetened)
1 pinch of salt

I mixed these with my very incompetent whisk-that-is-missing-a-handle. It worked ok though, this was not hard to mix. It smelled good too. Like yogurt.

Then I added 1 cup of whole wheat flour and beat that in with the special whisk.
then I beat in 1 teaspoon of baking soda and an additional 1/3 cup of soy yogurt (who knew soy yogurt was useful for anything??)

I spread my dough in the greased casserole with a spoon
then I dumped a little more than 2 cups of frozen blueberries on top and tried to even them out with my hands and not have frozen blueberries all over my floor for stepping on.

Finally I had to make the topping. the vegan topping presents some challenge - vegan fake-butter melts so easily that it is hard to make it crumble. I tried, and failed, but it came out ok anyways:

I scooped 1/4 cup of Earth Balance out of its tub with a measuring spoon and put it in my measuring cup since that was already dirty anyways.
Then I dumped in 1/3 cup of whole wheat flour, and a 1/2 teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, ground coriander, and ground ginger. This smelled really good.
Then I mushed it around with my (clean) fingers and tried to make it crumbly, but then I realized that the more I worked it, the more my fingers warmed it up, so I gave up and just sort of tried to crumble it evenly over the top of the buckle.

Then I put the casserole in the preheated 350 degree oven and left it there for just under an hour (but for a bit more than the 50-minute recommended baking time because I was worried that since my pan was deeper but not as big that it might not cook ok in the middle.)

Finally I took it out, put a lid on it, and put it in a bag and took it on the T to porter square, where it was eventually consumed :).

Here are some pictures (thanks Hilary!):

me eating the buckle because I wanted to try it before I had to go:

with vegan condoms:

also, fyi, a buckle seems to be something with a cake-y bottom, a pie/cobbler middle/ and a crisp/crumble top. Make sense? In theory this was supposed to be cut into bars, but since I made it in a round casserole, that was not happening. Plus then it would cool too fast. but the point is, the bottom is solid and thick and full of soy yogurt-fortified cake, so you could cut it into bars.

Get ready for more posts soon. this was a hard-cookin' weekend.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

3am snacks at 48 fairmont...

1 package of ramen noodles
lots of frozen diced mixed veggies
half a can of corn
all the broth out of sarah's bowl
all the broth into gina's bowl
an electric blanket

= two happy campers at 48 fairmont having a happy 3am picnic in sarah's warm cozy bed. the end.

Friday, November 9, 2007

my new fetish

you know what I want? this:

Isa Chandra Moskowitz is pretty much the bee's knees when it comes to incredible vegan cooking. almost every recipe I have that I use to dazzle the masses comes from her punkrawk hands. her previous cookbook, Vegan with a Vengeance, is basically my bible. this new book is huge, gorgeous, and full of recipes I cannot wait to try. I'm in love with it. when it becomes mine, I will have a hundred of its hardcover, animal-free babies.