All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast. ~John Gunther

Sunday, December 30, 2007

norwegian raisin buns - vegan style

My mom made raisin buns all the time when I was a kid, and I would always complain because she didn't put enough raisins in them. When I found this recipe for a vegan version, I decided to become master of my own destiny. Raisins galore!

I borrowed the recipe from here:

I took 1/2 cup of earth balance and put it in a saucepan on low. Then I added 1.25 cups unsweetened soy milk to the saucepan. Careful not to let it boil!

In a bowl I combined 4 cups of flour, 1 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of cardamom, and a packet of dry yeast and stirred.

Then I poured the earth balance/soy milk mixture over the dry ingredients, and added a little more than a cup of raisins. Then I kneaded it with my hands for about five minutes. I set it, in the bowl I had kneaded it in with a handtowel over it, on top of the stove (the oven was preheated to 430F so the stove was nice and warm) for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes I dumped the sough out on a cutting board coated in flour and kneaded it for another 3 or 4 minutes. I kneaded it into something of a flattish square, and then I used a sharp knife to cut it into about 20 pieces - 4 slices one way and three the other. I took each little dough square and mushed into a ball and set it on a cookie sheet.

Finally, I had prepared a mixture of a few tables spoons of sugar in some warm water on the stove. I brushed this over the top of each bun. ("brush" may not be the word - lacking any kind of pastry brush, I used a spatula.)

Then I put them in the over for about 12 minutes.

When I took them out they required some spatula-ing off of the cookie sheet (maybe I should have greased it) but sliced in half and spread with some earth balance - they tasted exactly like they should.

Fair warning - these aren't a dessert so much as a snack or something to have with coffee. They're not super sweet. yummy though ;)

sunday rose muffins

sometimes breakfast is the hardest meal of the day. you wake up, you're hungry for something tasty, but you haven't been awake long enough to make actually decisions about what that something is. you could go out and buy something, but that would involve putting on shoes. cereal isn't serious enough and pancakes are so...expected. before the first cup of coffee is even half done, the whining has started and the morning is off to a rocky start.

this is when it's time to bust out the muffin recipes - especially if you've never made muffins before. as I type this, the muffins are in the oven and I have no idea how they'll turn out. however, it's been determined that if they taste anything like the batter, they'll taste pretty damn good. I clicked over to the post punk kitchen's website to get an idea for flour-sugar measurements, but the rest is pure invention. the cardamom is a tribute to sarah elisabeth's norwegian roots since norwegian baking puts cardamom in everything, thus making it the most delicious bread products to grace the planet.

*1 3/4 cups of whole wheat flour
*1 1/4 cups of sugar
*1 tablespoon baking powder
*1/4 teaspoon salt
*1 teaspoon cinnamon
*3 teaspoons cardamom
*1/2 cup soy milk
*1/2 cup vegetable oil
*1 tablespoon vanilla yogurt
*frozen raspberries
-preheat the oven to 400 degrees
-mix together the dry ingredients
-in a separate bowl, mix together the wet ingredients
-combine the two, suckers!

at this point, I poured half of the batter into a separate bowl (reusing the wet bowl). I added the defrosted raspberries to one batch and let the other batch stand as is. I opted to pour in some of the raspberry liquid too, which may have been a mistake. it made the batter much more liquidy than it had been. but, since the muffins are still in the oven, I have no idea what the consequences of this action will be.

-fill a greased muffin pan with the batter, filling the tin 2/3 of the way
in this version of muffin adventures, the six on the left are raspberry, the three on the far right are walnut, and the second row in from the right is just plain muffin flavored:
okay! now this is the part where I take the muffins out of the oven and see how they turned out. excitement!

twenty minutes later...

the muffins, folks, they're damn good. I'm not going to lie. they're pretty fantastic. you should make these. see how delicious they look? so delicious. they're very sweet (I blame the sugar), but they taste like divinity. so moist and full of cardamom. they fell a little bit because I wanted to make sure they weren't burning and kept the oven open a tad too long. oh dear me. sometimes I am so excellent at solving the breakfast dilemma.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

the (macro)biotic woman

come january 1, I'm back on the macro wagon. I fell off during the summer when I decided that it was more philosophically sound to fully partake of my farm share and eat the local deadly nightshades (otherwise known as potatoes and tomatoes and peppers) than to avoid them and eat foods grown outside of my neighborhood farm. but now the farm share is over, the rules have been bent, and I'm so far outside of macrobiotic guidelines that it's a bit of a sham to even claim the title for my own.

I got into macrobiotics about a year ago through a book that had been recommended to sarah elisabeth. two things struck me as I studied the basics of this diet:

  1. macrobiotics is a lifestyle choice, not a diet. it's a philosophy that manifests through food but is actually about the way a person chooses to live her life;
  2. macrobiotics is pretty much exactly what my nutritionist had me doing when I was prepping for my back surgery - and that period of my life was the healthiest I think I've ever had.

the description of macrobiotics was so sane and so familiar - creating a diet that is balanced with a person's life and the world around her - that any sort of extremes were diminished in face of the larger picture. (I will admit, however, that it didn't hurt that I had just discovered I was lactose intolerant. cutting out all dairy is much easier when eating it gives a kid crippling gas.) plus the people who were teaching me about macrobiotics, like my friend robin and jessica porter, were so normal when explaining the details to me. yes, there was talk about the yin and yang of foods, but all of it was delivered with a shrug and a take-it-or-leave-it attitude. it was the most rational food talk I'd heard in a long time.

macrobiotic eating is hard to describe to people who have never heard of it, especially because there are some parts of macro living that are guaranteed to raise the crazy flag. like the fact that many people insist that macrobiotics can cure cancer. I don't believe that (not many folks do, it turns out). but I do believe that what I eat should be a balance of foods that are good for me and good for the world around me. I do believe that how I eat is more than just the food on my plate.

this is probably the most straightforward explanation of macro eating and life that I've found. in addition to the macro food pyramid, it also suggests that fresh air, a good night's sleep, and singing are key parts of macrobiotic life. any dietary guideline that tells me that singing a song is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, well, you've got my heart right there.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

getting saucy

my cooking can arguably be described as variations on a theme: I cook some vegetables up and serve them on brown rice or whole wheat pasta. sometimes I throw some polenta in there but mostly I don't. however, even I sometimes want a bit of variety. and that's where the sauce comes in.

I don't like heavy sauces because the whole point of my cooking is that I want to know what my food tastes like. but I do want a sauce that will make my veg taste like super exciting versions of themselves. and, if possible, I want to make it myself.

there is an art to the sauce. I am aware of that, although I have no idea how to access that art. for me, sauces are still in the lab stage - I mix some things together and hope that nothing blows up. (I've finally learned to do my mixing outside of the dish in which I'm cooking.) but I like this experimentation. I don't get a white lab coat - a long-standing dream of mine, but I do get to feel like I'm creating a dish versus enabling one.

last night's sauce recipe: 1 healthy teaspoon of red chili paste, 1 healthy pinch of brown sugar, and 1 slow pour of soy sauce. mix in a glass. mix with the carrots, broccoli, and red cabbage over medium high heat. get a little reckless and splash some red wine out of your glass into the pan. enjoy over brown rice.

Monday, December 10, 2007

lentil soup

I work at Downtown Crossing near the Filene's Basement building. When I used to buy my lunch (that is a no-no now, since I am not spending money) I would go to this amazing place that was literally a hole in the wall of the Filene's building called Mediterraneo (sp?) and I would buy their lentil soup and it was amazing. It was agreed in my office that it was probably the best lentil soup
*ever* - but I was truly the strongest adherent. It also came with mouthwatering warm pita - for which I broke my whole grain oath. This was an oath-breaking kind of place.

The Filene's building and everything in it have closed until 2009 or some other godforsaken time when I will probably not be working here anymore. Mediteraneo didn't make it, and so my lentil soup life has been really lacking. I've looked for substitutes, but they're just not right. Nothing in a can compares. The Whole Foods one is too watery, the Bagel Plus one is too oily. I haven't even tried the Finagle A Bagel one because it's too expensive.

So it's been many months since I had good lentil soup, and in the summer and when it was still warm, that was sad but OK, but now I am just over it. So I decided to try to make my own. I read like 18 recipes on the internet, and finally decided to use Post-punk Kitchen's French Lentil Soup recipe as my base:

I managed to make it without going to the store too - everything I needed was in my house! yay simple food.

I drizzled some olive oil in my big stock pot, and then added a whole chopped yellow onion and a huge cubed carrot both from the farm share. I added the onion first, but I let the whole thing saute for quite a while - till it almost smelled like it was burning (but then not quite). Then I chopped pretty much an entire head of garlic (6 cloves?) and added it in, along with a teaspoon and a half of paprika, a teaspoon and a half of thyme, a big dollop of Dijon mustard (Grey Poupon, there was a theory in my office that the secret ingredient in Mediteranneo's soup was mustard) and a teaspoon and a half of salt and probably two teaspoons of pepper (I would have added less salt, I think). after about two minutes I plopped in half of a one of those very large cans of crushed tomatoes and stirred. Then I covered it and let it simmer for 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes, I uncovered the pot and added 4 cups of water and two veggie bullion cubes and brought it to a boil with the cover on. Then I took the cover off and added 2 cups of generic lentils from stop and shop and 2 bay leaves to the soup and stirred. I let it cook for about an hour with the cover on and then added about 1.5 cups more water. Then I brought it to a boil and let it cook for about 15 minutes with the cover on, and then another half an hour or so with the cover off.

I think I took some pictures, but I don't have them uploaded yet. I'll add them when I get them.

The soup came out really well, it was very thick, which is what I prefer, and I served it with some warm crusty bread, which is always a plus, It reheated well with a tablespoon or two of water added per serving before reheating in the microwave. It wasn't quite mediteranneo - I think it was a little too tomato-y, but I think the mustard gave it the right kick.

I'm going to make it again soon, I think!


remember those breakfast potatoes referred to in the earlier post about breakfast in Norway? I made them the other day to bring to brunch at Max and Lyssa's. And someone thought to take a picture!

I had carrots from the farm share, so I threw those in, and I bought a red pepper and used the potatoes and onions I had from the farmshare. I used oil in stead of butter to enhance vegan-ness. also, heavy on the pepper, and long on the cooking. I put the lid on at the end too. mmmm mmmm.

Monday, December 3, 2007

minimal minestrone. as in, where's the broth?

I decided that I wanted to make minestrone soup. I was having an unknown number of people over to play games, and I have never made minestrone soup. So I found a recipe, and then didn't follow it. yay! The recipe, like most of them, came from allrecipes. The original is at:
It involved a lot of chopping. Luckily, I had help. and lots of potatoes and carrots. yay farmshare!

I chopped 4 big carrots and sarah emily chopped 4 big potatoes. We also chopped a yellow onion and a lot of garlic, I don't remember how much. We put that all in a big pot with some oil oil and started sauteeing.

Then I added a can of tomato paste, a can of red beans (kidney?) and white beans (canellini maybe?) and a can of corn from gina marie's cubpoard. then I stirred. then I added a can of vegetable broth and a 1.5 quarts of water. and then some more water. (another two cups?). This soup ended up suffering from a lack of broth, so I think it would have been appropriate to add even more water at this point. maybe in total 2 cans of broth and 2 quarts of water.

I am trying to remember what spices I added, but since this was 10 days ago, it's hard. I remember that I had fresh oregano, I think, and gina marie chopped that, I think, and we added a lot of that. also salt and lots of pepper, and I bet I put some dried basil in too, because that's yummy. I think probably whatever you like works well. at that point I think it looked like the picture to the left.

I let it simmer for about 45 minutes at this point - I wanted to make sure the potatoes were nice and tender. I added some more water too.

Finally, I added a package of whole wheat elbows and cooked it for another 15 minutes or so. Then Mark stirred.

Then people ate lots of it with crusty bread that Lyssa and Max brought, which was excellent. And then there was very little broth left, and it looked like the picture to the left. Luckily though, people brought more food to the potluck, so the joy did not have to end!

Kristin brought yummy salad with special candied nuts and amazing brusselsprouts, as demonstrated below.

The salad is a little blurry, but it had amazing nuts and was pretty colors and very tasty. and she did not bring it on a pink plate. I just only have pepto pink plates because that's what I got from my grandma when she moved to Cali. the brusselsprouts were seriously to die for. so good. am I spelling brusselsprouts rung? blogger is upet with my spelling.

There was also a serious desert option, which was insane because we were all so full and had played celebrity, mafia, and I think something else too, before we even got to desert. also there was cider and whiskey. obvi. I bought Jim Beam for the occasion even though I'm not supposed to be spending money.

Christopher, in a moment of devious awesomeness, made a blackberry thingy (crisp? buckle? compote with topping?) in the casserole that I made blueberry buckle in to take to his potluck and then left the dish at his house. so we took matching pictures. except we didn't have vegan condoms this time. c'est la vie. it was yummy. but not vegan because he used strawberries and cream instant oatmeal packets for the topping. which I think is hilarious.

There was also leftover pumpkin chocolate chip squares, but you'll have to get that recipe in another post!