Thursday, April 29, 2010

Befuddled Baker FAIL

Somedays I think I should be riding the short bus.

These last couple of weekends I have had to be at work bright and early at 7 am.  Folks, for someone who normally doesn't report for duty until 1 or 2 pm, 7 am seems awfully early to be my normal chipper self.  Just to make sure that I get to work on time, I have to set my alarm for around 4:20 am.  Yes, you read that right 4:20 AM.  This way I can hit snooze a billion times (and yes, I mean that literally) before actually getting my rear end out of bed at 5:15 am.

Well, the other morning, once I finally mustered the oomph to get up, (which, by the way was 5:30 am NOT 5:15 am : shameful) the first thing I noticed was that my throat was feeling scratchy and sore.  Being grumpy anyway due to the early hour, I was even more annoyed by this unhappy discovery.  I decided that I just didn't have it in me to suffer through the irritating tickling feeling, and that the cough medicine had my name written all over.  Let me clarify: reaching for medicine, unless it's a last resort, is not my usual style.  I would usually wait it out for a few days before taking said cough medicine.  That being the case, I'm really not too familiar with what's in my medicine cabinet.  I reflexively grabbed something that resembled cough medicine, poured out a hefty dose, chugged, and trudged to the shower.

About 20 minutes later, as I was getting dressed, I realized that I was still incredibly tired.  Literally, I couldn't even put makeup on I was so tired.  So I decided to forget about being chipper, and climbed back into bed for another 20 minutes of much needed sleep.  Sadly, the second alarm went off much too soon, and once again I was dragging myself into a standing position.  While driving to work the situation only got worse.  I could barely keep my eyes open.  No exaggerating, I could have easily closed my eyes and fallen immediately asleep, even though I consciously knew I was driving!  Ridiculous!  When I did get to work, things continued to worsen.  I was coherent enough to know that I needed to get coffee into my system - STAT!  However, it didn't seem to do much good.  For the next 2 1/2 hours it was all I could do to keep my head off my desk.  I was even having a little bit of trouble forming rational sentences.  One of my coworkers asked me if I had been out late the night before drinking - how mortifying!  I tried to explain that no, I had gone to bed early, and had no clue why I was so groggy.  He laughed, shook his head, and went back to work, obviously thinking I was fibbing.

Around 11:00 am, after 4 hours of this torture, I began to feel more like my normal self, and the incredible tiredness began to fade thankfully away.  As I began to relate my crazy morning to a friend, she asked about the cough medicine that I had taken.  Could that have possibly been the problem, she wondered?  What an obvious idea.  So obvious that it had not even occurred to my genius self!  I had actually grabbed the bottle when I left my house that morning just in case my throat kept bothering me.  Curious, I fished it out of my lunch bag.  Just my luck : I had taken night time cough medicine.  Yes, yes, I know.  Now you are agreeing with me : I should be riding the short bus.  

Continuing on this shamefully embarrassing streak is my first, and probably only, attempt at brining meat.  I had a lovely meal planned consisting of quinoa, green beans, and brined chicken which sounded fabulous (and smelled fabulous while it was cooking, I might add).  The brine consisted of salt, turbinado sugar, herbs de province, lemon juice, and olive oil.  Sounds delicious, right?  Yeah, I thought so too.  One problem though. Once I sat down and ate my first bite of chicken, my face probably puckered so bad I looked like I was 80!  Salt OVERLOAD.  Eck!  I'm not sure where I messed the process up, but believe me, I seriously screwed this one up folks.  BEFUDDLED BAKER FAIL (reference: - go now!).  Sadly, the chicken met my trashcan, and I was stuck with only some quinoa and a pile of lonely green beans.  Jeez....what a week.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Cliche Sayings and Lemons

Sometimes life decides to throw you a curve ball.  Other times, life decides to line up thousands of those scary automatic pitching machines and conduct a curve-ball massacre on you.  Well, let me tell you, I am under siege, and things on the battle field really stink.  Yes, yes, I know.  You take the good with the bad, when you get lemons you make lemonade, and there's always a silver lining, plus all those other cliche sayings

Folks, I know everything happens for a reason, you've just got to find it.  I really do.  BUT - that doesn't mean that while it's happening, things aren't rotten! 

As I'm sure you can infer, things in these parts of the woods aren't exactly peachy keen for the moment.  Another fitting cliche:  When it rains, it pours.  Ah....but such is life.  So while I'm trying to find my umbrella, and am dodging those nasty baseballs, I'll just make some lemonade (with vodka please!), and keep my eye out for that silver lining.  Maybe I should get some binoculars....

Make Me Smile Lemon Cookies
Adapted from Allrecipes
Makes 24 cookies

2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp lemon zest
1/3 C soymilk, unflavored and unsweetened
1/2 C butter, softened
3/4 Turbinado sugar
1 egg
1 3/4 C all purpose flour, unbleached
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Combine lemon juice with soymilk.  Let sit for 5 minutes.
2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in egg, then add lemon zest and milk mixture.
3. Sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda.  Combine with creamed mixture thoroughly.  Drop by the rounded spoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet.
4. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until edges are lightly browned.  Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes on cookie sheet before moving to wire rack.
5. Devour

Friday, April 16, 2010

Coming Out of the Foodaholic Closet

Today I came out of the closet - the foodoholic closet that is.  I'll admit it, food has been my dirty little addiction for quite some time.  I mean, how do you tell people that you read cookbooks for fun?  Or admit that grocery shopping makes you really excited?  I'll tell you what happens when you start talking about these kinds of things....blank stares.  Looks of befuddlement (read: is she serious?!?).  

You see, this blog has been my highly guarded secret.  I have not shared it's existance with a living soul - mainly because off those dreaded dazed looks, but also because I am a commitment coward!  Telling anybody about this little blog would mean that I would have to update it regularly (to avoid being that lame blogger...oh wait...I have been...Ok, moving on...).  I'm not good with "have to's" so I just avoided the whole situation by keeping mum.  Well, those days have officially ended.

It started with good company, good conversation, and a couple (or more) beers.  My lovely friends Sydney, Sam, and Kitty were brainstorming for their own blog.  Despite the alcohol I had inbibed, I managed to keep my mouth closed about my little space in the blog world.  However, as the night progressed, the beer continued to flow, and the brainstorming got more and more creative.  I was thinking that I had anwers to some of their questions, and that a good friend would quit being faint-of-heart and speak up already.  I eventually coaxed myself (admittedly with some help from Modelo) into offering some of my own blogging experience.  It was pretty scary - knowing and facing the commitment that I was about to accept when I opened my mouth to tell Sydney where to find this.  My brain was screaming, "SHUT UP!  JUST SHUT UP!" but alas, I didn't, and here we are today.  Two days later, with some time to think things over and some fresh cookies on my counter, I'm feeling pretty good.  I'm thinking, "Hello commitment - nice to meet you.  Let's keep in touch." 

So back to the freshly baked cookies sitting here, staring me down saying "Eat Me!"... They are good.  Really good.  They have the sweet cutting flavor of the citrus going on, while being wrapped in warm nuttiness from the walnuts and coconut.  Yeah...I know.  They may not be the most beautiful cookies you have ever seen, but they are a perfect munchy choice to go along with a good cup of coffee.  Can you eat cookies for breakfast?  These would be a perfect breakfast cookie...if you are a rebel and break all the food rules.  I mean, they do have rolled oats in them....and that so makes up for any rule-breaking transgressions.  Right?

Orange-Coconut Softies
(I really wanted to say "breakfast cookies" but that just might be too crazy...)
Makes 24 tbsp sized cookies

1 1/2 C rolled oats
3/4 C unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

1/2 C coconut oil, semi solid
1/2 C turbinado sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp coconut extract

1/2 C tightly packed shredded coconut, sweetened, toasted
zest of 1 large orange
1/2 chopped walnuts (next time I will pecans)

1.  Preheat oven to 325 F.  Sift flour, baking soda, and salt together.  Mix in oats and set aside.
2.  Cream coconut oil and sugar together.  Add eggs, and both extracts.  Mix well.
3.  Add zest, coconut, and nuts to sugar/oil mixture, and combine thoroughly.
4.  Gradually mix in flour/oats with the sugar/oil.
5.  Drop by the tbsp onto greased cookie sheets.  Bake for 10-12 minutes (mine baked for 11 minutes to be exact)
6.  Devour

And so begins my commited blogging journey....see you next week!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Best Ever Brussel Sprouts

Well I have a new toy: a cast iron skillet.

In the matter of two weeks, myself and this skillet have become inseperable.  It seems to make everything taste so much better!  Fried potatoes and onions have been reborn for me!  But that is something for another post...  Continuing with the the topic at hand... I have been making just about anything and everything I can think of in my new friend, putting him to good use.  Today, it was time for the rebirth of an old and trusty standby: brussel sprouts.

Now I know that a LOT of people can't stand brussel sprouts.  Let me just say now, I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THIS!  It is only the best vegetable known to man!  Considering that I feel so strongly about my beloved sprout, it should be no surprise that I decided to introduce them to the new skillet.  Man oh man!  I didn't think it was possible for me to love brussel sprouts any more than I already do, but apparently I was wrong!  Today was a delicious feast - and so I thought I would share.

The Best Brussel Sprouts You'll Ever Eat
(can you tell I REALLY like them?!?)

1.5 lb fresh brussel sprouts, cut up how you prefer (I like mine whole)
1/4 C raw pumpkin seeds
2.5 tbsp unsalted butter
2-3 tbsp water
2 tsp minced dried onion
2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp Spanish paprika
1/2 tsp McCormick Montreal Steak seasoning ( I am very fond of this seasoning, but if you do not have this on hand, I would imagine that fresh cracked pepper would be alright)
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
                                                                CAST IRON SKILLET

1. Heat skillet over medium high heat, until hot.  Add butter, and brown.
2. Once butter is browned, add sprouts.  Saute for 1 minute (until the green color begins to deepen).
3. Add pumpkin seeds, saute for another minute.
4. Add water, cooking uncovered for 5 minutes.  Then cover sprouts, and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
5. Add seasonings, mixing well.  Cover again, and cook for a final 5 minutes.  Season with salt as desired.
6. Done!

Final note:  I paired the sprouts with amaranth because the nuttiness of the grain pairs well with the browned butter in my opinion.  For the amaranth, I prepared as normal and cooled completely (actually it was in the refrigerator overnight).  Then I spread out the serving size I wanted on tin foil, and broiled in the oven until the top began to blacken around the edges.  This was the bed for the sprouts.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Vegan Soul Kitchen : Terry Bryant

Well....I know...its been a minute since my last post.  Shameful!  I've been a busy bee lately.  Many apologies!

I have (no surprise) been reading some great new cookbooks.  My favorite by far has been Vegan Soul Kitchen from Terry Bryant.  THIS COOKBOOK IS PHENOMENAL! 

When I first picked it up at the library, it was on a whim.  I was thinking that it might be interesting, but didn't really expect to like it that much.  Boy - I was wrong!  The ingredients are accessable and up to my whole, natural food standards, and even though I am not vegan, I love that I now have an arsenal of recipes to go to that do not use dairy or eggs.  These recipes are such a far cry from your traditional "soul food" dishes - but in a VERY good way.  I will be buying this book from Amazon - and I suggest you do the same (or at least go get it from your library!).

As I said before, I've been crazy busy, and haven't had time to bake like I would like.  So I unfortunately do not have any recipes or stories to share.  I plan on making several dishes, though, from Vegan Soul Kitchen, and will post my triumphs (or failures) as they come. 

Happy Eating! 

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sinful Sweet Potato Brownies

Sundays are usually a day for getting together among my clan, so I like to try to have something baked to bring along with me wherever I end up.  Usually I have some ideas about what I'd like to bake up by the middle of the week, and so by the time that Saturday rolls in I'm raring at the bit to get into the kitchen.  This week was no exception.  I'd been feeling an inclination to make chocolate shortbread for some odd reason.  Unlike my normal routine, I didn't really browse around for the recipe that I wanted to use, or recipes I wanted to combine.  I've been so rushed for time, that I just found one and went with it.  BIG mistake.  Just about everything that could have gone wrong, did.  Needless to say, those got acquainted with my trashcan real quick.

By this time, I was feeling frustrated, irritated, and pushed for time.  Frantically, I searched the cupboard and cookbooks for what to whip up quick.  Sadly, I just wasn't finding anything, until it dawned on me.  Brownies!  I had everything that I needed on hand.  As I was pulling the ingredients, I came across two cans of sweet potato puree that I had been wanting to use up.  Well I don't know what came over me, but I made the snap decision to add them in too!  I am glad that I did.  The result was a very moist, dense yummy brownie that really hit my chocolate-craving spot.


Sinful Sweet Potato Brownies

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1/4 C butter

2 C (16 oz) sweet potato puree (or mashed sweet potatoes)
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tsp vinegar

3/4 C mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (I was on a chocolate binge, what can I say) 

2 C all purpose flour
1 C sugar (I used white, but I think that brown would have been better)
3 tbsp baking cocoa
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease either 9 x 13 or two 11 x7 pans. 
1. Sift dry ingredients together in large mixing bowl.  
2. In a medium bowl, combine the wet ingredients.
3. Melt butter and baking chocolate together in a double broiler on the stove.  When halfway melted, remove from heat, and stir continuously until melted through.  Stir melted chocolate into the wet mixture until thoroughly combined.  Next, incorporate the mini chocolate chips into your sweet potato mixture.
4.  Gradually add wet mixture into the flour mixture, stirring until evenly moistened. 
5.  Spread mixture into pan(s), wetting spatula if needed.  Bake for 40-45 minutes for the 9 x 13 pan or 20-25 minutes for the two 11 x 7 pans.  (I used the two smaller pans because I was short on time, but I was glad that I did.  I took the second pan with me to work the next day).

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Cold Weather Likes Spice

I live in the Midwest (read: cold and dreary).  Last Sunday was no exception, bringing snow, snow, and... oh yeah, more snow!  That being the case, it seemed like a good excuse to make a nice, scrumptious spice cake.  I had an idea in my mind for a moist, dense, almost brownie like treat.  I also had a bottle of full-bodied molasses that needed to be put to good use.  So I sat down with some of my favorite old baking books (most of which have been salvaged from various thrift stores) and set to work.  The following is the culmination of their best offerings.  Around 40 minutes, start checking to gauge the remaining time as no two ovens are alike.

The cake came together quickly, and had exactly the consistency I was looking for - almost brownie like.  It is not very sweet, rather deliciously spicy.  It pairs perfectly with the glaze, which is absolutely to die for.  It was a real treat to eat a slice of this with a nice, warm cup of good coffee as an afternoon treat on a cold day.
Winter Spice Cake
1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 C butter
1 egg, beaten
1 C + 2 tbsp dark molasses
3 large carrots (about 1 C), ran through food processor (or grated)
1 1/4 C whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/4 C all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3 tsp cocoa powder
2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground giner
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 C hot coffee

1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Butter 9" square pan.
2. Cream butter and sugar together.  Add egg and molasses, mix well.  Add carrot, mix well.
3. Sift dry ingredients, and stir into creamed mixture.  Stir in hot coffee (mixture will be thin).  Pour into prepared pan.
4. Bake for 45-50 minutes - until toothpick comes out clean.
5. Let cake cool until lightly warm.  Glaze, and let set.

Molasses-Cinnamon Glaze (trust me, you don't want to skip this)
1 1/2 C powdered sugar
2 tbsp water
1 1/2 tbsp dark molasses
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt

Whisk ingredients together, adding water as necessary.