Saturday, May 31, 2008

Holy Fucking Shit

Pardon my language, but the title says it all. Those words came out of our mouths at least a dozen times this evening. First with the dinner Brad made for himself, and later with the bread pudding I made. We had some good food tonight!

Brad was gone all day golfing with his dad, uncles and cousins, so the girls and I were on our own. We didn't end up eating lunch until mid-afternoon, so we weren't hungry for dinner. Brad, on the other hand, had a light breakfast and then missed lunch while golfing, so he was ravenous by the time he got home. He rooted through the fridge, and came out with eggs, frozen shredded potatoes, and (much to his delight) a half pack of bacon. We don't usually eat meat, but the bacon was left from last week's baked beans, and he was positively giddy when he came across it.

He cooked up the hash browns with onions, Waffle House style (I love that place!), then threw caution to the wind and fried the eggs in the bacon grease. Oh, baby! Like I said, we hardly eat meat at home, so he might as well capitalize on it when he has the chance, right? ; ) He kept asking if I wanted him to make some for me, and I kept saying no, I wasn't hungry. Then he sat down with this glorious plate of breakfast food goodness, and I immediately regretted my decision. He was kind enough to share several bites with me, and, well, let's just say that first thing tomorrow morning, he's heading back to the store to get more ingredients, and we'll be having this for breakfast tomorrow.

Seriously. Look at it. Holy fucking shit, right? I know.


And then a couple hours later came this incredible bread pudding. I found the recipe here, at Nola Cuisine. If you haven't visited this blog before, I strongly recommend that you do. The recipes are to die for.

The bread pudding takes a long time to bake, three full hours in the oven, but it's worth every minute, if only for the way it makes your house smell while it's baking. When it's done, though, drown it in whiskey sauce, and prepare to be amazed. It's the best bread pudding I've ever had. Talk about comfort food.



Thursday, May 29, 2008


I have a sweet tooth tonight like nobody's business, so I took appropriate action and made some fudge. I made an odd kind of hybrid of different fudge recipes I've made before, but it still worked. And it satisfied my sweet tooth, so all is well with the world.


4 cups chocolate pieces (I used a combination of chocolate chips and coarsely chopped baking chocolate, all semisweet)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup marshmallow fluff

Line a 9x9 pan with aluminum foil, and grease it with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a microwave safe mixing bowl, combine chocolate and milk. Microwave 2 minutes. Remove and stir to melt chocolate. Add vanilla and marshmallow fluff. Microwave 30 seconds. Remove and stir to combine thoroughly, until smooth.

Pour into prepared pan. Chill 30 minutes, until set, then cut into pieces. This is easy to do if you just lift the foil out of the pan so you can cut the fudge on a flat surface.

Devour it.


Vegan Shepherd's Pie

Oh baby! This vegan version of Shepherd's Pie rocks! I'm a big fan of traditional Shepherd's Pie, so I've been wanting to "vegetablize" it. I turned once again to my trusty lentils, and they were up to the challenge! Seriously, I'm having a bit of a love affair with lentils these days. I never cooked with them until a few weeks ago, and now I can't stop! There are just so many great things you can cook with them, and I can't get over how inexpensive they are! One little bag of lentils is enough for 2 or 3 meals, easy, and then of course there are the health benefits. So yeah, I'm smitten. Or to use the words of Charlie McKenzie in So I Married an Axe Murderer, I'm in deep smit. ; )

This was one of those "wing it" meals, made without a recipe. I pretty much just went along the lines of my regular Shepherd's Pie recipe, but I used cooked and drained lentils instead of ground beef, and vegetable stock instead of beef broth. I also threw in the leftover gravy from last night's dinner, which was nice because it had mushrooms in it. Next time I make this, I'm definitely going to add a bunch of mushrooms. I also sprinkled a little soy cheese on top, but it would be just as good without it.

Yesterday I made a monster batch of mashed potatoes, with the intention of using them in this recipe today. Normally I hate that kind of make-ahead cooking, but it made sense this time. I had a bit of a problem putting the potatoes on top of the filling. This filling didn't have the structural integrity of ground beef, plus I made more gravy than I usually do (who doesn't love gravy?), so the filling was a lot softer than normal. When I tried to spoon the potatoes on top, they sunk into the filling and displaced it towards the center, in a kind of lava cone effect. That made it pretty much impossible to make a complete seal with the potatoes, so a lot of the gravy bubbled up while it cooked, but oh still tasted great. And Brad cracked me up, shouting "VOLCANO!" like the waiters at the Rainforest Cafe. hee hee hee

I should probably let you know that the filling looks pretty nasty, but that's ok, because it's covered up with potatoes fairly quickly. We jokingly referred to it as gruel because that's what it looked like, but dang, it was some tasty gruel!

Hello Kitty says "lentils kick ass!"


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Good gravy!

Tonight we were a good Veganomicon family. If you don't have a copy of this book yet, I highly recommend you go buy it. Even if you're not vegan or even vegetarian, there are some awesome recipes in there, and it's a great way to try adding some meat-free meals to your menu. I love this cookbook!

For dinner this evening, I made chickpea cutlets with mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy. The cutlets and the gravy were out of Veganomicon. I think I must have done something wrong with the cutlets, because a friend made them and told me they were very "meaty", but ours were just mushy and stringy. Huh. They still tasted good, but being that I'm a texture person, I was disappointed. I'm going to try them again another time, though, and see if I can figure out what I did wrong. The gravy, on the other hand, was fabulous! It's made with a vegetable broth, and lots of sliced onions and mushrooms. Yum! The kids loved it, too.


We also had some green beans that I brought home from work. Nearly every day, one pharmaceutical rep or another comes to meet with the Doctors in the office, and brings lunch for the entire staff. It's definitely a nice perk. There's usually a bunch of food leftover, which would otherwise be thrown away, so my Mother-in-law (who also works there) usually packs up a bunch of it for me to take home. Nice! Tonight I brought home the leftover green beans from today's lunch, as well as an entire tray of peach cobbler. I had planned on making green beans this evening, anyway, so it was great to just eat the leftovers from work instead. They aren't the prettiest green beans, but they were still good!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I love my Foreman Grill

When I met Brad seven years ago, I scoffed at his Foreman Grill. I had seen the infomercials advertising it, and I had figured it was just another hokey product that didn't actually work. But I learned. ; ) While I don't like it for steaks or burgers, t's the greatest thing ever for quickly cooking up a healthy chicken breast. And a couple years ago, we discovered that it's awesome for paninis! We were about to drop a big chunk of change on a panini grill, but after looking at one closely at the store, it looked very much like a Foreman Grill, so we put off the purchase and went home to give it a try. To our delight, it worked beautifully! We started eating paninis all the time, for an easy dinner, or a quick lunch, with deli meat, cheese and herbs. We kind of forgot about paninis, though, after we moved here and stopped eating meat at home.

I broke it out this morning to make my lunch for work. I saw this recipe on Vegan Yum Yum, and toasted it on the Foreman Grill. It's a flour tortilla spread with hummus, topped with sliced cucumbers, shredded carrots, and baby spinach, plus I sprinkled mine with a little cayenne pepper to add some kick. I'm sure it would be great fresh off the grill, but it was still good when I ate it after it had been sitting in a bento box in my desk for 6 hours. What a perfect traveling lunch item!


Then tonight we broke out the Foreman Grill again, and made tomato, basil and mozzarella paninis for dinner. Yum! There was no good panini bread at the store, so Brad got a loaf of French bread instead, and it worked really well. I sliced it crosswise into 4 sections, then split them horizontally. There was no fresh basil at the store today, either, so instead we used a jar of minced basil packed in olive oil, then fresh tomato slices and mozzarella. We had these with a big salad for dinner. Yum!





Hooray for the Foreman Grill!

TWD - Sorry, folks...

...but there's no Tuesdays with Dorie for me this week. Initially I was looking forward to making the sticky rolls, but then I looked more closely at the recipe. More than FOUR STICKS of butter? Are you kidding me??? I'm sorry, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it.

Here's a link to some fabulous cinnamon rolls I made not too long ago, though, if you're interested. ; )

On top of that, I just started a new job late last week, and we had a bunch of activities with family and friends this weekend, so there wasn't time for baking. But check back next week!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Lentil Haystacks

No picture in tonight's blog, sadly, because when I went to shoot one, my camera battery died. Argh! But never fear, I'll get another picture soon, because this is definitely a meal we're going to have often from here on out!

On a forum I frequent, there's a gal who cooks Lentil Haystacks fairly often, and I've long thought they sounded like something we would like. Lentils spooned over rice, and topped with whatever your heart desires. This is one of those fantastic dishes, where you can use up whatever you happen to have on hand. The ingredients are basic, the rice and lentils cook up in less than half an hour, and then everyone can top theirs as they like.

Meg just had rice and lentils with no toppings, and scarfed them down with a big smile on her face. Lydia didn't love them, but she still ate them anyway, with just rice, lentils and cheese. Next time I think we'll let her fix a peanut butter & jelly sandwich instead. Brad and I ate ours with rice, lentils, cheddar cheese, lots of fresh salsa, red onions, jalapenos and some sour cream. YUM! They were so good! They can be vegan, too, if you omit the cheese and sour cream, or use a vegan variety! We used fat-free sour cream, so the only fat in the entire dish was in the couple tablespoons of cheese we sprinkled on top.

Even though I'm seriously opposed to cooking them same thing on a regular basis, we've pretty much decided already that these are going to be featured on our weekly menu. They're delicious, filling, CHEAP, healthy and easy. What's not to like?

I'll update this next time we have them, so I can post a picture.

Lentil Haystacks

1 cup dry lentils
4 cups water
4 cups hot, cooked rice (brown or white)
assorted toppings, such as cheese, red onions, sour cream, jalapenos, sliced or shredded vegetables, salsa, olives, capers, salad dressing, etc.

Combine the lentils and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 20 to 30 minutes, until lentils are tender.

Serve lentils over rice, and top with desired toppings.

Weekly Menu - week of May 25

It's that time again! What are you planning for dinner this week?

Sunday - Hot wings, waffle fries, baked beans, salad

Monday - Lentil Haystacks

Tuesday - Tomato & basil paninis, salad

Wednesday - Chickpea cutlets, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans

Thursday - Shepherd's pie

Friday - Dinner out

Saturday - Tomato Tortilla Soup

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Hot Wings

We decided to have a carnivorous day today, since Brad has been wanting to try his hand at making hot wings. He developed his own wing sauce today, broiled up the wings, and tossed them in the sauce. They were fiery hot, tangy and delicious, but definitely not for the faint of heart. Our mouths were burning afterwards. We love hot wings!

Hot Wings

4 Tbsp butter, melted
1 bottle Louisiana Hot Sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp oregano
4 tsp vinegar
1 tsp mirin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Simmer 5 minutes. Set aside.

20 chicken drumettes

Preheat broiler. Move top rack to 6 inches from heat. Line a baking sheet with foil, and arrange chicken drumettes evenly. Broil chicken about 20 minutes total, turning chicken every 4 to 5 minutes. Drain juices and drippings midway through, to ensure that chicken stays crispy. When chicken is thoroughly cooked and juices run clear, remove from oven. Toss in sauce, and serve hot.






Baked Beans

Back in college when I moved into my first apartment, I tried making baked beans from scratch, and failed miserably. I'd never cooked dry beans before, so when the directions said things like "add more liquid if the beans get too dry", I had no idea what "too dry" meant. The beans were awful. These days, when I wanted baked beans, I make them the shortcut way -- by starting with a can or pork and beans, and doctoring them up with a always varying mix of things like ketchup, mustard, molasses, maple syrup, brown sugar, and so forth. I don't use a recipe, I just go by taste with what I have on hand.

Being that it's been 12 years since I tried making baked beans from scratch, I figured it's about time I gave it another shot. I pretty much followed my usual ingredients, but started with dry beans. I didn't expect them to be that much better than my shortcut beans, but they were. The longer cooking time gave the flavors that much more time to soak in and deepen. Yum!

I don't know if I'd make them this way all the time, but I think they'll be an "every once in awhile" treat. I'm glad I made them today!

The quantities below are all rough approximations. I added ingredients all throughout the cooking time until I got them exactly how I wanted them at the end.


Baked Beans

1 lb dry navy beans
water, to cover
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup molasses
2 Tbsp dry mustard
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 medium yellow onion, diced
6 oz bacon, roughly chopped

Place beans in a large pot, and add enough water to cover by several inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer for one hour.

Preheat oven to 350.

Drain beans, reserving cooking liquid. Add ketcup, molasses, mustard, brown sugar and salt. Stir to combine. The sauce ingredients will mostly sink to the bottom of the pot, but that's ok. Taste and adjust ingredients to suit your preferences. Stir in onions and bacon. Cover and bake 3 to 4 hours, adding more of the cooking liquid if the beans begin to dry up, until beans are tender.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Almond...Cake? Pie? Tart?


I'm not really sure what to call this, if it's a cake, a pie, a tart, or something else. So I'll just call it GOOD. I love almond. I mean, I'm just crazy about it. I have almond lotion, soap, lip balm, incense, candles and air freshener. I love it! Oddly enough, though, I've not cooked many almond treats. I picked up a tube of almond paste at the store last week, figuring I could find some use for it, and this is it.


This cake kicks ass. The crust is delicate and crumbly, and the filling is wonderfully almondy, and just barely sweet. Perfect for enjoying with a cup of tea. Yum!

Next time I make this, I think I'm going to try spreading a layer of raspberry jam over the crust before pouring in the filling. Oh, baby!


Almond Cake

1 stick butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp sugar
2 egg yolks
1 1/3 cups flour

1 stick butter, softened
7 oz. almond paste
2 eggs
zest of 1 small lemon
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 tsp flour
1/2 cup sliced almonds

For crust:
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg yolks, combining thoroughly, then mix in flour. Gather into a ball, and place on a piece of plastic wrap. Flatten into a disk about 6 inches across. Wrap and chill 30 minutes.

For filling:
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter. Crumble almond paste in a little at a time, combining thoroughly. Add eggs, lemon zest, almond extract and flour (reserve almonds for topping). Set aside.

To assemble:
Preheat oven to 350. Grease bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan with cooking spray. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 10- to 11-inch circle. Ease into pan, fitting over the bottom and about 2 inches up the sides. If the dough falls apart, lightly press it into place with your fingers. Spread the filling evenly into the crust. Sprinkle with sliced almonds.

Bake 45 minutes. Allow to cool 10 minutes before removing springform collar. Serve at room temperature.


Pita Sandwiches

This week has been really odd. It's the least I've cooked in a week in a long time, but we've had things going on, plus we ate leftovers earlier in the week, so all that amounts to less cooking. And it kind of bums me out.

Tonight I got back in the kitchen, and it perked me up! I made a batch of hummus (God bless my mother for giving me a Cuisinart food processor for Christmas!), and I heated up some leftover kofta in a skillet. We put them in pita sandwiches with hummus, lettuce, tomato and red onion with a splash of grapeseed oil, red wine vinegar, dill and oregano, then sprinkled them with a little feta cheese.

Isn't it pretty?


Not only that, but I also just put a 4 lb beef roast in the slow cooker for a family BBQ we're going to tomorrow, and a fabulously fragrant almond cake is baking in the oven as we speak. I was going to take it to the BBQ, but didn't realize what a small cake it is. Not nearly enough to take to a big family gathering, so Brad and I are going to sacrifice by just keeping the cake and devouring it ourselves. It wouldn't be fair to tempt a whole crowd with a tiny cake, would it? We're taking one for the team!

I really hope the roast turns out. I am decidedly NOT a fan of slow cookers, but my hands are tied for tomorrow. I have a baby shower to attend in the morning, for a friend from Japan, originally from the area but currently living in Seattle, who's expecting her first baby, and I wouldn't miss it for the world. But the BBQ starts at noon, and I'll be gone most of the day and won't be there till late, so instead of roasting it over 4 hours on top of the stove like I normally do, I'm going to slow cook it over night and all morning tomorrow, and it should be ready for noon. We'll see. I've been called out by Brad's uncle, who doesn't believe that this Yankee actually does make the best roast beef po' boys in the world, so I just really, really hope the slow cooker comes through for me.

Cross your fingers for me and my roast!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tamale Pie

Ok. I have to admit. I'm all kinds of proud of this dish. I've never eaten a tamale pie before, let alone cooked one, and had only looked at a few recipes in the past to get an idea of how they're made. Then tonight I hit the kitchen and started cooking. I threw in this and that, random stuff that I thought would taste good, and then topped it with some of the vegan cornbread batter that I made last week. This was my first time cooking yellow lentils, and I was surprised to see that they cook down very mushy, unlike the brown lentils (sorry, I don't know the actual term for them) that I've cooked before. So they didn't hold their shape and were pretty mushy, but that allowed them to blend almost invisibly into the filling. Secret hidden protein and fiber! You can't beat that!

This stuff is SO GOOD. I mean, good in a there-aren't-even-words-to-describe-it way. The filling is incredible, and the cornbread compliments it perfectly. It's really filling, and soooo good for you with all the lentils and soy beans. Yum! Brad and I absolutely loved it, and the kids really dug this, too, so it was an all-around success. Yeah!


In other news, I have a job! I interviewed this afternoon, and was offered the job about 10 minutes later. I start tomorrow morning. It's a student worker position, 25 hours a week, with the opportunity for additional work most of the time if I want it, with a totally flexible schedule. It doesn't pay much -- in fact, I haven't made this little per hour since the last time I was in college -- but it is a student position, after all, so I'm fine with that. Mostly I'm just thrilled to have a job that will likely last for the remainder of time that I'm a student here, and will be totally flexible around my class schedule. There's SO much to be said for that. So I start in the morning, and will probably take some Tamale Pie leftovers for lunch. ; )

Oh, and I'm not going to post a picture of the filling by itself, because it looks downright nasty. But trust me, it tastes downright awesome.

Tamale Pie

1 cup yellow lentils
3 cups water
1 8-oz package tempeh
1 medium onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 can cream style corn
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp cumin
2 Tbsp chili powder
4 oz cheddar flavored soy cheese, grated

1 cup soy milk
1 tsp vinegar
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup canola oil

For the filling:
In a medium saucepan, combine lentils and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Drain in a fine-mesh sieve, and set aside.

In a separate saucepan, bring 4 cups water to a boil. Add tempeh, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and coarsely chop or crumble. Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat grapeseed oil. Add onion, and saute several minutes, until the onion begins to soften. Add the bell pepper and saute a few minutes more, until vegetables are soft. Add drained lentils, chopped tempeh, corn, salt, cumin and chili powder. Stir to combine thoroughly and heat through. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Preheat oven to 375. Grease a wide, shallow baking dish with cooking spray. Spread the filling evenly in the dish, and sprinkle with cheese. Set aside while you prepare the topping.

For the topping:
In a small bowl, combine soy milk and vinegar. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt. Add canola oil to soy milk mixture, whisk together, and pour into cornmeal mixture. Stir just until combined.

Pour the cornmeal mixture evenly over the filling. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until cornbread is lightly browned and the filling is bubbly.




Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie - Traditional Madeleines

It's time again for Tuesdays with Dorie! This week's recipe, Traditional Madeleines, was chosen by Tara of Smells Like Home. I was really excited about this week's recipe, because I've always wanted to make Madeleines. I lived in Spain for much of elementary and junior high school, and we always used to buy bags of Spanish Magdalenas. They're much like Madeleines, but in mini cupcake form rather than shells.

I bought a Madeleine pan a couple years ago in Japan, but have never used it until now. It's about time, right?

The batter was ridiculously easy to mix up, with just a few simple ingredients. It needs to chill at least three hours, or up to two days, so there's tons of flexibility with this recipe. Mix up the batter when you have a few spare minutes, then come back to it sometime within the next two days, and you're good to go. They bake very quickly, too, just over 10 minutes, so the active time spent on this recipe is really minimal.

My pan only holds six Madeleines, which is probably a good thing, since I didn't know exactly how full to fill them. Turns out I filled the first pan too high. Woops. I baked them for 11 minutes, not being sure exactly how brown they were supposed to get. And in spite of very generously buttering and flouring the pan, they still stuck like you wouldn't believe. I whacked them against the counter and everything, but they didn't budge. Big bummer. I chalked it up to it being a brand new pan.


You may want to shield your eyes. This ain't pretty.


The carnage!

The second batch, however, turned out beautifully! I cooked them for the full 14 minutes, figuring that that may have been part of the reason the first batch stuck as much as they did. And this time when I rapped the pan on the counter, to my delight, the Madeleines popped right out. Woohoo!

Everyone has been talking about the characteristic bump on the non-scalloped side of the Madeleines. I think mine had it. I mean, they weren't flat or anything, and they did bump up nicely on that side, but I don't know if there was something more I should have been shooting for. No matter, though, because they tasted incredible. Soft inside, with a little crispiness on the outside. Absolutely amazing. I can't wait to make these again!




Traditional Madeleines
From Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
½ cup sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¾ stick (6 tablespoons) (85g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Working in a mixer bowl, or in a large bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the eggs to the bowl. Working with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together on medium-high speed until pale, thick and light, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. With a rubber spatula, very gently fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the melted butter. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the batter and refrigerate it for at least 3 hours, or for up to 2 days. This long chill period will help the batter form the hump that is characteristic of madeleines. (For convenience, you can spoon the batter into the madeleine molds, cover and refrigerate, then bake the cookies directly from the fridge; see below for instructions on prepping the pans.)

GETTING READY TO BAKE: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter 12 full-size madeleine molds, or up to 36 mini madeleine molds, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. Or, if you have a nonstick pan (or pans), give it a light coating of vegetable cooking spray. If you have a silicone pan, no prep is needed. Place the pan(s) on a baking sheet.

Spoon the batter into the molds, filling each one almost to the top. Don’t worry about spreading the batter evenly, the oven’s heat will take care of that. Bake large madeleines for 11 to 13 minutes, and minis for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are golden and the tops spring back when touched. Remove the pan(s) from the oven and release the madeleines from the molds by rapping the edge of the pan against the counter. Gently pry any recalcitrant madeleines from the pan using your fingers or a butter knife. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool to just warm or to room temperature.

If you are making minis and have more batter, bake the next batch(es), making certain that you cool, then properly prepare the pan(s) before baking.

Just before serving, dust the madeleines with confectioners’ sugar.

Makes 12 large or 36 mini cookies

Serving: Serve the cookies when they are only slightly warm or when they reach room temperature, with tea or espresso.

Storing: Although the batter can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, the madeleines should be eaten soon after they are made. You can keep them overnight in a sealed container, but they really are better on day 1. If you must store them, wrap them airtight and freeze them; they’ll keep for up to 2 months.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Lemon Loaf Cake


As soon as I saw this recipe for Lemon Yogurt Cake on a whisk and a spoon, I knew I had to make it. Click over and check out her pictures. Doesn't it look glorious?

Alas, I didn't have any plain yogurt on hand, and the only lemon in my fridge had already been zested for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe (coming tomorrow! Be sure to check back!). So I fiddled with the recipe a little, and made it work with what was already in my fridge. Instead of plain yogurt, I used a mixture of sour cream and mayonnaise. I know, I know, sour cream and mayo are far, far different from yogurt, but I've used them both in baked goods before, and they've worked well, so I went with it. And since my lemon had already been zested, I subbed a little lemon extract instead. I was also lacking marmalade for the glaze, so instead I just made a simple glaze of powdered sugar, lemon extract and soy milk. I really wish I had some marmalade, but it's just not something I normally have on hand, and I was determined to make this cake without going to the store.

The result? It's sooooo good! Moist and sweet and tart and delicious. I'd like to try the original recipe next time, just to see how it differs, but it's nice to know that I was able to cobble together something so delicious just with what I had on hand.


Lemon Loaf Cake
adapted from a whisk and a spoon's Lemon Yogurt Cake

For the cake:
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 c sugar
3 large eggs
1/3 c vegetable oil
1/2 tsp lemon extract
juice of half a lemon

For the glaze:
1/2 tsp lemon extract
1 Tbsp soy milk
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 t water

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Generously butter 8-inch loaf pan.

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl.

Combine sour cream, mayonnaise, sugar, eggs, oil, lemon extract and lemon juice in large bowl; whisk until well blended. Gradually whisk in dry ingredients.

Transfer batter to prepared loaf pan. Place cake on baking sheet in oven and bake until cake begins to pull away from sides of pan and tester inserted into center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes.

Cool cake in pan on rack 5 minutes. Cut around pan sides to loosen cake. Turn cake out onto rack. Turn cake upright on rack and cool completely. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap and store at room temperature.)

Whisk together the glaze ingredients, until smooth. Spoon over the cake, allowing the glaze to drip down the sides. Let glaze cool and set before slicing and serving.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Soda Crackers

This is my first time making soda crackers from scratch. It was really fun! Another time when I don't have as much going on, I'd like to try cutting them into prettier shapes, or baking them in one perforated sheet, then breaking them apart once they've cooled, but today I just did squares. And lopsided squares, at that, since I didn't have a ruler. ; )


I used vegetable shortening and soy milk, to make this a vegan recipe.

We ate these tonight with some vegetable soup. I'm not going to post it as a recipe since for me, vegetable soup is one of those "just throw it together with what you happen to have on hand" things. Tonight I used onion, celery, carrots, garlic, crushed tomatoes, kidney beans, green beans, black eyed peas, vegetable stock and water. Yum, yum, yum!


Soda Crackers

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp shortening
2/3 cup soy milk

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine flour and baking powder in a medium mixing bowl. Cut in shortening. Stir in soy milk to form a dough. Gather dough into a ball, and divide in half. Roll out one portion of the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into squares and place on a baking sheet. Prick each square several times with a fork. Sprinkle with salt.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or longer as needed, until the crackers are crisp and just beginning to brown lightly. Keep an eye on them, as the time may vary widely with different types of baking sheets. Remove crackers to a rack, and cool completely.

Weekly Menu - week of May 18

Here's our menu for the week. I know the tamale pie and veggie tamales are kind of redundant, but what can I say? They both sounded good. ; )

Sunday - Vegetable soup, crackers

Monday - Veggie tamales, pinto beans, salad Leftover soup

Tuesday - Chickpea cutlets, green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy Taking the kids out to eat

Wednesday - Tamale pie

Thursday - Fried tofu po' boys, potato chips Dinner with the in-laws

Friday - Pita sandwiches with leftover kofta, hummus

Saturday - Roast beef po' boys

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Smoothies for dinner

Well, dinner tonight was supposed to be banana pancakes, but seeing as how we had pancakes for breakfast, and then more pancakes for a snack with chocolate and strawberries, I just couldn't see making pancakes AGAIN. So instead, we used up the leftover bananas and strawberries and had smoothies for dinner. I whirled together bananas, strawberries, soy milk, vanilla and a little Splenda with my handy dandy immersion blender. Hey, you can't beat that for an easy dinner, right?

Seriously. Could this drink possibly be more girly?


Here are my crazy girls again, mugging for the camera. ; )


Chocolate Dipped Stuff

Brad's away this weekend, drilling with the Navy Reserves, so I'm home with the kids for two days. It's amazing how quickly I've forgotten what it's like to parent solo. It's been wonderful having Brad home for the past four months, but I'm realizing how spoiled I've become. The kids were about to drive me nuts today, so we went to the store, picked up some chocolate, strawberries, pretzel rods, bananas, sprinkles and popsicle sticks. We came home, melted the chocolate, and started dipping.


Fun! If it were just me, I would have done something a little more grown up, like drizzling white chocolate over the milk chocolate. Or spiking the chocolate with bourbon. But this was all about the kids today, so I let them take the lead, and that's why nearly everything is covered in rainbow sprinkles.


So if you find yourself bored, melt some chocolate and start dipping! It's fun!

And what to do with the leftover chocolate? We smeared it on some pancakes leftover from breakfast, topped with sliced strawberries, then folded them and scarfed them down. Chocolate strawberry tacos. Yummy!



Friday, May 16, 2008

Vegetable Kofta Korma


Buoyed by my success with the vegetable korma several weeks ago, I decided to try another version of korma sauce, with vegetable kofta. This was my first time making kofta, and it went fairly well. In my search for a kofta recipe, I came across dozens of variations. I don't know which would be best, but this one got good reviews, and didn't seem too difficult to make.

I adapted the recipe somewhat, and used black beans instead of adzuki, simply because I had several cups of leftover, unseasoned black beans in the fridge from earlier this week. The mixture was really, really thin, so I also added some vital wheat gluten to help it come together a little more. They took much longer to bake than the original recipe stated, so I smooshed them into patties to speed the cooking time. It's not authentic, but it worked, and this way we can use the leftovers on sandwiches, sort of like black bean burgers.

Next time I'd like to try one that contains more vegetables, just to see how it differs in taste. These would be vegan if not for the egg. I would have left it out, but never having made these before, I wanted to at least try it that way first. Be sure to click here to see the korma sauce recipe.

And in case you're wondering, the kids didn't eat this. It was too spicy for them, so instead they had a classy dinner of Kraft mac & cheese with tuna fish. Aren't they cute?



Vegetable Kofta

1 cup bulgur
1 14-oz can vegetable stock, plus enough water to make 2 cups
2 cups cooked black beans, drained
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup soy milk
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cumin
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro (I used parsley because it's all I had)
1 egg, lightly beaten
salt and pepper

Combine bulgur and vegetable stock/water in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes, until liquid is absorbed. Set aside.

Combine remaining ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to mash the beans and combine thoroughly. Stir in bulgur. Cover and refrigerate one hour, or until firm.

Preheat oven to 425. Grease a baking sheet with cooking spray, or line with foil and spray with cooking spray. Form mixture into balls and place on baking sheet, pressing down gently to form thick patties. Brush tops with vegetable oil. Bake 15 minutes. Flip over, brush again with oil, and bake 10 minutes further, until brown and crispy.

Korma Sauce

This is a little different from the korma sauce I made several weeks ago. We loved the other one, but this new one? Yeah, it kicks the old one's butt. It was heavenly! I served it with kofta and saffron rice, but it would be great with chicken, paneer, tofu, potatoes, or whatever your little heart desires. It would even be good in a bowl with some fresh naan to sop it up with. This stuff rocks.

Korma Sauce

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 1/2 tsp minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
1 14-oz can light coconut milk

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, cooking and stirring several minutes, until onion begins to soften. Add ginger and garlic, and cook and stir one minute. Add turmeric, garam masala, chili powder and cayenne pepper. Cook and stir two minutes. Add tomato sauce and coconut milk; stir or whisk to combine thoroughly. Cover and simmer 10 minutes.


I have a real aversion to leftovers. I hate to eat them. I don't know what it is about me, but there are very few things I can drum up enough interest to eat as leftovers. Tuna noodle casserole, macaroni and cheese, cold fried chicken, and cold yakisoba or chow mein, and that's about it. I try to cook fairly small dinners, so as not to have any leftovers, well, left over. I purposely planned leftovers of the black beans and rice the other day, to use in last night's burritos, and we must be on a roll now, because Brad just made some yummy toasted quesadillas with leftover tortillas, pico de gallo and cheese. Usually we shortcut these and just nuke 'em in the microwave, but today Brad went the extra mile and toasted them in a hot skillet. Yum, yum, yum!


The recipe, if you can call it that, is really simple. Place pico de gallo and shredded cheese on half of a flour tortilla. Fold over in half. Heat a little vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook quesadilla on each side until toasted and crispy. Cut into wedges and serve hot.



Thursday, May 15, 2008

Giant Burritos


[Updated from 3/2/08 with photos]

I've been craving a Taco del Mar style giant burrito lately, so this is what I came up with. Feel free to use whatever toppings you want. Those listed below are my favorites. You can also add ground beef, grilled chicken, roasted pork, or whatever meat you fancy.

Giant Burritos
big flour tortillas
black beans
steamed rice
shredded cheese
fresh cilantro
grilled onions
diced avocado
taco sauce
sour cream
pickled jalapenos

Heat the flour tortillas in the microwave, until soft and flexible for rolling. Add the fillings of your choice, and roll carefully, tucking in the sides as you go. Grab a sheet of tin foil, and lay the bottom 2/3 of the burrito over one edge of the foil. Fold the foil up over the burrito, and roll the burrito more tightly, using the foil to keep it from unrolling. Kind of like rolling sushi, for lack of a better description, but using the foil instead of a sushi mat. Anyway, roll it up however you want, and eat it. That's the important part.


Pico de Gallo


We usually just use jarred salsa for our burritos, but today I wanted some yummy, fresh, pico de gallo. I think it really adds a lot to a burrito, much more so than your run-of-the-mill salsa, so I set off to make some.

The only tomatoes at the store were pathetic, but I didn't have a lot of choice. We had some crazy, wicked storms here over the last 24 hours, and it wasn't really the best weather for driving around in. That didn't stop us, however, from loading the kids into the car (school was closed because of the rain and flooding) and heading off to McDonald's to try a free chicken biscuit. Yes, we are idiots, but I told you I'm a food slut. A bunch of the roads in our subdivision were flooded, but we managed to make our way through, and got our chicken biscuits. We also stopped at the store on the way home to get some tomatoes, such as they were. And that's why my pico de gallo looks more pink, green and white, instead of red, green and white. Still tasty, though.

Pico de Gallo

2 tomatoes
1 medium white onion
2 fresh jalapenos
1 big handful cilantro
1 lime
salt & pepper

Dice the tomatoes, onion, and jalapeno in a fairly fine dice, about 1/4-inch. Coarsely chop the cilantro, and combine with previous ingredients in a medium glass or ceramic bowl. Juice the lime and add it to the mixture. Combine thoroughly. Salt and pepper to taste. Chill before serving.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Spicy Black Beans and Rice


Inspired by the delicious black beans we had last week, I bought a few more bags and am determined to start cooking with them more often. Tonight's dinner is almost embarrassingly simple, but really yummy. If you want, you could stir the rice and beans all together into one dish, but I preferred to spoon the beans and sauce over the rice.  We used soy cheese and soy sour cream, to make this a vegan meal.  

Spicy Black Beans and Rice

1 lb dry black beans
1 bay leaf
1 can Rotel (diced tomatoes and chiles)
salt & pepper
4 servings hot, cooked rice
Toppings (optional): cheddar cheese, sour cream, cilantro, hot sauce

Soak beans overnight. The next day drain the beans, then cover with water to several inches above, add the bay leaf, and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water boils, reduce heat, cover and simmer for one and a half to two hours, or until beans are tender.

Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid. Return beans to the pot, setting aside half for another use. Add Rotel and 1 to 2 cups of cooking liquid, or more or less to suit your preference. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve beans over rice, and add toppings as desired.

Vegan Cornbread


I've been on a quest for a long time to replicate Brad's great-grandmother's cornbread. Granny Smith evidently made the most fabulous cornbread anyone has ever tasted. Sadly, I never had a chance to try it for myself, so I've kind of been flying blind here. I must have made two dozen different cornbread recipes over the past year, and I've come close, Brad tells me, but never quite gotten there. I'm a yankee, you know, so my experience with cornbread has been mostly sweet and fluffy, not the dense, gritty, often flourless cornbread that y'all are familiar with down here.

Brad's stepmom Jaimie made cornbread when my parents were visiting. I didn't know that she had Granny's recipe (I was under the impression all this time that Granny had never shared her recipe before she passed away), and it turns out that after all my attempts at making it from scratch, Granny actually used a mix. Go figure. She doctored it up some, so it wasn't just a straight mix out of box, but I was still surprised, as you can imagine. Kind of like that episode of Friends where Monica spends forever trying to make chocolate chip cookies like Phoebe's grandma, only to find out that they were just the cookies from the back of the bag of chocolate chips. ; ) I haven't gotten the recipe from Jaimie yet, so I haven't tried it for myself, but I'm looking forward to it!

We wanted cornbread with our rice and beans tonight, and since I didn't have any buttermilk on hand, I decided to go ahead and try making vegan cornbread. I mean, come on...cornbread isn't really worth making without buttermilk anyway, so I might as well try the vegan way, right? I based my recipe on this one from Post Punk Kitchen, but modified it somewhat.

The results? Holy crap. I think this is my favorite cornbread I've EVER made. I wasn't even expecting to like it, to be perfectly honest, but it was incredible! Brad tried it before me, and said it was good. I asked if it was good for vegan cornbread, or just plain good for cornbread, period. He said it was good for cornbread, period. Yes!

You could make this lighter by leaving out the shortening in the skillet. But why would you want to?

Oh, and I like to put honey on my cornbread, but Brad said that's a bastardization of everything that is Southern cornbread. I say, whatever, dude. This yankee don't care.

Southern Vegan Cornbread

1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup soy milk
1 tsp vinegar
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup canola oil

Place shortening in a shallow cast iron skillet. Set oven to 400 degrees, and place the skillet and shortening in it while it preheats.

While the oven is heating, mix the batter. In a small bowl, combine soy milk and vinegar. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt. Add canola oil to soy milk mixture, whisk together, and pour into cornmeal mixture. Stir just until combined.

When the oven is heated, remove hot skillet from oven, and pour the batter into the hot oil. It should be hot enough to sizzle at this point when you pour the batter in. Using a small spoon, scoop up some of the melted shortening that rises up around the edges, and drizzle it over the top of the batter.

Bake 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then invert it onto a plate. Cut into wedges and serve.