Saturday, October 29, 2011

Stealing Innovation or How I Learned My Oven is an Evil Little Devil Out to Ruin My Bread

I haven't been doing too much food innovating lately,  but I have been trying out a bunch of new recipes, some with more success than others.

A few weeks ago at the Farmer's Market I encountered a cushaw pumpkin for the first time. The woman at the farm stand told me they were similar in taste to pumpkin once cooked, only sweeter. It is traditional in Louisiana to use them in place of pumpkin and sweet potatoes. After purchasing a giant one ($2) I took it home with the intention of making a pie with it. Somewhere along the way I found myself drifting towards bread recipes, and then next thing I knew I was making this Good Housekeeping pumpkin bread recipe, substituting baked and mashed cushaw for the pumpkin.
Couldn't resist a bite before the photo
The bread turned out well and I recommend the recipe, even if you are just using plain old pumpkin. The yogurt was a really nice addition - I think it kept the bread extremely moist.

My next new discovery was a recipe I found browsing around the food section of the New York Times. If you haven't ever given their recipes a look I highly suggest it. In particular the Recipes for Health section is a goldmine of great ideas. The Indian Style Roast Beets were well received by both Erik and me - we left out the cilantro (gross) and pomegranate seeds. I'm very interested in learning to cook Indian food that is a tad more complicated than my standard "indian vegetable curry/dal" fare but I am often intimidated by overly complicated recipes. This dish was totally feasible. Now on to making homemade paneer?

With my attempt at Chatapi - fail :(
Erik's parents were here for a weekend and we ate at some lovely restaurants with them. Dick & Jenny's and Brigsten's were particularly good. When they left Erik's mom gave him directions on how to make a delicious meal and he very successfully prepared an awesome dinner for me.
Notice our fancy paper towel napkins
Next up: Harvest Apple Challah bread from a King Arthur recipe. Now I suspect this would have been good if it weren't for my errors.
Looks good but sadly overcooked 
First I broke one of my own whole wheat baking rules. I was too ambitious with my substituting. Of the 4 cups of flour the recipe called for I used whole wheat flour for 3. My next mistake was really due to my unfortunate oven circumstances. My oven is pretty old and there seems to be no actual relation between what the temperature is set at and what temperature it choses to cook at. I thought I had figured out that it cooks about 50 degrees warmer than the dial is set for, but after ruining this bread I am pretty sure it just does whatever the heck it wants. I am in serious need of an oven thermometer.
Tonight we are carving pumpkins and I am excited to roast the seeds. Next week I will show you all (not quite ready for y'alls yet) how to make your own granola bars with them! Anyone have pumpkin carving ideas? Also, when did "halloween lights" become a thing - was it when I was living in the saddest place in Boston aka Dorchester?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


I have moved from Summer Laura to Fall Laura. Summer Laura eats a lot of fruit and veggies from the farmer's market, spends 85% of daylight hours outdoors, and wearing her favorite summer outfit; yoga capri pants (you know you tried to steal them El) and a v-neck T-shirt. In contrast, Fall Laura is currently eating an IKEA chocolate bar (specifically called a Choklad Not, if you wanted to know), goes to work (school) in the morning when it is still dark, and wears some sort of Northface product at least 95% of the time.

Bring on the carbs it is time to hibernate.
Before I crawl into my electric blanket and count the days down to summer vacation, I thought I would share one of my favorite end of the garden recipes, which also can be made with canned goods if the frost has already hit your house. I made this with fresh tomatoes/corn/garlic/onion from the aforementioned farmer's market and peppers from my garden.

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup
1 T. veggie oil
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno or something more to your spicyness preference, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 cups pureed tomatoes, with some chunks left in for good measure
1 cup veggie broth (love the Penzey's)
3 cobs of corn cut from the cob
1 T. cumin
S&P to taste
Tortilla chips, cheese, sour cream, avocado, etc. for toppings.

First, chop everything up. I pureed my tomatoes in a blender and chopped in my mini chopper the onion/garlic/bell pepper/jalapeno. Whatever size chop you want is okay, it is a soup not science. Saute the chopped veggies in the veggie oil in a heavy pot. After everything is starting to smell good, add the tomatoes puree and cook down for 5 minutes on medium high. Next, add the veggie broth, corn, cumin and S&P. At this time I added a can of black beans to add some more protein. Let it cook for a while until it is at the consistency that you want it...not watery but not a stew...then top and eat.
Now here is my admission of guilt, the recipe that I use calls for making your own tortillas and then adding them in the pot of soup to cook. I have tried this twice and it is really yummy, but sooooo not worth the effort. Trust me, just buy the $3 bag of chips and stick some in there, if you let them soak in the soup it will taste the same, I promise.

Obviously, this recipe is doable with canned goods as well and turns out really fresh tasting on a chilly winter day.

P.S. Just to let you know I did eat 1/2 of my Choklad Not.
P.P.S. I like the song "Hibernation" by His Orchestra...listening to it right now.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Inside My Lunchbox Part 1

Oh hello there. Good to see you again. You look good.
Me? Oh I have been enjoying a nice old fashioned sinus cold. Reaaal snotty. Oh yeah. That doesn't mean I don't need to eat lunch.
This post is dedicated to a new reader out there - you know who you are.

Veggie Spring Rolls
Vietnamese rice paper wrappers
Veggies cut into 3-4 cm pieces (bell pepper, cucumber, carrots)
Peanut Sauce (recipe below)

I recommend making this lunch the night before.
The rice paper wrappers are surprisingly easy to work with. You can get these at any asian market, and most supermarkets. You buy them dried and a single package should last you for a long time.
To make the spring rolls boil a pot of water and pour some into a shallow dish or large plate with high sides. Dip an individual rice paper wrapper in the hot water for a few seconds. It will go from being stiff to completely soft and sticky.
Now place this wet wrapper on a plate or cutting board. Add any combination of chopped veggies, tofu, lettuce, noodles, etc - I find a nice piece of basil or mint is delicious.
Love the colors
The thing to remember is to try not to stuff it too full. This is not a burrito. If you are using tofu or noodles stack this next and top it all with a leaf of lettuce. Smear the side of the wrapper with peanut sauce and fold it all up. You can use any technique you like for wrapping them - the rice paper is super sticky and will pretty much keep any spring roll together. Put in a tupperware and place in refrigerator overnight.
Bring to work and impress all of your awesome coworkers with your delicious and healthy lunch.

Peanut Sauce
1/3 cup peanut butter
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
Generous squeeze of sriracha or other hot pepper sauce
1/4 teaspoon miso

In a small saucepan heat all ingredients over medium heat. Stir with a whisk until smooth.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I’m real sorry.

I’m so so sorry. But you are about to spend the next 24 hours stuffing your face with cookies. They are that good. I’m not sure of the original source of the recipe, but I suspect it may be an Alton Brown creation that I modified.
Just a note about what to expect with these cookies. If you are interested in a crisp cookie, a biscotti like cookie, something that snaps – do not make these. These are so chewy and soft they will bend in your hand as you cram cookie after cookie down your gapping  gullet. The recipe below features raisin, but I expect that one could substitute chocolate chips, dried cherries, nuts, etc.
Note the coincidental heavenly light.
Super Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
3/4 cup softened butter
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
3 T honey
3/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 t cinnamon
1/4 t ginger
1/4 t nutmeg
1 T apple cider vinegar
1 T vanilla
1 egg
1 1/3 cup oats
1 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cup raisin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease baking sheet. Cream butter, sugar, honey, baking soda, baking powder, salt, spices, vinegar, and vanilla. Beat in egg. Add oats and raisins and stir until well combined. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto baking sheet. Bake 10-14 min, rotating the pan halfway through. Allow cookies to cool on pan and then transfer to cooling racks. Stuff dozens of them in your face.