Thursday, August 22, 2013

Brazil Nut and Goji Berry Cheese Spread

Turbokid came home from preschool today begging for grilled cheese. I didn't have any commercial non-dairy cheese in the refrigerator and was out of cashews, so I put together this Brazil nut and goji berry cheese spread. It's tangy and gooey, a great filling for a grilled cheese sandwich or spread for crackers. I think it would also be good mixed into macaroni or penne.

Brazil Nut and Goji Berry Cheese Spread

1/3 cup goji berries
1/3 cup Brazil nuts
1/3 cup quick oats
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
3 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp cornstarch (or arrowroot powder)
1 Tbsp tahini
1 tsp salt
2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1 1/3 cups water

Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour mixture into a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the cheese is thick and gooey.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sourdough Cornbread

I love experimenting with my sourdough starter. I wasn't sure how a sourdough cornbread would turn out, but it ended up being great. It's a slightly sweet bread that could be a nice side for chili or baked beans.

Sourdough Cornbread

1 cup sourdough starter
2 cups cornmeal
1 1/2 cups non-dairy milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1/2 cup Earth Balance or coconut oil, melted
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 425F. Grease an 8x8" cake pan.

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir well. Pour batter into the pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Baked Green Tomatoes

I am not fond of fried foods, so I try to find baked alternatives whenever possible. Baking doesn't give quite the same result, but it makes for a much less oily and lighter-tasting result.

A few unripe tomatoes dropped off my vines so I decided to make fried green tomatoes with them. This recipe can be used for fried or pan-fried tomatoes, but I prefer them baked. I ran out of cornmeal making sourdough cornbread, so I added gluten-free flours to the tiny amount of cornmeal I had left. The result was a wonderful, creamy center and a crispy crust. These were especially good with a little Good and Evil Hot Sauce.

Baked Green Tomatoes made with both yellow and blue cornmeal.

Baked Green Tomatoes

2-4 green tomatoes
1/2 cup soy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup garbanzo flour
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a baking sheet.

Stir the apple cider vinegar into the soy milk and set it aside to curdle. Slice the green tomatoes into 1/4" rounds. In a small bowl, mix cornmeal, flours, onion powder, black pepper, and salt.

One at a time, dip the tomato slices in the soy milk and then in the cornmeal mixture to coat. Place coated tomatoes on the baking sheet, spray tops with a little cooking oil, and bake for 20 minutes, flipping tomatoes halfway through.

Variations: Try sliced zucchini instead of or in addition to the tomatoes. Experiment with different flour combinations or use 3/4 cup cornmeal and no flours.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Corn Chowder

I have two corn chowder recipes -- a thick and hearty winter stew and a lighter summer soup. This is the summer version, made with herbs and veggies from my garden and vegetables from this week's Door to Door Organics box. It's a little sweet, a little spicy, and surprisingly filling.

The onions were originally one onion that sprouted in my pantry. I planted it and it grew into three small onions. I trimmed the greens occasionally to use in recipes and just let the onion grow. Since the greens were starting to wilt, signalling the coming end of growth, I harvested the onions today so I could use both the bulbs and the remaining greens. The soup had a slight citrus kick from the lime basil I added from my garden, but you can use another variety of basil if you choose. I also grew the jalapeno, the first of my peppers to be ready this season.

Corn Chowder

3 ears of corn
1 jalapeno, minced
1 large (or 3 small) onion, diced
1 tsp olive oil
small bunch of onion greens or 4 scallions, sliced thin
1 lb yellow potatoes, diced (include peels)
4-6 ribs celery, sliced thin (include the leaves)
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
3 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh sweet or lime basil, chopped
pinch allspice
pinch ground cayenne
1 tsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp liquid smoke
2 cups soy milk

Shuck the corn, then use a sharp knife to strip the kernels from the cobs.

In a large saucepan or a stock pot, saute the onion and jalapeno in the olive oil for 2-3 minutes, until onion becomes translucent. Add the potatoes and celery and saute for several more minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients except the soy milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until potatoes are soft.

Remove from heat and stir in the soy milk before serving.

Fudgy Marshmallow Oatmeal Cookies

These cookies are s'mores for adults - a gooey, fudgy, decadent cookie made a little healthier with a base of oatmeal and whole wheat flour. Regular cocoa powder can be used, but I prefer the darker flavor of dutched cocoa. These aren't the prettiest cookies since the marshmallows tend to melt and explode, but they make up for their homeliness in flavor.

There are two brands of vegan marshmallows that I know of -- Dandies and Sweet & Sara. Both are good, but Dandies have more of the air-puffed campfire marshmallow texture. If you use the bigger marshmallows from either brand, cut them into quarters or eighths before folding them into the batter.

Fudgy Marshmallow Oatmeal Cookies

2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup dutched cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 Tbsp ground flax
1 1/4 cups non-dairy milk (I used soy)
1/2 cup coconut oil
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1 cup vegan marshmallows (I used Dandies and cut them into quarters)

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease two baking sheets.

In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients except for chocolate chips and marshmallows. Add non-dairy milk, coconut oil, and vanilla and mix well to form a dough. Fold in the chocolate chips and marshmallows.

Drop dough on the baking sheets in 2 Tbsp-sized portions, making sure there is a marshmallow in each cookie. For a little more predictability in marshmallow expansion, you may want to fold the dough around the marshmallows instead of mixing them directly into the dough.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool for at least 5 minutes before transferring them to a plate or rack to finish cooling.

Kohlrabi Two Ways

My garden has been in full bloom for a while. I planted four kohlrabi starts early in the season and they recently became ready to harvest. I wasn't sure what to do with the alien-looking vegetables since I'd never tasted them before, so I decided to treat them as a root vegetable. If you grow kohlrabi or manage to buy bulbs with the greens still attached, don't discard the greens. They are very edible with a mild flavor similar to collards or turnip greens. One fully-grown kohlrabi produces a 2.5-4 inch diameter bulb with a large bunch of greens.

In addition to gardening from starts and seeds, I have also been growing the onions that sprout in my pantry. The greens are edible with a flavor similar to scallions, so I snip a few as the onion develops and toss them in my dishes. South African Smoked Seasoning can be found in a spice grinder at Trader Joe's. It's optional, but adds a great flavor to food, so I recommend picking up a jar of it or looking for a similar product in other stores.

Kohlrabi fresh from the garden.
Roasted Root Vegetables over wild rice and Greens and Beans.

Roasted Root Vegetables

2 kohlrabi
2 small sweet potatoes
1 vidalia onion
3 carrots
1 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 Tbsp minced fresh basil
1 Tbsp minced fresh oregano
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste
South African Smoked Seasoning, to taste (optional)

Preheat oven to 400F.

Peel kohlrabi and sweet potatoes, then slice into 1/4" rounds. Cut each round in half to make a half-moon shape. Peel and slice the onion. Slice the carrots into rounds.

Place all vegetables into a casserole dish. Toss with fresh herbs, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Cover dish and bake for 30 minutes. Remove cover from dish and bake another 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.

Serve over wild rice or another grain of your choice. Season to taste with smoked seasoning, if desired.

Greens and Beans

1 bunch kohlrabi greens
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 onion greens, sliced thin (substitute 3 scallions if you don't have access to onion greens)
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
South African Smoked Seasoning, to taste (optional)

Wash the kohlrabi greens well. Remove the stems and tear or cut the greens into bite-sized pieces.

Heat the oil in a skillet. Add garlic and onion greens and saute for 1-2 minutes. Add the kohlrabi greens and saute for about 5 minutes, until greens are tender. Add chickpeas and seasonings. Cook long enough to heat the beans, then remove from heat and serve.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Sourdough Pizza Crust

I recently made a batch of sourdough crackers and decided to try using some of the dough for bread sticks. It had the consistency of pizza crust, so I tweaked the recipe slightly and made a pizza with the next batch. Turbokid loved it and even ate the crust, something he rarely does.

Vegan barbecue "chicken" pizza - barbecue sauce, vegan chicken, sauteed zucchini, chopped roma tomatoes, and Daiya mozzarella cheese.

Sourdough Pizza Crust

1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried basil (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Kneed just until dough is smooth, adding a little more flour if the dough is sticky. Form dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and let it sit in a warm location for at least six hours and up to twenty-four. The dough can be refrigerated after the proofing time if you're not able to use it right away.

Preheat oven to 375C. Lightly grease a baking sheet, then roll the dough onto the sheet into the desired shape and thickness. You can roll up the edges of the dough to give a thicker edge crust.

Bake crust for 8-10 minutes, then remove from oven and add sauce and toppings. Return to oven and bake another 10 minutes, until crust is golden.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Plum Crumble for One

The problem with desserts is that it can be difficult to find baked desserts that serve just one or two instead of a dozen. It is almost as difficult to find desserts that are low sugar without resorting to fake sugar. This crumble satisfies both of those needs. It is single serving (but can easily be doubled) and only contains a teaspoon of sugar to cut the tartness of the plums. Also, unlike recipes making larger amounts, it only requires a couple pieces of fruit instead of a whole bag.

If you don't like or don't have plums, any other stone fruit can be substituted. You can also substitute the almond butter with peanut butter, or another nut or seed butter.

I confess I had this for breakfast instead of dessert, but since it is mostly fruit and oatmeal, I don't need to feel guilty about that.

Sorry on the blurriness! I didn't realize the focus was off until I uploaded it. By then, I had already eaten the crumble.
Plum Crumble for One

3 plums, sliced
1 Tbsp water
1/4 cup old fashioned oatmeal
1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tsp sugar or maple syrup
1 Tbsp almond butter
1 Tbsp coconut oil

Preheat oven to 375F.

Place sliced plums and water in a small baking dish.

In a small bowl, mix together the oatmeal, flour, sugar, almond butter, and coconut oil. Sprinkle the mixture on top of the plums.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the topping is lightly browned.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Zucchini Bread

I found myself with a surplus of zucchini this week. I could only find one of my bread pans, so the excess batter became muffins. This recipe makes two loaves of bread or about 18 large muffins. Turbokid screamed "Cupcakes!" when he saw the muffins and devoured two of them.

Zucchini Bread

2 cups grated zucchini (about two zucchini)
3 Tbsp ground flax seed
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup mashed banana (about 1 medium ripe banana)
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp baking soda
3 cups white whole wheat flour

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease two bread pans.

In a small, stir together the ground flax and water and let sit for about 5 minutes. In a large mixing bowl, combine the grated zucchini, flax and water mixture, coconut oil, mashed banana, sugar, and vanilla. Stir in the salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, and baking soda, then add the flour and mix well.

Pour batter into the bread pans. Bake for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Muffin variation: This recipe makes approximately 18 muffins. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Maple-Chia Granola

I have a difficult time figuring out what to do with chia seeds. I don't like their texture in drinks and I'm usually not in the mood for pudding. This granola is a good, non-threatening way to introduce chia to your diet. It's especially good sprinkled over some plain or vanilla non-dairy yogurt and fresh fruit.

Maple-Chia Granola

4 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup coconut oil

Preheat oven to 300F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Put all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Spread the granola evenly on the baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, remove from heat and stir well, then bake for another 15 minutes. Allow granola to cool completely on the baking sheet before transferring to an air-tight container. The oats will become crunchier as they cool.

Quick Farro and Veggie Bowl

I'm always looking for quick, healthful meals for the nights when there just isn't time to cook. This one takes about 15 minutes to make and any veggies can be substituted for the ones I included. Quick-cook farro and smoked seasoning can be found at Trader Joe's, and I'm sure other stores also carry similar items. If you can't find quick-cook farro, regular farro can be used, but you'll have to cook it longer. The smoked seasoning is optional, but I think it adds a fun kick to an otherwise simple dish.

I subscribed to a weekly home-delivery organic produce service last week and we received our first box today. It was a huge box that contained all sorts of tasty and very fresh treasures. My kids are excited by the oranges and tangerines, and I am excited by having an easier way to feed my family fresh veggies. The kids are becoming difficult to shop with, so being able to make fewer trips to the grocery store is a relief. One of the items in this week's box was a bunch of baby turnips, so those little gems became the inspiration for this dish.

It was still steaming when I took the picture, but we were in a hurry so I didn't have time to let it cool.
Quick Farro and Veggie Bowl

1 cup quick-cook farro
2 cups water or vegetable broth
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 bunch baby turnips (including greens)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 clove garlic, minced or grated
1 handful cherry tomatoes, diced
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
smoked seasoning blend to taste (optional)

Place farro and water or broth in a saucepan and cook according to package directions.

While the farro is cooking, heat the olive oil in a saute pan. Remove and reserve the greens from the baby turnips. Dice the turnips. Saute the turnips until they begin to soften. Add the chickpeas, mushrooms, and garlic and saute for a few more minutes. Chop the turnip greens and add them to the pan along with the tomatoes, salt and pepper, and smoked seasoning. Saute until the turnip greens wilt.

Stir in the cooked farro and serve. Serves about 3.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

I get bored easily so like to experiment with variations on recipes. I've been making bread from my rye sourdough starter a couple times a week, so I'm on a quest to find my favorite sourdough recipes. This one is great. It's made entirely with white whole wheat flour, but it is fluffy instead of dense like most homemade whole wheat breads. Most of the sourdough recipes I've seen either use multiple rise times or allow the dough to proof for 12+ hours, but this one only has a single, four-hour rise with no dough reshaping. That is mostly because I forgot about it while doing other things and when I came back to the kitchen, the dough was huge so I thought I might as well bake it. My forgetfulness paid off, because this is my favorite sourdough variation so far.

Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

1 1/2 cups sourdough starter
1 cup soy milk, room temperature
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
3 Tbsp wheat bran
3 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp salt
3 Tbsp Earth Balance, softened
4 cups white whole wheat flour (plus more for kneading)

Mix all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl, then turn dough onto a floured surface and knead for several minutes, until dough is smooth and stretchy. Form dough into a loaf shape on a parchment paper-covered baking sheet, then cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm area to rise for at least four hours.

Preheat oven to 400F at the end of the rising time. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

Variation: For a denser, even more flavorful bread, try replacing the white whole wheat flour with freshly ground red winter wheat flour (one of my local grocery stores has a wheat berry grinder), the Earth Balance with olive oil, and the sugar with molasses.

Fiddleheads for One

Sometimes you come across odd seasonal produce, lovely little things that are only available a week or two a year. Morels, fiddleheads, and ramps come to mind. If you are lucky enough to find them in a store, they are incredibly expensive. However, a little can go a long way, especially when you know the kids will have no interest in your little culinary treasures.

I found fiddlehead ferns last night. They were nearly $20 a pound, but I decided to try them anyway. I grabbed a handful and they rang up at under $2. So, what do I do with a handful of scroll-like ferns? Saute them with tempeh and mushrooms!

If you want to try fiddleheads, make sure you thoroughly cook them before eating them because they are only edible when cooked. The method I used blanched them and then sauteed them. They are quite good, a gustatory cross between asparagus and green beans. I served this saute over steel cut oats for breakfast, but it would also be good with brown rice or another cooked grain. You can also This recipe is for a single serving, but it can easily be doubled.

Fiddlehead ferns and crimini mushrooms

Flax tempeh, crimini mushrooms, dried thyme, and fiddlehead ferns - washed, sliced, and trimmed

Blanching the fiddleheads - only boil them until they float. It takes less than 30 seconds.

Tempeh, lightly coated in soy sauce and coriander and sauteed in olive oil.

Add in fiddlehead ferns.

Add in mushrooms and seasonings once ferns are cooked thoroughly.

Served over steel-cut oats.

Fiddleheads and Tempeh Saute for One

1 small handful of fiddlehead ferns (12-14 fiddleheads)
1 handful crimini mushrooms, sliced.
4oz tempeh, sliced
1 tsp tamari
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp dried thyme (or 2 tsp fresh thyme)
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Trim the browned ends from the fiddleheads. Blanch the fiddleheads by tossing them into the boiling water for about 30 seconds, until they float. Quickly remove them from the boiling water and douse them with cold water.

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan. Toss the sliced tempeh with the tamari and coriander to coat, then saute them in the olive oil until they just begin to brown.

Add the fiddlehead ferns to the pan and saute with the tempeh until they begin to soften and brown. Add a little more olive oil if the pan becomes too dry. Add the mushrooms, thyme, salt, and pepper and saute for 2-3 minutes, until mushrooms are cooked.

Remove from heat and serve over steel-cut oats, brown rice, or quinoa.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Avocado Kale Salad

Leafy greens are a staple in my family's diet. I try to cycle through the darker varieties - spinach, Swiss chard, mustard greens, turnip greens, collards, and kale.

This salad was inspired by one I had from a health food store salad bar. I thought that salad had potential, but was a little boring with just kale, onions, and the avocado dressing. I livened up this version with mini heirloom tomatoes, raw pepitas, and cucumber. 

There is a lot of nutritional value to be excited about in this tasty raw salad. Kale is high in Vitamins A, C, and K, and also contains significant amounts of calcium, folate, and potassium. Avocados contain beneficial fats in addition to a high fiber content, Vitamins C and K, and folate. Lemons are full of potassium and Vitamin C.  Pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc and other trace minerals. Tomatoes are rich in antioxidants.

Avocado Kale Salad

1 big bunch of kale, washed, chopped, and stems removed (or a 10oz bag of pre-chopped kale)
2 avocados, peeled and pitted
2 lemons, peeled and seeded
1/3 cup water
3 cloves garlic
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup raw pepitas (hull-less pumpkin seeds)
1 medium English cucumber, diced (about 1 cup)
1 cup diced cherry tomatoes (I used some mini heirlooms)

In a food processor or blender, puree avocados, lemons, water, garlic, salt, and pepper.

Place kale in a large mixing bowl. Pour avocado dressing over the kale, mix well, and then use your hands to massage the dressing into the kale. This will make the leaves tender.

Stir in the pepitas, cucumber, and cherry tomatoes.

The salad can be served immediately or refrigerated and allowed to marinate for several hours or overnight.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sourdough Soft Pretzels

My lovely jar of sourdough starter has now contributed to three loaves of bread and a batch of soft pretzels. My husband was craving soft pretzels after a day out, so I told him I'd try making sourdough pretzels. The dough takes 2-3 hours to proof, so plan a little ahead. Top them any way you choose. You can sprinkle with coarse sea salt for a classic soft pretzel, shredded sweetened coconut if you're craving sweet, or jalapenos and shredded cheddar Daiya if you're feeling spicy. Turbokid dove for the sesame pretzel and ate the entire thing.

(Clockwise) Jalapeno-Cheddar, Sesame, Coconut, Cinnamon Sugar
 Sourdough Soft Pretzels

2/3 cup sourdough starter
1 cup lukewarm water
3 cups unbleached white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp sea salt

For boiling:
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda

olive oil (for savory) or coconut oil (for sweet) for brushing
Optional topping ideas: coarse salt, cinnamon and sugar, minced garlic, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, nutritional yeast, sliced almonds, jalapenos and Daiya cheese, coconut shreds, etc.

Combine starter, water, flours, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Knead dough for several minutes, until dough is smooth and stretchy. Cover dough with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and set in a warm spot for 2-3 hours, until dough has doubled in size.

Stir baking soda into water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Preheat oven to 450F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Lightly oil the parchment paper.

Dough balls. Keep them covered so they don't dry out.

Divide dough into 8 portions and roll each piece into a rope about 24 inches long. Keep the dough covered with plastic wrap or a towel when not working with it so it doesn't dry out. Knot each rope into a pretzel shape. Boil the pretzels for 30 seconds, one at a time, in the baking soda water. Remove from water with a slotted spoon and drain.

Knotted pretzel, pre-boiling. Boiling sets the shape and helps the toppings stick.

Place the pretzels on the baking sheets. Lightly brush with olive oil or melted coconut oil, then sprinkle on topping of choice.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.

Jalapeno and Daiya cheddar

Sweetened shredded coconut

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Bran Muffins

I wasn't able to get a decent picture of these because my kids were more concerned with eating the muffins than food photography. I started out by using pumpkin puree in place of oil and then decided to add the spices for a pumpkin pie flavor.

Pumpkin Spice Bran Muffins

1 1/2 cups wheat bran
1/2 cup hot water
1 cup soy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 Tbsp ground flax seed mixed into 2 Tbsp water
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice

1 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine wheat bran and hot water. Allow to sit for a few minutes so the bran absorbs the moisture. Meanwhile, combine soy milk and apple cider vinegar in a small bowl or measuring cup. Allow to curdle, then stir into bran. Mix in brown sugar, pumpkin puree, and flax. Sift in baking soda, salt, and spices, stir, then sift in white whole wheat flour and mix until well combined.

Spoon batter into 12 greased or papered muffin cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Adventures in Fermentation

(L to R) Pickled Onions, Moroccan Preserved Lemons, Sauerkraut, Sourdough Starter, Kombucha. The second sourdough starter in the back is being adopted by a friend soon.

About five weeks ago, I attempted growing my own kombucha SCOBY from a bottle of commercial kombucha. I didn't realize at the time that the instructions I was following were for the old formulation of kombucha prior to it being temporarily removed from store shelves in 2010. After a couple weeks, I tossed out the weird, transparent jellyfish-like-blob I'd grown and acquired a real SCOBY. My first batch is in its first fermentation now. In a couple days, I'll taste-test it and if it's ready, I'll bottle it up with interesting flavors like carrot juice, hibiscus flowers, or orange juice and send it into the dark for its second fermentation.

About two weeks ago, I began a rye sourdough starter using this method. It took off and grew into a monster ooze that bubbled out of the old spaghetti sauce jar I'd started it in. I split the starter into two jars, one for a friend and one to keep, and fed the cloned monsters succulent grains of organic rye for a couple days before capping the jars and storing them in the fridge.

Rye Sourdough Starter on day 3. So many bubbles and the monster is only hours away from overflowing the jar.

Today I took the starter out and made my first loaf of sourdough using this recipe. It was a test loaf to make sure my starter was good. Well, it was certainly good, and I ended up with a 10-inch in diameter fluffy loaf of sourdough bread with a chewy crust and a pleasant tang.

My lovely first loaf of sourdough bread.

I fed the monster to replace the starter I used and it bubbled out the top of the jar within an hour. I have some happy yeast in that starter! The spaghetti squash jar wasn't going to cut it anymore, so I picked up a 2-quart jar, added to my recently-fed starter, and watched the monster grow to fill 2/3 of the new jar. I sense a large quantity of sourdough recipe experiments in my future.

Not content with just a brewing kombucha and a happy sourdough starter, I felt compelled to find new things to ferment. I went shopping for organic produce - onions, lemons, and cabbage. I had a bag of onions already, but they sprouted in my cupboard and now I'm waiting for the frost to pass so I can plant them outside.

The cupboard dwellers. Their owls have not yet arrived.

In the span of an hour and a half, I made Moroccan Preserved Lemons, Sauerkraut, and Pickled Onions. They have taken up residence on a cookie sheet in the cupboard under my buffet counter, little jars of mundane things waiting to create some magic.

So, here I am after midnight, typing with briny hands and hoping everything works. Fermenting is a curious thing -  an exercise in patience and an obligatory strong stomach ready to ignore the oddness of what you're eating or drinking in favor of appreciating the beneficial microorganisms. I'm trying to figure out what I should make next. Any suggestions?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Garbanzo Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm not gluten-free right now, but I still like to experiment with gluten-free baking. I have never used xanthan gum in my gluten-free baking because everything I've made has turned out fine without it so I think it's unnecessary in most recipes. These cookies are made with garbanzo flour, which gives a beany flavor to the dough but the beaniness disappears upon baking. They are also free of tree nuts, peanuts, and soy. If you desire, you can stir in coconut flakes, dried fruit, nuts, or seeds along with or instead of the chocolate chips. The cookies bake up soft and don't fall apart or crumble like many of the gluten-free recipes I've tried.

*Note* This recipe had a typo. It should have been 1/4 cup non-dairy milk instead of 3/4 cup.

Garbanzo Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup non-dairy milk
1 Tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups garbanzo flour
3/4 cup chocolate chips.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, use a fork to combine brown and white sugars, coconut oil, non-dairy milk, and cornstarch. If your kitchen is cool, it might be easier to mix with an electric beater because coconut oil solidifies below 76F.

Stir in vanilla, baking soda, and salt. Mix in garbanzo flour until well combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Drop dough by the tablespoon onto the cookie sheets.

Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Coconut Oatmeal Pancakes

Turbokid decided he needed "cancakes" for breakfast, so I made up these. They are sweet without added sugar and delicate, so it may take some practice to flip the pancakes without them falling apart. The coconut flavor is subtle. The pancakes are wheat, soy, and nut-free. They are good served with Earth Balance butter and maple syrup or with fresh fruit and toasted coconut.

Coconut Oatmeal Pancakes

1/2 cup coconut flour (pulse unsweetened flaked coconut in a food processor until it turns into a powder)
3/4 cup oat flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened sunflower)
1 Tbsp oil (I used sunflower)

Mix together coconut flour, oat flour, salt, and baking powder in bowl. Stir in applesauce, non-dairy milk, and oil.

Preheat a lightly oiled skillet on medium-low heat. Spoon batter onto the skillet (about 1-2 Tbsp per pancake) and cook for a few minutes on each side, until pancake is golden.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Vampire-Away Kale Chips

One of the local health food stores had a sample of garlicky kale chips out one day so I tried them. They were wonderful, but cost something like $5-6 for a small container. I bought a bunch of kale a couple days ago, so decided I had to replicate those chips. Mine are baked instead of raw because I don't have a dehydrator and raw vegetables are hard on my finicky stomach.

Vampire-Away Kale Chips

1 bunch green kale
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 275F.

Wash kale, then remove the ribs and tear or cut the leaves into bite-sized pieces.

In a large bowl, toss the kale with the olive oil, then with the nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and salt. I found it was easiest to get an even coating by shaking it in a container with a lid, but tossing in a bowl also works.

Place kale on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until crispy, stirring once halfway through.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Sharo's Sourdough Rye

Some people like their bread light and fluffy, but I prefer mine to have texture and substance. This bread takes several days to make, so satisfying that sourdough craving needs to be planned in advance. I made a small amount of starter containing active dry yeast for this recipe experiment, but you can also make your own long-term sourdough starter for multiple batches like this. I had a little trouble with the rises because my house is cold right now.

Sharo Briarwind is a minor character in my Echoes of Oblivion trilogy. She's the mother of major character Rhodren Briarwind and the owner of a bakery in the green city of Heren, Maritor. Sharo is a deceptively clever and earthy woman with a complex past, with hands made strong from years of kneading bread. I'm naming this recipe for her because it may have been the same patient variety of rye her son stole from her in his introductory chapter.

Sharo's Sourdough Rye

Makes 2 small loaves or 1 large one.

1/4 cup rye flour
1/4 cup warm water
1 tsp active dry yeast

Mix together all starter ingredients in a small glass or ceramic bowl (I used a ceramic coffee cup). Loosely cover with plastic wrap and set it a warm place to ferment for about 48 hours.

1 cup rye flour
1 cup warm water
1 Tbsp active dry yeast

After the 48 hours is up, spoon the starter into a large bowl and mix in the sponge ingredients. Cover and let sit in a warm place for 4-5 hours.

1 1/4 cups rye flour
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp caraway seeds
3/4 cup warm water
1 Tbsp sunflower oil

Add the dough ingredients to the sponge mixture except for the sunflower oil. Mix well, then turn dough out onto a floured surface. Let the dough sit for a minute or two while you rinse out and oil the bowl with the sunflower oil.

Knead the dough for 5-7 minutes, until it becomes elastic instead of sticky. You may need to add in another 1/4 cup or so of white whole wheat flour if it is too sticky to work.

Place the kneaded dough in the bowl and roll around so the surface is lightly coated in the sunflower oil. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Divide the dough in half and form into two balls. Place onto a baking sheet, flatten the balls, cover with the kitchen towel, and let rise for 20-30 minutes.

After the second rise, reshape the dough into oval loaves. Cover with a towel and let rise for 40 minutes for the final rise.

Preheat oven to 450F. When the dough has finished rising, lower the oven temperature to 400F. Slice an X diagonally on the top of each loaf. Put the bread in the oven. Before closing the door, toss a handful of ice cubes into the oven for some moisture. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until loaf sounds hollow when you tap on the crust. Remove the loaves from the oven and move to a wire rack to cool.

You can make one large loaf instead of two small ones. The rise times should be about the same, but you'll need to bake it longer, probably about 50 minutes.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Peasant Plate

This simple but hearty meal was inspired by one I used to order at a vegetarian restaurant. My favorite vegetable combination for it is beets and carrots, but you can use whatever you have on hand. My beet-allergic husband wasn't home for dinner so I eagerly cooked up some beets. The brown rice can be substituted with other grains like millet or quinoa. I didn't have any sprouts tonight, but they make a great addition.

Peasant Plate

1 1/2 cups brown rice
3 cups water
1 lb tofu, cubed
1 cup beets, sliced
1 cup carrots, sliced
1/4 cup tahini
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
mixed greens
sprouts (optional)

Combine brown rice and water in a rice cooker (or on the stove) and cook until rice is tender and water is absorbed.

Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly oil a cookie sheet and arrange cubed tofu in a single layer. Bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, steam the beets and carrots.

Create the tahini sauce by mixing the tahini, garlic, lemon juice, salt and water in a food processor.

When the rice, tofu, and vegetables are ready, place a handful of greens on each of 3-4 plates. Spoon rice onto the center of the greens, then top with tofu, vegetables, and optional sprouts. Spoon tahini sauce over everything before serving.


While I was waiting for some rice to cook I had the urge to mix an essential oil blend that approximates the smell of the Michigan forest I spent most of my childhood in. Some of the scents I added aren't actually found in those woods, but they balanced the scents that were found there to create something invoking memories of of my little world of forts and wandering. It has inspired a little creativity for me, so I think I'll be using it in a diffuser while I write my current book. I also posted this on my writing blog.

"Home" Essential Oil Blend

40 drops lavender
25 drops cedarwood
15 drops clary sage
10 drops fir needle
10 drops frankincense
2 drops pine

Mix all essential oils in a 5ml glass vial. Use with a carrier oil in a diffuser when you want to be transported to a northern forest.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sneaky Gnocchi

On my endless quest to try new things, I picked up a package of gnocchi. I'd never had it before, so I had no idea what to do with it. A quick internet search yielded many suggestions of serving it with an alfredo-type sauce, so I ran with that.

This alfredo sauce is super-sneaky. It contains beans, greens, and pumpkin, but no soy, wheat, or dairy. You can serve it like I did or heat it up in a saucepan and pour it over pasta or vegetables. You can also switch out the pumpkin puree for a different vegetable like carrot or squash and use kale instead of spinach. Or, if you don't like the green tint the spinach gives the sauce, you can leave the greens out entirely.

Sneaky Gnocchi

1 package gnocchi (I used a 17oz package of pumpkin gnocchi)
1 lb tofu, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 medium red bell pepper, diced

Alfredo Sauce
1 15oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup raw spinach, tightly packed
1/2 cup pureed pumpkin
1 1/4 cup non-dairy milk
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
2 Tbsp tahini

Sesame Parmesan Sprinkles
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp light miso

Preheat oven to 400F. Put cubed tofu in a single layer on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes.

While the tofu is cooking, cook gnocchi according to package directions (this is usually place in boiling water for a few minutes until it floats, then drain).

Place all alfredo sauce ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Place sesame seeds in a spice grinder or food processor and process to a powder. Add nutritional yeast and miso and process until well mixed.

Mix together tofu, diced peppers, cooked gnocchi, and alfredo sauce in a bowl, then pour into an 8"x8" pan. Sprinkle sesame parmesan over the gnocchi mixture. Bake at 400F for 20 minutes, until sesame parmesan is lightly browned and the sauce is thick and bubbly.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Variations on a Hazelnut Butter

I picked up raw hazelnuts on sale today with the intent to make nut butter. I usually make raw or roasted nut and seed butters with no extra flavors, but hazelnut isn't my favorite on it's own, so I dressed it up. I'll start out with pictorial instructions on how to make roasted hazelnut butter and finish with recipes for Maple Vanilla Hazelnut Butter and Chocolate Hazelnut Spread using the homemade nut butter. 

Roasted Hazelnut Butter
Preheat oven to 350F. Spread 2 cups of raw hazelnuts on an ungreased cookie sheet. Roast for 10-15 minutes, stirring once.
Now you'll have roasted hazelnuts with a lot of skin. The skins can make your butter a little rough, so  you'll want to remove some of them. Dump the still-warm hazelnuts onto a clean kitchen towel. 
Gather the edges of the towel so you have a bundle, then rub and knead the hazelnuts. The friction will remove some of the skins. It's okay to have some skin, so don't worry about removing it all.
Remove the hazelnuts from the towel. This is what you'll have left over - a lot of extra skins that don't need to be in your nut butter. Toss those skins in your compost and move on.
Put the nuts in a food processor. Since I was making two different spreads, I only put in one cup per batch. 
Start processing. Your initial phase gives a nut powder. This is where you would stop if you wanted to make nut flour for a recipe. We want butter, so we'll keep going.
After processing some more, the nut flour will start to clump and stick to the sides. Scrape down the sides as needed and keep processing.

Here the oils are starting to break out of the nuts. You'll have to scrape down the sides more often at this point.
Getting close, now. It's now holding together as a nut butter, but it's still a bit chunky. Scrape the sides and process just a little more.

Finished hazelnut butter. You can add a little salt if you want and pulse to mix, or make one of the variations below if you'd like something sweeter. Spoon it into a container and store in the refrigerator. 

Maple Vanilla Hazelnut Butter and Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
Maple Vanilla Hazelnut Butter

1 cup roasted hazelnut butter
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Makes 1 cup.

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

1 cup roasted hazelnut butter
2 tsp coconut oil
2 Tbsp sugar or maple syrup
1 Tbsp cocoa powder

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Makes 1 cup. This may be a little on the runny side, but the coconut oil will help it firm up to be spreadable once refrigerated.