Archive for the 'Food' Category

12
Jan
14

Watch me turn this muffin into a donut

Donut Muffins 003-001

Sometimes I just want a donut.  And sometimes I give into that craving.  And most of those times, I feel icky after eating one.  Perhaps it’s the type of donut I’ve chosen.  Or maybe it’s the guilt I often associate with eating foods that are not “good for me”.  I once drove for miles on highway 99E in search of a donut shop.  Didn’t there used to be lots of donut shops in the world? They seem to be disappearing, perhaps replaced by Starbucks, McDonald’s and Taco Bell’s.  At any rate, I’ve been having a love-hate relationship with donuts, of late.

After driving south on 99E from Portland, through Milwaukie, Gladstone and practically to Oregon City, I finally found Heavenly Donuts.  My expectations were high.  Anything named “heavenly” should be, in my mind, out of this world.  These donuts should taste like God made them, right?  Or angels, at the very least.

With my sugar junkie adrenalin pumping, I entered the shop.  Nerves and guilt were starting to overtake me.  What was I doing?  Why did I drive all this way for a donut?  These things better be worth it.  I scanned the display case.  Disappointment creeping in now, as there was not much of a selection.  Just the usual suspects; cake, glazed, chocolate covered, maple bars and some really greasy looking apple fritters.  Well, I can’t leave now.  I should have, but I drove all this way.  I’m obligated to buy not one, but two of these things.  And I did.  I purchased an apple fritter and a cinnamon swirl raised sort of affair.  Then I made a mad dash for my car, where I sat and consumed these sins.

God did not make these donuts.  Nor did angels.  Hell, I’m sure if the Devil himself made these donuts, they would have tasted much better.  No, I’m pretty sure these donuts were made by the Hispanic gentleman behind the counter.  No offense to him at all, but these were not donuts worth making a special trip for.  In fact, I’m pretty sure the donuts at Safeway might be a little better.  Either I’m waxing nostalgic for the donuts of my youth, or there are no special donuts in the Portland vicinity.

All this being said, I have found a substitute sweet morsel that comes close to a donut without as much guilt attached to it.  I recently purchased a Williams-Sonoma cookbook simply entitled “Muffins”.  And in that book there is a recipe for Cinnamon-Buttermilk Muffins.  And surprise!  They taste like Buttermilk Bars.  No kidding.  You know the kind of donut I’m talking about?  Kind of shorter and fatter than a Maple Bar, with that buttermilk tang and glaze.

It is my pleasure to share with you what I now call my Donut Muffin recipe.  It could save you a trip searching the streets for a donut shop.  Or maybe that’s just me.

Donut Muffins 002-001

 CINNAMON-BUTTERMILK MUFFINS

From the Williams-Sonoma book

MUFFINS

7 tablespoons (3 ½ oz / 105 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup (5 oz / 155 g) sugar

1 large egg

1 ½ cups (7 ½ oz / 235 g) all-purpose (plain) flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)

½ teaspoon salt

½  teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg IF YOU ONLY HAVE GROUND NUTMEG IT WORKS JUST AS WELL.

½ cup (4 fl oz / 125 ml) buttermilk

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract (essence)

FOR THE TOPPING

2/3 cup (5 oz / 155 g) sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

6 tablespoons (3 oz / 90 g) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C).  Grease 9 standard muffin cups with butter or butter flavored non-stick spray;  fill the unused cups one-third full with water to prevent warping.

To make the muffins, in a bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the egg, beating well until pale and smooth.

In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg.  Add to the butter mixture in 2 increments, alternating with the buttermilk and vanilla.  Stir just until evenly moistened.  The batter will be slightly lumpy.

Spoon the batter into each muffin cup, filling it three-fourths full.  Bake until golden, dry and springy to the touch, 20 -25 minutes.  A toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin should come out clean.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes.  Unmold the muffins and let stand until cool enough to handle.

To make the topping, stir together the sugar and cinnamon in a small, shallow bowl.  Have ready the melted butter in another small bowl.  Holding the bottom of a muffin, dip the top into the melted butter, turning to coat it evenly.  Immediately dip the top in the cinnamon-sugar mixture, coating it evenly, then tapping it to remove excess sugar.  Transfer to the rack, right side up.  Repeat with the remaining muffins (DUH).  Let cool completely before serving.

Donut Muffins 008

It just occurred to me as I was writing this post, you could totally substitute a simple powdered sugar and milk glaze for the cinnamon sugar, for a true Buttermilk Bar effect.

Next time!

31
Mar
11

All right, already, I’ll write something!



Hi, Vampire Gran here. I'm sorry I haven't posted here in Vampire Gran's Kitchen for a few months. Other interests have dragged me away, as I am sure happens to all of you from time to time. I'm back for the moment and ready to share some stories of what has kept me away. Hopefully they will be of some interest to someone out there. Let's get started, shall we?

The thing about seeing some of your blog readers in person on a regular basis is they can give you a hard time about not posting.  Right, Cat and Robert H.?  Yes, I am totally guilty of not keeping up with my self-professed passion of interest.  I’m sorry.  And I wish that I could tell you all about some amazing adventures of travel or winning the lottery or some such excitement, but there has been none of that.  Well, there was a nice trip to the coast recently and I will write about that, but not today.

Truth is I have allowed other interests to tear me away from my beloved blog.  For starters, I bought a new sewing machine.  It even has a name!  Anna. I did not name her, she came into my life already saddled with that moniker.  She’s a Baby Lock brand and she is so sweet!  Our old Singer needed some TLC and the cost of having that overhauled was about $50.00 less than a brand new machine, so, you do the math.  Anyway, I’ve been having fun mending a ton of clothes around here and making some frocks for my Barbies.  I’ve also been playing a lot of pool, getting ready to be on a 9 ball team with Katie starting tonight. I don’t want to make our team look bad by being a sucky player!

In January I taught a cooking class.  My friend, Angel, is the volunteer co-ordinator at North West Ministries and she asked me to come and teach again.  I taught a tofu class there this past November and it was a lot of fun.  Last time I had a set curriculum complete with printed recipes for everyone and actually knew what I would be working with.  Angel and I thought it would be fun to do a “black box” class.  A black box test is what you get in culinary school.  You don’t know what you will be cooking until you open the box and see what your ingredients are.  Since there is a full food pantry at the church and you never know what will be there, we thought it might be helpful to the people who depend on that food to learn how to utilize it and make it tasty.  Hence, the “Black Box” cooking class.

Fortunetly, Angel had a volunteer to help me all lined up.  His name was Robert and he was awesome.  Turns out he does personal cheffing so it really turned out to be the Patty and Robert show.  He wasn’t very vocal, so I did all of the talking, but I turned the stir fry portion of the class over to him and we worked well together.  Plus he was a whiz at keeping the kitchen spic and span as we worked!

A sweetheart of a guy came in and took pictures and a little video that I will share with you now.

It’s not the greatest video, but it’s something to share with you.   I wish it had some music or narration so you could get a better idea of what we were making.  Here are a bunch of still shots where I will attempt to describe what the class was like.  I’ll share a recipe at the end of this post.

As I mentioned, there is a food pantry at the church for people in need and this is some of the pretty nice produce that was available the day I taught the "black box" class.

I'm adding olive oil to some peeled and cubed butternut squash in this shot. The photographer arrived a little late for the actual cubing of the squash. This student was fascinated with everything. She had never had butternut squash before was was ready to try it.The baking sheet was lined with foil. After adding olive oil, salt and pepper to the butternut squash, I spread it all out on the baking sheet to roast.Here I am starting to make a glaze for the squash. There is some soy sauce in the bowl and the photographer asked me to show the bowl for the picture. Not too exciting as I had not added the remaining ingredients yet.

Squeezing in some lime juice to the sauce. Fresh lime juice is better but we're using what we have on hand, remember?

Whisking it all together. There's my most curious student. Wish I could remember her name. She was pretty sweet and very enthusiastic.

He moved in for a close-up of the whisking action.

This is a really nice food pantry. They even had Portobello mushrooms! I marinade it with lots of garlic, olive oil, soy sauce and hot sauce.

We cooked this mushroom off in a frying pan.  At home I would have used a grill pan or the barbecue.  The class really was impressed with this simple, yet unusual for them, treat.

That's Robert, my volunteer assistant. Not sure what was up with the dark glasses. I'm pretty sure he could see what he was doing.

See, there really was a few more students besides my number one fan there.

I look a little confused in this shot. Getting ready to measure some rice.

Robert is on veggie chopping detail for his stir fry.

He was a lot more precise than I would have been!

I'm telling you, if you need emergency food assistance, contact NorthWest Ministries in Portland. Look how nice these vegetables are!

Let's get some onion in there.

Vampire Gran taking the squash out of the oven for a bit of a stir before adding the glaze.

Doing a little glazing action now

Still at the stove while students look on

Meanwhile, back at the prep table, Robert keeps cutting up the beautiful veggies

We're turning, we're glazing

Unfortunately, the photographer had to leave before our feast was ready, so there are no photos of the complete meal!  Everyone sat down to a meal of grilled Portobello mushroom, vegetable stir fry over steamed rice, mixed green salad with a simple vinaigrette and sweet and spicy roasted glazed butternut squash.  We did it all in a two-hour time slot, including clean up and consumption of the meal.

I love this squash recipe.  I actually adapted it from a recipe that was on Vegan Good Things (you can click on her link over there on the right under  BlogRoll).  the original recipe was for Brussel sprouts which is fantastic, but I have found that this glaze works great with any vegetable.

SWEET AND SPICY BUTTERNUT SQUASH

1 Butternut Squash, peeled and cut into 1/2′ – 3/4′ cubes
olive oil
Kosher salt
freshly cracked black pepper
In a large bowl, toss cubed squash in small amount of olive oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Spread on foil lined baking sheet and place in a preheated 350 degree oven.  Roast for about 20 minutes.

GLAZE

2 – 3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
juice of one lime
hot sauce to taste ( I usually free pour about 2 tablespoons)

Use the same bowl that you tossed the oil and squash in.  Mix glaze.  You are going to glaze the squash AFTER FIRST ROASTING IT FOR 20 MINUTES.
Remove squash from oven and toss in glaze.  Spread glazed squash back onto the baking sheet, reserving some for drizzling before serving, and return to oven.  Bake for another 15 minutes or until the squash is tender and caramelized.

That’s it.  You are done and it is delicious.

28
Jan
11

Triple Chocolate Threats

Evil temptress chocolate treat

 

Sometimes I question which is it that I am most addicted to, the consumption of sugary

goodness or the creation of such treats?  I enjoy both, but if I had to choose but one, I’m

pretty sure that creation would win.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I would have a really hard

time shaking the sugar monkey off my back.  He’s been with me for deep.  But, I know I could

do it.  I’m just not ready yet.

Now, the thought of never baking another cake, cookie or pie strikes fear into my very soul.

Severe depression would be inevitable if I could never bake again.  Ya’ know, let’s just

not go down that path.

Many posts ago I shared a recipe and pictures of Lemon Coconut Pixies.  The recipe came from

the Hershey Company.  I have a recipe tin that was given to me as a birthday gift in 2009

and it sat on our kitchen counter for 10 months  before I ever made anything from it.  That

post was 13 months ago, so it’s time for another recipe from the tin.

HERSHEY’S Triple Chocolate Cookies

48 Hershey’s Kisses Milk chocolate or Milk Chocolate with Almonds (that’s what I used)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened (I used butter, of course)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 tablespoon milk
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Hershey’s cocoa (I used cocoa powder form that bulk bins at WinCo)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup Hershey’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate chips ( I used Safeway brand)

1.  Heat oven to 350 degrees F. 

What else was I going to do with all this candy left over from Christmas? I did play poker with it the night before I baked the cookies!

 

Mmmmm.......chocolate!

Remove wrappers from chocolates.
2.  Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer on medium

speed in a large bowl until well blended.  Add eggs and milk; beat well.
3.  Stir together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into butter mixture,

beating until well blended.  Stir in chocolate chips. 

Make all the comments you want, it still tastes good

 Shape dough into 1 inch balls. 

Oven bound

Place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Fresh out of the oven and hot

4.  Bake 10 – 11 minutes or until set. 

Press kisses into the center of each cookie while still hot

 Gently press a chocolate into center of each cookie.  Remove to wire rack and cool completely.

VARIATION:  For vanilla cookies, omit cocoa powder and add an additional 1/3 cup all-purpose flour.

I made the recipe verbatim, but I wanted to see how they would look with a little added sparkle.  I rolled the dough balls in granulated sugar before I baked another round.  Here is what that looked like.

Roll in granulated sugar for added sparkle

Both versions taste great. 

So good when they're still warm. The chocolate kiss in the center and the chocolate chips are all soft and gooey.

I can clearly state, with authority, that these are delicious.   After all, chocolate, chocolate AND chocolate?  How could they not be tasty?  These beauties will be added to my chorus line of confection.

Oh, great!  One more sweet memory to send packing with that monkey.

24
Jan
11

I say Hazelnut and you say Filbert…..

I notice that my blog gets a lot of hits using the search word Hazelnut. Hazelnut frosting,

hazelnut paste, hazelnut butter.  Lots of hazelnut.  I have written a few posts that feature

cakes frosted with hazelnut buttercream.  The addition of hazelnut paste to vanilla

buttercream equals hazelnut frosting.  I have divulged my recipe for the aforementioned

vanilla buttercream in previous posts.  But, where does one get hazelnut paste?  Well, truth

be told, I used to get it where I work when I was the pastry chef.  I would order 15 pound

buckets of the stuff from one of our fancy pants purveyors.  And it was pricey, but oh, so

worth it.  So, now that I only make cakes when a few close friends have birthdays or a few

clients who want to give me money for a cake, my need for hazelnut paste has waned.  Until a

couple of weeks ago, when my favorite client, Katie D., wanted a chocolate cake with

hazelnut frosting for her birthday.  I have searched for sources on the Internet, and there

are many, for hazelnut paste. Very pricey and the shipping is ridiculous.   Lots of calls to

specialty shops came up cold.  Then it hit me – “We have a Champion juicer!” I used to make

peanut butter with the Champion, why not make hazelnut butter?  So make hazelnut butter, I

did.

Lovely, creamy, natural Hazelnut butter

I bought 1 and 1/2 pounds of toasted hazelnuts. You can buy raw hazelnuts and toast them

yourself; the already toasted one were available at work and I wanted to save a step.  If

you want to toast them at home, set your oven at 350 degrees, spread the raw nuts out on a

heavy sheet pan and roast for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned and nutty smelling.

I know, they have a dark brown skin on them, so how do you know when they are browned?  Some

of them will start to shed their skin and then you will see it.  Once toasted, dump them

onto a dish towel and rub vigorously to help remove the skin.  Not all of it will release,

but that’s okay.  You’re going to pulverize them anyway so what’s a little skin?

Straight through the juicer and into the jar. Talk about direct deliciousness.

Now, I have no clue how you would do this if you do not have a Champion juicer.  If you use

a blender or food processor I don’t think you will get a creamy nut butter.  More on that in

a sec……

Here is, the bad boy himself, the Champion juicer. Seriously worth every penny spent on it.

So now I’m all proud of myself for making hazelnut butter, but I realize this stuff is not

going to work for frosting.  I’ve made the error in the past by putting natural peanut

butter in buttercream and ending up with oily frosting.  Not good.  I really need hazelnut

paste.   Back to the Internet I go and, lo and behold, I stumble upon a website called

gourmetsleuth.com where I find a recipe for Hazelnut Paste!  And it is so simple!

2 cups toasted hazelnuts
2 large egg whites
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp Hazelnut liqueur

Dump 2 cups of toasted hazelnuts into your food processor

Grind it until it is course, like cornmeal

Add egg whites, Hazelnut liqueur and powdered sugar

You don't have to buy brand name sugar or liqueur to get excellent results

Process until smooth

So pretty, so shiny, so tasty!

Once I figured out that only hazelnut paste was going to work to make the frosting. I was on a roll.  I made the vanilla butter cream and started chucking in the hazelnut paste a scoop at a time and tasting after each addition until it was just right.  Not only was I making a birthday cake for a client, I had a second cake in the wings as well.  We were taking our good friend Robert out to dinner on the same night as I was making Katie’s cake.  We were celebrating Robert’s birthday and I could not show up to celebrate his special day without a cake from Vampire Gran’s Kitchen!  A light bulb went off in my brain like in the cartoons and I created a hazelnut filling to slather between the layers of cake.

This is literally two bites worth of cake. I made a taster piece like they do when you go to try cakes for a wedding, ya know? I had to make sure it all went together. after all....

The filling was fabulous!  I mixed the hazelnut frosting with a bit more hazelnut paste, added some of the hazelnut butter and a bit more of the hazelnut liqueur.  It was a bit thin so I thickened it with more powdered sugar.  It was perfection.

Katie's cake was a nine-inch, four layer job. I know, all of my cakes are starting to look-alike. Guess that's my signature style.

I made some chocolate curls to decorate both cakes.  These were fun to make but time consuming.  You have to soften the chocolate without melting it by zapping it in the microwave for like 6 seconds at a time.  Once it is the right – softness (?) – I used a vegetable peeler to make the curls.  Oh, you must have a chilled plate for them to land on as you’re doing this.  Don’t use the same plate that you use to microwave with.  It will be warm and melt your curls.  Yes, I know this from experience and that is why I am telling you.  Learn from my mistakes.

They look like little rosettes (or pencil shavings?)

So, let’s review.  Hazelnut frosting you need hazelnut paste, not hazelnut butter.   Hazelnut butter you need a Champion juicer or a nut butter machine.  Hazelnut paste is easy to make and you need a food processor.  Chocolate curls – microwave and cold plate and a vegetable peeler.

I hope you enjoyed our lesson for the day.  It just made me want a hazelnut butter and jam sandwich followed by a hunk of cake.

11
Jan
11

The world needs another Kale Salad recipe

The top selling salad at work is the Kale Carrot.  I made a batch of it yesterday.  It will all be sold out by the end of today.  How much kale is in a batch at a busy deli?  20 large bunches.  8 cups of toasted sunflower seeds and about 25 carrots. 

A few posts back I gave you the recipe for the kale salad we sell at work.  Kale is our new green at home.  I used to make dinner salad with romaine, but it has been replaced with kale.  I love it!  Plus, it has to be better for us than romaine or leafy green lettuce, right?

Lots of good nutrition in that bowl

According to Food Lover’s Companion, kale is a member of the cabbage family.  It is a cruciferous plant (having four-petaled flowers, suggestive of a cross) that provides ample amounts of vitamins A and C, folic acid, calcium and iron.  I knew it was better for us than romaine!

So, last night our salad consisted of kale, shredded carrot, red onion, thinly sliced, a handful of chopped walnuts and satsuma wedges.  The satsumas are in season now and are oh, so sweet and juicy.  Be sure to remove the stems from the kale and wash the leaves.  Slice the leaves into thin strips.

Pretty little citrusy dressing

The dressing is what really made this salad outstanding.   Here goes:

1 large spoonful (2 tablespoons) of vegenaise

1 heaping tablespoon of frozen orange juice conentrate

1 tablespoon of orange muscat vinegar (Trader Joe’s)

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

2 teaspoons pure maple syrup

zest of one orange

Whisk it all together in a small bowl and dress salad.  Salad is best if the dressing has a chance to soak into the kale for about 30 minutes or more before serving.  I usually make the salad first and then prepare the rest of our meal.

A microplane is a great tool for zesting

If you don’t have a microplane, you can use a cheese grater.  A microplane is just so much easier to use and you get a finer zest.

A lovely salad for any time of the year

I hope you give this one a try.  We really liked it.  What did I serve this with?  Butternut Squash Ravioli in a garlic veloute sauce topped with Parmesan cheese and sweet and spicy roasted Brussel sprouts.  But it would be good just on it’s own with perhaps a hunk of garlic bread.

03
Jan
11

Cookiepalooza

It seems like everyone makes cookies at Christmas time and I didn’t want to bore my audience

with a post about cookies.  But then I thought, Hey!  This is what I do.  I bake and I cook

and I blog about it, sometimes.  And maybe my cookies will be different from the cookies

others bake and blog about.

I started making cookie dough in November.  And then stocking my freezer full of it.  That

way, I could bake-off what I needed and still have plenty to see us through Christmas time.

Freezerful of cookie dough balls ready for the holiday baking frenzy

Here's a closer look

What started off to be a plan that sounded something like this “I’m going to make a platter

for Katie’s work mates and some bags for a few select, special people.  That’s it, no big

deal.”  So, it started off simple enough.  One afternoon I baked off about 6 kinds of

cookies and made some toffee. 

Some Snickerdoodles cooling

English Toffee cooling and hardening - this stuff is way addicting, right Cat?

You know how I like my close up shots

 I made a lovely large platter for Katie to carry off to work the next day. 

A platter for Katie's workmates

I had cookies and toffee left over, of course, so I put some little gift bags

together and brought them to my work.  Everytime I saw someone who I felt a special

fondness for, I would give them a bag of treats.  It felt really good to do that.  Since I

enjoy feeling good, I started baking more cookies off every few days and kept carrying bags

of goodies to work.

Color coded bags of treats, red contained vegan, blue were caramel corn and white had regular cookies and toffee

Some  treats were especially geared toward certain folks.  The Parmesan Black Pepper

Biscotti went to those few who are not sweet tooths.  I can’t imagine not being a sweet

tooth, being highly addicted to the stuff myself, but, oh well.  Let me tell you, HUGE HIT

is an understatement.  They loved it.

Savory Biscotti - who knew? Apparently these went really well with red wine

I work with quite a few vegan people.  I didn’t want to leave them out, as it sucks to feel

like the odd man out because of dietary differences.  My vegan goodie bags contained vegan

English Toffee, Orange Almond Biscotti and Ginger Molasses cookies.  I have never seen so

many pleased vegans!  Many told me I should market the vegan biscotti and the toffee as they

had never seen any, anywhere.  One friend told me that if it weren’t for the goodies bag

from me, he would not have had any treats on Christmas day, as he spent the day with his

family and he is the lone vegan.  He also said it had been years since he had toffee and he

was so grateful.

I pulled out my text books from culinary school, found a recipe for peanut brittle and whipped up a batch

I don’t even know how many bags of treats I gave out.  Actually, the very first person to

get a small platter of cookies was Dr. Alice C., our chiropractor.  She is pregnant and very

protective of her food.  She said she might eat them all herself, but later confessed to

letting her hubby have a cookie or two.  Not only did co-workers get the cute little bags,

but our mail carrier, Ken, who looks forward to his annual sugar fest, and the smart alec

cashier at Rite Aid, Gary, scored.    Our favorite waitress at Sam’s Billiard’s, Stephanie,

was presented with a large platter to take home to share with her family.  The following

week we were greeted with lots of ohhhhs and ahhhs over the sweets.  Although, she is way

sweeter than those treats.  I even made caramel corn closer to Christmas and the

ladies at our optometrist’s office practically wet themselves when they dove into the bag I

presented to them.

How about a closer look at that toffee and peanut brittle

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies and Cherry Chocolate Chip Biscotti dipped in white chocolate - yum!

So, long story short, I made tons of cookies and lots of people happy (and maybe a little

tubby!)  I for one am glad to see an end to the holidays and am truly ready for a new and

exciting year.

23
Nov
10

Everyday is Thanksgiving at our House

We don’t need a once a year holiday to feel grateful or to eat a big dinner.  Katie and I exchange gratitude lists every day and have since the beginning of our relationship of over 3 years.  I often talk about what I’m grateful for at work and my co-workers share in this as well.  It just feels good to talk about the good stuff in life rather than dwell on the crappy side of things.

As far as food goes, I make dinner every night and it pretty much always looks like this.

Dinner is served!

I don’t always have a centerpiece decoration on the table,  but I like it.  There is, however, always a tablecloth and place mats.  I’m just funny that way (Ok, I’m funny in a lot of ways!).  Dinner at our place always has a green salad of some sort, a grain, some sort of vegetarian protein and at least two vegetables.  We’ve cut way back on bread, pasta and cheese, so we tend to eat semi vegan meals.

Tonight I made a quinoa pilaf with toasted pecans and dried cranberries, roasted butternut squash, from our garden, paired with Fuji apple and Field Roast Applewood Smoked Sausage (it’s vegan, of course), steamed broccoli and kale and mesclan salad (also from the garden).

 It was delicious!

A full plate of food, we get full, yet never feel stuffed eating like this

Yummy quinoa pilaf. don't worry, I'll give you the recipe.

QUINOA PILAF

serves 2

1/2 cup quinoa
3/4 cup mushroom broth
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup dried cranberries
olive oil, salt and pepper

In a small pan, bring broth to a boil.  Stir in quinoa, cover and lower heat to simmer.   Steam for 19 minutes or until all of the liquid is absorbed.  Meanwhile, in a saute pan, heat a small amount of oil and saute onion until a bit browned.  Add nuts and cranberries.   Stir and heat through until nuts impart a wonderful fragrance.  Stir into cooked quinoa and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Butternut squash, Fuji apple and Applewood smoked Vegan sausage tossed in olive oil, maple syrup, salt and pepper, place in baking pan, cover with foil and bake for 35 -40 minutes at 350 degrees.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday.  Katie and I will probably do our usual routine:  stay in our jammies, make homemade pizza, watch movies, play pool and eat pumpkin pie!

25
Oct
10

A few of my favorite things

 
 

When the dog bites,
 When the bee stings,
When I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember a few of my favorite things,
And then I don’t feel so bad

 

 And that is why we don’t have a dog or keep bees.  But I am prone to the occasional bout of sadness.  Thankfully those episodes do not last long and I do have a few favorite things to comfort me.  Wearing pajamas all weekend and watching silly movies helps.  Meditating with Katie and writing gratitude lists can lift my spirits.  Reverting to my girlhood and playing with my Barbies in my room is a therapy unto its own.  And I am sure it will come as no surprise to you that I have some special comfort foods that sooth me in my time of need. 

 
 

I know, right?

Next time you have the morning blues, I highly suggest these Blueberry Pancakes.  This has been a rough emotional week for Katie and me and I really wanted blueberry pancakes for breakfast this morning.  Alas, we had no blueberries, fresh nor frozen.  My brilliant spouse suggested I go next door and bribe Snowie with some butternut squash spice cake, a butternut squash from our garden and a bag of fabulous fresh dates.  It worked.  I returned with a quart of frozen blueberries  from our wonderful neighbors garden!

  

Blueberry Pancakes

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk or soy milk

1 egg

2 tablespoons canola oil

blueberries

Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl.  In another bowl or measuring cup, combine liquids.   Pour liquids into the center of the dry ingredients and stir well to combine.  Heat griddle until a few drops of water dances across the surface.  Oil the surface and ladle the batter onto the griddle.  At this point, sprinkle a few berries over the cakes. 

yeah, like that

When the edges are slightly dry and little bubbles are popping, flip ’em.

 

That's what I'm talkin' about

Ok, that takes care of the morning blahs.  But what if I’m just not feelin’ it later in the day?  Well, a big bowl of Katie’s spicy popcorn and that silly movie I mentioned is good for starters.  A good veggie BLT or Reuben sandwich also works wonders when the blues hit.  But what if you are a major sugar junkie, like me?  I love candy, cake and pie, but nothing makes me happier than a freshly baked cookie.  Or 3 or 4 cookies…….

 

Grab a cup of coffee, tea or a cold glass of (soy) milk!

When people discover that I bake for a living, the question that is put to me most often is “What’s your favorite thing to bake?”  That’s always a stumper.  But if they were to query  “what’s your favorite cookie?”; that’s a snap!  Ginger Molasses cookies are my absolute favorite.  Not as hard as a ginger snap, but certainly spicy and flavourful.  They also make a great gifts as they are easy to stack and hold up well to travel.

 

Ginger Molasses Cookies

adapted from “More of  Magnolia” 

by Allysa Torey

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup canola oil

1 cup sugar plus more for rolling

1 large egg

1/2 cup molasses

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt.   Set aside.

In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat together the oil and sugar for 2 – 3 minutes.  Add the egg and molasses, and beat well.  Add the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Put a small amount of sugar in a small bowl. Using a small disher or teaspoon, scoop dough and drop into the sugar bowl.  Roll into a ball and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.  I always use a Silpat, but the instructions in the book call for an ungreased sheet. It’s your call.  Leave several inches between cookies to allow for expansion.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Once again, the recipe in the book says 12 minutes, but you know your own oven.  12 minutes will yield a crispier cookie.  I prefer crisp edges and chewy center.

 

True confession: I just ate two of these as I was writing this post

I don’t know about you, but I am feeling much better now.  That’s not to say that I won’t be stealing back to the kitchen later for a few more of those cookies, just to make sure I’m good and happy for the rest of the evening.  Life is good!

18
Oct
10

Purple Haze and Birthdays…….

I am not necessarily a tradition based person.  We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas with any sort of tradition.  In fact, we haven’t celebrated either of those two holidays for 2 years now.  They are merely two paid holidays from work.  That being said, I seem to have fallen into a tradition in October that used to only be reserved for my Halloween born grandson.

For the past three years I have made a special birthday cake for my friend and grasshopper, Emily.  Her birthday falls on October 15th.  Emily made several delicious home-made pizzas and I made a spice cake with cream cheese frosting for her 24th birthday.  For her 25th birthday last year, we celebrated by going bowling and eating the Root Beer Cake.  As Emily is maturing to the ripe old age of 26th, her birthday cakes are evolving as well.  We decided several months back that this was the year of the Purple Haze cake.

Crazy delicious cake!

I used my Red Velvet cake recipe and substituted Wilton gel violet food coloring for the “traditional” red color.  Although I had hoped the cake would be a more distinct purple color after it was baked, it was still a huge hit.  I’d like to think it was my crazy baking talent that made it so tasty, but perhaps it was the “special” butter used in the frosting  between the  four layers  that made it truly an experience.  As the late Jimi Hendrix would say “Are you experienced?”  After eating the Purple Haze cake, everyone was indeed experienced.

A light, birthday nosh and the Purple Haze cake

Emily wanted salad platters for her birthday meal.  She mentioned seeing salad platters in food magazines and she wanted them for her birthday dinner.  We ate kinda late, as she and Chuck came directly to our house from Breitenbush Hot Springs where they had spent the night and then spent the day soaking in hot springs, being pampered with soothing massage treatments and feasting on amazing vegetarian cuisine.  They were ready to continue eating  healthy fare and then indulge in a wicked treat of a birthday cake.

Emily did all of the food styling on the platters

I roasted potatoes earlier in the day, as well as crisp stirred fresh organic green beans.

We love our grains!

A couple of days before her birthday, Emily and I brainstormed about what we wanted on the platters.  We got all organized and made a list of possibilities.  There were a few more items on that list, but what I managed to throw together, I’d say everyone was more than satisfied with the food of the weekend.

Feta cheese on the outsides of the platter, moving in to the wheat berrie salad and then spicy quinoa  in the center, topped by chili powder sprinkled avocado slices.  So simple.  So good!

Tastes so good and it's so good for you

A little do ahead work and you have a light meal

The potatoes were tossed with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, dried oregano, dried basil, garlic and onion powder and roasted in a 350 degree oven until done.  I sautéed the green beans in peanut oil, fresh chopped garlic, red pepper flakes, kosher salt and cracked pepper.  A splash of some mirin and put the lid on to lightly steam the beans for a minute.  They stayed bright green and very snappy.

We also had a bowl of mixed greens from the garden dressed with a creamy pesto concoction that I whipped up from what I had on hand.

And then came dessert………………………………

I was going for a certain look....

Ok, so when I think Purple Haze, I think hippies, tye dye, trippin’, Jimi Hendrix music (duh).  I envisioned a cake that looked like it was tye dyed.  This cake look more like stained glass window on the top (which was pretty cool) and the tye dye on the sides reminded me of some kinda medallions.  At any rate, it was a fun cake to make and it made an excellent conversation piece.  We kept it center stage on the table and sat around it, almost in worship.   But eventually we had to cut it.

It had to be done

See, it doesn’t really look purple in the picture, but it really had a purple tint to it in real life.  The frosting is my favorite vanilla butter cream.  The frosting between the layers  has coconut and almond extract.  The outer frosting is tinted vanilla.  It was a damn good cake.

Emily kept saying “this is the best birthday ever!”  Coulda’ been her best birthday ever.  Coulda’ been that she was exhausted from a spa day and a long drive.  Coulda’ been a belly full of delicious, nutritious food.  Or it coulda just been the cake talkin’.’

30
Aug
10

Zucchini Zombies

“Lock your door” advises my little old lady and gardener extraordinaire next-door-neighbor.  “Don’t answer the door during zucchini harvest.”  Why not?  Are there Zucchini Zombies that I am unaware of?  Will they be shuffling down the middle of the street, lugging baskets full of the dreaded green phallic vegetable?  Will they be scratching and thudding  their grubby dead hands on our doors and windows trying to force us to eat our vegetables? 

Well, all I’m sayin’ is, if you hear something mucking about on your front porch, you best answer the door.  Yours truly, Vampire Gran, could be standing there with a tray of these: 

 

I have admitted in the past to zucchini being one of my least favorite vegetables and now I am literally eating my words.  Or at best, I am eating the zucchini from our garden.  Oh, I am fixing it in healthy ways for meals, but I just can’t help adding sugar and chocolate to it and baking it into something delectable, like these Chocolate Zucchini Walnut cupcakes. 

Dude, look at these things!  They are so moist and oh, so bitable! 

Lick the frosting. Lick it, I say!

Go to this post, Vampire Gran’s Perfect Chocolate Cake and get the recipe for the cupcake base, then add 2 cups of shredded zucchini and 1 cup of chopped walnuts.  Line your muffin pan with cupcake papers, scoop in the batter about 3/4 full and bake at 350 degrees for 23 minutes.  Toothpick inserted into the center of cake should come out clean when done.  Cool on rack.   They are the perfect foil for cream cheese frosting.  

Now, here’s another “grate” way to use zucchini.  Today I made some savory muffins to enjoy with our Sunday brunch on the deck.  Look at this plate and tell me it doesn’t make you just a little bit hungry. 

Now, that’s a healthy brunch

I whipped up a tofu scramble using fresh tomatoes, peppers and leeks from our garden.  The yellow stuff is polenta with butter and pure maple syrup drizzled over the top, a bit of sweet cantaloupe and a zucchini basil muffin. 

Very similar to a popover, but more sturdy

  

ZUCCHINI BASIL MUFFIN 

2 cups all purpose flour 

3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 

1 teaspoon salt 

2 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped 

2 eggs, slightly beaten 

1 cup buttermilk 

3 oz butter, melted 

2 medium zucchini, shredded 

1/4 cup chopped walnuts 

Sift flour, baking soda and salt into large mixing bowl.  Add basil and mix.  Make a well in the center of the bowl.  Combine eggs, buttermilk, melted butter and zucchini in another bowl.  Pour zucchini mixture into the well and mix just until all of the dry is incorporated with the wet ingredients.  Batter will be lumpy. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Either grease a 12 cup muffin pan well, or use paper liner.  Evenly divide your batter among the twelve cups.  Top with chopped walnuts.   Bake for 18-20 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool for about 5 minutes before enjoying. 

Well, I better be shuffling off now.  I’ve got a basket I need to haul down the street.  Oh, what do vegetarian zombies eat?  GRAAAAAINS!

My GranSon - cute, ain't he?




Foodbuzz

Foodbuzz
Quantcast

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 101 other followers