Posts Tagged ‘cooking


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.


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.


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.


Wanna lose weight? It’s all about the Pots and Pans

So, here it is, Sunday again.  That means no solid food is consumed in our house.  Yes, we are sticking to juice fast Sundays.  I actually look forward to this one day of the week.  As much as I love to cook, bake and eat, I also love feeling healthy.  Sticking to eating healthier foods and portions, both Katie and I are naturally, without effort, gradually losing weight.  It feels so good to slide back into some clothes we both thought we needed to remove from our respective closets.

One other change that happened in our kitchen was getting rid of old worn out pots and pans and replacing it with a new set of Simply Calphalon cookware.  Talk about a different cooking experience!  This stuff rocks!  My favorite pan is called the Simply Calphalon Everyday Pan and they’re not kidding.  I use this pan everyday for just about every thing!

Simply Calphalon Everyday Pan

The pan pictured above was actually a bonus gift with the purchase of a 10 piece set of Simply Calphalon cookware, but you can purchase it separately.  I use so much less oil with these pans.  It’s amazing!  I make whole dinners some nights using maybe 1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil for the entire meal, including salad dressing.  No, I don’t make salad or salad dressing in the pans, I just want to make it clear how little oil you need with these babies.

10 piece Simply Calphalon Cookware Set


The everyday pan is a non-stick pan, but the rest of the set are not.  They are stainless steel with wonderful heavy bottoms.  I swear if you start using these pans they will be the only thing in your kitchen with a heavy bottom!  They also require very little oil and you get fantastic results.

I discovered something about cookware in the process of purchasing new stuff.  Do you know how bad non-stick spray is for your pans?  I had no idea and had been using it for years!  Apparently they contain a chemical propellant that is difficult to remove from cookware.  I always wondered why my pans no longer looked new and shiny after a short time of use.  The other thing I learned was to hand wash only – DO NOT PUT IN DISHWASHER! Harsh cleaning agents can discolor your cookware.  Ya’ learn something new everyday!

So, there’s my lecture for today.  Stop being cheap and go buy some decent cookware already.


The Granwich


The Granwich

The Granwich

I like to make sandwiches for people.  It is my belief that you can take the exact same ingredients for a sandwich, give them to more than one person and you will get variations on that sandwich.  For me it’s all about how the sandwich is put together.  The layering, if you will.  My mouth will taste an entirely different flavor and texture if that sandwich is not layered a certain way.  For example, if you put the cheese in the center on the sandwich instead of resting next to the bread, your mouth will know the difference.  Don’t believe me?  Try it.


When I had my business “Naked Baker” my sandwiches were very popular.  Well, truth be told, all of my menu was popular, but people really liked my sandwiches.   I know it was because of the layering process I insisted upon.  I remember making a little diagram of how the sandwich went together.  I didn’t need it, of course, it was for if anyone was helping me make all of those sandwiches.  I don’t have a scanner or I would draw one and show you.  Perhaps in the future I can add one in.  So, without further ado, here is my tried and true layering process for a sandwich.


Take your slices of bread from the bag making sure that they are the slices that are next to one another.  In other words, don’t go rummaging around in the bag and pulling out two slices willy nilly.  Make sure they are the ones touching each other in the bag.  Now open them up like you were opening a book.  Why?  Because they match.  You want your sandwich to have symmetry.


I always use Vegenaise but you can certainly use mayonnaise, just make sure it’s the best, if you get my drift.  Spread one or both pieces of bread with the mayo. Are you going to use mustard as well?  This is important because the mustard always goes on the slice that will become the bottom of the sandwich. You can spread the mustard on top of the mayo if you are using mustard. The mustard goes on the bottom because the cheese is placed on the mustard spread bread.  Mustard compliments the flavor of the cheese, that’s why you want them touching.  Mustard does not compliment the flavor of lettuce and that is why you do not want mustard on the top piece of bread.  Complimenting the lettuce is the mayo’s job.


OK, so now we have the bread, mustard and cheese in place.  Next comes the deli slices.  I use vegetarian slices, you may use whatever you like.  Gently fold the slices not quite in half, the shorter half is on the bottom.  I usually use 4 slices, placing them in a slight overlap so they don’t pop open.  Next I slice the tomatoes, about ¼ inch thick and pat them on a paper towel.  This will help keep your sandwich from getting too soggy or dripping all over your plate and/or clothes.  Place the tomatoes slices on top of the deli slices, usually two slices of tomato is perfect.  The weight of the tomato will keep the deli slices in place.


Are you an onion fan? How about pickles or hot peppers?  Olives perhaps?  Well, step right up if you like any or all of these guys.  Slice your onion (I prefer red onion for most sandwiches) as thin as you can.  A mandolin or slicer comes in handy for thin slicing if you don’t have a good sharp knife.  And, by the way, why don’t you have a good sharp knife?  You really need one to do any kind of cooking, especially sandwich making. Scatter the onions thinly over the top of the tomato.  Next place a few pickles and/or sliced hot peppers for some zip and zing over the onion.  Thinly sliced red, orange or yellow bell peppers are also nice additions at this point.


Avocado anyone?  I love avocado on sandwiches.  I love avocado period.  Now is the time to add the avocado, if you are using one.  Why now?  Why not on top of the tomato?  Well, my friend, the tomato tends to be a bit slippery, even when you pat it somewhat dry.  The onion and pickles will help hold the avocado on top of this ever growing Granwich.  It’s important to slice the avocado about the same thickness of the tomato. It’s also important that the avocado is not too hard or soft.  Hard avocado has no flavor.  To me they always taste like lawn.  And soft avocado has only one good use and that’s called guacamole. Trust me, it’s a texture thing. I also like to sprinkle a little kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper on top of our green fruity friend.  Ok, let’s top this bad boy off with some lettuce (I prefer Romain but green leaf will do in a pinch) and place that bread spread with mayonnaise on top.


You now have a beautiful creation.  I like to cut it on the diagonal and eat it from the cut end.  There is something offensive about biting into the crust first on these Granwiches, but that’s just me.  You enjoy your creation as you see fit.


Let’s review.  Bite.  Taste.  Observe.  Freshness of the bread, creaminess of the mayo, crunch of the lettuce, nutty flavor of the avocado,  tartness of the pickle, searing heat of the hot pepper, sweet heat of the onion,  cooling sweetness of the tomato, savoriness of the deli slice, creamy comfort of the cheese, tang of the mustard, and back to the freshness of the bread.  What a treat!


When you stop to think about it (which I did as I was making one this morning) the Granwich is a complete meal.  The reason I stack or layer it the way I do is twofold.  It is deliberate flavor combinations but it is also a meal.  As you bite down you first get your salad and bread course, next comes a bit of a side/veggie course, then the protein and (some may argue this) your dessert course is the cheese and bread.  Or you can always eat a cookie after!


I never thought I could write almost two pages on how to make a sandwich but here you have it.










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