Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fundamentals of Vegetarian Cooking at Kitchen Window

I just got back from my second cooking class at Kitchen Window. This course, Fundamentals of Vegetarian Cooking, was a 3.5 hour (!!) course that covered 5 (!!) entree dishes.

Y'all. I don't think I have ever eaten that much in 3.5 hours. I foolishly ate a little snack before I left for class and that, my friends...that was a mistake. The portion sizes they doled out to the 20 or 25 people in the class were more than just a sample. They were entire meals. And I'm not trying to sound fussy. I can throw down with the best of 'em. But when you eat flavorful, rich and delicious food? You just don't need that much.

OMG. I'll stop talking about how incredibly full I am right now and show a few pictures I snapped on my handy cellphone. (P.S. I know it's all chic now to take pics of food dishes on your phone but I still felt dumb. I also still haven't figured out how to turn off the fake camera "click" sound my phone makes when it takes a picture. Blasted technology! So I only took two pictures...)

Sweet Potato Millet Fritters with Roasted Red Pepper Chile Sauce

OMG. Amazing. Roasted mushroom enchiladas with black beans and local apple salsa

 I will definitely be attempting the mushroom enchiladas soon. I was too full to finish that plate and if I never have it again it will haunt me for the rest of my life...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Yes, it is too early to start planting

But I can still look at old pictures and pretend the flowers are blooming and fresh vegetable plants are in the ground. Sigh.

Bleeding Hearts

Beautiful amaryllis (which IS growing right now. Inside,of course)

Mountain Bluet

Zucchini florets!


Spring can't come soon enough...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Carob Cake and my wonderful husband

In honor of the 6-month anniversary of the day Tom and I married, I bring you carob cake!

Recently, while trying to be healthy Tom and I had a long discussion about all the foods we would eat if calories and full-ness were of no concern. On the list were things like buffalo wings (Tom), mac & cheese (me) and various other horrible foods. But Tom reiterated that he would probably never love any food as much as he loves carob cake.

So, as a gift to my wonderful husband, I made carob cake and carob cupcakes!

2 cups sugar
2.5 cups flour
1/2 cup carob powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 Tb vinegar (yes, vinegar)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups cold water
2/3 cup oil

4 Tb melted butter
1/4 cup milk (I used soy milk)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups confectioner's sugar

Mix all the batter ingredients together. The batter will be runny and will BUBBLE! Vinegar, baking soda -- it's a science experiment which is probably why Tom likes this cake so much...

Once all ingredients are mixed, bake in the oven at 350 degrees. Depending on which type of pan you use (or cupcakes) cooking time can vary. The cupcakes took about 25 minutes while the round pan took about 40 minutes. Since this batter is so runny, it's very easy to tell if it's done simply by looking at the center of each cupcake or the center of a big pan. Still wet? Not done. You can also use a toothpick to make sure the center is cooked all the way through. Once done, take out of the oven and cool.

To make the buttercream frosting, first cream together the melted butter, milk and vanilla. Add in powdered sugar 1 cup at a time checking the consistency as you go. When the frosting first comes together it will be pretty thin but should thicken up if cooled in the fridge for a few minutes or just let to rest.

Eggplant Manicotti

Taking a 180-degree turn away from creamy pasta dishes...

I'm usually against "diet" meals because they are made with weird processed foods and contain a lot of chemicals to make up for missing fats. That being said, this South Beach diet-inspired dish turned out way better than I thought it would. It's manicotti but instead of noodles the "manicotti" part is made with eggplant. Awesome! I've had eggplant lasagna before but because of the excess moisture from the eggplant, I wasn't a fan.

In this version, you roast the eggplant by itself and I think that eliminates the goopiness you'd get from cooking it in a dish with all the sauce and cheese.

1 eggplant (whatever size or quantity dependent on how many people you are serving.), cut into strips lengthwise. (I also peeled the outer layers of skin off the end pieces to avoid the toughness you get with cooked eggplant skin. Yuck)
2 Tb extra virgin olive oil or spray olive oil
1 cup low-fat ricotta
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup part skim mozzarella, shredded
1 egg
2 handfuls spinach (optional)
mushrooms (optional)
fresh tomatoes or tomato sauce (optional)

Preheat oven to 350'.

Mix ricotta, parmesan and egg in a small baking dish. You can add spices here. The original recipe called for thyme, oregano, etc. I'd recommend garlic and basil... Once mixed, cook in the oven for 15 minutes or until set and slightly browned on top.

While this is cooking you can saute the additional vegetables you'll add. Cook until soft and then take off the heat until the egg/cheese mixture is ready.

Once cheese dish is ready, stir in the sauteed vegetables (or, if not adding veggies, just stir the mixture itself to break it up).

Turn the oven up to 400' and brush the eggplant slices with the olive oil. Sprinkle salt and whatever additional seasoning you'd like. Roast the eggplant for about 10 minutes or until softened.

Once the eggplant has cooled enough to handle, start spreading the ricotta/egg/veggies mixture onto the slices. Depending on how much you want you can either roll up the slice or just fold it over once. Or just leave it as is. Any arrangement will work.

I folded the slices in half.

Arrange the eggplant pieces in a baking dish and top with more mozzarella cheese, parmesan and more toppings, if desired. The original recipe suggested tomato sauce. I happened to have some fresh tomatoes so I chopped those up and put them on top.

Ready to go in the oven!

Turn the oven up to broil and place under the broiler for 5-10 minutes or until the cheese on top has melted and begins to brown.

Gorgonzola Pasta

Many moons ago my friends and I attempted a recipe for a butternut squash manicotti. The recipe took forever, or at least it felt that way. We had to roast the squash, cook the manicotti noodles, scoop out the flesh of the squash, stuff the manicotti, create a gorgonzola sauce, pour sauce over the manicotti and then bake again. Three hours later we had an AWESOME meal...but the labor involved was a bit much. So, since then, I've taken to making my own gorgonzola sauce to inject some creaminess and rich flavors into pasta dishes.

If memory serves, the sauce from that original recipe didn't actually include cream. But you melt the gorgonzola on the stove, so it turns into a creamy alfredo-like sauce. Quite good.

On a recent night, tired and uninspired I whipped up some whole wheat pasta with whatever veggies we had on hand and melted some gorgonzola on top of sauteed vegetables. Pretty good and a much quicker way to achieve that delicious creamy sauce...

This version included baby bella mushrooms and spinach sauteed in olive oil with garlic. I melted the gorgonzola after the mushrooms browned and then tossed in chopped tomatoes right at the end just to heat them up but not cook them.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Obsession of the Month: Salad

Variety is not the spice of my life. I am prone to eating the exact same meal for extended periods of time. Tom loves this.

Following the gluttony of our Mexico trip, my arteries and brain needed something wholesome, light and uh, cleansing. Thus, my salad obsession.

At least once a week, sometimes twice, I hit up the Byerly's salad bar. Oddly enough, the East St. Paul location has a wicked good selection (better than Roseville). And I spend around $4.50 for a filling salad. Not awesome, not terrible.

In the "I'm feeling rich today" category, I have never loved a salad more than I love Erte's Applause Salad. Here's how they describe it on their menu: crisp apple slices, shredded carrots, natural Stickney Hill goat cheese curry crusted croutons, nuts, golden raisins, on top a bed of spring mixed greens dressed with a chutney vinaigrette

Oy. At $14 a pop, though, not exactly the kind of meal you can swing on a regular basis.

Thus, I've been working on my homemade salads and may have finally come up with one I could see myself obsessing over (making for dinner every single night for a month until I move on to the next obsession). Here's what I've got:

mixed baby greens
sunflower seeds
dried cranberries
goat cheese
Morningstar Farms chik'n strips

olive oil
red wine vinegar
garlic powder
dijon mustard
(I don't really measure amounts. Maybe equal parts oil/vinegar? Meh?)

These ingredients are all dependent on what I actually have in the kitchen at the time of creation. If I don't have the fake chicken strips, I'd likely substitute more vegetables and/or edamame or chickpeas to give it some protein.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Recipe idea

Saw this recipe in the NYT. I'm not so interested in a quesadilla but I'm curious about using goat cheese with a Mexican dish...wheels spinning.

Black Bean and Goat Cheese Quesadilla

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bread, plain and simple

After the failed attempt at sourdough, I needed to make a simple loaf of bread to prove that I could actually make bread at all.

PLUS I needed to use my new bread rising basket Tom bought me! (Well, use it *successfully*, that is. See: sourdough pictures)

So I just followed Mark Bittman's recipe for a quick french loaf. Except I, of course, had to use half whole wheat flour. But otherwise I kept it the same.

Bread hath risen! Yeah, maybe not very much but whatever.

Now to get it out of the basket and onto the baking stone...steady...steady...


OK, so maybe the basket will build up a layer to prevent it from sticking...the middle didn't quite make it.

Here's how it looked out of the oven:

Errr...OK, a little odd-looking. And maybe I didn't really carefully paint the egg wash on the top.

But there you have it. Maybe not as much rise as it was supposed to have. But it tasted good!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bottling the Peace Coffee Porter

On Saturday March 12th we bottled our Peace Coffee Porter from Northern Brewer. It's been maxin' and relaxin' in the fermenter for a week with the coffee grounds directly in the liquid. After dumping them all in and thinking about it for a few days, I wondered if maybe that was the wrong thing to do.

Were we supposed to cold brew the coffee and THEN pour in the liquid coffee? If so, how much liquid were we supposed to brew the coffee in? Bwaaaaaah?

Of course, it was too late to ask such questions. But it was not too late to figure out how to prevent the coffee grounds from getting in the bottled beer. Luckily, one of us is an engineer...

An electrical engineer. OK, that didn't come in handy here. But still, Tom came up with the idea of siphoning the beer through a reusable (and sanitized) coffee filter. It worked like a charm!

Those coffee grounds would have ended up in our beer.

How else would you label your Peace Coffee Porter bottles?

Sourdough Update

Ummm...sooooo, yeaaaaahhhh...

About that sourdough starter. I tried. I really did! I stirred it up...I fed it. I refrigerated it. And then I tried to proof it.

I couldn't get this one line from that blog I was following out of my head:

If this sounds brain-dead simple, that's because it is. People who didn't believe the Earth was round did this for millenia. (found here)

So I guess I am dumber than people who didn't think the Earth was round. Here's what happened.

I begin the process of proofing the starter. Looks good, right? Some bubbling action going on...all righty then!

OK, I don't have any pictures of the dough formation. But I recall it was quite dry. But I stuck with it. And here is the result. And here is how it stayed. Absolutely no rise whatsoever, even after I put it in the fridge overnight.

Cue sad music.

BUT THEN...I found another blog about sourdough. And this blog asserts (many times) that you need to get a known starter. That you should not try to create one on your own. They suggest asking friends for a starter or ordering one online etc etc. But the one that caught my attention?

Carl Griffith's 1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough Starter

I'm going to order it. Stat. Because if I can make sourdough bread AND pretend I'm in a wagon on the Oregon Trail headed west? Um, AWESOME!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Stew

1/2 small to medium pumpkin
3-4 sweet potatoes
2 cups vegetable stock
white wine
red pepper flakes
1 can chickpeas
1 can whole peeled tomatoes

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a stock pot. Add onions and garlic until soft. Add pumpkin, sweet potatoes and carrots and saute for a minute or two. Once all the vegetables are steaming and/or a glaze is starting to form in the bottom of the pot, pour in a little white wine to de-glaze. Scrape the bottom of the pot to get everything mixed in.

Pour vegetable stock into pan and add more water if needed to cover all the vegetables in liquid. Let simmer until pumpkin and potatoes are soft.

Add chickpeas (drained and rinsed) and tomatoes (cut into bite-sized pieces) to the pot.

Chop fresh spinach into smaller pieces and add to pot.

Season with salt and pepper.

Can be eaten as a stew or put over rice or cous cous. A fresh dry cheese (like parmesan) is good on top.

Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Curry

1/2 small to medium sized pumpkin, chopped up into cubes, 1 inch or so
3-4 Sweet potatoes, chopped into 1-inch cubes
cup or so of carrots
1 cup cauliflower
1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
1 14.5 oz can of chickpeas
1 14.5 oz can coconut milk
onion (I don't use a whole one but it's your onion preference)
curry powder
garam masala
garlic (3-4 cloves?)
hot pepper
olive oil (can use red pepper-infused oil*)
cayenne pepper
cumin seeds
Basmati Rice

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil (add red pepper flakes if not using infused oil) in large pot. Add onions and garlic, cook until soft. Toss in pumpkin, potatoes, carrots and cauliflower and coat in oil.

Pour coconut milk into the pot. Then pour in whatever amount of water is needed to cover the vegetables. Add spices here. I used maybe 1-2 teaspoons of curry powder, 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon garam masala. I don't remember if I used turmeric but that is another common spice in this dish. I put in a dash of cayenne pepper and also added maybe another teaspoon of hot pepper flakes.

Let everything simmer for about 15 minutes or however long it takes for the pumpkin and potatoes to soften. While it was simmering, I poured in the chickpeas (drained and rinsed) and then cut the tomatoes into the pot in bite sized pieces using kitchen shears.

Use flour to thicken up the broth. If you like it more soup-like, you might not need any flour. If you want it thicker, just throw in flour 1-2 tablespoons at a time, it doesn't take much. Stir it around and let it simmer to thicken up. If it's still too thin, add more flour.

Serve over basmati rice. (Trader Joe's sells brown basmati rice which is what I use)

*Hot Pepper-infused oil recipe taken from THIS recipe on Super easy, looks great on the counter in a clear glass pourer...

Granola Recipe

Granola. I crave/want/need a good recipe for making granola to put in yogurt. Not a bunch of crap in it. Crunchy but not tooth-breaking crunchy. Not a lot of dried fruit.

Will attempt this recipe at some point:

Adaptation on Alton Brown's recipe

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Monday, March 7, 2011


Flash back to early summer, 2010. A group of us were at Sweeney's Saloon in St. Paul and they had some kind of special on local beers or something. So we ordered a few pitchers of Lift Bridge Farm Girl Saison. I swear I'd tried it earlier and was unimpressed. But on this particular summer evening, the stars were aligned and I officially found my Summer Beer.

I was such a die-hard fan, I actually noticed when they changed the "farm girl" on the label mid-summer. My undying devotion was so strong, Tom even abandoned his "only buy things if they're on sale" mantra. Whoa, dudes. Eventually the summer ended. Our wedding was at the end of September and I drank Farm Girl on our mini-honeymoon in Wisconsin. Not long after that, with snow on the ground, Farm Girl fell out of regular rotation on tap at bars and I switched to porters and stouts to warm up.

All this is leading up to our most recent batch of beer: a saison kit from Northern Brewer.

Here's the thing. I do not have the patience or even really the interest in brewing beer that takes a long time. When I see the time-frame on some kits as being 3 months, I scoff and move on. But for a saison and the possibility of creating my own version of Lift Bridge? I will suck it up and keep a batch brewing for two months. Besides, it makes me excited to imagine that this will be my SUMMER homebrew!

So, on March 6th we brewed the saison. It was our third time brewing at home (by ourselves) and we both agreed there was a lot less stress this time around. Maybe we're getting the hang of things?????

The kit. Lots of malt and lots of hops.

Adding some of the hops pre-boil. The final .5 ounce of hops was added just 15 minutes before the end of the boil.

Tom chills the wort. Our least favorite part.

Saison! So pretty!

Now, our Northern Brewer instructions say we're supposed to use a plastic bucket as our primary fermenter but how can you tell it's fermenting if you can't see it? So we put it in the glass carboy. Because then we get to see...

Fermentation! OK, maybe explosive fermentation...

In a week or two, we'll transfer it to a secondary fermenter. It will sit there for about a month and then we'll bottle. 1-2 weeks after being bottled, the beer will (hopefully!) be ready.

So, come May 6th you know where to find me. In the back yard with sun on my face and a cold saison in my hand. :)

Dulce de Leche cupcakes

I found this recipe via The Pioneer Woman: Dulce de Leche Cupcakes

We were headed to a Mardi Gras party so my original plan was to try to make something New Orleans-related. That idea fizzled after King Cake had been ruled out (the hosts already had one from a bakery), I realized I had no interest in eating bourbon praline thingies (and, let's be honest, if I don't want to eat it, why would I make it?) and the thought of buying a QUART of oil to fry beignets was just too much.

So I went with my gut and made something that looked pretty!

Dulce de Leche, or at least my version of them. Not as pretty as the original recipe...

Overall, I'd say they were really fun to make. But eating? Eh, maybe not my favorite style of cupcake. The cupcake wasn't very sweet (one friend described it as similar to a corn muffin, which she was a fan of) and I thought the frosting was just a little too cream cheesy-y. (again, another person who tried it said they loved that it was so cream cheese-y, so to each his own, I guess).

The cupcake batter also included my nemesis: buttermilk. BLECH. I have to quiet the part of my brain that thinks curdled milk is so, so wrong.

Like I said, I had fun making them (perhaps because I wouldn't normally make something this rich) and I do have about a cup of this frosting now I have to think of something to do with that before it goes bad.

Recipe To-Do List

Here are the recipes I'd like to attempt sometime in the near future:

Gnocchi with Brussel Sprouts and Butternut Squash
(can I substitute soy milk in place of the heavy cream?)

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars
(for a party, not to be kept around the ManWal kitchen, obvs)

(Nothing revolutionary here but I noticed this no-knead bread recipe calls for 2 Tb of yeast. Errr...I'm pretty sure I use 2 tsp of this is either a mistake. Or a future experiment...)

Chorizo and Wisconsin Cheddar Biscuits
(obvs, will be substituting soysage in place of the chorizo but since I make chili 9 times a week, this would be a great accompaniment.)

Last, but certainly not least...I'd like to come up with a recipe to duplicate a beet salad we had on our recent vacation in Mexico. Here's how it's listed on their menu:

Stacked Roasted Beets $49
Stacked roasted beets w/goat cheese, orange segments, pecans, raspberry vinaigrette, yellow bell pepers emulsion

WTF is a yellow bell pepper emulsion?

Saturday, March 5, 2011



Sourdough Starter

Of all the delicious breads in existence, I wouldn't put sourdough very high on the list. However, now that I'm fascinated by bread-baking, I consider sourdough to be a necessary and exciting project. Maybe just the idea of telling people I have to go home to "feed my starter" is what I'm most looking forward to but that's neither here nor there.

I had to wait until after we returned home from Mexico because the first 3 days up to a week require daily "feedings."

I looked up Mark Bittman's recipe for sourdough and he uses a commercial yeast which he explains makes it less sour and, from what I've read elsewhere, seems to speed up the process a bit. As much as I love MB, I think I'm going to go more old-school on this first starter.

I found a guide here: I'm even ignoring the part of my brain that wants to use whole wheat flour and instead opted for the all-purpose unbleached flour. I'll keep it basic for now and see how it goes.

I'm using a large canning jar but haven't quite figured out what type of lid I'll use once it goes in the fridge. Meh.

Here is the entire recipe: jar, 1 cup of warm water, 1 cup of flour.

Here is what it looks like after I mixed it together. Kind of like a runny version of homemade Play-Dough. Delish!

Now I just have to remember to feed it every day...

Peace Coffee Stout Porter

3-5-11: Transferred from carboy to bucket. Ground coffee and added to bucket. Waiting a week and then bottling.