Tag Archives: cooking

Good Morning, Orange Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake!

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I’m gonna keep this brief (for me).

Some Saturdays, you wake up and just want to laze about. You don’t want to put on pants. You don’t want to shower. You don’t want to cook, and you barely have the patience or energy to make a pot of coffee. All that you want to do – and in this scenario, you have the same cultural tastes as I do – is sit around in your pajamas, eat a slice of leftover pizza, drink that coffee you just barely mustered the strength to make, and stream The Hunger Games on Netflix. Needless to say, you’re not likely to cook anything. You’re not really likely to contribute anything to the betterment of your world. That’s okay. That’s for Sunday.

Then, there are Saturdays when you wake up and the world is your oyster, an oyster that you’re prepared to go out, catch, bring home, wash, prepare, and eat. You leap out of bed, get into your workout clothes, run a few miles, make some coffee, cook breakfast, clean the house, do your laundry, go shopping, meet up with your friends for some frozen yogurt, put in some volunteer hours, bake a cake, make a few dinner courses, host a potluck dinner party, and spend the waining hours of your day sipping wine and chatting with your guests.

Okay, so I’ve never really had one of those latter Saturdays. But for weekend days that you’re feeling a tad more productive than the former kind of Saturday mentioned, this coffee cake is for you.

I adapted a recipe from one of my favorite go-to sources for breakfast and brunch foods, Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I was worried that the orange and coffee flavors of the loaf would contradict, but the key is to limit the amount of each so as to achieve a flavor balance. Plus, chocolate!

This is an incredibly simple coffee cake to make, so feel free to give it a try even on those mornings where you really can’t be bothered to change into real person clothes.

Ingredients
– 1 cup non-dairy milk
– 1 tablespoon instant coffee crystals
-1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
– 2 cups all purpose flour (or 1 cup all purpose, 1 cup whole grain for a healthier option)
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1 tablespoon baking powder
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/2 cup canola oil
– 1/2 tsp orange extract
– 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
– 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a loaf pan OR 9X9 pie dish.

In a 1/2 cup of the milk, dissolve the coffee crystals. Stir in the rest of the milk and vinegar and set aside.

Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the milk mixture, oil, vanilla and orange extracts. Mix together until batter is just moistened, then fold in chocolate chips.

Pour batter into loaf pan or dish and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (Bake about 2-3 minutes longer for a crumblier cake.)

Allow to cool. Queue up your favorite series on Netflix, grab a cup of coffee, and enjoy the rest of your Saturday!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cheeky Chickpea Falafel

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One way that I knew I was becoming an adult was that my method of making falafel evolved past using the boxed, pre-made falafel mix produced by Manischewitz. Upon producing my first batch of from-scratch, homemade falafel, I felt something akin to what people must feel when they make their first batch of homemade chicken noodle soup or their first non-frozen, non-Stouffer’s lasagna. Heck, I felt that way when I made my first from-scratch pancakes, and pancakes are one of the simplest (and cheapest) things to produce from scratch.

Why do we rely on pre-made goods to deliver the foods we enjoy? I think it’s a combination of the following things: Over-reliance on the food experiences we are used to, fear of screwing up our favorites, and limited time, patience, energy, and equipment. Also, for years I prepared food mainly for myself and most recipes, whether it’s a pot of soup or a plate of falafel, produce too much for one person to consume in a short period of time. Short of dinner parties and potlucks, a can of soup made more sense for my lifestyle.

I cook for two (sometimes three, if our roommate is home) now, so the amount of food is no question. But I have a long commute to and from work, so when I come home to prepare dinner, fast and simple is usually the rule. One of the defining factors of my adult life is when I decided fast and simple did not have to mean pre-made or processed.

Thanks, adulthood!

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CSA #10 and the Wonderful World of Tempeh

It was a hectic Thursday of CSA pick-up and more sad goodbyes. Everyone is leaving town and I’m swimming in beautiful farm-fresh vegetables, not a terribly opportune moment to have a kitchen so plentiful, but so be it. James and I have somehow managed to get the stuff eaten, even if a few items end up sacrificed.

And I’m getting better and better at using what we have on hand. Just a quick (and unfortunately photo-less) recap:
– The Swiss chard ended up in another vegan frittata
– The carrots and summer squash went into a salad of shredded red cabbage
– The beans and broccoli were steamed and eaten as a late-night snack
– One tomato was used in the production of TLTs. The others were diced up and served on pasta, along with fried zucchini and summer squash.
– The Chinese eggplant was sliced, sauteed, and eaten over rice.
– The array of small tomatoes made their way into various pastas and salads
– The onion and garlic were used throughout the week, portioned out over various dishes.

We’ve eaten pretty darn well thanks to the CSA subscription. I’ve been holding onto the beets, but I’m thinking a beet and spinach salad might be in order for later on today. With the fair amount of cooking done over the weekend, the simpler the better for this rainy Monday afternoon.

I didn’t get time to take pictures of the entire CSA bounty for this past week, but among the highlights:
– Another robust eggplant
– Kale
– A beautiful assortment of tomatoes
– Braising greens
– Carrots
– Potatoes (all were promptly eaten the next morning)
– Purple beans
– Zucchini
– Garlic
– Onion

Last week also marked a transition for me as I went from casual to utterly devoted fan of tempeh. While I eat tofu at least five out of seven days a week and have even tried my hand at making my own seitan more than a few times, I have only worked sparingly with tempeh. The earthy, slightly nutty, slightly mushroom-y flavor has always been something I was hesitant to work with, not so much in regards to my own palate as others. No matter what you do with tempeh, it’s always going to have those underlying flavors. The trick to working with it is to use it in dishes where its primary qualities play into the overall flavors of the dish. Tempeh doesn’t change, it changes you.

Tempeh has been a staple of Indonesia for thousands of years. Soy beans are plentiful, the production method is fairly simple, and the result is a versatile substance that is a protein powerhouse. Seriously, in a nutritional battle between tempeh and its Southeast Asian soybean brother, tofu, tempeh wins every round. The traditional starter for the fermentation process even boosted the B12 levels of the tempeh to ridiculously high proportions, although production stateside tends to be without this property.

While tofu is available in nearly every supermarket now, tempeh is still mostly relegated to specific larger groceries (Whole Foods) and specialty food stores. Its stunted availability is probably one of the reasons why many vegetarians and vegans don’t acquaint themselves with tempeh right away. Getting to know tempeh allows one to adjust to its unique flavor properties. Learning the intricacies of the food allows you to better utilize its strong points in the dishes where it is incorporated.

Unlike tofu, which is a veritable flavor sponge, tempeh has restrictions, but not as many as you might think. The nutty flavors play well against most basic sauces and its texture makes it easy to use for sandwiches, stir fry, pasta, etc. The best way to get to know tempeh early on is to grill it. Grilled tempeh toughens up the texture to a chewy, meaty consistency, and accentuates the smokey qualities. It also takes to a marinade really well, so there’s no excuse for lack of flavor.

Because most of my cookbooks are still packed, I’ve been steadily working my way through the indispensable Vegan Brunch. For months, I have been eyeing up “Tempeh Sausage Pastry Puffs,” thinking two things: 1) “What a great way to use tempeh!” and 2) “Holy shit, puff pastry!” When I had my family over for brunch to break in my new residence, I figured now was the time to shoot for something a bit more advanced than pancakes and scramble and potatoes.

Given all the skills I have developed over the past few years, surely I could make something as simple but sophisticated as these lovely little puffed squares. Surely something this manageable was within my purview. I could even make a decent vegan gravy to match. It was all going to be so simple.

Of course I screw it up. Not having ever worked with puff pastry, I didn’t exactly interpret the instructions correctly. Or maybe I did but became convinced that I hadn’t. Not really sure, but either way, I had to abruptly alter plans. That’s how square pastry puffs turned into pastry puff pinwheels. The rest is quickly devoured history.

Note on the recipe: The original called for at least an hour of marinading the tempeh, but I suggest overnight for full flavor. And don’t skip the fennel. It really brings together the sausage flavor of the filling mix.

Tempeh Sausage Puff Pinwheels

Ingredients
– 8 oz. tempeh, crumbled
– 1 package puff pastry (as recommended by Vegan Brunch, Pepperidge Farm puff pastry is vegan)

For the marinade:
– 1 cup vegetable broth
– 3 tbsp soy sauce
– 2 tbsp lemon juice

For the tempeh filling:
– 2 tbsp olive oil
– 1 red  bell pepper, finely chopped
– 1 small onion, finely chopped
– 2-4 garlic cloves, minced
– 2 tsp fennel seeds, chopped
– 2 tsp dried basil
– 2 tsp dried rosemary
– 1 tsp red pepper flakes
– Salt and black pepper to taste
– Extra olive oil

– Combine the ingredients for the marinade in an airtight container. Toss in the crumbled tempeh and seal. Keep in the fridge overnight.

– Prepare the a large pan over medium heat. Saute pepper and onion until the onion is translucent, then add garlic and spices and saute until garlic is slightly browned. Add drained tempeh and turn the heat to medium high. Cook for up to 15 minutes, stirring often to prevent burning.

– Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Apply a fine layer of olive oil to a large baking sheet.

– You should have two sheets of puff pastry. Cut each sheet into nine squares. You should have a total of eighteen rectangles.

– To assemble the pinwheel, take a rectangle and unfold it so that it is a single layer. Brush a little olive oil on the inside, then apply some of the tempeh filling. Gently roll up the dough around the filling. Whatever falls out can be stuffed back in once the edges are sealed. It does not have to look perfect, but the edge should be sealed with your fingers or a fork so that it does not fall apart while baking.

– Repeat steps until you have all eighteen filled or have run out of filling. Line the finished pastries on the baking sheet about an inch apart.

– Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the pastries are puffed and golden. Serve warm.

(Recipe adapted from Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz)

CSA #8: Summertime? Time for Summer Squash!

By this past week’s CSA, I had assembled quite a collection of summer squash, specifically the yellow summer squash variety. Why have I been carefully sealing the squash up and storing it in my crisper when I could have been cleaning it, chopping it, and cooking it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

Well, the short answer is… I don’t really know. The longer answer, the answer that you know I’m going to expound upon because you read this blog and you know how long-winded I can get about trivial matters, is that I’ve become a bit of a hoarder when it comes to foods. Whether it’s a trip to the market or our weekly CSA, there are certain vegetables that I hold onto till the point of inspiration, and sometimes well past the point of inspiration. These are the foods that I can’t simply dump into just any old dish. These are the foods whose mere presence in my fridge makes me that much happier to be in the kitchen in the first place. These are the foods that are stored in the crisper until the brink of rot, just to be rescued at the last minute by whatever dish could use a little extra something. They were meant for so much more, but alas, time is a merciless force upon produce.

It’s a pseudo-fixation that is seemingly random as to the choice of its targets. For instance, though I use onions in almost every other dish I make, I have no intention of hoarding onions. It would make much more sense if I were hoarding onions, considering how often I use them, but instead, I hoard things like summer squash, for which I have limited (but delicious) uses. Is my hoarding inspired by my desire to keep close something that is not oft present in my fridge?

Or is it mere laziness and lack of knowledge? Perhaps I hold onto veggies that I don’t use on everyday basis because I simply don’t trust my ability to cook them effectively. Such was the case with the kohlrabi earlier in the CSA season. The bok choy. Even the radishes! (Although after finding that cold salad recipe, I haven’t had any issues using up my radishes.) Maybe my hoarding isn’t hoarding at all, but an insecure act of protection to keep the vegetables from being used incorrectly.

Anything in your crisper you’ve had trouble letting go of? If so, why?

Onto the bounty and bonus recipe!


Braising mix, sweet peppers, assorted tomatoes, summer squash.


Beets, purslane, eggplant, green beans.


Onions, Swiss chard, basil, carrots, potatoes.

Summertime Pasta with Eggplant and Summer Squash

Ingredients
– 1/2 lb to 1 lb of whole wheat pasta, prepared as directed
– 1 medium-sized eggplant, sliced into half-inch rounds
– 1 large summer squash, sliced into quarter-inch rounds
– 1 medium onion, chopped
– 1/2 cup of roasted red peppers, sliced
– 1/2 cup of unsweetened non-dairy milk
– 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
– 2 tsp dried rosemary
– 2 tsp dried basil
– 1 tsp smoked paprika
– Salt
– Ground black pepper
– Olive oil (for the summer squash saute)
– Vegetable oil (for frying the eggplant)

Prepare the squash saute
– In a medium-sized pot with a lid, saute the onions in olive oil until translucent. Add the squash, roasted red peppers. Allow to simmer at low heat until everything is tender, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Prepare the eggplant
– Pour the non-dairy milk into a shallow bowl. In a second bowl, combine the flour with the rosemary, basil, smoked paprika, salt and pepper.

– Coat your eggplant by first dipping the rounds in the milk, then by tossing them in the flour. Make sure to get a light, even coat around the whole piece, including the sides.

– Heat vegetable oil a large frying pan on the stove. Add the slices, frying until each side is golden brown. Set eggplant rounds on a paper-towel covered plate to cool and drain.

Plate your pasta
– A top of a generous helping of pasta place two eggplant rounds, then a scoop of the squash saute. For non-vegans, add a sprinkling of Parmesan or a few chunks of Gorgonzola.

Coversatin’ Fridays: Music in the Kitchen

Just a quick conversation starter for your Friday morning:

Last Christmas, me and my roommate considered setting up speakers in the kitchen, extending our living room stereo system into the second half of our apartment. For some reason plans for the project fell through, but whenever I’m slaving over any kind of meal, whether it be a quick cold salad or a four course Southern feast, I regret dropping the idea.

To be able to hear whatever is playing in the living room in my kitchen, I have to crank up the system loud enough that our downstairs neighbor is probably getting an unwanted free concert in her living room. When it’s old soul or jazz, I don’t think she minds so much, but I’m sure she’s getting sick of Fucked Up’s David Comes to Life, or Fugazi’s Repeater or any of the smattering of more abrasive music we regularly listen to.

So I’ve taken to wearing headphones and either listening to the radio or my iPod. There’s also always the chance that I might want to listen to something loud enough to the point that I’ll bring my computer speakers down from my room and into the kitchen, but that’s almost as big a chore as cooking, so that’s pretty rare.

Music makes everything a little easier, though, and in the case of cooking, it makes an activity I do enjoy that much better. So the next time I’m setting up a new home, I can guarantee that there will be a set of speakers in the kitchen, carefully and safely hooked up to whatever dominant stereo system is in the household.

So the question: Do you have a system to play/hear music in your kitchen? Do you like listening to music while cooking/baking away? If so, what is on your current kitchen playlist?

Talk amongst yourselves and leave answers in the comments. I’ve got to get to work.

CSA #6, the Best 80’s Movie to Feature Nuns and Dance Competitions, and Putting Gravy on Your Veggies

I spend most of June not believing it’s finally summer, so July is when the feeling really sets in. That can be a good thing and a bad thing. While I love warm weather activities, I tend to get more lethargic as the season makes its steady stretch to the end of August. Maybe it’s the heat or the sunshine or the overall slower pace of things, but I just don’t get very much done this time of year. Summertime is just about the best time to make excuses for inactivity.

That’s my half-assed excuse for not being especially prolific with blogging these days. My other, more reasonable excuse is that I am moving, therefore any extra time that isn’t spent packing is time that I feel like I’m wasting. Which is never really true when that time is put toward something I love, like blogging, but is definitely true when that time is put toward something like watching Girls Just Want to Have Fun on Encore.

Wow, the Dog Days really have me so lazy and distracted that I’m filling out a post with a movie trailer when I’m supposed to be focusing on our nutritious and body-enriching weekly CSA. Which is a shame considering out great our yield was (again) this week.

Kale and carrots

Radishes, sweet peppers, garlic, onion

Summer squash and potatoes.

I’ve taken to including a recipe at the end of these posts, showcasing just how we’re incorporating the CSA into our meals. This weekend, however, we didn’t do anything particularly fancy with what we used. We just made our favorites that much better with the addition of farm-fresh produce.

Better tasting, that is. Not necessarily better for our health. Observe Saturday night’s feast:


Yes, that is gravy smothering the corn, the potatoes, and the Southern-fried tofu. You might remember the tofu and gravy from a prior post. The corn is, admittedly, canned corn, drained and seasoned with salt, pepper, and vegan margarine. The mashed potatoes are a mix of the yellow and purple potatoes that came to us in our CSA and two Russet potatoes I purchased at People’s down the street.

The only gravy-less item on the plate is the slow-cooked kale, which will serve as my humble half-assed recipe for today. This method works equally well for collard greens, as well as broccoli and cauliflower.

[On a side note, take a look sometime at the beneficial elements of kale. Thanks to its high levels of antioxidants, beta carotene, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, and carotenoids, it’s a nutritional powerhouse and damn tasty to boot. It’s also fairly easy to grow, so if anyone is thinking of starting a garden or adding to their bounty, it’s a good crop to consider.]

Slow-Cooked Summer Kale

Ingredients
– 1 lb (or so) fresh kale, rinsed and dried
– 1 tbsp vegetable oil
– 1/2 cup vegetable stock
– 1 tbsp tabasco
– 1 tsp red pepper flakes
– Salt and pepper to taste

– In a large pot, heat the oil, stock, and tabasco. Add the kale (you can keep it on the stalk if you plan to cook it for a long time, or tear off the leaves if you’re only planning to cook it for an hour or so), red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir until all the leaves are well coated, then cover and allow to simmer on low heat for up to four hours.

CSA #5: Greens’n’Beans!

It’s been a rough week. Other than my brief trip to Jose & Tony’s on Monday, eating-wise it’s been a week of scraps, leftovers, and retreads. It hasn’t all been bad, of course – burnt out by Wednesday, I took my partner to Thai Cuisine, where yellow curry with mock duck soothed my weary soul – but until the weekend, I hadn’t really had a chance to relax, to spend time in my kitchen, to write.

It was another great week for our CSA, however. No homemade preserves in this bundle, but a few welcome surprises, such as fingerling potatoes, hot peppers, and a big stalk of fresh garlic. If I can convince my partner to plant it instead of eat it, we might be able to start that garden sooner rather than later.

On a side note, but related to produce: It seems like everyone’s personal gardens are starting to burst with product. In the upcoming weeks I’d like to feature recipes that are of use to my gardening friends, so if you’ve got more zucchinis or tomatoes or basil etc than you can handle, drop me a comment and let me know what kind of recipes you’re in need of. If you just feel like getting rid of your produce, you can make sacrificial offerings at my address. We take all forms of vegetables, fruit, and cookies.

Now for this week’s yield!


Fresh basil

Potatoes!


More Swiss chard (coupled with last week’s bunch, look for this in our featured CSA recipe this week – just at the bottom of this article)


Radishes (more white bean, radish, and pea pod salad?)


Onions (uncured, so we were warned that they would go faster than store-bought. Not a problem, we’ve already used two out of three.)

As stated above, this past week didn’t exactly afford me a lot of kitchen time, but the CSA has been a significant help in not going hungry. Thanks to two straight weeks of Swiss chard and well-timed purchase of navy beans, I made an easy dinner for our post-family July 4th evening.

Beans and Greens

Ingredients
– 1 lb Swiss chard, kale, or spinach, or green of choice (the amount can vary, but a pound is recommended)
– 1 small onion, chopped
– 1 15 oz. can navy beans, drained and rinsed.
– 2 tsp garlic pepper
– 1 tsp dried basil
– 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

– Heat oil in medium-sized pot, then saute onions until tender. Throw in the greens (feel free to tear them into whatever size you desire), add the garlic pepper, and cook at low heat for five minutes.

– Once the greens are looking tender (but not completely soft), add the white beans and basil. Cover and cook at very low heat for up to twenty minutes.