October 14, 2016

Miss E likes my mac and cheese | Bread update

The adult version.

I didn't grow up eating mac and cheese. Nope. My mother had a terribly low opinion of noodles, and considered them to be filler — you only ate them to fill up if you had no other options. She grew up poor during the depression, and probably ate more noodles than she cared to remember. She scrimped and saved so her food budget would stretch to include meat on the nights my father was home for dinner, and chicken or fish on the nights he wasn't. The budget was tight, so she rarely bought junk food like chips or candy, and it wasn't until I was older that she allowed soda into the house. She was strict about what she considered 'healthy' foods worth spending money on. I remember once asking her to buy orangeade like I'd had at the neighbor's house, and she threw a fit about not throwing money away on sugar and water. If I wanted orangeade, she told me, I could add sugar and water to the orange juice we already had. I didn't. I asked often if she would please make spaghetti, but it was always a no. It wasn't until I told her my friend's mother made spaghetti one night a week, that she reconsidered. She thought very highly of my friend's parents, and I guess she decided if spaghetti was good enough for them, it was good enough for us. But mac and cheese? Never.

When my kids were growing up, and our family was vegan, I never thought about making mac and cheese. The only available cheese was 'cheese sauce' that I made myself, and I didn't make it that often. And for me, mac and cheese never registered as a comfort food; it was just not something I ever thought of.. For my grandkids, though, mac and cheese seems to be always on the menu. They eat dairy products, though, and I've never been able to make a mac and cheese that Miss E approved of — until now.

I made the insanely addictive queso from Naturally Lean, by Allyson Kramer. I added granulated onion and garlic to perk up the taste a bit (can't add actual onion because Miss E doesn't like to find onion bits in her food), and mixed about 3/4 of the cheese with 12 ounces of cooked noodles. I transfered some of the plain mac and cheese to a small baking dish for the kids before adding 1/4 cup chopped dried tomatoes, 1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives and 1/2 cup chopped parsley to the rest, sprinkled it with bread crumbs, then baked it. Miss E loved it. She said, with enthusiasm, "This is good!" Her brother wouldn't taste it, but you can't win them all. I liked it, too, and plan to make it again.

Bread Update

In my last post I talked about making a bread from buckwheat groats, and not being completely happy with the texture. I've been experimenting with the ingredients, combining ideas and ingredients from several recipes, and I love the results. I was going to include a recipe here but I have another bread experiment fermenting as I type, and I think I'll wait to see how it turns out. Also, we're in the midst of a weather situation here, and 10,000 people in Seattle are already without power. I think I'll just post this while I still can, and hope I'll be able to bake in the morning. Hope everyone comes through the storm with minimum impact.

October 10, 2016

Buckwheat bread: GF and easy

A tasty sandwich with roasted red pepper, tomato and homemade hummus.

In my last post I mentioned purchasing a gluten-free sourdough bread that was beautiful and delicious, but the whole time I ate it I had bloating and discomfort. A reader, 'cv', suggested in the comments that my digestive distress may have been related to the psyllium husks in the bread's ingredients list, and she included a link to a recipe for GF sourdough bread made with only buckwheat groats, sesame seeds, salt and water. Even if I weren't trying to avoid gluten, I probably would have been sucked into trying the recipe just to see if it would work. You sure don't have to be GF to appreciate a whole grain, fermented loaf.

The batter after fermenting for 24 hours.

The recipe is ultra easy, if waiting around for things to soak and ferment isn't an issue for you. The buckwheat is soaked over night, drained the next day, blended with water, salt and sesame seeds, then fermented for 24 hours before being baked. There are only four ingredients including the salt and water, and very little hands-on time.

Using parchment paper helps in removing the baked bread.

I followed the recipe as written, except I lined my baking pan with parchment paper to make removing the bread easier after baking. I was not about to mess around with such an unusual recipe.

The finished loaf, cooling before being sliced.

So how was the bread? The comments on the original blog post are extremely positive, which makes me think any disagreement I might have is probably due to something I did or didn't do as I followed the recipe. Did I over-blend? Did I bake it long enough? I like the taste a lot — probably because I like buckwheat, and the bread tastes like buckwheat. The texture, on the other hand, is not quite optimal. I don't know exactly how to describe it except to say it is a little mushy. Not wet, mushy, but it doesn't offer resistance when chewed, if that makes sense. It kind of falls apart in the mouth. Still, I do like it, and toasting it several times improves the texture. My bread slices look more dense than the ones on the original blog post, though I'm not sure what would cause that.

Toasted slices with hummus.

I'm planning to experiment a little with the recipe, maybe even add in some psyllium husks, both see if the texture changes, and to see if I react to it. I can guarantee the bread won't be wasted if do react because my husband likes it a lot. I also might add other grains as well as seeds.

Some time ago I made a very good nut and seed bread based on Josie Baker's adventure bread, (which in turn was inspired by My New Roots Life Changing Bread). I may try to incorporate some of the ideas from these breads into the buckwheat bread. Experimenting with new (to me) ideas is what makes cooking interesting! Do you like to experiment with unusual recipes or prefer to make things you're pretty sure will work?

October 05, 2016

What's on the menu?

The longer it takes me to write a new post, the harder it is to refocus; I have lots of ideas I want to share but 'things' keep getting it the way and I put off writing. Then I become a procrastinator, and writing gets even harder as time moves farther and farther away from what I had intended to post. Does this ever happen to you? For now, I'm going to do one of those random, recap posts to catch up, and try harder to stay up to date in the future. At least that's what I intend.

In my Sept. 13 post, I  described a mini-vacation we took on Orcas Island, and mentioned a vegan, gluten-free sourdough bread we found in the local food co-op. It was a Barn Owl Bakery bread, and it looked gorgeous and tasted great.

I was pretty excited to find the loaf, and started planning how to ferment GF sourdough starter and make bread when we returned home. Before bidding gluten goodbye, I used to be a darn good baker, and regularly made both regular and sourdough loaves as well as the on-demand bread that's made from dough kept at the ready in a tub in the refrigerator.  I was so happy to find the beautiful Barn Owl Bakery bread, and it inspired me to want to bake again.

I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to take on a day hike and they were delicious. But, after eating the bread, I had much intestinal distress and cramping — not the most horrible cramping, but still uncomfortable. Gluten free readers — what do you make of this? Do you bake sourdough bread at home?

The ingredients look perfectly fine to me. What do you think?

When I get an urge for a sandwich I usually make a batch of bannocks. The last time I got a craving for something in a bun, I lightened up the slightly heavy bannocks with a small recipe adjustment, and used them to hold kidney bean burgers.

My husband made the burgers from a recipe while I made the buns.

The burgers fulfilled my desire for a messy, dripping sandwich, but weren't quite good enough to go on the make-again and-share list. We have other burger recipes we like much better, but it's always fun to try new things rather than use the same old recipes again and again.

My sushi rice cooked in the Instant Pot is getting so much better since the first time I made it when it turned out more like rice pudding. I think the magic ratio is one cup of rice to 1-1/4 cups of water. I used standard measuring cups for the rice and water rather than the cup that came with the Instant Pot, and the rice had a great texture. After the cooking time was up, I let the rice stay in the closed pot for about 20 minutes. I seem to have a never-ending craving for vegan sushi, and even writing about it now is making me want some.

Polenta is another one of the foods I get cravings for, so when I make it (in the Instant Pot, of course) I make extra to use the next night, or for lunch. 

Here is a plate of leftover polenta enhanced with stir-fried tofu and bok choy, sprinkled with toasted peanuts. I suppose the polenta was slightly out of place here, but it sure tasted good!

Top 100 vegan blogs

I don't know how many vegan blogs there are, but I just received notice that my little blog is among the top 100. At least according to feedspot.com. So for whatever it's worth, if you are interested in discovering more vegan blogs, you can use the list of 100 as a starting point. I'm honored to be on the list with so many great blogs.

September 19, 2016

The cookbook I won is a winner | Plumbing news

I won a copy of Allyson Kramer's newest cookbook, Naturally Lean, on Cakemaker to the Stars, way back in early August, and finally got around to trying it out this past weekend. We had the family over for our son's birthday, and I made the GF chocolate brownie cake from Allyson's cookbook. To be completely honest, I never thought it was going to turn out okay because the ingredients were so unusual, but it worked perfectly. It rose well, had a great texture and tasted delicious. Not to mention it was a snap to make.

I only minimally changed the recipe — I added a flax egg made from a tablespoon of ground flax seed mixed with three tablespoons of water taken from the cup in the recipe. I beat the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with an electric hand mixer, and I doubled the vanilla. The flour mixture contained only teff flour and chickpea flour — no starches or weird gums, and the cake contains no oils or fats. It has banana and applesauce, but you can't taste them. The only thing I would suggest is if you like your cake on the sweet side, you might want to add a bit of additional sugar. I loved it as it was. Here's a link to the original recipe.

For the frosting, I was lazy, and sprinkled the hot cake with one-half cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips. After a minute or two, I spread the melted chips on the cake and added Sprinklz. In my original review of Sprinklz, I said they were kind of pale in color, but I take it back; they add a festive touch. (By the way, the chocolate chips won't look melted. You have to take a knife to them to find out when they are soft enough to spread. If you wait too long, they'll harden again! If your chips are hard to melt or you're impatient, you can pop the cake back into the turned-off oven for a minute and that should do the trick.)

I also made insanely addictive queso from the same cookbook. I added some granulated garlic and onion, and used half chipotle chili powder and half regular chili powder for a little heat. It's a basic, but incredibly fast and easy, cashew cheese sauce, that I whipped up in my blender to use as a topping for polenta and pinto beans.

The polenta, by the way, was cooked in our Instant Pot, which has become an indispensable piece of kitchen equipment. I cook polenta for about eight minutes on the 'porridge' setting. When the polenta is finished cooking and resting for 10 minutes, I whisk it to remove any lumps which may have formed, and we have creamy, delicious, practically effortless polenta. The recipe proportions I use for polenta are 1 cup of corn meal (polenta), 4 cups of water, 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. I doubled the amount for five adults and three children, and had a lot left over, which was what we wanted. We cooked the beans in the Instant Pot, too. (I previously wrote about my new Instant Pot here, and here.)

The polenta and beans were topped with queso, avocado, salsa, and green onions. We also had shredded cabbage and carrot salad with homemade, oil-free ranch-style dressing. The dressing was made by adding unmeasured things to the blender, but I plan to measure and write down the ingredients soon.

Plumbing news (bathroom not human)
I know this is a food blog, not a handywoman blog. I could if I wanted to, draw a connection between food and, you know, the toilet, but let's keep those two ideas separate for now. I want to share something I just learned about toilet handles, that could potentially come in handy if you encounter the same problem I did.

The toilet handle was extremely loose, and flapping around — only flushing about half the time. The rest of the time the lift chain that raises the flush valve would fall into the tank, and we'd have to take the tank top off, reach into the water, fish the chain out, and reattach it. I tried to tighten the nut (white plastic part at larger arrow) but it just spun around uselessly, and I finally came to the conclusion it was stripped. I was about to remove the screw that attaches the metal arm to the handle bolt (small arrow) to get the nut off for replacement, but first, I turned to youtube! I mean, what can't you learn on youtube? What I learned is the rule of 'lefty loosey righty tighty' doesn't apply to the toilet handle nut. Seriously, it must be some sort of plumbing joke. I felt stupid that I hadn't figured it out myself, but duh, I went back to the toilet tank, turned the &*%$@ nut counter clockwise, and it tightened right up, attaching the handle good as new. Now you know. In plumbing as in life, there's an exception to every rule.


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