May 31, 2010

Oats and wheat pancakes

Miss E, our two-year old granddaughter, arrived Sunday afternoon for a sleepover. It's always fun to have the charming Miss E running around the house (she never walks), sharing meals and snacks with us. She loves to eat and is willing to try just about anything before passing judgement. She's just started using the word love to describe how she feels about things, and it's hilarious to hear her tiny self say things like, "I love tempeh!," or "I love pink!" or "I love quinoa!" For dinner she had some unusual-looking seitan which she tentatively picked up and nibbled before exclaiming, I LIKE it!"

Miss E likes to have pancakes for breakfast when she stays with us but I was debating between pancakes and oatmeal, and ended up making pancakes with half wheat and half oats. I even measured the ingredients so I could post a recipe. Then I searched this blog to make sure I hadn't posted the exact recipe before and nope, not the exact one. So here it is.

Oats and wheat pancakes
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup regular rolled oats, ground to flour in blender or food processor
  • 1 tablespoon evaporated cane juice (natural sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt (optional)
  • 1-3/4 cups soy or other non-dairy milk
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar or rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt, if using.
  2. Add the vinegar to the milk and stir to curdle. Stir the oil into the milk.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix together. The batter will be fairly thick, but if it seems too thick, add a small amount of additional milk.
  4. Heat a cast iron griddle over medium heat until hot, then lightly oil it by spreading the oil with a spatula. Throw a few drops of water onto the pan and if it hisses and jumps, it's ready.
  5. Drop batter onto the pan to make approximately 2" pancakes. When bubbles form on top and the edges look dry, turn the pancakes over and cook about 15-30 seconds or until browned.
  6. Serve with pure maple syrup, applesauce, or the topping of your choice.
Makes 4 — 6 servings.

Update: I had batter left over so I stored it in a glass container in the refrigerator. On Wednesday morning I made pancakes again, and they were just as yummy (maybe even better) than they were on Monday. Of course I had to add a little more soymilk to the batter because it had thickened, but having the batter in the fridge made pancakes seem as easy as cold cereal. Well, almost! Had them with date syrup.


Food odds and ends

When my husband is out of town I tend to make myself simple suppers that usually end up being stir fries cooked in my wok. I love cooking in my wok. It's the perfect place to make a one-dish meal. Here's a little back story about our wok. We bought our favorite, flat-bottomed wok when we were living in Australia. We were visiting a living museum — a reconstructed mining town focused on the 19th century Australian gold rush era. All the businesses of the town were functioning as they would have been back in 1861; the bakery sold bread, the foundry produced metal objects, etc. Since many Chinese people had been brought to the area to work on the railroads, Chinese culture influenced the products available in the town. The foundry of the mining town made woks, and, missing my wok from home while living in Geelong, I bought one! We still have it and use it often.

Here's a dinner made from leftovers brought home from Bamboo Garden, a vegan Chinese restaurant. (Everything served at the restaurant is vegan except the fortune cookies.) The crunchy-looking tidbit on the right is fried yuba. After reheating, it had lost its crunchy texture, if not its crunchy appearance. Still tasted great, though.

This is what I currently see when I look out my kitchen door. It seems to be a rhododendron tree. Seattle is loaded with rhododendrons. They're not only abundant, they're enormous. Everywhere I go they are in bloom. I'm familiar with the shrub variety but until I came to Seattle, I'd never seen them grown as trees. The tree is beautiful but piles of the sticky blooms litter the back patio and constantly get tracked into the house. I no sooner sweep them up than they are all back again. It's hard to believe that the tree hasn't run out of blossoms yet.

May 23, 2010

Blood tests | Tomato-artichoke soup | Free bread

I'm a difficult draw. And I don't mean with a pencil. I'm referring to getting a blood sample out of the teeny tiny veins in my arm. Every so often a technician will need to call for assistance to get the job done, but there's always been someone at whatever lab I'm at who could just go right in and collect a sample with one try. Recently, I had an unpleasant (HA! understatement) experience at a lab, where, after trying repeatedly to draw blood from both arms, the first technician turned me over to her partner. Tech #2 tried in both arms and failed. She asked if I just wanted to give up and leave but I said no, I wanted to get this required blood test done. Seriously, I try to stay calm and friendly during these sessions because I don't want to be a negative influence on the proceedings, and make things worse, but sometimes it's sure hard to maintain composure in the face of ineptitude. I was keeping calm as best I could when I glanced at Tech #2, and observed her shaking her head. I looked at her fingers, tapping away at my arm, and they were shaking, too. At that point I said, "OK. I think I'm done." And I left. Sheesh.

On Saturday I was finally ready to give it another go at a different lab, and as I faced my first technician, I gently and calmly told her what she was up against, in case she wanted to bail. She was confident, and I liked her. I had to fast for 12 hours for the test but I had drunk lots of water because that's supposed to help in situations like mine. The technician gave me even more water to drink, and she put a hot pack on my arm. I was beginning to worry. After one unsuccessful poke, she called an associate, and I smiled on the outside and cried on the inside, as I met my new tormentor. This woman, bless her, immediately found a vein and got the sample. I got her name and the hours she works, and when I need blood drawn again, I'm making a beeline for her lab.

It's weird that this post is ultimately going to be about tomato soup. I wasn't thinking about the color connection before I started writing but, there it is. It's a little disturbing to me but I hope you'll take it in stride and try this soup. :) I've been wanting to make tomato soup ever since I had a stellar version in a small café on Bainbridge Island, and I think I figured out the special flavor in that soup — artichoke hearts. I was going to wait for fresh, summer tomatoes to make it but it's just too long to wait. (If you use fresh tomatoes you might want to remove the skin and seeds.)

For the tomatoes I used Bionaturæ organic strained tomatoes with no salt added, which comes in a glass bottle, but I don't see why regular canned tomatoes or tomato purée wouldn't work. This tomato purée is very thick. (I started using jarred tomatoes when I became aware of the the dangers of BPA in the can linings.) The artichoke hearts were quartered and packed in water, but, if you don't worry about extra fat, oil-packed ones would probably be even more delicious. I rinsed the artichokes to reduce the sodium a bit, but you don't have to. I used basil for my dried herb but I think rosemary or savory might be good options.

Tomato-artichoke soup (very fast, easy and delicious)
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • olive oil (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 24 oz. tomatoes (mine were strained, puréed, no salt, bottled)
  • 2-1/2 cups low sodium vegetable broth, or regular vegetable broth
  • 1 cup jarred artichoke hearts, drained and quartered (mine were packed in water)
  • up to 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (to taste)
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 1 teaspoon dried herb of choice
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  1. In a soup pot, sauté the onions in a small amount of olive oil until translucent, about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally so they don't burn.
  2. Add the tomatoes, broth, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, artichokes and frozen corn.
  3. Blend with an immersion blender until the vegetables are uniform but the soup isn't completely smooth. It should have a bit of texture but no chunks. (You could also use a regular blender.)
  4. Heat until hot. Add herbs, salt and pepper to taste, and more lemon if needed.

Free bread (for me AND for you!)

Wendy McClelland, the marketing manager at Silver Hills Bakery in Abbotsford, BC. was kind enough to send me a coupon to try a free loaf of their bread. According to Wendy, "Our organic bread is made without flour – when we get our grain (from a farm run on wind energy) we sprout it in a unique 36 hour process. This sprouting increases overall nutrition, triples the fiber and improves the digestibility. We have been making bread this way for [more than] 20 years, and still believe it is the healthiest way."

I found the bread at our local food coop but there was only one loaf left, so I didn't have a choice of which kind to try. I really liked the flavor and chewy texture; it was just the way I prefer bread to taste — not too sweet, not too salty, with a full grain presence. My only complaint was the bread didn't seem particularly fresh, and was a little dry. I don't know how often it's delivered to the store or how long it had been sitting on the shelf. I'd have to try it again before making a judgement.

My solution was to toast it, and it made a great accompaniment to the tomato soup we had for supper. If you'd like to try a free loaf, Silver Hills will send a coupon to anyone who takes simple online survey. I took the survey before offering it to you just to see what it was like, and it's easy and unobtrusive. You can find the survey here. Check their Web site to see if the bread is sold where you live. In addition to the sprouted wheat bread, they also make a gluten-free loaf.

Full disclosure: I was given a free coupon to try the bread but was under no obligation to write about it favorably, or at all. All opinions are mine.

May 17, 2010

A Fair to remember | pasta

Street theater. Never could figure out exactly what it was about.
I never can resist a street fair — the colors, the crafts, the food. Even as I tell myself I've seen it all a million times, there I am traipsing around, enjoying samples, trying out weird posture improving contraptions, fingering the silver earrings. We went to the U District Street Fair on Sunday. Billing itself as the longest running street fair in the nation, it has more than 300 craft and food booths, and 50,000 visitors. You'd think there would have been plenty of exotic food choices for hungry vegans (with cameras), this being Seattle and all, but it was slim pickings for the herbivores. I did spot a vegan burger but it was $8 so I passed. I found a Mighty-O doughnut sample, and some samples of Dave's Killer bread, both of which were delicious, and I purchased a fruit and juice slushie, but mostly I just took photos and wore myself out.

An obvious example of bliss consciousness.
I would have tried these swinging chairs myself; I usually do at street fairs. But they were all full of blissed-out people slowly swinging in a trance-like state, either unable or unwilling to re-enter their real lives.

The Slimpickins band plays 20's and 30's Country Blues, Rags, Klezmer, Old Jazz, and Ballads. According to their fb page, the bass player plays on his homemade gas tank bass. He has a piece of tape stuck to it that says, "aluminum" so I guess he gets asked that question a lot.

A capoeira demo with a very small practitioner.

What would a street fair be without exotic clothing. In person, this booth had an ephemeral glow about it, and I couldn't resist taking pictures. I later noticed in the photo there's someone in the "changing room" trying on a gown. See the sneakers peeking below the curtain?

The body painter goes about her business in a most colorful booth.

Next to the animal rights booth was a cat adoption organization.

No street fair excursion would be complete without at least one tie-dyed item purchase. I hope Miss E. likes these socks!

On our walk back through the university campus to our car, I saw a blooming dogwood. The blooms were not very extravagantly colored, and barely stood out among the leaves, but I couldn't help photographing them.


We've been a sorry couple of cooks lately, barely managing to cook a meal here and there, but here's one that stood out. My husband used a recipe from Nona's Italian Kitchen (Bryanna Clark Grogin) as a guide to make sauce for pasta, which he was craving. The sauce was amazingly delicious — bright and piquant — filled with vegetables and flavor, and one of the best I've ever tasted. I failed to get the name of the recipe but if you're interested, check back later and I'll update this when I get the info. We used Whole Foods 365 brand organic whole wheat pasta and, as always, this economical noodle was tender yet toothsome.

May 13, 2010

We have a winner (and a new contest host)

It looks like the random number generator has chosen Jacqueline to receive the pay it forward box. This means the box is going all the way to Scotland! Congratulations Jacqueline, your box will be mailed soon.

May 10, 2010

Mother's Day brunch | Blog influence | Dental woes

I found this orchid waiting for me in the kitchen on Sunday morning.

My Mother's Day this year was special and — for our family — unusual. We're living in the same city with all three of our children for the first time in ages, and instead of a card and a phone call, our oldest son and d-i-l hosted a Mother's Day brunch. The guest list included my husband and me, our three sons, our d-i-l and granddaughter.

Our oldest son prepared all the food except for a large tray of beautiful stuffed poblano peppers that our youngest son made (based on a recipe from Vegan Brunch).

Noah made his brunch specialties — crispy fried potatoes and tofu scramble. Plus there were lots of extras like bagels and sourdough bread with spreads, orange juice, and strawberries.

This is my (first) plate.

Here's Noah relaxing in the back yard after his workout in the kitchen. It was a gorgeous, sunny day with temperatures in the 70s so we were able to eat outside and lounge the afternoon away.

Not everyone was lazy. Miss E had work to attend to in the garden.

Later in the afternoon, while Miss E napped, Noah went to work and Grandpa babysat, two sons, my d-i-l and I went to Goodwill to see what we could find. I didn't get any kitchen stuff but look at this skirt! I love it.

It was a wonderful day, and I was honored to share it with my beautiful daughter-in-law, a very special mother to a very special little girl!


Blog influence

I often read blogs very early in the morning before I've had breakfast, and that sometimes leads to my wanting to eat whatever I see popping up on the computer screen. Last week while I was catching up on The Airy Way posts, I saw a besan omelet, and stew with dumplings. The omelet looked like something I could whip up quickly so I did. I used mushrooms, carrots and onions for my omelet and it really looked like an omelet until I removed it from the pan, and it broke apart. I enjoyed it but for some reason my stomach was unhappy with my breakfast. :( The inspiration to make stew came in handy later in the week when things started going wrong.


Dental woes ... a cautionary tale
About two weeks ago my husband had dental surgery to receive a dental implant and correct a problem with an old implant that was pressing on a nerve and causing pain. This seemed like it would be fairly routine, but last Thursday morning, he awoke to pain in his jaw, and went to see the surgeon, who said he couldn't see anything wrong. He prescribed penicillin as a precaution. My husband wasn't convinced that all was well but he took his drugs and went to work.

He came home early from work saying he felt unwell, and went to lie down. I went to pick up our granddaughter from school, and brought her to our house for the afternoon as previously planned. I kept checking on Ken every half hour or so. When Miss E went home, about 6, I went to check on Ken again, and was freaked out by what I saw. He looked like he had a tennis ball in his cheek, his speech was slurred, and he had a fever. I immediately called the surgeon, who met us at his office at 8 p.m. where he inserted a drainage tube in Ken's abscessed jaw, prescribed two strong drugs, and sent us to urgent care where Ken could receive IV antibiotics. We arrived at urgent care 9:30 p.m.

As if this weren't enough stress for one night, while Ken was receiving his IV, a disturbed man with a gun called 911 and threatened to kill his wife — who was in labor in the birthing center — and their baby. He was seen on a surveillance camera, and the entire medical center was surrounded by yellow crime scene tape and police officers, and put under a lock-down. No one could enter or leave the complex without a police escort. By the time we left at midnight, we were able to exit through a guarded door, and were offered an escort, which we declined. I still don't know how the situation was resolved — everything was hushed up.

Once Ken got a little of his appetite back, I focused on making soft foods. First I made rice pudding by cooking white rice in the rice cooker with LOTS of water, raisins and a bit of maple syrup. When it was cooked, I mixed in enough soymilk to achieve a soft, creamy texture.

Then I remembered the stew, and cooked potatoes and carrots in the pressure cooker for four minutes. I brought the pressure down and added vegetable broth, cauliflower, miso and chickpeas. I mixed up a dumpling dough flavored with fresh dill and cooked the dumplings in the covered stew pot for 15 minutes. Delicious! And soft.

Ken is feeling a lot better but not completely OK. He visits the surgeon again tomorrow to decide if the implant will have to come out, something I don't even want to contemplate. I don't think I ever want to get an implant. Believe me, this experience has not helped me overcome my fear of dentists.


Pay it forward
There's still one day left to enter the pay it forward contest. Do it.

May 04, 2010

Pay it forward giveaway | Nori roll-ups | Scallion flatbread | Cappuccino muffins

I recently flirted with the random fairy, and my wish to achieve random selection was happily fulfilled. I won the pay it forward drawing hosted by Mary on her blog, Mitten Machen. This means I received a lovely box of Maine products from Mary, and the obligation to send a box of Washington state goodies to a randomly selected reader of this blog. From my perspective this was a double treat; I received a gift, and now I get to seek out and choose special, locally made items to share with one of you. I've already got a few things picked out, and I'm learning about other local products that would be fun to receive. If you would like to take part in this pay it forward giveaway, mention your intention in a comment on this post. I'll randomly select a winner on May 11 and announce it in a post. (Remember, by entering this contest you're agreeing to hold a giveaway of your own, and award a box of local treats to someone else.)

My box contained a beautiful card with a Maine photo, A soy candle with the scent of the Maine woods, a leaf made of solid maple sugar, a handmade wooden bookmark, and a refrigerator magnet based on a painting by a Maine artist. Thank you so much, Mary!


Bits and crumbs

I've mentioned many times on this blog that I prefer simple foods. The stuff I often eat doesn't really warrant a blog post, and here is proof of that. I'd been munching practically all day, and wanted a light supper. Above you see wok-grilled local asparagus and canned chickpeas, topped with roasted red pepper spread, and served with a green salad. See what I mean?

Nori makes a convenient and tasty wrap for more than just rice. One of my favorite fast snacks is to cut two thin slices of cold, baked tofu into narrow strips, and lay them along one end of a toasted nori sheet, generously pile baby salad mix on top, and roll up. You can't cut this into pieces — you have to hold it and munch. It tastes so great I usually have to make a second one as soon as I've finished the first.

I saw a post by Zoa on The Airy Way about the scallion pancakes she made with a yeasted dough. It reminded me of the more traditional version of scallion pancakes we learned to make in a Chinese cooking class. Zoa made hers with dough she had stored in her refrigerator, and when I saw her pancake I was immediately attacked by a powerful craving. I've been using my stored bread dough (based on Healthy Bread in Five minutes a Day) to make English muffins and assorted flatbreads, why not scallion pancakes? I flattened a piece of dough, coated it with toasted sesame oil and chopped scallions, and rolled the pancake in the traditional way. I baked it in my wok and enjoyed it with supper. Great idea, Zoa!


More recipe testing

These are cappuccino muffins from Celene Steen and Joni Marie Newman. What more can I say?


Hey. Don't leave without entering the pay it forward giveaway! I'm serious. I've got some fun and tasty items planned for my pay it forward box, and you don't want to be left out. Just mention in your comment that you'd like to be included. (There are some GF products in the box so don't be afraid to enter if you need a GF assortment. You can always share anything that might not be OK.)