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.

September 13, 2016

My last ice cream recipe of the summer | Orcas Island

I suppose if you're not into making ice cream as much as I've been this summer, you might not care that I've been fine-tuning and perfecting my strawberry ice cream recipe, and I don't blame you. However, I write the recipes for myself as well as you, and I want an easy place to find it should the need arrive—even if it's fall or winter when the urge to make ice cream strikes again. I want to be prepared. Besides myself and my husband, I've tested the ice cream on my sugar-obsessed grandchildren, and they gave it the thumbs up. We did a larger than usual bit of childcare this summer, and it was always fun to have a stash of delicious (relatively healthy) ice cream in the freezer. Not sure if I should admit this or not, since it might not qualify as 'good' grandparenting, but I held an 'unlimited ice cream and cake day' event at our house, and it elicited much delight and appreciation from the participants, who were all under the age of eight.

The ice cream recipe is much like the last strawberry recipe I posted, with a couple of tweeks. It may have a couple of extra ingredients, but it's still easy to make. I made it with my Vitamix so I can't really say how a regular blender or a food processor would handle the task of blending the ingredients, but with a little extra care and attention, it should work. And I used my old Donvier non-electric ice cream maker. I'll post the recipe at the end of the page.

Escape to Orcas Island
The view on the road to our cottage.

We weren't able to travel this summer as we didn't feel comfortable leaving our dog, Callie, because of her health issues. Feeling the need to get away for a few days, we decided to take Callie, who was doing well, on a little trip to Orcas Island, one of the San Juan Islands, north of Seattle. The trip there, including the one-hour ferry ride, took about five-and one-half hours. (It should have taken about four except for my husband's abnormal need to get everywhere early. Traffic, you know.)

The view from our cottage deck

We stayed in a lovely VRBO cottage located down a private, steep, narrow, gravelly road with a hairpin turn, so as you can imagine, it was pleasantly quiet and peaceful. Although isolated, the cottage was near everything we wanted to do.

Moran State Park.

We like to hike, so the first place we headed was Moran State Park, where we picked an 'easy' trail around the lake. You know, for Callie.

Moran State Park.

While hiking, we made a wrong turn somewhere and added an extra mile to the trek, but Callie managed well. We only hiked about 4-1/2 miles, but my step app said I had climbed 18 flights of stairs. Yikes. Although steep and uneven, the trail was beautiful, and we were pleasantly tired out from our hike.

The second day we took it easy and explored the town of Eastsound.

Gluten-free sourdough bread from the Barn Owl Bakery.

While we were there we stopped into the food co-op, and purchased a sourdough, gluten-free bread (baked by the Barn Owl Bakery), which was a revelation. (More about the bread another day.) We also took to the road in search of the home and studio of Anthony Howe, an artist who creates large metal kinetic sculptures that are fantastic and unique. I knew he had closed his property to tourists (and stalkers), but I was hoping for at least a roadside view of some of his work. We did glimpse a few pieces, but it was frustrating not to be able to enter the property to see the incredible creations up close. It was the possibility of seeing Howe's work that drew me to Orcas Island.

Crescent Beach.

Our last activity of the day was an exploration of Crescent Beach, which is, of course, shaped like a crescent. I have what I'll call a strong predilection for collecting rocks, and the beach was covered in possibilities, but I controlled myself and only took three small samples — and no driftwood since that was forbidden by the signs.

Here's our tired pup resting after two days on the go.

A view from the trail at Turtleback Mountain, south access.

On our last day we had a ferry to catch, but we didn't want to waste the morning so we headed to Turtleback Mountain for a last hike. After the first interesting part of the climb, the trail became wider and easier to manage, except it was soooo steep. We did have spectacular views, though. I kept thinking that it would sure be a lot easier to go back down, but I was wrong. I have a modest fear of heights, and once we turned around for the descent, and I was confronted by the steepness of the trail, going down was a challenge! We only had time for 2-1/2 miles, but my step app said I had climbed 27 flights. No wonder it felt so steep.

As lovely as it was to be away for a few days, it was good to be back home — and find a stash of strawberry ice cream in the freezer.

Strawberry ice cream update

  • 1 cup cashews, soaked 4 hours and drained
  • 1-1/2 cold rice milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup, rounded, packed, soft, pitted mejhool dates
  • 3 very ripe, very cold bananas (Refrigerated ahead of time.)
  • 2-1/2 cups frozen strawberries, divided
  • 1/2 cup frozen mango chunks
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  1. Set out 1/2 cup of berries to slightly defrost while you follow the rest of the steps.
  2. Place the cashews and rice milk in the blender and blend until creamy.
  3. Add the vanilla, dates, bananas, 2 cups strawberries, 1/2 cup mango and lemon juice  to the jar, and blend until the mix is creamy and smooth. If the mixture is too thick to blend, you may have to add up to an extra 1/4 cup of rice milk, but only add if absolutely necessary.
  4. Thinly slice the slightly defrosted strawberries and stir into the blended mix. Work quickly to keep everything as cold as possible. (If your mix has warmed from the blending, refrigerate for an hour or so until cold.)
  5. Freeze in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's directions. I use a low-tech Donvier.
  6. When finished, the ice cream will be the consistency of soft-serve. Pack into a container and store in the freezer to harden. It can take several hours for the ice cream to reach a firm consistency. After longer freezer storage, let it sit out for 10 minutes to soften a bit for scooping.

September 03, 2016

Summer is NOT over— it's okay to eat soup and ice cream

Some bloggers have started posting autumn-friendly soup recipes accompanied by the sentiment they can't wait for summer to be over and have fall arrive. Don't get me wrong, I'm very fond of soup, and autumn, but please, let summer last a little longer! I love wearing shorts and t-shirts, not needing a sweater, and having my garden green and growing. And the sunshine. And homemade ice cream.

I've had a lot of fun with my ice cream maker this summer, and ice cream is so much better on a warm summer day. The cashew ice cream you see here was mostly blueberries with a banana and some mango thrown in for texture and extra sweetness. It was sweetened with dates. The grandkids loved it. It was very fruity, and at times made me think a little of bubblegum, so we called it bubbleberry. I also have a new, updated strawberry ice cream that is fabulous. I may post the recipe soon if I don't get discouraged by rain and chill.

We really do like soup — even if it's still summer in my mind. The soup you see here is an old favorite from the Oh She Glows Cookbook called, Eat Your greens Detox Soup. (Cookbook review here.) I'll post the recipe at the bottom of my post because it's such a good one I want to share it again. My husband made it, and he added additional vegetables, and noodles.

We just celebrated our granddaughter's first birthday, and I made the cake. It was more like uncut bars masquerading as cake. I made banana chocolate chip cake with bittersweet chocolate frosting, and it kills me that I can't post a photo of my precious little sweetheart devouring her first cake, but her parents have a strict no-Internet photo sharing policy, and I respect that. The recipe for the cake is here. I made one and a half recipes and used a larger pan, but I don't recommend it. Making one recipe in an eight-or nine-inch pan is the way to go. The frosting is my all time favorite from Ricki Heller, and is made with sweet potatoes or yams. You can read about it here. I'm not great at cake decorating, but I mean well.

Well, yikes! Guess what? Not long after I put up my post, I received an email from my son saying I can't post photos of baby M on facebook, but I CAN put her on my blog. So here she is, celebrating her birthday with a piece of banana chocolate chip cake. I'm honored that my son reads my blog.

We belong to a vegan meet-up group, and recently attended 'taco Tuesday' at Café Wylde in Everett, WA. If I remember correctly, the tacos were $2 each and filled with jackfruit. We also had green salsa and cashew cream. The tacos were tasty, but ever since I started making my own taco shells, I pay much more attention to the shells than I used to. I'll say no more.

I hope Kittee will forgive us for this, (actually, I hope she doesn't see it), but my husband made an Ethiopian dinner without using oil. The food, from Kittee's cookbook, Teff Love, was super delicious, but I could definitely taste the difference. If I were to make an Ethiopian meal for company, I would probably make it in the traditional way, but for just us, it was a successful experiment.

Just to keep things real, here's a plate more typical of what we usually eat — beans, rice and kale. The protein, grain and vegetable may change, but the simplicity doesn't.

Here's the recipe for eat your greens detox soup that I promised. I recommend it!

Eat your greens detox soup
Serves 3

  • 1 1/2 tsp coconut oil or olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups sliced cremini or white button mushrooms (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 2 cups chopped broccoli florets
  • fine grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 to 3 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 large nori seaweed sheets, cut into 1 inch strips (optional)
  • 2 cups torn kale leaves
  • fresh lemon juice, for serving (optional)
  1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for about 5 minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent.
  2. Add the mushrooms, carrots, and broccoli, and stir to combine. Season generously with salt and pepper and saute for 5 minutes more.
  3. Stir in the ginger, turmeric, cumin, and cinnamon, and saute for 1 to 2 minutes, until fragrant.
  4. Add the broth and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the vegetables are tender, 10-20 minutes.
  5. Just before serving, stir in the nori (if using) and kale, and cook until wilted. Season with salt and pepper, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, if desired.
Reprinted by arrangement with AVERY, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © GLO BAKERY CORPORATION, 2014.

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