Saturday, February 27, 2010

Re-potting is not so bad

I must be the cruelest plant keeper ever. Just look at how long I made my plant, Girly, wait until she got a new home:
I think this is 2 years too long. Talk about a root ball (!!). Girly's upper half got very long and unwieldy and it was time for me trim her back. She is now in three separate pots.

While I was at it, I re-potted several other house plants that I have inherited from several previous housemates. I had help, though. Look at all the care and attention B gives this little guy:

A family photo.

Of course, after a short day of planting we got thirsty for some Bubble Tea. Tapioca balls and appropriately wide straws can be purchased at your local Asian market for very little money. I would probably be inclined to add them to almost anything. Iced coffee, sweet juice, Italian soda, whatevs.


Friday, February 26, 2010

Homemade Soda Making

These days, I have sugar cravings in the form of soda. I don't know what's gotten into me! I've been able to satiate myself with some wonderful Columbia Gorge juices (Red Ginger Limeade is such a winner!), but now I think it is time for the real thing: homemade soda.

Ginger ale is very easy to make:
1 empty 2 Liter plastic bottle
~ 1 C of sugar
~the juice of 1 lemon (or lime. I love lime!)
1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
2 Tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger
water, to fill the bottle almost full (a couple inches from the top)

The levels of ginger, citrus, and sugar can all be changed according to personal preference. For example, for an extra bite in my soda I add more ginger and less sugar. Today, I realized I had barely any ginger, so I added the juice of 1 lemon AND 1 lime. I had maybe a teaspoon of ginger so I added that too. My hope is that it will be a more Sprite/7up taste with a slight zing of ginger in the end.

After putting all the ingredients in (dry stuff first, then the lemon and ginger) I swish them around in the bottle before filling it with water. A note: Yeast feeds off of sugar. So I want to make sure the yeast is evenly distributed in the sugar and juices and that's why I swirl everything around before letting it all sit. The mixture then sits for about a 1.5-2 days in a warm dry place. My bedroom.

Another note: The plastic 2 liter is important because this mixture becomes pressurized as it ferments. A glass bottle could explode if you left the bottle capped for days and days. But it shouldn't get to that point, the soda is done after a maximum of 2 days.

When the soda is ready, the bottle with be very VERY firm. Put it in the fridge overnight to stop the fermentation process (this works because the yeast gets too cold to be actively eating the sugars. Brrr.). The bottle should be opened with care so that it doesn't explode everywhere. Just like any other soda, open it pole, pole (slowly, slowly) as they say in Sawhili. I even take it a step further and open it over a sink. But, I am cautious person.

Pour the soda over a strainer and into some glasses and your are done! Photos to follow...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Breakfast Disaster

Oh dear...

That lid just flew right off of the large (too large!) salt container. (Edit: The salt washed away in a colander and it was all okay after my initial freak out.)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It started with beets...

This was a wonderful meal that just kind of happened as I walked through the grocery store. Well, really, Bree and I had this great adventure involving a warm drink (Toddy!) in a thermos at some bluffs overlooking the river at sunset. It was nice but then it was cold and we were hungry and had beets on our minds.

It's hard for me to describe the meal because there ended up being many parts instead of one bowl of every ingredient, like a stir-fry. I suppose that's what lists are for:
-Beet and a pear mixed green salad with White Wine Vinaigrette
-Smoked Apple Sage sausage
-Sauteed beet greens and fried Polenta rounds

Beets are wonderful and sweet and their leaves are actually very nutritious and largely overlooked in the leafy-greens department. I lightly sauteed the leaves in a little Earth Balance until they wilted and served them with the polenta and sausage. The polenta was fried in a combination of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and course salt and pepper until the surface was crispy and golden.

The sausage is made by a company called Field Roast from Seattle, WA. This is the most delicious veggie sausage I have ever had in my life! They are pricey at around $6.99 for four links, but they are very much worth the splurge (especially when on sale for $4.99). I lightly browned the sausage in a pan after slicing it into little rounds.

As for the salad, I boiled the beets and cut them into small cubes and added them the the thinly cut pear and onion. Usually I don't boil veggies because all the good stuff boils out into the water but I've saved the beet water and look forward to reusing it today. It would be nice to use the beet water in a fresh juice of some sort but I don't have that technology so I might use it to make a pink pasta salad of some sort. A quick internet search yields many interesting results for beet water usage, though.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Toddies in a Thermos

Don't tell the authorities, but Bree and I totally went to a public place and drank whiskey from a thermos. Hot toddies with lots of fresh ginger were a great way to end a long weekend of sun and bike riding.

Now I am really never one to break the rules, ask anyone, but this was just so right. The timing was wrong as the sun had already set, but it didn't matter because the bluff we sat at overlooks a busy train yard. I could probably sit there for hours and take it all in. Downtown Portland can be seen easily as well as many bridges, the West Hills and all the people of Portland on their way home.

It's only February and I am so excited to revisit sunsets at the Bluffs in the approaching warmer months. With or without alcohol, but definitely with friends and loved ones.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sweet Potato Bread

My friend Casey made some homemade ice cream. Even more exciting than the fresh ice cream is its main ingredient: sweet potatoes! After a visit with her this morning, I am the lucky recipient of all of her leftover pureed sweet potato. The internet has shown me that there are many websites dedicated to recipes for leftovers. I think a lot of this is directed towards holiday cooking when we might use things like pumpkin pie filling, cranberries, and in my case sweet potatoes, and then have the remnants that no one wants to eat a couple days later.

And so here I am making bread again. After my modestly successful Honey Oat Bread I guess I am feeling pretty awesome. Awesome enough to attempt a braided bread recipe. How fancy.

The initial mixing was beautiful:
In the bowl is soy milk, honey, pureed sweet potato (with a little yam for coloring), dried thyme, yeast, water and oil.

The next step was adding the liquids to the dry stuff: flours, salt, and some corn meal.

I kneaded the dough to the desirable soft-but-not-sticky consistency and let it rise for 1.5 hours next to my radiator. After doubling, I separated the dough into 6, foot long "ropes" and braided two loaves. They rose for another hour until they were very plump.

In the end they only needed to cook for 35 minutes in the oven until they were golden brown and had that hollow sound when tapped on the bottom. The hollow sound is still something of a mystery to me. I can probably convince myself that any sound coming from the bottom of my loaf sounds "empty". The sweet potato is hardly noticeable in the final product; I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but the bread turned out wonderful and even better, beautiful. Braided loafs are great because I get to play with the dough more than I normally would. Imagine the fun shapes my imagination can create! Circles, spiral buns, tricolors!

Warmed and slathered with Earth Balance this bread is a great morning treat.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Immersion blenders are great!

This weekend Bree and I made a surprisingly tasty soup using an immersion blender. This is a great kitchen gadget. It purees your food inside the bowl it is already in so that no clean dishes are dirtied. I like this because I will do almost anything to reduce the amount of dishes that need to be washed.

We saw the name "Diva soup", immediately made fun of the name, then saw the short ingredient list and thought, "Oh, okay!"

Here's what was in it:
2 parsnips
2 fennel bulbs
~4 garlic cloves
1 leek
2 cups veggie broth (we used a bouillon cube)
some thyme, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar

The parsnips, fennel, and garlic were all chopped or cubed and roasted in the oven until soft with some olive oil and a splash of balsam. The leek was sauteed until soft and put in with the heated broth. Once roasted, the veggies were put in the broth and blended until smooth.

I sliced some pieces of a baguette and, with a little extra oil and seasonings, toasted them in the already hot oven for a couple of minutes. The soup went well with the bread and I was pleasantly filled up but still not sure why it was called Diva Soup...

Note: I have seen a lot of recipes that use an immersion blender to make soups thicker. By separating a portion of soup and blending it up then adding it back into the original. Sounds good for future soupventures. Another note: I don't cook with meat but I am willing to bet that this is probably not appropriate for meaty soups. Bleh.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tempeh Steak and Potatoes

So last night was a great meal: Tempeh steak, Smashed Potatoes and Asparagus.

Marinade for tempeh:
-1/4 C Tamari Soy Sauce
-1/4 C Rice Vinegar
-1/8 C Water
-1 Tbsp Honey (heaping)
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1/2 inch piece of ginger, minced
-some olive oil
~1/8 tsp of each: ground pepper, chili flakes, cinnamon, ground clove

I cut an 8oz piece of tempeh into thin wedges (about 8-10 pieces) and lightly scored them with a knife. And let them marinade for 2-3 hours, flipping a couple of times. Then cooked them in a non-stick pan until crispy.

For the potatoes I loosely copied the "Crash Hot Potato" recipe from the VeganYumYum blog. I boiled some medium round yellow potatoes until soft. As an experiment in flavor, I used a veggie bouillon cube in the boiling water (it didn't end up making much of a difference). Once soft I put them on an olive-oiled baking sheet and did the "smashing" with the lid of a glass jar. Having a larger surface area to smash with helped keep the potatoes intact instead of crumbly. Spices aplenty (I bet any spice you love on potatoes will do great!) on the top of these some as some more olive oil and then into the oven at 350 for ~20 minutes or until the spuds get a cooked crispy look. When the potatoes were done I added some Earth Balance because it is delicious.

I roasted the Asparagus with olive oil, lemon, and course grain sea salt in the oven at the same time as the potatoes. 10 minutes was all they really needed and I think mine were a little overdone. Still tasty, though.

Most surprising to me was how well the potato complimented the tempeh! I will definitely make this again.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What I might make

I have been keeping a list of things that I want to eventually make. Okay, well it's mostly mental. But what's the point of having a blog where I share my cooking adventures if I don't write about them. So, now I share:

-Home made Seitan: I think this could be easier than it sounds. And, hey, I've never cooked with straight up vital wheat gluten! How fun.
-Dark chocolate truffles: I'm under the impression that people spend their whole life perfecting this craft. Bet you five dollars I'll try once, be unsatisfied and never try it again.
-More baking! More bread, cupcakes, and Cinnabon!
-Solid vegan cheese: I have made cheese sauces and now I want try making cheese rounds to slice.
-Blended matcha green tea lattes. I have no blender.

Okay, bye.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Two Bean Wheat Berry Chili

Two Bean Wheat Berry Chili with fresh avocado, cilantro and lime! Also starring: kale, carrot and yellow bell. (Yikes, such a huge, blurry photo...)I left out tomatoes because I wanted to try a chili that wasn't dependent on a couple cans of diced tomatoes. I think it turned out okay even though it was a little visually underwhelming. The lime added a great tang to the chili that I'll have to do in the future.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Super Bowl Snacks

Super Bowl Sunday presents a fantastic opportunity for me to showcase my traditional American culinary skills. jk! This is what I made:

-Homemade tortilla chips, baked and lightly salted
-Rosemary Garlic Hummus, laboriously mashed by hand (I probably won't do this ever again.)
-Salad Rolls with Peanut Sauce

I haven't watched a Super Bowl game in a handful of years, but I look forward to being with friends today to eat snacks and watch the "big game". Also, I like that there are millions of other people all having potlucks with their friends today, too. It's like America's potluck day!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Baked Tofu

While I mostly use various Tempehs instead of tofu these days, I thought I'd buy tofu when I saw it on sale. I was very fond of a spicy baked tofu sandwich at a Deli where I worked, so let's try to recreate it!

5-6 Tbsp Tamari Soy Sauce
1-2 Tbsp Rice Vinegar
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 tsp Red Chili Flakes (or to taste, I am going through a "spicy" phase of my life)
3 cloves pressed garlic

I am using one block of firm tofu. After pressing the tofu to get ride of the excess liquid, I sliced it length wise in pieces about 1/2 inch thick. This seemed like a nice, thin, size for a sandwich. It is pretty disappointing biting through a thick piece of tofu. This is only topped buy unseasoned pieces of tofu. Eww...

So! I let the slices marinate for at least 30 minutes, turning the tofu over halfway through to ensure that each bite is delicious. With the oven prepped to 350 degrees, I cooked the slices until browned and slightly crispy; about 45 minutes for this batch. I also saved the excess marinade to pour over the tofu halfway through cooking.

While the end result wasn't quite that of my memory, it has a good salty flavor and a nice after taste of garlic and chili. Without much sandwich stuff, I chose to make some salad rolls! That's a peanut sauce I made with some crunchy peanut butter, fresh ginger, sesame oil and coconut milk. I even have enough left over to cut into appetizers for the Super Bowl tomorrow. Lucky me!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Bread is Hard.

Bread is something that is so commonplace and simple. Water, yeast, flour, salt. What can go wrong?

I made a loaf of bread yesterday. While I've attempted several loaves before, something is always different: the aesthetics of the final product, the taste, the feel, and I really have no idea why. Okay, part of the reason is that I can't stick to the same recipe (and really, having a science background I should know better than to have more than one variable in my experiment). Months ago I think it was my misunderstanding of the order of operations with ingredients. And then I think it was my kneading. And then the rising... But sometimes I truly don't know. Now I see why people buy Bread Machines. Perfect every time!

I suppose, though, I don't only make the bread to eat the bread. I like the challenge and I like the process. I am learning that you can't rush bread. It will always rise in time, sometimes faster and sometimes slower, and I can just wait for it and listen to a podcast, read my book or go for a walk around my neighborhood.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Rosemary and Brown Sugar Roasted Hazelnuts

I am very excited about this post. From start to finish, this small treat is the most different thing I have tried in a long time! Hand picked (from the ground) Hazelnuts from around Portland, roasted and then glazed with this marinade I made up:

1 cup roasted Hazelnuts (it's all I had!)
<1/4 cup brown sugar ~1/8 tsp chili powder or to taste 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar a splash of white wine vinegar (probably negligible) a couple turns of ground pepper a small squeeze of lime fresh rosemary from around the corner of my apartment The marinade was thick and I added more rosemary once the glaze was on and put them back in the oven until the glaze looked bubbly and sticky. As they cooled I spread them out on parchment paper so that they didn't end up stuck together. Sugar cools like hard glue!

So that I could maximize the use of my oven, my side project was Roasted Yams in Chili Lime marinade. I made a salad of sorts adding cooked crumbled Tempeh and fresh Avocado and cilantro, recycling some lingering ingredients of recent meals.

Proof of popsicles!

Thanks to Casey I have some visual proof of the, what I'll call, Almond Ginger Cream popsicles I made the other day. They separated slightly in freezing, but as it turns out, the color variation looked nice. And, well, clearly I'm having a good time.

I am very excited for summer to come now because, among other obvious reasons, I will make so many popsicles to enjoy with friends!

Upcoming food stuff: Roasted Hazelnuts! My housemate had some of the shelled nuts laying around. I found a brick outside my apartment and used a very solid rock I picked up back in my Geo-days to crack them all open. I'm off to find a fresh Rosemary sprig. Oh unemployment, you treat me so well... kind of.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Grouping similar foods

As a person who cooks alone I can't finished all the food I make. My girlfriend contributes her best and my friends can also be counted on. But usually there are leftovers of various items that are unavoidable. Repeat offenders in my kitchen: cilantro (sold in the bunch), beans, lime, coconut milk. To combat these leftovers I will sometimes try to buy groceries that can all be used together in various recipes. An easy example presented itself today.

Last night I met with some friends for a fun dinner involving Cosmos (delicious!) and Sex and the City (hot!) and I contributed a dish of Vegan Polenta and Black Bean Enchiladas. What's left? Cilantro (awlays), nutritional yeast nacho "cheese" sauce, lime, black olive slices, and a little red enchilada sauce. Knowing this would happen, I grabbed corn chips and fresh salsa at the store and made a nice helping on Nachos tonight. Just adding in kidney beans and chopped onion.

Now, I understand that nachos are basically enchiladas remixed. But I'm okay with that. The polenta in the enchiladas was what was left after a potato scramble the other day.

With finished product leftovers, I make "grab and go" containers for myself so that I don't make bad food decisions in a hurry (i.e., an entire bag of Veggie Booty for lunch), or I convince people to take them with them to work the next day.

Craft set-up

A quick shot of a craft space I set up for myself the other day. I found the table for free in the lobby of my apartment (and the chair in the bottom left)! I'm not so concerned with my terrible sizing job on the photos because I made a significant breakthrough with my camera: re-formating the memory card.