Sunday, May 18, 2008

well i thought it was funny...

things are getting better around here as it seems i now have enough spare time in the day to squander surfing the internet. forget about the laundry, forget about shaving the armpits, forget about zapping the feet with tinactin, forget about the squalling child too - the black hole of the internet beckons. this image is from i suppose i found it poignant because, due to the breeding experiment, i can now appreciate the juxtaposition of dairy and bras with nary a trace of irony. not that i am still a human dairy cow, no, that ended long ago, much to the chagrin of my balloon-boob-luvin' mate, but the memory is still quite fresh.

much to my surprise, the whole breastfeeding experiment has very much changed my relationship with the, um, the mass of fat encased glands known as boobs. not necessarily for the better. some of you may want to stop reading here. if you're still with me, i have two words for you: national geographic. yep. at first, after weaning, i thought that they just seemed oh-so-little because of the comparison to their former bay watch glory. but after much scrutiny i realized that yes, they were different. i figured they'd just kinda shrunk in the wash. "okay" i though to myself, "i can live with that". but no. after more scrutiny, i realized that no amount of wash'n'dry could do that. nope. it was as if they were hung out to dry. not smaller. longer. this might be a little tougher to swallow.

i can now can be found on page 37 of national geographic, august edition 1957. and that's just the upstairs. i'll save the downstairs for another day.

on a cheerier note, the worm no longer stinks like rotten cheese, can self-propel on two hooves, and has a surprisingly sunny and outgoing character. she resembles neither of her alleged parents either in face or disposition. maybe that day in the hospital the gods smiled on me and sent me home with the wrong one. maybe somewhere out there skulks a cranky, cross-eyed, sullen, introverted, black-clad toddler, ruining someone else's life.

and since this is a food blog, here is a token food shot, in honor of asparagus season. paper bag steamed asparagus, compliments of tyler florence. as soon as i heard about it, i knew i had to give it a shot, for the novelty in nothing else. it wasn't until after i'd finished eating all the spears that i bothered wondering where that paper bag had been before it wrapped itself around my food. i envisioned a bum tucking it inside his tatty winter coat along with a few old newspapers to keep out the biting chill of winter before being returned to the store by an eco-warrior for re-use. i imagined it full of tb germs. in general, i imagine a lot of things, most of which are either ridiculous or impossible or both, so pay me no heed. the dish turned out fine. aside from overcooking, it's hard to ruin asparagus.

i'm feeling rather lazy today so if you are interested in trying out this method of questionable cleanliness, head on over to foodtv here.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

smoky chickpea soup

so it's been just over a year since the worm snaked its way into the world, leaving a new, not necessarily improved, internal topography in her wake. i kinda figured that, at one year, there would be a transition back to "normal" life. well, a year has come and gone. and i'm still waiting. somehow i think it may be a long, long wait. but because it's important that we harbor fantasies of what riches the future may bring, my next false hope is that preschool will be the panacea, returning life back to "more normal". having an only slightly below average IQ, i have a sneaking suspicion that this too will prove to be a lie and the only thing that will change is that i will wake up a year from now sporting slightly worse breath and a few more creaks in the old, worn out joints.

so life will never return to the old way. i suppose that's ultimately a good thing. change is better than stagnation. i suppose a more realistic way to look at it is that i've traded up. up from a squalling, helpless, neck-cheese-rot stinking miniature quadriplegic to a teeth baring, screeching, raging monkey. i suppose we could call that progress.

anyway, all this is just a long-winded way of saying that i'm back. since a genie will not pop out of my empty bottle of makers mark as i lovingly caress it's golden belly and with a wave of its hand restore to me "free" time, i guess i'm going to have to grab the bull by it's rocky mountain oysters and demand it. or at least do a little blogging in between man-sized swigs of bourbon.

i picked up this recipe from our local rag. i didn't expect much but had a bunch of leftover homemade chickpeas loitering in the refrigerator and have been on a smoked paprika kick lately, so, i thought, why not? and it was edible. it was, in fact, delicious. super easy, super healthy, smoky, creamy and delicious. what else could i ask for, other than a live-in nanny?

Smoky Chickpea Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon saffron (i forgot to use this but it tasted great anyway)
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
5 cups vegetable broth
2 cans (15 ounces each) chickpeas, drained (or, if possible, about 3 cups homemade)
salt, to taste
olive oil

cook carrots, onion and celery in olive oil until soft but not browned. add garlic, saffron, cumin and smoked paprika, and cook for an additional minute, stirring constantly. add broth and chickpeas. adjust seasonings. simmer for about 30 minutes then puree until smooth. this might be pretty served with a fine sprinkling of sweet paprika and a swirl of olive oil.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

fat-free microwave granola

dah-dah-dah-ma-ah-nyah-yahhhhhh!!!! that just about sums it up. these days my conversations and thought processes no longer go beyond the babbling stage. no, it's worse than that. i must confess i now find diaper talk actually interesting and the blob-like progeny kinda cute. yep. that's right, i have a serious case of the dreaded "mommy brain". you've seen it around. that weirdly blank blissed-out look those still unkempt mothers wear in the presence of their young, the precipitous decrease in survival skills (is the middle of the road really the best place to stop and adjust a sock?), the inability to construct a complex, non-repetitive sentence, and most horribly, the belief that the babbling and yelling noises the flesh-nuggets make whilst attempting to master the fine art of speech, even in public, is somehow endearing. please kill me now.

the fat, loud, farting spawn formerly known as worm is now 7 months old. head and limb control coupled with sumo-like curves necessitated a change of moniker. you can call her meatballs. we do. she got so fat that the only vacant spot on her body for the adipose nuggets to settle was the tops of her feet and toes, thus transforming perfectly good anatomical parts into something better suited to lying atop a plate of spaghetti. and did i mention the cellulite? hers, not mine. i didn't know babies could get cellulite.

but enough of this breeder talk, lets continue on to the heart of the matter: fat-free nuclear granola. now let's not kid ourselves, this thing you find hungry shoppers foraging for in the bulk bin aisle of the supermarket, this thing called granola, is often not all that healthy. loaded down with sugar, lots of oil, a boatload of nuts and dried fruit, it barely misses being a type of candy, in my babbling opinion, whole grains notwithstanding. but people think it's a type of health food, and therein lies the fatal error: because you think it's good for you, and because it does taste pretty good, you end up (okay, so i'm talking about myself here) eating way, way more than a single serving. and so began my obsession with making my own, less fatty and less sweet version.

for my my first attempts i used the oven crisping method and swapped out all or most of the oil with water or fruit juice. this produced a granola that was not crispy but rather hard. quite hard. hard is not an adjective i want to use to describe my breakfast cereal. three or four different recipes all yielded the same results. just before throwing in the baby-puke stained towel i nipped round to bryanna clark grogan's blog and what did mine eyes behold but a fat-free granola recipe that used, of all things, the nuker! well, i thought to myself, if the microwave can make perfect, crispy fat-free potato chips, why couldn't it do the same for granola? and as it turns out, it can. and does. this method produces great, crispy, small batch granola with zero added oil. the grains, flavorings, addition of fruit or nuts can all be adjusted to taste. who knew granola could be so much fun? this could even make a good project with a kid. to check out the original recipe, go to bryanna's blog and search for "granola".

oil-free microwave coconut/maple granola
2 cups rolled wholegrain cereal (i like a mixture of oatmeal, spelt barley and kamut flakes)
3/4 cups whole grain flour (i use a mixture of wheat and rye)
1/2 cup wheat, oat or rice bran
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coconut extract

put everything into a bowl and mix around with your grubby little fingers. cover the rotating glass carousel of your nuker with waxed paper and spread grains directly on top, taking care to spread evenly (this is for a large microwave, if yours is smaller, cook in multiple batches). cook on hi for 3 minutes. stir and spread out flat again. cook for 3 more minutes and let stand for at least 3 minutes to dry out. depending on the power and size of your microwave these cooking times may need to be adjusted slightly before you find the perfect timing. the first time out, watch it like a hawk cause it can burn really, really fast.

Monday, July 02, 2007

vegan cupcakes take over the world!

gorgeous, yes?

yesterday i attended my first toddler birthday party, something me and my silver filled mouth would have avoided like the dentist during my pre-breeding days. however, after being marooned at home all day, every day, for the past four plus months with the one-way-street-known-as-baby, the thought of frolicking with those screeching little baboons and their harried, exhausted, anemic mothers, suddenly seemed like fun. that is how far i've fallen. it didn't hurt that the proud papa of the birthday baboon lured me over with promises of a virgin bottle of makers mark. a promise he made good on, i (and my throbbing head) might mention. i suspect that many a parent snuck into the liquor cabinet for a bit of courage to help them through that afternoon.

wailers, screechers, territorial pissers, chest-thumpers, nose-pickers, even a furtive masturbator were present. gazing out at the scene through my amber filled glass of bravado, i could not help but note that we truly do share much in common with our simian brethren. i also could not help but note that perhaps the worst is yet to come. you see, worm and i have entered into a honeymoon phase of sorts. she can hold her own head up, make eye contact, grasp things in her fat little fingers and make hideous pre-speech croakings in the scratchy voice of a wizened old drunken hooker. it doesn't hurt that i've also almost forgotten what life before was like, and that i'm resigned to the fact that i will never, ever, never again get a good, long, uninterrupted nights sleep. so i guess things are good. the neck cheese is being held in check with daily harvestings. and most importantly she can not yet locomote or talk back. ah the salad days.

so for the two-year old baboon's birthday i made cupcakes. 96. all vegan. i thought it a good opportunity to test out some recipes from vegan cupcakes take over the world without being obligated to eat more than a few dozen. pictured here are the banana split and mint chocolate cupcakes. i also made fauxstess cupcakes (with a mocha buttercream frosting in place of the ganache), a raspberry filled vanilla cupcake topped with buttercream frosting and a fresh raspberry (very pretty), and a plain chocolate batch.

everyone liked them. the parents of those with dairy and nut allergies appreciated the un-nutty vegan-ness of it all, the other adults were surprised that vegan could taste good, and the screeching baboons appreciated the mounds of frosting with which they painted their faces, sculpted their hair, and hid in their pockets (remind me to never buy toddler clothes with pockets - it's just asking for trouble).

my favorite was the chocolate mint cupcakes. chocolate and mint go so well together, and the green frosting is fun. however, i must admit that i used the fauxstess cupcake base to which i added mint extract instead of the chocolate cupcake recipe in the book. although the banana split cupcake was pretty, i found the cake itself to be quite dense, almost muffin-like, but this is often an issue with vegan baked goods. i also omitted the chocolate and preserves swirl opting instead for a more classic banana flavor.

if you're vegan and jonesing for cupcakes, i recommend picking up a copy of this book. there are some interesting flavors (chai or margarita cupcakes anyone?), excellent buttercream recipes, and lots of fun decorating ideas. also be on the lookout for isa and terry's next cookbook, veganomicon: the ultimate vegan cookbook.

chocolate mint cupcakes

the cupcake:
1 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3 Tablespoons black cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain rice or soymilk
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

preheat the oven to 350 and line a 12-muffin tin with paper cupcake liners. spray with the liners with canola spray to prevent sticking. sift together the flour, cocoa powders, baking powder, baking soda and salt. in another bowl combine the rice milk, oil, maple syrup, sugar, vinegar and vanilla. beat at medium speed for about two minues. add the dry ingredients to the wet and beat for about another minute to combine. fill each cupcake liner about 2/3 full and bake for about 25-30 minutes. remove from oven and allow to fully cool.

mint icing:
1/4 cup non hydrogenated shortening
3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon soy creamer or soymilk
1 1/2 teaspoons mint extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 drop green food coloring

cream the shortening for a few minutes until soft. this is easiest using a stand mixer but can be done with a handheld mixer (or a fork) as long as the shortening is at room temperature. add 1 cup of the powdered sugar and a few splashes of the soycreamer. mix to incorporate and continue to alternate until all the powdered sugar is used up and the frosting is at the desired consistency. add vanilla and mint.

ganache (you may want to halve or third this amount, depending on how much you want to use):
3 Tablespoons soycreamer or soymilk
1/3 semisweet chocolate chips

melt chocolate and soycreamer on top of a double boiler or in the microwave until smooth and runny; be careful not to burn or the chocolate will seize up and become bitter.

to assemble:
use a piping bag with a large star tip to frost cupcakes. place a dollop of ganach on top. you could alternately decorate with1/2 a newman mint-o cookie or even a sprig of fresh mint.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

lazy man's no knead bread

a day late and a dollar short, that's the story of my life. having been out of blogging commission for quite some time with the great science experiment and trying to keep alive something that is clearly unfit for survival, i'm a bit behind the curve. well, let's just say a bit more behind the curve than usual. i'm sure most of you have probably already tried, or at least heard of this miraculous "no knead bread". yesterday's news. been there, done that. "who is this rae that is sooo out of it," you might be wondering, and "is she such a fossil that she is still wearing her original eighties wardrobe without an ounce of irony?". ahem, well, firstly, let me just say that irony is in the eye of the beholder. secondly, that there is nothing wrong with those high waisted, pleated jeans, big-shouldered blazers in a riot of neon colors, and rockin'ly large, frizzy, home-frosted hair. which is not to say that is my look per se. that would be way, way too hip for me.

but i digress. the point is that you've probably already tried this recipe. but if you haven't, whatever your excuse for lagging, the time has come. because it is good. and easy. even this lazy atkins-free carb-ovoire with the ten yeast killing digits managed to produce a very decent loaf. all you need is the proper vessel and advance planning.

if you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you're probably aware that i am a self-proclaimed atrocious baker. the anti-baker. my hockey pucks come out with pentacles charred into the crust. yet despite it all, i dream of a crisp crust, that homey smell of freshly baked bread wafting through the house, a steaming, airy and spongy slab of carb-o-riffic goodness seducing a pat of earth balance margarine into a velvety silky sheen. and so i try and try and try again to master the mighty loaf. usually with results unfit for even these filthy city pigeons of whom i am so terribly (and according to sf city ordinance, illegally) fond.

anyway, this is a weird recipe. it requires a super long overnight sponge. a dutch oven. and a fork. the dough is so wet that it needs walls to support its vertical rise, which, unless you have the perfect lidded vessel, can result in a ciabatta shaped loaf. but look at the texture of the bread. holey smoke! holes. lots of holes. almost as many holes in that loaf as in (according to the stepmother) my gun-totin' pappy's underwear. now them there's a whole heap o' holes.

so on to the recipe. i've also provided a link to bryanna clark grogan's blog here where you can find step by step pictures of the process and the citation for the original recipe souce.

just in case you were wondering, the hell-worm is growing monstrously huge, of sumo proportions, and developing the lung power of the landlady in kung fu hustle.

no knead bread
3 cups unbleached flour
¼ teaspoon instant yeast, or 1/3 teaspoon regular dry active yeast
2 teaspoons salt
cornmeal for dusting

combine flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl.add 1 ½ cups water and mix until blended. cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 12-18 hours at about 70 degrees (you can do this inside your oven if you have a pilot light, otherwise, just pick the warmest spot in your kitchen-but i just stuck mine on the cold counter for the max amount of time). after 2-18 hours the surface should be dotted with bubbles. place the dough on a floured surface and fold it a few times. cover and let rest for another 15 minutes, then shape into a ball. the dough will be very sticky, use just enough flour to prevent it from sticking to your hands. coat a cotton kitchen towel with cornmeal and place ball seamside down, sprinkling top with more cornmeal. cover with another towel and let rise for 2 hours or until doubled. preheat oven to 450 with a 6-8 quart heavy covered (cast iron, enamel, pyrex or ceramic) lidded pot for 30 minutes. remove hot pot from oven and place dough into pot. cover with lid and bake for 30 minutes. remove lid and continue to bake for 15-30 minutes until browned.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

chocolate almond cookies

these are the dreaded "trucker ass" cookies that have been sustaining me throughout these long days and nights of servitude. the Worm is a harsh master. there is much about this breeding thing they don't mention. and some of the things they do mention are lies, fabrications, and straight up fantasies. to be nice, lets just call them myths. myth 1: babies smell good. no way. at least mine doesn't. she stinks. she smells like pooh and vomit and urine and that gross powdery diaper smell. and she also smells like cheese. breastmilkcheese. drooling like a giant, unkempt shaggy dog the milk dribbles and gushes out the mouth into the fatty neck folds where it turns into cheese. breastmilkneckcheese. and it stinks. myth 2: babies are cute. okay, maybe they get cuter as they get older, but newborns are not cute. misshapen blobs of undifferentiated flesh, to the untrained eye, they look pretty much all alike. and that something is an unholy cross pollination between carl malden and archie bunker. having said that, there does seem to be a hardwired switch in the brain that makes you think yours really is cute. or sweet. or at least not totally repulsive. at least not until the infant acne pops out. yep, infant acne. never heard of it? another little thing they don't tell you. they say 40% of babies get it. needless to say, the Worm is in that silent 40% and is giving us a preview of adolescent delights to come.

okay, before you call child protective services, let me just say that i like my Worm just fine, despite the stink, the lack of sleep, the rotten neck cheese, the high-velocity-face-spraying feces, the inexpicable crying jags, zits and all...

so back to my ass-expanding buddies. these cookies are based on the double chocolate almond explosion cookies from vive le vegan. when cooked properly they have a crisp exterior and an ever so slightly chewy interior delivering a good chocolate flavor without being too sweet. the toasted almonds lend an interesting deviation from the expected. my modifications included increasing the amount and type of almonds (chopped in lieu of slivered), omitting almond extract ('cause i don't have any), and fiddling with the wet/dry ratio. i found that the original recipe was too dry and i had to add a bit of water to make it mixable. in the rendition below i decreased the amount of flour instead of adding additional liquid - it may still seem to be on the dry side but it will work out, i promise. also, if you have any black cocoa on hand, swap out 2 Tablespoons of the regular stuff for the black stuff. it will make them taste a little bit more like oreo cookies.

if you're interested in the unadulterated recipe, or if you're just in the market for a new vegan cookbook, i recommend picking up a copy of vive le vegan. the recipes are simple, kid friendly (if that's of any concern to you) and pretty easy to put together. because many of the recipes look so simple, i was initially skeptical, but those that i've tried have, for the most part, delivered (scalloped potatoes, anyone?). even such simple recipes as tomato lentil pasta sauce, a dish i've been improvising for years, has a depth of flavor that belies it's simplicity. so without further ado, here is my version of the chocolate almond explosion cookies.

chocolate almond cookies
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder (2 T. dutch processed, 2 T. black cocoa, if you have it)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup chopped toasted almonds
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup canola oil

preheat oven to 350 f. sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder. mix in the almonds, chocolate chips, and salt. in another bowl combine the wet ingredients (and sugar) and whisk until well blended. add wet mixture to dry mixture and stir until just combined. the batter will be a bit thick, almost like a loose dough. roll dough out into little balls and flatten onto a parchment lined baking sheet. to help minimize the dough from sticking to your hands, moisten them prior to rolling and pressing. bake for about 11 minutes and cool on a rack. then, as suggested by a commentor to my last post, go out and buy a truck to go along with the ass. or, more likely, to haul it around.

Monday, March 26, 2007

bun out of the oven

well folks, the satanic worm has finally emerged. after not so patiently hauling the freeloader around in my ever growing trucker gut for more than 42 weeks, eviction papers were served and she was escorted out with the aid of a pitocin drip. as you might be able to discern from the photo (i promise i will not subject you to family vacation slideshows next), she was none to happy to be kicked out. why do all babies look like drunken garden gnomes when they're not looking like evil feed tubes?

so far, this has been the longest four weeks of my life. i am substituting cookies for sleep, which is a good thing for you all since i stumbled upon one of the best vegan chocolate chocolate chip cookie recipes i've come across yet. less of a good thing for my ever expanding trucker ass.
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