Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays!

I hope that everyone has had a great holiday season! I really can't believe how crazy busy things get this time of year.

I'm loving having my kids off from school for the holiday break. My daughter has a friend visiting for the week, and her boyfriend is over a lot, so it's been fun cooking for more than just our four. I've definitely been cooking up a storm, which includes lots of home baked treats (like the cinnamon rolls above and the yummy coffee cake crumble from Everyday Dish). So that I don't sound like all I make is sweets, I've also made a slew of soups, stews, beans and salads too.

I've been working hard on perfecting the sausage recipe, which I'm completely thrilled with! Hopefully we can film the segment soon so we can hurry up and get it on Everyday Dish. Can I just say how fun it is to have flavored sausage links to slice up and throw into recipes?! We made a couple of different flavors, which were also really delicious sliced up and served with dipping sauce.

I'm trying to get as much cooking in as I can, because I think we're going to give our kitchen a little makeover soon, which means it will be out of commission for a week or two (or as long as it takes Jay and I to do it ourselves). Nothing too major, but we've been wanting to add some color to it and would love to paint our cabinets. I promise to take some pictures once we get started.

Happy Holidays!!


Monday, December 10, 2007

Bread And More

I'm always looking for new and delicious ways to incorporate a variety of whole grains into my diet. Truth-be-told, I'm also a fan of quick breakfasts, because I'm always rushing around in the morning and need something that will stick with me for a few hours. I've played around with granola recipes for years, but finally have developed a recipe for one that tastes great, is high in fiber, low fat and makes a large batch at a time. The recipe is on Everyday Dish (click here for the recipe), and I highly recommend you bake up a batch. Feel free to play with the fruit/nut/flavor combos any way you like. It's called Not Your 1970's Granola. Believe me when I say that, because I remember the 70's granola of my childhood.

My friend Heather gave me the idea to add millet to it, which gives it a really nice additional crunch and nutrition boost to 'bout.

Next up, homemade bread. Bread is so easy to make from scratch and is so much better than store-bought. You can also customize it any way you like, by adding fresh or dried herbs for a savory version. Although I love crunchy rustic breads, I also love American-style soft breads for sandwiches or French toast. Here's a recipe that I make often, which is a veganized oat bread recipe from King Arthur. It's very delicious and easy to make. I make mine in my beloved Bosch mixer, which is excellent for bread and heavy doughs. You can also make it by hand, in a bread machine or even in a large food processor. Oh, and you can substitute some whole wheat flour for some of the all-purpose flour (about a cup or so), though it will make the bread a little heavier and less fluffy (but a little more nutritious). I sometimes also throw in about 1/2 cup wheat germ to the recipe as well. If you do add the wheat germ, you might need to cut back a touch on the flour.

Adapted from a King Arthur recipe

3 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
1 cup rolled oats (old-fashioned oats)
2 tablespoons Earth Balance, softened or oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast OR 1 packet active dry yeast*
1 1/4 cups lukewarm soymilk (or 1 1/4 cups warm water plus 3 tablespoons soymilk powder)

*If you use active dry yeast -- dissolve it in the warm milk before combining with the remaining ingredients.

Manual Method: In a large mixing bowl, or in the bowl of an electric mixer, combine all of the ingredients, mixing to form a shaggy dough. Knead dough, by hand (10 minutes) or by machine (5 minutes) till it's smooth. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and allow it to rest for 1 hour; it'll become quite puffy, though it may not double in bulk. Shape as directed below.

Bread Machine Method: Place all of the ingredients (except the fruit) into the pan of your machine, program machine for manual or dough, and press Start. About 10 minutes before the end of the second kneading cycle, check dough and adjust its consistency as necessary with additional flour or water; finished dough should be soft and supple. Add the raisins or currants about 3 minutes before the end of the final kneading cycle. Shape as directed below.

Shaping: Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled surface, and shape it into a log. Place the log in a lightly greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pan, cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap or a slightly damp clean kitchen towel, and allow the dough to rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour, till it's crested 1 to 2 inches over the rim of the pan.

Baking: Bake the bread in a preheated 350°F oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190°F. If the bread appears to be browning too quickly, tent it with aluminum foil for the final 10 minutes of baking. Yield: 1 loaf.

Rising bread before baking

Freshly baked bread

I've also been playing around with a grain mill, which is really awesome and I will post about soon. There is nothing cooler (or healthier) than freshly ground flour. I've done white whole wheat, whole wheat pastry, regular whole wheat, rice and bean flours. Yes thats right, you can grind dried beans into flour. It's really amazing. The dried bean flour can be used for quick soups (black bean, split pea, white bean, etc...), as sauce thickeners (think white bean flour) and any other recipe where it might call for chickpea or garbanzo bean flour. Very, very cool.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Now that the book is done, I'm having such a fun time cooking and experimenting in the kitchen. I've been playing with homemade soy milk recipes, baked goods and the big one today...gourmet vegan sausages. Once I get the recipes down, I promise to take some pictures.

The soy milk is something that I've played with off and on for a while. I'd prefer to have homemade over store bought as it's much healthier (and cheaper too). The only issue I have with it is the slightly beany flavor, but I know that it's just something you have to get used to. So I've been trying to play around with different flavorings to see if I can make it a little more palatable. Actually, my husband really likes it and even dips his cookies in it. Go figure. I guess I'm a harder sell.

The sausages that we made tonight are amazingly delicious! As soon as we get the recipes perfected we'll film them for Everyday Dish. Jay made one tonight that I can't stop eating it's so good. I find it so cool to be able to make sausages at home. I love creating whatever flavor combinations strike my mood, and they taste so much better than what you can buy in the store. I'm thinking grilled sausage and peppers are definitely on tomorrow's menu. They should freeze well, which will be nice to throw in soups and stews.

The funny thing is, even with all the cooking we've been doing, getting dinner on the table can still be a big challenge. It seems that the kids are either coming or going right as I need to start cooking dinner. Between driver's training/ed, diving lessons, school clubs, orthodontist appointments, my daughter's job... it's never ending. The best solution I've found so far is to cook up big pots of soup, beans, etc... That way I can get several meals out of each pot. Hummus is a favorite, as well as minestrone, dal, white beans, lentil soup... I try to remember to soak my beans the night before, and then pressure cook them (or the soups) in the afternoon. So much for creative dinners.

Makings of a quick soup, minus the celery, onion, garlic and spices

Hopefully things will slow down a bit in the next couple of weeks. Anyone else in the same dinner boat?