Thursday, December 26, 2013

"C" is for "cookies"

. . . AND "Christmas!"

Since I went all out and made a dozen different holiday cookies/bars/candies this year, I figured I better do a blog post review and recap, as I tried many new recipes!

Top row, L-R:

These have been a HUGE hit the past two years in a row -- there's never any left on the tray at the end of a party, and several people have asked me for the recipe.  If you like lemon even a little bit, make these -- you won't be sorry.  :)  (Plus, they are really pretty easy!)

A new recipe I tried this year, and although they are delicious, they are far from perfect.  :(  For starters, they were nearly impossible to cut without shattering the bars, (the crust largely crumbled into oblivion, and the topping frequently separated from the crust,) and personally, I don't think they have enough maple flavor to suit my tastes.  (The recipe called for 1/4 cup maple syrup in the topping, to which I added some maple extract, and it still wasn't "maple-y.")  I might ditch these next year in favor of the Maple-Walnut Spice Cookies I made last year.

Sugar Cookies
Even though these are far from "fancy," these are still one of my favorite cookies on the tray.  In fact, I may have one with my tea right now.  ;)

Chocolate Crinkles
I'm not a huge chocolate fan, although I do enjoy chocolate-mint things around the holidays.  I added some peppermint extract to these babies . . . delicious!  Beautiful!  Although, I have to confess, not great keepers -- after a few days, their texture has gone downhill and I'd now describe them as a little stale/dry.  :(  Definitely won't be one of the cookies I make in advance next year!

Potato Chip Cookies
Yeah . . . potato chip cookies.  Salty, sweet, crunchy, chewy, nutty, buttery . . . holy hell.  My only complaints were as follows: 1. wish I would have refrigerated the dough before rolling, as it was kind of a sloppy mess, 2. the recipe didn't call for nearly enough ounces of potato chips to meet the quantities of crushed chips called for, and 3. I baked them a couple of minutes too long, so they were on the crispier side.  Next year, I'll fix all of those things and we'll have cookie nirvana.  ;)

Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Butter Icing
A new favorite, and a repeat for years to come, I'm certain.  These soft, chewy, pillowy cookies are topped with the most flavorful icing ever.  I didn't think I could like pumpkin cookies without cream cheese icing . . . I was wrong.  These have also been awesome keepers (in the fridge) -- soft and perfect for days.

Middle row, L-R:

Yeah, you're right . . . those squares look nothing like buckeyes.  That's because the recipe as-is is an epic fail, (c'mon, Real Simple, you've never let me down before!)  After chatting with a friend of mine about this, I've determined the original recipe is missing at least 2 cups of powdered sugar in the peanut butter base, maybe as much as 4 cups.  So, what did I do to rescue this year's batch?  I dumped the peanut butter slop into the pan of melted chocolate, added a few splashes of cream, melted the whole shebang down, and cooled it in my silicone pan.  Ta-da!  Fudge?  Not really.  Truffle?  Not exactly.  But peanut-butter-chocolatey delicious, and flying off the cookie tray faster than you can say, "fail, rescued!"

Apricot Coconut Bars
These are another repeat that I have received many compliments on and requests for these past couple of years.  However, I'm not entirely pleased with them -- basically, the crust is a crumbly mess!  Boo!  I was convinced the problem was that I was using a 9-inch pan, (the recipe calls for an 8-inch,) and the crust was falling apart because it was too thin.  This year, I used an 8-inch pan as directed, but no . . . still a mess!  Next year, I'm going to try chilling the bars before cutting, and making sure I flip the bars and cut them upside-down.  Any other suggestions?

Ginger Bars
This recipe has been on my back burner for years of holiday baking, and I just got around to it this year.  Frankly, they are simple to prepare and delicious, (moist, chewy, and faintly spicy,) but nothing special.  I'd take a gingersnap or gingerbread person any day of the week!  (And one problem that I didn't anticipate is that many people think they are a brownie!  Oops!)  I'm definitely not going to delete the recipe from my bookmark list, but will likely return to making gingerbread people next Christmas.

Chewy Gingersnaps
A perfect, classic, simple gingersnap recipe -- nothing fancy, which is ok, in my opinion.  :)  I've made gingersnaps with candied ginger or fresh ginger in the past, and sometimes, all you want out of a gingersnap is a soft, chewy, spiced molasses cookie.  This recipe delivers.  (P.S. they've kept beautifully -- still soft and chewy days later!)

Fig and Cream Cheese Bars
This is another recipe that I have been eyeing for years, and finally got around to trying this year.  WHAT WAS I WAITING FOR????  :)  Totally a new favorite of mine, and a hit with all who love figs.  Moist, with a crunchy yet sturdy crust, chewy from the figs, with just enough tangy cream cheese layer on top to offset the sweet richness.  The crust has softened with refrigeration, but still has just enough "bite" to it.  Good thing these bars are out of sight, as otherwise they might already be gone!  (Additionally, these look impressive, but were actually pretty easy to prepare, as you don't have to pre-bake the crust -- just layer the three different components in the pan and bake!  Pretty simple, if you ask me!)

Bottom row:

Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels
I didn't make these last year, and everyone missed them.  These are moist, chewy, intensely flavorful caramels, (it's the golden syrup, I swear . . . the caramels have more depth and are less tooth-achingly sweet than most,) that are only improved by the addition of coarse salt at the very end.  Our friends' picky four-year-old snuck three of these in a row while the adults were chatting over coffee, if that gives you any indication as to their appeal.  :)


Other highlights from this holiday season include returning to the church choir just in time to sing for Christmas Eve, (always a late night, but always magical,) having a chance to see "White Christmas" on the big screen at the Riverview, (we had so much fun, we're already planning on making time to see "It's A Wonderful Life" next year,) plenty of get-togethers with family and friends, and the gift of an iPad!  I feel a little extreme in the technology department right now, (iPhone, iPad, and MacBook all at my disposal . . . sheesh!), but I have a feeling the iPad will become my primary "device," especially when it comes to using bookmarked or other digital recipes in the kitchen.  (An expensive "cookbook," but an extremely useful one!)

Hope you are enjoying a lovely holiday season with your friends and family!

Sunday, December 01, 2013

New traditions

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving!

Hope you had a wonderful holiday on Thursday!  Even though the photo above is a little blurry and less than ideal, I had to share a few thoughts on our Thanksgiving dinner.  I realized that John and I are working on developing new holiday traditions this year, as we just celebrated our second full year together as a couple, (although we won't celebrate our one-year wedding anniversary until February.)

Know what I've realized about holiday traditions?  It's not important that they are perfect, it's not important that anybody else understands them . . . it's important that they are ours.  (Or in your case, yours!)  Take Thanksgiving, for example -- as a vegetarian, I've enjoyed time spent on the holiday with family or friends over the years, which has been delightful but exhausting, given the numbers of people and travel time involved, and also choked down a number of Thanksgiving dinners consisting solely of green beans, plain mashed potatoes, and buttered rolls.

What is Thanksgiving without turkey?  Well, this year, we enjoyed nut loaf, steamed green beans, caramelized onion stuffing, mushroom gravy, scalloped potatoes, creamy corn pudding, spiced sweet potatoes, apple pie, and pumpkin pie.  And Thanksgiving day was low-stress for me, since I made all of the side dishes (except for the beans) AND the nut loaf in advance, and froze everything.  All I did the day of was make pies, steam the beans, whip together a gravy, and bake everything off!  I skipped the cranberry sauce this year, as we always have WAY too much leftover, and I end up throwing it away a few weeks later.  Know what?  Didn't even miss it.  (We enjoyed sparkling water with a splash of cranberry juice instead!)  I also skipped mashed potatoes this year, in favor of scalloped potatoes.  I LOVE this new twist, (both more delicious, in my opinion, and easier to make ahead,) and John still gets to drown his nut loaf and stuffing in gravy.  :)

What is Thanksgiving without a table full of crowded relatives?  As an introvert, I have a much easier time counting my blessings at a quieter gathering at my own table.  Last couple of years, it's been just John and I.  And that's ok -- the holidays are busy, and we relish that day of quiet and rest.  This year, other than my small amount of kitchen prep, we did no work, save for a few dishes at the end of our meal.  We read, we watched movies, and we went for a walk.  I love our "calm before the storm" day, kicking off the busy and intense holiday season!

So, tell me -- what are your holiday traditions?  What are the unique things your family does to celebrate the holidays that you look forward to every year?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The one where I make a mashed potato pizza

Don't you just love it when you take pictures of something you've made, and then a week later, realize they are still on your phone or camera?  Yeah.  Right now, I'll use the excuse that we're moving, so my mind is elsewhere.  (I haven't yet come up with a good excuse for the rest of the time this happens, though!)

Anyhow, enter, garlic mashed potato pizza:

Inspired by one of our local pizza chains that offers this "specialty" pizza on their menu, I decided to try my hand at a homemade version.  Homemade whole-wheat crust, topped with garlic mashed potatoes, green onions, diced tomato, and feta.  Carb-tastic!  (Although not the healthiest vegetable around, I do have to remind myself that potatoes are still a vegetable!)

What are your favorite pizza toppings?  Lately, I'm loving garlic-stuffed green olives.  :)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

back, with cake

Hah!  I'm returning to blogging.  I'm still not sure why I quit for a while, nor am I entirely sure that I want to get back into the habit of blogging about most of what I cook.  However, I know this -- I made a great cake a couple of weeks ago, and I have to share the recipe.  :)

Maple-Walnut Spice Cake
yield: one 8-inch pan, 9 to 16 pieces (depending on how you cut them!)

Cream together:
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup packed brown sugar

Stir in:
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1/2 tsp maple extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Combine, then fold into wet ingredients just until combined:
1 cup AP flour
1/2 cup chopped, toasted walnuts
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt

Pour batter into greased 8-inch square baking pan, and bake at 350 for 30 to 40 minutes.  Cool.  Prepare frosting:

Beat together:
2 1/2 tbsp butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Beat in:
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp maple extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Top with additional toasted, chopped walnuts.  Store cake in fridge.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


Continuing with my foray into yeast breads, I made some fantastic burger buns last weekend!  I used this recipe for "Light Brioche Burger Buns" as my starting point, and well, I just have to say . . . brioche buns are where it's AT.

I didn't follow the recipe exactly as written, of course -- is anyone else, like me, incapable of doing that?  :)  I made the following changes:

1. subbed 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat bread flour for the white bread flour
2. melted the butter and added it to the liquid ingredients, instead of rubbing it into the flour
3. used buttermilk instead of milk

and I would make the following change in the future:

4. using 3 ounces of dough (instead of 4) per bun, yielding more, smaller buns

(I tend to find that, in general, more, smaller yields out of single-serving bread products works better for me.  Does anyone else find that most bagels, English muffins, rolls, buns, etc. are too large?)

Since we enjoy a lot of veggie burgers at our house, (they are an easy make-ahead meal, as I can make the base over the weekend and fry up a couple of patties for dinner on our busy weeknights, and because John loves them,) I see these buns becoming a mainstay in my freezer.


I've recently pulled back from blogging even more -- have you noticed?  I'm not exactly sure why, except that I don't feel like I have much new to say these days.  I still enjoy cooking as much as ever, and still take pictures of my meals, I just post them to Facebook lately.  Please "friend" me if you want to see what we've been eating!  (And growing!  Our garden is expansive this year -- so much fun!)  I'll still blog occasionally when I feel like I have something new and exciting to share, and I may return to blogging more frequently again in the future, but for now, I'm scaling back.  :)  See you!

Monday, June 10, 2013

the dough also rises

Ha, ha.  Pardon my ridiculous title -- let's just say I've been baking up awesome yeast breads lately!

Yesterday, I made Whole-Wheat English Muffins!  My second time with this recipe was a definite success -- like anything, the more you practice, the better/faster/more efficient you get.  While English muffins are slightly fussy, they are totally worth the extra time and effort in the kitchen.  Far more delicious than store-bought muffins and full of nutritious ingredients you select, at a fraction of the cost!

Step 1: Prepare dough

If you are familiar with how to make pizza crust or any other type of yeast bread, you can easily make English muffin dough.  It is a basic whole-wheat dough, using a blend of whole-wheat and all-purpose flours, enriched with milk, a little honey, and a little melted butter.  P.S. I don't have a big stand mixer, so I do my kneading by hand, which has always worked fine for me.

Step 2: Shape and allow to rise again

The biggest change I've made from the recipe as written has been shaping my English muffins using slightly smaller portions -- I have good success with 3 oz dough per muffin, (yes, I use my scale,) which makes 15 or 16 muffins from the linked recipe, instead of 12.

Step 3: Skillet-browning

The recipe mentions that the two characteristics of an English muffin that make them unique are the dusting of cornmeal, and the turn in the skillet.  Possibly the most time-consuming part of the process, (cooking 5 minutes per side,) this takes a bit if you don't have a large griddle to cook a whole baking sheet-full at once.  I will likely return to using my griddle next time, although I always love using my cast-iron frying pan.

Step 4: Bake!

This recipe suggests a final trip into a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes; my muffins seemed more done after 10 minutes.  They were a little crowded on the baking sheets, and I think my oven runs cool, so that definitely explains it.

Have you ever made English muffins?  What did you think?  I have a feeling these will become a standard piece of my baking repertoire, especially since they freeze beautifully, too.

Here are a few other things I've baked and cooked this weekend:

Buttermilk Scones

An incredibly simple, delicious recipe, using just enough butter for richness without becoming heavy, these scones seem infinitely adaptable, and will be a frequent repeat at our house.  I added some dried cranberries this time; chocolate chips and almonds for sure next time!

Irish Oatmeal Bread

My go-to sandwich bread, I decided to bake up a couple of loaves this weekend, while I had the flour and yeast out for the English muffins, and stock up my freezer with healthy, homemade, whole-grain carbs.

One of our favorite dinners - Quiche!

I rolled out a homemade pie crust and filled it with the above recipe, adding about 2 cups finely chopped fresh spinach.  John and I both love quiche, and it makes such a great, light meal -- perfect leftovers for work lunches, too!

And last but not least, tempeh reubens:

Storebought rye bread, thousand island dressing, swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and "Seasoned Tempeh," from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home.  A mighty fine sandwich for a cool, rainy Sunday!

And, I better run . . . Monday morning always creeps up on ya, doesn't it?  Hope you had a good weekend, too!

Thursday, June 06, 2013

California Pita

Recently, I purchased a copy of New Recipes From Moosewood Restaurant.  At the time of purchase, I solely wanted it for the recipe for "Tart Lemon Tart" (and let me tell you, that tart is worth the price of a paperback cookbook all by itself,) but I have been pleasantly surprised by the other recipes I've tried so far.

Like tonight's dinner, "California Pitas" --

Lettuce, tomato, cucumber, avocado, sliced cheese, alfalfa sprouts, and sliced black olives stuffed into a pita, drizzled with "Vinaigrette," also from the cookbook (and containing our first "harvest" of the season -- a few chives!)  I was quite pleased with the entire sandwich, and John commented that the vinaigrette was especially tasty.

I don't much care for sandwiches, I think in large part, because I never know what to put in them.  I'm so excited for this little pita sandwich section in this cookbook, however, as there are twelve other sandwiches for us to try!  Sandwiches do make a nice, light little meal on a busy weeknight (EVERY weeknight at our house these days,) or for a weekend lunch break during a day of much gardening.  I think these recipes will also come in handy if summer ever comes, as we will eventually tire of salads and buddha bowls when it's too hot to cook.  :)

What are some of your favorite sandwiches?

Saturday, June 01, 2013

happy birthday to me!

It was a short week, with little cooking, I guess!  Perhaps we have been eating out too much lately?  :)

(I suppose that's not entirely a bad thing?)

Homemade pizza and roasted asparagus:

The front pizza is topped with olive oil, mozzarella, feta, artichokes, kalamata olives, and dried tomatoes; the back pizza is topped with caramelized onions, asiago, mozzarella, and three different kinds of mushrooms!  The mushroom pizza was definitely the hit -- I give credit to the caramelized onions.  They add an amazingness to meals, don't they?

Pancake breakfast!

I made buttermilk pancakes with half whole-wheat pastry flour, half chickpea flour.  Delicious, albeit a little "beany," (they benefited from a little extra syrup, is all.)  I need to figure out my buttermilk to flour ratio a little more, as my buttermilk pancakes tend to spread too much and be a little too tender (i.e. nearly impossible to flip in one piece.)  Ah, pancakes just aren't my specialty, I guess!  I'll stick to waffles.

My "birthday dinner!"

Yes, we had veggie dogs, coleslaw, baked beans, and veggies for my birthday dinner!  We were supposed to go camping this weekend, (hence, the veggie dogs,) but then with the nearly constant threat of severe thunderstorms, we decided to postpone.  Veggie dogs don't taste quite as good at home, but were still pretty tasty.  I used Liz's coleslaw dressing recipe, adding pepper and poppyseeds, and tossing it with shredded cabbage, carrot, and sliced green onions.  John doesn't like coleslaw!  Oh well. More for me.  :)


I've enjoyed having the last two days off from work for "birthday fun" -- and we'll keep it up through the weekend!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

atop brown rice

Most weeks, I spend some time over the weekend prepping meals/ingredients for the coming week, and last weekend was no exception!  I ended up cooking up three cups (dry) of brown rice for our meals this week, and it wasn't even enough!  Ha!  We stuffed some of that rice into burritos, and had the following two meals:

"Mapo Tofu," from New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant:

While this was a good, quick, easy to prepare weeknight stir-fry, (especially when I prepped all of the veggies and sauce ingredients ahead of time,) the flavor was a little . . . strange.  John exclaimed immediately how tangy the sauce was, and I tended to agree.  :(  Personally, I like my homemade stir-fry sauce better, so I guess we'll be sticking with that one!  However, this was a perfectly acceptable meal.

Coconut Curry:

I don't use a recipe for this meal -- just fry up some tempeh or tofu, add veggies, a couple tablespoons curry paste, a tablespoon each sugar and tamari, and add a can of coconut milk.  Rich, flavorful, and delicious!  This week, I used tempeh, sweet potato, red onion, and green beans.  I'm not always a huge fan of leftovers, but this meal improved with time -- bonus.  John wasn't sure about the sweet potato in a Thai-style curry, but I love it!


I'm really thrilled about this three-day weekend, although it's raining this morning.  John and I have some errands to run, lots of gardening to do, and a camping trip to prepare for!!!  I can't WAIT to go camping!  What are you looking forward to this holiday weekend?

Monday, May 20, 2013

more burgers

We have been on a huge veggie burger kick lately, due in large part to the humongous bag of sweet potato fries I bought from Costco a while back.  The latest installment:

Quinoa Veggie Burgers from Eating Well were delicious, but not perfect.  I was happy the burgers largely called for ingredients I already had on hand, (I did have to pick up some red quinoa, but, well, I'm sure white quinoa would have worked just fine,) but they did not hold together AT ALL.  (In the recipe's defense, it suggests baking them; as I only have one rack in my oven, I had to pan-fry the burgers to make room in the oven for fries!)  The flavor, however, was spectacular -- hearty, rich, filling, but not heavy.  Next time, I might try adding just a wee sprinkle of vital wheat gluten, in the hopes that these burgers will hang together better.

What's your favorite veggie burger recipe?

Monday, May 13, 2013

proud to be a Minnesotan

This is a food blog, but I'm about to write about politics and human rights . . . .

Last year, there was a proposal to amend the Minnesota state constitution to define "marriage" as between a man and a woman.  It was heartily defeated by public vote in November of 2012.  Minnesotans agreed to keep the conversation about same-gender marriage going.

Momentum continued.  Last Thursday, the Minnesota State Legislature passed the "Freedom to Marry" bill, which would grant Minnesotans the right to same-gender marriages if they so choose.

Today, the Minnesota State Senate passed the same bill.  Tomorrow, Governor Dayton will sign the bill into law, making Minnesota the 12th state to legalize same-gender marriage.  Equal rights in marriage will go into effect August 1, 2013.

John and I did some volunteering for the campaign, including phone banking and in-person volunteer recruitment.  We contacted our senators and representatives, and encouraged our friends and family to do the same.  We had difficult conversations with people.  We had rewarding conversations with people.  This is an issue that was particularly near and dear to our hearts, as the bill was proposed to the House and Senate just a few days after we were married.  We knew how deeply our wedding affected our relationship, and couldn't imagine being denied that privilege.

Grassroots campaigning is powerful.

Thank you, to all of the Senators and Representatives that voted "yes" this week.  Today, love wins.

I have never been more proud to be a Minnesotan.

just the eats

No clever introduction today . . . just the eats!

Buttermilk Waffles, Field Roast sausage, and strawberries:

Curried Eggplant with Tomatoes and Basil:

(This was phenomenal, by the way.  Easy, speedy, healthy, and fantastically delicious!)

Pinto Bean Stew with Jalapeno-Corn Dumplings:

(Another Crock Pot success! The only change I made to the original recipe was to double the dumplings . . . because you never really can have too many dumplings, now can you?

Eggplant Lasagna:

(I think I could have doubled this recipe, and we would have been just as happy.  Homemade ricotta added something extra-special to this dish, and take-and-bake baguette made the perfect side.  Rich and cheesy, but not TOO heavy, a stellar supper that got even better in leftover form!)

Vanilla Ricotta Muffins:

(My version of this recipe is found in Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe; this online version is pretty close.  Skip the white chocolate chips, and you've got it.  I subbed in whole-wheat pastry flour for the AP flour; a great, tasty excuse to use up that leftover ricotta!)

Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting:

(My favorite chocolate cake recipe just got better with the addition of coconut oil, instead of canola -- the cake turns out slightly more dense, and the improvement in structure just means there's more support for extra frosting.  :)  I ended up adding extra powdered sugar to the above frosting recipe, as it was a little too runny with just the amount called for.  We took these cupcakes to dinner on Saturday night, and the little girls belonging to the grown-ups we were hanging out with were very excited!  Sprinkle cupcakes for all!)

Sunday, May 05, 2013

dairy and carbs

Coupled with my busy schedule lately, we've been rocking a pretty tight budget, too.  I'm not complaining, though -- I love a challenge in the kitchen.  In order to shave a few dollars here and a few dollars there off our grocery budget, I have been exploring even more things I can cook or bake from scratch.  I've discovered that with some extra labor, we are able to eat very well and very healthfully, largely organic, and still stay on a moderate budget for groceries.

Here are a few things I worked on this weekend . . .

Homemade crackers!

This is actually my second attempt at making these crackers, and like any new skill, practice makes perfect.  :)  While I wouldn't say these crackers are "perfect," they are crispy, delicious, easy, and are just so much better than storebought crackers!  (Cheap!  No preservatives!  No packaging!)  If you've never made homemade crackers, I encourage you to give them a try.  It's worth it!

Cookie of the week -- snickerdoodles!

I need to pack a snack for the bus most nights, and honestly, there aren't many things that are easy to eat on the bus.  (Especially since you're not technically supposed to eat on the bus, so I have to be kinda sneaky.)  Giant cookies to the rescue!  I've been churning out a batch or so of cookies per week, using my #16 disher to portion out the dough, resulting in large, satisfying, tide-me-over bus treats.  :)  You know you'd look forward to a long ride home if you had a cookie waiting for you in your lunch bag, too!

I managed to go through an entire gallon of organic, grass-fed whole milk today.  How?

First, buttermilk and yogurt:

I have been serially reculturing buttermilk for several months now, with excellent results, and have recently experienced consistent success with yogurt reculturing, too.  I've found that a heating pad set on "low" provides a warm, consistent temperature for those little reproducing cultures.  Fortunately, John and I both have bad backs so we have two heating pads, (comes in handy when I want to make both yogurt and buttermilk,) but unfortunately, they have auto shut-off functions, so I have to check on things periodically and turn heating pads back on.  Win some, lose some.  Dairy abound!

Second, I made my first-ever batch of homemade ricotta!

Although I found I needed to drain my ricotta about twice as long as the recipe suggested, I found this recipe simple and foolproof otherwise.  My recipe yielded about 2 1/2 cups of cheese from a half-gallon of milk, plus the leftover whey.  Now, what to do with the whey?  Any suggestions?

I've also been working on stocking my freezer with tasty, homemade bread products for the coming summer months, as it will likely be too hot to bake for much of the summer.  This afternoon, I made more bagels!

I use a little more than half whole-wheat bread flour in the linked recipe, with great results.  (Specifically, about 3 cups WW bread flour, and about 2 cups white bread flour.)  Previously, I've only made plain bagels -- John requested "everything" bagels this time.  So, I made a half-batch plain, and smothered the other half with dried onion, dried garlic, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and salt.  MMMMMMMMM.

We did actually eat some "real" food this weekend, too, so I'll be back soon with a post on meals.  Until then, keep enjoying all of this dairy and carb goodness!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

finding ways around a challenging schedule

After getting married, John and I decided to move into "his" house -- the house he purchased years ago, long before we even knew each other.  (It's really kind of a no-brainer, since there are so many advantages to living in a house!)  The one drawback, (and it's kind of a big one,) is that our house is located on the far east side of St. Paul, which is about 23 miles away from my work!  Since we only have one car, I spend a LOT of time on the bus.  :(

Getting home at 7:30 PM most evenings means we eat a lot of leftovers during the week.  However, I have been using my crock pot more than ever, and getting really good at prepping meals in advance so we can have a fresh meal at least once or twice during the work week.  Here are a couple of meals we've enjoyed this week:

Moosewood's Black Bean and Chipotle Soup:

This is my favorite black bean soup EVER, and it transitioned well to the crock pot.  I love the hearty flavors, brightness from the little bit of orange juice, and heaping piles of healthy veggies.  Typically, I like to serve this soup with cornbread, but to save on time, we enjoyed local, organic corn tortilla chips this time.  Mmmmm . . . who doesn't like scooping up black bean soup or chili with tortilla chips?

And who doesn't love kale and sweet potatoes together?

Real Simple's recipes have to be some of my favorites, and this one for Quinoa with Sweet Potatoes, Kale, and Pesto was another hit.  I prepped the kale and made the quinoa in advance, picked up some prepared pesto (as basil isn't in season right now anyway,) and pre-toasted/chopped the walnuts for the topping.  Speedy!  Delicious!  Healthy!  Vegan!

What are some of your favorite solutions to get dinner on the table in a hurry?  I appreciate any and all advice, as I'm going to have to find more ways around this challenging schedule.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Lately I've been . . .

Watching . . . 

The snow pour down outside.  Yes, it's May 1st, and it's snowing.  Let's hope to heck it doesn't stick!  Thankfully, we don't have too many plants that are "up" yet, and we covered those that are with empty milk jugs for protection.  C'mon spring, get here and stay put already!

Reading . . .

Anne of Green Gables.  You know you want to, too.

Eating . . . 

Well, basically, carbs.  :)  More specifically . . .

Whole-wheat penne, smothered in sauteed bell peppers, Field Roast Italian sausage, and homemade 5-Minute Marinara . . . awesome.  And can I just give a quick shout-out to Costco, for carrying the most delicious, organic crushed tomatoes in GLASS JARS!?!!???!?!??

Egg sandwiches on Whole-Wheat English Muffins

100% Whole-Wheat Blueberry Muffins


And Peanut Butter Cookies, loaded with extra peanuts, chocolate chips, and coarse sea salt

Planning . . . 

on a busy month!  We have lots of volunteering, family get-togethers, activities with friends, and birthday camping coming up!  I am looking forward to all of these events individually, but also bracing myself for the challenge of managing my long work days & commute, gardening, and home life in the midst of all this fun.

Looking forward to . . . 

Warmer temperatures and less rain next week.  Time to build some potato towers, finish seeding the spring veggies, and hopefully watch some sprouts pop up!

What have you been up to?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

reinventing leftovers

I don't know about you, but I really don't care much for leftovers.  Now, that's not to say I don't eat a LOT of them -- especially during the week, as I like a hot lunch and don't have much time to cook dinner these days -- but they aren't my favorite, you know?

I love new ways to reinvent leftovers, though!  We finally got around to trying these two-ingredient veggie burgers last night, and I'm happy to report they were a hit.

How to make them?  Blend together 1 cup quick oats and 1 cup moist leftovers (bean stew, roasted veggies, mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes, drained soup, etc.)  A food processor would be ideal for this blending, although I used my stick blender with good results, as I don't have a food processor.  I'd also suggest adding some additional salt and/or seasonings, as the quantity of oats may make your burgers pretty bland.  Cook the burgers in a moderate skillet, as they may be a little "wetter" than typical veggie burgers, and you want them to have plenty of time to dry out and firm up.  Voila!  I even had good success freezing the burger base until I was ready to use it.

I see a lot of veggie burgers in our future.  Something tells me John won't complain one bit!  :)

What's your favorite way to reinvent leftovers?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

too spicy!

While John and I both enjoy spicy food, our systems handle it less well than they did when we were each younger.  Getting old is so much fun, isn't it?  ;)

So, if that doesn't qualify as an "overshare," I'll keep going with this post.  I made some deliciously healthy Caribbean Red Beans and Brown Rice for dinner the other night, with a side of greens:

I vaguely remember this dish being on the spicy side the last time I made it . . . but of course, it didn't occur to me to cut the amount of cayenne in half!  Shoot.  And then I added too many chili flakes to the kale.  How to save a meal that's too spicy?

1. Add guacamole.  Or sour cream.  Or both!

2. Freeze some of the leftovers, hoping storage dulls the capsaicin.

3. Take a cup of leftovers and puree with a cup of quick-cooking oats for nearly instant veggie burgers. (More on that technique later, as I haven't actually eaten those veggie burgers yet!)

4. Serve the leftover kale with black-eyed peas, over leftover Millet-Cheddar Polenta.

I suppose we'll look at this "too spicy" meal as a blessing in disguise -- I learned some new ways to think about leftovers!  I'm particularly excited about this quick-cooking oats veggie burger idea.  I'll letcha know how it turns out . . . just as soon as we try them!

Monday, April 08, 2013

Lately we've been . . .

1. Watching Oliver get adjusted to his new digs:

I admit, he looks really relaxed and content in these pictures.  He has moments where he feels like that, it seems.  However, he still spends much of the day hiding, and managed to get himself locked in the linen closet for most of the day yesterday!  We finally figured out where he was late afternoon, when we heard muffled meows coming from upstairs.  :)

2. Celebrating John's birthday with Pecan Pie:

And Nutloaf, buttermilk-chive mashed potatoes, roasted asparagus, and Quick Gravy:

3. Starting plants for our backyard urban farm:

We are ecstatic that we saved nearly enough TP rolls to make little pots!  (Egg cartons to the rescue!)  We spent a total of $4 on cheap baking sheets from the dollar store, and a few bucks at Target on some plastic pots for herbs.

4. Eating pizza:

(It's kind of a Sunday night "thing" at our house.)

5. And still getting organized:

Spice racks went up yesterday!  Wahoo!  Our kitchen is finally organized, which is a big deal for this cook.  Very few unpacking projects remain . . . .

What have you been up to?  Anyone else chomping at the bit to get gardening?

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Lately I've Been . . .

Watching . . . 

BBC's "Planet Earth" series.  We've finished two discs so far, about six episodes total, with many more to go.  (Good thing I spread them out in my Netflix cue!)  We have been enjoying them, both for pretty pictures and learning opportunities, and sometimes an excuse to take a nap on the couch.  :)  We tend to enjoy the "making of" spots at the end of the episodes more than the actual episodes.

Eating . . . 

Magic Kale Salad with tempeh bacon

And Buttermilk French Toast

Planning . . . 

On taking better care of myself this spring.  I've been lucky in the past, having lots of walking naturally incorporated into my daily routine.  With this new job I started in October, not so much.  :(  I'm scheduling weekly walks with a small group of friends, and also hoping to slowly reintroduce yoga into my week.  I'd like to work my way up to three times a week!

Reading . . .

Either the Harry Potter series start to finish, or the Anne of Green Gables series start to finish.  I need a brain break and some de-stressing!  Which series should I read first?

Inspired By . . . 

People who cloth diaper their babies.  I fully plan to cloth diaper my own children someday, whenever that may arrive, but lately, we've generated a LOT of laundry, just the two of us.  I couldn't imagine laundry for a family, PLUS diapers every few days!  Wow.  Major props to those of you out there who manage to stay on top of that.  :)

Excited About . . . 

Our garden!!!!!!!!  Seriously, it's worth that many exclamation points.  The snow is finally, finally, FINALLY starting to melt!  We're getting some spring things started inside, and hoping to till in a bunch of compost in a couple of weeks.  Fingers crossed!


So, what have you been up to?