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?