Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pre-Thanksgiving Musings (and a Recipe)

I was inspired by Kim to make my own pre-Thanksgiving post. My family’s traditional thanksgiving meal is a pretty all-American, meat-and-potatoes sort of affair. My dad handled the turkey (with my sister Carrie eagerly assisting--stuffing and handling that raw bird while Courtney and I looked on with disgust). He also made the stuffing, mashed potatoes and store-bought gravy, while my mom would make her infamous “yams” (sweet potatoes with a bunch of brown sugar and butter). Cranberry sauce (homemade) supplied by my brother-in-law. Add some canned corn and some Pillsbury biscuits, and dinner was served. My dad also made dessert: usually an apple pie or two (fresh filling, but a pre-packaged crust) and a peach pie (canned peaches + pre-packaged crust)…

Not that there’s anything wrong with any of this. This meal has deep-rooted traditions and we all happily dined upon all of its yeasty, starchy glory.

But a few years ago, the official pie torch was passed along to me, after I brazenly declared that I wanted to make “real” pie crust. So for the past few years, I’ve made a crumble-top apple pie, as well as a more traditional one too.

Last year was my first Thanksgiving as a vegetarian, so I wanted to bring some more health-conscious and veggie-friendly dishes. I made a hearty vegetable soup for lunch (since we don’t typically eat T-day dinner ‘til 6 or 7, because Carrie & co. lunch with her in-laws), and some roasted root vegetables.

This year, I’m taking Wednesday off work and going to bake 4 (FOUR!) pies - we’re expecting a few guests for dessert (Courtney’s boyfriend’s family & my dad’s Arizona ladyfriend). I am going to  roast a real pumpkin for a pumpkin pie (instead of canned), but I haven’t settled on a recipe just yet. And 2 apple pies and a to-be-determined 4th pie (if you have a knock-out recipe you’d like to share, please do).

I’m also going to make a soup again for lunch (maybe that bean soup from last week) and pumpkin garlic knots (to take the place of the pillbury rolls). And a pistachio/cranberry goat cheese log for snackin’. Oh, and I got myself a Gardein fake turkey thingy for my “main course” (although I feel somewhat guilty about relying on something store-bought. If I am pretty under control on the pie front on Wednesday, I may make myself a shepherd’s pie instead…)

I hope I’m not coming across as some sort of food elitist – my dad works his butt off every Thanksgiving to prepare the meal (he makes my mom’s Yams now, too). But I’ve gained such a greater awareness about my food over the past year & a half, and I want to see if I can add a little bit of my influence to the family meal.

What is your family dinner like?

Roasted Root Vegetables with Maple and Green Onions

Serves 8-10

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
3 large beets, peeled, quartered
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered
2 carrots, peeled, cut diagonally into 2-inch-long pieces –the thin ones with green tops taste best
2 parsnips, peeled, halved or quartered lengthwise and cut into 2-inch-long pieces
1 large sweet potato, peeled, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 large red onion, peeled, quartered through root end
Brussels sprouts
1 small butternut squash, peeled, cut into 1 inch pieces

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1-2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix oil, syrup and garlic in small bowl. Place all remaining ingredients except butter, green onions, and additional syrup on heavy large rimmed baking sheet. (You may want to cover the baking sheet with foil). Pour oil mixture over; toss to coat. Spread out vegetables in single layer. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast until tender and golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer vegetables to platter. Drizzle vegetables with butter and a little more maple syrup. Sprinkle with chopped green onions and serve immediately.

Monday, November 15, 2010

garlic knots

seems like tastespotting and food blogs are all a-flutter with variations on these little guys, so i decided to try them out.   i followed annie's eats recipe and they turned out great.

-my dough was pretty sticky in the mixer, so i had to add probably 1/2 cup more flour. her description of dough texture was really helpful during this part. 
-when i divided the dough, i flattened out the dough ball and cut (like a pizza) into 16 pieces (instead of her 10 dough balls). 
-for the topping, i used 2 TBS melted sweet unsalted butter, 1 clove garlic, dried basil & about 1 TBS of this olive oil/garlic stuff i had in the pantry.  next time, i will add some salt. that was about the only criticism i had of the overall taste. 
-i plan on trying out (never home)maker's pumpkin version next time (maybe for thanksgiving?) so i'll report back.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

hearty bean, barley & vegetable soup (vegan)

i cleaned out the pantry and unearthed a package of trader joe's "17 bean & barley" mix. i roughly followed the directions on the package (subbing whatever veggies i had on hand at the house) and a few hours later, ended up with this:

Bean, Barley & Vegetable Soup
1 16-oz package of Trader Joe's "17 Bean & Barley" soup mix
2 Boullion cubes dissolved in 4 cups boiling water (i used 1 Not-Chik'n & 1 Low Sodium Veggie) **alternately, you can use 4 cups of canned/box broth**
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes 
1 cup chopped onion (i used a mixture of red & yellow)
1 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup diced mushrooms
2 small peeled & diced red potatoes
1/2 package of thawed frozen chopped spinach
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBS olive oil
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp assorted dried seasoning (i used Bragg's sprinkle...Trader Joe's also makes one)
salt & pepper 

1) if you have the foresight, soak the beans overnight. otherwise, follow the quick soak directions on the package. this takes an hour.  (thaw frozen spinach now too, if you're using it).
2) Dissolve your boullion cubes in boiling water.
3) Pour 4 cups of broth into pot with the beans.  Add whole can of diced tomatoes.
4) put olive oil in a separate saute pan, and cook vegetables (everything except the spinach), garlic and dried basil over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. 
5) put veggies into soup pot and add bay leaf, spinach, seasoning, salt and pepper.  Cover with more water (2 cups) and stir everything up. 
6) Cover pot and simmer for about 2 hrs. Occasionally check liquid level and add more broth or water if necessary.  the beans were a little hard the first night we ate this, but softened up for the leftovers. 

A note on the vegetables: 
seriously, use up whatever you have. sweet potatoes would be good instead of the red potatoes. bag of frozen corn? use it if you want. same goes with green beans, red peppers, zucchini, etc.  kale would be good instead of spinach. recipe on the package calls for celery - i hate celery, so i left it out.

My ultra-lazy quick thaw method for frozen spinach is as follows: put frozen block of spinach in a metal sieve. run hot water over it until it starts to break up. Press out excess water. 
i'm sure i end "pressing out" vitamins, so if you plan on using frozen spinach, it would probably be best to thaw it when you're quick soaking the beans.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

i like: world market

i like world market. for those of you who have never been in one, it's kind of a cross between pier 1 (worldly home goods), ikea (cheap kitchen stuff like plates and glasses) and specialty/international grocery store (huge candy/random food & beer selection). it's one of those stores (along with kohl's and victoria's secret) (*see below*) that actually pays the customer to shop there. granted, you must sign up for their "rewards" program (it's free), but they constantly send out $10 off/$30 purchase coupons.  and tonight, i qualified for a 15% off a southwest airfare (!).  i must purchase the ticket in the next few weeks and travel by the end of january, so let me know if you want to take a trip with me! ha ha!

got all this for $28  
(white cheddar cheese snacks, big bag o'coffee, butterscotch chips, mineral water, sparkling fruit juices, mini muffin tin, 
and 4 boxes of assorted old school sodas)

also, their coffee is good, cheap, and you get a free bag after purchasing 6 (they keep track electronically, so you don't have to carry around a silly punch card). one 24-oz bag ($8.79) fills up the trader joe's coffee containers roughly 2 1/2 times.  coffee is my vice of choice, so i might as well be rewarded for drinking it.

i got 4 of these (each box has 10 "old school" sodas) - 75% halloween clearance for $2.50 (!) each.

these are the curtains i got for the computer room a few months ago 

*kohl's and victoria's secret*
does everyone else get FREE panty coupons? a lot? because i do. i have a whole drawerful of free VS panties. i think they hate me because i go in, get my freebie, and never buy anything (it explicitly says "no purchase necessary). but they keeping sending me the coupons, so they must still love me. or think they can brainwash me to eventually spend too much money on one of their bras.  but i'm a department-store-bra kinda gal. like macy's, or kohl's.  

(segue way) 

i constantly get $10 kohl's gift cards in the mail, which i use toward the purchase of (aforementioned) underthings, kitchen gadgets, dorky work pants (gloria vanderbilt and lee, say what!).  i usually end up spending a little money there, so i'm not bamboozling them the way i am victoria's secret.   

PS: the latest VS coupon i got is for a FREE LACIE THONG. i have no use for this. if i did have a use for it, i have no idea what that use would be.  so if you'd like it (all 3 of my {possible thong-wearing} readers, i'm talking to you)... leave a comment by wednesday the 10th and i'll randomly pick a winner (using this website). and then you can explain to me why women wear thongs. i promise i won't judge you. just like you shouldn't judge me for wearing cotton briefs.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

(vegan) pear hazelnut bread recipe

i took a recipe for cooking light's hazelnut-pear tea bread recipe (found in this cookbook) and turned it vegan.   my adapted version is as follows:

(vegan) hazelnut pear bread
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup shredded peeled pear (about 2 medium)  *i used 1 large pear & 1 small gala apple
1/2 cup sugar
3 TBS canola oil
1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 TBS applesauce
1 TBS ground flax seed + 3 TBS water

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Place hazelnuts in a small ovenproof dish & toast in a 300 degree oven for 15 minutes, stirring once.
3. Mix ground flax seed and water well and let sit for 10 minutes. in the meantime...
4. Combine flours, nuts, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl; make a well in the center.
5. Combine pear, sugar, oil, lemon rind, vanilla, applesauce and flax mixture; mix well.
6. Add wet ingredients to dry, stirring just until moist.
7. Spoon batter into a 8x4 loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake for 55 minutes (test w/ a toothpick).

this was my first time "veganizing" a recipe on my own.  i had made this bread twice before so i was familiar with how the original is meant to taste (and just as importantly, what the texture's supposed to be like). since the original called for an egg & an egg white, i thought i'd try out 2 different egg substitutes.  i've had good luck with the flax mixture in the past, and since the bread is based around pears, i figured applesauce was a natural pairing.  i also used 1/4 cup less sugar than the original called for, and after tasting the batter, it was totally sweet enough. that's one of the benefits of vegan baking - the ability to taste the batter without fear of salmonella poisoning!