Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Good old Oatmeal

We've been having a few chilly mornings, and I've just been craving hot food for breakfast, like coffee cake. Unfortunately, I don't always have the time or caloric allowance to eat coffee cake as much as I like so I kind of rediscovered oatmeal again. Here's my current mix:

It's regular oatmeal drizzled with honey, sprinkled with cinnamon, slivered almonds, chopped walnuts and a healthy splash of soy creamer.

I'm kind of in that stage where I'll eat this for days straight and already looking forward to eating tomorrow morning. Any other hot breakfast suggestions?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Vegan Coffee Cake

Post-Thanksgiving on a chilly morning, I was still in comfort food mode and was craving coffee cake and hot coffee.  When I was a kid, my favorite coffee cake memory was making it using the Aunt Jemima Coffee Cake mix.  I remember adding an egg and milk to the mix in the bag and you mashed it together in the bag and then poured it in the included aluminum tray.  It came with a waxed paper envelope of crumb topping that you topped the mix with and it baked perfect.  I loved it--there were never leftovers.  I found an enticing recipe for vegan coffee cake on Poppytalk blog and gave it a go:

I decided to make it without the optional berries, and it was just what I wanted.  It reminded me of the classic Aunt Jemima coffee cake and was perfect on a chilly morning with hot coffee.  I'm definitely making this again!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Gluten-free Vegan Pumpkin Pie

For Thanksgiving this year, I decided to make a vegan pumpkin pie and found this great and fairly easy recipe:  Pumpkin Pie with Gluten-free Pecan Crust.  One note:  though this recipe is gluten-free, it isn't nut-free so it's not acceptable for those with nut allergies, unless you switch out the crust with a gluten-free, nut-free one.

I loved the crust while I was making it.  You know how cookie dough is great in it's dough form, sometimes better than it's finished cookie form?  The crust was like this--I could have eaten the crust dough straight.  It was a great mix of nutty, sweet, and salty.  These elements became much more subtle after baking it with the pumpkin filling.  Overall the consensus was that regardless that this pie was vegan and gluten-free, this pie was a delicious.  I recommend it as a great change-up at your next Thanksgiving buffet!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Maple "Butter" Bars

I've been testing out recipes that me and my nephew (with specific allergies) can enjoy together and this one from Flying Apron's Gluten-Free & Vegan Baking Book caught my eye. It's supposed to be like shortbread which I love. I really wish this book had more pictures of their recipes, so I knew if these look right.  Since I don't have a mixer, I mixed it by hand with a strong fork and I'm wondering if that changes the composition a lot.  I also used a 9x13 pan instead of the 9x12 pan, so I think they're thinner than they're supposed to be:

They are tasty and not overwhelmingly sweet and I certainly enjoy them, but they seem very dense and chewy, rather than crisp which I associate shortbread with.  Also, when I pulled the pan out of the oven, the coconut oil had bloomed to the top and was just sizzling/boiling when I pulled the pan out of the oven, though it eventually settled back down into the cookies as it cooled. Also, the recipe advised to score the cookies while they're hot, but I found this unnecessary and was able to cut them into bars pretty easily.  Hmm, maybe I need to try this out with a mixer sometime and see if it changes things.  Anyone familiar with this recipe and can tell me if I made these right? 

Anyhoo, if you'd like to try making these (it's pretty easy with 5 ingredients)--please let me know how they turned out (especially if you've got a stand-up mixer)!

Maple "Butter" Bars

- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- Combine 2 3/4 c of brown rice flour and 1/2 tsp salt in a medium bowl.
- In the bowl of a stand-up mixer fixed with paddle attachment, combine 1 c coconut oil (or palm oil), 1 c maple syrup, and 1 tsp vanilla until well mixed. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture a little at a time until well mixed, about 3 minutes.
- Spread batter evenly into a parchment-lined 9x12 pan. Bake until edges harden slightly, about 15 minutes. While dough is hot, score it into 12 pieces with a knife. After it has cooled, slice it the rest of the way through and remove bars from pan.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

After cutting up our Halloween Jack O'Lantern, I saved the seeds, gave a quick rinse to get most of the pumpkin goo off, tossed with olive oil, and spread them out on a baking sheet. Then I sprinkled a little garlic powder and sea salt:

I put the pan in a 300 degree oven. I tossed it a bit after 20 minutes and then roasted for another 35 minutes:

Man these were so good. They came out so crispy and were seasoned just right. So much tastier than the prepared pumpkin seeds in the stores. It's only a bummer that there weren't more pumpkins to get more seeds from.

Definitely better than the candy!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

SC Mud Run - Fall edition!

Survived the SC Mud Run AGAIN!

I lucked out with another dynamite team again:

So clean to start!
Theses ladies were go-go-go (I was keeping up but definitely bringing up the rear--looks like I should have done a few more runs) with great spirit and teamwork.  It was a touch chillier than last April, where it didn't quite warm up to the 70s but thankfully, the running warmed us up and the sun came through at good places.

A few things I was pleased with--I managed to get through the "Low Crawl Under Logs" without putting my face under the muddy water so I avoided the major dirty contact lens recovery from my first mud run.  Also, I had a personal goal of doing at least 2 rope transfers on the Tarzans--I did 4.  My memory thought there were only 5 ropes but apparently there are 9.  Next year, my goal is to do all 9.  I also started the Weaver on my own but in the interest of time and keeping things moving, it was quicker to make it a team effort.

The mud pit, still so darn muddy.  The Marines told us to doggy paddle (without kicking) but I felt I was barely moving:

Afterwards was the (second) 15' wall but man, it would have been nice to have less muddy hands and shoes and/or a less muddy wall:

And aaahh, the last obstacle: the fireman carry--which means we're just about done!

We finished with an official time of 1:56:27 and placed 37 (out of 63) in the Corporate division. Pretty darn respectable in my book but I'm just glad we had fun and did really well with the obstacles.

So muddy at the end

Now for some down time before spring when the Mud Run season begins again:

There goes my leg modeling career

Hopefully by then, the cuts and bruises will have healed! Thanks again to my great team!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Getting ready for the SC Mud Run - fall edition

For some reason, my cardio preparation has been a bit lacking for the SC Mud Run next week:

I have run only three times since the Camp Pendleton Mud Run in June and my pace since then is definitely much slower (from a 9:52/mile pace last June to a 10:43/mile pace now).  Granted, the SC Mud Run isn't nearly as running-oriented as the Camp Pendleton one.  And since it's very obstacle-oriented, I've been focusing on tackling and preparing more for the obstacles I remember lacking at the last SC Mud Run--specifically getting over walls and transferring ropes.  Fingers crossed!

Monday, September 24, 2012

I love this No Knead bread

Now that summer has been slowly receding, I've been back into making bread.  Unfortunately, I think I neglected my sourdough starter and it's not quite the same, even though I've been baking it in my dutch oven--which makes the most beautiful crust.  But I still haven't been getting the chewy holey-ness inside.  I would probably fault my crappy kneading skills, though a friend's mom said I need to get a standing mixer with a kneading paddle.

So then I thought about the original No Knead bread recipe that Linda originally posted about and thought I'd give it a try since kneading dough is not my friend and it was only reaching 80 today--brrrr!  Get the oven on!

The ingredients are pretty simple:

Dissolve 1/4 tsp of active dry yeast in 1 1/2 cups of warm water.  Stir in 3 cups of all purpose flour and 1 1/2 tsp salt until blended.  It'll be sticky and pretty slack.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest at least 8 hours (up to 18 hours) at room temperature.  The recipe says room temperature is about 70 degrees but my a/c thermostat is set at 78 but it seems it was all right.  The dough is ready when the surface is dotted with bubbles:

Then you flour the work surface and scrape the dough on it.  Sprinkle the dough lightly with flour and fold it over on itself a couple of times:

Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for 15 minutes.  Using enough flour to keep dough from sticking to your hands and work surface, form into a ball.  Then generously coat a dish towel with flour and put the dough ball, seam side down on it.  I didn't have a clean dish towel, so I used parchment paper:

Then dust with more flour and cover with another clean dish towel.  Let rise for 1-2 hours until doubles in size and dough doesn't spring back when you poke it.  I couldn't help but notice that it doubled out but not up.  I wonder if using a dish towel would have been more grippy, allowing less slide of dough out.

Put dutch oven in the oven and preheat to 475 degrees about 20 minutes.  Flip dough into the hot dutch oven, ostensibly seam side up, though mine didn't have much of a seam.  Is it because I didn't use a dish towel?  I'll have to test that out.

Bake 30 minutes with lid on, the 15 minutes more with the lid off.  There's that golden brown crust:

And more so, that chewy, holey inside:

The girl and I ate half the loaf in one sitting. She loved it. I would have loved it more if it was more taller and loafy instead of such a wide, flatter boule. Hope using the dish towel works during the second rise helps. Also, I'm wondering if I could add sourdough starter to this somehow? Anybody know breadmaking science a lot more than me and have advice?

Anyhoo, I highly recommend this bread--if you've got a Dutch Oven, it won't disappoint. It's cheap and easy (NO KNEADING!) and the result is virtually artisan bread!

UPDATE: Yes, using a dish towel (instead of parchment paper) made a huge difference:

It definitely rose more "up" than out.

There's the big beautiful boule I wanted!

Gorgeous.  Sigh.

Here's a little side by side comparison:

Definitely a favorite.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Vegan Gluten-free Doughnuts

After tasting the goodies at BabyCakes last spring, I picked up Babycakes Covers the Classics and tried my hand at making their vegan, gluten-free donuts at home after the girl had some friends sleepover:

Holy cow, they rocked! The girls loved them. Just as good as the doughnuts I made last spring--couldn't even tell they were vegan and gluten-free.  I can't wait to make these for my wheat-allergic nephew!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sauces for Salad rolls

After making salad rolls for my mom, I got pretty addicted to them myself. It's a delicious way to get salad, avocado, and tofu together in one bite:

Especially when I can mix up some quick sauces for dipping!  Here are three I'm currently rotating.  I came up with a quick peanut hoison sauce:

Mix together:
- 1 tbsp of Peanut Butter
- 1 tsp of vinegar (I used rice vinegar)
- 1/4 tsp of soy sauce or tamari or aminos
- 2 tsp of hoison sauce
- 1/4 tsp of garlic chili sauce (or 1/4 tsp of hot sauce and dash of garlic powder)

These are definitely not etched-in-stone quantities, play around to your liking, but you'll want a creamy sauce with good "cling".

Peanut Hoison sauce: Sweet and spicy

For times I prefer a non-creamy sauce, especially when I use a lot of avocado, I make a quick chili vinaigrette:

Mix together:
- 1 tbsp vinegar (I used rice vinegar)
- 1 tbsp water
- 1 tsp chili garlic sauce (or hot sauce and garlic powder combo)
- 1/2 tsp sugar (you can use equivalent of sugar substitute)
- splash of soy sauce or tamari or aminos
- generous squirt of fresh lime or lemon

Again, I suggest adjusting the amounts per personal taste. This vinaigrette doesn't have as much cling, but it still packs a punch:

Chili Vinaigrette: Bright and Spicy

And my new favorite, Lemon Tahini sauce:

Mix together:
- 1 tbsp tahini
- 1/2 tbsp of vinegar (I used rice vinegar)
- 1/2 tbsp of fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp soy sauce or tamari or aminos
- generous dashes of garlic powder
- dash of hot sauce

Again, adjust quantities per personal taste--most of the time I'm just throwing stuff together and hope I get a tasty clingy sauce:

Lemon Tahini: Bright and Tart

Anybody got any other sauce suggestions?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Salad Rolls for Mom

Making something new or vaguely exciting for my mom is tough, due to her low-sodium, low-carb, low-sugar, and low-fat dietary requirements.  It kind of leaves vegetables, which ironically, for as much as she made me eat vegetables when I was a kid, she has shown much less verve when I cook them for her.  So I decided to try making a variation on Vietnamese summer rolls (which normally feature noodles, shrimp, and pork) with the focus on salad and she dug it.  Interested?

I used baby spinach and arugula, tofu, and avocado as the filling with rice vinegar and garlic powder as seasoning.

The other key ingredients are these rice paper wrappers:

They are a great lower carb alternative (about 7 carbs per paper, depending on brand) to tortillas and are great with cold items like salad.  When you take one out, it's so thin and seemingly fragile:

I've read various recipes with different recommendation on soaking these rice paper circles--some advise soaking the rice paper for 30 seconds until pliable, some say let them lie between wet paper towels, but I learned from eating dinner with my Vietnamese friend and her family that you only have to submerge it once (make sure the whole thing gets wet) and put it on your plate.  As you load the fillings (granted this took longer when you're passing fillings around with a family then a chef would have mise en place) the water soaks in and when you're ready to wrap it up, it's pliable. 

So here at my mom's I just dipped it in a clean fry pan filled with tap water and put it on my plate--yes, it's initially still stiff:

Then I laid down the filling--some baby spinach leaves and arugula, some slices of avocado and tofu, and topped with splashes of rice vinegar and sprinkles of garlic powder (alternatively, I guess one could toss the greens with a dressing and seasoning beforehand):

Then you roll it like a little burrito, first bring the top up:

Fold the sides in:

Then finish rolling it up:

Ta-da! Vegetables that my mom likes to eat. The nice bonus is that my mom hadn't been enjoying salads because of her poor eyesight--now she doesn't need to see the salad--it's all in her hand. Next time I'll try adding cilantro or mint for her as well. Ideally these should be eaten shortly after they're made--which isn't hard, they're pretty darn tasty!

For those on less restrictive diets, I'm sure some leftover marinated cooked steak or chicken could replace the tofu and it would be dynamite. Just don't tell my sodium-restricted mom!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

My summertime Green Smoothie

I have really gotten hooked on these green smoothies since I tried them a few months ago and pretty much drink them near 4-7 times a week.    They really make me feel like I'm giving my body a gift of pure vitamins and hydration.  And no matter what kind of diet one is on, they all promotes getting more greens in, right?

So for the summertime I discovered this new combo--spinach, kale, watermelon, half a pear, and of course about a cup of water:

I love it!  I've noticed that an apple or pear really keeps the smoothie body together.  It's kind of a bummer when it separates into green water and mossy thickness on top, so I've been adding at least half and apple or pear to these.

Look at this deep green loveliness! And they don't taste like heavy bitter greens--the fruit and water really make this drink refreshing. Plus I really like that unlike juicers, I'm consuming the whole greens and fruit and not wasting any. Anybody else trying these?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Chamomile Iced Tea aka Sweet Honey Iced Tea

Anybody else trying to lighten up on soda and caffeine? I scanned the cupboards and came across a fairly full box of chamomile tea from my detox at the beginning of the year. It's an herbal tea with a really mild pleasant flavor so I decided to try making iced tea from it.

I followed the conventional iced tea wisdom of brewing a strong batch, so I steeped 8 bags with a quart of hot water:

Then I sweetened with some honey for flavor:

And some agave nectar for sweetness:

Then I let it cool in the fridge for a couple of hours and then poured over ice:

It's a really pleasant cool drink--very inoffensive but won't necessarily knock your socks off. Because of the mild flavor of the chamomile tea, the sweet honey is the dominant flavor. So I gave it the alternate name of Sweet Honey Tea. Or maybe next time I should steep some extra bags of chamomile tea. With plenty of hot summer left here in South Carolina, I'm sure I'll be doing some more experimenting...

Saturday, June 30, 2012

SoCal Round up: Linda Fed Me

Besides eating through SoCal and the mud run, I had a great visit with Linda:

Besides hanging with her, which is always awesome, she also fed me.  Delicious vegan minestrone:

Strawberry shortcakes:

And her cool creation of furikake crostini:

Man, so tasty--she is crafty in cooking as she is in, well, crafts!