Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Green Olivey Couscous

I had completely forgotten about this concoction until a few days ago when I was hit by an unexpected taste memory.  I don't know what brought it on, I don't think I was even eating olives, but suddenly I had the taste of this couscous in my mind and had to make it.

The combination was born out of nothing more glamorous than having these ingredients on hand, but it's a combination I love.  I normally go a little overboard on punch in salady things, utilizing lots of vinegar or lemon juice, but this is one I like to keep simple.  There's something very satisfying about the play of textures between the soft couscous, crunchy seeds, airy parsley, and succulent olives.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

This is a simple soup that can be taken a lot of different directions depending on how you'd like to spice it up.  The basic version has three main ingredients:  squash, onion and water.  You could add curry powder and coconut milk, cinnamon and maple syrup, a cup or two cooked rice, barley or adzuki beans for texture, or just leave it as is.  In the picture above I've garnished it with toasted pumpkin seeds and feta cheese.  The texture of the seeds and the saltiness of the cheese balanced nicely with the sweetness of the squash.  It would also be nice with a drizzle of sesame oil and some chopped walnuts or hazelnuts.  Lots of options.  Give it a try and tell me what you do with it.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

There’s a chef at a nearby restaurant who’s supplying us with waste vegetable oil for our car.  He changes out his fryers (not friars, that would have been embarrassing) twice a week and hands over about 5 gallons of free fuel each time.  We’re scheduled to pick up from him tomorrow and I hate to go empty handed.  “Thanks for the free gas for our car, here’s nothing in return.  Have a great day!”  It’s time to take the man some cookies, it’s the least we can do.

Now I’m sorry, but I just cannot, will not, put two sticks of butter and two cups of sugar into a batch of cookies.  Even when I think, “eff it, I’m gonna make a big ol' dirty batch of cookies and I don’t care WHAT goes in them,” when push comes to shove I just can’t do it.  It offends my sensibilities. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

A sample day

My sweet ride, a gift from a friend - Koren, and the back pack that I pack the groceries into

This is just to give you an idea of what a typical personal chef visit looks like.  I attempt to prepare three days worth of food in approximately four hours using one soup pot, one sauce pot, and one skillet, arriving on my bike, groceries in my backpack.

Today's menu (groceries not pictured):
Breakfast Quinoa / berries
Red lentil soup / garnishes
Soba noodle salad with spinach, sugar peas, blanched broccoli and tempeh
Portabello mushroom polenta bake with tomato sauce
Shredded vegetable salad with barley
White bean salad

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Make Bread.

I got spoiled when it comes to bread years ago when I worked at Wheatfield's Bakery - Lawrence, KS.  They still have the best artisan bread I've ever had, and I miss the days when I was able to take a loaf home at the end of every day;  best perk ever.  They still have an old picture/blurb about me in their archives if you're in the mood for a chuckle.

Since working there I've done a fair amount of bread baking, especially when I was living in Korea where it was next to impossible to find a loaf of bread that didn't look like a loaf of marshmallow.  I made variations on this recipe for a long time and was pleased enough with the results.  But this summer, a friend of mine started baking bread using the methods in Tartine Bread and I got hooked, once again, on artisan bread.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sprouts and civil disobedience

I get really fired up when the topic of seed patenting comes up.  I can't believe we live in a world where governments allow companies to patent life.  With these patents, companies are able to stop farmers from saving seed - a practice as old as agriculture, and force growers to be financially enslaved to one more thing (another "thing" being big oil) buying new seed year after year.  Don't even get me started on Monsanto.  There's a pretty decent article here that talks about their shining example of  unconscionable corporate greed.  How do we let this happen?

While I was looking up some information on the benefits of eating sprouts, I found articles about legal battles over sprout production.  Do you know about the Broccoli Sprout Saga?  In brief, some Dr.'s from John Hopkins University were granted sole rights to broccoli sprout production.  They formed a company, Brassica Protection Products, and set out to exercise their dominion over all things broccoli sprouts (evil laugh, heads tossed back, finger tips drumming together).  They sued independent growers, intimidated others out of production, and a whole legal battle ensued.  Finally, after years of litigation and appeals, the independent growers won and now broccoli sprouts can legally be grown by sprout people over the world.  What?  Of COURSE they can!  Doesn't it seem absurd that this conversation is even happening?  It defies basic understanding of the laws of nature to think that companies should have control over such things.  But they do, and the conversations and legal battles ARE happening, and it's important that we pay attention - especially when it comes to the right to produce our own food.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Rustic Roasted Potato Salad

Roasted Garlic Potato Salad

This potato salad kicks arse.  Roasted garlic, green olives, sun dried tomatoes, whole grain mustard, loads of parsley, and absolutely no mayonnaise.  Measurements really aren't necessary; just throw in as much of each ingredient as you like to make a salad that knocks your knickers off.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Choco Date Balls

Raw Cacao Recipe

I need a steady source of chocolate in my diet or else I get grumpy.  These are easy and fun to make - maybe 15 minutes from start to finish.  They're raw, they're versatile, and they impress the crap out of people.  Feel free to play with what you put in them and what you roll them in.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Nina Bars

Vegan Granola Bars

This recipe was designed for my Mom who, like many of us, would rather spend her precious, pre-work morning moments surfing Facebook than cooking breakfast.  She was looking for something that wouldn't spike/crash her sugar levels,  that would be easy to take to go, and that would tide her over until lunch.

The first version I made for her was a bit different - it had egg and wheat bran, and was a bit too dry.  Lately I've been reading some things that have me, once again, questioning whether or not I want to include eggs in my diet, so I decided to give it a go without the eggs and see if it would stick together.  It did, and now Nina bars are vegan and cholesterol free.   Flax seed meal often stands in for eggs in vegan baking, and I believe that the flax/soy milk/heat combo is what helps these bars to stay together.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bierock - sans animal

I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am to be posting this recipe - this is something I've been wanting to do for YEARS.

I grew up in a small town in western Kansas, with a strong Volga German heritage.  We ate lots of meat and potatoes, lots of things with heavy cream, and lots of things that most people have never heard of.  I don't even know how to properly spell "kedovel and glace"to try to look it up, but we ate it and it was good and let me tell you - those recipes didn't pull any punches.

Bierock was a staple at our house, especially after my Dad married Connie - a hard working, big hearted woman who loves to cook.  I would venture to say that Connie is happiest when she's in the kitchen, and she is especially gifted at cooking for large, hungry harvest crews.  My Dad is a wheat farmer and whenever harvest was around the corner, Connie would busy herself with filling the freezer to accommodate all the hungry men who would be over for dinner after a long, hot, dirty work day.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Delicata Squash and Pear Salad

Delicata Squash

A friend of a friend recently gifted us with a small stock pile of winter squash.  I cant' tell how strongly this reinforces my desire to live on a farm and grow my own.  But until that day comes, I'm grateful to enjoy the bounty of their harvest, and I hope some of you will enjoy this autumn salad.  The saltiness of the feta plays nicely off of the sweetness of the squash, and the pear and walnuts texture, juiciness, and crunch.

Easy Basil White Bean Pesto, or is it hummus?

This is a piece of cake to make and I can't get enough of it.  It's part of my quest for tasty dips and sauces that aren't overly loaded with fat.  For quite a while I've been on the, "well but it's good fat" kick and while I still don't balk at reaching for the olive or sesame oil, I could stand to tone it down a bit.  We ate this with crackers, in wraps, on cut vegetables, and as a dressing for a potato salad.  I imagine it would be good over pasta or stirred into some warm rice.

Rustic Tomato Soup

Vegan Tomato Soup

Few things can top the flavor combination of a well made tomato soup and a good quality grilled cheese sandwich.  This soup is an easy puree of fresh roma tomatoes, a few vegetables, and some stale hearty bread.  I put it together one afternoon at the end of tomato season when we happened to have some rock hard artisan bread laying around.  I hate to throw away good quality bread, so this was a great fix.  The soup freezes well and makes for an easy week night dinner - just heat on the stove and serve alongside a sandwich or salad.

Cilantro Tofu Pesto

I've been experimenting making different bean and tofu spreads as alternatives to their higher fat pesto friends.  They're cheaper to make since they use less olive oil, and I don't feel guilty about going to town on a bowl of one.  Here's a recipe that utilizes cilantro, but you could substitute any herb or spice mix that tickles your fancy.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Romanesco three ways

I was recently introduced to this most interesting of vegetables by a lovely vendor at the Jean-Talon Market.  Can you believe the size of those cauliflowers?  He told us that Romanesco comes from Italy, that the Italians use it much like broccoli, that it has a slightly almondy flavor, that people freeze whole heads in order to have them around for the holiday season, and that he was confident that if we bought one we’d be back for more.  

He was right.

< = How fascinating is this thing?

It’s huge and alien and interesting from so many different angles…

Warm spicy pumpkin bread

Well I’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen lately, but if I don’t start spending some more time on the computer no one’s going to know about it.  Last week Philippe and I went back to Kansas for a quick visit and while it was unseasonably warm, it was still fall and the sight of pumpkins on doorsteps made the pumpkin craving kick in. I tweaked an old pumpkin bread recipe from my mom's recipe box with pretty decent results. In hindsight, it could have handled another couple of tablespoons of spice. A loaf topped with chopped, candied ginger would have been nice as well.

This recipe makes a big ‘o’ batch, who doesn’t love to get a loaf of pumpkin bread as a gift?