Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Easy Bake Oven (cookin' with lightbulbs!)

Do you remember the "cake mix" smell of the Easy Bake Oven packets? It's a totally distinct smell and every "cake" tasted exactly the same. Before the advent of the microwave, girls in the 70's were cooking little tea cakes with light bulbs! How awesome is that?! I never got very far past that stage when it comes to baking. It never really interested me and since the majority of my adult life has been spent in a panic-stricken fear of carbohydrates, baking seemed "out".

Now I have seen the light and it's shining brightly again in my "big girl" Easy Bake Oven. Tonight I'm attempting to bake my very first loaf of bread. I repeat - at age 40, I'm baking my very first loaf of bread. I'm attempting it with the help (and support frankly) of this fantastic book that I borrowed from my dearest Hillaire.

She loaned it to me a couple of weeks ago but after reading the overview, I realized I needed to Amazon some stuff to make a go of it.. and by "some stuff", I mean "all the stuff". I own nothing in the way of baking utensils so I ordered up! I got a baking stone, a pizza peel, a Danish dough stir stick, an oven thermometer AND took the opportunity to replace the crappy can opener that I got 10 years ago when I moved in with my husband. (Note to girlfriends - take a good hard look at your can opener. Honestly answer the question "Is this thing disgusting?")

All my accoutrement came a few days ago but the bread thing has intimidated me until tonight...

(Adult EBO)

You'll have to buy the book to read all of its wonderful theories on artisan bread baking BUT I can tell you that so far (the bread lump is on the counter awaiting date with EBO) this has been amazingly easy and the whole idea is so simple - it's criminal. Make a batch of wet dough and leave it in the fridge for up to ten days, hunking off a grapefruit sized ball whenever you want a fresh loaf of bread. The longer the dough stays in the container, the more "sourdough" it becomes. Revolutionary!

(My lump)

They have recipes for baguettes, ciabatta, pita, pizza dough, challah - all of it!

Bread is in the oven on my new little baking tiles and a broiler pan full o' steam. 22 minutes to go. I'm nervous. I'll quick run and check on it...

24 minutes later - my first baby loaf is born!

Cool tip from the book: After cutting into a loaf, store it uncovered and cut side down on a plate or other solid surface. Don't wrap it or refrigerate it - just protect the cut side from air! I'll let you know how that works out...

My only real complaint with the book is that they demand that you let the bread cool entirely before eating - what kind of crap is that?!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Perfect In My Eyes!

For MONTHS I have been tweaking several veggie & black bean burger recipes. (cue music) Today I unleash my concoction of perfection upon the blogisphere! Well, my version of perfection... That's the great thing about veggie burgers! After coming up with the few baseline ingredients, you can throw the whole darn fridge in the bowl and still churn out a great burger.

Here is my favorite version to date -

What's going in the bowl...

Place diced onions, mushrooms and garlic in a little baby fry pan with lid and sweat it all down with some cumin, coriander and garam masala (if you've got it!) Nice and mushy.

Mash smooth one can of black beans and one can of chick peas in a big bowl. Make sure to rinse your beans! It cuts the sodium in half and negates can sliminess!

In a small sauce pan, use one cup water to 1/2 cup bulgar wheat. Bring to a boil then shut the heat off and walk away.

You'll need some sort of binder. I'm trying to kick the "egg thing" so I used chick pea flour - also known as gram in Indian groceries.

Now, bring all ingredients (mashed beans, 1 cup cooked bulgar, spiced up veggies, approx 1/4 cup gram flour, black pepper and red pepper flakes) together in the bean bowl for the great mash up!

After all is blended, apparently it looks like my granite counters!

Place in fridge so mixture can merge... In the meantime, warm up a beautiful roti shell and throw in any remaining bulgar wheat to prep the landing pad for an awesome veggie burger.

Form a patty after about 30 minutes in the fridge. They are firm but still take care in when flipping. I use a little soy oil or spray canola while cooking. No need to go overboard in the oil department. These babies taste great!

Melt a little vegetarian cheddar, add fresh cilantro and (ever present) Bajan pepper sauce - Voila!

P.S. You'll have burger mix for a week of lunches for like $6!!!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Wonder Woman crashed her plane...

I got into my invisible plane and flew it right into the side of a mountain! No, I didn't fall off the meatless wagon BUT I had an incredibly busy four day stretch and my vegetarian preparedness skills fell apart at a rapid rate. This morning I see the remnants of clear plastic plane all around me and I look like a puffy mess.

Let's start with Thursday - Kids Halloween party in the Embassy courtyard. I worked a full long day decorating in the heat and ate my yummy tofu and rice early - 10:00 a.m. - first mistake. 5 hours later..I don't even like sugar but in the madness of preparing for the munchkin onslaught, I ate candy. The party begins...55 kids, an office building full of candy, and burgers and dogs on the grill. After literally running around for hours I was starved without a single vegetarian option in sight - except for rums at the bar. In desperation and with the cleanup still ahead of me, I scrounged up a bag of microwave popcorn and sat in my office eating the salty mess in the dark (I hate flourescent lighting so much that I've neglected to call the maintenance crew to tell them all my lights have burned out). Summary: Candy, Rum, Popcorn.

Friday: Worked on the set up and decoration for the Adult Halloween Party - sweat, heat, yuck. Then attended a monthly party called Taco Tuesday that's actually held on Fridays (don't ask!). I get excited to share the veg wealth so I make fresh salsa, refried beans and a little soy burger as my contributions. No one touches my soy so I make it my business to enjoy as much of it as possible. Two tacos and a burrito later... bloat.. bloat.. bloat.

Saturday: Long run at 5:00 a.m. - feeling great. Beautiful smoothie for breakfast then WHAM there's still leftover soy meat and delicious roti skins in the fridge. I eat it all and then start cooking the food for the Adult Halloween party. Here come 48 deviled eggs, a HUGE rice and bean dip, more fresh salsa and the fixings for a PB&J Bar. Tasting, munching, cooking... As I get into my Wonder Woman garb I think.. "Does my invisible plane come with a BLOATATION device?"

Sunday: A smidge hung over but mainly just exhausted from the endless parties, cooking, cleaning and being a glorified cheerleader. But wait... we're having guests for dinner! Great guests that we love! My Wonder Woman nature returns and there are suddenly at least 100 projects around the home that I must accomplish before 4:00 p.m.! Scurrying around the kitchen cooking side dishes in between getting the house in top shape. I feel myself losing my remaining grip. Passed out at 9:00 p.m. in a carb induced exhaustion haze.

This morning I could barely read my scale through my bloated little toes! My body is revolting loud and clear. This is where Ayurveda steps into my life and takes over the clean up detail. More on Ayurveda later but sufficed to say that today has been a day of healing from the inside out!

All of this self-centered diatribe does have a bloggable point. You can be vegetarian/vegan/whatevs and still be unhealthy and overweight. It takes work, preparation and a consistent schedule to change your health through a vegetarian diet. I've had a relatively easy go of it up until Thursday. No vacations, disruptions in schedule and a bit of luck at the grocery store - I'm golden!

Until I flew the invisible plane into a mountain and got smacked in the face with the Lasso Of Truth!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My Friend Broccoli

When the produce is good here in sunny Barbados, you have to jump on it! It doesn't matter what you had planned for dinner - flexiblity is your new middle name. Grab whatever looks un-sad and figure out what to do with it!

This week brought fresh, gorgeous, happy Broccoli! I found a very cool site that tracks straight nutritional data (and we all know how I feel about data!). Check out my friend broccoli at:

I rescued enough broccoli to take care of two nights -

Dinner One: Sesame Ginger Tofu, Carrot Rice & Roasted Broccoli

Start with some music - I went with The Pretenders Live. Then pour yourself one perfectly golden Mount Gay Eclipse and Soda Water (just one!)

I've read a lot about tofu presses but frankly, my method is free and works like a charm! Rinse tofu brick under tap water and pat dry. Wrap the brick in two paper towels and then wrap tightly with a nice clean dry dish towel. Place the lovely little bundle under something heavy (Vase filled with sand!) and go back to enjoying your rum for 30 minutes...

Roasting broccoli is the bomb. Everyone else probably already knew that but each day is a new food day for me so bear with me as I learn! The key to this is dry broccoli. Wet broccoli = no yumminess.

400 degree oven
Cut florets off stalk - rinse and dry so thoroughly that you feel like a psycho
Spray or lightly coat with olive oil and sea salt
Cook for about 20 minutes or until desired tenderness - tips should be tanning!
Take out and give those beauties a little more olive oil and a light pinch of parmesan cheese and lemon zest. YUMMMMMMM

Rice is Nice with grated carrot and onion! I used two cups water, one cup basmati rice, 1/2 cup grated carrots and 1/2 onion finely diced. Also tossed in a little sesame oil to promote an Asian spin. Cook like usual.

Tofu was simple and felt like cheating. I used a sesame ginger marinade and left the cubes in the fridge for 30 minutes. Toss into a hot pan and voila - seems like I tried hard but didn't. What's better than that? Threw in some Sriracha and a dollop of the marinade - dinner!

Dinner Two: Broccoli, Potato & Leek Soup with Grilled Cheese & Tomato Tapanade Sandwich

Oopsy Daisy! I fell asleep in the late afternoon with by beloved Kindle and got a late start on dinner. Just a couple of pics as I was starving and needed to eat it..

Started with roasting the remainder of my broccoli. This is how it should look for maximum tastiness.

For the soup, I found a great recipe that I largely stole from a blog called Kitchen Sojourn. She uses the starch in the water from boiling the potatoes as the soup's thickening agent so milk, butter, cream are not necessary. Brill!

Four large potatoes diced down - fill pot with cold water one inch over potatoes
Crank on high heat and cover with a tight lid

In a separate pan, I heated chopped leaks and some extra spinach from a dip I concocted two days ago. Use it or lose it!

When the potatoes are cooked (do not drain), throw in 80% of roasted broccoli and all of the leeks and "extras" from your fridge. Blend in your blender in batches and then toss in the remaining roasted broccoli for some texture at the end.

I served with grated vegetarian cheese and a few croutons (and a few drops of pepper sauce - I simply cannot help myself!)

For the grilled cheese - Ridiculously simple. Roasted red pepper tapenade from Trader Joes, vegetarian cheddar and little bit of dijon mustard. The tapenade gives it some color and an unexpected kick.

Yum. Broccoli. And scene.