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Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Day Monkey Bread!

I have been eating way too much lately. Too many cookies, too many sweets, giant dinners... Christmas was no exception. This is the one day a year that I make the sugar-encrusted monkey bread. (that's surprisingly vegan) Boy, is it tasty (and easy to make!). After this year though, I may never make it again... or at least will make a smaller amount!

Monkey Bread:
4 containers crescent rolls (the fun ones that pop when you open them)
1 stick margarine
1 cup pecans
1/2 cup raisins
around 1 cup brown sugar
copious amounts of cinnamon, 1 Tbsp plus more for sprinkling
In a small saucepan, melt the margarine on the stove. Add the sugar and about 1 tablespoon of cinnamon, and mix. Open up the rolls, and tear each "roll" into about 3 pieces. Roll them into a ball, and place in your greased baking pan. Make a layer along the bottom of your pan.
Meanwhile, toast the pecans in a shallow baking dish, at 350* for about 20 minutes.
Sprinkle the dough pieces with pecans, more cinnamon, and raisins.
Then dot the whole thing with the margarine/sugar/cinnamon mixture.Repeat with another layer of bread pieces and sugar mixture. Bake at 375* for about 40 minutes; until the bottom layer is done and not mushy. If it looks like it's getting too brown on top and not soft, cover with some foil until the other pieces of bread are done.
Mmmm.... Can you feel the cavities already?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Garden planning

So, the other day, I got a catalogue from these people in the mail...

www.burpee.com

and I've already started planning my next year's garden! They know good timing, that's for sure! Some of my tax return will go to them right away.
I think I'm going to do a 2'x4' strawberry patch up on top of my hill, then 3 or 4 4'x6' little raised beds. We already have a mature blueberry bush, and two baby ones (that did nothing at all this year, and basically look like sticks), so I might get a couple more of those too. I need to go through my seeds and see what I bought last year that I didn't even plant yet (soybeans, anyone?) and what might still be good (Italian runner beans? Sunflowers? Now that I have an area with a high fence, I'm ready to try!) I'll let you know as it progresses!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Goat Cheese Polenta!

This has been one of my favorite things to make this winter. :)

Goat Cheese Polenta:
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
2 leeks, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 tsp. thyme
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. olive oil
2 cups dry polenta
4 cups water
1 vegetable bouillion cube
3 oz. goat cheese

In a frying pan, heat the butter and oil over medium high heat until melted. Add the mushrooms, leeks, thyme, and celery, and cook for about 5 minutes. In another saucepan, heat the water until boiling. Add bouillion cube, and stir. When water is boiling, add the polenta. Cook for three minutes, until polenta starts to set. Mix in the cooked vegetables, and pour into a greased baking dish.
Crumble goat cheese over the top. Grind some pepper and salt over the top. Bake in a 350* oven for about 30 minutes, until the cheese starts to brown.
Enjoy!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

OMG Shortbread!

Shortbread is one of those things that I really only make in December. It also is one of those cookies that breaks my butter rule; meaning, it HAS to have butter. I'm really not sure if veganized shortbread would be quite as good. For something with only like 5 ingredients, it gets to be pretty important.A few years ago, Martha had an article that was something like "Shortbread: 18 ways". I finally found it two days ago, and here it is... with my adaptations, of course. :)

Shortbread Cookies
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. salt
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Add-ins:
Chopped walnuts or almonds
Orange zest
Dried cranberries, roughly chopped
Dried cherries, roughly chopped
Chocolate chips

Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the salt, flour, and vanilla. On a sheet of waxed or parchment paper, roll the dough into a log.
Roll the dough in your choice of add-ins, or add them to the batter. I put in orange zest, a little orange juice, and chopped cranberries to one batch, and chopped cherries, chocolate chips, and about 1/4 tsp. almond extract to another... and rolled it in slivered almonds. Roll up in the parchment, and refrigerate for an hour or so.

Slice, and bake at 325* for about 25 minutes, until browned. Mmm... mmm... mmm!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Tamales, The Finale!

Ok, now that you have all of your ingredients assembled, it's time to get to work! Take out a large corn husk and open it up. Spread about a quarter cup of masa on the inside of the corn husk. (leave space at the top and bottom) Then add your fillings. Put them in the middle of the masa, so that when you fold it, there will be some dough on either side.
Fold your corn husk closed:
Fold up the bottom:
Tie with a small piece of corn husk; or you can tie two small pieces together.

Place on top of a steamer that you've put in a large pot. The pot should be about 1/3 of the way full with water.
If you have 2 smaller corn husks, you can overlap them like this, to use as one big one.

If your tamales don't all fit in the pot, cook them in batches.
Heat up the water until it's boiling. Cover the tamales with wet paper towels, and steam for about an hour. (Check every 20 minutes or so to make sure there's still water in the pot. You don't want to burn them!)
You'll know they're done when the masa is semi-hard and a darker yellow color. Not squishy dough!
Serve with your choice of salsa or sauce and enjoy!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tamales, Exhibit B: Masa

So, according to my book, to make masa you should use:

5 cups masa
2 sticks of margarine
2 cups of vegetable broth

When I did it this time, it seemed a bit too dry; so when I did Round Two of tamales (dessert ones) I changed the ratio to 4 cups masa: 2 cups liquid.

So... in your mixer, blend up the margarine and a little of the masa until it is smooth. Then add more masa, and broth, until it makes a nice spreadable dough. Also add in 1 tsp of salt.

Then, lay out your other ingredients. For me, this was to chop up the chiles and olives, marinate the tofu for a couple of hours, mix up some frozen corn and canned black beans, and cut some cheese into strips.


Up next? Assembling, and steaming! (almost done!)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tamales! Exhibit A

I LOVE making tamales! They do take quite a bit of time and preparation though, so I'm going to take a few posts to lay it out for you. First, gather your ingredients:

This is the book I use every year as a source for tamale-making. It is fantastic!

You need to for sure get some masa; I've found mine at pretty much any major grocery store, including Safeway, so it hopefully shouldn't be too hard to find. This year, I made a combination of three types of tamales: green chile/pepperjack, black beans/corn, and olives/tofu in a red chile sauce. My book had a recipe for how to make the sauce, but I decided since the rest was so much work, I would take any shortcut I could get (hence the El Pato tomato sauce up there.)
When buying olives, I usually just get regular, extra large ones. I have never even heard of Colossal olives. Boy, are we in for a treat!
Look how huge these are!
I really couldn't believe it either!

Part one: Soaking the corn husks
You will also need to get a package of dried corn husks (hojas). Get a giant pot, put in the corn husks, and fill it with warm to hot water. You will need something heavy to hold down the husks, so find a bowl or mug or something. (see above!) Let them sit in the water for at least 8 hours, up to 24 or so. I usually start this either in the morning when I want to make tamales, or the day before.
Up next? Making tamales!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Indian-style Lentil Soup, Part Deux

You might remember an Indian-type soup I posted in early October? http://homegrowncookingschool.blogspot.com/2009_10_01_archive.html

Well, this one is different! No pumpkin this time, but still very tasty!

1 cup lentils
1 tsp. olive oil
1" piece of fresh ginger, grated
1/4 tsp. garam masala
2 tsp. curry powder
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. mustard seeds
1/4 c. coconut, shredded
1 tomato, diced small
1/2 eggplant, very small dice (probably regular sized dice to most people)
5-6 cups water
1 vegetable bouillon cube
1 cup carrots, diced
1 zucchini, diced
4 leaves collard greens

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds. Heat for a minute or so, until they start to pop. Add ginger, garlic, and spices. After about 3 minutes of cooking, add the water, bouillon cube, and eggplant. Let the eggplant cook for about 10 minutes, then add the lentils. (I like my eggplant to be really cooked and mushy.) Cook for 10 more minutes, then add the tomato, carrots, coconut and zucchini. Let boil, and cook until the lentils are done and start to fall apart. (about 20 minutes total) Chop up the greens and add about 5 minutes before you are ready to eat.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Walking in Winter, part 2

Some more things that are still alive...

Our lavender plant:
Purple kale (I love this!):
Pussywillow? Or something that looks like it:

Mystery trailing purple plant:


The biggest rosemary bush I've ever seen!:
Hens and Chickens:
And some heather:
(only just now realized that most of these things are some shade of purple. Can you tell that's my favorite?)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Walking in Winter, part 1

Even though it's been really cold lately, the sun is out, so I've been going walking. I was wondering what things might actually still be alive right now, and I found quite a few plants enjoying the holidays.
Mystery red berry:
Actual ice! (not a plant, but I think there are some leaves trapped in there...)
The most perfect pine cone ever!
I have no idea what this awesome tree is, but it looks more cactus-like than a pine in real life.
And some decorations...
Outdoor tree:
Giant rainbow lights, that I am secretly (or not so secretly) jealous of...
More to come later!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like...

You know how you can really tell what time of year it is? When you start seeing this at Trader Joe's:
I LOVE these. They are soo good, and they're vegan! (The chocolate-covered ones aren't, but I try to limit myself to one box a year since they're so crazy good.)

I noticed that this year, TJs has a ton of what I would call "new" holiday-type dessert products; mini gingerbread men, and various chocolate goodies. I'm going to have to stock up soon!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Pecan Pie Cookies

I know, you've been waiting for this for a while, and here it is!

Pecan Pie Cookies (adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies, my new favorite cookie book)

For the dough:
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup neufchatel cheese (or cream cheese, Martha uses mascarpone)- 4 oz
4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) butter, at room temp
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt

For the Filling:
1 large egg
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup (or just more brown sugar)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. butter
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350* and toast your pecans: Place in a shallow, greased baking dish, and place in oven for about 15-20 minutes. Trust me, the pecans are like 1000 times better after they've been toasted.
After they have cooled down, we'll start the dough. In a food processor, grind up 1/2 cup of the pecans. Add the cream cheese and butter, and blend. Then add the flour and salt. Be careful not to blend too much, or it may try to break your machine. Just get it into a ball, and scrape out the rest.

Now get out your mini-muffin tin. (You could probably use a regular one, but I don't think it would make very many cookies.) Spray it with nonstick spray, and fill the holes with a small amount of the pastry dough. (about a tablespoon full). Spread the dough up the sides of the spaces, and try to make it an even thickness.
Make the filling:
Whisk together the egg, brown sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, and butter in a medium-sized bowl. Stir in the rest of the pecans. Put a small amount into each pastry shell.

Bake at 350* about 15 minutes, until the crust turns golden brown. (Time will be longer if you make larger ones in regular muffin tins. I would also double the whole recipe if that's the route you choose.) Let cool completely before trying to remove from pan.
YUM.
Seriously. Look at the deliciousness!

Then get someone else to do your dishes. :)

Show everyone what a pro you are.