A home for all things crafty, health-conscious, cake-related, or in need of a wagon!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Chocolate Fudgy Oatmeal Cookies

Decided to make some cookies on Friday... and there are still some around!

Chocolate Fudgy Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero
(says it makes 2 1/2 dozen, but I got 51 cookies from it!)

2 cups quick cooking oats
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 Tbsp. ground flax seeds
2/3 cup soy milk
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. almond extract
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup walnuts
1 cup raisins or dried cherries (optional)

Preheat oven to 350*. Mix together the dry ingredients, then slowly add the wet ones. Add the walnuts last, and mix until just combined. Drop by the spoonful onto a parchment-covered cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies are firm and risen. Let cookies rest for 5 minutes before moving to cooling racks.

These were really good! (and mostly healthy) I keep wishing I'd added some cherries though, so next time, that's what I'll try. :)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Veggie Pizza with Sneaky Pesto

What I made for dinner last night...

Grilled Veggie Pizza with Sneaky Pesto

Crust (adapted somewhat from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything):

1 packet rapid-rise yeast
4 1/2 cups flour (I did a mixture of white and wheat- about 3/4 wheat total)
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 cups hot water (about 120*; I measure with a candy thermometer since I get this too hot sometimes)
3 Tbsp. olive oil

In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, the salt, sugar, and yeast. Add the water and olive oil. Mix together, and add the remaining flour. Cover with a towel, and put in a warm place to rise for 1-2 hours. (I left mine for about 3 hours since I did it before class.)

Sneaky Pesto: (because there's no oil!)

1/3 cup frozen green peas
1-2 handfuls fresh basil
1 clove garlic
1 Tbsp. parmesan cheese
1-2 Tbsp. walnuts
1/4-1/3 cup water

Mix all ingredients in a food processor or blender. If it is too thick or won't blend, add a bit more water, 1 Tablespoon at a time.

Making the pizza:

After the dough has risen, split it into 2 portions. Form each one into a flat round shape, and let rest for about 15 minutes. You can put this onto a greased cookie sheet/pizza pan, or use parchment paper. Preheat your oven to 500*.

Spread some of the pesto onto your crust. Add veggie toppings that you like. (I sauteed up some zucchini and red pepper, and used a can of marinated artichoke hearts.) I've learned the hard way (i.e. MANY undercooked doughs) to use less vegetables than I would like to, and that way the crust gets done and is the most delicious. Add some cheese (I used goat cheese). Bake at 500* for about 15-20 minutes.

Warning! This is a very hot temperature for your oven, and every time I opened it to check it, my smoke detector went off... so have ventilation ready if necessary!

Yum, yum, yum!!

Sun Calculator

I got this new device as part of a birthday present. Its' job is to measure the sunlight in an area, and tell you if it's technically shade/partial shade/part sun/full sun. You need to put it out early in the morning, turn it on, and leave it for 24 hours; it only gathers info for 12 hours, so you can't put it out the night before. I'm wondering if it matters that we haven't hit peak "sun" hours yet, as it keeps telling me that everywhere I've tested is only "partial shade"- even when I cheated yesterday, and moved it to different areas of the deck! We shall see what it says tomorrow, since today it was in the sunniest area of our yard- the front hill. (Where I'm planning to grow all my fruits and vegetables this year, whether it says to or not!)

It's attached to a convenient stake, so you can put it in a pot directly, or into the ground. This is to approximate the height of a plant that you would grow there. I'll give you an update soon!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Prepping the garden

So, this year I've decided to start some asparagus plants. It can take a couple of years before you can harvest them, so I wanted to put them in a place that can be left alone for a long time. Here's what I started today... I mixed some compost with some vegetable potting soil. (Both organic, and made specifically for planting vegetables in the ground, as opposed to in containers.) The problem with my gardening "hill" is that it's covered in about 4 inches of bark; and while it's nice and easy for plants to move, it is not soil by any stretch of the imagination. So, my goal is to add a bunch of soil, mixing it up just a bit. Eventually, I plan to have 2 or 3 raised beds over there, since it gets the most sun in the whole yard.
So, I picked an unobtrusive spot, and starting dumping dirt mixed with compost.

Then I planted the asparagus roots, about 10" apart. I bought 22 plants, and they will not all fit here! I think I managed to get 9 in this space. Then I watered it. I'll do some more tomorrow, and in a while I'll have an asparagus forest!

This corner is already done, with a variety of strawberries, and some garlic.

And this is my onion patch, with my new ranuculus flowers! I'm sure I'll have more to share soon.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Oatmeal Rosemary Scones

Maybe I should have named this the month of breads instead!

Anyway, we made these in class this week, and they were SO GOOD I had to share them with you! In honor of St. Patrick's Day, we made Green Leprechaun Soup, and these scones (which, yes, technically are more of an English thing than Irish... but I don't care! They have a touch of green in them!)

Oatmeal and Rosemary Scones
1 cup oats (not quick cooking)
3/4 cup white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
10 Tbsp. butter (1 stick, plus 2 more Tbsp.)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp. rosemary (fresh, or dried)
Kosher salt
In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.
On a cutting board, cut up the butter into small squares. The secret to scones is to have the butter really cold, and to stay in small pieces throughout the dough, so you want to work quickly. After the butter is mostly incorporated, add the buttermilk. Mix it together a bit, but you might need to use your hands to fully get all of the dry ingredients mixed. Add the rosemary, and mix it some more. (If it's too dry, feel free to add up to 2 more Tbsp. of buttermilk.)

Put a small amount of flour onto a clean tabletop or cutting board. Take out half of the mixture and form it into a flat circle. Cut it into 8 equal pieces. Place on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper, and sprinkle with a bit more kosher salt. Repeat the smushing and cutting of the second piece of dough. Bake at 375* for 17-20 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Enjoy!

How to Read a Seed Packet

There are many types of seed packets, but they generally have some similar information on them. This first one is a pretty minimal one, without a ton of guidance on it:

It tells you when to plant it, how deep, and roughly how long it takes for the plant to grow. However, this type of packet is better:
(Notice both packets have dates on the side, that's the year that the seeds were packed for. I have some that are several years old that still work, just know that the closer you are to the current year, the more likely it is that all seeds will sprout.)
This one shows the zones in the U.S. (we are zone 7 here, and most things will grow, surprisingly) It tells you how long before the seeds sprout (germinate), and how long before you'll actually get something to harvest.
It also says to plant them 1 inch deep, and about 6 inches apart. Sometimes they talk about "thinning"- this means to pull out some plants after tons of them have sprouted close together. To me, this has always seemed rather wasteful; so instead, I just plant less and a little bit further apart. A good rule of thumb is to plant a seed three times as deep as the size of the seed. A bigger seed needs to be planted deeper in the soil than a tiny seed does. If you planted a tiny carrot seed under one inch of soil, it might never sprout! So, pay attention to the size of your seeds.
There are also some seeds that do better if you soak them before planting. I usually just do this for sweet peas (flowers, not actual peas), but you can also soak most beans or edible peas before planting too.
Send along your questions, and I'll answer them the best I can!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Creating a Garden Plan

Rooftop garden!

Lately, I've been spending a lot of time trying to plan out my garden for this year. Now that I've gone from just a small patio to almost a third of an acre... there's a lot more to do!! I have to see which things will be permanent, and what will be just for this year. So far, I ordered some hazelnut trees and raspberry starts from http://www.willisorchards.com/, which we just planted yesterday. I also have some seeds and rhubarb starts coming from http://www.burpee.com/, and went a little crazy at the seed sale at Fred Meyer a couple of weeks ago. And... Seattle Tilth is having a seed start sale next Saturday! (http://www.seattletilth.org/) I love them, and I'm sure they'll have some great things; it starts at 11:00, so get there early!

When you're ready to start planning your garden, there are a few things you can do before you even go shopping. First, assess your area; does it get a lot of sun, or not very much. You can grow a lot of things without all-day-long sun, but you do need some to grow most vegetables. Tomatoes did fine on my patio, even though they probably only got about 4 hours of sun a day. To see how much sun you get without sitting around, staring at your yard all day, they have some new types of sun meters that you can just leave out, and they'll give you a pretty accurate readout. I just got one from Burpee today, so I'll let you know how it works. The best reason for doing this is so that you don't waste time and money on planting things in places that they won't grow very well.

Next. you can choose the things that you would like to grow. Do they make tall plants (like corn or peas/beans that need to climb?) or are they low to the ground (like lettuce)? You should plant the taller things in the "back" of the shorter ones, in the direction that they get the most sun- so that the taller ones don't shadow the shorter ones. Figure out which plants can be planted early, and which ones need to wait; you can either rotate them in the same space, after the first plant has died back, or start some things now and newer plants a few weeks later. Do some research about which plants you might like to sprout indoors (like things that have very long growing periods, like squash) or which ones might be better to buy as a plant, rather than a seed. I've decided after several years that tomatoes are just not really worth it to start from seed, unless it's a really specific variety that I want.

Finally, look at your area, and decide if things are going in pots or in the ground. The good thing about pots is that you can move them around to get more sun, but they can be pretty heavy. This year I'm working on some raised beds with all imported soil; the idea being that you keep out the weeds, have workable soil that you don't have to test, and can reuse for a long time. I got this idea from The Square Foot Garden people, and we'll see how it goes! (I'm not as hardcore about separating things into tiny squares as they are.)

It can be hard to figure out exactly when to plant things, especially if you have unpredictable weather like we do here. I've been working out a database to tell me when to plant things, and what to plant them with.. I'll have more details when it's done!
Up next, how to read a seed label!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Maple Pecan Scones

OMG. Pioneer Woman

wants to kill me

with deliciousness! (and I made almost 3x as many as she said, using the same recipe.)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Cheddar Onion Biscuits!

As opposed to yesterday's entry, these are gluten-full. I'd made some slow cooker soup for dinner today, and suddenly decided that I needed some sort of bread or biscuits to go with it. After reading Pioneer Woman for a while (http://www.thepioneerwoman.com/), I came up with an idea for cheddar onion biscuits... but hers started with 4 cups of milk. I do not have 4 cups of milk, so on to Mark Bittman we go!

Cheddar Onion Baking Powder Biscuits (adapted from How To Cook Everything)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 scant tsp. salt
7 tsp. baking powder (or 2 Tbsp + 1 tsp if you measure like me)
1 tsp. baking soda
4 Tbsp. cold butter
7/8 cup milk
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 an onion, chopped, and sauteed in a pan with cooking spray

Start off by chopping and sauteeing your onion, until it is brown:
In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, salt, baking powder and soda, and the butter. Run until the butter is chopped into small pieces, then add the milk. Blend again, until the batter comes together. (Stop and scrape the sides if you have to.)

On a well-floured counter, turn out the dough and knead. Add some more flour, as it will be sticky! Then, by the handful, add the grated cheese. Knead to incorporate. After you finish the cheese, add the onions.

Knead them into the bread as well. If they try to escape, add some more flour. Break into 12 small pieces, and place them into the sections of a well-sprayed muffin tin.

Bake at 450*, for about 13 minutes; until a toothpick inserted in the center one comes out clean. You can also top them with a little bit of dried chives, or some other herbs you like.

Remove from pan with a butter knife. Let cool, and enjoy!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Gluten free/Vegan Thumbprint Cookies

So, this is the first recipe I've tried out from Flying Apron's baking book. Of course I adapted it just alittlebit. :) Seriously, it's really rare that I just use a recipe straight up.

Thumbprint Cookies
Makes 44 cookies, by my count

2 3/4 cups brown rice flour
1 1/2 cups plus 1 Tbsp chickpea flour (garbanzo bean)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. grated orange zest
1/2 cup canola oil (they use 1 cup oil, I do half applesauce, half oil)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup sugar
1 cup soy milk (they use rice milk, to avoid soy allergies)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. nutmeg, freshly grated
about 1/2 cup jam (I used Fig Bonne Maman jam, they also have an apricot puree recipe)

Preheat the oven to 375*. Combine the flours, and other ingredients, up to the orange zest. In the bowl of a mixer, combine the sugar, oil, and applesauce. Set mixer on medium, and alternate adding soy milk and the flour mixture, until it is all combined. Add vanilla, almond extract, and nutmeg, and mix again.

Drop by spoonfuls onto a parchment-covered baking sheet. Leave 3 inches between cookies. Use a spoon to make an indent in the cookie, and then fill with about a teaspoon of jam.

I also made a batch using Nutella as the filling, but I did that after they had baked. Don't think Nutella would heat well. I also tasted the batter at this point, and it seemed a little weird to me, which is why I added the extracts and nutmeg (not in original recipe)

Bake for 14-15 minutes, until they start to brown. These made a lot of really tasty, soft cookies. Everyone ate them up!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

New Cookbook!

I am always on the lookout for new cookbooks, so I was really happy when I came across this today. It's written by Jennifer Katzinger, who runs a vegan, gluten-free bakery in Seattle called Flying Apron. After flipping through it, I knew that this could be the book that inspires me to teach a gluten-free baking class. No crazy weird ingredients (like coconut oil in every recipe; I'm talking to you, Babycakes!) or flours you can only get in back alley shops; just things I already own! Most of them use a combination of brown rice flour and garbanzo flour; not 5 different grains, causing you to have piles of stuff in your cupboard that you never use. I'm already impressed!

And I'll surely let you know once I've tried something from it; it could be as early as tomorrow!

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Month of Snax!

Yes, the Season of Soups is OVER. (well, until I have another soup recipe to post) :) I now declare March to be the Month of Snacks! Here are some good (and healthy) ones I've been having lately:

1.) Popcorn- actual air-popped popcorn, with melted margarine and salt. None of that microwave crap anymore!

2.) Veggies and Hummus- TJ's has my favorite "Spicy Hummus", but Costco's Meze hummus is good too. I've been having lots of chopped up broccoli and carrots lately, but you could try peppers, jicama, celery... just about anything that's good raw, really.

3.) Apple+ peanut butter- Mmmmm....

4.) Triscuits+ cheese. 4 Triscuits (the reduced fat ones) = 1 point on WW, and with about an ounce of cheese, you are good to go!

5.) Pistachios- I read somewhere lately that this is one of the lowest calorie nuts out there, plus they are my mom's favorite, and ultra tasty! (and green) :)

6.) Japanese roasted peas- I thought I got the wasabi kind, but turns out they were just the regular ones. Still very good! (and kids actually like them!)

7.) Yogurt with jam- I get just the plain or vanilla kind, then add some fruit or jam to give it a new flavor. Yum!