Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Bagels for Beginners

Bagels are really not much harder to make than a loaf of bread. However, they can be a bit time consuming since cooking them involves a two step process. First, they are boiled to give them a chewy texture and then they are baked to finish the cooking process. I like to surrender to the bagel making process and make a monsterous batch. After a few times, the process becomes very rhythmic and relaxing. Robert, who's 7, thought this was great fun.

The recipe I used was inspired by the cinnamon yeast bread recipe in Rhonda Barfield's Feed Your Family for $12 a Day. I mix my bread dough in an old fashioned bread bucket but I'm certain a Kitchen Aid type mixer would work well too.

Cinnamon Raisin Bagels
4 cups warm water
1 1/2 Tbs yeast
2 tsp salt
3 Tbs blackstrap molasses
1/4 cup canola oil

Let this sit and begin to bubble for about 15 minutes. Then add:
8-9 cups of whole wheat bread flour

Once its all combined, I stir it (this takes the place of kneading) for about 12 minutes in my bread bucket. Cover and let sit 15 minutes. Divide dough into four large balls. Flatten the balls out slightly and sprinkle the following over the top of each dough ball:
1 Tbs brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
a handful of raisins

Work these into the the dough and divide each ball into 6-12 little balls, depending on how large you want your bagels to be. You'll find that cinnamon and sugar shoot out of the dough as you do this, once you've made the ball roll it in what has ended up on the table.

Flatten these out and stick your finger in the center to make the hole. Place them on a greased cookie sheet and cover. Let rise for 30 minutes. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil, add 1 tsp of sugar to help with browing and reduce to a simmer. Add four bagels to the water. Simmer for 3 minutes, then turn and simmer 4 minutes on the other side. Take out of the water with a slotted spoon and pat dry. Place back on the greased cookie sheet. This is the step that takes the most time. Repeat with remaining bagels. Once you have a full cookie sheet, bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

When you are done simmering the bagels, you're left with water that has a fair amount of cinnamon and raisins in it. We used it to make oatmeal.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Bulk Cooking With the Boys

Here's what we made on Sunday. Remember the list is based on my sons' requests with a little guidance from mom.

A large pot of split pea soup
A large pot of chickpeas that became Cheezy Chickpeas and Hummus using recipes from the Vegan Lunchbox
A double batch of a Cinnamon Raisin Bread recipe that I adapted from Feed Your Family For $12 per Day which was made into 96 bagels
Vegan Cheez Crackers, there's no time in my world to shape them into goldfish! I used whole wheat pastry flour in mine.
a large pot of white beans that will become a sandwich spread
5 loaves of banana bread
a double batch of oatmeal crispy cookies (which were not at all crispy)

Yesterday, for lunch and snack they took cheez crackers and hummus (the goal was to dip the cheeze cracker into the hummus. It seemed to work because there was none of either left). The cheezy chickpeas were eaten at snack time along with and carrot coins. Two oatmeal crispy cookies finished out lunch. They both demolished the lunches.

The hummus recipe that Jennifer has in The Vegan Lunchbox is delightfully generic in that no taste is too strong. Personally, I love the slightly overpowering garlicky taste of more traditional hummus but, alas, I am alone in this. However, even I really enjoyed this hummus recipe.

Naturally, the crackers are long gone but there is still some hummus left. I attempted to make a zweiback toast to go along with the remaining hummus. We'll see how that is recieved today. Split pea soup was also requested to go along with lunch. So far my sons are thrilled with the input they've had into their lunches even though it meant they had to help in the cooking process.

Bagel making was actually a lot of fun, I'll detail the process tomorrow.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Sprouts and Bulk Cooking a Lunch Menu

My sprouting attempt went very well. As planned we added the sprouts to the Cold Thai Sesame Noodles and the results were delicious. The sprouter lids really did make the whole process incredibly easy. I'll be starting up a new batch this afternoon. I'd like to get in the habit of starting sprouts a day or two apart to give us a constant supply.

Its kind of addictive watching the sprouts grow. For gardeners, its got to be the closest thing to instant gratification that there is. The boys really got a kick out of watching them as well.

Speaking of my sons, bulk cooking on Sunday revolved largley around their lunches this time around. They were developing "look at all the crap in my friends lunch box" envy and had begun to beg for a taste here and there. It seemed like the right time to give them a greater say in their noontime meal.

I started by having Rob list his favorite lunches. Then, to get ready for our own version of the vegan lunch box, we went right to the source. I had Rob peruse my copy of The Vegan Lunch Box as well as several other cookbooks.

I'll be reviewing the total cooking experience as well as his reactions to our creations tomorrow. This much I already know, the cinnamon raisin bagels we made are a HUGE hit with everyone in the house

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Isa Chandra Moskowitz NY Times Article

I just found out about this article from one of the vegetarian lists I belong to. Its definitely worth a read.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Featuring My Special Guest Cooks

Its Regents week for my daughters. That means they have testing on some days but no school on several days. Yesterday Leenie decided to use her day off to make dinner. She was able to get her youngest brother, Kyle, in on the act as well.

She made pizza using the frozen pizza dough that we made this weekend. To get the dough to defrost quickly, she placed it, in its container, on my unheated cast iron griddle and let it sit for a few hours. A few years back they were marketing some magical metal doodad that you placed things on to speed up defrosting time but a cast iron griddle sitting on your countertop works just as well.

They even made the buffalo mosterella cheeze from Joanne Stepaniak's Uncheese Cookbook. The pizza was delicious!

I'm a drop cookie kind of a mom but Leenie and Kyle took the time to make a batch of heart shaped molasses cookies for dessert! They even cleaned up the kitchen. They must have had telepathy because I got home from work late yesterday.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What's Sprouting at My House

I'm giving sprouting a try again. I broke down and purchased Sprout-Ease 3 Screen sprouter lids. These fit on top of wide mouth mason jars, which I happen to have plenty of. In the past I've tried this using cheese cloth stretched across the top of mason jars anchored with canning rings. I found it to be a huge pain in the behind.

These lids, on the other hand, are incredibly easy to work with. We're on day 3 of alfalfa sprouts and mung bean sprouts. Both should be ready to harvest tonight or tomorrow at the latest. We're going to try them in Cold Thai Sesame Noodles. I suppose its about time we did since that's what the original recipe calls for!

I like the idea of sprouting because its another way to cut our food costs while eating plenty of fresh veggies. I don't think anyone should skimp on their fruit and veggie intake, not even in the name of frugality. Its also a way to keep the gardening, which I miss so much, going in the winter. I'm curious to see how this turns out.

BTW, I did not purchase the sprouter lids directly from this website so I don't know what their customer service is like. I bought mine from my food cooperative for about half the price listed on that website.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Sunday in the Kitchen

We had a more organized and formal attempt at bulk cooking yesterday. Everyone in the family was involved and as a result we made:

2 batches of minestrone soup
2 batches of pasta e fagioli soup
2 batched of chili
6 loaves of bread
dough for 16 pizza crusts
4 dozen pumpkin muffins with currants and walnuts

Having a game plan certainly saved a lot of time and effort. It allowed us to concentrate our efforts by chopping all the onions, garlic, etc at one time. We also made a deal to stop by 3pm to allow everyone to take a break and reflect on the whole process.

In order to involve my 6 & 7 yr old, we found jobs that could be done without much help or supervision from us. Kyle spent a good deal of time tearing the collards off their stems while Rob peeled garlic. Leen spent a good deal of time on clean up while Tasha did a lot of cutting and gathering of ingredients. Jim & I filled in the gaps.

There were a few gaffs along the way. I forgot to let the baked squash drain before pureeing it for the pumpkin muffins. To save the muffins from becoming a crumbly mess, I added a cup of flaxseed meal to the batter (this works out to 1/4 cup per 12 muffins). Thankfully, this did the trick. The muffins were delicious.

I know I've said this before but I'd like to build on this. By combining my last bulk cooking effort with this one, we could really cover a lot of ground. Now I just have to present my findings to the committee!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Friday Freebies

Make your own gift certificates for next holiday season

Make Your Own Personalized books - this looks really cool for anyone with kids.

Here's a slightly unusual freebie but it has potential to be very eye opening. Annette and Steve Economides will be on 20/20 tonight. The episode is entitled Begging & Borrowing in America. It will look at consumer debt in America.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Links To The Newly Added Pictures

I added some pictures to older posts but I'm going to group them all together under the topic "photos" to make them easier to find. Thanks to Crystal for pointing out the need for this.

One of my earliest quilting projects was refurbishing my sons quilts. These had been bought at the end of the back to school season, ridiculously marked down but the fabric shell didn't wash well. You may be thinking who needs to wash quilts frequently? Any mother with small sons will tell you, you'd be amazed at how often their bedding becomes fouled beyond belief.

Using two of the extra heavy cotton bedsheets I inherited from my grandmother, I let each of the boys decorate what would become their new top of the quilt. Since these quilts were the ones used in the Adirondacks, I used fleece blankets for the back cover. The fleece blankets had been used on their toddler beds. The shorter and wider dimensions of the fleece blankets required that I cut one side and piece together the bottom but honestly this sounds much harder than it was. Fleece is extremely forgiving fabric to work with as the pile hides most of your stitches.

I used embroidery thread to knot the quilt to keep the original quilt from shifting around in its new cover. Here's what the final products look like.

BTW if you're looking for pictures of the denim quilt they haven't been posted yet. I still have to pull the quilts out of the closet to take the picture of them.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Baby Its Cold Outside

Its cold in NY! I have a day off during the week for the first time in months tomorrow! Aside from the zillions of things I need to do around the house, there's a thrift store I've been meaning to check out. So many decisions to make.

All kidding aside, I've set my sights on organizing my sewing projects tomorrow. There's the last panel of the curtain for the cabin. Longtime readers know that this has been an unfinished project for at least a year. There are jeans to be cut into square for future quilts. There are also miscellaneous clothes and scraps of fabric that need to find a home. I hope to fit the final pile into a laundry basket sized basket. Right now its growing and spreading like the blob.

I'm also hoping to begin adding photos to my blog with a little help from my daughter, Leenie. You'll finally get a peek at the quilt the kids made, the denim quilts I made, the bedspread curtain and more.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Breads & Books

I shared Barbara's bread recipe with a coworker who was very impressed after tasting a bite of it. She couldn't believe the taste, texture and, above all else, the softness of it.

When I made my batch this week, I shaped one recipe's worth into rolls and rolled them in sesame seeds. I did this after the first rising. Then, I let them rise along with the regular loaves of bread. I baked them for 20 minutes at 375 degrees. The results were quite good, although I think 20 minutes might have been a bit too long. I'll experiment more and share what I discover.

The main thing is, I finally had whole wheat rolls to put my veggie burgers on without mortgaging the house! Speaking of veggie burgers, my most common veggie burger recipe is leftovers plus a binder to hold them together but if you are ever looking for a truly great veggie burger recipe, check out the one in Vegan with a Vengeance.

Here's what I'm reading after a trip to the library this weekend:
Frozen Assets Lite & Easy by Deborah Taylor-Hough
Healthy at 100 by John Robbins
Enough is Enough, Exploding the Myth of Having It All by Carol Orsborn

Friday, January 12, 2007

Friday Freebies

Beano Sample This could be especially useful for anyone making their first foray into bean dishes!

Free Vegetarian Starter Kit You can order a hard copy or download one instead.

Free Shampoo recipes These look intriguing although I think I'd skip the MSM - sounds too creepy to me.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Pineapple Ice Cream

Last night I had a change of heart and made Fettucini Alfreda from VwaV. We threw in broccoli and sliced carrots. It was a big hit.

Last month our food cooperative had number 10 cans of organic pineapple on sale. After you eat all the pineapple, you're left with a considerable amount of pineapple juice. The boys are always willing to just drink the juice but I wanted to do something different with it. Here's what I came up with:

Pineapple Ice Cream (or if slushie if you prefer)

Combine the following in a high power blender:
1 1/2 cups vanilla soymilk
approximately 2 cups unsweetened pineapple juice
1 Tbs vanilla sugar (optional)
1 tray of ice cubes

I mixed this in my Vita-Mix on high power for about 30 seconds. If the mixture is more like a slushie and you want it firmer, you can add extra ice cubes or throw it in the freezer for a bit. My Vita-Mix has a tamper that you can use to press the mixture into the blades while the blender is running. This makes it easier to mix something more solid, like this recipe. If you are using a different blender you might need to stop and scrape down the sides a few times.

This was a huge hit with the kids.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Bread Storage Tip

Its week two of my "back to homemade bread" resolution. Last night I made another six loaves. I've found a unique way of cutting the cooling time while avoiding soggy bread due to condensation inside the container.

After taking it out of the oven, I let the bread cool for about five minutes before popping the loaves out of their pans. I let the loaves cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes. Then, I take my large stockpot or roasting pan and line the bottom with a clean dish towel. Next I place the loaves into it, not touching the sides of the pot/pan. I place another clean dish towel over the top of the loaves before placing the cover on the pot/pan. In the morning the towels are wet, the sides of the pot/pan are drippy but the bread isn't soggy. Since I seem to be baking my bread in the evening, this system allows me to get into bed without having to wait for the bread to cool first.

In freezer news, there seems to be a great deal of chopped fennel in my freezer. I used some last night in a lentil casserole last night and it was quite good. I might try sneaking some into the chickpeas I plan to make tonight. Also on tonight's agenda, making some breakfast muffins using some of the multitude of apple butter that is in the freezer.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Cuban Black Beans & Black Bean Soup

I love when the leftovers of one meal naturally lend themselves to become part of the next nights meal. This Cuban Black Bean recipe into Black Bean Soup is a great example of this.

Cuban Black Beans
Combine the following:
1 tsp olive oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced

Cook 2 minutes over medium heat and then add in:
2 tsp chili powder

Cook for 1 minute stirring constantly. Add in:
4 cups cooked black beans
a pinch of sugar
1 bay leaf
3-4 cups water, enough to cover beans

Simmer over low heat uncovered for 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf and add:
2 tsp cider vinegar
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce

Use a slotted spoon to serve this over rice with salsa.

This recipe inevitably leaves you with a lot of leftover broth, as well as some beans, a bit of rice and a bit of salsa.

Black Bean Soup
In a medium sized pot I combined all the leftovers from the above meal (broth, beans, rice, salsa and any veggies I have served with it)

chopped carrots
container of tomato paste
1-2 tsp of powdered vegetable broth

I heated this until the carrots were tender and viola, super simple black bean soup.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Quickie Cooking

Since it felt like spring in NY, we spent the weekend doing spring cleaning. The Christmas ornaments are put away, the garage has been reorganized and we've even repaired and moved around some furniture that we'd been meaning to get to for the last several months. As a result there are several boxes waiting to go to our local Salvation Army thrift store.

We kept our cooking simple this weekend to allow for maximum time cleaning. (Personally, I hate cleaning so when the mood strikes I have to run with it.) Lunch on both days was simple sandwiches or leftovers from the night before. Dinners were Cold Thai Noodles and vegan sloppy joes with black bean soup.

Vegan Sloppy Joes
Saute in a little water or olive oil:
1 onion, diced
1 cup or more of any of the following; chopped celery, chopped carrots, chopped peppers, chopped kale or collard stems - Use whatever you have on hand.

Stir in:
3 cups of tvp
3 cups of water
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp pepper

Cover and simmer 20-30 minutes. Serve over buns or rice. I think it tastes great cold for lunch the next day too.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Getting Started on Those Resolutions

A new year brings with it the inevitable resolutions. One of mine is to get back to baking my own bread. I really fell out of the habit this fall. I mostly blame my job but really, like exercising, its one of those habits that is easy to fall out of. Once you skip it, each time after that its a bit easier to skip. Frankly, with the delicious, soft bread that Barbara's recipe makes, there is no reason to buy bread ever again. Last night, I dusted off my bread bucket and made 6 loaves and I'm feeling quite good about it.

I've also resolved to live out of the freezer for as long as we can. There's a ton of stuff in there both fruits (mainly my homemade apple butter) and vegetables. There could be some very creative meals in my future as I work to balance nutrition and my freezer inventory.

Last night for dessert I made a variation on my Applesauce Pie in Oatmeal Crust. Instead of shaping the crust into a pie plate, I divided it into 6 balls and flattened these down on a greased cookie sheet. I baked them as I would the crust. Once they were cooked, I served them topped them with the applesauce mixture prepared as in the recipe. I liked this a lot better because it allowed me to use more applesauce and less sweet crust. Everyone else just thought they were yummy.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Winter Squash Seeds?

We're eating a lot of winter squash this time of year but what can you do with winter squash seeds? Actually, just like you can use winter squash in place of pumpkin in almost any recipe, you can bake the seeds of almost any winter squash just like you would pumpkin seeds. I actually think acorn squash seeds taste better than pumpkin seeds.

I bake the seeds in a 300 degree oven until they start to pop, about 45 minutes. I usually dry roast them but recently, I tried adding a tablespoon of tamari to them after they had begun to pop. I stirred it around and returned them to the oven for 5 minutes. Once cooled they were really delicious, although if you burn them with the tamari, they are almost inedible.

I've also ground the plain, cooked seeds into a flour and substituted it for half of the flour in my scone or pancake recipes. It gives a uniquely nutty flavor to the recipe. If you do this, be sure to really grind the seeds down to flour or you'll find little shards of seed getting stuck in your throat and the recipe won't hold together as well.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all! I always feel a bit introspective this time of year. Whenever I'm alone, with four kids this usually means when I'm in the shower, I find myself taking a mental inventory of the last year. No matter what my feelings are on the events of the prior year, reviewing them helps me plan for the upcoming year.

I'm especially pleased with the way holiday gift giving went this year. For the most part, everyone kept it low key. Since there are so many of us, my siblings and I drew names out of a hat for gift giving. Our spending limit for these gifts was $20-$25 and this made for some really thoughtful and creative gift giving. It helps that most of us have the "keep it cheap, ow it hurts to spend that much" gene.

I got my sister, Mary, a 1 year subscription to The HomeEconomiser Newsletter $12 and I pre-ordered her a copy of America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money $10.36. Certainly, its not the right gift for everyone but Mary and I tend to really be on the same page about finances.

In food news, I got a request for my chickpea scramble recipe. I thought I'd already posted it but apparently I hadn't. The chickpea scramble is basically my Potato Scramble recipe with about 4 cups of cooked chickpeas instead of potatoes. Here it is:

Chickpea Scramble
4 cups cooked chickpeas
2 onions, chopped
any or none of the following: chopped carrot, chopped broccoli, chopped kale or any other chooped vegetable
1/2 cup tamari
1 Tbs. nutritional yeast
1 Tbs. maple syrup

In a heavy pot, I'm partial to cast iron, brown the onions in a little olive or canola oil. Add the chickpeas and the optional items. Whisk together last three ingredients and pour over chickpea and onion mixture. Add water to just cover, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook covered about 25 minutes. To make it thicker mash 1/2 of the chickpeas before serving. Serve as is or as a crepe filling.