The Son of Franken-Crepe: Erin's Kitchen Disaster

>> Saturday, February 28



Can you find 5 things that are different between these pictures?
Hint: the direction of the wood grain and the spatula are not the answers we were looking for


I realized yesterday, reading over squeaky mouse’s blog for dessert ideas, that I should confess something. I often…OFTEN…mess things up in the kitchen. It’s part of the process, and none of the recipes here would exist without the 3 mutilated versions immediately prior. The convenience of blogging is, I can post whichever picture I want. But just for a change of pace, let’s see the other side of Erin’s kitchen today.

I’m in pancake mania, and being home sick isn’t helping anything. Someone, tell me, what do you do when you’ve got 500 recipes to try, most of them involve fermented doughs, you’re bored out of your mind (even though you have many better things to do), and it’s breakfast time? Shhh…you’re not actually supposed to give an answer. I like mine. You make fermented buckwheat crepes.

I made the batter yesterday as an experiment because we’re planning some sourdough pancakes this weekend (the binge has no end in sight). It’s been sitting in the living room doing its yeast-gathering thing, and is definitely not a bubbly sourdough starter today, but it’s got a nice eggy texture that was wholly unexpected. I’ve got some leftover Country Corn and Potato Stew (recipe forthcoming), also unexpected, so we’re kickin’ it Erin style and slapping two completely unrelated food items together for a single-serving breakfast, just because we can.


Basic Recipe
Makes 1 mini crepe and 1 shriveled bat-ear look-alike. A useful quantity for 1 not very hungry child

Put1 tbsp canola oil, a dash of salt, and a grind of pepper into a jar.
Add in about 1/3 cup of your fermenting starter (chickpea and buckwheat flour with water, left to sit overnight), which you weren’t supposed to use for another 2 days.
Add a splash of water to get the consistency right, and if you have water kefir or kefir whey handy, use that instead to get some tang in there.

Heat the pan (mine is nonstick, and I didn’t oil it) for about 1 millisecond and toss 1 spoonful (clearly not enough) batter into the pan. Pause thoughtfully as you realize your mistake, then drizzle more batter around the original plop, and turn the pan to coat the bottom, which won’t work because the center is already firmed and the outside is still to runny. Don’t worry, it’s all part of the plan.

Because it seems better to get this painful thing out of the way as quickly as possible, flip the bat-ear before it’s even lightly browned. It should gum up on the spatula, stick to the bottom, and break in multiple places. Then you can attempt to cleverly fold it in half, because…Jesus, I have NO idea why. It seemed logical at the time, but I can’t justify that at ALL. This will make things worse, because it has now dried out too much to fold, and in a fit of panic, you can heave the thing onto the table “tsk” ing. Whisper: “Curse you, you crepe-bastard…”

Don’t worry, we’re almost done. Then you can turn the heat up to just over medium, mix a little more water into the batter, and dump it all into the pan. Amazingly, miraculously, like wine from water, the puddle of monster goo blooms into a lightly sizzling crepe, which, a few seconds after pouring, is ready to be gracefully flipped onto it’s white belly and cooked to golden perfection.

Serve with warmed leftover stew and a few finely chopped leek greens on top. Mop up the liquid left on your plate with the leathery mutant crepe, because one small crepe is not very much food and it's already too late to make something else. Bonus: you've eliminated the evidence of just how badly you can cook.

(Although, this version was actually really good.)

Check back tomorrow for the perfected recipe of sourdough buckwheat crepes!

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Lemon-Poppy-Seed Cornmeal Pancakes (and a Googled education in corn)

>> Thursday, February 26


(Dani's, smothered in Quince Jam. That boy knows how to eat a pancake.)

I bet they’re better than your mama made ‘em.
Ok, mine never made cornmeal pancakes, which is shocking given the amount of cornmeal gluten-free cooks use, so go figure. It’s just that, these seem so very homey, simple, and country that I am really surprised I’ve never had them. Right now I’m equally surprised I’ve already had so many of them. Making up for lost time, that’s it…

Yesterday, slicing into a slab of cooled polenta on Daniel’s counter for breakfast, I got to wondering, “If I’ll eat a slimy-ish round of cold polenta with jam on it, why am I not just eating pancakes.” Yeah, it seemed unfair to me too.

The first and best recipe for “cornmeal pancakes” I found was from Natalie at Gluten-Free Mommy. The picture, especially, sold me, because while Natalie’s pancakes are totally gorgeous and glowing with fresh buttery-looking yumminess, mine are always rubbery and flat-nothing like the fluffy, crisp-edged wonders of my mom’s breakfast table. I adapted the recipe to be vegan and satisfied an urge for a bit of zing by adding fresh lemon juice, zest, and poppy seeds.


Everyone was ecstatic about the result, and I have to admit, I was fairly proud to have pulled off praise-worthy gluten-free pancakes. If I had known it was so simple, I could have pretended nonchalance and been wielding my magic creations over all you rubber-caked peons out there…so much for grandeur. I can suck it up and be the newbie for now-I had NO idea this was possible, and they are SO good.

In the process of creating my version of the recipe, I looked up a lot of information on corn. Apparently, that is one flexible little kernel-from white to yellow to blue, it can be starch-ed, stone-ground, meal-ed, flour-ed, mashed, boiled, pounded, or…nixtamalized…? Yeah, I said it, Nixtamalized. I bet you had no idea either. check out the “little blip about corn” at the end of the recipe to find out more...


Lemon-Poppy-Seed Cornmeal Pancakes

Ingredients (I had a hard time restraining myself and used an extra half of everything…apologies for the frequent “one-and-one-half-tablespoons” thing, but it worked out great):
  • 2 cups medium cornmeal (or fine polenta, for europeans)
  • ¼ cup rice or buckwheat flour (I used roasted red rice flour)
  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • 1½ TBSP poppy seeds
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1½ TBSP raw sugar
  • ¼ tsp xanthan/guar gum
  • egg replacer for 1 egg (or 1½ tbsp flax meal soaked in hot water for 10 minutes)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1 lemon…well, I used 1½ in the end
  • 1¾ cups dairy-free milk and/or yogurt (I used soy with a little soy yogurt stirred in to make it “buttermilky”)
  • ¼ cup canola oil

Directions:
  1. (Preheat the oven to the lowest setting for keeping your pancakes warm.)
  2. In alarge bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, xanthan/guar, sugar, salt, baking powder, and poppy seeds (and powdered egg replacer if using).
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and flax seed egg sub, if you’re using it.
  4. Stir in the milk slowly, hoping it doesn’t curdle. Mine didn’t, but the possibility seemed to exist…
  5. Mix everything together and add a splash of water if it’s too thick.
  6. Heat a griddle or pan over medium heat, lightly oiled, and pour out ¼ to 1/3 cups of batter for each cake. My batter was thick, and I tilted the pan a little to spread it out more, which worked great.
  7. Cook until lightly browned on the bottom and firm enough to flip, them brown the other side and let rest in the oven until they’re all done!

A Little Blip About Corn
Corn can be prepared in all sorts of interesting ways which alter its nutritional value, form, taste, and texture. Sure, there’s popcorn, corn meal, corn starch, corn flour, corn oil (that’s a bit strange, if you ask me…where exactly is the oil in a corn plant…?), corn syrup (another conundrum), etc. But then there are some really interesting things that only the mothers of corn-eating could have devised, like chicha, a fermented Incan drink traditionally made by old women sitting around chewing on the corn and then spitting it into warm water.

What got me wondering about corn was the bag of Masa Harina my roommate purchased to make corn tortillas a while ago. The corn flour in it has such a fine, white appearance and a strange, almost play-dough consistency when mixed with water. It’s nothing like fine polenta, or cornmeal, or corn starch, or…anything I’ve ever seen. I looked it up and sure enough it’s something else. It is the dried version of something I read about in Wild Fermentation and then promptly forgot: nixtamalized corn.

To nixtamalize corn, South and Central Americans traditionally cooked dried corn in lime (calcium hydroxide, not the fruit!). North American Indians used wood ash, but both are alkaline solutions, and the process makes niacin, among other nutrients, more available in the corn. This was crucial to the ancient cultures that depended on corn as a staple food. When settlers adopted a diet high in corn, and brought it back to Europe and other colonies, they left out the nixtamalization and got extremely sick because they weren’t getting everything they needed. Imperialism never pays off in the long run.

Masa Harina is, as I said, the dried version of nixtamalized corn, or “Nixtamal”. It’s not only way more nutritious that corn meal, but the special ingredient needed to make tamales, corn tortillas, and a variety of cool porridges and beverages. It’s also probably the reason that my “masa harina corn dumplings” came out more like mochi (sticky sweet rice) balls the other night. It is not a substitute for cornmeal, and corn meal is not a substitute for it, at least, never in entirety. Good to know!

Nixtamalized is also a really weird word, and a good one for impressing people, especially if you’re out drinking together. Just bust out with a, “Whatever dude, it’s all due to the decline of corn nixtamalization in the last 2 to 3 centuries-if corn production had never met western industrialization, we’d all be living off corn and beans; we’d be way healthier and gluten allergies might not even exist in the Americas today!” Ok, I have no basis for that claim, but it’s just a little food for thought.

Expect some masa harina recipes in the next few weeks, I am dying to try out some of the things I’ve been reading about. In the meantime, check out some of these websites, it’s really interesting!

a GREAT nutritional guide to gluten-free grains from About.com

Nutritional information for Masa Harina and cornmeal, to compare.
Info on Nixtamalization

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Recycled Bread 2: Kvass-Potato Paprikash

>> Wednesday, February 25


i
I guess Russia just invaded Hungary. Either that, or I am feeling sentimental about all the potato paprikash I ate there, and I want to recreate the experience with the things I have available. Primarily: leftovers from making kvass, a Russian drink made from stale bread soaked in water, sugar, yeast, mint, and lemon. The leftovers are a ball of mushy bread goo, and I couldn’t think of anything better to do with bread than make, um, bread. Next time you try out kvass-making, you know what to do next. Of course, you can make this bread without the kvass mush too. Substitutes are listed in the notes.

Kvass-Potato Paprikash Bread

As with my other recycled bread, this is a fairly dense loaf. It can stand alone as a hearty breakfast slice, but still makes a great sandwich, or a delicious appetizer sliced, roasted, and served with vegan mint raita.

Ingredients:
2 cups leftover mush from making kvass*
1 cup cornmeal SD starter
½ cup water kefir
2 tbsp molasses
2 tbsp kimchee brine (or water with salt and garlic)
2 potatoes, 1 grated, 1 chopped in thin slices
1/3 cup chopped leek
¾ cup polenta OR ¼ cup polenta and ½ cup recycled grain (leftover rice or something)
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
3 tbsp sweet or medium paprika powder plus some for garnish
¼ cup canola oil
2 tsp baking powder

Directions:

  1. Mix the sourdough starter with the molasses, polenta/polenta+grain, and water kefir. Leave covered in a warm place for 12-24 hours.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 F(190 C)
  3. Mix in everything but the oil and combine very well.
  4. Heat the oil until bubbly and mix it quickly into the dough.
  5. Scrape the dough into an oiled, floured casserole dish (makes a cornbread shaped loaf) and garnish with paprika.
  6. Put in the oven and reduce heat to 350 F (175 C)
  7. Bake for 30 minutes or until the loaf begins to come away from the sides. Cool before slicing

Notes:
*Subsititute: a leftover cooked grain, blended up into a thick mush (don't add liquid) would work fine, as would mashed potatoes and some flour. Or add another grated potato and enough flour to get a good consistency. Or, combine the above ideas.

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Savory Granola Success: Dankness and Beyond

>> Tuesday, February 24


Dank. It doesn’t mean dark and wet here. In Northern California lingo, it’s the epitome of GOOD. No, I don’t think you heard that right; Goo-OO-ooOOd. The stuttering, multi-syllabic one. There you go. That one.

As I wrote yesterday, I accidentally ate some gluten over the weekend and I have been functioning in a stupor of all the usuals ever since: indigestion, bloating, headache, and cravings. This granola is my answer to feeling nutrient- and fiber-deprived: pumpkin seeds and molasses for iron and calcium, plus more from the tahini; fiber from flax, oats, and “chufas nüssli,” and healthy fats from the flax oil and other seeds and nuts. Nutritional yeast for trace elements that GF-eaters can always use, and a dose of good intentions for healing up my digestive tract. And the olives are healthy, but I did it for the flavuh, because let me tell you...Mm. Mm-hm.

I put everything I had into this granola recipe, and I am pleased to say that somehow, it came out delicious. Of course, you can add the ingredients closest to your heart instead of the ones I chose-I just had a hankering for the taste of seedy-nutty-sesame-braggs-yeasty-goodness, a combination that tastes so much like home I might have woken my mom up from around the world just by listing them in that order. Dank. It’s really all I can say.

Spiced Savory Granola, GF and Vegan, of course!

Ingredients (don’t be intimidated, mix and match as needed, and see notes for help!):
½ cup activated sunflower seeds
1/3 cup activated pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup sesame seeds
½ cup flax seeds
¼ cup activated hazelnuts
½ cup GF oats
½ cup nutritional yeast
½ cup chestnut flakes
½ cup ground "earth almonds"*
1 tbsp rosemary
1 tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp cumin
1 tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp black pepper

1 small banana
1 tbsp braggs amino acids or tamari
1 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp molasses
10 kalamata olives
1 tbsp flax oil

You think I’m crazy, don’t you? Bananas and olives? yeast and molasses? What are Earth Almonds anyway??? Just come to the dark side of baking, that shadowy experiment lab, for an afternoon and try to tell me after it wasn’t worth it.

Directions:

  1. Grind the flax and fennel seeds into a coarse meal.
  2. In a mortar and pestle, or food processor, mix to a paste ½ the sunflower seeds, a few spoons of water, the hazelnuts, flax-fennel meal, and all the wet ingredients.
  3. As your seeds/nuts will probably still be wet from soaking, toss them in the wet ingredients and stir together.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients with a fork until combined.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and mix together. It should all be moistened and vaguely sticky. If you have dry spots left, add a splash of water and/or oil and mix again.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C). Oil a large baking sheet and spread the mixture out on the sheet, loosely breaking into clumps with a spoon or fork.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes, or until browned and mostly dry, stirring every 15 minutes to prevent burning.
  8. Let cool and enjoy!

Notes:
*sedge tubers. If the word 'tuber' confuses you, see here. Often the spanish word chufas is used on packaging. You can substitute nut meal of any kind or another mealy ingredient, or up the oats and omit them entirely.

A few tips to keep in mind for substitutions:
Savory granola is lacking the usual gooey component of honey, agave, or (blech) corn syrup that most sweet granola’s use. That’s why I used a banana, the tahini, the ground sunflower seeds, and the molasses, all of which moisten and bind. The banana doesn’t give any flavor to the finished granola, but you could substitute something else if you just don’t like the sound of it-applesauce or nut butters work well, but with nut butters, you will need to add something liquid to even out the thickness. Using flax meal also adds to stickiness, and is just fantastically healthy and good.
The point is, granola is simple, and you don’t have to follow any recipe to the t. Just add the things you like and see what happens, I truly don’t think you can go wrong.

(Ready for shelving in a recycled raw sugar bag :))

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Goodnight Gluten-Headache.

>> Monday, February 23

It happens to all of us every once and a while-no matter how diligent we are, a little gluten slips in when we least expect it. Maybe it was a new product you tried, and misread the ingredient label on; often it's a loving friend who just wants to offer something yummy and assures you falsely (albeit good-heartedly) that it's gluten-free. One thing's certain: you get a feeling of dread as soon as you realize what has happened.
This time, I was over at a friend's house for brunch. There was an akward moment of realization as I took my second bite of homemade fake meat ("Is it gluten-free?" "Yes, yes, just seeds and nuts and stuff, nothing with gluten...") and the cook listed off the ingredients excitedly:
"...sunflower seeds, and then a little old bread to hold it together-"
"Old BREAD?"
And a thundering silence. What's better is, the "gluten-free cake" of that evening was also laced with wheat flour, and the next day, I felt significantly bogged down with a load of unwanted feelings.
What are your symptoms like? Mine begin with a flushed, hot feeling, bloating, abdominal pain, and some other lovely unmentionables, and end with 1-2 days of headache, fatigue, intense sugar-cravings, and an upset stomach. It's not a process I enjoy and it's one I work really hard to avoid. Duh. Pain just isn't fun. But if I know it's coming, I better be willing to do something more than wait in terror, or I'll be adding placebo to reality and just compounding the damage. Positive thinking makes a difference. That's something I really believe. And no matter how tempting it is to curl up in self-pity, call in sick, and resent all gluten-eaters, I gotta realize it hurts no one but myself.

So, I'm trying to balance the damage by treating myself ridiculously well. First things first: Celiacs who eat gluten damage their intestines. That just sucks. The pain I feel in my abdomen is indigestion and the destruction of a few little villi, the fingers that absorb nutrients as food passes through. That means it's harder for me to get nutrients, and as many of you have probably experienced, iron-deficiency is a leading side-effect of celiac's disease. Women especially, beware, it is just not funny to get anemic. So, munch on lightly steamed dark greens (unless you have good fresh spinach available. Then you should eat it raw) with lots of lemon juice. The vitamin C will make the iron more accessible, and it just tastes great. Other great snacks are soaked pumpkin seeds, or rice cakes and molasses.

Second, because my body cannot digest gluten, it treats it as a toxin. Our bodies are intelligent vessels, and when they sense something bad coming in, they work double-time to get it out. That means taking energy from other functions and using them for back-up on the clean-up crew. The reason I feel so sluggish and crappy is that it's busy fighting gluten and doesn't have time to keep everything else going full-speed. Our instinct when faced with fatigue is often to eat more. Food=energy, right? What this actually does is route your body's attention away from the problem of eradicating toxins to the task of digesting new food. Of course, it's going to have a hard time doing that with a load of glutinous gunk blocking the way, and you are, in fact, just stressing out an already stressed system. So, stop trying to battle the fact that you feel a little crummy and just remember that there is a very specific reason for it, and your body is obviously doing it's job or you wouldn't feel anything.

To avoid putting extra burdens on your digestive system, the best thing you can do is eat very small portions of very soothing, nutritious food. Soup, beans, brown rice and veggies, and nothing heavily spiced, salted, or sugared. If you're going to eat onions or other intense foods, cook them well, because extra gases will only be uncomfortable. And try to eat things high in fiber, to help evacuate your digestive tract. Even if it feels like adding more to the mess in your intestine is going to somehow balance out the bad, more food is not the answer. Be patient, drink lots of water, and everything will sort itself out.

Third, enzymes could help a lot depending on the type of intolerance you have. If you don't have one already, consider getting a good degestive enzyme to keep around, if only for the days post-gluten when you really need something to calm your intestine. More information on enzymes and gluten-intolerance is available here.

Well, speaking of sluggish, I'm ready for bed, and I'm hoping tomorrow things will be coming back to normal. I'm devising some fiber- and iron-rich savory granola for tomorrow to help get back all the things I'm lacking right now, and if it's edible I'll post the recipe! Above all, just keep smiling. Skip the panic and go straight to nurture next time your friend's mom tells you proudly about the gluten-free meal she just served with only "a little flour" in it! Goodnight gluten-headache, and don't bother waking me up when you leave tomorrow...

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Basic Soy Kefir

>> Sunday, February 22

Basic Soy Kefir

I read on Dom’s website (<-- at this site, scroll to bottom and click the link for seed/nut milk kefir, my link to it is not working at the moment) that kefir grains will not live long and happy lives in soy-only diets. I have no idea. I generally like water kefir more often than I like soymilk kefir, so I alternate my grains between the two. I don’t know if that’s a good idea or not, but I do it. And it seems to work.

Many of the same principles apply to kefir making as to yogurt making. You can look at Basic Soy Yogurt for information on choosing milk, cleanliness, etc. There are also some kefir-specific things you should know.

As kefir ferments, it creates carbonation in the milk, and causes pressure in sealed containers. If you seal the container (and I do, because I like those bubbles ☺), you should fill it only ¾ full to avoid explosions, no matter how cool creating your own explosives might seem.

If you keep making milk kefir, it’s a good idea to rinse the grains in room temperature, filtered water (unchlorinated). Otherwise, they can get a gooey layer on their surface which makes it hard for them to function.

I just feel silly writing more because Dom’s Kefir Making Site has all the information you could ever need and if you want to know more, check it out. Here is my extremely low-key kefir-making process:

Basic Soy Kefir

Ingredients:
1 liter soymilk, at room temperature
1 tbsp kefir grains

Materials:
glass container (at least 1.5 liter sealed, at least 1 liter open)
plastic mesh strainer, cheesecloth, or something else to strain the grains out (loose weave)

Directions:

  1. Clean all the materials before you start with soap and then again with hot water. Finally, rinse with cool water to avoid damaging the kefir grains.
  2. Add the milk to the container and gently add the grains.
  3. Cover if desired and leave in a warm place for 12-24 hours, occasionally swishing around the contents to break up curds. You can also open the lid if it is sealed to release pressure.
  4. When it’s the thickness you like, you can either strain the kefir through a clean cloth or you can just spoon them out, rinse them with unchlorinated water, and plunk them in some new milk or water kefir mix.
  5. Let the kefir age at room temperature for a more sour taste, or refrigerated to keep it mild.

Notes:
If you let the kefir age with the grains inside for an extra 12 hours or so, you will get a very thick kefir which can be strained and made into a thick, quark-like cream. It’s a great ingredient for Vegan Mint Raita or any other recipes that need sour cream or similar dairy products. Check out the easy instructions here.

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Basic Soy Yogurt

>> Saturday, February 21

Yogurt making is so simple I didn’t really believe I had managed it the first time. All you are doing is creating a good environment for your bacteria (clean, warm, and with something they can eat) and letting them do the rest. So the only things you need to worry about are cleanliness (wash all your materials and don’t lick the spoon) and temperature.

MILK: Soy yogurt is only slightly more tricky, and mainly because quality and ingredients in commercial soymilk can vary. In general, I think it is better to buy organic soymilk with no additives or sweeteners, and to check to see if it was made from whole soybeans or from soy flour. Don’t buy milk that was made from flour, that’s just not how you make grain milks and it creeps me out! If you use a sweetened milk, the safest sweeteners are sugar or cane juice. Others can interfere with the bacterial growth, although I would like to see if molasses works, and I’ll post as soon as I know. You can always add a sweetener later!

TEMPERATURE: It took me some experimenting to find that the temperature is also a more sensitive issue with soy, and if your milk is too hot, it will curdle immediately. In this respect, it is always better to err on the side of cool if you don’t know how warm to make the milk-if it’s too cold to help the bacteria grow a lot, you can usually just wait longer and it will eventually reach the right thickness.

The third thing is that incubation times can vary a LOT and I’m really not sure why. I am guessing it is mostly the temperature it stays at while thickening, and if it stays a nice constant temperature, it works much faster. You are working with little bacteria that in some ways act like people-they slow down if it’s cold or really hot. Lately I have let mine sit for a minimum of 9 hours. Then I check the thickness by jiggling the jar a little, or tilting it lightly, and if I want it thicker, I leave it. If you leave it for too long, like 24 hours or so, you get a lot of separation, but it is still totally edible.

CLEANLINESS: Wash all your materials beforehand with soap and again with just hot water. Never touch things with your hands before the milk or yogurt touches them, and don’t dip your fingers in the yogurt or milk. It’s a good idea to cover the yogurt with something when it is incubating to keep other organisms out.

I have never used a powdered or liquid culture started for my yogurt, I just look for a good live yogurt in the shop and use the last of it. It will work either way though, and you can do what works for you

So, my tips for making good soy yogurt:
Be clean
Use plain, good quality, organic “whole-bean” soymilk
Don’t overheat the milk
Don’t move the jar during incubation
Keep the yogurt as warm as you can while it sits

All that being said, I should add that I have made yogurt in all kinds of places at all kinds of temperatures, and the worst that can happen is you have a jar of milk at the end, which is exactly what you started with. Don’t worry, it’s forgiving ☺

Basic Soy Yogurt
Makes 1 liter

Ingredients:
Slightly less than one liter of soy milk (1 liter minus about 4 tbsp)
4 tbsp plain, live, cultured soy yogurt

Materials:
1 liter glass jar
medium saucepan
a thick kitchen towel, a big cooking pot (or yogurt incubator), an insulated lunchbox, or something else to put the yogurt in to keep it warm.
a long spoon or other stirrer

Directions:
Before beginning, thoroughly wash all tools and containers and rinse in super-hot water.
Put the yogurt in the jar

Over a low flame, heat the milk, stirring. Test the temperature by letting a drop fall from the spoon onto your wrist (and don’t let it fall from your wrist into the pan, you want things clean!). The milk should feel very warm, but not at all uncomfortable; it doesn’t take long, so watch it!

When the milk is ready, put a few spoonfuls of milk into the yogurt and combine. (If it curdles, your milk was too hot and you can continue knowing you will have very lumpy yogurt, or start over with fresh yogurt)

Add the rest of the milk and slowly stir together, combining thoroughly. Set the jar in a warm place where it won’t be moved; a covered pot of water the same temperature as the milk, or inside an insulated lunchbox with a jar of warm water next to it to keep the temperature up. If you have a warm enough spot (like next to where you are cooking, if you will cook a lot that day) you can wrap the yogurt in a towel and leave it there.

Let the yogurt incubate for at least 8 hours, check the thickness and let sit for a few more hours if it’s too thin. When it’s finished, put the yogurt in the fridge to slow bacterial growth.

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African Black-Eyed Banana Muffins

>> Thursday, February 19

(For lunch with stir-fried chard and carrots and sunflower-pumpkin seed mash)

(Heaven: noun: a place existing in the overlap of molasses and hot muffins)

(Silicone muffin cups, oh how i love thee.
Thine sides are oh so pliable, portable, and never ever stick)

No, I wasn’t beating up on the fruit. I just had a weird burst of inspiration to make something that I’ve never even imagined before. It took a day of serious thought, beginning with never-before-tried item number 1: black-eyed peas. They’ve been sitting in the cupboard for a while now, and I’ve still never even tasted one, not in my whole life.

“Never?” My mom’s voice is audibly incredulous.
“Nope.”
“We ate ‘em every new years when I was growing up, it’s a southern thing I guess…”
Well, that’s what happens when southerners move northwest. Rice milk and nutritional yeast take up more and more of their pantry-space. My mom held strong on a lot of southern items, like cast-iron skillets and some epic chilis, but somehow we missed the black-eyed peas.
“Blech, they’re boring.” She adds. Sabotage! With a fresh-soaked bowl of black-eyed peas peering quietly up from the table, it sounds like sacrilege to me, and I’m ready to make something decidedly not-boring.

Black eyed peas came to the southern US as a result of slave trade. They originate in Africa, and have been cultivated there for thousands of years, often as a partner crop to millet, because of the nitrogen-fixing qualities of legumes. Light-bulb: Millet. Yum. I just so happen to have recently tried a great recipe form Wild Fermentation for African Millet Porridge. It’s extremely simple. You literally just have to soak some coarsely-ground millet in water overnight to get a week of breakfasts. A theme emerges, yet somehow, beans and millet sounds like just another northern Californian hippie Thanksgiving. There’s gotta be a way to make that more African.

With a little research, I learned a lot about African food. Let me tell you, the things I didn’t know could be the topic of a few massive volumes. The dishes I dug up feature so many great flavor combinations my western palette trembles at the mere mention of: onions and coconut, peppers and banana, beans and sugar, oh yes, talk about bringing down the cultural house! My roommate just bought a bunch of bananas, and we’ve got loads of coconut, creamed and shredded. BAM! We’ve got everything we need for some Congo-cookin’!

Except, sigh, an actual meal idea. Porridge is delicious, but I need something more portable right now. With a full schedule of being extra-house this week, I know I won’t be returning to top off a soup bowl in between yoga and work. It was a tense moment, and I was sure I would have to abandon African Cuisine for the day, until…When you need them, answers come, my friend, and it was something like euphoria when my gaze fell upon my lovely new muffin tray. Fast as you can say “Mom, black-eyed peas are not boring, they are underappreciated and any fan of hand crafts ought to understand that fully!” I was wrapping some paper around a muffin for the road-and my mouth around the second. They’re that good.

African Black-Eyed Banana Muffins

Ingredients (12 muffins; start the day before baking for the long method):

2 1/2 cups millet, coarsely ground (I used a mortar and pestle)

1 1/2 cup cooked black-eyed peas*
2 ripe bananas
¼ cup rice milk or coconut milk
3 tbsp canola oil
2 tsp molasses
2 tbsp creamed coconut
4 tbsp grated coconut (plus 2 tbsp opt. garnish)

pinch of salt
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cardamom
3 cloves, ground to powder
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup buckwheat flour**
1 tbsp baking powder

1 dried banana, in 12 short slices-(opt, garnish)

Directions:
  1. Stir the millet in a large, non-metallic bowl with about 3 cups of water. Let it sit overnight (This aids digestibility and enhances flavor, but you can also cook the millet before using without any soaking)
  2. Cook the soaked millet mixture, stirring occasionally until the water is absorbed but it is still moist (about 10 minutes)
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C)
  4. Mash together the millet, beans, and bananas.
  5. Add the wet ingredients, except milk, and combine well.
  6. Add the dry ingredients and check the consistency. It should slowly drop off a spoon, but be thick. Add just enough milk to get the consistency you want, and spoon into your muffin tray
  7. Garnish each with a sprinkle of coconut and a slice of banana.
  8. Bake for about 30 minutes, until browned on top and coming away from the sides. They will still be fairly moist. remove them from the tray after a few minutes of cooling, and let them finish cooling on a rack to prevent soggy bottoms. Enjoy with molasses, curry, or with a savory dish of steamed dark greens. They go sweet, sour, or salty as you please!

Notes:
*If you are cooking dry black-eyed peas, soak them in a separate bowl at the same time you start the millet soaking. Then, cook them for an hour or until tender before you begin the recipe.
**You could definitely up the millet and grind it a little better and not include any buckwheat if you want.

If you share my excitement for new and intriguing foreign flavors, check out this great African food site, Africa Cookbook from UPenn, especially this recipe for Akara, which helped give me the idea for my muffins

By the way, did I mention these are an AMAZING nutrient source? THEY ARE.

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The Versatile Vegan "Cream"


(kefir cream strained for 20 minutes or so)

This is the easiest and healthiest way I know to make a good cream substitute for recipes where I want something rich. It is essentially quark, a thickened yogurt I discovered in Switzerland for the first time. The process is incredibly simple, and just takes a little bit of time. If you have a lot of kefir grains, it's a good idea to just make your extra kefir into an extra stockpile of this cream.

For savory things, I tend to prefer using kefir as a base, as it is usually more sour than yogurt. It can even be used plain as a sour cream on potatoes. For sweet sauces or dips, the yogurt is perfect. In baking and cooking, it really doesn't seem to matter. Remember that if you would like to maintain the live bacteria, add the cream after cooking so it doesn't get too hot. Of course, it's not always possible to do that, and the taste and texture will stay great no matter what.

The Versatile Vegan "Cream"

Ingredients:
  • 4 cups soy yogurt or thick soy kefir
  • cheesecloth (or a thin, clean towel)
  • string, and a place to hang it over a
  • bowl to catch the "whey"

Directions:
  1. Make sure everything's very clean before beginning.
  2. Lay the cloth inside the bowl, draped over the edges
  3. Pour all of your yogurt or kefir into the bowl, making sure it all stays inside the cloth.
  4. Gather and life the edges, then tie a strong knot around them so you have a sack.
  5. Loop the string around a hook and let it hang above the bowl.
  6. As the whey drains out, your cream is thickening*. Just remove when you think it's ready and store in a clean container in the fridge!

Notes:
*For most recipes, a few hours is plenty to get it very thick. Sometimes I even leave it for less than one hour. It's totally up to you. For more ideas about kefir "cream" you can visit Dom's Kefir-Making Site, which has a lot of creative recipes for cheese-making and other cool things.

My favorite use for Kefir-cream right now is Vegan Mint Raita.

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Guiltless Quiche Provencal

>> Wednesday, February 18




As a teasing, warm morning unfolded Saturday, I caught a whiff of fresh oregano in Marktplatz, where the morning market is always held in Basel. I sourced it to a booth with marinated green olives, some stuffed with garlic, others almonds, and all begging to be sampled. The tangy, herbed meat of a large, plump olive reminded me just how long it had been since I had enjoyed one. Winter has apparently converted all my taste buds to conservative root vegetable fundamentalists. Like most people in northern climates who try to eat local in the winter, I’ve mostly eaten potatoes, carrots, and beets for the past few months. Enough is enough. We like our root veggies, but there’s a need at some point to help spring get back up here. But what to do to try to bring some life to a decidedly northern meal plan?

When in doubt, just think Mediterranean. It’s a region that never ceases to dazzle and satisfy our tastes. So many articles have been published on the health benefits of Mediterranean cuisine, and the area’s food culture is rich in delicious, varied local ingredients, artistic creativity, and an appreciation for true enjoyment; the kind that comes from long summer days drinking coffee in the shade of olive trees, absorbing lazily that warm southern repose. Italy, France, Greece…Sure, there’re the ancient civilizations, the scientific breakthroughs, philosophical landmarks, and artistic geniuses; and then there is the tender, delicate pesto, the elegant tapas, and, the mother of all soul-satisfying goodness, the quiche.

Then you discovered a gluten allergy, and turned vegan. And one chirping spring morning found you gazing teary-eyed at the warm glow of the deli case before turning back to the salad bar, sure you would never enjoy another bite of your favorite café courtyard meal.

A few hours after the olive-sampling in the market I am contentedly kicked back with a tea and a warm belly full of the most flavorful, perfectly-textured quiche I’ve ever had. And you know what? Not one animal ingredient or glutinous grain. Just the summer-fresh taste of sundried tomatoes, fresh basil, oregano, and rosemary, and the springy, dense moisture of this crustless quiche’s golden flesh. It’s enough to transport any gluten-free, vegan, landlocked northern cook to vibrant French Provence. Forget about breaking a sweat in every bakery- The divinity that is fresh quiche is all yours.

Guiltless Quiche Provencal
(Thanks to The Happy Herbivore for the inspiration to use turmeric-colored tofu and other great ideas!)

Ingredients:

  • 400 g firm tofu, drained
  • ½-1 tsp turmeric (for color)
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp Braggs (opt.)
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 heaping tbsp fresh chopped rosemary
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped basil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 100 g green olives, sliced (reserve 5 slices for garnish)
  • 10 sundried tomatoes (reserve 4 for garnish)
  • ½ head celeriac, grated
  • ½ kohlrabi, grated
  • ½ leek, chopped
  • 1 bunch/head of chard, chopped
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds (garnish)
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C). Set aside 5 slices of olive, 4 tomatoes, and the pumpkin seeds for garnish.
  2. In a large frying pan steam 6 tomatoes, chopped, in a little bit of water until softened and warm. Add the vegetables, cover, and steam until the chard is wilted. Set aside.
  3. Combine all the other ingredients and puree in a food processor or mix by hand until you have a smooth, thick batter. Add a tiny bit of water if needed to blend everything fairly smooth.
  4. Combine everything and scrape into an oiled casserole dish.
  5. Garnish and bake for 20-30 minutes, until the center is firm and the sides are lightly browned and coming away from the sides.
  6. Let cool until sliceable and serve.

Notes:
As a party dish, this can easily become dip for bread, chips, or crackers. Follow directions for steps 1-4, then garnish and bake just until warmed through.

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Sweet Apple-Banana Muffins

>> Monday, February 16

(Fresh from the Oven)

(Our muffin brunch on the train to Biel)

Since completing a fast in January to kick off the new year, it's been hard for me to find sweet things that don't completely knock me into a coma for the rest of the day. Sugar is just so STRONG! When I saw the theme for this month's Go Ahead Honey-It's Gluten-Free, I didn't know what to do..."Sweets for Your Sweetheart," huh? Oh great, how can I pull off a sweet fit for Valentine's Day when I'm barely managing to finish an apple on my own lately?

Come Valentine's Day morning I still had no idea. Finally, in the late morning, leaving the yoga studio, a little light-bulb went on somewhere above my head: "Hey Daniel, let's make muffins!" Not too sweet, not too heavy, and yet, when a truly good vegan, gluten-free muffin comes along, nothing to be scoffed at. We were both so excited to try our hand at an allergen-free muffin recipe that the whole day became a workshop in the kitchen, grains and flours flying everywhere, and sticky guar-gum fingerprints attached to every surface, including the keyboard, after we looked up this recipe for inspiration, from Karina at the Gluten Free Goddess.

The hard-won result was a beautiful tray of pink-tinged muffins, boasting apples, bananas, dates, and the sweet toasted flavor of roasted red rice flour. We whipped them out of the oven and ran to the evening satsang class before even getting a chance to test them. And in fact, it wasn't until the next day, on the train to Biel, that we unpacked our late Valentine's picknick and took the first bite. I was terrified, having had many a grainy, chewy GF muffin in the fast few years. It was like a dream. They were delicious. The mix of fruity flavors, the light sweetness, and the delectable moist texture melted in my mouth and left me pleasantly unburdened from the usual sugar-crash. A perfect Valentine's Day sweet, but don't think for a moment you won't want them every day.

Sweet Apple-Banana Muffins

Ingredients:
1/3 cup rice milk (and/or yogurt)
3/4 cup banana puree
1/3 cup apple sauce
2 tbsp agave nectar
1/3 cup vegan butter (and/or oil)
2 tbsp flax meal soaked in 2 tbsp hot water for 5 minutes

150 g dates, pitted and chopped
1 medium apple, chopped

1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp guar gum
1 tbsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 tsp kuzu powder*
1/2 cup millet flour
1/2 cup amaranth flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup chickpea flour
1/4 cup red rice flour

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C)

Cream together the wet ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together. Add to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Stir in the apples and dates. The batter should be thick but thoroughly moist, like a drop biscuit batter almost. It should slide off the spoon, but with a little encouragement. add some rice milk if needed.

Scrape the batter into a greased, 12-muffin tray and bake for 20-30 minutes, until lightly browned on top.

Notes:
*If you don't have kuzu, use tapioca instead of chickpea flour in the recipe, and you should have enough of a starchy element from that

On the flours: We used so many types of flour because we had little bits of each left over! you could easily simplify and use just buckwheat, millet, and rice, or some other combination. Still, if you do have the supplies available to follow this mix, the taste and texture are pretty rewarding!

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Vegan Mint Raita

(Raita over crispy slices of oven-toasted Kvass-Potato Paprikash Bread)

Raita is an Indian dip served with spicy food as a cooling agent. As this one involves its own chilis, it is also a little spicy, but it still maintains the cool sensation of the yogurt/kefir. Since making it to go with an Indian meal cooked by a friend the other day, I have been addicted to its spicy-cold duality. I now have a jar permanently out at meals to add to salad, today’s risotto, or to dip veggies and bread in.

Vegan Mint Raita

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups soy kefir, strained, or soy yogurt
  • 1 cucumber, peeled
  • 1 green chili
  • ½ bunch cilantro
  • ½ bunch mint
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Ground, roasted cumin seeds*, to taste
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp grated ginger

Directions:
  1. Grate the cucumber and add it to the yogurt or kefir
  2. Finely chop and add the chili, cilantro, and mint.
  3. Grate in the garlic clove and add the lemon zest, cumin, salt, and ginger.
  4. Taste and adjust, then cover and let sit in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. It's even better the next day ☺

Notes:
* Roast about 1 tbsp cumin seeds in a dry skillet over medium-low heat until lightly browned. Grind into a powder and add as much as you like the taste of. It’s strong, so test it as you go.

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Roasted Beet Risotto with Sage and Chickpeas

>> Wednesday, February 11


(Risotto served here with sauteed chard, leek,
and lentil sprouts, and vegan mint raita)

The only beef I have with rice dishes lately is that I crave something, simply, juicier. I love a bowl of brown rice, and with some tamari and nutritional yeast to moisten the grains, it’s certainly enjoyable. I might describe it as satisfying, healthy, nutty, and earthy. Great. But it’s a far cry from mouthwatering, or fingerlickingly creamy, which is what I really want this week. I’m searching for something more like the vegan, gluten-free equivalent to the texture of fresh-grated parmesan melting over basil lasagne.

Enter risotto, the transvestite, showgirl sister of the simple boiled rice bowl. How often have I heard brown rice dishes defined by non-vegans as “why they would never go vegan”? Enough to know that they are not thinking outside of the box. A brown rice risotto is a truly luxurious meal, and one that everyone can enjoy, vegan, omnivore, and devout carnivore. This one is so tenderly soft, melty, and moist I think even my Swiss roommate would forget to ask if it had cheese, and of course, we know the answer.

The creaminess I was hunting came from an unexpectedly perfect source. To start, I knew I didn’t have wine to use in my risotto, and I found myself dreading the lack of such a crisp, dry flavor. I peeked around the fridge and tried to think of something with that special “bite” a steaming white wine gives. Vinegars just weren’t going to cut it, likewise homemade pickle-brine. And then-Aha! The aged soy kefir whey on the windowsill caught my eye.

When you let a kefir whey age outside of the fridge, the beverage takes on a wine-cooler kind of quality, with an alcoholic edge to its original sour flavor. The clear, zingy drink has something strongly reminiscent of white wine, and even provides a bit of a cheesy taste too. From using water kefir for wine, it was just a short jump to using soymilk kefir for cheese, and voila, a creamy, edgy risotto lacking none of the richness a dairy version promises.

The beetroot gives a beautiful color and lovely sweet flavor to the dish, and celeriac and carrots finish off a wonderful trio of seasonal root veggies. Sage, fresh-picked from the front yard, not only looks great with the purple beet, but adds a slightly smoky undertone to the mix. Finally, chickpeas partner up with rice as our vegan serving of complete protein (grass plus legume) and lend a soft nutty texture in the process. Altogether, a multicultural, healthy take on risotto that practically sighs for you as it touches your taste buds.


Roasted Beet Risotto with Sage and Chickpeas

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups short or medium grain brown rice
  • About 5 cups of veggie stock or water*
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, chopped into half-rounds
  • ½ celeriac, cubed
  • 1 very large or 2 medium beets
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 3 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
  • 3 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped or pressed
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup soymilk kefir**
  • ½ cup kefir whey (or dry white wine)
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • salt to taste

Directions:
  1. Wash the beets and remove the greens***, being sure not to chop into the beets (leave a little stem). brush them with olive oil, wrap in aluminum foil and bake at 350 F (175 C) for 30 minutes, or until tender when poked with a fork. Let cool. Grate ¾ of the beets, coarsely chop the rest.
  2. In a large pot, heat the oil and add the onions, stirring. Add the pepper and a dash of salt, and cook until the onions are transparent.
  3. Add the rice, stirring, and cook for a few minutes, until the rice is very lightly browned and shiny.
  4. Add the kefir whey or wine and stir for another minute or two, then add the grated beets and ½ cup stock or water, continuing to stir until all liquid is evaporated. Repeat this until the rice is about half done.
  5. Add the herbs, carrots, celeriac, and 1 cup of liquid. Cover until the veggies are almost done (check that there is still liquid, stir and add more if necessary, then cover again).
  6. Stir in the chickpeas, chopped beets, and milk kefir. Taste and add salt if needed, and more kefir if desired.

Notes:
*I used water and a splash of homemade kimchee brine. **You could probably use soy yogurt too. If you’re not a vegan, obviously some parmesan will do! *** SAVE YOUR GREENS!!! Chop them up and toss them in if you like, or sauté them for a gorgeous side dish to the risotto.

(I'm considering a new name:
"Disappearing Act Risotto." The bowl
never seems to stay full...)

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Five Minute Balsamic Tipped Veggies

>> Tuesday, February 10



I thought it would be impossible to make something this delicious and healthy in less than 10 minutes, but sure enough, it took just 5, even with an electric stove to slow the process. The nice thing about cooking with Swiss regional foods is that it’s incredibly easy to make authentic Italian flavors too, and the oregano, balsamic vinegar, and fennel all lend themselves perfectly to this Swiss-Italian fusion.

Five Minute Balsamic Tipped Veggies

Ingredients (for 1. Multiply by the number of people to be served for a side, or multiply by 2 for each person for a main dish):

  • ¼ large head of fennel, sliced into strips.
  • 1 yellow (or other) carrot, sliced into rounds
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • a few tbsp water
  • a pinch of black pepper
  • 2 round slices of lemon

Directions:
  1. Heat a skillet over medium flame for just a moment before tossing in the carrots, fennel, vinegar, and some water. Stir to coat and cover quickly.
  2. When the liquid has evaporated, continue stirring with a bit more water, and add the pepper, oregano, and garlic.
  3. Add the lemon and increase the heat for 1 minute, stirring, to give a browned, roasted edge to the veggies.
Finito!

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Tender Tummy Breakfast for One: Amaranth Apple Porridge

>> Sunday, February 8


Last night was Satsang at the yoga studio. Niki and I both brought little food offerings for the shrine, and both were fantastic. How can you go wrong with dried bananas and date-nut balls? Well, I guess moderation is the key…One date-nut ball is probably enough! Still, it’s just so nice to sit around with everyone after and pass the offerings, trying each one…and in my case, trying each one again ☺ Today, I felt a little heavy from the dried fruit and nut bomb, so I whipped up a simple, satisfying breakfast to sooth my digestive discontent.

This is one of the best hot breakfasts I’ve had lately, so flavorful and calming, and very healthy with no added sugar or heavy fats.

Ginger and Apple Amaranth Porridge

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup dry amaranth
  • 2/3 cup water
  • ¼ cup chopped apple (plus 2 slices for garnish)
  • 2 tbsp silken tofu
  • ½ tsp grated ginger
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ cup rice milk

Directions:

Cook the amaranth in the water, covered, until almost completely done (10-15 minutes). If there is no water left, add a little more.

Add the chopped apples and ginger and cook until the amaranth forms its characteristic gooeyness, about 5 minutes. 

Lightly crumble in the tofu and stir over a medium flame for a few minutes until the mixture is almost thick enough to stick to the spoon when you hold it up.

Serve with the rice milk, cinnamon, and apple slices on top

Notes:
Enjoy with a cup of spearmint tea for extra stomach relaxation.

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Kvass: The Champagne of Russia

>> Saturday, February 7

Kvass is a traditional Russian (and eastern European) drink made from stale bread. It is light, refreshing, and tantalizingly fizzy. Plus, it’s fun to have something so tasty from a loaf of rock-hard bread, and with the leftover “pulp” I often make a new loaf of bread with my recycled-bread recipe. Talk about recycling. It just goes on…

This recipe I adapted from Wild Fermentation. If you haven’t read this wonderful book, you should. It is so informative and inspiring, with tons of creative ideas for home ferments!

Kvass

Ingredients:

  • ¾ loaf of stale bread
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 4 tbsp crushed dry peppermint
  • ¼ cup sugar/other sweetener
  • 1 packet dry yeast
  • 8 cups boiling water
  • a few raisins

yummy additions:
ginger, other tea herbs, fruit juices (organic, and no weird corn syrup business), figs

Directions:
  1. Cut the bread into small cubes and roast in the oven around 350 F (175 C) for 20 minutes or until dried.
  2. Place in a large non-metal container and pour the boiling water over the bread.
  3. Stir in lemon and peppermint, mix well, cover with a cloth, and set in a warm place to ferment for 1-2 days stirring occasionally.
  4. Strain out the bread*, squeezing out as much liquid as possible. Add the yeast, sugar, and molasses, combine well, and cover with a cloth again, for 2-3 days, until it smells good and fermented!
  5. Fill bottles ¾ full with the kvass and add a few raisins to each. Seal and leave for 3-4 days on a shelf. Then you can refrigerate or just enjoy the kvass as is. With about 5 more days in the fridge, it has a wealth of super-fine bubbles and tastes wonderful with a slice of fresh lemon.

Notes:
*Save the pulp for Recycled Gluten Free Bread!

If you want to try another creative Kvass recipe, try Okroshka, cold Russian soup made from kvass and vegetables. I made a live version which I replenished for 2 weeks, enjoying the bubbly tang as it developed over the days. I will post a recipe soon!

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Recycled Gluten-Free Bread



If when you think “bread” you think flour, yeast and water, it’s time to spice it up a little. Almost anything can be made into something “breadlike” with a lot more nutritional value, flavor, and variety of texture. The recipe here is one version of a recycled food bread, which I tried to make as general as possible so you can fill in the blanks with you own ingredients. Nothing about it is set in stone; I never measure for this one, and it’s different every time I make it. That’s just the nature of recycling food-always interesting and unique!

In general, this usually creates a dense, small, moist loaf. It has no added yeast and rising is not really the goal, just fermentation of the ingredients for easier digestion. Sometimes I add some baking powder before baking to help it fluff up a little. If I have mostly veggie ingredients, I tend to let the loaf stay completely unleavened and bake on the lowest temperature setting for up to 8 hours. The result is something like vegan meat, which, because it contains live bacteria, keeps for literally months in the fridge. That particular version is great marinated in a little miso and garlic, then sautéed with fresh veggies, or crumbled over spaghetti as ground beef. Yum!

Recycled Gluten-Free Bread

Ingredients:
Sourdough starter:
1-2 cups GF flour,
2 tsp guar gum (opt)
1-2 cups water, water or milk kefir, or yogurt

Grain ingredient can be 2-3 cups of one of the following:
Leftover cooked grains, like rice, quinoa, polenta, etc
Leftover bread mush from making kvass
Stale bread, chopped, roasted to dry, and soaked in the liquid ingredients
Leftover pasta
Sprouts
Up to 1 cup of flour, if desired, for binding

Veggie/Fruit Ingredient can be 1-2 cups of one of the following:
Pulp from juicer
Old grated salads, especially if too dry to enjoy
Leftover mashed potatoes, or other creamed/cooked veggies

Liquid Ingredient can be 1-2 cups of one of the following: Soy yogurt
Soy milk kefir
Water kefir
Tahini and water
Kimchee brine or other pickling brines combined with water (if you use a salted brine, add it at the end to let the yeast do it’s work first, and moisten initially with clean water)

Other Ingredients include the desired amounts of any of these things:
Extra flour
Herbs, spices, sautéed onions, garlic, or other flavorings
Activated seeds, nuts, or nut meal (flax meal soaked in warm water as an egg replacer works wonders)
Water
Baking powder
Yeast

Directions:

  1. Mix sourdough starter ingredients in a clean bowl or jar, adding more or less water to get a sticky, moist, stirrable batter. Leave in a warm place for 1-3 days, until fluffy and bubbly.
  2. When the sourdough is ready, mix up the grain ingredient, veggie/fruit ingredient, and liquid ingredient (leaving out brine for now), adding more or less of the liquid ot get a spongy, very moist dough. Stir in the sourdough starter and leave in a bowl covered with a moist towel for 8-24 hours in a warm place
  3. If it hasn’t risen at all, the sourdough didn’t like something very much in your mixture, could be too much salt in the grains. It’s not important though, other bacteria are there working for your bread!
  4. If desired, sprinkle baking powder over the dough and fold in, or dissolve yeast in warm water and mix in, to have a leavened loaf.
  5. Fold in any seeds, nuts, herbs, spices, etc. that you would like and add the brine if using. Cover with any toppings for decoration that you wish
  6. Bake in a bread-loaf form for 2-8 hours; quicker for more grainy, leavened breads, and longer for mostly veggie or sprout breads, to get a dense “vegan meat”


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Butternut and Fennel-seed Miso

>> Thursday, February 5


To think that just one month ago I had never even used miso in a recipe is almost beyond me. It has been in everything I make lately, and it seems to provide that magical “oomph” I sometimes crave but can’t quite place (umami...). A friend of mine offered to cook lunch for me a few days before she moved to Germany last week, and she brought me to a realm of miso-induced-ecstasy I never dreamed could exist. Fresh leeks sautéed in sesame oil with turmeric and fennel-seeds, plus flavorful red onions and fresh ginger made one bowl of it enough to tempt me into packing my bags and swimming to Japan, which is where she learned to make it. Along with her suggestion of adding pumpkin or squash and the inspiration of watching her cook this soup to perfection, I have created my own version:

Sauteed Fennel and Butternut Miso

Ingredients:

  • 1 piece dried kombu seawead (optional)*
  • 2 sheets nori (optional)
  • 2 tiny or 1 small-medium red onion
  • 2 tsp finely chopped ginger
  • 1 fresh leek, finely sliced in rings
  • 1 hea dof fresh fennel, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup diced pumpkin
  • 1 cup diced tofu, firm
  • 2 tbsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tbsp fennel seeds, whole
  • 4 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp miso (Christina used Mogi, but it’s not GF, so use any that is)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • gomashio to taste (a few tsp) (optional)

Directions:
  1. Soak kombu for 5 minutes in about 6 cups of water, then cover and cook for about 20 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp oil in a frying pan and add the tofu, stirring to coat all sides. Add some gomashio and a splash of the kombu stock, cover, and cook until the stock is gone and the tofu is lightly browned.
  3. In your soup pan, heat the rest of the oil and add the turmeric, fennel seeds, onions, garlic, and ginger, stirring as you go. Cook for a few minutes over medium-low heat, then add the fennel, leek, and pumpkin with a splash of kombu stock just to moisten them. Lightly sautee the veggies for a moment, then add the rest of the stock and cook until the leek is lightly tender.
  4. Remove from the heat and let cool a few minutes before adding the miso, to make sure you don’t kill it.
  5. Dip out a ladle-full of soup and dissolve a spoon of miso into the ladle of soup, then empty the contents back into the pot. Repeat for all the miso, taste, and adjust anything you need to. Serve with the tofu on top and gomashio and crushed nori as garnish.

Notes:
*If you don’t have kombu, just use water

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My Snow-Day Comfort Food: White Bean Stew with Butternut Filets

Just…I don’t need to explain. Butternut has a reason for its name, and with a light steaming it melts over this country-style stew like dairy-fresh cream. Heavenly. The soup itself is essentially the stewed version of White Bean Bucket Salad, because I can't get enough of the flavor, all the ingredients are local and seasonal (except gomashio, kombu, and tahini!) and because it's such a satisfying, nutritious meal. I owe much inspiration for this one to my mom, for her insistence on white beans as super-foods, and Farmgirl Susan for her Roasted Garlic Lover’s White Bean Soup. Enjoy a bowl while nestled with a frost-laced view of winter and a slice of recycled bread, my gluten-free specialty.

White Bean Stew with Butternut Filets

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked white beans (if cooked with kombu seaweed, save the water)
  • 4-6 cups kombu stock (or water/veggie stock)
  • 4-5 carrots
  • 1-2 potatoes
  • 2 turnips
  • ½ head of celeriac
  • 10 slices of butternut squash
  • 1 onion
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 big sprig of fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste, and/or gomashio garnish (mmmmm)
  • ¼ medium white cabbage
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • a splash of rice wine or apple cider vinegar (opt.)
  • ½ cup sprouted chickpeas (opt; garnish)

Directions:
  1. In a soup pot, bring your stock to a boil and add carrots, potatoes, celeriac, onionsand turnips, all coarsely chopped. Cook until potatoes are almost finished.
  2. Meanwhile, separate the garlic cloves and put, unpeeled, in a little oven-safe dish, sprinkled with water and covered with tinfoil. Bake for 30 minutes at around 350 F.
  3. Add the cabbage, finely chopped, the beans, and herbs to the soup and simmer until the cabbage is soft.
  4. Peel the garlic and put it in a medium sized bowl (or food processor, blender, etc) with 1/3 of the soup and the tahini. Blend until fairly well-combined, and add back to the rest of the soup with a splash of vinegar if using. Blend more if desired, or add more stock as needed. But really, thick is gooood!
  5. Heat oil in a frying pan and add the chickpeas and squash slices. Turn a few times to coat with oil, then add a splash of water, quickly cover, and steam until both are just tender.
  6. Add a pinch of gomashio (or salt), turn quickly, and remove from the heat.
  7. Serve the soup with the squash and chickpea mixture on top, and fresh oregano or thyme if available.

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Owed to a Bento: Kid-Friendly Lentil Snacks

>> Wednesday, February 4


“What’re THOSE?” Alessandro asked today, peering over my shoulder as I scanned eagerly through recipes on JustBento.com. He is probably the best friend I've ever had in a 5-year old, but none-the-less, a typically picky eater. We had just settled on a rice-cake with pesto for his snack, and his sauce-smeared finger swooped dangerously close to the screen as he motioned at a picture of Spicy Lentil snacks with Sesame Seeds. For once, his voice held no hint of skepticism, and I silently thanked his reading level, for being just right so that he couldn’t see that the main ingredient was lentils, something he’d never touch in native form.

I have been intrigued by bentos ever since finding them online yesterday, and I have been wanting to make some of these delicious-looking little lunch-box fillers. “Do you…” (could my luck be that good?) “do you want to try making them with me?” I ventured. He beamed an ecstatic “Yeah!” and we darted into the kitchen, digging out ingredients to see what we could come up with.

We had only about ¼ cup of dry red lentils left, so we needed to supplement, which is why the result is something much different than the original. That, and the fact that we were recreating Japanese-inspired vegan cuisine in an omnivorous Italian kitchen. First off, spicy had to go for the little guy to enjoy them, and I was on a mission to get some veggies into him, so they needed to be artfully disguised to avoid disgust. Pulling my tupperware of sliced purple cabbage out, I handed a piece to Alessandro for review. “Do you like this stuff?” He gingerly nibbled the corner and in a moment of total silence I was sure he would spit it out. Instead his eyes widened and he bounced noticeably as he said, “Wow, the purple thing is yummy!’


Bingo! It was so exciting to prepare something healthy for Alessandro that didn’t involve bread, cheese, or meat, his three favorite ingredients. He was relegated to carrot-peeling (under wary over-the-shoulder supervision…”don’t give 5-year-olds blades!” My mom’s voice seemed to echo…) and I cooked the rice. Then he retired for some Lego-building while I whipped up the other ingredients. We formed the balls together, discussing seriously techniques for making perfect ball-shapes and using good sesame-rolling technique.

“It’s all sticky. Is this enough?” he asked, the mixture smeared across his palms and one piddly lump in the middle that he focused intently on. “Well, maybe we could add a little more and then go like this (patting hands together) to make a ball.” Alessandro carefully placed one more pea on top of his mushy lump and smiled. “There, is that enough?” Sure, why not! Sure enough, we had a fantastic array of sizes and shapes when we finished. Though we ate from plates, the bento-spirit was certainly there: we each had just enough food, a healthy array of proteins, carbs, vegetables, and healthy fats, and we still managed to save some for mom and dad. Barely.



Baked Veggie-Lentil Bites with Sesame Seeds and Olives

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup dry brown rice
  • ¼ cup dry red lentils
  • 1 medium potato
  • 2 medium-large carrots
  • ¾ cup sliced purple cabbage
  • ½ cup green peas (frozen, fresh, whatever)
  • ½ cup sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp mixed Italian herbs, or any combination of basil, thyme, and marjoram
  • a few grates of nutmeg
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ onion, diced
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 10 kalamata olives, pitted and slices into rings

Directions:

  1. Bring brown rice and 1 cup of water to a boil, cover, reduce heat to the lowest temperature, and cook until finished. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, put sesame seeds in a bowl with 1 cup of water to soak (activation!)
  3. Chop the cabbage into tiny pieces and grate the carrots as finely as possible
  4. Chop the potato and add to a pan with the lentils and ¾ cup water. Cover and cook until everything is soft. Leave them on the flame and mash them together with a fork, stirring to remove any excess moisture until you have a fairly uniform, sticky mixture. Set aside
  5. Preheat the oven to 180 C (360 F)
  6. In a frying pan, heat the oil and add the onions, garlic, and herbs. Sautee over low-medium heat until the onions are soft.
  7. Stir in the cabbage and cook, stirring, for a minute or two, until shiny.
  8. Add the rice and cook for another few minutes, stirring, until everything is coated with oil and herbs, but not dry.
  9. Mix everything together except for the sesame seeds and olives. Add salt and pepper to taste and mush everything together more, either with a fork or a hand mixer, until it is fairly pasty and most of the rice is crushed.
  10. Drain the water from the sesame seeds.
  11. When cool enough to handle, form golf-ball sized balls with the mush and roll each in the wet sesame seeds very lightly. Place on a baking sheet and stick an olive ring on top.
  12. Bake for about 30 minutes, checking with an occasional poke to test for solidity. They should be browned on the outside and still moist on the inside, with a strong enough outer layer to hold them firmly together. Enjoy!

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Gingerbread Pudding (The Rebaked Cake)

>> Tuesday, February 3

After making something Swiss to fill my cultural craving bracket last week, I forgot to plan for the fact that everyone I know is doing the usual winter hibernation routine still. Hence, no one has been around to help me eat it! Yesterday, noticing that it was looking less moist than I like, a food I haven’t had for years dawned on me: bread pudding.

In fact, I haven’t had it since middle school, when Anne, my most beloved school cook served it up with brunch one day. I was intrigued, but not really excited. How good could mushy bread taste? Mind you, I went to a tiny charter school and the food was all fresh-cooked each day by Anne and the students with as many local, organic products as possible, so this was no ordinary school-bread-pudding affair! Still, I was skeptical, and have been ever since. Since 8th grade, a lot of my opinions about food have changed. One of them is that I now think recycling food is about the coolest thing you can do, for the world, the creative cook in you, and your friends and family. Another is that if you enjoy something in one form, there's always room for innovation.

So, I began surfing for recipes and stumbled on this one by Chris at Eat Air, which I used for the inspiration to make a nice creamy base with silken tofu. Because the original cake I made was the Tender Elstar Apple Cake, I needed something to compliment the cinnamon-apple flavor, yet change and enhance it so no one would know it was the same thing they'd eaten yesterday. I went for darkening and saturating the spicy-sweet nature of my corn-cake by adding molasses, gingerbread spices, more apples, and vanilla. The result was…Well, I can’t put up a picture to show you, because we ate the whole thing in about 24 hours flat and there was never a moment for a picture without reaching hands involved. Great. The word "great" comes to mind.

Forget everything gourmet has ever taught you-this bread-pudding is as luxurious as the finest French mousse.

Gingerbread Pudding (The Rebaked Cake)

Ingredients:

  • About ¾ of a Tender Elstar Apple Cake (or 1 loaf bread*)
  • 2 juicy apples, washed and chopped into chunks
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup raw sugar
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 2/3 cup silken tofu
  • 2 cups soy kefir (or soy milk, or soy milk and some yogurt)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 tsp Lebküchengewurze, if available. If not, the following:
  • 1 tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp nutmeg, ¼ tsp ground cloves, ¼ tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp ground anis, ½ tsp ground stern-anis, 1 tsp fresh grated ginger(or some creative combination of the above)
  • ½ finely chopped fresh vanilla bean (optional, but fabulous)

Directions:
  1. Cut the cake or bread into coarse chunks and dump in a large mixing bowl
  2. In a blender or with a hand-mixer, whip the silken tofu until smooth
  3. Add the kefir/milk/yogurt and combine until smooth
  4. Stir in vanilla extract and bean, sugar, molasses, and spices, then pour the mixture over the bread and fold together. You should have a nice, moist batter, but not too runny to set while baking.
  5. Fold in raisins and apples, pour into a greased, floured casserole dish and bake at 175 C (350 F) for about 30-35 minutes**.

Notes:

*If you use bread, chop up some activated almonds, pecans, or walnuts and add them, since the crunchy nut pieces from the cake really add to the texture!

**It is finished when it is still slightly gelled on top, not totally set. When it cools it will be just firm enough to resist your spoon, which is how I prefer it. It’s still sliceable and cake-like, but spongy and springy.

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