A Much Better Idea Than Writing A Paper

I have been working on a big project for one of my classes this week (the first portion of it is due Sunday night), staying up late nearly every night to finish it. When tonight rolled around, then, I decided to forgo the paper writing and bake this apple/pear tart (from this recipe) instead, using apples and pears that a friend gave me. I don’t regret that choice at all.

In other news, I finally got my new glasses this week. I’ve decided I like them.

Now I’m relishing the weekend, big project and all.

Fresh Berry Scones with Lemon Glaze

I love this time of year, when the produce aisles are stacked with an abundance of fresh berries for much cheaper than usual. This week I found strawberries, blueberries, and cherries, all sweet, juicy, and ripe and all on sale. I’ve been packing them in my lunches this week but today I celebrated the holiday (and a day off from work) by baking some of them into scones as well.


I remember making scones back in high school. To be honest, I had never actually tried a scone, but they sounded elegant. In books, the characters always seem to eat scones while sipping tea in fancy parlors. This seemed to seep the word sophistication. I imagined scones as a dainty and delicate treat.

Well, my scones turned out anything but dainty and delicate. They were dry, dense, and lacking flavor. In retrospect, I think I probably made them with margarine (what we readily had on hand growing up) and probably over-mixed the dough as well. Regardless, I decided that day that I just didn’t like scones. A couple summers ago, though, some friends hosted a tea party. Naturally, several people brought scones . I tried one, just to be polite, and was surprised to find that I liked it. It was tender and subtly sweet and not at all like my dense attempt at scones.

So this past winter I finally tried baking scones again. And they were delicious! Unfortunately, I forgot to copy down the recipe I used then, but this recipe (adapted from this one) seems pretty similar:

Fresh Berry Scones with Lemon Glaze

Ingredients:

1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/3 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
Zest from 1 lemon
8 Tbsp. cold butter (not margarine)
1 c. fresh berries (I used blueberries in one batch and cherries in the next)
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. yogurt (I used plain)
lemon glaze (recipe follows)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a baking pan.

Grate the cold butter through the large holes of a box grater (or cut it into small pieces by hand). In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest. Stir in the butter pieces (I mixed it with my fingers to help work the butter into the dough).

Wisk together the milk and yogurt. Add to the flour and butter mixture and stir just until combined.

Turn the dough out onto a generously floured surface. Sprinkle the top with flour as well. Knead with well-floured hands 6-8 times, kneading in more flour as needed (be careful not to over-mix it). Roll the dough into a 12 inch square. Fold the dough into thirds like you would fold a letter. Then fold the short ends in thirds again to make an approximately 4 inch square. Place the dough on a plate and chill in the freezer for 5 minutes.

Return the dough to the floured surface. Roll into a 12 inch square again. Sprinkle the berries  over the dough and press them into the dough slightly. Then fold the sides of the dough in so that the berries are completely covered. Press or roll the dough into a long, thin rectangle, about 1 inch thick. Cut into triangles. (Alternately, you can roll it into a circle and cut wedges from that).


Place the wedges on the prepared cookie sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool slightly, then drizzle with the lemon glaze.

Lemon Glaze

Ingredients:

1/2 c. lemon juice (I used two lemons)
Zest from 1 lemon
2 c. powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. butter

Directions:

Combined the ingredients and microwave for 30 seconds or until the butter is melted. Wisk the glaze, adding more sugar as needed until the glaze is runny, but slightly thick. Drizzle over the cooled scones.

 

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

Confession: I tend to buy bananas, knowing that at least few of them will get brown before we eat them, just so I have an excuse to make banana bread.

This time I used several of them to make sugar-free, dairy-free ice cream (recipe below), so I just had two left. My usual banana bread calls for 3-4 bananas and I was out of applesauce (which I sometimes use to make up for some of the bananas). Not to be deterred, I decided to substitute peanut butter for the other banana. This was the result:

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

Ingredients:
2 ripe bananas
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/3 c. melted butter
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 c, flour (I used 1 c. whole wheat and 1/2 c. all purpose)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Mash the bananas in a large mixing bowl. Add the melted butter, peanut butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla and mix well. Sprinkle the salt and baking soda on top and stir in. Finally stir in the flour. Spoon the batter into a greased bread pan and bake for 30-45 minutes or until browned.

Or, for another delicious banana/peanut butter combination, try this “ice cream” recipe that Lindsay passed on to me this spring (it’s naturally sugar-free and dairy-free):

Banana Peanut Butter Soft Serve “Ice Cream”

Ingredients:
2-3 ripe bananas, frozen (thawed slightly)
1/3 c. peanut butter
1/4 c. cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in the food processor (to be honest, I don’t measure exactly so these are just guesses) and process on high until creamy. Eat immediately (as if you could resist this long anyway).

Another Variation on Pancakes

I am a breakfast person.

I know plenty of people who skip breakfast most days (my husband among them) and I used to count myself as one of those. I usually ate a combination of breakfast/lunch somewhere in the late morning or early afternoon. These days, though, I tend to wake up hungry, my stomach growling before I’ve finished my cup of coffee. Which usually leads to me cooking a bowl of oatmeal (substantial, nutritious, and cheap). After eating oatmeal nearly every morning this week, though, I decided it was time for something different.

I mixed up a batch of these pancakes (based on this recipe), cooking some and refrigerating the rest of the batter for another morning (how long can you refrigerate pancake batter anyhow?). They’re probably some of the fluffiest pancakes I’ve ever had:

Vegan Pancakes

Ingredients:

1 1/4 c. flour (whatever kind you want; I used whole wheat)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (optional)
1 1/4 c. soy milk
1 tsp. vanilla (or you could just use vanilla soy milk I suppose)
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Directions:

Wisk all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the soy milk, vanilla, and oil and stir with a fork until smooth. Cook on a lightly oiled skillet over medium-high heat until lightly browned on both sides (they don’t get the same golden brown as regular pancakes). I found that sometimes it helps to spread the batter a bit after you pour it since it ends up fairly thick. Serve with your choice of toppings (I prefer a little bit of honey or applesauce; my husband can’t eat them without lots of syrup).

(Note: you can also use just water instead of the milk if you’d like, like the recipe suggests. I tried it with water the first time and it was alright, but I thought they tasted better with the soy milk and vanilla)

 

Simmering

This past week I’ve wrestled with a lot of discouragement (mostly from my so-far-fruitless job search and the uncertainty about the next couple months that it brings). I feel stretched with the tension of this transition until I’m brittle and snappish. I try to soak in God’s words over me and the dreams solidifying in my heart. But I still feel pretty lost in the in between.

In the meantime, though, I’ve still been doing a lot of cooking, planning menus and trying new recipes. I’ve become enamored with the cinnamon/tumeric combination that give dishes an exotic sort of taste, so I thought I’d share a couple recipes I made recently.

The kids were hanging out in the kitchen with me, munching on bites of tomato and zucchini while I made this first one. When dinner time came, Shelby gave them pizza rolls, but they cried for the vegetable stew until she finally gave them some. They ate all their vegetables – and asked for seconds – but never did finish those pizza rolls. I consider that a success :-).

Couscous with Butter Beans, Zucchini, and Tomato Stew

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 28 oz. can of tomatoes, drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. tumeric
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1 can of butter beans (don’t drain)
3 medium zucchini, diced
2 c. water
1 1/3 c. dried couscous

Directions:

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat in a deep skillet. Sauté the onions in the oil, for five minutes, then add the tomatoes, garlic, ginger, coriander, tumeric, cinnamon, and cayenne. Saute, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes. Stir in the butter beans (including the liquid), zucchini, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, bring the water to a boil, along with the remaining 1/4 tsp. salt and the remaining 2 tsp. oil. Stir in the couscous. Immediately cover the pan and remove from the heat. Let stand at least 5 minutes. Just before serving, fluff the couscous. Ladled the stew over the couscous and serve.

(This recipe was modified from a recipe in The Best 125 Meatless Mediterranean Dishes, by Susann Geiskopf-Hadler and Mindy Toomay – one of my current favorite cookbooks from the library)

 

Kashmiri Gobi

(A northern India dish)

Ingredients:

1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
6 Tbsp. oil
1 large cauliflower, separated into florets
1 tsp. ground tumeric
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
3 bay leaves
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 c. cashews, chopped

Directions:

Puree the onion, garlic, ginger, and tomatoes together in a food processor. In a saucepan, sauté this mixture with the tumeric and cayenne for 3 minutes. Add the cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves, sugar, and salt and simmer for a 5 more minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a deep saucepan over medium heat and sauté the cauliflower until it is beginning to brown and soften. Add the prepare sauce and the cashews and stir together. Let cook for about 5 minutes more. Serve over quinoa or your choice of grains.

(This recipe was modified from one found in World Food Café; Global Vegetarian Cooking, by Chris and Carolyn Caldicott)

The Kashmiri Gobi

What’s Cooking Good Looking?

(note: I’m chuckling/wincing at the cheesiness of that title. But I can’t come up with anything more creative right now, so there it stays)

I know I haven’t been writing much lately (more because of lack of time than lack of things to write about) but I have been cooking a lot.

Several weeks ago Derek and I sat down with our budget and decided we needed to go back to buying our own groceries to have a little more control over what we spend on food each week (rather than doing mostly community groceries like we had been, which was getting expensive and usual didn’t cover all the essentials for the week). So for the past three weeks, I’ve been making a weekly menu and doing our grocery shopping.

Now, instead of half-heartedly rummaging through the refrigerator and cupboard when I get home from work to see what I can possibly throw together quickly, I’ve been making dinners in the mornings so Derek has something to eat when he comes home from class and I don’t have to worry about it when I get home from work. I’ve been spending more time cooking, but trying new recipes and enjoying being a little more creative with what I make. It’s been refreshing, actually, having things planned out like that.

I’ve tried a number of new recipes in the past few weeks, but I’ll just share the one (based off of this recipe but altered to fit what I had and like) for Guinness stew that I made for our date night. Derek is a fan of beef and Guinness, so this made his list of top recipes recently:

Guinness Beef Stew

Ingredients:

1 lb. lean beef stew meat, cubed
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. flour
salt and pepper to taste (I used seasoned salt)
dash of cayenne pepper
1 1/2 c. Guinness (or other stout  beer)
2 large onions, chopped
2 parsnips, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 large potato, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. rosemary, crushed

Directions:

Mix together the flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Heat the oil in a skillet. Dredge the meat in the flour mixture, then brown on all sides in the oil. Transfer the meat to a crock pot. Add about a cup of water to the skillet where you browned the meat and bring it to a boil, scraping the pan. Add this to the crock pot as well, along with the rest of the ingredients. Cook on low 8 hours or high 4 hours (I did a combination of the two).

Saturday Morning Breakfast for Two

I tend to cook in larger quantities these days, so there’s plenty to share with whoever is around, but sometimes I like to make something special for just Derek and I.

This morning was one of those times. Our collective retreat this weekend was snowed/iced out, so we slept in and drank coffee together while I baked these eggs:

Lemon Baked Eggs with Spinach

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. milk
1 c. chopped fresh spinach
1 tsp. fresh grated lemon zest
1/2 c. shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 eggs

Directions:

Lightly butter two individual ramekins (or other oven safe dish). Put a tablespoon of milk in the bottom of each one, then top with chopped spinach, lemon zest, cheese, and garlic. Break two eggs on the top of each dish and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until eggs are set. Serve with toast.

Snow Day Pancakes

In honor of my THIRD snow day in a row (which means five days off in a row, plus the four day weekend coming up — pretty ridiculous), I thought I’d post my favorite pancake recipe, which I made to celebrate my first snow day. I think I may have posted a variation on this recipe before, but it’s worth posting again. I find myself using this as a base recipe over and over.

Snow Day Pancakes

Ingredients:
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. all purpose flour (I’ve also used all whole wheat before and that works, too)
1/2 c. cornmeal (I think this is the key for the yummy texture)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
Cinnamon, nutmeg, or other spices to taste (optional — but I usually like to add some sort of spice; this time it was nutmeg)
2 eggs
2 c. milk
2 Tbsp. oil

Directions:
Mix the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl, then add the eggs, milk, and oil.  Stir together with a fork to break up the eggs. Pour on a preheated griddle and cook over medium heat until bubbles appear and the edges begin to look dry. Flip over and cook a few minutes longer or until golden brown. Top with your choice of toppings (I like warm applesauce and cinnamon or yogurt and honey; Derek likes butter and lots of maple syrup). Enjoy!

(You can vary this recipe by adding chopped fruit, nuts, or other spices. This time I added a couple tablespoons of leftover pumpkin to the second half of the batch and it turned out great. I’ve also made it with 1 1/2 c. cornmeal and 1/2 c. of flour and added garlic and Cajun spices to make a savory pancake before, too, and topped them with tomatoes and beans. I’d love to hear what variations you use….)

Garden Goodness

I’ve been missing our garden, so when I saw Maria on Sunday and she told me to come over and pick vegetables, I was delighted. I’ve been babysitting baby Lena (our  youngest housemate) and waiting for a slightly cooler day (which I finally decided just wasn’t coming since the temperature has edged over a hundred degrees most days this week), but I finally made it over to the garden this morning.

It sorely needed weeding, but it was still growing! Some of the vegetables (like the beans and cucumbers) were on their way out, wilted and molding in the dirt, but the butternut squash had exploded all over the garden, the quinoa was starting to form brightly colored orange and red buds just like the seed package had promised, several baby watermelon nestled under the leaves next to the squashes, the peppers were blushing bright red, and the zucchini was still going strong!

I spent a couple hours tugging out weeds, pulling out dead plants and vines, and avoiding spiders (the only thing I don’t like about gardening). These long, thin vines had wound themselves around a lot of the plants, so I had to carefully unwind each one so it wouldn’t damage the plants (if zucchini grow like the Kingdom of God, I’m convinced that these viney weeds grow like sin!)

And then, sweaty but satisfied, I came home, bearing two grocery bags full of homegrown veggies: butternut squash, zucchini, red peppers, hot peppers, onions, beets, baby carrots, and green tomatoes.

They became the highlight of dinner tonight:

Garlicky Baked Butternut Squash

(modified from this recipe)

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. minced fresh carrot tops (the recipe originally called for parsley)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into small cubes
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Combine all ingredients (except for the Parmesan cheese) in a shallow 2 quart baking dish. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or until the squash is tender. During the last ten minutes or so of the baking time, stir in the parmesan cheese.

(I served this over quinoa, which was delicious. I think this has just become one of my new favorite recipes)

And of course, one of the best parts about cooking any kind of squash, is toasting the seeds:

Oven-Toasted Squash Seeds

Ingredients:

Seeds from 1 squash
Seasoned salt (or other spices) to taste

Directions:

Stir together seeds and seasoned salt on a shallow baking pan (I just use a small cookie sheet). Toast at 375 degrees until lightly browned and crispy, stirring often (watch carefully since they can go from almost done to burnt very quickly).

And for dessert (yes, I actually made dessert!) I found this interesting recipe for green tomatoes. It’s definitely not the traditional fried green tomatoes and makes me want to experiment more with tart green tomatoes:

Green Tomato Crisp

(modified from this recipe)

Ingredients:

7 firm green roma tomatoes (if you use bigger tomatoes, you could use less)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup coarse graham cracker crumbs
4 Tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces

Directions:

Thinly slice the tomatoes and layer them in an ungreased baking pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with the brown sugar, then with the cracker crumbs. Top with the butter and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until bubbly and slightly browned on top.

(The pepper added an interesting bite to it, but I liked it. Next time I’d probably just cut down on the sugar a bit, just to make it a little more tart)

Salsa

On Monday Kate from the Boiler Room invited me to help her can salsa with some of the tomatoes from their garden (they have some of the biggest tomatoes I’ve ever seen!). As we chopped and stirred and waited for water to boil, she shared a bit of her story and I shared a bit of mine, and we talked about gardening, preserving, cooking, sewing, and recycling, among other things. It was encouraging and refreshing.

And at the end of the afternoon, Kate sent me home with homemade salsa and an abundance of fresh vegetables from her garden (tomatoes, collards greens, kale, and basil). I felt so blessed in so many ways!

Here’s the recipe we used (from this site):

Salsa for Canning

Ingredients

8 Ripe tomatoes
1 ½ c. of chopped mild green Anaheim-type peppers
1 c. minced jalapeno pepper
2 ½ c. chopped yellow onions
6 cloves of garlic
2 ½ tsp. cumin
2 Tbsp. of black pepper
2 Tbsp. of canning salt
12 oz. of tomato paste
15 oz. tomato sauce
1/3rd c. white vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
1/4th cup fresh and chopped cilantro

Directions:

Finely grind the tomatoes, peppers, onion, and garlic in a food processor. Pour into a large pot and add the rest of the ingredients, except for the lime juice and cilantro. Mix well. Set over heat and boil for 10 minutes. Keep on stirring while it boils. After boiling, turn off the flame and remove the salsa from heat. Add the lime juice and cilantro. Pour this mixture into pint jars (one batch makes six pints, if I remember correctly). Place the canning lids and rings on the jars again and process the jars in boiling hot water for around 15 minutes (usually, a big aluminum pot is used to place these jars for the hot water bath. The boiling hot water must cover at least 1 inch from the bottom of the jars). Ensure that the leads of the jars are tightly closed. Store the salsa cans in a cool and dry place. Once you open the lid of the jar, you must refrigerate the jar. It is also advisable to use the salsa within one year. Before opening the jar, make sure the lid of the jar is not bulging. After opening, check for foam, mold or some unusual odor. Sometimes, this happens, if the salsa is not cooked properly or something goes wrong with the recipe.