Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Vegan Summer Heirloom Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter (. . . feeding my "inner fashionista" hand sewing Alabama Chanin and joining Sew-a-longs)

The tomatoes have been piling up here. I had to do something. So I did Italian of course. Not that I needed a recipe to create a perfect fresh tomato sauce with pasta dinner. I didn't. But I believe anything Italian made well can be made even better with little pearls of wisdom from Marcella Hazan. Made with 2 lbs. of heirloom tomatoes, a half stick of vegan butter, an onion (peeled and cut into quarters), five cloves of garlic and cooked this according to Marcella at "a very slow but steady simmer for 45 minutes . . . until the fat floats from from the tomato". Her basic sauce omits the garlic and I can appreciate that option. But as far as I'm concerned, it's not really edible Italian Sauce without the garlic. I tasted the sauce while it was simmering without the garlic, it was "okay". As the sauce simmered, I thought it needed some umph: so I also added a fresh zucchini, a carrot, some celery and a can of garbanzo beans. This was a scrumptious meal. 
And an even better leftover the next night. 
I also added fresh basil and oregano from the garden, too--but toward the end of cooking. 
Finally, I hit it with some balsamic vinegar. Perfecto!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Vegan Texas Sheet Cake for Two (eat chocolate: feel better. . . and Frankie's first year)

Well. I needed chocolate. You know how when you usually bake a Texas Sheet Cake, you're obliged to bake with an overly large thirteen inch cake pan--with a TON of leftover cake mocking you the rest of the week? (Nibbling away here and there until five more pounds creep up on you? Seriously, now that I'm in the "over fifty" range--if I look at a cake, I can feel my thighs growing.) Not so with this cake. It takes a six-inch round springform pan, less temptation--more reason to love, and viola: cake for two! Perhaps a more appropriate name for it would be: Rhode Island Chocolate Sheet Cake. (Okay, I have dibs on this name for my future restaurant.)

 It's delicious, moist, chocolate-y, nutty and cinnamon-y. Pure delish. Serve it with some vegan ice cream and really get your dessert fix on. But not five pounds worth, 'kay?
I found a wonderful little baking book: Dessert for Two by Christina Lane in the book store quite by accident a few weeks back (or maybe the book found me). Although not vegan in its design, you know I've never met a non-vegan recipe I couldn't veganize--I'll be busy baking from this book for 
awhile. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Roasted Corn, Avocado and Black Bean Salad (A Yankee as "Miss Maudie" reading . . . To Kill a Mockingbird)

This salad is a result of a time-honored tradition as head chef of this household: It's a hundred and thirty here in St. Louis. Cripes almighty! No cooking will happen--we are all raw foods here. This salad took literally five minutes to prep. I have tomatoes and cucumbers galore from the garden--I pulled out whatever else I had on hand to make a lovely main-dish salad. It was dressed with a yummy balsamic vinaigrette and fresh lemon juice. I had so little energy yesterday afternoon, I could barely scoop the avocado from its shell. Chopping and peeling the cucumber from the garden nearly did me in. And the corn roasting part!--I was able to muster only because I had made a quick dash to the store after my morning run, husked it right away and put in a bag in the fridge. All I had to do was place the corn over the open flame of the stove for a few seconds to add a nice color of "I-worked-hard-to-make-you-a-salad-for-dinner" appeal. Simple. Straightforward and filling. I topped the salad with some quinoa for an extra protein boost. Salads are an essential summer staple right now. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Vegan Summer "Berry Good" Pie According to Fannie Farmer (A Tale of Two Cities for Me This Summer)

Pies don't last long in this house. It's a tradition for me to bake at least three or four pies during the summer. But given we've had some really steamy, icky-raining, crappy summer days here in St. Louis this year so far, this is my first pie. But oh, what a pie! It's a three berry pie: blueberries, blackberries and raspberries all done according to the Fannie Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham. (One of my most treasured cookbooks--and is to be saved first should, godforbid, anything happen to this house.) 

As pies go, if you don't attempt to learn anything else in baking, learning a pie dough recipe by heart will add years to your life and the life of your loved ones. Abiding by the directions from Fannie Farmer, "Pie dough should be made by hand in order to achieve the greatest flakiness. Other methods, using the food processor or blender, overblend the fat and flour and end up making a good, crumbly tart pastry instead of a flake pie crust." Truer words were never said. So here is the memorized pie dough recipe I have used:

2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3/4 cup vegan shortening
6-7 tablespoons ice cold water

Add flour and salt to medium bowl, then add shortening in pieces, mix together with your hands until a fine crumb forms. And in this case, the mixture should look like what Fannie Farmer says: bread crumbs. Then, add the ice cold water one tablespoon at a time until you can pinch the mixture together and it holds. Split the dough in half, shape into a flat disc, wrap in plastic and chill in fridge for about 30 minutes. (Fannie Farmer says the chilling part is not necessary, and it really isn't despite what you've read. I just like the way the dough handles after a brief chill--my rolling pin experience involves less cursing as well.)

And for the filling, keep it simple: 

5 cups of whatever fruit you'd like
3/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour or cornstarch
juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegan butter
Toss this all together and pour into your pie shell.
Bake at 425 for 30 minutes, then turn oven down to 350, bake 25 minutes more. Cool the pie.
Ta-da: Pie!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Soaking Rains. . . Sewing Myself Sane (and Frankie is eleven months old today!)

The last time I saw the sun, or the last time I can recall seeing it, I spent a lovely, albeit, very hot day in the yard: mowing, pruning and . . . picking some delicious black raspberries for my smoothies later in the day.
 It's been horrible ever since. 
The weather forced me into needing some indoor therapy and productive days in My Sewing Lair
Days of happy harvesting and romping through the woods for good fruits.
Long . . . ago.

We're veering off the track of food and recipe sharing for a while. I have to be honest, I've been a single lady here at home a lot these past few weeks and finding solace in other areas of creativity--like sewing. Eating, not so much. (Though I did whip up a big batch of chocolate chip cookies and munch on those little guys regularly. I haven't completely lost my cooking/baking mojo.)

Nothing like a trip to the fabric store to cure what ails you, right? I've shopped for fabric lately more than I have for food. I can go hours and hours sewing. It's meditative to me. Time seems to slip by and suddenly. . . it's almost five in the afternoon. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Vegan Strawberry Crumb Tart (and. . . under my WIDE brimmed hat in the garden)

This is what you get when you bring home a 2 lb. tray of strawberries and are home alone all week. The strawberries were obviously going to find a home in a smoothie here and there, but not 2 lbs., worth of them. What is marvelous about this delicious, nutty, cinnamon-y treat was the time it took to prepare it. Let's just say, by the time you've read this post, you could have made this already, okay?! I go for simple cooking here lately. And when I glanced in the freezer and saw the almonds and pecans, I thought nothing of throwing them in the food processor with a little vegan butter, some sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and whipping up a nice little mini-tart shell (it took seconds, really!). The aroma from this baking was enough to satisfy my craving for something sweet, baked in quaint little ramekin and out of the oven ready to serve: crunchy, tart, sweet and yummy.  

Strawberries are a fruit favorite of mine going way back. I was the kid who'd order an ice cream sundae, "hold the whip cream. . .more strawberries." However, there's a limit to when I'll consume a strawberry. I won't eat them in the middle of winter unless they've been frozen by me during their peak months of May and June. After that, it's as if the strawberry never existed. (It's the same for tomatoes, though I do allow for some "Italian" canned varieties to enter the home in the dead of winter--a girl's gotta have her vegan lasagna.) We've moved so far off the Eat Seasonally path that I find it disturbing shopping in February and March surrounded by the same produce I saw the previous July. . . in the same places! We are a spoiled, rotten food nation. But that's okay 'cause when I want an avocado, I want an avocado.

Here is the beauty of making this Strawberry Crumb Tart: just put the nuts you have on hand in the dish and you will be fine, trust me. After a few pulses, you'll have this sticky, crumbly mixture--perfect for pressing into the ramekins. Then toss your filling with a bit of sugar, lemon zest and nutmeg, top that with a bit more of the crumb mixture and there you have it! It's delish. Go crazy and mix the strawberries with some blueberries or cherries, it's all good, I promise.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

One Hour Bread (if it looks like bread, tastes like bread, then. . . )

This bread recipe works. That's all I have to say on the matter of this loaf. Whether or not you believe truly worthy bread can only be had through a "looong fermentation/resting" period, or from hundred year old sourdough starter, sometimes a girl's gotta have bread. And now, not tomorrow. (I'll be a cast out by the "bread heads" for saying this, but I've yet to have a sourdough starter loaf of bread knock my socks off.) Anyhow, if you feel daring--oh, and pressed for time (and who isn't?)--you will not be sorry you waited til four in the afternoon to decide dinner would be enhanced "if only" you had a fresh loaf of bread you could serve. And here it is. One. Hour. Bread.
Most of the time, I'd classify myself as a "skeptic". This is a family trait. Non trusting. Or better yet, to borrow a phrase, "trust but verify". As skeptics, we get the daily local newspaper in this house--The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, for anyone interested. The for real paper--the one we'd be able to read were the world to suddenly not have internet. (Shudder the thought.)

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