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.

So much going on in the garden right now, it's hard not to stop and take a picture. I love the cool weather we've been having. So far the temps have only inched into the mid-eighties and that's about right where I'd agree is summer "enough". 

One day I heard a familiar screech, looked up and saw our resident Mississippi Kite family had returned. It's the little things in life, people. 
On another day, Dr. Thyme and I were enjoying the afternoon when we both heard screeches (plural), thinking a bird may have met it's maker. But no. Our hawks were touring the back yard. You have to be stealth-like to get a shot of these birds of prey, and they don't take kindly to you spotting them because if they're out in the open, then they've seen something they're very likely going to have for lunch soon. To see two of them perched together like this--I was very lucky.
Perhaps they'd like one of these. . . I found coiled in a tight ball in the back yard with Frankie and Big Sissy running around it howling and barking like the living dead had just arrived. (Which to me, once I saw this, it may as well have been the raising of the dead--I about fainted right there. I had to use my extra screechy, high-pitched canine mommy voice, shaking the treat can to lure the adorable little critters back into the house--all the while checking my pulse to see if it was still there. Oh, and of course Dr. Thyme was out of town. Of course). 

And all of this before my first cup of coffee. But before I did that, I needed a picture of the serpent in my garden--who'd believe this?
Apparently this is a "good" snake to have. 
To have for what I have no idea.   
Ten-month old Frankie is still growing, and still a bit of a monster. . . 
but we lover her dearly. 
(*We think she may have outgrown her love of books--and that's a good thing.)
My sewing escapades lead me down the path of trying my hand at making myself a garden "bonnet".
Well, instead it seems I made a garden "yurt hat". Or a garden "bucket hat". 
I believe my problem was when I used the wrong lining.
 I will tell you one thing: there will be no sun on my face under this hat. 
But I may need someone to hold my hand to keep from knocking into a pole or something.

Vegan Strawberry Crumb Tart
*makes enough for two small ramekins 

for the crumb crust and topping

1/4 cup pecans
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup spelt flour (or whatever you have on hand)
1/4 cup muesli
3 T. Earth Balance butter
1 T. raw sugar
1 T. brown sugar
1/2 t. ground cinnamon

for the filling

1 1/2 cups strawberries (fresh or frozen)
1 T. spelt flour
1 T. raw sugar
2 T. Earth Balance Butter
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
zest of half a lemon

Preheat oven to 350. Place two small ramekins on a cookie sheet, spray with nonstick spray, set aside. In a food processor, pulse until a fine crumb. (This may take about twenty pulses.) Press the crumb mixture into each ramekin--come up the side of each ramekin a bit. (*Hold back about 2 tablespoons of the mixture to spread over the top of the fruit.) Place the fruit in a bowl and add the filling ingredients and toss well to coat. Fill each ramekin with half of the strawberry mixture. Use the remaining crumb mixture to top each ramekin. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes.

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.)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Vegan Quinoa Tacos with Black Beans, Corn and Guacamole (the veggie plot is ready. . . tomatoes beckon, asparagus not so much)

I blame this meal on Hillary. And the media. If I see her one more time ordering "that" food, I swear. Were there moments when I was ready to cave-in, get the car and go forth in dark sunglasses to my favorite lunch spot? Absolutely. But cooler heads prevailed and my own food pantry beckoned, and here's what we had instead. (Let's hope the media can spend the next year and a half focusing on something more relevant than Hillary's attire and sunglasses at a "refueling" stop from her campaign bus.) 
Don't. Get. Me. Started. 

This dinner came together in a snap and was only a two-pan clean-up. I love quinoa. Maybe even more than rice. (I've been known to combine the two!) I've been cooking a lot more lately with grains. Or at least trying to incorporate more of them into our dinners. I would typically go with lentils in my vegan taco dinner--but this proved a very worthy dinner entree. The next day, we had them for lunch--cold. No re-heating necessary. Really good. Tons of protein, fiber and iron. Skip to the bottom for the recipe.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Vegan Eggplant Almond Enchiladas from Moosewood (a puppy drama moment involving chocolate...gaahhhh!)

I swear, if it weren't for the Moosewood cookbooks in my collection, some nights, there'd be no dinner. I mean that literally. When the pull of kitchen apathy strikes, or major puppy trials--I find inspiration in their recipes. These eggplant almond enchiladas have earned a place in our dinner rotation (when I can find a "decent" eggplant in the middle of the country, in the middle of winter/early spring!). Say what you will of the combo eggplant/almonds--it works and it works deliciously. I'll tell you up front, there are a few pots and pans needed to bring this delicacy to the table in all its glory--small price to pay to do this right. You'll make your own enchilada sauce (which is no more than cumin/garlic enhanced diced tomatoes), then there's the toasting of the almonds, and the eggplant filling--which from a "throw together" standpoint is really not that big a deal, I mean you're already in the kitchen, right. Make it worth while and bring your cooking self out. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Vegan Banana Bread Pudding Crumb Cake that Happened by Accident (eat cake, ice foot, get better. . . a running nemesis strikes and honesty about the past catching up to you)

This is a happy accident cake. During our major snow storm this weekend, an incredible urge to bake using bananas overcame me. I have scads of recipes for banana this and banana that--mostly in bread or muffin form. Then there is my other favorite form: cake. I'm a little behind on my recipe "trying"'--that is, I cut recipes out, stuff them in a folder and wait for a moment when I'm not lassoing training a puppy, to try and file them into my very stuffed three-ring binders. Well. Whatever. I just remembered cutting a recipe out, banana something and crumbs were involved. It actually was supposed to be a coffee cake--you know, something you'd have for breakfast. Does this cake here look anything like a coffee cake? My eyes say no. But, my curiosity said, Well, there goes two perfectly over-ripened bananas into a cake that didn't quite come out a cake. . . until my first bite and I was like, whoa--what just happened here? DID I JUST ACCIDENTALLY CREATE A VEGAN BREAD PUDDING. (Which I will admit has been missing from my life since our pre-vegan days. No regrets, just some taste buds that have food pang memories working.) And there it is.  

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Pistachio Cardamom Shortbread Cookies (perfectly "crumbly". . . for this winter slump)

Sometimes a really good cookie can rescue me from a really bad day. We woke to bitterly cold winds, temperatures in the single digits--and only expected to climb to the teens--and a layer of new snow on the ground. (At least we don't have a hundred inches of snow, things could be so much worse)--I shouldn't complain. Then there was a rambunctious puppy under foot whose only desire in this world involves chasing, running, and gnawing. Little can be done to keep her "down" and quiet other than wearing her out with games of indoor hide and seek and little short trips outside. I was desperate for a break and thought she would find her chew-bone more exciting than my leg, arm, kneecap or hip--so I began pulling together the ingredients for this amazing shortbread cookie. I love, LOVE, love these.
I whipped these up in no time, before my second cup of coffee, even! They were almost too easy. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Vegan Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies with Extra Chocolate Chips (and a smidgen of hazelnut flour I had left over from a "flour-buying" spree: Love. These.)

I took our food pantry completely apart one afternoon. I re-sorted, re-arranged and basically brought some sanity into the kitchen. In my journey to creating a much neater, more organized life, I discovered I had amassed four different flours (aside from your basic all-purpose and bread flour). So really, I had like eight flours on hand (plus two gigantic bags of slivered almonds!) Why? I remember having this really crazy notion in November (when we all have visions of a "Jimmy Stewart" kind of holiday): "Wouldn't it be great to make ALL kinds of cookies this Christmas with ALL kinds of different flours!?" That'd really UP my cookie baking game!. . . And then the really busy time of December and reality of life/puppy raising set in and here I was in January staring at four bags of flours I had no idea what to do with. The hazelnut flour spoke to me the most. I was NOT going to let this bag perish. 


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