Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Vegan Italian Sesame Seed Cookies (thirty years and counting. . . BFFs, fried pickles and snow)

Italian Sesame Seed Cookies
The serious cookie baking has begun. Last week, I was hard pressed to get something together to take as a hostess gift. I had stocked up on a bag of toasted sesame seeds I'd purchased on The Hill (St. Louis Italian food destination), in hopes of a cookie exactly like this. Little did I know I shared an affinity for the sesame seed. I arrived at my BFFs with gift in hand and we nearly ate the ENTIRE tray of these cookies before they ever made it to her mother's house! Some things never change: cookie love and best friends. I have made two more batches of this sesame seed cookie since then. Need I say more about their lusciousness? I've been savoring them in the afternoon as a mid-day pick-me-up and in the evenings with a cup of tea before bed. They are THE cookie of 2013. If you want to jump to the recipe below, feel free to do so. They come together in a snap and travel well, too. Meantime, let me backtrack a bit about girlfriend and me.  

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Vegan Sour Cherry Pie with Flaky All-Butter Crust (Knitted Cuteness: Snowmen, Gnomes and Stars. Is This Supposed to Happen with A Broken Ankle?)

Sour Cherry Pie with Flaky All-Butter Crust
Consider baking a pie for someone for Christmas. I did. Except I decided I needed my pie earlier and I baked this pie for myself on Thanksgiving. I ate most of it myself, too. I had never tried an all-butter (vegan butter) pie crust before. But my taste buds were not disappointed. The recipe could not have been easier--once you make your dough (time to throw together: about five minutes), chill the dough (a half hour), drain the cherries, reserving some juice, then add a little of this and a pinch of that (another five minutes), then roll the dough and place in pie plate and add the cherries (about five more minutes), and bake (forty-five minutes)--you'll be greeted with an amazingly delicious cherry pie extravaganza. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Vegan Eggnog Coffee Cake with Toasted Pecan Streusel (Week Two with "The Boot")

If I see one more story about how to survive your in-laws (or food, travel, Black Friday, etc.,), I think I'll scream. Just reading about Thanksgiving is giving me stress. So I bake. 

We came home with a box of vegan eggnog from the store this weekend. (Oh the horrors of shopping in the electronic cart.) It was nice to sink my teeth into cake again. I'd held off baking until I'd felt my lying-around-while-my-ankle-heals-weight-gain-scare was really just that, a scare. I've so far kept weight demons at bay by nearly starving myself all day, everyday since The Boot arrived.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Vegan Chocolate Hazelnut Sesame Bars (Italian Cookie Baking for Christmas Begins. . . and Ankle Boot "Nemesis" Update)

Vegan Thyme: Vegan Chocolate Hazelnut Sesame Bars (Italian Cookie Baking for Christmas Begins. . . and Ankle Boot "Nemesis" Update)
Right before I broke my ankle, I'd been on a quest to expand my collection of Italian Christmas cookie recipes. I love Italian cookies. (Thank you "genetics" on my biological father's side: Italian baking suits me.) They have more heft than the usual cookie affair of other European descent. What do I mean by "heft". Well, take the biscotti. Heft, no? Dunkable, crunchy, long shelf life. If you handed me an almond finger cookie--a delicious Italian, crumbly cookie in its own right--and a chocolate chip cookie--good old American fare--it'd be no contest, I'd take the almond finger cookie every time. I know that smacks in the face my professed love of chocolate, but I do have other applications for which chocolate prevails. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Take Note: The" King Amendment" to the Farm Bill WILL Endanger Animal Welfare (at a minimum, it's ludicrous and cruel)

I navigate this terrain on tenterhooks. It's a very personal choice to be an animal activist or not. I don't wave a flag in front of my friends' faces proclaiming my lifestyle over theirs is better. I simply wish for a kinder approach to our existence as it relates to food production and consumption. Sure I'd love it if the world went vegan. But I am not naive. It's for this reason a piece in this morning's paper gave me pause. I thought I'd share some thoughts with you all as this holiday season ratchets up full speed and eating takes center stage.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

One Week Ago Today (last night's dinner disaster averted)

It's been a week ago today that I broke my ankle. Last night it hit me. I was a puddle of tears, in pain and in bed by six--unable to move. I don't feel sorry for myself. And I really don't want to turn this blog into some medical confessional--that really wasn't why I started this in the first place. And how I am dealing with this is not how you or someone you know might deal with broken bones/changed life (however temporary it may be--it's still quite a blow when you've reached fifty and your own vulnerability is staring you right smack in the face owing to some stupid misfortune). Medical professionals will guide me through the ups and downs of my physical recovery. It's the mental part that has started worrying me. My sharing in this space is hopefully going to help me and maybe someone else going through the same thing. This whole "hard stop" is different. Breaking my ankle has literally knocked me out of life as I've known it and it's a BIG effing deal.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Perfect Day (minus the thunder, lightning. . . and crutches)

We've been watching all of Elvis Costello's Spectacle episodes on Netflix. I've watched some episodes multiple times. It's a perfect show. It's more like a living encyclopedia of talent, trivia and emotion. Music and records surrounded me growing up--this show is like candy to me. Elvis (incredibly talented in his own right) interviews some of the industry's giants and collaborates with them on several memorable pieces. After Lou Reed died, we watched the episode of Elvis interviewing him. Compelling and sad given this great talent is no longer with us. I was never a punk rocker, per se, (maybe with my eyeliner) but the punk scene certainly heavily influenced my generation. So here DH and I were all caught up in our emotions, listening intently to Lou Reed play Perfect Day, saying to each other, that's us: so many perfect days. Cue the music. 
. . . But wait, there's these damn crutches.   

It was a gorgeous morning yesterday. I'd had enough of this "sitting" stuff. Though every little move around our small house is like moving through an obstacle course, a "workout"--but mostly a few feet here and there, and not enough to keep my heart rate up. I pleaded with DH to please load me up in the car (a production in and of itself) and take me to our favorite trail. This proved fraught with complications.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Snap! That Was My Ankle Breaking (On Staying Sane One Hour at a Time. . . Life without Running)

There was a snap (two of them actually), a primal scream, apparently coming from me. Confusion. And sky (because I was flat on my back on a pile of leaves), and the sudden realization that somehow I had to, regardless of the golf ball sized instantaneous swelling appearing around my ankle, drag myself back inside, up a flight of stairs, to my phone--all without use of my right leg. Lucky for me, I keep walking sticks all over the property for just such occasions. Not that I'm prone to breaking a bone, but I am prone to falling more than the average five foot eight, All-Leg woman. 

I went into survival mode and said to myself, this is why evolution made sure we came equipped with a shot of adrenaline. It was the adrenaline that allowed me to get to my phone, call my husband, utter very little in the way of actual words other than, "I've broken my ankle" before he was off the phone and on his way home.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

BBQ Portobello Kimchi Burger (And. . . The Lampshade-Cone-on-My-Dog Saga)

So far in my lifetime, I've survived without ever having tried Kimchi. Well. That's now changed. Kimchi is a Korean condiment much like ketchup is to us. (Or so I've read.) It's fermented cabbage with spices and whatnot, and a flavor that is somewhat hard to describe (sour-ish, tart, spicy, bitter--but in a good way.) It made this burger taste out of this world and has become a new family favorite for all things needing "just a little bit of something" on it. The Kimchi in our neck of the woods comes in "spicy" and "mild". I went with "mild"--though now that we've been initiated, I'd go for spicy next time. I cannot tell you the number of times I've walked right by this little jewel of flavor in my produce section. I've picked it up maybe a dozen times and hemmed and hawed and thought, "I know I've read about this, but what exactly am I to do with it?" I am now Kimchi inspired.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Vegan Apple Cake with Caramel Glaze (Apple Pickin' in Fresh-off-the-Knitting-Needles Eyelet Raglan Cardi!)

Vegan Thyme: Vegan Apple Cake with Caramel Glaze (Apple Pickin' in Fresh-off-the-Knitting-Needles Eyelet Raglan Cardi!)
This is a straightforward cake. A one bowl cake. A chunky apple cake--so the apples don't disappear in the cake. You taste apples. You're practically eating an apple with each slice. This cake is for a true apple lover (I am very much of this ilk).

 I had this crazy dream that I'd missed apple season entirely. No apple butter, pies, cupcakes or cake! That's how we ended up at the apple orchard last weekend--I was in a panic over the prospect of this calamity. Thirty pounds of apples later, we are all fine here. Now the apple baking palooza has begun and first up, this ridiculously easy, albeit quite ugly, but incredibly delicious cake. I was completely surprised by how tasty this cake turned out. I've scoffed at baking "cakes" with apples. I felt the cake too fine a vessel for carrying the work of the apple. Oh how I was wrong. I have apple cake recipes from my grandmother, from my mother's Amish cookbooks, plus instructions for beautiful bundt cakes made with shredded apples and fancy glazes throughout my cookbook collection. But then I stumbled upon this recipe for a plain "old fashioned" apple cake, and my vintage spirit could not resist. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Godspeed Merlin, a.k.a. Best Boy Ever (Canine Degenerative Myelopathy Disease and The Final Year)

Merlin was our first boy dog. He won me over thirteen or so years ago when I was "walking" him while he served time at the city pound. I continued visiting, walking, encouraging, hoping he'd find a forever home. No such luck. It wasn't for his lack of trying. He was an incredible flirt. The minute I'd bring him out of his cage, he'd literally nudge me into a corner, sitting like a good boy, and wag that darn tail. I was won over immediately, but we had a house full of dogs by then and I didn't think we were ready for another one, much less bringing a boy into the mix. Our interludes went on like this for about two weeks (me begging the shelter to keep him "off the list". . . he's totally adoptable, just give me time) until one morning I went in and was confronted by the staff and told, and I quote, "Your boy's time is up." Wow. I had no other alternative. In the car with me he went. We had our first boy.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Vegan Spinach, Tofu, Chard and Herb Pie (Don't Fear the Filo)

Food encased in dough. I'm in. I came across this recipe for Herb Pie in my cookbook, Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamini (one of my most treasured cookbooks) and wanted to re-create his version (omit the cheese, eggs) and still have a delicious dinner with bragging rights. And I think I have. First, a word about my love/hate relationship with filo. It scares me. I could have just as easily substituted this recipe by using a myriad of other options reserved for food filling: the puff pastry, a regular pie pastry, a crumble-topped affair, to name a few. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Vegan Dill Pickle and Potato Soup (With No Regrets)

Vegan Dill Pickle and Potato Soup
It dipped into the forties in the evening this weekend. Potato cravings ensued. I didn't want straight potato soup, mind you--you know the one, leeks etc. I sought a potato and then some. I love it when I can intuit how a soup might come together once I glance at a recipe. Skimming the ingredient list, I set about pulling from the drawers in the fridge and cool storage areas all the food stuff I have on hand to make this soup my own. It's not the prettiest soup on the block, but the pickle part intrigued me the most. It's a Polish soup. Old country as my mother would say. And I love dill pickles--you add them at the end of the cooking so you experience a tart, dilly bite with each spoonful. We loved this soup. So simple. And filling. Both characteristics qualify this soup as an official fall soup festival soup in our house.  

Monday, September 9, 2013

Vegan Banana Bread: Breakfast Ready with Chocolate and Espresso in the Mix! (And Knitting the "Vogue Eyelet Raglan Cardigan" in Pretty Pale Blue for My New Gray Hair!)

I came home with a ginormous bag of bananas from Costco last week and this is what I ended up with: banana bread. Sometimes buying in bulk is necessary. I usually scoff at the purchase of a trunk load of bananas--a buck forty or not, and think, When will we ever eat all of those? Instead, I'll usually bring home a maximum of four bananas a week from the "regular" store because I like to have a half banana before bed (sometimes DH does, too)--and that about does it for us for a week's supply. Well, I had six bananas left in my bag still--and the "spotting" had started. I really wasn't in the mood to bake at all. (Yes, I have non-baking moments.) And yet. The bananas. They mocked me. I hate waste. I could have frozen them for smoothies, I realize. But I've not been in the smoothie mood. So this. So. Glad. I. Baked. Jump to the recipe here.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Peach Praline Pecan Streusel Pie: Serious Pie for Serious Peaches (. . .The Story of My "Fall" and Pictures of Things Outside)

I don't think it'd be a stretch to say I love peaches. Even after the whole peach growing, peach harvesting and peach jam making I did a few weeks back, I'm still bringing home peaches from the store. Just. In. Case. In case of what exactly, I couldn't say. This pie is a bit of a multi-stepper, but in a painless way. You make your pie dough (or godforbid, use store bought if you must), mix up the streusel (storing the extra you'll have for muffins or better yet, another pie!), peel and slice up the peaches, assemble pie, bake, cool and eat. So easy. If you want to skip ahead and not read my story about my falling, that's fine. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sabih and Zhough: 'Jerusalem' Cookbook Inspired (And. . . For the Love of Book Fairs and Great Finds)

Sabih was never going to be something I just thought, "Oh, how about Sabih tonight?" Yes, if I'd had the chance to bond further with my Croatian born grandfather, perhaps a food trip or two would have been in order (I happen to know he loved food as much as my father did and as much as I do)--I may have encountered something akin to this dish on one of our excursions. But perhaps not. This is, according to my cookbook Jerusalem, a dish not from Jerusalem, but "developed by Iraqi Jews settling in the 1950s in the city of Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv". Who knew? Ottolenghi says this eggplant/pita (yes I made my own spelt pitas to go with this) with yummy filling is "exciting street food". Well, for me, this dish is seasonal and super flavorful and exciting vegan dinner food. Made with eggplants I bought local-- because I can't get an eggplant to grow to save my life--combined with the other components (pictured below) and the husband and I were smitten throughout the entire meal. Here's a link to the full recipe. I added some left over vegan meatballs to this, just in case you wondered what that other non-eggplant looking item on the pita was. They, by the way, made a devilishly good addition to the sabih. In most instances the dish is served with hard boiled eggs. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Gluten Free Sweet Potato Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins (My Midlife Baking Healthier, Eating Happier--with Less Sugar AND Less Gluten Shift)

I've been experimenting with gluten free baking for the past year now. Honestly, who hasn't? I have had some terrific results. I've also had some sad disasters. A health concern recently triggered a demand for me to cut back on foods on the upper register of the glycemic index. More on this in a moment. Meantime, desperate for a little sweet, a little "bread" with my morning GF oatmeal, I came up with these gems. Sweet potatoes are a favorite of mine. I haven't met a woman who doesn't love them. Trying to get my husband to eat one is like pulling teeth. He's, to be polite, not a fan. However, carefully disguised in food stuffs, they pass. I have read the sweet potato is a sort of "wonder food" for women who are losing their minds. . . I mean estrogen levels. More sweet potatoes for me please! I wanted a moist muffin that could hold up to my ritual of slightly re-heating and then dabbing with a bit of Earth Balance margarine. And then, of course, I needed chocolate. The list of ingredients is fairly long for these, but don't be put off buy this--they are worth it. Easy to whip up though. Plus, in the end, my blood sugar thanked me. These were completely worth the trial and error it took to get here. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Vegan Semolina, Coconut and Orange Marmalade Cake with Chocolate Ganache (And. . . my first peach harvest that almost "wasn't")

Vegan Thyme: Vegan Semolina, Coconut and Orange Marmalade Cake with Chocolate Ganache (And. . . my first peach harvest that almost "wasn't")...
I've had my eye on this cake for quite some time. But I needed two things to make it happen: sunflower oil and orange marmalade. I have both now. And the cake was completely worth the wait. The original recipe is from the cookbook Jerusalem by Yotam Ottogenghi and Sami Tamimi. I had a bigger than usual vegan challenge in adapting this recipe as it calls for four eggs! But this cake was happening regardless. The chocolate part is completely optional. Honestly, I wasn't going the chocolate ganache route until DH said, You ARE going to add chocolate to this, right?
The thing that I had trouble with in making this was achieving that little "bump" down the middle typical in loaf cakes. Or the crack on top where the syrup goes. When the baking time came to an end and I had no "bump" on top of my cakes, I was a bit crestfallen to tell the truth. I had my hopes set on this little feature. Could be my baking powder's time had run out, or something was wrong with my egg replacer (which is what I opted using for the eggs in the recipe vs. a flax and water mix or some other iteration of vegan egg helper). Truth be told, the lack of this little feature did not harm the cake's end result in the least little bit. Nada. So this past week, husband and I have enjoyed splitting a slice of this cake as an after dinner treat. It's loaded with flavor. Topped after just coming from the oven with orange flavored sugar syrup, there is really no need for more than a small piece. You will feel the love of this cake in one bite size and be satisfied. Trust me. Which is why I love it so much.   
I haven't told you about my peach tree yet. I'll try to make this short. Three years ago I brought home three fruit trees: a peach tree, apricot tree and pear tree. We planted them in our back yard (un-fenced area) and waited. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Vegan Dark Chocolate Cake with Dark Chocolate Buttercream Frosting (Special Occasion Optional)

Chocolate as an afterthought. I baked this cake around four yesterday afternoon. I had only one kind of chocolate on hand, Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa. On the back of the box is a recipe for their Especially Dark Cake, but not a vegan version. I took matters into my own hands and made necessary changes (quite on the fly, I might add, but vegan "challenges" cannot and should not get in the way of a woman's chocolate cravings). 

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