Sunday, January 20, 2013

Oatmeal Buttered Popcorn Cookies (My Smitten Kitchen Post-Sleep, Post-Four-Mile-Run Aha Moment)

Last night I had a hankering for something sweet, but on the healthy-ish spectrum. And after having had some decent sleep for once!--oatmeal cookies kept speaking to me. So. . . long story short, I will first admit to not having the original idea for these cookies. The credit goes instead to Deb Perelman and The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. A newly acquired cookbook purchase, I literally flipped the book open to begin perusing the pages for yummy things to try and it fell right open to the picture of her Buttered Popcorn Cookies. Need I say more? 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Vegan Buffalo Chicken Melts (I've put my hormones on "notice". . . and pass me more hot sauce, please!)

If anyone ever tells you menopause is "easy", turn around and smack them. I am on the door step of fifty. The. Door. Step. I am not ever going to state exactly when this milestone hits. That little blog section of mine entitled Almost Fifty will quietly be switched to something like On Death's Door. It will be quiet and uneventful. You might notice it one day and be shocked to see such a dramatic "label" within my search box. But it will appear and the day will have passed and all will roll on as it has: Sporadic postings of food and life ramblings. The usual. But with a tad more urgency perhaps. 

The whole idea for the Vegan Buffalo Chicken thing came about because I was a ravenous, menopausal mess. I wanted really BAD food, but in a good, vegan way. (We all know being vegan is not a panacea for all of life's ills, but just knowing we're at least trying by sticking to the whole "only plants" theme does ease the mind a bit, especially when you're talking about one of my past life loves: buffalo spice anything!) 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Almond White Chocolate Chip Biscotti with Whole Grain Flour (Downton Abbey: TV for the Knitting Kind)

My afternoon tea routine is a sacred time. It's reset button time. I am a creature of habit and find that a break in the mid-afternoon is critical to my own sanity. And for reasons unknown to me, I find anything crunchy to be the most satisfying to have with my tea. That's why I made these biscotti. A twice baked delicacy--they seem to have gotten better with age. The almond essence expands, getting better with time, too. I don't know how or why, I just know that when I open the cookie container and take in the aroma, I have serenity. Made even better with the addition of sliced almonds (though you could change the nut landscape to pecans or walnuts), a shot of almond extract and the addition of white chocolate chips--I find this to be the sweetest reward. 
Biscotti are probably the easiest mix and bake cookie out there. 
The recipe I adapted called for the addition of cornmeal which I found elevated the biscotti's texture, along with the shift from using all all-purpose flour to incorporating whole wheat and spelt--the healthy gal in me appreciated this change.  
Couple turns of the mixer until the good stuff's incorporated should do the trick.

Separate the dough into two halves, flatten into a rectangle--they are ready for their first round of baking.
After baking number one is over, slice the biscotti and bake again. You'll be treating your home to the double dose of almond fragrance which I find completely irresistible.

We can be a bit of TV junkies around here. We have several must see shows returning that are cause for celebration: Portlandia, PBS's Downton Abbey and Idol (though I will be honest, I don't know how much of that newbie gal I'm going to be able to stand, and I'm not talking about Mariah because everyone knows she is pure incredibleness)--so the jury will be out on that one for a bit. We are, of course, keeping our On Demand TV appointments with Top Chef. And we're anxious for the new Anthony Bourdain and Nigella Lawson show, The Taste to begin. Two of our faves in one show, it's almost too much to believe. Does TV need another cooking competition? Apparently it does. Let's hope they can pull this off. I cannot tell you how much reading of Nigella's cookbooks has given me the courage to battle through many a day of "Oh poor pitiful me, what shall I do for dinner (dessert. . . appetizer. . . etc.)"--Nigella to the rescue many a time. (And please note, I am well aware of her non-vegan status, the world of cooking inspiration does not limit itself to only vegan cooks in this house.) 

I cannot sit down in front of the TV without knitting or crocheting. Here's the latest projects from the yarn basket.
TGV (High-Speed Knitting) shawl by Susan Ashcroft. Love the colors of the Colinette yarn. Very easy TV knit. Garter stitch all around. Two yarn overs--one at the beginning of the row and one at the end--then brilliantly adding a rib pattern to finish. I am loving this knit. 
And more TV knitting. Here's how my Downton Abbey obsession went to new heights. I was jumping around in Ravelry looking for new knitting projects and stumbled across the words, Downton Abbey Knit Along (KAL) sponsored by Jimmy Beans Wool. Hmmm.

**I have resisted the urge to online shop for yarn for YEARS. Only because I know myself all too well (just ask Amazon). 

Anyway, JBW had a special dye lot of Lorna's Laces yarn specifically made in color coordination with the Edwardian period of Downton Abbey. It was beautiful: grey, brown, eggplant. However, I was late to the party and two days away from the KAL beginning. I called JBW asking what substitutions they might suggest (yes phoned in my question!). Well, I was given several options for color replacement and landed on this. The yarn arrived in the mail Monday. Alas, a day later than the kick off of the season opener, but having a skein of yarn awaiting me in my mailbox--too, too lovely! 

For those of you new to KALs--they are exactly as they sound, a few thousand knitters around the WORLD all sign up to get snippets of a "mystery" pattern revealed each week before the newest episode of Downton Abbey airs. Turns out we'll ALL be sporting a lovely pair of "gauntlets" by season's end. (Fingerless gloves for the twenty-first century.) I care not that lace and fingerless anything will look ridiculous with my usual wardrobe of workout clothes and hoodies. All I really care about is capturing the Downton Abbey spirit while relishing in another season of British soap opera at its finest

Almond White Chocolate Chip Biscotti with Whole Grain Flour
*Adapted from "Baking from My Home to Yours" by Dorie Greenspan

1/2 cup spelt flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal (not corn flour)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted vegetable margarine
3/4 cup sugar plus 1 tablespooon
3 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sliced almonds (or other nuts)
1/3 cup white chocolate chips 

Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl: flours, baking powder, salt, cornmeal. In another bowl, mix the vegetable margarine together with the sugar until it is creamy. Add the egg replacer and extracts to the butter mixture and mix until well combined. Add the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture in thirds--being careful not to over mix--just enough to dampen all the dry ingredients. Finally, fold in the nuts and chips. Divide the dough in half. Place two halves on the baking sheet and shape into rectangles. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, but leave the dough to cool on the parchment paper for ten minutes. Then, carefully slice the rectangles into pieces about 1 1/2 inches wide. Allow to cool another  half hour. (You can turn the oven off during this time if you need to.) When it is time to re-bake the biscotti, preheat oven to 350 again. Bake the sliced biscotti for an additional 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Coffee Crumb Cake Muffins with Chocolate Swirl (Notes on A Crazy Year with A "New" Kind of Crazy on Tap)

Well. It's here. Thirteen. I needed a few days to find my center of gravity. New years always bring in a bit of dread. The numeric implications of 2013 is not lost on me one bit. I am very superstitious. I held a ritual burning of last year's calendar and sage incense burning was included. I completed a sort of "work on these things" list in my journal. I don't live and die by my lists. But a few of the items would place me in the company of Mother Teresa were I to complete them. 


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