Saturday, June 9, 2012

It's Not Easy Baking without Butter

I miss my butter.  Creamy, salty, comforting.  I've been perusing vegan cookbooks and blogs (my favorite right now is this one: Post Punk Kitchen because these women can write - they always tell a nifty story when describing their recipe odysseys) - and the savory is great, I do not miss butter there.  However, baked goods are frustrating me.  They come out too sweet for my taste buds because there is no fat to cut the sugar.  When I cut back on the sugar, cakes and cupcakes become tough.  I've tried substituting brown sugar, honey, molasses, but baked goods still come out, at least for me, with that sweetness that goes right to the frontal lobe and gives me a headache.  

But my dairy allergic girl loves her sweets and so I persist.  There must be some sort of an answer (well other than a lobotomy).  And for me, that answer is the incredible little egg.  Which is why I'll never be a vegan.  Well, that and bacon.  (I once had a friend who became a vegetarian except for pancetta fried up all crispy and who can blame her?)

The other day I was looking through a Nigella Lawson cookbook when I stumbled across a banana muffin recipe that used OIL and EGGS instead of butter and I hit my head Homer Simpson style emitting a big "DOH."  The mashed banana and the oil created a lot of moisture.  I substituted some brown sugar for half the white sugar which also adds moisture.  And, because I didn't have any overripe bananas, I substituted applesauce, and a yummy dairy free muffin was born.  
Here it is:
1/2 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1 2/3 cups flour
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar firmly packed
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp table salt (not kosher or sea)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce (OR: mashed very ripe banana, or a combo of both)
1 cup of non-dairy Enjoy Life Chocolate Mega-chunks (if you don't want chocolate you can use any other kind of chip, butterscotch, peanut butter, or you can use blueberries or raspberries, but if you use fruit please see my note below)
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Drop some cupcake liners into a cupcake pan.  This recipe makes about 12 cupcakes.  (I always use liners, and when I don't have liners, I cut up parchment into squares, line the squares up over the 

Whisk oils and eggs together so they create a nice foamy emulsion. 

In a separate bowl whisk together all the dry ingredients, then mix in the eggs/oil.  

Using a wooden spoon, mix in the applesauce (or bananas or whatever).  After that carefully fold in the chips.  (Note: if you are using blue berries or raspberries don't add them now, wait until you are filling the muffin cups drop half of the batter into the muffin cup, sprinkle 3 or so blue or raspberries then top with another scoop of batter)

I like to use a 2 inch ice cream scoop to fill the muffin cups - but you want to fill each cup almost to the top.  Place in the oven for 20 minutes.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Dear Lord, It's April (stolen stir fry with curry)

I just realized my last post was in February - where I promised to write about my recipe for bread sans the beer.  Well, I'm still working on that.  I've been trying to bake a bread that's higher in protein so I can feel good about sending my daughters out the door in the morning with nothing more than a piece of toast in their hands.  I've been experimenting with adding things like eggs instead of oil, quinoa flour for half the white flour, whole wheat and then the pretty good King Arthur white whole wheat flour - but I can't quite get the crunchy crusty crust I'm looking for with my substitutions.  And you know what, dear readers?  You deserve perfection, and dammit, I'm going to give it to you - I refuse to post until I like the bread myself, and, perhaps even more challenging, until my daughters like my bread.  So there.  My bread still lives in the land of the experiment.  I wish I had one of those test kitchens like Martha Stewart and Chris Kimball have, but I don't.  I have a kitchen that has to make breakfast, lunch and dinner for my hungry horde.  And I don't have time to mess around for hours on end.  That's all I'm going to say about it for now.  I'm not bitter.  Not at all.

However, last night I will admit to making a darn good stir fry - and I'm hoping I haven't posted this one here before - or something like it.  If I have forgive me - it's because I'm still wrapped up in bread -

I took the basics from a Cooks Illustrated recipe for a Stir Fry with Curry Sauce, and then, because once again I didn't have most of the ingredients, substituted all sorts of things.  If you want the un-bastardized recipe, go to the link - but you can make it my way too -

1/4 - 1/2 lb or so boneless chicken breasts *see note
1TLBS soy sauce
1TLBS Marsala wine (cuz that's what I have - Cooks calls for sherry - I almost never have sherry.  A dry white wine would not be out of place here either.

3 TLBS soy sauce
2 TLBS Marsala wine
1/2 tsp refined sugar
2 TLBS low sodium chicken  or veg broth
1 Tsp of curry
1 tsp Garam Masala (ok, so here's part of where Cooks and I differ - they call for 2 tsp of curry - but I happen to have this jar of garam masala - which, I just want to point out that my auto correct wants to correct to gram nasal - you could happily go with the curry, or add another spice of some type)
1TBLSP of grated fresh ginger.  I keep a knobby ginger root in my freezer and just grate it frozen when I need it.

1-2 TBLSP of Canola or Peanut or Grapeseed Oil (all these oils can take high heat - I don't recommend olive oil, which can't)
1 sliced spring onion - kinda looks like a scallion on steroids, has a lot of the properties of a leek, but with a nice little fresh oniony bite
1 carrot, sliced
1 - 2 cups of a frozen vegetable medly, thawed in a sieve under running water.  I used green beans, peas,  broccoli and cauliflower- garbanzo beans would be good, what ever you have .  Most people have broccoli.
1 clove of garlic chopped fine

First - put the chicken in a bowl and toss with the soy and marsala and just leave it there to marinate while you get every thing else together.  (this works great with raw shrimp too)

Then make the sauce - dump all the ingredients into a bowl or a measuring cup.

Chop all the stuff that needs chopping.  Thaw all the stuff that needs thawing.

Take out a skillet or maybe a wok if you have one (I don't).  Get the skillet super hot so it's smoking a little.  Swirl the 1st TBLSP of oil in the pan and dump all the chicken and the marinade into the hot pan.  Make sure the chicken is all spread out so that every piece gets a nice sear.  If you have a lot of chicken you should do this in batches.  Let it sit 30 seconds or so.  Stir and let it sit again.  It should be cooked through after 2-3 min.  Take it out of the pan and put it in a clean bowl to sit.  Pour in another TBLSP of oil, let it get hot, tip your onions and carrots in, stir them for a while, until the onions are almost translucent.  Tip in all your veggies, stir them for a minute or so, then add your garlic.  Let this cook about 30 seconds, then return the chicken to the pan, and stir the sauce over all of it.  Cook about 30 seconds more, and serve ASAP  - it's not good if you let it get cool.  Serve with rice or rice noodles.

So sorry I don't have a picture.  It all got eaten pretty quickly.

*Note: so, these days, because I'm feeling cheap, I try to make one pack of 4 boneless chicken breasts last over several meals. One pack is about 2 whole breasts divided - and comes to about a pound or pound & 1/2 or so.  For this you can use as much or as little (or none) chicken as you like.  For this recipe, plumped the whole thing up with vegetables.  OF COURSE you can leave the chicken out all together and just go with veggies - And OF COURSE you can substitute Shrimp for the chicken.  In fact I think shrimp would be OUTSTANDING in this and I wish I'd thought of it last night because I have tons of frozen shrimp in my fridge and shrimp is one of my favorite foods ever.

Monday, February 13, 2012

So, Bread... part 1 of 2, maybe 3

I have twenty student papers to read and so I feel it is high time I blog about bread.

I bake a loaf of bread almost every week and I think I've finally gotten pretty good at it.  This is the bread I used to make pre- Em's dairy allergy - which is excellent bread unless you happen to be allergic to milk.  And this is the bread I used to make before I started making my current recipe - also very good - particularly if you want to make a huge batch of bread and hack bits of dough off throughout the week.  Click on the words "bread" if you want to make my former recipes.

Because THIS is my new bread, and I must say, if I do say so myself, it is spectacular.  How do I know it is spectacular?  Because my friend Mark practically begs me to make it for him; because my friend Laura asked over the weekend if I could give her a bread making tutorial; because I make a loaf here at home and it's practically vaporized within an hour of emerging from the oven.  So, it's not just me tooting my own horn...

Here's another view - fresh from the oven.  It's too bad I'm such a terrible photographer, because  these loaves are so much prettier in real life.  I seriously need to take a class and figure out some better lighting.

Ok, to begin: if you are going to bake yourself the bread pictured above, you need a few things:

this is one of them.  This is called the Sasafrass Superstone Bread Baker; it's name alone should make you want whip out your credit card.

However, it is $54 on Amazon and unless you have a husband who is willing to give it to you as a gift, you don't really need it, particularly if you happen to have one of these:

 A Dutch Oven is a beautiful thing.

This Dutch oven was given to me as a wedding gift
and is now about [redacted] years old.  It is in incredible shape and I use it for soup, bread baking, boiling potatoes, stew, braises, the list goes on.
Unfortunately, they cost a small fortune.  So don't buy one, because you can use ANY deep, oven proof pot as long as it has a lid.

Here's another hand-dandy little item I use all the time.  It's a dough scraper and you can buy a cheap plastic one at Target, which works very well - or you can order your flour from the King Arthur Flour website and get one for free (which is, obviously, how I got mine...)

Don't You?

You need a large bowl and a rubber, though sturdy, spatula.  I like this one:
And, finally, you need parchment paper and plastic wrap.  Parchment can be found in the grocery store not too far from the plastic wrap.  Parchment is essential for this bread.  You cannot do without it.  Sorry.  That's just the way it is.  However, it comes in handy for so many things.  I always line my cookie sheets with parchment when I make cookies - do this and you'll never again wreck your manicure chipping baked on chocolate off your favorite pan.

Ok, moving on.

Gather your ingredients:  

4 cups of flour.   I don't care if it's bread flour, or all purpose flour.  Either will do. 

1 TBLSP Olive or canola oil -

1 TBLSP Kosher or sea salt.  This is important - don't use table salt - it's too fine, and it doesn't add flavor the way kosher or sea salt does.  HOWEVER - I'm all about availability - if you started this recipe and you don't have kosher or sea salt - DO NOT run out for it.  Use table salt, but use ONLY 1tsp - that's right a teaspoon - this salt is so fine a teaspoon is all you need.

1/2 tsp of Yeast.  You might think this is not enough - but it is. You can get the little individual packets - although for this particular bread you don't need a whole packet - (is usually about 2 1/4 tsp).  You can buy a jar of yeast too - but keep that in the freezer and take it out when you need it - it will last longer that way.

1/4 cup of hot water: Turn on your tap and let the hot water run.  When it is hot, but not so hot that you can't hold your hand in the running water, it is just right.  

2 TBLSP Brown sugar - yeast loves to gobble up sugar, and brown sugar gives your bread nice flavor

Beer.  Go to your refrigerator and take out a beer.  (I will be posting a recipe for bread sans-beer - but this one ain't it)  It should be a fairly flavorful beer - a stout, or something with a lot of hop to it (see what I did there...? Hop to it?  Oh, never mind) It needs to be something tasty that you yourself would enjoy drinking. (Unless it's Lite beer.  Please don't use Lite beer.  I know some of you enjoy drinking it, - not naming names - Ginny - Plus, anything spelled incorrectly is not good.  That's a rule I think we should all live by.)

1 TBLSP cider vinegar.  Yep, that's right, vinegar.  Vinegar gives your bread that almost but not quite sour dough quality that will have your friends scratching their heads wondering why your bread always tastes so good while their bread is merely ok.  

Spray Oil: - you use this to spray the bowls as well as the top of your bread.

OK - you ready?  Here we go:

1. dump the flour and salt in a bowl.  Whisk it a bit to incorporate.

2. mix the brown sugar and hot water in a measuring cup.  Add the yeast.  Let it sit a bit and watch the yeast do its thing.
3. BEER.  Beer usually comes in 8 ounce bottles.  Use the whole thing.  Or, measure out 1 cup.  Dump it in the flour mixture.  Add the oil and the yeast/sugar mixture as well as the vinegar.

Using your rubber spatula, mix this all together.  If it seems too dry, add more water, 1/4 cup at a time.  The key is that this dough should be pretty wet.  Not so wet that it's watery, but wetter than you think it should be.

It's hard to see how wet this is - but the key is that it will stick to your hands when you pick it up.  However, you should be able to pick it up all at once.  If it's too wet it will just ooze out of your fingers in a very yucky way.

YOU DO NOT KNEAD THIS BREAD.  Just leave it there in the bowl.  You can spray the bowl a bit, as well as the top of your bread with some oil.  Cover the whole bowl with plastic wrap.

NOW, preheat your oven to 100 degrees.  When it reaches 100 set your timer for 10 minutes.  After ten, turn off the oven, and put your bread in it.

And here is the most important part of the whole thing: LEAVE YOUR BREAD IN THE OVEN OVER NIGHT.  Yep, I mean it.  Just let it sit there in your oven for as long as you can.  There's nothing in the dough that can spoil, in fact the longer it sits, the better it will taste.  I once left my bread sitting around for about 24 hours.  It grew faster than teenager - and I was able to divide it up and make 2 loaves.  It also tasted fantastic.  If you're not going to bake your bread after 24 hours, skip the whole oven heating thing and just stick your bread into the refrigerator.  In fact, if you are at all squeamish about letting your bread dough sit around in the fresh air, you can put it in your fridge over night.

If you don't have plastic wrap, you can cover the bread with a clean damp dish towel.
After your bread has hung out for as long and you feel like letting it hang out (and, indeed, it can be baked after only hanging out for an hour or two) - your dough should look like the picture above.  It will get kind of lumpy, and much larger.  Dump it out onto a floured surface and roll it around a bit, forming it into a nice loaf the shape of the thing you will be baking it in.  I shaped mine here in a loaf, but if I were going to bake it in the Dutch Oven, I'd have shaped it a ball. This is where your bread dough scraper will come in handy because the dough is still very wet.  The scraper will also help you get any bits of dough and flour left behind off your counter before it turns to cement.  

Get yourself a piece of parchment, spray it with a little oil and put your bread dough right in the center.  Spray it again with oil, and cover, again with plastic wrap.  Let it sit an hour or so.  Although if you are anxious or particularly hungry for bread and butter, you don't have to wait that long.  You can let it sit as you let your oven preheat.  Unless you have refrigerated the dough - in which case you really should let it come to room temperature before baking it.

After your bread has sat for an hour, preheat your oven to 350.

Speaking of preheating, when you go to preheat your oven, stick the Dutch Oven or your Sasafrass Superstone Bread Baker in the oven to preheat as well.  This is Very Important.  Preheating the bread baker helps your bread get all steamy and not dried out in the center.

When the oven slash your bread with a sharp knife, pick it up using the parchment and plonk the bread dough, parchment and all into your baker.  Put the lid on, shut the door to your oven and set your timer for 35 minutes.  It is totally fine if the parchment hangs out over the lid - it won't catch fire or anything.

Take the lid of the baker off after 35 minutes, put your bread loaf back in the oven without the lid and bake another ten minutes or more - make sure your bread is all goldeny and cracked and delicious looking.

See how the parchment looks just fine after baking with the bread in the oven?

And it's insides will look like this.

Now, go ahead.  You can do this - it is fantastic bread.  And, as I believe Marc Bittman said, even the worst home baked bread is better than the best store bought...

But yours won't be bad - I promise.

Next post I'll give you my recipe for beer free bread -

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Don't Tell The Kids...

But this

is my new favorite ingredient.  See what it says there, yes, it's "Milk Free" - but do you know what's in it?  

That's right, tofu.  

You know what it tastes like?  Not sour cream because its:
ok, that's hard to read, but it says, better than sour cream - 
And more importantly - NOT TOFU -  not one bit.  I'm sure you don 't believe me, but if you are going dairy free, as we have recently had to do - try this stuff!  It will blow your mind...

I believe that I mentioned in an earlier post how much we are all missing mashed potatoes and how I was not so thrilled at the prospect of mashing potatoes with this:

HOWEVER - if you mash your potatoes with some of the (gasp) margarine, along with about a 1/4 cup of chicken stock and a 1/4 cup of 

the mashed potatoes come out fluffy, creamy, and amazingly good.  I made my brand new dairy free mashed potatoes to go with the ribs I had cooked up in my slow cooker for about 6 hours and my family ate them and NO ONE knew they secretly harbored tofu.  And people weren't just eating them politely.  They were not moving the potatoes around on their plates to make it look like they had eaten them - NO, they scarfed the potatoes - even my teens scarfed the potatoes.

AND THEN, when I was trying to use up all the ribs - because I had made quite a few - I took all the meat off the bone, sauteed up some onions, carrots and a bit of frozen spinach, dumped the meat into the pan when the onions and carrots were softened and the spinach had cooked down, tossed the meat around, added a bit more barbecue sauce (I'm a fan of Stubbs jarred sauce when I don't have time to make it, which is more frequent than I'd like to admit) and once again, I threw in about a 1/4 cup of


I served my little pork rib mixture over rice and it was glorious.  

So far I have used Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream in muffins that called for yogurt, and in frosting instead of cream cheese, and on top of my chili because, though I like sour cream, THIS is BETTER THAN SOUR CREAM.  

Just don't tell the children, 'cause if they find out, they will never eat mashed potatoes again... and dammit!  I like my mashed potatoes!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Pretty Salmon and Rice Dish

We've been addicted to Dr. Who on Netflix.  For Smith and Mad it's the stories, the space travel fantasy, gadgets (who wouldn't want a sonic screwdriver - or a TARDIS - who wouldn't want a TARDIS?) - but for me it has everything to do with this guy:


 But the Doctor regenerated, as the Doctor does, and we're on to this guy:

This guy has great energy and he's funny, and Mad thinks he's cute, despite the Flock of Seagulls hair...  But he's no

AmIright?  Sigh.

What does Dr Who have to do with salmon and rice?  Nothing, except that since I'm now only mildly obsessed with Dr. Who (as opposed to completely) I thought I might use some of the spare space in my brain cooking up something new for dinner.  We haven't had salmon in a while and they were running a special on wild caught Coho at the grocery and so I bought a pound.  And I only had to sell one kidney to do it.

Usually, I just throw salmon in a pan dressed with a bit of olive oil and some lemon, but, due to the extra brain space, I was feeling a bit creative and I came up with this:

It looked prettier in real life - I need to take a photography class

It's pretty, right?  Obviously, not as pretty as:

But, enough said.  The Doctor moved on, and I will too...

Here's my recipe:

Pretty Salmon and Rice:

1TBLSP Olive oil
1 small or 1/2 of a large yellow onion thinly sliced
1 cup of arborio rice (or, a long grain brown rice if you have it)
2 cups of cauliflower florets
1 cup of golden raisins
1 large or 2 small carrots thinly sliced
2 stalks of celery, sliced
2 teaspoons of curry powder
1 1/2 cups of chicken stock (or vegetable stock- if canned use low sodium)
1 large orange - zested  and juiced - my orange gave me about 1 cup of juice
1 TBLSP of parsely, or cilantro or even basil if you like
1 - 1 1/2 lbs of salmon filets  - for God's sake, buy what's on sale.  Or go to Trader Joes and get some frozen filets and thaw them under running cold water

Preheat the oven to 350 F

Heat a lidded skillet or a Dutch oven on a medium flame, when it's hot, swirl in your olive oil then throw in the onions and saute until translucent.  Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until the rice becomes translucent looking as well.  Add the cauliflower, raisins, curry powder, carrots, celery, 1/2 of the orange zest and juice from 1/2 the orange (1/2 cup).  Add the chicken stock.  Cover your pot with foil or parchment, and then put the lid on (this keeps the steam and flavor in the pot)  and put the whole thing in the oven for 25 minutes.  (If you are using a long grain brown rice, it will take a lot longer to cook - closer to an hour.  Also, in this house, we like our rice very mushy.  If you're looking for something more al dente, take it out after 15/20 minutes.)

Meanwhile, season your salmon on both sides with salt, pepper and the other half of the orange zest.  Squeeze the other half of the orange over top.  When the timer for the rice goes off, take the pot out, and taste your rice - adjust the seasonings adding Kosher salt and pepper to taste.  Place your salmon on top of the rice.  Put the whole thing back in the oven, uncovered this time, and bake until the salmon is cooked through: 10 to 15 minutes depending on the thickness of your filet, and how well done your like your salmon.  (Quite well done in this house - but most people like it to still be a bit pink in the center.)

Let your salmon sit for a minute before serving. Then sprinkle it with some chopped parsley or cilantro, depending on what you have.  I had neither, as you can clearly see from my photo.  However, if I'd had one or the other I'd have sprinkled and my salmon dish would have been even prettier.  (Although, David Tennant, you will always be prettiest...)

 A salad with a simple dressing of olive oil, lemon juice and a splash of sherry vinegar would taste good with this.  Or you can saute some frozen green beans in olive oil until they are cooked through - finish with fleur de sel sea salt and fresh pepper.