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Monday, January 31, 2011

We have a winner!


The winner of the Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Recipe giveaway is VeRAWnica! Congrats! Please contact me at thediscerningkitchen@gmail.com.

Things haven't been too exciting today. I'm a little baked out, so I've been eating a LOT of salad. I still need to go through the recipe rating cards and decide what I'm going to do with some of them. I already have some ideas for improvements. I work right across the street from Uwajimaya, so I'm excited to try some of the yams, sweet potatoes, and other tubers in baked goods. I want to focus on savory foods and breads for a while, but will probably wait to start baking on Thursday. We have a LOT of leftovers from this weekend, so both Lance and I are taking them to work. I'll start freezing them tomorrow for when Owen comes over.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Taste Testing Party

I am pretty tired right now, but it was worth it! I spent this weekend baking for a tasting party. The Celiac group in Seattle was kind enough to let me host a taste testing party at my house. Everyone was a really great sport about filling out review cars, and I can't wait to do a little light data entry and get a better idea about the success (or not) of each recipe. It was a fantastic crowd of people as well - there were a lot of great conversations!

Yesterday I started decluttering a little in our house. I have a long ways to go. Most of our rooms look pretty good, but we've got two rooms that are absolutely out of control. Fortunately, one of the people from the Celiac group is a professional organizer, so I am looking forward to getting some help! In the afternoon, we took my car to my family's - it had a leaky trunk so we had it in the garage with a dehumidifier. While we were at my family's house, Annie got into the compost container on the floor in half a second and wolfed down a 4" chicken bone, after cracking it enough to splinter it. We found that 3% hydrogen peroxide can be administered at 1 tsp per 10 pounds to induce vomiting (up to 2 doses), so we gave it to Annie and made her run around the yard a lot to shake it all up. She was playing and running and happy, but no vomiting. We packed her up to an emergency clinic and sat in the waiting room for 45 minutes when "HOORRRFFFF"...all over my lap. She saved us $160 in vet bills, so I suppose it all evens out.

Who? Me??

When we got home, my mom helped finish cleaning up the house while I baked. I made chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, boysenberry thumbprints, lemon bars, apricot bars, apricot thumbprints, and ginger cookies.

From left to right: Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies (3 plates), Boysenberry Thumbprints,
Apricot Thumbprints

Today I got up early and started on blueberry upside down cake, chocolate cupcakes, lemon cupcakes, lucuma banana cupcakes, and donuts.

From left to right: sweet potato cupcakes with "cream cheese" frosting,
"snickerdoodles", chocolate chip cookies, and ginger cookies

I knew a few of the recipes weren't going to pan out, but I figured since I made them, I might as well put them out. The Snickerdoodles were a disaster. I keep trying to sub out palm oil with coconut oil, and the mixture just isn't working. I'm going to have to rip up the recipes I've scribbled down so far. The apricot bars were an OK start, but I think I'm going to rough chop the apricots next time instead of blending everything. A jelly like substance is OK for lemon bars, but it is just is odd with apricot. There are other recipes I'm going to put aside as complete/approved, others I will continue to work on, and a couple I am going to throw out all together.

Clockwise starting at the top: donuts, lemon bars, lucuma banana cupcakes,
chocolate cupcakes, blueberry upside down cake, apricot bars, and lemon cupcakes

Another interesting observation - the chocolate chip cookies were by and large a huge success. People really enjoy how they melt in your mouth, and the flavor is pleasant. Unless you are my mom or a smoker. When pressed, people noticed a slightly earthy taste. Mom thinks they taste like dirt. Smokers think they taste like grass. I could tell we didn't have any smokers in the crowd. This is an extreme example, but it seemed as though each recipe had fans and people who weren't fans. I could tell from the handwriting styles that peoples' opinions varied from recipe to recipe, so it's as though people had different palates.

Annie really loved having all those people over. She got plenty of attention, and now she is pooped. Passed out on her little bed. I'm right there with her. I have my feet up and am looking forward to taking off a couple days later this week.

I was pretty good about restricting the number of sweets I scarfed (not perfect, but restraint is not my strong suit so I'll take it!), and was happy to have tea and miso soup shortly after the tasting party. I was really craving greens and savory garlic, so I had sauteed kale with garlic and lemon juice and flat bread with avocado, garlic sauce, and lettuce. It was A LOT of garlic, but my body seemed to be craving it after all that sugar.

My version of a TV dinner: sauteed kale with garlic, lemon juice,
and olive oil; quinoa flatbread with avocado, lettuce, and garlic sauce

Friday, January 28, 2011

Churro Cookies


Some of my better recipes are mistakes! When I was little, my favorite cookie was the Snickerdoodle. There's something about the slightly grainy texture on the outside, the shock of cinnamon, and the crunchy texture underneath. Yum, yum, yum.

I've been trying to sub out coconut oil for palm oil, and have been trying various natural cane sugar replacements. I've found that palm oil just works with cookies and sugar is really what gives cookies that crunch. These cookies definitely don't have that classic crunch, but the result was unexpectedly popular.

When my brothers and I were younger, we liked it when my mom would stop by a fast food place and let us order dessert. One of the taco chains had churros. We loved them! Greasy, crunchy, gooey, and gritty all at the same time. I think I remember they came out with a cream filled churro and it ended up being way too much - they are so greasy without the filling. I'm pretty grossed out by some of the things I used to really look forward to. If I had a crystal ball and could see the allergies I would develop, I probably would have scraped together the money to make it to Europe and make a food vacation out of it.

Back from my tangent....when my brothers were over last weekend, they devoured these cookies. They both really liked them and couldn't put their finger on what it was reminding them of. I took a big bite and sat there thinking as I was chewing and it finally dawned on me. Churros!

Churro Cookies
1 c White Rice Flour
2/3 c Teff Flour
1/4 c Arrowroot Powder
6 soaked Dates
3/4 c soak water
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar
1/2 c + 2 T melted Coconut Oil
1.5 oz (1 shot) of Agave
1 Vanilla Bean, scraped
1/2 tsp salt

Enough vegan cane sugar and plenty of cinnamon to coat each cookie generously.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine all of the dry ingredients. Add the coconut oil and agave. Put a handful of cane sugar (1/4 c) and 1 tsp of cinnamon on a small plate. Form dough into balls about the size of a golf ball, and roll around in the sugar and cinnamon mixture. The dough will be greasy. It's part of what makes them good. Flatten out the cookie on a cookie sheet with the flat of your hand. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Let cool and then move to a cooling rack to cool further.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Discerning Kitchen Giveaway - Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Cookbook


Skinny Bitch is an entertaining read. I love the writing - the caustic sense of humor and passion really appeal to me. Even if you aren't vegan and are just interested in reducing or eliminating dairy and egg in your cooking, or if you would like to have some meatless meals to reduce your expenses (or your waistline), it's got quite a bit to offer. Although I haven't used many of the recipes in my day to day cooking (except the pumpkin soup - yum) and I don't always see eye to eye with the author, I really appreciate the abundance of factual knowledge about why it's good for the planet and our health to go vegan.

This is a great book for people who need a little extra incentive to become vegan (or stay vegan) and provides logical arguments for those who question veganism. I like how the points in this book aren't based on emotion and personal ethics. Diets (which expand into our lifestyle) are like religion. You have to really believe in something to stick to it. Many of us have already developed our opinions and ethical views, so approaching the topic from a more fact based standpoint with friends and family can be more effective and less likely to escalate things to personal insults and keep conversation in the domain of debate. Information is powerful.

Giveaway

What - Hardcover edition of Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Recipes

To Enter: Post what kind of recipe you enjoy making.

*Limited to the US and Canada*

For Extra Entries
2. Tweet the following phrase:
"Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Cookbook giveaway @Discern_Kitchen http://tinyurl.com/4f6kgg3"
3. Like The Discerning Kitchen on Facebook here.

Deadline: Sunday the 30th at midnight PST. Check back here after the 30th to see who won!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Blueberry Upsidedown Cake



I am so excited to be blogging tonight. It's the first time that I've had a few quiet moments to spare.

Sunday was a busy day full of baking and family. I got up fairly early in the morning, fed the dog, cleaned the kitchen, and then started baking up a storm. I'm having a bunch of people over to taste test a bunch of my recipes, and I wanted to make some improvements. The day before I had made some chocolate chip oat cookies and snickerdoodles. I made the snickerdoodles with coconut oil instead of palm oil because we have a friend that has a palm allergy. I have to say palm oil works a little better in cookies. Coconut oil is great in cakes, muffins, and cupcakes though.

Snickerdoodles

thin oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

Next was a batch of Sweet Potato Donuts. A lot of my recipes have improved over time and I wasn't sure if I'd still be impressed with the recipe. It really didn't disappoint though. We don't often fry food. I used canola oil this time and filled a pan enough for the donuts to be completely submerged and cook evenly. I laid out a tray, put paper towels on the tray and then layered a wire cooling rack over the paper towels. It worked really well. I'll admit I made a big mess sprinkling powdered sugar on top with a wire fine mesh strainer.

Donuts on their cooling rack post powdered sugar -
the area was a mess after that sifting


Next up were Cinnamon Rolls. I'm told they are quite good, but I need to work on a thicker filling. This time I used date syrup and palm oil with a little maple syrup. I think next time I will be processing dates without soak water to make a paste.

Frosted Cinnamon Rolls

After the cinnamon rolls, I had a brilliant idea for a blueberry upside down cake. I put too much blueberry sauce in the pan on the first go and not quite enough the second time. Getting the cake to layer on top is a little difficult.


Messy - but tasty! - upside down cake

The neater version - the ideal is somewhere between the two

I also made some pretty decent dinner rolls to go with dinner. While Mom and I were getting dinner ready, the boys were having fun in the living room. Annie is absolutely obsessed with the laser light. Owen loves clicking the button to make the light turn on for the dog, but I have a feeling he doesn't completely understand what's going on....

video


Owen loves being at our house and whenever Lance was outside, he'd ask "Where Choo Choo??" Apparently, Lance is Uncle Choo Choo. After dinner, my family went home and I got a text message from Mom mid-trip. Owen got into the cookies and really liked how the doughnut fit on his finger like a little hat.

Last night my car broke down, so my evening was shot after work. I found out today that there's an issue with the fuel injectors. The cylinders aren't sealing completely, so the cylinders are flooding with fuel after the engine is shut off, making restarting it any time soon after running an errand impossible. After an hour and a half of letting it sit, I was able to drive it a quarter of a mile, but it was running so rough and smelled horrible, so I pulled in a gas station. Fortunately, Lance was in his car behind me and we were able to go home after the truck came. It was a long night.


Blueberry Upsidedown Cake



Blueberry Sauce/Topping
makes enough for 2 cakes
1 pint Blueberries (fresh is best)
1 tsp+ Orange Zest
1/4 c Sugar
1/3 c Coconut Oil
1 Cinnamon Stick - whole

Put the ingredients in a sauce pan and heat until the oil melts and the sugar dissolves.

Keep the cinnamon stick intact, and remove the stick and take off the heat once the mixture has come to a boil.


Maple Cake
makes 1 cake
1 c White Rice Flour
1/2 c Teff Flour
1/4 c Arrowroot Powder
2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
3/4 tsp Cinnamon
3-4 T melted Coconut Oil
2 T Chia seeds, ground
1/2 c Sugar
1/2 c Maple Syrup
1/2 tsp Orange zest
Appx 1/2 c. water

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Sift all of the dry ingredients together. Add the maple syrup, melted coconut oil, and then just enough water to get the batter to the right texture. It needs to be thick enough to sit on top of the blueberry mixture without mixing too much.

Bake the cake for around 40 minutes. The cake is done when you can insert a toothpick and it comes out clean. Run a knife around the side and push the cake in a little bit. Put a plate on top of the pan and flip the cake over. tap the plate and pan on the counter top a little until the cake falls loose.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Blackberry Muffins

Lately, I've been pretty busy at work while struggling with some health issues. I think I'm turning the corner because I have a lot more energy than I even had this Monday. I have been doing a lot of baking for my nephew, but a lot of it hasn't made it onto the blog - yet.

Last weekend, Owen (my nephew), my brother, and my mom all came over for a big dinner. I had graham crackers, muffins, and ginger cookies on hand, and we had a big feast. It was a lot of fun and Owen was a happy little camper, walking around with a treat in his hand the whole evening with Annie closely following him and making a grab for his treats whenever there was a window (we need to work on that). Owen loves to run up and down our long hallway with Uncle Lance pretending to be part of a train and yelling "CHOOO CHOOO!" Last night they all came over again and as they were pulling up to the house he said, "Choo choo!!"

Owen - an aspiring train engine and construction worker

Last night Mom watched Annie while Owen, my brother, and a friend hung out and watched a movie. It was date night for Lance and I and we went to Cafe Flora and had a very nice meal. I was very bummed out to find that their sweet potato fries are made in the same fryer as gluten ingredients. I did snag a couple of fries from Lance but primarily stuck to my seasonal vegetables and large house salad with Sencha Tea.

The sweet potato fries are delicious - was so sad
to find out they aren't in a gluten free fryer

Before we left, I made cookies to have on hand. I was shooting for snickerdoodles but didn't want all the sugar in the batter and subbed out for date syrup and a little agave. The result was a moist cookie that tasted like churros. By the time we got home, only a couple cookies out of the dozen and a half I made were left. I sent the rest of them home with my mom without getting a good picture, which is a great excuse to make them again. I was going to throw out the recipe because it wasn't what I was aiming for, but everyone was raving about them. Sometimes expectations skew my perception of the end result.

Blackberry Muffins - Breakfast of Champions (and Pookie!)

Breakfast muffins are nice to have on hand. Usually my breakfast consists of protein and supplement powders in a shake, but Lance prefers muffins, pancakes, and other items with more carbohydrates. I'm not a fan of the one diet fits all approach. Lance does better with a lot of gluten free grains and fruits while I do better with vegetables, more fat, and smaller meals throughout the day. Having a well balanced breakfast helps me get through the day without blood sugar ups and downs. It helps me wake up a little more and that means my job suffers less from mistakes.

We call Owen "Pookie" and my mom likes having muffins on hand for mornings that Owen stays at their house or to pack in his school lunches.


Blackberry Muffins
makes 1 dozen
1 cup Vanilla Hemp Milk
1 large Banana
1/2 Vanilla Bean, scraped
3 Tb melted Coconut Oil
3 oz Agave (about 1/4 cup)
3/4 cup Brown Rice Flour
3/4 cup Teff Flour
1/3 cup Arrowroot Powder
1 tsp Salt
1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1 T Chia, ground
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 Lemon, juiced and zested
1 heaping cup Blackberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the brown rice, teff, arrowroot, salt, baking soda, and chia in a bowl with a wire whisk. Put the vanilla hemp milk, banana, coconut oil, agave, and vanilla bean in a high speed blender and blend until frothy and smooth. Combine the dry ingredients and the ingredients from the blender. Add the apple cider vinegar, lemon zest, and lemon juice and whisk thoroughly. Gently fold in the blackberries and fill the muffin tin nearly to the top.

The brown rice flour will make things taste a little "gluten free." My family didn't seem to notice, but I got a faint hint. I didn't sub out the flour because the combination of hemp, brown rice, and teff lend to a high protein content.

Brown Rice Flour doesn't stop "Pookie" from enjoying muffins!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Flying Apron Review


This weekend, Lance and I went to the Flying Apron in Fremont to do some "Market Research" and we grabbed a selection of baked goods. I've been working on several cookie recipes and wanted to see how they compared to the Flying Apron. We purchased a chocolate chip cookie, ginger wheel, apricot thumbprint, peanut butter chocolate cupcake, and a vanilla maple cupcake - which wasn't what I ordered. I asked for a cherry chocolate cupcake.

On the way to the restaurant, we had to leave Champ and Annie in the car. We were just picking up "to go", but you'd think they were being abandoned for life the way Annie carried on. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised to find her scrunched up on the back seat against the rear window.


Lance and I got a plate and a knife and cut little bites of baked goods to sample. We had mild tea and water as a "palate cleanser." It was almost official looking. First were the cookies. The cookies we got were definitely not the cookies I remembered. The cookies I remembered were rounded, hard cookies with a distinct bean flavor. I remember the first time Lance tried them he scrunched up his nose and made the "yuck" face. These cookies had perfect cookie texture and were very tasty. There was only a slight taste that we noticed at the very end that was "gluten free", but I doubt people would notice it if they weren't looking for something.

The chocolate chip cookie was quite good, but I preferred the ginger wheel cookie. There were nice big chunks of crystalized ginger in the cookie. Next we moved on to the apricot thumbprint. Not our favorite. Distinct bean flavor, and the apricot would benefit from more lemon zest or something to perk it up.

Cupcakes were next. The peanut butter frosting was fantastic. The chocolate cupcake was a little oily and dense, but definitely good. A good combo. The vanilla maple cupcake wasn't my favorite. I liked the maple flavor, but the bean flour kind of snuck up at the end. The frosting was good, but not as good as the peanut butter.

If you're going to the Flying Apron, I would recommend the cookies or chocolate cupcakes. I still like the cinnamon rolls as well. I find the atmosphere very pleasant and homey. The staff is usually on top of things; this is only the second or third time in a long string of orders that something was incorrect.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Gluten Free, Vegan "Graham" Crackers - kid tested and approved

My little nephew unfortunately inherited a lot of my allergies. On the plus side, it's really easy to cook for him. If I can eat it, he can. I made an attempt at gingerbread cookies a while back and got my sweetener/oil proportions wrong and ended up with something that tasted like graham crackers. I remembered when I was little I loved graham crackers plain, so I decided to make a batch yesterday when my nephew was over visiting.

Gluten Free "Graham" Crackers8.5 oz Brown Rice Flour
2.2 oz Arrowroot Powder
2.8 oz Sorghum Flour
1 1/2 t baking powder*
3/4 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 tsp powdered ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
3 oz palm oil
3 pitted dates & 3 dried apricot halves soaked
1/2 c soak water
4 oz Maple Syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. In a high speed blender, put the dates, apricot, soak water, and maple syrup. Slowly combine the liquid into the dry ingredients until it's a workable consistency. Put a little sorghum flour on your rolling surface (or on the baking, and roll out the dough into a rectangular shape. The dough should be 1/6-1/8 of an inch thick. As the crackers dry, they become harder. These are actually better a couple days after they are baked.

Last time I made the recipe, I had anticipated a cookie flavor, so I cut the dough out into little snowman shapes. This time I used a pizza cutter and a fork to cut what resembled little graham crackers. I cooked them for much longer than I would a cookie to make sure they were crispy. Next time I am going to cut the recipe in two and roll the dough much thinner. Because of the baking soda and baking powder, the dough rises a bit. This is good because you want some airiness in there for texture, but if the dough is too thick, the texture isn't crunchy.


I held my breath a bit when Owen first tried the cracker. I just handed him a little bit and then he started signaling for more and humming and doing his yummy cookie dance.

It's the one-foot cookie shuffle!
I'm one of those strange people who has a camera tripod in their kitchen. Owen is fascinated with anything with buttons, so after a few trips in the kitchen to grab more crackers I could see the tripod start to move around ON ITS OWN??? Nope, there was a little short person attached to the legs trying to reach the buttons. Mom picked him up, and Owen took a series of pictures (mostly of his shirt).

It's time for my close up, Mr. Deville
Owen, Mom, and my brother are on their way over, so it's time to start baking again. I have plans for blackberry muffins and improved ginger cookies. I had a bit of really fantastic ginger cookie from the Flying Apron in Seattle today and it inspired me to make some revisions.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My cookies taste like...grass?


I have this chocolate chip recipe that is heaven. It's not health food at all, which is part of what makes them so delicious. I brought them to a raw vegan potluck this weekend, and they flew off the plate and people were asking me for the recipe (which is a secret :). There weren't very many of us, so with the amount I brought I offered to let people take some home. They were very excited about that!

My boss seems to really like my chocolate chip cookies, and other coworkers have commented on how they can't tell the difference between them and the gluten version. Then there was a woman I work with who took a bite, got a funny look on her face and said, "It tastes like grass!" The other coworkers stared at her in disbelief. This isn't a group who holds back. When I first started tinkering around and bringing things in for people to try, they let me know when something had the wrong texture and tasted "really gluten free." They don't hold back and won't eat something if they don't like it - which is why I was so surprised when someone said they taste like freshly mowed lawn.

The coworker I share my desk with wondered out loud if it was because she smoked, so we went on a mission to find other smokers. Sure enough, they all thought they didn't taste good and one other even commented on how much they taste like grass!

I am pretty sure amaranth flour is what is causing the problem. When I smell the flour on its own, there is a strong smell that could be compared to grass. I don't know why smoking makes it taste so much stronger. It's a mystery! I had some amaranth flour in the Lemon Bar cookies I brought in, but apparently the citrus masks it. I'm going to sub out teff or brown rice flour and I will see if that changes the smokers opinion. She loves the Sweet Potato Pie Cupcakes, which have similar ingredients minus the amaranth, so I'm fairly certain that is the issue.

Do you know anyone that smokes? Have you had them try food with amaranth? I would love to see how prevalent this issue is....

Monday, January 10, 2011

All Things Green


This morning I got out of bed at 5 AM and had all intentions of getting on that bus and heading into work. My stomach, on the other hand, rebelled. I thought things had calmed down in time to get on the bus, but I ended up scuttling home as quickly as possible and locking myself in the bathroom. Annie was ecstatic that I decided to call in sick and we ended up spending all day curled up on the couch. This morning I decided that it was time for my first green juice feast and to hopefully help balance the bacteria profile in my gut.

My immune system isn't normal, and my stomach seems to be my weak point. It's the first thing to start bugging me before a lupus flare and a good sign that things are wonky. I've struggled for a long time with intestinal candida, and I'm afraid I did myself in yesterday. I'm on Amphotericin (I was on Nystatin and that didn't work) and a low carbohydrate diet. I've been on the low carbohydrate diet a while and baked cookies for a potluck yesterday. I showed amazing will power and resisted shoveling chocolate chip heaven into my mouth. Until we got home. My chocolate chip cookies are amazing...but in the back of my mind I knew there would be a fallout (no pun intended) and couldn't really enjoy my one cookie. It's frustrating.

Green Juice Feast

After this morning, I started juicing everything I had in my crisper. In went cilantro, ginger, kale, cucumber, celery, a little fennel, and romaine lettuce. Right now I'm prepping spinach, lettuce, parsley, cucumber, and celery in a vinegar solution. It's a good thing I've been craving green juices lately! I used to hate them. It's amazing how cravings change.

I tested the juice, and it wasn't half bad. Annie was jumping up and down in the kitchen, so I poured some in her bowl. I'm not going to say she LOVED it, but she drank it all. I am a little proud - she's hard core.


This evening we went to the grocery store and picked up more greens since I drank most of the crisper today. Annie was in hog heaven because I kept dropping pieces of kale and spinach. She always creeps in to the kitchen and skulks off with a big piece of kale (her favorite).

Each batch of green juice contains:
1/2" - 1" long piece of ginger
1/2 a fennel bulb
1 bunch celery (leaves and all)
1 large bunch kale
1/2 bunch spinach
1 head romaine lettuce
1/2 cup cilantro (loose)
1/2 cup parsley (loose)
1 large cucumber


I was expecting to be dizzy with hunger. If I'm late for a meal or don't pack enough calories to work, I'm a mess. A shaky, cranky mess. Today I am surprised how well I feel. I've been sipping the green juice all day and supplementing with tea. I've been using a "Perk Up" tea with burdock and ginger. I'm also supplementing with probiotics. We will see how the next few days go, but don't be surprised if I don't do much baking. I am loving Janet Evanovich's novels right now, but I never realized how much she talked about food until today. The main character is a pastry/baked food addict and some of the descriptions have made me a little hungry.

It's Time to Plan the Garden

This evening I have big plans. I'm going to start checking out the Seattle Tilth's Maritime Northwest Garden Guide calendar and comparing the schedule to our supplies and the Territorial Seed Company catalog I just received. Last year our early garden did quite well. The weather got very strange this summer (so WET all the TIME), so things didn't do very well. We did save a lot of money on groceries regardless of the weather issues, and it is great to have an excuse to play in the dirt and find a closer connection with food.


If I get my act together, we can start planting outside under cloches as early as late February. Cloches are super simple to make and improve things tremendously. They also help keep many pests out initially.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Avoiding Food Borne Illness

The other night, Lance and I were sitting and watching the early news. Usually I don't bother watching news. It's often depressing or I sit yelling at the television because of some wild statement. That night wasn't much of an exception. The news casters started talking about the new Food Safety bill (please do some reading - there are some who say it opens the door to eliminating seed saving and will make it nearly impossible for small sustainable farms to function) and made a segway into people getting ill from a local sprouting provider. They of course sensationalized the story and talked about how common it is to get ill from sprouts. They had a really small blip about how no one had gone to the ER or been hospitalized.

Last year, I was hospitalized twice from food contamination. I have lupus, so I'm much more sensitive than normal people. It wasn't from sprouts, meat, eggs (I was on a vegan diet by then), or any of the usual suspects. Because of the particular bacteria and parasite, my doctor felt it may have been either the mangoes or avocados from Central America. I thought I was really careful with my food by either soaking it in a vinegar solution, or washing with antibacterial soap if the skins are inedible. I don't think people understand how frequently we are exposed to parasites and bacteria. Most people don't notice any symptoms at all while their immune system comes to the rescue. Some people may think they have the "stomach flu" or a stomach virus. Because of how common I was told this exposure it, I did some reading and discovered that one of the best ways to prevent bacterial contamination and even remove pesticide residue is to use a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution (food grade).


Food grade hydrogen peroxide is available in most health food stores. I purchase mine from rawvegansource.com. To be fair to the local evening news station, sprouts (particularly alfalfa) are a fairly notorious source of e. coli and other potentially harmful bacteria and molds. As sprouts germinate, they generate quite a bit of heat. If you've ever done any of your own sprouting and reached your hand into the jar, it really is quite warm. Combine that with moisture and it's a great place for bacteria to live and multiply. Rinsing the sprouts three times a day is helpful, but I spritz them with food grade hydrogen peroxide after they have finished sprouting and continue to rinse them once a day each day they are in the fridge.


Please consider using food grade peroxide and/or giving your fresh fruits and veggies a 10 minute soak in water and a little apple cider vinegar if you intend to eat them raw. Raw foods are wonderful for you and I am not encouraging people to avoid them by any means. Because our environment is so sterile and we no longer work in the soil with a lot of bacteria exposure for our bodies to develop a resistance, it's now wise to take a few extra precautions.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Lydia's Organics and Columbia Gorge Organic Product Reviews


Thursday was a long day. I got up at 5 AM to get ready for work and make it to the early bus, and I stayed over an hour later than usual at work to train employees. Not usually a big deal, but the evening bus took about 30+ minutes longer to get home than projected because of traffic and I had miscalculated the number of calories I brought to work . I was in "hangry" mode. If the word "hangry" is new to you, I'm happy for you. A pregnant friend of mine found the definition and embraced it: Hungry to the point of being angry and/or frustrated.

I walked in the front door and my husband said, "Uh oh." Poor Lance. He knows what I look like when I'm hangry and he quickly came up with a plan to go to Whole Foods to pick up something easy. Hangry passed and I went into the zombie stage midway through the produce section. Zombie stage is bad because I stop recognizing the difference between the food that is on the diet and the food that is not (diet meaning low carb; I don't compromise on the vegan aspect). Zombie stage is kind of good because I'm not snappy...just spaced out and giggly like the stoners in my high school classes. They never made sense when they spoke, and I imagine that's how I probably sounded in the checkout line at Whole Foods - a step away from blowing spit bubbles.

I decided to stick with my low carb diet and get a green juice and some kale chips.

Lydia's Organics Mega Green Kale Krunchies.

Typically I make my own kale chips, but these kale chips are something I'll happily have on hand in the future for hunger emergencies. They had a nice flavor with a surprising little spicy kick. The major pluses for me were that they do not contain yeast, cashews, tomatoes, or other ingredients I tend to avoid. The only critical comment I have is that they must fall apart a bit during shipping because the large pieces quickly disappeared and the majority of the bag was little crumbs that were very messy to eat.


Columbia Gorge Organic Just Greens


I am not always a big green juice fan, but lately I've been craving them more. The label had me a little worried because mustard greens and collard greens were listed as ingredients and there wasn't any fruit to balance the bitterness. It seems as though they must use a lot of celery and cucumber (with a pleasant hint of parsley) to balance the greens out. I wasn't overwhelmed at all. The label boasts that the two servings in the bottle are equivalent to 2 pounds of fresh produce. Downside: The juice is flash pasteurized, so it's not exactly raw.

It doesn't seem like these two things would be filling, but with a handful of macadamia nuts, I slipped out of my food coma and was able to function again until bed time.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sweet Potato Pie Cupcakes


I have started to realize three things. 1) Even if it's easier for me to reproduce recipes with weights, it's not always easy for everyone else. Not everyone has a scale in their kitchen. I promise it makes baking gluten free successfully so much easier, but not everyone has that kind of time. 2) A substantial number of people with gluten intolerance/allergies also have tree nut allergies. 3) Complex recipes may taste great, but they can be overwhelming. I will still post recipes that range from simple to complex, but I'll make more effort to be more conscientious about tree nuts.

Keeping that in mind, this recipe is tree nut free without sacrificing taste or texture. This batch can easily be doubled, this is just the amount I like to make when I'm testing out a recipe. I had a range of coworkers test it out and they liked the texture and flavor. One person commented that they'd like a little more cinnamon or a cream cheese like frosting. I'll see what I can do to get that kind of flavor in a frosting with vegan ingredients.

Sweet Potato Cupcakes
Makes 9 cupcakes (prep time 15 min, cook time 25 min)
2/3 c Teff Flour
2 T Arrowroot Powder
2/3 Brown Rice Flour
1.5 T ground Chia Seeds
3/4 t Baking Soda
1/4 t Baking Powder
1/2 t Salt
1/2 c vegan Maple Syrup
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Ginger
1/4 tsp fresh grated Nutmeg
1 1/4 small chopped Sweet Potato
1/4 c Coconut Oil
1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Measure out and sift the teff, arrowroot, brown rice, chia, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together. Put the sweet potato, maple, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and coconut oil in a high speed blender until a little frothy and very smooth. Combine the wet and dry ingredients. After you get the cupcake liners ready in the pan, add the apple cider vinegar to the batter and stir vigorously. Fill the cupcake liners 3/4 of the way up and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Thai Inspired Soup

It has been freezing in Seattle, and we are just not used to this kind of weather. It's been around 20 in the morning (I know, it's balmy for Alaska, Colorado, or most of the East Coast, but we're spoiled!) and Annie has had to wear two jackets outside and still comes inside shaking.

Annie modeling her little jacket

It was frigid on the way to the bus this morning, so when I got home I decided it was time for some soup. I had some bean sprouts, spinach, and a few other ingredients in the fridge, so I decided to go with a Thai inspired soup. The type of food I loved the most was Thai. Then my food allergies came back. And then I went vegan. Fish sauce is a mystery (and it's obviously made from fish), there's soy in several dishes, and I just don't feel good after eating it even if I avoid the suspect and non-vegan ingredients. I didn't have galangal in my fridge or lemon grass, and I obviously don't use fish sauce, so this is a rough interpretation. It's very low calorie and low carbohydrate, which is great for my diet.


Thai Inspired Soup
2-3 TB Grapeseed Oil
3-4 Garlic Cloves, minced
2 Shallots, sliced
2 Ribs of Celery, diced
2 Carrots, diced
4 leaves of Kale, de-stemmed and rough chopped
1 bunch of Spinach
1 tsp Salt
1 Lemon, juiced
1 Serrano Chili, sliced
5 cups of Water
3 T Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 T Agave
1 pack Mung Bean Sprouts
1 handful Cilantro

Warm up a wok (electric or stove top - I use a stainless steel stove top Wok) and add the carrots, shallots, garlic, and celery. Cook until the shallots start to go a little translucent and then add the salt. Add the rough chopped kale and cook until it wilts a little. Add the spinach, lemon juice, chili, apple cider vinegar, agave, water, sprouts and cilantro. Cook just until the spinach and cilantro wilts a little. I like the vegetables al dante. If you don't care much for spicy food, remove the seeds from the chili before cooking.

As a little added bonus, I add a teaspoon of soy free Miso Master chickpea miso to the soup bowl after I've dished up. It's delicious either way and great for heating up after a cold day.

Soy free chickpea miso

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Mango Sauce


This sauce is great for teff waffles, crepes, pancakes, and vanilla Coconut Bliss "ice cream." It's super easy to make, which always helps.

Mango Sauce
makes enough for 2 hungry pancake eaters, or 4 ice cream bowls

6 oz (appx 1 cup) chopped mango (frozen is fine)
2 TB lemon juice
2 TB orange juice
3 TB maple syrup
1 TB tapioca starch

Put the ingredients in a small sauce pan, except the tapioca starch. Turn the pan on to medium, and while the pan is heating up, put the tapioca in a small bowl with enough water to liquefy the starch. Put the starch in the pan and stir occasionally. Once the mixture has gone from cloudy to clear and a little gooey, it's done!

Today is a short, easy post. It was my first day back to work for a full work week and waking up at 5AM to catch the bus. Lance had the day off, and I can tell he and Annie had a lot of fun because she is so tired. And bugging me to sit down and pet her. Lance is her fun time buddy and I'm her snuggle buddy. It all works out.

Pet me, hold me, DO SOMETHING!

Coming soon: Adventures with eliminating tree nuts! A lot of my cookie and breakfast recipes are tree nut free, but I've come to rely on them with cakes and cupcakes for that wonderful, buttery richness. They really help achieve a superior texture, which means I'll be tinkering around with new techniques.