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Archive for February, 2011

Lately we’ve gotten into the habit of always having a little something sweet after a meal. I can blame part of it on the fact that I’m in culinary school – you need to do your own research right? I blame the other part of it on the fact that school is only 3 hours a day right now and I can’t find a job. Boredom = baked goods. So the other day after lunch, Gary turns and looks at the empty cookie jar and sort of gives off this sad little whimper. I smile. Then about an hour later I’m in the kitchen, baking.

Being that we’ve had so much sweet stuff lately I didn’t want to pour a whole bunch of sugar and fat into something else that I was inevitably going to be snacking on for the next few days. I guess I didn’t mind pouring a whole bunch of chocolate chips in it though (but it’s chocolate, really, who has he ever hurt?). Anyway, the vision of a cute little oatmeal cookie started dancing around in my head. Nothing says healthy like oats! Plus cranberries. And almonds. And chocolate chips, of course.

These were good, and dare I say wholesome. They were just sweet enough to satisfy the sugar fix but not too sweet to make you feel like you were eating junk food. There’s hardly any oil in them either and I bet you could probably take all the oil out and you wouldn’t really miss it, or even substitute applesauce. Applesauce tends to make cookies cakey so I don’t use it too often, but these had a nice chewy texture so it probably wouldn’t have been too bad. You could even make them gluten-free by using a gluten-free flour mixture like this one and certified GF oats. Cherries instead of cranberries would have also been good. Maybe with some dark chocolate.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies with Cranberries and Almonds

yields about 12 cookies
  • 1/3 C whole wheat pastry flour, or GF flour mixture
  • 1/8 t salt
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • Pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon
  • About 1 C quick cooking oats
  • 1/4 C dairy free milk
  • 2 T agave
  • 2 T granulated sugar (or more agave)
  • 2 1/2 T brown sugar
  • 1 T ground flax seed
  • 1 T canola oil (preferably organic)
  • 3/4 t vanilla extract
  • About 1/2 C chocolate chips, cranberries and almonds

Preheat your oven to 350.

Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and spices. In a mixing bowl, combine the milk, agave, sugars, flax, oil and extract and mix well. Add the dry ingredients, oats, choco chips, cranberries and almonds. Mix until everything is uniformly moistened. Drop spoonfuls of batter onto a silpat lined (or parchment) cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the edges start to brown. Let them cool for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

I tend to over-bake my cookies but these I took out before I thought they were totally done, which means they were just right. I don’t think they’ll be as good if they are too crunchy so don’t make them spend too much time in the oven.

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Would still just be cheesy sauce I guess. This stuff probably doesn’t even taste like cheese but one of the good things about not having had cheese in a few years is that you don’t quite remember what it tastes like. I have a friend in North Portland that would scoff at that, and I think one in Tigard too – I’m not sure they think there’s really anything good about not eating cheese.

I came across Vegan Yum Yum’s cheese sauce recipe quite awhile ago. But being that there are about 13 ingredients in it I often find myself lacking one or two of them, or I just can’t bring myself to put 1/3 cup of butter and 1/3 cup of cashews in it. Thankfully, this conglomerate is quite forgiving and flexible. I don’t think I’ve made it the same way twice.

Last Saturday the old man and I (he called me old lady already so it’s payback time) went to Higgin’s for dinner before going to The Decemberists show at the Schnitzer (phenomenal show by the way). Higgin’s technically has nothing to do with my cheesy pasta, but since we went to a nice place for dinner we did the whole before, during and after dinner drinks thing. Then we had wine at the show (well I did, the old man stepped on his – but I was nice enough to share). That said, I was just a teeny tiny bit hung-over on Sunday. My favorite hangover food? Aside from pizza? Mac and cheese!!!

So whether or not it tastes like cheese I don’t really give a damn. It’s good. It’s versatile. It’s healthy. And it hits the spot. Nothing like carbs the day after!

This time I found myself without carrots, and I didn’t feel like using butter or tahini. So I threw a few slices of orange bell pepper and sesame oil in the mix and gave it a whirl. I used gluten-free pasta and added some arugula, broccoli, olives and mushrooms (I just don’t feel right eating pasta with just pasta).

So, here it is.

Cheesy Pasta (vegan and gluten-free)

  • 2 medium red potatoes
  • Half an orange bell pepper, chopped
  • ¼ cup whole cashews (roasted, unsalted)
  • ½ cup nutritional yeast
  • Couple dabs of mustard
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1 T red miso
  • A few splashes of GF tamari
  • 1 t sesame oil
  • ½ t vinegar (light tasting)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Several dashes of paprika, thyme, basil, sage, cayenne

Roughly chop the potatoes, throw them in a pan and cover with water. You can peel them if you want but I don’t think it’s necessary. Boil until soft and drain the water.

Grind the cashews in a small food processor, blender, or coffee grinder.

Add the cashews and everything else to the pan with the potatoes. Use an immersion blender and blend until smooth and creamy. You can use a normal blender if you don’t have an immersion blender.

Poor over cooked pasta and veggies. Mix. Eat.

This makes a decent amount of cheesy sauce. I cooked about 9 ounces of pasta and still had 3/4 – 1 cup left over. I like to munch on the remains with chips or veggies. You can throw some jalapenos, tomatoes and Mexican spices in and call it nachos. Enjoy.

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I’m not sure what the hell is going on in this country but I’m starting to get pissed off.  Well, I’ve been pissed off.  I’m starting to get pissed off enough to do something.  Or at least try.  I think that’s the problem with this place.  We the people have the ability and numbers to make a difference but none of us, aside from Michael Moore, feel empowered enough to do so.  For example, I just found out last night that I can actually go and speak with my state senator face to face, or call him on the phone.  I’ve never thought I was allowed to do that.

You know I watch movies like Food Inc. and Forks Over Knives and I get so irritated and outraged and even scared about what’s happening to America that I just can’t believe what I’m seeing.  I think everybody in America should watch Food Inc, but most of the people who really need to see it won’t ever pick it up.  We are numb to our political environment and how it’s slowly poisoning us.  I’m not the person who needs to be informed about our food supply, yet I’m the only type of person that goes to see these informative documentaries.  I already know they’re contaminating everything we eat.

Did you know that in most countries in Europe GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) aren’t legal?  You can’t scientifically engineer corn and sell it to the masses.  You can’t feed it to cows so that you don’t have to make sure they have grass to eat.  You can’t make a chicken grow 5 – 10 times the normal rate, and size.  You can’t strip natural cane juice out of every thing in the supermarket and replace it with high fructose corn syrup.  But in the USA, you have to read the label of every damn thing you buy to make sure that it doesn’t contain something that one day might give you cancer.  But the labels aren’t even truthful.  Trans fat, for example, is the worst fat out there.  McDonald’s even brags about not using the crap.  But the FDA doesn’t necessarily make manufacturers put it on the label if it’s below 0.5 grams per serving.  That’s right, it will say ZERO but still be there.  The only way to avoid it is to not buy anything with partially hydrogenated fats in it.

The other day my husband posted a link on Facebook talking about GMO’s.  Evidently the government doesn’t think that needs to be on a label either, even though most of us, even the perceived non-concerned people, are scared of them.

And once you get past the actual ingredients in the food itself (most of which you can’t even pronounce) you see a little blurb that says, “BHT added for freshness.”  What is that?  I don’t pretend to be a scientist but it’s some sort of antioxidant that keeps foods fresh, among other things.  The problem is that its safety to our health is still being debated.  I had a friend in Arkansas years ago who told me she won’t buy anything with BHT in it.  I hadn’t even heard of the stuff at that time.  You can basically find it in almost any non-organic boxed food you find on the shelves.  I haven’t been checking the organic boxes though, so maybe I need to.

Companies like Monsanto are taking over are food sources.  Something about farmers being forced to use specific seeds….  Seems a little wonky to me.  And supposedly there has been more biotech crops approved in the last few weeks that we should all be concerned about.

Anyone with open eyes can see that something is awry in this country.  Look at the skyrocketing levels of Diabetes.  According to the American Diabetes Association, 25.8 million Americans have diabetes and 79 million have prediabetes.  That’s a lot of freaking people.  They also say that the cost of diabetes in 2007 was $174 million.  I guess we can all debate the cause of diabetes, and there is likely more than one culprit, but I’d be willing to bet that a good deal of it can be attributed to the crap we are feeding ourselves.  How many millions of people eat McDonald’s food every day?  What about Burger King?  Wendy’s?  KFC?  Taco Bell?  Jack in the Box?  Sonic?  I could go on.  This food is not made to nourish your body.  It’s made to fill you up momentarily and then leave you wanting more.  Did nobody watch Supersize Me?  We are training our children to be addicted to junk food – something that one day just might kill them.  If I were a parent I wouldn’t want that on my conscience.  But that’s just the problem isn’t it?  We don’t think about it.  And when our kids die of obesity or cancer or some other yet to be known result of the shit in our food system we won’t point the finger at ourselves; we’ll find somebody else to blame.

It makes me really sad when I see an 8 year old kid walking down the street that weighs more than me.  Children should NOT be obese.  How can we set a child up to fail so early in life?  How do we not draw a connection with what we put in our bodies to what happens afterward?  Cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease – these things shouldn’t be such a big problem in our country.  But they are.  And I think it’s directly linked to our food.

You know, I’m really sick and tired of going to the grocery store and not being able to afford the organic food and being too scared to buy the non-organic food.  And even when I do buy the organic food I have to check the country of origin because most of what I see comes from Mexico.  Not that I have anything against Mexico, I don’t, but I hear they have no regulations or very slack regulations when it comes to food production.  How do I know that banana is really safe for me to eat?  Is it really organic or did Dole just stick a cute little “Organic” sticker on it?  I shouldn’t have to be leery of anything in a Kellogg’s box.  I should be able to buy a box of crackers without scouring the label for hydrogenated fats and potentially poisonous preservatives.  I should be able to buy a single organic bell pepper for less than what Joe Schmo down the street is paying to get a super value meal.

I got married recently.  Not that we are going to have some kiddos right away or anything, unless the government succeeds at stripping the funding from Planned Parenthood of course.  Did you hear about Planned Parenthood?  The Grand Ole Party thinks they aren’t necessary.  Not only will they NOT let us have universal health care (which should be a basic human right) they don’t want the people who help all the women without health insurance – like me – to be able to help anymore.  A lot of people in, dare I say, God’s country see Planned Parenthood as a death camp for unborn children.  While yes, they help women in trouble deal with the problem in that way if they see fit, but they do a lot more.  Birth control is vital.  Annual check ups and pap smears are pretty damn important too.  If I get a urinary tract infection, guess where I’m going to go?  That’s right, Planned Parenthood.  It’s the only place a job seeking, loan burdened college student like myself can afford to get health care.  But the Republicans think it’s unnecessary.  I’d say that if they are looking for some extra cash perhaps they can address the outbreak of diabetes in this country – that might put $174 million back in their pocket.  If you disagree with them please go to this page and sign the letter to urge congress to pull their heads out of their asses.

So what happens when one day my husband and I have children?  What will I feed them?  I couldn’t live with myself if I gave them the crap that everyone is feeding their kids right now.  I joke about wanting my kids to be born in another country, but I’m not so sure that’s really a joke anymore.  I want my kids to grow up feeling safe about eating an apple or spinach.  I don’t want them to have to check the country of origin on every banana or tomato.  I don’t want them to be exposed to this fast food nation that cares more about its bottom line than the health and well-being of all those contributing to it.  I don’t have all the answers or even half of the facts.  But I am going to start finding them and start bitching to somebody that can hopefully start doing something more than sit on their ass and let everything go to the dogs.  I encourage you to do the same.

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i make gnocchi

For some reason the thought of making pasta always scares me.  Probably because I have never done it.  Until now.  Well, at least I’ve made one type of pasta (which will probably turn out to be the easiest one).

Making gnocchi seemed like it would be a daunting task as it takes quite a bit of your time, which is why it took me several months to get around to making it.  But in reality it just takes quite a bit of your oven’s time, and like he has anything else to do anyway.  I guess if you’re used to throwing something in the microwave gnocchi would still fall under time consuming, but I had the dough formed, rolled, cut and grooved in probably under 30 minutes – my husband didn’t even realize I was in the kitchen making something.

I’m guessing you would typically use a baking potato to make gnocchi, but I had randomly picked up some small red potatoes at Trader Joes the other day so that’s what I used.  I may be biased but I think they worked rather well.

Another deterrent for me making gnocchi was the fact that almost every recipe I see uses an egg.  After having successfully made it with only 3 ingredients, none of which are eggs, I am somewhat baffled as to why you would need an egg to make this at all.

And to top it all off my sister and brother-in-law bought me a potato ricer for my birthday!  What the hell is a potato ricer??  That’s what I said the first time I heard the word.  Is it for potatoes?  Is it for rice?  I guess most people consider them unnecessary kitchen gadgets, but I think it’s kind of nifty.  Basically it’s a great big garlic press that squeezes tiny little strips of potato out.  Mine even manages to remove the skin for you (it’s magic).  You can probably mash up a potato with a fork or masher or food processor, but I’m thinking consistency plays an important role in the gnocchi.

So being that I had the potatoes and a potato ricer, and even some left over marinara in the fridge, I no longer had any excuse to not make gnocchi.  I even found a recipe that didn’t use eggs.

Gnocchi, from In Jennie’s Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 & 1/2 lbs of potatoes
  • 3/4 C organic, unbleached flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

What you do

Heat the oven up to 400.  Stab the potatoes a few times with a fork and place them on the middle rack or in a pan.  I put mine in a pan and put foil over them halfway through the baking period as I wasn’t sure if they would dry out (I don’t bake a lot of potatoes).  Bake for about an hour or until the potatoes are soft enough to pierce, or accidentally smash.

Once they are cool enough to touch, grab a bowl and your potato ricer and, well, rice them.

Add the flour and salt and mix with a spoon until it’s mostly homogenized.  Then use your hands and shape it into a ball of dough.

Now divide your dough.  I only divided it into 3 portions but more would have made it easier to roll out into ropes.  Place the pieces on a floured surface and use your hands to roll them out (like you used to do with playdoh).

Gently cut the ropes into pieces; mine were about 3/4 – 1 inch long.  This is where you put the little grooves in the gnocchi.  They have wooden paddles specially designed for this, but I don’t have one.  I took Jennie’s suggestion and used my pastry cutter.  I rolled mine with the cutter on a cutting board but placing it in your hand and doing it that way may work just a tad better.

When you’re ready to eat, get a pot of salted water boiling and boil the gnocchi for 2 – 3 minutes; they float when they’re ready.  Use a slotted spoon and transfer them to a plate or dish.  And word to the wise, don’t place them on a paper towel (they stick).

Top with whatever sauce and accompaniments you desire and tuck in!  We were a little low on veggies so we got frozen peas and black olives.

They were soooo yummy!!!  This recipe supposedly serves 4 but Gary and I gobbled it all up without a second thought.  Definitely worth making!

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There will be more to this post later on, but until then, check out my cheese head cake!  Oh, and have fun watching the game. =)

Go Packers!!!

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So what do you do when you want to make muffins but you’re all out of applesauce, just ate the last of your soy yogurt and can’t bear the thought of pouring a whole bunch of oil into the mixing bowl?  Mash the hell out of a pear of course.  Well, mash is such a forceful word.  How about puree.  With an immersion blender.  After using the chopper attachment, of course.

I actually had an apple on hand but it seemed too boring.  The light green skin of the pear looked so nice next to the deep purple blueberries; I just had to give it a go.  And, as things tend not to go for me, they turned out just as good in reality as they did in my head!  What do ya know?!!?!

Blueberry Pear Muffins

  • Oven: 350
  • Line a muffin pan, or a mini muffin pan, with liners (or spray with non-stick spray).
  • Grab an average sized pear and cut it in half. Wrap half of it and stick it back in the fridge (or eat it I guess). Dice the other half and put it in a small food processor or blender (I used an immersion blender). Puree until it resemble pearsauce (like applesauce but all pear-like).
  • In a small bowl, whisk 1/3 cup almond or soy milk with 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar. Let curdle.
  • In a large mixing bowl blend 1 & 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt and a couple dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg.
  • In the, now curdled, milk bowl, add 1/4 cup agave, 1/4 cup raw sugar and the pearsauce. Mix well.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until incorporated. Fold in the blueberries (fresh is better, about 1/2 – 1 cup).
  • Spoon batter into muffin liners and sprinkle a little raw sugar on top.
  • Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

These are moist with just the right amount of sweetness from the agave, pear and the juicy blueberries.  Absolutely lovely for a snack or breakfast addition!

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