November 30, 2009

pumpkin tartlets

I think I've said this before, but I think mini food is awesome. Maybe I like it because it is a self-contained single serving that I can take on the go. Maybe it's that I can eat an entire pie (or 2) all by myself without having to share. Or really it could simply be that mini food is super cute.

My friend Tom is particularly into mini pies. His mini pie passion inspired me to buy some tartlet pans (with removable bases). I decided to make pumpkin tartlets which are basically mini pumpkin pies. Tis the season! I actually had never made a pumpkin pie before (unwarranted childhood food prejudice) much less a tiny one much less one from scratch much less a vegan one. I modified this recipe for the crust and this recipe for the filling. Of course, without eggs in the filling, it doesn't seem as custardy as I vaguely remember. That's fine by me. Eric says he likes them a lot and that's all that matters in my world.

Makes: 9 tartlets

Crust Ingredients:
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. powdered sugar
1/4 t. salt
3/4 c. very cold vegan margarine, cut into small pieces
2 egg equivalent in egg replacer

Filling Ingredients:
2 c. baked sugar pumpkin pulp, pureed
1 12 oz. can of coconut milk
1/2 c. packed dark brown sugar
1/3 c. white sugar
1/2 t. salt
3 egg equivalent in egg replacer
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. ginger, ground
1/4 t. nutmeg, ground
1/4 t. cloves, ground
1/4 t. cardamon, ground
1/2 t. lemon juice

Mix together the dry crust ingredients. Add remaining and mix until the dough forms crumbly chunks. Gather the chunks into a ball and refrigerate for a couple of hours.

Cut a sugar pumpkin in half. Scoop out the seeds and stringy mess. Save the seeds to bake for a snack later. Bake the pumpkin halves face down on baking sheets for 30 minutes at 450 degrees F. Let cool. Scoop out the pumpkin pulp and puree.

Mix the sugar and spices for the filling. Mix in the remaining filling ingredients. Take the dough out of the fridge. Divide. roll out, and form the crusts in the tartlet pans. Fill with pumpkin filling. Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees F and then 45 minutes at 350 degrees F.

November 26, 2009

vegan green bean casserole

Happy Thanksgiving! This green bean casserole looks pretty lonely. Fear not! We are heading over to a potluck where it can mingle with cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and wine. Mmm...

I modified Alton Brown's recipe to be vegan and more our style. Ours features the green beans we canned this summer, but frozen or store-bought canned beans work just as well.

Topping Ingredients:
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 t. salt

Sauce Ingredients:
2 T. canola oil
1 lb. mushrooms, diced
1 t. salt
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 t. nutmeg, ground
3 T. all-purpose flour
1 c. veggie broth
1 c. almond milk
3 pints of home canned green beans, cut in 2 inch segments

Preheat the oven to 400. Toss together the onions, flour, and salt. Grease a baking sheet with canola oil and spread out the onions. Throw them in the oven (middle rack) and toss every 5 to 10 minutes. Bake for about a total of 30 minutes or until golden. We had issues with uneven baking so next time I think we will just fry the onions.

In a pot, cook the mushrooms, salt, pepper, and canola oil over medium heat. After 5 minutes the mushrooms should be sweating. Add garlic and nutmeg and cook for another minute. Mix in flour and cook for another minute. Add the veggie broth and almond milk. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes. Mix in the green beans and 1/2 of the baked onions. Pour into a 9x13 baking dish and top with the remaining baked onions. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes.

rose hips

On a bike ride the other day, I came across a few rose bushes that were loaded up with rose hips. I loaded myself up with 11 oz of these fruits that have numerous health benefits. They are best harvested after the first frost makes them kinda squishy. Last year, we dried out our harvested rose hips for tea, so this year I wanted to make something more wet, like rose hip honey freezer jam:
Someone told me that you could put raw rose hips in a food mill to extract the pulp from the seeds. It didn't work out so well for me--the flesh was just too stuck to the seeds. Maybe it would work in a motorized juicer.

So, instead I stewed the rose hips in water for a long time and strained them through a jelly bag. I cooked some sugar into the liquid to make rose hip syrup. I put the now cooked seed-pulp through our food mill (thanks Davey for giving it up!) and was able to get about half a cup of pulp out. I combined with an equal amount of honey to make this delicious jam. I'm keeping it in the freezer because the water content might be too high to safely leave out as you would with honey. Luckily, it doesn't freeze solid, so it is convenient to pull out to spread on spent grain bread. Technically, this still contains the irritating hairs that surround the seeds, but they've been cooked so much they haven't bothered me yet. The cooked berries have long been used in native cooking, in soups and stews, as well as a dinner vegetable, served with butter and salt.

The pulpy seeds that were left in the food mill looked like they would be good for some more flavor, so I stewed and strained them again and boiled with sugar to make another syrup. This second one came out pretty thick...almost like candy.

November 24, 2009

spent grain bread

Here is another use for spent grain from beer brewing. Check out the swirl made by the dark malts! The bread and the pancakes both used small amounts of spent grain for flavoring, but they aren't a good way to use up large quantities. We still have a lot of grain left--almost 3 lbs. If we were doing all-grain brewing, I would want to find some animals to feed it to or try using it to grow mushrooms.

I found the bread recipe here. The recipe called for 32 oz. of beer, but who wants to waste beer when there's spent grain to use?

Makes 2 large loaves or 1 extra-large loaf.

2 1/4 lbs. unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 c.)
10 1/2 oz. whole wheat flour (2 1/2 c.)
32 oz. water
2 t. instant yeast
1 oz. salt (1 1/2 T.)
7 oz. wet mash "spent grain", not pureed (2 c.)

Fold in the spent grain after kneading and before rising. Otherwise do the normal bread making things.

spent grain pancakes

Last night we started brewing a batch of cranberry porter. I've been trying to figure out ways to use the (potentially delicious) spent grain. Pancakes are one idea. These pancakes have a dark color and flavor because the spent grains from our porter included chocolate malt and black malt. I also made tea with the spent hops, and it made me sleepy.

This recipe is based on Tom's vegan pancake recipe.

Serving Size: 4

2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 T. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 T. sugar
2 c. non-dairy milk (we used almond)
1/2 c. water
1 T. canola oil
2 c. spent grain, pureed in food processor
1 t. caraway seed, ground (optional)

Mix dry. Mix wet. Combine. Make pancakes. Great with applesauce!

November 22, 2009

soap making

I took a soap making class a couple of weeks ago. We made mint soap and lavender soap out of coconut oil, vegetable shortening, walnut oil, lye, distilled water, essential oils and natural dyes. The process was simpler than I imagined. Carefully mix the lye with distilled water, let it react somewhere that you won't be breathing (like outside), and let it cool to a specified temperature. Meanwhile, warm up the fats to a specified temperature. Mix the lye water with the warmed fats. Stir until you can drip the mixture along the surface and see a mark or trace. This visual cue is called "tracing." Add the essential oils and natural dye. Pour everything into your modded out milk carton molds. Wait 2 weeks or so to take the soap out of the molds. Slice and dice. Wait an additional 2 week for the soap to harden and neutralize in terms pH. Then use, gift or sell your glorious soap!

Modern day soap making is pretty precise and scientific with lye and refined fats. The precision allows people like myself to jump into the craft relatively easily. Just follow the recipe! Back in the day, however, people would mix whatever fats they had on hand with wood ash water. With far less precision, I imagine that people spent a lifetime developing the finesse to craft quality soap. I might try the wood ash method someday just to try it...

November 21, 2009

garlic for victory soup

I caught a cold (frown). Since being sick is no fun and since garlic cures all, Eric and I made some garlic soup while listening to Garlic for Victory. We followed this online recipe exactly except we doubled the garlic. Doesn't the photo feel like you're in a French still life? Sigh... Get me a baguette! Maintenant! Dedicated to Areta Kovalskyj.

Serving Size: 6

6 c. water
4 potatoes, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 onion, diced
4 bulbs garlic, peeled
1/2 t. thyme
dash of cayenne pepper
salt to taste

We like adding a bit of a the garlic at the very end, so it has a bite. If you add too much, you can always mellow it by cooking.

November 15, 2009

chocolate chili corn muffins with whiskey cream sauce

Last night, a friend hosted her second annual Iron Chef birthday potluck. This year's theme ingredients were chocolate, cayenne, and whiskey. Julie and I had fun coming up with and preparing this dish. Working with constraints can really open up creativity. I mean, really, who thought whiskey could taste so good in so many things? Also, we discovered a new favorite, chocolate chili!

November 14, 2009

pumpkin pancakes

Eric made me pumpkin pancakes this morning! We've been eating pumpkin non-stop this week because I baked and pureed the flesh of a 22 lb pumpkin. So far we've had pumpkin seeds, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin polenta, pumpkin chili, maple syrup pumpkin purée, and now pumpkin pancakes. Pumpkin pancakes were definitely a highlight. Anybody have any other pumpkin purée suggestions?

Serving size: 14 unconventionally shaped/sized pancakes (for 3-4 people)

(recipe borrows heavily from Cookography)

Dry Ingredients:
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
3 T. white sugar
1 t. salt
1 t. ground cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
2 t. yeast

Wet Ingredients:
1 c. milk (we used soy)
1 c. pumpkin, puréed
1/4 c. oil
1/2 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. water

Mix dry ingredients then mix in wet, adding 1/2 c. or more water for thinner pancakes. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Let sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes or more before cooking.

November 11, 2009

sichuan peppers

I've been really liking the Sichuan peppers (aka Szechuan peppers) I got from the asian grocery. Although they look like peppercorns, they're not related to black pepper or chili peppers. They give a numbing or tingly sensation with a little bit of lemony tang. They work well in a hand grinder for black pepper, which is good because Julie won't let me put them in anything she eats.

I bit my lip the other day, so I tried grinding up some sichuan peppers and applying the powder as an alternative to benzocaine. It worked, but I think the (unrelated) Szechuan buttons (aka toothache plant) would work better. I'll have to try to get some from the guy at the farmers' market who subtly sprinkled some petals in my hand, giving me an electric surprise.

November 9, 2009

backpack drumset

(photo by vanessa oniboni)

While we're on the subject of bikes and hauling stuff around town, I just love this short documentary of my brother's backpack drumset!

November 8, 2009

improved bike trailer hitch design

Although there will be two winter farmers market events, yesterday was the last official market. We stocked up on potatoes and winter squash, carrying them home on our homemade bike trailer. I tweaked the hitch design so it is now more stable with three connection points instead of two.

old design:
old trailer hitch design

There are a lot of good hitch designs out there that you can buy, but I didn't find any that would be compatible with our trailer (without additional welding), which we made from bent and welded 3/4" EMT conduit in Pat's dad's awesome metal shop. The design is a modified version of the popular "flatsy" bike trailer design:
2009.11_trailer bike trailer design

Other makin' and usin' photos from Pat

November 7, 2009

community supported agriculture: season summary

Back in February, we signed up for a full veggie share with Abbondanza Organic Seed & Produce. From the beginning of June until the end of October, we received a pile of veggies once a week (sometimes every other week). This kind of farmer/consumer relationship is called community supported agriculture (CSA). It was a great experience that we will continue in future years. In all we received 225 lbs of veg.

(photos above can be seen in more detail on flickr)

November 5, 2009

holy scrap hot springs

This past weekend we went to the Holy Scrap Hot Springs homesteader gathering in Truth or Consequences, NM, where we met some great people and learned a lot of DIY skills. Subjects included how to make tempeh from scratch, how to transform coconut flakes into coconut butter and raw coconut "cheese" cake, how to cook in a dutch oven, how to carbonate soda, how to keep bees, how to work on a bike, and how to maintain and care for batteries.

Other highlights included doing yoga in the mornings,
soaking in the hot springs under starry skies, finding ridiculous Halloween costumes, plasma cutting a keg, and scoring loofah seeds in a seed swap. Soon enough I will be growing my own sponges!