Saturday, September 22, 2007


ok, y'all, i made seitan today--3 pots of it, for me and e, which will be plenty to last for a month or two (i hope! i do get a little over-zealous with seitan though).
it was ridiculously easy, so i thought i would share with you. this does not mean that i do not want to have seitan-making parties with those of you i have discussed them with! it just means i can tide myself over until they happen.
to make seitan, you need the following:

  • wheat gluten. you can buy this at natural food stores. we got it at the co-op i think.

  • lots of water

  • seasonings! i recommend some combination of the following, plus whatever else you may desire: soy sauce. boullion. vinegar (i used rice vinegar). liquid smoke. thyme. old bay. celery salt. black pepper. sesame oil. poultry seasoning. garlic/powder. onion/powder.

i used my kitchenaid, of course! into the bowl i put almost equal parts water and wheat gluten. what we have established is this: for seitan with more air bubbles, you should use more water and knead for longer. for seitan that is denser, you should put in slightly less water and knead for shorter.
first i used the batter attachment, which is this one:

after that had fully incorporated the two, i attached the bread hook:

i let that go for about five minutes. this made the seitan denser--so, as mentioned, knead for longer if you want it more airy.
the aforementioned steps can all be done by hand. but, if you do them with the mixer, then you can spend the time they are kneading making your broth.
basically, to make the broth, i fill up a pot (or three) with water, about 6" high because you want it to cover the seitan as it cooks. then, i put in enough boullion to add substantial flavor--a little more than whatever the package tells you, because this is what is going to flavor the base of your seitan. i think that a salt-free or low-salt boullion is best, because you are going to put in soy sauce/braggs also and you don't want to overwhelm the flavor. after the boullion, i put in the soy sauce, and whatever else i want. i think that liquid smoke is super important to the taste of the seitan, but remember that a little goes a long way. you do want the broth to be strong, though. honestly, it's pretty hard to fuck up.
i bring the broth to a boil, and once the seitan is done cooking i cut it up into small pieces. the smaller they are, the faster they cook, so i make them maybe about 2 cubic inches (like 1"x1"x2" or so). once the liquid is boiled, i drop the chunks in, and then i go play a game or do something else for about an hour so i don't stare at them, but i stir them every 10-15 minutes to make sure they don't burn to the bottom. if it looks like they are running out of water, pour in some more, with a little boullion if you want.
then, after about an hour, they should feel sort of like the seitan you get from the store! i like to drain them and then cut them up and put them in freezer bags (no liquid needed) so that they are ready to use whenevs.
soon, i am going to make fried seitan with biscuits and broccoli. that might be more like a 30 minute meal, but so worth it! i will post when i do.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

a quick note

in re-reading my blog, i realize that it looks like i overuse the word "threw" in a shorthand way for saying "put." that is not true. i am very dramatic and therefore literally do throw things into pots and bowls when i cook. i just wanted to be clear about that.

adventures in baking--gingerbread and pie

this morning, the day after the fancy meal, my friend k came over to fulfill a baking date we have been trying to have for literally 6 months! we decided to bake two things--i bottomlined the gingerbread, and she bottomlined the pie (with the apples and cranberries left over from last night!).
the gingerbread took maybe ten minutes from conceptualization to oven, and the pie only longer than that because of the crust having to cool.
i threw the following into my kitchenaid:

  • earth balance

  • vanilla paste

  • soymilk

  • egg replacer

  • sugar

  • fresh crushed ginger

  • molasses

and i mixed them all up. then, on top of them, i put the next ingredients:

  • flour

  • baking powder

  • baking soda

  • salt

then i did this ridiculous thing that i like to think is akin to mixing in separate bowls, which i clearly am not going to do. i put the mixer head down so it just touches the flour mixture, and mixed it that way for like 10 seconds. then, i mixed as usual. it was way too thick, so i added more soymilk. then we sprayed the mini-loaf pans, and put it in the oven (at 375-ish).
i rinsed out the bowl and whipped up some icing--powdered sugar, lemon juice, a little bit of lemon zest.
when we iced it, we put a tiny bit of chopped crystallized ginger on top. the result was the most amazing gingerbread ever. for serious, this shit MELTS IN YR MOUTH. it is so, so good.
and, pretty!:

i can't speak to how the pie was made, really, but is it not the cutest thing you have ever seen?

such a nice morning/early afternoon!

FANCY dinner!

i meant to take pictures of every course of this, but i got swept up in the meal so you will have to be satisfied with two pictures and a lot of description.
so this weekend l and i decided to make a FANCY meal for our old housemates and all of our new housemates--we called it four courses for three houses, but it was really more like five courses when all was said and done.
this was like a 6-7 hour cooking project, so it doesnt fit the theme of the blog, but it was totally incredible!
the theme of the meal is: fall
course 1: beet and goat cheese crostini with garlic aioli
we meant to start with an amuse-bouche, but we made it bigger than we conceptualized it. it was a roasted beet and goat cheese crostini, with a garlic aioli. the aioli was so so so easy to make! i threw the following into the rocket blender, then turned it on for like 30 seconds: 3 cloves of crushed garlic, olive oil, an egg, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
it looked like this, but less blurry:

course 2: roasted corn soup with paprika oil and chives.
the second course was a corn soup with chives and paprika oil. i had this soup at a restaurant and wanted to eat it endlessly afterwards.
to make it, throw corn in a roasting pan (um, or heart-shaped cake pan, which is what i used). frozen corn is fine. add olive oil, minced garlic, salt, and pepper, and roast until it is brown. while that is cooking, slow-cook some onions. heat boullion up on the stove in soy/milk. when they are all ready, blend them together and strain them (can you believe i actually strained soup??? tom colicchio would be so proud!). sprinkle chopped chives and paprika oil (basically, paprika cooked in some olive oil) on top, and voila!:

course 3: roasted balsamic mushrooms and mixed greens with lemon vinegarette
the third course sort of came from starting with ingredients, which is such an incredible cookbook! but then we forgot it when we were cooking, so we made it up. we tossed some mixed greens with a lemon vinegarette, made of lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, grapefruit vinegar, sugar, garlic, and ginger. we then roasted three kinds of mushrooms (oyster, crimini, shitake) in the oven, and made a balsamic syrup with reduced balsamic and brown sugar. we tossed the cooked mushrooms with that. then we fried up some thinly sliced shallots. we then just piled everything on top of each other. i really liked it because the flavors totally worked together, but also stayed pretty separate.
course 4: acorn-walnut gnocchi with roasted garlic-sage butter, cherry tomatoes, and wilted spinach
lucas pretty much spearheaded this course. we tried to make it wheat-free and totally failed. i recommend making gnocchi with a recipe.
course 5: apple-cranberry galettes with maple-infused vanilla ice cream
so for this we basically made a shortbread crust to make some free-form tarts. the apples were chopped tiny, and i mixed the fruits with fresh ginger, a bit of nutmeg, and maple syrup--super simple, and really echoing traditional flavors, but also a sort of unexpected taste in yr mouth. the ice cream was SO EASY--we just heated some cream, dissolved sugar in it, and then cooled it, added vanilla bean, salt, and the maple that we totally forgot about earlier, and added a bunch of 2% milk so it wouldnt be all cream. then we threw it in the ice cream maker! then we (ok, i) spilled it all over. then we ate the rest.
all in all, an AMAZING meal. super labor intensive. but we fed 10 people with aplomb!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

a longer project

so today at work, i decided, like i sometimes do, to pretend that i have the kind of job where you actually get a lunch break. i tend to spend that time looking at random blogs. today, i was searching through food blogs, and i found this recipe. i totally wanted to leave work early and go home and make it, but i had a lot more of my day ahead of me.
so! i got home, finally, and cooked this up--well, sort of. if you know me at all you know that i am fully unable to follow recipes. but i took it as my inspiration to make apple-ginger muffins with caramel sauce.
first, i chopped up the apples really small. i came up with a new tactic for doing this: cut three slices off each side of the apple while the apple is still whole. it basically looks like this:

then turn and do the same for the other three sides. then just chop the shit out of the whole pile. everything is not perfectly even, but its really good and a lot quicker! i don't know why i never thought of this before. i always did this long, detailed way, which so does not work with my general technique.
so then i put the chopped apples in a bowl with sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, crushed ginger, and almond extract. i put it in the oven at 200 for like 15 minutes while i made the caramel sauce.
ok, y'all, i got shocked like 5000 times that i was actually making caramel. i have made half-assed caramel a lot, which consists of a mixture of earth balance, soymilk, vanilla, salt, and brown sugar (so it looks caramel-y without waiting for the actual caramelization). anyway, i melted earth balance, then added a pile of sugar, and stirred until it turned brown! it was shockingly quick, like maybe 3 minutes? then i took it off the heat and added half-and-half (for some reason, its hard to find organic heavy cream at stop and shop), and stirred until it was smooth, then added some more half and half and salt and stirred again. this was almost like following a recipe! except for the amounts, and the ingredients.
i put the caramel aside, and took the apples out of the oven. i mixed in some egg replacer (made with soymilk! always make egg replacer with some sort of milk, because that gives it the right consistency) and oil in with them, and then put some flour and baking powder and baking soda and salt on top of that (i put them on top and then stir a little, and pretend like i have sifted them together separately). i mixed everything together, put it into muffin tins, and put them in the oven.
some time (12 minutes? 20 minutes? enough time to clean up, put more flour and sugar into their canisters, and make 2 sandwiches), they started to be done! i took the smallest muffins out first, then the bigger muffins, then the muffin bread (cos i, as always, misgauged how much it would make). and! look how beautiful!

if you come by my desk at work tomorrow, i will totals give you one.
if i make them again, i would add 1/2 whole wheat flour, 1/3 brown sugar, and maybe bake some of the apples for a better texture variety. also, i might put a little more almond extract in, OR put a tiny bit of almond flour in, just to complicate the taste a little.

Monday, September 10, 2007

another meal with pasta.

ok y'all, i really prefer pasta. it's my total grain of choice. i am interesting in experimenting with the following things:
whole wheat couscous
quinoa and millet pilaf
precooked brown rice (cos i have no patience)
other ideas for quick-cooking whole grains?
but last night i ate pasta again. my evening cooking structure was as follows:
put on water to boil.
get out main ingredients: pasta, fake chicken strips, mixed veggies, precut onion, frozen spinach, canola oil.
i heated up the oil and chopped up the fake chicken strips. i threw the onion and "chicken" into the heated oil, and grabbed the supplies for the sauce:
minced garlic, crushed ginger, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, rice vinegar, sesame seeds.
put the pasta in the now-boiling water.
i tossed the veggies and spinach into the pan with the onions and "chicken," and mixed up all the sauce ingredients. i put half of it on the food in the pan and cooked for about three minutes.
i turned off the heat on the veggies, and waited very impatiently for the pasta to be done. i probably tested it 9 times while i waited. i am not a good wait-er. finally, i poured out the water for the pasta (when it might have been a bit more al dente than was totally desirable), and put the pasta in the veggie pan, along with the remainder of the sauce. i mixed it all around and excitedly ate it!
here is a very poorly-lit picture of my dinner (and lunch for today):

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


one thing i made this weekend was 15-minute pasta. not hard, obvi, but super good.
i started with frozen spinach-pesto filled gnocchi from trader joes. i heated up some oil and threw them in. i stirred whenever i could (though clearly not enough, because they got a little burnt).
while it was cooking, i made pasta sauce with the following quick-and-easy recipe:
/ a couple of spoonfuls of minced garlic.
< one can of diced tomatoes.
\ one can of tomato paste
mix those things together in a heated saucepan with a little bit of olive oil. you could first put some onions in, and cook them for 2-3 minutes, but i didnt have any. as the above ingredients are warming, quickly chop some frozen artichokes and a few strips of fake bacon. throw those in as well. put in some basil, a splash of lemon juice, a tiny pinch of sugar, and let it cook for like 5 min on medium heat while you get everything else ready.
while these things were cooking, i made a smoothie with frozen blueberries, frozen mangos, raspberry sorbet, and soymilk.
and then, tah-dah! a really good meal done in 15 min!

Friday, August 24, 2007

what i have learned so far...

i have strategized a lot about how to make myself more likely to cook nourishing food for myself and not constantly want to order out or just eat things which will not meet my needs (like all fro yo, all the time). these are my time-saving ideas to date:

  • when i get home, put my frozen foods into (reusable) freezer bags, so i can just unseal and reseal them and not stress about time as much when cooking ("omg, i have to open this bag? and then figure out some way to close it?"). also, that way i can see all my food, and how much of it there is, easily.
  • similarly, unbag grains and put it in easily openable/reclosable containers (that are airtight! no more moths!), like jars and tupperware.
  • this is one i haven't done yet, but makes sense to me. buy some onions, and chop like 3 or 4 at a time. freezer bag them, and then use as needed, frozen.
  • something i have been doing for years, that i learned from a cookbook is to always keep broth powder on hand. put it in rice or anything else to flavor things up really quickly.
  • one thing i want to do is have making-things-parties. i would like to have someone (or multiple people) over, and we could contribute our own supplies to share, to make a bunch of marinades/sauces and jar or freeze them. if we got little ball jars, we could totally have enough to last, and could split it really easily. some ideas: sesame-ginger, peanut sauce, coconut-curry sauce, garlic-lime, marinara sauce, some sort of hickory smoke thing, etc. my old roommate and i are also supposed to have a waffle-making party, where we make a bunch of kinds and then freeze them. i thought a soup-making party might be good too, as they freeze well also? maybe a seitan-making party, so it tastes better and is more affordable? does anyone have more ideas? local people, want to come over and make stuff with me?
  • prepared herbs and spices. crushed ginger and garlic (the ginger is the cheapest that i have found at super 88, and least preservative-y at trader joe's, though you can find it at the grocery store too), frozen cubes of basil and cilantro, etc.
  • when there are sales on those morningstar farms bags of food, i think it makes sense to stock up. you can easily throw them in things, and they are tasty! they are expensive when not on sale, but also go a lot further than refrigerated fake meats, i find.
  • i am planning on buying a block of tofu at the beginning of the week, and cutting it up and throwing the cubes in a tupperware of water. if they aren't used by the end of the week, i can throw them in the freezer (no longer in water, obvi).
  • i bought like two bags of greens that can be used for salads or in cooking (baby spinach, arugula, etc.), and am eating some at every meal so that i get at least something fresh.

there are things i totally don't know how to deal with, though. shopping is the biggest one at this point, but i know other things will come up, too. but, i want your suggestions! what are some ways you motivate yourself to cook, when it is just you around? how do you keep yourself eating balanced and tasty meals when mac and cheese is literally your favorite food, and the kind with actual protein and fiber is not economically feasible as an every-meal kind of thing? what are your favorite things to get at the grocery store? do you want to come over and help me make good things for myself?


why this blog?

after years of living cooperatively, i am now, somewhat reluctantly, faced with the task of shopping and cooking for myself. i find this task very daunting.
so, what better way to address such a challenge than documenting all the choices i am making, and getting input from you--many of whom have been cooking for yourselves for far longer than i have--to help me make the best choices i can?
a little bit of background about my cooking guidelines:

  • i have no patience for process. i want to finish cooking my food in 15-30 minutes. between the fact that, come september, i will be working/going to school pretty much every day from 7:30 am - 8:30 pm, and the fact that i am totally lazy, i just am not going to do something that takes more time than that.
  • i have been vegetarian for 18 years. all the food that i make will be vegetarian. tips that involve any meat-based products, such as worchestire sauce (which has fish in it) won't help me. if you want to take my recipes and substitute meat in them, they might still taste good. i do it the other direction all the time. however, it is not recommended.
  • on the other hand, i am not vegan. some of the food on this site may contain egg or dairy products. not all of it, and probably not a majority of it, but some.
  • i don't like spicy food. not even a little spicy. i do like the tastes of raw garlic and ginger--i mean spicy like hot peppers.
  • that reminds me, i don't like peppers. or some other vegetables. i am not promising this will be well rounded or involve a lot of different foods.
  • i am trying to eat as much organic food as possible, which means more frozen food than usual because it is more affordable. the fact that it is pre-cut is also an enticement.
  • i do really like fake meat products. it would be fair to say i love them. they may factor heavily into my food posts.
  • i love food. i will not eat things that do not taste really, really good.
  • although i try to be concientious to get my nutrients, i do not refer to food i eat as healthy. as a fat person, that word has way too many "diet" connotations for me--which i think is bullshit--and that is not where i am at, at all. i will say nutritious, or good for my body, which are, for me, more to the point.
  • on that note, most of my meals follow the same basic format: whole grain (often whole wheat pasta), protein, green vegetable, other vegetable, flavoring. it might get boring. i am just warning you.

ok! enough intro for now! on to the ideas i have had so far!