Monday, June 30, 2008

Oatmeal Date Cookies

oatmeal date cookies, originally uploaded by mysterybridgers.

Most of you that know me personally know that I like to knit. I joined Ravelry a while back and it has been a great resource for thrifty people like me. Through one of the forums on Ravelry, I learned about Sort Floor Books. They have all types of books that are remainders, used, or have some minor damage that make them unsellable at full price. So, Sort Floor Books sells them at deep discounts (usually at least 50% off)--and the best thing is that there is free shipping if your order is over $15. Their selection of cookbooks varies depending on the day you look, but we have found a few real bargains. One such bargain was The Dessert Bible by Christopher Kimball for $6. I got it because we don't have a lot of dessert books and I wanted some resources for what to do with leftover summer fruit. I'll post later about the fantastic rhubarb compote I made out of this book, but first we wanted to show you these oatmeal date cookies from the book. They are the best oatmeal cookies I have ever tasted.

These cookies are pictured on the front cover of the book and as the cookbook sat on our dining table for a few days, we both developed a craving for the delicious looking cookies. I generally dislike raisins in cookies so I was happy to see dates used instead of raisins (of course the recipe also includes instructions on how to make them with raisins). These cookies are very easy (other than the chopping of the dates, which can be a messy job), but you really do need to follow the instructions in order for them to come out right. The recipe requires that the cookies come out of the oven after 15 minutes even though they will look underdone. They are not really underdone and when they cool they end up having crispy edges and a nice chewy middle. Yum! We only made half a batch the first time, which yields 12 cookies, but then we had to make the "rest" of the cookies and cooked another half batch. They were just as delicious both times. And hey, there are lots of oats in these cookies, so they can't be all bad for us right?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Indian black eyed peas, corn, and dill

Another super simple World Vegetarian recipe that turned out really well. The original recipe called for dried beans, but we used two cans of black eyed peas and made this recipe in 20 minutes rather than 2-3 hours. So when the rice was done, the dish was done. Even with the dramatically reduced cooking time, this was really really good. However, it was stellar the next day. All of the spices really soaked into the black eyed peas and made them super tasty. We had some of the leftovers in a tortilla with some scrambled eggs in the morning and it was fantastic as a breakfast burrito.

If you want to know one of the secrets to cooking Indian food at home here it is: curry leaves. They are fantastic and give recipes that signature Indian flavor. We have only been able to find them at Indian grocers, so if you have one near you, buy a big bag of them and put them in everything!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mock Lamb Curry

Mock Lamb Curry, originally uploaded by mysterybridgers.

Another recipe from World Vegetarian. This turned out fantastic even though I had my doubts about the texture of the seitan when it cooked for a few minutes longer than I usually cook seitan. As it turns out the texture was just fine and it had absorbed all of the yummy spices that are in this. It was really good with a little bit of non-fat yogurt on top.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Birthday Strawberry Mint Milkshake

Today is Optimistic's birthday, and among other things, we made her a strawberry-mint milkshakes. I got one too, which is just an added bonus, since it isn't my birthday.


Blend a whole pint of strawberries, ten or so fresh peppermint leaves, just a tiny bit (two teaspoons or so) of Agave Nectar or your sweetener of choice, and an entire pint of your "ice cream" of choice. We usually use, Maggie Mudd's Soy Vanilla, which is a true masterpiece of soy based ice-cream, and the ENTIRE PINT has just 2 grams of fat. But this week, the soy vanilla was in short supply, so we had to settle for a low-fat frozen yogurt.

milkshake 2

milkshake 1

Monday, June 23, 2008

Visceral Cupcake

green tea cupcakes with green tea and cherry frosting

Return of the Green Tea Cupcake! This time we replaced the liquid in the frosting with the juice and fine strained pulp from around 20 deep red cherries from Twin Girls Farm, which I ran through a food mill, (the cherries, not the farm.) I don't recommend this method for juicing the cherries, the pits jump out of the mill and hit you in the face, leaving a fine spatter of cherry mist that would convince Dexter Morgan that you warranted his special attentions. (If you absolutely must try it, pit the cherries first.)

Anyhow, the end result, a rich, intense green-tea and cherry icing, was simply fantastic, and really set off the green tea cupcakes.

Unfortunately, with so much cherry juice, the consistency was less an icing and more of a glaze, leading to this sort of delicious mess.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Sweet and Sour Tofu Balls

Sweet and Sour Tofu Balls, originally uploaded by mysterybridgers.

Sweet and Sour Tofu Balls is an oldie but a goody at our place. It comes from one of the first cookbooks I ever purchased, Tofu Cookery. They are remarkably easy to make and are very tasty. The balls are a mix of tofu, peanut butter, flour, soy sauce, mushrooms (we used a ton of shiitakes--way more than the recipe called for), water chestnuts or celery (we used celery), green pepper and green onion. They are baked for 20 minutes and then covered with a sweet and sour sauce that contains pineapple juice, honey, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, arrowroot or cornstarch (we used cornstarch because we were all out of arrowroot), and garlic (the recipe calls for garlic powder, but since we didn't have any, we used a mix of fresh garlic and a tiny bit of garlic salt). The balls are served over rice and you can put some more soy sauce on them if they need a little saltiness.

Tofu Cookery is a great cookbook if you ever cook with tofu. It has some surprisingly tasty recipes. The danishes, bbq tofu, and tofu potato salad are some of our favorites.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Campanelle with Vodka Tomato Sauce

This was supposed to be Ziti with Vodka Tomato Sauce. We had no ziti, so campanelle subbed just fine. Vodka tomato sauce is a classic recipe, but this vegan version is much less rich than the traditional recipe. This recipe variation comes from an old Vegetarian Times (but is excerpted from Totally Dairy-Free Cooking by Louis Lanza and Laura Morton). Soy milk is substituted for the traditional cream in the recipe. Other than that, the ingredients are pretty much the same as the traditional recipe: olive oil, garlic, chopped onion, basil, red pepper flakes, vodka (6 tablespoons), canned plum tomatoes, and pasta. If you start the sauce when you start the pasta water to boil, the sauce will be done when the pasta is done and you will have dinner in under 30 minutes. It may sound like there is a lot of vodka in this recipe, but it is cooked with the onions and all of the alcohol is cooked off. All you are left with is some vodka flavor. I know that vodka is typically known for having no flavor, but it really does add something to the recipe.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Indian Broccoli and Potatoes

This is Broccoli with Potatoes cooked indian style from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian. It is a very simple recipe that calls for boiled waxy potatoes and blanched broccoli that are then browned in a pan with Indian spices.

This turned out very well, but this is a lousy picture. What I don't get is that as of the time of this posting I had 37 hits on this photo on flickr--more than any other photo I have posted. What is up with that? The magic words must be Indian Broccoli and Potatoes. What is not to like about that combo?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Cottage Cheese and Nutmeg Pancakes

pancakes, originally uploaded by mysterybridgers.

These are from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison. I am always surprised by how many different recipes are in this book. This was a way to use up left over cottage cheese in the fridge and to eat our fresh market strawberries. This is a pretty basic buttermilk pancake recipe with the addition of cottage cheese and nutmeg. Unfortunately we didn't have any buttermilk, so we used some nonfat yogurt instead. It worked just fine and we've found that you can usually sub yogurt for buttermilk in most recipes that call for buttermilk.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Olive and Egg Salad Sandwich

egg salad sandwich, originally uploaded by mysterybridgers.

This is a super quick and tasty lunch.

For two sandwiches you will need:

3 eggs
6 manzanilla olives (you can sub other olives if you wish, but these are pretty tasty--go for olive bar or jarred type olives, not canned)
1 tablespoon of soy mayonnaise (or regular mayonnaise)
1 teaspoon of yellow mustard
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
salt to taste
1 large or 2 small tomatoes
8-10 basil leaves
2 burger buns or bread of your choice

First make hard boiled eggs (put eggs in water and bring to boil, then cover and set timer for 10 minutes). Then chop eggs to your desired size. Pit olives if they are not already pitted (you can press your thumb down on the olives with a bit of pressure to squash the olive and the pit will be easy to remove, but you might squirt olive juice on yourself of your kitchen walls, so beware). Then chop the olives into small pieces and mix with the eggs. Add the onions, mayonnaise and yellow mustard. Mix and salt to taste. You can also add a little more mayonnaise or mustard if you wish.

To assemble, put the egg salad on the toasted bun or bread, slice a couple of nice slices of tomato and put that on top of the egg. Then place a few basil leaves on top of the tomato. Put the other half of the bun or slice of bread on top and enjoy.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Wow. I'm a little starstruck.

We got a really nice comment on our last post from the author of Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker. It is really fantastic that Ms. Robertson would take the time to comment on our food blog. I'm just sorry it was in response to a disappointment rather than one of the many many successes we have had with her recipes. If you are still reading Ms. Robertson, we are still huge fans!

Disappointing Paella

not quite paella, originally uploaded by mysterybridgers.

Every now and then we make a dud. It is really rare and we are both very disappointed when it happens. This recipe had great potential and started really good, but somewhere in the cooking process something went horribly wrong.

I think the first mistake was that this is a slow cooker recipe. I'm pretty sure paella should never be cooked in a slow cooker. We have a slow cooker and rarely use it so we bought Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson (the same author of the Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes cookbook). Then the book sat around for several months. Then we made some killer chili in the slow cooker using a recipe from the book. Then we decided to make another slow cooker recipe and this one just did not turn out.

This vegetarian paella recipe called for a ton of ingredients. It called for stock so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to use the shiitake bottoms and all manner of fresh onion ends we had in the freezer. The stock turned out great. We added it to the pot with all of the ingredients including onion lightly browned in a pan, a green bell pepper, artichoke hearts, saffron, kidney beans, bay leaves and other stuff. It tasted fantastic all mixed together. Then it cooked in the slow cooker for 4 hours, making the apartment smell fantastic all day. After 4 hours we added the rice and cooked for another hour. This was perhaps another mistake since the rice was a strange new rice I wanted to try called baby basmati and I don't think that it needed to cook for an hour. Then at the end we added oyster mushrooms that were browned in a pan and some frozen peas (which I do believe might have been freezer burnt). We decided not to add the vegetarian sausage to the pot, but instead grill it on the stove and have it alongside. The vegetarian sausage was actually pretty good.

When we tasted the finished paella, it pretty much tasted like nothing (except for the oyster mushrooms, which tasted great). No amount of salt or mixing it with the sausage helped (although we never did try the suggested lemon juice, which might have helped a little). We still wonder where all of the flavor went. How can all the stuff taste good on the way in and then 4 hours later taste like nothing? Perhaps that artichokes and green peppers conspired together to make everything taste like tap water. Who knows. The worst part is that we had a ton of this stuff. We tried to save it by making some sort of paella patty coated with bread crumbs and browned in a pan, but these were also bland and unsatisfying. So we had to accept our loss and throw away the rest of the paella.

I guess one loss out of hundreds is not so bad. The slow cooker is back under the sink for a while and probably will not come out again except to make chili or something else that won't be damaged by cooking for so long.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Beets and Potatoes

beets and potatoes, originally uploaded by mysterybridgers.

This is Beets with Mint and Yogurt and Stir-Fried Beet Greens with Ginger and Green Chilies mixed with mashed potatoes made with the chioga beets and greens. Both recipes are from World Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffrey (although mixing the beet greens with mashed potatoes was my idea). We have had this book for quite some time and rarely cook out of it. I don't know why that is because most of the recipes are quick and easy to make and taste pretty good. The recipes don't call for much more than what their titles suggest is in them. I roasted the beets as I normally do, including adding balsamic vinegar, which didn't really go with the yogurt. However, as leftovers, the beets themselves were really good because they had soaked up a lot of the flavors in the yogurt. So in future, I will leave out the vinegar when making this recipe.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The best watermelon ever

watermelon, originally uploaded by mysterybridgers.

The pictured watermelon is actually the best watermelon ever's little sister. We bought this mini yellow watermelon at the farmer's market a couple of weeks ago for $5 and it was so delicious that we went back for another one last weekend. The one we got last weekend was the best watermelon I have ever had. It was $8, but it was totally worth it. As you can see however, it is not more economical (at least around here) to shop for produce at the farmer's market. But, I do want to support local farmers and the produce tastes so much better. If you can get ahold of a yellow watermelon at a farmer's market this year, grab it--they are great this year.

The perfect light breakfast

light breakfast, originally uploaded by mysterybridgers.

Lightly toasted cinnamon swirl bread (store bought, made by Semifreddi's) and Rainier Cherries. When finished, go back for more cherries. Yummy.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

These aren't golden beets.....

chioga beets, originally uploaded by mysterybridgers.

We bought what we thought were more golden beets from the same farmer's market vendor as last time, but these turned out to be chioga beets. (I suppose we should have known they were not golden beets because they were quite a bit redder on the outside). Also tasty, these guys are red and white on the inside--almost like a pretty radish. They also have a completely different flavor from red or golden beets, but you can still tell that they are in the beet family.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Beautiful Porcini

Thanks to the unique combination of cool climate and rainforest in Oregon and Washington state, we can get porcini in the spring and the fall. Last week some outstanding examples started appearing in the markets.

What do you do with these? Well, they make fantastic risotto for one, and an italian friend suggested that you should just eat them, raw, with olive oil, salt, parsley, lemon and parmesan. (LUXURY!)

But when life gives us porcini, we make pasta. We sliced this thin, and sauteed it with garlic and red pepper flake in olive oil, then added two large diced heirloom tomatoes, (which have also started appearing at the market lately) and about a tablespoon of minced nepitella, some salt and pepper, and then let that cook down into a sauce. (About five minutes.) Then we tossed it with a pound of angel hair pasta.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Blueberry Danish

Blueberry Danish, originally uploaded by mysterybridgers.

It's been a few years since I've made this one, but it always turns out well. I just realized that I forgot one of the liquid ingredients in the pastry dough, but I've already taste tested it and it turned out ok even with the missing 1/3 cup liquid (although I was wondering why the dough was so dry when I rolled it out and it made the danish harder to shape resulting in a kind of wonky looking end result--but as long as it tastes good, I have no problem with it).

This is a low fat blueberry danish recipe from a years old cooking magazine (I want to say it is from Gourmet magazine, but it has been a while and I cut the recipe out). It is a clever recipe that uses low fat cottage cheese in the crust (instead of butter), low fat cream cheese in the filling and lots and lots of lemon. I would list the recipe, but I don't want to violate anyone's copyright (which is why I generally don't list recipes out of cookbooks).

It has been so long since we have made this one because for some reason blueberries have skyrocketed in price. The last time I saw blueberries at the co-op, they were $8 a basket (?!). We found some organic blueberries for $2.99 a basket at one of the markets we sometimes go to and had to dust off this recipe to celebrate the relatively cheap berries.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Pear and Potato Pizza with Mint-Oregano Pesto

Here I am in action, so fast I can hardly be seen!


"Peace"-a pizza!

This is an older recipe, first dating from November of 2002! I've made it three times since then, and each time, this has been a winner.

This sounds odd, but it is a great pizza. The mint oregano pesto plays with the starchiness of the potato and the sweetness of the pear. The cheese compliments both. It was assembled out of leftover bits from our pantry when I was trying to avoid going to the store for groceries, and it was so good that we made it again, to see if it was a fluke. It wasn't.
The crust:
(This makes two crusts, freeze one, or make another pizza or cinnamon rolls. Halving the crust recipe has NEVER worked for me, the crust comes out horribly.) I've taken to using a focaccia dough for this, it has more oil, and gets crispier. For a less fattening crust, use a third of the oil... It isn't absolutely necessary for the chemistry of the bread, but it sure tastes good. By the way, a good olive oil is essential, I recommend a strong, flavorful estate bottled olive oil.)

1 and 1/3 cup of warm water (115 degrees or so.)
a packet of baker's yeast (about a tablespoon)
3 tablespoons of olive oil
3 and 1/2 cups of flour
2 teaspoons of salt

Place water, yeast and oil in the work bowl of a food processor, blend for a few seconds. add the flour and salt, run for thirty secnds or until the dough comes together in a ball. Turn out onto a floured surface, separate into two balls, and knead for about a minute. place each into an oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place (about 80 degrees) for an hour. (If you lack an 80 degree place, put the bowls in an oven that was been heated to warm, (generally, this is 200 degrees) and then turned off, and let sit for about five minutes, so that the temp inside the oven is no greater than about 115 degrees farenheit. Any hotter than this, and you will kill the yeast. Let this sit in the warm oven for forty-five minutes.) If you lack a food processor, you can mix the ingredients in a bowl, then turn out onto a floured surface, and knead by hand for five to ten minutes, until the dough is soft and firm, but yeilding about the texture of an earlobe. Let rise as before.

The Potatoes:
two medium new potatoes (yukon gold are good)
a tablespoon of fresh rosemary, diced
a pinch of salt
a pinch of cracked black pepper
a half a tablespoon of olive oil

Slice two medium new potatoes into very thin slices, put in a bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper and rosemary, drizzle the oil over, and toss.
You have a couple of optins for cooking. You can grill these potatoes over high heat for 5 minutes per side on a grill pan or BBQ. This is fantastic and by far the recommended method. You can also opt to bake them:
Spread the potaotes out on a baking sheet, and if you don't have the dough in there, bake in a 350 degree oven for ten minutes or so, or until they have lost most of thier crispiness.

Once the potatoes or dough come out of it, the oven will need to be ramped up to five hundred degrees for at least a half hour before you put the pizza in. If you have a pizza stone, put it in before you heat up the oven.

The pesto:
1/4 loose cup fresh oregano leaves
1/4 loose cup fresh mint leaves
5 to 10 peppercorns
A pinch of salt
3 cloves garlic, diced
A dash of olive oil

Put the oregano, mint, garlic, peppercorns, and a pinch of salt into a mortar. Grind to a rough paste. The salt should pull the oils from the mint and garlic and make it a wet mix, if you have trouble, add a little of the olive oil to make a loose paste, but nothing runny. This pizza has enough oil as it is. You will only have about a tablespoon of pesto, do not be alarmed. This is plenty.

The onion base:
One half of a large sweet onion, such as a bermuda or vedalia or walla walla
A bit of olive oil for the pan
A sprinkle of salt
A half tablespoon of stone ground dijon mustard
A half tablespoon of cream sherry, mirin, sake, sweet vermouth or white wine

Slice the onion thin. Heat oil over a medium flame, and then add the onion and salt. The salt will pull the water from the onion, and it will begin to go clear, and then to brown, add the mustard and sherry , stir until the mustard wine sauce covers the onions, be careful, this may burn.

The rest of the assembly:
Three small seckle pears or one large bosc pear
A good cheese for pears and potatoes, like a blue cheese or goat cheese. In this incarnation, it was plain old goat cheese. I've used both a gorgonzola and "drunken goat" cheese, with fantastic results.
A dash of olive oil
Some salt.

Take the crust, and carefully stretch it out until it makes a 12 to 18 inch round (depending upon how thin you like the crust.) Add no more flour, and if the pizza is wonkily shaped, live with it! Don't ball it up and re-stretch, unless you plan on letting it rise in-between. Both of these things (extra flour after the last rise, and over-working the dough,) will make the pizza too tough. Place on a pie pan or pizza stone. If you want, you can let the crust rise again for about a half hour at this point. It makes the crust breadier. If you leave it as is, it will be thin, almost crackerlike. Regardless of your choice, after the bread has risen again or no, spread the onions evenly over the crust, arrange the potatoes in a a thin layer over the onions. (You may have some left over, after the pizza is done, put them back into the oven on the cookie sheet until they brown, they make a good snack.) Slice the pears into coin sized chunks and spread over the potatoes. You want about half to three quarters as many pears as potatoes. Take your pesto and put a dab here, a dab there, in little bits no larger than a penny, all over the pizza... use it all. Using a brush, brush the crust of the pizza with olive oil, and sprinkle a tiny bit of salt all the way around.
Put your pizza into a 500 degree oven for at least ten minutes, but more like 12, until the potatoes and crust are browning. Add your cheese at the end, after you remove it from the oven.