Wednesday, June 15, 2011

We're in a little bit of a pickle, Dick.

What's my pickle? Chanticleer forgot to wake up the darn sun, and that's spelling bad news for my activity level.

Needless to say, I'm bored. 

And with summer playing a hilarious game of hide-and-go-seek, my vitals..are...droppingggg...... 

Lucky for this blog, that means I've been cooking non-stop. Oh, which also means eating non-stop. Isn't that what we do when we're bored? Could someone please remind me that, no, that's not what we do?

Not a moment too soon, I snapped out of it and realized that it was time to whip my booty into shape-- the treadmill had to become my new best friend. Scratch that, the treadmill will never be my best friend. Let's say, newest frenemy. It's a complicated love-hate thing, you wouldn't understand.

But, then again, you probably would.

Completely unrepresentative of the week I had (err, ate), I'm posting one of the recipes that did not involve cheese or sugar. Scratch that, there was sugar. But I swear that it's all worth it in the name of a pickle. A homemade pickle. Your homemade pickle.

Homemade Pickles
Lightly adapted from Lottie+Doof
Makes 1 jar

[2] mason jars

[4] baby cukes
[1] tbsp Kosher salt
[1] tbsp raw sugar
[3/4] cup distilled white vinegar
[1] tsp ground coriander
[1] tsp mustard seed
[3-4] garlic cloves, halved
[1/2] cup fresh dill

Thinly slice the baby cukes into rounds. (You could also make a batch of spears!) Pack them into one mason jar.

In the other mason jar, combine salt, sugar, spices, garlic and vinegar. Cover tightly, then shake until the salt and sugar have dissolved.

Pour over the cucumber slices.

Lastly, jam the dill sprigs in between the cukes. If there's room a the top, fill with water until the soon-to-be pickles are completely submerged. Cover and shake again so that the dill, garlic, and spices are completely dispersed.

Refrigerate overnight.

I got a pickle, I got a pickle. I got a pickle, hey, hey, hey, HEY!

The mustard seeds gave some serious spice to these sour little guys! I, personally, am a pickle fanatic [insert joke here]. I loved making my own, and I'm pretty excited that I finally know how! Usually, making your own pickles requires cooking and heating and technical know-how that I have the slightest desire to explore.

So, I'm sending my sincerest thanks to Lottie + Doof for making this easy on us. Your name is silly, but your pickles mean bu'ness.

I'm also going to give a quick shout out to my iPhone 4, who was responsible for taking all of these photos after my Fugi ran out of batteries. That was strike three, Fugi. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Now that is just nuts.

What is it about peanut butter and jelly that makes our hearts melt? Is it the nostalgia of a childhood favorite or that perfectly unctuous balance of salty to sweet?

In lieu of beating around the mulberry bush, I think I'll just come right out and say it:

My name is Taryn, and I am hopelessly addicted to PB&J. Emphasis on the PB.

Whether that better half is crunchy, creamy, chocolate-swirled or even speckled with raisins, I simply cannot satiate the craving.

I suppose there are worse things that I could be addicted to. Like, say, crack.

And albeit harmless (nutterbutter, not crack), this obsession harbors its fair share of consequences.

Namely, that three-letter word that'll send girls around the world running for the hills. I mean, literally, running. And no, it's not m-e-n.

I'm talkin' about f-a-t. Ugh. The horrah.

Whoever deemed that a serving size of anything must be limited to two measly tablespoons should be condemned. But the jokester who said that those tablespoons will have 16 grams of fat? Yeah, they should've been chased out of the village like Shrek.

As with any form of substance abuse, I'm advised to consume in "moderation." Don't you hate that word? Especially when used by stick thin celebs who claim to be downing ice cream and burgers in "moderation." Ya ain't foolin' anyone, LeAnn Rimes.

Frankly, when it comes to peanut butter, moderation can kiss my caboose.

However, in the rare occasion that I'm not standing over the counter alternating between spoonfuls of strawberry jam and peanut butter straight out of the jar, I can be found exercising a little self-restraint with a bowl of these satisfying oats.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Overnight Oats
Makes 2 Servings

[1/2] cup regular oats
[1] medium banana, mashed
[2] tbsp chia seeds
[1/2] tsp vanilla extract
[1/2] cup water
[1/2] cup almond milk
pinch of salt

Top each serving with:
[2] fresh strawberries, sliced
[1] tsp strawberry jam
[1] tbsp peanut butter

Thoroughly combine oats, mashed banana, chia seeds, vanilla and pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Add water and almond milk, and stir well, eliminating any clumps. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, top it off with chopped strawberries, a dollop of your favorite jam, and a tablespoon... screw it... an ice cream scoop of the good stuff. *I melted my peanut butter first for maximum spreadability.

Delight in this little pot of comfort, but no pointing fingers if the sweet memory of Mom's PB&J sandwich musters an unexplainable compulsion to don your old Power Ranger tee shirt... That one is all you.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Oh, yeah. It's summah time.

Good morning, America! Just awoke from my weeklong blog coma-- That was fun! 

Anywho, it's really hot out today. Too hot for sarcasm. So hot, in fact, that I don't even remember if my large Dunkin' Donuts iced coffee ever even came with ice cubes. I swear my sweat is sweating. 

(FYI I'm writing this on Inferno Thursday. With luck, all the Thank You notes we send God on Fridays will bring some good karma in the form of a cool ocean breeze.)

And alas, it has. 

Photo credit: Amanda Johnson
Every year, there are a few familiar signs that assure me, it's officially summer

You're probably thinking, "Yeah, Einstein. It's like 100ºF."

I know that. But if you live in New England, it's never that simple. Cut to this weekend's forecast...

My telltale sign that summer is here to stay is that first beach day. It doesn't matter if the next few days barely breach 60ºF; once I pull my dusty beach chair from its basement dwelling, there's no turning back. 

Other signs? The first sunburn; the night when you can sit outside in your jorts, afflicted by bug bites rather than goosebumps; when you accept that the sand in your hair isn't coming out-- ever; when you also accept that the sand in your sheets isn't coming out, ever; when seeing your high school compadres makes you feel like the oldest kids on the block; and when strawberries start to actually taste like strawberries.  

I recently bought a carton of local MA strawberries. They were adorable, small and perfectly juicy and red. But what to make! There were so many options-- scones, crumbles, cheesecake? Ah! After perusing dozens and dozens of recipes where strawberries were star, I resolved to make a simple summer tart.  

This sweet confection is intended to highlight a strawberry's natural flavor. From here on out, ditch the mass-produced produce. You really don't know what you're missing until you've tasted strobbs straight from your neighbor's farmstand. 

Photo credit: Amanda Johnson

Vegan (and Gluten-free!) Strawberry Almond Tart
Adapted from C'est La Vegan
Makes 8 servings

[1] cup raw almonds, finely ground in a food processor 
[1/3] cup shredded unsweetened coconut
[1] tsp salt**
[1] tbsp chia meal (or other egg replacement)
[2/3] cup raw sugar, like sucanat
[3] tbsp coconut oil
[1] tsp almond extract
[1/2] cup garbanzo flour
[2 1/2] cups fresh strawberries
crushed pistachios

Preheat oven to 350ºF and grease a tart shell with non-stick cooking spray. 

In a medium mixing bowl, combine half of the sucanat, ground almonds, shredded coconut, and salt. 

In a separate small bowl, whisk 1 tablespoon ground chia (create chia "meal" in a coffee or spice grinder) with 3 tablespoons of water until it's about the consistency of paste. Wow, what a way to start off a recipe. It gets better...

Using an electric mixer, beat coconut oil and 3 tablespoons of sucanat on medium speed until it's fluffy. 

Lower the speed, then add the chia egg and almond extract. Slowly add in the garbanzo flour. 

Raise the speed back to medium and add in the dry ingredients (almond, coconut, salt). I separated the mixture into 2 or 3 batches, making sure that everything was well combined after each addition. 

Mix in chocolate chips for a dangerously addictive dough!
Once the mixture forms a thick dough, turn off the mixer and form into a ball. Refrigerate dough while you prep the strawberries. 

Spread the dough into the tart pan so that it forms an even crust. 

Clean the edges of the tart with a sharp knife and reserve any extra dough in your freezer for later!

Fill the tart pan will your berries and bake for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle the remaining sucanat over the tart and bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and the sugar has formed a glaze.

Allow to cool slightly and top with crushed pistachios and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

**Notes: Although the crust was good, I think prebaking it for 5-10 minutes would make it even better. Just be sure to cover the edges with tinfoil so that they don't burn. If you like a thicker filling, toss your strawberries in a teaspoon or two of corn starch first (this will thicken the juices as they cook). I would also consider reducing the salt in this recipe to 1/2 teaspoon! 

Photo credit: Amanda Johnson

You've been waiting all year for these berries-- Now go get 'em!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

You must be Coconut Dreaming

Okay, I'm about to admit something big, here. You ready?

This recipe idea isn't mine. 

Try as I might, I cannot entirely lay claim to this little piece of genius. But Angela Liddon sure can. (Darn her and those innovative baking skills). 

The basic recipe that I'm about to share comes from her phenomenal blog, Oh She Glows. Angela is essentially the Vegan Superwoman, armed with whole grains, bananas, and an oven mitt of gold. Ha, yeah... she's that good. 

Anyways, apparently I've been missing out BIG TIME on this one. While I was sittin' pretty with the Quaker man, a culture of devout Overnight Oaties were capitalizing on the deliciousness of a make-it-ahead breakfast. Without me. 

Sure, I've had my fair share of hearty cereals. But Overnight Oats? Excuse me, what?

In case you were sitting next to me under that damn rock, overnight oats involve zero cooking, complement almost any sweet flavoring, and can be topped with whatever treats your crazy heart desires. They don't require any prep time in the morning, either, so on-the-go breakfasts become almost too easy. Basically, they make packaged oatmeal look like dust in a bag. And you, my friends, deserve much better. 

More specifically, overnight oats are a combination of regular oats, a liquid (like soy milk, almond milk, moo milk, or water), chia seeds, banana, and fun add-ins. I've never worked with chia seeds before, but like Overnight Oats, they're a sort of super health food phenomenon. When added to the mix, they transform your typical oatmeal into a thick, fluffy, and filling cereal that practically doubles in size by morning. Click on that link to learn more.  

You know you want to take a bite. 

When I found Reduced Sugar Maple & Brown Sugar Quaker Oats, I thought I'd hit a gold mine. 

Then I discovered Kashi Go Lean cereal. With 13 grams of protein per serving, I literally thought I was set for life. 

Finally, I settled on Hodgon's Multigrain Oatmeal, and was convinced I'd reached breakfast nirvana. 

And then out of no where, these Vegan Overnight Oats rocked my world. 

Yes, they're cold. Sure, they're vegan. And yeah, they're "healthy." But the fact that you can mix in any flavor (be it coconut, almond, vanilla, or cocoa), then top it with any fruit, nut butters, syrup or chocolate? The possibilities are endless. This is definitely one breakfast that I'll be leaping out of bed for.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Memorial Day Trifecta: Food, friends, fun (and THREE recipes)

Memorial Day was fun. A lot of fun.

As promised, there was food... (A lot of food). There was wine, there was merriment.   

In fact, our Memorial Day barbeque marked one of the most enjoyable cooking adventures I've had in a while. 

Why you ask?

For one, the food was good. Okay, the food was freaking fantastic, but that's not the whole story.

I know what I'm about to say is really corny, but cooking with the famjam and sharing the whole experience with some of my closest friends is exactly why I enjoy doing this so much. Great food, even better company. It's a combination that just can't lose. 

Imagine the delight in being able to put a smile on someone's face using a simple, yet devilish combination of flour, sugar, and (coconut) butter.... Now that's what I call fun. 

The entertaining, the socializing, the noshing-- about as good as it can get. It was fabulous. 

These recipes seriously exceeded my expectations. I hope you all enjoy them as much as we did. In case there was any doubt, the damage we did on this summer holiday feast pretty much confirms it. Sadly, most of the photographs were taken after the carnage.


Homemade BBQ Sauce on Seitan Sandwiches
Makes a lot of sauce, approximately 4-5 cups 

Barbeque Pit Masters, here I come. This was my first attempt at making my own barbeque sauce. I'm not going to lie, I was nervous (people can be pretty picky about what goes on their pork), but my BBQ obsessed sister raved that mine was to die for. Phew. Success.

[1] small onion
[1] tbsp olive oil
[2 1/2] tsp salt
fresh cracked pepper
[2] 6 oz cans tomato paste
[1 3/4] cups water
[1/4] cup light brown sugar, packed
[1/3] cup molasses
[1/3] cup apple cider vinegar
[1/2 to 1] tsp cayenne pepper (depending on desired level of spice)
[1] tsp garlic powder
[1] tsp smoked paprika
[1/4] cup Worcestershire made without anchovies 
[1/4] cup ketchup (cop out? Debatable)

[1] package seitan
[4] whole wheat hamburger buns

Heat a medium sauce pan to low/medium. Add the olive oil and sauté the onions with a teaspoon of salt and a few cracks of black pepper until translucent and soft. 

Mix in the tomato paste and allow to cook with the onions before adding water. After a few minutes, whisk in water, brown sugar, molasses, apple cider vinegar, spices, worcestershire and ketchup. Allow to simmer for about 15 minutes then slather it over your desired smoky staple. I had seitan (it tastes like chicken) and served them on whole wheat sandwich rolls. De-lish. 

Personal tastes for barbeque sauce vary as greatly as one's preference for perfumes or colognes, and I'm sure some BBQ aficionados would dab a little of their favorite sauce under their chin if they could. 

This is how I like mine. It's sweet, spicy and rich. If you like yours more acidic, add more vinegar. If you like yours spicy, add the full teaspoon (plus some) of cayenne. And if molasses isn't quite your speed, use a dark brown sugar instead.


Vegan Broccoli Slaw
Serves a crowd, with leftovers

[2] packages shredded broccoli slaw
[2] heads fresh broccoli
[3] heaping tbsp non-dairy mayonnaise 
[2] tbsp course ground mustard
[1] tbsp dijon mustard
[2] tbsp red wine vinegar
[2] tbsp agave nectar
[1] tsp salt
[1/2] tsp horseradish 

Rinse and cut broccoli florets into smaller bites, then blanch in boiling water until bright green. Remove with a slotted spoon and shock with cold water until completely cool. 

In a large serving dish, mix the broccoli with the broccoli slaw.

In a separate medium sized bowl, whisk vegan mayo, mustard, red wine vinegar, agave, salt and horseradish. Pour over the slaw and toss to combine. 

A crunchy, tangy barbeque staple... and you'd never know it was lactose free. 

This final recipe for my Blueberry Banana Cake was the coup d'etat of the night. I made an entire cake, yet there wasn't a single crumb that lived to tell the tale. It's so moist, so banana-y, and so addicting.

My inspiration came from a non-vegan recipe that I found on Real Mom Kitchen. So, using a similar recipe from Oh She Glows, I made one of the best desserts I've ever had. And that's sayin' a lot. I'm slightly afraid, now, knowing that I won't be able to resist making it again. Continue at your own risk, but don't say I didn't warn you...

Blueberry Banana Cake with Lemon "Cream Cheese" Frosting
Makes about 15 servings (depending on how big you slice it)

For the cake:
[1 3/4] cups spelt flour
[1 1/2] tsp baking soda
[1/2] tsp baking powder
[1/2] tsp salt
[1/2] tsp cinnamon
[1] tbsp chia seeds
[4 1/2] very ripe bananas
[2] tbsp softened coconut butter
[3] tbsp olive oil
[1/2] cup agave nectar
[1] tsp vanilla extract
[1/2] lemon, juiced
[1] pint of fresh blueberries

For the Frosting:
[2] 8oz containers vegan cream cheese
[3] cups powdered sugar
[1] tsp vanilla
[2] tbsp lemon zest
[3] lemons, juiced
[2] tbsp melted coconut butter
[1] tbsp corn starch

To garnish:
[1-2] tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes
handful of blueberries and crushed raw almonds

Preheat oven to 325. Spray a baking dish (9x13) liberally with nonstick cooking spray. 

In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients (spelt flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and chia seeds). Make sure everything is well incorporated. 

In a small microwave-safe bowl, heat the coconut butter for about 15 seconds. Mix it up so that it's smooth and clump-less.  

In a medium mixing bowl, mash up 4 very ripe bananas with a metal fork. Add the coconut butter, olive oil, agave, lemon juice, and vanilla. Whisk like a fiend. Lastly, stir in the blueberries. 

Make a well (aka hole, or landing spot) in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the wet ingredients and fold them in with a rubber spatula. Once everything is incorporated, stop! As with most batters, don't overmix. Tough cookies have a time and a place... and it's not here. 

Pour into a greased baking dish and top with a blue extra blueberries. Pop it in the oven for 40 minutes. Once it's golden brown, and you've passed the toothpick test, remove from the oven. 

Cool next to an open window and watch all the boys come to the yard.  
For the frosting, combine all ingredients in an electric mixer on low to medium speed. Pour over the cake (there will be extra for added drizzling pleasures) and top with blueberries, coconut and chopped almonds. You could definitely halve the recipe and still have enough to cover the cake, but who doesn't love a little extra sugar? FYI, the frosting becomes so much thicker after spending a couple hours in the fridge. 

Slice the cake as big as you like and serve alongside a couple big juicy strawberries or a healthy scoop of ice cream. 

Now, ascend to heaven. 

Happy June, everyone!