Monday, January 21, 2008

cornmeal tortillas

i am a lame-o for once again eating my food before taking pictures. sorry dudez.

i made the hillbilly housewife's cornmeal tortillas today. i've been making bean and cheese quesadillas for about a week and i was running out of (storebought) flour tortillas. obviously i am no stranger to homemade tortillas -- my first "real" entry was my first attempt at making them.

i am not really a fan of corn tortillas. but i gave them a fair shot anyway. this is far from an authentic recipe, but then again isn't anything i make just a bastardized version of something else more gourmet?

cornmeal tortillas
courtesy of the hillbilly housewife

3/4 cup cornmeal
1-1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening or oil
1 cup boiling water
Waxed paper

In a bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour and salt. Stir it up while the water is coming to a boil. Use a metal measuring cup to measure the water, if possible. Plastic melts, and glass sometimes shatters, so a metal measuring cup is the safest type when you measure boiling water. To continue, place the shortening in the bowl with the cornmeal and flour. Pour the boiling water over everything and stir it up with a fork. Stir and stir because it will lump up quite a bit before it turns into dough. Allow the mixture to cool. Divide the dough into 10 lumps about the size of golf balls. Roll each ball out very thinly between sheets of waxed paper. Loosen and remove the top sheet of paper, and lay the tortilla down on a hot dry skillet, with the bottom sheet of waxed paper still attached, and now on top. After the tortilla cooks for a few seconds, the remaining sheet of waxed paper will easily loosen for removal. When the underside of the tortilla is dry with a few brown spots, turn it and cook the other side.

my notes: i don't know what i did at first, but the dough was too wet for it to work properly. i left it sitting out for at least half an hour after mixing it, but maybe it needs a bit more time or less water. i switched off my humidifier (which lives on my kitchen counter because i don't have space anywhere else) and after that things were better. i still had to be careful when peeling the rolled dough off the paper because it tore very easily. i think the key is to leave them thicker than flour tortillas. pretty tasty though.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

mushroom bolognese

yeah i'll admit i didn't know what bolognese sauce was until after i made it and after i wikipedia'd it.

wikipedia says:

Bolognese sauce (ragù alla bolognese in Italian, also known by its French name sauce bolognaise) is a meat based sauce for pasta originating in Bologna, Italy. Bolognese sauce is sometimes taken to be a tomato sauce but authentic recipes have only a very small amount of tomato, perhaps a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste.

oh i see.

the recipe i used came from a cookbook i received for christmas maybe 10 years ago when i first decided to become vegetarian. it's called the best-ever vegetarian cookbook and can be found here or at any barnes and noble stores i guess. i don't know if it is the BEST EVER cookbook, but it was a great starting point for someone who wasn't familiar with cooking sans animals. every recipe is pictured which is amazing. a lot of them were too sophisticated for my 11 year old tastes, but i did like that it didn't base recipes around mock meats which are kind of gross and rather expensive. instead of providing a list of things to substitute for meat, each recipe was unique and didn't make a big deal out of the fact that it was vegetarian. each dish i tried was easy to prepare -- by that time i had been cooking meals for my family for maybe a little over a year so i had some experience in the kitchen, but nothing too fancy. the only thing that failed me was the homemade ravioli recipe. *shrug* i'm sure if i tried it again i could get it though. i do wish, however, that it featured more recipes with tofu because it took me years to figure out how to prepare it. still, this book is what i turn to when i'm not feeling creative but still want to eat something healthy and tasty.

mushroom bolognese
(from the best-ever vegetarian cookbook)

1 pound of mushrooms
1 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 T tomato paste
14 oz can chopped tomatoes
3 T fresh oregano
1 pound fresh pasta
salt and fresh cracked pepper
parmesan cheese, to serve (vegans, leave this out)

serves 4.

1. trim the mushroom stems neatly at the top, then cut each mushroom into quarters.
2. heat the oil in a large pan. add the chopped onion and garlic and cook for 3 minutes.
3. add the mushrooms to the pan and cook over high heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. there will be quite a lot of liquid produced.
4. stir in the tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, and 1 tablespoon of the oregano. lower the heat and cover and cook for about 5 minutes.
5. meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. cook the pasta for 2-3 minutes, or according to package directions, until just tender.
6. season the bolognese sauce with salt and pepper. drain the pasta, pour it into the bowl, and add the mushroom mixture. toss to mix well. serve in individual bowls, topped with shavings of fresh parmesan and the remaining chopped oregano.

*if you prefer to use dried pasta, make this the first thing you cook. use 12 oz dried pasta. it will take 10-12 minutes, during which time you can make the mushroom mixture.*

my comments: i used dried pasta. no pasta machine = no homemade pasta. i think it would be lovely to make everything homemade, but whatever. i also halved the recipe since i cook for myself and no one else. although it did not specify, i would recommend draining the tomatoes before adding them, perhaps reserving a small amount of liquid in case the sauce is too dry.

i also found this to be a little bland. i left out the cheese and only had dried oregano on hand, but i think even with those it would've been a little blah for my tastes. serve this to people like my great-aunt who order food "as mild as possible" when you go to restaurants.

once again, sorry for lack of photo. i am lazy.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

not related to cooking

just wanted to show off a gift i made for my friend abe who has been living in europe for over 2 years and finally made it back to the usa a few days ago.

it's a thaumatrope. when i mention it by name no one seems to know what it is but once i explain that it's a toy that usually has a picture of a bird on one side and a cage on the other people usually understand. when you spin it the bird appears to be in the cage.

here is my thaumatrope for my friend abe:

i couldn't get a picture of it in action, but rest assured that it is awesome because he is BACK IN THE USAbe!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Birthday Chai Cupcakes

I apologize ahead of time for the lack of pictures. I failed to take any before the cupcakes were eaten by everyone on New Year's Eve. I made some chai cupcakes and some chocolate buttercream frosting. Last year I made it as a layer cake (2 layers) but I've caught onto the cupcake craze of 2006. I think I used a 1M Wilton decorating tip when icing, but I can't be certain since I'm updating from a lab and not my home. I also put some cute dinosaur toys on top of the frosting cause my roommate is wild about them.

Vegan Chai Cake
(Recipe originally submitted to vegsource by Chef Deb, modified by Livejournal user _andie_)

2 cups self-rising flour (I substituted with all-purpose flour and baking powder, as per this recommendation)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegan margarine
2 tablespoons apple sauce
1 cup strongly brewed chai tea (Use 2 bags in the water)
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla essence (I omitted the vanilla this time around since I used vanilla chai.)
2 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350º. Brew the cup of chai. Cream margarine and sugar in a bowl, then cream in applesauce. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add dry ingredients and chai tea bit by bit into the margerine and sugar mixture, whisking well to avoid lumps. Add more hot water if needed. Finally add vanilla essence. Pour into greased cake tin or a cupcake pan either greased or lined with paper wrappers. Bake for 30 minutes (cake) or 20 minutes (cupcakes), or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. (I usually let the cupcakes hang out in the pan for about five minutes before removing them to cool.)

I used Bake and Destroy's recipe for buttercream and it turned out beautifully. It was my first time making icing from scratch!

Fluffly Vegan Buttercream
(originally posted here)

1⁄2 c non-hydrogenated shortening
1⁄2 c non-hydrogenated margarine
3 1⁄2 c confectioner’s sugar, sifted if clumpy
1 1⁄2 t vanilla extract
1⁄4 c plain or vanilla soy milk

Beat shortening and margarine together until well combined and fluffy. Add sugar and beat for about 3 more minutes. Add vanilla and soymilk, beat for another 5 to 7 minutes or so until fluffy.

I added a few tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa so it would have a hint of chocolate but not overpower the cake. It was really neat to watch everything come together into frosting. A cautionary note: Powdered sugar will fly everywhere so be careful you don't inhale it. Your countertop may be covered in a fine dusting of it too.

Note :Store the iced cupcakes in an airtight container. Don't refrigerate (even with nonvegan ingredients in the icing, it's stable when all mixed together) because you may get condensation on the food -- moisture provides a perfect environment for bacteria to thrive!

nothing left to eat pea soup

Job hasn't given me hours in over a month. The same $11 has stayed in my wallet since xmas. I am trying not to buy anything until I either get more hours or secure another job. Suxorz. Anyway today I was hungry and wanted to use up a bag of peas I had in my freezer. I don't really like peas (especially when they're not fresh) but I don't mind them in soup.

Nothing Left to Eat Pea Soup

1/2 c butter or margerine (i used vegan margerine & if it seems like a lot use less or use olive oil)
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk broccoli, chopped roughly
4-5 c water (vegetable stock would be better)
1.5 - 2 c frozen peas (I just dumped them in so I don't know how much I used.)
4 bay leaves
1-2 t soy sauce
unhealthy amount of salt
fresh cracked pepper
oregano, thyme, cumin, paprika, garlic salt, whatever spices sound good to you, to taste

Sautee onion in butter until transluscent. Add garlic and cook for another minute or two. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until broccoli and peas are tender. Remove from heat. Using either a traditional blender or a hand-held blender, blend soup until creamy. Return soup to pan. It will be thin; if you want to thicken it up, dissolve 2 T flour in some water (1/2 c?) and temper into the soup, stirring well. Reheat to almost boiling. Serve.

Other notes: You can't taste the broccoli and it's optional. I just had a stalk left over from something I made last week. I would recommend adding a potato to make it creamier after blending. I added a ridiculous amount of salt to mine, only because I love the stuff.