Sunday, January 30, 2011

Easy Udon

I’m so tired! I spent six hours (SIX!) shopping today. I met up with the gals at 8:45AM for a bridal-party party—trying on dresses for Tasha’s wedding. We tried on every single dress in the store…some were amazing, some were hilarious, and some were just plain hideous. But we had a great time…I love my BFFs. Then we had some coffee, had some hangin’ out, had some non-wedding shopping. Then we went our separate ways, and I did some more shopping. I finally got home around 3PM, starving and exhausted. I devoured about half of the coconut chocolate-chunk cake I made yesterday, then napped and watched a movie on Lifetime. I didn’t do laundry, start packing for my trip, write a blog post about said cake, or make a much-needed project plan for work. And now it’s after 6PM, I’m still watching Lifetime, and I still haven't accomplished any of the above. That’s why I’m gonna tell you about the easiest, quickest soup ever (you’ll just have to wait for that coconut chocolate-chunk cake recipe).


Udon-miso soup…it’s a breeze. Light and simple, clean and fresh but flavorful. You can really add whatever veggies you have in the fridge, and use whatever pasta you have in the cupboard. The perfect soup to eat for dinner when you’re recovering from a mid-afternoon cake attack and don’t want to miss more than 10 minutes of quality Lifetime programming.

Udon Miso Soup
One package udon noodles (or any thick chewy noodle, like spaghetti)
4 cups water
1 garlic clove—peeled and smashed
1 decent sized chunk of fresh ginger—peeled
Splash of soy sauce
Splash of rice vinegar
1 large carrot—sliced
½ pound asparagus—cut in inch long pieces
1 cup fresh mushrooms
2.5 tablespoons miso paste
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Boil noodles al dente, drain and set aside. Add water, garlic, ginger, soy, rice vinegar, and a decent pinch of salt to a large saucepan, bring to a boil. Boil for several minutes, and remove garlic and ginger. Lower the heat to medium and add carrots. About 1-2 minutes later, add asparagus. About 1 minute later, add the mushrooms, cook for 30 seconds and remove from the heat. In a separate bowl, whisk sesame oil and miso with a large spoonful of broth until dissolved. Mix miso into broth with veggies, add noodles. Taste. If needed, dissolve more miso in separate bowl and add. Serve, with a squirt of Sriracha and a sprinkle of sliced green onion, if that’s your style.

Done. Time to relax.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Oat-Obsessed


Lately I’ve been obsessed with oats—oatmeal cookies, oatmeal for breakfast, oatmeal pancakes, muffins with oats—I just can’t get enough! I wanted to make a treat that would feature chewy, hearty oats as the star, rather than the backup player. I thought about blueberry oatmeal bars, but they just seemed too cakey. I thought about oatmeal cookies, but wanted something new. After searching through food blogs to find inspiration, I remembered something Amanda made awhile back—flapjacks!


Here in the US, the term is often used for pancakes, but in the UK, apparently flapjacks are delicious, chewy, oat-filled snacks, similar to our granola bars. Amanda made Molly’s version from Bon Appetit, which she said were tasty, but just crumbled apart, and were overly buttery for her liking (overly buttery!? No such thing…unless you’re 2 weeks away from wearing a swimsuit…).


Well, Amanda and I are two weeks away from wearing bikinis, so overly buttery is definitely feelin’ very real right now. I tweaked the recipe to my liking, reducing the amount of butter, subbing in honey and maple syrup for the British golden syrup, and adding coconut, almonds, flax seeds, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. They turned out good. Really good. In fact, I’m feeling extra grateful right now for reducing the butter, since I stood there and ate half the pan before they even cooled. They were a little crumbly, but I think that’s because I tried to remove them from the pan too soon, before they were properly cooled. I just couldn’t resist. Luckily, the squares did cool and stay together, and as far as the half cup or so that crumbled apart…that made a perfect sprinkle of granola on top of yogurt.


Chewy Coconut Flapjacks

1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
2.5 tablespoons pure maple syrup
Sprinkle of cinnamon
Pinch of salt
2 1/3 cups quick-cooking oats
½ cup shredded, sweetened coconut
¼ cup sliced almonds
1 tablespoon flax seeds

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 8-inch metal baking pan. Combine butter, brown sugar, honey, syrup, cinnamon, and salt in a heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until melted, smooth, and combined. Remove from heat. Add oats, coconut, almonds, and flax seeds; stir until coated. Transfer mixture to pan and spread out in even layer, press down to flatten and mold together. Bake until top is golden and edges are lightly browned, 20- 25 minutes. Cool in pan on rack 5 minutes. Gently cut into squares. Cool completely in pan before serving.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Long Week


As I was making fun of a coworker for calling in to a Thursday meeting on Wednesday, I dialed into my 11 o'clock meeting... at 10 o'clock. It's going to be a long week.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Pancake Dreams are Made of

When I was a kid I loved pancakes, especially with chocolate chips. I called them pan-a-cakes, and they were my favorite breakfast. My favorite nightgown even had a picture of pancakes on it, a big huge stack dripping with melted butter and syrup, being gobbled up by Garfield the cat. I guess I must have overdone it on the pancakes at some point, because as an adult, I prefer savory breakfasts to sweet. And, if I am going the sweet route, I’d much rather have waffles, French toast, or pastries than pancakes. Unless, of course, it’s the Vegan Pancake at Portage Bay Cafe. The holy grail of pancakes.


The Vegan Pancake is the one and only pancake that makes my heart skip a beat. I crave it. A lot. I convince Evan to wait in the long line at Portage Bay at least once a month, so that I can get the Vegan Pancake (usually with a side of bacon, which really confuses people). It’s wholesome and hearty, not overly sweet, and full of delicious things—whole wheat, oats, banana, coconut milk, and cinnamon. And, Portage Bay has an ahhhmazing fresh fruit bar to go along with the sweet menu items. I usually pile my Vegan Pancake high with blackberries and raspberries, maple-pecan syrup, and thick, fresh, slightly sweet whipped cream. I’d even go as far as to say that it’s my favorite breakfast in Seattle. Or… it WAS my favorite breakfast in Seattle.

A few weeks ago, Evan and I went out to brunch so that I could get my Vegan Pancake fix. I was so excited…my mouth even started to water a little as I walked past the fresh fruit bar on the way to our table... I could just taste the cinnamon and coconut milk, the oats and mashed bananas. But the Vegan Pancake, my favorite pancake EVER... was no longer on the menu! They had replaced it with a gluten-free pancake, sliced bananas on the outside rather than mashed up inside, no whole wheat flour or oats. I ordered it anyway, hoping it would do the trick, but it just didn’t. It wasn’t even close. I was devastated. Absolutely devastated. I mean, I seriously almost cried, thinking I would never again taste the glory of the Vegan Pancake. I probably haven’t felt that kind of heartbreak since Beverly Hills 90210 went off the air.


Then, last week, as if by fate, I saw a vegan pancake recipe in Bon Appetit. They were vegan pancakes, sure, but would it be THE Vegan Pancake!? I had to make a few alterations, adding in oats and mashed banana, tweaking the spices here and there, until… finally… the clouds parted, the Seattle gloom disappeared and the sun started shining, and, on my plate, there it was. The. Vegan. Pancake.

The world makes sense once again.
The Vegan Pancake
Adapted from Bon Appetit, inspired by Portage Bay Cafe

2 cups whole wheat flour
½ cup quick rolled oats
½ cup shredded or flaked coconut (I used sweetened bc it's all I could find)
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 13 1/2-ounce can light unsweetened coconut milk (about 1 2/3 cups)
1 ripe banana
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1.5 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Optional Toppings:
Pure maple syrup-warmed
Fresh or thawed blackberries
Sliced almonds
Shredded coconut
Preheat oven to 250°F (to keep pancakes warm as they are made). Whisk

 first 7 ingredients in large bowl. Blend together (with an immersion blender or blender) coconut milk, mashed banana, maple syrup, and vanilla in medium bowl. Stir coconut milk mixture into dry ingredients. Add warm water until batter is pourable, but still thick.

Heat griddle or skillet over medium-high heat; spray with cooking spray. Working in batches, add batter by 1/4 cupfuls. Working quickly and using back of spoon, spread each pancake to about 4-inch round. Cook until small bubbles appear on surface and bottoms of pancakes are golden, reducing heat if browning too quickly, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn over; cook until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to baking sheet. Keep warm in oven. Top with syrup, berries, nuts, and shredded coconut. And then revel in the fact that you can make this amazing pancake at home.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Meatless Burger, Fryless Fries

I learned two really good lessons the other day. Number one: blanching before baking sweet potato fries results in more awesome (awesomer?) fries. Numero Dos: don’t put parchment paper under the broiler—it burns. I learned both of these valuable tips while making a super delicious meatless dinner.


As you know, I’m layin’ off the cow (and pig, chicken, lamb, and turkey, for that matter) during the month of January. I’ve also been making lots of salads, and have been trying to avoid fattening, fried, and super sugary foods. All in all, it’s going pretty great. I’ve had a ton more energy lately. And…I don’t want to jinx anything, but I’ve maybe, just maybe, trimmed up a bit. But, that’s not to say I haven’t had my cravings. There was one whole day where I thought of nothing but pulled pork in various forms (carnitas-style, bbq with slaw, on a Paseo Cuban sandwich). Last night, I even had a dream about chicken. Chicken! The most boring, bland, meat there is! Above all though, my biggest craving has been for the last meat I ate. A hamburger.

I don’t know why I always crave burgers. Usually they aren’t nearly as satisfying in real life as in my burger-fantasies. And I’m also very particular about how I like them. The more caramelized and cooked around the edges the better, and less red inside, the better. I’m not a fan of thick burgers, of overly juicy burgers, or rare burgers. But I always think they look amazing. Those heart stopping 10 pound burgers on Man v. Food make me swoon. I even had a burger-shaped piggy-bank when I was a kid…maybe it started at a young age.

The other night I was having a serious burger craving, the kind that even the most delicious or fancy cuisine won’t satisfy. I needed a burger and fries like never before. To stick with my healthful meatless cleanse, I took matters into my own hands, and made portabella burgers and sweet potato fries. I’ve made both before, but not with complete success. In the grill pan, my mushrooms always got a little burnt on the outside and not done enough on the inside, and my sweet potato fries either had the same problem, or were too mushy.


I scoured the internet in search of a new technique for baked sweet potato fries. Most of the recipes I found claimed to have excellent results, but didn’t do anything different than I had done in the past—simply cutting the sweet potatoes, tossing in olive oil and spices, and baking. I was about to resign myself to a life of burnt sweet potato fries (or, to the perfect but artery clogging deep fried restaurant variety), when I came upon the blog Steph Chows. In a recipe adapated from Cooking Light, Steph blanches her cut fries in hot water before baking them. A genius idea that results in a fully cooked fry, soft on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside (sorry folks, no matter what you do, you won’t get a perfectly crisp sweet potato fry in the oven… that is dependent on the magic of the deep fryer). Steph also takes the simple route, seasoning her fries in nothing but olive oil and sea salt. I like that in a fry. I used the flaked salt that I scored in a Christmas party gift exchange—amazing. I also lowered the heat from 450 to 430, flipped after 10 minutes, checked on them regularly, shortened the cooking time, and used parchment paper. Another tip that I learned somewhere in my searching—make sure the fries aren’t touching each other on the baking sheet, and that you only do one tray at a time, to avoid steaming them into mush.


With my awesome sweet potato fries just waiting to be eaten, I decided to do a quick broil on the portabellas, using the same baking sheet (with parchment paper) as the fries. Warning: don’t put parchment paper under the broiler. It is paper after all. And it burns…and smokes. And had I not caught it sooner, it probably would have been engulfed in flames (along with my kitchen). So, while Evan waved a towel in front of the smoke detector and opened all the windows and doors, and Biscuit ran around like a mad-cat, I soaked the charred paper in water, threw it away, and went back to broiling the ‘shrooms. Which, setbacks aside, turned out wonderfully. Marinated in a little soy sauce and olive oil, the portabellas were meaty and delish, perfectly cooked inside and out, topped with a little melted swiss for good measure.

So finally, through a haze of smoke, I indulged my burger and fry craving...without breaking  my cleanse.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Cleanse Schmense

Nine days into the new year, and I’m doing great at sticking to a meatless and boozeless January…not so hot at following the Bon Appetit Food Lover’s Cleanse. The recipes looked great, I thought it would be fun to blog about the daily menus, and Evan was even on board… but I just couldn’t do it.

We started out ok, with the Ultimate Winter Couscous. It was… ok. I mean, the idea was great—roasted butternut squash and parsnips over couscous or bulgur—but I should have just done my own thing with it, instead of splurging on the nine hundred ingredients that didn’t add anything amazing to the final dish. And then we made the cinnamon and berry breakfast quinoa, which was really delish—full of berries and toasted nuts, and surrounded by a pool of sweet almond milk. Then we were supposed to make Indian-inspired salmon in a creamy mustard sauce and black eyed pea curry…and that’s where things went downhill.

First of all, we had a ton of leftovers from the couscous dish that weren’t worked into any future meals according to the plan. And secondly, I’m somewhat of a salmon purist. Salmon is SO good (not to mention SO expensive) that if I’m going to make salmon, I’m not going to drown it creamy sauces and cover up its naturally amazing flavor. So, that’s where we started to stray. And we haven’t looked back since. Who needs a cleanse, anyway.

So, to fully embrace my rebellion, I made banana nut muffins. With peanut butter. And oats. And chocolate chips. And even peanut butter chips. Take that, cleanse.


Peanut Butter Banana Nut Muffins
2 super ripe bananas, mashed
½ cup peanut butter
2 eggs, well beaten
1 ½ cups flour
½ cup quick rolled oats
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
Optional:
½ cup chopped toasted walnuts
½ cup chocolate chips
½ cup peanut butter chips
Preaheat oven to 350. Grease a muffin pan with 6 large cups (or use a smaller sized cupcake pan with more cups, or even a loaf pan—vary cooking times: less for cupcake pan, more for loaf). Mix bananas, peanut butter, and eggs together in a large bowl. Stir in flour, oats, salt, sugar, and baking soda. Add optional items and blend. Put batter in muffin cups, and bake for 25-30 minutes. Serve warm or cooled.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Cheers!


Happy 2011! I celebrated the start of the New Year with my lovely boyfriend, my wonderful friends, and fancy elderflower-champagne cocktails! Slightly sweet and floral, a little tart, and a lot bubbly, these are the perfect cocktail for saying goodbye to 2010 and hello to a new year. So my friends, mix up 1 part St. Germain (elderflower liqueur), 2 parts champagne, 1 part soda water, a few berries for fun, and a good hearty squeeze of fresh lemon, and raise your glasses—here’s to amazing 2010 behind us, and an even better 2011 ahead of us!