Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Vegan Soft Pretzels

I like several of the Food Network people... if you're around often you will know right away that I may have a small crush on Bobby Flay. My other favorite Food Network man? Alton Brown! I love Good Eats because he breaks the science down and tells you why you do what you do. Plus his show is hilarious!

I dream to be on his show... even if I'm just a random hand that shoots in to pass him something, or the person in a chicken suit or dressed up as Alton's Aunt Mable. I'd do it. Just to be there. With Alton. Yes, I may have a small obsession with my Food Network men. But I think it's ok... because my husband knows :)

So Pretzels... when my carbohydrate addiction led me to the decision that I must make soft pretzels I headed to my good friend Google and Googled away. Who came up relatively first? My good buddy Alton Brown! Ah! My mind was made up because I know Alton won't let me down... he never does.

This recipe is Alton's... but then I had to veganize it... and then I accidentally forgot a couple ingredients. At first realization that my dough was missing some of Alton's ingredients, my reaction was, 'sh*t!!' Because the dough had already risen, the water was on, the oven was warming and I was rolling.

To make new dough wouldn't have taken long, but to rise? And I wanted pretzels NOW! (remember... addiction) (not that I take addiction of any sort lightly so please don't take offense :)) So I went ahead with my dough and the pretzels turned out fabulous!

I will have to Google Alton's thoughts on butter and oil in the batter and see what his method is. My guess is it just makes the dough lighter, more flaky? Well, mine was delish! Hey Alton, perhaps you could have me on your show! I could make my version and you could make yours... think about it. (Yes, I'm 97.3% positive Alton Brown reads my blog) :)

Yield: 8 pretzels
Adapted from Alton Brown's pretzel recipe

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 pkg yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons if your yeast is in bulk, like me)
4 1/2 cups flour (unbleached)
10 cups water
2/3 cups baking soda
Chunky sea salt

In a large bowl combine water, sugar, salt and yeast. Let sit about 5 minutes until foamy.

Add flour, 1 cup at a time, gently stirring to combine in between each cup. (a.k.a. don't just toss all 4 1/2 cups in at once)

Using a dough hook (or your hands) knead the dough until combined then turn out onto a lightly floured surface and continue to knead until you have a smooth, elastic ball of dough. About 3-5 minutes.

Note: on this particular instance I did not use my Kitchenaid, I just used my hands... something organic about getting back to basics.

Return your ball of dough to the bowl and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Cover your bowl and place it in a warm area to rise. Dough should rise to about double it's size; about an hour.

When dough is done rising, bing water and baking soda to a boil in a large pot on the stove.

Preheat oven to 450 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Get your dough out and divide it into 8 pieces.

With your first piece, roll it out into a 24 inch long rope making sure the thickness is even throughout the rope.

Holding ends, let dough rope fall into a 'U' shape, then twist, lay the twist down and press ends into the 'U'. Repeat with other dough balls.

Place dough pretzels in boiling water, cooking for 30 seconds then remove and place on baking sheet.

Sprinkle tops with chunky sea salt and bake in oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown on top.

Note: I did four pretzels at a time because that is what my pot of water and baking sheet would hold.

When done, remove from oven to cool.

Serve these little darlings warm with spicy brown mustard and a beer.

The pretzels have an amazing flavor and chewy texture. Fun for kids and adults of all ages and super easy to make. Store leftovers in a paper bag... if you put them in plastic the salt will 'sweat', disappear and leave you with a soggy topped pretzel.

You could easily freeze these by letting them cool completely, then put in freezer on a tray to freeze. Once completely frozen, put in freezer bags and return to freezer.


Active Dry Yeast

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Vegan Veggie Ravioli

If you come around often, thank you! And that means you probably know how much I love using leftovers for a completely different meal. Remember the Vegetable Po Bo Sandwich from last week? (Was that last week?) Well, this ravioli is a reincarnation of that sandwich.

My goal this week is to catch up on all the deliciously delectable posts I have for you. That on top of the cooking that I'm actually doing this week makes for some great food! This ravioli was made the day after the sammies.

I am sure we're all busy so why not make up a large batch of something and use it for several meals? It works for our family and seriously satisfies my need to be really awesomely creative in a short period of time with what we have.

Also, I love homemade pasta. It's my new obsession and I'm pretty sure that I will be amazing (well, even more amazing) at it here pretty soon. This will be just in time for Italy; so I can go and 'talk pasta' with the chefs. Ha!

Here's the thing about pasta: Now that I make it with a fair amount of regularity, and now that I am comfortable working with it, I have a really hard time buying it. I feel this way about most things I can make on my own... why buy it when mine is just better and cheaper and 'funner'?

So use this recipe as you like: Either make the Po Boy Sandwiches and use the extra filling to make these little darlings as I have described, or make the ravioli and fill it with what you have. Love it.

For the pasta:
2 cups semolina flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup warm water
2-3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
For the filling:
Veggie filling
OR other filling of your choice
For the sauce:
2 small shallots, chopped
3 cloves garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
5 medium vine ripened tomatoes, chopped rough
Salt and pepper
5-7 fresh basil leaves, julienned

In a bowl, or your Kitchenaid, mix the flour and salt together. With the Kitchenaid on medium, stream in water, starting with the 1/2 cup. Then add 2 Tablespoons olive oil and look at your dough. It will still be a bit crumbly but coming together.

Stream in the additional 1/3 cup water then stream in another Tablespoon olive oil, if your dough looks like it needs it.

When dough is basically together, turn it out on a pastry mat or floured surface and knead for 5 to 8 minutes until you have a smooth elastic ball of dough.
Place dough ball in a bowl, drizzle with a snitch of olive oil, cover and let rest for about 20 minutes.

For your sauce: It needs to cook down so get it started while your dough is resting.

In a pot, heat a little extra virgin olive oil then add the shallots and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes then add your chopped tomatoes and salt and pepper.

Cover and reduce heat to low/med and let it reduce. Note: I did not blanch the tomatoes to remove their skin. I don't mind the tomato skin when it is reduced down AND there are so many nutrients in the skin, I hate to waste.

Let cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occassionally. After about 20 minutes, taste to ensure proper salt and pepper usage. If you need to add more, now is the time.

Aadd the fresh basil, stir and let continue to cook on low. At this point, you can let it simmer on low, stirring occassionally, while you work on your pasta.

After your 20 minutes are up, break your dough ball into four even pieces. Work with one piece at a time, keeping the others in the bowl and covered so they don't dry out.

Flatten your first piece then fold in half until you get the right length for your pasta roller. Flatten the dough to about 1/2 inch thick.
Turn your pasta roller on, first ensuring you are using the right attachment... for my Kitchenaid, I put it on the lowest speed setting. Pop the dough in and watch the pasta come out.

Once it is completely through, fold up and send it through again. Do this two or three times, each time folding and molding to the right 'strip' shape.

After two or three times, reduce the thickness setting down a couple notches. Not the thinnest setting, but one up. Run your pasta through, creating a long, thin strip.

Lay strip down on the counter, cut it in half then slice it into about 3 inch squares. Make sure you have an even number, since half will be the 'bottom' and half will be the 'top' of your ravioli.

In the center of each of your 'bottom' pieces, spoon a little of your filling then, using water, line the dough that is still showing and top with your 'top' piece and seal.

Note: to seal, make sure you are removing all air out of the 'filling pocket'. If you have air in the filling pocket it will cause the ravioli to burst open when you boil it. I put each piece in the palm of my hand and pressed everything down.

Repeat for all dough and filling, making sure you keep your fresh ravioli covered until you are ready to cook. Note: you can also freeze it! If you would like to do that, line them on a cookie sheet and put them in the freezer. Once frozen, remove, bag and return to the freezer.

To cook your pasta: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Drop ravioli in one by one. I ended up cooking about six at a time. They don't take long to cook; about 3 minutes. You will know they are done when they float to the top.

Remove with a slotted spoon, place in a bowl or strainer and repeat with all ravioli.

Plate anywhere from 4 to 8 ravioli, depending on your appetite then top with a nice serving of your fresh tomato sauce.

Garnish with a little more fresh basil and serve.

Homemade pasta: far from perfect and just the way I like it! It is just so much better than store bought. And really it's super easy. I promise it's worth the time and soon you won't want to buy store pasta anymore either.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Soba Noodles and Veg Salad

Honey worked hard demolishing our front yard on Saturday so I felt like a: he deserved some carbs for all that hard work and b: those carbs should be in the form of one of his favorite meals of the summer. I should have taken some pictures of his 'handy' work on the front yard; actually, someone should have taken a picture of my face when he showed me his 'handy' work. Now that would have been a keeper.

Note to wives: be cautious when letting your husband loose with a chainsaw... you never know what you're going to get.

In his defense, it does look slightly better (albeit still bald!) now that the giant pile of debris that used to be trees is gone.

So what to do for my hard working, chainsaw wielding Honey? Make his favorite... It's only right. I have made it before and I will make it again. Soba noodle salad... it's so good!

This came as a surprise to me because while organizing my food calendar I often  mostly forget that I CAN make a meal twice. I don't know, it's how I grew up. Rarely did we have anything twice.  Plus I feel like if I'm going to write about it everything should be new and fabulous.

This salad was so good and Saturday was such a beautiful sunny day that it just seemed right to squeeze another salad into this fickle weather we are having. And it was. And Honey was grateful :)

1 pkg soba noodles (about 12 oz)
2 cups english cucumbers, de-seeded and diced
2 cups matchstick carrots (do yourself a favor and buy the package... unless you have a magical matchsticking machine)
1 orange bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 bunch (aabout 7) green onions, diced
1/2 to 3/4 package shelled edamame, cooked
Mixed greens
Sesame seeds, toasted
For the dressing:
6 Tablespoons sushi vinegar (or do rice wine vinegar with 1 Tablespoon agave nectar)
3 Tablespoons tamari
3 Tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

Cook soba noodles per directions, making sure to NOT over cook them. Once done, drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking process. Set aside.
Prepare all your veg and combine it together in a big bowl. Pour a little of the dressing in with the veg and toss.

Add the noodles and the dresssing, reserving about 1/4 of it for the lettuce and toss to mix everything together. Note: I washed my hands and used them instead of the tongs. It was just easier.
Let the salad sit before serving... I made it and let it sit for about 20 minutes before prepping on the plates.

In another large bowl, put some mixed field greens and the rest of the dressing... perhaps not the rest. Put a little in, toss and see how it covers the leaves. Less is more.

On plates, pile some tossed mixed greens in the middle. Give your soba noodle mixture a quick toss since it's been sitting, then pile it on top of the greens. Top with some toasted sesame seeds and serve.

Soba Noodles

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Day at the Farmer's Market

Alright, I know I said it was fall, and it is! But yesterday it wasn't. This, as I keep saying, is the Pacific Northwest. Yesterday was gorgeous! Windy but gorgeous. I actually love the sunny warm wind days. My mom always said the warm wind is called a 'chinook'. Who knows if that is true or if she just made it up :)

Anyway, so yesterday we went to the Bellingham Farmer's Market as a family and in a rare moment, I wasn't behind the camera!

 It was a gorgeous day and we got a ton of fabulous fruits/veg from a couple of local stands. We also had a chance to eat lunch at Boundary Bay... our favorite 'go-to' lunch spot for Farmer's Market adventure days.

These are some squash from my new favorite grower: North Fork Gardens. Not only is everything gorgeous, Gail was especially nice and welcoming to her stand; which was a lovely and very welcome change from another stand, unfortunately :) So thank you! Again, for the lovely squash and the free tomatoes!!

I'm thinking of emailing Gail to make North Fork Gardens an upcoming Adventure Wednesday... fun!

And yes, that is an AWESOME boot on my foot... don't be jealous... I know you want one. Remember the half marathon that I'm supposed to be running today? (right now in fact) Yeah, not so much with a fractured foot and a super fashionable boot! :) Honey told me I could run the half marathon as long as I wore my boot. Given the fact that I can hardly walk with the dumb thing on, that was out of the question.

Noodle wanted his favorite... so he picked it out and was very proud :) And he's super cute.

Picking up some tomatillos and carrots. I was going to use the carrots in a post and then I got home and ate them all raw.

Even though summer is quickly diminishing, I do love this time of year for many reasons... one of which are the dahlias. They are a beautiful, last ditch effort of summer... perfect ending :)

And oh the tomatoes... so lovely. I went home and picked the last of the fruit from our own vines and used them in conjunction with Gail's that she gave us. Stay tuned for that post.

Stay tuned for some great posts featuring the lovely fruits/veg we picked up... oh, and Auntie Erin 's GI-NORMOUS zucchini... holy goodness gracious, this thing is monstrous! And apparently it was one of the smaller ones... yeah!

Also, thank you Honey, for being the brains behind the camera... good job!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Vegan Broccoli Soup with Garlic Croutons

Some of my recent fall planning has included working on my menus, what I'm going to cook and when so I can feel a little more prepared and a little less... 'grab bag dinner' night-ish.

Planning: so all this glorious planning is going on. I'm even writing down my weekly menu, like I used to do on our white board in the kitchen. I did that when we were first married to a: maintain my sanity and b: reaussure everyone who sets foot in our house that there will be dinner. Another one of my mom-isms I have adopted.

Planning: a couple of days ago I proclaimed it was fall and I planned some lovely and delicous fall meals. Because it's fall.

Yeah. Apparently that fickle Mother Nature enjoys playing tricks on us Pacific Northwesterners because yesterday was gorgeous. And not just gorgeous for a few hours before the sun went down; gorgeous all day from the moment the sun rose.

Gorgeous aside, after my run I hesitated, then sighed and began making my delicious fall broccoli soup. Soup! Oh well... it was delicious and today, even judging from the sky as the sun rises, appears to be a little less gorgeous than yesterday. I'll just wait though; you never know.

Also... I have to run again today. I have to! So let's hope it's as nice later on. A couple months ago, in my 'I'm running again!!' gung ho attitude, I signed up for the Bellingham half marathon which is this Sunday. Yeah. Um... I did the Fairhaven Runners 15k two weeks ago and it kicked my booty! I have to add another four miles onto that? What the h-e-double hockey sticks was I thinking??

My 15k time did surprise me though... I finished faster than I thought I would. But another four miles on top of that? I'm petrified someone is going to find me on the side of the road hallucinating about floating marshmallows or a three footed pygmy goat or something like that.

Ok, recipe: this soup was really good! There isn't a bad thing in it, it's super easy to make and quite flavorful. Broccoli is Noodle's favorite thing to eat ever and I love it too. Honey isn't a huge broccoli fan but he loved the soup. The garlicky croutons on top provided a lovely alternate texture and the green onions gave it some bite.

Give it a try for your next fall meal :)

1 onion, chopped
1 small clove garlic, diced or smashed
1 teaspoon savory
2 bay leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
2 large heads broccoli, about 1 inch of the end chopped off and the whole thing roughly chopped
4 cups (1 quart/1 tetrapak) vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 loaf crusty french bread... works best if it's day old or so. Remember the po boy sandwiches? Remember the parsley pesto crostini? Yep! I used the leftovers... want not, waste not.
Extra virgin olive oil
4-5 garlic cloves, diced or smashed
Salt and pepper

In a large pot, heat some olive oil on med/high heat. Add onions and garlic and saute for about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to a good medium and add savory and bay leaves. Let cook for about another 3 minutes until soft and glossy.

To your pot of onion, add coarsely chopped broccoli, broth and salt and pepper. Stir well and cover. Let cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occassionally.

Meanwhile, prepare to make your croutons:
Preheat oven to 425 or use your toaster oven. As mentioned multiple times, I use my toaster oven if at all possible... it takes far less time to heat up and it much more 'green' if you ask me.

Slice your bread in half lengthwise, from there, cut it into about 1/2 inch strips, rotate and cut the strips into about 1/2 inch cubes.

Put all cubes into a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. On top of that, smash garlic cloves over the top. Finish with a little salt and pepper and give it all a good rigorous toss, ensuring proper coverage on all bread chunks.

Pour your cubes onto a baking sheet and toast in the oven or toaster oven for about 10 minutes, checking and 'stirring' every couple of minutes. These babies burn fairly quickly so don't be afraid to check and move them around.

When done, remove and let cool.

Back to your soup: When broccoli is tender, turn the heat off and use a hand blender to puree. Hand blenders rock. If you don't have one, you should get one. It prevents extra dirty dishes. If you don't have one you can transfer the soup in batches to the blender, then return it to the pot.

Once pureed, add the coconut milk and stir to incorporate. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Chop three or four green onions for garnish. If you added more salt and pepper, now is the time to taste your soup again. It needs time to allow the additional salt and pepper to infuse.

In a bowl, ladle in the lovely soup. Start your garnish with five to 7 garlic croutons. You can, of course, add more or less depending on the size of your bowl.

Finish with a sprinkle of green onion and you're ready to serve.

The croutons give the soup a little more 'bulk' but it is very filling and hearty on its own.




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