Sunday, September 30, 2012

Vegan Chocolate Chip Pretzel Cookie Bars

These cookies are simple and tasty.  I make this cookie dough recipe just to eat the cookie dough.  I had planned to add it to some almond milk ice cream, but we ate all the ice cream too quickly!  So I came up with this.
First I oiled my mini loaf pan (You could also use a cupcake pan or a large pan and cut the bars into pieces).  I layered the bottom with pretzel pieces.
I used a cookie recipe from How It All Vegan.  First mix:
1 ¾ flour
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
¾ cups sugar
Then add:
½ cup oil
½ tsp vanilla
½ cup rice milk
1 cup chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate chunks)
Stir it all together and spoon the mixture over the pretzels.  Push the dough into the pretzels so they stick together.  Then bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until golden brown.  Pop them out of your pan and allow to cool.
Not bad for vegan cookies, but next time I will add a layer of chocolate chips and maybe put more pretzels on the top!  And they taste great dipped in coffee or rice milk.

Friday, September 14, 2012

BBQ Seitan Sandwich Recipe

This is one of my favorite things to make.  And it’s so easy!  The past few months I’ve been trying to get away from eating so many packaged foods.  As a vegetarian it’s easy to fall into the habit of just substituting meat for fake meat.   It’s amazing what they can create these days out of veggies!  While it’s fine once in a while, I found I was eating way too much soy.   So I’ve begun to experiment with seitan, which comes from wheat and is high in protein. 

I love BBQ sauce too!  I can eat it in spoonfuls.  And why should BBQ sauce be reserved for smothering over carcasses?!   These sandwiches are so good you can fool a meat eater!  And really when it comes to BBQ, it’s all about the sauce.  So pick something good and flavorful, or make your own.  This recipe makes 3-4 sandwiches depending on size.

8 oz. package of seitan strips, roughly chopped
2 or more cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Half an onion, diced
1 cup BBQ sauce
Dash of oil


Heat a frying pan up; add your onion, garlic, seitan and enough oil to coat.  Cook for a couple minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and the seitan is slightly browned.



Then add the BBQ sauce and let simmer about a half hour or so until the BBQ sauce has soaked into the seitan creating a thick, “meaty” spread.


Slice up some fresh bread, spread your BBQ seitan and serve.  It’s great with vegan mayo, tomato and lettuce; or just plain. 


Next step… make my own seitan from vital wheat gluten!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Peasant Bread with Fennel and Sea Salt Crust

I’ve recently become obsessed with rubbing fennel seeds all over my breads.  I would have never come up with this idea on my own.  A local bakery, Blue Oven, makes amazing breads filled with seeds and herbs, including fennel.  And luckily we have huge fennel plants all over the garden.  This is a picture of one plant flowering, with my boyfriend behind it so you can see how big it is! 
I adapted a recipe from an old bread machine cook book, called Peasant Bread.  I guess because it’s so simple and always turns out pretty good. 
First mix:
1 cup bread flour
1 cup white flour
1 ¼ tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 ½ tsp yeast
1 cup water

                                                                             Knead dough for 10 minutes.

Take a baking sheet and sprinkle around your mix of herbs, seeds and sea salt.  Try different combination; for this bread I used fennel, sea salt, dried basil, flax and dill seeds.
Stretch your dough out slightly into loaf shape, then rub the surface with olive oil and roll it through the seasoning mix.  Let rise for an hour or until it doubles in size.
Cook at 400° for 20 minutes or so, until golden brown.  I just cooked it on the same baking sheet for a flatter loaf, but use a bread pan for a sandwich loaf.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Chunky Ketchup Sauce

I’ve wanted to make ketchup for awhile now and we have so many cherry tomatoes!  We put them in everything; salads, pizzas, sandwiches, wraps, eggs, bread and we still can’t keep up with the garden!  So I went out and collected every ripe cherry tomato we had (mostly Peacevine Cherrys, which have been awesome!), plus all the Casady's Follys.  Also known as psychedelic tomatoes, and while they look beautiful; they just don’t have that juicy, flavorful bite that I love in tomatoes.  But I figured they would still be good in ketchup!
I used this recipe as my base, changing it slightly by adding more spices and sugar instead of agave since I didn’t have any.  This ketchup is amazing!  It’s not the super sugary, corn syrup filled ketchup we are used to in the US.  It reminds me of the ketchup in Europe, a more naturally sweet tomato sauce, only it’s chunky because you leave the skins on.  They soften up enough while cooking them, adding extra flavor, texture and nutrients!


I learned a good rule of thumb the other day for measuring produce.  1 pound equals 3 medium apples.  I figured I had a little over 2 pounds of tomatoes.  I pulled the stems off the tomatoes and sliced the bigger ones into chucks.  I threw them all in a pan, added enough olive oil to coat them and roasted them until they were tender.

I put them through a food processor, blending till smooth and returning the mixture back to the pan. I added:

1 tbsp white sugar
4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp brown sugar
5 cloves garlic chopped finely
1 tbsp or so dried basil
1 tbsp or so dried oregano
1 tbsp cayenne pepper powder
1 tbsp turmeric
1 tsp cinnamon
Sea salt and pepper

Then cook the sauce over medium heat for half an hour or so, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens up to the consistency you like.  Put it in a Mason jar and store in your refrigerator.  I assume you could process it too, just like you would pasta sauce, but I knew this batch wouldn’t last long enough to need that!


With all the work of making homemade ketchup I had to make some fries to go with it.  Making your own fries is so easy, it just takes a while.  I just slice up a couple potatoes into fry shape.  Throw them in a bowl and coat with oil.  Then add spices… I like to add sea salt, pepper, garlic powder, cayenne pepper.  My boyfriend is from Maryland, so he always adds Old Bay spices, and here in Cincinnati we add Grippos bbq spice… there are many ways to spice up fries. 
Toss your potatoes in the oil and spices, spread them on a baking tray and cook at 400° until they are crispy and golden brown, flipping them occasionally.  When I first went vegetarian I ate way too many fries!  But when you make them yourself with fresh ketchup from the garden, they’re not soo bad :)

Monday, September 3, 2012


Growing Cotton

While looking through seed catalogs last winter I stumbled upon a cotton section in the Southern Exposure catalog.  I had never thought about growing cotton before, but as a hard core crafter I really wanted to try it out.  I bought a pack Red Foliated White Cotton; I got 18 plants out of the 20 seeds!  I started the seeds in small trays.  They quickly sprouted up and outgrew the trays. 

This is the size they were when I transplanted them outside in early May. I read that may people plant cotton in groups of 3. As a sort of experiment I put 3 plants in a pot and left them in the hoop house for the spring and summer. This proved to not be so great, because the cotton did not flower and produce as well. I moved the pot outside several weeks ago though and they started to look better.

The other 15 plants were planted in the ground at a neighbor’s house. One thing I never realized about cotton is that the flowers are beautiful! Unfortunately I didn’t take a picture early enough, but soon after they reach this height, large white flowers open up, and then they turned a dark red.

After the flowers finish blooming, this big alien looking bulbs grows. At this stage the plants started drooping a bit from the weight of the bulbs. I tied the groups of 3 plants together with a stake in one side to give them some support. I didn’t want a single precious branch to break!

Towards the end of the summer the bulb dries up, and opens to reveal puffs of cotton! With my tiny plot of cotton, I am able to collect pods here and there once they open to this level.



Now for the harvest

There were 5 puffs of cotton in each pod, and 5 to 6 seeds in each puff. So I pulled the cotton out and separated all the seeds with my fingers.

This how much cotton I got from only 2 pods, plus I now have about 50 seeds, and 2 really cool looking pod husks (not sure what I will do with them yet!). And there are many more pods that should open up in the next few weeks.

I still haven’t decided what I will do with my cotton either. I can’t think of much use for cotton balls, I thought maybe q-tips. I’d like to try spinning it into thread, better yet fabric, but thread seems a bit more doable this year. I’ve been trying to figure out how to make a spinner, so check back soon for more information on that!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Refrigerator Dill Pickles

It’s been a couple weeks since my first try at making pickles and we had 2 more monster cucumbers ready to go.  So I decided to try a slightly more complex pickle recipe from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. 

First I rinsed and rubbed the little spikes off the cucumbers, then sliced and quartered them.   I threw a few Mini Red Bell Peppers and Thai Hot Peppers in too.  I cut the peppers in half, mainly just so I could save those precious seeds! I put all the veggies in a big plastic bowl and set it aside.

I added 2 cups of water, 2 cups white vinegar, 3 tbsp pickling salt, ¼ cup sugar and 2 tbsp pickling mix in a stainless steel pot.  I bought a traditional old world pickling spice from a spice shop, but here is a recipe that's pretty standard.  I brought this mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar and salt dissolved.  Then cover the pot and boil for an additional 10 minutes.

I poured this liquid over my veggies, covered it with a plastic bag (the recipe recommended wax paper, but I was out of it) and let it sit until it cooled to room temperature.

While cooling I sterilized 4 pint size mason jars and lids by washing them with soap and then boiling in water for a few minutes.  I added about a tbsp of vinegar to the water, because I read somewhere along the way that this helps keep the jars from getting cloudy.  I think it worked!  In each jar I added: 1 ½ tsp dill seeds plus a few dried dill flower heads from the garden, 1 tsp mustard seed, ¼ tsp pepper corns and a large garlic clove chopped in big chunks. 

Once the veggies cooled, I stuffed them into the jars and filled with the pickling mixture leaving ½ inch of space at the top of the jar.  I put the lids on and put them in the refrigerator.  Now we have to wait 3 weeks and the pickles should be good for at least 3 months.  I love pickles!  And my house smells amazing right now form all those spices!