Friday, October 22, 2010

SHENANIGANS! (AND STOCKING STUFFERS!)

Last Christmas I was given two of the most amazing gifts ever. One was a checkered apron which pretty much resembles my catholic school girl uniform from high school (if it didn't have a back... and was checkered) and the second which directly humored my love for cooking AND Matryoshkas. I spent the last year in awe of the innovation of using Russian nesting dolls as measuring cups, but have FINALLY found the website from which the idea came forth... World Wide Fred. Catering to my awkward sense of humor and love for kitchen supplies, the goodies on this website are my ideal stocking stuffers (hint hint) and would be great party enhancers or quirky commonday items.

A few of my favorites include... the Peace of Cake, Ninja Cookie Cutters, Table Saw Cake Cutter, Frozen Shot Glass Mold, and for the religious with a sense of humor... the Holy Toast. Oh, and there's matching Matryoshka Measuring Spoons... which I don't have yet... FYI.


On another note (and not from FRED), this Peace Sign Ice Tray is pretty friggin cool. (no pun intended). I'd like to find that in my Christmas stocking as well. ;)

APPLE COBBLER (inspired by Heather)

So, I'm not quite sure who "Heather" is, but I'm a big fan of her Apple Cobbler Recipe.  I discovered it after scouring the internet for a cobbler recipe that would be comparable to the fabulous peach concoction my friends made one night following yoga.  I think she had me with the words "fool-proof" in her description, so I dug through my cabinets for the ingredients.  But weren't you trying to make a peach cobbler?, you might ask.  No, no... I'd just gone apple picking and had a large bag sitting on my kitchen counter just waiting for inspiration... which came in the form of peach cobbler that early October night.

::fantasizes about eating peach cobbler::

Oh, sorry.  I get a little distracted by my love for food sometimes.  What was I saying?  Oh yes, Apple Cobbler.  So, I basically take Heather's recipe and suit it to my own taste (as I always recommend once you've tried the original recipe at least once).  She asks for 6 cups of peeled/sliced green apples, but you can mix it up and throw a few Red Delicious in with your Granny Smiths.  Basically you take a giant mixing bowl and dump 3/4 cup of white sugar, 1/4 cup flour, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar (or slightly more), 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and 1/4 cup hot water.  Instead of doing 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (because I react to nutmeg) I then add in 1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon of clove.

Next is the fun part...

After dumping all these ingredients into your bowl, mix it up with your hands, adding the apples in and covering them using a toss-like motion.  Lightly butter a square baking dish and then pour the entire mixture in, placing the 1 1/2 tablespoon of butter you've scooped out (or cut) in the center of your filling.

To make the topping...

Grab another bowl and mix 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt (BE CAREFUL NOT TO OVER SALT! LESS IS MORE!), 2 tablespoons of softened butter (if you're using country crock it's already soft, yay!), and 1 egg (or egg substitute).  Use a spoon to mix until smooth and then drop it on top of the filling.  Heather suggests that you do it evenly, but I just try to cover the top using a drop-cookie technique of little spoonfuls of topping placed side by side and gently smushed together with your fingers.  it gives it texture.



What Heather doesn't tell you to do is create a mixture of brown sugar, water, and cinnamon that is NOT TOO watery.  Then, you take a spoon and "Pollock" your crust. (Yes, you pretend your name is Jackson and dribble the mixture across your crust).  The mixture will bake in and look pretty.  If you want to create cinnamon icing, you can always add a bit of confectioner's sugar to your mixture as well... but that's far too sweet for my taste.

The batter will spread as you cook the cobbler for 30 minutes at 350.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Three-Minute Vegan Breakfast

For those of us who need a quick, delicious breakfast on the go, I have come up with a healthy fix for the busy veggie.  How's this: Six meals for less than $10, each which can be completed in under three minutes and consumed on your commute.  If the ingredients are on sale, then even better.

What you need:
- 3 minutes
- a toaster
- a butter knife
- tofutti better than cream cheese
- natural path flax plus granola
- thomas' whole grain english muffins

Step 1: Tear apart a Thomas' Whole Grain English Muffin and pop it in your toaster.

Step 2: When the toaster pops out your english muffin, lather a generous amount of tofutti better than cream cheese onto each side.

Step 3: Sprinkle a small handful of granola onto the tofutti better than cream cheese (so it sticks).

Step 4: Grab and go!
 

You see? I told you that would be simple... and can be eaten at your house, in your car, or while rushing off to catch a bus with little to no clean-up.  Different types of granola or muffins can make for great seasonal variations, so start getting creative and eating well!  ENJOY!

Monday, October 11, 2010

"The Curse of the Compulsive Cooker"

First, I'd like to say, "HAPPY LEFT-OVER DAY!" as well as a belated "HAPPY OCTOBER" to all of you out there who are compulsive cookers such as myself, but have eventually run out of room for left-overs in your fridge and/or money to fund new concoctions. After a two-week cooking and baking spree, the day has finally come for my kitchen. This entry is entitled "The Curse of the Compulsive Cooker" to tie in with the glorious pumpkin-filled holidays quickly approaching, although for those surrounding the ever-cooking chef, it is quite the blessing for their tummies and taste buds. Needless to say, coming to the end of your funding and fridge space should not be a sad ordeal which leaves you feeling defeated! Trust me, your meal does not have to be demoted to microwavable mush! Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! Left-Over Day just means it's time to get creative!

What I found in the fridge today:
Left-Over Baked Ziti
Left-Over Garlic Bread
Chopped Tomato (from last week's guac)
Chopped Onion (also from last week's guac)
Reduced and Spiced Mashed Pumpkin
Chicken Parm (not cooked by me)
HomeMade Gravy (not cooked by me)
Fresh Parmesan (from pasta night 2 weeks ago)
Two Portobello Mushroom Caps (which had been marinating for 2 full weeks in balsamic vinegar & honey)
Two Small Handfuls of Veggie Shreds "Mozzarella"
Tiny Bag of Fresh Basil (from the plant in my garden)
1 Cup of Pancake Mix
Half a quart of Soy Milk
Couple Eggs
Left-Over Wheat Tortillas (from breakfast burritos last week)

There's more, but I won't bore you by continuing the list. Nevertheless, you get the idea of why the fridge is full and my stomach wasn't... two problems which both needed to be addressed... FOR FREE and fairly quickly! <3

LEFT-OVER BREAKFAST CONCOCTION: (veggie friendly if you still eat eggs)
- 1 Cup Aunt Jemimah Original Pancake Mix
- 3/4 Cup Soy Milk
- 1 Tsp Vegetable Oil - 1 Egg (or egg substitute to make it vegan!)
- 1/4 Cup Spiced & Reduced Mashed Pumpkin
- Butter, Country Crock, or other Vegan Equivalent
- Syrup (or none, depending on your taste... they're good either way)

Follow the directions on the box and you'll do just fine. Basically you dump all these ingredients into a bowl and mix until you have a slightly chunky liquid mixture which resembles cake batter. (Hence the term pan-CAKES). Put a small sliver of (i use country crock) "butter" onto a pre-heated non-stick frying pan and move around in a tiny circle with a spatula until melted. Then, pour just enough of the batter onto the frying pan to cover the spot created by the butter. If the circle of pancake batter is bigger than the palm of your hand, you probably used too much. Let the pancakes cook until they start to bubble lightly and keep scraping the spatula beneath the sides to coat them in butter. You will also want to use that opportunity to gently lift the sides of the pancake and test whether they are prepared to be flipped. Flip gently (so you don't splatter the uncooked side of your pancake all over the frying pan and stove) and let cook until fluffy. Both sides should be a light golden (slightly orange from the pumpkin) color. Repeat until there is no pancake batter left. Stack (i like to stack four pancakes at a time) on your favorite dish and drizzle with syrup from the center outward in the shape of an X so it resembles an IHOP ad.

Portobellos After 2 Weeks of Marinating
Before I discuss lunch with you, let's chat about Portobello Mushrooms. Once upon a time I had a vicious craving for Portobello Mushrooms having spent some time out of the city and without any decent Vegan or even Vegetarian restaurants in suburban New Jersey. I've found restaurants with veggie options here and there, but no place I can walk right into and KNOW that I'll be safe eating anything on the menu. My personal favorite dishes from the last two year of foodventures have somehow involved Portobello Mushrooms, so upon a Whole Foods shopping trip, I decided to humor my own craving and buy some. A friend had suggested that I marinate them in what I recalled to be Balsamic Vinegar and Honey, so trusting my memory I did just that. I had no recipe, no measurements, and no clue how to shop for them, but I knew I was craving so I bought a package of 3 Portobello Mushroom caps and skipped merrily on my way. That night, I filled a container up half way with Balsamic Vinegar, dropped the mushroom caps in, and began squirting Honey from my HoneyBear generously and to my own amusement without taking any measurements. The best I can tell you is that I used A LOT, squirting it on each side of the mushrooms and beneath the mushroom cap with hopes of it seeping in and making them deliciously sweet. I ate one about four or five days later and it was delightful, but left the other two in the container marinating (i flipped them over every few days to make sure they were coated properly) for oh, what I shamefully hate to admit was two weeks. Needless to say, today marks that second week and I figured that I had two options: eat 'em or toss 'em. Considering the fact that they were not cheap, I went with the former of the two options. In celebration of LEFT-OVER DAY, I decided to use them on my lunch... and made pizza.

LEFT-OVER LUNCH PIZZA:
- 2 Wheat Tortillas
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 4-6 tbs HomeMade Gravy
- 2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
- 2 Handfuls Veggie Shreds "Mozzarella"
- 1 Handful Chopped Tomato
- 1 Layer of Onion, Diced
- 2 Marinated Portobello Mushroom Caps (2 weeks in Balsamic Vinegar & Honey)
- 1 Breast of Chicken Parm, shredded
- 1 Handful Fresh Basil, shredded
- Oregano
- Fresh Ground Black Pepper
- 2 Pinches of Parmesan

(Okay, so one particular left-over is keeping this from being a totally vegan or veggie friendly dish. However, considering that this is a recipe totally concocted from things found in our fridge, I'd guess that any normal veggie or vegan wouldn't have chicken parm laying around well, anywhere... so omit it and you're good to go. Hell, just replace it with some peppers or other veggie-friendly topping of choice! For the rest of the world, however, feel free to add that chicken parm. I won't tell.)

LET'S START COOKIN!
Pre-heat that oven of yours to 425, my dears! Then, grab yourself a cookie sheet or piece of tin foil large enough to place two tortillas on side-by-side without overlapping and you're ready to start!

BEFORE YOU COOK: Please make sure your hands are clean for this one. I shouldn't have to say it, but you just never know. Wash 'em with soap and sing Happy Birthday a few times as you lather, kiddies. Please.

Prep time should take about 3-6 minutes.


Detail: Veggie-Friendly Pizza
Neatly place your two wheat tortillas side-by-side on your baking apparatus of choice, pour a tiny bit of extra virgin olive oil onto your hands and gently rub them across the entire upper surface of your tortillas. (be careful not to drip it onto the pan or tin foil by itself or else you might have a smoke cloud coming out of your oven with no genie popping out to grant you the wish of your smoke alarm shutting up) Take 2-3 tablespoons of HomeMade Gravy (or jarred sauce like Francesco Rinaldi Sweet & Tasty Tomato if you're not keen on cookin' from scratch or just don't have the time) and swirl them outward to cover most of the surface area of your tortilla. Repeat for the second tortilla. Peel and mince two cloves of fresh garlic and sprinkle across the gravy (or sauce) generously and somewhat evenly. Next, divide your Veggie Shreds "Mozzarella" into two portions and grab a pinch with your hands to sprea over the gravy/sauce to here its edge meets the empty tortilla crust. Apply generously, but try not to layer vertically, just one light layer will do the trick. Finely chop your layer of onion into tiny slivers and use your fingertips to sprinkle them across the veggie "cheese." Grab your pre-chopped tomatoes (or slice one tomato into squares about the width of a fingernail that's not your thumb) and distribute across the "cheese", scattering pieces randomly. Slice the stem off your portobello mushroom caps and slice into rectangles (about the size of your pinky nail from the nail bed to your fingertip) and scatter across the "cheese" in the places where the tomato missed. Next, wash and shred your basil leaves, distributing evenly across each pizza. Repeat this process with the left-over chicken parm (or equivalent) until "cheese" is nearly covered completely by toppings. Sprinkle pinches of Parmesan across both pies generously or to whatever extent you see fit.

By the time, your oven should have beeped... so pop that baking tray into the oven and bake at 425 for 10 minutes... no more, no less. Remove cautiously with oven mits and let rest for approximately 5 minutes or until your glasses don't fog up when you lean over the pizza. Remove from baking dish by sliding horizontally onto a plate (so not to lose any of your glorious toppings). Slice carefully into 6 pieces (if you are using a knife you want to start at the center and drag the knife toward the edge while holding the pizza) or just 4 pieces (if you are using a pizza cutter and want to slice in the shape of an X). Last but not least, don't forget to share with friends! They'll love you for it <3.

I hearby call this recipe "The-Portobello-Mushroom-Caps-Have-Been-Marinating-For-Two-Weeks-So-We-Should-Probably-Eat-Them-Today-Let's-Make-A-Pizza!" aka the "Everything-In-The-Fridge-Has-About-One-More-Day-Of-Shelf-Life-So-Let's-Clean-It-Out-Before-It-Goes-Bad" Pizza. Yup, the curse of the compulsive cooker.

DINNER IS UP TO YOU NOW! TELL ME WHAT YOU MADE!