28 June 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie

Today I tried to recreate my first ever smoothie, the Funky Monkey. My 17-year old self could barely order it in front of my friends because the name sounded so dumb. But all the smoothies had cutesy names like that at Bananarama, a lovely place that taught me bananas + soymilk = tasty smoothie base. The original Funky Monkey was a simple chocolate smoothie. Today I also added peanut butter because, as scores of Reese's Pieces fans know, chocolate and peanut butter are tasty soulmates. This smoothie turned out to be very easy to make and very very satisfying. Next time you get one milkshake craving too many, try making this instead. It's actually sort of healthy; it has a lot of protein, manganese, vitamin E, folate, calcium, potassium, vitamin B12, and monounsaturated fat (the good kind).

Serves 3-4 people

2 bananas, ripe
1/4 Cup peanut butter (the less oily and sugary, the better)
1 heaping teaspoon cocoa powder
1 Cup plain chilled soymilk (I like Silk brand)

Puree all in a blender for about 20 seconds. Serve the silken, refreshing treat immediately.

23 June 2011

No-Knead Dinner Rolls

But you will need a food processor. Total time should be 2 hours: from pantry to hot from the oven. Makes about 12 rolls.

Fluffy and tender but substantial, convenient and easy but completely made from scratch, impressive to guests but the nine-year old next door could do it while watching cartoons.

1 Cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 Cups bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoon rapid rise (bread machine) yeast
roughly 1 to 2 Cups lukewarm water

1. Add dry ingredients to food processor.
2. Turn it on. Through the feed tube pour water in a slow stream until all the flour has gathered into a moist ball of dough wadding around the blade. If the dough sticks to the side of the food processor, add a teaspoon of bread flour at a time to dry it out a little.
3. Dump dough into a bowl, cover with a damp towel, and leave in the warmest, most humid place you can find for an hour.
4. Line a baking sheet or two with parchment paper.
5. Pull half-fist sized pieces of dough from the ball, roll them into a sphere, and space them an inch apart on the baking sheet. When you finish, cover the dough balls with a damp towel. Let them rise until the oven is hot.
6. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. When it hits 400 degrees, stick the baking sheet in and turn the heat down to 375 degrees. Bake 18-22 minutes, until gently browned.

Wrap the fresh hot rolls in a clean dry towel in a basket. Serve with budder, zham, or hunny.

20 June 2011

Sad Food News, or How to Fail at Everyday Tasks

  1. Deer ate all 30 of our lettuce heads in one night.
  2. Deer ate most of our cucumber leaves that night too.
  3. Dear ate a lot of our bean leaves as well. Yup, same night.
  4. I saw rabbits in the yard yesterday. Adorable little munching machines.
  5. Although central NC has seen a lot of frightening lightning or wind storms lately, it has not rained in forever. It is quite hot.
  6. The only vegetable producing its heart out in our garden is summer squash, which is the sole vegetable I hate.
  7. I failed to make an appetizing pasta sauce with a tomato sauce base, even though I used a recipe that always works when George makes it.
  8. I have a dentist appointment in a few days, the fear of which inhibits me from drowning my sorrows in chocolate chocolate chip ice cream.

12 June 2011

Almond Butter Cookies

I used to be a pretty horrible cook, but I'm proud to announce that through careful effort I've grown into a blazingly mediocre cook. Back when I was truly contemptible, I received a peanut butter version of this cookie recipe from a friend. After making the recipe, I found the cookies dry, crumbly, and requiring large quantities of milk to push them down my esophagus. Of course, there's no way of knowing if the disastrous results were the recipe's fault or mine.

George, an excellent cookie concocter, never had this problem. First he created a pretty delicious peanut butter cookie recipe that I enjoyed. Then he took his mastery to the next level by substituting peanut butter with its moister, subtle sibling: almond butter.

But he wasn't satisfied with just a great-tasting cookie, oh no. He took great care in forming the dough into perfect rounds. First he put a portion of the dough on a piece of wax paper and rolled it into a cylinder 1 1/2 – 2 inches in diameter. He froze the dough like that, and when he was ready to make cookies, he unwrapped the wax paper and sliced the dough into 1/4 – 3/8 inch thick rounds.

At this point he pressed a whole pecan into the center of each round. The pecans were just a shade darker than the actual cookie dough. To make sure the rounds cooked into perfect shapes, he spaced the rounds an inch apart from each other on the baking sheet, and after rescuing them from the oven's fiery embrace, cooled them on a wire rack.

The result: beautiful, chewy cookies with a crunchy center (the pecan) and sophisticated flavor. Why don't you treat your guests to these cookies as well? They're so simple to make that it seems wasteful not to make them. I mean, how lazy can you get?

Almond Butter Cookies

1 Cup almond butter
1/2 Cup unsalted butter
3/8 Cup white sugar
3/8 Cup brown sugar
1 egg
3 Tablespoons plain soy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 and 1/4 Cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Cream together almond butter, butter, and sugar.
  3. Mix in egg, soy milk, and vanilla.
  4. Mix together flour, baking powder and salt. Then mix all the ingredients together.
  5. Make rounds as described above, or Alternatively, make golf-ball sized spheres of dough and press them down on the cookie sheet with a fork. Use either an ungreased baking sheet or a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
  7. Serve with a suggestive wink.

07 June 2011

Vegetarian Kimchi Dumplings

Kimchi dumplings are one of those no-brainer vegetarian snacks. Do you like steamed dumplings? Yes. Do you like them a little juicy and with a bit of a kick? Absolutely. Would you like to pay about $4 for a large bag of them? Definitely.

At my local Asian grocer of choice, Oriental Supermarket Food and Gift, the freezer section teems with vegetarian dumpling options. Unfortunately, my favorite dumplings, the pumpkin buns, have vanished. When I demanded Why why whyyyyyy? of the owner, her English and my Korean were mutually not up to the task of an explanation. An unsolved mystery for the ages, no doubt.

I have enjoyed several of the korean dumplings I've tried, but only kimchi dumplings deserve their own post. The brand: Yissine. The ingredients: all vegetables and seasonings I understand and am willing to funnel into my body (Thank God I don't have MSG sensitivity). A surprisingly large amount of soybean curd translates into a hefty protein kick, and along with the gentle presence of the cabbage offers quite a lot of iron.

It takes about 8 minutes from freezer to steamer to mouth. Sheer tasty convenience.

If you cannot find kimchi dumplings (also called kimchi mandu), you can make your own. Lately I've encountered a string of kimchi dumpling recipes, which I will collect here for your edification.

Korean Napa Cabbage Kimchi Recipe (Mak Kimchi) from Asian Dumpling Tips
Try her vegetarian fish sauce recipe with the dumplings.
Kimchi Dumplings with Mushrooms and Bean Sprouts at a page on Vegetarian Dim Sum
Jaylene's Kimchi Mandu with Lemon-Chili Sauce
Cindy's Simple Kimchi Sesame Mandu (uses grams instead of ounces)
Serious Eats Kimchi dumpling recipe with vermicelli noodles

02 June 2011

Lettuce Wrap or How to Use Garlic Scapes

Tangy, savory, springy, and fresh. As I bit into my hastily thrown-together lettuce wrap, I blinked in surprise. I didn't expect something so delicious. I paused and wondered where I had gone right.

George tried to grow maybe 30 garlic plants in our vegetable garden this summer. It turns out that garlic is a sturdy plant that is easy to grow and matures quite late in the season. Our garden now brims with garden plants, taking up space once occupied by vegetables you could eat sooner. That's why I was super relieved when George discovered that garlic plants make garlic scapes, which we can harvest and eat now.

Garlic scapes are like chives or green onions married to garlic. Raw, they offer a fresh tanginess with a bit of a burn at the back of your throat. My previous experience with garlic scapes was at Motorino, a fancy pizza place in NYC. I ordered a seasonal pizza with garlic scapes and just figured garlic scapes were some chic little-known herb-of-the-month for hipsters. Little did I know that garlic scapes are simply a by-product of garlic farming. Everyone should know about them! But I looked at them every day without a thought in my mind until George brought some into the kitchen and told me what they were.

Well, we didn't know what to do with them at first, except cook them on pizza. So we went and bought a frozen pizza, sprinkled chopped garlic scapes and sliced mushrooms on top, and baked. They were good that way. Real good. After that we had a bunch of leftover chopped scapes. So I mixed some with grated daikon radish and wasabi and put them in our somen noodle dipping sauce. They tasted fine in that, but kind of too hard for a dipping sauce.

Yesterday I felt a gaping abyss of Hungry open in my stomach so I ran to the refrigerator and made a quick snack. This is the recipe, and let me say, it was REAL GOOD. Garlic scapes and lime mayonnaise should get married and have lime-garlic-mayo babies.

Lettuce Wrap

1 flatbread or whole wheat wrap, microwaved or toasted until warm and flexible
1/2 tsp. McCormick's lime mayonesa or mayo whipped with a little fresh lime juice
a handful of garlic scapes, chopped
2 handfuls fresh springy lettuce

On the flatbread, spread the mayonnaise. Sprinkle with garlic scapes, top with lettuce, roll up tightly, and take a big bite. Chew.
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