Monday, May 24, 2010

From the Cookbook Cupboard: Whole Foods Kitchen and World-of-the-East

Tomato and Lentil Dahl with Toasted Almonds 
from Whole Foods Kitchen
 from Madhur Jaffrey's World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking
My husband prepared the dahl, I made the naan.  On one half of the kitchen, he chopped away at the onion and garlic, measured out spices and lentils and other such things, while on the other I kneaded and floured and rolled dough.  His pot simmered on the left front burner while my skillet griddled on the right.  A perfect pair, we are.  Oh and the same goes for the naan/dahl combo.  

After sitting down to our bounty, my first words, spoon in mouth, were something like, "Omm, yeahmm."  More eloquently stated, a second later, "That's good."   I then tore off a hunk of naan and dipped into the bowl, ate that, and said, "Nice," or something to that effect.  So yeah, they were good!  If only we hadn't feasted earlier on all-we-could-eat vegan breakfast nachos, to our great discomfort.  Thus we could only eat one bowl each of the dahl.  Pity.  But we enjoyed the leftovers for lunch today and I say, it was still a delight.              

As far as the recipes were concerned... of preparing the dahl, he said, it was ridiculously easy.  Making the naan, on the other hand, got a bit sticky (literally).  The recipe states to add yogurt (of a nondescript amount) to the flour mixture slowly until everything is incorporated.  I plopped some soy yogurt, about a 1/2 cup, into the bowl of flour, squished it around with my hands and thought, this is going to be a pain.  The parts that had yogurt in 'em were clumpy, the other parts were just loose flour.  No amount of squishing really got them to become one mass.  So I proceeded to add more yogurt, and just as I was tilting the yogurt container towards the bowl, letting the stuff ooze out, the whole lot of it plopped out.  Huh, that may be too much, I said to myself.  A quart of yogurt, I think it was.  You know, the big container.  Anyhow, I squished it, and realized, it was really really sticky.  So I sprinkled more flour.  And some more.  All in all, after the kneading and rolling on a floured surface and the whole process, I think I had to add about 2 more cups of flour.  And I didn't think to add more baking powder.  In the end, the taste and texture of the finished naan were great, but it didn't have that light airiness that naan tends to have.  Erm, my fault.  But whatever.  It was still yummy.        

What a gorgeous couple, eh?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

"So what are you doing with your hair these days?"...part 1

...a diary about my foray into an alternative method of hair washing using baking soda and apple cider vinegar
Day -2 
Washed my hair using my usual natural/organic shampoo followed with conditioner.  Post-shower, patted with a towel, applied an organic no-frizz oil to the ends, and did a short blow-dry of my bangs.  Typical morning routine.

Day -1 
I didn't shower today and thusly didn't wash my hair.  In a word: Yuck.  It equated to greasy, stringy, good-for-nothing hair.  Thought, this is for the birds.  Wore a beanie all day to hide the hideousness.  Decided, tomorrow I'm going to try that baking soda/apple cider vinegar thing I've read about.  Coincidentally, a lot of people in the blogosphere are giving it a go lately and calling it the "no poo" method.  Note:  My husband abhors the term, and therefore I'm not allowed to repeat it ever again.  No really, he got all worked up over it.  I also can't say, "I'm not using shampoo anymore."  Because to him that implies lax grooming habits.  I'm instead using an "alternative method of washing my hair," or something to that affect.  Sheesh.
Day 1  
First attempt at alternative hair washing with baking soda and apple-cider vinegar.  Pre-shower, prepared the stuffs:  in separate containers, dissolved 1 tbsp.baking soda in 1 cup warm water, mixed 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar in 1 cup warm water.  In the shower I wet my hair thoroughly, poured the baking soda mixture slowly over my whole head and sort-of rubbed it around my scalp.  Then rinsed with water.  Thought, my hair has that squeaky clean feeling. That's not normal.  And I wasn't too sure I liked that.  Then I poured the vinegar mixture over my whole head, rubbed a bit, and rinsed with water.  The hair felt less squeaky.  Better.  Finished the rest of my usual body cleansing routine.  For any interested parties - you know, if anyone just wants to be more like me, which I warmly welcome and condone - I like to lather/wash with Dr. Bronner's Pure Castile Soap, the Unscented Baby Mild formula, that I've added some essential oils to.  Favorite oils include: Lavender, Bergamot, or Sweet Orange.  Erm, anyhow... post-shower, I patted dry with a towel, didn't blow-dry my bangs or any hairs, and applied a little no-frizz oil to the ends.  A couple hours later, after my hair air-dried, I noticed it felt pleasantly soft.  So nice.  

[Wait, hold  up a minute...why are you doing this, you ask?  In brief, I say, check out Babyslime's Info: Shampoo Free.  There's good stuff there.]

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Week 3 of My One Small Change For May: More Bagels!

I will save the world with bagels, I tell ya!  A plain bagel here, a cheesy bagel there, and it all adds up!  Peace will be born in the bagel!  Well, maybe not, in point of fact...but I've been having fun making them and eating them, and that's gotta count for something!  

If you've been in the know, you're aware that I've been participating in the One Small Change movement begun by Hip Mountain Mama's blog.  I have been following along and hearing about other's changes every step of the way, and I am so excited to be a part of such a large-scale (in terms of overall impact) movement that starts with such small-scale changes in our everyday lives.  I gather so much motivation from others like me who want to make a difference but can only do so much in their own lives - but isn't that all it takes?  I'm not the only one who cares about the impacts on my environment, on my neighbors, on my family, and on my own body... that makes me feel like we're not all terribly doomed.    

A recap of some of the changes I've made this year (some I've shared with the community and some I haven't):

*I've stopped using plastic produce/bulk item bags and instead use ripstop nylon bags hand-made in Eugene, OR (so they're local, too!)  
*I've been hanging our laundry to dry on a clothes line I installed in our basement 
*My husband and I are toilet-training our kitty (yes, training her to use the actual toilet as opposed to a litter box) to eliminate the need for litter (currently, we use eco-friendly litter, made of corn, wheat, or newspaper)
*We've made a commitment to support local alternative energy sources by signing up with our energy supplier to include the price of clean wind/green energy offsets on our monthly bill.     

I'm currently in the process of May's small change:  making oft-used bread-goods at home rather than buying them at the store (bagels and flat-bread, thus far).  I'm pleased with the outcome.  

This is my second batch of bagels for the month of May.  This time, I used the same basic dough recipe but I made a few tiny adjustments.  I substituted about 1/4 cup of millet flour (because that's all I had on hand) for some of the whole wheat flour, added 1 teaspoon of vital wheat gluten, used honey instead of sugar, added about 3 tablespoons of pesto to the dough, and omitted the oil because the pesto was pretty oily on its own.  The pesto added a nice, subtle dimension.  Yummy.  Yet still not flavorful enough for my refined taste buds.  It may be the flour that's the problem.  I'm interested in trying a dough with less whole-wheat flour, perhaps half and half - I feel like no matter what flavors I add or toppings I use in a predominantly whole wheat dough, that wheaty taste is going to stand out.  But right now I have to use up what I have (two huge jars of the stuff) before I can justify getting some lighter flour.  

My bagel-forming technique has improved, but as you can see, there are some cracks in the bagels where seams opened up during the boiling process.  No worries, though.  

They were well-liked this morning for breakfast with some vegan cream-cheese.  On the side, we had a few dollops of plain soy yogurt with warm gooey apricots (dried fruit, soaked overnight in the fridge, then boiled down until the liquid is a little syrupy).  Mmmmmm, breakfast.      
My overall thoughts on the process of making bread-goods: 
*It saves money, though I'm not sure how much.  I'm going to guess a couple dollars, no more.  But two dollars per week is nothing to balk at.
*For every batch, I avoid purchasing a product that comes enclosed in an earth-hating plastic bag.
*It's been fun expanding my cooking repertoire, and it gives me confidence that I can make other awesome foods that I've taken-for granted as being difficult or tedious.
*I love knowing exactly what goes into the food my family consumes.  I can make healthy choices and trust that the ingredients are fresh.         

Just one -
*I'm still figuring out how to best manage my time when it comes to yeast-rising, letting dough stand, getting chores done around a recipe schedule, etc.  Bagels and flat-bread are easy and take no more than two hours out of my day, but when the time is broken up between several rest-periods, I feel like I can't really get much done in the intervals.  I think I just need to plan things out a little better - i.e. have a basket of laundry ready to be thrown into the wash on the first rise, then hung up to dry on the second, etc.  I feel like I'll be more efficient this way.  I just need a bit more practice and tweaking. 

If you ask me right now, I'm thinking I can keep this up.  After May, perhaps I'll slacken the schedule to every other week.  Then we'll be able to enjoy bagels every other day.  That will be the good life.  *Sigh*              

Friday, May 14, 2010

I'll be one of those people!

A breakfast I could get used to!  A homemade bagel, pre-toasting, pre-butter and pre-nutritional yeast

I've always swooned over the idea of baking bread, and have heard from many regular bread-bakers that it becomes a very meditative, mindful task when they get into the rhythm of doing it each week.  I want that.  I also want the yummy bread goodness in my belly.  I guess I've been missing out.  Never baked a simple crusty loaf.  I have however managed moist, chocolatey banana bread (once), and whipped up a few batches (maybe just two) of homemade hamburger buns when we were going gluten free for a while.  But the baking bug never caught. Now, I think I'm ready.  

My One Small Change for the month of May is to try cutting back on store-bought bread goods and, instead, make them at home from scratch.   I've psyched myself up to prepare one bread-y item that we would normally buy at a grocery store per week, hopefully making enough to freeze some.  My intention in doing this is to reduce packaging waste, but also to save a few dollars, and perhaps the thing that makes it really worth-while is the thought of connecting more with my food and providing even more delicious, made-with-love nourishment for my family.  Thus far in my bread challenge, I've tried my hand at making bagels and flatbread (Greek gyro style), with pleasing results.  

Bagel in the toaster oven.

Last week we had bagels:  The recipe I used came from this site and was easy to follow and execute.  It made about a dozen (I'm just eating the second to last of this batch for my breakfast, yum).  I used whole wheat bread flour, without any topping (well, not true, on a few I sprinkled some shredded cheddar I had leftover from another recipe...but it was very minimal).  It made dense, hearty-tasting bagels.  I realize now they may have been dense due to my yeast not activating enough.  Next time, we'll see if there's a difference, now that I know.  I mixed in a little bit of garlic powder and onion flakes to the flour while preparing the dough, but I couldn't taste them in the bagels.  No biggie.  My husband and I both liked them. Next time I think I'll add fresh garlic with some sautéed onion, perhaps with some poppy seeds as well.  Ooh, and my favorite type of bagel to buy from cafes or the store is cheddar jalapeño... I'm curious how a whole-wheat cheddar jalapeño bagel would taste!  We'll find out soon!       
Here's a picture I snapped before promptly folding the thing up, shoving it in my mouth, and moaning with delight.  Not the best shot, but no other photos were taken.  The evidence has been destroyed.      

Last night I made flat-bread for gyros ("the best I've ever had," said my husband!).  I started with dough from this one recipe (the by-hand version, at the bottom) that called for baking the flat bread, but thought they might turn out too puffy and therefore incapable of easy folding, judging from the pictures.  So I looked at a few other recipes that required grilling instead of baking and decided that would be a better method of cooking.  Following the recipe up until step 2, I divided the dough into balls and let them rise 10 minutes more, then rolled them into rounds and immediately grilled them one by one on a pre-heated cast iron skillet at medium-high heat.  I set them on a plate covered with a clean dish towel to keep them warm while I finished the rest of the fixings.  Verdict:  Perfection!  They were very pliable and soft, just a little chewy, but still firm enough to hold a boat-load of fillings.  No complaints at all with this dough recipe!  I'll be making it again, most definitely.      

For the gyro filling, I spread a thin layer of tzatziki on the flat-bread, piled on sautéed mushrooms with onion and zucchini, veggie chikn' fingers cut into thin strips, chopped cucumber, shredded romaine, and then sprinkled a bit of feta and grated cheddar over the top.  I have to say that this meal was awesome!  We each finished off two gyros, which is kind of a lot...  we're pigs, yes.     

I found the tzatziki recipe here and it was super easy.  I substituted with soy yogurt because we're cutting back on dairy (ignore the fact that we found it acceptable to have two types of cheese in the gyros, but no cow's milk yogurt). And I cut corners by not draining the yogurt overnight - pure laziness, that's all I can say.  It wasn't too runny, as the recipe warned it would be.  I also used three cloves of garlic instead of one - the result was tremendously garlicky...perhaps too much so!  I woke up with garlic breath this morning, that's how garlicky it was.  I'd say two cloves would be plenty for my taste buds, and one clove sufficient, but you can adjust to your own liking, of course.   
My next attempt may be at crackers.  I like crackers.  My husband likes crackers.  Together, we enjoy crackers.  Home-made crackers would rock.  

Oh!!! Or cinnamon swirl bread in the style of Dave's delicious creation!  Yeahhhh.  

Mmmmmmm.  Bread stuffs.  

Sunday, May 9, 2010

On second glance...

Here's what I saw yesterday in Apartment Eye-Spy:

Easy, you say?  I can't stump you.  
Ok, so humor the rest of us, let's see what I spied...

Friday, May 7, 2010

It's the simple things... : An Apartment Eye-Spy

True, happiness can't come from found objects, man-made things, stuff.  
Still, sometimes the littlest trifles of things 
- tarnished trinkets or treasure -
- the texture of old glass - 
- smells of faraway places that may linger in an object  - 
make me smile. 
And that's reason enough to keep them around.  
A game of Eye-Spy reminds me that they're there...
Here's what I spy with my little eye...
At first, just a peek!

Come back tomorrow to take a step back, get a better look, and find out what it is I spy!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bergamot Tea Cakes

This Sunday afternoon I was craving something cakey but not, familiar but wholly different, soothing while at the same time uplifting, sweet but subtly so.  I am in no way a baker, but have occasionally dabbled in what I call 'adventure baking' (what bakers would just call 'baking' I suppose).  By 'adventure' I mean make it up as you go, hope the result won't be disastrous, but enjoy the process nonetheless.  It turned out the result was, by unanimous vote (well, all of two voters), a yummy success!

Bergamot Tea Cakes   

1 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon glutenous rice flour
1/2 stick of softened butter
a pinch of salt
3 large eggs
1/4 cup of warm water
10 drops bergamot essential oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  With a whisk,  mix the wet ingredients and dry ingredients in separate bowls.  Combine wet ingredients with dry ingredients to make a thick batter.   Small chunks of butter left in the batter are fine.  Spoon batter into a lightly greased muffin tin or non-greased silicone muffin mold.
Sprinkle tops with a pinch of sugar.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick in center comes out clean.  Break one apart, serve with a cup of tea, milk, or on its own, and go 'mmmm.'

Makes 6-8 tea cakes.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Cookbook Cupboard: Veganomicon

This is a new, potentially permanent, 'thing' I'd like to share with you when you visit Cozy Little Life - an occasional recipe review from my favorites in my own kitchen's cookbook cupboard.  I don't cook from recipes often, in fact it's really rare, maybe four times a year...but my husband likes to use recipes when he cooks now and then, and I like to eat the things he makes me.  I've also been getting into a rut lately, a funk of sorts, and have been needing some new motivations to get me excited about cooking.  I love trying new dishes, but sometimes I can get so controlling (or is it lazy) when it comes to using a recipe, that I end up substituting like crazy, ignoring steps, and turning a dish into my own creation, and it's not always an improvement on the original.  So committing myself to trying out recipes in their original form with whole-hearted conviction will be a great exercise for me and my taste-buds!
Baja-Style Grilled Tempeh Tacos
VEGANOMICON: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook, 
by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero,
Da Capo Press & Lifelong Books

The first recipe review I'd like to share (hopefully not the last) is for Baja-Style Grilled Tempeh Tacos.  Yesterday was a hard day for me - I had a combination case of the deep blues and the 'mean reds' - so to help me out and cheer me up, my fantastic husband cooked dinner for me, using our Veganomicon which he bought for me this past Christmas.  

These tacos were just perfect - light, refreshing, fresh-tasting, healthy, tangy, yummy, oh so good...  The recipe didn't seem difficult, and a lot of the cooking time involves marinating.  You can prepare most of it ahead of time.  They went great with a light Mexican beer (in fact, the marinade is a spiced up beer-base) and would be perfect eaten on a warm summer evening.  Though we were stuffed, just the two of us having eaten the suggested 4 to 6 servings (do we just eat a lot, or what's the deal?), we didn't feel gross afterward.  The recipe made 8 tacos for us.

C'es La Vegan tried this recipe and gave it a rave review, as well.  I love her photo.  Her taco is topped with avocado, something I really wanted to try, but they were too pricey.   

If you're interested in giving this recipe a try, I recommend that you pick up a copy of Veganomicon - this cookbook has so many tasty-sounding dishes, some that we have tried and I'll soon blog about, some that I look forward to testing out in the future - I don't think you'll be disappointed!  

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Here Comes the Sun

My husband and I took a trip to visit my family in Tucson, AZ the first week of April.  The last time I saw them all was Christmas in 2007, and that was also the first time I introduced them to Austin, who at the time was my soon-to-be fiancé.  It was a short visit then of just a few days, and this time around, the trip was only five days long, so there was a lot of catching up, hanging out, and showing Austin the sights of the desert.  
Having grown up in the desert, I've gotten rather jaded about all that dry, dusty brown-ness and the hot, searing sunshine...but several years away and lots of time spent in the damp, gray northwest has helped me to appreciate it and given me a new perspective on it all.        

Here are a few photos I wanted to share from when my dad took us to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum:

Bright and Early: Apartment Eye-Spy

Good morning!  Welcome welcome, come on in.  Glad you stopped by!  Oh I see you have your cup of tea [coffee, smoothie, juice, water] in hand.  I think I'll join you...just one moment while I put on the pot...
Ah, that's better.  Sigh.  

So you were curious about my Eye-Spy, eh?  Well, go on, take another quick look-see.

Here's what I saw yesterday in Apartment Eye-Spy:



Here's a tiny hint:  you've actually seen all of these things before.  

Guessed, yet?  Still stumped, perhaps?  Ok, now step back with me, have a better look, and find out...