29 April 2008

what’s in a name? the slug •

As much as I would like to introduce this dinner as something else, I can’t. You know how nicknames come about. The little darlings start bantering and the hubby chimes in. They think they are being terribly clever, and the next thing you know, the lovely dinner you chopped, minced and sautéed over is affectionately called “The Slug”. Just because it was a tad longer than the baking sheet I chose, and I had to slightly curl it into a *gulp* worm shape. Despite the handle that it carries, this dinner a wonderful cheesy conglomeration rolled up in a yeast bread made with okara. Serve it with a crispy, green salad. I promise that it won’t be slimy at all.

The Slug • 

The Dough

1-3/4 cups warm water
1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast (2-1/4 teaspoons)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup warm wet okara (this is referring to the okara straight from your machine)
4 cups white unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat flour

In a large mixing bowl sprinkle yeast over warm water. Let it sit and dissolve for about 5 minutes. Stir and add the oil, salt, okara, and 2 cups of white flour. Beat well until gluten forms; the mixture will become stringy. Gradually add the rest of the flour until it forms a soft but firm dough. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let rise until double (about 1 hour). While the dough rises, prepare the filling. This recipe makes enough dough for 3 thin-crust pizzas, or 1 thin crust pizza and 1 Slug.

The Filling

1 cup dehydrated tomatoes 

Place dehydrated tomatoes in a bowl and cover them with warm water.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup sweet yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups white button mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups mozzarella cheese
2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

 In a large skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Sauté the  bell pepper, onion, and mushrooms until mushrooms are reduced and slightly browned, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Drain the tomatoes and add to the skillet, sauté briefly. Add salt. 

Oil a baking sheet with olive oil. Dividing dough into thirds, use two-thirds for your Slug. Using your fingers, press the dough flat onto the baking sheet. Spread your filling evenly across the dough. Sprinkle dough with mozzarella cheese, the herbs and the spices. Starting at long side of your dough, roll up and tuck in the ends, seam side down. Curve the roll slightly to form your Slug. Let rise in a warm area until double, approximately 45 minutes to an hour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the Slug for 35 to 45 minutes.

25 April 2008

rendezvous at midnight brownies •

Maybe it was the weather; the thunderstorms that rocked the house at 3:00 a.m. and woke me up. Maybe it was the fact that it was still raining this morning, and that the temperature outside was warmer than inside our home. Or that I had to take a darling to the doctor...again. Maybe it was the $400.00 bill down at Joe’s Auto Repair waiting for me. For whatever reason I needed something chocolate...and fast! I initially thought I would bake a batch of peanut butter brownies. As I pulled out the ingredients, however, the chill of the house really started to get me down. I changed my mind midstream, dreaming of warmer spices and heat. So I came up with this recipe—dark, seductive, and subtly spicy. Just like a rendzvous at midnight.

Rendezvous at Midnight Brownies •

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

In a microwaveable bowl melt together:

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (3 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons Hershey’s® Cocoa Special Dark

Microwave on high for one minute, stir and set aside to finish melting. After this mixture cools down a bit, mix in 1 cup wet okara* (this is referring to the okara straight from your machine), 2 teaspoons vanilla, 2 teaspoons chipolte pepper in adobo sauce (smooshed well with a fork). Is that a cooking term, “smooshed”?

In a large mixing bowl sift together:

1 cup white unbleached flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Sweetened whipped cream and chili powder for garnish (optional)

Add the chocolate mixture to the dry ingredients, mixing well. Spread into a foil lined (grease the foil) 8" x 8" square baking pan. Bake for approximately 35 - 40 minutes. Do not overbake! Cool completely before removing the foil and cutting into small squares. Split brownies in half and spread a layer of whipped cream in-between layers. Place a dollop of whipped cream on top and sprinkle with chili powder.  

*Note: You can substitute 2 large eggs, beaten, for the wet okara.

24 April 2008

mexican wedding cupcakes •

It was hard to go forward from my last post. Everyone’s comments were so kind, and I liked seeing my father everytime I pulled up my blog. But I could hear him in my head, “You’re starting to bug me, kid, get a move on!”.

I had several pineapple flowers left over from my Jousting entry, Mango Sherbet with Cardamom Cookie Cups. The little darlings devoured the sherbet and cookie cups, but left the dried fruit behind. Hmmmm. They were too pretty to let languish in their container so I whipped up these cupcakes. I adapted a recipe from The Creekside, a community cookbook. The cupcakes are dense, but moist, more on the line of carrot cake. I am not sure about other households with children, but in my home anything that has cream cheese frosting gets eaten. (We’ll see about the fruit garnish). The downside to these tasty cupcakes is that you have to keep them refrigerated. The upside is that they do not last long!

Mexican Wedding Cupcakes •

1 cup light brown sugar
1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained well
1 cup wet okara (this is referring to the okara straight from your machine)
1-1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl mix the brown sugar, pineapple and okara well. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until incorporated. Line muffin tins with paper liners and fill 2/3 full. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool slightly and move the cupcakes to wire racks to cool completely. Frost with Cream Cheese Frosting. Garnish with Dried Pineapple Flowers right before serving (do not refrigerate flowers). Keep cupcakes refrigerated.

Cream Cheese Frosting •

4 ounces cream cheese (softened)
4 ounces butter (softened)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar

Cream butter and cream cheese well. Add the vanilla and sugar and beat until smooth.

I also wanted to post the original recipe (no okara) for those who might want to try baking the cake. It looks beautiful garnished on top with overlapped Pineapple Flowers. 

Mexican Wedding Cake •

1 (20 ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
2 cups white unbleached flour
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups chopped walnuts

Cream Cheese Frosting •

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (8 ounce) stick of butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar

Mix cake ingredients together; pour into 2 greased 9-inch round layer cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Let cool in pans. Mix frosting ingredients together; spread between layers and on top. Keep refrigerated.

19 April 2008

a taste of yellow / a memory of dad •

The phone call finally came. The one I had tried to prepare for and was never prepared for. The one that I dreaded and yet, somehow, did not; he had suffered so much already. “It’s time” my sister said. My father’s second bout with T cell Lymphoma had turned the corner, he was failing rapidly. We had been making the six hour trip religiously for months on the weekends. Packing up the car, the kids, the dog. Arriving late on a Friday night and doing the best we could over Saturday and Sunday to help my mother. My loving and patient husband never complaining, doing the yard work and other maintenance that my father couldn’t manage anymore. Somehow my father’s son and two of my sisters were suspiciously absent, even though he lived not five minutes from my parent’s home, and the sisters lived in town. One of my sisters, who lived states away, whose children were grown and on their own, had taken a leave of absence from her job. She had been there already for two months. Did I mention she was an angel on earth? Another sister, 3 and a half hours away, did what she could with a little one and husband to take care of.

You see, my father wanted to die at home. Among his trees, his birds, and his garden and plants. He wanted to see his Japanese Maple change colors in the Fall. He wanted to smell his peonies. He wanted to be able to sit on his rocking chair on the screen porch and enjoy the paradise that he had made. And a paradise it was! Oh, to many people it wouldn’t seem so— after all, there was no beach, no lake or mansion. Instead there were fruit trees and a huge organic garden, bursting with vegetables. Flowers bloomed everywhere; roses, lilacs, annuals and perennials. Butterflies flitted among the plants and the rabbits had fun teasing the dog. He was a graphic artist by profession, but a farmer at heart. My father was at peace sitting on that porch.

When my sister answered the door, she handed me the baby monitor. “You’re on night watch” was all she said, heading straight for bed. We fell into our routines easily, taking care of my father. It was a privilege. My sister and mother gave the job of feeding him to me, because for some unknown reason, I could get him to eat. I made his Cream of Wheat® just thin enough for him to swallow. I made sure he drank water all day long. I would blow on one teaspoon of coffee at a time, because he still wanted it with his breakfast. I would get right in front of his face (the morphine and cancer making him unresponsive for moments at a time). “Open your mouth, Dad”. “Dad, open your mouth.” “Dad, open”. Until one day he replied, “You’re beginning to bug me...” Even in his drugged induced state he kept his sense of humor. There at the end, and it seems so ridiculous now, I did not want to stop feeding him. The cancer was killing him, and he wasn’t hungry anymore, but I could not, would not let him starve! Because to me, after being raised by a gardener and artist who taught me what real fruit and vegetables tasted like, and a mother that was an amazing cook, food meant comfort. Food meant LOVE.

Within two weeks of arriving at my parent’s home, my father passed away. He waited until the house was quiet. If you knew my extended family at all, you would realize what a feat that was. For the two weeks I was there full-time, my father still had many visitors (relatives and friends). He had endured a rough night before he died. My siblings and I were at a constant vigil at his side, thinking he would die in the night. The next day, he was calm, breathing softly, and some of my sisters left to do some much needed errands. I could not leave. The invitation was presented, but I just couldn’t go. Something (someone?) compelled me to stay, even though it looked like my father was going to stay around awhile. I settled in a chair in the kitchen to knit, listening to his even breathing in the other room. My mother was with me, reading the paper. Getting up to find a measuring tape for my knitting project, I wandered over to his bedside, and leaning over, I whispered in his ear “I love you, Daddy”. I went upstairs, grabbed the tape and stepped back through his room. He took two breaths and was gone. 

At his wake, in his memory, we served his homemade wine, made from the grapes he grew in his yard.

My father died in November four years ago. Sometimes it seems like only yesterday, sometimes it seems like it has been forever. How fitting that my father loved lemon, as I bake my Lemon Sweethearts for A Taste of Yellow (over at Barbara’s blog: Winos and Foodies ) and LiveStrongDay. Dad, I know you would have preferred a lemon meringue pie, but I make meringue about as well as you made yeast bread (until you got your bread-maker). If you were alive today, I would serve you a big plate of Sweethearts with a cup of strong black coffee. You would compliment me on my frugal use of okara, cooking and baking with it instead of throwing it away, questioning why I make soy milk anyhow, and bewildered that two of your granddaughters are now vegetarians. We would sit on the porch and watch the birds and laugh at the silly dog chasing the rabbits. Since you are not here, I will take my Sweethearts to my good friend Elaine, a breast cancer survivor for over ten years. We will sit and sip our coffee, share the cookies and reminisce over the loved ones that we have lost...I miss you, Dad.

Lemon Sweetheart Cookies •

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

8 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated white sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup wet okara (this is referring to the okara straight from your machine) or mashed soft tofu
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups unbleached white flour
1 cup dried tart cherries
1 cup chopped white chocolate (or white chocolate chips)

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and cream cheese well. Add sugar and beat until fluffy, about three minutes. Add lemon zest, salt, lemon juice and okara and mix well. Mix in baking powder and flour. Stir in cherries and chocolate by hand. Drop by teaspoonfuls on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, until light golden brown around edges. Let cool slightly before moving to wire racks to cool completely. Makes approximately 5 dozen cookies.

15 April 2008

It Finally Happened!

It finally happened, I have come up a little in the blogging world! Ryan (at Ryan’s Recipe Blog) has tagged me for a meme. Here are the rules: Write your own six-word memoir. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you’d like. Link to the person who tagged you in your post. Tag five or six more blogs with links. Remember to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play.

Tactile, Objective, Observer, Nurturer, Tender, Zany (TOONTZ)- my six word memoir

Six people I have tagged: Kimi from My plate, my world, Norm from Eat or Die, Pixie from You say Tomato...I say Tomato, Elle from Elle’s New England Kitchen, Kat from A Good Appetite, Aaron from The Xocoatl Express

11 April 2008

mango sherbet/cardamom cookie cups •

It’s Jousting time again! I can hear the comments now...can’t that woman come up with anything else? Maybe I am so deprived of sunshine and warmth that I just can’t be held responsible for my actions. On the day that I finally gathered all my ingredients and jotted down my recipe for the Royal Food Joust (over at her royal highness’ site, The Leftover Queen)I had HAD it with the weather! Do you know that it snowed that day?! So this is my way of thumbing my nose at Mother Nature this week. You can throw all the snow you want at me, Sister, I am dreaming of warmer weather. I am sitting on an island somewhere, spooning a light and refreshing sherbet into my mouth, and polishing off that crispy, delicate cookie. I just hope she didn’t see me sneak off and put on my wool sweater afterwards. Soon, I’ll be singing, Here Comes the Sun—yeah, any day now...

Mango/Pineapple Sherbet •

2 cups pureed fresh ripe mango
1 cup pureed fresh pineapple
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
4 cups vanilla soy milk
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon agar agar flakes
1 cup water

In a blender, whiz the first six ingredients. Prepare agar agar mixture; In a small saucepan, sprinkle Agar Agar flakes over the one cup of water. Let the flakes soak for one minute. Bring the water to a boil, boil for one minute. Let cool for one minute. Slowly blend the agar agar mixture into the mango mixture. Immediately freeze according to your ice-cream maker’s instructions.

Cardamom Cookie Cups •

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl sift together:

1/2 cup almonds, finely ground
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup white unbleached flour
1/4 teaspoon cardamon
1/8 teaspoon salt

Blend in:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large egg whites, beaten until frothy

With a pencil, draw six  4" circles on a piece of parchment paper. Cut apart the circles and flip upside down (pencil side to countertop). Form 3 cookies by spooning a tablespoonful of batter on top of each parchment piece to edges of circle. Space apart on top of baking sheet (three to a baking sheet). Bake cookies until golden brown around edges, 8 - 10 minutes. Immediately (being careful not to burn yourself) grab the edges of  the parchment and drape the cookie, centered, over an inverted (3/4 cup) greased custard cup, gently folding sides down. Peel off parchment, and let the cookies cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. While first three are baking, get the other three ready to bake. Makes 14 to 16 cookie cups. Can be made up to 3 days ahead. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

10 April 2008

okara sunshine granola •

I have mentioned before about the early morning rush at our house. Anything that can be pulled out of the pantry, blurry-eyed, and eaten without too much fuss rates big here. I try and keep granola made up since it fits that criteria. It cuts down on the consumption of ready-made cereal, too. 

Okara Sunshine Granola •

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.

In a medium mixing bowl combine:

1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup wet okara (this is referring to the okara straight from your machine)
1/4 cup canola oil
3 teaspoons orange extract

In a large mixing bowl combine:

4 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup ground flaxseed 
1/2 cup ground walnuts
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. You might have to end up using your hands. In two (greased) 9" x 13" pans, crumble the granola mixture evenly. Bake mixture 30 to 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, breaking apart clumps if necessary until slightly browned. After 25 minutes, add 2/3 cup dried sweetened cranberries and 2/3 cup chopped dates. Check often in the last 5 to 10 minutes, and do not allow the granola to brown too much. Let the granola cool in the pans completely. Store in a closed container.

09 April 2008

okara felafel •

A delightfully tasty dinner, one that the little darlings love. If you have the time to bake Okara Pita Bread, it will really jazz up your meal. I usually use canned beans for this, because I am terrible about planning ahead. It probably would be even tastier if you cooked the chickpeas yourself. Don’t try and get by without the zesty sauce, it really makes the meal!

Okara Felafel •

1 (29 ounce) can chickpeas (drained, rinsed, and mashed)
1 cup wet okara
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup celery, minced
1/2 cup green onions, (white portion only) minced
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon paprika
cayenne (dash or to taste)
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
3-1/2 tablespoons white unbleached flour (you will need extra for coating)
3 tablespoons tahini
2 eggs, beaten

In a large mixing bowl, combine above ingredients well. Chill mixture for at least one hour or more. With your hands dusted with flour, scoop out mixture to make 1" balls. Coat the balls with flour. Heat a 2"- 3" pool of oil in a heavy skillet or heavy saucepan to 365 degrees. Deep fry the Felafel (three at a time, depending on size of skillet or pan...don’t overcrowd) until golden brown. Hold in a warm oven until done frying all the Felafel. Serve warm with Tangy Yogurt Sauce.

Tangy Yogurt Sauce •

3/4 cup tahini
1 tablespoon natural creamy peanut butter (optional)
1-1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 large clove garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup green onions, finely minced
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely minced
1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely minced (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon paprika
dash cayenne

In a medium sized mixing bowl combine sauce ingredients and beat well. Refrigerate any sauce that is left over and use it for dip for raw veggies, or as a salad dressing.

08 April 2008

okara pita bread •

One dinner that is a favorite at our house is Felafel. Since Okara lends itself to bread so easily, I thought I would try and adapt my favorite pita bread recipe. I was pleasantly surprised with the results. Most of the breads formed the necessary pocket for Felafel, those that didn’t— got eaten anyway. The little darlings think it is pretty nifty that you can make a pita bread from scratch. 

Okara Pita Bread •

2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon yeast
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup warm wet okara (or substitute mashed soft tofu)
1 cup whole wheat flour
4 to 5 cups unbleached white flour

In a large mixing bowl mix the water, yeast and honey well. Let sit for 5 minutes to dissolve the yeast. Mix in salt and okara. Add one cup whole wheat flour and two cups of the white unbleached flour. Beat well to develop the gluten. Continue to add the rest of the white flour until you get a stiff dough. Knead the dough for at least 10 minutes. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and place in a warm spot to rise for approximately 1 hour. After the hour, punch the dough down, and knead a few times. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Divide the dough into 10 to 12 portions. Roll the portions into balls, cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
After the 10 minutes, take a ball of dough, and flatten it to 1/4". Place on a greased cookie sheet. Repeat for the remainder of the dough, placing two to a cookie sheet. Bake for 5 - 7 minutes until browned. Move to a wire rack to cool while you flatten and bake the rest of the dough. Makes approximately 10 - 12 pitas.

06 April 2008

Check this out!

Jerry (over at Cooking by the Seat of my Pants!) is giving away an Ipod Touch. No joke! Check out Jerry’s site and register. The give-away ends on April 11th, so hurry!

dark chocolate cherry brownies •

Well, the temperature outside yesterday passed 60 degrees, and we actually had sunshine! I thought it called for a celebration. Which means, of course, CHOCOLATE. And not just milk chocolate but rich, dark chocolate. With the addition of okara, these brownies are more cake-like than fudgy, but are they delicious.

Dark Chocolate Cherry Brownies •

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a microwaveable bowl melt together:

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (3 ounces)
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons Hershey’s® Cocoa Special Dark
4 tablespoons butter

Microwave on high for one minute, stir and set aside to finish melting.

In a large mixing bowl sift together:

1 cup white unbleached flour
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup ground or chopped walnuts

Toss in 1 cup dried tart cherries.

In a small mixing bowl stir together:

1 cup wet okara (this is referring to the okara straight from your machine)
2 teaspoons vanilla

Add the chocolate mixture to the okara mixture. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing well. Spread into a greased 8 x 8 square baking pan. (To make it easier to cut, line your pan with a sheet of foil that overhangs the edges an inch or two. Spray the foil with cooking spray, then spread your batter. When it is finished baking, just lift out the foil and you can cut perfect squares with no waste....and that is important when you are serving something chocolate!) Bake for approximately 35 - 45 minutes. Do not overbake.