Wednesday, August 07, 2013

And All the Rest

Yes, it's been a long time since I've posted here, and I think it's time for me to face facts.  Life has gotten very busy with a new part-time job (still food-related), other work projects, a funky gardening year, and just changes in general.  Truthfully, I'm not doing a whole lot of cooking these days -- summer seems to be the time to just grab something (like a handful of carrots or cucumber slices and cheese) to fill the gnaw in my belly, and I just don't care about trying something new.  I just can't keep up.

Anyway, it's time for me to take a rest from this blog.  I don't know if I'll be back -- the possibility is there, but it's not really likely.  There are other things I want to do in my life, and I feel tapped out here.

So, if I don't see you back here -- happy cooking!


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Bean Living

You might think that when I went vegetarian 20 years ago, I would have made dried beans a sizable portion of my regular diet.  After all, even in the early 1990s there was a strong perception that vegetarians mostly ate rice and beans in order to get the complete proteins they no longer absorbed from eating meat.

Strangely enough, though, I was not a big fan of beans.  Maybe it was too many encounters with super-starchy canned beans, maybe it was the fact that cooking dry beans from scratch took time.  Whatever factored into my unconscious avoidance of the stuff, I just didn't eat much in the way of beans.

Now that I occasionally eat meat, it's an even stranger thing that I also eat beans more often.  This, however, I attribute to growing my own shell beans for drying.  Cooking up those dry beans results in much more tender and far less starchy legumes than what I would get from the store, probably because they're much fresher.  (I know, how can something dried be fresh?)

I've also found more interesting recipes for using beans than I used to find, thanks to the general trend in cooking today to mingle cuisines and flavors.  I recently picked up a copy of Spilling the Beans at the library and found several tasty-sounding recipes that I wanted to try.

Since I'm still not a big fan of corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick's Day, I decided to celebrate the holiday by making the book's recipe for Guinness Baked Beans.

I soaked a mixture of my homegrown Soldier beans and Vermont Cranberry beans before cooking them until tender.  I couldn't find a single bottle of Guinness for the recipe so substituted a bottle of Great Lakes Brewing Company's Edmund Fitzgerald Porter (something equally dark and rich).  The rest of the recipe was pretty standard -- some bacon for flavor, onions, brown sugar and molasses, etc.

I cooked it in the slow cooker for several hours, so the flavors developed nicely, but the beans were still on the wet side.  So I scraped it all out into a baking dish and gave it some more time in the oven so that it might thicken up and get that lovely carmelization on top.  (I think now I would probably just do it all in the oven instead.)

Savory, rich, and very "happy" from the porter, the beans turned out to be a real treat for Sunday supper -- as well as a nice way to start the mornings (with toast) a couple of times during the week.

Though I never got around to taking photos, I did also try a delicious red lentil and sweet potato curry from Spilling the Beans, so I'm looking forward to testing all the other recipes I copied out.

And I've bean enjoying the leftovers!

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Sunday, February 03, 2013

Heart Work

The Christmas season was so busy that I didn't get the chance to bake cookies with My Wonderful Nephews.  But never fear -- there's always a cookie-baking holiday around the corner, so we scheduled time to bake Valentine cookies instead.

One nephew helped with the mixing while the other two helped with decorating -- what a fun mess!

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Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Fillo Up!

In looking around for ideas for new cooking classes at Today's Kitchen Store, I thought about the remaining packages of fillo dough I have in the freezer.  So many people make the comment "that must be so hard / time-consuming / tricky!" when I bake and sell baklava, that it seemed to me that a class on using fillo dough might start to demystify it for others.

So, with a little extra time on my hands this week, I decided to experiment.

I can practically layer sheets of fillo (for baklava or spanokopita) in my sleep, it's so easy -- just repetitive -- and I've been known on occasion to use fillo for a flaky layered pie crust or rolled up jelly-roll style.  I even enjoy making little triangular pillows with the stuff, filled with something cheesy and savory.

But I got to thinking: could I make "cups" with them by draping squares of fillo layers over the bottom of muffin tins and baking them?

The answer, of course, is yes, I could.  And I did.

I did discover, however, that they did not need to be baked for long -- at 15 minutes at 350 F, these olive oil-brushed beauties got just a little overdone.  But, nothing ventured, nothing gained, so...

I decided I wanted to make mini taco salads with them.  I cooked some homegrown Vermont cranberry beans and turned them into refried beans that I then mixed with a bit of sour cream for the first layer.  I topped that with fresh guacamole, homemade stoplight salsa, and shredded cheddar cheese.

Had I left it at that, I probably would have had a really great dish.  However, I decided to warm it all up in the oven -- and while that didn't overbake the fillo, it did allow the moisture from all the layers to soak into the bottom of the fillo, leaving a soggy mess that then spilled all over my fingers when I tried to eat them.

Granted, messy fingers won't stop me from eating something good, but suffice it to say that the fillo cup idea is probably best left for cold salads with minimal moisture!

Another lesson learned!

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Quick Fixes

I've taken a partial baking vacation this past week and plan to do so in the coming week, baking just a few different kinds of bread for my shelves at Local Roots and not a whole lot else.  I sort of miss the luxury of having about a week and a half completely off work as I did when I worked at the library, but there are ways of getting a little extra time off now that my schedule is more flexible.

Of course, even though I wasn't taking as much to market, I was still doing some work behind the scenes.  Since I'm teaching a class on making whole grain biscuits and scones at Today's Kitchen Store on January 12, I needed to finish testing and tweaking recipes.

And, well, someone has to sample the results!

I worked out the basic scone recipe (with eggnog and pecans, yum!) just before Christmas, but I needed to tweak the cappuccino hazelnut scone recipe again (above).  Oh, darn.  And though I've got the biscuit recipe pretty well perfected, it's hard to resist making cheddar buttermilk biscuits whenever possible.

Because, you know, when you have leftover chili, you need cheddar biscuits.  You do.

Finally, I tested my last recipe, a semi-original recipe for orangette scones using some of the candied orange peel I made last week.  While you might think a whole grain scone loaded with chocolate would be dense, these actually turned out beautifully light and flaky.  Rich, yes, but ethereally so.

(I confess, after having a test scone from that batch, I did give the rest away, mostly to the gracious ladies at the public library.  I just couldn't let myself be tempted any more!)

So now I have all my recipes tested, my handout written up, my prep lists together -- and I am ready to go forth and teach.

Hungry yet?

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