Thursday, April 21, 2011

Hello Again

Babies are sure time consuming. The feedings, diaper changes, and soothing alone are a full-time job, and when the opportunity for a break arises (hello, afternoon nap), updating a blog falls low on the list of priorities, behind:

1. showering
2. washing dishes
3. folding laundry
4. eating lunch (with two hands!)
5. catching a nap myself

I am literally typing this in bed with one hand while the kid uses my left arm as a pillow. So shhhh! The meals I'm throwing together are not elegant: frozen vegetables appear regularly, as do carton soups. You know what makes a great 5-minute dinner? A baked potato, with stuff poured over it. Beans, vegetables, hummus, salsa, whatever. An even faster meal, because you fell asleep putting the baby to bed and woke up during Craig Ferguson? Cereal.

I've got some tasty posts floating around in my head, but until I get the chance to actually write them, I suggest you visit xgfx, a brand-new comprehensive resource for all things vegan AND gluten-free. No eggs, no wheat, no whey, no spelt. No delicious photos of food I can't eat! And if you click the xgfx icon on the right, you'll find a directory of gluten-free vegan blogs. There are more of us than I ever imagined!

In closing, here's a photo of my new man researching solid foods. He's a very studious baby.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

MittenMachen is on maternity leave. I'll be back with more knitting and recipes when I have a spare hand and a free minute! Happy holidays!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Mainer Cooks Soul Food

If you grew up in the southern United States, you probably won't get very excited about this recipe. Black-eyed peas, humbly seasoned with pork and onion, are a soul food staple. On New Year's Day, they're served with leafy greens and hot sauce for good luck: the greens symbolize money, and the beans, which swell when cooked, symbolize prosperity.

We in the north grow up on baked beans, a warming dish of navy beans stewed or baked in a tangy tomato sauce, sweetened with molasses or maple syrup. Sometimes we eat them with ketchup or mustard (especially if tofu pups are present), but we would never dream of dousing them in salsa.

My husband's grandmother introduced me to black-eyed peas; originally from Oklahoma, she can practically whip them up blindfolded. She leaves out the pork, but sometimes she throws in sliced okra. Ask for her recipe and all you'll get is a list of ingredients; the method and measurements are instinct. The following recipe contains my best guesses and the addition of bay leaves. A little bit of liquid smoke would be a nice touch, particularly if you grew up on pork-seasoned black-eyed peas.

Now that temperatures are below freezing and I'm busy preparing for BabyMitten, meals like this one—easy, satisfying, and nutritious—are just what I need. So why wait until New Year's to share?

Oklahoma Black-Eyed Peas
Inspired by Grandma Shaw

2 cups dried black-eyed peas
8 cups water
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 large onion, chopped
1½ teaspoons salt
2 bay leaves
½ cup brown rice
freshly ground black pepper
optional: cooked, sliced okra or chopped greens (collard, turnip, or mustard)
salsa, hot sauce, or sliced pepperoncinis

Soak beans for at least 6 hours. Drain and rinse.

In a large pot, bring beans, water, garlic, onion, salt, bay leaves, and rice to a simmer. Partially cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes, or until beans and rice are tender. Add more water if needed to keep beans from sticking to bottom of pot. Stir in freshly ground black pepper, and vegetables, if using. Stir until greens are wilted. Serve with salsa, hot sauce, or pepperoncinis.

Serves 4 as a main course.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Spice Up That Winter Squash

Our CSA has just wrapped up for the year (no frost at my house yet, but I expect it any day now!), and our last deliveries brought the end of summer squash and the first of the winter squash. My basement shelves are lined with delicata, butternut, acorn, hubbard, and pumpkin.

When treated with consideration, squash is a joy. Sweet, rich, and packed with vitamins, it yields to a variety of preparation methods and gets along with all types of flavors. Unfortunately, many of us first became acquainted with squash as it was scooped onto our school lunch trays: a cloying, orange, pre-macerated mush we had to swallow before going out to recess. Pairing naturally sweet squash with even sweeter cinnamon and sugar is a Crime Against Vegetables. Treat your squash right: give it something rich, something savory, and something spicy.

Here is a quick, lazy weeknight recipe that relies on store-bought red curry paste. If you have the ingredients, the time, and the knowledge, go ahead and make your own curry paste from scratch (and then by all means, brag about it!). The squash, coconut, and a touch of brown sugar work with the chili sauce to make each bite spicy up front with a mellow, lingering sweetness. Omit the tofu and turn this into a side dish, or substitute for the zucchini and summer squash any vegetables you like; red bell pepper and cauliflower come to mind.

Double Squash Red Curry

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
16 oz. extra firm tofu, pressed and cubed
1 small winter squash (acorn, buttercup, or pumpkin), cut into in 1-inch cubes
14 oz. coconut milk
½ cup water
3 tablespoons red curry paste
1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 medium zucchini or summer squash, sliced (about 4 cups)
chili sauce (preferably Sriracha), to taste
cilantro

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Pan-fry tofu, tossing frequently until golden brown on all sides. Add cubed winter squash, coconut milk, water, chili paste, and sugar. Bring to a low simmer and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until squash is softened but not mushy. Stir in summer squash and cook, uncovered, another 5 minutes, until summer squash is tender. Taste and add chili-garlic sauce or additional sugar if desired. Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice. Serves 4.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Zucchini Corn Cakes in the Newest Issue of Maine Food & Lifestyle

The latest issue of Maine Food & Lifestyle Magazine is out, featuring my recipe for Zucchini Corn Cakes with Black Bean Salsa Cruda. Made with chickpea flour and cornmeal, they're savory, hearty, and quick. Try them with any late summer vegetables that may still be hanging around your pantry.

Maine Food & Lifestyle is available by subscription, or on magazine stands throughout the state.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Finally Finished: Cotton Cabled Sweater

This sweater taught me two things:

1. How to do a mock cable
2. From now on, I should only knit sweaters in the round; I hate knitting pieces flat and then sewing them together!

I love the Cascade Ultra Pima yarn: it's washable, sturdy, and breathable. The weave is fairly loose; although I followed the directions for size 9-12 months, this sweater is probably not going to fit BabyMitten for 3 or 4 years. I could have gone down a needle size, but instead I chose to keep it loose and relaxed. Babies grow.

The pattern for the Dewey Cabled Pullover is in Vintage Baby Knits: More Than 40 Heirloom Patterns from the 1920s to the 1950s. Next on the agenda: winter hats for small heads.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

It's finally autumn. I love wearing handmade socks, pulling up the hood of my sweatshirt during early morning walks, warming my fingers over the steam rising from a cup of tea. It's time again for soup, squash, and warming spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. It's time to get out the oven mitts and get back to baking.

Inspired by my recent success with zucchini muffins, I swapped out applesauce for canned pumpkin, added brown sugar and maple syrup, and warmed up the flavors. The ingredient list is long, but it's worth the effort for gluten-free muffins this moist and cozy. These muffins aren't overly sweet, but if you'd like to, you could use a crumb or sugar topping, or substitute chocolate chips for the dried fruit.

As with the zucchini muffins, if you don't want to bake 18 at once, spoon the extra batter into lined muffin cups and place it in the freezer. Once the batter is frozen, remove the cups and store them vapor-proof freezer bags until ready to use. When you're ready to use them, just pop the frozen batter into a muffin tin, and increase the baking time by 10 minutes.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Dry Ingredients:
⅔ cup sorghum or millet flour
⅔ cup tapioca flour
⅔ cup brown rice flour
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ teaspoon xanthan gum
2 teaspoons of baking powder
¾ teaspoon of baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt

Wet Ingredients:
15 ounces canned pumpkin purée
1½ teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer
2 tablespoons warm water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup

½ cup chopped pecans
½ cup raisins or dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare muffin tins with liners.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together wet ingredients in a medium bowl. Pour wet ingredients into the dry and stir until combined. Stir in nuts and dried fruit. Distribute batter evenly among 18 muffin cups.

Bake for 22-25 minutes. Muffins are done when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave muffins in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Let cool at least 30 minutes before eating, or they will stick to the liners.

Makes 18 small muffins.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Review: Portland Pie Co.

After my recent post about Flatbread Company's gluten-free pizza, several people pointed me toward Portland Pie Co., which has four locations in southern Maine and New Hampshire and carries a gluten-free crust, as well as vegan cheese. This weekend I stopped for lunch at the Scarborough location, in the soulless new Cabela's shopping plaza. It had the atmosphere of any good-time shopping mall chain, but where there's gluten-free pizza, I can overlook faux-brass fixtures or a stuffed moose head over the bar.

For $1.25 each, the toppings on my 10-inch pizza were pretty scarce. I went with red sauce, Daiya vegan cheese, black olives, broccoli, and garlic.

The gluten-free crust was thin and crisp. It's not bad if you prefer Neopolitan-style pizza; I've always loved big puffy crust with bubbles. The sauce wasn't notable. While I like Daiya in moderation, here it was just too heavy, and it tasted a little like plastic. I put a lot of salt and red pepper flakes on this pizza in an attempt to make it taste like something, but in the end, it wasn't much better than a frozen Amy's Rice Crust Spinach Pizza.

Of course, as a gluten-free vegan, I'm grateful anytime a restaurant provides me with more than an undressed garden salad. Portland Pie Co. doesn't do gluten-free pizza as well as Flatbread Company, but it's another option for gluten-free, dairy-free folks who want to enjoy a meal alongside omnivorous friends. Next time, I'll probably skip the vegan cheese and spring for lots more veggie toppings.

For carrying Daiya, Portland Pie Co. earns three chickpeas for vegan-accessibility. I'd love to see more creative vegetarian sandwich choices—currently there's a hummus wrap (yawn) and a toasted cheddar and veggie option. Portland Pie Co. is worth a visit if you're trying to appease a crowd with varying tastes and dietary restrictions.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Keeping Tomatoes

Imagine it's January. You've just come inside from cross-country skiing or building a snowman. Imagine reaching into your pantry for a jar of tomatoes that you skinned, crushed, and canned with your own hands last August, at the height of tomato season. Purée those tomatoes, and heat them gently in a saucepan with a bit of thyme and basil, black pepper, and soy, coconut, or cashew cream. Now stir in some cooked rice, beans, or pasta. Wrap your fingers around a steaming mug of homemade cream of tomato soup. It doesn't get any better than this.

I've been turning over ideas for another post about long-term food storage. It's been on my mind lately, as I squirrel away the summer's fruits and vegetables. If what they say about caring for new babies is true, I'll be too busy and too tired come winter to worry about cooking or nutrition. This gives my stockpiling a sense of urgency.

I heard a story on NPR this morning that asked why home canning has suddenly become popular again. Is it the economy? Maybe. At 30 pounds for $35, my tomatoes are significantly cheaper than the organic brand I used to buy at the grocery store. But canning takes a bit of investment up front, in jars and equipment, that may deter those interested solely in thrift.

Is it the local food movement? This probably plays a bigger role. I like knowing my tomatoes were grown just down the road in Pittsfield, Maine, then picked, brought to market, and canned the same day. I trust that the bearded farmer who sold them to me grew them according to his principles, without petroleum-based fertilizers or insecticides. And I like paying the farmer directly; when I buy a can of crushed tomatoes at the grocery store, how many ways is my money split, and how much of it do the growers and pickers actually see?

Taste is certainly a factor. Grocery store tomatoes, picked green and ripened with ethylyne gas, can never compare with tomatoes ripened outdoors on the vine. There is also the satisfaction of doing something by hand, in being able to feed myself the way families did a century ago. (Grocery store? I don't need no stinking grocery store!)

For all these reasons, I've become increasingly addicted to canning. I smiled when the radio reporter mentioned "the sound that every home canner loves to hear—the little thunk that tells you the lid is airtight ... 'the music of the jars,'" (or as one listener wrote in the online comments, "the ping of victory"). Hearing that little pop, and knowing my fruits, vegetables, jams and sauces are safely suspended in time, brings a sense of satisfaction that's hard to beat.

If you find yourself with more tomatoes than you can eat fresh (my favorite lunch of late is hummus and tomato sandwiches), canning or dehydrating them will buy you the most storage time. Freezing sauces and soups is another option. I've got 24 servings of Tomato Rice Soup with Roasted Garlic and White Beans (recipe in Veganomicon) in quart-size freezer bags, waiting for an overtired, overwhelmed new parent to thaw them out some cold evening in December.

Why have I gone crazy for food preservation? It's not about preparing for some apocalyptic scenario. It's about putting comfort foods in the bank, and opening them, like gifts to myself, all winter long.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Book Winner

Since 11 people entered the Garlic-Onion-Beet-Spinach-Mango-Carrot-Grapefruit Juice giveaway, I rolled a pair of dice to determine the winner (since it's impossible to roll 1, the first commenter would have won with a 12). And the winner is...

Jcazz, who loves blueberry, carrot, celery, orange, and apple juice! Send an email to mary@mittenmachen.com and let me know where you'd like the book and buttons sent.

Enjoy the weekend everybody. Eat those tomatoes while you can!