Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Spinach Salad with Maple Mustard Vinaigrette

No sooner do I write a post about spring salad than the forecast calls for snow. Thank goodness for greenhouses, I guess.

You can find the recipe for this antioxidant-rich salad here, at the blog of Maine Food & Lifestyle magazine.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Coconut Cupcakes and a Winner!

I enlisted Ellie's help in choosing a winner for the Pay it Forward Giveaway. Our highly scientific system consisted of her repeatedly biting and slapping a hat full of names until one fell out. And the winner is...

The first of the two Andreas who commented, Seattle Andrea of Andrea's Easy Vegan Cooking! (Just after I took a picture of that paper slip, Ellie ate it.) Congratulations, Andrea! Send me your address, and I'll get a package of Maine treats right out to you.

Let's celebrate with some cupcakes!

I decided to give Flying Apron's Gluten-free & Vegan Baking Book another try, using the recipe for Coconut Heaven Cake. The recipe calls for 2 parts brown rice flour and 1 part chickpea flour, and there is definitely some chickpea aftertaste going on. If you're used to gluten-free baking, you might be okay with it, but normal people will think these are weird.

There was no mention of xanthan or guar gum, so, skeptic that I am, I made half the cupcakes according to the recipe, then added ½ teaspoon of xanthan gum to the second half of the batter. After the suggested baking time of 15 minutes, the cupcakes were still gooey in the middle, so I kept them in for another 5 minutes.

The cupcakes made with xanthan gum turned out much darker than those without, and, no surprise, they were more cohesive. The cupcakes without xanthan gum were more moist, but they were nearing burnt on the bottom while the tops were still gooey.

If I make these again, I'll try adding ½ teaspoon of xanthan gum to the whole batch to see if I can strike a balance between moist and sturdy. I'll also try swapping some of the chickpea flour for another high protein flour like quinoa or almond. Additional notes:

•The recipe claims to make a 9-inch three-layer cake or 33 cupcakes. I halved it and got 24 cupcakes, so go figure.

•Shredded coconut is listed among the ingredients, but the procedure never tells you when to add it. I mixed it in with the dry ingredients.

•Maybe lowering the baking temperature from 350°F to 325°F would help.

•I made Flying Apron's Coconut Heaven Frosting (a combination of agave and coconut oil), but instead of mixing shredded coconut into the frosting, I sprinkled it on the tops of the cupcakes. I cut the recipe by two-thirds and had enough to frost 24 cupcakes. I won't make this frosting again. It's expensive, sickly sweet, messy (it melts in a warm room), and when I eat it, all I can think about is saturated fat nestling down to rest in my arteries. I should have used the Coconut Icing (coconut milk plus confectioner's sugar) from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

These were okay for gluten-free cupcakes. I won't be serving them to other people. Still, it's a place to start. I'll figure it out eventually.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Knitting In The Old Way

Nothing interesting or inspiring has come out of my kitchen this week. I've been a under the weather, and nobody wants to see photos of plain rice and breakfast cereal. Yesterday I finally got up the energy and the optimism for a gluten-free yeasted bread, but I won't be sharing the recipe here, because it was disgusting.

Fortunately, I've been having more success with knitting. Thanks to a series of classes offered at Fiberphilia this spring, I can finally knit a sweater. When I was a new knitter, without a local yarn shop to help me find my way in the world, I wasted skeins of expensive yarn knitting cubist sweaters: front longer than the back, left sleeve inches higher than the right. I learned, incorrectly, that sweaters are knit in flat pieces—front, back, sleeves—and sewn together at the end. I was relying on patterns to tell me how many stitches I needed, and how many rows to knit. If I couldn't achieve the number of stitches per inch used in the sample, I couldn't make the sweater.

But the mothers and grandmothers of northern Europe didn't knit that way; they created warm, well-fitting works of art without patterns to tell them whether they were doing it right. They considered their yarn, the needs of the wearer, and the proportions of torso, arms, chest, and neck. Knitting in the Old Way: Designs and Techniques from Ethnic Sweaters contains the collected wisdom of centuries of free-form sweater knitting. It was the textbook for Fiberphilia's sweater series.

My first project was a miniature version of the Icelander:

Instead of knitting this sweater in pieces, I knit the body as a tube, bottom to top, and steeked (cut) holes for arms. I never would have been brave enough to try steeking on my own, but it's so quick and logical, and it allows for easy knitting with two (or three, or four!) colors.

My favorite part of the sweater is the traditional stripe that is carried up the side of the body, under the armpit, and down the sleeve. When I make myself an adult sized version of this Icelander, I will never stop waving to people and doing the YMCA.

My next project was an Icelandic yoke sweater:

I sewed tubes for the lower body and arms, then joined all the tubes together on a long circular needle and knit around and around and around, decreasing in a few spots. Easy!

Knitting in the Old Way provides the sketches and guidance you need to design traditional sweaters with any yarn, for any body. A bit of math is involved, but it's nothing more than simple ratios. Given a chest measurement, how wide should a neck be? What about shoulders and wrists? Using your chosen yarn, how many stitches should you aim for?

What looks intimidating at first glance is simply working backward from measurements of the body the sweater will go on. It couldn't be more logical, or more liberating. I'm ready to ditch my old books of patterns and start designing from scratch.

For the first time in my life, sweaters make more sense than bread!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pay It Forward Giveaway!

Yesterday a package arrived from Redondo Beach, California. I had almost forgotten—my pay it forward gift from Easy Veggie blogger Oraphan!

The box was thoughtfully packed with a Redondo Beach teeshirt, map, and bottle opener, as well as stationary, freeze dried fruit, tea (not pictured) and a handy salad crisper bag.

Oraphan, how did you know I collect regional magnets? The Redondo Beach dolphin fits right in beside my Swedish viking and Las Vegas poker chip.

Pay it Forward is a blog contest with a simple premise: everybody likes receiving presents out of context. As the winner of Oraphan's giveaway, I now get to pass on the fun by mailing a package of my own to one lucky reader, who will then pay it forward by sending a gift to someone else, and so on into eternity... The only stipulation is that the items should be produced locally. I rarely participate in blog games, but I can't resist an opportunity to show off some of my favorite Maine-made products!

If you'd like to receive a package from Maine, leave a comment letting me know you're in. (Remember, if you're the winner, you'll have to pay it forward!) Readers outside the U.S. and Canada are welcome to participate, if they are patient enough to wait for cheap (and slow) international shipping. I'll choose a winner in one week, on Thursday, April 22. The contents of the box have yet to be determined, but I can promise something maple!

Monday, April 12, 2010

An Easy Square Meal with Local Tempeh

I'm a big fan of stews, stir-fries, and other one pot dishes, but lately I've been enjoying a good old-fashioned square meal—protein, carbohydrate, and vegetable—several times a week.

Each time I visit the Belfast Co-op, I pick up a few packages of Lalibela Farm Tempeh, made in Maine from Maine soy beans. Like tofu, tempeh absorbs the flavors of marinades (it's particularly good with barbecue sauce). Tempeh is higher in protein and fiber than tofu, with a substantial nutty texture; I enjoy its slightly sour, fermented flavor, but this can be toned down by boiling the tempeh. Lalibela tempeh is softer and absorbs marinade better than Lightlife, the brand available in most grocery stores here. (Jaime and Andy Berhanu of Lalibela are currently testing several types of non-soy tempeh, including chickpea and navy bean; read about their black bean tempeh here).

Some nights I make my tempeh hot and smoky, and other nights I prefer this rich, mild marinade with warming Asian flavors. Truthfully, there's no need to measure the ingredients—it's more instinct and whimsy than science. Main dishes don't come easier than this; the only trick is planning ahead and placing the tempeh in the marinade at lunchtime, or in the morning before you leave for work. Serve hot with rice and Asian vegetables, and serve the leftovers cold with peanuts, scallions, and sesame noodles.

Sesame Garlic Tempeh

8 ounces tempeh
¼ cup tamari (gluten-free if necessary)
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon maple syrup (or other sweetener)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

Bring a small pot of water to boil. Cut tempeh into four triangles (cut a typical rectangular block into squares, then cut each of these squares in half diagonally). Place tempeh in boiling water. Set timer for 10 minutes.

In a container big enough to fit all four tempeh triangles, whisk together tamari, sesame oil, maple syrup, garlic, and ginger (a sandwich-sized tupperware works well). When 10 minutes are up, use tongs to remove tempeh from boiling water and place in marinade. Spoon some marinade on top of tempeh slices. Refrigerate 4-8 hours.

Place tempeh in a shallow baking dish and top with a few spoonfuls of marinade.* Broil 10-15 minutes on each side, until tempeh is golden brown and edges begin to blacken.

Serves 2.

*Don't throw away the remaining marinade! Add 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar and toss with salad greens or steamed vegetables.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Gluten-free Granola

Recently I've fallen in love with buckwheat groats. Though they sound like something a troll would eat, groats are fiber, protein, and iron-rich seeds popular in gluten-free and raw cuisine (nutrition information here). Toasted buckwheat (also called kasha) is wonderfully crunchy; it reminds me of Grape-Nuts. It's delicious (and filling) mixed into yogurt.

I'd given up on granola, since I don't handle gluten-free oats well, but roasted buckwheat offers a perfect substitute. Some people recommend soaking buckwheat groats before they're cooked, to make them easier to digest. I skipped this step and bought roasted groats (also called kasha) at my natural foods store. If you have a dehydrator, or 24 hours to monitor a 150-degree oven, you may want to soak (or sprout!) and dry your own buckwheat groats, if that's your thing.

This healthy granola's got it all: protein, fiber, iron, healthy omega-3 oils, and most importantly, flavor and crunch. I've listed my ingredients, but use whatever seeds, nuts, and dried fruit float your boat.

Easy Buckwheat Granola

⅓ cup maple syrup
¼ cup nut or seed butter (I used almond)
2 cups toasted buckwheat groats (kasha)
½ cup finely shredded coconut
½ cup slivered almonds
⅓ cup pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds)
⅓ cup sunflower seeds
⅓ cup raisins
⅓ cup dried cherries
¼ cup dried blueberries

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Whisk together maple syrup and nut butter. Add kasha, finely shredded coconut, and almonds. Toss to coat. Spread in a thin layer on a baking sheet. Toast mixture for 20 minutes, tossing halfway through. Remove from oven and cool. Toss with remaining ingredients. Store in an airtight container.

Serve dry or with milk, or mixed into yogurt. Makes 6-7 cups.

(If your body is on friendly terms with oats, you might also like this müesli recipe.)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Belfast, Maine: Where to Eat and What to Do

At the end of last summer we moved to a needy old house about 15 minutes south of Bangor. One of the best things about our new location (besides the absence of people napping in our entryway while waiting for the cigarette shop to open) is our proximity to Belfast. Now that Belfast's shops, cafes, and waterfront parks are only a 40-minute ride away, we visit a few times a month.

Belfast has a lot going on for a city of less than ten thousand residents, but unlike some of the coastal towns farther south, it doesn't feel like a show put on solely for tourists. Main Street runs downhill and dead ends at the dramatic waterfront, where the Passagassawakeag River (say that five times fast) empties into Belfast Bay. The parks along the water are a great place to picnic and watch sailboats, and all spring, summer, and fall, you will see locals doing this. Most of the city's nineteenth century commercial buildings still stand downtown, filled with eclectic small businesses that eschew the plastic lobsters and blueberry candles sold in many Maine gift shops in favor of thoughtful, handmade goods and local art.

I love browsing in The Green Store, which bills itself as a general store for the twenty-first century. From nontoxic cleaning solutions, to composting barrels, to wooden drying racks and organic cotton toys, The Green Store sells everything you need to pursue that quintessential Maine dream of living sustainably off the grid. I also get a kick out of Yo Mamma's Home, a home goods and gift shop selling fun, funky, one-of-a-kind items like bags, shower curtains, stationary, and jewelry. The Good Table sets my heart a-flutter, with every imaginable kitchen gadget on display. So far all I've bought are cookie cutters (they sell at least a hundred shapes), but I love to look and touch and drool. Heavenly Socks Yarns is just up the street; practically every yarn, needle, and button in existence is crammed into this tiny basement shop.

If you're hungry after all your shopping, Belfast boasts several vegan-friendly eateries. If it's breakfast or lunchtime, you must go to Chase's Daily (which I reviewed here). The menu is vegetarian, but at least a third of it is vegan, and many items can be prepared gluten-free. The produce comes from the Chase family farm, and during the growing season the back half of the restaurant doubles as a fruit and vegetable market.

If it's too late in the afternoon for Chase's, Bay Wrap, just a few doors up Main Street, offers many vegetarian and vegan sandwiches, and the coffee shop in the same building carries soy milk for lattes.

The Belfast Co-op Cafe is another great spot for breakfast or lunch. You can order a vegan deli sub, soup, or a tofu scramble (made with local tofu), and the bakery case carries several vegan items. Admire local artwork or play checkers while you eat, then shop for organic produce and herbal remedies in the Co-op Store. Remember to bring your own grocery bags and containers for bulk items, or you may receive scowls.

Here's a sampling of meals I've enjoyed in Belfast:

Clockwise from top left: tofu breakfast burrito (made gluten-free with corn tortillas) from Chase's Daily, black beans and rice with a side of kale from Chase's Daily, Dehli Deelite wrap from Bay Wrap, and scrambled tofu with home fries from the Belfast Co-op Cafe. Don't you feel hungry (and healthy) just looking at all that?

If you're planning to visit the coast of Maine, spend an afternoon in Belfast. It's one of my favorite little places, and because most tourists stop at Camden, it's still friendly and genuine. If it's a weekend morning, you may see me at brunch!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

This little bunny is enjoying the spring weather. Find the pattern at the Mochimochi shop—it's a two-hour knit, tops!

Get outside today and smell the flowers!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

God's Own Patriotic Comfort Food

Maybe it's the rainy weather, but this week I've been craving comfort foods: baked beans, mashed potatoes, and sautéed greens. American Chop Suey is a hearty staple dish at church potlucks and school cafeterias. Traditionally made with macaroni elbows, tomato sauce, onions, and ground beef, a bowl of American Chop Suey fills you up and warms you from the inside out.

In a recent discussion with my husband, who is From Away, I learned that only New Englanders call this vaguely Italian hodgepodge by a Chinese name. To most Americans it's simply Macaroni and Beef, though oddly, midwesterners call it Johnny Marzetti. By any name, it's a meal that satisfies our deepest human need for protein, starch, and salt all mixed up in a bowl. (I'm reminded of my father-in-law, on his most recent visit to Maine, attempting in vain to order Chili Size, a similar slop with a Tex-Mex twist that's revered throughout the southwest.)

Instead of ground beef, this healthier vegan version of American Chop Suey uses crumbled tempeh (use something like Morningstar Farms Veggie Crumbles if you prefer) and an assortment of chopped vegetables. Even if you can eat gluten, try quinoa pasta here; sturdier than rice or wheat, it adds even more protein to this classic stick-to-your-ribs dish.

American Chop Veggie
-or-
Vegan Marzetti
-or-
Macaroni and Tempeh

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 large carrot, diced
8 ounces tempeh
1½ cups sliced mushrooms
2 tablespoons vegan worcestershire sauce or tamari (wheat-free, if necessary)
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
28-ounce can roasted diced tomatoes
8 ounces pasta (any small shape)
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)

In a large skillet, warm oil over medium heat. Sauté onion 4-5 minutes, until edges begin to brown. Add garlic and sauté another 2 minutes. Add bell pepper and carrot and sauté an additional 4-5 minutes, until vegetables begin to soften.

Crumble tempeh into bite-sized pieces over skillet. Add mushrooms, worcestershire sauce or tamari, thyme, oregano, basil, chili powder, salt, and black pepper. Toss to mix well. Sauté 3 minutes, until mushrooms are soft. Add diced tomatoes and their liquid. Stir and reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 15 minutes.

Cook pasta according to package directions. When pasta is al dente, drain and toss with vegetable mixture. Stir in nutritional yeast.

Serves 6.