Thursday, April 26, 2012

In the kitchen with Satan!

New favorite wine under $10- Aveleda Fonte Vinho Verde
   Did I say Satan?  I meant, seitan.  Sound the same, but they're slightly different.  Well, really different.  One is (in my opinion) a symbol of the evil in man, and the other (fact, not opinion) is wheat flour with all of the starch dissolved.  Or something like that.  Recently, I tackled making seitan for the first time, which was a great experience.  This got me thinking about the fact that whenever I'm looking for something meat-like to replace real meat in a recipe...IT TASTES LIKE CRAP.  Now I am not a vegetarian, but I do prefer to eat more plants than animals.  Sometimes I like to modify traditional recipes and make them less meat-reliant, and this is why I was excited to try making the Seitan Pot Pie with Herb Biscuit Topping from the Spork Fed cookbook.  These sisters have made it their business to make vegan cooking a lifestyle.  They offer cooking classes, healty-eating consultations, and now have a cookbook.  You can find the recipe in the cookbook if you are intrigued.
  I had a lot of fun making the seitan, but I don't particularly care for the texture.  It's a bit chewy-gummy, stretchy...meh...
Seitan simmering...Looks promising...

Pot pie!
We still have both leftover pot pie AND leftover seitan in our freezer, so I will be giving it another go.
My two cents:

In the mean time, if you're looking for something to sate your palate in the "fake meat" department this is my suggestion:
Buy any and everything you can find from this company!
 And now for the Satan part...

  It's only fitting that I also include something symbolic of the evil in man: Butter, eggs, and you guessed it...

  Okay, so you probably didn't guess, but here it is.  Ooey, gooey, chewy, dense, delicious, habit-forming, Crack Pie.  This recipe comes from the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook.  Christina Tosi, the dessert maven and creator of the recipes made and sold at Milk Bar Dessert Bar, has finally put her masterpieces in print so those of us that don't live in New York can make them at home!  It's an homage to dessert.  It is decadence defined.  And the recipes have interesting ingredients in them like cereal milk, milk powder, and corn powder.  (The latter two were used in these recipes.)  What I probably loved most about these recipes was their attention to detail.  Nothing is simple, but everything is composed of simple ingredients.  Most recipes are at LEAST two parts, and some are many, many more.  These are the two I managed:
Crack Pie- Eat at your own risk! (Oatmeal cookie crust + liquid crack)
Cornflake Crunch
Cornflake Marshmallow Chocolate Chip Cookies
  Let's just say that the cookies were gone in a couple of days, and it's a good thing the Crack Pie recipe makes two pies!
  If this was too much for you (a vegan recipe AND a diabetic coma recipe in ONE post?!?), I promise the next post will be simple, healthy food that won't give you Type II diabetes or have you wishing you were eating something with a face!  Until next time...
Strawberry-Grapefruit Smoothie

Monday, April 9, 2012

Finding Balance

  So much in life is about balance.  Who am I kidding, everything in life is about balance!  If you don't believe me, change one thing about your normal schedule and see what happens.  Now, I know some people thrive on chaos and wouldn't dream of having even a semblance of a schedule.  That's fine, but the thought makes me feel a little crazy.  I'm the type of person that has to write everything down in my calendar and I thrive on structure.  However, with the rigidity that a schedule can often include, the balance has to be making time for free-form activities that don't have to be minutely planned.  Because it's true, you can't plan everything or you're not really living.  As John Lennon said, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
  You'd think, as a Libra, I'd know all about balance.  With my astrological symbol being the scales and whatnot, that I'd be some innate professional at the equilibrium of existence.  Yet even I have moments where breathing deeply isn't enough, and if I don't figure out what I'm going to wear to work in the next 5 minutes there's going to be a meltdown.  Admittedly, in the grand scheme of things, those are some pretty harmless problems to have.  To me, the crucial component of imbalance (and most of the things that happen in life) is our reaction to it.  Whether or not we have made choices that have led to our present state of unrest, instability, etc.- we do have the choice to react negatively or positively as an end result.  In turn, affecting the outcome as a whole.
  The reason I mention all of this New Age mumbo-jumbo is that I actually believe most of it.  Furthermore, I can attest that even the smallest of things in your life can put you off-kilter.  We live a pretty wonderful life, and enjoy some comforts that I feel incredibly lucky to be have at my fingertips.  As the seasons change and the weather gets warmer, we shed the sluggishness of winter and the days start to increase in pace and intensity.  This tends to make life busier and takes attention away from tasks we normally devoted time to.  For us, the biggest way we suffer is with what we eat.  
  It's easy to go for takeout.  It's convenient when you're tired after a long day at work.  So recently, as we watched Forks Over Knives (which everyone needs to see if they haven't) while eating KFC sides and a bucket of chicken, we decided to put our greasy feet down and put a stop to this epicurean sacrilege!  And yes, I am that person who watched a movie about the horrors of eating processed foods and meat while eating quite possibly the worst of the worst of fast food.  KFC did bring America the Double-down Sandwich, after all.  But I've eaten a donut burger too.  No regrets.  
  Our reactions are better seen than described:

Snack to live, live to snack.  Snacks to live by: (As always, click on links for recipes.)
Apple stuffed with peanut butter and oats (Eat immediately or put apple back together, wrap, and enjoy later.)

Roasted eggplant stuffed with garlic and thyme
Eggplant above turned into dip and served with onion flaxseed crackers
Double Dark Chocolate Biscotti with Walnuts and Crystallized Ginger
Apricot-Nut Bars with Dark Chocolate (April 2012 Whole Living)
 Everything else...
WW English Muffin, sauteed spinach and garlic, scrambled eggs, sliced tomato, Parmesan chunks
Bacon and black olive pizza with WW crust
Turkey Salad Wrap with Kale Dip, Sugar Snap Peas and chips
Creamy Sardine Salad
I love beets, and when I saw these golden orbs of deliciousness I had to buy them, even though they weren't on the grocery list.  I just knew I could find something to do with them.  This was immediately what came to mind:
Rustic beet, leek, and goat cheese tart
1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

3-4 roasted beets, sliced
4-5 beet leaves, thinly sliced and inner stem removed
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2-3 leeks, thinly sliced (white and pale green parts only)
4 oz. fresh goat cheese, crumbled
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly ground sea salt

To make the crust:
In a food processor, combine flour, salt, butter, and oil and pulse until resembles coarse meal.  Slowly drizzle in 1/3 cup cold water, and pulse just until mixture comes together.  If it does not, gradually add more water, a tablespoon at a time.  Remove dough, knead a few times on lightly floured surface.  Form dough into a ball, flatten, wrap it it in waxed paper and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 8 hours.  

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Wash and trim ends and greens from beets.  Place in a square baking pan, drizzle with oil and salt and pepper, then cover pan with aluminum foil.  Place beets in preheated oven and roast for at least 1 hour, or until beets are easily pierced with a fork.  

To prepare tart, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place sliced beet greens in a colander to drain and sprinkle with kosher salt.
In a small saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add leeks.  Saute until softened, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a large bowl.  Add beet greens to the bowl, along with sliced, roasted beets, crumbled goat cheese, eggs, salt and pepper, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Fold ingredients gently to mix.

Lightly flour a sheet of waxed paper and place dough on it.  Lightly flour top of dough before placing another sheet of waxed paper on top.  Roll the dough out to form a 15-inch circle.  Remove the top piece of waxed paper and gently invert dough circle onto oiled baking sheet.

Spread the filling on the dough, leaving about 1 1/2 inch border.  Fold the the border over the filling, overlapping with itself every few inches.  Brush the dough with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan, and drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  

Bake for 30 minutes or so, or until filling is set and crust is golden brown.        
Slice and serve.  Enjoy!  
This would taste great with a light, fruity white wine, such as a vinho verde.

And now I leave you with flowers.  Stay tuned for my forays into homemade seitan and the decadent desserts of Momofuku Milk Bar.  
 Between stimulus and response there is a space.
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
Viktor E. Frankl

 Currently reading: The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall
Current listening: Surfer Rosa by The Pixies