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Archive for November, 2010

Here I am in wordpress format!  For a while now I’ve been thinking about switching to wordpress.  I like the look a lot more than blogger.  We’ll see how this experiment goes….in the meantime, I also will be doing a guest blogger spot on Circle of Food.  Check it out!

Have you seen the City Critic article in the NY Times today?  All about picking out and slaughtering your own turkey.  I don’t know if I could do the actual killing part, but I think it’s really important to be connected to your food–this is one of the reasons I try not to eat meat since I think we are so cut off from any knowledge of how the animal was raised and killed.

For a long time, it was really hard for me to give up the Thanksgiving turkey although I had stopped eating meat for a while.   However, the more I learned about the way Thanksgiving turkeys are raised and killed, the less I wanted to eat of it.  For the past several years now, I’ve opted to stay away from the turkey.  The other side dishes are kind of a different story.  Last year I still had gravy; what are mashed potatoes without gravy?!?  This year, I am going to make vegetarian gravy.  I’ve got a few recipes to choose from, right now I’m leaning toward the NPR recipe.  I’ll let you know how it turns out!

From NPR: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=97137098

Note: The gravy thickens up quite a bit, so keep some warm water or vegetable broth on hand to thin it out before serving, and for leftovers.

Makes 2 cups.

1/2 cup olive oil

1/3 cup chopped onion or shallots

5 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

4 tablespoons light soy sauce

2 cups vegetable broth

1/2 teaspoon dried sage

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour and soy sauce to form a smooth paste. Gradually whisk in the broth.

Season with sage, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring constantly, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until thickened.

From Martha Stewart: Vegetarian Mushroom Gravy – Martha Stewart Recipes

Makes 3 1/2 cups

1 portobello mushroom
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms
4 cups organic mushroom or vegetable stock
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Marsala wine (optional)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon thyme leaves

  1. Remove stems from portobello, shiitake, and cremini mushrooms. Place stems and mushroom stock in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer for 30 minutes. Strain; set aside.
  2. Finely chop portobello cap, and set aside. Thinly slice shiitake and cremini. Place 3 tablespoons butter in a large saute pan over medium heat; add shallots, and cook until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add chopped and sliced mushrooms, and cook until mushrooms are soft and browned, and all liquid has evaporated. Add Marsala, if using, and cook, stirring to loosen any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat, and set aside.
  3. Place the remaining tablespoon butter and flour in a medium saucepan over medium heat; cook until browned and fully combined, 2 to 3 minutes. Slowly whisk in the enriched stock; bring to a boil, whisking until thickened. Add the reserved mushroom mixture and thyme, and stir to combine. Serve hot.
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Ok, so I know what you’re thinking—can cookies really be both “yummy” and “healthy”?  Yes!!  I’ve finally found the intersection of yum and health, a veritable venn diagram of baking if you will.

A few weeks ago we had a girls night and I wanted to make something that everyone could eat so I was searching for a gluten free recipe.  Oftentimes gluten free baking requires all sorts of special flours and somewhat hard to find (and typically expensive) ingredients.  Because gluten is a binding agent, when you go gluten free, you have to use all sorts of other things to get the baked good to stay intact. Sometimes homemade cookies and cakes that are gfree can fall apart and don’t have the familiar consistency one thinks of when dreaming about a baked good. 

But I am here to tell you that I’ve found a recipe that bucks this trend!  Of course these tasty treats come from 101cookbooks.com, my go to source for all things healthy and tasty.  I added a few of my own touches to Heidi’s recipe.  If you’d like to spice things up as I did, go ahead and add some mashed up apples (I had some overripe little guys on hand and they were begging to be used).  Also, I added in some nutmeg.  The recipe calls for coconut oil with a possible substitution of olive oil but I used the olive oil and it came out splendidly, so don’t worry about going out to get the coconut if you don’t have that. Also, I made my own almond meal by throwing some almonds in a chopper, it’s super easy.  As Heidi notes, the consistency of the raw cookies will be quite different than you are used to, but no worries, this is to be expected.  Just keep an eye on them and go for the smell test (if they smell done, they probably are!).  Here is Heidi’s recipe and my photos follow:

(Heidi’s) Nikki’s Healthy Cookies
You can use unsweetened carob, or grain sweetened chocolate chips, or do what I did and chop up 2/3 of a bar of Scharffen berger 70%. I sort-of shaved half the bar with a knife and then cut the rest into bigger chip-sized chunks. You can make your own almond meal by pulsing almonds in a food processor until it is the texture of sand – don’t go too far or you’ll end up with almond butter. And lastly, the coconut oil works beautifully here, just be sure to warm it a bit – enough that it is no longer solid, which makes it easier to incorporate into the bananas. If you have gluten allergies, seek out GF oats.

    3 large, ripe bananas, well mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/4 cup coconut oil, barely warm – so it isn’t solid (or alternately, olive oil)
    2 cups rolled oats
    2/3 cup almond meal
    1/3 cup coconut, finely shredded & unsweetened
    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    6 – 7 ounces chocolate chips or dark chocolate bar chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, racks in the top third.

In a large bowl combine the bananas, vanilla extract, and coconut oil. Set aside. In another bowl whisk together the oats, almond meal, shredded coconut, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined. Fold in the chocolate chunks/chips.The dough is a bit looser than a standard cookie dough, don’t worry about it. Drop dollops of the dough, each about 2 teaspoons in size, an inch apart, onto a parchment (or Silpat) lined baking sheet. Bake for 12 – 14 minutes. I baked these as long as possible without burning the bottoms and they were perfect – just shy of 15 minutes seems to be about right in my oven.

Makes about 3 dozen bite-sized cookies.

I hope you enjoy these yummy and tasty treats–as the holidays approach it’s nice to find sweets that don’t pack too much of a fatty punch.  Mmmmm healthy and tasty, who knew?!

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 “We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.” Dorothy Day

I may have mentioned in past posts that my friend and roommate Heather has been preparing to leave NYC for the Peace Corps in Latin America (with a stop in her hometown of San Francisco).   A week ago, she left the city, a place where she has lived for the last 8 years and the environment in which (in her own words) she has grown from a girl to a woman.  I feel so blessed to have had Heather as a roommate over the past two plus years.  She sure is a whirlwind of energy—a force of nature, as I like to say.  You know those people who are full of big dreams and wishes and idealism but never really seem to know how to set out to accomplish them?  Well my dear friend is definitely not one of them!  I’m excited for her to begin this new chapter and I can’t wait to see the adventures and excitement that await her.
My other roommate Danielle and I threw Heather a going away party for friends, but to say goodbye to our little Bronx community, we did something that felt special but not out of the ordinary.  A few days before she left, we hosted Heather’s last community dinner.  As we try to do almost every week, friends from our building and neighborhood gathered together to eat, drink, and talk.  We shared stories from work, commented on politics and issues in the neighborhood, talked about spouses and children and the babies we are waiting to meet (there is a bit of a baby boom in the building).  In short, we were present to each other for a few blissful hours.  A few things we did were a little bit out of the ordinary for community dinner though—we toasted Heather and she toasted us.  
It was very moving and I can’t think of a better way to formally close out Heather’s time at Rochambeau.
For the farewell dinner, we decided to make pizza.  Heather cannot eat gluten and she had some gluten free pizza mix lying around just begging to be made.  For those who can eat gluten, I made the with-gluten dough.  Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I have to say that this was the best dough recipe I’ve ever made!   I’m not the one who stretched it our baked it—we delegated tasks and I was assigned to putting the dough together.  So I can only take credit for finding the recipe and mixing up the ingredients, but this one is a winner that I will use over and over!
I found this recipe on 101cookbooks.com, my old standby site, but I was pleased to read that this is actually based off a recipe in The Breadbaker’s Apprentice, a book my mom got me almost a year ago!  So it comes from my favorite recipe website and a beloved book, all rolled into one!
The recipe via 101cookbooks (from Peter Reinhart’s book):

White Whole Wheat Pizza Dough Recipe

This is a very adapted version of Peter Reinhart’s dough using white whole wheat flour. There are a few corners that I’m in the habit of cutting with this dough, all reflected in the following recipe instructions.

4 1/2 cups King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1/4 cup olive oil
1 3/4 cups water, ice cold
a few tablespoons chopped herbs (optional)
Semolina flour or cornmeal for dusting

Stir together the flour, salt, and instant yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer. By hand stir in the oil and the cold water until the flour is all absorbed. Add the herbs. Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a smooth, sticky dough. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl (to me it looks like a tornado). Add a touch of water or flour to reach the desired effect. The finished dough will be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky.
Transfer the dough to a floured countertop. Cut the dough into 6 equal pieces and mold each into a ball. Rub each ball with olive oil and slip into plastic sandwich bags. Refrigerator overnight.
When you are ready to make pizza (anytime in the next few days), remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator at least 1 hour before making the pizza. Keep them covered so they don’t dry out.
At the same time place a baking stone on a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees (you can go hotter, but I like the results I get at 450). If you do not have a baking stone, you can use the back of a sheet pan, but do not preheat the pan.
Generously dust a peel or the back of a sheet pan with semolina flour or cornmeal and get ready to shape your pizza dough. Uncover or unwrap the dough balls and dust them with flour. Working one at a time, gently press a dough round into a disk wide enough that you can bring it up onto your knuckles to thin out – you should be able to pull each round out to 12-inches or so. If the dough is being fussy and keeps springing back, let it rest for another 15-20 minutes. Place the pulled-out dough on the prepared sheet pan, and jerk the pan to make sure the dough will move around on the cornmeal ball-bearings (you don’t want it to stick to the pan).
Add your toppings (less is more!) and slide the topped pizza onto the baking stone. Bake until the crust is crisp and nicely colored. Remove from the oven. I always finish with more freshly grate parmesan and a small drizzle of good quality extra-virgin olive oil.
Makes six 6-ounce pizza crusts.
And some pictures!

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