A Recipe with an Unfortunate Lack of Photo Documentation

Okay, okay. I know I said I’d be better about updating this than I have been with previous blogging attempts, but (of course) my crazy life got in the way. Said crazy life has also impeded my ability to post a photo of my banana bread creation because the USB cable for my camera is still in a box somewhere.

In any case, I had some bananas that had reached the end of their useful life today, so I decided to make banana bread. I have yet to find a recipe I like as much as the one my mom has made forever, but I wanted to use this as a granola-bar-esque snack for when I’m sitting in traffic between work and getting home for dinner. Armed with my copy of Vegan with a Vengeance (which has an excellent baking section) and my own baking prowess, I tweaked my mom’s recipe and came up with this:

1/2 cup safflower oil (Mom’s called for shortening, so I used the butter-to-oil conversion from Vegan with a Vengeance.)
1/3 cup sugar in the raw (Mom’s called for 2/3 cup, but I usually cut the sugar in half when I bake anything that’s not a dessert.)
1/2 cup flaxseed meal mixed with 3/4 cup water (Mom’s called for eggs. I’m not opposed to eggs–I eat several a week–but I wanted to do a vegan/healthy fat experiment here.)
2 cups mashed bananas
1/2 cup soymilk (I like vanilla Silk. Again, I drink regular milk, but was experimenting.)
1 1/2 tsp. vinegar (I’m still not sure why the original recipe didn’t just use buttermilk.)
2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (I adore WW pastry flour. I use it in everything.)
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup golden raisins

1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Whisk flaxseed meal and water together in a small bowl.
3. Mix the sugar (or whatever sweetener you like) and all liquid ingredients (including the flaxseed mixture) on low speed in a large bowl.
4. Whisk the dry ingredients in another bowl and fold them into the liquid mixture by hand. Don’t overmix!
5. Stir in the raisins.
6. Pour into four mini loaf pans and bake for 25-30 minutes (or until they pass the toothpick test).

Makes 24 servings (six slices per loaf).

Overall, I was really happy with how it turned out. It was really moist, kind of earthy, and just the right amount of sweet. It also tasted enough like my mom’s to satsify me (and my dad, who said he liked it both before and after I told him about the alterations :-p). I did lose one loaf to underbaking because the whole wheat flour seems to muck up the toothpick test. Next time, I think I’ll just make muffins to mitigate the underbaking risk.

Oooh, and I also made some pretty amazing brownies for my mom’s birthday! She bought The Ghiradelli Chocolate Cookbook (I’m not going to lie–we’re addicts.) a few weeks ago, and it has a recipe for brownies made with sweet ground chocolate and cocoa that have a layer of Ghiradelli caramel squares in the middle. We opted to go for the dark chocolate ones, and it was a good decision. Each brownie had a whole caramel square inside, and they were really rich (and surprisingly not too much of a nutritional splurge!).

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A Very DIY Mother’s Day

In the spirit of being a broke grad student, I decided to make gifts and lunch for my mom and Busia this year instead of taking them out. It actually worked out really well, because I got to feed my dad and brother *and* supply an entire cheesecake.

I made a Cooking Light fettuccine alfredo recipe that I’ve been wanting to try for ages and served it with chicken that my dad grilled. I was happy with how it turned out, but my parents’ pepper mill ground the pepper a little too finely for my liking. I think it would have been better with pepper from my ghetto plastic grinder from Trader Joe’s.😉 Oooh, and I discovered my new favorite whole-wheat pasta: Amish Naturals. It was dense, chewy, whole-grainy goodness. Photo documentation:

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I also made my first attempt at an honest-to-goodness, real, unadulterated cheesecake. I used the recipe from Alton Brown’s Good Eats and watched the videos before I started. I did the whole hot water bath thing and followed the directions exactly. It looked gorgeous and didn’t have a single crack, but I discovered when I cut it that it hadn’t set in the middle. I don’t have any photo documentation because I was a little distraught when I realized it wasn’t completely cooked, but it still tasted amazing and nobody got salmonella.

And, of course, I have to document one of my rare moments of crafty glory:

crafty!

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Eat your heart out, Rachael Ray.

So I’ve totally neglected to post about last week’s lasagna-tasting shindig. It was a blast (I forget how much my friends rock when school makes me anti-social), and I got everyone’s seal of approval to submit it to the Cooking Light reader recipe contest. Photo documentation of dinner:

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I made a carrot cake for dessert because my favorite cooking blog posted a recipe a few days before the dinner, and I was disappointed with the one I made for Easter. (I used the recipe in my Betty Crocker cookbook, and the frosting was way too sweet. All I could taste was sugar–no cream cheese.) When I saw the 101 Cookbooks recipe, I knew it was perfect (and even nutritionally responsible!). The cake uses dates and mashed bananas, but no other added sweeteners. It was really dense and moist–we were actually able to pick it up and eat it with our hands and it didn’t crumble all over the place. The frosting used only cream cheese and either maple syrup or agave nectar, and the ratio of sweet to cream cheese is perfect. The frosting was sweet, but not grainy like it is when you use powdered sugar. I ended up using honey in the frosting because I was out of maple syrup and I don’t care for agave nectar, but it worked out fine. I also added the extra spices she suggested to the cake, but I think next time I’d add double what I did. Photo documentation of dessert:

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This weekend’s cooking adventures will consist of an honest-to-goodness-totally-not-nutritionally-responsible cheesecake (courtesy of Alton Brown’s Good Eats) and tamarind lentils (courtesy of Veganomicon), assuming I don’t screw up separating the seeds and the pulp in the tamarind. If I do screw up the tamarind, I’m going with lentil veggie burgers.

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I love people.

I stopped at Dunham’s yesterday because my swim cap had reached the end of its useful life. When I walked in, I saw a sign that said “Cash sales only. Credit card machine is down. Sorry for the inconvenience.” I checked my wallet and, believe it or not, I actually had enough cash on me. When I got to the register, the cashier asked if I was paying with cash or charge. I said, “Oh, can I use my card? The sign in front said your machine is down.” She replied, “Right, but not everyone actually reads the sign and the last guy yelled at me and said ‘So why’d you ask?’ when I told him the machine was down.” So not only did the guy not read the sign, he was a jerk about it. I apologized on behalf of decent people everywhere and wished her luck with the rest of her shift.

Look for a post dinner party cooking post tomorrow. Good times ahead!

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I *will* keep this updated, I swear.

So I think (knock on cheap Target desk fake wood) that the weather has finally broken to a point that will allow me to run outside consistently. I went out for this year’s inaugural outdoor run on Friday, and it was quite the ego bruising experience. It seemed like I was going against the wind (*cue cheeseball Bob Seger song*) the entire time, and it was damn windy. I even bailed after only four miles when I set out to do five. Luckily, it turned out that the wind really was the problem (as opposed to me being way less in shape than I thought I was) because my Monday-morning sunrise run was glorious. There was no wind at all, and the temperature was pretty much perfect. I love finally having enough sunlight to be comfortable going out in the morning.

Now I just need to make a “hooray for spring!” playlist or two. Any suggestions?

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A Weekend of Culinary Aventures, Part Two (Vegan Baking Edition!)

I ran into Meijer today and saw that blackberries are part of the 10/$10 sale this week. On a whim, I picked some up and decided to do a little muffin-making. Before I continue, I should explain that I don’t really like the fluffy dessert-style muffins that most bakeries and coffee shops sell. I like dense, chewy muffins that I can have with a glass of milk or cheese stick to keep me going between meals. My muffins tend to be almost granola bar-esque.

Anyway, I was reading the baking section of the vegan cookbook (here’s a link to her tips), and decided to do a little experiment. I took a Betty Crocker blueberry muffin recipe, tweaked it a little, and came up with the following:

3/4 cup soy milk (I used vanilla Silk)
1/4 cup safflower oil (or whatever oil you like to cook with)
2 tablespoons applesauce
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar in the raw (or any sweet stuff you like–regular sugar, brown sugar, honey, whatever)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
grated lemon zest (I didn’t measure, but I ended up using a whole lemon’s worth of zest.)
1 cup blackberries

Preheat oven to 400.
Mix the flaxseed and water in a small bowl.
Beat soy milk, oil, flaxseed mixture, applesauce, and vanilla with a whisk in a large bowl.
Add the dry ingredients all at once and mix just until flour is moistened.
Fold in blackberries and lemon zest.
Put in muffin tins coated with cooking spray and bake until they pass the toothpick test. (Mine took about 18 minutes.)

I was happy with these and will definitely make them again, but they’re really chewy. I was pleasantly surprised to see how much they puffed up when I baked them, though. Next time, I think I’ll add a bit more applesauce and mix the flour a bit less. I bet they’d also be good with spices (cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg) instead of the lemon. The final product:

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A Weekend of Culinary Adventures, Part One

The really hard part of my semester was done last Monday (as of tomorrow night, I’ll be totally done with Winter 2009), so I decided to celebrate by picking up some cookbooks from the library. I ended up with Alton Brown’s I’m Just Here for More Food (I’m intrigued by the science of cooking, and I have a big crush on him), Vegan with a Vengeance (I’m perfectly content as an omnivore, but I like variety and I think vegetarian cooking is creative and fun), and one called The Flexitarian Table (which looks like it’s going to be a bit fussy, even for me).

I spent Saturday doing my usual weekly food prep, and I decided on a Moroccan tagine with spring vegetables recipe from the vegan cookbook for lunches and straight-up grilled chicken for dinners. I also made some millet and spinach polenta from the vegan cookbook and grilled it when I did the chicken.

First up: the tagine. This turned out to be pretty labor-intensive (lots of chopping and adding ingredients in steps), but I had a boatload of red lentils to use up, and it made a *ton* (six two-ish cup servings). It had red lentils, carrots, onions, garlic, fresh ginger, cumin, turmeric, coriander, cinnamon, zucchini, green beans, grape tomatoes, raisins, spinach, cilantro, and mint. I added cauliflower and will eat it over red quinoa. I haven’t eaten it as a meal yet, but I liked the couple of bites I had as a taste-test on Saturday. The mint gave it a really nice flavor, and I’ll be using the rest of the bunch in my iced tea all week.

s6300882Next: the polenta. I picked this one because I had all the ingredients on hand–millet, spinach, oregano, and olive oil. I actually liked this better than cornmeal polenta because cornmeal is such a pain to cook. (I usually can’t be bothered with it unless it’s in cornbread.) It was creamier than cornmeal polenta too. Next time I make it, I think I’m going to add some Parmesan cheese and actually attempt the sun-dried tomato/almond pesto recipe that goes with it.

s6300883Grilled chicken! I decided to go for simplicity and used an old standby for this one. My mom’s old Betty Crocker cookbook has a recipe for barbecue sauce that has been my favorite for as long as I can remember. I have yet to find a store-bought sauce I like as much as I like this one. Sometimes I tweak the ingredients a little, but the basic idea is this: a cup of tomato puree or ketchup, vinegar (I usually use apple cider or regular), brown sugar (I’ve used molasses before, and I want to try maple syrup sometime), Worcestershire sauce, onions, garlic powder, and mustard powder. Anyway, I just put salt, pepper, and garlic powder on the chicken breasts and brushed sauce on them toward the end of their time on the grill. They turned out great, and I’m going to use the leftovers in salads with corn, ranch dressing, and avocado for dinners this week.

One last photo of my finished dinner (chicken, polenta, and grilled veggies) for you:
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