Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Double Chocolate Granola

I used to make granola all the time, and then my teeth started bothering me enough that I no longer wanted to eat it. This was a particular bummer when I was trying to empty the pantry, because I could no longer make kitchen-sink granola! I ended up enjoying make-ahead frozen oatmeal, though. In a nutshell, you make oatmeal, pour it in a greased muffin tin, top with nuts and/or dried fruit, then freeze until solid and transfer the frozen pucks to a freezer bag. To serve, just put a few pucks in a bowl and microwave; top with milk and/or maple syrup, as desired.

Three crowns and a root canal later, plus like three years of healing, and I felt ready for granola again. I made this nut-free double-chocolate granola, and it was delish! I baked it at a lower temperature and saved half of the chocolate chips to be added after baking; the instructions below are mine. The blackstrap molasses may seem like an unusual ingredient here, but apparently they help show off the deep chocolate flavor and they make the granola clump nicely. It wasn’t too sweet, but I still enjoyed it on top of plain Greek yogurt (or on top of vanilla yogurt once for dessert). Even the Little Prince liked it, which surprised me because I’m not sure he’s ever liked any of the granolas I’ve made when he can get perfectly good chocolate chip granola from a box. This is a win!

2 cups (190 g.) old fashioned rolled oats
¼ cup (30 g.) unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ (45 g.) cup unsalted sunflower kernels
¼ tsp. fine sea salt
¼ cup (50 g.) mini chocolate chips, divided
¼ cup creamy sunbutter (or almond butter if allergies aren’t an issue)
¼ cup + 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
½ Tbsp. blackstrap molasses

Preheat oven to 300 °F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix the oats, cocoa powder, sunflower kernels, salt and half of the chocolate chips. Then warm up the sunbutter to a smooth consistency if it's really thick or cold. Stir in the syrup and molasses. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until it all comes together and is very sticky.

Spread out evenly flat onto the pan. Bake in the lowest third of the oven for 15 minutes; remove and stir the granola thoroughly so it will cook evenly. Place back in the oven on the low rack and bake another 8 minutes. Watch closely so the edges don't burn. Let cool 10 minutes while it crisps up. Once it has cooled down, add the remaining chocolate chips and mix thoroughly. Store in an airtight container.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Purple Sweet Potato Pie

I sometimes see purple sweet potatoes at the grocery store, but they’re not always there, so I never really plan to buy them. But I knew I wanted to try this recipe for vegan purple sweet potato pie with almond coconut crust, so I made sure to have all my non-perishables on hand, including CocoWhip for the topping. I figured that since sweet potatoes are a root vegetable, it was a safe bet to expect them to make an appearance in the fall. So when I saw the purple sweet potatoes again, I bought some and made the pie!

I didn’t like the almond coconut crust of the original recipe. I mean, I liked the ingredients individually, so it sounded good, but I found that it fell apart and got soft after a while and thus did not fulfill its basic function as a crust. I think that even assuming you want a vegan/paleo/gluten-free/keto/whatever crust, there are other options. I don’t have those food restrictions, so I recommend a graham cracker crust. Parbake it if you make your own, or follow the instructions on the package if you buy it premade.

As for the purple sweet potatoes, I used this variety, but any sweet potato should do, including regular orange ones. I added nutmeg and a bit of sugar to the filling (the ingredients below are mine), and it was great! As a matter of fact, the filling was so good that I might make it my default sweet potato pie. The purple sweet potatoes obviously make the pie stand out, though, so buy them if you can find them.

2 lb. purple sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch rounds (about 4 cups)
¼ cup sugar
¾ cup canned coconut milk
½ cup maple syrup (see notes)
1 ½ Tbsp. tapioca starch
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. allspice
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper (I used 1 pinch of Korean pepper)
¼ tsp. ground cloves
1 graham cracker crust (see note above)
CocoWhip or equivalent, for topping

Bring a medium-sized pot of water to a boil. Add the purple yams and boil for 10 minutes, or until the yams can be pierced with a fork. Drain the yams then put them in a high-powered blender or food processor.

Add the rest of the pie filling ingredients and blend on high until everything is smooth and creamy.

Pour the pie filling into the baked pie shell and smooth out the top. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the pie has set but still has some jiggle in the middle. Remove the pie from the oven and let it cool completely before serving it. Top with CocoWhip if desired.

Monday, October 07, 2019

Guide francophone du Texas

J’ai entendu parler de ce guide en lisant cet article où il en était question (partagé par un Français sur un groupe Facebook, si ma mémoire est bonne). Il s’agit d’un guide autopublié en 2017 par Sophie Auzerau, une Française qui a habité à Dallas pendant cinq ans. Comme elle le dit, « En arrivant, je craignais de m’ennuyer et de ne rien avoir à découvrir. Cinq ans après, je m’inquiète de ne pas avoir tout vu ! »

Bon, commençons par les défauts. Ce qui m'a sauté aux yeux, en tant que réviseure-traductrice, ce sont les coquilles (ou la mauvaise mise en page) et les anglicismes. Pour ce dernier cas, il s’agit surtout de mots non traduits, comme « poison ivy » laissé tel quel dans le texte. J’ai l’impression que les Européens oublient toujours de regarder ailleurs dans la Francophonie pour trouver l’équivalent d’un mot d’une langue étrangère si le concept n’existe pas dans leur pays… Au Canada, on en a, de l’herbe à puce! Sans compter la sempiternelle « Thanksgiving » pas traduite par Action de grâce… Il y a aussi des mots carrément laissés en anglais même si l’équivalent est évident, comme « park » au lieu de parc.

Aussi, il s’est glissé quelques erreurs dans le guide (par exemple, le lac Caddo n’est pas le seul lac naturel du Texas, bien qu’il soit le plus connu; les dunes du White Sands National Monument au Nouveau-Mexique sont faites de gypse et non pas de sable). De plus, San Antonio est présentée seulement pour l’Alamo (plus les lieux classés au patrimoine mondial de l’UNESCO) et la River Walk, mais on a aussi tant d’autres attraits! La cathédrale San Fernando, Market Square, les musées, les parcs, le jardin botanique, la Pearl Brewery… Sans compter tous les restaurants que l’auteure aurait pu inclure dans le chapitre sur ce sujet! San Antonio est pourtant la 7e plus grosse ville aux États-Unis (plus peuplée que Dallas!), c’est donc à la fois étonnant et dommage qu’elle soit laissée-pour-compte par une locale dans un guide touristique. Rien sur El Paso non plus, tiens.

Quand même, ce guide a de nombreux bons points. Je trouve ça *génial* d’avoir un guide non seulement en français mais surtout écrit par quelqu’un comme moi, c’est-à-dire local mais sans être natif. J’aime aussi que le guide parle des attraits de chacune des régions géographiques du Texas, qui est quand même grand! Hill Country, Piney Woods, Upper Gulf Coast, Big Bend, Panhandle, South Texas Plains et Prairies and Lakes, chacune y est. J’y ai trouvé des idées pour d’éventuels voyages ainsi que pour Houston, que nous n’avons toujours pas visitée. Je vais laisser le guide dans la chambre d’amis, avec les dépliants touristiques locaux!

Vous pouvez vous procurer le guide en version papier ici; pour la version numérique, vous avez le choix entre PDF et Kindle.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Banana flour

I’d been curious about banana flour for a while, so when I saw a smallish bag of it at my grocery store, I decided to try it. It’s a good source of fiber and potassium, in addition to being gluten-free, obviously. Based on the recipes I found, it seems that you have to let the batter rest for a while so that the flour can hydrate properly before being baked; that being said, it doesn’t absorb moisture nearly to the same extent that coconut flour does.

I couldn’t resist making the banana bread recipe on the back of the package (Just About Foods brand). The banana bread recipe was a hot mess as written, so my version is clarified (but still calls for the same ingredients). I found it a bit too moist for my liking, even when fully baked, but it improved when I had a slice of it toasted and buttered the next day.

I also tried banana flour pancakes – the recipe gave me 8 beautifully golden pancakes, but I much prefer my regular recipe.

Banana flour is made with green bananas, and doesn’t actually taste like bananas at all (or at least, not like those we are used to eating); I think “unripe” would be the best way to describe it. Sadly, I’ve decided that I’m not fond of banana flour. I’m glad I tried it, but won’t buy it again. That being said, some of you might be curious, so here’s the recipe!

1 cup (160 g.) banana flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 very ripe bananas
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup lactose-free milk
2/3 cup melted ghee or lactose-free butter
3 eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

In a small bowl, whisk together the banana flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a bowl, combine mashed bananas, brown sugar, milk, ghee, eggs, and vanilla. Once combined, add the banana flour mixture little by little and mix thoroughly until you get a smooth and thick batter. Let the mixture sit for 1 hour before baking.

Preheat oven to 325 °F. Grease a 9”x5” loaf pan.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool before slicing.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Adam's Ribs

The making of this top turned into a bit of a saga. (I’m still not sure whether I should call it a sweater, an open cardigan, or a wrap! I think all those terms are technically correct, but I keep switching from one to the other when I talk about it.) That being said, I realize not everyone wants to hear about all the details, so I’ll start by telling you about the pattern itself.

It’s Adam’s Ribs cap-sleeved wrap, designed by Carol Sunday of Sunday Knits; you can buy it here or on Ravelry. (It might be tricky to wear, given that it’s a short-sleeve garment yet it’s made for cold weather. As I was writing this post and looking it up on Ravelry, I realized that it now comes in a version with long sleeves, and that might work better for some people!) I have a shawl pin that I finally get to use to wear this, but you can also make a buttonhole or, better yet, a button loop on an edge to close it.

It’s a simple stitch pattern, designed over 7 rows and multiples of 12 stitches (though the full pattern is over 24 stitches). And it looks very impressive, but it’s sort of like ribbing that wanders to one side and the other, so it’s not hard to knit. It’s actually quite easy to memorize once you’ve repeated it a few times. It’s also reversible, which is nice! The wrap is knit side-to-side, from right to left, with only a few seams at the sleeves (shoulders and underarms). In order to keep everything straight as I was knitting, I ended up using just about every stitch marker and lifeline I had, so to simplify things and prevent a giant tangle, I actually finished each sleeve as I was knitting instead of leaving them both on stitch holders and finishing them at the very end. (So once I had passed the right armhole and was knitting the back, I put that on hold to finish the right sleeve, and did the same for the left sleeve once I was knitting the left front. It made things easier for me and I recommend that method.)

I learned new techniques with this pattern: Carol Sunday has created a method for wrapless short rows that works really well, and I familiarized myself with purled left increases. Overall, the pattern is easy to follow and quite well written; you should trust that it will all make sense in the end, EXCEPT where it says “Start every row with Section A” – ignore that and don’t change anything in the pattern (you’re actually starting every ODD row with Section A, as usual). Also, the pattern doesn’t mention this, but definitely use stitch markers!

So, for the personal saga… I started out with 5 skeins of Malabrigo Rios in Plomo (100 grams each). This was yarn that I had set aside specifically for this project, but… literally years ago. I just got really busy knitting for babies (mine and other people’s), and making small projects like hats when I didn’t have time to tackle something big. My receipt is dated from September 2012! But again, I was actually looking forward to using the yarn this whole time, so it wasn’t a matter of not wanting to work on this project, it was just being too busy to get started.

In the summer of 2018, while in Montreal, I finally got around to knitting several test squares to see how it looked on needles of various sizes, then I knit even more samples in the pattern stitch to try to get the gauge right. But oh, God, the gauge! Carol Sunday measures gauge in inches per stitches, as opposed to stitches per inch. Her explanation is here – it really does make more sense, but it’s hard to get used to. And I couldn’t get it quite right, even with blocking. I set it aside that summer because I was waiting to come back home and see whether I had a pair of 7mm needles in my stash, since I did own some seldom-used needles that I hadn’t brought with me on vacation and I didn’t want to buy doubles. Turns out I didn’t, so I bought some, and knit my sample in San Antonio. And you know what? It came out weird, so I went right back to the pair of 6.5 mm needles I already owned (I’ve since used the 7 mm needles for something else, so acquiring them was not a waste, but it was still incredibly frustrating at the time). I literally used up almost a whole skein in test squares! I eventually said “screw it”, because perfect is sometimes the enemy of good, and 6.5 mm would do just fine.

I forged ahead that fall, but ran out of yarn when I got about two thirds of the way through. And it’s dyed in lots of 10 skeins, so obviously it was impossible to get more of the same dye lot from 2012. I can’t even tell you how frustrated I was at that point! I had basically trusted that Past-Me had done the math right – it did work out by weight of yarn, but I couldn’t clearly remember doing the calculations, and Past-Me was less experienced, so there you go. I sewed up the one sleeve I had to try it on and decided that I liked the look of the half-finished sweater enough that I really did want to make it again.

I searched and searched for something else. I looked at what others had done on Ravelry, and there were three sweaters that I really liked (one, two, and three). Two of the three knitters had used the yarn that was called for in the pattern, the Nirvana 5-ply sold by Sunday Knits, so I caved and bought some in Charcoal, the same colorway as the pattern. It’s a mix of Australian merino and Mongolian cashmere, humanely sourced and everything, and it’s worsted weight. It’s not cheap, obviously, but I really wanted this sweater. I bought the 9 skeins recommended for my size in the pattern (50 grams each), but I used not quite 8, so I still have to figure out a small project to do with the rest. As well as something to use up the 5 skeins of Malabrigo Rios, also worsted weight!

Anyway, at least now that I’m finished with it, I’m very happy with the result.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Batch of links

- There’s a new way to reduce food waste, by making produce last longer. The company behind this is Apeel (what a great name!), and they’ve developed an edible plant-derived material that is applied to fruits and vegetables before shipping them to the grocery store. This reduces oxidation and water loss, thus slowing decay.

- I read this article stating that one should not look at a restaurant menu ahead of time (unless one suffers from genuine dietary restrictions). I read it to see the rationale behind it, only to come away thinking that the problem here isn’t that the author was making a choice ahead of time, but that he was essentially planning to coerce fellow dinners into ordering meals according to his own taste as well. How rude!

- 16 things Marcella Hazan taught us about Italian cooking. I’m a big fan of her tomato sauce, so I enjoyed these!

- I very much liked these two essays: A woman’s greatest enemy? A lack of time to herself. and Women don’t need “me time” – we need help.. In essence, not only is women’s time interrupted more often than men’s (including at work), but we tend to feel like we cannot take time to ourselves unless all the work is done. While I can see the wisdom (or necessity) in leaving some work undone to do something more fulfilling, I tend to feel unable to relax knowing that I have a to-do list hanging over my head, and guilty if I ask my husband to watch the kids solo while I do something else. A quote from each article, to whet your appetite: “Feminist researchers have also found that many women don’t feel that they deserve long stretches of time to themselves, the way men do. They feel they have to earn it. And the only way to do that is to get to the end of a To Do list that never ends: the chores of the day, as Melinda Gates writes in her new book, killing the dreams of a lifetime.” And “Y’all, if a mom is burnt out from everyday life she does NOT need a pat on the head and a pedicure, she needs HELP. […] It’s not so much the term ‘me-time’ that gets under my skin, but the thought that merely giving a mother an hour or two to ignore her problems only to come home to the same amount, if not MORE, shit for her to do is asinine.”

- Extroverts are better than introverts at facial recognition. I find this super interesting because as an introvert, I sometimes fail at facial recognition, and if I try to match a name with a feature, I sometimes choose a non-permanent feature, and that’s not always a good strategy, For example, if I meet a new woman, I might remember that So-and-so is the woman with the big hoop earrings. But if the next time I see her, she’s wearing diamond studs, then I’m SOL. The Engineer has this worse than I do, but still. Anyway, the finding still raises a lot of questions: are introverts bad at recognizing faces because of the way they’re wired or because they inherently meet fewer people? Or is there a self-feeding loop where an introvert with social anxiety might have trouble with faces and then feel even more socially anxious because of it and want to meet even fewer people?

- Having an older brother is associated with slower language development. That’s certainly true at our house! (Sample size = 1.)

- On the bright side, the critical period for the acquisition of a second language seems to stretch to about 17 years old, so there’s still hope for my kids to learn French properly.

- Finally, I realize I haven’t talked about The Biggest Little Farm on this blog. I saw the documentary on Mother’s Day and I absolutely loved it. It’s about Apricot Lane Farms in California. Right off the bat, I’ll tell you that I’m aware of the film’s flaws, like how cloying it seems, what with the “happy clapping music” in the trailer and the fact that it’s tapping into the zeitgeist of sustainable, ethical, small-scale farming with which foodies and hipsters seem obsessed. It seems trite or like it’s catering to a niche audience with which you don’t identify, or even manipulative, and I get that. But I’m also a biologist, so the notions and importance of biodiversity leading to self-sustaining ecosystems are rooted into me (pardon the pun). It’s beneficial not just to the environment, including the health of those who live in it (humans as well as animals), but it helps sustainability because monoculture never works out long term. (Monoculture, over time, will deplete the environment of its resources and create conditions where a single virus can take out almost an entire crop worldwide. Poor agricultural practices can also have dire repercussions, as they did during the Dust Bowl – the drought alone wasn’t enough to cause all those problems, but farming too much land with wheat made it so much worse.) So all this to say that despite how cloyingly it’s presented, these are actually my values.

I loved this movie not just for its message, but because it showed some of the behind-the-scenes of all the effort that was needed to get a farm up and running. This was seven years in the making, with a seemingly massive investment from a private source. I was curious to find out more and ended up reading this article. It doesn’t answer all my questions (like, how much money was invested? when did the farm become profitable?), but I learned that actually, 85% of the farms in California are small-scale, though Apricot Lane Farms is one of only 66 farms to be certified biodynamic. I also saw one of their job ads for farmhands and was happy to note that they pay well above minimum wage! They also now make money from giving tours (currently sold out months in advance) and selling merchandise online, in addition to farmers’ markets. I’ve got a practical side that really wants to take a look at their financials!

The Engineer had expressed enough curiosity about it once I came back from the theater that I though he wanted to see it, but it turns out that he was just trying to figure out what I saw in it, since he had the same initial distaste for it as I did from the trailer. He’ll only watch it with me if I promise to watch something I don’t want with him, and while I could agree to the general principle of the trade, I don’t want to walk into this handing him a blank check, so to speak, so I’ve shelved the DVD for now and am waiting for someone else who’ll enjoy it. It’s a wonderful movie, people!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Pizza Rolls

I got this recipe from the Weelicious Lunches cookbook, which I still use often. This isn’t to say that my kid eats everything in it (I don’t think he’d go anywhere near the egg pesto sandwich, despite how awesome that looks to me), but there are some great recipes in there. There’s a small chapter of recipes that are all variations on pizza, and I decided to try one. I didn’t have it in me to make the whole wheat dough, so I just bought some regular pizza dough at the store, but I did make the sauce. And it’s really cool, because it’s made from a lot of vegetables! The recipe for the sauce makes about 4 cups, so I froze three portions of 1 cup and used the remainder (¾ cup) in this recipe. This means that I have enough on hand to make more pizza recipes for future lunches, and I’d even consider doubling the amounts just to have extra to freeze! In hindsight, though, I’d portion it ¼-cup mounds to freeze it, since most recipes in the book call for multiples of ¼ cup but never 1 whole cup of sauce.

The original recipe called for shredded mozzarella, and usually my two options are to shred lactose-free cheddar instead or use a vegan mozzarella. The Little Prince is not fond of Daiya, though – I could have used regular mozzarella for him, but I wanted to taste these too! I ended up using a new-to-me brand, Violife, which I heard about here. Even though it doesn’t melt, we all agreed it tasted better than Daiya, so we’ve pretty much switched household brands.

The Little Prince loved this in his lunch!

For the pizza sauce (this makes enough to freeze for later use)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 red, orange or yellow bell pepper, diced (I used red)
1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 28-oz. cans diced tomatoes, drained

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the bell pepper, carrot, celery, onion and garlic. Sauté until veggies are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for 1 more minute, stirring constantly.

Add the tomatoes, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove from heat, purée with an immersion hand blender (or in a regular blender) until almost smooth.

Return sauce to the heat and simmer until thick, 10-20 minutes. The longer you simmer this sauce the thicker and more flavorful it will become. You can simmer up to 2 hours.

For the pizza rolls
1 lb. pizza dough
¾ cup pizza sauce (see recipe above or buy your favorite brand)
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese substitute (see note above)
½ cup pepperoni or your favorite topping

Preheat the oven to 400 "F and grease 10 muffin cups.

Roll out the pizza dough to ¼-inch thick, making a 10”x20” rectangle.

Spread the pizza sauce in a thin layer across the surface of the dough. Sprinkle with the cheese and pepperoni (or your favorite topping – the original recipe called for broccoli, but I knew my kids wouldn’t go for that).

Roll up the dough lengthwise to form a 20-inch log and pinch the seam together. Slice the log into 2-inch pieces.

Place the pizza rolls in the muffin cups and pat down slightly. (The rolls are supposed to hold together on a parchment-lined baking sheet as well, but I didn’t want to risk it!) Bake for 25 minutes (20 minutes if using a baking sheet), or until golden and bubbly and the center of the dough is cooked through. Cool and serve.