Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sunshine Soup

I have to tell you about this soup. I’ve tried a few variations of squash soups and the like, including this coconut curry version (also available in sweet potato), though I still prefer my lime-ginger stand-by. But then there was this soup from My New Roots, with yellow split peas and saffron, that was simply outstanding. The bright yellow color reminded me that spring is coming, even though all the ingredients are available in the winter. It was sunshine in color and in taste, and the carrot topping looks like little suns!

1 cup dried yellow split peas, soaked
a pinch of saffron (approximately 20 threads), soaked
knob of coconut oil or vegetable oil
¼ tsp. cayenne (optional; I used Korean pepper)
¼ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. paprika
5 bay leaves
pinch of sea salt
2 large leeks, chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 small Hokkaido (or any winter squash/pumpkin; I used kabocha), cubed
2 carrots, chopped (+ 1 to decorate, optional)
6 cups vegetable broth
1 lemon

Pick over split peas to remove any stones or debris. Place them in a bowl and cover with water. If possible, let soak for up to 8 hours – if not, set them aside until you cook with them.

In a very small bowl or cup, place the saffron and cover with a couple tablespoons of hot water. Let steep for at least 10 minutes (set aside until you cook with it).

In a large stock pot heat the oil and add the spices and bay leaves, stirring frequently for a minute or so (watch carefully so they do not burn). Add leeks, garlic, pumpkin, and carrots. Stir to coat with spice mix. If the pot becomes dry, add a little water. Cook for 5-10 minutes until veggies begin to soften.

Drain and rinse split peas, add to the pot. Cover with stock, add saffron-water, bring to a boil, and reduce to simmer.

White the soup is simmering, cut out sun shapes with the carrots (this is totally optional, but fun. It also makes the soup very appealing!). Pick out a very straight carrot. Wedge the entire length of your knife blade into the side of a carrot on a slight angle. Just beside that slice, wedge the knife blade in again at the opposite angle to meet the first cut (creating a very long triangular cut-out). Repeat all around the carrot, then slice thinly across the end of the carrot to make sun shapes. Reserve a few for garnish.

Once the peas are cooked through and soft, remove bay leaves. (Here, I felt a bit like Walter White putting the shards of a plate back together… Some of my leaves had crumbled, so I made sure I got all the pieces out. It was easier than I thought, though, because they mostly floated.) Using an immersion blender, blend on high until smooth (you can also use an upright blender). Thin with water if too thick. Add the juice of ½ lemon. Season to taste.

Add sun carrot shapes (except the few you’ll be using as garnish), simmer until softened (5 minutes). Serve immediately with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a couple carrot suns and a wedge of lemon juice.

Yuzu Buttercream

This was probably my last citrus recipe of the winter. I only have a handful left on my to-do list, but I think the window has closed and I’ll have to try until next season. I did manage to find yuzu juice, though, albeit from an online source. It turns out that it’s a small bottle that keeps in the fridge, so it’s not necessarily seasonal… Yuzu is a sour citrus, and the flavor reminded me somewhat of a bitter mandarin. The zest and juice are used in cooking, but it isn’t usually eaten raw. I think it would be great in salad dressing, but in this case, the buttercream frosting was a great way to showcase its flavor. I got this recipe from Dessert First, where it was paired with a coconut cupcake. The Engineer liked the cupcakes, but I found them a bit oily and thought these were better. In any case, you could use your favorite vanilla cupcakes, too. As for the buttercream, I made it with a bit less butter than was called for, and I liked it. I tried a vegan version with shortening and margarine, but that did not work at all, so I’ll stick to this version even though it has lactose. The recipe below should be enough to frost about 18 cupcakes or one cake. Also, for whatever reason, I realized that when I was piping the frosting onto the cupcakes, I used my left hand (while the right hand was holding the bag closed), even though I’m right-handed! I’ll try to get more even piping next time…

1 cup (7 oz.) sugar
4 large egg whites
2 ½ sticks (10 oz.) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1” pieces (I would use 2 sticks next time)
2 ½ fl. oz. yuzu juice

Combine the sugar and egg whites in a medium heatproof bowl and place over a pan of simmering water.

Whisk the sugar mixture constantly over heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture looks smooth and shiny, about 3 minutes.

Remove mixture from heat and pour into a stand mixer bowl. Whisk on medium speed for about 5 minutes until the mixture has cooled.

Switch to the paddle attachment and with the speed on low, add the butter a few pieces at a time, beating until smooth.

When all the butter has been added, beat the buttercream on medium-high speed for about 6-10 minutes until it is very thick and smooth.

Add in the yuzu juice and beat until combined.

The buttercream is ready to be used. Place a piece of plastic wrap against the surface until you are ready to use it to prevent it from drying out.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mediterranean Tri-Tip Steak

I made this recipe from the Kitchn and was bowled over by how much I like it! This glaze gave the steak a wonderful crusty, caramelized exterior that tasted just wonderful, and it’s basically three ingredients. You could totally use it with other cuts of beef, as I’m sure to do. And it was so easy to make! This recipe is a definite winner. It’s too bad I don’t have good pictures of the glazed steak resting on the cutting board (the lighting was off). I do hope you try this recipe! A 1-lb. tri-tip steak would serve 2 to 4 people, with sides (I made it with spaghetti squash).

1 lb. tri-tip steak (also known as a Santa Maria or California tri-tip)
1 tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses
1 fat garlic clove, minced (I grated mine and that’s what I would recommend)
1 Tbsp. finely chopped mint

Pat the steak down with paper towels until no visible moisture remains; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Allow the steak to sit, at room temperature, uncovered for 1 to 2 hours. (I skipped this step, as I had read this.)

Heat oil in a cast iron skillet, on high, for 3 to 4 minutes, until hot and shimmery. Carefully, but decisively, place the steak on the skillet – do not move it for 5 minutes. Flip the steak over and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes, depending on how rare you want it (this will give you a medium rare steak; I prefer mine closer to medium-well, so I used a meat thermometer to gauge the doneness).

While the steak cooks, stir together the pomegranate molasses, garlic and mint. When the steak is done, remove it from the skillet and place on a cutting board. Brush both sides of the steak with the molasses glaze until all of the glaze is used up. Cover the steak with aluminum foil for 10 minutes before slicing the steak against the grain. Serve immediately.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Two cardigans, a hat and an owl

I’ve seriously slowed down in my knitting since last summer. It took me most of the fall to make just one baby sweater, and with three babies on the way among my friends, that didn’t bode well… Luckily, we’ve now got a solid bedtime with the Little Prince, which usually means that I can knit for an hour in front of the TV each evening. I’ve been able to complete a few projects that I thought I’d share.

First, there was a cardigan by Dale of Norway. It’s pretty funny how that came about, because I saw it on Pinterest, where it linked to this blog, and I just loved the white version. The pattern, by Dale of Norway, is available for free in English here. The funny part is that if I had only seen the picture on the pattern, a gaudy pink cardigan with crocheted flowers, I wouldn’t even have looked twice at it. But the white version, with a different collar, was lovely! So I ended up making it for my friends D. and N.’s baby, in a neutral grey. The recommended yarn (the same as for the last sweater I had made) would have taken too much time to knit up, so I used Debbie Bliss Rialto Lace in Medium Grey, doubled up. I already knew from previous knitting projects that I love that yarn for baby cardigans, as it’s soft and breathable, and it knits up pretty quickly. The harder part for me, though, was that this cardigan is knit from the bottom up, and because I was trying to put button holes all along the border instead of just at the top, this threw me off. I feel like the cardigan is a little too long from the armpits to the bottom edge. This may work out just fine, as I know I don’t like it when things ride up on my baby’s tummy, but it’s not my best cardigan. I went a little crazy with the buttons, because the mother-to-be was adamant that everything she was buying for her baby had to have owls (or penguins or elephants) on it, so I found cute buttons on Etsy to match her theme.

By pure serendipity, I happened to be going through some sewing bookmarks I had and eliminating the ones I wouldn’t be using after all, and I came across this owl stuffie tutorial on Hammer and Thread, so I adapted it slightly and made them a stuffed owl from fabric scraps I had lying around. I think I even like it more than the cardigan!

The next thing I knit, for my friend V.’s little boy, was a cardigan with the button row offset to the side. I found it here via Pinterest, and the pattern is available for free here. I just loved the stripes in the first picture I had seen, so that’s what I went with. I used more Debbie Bliss Rialto Lace, in Gold and in Stone, along with some wooden buttons. This was easy to knit, and I love it so much that I decided to make another one in a bigger size for the Little Prince – that project is in the queue, now. The only thing I’d change would be to knit the collar first and just continue on to the body, top down (as it is now, the body is knit top down, then you have to pick up stitches along the top and knit the collar upward from there, which is a little inconvenient). I made sure to knit the body and all the borders first, so that I wouldn’t run out of gold yarn; then I just weighed the rest to make sure it was evenly divided between both sleeves, but it turns out that one skein of each color was plenty for the 3-6 mo size.

Finally, I made good use of a pattern called December Stripes Hat, designed specifically to use up leftover scraps of yarn that wouldn’t otherwise be enough for a single project. I used up four different shades of blue, and even then I ran out a bit before the hat was as tall as I would have wanted it, but I like the result. The design is really nice, and is just perfect to make something nice from the stash! I also learned a Latvian braid technique for the edge, which was pretty neat. I knit this on short circular needles, which I find easier than double point needles.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Megan Gordon's Steel-Cut Oatmeal

I almost didn’t post this, because oatmeal can be kind of boring, not to mention less than photogenic. But that would be doing you a disservice, because it was absolutely delicious. Perhaps the best bowl of oatmeal I’ve had? In any event, this recipe will be added to my rotation, and it deserves to be shared. I found it on Orangette, where Molly Wizenberg had adapted it from Megan Gordon, and I in turn adapted slightly by adding vanilla bean paste. It’s wonderful. I served it with maple syrup, though once I forgot it (when I took the picture, apparently) and even loved the oatmeal as is; fresh fruit would be nice, too. The recipe makes about 4 servings. (Note that I used real butter, not margarine.)

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup (175 grams) steel-cut oats
3 ¼ cups water
1 cup lactose-free whole milk
1 Tbsp. natural cane sugar
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
maple syrup, brown sugar, or honey for serving

In a heavy skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the oats, and cook, stirring occasionally, until quite fragrant, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

In a 2 ½- to 3-quart saucepan, bring the water, milk, sugar, and salt to a simmer. (Be careful: milk goes quickly from zero to boiling and has a tendency to boil over.) Stir in the toasted oats. Adjust the heat to maintain a slow simmer, and partially cover the saucepan. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent clumping and scorching, until the mixture has thickened and the oats are soft, 25 to 30 minutes. The cereal will still be quite loose at this point, but don’t worry, it will continue to thicken. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the vanilla bean paste, allow it to rest for a few minutes (still partially covered), and then serve hot, with maple syrup, brown sugar, or honey.

Peanut Maple Granola

I’ll make this a round-up of the last items I had in the freezer. I didn’t mention the beef and turkey burgers with herbs (which were from Coup de Pouce, but the recipe isn’t online): I don’t have decent pictures, and they were good, but not great. I also made tuna and white bean pitas which, although the recipe specifically said they should be frozen, were horrible once thawed (still partly icy while already being mushy from excess water). I’d consider making them again to eat right away, but not for the freezer!

I also had fruit smoothie packets, but it turns out I’m happier with smoothies when I have a little frozen fruit and a lot of fresh fruit, as opposed to all frozen, because otherwise they are too bland and too thick. So that didn’t work for me. I also didn’t really like energy balls (I tried peanut butter banana and hemp cocoa; the leftover hemp seeds were good in salad and pesto, though).

In the end, the best thing left in my freezer was a half batch of kitchen sink granola. See, when I make granola, I do one of two things: follow a recipe, or follow a formula. The latter allows me to throw in odds and ends from the pantry, which is always convenient. The batch I made to clean out the pantry before the birth of the Little Prince was so good, though, that I wrote down the ingredients to make it again someday. I often seem to end up with most of a bag of raw peanuts, too, so I’m sure I’ll have ample opportunity! I’m naming this one Peanut Maple Granola, and if I were to change just one thing, it might be to use less sugar. The rest is awesome! [Update, October 2019: I made this again, with raw mixed nuts instead of raw peanuts, and using ½ cup of brown sugar. I wouldn’t go any lower on the sugar, but this seems like a good amount!]

3 cups rolled oats
3 cups puffed rice cereal
1 ½ cups raw peanuts
1 handful slivered almonds
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup brown sugar (or less)
1/3 cup vegetable oil (I used ¼ cup EVOO and topped it up with safflower oil)
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 big pinch vanilla salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. aniseed
¼ tsp. cardamom

Preheat oven to 300 °F. Spray a roasting pan (or a large baking sheet) with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients until well combined. Spread them on the roasting pan and bake, giving it a good shake every 10 minutes or so, until it is browned to your liking (maybe 30 minutes in all).

Let cool completely, then transfer to an airtight container.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Chocolate Cream Pie

I was in the mood for a chocolate pie recently. I had a recipe bookmarked for Minny’s chocolate pie, from the movie The Help. I had high expectations, but the pie was a disaster. I must admit I had to substitute a few ingredients to make it dairy-free, but overall it was extremely sweet (with filling that was more sticky than anything else) and not very chocolatey at all (3 tablespoons of cocoa? that’s it?). The texture was all wrong and the pie was ugly to boot. That chocolate pie actually made me so miserable that I threw some of it away.

Then, my friend Jen shared Chloe Coscarelli’s recipe for chocolate cream pie (from the book Chloe’s Vegan Desserts). And it was really good! As Jen says, it isn’t good “for a vegan pie”, where you could taste the substitute, it’s just good! I may reduce the amount of sugar a little next time, though that depends on what kind of chocolate you use. The Engineer said the filling was like high density pudding, almost like a new state of matter, but he swears he likes it. Note that this pie has to chill in the refrigerator for 8 hours (or overnight), so make it earlier than you want it! For the crust, the original recipe says to pulse vegan chocolate cookies in the food processor, mix that with ¼ cup melted vegan margarine, press it into a pie plate and bake it at 350 °F for 10 minutes. I used a store-bought chocolate cookie crumb crust, and you could just use your favorite regular crust, too. Finally, the original recipe calls for coconut whipped cream, but I still haven’t had any luck finding a good brand of coconut milk with which to make it. I tried a different recipe (from Coup de Pouce) which failed miserably, so I just used some RiceWhip and called it a day.

1 vegan chocolate cookie crumb crust (see note above)
¼ cup soy or almond milk
¼ cup arrowroot starch or cornstarch
1 (13.5-oz.) can of coconut milk
½ cup sugar (or less, see note above)
1 pinch of salt
1 cup dairy-free chocolate chips

In a small bowl, whisk together the vegan milk and arrowroot starch. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the coconut milk, sugar and salt just until boiling. Reduce heat to low and stir in the chocolate chips. Let cook, whisking frequently, until completely smooth.

Turn the heat back up to medium and slowly drizzle in the vegan milk mixture, whisking continuously. Whisk frequently for 5 minutes until the mixture is very thick, like pudding. (I wouldn’t let it thicken quite like pudding next time, as it does continue to set in the fridge later.)

Pour the filling into the pie crust. Let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight (the pudding will set).

The pie can be served as is, or with a vegan whipped topping and chocolate shavings.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Cashew Quinoa Chocolate Chip Cookies

I seem to be cooking a lot of these head-to-head recipes lately… I started with a recipe for quinoa cookies with coconut and chocolate chips, which called for cooked quinoa. I liked the mix of flavors with the quinoa, coconut, chocolate and almond extract. While those cookies were good, I found them a bit dry. They were also better warm from the oven, as opposed to a day later, which meant I had a lot of dough in the fridge to bake in batches (I got about 5 dozen cookies from that one recipe).

Overall, though, I preferred the second recipe, from Part-Time Health Nut. I used my Vitamix blender to make the cashew butter, which I thought was a great addition to the cookies; I think it’s what made the top shiny and crisp. They do not contain refined sugar (only applesauce and maple syrup) and happen to be gluten-free and vegan. These call for quinoa flakes rather than plain quinoa, which are harder to find – I ordered mine online from Amazon. I’d say these are healthy cookies, though I’d consider adding a little more maple syrup to sweeten them some more next time. They’re fine as they are, and are great if you’re trying to cut back on sugar, but perhaps wouldn’t satisfy your sweet tooth if that’s what you’re really after. This recipe gave me a more reasonable yield of 33 cookies.

½ cup quinoa flakes
½ cup almond flour
½ cup tapioca flour
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher sea salt (I’d use less next time, or use smaller salt flakes)
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups cashew pieces (mine were roasted)
½ cup applesauce
¼ cup coconut oil
2 Tbsp. maple syrup (or more?)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup 70% dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the quinoa flakes, almond flour, tapioca flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Sift or stir well to combine.

In a food processor (I used my Vitamix blender), blend cashews for about five minutes until it reaches a nut butter consistency. Scrape down from the sides and add the coconut oil, applesauce, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Pulse to combine well.

Add the wet ingredient to the dry and mix to combine.

Stir in the chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoon onto prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tuscan Chicken Soup

This recipe from Peanut Blossom is one of the meals I had frozen ahead of the Little Prince’s arrival last summer. (I’m really late with my blog posts, what can I say.) I made it without onion or garlic because I knew I would be breastfeeding, but I also omitted the zucchini because I don’t like cooked zucchini (so that’s one ingredient I’m not even including here). I didn’t have acini de pepe, so I used Israeli couscous that I added after the soup had thawed, as I was warming it up. It’s a really great soup, brothy yet hearty, and I would definitely make it again. I served it most recently with homemade Parker House rolls, which, while not lactose-free, were warm, light, fluffy, buttery, salty goodness right from my oven.

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion (medium dice)
4 stalks celery (medium dice)
4 carrots (medium dice)
3 cloves fresh garlic (chopped finely)
6 cups chicken stock
28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken (I used 2 cooked chicken breasts)
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup acini de pepe pasta (or Israeli couscous)

In a large pot, warm the olive oil and sauté onions, celery, and carrots over medium high heat for 8-10 minutes. Add garlic. Sauté until tender, about 4-6 minutes.

Add chicken stock, tomatoes, oregano, basil, and chicken. Simmer soup for 20 minutes; the vegetables should be tender. Add the pasta and cook right in the soup for another 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Top with grated parmiggiano reggiano or pecorino romano cheese if you wish.

Vegan Alfredo sauce, two ways

As I was going through my list of recipes to try not too long ago, I realized that I had three different recipes for vegan Alfredo sauce. I decided to try them and compare. I actually only tried two, because the third one called for coconut milk. I’m all for coconut milk in savory dishes when we’re talking about something like a curry, but it’s not a taste I want in my Alfredo… So I was down to two recipes, and while they’re very different, I’ll be keeping both of them. I've used the "nut-free/sans noix" tag on this post because the first recipe is nut-free, though the second recipe relies mostly on nuts. The recipes below are just for sauce; serve it with cooked pasta (I always make 16 oz. to have leftovers) and add things like seitan, chicken, mushrooms or peas if you wish. I like topping mine with freshly ground black pepper.

The first is from Vegan Dad. It was very easy to do, and the Engineer and I both found it really good. The only thing I would change is that next time, I’d add nutritional yeast, so I’m adding that below.

½ cup margarine
2 cups plain soymilk
1 package extra firm silken tofu
1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
2 Tbsp. onion powder
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. pepper
¼ tsp. nutmeg
2 Tbsp. white wine
2-3 Tbsp. arrowroot powder

Blend all ingredients except arrowroot powder in a food processor until creamy and smooth. Heat in a saucepan over med-low heat until just about bubbling.

Remove some of the sauce and mix with 2 Tbsp. of the arrowroot, then add back to the saucepan. Heat, but don't boil. If sauce is too thin, add the remaining tablespoon (or more, but this wasn’t necessary for me). Whisk smooth and serve with pasta.

The second recipe is from Munchin with Munchkin. It gave me the opportunity to use my Vitamix for something I’d been meaning to try for a long time: cashew cream, where you mix cashews and water to get a liquid consistency. This isn’t something that my food processor could do, but the Vitamix was fabulous at it and I was thrilled with the results. It was SO creamy and thick! It’s a great cream substitute, and I look forward to cooking and baking with it some more. In this case, it was basically the perfect consistency for the Alfredo sauce. The Engineer concurs; this dish wasn’t missing anything.

For the cashew cream
2 cups raw cashews

Place cashews in a fine colander or sieve and rinse under cold water for one minute. Transfer cashews to a sealable container and add just enough water to cover the nuts completely, approximately 2 ½ – 3 cups. Refrigerate overnight.

Strain cashews and rinse under cold water in a sieve. Transfer the cashews to the bowl of a (powerful) food processor and add enough water to cover the cashews by one inch. Process for a minimum of 5 minutes until the liquid is smooth and creamy. (My food processor wouldn’t have done nearly as good a job as my Vitamix blender, though I needed much less than 5 minutes with the latter.) Depending on the quality of your food processor, you may need to strain the cashew cream through a fine sieve lined with cheese cloth to remove any sediment from the liquid. (Again, not with the Vitammix.)

Store in the refrigerator for up to four days or in the freezer for up to three months. Before using, pulse it through a food processor or blender to ensure it is well mixed. You will have a nit too much for the recipe below.

For the Alfredo sauce
2Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. dry white wine
1 leek
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 ½ cups cashew cream
1 tsp. lemon juice
¼ tsp. onion powder
¼ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes (or Korean pepper)
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot heat olive oil over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add leeks and shallots. Sauté until tender, about 3-5 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Drizzle the mixture with white wine and cook for about one minute.

Slowly whisk the cashew cream into the pot, stirring well to combine. Add lemon juice, onion powder, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and nutmeg and stir to combine. Bring the sauce to a slow boil, stirring consistently until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Add nutritional yeast and salt and pepper to taste. (Be generous with the salt, as the cashew cream is bland.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Batch of links

- 100 food terms and how to pronounce them. Many of them were easy for me because I’m francophone, but this did settle a few disagreements between the Engineer and me.

- The difference between pancetta, bacon and prosciutto.

- The duck egg market takes off. I actually have a few recipes that call for duck eggs, though I couldn’t for the life of me find them among my bookmarks... I’ll label them more accurately if I come across them again so that I can buy duck eggs on a whim and use them up!

- Did you know that kumquats aren’t officially citrus?

- The FDA will give nutrition labels a makeover. Normally, I’m a creature of habit, but this is one change to which I’m looking forward.

- A farmer’s challenge to Chipotle to start a dialogue about where our food comes from, without putting all food producers in the same basket.

- The recent news that the rates of obesity in American preschoolers had fallen surprised me, albeit pleasantly. It turns out, though, that the data may have been misinterpreted.

- A food scientist is trying to replace eggs with more humane and more environmentally-friendly proteins. This wouldn’t be for, say, poached eggs, but for eggs used in commercial food products like baked goods. Sounds promising!

- A really interesting article in Scientific American about how the advances in genetic sequencing are helping create new varieties of fruits and vegetables. And now I’d like a habanada.

- And another really good article on the GMO controversy.

- I meant to post this much sooner… CVS pharmacies have decided to stop selling tobacco products. This makes me unbelievably happy, that such a large chain has finally decided to put its money where its mouth is and stop selling cigarettes because they are detrimental to their basic mission. I hope more follow suit!

- What the science of memory can teach us about the Dylan Farrow / Woody Allen case, on eSkeptic. Call it wishful thinking, but this basically sums up my current position on the scandal.

- Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In Foundation has a partnership with Getty Images to produce more realistic images of women in the workforce. It’s about time!

- I know I’ve been talking a lot about abortions rights lately, but this is mainly because of my disbelief that I’m living in a country where these basic rights are actually being questioned. (After all, being pro-choice doesn’t mean I’d want an abortion, it just means that I think the choice should be mine, not the government’s.) Now, the Christian right is also trying to prevent access to birth control, even though that would go against federal law. I believe that religious freedom means that one’s religious beliefs should not be imposed on others who do not share them. This means that if you don’t believe in abortion, then you shouldn’t get one, but if your employee contributes to the health insurance plan, you don’t have a right to refuse to cover certain medications or treatments based on your own beliefs. Especially considering that abortion rates have declined in recent years, thanks in part to birth control (which the Christian right is also boycotting). It would seem to me that a Christian would prefer to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place rather than risk increasing the rate of abortions, no? What’s worse is the fact that some politicians trying to ban abortions have never even given any thought to the most basic of questions… I don’t necessarily believe that not having a uterus invalidates one’s point of view on the issue, but not even being aware of the reasons that would make a woman consider an abortion certainly should invalidate one’s ability to legislate on the topic.

- On the bright side, Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage has been struck down. The decision is obviously being appealed, but things are moving in the right direction!

- And as proof that the legal system can, and occasionally does, work justly and swiftly: it took TWO DAYS for a law to be written AND passed specifically making upskirting illegal in Massachusetts!

- I’m also happy that Guiness withdrew from the New York St. Patrick’s Day parade over its exclusion of the LGBT community.

- This will forever change the way you look at selfies.

- My life as a retail worker: nasty, brutish and poor. This essay by Joseph Williams is a great look into the working conditions of so many Americans.

- Math class needs a makeover, a TED Talk by Dan Meyer.

- And How movies teach manhood, a TED Talk by Colin Stokes.

- Here’s why you don’t ask a feminist to advertise your sexist product. Ellen, I don’t know what we’d do without you. (Also, as much as I love their ballpoint pens with washable blue ink – what was Bic thinking?)

- I cannot remember if I posted this already… In any case, it’s cool enough to watch again: how wolves change rivers.

- Connecticut could be the first state to curb loud movies, to which I say, Amen.

- And 23 words hilariously mispronounced by toddlers.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Polenta Lemon and Poppy Seed Cupcakes

I got this recipe from Lucullian Delights. They happen to be gluten-free, though I admit that was not part of my motivation in making them! The crumb was really nice, though, and I liked the end result. What threw me a bit was the frosting. It wasn’t stable at all and seemed to melt away as soon as I piped it on the cupcakes (all the more frustrating because I actually bothered with the piping this time). You can see the progression in the pictures below. The cupcakes had cooled to room temperature, so that wasn’t an issue. The frosting did set up really nicely later, regardless of whether the cupcakes were stored in the fridge or at room temperature, and the smooth top actually looks quite nice. I’d work with it next time, instead of trying to achieve cute piping like in the original recipe! I got 11 cupcakes, though I suppose the recipe makes a dozen. I’ve changed the order of a few steps below. Also, please note that while the baking powder probably isn’t necessary (since there’s no gluten), the rounded tops of the cupcakes do suggest that it’s at work, so I’m leaving it in the ingredients.

For the cupcakes
100 g./3.5 oz. polenta flour, the finest grind (or cornmeal ground really finely; it should feel like normal flour)
50 g./1.25 oz. corn starch
1 tsp. baking powder
100 g./3.5 oz. almond flour
3 eggs
100 g./3.5 oz. sugar
100 ml./7 Tbsp. rice oil or canola oil
1.5 Tbsp. poppy seeds
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
the grated zest of ½ a lemon

For the frosting
2 egg whites
350 g./12.35 oz. confectioners’ sugar
2-3 Tbsp. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 °F and grease a muffin tin.

In a medium bowl, sift polenta flour, cornstarch and baking powder; add the almond flour and whisk until it has all blended well.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs and sugar fluffy; add oil, poppy seeds, the juice and zest of the lemon and stir well. Add dry ingredients and stir until blended, a minute or two.

Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 10-15 minutes. Leave on a rack to cool down.

Once the cupcakes have cooled, whisk the ingredients for the frosting with an electrical whisk for 3-4 minutes. Pipe or spread the frosting over the cupcakes and leave to set for a while before serving.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Mignons de gibier, sauce à la vanille et aux mûres

Voici une autre recette du livre 100 recettes pour toi mon cœur, dont j’avais parlé ici. Il s’agit d’une recette de Giovanni Apollo; c’était à l’origine des mignons de wapiti, mais l’habitat naturel de cet animal n’était pas au Texas, j’ai choisi des mignons de gibier, plus précisément du cerf d’élevage. J’imagine qu’à la limite, du bœuf ferait très bien l’affaire aussi! J’ai beaucoup aimé la sauce, qui n’était pas compliquée à réussir. J’ai servi le plat avec des pommes de terre pilées avec la peau (plat que m’a fait découvrir l’Ingénieur).

4 mignons de gibier d’environ 5 oz. (150 g.) chacun
2 c. à soupe d’huile d’olive
¼ tasse de mûres
1 pincée de sel
poivre noir du moulin, au goût

Pour la sauce
1 c. à soupe d’huile de canola
1 échalote, hachée
¾ tasse de vin rouge
1 tasse de fond de gibier ou de fond de veau
¼ tasse mûres
1 gousse de vanille, fendue en deux sur la longueur

Saler et poivrer les mignons de gibier. Dans une poêle, chauffer l’huile d’olive à feu moyen et poêler les mignons 4 minutes de chaque côté. Retirer et laisser reposer sur une grille.

Pour la sauce
Dans une casserole, à feu moyen, chauffer l’huile de canola et faire blondir légèrement l’échalote. Ajouter le vin et faire réduire de moitié. Incorporer le fond de gibier, ¼ tasse de mûres et la vanille. Faire réduire de nouveau de moitié jusqu’à ce que la sauce devienne sirupeuse.

Filtrer la sauce à l’aide d’un tamis fin tapissé d’étamine et la remettre à bouillir. (J’ai filtré juste avec un tamis, sans étamine.) Ajouter les mignons de gibier pour les réchauffer 1 minute. Ajouter ¼ tasse de mûres. Rectifier l’assaisonnement et servir immédiatement.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles

Have you heard of Lindsay Landis? Her blog is Love & Olive Oil and she published a cookbook called The Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook. It contains recipes made with her vegan raw cookie dough, such as candy, ice cream, cakes and various other desserts. The fact that it’s egg-free also makes it safe if you’re worried about salmonella! Note that this dough is really meant to be eaten raw and really won’t taste that good if you try to bake it. I tried, to great acclaim from the Engineer and the Actor, the chocolate chip cookie dough truffles, which are essentially little balls of chocolate-coated raw cookie dough. I got 33 out of the batch, which was the right amount for the package of chocolate candy coating. (You could also use regular dark chocolate if you feel like tempering it, but I’m certainly not getting started with that right now.) It turns out that dipping the dough balls in chocolate is totally doable without prior experience or specialized tools; I even skimped a little on the chocolate because I was afraid of running out, but I had some left over at the end. I got a total of 33 truffles. I’d definitely make this again, though it’s probably safer for my waistline if I only do it when we have guests!

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) margarine
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup dairy-free (or at least lactose-free) milk
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
14 oz. dark chocolate candy coating

Beat margarine and sugars and in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add cream and vanilla. Stir in flour and salt and mix on low speed (or by hand) until incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips. Cover and chill dough for 1 hour.

When dough is firm enough to handle (it may help to lightly flour your hands), form dough into 1" balls and arrange on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Place sheets in freezer and let chill for 30 minutes.

Melt chocolate candy coating in a double boiler or in microwave according to package directions. Using forks or a dipping tool, dip cookie balls into candy coating to cover. Tap fork on side of pan to remove any excess coating, and return to waxed paper-lined baking sheets. Chill until set. Store, chilled, in an airtight container for up to 1 week (though good luck making them last that long).

Blood Orange Chocolate Chip Muffins

As long as it’s citrus season (or, the tail end of it anyway), how about some blood orange muffins? I found the recipe on Mountain Mama Cooks via my friend Jen. It pairs blood orange with chocolate, always a winning combination. I really liked these muffins, and the Engineer said they had a great texture. I’m going to go ahead and recommend that you grease the muffin tin and forgo the liners – I don’t know if I’ve hit a bunch of odd recipes or if I’ve got a bad batch of paper liners, but the damn things keep tearing on me. Thank God the muffins were good enough to compensate! I’m also very happy that I have access to good citrus in Texas (as opposed to this), but if all you have are regular oranges, they would be really good, too (the batter won’t be pink once the muffins are done baking, anyway).

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ cup sugar
1 egg
½ cup vegetable oil
zest of 2 blood oranges, separated
½ cup fresh blood orange juice (I used up both oranges for this)
¼ cup lactose-free whole milk
1 Tbsp. lactose-free Greek yogurt
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
½ cup dark chocolate chips
1 Tbsp. coarse sugar (turbinado is great here)

Heat oven to 375 °F. Grease a standard 12-cup muffin pan; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk sugar, egg, vegetable oil, zest from one orange, orange juice, milk, Greek yogurt and vanilla until well combined. Add flour mixture to egg/sugar mixture and stir just until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Evenly divide the batter among the 12 muffin cups.

In a small bowl, combine the coarse sugar with the zest from other blood orange and rub the zest and sugar together with two fingers to release the oils in the zest and mix into the sugar. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with orange zest and coarse sugar mixture. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean and muffins are cooked all the way through. Remove muffin pan from oven and place on wire rack to cool 5 minutes. Remove muffins from pan; cool completely on wire rack.