Sometimes, it’s ok to call it quits

In a perfect world, I’d be experimenting with sourdough breads regularly.  I’d create boules of beauty, and share them with friends and family.

However, this isn’t a perfect world.  A handful of close friends are gluten free.  I rarely get to share the things I cook and bake because I’ve messed something up just enough that it doesn’t feel fit for sharing, or I’m just make enough food for myself for the week.  At the end of the day, I’m just feeding myself.

I do make bread on occasion.  I even had a rye sourdough starter going for over a year.  But those two statements?  Rarely done at the same time.  When I make bread, it’s usually with SAF instant.  When I was maintaining my sourdough starter, I was just finding ways to cook the discarded starter.  I was almost never making proper bread with my starter.  It even got to a point where I forgot I had a starter hanging out in my fridge.  I literally did not notice it in my fridge until about two months after its last feeding.

Even then (!!!), it took me a couple of weeks to finally toss it in the trash.  Some part of me hated feeling like I was giving up on a project.  But logically, it didn’t make sense to try again.  More so, because I have a place in a 10 minute walk away that does a wonderful sourdough.  I’ve started going there a bit more frequently because I absolutely love their sourdough pizzas, but you can pick up bread to take home.  I can spend 2-3 days making sourdough bread on my own, or I can spend $4 – $7 at my local restaurant.

Pizza at my favorite place #food #pizza

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It will do me more good than harm to recognize what I am willing and not willing to do.  If I didn’t live so close to awesome bread, I’d probably feel differently about this.  Or if I had a large family to feed, which I don’t.

But you know what they say: when one door closes, another opens.

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Acid Trip with Gabriel and Michael (crosspost)

Acid Trip author Michael Harlan Turkell and La Bodega chef Gabriel Bremer recently visited Harvard SEAS for an off-season lecture.

Went to a lecture about vinegar #harvard #food #vinegar

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I was really hoping we’d get a chance to sample some Japanese sweet potato vinegar, but alas!  It was not meant to be.  The bottle meant for the public lecture broke in transit.

On the bright side, I was introduced to and got to sample Gegenbauer vinegar.  Gosh!  That was pretty good.  It’s meant to be a drinking vinegar/finishing vinegar.  I had a lot of trouble tasting the apple cider vinegar sample.  The agrodolce vinegar sample (I forget the brand) fell somewhere in between in terms of flavor and sharpness.

But we did get a couple of Gabriel’s recipes and a cooking demo.

The suggestions given for experimenting with vinegars was to 1) reduce the amount of salt and add vinegar, and 2) experiment with a favorite recipe and see what happens when you add vinegar.

No lie, I’m a little inspired to try cooking beef tongue.

 

Pantry friendly pasta sauce, version 1.0

I wanted to make a pasta sauce that wasn’t a traditional pasta sauce.  Partly because I like being difficult, and partly because my right thumb has been swollen all day for reasons unknown.  So I was not inclined to do a lot of cutting or anything remotely similar.

So I came up with the recipe below.  I may fuss with it in the near future, but I was happy with it today.  It also happens to be vegan and nut free.

Pantry friendly pasta sauce, version 1.0

  • 3/4 cup sunflower seeds, roasted and unsalted
  • 1 garlic clove (I cheated and used 1/4 tsp Penzey’s minced garlic)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice (Honestly, I used 1/2 of a lemon but that was too lemony)
  • 1/4 tsp table salt
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano

 

Blitz everything in a high powered blender.  If you don’t have one, you could probably let everything soak for an hour in a standard blender before turning it on.

Makes about 2 cups.

Why must some relationships end?

I discovered Blogging for Books toward the end of 2014.  For those who don’t know what it is, Blogging for Books is a website created 10 years ago to help bloggers connect with publishers to get access to books for review purposes.  For someone with such a small blog like my own, it was a boon.  Unless you have a minimum of 5,000 followers, most publishers don’t want to work with you.  Trust me, I’ve tried.  Back in 2014, I wished that I had found the website sooner.

As of this week, the closure of Blogging for Books was announced.  Saying that I was sad when I heard the news is an understatement.  I’m now back to floundering as a small time blogger.  And I am always going to be a small time blogger.  I did a weekend workshop once with people who all wanted to be food journalists (not necessarily food bloggers, so I was a bit out of place), and several people were amazed that I had absolutely no ads on my site.  Unlike my classmates, I was the only person who blogged purely for fun.  I don’t want to turn my hobby into a job.  I don’t want to churn out content everyday or every other day.  Food blogging has always been an outlet for me.  It’s a place where I can funnel my experiences and thoughts on this one subject that is important to me.

So here’s my good-bye to Blogging for Books.  Its value as a resource to me can’t be quantified easily.  I can only hope that I can find a replacement, or that publishers will one day take this little blog of mine more seriously.

Edible insects (crosspost)

I can now say that I’ve eaten a freeze dried insect, thanks to the Nordic Food Lab.

I'm a nerd. #nordicfoodlab #harvard

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These are not corn puffs…

Eating from the Ground Up, a cookbook review

9780451494993

There exists in history plenty of celebrities who have released cookbooks.  And there exists a lot of food bloggers in today’s world who have authored their own cookbooks.    I think the first cookbook that I was aware of that was written by a blogger was the Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila.  I don’t have my own copy of it, but I do own my own copy of Chernila’s second book, Homemade Kitchen.  I thoroughly enjoyed both.  Most recently, she’s released her third book, Eating from the Ground Up.  I loved her first two books instantly that I really thought I’d feel the same about her third book.  

The truth is I’m actually not sure how I feel about Eating from the Ground Up.   

Something that I really appreciate about this book is the layout.  The book is broken down into the following chapters:

  • Barely Recipes
  • A Pot of Soup
  • Too Hot to Cook
  • Warmth and Comfort
  • Celebrations and Other Excuses to Eat with Your Hands

At the back of the book, there’s a handy reference by vegetables.  The listed vegetables are generally familiar and easily accessible.  (Or at least, easy to find in Greater Boston.  If you live in a small town or a village, your mileage may vary.)  

  • Arugula
  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Beets and beet greens
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Broccoli raab
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celeriac
  • Celery
  • Collards
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Endive
  • Escarole
  • Fennel
  • Frisee
  • Green beans
  • Green Chile
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leeks
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Radicchio
  • Radishes
  • Rutabaga
  • Scallions
  • Shallots
  • Spinach
  • Summer Squash And zucchini
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Swiss chard
  • Tomatillos
  • Tomatoes
  • Turnips and turnip greens
  • Watercress
  • Winter squash

The Barely Recipes chapter is full of basic recipes that remind me of the intentions of the earlier cookbooks.  The new book feels familiar overall, and the photography remains expertly styled and lovely.

The recipes I want to cook but it’s the wrong season right now?  (FYI, there are some things that I refuse to cook out of season.)

  • Napa Coleslaw with Pecans and Peas
  • Grilled Summer Squash with Basil Ricotta
  • Fresh Corn and Stone Fruit

The recipes that I might cook in the near future?

  • Roasted Tomatillo and Black Bean Chili
  • Whole Steamed Sweet Potatoes with Scallion Watercress Sauce
  • Scallion Crepes

So if I have such praise for this book, what’s keeping me from outright enjoying it?  Honestly, it’s a very personal opinion.  I’m not feeling inspired by it.  It’s like picking up a new album from a music artist you adore, one that’s solidly produced, but you find yourself hardly ever listening to it.  I can say that there are recipes that I want to cook, but realistically I’m not sure I ever will.  

Ugh!  I feel so bad for admitting this!  This book seems to be everything I like.  I like recipes that don’t have an ingredient list a mile long.  I like recipes that are approachable.  I like vegetables, and I’m always trying to be better about eating enough of them.

This review is being published a week late because I couldn’t decide how I felt about this book, and I couldn’t decide on a recipe to make.

I eventually made Chernila’s version for zucchini chocolate bread.  I chose this recipe because I like that there’s baking powder, baking soda, and yogurt.  I’m suspicious of quick bread recipes there’s only baking soda as the leavener, but there isn’t enough of an acidic element in the ingredient list.  In that case, you’re make a quick bread that just tastes like baking soda.  Yuck.

There’s also a reasonable amount of sugar.  I don’t want my zucchini breads to be cake.

What I didn’t consider was how much liquid there is in Chernila’s recipe.  She doesn’t have you squeeze the grated zucchini (which I traditionally don’t do anyway), but she’s also got plain whole milk yogurt and milk in it.  Now, I might have mis-measured something, but my loaf sank some after it came out of the oven.  A quick Google search came up with “be sure there isn’t too much liquid in your ingredients” and “don’t underbake” as possible culprits.  Even though I had mine in the oven longer than recipe suggestion, and it seemed to pass the toothpick test, the crumb does look undercooked.  

Chernila writes that the recipe “it’s not too sweet… it has a quite a bit more zucchini than the average loaf, so you can really taste it.”  Flavor-wise, I’m not unhappy.  I even had a second slice this morning for breakfast.  So I might try this again.  Maybe next time I’ll just forgo the addition of milk and bake for a full hour.  Or maybe I’ll try one of her other recipes in an effort to be fair.

Dear reader, do you have a copy of this book?  Is there a recipe in particular that you’d recommend?

Reference Links:

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/538597/eating-from-the-ground-up-by-alana-chernila/9780451494993/ 

http://www.eatingfromthegroundup.com/ 

 

Disclaimer – I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post.

Power Plates, a cookbook review

Let me be up front – I’m not vegan.  I’m not even vegetarian.  But I try to eat my vegetables and not overdose on meat as general principles of life.  (Not overdoing the meat, also means that my wallet can feel better about spending money on grass-fed and/or pastured raised meat.)  I’m vaguely macro counting (very vaguely… I was more serious about it last summer), which means that I’m often eating lunches with legumes or tempeh, and saving my meat proteins for dinner.  

9780399579059

When I came across the cookbook Power Plates by Gena Hamshaw, I was intrigued by the book’s summary which states “one hundred delicious and satisfying vegan recipes – each with a mix of healthy, fats, complex carbohydrates, and hearty plant-based proteins – that provide you with the macronutrients you need in every meal.”  

After taking a careful look at the book, things I’ve noticed:

  • There are no seitan recipes.  (This does not mean that the book is gluten free.  It is not.  However, it’s not heavy on bread or pasta centered recipes.)
  • There are no dessert recipes.   
  • There is a suggested meal plan section at the back of the book, with a week’s worth of food based on the seasons.
  • There’s a nice diversity of recipes, broken down by breakfast, salads, soups, bowls, skillets/stovetop, and bakes.  Some of the flavors are Asian inspired, Latin American inspired, Italian inspired, etc.
  • The photography is well executed.  There’s a lot of natural lighting, and none of the extreme HDR that I’m not personally fond of.  Every recipe has a photo of the finished product.

 

Recipes that I want to try:

  • Spelt biscuits with white bean gravy
  • Wholemeal muffins
  • Sweet potato salad with tempeh and maple mustard dressing
  • Protein packed Caesar (has tempeh)
  • Moroccan tagine with tempeh and chickpeas
  • Macro bowls with adzuki beans and miso glaze kabocha squash
  • Greek bowls with lentil keftedes and cashew tzatziki
  • Pasta and broccoli rabe with creamy roasted red pepper sauce
  • Black bean enchiladas with roasted butternut squash

 

The recipe that caught my eye to test out was 1) delicious sounding, and 2) used a lot of ingredients that I already had on hand.  That recipe was curried tomato stew with chickpea dumplings.  (Dumplings!  I love all forms of dumplings!)  The stew base is made from olive oil, onions, garlic, ground turmeric, sweet paprika, curry powder, canned crushed tomatoes, red lentils, vegetable broth, salt, red pepper flakes, and baby spinach (or kale… I ended up using both).  The dumplings, which Hamshaw says was inspired by Shelly Westerhausen’s Vegetarian Ventures, is made from chickpea flour, salt, baking powder, cumin, fresh parsley (which I totally forgot to use, by the way), scallion greens, and water.

I prepped ahead the spices (made my own quick version of curry powder), as well as the dry ingredients from the dumplings yesterday.  So, today’s cooking session went pretty quickly once I got off my lazy butt.

Overall review of the recipe?  It’s easy and pantry friendly, which is great.  I really liked the chickpea dumplings.  However, I think the spices could have been stronger in flavor in the stew base.  I felt like the tomato flavor overwhelmed.  It wasn’t bad or anything like that, I just thought the curry flavors would be bolder.   Oh, and there weren’t enough dumplings.  The recipe states that using about 2 tablespoons dough per dumpling, you should get about 12.  With my 1 1/2 tablespoon cookie scoop, I got 9 1/2 dumplings.  So next time, I will increase the curry powder from 2 teaspoons to 3 teaspoons, scale up the dumpling dough, and see what I think.

[UPDATE – I know why I didn’t have enough dumplings!  I forgot the parsley and I didn’t have enough scallions!  I’m a forgetful git.]

Overall cookbook review?  Compared to my other vegan/vegetarian cookbooks, I can see myself reaching for Power Plates regularly.  I thought I’d find myself using Anna Jones’ A Modern Way to Cook often but never did because a lot of the recipes didn’t quite sound filling enough as stand alone recipes (like the beet and radiccio gratin).  It’s the same reason why I don’t cook from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day either.  Every recipe in Power Plates, on the other hand, sounds filling which really appeals to the way I cook and eat.  Some of the ingredients lists on the recipes seem long, but a handful of those ingredients are just seasonings or things I think I can prep ahead.  I’ll just have to keep in mind that I might want to go a little heavier on the spices to match my taste preferences.

 

Reference Links

https://www.vegetarianventures.com/chickpea-dumplings-in-curry-tomato-sauce/

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/547336/power-plates-by-gena-hamshaw/9780399579059/

https://www.thefullhelping.com/

(The above link is the author’s blog which I recommend taking a look through.  There are recipes on it!)

 

Disclaimer – I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post.