pumpkin pancake fail

i just attempted a batch of egg-free pumpkin pancakes, which would’ve been my first shot at them.

epic fail.

as i realized they weren’t working, i thought i’d try to salvage the rest of the batter in the waffle maker.

double epic fail.

the kitchen is a mess now.

i’m taking a break from pancakes for 2 weeks in meditation. i will be sticking with simple breakfast foods for these 2 weeks.

i have such appreciation now for how much easier egg-based recipes are than flax-based.

dear pancakes,

you win.

regards,

liz

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progress notes

everything is on everything! swiss meringue is everywhere!

caramel is burnt onto my stove top. i got a little egg white on my sock. the floors are impossibly sticky. the welding kit is still sitting out, in pieces, from browning the frosting, and i lost the igniter somewhere under a place mat or something. i got some cocoa powder in my eye. or maybe it is salt.

but let me tell you what, that buche de noel is lookin like a mighty fine tree.

nightmare

last night i had a dream that i was at my parents home, cooking breakfast. i got out the bacon, the eggs, and the butter. soon after i cracked the first egg open, i realized there was no cast iron pan to cook breakfast in… -only non-stick. NON-STICK! what a nightmare!

coffee is coming

green beans

mr. hare and i have been enjoying coffee from the beans that we are roasting ourselves. soon, i will be sharing our experiences and amateur methods, which, are still being learned and developed from reading on other people’s experiences.

for now, i wanted to share a picture of the green beans, which is what coffee looks like before it is roasted. isn’t it pretty?

yogurt

creamy, sweet yogurt with all the fixins

so, at the expense of sounding like a jerk for tooting my own horn: i made my own yogurt. and that makes me awesome.

i had been obsessing over making yogurt for a few months now, nagging my husband (as i often do) about needing a yogurt maker. oh, our lives will be so much better with a yogurt maker. we will save hundreds of dollars! we will win the lottery, we will be happier in life and marriage if we have homemade yogurt at our disposal on a daily basis. our skin will glow, we will have increased energy, and a general lust for life. the usual naive excitement.

a yogurt maker is relatively inexpensive, starting around $40 for a decent model. the problem is that we are trying to afford a new home purchase right now, which costs a lot of money. needless to say, we are pinching pennies right now, and have even put off buying our meat grinder attachment for our kitchen-aid.

i was, however, lucky enough to inherit an unwanted ronco food dehydrator from a friend a few weeks ago. never used. what came with the “machine” was a “cookbook” with recipes ranging from beef jerkey to fruit roll-ups to yogurt. you’ve seen the infomercial.

now, i know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. what an stupid sounding way to make yogurt. don’t judge me. i was desperate.

and guess what? it freakin’ worked!

basically, in order to incubate, you’re just keeping your milk at a warm, steady temperature for a period of time, and the food dehydrator provides that environment. now, it isn’t a perfect machine, and it does get a little warm. so you’ll need to keep an eye on things. i also recommend doing this in a breezy area so the warm air circulates evenly about the inside of the machine.

my yogurt was delicious! i made 2 very successful batches, the first with a started from stonyfield farms organic full fat plain yogurt. i didn’t strain the first batch, but i did strain the second because brian likes greek style yogurt. i purchased the finest quality milk i could get my hands on here, which is full fat and barely pasteurized. i wish i could get raw milk here, but i can’t. i guess you could use 2% or some other type of milk, but why? fat is good for you. and it tastes wonderful. yes, it does look very involved and complicated, but hear me out. it’s deceptively easy. read the directions, follow the rules, and you’ll have easy and tasty yogurt.

i really loved the simple tart flavor of the dense, creamy yogurt. i can’t brag enough. i always stir in a little all fruit jam and some berries, and top it with nuts. this (besides a big-ass salad) is my favorite lunch, and a super healthy one, too. calcium, protein, fat, antioxidants, fiber, probiotic… what more does a body need?

yogurt!

4 cups good quality milk

2 tbsp good quality plain yogurt -do be sure it says it contains bacteria on the packaging, or it won’t culture

small jars with lids to put on the top shelf of your food dehydrator

thermometer

method:

first and foremost, be sure your jars are super-duper clean and dry. plug in your food dehydrator.

set your 2 tbsp of yogurt out on the counter-top in a big clean bowl to come up to room temp. i did this in a large pyrex for ease of pouring later on.

keeping a very close watch, bring your 4 cups of milk GENTLY up to 210f., just before it boils, keeping it well stirred. once it reaches 210f, turn the heat off. keep milk well stirred, and let milk cool to 112f.

slowly stir 112f milk into bowl with the room-temp yogurt. stir for a minute or so to be sure that everything mixes in nicely.

pour evenly into prepared jars, close them, and place in the top rack of the food dehydrator. incubate for 4-6 hours. check after 4 hours by gently agitating one of the jars to see if it has a yogurt-like consistency. it will be a little thin before you put it in the fridge.

i checked the yogurt during incubation after 4 hours by taking it’s temperature. once the temperature reached 116, i took them out and set them on the counter for half an hour to cool down a little. you want to keep them between 112-118 for this 4-6 hours, so do keep an eye on them during incubation.

once you are satisfied with your incubation time, stir all of the little yogurts into a large container. place yogurt into the fridge for a few hours. if the yogurt is too thin for your liking, you may strain with a cheesecloth for half an hour to an hour. if you do much longer than this, you will have cheese. so don’t get carried away.

oh, and note from my friend, josh: be sure that you don’t get carried away with stirring the yogurt. over-agitating will break the whey away from the yogurt, keeping it runny and strange. once you dump it over the cheesecloth, let it sit. resist pushing it through.

in the kitchen

madhur jaffrey's "world vegetarian", alice water's "the art of simple food", barbara fairchild's "the bon appétit cookbook", vegetarian time's "vegetarian complete cookbook", canyon ranch "nourish, jamie oliver's "jamie at home"

(yes, i organize my books by color even though my husband is a librarian.. he must be appalled)

i do a lot of reading. no matter what kind of shape i’m in at bed-time, i read for at least 30 minutes before i fall asleep. i’d admit that a good 94% of the subject material is about food. i have managed to successfully saturate my life with food or food related reading material. i currently subscribe to “bon appétit” magazine and “clean eating” magazine, and flip through them until there is nothing left to read. i keep magazines for years(!) and re-read them until i have the ads memorized. my collection is more of a sickness than a right to brag, believe me.

i love cookbooks, and i actually read them from front to back, as you would a novel. i’m not sure how else to read a cookbook. maybe you are supposed to look up recipes on an as needed basis? all i know, is that i wouldn’t know what the book has to offer me unless i read it fully, beginning to end, then refer back to it later when i want to make something.

since i use this information, and appreciate it so, i thought i better give “props” to my references, at least the ones i am currently obsessed with.

brian and i use these books endlessly. if i had to pinpoint a most frequented book, i’d say we pick on alice waters most often. we are constantly pulling it out of “the rainbow”, as i call it, for quick references. i especially love and utilize her simple, ad hoc approach to preparing meat.

a gift card got me this beautiful and well written cookbook, thomas keller's "ad hoc at home". (my mom bought me the quilt!)

speaking of ad hoc, christmas was especially good to us, culinarily speaking, this year! thanks to everyone who’s gifts made such wonderful and useful additions to the kitchen.

staub french oven

i also received the above french oven. we have used it many times already for braising shoulders, making beautiful stews, short-ribs, and plenty of other fatty, tasty dishes.

the "V" mandolin slicer

the "V" mandolin slicer

this slicer was purchased with a gift card. i bought it so i could make health foods from scratch, such as potato chips.

as per a request from a commenter, i would like to explain this mandolin a little. i went in to the store with the intent to purchase a mandolin slicer, thinking i would probably pick out the most expensive one available (simply because i had a gift card and i have expensive taste). after toying with quite a few without looking at prices, i chose the “de Buyer Korba” slicer. unbeknownst to me, it happened to be the least expensive (on sale for $50), and very well rated on several websites. i chose it because i wanted the “v” shape. the shape of the blade ensures that the food doesn’t get stuck when it hits the blade. this problem is notorious (and enraging) with many slicers with flat shaped blades. the thickness is adjustable from 5mm to paper-thin. every time i use it i’m impressed with the beautiful, quick, thin slices it produces. i don’t expect the blade to dull any time within the next few years, though when it does, $50 is a reasonable price to pay to replace it! also, i appreciate the sleek design over the models that required to be propped up on a stand. i’m finicky like that. click here to see it on williams-sonoma.


silpat, for making cookies (more healthfood)

i tried explaining (bragging) to my grandmother about my new silpat, and how it will help in my journey toward perfect non-stick cookies with burn free bottoms. her response was “i’ve had one of those for a long time!”… she one-upped me.

anyhow, i wanted to drop a big fat thank you to all who decked our halls with all this awesome new stuff! there is more (much more), but i haven’t gotten to their photo-shoots yet.

red beets

baithing beauties

baithing beauties

i think that red beets appear to be difficult to prepare. they look funny. they have papery, dirty skin and long stalks that are just daunting. what the heck are you supposed to do with all of that stuff? is there really food in there under that nasty peel? yes there is. ruby, sweet, buttery root vegetable. i love beets in a salad with a little blue cheese and citrus dressing. lately, we’ve been having beets on a salad with dried apricots and apricot jam honey mustard. what a tasty meal! root vegetables are in abundance this time of year, so stock up. my mom cooks a bunch of them in the fall, then puts them in the freezer to keep through the winter. she’s so smart! i remember eating lots and lots of beets as a child, i’ve always loved them. i also remember my dad hating them. without exception, every time i would eat buttered beets in front of him, he would proclaim “eeeewwww, beets”. which meant mom, sister and i were alone in our beet loving dinners.

not only delicious, but healthy too: beets have proven in studies to be effective in protecting against colon cancer, heart disease, and birth defects. they are really cheap, too. we bought a big fat bunch of them at the farmer’s market for $3.

beets will stain anything they touch. anything. a gross but essential bit of knowledge: they will also stain your *ahem* insides, if you know what i mean, especially if you have been consuming them for several days. no need to be alarmed, beeturia is a harmless condition that will pass after a few days.

a tip for keeping your hands skin colored when prepping beets: cover them in olive oil before you peel and cut them.

there are probably a kabillion ways to prepare them, but my favorite is roasted. some will tell you to scrub the skins before you cook them, but i know that there are precious minerals stored in the skin that will be washed down the drain if you do that. plus, you risk scraping and bruising the beet under the skin, and when you roast them, that part of the vegetable will be dry and gnarly.

how to prepare then roast beets:

chop off the hair so you have about 2″ of stalk remaining.

submerge in clean, cold water for a minute or two. change water and repeat.

preheat oven to 400f.
make a big pouch out of foil. drizzle a little oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. fold it all together inside the pouch so the steam doesn’t come out of the loose ends.
roast for 45 minutes. check it to make sure they are “fork tender”. let them cool on the counter top for a few minutes before peeling and cutting so they are easier to handle. use a paper towel to scrub the skins off of the beets, and carefully pull the tops off. cut into chunks to do what you wish with them.

this is what we did:

roasted beets with green beans

roasted beets with green beans

cut roasted beets into manageable chunks.

toss with prepared green beans (i steam them), and a glaze made of equal parts apricot jam, apple cider vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.

we liked it served with some rosemary chicken, which has become our sunday favorite lately. like i said, beets are an essential ingredient in autumn salads, along with a little blue cheese, apples, and sunflower seeds. -and bacon.

look at how pretty they are!

i know that you can make sweet dishes with beets, too. i’ve heard of red beet cakes and cupcakes, but have not yet attempted them. i would love to find a recipe for a dessert beet dish.

you can also pickle them and put them in martinis. yum!