Sunday, February 26, 2012

ginger•cinnamon braised seitan

Brock and I hardly ever fight, but one of our more recent altercations was over, of all things, seitan.
He's generally not a picky eater-- I can give him just about anything for dinner and as long as there's a hunk of bread with it he says it's awesome.  But, as I found out, he does not like seitan that's even the least bit spongy...
My first attempt at making seitan for this recipe made a product that was a little spongy.  I thought it was still pretty good. Brock said he liked the flavor, but wasn't into the texture.  
He then brought up (several times throughout the meal) this teriyaki beef his mom used to make when he was a kid, and proceeded to suggest that I make my seitan a little more like that teriyaki beef.  
"That teriyaki beef my mom made when I was a kid was really good..."
"The teriyaki beef was chewier..."  
"You should try to broil this, like my mom did with the teriyaki beef..."  
I took it a little personally and I quickly became a little resentful of the teriyaki beef. 
First of all, this is not teriyaki (teriyaki does not contain cinnamon or red wine).  Second, this is not beef.  Third, I was so excited to use this method of smashing the ginger instead of peeling and chopping it (what a time saver!), and that just wouldn't work as well if I broiled the seitan ala said terriyaki beef.
We agreed to disagree for the time being.   But, this whole thing just made me more determined to stick with my original vision of the recipe and adjust the texture in other ways (I did not set out to make mock teriyaki beef and I was not going to end up with it).
But, attempt two came out even spongier.  It looked like animal brains and reminded me of a cheesy joke I'd heard: 
What do vegan zombies eat?
Ha ha.
These grain-brains went down the disposal without making it to the smashed ginger.
Then came attempt number three, which came out chewy and flavorful.
Even Oliver, the pickiest one in the house, was happily noshing his seitan. Brock was excited about it, too.
And there were no comparisons to other, dissimilar recipes.
And marital accord was restored.

I know this recipe looks a little complicated at first glance, but making the seitan from scratch was really pretty easy for me once I figured out how to adjust the firmness.  And, you can make the seitan ahead of time or even use store bought.*  With pre-made seitan, this comes together quickly and easily...  
And, of course, it's delicious.

the veggies:
-for the broth:

  • 3 cups water
  • 3 cups veggie broth
  • 3 TBS soy sauce

-for the seitan:

  • 1 cup vital wheat gluten flour
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup cold veggie broth
  • 3 TBS soy sauce
  • 1 TBS sesame seed oil (or other oil)
  • 1-2 TBS water, if needed

-for braising:
  • 12 to 16 ounces of seitan strips
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar (maple syrup or honey would also work)
  • 1/2 cup seitan broth*
  • 1/2 cup red wine 
  • 1 TBS cooking oil
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 large piece of fresh ginger (about 3 inches long), left un-peeled and smashed with the broad side of a large knife

the love:
-for the broth:
  1. Combine all the broth ingredients in a large sauce pot and bring to a boil.
-for the seitan:
  1. Combine the wheat gluten, garlic powder and ground ginger in a mixing bowl.
  2. In a small mixing bowl or large measuring pitcher, combine the 1/2 cup veggie broth, soy sauce, and sesame oil.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until the mixture forms a stiff dough.
  4. Knead for 3 to 5 minutes, kneading in a tablespoon or two of water if the dough is too stiff.**
  5. Divide and stretch the dough into two flat "cutlets", and drop into the boiling broth.
  6. Immediately reduce the heat to a simmer and cover.
  7. Let simmer for 45 minutes.
  8. Cool for awhile on the stove.  If you're not ready to use it yet you can store the seitan in its broth in the fridge.
  9. When you're ready to braise the seitan, drain it, making sure to reserve some of the broth***, then slice it into strips.
-for braising:
  1. Whisk together the agave, seitan broth and wine in a measuring pitcher or small bowl.
  2. Heat a large skillet with oil over medium to medium-high heat.
  3. Add the seitan and saute until it's browned on the edges.
  4. Add the smashed ginger and cinnamon stick and stir for a minute.
  5. Pour some braising sauce into the pan until the seitan is half-covered.
  6. Stir and cook until the sauce is almost all gone, then add more.  Repeat until you've used up all the sauce and the seitan is still just a little saucy (this will take about two or three batches and about 20 minutes).
  7. Remove the cinnamon and ginger and serve over rice or cous cous with a steamed green veggie on the side.


*If you want to use store-bought seitan, skip right to the braising and use 1/4 cup veggie broth, 1/4 cup water, and a tsp of soy sauce for the 1/2 cup seitan broth.
** This is the step where you can adjust the chewy- or spongy-ness of the seitan.  If you want it really chewy like Brock likes it, avoid adding extra water and knead well-- it will be very stiff.  If you want it more tender, add some water and knead a little less-- it will be like a firm bread dough.
***You'll use the reserved seitan broth in the braising sauce, but I also use a half-diluted solution to cook my rice or cous cous to make it more flavorful.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

upcoming recipes and a special offer

I will be the first to admit my recipes have become more few and far between lately.  
And, admittedly, so has my house cleaning-- I've been doing cleaning triage and really only cleaning what's become glaringly dirty.  This is basically my normal cleaning routine, but taken to the next level.  For example, my next order of cleaning business is to pick up the big chunk of cereal bar off the living room floor (man, those dogs are getting old and lazy).
I have been doing quite a bit of cooking lately, but for some reason I've chosen to take on developing some more complicated recipes like spinach, bean and dumpling soup (for which I'm struggling to get the bean cooking time and water level right), and home-made seitan braised in ginger-cinnamon soy sauce (and I'm discovering the craft of home-made seitan is tricky, at best).  I'm also really excited about something I made Monday night:  Navajo fry bread.  I topped it with home-made vegan chorizo, crispy kale and a drizzle of green chile sauce.  Crazy-good.
So, those are some things to look forward to-- I just want to get them perfect before I share them with you...
But if you're looking for something to make and have not tried my Rich Chocolate Pudding yet, do yourself a favor and make it.  Now.  We've literally had it for dessert three times in the past week and  I can definitively say that it's delicious-- especially with a glass of red wine.  And it's ridiculously fast to make.
Anyway, I'm sure you're dying to know what I've been doing, if not keeping my house spotless and finishing up all those delicious recipes I have started...
As if I needed more to do, I've created an Etsy shop where I'm selling my handmade jewelry.  In actuality, my jewelry hobby (along with this blog) add more to my plate, but in a purely positive way.  I've discovered over the last several months that in order for me to do my best at being a mother and wife, I also need something to do that's my own.  Parents spend so much time doing things for others that it's too easy to forget to do something for ourselves.
Etsy is my latest thing I do for myself, but I've made something for you on there, as well: a treasury list in honor of my readers, called "eat your veggies".  Check it out-- there are so many fun things to find on Etsy.
While you're there, check out my shop, Mountain Mama Handmade and treat yourself (or a loved one) with 15% off anything in my shop-- just enter coupon code "BLOG15" at checkout.

Okay, thanks for humoring me-- I promise this will be the last time I so shamelessly advertise my Etsy site here.  
Have a great day, and don't forget to do something for yourself today!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

cheater•raspberry cinnamon rolls

Weekends are a cause for celebration in this household-- especially now that we've figured out how to keep the boys from waking us up before it's light outside.  We somehow convinced them to play in their room when they wake up instead of waking us up right away.  Never mind that to keep busy this morning they decided to remove every last book from their bookshelf, covering the floor with a colossal, sprawling heap of books.  My boys have quite a lot of books, and this makes a big...
And this isn't the first time they've done this first thing in the morning.  Something about that pre-dawn glow makes them want to destroy their room (or is it just something about being a boy that makes them want to destroy anything, at any time?).
But, on the bright side (as in bright from the sun, as opposed to the bright of a Buzz Lightyear book light shining in your face at five AM on a Saturday), we did get to sleep in until 6:45 this morning!  This is pretty big for us.  It probably doesn't sound great to those of you who get to experience the joy of really sleeping in, but on a weekday at that same time Brock would already be on his way out the door and the rest of us would be in the middle of our frenetic race to finish breakfast, get dressed, gather school stuff and get to school (within 10 minutes of) on time. 

So anyway, I was in a celebratory mood this morning and wanted to make something special.  This something special also had to be easy and fast because my boys had worked up an appetite destroying their room, and I almost never have the foresight or energy to start cinnamon rolls from scratch the night before.
In comes the store-bought dough, which is a favorite of ours to make in the dutch oven when we're camping.   Since we're still in the depths of winter here in the mountains and we won't be rolling out the tear drop trailer anytime soon, this "cheater" version of cinnamon rolls has snuck its way into my kitchen of late.  At least the local store carries an all-natural brand...  It's still loaded with sugar, but is free of partially hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, and other offenders you might find in other store-bought dough.  

Roll in some raspberries and mix some cream cheese into the frosting, and I like to think  there's a tiny bit of something in these that's good for you (and besides, we're celebrating, right?).  
This is not the kind of cinnamon roll you can pick up and eat or pick apart with your fingers (unless you're Oliver and you just don't care).  You'll want to get out the forks because these are a gooey mess-- in a wonderful, delicious, weekend morning kind of way...
Happy weekend, friends!

the (non) veggies:
  • About 25 fresh raspberries, washed
  • 1 roll of pre-made cinnamon roll dough (I use a 17.5 oz package containing 5 rolls and a regular icing packet)
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese

the love:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350° and get out a baking pan (I like to use a pie plate for this).
  2. Pop open your dough and unroll a single cinnamon roll on a plate or cutting board.  Tightly re-roll the dough, squishing in a whole raspberry every inch or two, for a total of about five berries per roll.  
  3. Repeat with the remaining rolls and raspberries, and don't worry if you're loosing some of the cinnamon paste from between the dough-- just spread whatever came off back on top of the rolls once they're all rolled up again.
  4. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until your rolls are golden on the edges and no longer doughy in the middle (but they will still be gooey from the raspberries).
  5. While the rolls are baking, whisk together the cream cheese with the icing that came with the cinnamon rolls.
  6. Let the cinnamon rolls cool for just a couple minutes before frosting (if you can stand it), then glob the frosting on thick.
  7. Slice and fry up some veggie sausage and brew a cappuccino for on the side, and toast to the weekend.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

rich chocolate•pudding

This may be terrible timing for posting a chocolate recipe-- right after Valentine's day. 
But if you're anything like me all those heart-shaped chocolates only whet your appetite for more chocolate.
And, in my defense, I actually did try to make this chocolate pudding that I saw on Pinterest on Valentine's day, but it came out gritty from the dates.  We still gobbled it down, but I knew a few tweaks would make it even better.  It also needed to be a bigger batch...
So, as if all those left-over chocolate hearts I ate today did not fulfill my chocolate quota, I experimented with it again tonight.
And I think I've figured it out.

I saved the dates for other things (like my breakfast bars), and substituted banana and maple syrup instead.  Add a pinch of salt and some vanilla for a little extra flavor, and it's even more delicious and still pretty healthy.  
It takes all of about three minutes to whip up, and is incredibly decadent and satisfying.  So, toss the rest of those foil-wrapped hearts (or, on second thought, just save them for tomorrow) and get out the avocados--  this is much more of a treat and is probably better for you.
It also makes an awesome goatee...

the veggies (or technically, fruits, etc):

  • 1 banana, peeled (obviously)
  • 1 avocado, pitted and peeled
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 TBS vanilla extract
  • 2 to 6 TBS water

the love:
  1. Combine all ingredients except water in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
  2. Add as much water as needed to reach a smooth, pudding-like texture.
  3. Chill before serving, if desired-- but you probably don't want to leave this in the fridge for too long because avocados and bananas can both get kinda funky after a while once they're mashed or blended, and also because husbands and kids can't be trusted around chocolate desserts left unattended... 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

carrot•quinoa risotto

I love my town-- with its spectacular views, fresh air, laid-back neighbors and easy accessibility to the mountains, forests and surrounding small communities...  
That is, I love it when I'm not hating it.
I once drove past a neighbor's house on my way home to see him standing there in his front yard, beer can in hand, watching six-foot flames dance off a couch.  I do respect him for getting rid of his couch before winter came-- unlike the thrift store a few blocks away which had a couch sitting out front in the snow half the winter.  
And you have to love the urinal on the back of another neighbor's shed-- I'm just grateful for the fact that I cannot say with certainty whether or not it actually gets used.  I can, however, tell you with certainty that there are several cars and boats, a laundry truck, and an ancient bulldozer laying around that have not been used in years.
Amidst all this, across the highway from a three-story log tower inexplicably built onto a hodge-podge house, and sort of kiddy corner to the afforementioned snow-soaked couch-selling thrift store, lies an anomaly-- the local tavern.   
I used to hold the tavern in high regard.  It's spendy so we don't go there often, but we have always looked forward to it.  So, a couple weeks ago when Brock and I found ourselves out at dinner time and the kids at home with a sitter, we decided to spring for it.
Dinner started out nicely with a good white wine and a delicious Thai tofu appetizer. 
But I started to feel a little uncomfortable when the table next to us sat down and ordered a bottle of Dom Peringnon, just "to celebrate life" (in other words, to show off?).
My excitement for the place dwindled a little more when we got our entrees, two carrot quinoa risottos.  We had had this dish before and loved it.  But this time-- not so much.  There were about a dozen different vegetables in it, most of which were grossly overcooked.  I love Brussels sprouts when done right, but mushy ones have all the flavor of a dirty gym sock.  The light was too dim to even identify some of the other chunks, and they did not have the, um, distinctive taste of the Brussels sprouts.
To try to raise our spirits, we ordered the chocolate cake for dessert.  Sure bet, right?  
Brock thinks my Insane Chocolate Cake is better-- more moist and chocolatey.  I think I agree.
So, overall, for about $100 (a big chunk of change for us to shell out on dinner) we got a mediocre meal in a place with kind of a stuffy atmosphere.  
"I can do better," I thought.  Brock already said I've accomplished that with the cake.  Next came the quinoa...

I kept it relatively simple-- saving the Brussels sprouts for oven-roasting or grilling (the only ways to cook a Brussels sprout, in my humble opinion), and keeping what I liked the best from the tavern's version: whole grape tomatoes and pearl onions.
This dish takes a while to make, but a lot of the cook time can be spent sipping wine (I suggest something like Bota Box's 2010 Old Vine Zinfandel, as opposed to Dom) and reading blogs on your tablet while occasionally stirring the pot.  
This makes for a pretty relaxing evening-- and really cheap compared to the alternative.  We like to enjoy the risotto while looking out the windows at the Continental Divide, a ripped-up car tent and a flatbed trailer full of construction refuse, all dusted with a layer of fresh snow and lit by the fuchsia-hued fading late-afternoon light...  
My hometown in all its glory.

the veggies:
  • 1 1/2 cups pearl onions
  • 3 cups carrot juice
  • 2 cups veggie broth
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 2 cups sliced (at an angle) carrots (about 2 medium carrots)
  • 1 large shallot, minced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 2 TBS lemon juice
  • 2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan, plus more for garnish
  • salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

the love:
  1. Boil a few cups of water in a medium saucepan and add the whole un-peeled pearl onions.  Cook for three minutes, then drain and rinse the onions in cold water.  Cut the root end off each onion and firmly but gently squeeze to peel each one.
  2. Heat the carrot juice and broth together in your medium saucepan and keep at a simmer, stirring occasionally.
  3. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large sauce pan.
  4. Add the onions, stirring occasionally, for a couple minutes.
  5. Add the carrots, continuing to stir until the carrots and onions start to become tender on the edges.
  6. Add the shallots and stir until they start to become translucent.
  7. Add the quinoa, lemon juice, and tomatoes and stir well.
  8. Pour in some of the juice and broth mixture until the quinoa is just covered but some of the veggies are still peeking out.
  9. Adjust the heat if necessary, to keep at a healthy simmer.  Cook, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid is absorbed.
  10. Stir in the peas and add more carrot broth until the quinoa is just covered again.  Repeat until the liquid in the small pot is all used up, the liquid in the big quinoa pot is almost all absorbed, and the quinoa is done.*
  11. Stir in the 1/2 cup parmesan and season lightly with salt and pepper, to taste.
  12. Serve topped with more shredded parmesan. 
* You'll know the quinoa is done when it's translucent and no longer crunchy-- this takes about 40 minutes total for me.   Add plain hot water to the quinoa if your liquid runs out but the quinoa isn't tender yet.  At lower altitudes you may not use all the liquid, and it will likely take less than 40 minutes for the quinoa to cook.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

peanut butter•banana granola

I worry about Owen sometimes.
Who am I kidding?--I worry about my kids all the time...
But, this particular concern is one that's really been bothering me lately.
Because of this problem I worry he's not experiencing childhood like most other children (or like I did).
I am referring to the fact that Owen doesn't like peanut butter.  He used to tolerate it but now he flat out refuses it.  This just seems wrong somehow--I have a hard time watching his self-deprivation.
But, I'm learning that I need to let go of some of my worries and focus on the bigger problems (like the fact that Oliver refuses to eat spaghetti sauce).  
Let Owen eat cream cheese and jelly instead.
But, he's also missing out on this Peanut Butter-Banana Granola.

My first version, somewhat ironically, wasn't peanut buttery enough for Brock.  So, the next time I added even more peanut butter.  This granola has officially reached its peanut butter saturation point.
Owen won't touch it, but that just leaves more for the rest of us.

the veggies (or other stuff):
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 TBS canola oil
  • 1 TBS vanilla
  • 3 cups rolled oats (or 2 cups oats and 1 cup Grape Nuts)
  • 1 cup puffed grains (like brown rice)
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup banana chips, chopped or broken if desired*

the love:
  1. Preheat your oven to 325° and prep your biggest baking sheet (I line mine with parchment).
  2. Whisk together the peanut butter, honey, water, oil and vanilla in a large bowl until smooth.
  3. Add the oats, puffs, flax and cinnamon and stir well.
  4. Spread the granola on a baking sheet and bake about 30 minutes, stirring a few times during baking.
  5. Remove from the oven, stir in the banana chips and let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

*If you have access to a place that sells those gooey, chewy, whole dried bananas, try chopping those up and adding them to this granola instead of banana chips.  They have much more flavor than banana chips-- they're just a little hard to find.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

chocolate•almond granola

Oliver's at the age (between about 20 months and 48 months), where it's best not to take him to the grocery store.  About half the time it goes just fine, and the other half it goes terribly wrong.  Once when Owen was Oliver's age he knocked over an entire (rickety) cardboard display of canned clams.  Of all things.  Who eats those anyway, and why do they need a whole display of them in the middle of the aisle?  Owen wasn't being bad-- just being your typical clumsy toddler.  I wasn't really mad at him-- just really embarrassed.  I was a little mad at Safeway, though, for trying so hard to sell canned clams.
When I do take Oliver to the store these days, I often belt him into one of those giant carts with the car on front (despite how hard they are to steer), and I usually even get him the free cookie from the bakery department.  This combination of strategies often works for about half my grocery list, then it gets difficult.  He's soon hanging out the side of his car, trying to wiggle out of his belt (why don't those things have five-point harnesses, like in real cars?), hollering "wanna walk!"  The only way to stop the hollering is to let him out of the cart.  But, as I learned with Owen and the clams, letting a toddler walk through the grocery store is not always a good idea...
So anyway, I usually try to go to the store either at the beginning of the week when both kids are in school, or on weekends when Brock's there to stay home with the kids (because Brock's almost as hard to take to the grocery store as my little boys).  But when we ran out of cereal (except for a box of Grape Nuts no one will eat) mid-week this week, I nearly panicked.  We are highly dependent upon cereal for breakfast.  
Then I remembered I used to make granola all the time.  And when I started making some this time I remembered how easy it is to make-- which is why I used to make it all the time.  This time I was feeling indulgent, so I made it chocolate.   It's really chocolatey, but not too sweet-- just how I like my chocolate.  Less than 24 hours after completing the batch, I've got about a serving left in the bottom of the jar.  I guess that means my guys liked it, too.

After I made the granola, it turned out I had to run to the store anyway to get some things for another recipe I'm working on for this blog.  This time I got lucky and the trip was uneventful.  But, I hope you're grateful I risked potential canned clam grocery store havoc for you...

the veggies (or other stuff):

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup Grape Nuts and/or puffed grains*
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut (optional)
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1/4 cup water**
  • 1/2 cup craisins (optional)***

the love:

  1. Preheat your oven to 325° and line your largest baking pan with parchment (or lightly grease).
  2. In a bowl, combine the oats, Grape Nuts or puffed grains, almonds, cocoa, flax seed, and coconut (if using).
  3. Add the oil, honey, extracts and water, and stir well until evenly combined.
  4. Spread the oat mixture out evenly on your baking pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, stirring every five to ten minutes.  The oats will still be a little soft when you first remove them from the oven, but will turn crunchy as they cool.
  5. Stir in the craisins, if you're using them.
  6. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.  This makes about eight cups.

*I was at the grocery store a while back looking for a different kind of healthy cereal, and momentarily forgetting that Grape Nuts are gross (on their own, anyway), bought a giant box of them.  It's been sitting around, not getting eaten and begging to be used in a recipe ever since.  It turns out this recipe is perfect-- they add a nice sturdy crunch to the granola.  If you don't want to buy Grape Nuts for this (and I don't blame you), I've also used puffed grains (such as brown rice or kamut) a lot in granola.  The puffs impart a lighter, chewier texture to granola.  Both are nice.
**I also think this recipe would be good with espresso or strong coffee instead of the water, but I didn't try it, figuring my kids did not need to be caffeinated...
***I didn't use craisins this time, only because I didn't have any.  They would definitely be tasty in this, though.