My little peanut is 5. I can’t quite believe it.
Last night we had our little family birthday celebration; my parents came in for the week, so it was extra-festive. My mom and my daughter made the cake; my son and I made the icing. Nothing from a boxed mix. Who needs one?
This post is not about any earth-shaking greenery…I just wanted to reflect on how amazingly easy it is to do cake and icing without mixes or “convenience” foods. It’s SO not difficult. And you can absolutely control what you put in. Healthy? Not necessarily; there’s not a whole lot you can do with chocolate cake to render it healthy, although I bet I could have snuck a little whole wheat flour in there to boost the nutritional value of the cake. And I wonder if the applesauce-for-oil substitution might have worked here. But y’all know how much I kvetch about how busy I am and how little time I have for anything–if I could pull this off, anyone can.
From a health standpoint, buttercream icing is fairly irredeemable–though I’d rather eat homemade buttercream icing made with organic butter than that sort of oogy hydrogenated whatever stuff you get in the plastic cans in the grocery store. What I can’t get over is how easy it is to make–the only real catch is that you have to a) wash the beaters after making the cake, and b) remember to take the butter out of the fridge a couple of hours ahead of time. I was intimidated by it for ages, until I tried it, and it’s really simple.
Buttercream Icing: You beat 2 sticks of softened butter, start adding 3 cups of powdered sugar a little at a time till it’s all in there, then drizzle in a couple teaspoons of vanilla and a splash of milk and beat the hell out of it for about 3 minutes. That’s it. (Okay, if you have a 5 year old princess overseeing the action, you also break down and drip maybe 8 drops of red food coloring into it so it’s a lovely shade of pre-Pepto pink.)
For the cake itself–we used this recipe from busycooks.com. One bowl, oil rather than butter (and only half a cup at that), and boiling water poured in at the end right before it goes into the cake pans. So very easy, and again, you get to control what’s really in there. This was a really yummy, moist, lovely cake; I highly recommend it.
EASY ONE BOWL CHOCOLATE CAKE
- 2 cups flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 3/4 cup cocoa
- 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 cup boiling water
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and dust with cocoa two 9″ layer cake pans. Set aside.
- In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir with wire whisk until blended. Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla and beat well with wire whisk or mixer until combined, about 2 minutes. While beating, heat water in microwave oven to boiling. Stir boiling water into cake batter.
- Pour the thin batter into the two prepared pans. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes or until cake pulls away from sides of pan, top springs back when lightly touched, and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks.
I still can’t believe she’s 5. Where’s the time gone?
Yesterday was the quintessential Really Cruddy Day*. Serious Mondayness. However, dinner was a bright spot.
I had a few pounds of chicken in the fridge approaching their sell-by date…and I needed inspiration. So of course I consulted with Stephanie the Fabulous Crockpot Lady…
Lemon Rosemary Chicken and Roasted Sweet Potatoes:
- Slice 1 onion and separate into rings; place in bottom of crockpot
- Place chicken on top of onion. (I used 4 large boneless breasts.)
- Sprinkle chicken with a little salt and pepper
- Sprinkle chicken with several tbs fresh chopped rosemary or 1 tbs dried
- Slice 2 or 3 organic lemons, lay on top of chicken
- Place a sheet of foil lightly over the chicken and lemons
- Wash several sweet potatoes (I did about 5, but they are the skinny kind) and prick skins with fork. Lay over top of foil.
- Cook on low 7-8 hours.
It actually seemed “done” in about 4 hours. I happened to be home, so I turned it to “warm” at that point.
The sweet potatoes were incredible–the lemon essence sort of flowed up and infused them, and they were lovely. And this seems like a method one could use over almost any crockpot meal, assuming of course it’s not too soupy…lay foil over whatever’s being cooked and then lay sweet potatoes (or white ordinary ones, I guess!) on top.
The chicken–nice, but it didn’t bowl me over. Next time I make it I would change a couple of things: For one thing, I probably would cook it longer, until the chicken really went to the fall-apart stage; it was a little dry. On the other hand, my daughter liked the chicken and my son liked both the chicken and the sweet potatoes. So the idea of a dinner I can cook for the family that the family will eat is a fairly appealing concept.
So future edits: Either cooking longer or I would probably want to combine thighs with breasts to get a little more moisture (and unfortunately fat) into the whole thing. And three lemons was too many; two small or even one large would be lovely, but 3 overpowered. This would probably be lovely with any variety of fresh herbs too–fresh tarragon in springtime would be nice with the lemons. I also may try it with oranges instead someday…or maybe limes, with some cumin and a cilantro garnish. Lots of possibilities here!
(Ooh! Same recipe, but use the “throw 20 garlic cloves into the pot” method, with little yellow potatoes…that would be DELISH!)
*Oh, the Monday misery–long story short, the bolts that hold in the driver side window gave way, the window fell down inside the door, and on its way it apparently took out the motor. Today I’m really wishing for a basic ordinary crank window, which I don’t think most auto companies even make any more…and it’s going to be horribly expensive, which will hurt much more since it’s not a transmission or the steering system or something obviously crucial to the car’s operation…but on the other hand, it’s not something I can get away with not fixing, since I live in Chicago and it’s November. After checking with several places, all of who said it would take the whole week to even get the part, I’m having to suck it up and go to the dealer, who can do it quickly and who will give me a loaner car for the duration. This is where, on the green front, I want to start complaining about living in such a non-walkable area–I’m a mom, I’m employed, and I can’t get everyone (including myself) where I need to go without transportation, and there’s no public transit that can get me where I need to go…and the dealer will charge an arm and a leg, I know it.
However, I did stop at The Farm, our local farmstand that’s closing tomorrow for the winter, while walking home from the first place I took the car, and bought a couple more pie pumpkins at 40 cents a pound…so I can make more of my Crockpot Baked Stuffed Pumpkin with Apples…
UPDATE: Next night for dinner we had chicken quesadillas, with shredded leftover chicken, some of the onions from the bottom of the crockpot, and pepper jack cheese, with a little salsa. (Would have added other veggies, but there wasn’t time to chop a thing.) Very good!
Just a quick note today, the latest update on my bread baking kick. (For those who have not been following these enticing and yeasty adventures with bated breath, this is about my now 2-week-old resolve to not buy store bread any more but to make my own through this really easy recipe that involves stirring up a batch of dough, leaving it in the fridge for up to two weeks, and hacking off a chunk to make bread whenever you feel like it. No kneading. No punching down. No multiple rises. Easy. Previous posts here, here, and here.)
First of all, I finally did buy the book, which happily arrived in the mail the day before my library copy was due. I got it from Half.com, which is usually the first place I turn when looking to buy almost any book or DVD, especially the ones that would be really expensive otherwise. On a sustainability scale, I’m not sure how it balances out–on the one hand, you’re buying mostly secondhand or overstock items, although there’s some actual smaller-business direct retail going on too (common sense should tell you that if it’s “brand new,” you’re probably not buying used, right? If you want to buy secondhand, just stay in the “like new” and “very good” sections), which helps reduce new production of books/media and saves resources, and supports the small businesses who sell them. On the other hand, you’re having it shipped to you, which has its own carbon costs of transportation and such. Ultimately, I guess, there’s no impact-free way to get new books or movies (unless you’re No Impact Man), so all one can do is pay attention and make choices.
ANYWAY…so last night I tried my first sandwich loaf, i.e. bread actually in a bread pan and not freeform-boule-on-foil-on-the-pizza-stone. (Okay, so the book tells you to let your dough rest, then put it on a pizza peel and slide it directly onto the stone. Even if I had a pizza peel, this is more effort than lazyspeedymama is willing to invest, so I usually just let the dough rest on a piece of floured foil and then move the whole thing to the oven after slashing the loaf.)
The book cautions that since the dough is so moist, one must must must use a nonstick loaf pan and still grease and flour it within an inch of its life if one expects to get the loaf out. My loaf pan is silicone, and I’m not sure if it qualifies as technically non-stick, so I just took a deep breath and tried it. I don’t like the cooking sprays since they always smell more like chemicals than oil (which shouldn’t have much smell anyway), so I just drizzled a little sunflower seed oil in the loaf pan and rubbed it around. (These oils are a good moisturizer, too, by the way, so don’t be afraid of getting your hands oily!) The little bit of excess oil settled in the corners, which is exactly where I needed it anyhow. Then I formed my loaf, using a lot of flour on the outside and making sure there weren’t any terribly sticky portions on the bottom, and just plopped it into the loaf pan and let it settle. Went through the usual let-it-rest-preheat-oven-slash-top-put-in-oven-with-hot-water thing.
Needn’t have worried. The loaf actually pulled away from the sides on its own while baking, and the oil gave even the sides a nice crispiness I didn’t expect. Lovely sandwich bread. At this point I don’t see as hardship the idea of giving up store-bought bread–this is so much better that anything else would be sort of a letdown, and it’s easy enough to do almost daily. (Put it this way: I was going to photograph the loaf for this blog entry, but there are only about 2 inches of it left after 5 sandwiches and my breakfast slice…)
Seriously, and I don’t mean to be all evangelical about this–I too feared yeast! I too bought bread regularly because bread was one of those things I just lacked the time and skill and commitment to make, and the bread machine stuff was always such a disappointment that it only underlined my inadequacy! This book changed my life! (not to mention my carb intake, but that’s another story…) (Okay, maybe a little evangelical.) I’d urge anyone who shares that feeling of awe at the Basic Staple Which Is Bread to check out the links on these posts and give it a try…
p.s. for those who aren’t theology geeks (which I hope is most of you; theology geeks don’t get invited to many parties, and even then it’s usually only the ones given by other theology geeks)–the Greek “Euangelion” simply and literally translates to “good news”–so I guess the evangelical tone of the above, under those circumstances, is fairly appropriate…:-)
Last night with our Chicken and Barley Soup with Spinach and Mushrooms, we ate the last of the most recent batch of plain white bread from the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes cookbook. (Previous posts here and here.) Now I’m starting to mess with recipes and try newer things. (But do I actually follow a recipe that’s actually in the book? Of course not!)
My goal: to develop and refine the healthiest but still most kid-acceptable ur-bread recipe I can manage. When the bread gets too brown, my kids get suspicious. (And yet they still aren’t wise to the green zucchini-skin-colored flecks in their favorite “spice cake”…)
Starting with the recipe for Oat Flour Bread on page 104, I made some adjustments: The recipe called for 5 1/2 cups of regular flour and 1 cup of oat flour. This isn’t near whole grain-y enough for me, so instead I used 4 cups regular unbleached flour, 1 cup white whole wheat flour, 1 cup oat flour, 1/4 cup flaxseed meal, and 1/4 cup oat bran. I also reduced the salt from 1 1/2 tbs to only 1 tbs. And added a little sugar. (Hopefully not enough to kill the yeast or anything, just maybe 1 tbs or so. I added it for the deeply scientific reason that I had about 1 tbs of sugar left in the bag and I’m tired of moving it around, so I tossed it into the dough.) Other than that, I left it as it was.
GROWNUP VERDICT: This is a very nice bread–not the kind to make you take a bite and swoon like the earlier version, but really nice nonetheless. Just enough “other” stuff to give it a very slight whole grainy taste, but not enough to have that This Is Seriously Healthy Whole Grain Bread thing going. The reduced salt was a very good thing; the added sugar also seemed to add a little sweetness to the final product. We might be able to increase the oat/whole wheat proportions just a little against the plain white and still sell it to the kids, but for now this is a good start. Only other thing I’d change: I followed the recipe and baked it the full 45 minutes, which gave a really hard brown crust, something my husband and I aren’t crazy about, and the interior of the bread wasn’t nearly as moist as previous loaves. Next time I’ll only go 30 or 35 minutes, which should be plenty.
KID VERDICT: I sent a ham sandwich to school today. Most of it got eaten, part of it came home. (“I ran out of time because I was chatting,” was the reason. Since he never uses the word “chatting,” I’m assuming a teacher has been getting on his case about it.) Once home this starving boy whom I obviously never feed (not) gobbled down the rest with great gusto. He didn’t mind the heavier crust, and he didn’t mind the brown flaxseed flecks in the bread; he liked it. So I think we’re onto something here.
There’s enough dough in the refrigerator for at least two more loaves of Something from this bread; I’ll probably try a foccacia and maybe another cinnamon loaf since that seemed to make the kids extremely happy.
I wish I could find a way to reconcile trying to lose those last 15 lbs. and experimenting with new recipes, especially when my recipes are starting to actually work out well with greater consistency…
Yesterday I posted about my preliminary adventures with Jeff Herzberg and Zoe Francois’s somewhat amazing Artisan Bread in Five Minutes book. (Or more precisely, my adventures with the basic recipe while I waited for the book to come into the library.)
Last night I got the book and pored over it. Today I did a little more experimentation, though still more or less not using any specific recipes–just the Basic Master Plan and my own sense of “what if.”
Today we’re eating a lot of bread–three different loaves:
1. Rosemary Foccacia–for this I just took the basic refrigerated dough (which was, by the way, 2/3 unbleached flour and 1/3 white whole wheat flour), formed it into a ball and flattened it into a circle, and let it rest. Before putting it into the oven I dented it with my fingers and poked it with a fork a bit, and then sprinkled coarse sea salt and rosemary all over the top. VERDICT: Amazing. This is a keeper. I will use this to impress dinner guests, or take some to parties, or what-have-you.
2. Cinnamon Bread–this was sort of an experiment for the kids. To do this I used the basic refrigerated dough again and formed the requisite ball, then flattened it into a sort of oval shape. I sprinkled cinnamon and sugar (could have done raisins too, just didn’t) all over it, rolled it up, and curled under the ends again to make another ball, which I then let rest for the 40 minutes the original calls for. (This is how the book suggests making anything from date-walnut bread to olive bread to all kinds of Bread With Stuff In It.) Before baking I sprinkled more cinnamon and sugar on top. VERDICT: the kids each had a slice as their after-school snack; they love it. I think for sweet breads in general I will need to cut back on the salt quite a bit, because it’s still a little salty even though I used the coarse salt the book calls for this time instead of the finer salt I used on my first batch. But in general, this was lovely. If any of it survives till morning, I bet it would make an amazing french toast. This might also be nice with jam or something spread on the bread before rolling it up…
3. Baguette: This is more of a no-brainer, I guess, and I’m not following the exact book recipe at all–just once again using the same basic dough but shaping it into a long log instead of a round boule. (Which is, now that I look it up, exactly what the book says to do.) VERDICT: Perfect. I will never buy grocery store bakery bread again. This stuff is amazingly good. (I should qualify: perfect tasting. I still haven’t got the hang of exactly how to do the slashes in a way that lets it do all the springing it needs to in the oven without splitting open on the sides, particularly for the long breads. Boule-shape seems to work for me, though…)
The point of the exercise for me was really to see how many different breads I can make from one single basic dough type in the fridge. I mean, if you mix up 4 loaves worth of herb bread dough, you’re going to make 4 loaves of herb bread or foccacia. You’re not going to be making french toast, right? And if you mix up a sweet bread dough, it’s not going to go so well with the Chicken Piccata. So while some of the other breads look very appealing, my guess is that even if I do buy the book (and I’m fairly sure I will), I’ll come back to the basic-but-tweaked recipe again and again.
The Book itself–it’s a great book, and I’m still waffling on whether to go out and buy it after my library two weeks are up. In general I’m not a cookbook kind of cook; I find a basic template and then mess with it to see what I can do with it. Also, the book gets a lot schmantzier than I ever will in a good half of its recipes (and once you hit schmantzy, 5 minutes goes out the window), and has a lot more recipes for salads and sandwiches and Things To Do With This Bread than I would ever use. On the other hand, there are enough other template type recipes–like Oatmeal bread, Pumpkin bread, Challah, Brioche (which I will probably never make because of the high fat content), and such which I expect I’d probably make often enough that having the book might be worthwhile. Over the next two bread-laden weeks I’ll think about it and try some of those other “basic” recipes to see what happens. My copyright consciousness says that if there are only maybe 1 or 2 recipes in the book I think I will ever make, I will feel fairly comfortable making a photocopy of those couple of pages for my own use later. Any more than that and I would feel like a thief and would instead just buy the whole book. At the moment I have post-its in 9 pages, though, so I expect I’ll be shelling out the “dough” for this one fairly soon. (And the sequel is coming out soon too!)
In terms of my own playfulness and experimentation, there will be a lot of messing around with flax seed, oat bran, oat flour, and whole wheat flour to see how much Good Stuff I can get in there. Refined flour might be missing lots of the nutritional goodness of whole grains, but it does such lovely things in bread! So the trick is always to keep enough white flour to get your nice crust and lightness and chewiness and avoid whole wheat’s bitter flavor. But I expect having a batch of dough in the fridge could become a fairly regular thing around here.
My husband cautions me to not overdo, or we’ll get sick of it. I can’t quite imagine that…
I’ve just put in a request at my local public library for Artisan Bread in Five Minutes, a book I’ve seen a lot of bloggers talking about. It’s positively viral, but in a good way. I read Green Bean, who got the idea from Tammy over at Girls Wear Blue Too. Then there’s Taste and Tell, and Lynn at Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures (who loves the challah recipe from this book)…I appreciate that so many bloggers are not only spreading the word about this bread but also sharing their own experiences, recipe divergences, and shortcuts…
The fact that it’s already checked out from the library is both encouraging (because that indicates it’s in demand and thus hopefully a good thing) and sort of a pain in the neck, because I’m Instant Gratification Girl all the way. But then, as I so often say, gotta love the internet. The master recipe for this five minute bread is actually available online in several places, including here. So I’ve got my first batch going up in the kitchen.
This is very promising–the basic premise is that you mix up a batch of sort of wet and gooey knead-less dough and store it in your fridge for up to two weeks. Periodically you just hack off a piece the size of a grapefruit, let it “rest” a bit on the counter, and then bake-steam it for 30 minutes into a nice fresh freeform loaf. The dough in the fridge apparently starts its own natural “sourdough” process over the two weeks and gradually develops different flavors as it ages. I’ve been becoming less and less thrilled with my bread machine lately, since it seems to give a bread that’s sort of dry and has a not-too-pleasant crust. So I’m looking forward to this…
VERDICT: THE PROCESS–Well, there’s good and bad, with the positives dramatically outweighing the negatives. The good: it was really easy to mix up the master batch of dough, and that itself only took a few minutes and not much mess. And after the master batch did its initial rise, it was incredibly easy to yank off a chunk and shape it into a loaf. The master batch itself wasn’t the gooey kind of dough the recipe led me to expect; it was lots flour-i-er than I thought it would be, and not too wet. And I did follow the recipe well. Maybe my flour was too packed down or something? Anyway, next time I might try a little less flour. But the ease of taking refrigerated dough and turning it into fresh hot bread without mess and deep involvement is lovely.
The down side–well, yeah, you really do only spend about 5 minutes actively doing anything for making bread. But to actually get it onto the table you have to, after you spent 2 of the 5 minutes making your loaf, let it rest for 40 minutes. And then 20 minutes into that 40 you have to turn on the oven. And then you put it in (taking maybe 2 minutes) and bake it for another 30. So while you’re not actually working on the bread but a few minutes, you still have to stick around and pay attention to make it work. Which means that there’s no coming home at 5:30pm and having hot fresh bread on the table at 6:00; you have to start a good bit more than an hour before you plan to take it out of the oven in order to make this happen. But that’s a fairly small downside for this really nice, really easy fresh bread. I mean, it’s not like there are any other ways to come home at 5:30 and have fresh bread at 6:00, unless you stopped at Whole Foods on the way or something.
VERDICT: THE BREAD–all I can say is a big “omnomnomnom” about this bread. It’s moist and crusty and tastes absolutely lovely. It’s a little salty (Tammy over at Girls Wear Blue Too says she pretty much always reduces the salt amount, and I think I’ll try it next batch too) but still absolutely wonderful.
The recipe says that the dough’s flavor evolves into a gentle sourdough as it sits in the fridge; I don’t know how many days this batch will last before it all gets baked and eaten, but we’ll see how that part works out…
Aha! And I just got the email from the library that the book is in. I’ll see what it’s like, and then that may be one I have to buy…
Now I have to go eat some more bread…
(UPDATE: I did a subsequent post on my further adventures…)
(Note: As usual, I posted too quickly; as a result, 24 hours after first publishing this post I’m doing some heavy edits on it, especially to the recipe and cooking times/levels. Trust me, it’s for the better!)
Before you ask…no, this has no zucchini in it. I’m taking a break from the giant green baseball bats for a couple of days.
I’ve been working my way through a nasty stinky flu bug. One of those achy sweaty chills and fever room spins head wants to split open kind of deals. It’s the pits. (It’s mostly better now; sort of broke yesterday. But today I’m just wiped out exhausted.) And when I’m sick, I crave comfort food. And above all the comfort foods I know is the nutmeg-sprinkled baked custard my mom used to make when I was sick. I never make it because it involves the oven and a waterbath and when I’m sick I don’t feel like messing around with that. But then I put together a recipe for egg custard (as usual, cobbled together from a few other recipes), do-able in the microwave oven, and while it took a lot of futzing to make it actually work right, the end result is pretty darned close to what mom used to give me.
Recipe I: Microwave Baked Custard (makes just under 1 cup; thus, 1-2 servings depending on how much comfort you need) (doubles easily! Just keep track of egg multiplication–2 eggs means 1 cup of milk, 3 eggs is 1.5 cups, etc.)
- heat 1/2 cup of milk and 3-4 tsp sugar in the microwave for about one minute, till it is hot but not boiling, and the sugar dissolves easily. (This makes for a pretty sweet custard, which I happen to like. Honey or maple syrup would probably make a nice substitution.)
- While it is heating, lightly beat 1 egg, and 1/2 tsp vanilla (or a splash of cream sherry–makes it taste like sabayon) (For a single serving, you can do this right in the coffee cup or bowl you plan to cook the custard in.)
- When milk is hot, whisk it into egg mixture
- If you haven’t already done so, pour into 1 or 2 custard cups or microwave-safe coffee cups.
- Sprinkle nutmeg on top
- Microwave on 30% power 3.5-4 minutes or until beginnng to set and no longer liquidy. (Note: the first time you try this you’ll need to supervise closely, and you’ll have to do it again if you later decide to try doubling or tripling the recipe. You want the whole thing to be gently puffing, but if the liquid in it comes to full boil the custard will start to curdle. It’ll still taste nice, but it won’t have that velvety texture.) When you take it out of the oven, it should jiggle a little like set gelatin, but not be firmly set; and remember it’ll keep cooking for a few minutes after you take it out.
- Chill at least half an hour before eating, if you like it warm, or a few hours for cold. (No way around this; it has to finish setting and cool down a little before you cut into it.)
Again, your first time making this, you’ll have to watch closely–everyone’s microwave is a little different, and it’s easy to overcook. Then you have, in effect, a custard-flavored scrambled egg. Still tastes nice, but not the effect we were going for. And probably a lot of the dicier timing could be reduced by actually using a water bath in the microwave. But I’m not going for exactly the perfect custard, I can make that in the oven–I’m looking for a quick and easy way to get my comfort food fix. And this isn’t bad.
UPDATE SEVERAL MONTHS LATER: in late April I posted a recipe for the chocolate version of this and in the process happened upon a slightly altered version of the vanilla, using powdered milk. It’s much more stable than the version above and doesn’t overcook as easily, but with a slightly heavier consistency. And not everyone has powdered milk around…but if you’re interested:
Recipe II: Microwave Egg Custard (single serving–doubles easily!)
- heat 1/2 cup of milk in the microwave for about one minute, till it is hot but not boiling
- In a small microwavable bowl, custard cup. or smallish coffee cup, mix 3 level tsp. sugar and one heaping tsp. powdered milk. Optional: add a few drops of vanilla extract and/or a shake of cinnamon, or a splash of creme sherry or liqueur
- When milk is hot, pour just a little into the sugar/milk powder mix and stir to form a paste.
- Break one egg into the sugar/milk powder paste; stir well until combined and egg white and yolks are well blended.
- A little at a time, whisk remainder of hot milk into egg mixture, pausing often to combine. (This “tempers” the egg; it mixes without curdling or cooking.)
- Microwave on low power (2-3) for about 3.5-4 minutes, depending on your microwave. Your mixture should never actually come to a boil, but it should basically be “set” on top. (There may be a little puddle of liquidyness on top even if the rest is set; don’t worry about it.) (Note: the first time you try this you’ll need to supervise closely, and you’ll have to do it again if you later decide to try doubling or tripling the recipe. You want the whole thing to be gently puffing, but if the liquid in it comes to full boil the custard will start to curdle. It’ll still taste nice, but it won’t have that velvety texture.) When you take it out of the oven, it should jiggle a little like set gelatin, but not be firmly set; and remember it’ll keep cooking for a few minutes after you take it out.
- Chill at least half an hour before eating, if you like it warm, or a few hours for cold. (This version with powdered milk you can actually sort of skip this with, though giving it a little resting time is still good….)
Now if only I could figure out how to effect the “flan” thing with the caramel syrup in the bottom, I’d be in heaven…
Are you getting as tired of reading about zucchini as I am of eating it?
At this point I have a big ziploc bag of grated zucchini in my fridge (courtesy of my food processor’s grater blade), and pretty much any meal I think I can get away with it, I make something I can toss some of it in. It’s nice to have it there, to not have to haul out the food processor but actually just have the vegetables there and ready to go. That and the other ziploc with breadcrumbs from a too-hard loaf of whole wheat bread. It’s amazing how many nutritionally guiltless meals one can make with grated zucchini and bread crumbs.
Fairly soon, though, I think I’m going to give up on the recipes thing and just blanch and freeze the rest, because I’m just getting a little bored here. However…tonight when I came home I whipped up a completely experimental recipe that turned out to be really nice and probably really healthy too.
Let me be clear here: I am a Nice Catholic Girl from Chicago, you’d have every right to ask “what does she know from latkes?” And I honestly don’t know much. But these little pancake thingies were really good, and they looked and tasted not unlike latkes (except for the obvious absence of potatoes and the crispiness only they can really give), and after the fact I found several online recipes for almost exactly the same thing under the title of “zucchini latkes,” so I’m going with the title as above. Please don’t send your made-latkes-for-the-last-50-years-learned-from-her-mother-who-learned-from-her-mother-and-there’s-no-zucchini-in-latkes grandma to beat me up. Disclosure has been made here–I am anything but a reliable cultural source. I just throw things into a bowl and then a pan and see what happens, and am thrilled when the results are actually edible.
Mix together in a bowl:
- 1 cup coarsely grated zucchini
- 1 small chopped onion (about half a cup)
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 2 eggs (though I wonder if I could’ve gotten away with 1)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder (or a couple cloves crushed garlic)
Heat olive oil in a skillet, to medium high heat. (For “fried” pancakes, you’d want a good quarter cup; I don’t want that much oil, so I just put a tablespoon or so in. This sacrifices crispiness for lower fat content, but one must make one’s own choices.)
Drop zuke mixture by spoonfuls into pan; press down to flatten to about half an inch thickness. Let cook a couple of minutes until the bottom is cooked and a little crispy (again, depends on how much oil you’re using), flip, and cook the other side.
Serve with applesauce or sour cream (or yogurt cheese–my favorite healthy substitute!). Munch out.
This made a great late night supper, since I had lunch at about 3 and wasn’t interested in eating before rehearsal tonight. I thought about just scrambling a couple of eggs, but then I figured, why not try throwing some veggies in there?
This was quick, easy, and not nearly as messy as I expected. I’ll definitely make these again.
p.s. speaking of food processors…I want to know who the Darwin-award-worthy person was whose idiocy about reaching fingers into a spinning food processor caused the makers to feel the need to craft a machine that will only let you feed into the grater things of maybe a 1.5 inch diameter? It’s this elaborate system of plungers and lids and catches that will only permit the processor to turn on when you’ve eliminated any chance of anything not really skinny going in there. That’s a lot of chopping you have to do before you even get near the food processor, and it’s a big pain in the tail. My mom is still hoarding her pre-liability-concerns Cuisinart that doesn’t have this admirable little safety feature, which still works…I’m jealous.
Okay, this barely deserves to be a separate post from yesterdays, but I discovered at lunch today that yesterday’s Easiest Ever Falafel single serving recipe is almost seamlessly adaptable to become the Easiest Ever Veggie Burger, with almost infinite substitution potential.
Easy Veggie Burger (single serving: quadruple as desired!)
Combine in a bowl; squish with fingers until well mixed:
- 1/4 cup hummus or mashed beans (black, cannellini, great northern, kidney, lentil, whatever)
- 1/4 cup bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup grated zucchini (or other grated vegetable)
- 1 tsp chopped cilantro (or basil or parsley) (optional, but it really makes a difference!)
- 1-2 cloves mashed garlic (also optional, also really difference-making)
- powdered seasonings to taste (cumin and chili powder, or cumin and coriander, or basil and oregano, or curry powder…use your imagination!)
Stir well, then smoosh into a ball with your hands and flatten into patty shape. Coat with more breadcrumbs if you wish, then cook over medium high heat till crispy on each side.
This was incredibly easy. And got a little more zucchini out of the fridge.
Six more behemoths to go.
One of the “convenience” foods I’ve depended on for years, sort of ridiculously, has been that boxed “baking mix”–Bisquick or whatever store-brand equivalent I happen to be using at the time–for making family pancakes and waffles. At some point it occurred to me that this wasn’t really all that convenient, and that I had really no idea what “multigrain” meant in the mind of the manufacturer…
So I combed the internet (which was obliging as usual) for a recipe to make my own, and as usual came up with something that didn’t quite match what anyone else had but was fairly close to all of them. This recipe was sort of the template, although this one looks possibly nicer, but either way I shifted things around a bit:
Homemade Baking Mix
Mix in a big bowl or ziploc bag:
- 1/3 cup sugar (or less)
- 5 cups flour (mixture of white and wheat; I did 2 cups whole wheat and 3 cups white flour. A mixture of white, wheat, and oat would probably be nice too.
- 2 1/2 tbs baking powder
- 1/2 tbs salt
- 3/4 cup powdered milk or buttermilk (this could probably be left out, but then you’d want to use milk instead of water in any recipe you make. Of course, you could do that anyway…)
(makes about 6 cups mix)
To make about a dozen pancakes, you blend 2 cups of the mix, 1 egg, 1 1/2 cups water or milk, and about 3 tbs melted butter (or other oil…the butter is just so yummy…) and off you go. I think this same blend would also work for waffles, but I haven’t tried it yet.
This made very nice pancakes–they weren’t as light and fluffy as they could have been, and I wonder if adding a little baking soda might help that–though honestly I didn’t miss it much. They had just the right amount of sweetness even without syrup (which I don’t use), and the whole wheat flavor did not overpower the way it sometimes does in pancakes.
My son gave these a vote of “100% success.” That’s rare in my house.