Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My 100th Post: Ghoulish Vegan Cupcakes and a Giveaway

I can hardly believe that I've been working on this blog since January.  It's the most consistent I've been about a writing project ... perhaps ever, considering that no one is looking over my shoulder requiring me to turn it in (wait a minute, that was my dissertation, too ...).   I even have followers (thank you, everyone!) that make me feel like I'm not writing out into the void, and some people have told me that the food end of it is pretty good, too.

It's been an interesting journey.  As I've said, this blog started out mostly as a food-and-pregnancy-loss blog, turned into a food-and-infertility blog, and now is a pregnancy-after-loss-and-yoga-and-food-blog.  At least one thing is consistent!  I've been grateful, though, for the support of both the IF community and of the random people I've met on this journey.  All of you have given me perspective, have cheered me on, and have offered me a virtual hug when I need it most.  Thank you for being here ... wherever "here" is.

To celebrate (well, truthfully, to celebrate Halloween, and to amuse my class this week), I made gravestones and brains.  Cupcakes, of course.  Brains to represent ... er ... brains.  Mine.  Working.  My writing brain.  And gravestones to signify the demise of insecurity about writing.  (Yeah, right.)  Actually, I'm completely making this up: I just thought people would get a kick out of them at school.

I went with standard vegan vanilla and chocolate batters because they're foolproof and turn out a moist cake, and then for the brains, piped on vanilla frosting using a #12 tip, starting with a "D" shape on each half of the cupcake and adding the squiggles in the middle.  For the cemetery, I used chocolate frosting, dusted with crumbled chocolate cookies and green sprinkles, and topped with a half of an oval-shaped vanilla cookie (Milanos worked well for me, but someone recommended Oreo Fudgies ... I haven't been able to find those here.)  In retrospect, I guess spiders would have been a little less morbid, but I had these cookies that needed to be used ... and besides, I really hate spiders.

I also thought I'd celebrate my readers with a little giveaway.  Since this blog is about baking, at least part of the time, there's a wonderful company I like called King Arthur Flour, which has all sorts of ingredients and tools for the ambitious and less ambitious (e.g. pre-packaged-mix-loving) chef, even things for special (e.g. gluten-free) diets.  They ship anywhere, and there are some things they ship for free (not sure about whether that's true for packages going to Tasmania, but you never know).  If you'd like to be entered in the giveaway, leave a comment below telling me something you've enjoyed so far about my blog, and/or why you read it.  Make sure that there's some way for me to contact you, either through your blog profile, or by leaving an email address.  And please consider poking around a bit, and following publicly if you like what I write!  It helps me to know who my audience is, and I like to try to "follow back" -- or at least read -- the blogs of people who follow HalfBaked: after all, blogging, for me, is about becoming part of a larger conversation.  You're welcome to post this in other "giveaway" sites, but I'm not going to do any of that "if you like me on Facebook you get three more chances" sort of thing ... I feel like everyone deserves an equal chance, because that's the spirit of the blogging communities I've joined in this little corner of cyberspace.  And of course, you're welcome to comment and tell me that you don't want to be considered for the giveaway, too ... no one is forcing you to bake!

The giveaway will be open until next week, Wednesday, November 3 at 10pm Eastern time, at which time I'll choose a winning number from  Good luck, and thanks for reading!

Vanilla Cupcakes

1 c. soy milk
1 t. apple cider vinegar
1¼ c. all-purpose flour
2 T. cornstarch
¾ t. baking powder
½ t. baking soda
¼ t. salt (increase salt to ½ teaspoon if you’re using oil instead of margarine)
⅓ c. canola oil
¾ c. sugar
2 t. vanilla
¼ t. almond extract, caramel extract, or more vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pan with cupcake liners.

Whisk the soy milk and vinegar in a measuring cup and set aside for a few minutes to get good and curdled.  Beat together the soy milk mixture, oil, sugar, vanilla, and other extracts, if using, in a large bowl. Sift in the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and mix until no large lumps remain.

Fill cupcake liners two-thirds of the way and bake for 20 to 22 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack, and let cool completely before frosting.

Chocolate Cupcakes

1 c. soy milk
1 t. apple cider vinegar
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1/3 c. canola oil
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 t. almond extract, chocolate extract, or more vanilla extract
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. cocoa powder
3/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt

Preheat oven to 350°F and line a muffin pan with paper or foil liners.

Whisk together the soy milk and vinegar in a large bowl, and set aside for a few minutes to curdle. Add the sugar, oil, vanilla extract, and other extract, if using, to the soy milk mixture and beat until foamy. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add in two batches to wet ingredients and beat until no large lumps remain (a few tiny lumps are OK).

Pour into liners, filling 3/4 of the way. Bake 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

Mmmm. brains.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Soham: Unstuffed Bell Pepper and Cabbage Soup

Soham.  This was our opening mantra in my yoga class this week.  It means "I am that" ... and, our teacher explained, it's the "I am" that we are when we strip everything else away, get rid of our roles, our baggage, and return to the essence of what makes us us.  Not "I am a daughter."  Or "I am a runner."  Or even "I am tired, hungry, angry, frustrated" ... whatever we may be.  "I am That."  Daughter, runner, colleague ... all of these identities, she said, are transient.  The yogis say that nothing transient is real ... the only things that are real are the things that are eternally unchanging.

I had to think about that one.  I have always been and will always be a daughter... but the manifestation of that role will change over time.  It seems that I've always been a student, or worked at a university, but of course, that doesn't define me, either.  Those of us who have been marked "infertile" ... we know that while that's biology, it doesn't define us, either.  Our role in the universe has to be more than that.  What does define me?  As I closed my eyes, I tried to imagine the core of me that was unchanging.  And I imagined a white flame, burning brightly.  Something I might call a pure essence.

The Soham mantra has been called the universal mantra because of the fact that its vibration is the sound of the breath, and everybody breathes: sooooo is the sound of inhalation, and hummm is the sound of exhalation.  The essence of our being: the breath.

I like this mantra, first, because it's so easy: if you become aware of your breath, you can imagine it sounding like "sooooooo ... hummmm" over and over (really! try this, wherever you are right now); and second, because it reminds us that we don't need to be anything other than who and what we are.  If you're anything like me, you are constantly trying to live up to a panoply of expectations, or "shoulds," or whatever ... you measure yourself with the yardsticks of others.  Soham reminds us that we are That.  Not that we're becoming That, but we already are.  We are ourselves, essence, part of the amazing, beautiful, unexplainable, frustrating-as-all-hell (to our small and impatient human brains) Universe.  And that while it's only human to have goals and aspirations (where would we be as a species if we didn't? certainly, like "surrender," this is not about "giving up"), we need to do so with full acceptance of who and what and where we are right now, at this unique moment in time.

It's sort of like "Self, Unplugged."

To go with the mantra, I've got an "soup, unstuffed" for you today.  There are lots of weeks that I wish my CSA box were something other than what it is ... that it was full of apples, or whatever I feel like eating that week.  Stuffed acorn squash.  Dark chocolate covered almonds.  A Vosges bar.  Pie.  (I do promise that this blog will return to it's "half baked" origins soon!)  But you know what?  It is what it is.  And if we allow things -- including ourselves -- to be what they are, and to really see them and look past the frustrations and flaws that are the mutable surface, we may experience them differently, better ... even if it is cabbage, again.

Unstuffed Bell Pepper and Cabbage Soup

5 tomatoes (about 1.5 lbs.)
1 medium onion, diced
2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced (reserve a ¼ cup for garnish)
½ head cabbage, cut into shred
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup cooked green/brown lentils
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T tomato paste
1 ½ T dried oregano
Sea salt
Freshly-cracked black pepper
6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
Olive oil

Cut the tomatoes in half and toss with a bit of olive oil.  Roast in a 450°F oven for an hour or until caramelized on top.  Transfer to a blender and blitz.  [Mine yielded 2 cups of tomato puree]

While the tomatoes are roasting, add a drizzle of olive oil to a pan over medium heat and sauté the onions, garlic, bell pepper and cabbage until softened.  Add the tomato paste and oregano.  Cook for a few minutes longer.  Add in the rice and lentils and mix well.  Set aside until the tomatoes are ready.

Add the tomato puree and vegetable broth to the pot and bring to a simmer.  Let cook for about 15 minutes and then season with salt and pepper. 

Garnish with dried or fresh oregano and, if you like, finely diced green bell pepper.
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Sunday, October 24, 2010

One Day At A Time: Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

It was a beautiful day here on Friday, after a doubtful-looking morning.  Ian's class was scheduled for a field trip to a farm for apple picking and a "tour," and he had pleaded with me to come, so I took the day off from work to spend with him.  It had been a while since I'd done that.

After I spent half an hour in Ian's classroom, letting him show me his "work," we headed out to the farm.  The "tour" took all of about 20 minutes, and involved naming the vegetables grown on the farm, and a quick lesson in bee spit and honeycomb, and the "picking" took all of about five minutes, with a free-for-all of preschoolers descending upon the unsuspecting trees (thankfully, the ones they had left were Winesap apples, YUM).  The rest of the morning there was spent in and on a hay maze, which Ian and his classmates clambered over, leaped about, and tumbled from with the grace and boldness of little people with low centers of gravity.  Watching them, as the sun came out and clouds opened into blue sky, I wished I could bottle days like this.

In the afternoon, we delivered a meal to a friend down the block who just had a new baby, her fourth child.  She's one of those women who makes being a mom look easy, despite the chaos that swirls around her whenever I see her, and I'm always surprised when she confesses doubt or frustration (how could a woman with three--now four--kids and two dogs be unsure of herself?).  She had miscarried during the summer last year, not too long after my second loss, and we bonded over tea and my home made biscotti one night, talking about our hopes and fears and indecisions about the future.

I got confirmation about our enrollment in a Hypnobirthing class, which made me suck in my breath a little bit ... the reminders that life really is going to change remarkably in January are becoming more frequent, and more visible.  Though I've been through birth once before, I wanted a class that might help me to be less anxious about this event, and might empower me this time: last time, I wound up on a pitocin IV, unable to move, with my nose stuck in an oxygen mask, watching with my heart in my throat as Ian's heart rate dropped.  Knowing now how quickly life can be taken from us, even though that time I wound up with a live baby, I'm going into this with an additional set of apprehensions.  In some ways, I envy women who are blissfully ignorant of loss and complications in pregnancy and birth.

One day at a time, I keep telling myself.

This is the soup I made for my friend (and then again for a group of friends when we had lunch together recently).  It's hearty, healthy, and should be served up with a salad and a crusty loaf of bread (which we did, though cheating, in the breadmaker).  It tastes like fall, and makes for good comfort food.  I was half sorry to give it away, and am holding on to the hope that our CSA will send us more squash this week so that I can make more to freeze, for the darker days of winter, and the long nights of early parenthood, when one day at a time is all that makes sense.

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

8  c. (1-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (~2 medium ...or use the pre-cut, pre-peeled squash in your produce aisle)
3  T. light olive or canola oil, divided
2  T. maple syrup
1 1/4  t. garam masala (you can also use a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice: 3/4, 1/4, 1/4)
1  t. kosher salt
1/8  t. freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray
1/4  c. finely chopped shallots
4  c. chopped Winesap, Braeburn or other sweet-tart apple (about 1 lb.)
1/4  c. dry white wine
3  c. water
1  (14-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2  T. half-and-half, soymilk, almond milk or something along those lines (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°.  Combine squash, 2 T. oil, syrup, garam masala, salt, and pepper. Arrange squash mixture in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 45 minutes or until squash is tender.

Heat remaining 1 T. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until tender. Stir in apple; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Stir in wine; cook 1 minute. Stir in squash mixture, 3 cups water, and broth. Bring to a simmer; cook 3 minutes. Place half of squash mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Strain squash mixture through a sieve into a bowl; discard solids. Repeat procedure with remaining squash mixture. Stir in half-and-half or milk of your choice.
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Friday, October 22, 2010

Not-Quite Nostalgia: Kohlrabi Curry

As I get older, and more busy, I feel like there's a lot I've forgotten.  Some days it's all I can do to keep track of the lunches and the dinners and the laundry and the work I have to do outside of the house: I hate to think about the last time I read a book cover to cover, a habit I used to luxuriate in.  It's hard to remember the things that made me, well ... me ... a long time ago.  And yet, every once in a while, there's something that reminds me of a snippet of time I thought I'd lost forever: the smell of a particular convenience store calls to mind the newspapers and candy in "Maxine's," down the street ... the smell and feel of sawdust reminds me of shopping at Packard's with my mother, for extravagant groceries ... the feel of fresh fall air reminds me of apple picking with my father and his high school students, in their huge cars, out of place in the apple fields ... the sound of rustling corn stalks reminds me of the weeks before Halloween at Van Riper's farm, where we'd get our pumpkins and cider donuts, watching them roll off the elaborate fryer's conveyer belt, our noses pressed against the glass in wonder.  It's moments like these that it occurs to me how much the memories I'm helping my son to make really matter.

Along with the mountain of greens, there were some oddities in our CSA box this week: hakurei turnips, and kohlrabi.  I remember my father growing kohlrabi in our backyard garden, watching the funny bulbs bulge out, the look on my mother's face when he'd pick them and bring a pile of them into the kitchen.  I'm not sure what made him decide to grow such an unusual vegetable, but I also remember the way my mother cooked it: boiled, and pureed, with butter, chicken broth and inevitably burned onions.  The smell in our kitchen would last for days, mostly because of the onion.  It was sort of like an alternative to mashed potatoes, I guess: put enough salt and fat on anything, and it tastes like ... well ... salt and fat.

But since I'm determined to make our veggies into main courses, the “cabbage turnip” (the word kohlrabi comes from the German), I wasn't about to boil and puree them.  Another website I consulted said that they're commonly eaten in Indian cuisine, and she made a curry.   I liked that idea, because it meant I could also use a tomato.  And while the cooking itself didn't produce nostalgia (my mother would never in a million years have made us curry), I couldn't help but think about my father, and his garden, and how much he loved the harvest.  I hope that, years hence, my son remembers loving the harvest, too.

 Kohlrabi Curry

1 kohlrabi, diced
2 tsp olive oil, divided
2 Tbsp minced garlic, divided
1/2 cup water, divided
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 onion
1 tomato
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Toss the kohlrabi with 1 tsp of the olive oil and 1 Tbsp of the minced garlic. Spread evenly on a baking sheet.  Bake about 20 minutes.

Dice the onion and tomatoes. In a medium sauce pan, heat the other tsp olive oil and 1/4 cup of the water. Add in the mustard and cumin seeds.

When the seeds begin to sputter, add in the onion and saute until tender. Then, add in the tomato and cook just until tender. Add in the roasted kohlrabi, along with the lemon juice, curry powder, chili powder, salt, and other half of the garlic and water. Cook on low 8-10 minutes or until the water cooks down. Serve over quinoa, rice, or whatever else suits your fancy.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Versatility: Cabbages, Kings, and Seven Random Things (Happy ICLW!)

Happy ICLW!  (*For those of you just joining this program, already in progress, I'm ranting about my CSA, coming to terms with pregnancy after loss and preparing for a baby in February (!), and taking pictures of food.  An ICLW-ish post follows the recipe.)

The cabbage saga continues.  Apparently it's the world's most versatile vegetable, in the garden and in the kitchen. Good source of vitamin C, vitamin A and some vitamin B, minerals, calcium, and phosphorus;ideal roughage to aid digestion; contains indoles (block cancer-causing substances before they can damage cells) phenolic acids (help resist cancer by inhibiting cell proliferation induced by carcinogens in target organs; inhibit platelet activity; decrease inflammation and act as anti-oxidants) sulforaphane (induce protective enzymes, suppress tumor growth), and choline (used by the brain to make acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in memory function).  Oh yeah ... and not a good vegetable in mass quantities for thyroid patients watching their hormone levels.  Well, we'll just ignore that little detail.  This summer and fall I have baked it, fried it, steamed it, put it in stir fry and soup.  Not that I want more of it, mind you.  I think I've had quite enough.

This recipe is a good one to have in your back pocket, when you have to use it up (though of course, there is one more in my refrigerator for later this week):

Rustic Cabbage Soup

1 T. extra virgin olive oil
a big pinch of salt
1/2 lb. potatoes, skin on, cut 1/4-inch pieces
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
5 c. stoc
1 1/2 c. white beans, precooked or canned (drained and rinsed well)
1/2 medium cabbage, cored and sliced into 1/4-inch ribbons
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Warm the olive oil in a large thick-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Stir in the salt and potatoes. Cover and cook until they are a bit tender and starting to brown a bit, about 5 minutes - it's o.k. to uncover to stir a couple times. Stir in the garlic and onion and cook for another minute or two. Add the stock and the beans and bring the pot to a simmer. Stir in the cabbage and cook for a couple more minutes, until the cabbage softens up a bit. Now adjust the seasoning - getting the seasoning right is important or your soup will taste flat and uninteresting. Taste and add more salt if needed, the amount of salt you will need to add will depend on how salty your stock is (varying widely between brands, homemade, etc)...

Serve drizzled with a bit of olive oil and a generous dusting of cheese.

On a less cruciferous note, I've been nominated for a Versatile Blogger Award.  Thank you, InBetween!  I don't usually do these, but for a change of pace, and since it's just about time for ICLW, here goes.   First, the instructions are to link back to the wonderful person who nominated me.  Visit InBetween!  She is a wonderfully witty, thoughtful, and honest writer.

Now I'm supposed to share 7 things about me.

1) I have lived on both U.S. coasts and set foot on most of the world's continents, having traveled to Brazil, South Africa, Italy, France, Spain, England, Thailand, Japan, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Canada, and across the country (even to Alaska, Seattle, Portland, up and down the coast of CA) and back.  I'm still missing Australia and Antarctica, and have not, spent much time in the Midwest, though I did get a speeding ticket in Kansas (sorry, Kansas ... you were just so temptingly flat that day that I couldn't help myself). I miss international traveling and am looking forward to showing children the world some day.

2)  I took 11 years of piano and dance lessons, 8 years of flute, and none of guitar. I now play the three instruments with the same level of skill -- mediocre -- but I can still dance.  It makes for good yoga practice.

3) I don't watch TV (with the exception of House, MD, which is more about occasionally  making time to sit next to the husband on the couch). We don't own a TV, because we find that there's simply nothing on. My father, who once forbade us from watching TV for a week (while, I might add, he digested five hours of it every night), would be proud.  Of course, I spent hours and hours online ...

4) I cannot be trusted with a canister of raisins, a jar of peanut butter, and a chopstick. Late at night you would find me with the chopstick in the peanut butter jar, scooping out gobs to which I can stick raisins.

5) I met my husband online. It meant that I could test his ability to write in complete grammatically correct sentences with capitalization and punctuation.  (These things are important to a former English major, despite Garrison Keillor's merciless ribbing of the lot of us.)

6) I only started running because I wanted to impress my (then future) husband; now it's the most expedient form of exercise I can manage, and I was pretty proud of my Turkey Trot time last year.  At 25 weeks pregnant, I've still been running most mornings.  This will no doubt end soon.

7) I once taught sex ed to 9-11th graders, and can now talk about just about anything without blushing.

The second part of the instructions is to forward this award to seven other bloggers.  I think rather than do that, what I'll suggest is that you visit and comment on some wonderful women's blogs just because their blogs are inspiring, thought provoking, and/or just plain good to read (and apologies if your name *isn't* on this list ... the truth is, I think that you're ALL worthy of reading and commenting!).  Whether they want to post the seven things or not is up to them.

Keiko at
K at
Mel at
Rebecca at
Jenn at
Adele at
JeCaThRe at
Suzy at
Andie at
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Surrender: Pie for Breakfast

Every week, my yoga teacher has a theme for the class, and talks about that theme as we move through our asanas.  This week the theme was surrender, and how surrendering, the right way, brings us to anandam, or bliss.  She was careful to say that surrendering wasn't about "giving up," but about becoming more aware ... about noticing where we are, coming to terms, accepting.  In asanas, surrender can help us to move more deeply into the pose: we breathe in, and surrender the breath and our bodies on the exhale, offering up the difficulty, allowing the breath to go where it needs to go, and suddenly--often--the difficulty dissolves.

I confess that surrender is not easy for me.  I have been bred into a culture in which surrender is about giving up, not about letting go.  And as we all know, I'm a control freak.  But when I think about the challenges before me right now, this approach--shifting my perspective away from the obsessive "I"--makes so much sense: surrendering to the situation at work means giving up control over the spring, but also possibly allowing for a new opportunity to present itself.  Surrendering to this pregnancy means giving up my need for control over my body, and allowing my body to do what it will do.

We spend so much of our lives fighting against life itself.  What would happen if we simply let go?

Making pastry doesn't sound like it would involve surrender at all, I know.  I grew up in a house where my mother would bar the door of the kitchen when making her pies, because she'd be swearing like a sailor the whole time, and was convinced that our presence in that space would make the end result even worse.  But this recipe allows for letting go a little bit ... knowing that if the dough cracks, you can always fix it, and you might end up with something even better in the end.  (I also like using a pastry cloth and sleeve like this one, which makes transferring it to the plate a lot easier.)   This pie is wonderfully fragrant (S. eats it for breakfast, and I think that's perfectly acceptable), and is especially good if you can find some ripe apples, and perhaps even climb a tree to pick them.  When you're up there, make sure you hold on.  But then, take stock of where you are, breathe, and let go.

Spiced Apple Pie

2 c. flour (I use at least half whole wheat pastry, sometimes all whole wheat pastry)
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. oil (canola or olive)
1/4 to 1/2 c. boiling water

Combine flour and salt.  In a glass measuring cup, combine oil and water.  Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients, and fork together until the dough starts to form a ball.  It should be smooth; if it's too sticky, add more flour until it bounces back just a bit when you poke it.  Divide into two balls.

Filling (Combine all ingredients in a large bowl:)

3 lbs. apples (8-10 medium), peeled and sliced
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. flour
1 T. lemon juice
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. cloves
1/4 t. allspice

Roll out one of the balls of dough to the right size for a 9" or 10" pie pan.  You'll want it to hang over the pan just a bit.  Fill with the apple mixture.  Roll out the second ball of dough so that it will cover the first, and flip it on.  Seal edges and crimp together.  Cut a few decorative holes in the top to let the steam escape.

Brush pie crust with: 1 T. milk (soy is fine) and sprinkle with 1 t. sugar.

Bake 30 minutes.  Wrap edges with aluminum foil and bake 30 minutes more, or until bubbly.  Let cool completely before slicing.
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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Moments to Savor: Chicken and Chinese Cabbage

This is why I love age four:

As we were coming back from a walk downtown tonight, Ian asked me: "Mommy, how old are you?"

Me: (mumble mumble)
Ian (running ahead of me to face me, flinging his arms wide open to hug me as I came closer): "Mommy, I'll love you even when you are really old."

Me (bending down to scoop up my boy and smother him in hugs and kisses, knowing that this time is fleeting): "And Ian, I'll love you forever, too."

The days of fresh produce are waning, too: just about four more weeks to go in the CSA share.  Last week, our box contained the following: two heads of lettuce, a bag of spicy lettuce, a bag of arugula, bok choy, and a ginormous (yes, that really is a word) head of Chinese cabbage.  I was having flashbacks to the first few weeks of our CSA, when I found myself drowning in greens.  I've been making lettuce sandwiches (really, no joke) for lunch, and turned the chard into Lentil Chard Soup again, and we'll stir fry the bok choy, but I needed to figure out what to do with the cabbage.  It's a lot of cabbage for two and a half people.

It seemed only right to turn it into something Chinese; besides, stir fry makes a mountain of greens into a more manageable molehill.  And though we've been eating mostly vegetarian this summer, I decided to cave and make something that the boys would appreciate, especially if I was going to make them eat mounds of cabbage.

Chicken and Chinese Cabbage

1 1/3 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4), cut into 1-inch pieces
1 T. plus 4 t. soy sauce
3 T. dry sherry
1/4 t. cayenne
2 T. cooking oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. ground coriander
1 T. rice wine vinegar
1/2 head Chinese cabbage (about 1 lb.), sliced
3/4 c. drained sliced water chestnuts (from one 8 oz. can)
2 t. tomato paste
1/4 t. dried red-pepper flakes
3 T. water
3 T. chopped cilantro or scallion tops
1/8 t. salt

In a medium bowl, combine the chicken with the 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of the sherry, and the cayenne. Let marinate for 10 minutes.

In a wok or large frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over moderately high heat. Add the chicken and cook, stirring, until almost done, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan. Add the onion, garlic, and coriander. Cook, stirring, until the onions are golden, about 4 minutes. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons sherry and the vinegar. Cook, stirring, 1 minute longer.

Add the cabbage, water chestnuts, the remaining 4 teaspoons soy sauce, the tomato paste, red-pepper flakes, and water and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes longer. Add the chicken and any accumulated juices, the cilantro, and the salt and cook, stirring, until the chicken is just done, 1 to 2 minutes longer.
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    It's Actually Easy Being Green: Broccoli Spinach Soup

    (Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Tonight at 7pm, in each of our respective time zones, many of us participated in the Wave of Light by lighting candles for our lost children, and lighting a candle for the losses of others, too.  Please join me in support of the one in four women who continue to live this experience.)

    While it's enough of a demeaning experience for pregnant women to be ogled and felt up by near-strangers who find swollen bellies irresistable to touch, only those of us who work at a university would run the risk of being accosted by a toxicologist at the decaf coffee urn, who would see it his duty to inform said pregnant woman than she ought not to be drinking decaf, either, because it's not good for the baby.


    The reason I was standing in the decaf line is twofold: one, coffee makes milk drinkable.  Two, I'm cold.  The weather here has taken a turn towards fall in earnest now, and I am wrapping myself in an oversized green sweater that I hope will not get too ratty over the next few months.  I'm hoping that I don't actually have to buy a maternity coat.  Is that unreasonable?  Hm, probably.

    I am trying to let go, one little bit at a time. One thing I'll be almost glad to let go of is the CSA share, which has dominated my menu planning over the past few months.  Despite the overabundance of greens in last week's CSA box (arugula, spinach, chard, radicchio, collards), at least there was a variety of other things, too.  When I saw the broccoli, I knew I had to make this recipe.

    I first found it years ago when I was pregnant with I. and trying to eat perfectly for the two of us.  I am--true confessions here--eating less perfectly this time around (last time I had an inexplicable chocolate and sweets aversion, which made eating well much easier!), but at least I'm still getting lots of veggies in my diet.  Soups like this make it easy, and this one can be adapted easily for vegans.  Today's recipe is for those of you who, with me, are wrapped in your oversized green sweater, watching the leaves turn red and gold, and thinking about storing up for winter.

    Broccoli Spinach Soup

    3 T. unsalted butter
    1 medium onion, chopped
    1 large potato, peeled and diced
    8 c. broccoli florets (about 1 lb) washed and trimmed
    4 c. stock (vegetable or chicken), low sodium, low fat
    6 oz. baby spinach or 6-8 oz. frozen chopped spinach (or whatever you have on hand)
    1 c. buttermilk (you can also use unsweetened regular soymilk here)
    1/2 c. pasteurized instant nonfat dry milk (optional)
    salt and pepper to taste
    cheddar cheese for grating on top, or Greek yogurt, or ... ? (optional)

    Melt butter in a 6 qt. stock pot.  Add onion, cook three minutes.  Add potato, broccoli, and stock; bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes, covered.

    Add spinach and simmer 5 more minutes.  Remove from heat and puree soup in batches (or, if you're lucky like me, use an immersion blender that you just stick right into the pot.)  Blend until smooth and add buttermilk (or equivalent).

    Serve with grated cheddar cheese, Greek yogurt ... whatever floats your boat.
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    The Making of a Blog, the Making of Me, and the Making of Soup

    My last post, about the photography contest, got me thinking about journeys in identity-formation ... both this blog's journey, and my own.  In some respects, this blog has never really known what it's about: I started writing about food and life, about a lack of clarity about my future, not talking yet about our inability to conceive or keep a pregnancy ... then, finally diagnosed with secondary infertility, it became about my identity as a female of childbearing age unable to conceive and questions about our future as a family ... and since I found out I was pregnant, it's been some strange combination of worry, disbelief, and tales of coping with the CSA bounty (which threatened to stage a coup this summer and take over all blog posts).  It's a wonder that I still have faithful readers and commenters (thanks, all of you, who find my little blog worth following!  You make writing feel more meaningful.).  This thing really is half-baked.

    Looking back over the year, I found this post, in which I rant about doctors, and start talking explicitly about infertility and pregnancy loss, and noticed how connected my thoughts and worries about family and infertility were to my thoughts about my career and the next step in my professional life.  Since then, either I've come full circle, or I've gone nowhere at all: five months pregnant, I am still trying to figure out what's next, cooking and blogging my way through one day at a time, perhaps a little wiser now about the connections between produce and the growing season, a little more knowledgeable about sustainability, having remembered that I like to write.  The uncertainty of "what's next" is compounded by the (wonderful) fact that this pregnancy is looking like it just might actually result in a live baby, even though many days that still seems completely unreal to me. 

    Should blogs be forced to categorize themselves (certainly, if I wanted more readers, I'd settle on ONE thing to write about)?  I wish I had more clarity.  If only life came with recipes.

    I was going to post Curried Pumpkin Bisque to make up for all of the sweet pumpkin recipes lately, and pay homage to the Australian followers (all of whom are clearly wonderful women with excellent taste!), but then realized that I'd already posted that recipe, long ago when this blog was just weeks old.  So I'll leave you with that link to the old post (please do click above and check it out ... it's perfect for this season), and yet another winter greens recipe, because this week's box included chard, spinach, arugula, collards, and radicchio.

    Cannellini and Chard Soup

    1 T. olive oil
    12 oz. spicy vegetarian Italian sausage (or regular if you prefer)
    1 yellow onion
    8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    4 c. cannellini beans, soaked (about 2 c dry), rinsed and drained (canned is OK, too ... 2 cans should work)
    2 qt stock (vegetable, chicken, or other)
    1 bunch collard greens (about 12 oz), chopped (you can also use chard or kale here)
    3 T salt
    1/2 t black pepper

    Saute up the onion, garlic, and sausage in a little bit of olive oil until the onions are just translucent.  Add mushrooms and continue to saute until most of the liquid is gone.  Add beans and stock, and cook about 15 minutes.  Add greens and cook until the greens are just wilted.  Salt and pepper to taste!
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    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes and a Major Award

    A few weeks ago S. saw an advertisement for an amateur photography competition at the library.  "You should enter it," he said, encouragingly.  I laughed, and thought little more of it, until he came home with registration forms.  "We'll both enter," he told me.  So I chose one of my favorite non-food photos, which S. enlarged, found a cheap frame at the local box store, and left the rest of the doing in S.'s capable hands, assured that I wasn't even in the running.

    Today, I got a half slip of paper from the library, asking me to come accept my prize on Saturday the 16th at 1:30.  Apparently, I'm one of their winners!  (All I could think of was that scene from A Christmas Story, when the father gets news that he's won a "major award.")

    Now, it could very well be that I'm the only person who entered a photo in my category, or that the other entries are terrible, or that I've won fifth prize, but still ... the idea of winning was, well ... exciting.  Someone else thinks my photographs--or at least one of them--is worth looking at!

    Since the soup pictures have been less than beautiful recently (and, dear reader, there are more to come ... we are now hurtling headlong into soup season), I thought I'd post another "pretty" picture in honor of my win, which means baked goods! 

    I've already mentioned that the pumpkin is here ... and that I've bravely roasted ours, and am now dealing with the pulp.  It's interesting to me that in Australia it seems one mostly eats savory pumpkin dishes, not sweet ones. While I did make a curried pumpkin soup, too (fear not, my faithful Australian readers! that post will be coming soon, in your honor), the requests I got from the other residents of this house were mostly for baked goods.

    Ian (wearing his poofy chef's hat, of course) helped me to make these, and I brought them to the class I'm teaching this semester, whom, I jokingly tell them, I am trying to bribe into giving me--and the course--good evaluations.  I don't think they take that seriously, but I will admit that there has been more than one comment about cupcakes (quantity, quality, flavor, etc.) on my teaching evaluations in the past.  Well, so be it ... when I was an impressionable graduate student at a not-so-small fairly-well-known university in California, my teaching evaluations included commentary on the shape of my eyebrows and need for a waxing.  Cupcakes are harmless, comparatively speaking.

    Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

    1 c. canned pumpkin
    2 T. canola oil
    2 heaping T. unsweetened applesauce
    1 c. sugar
    1/4 c. soymilk
    1 t. vanilla
    3/4 c. all-purpose flour
    1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
    1/2 t. baking powder
    1/2 t. baking soda
    1/4 t. ground cinnamon
    1/4 t. salt
    1/2 c. chocolate chips

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin or a 24-cup mini muffin tin with paper liners and mist lightly with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, combine the pumpkin, oil, applesauce, sugar, soymilk, and vanilla.

    Sift in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Gently mix together with a whisk, fork, or spatula. Once combined, fold in the chocolate chips.

    Fill muffin cups 2/3 full.  Bake for 22-24 minutes for regular cupcakes. When done, let sit in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Frost as desired, either with (vegan or not) cream cheese frosting (my preference) or a cinnamon-powdered sugar glaze.
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    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Cookie As Big As My Head

    I could use some lovin' today.   It's raining again, the cold, skin-piercing kind that makes you think winter might actually be coming to the northern hemisphere.  The rivers have already flooded around here (relevant for me since I cross one of them four times on the way to and from work), and I know that tonight's commute home will be interesting, to say the least.

    At least I'm going to yoga tonight, and the Bean is kicking away at my lower abdomen.

    When I drive I. to school, we listen to Kids Place Live on XM radio (his request), and there's a song by a group called Lunch Money that they sometimes play, entitled "Cookie As Big As My Head."  While I don't agree with everything the song says (I am, after all, an advocate for mostly healthy eating), sometimes, really, you just need a cookie as big as your head.  It so happens I made some of these the other night, for a group of women who had never met before, but whom I felt had a lot in common.  The recipe is from a wonderful little cafe near us called the Lovin' Oven, and if you feel like you need some lovin', too, bake yourself up some of these.  I do recommend halving the recipe, though.  It's a LOT of cookie.

    Lovin' Oven Fruit and Nut Cookies

    4 1/2 c. flour (I used half whole wheat pastry)
    2 t. baking soda
    2 t. salt
    1 lb. butter (or unsalted margarine for the vegans among us)
    2 c. light brown sugar
    1 c. sugar (you could use 2/3 c. agave, but the dough will be more watery, and you'll need to reduce cooking temp by 25 degrees, and bake them for a bit longer)
    4 eggs (vegans can use egg replacer or 1 T. ground flax seeds plus 3 T.water)
    4 t. vanilla
    3 c. shredded coconut (unsweetened)
    3 c. chopped dried apricots (or other dried fruit)
    2 1/2 c. dried cherries (or other dried fruit)
    4 1/2 c. sliced natural almonds (or other nuts)

    Preheat oven to 350.  Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl and set aside.  In a separate bowl, toss together dried fruit and nuts and set this aside, too.

    With a stand mixer (or something that beats things into oblivion), cream butter and sugars until light, scraping the bowl several times as necessary.  Add eggs, two at a time, incorporating fully and scraping the bowl as necessary.  Add the vanilla and mix well.  In two to three additions, mix in the flour mixture, but be careful not to overbeat it!

    Mix in fruit and nuts by hand until well distributed.  Using an ice cream scoop (I prefer the kind with the handle you can squeeze to release the ice cream), scoop cookies onto a cookie sheets, leaving at least three inches between cookies. Press down slightly to flatten and bake until lightly browned 12-16 minutes.  Ovens vary, so make sure that your cookies are set in the center; the centers really should be lightly browned.
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    Saturday, October 2, 2010

    Not Scary At All: Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

    Pumpkin season is finally upon us!  The Bean has been craving pumpkin and apple pie and muffins and crisps and cookies for about a month now, and I confess, sometimes I indulge her.  During the past two weeks we'd gotten a pumpkin in our CSA share.  We were assured that this was a "cooking" pumpkin, not just a jack-o-lantern pumpkin, so after displaying them on our table for a few days, I decided to roast one up and see what would happen.

    Only twice before in my life have I cooked a pumpkin: once, in graduate school, I tried Mollie Katzen's Pumpkin Tureen recipe,and the other time, two years ago, I baked a pumpkin that our neighbor had given us, too long after I'd displayed it on the porch ... and after thinking that the baking process didn't smell very appealing, found that it was full of worms.

    This time, I cut the pumpkin in half first, scooped out the guts and seeds, and roasted it for a good hour at 375 (probably could have done 400), face down in a roasting pan spritzed with olive oil.  The pumpkin itself was incredible when it came out of the oven: I proceeded to scrape off and devour the lightly caramelized edges, and found that the rest of it separated easily from the skin.  I got a good 3-plus cups of pulp from one of the pumpkins and 4-plus from the other; interestingly, it's not quite as orange as the pulp that comes in a can, and it's just ever so slightly more watery, so you have to be careful about reducing liquids if you're using it for a recipe.

    Ian had some very specific requests about how all of this pulp was going to be used.  "Pumpkin cookies," he said, "and pumpkin pie."  S. doesn't much love pumpkin pie, and I wasn't about to make one that I'd have to share only with Ian, so I thought the cookies would make a good first dent.  I've been using this recipe since graduate school, and I find that it makes a lovely hearty cookie, somewhat healthy (and can be made healthier if you so choose), full of fiber.  I even snuck a few into I.'s lunch box this week, despite the fact that his school prohibits "treats" in children's lunches, with a note to his teacher about the cookie's nutritional value (I wish they had as stringent a rule about things like chicken nuggets and other processed junk!).

    Pumpkin Cookies

    1/2 c. butter (or 1/4 c. butter and 1/4 c. unsweetened applesauce)
    1 c. brown sugar
    1/2 c. white sugar (or use 3/4 c. agave nectar in place of both sugars)
    1 c. pumpkin puree
    2 eggs
    1 t. vanilla
    1 c. flour
    1/2 c. whole wheat flour
    1 t. baking soda
    1 t. cinnamon
    1/2 t. nutmeg
    3 c. oats

    Preheat oven to 350.

    Cream butter and sugar together until well combined.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, then pumpkin puree and vanilla.

    In a separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients (except oats).  Add these to the wet ingredients and mix to combine.

    Add oats and stir; drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto a cookie sheet and bake 10-12 minutes.
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