Friday, August 13, 2010

doing things the easy way

Having extremely important tasks to accomplish such as painting her nails and scratching her ass (but of course not in that order), an efficient blogger spent approximately seventeen seconds drafting a response to "ambitious" Nick Newcomen via Paint.


As a proclaimed fan of not needlessly burning 12,000 miles worth of gasoline, she believes that if more of us weren't fame-seeking assholes, the unicorns would come out of hiding and light the world with their magical glittery love.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

all I want out of life....


is to make peach upside-down cupcakes, and then eat them all. The bar is worse than everything. Possibly even worse than Mel Gibson, and at least as unreasonably demanding.


Excuse me now. I have to go not pack my highlighters, watch, potato chips, and weapons.

Monday, July 12, 2010

(spicyish) enchiladas with easy guacamole



These are soooooo yummy. Credit is due to my friend Jannette and FatFreeVegan.com for their delicious enchilada recipes that merged and morphed into this one. This is also easily adaptable, so you can add any veggies you like into the mix. This makes about ten enchiladas.

Ingredients:
corn tortillas
1/2 cuppish of your preferred cheese (I used a mix of pre-shredded "Mexican" cheeses. Queso blanco would be magical. For a vegan version, omit.)
2 15 oz. cans black beans, rinsed & drained (or one big can)
2 cans enchilada sauce (I like medium heat)
1 onion
1 zucchini
1 summer squash
1 green bell pepper
1 poblano pepper, roasted (method below)
2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled (method below)
2 tbsp olive oil
2-3 tsp chili powder
2-3 tsp ground cumin
2-3 tsp taco seasoning
smoked paprika (optional, highly recommended)
pinch oregano (also optional)
1-2 tsp sugar (optional, naughty, brings out roasted pepper flavor like whoa)
salt to taste
nonstick spray

Mandatory stuff:
large rectangular baking dish

Useful but not mandatory stuff:
food processor

Method:
Preheat your oven to 350.

Roughly chop or slice your onion, zucchini, squash, and half your green bell pepper. Heat the olive oil over medium high in a large nonstick pan. Sauté the veggies until they have softened and browned a little. Add your seasonings and the garlic. Stir and sauté just a few minutes more, making sure the garlic doesn't burn.

Put all your cooked veggies into your food processor. Add the beans and the roasted poblano pepper. Pulse until you reach a consistency you like. I like to leave mine a little bit chunky so I get bites of veggies, but you can puree it as much as you like. If you do not have a food processor, you can just cut your veggies up much for finely before you cook them, and either leave them and the beans whole, or mash it together with a fork or a potato masher.

Lightly coat a large rectangular baking dish with nonstick spray. Place about 2 heaping tablespoons of the bean mixture in the center of a corn tortilla. Roll the tortilla closed and place it seam-side down in the baking dish. Repeat until the dish is full and/or you're out of beany goodness. (You should be able to fit about ten enchiladas in if you arrange them like I did, which was perfect for the quantity of bean mixture). Pour canned enchilada sauce evenly on top of the rolled tortillas. Sprinkle with as much or as little cheese as you'd like. Place in the oven and bake until cheese is melty and sauce is bubbly, about 15-20 minutes.

Optional: Finely dice the remainder of your green bell pepper and top the enchiladas when they come out of the oven. I do this to indicate which enchiladas actually have bell peppers in them because I have to make them in separate batches, since Ryan is a freak who hates peppers. Hmph.

Top with Easy Guacamole (recipe below), serve with a side of Jolee Porter rice, and dig in!

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How to smash garlic:
To smash the garlic, lay the flat side of your chef's knife on top of the clove, still in its skin. Pound down against the blade. The garlic will pop easily out of its skin and be kind of crushed up. That's all you need to do.

How to roast a poblano pepper:
If you have a gas stove, you can roast them by holding them in metal tongs very close to the flame until the skin has blackened. I have electric, so I put my pepper under the broiler of my toaster oven, rotating once until it's mostly blackened. It doesn't get perfectly even this way, but it works. Put the blackened pepper while still hot into a paper or ziploc bag and leave it to steam itself for a few minutes. When it's cool enough to handle, remove the pepper and scrape off and discard the blackened skin. For less heat, remove and discard the seeds as well.

Easy Guacamole:
3 avocados
1 medium tomato
one small onion (Or half a large)
juice from 1 lime
1 bunch cilantro

Peel and seed the avocados. Squeeze lime juice over avocado pulp immediately to keep it from browning. Finely chop the tomato and onion. Roughly chop the cilantro. Mush together with a fork. Love.

Store extra in the fridge with plastic wrap pressed down directly on top of the guacamole so no air comes in contact with the surface. This will keep it from turning brown longer.

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Next time......vegetable soup, hoecakes, and strawberry-peach upside down cake! Yummers!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sweet Lady Propane


Good god, it's hot. It's really, really frickin' hot. And as you may remember from the recent debacle in which some not-air-intake hairy gaping maw in my living room floor ate my wedding band, we do not have central air conditioning. We have two window units, but we only use one because one of them smells distinctly of dead rat in the ceiling. If you worked with me at Starbucks, or if you've had a conversation with me in the past five years, you'll know what I'm talking about.

Anyway, I like to make dinner most nights, but cooking lately turns my house into a blazing inferno in which it is too hot to do much of anything expect sweat and complain and hallucinate. Accordingly, tonight I decided to make dinner on the grill and dessert in the fridge, so my house is only medium-awful right now instead of stroke-awful. Hooray for the grill!

"My dad says butane's a bastard gas!"

Also, all of this stuff is crazy easy to make, so you really have no excuse.

The following are recipes for grilled veggie skewers (you could also put chicken, etc, on them if you were so barbaric inclined), grilled polenta, and kinda vegan banana pudding. The pudding itself is vegan, but the Nilla wafers ruin the party. (Or save it. You decide.) We were supposed to have salad too, but Kroger's super high quality bag of spring mix had turned into lettuce pudding in the mere two days since I bought it. And yes, I put it in the fridge. Anyway, here you go!

Grilled Veggie Skewers

Ingredients:
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
1 Vidalia or red onion
1 bell pepper, your favorite color
1 8 oz container baby bella mushrooms
1 container cherry tomatoes
olive oil for brushing
coarse salt (optional)
Mrs. Dash or other seasoning blend (if you use one that contains salt, omit the salt above)

Special stuff:
skewers, wooden or metal*

Method:
Slice your zucchini and squash into 1/2 to 3/4 inch rounds. Cut your bell pepper and onion into roughly one-inch pieces. Remove the stems from the mushrooms (or not; they just looked nasty to me. I don't eat mushrooms, so you probably know better than I do).


Slide them onto the skewers in no particular order. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with your seasoning and salt if using. Grill on the top rack (if you have one) over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Turn once and grill about 5 minutes more, or until the tomato skins split. At this point, the veggies (besides the tomato & mushroom) will still have some firmness to them. I like them like that, so I take them off, but you can leave them on until they reach your favorite level of mushiness. Just keep an eye on them and maybe turn them again to prevent burning.

*You don't need to soak the wooden skewers. The ends are going to burn either way, and who cares, really? It's just an extra step and a waste of time.


Grilled Polenta

Ingredients:
1 cup polenta (also knows as yellow corn grits)
3 cups water or vegetable broth (I recommend broth)
1/4 cup sharpish cheese plus more for topping (like pepperjack or cheddar)
salt to taste (optional - add salt if you're using water, but not if you're using a salted broth)
2 tbsp butter (optional - I didn't use any since I used cheese)
smoked paprika for dusting (optional, but magical)

Stuff:
a big microwave safe dish

Method:

Put polenta and water or broth into the dish. Microwave 6 minutes. Remove and stir thoroughly, making sure to break up the large lumps. Microwave 6 more minutes. Remove and stir again. Microwave 2 more minutes. Remove, stir in cheese and salt and butter if using. Pour into a square or rectangular dish and let cool to set. It should be about 1.5-2 inches thick. Refrigerate overnight if possible. If not, let it set til it's cool enough to cut and be handled easily.

After it's set, cut into squares. Preheat the grill over medium. Brush both sides of squares with oil, or just give them a spritz with some cooking spray. Grill for 3-4 minutes on both sides, or until they have nice brown grill marks on top. In the last minute of grilling, top with a sprinkling of cheese and smoked paprika. Or forget about that like I did, and melt the cheese on top in the microwave.

Really Frickin' Easy Sort of Vegan Banana Pudding

Ingredients:
1 14 oz. pack silken tofu (I use Nasoya brand in the refrigerated produce section)
1.5 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup-1/2 cup sugar
5 terribly ripe bananas
as many Nilla wafers as you want (enough to line your bowl and some to top or mix in if you like)

Method:
Put tofu, vanilla, 1/4 cup sugar, and 3 bananas into the blender. Puree til smooth. Taste for sweetness, and add more sugar if necessary. Add the other two bananas and pulse, leaving them a little bit chunky.

Line a bowl or dish with Nilla wafers and pour the mixture over the cookies. Top with more Nilla wafers if desired. Chill in the fridge until set. Be amazed that you are eating a fat-free (I think - who knows what's in Nilla wafers) banana pudding that is chock full of protein.


NOTE: I am assuming that it's something in pudding mixes that gives banana pudding its traditionally bright yellow color. This actually turned gray on top almost immediately and did not look at all delicious. I think maybe if I'd topped it with some lemon juice, it wouldn't have turned gray (think guacamole), but in my opinion lemon juice doesn't belong in banana pudding. You could cover it in plastic wrap, pressing it down so that no air touches the top of the pudding, or you could just decide you don't care and eat it anyway because it's super tasty.

See this?


This is my neighbor's smoker. It smells fricking amazing, and if anything will be the de-vegetarianizing of me, it'll be this smoky deliciousness wafting into my house and making me drool uncontrollably. Tonight he was smoking a bunch of ribs, and I'll have you know that Ryan turned down the ribs because he was so full of grilled veggies, polenta, and pudding. Now you know, that's a good meal!



Saturday, July 3, 2010

almost fat-free vegan cranberry-orange muffins


It's been a while, hasn't it? Between moving and being a whopping four freaking days behind on my Kraplan lectures, I haven't had time for the blog. Rest assured though, I have been making and photographing up a storm of tasty and unemployment-friendly dishes that I will post soon enough. Rather than indulge in 4th of July fun with the family at the lake (oohhhh, the annual all-you-can-eat ice cream social......), I'll be getting all caught up and back on track so that I do not fail the bar. But really, does it matter if I fail the bar?

Not really. It doesn't really matter because I doubt there will be a law job for me even with yet another expensive certificate collecting dust in my mom's basement.

Maybe, though, just maybe, there will be a muffin/cupcake job for me. Ike & Jane's just hired a new doughnut maker, so while I missed the boat on that job, it seems the dessert industry is still thriving. I have hope.

Anyway, here's some tasty, cheapo muffins I made last night. Admittedly only cheapo because Kroger was having a mega-sale on Craisins a few weeks back, but taking timely advantage of sales is a big part of unemployment survivalism, so these count.

Ingredients:

1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup orange juice
2 tbsp almond milk
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts

Ingredients I am out of that would also be good in this:
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp orange zest

Method:

Preheat your oven to 375. Spray a 12 cup muffin pan or line with paper cups.

Put all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir well to combine. (Stirring with a whisk rather simulates sifting flour, so I always use one for dry ingredients.) Add the OJ, almond milk, sugar, and applesauce and stir gently until just combined. (No need to mix the wet ingredients separately; I find this only wastes time and creates more dishes. No longer having a dishwasher, I say screw it and dump it all in one bowl. It worked fine.) If the batter seems a little dry, add another tablespoon or two of almond milk (one tablespoon at a time, people!). Fold in cranberries and chopped nuts. Divide the batter evenly among the cups and bake 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely and chow down.


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Decorative afterthought - Sprinkling the tops of these with granulated sugar before baking would be both tasty and very pretty. I will do that next time.

One other thing - these struck me as looking a leetle bit dry when I took them out of the oven. I think this is some kind of cardinal sin of baking, but when my baked goods strike me as slightly dry, I let them cool partially and then cover them for the rest of the cooling process. I think it sort of steams some of the moisture back into them. For these, I let them cool enough that I could (just barely) handle them, and then put them in a cake carrier with a lid. You could also put them in your microwave. Don't wrap them up or anything, just let them cool in an enclosed space, and they'll moisten right back up. This has worked for me for pretty much everything from muffins to cupcakes to even cookies - and it makes for an especially delicious and chewy cookie. I would not recommend trying it on a whole cake, as it's probably too large to actually moisten and will just get sort of sticky on the outside. But for little stuff, it works like a charm.

Monday, June 21, 2010

best ever mushroom burgers


Ryan had a bunch of leftover mushrooms from some weird Men's Health "recipe," so I made him some mushroom veggie burgers. I say him because I will not touch mushrooms. I think they smell like butt sweat, but they sure make a good burger.

You can definitely play around with the seasonings on this one. I am a chronic over-seasoner, and with these I wished I'd added a bit more something. Tofu just really needs a lot of help in the flavor department. I think next time I'll go hog wild with the soy sauce and just drink some extra water to compensate. Probably some garlic would be good too. I also plan to try this recipe with the roasted eggplant blended in.

Ingredients:
About 3 cups of leetle mushrooms (I used Bella), finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained, divided
1 block extra firm tofu, pressed/squished to reduce water content
1 cup cooked brown rice* (make it on the dry side)
3/4 cup whole wheat flour (or regular flour)**
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp burger or steak seasoning
1 tbsp dehydrated onion
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
pinch cayenne pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
salt
cooking spray

Method:
Heat the olive oil in a large-ish frying pan over medium high heat. Salt lightly to taste and sauté the mushrooms and onions until nicely browned and all the water has cooked off. (Moisture is the natural enemy of the homemade veggie burger.) Transfer the cooked veggies to a mixing bowl and set aside to cool.


Put the tofu, one can of beans, cumin, chili powder, soy sauce, burger seasoning, dehydrated onion, and cayenne pepper into the food processor and process until thoroughly combined and pretty smooth. Scrape the bean & tofu mixture into the mixing bowl with the cooled veggies. Add the rice to the bowl and stir thoroughly to combined. Next add the flour, starting with 1/2 a cup until you get the desired consistency - firm enough to form a patty and hold its shape. You can probably go up to a whole cup of flour if necessary since the water content of your tofu and beans will vary. Once the flour is thoroughly mixed in, and you have the right consistency, fold in the second can of rinsed & drained black beans. Form into patties and lay them in a single layer on a flat surface, like a cutting board. If desired, sprinkle them with a grilling rub like your burger/steak seasoning.

Put a small-medium nonstick frying pan over medium heat and coat lightly with cooking spray. Gently drop one patty on. Fry for 3-4 minutes, then flip and cook 3-4 more. Flip like a pancake if possible, without using utensils. To remove from the pan, you can use a spatula. These are firmer and will hold their shape better than yesterday's burgers. Fry each burger individually and arrange on a cooling rack. Cool completely.

Wrap leftovers individually in plastic wrap and freeze. To re-heat, microwave 1.5-2 minutes, flipping halfway through.

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*Most Perfect Brown Rice

Ingredients:
1 cup brown rice
2 cups water or vegetable stock
a leetle salt

Method:
Throw it all in a pot, bring to a boil, cover, reduce to simmer. Ignore for 30 minutes, then turn off the heat. Leave the pot covered and on the burner, and ignore for 15-20 more minutes. Rice will be perfectly cooked and on the dry side. You're welcome.

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**You could use vital wheat gluten instead of flour if you wanted that meatyish texture. I like the texture VWG gives, but I do not like the voluminous gases it creates in me and the mister,so I just go with regular flour. If VWG is your thing, though, have a party. Have a party, but please turn on a fan.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

super cheap eats edition: giving poverty law a whole 'nother meaning

We are moving at the end of this month, so we are extra poor right now. I'm trying to get through this week spending as little as possible while not eating garbage. Today I only spent $16.16 on groceries (for myself - the carnivore is on his own), and I think that will get me mostly through the week - breakfasts, snacks, and one meal. For the other meal I'll probably just do PBJ or something cheap.

My $16.16 haul

One caveat - I have a very well-stocked kitchen. Back when I had the enormous income of $10.99 per hour (plus tips!) and no debt, I accumulated pretty much every herb/spice/seasoning you could want, and being a baker, I always have flour/sugar/etc on hand. That's a big help in being able to create dishes that are tasty, cheap, and not half bad for me.

This week's Poverty Law Menu features smoothies, banana muffins, black bean tofu burgers, and Jolee Porter rice. All vegan, all tasty, all cheap.

Breakfast smoothie! - makes one 16ish ounce smoothie


Ingredients:
1/2 cup frozen strawberries
3/4-1 cup orange juice
1 banana, broken into large chunks

Method:
Throw that shit in a blender and let it go.* Drink up!

*If you are using whole frozen strawberries, and I recommend that you do because they are usually wayyyy cheaper than sliced, microwave them for 20-30 seconds. This will soften them up just enough so that they don't screw up your blender. IF you have a wholesale club membership, you may be able to get your frozen berries even cheaper. I get a gigantic bag of strawberries at Sam's for about $8. It lasts me 2-3 weeks.

I was a smoothie proprietress for many a year.

Banana (Walnut) Muffins (vegan!) - makes 12 muffins


Ingredients:
3 very ripe bananas (never throw away a banana! freeze them. the blacker and rottenier, the tastier they'll be in breads!)
1/4 cup applesauce (or canola or vegetable oil, or softened margarine or butter)
1 cup sugar
2 cups whole wheat flour (or white if that's what you have)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
optional:
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract or 1/2 tsp almond extract
1 cup chopped walnuts (or raisins, or chocolate chips, or whatever you have around)

Method:
Preheat oven to 350.

In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly mash bananas with a fork. Add the applesauce and sugar (and vanilla if using) and cream together with a hand mixer, or whisk vigorously. Add the flour, salt, and baking soda and stir gently just to combine. Don't worry about little lumps of flour - overmixing is bad. If using, fold in the walnuts. The batter will be kind of stiffish.

Spray or line a muffin pan and spoon the batter in evenly. If the batter piles up a little higher than the sides of the cups, that's fine. These muffins hardly rise at all. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean. These are dense and have a wonderful hearty texture, so they're not too sweet and just perfect for breakfast. They are also fat-free if you don't use the walnuts, but even if you do, it's The Good Kind of fat.

Black Bean Tofu Burgers & Jolee Porter Rice (vegan!) - makes 6-10 burgers depending on thickness

These are not quite as involved as they may seem at first glance. Seriously.

Ingredients:
for the burgers -
1 block extra firm tofu (from the refrigerated area of the produce section)
1 19 ounce can of black beans, rinsed, drained, and halfheartedly patted dry
1/4 cup nutritional yeast (this is available at frou-frou stores - you could probably sub extra flour or bread crumbs)
1/2-3/4 cup dry bread crumbs (I used Panko, but you can use any kind or make your own)
1/2-3/4 cup whole wheat flour (or regular if that's all you've got)
1 onion
1 green bell pepper, seeded and stemmed
2 tsp cumin
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp burger seasoning
1 tsp soy sauce
hot sauce to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp olive oil
cooking spray

for the rice -
1 cup rice
1 onion
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup salsa
big pinch turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp olive oil

Useful Equipment:
food processor
a reliable non-stick frying pan
the ability to flip pancakes without a spatula

Method:
Heat one tbsp of oil in a medium pot (you're going to make the rice in this later, so make sure it's big enough and you can cover it). Process one onion and the green pepper in your food processor until finely chopped.


Squeeze out as much of the water as you can from the chopped vegetables, and then add them to the hot pan. Sauté until vegetables are softened and lightly browned. Put the vegetables in a large mixing bowl and let them cool.


While the onion & pepper are cooling, heat another tablespoon of oil in the same pot. While it's heating, chop another onion in the food processor or by hand (doesn't matter how finely/roughly - your choice). Add the onions to the hot pot and cook til they soften. Then add the rice, vegetable stock, salsa, and turmeric and cumin if using. Cover, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, press as much water as you can out of your block of tofu. I do this by cutting a slit in the package and squeezing the whole thing, with the tofu still in the package. This way the water can drain out but the tofu stays in. The tofu will probably crumble inside the package; that's fine. Add the beans & tofu to your food processor and process until fairly smooth.


Scrape the bean/tofu mixture into the mixing bowl with the cooled veggies. Add all the remaining ingredients and stir thoroughly to combine. Start with just 1/2 cup of the flour and add more if needed to form patties. The patties will be pretty sticky, but if they hold their shape, they should be okay.

Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat and spray it with cooking spray. Cook the patties individually, about 3-4 minutes per side. The best way to flip these is like a pancake. Don't touch them or use a utensil; just flip them in the pan. They are very soft while hot and will probably not hold their shape if you use utensils. The good news is, if you have a bad flip and they get mushed, they are very easy to re-shape while still warm. Cook until browned on both sides (about 3-4 minutes per side) and then transfer (without touching or using utensils - you can do it! But if they get damaged just mush them back into a round) to a cutting board or other flat surface to cool partially. Once they have cooled enough to be handled without breaking, transfer them to a cooling rack. Once they have cooled completely, you can pick them up with no problem.

Looks McDonaldsy

Serve with tomato slices (and mashed avocado if you've got it would be super tasty) on sandwich bread or a bun or naked with a side of Jolee Porter Rice.

Store leftovers in plastic wrap in a zipper bag in the freezer. Reheat in the microwave for about 60 seconds, flipping over halfway through.

NOTE: I think these would be even tastier with maybe a cup of whole black beans (drained & rinsed) folded into the mix for a beanier texture.

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So there you go. You have breakfast, snacks, and one meal per day for a week for little monies. Hope you enjoy!