Learning each and every day

My quest to edify myself a bit every day

Archive for the month “December, 2012”

Day 362 & 363 – December 28 & 29

Dec 28 – A few days ago I discovered lactation cookies. Today I was having a hankering for something pumpkiny and I said to myself, “Self, I wonder if you could make pumpkin chocolate chip lactation cookies?” Off to the internet I went and I found two recipes. This recipe from the blog Why I cloth diaper was the one I tried today. I made a few modifications:

coconut oil instead of butter
added 3T chia seeds
used dairy-free chocolate chips
omitted the nuts

Everyone thought they were yummy. I would have liked more pumpkin flavor . .. next time! I really liked that it was made with whole wheat .. made me feel like they were much healthier. I didn’t, however, like the chia seed addition, so those will get the axe next time. This recipe made a large amount of dough. I made 2.5 dozen cookies and still have enough dough to make about 7 dozen more! Lucky me=)

When I first started my dairy/soy free diet, a good friend sent me a ton of recipes, and also sent me a link to her recipe blog. This recipe for a nut loaf popped up just in time for Christmas. I didn’t manage to make it for Christmas dinner, but we had it for Sabbath dinner, instead. It was really super easy to make, with the most time-consuming portion being the actual baking. I didn’t think that all of it would fit into a bread loaf pan, but it all managed to smoosh in.

Dec 29 – Today I made the gravy to go atop the holiday nut loaf. I was really quite impressed with the flavor. I had one little bite that tasted remarkably like chicken broth. Yeah, that was a total shocker! It was pretty tasty atop the loaf, which was also pretty tasty. It tasted very traditionally Adventist to me. As in, it tasted like something I would expect a grandmotherly Adventist lady to bring to a potluck. Now I know how to make it=) I’m not sure that the babes liked it, but I think they didn’t have enough gravy on it. Just on it’s own, the loaf is pretty dry, it really needs to be drowned in gravy. I think I’ll keep this recipe around!

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Day 360 – December 26

Meringues are becoming one of my favorite type of cookie. Relatively healthy, as far as cookies go, and pretty easy to make. I wanted to try out a chocolate meringue recipe and found this one using dark chocolate. I’ve made meringues lots of times, so I figured this would be a snap. Alas, it didn’t work out that way. For some reason, it took longer than usual for the egg whites to get to the correct consistency. I actually think that happened with my last batch of raspberry meringues. Maybe it was just the eggs. Anyway, I dumped the meringues in the oven and then turned it off after 1.5 hours, cracked the oven door open, and let the meringues sit. When I checked on them about 2 hours later, they were quite chewy and definitely not meringue-like. I turned the oven back on and cooked them for another hour to hour and a half. They were still chewy and sticking to the parchment paper. I decided to loosen them and let them sit upside down for a bit to see what happened. I should have done this long ago. They hardened up, and I do mean hardened. They were quite crispy but not at all light and fluffy like a meringue ought to be. The flavor was great, the texture, no so much. I kinda think it had something to do with the ratio of eggs to sugar in this particular recipe. I’m not ready to give up on dark chocolate meringues, though. I’ll just be hunting for a different recipe.

One thing I AM probably going to give up on is risotto. Seriously, that is such a giant pain to cook, or rather, babysit. I tried another recipe out of my Vegetarian cookbook and it was called Wild Mushroom Risotto. I love mushrooms, so I was willing to give this a go. The recipe called for both dried and fresh mushrooms, the arborio rice, broth and some seasonings. I doubled the recipe since we have a few extra people in our house this week. So I ended up with 3 cups of arborio rice and about 10 cups of broth. Yeah, that took FOREVER to blend into the rice! The final product looked yummy, but it wasn’t really all that great. I can confidently say that the dried mushrooms ruined the dish. They had the most bizarre flavor. I think fresh mushrooms would have been so much better. In addition, the mushroom to rice ration was really high. I love me my shrooms, but this was kinda nutso.

I’m sad that this recipe didn’t work out, especially since it was an expensive one. Mushrooms are generally not super cheap. The baby bellas are about $2/8oz. The dried mushrooms were crazy expensive. My mom bought the dried mushrooms and after the fact I discovered that they were $4/ounce! Yikes! So all in all, the dish cost about $25 to make. I suppose it might have been worth it if people would have like it. The 4 and 5 year olds thought it was yummy . .. . for the first 3-6 bites. Then, well, not so much. DH ate it, of course, but he did push most of the mushrooms off to the side of his plate. My parents thought it was really good, and I thought it was edible. Wouldn’t you know it, we had so much left over! I should have made the recipe as is instead of doubling it. Oh well! Better luck next time, right?

Day 355 – December 21

Happy Holidays, everyone. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas with your family and friends! This post should actually have been posted a few days ago, but Christmas prep kept me busy!

Dec 21 – Today was another busy cooking day, with two totally new recipes. I tried another new bread recipe, and this one was SUPER good. So good, in fact, that I believe it may be our staple bread. It’s called Vita B bread and has bran flakes it, which is where it gets its name. Bran cereal is high in Vitamin B. This recipe is so good that I’m going to share it with you. (Since starting this post, I’ve had to make this bread twice . .. it’s THAT good!)

Vita B Bread from The Red Star Centennial Bread Sampler

1 cup whole bran cereal
1 cup hot water
6 to 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 T salt
1 cup water
2/3 cup honey
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs

In small bowl, pour 1 cup hot water over bran cereal; let stand. In large mixer bowl, combine 2 cups flour, yeast and salt; mix well. In saucepan (or in microwave), heat 1 cup water, honey and shortening until warm (120-130 degrees; shortening does not need to melt). Add to flour mixture. Add eggs. Blend at low speed until moistened; beat 3 minutes at medium speed. By hand, gradually stir in bran mixture and enough remaining flour to make a firm dough. knead on floured surface, 5 to 8 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm place until double, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down dough. Divide into 2 parts. On lightly floured surface, roll or pat each half to a 14×7-inch rectangle. Starting with shorter side, roll up tightly, pressing dough into roll with each turn. Pinch edges and ends to seal. Place in greased 9×5-inch bread pans. Cover; let rise in warm place until double, about 1 hour. Bake at 375 for 40-45 minutes until loaves sound hollow when tapped. Remove from pans; cool.

Enjoy!

I also made a banana bread using this recipe from the blog Money saving mom. The bread was pretty good. The rest of my family either didn’t know that it was available, or they didn’t like it . .. no matter . .. more for me! I made a few changes to the recipe. Instead of tapioca flour, which I didn’t have, I used cornstarch, following the substitution directions found here. I also didn’t have brown rice flour, so I used cake flour instead.

Day 353 & 354 – December 19 & 20

Dec 19 – It seems that noone in my family like chick peas except for me. That’s too bad for them, cuz they’ll be seeing a fair amount of the bean in the coming months as they are healthy and pack lots of nutrients. I found a yummy looking recipe for a garbanzo bean and tomato salad. I just had to try it because it looked so colorful and easy. I was the only person that liked the salad, everyone else complained about it. Well, DH didn’t complain, but in order to set a good example, he bravely downed two servings even though he REALLY doesn’t like garbanzos! I’ll probably make the salad again, but it’ll just be a snack for me. I see no reason to intentionally subject my family to food that they don’t like. In the future, I’ll add less honey and more salt, but overall, I thought it was good!

You may remember my previous attempt at making vegetable broth. I found a different recipe and decided to try making my own broth again. (This was motivated by the fact that I had forgotten to buy more broth at the co-op.) I used the recipe as a guide and just added in whatever I had: carrots, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, celery, onions, garlic, TONS of fresh dill and salt. The end result was disappointing. I really had high hopes for this broth . . . it smelled better and had more stuff in it. Alas, it was still woefully bland. I wonder if I need to cook it longer? Eh, who knows. I may try one more time. I’m saving the veggie scraps (cut ends of carrots, onion peels, etc.) in the freezer. When I have a critical mass, I’ll use those along with other veggies to make another broth. I’ll keep you posted.

A few weeks ago, a friend recommended the blog post punk kitchen. I was pretty impressed with the number of good-looking recipes there. Someone had given us a butternut squash, so today I tried out the Roasted Butternut Alfredo recipe. It was really quite labor intensive: roasting the squash, making the vegetable broth, soaking the cashews, making the butternut cream. It was alot of work. I was pretty excited about how it would turn out. When I tasted the butternut cream, it was pretty yummy. And then, it happened . . . . I added the soy-free miso. I’m pretty sure that is what ruined the whole dish. It gave it a weird flavor. Weird because we weren’t used to it, not weird because it was inherently bad. Just like the chickpea salad, this dish met with lots of complaining, and “mommy, I don’t liiiikke it!” (Poor kids, I was 0 for 2 in provided them yummy meals!) The babes didn’t eat very much, mostly just the required 3 bites of everything on their plate. DH ate it, but said that it wasn’t the most thrilling pasta he’d ever had. Sadly, I had made a whole pound of pasta, so there was ALOT! I figured I’d be eating alot of butternut squash pasta and that would be that.

Fast forward 24 hours . . . . all of the remaining pasta got dumped outside in our scraps pile. After seeing the pasta again in the form of diarrhea and puke from two of the boys, I was A) grossed out and B) grossed out. So, suffice it to say that this recipe has died a slow and painful death in our house. It’s too bad . . .there was so much potential!

Dec 20 – Yesterday was a busy cooking day. Today I decided to take it easy and just make bread. I tried a new bread recipe called Burlap bread. It contained molasses, all-purpose flour, wheat germ, coconut oil, and a few other things in it. The loaf was quite dark thanks to the molasses, and it was short because the loaves fell when I removed the tea towel after the second rising. So they were very dense, pretty good, but dense. Finally, I had hit upon a winner. I made two loaves of bread and they were both gone in 24 hours!

Dec 20 –

Day 352 – December 18

A few days ago I mentioned my new slow cooker cookbook. Today I tried another recipe from the book: Polenta Gnocchi with Tomato Mushroom Sauce. I made the tomato sauce a few days ago. Today I just needed to make the polenta. I actually started it yesterday, and then forgot about it and ended up leaving it in the slow cooker for an extra 12 hours! Oops. No real harm was done, though. The polenta was just corn meal, lots of water and some salt. Once it was cooked and looked like porridge, I spread it onto a cookie sheet, then set it in the fridge for 2-4 hours to set up. Then my 5 year old and I used cookie cutters to cut out shapes. They are ostensibly supposed to be circles . . . we thought it would be more fun to do other shapes. It was very similar to making sugar cookies with the main difference being that I wasn’t sure what to do with the scraps. You couldn’t really smoosh them together and cut another shape, it would just fall apart. So, I think I’m going to maybe fry up the remainder and use it as a topping garnish for something or other.

So back to the recipe. Once the polenta shapes were done, I placed them in a glass dish, overlapping them, and then I poured the tomato mushroom sauce all over. The whole thing got dumped into the oven to bake for about 30 minutes, and that was it. The taste was pretty bland. None of the babes liked it, DH thought it was yummy, I thought it had potential but needed help. The sauce was actually much better today than it was the other day. The polenta had no flavor. So next time, I’m going to add some herbs to the slow cooker so that the polenta will be infused with flavor.

It’s a pretty time-intensive food to make. If you don’t have two slow cookers, you’ll have to make the polenta and the sauce on separate days. The actual hands on time isn’t very much, but you definitely need to plan ahead. PLanning ahead isn’t exactly one of my fortes!

Day 349 & 351 – December 15 & 17

Dec 15 – Five and a half years ago, I joined the ranks of lactating women. I’m now on my 4th nursling, and I had never heard of lactation cookies until today. A friend posted on Facebook about some that she had made and I thought, “What in the world are lactation cookies?” When I really thought about it, it wasn’t all that strange. They are just regular old cookies with a few additional ingredients: oatmeal, flax seed meal and brewer’s yeast. All three of these things help to boost milk production, why not put them into a cookie? I was curious to see how they would work, or if they would work, so I whipped up a batch using this recipe. I made the same changes my friend had made: omit the coconut, add 4T water, 2T flax seed meal, 2T brewer’s yeast, 1/2 cup cranberries. They certainly aren’t as delish as my chocolate coconut lime cookies, but they were definitely good enough to eat and eat and eat. I could have done without the fresh canberries, dried cranberries would have been better, I think. In any case, they are healthy enough that I’ll probably have these laying around when I need extra calories or when I need some nutrition. As far as boosting milk supply, I didn’t really notice any difference. Then again, it’s hard to know exactly how much milk the little boss is getting, so maybe there was a bit more. :shrug:

I had a rehearsal last night for a Sunday night concert. When I woke up this morning, I realized that I was knocking at laryngitis’ door. I had lost my voice about 2 weeks ago, and now it was threatening to leave again. NOT what I was needing the day before a concert Sooo, I went searching for natural ways to relieve chest congestion, which would then help the laryngitis . . .at least that was my logic.

The first concoction was to grate a clove of garlic into a tablespoon of honey. Wow . . .that was totally gross! And really, not sure that it made any difference. The next concoction was sage tea made of dried sage leaves in water. It wasn’t delicious, but it wasn’t great, either. I drank what seemed like gallons of water with the hope of loosening the mucous. In the end, I’m not sure that it helped. I didn’t lose my voice, and was able to sing, so that was good. I suppose that had I not done any of the above, I might have totally lost it. That’s something I’ll never know.

Dec 17 – A few days ago, I happened to see some black rice at the grocery store. I was intrigued, so I bought it. My original plan was to just use it under a mushroom based topping. That changed when I saw the recipe on the back of the bag for black rice with sweet potatoes. The rice was cooked separately from the sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, and ginger, which were sauteed until the taters were tender. I cooked the rice in a rice cooker, but had to do it twice, adding more water. Overall, I thought it was quite good. I put too much ginger, but that’s because I didn’t bother to measure and just eye-balled it. The babes thought it was okay, but they didn’t love it enough for me to pay the high price for black rice on a regular basis. I’ll probably make it just for me and give them regular white rice.

Day 347 & 348 – December 13 & 14

Dec 13 – A week or two ago I bought a new cookbook: The Gourmet Vegetarian Slow Cooker. I scanned through the recipes and about 85% of them would work with my new dairy and soy free diet. And they were all slow cooker recipes . .. even better!

Today I tried out the first recipe. It was for a tomato mushroom sauce that could then be used in several other recipes. The recipe called for 4 pounds of tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, olive oil, salt and pepper. It smelled good, but it was highly lacking in flavor. I dumped in a bunch of oregano, but it was only mildly better. I’m sure the bland tomatoes from the grocery store didn’t help matters. Fresh tomatoes from the garden would have made a big difference, I’m sure. I bet 4 pounds of nice and ripe heirloom tomatoes would have made an amazing sauce. Alas, we have a million squirrels around here and our house a million trees, so no fresh tomatoes for us.

Tomorrow I’ll be using the sauce in a soup recipe, so we’ll see if the sauce does better mixed in with something else.

Dec 14 – Today I made a potato, artichoke and mushroom stew and used the tomato sauce from yesterday. The stew was really quite good. The recipe called for Kalamata olives, which I didn’t have, but it didn’t really need it. The potatoes were super tender and were infused with the flavor of the sauce as well as the flavor of the marinated artichoke hearts. I don’t think the babes liked it very well, but I thought it was yummy. Frankly, it’s one of the better meals I’ve had since starting this milk/soy free diet. So, unfortunately for the babes, they’ll be seeing this on the table more often this winter.

Day 346 – December 12

Over the past few days, I’ve been learning about flat panel TV’s. The last time I bought a TV was back in 2001, so our TV was old. Someone gave us a gift certificate to buy a new TV. Apparently she thought our old TV was a piece of junk and we needed to update it. That struck me as rude, especially since our old TV was perfectly functional. But, whatever. If she wants to throw a wad of cash our way to buy a new TV, then we’ll indulge.

So I learned that LED TV’s don’t really exist. They are basically the same old LCD TV’s that use LED’s to create the light as opposed to the CCFL’s that traditional LCD’s use. Funny, because you pay more for the LED. I didn’t buy an LED . . . I didn’t like the crazy brightness and the colors seemed unnatural to me.

I also learned that it can be tricky to hook up an old DVD player to an HDTV, but it’s only tricky if you don’t know what you are doing. So the HDTV that we got has the red and white audio inputs, but not the yellow video input. So clearly, the red, white and yellow cable wouldn’t work. I tried using the component cable (red, green and blue) along with the audio cable (red, white), but that totally didn’t work. I was resigned to the fact that I’d have to buy a new DVD player. Resigned, that is, until I went into Best Buy and talked with one of the salesmen. Turns out that my red, white and yellow cable would work just fine. I could just plug the yellow video cable into the green component slot on the TV. Then he showed me how to set the TV up so that everything would work. Voila! Needless to say, I was pretty pleased that I didn’t have to fork over the money for a new DVD player!

I’m still not convinced that the HDTV is better than our old one. But, I have until mid-January to decide whether or not I want to return the TV.

Day 341 – December 7

Quite a few months ago, I tried a new recipe for spicy noodles. They ended up being way too spicy for the babes, so I chucked the recipe on the back burner for awhile. I pulled it back out today since it was dairy and soy free. Well, I thought it was, until I saw that soy sauce was needed. Shoot! A quick google search and I found this recipe for soy free soy sauce from the blog Stephanie Cooks.

I don’t really think it tasted anything at all like soy sauce, but it was interesting. I added some more salt which made it a little better.

I’ve decided that it’s probably best to find other things to eat rather than to find substitutes. I’m mostly a vegetarian now, although I do occasionally revert to my childhood days and have chicken or beef. In my own cooking, I’ve used the soy substitutes and I can say that although they are tasty, they taste nothing like the real thing. This leads me to wonder why we bother trying to make substitutes that taste like the real thing? I think if I keep trying to find things that taste like cheese, or sour cream or soy sauce, I’m going to be very unhappy for the next few months or years that I’m dairy and soy free. So, I’m resolving to just find other things to eat and quit trying to substitute.

Day 340 – December 6

We’ve been passing a cold around the house for the past 4 weeks. Today I started feeling bad again, the tickle in my throat. I thought, “Really? Is this going to be my third cold?” I had seen a friend post about the wonders of garlic lemonade, so I gave it a try. It wasn’t delicious, but not disgusting, either. I drank a quart. Either that wasn’t enough, or it doesn’t actually work, because I’m still feeling blech. *sigh* I got the recipe from the blog Homegrown Love.

One of DH’s favorite dishes is stuffed peppers. I found this out quite by accident a few years ago when I made some and he said, “Wow! I LOVE stuffed peppers!” Even so, I don’t make them very often as the recipe I have was sort of involved. In my quest to find delicious dairy and soy free recipes, I came across this recipe for stuffed peppers with black beans, quinoa, and mushroom. The stuffing was really quite yummy. I think the dish as a whole would have been better with red peppers . . . I’m just too cheap to pay $2/pepper. The green peppers were okay, but not sweet like the red peppers would have been. I’ll keep this recipe around for the summer when red peppers will go on sale.

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