Friday, October 31, 2008

You may make a squash lover out of me yet.

I'm big enough to admit when I'm wrong. I need to rethink squash. I've eaten it of course. I don't hate it I just don't love it. I'm talking the hard winter squashes, not summer squash and zucchini. I have always eaten some kind of squash with Thanksgiving meal and usually Christmas. More tradition then craving. I am changing my tune now though. Over mofo with all these amazing looking recipes featuring soooo many squishes, I mean squashes. So I decided to try one. It's actually not from a mofoer but some mofos have tried it and verified it's deliciousness so I trusted and went for it.

With one carnival squash at hand I made Vegan Yum Yum's Squash Bisque. Yes I was using a different squash than was called for. Yes I had to scale down the recipe because I only had about 1 lb of squash. Luckily the recipe is all embracing, or very forgiving. It can be both can't it?
See how beautiful it is. So coming from a not-quite-a squash lover, try this soup.

So you need dessert too don't you? Lex though I was making too many chocolate desserts. I that even possible? Well just to satisfy him I threw together some non chocolate cookies tonight. The oatmeal raisin cookies from Eat Drink Be Vegan.
This woman knows cookies! I like that most of the recipes (as in, the ones I've made so far) make one sheet of cookies. They are truly quick recipes.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pizza Pizza

I almost miss those Little Caesars commercials.

It is almost as though the Daring Baker gods that be were smiling down on our VeganMoFo-ness. This month's challenge was another no-alterations-needed project. This month we were to make pizza but not just make a pizza. Make real authentic pizza dough and attempt to do the dough toss.

Looking at everyone else posting their favorite pizzas over the month it was so hard to hold back. Yes I could have shared my favorite toppings but to be honest I still haven't nailed down my perfect pizza. I also didn't want two posts to be nearly the same so I held back. This dough does put me a little closer to the perfect pizza.

The dough is made over the course of two days but don't let that put you off. It's not a quick recipe but it's not hard either.

Original recipe taken from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart.
Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

4 1/2 cups all purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 tsp Salt
1 tsp dry yeast
1/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
1 3/4 Cups water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting


1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.
NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.
The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.

3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.
NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.
NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.


8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven if you have one. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C).
NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.

NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.
During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping.
In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.
You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.

11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.

12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes.

14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.

Now I've never tossed a pizza dough and as it turns out my dough is a little soft so it's all too willing to be stretched. I got in a couple little bounces on the knuckles before it was ready to go. Any more and I would have been wearing dough bracelets. So that explains the wonky look of my pizzas. I made only two of the six for now. The remaining four doughs are in the freezer for another day so maybe I'll have better luck by the end of those.
This first dough was topped with roasted red pepper hummus, baby spinach, slivers of garlic, seitan strips and a sprinkling of oregano and basil.Pizza number two was topped with baby spinach (can't get enough of the green stuff), olive muffeletta (check out the Vcon recipe!), strips of roasted red peppers. This one was my fave. Oh god I love olives.

sweet & tangy

First off. If you haven't made Kittee's seitan, go, do it now. So easy and so good. Thanks Kittee. Your seitan will become one of my permanent recipes.

Now for my latest recipe. I wanted to use this fantabulous seitan in something super yum. I think I did ok here.
Sweet & Tangy Seitan

1lb seitan, cut into bite sized pieces
1 Tb soy sauce
1 Tb mirin
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 Tb corn starch
sesame seeds
3 Tb sweet chili sauce
2 Tb ketchup
2 Tb agave nectar
2 Tb soy sauce
1/4 cup water

Marinate the seitan in soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil and sugar. You can do this for as long as you like.
Mix your flour and corn starch together and set aside. Mix sauce ingredients together and set aside.
Heat large pan or wok with a coating of oil over medium heat. Dredge the seitan in the flour and fry until golden on each side. Set seitan on paper towel or paper bag to drain. Remove the oil from the pan.
Add sauce to the pan and bring to a boil, sauce should thicken slightly. Add the seitan back to the pan and toss to coat. Serve with rice and broccoli or whatever you are inspired to pair it with. This should also work equally as well with well pressed tofu.

note: this sauce makes enough to cover the seitan, if you like lots of sauce then you may want to double this.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

After a hard day's work

After a long day of work sometimes involving difficult customers, just a lot of paper work or manual labor. Brain kinda shuts down but tummy still grumbles. That's when the craving for junk food can come in. My junk food of choice? Garden Burger Ribs, Spud Puppies (organic tater tots) and baked beans. This meal is stupid proof (unless you fall asleep while baking the tots).
So my prescription for a stressful day in need of junk food:
-stop at the store on your way home and pick up your three ingredients (this will probably cost less than $10 and you'll get at least two servings out of this)
-when you get home, preheat your oven to the temp indicated on the tater bag
-go change into something more comfortable (bow chicka bow bow)
-come back to the kitchen and dump your tots onto a baking sheet (only dump what you need if you aren't sharing)
-put the sheet in the oven
-grab a plate and prep your ribs and set those in the microwave, don't turn it on yet though
-dump your beans in a small saucepan and heat over medium, give it a stir every now and then but they don't need a lot of attention
-ok now turn on your ribs for 3-4 minutes on high
-tots take about 10 minutes so everything should be ready about the same time. Go pop in a movie, come back and take out the tots.
-Dump your grub on your plate(don't forget to turn off the stove and oven, this is important to remember in your exhausted state) and go relax yo!

Monday, October 27, 2008

a day off

What does a vegan girl do on her day off during Mofo?

First she takes a little trip to South Burlington to visit some places she hasn't been in forever even though they are only 5 (or less) miles away.
I managed to blow $100 but it was fun. I went to Barnes & Noble and it was almost like they knew what books I hadn't gotten yet because Borders doesn't have them and I haven't been shopping online. I couldn't get everything of course but they had 5 or 6 books that I would have bought without a second thought. I couldn't really blow tons of cash (ha!) so I went for lower priced ones so I could get 2. You see my logic here? I picked up A Vegan Taste of Thailand and The Artful Vegan. That's pretty good restraint right? Then I walked a little further along to Healthy Living. I haven't been there since they moved to their new location and everyone keeps saying it's really nice, cool stuff, yadda yadda. Ok, they were right. City Market downtown Burlington has a lot of cool stuff but Healthy Living also has some cool stuff. Both places are good as they each have things the other doesn't. I limited myself to things I can't get downtown and of course tried to show a little restraint.
-Vitasoy Holly Nog (they also had Chocolate Peppermint so I'll need to go back for that)
-Unsweetened MimicCream
-Maine Root Sasparilla
-Grapeseed oil Veganaise (lots of people say this one is better and I usually only get the regular kind)
-So Delicious Coconut Milk Yogurt in plain, Strawberry Banana, & Raspberry
-Plain vegan gel (I want to try and make trifle like my husband remembers from home)
-another book The New Now and Zen Epicure (it's like they knew I had been looking at this book for a while or something, bastards!)
-smoked sea salt
-peanut butter filled prezels
-ginger beer (the good stuff, from England)
I feel like I just sent myself a care package, a heavy and expensive one. Healthy Living is definitely trying to woo me. At City Market they have a little cookbook section with veggie, omni and local cookbooks. Vegan books are light and they never have Isa's books there (I've had mixed results in requesting stuff). In Healthy Living there she is, looking out from the cover of Vegan with a Vengeance and look on another shelf and there's Veganomicon peering out over the top of a Moosewood cookbook of some kind. I fixed that by moving the Moosewood book. I stupidly keep looking and see the Zen Epicure book and just had to get it.

Actually the whole reason I went to South Burlington was to check out the mall for our holiday shop I'll be helping to set up in a couple weeks (yes the holidays are actually almost here) and I figured I'm already here may as well spend all my money.

What does she do next?
Reclaims her kitchen!
Working full time and blogging like crazy can have the effect of letting things get away from you. The dishes were piling up. Lex was helping a little but it just took a good couple of hours of focused attack to clear it up.I am most proud of the rack and shelves. Not that a had a good before picture (maybe you can tell from the old kitchen post) but now all of my spices are organized and together (kinda). The bottom racks are full but tidy and navigable. Books are all straight and nice. Jars all straight and nice. Ah well, I'm liking it anyway. And yes, that's a jar of pickled onions on the floor. My husband is strange. Right next to it is a big ol' bag of shallots. He wants to make pickled shallots which are much better than pickled onions according to him. We need some malt vinegar though and I can't find any anywhere. Anyone have a bunch of malt vinegar they would like to send to me?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Iron Chef: Stuffing

This week's Iron Chef turned out to be a twofer for me. I love stuffing so I was stoked to hear that this was the challenge. I've also been needing to use some of the random ingredients I've accumulated and of course those couple of perishable items that really need using. Yeah you know you all have them. An ingredient you bought for a recipe but don't use regularly so you have a 1/2 cup or so sitting in the cupboard doing nothing but taking up space for the next several months. That piece of fruit that rolled behind something on the counter so you didn't eat it while it was prime.
So yeah, this is my cupboard. it's pretty full of stuff and only about 1/3 of it is easily navigable. Enter Iron Chef Challenge.

I decided not to go out for any ingredients for this challenge. It's not like I needed to. I have enough random stuff to make several kinds of stuffing.

This isn't the most beautiful plate of food for sure but it's pretty good and everything was what I already had in the house. With the stuffing I made kidney bean cutlets (replaced chickpeas in the VCON chickpea cutlet recipe) using left over kidney beans. The sauce is VCON Red Wine Roux halved, I had the perfect amount of red wine to use up. And then the stuffing. I don't have a recipe for you but stuffing is good like that.
Almond Apple Bread Stuffing
1 onion, diced
2 medium apples, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
some thyme, oregano, sage
a pinch cumin and black pepper
1/3 ish cup rye flakes
1/3 ish cup barley flakes
2 cups veg broth
2 ish cups stale bread
Preheat oven to 350. Lightly oil a 9x9" square pan. Saute the onion until softened, add garlic and apples. Cook 7-8 minutes. Add remaining ingredients except bread and bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 mins. Remove from heat. Stir in bread. Press into prepared pan and bake 30 mins.

Sweet Vegan!

When Vaishali on Holy Cow! announced her Sweet Vegan event I knew I wanted to make something for it. I'm usually veganizing something and I can't stay away from the sweets. I've made a couple desserts this month (aside from endless cookie testing) but here's my contribution. I think I can make this a little better but this is quite good as is.
Butterscotch Pudding
6 oz silken firm tofu
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tb vegan margarine
1 cup vegan milk of choice (I used half soy creamer and half almond milk)
3 Tb flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla

Blend tofu in food processor or blender until smooth, leave for the moment.
Mix sugar and margarine in heavy bottom saucepan and heat over low heat until both melt, stirring constantly. Add 1/2 cup milk and stir in. Mix flour and salt into the remaining 1/2 cup milk and whisk into pot. Mixture should thicken slightly.
Pour mixture and vanilla into food processor with the tofu and blend until smooth. Scrape down sides as needed.
Pour into serving bowls, this will make two pretty good sized servings or 4 smaller servings. Place in refrigerator to chill.
Serve with vegan whipped cream (I had some Soyatoo in the fridge already), with vanilla ice cream or on it's own.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Cooking with Friends

Have you ever taken the time to cook with your best buds? I highly recommend it. It's only half about the food the other half is shotting the shit. It's been ages since I've cooked with my bff (as one of my younger employees would refer to her). It's not easy to cook together since we live in two different states. I wasn't vegan when we hung out but we had some great times. Mara and I made a Thanksgiving dinner together and quite a few bbqs. I suspect it will be a while yet until we get to cook in the same kitchen again. Luckily there are phones and the internets. We chat together while peeling peaches, baking pies, cutting veggies. Well as much as you can chat while not cutting your fingers off but it's goes pretty well.

Cooking from other blogs is kinda like cooking with your friends. After reading a blog for a little while you start to know a little bit about a person. While you are making the recipe you are reading their notes, their off hand comments about their life or the dish. The only thing you are missing is the actual person.

Tonight I did some cookin' with Mo of Mosetta Stone. After I read her post about vegan haggis and champ I knew it was my kinda thing. I've never tried the prepackaged vegan haggis and I've never tried the traditional scary non-vegan haggis so I wasn't sure what to expect but I trusted Mo not to pass on anything yuck.
This was really good. Like really good. It was like stuffing and mash. Woah mama. I'm dreaming of holiday meals now. I'll make this again for sure. Thanks Mo!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Checking off some Vegan Hundred

Remember this post? The ol' Vegan Hundred. Knockin' some of them out today.
Yup, looks a little gross but it's on the list and this is actually the first time I've tried this stuff. Soyatoo is actually pretty good. Just another junk food to add to the list.

Then I got this mad craving for root beer floats. It's been ages. I made vanilla ice cream and picked up the most local root beer I could get in a bottle. There is some Burlington root beer but it's not available in a bottle so I'll try and talk about that later. I know a guy.
This is Maine Root Root Beer. Maine is pretty local and I'm from Maine originally so there ya go. This stuff is pretty tasty. I've always loved root beer anyway. A big ol' root beer float is just awesome.

Check off
35. Root beer float
75. Whipped cream straight from the can

oh, also
11. Nachos
I had those at New Ethic. Remember?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Un-cooked

I've been eating a higher percentage of raw food in my diet since our Greek vacation. Fruit for breakfast, salad for lunch. Not everyday because I'm lazy and shiz. I've long been interested in raw food recipes. Recipes beyond you're smoothies and salads. Actually I think I began flipping through raw food books before I became vegan. It was all very fascinating but it sounded too hard. It still seems a little challenging to me. Probably because it's not familiar yet and my husband is not into going raw so I have to sneak bits in here and there. Mostly it's been tasty, not that I've made a lot.

Let's start with what I'm not really into so far. Savory cream soups. I've tried a couple and although I like the ingredients separately together the flavor is almost too rich. It might be something I'll like later but next I think I'll try a more veggie broth type soup and see if I like that.
This one did come out pretty though.
Ani Phyo's Garlic Walnut Soup

Ok, I know I said more than salads but I love salads so I made one.
Wilted Spinach Salad with Marinated Onions in Mustard Seed Dressing
I loved this. Ate a big ol' bowl full myself. Oh this is another Ani recipe. If you have the book then make it.

So I've mostly focused on deserts. Who doesn't like desserts. Raw deserts are soooo nice.
I had some figs so I made Fresh Mission Fid and Pear Tart. This has a cookie kinda crust. I had a hard time not eating all of this before I pressed it into the pan. It's a little ugly due to laziness. I wanted dessert fast and didn't want to press it nicely.
I made this one a while ago. The Real Cheezecake. This is so rich but oh so good.

Like I said, I'm new to this but I'm going to keep going for it. I have a few raw books now but for this post I'm going to recommend Ani's Raw Food Kitchen. It's full of tasty looking recipes and great information.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Yes, I am the last person to make this.

So I finally made the Leek and Bean Cassoulet from Veganomicon. Yes, I know, I know. I'm the last person alive to not have made this. We I did ok? Finally. It was wonderful. Perfect actually for this cool rainy day when work was a complete waste of time. Well not a complete waste of time, just not the best.
I also made the Tomato-Rice Soup with Roasted Garlic and Navy Beans. After seeing so many mofoers making soup I kinda got jealous and had to make something. Couldn't be left out of the soup loop. The roasted garlic gives this a warm rounded flavor and the rice & beans make this a meal in itself.
These aren't my first VCON recipes. I'm getting mighty familiar with this book and it's pretty good from what I can tell. In a post from a couple days ago I mentioned the useful bits in this book about cooking veggies, grains and beans and outfitting your kitchen and pantry. Now let's talk about the recipes. I've actually already mentioned the super awesome and quick bean burgers and coconut lemon bundt cake. We will now move along to:
Samosa Stuffed Baked Potatoes. Let's just say these are little boats of deliciousness. If there is one thing I love as much as potatoes it's peas. I dunno why. I just do. Ok?
Sauteed Spinach and Tomatoes. Indian spiced spinach yum.
Tamarind Lentils. Many people have raved about these and I am no different. Really if this book is in your home and you haven't made them then get your arse in the kitchen and get them on the stove. These are crazy amazing. I have discovered a love for tamarind.
Vietnamese Seitan Baguette with Savory Broth Dip. These are kinda like those French dip sammies you might have heard about but with a not so French flair. These had a meatiness from the seitan slices with the cool crunch of cucumbers. Oh and the broth. I may or may not be drooling just thinking about these again
Seitanic Red Bean Jumbalaya. I just love how this dish is one of those one pot meals. A great meal..
BBQ Black-Eyed Pea Collard Rolls. It's pretty self explainatory. The sauce made this feel like a cookout without having to fire up the grill.
Jalapeno-Corn Gravy over some mashed taters. I never thought I'd have a corn gravy but now I'm thinking "where have you been all my life?"
Seitan Piccata with Olives and Green Beans. Aside from it's insane deliciousness and beauty this was actually a quick dinner to put together. It looks much harder then it is but the taste is all there.

Sauteed Seitan with Mushrooms and Spinach. I served this over Broccoli Polenta. Hells yeah!
Spaghetti and Beanballs. This cures the ghetti meatball craving that pops up every now and then.
Pasta Della California. Yup, it's pasta with avocado. It's got a little something special that makes this an awesome weeknight dinner. It comes together so quickly.
Eggplant Rollatini with Spinach and Toasted Pine Nuts. More impressive looking then the photo suggests and oh so delectable.Banana Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding. I picked this one out because I had bananas the needed using, some bread in the freezer that would be suitable and bread pudding is always a good idea. The bread I used was actually a fairly grainy loaf so this was quite a hearty dessert but still forking devourable. I may or maynot have been very generous with the chocolate. Yes, I admit, I might have a problem.
And finally we come to the ice cream that started an addiction. Vanilla Ice Cream. It's a simple flavor that compliments the Fudgy Wudgy Blueberry Brownies nicely.

I've made more that never made it to film but it's not over yet.

Cooking the other blogs

Sometimes you just need to force yourself to put down the cookbook and check out one or two of those bookmarked recipes on your computer you've said you're going to try. Over the last couple of days I've managed to do that. So many good recipes and so little time. I wish this were my job.

I've been gravitating toward the quicker recipes for dinners because they were to be used for weeknight delights.

First up is Lolo's Super Quick Tomato Basil Creamy Pasta. This really is super quick and super tasty.
My pic doesn't look anywhere near as good as hers but good food doesn't have to look good. Just taste good. I used whole wheat fettucini.

A couple nights ago we had Desdemona's Eggplant, Chard & Chickpea Curry. I had two eggplants in the frige just begging to be in this so away it went. As far as quick dinners go there are quicker but this was easy and only too about 1 hr with a little multitasking. Also I'd like to show off the pile of spices to go into it.

Last night I went for something super quick and trusted Jennifer to get me there. We ate her veganized version of a Health Magazine recipe, Pasta with Brussels Sprouts and Sausage. I suspect that her recipe is actually the healthier one. I did have to modify it from brussels sprouts to broccoli as there were no sprouts to be found but it was good with broccoli.

And finally today I wanted to make more seitan and I really wanted to try Kittee's seitan recipe. This makes a ton (3lbs) which is awesome. I am a huge fan of preping ingredients ahead of time if possible. I don't have a pic of this just yet. It's steaming on the stove right now. It was super easy to put together. I have a good feeling about this one.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Money Saving Tips

It's time to save some money. You know you have to. The economic climate today, wallstreet, blah blah blah. In the end you may or may not care what's going on in the world of everyone else's money but I know you care about your money and you don't want to spend anymore of it then is necessary unless it's on something really cool and/or fun.

So you want to save some money?

Let me hear you say "yeah!"
*crowd screams* YEAH!!!
I can't hear you
*crowd screams louder* YEAH!!
Then stop buying those damn canned beans!

Silliness aside, really the canned beans have got to go. I know what you're going to say. It's convenient, quick, ready to go, already cooked, etc. I hear you, they are pretty great but there are drawbacks and the alternative isn't as hard as you think.

Canned beans cost (at least in my area) between $0.99 a can to $2 a can, depending on what store you are in, if there are any sales, and conventional versus organic. In a can you get what? About 1.5-2 cups of cooked beans. The labels say 15oz.
For the price of one can of beans you can buy a pound of dried beans. Depending on the bean this roughly equals 6 cups cooked beans. That's equivalent to at least 3 cans, more for some beans. So that's what? $0.30 to $0.50/can? It's a rough estimate but like I said, every bean is a little different as far as weight and cooked size and of course per pound weight on beans varies. But unless I am buying a super special heirloom bean, I never pay more than $3/lb. Usually it's less than $2/lb and that's for organic.

Yesterday, my day off, I spent refilling my freezer with cooked beans. That isn't to say I spent the day slaving over a hot stove cooking beans constantly. I kinda just had them on in the background while I did other things like read blogs, do dishes, cuddle the kitty (even if he didn't want to), chase a bad kitty away so my kitty could come down from the tree so the birds would stop dive bombing him for being up in the tree, you know regular household day off stuff. You can even keep beans cooking pretty safely while you leave the house.

First you gotta buy some beans. Since there are so many colors and sizes I just keep jars of them on the shelves in my kitchen. I find them kinda pretty.
So cooking beans, for me is a vary, umm, unscientific process. Starting the night before I did some necessary prep work. Now I know this is already starting to sound like a long process and it kind of is but not really. Most of the "work" is hands off so hang in there. So the night before I picked some beans out the kinds don't matter. You can soak as much as you'd like, in my containers here about 1-1.5 cups (there are some markings on the sides) will expand to fill the container so I aim for that. Measure out your beans, dump them out onto a rimmed baking sheet (or somewhere you can spread them out without dumping them all over the floor) and have a quick look for nonbeans (you may find pebbles or bits of dirt, these are usually a similar size to the beans so they were not detected during processing), once they are picked over, rinse them and put them in your container. Fill the container with at least as much water as beans. I usually just fill the container with water, a little extra won't hurt them so no worries. Set them aside for 3-8 hrs (over night is easy).
Now when you come back to your beans you'll find them to be significantly bigger then when you left them. Maybe they are even trying to bust out of the container you put them in. It's pretty neat really. Well I think so anyway. Go ahead and drain off your rehydrated beans and now we are ready to cook them. Yesterday I had two cooking processes going. Like I said, I needed to completely refill my freezer so I was cooking a lot of beans.
I usually just use my slow cooker. Dump the beans in, cover with water plus an inch or two, cover slow cooker, set to low or high depending how quickly you need these puppies done. If I'm leaving them on while I'm at work I'll set it to low and they'll be done when I get home. This is perfect for chickpeas which are pretty hardy. I find my beans are done in 2-4 hrs when set to the high setting, the low setting may be too low on your slow cooker to get the job done in a reasonable timeframe but definitely experiment.
The other, no special equipment necessary, method is stove top. Medium size saucepan, cover with water as with the slow cooker and get the water boiling then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 1-2 hrs. While the beans are going you don't really need to hover over them. Make sure the beans stay covered with water though. Get other stuff done, this is a perfect lazy day off task or to keep a steady flow of beans, do a batch once every couple of days. I hear pressure cookers are awesome for this but I have never had one or used one.
Once your beans are cooked . . . go ahead and try one silly, that's the only way to check if they are cooked. Unless you've really let them go and it's kinda a pot of mush. If that is the case then we'll call it soup just add some seasonings and enjoy. What I do is drain them and freeze them in freezer bags. Some people really like that bean gravy though so you might want to save that, it's tasty as a replacement for broth in recipes or whatever you can think of. You can freeze the broth separately in containers or ice cube trays then bag the cubes. Since I use freezer bags which are pretty thick/tough I reuse them (just give them a quick rinse and dry them with the rest of the dishes).
Like I mentioned before, my cooking methods here are decidedly unscientific but I dug up some sites to help.
Pressure Cooker cook times chart
Bean Cooking Chart (includes soaking times, regular stove top method and pressure cooker)

So in the end I'm actually going to say, some canned beans can be a good thing. A backup to your freezer when you accidentally use all the ones you had cooked and didn't make more before you needed to use them. Also in the event of an actual emergency, especially if you are expecting to lose power, canned goods are going to serve you pretty damn well.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A caring package

Most people know them as care packages but sometimes you gotta mix it up even if it's just a little. On the ppk I took part in a little swap. Organized by Katie at Don't Eat Off the Sidewalk (she's just great isn't she?) my partner was Erin in LA and my package came today. By a strange set of circumstances (i.e. we communicated well and sent the packages at the same time and via priority mail) her package arrived today too so we were pretty much both opening them at the same time.

Let's see what goodies we have here shall we?
This package was super cool. Full of stuff I wanted (just like asking Santa) and bonus neato bits.
A bag of chocolate coffee chips (I've never tried these!) and a bag of white chips. There were two rice forms (I've been wanting these to make my bento even more fun). One for traditional sushi piece size and triangular onigiri ones. I can't wait to play with these.

Staying with the Japanese theme we also have a little minature set (i'll try to set this up and add a pic, it's cute) and red bean cakes. I've been interested in trying red bean paste for a while but haven't gotten to it yet. It's good, unique but good. Lex says these cakes kind taste like dates. I agree, you could pass this off as dates. Not that you would have to but you could.
Oh and Mac got the best bit of all, in his little kitty opinion. The box! and tissue paper too?!?! You shouldn't have.
So the box is his new buddy.
He barely fits but he was determined to sleep in there.

So I need something special to use the chocolate coffee chips in. Suggestions?