Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Cream" of Celery Soup (Vegan)

I love fall--the rainy days, falling leaves, pumpkins, hearty greens and root vegetables. It's also soup season, and last week I read this blog post and immediately wanted Cream of Celery soup. That's the thing about a good food blog--you never run out of ideas. The cream is made with cashew cream and celery's root cousin--celeriac--also plays a staring role.

Celeriac is not exactly out of season yet, but apparently it's getting a little late for celeriac here in the Northwest. I found some at Rent's Due Ranch.  

Sometimes you have to search out celery this time of year, too.  If you can't find either celeriac or celery check natural food stores because organic is way better tasting than non-organic. And if you're still having trouble finding celeriac, just add another white potato.

Celeriac is knobby and sometimes hard to cut all the gnarly brown hairs that grow up inside the root. The creamy color also turns brown when exposed to light, so if you need to leave it for more than a few minutes, toss it with lemon juice after cutting it, so it doesn't change colors.

Every fall soup needs garlic and you should get it now, while it's still in season.  River Farm is using the remainder of their garlic for seed next year. I hope they saved enough for the wonderful garlic powder they sell in the winter.

I'd asked for 5 heads a few weeks ago and when Liz brought 5 pounds, I decided to get it all.  Store it in a dark place where air circulates, and check it every so often to use heads that begin to soften.

Potatoes help thicken the soup.  Often when you leave leftovers overnight, the soup gets so thick you need to add more water the next day.

I added an apple on impulse because I had so many apples.  The flavors blend together well and you can't tell an apple was added to the mix.  Peel it first so the colors don't detract from the celery.

Upstairs, downstairs--together these two vegetables make a delicious team.

The cashews pureed with apple cider and added to the soup in the end, give the soup a decadent feel.

"Cream" of Celery Soup
(Serves 4)
If you don't already love celery, you will after this soup. A little of everything goes into this savory stock-free seasonal soup.

1/2 cup cashews
1/2 cup apple cider
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed if large and sliced
1 small red pepper, seeds and stem removed, small dice
1 cup sliced carrots
1 small onion or 2 shallots, small dice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 heads of celeriac, carefully peeled and diced
3 to 4 cups chopped celery
1 white potato, peeled and diced
1 apple, peeled, cored and diced
3 to 4 cloves garlic (pressed)
1 tablespoon chopped Mama Lil's Peppers (or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon agave nectar
4 cups water
Lemon juice to taste
Chopped parsley for garnish

1. Soak the cashews in apple cider for at least 2 hours.  Puree until smooth and set aside.

2. Dry fry the mushrooms until they soften.   Add red pepper, carrots, onion and olive oil.  Stir, cover and reduce heat so vegetables sweat and soften.

3. Place celeriac, celery, potato, apple, garlic Mama Lil's, sea salt lemon zest, agave nectar and water in a soup pot.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables soften.  

4. Puree celeriac-celery mixture a little at a time until creamy.  Add the mushrooms and vegetables.  Balance the flavors with salt and lemon juice.  Stir in the cashew cream. 

5. Serve garnished with parsley.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Orange-Walnut Sweet Rolls

Sometimes I escape into baking and I'd been on a spree lately, making dog biscuits, muffins and most recently these sweet rolls. I'd wanted to use my favorte walnuts from Grouse Mountain, I usually splurge with these local treasures at least once evey fall. 

I said "been on a baking spree"because shortly after I made these rolls (the next day), I gave up bread products. For just 14 days, but still.  It all started as a conversation, "what would it be like to give up candy, ice cream--something you like." I mean really like.

Okay, after I said, I'm in for 14 days, I ate my share of the rolls first. 

I used a recipe from this old pamphlet Mom gave me decades ago.  It's actually one of the first things I ever baked on my own.

I'm not exactly sure of the year, but the winning recipe in this one was from Mrs. Henry Jorgenson from Portland, Oregon. Is she anyone's grandmother?  Is she still around? She won $25,000 and she said was for her son's college education. Today $25,000 might only buy a year's tuition. In the 50s that money would have paid for the entire 4 years of college and you'd probably have some money left over.  I used her recipe called "Ring-a-Lings."

I didn't exactly follow her recipe. I left out the eggs.  The nut filling was with hazelnuts. (Go figure, Portland, right).  I prefer walnuts, but the orange flavoring could really enhance hazelnuts. 

But recipes are for changing.  For bread, all you really need are yeast, warm liquid, flour, salt and oil. The rest is optional. The rest is tweaking.  I could have also made them pumpkin by adding some pureed pumpkin. Maybe next time.

Don't omit the salt, or it will seriously taste flat.

Local flour with yeast bread can be tricky. I don't really bake much, so I don't have a scale for accuracy.

Fourteen days without bread?  Just in case you decide to go without, do it after you've eaten your share.
A big thank you to Mrs. Henry Jorgenson.

Orange-Walnut Sweet Rolls
(Makes 1 dozen rolls)
These rolls are for days when you have some time at home to let them rise.  I generally let them rise three times, with the last rise as shaped rolls, but the original recipe had only two rises. Before you start, it's est to heat the almond milk in a microwave for 30 seconds at a time until it is hot.  The yeast needs the liquid to be 105F to activate.

1 package yeast
1/2 cup hot almond milk
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons honey or 1 tablespoon agave nectar
3 to 4 cups unbleached flour (or use a 50/50 mixture of hard wheat and unbleached flour)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablesoon fresly grated orange zest
1/4 cup melted butter or Earth Balance
1/2 cup Earth Balance or softened butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped tart cherries or currants
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
3 tablespoon sugar for glaze

1. Dissolve yeast in milk and orange juice.  Let it sit for 5 minutes.  Mix in the honey.  Stir in flour, salt orange zest.  Stir until a dough begins to form.  Add the butter or Earth Balance and continue to mix until a thick dough forms, adding flour to make dough very thick. Continue to mix until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and is thick enough to handle.

2. Knead dough until it becomes smooth and elastic.  Shape it into a ball and place it in an oiled bowl to rise for 1 hour.  Let it rise in a warm place.  Make sure no drafts hit the dough while it is rising.  When it is doubled in bulk, push the dough down.  Knead again and let it rise once more for about 30 minutes.  (Test the dough with the poke method.  If the dough fills in right away after poking it, it still needs to rise.  If the indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.)

3. Combine the ingredients for the filling while dough is rising the second time.

4. Turn dough out onto a floured board after the second rise.  Let it sit 5 minutes, then pull or roll the dough to a rectangle--about 22 by 12-inches.  Spread the filling over half the wide side of the dough.  Fold the other half over the dough, so you have a sandwich with the filling in the center.

5. Slice 12 strips.  Take each filled strip and twist it around.  Form the twists into a circle, pinching the dough together.

6. Place on parchment paper on a baking sheet. Cover with a damp towel or an oiled piece of plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.  Make glaze from orange juice and sugar.

7. Preheat oven to 350F.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Rolls will be lightly browned.  Remove from oven and brush with glaze.  Bake 5 minutes more.  Tops should be golden brown.

I nearly didn't take this picture because it shows my primitive baking skills.  I was a little worried about the thin sections.

And try to spead the filling evenly.  You can see the challenges of too much filling when it comes to twisting the dough.
Just when I was sure they wouldn't turn out, it all came together.

I wasn't the only one impressed with how easily they came together.

The last rise takes about an hour.  Salt and fat slow down the rise.  I added little currants to the filling.  My Cooking Assistant can only dream. Currants like raisins aren't good for dogs, so he had to settle for a dog biscuit for his modeling fee.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Maple Sweet Potato Bread

This week I'm sharing a fabulous vegan bread recipe. You can use pumpkin instead of sweet potatoes in this recipe if you want. That's what I did.  So maybe I should have called it Maple Sweet Potato or Pumpkin Bread. 

I got this recipe from the library.  I check out two books.  One was Gweneth Paltrow's It's all Good, and the other was Skinny Bitch Bakery by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin.  I liked Skinny Bitch better.  It was vegan and much more useful.  Parts of the Paltrow book didn't quite make sense, and there were so many photos of the Gweneth, if you're not totally star stuck and in love with Paltrow, this cookbook would not make sense as book you'd want to keep. And the headers for the recipes. . . Maybe some people don't think this is a skill, but it is.

The recipe I picked for the week a version of a recipe in Skinny Bitch Bakery. The book's recipe uses an egg-replacer, but I've made pumpkin bread so often without any eggs or replacers, I skipped it and it worked.

Pumpkin is in season right now.  If you don't like it, it's time to learn how to love it. Winter squash is filled with nutrients, and farmers grow a lot of squash in the Northwest.

Sweet potatoes are a newer crop for Northwest farmers.  Ten years ago, you couldn't find one local sweet potato at the market. Now a few farmers bring them and the price is similar to what you would pay for organic sweet potatoes at a natural foods store.

If you don't have fresh, use one can of pumpkin or sweet potato puree.

You can buy local whole-wheat pastry flour, but if you don't have any, use the flour you have in your pantry.

You can use most any squash besides pumpkin, except for summer or spaghetti squash. Puree it in the blender before stirring it into the mix.

If you use sweet potatoes, try making sweet potato chews for your cooking assistant with leftovers.

You can bake a Sugar Pie pumpkin whole.  Poke some holes in it with a fork and stick it in a 350F oven for about an hour.  Remove from oven, let it cool.  Remove stem and seeds before scraping pumpkin away from the skin. 

Walnuts are in at the market!  I'm put in my request, have you?

Maple Sweet Potato or Pumpkin Bread
(Makes 1 8-inch loaf)
This bread isn't too sweet so it's perfect for breakfast. The dough should be very thick when you put it in the pan for baking.

1 1/2 cups cooked sweet potato or pumpkin or 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry or unbleached white flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup oat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup dried currants
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Lightly oil an 8-inch loaf pan.  Combine sweet potato, maple syrup, and canola oil. Whisk until well blended.

2. Combine flour, sugar, oat flour, baking soda, powder, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg.  Combine wet and dry ingredients, then stir in currants and walnuts. 

3. Bake 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Holiday Quinoa

I had this recipe all ready to go for a holiday newsletter, but got a message they were doing gift suggestions, so I decided to post it here. 

I found a stack of old recipe and this was among them:

I remember making it one Thanksgiving, hence the title "Holiday Quinoa," but it's a mistake to think it's  just for the holidays.  This is a great recipe.  While we usually have it as a main dish, you can also use it as a side dish and it would be a great addition to any holiday brunch.

Celery is in season in the fall and local versions are much tastier than the kind your find in grocery stores.

Shiitake mushrooms add umami, or a savory tone.

Carrots contribute add sweetness and peppers offer a spicy zing.

You can use any variety of quinoa.  Tri-color is an interesting alternative and if you want quinoa on the cheap, use half millet/half quinoa because millet is less than half the price of quinoa.

Garlic should be an essential in every savory dish this season since it has so many health benefits.  The same goes for walnuts.

I love Northwest grown walnuts and always order a box from my favorite farmers to get through the winter.

Toast walnuts in the oven (350F for 8 minutes) or in a frying pan over medium heat (about 5 minutes).

For us, this dish can be a meal in a bowl. It isn't hard to add to this quinoa pilaf.  Just pick your seasonal vegetables.  I often dice onions and save them in the freezer for an easy meal.  I save red peppers this way, too.  That way I have plenty of cut vegetables ready to go for easy soups.

I leave the shiitake whole for this dish since I buy shiitake at the market and they are smaller than in stores.

My Cooking Assistant can't quite reach the carrots

Holiday Quinoa
(Serves 8)

1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed
2 cups shiitake mushrooms, tough stems removed
1 onion, small dice
1 tablespoon  extra-virgin olive oil
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 carrot, small dice
3 to 4 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or 1 1/2 teaspoon chopped Mama Lil's Peppers 
2 1/4 cups water or stock
2 to 4 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/2 cup dried cranberries or tart cherries
1/2 cup chopped parsley
Sea salt to taste
1/2 cup toasted roughly chopped walnuts

1. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Toast quinoa until golden brown.  Remove from heat and skillet.  

2. Place shiitake mushrooms in skillet over medium heat.  Stir and cook until mushrooms soften.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Add onion, celery, carrot and oil to the skillet.  Stir and cook over medium heat until vegetables soften.  Add a little water, if necessary to keep from sticking to the pan.

3. Place garlic, sage, thyme, marjoram, pepper flakes and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
When water boils, add quinoa. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until grain absorbs all liquid. Let sit for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

4. Mix quinoa and vegetables, adding orange juice, tart cherries and parsley.  Season to taste with salt.
Adjust seasonings--orange juice, salt, and peppers--until the flavor is perfect.  Garnish with walnuts.