Monday, October 28, 2013

Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins (vegan)

It's Muffin Time

Do muffins have a season?  Seems like when the weather turns cool, I spend more time in the kitchen, and when the editor of Vegetarian Journal asked if I'd be interested in doing an article on muffins, the prospect intrigued me.  I haven't baked muffins for years, but I was suddenly hungry for muffins.  What a great excuse to warm the kitchen and infuse the house with the aroma of baked treats

I've written for the Vegetarian Journal for year.  In fact, I recently got all the old magazines that had articles I wrote out and covered my living room floor.  It always seems like they've covered everything and then suddenly a new idea pops up.  I've done some quirky articles in the past including, Vegan Cowboy Cuisine, Secrets of the Seasonal Vegan, and Super Savory Pancakes.  Many of these vegan recipes went into my cookbook. 

Most recipes can be made into vegan versions but vegan baking can be tricky. Every ingredient interacts with every other ingredient and if you change too many ingredients at once a muffin can turn into something with a hockey puck texture, if you you aren't careful.  

I figured I should start with something I really liked, so I crafted a blueberry muffin recipe from a number of recipes I found.  I didn't want to try gluten-free or low fat yet.  Just get the feel for what a muffin should be in this first baking round.  

The Joy of Cooking cookbook gives these general muffin baking tips:

  • Hold the mixing to an absolute minimum--from 10 to 20 seconds.  Ignore the lumps.
  • Good muffins should be straight sided and slightly rounded on top.  The grain of the muffin is not fine but uniform and the crumb is moist.
  • Fill oiled tins 3/4 full before baking. And put a few tablespoons of water in any empty muffin tins while baking.
  • Leave baked muffins in tins for a few minutes and they will be easier to remove from the tins.

I didn't add enough flour in the beginning.  As you can see the result was a flatter muffin.  After I noticed how these weren't rising enough, I added more flour and got a better rounded top for batch number two.

I can tell already, this is going to be one fun article to complete.  I won't give all the secrets to good muffins away, you'll have to stay tuned to Vegetarian Journal and find out the end of this story.  

Anybody else hungry for muffins?

Straight sides, rounded top--these are the second muffins that I baked with more flour.

Inside the crumb was delectable.

Vegan Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins
(Makes 12 muffins)

1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
3 tablespoons water
1 cup soy or rice milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup unbleached flour
1/2 to 1 cup cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup canola oil

Blend flax seeds and water until thick and frothy.  Set aside.   In a small bowl, add lemon juice to soy milk and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400F.  Oil 12 muffin tins or line with cupcake papers.

Blend flour, cornmeal, baking soda, lemon zest, sea salt and sugar in a medium mixing bowl. (Make sure there are no small lumps of baking soda.)   In another bowl combine flax seed mixture, milk and oil together.  Whisk to combine thoroughly.  

Add blueberries to the flour mixture then add the milk mixture blending just enough to form a batter.  Do not over mix.  The consistency should be somewhere between a pourable cake batter and a thick cookie dough--not too thin and not too thick.  

Bake for 25 minutes or until the tops are lightly browned.  Gently tap the surface or use a toothpick to confirm the muffins are done.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Quinoa and Millet Stuffed Peppers

As the seasons shift, the weather becomes cooler and the late arrivals like zucchini or peppers sometimes ripen all at once. 

It was a good year for peppers.  At the U District Farmers Market, River Farm sold ristas like this in September.  Later, they sold fire roasted peppers.  You could inhale the aroma everywhere at the market.

Lots of tables had peppers during August and September, but the price was too high for me to buy more than one or two at a time this season.  And with the cool weather, I figured the bargains were gone, so I was shocked when Tonnemakers had organic green, red, orange and gold peppers for $2.00 a pound!  I had to get more than one.   The grocery store price of peppers this week was $2.00 each.  Two peppers weigh about a pound, so $2 each is not a great deal, especially for nonorganic peppers.   

This farmers' market bargain rocks!

I got a few green peppers for stuffing.  Fall weather makes me feel like stuffing vegetables--cabbage rolls won't be far behind.

That's how this recipe for today's post started.

I checked online for recipes using millet or quinoa as a stuffing.  I already had about 4 ounces of tempeh to use, but just in case you've never used tempeh, it has a texture similar to ground beef. I love it, but what it lacks is flavor, so I use tomatoes and garlic.   I didn't find exactly the recipe I was thinking about, but I did find this one with millet, celery and carrots, and this one by Rachel Ray with quinoa, tomatoes and vegetables. You can basically create anything you like to stuff vegetables, and I like to use the two grains because it lowers the cost of the dish. Quinoa is pricy these days because it's everybody's darling

The rising price of quinoa makes the grain less affordable for frugal chefs.  A friend of mine has switched to using millet over quinoa.  I'm tempted, but I found some bags of quinoa hiding in my freezer to keep me going for awhile.

This recipe would be great with black beans instead of tempeh.  And if you have any of the grains leftover, it's easy to use them in soups, roll-up sandwiches and salads.

One season I found tiny red peppers.  These would make perfect tiny stuffed peppers--a perfect party appetizer.

Here's the frugal dinner menu plan for the week:

1. Quinoa and Millet Stuffed Peppers, corn on-the-cob, salad, bread
2. Veggie Burgers, coleslaw
3. Tuscan Chickpea Soup topped with Kale and Caramelized Garlic, warm tortillas
4. Deborah Madison's Braised Root Vegetables with Black Lentils (From Local Flavors) , salad
5. Sweet Potato-Black-Bean Pizza, salad
6. Tofu Stir Fry with Cabbage, Mushrooms, Carrots, Greens and Peppers, brown rice
7. Southwest Polenta Cakes, Baked Beans, Kale and Avocado Salad

I should have loaded up a shopping bag full.  In case you find a pepper bargain, you can wash, seed, chop and freeze them and have them available all winter.  

Enjoy the recipe!

Quinoa and Millet Stuffed Peppers
(Serves 6)

2 cups water
1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 cup millet
1/4 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
Pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup chopped olives
6 green peppers, tops and seeds removed
2 to 3 tablespoons canola oil
4 ounces tempeh, crumbled
1/2 cup diced onions
1/2 cup choppped mushrooms
1/2 cup diced red peppers
1 small zucchini, diced
1/2 cup diced sweet potatoes or yams (1 small or 1/2 medium sweet potato or yam)
2 cloves garlic, pressed
8 ounce can tomato sauce
2 to 4 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon agave nectar
2 tablespoons chopped Mama Lil's (optional)
Sea salt and pepper to taste 
1/4 cup grated cheese (optional, for topping)
1/4 cup toasted walnuts (optional, for topping)

1. Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Rinse quinoa and millet, then add to boiling water, sundried tomatoes and a pinch of sea salt.  Bring to a second boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes.  Blend in chopped olives when done.

2. Bring a large pot (like a pasta pot)  of water to a boil.   Plunge in peppers, pushing them under the water.   Boil for 3 minutes.  Remove from pot and hold under cool water.  Shake dry and set aside in a shallow baking dish.

3. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add the oil.  When hot, add the crumbled tempeh and stir and cook until it begins to brown.  Add the onions, mushrooms, peppers, and zucchini.  Cook for a few minutes or until vegetables begin to soften.   Add sweet potatoes, garlic, tomato sauce, tomato paste, agave nectar, Mama Lils and a little more water if mixture is too thick to cover and heat for a few minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in the quinoa and millet mixture.

4. Preheat oven to 350F.   Stuff the peppers, mounding the filling over the top.  Add a little water to the baking dish so the peppers steam.   Bake peppers for 25 to 30 minutes.

I like to top these peppers with salsa or a marinara sauce.  My Cooking Assistant is impressed.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Buckwheat-Pumpkin Dog Biscuits

My trusty Cooking Assistant and his sister are on a gluten-free diet experiment.  This may seem like pampering, but the two hounds have been scratching, and it's definitely not fleas. Since the scatching starts shortly after they've eaten dog biscuits so I begain suspecting the bargain dog biscuits I'd purchased, where really a bargain?  But which ones were causing the scratching?  They had about five different kinds.  

Basset hounds are obsessed with food. I've learned to cut their food portions a bit just to give them a few extra biscuits. They need bribes for everything, and they can only eat so many carrots.

But the cheaper the store bought biscuit, the cheaper the ingredients.  It's not good to be a tightwad when you have a scratching dog.  Constant scratching can mean food allergies--corn, wheat or soy--the cheap filler ingredients, could be a problem.

Homemade biscuits?  We'd love that experiment!
The buckwheat flour cost more than wheat flour, but I was determined to try the gluten-free diet.  

Pumpkin is the ingredient of the season and pumpkin is good for dogs. You can find everything pumpkin now, even pumpkin dog biscuits. 

But I bet you can't find a gluten-free, buckwheat-pumpkin-peanut butter dog biscuit anywhere.  If you do find any, let me know.  Meanwhile, why not try this recipe?

Local pumpkins are everywhere now.

First--if you get a fresh sugar pie pumpkin, you'll have to bake it first. 

Baked Pumpkin

1. Preheat oven to 350F. 

2. Poke the pumpkin about six or seven times with a fork, so as it bakes, steam escapes.   Then bake it for 45 minutes, or until it is fork tender.  If you have more than enough pumpkin to make the cookies, the remainder can be blended into a fall vegetable soup.  Scrape out the seeds and use the cooked flesh.

Buckwheat-Pumpkin Dog Biscuits
(Makes about 76 biscuits)

4 to 5 cups buckwheat flour
1 cup tapioca flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 to 1 1/2 cups cooked pumpkin
1 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup molasses
1 to 1 1/2 cups water

1. Blend buckwheat flour, tapioca flour, cinnamon and salt, in a large bowl.   Mix well.

2. Combine pumpkin, peanut butter, molasses and 1 cup water in a blender.   Mix flour and pumpkin-mixture together.  Stir until a stiff dough forms.  Adjust liquid or flour measurement.  The dough should be like a stiff cookie dough, but it will be fairly sticky.  Set the dough on wax paper, cover, and refrigerate for at least one hour.

3. Preheat oven to 350F.   Roll dough to 1/4-inch and cut into desired shapes.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Turn oven off and allow biscuits to get crisp.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Quick and Easy Coleslaw

Cabbage Days

Cabbage fits perfectly into the frugal foodie's budget.  It's often the best buy in produce aisles at grocery stores and a bargain at the farmers' market. I prefer local varieites because they're sweeter than grocery store versions, which taste starchy, possibly because the cabbage in grocery stores is old. I'm not saying I never buy grocery store stuff, but it's cheap and it's a trade off with flavor and possibly nutrients. You get lower quality, but it can still be good in cabbage rolls, cabbage soup, stir frys and casseroles. 

Grated cabbage salads are one of my all time favorites. And salads call for cabbage with more flavor--the kind of cabbage you can only find at farmers' markets in Seattle. 101 Cookbooks had this great version of coleslaw made with lime juice and peanuts. Who knew lime and peanuts with coleslaw would be so good?  I made this coleslaw  a few years ago. I guess it's about time for another version. 

But first some frugal foodie observations.

Cabbages at Nash's Organic Produce 

Frugal Foodie at the Market

At the market everything looks so beautiful, it's hard to resist temptations, especially if like me, you're trying to shop on less these days.  Check out this ginger at Mair Farm.  Katsumi Taki seems to grow more every year.  And it's so good when it's fresh and Mair Farm-Taki has the best ginger around.

I was tempted, really tempted to buy some because I know how good it is, but the $15 a pound price was steep for me this week.  Still I may plan for it next week.  One way to be frugal and still eat things I like is to write it into the weekly plan. I'd already planned more Mexican type meals for this week, and I couldn't see the ginger going into much beyond the coleslaw.  If you can't see the whole picture when you shop, take a road map.

When I stick to my list, none of my purchases are wasted.  I mentioned last week that King County was launching a campaign called Food: Too Good to Waste. Ever since I found out about this program, I've reflected on how food choices and budget restrictions make a big difference in food waste at our house.  But then, I was also once guilty of buying more than I could use.  In fact  a CSA didn't really work out for us because it was hard to use all the produce, especially when two or three heads of lettuce arrived in a box

Our 7 day menu board this week looks something like this:

Saturday--Quinoa and Millet Pilaf, Coleslaw, and Tall Grass Bakery sourdough
Sunday --Curried Tofu Stir Fry, Lemon Romano Beans and Tall Grass Bakery sourdough
Monday--Black Bean Chili, salad and corn tortillas
Tuesday--Barbecued Tempeh, Balsamic Broccoli, Sweet Potato Fries
Wednesday--Southwest Vegetable and Red Bean Pie with Polenta Topping
Thursday--Vegetable-Tofu Tortilla Roll-Ups with green salad
Friday---Split Pea Soup, Sauteed Kale and Garlic, Cornbread

Yes I do splurge with Tall Grass Bakery after all everybody needs something special.

My goal is to keep each dinner  below five dollars and have it generate food for lunches and sometimes breakfast.  I may not know exactly whether we will have Romano beans or broccoli, but depending on weekly specials I can adapt.  Meatless Monday just continues through the week at our house, but it still takes a bit of work to learn how to use what you have in your own refrigerator.  

If you want soup-making tips for frugal meals, check out my tips for Marlene's Market and Deli this month.

One of the problems with food waste in this country is we're practically programmed to want something new all the time.  That's why a menu board can be so helpful when planning and trying to use up odds and ends.  It doesn't have to be a chalkboard, but that's on my wish list now because they're cool. 

This is a kind of savoy cabbage from Willie Green's Oranic Farm in Monroe

Remember your weekly menu when buying.  This may save you from wasting money and tossing food out at the end of the week.

Frugal Foodie at large

Ever since I learned about Food: Too Good to Waste, I'm continually shocked by food waste all around me.  

On our weekend walk we saw lots of tomatoes that needed harvesting.  Let me just say this is no way to treat a garden.  These tomato plants appear to all have blight (that's why the leaves are black) but these neglected plants are also loaded with ripe tomatoes. Why so people make a big effort to plant tomatoes in the spring and when tomatoes finally arrive, no one cares?  If these are your tomatoes, they are probably still good to eat so please pick them.

This untended garden made me want to weep.
My Cooking Assistant would never let a carrot or cabbage leaf go to waste.  Perhaps every home should have a hound dog food disposal system.  Everything but onions, raisins, chocolate and anything with Xylitol for the dogs.

Quick and Easy Coleslaw
(Serves 4)

2 to 3 tablespoons Italian salad dressing
2 tablespoon Nayonaise, vegan mayonaise or garlic aioli
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (optional)
4 cups thinly shredded green cabbage
1 cup grated carrot
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1 cup chopped tomatoes.
1/4 cup diced avocado

Blend the salad dressing with the mayonaise in a small bowl.  Add balsamic vinegar, if desired.  Gently blend the dressing with the shredded cabbage and carrots.  Add sea salt and pepper to taste. 

Top with tomatoes and avocado.

Finn, hovering a little too close to the salad.

Quinoa and Millet Pilaf, Coleslaw and Sourdough Bread