Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Red Beans

Red beans are delicious and a great source of nutrients, including cheap protein. Usually (I suppose) they're supposed to go with rice, but I like them just on their own, as is. I made them yesterday in preparation for a friend's visit today, but she's not coming so I guess I'll have to eat them myself (*sigh* rough life, really) I was going to serve them with a chicken/roasted red bell pepper/tomato saute, but that's too much effort for just myself.

The market was out of normal red beans, so I had to buy organic. I was just reading an epi post addressing the topic, and found the arguments quite interesting. Honestly, I am sooooooooooooo antiorganic. I think the whole idea is just a load of crap. Science and genetics are GOOD tools, not the spawn of Satan. They can make food healthier, more resistant to parasites and diseases, and just more consistent and available. Why not use them to help a world experiencing a bit of a food shortage? In the words of many anti-organics, I believe that eating organic is a tool that people with enough money use to appease their guilt about the plenty that is available to them.

Yes, I'm a huge huge fan of farmers markets, but if my farmer is going to use pesticides or genetically modified seeds, power to him. I'd rather support local business than try to make a half assed ecological statement. Point being, I had to buy organic beans, and they didn't taste any different/better than regular. I find this with most if not all organic foods, with the exception of wild vs. farm raised salmon. In fact, I might even call organics (even the beans) more bland...

Red Beans

1 cup (250 g) dried red beans
1 oz (40 g) chopped salami (I used Uherak, or Hungarian salami)
1 small onion diced
5-6 slices pickled jalepeno
2 garlic cloves mashed with 1 tbs salt
few cracks black pepper

Put everything in a saucepan
Fill with about 75 ml (3 cups) water
Simmer on medium low heat (I used 4 on my electric range) for about 2 hours, stirring sporadically
After two hours, the beans should be soft. If not, just keep cooking. You won't kill them.
Mash some against the side of the pan and stir to make the liquid thick
If you want more liquid, add more water and mash some more

I just eat it out of a bowl with some cheese sprinkled on it. Yum.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Banana Cookies

So I was vegan for a while (not anymore) and it was always a challenge baking. Most baked goods have eggs in them, and vegans don't eat eggs. Many vegans use an egg replacer, and there are always suggestions to use applesauce or mashed banana as well. I always thought egg replacers were a bit frivolous and frankly stupid, but I like the banana/applesauce idea. This was my thought when I saw that...

I had a very black banana in my fruit bowl, and love the taste of banana. I do not, however, like the taste of a very soft, almost rotting one (who does? Reminiscent of baby food). I recently made chestnut cookies/drops using a minimal amount of butter: about 2 tablespoons, so I thought I'd start with that. I was a fan of the lower fat content and didn't miss it at all. I suppose the sugar won't make these really the healthiest cookies, but you can switch out the white sugar with splenda, and I'm sure that'll help. If you want to make these vegan, just use vegatable spread or margarine instead of the butter.

Also, these cookies are pretty versatile: Instead of the vanilla you could use almond extract. You could also throw in some chopped nuts, chocolate chips, etc. The flavor could also be changed by adding a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg (or both) I kept these pretty plain just to see what they'd be like (Ok, I confess I did actually put some caramel pieces in mine, but it didn't turn out too well: melted and oozed out).

Banana Cookies

1/4 c. (65 g) packed dark brown sugar
1/4 c. (65 g) white sugar
1 and a half tablespoons (knobs) of butter
1 small, very ripe banana
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch salt.

Cream together the butter and sugar
Add the banana and vanilla extract and beat until smooth and combined
add the flour, baking powder and salt, and mix until thoroughly combined
Stir in a small handful of chocolate chips if you want
Roll rounded teaspoons of the dough between your hands, into balls, and place on baking paper lined baking sheet
Bake at 150 c (300 F) for about 10-12 minutes, until tops of cookies are slightly hard.

A note. These cookies have a very stiff batter due to the high flour and low butter content. Because of this, they will not spread when baking and retain their lovely little ball structure. If you want a flatter cookie, smush your balls flat. I like them better as balls though, because I think they look prettier/cuter and the middle is very soft; it's almost like you're eating raw cookie dough. The best part about this though, is since it doesn't have any eggs, you don't have to worry about catching salmonella by eating uncooked cookie dough. Ah HA!

If you think they look a bit boring (let's admit it, they do look a bit boring: light brown balls), dust them with some powdered sugar when they come out of the oven or drizzle with melted chocolate once they have cooled.

Squash and Parsnip chowder

I bought a squash at Tesco the other day and made a lovely rice, corn, squash, and leek salad with some of the squash (the top) If you're interested, I cut the amount of rice in half and reduced the other ingredients by a quarter. Also used coriander (cilantro) instead of parsley and added a good teaspoon or two of garlic mashed with salt.

I still had the bottom (majority) of it left over, and a sprinkling of corn, so I thought I'd make a squash soup. I usually shy away from squash soups because they're pretty ubiquitous. Most, if not all, call for an apple or a pear along with nutmeg. I love the sweetness of squash, but don't want to try to pump it up with a fruit. I've recently mentioned my fondness for parsnips, and their sweet-ish delicious flavor. What better way to compliment a sweet-ish vegetable with another sweeter vegetable? Oh the heaven. I had this corn left over, and also some mushrooms that I bought at discount at Tesco. I also had some VERY VERY VERY sad potatoes that were demanding to be used before they turned into a moldy mess in my kitchen drawer, and I dreamed up this soup.

Due to my healthy eating attempt, I shunned cream/milk/etc. in favor of plain old water. I did this very complicated thing that I read in a recipe of boiling the squash seeds to extract as much flavor from them as possible. I'll leave it in the recipe, but do not feel like it's a necessary step. I tried searching for a Squash Chowder online, and every one had cream in it. I suppose a chowder by definition has to have cream in it. Kind of annoying. Anyway, hopefully anyone searching for a Butternut Squash Chowder recipe will come upon this one and delight in the fact that it is creamless (just realised it's vegan as well...hmmm) It's creamy enough as it is, and adding cream I believe totally overwhelms the flavor of the soup. Let the veggies stand alone by themselves, beautiful, sweet, tongue coatingly flavorful.

Squash and Parsnip Chowder

Bottom half of a Butternut squash (I KNOW the measure is so imprecise...lets say about 2 pounds (800 g) unpeeled butternut squash
1 medium onion cut into quarters
4 medium-small parsnips peeled and cut into thin rounds
3 garlic cloves
4 smallish (size of a tightly closed fist) potatoes, peeled and cubed
10 smallish cremini or baby bella mushrooms, sliced (not too thinly, they add nice chunky texture)
80 g (1/3 cup) corn kernels
generous teaspoon old bay seasoning
teeny pinch nutmeg (hypocritical, I know)

Cut Squash in half and scoop out seeds
Place squash face down on baking sheet with quartered onion
Roast on high heat until skin starts getting black bubbles
While Squash is roasting, put the seeds in a large pot and fill with about 2 cups (500 ml) water
Boil the water and simmer the seeds in it for about 10-15 minutes
Strain the water and remove the seeds, or be cool like me and fish them out with a slotted spoon
Add more water, and throw in the parsnips
Simmer them until the squash is ready
Smash the garlic cloves and make a paste with 1 tablespoon salt or Podravka
Add to the parsnips
At this point, the squash should be done or close to done (takes about 45 minutes)
Take it and the onions off the baking pan, and pour some water into the baking pan
Scrape up any squash and onion bits, and add them to the cooking parsnips and garlic
Peel and cut up the squash into cubes
Add it and the onion to the soup pot
Fill the soup pot to just under the level of squash pieces
Simmer about 5 minutes
Puree in blender or using an immersion blender
Add the old bay, nutmeg, and some black pepper. Also salt, if you think it needs some.
Throw in the potatoes, corn, and mushrooms, and simmer gently until potatoes are cooked through (about 10-12 minutes)
Adjust seasonings as needed

Serve with some nice bread, a sprinkling of finely grated Eidam cheese, and drizzled with some porcini and truffle oil (Yes, I'm a snob, just bought a bottle at Marks and Spencer's ) *smirk*

Friday, 13 February 2009


I've made a couple of things recently, a chestnut cookie/biscotti that was quite good, and more cinnamon rolls for the boyfriend. I will post those recipes once I actually measure the ingredients (I know, it's terrible for readers but great for me that I don't measure - I know what consistency to look for so I just add until I'm there...hopefully anyone who reads this will try it too)

I've been ridiculously frustrated by the usual thorn in my side: my boyfriend. Or maybe he will not be my boyfriend in the very near future. What he does is besides the point, the point is that I've stayed with him for much longer than I should have, and I stupidly told him to give up his apartment and move in with me to my new one. From then on, (November) it's been more or less one, big, AWFUL headache.

I'm frustrated by how he leaves the apartment messy and dirty. He tracks mud and dirt in the house (even though he takes off his shoes) and doesn't clean it up. I'm frustrated at the fact that I do the majority of the grocery shopping and he always says he'll help, but in reality he never does. I feel like he's using me: he's using my kindness, my cleanliness, my cooking, my place, my cat, etc. to help him deal with his life. I am his life. I'm frustrated that it's gotten to that point. I'm frustrated that he has no motivation to better himself by looking for a new job, or even just cruising the internet and seeing how things work, what's out there, reading the news, etc. He's content with just bumming off of me for the rest of his life. He's content with sleeping until 14h and then slowly stumbling to work (as a waiter) He's content to let me do all the difficult things (pay the mortgage, pay the bills, do the shopping, have a real job) while he just coasts. He's sucking all of my energy from me and I hate it. I'm getting more and more depressed and sad, and I just want him out.

The worst part is, I've told him that I want him out, and HE WON'T GO. This is primarily because he doesn't have a place to go. Also, he probably doesn't take me seriously because I've told him to leave (and never acted on it) many times before. There are ways that he could look for a place to go. I actually cruised some classifieds yesterday and totally found flats, people looking for roommates, etc. for his price range.

My dilemma is. Do I accept a flat for him and then move him out of my house? Or should I just take all of his stuff and move it to his brother's house (who lives further away?) I just want him out. I want him out so bad I want to cry every time I come home and he's still there. What amazes me the most is, how can he live with himself and still be there when he KNOWS that I don't want him there? Oh my God, if I knew that someone didn't want me living with them, I would get the hell out of there A.S.A.P. That is so embarrassing.


Cinnamon Rolls
1/2 cup (125 ml) buttermilk
2 tbs butter
1/4 c (65 ml) sugar
1 package (about 2 tbs) yeast
About 1 1 /2 c (375 g) White flour

put the butter and buttermilk in a bowl together with the sugar and microwave about 20 seconds until butter has melted and mixture is warm (but not too hot)
Stir a bit to make sure the butter is completely melted
Empty the contents of the yeast package into the mixture
Wait about 10 minutes (wash some dishes or play with the cat)
the mixture should have little bubbles in it
Add the flour and stir gently
Make sure the mixture is combined and not too sticky. If it needs more flour, add some. If it's too dry, add a bit more buttermilk.
Knead it a little until it is soft and pillowy

Let rise for at least an hour

When ready, roll it out into a rectangle that is about 1-2 cm thick (1/4 inch)
Sprinkle the entire area generously with brown sugar (about 3-4 tbs)
Sprinkle the entire area generously with cinnamon (about 2 tbs)
Spritz or drizzle melted butter all over
Roll up the dough, and cut into rounds about 4-5 cm (2 inches) thick You should have about 8
Place the rolls, cut side up, in a baking pan
Let rise overnight in the fridge, or an hour by themselves
Bake in a 150 c (325 F) oven for about 15-20 minutes

Mix half a package of cream cheese (smetanovy syr, I use the tesco brand, but Lucina works too) with about 1/4 cup powdered (or regular) sugar and 1 tbs vanilla

Drizzle over the cinnamon rolls when they're ready.

I'm going to health-a-matise my chestnut cookies a bit, and I'll try to get them up over the weekend.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Healthy Soup

I almost feel bad blogging about this because it's really kind of easy. But, it was delicious and you can eat oodles of it without feeling guilty.

I made this in an attempt to do a fridge cleanout before I lost some veggies. I've recently had a bit of a love affair with parsnips. I think after having been fed too many carrots when I was little (mostly because of my own begging) I've tried to avoid cooking with the orange rod. I have also never, ever (even when I was little) been a lover of cooked carrots. Raw: fine, cooked: not so fine.

Parsnips on the other hand, are DELICIOUS to me when they are cooked (raw is ok, but not half as gorgeous as cooked) They have a sweet, starchy, slightly potatoe-y taste that is a perfect compliment to several other flavors including buttery beans, salty bacon, sweet apples...Not to mention they're incredibly healthy (more so than carrots, I've read)

So the parsnips were the main veggie to be used in my dish (I decided to make a soup because of the cold weather and my craving for something warm and saucy) There was a bit of leek left over, along with a head of cabbage that I've slowly been paring away at. So that was really all it took. The name is a play on the color of my sun starved skin and the whitish/green of the soup

Pale Winter Soup

1 cube veggie builion
8-9 cups (1 litre, +/-) water
3 medium peeled parsnips cut into cubes
4-5 leaves (1 and a half cups, 330 grams) shredded cabbage
1 small onion, diced
1 small leek, white and pale green parts cut into rounds
3-4 cloves garlic, minced and mashed with about 1 tablespoon podravka or salt
1 heaping tablespoon (or four fingered pinch) of herbes de provence
teaspoon pepper
splash of vinegar

Put the water and the buillion cube in a pot.
Bring to a boil
While water is coming to a boil, prep everything else
Throw everything into the pot, stir and simmer actively for about 10-15 minutes
Adjust seasonings as desired
Puree slightly with an immersion blender for a thicker soup

AH so easy! And yum! I think I had about 3 bowls.

I'd like to add right here that there is no sauteeing, no fat, no thickening, nothing. I made this soup when I was tired and lazy, and honestly, I don't think presauteeing the onion, garlic, leek, etc. would have done anything. It's a lovely simple soup that looks quite pretty too. I'll try to take a picture of the leftovers before I scarf them down.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

White Bean and Parsnip stew

The inspiration for this dish came from several places. The first place was, my go to place for recipes. I was browsing white bean recipes and found this Tuscan Bean dish that sounded delicious (a whole head of garlic! Yum!) I also adore sage, but only go buy it when I can find it on sale. After a thorough scouring of Tesco this past weekend, no fresh sage for sale was in sight. I did, however, find parsnips for sale at Tesco...I decided to buy a kilogram, because well, it was only 20 crowns (91 cents).
So then I was browsing epicurious again, looking for parsnip based recipes. I had completely forgotten about the white beans, because they were dried, and it wasn't necessary that I use them up immediately. I came across this white bean and parsnip stew that actually had very low ratings and less than stellar reviews. What I got from reviews from both recipes was:

a) too watery
b) not enough flavor
c) bit too much garlic

Finally, (I said several places!!) I had a delicious white bean and tomato stew with a mashed potato crust at Bumpkin restaurant when I visited London 2 weekends ago.

So off I went to create my parsnip and bean dish. And make it healthy.

I started off by rinsing the beans and putting them in a large pot. I would say I used about 1 1/2 cups of beans (375 g) I basically made sure that there was a layer of beans at the bottom of the pot. No pot bottom visible. I'll list the rest of it the traditional way:

Half a head of garlic cloves, peeled and minced (I started with 4 cloves, then added more according to taste)
1 bay leaf

3 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into rounds/cubes about 1/2 inch thick (1.5 cm)
1 small white onion OR about 1 cup (250 g) of leek greens (Not the darkest parts, the medium to light green parts)
Use the leek greens if you want a more colorful stew

2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 generous tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 generous tablespoon salt or Podravka
1 teaspoon of ground pepper

Put the beans, half the garlic, bay leaf and beans in the pot
Fill the pot with water (about 2 litres / 8 cups)
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer beans for about an hour and a half (I went shopping whilst they simmered)

When you get back (or while you're still home) prepare the parsnips and onions or leeks
Add in the parsnips, leek, the rest of the garlic, and the seasonings
Simmer vigorously until parsnip has softened.
Spoon some of the beans, parsnips, and liquid into a blender/food processor
Process until thick and creamy (If you catch some leek, that's fine too, but your stew will have a bit of a greenish tinge)
Stir it back into the stew.
If it's not thick enough for your liking, process some more beans and parsnips
Adjust seasonings to taste (I think I went quite heavy on the salt. But that's just how I like it)
stir in the tomatoes and cook until soft.

Serve with some yummy bread (I prefer Czech dark Sumavske bread. When it's fresh it's as soft as a piece of cake)

PS, notice how there is no butter or oil in this one? It STILL tastes delicious!! Feel free to add in a splash of oil/butter/whatever if you want a bit more richness.

Monday, 2 February 2009

More Weekend Cooking

So I mentioned in my previous post that I attempted to make marrons glacees from this recipe. I have to say that it didn't Looking back on it, I think it's because I was impatient and cooked for too long too often. Well, I ended up with quite a bit of leftover sugar (about 3 generous tablespoons) So I decided to try to do something with it. I poured some water in the pan (about 1/4 cup/60 g) and put it over a burner on medium high.

I let it bubble a bit, and then threw in a bunch of leftover walnuts that I had (about 1/3 cup / 80 g)
I then kept stirring and stirring til the water was absorbed and I smelled a nice toasty/cooked aroma from the walnuts.
I then spread them out on some wax paper to dry. HEAVENLY! I have been looking for a good candied walnut recipe and I just stumbled onto this one in frustration! Not to mention the sugar has a distinct chestnut overtone. How delicious does that sound? Candied walnuts with a slight chestnut flavor hue?


Can't wait to put them on some spinach leaves with slices of apple, onion, and blue cheese along with a peppery mustard vinaigrette.

By the way, I know this is totally random, but I discovered a great new salad dressing ingredient: Buttermilk!!! It's low calorie, thick, creamy, and tangy. I mixed some with some soy sauce, pepper, and garlic, and it was divine.

Here are my walnuts:

Weekend Cooking

I actually cooked SEVERAL things this weekend, but didn't photograph them all. Also, some of my attempts (marrons glacees) were SOMEWHAT unsuccessful or experimental, so once I hone them I will post!!

Anyway, I recently developed an new appreciation for brussels sprouts. They're healthy, delicious, and pretty easy to cook. The only time consuming part is prep, but even that is not so bad. It's pretty relaxing to just stand there and peel and X. (I'll explain) I was fortunate enough to have the company of my cat, who kept a watchful eye on me on a chair whilst I worked. Here is my favorite way to do brussels sprouts. There's something about sprouts and blue cheese that is just DIVINE! I've occasionally thrown in some roasted chestnuts into this dish too if I have them.

Brussels sprouts with Blue cheese

2 lb (900g) brussels sprouts
75 g blue cheese
sprinkling of salt and pepper

Cut off the end of the brussls sprout and peel away any spotted leaves.
Make a shallow X (don't cut through all the way) in each brussel sprout
Lay in baking pan
Bake about 20-30 minutes on 425 F (200 C) shaking pan half way through, until tinged with brown
Place in serving bowl
Crumble blue cheese and a touch of salt and pepper over
Toss to coat

Sprouts with X'es. Is it bad that I REALLY love this picture?

Finished product. Yum.