Nigerian Okra-Fish Soup

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Hi!

Okra is not a fish, but goes very well with fish. Coming back from a trip to Africa, I brought along some ingredients that are hard to come by in Europe and I hope I will encorporate some of these in my future cooking. Okra is used a lot in Nigeria, so coming up is an okra stew, eaten with “garri” or “eba”. Eba is a common filler and staple food in West Africa, made from the flour of the cassava tuber, which is quite tediously produced. The flour is mixed with hot water and stirred into a dough.

As is tradition in Nigeria, the dough is eaten by hand (of course!) along with a soup. You pull some of the eba off and form it into a small ball, with which you can scoop the soup into your mouth. It’s delicious and fun, but takes some practice.

In Nigeria these doughs are made from various flours like “pounded yam”. As a group they are called “swallows”. They of course taste very different and can be an interesting way to keep the meals exciting. For today however, I will be using my favorite, which is eba. As I have a supply of Nigerian ingredients, I hope to make a couple of different Nigerian meals.

Ingredients: (Available in an asian food shop perhaps, or any West-African cuisine store)

300g Garri (-> then made into “Eba”)

250g Okra

2 Tablespoons ground, dried fish

2-3 Table Spoons of Palm Oil

200g Prawns or Crabs/Crablegs(!)

400g Salmon Filet

300g Nigerian Water Leaf, but Whole Leaf Spinach will do

2 Stock Cubes

1 Large Onion

Ground Chili to taste (we like it really, really spicy)

Salt

Before you start chopping your okra, wash the salmon. The fish should be cut into sizeable filet-pieces, so they can cook evenly. Boil them in salty water with two of your stock cubes. The amount of water is not set, but maybe about three-quarters of a liter.

As the fish is boiling, start chopping your okra(very finely!). Frozen okra does work and I wouldn’t judge you for it, but fresh ones work best. If frozen is the case, then pour hot water over them and immedeately drain the water… or else they become slimey and that makes the whole shebang harder to chop. Cook the salmon for about eight minutes, according to their size, but not too long, as they will cook together with the okra later!

Young okras are the best, if you have the choice.

Now take out the fish and keep on a plate for later and pour the stock out of the pot into a bowl and keep it for later as well.

Briefly fry your prawns in the pot on each side for maybe a couple of minutes, using a small bit of the palm oil. Take them out and also keep on the plate with the fish.

In the same pot (it is pretty much a one-pot meal), you can fry the onions and your (!) chopped okra in hot palm oil until the onions are see-through. Stirr the ingredients once in a while to prevent burning. Now add chili and salt to taste.

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Slow stirring, so the okra draws. No, broccoli is not a part of the recipe!

Once the onions are cooked enough, start adding your stock to the pot with a ladle. While doing this keep (slowly(!)) stirring on medium heat. You will notice that the okra starts to “draw”. That means it gets thick and if you’re adding the stock slowly and stirring well, the soup is thickening. This is the amazing super power of okra and is imperative to the whole process of eating with your hands and eba. Add your dried fish in now.

Add as much stock as you want, or as much soup as you can handle, I should warn however, that the super-power of the okra is not limitless and can’t handle all the stock in the work. Let us take a minute though to appreciate okra.

Once you have reached your desired quantity of soup, add the fish and prawns and keep that stewing. Wash your spinach and drain it. Add it into the soup and keep stewing for some minutes, while making the eba.

Get your garri and pour it into a large bowl. Boil water and pour it on the garri. Now stir. There is no set quantity here, but check that all the flour has merged into a dough, so there are no left-overs. It’s a gradual process. Also, don’t let your eba get too watery. It’s a challenge, but you can do it!

Serve your eba as a round big ball on a plate and some soup in a serving bowl.

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Now, enjoy!

Vincent.

Oh, if the whole pulling off pieces of the eba and making it into sizeable balls is too hard a task at first, you are welcome to use a spoon. But stay at it and get better at eating with your hands, it’s part of the experience and gives a completely different feel to eating.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Marbled Banana Coffee Cake

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It’s too late. Whatever I write now is likely to be some philosophizing about childhood, rambling on about friendship, or reflecting on my Monday routine. So I’ll keep it simple and I’ll write about food.

I’ve been making different soups and stews despite the fact that the winter hasn’t really (and probably won’t) kicked in yet. Over the summer, I had an internship and I would sometimes meet my dad at a soup and salad place for lunch. One of the soups they had was Mulligatawny, which I fell in love with and decided I needed to learn to make. Thank you, Joy of Cooking – you’re always there when I need you. And even my boyfriend thinks it’s a delicious and filling meal (“What? Soup? That’s not dinner!”).

I also made a potato and lentil stew that was seasoned with French pain d’épice spices. I think I could probably have that for dinner every day for a week without getting bored. SO GOOD!

Then the wannabe hipster in me has been making smoothie bowls for breakfast (see pictures on my insta…). But I still need to work on those smoothie skills to up my trend game. The spinach this morning wasn’t terrible, but it didn’t exactly contribute anything positive. I am craving blood oranges, though, so I think that might be the next step. Blood orange and mango, what do you think?

Finally, I made this. Own recipe, own style. My boyfriend had some overripe bananas lying around that he was about to throw out (whhaaat?!), so I decided to make banana bread. But then I thought about it, and I didn’t just want to make some normal banana bread. So I thought I’d make spiced banana bread, cinnamon-filled apple bread without the apples and using bananas instead. But then I flipped through some books for inspiration and somehow I got stuck at coffee cake. Banana and coffee cake? That could work I guess. Hmm, but I also want chocolate. Well why not? Sometimes you can have the cake and eat it, too!

So here I present to you my newest creation – Marbled Banana Coffee Cake!
➭ Not as dry as many coffee cakes because of the bananas.
➭ Chocolaty because of chocolate.
➭ And to die for because of a combination of pecans, brown sugar and chocolate chips crisped up to form a crust on top of the bread.

Ok, take a moment to reread those perfect traits. I mean, what could be better? Admittedly, it’s not the simplest thing I’ve ever made, but trust me, it’s no croissant. So what are you waiting for – get a cup of coffee and start baking!

Recipe

Ingredients:
For the topping:

  • 3/4 c chocolate chips
  • 1/3 c brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 c chopped pecans

For the cake:

  • 2 c flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1/2 c butter, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 bananas
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • vanilla pod
  • 3 tbsp cocoa

How to:

  1. Preheat the oven to 175˚C (350˚F) and grease a large loaf pan or small-ish cake pan.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the topping and set aside.
  3. In another bowl, mix dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt) and set aside.
  4. In a larger bowl, cream butter and sugar.
  5. Beat in one egg at a time.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until combined. This batter will be quite dry.
  7. Mash the bananas and mix them with the sour cream. Fold the banana-sour cream mixture into the batter.
  8. Divide the cake batter in half. Add vanilla to one half and cocoa to the other half.
  9. Spoon the batter into the pan in alternating heaps so that there are patches of chocolate batter and patches of vanilla batter. Use a toothpick or knife to draw lines through the batter to create a marbled effect. Don’t mix too much, since that will get rid of the whole effect.
  10. Pour the topping mixture over the batter.
  11. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Check after 55 minutes or an hour.
  12. Cut around the edges of the cake and let it cool for a bit. Remove it from the pan and let it cool completely or serve warm. While it’s delicious warm, it’s easier to cut once it’s cool.

Worldly Sweet Potato and Coconut Milk Soup

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It’s another one of those days that people call the beginning of the end. The first day of classes of the last semester of college. But really, so what? I’ll make yet another resolution to keep up with my work, do a little bit of this and that everyday, and to spend more time with my friends. Meanwhile I’m doing readings in a room next to where a social frat gathering is taking place. Well, I guess I hit 50% of my resolutions for today. I’ve always liked making New Year’s resolutions. Usually I forget about them by the second week, but it’s still a nice thought. The only resolution I ever managed to fulfill was reading 12 books one year. My goal this year is to do 5 minutes of yoga every day. I’ve skipped quite a few days already. But I did 1.5 hours on January 1st, so maybe that can count as covering me for 18 days.

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Over break, I really did a minimal amount of food-related things. But I did make this soup. It was a bit of a random experiment and I just kept on adding different ingredients that deviated from what my initial plan was. The thought was a Thai-inspired sweet potato soup. With coconut milk, Thai curry paste, and red onion. That all sounded like it would work well. But then my taste wandered off.

I couldn’t resist frying the red onion in balsamic vinegar. And then some Indian curry powder. And finally Japanese soy sauce for seasoning. So I guess I ended up with a Thai-Italian-Indian-Japanese sweet potato soup. Hence the name I gave it.

Other news? I’m still slightly jetlagged so I’m crazy tired and I might just crawl into bed with a Sudoku. I’ll let you know when I’m awake enough to think about some real news.

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Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. Thai red curry paste
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Curry powder
  • Soy sauce
  • Crème fraîche or yoghurt for serving

How to:

  1. Heat some oil in a pot. Once the oil is hot, add the red onion. Sweat for several minutes until softened. Throw in a splash of balsamic and continue softening the onion.
  2. Add the curry paste, coconut milk, and sweet potato. Cook until the sweet potato is soft.
  3. Puree the soup until smooth and season with more balsamic, curry powder, and soy sauce.
  4. Serve hot with crème fraîche or yoghurt.

Vegan Gluten-Free Pumpkin Coconut Bars

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Before it’s already Christmas, I better get this pumpkin recipe up on the blog. I meant to post this a few weeks ago, but then a massive load of e-mails and work piled up, I got behind, and to be honest, this was the least of my worries. But now things are beginning to settle again. Including that I am starting to catch up on work that should have been done a while ago.

This weekend I finally managed to work intensively on my thesis and I was so frustrated today when I realized that I hadn’t done nearly as much as I had wanted to do and of the things I had done, it felt like I wasn’t able to relate it to my work.

So, somewhat dejected, I went to the music building and practiced Samuel Barber’s St. Ita’s Vision from the Hermit Songs. Gorgeous – go give it a listen!

I realize that the last time I left off saying that I would tell you how my waste-counting week was. Though I don’t have my list at hand, I can say that it was a really interesting experience. One day, I created nearly no waste at all, and the next day, I threw out a shower curtain, plus packaging of a new shower curtain, plus two cans from cooking, butter wrappers, milk carton etc. I think that I got more and more aware of all the little things that come up. Someone offers you a cup of coffee and without thinking about it, you have an unnecessary paper cup. You bring your lunch but forget a fork, so you take a plastic fork from the cafeteria. I’ll try to get better and become even more aware!

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This recipe is a Halloween creation although it was really just a good way to use some of the ingredients that I had. It’s quite gooey and is definitely best warm, and you may want to bake it a little longer if you want to serve it more easily.

Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup oats, blitzed
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 2 tbsp. flaxseed meal w/ 6 tbsp. water
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) vegan butter
  • 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips

How to:

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F (175˚C).
  2. Create two flax eggs by combining the flaxseed meal with the water.
  3. Blitz the oats in a food processor until they are finely ground.
  4. Place the oats, almond flour, sugars, baking powder, cinnamon, and ginger in a bowl and combine.
  5. Melt the butter.
  6. Add pumpkin, butter, and flax to the dry ingredients and mix.
  7. Pour into a greased pan. Sprinkle with the coconut and bake for 20 minutes. Remove and sprinkle chocolate chips on top and bake for another 10 minutes.

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles (Part II – Vegan)

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I’m currently sitting at Starbucks sipping on a post-interview Chai Tea Latte. I feel relieved and pretty relaxed and can’t wait to get back to routine once I get back to campus (in 3 hours) – commuting struggles.

Over the weekend I had quite a few vegan baking experiences (ignoring the baked chicken…). I made vegan cardamom meringues, coconut caramel no-bake cookies, and the modified version of my Pumpkin Snickerdoodles. Aren’t you proud of me?

I also decided that I want to try to produce less waste. I was considering going waste-free, but then I started thinking about what that entails and it seems like an overwhelming endeavor that would need some easing into. So, my first plan is to go a week writing down everything I throw away. Candy wrappers, coffee cups, etc. I suppose that my biggest concern is plastic at the moment. I’ll keep you posted on how this goes and my next plans. If you’re interested, I was inspired by Lauren from www.trashisfortossers.com and wanted to see how far I can go, although there definitely seem to be major issues if you aren’t living in a city with bulk supermarkets.

About this recipe. Basically, the recipe is the same as the old non-vegan version. The ingredients that I couldn’t use were just the butter and the egg. For the butter, I used vegan butter. Yes, not very creative, I know. But you couldn’t tell the difference at all. The egg was more complicated. First of all, what is the role of eggs in snickerdoodles? Are they a binder? Or a raising agent? For some reason, I was leaning in the raising direction because of the puffy nature of snickerdoodles. Although now that I think about it, the cream of tartar and baking soda are probably sufficient to provide that. I figured that flax wouldn’t be a good solution because it seemed too unlike an egg and has a binding purpose… Then I did some research on egg replacement for raising purposes. The most obvious thought for me was imitating the egg white meringue idea. And I stumbled across a fascinating ingredient: chickpea liquid – aka aquafaba! You think I’m crazy? Ok, probably true, but I thought I’d try it. And guess what? You can’t tell the difference between these cookies and the original. Although I have a feeling that the aquafaba made little to no difference aside from adding moisture, which I probably could have done using more pumpkin or almond milk, I’m happy with the result. (Since I ended up not really seeing a difference using the aquafaba, I decided to make vegan meringues with it to really test it – and that was a fascinating experience! But I’ll save that for another time.)

Without further ado, here is today’s recipe!

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Recipe

Ingredients (makes about 27 cookies):

  • 1 cup vegan butter (I used Earth Balance), at room temperature
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 3 tbsp. aquafaba (chickpea liquid)
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Pumpkin spice sugar:

  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch nutmeg

How to:

  1. Preheat your oven to 175˚C/350˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or several, depending on how big your oven is and how many trays you can fit in at once.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the vegan butter and sugar. Add the pumpkin puree and beat again until you have an orange, buttery, creamy mixture.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the aquafaba until frothy. Beat this into the pumkin butter mixture.
  4. In a different bowl, stir together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.
  5. With the mixer on low-medium, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until everything is well combined and you have a somewhat sticky cookie dough.
  6. In a small bowl, mix all the spices and the sugar. Take portions of about 3 tbsp. and roll them into balls with your palms. They should have a 3cm diameter (approximately). Roll each ball in the spice and sugar mixture and place it onto the baking sheet.
  7. Bake for about 11 minutes. They will look undercooked, they will have spread out quite a bit, and they should have puffed up and look like pillows. Let them cool on the sheet – they will deflate and crinkle – and serve, share, and store.

Leek Quiche with Thyme and Ricotta

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Wrote this yesterday, but never got to posting—

I’m on the train, making my way home after another Monday. Although they are long, my Mondays consist mainly of singing (a voice lesson and two consecutive chorus rehearsals), which definitely makes long more fun. I was also just told that I was very entertaining during rehearsal because I couldn’t get it right and was laughing, which made another woman feel better about herself… not sure how I should take that comment, but I’m glad I could provide a joyful moment in someone else’s day.

Personally, my joyful moment today was waking up in a warm bed next to my boyfriend, sneaking out into the crisp fall air, and enjoying a slice of zucchini bread for breakfast.

Today felt like fall announced it was here to stay, promising a winter to follow. I never thought I would say this, but New England fall is actually wonderful. At least outside, if I’m seriously bundled up. Otherwise, not so much. Our apartment is icy cold and I’ve put house shoes and thick socks on my to-get asap list. Why people build houses like cardboard boxes here is a mystery to me – it snows here, what were you thinking?! But yes, outside and with lots of layers it is quite amazing. It’s not so much the colors as the air for me. (And maybe also the prospect of hot drinks and blankets and cuddling.)

Pumpkin I painted over the weekend

Pumpkin I painted over the weekend

Tomorrow, I get to start my day off right with yoga. The class I’m taking is the most challenging yoga I have done, aiming to teach you poses from the bottom up rather that simply following. Meaning holding downward dog for a combined total of about 15 minutes or so. Way more exhausting than expected, which makes my Tuesdays slow, but makes me feel like I’m 10 cm taller.

The recipe I am sharing today grew out of a dish I made for my birthday a few weeks ago. I normally make a leek and lox quiche because it’s amazing, but so many people in my life are vegetarian and fish is expensive, so this is what I made instead. I thought it would turn out quite boring, but it’s actually delicious.

The first time I made this quiche, I mixed the ricotta in with the cream and eggs because I was using it as a substitute for sour cream, but then I thought that I’d try blobbing the ricotta on top of the filling might be nice – got that idea from one of the pizzas we order for meetings.

Also, I always make my piecrusts by hand, but this time, I was a teeny bit lazy, so I went for the food processor, which took almost no time, but probably made the crust less flaky than I’d like it to be. But I would say that you should go with whichever method you prefer and have the patience for.

Good night!

Recipe

Ingredients:

For the crust:

  • 115 g cold butter
  • 230 g flour
  • Fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • (90 ml) cold water

For the filling:

  • 1/2 cup ricotta
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup cheese
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 2 leeks
  • Thyme
  • Salt
  • Pepper

How to:

  1. Prepare the crust in one of two ways: Either throw all ingredients except for the water in a food processor and blend until even crumbs of butter form. Then start adding water and blend. This is actually pretty cool to watch because the dough first just looks dry and crumbly, but then starts to form larger and larger clumps until it comes together and clings to the side of the food processor. When that happens, stop blending. Basically, the shorter you manage to blend, the better the crust will be. If you don’t want to go with the food processor method, chop up the butter and work it into the dry ingredients with your hands until the butter is evenly distributed. Then add the water until the dough comes together. With either method, press the dough into a springform pan and chill in the refrigerator for at least half an hour.
  2. While the dough is chilling, melt 3 tbsp. of butter in a pan. Rinse the leeks and chop them into 1cm rings. The best way I know of rinsing leeks is to peel off the outer leaves that don’t look nice. Then slice the leek down the stem, without actually cutting through it. (I should have take a picture of this…) Don’t remove the stem. Now you can feather open the leek under running water. This method works well for me, but if the leek is very sandy, then you may want to chop the leek first and then rinse the slices in a sieve. When the butter has melted, add the leek. Fry on medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring now and then. The leeks should be soft but still white/green (i.e. no browning yet). Remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 175˚C (350˚F).
  4. In a medium-size bowl, whisk the eggs with a fork, so the yolks and whites combine. Add the heavy cream and cheese. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme. If the leeks are no longer warm, stir them in to the mixture. If the leeks haven’t cooled yet, wait till the last minute to mix them in to avoid curdling the eggs.
  5. Remove the dough from the fridge. Make holes all around the dough and bake for 15 minutes.
  6. Take the dough back out of the oven and pour in the filling. Take the ricotta and drop tablespoons of it onto the filling evenly distributed.
  7. Bake for another 50 minutes, or until the top of the filling begins to get a bit of color.
  8. Enjoy immediately or store it and reheat later.

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles (Part I)

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Yes, it’s finally fall. Or more accurately, it’s somewhere in between summer and winter, with summer temperatures yesterday and a forecast of snow next Sunday. That’s not okay. For several reasons.

One, I am not ready to dig up my winter coat.

Two, this is not a coincidence and I’m terrified just thinking about what it implies for our future. In the coming months, I urge you to avoid turning the heat up more then necessary: bundle up, drink tea, make some chili. Remember that public transportation is still an option, though it is obviously less cozy and convenient in the winter. If you are brave enough, ride a bike (while there is no ice!). Come up with something you can do throughout this cold season that will make our planet happier.

Three, see number two.

While I’m not a fan of the cold and I wish I could have summer all year round, I do enjoy the culinary traditions of the season and the ingredients available. So here I am following in the footsteps of basically all food bloggers out there, giving you the first pumpkin/ pumpkin spice recipe of the year.

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A while ago, I made a chocolate pumpkin cake and since I only needed a little bit of pumpkin puree, I was left with quite a bit in the fridge. So this weekend, I finally found a way to use it – in the best possible way imaginable.

I didn’t know snickerdoodles before I came to the US, but I quickly learned to love them. The perfect combination of soft and cookie (let’s make cookie a new adjective). So I figured, since the ‘flavor’ of a snickerdoodle is essentially cinnamon, why not add some more spices that blend well, incorporate some pumpkin puree, and voilà – recipe created!

Why do snickerdoodles use so much cream of tartar, an ingredient that I hardly ever use otherwise? I’ll find out and let you know! Or if you know the answer, please write a comment because I really want to learn!

If you’re getting into the fall spirit, then don’t miss this recipe – it’s the greatest thing I’ve made since my Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes . I plan on making many, many batches of these in the coming weeks. Because after all, there’s no better way to power through midterms than baking!IMG_6494
Recipe

Ingredients (makes about 27 cookies):

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Pumpkin spice sugar:

  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch nutmeg

How to:

  1. Preheat your oven to 175˚C/350˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or several, depending on how big your oven is and how many trays you can fit in at once.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg and beat until incorporated. Then add the pumpkin puree and beat again until you have an orange, buttery, creamy mixture.IMG_6479
  3. In a smaller bowl, stir together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.
  4. With the mixer on low-medium, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until everything is well combined and you have a somewhat sticky cookie dough.
  5. In a small bowl, mix all the spices and the sugar. Take portions of about 3 tbsp. and roll them into balls with your palms. They should have a 3cm diameter (approximately). Roll each ball in the spice and sugar mixture and place it onto the baking sheet.
  6. Bake for about 11 minutes. They will look undercooked, they will have spread out quite a bit, and they should have puffed up and look like pillows. Let them cool on the sheet – they will deflate and crinkle – and serve, share, and store.IMG_6491

Vegan Cabbage Rolls (+ gluten free)

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It’s the end of September and it’s the time of year when I try to hold on to the summer for as long as possible. I use every sunny moment to put on a pair of shorts and have a cold drink. But truth is, this time of year isn’t just sunny so I’ve been drinking tea, fighting off colds, and making nice hot dishes to warm me up.

Last week, our weekly produce box included a head of napa cabbage. After having it lying around not knowing what to do (and not exactly inspired by the prospects of cole slaw), I decided I would just go for it and make some cabbage rolls. This was a really spontaneous thing, so I’m amazed I even took some pictures — thanks Instagram.
IMG_6407The measurements are a bit iffy, but they’re not really important either so I would just take this as a base line, but feel free to improvise beyond this.
A fun thing about this dish is that it’s vegan and gluten-free but totally counts as a fully comprehensive meal and I wasn’t even thinking about that while cooking.
The interesting component of my cabbage rolls is definitely and not surprisingly the filling, as there’s only so much you can do to elevate a cabbage leaf… I started off by cooking some lentils. Then I decided to make some scrambled tofu seasoned with sriracha sauce. I added some carrots and leftover spinach and then just combined everything.
IMG_6399IMG_6401IMG_6403Prepping the cabbage leaves was easier than anticipated after I had cut out the stem. I just boiled some water and cooked 4 or 5 leaves at a time for about 2 minutes.
IMG_6397Filling and rolling was messy but not hard. Just think of how you’d roll a burrito.
IMG_6404Finally, this was actually better the next day!!

Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 head napa cabbage
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1 block tofu
  • 2 tbsp sriracha
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup grated carrots
  • 1/2 cup spinach
  • Salt
  • 1 cup tomato sauce

How to:

  1. Pour lentils with a bit of salt into a small pot and cover with water (about an inch higher than the lentils). Cover the pot, bring the water to a boil, and cook for about 8 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the lentils standing covered.
  2. Meanwhile, take out the tofu and drain all water. Place the tofu on a paper towel and cover with a paper towel and put something heavy-ish on top. This way you can try to get rid of more water.
  3. While the lentils are cooking and the tofu is draining, prepare the cabbage: First cut out the stem, so that the leaves are no longer connected. In a large pot, boil some water. Peel off 4-5 leaves depending on their size and place them in the water. Remove them after 2 minutes and set them aside. Repeat with the entire cabbage, stopping once the leaves get to small. I managed to make 18 rolls, although some of them were quite small.
  4. Next, make the tofu: Heat some oil in a pan. Take a fork and mash the drained tofu. Add the tofu to the pan along with the sriracha, turmeric, minced garlic, and ginger. Once the water seems to have mostly evaporated, add the carrots, spinach, and anything else you want. (I chopped up the remaining cabbage and threw it in.) Finally, stir in the lentils and cook until the mixture is as dry as possible.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350˚F (175˚C).
  6. To make the rolls, take a cabbage leaf and put a few tablespoons of filling on the bottom edge. Encase the filling by folding the thick stem part over itself and then folding in the right and left sides. Then roll up the leaf and place in a casserole pan. Repeat with all of the leaves. Store any remaining filling in the fridge and eat it for another meal.
  7. Thin out the tomato sauce if it is very thick. Pour it evenly over the cabbage rolls. Bake for 30 minutes.
  8. Serve with rice or just alone. Again, these were actually even better on day 2, so you could reheat them and eat them the next day.

Fennel and Rosemary Risotto

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My roommates and I signed up for a weekly local produce service that delivers fresh vegetables and fruit to our door every Wednesday. It’s fantastic! Not only does it cover a lot of our shopping, but it’s a great challenge seeing what we can make with foods we wouldn’t normally buy. Also, we have started cooking together much more and are now a powerhouse of ideas.

For the past two weeks, however, our box has included fennel—and none of us is much of a fan. So after much thinking, I thought of a recipe that I felt might actually make fennel shine. If I may say so myself, I was quite right!

Fennel risotto was the perfect solution. And it didn’t just serve to use up and hide an ingredient, I actually feel that the fennel added to the whole shebang (*did I really just use that word?).

The creamy texture was wonderful with the crunch of the fennel, which I used in my recipe as I would normally use onions.

Then I decided to go with some fresh rosemary. That was probably the best food choice I’ve made in a while. From now on, rosemary and fennel are best friends in my collection.

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Finally, not that I know anything at all about alcohol, but the bitter vermouth was a nice touch. So if I were to remake this, I wouldn’t change much! My mom suggested adding figs though. I’m pretty sure that recipe would call for it’s own page though — but it does sound like a magnificent match, so if I end up with fennel on my hands in the near future, that’s definitely what’s happening.

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Happy cooking!

Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 8 cups broth (maybe a little less will do)
  • 2 bulbs of fennel
  • 1 twig of rosemary
  • ½ cup dry vermouth
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • ¾ cup parmesan
  • ~1 tsp. salt
  • ~3/4 tsp. pepper

How to:

  1. Heat/prepare the broth depending on the method you are using.
  2. Cut off the stems of the fennels and remove any outer leaves that don’t look good. Chop the fennel into 1-inch pieces.
  3. Melt 2.5 tbsp. of the butter in a large pot. Once melted, stir in the fennel. After about 5 minutes, the fennel begins to soften.
  4. Now stir in the rice and rosemary twig and keep stirring until you see the rice start to shine (each grain should be coated in butter).
  5. Pour in the vermouth, which should evaporate very quickly.
  6. Once the vermouth has evaporated (or nearly evaporated), pour in one cup of broth. Continue stirring until the liquid has been absorbed. Repeat this one cup at a time. This will take about 45 minutes and you shouldn’t be a lazy stirrer – it’s worth it.
  7. Once the rice has absorbed the broth and is soft, remove the twig of rosemary. Stir in the butter and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper as necessary.

Zucchini and Corn Casserole

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I made something delicious for dinner yesterday. Unfortunately I didn’t really document as I was making it because I was extremely skeptical and thought it wouldn’t be any good in the end. The new semester started last Thursday and senior year feels great so far! I’ve been taking 5 or 5.5 classes every semester and am so excited to be taking only 2 academic classes, choruses, and yoga now. I also auditioned for another chorus outside of school because you can never get too much singing. I also have some jobs and am writing a thesis. I’m sure it’ll get stressful sometimes, but not near anywhere I’ve been. So here’s to making good food and writing about it more this year!

One of the best things about coming back to campus after the summer is that the farmers market is open. So yesterday morning I got some nice seasonal produce. (The real reason for going to the market is actually the donut guy. The vegetables are a nice side effect.) I ended up buying corn and zucchini, thinking I could figure out something healthy to make. That worked. I hadn’t believed it would taste so good, too!

The corn is the key to this dish. Originally I planned on using only zucchini, which would have been quite boring. But the corn!! All I can say is go to your local market and buy fresh corn — the sweetness and juiciness it adds is amazing!!

Because everything needs a bit of excitement, I made a Parmesan topping. It crisped up when baked and added the perfect crunch and saltiness! Without further ado, I will stop writing random descriptions that I probably got from TV ads and give you the recipe…

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Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 large ear of fresh corn
  • 1 large zucchini (or 2 smaller ones)
  • 1 tsp. salt, maybe more
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 3/4 cup shredded Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 handful of basil
  • Some tbsp. olive oil

How to:

  1. Grease a small casserole pan. Preheat the oven to 400˚F (200˚C).
  2. Peel the leaves off the corn and scrape the corn of using a knife. It’s easier than it sounds. Make a layer of corn on the bottom of the pan.
  3. Slice the zucchini into 3-5mm rounds and line them tightly on top of the corn.
  4. Sprinkle salt over the vegetables and try to get it between them as well. Drizzle olive oil on top.
  5. Tear the basil leaves into small pieces and combine them with the cheese, breadcrumbs, another pinch of salt, and pepper.
  6. Sprinkle the mixture over the vegetables and cover with foil or a lid.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes. Then remove cover and bake for 10 more minutes.
  8. Eat!

Afterthoughts:
Next time I make this, I am considering cutting the zucchini into small pieces rather than slices. That way this dish could look a bit cuter maybe or even be served with pasta or on bruschetta (that just popped into my head and sounds amazing)!!!