Monday, October 31, 2011

A Load of Shiitake

The first bathroom crop yielded about a pound of shiitake mushrooms.  Holy Shiitake!  Not bad for two weeks, eh?

Last night, I used about half of the mushrooms to make gravy.  Now, I've never made gravy, or cooked much with mushrooms, but the thought of gravy-covered mashed potatoes on a rainy Sunday evening helped commit me to my project. 


Before beginning, I consulted a few different recipes and parsed together a basic plan. My recipe was essentially as follows:

Shiitake Mushroom Gravy

1 yellow onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 cups chopped shiitake mushrooms
4 cups vegetable broth (I use vegetable bullion cubes to cut down on packaging)
4 T nutritional yeast
4 T flour
2-3 T soy sauce
olive oil
thyme and pepper to taste

Sauté the mushrooms in a healthy pour of olive oil until they become translucent. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook all 3 until the mushrooms appear soft. Turn down heat and add the vegetable broth, nutritional yeast, flour. Stir until dissolved. If the gravy seems too liquid-y then add a little more flour. Turn up heat and bring to a boil. Add soy sauce, thyme, and pepper. Allow to simmer (with frequent stirs) until gravy has reached a desirable consistency, or until all the flavors have meshed.
Serve over tempeh, mashed potatoes, or both...

The gravy turned out deliciously, and we have a shiitake-load left. I foresee biscuits and gravy and more shiitake puns in the near future. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pumpkin Portraiture

Last night, we attempted to capture our favorite critters in o-lantern form. Our favorite cat friend was my muse, while Matt attempted the chicken punim (a far more challenging subject). 

The cat-and-chicken-o-lanterns...

After the hard labor was through we enjoyed some roasted pumpkin seeds. I tossed the seeds in vegetable oil, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. They then cooked (with frequent stirs) in a 325 degree oven for about 45 minutes. 

Not a bad reward for cleaning out a 23 lb. pumpkin...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Teenage Girls

Sometime last week I told my mother that we'd be picking up our flock over the weekend.  Being the truly accepting woman that she is, she responded with a joke about becoming a grandmother...  

Following my mother's logic, Matt and I became parents to four teenage girls over the weekend.  Nothing against teenage girls, I was once one myself, but I'm pretty damn glad that we're really just talking poultry. 

Our four sisters were hatched on June 25th, and won't be laying for another few weeks-- officially qualifying them as teenagers, or pullets in chicken terms.

Like any good parent, I think my ladies are just the cutest darn chickens I've ever seen.  And, like most teenagers, whenever I get too close they take off running.  

That said, the ladies seem to be cluing in to who refills their feed bowl and chases off cats.  I think they'll make it through their teenage months just fine.

Not unlike teenage girls, the ladies have separation anxiety (from each other), and play a constant game of follow the leader.  However, flocking is definitely a more endearing phenomenon in poultry than humans.  

Plus, unlike every teenager ever, our flock seems happiest whilst pecking for worms in the bushes. Human teenagers seem to prefer smoking cigarettes and guzzling energy drinks in the dilapidated structure behind our house, but I digress...

All silly comparisons aside, I'm really quite thrilled to have some barnyard animals. The ladies are a good place to start growing our family, and should bring lots of joy and tasty eggs.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Getting Acquainted

A couple months ago our landlord nicely gave us backyard-poultry clearance. We then waited patiently to get all our proverbial chickens in a row (coop, chicken $$, time, etc). Finally, today, we picked up our 4-bird flock. The ladies are busy getting settled, and the cat seems to be both terrified and mesmerized. More details and cute chicken pictures to come!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Friday Baking

Last Friday I ended up with some unexpected free time. The weather was fairly unpleasant, so I headed to the store for three items: butter, sugar, and cream cheese. I used to avoid butter, but these days I'm a butter evangelist. We've all got to believe in something, eh? 

With my loot I baked two things: cookies and cupcakes. My "relaxing afternoon," resulted in a sugary weekend, but we both made it to Monday sans diabetes. Victory.

First up are the cookies....

I have made these cookies several times, and they are top notch. Plus the recipe only uses one stick of butter, so they are practically health food. I realized we had no brown sugar after I made my trip to the store, so I ended up just adding half a tablespoon of molasses (as brown sugar is just sugar + molasses). The molasses made these cookies even better than usual.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies  (adapted from this recipe)

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 T molasses
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups oatmeal
AT LEAST 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat Oven to 325°  F
Cream together butter, sugar and molasses with a stand mixer (paddle attachment), or with a hand mixer. Add vanilla and egg, and mix. Add all dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, oatmeal, salt) and stir together until dough comes together. Do not over mix!  Mix in chocolate chips, and then drop large spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes! 

Now for the cupcakes...

All week I'd wanted carrot cake. I'm not sure if it is normal to want cake for so long, but by Friday I decided to go ahead and eat some damn carrot cake. However, I decided the carrot cake must be homemade, which prompted my afternoon of baking.

I started with a recipe from All Recipes, and then reduced the sugar, upped the carrots, added some whole wheat flour, doubled the cinnamon, added nutmeg, etc. I failed to record any of this, so all I can do is show off my nice looking cupcakes. To make the frosting I used the whisk attachment on my mixer and combined 8 oz of cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, and all the powdered sugar I could find in the cabinet (maybe a about half a cup). 


And don't worry Mother, if you are concerned about my blood sugar levels you should know that on Sunday I gave away no less than seven cupcakes. I think that cancels everything else out. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

How to Make Tortillas

I had a request for a tortilla-making post! Here you go Brissie!

Corn tortillas are surprisingly easy and economical to make yourself. Last night I made tortillas for 3 for about $1. This benefit aside, homemade tortillas are soft, warm, and preservative free. You need 3 ingredients for tortillas:
  • Corn Flour (which often goes by its Spanish name, masa harina, at the store) 
  • Water
  • A little bit of salt (a bit less than a teaspoon).
Pretty darn easy. Here are my dry ingredients ready to go...

To make tortillas for two people (with very healthy appetites)  I use 1 3/4 cup corn flour and 1 1/8 cup water. Last night, I adjusted this ratio for 3 people. I'd be embarrassed to explain how I calculated the changes, as I am certain most everyone I know would find a better way to do the math than I did (there was a drawing involved).

Once the water, salt and, flour are all in your bowl start mashing away with a fork. After the dough begins to come together hand knead it until smooth. Ultimately you want a soft (not sticky) ball of dough. If you need to add a little extra water or flour to achieve this, then go for it.

Your ball should look like this...

Let the ball solidify for about 5 minutes, and then slice it into smaller sections.  Use the sections to make small dough balls that will become individual tortillas (usually about 6-8 per normal recipe).

Take one of the dough balls and squish it flat on a piece of wax paper.  Cover it with another piece of wax paper and roll out the dough out from the middle. The wax paper is essential. If you try to roll your dough without the paper, then you will end up with a serious corn mess. Take my word for it.

My tortillas usually end up looking a little misshapen. I think this one looks like the state of Alaska, but it still makes a great taco.

Next, carefully peel the tortilla off the paper and drop it into a greased pan on medium heat. Let the tortilla cook for about 45 seconds on each side, and then place somewhere warm. I usually turn the oven on to 170 degrees and keep the tortillas covered with a towel until they are all ready to go.

Buen provecho. :)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Fall Adventure

We spent last weekend at a rustic island resort on the Skagit River by Marblemount, WA.

With the increasing precipitation, and decreasing daylight and temperatures, taking a bike trip seemed like the best use of the last weekend in September. So, we loaded our bikes with camping and fishing gear and headed East. Friday afternoon was quite beautiful, and I felt lucky to be traveling up the Cascade Trail.

Less than a mile outside of the one and only Concrete, WA Matt broke 3 spokes. Unfortunately (and quite obviously) this ended the bicycle leg of our journey. The final leg, and trip home, involved riding in a car. Neither of us had done so since early-mid July, and it was a bit sad to end our car-free streak. This is really another topic for another time, but I will say that 60 mph felt unbelievably fast, and frankly a bit terrifying.

However, one part of our mission was a great success. Matt caught a big old fish, and it has subsequently been smoked and eaten (with generous amounts of cream cheese).  

My pops (a master angler and fish smoker) gave us some excellent smoking tips that resulted in some delicious fish. In my less mature days I would complain that I did not like the smell his fish smoking generated.  I also used to call him a fish-murderer. It's not very flattering to own my kvetching, but I suppose these things always come full circle. Sorry Pops!