Learning and Adapting – Going Vegan?

A few years ago I decided to get my act together and get healthy. As with anything it’s a process and a journey. The world at large seems to be focused on doing what ever feels good in the moment and screw the consequences. Well, my body is telling me the consequences are real and I had better pay attention. With that being said, I have changed a lot of things in my life. I lost 50 pounds and took up exercise and yoga. I have even been teaching yoga at a local gym thanks to a mentor and friend, Shellie.

Last weekend I began my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training. I was so nervous and unsure what I was getting myself into. I haven’t done serious studying in 25 years. College was a long time ago. The first weekend was challenging and humbling. I have physical issues I’m dealing with and personal habits that are leaving me frustrated. I felt great as I drove off but exhausted for the entire day after and honestly – a tad bit of “imposter syndrome”. Most of the time I don’t feel up to the task. Emotionally, I really want to do this.

Part of learning how to live a yoga lifestyle is considering going vegan. There are several reasons this is part of the process which I won’t go into right now but needless to say I’m considering how I can do this with a husband who is a pure meat and potatoes kind of guy. I love vegetables. I love fruit. I also love cheese and scallops and an occasional steak. I’m at an impasse.

Naturally, I turned to my favorite source for recipes, America’s Test Kitchen. They even have a cookbook, “Vegan for Everybody”, which I promptly purchased and today attempted to make my first vegan recipe.

It turns out Chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) produce a byproduct called “Aquafaba” – yeah, I know, that doesn’t sound like a real thing let alone something edible. Now this bean liquid can be whipped like egg whites and used instead of eggs to bind ingredients together and also, meringues. I love meringue cookies. This was a no brainier. HA! I can get cocky really quickly. I bought the beans, I cooked the beans as directed. I followed the instructions and well, no meringues. It kind of whipped but never really got full and fluffy. I don’t know what went wrong. My utensils may have had grease residue. I may used too much water for the beans. Who knows. I won’t give up.

I also made some hummus. If you have chickpeas, you have hummus. It was delicious! The lemon infused olive oil is perfect in this recipe!

Big changes are difficult. My goal is to eat vegan several meals a week. Most likely those days my guy is travelling. It’s a process. A journey. Come along with me.

Cauliflower can kill … according to my husband.

Apparently, I am dead to my hubby because I lied (not technically) to him about the Spanish “Rice” I made for lunch today. When he asked what we were having I replied, “It’s a type of Spanish RIce”. He proceeded to eat multiple servings and proclaimed it delicious! Along with the taco meat mixture of ground turkey and black beans.

Upon completion of the meal I asked if he enjoyed it and of course he did. Only then did I reveal my little misdirection. Whereupon he decreed me dead to him for lying to him. Alas … I must use subterfuge to get him to eat vegetables. It’s my valiant effort to have a healthy husband.

All of it really was delicious!

My most recent blog posts may make it look as if I only bake sweet treats but I love cooking all types of food. I love trying to make something from nothing or at least something unexpected from ordinary foods like cauliflower.

I riced the cauliflower in my food processor and sautéed it with some onions and peppers, garlic, and an ancho-guajilla chili paste I made a few months back and froze in an ice cube tray. Lord help me I cannot remember the recipe or what I made it for – ugh, middle age. I also threw in some tomato paste, orange juice and chicken stock, salt, pepper, cayenne and cumin, let it simmer for 20 minutes and voila! Delicious!

Needless to say, it didn’t kill him and he actually enjoyed it. If I had told him ahead of time he probably would not have eaten it. Silly man.

Another tasty treat I made last week was a Chicken Pot, Chicken Pot, Chicken Pot Paaiiiiiieeee!

Check out the link https://youtu.be/ApmvDU5RmyY for why I referred to it in such a manner.

Anyway, I digress. I love chicken pot pie. My mama makes the best but I have to say, I make a mean one myself. Yes, I am bragging. I do one thing very well and that’s cook. I have no qualms stating it. Between my mother and ATK, I can cook nearly anything! And the more I do it the prettier things get. Check this out!

Happy New Year – MEYER Lemons!

New year, new chance, new things to conquer. Life never ceases to bring us opportunities to grow or change. I don’t do resolutions but I am considering how I approach day to day life. My goal for my spiritual life is to be more mindful of managing my emotions. Menopause is trying to rear its ugly head and I would like to be “on top” of its side-effects, namely moodiness and hot flashes. Ha! That sounds like a lofty goal!

My goal this month was to eat clean. You know, no sugar, no booze, no “fun foods”. I have gained some weight back since my surgery and I need to get back to the WW program. I was doing fine until I found Meyer lemons at the market and of course I had to buy them which, in turn, meant I had to make something tasty.

Meyer Lemon Tart

Oh, so very good. I used a modified recipe from ATK, of course!

Yup, a Meyer lemon tart. It was a bit time consuming but so worth the effort. If you have a loved one who lives for lemon treats, this tart is a no-brainer. You will be their favorite for time – immemorial. So, get this. I had to juice and zest nine lemons (they’re smaller than their more traditional cousins). The recipe calls for a whopping QUARTER cup of zest. I had to add zest from two regular lemons to get that much.

I also discovered another little treasure called “Fiori di Sicilia” extract. I warn you it’s a bit expensive but a little goes a very long way. I found it on Amazon but it’s a product of King Arthur Flour. The recipe I used for the Lavender/Hazelnut Shortbread called for it. I just improvised my own version for that recipe since I didn’t have the extract on hand.

Once I received it I had to find a way to use it, hence the Lemon Tart. I used it in the crust instead of the vanilla the recipe called for. WOWeee! What a beautiful and subtle flavor it adds. I am telling you, if you want to take your baking up a notch, add a scosche of this and you will become so popular with all who eat your delights.

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The tart I baked for my husband and my dear friend Christa who are both lovers of all things lemon. The consensus is … AMAZING!

Here’s my version of the recipe:

Sweet Tart Crust
Ingredients:
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream (I used Pea Milk)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract (OR Fiori di Sicilia)
1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
⅔ cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
(1 stick, very cold), cut into
twenty-four 3/4-inch cubes
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour for dusting

Instructions for Tart Shell

If the dough feels too form when you’re ready to roll it out, let it stand at room temperature for a few minutes. If, on the other hand, the dough becomes soft and sticky while rolling, don’t hesitate to rechill it until it becomes easier to work with. Better to rechill than to add too much flour, which will damage the delicate, crisp texture of the dough. We found a French rolling pin (as pictured in illustrations) to be the most precise instrument for rolling tart pastry. Bake the tart shell in a 9- to 9 ½-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and fluted sides about 1 to 1 1/8 inches high. This recipe is formally known as Pâte Sucrée.

1. Whisk together yolk, cream, and vanilla (or Fiori di Sicilia)  in small bowl; set aside. Pulse to combine 1 1/4 cups flour, sugar, and salt in bowl of food processor fitted with
steel blade. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture; pulse to cut butter into flour until mixture resembles coarse meal, about fifteen 1-second pulses. With machine running, add egg mixture and process until dough just comes together, about 25 seconds. Turn dough onto sheet of plastic wrap and press into 6-inch disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Instructions for Rolling out dough:

To facilitate rolling, flatten the dough with a rolling pin by rapping it smartly with one hand and spinning the dough with the other.
Roll the dough upward from the center and downward from the center with even pressure.
Spin the dough one quarter turn, repeating step 2 until dough is 13 inches in diameter (15 inches for an 11-inch tart pan) and 1/8 inch thick. Loosen the dough from the plastic and flour again.
Ease the dough over the rolling pin and roll it up loosely. Unroll the dough on top of the tart pan.
Lift the edge of the dough with one hand and ease it into the corners of the pan with the other.

Unwrap dough; lightly flour large sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap and place dough in center. Follow these instructions.

rolling dough instructions

Place crust in freezer for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, adjust one oven rack to upper-middle position and other rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. Place chilled tart shell on cookie sheet; press 12-inch square of foil inside tart shell and fill with metal or ceramic pie weights. Bake on lower rack 30 minutes, rotating halfway through baking time. Carefully remove foil and weights by gathering edges of foil and pulling up and out. Transfer cookie sheet with tart shell to upper rack and continue to bake until shell is golden brown, about 5 minutes longer.

Lemon Curd Filling SERVES 8
The filling is a lemon curd adapted for this tart. Once the lemon curd ingredients have been combined, cook the curd immediately; otherwise it will have a grainy finished texture. To prevent the curd from acquiring a metallic taste, make absolutely sure that all utensils coming into contact with it–bowls, whisk, saucepan, and strainer—are made of non-reactive stainless steel or glass. Since the tart pan has a removable bottom, it is more easily maneuvered when set on a cookie sheet. If your pre-baked tart shell has already cooled, place it in the oven just before you start the curd and heat it until warm, about 5 minutes. Serve the tart with lightly whipped cream, the perfect accompaniment to the rich, intensely lemon filling.

Ingredients:

7 large egg yolks plus 2 large whole eggs
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2/3 cup lemon juice from 4 to 5 medium lemons
¼ cup grated lemon zest
pinch table salt
4 tablespoons unsalted
butter, cut into 4 pieces
3 tablespoons heavy cream

Instructions:
Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Place tart pan with shell on cookie sheet. In medium non-reactive bowl, whisk together yolks and whole eggs until combined, about 5 seconds. Add sugar and whisk until just combined, about 5 seconds. Add lemon juice, zest, and salt; whisk until combined, about 5 seconds. Transfer mixture to medium non-reactive saucepan, add butter pieces, and cook over medium low heat, stirring constantly with wooden spoon, until curd thickens to thin sauce-like consistency and registers 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 5 minutes. Immediately pour curd through single-mesh stainless steel strainer set over clean nonreactive bowl. Stir in heavy cream; pour curd into warm tart shell immediately.

NOTES:

1. At first, the curd will appear thin and soupy.
2. When the spatula leaves a clear trail in the bottom of the saucepan (which quickly disappears), the curd is ready to come off heat.
3. Bake until filling is shiny and opaque and until the center 3 inches jiggle slightly when shaken, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 45 minutes. Remove outer metal ring, slide thin metal spatula between bottom crust and tart pan bottom to release,then slip tart onto cardboard round or serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve.

meyerlemons

Lavender/Hazelnut Shortbread

I may have out done myself.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_66b2.jpgIf you have followed me for any length of time you know I love lavender. I will put it in nearly anything. So, I was considering what to serve my guests tomorrow for NYE. Since it’s a late night of adult beverages and snacking I didn’t want anything too sweet or heavy. Add to that my recent successful first try at shortbread in making the Millionaires Shortbread and so decided to whip these up.

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Also, I bought a bag of hazelnuts in the shell before Christmas and cracked them all open myself. This was tedious but a nostalgic turn for me. When I was a girl my grandmother always had nuts you had to crack open yourself at the holidays. It felt nice to sit and crack. I just popped on some cheerful music and cracked away. I just wish I had bought two bags.

Lavender-Hazelnut Shortbread.

They are so fragrant and amazingly tender. Wow. Combine these with the Speculooos (Belgian Spice Cookies) and I’m almost certain no other cookie will ever be necessary. Anyone can make chocolate chip cookies. Why not ramp things up with these? They are more than exceptional. Seriously.

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Okay, so I let these get just a tad too brown but that just made the butter have a more caramel flavor. These are amazing! The problem is not eating them before the party even begins. I was considering dipping these in chocolate but I’m afraid that will take away from the simplicity of their delicate flavor. Maybe the next batch.

Happy New Year to you all. May blessings and lavender abound!

Lavender Shortbread
Ingredients
8 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
5 ounces powdered sugar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly dried lavender buds
1/2 teaspoon each of orange and lemon extract
8 ounces all-purpose unbleached flour
4 ounces finely chopped hazelnuts

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line sheet pan with parchment paper.
2. Cream butter, sugar, salt, lavender buds, and extract for 3 minutes on high speed.
3. Combine flour and nuts then add flour to butter mixture and mix until just incorporated. Do not over mix.
4. Make into a round and cover in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at lease 30 minutes.
5. Roll out onto floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll to desired thickness and cut with a small circle cutter (or shape of choice). Place on baking sheet and bake for 5-10 minutes, depending on your oven. Let cool before serving.

PS: Sadly my party had to be cancelled due to my friends family emergency. The delicious cookies will not be enjoyed by those they were intended for. On a positive note … my cat Joe loves them and wonders why he can’t have them all.

It looks and sounds fancy!

Berry Pavlova!

It looks fancy, because it is!

I finally did it. I screwed up the courage to make a pavlova! A WHAT? you say? Essentially, it’s a giant meringue topped with whipped cream and the fruit of choice. The winter issue of Cook’s Illustrated had a recipe for a cranberry/orange pavlova and it sounded delicious. I’ve had a hankering for the blueberry and strawberry, so I used that instead.

Pavlova’s taste a bit like a marshmallow only the exterior is crunchy. It’s the perfect combination of sweet, crunchy and when you add the whipped cream and fruit the sweetness is balanced by by the acid and tartness. All those textures make for and explosion of flavor and sensation. If you are ever inclined to make one, it’s really not that difficult. The trick is to read the instructions and recipe slowly, carefully and more than once before you begin. If you take your time and do EXACTLY as it instructs then you will have a masterpiece on your hands.

One of the beautiful things about a Pavlova is how it looks. It’s supposed to have cracks. There is no way to bake one without them. This makes it an ideal recipe for the Type B cook. You don’t have a to be a French Master Pastry Chef for it to be beautiful and delicious! I am notorious for skipping steps and ingredients when baking. It’s a flaw, I get that. I am not exactly great at the details. I suppose that’s one reason I love to cook. You don’t always need perfect measurements and food can be forgiving. Baking is less forgiving, granted, but if I slow down, monitor my booze consumption while doing it, I usually end up with tasty goodness. Just ask any number of my friends, they will testify to my skills.

This is what it looks like without the toppings. Honestly, I love meringue so much I could eat it just like this. Perhaps drizzle some chocolate or caramel over it and Ohhhh baby, now we are talking!

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High Protein, Peanut Butter, Banana Pancakes

Maybe it’s the weather … perhaps that is what is compelling me to cook. I know the gloomy and rainy days certainly make me want to hibernate with a book and some soup.

Eating can be complicated when you’re a carb fiend and on WW. There is no strict plan on WW but it’s certainly geared more towards low fat and low carb, even the good carbs. Frankly, there’s only so much chicken and broccoli one can stand. Thankfully, I love veggies so I can live on asparagus, cauliflower, zucchini and green beans too!

I’ve been considering switching to the Keto diet. I’m just not convinced that diet is diverse enough for me. I don’t like all that fatty stuff. Anytime I have had too much fatty food I have a bad stomach reaction. Seems to me that just striving for a clean, diverse and balanced diet is healthier than limiting certain kinds of food. Also, I think I’m healthier than the average person in my demographic.

One of my weaknesses is pancakes and waffles. Honestly, I’d probably eat them once a day if I could get away with it. I like my pancakes dense and cakey. I like them the size of a salad plate and almost an inch tall. I want that pancake to fill me up! I want none of that light and airy fluffy stuff smothered in fake “maple flavored” syrup. Ewwwww!

Since I can’t have a “traditional” pancake I will, from time to time, concoct variations of my own. Some have worked, some taste like cardboard. A couple of weeks ago I took a chance and combined the items pictured here.

High Protein Pancakes

Delicious high protein pancakes!

These were so good syrup wasn’t even necessary! My husband even asked for thirds! Now that is a pancake. Here’s how.

RECIPE: Peanut Butter Banana Pancakes!
Dry Ingredients:  Sift together into a large mixing bowl the following
1 oz Wheat Germ,
2 oz Peanut Powder,
1/4 cup whole wheat flour,
1 oz Flaxseed Meal,
2 oz Protein Powder,
1 tsp baking powder,
1/2 tsp baking soda
5 grates or 1/2 tsp fresh nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon

Wet Ingredients: Whisk together in a separate bowl
1 banana mashed
1 large + 1 small egg
2 cups Ripple Pea Protein Milk (or liquid of choice)

Combine all ingredients and mix until desired consistency is achieved. I like mine a bit thicker than normal. If you want a lighter consistency add more liquid and mix thoroughly until most lumps are gone.

Partially uncover the end of a stick of butter and swirl it around an already heated skillet. Pour pancakes as large or small as you like and cook until browned on both sides. 2-3 minutes per side.

Now, I didn’t want the added carbs and sugar so I ate them as you see them. If your heart is set on syrup, by all means add the syrup of your choice. Just make sure it’s MAPLE syrup not some imitation. Life is too short for imitation. It’s too expensive you say? Poppycock! Go to Big Lots! They have affordable real maple syrup and it’s so much better that you don’t need as much for the same effect!

Traveling Cookies

BIscoff.pngWhen we fly we generally fly Delta. For whatever reason, this is the airline my husband chooses most and he flies a lot. So, when we go somewhere I’m always thrilled that we get to have the “Biscoff” cookies that Delta serves. They’re crisp and full of flavor sort of like a chai cookie or a ginger snap. They are delicious! Trader Joe’s sells something similar called “Speculoos” and they are spectacular! The sad thing is, now you can buy them in the grocery store. I say sad only because now they are losing their “treat” status in my mind and I’m tempted to buy them (of course, I have). What fun is that?

I never really considered trying to bake them myself. Until last weekend, that is. The winter issue of “Cook’s Illustrated” came Saturday. Low and behold a recipe for my favorite travel cookie. Hmmm … Should I? NO! Did I? YES!

Turns out these have an inordinate amount of cinnamon, five teaspoons! Which when you use high quality Vietnamese cinnamon, the flavors JUMP at you. I used my mortar and pestle to grind up the cardamom and clove. I could have used an electric grinder (I have one) but for some reason I felt inspired to do it old school. I also heated the pods up to enhance the flavors. WOW! Fresh ground cardamom is amazing! Needless to say, my house smelled like Christmas yesterday!

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I didn’t grow up making holiday cookies. So this is the first time I’ve made a cookie that had to be rolled out and cut into shapes.  From now on these will be my GO-TO holiday cookie, even if it’s for sheer aroma therapy purposes.

The final result is fabulous. Crisp, aromatic and perfect to dip in a bit of coffee!

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