Friday, January 13, 2023

Pear-Parsnip Bread / Whole 30 Update

Good morning! I hope this finds you well and swimming head-above-water in the wreckage of bomb cyclones, blizzards, tornadoes, or whatever other pineapple express pummeling your part of the world presently endures. It's so crazy and sad and terrifying. My hometown, Aptos, has been devastated, along with its neighbors. Here in Minneapolis, we are okay, other than rough narrow roads and some occasional mishaps associated with too-heavy snow and ice on roofs. The roof of the arts auditorium at the U of M partially collapsed and some wall bricks came down with it. While parked in the driveway, my friend's car was assaulted by an ice sheet that broke off the roof of her adjacent house. 

I am safe and warm with no pending insurance claims. I've been writing more, and sharing my writing more, and continue with the Whole 30. 

*** We interrupt this broadcast with an important update on Whole 30 Take 3. I'm on day 13, but have not been 100% every day, mostly on account of social occasions. Even not super strict, it's powerful and interesting. There is a tremendous reduction in daily aches and pains. Sometimes I still notice the usual things - my left shoulder, right elbow and wrist, both hips, sciatica - but I think the elimination of inflammatory foods takes the edge off. Like a morphine drip, but with more chewing and cooking. And no hospital co-pay. I do think the impacts this time around are less stark though, and I imagine that's because I'm eight years older than last time. In my (mid)forties, physiological changes are generally more delayed than they were in my thirties. Like after skiing, I get super sore muscles two days later instead of one. And I'll leave it at that. ***

Today I made this loaf for my family, who are not Whole30ing. It's a riff on a recent favorite: Yossy Arefi's Vegan Zucchini Bread Recipe on NYTimes Cooking. (Subscription required for link to work - sorry or maybe you're welcome for sharing it here for free?)

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Pretty good looking, right? Instead of zucchini, which I didn't have, I measured out two cups of mostly grated parsnip and pear, and a leftover nub of carrot. Inspired by another, older favorite of mine: Smitten Kitchen's Pear Bread. The. Best. Anyway root veggies and pears are more fragrant than zucchini! My house smells like cinnamon and fall. I veered a bit as follows: reduced sugar, used one kind instead of two, and threw in whole wheat flour along with white. Note that the gram measurements are from NYT, and I used them because I like using kitchen scales and I don't like cleaning measuring cups, and maybe we are simpatico.

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Structurally, as far as eggless baking goes, this is the holy grail. The rise is amazing (dome never sinks), the crumb is like a perfect pumpkin muffin, and the sugared top gives it a lovely contrasting crunch. I would pay at least five dollars for this at a bakery, maybe even six if they served it with a generous side of salt-sprinkled butter. I hope you make it. Chocolate chips would of course be an exciting addition but I skipped those today in an effort to convince my children that not all muffins and quick breads have chocolate chips in them.

Pear-Parsnip Bread
Makes one standard 8.5 X 4.5" loaf

3/4 cup / 150 grams brown sugar
2/3 cup / 160 milliliters soy milk or other milk of choice
1/2 cup / 120 milliliters neutral oil
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar*
2 cups/225 grams coarsely grated parsnip, underripe pear, carrot, or mix
2 cups/260 grams all-purpose flour (I used 60 grams whole wheat + 200 grams bread flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon table salt
To finish: one more tablespoon brown sugar*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease your loaf pan generously. If it's a pesky one, line it with parchment.

In a large bowl, mix soy milk with apple cider vinegar and set aside.

In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

Add 3/4 cup brown sugar, oil, and grated parsnip/pear/carrot to the soy milk and mix. Add dry ingredients into wet and stir until just combined, no floury streaks. Pour into loaf pan and sprinkle with one tablespoon brown sugar.

Bake for 50-55 minutes, until golden brown and knife inserted in center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes.

* Arefi uses 1 tablespoon lemon juice, for which I subbed the apple cider vinegar here. But I've used the lemon juice with the zucchini and it's nice. Arefi also uses turbinado sugar at the end, which I've done previously but I found the brown sugar sufficiently delivered on crispy crust front.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Vegan Pumpkin Muffins and Happy New Year!

Happy 2023! I hope you welcomed in the new year with loved ones and that sweet spot of hedonism - celebratory but not sleepless, hungover, or puffy. (Increasingly elusive as the years pass...)

My New Year's Eve (aka "My Birthday") was mostly fantastic: filled with food, kicked off with a decadent, boozy brunch with five of the best women friends a person could ask for, culminated at a perfectly chaotic family-friendly fondue party with neighbors, and sandwiched in between - lest we otherwise starve! - my little family enjoyed its "last pizza of 2022" at Pizzeria Lola. Unfortunately, we concluded the night with an anaphylaxis-induced ER visit. Everyone is okay! My middle child has a severe peanut allergy, however, and is 16-months in to the miracle that is oral immunotherapy. For the most part, it's been smooth sailing and we take it for granted that he can handle his daily dose of two peanuts. There are many rules though - for good reason, we've been reminded! - and on a festive fondue-infused child-centered party-hopping night, strict compliance went the way of last year's resolutions. We messed up, and it mattered. He had his first v. scary, serious peanut reaction ever, and epinephrine is a medical marvel, and he's fine. THANK. GOD.

And now I'm doing the Whole 30 again and craving one of these pumpkin muffins. It's snowing cats and dogs out there; this winter is drowning us. I don't recall a whiter December in the twenty-and-change since I moved here. My nerves are still wobbly after the peanut incident plus a few other close calls of late (a 2.5-hour icy highway journey from St. Cloud to Minneapolis, a slip-and-fall involving hundred-year-old stairs and a cast iron radiator with evidently lacerative edges). So, as the inches accumulate on our roads, I worry about school buses in ditches. The drivers in Minneapolis are top notch, but still. A chai tea latte and a pumpkin muffin might be cozy on a dreary day like the one we're braving.

I am staying the W30 course though because my body needs it. There will still be sugar in February. In the meantime, perhaps you will enjoy a pumpkin muffin yourself. And perhaps it will alleviate any panic tendencies to which you are prone. In which case, I'm sorry and you're welcome. xo

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A word on the recipe: these really are my favorite muffins from one of my favorite oldie-but-goodie cookbooks and I probably make these more often than any other baked good. You will love them. In the pictures some of them are topped with Trader Joe's pumpkin-spiced pumpkin seeds (seasonal - crazy good).

The Best (Vegan) Pumpkin Muffins
Adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance
Yield: 18 muffins (or 12 muffins + small loaf)

2 2/3 cups all-purpose or pastry flour (400 grams by weight - I sometimes do half whole wheat flour here)
1 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie or baking spice
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
14-oz can of pumpkin puree
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup soy milk (or any milk)
3/4 cup neutral oil
3 tablespoons molasses
1 1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional but highly recommended)

Preheat oven to 400. Generously grease twelve-muffin tin and a small loaf pan if you've got one.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and spices. In a separate large bowl, stir together pumpkin, soy milk, oil, molasses, and both sugars, until thoroughly combined. Add dry ingredients, one cup at a time, into wet and mix until there are no more rogue patches of flour.

Fill muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick or knife inserted in center comes out clean. For loaf, test at around 30-35 minutes.

Monday, November 14, 2022

#23 of Things To Do Besides Write: Make a Big Tasty Bowl of Vegetables

#24: Eat it.

Hello. I bet you thought you'd never hear from me again here. I am as surprised as you are!

But I took advantage of my updated iPhone camera, checked to see that my Flickr account was still valid, made a delicious salty, spicy pile of kale and potatoes, and figured all that was enough to check in.

It is snowing today in Minneapolis and I like it. We shall see whether I still feel that way later when I'm having shoveling-plus-perimenopause-plus-tail-end-of-flu-induced hot flashes, or tomorrow when my bum left shoulder flares up as a trade-off for clear sidewalks.

Here's what's new:

1. Two of my children are now big brave skiing, running, mountain biking, algebra-crushing, day-brightening, urban middle-schoolers. On the food front, the older is vegetarian and her brother continues peanut immunotherapy and has outgrown the vast majority of the allergies. The peanut thing is cool: he eats two peanuts every day and - more importantly - the tolerance he's built protects him against death by chocolate-made-in-peanut-facility, e.g. KitKat and regular M&Ms. So Halloween was extra fun this year. Rounding out the bunch is my kindergartener. He is the most like me: a little bananas, needs a lot of attention, feels both beat and emotion in the music, enjoys the thrill of a battle and security of making up. Sugar addicted, prone to respiratory illness. Abso-f*!@ing-lutely hilarious. He is allergic to eggs and always hungry and eats like four things. Super fun.

2. I resigned from my law job this summer and am trying to become a writer. Goals are (1) to one glorious day get paid for this thing I do, and (2) to write a novel. In the meantime I am wrapping up a short story that I started last January, and I dabble in highly melodramatic poetry.

3. I'd like to make a new blog - a container for my random poems, things I read and really like, scenes whose deletion makes me cry a little bit, reflections on God and prayer and children and public education and monogamy and lost dreams and finding new ones and writing and theater and all those things that preoccupy me besides food.

4. Until then, here is a deleted scene from my story:

Ellen hears about the film from Allie. It’s January and a Friday. Ellen’s family is wrapping up their first week back to normal life after a jam-packed winter break. Ellen can almost taste the Rombauer Zinfandel she and David will share when the children finally go to bed tonight. She polishes off the soy milk she pours over her kids’ whole grain cereal, preps lunches, collects socks, gloves, and permission slips hiding beneath couches and radiators. David is on outdoor duty this morning, testing the limits of their recent splurge: a cordless snow blower. They manage to get everyone fully bundled and out the door by 7:30. Ellen stands by the door to the garage, waves good-bye to David as he backs out of the driveway with their three kids, snug in their barely-family-friendly Nissan Leaf. She ignores the sink full of breakfast dishes and their preschooler’s ripe, sweaty flannel pajamas on the kitchen floor, and sits down for a minute with her coffee. She wraps her hands around the warm oversized mug and enjoys the silence, keenly aware of its brevity. She admires a ray of long-lost morning sunlight coming through her east-facing picture window, and wishes it didn’t shine quite so deliberately on her dust-coated wine rack. She checks her phone, re-reads Allie’s text. OMG. METADATA. YOU WILL DIE. She makes a list on the back of one of the eight glittery masterpieces that came home in Luca's backpack yesterday:

soy milk
shovel
dust - kid chore?


5. My days look a lot like that scene except no one named Allie ever texts me and we upgraded from the Nissan Leaf a few years ago and I don't want to talk about it.

I do want to talk about the delicious veggie stew I just devoured though! It's all the things your body wants when it's on the mend from the flu, gearing up to spend the next two weeks fighting for its life to shed middle-aged columnar epithelium and the stubborn stroma to which it's attached, and relishing its first full-day break from children in twelve boogery days and as many clammy, croupy nights. Hooray for school and wellness and hand sanitizer!

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What a treat to use hot peppers and make the house smell of garlic and ginger and know that nobody will complain because the hot peppers and house are all mine for at least a few hours.

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The recipe is inspired by The Wednesday Chef, which was inspired by a recipe in Meera Sodha's East cookbook. I have forgotten all my rudimentary HTML skills and apologize for the layout of this post. This is all v. humbling indeed.

Untitled Spicy Kale and Potatoes
One bunch kale thick tough ribs discarded, leaves roughly chopped
Oil or ghee
Half an onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons grated ginger (about an inch chunk to start with)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Half a can of chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or chili powder (I used Kashmiri chili powder)
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon agave nectar or sugar or honey or whatever
1/2 cup something creamy (I used cottage cheese; original recipe calls for coconut milk)
1/4 cup water
1 large potato, chopped into 1 cm cubes

Note from a former cooking class instructor: This is a recipe where salting as you go makes a difference! Measure out your teaspoon and then add a quarterish of it each time you add something flavorful or something that needs salt in order to be flavorful - onions, then ginger/garlic, then tomatoes + spices, and then finally with potatoes before covering.

1. On a medium flame, heat 1 teaspoon ghee or oil in a pan or pot with a lid and add the onions. Cook for 5 minutes over a medium flame, until soft and sweet.

2. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring. Add tomatoes, spices, salt (if you are doing your salt all in one go, now is the time), and sugar.

3. Add the kale to the pan and stir to wilt. Add the cottage cheese or cream or coconut milk plus water, stir. Add the potatoes and stir to submerge them as much as possible, then cover. Cook over low heat for 20 minutes.

Makes 2-3 servings.

I hope you like it. I'm so glad we're both here!
xo E-NC

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Worth Making

Here are some recent successes worth both making and sharing. You will notice that we trend simple and big-batchy here lately (except for the smoothie, which makes one stressed-and-starving-mama-sized serving).

Best Veggie Burgers. These are vegan, nut-free, and delicious. They remind me of an old-school GardenBurger. They are made of primarily quick oats, onion, and mushrooms, but my mushroom-hater spouse nonetheless approves. We eat them on English Muffins with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and quick pickles. Tastes like '98 - a pretty great year.

Cumin Tofu Stir-fry. (Link will only work if you're a NY Times subscriber, sorry.) Crunchy tofu with a dry-spice crust, heady portions of fresh garlic, ginger, and cilantro, and al dente cauliflower bites. The leftovers were even better, heated up in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. A dollop of salted plain yogurt on top doesn't hurt.

Trail Mix Cookies. These are infinitely adaptable and invite experimentation and resourcefulness. I make them with seeds instead of nuts and have substituted cassava, tiger nut, and oat flours for the almond and they all work. No matter what flour I use, taste is earthy like trail mix; texture is soft like an underbaked cookie. 

Snickerdoodle Smoothie. Post-workout food of champions! I don't work out right now, so that was an inside joke with myself. (You crack me up, Self.) But it's delicious and has some vegetable in it, so obviously super healthy.

Peach Brown Betties. Heck yes I'm linking to my own blog! Perfectly-portioned pies without the fuss of pie dough (which, candidly, I have yet to master). 

And an array of vegan pancakes for the aspiring vegans and egg-allergic in our home:

Food52's Fluffy Vegan Pancakes. Makes hands-down the best diner-style fluffy pancakes I've ever seen without eggs. Graciously accommodating of any blueberries or chocolate chips that find their way into your batter. 

A Couple Cook's Nut-butter Vegan Pancakes. Still allergic to nuts here, so we use sunflower butter (though I bet almond or peanut butter would be even better). This recipe offers something a little different from the Food52 version; a little more depth. They brown beautifully albeit quickly - watch out with cast iron!

Banana-Oat Pancakes. These are amazing. Four ingredients plus pantry staples. Quick, quite filling, and - if you make silver-dollar-style ones - they are a good lunchbox addition. If you are feeding more than you or two, I recommend doubling the recipe. And you need a VitaMix or similar high-power blender.

I suspect we eat more pancakes than the average family.

Missing you all. Hope you're eating okay and finding occasional comfort in your kitchen.

xoxoE-N