Sourdough Soft Pretzels

>> Thursday, January 31, 2013


Quirk // I write many of my recipes on the backs of unopened junk mail.


It's a strange habit that started in college and it's stuck to this day, apparently. I need to invest in some composition books or something. Oh, and my writing instruments of choice range from markers and crayons to sharpies and Stephen's red grading pens. Whatever is around and not out of ink.

All that sloppy scratching =


SOURDOUGH SOFT PRETZELS
 Makes 4 >> vegan << pretzels

What you'll need . . . 

  • 1/2 cup sourdough starter (straight from the fridge) 
  • 1/3 cup low sodium veggie juice (I used R.W. Knudsun's Very Veggie)***
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1-1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 tablespoons flax meal
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • pinch salt
  • rosemary + paprika, to taste (optional)
*** You can also use water, I'm sure of it.


Method . . . 

  1. Easy enough: Toss all wet ingredients into a large bowl followed by the dry ingredients.
  2. Mix together using a spoon, then work into kneading with your hands, adding extra flour if necessary. Form a smooth, elastic ball.
  3. Put a bit of olive oil in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap overnight (or 8 to 10 hours should do it).
  4. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside.
  5. Divide dough into 4 equal portions. Then, on a slightly oiled surface (I used a large plate) roll out into a long snake. Shape into a pretzel, as per these instructions from another recipe.
  6. Fill a large stock pot with water and bring to a raging boil. Then place the pretzels in one by one (or two by two, if you're comfortable) and keep submerged for about 30 seconds (they will begin to float).
  7. Repeat with the other two pretzels. Then sprinkle with coarse salt (and more paprika, if you like).
  8. Bake for 5 minutes. Then lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until golden.

I've been making a lot of stuff with my sourdough starter. Honestly, I didn't know there were so many uses for it. Bagels, pretzels, pancakes, waffles, just to name a few. My favorite creation has to be the basic sourdough loaf, though.

I've also noticed a gigantic difference in taste, sourness, with letting things rise overnight versus just a few hours. It's well, well, well worth the wait, whenever possible.

And I took your advice and bought a non-Le Creuset dutch oven. Got it -- a Wolfgang Puck, 5.6 qt -- at TJ Max on clearance for $39. THIRTY NINE DOLLARS. As in, at least $100 under what I thought I needed to spend.


You'll be getting good use this weekend, my friend.

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Kombucha: First Try

>> Wednesday, January 30, 2013


I drop mention of things periodically.
Have you noticed?

Things I've promised to do or declared I'm setting out to do. You know. It happens to bloggers all the time. It happens to non-bloggers, too. But with bloggers, there's this whole accountability bit. The words are out there. In black and white, depending on your site's color palette, alive for eternity on the web.

(Aside: I need to stop promising so much and just DO. I need to stop saying so much and just LIVE.)

Anyway, we were brewing our own kombucha as part of our fun-things-to-do-in-2013 plan. And we were entirely too excited about the first step: The process of watching the scoby -- the mother -- grow and flourish in its own disgusting, sixth-grade-science-experiment sort of way.

Almost the full two weeks in // on January 11, I remember specifically -- a day that will now live in infamy // Ada and I had gone out to the store to fetch some baking supplies. Chocolate chips and other essentials. Some eggs and almond milk, too. A head a broccoli. We got home + I proceeded to make Ada lunch and put away the items from our haul on empty shelves.

Ada sang to me as she shoveled in bits of tangerine and tofu. I stopped for a moment to erase the chalked Christmas tree that was still proudly carrying the room's decor for a full half month after the holiday. I drew a sparse, but colorful, winter scene in its place. Ada clapped and I continued my work of the grocery bags.

The scoby looked quite robust and slimy from its perch atop the refrigerator. It wouldn't be long now, I thought. The birth of our first batch was imminent. After lining up all the cold goods on the counter, I grabbed the refrigerator handle without much thought -- a tub of Earth Balance clutched in one hand, the other flipping open the dairy compartment -- and CRASH.

Down came the glass gallon jug.
Down came the fermented sludge.
Down it all came,
through a thin cheesecloth cover
onto
. . . me.


Hair, clothes, and toes wet with strange, foul liquid. I stood a moment in disbelief. Snapped a photo so there'd be proof when Stephen found the jug scrubbed in the sink. He'd be devastated. I knew it. Ada giggled. Then: What to do? It -- the mother -- was splished and splattered e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e. On the floor, in the fridge, on the wall, on the stand mixer, creeping ever-closer to Ada's high chair.

I'm almost 90% sure some droplets made it into my mug of tea.
Ironic, no?

Thankfully I Stephen had done a large load of bath towels the night before. They were folded and waiting on the couch for their journey to the linen closet. I grabbed a few and wiped down everything. I stripped down to my skivvies, right there in the sunny kitchen, desperately hoping my 80-year-old neighbors (Jack + Diane, yes -- like the song) weren't home to see the pathetic display. In one swift motion, I grabbed my clothes and scooped up Ada. We headed upstairs so I could shower off my hair and change.

For once in the past two years, I had been wearing a nice sweater that requires dry cleaning. I choose to blame this event for my current fashion disaster status. (At least grubby sweatshirts can be tossed into the wash without a thought beyond light or dark.) When we got back downstairs, Ada finished her lunch while I scrubbed and dubbed everything some more.

We haven't conceived another scoby since. I don't know when we will. I have a sour taste on my tongue over the matter. I've brushed my teeth many, many times since . . . so, I'm pretty sure that's not the leftover microbes from whatever splashed into my gaping mouth that day.

Lesson learned: Don't store so much darned stuff atop the refrigerator. Bookends are bound to slip and slide. And when your scoby has a great fall, all the king's horses and all the king's men do not come to your aid.

It's all on you.

Quite literally.

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Half Dozen Brownie Cookies

>> Tuesday, January 29, 2013


I've been experimenting with different varieties of the half dozen cookies recipe. Probably more than I should be if we're keeping tally of number of cookies consumed. This particular variation is super chocolatey and reminds me of brownies.

Pass the (almond) milk, please.


What I've discovered is that the basic framework for this recipe works with innumerable substitutions. I have an oatmeal raisin (err -- I added chocolate chips, but raisins would be perfect) variation I'll share next week. A peanut butter cookie for the week after that. And a sugar cookie for the week after that.

Maybe a couple gluten-free substitutions, too.

Now you can start to understand how many cookies we've been taste-testing in this house. A half dozen at a time.

6 x 1,000,000 . . .

HALF DOZEN BROWNIE COOKIES
vegan recipe

What you'll need . . . 

  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance or olive oil
  • 1/4 cup palm sugar or brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground flax meal
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • Handful or two chocolate chips
  • Handful crushed walnuts

Method . . .

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spritz a baking pan with some olive oil or grease with a bit of Earth Balance.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, use the paddle attachment to cream the Earth Balance (you can use olive or coconut oil in a pinch, too!) and sugar together. Add in the vanilla, flax meal, and water. Mix well.
  3. Then add in the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Mix. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts.
  4. Scoop heaping tablespoons of dough onto the cookie sheet and flatten with your palm. If you have leftover dough, eat it or evenly distribute.
  5. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden on top. Let cool before devouring.
Now I'm off to bake soft pretzels of all things. At 8 AM on a Tuesday. Add what's in them? VEGETABLE JUICE. Sorry to spoil the surprise. Actually, they have a fun twist (see what I did there?) that uses some of this stuff, which I'm hoping benefited from an overnight rise.

I know, I know. BREAD. I really do eat my fruits + veggies, but what I make is so basic it just isn't blog-worthy most of the time. Or maybe that means it's most definitely something I should be posting. 

Ciao, ragazzi!

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Lemon Cornmeal Cake + Blueberries

>> Monday, January 28, 2013


Everything about this recipe isn't classically ME. I don't often bake with fruit. I don't often make desserts without chocolate or peanut butter. I don't often bake gluten-free. I rarely use less than 1/2 cup sugar.

And, yet. . .

I am in love with this cake.


LEMON CORNMEAL CAKE
gluten free + vegan 

What you'll need . . . 

  • 1 cup rolled oats, pulsed into flour
  • 2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Juice of 2 lemons (1/3 cup)
  • Rind of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup coconut palm sugar***
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax meal
  • 3 tablespoons hot water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Half cup frozen blueberries
*** I have discovered coconut palm sugar (blonde). It's incredible. No one has paid me -- in sugar or $$$ -- to say so either. I found a package at Wegmans, saw that it's low on the glycemic index and much more nutrient dense than regular sugar, so I gave it a try. 

I've been able to swap with a 1:1 ratio -- so you can use any other sugar you like in this recipe. Brown sugar would work well, too. 


Method . . . 

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. If you have a cast iron pan -- mine is 9 inches diameter -- place it in the oven to heat, too.
  2. In a food processor, pulse your oats until they resemble flour. A minute or so. Then briefly pulse in the cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. Pour into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients -- minus the blueberries -- and mix until well combined.
  4. Stir in the blueberries. Then carefully get the pan out of the oven pour a heavy teaspoon of olive oil in the center and pour in the mixture.
  5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until set in the center. Baking time will depend on if you use cast iron or a regular round 9" baking dish. Just make sure it's set and golden brown.
  6. Let cool before slicing into wedges. Enjoy with fruity tea, if you like.

It's a healthy, muffin-y cake with a rather bold lemon flavor, so get ready for it. I like it that way, though. Intense. You can add more sugar, maybe even a 1/4 cup more, if you'd like to cut down on the sourness. The rind, too, can be omitted to tone it down.

We ate this cake for breakfast, snacks, and after dinner. I think it'd be great with frozen raspberries or blackberries, too.

Today on Writing Chapter Three . . .


We changed up the dining living family play room again. And we built our own DIY play Teepee for around $30. Gotta love PVC pipes.

PS: Thanks for your movie suggestions. Tried to go see Les Mis with a couple of my girlfriends . . . and it SOLD OUT with the person before me in line. Then we asked about Silver Linings Playbook. SOLD OUT TOO. Talk about bad luck. We got coffee instead. Maybe next weekend.

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Weekend Things

>> Friday, January 25, 2013


Another Friday!


Just toss beans, veggies, tomatoes, both, and spices into the pot.
Cook on high for several hours. Can't go wrong.

 // Stashing $$$ //
A relatively pain-free way to save a bit each week.
Almost $1,400/year. What to do with all that cash?

// Where the Magic Happens //
Our "master" bedroom needs an overhaul. Badly.
These spaces look calm + pretty.

// Pom Pretty Garland //
OK. I'm obsessed with poms. Evidenced here.
This project is cute, too.

// Who's Got GREEN Juice? //
Not us, unfortunately. Juicer arrived broken!
This recipe uses a blender. Photos are my favorite OFALLTIME.

// Free Kindness //
It's always good to remember stuff like this.
The best things in life really are free.

// Treat Yourself //
A roundup of some pretty things.
And more proof I'm obsessed with lip balm.

// Goblet Squats //
 Are killer. Goal: 50/day.
Just for kicks. In the shower of all places.

// This week in Food // 
Lately I can't feast my eyes on enough sandwich cookies.
Chocolate cakes and canned champagne, too.

// Chicago's Hidden Farms //
"Urban agriculture is sometimes thought of as new and trendy
. . .  but people have been growing food in backyards for generations."  


Here's what you may have missed this week on Writing Chapter Three:

 

What's new and exciting with you? I got bangs, by the way. Cost me $8 at the mall and worth every penny. I always cut them myself, but it was nice to have them properly shaped for once in my life.

Cue selfie.


See any good movies lately? I need suggestions!

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Running Sub 10s (Degrees F, that is)

>> Thursday, January 24, 2013


There's a good chance that you're cold, too. A huge portion of the US is under a deep freeze right now. I can't complain too much because we're having sunshine like we never, ever have -- so, I'll take the dip for some happy rays any day of the week.

The truth remains: It "feels like" -2 degrees F.


My weekly exercise has looked a bit like this lately:

M: Rest day + enjoy gym pool w/ Ada
T: Run 3 to 4 miles, swim 1/2 mile
W: Run 4 to 5 miles
R: Run 3 to 4 miles, swim 1/2 mile
F: OFF or do at-home workout DVD
S: Run 5 to 6 miles
S: Run 8 to 10 miles + yoga (trying to fit this in)

= Running around 25 miles average, etc.

I run on the treadmill some days of the week, but I'd much rather get in the bulk of my mileage outdoors, even when it's frigid. I've written many posts about how to train outdoors + dress for when it's cold (you can check them out here, here, and most recently here).


When you run outdoors this time of year, there's usually one of two reasons to credit.

1.) You are a "real" runner, whatever that means.
2.) You don't have a gym membership or treadmill at home.

I've been in both spots throughout my years of running. But when temps get this cold, I have a  few ways I stay comfortable outdoors.

  • I just jump in. I find I'm always cold the first mile, but then warm up and feel -- dare I say -- comfortable. It's like getting into a pool.
  • I go slow. Adjusting to the cold air can be difficult. It's harder to breathe, so there's no shame in slowing your mile pace. Or deciding not to track at all. You're out there, who cares how fast you're going!
  • I always wear a hat and socks -- heat escapes the heat/feet the fastest.
  • I cover my mouth, too. As I wrote, breathing in the cold air can be harsh on your lungs. It helps to have a line of defense.
  • I slather on the lip balm and lotion before heading out. Dry skin is the enemy and difficult to tame once it takes hold.
  • I wear contacts over glasses due to fogging up. It's the most annoying thing . . . ever!
  • But if it's sunny, I slap on sunglasses -- especially if there's lots of blinding white snow.
  • I have invested in a good running jacket, vest, and tights. You really only need one of each.
  • I have something warm waiting for me at home. Be it tea or a long hot shower. It's helpful to know there's comfort just around the bend.
  • I try to run in the daylight if possible. The night -- darkness -- always feels colder to me no matter the temperature. I may be weird.
  • I am generally aware of the temperature ranges, but don't obsess. I try my best to check what the temp was AFTER I run so I don't dwell on the OMGSOCOLD reality.
Here's what I wore on today's run.


I was completely comfortable after that first mile. Layers upon layers. And I'm glad I did it. I even got a high-five from a fellow crazy runner out there. There weren't many of us, so I was happy to see a kind face, even if it was covered by a scarf!

Is it freezing where you are? Have you been running outdoors?


PS: More Valentine's Day DIY fun on Writing Chapter Three. This time, a Pom Heart Plaque. I'm having too much fun.

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(Baked) Sweet Potato Fries

>> Wednesday, January 23, 2013


For the past four nights, we've eaten Spook Fork Bacon's Spicy Black Bean Burgers slathered with Vegenaise, avocado, and lots of mustard. "Beefy" vegan burgers between two impossibly thick slices of sourdough toast.

And what's a.l.w.a.y.s on the side?

These guys . . .




So much for variety in my diet, right?

There's not much difference between these sweet potato fries and roasted sweet potato cubes. It's all in how you slice them. The thinner, the crispier they get while baking. We're partial to spicy fries anything, so I tossed on a teaspoon of different spices I found lurking around the cabinets. The usual suspects, as you'll see below.

(BAKED) SWEET POTATO FRIES
Serves between 2 and 4, depending on the size of your sweet potatoes

What you'll need . . . 

  • 2 large sweet potatoes 
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • Salt + pepper to taste
  • Optional: curry powder, turmeric, paprika


Method . . .

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. (Hot, yes -- but unlike with roasting, you want to SHOCK them to crisp as much as possible.) Find a rimmed baking sheet. Doesn't have to be rimmed, but makes things easier.
  2. Cut sweet potatoes in half and then each half in half. Then cut into fry shapes, as shown above. You don't want them too thin or too thick, if that is helpful at all.
  3. Place chopped sweet potatoes onto the baking sheet and then drizzle with oil -- just enough to coat them. 
  4. Sprinkle on your salt, pepper, and other spices. I didn't measure how much I used, but it was a good 1/2 teaspoon of each.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes, then flip over/stir around. Bake another 10 minutes -- again, stir + turn over. Then bake another 5 to 10 until you've reached your desired brown. We like ours rather dark.
  6. Serve with ketchup or mustard or a sauce of your own creation.

// Random Tip:

Like I said, we've made these a lot recently. Some times, I refrigerate uncooked fries (just the chopped sweet potatoes) for the next day. I find when I bake them right out of the refrigerator, they get slightly crisper. It may very well be my imagination.

// Also:

I feel like tossing in some whole wheat breadcrumbs might add to the crunch in an out-of-this-world sort of way. I am planning on trying that soon.

And I'm sure this method would work well with other types of potatoes, too!


Check out the inexpensive + festive Valentine's Day DIY --||--> STAMPED ARROW T-SHIRT <-- b="">today on Writing Chapter Three. I'm off to make one for myself . . . and then I'm going running outside . . . where it "feels like" 4 degrees F. 

Do I win a prize? Probably not. But the shower after will feel amazing.

Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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Green Breakfast, 2 Ways

>> Tuesday, January 22, 2013


I'm fanatical about using foods before the sell-by date. To a fault, I admit. I imagine much of what I toss is still perfectly OK -- and I really do hate wasting food. Still, if I see anything slimy in a package of greens + the date is yesterday or even TODAY, it's gone.

Unless Stephen eats it, which he usually does. Anyway, these green breakfast recipes started with a package of almost-expired spring mix.


GREEN WAFFLE/PANCAKE MIX

What you'll need . . .

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour 
  • 2 cups spinach or spring mix 
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder 
  • 2 tablespoons flax meal 
  • pinch salt
// Pulse all ingredients together in a food processor until fully combined. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.


Full disclosure: I originally intended to give you TWO waffle recipes, but what I ended up doing to the sweet version didn't jive so well with the waffle maker. These recipes are both vegan if you like, but vegan waffle making can be tricky, as I've discovered these past several weeks.

Also, if you don't have a waffle maker, you can certainly just do pancakes. But something I didn't know is that you can get an adequate waffle machine for under $20, scratch that, under $10. It may not be fancy, but it does the job every Sunday.

First, a savory recipe . . .


GREEN WAFFLES w/ EGGS, IF YOU LIKE

// Combine half the flour mixture with 3/4 to 1 cup almond milk. How much you use depends on the consistency. It should be thick, but not like pizza dough -- certainly not runny, though

// Preheat your waffle maker + when it's good, scoop onto it 1/3 to 1/2 cup batter (depending on the size of your maker). Cook as directed + serve with peppery fried eggs and oranges.

Now for something sweet . . .


GREEN PANCAKES w/ BLUEBERRIES

// Combine half the flour mixture with 1 small mashed banana + 1/2 cup almond milk and a tablespoon brown sugar. Add in 1/2 cup frozen or fresh blueberries.

// Heat a pan over medium-high heat and grease it a bit with some Earth Balance or olive oil. Scoop heaping 1/4 cupfuls of batter onto it and cook on each side until golden and the middles set.

(I think the reason this didn't work in the waffle maker is because there was too much moisture with the banana and blueberries. I might try it again without banana and substitute another 1/4 cup almond milk.)

MORE GREENS FOR BREAKFAST:

Leafy Green Pancakes
Green Eggs -- errr -- Banana Scramble
Avocado Green Smoothie
Not-So Green GREEN Smoothie
Protein-Packed Green Smoothie
Light on the Greens Smoothie

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Half Dozen Chocolate Chippers

>> Sunday, January 20, 2013


For two people, a standard recipe's yield of 24+ cookies is too many. Cutting it in half doesn't help much. I've seen down-and-dirty recipes for just two, but that's too few. Sometimes you need s.i.x -- a solid half dozen -- to split.

Five for me.
One for Stephen.
Or something like that.

Anyway, with this recipe, what you see is what you get . . . 


HALF DOZEN CHOCOLATE CHIPPERS
* Vegan recipe

What you'll need . . . 

  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground flax meal
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • Handful or two chocolate chips

Method . . . 

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spritz a baking pan with some olive oil or grease with a bit of Earth Balance.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, use the paddle attachment to cream the Earth Balance and sugar together. Add in the vanilla, flax meal, and water. Mix until fluffy.
  3. Then add in the flour, salt, and chocolate chips. Mix until just combined.
  4. Scoop heaping tablespoons of dough onto the cookie sheet and flatten with your palm. If you have leftover dough, eat it or evenly distribute.
  5. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden on top. Let cool before devouring.

Serve with a cold glass of almond milk. Consider adding chopped walnuts. And whatever you do, please don't hate me for contributing to your evening baking habit. It's good practice, I tell you. Really.

If you're getting sick of all the bread and cookie recipes (it is January, after all, the month of sugar/carbohydrate abstinence, I know, I know)  -- you're in luck. This week I'll give you recipes for a vibrant, veggie-heavy crockpot soup + super healthy green waffles, 2 ways.

Pssst: Got a case of cabin fever? Check out Ada's indoor petting zoo on Writing Chapter Three.

Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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