So, TV turnoff week is coming to an end. I survived it just fine. I do admit to going through some withdrawals, but it's amazing how quickly you can distance yourself from t.v. Usually, a new episode of a favorite show would be much anticipated, but if you don't watch it, it starts seeming pretty unreal! What did I get accomplished? I did some major filing and organizing. The house is pleasingly clean and clutter-free. We took a really nice road-trip to Massachusetts (more on that later). I got to enjoy the newly warm weather with walks around the neighborhood and just sitting in the back yard.
What I thought was especially fun was that Daiku and I sat down at the dining room table and had really nice dinners. Usually, we time our dinner to coincide with t.v. and eat while watching some show. This has a double negative effect: the eating distracts from the show and the show distracts from the eating. So this week, we tried some new recipes, had some old favorites, and got the luxury of getting to really savor what we were eating. I'll share two of those meals with you in this post.
Menu: Cypriot lima bean soup (I subbed cannelini beans, cooked quickly in the pressure cooker), Moroccan carrot salad with cilantro (because we had a bunch of cilantro that we needed to use up!) and homemade pita breads.
The soup and the salad were from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian. I was weary of the salad at first- when I mixed all the ingredients together, it gave off a pungent smell. But it got better as it sat, and it was especially good the second day, when the flavors had melded together. I made Cypriot soup because... well, I won't tell you yet, it's a surprise! The pita bread recipe came from Nava Atlas's blog. I used 1/2 white bread flour and 1/2 white whole wheat flour. They were really good. I had previously baked pita bread using a no yeast recipe, and this one, with yeast, was definitely more fluffy. As much as I liked them, I can't help but think that our local Egyptian market sells fresh baked pitas, fluffier than I could ever make them, white or whole wheat, for only $.69 for 8. How can I match that?
Ok, it's confession time. Ready? Daiku and I love baked beans, and often make huge batches in the crock pot. (I've posted the recipe on this blog). But sometimes, we just want store-bought baked beans (vegetarian, of course.) Yes, those baked beans- jacked up with sugar and corn syrup and all manner of things that don't belong in beans. There is just something in canned baked beans that reminds us of childhood and we succumb and buy a can every now and then. To eat them, we doctor them up with blackstrap molasses, sriracha, cayenne, paprika, and some other spices.
We had the baked beans (in the top photo you see the molasses swirl) with a side of Susan's cajun tempeh bacon. I had read on Amey's blog that when she made the bacon, she found it too salty, so I took that into account (I have a pretty low salt tolerance.) I cut the soy sauce in half and increased the water, decreased the hot sauce, and only used cajun seasoning salt on half the batch. The result was delicious, but still a bit too salty for my taste. However, the tempeh bacon (salty and smoky) played off of the sweet and spicy baked beans really marvelously. We had some leftover pita breads with the beans 'n bacon.
To round out the summery feel of the meal, we had a fabulous salad of organic spring mix, organic strawberries, cucumbers and mandarin slices with a balsamic vinaigrette. Yum!
Ok, I have another confession to make here! A couple of months ago, I got sick. Very, very sick. I'm not sure exactly what I had, but it knocked me out for more than a week and was stronger than any other flu I can remember having. While I was sick, I lost my appetite, big time. I couldn't even drink water. Everything tasted really weird- too metallic, acidic, just wrong. For the first time, I realized how it must feel to be a picky eater, someone for whom most foods just don't taste good. This was actually a psychologically and emotionally stressful time- for someone as in love with food as I am, suddenly losing all interest in eating was pretty alarming. By the end of the week, I could tolerate only one thing: coke. For 2-3 days, it was my only source of calories and hydration. How sad, right?
Well, I got better of course, and once again, slowly, tentatively, could eat. Coke was again banished from my house, and all was as it should be. Everything was right with the world again. Except for one thing. I realize now that this might have been residual psychological dealing with the illness, but something inside of me snapped and I started hating healthy foods. One day, I made some scones with white whole wheat flour. When I tasted them, they were so flour-y and heavy, so not like scones, that I actually said "fuck whole wheat!" I went crazy baking everything with white flour, white sugar, the works. This was a passing phase, but I think the result is that I no longer think that whole grains can be substituted into any recipe, willy nilly. I respect the texture and flavor that white flour brings to foods, even though I also respect that for health reasons, I shouldn't eat that way all the time. I have learned to experiment and not be so dogmatic.
Ok, that was a long introduction to one of my favorite discoveries this week. You might remember these "banana chocolate chimp" muffins that I posted about back in November. The recipe was from VegNews magazine. This week, I had a lot of ripe bananas to get through, so I decided to make some more of these muffins, which are just amazing.
I made one batch using half white flour and half white whole wheat flour. I thought they were ok, until I made another batch- and hit pay dirt! Surprise, for the second batch, I used 100% whole spelt flour. And guess what? These were so much better than the first batch, even though the first only had 1/2 whole grain flour and the second had all whole grain flour. The spelt made the muffins tender, light, and delicious! So that was my real learning experience this past week: experiment, experiment, experiment. I still don't think 100% whole grain flour is always an appropriate or tasty substitute, but in this case, it was just perfect. I think the key is finding recipes where whole grains work perfectly, rather than automatically subbing whole grains in everything.
So I bring you the recipe for:
Bazu's Whole Grain is O.K. After All Banana Chocolate Peanut Butter muffins. (Ok, the title is a joke, but these muffins aren't!)
(adapted from recipe in the October 2006 issue of VegNews magazine)
Ingredients: (makes 6 muffins)
2.5 TB Earth Balance margarine, slightly softened
1.5 TB all natural peanut butter
1/4 Cup unrefined sugar (I used Florida Crystals)
1 Cup whole spelt flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1.2 oz. dark chocolate bar, smashed to pieces (or 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 very ripe banana, smashed
1/4 Cup soymilk (I used unsweetened)
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. (I used a toaster oven, since I was just using a 6 cup muffin pan)
- Using a fork, mix margarine, peanut butter, and sugar until well incorporated
- In a seperate bowl, mix banana, vanilla, and soymilk until well blended and set aside
- Add flour, baking powder, and baking soda to margarine/PB/sugar mixture and mix
- Add liquid mixture to this, mixing until well incorporated
- Gently fold in chocolate pieces
- Divide batter among 6 muffin tins, and bake 20-30 minutes until golden brown.
- Cool on wire racks.