September 24, 2008

Muffins, Bread, and Granola

It’s time for some recipes that I’ve been meaning to share. I kind of went on a cooking and baking spree over the last few weeks, when I was hanging around the apartment looking for a job.

Our first week at the market we bought a very, very large zucchini. Kind of baseball bat-ish, if you know what I mean. I should have taken a picture of it whole to show you how very big it was.

So even after cooking two zucchini side dishes, there was a chunk of zucchini left over. I pondered what to do with it, and the obvious conclusion was to turn it into zucchini muffins. I also thought they would be a good choice because it was a rather stringy zucchini. I actually liked the texture of it cooked (and it still tasted delicious) but J wasn’t really a fan.

So I grated that old chunk of zucchini down and made my fallback muffin recipe, Moosewood Muffins. It never lets me down. These muffins are delicious - moist with a springy texture and lots of flavour from the spices. And even though there are only two of us, they didn’t last long.

Next I decided to make something that I’ve been wanting to try since the spring: No-Knead Bread. I saw the recipe on several of the food blogs that I read, and it sounded amazing. I have only ever made bread in the breadmaker and this sounded just as easy, if slightly more time-consuming.

It was definitely worth the extra effort. Breadmaker bread is great, but this felt a lot more like real homemade bread. It was bread bliss: soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside, with a subtle flavour. And it only has four ingredients!

This is a recipe you could definitely add stuff to, though. I have read that some people use half whole-wheat flour, or spelt or other flours. Maybe next time I will experiment a bit.

And cooking bread in a pot – what could make a girl feel more rustic and domestic than that?

Well, maybe making granola. Although I guess that has more of a hippie ring to it. Granola is another one of those great recipes that you can fiddle with to your liking. You barely even need a recipe to give it a whirl (though I’m usually never brave enough to abandon the guide entirely).

This time I sort of made a cross between the recipe in my new Deborah Madison book, and Nigella’s from her cookbook Feast that I made over the summer. Deborah’s recipe calls for less sugar, which made me feel good about myself. But when J tasted it, he said it wasn’t as good as before. I thought it was still great, but feel free to add as much sweetener as you like.

By now all three of these treats are long gone. Now that I’m a working girl (Yess!) I don’t have as much time to stay home and bake all day. But I’m hoping to get in a little quality time with my oven this weekend.

Muffin Madness from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home

Basic Wet Ingredients:
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 - 1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Basic Dry Ingredients:
2 cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Choose one of the following combos to add to basic ingredients (the above is NOT a plain muffin recipe, but the base for the following)

Apple muffins: Add 2 cups of grated apple and 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel to wet ingredients and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon to dry ingredients.
Banana muffins: Add 1 1/2 cups of mashed banana to wet ingredients and 1 cup chopped nuts and/or 1/2 cup of chocolate chips to batter.
Blueberry - lemon muffins: Add 1 1/2 cups of blueberries and 1 tablespoon of grated lemon peel to wet ingredients.
Zucchini muffins: Add 2 cups of grated zucchini to wet ingredients and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of ground cardamom to the dry ingredients. Fold in 1/2 cup of raisins or currants and 3/4 cup of chopped nuts to batter
(I didn’t add raisins or nuts to mine).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, Combine wet ingredients, then stir in the zucchini (or other ingredients of your choice). In another bowl, sift together the dry ingredients, including spices. Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients, being careful not to overmix. Fold in the additional ingredients if your variation calls for them.

Spoon batter into oiled standard muffins tins and bake for 20-25 minutes, until puffed and golden brown. (If using mini-muffin tins, bake for only 10-15 minutes.) A knife inserted into the centre of a muffin should come out clean.

Makes 12 muffins.

This recipe is really just a template for creativity. You could probably try tons of other fruit/nut/chocolate combinations that would be delish.


Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison and Andy’s Fairfield Granola from Feast by Nigella Lawson

3 cups rolled oats

Around ¼ cup chopped nuts (I used whole almonds and sunflower seeds)

About ¼ cup sesame seeds

½ teaspoon grated nutmeg

½ teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch of salt

¼ cup applesauce (just because I had some lying around)

1/8 cup canola oil

¼ cup to ½ cup honey or maple syrup (you could also add brown sugar)

½ cup raisins, currants, cranberries or chopped apricots

Preheat oven to 300. Combine all the ingredients except the dried fruit in large bowl and mix to make sure everything is distributed.

Spread the mixture on two cookie sheets with sides and bake until golden, turning every 10 minutes so that it browns evenly. This will take about 30 – 50 minutes, depending on your oven.

Let cool on the pans, then mix with the dried fruit. Store in a tightly covered jar or plastic container.

September 21, 2008

Grocery Stores

One of the best things about our new apartment is that it’s four blocks from the nearest grocery store. And this is not just any grocery store. No, this is a dream of a grocery store, a brand-new Sobey’s Urban Market, complete with a very large section of delicious-looking prepared meals and a wine bar. Yes, that’s right, our grocery store has a wine bar.

There is a whole aisle of miniature veggies, including these baby romanescos and cauliflowers.

When J and I first went in, we couldn’t stop exclaiming over stuff like the food geeks we are. “Ohmygod, jicama!” “Wow, local beets and carrots!” “Dried mushrooms!” “Chile oil!”

Vegan cupcakes in the dessert counter.

The only problem with the store is that sometimes you can’t find the most everyday items. For example, they carry several different kinds of olive oil, but no regular old vegetable oil. When we asked three different people where the tofu was, they looked at us like we were mutants. (We later discovered it tucked away near the sprouts and fresh herbs.)

There is also a larger, more generic grocery store nine blocks away, called Save On Foods. It’s like your normal grocery store, except the first time I went there I discovered something magnificent: the bulk section. Alberta does not have Bulk Barn (Oh how I miss you!) so this was excellent. I was so excited I whipped out my camera and took pictures.

My bulk food stash: sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, cocoa powder, raisins and almonds.

We are pretty spoiled to have these two stores nearby, not to mention the market. Oh Edmonton, you are full of wonderful surprises.

September 16, 2008

Let's Get Saucy

I found myself with a lot of time to spend in the kitchen last week. I guess that’s because I’m still looking for a job … and I pretty much have no commitments.

This time translated into a lot of recipes getting made. On top of all the aforementioned sandwiches, I was a regular Betty Crocker in the kitchen. (Although, did you know Betty Crocker never existed? Crazy.)

I decided to get all homey and whip up my own mayonnaise to go on our sandwiches. Then I wanted to use some of the tiny, soft apples we bought at the market to make applesauce. And then, well, we just had so many avocados hanging around the kitchen that the only thing to do was make guacamole.

I probably made more recipes in one week than I’ve ever made in my life. It was great, and best of all, everything was delicious.

Ooh, and there are more coming. We haven’t even gotten to the baked goods yet.

(All recipes are from Deborah Madison's cookbook.)


I had never made applesauce before and it’s so easy and sooo delish. Make it, today.

3 pounds apples, quartered

Honey or sugar

Fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, cardamom, or allspice or a pinch of ground cloves, optional

Peel and core the apples, then quarter. Put them in a pot, add 1/3 cup water, cover securely, and cook (over low-medium heat) until the apples are completely tender an mostly broken down into a sauce, about 20 minutes. Taste and sweeten with honey if the sauce is tart or add the lemon juice if the apples are too sweet. Add the spices. Simmer for 5 minutes, then cool. (Feel free to mash the apples up a bit with a fork to make a smoother sauce. That’s what I did.)

Basic Mayonnaise

I always thought making mayonnaise was extremely tricky. Turns out it’s not. Who knew? And it tastes so much better than the store-bought kind. If you make it by hand, the only annoying thing is you have to stand there holding a measuring cup for about 15 minutes and whisking with your other hand as you pour the oil in drop by drop. That’s why it did it in the blender for my second batch, and it still turned out great. But if you really want to challenge yourself, here are the instructions by hand as well.

1 large egg yolk at room temperature (make sure the egg is fresh)

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard


2 to 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, white wine vinegar, or tarragon vinegar

¾ cup peanut oil or mild olive oil

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

By Hand: Rinse a 1-quart bowl with hot water and dry and set it on the counter with a towel wrapper tightly around the base to keep it stable. Add the egg yolk and whisk it vigorously back and forth until thick and sticky, then stir in the mustard, a pinch of salt, and the lemon juice. Whisk in the oil by droplets until the egg and oil have begun to thicken (when one-third to one-half the oil has been added), then whisk in the remaining oil in a thin, steady stream. Add the extra-virgin oil at the end and season to taste with additional salt and a little lemon juice. To thin, whisk in lemon juice or vinegar by drops or 1 to 2 tablespoons boiling water as needed. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

In the blender: Put a whole egg, the mustard, and a pinch of salt in the blender with ¼ cup oil and turn it on. Add the remaining oil in a steady stream (be careful, it will spray a bit) until all is incorporated, then add the lemon juice.


1/3 cup finely diced white onion or scallion, including some of the green

¼ cup chopped cilantro

2 medium tomatoes, seeded and finely diced

1 to 2 serrano chiles, finely diced


Three large avocados, preferably Haas

Juice of 1 or 2 limes

Set aside a few tablespoons of the onion, cilantro and tomato for garnish (Or don’t, if you plan on eating this yourself instead of serving it right away). Grind or chop the remaining onion, cilantro and chile with ½ teaspoon salt to make a rough paste. Peel and mash the avocado with a fork. Add the onion mixture and tomatoes and season with lime juice and salt to taste.

If you’re not serving the guacamole right away, press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface to keep it from browning. To serve, heap the guacamole into a bowl and garnish with the reserved onion, cilantro and tomato.

Sandwiches (and Tempeh!) : Week One

Sandwiches. They’re pretty easy to make, right? You just slap a couple pieces of bread together with some filling inside, like PB and J or maybe good-old ham and cheese. Serve it with pickles and potato chips and you’re good to go.

Yeah. That’s what I thought, too. The first substantial chapter in my cookbook is Sandwiches, after you get past the sauces and appetizers. First I decided to skip to near the end of the chapter and only make the ones she calls Supper Sandwiches. The other ones? Meh. I’d make them for lunch sometime.

J disagreed. He thought I should go ahead and make all the sandwiches. I remembered something I had read in the opening section of the book, Becoming a Cook:

“Learn to make a few things well. Learning too many dishes at once makes cooking trying. It’s better to build your cooking vocabulary dish by dish … So decide what you like to eat, then practice cooking that type of dish until you feel confident. Once you understand the basics, you’ll be able to cook creatively and easily.”

Hmmmm. Maybe I could become a sandwich artist, just like those people at Subway. Except with better-quality ingredients, and no little plastic gloves. Anyway, I decided to give it a try.

Let me tell you, sandwiches are not as easy as they look. At all. I am starting to learn that there is an art to making a really good sandwich. According to Deborah Madison, that art involves four things: bread, a filling, flavouring and a garnish. It makes sense, but I had never stopped to think about it in that way.

So we have just started week two of sandwiches. There are many more weeks to come. It’s a long chapter. I invite you, dear readers, to join me on this long, and hopefully tasty, journey of sandwiches.

Week one certainly started off tasty. Here are the sandwiches we ate last week (well, actually a week and a half. I lied in the title of this post to make it sound good).

Braised Spinach with Tomatoes and Sauteed Onions on Country Bread

Bruschetta with Swiss Chard

Avocado and Cheese with Sprouts

Avocado Club Sandwich with Tempeh Strips

Cucumber Sandwiches with Spicy Greens

Tomato Sandwich with Olive Paste, Mozzarella, and Arugula

Grilled Fontina with Sage Leaves

The sandwiches were all very good. My favourite was probably the avocado club. J liked the cucumber one the best.

I made side dishes to go with all the sandwiches too, since just eating a sandwich feels too much like lunch. I picked the sides once we got back from the market with a bunch of veggies.

Here are a few of the sandwich “recipes”, and one side.

Braised Spinach with Tomatoes and Sauteed Onions on Foccacia or Country Bread

Olive Oil as needed

2 garlic cloves, one sliced, one halved

1 bunch Spinach, stems removed

Salt and freshly milled pepper

Red pepper flakes

1 small onion, thinly sliced

2 big squares foccacia, about 6 by 6 inches, or 4 large slices sourdough bread

2 small tomatoes, sliced

6 ½ inch rounds goat cheese

Balsamic or red wine vinegar

Heat one tablespoon oil with the sliced garlic in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until the garlic begins to colour, then add the spinach and sprinkle with salt and several pinches red pepper flakes. Raise the heat and sauté until wilted and tender, after a few minutes. Remove to a colander to drain.

Discard any juices left in the pan, add 2 teaspoons oil and the onion, and sauté over high heat until golden, about 5 minutes. Toast or broil the focaccia, then rub with the halved garlic clove.

Pile the spinach on the bottom halves of the foccacia, then top with the onion, tomato, and cheese. Drizzle with the olive oil and season with pepper. Broil until the cheese begins to colour in spots, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle generously with vinegar, add the tops, and press down to secure them.

Avocado Club Sandwich with Tempeh Strips

Baconlike tempeh strips, homemade or store-bought, provide some of the texture and smoke that bacon does. (See below for recipe.) Slice the bread thinly, or the finished sandwich might be too thick. Toast the bread and spread each slice with mayonnaise. Cover one slice with a crisp lettuce leaf, three slices avocado, and the tempeh and season with salt and pepper. Add the second piece of toast, mayonnaise side up, and cover with three slices Swiss cheese, sliced tomato, and another layer of lettuce. Set the third piece of toast, mayonnaise side down, over the lettuce and press down gently. To be ultra-traditional, trim the crusts (I didn’t), then cut the sandwiches diagonally to make 4 triangles and secure each with a skirted toothpick (also didn’t, but only because I forgot). Serve with pickled vegetables or a mound of finely shredded cabbage tossed with salt and lime juice on the side.

Tempeh Strips in a Smoky Molasses Marinade

1 8 or 10-ounce package tempeh

2 garlic cloves, put through a press or minced

A few onion slices

2 bay leaves

1/4 thin soy sauce or 2 tablespoons thin soy and mushroom soy (I just used regular soy sauce - not sure what thin soy sauce is)

4 thin slices ginger

1 clove

1/4 teaspoon pureed chipotle chile or a few drops liquid smoke (I didn't have either so I added red pepper flakes)

2 tablespoons molasses

1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Optional additions: chipotle chile, red pepper flakes, thyme sprigs, rosemary, dried mushrooms, and so forth

Slice the tempeh crosswise into thin strips. Combine the remaining ingredients in a small skillet, bring them to a boil, and add the tempeh. Simmer slowly, covered, for 15 minutes, remove the lid, and continue cooking until all the liquid has been absorbed. At this point the tempeh will begin to fry in the oil (I didn't really see this happening - but it still tasted great!). Cook until it's glazed and brown, about 5 minutes.

Cucumber Sandwiches with Spicy Greens

An interesting twist on the traditional tea sandwiches. Spread white or whole-wheat bread with mayonnaise and top with thinly sliced cucumber and sprigs of arugula, nasturtium leaves, or garden cress. Season with salt and white pepper (I used black), then top with a second piece of bread. If spicy greens aren’t available, mix the mayonnaise with horseradish.

Roasted Carrots with Garlic and Thyme

Since the garlic is roasted with the skins on, this is the perfect time to use all those tiny cloves that are too fiddly to peel. Leftovers are good with a squeeze of lemon.

I used a pound of carrots and half a pound of potatoes in this recipe. It came out gorgeous, both vegetables were soft without being mushy. There seems to be a lot of oil, though. You could probably get away with a tablespoon and a half.

1 ½ pounds carrots, peeled

2 Tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly milled pepper

10 or so tiny garlic cloves

Several thyme sprigs

Chopped thyme or parsley

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the carrots with the oil, then season with salt and pepper. Put them in a roomy baking dish with the garlic and thyme sprigs. Add two tablespoons water, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake until tender, 25 to 45 minutes. Check at least twice while they’re cooking to make sure there’s a little moisture in the pan – and give the pan a shake while you’re at it. Toward the end, remove the foil and continue roasting until the liquid is reduced and the carrots are browned. Serve garnished with chopped thyme.