Archive | December, 2010

Mac ‘n’ Cheats

28 Dec

I have been dabbling in vegan cooking often over the past 12 months, mostly due to The China Study. I’ve always been a bit grossed out by milk (my mom said I refused it as a child and would pour orange juice in my cereal…don’t try it), but the extremely convincing peer-reviewed studies in that book affirmed my beliefs that dairy just isn’t good for you.

I make an exception for butter.

Anyways, I like the challenge of cooking vegan, especially for people who have an extremely adverse reaction to the concept. People like my boyfriend, whose favourite foods include bacon, chorizo, and cheese.

So, when I read the Vegan Mac ‘n’ Cheese post on Oh She Glows, I wanted to give it a shot.

I made some tweaks to the recipe. I didn’t have potatoes or carrots, so I roasted pumpkin and sweet potatoes instead. I also didn’t have bread crumbs, so I just grabbed some random seed crackers, rice crispies, dried shitake mushrooms and made it into a crumb.

Grant was late coming home that night, thanks to the unprecedented amount of snow that was crippling Amsterdam, so I knew I’d be able to have everything in the oven by the time he arrived. He wouldn’t suspect a thing.

what cheese?

By the time Grant came home, the flat was filled with the smell of, well, mac ‘n’ cheese. I plated up, handed it to Grant and watched as he wolfed it down.

“Is it good?”

“Yes, it’s really good!”

“That’s nice”

“What did you put in it? Cinnamon?”

“No!”

“Why are you watching me eat it?”

“Because I wanted to see if you liked it before I told you it was vegan! There’s no cheese in it?”

“Really?”

Success! Not only did Grant devour what was on his plate, but he was also digging around the casserole dish for more.

me want more

Next time I make this, I would use cashew cream instead of just pureeing the raw cashews. It’s definitely a ‘drier’ mac ‘n’ “cheese”, and I think the cashew cream would do a lot to improve that.

Mac ‘n’ Cheats

(recipe adapted from Oh She Glows)

Directions:

Cashew Cream (must be done a day in advance):

Soak 1-2 cups of raw cashews in cold water, cover, and keep in fridge overnight.

The next day, rinse and drain the cashews. Puree in a blender until smooth, add water until it reaches the desired consistency (you may want it a bit thinner, or thicker for desserts). Pass it through a sieve. Voila. Cashew Cream.

Roast for 45 minutes:

  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1.4 small pumpkin, peeled and chopped (about 1.5 cups)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves

Add roasted veg to a food processor and puree until smooth.

“Cheese” sauce

Add the following to the food processor with the pureed roasted veg:

  • 1.5 cups cashew cream (recipe below)
  • 1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used oat milk)
  • the juice of 2 fresh lemons
  • 2-3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp grainy or dijon mustard
  • sea salt & black pepper to taste

Puree everything until it’s silky smooth. Taste it. Not cheese enough? Add more nutritional yeast. Needs a bit of tang? Add more lemon. A bit bland? Add more salt and pepper.

Crumble topping

Make a fine crumb in the food processor with:

  • 1-2 cups of stale bread (or melba toast, or seed crackers, or whatever else you’ve got in the pantry)
  • handful of dried shitake mushrooms
  • fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp soy or other non-dairy “butter” (Earth Balance if you’re in North America)

Boil your macaroni until it’s al dente (follow the instructions on the package and don’t overcook it), drain and reserve a tiny bit of the pasta water. Add this to your “cheese” sauce and give it a quick blitz to incorporate.

Add the pasta to the casserole dish, pour over the sauce and mix it well to coat. Spread the crumble over top. Sprinkle paprika/cayenne and dried oregano on top. Pop it in the oven at 175 degrees celsius for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

So, I updated…a lot

27 Dec

The guilt of not posting for several weeks capitulated tonight. I’ve uploaded all my photos and just had a massive post-fest.

Here’s a quick index if you don’t fancy meandering through:

Christmas Cookies a Go-Go

27 Dec

I’ve been scouring various websites for Christmas cookie inspiration since October. Armed with a new mixer made me giddy with baking excitement, and I stocked up on eggs, cocoa, flour, vanilla and powdered sugar to be prepared when the need struck.

After what seemed like a never-ending stream of booked weekends away (not complaining here, just saying!), I was finally able to get my bake on over the second weekend in December.

My first three recipes: Martha Stewart’s Linzer Cookies, White Chocolate Chunk & Pomegranatee (courtesy of Two Peas and a Pod), and the classic Hazelnut Thumbprint (I used Martha’s, though I might not next time).

Round 1 – Linzer Sandwich Cookies

Linzer cookies. I will never make them again. Well, at least this recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart. Now, I’m no novice baker, but I could not get this dough to work with me. I chilled it over night, as indicated, but when it came to rolling it out, it was just sticking to everything – the counter, the cutting board, the cookie cutters. I ended up using 1/2 a bag of flour just to keep everything dusted.

The recipe was supposed to yield 2 dozen sandwich cookies – I got about 8.

Loser Linzers

Round 2 – White Chocolate Chunk and Pomegranate

These were much more enjoyable to make. I’m not a fan of white chocolate, but I think it’s a decent ingredient in a cookie, and the idea of a pomegranate combo seemed right to me. The only pain about this recipe was having to insert the pomegranate seeds one at a time in each cookie prior to going in the oven. A small price to pay for the delicious result I’d say.

very, very good.

The super-sweet white chocolate chunks paired with the slightly tart and juicy pomegranate seeds was a GREAT combo. These are definitely on my list for next year.

Round 3 – Hazelnut Thumbprints

Delicious result but slightly annoying recipe. Martha calls for toasted and skinned hazelnuts, basically 1o minutes in the oven, rub the nuts with a tea towel (maybe some of my readers are familiar with this), and put in food processor until you get a fine crumb. Stupid me just put the processor on low and then did some dishes…two minutes later I had hazelnut butter. oops. I double-checked the recipe and it definitely makes no point about PULSING. Next attempt at toasting the hazelnuts clashed with making dinner, and I forgot about them and they burned and went into the bin. Third time, perfect.

The one part I’d definitely omit from the recipe was the egg washing the dough balls before coating in the hazelnuts. It got too claggy and gross…and I thought the shine on the cookies when they came out of the oven was off-putting. Next time, I’d just let the dough come to room temperature and then roll the balls right into the hazelnuts.

Hazelnut thumbprints - watch those hot nuts!

And…here’s my new go-to pumpkin pie recipe

27 Dec

I’m sorry Gramma, there’s a new pumpkin pie in town.

It’s source seemingly dubious, but the recipe is a winner.

Bobbie Flay’s Pumpkin Pie with Cinnamon Crunch and Maple-Bourbon Whipped Cream.

Yes, that red-headed BBQ aficionado from The Food Network. This pie…it’s the one.

Graham cracker crust, yes. Silky smooth pumpkin filling, perfectly spiced, yes. A dangerously indulgent Maple-Bourbon whipped cream, oh HELL YES, and a cinnamony oat crunch on top.

The one Canadian at our table enthusiastically declared it the best pumpkin pie he’s ever had. I have to agree.

It was definitely worth the $40 in ingredients. Yes, you read correctly. In Amsterdam, a big can of Libby’s, a box of graham crackers, double-cream and a jar of molasses costs about EUR 32 / CDN 42. So, a pumpkin pie as an expat is a luxurious indulgence.

Cinnamon crunch about to go in the oven

graham cracker crust...ignore the egg wash, it's not needed & extremely annoying to execute

Making the filling

strain the filling for the silkiest texture imaginable

Bake at 160 degrees for 45 - 60 minutes...firm at the edges, giggly middle

And…voila, a masterpiece. Top the pie with a generous layer of maple-bourbon whipped cream (I used Basil Hayden’s bourbon…nothing but the good stuff for this pie!), the crumbled cinnamon crunch, and a sprinkling of cinnamon.

ultimate pumpkin pie

My Beautiful Turkey

27 Dec

I have taken great pleasure in my adult years perfecting the art of the Christmas turkey. Since living in Amsterdam I have learned that real turkeys look nothing like Butterball turkeys. They aren’t giant, white, eerily circular anchors of meat. No, they actually look like a bird. And they don’t cost $20 either, they cost about $70 (or EUR 50). That’s what you pay for to get an organic 5kg turkey.

That, and the cooking time of an organic bird is shorter (35 minutes per kilo), and the meat actually tastes like something other than sawdust.

So, for the love of turkey, people – BUY ORGANIC. Aside from the battery farming reasons, the end result is just so much better.

I’ve been brining my turkey for the past three years – using Nigella’s method. The fragrant brine flavours the meat subtley, and, let’s face it, turkey could use the help.

Now…apologies for this long list of photos; I have not yet learned the art of tables in WordPress…a ridiculously difficult process apparently.

 

250 grams of sea salt

An orange, squeezed

sugar

all spice berries

cloves

cinnamon sticks

maple syrup - very expensive in Europe FYI!

 

…plus a whole bunch of other stuff that I can’t be bothered posting photos of: white mustard seeds, onions, honey, star anise, black peppercorns, etc.

Stir up the mix for a few minutes to dissolve the salt and sugar, stick in the bird (make sure there’s enough water to cover it), put on the lid and keep in a cool place overnight (I put it on the balcony).

 

A bird bath

The next morning, take it out, rinse it off, and let drain (I put an oven rack over the sink), then pat dry.

Now, something new for 2010 – THE BUTTER MUSLIN.

I read about this in the Guardian, a tip from a celebrity chef: Get a muslin/cheese cloth, soak it in melted butter, and wrap it around the top & sides of the bird. Put the oven on full blast, stick the bird in, and then turn the oven down to about 180 degrees celsius. I basted, but honestly, it probably didn’t even need it.

Behold, turkey glory:

 

Brining + Butter Muslin = BEST TURKEY EVER

 

This is the way I will do turkey forever. The butter muslin keeps the breasts moist and the skin mouth-watering crisp and golden brown.

Make this turkey – you will never turn back.

 

Christmas! Tree!

27 Dec

Every year, Grant and I bicker about the Christmas tree. He doesn’t see much point in getting a tree at all (“waste of money” being the most common reason), and when he does capitulate, he insists on getting the smallest and cheapest tree we can find.

Over my dead body.

I want a BIG tree with the soft, long green needles that don’t fall off. Norwegian blue something or other. Unfortunately these trees are also the most expensive trees, but the soft needles mean I can decorate the tree without being stabbed by the needles and breaking out in hives.

I got my way.

Grant tried to argue that it was too big, but I insisted it was the same size as last year.

I was wrong. The tree was much bigger, so big that we had to cut the top off to get the star on.

Our big tree

Indie Moose

 

 

Fun with Kitchenaid

27 Dec

The first thing I wanted to make with the Kitchenaid mixer was brioche. I’m not even going to post photos of that massive fail – but I blame stale yeast and the lack of a ‘warm spot’ to leave the dough to rise – our flat is as drafty and cold as Ann Coulter’s dead vagina.

The second attempt was a Rachel Allen’s white soda bread. That worked out better:

Freshly baked soda bread with super-salty butter - yummmm!

In other non-related news…thanks to some clear plastic sheeting and double-sided tape, our flat is more like Anderson Cooper’s warm vagina.