Peanut butter pasta with veggies

Sounds weird, doesn’t it? But really this is kind of like a quick version of pad thai. Since it uses asparagus I thought it was perfect to make this time of year.

Peanut butter pasta with veggies
adapted from Cooking Light’s Super Fast Suppers

1 pound asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
1/2 a red onion, thinly sliced
8 ounces of angel hair pasta
1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste
chopped peanuts (optional)

*To make this vegan, just sub veggie broth for the milk. This would be great with sauteed tofu, too.

Heat the oil in a big skillet over medium to medium-high heat and saute your veggies until they are soft and starting to get brown on the edges. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile heat your pasta water to boiling and drop in your pasta. Since 8 ounces is roughly half a box, I use the highly scientific method of removing enough from the box until it looks halfway empty. Cook the pasta according to package directions.

Set your veggies aside and drain your pasta. Then you can use the veggie pan to warm up your sauce. Drop in the soy sauce, peanut butter, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, milk, and red pepper flakes. Whisk that all together and add to the past and veggies in a bowl.

Toss to combine.

On a funny/ridiculous note I recently realized my camera has an auto white balance feature, so I don’t have to keep switching back and forth when I’m in the kitchen (half the time I’m under a yellowish light, the other half next to a sunny window). It actually works pretty well.

Rhubarb muffins

I bought an obscene amount of rhubarb at the farmers market this weekend, so I wanted to start using it right away.

I tried to buy bunches that were especially red, and these were just beautiful (from a local berry farm). Last weekend I couldn’t find rhubarb at the store, but I think it was a blessing in disguise. It’s much cheaper and better quality at the market.

First up, muffins. I have written about these before, but didn’t provide the recipe, so here it is.

Mike and I were so happy with how these turned out. They are muffin perfection, if I do say so myself. Even though rhubarb is a little tart, I think I prefer it to berries in a muffin just because it doesn’t overpower the rest of the taste. And with a little crunchy cinnamon-sugar on top, you feel like you’re getting a bit of a treat (though they’re made with some whole wheat flour, too).

Rhubarb muffins
adapted from Simply in Season, my fave

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups rhubarb, diced
1/2 cups chopped nuts (your choice, I used pecans)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon flour

Maybe I have said this before, but I find it funny that baking powder has a shaker option on the lid. What do you shake baking powder on? Is it a cleaner, too?

Also, I had never tried the trick of using a slice of bread to bring back your brown sugar from a hardened state, but it totally works!

Aaaand, I should mention that I didn’t have any buttermilk, so I added a squirt of lemon juice to a cup of 1% milk that we had in the fridge and it seemed to work just fine.

OK, back to the recipe.

Combine the flours, baking powder, soda and salt in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl whisk the buttermilk, brown sugar, oil, egg and vanilla. Dump in the dry ingredients and stir just enough to combine. Then add the chopped rhubarb and nuts and stir those up.

Divide the batter evenly into your muffin pan. It will make 12 pretty huge muffins, or maybe 18 medium-sized ones.

Melt the butter in a little dish in the microwave, then stir in the cinnamon, sugar and flour. Sprinkle that over the tops of the muffins.

Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 20-24 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

I still have this much rhubarb leftover.

Mike is thinking about making his famous rhubarb lemonade…

Tofu-nut loaf

For some reason I thought I had already posted this recipe. I just assumed I had because I make it so often. But here it is now. The title leaves something to be desired, but I promise that a tofu loaf does not have to be as bland as it sounds.

In fact, served with mashed potatoes and my brown shallot gravy, it’s about as hearty a meal as you can get. With the miserable weather the last couple of days, it has been just perfect for dinner.

Tofu-nut loaf

1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1-pound brick of tofu, drained and mashed
2 cups bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I like pecans)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 a green pepper, finely chopped (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons tomato paste

Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat, then add the onions and saute until translucent. Mix the rest of the ingredients in a big bowl and combine with the onion. Pour the crumbled mixture into a loaf pan and press it with your fingers until it forms a loaf. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Super simple mashed potatoes

5 medium to large golden or red potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup half and half
Salt to taste

Heat water in a big pot until boiling and drop in the potatoes. They will need about 15 minutes to cook, so keep checking the pan and test them with a fork to see if they are soft.

Drain off the water and let the potatoes cool just a little before adding the butter, half and half, and salt, and mashing with a potato masher.

Brown shallot gravy (vegetarian)
(I keep tweaking this recipe, but this is what I’m using right now)

1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
Pinch of black pepper
3 cups veggie broth
3 tablespoons corn starch

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until they are translucent. Add the tamari, black pepper, and two cups of broth, and heat until it starts to boil. Mix the corn starch with the remaining cup of broth and pour it in. Stir the gravy until it thickens. If you like a thicker gravy, use a little more corn starch.

Yummy enchilada casserole

I made up this recipe because I’d made something similar before, didn’t really like it, and figured I could do it better myself. Turns out I can.

I combined the original enchilada recipe with a burrito bake recipe, added vegetarian chorizo, and voila. It was super tasty. By the way, this Melissa’s soyrizo is one of the only fake meat products I really like. We buy it all the time to put in scrambled eggs or to use in place of taco meat.

What I liked about the burrito bake was that it used turmeric to flavor the recipe. It’s one of those spices that seems reserved for curries, but you can definitely use it elsewhere. Not only is the color this brilliant yellow, but the aroma is wonderful, too.

I also like the addition of salsa verde, and the fact that I made my own enchilada sauce. It was wonderful, and so easy to make. I will never buy that canned stuff again.

Yummy enchilada casserole

1 medium onion, chopped (reserve 1/4 for the enchilada sauce, diced really small)
2 T. vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t. turmeric
1 cup uncooked basmati rice
2 cups veggie broth
1/2 a tomato, seeded and chopped
1 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup salsa (your favorite brand)
1 T. chili powder
1 t. cumin
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
Another T. each of cumin and chili powder
1 T. lemon juice
3 wheat tortillas
1 bottle salsa verde
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Start by sauteeing the onion and garlic in oil until translucent. Then add the turmeric, stir, and add the broth. Heat to boiling, then simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, or until the rice is cooked through.

(I can’t get over how great the color turns out!)

While that’s cooking, prepare your enchilada sauce. Heat a little more oil in a pan and add the finely chopped onion. Next add the fresh tomato. Squish the pieces with the back of a spoon and cook until it forms a paste. Then add the tomato sauce, salsa, tablespoon of chili powder and teaspoon of cumin. Cook just a few minutes until the sauce thickens slightly. Pour into another container and set aside.

In the same pan, heat another splash of oil over medium high heat and quickly brown the soyrizo. While that’s cooking, mix the black beans with the cumin, chili powder and lemon juice in a bowl.

Shred the cheese. If you’re me, get really excited about your new Pyrex cheese grater with measurement window. Woo hoo!

Now you can start assembling the casserole. Really you can do this in any order you like. It’s all going to taste the same in the end. But this is how I did it.

Spread half of the salsa verde on the bottom of a 9X13 casserole dish.

Layer one and a half tortillas over that.

Next add half of the rice and half of the beans. Top with half of the cheese. Arrange another one and a half tortillas, then top with the rest of the salsa verde. Add the rest of the rice and beans, the chorizo, the enchilada sauce, and top with the rest of the cheese.

Looks pretty good, huh?

Bake for 20 minutes and serve.

Asparagus and cheddar quiche

Quiche and springtime just seem to go hand in hand, so I decided to add it to the menu this week. And since we have those local farm eggs, I thought it would be a good use for them.

I scoured the Internet for the perfect recipe, and after a lot of not-quite-right ones I found Pioneer Woman’s recipe. I knew I’d have to change a few things (especially since one big ingredient in hers is bacon), but overall it was a really good place to start.

I also used the Perfect Pie Crust recipe from her site, which you can find here. I didn’t change a thing, but I think next time I might substitute butter for some of the shortening for more flavor. When I took a pie baking class last fall the teacher actually used equal parts butter, shortening and cream cheese in her crust, and it was amazing.

This crust recipe was so easy to work with. Probably because it had so much fat in it, it just came together in a couple of minutes and held together nicely. After about 15 minutes in the fridge and then 15 in the freezer I rolled it out (well half of it), no problem. I wrapped up the other half to save for another time. Or perhaps a dessert pie?

For the filling, I decided to go with roasted asparagus, caramelized onions and cheddar cheese. Then I dropped a few green onions on the top before baking. I really think it’s important to cook the veggies before you add them in, both for flavor and texture. The only thing I would change would be to cut the asparagus a little smaller next time. Some of my pieces were like 2 inches long and a little chewy.

Oh, and the pan I used was much too shallow. Some of the egg overflowed, so I was glad I placed a cookie sheet underneath. Next time I’ll either use a bigger pan, fewer eggs and cream, or divide it into two quiches.

So here’s how my recipe came out:

Asparagus and cheddar quiche
adapted from the Pioneer Woman

1 bundle fresh asparagus, ends snapped off
1 medium onion, sliced
2 tablespoons butter
7 eggs
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
4 green onions, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

Start by roasting the asparagus in the oven with a little salt, pepper and olive oil at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, turning it halfway through cooking.

Meanwhile saute the onions with the butter until they just start to get caramelized.

Roll out the crust until it’s about 1/4 inch thick and gently place it over your pie or tart pan.

Press it into the corners, trim the edges, and then fill in any holes with leftover dough and press the edges with your fingertips to make it look pretty.

In a big bowl, whisk the eggs with the cream and a little salt and pepper. Chop the asparagus into 1-inch pieces and add that, plus the caramelized onions and cheese.

Carefully pour the filling into the pie shell and use a spoon to make sure the veggies are evenly distributed. Sprinkle the green onions on top.

Set the pan on top of a cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about an hour. You’re supposed to cover it lightly with foil, but I forgot that part, and it it came out just fine, so I’ll leave it up to you.

Carrot cookies

These soft cookies are so easy to make, and I suppose a little less guilt-inducing than most cookie recipes.

Carrot Cookies
adapted from Simply in Season

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups raw carrot, shredded
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Optional frosting: Mix 1 cup powdered sugar with 1 teaspoon vanilla and about a tablespoon of milk, or enough to make it spreadable. You can also use orange juice, but I find that a little overpowering.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Stir the butter and sugar together in a big mixing bowl. Add the carrot, egg and vanilla.

Sift the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl. Slowly add them to the wet ingredients and stir to combine.

Drop the cookies (about a tablespoon of the dough at a time) onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for 10-14 minutes, or until the edges are just starting to get brown.

Let the cookies cool for a few minutes before you dab on the frosting.

Black bean burgers

The snow is mostly gone, so I can go back to pretending it’s full-on springtime and make some recipes that remind me of barbecues and farmers markets. Right?

This one is a favorite. I wasn’t over the moon for it at first, but I tweaked it over time until I got it right.

I’ve been trying to get away from buying meat-like products at the grocery store. While they are vegetarian, they are just as processed as all the other crap I try not to buy. And I’m really trying to stick to Michael Pollan’s simple instruction: eat food.

But veggie burgers are tricky. They rarely hold together the way ground beef does. They can be crumbly and dry. They can be full of mushrooms, which I don’t love. These black bean burgers, if prepared correctly, are pretty great. The keys, I think, are to chop up your veggies extra small, squish the beans into an almost paste, and make sure that you have enough binder – either an egg, or some applesauce, if you want them vegan.

Here’s the version I stuck with (makes about 5 burgers):

Black bean burgers
adapted from a recipe on vegweb.com

2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2/3 cup oats
1/2 a small onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg or a couple spoonfuls of applesauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
Enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom of your pan
1 tablespoon butter (optional)

Mash up the beans with a potato masher or fork. Add the onion, jalapeno, garlic, oats, egg or applesauce, salt, pepper and Worcestershire and mix until combined.

On a separate plate, combine the flour and cornmeal.

Preheat a large skillet to just a little over medium heat, and cover the bottom of the pan with vegetable oil. I like to add a little bit of butter, as well.

Take a handful of the bean mixture, a little smaller than a baseball, and flatten it into a patty. Roll the patty in the flour/cornmeal mixture and then drop it into the hot pan.

Cook for about four minutes on each side, or until a light brown crust forms. If you like, melt cheese on top before serving.

We got some more of those bright orange organic sweet potatoes at the store today, so I made some sweet potato fries to go with our burgers.

These were so great. Even if you love a regular meat burger, you can still change it up from time to time.

Green cupcakes!

I loved Bakerella’s post the other day about the idea of making a red velvet cake recipe into green cupcakes so much that I had to try it myself. Except I realized I couldn’t make red velvet because I didn’t have any buttermilk. So I went looking for a simple vanilla cake recipe with buttercream frosting, and landed on one from Martha Stewart.

I’m also shopping for a recipe that I can use for vanilla wedding cake (since Mike’s making chocolate), so I counted this as an experiment.

It actually worked really well. The cake by itself doesn’t have a ton of flavor, but when you add the buttercream frosting, which is incredibly flavorful (hello, butter!), it’s the perfect combination. Next I want to try Smitten Kitchen’s wedding cake recipe. I’m still wavering over whether or not I should use regular buttercream or one with cream cheese for the wedding. I think the cream cheese, in addition to tasting good, will help with stability at room temperature. But I would welcome your thoughts.

Anyway, back to the green cupcakes. I worried that my cheapo food coloring would produce something really pastel, but it came out a pretty bright green color. The photos don’t do it justice…

The only thing I changed was the baking time. Martha was way off on this one. Maybe her fancy test kitchen ovens bake faster, but I had to add 5-7 minutes to the baking time to get them all done in the center. I came out with about 20 cupcakes. I also halved the frosting recipe, and had just enough.

Here’s what I used:

Vanilla cupcakes

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature (1 1/2 sticks)
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk

Directions
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan with paper liners; set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In another mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing until incorporated and scraping down sides of bowl, beat in vanilla.

2. Add flour mixture and milk alternately, beginning and ending with flour. Scrape the sides and bottom of bowl to assure the batter is thoroughly mixed. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling papers about 2/3 full. Bake on the center rack of the oven until tops spring back to touch, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Simple buttercream
Makes 2 3/4 cups

2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 pound confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

(Or for half, 2 sticks of butter, about a cup of powdered sugar – or weigh a half pound, a splash of vanilla and a pinch of salt)

Directions
1. In a mixer bowl fitted with a paddle attachment, combine butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat on high speed 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally.

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

This is one of those recipes that makes me feel really okay with giving up meat, because it proves you can have a hearty classic dish without a lick of meat, and it still tastes good. The key here is using shredded tofu and a yummy gravy to create the effect of ground beef. It’s probably no surprise that this recipe originated in a Moosewood cookbook, because they really know their way around a meatless dish.

The main thing I changed was I left out the mushrooms and added some of my own veggies because that’s how I like it! But feel free to saute up some mushrooms to add to your gravy, if you like them.

Here are the ingredients:

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
adapted from Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant

1 cake firm tofu, frozen, thawed and shredded
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
Pinch of black pepper
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 cup frozen peas
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce

4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup milk
Salt to taste

2 tablespoons butter
1 large shallot, finely chopped
3 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
Pinch of black pepper
1 1/2 cups hot potato water
1 cup veggie broth (or veggie bouillon dissolved in water)
2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 1/2 cup of water

You start by slicing up a block of tofu and freezing it for at least a couple of hours. Then take it out to thaw for at least two more hours. When it thaws, a lot of the water comes out, making it easier to shred. You might want to press it a little more just to get out as much water as you can.

You’ll probably want to work on all three of the elements of this dish (tofu and veggies, potatoes, and gravy) at once to save time. Put the potatoes in a big pot with salted water and heat them to boiling. When they get there, turn down the heat a little and boil them until soft, maybe 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes, saving the starchy water for your gravy.

Meanwhile heat up the vegetable oil in a big saute pan and cook the onions, carrots and peas with the thyme, coriander and pepper until the onions are translucent and the carrots are soft. Add in the walnuts and shredded tofu. When those are heated through, add the lemon juice and soy sauce and take the pan off the heat.

Mash your potatoes with the butter, milk and salt. Taste them to make sure they are just how you want them.

To make the gravy heat the butter in a skillet and saute the shallots until translucent. Stir in the soy sauce and black pepper. Add the potato water and veggie broth and bring to a boil. Then stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook until the gravy is thickened and bubbly.

Now you can layer everything in a casserole dish. I used an adorable 8-inch square Glasbake dish, which promptly overflowed when I put everything in. You might want to choose something a little bigger.

Oil, butter or spray the dish, then layer the tofu and veggies, the gravy and the mashed potatoes inside. Put a few dabs of butter on top of the potatoes. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the top of the potatoes start to get brown.

It’s not the most beautiful of dishes, but it sure is tasty.

No-knead bread, take 2

So the first time I tried making bread, I was pretty happy with it. But it came out a little flat and a little too crunchy on the bottom. So when my friend Jen recommended a different recipe (her husband baked a phenomenal loaf for my last birthday), I had to try it.

It turns out the recipe had also run in Mother Earth News. The story, recipe, and lots of good tips can all be found here.

Even though you can make this in one day, and you don’t have to knead/punch down the dough, it’s still a pretty big operation to make one tiny loaf. The good news is that you’re actually making enough dough for four loaves, and you can refrigerate or freeze the extra loaves to bake another time.

Basically you mix the yeast with warm water and then slowly add in the flour. I used the Kitchen Aid mixer instead of elbow grease and it worked great.

Then you let it rise for two hours, at which point it becomes gigantic!

Then you move the dough to the fridge, which makes it less sticky and easier to handle in a few hours.

At that point you divide it into four loaves, and shape one of them into a ball. As long as you flour your board and your hands you shouldn’t have any trouble handling it, which is nice.

You let it rise again for 40 minutes while you preheat your oven to 450. When you actually put the loaf in (use a pizza peel to slide it onto a baking stone – much easier than I thought it would be), you also put in a broiler pan or just a regular baking pan with some water in it, so that your oven becomes a steamy environment.

When your cute little loaf comes out, you can hear it crackling inside. The article calls this ‘singing.’ Love it.

Anyway, I was much happier with this recipe. The top was crunchy and blistered just like the loaves you see at bakeries and the bottom was solid but not too hard to cut through. Mike ate a warm slice with just a little butter smeared on top, and I turned my into dessert bread with a little Nutella.

I think if you’re ready to try baking artisan bread from scratch, this is the method to go with.