Moonlighting

Something I don’t think I’ve shared on here is that I moonlight in the recipe business, developing and testing recipes for vegan, vegetarian and omni cookbook authors. Sometimes, I conceive and develop original (always vegan/often gluten free) recipes; other times, I join a group of individuals who are testing an author’s own material. For obvious reasons, I don’t post any of the recipes – mine or theirs – before a manuscript is published.

During the development/testing phase, I cull my favorites for easy access into a clearly marked folder with every intention of sharing them when the time is right. It’s a thick folder, the spine wearing thin and papers trying to burst from the confines of the industrial strength rubber band holding it all together. It’s an ignored folder, one that is added to often, pulled down when I want to make a favorite recipe, and then re-shelved on my kitchen bookshelf where it melts back into obscurity.

All that is to say that I’m going to make an effort to share more with you from my recipe testing archive, recipes I’ve made so many times that I usually don’t even need to reach for my disintegrating folder, let alone the actual cookbook.

It’s pumpkin season around here, and since winter squash is one of the few things I don’t actually grow on my own little farm, we get very excited about making the rounds to pumpkin patches, the farmers’ market, our co-op, the farm across the road, and my in-laws garden. That’s a lot of squash, folks. And a lot of squash seeds. And thanks to Dynise, I know exactly what to do with them.

Candied squash seeds
Adapted from Celabrate Vegan by Dynise Balcavage

Seeds from butternut and other winter squash can be used in place of pumpkin seeds, if you have them. This recipe is easily be doubled or tripled, just be sure that your pan is big enough to accommodate the increased volume.

1 cup fresh pumpkin seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted
1/2 cup muscovado sugar
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano
¼ teaspoon fine grain salt
1 tablespoon coconut oil

Preheat the oven to 350 F / 175 C. Clean the seeds and pat them dry. Spread them out in a single layer on a parchment-lined or lightly oiled baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, until lightly toasted and golden.

While the pumpkin seeds are cooling, toast the cumin seeds over medium heat in a dry skillet until fragrant, about five minutes. Grind the seeds. In a small bowl, sift together the sugar, ground cumin, minced herbs and salt.

In a deep pot, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the sugar mixture and pumpkin seeds and stir to combine – it will be clumpy. Increase the heat to medium/high and stir often. Over the next five to seven minutes, the sugar mixture will first take on a sandy appearance, then caramelize, clinging to the seeds. As soon as this happens, turn off the heat and transfer the seeds back to the baking sheet. The candied seeds will harden as they cool.

Yield: One heaping cup

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Not a croissant

This little pinwheel cherry explosion may not look like much, but looks can be deceiving. Before I knew what I was doing, I made my first batch of croissant dough yesterday. Buckwheat croissant dough, at that.

I had planned to make scones, those dense, sweet biscuits that take all but a minute to whip up. I had a monster of a long run planned that was going to keep me away from home for hours. Scones would both feed my family and make me feel productive at the same time. But then – a torrential downpour combined with a 20-degree drop in temperature made me reconsider. What was supposed to be a short, no nonsense pre-dawn stint before heading out for an 18-miler turned into a long, languorous morning/afternoon in the kitchen.

If the thought of making croissants sounds intimidating, just make them any shape other than a crescent, and voilà! – you have yourself a danish. Same dough, easier to pronounce name. Even better than the name is Kim Boyce’s technique for getting butter into the dough. I see a lot of not-croissants in my future.

Buckwheat cherry danish
Adapted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce

Dry mix:
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup white spelt flour
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoons kosher salt

3 ounces unsalted vegan butter, frozen

Wet mix:
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon almond or soy milk, warmed to 100 F / 38 C

Filling:
1/4 – 1/2 cup filling
Use less for preserves, more for a fruit butter or paste

Sift the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Using the large holes of a box grater, quickly grate the frozen butter into the dry mixture. Briefly toss with your hands to stir the butter into the mix, then place in the refrigerator to chill while you continue with the recipe.

Combine the warm milk and yeast in a small bowl and allow to bloom, anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes. Scrape the yeast mixture into the dry and stir just until the flour is moistened. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least two hours. This dough can be chilled overnight.

Once the dough has chilled for at least 2 hours, transfer it from the bowl to a well-floured surface. Flour the top of the dough and use your hands to press it into a rough square. The dough will have a rough texture at first, but comes together quickly. Use a rolling pin to roll it out into a long rectangle (9-by-15-inches or so), and position the longer side parallel to your body. Fold the dough into thirds, like a letter. You’ll need to use a bench scraper when making the folds. Turn the dough to the right, so that the seam is a the top and the longer side is once again parallel to your body. This is your first turn. Flour the top of the dough, roll out into a large rectangle, and repeat two more times (for a total of three turns). As you do the turns, the dough will become more cohesive and streaks of butter will begin to show throughout. The dough will also soften as the butter warms and the yeast begins to react. After your third turn, shape the dough into a 12-by-8-inch rectangle. Place the dough back into the refrigerator for 10 minutes or so to chill briefly.

After the dough has chilled, spread the filling out over the entire rectangle. With the shorter edge parallel to your body, roll up the dough into a tight spiral. Cut into 6 even slices and arrange them, spiral side up, on a parchment-lined or buttered baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a towel and leave in a warm area to proof for two hours.  The spirals will swell somewhat, but will not double in size.

Preheat the oven to 425 F / 218 C. Bake for 15-18 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through. The pastries are finished when their tops are golden brown. Best eaten the same day they are made.

Yield: six pastries

Chock-a-block

There are only so many things a mother can sneak into her daughter’s smoothie before suspicion is aroused. Blackstrap molasses? check. Steel cut oats? check-check. Greens? Not on your life. Not so much as a piece of granny smith apple peel, let alone anything leafy, have made it past Nina’s discerning eye. Fortunately, her voracious appetite for all things pasta lends itself the perfect Plan B: pesto.


I didn’t sell her on pesto right away; Nina has yet to develop a fondness for garlic, something I can hardly conceive of making a pesto without. She does, however, enjoy the subtle garlicky kiss of fresh chives, which make a decent substitution. Couple that with her unbridled delight in seeing all manner of things get stuck in my braces every night at dinnertime, and a pesto lover was born. I quickly upped the ante and managed to come up with a nutritionally dense pesto she loves.

Unlike most foods, this tastes best right away, rather than after the obligatory flavor melding that most recipes benefit from. Despite it’s being raw, the distinct cabbage-y, brassica-ness of the kale emerges after a couple of days. This also happens if you heat it up, for instance when used in a grilled BLT – however: when tempered with vegan mayo, a thick slice of just-picked tomato and your favorite version of bacon, nothing could taste better. (Have I confused you yet?)

Kale pesto: chock full of hippie goodness

2 bunches kale leaves
1 small handful fresh chives
1 large handful basil
Juice of one lemon
2 T white miso
6 T olive oil
1/2 C hemp hearts
Salt to taste

Rinse and pat dry all of your greens. De-rib your kale leaves and cut into thumb-sized pieces. Place half of the kale plus all remaining ingredients into your food processor and pulse until a paste begins to form. Add the remaining kale and additional oil or lemon juice, if needed. Pulse to desired pesto consistency. Keeps for up to one week in the refrigerator, especially if you add a thin layer of oil over the top. Freezes well.

Yield: 2-3 cups

Prep time: 15-30 minutes (depending on your kale de-ribbing abilities), Cook time: n/a

And then there was cake

I mentioned in my previous post that we camped for three days at Stone Mountain. Most of our camping trips fall within the long weekend, three to four day range:  long enough to explore an area, especially when we live a couple of hours’ drive from several similar sites, and only half a day from the ocean; and short enough that I don’t feel guilty ditching my marathon training runs.

The part that many people tell me is a challenge for them when camping – food – is something we have fun with. The longer we plan to camp, the more creative we get. There are portable foods: granola; spring rolls; baked cubes of tofu and polenta. There are the foods that keep well in a big chest cooler: cold brewed coffee; little pots of yoghurt studded with chunks of frozen fruit; jars of plant milk; more jars of tabbouleh, Nicoise potato salad, lentil pilaf. And of course, things to be cooked over coals, on skewers or a small cast iron skillet: jars of just-add-milk pancake mix; foil packs of root vegetables; Dandies marshmallows; Field Roast sausages and tofu dogs.  We have it down to a science.

The one thing I couldn’t figure out how to pack for this trip? My husband’s birthday cake.

Once we returned home, my daughter and I whipped up two nine-inch rounds of our go-to multigrain chocolate cake, crumb-coated them with espresso-spiked frosting, lit some candles and declared it a party.

Multigrain chocolate cake

This recipe has been around for ages, referred to as wacky, war, and depression-era cake. Traditionally made with all purpose flour, I prefer to make it with a blend. The buckwheat and oat flours have a sweet, milky flavor, and the rye gives it a nice malty undertone.  For frosting, I use whatever vegan buttercream recipe is in the nearest cookbook (or pops up first in Google). This recipe yields one cake – double (or triple!) if you plan to make a layer cake.

3/4 C spelt flour (whole or white, your choice)
1/4 C rye flour
1/4 C buckwheat flour
1/4 C oat flour
1 C raw/turbinado sugar
3 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine grain salt
1 C water
1 T apple cider vinegar
1/4 C mild-tasting oil (sunflower, safflower, canola…)
1 tsp almond or vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 / 175 C degrees and position a rack to the center position.  Lightly oil and dust the bottom of your cake pan if you’ll be eating it out of the pan; line with parchment if you’ll be transferring it to a serving plate and/or using it in a layer cake.

Sift all of the dry ingredients (flour through salt) in a large bowl.  Make a well in the center and add the wet ingredients.  Stir to combine, pour into your cake pan, and bake 25 minutes, or until the middle is set and the cake is beginning to pull away from the edge of the pan.  Allow to cool completely before frosting.  Tastes best after a few hours when the flavors have had a chance to meld.

Yield: 1 9-inch round or 8×8 inch square cake

Prep time: 10 minutes, Cook time: 30 minutes

Not for the faint of heart

We did a fair amount of camping this summer, mostly on the return leg of a mid-summer road trip.

My husband’s birthday landed on the weekend before Nina started kindergarten, and so to celebrate both of these milestones, we drove out to Stone Mountain. Three days of hiking, camp fire cooking, star gazing, and Nina’s first proclaimed boyfriend. (I see an interesting year ahead of us.)

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When we camp for more than just one night, there are two things I never leave home without: cold-brewed coffee and granola. Lots of stick-to-your-ribs, sustained energy-supplying granola.

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Stone Mountain is a great rock climbing destination, but Nina’s a bit too young for that yet.  Luckily, the base is scattered with boulders of every shape and size. While Mar set up camp, Nina and I hiked to the mountain’s base and did a bit of boulder hopping.

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On day two, the three of us hiked up to the summit. It was swarming with Cub Scouts, one of which was the current love of Nina’s life. At the top of this beautiful mountain, though, she was 100% Daddy’s Girl.

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This granola – it’s not for the faint of heart. It has quite a bit of oil, which gives it an icy sheen and makes the larger bits shatter between your teeth with a very satisfying crack. It’s perfect for a day-long hike, as a post-run snack, or sprinkled sparingly over yogurt for breakfast. I don’t recommend it for mindless munching, though. This is not that kind of granola.

I’ve been making Heidi Swanson’s granola from Super Natural Every Day for a couple of years, and it morphed into this recipe. As long as one stays close to this ratio of oats : add ins : sweetener + oil, it can easily be changed to accommodate whatever’s in your pantry (or on sale in the bulk bins) without any trouble.

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Stone Mountain granola

3 C rolled oats
3/4 C raw sliced almonds
3/4 C raw hulled pumpkin seeds
1/2 C unsweetened coconut chips or flakes
Large pinch kosher salt
1/2 C coconut oil
1/2 C maple syrup
1/2 C dried fruit, optional

Preheat the oven to 300 F/150 C degrees and position a rack in the center. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, seeds and coconut and mix thoroughly. In a small saucepan, whisk the coconut oil and maple syrup over low heat until the oil has completely melted, then add to the oat mixture. Stir until everything is well coated. Spread out in an even layer on the baking sheet, then sprinkle with a generous pinch of kosher salt (no need to mix in). Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes, stirring once at the halfway mark. Upon removing the granola from the oven, stir in dried fruit, if using. Once cooled, store in an airtight container; this will keep well at room temperature for a week.

Note: My favorite fruit to add to this are dried cherries or apricots, cut into bite-sized pieces.

Yield: about 6 cups

Prep time: 5 minutes, Cook time: 45 minutes

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