February 27, 2011 Comments Off on vegan french toast
Holy crow, that actually worked. In the quest to maintain our weekend breakfast routine and not drive my vegan brother out of the house, we tried to figure out how to do french toast this morning without eggs, butter, or milk. We had a bit of a baguette surplus, and with the homemade stuff you really have to nom it within two or three days or it turns stale quickly. Which, of course, makes the three week shelf life of a store bought loaf seem even creepier.
Anyway, I was pretty encouraged by our cookie experiment Friday night, which used ground flaxseeds mixed with water as a replacement for egg. We’ve also been using soy milk, which the girl actually likes straight and seemed sweet enough to qualify, and the vegan butter substitute had served fine for frying stuff. So my brother and I put one and one and one together and got…um…three.
And it worked, remarkably well. We chucked in a ton of vanilla, since I figured the missing egginess would need to be replaced by something, and we threw in some leftover whole wheat pastry flour to promote browning. The batter looked a little different, and they browned a little less intensely than with the egg batter, but as you can see they still looked passable–that’s half the battle, according to Coulter–and they tasted great. Lighter, certainly, and maybe not quite as crisp, but still recognizably french toast. O ate five slices, C ate four, which is some kind of record, so at least they served as adequate Maple Syrup Delivery Devices (MSDD’s).
So I guess we can claim this as an actual recipe. I should point out that it’s based on the Cook’s Illustrated recipe we’ve used in the past. It’s not cure for the common cold, but I think we can be justifiably proud. Vegan french toast, brothers and sisters. Vegan french toast.
Vegan French Toast
2 tablespoons flaxseeds, ground
6 tablespooons water
2 cups Soy milk
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Vegan butter (Earth Balance or similar)
10 slices of french bread, preferably a day or two old
Mix flaxseed and water until it’s an eggy paste. Whisk in Soy milk, vanilla, and dry ingredients. Soak bread in mixture for 30-40 seconds, flipping halfway through. Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in skillet and heat oven to 150°F. Place 3-4 slices of soaked bread in heated pan and fry until sides are golden brown, 3-4 minutes, flipping each slice halfway through. Place finished slices in warm oven and repeat. Serve with maple syrup and blueberries
February 4, 2011 Comments Off on world’s greatest mac’n’cheese recipe, part quatre
The boy was in high spirits when I picked him up today. Friday, of course, but I also told him that, snow or no snow, we’d find a way to get up to the Mall of America this weekend so he could spend his Lego gift certificate. He had some good snow fort time at recess, and was relieved to find that today’s film in Sex Ed–er, sorry, Genetics–was just about puberty, not about childbirth. That comes next week, apparently, and he’s planning to break his leg the night before.
To top things off, his sister had a middle school party tonight, so it was going to be man night. Mac and cheese. His joy knew no bounds.
“YO, ‘SUP, PEEPS?” he shouted to his sister when he walked in the door. Pretty street for a blonde Iowa kid, I thought.
I popped a fresh loaf of baguette in the oven this afternoon, so we had that as a side. By now, both of us know the master mac’n’cheese recipe by heart–boil the pasta a minute less than the box tells you, make a mean besciamella sauce (that’s what he’s doing, above), and then sprinkle the cheese in so that it melts. Once the sauce thickens, pour it on the mac, sprinkle some bread crumbs with parmesan and butter on top, and bake it at 350° for 20 minutes.
We went with Cook’s Illustrated’s “Foolproof Mac’n’Cheese” again, but we both agreed that its besciamella was, to put it simply, weak sauce. It uses evaporated milk and calls for shredding a block of American cheese, instead of the drier slices, and both of those help make a creamy sauce that holds together. But we had agreed it was lacking something, and when we made the far more complex Epicurious recipe for lasagna bianca, we knew instantly what it was. That sauce used bay leaves and tons of nutmeg, but it was based on cream and butter–no evaporated milk. So we hybridized, bumping up the spices but keeping the stabilized dairy.
And it TOTALLY worked. We got all of the creamy, gelatinous cheese sauce of the mac’n’cheese and all of the big flavor of the lasagna bianca. I let the thing cool while I ran O to the middle school, and drove like a banshee to get back, because I figured it was going to be good. When we cut into it, the knife made a nice sucking sound, so we knew the thing was going to be almost like pudding. The crust, on the other hand, baked nicely and crisped well, so it had that ideal crunchy/creamy texture that we’ve agreed is critical to a good mac’n’cheese. The boy even soaked up what little sauce ran out of his with the baguette, practically a sacrilege given how much he likes his meals separate. (Have I mentioned that he has demanded a salad fork each night? His one concession to proper etiquette…)
We only made a half recipe, but we’ll still have enough for Sunday when Iowa Skinnies are on the menu. Meanwhile the girl was buzzing with excitement over the party. She outlined her strategy for me. “I dance for an hour until the pizza arrives, then I have like two slices of that and a Sprite, and then I dance for another two hours. Maybe I take another soda break in the middle somewhere.” Needless to say, I would pay to be a chaperone at one of these just to see that, but I have been absolutely forbidden from volunteering.
Harshing her mellow slightly this year is her status as a seventh grader. “We have to make a special effort,” she told me in conspiratorial tones, “to show the sixth graders how to really party.”
February 1, 2011 § 2 Comments
Baby steps forward…I was reading through our Cook’s Illustrated Italian Classics last week and getting all sorts of nostalgic when I ran across chicken Milanese. This was familiar, but not from Italy. K made this a lot after we’d had veal scallopine in Florence (I think), but we made it with chicken since good veal is hard to get. So it’s nice to know it has a name.
Basically, it’s fried chicken, but sauteed instead of deep fried. A lot less work and cleanup, but a very different crust. The basic prep is the same–three bowls with flour, egg, and bread crumbs–but they go in a shallow pan instead of the dutch oven, and the crust comes out lighter and less dry.
Cook’s had a few tricks that seemed to work wonders. First, they suggested brining the chicken. I’m a big fan of this, since it keeps the meat from drying out and is, I think, the key to good grilled chicken (I should add that other family members disagree…) We used tenderloins instead of full breasts, which worked well since they’re pretty skinny and cooked quickly. This saved having to pound or roll the chicken breasts flat. The second trick was to fully dry the chicken after brining–sandwiching the chicken between thick sheets of paper towels, pressing them to squeeze water out, and letting them sit for ten minutes. They also called for drying the cutlets on a wire rack after breading, which ensured that the crust was nice and dry. As a result it soaked up the oil in the pan well, which fried the crust all the way through. Finally, they called for adding oil to the egg mixture, which helped adhere the crumbs to the meat.
There’s parmesan in a true Milanese, and I added some, but didn’t want the kids to notice so I kept the amount small (have I mentioned that I’ve also snuck broccoli slaw into their salads?). The results were really good–light, crispy crust, but not as dense or as tough as deep fried chicken, and the meat was juicy all the way through, as you’d expect with the brining. A bit of lemon and fresh grated parmesan on top, and a bed of whole wheat pasta with oil, and it was a popular meal.
Movie night tonight. Two DVDs showed up from Netflix–Treasures of the Sierra Madre and The Simpsons Movie. You can guess which one I sold heavy, which one they picked, and which one I was sort of secretly glad to watch. We’ll watch Bogie tomorrow, since schools have been called off and we have a real, full snow day to relax and enjoy. “Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!” Indeed…
January 30, 2011 Comments Off on amatriciana and movie night
We kept dinner simple tonight. O, having missed out on french toast for breakfast, demanded equal time. I had anticipated precisely such score-keeping behavior, and held back exactly half of the batter for just this request (I’m getting kind of good at this part of things). The boy and I did an amatriciana sauce with some whole wheat pasta. I had thought the change in noodles would be an issue, but he seemed fine with them, and we’ll probably do them again as they were tasty and marginally healthier.
Amatriciana is a really Roman sauce–simple, very quick, big flava. Fry up some pancetta, throw some onions into the fat, dump in some tomatoes and cook them down until everything is saucy. Twenty minutes if you do it right, and the result is onions, bacon, and tomatoes–and nothing else. Easy to make after spending an hour getting home on the notorious Roman bus system, and something we ate and made while over there.
The problem, of course, is that the boy doesn’t like bacon. I thought I could sneak it in, but as soon as I started frying it the gig was up and he was standing by the stove begging me to let him off the hook. It’s OK, I told him. You take the bacon out, fry up everything else, and then put the bacon back in. I’ll leave yours out, and put it on my plate instead. Everyone wins–no bacon for C, twice as much bacon for Dad. He was cool with that.
I made half a batch, a bit chagrined that we had a refrigerator full of pudding from this afternoon’s adventures. The problem with doing this, I’ve discovered, is that you forget you’re making half a batch at least once when you’re assembling the ingredients. In this case? Hot pepper flakes. The boy took a bite and said it was good but salty. I dove in and suggested maybe “spicy” was the word he was after. “Yeah,” he said. “This is more like Mexican pasta.”
“Oh,” said O, “speaking of that, can we have spaghetti tacos one night?”
“Spaghetti tacos,” I said, “where did you come up with that?”
“A Disney show we watch,” she said. “Doesn’t it sound good?”
“No,” I said, “but we’ll make them sometime.”
Calvin thought I should keep the spice level up the next time we make this, so we’ll make a note in the cookbook.
It was my night to pick for movie night tonight. Last week I got shafted because O’s pick on Thursday ran long (Seabiscuit, which I liked more than I thought I would). A couple of weeks ago, the kids both agreed on Osmosis Jones, which just might have been the worst movie I’d ever seen, about kids who take an accidental trip into their father’s (still living) body. “It’s awesome, Dad!” they told me. “We watched it in science class!” C said.
“You watched a Chris Rock movie in science?” I said. “This is a total rip off! It’s an old Isaac Asimov sci-fi story, and they made a really awesome film of it back in the 60s.”
I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I’d seen it in science class back in fifth or sixth grade. Apparently science teachers of all generations say the hell with it every so often.
Anyway, they were game, and even though the special effects were 1966-cheesy and the physics behind the miniaturization was a bit questionable for C’s taste, the kids were both totally into it. It was longer than I remembered–two hours–so bedtime was a bit late, but it was worth it. “Our only hope is to find our way out along the optic nerve!” is going to become one of our trademark lines, we’ve decided. And the boy thought Raquel Welch was stunning, which was not entirely wrong.
January 25, 2011 § 2 Comments
Mondays are riding days, and we end up getting home late as it is. So we’ve decided that instead of rushing dinner and homework, that will be our one out night per week. Tonight it was Culver’s. I love Culver’s. Best fast food hamburger this side of the Rockies (In’N’Out, of course, is the best ever…) But the Daily Burn would reach out and grab me by the aorta if I did that to myself these days, so I’ve decided that on nights when the kids choose something completely irredeemable (and let’s face it, Butterburgers are, for anyone over 18, irredeemable), I’ll take the opportunity to be completely self-indulgent and cook something for myself after they go to bed.
So Bon Appetit had a little throwaway page about South Asian spices (I have GOT to get me some Ghee…and I know where to find it) that caught my eye. “Hey,” it suggested in an offhand way, “throw some Garam Masala and some apricot jam on a salmon fillet or two and broil them!” That seemed to be relatively foolproof, so I bought some salmon last night…and again this morning (no comment)…and headed out today to find Garam Masala.
Bon Appetit, of course, mentioned a top-shelf brand that’s carried, they said, by Whole Foods, so I checked last night at the upper-crust natural foods store while buying my salmon, and couldn’t find it. Same deal today at the supermarket (though I was impressed when the clerk suggested that Indian spices might be in the Hispanic foods section). I had to buy fortune cookies today for the boy, though, so my backstop was the international student grocery, and sure enough, they had the low-rent version, straight from New Dehli and boasting that it was, as you can see, not only “flavourful and tasty,” but also “hygienic.” My kind of stuff. (Got some Moroccan sardines, while I was at it, and I’ve bet the kids $5 each they can’t eat one. No takers).
So tonight I hustled the kids off to bed, burgers quietly digesting, and fired up the stove and the broiler. Bittman’s book says to fry the salmon for 6 minutes and broil for 2, so I dropped the fillets into an oiled pan, waited a few minutes, and then hit them with the garam masala and the apricot jam. I screwed this up–it would, of course, have been much easier to mix them into a paste and just spread that out on the fillets, but I powdered them first and then tried to spread the jam. Huge cleanup job. The masala had a really familiar smell. My best friend in middle school was from an Indian family, and his mother was an amazing cook. Their house always smelled like this. I probably could have used more, but I was just a bit careful since it seemed pretty strong.
It should have gone on rice, but I had the peas leftover. They were fine, but it needed a bed of something a little saltier or grainier, I guess. As it was the fish was great, though. The masala and the apricot glazed nicely in the broiler so there was just a bit of a crust around the edges, and they went nicely with the salmon without overwhelming it. We don’t get great salmon here in the midwest, but these two were OK–nice and flaky and a clean taste that let the spices come through.
The only problem, of course, is that this used about a tablespoon of the masala, and I’ve got the whole box. Salmon for dinner every night would be great–but expensive–so I’m thinking of sneaking this onto some baked chicken and just sliding it in front of the kids. I’ll call it South Asian Barbeque and see if they notice…
January 24, 2011 Comments Off on brunch–spinach and eggs
So my first issue of Bon Appetit came last week, and I have to say I tore into it like my teenage self used to tear into the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Most of it is clearly over my head, but the girl and I found a complex but doable brownie recipe, and I think I’ll work my way through a good winter salad article–though I won’t tell the kids what most of the ingredients are.
One quick meal caught my eye, though, and sounded simple enough. Spinach and eggs made up one of my late evening meals last year in Chicago, and there was a version of it that added some mustard and vinaigrette bread crumbs. The recipe I’d used called for steaming the spinach and then at the last minute cracking a couple of eggs into the pot–effiicient, but tough to dig out without losing half the yolks. This one called for frying the eggs and sauteeing the spinach separately, so one more pan to wash, but a much easier assembly. The key ingredient here, though, is fresh bread crumbs mixed with a mustard vinaigrette. I just used some store bought crumbs, but they worked well and mushed up nicely.
This was perfect today–I had a lunch meeting with one of last semester’s students at the cafe in campustown, and I knew all I could really have there was a salad. Anything else and I would have shot my day completely. So my morning snack became brunch, and I figured I could use the extra protein to get through the afternoon. Worked a treat, and of course the spinach is full of potassium, which I need by the ton, apparently. And it took all of three minutes to throw together. The mustard bread crumbs were awesome, and may show up again in something like baked chicken–big flava and not much in the way of carbs.