Sunday, October 25, 2009

Oven 24/7 Oh So Sweet

Well, it sure seems like the weekends are all about the oven! We've been using the oven 24/7 to baking sweets, crackers, breads, and to cook casseroles and veggies! :O

It seems that as the holidays come around and as the weather gets cooler and wetter, we get the urge for soft homemade breads and sweet treats!

When we were little, every Saturday morning we would have a breakfast treat. Sometimes it was Pilsbury buttery crescent rolls, sometimes fluffy biscuits and jam, or even pancakes. But the sweetest breakfast we looked forward to was cinnamon rolls! We'd just take the refrigerated Pillsbury cinnamon roll dough from the can and quickly bake up sweet delicious cinnamon rolls. Our favorite was the orange flavored rolls. Don't you smell the sweet aroma of cinnamon and orange in the morning coming from the oven?

As we grew up, we ate less of those delicious (yet sinful, sugar-high) treats. Every once-in-a-while, though, we try to make our own. Very tedious! For an easy alternative, we sometimes make Cinnamon Roll Muffins, but this time we finally decided to try Cinnamon Roll Biscuits!
The biscuit recipe was virtually identical to our favorite biscuit recipe, so it was easy to whip up. This recipe calls for less water, to be able to form a dough that can be rolled out. We spread a filling of date sugar with lots of cinnamon, then roll it up, slice it, and bake it in the oven for ~18 minutes. Instead of margarine, we used coconut oil and brazil nut butter. For the glaze, we used only 1/2 cup powdered sugar and brazil nut butter instead of margarine.

Turned out awesome! The biscuit was flakey, with some crusty edges and soft centers and a delectable gooey filling. It could use even more cinnamon though. Other variations you can try include orange, maple, egg nog spiced, or pumpkin spiced! Great for special family breakfasts or dessert (because they are sweet). Another recipe we have our eye on is Celine's Pumpkin Oatmeal Sticky Biscuits.

For dessert, we baked up some Gluten Free treats!

First up Chocolate Chip Bars. We have the cookbook One Smart Cookie by Julie Van Rosendaal, but we haven't used it in years since we went vegetarian. Recently, though, we decided to try the recipes out again, making them vegan, because Julie really does have great recipes.

For the chocolate chip bars, we followed Julie's Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe and put it in a 9x13 bar pan. We have Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Gluten Free flour blend, so we used that with 1/4 tsp xanthan gum. The flour blend isn't as tasty as the gluten-free flour blend we use for Betty Lou's at work :) but that's ok, the chocolate hid the subtle beany flavor. To replace the egg we used 1 Tb flaxseed meal. We also used coconut sugar and date sugar, which gave the bars a subtle carmelly warm flavor. And of course, we added lots of Equal Exchange 80% and 71% Dark chocolate, which made the bars extra rich and chocolaty! We love chocolate.

Another gluten-free treat - go try Elana's Pantry Gluten Free Fig Bars! We made modifications to make Gluten Free Prune Squares, a perfect snack that's not too sweet but satisfies your sugar craving. We used oat flour instead of almond meal (for a nut-free bar), added a small amount of flaxmeal (for a binder and nutrition), and used prunes and orange juice for the filling. We also recently tried a cranberry lemon version, with dried cranberries and lemon juice. Other variations we would love to try include apple spice, apricot, pumpkin spice...any fruit imaginable!

We would love to hear about more about gluten-free baking and any ideas you all have. Since we do work in the R&D lab at Betty Lou's Inc (check it out!), we are currently focused on gluten free baking and we would love all of your suggestions and tips! Thanks!

So, one last question--what's the place in your house where you spend the most time, and love to be? Of course, ours is our kitchen. Even if it is tiny, we still manage to stay put in our kitchen most of the weekends. You'd think we'd become claustrophobic, lol..

Have a great week!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mama Mia, Let's Eat Mediterranean Fare!

Ciao! Don't you love Mediterranean-Arabic Food? Italian, Greek, Lebanese, etc...

Our favorite Lebanese restaurant is YaHala in Portland. They serve authentic food--the hummus, pita bread, and tabbouleh are to die for. They have such a huge menu that we haven't tried a lot of their food, but they serve delicious 'Foul Mudamas' (a lemony garlicky fava bean dish), Falafels, stews, soups, zaatar, and other meals. We love how they mark which items are vegan.

We were craving Greek/Lebanese food so much that we attempted to make a Lebanese feast. Hummus (good authentic hummus has to have a lot of olive oil and tahini--extra creamy!), tabbouleh, and oaty pita bread.The tabbouleh was so refreshing and flavorful, it was nice to have leftovers for lunch. Fresh parsley and mint with local cucumbers, onion, tomatoes, olives and lemon! Yummy. We used a 6-grain porridge-type grain that cooked up similar to bulgur, and it worked perfectly.

We've figured out that we like a little cumin in our hummus. Our coworker loves hummus without cumin, but we found that the cumin enhanced the hummus' flavor slightly and gave it a richer flavor. What do you all prefer? Extra Virgin olive oil and tahini make this hummus taste exquisite, otherwise it's just another bean dip.

One important thing about Meditterranean food is that you must never forget the olive oil. Good for your health, delicious, and authentic. We love buying different olive oils each time and distinguishing their different tastes, depending on the location the olives came from! Buttery and delectable.

For our Italian fare, we had the opportunity to use a pasta machine and make homemade pasta! It was labor intensive but a lot of fun. We mostly made fettuccine-style noodles as well as ravioli, but we also made a few bow ties. All of them were 100% whole wheat. Next time it would be fun to try a pasta with spinach or tomato paste or herbs for a flavorful pasta.

Here we are putting the dough through the pasta machine -- it has to be repeatedly run through in order to thin down. It was hard to keep the noodles straight as we laid them down to dry, because they were so long!

The fetticcini was the best, we just drizzled extra virgin olive oil and served it with some sauteed garlicky greens. The raviolis we stuffed with a tofu spinach dip mixture and served them with homemade spaghetti sauce with lots of veggies. The raviolis were a bit messy (some disintegrated in the pot while cooking), but they were delicious.
Buon appetito!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fun at the NW Veg Fest

It's been a while, but on Sept 19, we had a blast at the Northwest VegFest in Portland, OR.

Lot's of vegetarian/vegan excitement! Delicious food samples and giveaways, product handouts and education material, cooking demos, lectures, and music!

There were many restaurants that served all vegan food:

Blossoming Lotus: Lasagna, Chili/Cornbread, Cashew Hummus/Flax Crackers, Lavender Lemonade, Kauai Chai, Trail Mix Cookies
Curry Leaf: Samosas, Pakodas, Cutlets, Spring rolls
Papa G's: Mac and Cheeze, Curry Bowl, TLT Sandwich, Raw Pizza, Limeade, Keifer, Cookie Bars
Proper Eats: Collard Wraps, Mummy Balls, Hummus, Pesto, Miso, Sunseed Spread, Raw Crackers, Raw Veggies, Raw Fajitas, Date Fudge
Red and Black: Black Dragon Noodles, Kale and Quinoa Bowl
Sweet Lemon: Divine Thai Wrap, Very Curry Wrap, Rainbow Wrap, Supreme Salad Roll, Thai Iced Tea, Cookies
Vege Thai: Pad Thai, Thai Salad Rolls with Peanut Sauce, Salad with Soy Chicken and Peanut Sauce, Thai Iced Tea
So much to enjoy!

Here's a list of all the exibitors. Some of our favorites included Equal Exchange, Pacific Foods, Bob's Red Mill, King Harvest, Turtle Mountain (So Delicious Products), Wildwood Tofu, Theo Chocolate, Genesis Organic Juices, and Artisana.
Our favorite part about this fest was sampling food and seeing new food products. Pacific Foods was the best booth to go to! New Simply Teas and Yerba Mate Teas (flavors include Peach, Lemon Ginger, Traditional, Unsweetened, Berry, etc). Another new Pacific Foods product is their creamy hemp milk, perfect for ice cream or smoothies.

Lots of pamplets and information about vegetarianism, animal rights, and environmentalism.

We didn't have time to go to the classes or lectures, because we volunteered for a few hours in the kids area, but next time we will dedicate time to listen to the speakers.

It was neat to see all the families, kids, and couples all enthusiastic for vegetarianism and health. It is great to be involved in a community event that focuses on vegetarianism. Yay for VegFest!

Have a great Autumn week!