Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Roasted Mushrooms

I love to roast just about any vegetable. It is such an easy way to prepare veggies. Today I roasted a mix of cremini and shitake mushrooms. The shitake mushrooms are from the farmer's market so that counts as locally grown (in my quest to be a better consumer) but the creminis are from Washington (not very local).

Drizzle olive oil on the mushrooms, season them with thyme, rosemary and pepper. Then roast them in a 350 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes, until tender. Season with salt when they come out of the oven (if you salt them before they go in, they will lose a lot of their moisture). They cook down quite a bit.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Veggie BBQ

Our veggie bbq this weekend consisted of veggie kebabs, foccaccia bread, eggplant and baked beans. For the kebabs, I used tomatoes, cremini mushrooms, red onions and zucchini. I coated the veggies with olive oil, smoked paprika, garlic powder, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper. The eggplant just had olive oil, salt and pepper. I love to eat the eggplant with the foccaccia bread made on the grill. I do all the prepping and omnivore boyfriend does a great job doing the actual bbqing.

For the bread, I used Trader Joe's herb pizza dough. I divided it into eight pieces, hand stretched them out, coated them with olive oil and seasoned them with salt. You could use whatever pizza dough recipe you have. It would be fun to turn them into actual pizzas but we love it as bread.
The baked beans are Trader Joe's organic baked beans.
I am trying to be a better consumer so I did try to buy organic, locally grown and "green" groceries for our bbq. I somewhat succeeded. The baked beans are organic but I realized that it is difficult to figure out where canned beans are grown and packaged. I am pretty sure no one is growing beans around Los Angeles so I might have to make an exception for non-locally grown beans. I will have to look into the bean issue more thoroughly being that I eat beans everyday! At least they were organic. The veggies on the kebab were locally grown and organic except for the mushrooms. They were from Washington state (not quite local-oops).
We try not to use a lot of paper towels or aluminum foil but we did use some for our bbq. I found a new product, Reynolds Wrap 100% Recycled Aluminum Foil. It's about time the leading aluminum foil people made a 100% recycled product!
It was almost twice as much as the store brand but maybe if more people buy it the price will go down, encouraging even more people to use it. I also bought Scott brand paper towels (Scott Naturals Choose-a-Size) that are made from minimum 60% recycled fiber. I think it is good when mainstream brands that are sold in major grocery stores create "natural" product lines. The more the demand for those products goes up, the better!
Overall, I did ok with my purchases but could do better!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Summer Challenge: Be Better Consumers!

After seeing the documentary Food, Inc., I have been re-energized and motivated to be a better consumer. For the most part I shop responsibly but I could be doing so much more! I find it easy sometimes to get lazy about these things. So I am challenging myself this summer to improve my shopping habits. There are a few things I want to work on (suggestions for more are always appreciated):
  1. Buy more locally grown food. Until now I told myself anything grown in North America counted as "local" or "in season". I live in Los Angeles so doing it that way allowed for produce grown in Mexico. I think I should limit it to produce grown in California for the most part.
  2. Buy more organic items. I was buying some organic but I also was trying to stick to a budget which can make shopping for organic items more difficult. This is a challenge so I will have to find a way to make it work.
  3. Avoid genetically modified food. I will blog more about the issues of genetically modified food later. I eat a lot of soy products (soy milk, soy yogurt, etc.) so I will have to read more labels and do more research to avoid genetically modified soybeans (currently, up to 85 percent of soybeans are genetically engineered).
  4. Prepare more responsible and healthy dishes. I need to incorporate my locally grown, non genetically modified and organic items in to tasty dishes!
  5. Get more involved in the food movement. There is so much we can be doing to improve food safety, school lunches, etc. I will be becoming more active and sharing ways for others to do so as well (I also would appreciate your ideas for ways to get involved).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Food, Inc. - Hungry For Change?

Food Inc is a fascinating and informative documentary about the food industry. I hope everyone sees this movie. Even if you think as a vegan that you are very informed and minimizing your carbon footprint, there is info in this movie that will surprise you and change the way you eat and shop. My omnivore boyfriend and I saw this Friday night and it deeply affected both of us. I hope it is released in more cities to give everyone the opportunity to see it. Here's a description from the movie website, which is also full of great info.

In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government's regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, insecticide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won't go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli—the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults.
Featuring interviews with such experts as Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto) along with forward thinking social entrepreneurs like Stonyfield's Gary Hirshberg and Polyface Farms' Joel Salatin, Food, Inc. reveals surprising—and often shocking truths—about what we eat, how it's produced, who we have become as a nation and where we are going from here.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Sweet Biscuits and Homemade Jam

This recipe is the only successful recipe I have made from Babycakes Vegan, Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York's Most Talked-About Bakery by Erin McKenna (see my review of this cookbook) . I call them sweet biscuits but it is a recipe for the base of her strawberry shortcakes. This recipe calls for spelt four (which is not gluten free-one of my major issues with her "gluten-free" cookbook). I used the whole grain variety and my sister tried it successfully with the white spelt. This would probably work with all purpose flour as well. I topped it with some quick homemade berry jam.

This jam is so easy to make. It requires no pectin and no canning abilities whatsoever! It obviously won't last as long as the type you can but would last a week or two refrigerated. It is a Martha Stewart recipe. I used 3 cups of frozen berries (a mix of blueberries, raspberries and marionberries), 1 cup of sugar and the zest of one lemon. I combined it all in a saucepan then followed Martha's directions:
"Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook, stirring and skimming foam from surface, until mixture reaches 221 degrees on a candy thermometer, 5 to 10 minutes. To test, remove mixture from heat. Pour a small amount of jam on a cold plate and transfer to freezer, for 2 to 3 minutes. If mixture gels, it is ready to fill. If not, return to heat and retest. "
I did use a candy thermometer but if you don't have one, boil the berries about ten minutes then try the freezer test. Once it passed the freezer test, I put it in a jar and refrigerated it. It is very easy, makes great jam and you control how much sugar you add!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars

Since the last post was about bad gluten-free baked goods, I thought I would post about an absolutely delicious and easy to make gluten-free dessert. These peanut butter chocolate bars are from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's The Joy of Vegan Baking. I made them for a camping trip in Joshua Tree National Park that we had this weekend. These were quite a hit among the campers. Omnivores loved them and said they tasted like a cross between Reeses peanut butter cups and Butterfinger bars. They are no bake bars that take about five minutes to make with no fancy ingredients required. After making one batch, the only change I made was the size of the pan. She uses a 9x13 pan but that made very flat bars. I used a 8x8 pan for chunkier bars.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cookbook Review: Babycakes: Vegan, Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York's Most Talked-About Bakery

Cookbook with pumpkin spice muffins (they are just ok after much recipe tweaking)

Babycakes Vegan, Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar -free Recipes from New York's Most Talked-About Bakery by Erin McKenna is a really long title that definitely had room to include that it is mostly gluten free not completely gluten-free. Mostly gluten free is a bit more important to mention than mostly sugar free. I could overlook that but there are few other things wrong with this cookbook that you should know before you decide whether or not to get it.

Erin Mckenna, the author and owner of Babycakes Bakery in NYC, was on the Martha Stewart Show making cookies from her new cookbook. Martha went on and on how good they were. Well, my mom, my sister and I immediately ordered the book. Unfortunately there are many problems with the cookbook.

  1. It is not completely gluten-free as the title states. The whole chapter on biscuits and scones and some other recipes are not gluten-free (those recipes use spelt flour).

  2. I, my sister and many other people (see Babycakes blog and Amazon reviews) seem to be having similar problems. Muffins and breads collapsing, cooking times way off, cookies coming out as flat disks, etc.

  3. Ingredients and directions are not clear in the book. She lists coconut oil in the recipes but then on her blog she says you should use unscented and melted coconut oil (unscented is more difficult to find and that should be stated in the recipe as well as whether to melt it or not).

  4. She has a couple of posts on her blog to deal with all questions and problems people are having with her recipes. But her responses all seem to assume the homecook has made mistakes or not followed her recipe exactly. She also states "Remember, baker buddies, this isn't easy stuff! " Vegan and gluten free bakers are used to tweaking recipes and having cooking disasters. But when one uses a cookbook and follows the recipe exactly, it should come out well (maybe in the future you tweak spices and such but overall the recipe should work).

So I think that she did not have recipe testers for this which is a shame because the book is beautiful and it would have been great to have a go to cookbook for vegan and gluten-free baked goods. The shortcake bread came out well as well as one batch of the cookies. Buy this if you are ok with it providing guidelines for you for vegan and gluten free baking but not consistently good recipes. Be ready to spend a lot for ingredients ( a jar of coconut oil might be enough for two recipes) and to have a many inedible disasters before getting something good.