Wednesday, September 28, 2011

How to roast fresh beets

One of the fun things at farmers' markets around Seattle that I don't remember from San Diego is fresh beets. San Diego friends, help me out. Did I just miss them?

Anyway, we've gotten them a few times this summer, and each time we get them I have to look up how to cook them. So I figure if I write it down, I'll remember it (just like moms and teachers always say). 

First, cut off the leaves (you can eat them if you'd like) and give the beets a good scrubbing. Then, using either a single piece of foil that you then fold into a large packet or individual pieces, drizzle each beat in olive oil. Wrap with foil and seal the seams.

Bake at 375F for 45-50 minutes, or until the beets give a little when you squeeze them gently with tongs. If you already have the oven on for another project, stick the beets in with them and alter the time accordingly. For instance, I had mine in at the same time as these brownies and just baked them longer (more like 60-70 minutes)

Unwrap the beets and allow them to cool. At this point, the peels will come off pretty easily; you might not even need a knife except to get the tip off. If you're really on top of things, save the oil and add it to your salad dressing.

The peel even slips off the root, leaving a cute little (pony)tail. 


What new cooking techniques have you been trying lately?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fudgey Brownies - dairy free

Not only does Mr Official Taster give my sweet tooth a fun for its (the Tooth Fairy's?) money, but he also requests brownies on an impressively frequent basis. I'm not ashamed to admit that until now, I've always just used a box mix (or told him to). A pretty high quality box mix, but definitely not from scratch. I've always heard how finicky brownies are, and the recipes I've seen usually call for lots of ingredients that I don't have on hand. (I never have unsweetened or bittersweet chocolate around)

But this weekend, perhaps inspired by the cool temperatures, I decided to tackle homemade brownies. I searched online, in cookbooks, and in my files, but didn't find anything perfect. So I sort of made up my own and hoped for the best. The first attempt? not so much.  OT tried a piece and valiantly didn't grimace. They weren't bad, but they weren't very good, either.

For my second attempt, I used less flour and added darker chocolate and cooca. The batter tasted, erm, I mean, smelled much better than the first attempt. The result looked better too; it was a much darker both as batter and after baking. They are extremely fudgey, which I think is perfect.

Fudgey Brownies - Dairy Free
1/2 C vegan butter
5 oz (3/4 C) high-quality, dairy-free semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli)
1 oz (2 squares) 70% cocoa chocolate (I used Lindt Intense Dark)
3 eggs
1 C sugar
1/4 C cocoa
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 C flour

Preheat oven to 325F. Melt butter and chocolate in double boiler* over medium low heat.  If you chop it up, the butter will faster than the chocolate, but keep stirring periodically, and have some faith.The chocolate will melt and blend with the butter.

 In a medium bowl, beat eggs and sugar together until well blended. Gradually add the chocolate mixture, beating at low speed until blended. Gradually add the vanilla, cocoa, and flour, beating until combined. **

Pour into a greased and floured***  OR parchment-lined 9x5 in. loaf pan. Bake for 55-60 minutes. Cool completely before cutting and serving.

*I don't have double boiler, either. You can either stack two pots on top of each other, or you can do what I do and use a small 1 or 2 qt. pot with a small or medium glass bowl sitting inside. Put a little bit of water in the bottom pot. The steam heat will melt your chocolate beautifully. Make sure the bowl/second pot doesn't touch the water.

**I did my usual sneaky way of making these more "healthy" and used 1/2 C all-purpose flour and 1/4 C white whole-wheat flour.

***I used cocoa instead of flour because when I take the brownies out of the pan, the residual cocoa powder blends in better than white flour.

I think if you use a normal brownie pan (square 8x8"), you should start checking for doneness around the 40 minute mark. I'd also recommend parchment paper if you don't want to cut your brownies in the pan. It's still a bit of a pain to get it out whole with just grease+cocoa.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Quiz: What pie flavor are you?

Happy weekend! A little fun to get it started- find out what flavor pie you are. I am apparently a Key Lime Pie. I tried approximately twelve more times before I got another flavor: Apple. Then I tried again and ended up with key lime. I guess it's fate.

So can someone else take the quiz and let us know what the other flavor options are?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Do you know about Pinterest?

Have you heard of Pinterest? I'd read about it on a few blogs and had the idea of joining percolating in the back of my mind for a while, but what spurred me to act was wedding planning. It is a great way of visually keeping track of ideas and inspiration. This may sound a little redundant, but it's perfect for visual things you see online - decor, food, gift ideas, style, DIY, etc - because Pinterest allows you to organize your finds on virtual bulletin boards. You create, name, and categorize the boards however your little heart desires. In addition, you can see what other users like, too, and you can "repin" their finds to your board. You can also "follow" people to keep up-to-date on their pins. It's pretty fun.

Anyway, this little plug is to let you know you can follow me on Pinterest! (this is the same info as you may found in the Contact tab at the top) There is obviously some mouth-watering food-related boards (read: category), but I have a few others going as well. If you're not already a Pinterest member, you do need to join. You can request an invite from the home page, or you can ask me and I'll send you one.

What great stuff have you found?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Rosemary Olive Oil Bread - vegan

Last week in the Seattle area, it turned to fall. Cool and cloudy, with that indescribable fall feeling in the air. When I wasn't grumbling about Google, I was craving hearty, carb-loaded edibles. I wanted soft sweaters with hoods, warm socks, and blankets on the couch. I made risotto, breakfasted on burritos, and invested in some new galoshes.

For a friend's birthday on Friday, I attended a Chocolate Party. Every single dish had chocolate in it. There was salad with chocolate vinaigrette, white chocolate mashed potatoes, chicken mole, lava cakes, and homemade rocky road ice cream. Amazing. (also: why have I never thought of a Chocolate Birthday Party?!) I even saw chocolate wine, and I bet there was a chocolate stout or two. It was the perfect way to end the week, and it sent me straight into hibernation when I got home.

On Sunday, I wanted to bake and decided on this Rosemary Olive Oil bread. I've made it before successfully with Orange Peach Mango juice and lime zest. What I really wanted to make was some cranberry bread, but there aren't fresh cranberries available in grocery stores yet (the nice produce guy told me end-of-October). So it seems it's not really fall after all.

Rosemary Olive Oil Bread - Vegan
cooking spray
3/4 C juice (apple or orange. I used lemonade)
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp apple cider or white vinegar
2 C flour
1/2 C white whole wheat flour
3/4 C sugar
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 tsp salt
zest of 1 orange (or lemon)

Preheat your oven to 350F. Lightly grease & flour your loaf pan (mine is 10x5. 9x5 is also common).

Measure the juice into a liquid measuring cup. Add the olive oil (that brings you to the 1 1/4 C line) and vinegar.

In a medium or large bowl, stir together flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, rosemary, salt, and zest. Stir in the liquid mixture, adding a splash or two of addition juice if necessary. Turn into prepared baking pan, smooth top. Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean (*when cookbooks and bloggers say this, it really means "until skewer inserted in the middle comes out without any uncooked batter stuck to it").

Remove pan and allow to cool. To speed cooling, you can remove the bread from the pan once it's cool enough to handle and allow it to finish cooling on a wire rack.

Any juice will work. You can also use a sweet white wine, and I don't see why any variety of milk wouldn't work.

You probably don't have to flour the pan, but since this was the first time I used this shiny new loaf pan and didn't want to chance it.

You can use all-purpose flour for the entire 2 1/2 C if you'd like. I just like to sneak in whole wheat when I can.

Whenever I'm zesting an orange or lemon, I am OCD about using organic fruit. I also wash it thoroughly prior to zesting.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Change is hard. I get that. But I think this one is all for the better! Thanks for your patience this week while this blog-o-mine was kind of broken. Blame Google. may have noticed that this looks different. Here's a handy guide:

  1. A new web address! is the new domain name, but don't worry, you can keep your old bookmark with "blogger" in there and you'll just get redirected to the new site
  2. New header! Mr Official Taster helped me put this together. I think it's pretty snazzy.
  3. Tabs! Check out all new information as well as a handy-dandy recipe index organized by type as well as a DIY project list.
  4. Subscribe! Whether you want to follow by email, add Short & Sweets to your Google reader, or other organizer, there are new buttons to help. 
There's also a new overall look and layout. 

What do you think? Love it? Hate it? Notice any glaring errors? Have suggestions? Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Freezer Burritos - vegan & gluten free

Here's a secret: Mr Official Taster and I are lazy. At the end of the day, cooking doesn't always sound awesome, and at the beginning of the day, well, let's just say neither of us is at our best. Procrastination is also sometimes involved.

So I'm hoping that the 24 burritos I made and froze today will help us avoid some unhealthy and unsatisfying choices in the future. You'll notice that the recipe below isn't really a recipe, but more of a set of guidelines. That's because exact amount and specific ingredients are really not important here. It's more important that you use delicious ingredients that you love, herbs and spices for variety, and a nice blend of flavors. I made some burritos with egg, some without; some with peppers, some without; some with pesto, some without. You get the idea. There was only about 1 hour of time involved (not counting the rice cook time), so I think the payoff will be stellar.

Freezer Burritos
This is not so much of a recipe, and more of a general idea. fyi. Feel free to make it your own. I got inspiration from here and here.

Gather your materials:
Cook some rice. I used about 1 Cup uncooked rice, 1 can of tomatoes, 1 diced onion, and 1 clove garlic. Any kind of tomatoes should work. I used whole and them chopped them up myself, but you can also just get a can of diced. I also used a bit less water than normal because the tomatoes have liquid. As far as I know, rice is pretty forgiving. As long as you have enough liquid, don't overcook it and dry it out, you can't mess it up (i.e. it's hard to have too much liquid).

Drain and rinse a can of beans. I used black. You don't have to rinse them, but my mom always says they taste better that way.

Shred (or buy pre-shredded) any cheese. Chop veggies. If you're using eggs, scramble them. Get any other toppings - potatoes, sour cream, salsa, green onion, spinach, pesto - together and ready for assembly.

Wrap a stack of flour tortillas (I don't see why you can't use gluten free wraps here) in a damp dishcloth and microwave for a minute. This helps make them pliable and not rip when you roll the burritos. While they are microwaving, rip pieces of aluminum foil off the roll and put them in a pile. You can assemble each burrito directly on top of each piece.

Make the burritos:
Place one warm tortilla on the top of your pile of aluminum foil and re-cover the stack of tortillas with the damp towel. Add your ingredients of choice. Tightly roll the burrito, and then roll it in the foil. You can label and date them with a sharpie.

Freeze them!
When you're ready to eat them, unwrap them from the foil, rewrap in a damp paper towel, and microwave 2-3 minutes on high. You can also bake them for 40 minutes at 450F, remove foil, and bake for another 10 minutes. OR you can let it/them thaw, and bake for 350F for 10 minutes.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Recommended Reading - The School of Essential Ingredients

As many of you know, I'm an avid reader of all things - cereal boxes, magazines, ingredient lists (and not always of food!), and, of course, books. I have no doubt that without libraries (thank you Library Fairy, whoever you were) I would have long ago bankrupted my parents and, in turn, myself. 

While I read my share of schlock (OT's term for murder mysteries and the like) and current best-sellers, I also love to browse the shelves at the library, picking up books seemingly at random, seeing how they feel in my hands, and unabashedly judging the cover.

The paperback version I picked up of The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister is small but dense and has cover art that invites dreaming. Once I started reading, I was enchanted. The book is comprised of eight chapters, which are really eight interwoven, beautifully written short stories. This novel tells the stories of eight students who meet once a month for cooking classes in Lillian's restaurant. Of course they learn much more, and readers are treated to all the sumptuous smells, tastes, and memories of the students.

Recipes are described in broad strokes in the book, but Ms Bauermeister has a section on her website with detailed instructions. I can't wait to try a few. If they are as good as they sound, I will find myself eating from her stories every night of the week.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Citrus Olive Oil Cake & Chocolate Orange Glaze - Dairy Free

I hope you had a good holiday weekend! Mr. Official Taster and I stayed very busy and spent a lot of time visiting friends (both in and out-of-towners), which was great. However, by Monday afternoon I was ready to lay in bed with a good book and read. alone. It was fabulous. (more on the book later this week)

Anyway, on Saturday this couple had a housewarming/anniversary bash, so bringing a cake seemed fitting. Plus I like cake.

This cake has lots of great qualities. It's light, sweet, and moist. It can be baked and served from the same container, which just makes things easier. It can handle lots of different frosting varieties, or none at all. It can also be made with fresh ingredients in winter or summer.

I chose a super simple glaze and decoration. If I had more time or inclination, I would have loved to have tried these candied orange slices or homemade gumdrops.

Did you do anything fun this weekend?

Citrus Olive Oil Cake - Dairy Free
adapted from How to Cook Everything
cooking spray for pan
4 eggs, separated and room temperature
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
1/4 + 3/4 C sugar
2 C flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 C orange juice
zest of one lemon or orange

Separate your eggs when you first take them out of the refrigerator because it's easier when they are cold. Then allow them to come to room temperature for 30 min or so.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9x13 (or thereabouts) pan with cooking spray (I used olive oil spray)

Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs whites in a small bowl until they foam. Then sprinkle in 1/4 C sugar while still beating the whites. Continue beating until the whites hold soft peaks.

In a large bowl, add the olive oil and 3/4 C sugar and mix together. Add the egg yolks and beat until thick and fluffy (5-7 minutes). Mix in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Next, mix in the orange juice and zest. The mixture will be very thick and/or crumbly. If it's crumbly, add in a splash more of juice. Don't despair.

Add the beaten egg whites to this thick mixture. As gently as possible, thoroughly mix together the batter and egg whites. You may think they will never combine, but they will.

Turn the mixture into your prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan, frost it if you'd like, and serve it directly from there.

Chocolate Orange Glaze - Vegan and Gluten Free
This is barely a recipe. I've mentioned before that I don't really measure for glazes. Here's a previous recipe.  For this one, I mixed together some confectioners' sugar, cocoa, and orange juice until I had a good amount and the right consistency to just pour it on.

I actually used lemon zest and Orange Peach Mango juice from Trader Joe's. It's delicious.

The decorations are also from TJ's. They are Citrus Gumdrops and the best gumdrops I've ever tasted.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Vegan Snickerdoodles

It turned cool and fallish here this week. (not to complain. We're not on the hurricane coast!) Plus, this innocent looking (2 year old) puppy, Roomba,

did this

to Buddy, who's about 6 years old and a third of Roomba's size. They got in a fight over a bone. At midnight. He lost. We lost sleep.

So it's been kind of an eventful week with lot of visits to the pet emergency place. I needed cookies. These snickerdoodles are sweet and light, and, if you're like me and don't bake them very long, melt-in-your-mouth soft.

Vegan Snickerdoodles
4 1/2 tsp Ener-g Egg Replacer (equivalent of 3 eggs)
6 Tbsp water
1 C vegan butter, room temperature
3/4 C sugar
3/4 C brown sugar (firmly packed)
2 tsp vanilla
2 C flour
1/4 C whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
cinnamon and sugar

Make the dough:
In a small bowl, use a hand mixer to whip the egg replacer and water together, until it's thick and foamy.

In a large bowl, use those same mixers to cream the butter, sugars, and vanilla together. Add the egg replacer mixture and thoroughly combine. Gradually add the flours, baking soda, and salt. Mix until combined.

Chill the dough:
You have two options here. You can either chill the whole bowl of dough for an hour in the fridge, or you can chill each cookie sheet of rolled cookies for 10-15 minutes. Up to you.

Assemble the cookies:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Stir together cinnamon and sugar. I used 3 Tbs sugar and 1 Tbsp cinnamon. It's a pretty delicious ratio, but feel free to experiment, or even add in nutmeg or cloves. Use a tablespoon measure, scoop cookie dough and roll it in the sugar mix. Space about 2 inches apart on your parchment/silpat lined baking sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes on the sheet, and then transfer to a cooling rack. Makes 40ish cookies, depending how much dough you eat what size you make them.

On a normal day, I would either make half the recipe or freeze half the dough for another day. It makes a lot of cookies.

Use a nice low bowl with a fairly wide mouth for your cinnamon+sugar. It's a lot easier to roll balls of dough in than one that's high and/or narrow.
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