Saturday, May 31, 2014

Weekend Reading

One week till vacation

Happy weekend, friends! This is the first weekend in a while that Mr Official Taster and I have no guests to entertain and only the loosest of plans. It's gonna be good. I realized this week that I haven't had a vacation since September, and that that is too long. Besides sleepy, I get what I like to call "sassy." I'm gonna go ahead and call it charming (in small doses). The good news is that in a week the view over my feet will be of surf and sand. I. am. stoked.

What are you up to? Any fun plans?

End of market bounty

Onto links!

Maya Angelou passing was noted by the The New York Times, TIME, and in photos by Essence.

On misogyny, entitlement, and nerds.

Unless you have celiac disease, your gluten intolerance is probably in your head.

KQED says that the Bay Area's housing issue can't (all) be blamed on the tech industry.

Why it's a good thing that women say "I don't know." This: "I’m no expert, but I’d call a willingness to mute herself when she doesn’t know what she’s talking about — and the corresponding eagerness to hear from those who do — a desirable trait in a leader."

The scienc-y secrets to baking the perfect chocolate chip cookie.

The Kitchn's tips to help you throw a less stressful party.

In preparation for the summer, 20 crops that keep and how to store them

Reading Rainbow is coming back! I'm not the only fan

I definitely got sucked down the Upworthy rabbit hole this week (and I'm glad I did). Here are some winners:
- on mass murder and masculinity by the very smart Laci Green
- related: on how being told "being a man" is damaging our boys
- the wonderful Patrick Stewart on violence against women and PTSD
- 50+ reasons to be a feminist (I might be a little in love with Laci Green at this point)

A beautifully written post about the armor we women start growing as young girls.

Update 6/1/14: I heard this on the way home from work and just had to include it. There are several interesting interviews, including one with the author of the article linked to above on misogyny, entitlement, and nerds. 

American Ballet Theater's Misty Copeland on body issues.

This week, I posted recipes for Whole Wheat Maple Oatmeal Bread and Small Batch Strawberry Jam. Making a large batch? Tips for efficiently prepping them.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Small Batch Strawberry Jam - vegan, gluten free, and free of just about everything else

Strawberry Honey Jam - vegan, gf

As longtime readers will know, I have a bit of an obsession/problem/interest in regards to farmers' markets. Last week, as usual, I bought a lot of fruit. Possibly more than two people (even with guests) can eat before it passes its prime. And so it came to pass that we had a couple pints of strawberries left that were just a bit too ripe to happily eat. I didn't want to throw them away (shudder), so I decided to make a mini batch of strawberry jam. Mr Official Taster has been on a bit of a pb&j roll lately, and we've just about used up the jams I made last summer, so this seemed like a good solution.

End of market bounty

I started out with the intention of just using up the fruit I had and making a jar or two of jam. I wanted to keep it as simple as possible, so I didn't want to sterilize and get set up for water bath canning. That's the beauty of small batch jams. Use what you have, pour into normal clean containers, refrigerate, and eat. Super simple, and it's a great way to use up aging fruit. Of course, you don't want to use fruit that really is past its prime and belongs only in the compost bin (duh. but it has to be said).

Strawberries for jam

To figure out my ingredient volumes, first I rinsed, hulled, and roughly chopped up the berries. I ended up with about three cups, so I wanted to use a bit less than half that volume of sugar. The lemon is in there to brighten the sweetness, rather than to provide acid for canning. This ratio can translate to lots of other summer fruit, so use this as a template and keep yourself in super seasonal, fresh jam all summer (or if you need to finish up some fruit before heading on a trip). You could also use this process to make small batches of freezer jam.

Small Batch Strawberry Honey Jam

Small Batch Strawberry Jam - vegan, gluten free, and free of just about everything else

Important: this is not a tested and safe recipe for canning. I made this small batch with the intention of refrigerating and consuming within a couple of weeks. You could also freeze it. 

Next time I'll probably reduce the sweetness a bit more, but as written, this is quick, easy, and bursting with strawberry goodness. You can skip the honey all together and just use sugar. 

3 C chopped strawberries, picked over and rinsed
scant 1 C sugar
1/4 C honey (for strict vegans use sugar instead)
splash of lemon juice

Add all ingredients to a medium pot or large sauce pan. At this point, I like to stir them a bit and then leave it alone and let the sugar start drawing the juices out of the berries for a bit (10 minutes to several hours) while I do other things. If you are in a rush, skip that part and just keep going.

Over medium heat, bring the mixture up to a boil. Stir frequently and help the jam along by squishing some fruit with your kitchen utensil of choice. Keep a close eye on things, as small batches cook quickly. Mine took about 10-15 minutes. Test for set (or aim for a temperature of 220F). I didn't actually test either the temperature or for set. I just kind of eyeballed it, and it worked out ok. Pour into clean jars, allow to cool, cover and refrigerate. It should last a few weeks in the fridge.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Whole Wheat Maple Oatmeal Bread - vegan

Whole Wheat Maple Oatmeal Bread - vegan

Be not afraid, ye who enter here.

Whole Wheat Maple Oatmeal Bread and Raspberry Jam

Seriously, guys? I'd really like to somehow free the American population from their fear of bread. (Yes, I know this sounds rather grandiose.) I can't speak first-hand about other countries, but I suspect they have less fear. (Yes? No? Anyone?) I get that this is a multi-level fear, so let's first get this out of the way: carbs are not the devil. Sure, if all you ate was bread, you'd probably contract scurvy. And sure, if all you ate was bread, avoided scurvy, but never got up from the table, you'd probably gain some weight. But I'm pretty sure some fruit and maybe a walk around the block would solve those problems. So, let's agree to agree here. Good Bread is wonderful.

vegan Whole Wheat Maple Oatmeal Bread

Side rant: bad bread is not worth your time, caloric intake, or money. However, Good Bread with capital letters is wonderful.

OK, onto to the next fear: yeast. Also, that bread is a magical, mystical being that has its own unpredictable mind. That there's no use even trying to make yeast bread because the yeast will act all puckish and just do what it wants. All of these fears? Unfounded, I say.

Whole Wheat Maple Oatmeal Bread

A well-written, tested (i.e. not just made up) recipe and good ingredients should be all you need. For this specific bread you need flour (all-purpose is just fine, but for more flavor and healthy stuff, white whole wheat and whole wheat are lovely), yeast, oatmeal, salt, oil, maple syrup (or sugar), and water. That's it. Nothing exotic or scary. As long as you remember that yeast is a living organism, and will perform it's best if treated well (no boiling alive here, please), you will be just fine. Follow the directions, use your sense and your senses, and your home will smell amazing and your carb-loving self will thank you.

Whole Wheat Maple Oatmeal Bread

Still nervous? Try the even easier Oatmeal Bread, No Knead Whole Wheat Bread, or English Muffin Bread.

Whole Wheat Maple Oatmeal Bread - vegan
adapted from King Arthur Flour

The boiling water in this recipe serves the dual purpose of softening the oatmeal and helping the sugar/syrup dissolve. I cannot emphasize this enough: do not add your yeast too soon or you will kill it and your bread will not rise. Lukewarm is all that yeast can handle. In place of the maple syrup/brown sugar, you could be fancy and use maple sugar instead (as the original recipe calls for). I suspect (though I haven't tried it) that you could add a tiny bit of maple syrup a little bit at a time to regular sugar, mix thoroughly, and create your own maple sugar. 

This recipe yields two loaves of bread, but you could certainly halve the recipe and only make one. But for pretty much the same amount of time and effort, make two, and then share or freeze your second loaf (assuming you don't eat the first one within a day or two). I slathered on some of my Raspberry Peach Jam, but there are no bad choices. 

2 C boiling water
1 C rolled oats, traditional or quick (not instant)
1/2 C maple syrup or brown sugar (I use half maple syrup & half sucanat)
1/4 C vegetable oil (I use olive)
1 Tbsp kosher salt or 2 1/2 tsp table salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional, but delicious)
1 Tbsp instant or active dry yeast
1 1/2 C whole wheat flour
4 C all-purpose or white whole wheat flour plus more (possibly. see below)

In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the water, oats, maple syrup or brown sugar, oil, salt, and cinnamon. Let cool to lukewarm, about 10 to 15 minutes. If you get as antsy as I do, stir a few times, but DO NOT add yeast until it's lukewarm. Too hot, and you'll kill your yeast.

Add the yeast and flours, stirring to form a rough dough. Knead (about 10 minutes by hand, 5 to 7 minutes by machine) until the dough is smooth and satiny. If you used maple syrup (or if it's a dry day), you will need to add extra flour a little bit at a time to achieve a nice texture and help the dough form a ball. When fully combined and you're kneading, the dough shouldn't be very sticky. You should be able to handle it without it sticking to your hands. I used half sugar and half maple syrup and added an additional 1/2 - 3/4 cup of flour.

Remove the dough from the bowl, scrape any remaining dough from sides, mush into dough, and form into a ball. Place dough in the bowl upside down (seam side up), and then flip it over so the seams are on the bottom. This way, you've easily coated the surface with the oil. Cover the bowl with lightly greased plastic wrap (or a shower cap. That's my favorite method), and allow the dough to rise for 1 hour. Since the dough is warm to begin with (from the boiling water), it should become quite puffy.

Gently punch down the ball, divide the dough in half, and shape each half into a loaf. Place the loaves in two greased 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" bread pans.

Cover the pans with lightly greased plastic wrap (again, or a shower cap) and allow the loaves to rise until they've crowned about 1" over the rim of the pan, about 60 to 90 minutes.

Bake the loaves in a preheated 350°F oven for 35 to 40 minutes, tenting them lightly with aluminum foil after 25 minutes to prevent over-browning. Remove them from the oven when they're golden brown and the interior registers 190°F on a digital thermometer. A more traditional (if less scientific) way is to tap on the loaf on the bottom - it should sound hollow. The sides should also be pulling away from the sides of the pan.

Turn the loaves out onto a rack to cool. Store at room temperature, well-wrapped, for several days; freeze for longer storage.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Weekend Reading

Getting dressed

Happy weekend! I hope you all had a good week. In this little corner of the world, I shared my Sangria Fruit Ice Cream and a round up of recipes for this Memorial Day weekend.

A big congratulations to my sister-in-law, who graduated today with her MBA. Such an accomplishment! Also this weekend, I get to hang out with one of my favorites and her husband, as well as the parents-in-law, who are in town for the big graduation. I spent a good amount of time baking today! We now have fresh bread, strawberry crisp, and some coffee cake in the fridge ready to stick in the oven tomorrow morning.

Besides general hanging out and celebrating, I'm also planning a field trip to Fioli. It's a beautiful estate, which includes gardens and a mansion (I'm remembering three huge, drool-worthy kitchens) to stand in awe of. I'm sure some photos will make it to my Instagram.

What are you up to this weekend?

End-of-market bounty

Onto links!

The New York Times has a drink generator. Choose your style, spirit, and setting and it provides you with an appropriate recipe. Fun!

36 historic photos that have been realistically colored - the process really makes them feel more vibrant and relevant.

National Geographic has a water calculator that helps you see the size of your water footprint. Not eating meat makes a huge difference!

A smart restauranteur responds to customer demand that servers "show some skin."

Red wine and chocolate may not be the magical superfoods that will save and change your life, but I'll keep them on my menu anyway.

Minimalist Baker came up with a way to make cashew-less vegan queso using eggplant.

I had no idea kids as young as 12 work (legally!) in tobacco fields. That needs to stop.

Have you heard of Narratively? They have a theme each week and articles and stories about that theme are posted each day. They are well-written, insightful, and interesting.

On success.

Part 1 and Part 2 of Local Kitchen Blog's series on sugar, the science behind it, and why it might not be the devil.

The most honest RSVP ever.

10 things that people who love their lives are doing differently. I love the point about not answering the "what do you do?" question with a work answer.

Did you know Ruth Reichl has a new book out? I'm next on the waiting list at the library and am itching to get started.

Maple Lemonade with Peaches and Thyme. Yuummmmmmmmmmm

For more great reads, check out all weekend reading posts

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend Recipe Round Up

Here are some of my favorite summer/picnic/party recipes to help you plan your weekend. Bon appetit!

Sangria Fruit Ice Cream
I know I just posted about it, but I'm repeating myself for a reason. Sangria Fruit Ice Cream is delicious!

Coconut Whipped Cream (vegan & gluten free)
Coconut Whipped Cream - because a party just isn't a party without whipped cream

Fresh Pea Hummus, vegan & gluten free
Fresh Pea Hummus - great with chips or on a sandwich

soy sauce marinade for tofu, veggies, or meat
Soy Sauce Marinade for tofu, veggies, or meat

Tzatziki Potato Salad
Tzatziki Potato Salad - just mind the temperature! Don't leave it out more than 4 hours

nice and tangy lemonade
Sweet Tart Lemonade - perfection

Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting - a classic

How are you celebrating this weekend?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sangria Fruit Ice Cream - vegan & gluten free

Sangria Fruit Ice Cream |

Can you believe it's already almost Memorial Day weekend? Can we talk about that for a second? Because I really can't seem to wrap my mind around it. At work, we're planning and prepping for a busy weekend, as we are at home, but I really just can't take it in that it's already the beginning of summer. Maybe if we had fireflies here it would be easier to grasp? (yes, sad fact. no fireflies on the west coast)  I just...whew this year is flying.

Sangria Fruit Ice Cream - vegan & gluten free |
from above, Sangria Fruit Ice Cream - vegan & gluten free

"Anyway, moving on" as my dad would say. Are you hosting or attending a party this weekend? I don't know what else you have planned, but I recommend sangria and ice cream. Both are perfect harbingers of summer, and both are crowd pleasers. They are also show stoppers that are easy to prepare and easy to prepare for a group.


First, let's talk sangria. Here are some mouth-watering recipes I pulled from my Pinterest collection of drinks:

If you make one or four of them, invite me! I'll bring brownies and my ice cream maker.

vegan & gluten free Sangria Fruit Ice Cream

Alas, I can't invite you over to my place because, well, it's gonna be full. I have good friends coming for a visit (yay!), and a sister-in-law graduating with an MBA (yay!), which means parents-in-law will also be in town (yay!), and, well, I think you can agree that the weekend sounds pretty full. If I were more on top of things and didn't have to, um, work, perhaps I'd be the one cooking a celebration feast. If I were, sangrias sound like a festive must-drink.

blueberries and ice cream

The beauty of this "recipe" is that it's really just a guide. Use what you have and it will be delicious.

Sangria Fruit Ice Cream - vegan & gluten free

Below are the volumes that I used, but the point of this recipe is really it's versatility. Have more than a cup of fruit? Add some more milk. Have less fruit but more people? Add some "regular" fruit and/or some more milk. Want a lighter ice cream? Add a second can but use light coconut milk and/or add some more fruit. Consider reserving some fruit for garnish. Mostly, though, just use what you have, and I can pretty much guarantee that no one will complain that it's not ___ enough. If they do? They're probably having a terrible day, and you may want to grant them a little leeway. And maybe a drink. 

1 C sangria fruit (I used a mix of berries)
1 (~15oz) can full-fat coconut milk
agave, honey, or sweetener of choice (optional, see below)

Use a food processor, blender, or immersion blender to fully combine the milk and fruit. Taste, and add a little sweetener if needed. Mix to combine. Chill in refrigerator for at least a couple of hours, or overnight.

Transfer chilled mix to your ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Fresh Pea Hummus - vegan & gluten free

Fresh Pea Hummus, vegan & gluten free

Hello and happy Monday! I hope the mommas out there had a good Mother's Day and felt loved and appreciated. Maybe you got a pasta necklace? or perhaps a fill-in-the-blank poem? My cousin got one that included a line about her smelling like jelly beans. That was my favorite part.

vegan/gf Fresh Pea Hummus

Now that we're fully into May, I hoping more of you out there have access to a nearby farmers' market. Perhaps you got a chance to go this weekend? (here are my top ten tips for having a great farmers' market experience) I have year-round ones available on Saturdays, but a local Thursday night one runs May-September only, and I got a chance to go for the first time last week. It felt so nice to be back! I got to check out my favorite farms and see the new booths. I learned that it's going to be a very short cherry season this year (#sadface) because winter here in the Bay Area was so weird (i.e. warm and dry). I forgot to ask if the same would be true of stone fruits like peaches, but I'd like to find that out this week (otherwise, I'm going to obsess about it, since we all know I'm somewhat in love with peaches). 

vegan & gluten free Fresh Pea Hummus

Anyway, among my purchases were my first peas of the season. Now, some people (ahem, may express surprise at this since growing up I showed very little interest in peas. And I admit that they are still not my favorite vegetable in the world, but I've learned that fresh peas are dramatically better than frozen. They're sweet and tender and taste, well, pretty good. I like them raw in salads, mashed up into pesto, or, now, smooshed into hummus. Can you call it hummus if there are no garbanzo beans? 

Fresh Pea Hummus - vegan & gluten free

This hummus is fast, easy, and you don't even need to turn on the stove. It's great with chips or as a sandwich topping. It's easily double-able, and if you don't have quite the right amount of an ingredient, don't sweat it. You can make it anyway, and it will still be tasty. 

Fresh Pea Hummus - vegan & gluten free
adapted from Whole Living

I think this would be good with several other variations, including using mint (or parsley or basil) instead of cilantro, or increasing only the volume of peas so that you taste them more. It's also tasty with roasted garlic in place of the raw. 

I found I didn't need to because my peas were fresh & tender, but should you wish to cook your peas, bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Add peas and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Drain, then run under cold water or put into ice bath to stop cooking.

1 C fresh shelled peas
1/4 C fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp tahini
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 small clove minced garlic
1/8 tsp ground cumin
pinch of salt

In food processor (or blender), pulse peas, cilantro, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and cumin 30 to 40 seconds. Season with salt to taste.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Weekend Reading

Too adorable

Happy weekend, all! It's beautiful here, and on Friday I was able to sleep in and treat myself to raspberry pancakes. Oh, and I fed my cute jar addiction. I mean, really, could you have resisted those adorbables above? They were even half off. I swooned. It was a pretty darn good way to start my weekend.

What's new with you? Read anything good lately? I did, and, uh, it's kind of a long list this time. Maybe you'd better get that second cuppa? Here's what I've found (or curated) for you:

First of all, you know it's Mother's Day weekend, yes? No? Well, here's a last-minute friendly printable card. I also recommend a Kindle, or maybe some strawberry muffins. There, that gives you some high/low options. You are welcome. Oh, and Happy Mother's Day to my favorite mom :)

Tis the season - beautiful Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Bars from the inimitable Smitten Kitchen. They are made right in the pan, and she has suggestions for vegan & gluten free versions

Oh. Man. Where has this been all my life? Another great Call Me Maybe

Will you make me some Hibiscus Concentrate? It sounds amazing for iced tea

An honest look at what would happen if everyone in the world stopped eating meat. Obviously impossible, but thought-provoking nonetheless

I first saw the photo on Instagram and decided to investigate further. It's crazy but true: a National Geographic photographer was arrested for taking photos, in America, of a factory farm. In this article, he wonders if it was worth it.

What ridiculous food day is your birthday? Mine is National Cheese Lover's Day. Mr Official Taster's is National Gumbo Day. Ironies abound.

Lindsay from Pinch of Yum addresses the age-old question that plagues every writer - what to write about

On why it matters that women do most of the housework.

“Women don’t want to talk about energy policy, they want to hear about impact on gas prices. They don’t want to talk about Obamacare, talk to them about getting to see their doctor.” It’s a wonder they have a woman problem, right?

No matter what you think about the issue, here's one brave woman's list of the five most surprising things about her abortion.

10 simple words every girl should learn.

Sadly unsurprising. A video asking "what is gluten?" of people who don't eat it.

Pizza makings - how some Italians are using food to fight back against the mafia 

A smart look at the gentrification of Oakland

Of course, what list is complete without a Buzzfeed quiz? This one's about your bucket list

square Banana Bread Granola

These next few are articles I saved a ways back and then forgot about, so apologies if they seem somewhat dated. Or, "dated" in this fast paced world of ours

There's a proposal to ban all fishing in international waters for a few years in order to ensure species' continued survival

Thinking of starting an urban garden? Be sure to test your soil and investigate your land's history, since there's a lot of chemicals lurking

Do you live in the San Francisco area? Are you a ballet lover between the ages of 21 and 39? Then San Francisco Ballet wants to give you access to inexpensive tickets to great programs. Just sign up

From the New York Times, fake meat that finally tastes like chicken.

For more interesting links, check out all weekend reads here

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Banana Bread Granola – vegan, gluten free & refined sugar free

vegan & gluten free Banana Bread Granola

This granola, man, has it been weighing on me. It took me several tries over the course of several weeks (months!) to get it right. I think it was actually cold out when I started this experiment. hmmm

Banana Bread Granola - vegan, gluten free & refined sugar free

Nevertheless, I'm so glad I plodded along. It was such a tease - the idea of it, the smells emanating from the oven, and then the taste, not quite right. But I persisted (and ate some burned granola along the way), and this weekend's batch confirmed my last recipe test and proved blog worthy.

Banana Bread Granola - vegan, gf, and refined sugar free
Banana Bread Granola

Dear readers, believe me when I tell you: go make this. You won't be sorry. It's excellent, quick and easy in the morning with almond milk, and it's also pretty great as a snack. There's no refined sugar (unless you so choose), and it's full of whole grain, protein, fiber, and omega goodness. Perhaps you have a trip in your future? It packs well and will not earn you a glare or a pat down at security. They might be jealous, though.

vegan, gf Banana Bread Granola

Banana Bread Granola – vegan, gluten free & refined sugar free
adapted from Minimalist Baker

Below is what I use but feel free to pick and choose your add-ins or come up with some of your own. The various seeds and the wheat germ are completely optional, but I include them for nutrition. The sugar? Doesn't need it one bit. I argued with myself, but ultimately left it in the ingredients list so you can make your own decision. To start, you could try just 1 or 2 tablespoons. I also never needed to add in the extra tablespoon of liquid sweetener. As for oil, so far I like coconut oil best, but olive oil also works has the added bonus of not needing to melt. The recipe should work with just about any kind of oil you prefer; it's really just a matter of taste.

3 C rolled oats (GF for gluten free eaters)
¾ C walnuts
½ C pecans (I’ve also used hazelnuts)
3 Tbsp raw sugar (totally optional)
½ tsp sea salt or ¼ tsp table salt
1 Tbsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 Tbsp flax seed
1 Tbsp hemp seeds (optional)
1 Tbsp wheat germ (optional – skip for gluten free)
¼ C coconut oil (see note)
1/3 C + up to additional 1 Tbsp maple syrup, agave or honey if not vegan
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 medium ripe banana, mashed (~1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 275F.

Using a large spoon or spatula, mix the oats, nuts, sugar if using, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and any seeds/wheat germ you're using together in a large bowl. If there's a fine coating of cinnamon on everything, it's well mixed.

In a small saucepan over medium low heat (or carefully in the microwave should also work), warm the coconut oil, maple syrup (or agave or honey) and vanilla extract. Once liquidy, remove from heat and whisk in banana puree until well combined. Pour over the dry ingredients and mix well.

Spread the mixture evenly onto one or two baking sheets (I lined mine for easy clean up, but Minimalist Baker did not) and bake for 75-90 minutes, gently turning occasionally, until golden brown and nearly crisp. I like to crack open the oven door now and then to let out some of the steam (accumulated moisture). I don’t know if doing so helps the granola crisp up faster or not, but it feels like it should.

Once the granola is visibly browned, remove from the oven and gently toss just a bit to let the heat escape. Cool completely (it will crisp up as it cools) on the baking sheet or in a heat-safe bowl. Store in a container or jar with an air-tight seal – it should keep for a couple weeks.
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