food i love

Like bread for jam

Today I'm baking bread. I have no idea how it's going to turn out. Maybe awful.

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I saw the Oat Soda Bread recipe on 101 Cookbooks and thought I'd try it because it takes almost zero time to mix it up.

The thing is, I don't have any buttermilk in my house. I don't even have any cow milk in my house. I have rice milk and I have vanilla almond milk. I used the vanilla almond milk because it's thicker like buttermilk. I didn't put lemon juice in it to try to make buttermilk because of the vanilla. That just sounded yuck to me.

So I have no idea how this little experiment is going to go, but since it took me almost zero time to mix it up...

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Yesterday we went to IKEA and bought these jams. So some good homemade bread to go with it would be nice.

I'll let you know how it turns out...

In the meantime, if you have any tried & true vegan bread recipes, do share!

Yum yum

For the past two months, I've been running around like a chicken who's missing her head and haven't taken any longer than 20 minutes to throw dinner together, so our dinners have been less than spectacular. But the other night I decided I would cook, really cook, something tasty.


Obviously I don't do this enough because now, all of a sudden, V has gotten old enough to help and also be interested in what things are (ginger! lime zest!), how we prepare and use them, what things taste like when we're finished (though she often doesn't like them, she will try a little taste), and so it's not just about me helping her not spill the cup of vegetable broth all over the place when it belongs in a bowl for the marinade and her getting frustrated when she can't eat all the brown sugar. In other words, it's much more enjoyable for both of us and I'm very happy to have her in the kitchen with me.


So I decided to make these dishes I saw Ellie Krieger make on Food Network, Chicken Sate with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce (except I used tofu) and Sesame Stir-Fried Chinese Greens. I'd never had bok choy before and, though it was just a touch bitter, I liked it - went very well with the sate. And they're certainly beautiful greens.


This is probably the fifth time I've tried to cook tofu. I have eaten some outstanding tofu in my life. If you're ever in Athens, GA, you can not do any better than the tofu they serve at The Grit (mmmmm...Golden Bowl). But I've never liked it when I've made it. And I didn't really like it here - too spongy! And I drained it all day, then soaked it in marinade for a good hour. The texture was just not what I'm looking for.


But. The peanut dipping sauce completely made up for it. You could serve leather boot with that sauce on it and I would eat it up. Gone. 


I wish I had a picture of the finished dish, but I don't. Because I tasted that dipping sauce and I couldn't wait to have dinner! But I didn't use the skewers the recipe calls for, nor would I if I had used chicken. I put rice on the plate, the tofu on the rice, then sauce on top and the bok choy on the side. Absolutely tasty! I want to make it again, but this time thin out the sauce a bit and mix it all up with hot noodles. I have some Udon noodles in the pantry I'd like to try...

I love Ellie Krieger's show because she puts the emphasis on healthy cooking, but I also feel like it's more realistic for me to use her recipes than all salads all the time (which I keep trying and failing miserably at. I don't mind eating them, I just hate making them - takes forever!). Next week I want to try a recipe from that same episode, Portobello Lasagna Rollups.

What about you? Cooking anything good and healthy lately?

At long last, I have been immortalized - in chocolate!

Ok, not really. But now at least I can pretend.

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Spicy Maya - suits me, yes?

I think this may be the prettiest bar of chocolate I have ever seen.

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Cinnamony, spicy and sweet. The heat is pleasant - not too hot (I don't like really spicy food), but you can definitely feel it in your mouth. Delicious!

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I would like to be able to have a bag of 2oz. single serve chocolates so I could have one every day for the rest of my life. I really thought it was fantastic. I can't stop thinking about it and now I'm plotting when I can get my next bar (R found it at Walmart).

Chuao also makes other flavors, including a milk chocolate with Earl Grey bar and Firecracker Truffles that have popping candy inside that I'd love to try.

Yum yum yum!


I'm Spent. There, I admit it.

The past several months - actually the past four years - have been exhausting. We've moved a lot. We've had disappointments and setbacks. And just when I thought there were blue skies with big, white fluffy clouds ahead, another road block.

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Along the way (thanks to Gwyneth's Goop), I picked up a book called Spent: End Exhaustion and Feel Great Again. When I read the symptoms of Spent, I said, yes, that's me. I feel like I could go to sleep for the night at around 4pm every day (though I don't seem to get there until midnight). My whole body hurts. I lack motivation to do things I really want to do. And I can't take it anymore.

So what am I doing about it? The first thing is that I'm overhauling my diet and losing some weight. I'm not following the program in Spent by itself, I'm sort of mixing it up with things I've read in another book called Eat to Live.

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While Eat to Live isn't for everybody, I think it's a good, healthy way to lose a lot of weight quickly. I've followed the program before and I know that it works. I know that it will lower my blood pressure and cholesterol and clear my head. I know that its claim to "lose 20 pounds or more in 6 weeks" is not an over promise. I know that I never felt better in my life than when I was eating all those fruits and veggies and healthy fats. My problem is sticking with it for the long haul - try and wish as I might, I'm no vegan. But I can pretend for 6-8 weeks while I figure out what to do next.

I call it my Salads as Big as Your Head Diet.

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And I am feeling better. I started last Monday and I've lost 8 pounds. And I just feel better. Not perfect, but a very definite improvement. My brain's not so cloudy. I have more energy. I feel more positive and happier. It's such a relief, I can't tell you. But I still have a long way to go. This week, I'm going to start on some of the principles outlined in Spent. I'm going to move more. I'm going to relax more. I'm thinking about how I can find my balance.

One thing that's difficult about it is feeding V. She likes a good salad - occasionally - but I find that I'm feeding her other things that I don't think are quite so good for her just because they're quick and easy. She doesn't like a lot of vegetables right now, though I continue to put them on her plate. She's beginning to flirt with cauliflower, if only because she likes the way it sounds when she says it.

So I need more recipes we all can eat. I have some good resources, but I need more.

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V and I used to bake something once a week and I wanted to start that up again now that we're in the new house. I'm looking for healthier things to make so we can still enjoy cooking together, but I get to have a little taste too. This week we made Yummy Banana-Oat Bars (click here and scroll down just a bit for the recipe).

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We used Craisins instead of raisins and it was a tasty treat.

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So I've started working on our diet and this week I'll be working on moving and relaxing more, but there is a third part to the plan - the part where I both learn to do something I've always wanted to do and use my new-found skill try to replace some of the income I lost. I've never had a job before that I loved with my whole heart, but I'm hoping this is it. I'll talk more about that in a few weeks.

If you've gotten this far, I thank you for sticking with me. I try to make a pretty blog, but real life isn't always sunshine and kittens. I do what I can to make it so. My question for you is - are you Spent? I certainly hope not, but I have the sneaking suspicion that I'm not alone in this. Is there anything you're doing about it? Got any veggie-centric recipes or websites for me? I'd love to hear from you.

If you'd like to visit the South

If you'd like to come down and visit me in the South, you don't need to hop on an airplane. You might not even need to leave your house. All you need to do is to make these cookies:

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Now don't be distracted by the chocolate chips you see in the cookies - those are not important at the moment. It's the cookie that's important. The warm, lofty cookie.

These are tea cakes. Here in the American South, tea cake recipes are traditionally passed down in the family. Now my grandmother could make tea cakes with the best of them, but I didn't get the family recipe box. My mom got it and she has misplaced it.

That's not as dreadful as it sounds because there weren't all that many recipes in my grandmother's recipe box. For all I know, her tea cake recipe isn't even in it - most of her recipes were in her head. But it does make it difficult for me to make her tea cakes.

Fortunately, there are many, many tea cake recipes out there and almost all of them lead to exceptional tea cakes. Some are super simple and some are a lot more fancy. I like to make a basic tea cake recipe because it's just so very easy - you don't even need to get out the mixer.

Here's the recipe I've been using. I adapted it from my friend Kim's recipe and suggestions. Kim's from Alabama - so you know she knows tea cakes.

Tea Cakes

1.5 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable shortening
1/3 cup butter
2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Melt the shortening and butter together and let it cool a bit.

Stir the eggs and sugar with a spoon until mixed. Slowly add the melted shortening/butter mixture and stir well. Add the vanilla and stir again.

Put the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl and mix it lightly, then add the wet ingredients and stir until mixed - careful not to stir too much.

Spray your pan with cooking spray or use parchment paper or however you like to do it. Drop the batter onto your pan by rounded tablespoons. Bake at 350º for 10 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned.

Makes 30 cookies.

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The South in a cookie, yes ma'am.

These little bites of heaven puff up slightly from all that baking powder. They are light and airy and delicious. You can also add whatever personal touches you'd like. Today I added those chocolate chips and some cinnamon. Kim substitutes a little whole wheat flour for the white flour. You can also add nutmeg or raisins or whatever you can think of - they're still tea cakes and always welcome at my house!

If y'all make a batch, be sure to let me know! I'd love to hear what you think of them.

If that's not enough Southern cooking for you, try the buttermilk pie!

C is for cookie, that's good enough for me

Saturday morning I got up, set V up to play for a while, cleaned the kitchen a bit, and made these cookies.

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It wasn't easy because most of my baking stuff is in a box at the storage unit. So I creamed the sugar, butter and peanut butter in the new blender/food processor we got a few weeks ago when we couldn't find ours and I wanted to make nice, healthy fruit smoothies with a big gob of spinach in them.

Then I mixed that with the dry ingredients in a pot (mixing bowls are also at the storage unit) and used my measuring spoons to scoop out heaping teaspoons of the dough.

Finally, I washed the food processor so I could turn around and make the filling in it while the cookies were cooling.

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You do what you have to do, right?

These were delicious fresh out of the oven, but I didn't think they tasted just like the Girl Scout cookies (as the recipe promises). Though when we ate the last of them this evening, they totally did. They had to settle into themselves, I guess.

So yeah, we ate the whole batch in one day.

Don't look at me like that; the recipe only made 15 - and we shared with my mom! Now that's some generosity right there.

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Seriously, we're not the only family who would eat the whole batch in one day.

Are we?!


The other day, at the grocery store, I picked up a package of these. They were $1.46, and I got them basically because I didn't know what to do with them.

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They're piloncillo - "little pylons" of cane sugar. I found a recipe for Cafe de Olla that I really want to make, but I have to get cheesecloth. And the right coffee beans. And maybe some aniseeds.

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But I had a craving for cinnamon toast today so I grated up some of the sugar, buttered the toast, and sprinkled the sugar on without the cinnamon. I used the broiler, which caramelized the sugar a bit and was complete yum.

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If anyone is more familiar with piloncillo than I am and has a great recipe I should try, I'd love to hear from you.

I have a thing for buttermilk and I have a thing for pie

Buttermilk makes everything better. As soon as I open a jug of buttermilk, the smell hits my nose and I am immediately transported to a chair by the table in my grandmother's kitchen, where I stood and watched her make biscuits at least every other day for years and years (the alternate days were for cornbread - which also has buttermilk in it).

I've been thinking about Grandmama's buttermilk pie for a few months now. Then yesterday, as R left to stay the night out of town, I realized that I had a pie crust in the freezer, exactly 3 eggs, and more than enough buttermilk to make a pie.

buttermilk pie whole

Buttermilk pie is a very rich custard pie that's so simple to make - you don't even need to get out your mixer (which is a good thing since mine's in a box).

If you'd like to try it, here's the recipe:

Buttermilk Pie

1/2 cup melted butter (mine was unsalted, but I don't think it matters)
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup of buttermilk (mine was non-fat to make up for the entire stick of butter)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

Preheat your oven to 325°

The first thing I do is melt the butter so that it has a chance to cool - don't want to make sweet scrambled egg pie!

Next, beat up your eggs a little bit, add the sugar and flour and stir it until well combined. Add the not-too-hot melted butter and, again, mix it well. Add the buttermilk and the vanilla and mix it one last time. So easy, it takes practically no time at all! Bake it at 325° for an hour or until the pie is set. Then chill it until you can't stand it anymore and have to have a piece even though it's not completely set. Argh! The waiting! I'm not much for the waiting.

Now, whenever I make a custardy pie, I'm never entirely sure what "or until set" is supposed to look like, so I just set my timer for an hour. When it went off, I pulled the pie out, which I had put on a cookie sheet to make getting it in and out of the oven easier. It was slightly puffy and very jiggly in the middle, but less so toward the outside. I set it on top of the oven to cool, then about an hour later, I put it in the fridge to chill until I lost patience and had a piece.

Tasted pretty good to me - just like Grandmama's!

buttermilk pie slice

R should get home in the next hour or two. I already told him he may want to pick up another pie crust and some eggs on his way home - this could get addictive.