Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

What were you thankful for?

We just got back from Thanksgiving dinner at my mother's house. It went much better than it has in years. I think that is due in part to my mother "outsourcing" the turkey and stuffing. And thank goodness- she seems to have then found the time to gt rid of a lot of her stuff in the dining area, and there was no hairpulling last minute mayhem. Yay!

I had very small portions of Tofurkey, some green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy. And you know why- the pie! First off, everyone who makes pies from now on *must* use high fat butter. I used a cultured butter (I think) that was 84% butterfat (I know). I was cynical about it living up to its hype, but I was sold as soon as I rolled out the crust. Oh my God- so easy- practically no tearing- and I was done in about half the time. So high fat butter for your pastries, please!

Having been burned, pun intended, by my last pie attempt last month, I used a foil shield on all of my pies, and they were perfectly browned. Perfect.

But the best part of all was the vegan cheesecake. My sister-in-law and her boyfriend admitted to being afraid of it at first, but they thought it was delicious. So did my husband, who gave me such a hard time about my ersatz ingredients. And my sister, whose 10-month-old nursing baby can't tolerate eggs, was also pleased.

Successful though this was, I still have enough leftovers of this (and the other non-vegan pies), tofurkey, potatoes, gravy and vegetarian stuffing to see me and the other five members of my family through most of the weekend- or so I hope!

Until next time,
Deb in the City

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Back from hiatus

Not a self-imposed hiatus, a life-imposed hiatus. My oldest has been coming loose at the seams, and we went to the doctor and some workshops at school to try and reorganize her life and our priorities. Right now the priority is sleep, which I have to tell you I have no objections to. Hopefully sleep and time will cure anxiety and lead to efficiency, but getting rid of the anxiety is the big priority.

So here we are, two days before Thanksgiving (the class and the chili worked out just fine, btw.) Tomorrow I am making a vegan version of my beloved pumpkin cheesecake as well as pumpkin, chocolate and blueberry pie. I should really start on the piecrusts tonight, but my arms are so sore I can't even contemplate it.

Why are my arms so sore? Because I've become re-addicted to yoga, and the last two days were kundalini yoga, courtesy of free- free!- downloads at yogatoday.com. The instruction was great and I did things I would never think of doing on my own, particularly these two squat variations. Now, my legs are killing me and I don't think I have it in me to do it today, but there will be some yoga, just not sure what. A bonus is that those pounds are starting to creep down- that's as much from the aerobic effects as it is the reduction in craving/appetite. Whatever! Another plug is that my anxious daughter also enjoys the relaxation- I can feel a big (positive) mood swing from her after she comes up out of corpse pose. My little girl likes it as well- great for getting her to sleep.

It suddenly got cold this week (although supposedly it will be in the fifties for T-day), so we've been going to indoor playspaces and meeting up with Grandma more- both for help managing the boys and for the company. I have to steel myself to use the T more now that it's cold- but I have no stamina. I'll have to think of something.

Sorry for a relatively lousy post, but here's hoping that once I get back into the groove I'll be more- whatever!

Til then,
Deb in the City

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A cure for chocoholism?

I think everyone who has ever eaten chocolate understands the appeal, so I won't go into it right now. It also has something of an addictive quality, although that may be due, at least in part, to the caffeine content. That, or the amount of sugar and fat that usually comes with it.

I think I may have found a cure, however temporary. The answer: beans! I'm not joking. As a child, my parents tormented me and my sisters with their taste for sweet red beans in Korean or Chinese delicacies- as if that would replace the milkier, sweeter sweets we wanted. Not then, but as I've grown older I've started developing a taste for it. A good way to "break in" is to try the deep-fried buns filled with sweet red bean paste- yummy.

Last week, my mother took me and the boys out to lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant. For dessert, I suggested we share a drink (the name escapes me) with coconut milk, crushed ice and red beans. It was so good! I wanted more, but I didn't want to spend $3 for another drink (half of which was ice). So, remembering my can of light coconut milk and another recipe I'd seen on Daisy Cooks! along the same lines, I got to work on Monday.

First, I boiled up some red beans. Usually, I'd recommend adzuki beans, but since I had red beans, that's what we went with. Once those were soft, I added in some sugar (I used about 3/4 cup to one cup of dried beans, but I think you could use closer to 1/2). Once that was syrupy, I let it cool while I diced up some sweet potato and boiled that up. Once everything was cool, I put a couple of tablespoons of both into a small bowl and poured about 1/4 cup of coconut milk over. Insert spoon and enjoy- so good! I'm going to be out of my sweet potato soon but I have enough coconut milk and beans left that I'm thinking of blending them for an ice cream. Hmm.. exciting thought.

Since I've been eating this, I have not craved chocolate. Yes, I am still putting cocoa into my morning smoothie, but it doesn't hit the same spot. I think it's the beany texture of it all- I don't know. That, and it's not making me crash as fatty sugary things can do.

Alrighty- next adventure. Teaching a Pilates class tonight after a long hiatus. I'm very excited- I hope the participants enjoy. And before that I'm making a chili topped with cornbread a la Nigella Lawson and dropping it off for the PFA meeting at my younger daughter's school. Not too hard, but I'm sure I'll have something to say about it.

Until then,
Deb in the City

Monday, November 06, 2006

A coffee cake tragedy- but not all is lost

First of all, sometimes I'm a big stupid idiot. I'm going to claim exhaustion, but that doesn't excuse all of the times I have had sleep and still made idiot mistakes. And then there's stress, but everyone else is stressed too. Yeah, sometimes I'm just an idiot.

Yesterday, I had an inspiration to make a vegan coffee cake. As I've said, I've felt so much better since I stopped eating eggs and dairy. Sugar- too much of it, at least- also really wrecks my system and always has. So I got out a couple of cookbooks, made some changes (more below) and ended up with a mostly decent cake. What wasn't decent had nothing to do with eggs or lack thereof but rather, um, sugar. I used a chocolate/pistachio filling/topping. And it would have been really great, except that I used unsweetened chocolate. *Of course* I put in some sugar, but not enough. After sampling a smidge of the top, I realized I might be able to salvage it by sprinkling more sugar. And after I sprinkled on three teaspoons, I realized that I hadn't used sugar but salt. Ack! I don't think I'd ever made that mistake before. So instead of sprinkling more sugar on, I decided to dump the salt off- along with the cake, right into the sink, completely unintentionally. Of course, had I taken into account that the cake hadn't completely cooled, it would have been completely predictable.

But as I said, not entirely lost. While cursing at myself, I salvaged most of the cake and put it into a plastic bag. If anyone else were going to eat it, I'd use it as a trifle filling. However, I didn't think anyone else would. However, this afternoon I broke off a few frozen pieces, heated it up, topped it with some soy whipped cream, and poured a glass of soymilk. Lo and behold, the boys (inspired by the whipped cream) decided that the cake was good enough for them. So maybe this will be trifle fodder after all. Now to devise a vegan custard.

As for the cake itself, I liked it once I corrected for the saltiness of the topping with more sugar. It uses a lot of whole wheat pastry flour, which I like but my husband does not. If you're not already a fan, I don't think I'll convert you. I think next time I'm going to go for half and half. The big change I made- and which I'm proud of myself for pulling off successfully- is using honey instead of sugar. I like maple syrup, but I don't think this would work well here. Rice syrup wouldn't work well either, as far as the flavor. But maybe I'll experiment.

The recipe for the cake part was as follows:

1 cup of soft tofu with 2 teaspoons baking powder (to replace 4 eggs), blitzed (as Nigella Lawson would say) in the food processor
1 cup of honey
1 cup of applesauce drained in cheesecloth. As I said with the pumpkin, whoa- you would not believe how much liquid you get out of this- easily over half a cup. I use this to replace half of the fat.
1/2 cup transfat-free spread
1/2 cup soymilk
1 tsp vanilla
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon (1/4 cup, give or take)
3 cups combination of whole wheat pastry and all-purpose flour. I used 2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry and 1/2 cup all-purpose
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsps baking powder
1/s tsp salt

Combine all wet ingredients in the food processor and mix until smooth. Add all dry and mix in. Try not to mix for too long- just until blended. Scrape the bowl as needed. Bake in your greased pan (I used one bundt pan, but I *think* you could use two 8-inch pans just fine) at 350 degrees. Smaller pans should be checked at the 20 to 25 minute mark, larger pans at the 30 to 35 minute mark.

I haven't triple tested this, but I'm inspired now. I'm tempted to use just all purpose flour to see how it comes out- for example, would my husband notice? But this baked fine- nice texture, not flat- so I think this is a good jumping off point.

My next post is going to include my coconut-red bean-sweet potato dessert that I'm working on right now- can't wait!

Deb in the City

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Doorknobs!

I didn't mean to be gone for so long! Where does the time go? Well, this week it was Halloween, but you know what I mean.

FYI, the pumpkin cheesecake (with chocolate oreo crust) was delicious. So much so that I'm adding that to my Thanksgiving pie output this year. So it will be pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, chocolate cream pie (because it's not Thanksgiving unless I have that) and blueberry pie. My mother also asked me to make some beets. Hmm. I'm thinking orange, yellow and red beets pan-fried or steamed with olive oil and garlic- easy enough.

Halloween was fun this year. The little ones and I went up and down Centre Street for half an hour with little J screaming "Scary monsters!" and big J screaming about dogs, then we returned home, picked up my husband and went to the Atrium Mall and hit literally every store giving out candy (or stickers) before we went to the playspace with Aunt R for a few minutes. Then we went back to home base to meet up with J's friend V and her family around their neighborhood. That was so much fun- I don't remember a big neighborhood Halloween escapade like that from my youth. Everyone had a good time, then we returned home to make pizza. Yum all around.

Sadly, the Halloween candy and the remnant of J's birthday (as well as the bake sale) have hurt my waist line. It has been watched carefully the last few days and will continue to be so until it returns to what I'd like it to. I watched Oprah- it happens- and saw the YOU: On a Diet special, which I then saw the extended version of on the Discovery channel. That lead me to a workout on their site by a trainer named Joel Harper. Right up my alley- 20 minutes long, no shoes or equipment required (one of the reasons I love yoga and Pilates so much). His workout was rough, so much so that I went and ordered his DVD. I'm putting a link to his site and I'll post here when I get it and do it. I'm excited.

In other workout news, I wanted to give some credit to Kristin McGee, a yoga and Pilates instructor in NYC who did some releases for MTV. Despite that, she's really good, and her Power Yoga release is awesome. I'm putting a link to her site as well. And no, I am not, sadly, getting anything from anyone for promoting them.

But... the big news is that my father-in-law came over yesterday to fix our doorknobs. I am literally overflowing with gratitude. This has been an eyesore and a pain my ass for years. The girls' room and the bathroom now have fully functioning doorknobs- imagine! That means I only need one gate to stop the marauding twins- Heaven. Of course, my father went through Hell putting one of them on. He gets credit for the custom filing he did with his drill bits. He's going to come back to put the other three on after we get the right drill bit for him. It will be worth the wait.

And otherwise, I came up with a delicious recipe for my beloved rice noodles. Or I should say I finally figured out how to make them just the way I like them, because it's so simple it's practically not a recipe. Boil the rice noodles (after you cut them to your desired size- I'm talking about the big fat ones, not the skinny sticks), and meanwhile cut up some chinese greens (I'm partial to baby bok choy and Chinese broccoli), some ginger and garlic. Stirfry in some oil, and quickly mix together 3 parts soy sauce to 1 part oil, with some sugar to taste. Really mix it well- it should emuslify. Drain the noodles, add to the stirfry, turn down the heat, more on the sauce, mix and serve. That's it- so simple but so delicious- I could have it everyday.

All of that because I'm making an effort not to eat out while I stretch my food budget. I spent a lot of money at Super 88 and Shaw's (less than $80, but still). I didn't want to go over that figure, so instead of buying bagels and bread, I made them. Yes, bagels. I'd done it twice before, but I was a nervous wreck then. This time it was still time-consuming, but I was much more relaxed and they came out very well. I'm not sure how I could cut the time unless I had a bigger pizza stone, but for now not complaining. The kids have been devouring them, so I consider it a success.

TV tragedy for the sick seven-year-old- must go.

Later,
Deb in the City