Friday, July 29, 2011

I Love My Slow Cooker

A few months ago I purchased a new slow cooker. I immediately had buyer's remorse and worried I'd never use it, just like my previous very old Rival crockpot. Fortunately I was wrong. Probably the best thing about it is that I'm able to use it to cook dry beans. I live at a high altitude (about 7,000 feet) and before that the only way I could cook dry beans is my pressure cooker. I now prefer using the slow cooker because it is a lot easier to check the beans during cooking to get just the right texture.

I also purchased Robin Robertson's Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker which has been instrumental in getting us through this very hot desert summer. It is so nice to just toss stuff in the slow cooker rather than slaving over a hot stove or worse, turning on the oven. Here is a photo of her wonderful Slow-Fashioned Potpie with Biscuit Crust right after I added the biscuit topping before the additional cooking.

I just adore cooking stuffed peppers in the slow cooker - no more crunchy green peppers. The slow cooker steams them until they are perfectly tender. We started with the Stuffed Bell Peppers with Salsa Rice and Beans from the book but now stuff peppers with pretty much anything and everything.

Other recipes from the book I've tried and  recommend are: Enchilada-Inspired Polenta Pie, Zucchini Stuffed with Tomato, White Beans and Pesto, Layered Potatoes with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Five Layer Vegetable Strata with Pesto, Mediterranean Vegetable Stew, and the Almost Irish Stew. The only recipe from the book that did not turn out well was the Fudgy Chocolate Pudding Cake. It never set up even slightly, even with extra cooking time.  It could be my altitude.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Bread Machine Cinnamon Raisin Bread

I still crave homemade bread in the hot desert summers so I came up with this bread machine recipe. It is not excessively sweet and it contains some whole grain flour so I've decided it is a decent enough breakfast choice topped with some natural unsalted peanut butter. I've made both the 1 1/2 lb. and the 2 lb. versions (ingredients for the 2 lb. loaf in parentheses). The loaf in the photos is the 2 lb.


I wait to add the raisins until my machine beeps (after the initial kneading) but it still chops them up a bit. I like it this way and I don't get the holes around the raisins you see in other raisin breads. You can even add more cinnamon than listed here - it really isn't strong at all in the finished product.

1 1/8 cups rice milk (1 1/2 cups)
2 Tbsp walnut or canola oil (2 1/2 Tbsp.)
2 cups unbleached flour (3 cups)
1 cup white wheat flour (1 cup)
3 Tbsp. agave nectar (1/4 cup)
1 Tbsp. vital wheat gluten (1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp. gluten)
1 tsp. sea salt (1 1/4 tsp.)
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon (4 tsp.)
2 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast (1 Tbsp.)
1 cup raisins

Place the ingredients except the raisins in the pan according to the order in your manufacturer's instructions. Set crust on medium and program for the basic cycle. Press start - when the machine beeps or after the initial knead, add the raisins.

Immediately remove from pan when baking cycle ends and cool on a wire rack.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Our Fourth of July Menu

I tried some new recipes for July 4th. The refrigerator garlic-dill pickles are from this recipe; like many in the comments I doubled the vinegar. I also added some turmeric and red pepper flakes. They were perfect after about 3 days of marinating and are my new favorite pickles. I served the corn on the cob my usual way - topped with a generous sprinkling of chipotle powder, some sea salt, and some fresh lime juice.  No need for any oils.

I also have been experimenting with making my own dairy-free mayonnaise. I have been using this recipe from Epicurvegan but substituting light coconut milk for the soy milk. It doesn't get as thick as commercial mayo but does thicken a bit in the refrigerator. I used the homemade mayo for the potato salad seen above.

The main dish was grilled portobello burgers. I used the recipe from Lukas Volger's veggie burger cookbook - the portobellos were marinated in a mixture of olive oil, rice wine vinegar, black pepper, and miso and then grilled. I did like them more than the usual balsamic marinade for portobellos. I used white miso but I think they'd be even better with a dark miso.

For dessert I made ice cream using light coconut milk. I buy the cans at Trader Joe's for 99 cents, keep them in the refrigerator so they're always chilled. I add about 1/4 c. liquid sweetener and whatever flavorings I like. Then I put the mixture in my Cuisinart ice cream maker until it is about the consistency of a soft serve ice cream. The photo below is a creamsicle flavored ice cream: 1 can light coconut milk, 3 Tbsp. light agave nectar, the strained juice of 2 oranges and 1 tsp. vanilla extract.

Another favorite ice cream is Mocha Ice cream: 1 can light coconut milk, about 1/4 c. agave nectar, 2 1/2 Tbsp. cocoa powder, 1 packet of instant coffee, and 1 tsp. vanilla extract in the Cuisinart ice cream maker until thick.

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