Archive for the 'Food / Cooking' Category

Vegan, Gluten Free Ginger Cookies

chickpeasIn our previous episode, our hero was left holding a can of beans. What, our parsimonious person wonders, will I do with these chickpeas? In my previous post I used aquafaba, the juice from canned garbanzo beans, in a manner learned from All Things Considered. I was wondering what to do with the beans themselves, when it occurred to me: Gluten Free Gingerbread! We have a holiday family gathering to which I usually bring cookies. But several members on my wife’s side of the family have medically diagnosed Celiac issues; they must stay gluten free. And then there is that one thin Vegan that seems to be in every family nowadays. I aim to please.

So I did some Googling, and found hints of what I wanted to do, but not one recipe for ginger cookies using canned chickpeas. So I decided to invent one by mixing a few found recipes with the knowledge I gained from my mother and Harold McGee. Plus some experience with a food processor.

But American “Gingerbread” is actually more like the base layer of German “Pfefferkuchen” in that the flavors of cloves, molasses, nutmeg, and cinnamon mostly hide the ginger note. I like the taste of ginger; I like to feel the burn.

So here is my apparently weird, but rated successful even by non-vegan, non-gluten-free friends, recipe:

  • img_3368One can Garbanzos, drained, rinsed, set in a colander.
  • 1/2 c rolled oats (you can use quick oats, or gluten free oat flour)
  • 1 Tbsp ginger powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder (or 1 tsp baking soda plus 1 tsp cider vinegar)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional, I think it boosts the flavor)
  • 3/4 c brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 c minced candied ginger
  1. Put the oats and powders in a food processor with a sharp blade. Mill till powdered and mixed. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350ºF
  2. Dump in garbanzos, sugar, oil. Mill till dough. You will need to scrape it down a few times. If using vinegar, add it about halfway through this step.
  3. Fold in the ginger candy. I used a separate bowl for this to avoid chopping it any finer.
  4. Spoon and press, or roll and cut. I used a fork to press and raise crispy ridges on this first try. Next time the plan is to roll it to 1/4″ and cut holiday shapes.
  5. Bake at  350ºF for 30 min for crispy cookies. Try 20 minutes if you want soft centers. INRS

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Vegan Meringue “Wasps Nest” Cookies

chickpeasI was listening to All Things Considered and I overheard a chef discussing vegan cooking. One question piqued my interest: “What do you use for eggs?”

“Aquafaba,” is the answer, “Chickpea juice from canned garbanzo beans is a direct substitute for egg whites.”

My adult nephew is currently vegan, and one family holiday favorite was a meringue cookie that I’ve made since childhood. Here’s the story behind those (indented so you can jump to the recipe if you are so inclined).

In my family, we celebrated the four Sundays before Christmas as Advents. This meant family gathered for some special light meal (latkes, or fondue, smorgasbord, etc) followed by special goodies: Imported German cookies (“Pfefferkuchen”), home made special seasonal treats, etc. My German mother used traditional recipes from an old cookbook. Not only in German (and thus requiring a gram scale) but printed in German Gothic script.

Many of these rich recipes used an excess of egg yolks. My mother, having been raised in an economy significantly worse than the U.S. Great Depression, hated to waste anything. So she found a recipe for meringue cookies to use up the egg whites. They were slightly chocolate and filled with almonds, and named Wespeneste (Wasp’s Nests) for their resemblance to the spiky, papery, chunk-filled objects.

So these not-at-all holiday-esque cookies became a holiday tradition.

So here is the Vegan (and gluten-free) variation on this recipe:

  • 1 Can Aquafaba: Juice from 1 can of chick peas (approx. 2/3 to 3/4 cup)
  • 1c sugar (cane, beet, coconut, whatever)
  • 1/3 c cocoa (more or less)
  • 3/4 c toasted almond slivers (or chopped roasted almonds)
  1. img_3360Whip the aquafaba to soft peaks, preheat oven to 350ºF
  2. Slowly add sugar while whipping
  3. Sift in cocoa while mixing slower (slower to prevent clouds of cocoa covering the counter and causing coughs)
  4. Continue whipping to firmer peaks.
  5. Fold in almonds
  6. img_3366Spoon onto silicone pad, aluminum foil, or parchment on a cookie sheet. Anything oven safe and peelable.
  7. Place in oven, multiple racks any location.
  8. Turn oven down to 225 (note: Assumes gas oven; electric may be fine to turn off, INRS)
  9. Leave in for an hour (less for chewy centers, more for what my little brother calls “‘Splosion cookies.”) These are meringues; the oven is not so much to bake as to dehydrate.

The firmer the peaks when whipping, the more the cookies will hold their shape. Also, this temperature combination sets the outer shape and then lets the interior settle, leaving a hollow area. It makes them more fun that solid meringues.

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But here I am with a can of beans. Now what? The answer came to me:
Vegan, Gluten Free Ginger Cookies

What’s a Chick Pea?

chickpeasThis and the following two posts are about a legume. First, a minor reminiscence. Then a couple of unexpected cookie recipes. Basically three posts in which The Object at Hand amounts to just a can of beans.

Back in 1970 my parents took us kids to visit our grandmothers for the first time. We were living in familial isolation in the middle of the U.S. and my two grandmothers were in northern Europe and the Middle East. This story originated at the southern branch of the family.

One food that was new to my mother and us kids was “tahina hatzelem” (my best guess at spelling a foreign phrase I hadn’t heard since childhood.) It was decades later that I learned that in the U.S. this sesame and eggplant paste is known by its Arabic name: “Baba ganoush.”

But back in 1970: We had returned home and my mother wanted to make it. She had no trouble finding the eggplant and sesame paste. But it took her weeks of trolling all the grocery stores to find chick peas. She would search the aisles, and then ask someone. No one seemed to have ever heard of chick peas. Until she went to one smaller market, and a stock boy with an Spanish accent (near as my German accented mother could tell) overheard her ask the manager. After the manager said they didn’t have them, the stock boy suggested that she ask for “Garbanzo Beans.” The manager lit up, and told her where to find them. My mother was both amused and appalled at the absurd name; she felt that foods should have polite and respectable names.

But every summer from then until I moved out (and probably after that) my mother would make a batch of this yummy dip, liberally topped with paprika. This is my earliest association with the Garbanzo.

Recipe 1: Vegan Meringue Wasps Nests

Recipe 2: Vegan, Gluten Free Ginger Cookies

Disturbing Tofu

Weird Tofu SizeI’m a guy who likes math. I also like sociology (and have a degree in psychology) so I know that people like round numbers. So when I find myself unloading groceries and see some weird number as a package size, it disturbs me.

So the point of today’s Object at Hand is not that I find Tofu more disturbing than chicken or pork when I make a vindaloo, but that the package size is weird.

12.3 ounces, or 349 grams? Who would choose this size? I expect a size to match a nice, round number in one way of measuring or another.

But then I considered: This is a rectangular block of food-like material. Maybe it is not based on the package weight, but the measured size.

This curd is 7% heavier than water, so the block should measure 327cc from its weight. A rough exterior measure gave me 4.5×7.5×10 cm (using the nearest half less than the exterior) which is 337.5cc. That’s pretty close.

Still, none of these numbers are round. Converting to the old British Imperial units (inches are still used in 3 countries on Earth) gives even weirder measures.

I found running these numbers soothing enough that I don’t mind them being weird any more.

Dough hook Doh!

dough hooks

For those of you who don’t bake, a dough hook is a mixer attachment for kneading dough. As I don’t make bread, mine sat idle for decades until I had this thought, which I present as a recipe on the thin premise of dough hooks as today’s Object at Hand.

I began making meatloaf when I was a college student. I lived in apartments and didn’t have a meal plan or a budget to support eating out, so perforce learned to cook. Every month or so, I’d mix up a meatloaf and eat it for a couple of dinners and several lunches.

Anyway, I recently began cooking again and decided to re-think how I made a meatloaf. The part I disliked was getting my hands cold and slimy by kneading everything together. So in my fifties, I finally thought to try doing the mixing with the dough hooks on my little Krups consumer grade mixer. The title “Doh!” is about it taking me so many decades to figure this out.

  • I begin by tearing up a couple of bread heels (from Ezekiel bread, but that isn’t important) and throwing the pieces into the mixing bowl.
  • I break in a couple of eggs, and let the mixer run on medium to soften the heels while I
    mince a medium onion  and a
    couple of cloves of garlic and add those to the mixing.
  • Those flavors meld as I chop up a can of mushroom stems and pieces and then add those, followed by
    about a cup of rolled oats (not steel cut nor quick).
  • I pulled the leafy core from a bunch of celery and chopped that to add in, more for a flavor note than vegetable value.
  • I finally add a pound of ground beef (85% lean from Trader Joe’s). By now I had to turn the mixer up to high to massage the tough, fibrous blend.
  • I have always felt that a meatloaf should stand alone as a meal, so I added about a half cup (3/4c?) of frozen peas (not actually measured) on impulse and let those get well distributed. These could have been
  • Then I turned off my electrical slave and scooped the mixture into a large bread pan, pushing down the center and leaving a raised lip  around the edges, because we like the crispy bits.
  • Another innovation is that I then add a handful of shredded whole wheat and bran cereal as an insulating layer on the recessed portion, and
    cover that with crosswise half-overlapped bacon. The cereal allows the bacon to get good and crispy while absorbing some of the yummy fats.
  • So I place the pan in 350°F for an hour, then boost to 400 for another quarter or so to brown the bacon.
  • Finally, I take it out and set it on an metal pan spanning plates below the ceiling fan (much like the heat sink on your CPU) to cool it more evenly, an allow it to firm up.
Topping the Meatloaf

Toppings

Meatloaf done

Out of the oven

Cooling from the bottom, too

Cooling from the bottom, too

Bowled Over

A woman at a rummage sale handed me this item because she thought that I looked like I would like it. No charge. My first glance did not win me over, but as soon as it hit my hand, the feel sure did. At first touch I knew it would sound with a deep and full-bodied ring; like a bell.

So today’s Object at Hand is an aluminum bowl. I could use this Indian import to make a case for vanishing American industry, or to get into the fascinating subject of where aluminum comes from and what unexpected things it can be used for, or to get nerdy about acoustics and neurology of sound and pleasure.

But today I feel like presenting an object just because I like it for itself.

Aluminum bowl

You can see at a glance that it has thick walls, and that It suffers visually from having been used to hold wet stuff, as the interior is etched with parallel rings from the air-liquid boundary. What is not visible is the mechanical tension that it holds from being cold-pressed into shape. This tension is what gives it such a nice tone. I usually leave it on the kitchen counter because a) it looks nice enough there and b) I can strike it with a knuckle as I pass to hear it sing whenever I pass by.

Perhaps I am too easy to amuse. I do try to limit the ringing when my spouse is around, not just because it is wise to avoid annoying those who handle your food and regularly see you unconscious.

But what prompted my post today is that picked-ripe produce is now coming in from friends. On a whim, I dropped a few items into the bowl, saw the reflections, and just had to snap a picture.

IMG_1586a

And, yes, it makes the same rich sound with these items sitting on the bottom. A feast for all the senses.

Meskin Chiskin: Summertime Cooking is a Crock

Today, the Object at Hand, is my energy efficient crock pot and its summer use outdoors to produce “Meskin Chiskin.” Or Mexican Chicken, should you prefer to eschew cutesy neologisms.

One room in which keeping cool really matters is the kitchen. I don’t have central air. I grew up in a 1920’s house with window units in the bedrooms. I had no air conditioning at all in any of my college apartments where I cooked my own meals. And now in my 1890’s house, I again just have a few strategic window units. This situation helps keep me aware of how much it costs to keep cool; both in dollars and carbon. A refrigerator pumps out quite a bit of heat on its own. So in the summertime, we spend much less time and energy cooking indoors.

But first, some exposition about heat and efficiency:

In the air conditioning season, there is a particular penalty for using appliances. Every watt you use indoors (lights, TV, toasters, microwave, fridge, etc.) produces 3.4 BTU’s per hour. Then you burn another half watt or more to remove that heat via the air conditioner. So if you want to slow cook a meal with a 250 watt crock pot for five hours, you spend the 1.25 kilowatt-hours for the cooking, plus another 0.6 kilowatt hours to remove the heat. That’s assuming a high efficiency, properly cleaned and maintained A/C. Plus, it heats up the kitchen until the heat can get pumped back out.

Raw ChickenSo I decided to put out the crock. Yes, I fill it in the kitchen, then fire it up outside, where it bleeds its waste heat into the already sultry air.

To start:

  • Five small chicken leg quarters, skin and fat removed,
  • Two large onions, peeled and chopped into big chunks
  • A few cloves of garlic, peeled and broken.
  • Two cans of chopped tomatoes,
  • One can of mixed chiles and tomatoes
  • Three seeded hot jalapeño peppers (from a friend’s garden)
  • Cayenne, cumin, and pepper flakes to taste

And later added:

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 12 oz chicken broth (should have had this up front)

Cooked ChickenSo I throw the first list in the crock and set it outdoors for five hours, giving it a quick stir every hour or so,

After 5 hours, I pulled out the bones, from which the meat has fallen, and added the rice and preheated chicken broth (because it didn’t have enough free liquid left for the rice). Another hour or two later, we have something like a risotto, but with a southwestern flavor.

And all those cooking BTU’s did not fill the house, nor require that much more energy to remove them.