Almond Cookies

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a post about egg substitutes.  It definitely comes in handy when tweaking recipes that call for eggs, or making up your own recipes (in a similar, but slightly unrelated vein, check out this post about the difference between baking soda and baking powder.  It discusses some of the chemistry of cooking, which I kind of love to geek out about).  The recipe for these almond cookies however, requires no tweaking, however.  Egg free (and dairy free) by design, these are some of my most favorite cookies to bake at home.

As I mentioned in the egg substitutes post, as a girl, I loved baking and I had dreams of opening up my very own bakery.  Well one afternoon, I made (probably with a little help from my Mama) a batch of these almond cookies and I went down the street and started selling them to the neighborhood kids I usually played and rode bikes with.  I don’t remember how much money I made, but I do remember traipsing up and down the street with my tupperware container of cookies, feeling so proud of myself for making such marvelous cookies and people actually wanting to BUY them.  It was a blast.

I think that these cookies taste great, and on top of that they are vegan which makes them a good option for taking to office parties and potlucks.  But the drawback is that they aren’t suitable for those allergic to tree nuts as a main ingredient, as the name implies, is almonds.  Also, they are not gluten free, due to the whole wheat flour used in the recipe, though I feel confident that you could use an alternative gluten-free flour and these cookies would come out well.

All that stuff aside though, to me, this cookies will always just be the almond cookies.  Not too sweet, slightly dense, but somewhat crumbly, lightly flavored, with a fruity center that provides such a nice contrast.

Ingredients:

1 cup oats

1 cup almonds

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3 tablespoons (give or take) of your favorite jelly

This recipe is super simple, with just these few ingredients.  You will however need either a food processor, blender, or coffee grinder to process the oats and almonds.

To start, I pre-heated the oven to 350 degrees.  Then I measured out 1 cup of oats.  Then I used the food processor attachment for my Kitchen Aid hand blender to process the nuts and the oats.

process oats

If you are in need of a good hand blender/mini food processor/whisk, I use this one, which I highly recommend.  One day I’ll invest in getting a full sized food processor, but for now this works just fine for me.  I blended the oats until they were about the size of a course flour, and it took probably a minute to 90 seconds.  I emptied out the food processor into a large bowl.  Next I did the same thing for the almonds.  1 cup into the mini food processor.  Process.  Into the bowl they went.

almonds

Then 1 cup of unbleached whole wheat flour (the recipe calls for whole wheat pastry flour) into the bowl.  The last of the dry ingredients I added were 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and a pinch of salt.  Then I thoroughly mixed all of these ingredients together.

mixing

Next I added the wet ingredients; 1/2 cup of vegetable oil and 1/2 cup of pure maple syrup.  And I mixed it all together.

mixing

My batter was a little dry, because I used the unbleached whole wheat flour instead of the whole wheat pastry flour, so I added a bit extra maple syrup and oil.  Probably somewhere between a teaspoon and a tablespoon more of each.  The dough needs to be wet enough so that you can roll it into balls without it crumbling apart.

I rolled the cookies into balls about the size of a walnut (with the shell), and spaced them out on the cookie sheet.  I used a silpat pan liner, but otherwise you can just grease your cookie sheet with a bit of vegetable oil.  I was able to fit 8 cookies on my cookie sheet.

cookie sheet

For the next step, I flattened the balls out with my fingers, and made a thumbprint indention in the middle.  Then, I scooped a bit of jelly into each thumbprint.  I find the best way to do this is to use two spoons.

jelly

At last, it’s time to go into the oven.  The should bake for approximately 12-15 minutes, until they are golden brown.  My oven cooks a little hotter in the back, so I flipped the cookie sheet after 6 minutes, and took them out at 12 minutes.  Cool the cookies on wire racks, and enjoy!

cooling rack

I usually can’t resist eating them for very long, so if you do eat them warm, beware that the jelly in the middle can be hot!

I had to bake the cookies in several batches, and with each successive batch I experimented with the size.  The last batch I rolled into balls about the size of a large grape.  They all turned out great, I just had to adjust my baking time.  The little cookies are fun and just about bite sized.  The reason I made them smaller was because I wanted a different cookie to jelly ratio.

With this recipe I got two dozen cookies.  I used a raspberry jelly for the center of my cookies, but I also really like apricot jelly with them as well.  I think strawberry would also be nice, and I think that you could definitely experiment and get some really nice variations.  What type of jelly (or other scrumptious topping) would you like to see in the middle of these bad boys?

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Baked Tofu: An Entry-Level Tofu Recipe

Sometimes cooking with a new ingredient can be a bit daunting.  And if you are unfamiliar with tofu, this can definitely be the case.  But never fear, after a bit of time you can definitely master tofu.  And the outcome will be delicious!

This is a foolproof recipe for tofu, that only takes a few ingredients, and is versatile.  This baked tofu is great on sandwiches, as a side, in soup, etc.  I’ll provide some more ideas for how to eat your tofu, but first the recipe.

As I said before this recipe has just a few ingredients, 6 to be exact, and it also doesn’t require any fancy cooking equipment.  All you need is a pan (I use a large pyrex, but you can use any pan with edges/sides), a knife, and a cutting board.

Let’s talk ingredients.

tofu ingredients

Two or three of these ingredients you might not already have as staples in your kitchen, but if not they will soon become staples.

Nutritional yeast – Lovingly referred to as hippy fairy dust by some, or brewer’s yeast by others (this is what my mother called it when I was a child growing up, so I actually call it something like burrsjeast or brujeast, because that’s what brewer’s yeast sounded like as a five year old.  I.E. “Mama, I want butter and brujeast on my toast!”), it has a indescribable flavor.  Maybe a little cheesy, definitely savory, and I’ve heard some describe it as a chicken-y flavor when added to broths or sauces.  As the name implies, it has good nutritional value as well, boasting B vitamins, folic acid, protein, and fiber.  It’s basically good in anything.  Plus it is vegan and gluten free.

brewer's yeast

You can check out the nutritional information here.

Bragg Liquid Aminos – I simply call it Braggs, and what I usually tell people who haven’t had it before is that it’s like soy sauce but better.  It has a nice salty flavor, but is much less over powering.  Again, I use this on everything, i sauces, on pasta/rice/quinoa/grain of choice (okay I know technically quinoa is not a grain, but you get my point), etc.  And, Braggs is also vegan and gluten free.

You can check here for the Braggs nutritional info.

Spike – This is simply a seasoning mix.  There are definitely substitutes you could use, but this is what I always use, so to be honest I can’t recommend any others.  The ingredients for Spike can be found here, and I’d be happy to know what you might use instead.

Other than these two ingredients, you will need:

Tofu – This needs to be the extra firm (or firm is acceptable if your grocer doesn’t stock extra firm), regular or Chinese-style tofu.  This tofu is in the refrigerated section, sometimes with produce, and comes in a plastic container.  There is another kind of tofu, silken or Japanese-style tofu, which typically comes in aseptic, or milk carton like boxes, and is not necessarily refrigerated.  This can get a little confusing, because this type of tofu also comes in the firm or extra firm varieties, but it is not the same.  Silken tofu can shine in the right setting, but it simply cannot hold up in recipes that call for regular tofu.  So I highly recommend, triple checking the brand, making sure it isn’t silken, and being sure to get tofu in a plastic container.

tofu

Lemon juice – You can use fresh squeezed, or just get a little bottle of lemon juice which is what I do.

Olive oil – Whatever kind you usually use for cooking.

First, I slice the tofu.  Regular tofu comes packaged in a plastic container with the tofu and then filled with water.  It is sealed on top with plastic.  You might be able to peel the plastic off easily, however I recommend just cutting the plastic, starting in the corner and then along the adjacent sides.  Then I drain out the water.  Once you are no longer dealing with a container full of water you can peel the rest of the plastic off.  Now, I sometimes rinse my tofu, sometimes not, it depends on if I remember.  Today I didn’t.  Once my tofu is free from its plastic and water prison, I throw it on the cutting board and slice it.  Okay I don’t actually throw it, but you get the point.

I cut the tofu into slices about 1 cm thick.

Next, I put enough olive oil in my pan to cover the bottom.  Then I sprinkle nutritional yeast on top of that.  Enough to coat the pan also.

Then I lay the tofu in the pan.  Put them in as close as you can, and you can always cut the tofu into smaller pieces in the pan to make them all fit.

tofu in pan

Next comes the Braggs, which I squirt enough on each piece of tofu so that it is covered, and then lemon juice, which I do a little less than that. Then sprinkle the tofu with a layer of Spike, and another layer of nutritional yeast.

ready for the oven
right before it goes into the oven!

 

Pop it in the oven preheated at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 min until you get the texture you like.  The longer you cook it the chewier the tofu gets, and the edges get a bit crispy.  This is how I like mine.  Then the only thing left to do is wait a few minutes for the tofu to cool, which is definitely tricky.

out of the oven
after it comes out of the oven

 

So like I said, you can use this baked tofu in a variety of ways.  Here are a few ideas:

BTLT: Baked Tofu Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich.  Pick your bread of choice and any additional toppings, and viola!  Lunch is served.

Ramen: I don’t ever use the seasoning packets that come with the ramen, so I usually do some mixture of miso, Braggs, butter, and lemon juice.  Slice up some baked tofu into strips, and now you’ve made gourmet ramen!

On this particular occasion, I had my baked tofu with mashed potatoes and gravy, and some roasted brussels sprouts.  Delicious!

on the plate
are you feeling hungry yet?

 

What kinds of recipes would you like to see to go along with this tofu?

Egg Substitutes

I’m a lacto-vegetarian, meaning, I do not eat meat or eggs, but I do eat dairy.  So I am always thinking about ways to replace eggs in baking or cooking.

When I was younger, I loved to bake.  I had fantasies of opening a bakery with a name like “Creme de la Creme” or “Ooo la la Bakery” or of course “Goodi’s Goodies” (these two words do not rhyme by the way, unlike Goodi Foodie).  Probably my favorite part in baking was getting to eat whatever treats I created.

This post will be the first in a series where I discuss egg substitutes and test them out in various recipes.  In this first post, I’ll just be discussing several options that you have.

When thinking about egg substitutes, I will say, there is not a one size fits all solution for every recipe.  This is because there may be several different reasons eggs might be appearing in a recipe, moisture, thickening, binding, leavening, or richness, and also eggs are used as glazes, toppings, or fillings.

Here are some egg substitutes I’ve used or heard of being used.

Apple sauce or a banana.  I don’t use this method very often, because I don’t think it works that well.  For a play that I was in we needed a prop cake to eat for one scene.  Since I didn’t eat eggs, the props manager was very sweet and said she had found out that you could just replace the egg with apple sauce in the cake mix.  While it was incredibly nice of her to go to the effort, the cake was terrible.  I think this method works for something that is very dense in nature.  Really it only replaces the moisture of an egg.  I’ve never tried with a banana and perhaps there would be better luck with it since it is rather sticky all mashed up.  If you do try this method, I would suggest adding a bit of baking powder also to aid in the leavening.

A boxed egg substitute like Ener-G.  This acts as a good leavening agent.  However, it’s not my favorite on it’s own.  I think if you use a bit of yogurt with it instead of water it works better, but you can read more about that next.  One thing I do like this in is when I’m making pumpkin pie, although if you don’t have the Ener-G at home, you can just use straight up baking powder, (I actually usually use cornstarch in my pumpkin pie, and it works very well also).  In my experience, I typically feel like baked goods made with this are noticeably egg free, which is the opposite of my goal.  I feel like that perpetuates this notion that eggs are essential to baking, which I have heard time and time again (“You don’t eat eggs?  But you can’t bake without eggs?”).  I hear this less nowadays as I think more people are becoming aware of alternative diets, allergies, and sensitivities.

Yogurt and baking powder.  This method I think works pretty well, and I have used this method many a time making muffins.  Just replace the volume of the egg with the yogurt, and add a teaspoon or so of baking powder.  Make sure to get a little bit of the whey in the mix as well (the watery liquid in the yogurt).  I think that this works well because there is the acidity in the yogurt which reacts with the baking powder to aid in leavening.  Also, the yogurt is thick so it is a bit closer to the consistency of an actual egg.  You could also use soy yogurt for a vegan replacement.

Silken tofu.  This method is pretty great for baking cakes.  If there is a cake mix that calls for eggs, this is a great option.  All you do is blend up a bit of silken tofu, about the same volume of eggs you are trying to replace, with a bit of water,  milk, or soy milk.  Also, aside from baking, you can fry silken tofu up a bit like scrambled eggs.  I used it in a stir fry, and it basically fell all apart, but my friends told me it was rather reminiscent of a fried egg.

Here are a few options I’ve heard of but never used myself.

Flax seed meal.  I have heard great things.  And while I haven’t done it personally, what I gather is that you use flax seed meal and heat it in a bit of water until it congeals a bit, and you can use it in your recipe.  I’m really looking forward to testing this one out.

Agar agar.  If egg is being used in your recipe as a thickening agent, agar agar might be a good choice.  I have heard of it as a vegetarian alternative to gelatin, but to be honest I’ve never cooked with it before.

Okay and one last one that I am curious about trying out, but haven’t really seen much about it being used as an egg replacer.  Chia seeds.  They can congeal really well, with out even being ground up or heated like the flax meal needs.  But we’ll wait and see if this is actually a good method.

Let me know what you use instead of eggs!

Also, I just started a Facebook page for Goodi Foodie.  I’d be thrilled if you “Liked” it.  You can check it out here.

Yogi Tea

When I’m not feeling well, I try to get really quiet and listen to what my body is telling me.  This is what I did one day last week while I was feeling nauseous and had a headache.  So I listened, and what my body told me that I needed was some Yogi Tea.  What is Yogi Tea you ask?  It’s a spiced tea, very similar to chai tea.  It’s a staple at my parents house, they always have a milk jug full of it in the refrigerator.

Low and behold, I made myself a tall glass and I felt much better before I went to bed.

Yogi Tea is spicy, and flavorful, milky and sweet.  I have started making it at home for myself, and I knew that it had health benefits, but I didn’t know what they were.  I took a few minutes to do some Googling and found the following (and it probably explains why it helped with my upset stomach).

Ginger – soothes the stomach/provides gastrointestinal relief.  Good for morning sickness/nausea in pregnant women.  Also is anti-inflammatory.

Peppercorns –  aids digestion and promotes intestinal health.  Helps increase production of hydrochloric acid.

Cloves – Anti-inflammatory and rich in nutrients like vitamin K, iron, magnesium, and calcium.

Cardamom – Aids in digestion.

Cinnamon – Helps with blood sugar regulation and aids cognitive functions.

Most of this I found on the World’s Healthiest Foods page.  You can search their website here.

Here’s how you make Yogi Tea:

So for me, since I don’t have a whole household of folks to drink up my tea (unlike my parents), I make it it two quart batches.  I start with two quarts of water.  Then I add the spices.  I don’t usually measure out the spices exactly, instead I use the recipe as a guide when I pour the spices palm of my hand.  That isn’t quite precise either, because I’ve adjusted the recipe from a 2 gallon recipe. However, this time around, I thought I’d be helpful and actually measure out what I put into the pot.

spices
spices

Peppercorns – 2 1/2 teaspoons (this is a little more than the original recipe calls for, but I like mine a bit spicy)

Cinnamon Stick – I just used one

Cloves – 1 teaspoon

Cardamom – 1 1/2 teaspoons of the whole pods

Fresh Ginger – I used around 10 slices (this is the same for the peppercorns, I like it spicy!  The recipe calls for about 7 slices).

Once these are all in the pot, place the lid on top and bring the water and the spices to a boil.  Then lower the heat so the tea is at a simmer, again with the lid on.  Let simmer for several hours, I usually do between 3 and 4 hours.

watch it simmer!
watch it simmer!

Then turn off the heat and let sit for several more hours.  This all depends on how strong you like it.  You can always give it a taste if you are unsure.  Once reaching the flavor level you want, strain and store.  I strain mine into a 2 quart pitcher, and store it in the fridge.

To serve, I do a half milk, half tea mixture.  And if I want it sweetened, I use pure maple syrup to taste.  You can serve it either hot or cold, based on your preference.  If I am heating up a 16 oz glass for myself, I microwave it for 2 minutes, and it seems to come out just perfect–hot but not scalding.

One more great thing about this recipe is that it makes your home smell amazing.  Sometimes that is all the motivation I need to make a batch.

 

Mid-West-Mex

This post is a long time coming.  The first time I made this recipe was actually back in November during my extended vacation in my home town.  I started putting together this post back then, but I couldn’t get it quite right.  Not just how I wanted it.  Since that time I’ve made it twice at home, and this weekend I’m heading back to the Mid-West for another visit.  It seems fitting now that I finally get it all put together.

I decided to call this meal Mid-West-Mex, because it is cheese quesadillas served with a black bean and veggie dish.  I think the name is very clever, but as I kept on repeating it while I was at my parents’ house, I think I only succeeded in annoying my little sister.  16 year olds, psh, what to they know.

To the best of my knowledge this recipe was created by my mom.  And I find it to be an absolutely scrumptious and hearty take on a Mexican dish.  This combination makes for an irresistible dinner, especially for those days when dinner can’t come soon enough, or you’ve been out working in the hot sun in your yard all day.  Disclaimer: this dinner may make you prone to scarfing down your food in a rather unceremonious fashion.

That’s what I usually associate with this meal.  A general scarfy-ness.  I know that’s not a real word, but it’s the best way to describe my feelings for this meal.  With it’s hearty beans and hominy, along with the veggies that complement in flavor and boost the nutritional content, topped off with a juiciness that is mouthwatering… I might have to take a quick break, so that I can get a bite to eat right now…

Ahem, so as I was saying, this is a Mexican inspired meal, centered around black beans with veggies.  Then I serve them with cheese quesadillas, but I’ll talk more about those in a bit.  First let’s get down to beans!  I mean business!

onion
i used half of this onion for the mid-west-mex

I started with chopping up the onion and garlic that I’d be using.  For this recipe I used half of a large onion, and probably about 6 cloves of medium to large sized garlic.  I chop both of these before I even look at the stove because I’m a slow chopper.  More experienced chefs (I’m looking at you Papa) are able to chop up the onion, start sautéing it, and then chop each subsequent vegetable in time to add it in to the pot.  I am not skilled, or confident, enough to do this.  I tried it once, and ended up with burnt onions and garlic, so I try to give myself a little extra time now.  I would say if you are really nervous, do all of your chopping before you turn on the stove, that way there’s less pressure.

Okay so once I got my onion and garlic chopped, I put enough olive oil to cover the bottom of my large saucepan and started sautéing the onions.  I typically don’t enjoy the texture of crunchy vegetables, onions in particular, so I like to let these get really cooked through during the whole process.  I find that if I wait for them to start to turn translucent, it is the perfect time to add the garlic.  I usually turn down the heat just a tiny bit because once I add the garlic, because I am paranoid about burning it.  This then gives me time to finish preparing the rest of my vegetables.

goodifoodie.com

The next thing to go in is the celery.  I cut two stalks of celery into bite sized pieces.  To do this, first I trim off the undesirable bits at the ends, then make one cut longways down the stalk.  Then I make pieces somewhere between a quarter and a half of an inch wide.  Before I add in the celery, I like to make sure that the garlic has some of its rawness cooked out of it.  I tell this by a slight change in the smell (okay so this is far from an exact science, but I am planning on writing a post dedicated to garlic: prepping, chopping, mincing, cooking, etc.  Let me know in the comments if this is something you’d be interested in reading about, or if there is a particular aspect you’d like to learn more about).  Once I add in the celery, I am a bit less paranoid about the garlic burning.

celery and onions
after i added the celery. i really think i got the onion and garlic perfectly cooked this time around.

I have found that the more vegetables, and I think more importantly, the more water content that is added to the pot helps to prevent the little bits of garlic from turning hard, brown, or in my case, black.

Since celery has a very high water content, I try to let these cook for a while.  Plus, like I said about the crunchy vegetables.  While they are cooking, I can be a little bit more relaxed and I chop the zucchini.  I used two smallish zucchinis.  You can also use yellow squash instead of zucchini, which is what we used when I made this with my dad.

zucchini

To cut the zucchini I slice it longways from end to end, and lay it down on the flat side and slice it again in thirds longways.  Then again the pieces somewhere between a quarter and a half inch thick.  Then I tossed those in the pot as well.

goodifoodie.com (1)

add zucchini
after adding the zucchini

Now this time around I don’t think I cooked the celery and zucchini quite as much as I would’ve liked.  I think that there are a couple of ways that this could be fixed.  1) Simply sauté the veggies a little longer, at perhaps a slightly higher heat (because I am paranoid about burning things, I usually air on the side of lower heat).  2) After adding in the beans and tomatoes, i.e. other liquids, allowing everything to simmer longer.  I think a little bit of both of these is the ideal option, as I think it would take less time overall to do 1) and 2) ensures that the flavors really meld together so that no one flavor sticks out.

So as you might have guessed, the next step is to add the beans.  I added one can of the following:

drain

diced tomatoes including the liquid

black beans (unseasoned) including the liquid

white hominy without the liquid, i.e. with the liquid DRAINED

add tomatoes
one 15 oz can of diced tomatoes, including the liquid
add beans
after adding the 15 oz can of black beans, with the liquid. this is what makes the veggies extra juicy.
add hominy
finally after adding the hominy.  on this one, do drain the liquid.

Then just let everything simmer together, stirring occasionally to be sure that the bottom of the pot doesn’t get stuck.

let it simmer
after everything has been simmering for a while, you’ll notice that the color changes. it gets a bit darker as all of the flavors are melding together.

Edit: When I originally posted this, I forgot to mention some additional options in seasoning.  Once you are at this stage, I would give the beans a taste.  This is a good practice to get into as you are learning to cook, because it is actually quite difficult to tell what spices a recipe needs, and it helps you to hone your skills.  I sometimes add a bit of cumin, and I know my mom adds a can of green chiles if she has one.  I also think the beans are tasty just as is.

I also promised about that I would discuss some cheese quesadillas that I made to go along with this meal.  Typically, when my parents prepare this dish they make quesadillas with corn tortillas.  But you can use flour tortillas, and it will be just as delicious.  Use whatever you prefer, or have in your refrigerator at the moment.

tortillas

I personally love corn tortillas, and I haven’t had them in a very long time because my partner Zac doesn’t like them (or at least that’s what he claims, although I tend to have this problem where when people tell me they don’t like things, I think “You just haven’t it the right (read: my) way yet.”)  So on this particular occasion, I was really in the mood for corn tortillas, and Zac was accommodating.

When I was getting ready to fry up the quesadillas for dinner, Zac sitting on the couch and me in the kitchen, I was telling him my first memories of eating corn tortillas.  This is a very early memory of mine, I was at the very most 6 years old.  It is a clear memory I have from the first house I actually remember living in.  I told Zac how when I was a little girl my mom used to make tortillas and cheese for me, using corn tortillas, but rolling them up into little taquito like shapes.  I only ever remember her making these around that time, up until I was about 5 or 6.  I remember vividly how special it felt when she made them like this.  I told Zac that some time I would make them like that for him to try, and he convinced me to do it right then.  I had a pretty good idea of how my mom used to make them, though I didn’t know exactly, but I figured I’d give it a whirl.

To start I buttered one side of the corn tortilla, and then in a pan on medium to low heat I fried it for just a few seconds on each side.  I would put the buttered side down and spin it around, then flip it over and spin that side around.  Probably total, 15 seconds.  You just want to get the tortilla warm enough so that it is flexible and won’t break when you roll it.

Then I transferred the tortilla to a plate where it could cool for just a few seconds and I could place the cheese on it.  The first few I made, I just placed the cheese on one end and rolled it up, but I then realized it is better to spread the cheese over the whole tortilla.

cheese spread
this tortilla needs more cheese!

This is because after I rolled them up, they went back into the pan to melt the cheese.  If you spread the cheese over the whole tortilla, then as the cheese melts, it seals the wrap closed.

rolling
zac, beautifully rolling up a tortilla

I would roll up about 4 or 5 tortillas and then fry them all simultaneously.

in pan

plated
these last few photos got a little blurry. i’ll be honest that my hands were very buttery that time, which made it difficult to take a steady shot.

This is a fun way to eat tortillas and cheese.  And while I don’t think it makes a huge difference in flavor, I do feel like you do get more of the flavor of the tortilla itself, and it stays more moist.  But it does add a few extra steps, so I’ll admit that when I’ve made left overs I’ve just been making regular ol’ quesadillas.

One note on this recipe.  I should have only used one stalk of celery and one zucchini.  Then I would have had the perfect bean to veggie ratio.  It was still good, just not as many beans as I would have liked.  And then a little less leftovers.  Leftovers are a bit harder to get rid of when you’ve only got two people to eat them.

On this particular occasion, Zac and I ate the beans and tortillas straight up.  But we have served it with guacamole, salsa, sour cream, etc.  Feel free to consume with your favorite Mexican food accoutrements (I don’t know if I am using this word in the right context.  I have heard at least one person use accoutrements in this fashion, but after searching online I am not sure if it’s correct.  Have you ever heard it used in this way?).  Also, the beans are vegan as is, and so you could easily incorporate the black beans with veggies into a vegan meal.  For those vegans out there, what kind of dishes do you like to make for Mexican meals?

So that concludes my first post of 2015.  Happy new year!

Also, let me know what you think of the new look of the blog.

 

Under Construction

I’m working on the ol’ blog, so if things seem a bit wonky, please just bear with me!

This whole blogging thing is new to me, especially the designing and maintaining portion, but I am actually having a whole lot of fun experimenting and playing around.  Please let me know if you have any tips, or advice.

I’m hoping to get all of this back in order in the next few days, but it’ll probably slow down my usual posts.  Although I think calling them “usual posts” might be a bit of a stretch.  You get the idea though.

Xmas Crafts

In my last post, I mentioned how I was wanting to make some Christmas cards to send out.  Well I got them all made, and while it isn’t food related, I thought I’d share these creations with you to spread a bit of the holiday spirit.  If you aren’t interested in the particulars of how I made the cards, feel free to scroll down to the pictures of the cards below.

My goal in making these was to a) not have to buy anything new to make the cards, i.e. use items I already had at home,  b) make the entire card/envelope myself, c) reuse as many items that might otherwise end up in the trash.

I made a total of 12 cards, and I did this over about a 2 week span, although most of the work was done over about 3 days.

To start I decided that I would use some brown card stock that I had from a previous project, and I would use that as the card.  I decided to make all of the cards the same size, as I felt this would be the best for making a lot.

For this project, I really used my scoring board a lot.  Here’s a link to the scoring board that I use on Amazon.  It was probably tied with my paper cutter for most useful tool.  If you’ve never used a scoring board before, allow me to introduce you.  It makes it very easy to make cards, envelopes, and even boxes, with very crisp lines.  I couldn’t have made my envelopes without it.  I especially like that this scoring board comes with a little cheat sheet for card sizes and envelope sizes.

So I started by deciding what size of card I wanted to make.  I decided on an A6 card, which folded is 4 1/2″ x 6 1/4″.  Since I was starting with letter sized card stock (8 1/2″ x 11″), I trimmed up the sheets I’d be using to the proper starting size of 6 1/4″ x 9″.  After I cut all of the sheets to the right size, I moved to the scoring board.  One quick score down the middle, and that was it!  My basic card was complete.

The next time I started working on this project, I decided to make up the envelopes.

For the envelopes, I wanted them to be white on the outside with a design on the inside.  To do this, I used some 12″ x 12″ scrapbook paper.  I have a pad of about 180 sheets and something like 36 different designs.  I picked out some of my favorite designs that I thought would go with the cards the best.

Next I scored the paper for the envelopes.  The scoring board comes with a triangle tool and instructions, which makes it very easy to make envelopes.  I did have to make a slight adjustment to the envelope size from what my cheat sheet said, but it was intuitive enough that I got the perfect size after my first try.

After scoring, I just trimmed, folded, and glued.  I curved the corners, because this just gave the envelopes a more finished look.

Untitled design

When I glued the envelopes, I used this quick drying glue that I use for most of my crafting.  This is my favorite glue for paper crafting.  It creates a very strong bond.  Actually that would be my one complaint for using this glue for the envelopes.  I also used it when I sealed the envelopes, and my mom told me that when she got hers it was a little tough opening the envelope, and she had to rip it a bit more than she would have liked.  The alternatives would be some sort of envelope glue, or double sided tape.  I don’t love either of those options, so I’ll probably stick with my craft glue for now.

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This past year I got this self inking stamp set.  I used this to stamp the return address on all of the envelopes.  It is a bit tedious to place all of the tiny letters on it, but well worth it for how quick it is to stamp all of the envelopes as opposed to hand writing them all.

here's an idea of what my stamper looks like.  i have a couple of alphabets and other designs, and you can design it however you like. once the stamps are all set, you just pop in your ink pad and its good to go!
here’s an idea of what my stamper looks like. i have a couple of alphabets and other designs, and you can design it however you like. once the stamps are all set, you just pop in your ink pad and its good to go!

I also used the stamper to place a friendly holiday greeting inside the cards.

season's greetings!
season’s greetings!

After this was all set, I started designing the front of the cards.  At this point, I didn’t have much of an idea what kind of designs I’d be making, but I just set out to make unique and fun holiday cards.  This was were I was able to get really creative with my materials.  I used old wrapping paper, strings, and candy wrappers.  It really was a blast.  Check out some of the finished products below!

xmas vertical

xmas horizontal

 

Happy Holidays!

Veggie Lasagna

This day started as most days have of late.  Waking up with a general resistance to the day.  I brambled out of bed and brushed my teeth, flossed (this is a new fixture in the morning routine, as I am doing a 12 days of wellness challenge with my mom), drank a glass of water (also 12 days of wellness), and then got comfortable back in bed.  After a bit of reading, accompanied by some toast, I moved from my bedroom to the living room.  There I continued reading.  Then watched a show on my phone.  Then a show on TV.  Then ate some chex mix.  Watched the Mindy Project on Hulu.  Then started cooking dinner.  My day in a nut shell (also, I did drink 4 more glasses of water throughout the rest of the day, since I know Mama will read this and just so she knows I got my 5 glasses in).

I had other plans for this day.  Well sort of.  Ideally, after my glass of water, I would have not returned to bed, but instead straightened my apartment for 30 minutes, taken a shower, worked on this here blog for about an hour, made some lunch from leftovers I have been desperate not to let go to waste, and then work on the Christmas cards I am making.  Then I was planning to start cooking dinner at 4 so that it would be on the table around 5.

Not going to get down on myself though.

By the time I actually started cooking it was closer to 5, but that’s okay because I had pretty recently gorged myself on chex mix (see above).  I was actually really dreading going into the kitchen and cooking.  I was planning to make lasagna.

I have my own version of spinach lasagna that I have made in the past, but it’s doesn’t really feel like it is from scratch.  It’s basically store bought and assembled at home.  While I was at my parents we made lasagna, so I decided to do a version that combined my favorite aspects of both recipes.

I was dreading having to unglue myself from the couch, but once I got into the kitchen it really wasn’t so bad.  Actually, aside from a bit of crying while chopping the onion, I had fun.  And this was the first major meal I’ve cooked at home since being back.  Flying solo you might say.  It was nice to have my dad coaching me while I was at home, but it felt really good today to be able to make dinner and be proud of it.  To have done every bit of it myself.

said onion, which caused said tears
said onion, which caused said tears

I started with half of an onion, and probably about 5 cloves of garlic.  I started sauteing the onion in olive oil, and after the onion started turning translucent I added the garlic.  I kept my heat a little lower than I think necessary, because I have had very bad luck burning garlic, so I wanted to make sure that didn’t happen.  I let these cook together for a few minutes.

Next, I added a can of diced tomatoes and a can of tomato sauce (15 ounces each).  After the tomatoes, I added the seasoning: dried basil, dried oregano, pepper, and salt.  I really just added the seasonings to taste, but I would in general recommend going easy on the oregano.  It has a very strong flavor, so a little goes a long way.  The basil on the other hand, I added quite a bit to it.  Also, I don’t salt my pasta water so I tend to make my sauce a little bit on the salty side.

sauce is done!
sauce is done!

Around the time that I was adding the cans of tomato to the onions and garlic, I put on a pot of water for the lasagna noodles.  Now I do lasagna rolled up, so that I can use just four noodles in the pan (you’ll see in the pictures below), so I put an extra one in just in case one ripped.

While the noodles were cooking, I got out 1/2 of a yellow squash, a mushroom, and 1/4 of a red pepper that I had left over from a previous meal.  I chopped all of these up and sauteed them in a bit of olive oil just long enough so they weren’t raw.  I didn’t want them to be complete mush in the lasagna, but I didn’t want them to be crunchy either.

1/2 of a yellow squash, chopped
1/2 of a yellow squash, chopped
i sauteed the vegetables in the following order: mushrooms, then red pepper, last squash.  i did this so that the squash wouldn't get all mushy, but the mushrooms and red pepper would have a bit more time to cook
i sauteed the vegetables in the following order: mushrooms, then red pepper, last squash. i did this so that the squash wouldn’t get all mushy, but the mushrooms and red pepper would have a bit more time to cook

I think about this time the lasagna noodles were finished cooking, so I drained them in a colander, and let them cool a bit.

The last thing I prepped before I was ready to assemble the lasagna was a spinach-ricotta mixture.  For this recipe I use about half of a package of frozen chopped spinach, and about half of a carton of ricotta cheese.  All you need to do is follow the directions on the package for the spinach, cut a slit in the plastic and microwave for a few minutes.  Then I just mix the spinach and ricotta together in a bowl.

ricotta and spinach
ricotta and spinach

Once I had everything all ready for the lasagna, I got started assembling.  Like I said earlier I do a rolled lasagna.  This method works really well for me when cooking for just myself and Zac.  I also think it helps the lasagna stay together.  Plus, I just think it’s kind of fun, so I keep doing it!

So to assemble I usually use a cookie sheet to lay my noodles flat.  Then I just start layering the fillings.  Since I was making four servings, I roughly divided my fillings into four equal parts so I’d know how much to use for each noodle.  I did a layer of the ricotta mixture, sauteed veggies, mozzarella cheese, then the marinara.

lasagna noodles
lasagna noodles

Then I just started at the end of the noodles and rolled them up.

roll 'em up!
roll ’em up!

When rolling up the noodles, I like to do it gently so as not to squeeze all of the filling out of them.

almost there!
almost there!

Then, I cautiously transfer them into the lasagna pan.

four fit perfectly in my pan
four fit perfectly in my pan

Finally, I add whatever remaining marinara sauce I have over the noodles, and top with more mozzarella and maybe a bit of Romano or Parmesan, I think I used an Italian cheese blend on top.

It needs to bake for about a half-hour at 350 degrees.

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and viola, it’s done

I really think that this lasagna turned out great.  It was very saucy, cheesey, and vegetable-y.  All good things.  I served it with a bit of garlic toast, which I used to mop the sauce off of my plate.  I think I may have used the words “Best lasagna ever,” a few times.

This was a labor intensive meal, but I think there are ways it could be less so.  And overall, I think it is totally worth the work that you put into it.

Let me know what you think!

 

Frito Pie

Cooking at home doesn’t always need to be a big production.  In fact, I don’t think it’s possible to make a big elaborate meal every night.  I mean I guess impossible might be a bit of an overstatement, but it is impractical at the least.  So this week I did a easy meal.  Welcome to Frito Pie.

All you need is chili, fritos, salsa, a bit of lettuce, and cottage cheese.  At least how I make it.  The nice thing about this recipe is it could be more elaborate say if you wanted to make your own chili, or it is flexible to other changes you see fit.  Maybe you’d prefer a cheddar cheese instead of cottage cheese, or something else like that.  Personally, I feel that my version of Frito Pie is the ultimate sweet spot, but to each their own.  Make it yours, go crazy.

So I used a can of Amy’s vegetarian chili.  Really the only preparation for this meal was heating up the chili and cutting up a bit of lettuce.  Then you just layer it all together.

Fritos, chili, lettuce, cottage chesse, salsa.  Mix together and enjoy.

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The Hard Part

So it has been over a week since I last posted.  To be honest I’m pretty bummed about that.  But, also being honest, it has been terribly difficult for me to follow through with my plan to cook more often once I got back to the Bay Area, from visiting with my parents.  So I started thinking about what prevents me from cooking, and then see how I can make adjustments, and actually do it.

Motivation

Well this one is a tough one, because if you don’t have it, it’s practically impossible to get it from thin air.  One of my goals with Goodi Foodie, is to make it really be an honest look at becoming a better home cook.  I love looking at Pinterest for ideas for meals and recipes, and other food blogs, but I get a little dishearted also because I know my creations will never look as beautiful as that.  Or even if they do, I won’t think they look as beautiful as they really are, because I made them–more on this later.  However, now I’m getting a little bit off topic.  The point is that I want to really be able to show the real struggles and triumphs, epiphanies and disasters.  Because that’s what real life is really like.

So to bring this all back to problem #1, motivation, I’ve been feeling down lately.  Coming back to my apartment, in a state that I would describe as the opposite of clean, with practically no food has been tough.  I definitely suffer from the “Overwhelmed Syndrome”.  If I feel overwhelmed and that I don’t know were to begin, there is a high risk that I will just sneak back into my cave and brood.  And that’s when the next phase starts, the Negative Mind-Talk phase i.e. mean inner dialog about how I’m never actually going do anything or get it together.  This is crippling and typically leads to a day spent lounging around, feeling dreadfully guilty, while binge watching shows such as The New Girl.

While I don’t have a end-all-be-all cure for lack of motivation, I have found what helps.  Realizing that that little negative voice in my mind is a damn liar.  Sure sometimes it might feel like those terrible things that we say to ourselves are true, but that’s not who we are and there is so much more to our identity than that.  This realization came with the help of my dear sister, Bibi, which you can read about on her blog.

Planning

The next biggest obstacle that I have is poor planning.

Say it’s 5:00 and your tummy starts a grumbling, and you actually feel like you are bursting with energy.  You’re ready to cook a 10-course meal.   What’ll you make?  Hmm, not sure let me see what we have. You open the fridge.  There’s only mustard, moldy left overs from who knows when, an almost empty milk carton, and some sad looking celery.  Okay, so maybe you’ll have to go to the grocery store.  But what’ll you get.  The possibilities are endless!  So let’s say you do decide on something, then you still have to go to the store (maybe even have to get dressed if you’ve been wearing your pajamas all day–who knows),  find everything, come home, and then start cooking.  But wait, you live with 3 twenty-something guys right?  Oh so that also means you’ll probably have to wash every dish you need to cook with as well.  By the time dinner is done, it’s 9:00 pm and you are starving, angry, and you never ever cook again.  Okay, slight exaggeration, but you get the point.  I’ll talk more about the cleaning portion later, because that’s a bit more than poor planning but it does contribute to the problem.  And that is, it is really difficult to just spontaneously cook a nutritious and delicious meal at home.

While I was staying with my parents, I realized what does work.  Having a set time that you want the food to be ready, planning out what you are going to have ahead of time, and doing all of your shopping in advance.  They usually sit down on Saturday afternoon and plan out a menu for the whole week.  And then once that is made, they make up a shopping list, take care of their shopping and that’s it.  Now I know for myself, that I need to ease myself into the process, and also I think that if I set reasonable goals for myself that might help with my problem #1 and boost my confidence.  So I am starting with cooking dinner two times a week.  There I said it, now I guess I have to do it.

Cleaning

As mentioned above, I live with 3 twenty-something guys.  And while some of you out there might cover your mouths in horror imagining what the state of our kitchen/bathroom/apartment is, I will say that it’s actually not so bad.  The young men I currently live with aren’t disgusting pigs. At least not more than I am myself.  However, things do get messy.  Really messy.  And once the dishes are piled so high, I just throw my hands up.  Also, I should mention that I can get a bit squeamish about the dishes.  Since I was raised as a vegetarian, and never had meat in the house, I am repulsed by it.  Not in the way that it really bothers me when other people eat it, because I have had on many occasions people ask me if it was okay for them to eat it, and really I don’t care, as long as it isn’t smelly.  But I do really care about not having to touch meat, or something (like a plate) that touched it.  So imagine me standing at the sink, about to dive in to doing the dishes.  The crusted on food on the plate starts to make me wonder, and I get paranoid that everything has been contaminated.  I’m getting off topic again.

My main point is that in order for cooking at home to be sustainable, it has to include the clean up portion afterward.  Otherwise, it’s just one more reason why it is too much work to make a meal.

I did cook on Thanksgiving, because it’s basically mandatory (and I am planning a post to show off some of the yummy stuff that I made), but it also left my apartment a wreck.  I even took some pictures for evidence.

The squeamish be forewarned, these images contain messy content.

before
before
after!
after!