Our Easter celebration last weekend consisted of brunch at M’s grandmother’s with his family. The spread included delicious asparagus, bagels with cream cheese (even a vegan cream cheese!), a fresh salad and lots of fruit options. We opted to bring some homemade english muffins, a baking adventure which I had never embarked on. Obsessed with my new sourdough starter I was determined to find a recipe that would only rely on sourdough to get the muffins rising, and I found rave reviews about the recipe over on The Fresh Loaf. And let me tell you- this recipe was per-fect. Don’t make them alone, you won’t be able to resist feeding someone cute a warm, crisp english muffin right off the pan!

I made a batch and a half and cut out the muffins using the screw lid of a mason jar. We made our muffins purposefully small, knowing we’d be adding them to a buffet of goodies, and we ended up with about 2 dozen 2″-diameter beauties. You can see them rising in the picture above. It was a pretty quick recipe to whip up, really only relying on the starter to give them a boost. They didn’t rise all that much during their time on the table, but once they were in the pan they popped right up with a delightful springy-ness.

The english muffins in the hot skillet, fresh from their rising

3-4 minutes later they have popped right up, and are flipped to brown on the other side.

I followed the recipe exactly, substituting almond milk for the dairy and setting the disks to rise on semolina flour. I also used about 3/4 whole wheat flour and 1/4 white flour which made them very hearty but, fortunately, didn’t impact their ability to rise at all. We found them to have perfect nooks and crannies excellent for holding jam or other toppings.

I whipped up a quick jam using local peaches canned last summer, some frozen strawberries picked last summer, orange zest and about a tablespoon of honey. They went over well with friends and family alike, and also helped to slow my ever-growing starter. Now I’m convinced we can use sourdough to make any yeasted recipe! Ours imparts a very, very slight tang, which makes it wonderfully versatile. I’m looking forward to sourdough pizza crust, bagels and cinnamon rolls, once this semester finally ends!

Happy rising!

Advertisements

Flax Seeds Two Ways

April 9, 2012

What do vegetable fritters and hair gel have in common? In our house- flax seeds!

20120407-225721.jpg

We received a delicious box from Valley Green Feast on Friday full of beautiful produce, some locally milled and grown flour and Massachusetts cranberries. We’ve reached a tough point in the year for local foodies, spring hasn’t quite sprung and winter storage crops are running low. However, our box was full of some regional items, including a few summer squashes and some parsley. I had heard of squash fritters but never made them myself, convinced they needed to be half vegetable half egg in order to successfully bind together. A post over at My Garden Grows changed my mind with the brilliant use of ground flax seeds as the binding agent.

We used VGF parsley, squash and flour, and frozen peppers and corn from last summer. The fritters were fried up in coconut oil and were incredibly fresh and crisp tasting, making me look forward to spring and summer crops rolling in!

20120407-225729.jpg

Any vegan baker worth her salt knows the unbelievable gelling capabilities of those innocent little flax seeds. Not only do they work to bind fritters, they make a delicious addition to any dessert in need of an egg that won’t suffer from their slightly nutty, health-food taste. And, amazingly, flax seed gel makes a fantastic hair gel. I have been transitioning from using store-bought personal and cleaning supplies since last summer and have thus far ticked shampoo, conditioner, deodorant and toothpaste off my list. Laundry detergent and hand soap are up next.

Until recently, however, I was using apple cider vinegar to clean my hair, but relying on a bizarre, bright blue, store-bought hair gel to keep everything in place. I ran across flax seed hair gel when reading up on Diy Natural about homemade hairspray. My hair ranges from relatively curly on a good day to moderately wavy every other day, and is known to frizz in even the slightest humidity. The homemade hairspray recipe in the DIY Natural database didn’t quite pack the staying power I need from my hair products, but a reviewer left a comment referencing flax seed hair gel. My curiosity got the best of me, and I found a multitude of recipes using everything from pantyhose to cheesecloth, tea balls and sieves to separate the flax seeds from their gel.

20120407-225737.jpg

I’ve made this gel a few times now, following different instructions each time trying to determine which would work best for me. Here’s my current method, although I’m sure it will change slightly each time I make it. Let me know if you find a simpler or more effective way to make this product!

Homemade Flax Seed Hair Gel

You Will Need:
-1/4 c. flax seeds
-1.5 cups water
-small jar to hold gel
-fine mesh sieve
-bowl your sieve can sit in without touching the bottom (see set up above)
-small sauce pan to boil water in

Happy hair and happy spring.

Read the rest of this entry »

Spring vegetables

April 5, 2012

20120405-210153.jpg

“Oh par-snap”, was M’s reaction to these giant parsnips when we opened our delivery from Valley Green Feast last week. Root vegetables that make it through a cold winter take on a delightfully sweet characteristic, and these did not disappoint!

First draft of my thesis is printed and being edited, I’ve got lots to blog about when it’s done! In the mean time, check out the blog I get paid to write, http://www.earthaction.org.

Injera success!

March 22, 2012

Spring break is winding down, the temperature has been in the high 70s and is about to drop 20 degrees, flowers have prematurely bloomed and I have further procrastinated both on studying for a midterm next week and writing my thesis. Pretty perfect. Two nights ago we went on an evening hike with some friends  (because the sun sets at the glorious hour of 7pm thanks to daylight savings) and then returned home to enlist them in a culinary adventure.

20120321-192347.jpg

Our (mostly)Ethiopian inspired meal consisted of a pumpkin and sweet-potato red lentil stew and some homemade injera, the traditional Ethiopian flat bread. Using the recipe from Wild Fermentation (can you tell we love that book?) we used some of my super active sourdough starter and 50/50 teff and whole wheat flour. The whole lot fermented about 24 hours and then was poured crepe-like into a skillet and cooked for about 2-3 minutes a piece.

The bottom cooks flat and browns more like a pancake, but it only cooks on one side so you get these great craters all over the surface that help scoop and soak up sauce. We made the whole recipe and ended up with enough for 4 very stuffed folks and leftovers. The texture is delightfully spongy but strong enough to hold lots of stew and the taste is slightly nutty and sweet with a bit of a fermented, sour tang that played nicely with the pumpkin and sweet potato combo.

The stew we served on top was mostly a whatever was in the house sort of deal- onion, garlic, cumin, a pint of home canned local tomatoes, two organic sweet potatoes, a few handfuls of red lentils, pumpkin which was baked down and frozen last fall from our CSA and some vegetable broth for extra saucy-ness.

20120321-192404.jpg

Injera is served under the food and used as the only utensil for the meal. Above you can see it in action, yum! We cheated a little and ate a salad first course with forks- but everyone had to surrender them to their plate sides when it came time for the main course.

In researching traditional injera recipes I ran across this company in Idaho that sells either whole grain teff or ground teff flour grown in the US. It sounds like a pretty neat venture, and the price per pound is unbeatable compared to what we paid at Whole Foods. Check out that nutritional information- one 1/4 cup serving has 20% of your daily iron, 8% of your calcium and 5g of protein. That makes me pretty scoop happy.

It seems, from my cursory research, like the recipe in Wild Fermentation is pretty similar to most traditional ones but relies on sourdough starter to jumpstart the fermentation process, taking only 24 hours rather than a few days.

20120322-182601.jpg

And, finally, say hello to my brand new best friend. My new baby is the silver one in front, I picked it up this afternoon at Hampshire Bike Exchange for under $200 and soared all the way home. Don’t our bikes just look too darn cute together on the porch?

Happy riding,
-W

Projects

March 19, 2012

Spring break is here and our home is full of projects, although the majority of my time will be spent thesis writing, I am attempting to find time to catch up on some things I have been putting off and to start new projects that were put on hold until some free time came around.

20120319-174835.jpg

This one is technically M’s, he’s working on a batch of Ethiopian Honey Wine from Wild Fermentation. The water and honey mixture sat out in a wide-mouthed bowl for about a week to cultivate some wild yeast and now it is bottled in a half-gallon glass jar and topped with a one-way air lock. All those bubbles up top show that the yeasts are working hard and we’ll have a nice treat in a few weeks time.

20120319-174917.jpg

Another recipe from Wild Fermentation, this one is a mixture of sourdough starter, teff flour and whole wheat flour, making a slightly nontraditional injera batter. We’ll be making a lentil and pumpkin stew tomorrow night to share with friends and serve with this yummy Ethiopian flat bread after its 24-hour fermentation time.

These two aren’t food projects, but crafty home projects I’m hoping to get ahead on in upcoming weeks. This summer I have a graduation and a wedding to attend (in the same day, let’s not talk about what a crammed few hours that’ll be..) to both I plan to wear a dress made from this pattern. It looks pretty challenging as it will be the first item of clothing I’ve made from a pattern in several years, so I may end up making one for practice before the one I’ll wear to the events. This week I hope to pick up fabric to get the process rolling!

 

20120319-175119.jpg I fell in love with this scarf pattern when I found it, and also with the yarn, which is less of a neon orange that it appears in this picture. I started it over a year ago (embarrassing, I know) but it is the first project I have embarked on that includes cables and is the hardest knitting pattern I’ve ever attempted. I’m hoping to finish it for next fall, and I’m not letting myself start any new knitting projects until I finish one of the ones I am already invested in. There’s a whole list of socks and mittens I want to try my hands on, but for now, I’m finishing what I’ve started.

Wish me luck and productivity!

-W