Breaking (ginger)bread: Cherry Delight Bread

If a ginger makes bread, does that make it gingerbread?

Aw, geez, I crack myself up sometimes.

No, but for real. I made bread. And it’s good! -well, in my opinion anyway-

I even -wait for it- tweaked the recipe and made it my own. And it still tastes good! I’m just as surprised as you are. But, there you have it. I really should buy myself a chef hat at this point. And an apron. I think I’ve earned them. Or gifts are always welcome. I might even give you some bread if you show up with one or the other. And definitely will if you show up with both!

Onward to the carb-fabulous bread loaf that I created with my own mind -the recipe- and conjured with my own tiny hands and stubby fingers.

Cherry Delight Bread Ingredients

Cherry Delight Bread Ingredients

My Recipe: Whole-wheat-flax-hemp-seed-cherry-delight Bread OR Cherry Delight Bread

1cup warm water
2¼ tsp dry active yeast (or one of those little yeast packets)
1tsp salt
1 ½ tbls applesauce
2½ tbls agave nectar
2 2/3 cups whole wheat flour
2 tbls hemp seeds
2 tbls milled flaxseed
1/3 to 1/2 cup dried cherries

 
Combine warm water, yeast, salt, applesauce, agave nectar, flaxseed, hemp seeds, dried cherries, and half the flour. Mix thoroughly. Let rise until it doubles in size.

Cherry Delight Bread - the beginning stages

The beginning stages

Gradually add the rest of the flour, kneading until smooth. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise again until doubled in size.

Cherry Delight Bread - dough

Cherry Delight dough ball

Punch down the dough and let rest for a few minutes -also great to release any additional stress. just don’t get too carried away- Shape into a loaf and place in a greased loaf pan. Let rise again until doubled in size. I covered mine with a damp cloth during this step as well.

Cherry Delight Bread - in bread pan

Ready for the oven!

Bake at 350°F for 35 to 50 minutes.

Hooray! You successfully made Cherry Delight Bread! Eat a piece while it’s still warm. Trust me. It’s, well, delightful! -and I’m just cheesy-

Cherry Delight BreadCherry Delight Bread
 

Cherry Delight Bread!!

 
 
The original recipe called for vegetable oil instead of applesauce,  3 tbls sugar instead of agave nectar, and white instead of wheat flour. It also didn’t have the flaxseed, hemp seeds, or dried cherries. I brilliantly added those. Essentially, you can put anything in the beginning stages of the dough depending on what type of bread you want. I put in flaxseed and hemp seeds for nutritional value (see my kickass article on seeds if you’re interested), and dried cherries for fun and flavor. You could add any sort of seed, fruit, nut, or whatever sparks your inner baker’s interest.

This bread is vegan friendly, but not gluten free. You could adjust the flour for the bread to make it so (I’m not sure if this would alter the amount of flour, baking time, etc.).

To be quite honest, I really had no idea what I was doing in the first place. I’ve never made bread before. I have zero idea how long the dough takes to ‘rise’ and ‘double in size’ during each step. I guesstimated. Next time, I think I’ll give it some more time. Probably 1-3 hours in between each ‘rising.’ I didn’t do that this time and it turned out a little thick (I think that’s the word I’m looking for). Dense. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still very tasty. I just can’t be perfect all the time. Rarely do I falter, though.

I’m sure I’d do much better with my chef hat. And/or apron. *hint hint*

Cherry Delight Bread

Cherry Delight Bread

Vegan Diaries – Get Vegucated

Originally posted on shrinkingjeans.net

Vegan Diaries

“WHAT?!” I exclaimed. I’d been thinking it would be fun to do, but never said anything aloud. Never in a million years did I think he’d want to do it, too. My boyfriend, Aaron, and I were watching a documentary about 3 random people in New York who were challenged to become vegans for 6 weeks. A vegan is someone who does not consume (or use) animal or dairy products; they abide strictly by a plant-based diet. The documentary, Vegucated (well worth a look, and it’s on Netflix!), follows these people on their journey to the grocery store, to the kitchen, and to their understanding of veganism based on the education they receive. It’s funny, enlightening, and informative.

About halfway through the documentary, he suggested it would be something fun to do together. Uhhhhhhh, let me give you a little insight. This truly Southern Louisianan wanna-be Coloradoan lives on a diet of bread, potatoes, pasta, ice cream, pizza, hamburgers…you get the picture. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great cook. Here’s the kicker: he hates vegetables! And not just a little bit. Hence, my reaction: “WHAT?!”

I do my best to be mindful of what I eat for the most part, but have a wicked weakness for ice cream/frozen yogurt, seafood, and cheese….not together.


But, there you have it. Based on his suggestion (notice how I’m taking zero credit), from March 11 to April 11 we will be completely vegan. No meat, no eggs, no dairy (which means no cheese, which is a horrible, horrible thing). No animal products of any kind. Thank Mother Nature I can still have coffee! During the next week we will do a weigh in, do ‘before’ pics, get our blood drawn to check cholesterol levels (and maybe a few other things), go grocery shopping, find recipes, and mentally prepare. I’ll go ahead and add the disclaimer that we’re not doing this to lose weight. We’re doing this as an adjustment to our lifestyle and eating habits. It’s going to be quite the challenge, especially since we’ll be in different states for part of the time, making it harder to keep each other in check and resist a bacon cheeseburger or some frozen yogurt supreme goodness. I was also banking on Aaron doing the majority of the cooking, I’m not exactly kitchen savvy – usually anything that could go wrong, will. I did take the liberty to order a vegan cookbook, though, mostly because I liked the name of it. Whether or not I actually attempt to make one of the recipes is a different matter.

The Sexy Vegan Cookbook

I’ve never thought about going vegan before. Ever. But things change, and I do love a good challenge. If you’ve thought about it, or even if it’s the most ludacris idea and furthest of your food desires, I encourage you to watch the documentary or do some reasearch on veganism. Afterward, if something has peaked your interest and you’re so inclined (I might be pushing it), join us on this challenge and journey. Even if it’s just for a week. Or even a day. We’d love to hear about your experiences!

My goals for this personal challenge:

  • Become more familiar with the vegan/vegetarian community
  • Gain an appreciation for a strict plant-based diet
  • Actually cook a few recipes from the cookbook
  • DON’T CHEAT!
  • Be an inspiration (hopefully) for those interested in trying it
  • Learn – I feel like this will be happening a lot
  • Have fun!

If any of you have already taken the plunge to veganism and have any advice, suggestions, and favorite recipes, please help us! We will most certainly need it.

Becoming a Southern Belle?

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I’ve been to South America and South Asia (Indonesia), but before last August (2012), I had never been to the South in North America. That changed when I started dating a Southerner from Louisiana. Born and raised in Colorado, I’m not a huge fan of humidity, and neither is my curly hair, which becomes ridiculously unruly and unmanageable the closer to sea level I get. I’d never had any reason to go until then. It rains more than any place I’ve seen. Colorado is lucky to get a few thunderstorms a year – this is an almost daily occurrence down there. Yep, it’s definitely different.

A Southern Belle is something I’ll never be, but I’ve definitely learned my share of skills and had some crazy experiences down there. A few things I’ve learned and learned how to do:

*A new language. That’s right, the South has it’s own language. They are efficient people – they take one big breath and say everything they have to say in one sentence very long word without breaking in between. Often, they will shorten words so as not to use up energy with those extra syllables. Then, they will stare at you until you respond, whether or not you understood anything that came out of their mouth. Nod. A lot.

IMG_0198IMG_0199*Crawfish season is revered, and you best get your order in asap or watch out for rowdy people throwin ‘bows for the last pound. There is a crawfish hierarchy that is established among restaurants as to whose is the best – this is dictated through a drawn-out conversation by crawfish consumers between juciy bites discussing the seasoning of these ones to so-and-so’s down the street. Yet, they all get eaten all the same. Oh, and size does matter.

*Coke is soda is water. Any sort of bubbly soda is stored and stocked in houses and establishments like they’re preparing for a world-wide shortage. The only thing they’re missing is for it to come out of their faucets. Everything is called Coke – it’s just a matter of what kind of Coke you’d like.

*Some places are dark and dirty, while others resemble an extraordinary oasis. I’ve been on one plantation there, Houmas House, and it is one of the prettiest places I’ve seen. Also, some of the houses we’ve driven by are incredible. Quite a contrast between those and the poverty of New Orleans. They all have one thing in common, though, the culture of the people. The culture is tangible and hard not to get caught up in. It’s a mixture of feelings: old and new, music and art, cajun, french, american, wealth and poverty, history and the present.

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Houmas

House

Plantation

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*The food is phenomenal, plentiful, and very filling.

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And yet we eat, and eat, and eat some more!

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Other things I learned in Louisiana:

IMG_0203How to shoot a gun

 

 

 

 

How squirrell tastes (I didn’t think I’d actually hit the little guy)

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How to wedge, throw, and trim my very first pot

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How to make apple butter

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I’ve also been deep-sea fishing, hurricane drinking, regular fishing, insect identifying, frog leg eating, orange picking, running from slugs (irrational fear), walking down Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, sipping cafe au lait and eating beignets from Cafe Du Monde. Although it’s very different from home and almost like another world, it’s a fun place to visit and I’m excited to see what the next trip has in store for me.

I’ll just be a Colorado girl in a Southern Belle world.

Cocoa almond surprise

I like chocolate just  as much as the next person. If you don’t like chocolate, we clearly butt heads. In my efforts to try relatively healthy foods, I recently stumbled across cocoa-covered almonds. Fan-freaking-tastic! So, naturally, I’m pretty sure I ate about a pound of them, if not more.

Healthy Me = 0, Food Demons = 1.

As I was gorging myself on almonds, I thought to myself: ‘I’m pretty sure anybody with a brain could make these.’ Any time I have a thought like this, I should really have a red flag pop out of my forehead with sirens blaring warning the kitchen police to come haul me away.

But I don’t, so here we go with another brilliant endeavor.

Cocoa-covered Almonds.

Not only are these relatively healthy, they are gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and vegan. Score.

They have minimal ingredients which fit seamlessly with my kitchen requirements, and, of course, and super yummy. Double score.

All you need are raw almonds, agave nectar, unsweetened cocoa powder, and salt.

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Cocoa-covered almond ingredients

Here is the recipe that I used.

The recipe calls for 2 cups of almonds to start, however, since I’m pretty sure that would last me a whole half hour or so, I decided to double the batch.

Turn the oven on to 350ºF. The first step is to blend the agave nectar with salt on medium heat. I used ½ cup agave nectar and 2 pinches of salt -whoever came up with this whole ‘pinch’ measurement clearly didn’t have people like me in mind. Not only are my hands the size of a middle-schooler, my kitchen skills aren’t particularly solid; I prefer exact measurements.- The mixture started to bubble and that’s when I figured it was ready.

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Agave nectar & salt

Toss in 4 cups of raw almonds (for the doubled recipe) and stir until the almonds are completely coated.

Agave-covered almonds. Yum!

Agave-covered almonds. Yum!

Spread the agave almonds on a cookie sheet with wax paper. Put the almonds in the oven for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so they don’t burn.

Agave almonds on cookie sheet

Agave almonds on cookie sheet

My Mom wanted to help!

My Mom wanted to help!

Put 3 tbsp of the cocoa powder in a large ziplock bag – you’re going to put the almonds in there and shake it all up.

Easy, right?

JUST KIDDING!!!

I know all of this sounds very simple, but it turned out to be a little harder than I thought. When you pull the almonds out of the oven, they start to cool very fast which makes them stick to everything! I started putting the almonds into the ziplock with the cocoa powder. Conveniently, the ziplock started to melt through because the almonds were extremely hot. I quickly dumped everything in to a plastic bowl and tried my best to get the remaining almonds off the cookie sheet, off the counter, and off of my fingers.

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Melted Ziplock

Cocoa almonds in bowl

Cocoa almonds in bowl

I put a lid on the bowl and shook them up in the cocoa powder. They looked very slimy, unappetizing, and not exactly covered or ‘dusted’ with the cocoa powder. So I added more.

Bam! It worked! They turned out looking somewhat like I’d hoped! I spread them on another cookie sheet to cool.

Cocoa almonds on cookie sheet to cool.

Cocoa almonds on cookie sheet to cool.

What I didn’t realize is that the wax paper from the first cookie sheet also melted and came off in little bits either on the almonds or somewhere else. I’m not really sure. It also made it stick to the cookie sheet itself and became impossible to peel off.

Melted wax paper. Yikes!

Melted wax paper. Yikes!

What was supposed to be an easy project turned in to:

Cocoa-covered-wax-paper-surprise almonds!

Yep, I’ll eat them anyway.

Getting cultured: Take 2

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. — Albert Einstein

Well, there you have it. According to Mr. Einstein, I’m a crazy person. I like to think that I’m a crazy person with high standards, though, which just goes to show that if you believe in it enough, do zero additional research, and try the exact same method…..you’re certifiably psychotic.

Psychosis works for me. Suits me, in fact. However, instead of proving the rule this time, I am the exception.

~~~~~~~~I MADE YOGURT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!~~~~~~~~

For real. Edible, too! I’m actually going to go ahead and toot my own horn: It was absolutely delicious!

Because my first attempt was such a disaster, it took me a while to muster up the desire to try it a second time. Then again, Rome wasn’t built in a day. -yogurt, Rome…whatever-

When something goes wrong the first time, typically you assess and adjust the process for any subsequent trials. I say typically, because I didn’t. Too much effort. Wait, that’s a lie: I did not put towels on the stove for charring purposes this time. Yay me. I did look at additional yogurt-making recipes, the majority of which called for either powdered milk, yogurt cultures, whole milk and whole fat yogurt, or yogurt machines. Fabulous. Couldn’t find powdered milk -it was probably right in front of me at the store; I obviously don’t do well in grocery stores-; didn’t want to use yogurt cultures since I felt it was pointless because yogurt cultures are in the yogurt you add to the mixture already; wanted a reduced-fat yogurt — I don’t buy whole fat yogurt or milk at the store in the first place, so why would I make it that way? –; and I clearly do not own a yougrt-making machine.

Back to square one. So what did I do? The same damn thing I did the first time…with slight adjustments. I bought fat-free yogurt, 2% milk (last time I used skim – I don’t recommend that), and just talked nice to it. I had everything at my fingertips. When I decided to give it another go, I re-created my double-boiler, got out my trusty thermometer, and was ready to face the yogurt fates. -OH, I decided I didn’t learn my lesson the first time and bought another half gallon of milk to make another unnecessary half gallon of yogurt for this one person. I amaze myself at my intelligence sometimes-

Step 1: create double boiler

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Double boiler

Step 2: pour milk into pot
………….Step 2: pour milk into pot

This gets slightly complicated when the top shelf of your refrigerator has decided to imitate the Arctic and make one giant ice cube out of your milk. -insert background laughter from the yogurt fates here- I’m off to a spectacular start. Step 1 has now turned in to: thaw your giant ice cube of milk any way you can – this may take a good half hour or so. Probably longer.

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Well, that was fun.

After your milk cube is thawed, pour into the top pot and bring up to 180°F for minimum a half hour, stirring frequently. During this process, I did notice that my milk frothed quite a bit more than the skim milk for the first attempt.

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After about a half hour, cool down the milk to approximately 110°F, stirring occasionally. I did this with an ice bath in my sink. You can do it by leaving it on your counter, it will just take much longer, and goodness knows (and my family, and my friends, and my boyfriend) that I am not a patient person.

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Ice bath to 110F

Add 1 to 3 tablespoons of yogurt (yes, you use yogurt to make yogurt) to your cooled milk. I used FAGE Total 0% for mine. Stir this in well to your milk.

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Add yogurt to cooled milk

Now, you have sour, hot, yogurt milk. Congrats! Think of it as your yogurt embryo. This little guy needs some TLC, and a warm, quiet place to incubate for 7+ hours. You want to keep it between 100°F and 110°F during this time. The site I originally got the recipe off of suggests a heating pad. Uh, don’t try to get super creative and invent your own if you don’t have one. It won’t work. Trust me. This time, instead of putting it on top of the oven, I decided to put it in the oven! ………I can hear your negative thoughts you cynics. Ok, ok, I deserve them. I did not turn the oven on. Instead, I put a lid on my yogurt embryo mixture, wrapped it in towels, and put the bottom of the double boiler (the pot that had the boiling water in it) next to it in the oven. I heated up more water in a tea kettle and added that to it as well. I checked on the temperature every now and then and added more hot water only once.

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The oven ‘incubator’

I intended to pull it out of the oven at 7 hours. But I went to dinner with a friend and lost track of time. I got home when it had been sitting there for at least 9 hours if not longer. Knowing me, and my relationship with the yogurt fates, I was figuratively crossing every limb, fiber, and hair strand I had that this would not be my downfall again. I pulled out the pot, unwrapped it from the towels and lifted the lid to reveal:

Yogurt.

WOO HOO!!!

WOO HOO!!!

I did it! It worked! I couldn’t believe it. It looked like yogurt, and even kind of smelled like yogurt. I was giddy with pleasure and the satisfaction that the yogurt fates and I had become friends come to an understanding. I put it in containers to refrigerate over night -NOT on the top shelf of my fridge-. The real testament would come the next morning with the first sample.

Morning comes. I’m excited and slightly nervous to try it, considering it was something I made. From scratch. In the kitchen. And you just never know how that’s going to turn out. –If it works out, you ideally never have to buy yogurt again; you can use a few tablespoons from your homemade yogurt in the milk to make a new batch.- It was actually, surprisingly very good. Not as tart as I’m used to, but I was ok with that. The consistency was perfect, maybe a little less solid (is that the right word?), but definitely not runny.

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Homemade Yogurt

HECK. YES.

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So good even Klondike wants some 🙂

I’ll just go ahead and give myself a pat on the back for that one.

Rainbow Salad

So….obviously cooking has never really been my thing. You’re shocked, I know. However, one of the very few things I do like to do in the kitchen is make salad. -ya cuz THAT takes an iron chef-

As long as there is minimal chopping to be done, I’m all for it.  I like it so much, in fact, that I decided to name my salad Rainbow Salad! Yep, claiming it as mine. …And THIS is where I understandably lose the majority of you readers right now.

But, for you poor, poor souls who are determined to continue reading, let’s get colorful!

Everyone knows what a rainbow looks like. Uh, almost everyone. Unless you’re colorblind, which is just extremely unfortunate considering my favorite color is red. Back to rainbows. The bottom line: there are a lot of colors. That’s what I think a salad should look like, too. Not only should it blast my tastebuds with goodness, it should be a flamboyant, cocky array of delight to my eyes as well. That’s right. A salad should be flamboyant. What can I say, I like pretty things.

I confess, though, I’m a hypocrite. One of my kitchen requirements is minimal ingredients. For Rainbow Salad, this is a lie. The more ingredients you have, the more colors there will be, hypothetically.

This is my take on Rainbow Salad. I suppose you could have a different approach. But why think outside the box?!

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Rainbow Salad ingredients. Some of them, anyway.

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RED

  • I use grape tomatoes. Do I cut them in half to make life easier when I go to eat this scrumptious bowl of healthy delicousness? Of course not.
  • Dried cherries. Because they’re delicious.
  • Sometimes I use red peppers. I say sometimes, because more often I use:

ORANGE & YELLOW

  • Bell peppers. Mmmmmmmm. Unfortunately these do not come already pre-cut at the store, but I’ve been managing so far. They add the perfect pop of flavor.
  • Sometimes I add carrots, but not very often.

GREEN

  • This is where you can get CrAzY! Use your imagination. Go wild. Be dangerous,  you salad innovator, you.
  • I typically use spinach and kale for my salad base. Already pre-cut and packaged, of course.
  • Green onions. Did you know if you leave the base of the green onions (the white part with the roots), you can put them in some water and grow your own?! Nah, I haven’t tried it either. I should, though.
  • Cilantro. For some zip.
  • Avocado. If they’re affordable, which doesn’t happen very often in Colorado.

BLUE

  • Blueberries. CHA-CHING! I love blueberries on salad! No cutting, chopping, or hacking required. This is the moneyball to any salad, in my extremely humble opinion. You doubt me? Try it. Then maybe we can be friends again. Maybe. -I also thouroughly enjoy strawberries on salad, too-

PURPLE

  • Red onion. Ok, so they’re called red onions, but they look pretty purple to me. So I’m going to leave it at that. If you’re like me, chopping onions is one of the least lucrative kitchen tasks known to man. Every time I do it, I end up looking like I just finished watching some moving, heartfelt movie with a sappy ending. Complete with puffy eyes and runny makeup. But, they taste fantastic, so bring it on.

Congrats, ladies and gents. We’ve successfully completed a rainbow -like every other toddler on the planet- . If you decide to pretensiously argue with me about skipping out on Indigo, we’re going to have words. Specifically: Really!? You’re correcting me on a food rainbow! Get over it.

The rainbow may be complete, but the salad is not. *Gasp* That’s right – it gets more colors!

BROWN/GRAY

  • Portabella mushrooms. Surprisingly, I don’t buy these pre-sliced. Instead I opt to save 50 cents and slice them myself at home. I know they are a love/hate food, but I happen to love them. I could talk for a while on truffles…but I won’t. I love the mushrooms in the salad, but you could also drizzle truffle oil on the entire thing. YUM! Truffle oil just happens to be expensive and something I don’t necessarily think about when I go to the store.

BLACK

  • Black pepper. I’m slightly addicted. I put pepper on everything. Even if it already has pepper in it, it probably isn’t enough, so I’ll drench it with some more.
  • Sometimes I add chia seeds as well. *Self promotion: for my article on seeds, click here.

WHITE

  • Sliced almonds. If I had the oomph to glaze or candy them I would. Instead, I just buy pre-sliced almonds and generously add them in. You could add in any type of nut or seed.
  • Cheese. I often don’t add cheese to my salad right away. If I feel like it later, I’ll add either blue cheese, goat cheese, feta, or parmesan.

Dressing

  • You can add any sort of dressing to this. I usually do the same thing every time:
  • Olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette. OR
  • Sea salt, olive oil, and lemon juice. -if I’m feeling exceptionally enthusiastic, I’ll add crushed red pepper-
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One rendition of Rainbow Salad

I think we’ve almost run out of colors. Well, there you have it. That’s my basic Rainbow Salad. Obviously there are thousands of variations -but mine’s the best-. You could always add chicken, shrimp, steak or any sort of protein to it as well. I could go in to the health benefits of everything listed, but I think I’ve bored you enough already. I make a giant bowl of this weekly, that way whenever I want some I can just go to the refrigerator and grab it without having to do any more chopping.

-sidenote: if you cover the salad, make sure it can breathe. It has mushrooms in it, which can get slimey if there’s no airflow-

For those of you who think this was a ridiculous post, I completely agree. But, you did finish reading the entire thing…

Dear Skittles: Taste the rainbow? …NAILED IT!

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Tofu pie

No, really. I mean it. No bake blueberry pie. With tofu.

I scrunched my nose up at first, too. Tofu is NOT my thing.

But, it got my attention; I became intrigued. It has a few of my kitchen requirements: minimal ingredients, and minimal time spent in the kitchen. PLUS it’s a no bake concoction. And that’s even better. With the mixture of very interesting ingredients, I decided I just had to try it out for myself! I figured I’d be like a healthy, vegetarian, red-headed Betty Crocker.

Onward to the grocery store.

For those of you who know me, you know that I HATE the grocery store. Everything about it. Couldn’t tell you why, either. I avoid it at all costs; my food supply gets ridiculously low before I decide that a breakfast of condiments isn’t going to do it and I give in to the Evil Food Fortress (aka the grocery store). My goal, if I have to go to the store, is to spend as little time as humanly possible there. I try to pretend I’m a contestant on Supermarket Sweep and have a time limit to grab anything I need. This often results in forgetting items, and running in to things. Or people.

Let me set the premise for you:

I decided to go to a bigger store than I normally do, because I figured they would have a better selection of everything. For a blueberry pie, I needed blueberries. Not a problem. Unless you’re me. I’m calm, cool, and collected, circling the produce section again, and again. And again. There are zero blueberries to be found. I very nicely ask a gentleman stocking fruit if they have blueberries.

“Ah, gosh. I don’t know. We didn’t get an order in this week for them somehow. We’ve got blackberries over there if you want blackberries.”

My immediate, non-censored reply would have been: “If I wanted blackberries, I would have asked you for those! In fact, I wouldn’t even have to talk to you at all because I would have found them on my own in the first place!” But instead, I politely said: “No, thank you.” And walked away.

Then, a miracle happened. As I was passing the clementines, something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. That’s right, 3 little cartons of blueberries, staring straight at me. Since I so conveniently forgot to write down how much this particular recipe called for, I grabbed all 3 and put them in my cart. Thank you, blueberry karma. -I ended up only needing one little carton of blueberries for the pie-

Next stop: tofu land. I have never in my life bought any sort of tofu. Ever. I’m not a fan of the texture or anything about it. It’s a block of something that tastes like nothing. And that’s just wrong. The recipe calls for ‘Lite Firm Tofu.’ Easy enough. I finally find the tofu selection and search through them. I see ‘Soft,’ ‘Firm,’ and ‘Extra Firm.’ Those are my options. Wtf. At this point, I’m thinking of canning the entire thing, throwing a tantrum, and going home. I talk myself out if it, though, and sit there staring at the tofu for a good 5 minutes. I have zero idea which one to get. So I start poking them to see how ‘soft,’ ‘firm,’ and ‘extra firm’ they really are -like I really know what I’m doing-. That is until I catch a lady in the yogurt section next to me trying not to stare. I opt for the ‘soft’ one and head on my way to find Kefir.

I have no idea what Kefir is, but the recipe calls for it. I try to find it on my own for a while. Remember, more time spent in the grocery store is time that I’ll never get back. I find an older gentleman who works there and ask him. He has no idea. Perfect. We find someone else, and she thinks she may know what it is but calls someone on the intercom anyway. And then there were 4. This guy knew where it was and starts leading us there….right back to the tofu section. It, of course, was sitting right there. It’s a probiotic drink in case you’re interested.

The bright side is that I had everything else I needed for the pie at home, so I could get the heck out of there.

Tofu pie.

Ingredients: blueberries, tofu, kefir, lime juice, stevia, sliced almonds, vanilla extract, vanilla whey protein powder (not pictured), and pie crust.

For specifics, this is where I got the recipe.

No bake blueberry pie ingredients

All the fixin’s

Measure it all out, throw it into the blender, blend, and pour into pie crust. Easy as…well, you know.

-sidenote- I had no idea tofu is kept in water (or something liquidy) to preserve it. I had tofu water everywhere in my kitchen when I tried to open it up. Gross.

Ingredients in blender

Appetizing, no?

I topped mine with sliced almonds. There is an almond crust recipe, but I just bought a pie crust instead.

No bake blueberry pie

The final result!

It needs to sit in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before serving.

I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. The pie is delicious. I got confirmation from 3 other people as well that they liked it. No, it does not have the consistency of tofu. In fact, you can’t even tell. The pie could essentially be made with any sort of fruit or fruit combination. I might play around with the recipe next time I make it. After the first slice, I put it in the freezer, and it came out almost like an ice cream pie. I liked it better than just the refrigerated one and will probably do this in the future.

Slice of pie

No bake blueberry pie

Combining a bad grocery store trip with tofu inspired pie turned out not to be so bad after all. …Who knew?

IMG_0142

Watch out, Betty Crocker!

Getting cultured

For my first trick, I decided to do something that anyone can do, and that almost everyone loves. Pretty cool, huh? I say almost everyone because there are a select few who choose to be difficult and refuse to admit that they, in fact, could love this one particular thing. You know who you are. Either that, or they’re lactose intolerant. But that’s hardly an excuse.

I’m talkin’ YOGURT y’all! -insert fake Southern accent for effect-

That’s right. Yogurt. -or yoghurt OR yoghourt for those looking to broaden their dairy spelling repertoire…you’re welcome- Calcium, protein AND tiny live creatures all in one concoction?! Yes please.

This is something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while, and have zero good excuse for not trying it before. Now, most people who are trying out something for the first time may play it safe and make a small batch to see if they know what they’re doing. Those people, they’re smart. Boring, even. I like to think I’m adventurous. So, upon deciding how much yogurt to make for my very first batch I threw caution to the wind and opted for a reasonable half gallon. Because, WHO DOESN’T NEED A HALF GALLON OF YOGURT IN THEIR HOUSE AT ALL TIMES?! That’s what I thought. No one. See my next post for the best way to give yogurt as gifts. Just kidding. Kinda.

The magical elves behind Google threw this little number at me when I searched for yogurt recipes, so I went with it. Step-by-step directions with minimal supplies. They know me so well.

Join me on my yogurt-making adventure:

The first step with making anything cooking related is to have a kitchen. Duh. The reason I bring this up, though, is because of the size of my kitchen — It’s about equivalent to a nice walk-in pantry.

My Kitchen

My Kitchen

Stove. Sink. That’s it. Literally. Zero counter space. No dishwasher, garbage disposal, and barely room for a coffee pot -which is most certainly a necessity: what else would I drink with my granola and homemade yogurt?!- But I do have one. So on to Step 2.

This is essentially what I did: Boil water in a pot. Easy enough. -dad, stop laughing.- Pour a half gallon of milk into a smaller pot (however much milk you start with should be how much yogurt you will make). Put milk pot into water pot creating a double boiler. Raise milk to 185°F and keep at that temp for 30 mins stirring constantly. After 30 mins, put milk pot in an ice bath to cool it down to 110°F, stirring occasionally. Put 2 to 3 tablespoons of plain yougurt in cooled milk, stir, and you’re done! Almost.

Materials

Materials

Heated Milk

Heated Milk

Cooling Milk

Cooling Milk

Adding Yogurt

Adding Yogurt

It needs be covered and sit for 7 hours on a heating pad at medium temp. Well, I don’t have a heating pad, so I got those creative juices flowing and…Voilà! Cookie sheet + bath towel + stove = heating pad. Right?

Heating Pad

Heating Pad

WRONG.

Heating Pad Aftermath

Heating Pad Aftermath

Not only did it ruin the towel, which just happened to be my roommates, it also ruined my cookie sheet and kept the milk mixture too hot. -at least in retrospect I think that’s what happened-

Yogurt?

Yogurt?

After 7 hours, the milk mixture is supposed to be thicker and smell, well, like yogurt. Mine was not. But, I figured maybe it would thicken in the refrigerator over night. Oh, wishful thinking, you silly bastard.

 

I practically skipped to my refrigerator this morning, looking forward to a delicious breakfast with my homemade yogurt. With a watering mouth and a hopeful heart, I opened my container to examine the delicousness.

Deliciousness fail. Despite all my finger crossing, the yogurt did not thicken up over night. It stayed the consistency of milk with a faint yogurt smell. That’s right, ladies and gents, I successfully made 7-hour sour milk. Please try to contain your shock and awe, applause, rolling of the eyes, laughter or any Ginger references. Just kidding. I welcome all of these.

Yogurt Fail

Yogurt Fail

After putting back together my shattered ego, I’m going to try a different recipe sometime this week. I will be a yogurt-making virtuoso. You just wait. Update to follow.

Until then, these are some key lessons to take away from this experience:

  1. Do try to make yogurt
  2. Don’t make your own ‘heating pad’
  3. If it doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t
  4. Just to reiterate, DO NOT put towels on the stove insert common sense jokes here
  5. If you get confused about what not to do, re-read this post

If anyone has any tips, tricks or good recipes, please leave a comment. For now, I’m going to enjoy a nice bowl of cereal with milk….oh wait.

Begin at the beginning

That’s how most things start, right? Step 1 to Step umpteenth. And most people are able to follow these steps, i.e. instructions/directions/recipes, with maybe one hiccup here and there.

And then there’s me.

I’ve never strived to be Suzy homemaker and have tenaciously turned my nose up at cooking, needlework, arts & crafts, and basic home remedies. Which, up til now, is probably a good thing. I am a certifiable klutz -if such certification existed- and have a knack for breaking, burning and/or somehow ingeniously and unthinkably destroying things, despite trying to follow instructions. Growing up, my parents would always tell me that I could probably burn water if I tried. I believe it.

At 25 years old, though, I think it’s time to turn over a new leaf and give these previously shunned skills a go. I am surrounded by talented people in many of these areas, and would like to join this club of sorts. Perhaps by knitting an impressive pair of socks, or pleasing taste buds with and ever-so-decadent strudel, they will welcome me with open arms and we can share tips and tricks of mod podge and homemade dog clothes while sipping a refreshing sangria –which I made myself-.

I enjoy trying new things –win, lose, or crash and burn– and can hopefully hone in on some of these skills…or try and fail miserably at the deserved entertainment of everyone else. In addition to the wonderfully talented individuals I have just so happened to surround myself with, Pinterest is a continued evil reminder of the innate skills that the Talent Fairy forgot to bless me with, and instead gave me an extra dose of ungainliness. Well played, Talent Fairy.

Commence rebuttal process.

This is going to be the documentation of my attempts to branch out and awaken my inner Martha Stewart, and then some. I’m guessing there will be a lot of wine involved…for reward purposes…or condoling purposes…or just for fun. Critiques, advice, suggestions, short cuts, tips, and jests are all welcomed, and encouraged.

Fingers crossed there will be minimal damage to my house. And myself.

Enjoy!

“Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”  -Lewis Carroll