Monday, August 17, 2009

Shattered Dreams and Smores!

All I wanna do is get the hell outta dodge. Instead I have been part of a weekly gathering called Beachwatch 2009 (dont even think of calling this a staycation). This week was a complete washout with a friend getting doored, wave after wave of thunderstorms impending doom upon the beach, and then that same person getting a flat on the way home in the middle of a torrential down pour. Shattered Dreams! This is all part of the game, apparently, we gotta take the good with the bad. Theres been a lot of bad though. Dont get me wrong, I love going to a different Chicago beach every weekend with friends. But sometimes you wanna REALLY get away to a far away land where you dont have to fantasize yr somewhere else.

Camping is the perfect summer trip. I know I dont have to sell you on that notion. Leave the city and all the techie shit behind for nature and wilderness, exploring, sleeping under the stars, campfires, and ultimate fun times. Every summer I go on at least one camping trip. This year time is running out! So, just in case I dont make it to this magical place (see right), I decided to make the tasty treat reserved just for camping. Yep thats right, smores! This is the best combo after a ruff day of hiking, biking, swimming, and whatnots. Why wouldnt you wanna settle down to sticky, gooey, melty deliciousness?

For the city slicker smore, I opted to test out some new fancy products and make my own grahm crackers. First off, the grahm crackers are a vegan, gluten free recipe that I used to make at The Balanced Kitchen. Whether or not you are vegan or gluten free these grahms are the best! So flavorful and a great texture/crumb. They are definitely a favorite. The dark chocolate bar I used was the Art Bar with quinoa crisp. Ithaca Fine Chocolates is Fair Trade Certified and organic. The Art Bars are all soy free and vegan. Bitchin! This chocolate is divine. Do yourself a favor and go buy some today (and no i didnt get any money to say that or free goods). Finally, the gooey gooeyness...marshies. I have never been a lover of marshmellows. Have you heard the werd? Dandies. Chicago Soy Dairy has developed an air puffed vegan marshmellow, which is pretty awesome. What better way to test out these babies than by making smores?! Duh. The outer texture seems a little strange at first bite, but when heated into a smore or cooked into a rice crispie bar! etc. this all melts away. The gooeyness is in full effect which is key. The taste is marshmellowy, as well as I can remember. Its been awhile since Ive had a real one.

All that is next is to assemble and wrap neatly like a little present in foil. Stick in the fire or if yr stuck at home, be a cheater and put it in the oven. If you want to be fancy like me and make yr own grahms, do it! Its worth the effort. Or contact me and I can whip you up a batch post haste. Seriously, its no trouble. This is what I do. Look at this shit.... You cant fuckin mess with these fuckin results.
(anyone else currently watching Deadwood?)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Plant Destroyer and Fresh Fava Beans

August is here and its a blistery 75F and overcast. Where is the humidity, heat and sunshine? I overheard someone say that the average temperature for July was only 69F. We should be knee deep in heirloom tomatoes by now but instead it is the summer of greens. Though we may be the lucky ones because the Northeast is seeing signs of late blight, which can completely wipe out an entire crop. Phytophthora infestans (plant destroyer in Latin) or late blight was responsible for the Irish potato famine in the 19th century. For more see this article on Civil Eats Link .

This summer is like the spring that never left. There are still many spring veggies going strong. This year I finally got around to trying fresh fava beans. I have tried seasoned dry ones and found them to be truly disgusting. Fresh favas are so awesome! They are the giants of the bean world, taking over with their fresh and slightly nutty taste, and are the most spectacular color spring green.

These guys are a little more work than your standard snap bean but well worth the effort. Here is what to look for: shiny firm pods and when the pod feels heavier than it looks, its a good sign it will be full of beans. Keep them in a plastic bag and refrigerated and use within a couple of days. To prepare, the pods must be opened the remove the beans. The inside is furry! Next you must blanch the beans in a pot of boiling water for 2 minutes and then immediately transfer into an ice bath. Then, one by one pop off the outer skin of each bean.

Now you can eat them as is or with a little lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. Or toss em with greens or grains. Something I encourage you to try is pureeing them with lemon juice, olive oil and garlic. It is an Egyptian dish called ful medames. I decided to make a simple and elegant dish. I really wanted to taste the favas, making them the center of attention. For inspiration I looked to Christina Pirello, Christina Cooks, who cooks whole foods in season.
Roasted Asparagus with Fresh Fava Beans

serves 4 to 6
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 Tbl of balsamic vinegar
  • sea salt
  • 1# fresh fava beans, shelled (1 cup)
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, tough ends snapped off
  • 1 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
Place shallot, garlic, and lemon zest in a small bowl and add the vinegar and a pinch of salt. Toss to combine and set aside for 30 minutes to marinate.

Prepare the fava beans using the same method as noted above. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook fava beans until crisp tender, about 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and cool in an ice water bath. Remove outer skins.

Preheat oven to 450F. Arrange the asparagus on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and salt. Roast, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, until slightly browned and tender.

Place oil and shallot mixture in a deep skillet over medium heat. Saute for 2 minutes. Stir in fava beans add a pinch of salt and toss to coat.

To serve, arrange asparagus on a plate and spoon fava bean mixture over the top. And maybe some quinoa on the side.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Sinners and Hippies

Sooo its been awhile since I last posted anything. I am trying to get my shit together and figure out where I want to take this thing. There was an issue of my camera being injured with quinoa causing me to delay my posting, but I have since then obtained another hand me down cam. My decision is to throw caution to the wind and say lets fuck this duck. On with it then...

In case you missed our Dinner for Sinners gathering on the resurrection of the messiah, here is the awesome flyer I made for it. I had some time on my hands, what can I say? There is a back side too. It rips. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pics until around dessert time! Everyone brought lovely dishes such as roasted fingerlings, herbed sweet potatoes, artichoke salad, apple pie, sweet cashew cream, a coconut/chard vietnamese dish and more. Here is my carrot cake...

Spring is finally fucking here. This seemed like the longest winter ever, right? I was so stoked to receive these daffodils during our sin dinn. I never have cut flowers in my house. I'm not against it or anything, its just so special occassiony. This may sound cheesy but, it totally brightened my day to come in from the dreary rainy days to these fragrant beauties.

The warmer weather gets me excited for the soon to come farmers markets, planting my farm, and camping! Hells yeah. I am finally weaning off my morning hot cereal routine for some heavy duty homemade granola action. This hippie shit is good and sooo much cheaper than bulkin it at whole foods. Super easy to make and to sub in other ingredients.


Preheat oven to 350F
  • 5 C Old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 C Raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 3/4 C Oat bran
  • 3/4 C Flax meal
  • 1/3 C Brown sugar, packed
  • 1 Tbs Cinnamon
  • 2/3 C Brown rice syrup
  • 1 Tbs Canola oil
  • 1 C Apple juice
  • 1 C Dried persimmons, chopped into bit size pieces
  • 2/3 C Raisins
You can use any nut or dried fruit combo you like. Just make sure the nuts have not been toasted already and if they are large you may want to coarsely chop them. Same for the fruit, if its a fig or mango strip chop em up a bit. Also, if you don't have flax meal use yr coffee grinder to turn shit into shinola. If you don't have a coffee grinder then yr SOL.

In a large bowl combine the oats, nuts, oat bran, flax meal, brown sugar and cinnamon. Be sure to break up the brown sugar so that there are no big chunks floatin around in there. In a separate bowl whisk together the brown rice syrup, oil, and apple juice. Add to the dry and mix until well coated. Spread mixture on two parchment lined baking sheets. Bake for approx. 30 minutes. Toss every 10 min or so. Keep an eye on the edges so nothing gets burned! Let granola cool completely on baking sheets. Mix in the dried fruit and store in an airtight container.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

KKK (Kristens Krispy Kale)

I love kale. I crave it.
Upon first introduction to kale I was not impressed. Its tough, fiberous, and usually needs to be cooked to be digestable. Superfood, my ass. Though I may have some residual resentment, having to process several pounds of kale everyday is a little mind numbing (one of my former BloLo duties). Kale is a little rough around the edges but once you start sneaking into your stirfrys and mixing it into your mashed taters, you too, will crave it.
So there are many varieties of kale to choose from but these three are the most commonly found red russian, curly, and lacinato or dinosaur. Kale is high in vitamins C, K, A and high in fiber. The best variety to choose for this recipe is curly (see photo). Otherwise the kale will just wilt and end up sticking to the pan.

KKK (Kristens Krispy Kale)

Preheat oven to 350F

  • 1 bunch Kale
  • Olive oil or Flax oil
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Salt
To process kale, the fastest and most efficient technique was taught to me by the lovely folks at the BloLo. Hold the stem of the leaf firmly with one hand and with the other pinch the stem at the base of the leaf with your thumb and forefinger. Then with one swift, quick motion strip the stem of the leaf. Voila. Easy as pigs in shit. Do the whole bunch. Next you wanna soak those guys to be rid of dirt and the little creatures living in those curly crevices. After the kale is clean, tear em up into pieces and place onto a baking sheet in a even layer. Do not put anything on the kale at this time. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes.

Check to make sure your kale is krispy now. It should be a little brown around the edges. Place all of the kale into a large bowl. Drizzle in a little olive oil or flax oil, add a generous amount of nutritional yeast, and salt to taste. Toss until kale is well coated. Nutritional yeast contains essential amino acids, B 12, and folic acid which are all good things.

Instead of using the oil, n.yeast, and salt try these spiced up variations...


Toasted sesame oil
Maple syrup
Cayenne pepper or Chili powder
Toasted sesame seeds

Toasted peanut oil or flax oil
Yr favorite curry powder
Hemp seeds

Use the oils sparingly and add the spices in small increments until it tastes good. Perfect snack or side dish to a meal.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

portland comfort food

winter is the time for hearty soups, filling casseroles, and starchy goodness. anytime is good for comfort food but once the weather starts to get nippy i often turn to these old friends. here in chicago it has been unusually cold this early in the season. just last year i was in portland where 35 degrees is insanely cold and it never snows. those poor fools got hit with arctic blast 2008 and i find myself wishing i could be right there with them making snow angels.

i moved to portland broke and jobless so eating out had to be on the cheap cheap. a short walk away from the falcon was a small portland chain called laughing planet. i quickly discovered my favorite dish. a couple years later i returned to chicago and miss that tasty little number. i have recreated it in a somewhat modified version. this is like a great big hug from portland.

there are three components that brings this dish together beans + grains, caramelized starchies, and a cool, tangy salsa. that being said there are many variations that could come from this dish. serves two.

get the goods:

1 1/2 cups cooked black or pinto beans (1 15oz. can) if you are cooking the beans it is best to soak them overnight to decrease cooking time. you can also cook them ahead of time or start this step right away. add a piece of kombu or other seaweed to the pot to help increase digestability and reduce major stink bombs!

1 to 1 1/2 cups short grain brown rice or quinoa for a nutty flavor

4oz. tempeh, cut into 1 1/2 in. cubes or triangles (optional)

1 large sweet potato, diced 1 in. chunks

1 plantain blackened, but firm, sliced into 1/2 in. rounds

1 Tbs maple syrup

1 Tbs balsamic vinegar

1 Tbs olive oil

1 Tbs shoyu/tamari/soy sauce

1 tsp cumin

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

5 to 8 tomatillos

1/2 of small onion

1 jalapeno

2 limes


preheat oven to 400 degrees. at this time if your beans are not cooked get started on that first. the next step is to prepare the marinade for the sweet potatoes and plantains. combine the syrup, vinegar, oil, shoyu, cumin, and cayenne in a small shallow baking dish and whisk together. add the tempeh(if using), sweet potato, and plantain to the dish and mix to coat. set aside to allow the flavors to develop. start cooking your grains. the oven should be ready for the marinade mixture. cook for about 45 mins, until sweet pots are tender, stirring every 15 minutes. now make the salsa. chop the tomatillos, onion, and jalapeno (seed if you dont like some heat) into large chunks and pulse in food processor until pureed. add the juice of 1 lime and salt to taste. place into sealed container and chill in the the fridge. (this can be made in advance) by now everything should be about ready. pull out the baking dish from the oven and set aside to cool. combine the rice and beans into one pot, or not. i usually serve this in a bowl starting with the rice and beans at the bottom, the starchies next, and top with the salsa. serve with a wedge of lime. i will often add some steamed or braised kale, collards, or cilantro for some green.

this recipe will probably make nick and i the only ones dreaming of portland, so what. get yr own damn comfort food. but try this hug on for size.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

jelly donut cupcake

jelly donut cupcake
Originally uploaded by tuffcakes
Sugary goodness. Time for something sweet and adorable. Jelly donuts remind me of my dad. Every once in a while, my pops used to get us dunkin donuts on saturday. My favorite was this nasty hot pink number posing as a strawberry glazed donut, his was the jelly filled. Now, Im not necessarily a jelly donut lover but I will try almost anything in cupcake form. The texture of the crumb is just like that of a cake donut with that lovely hint of nutmeg. I chose to use good ol grape jelly for my filling. These are even better the next day with a good cup of coffee for dunking.

recipe from the Veganomicon

Jelly Donut Cupcakes

makes 12 cupcakes

1 cup soy or rice milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbs cornstarch
1 1/2 cups all purp flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs granulated sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
About 1/3 cup raspberry jam or preserves or whatever flavor you prefer
2 Tbs confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine milk, vinegar, and starch into a measuring cup and set aside. Line pan with cupcake liners.
In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour all the way thru to the salt. Create a well in the center and pour in the milk mixture, making sure the starch is completely dissolved. Then add the oil, granulated sugar, and vanilla. Stir until well incorporated.
Fill the liners about 3/4 full with batter. Drop a heaping teaspoon full of jam on the center of each cupcake. No need to press it down, it will sink in as it bakes.
Bake for 21 to 23 minutes. Tops should be firm. Remove and let cool. It is suggested to let them sit overnight in a cool spot. The tops will dry slightly and become crispy and more donutlike.
Top with sifted confectioners sugar.

On a side note:
I used tapioca starch subbing for the cornstarch and it worked just fine. Please try to find vanilla without alcohol in it! This is somewhat difficult to hunt down, but well worth it. Especially with a recipe where vanilla plays an important role in the flavor profile. The alcohol dilutes the real vanilla and you can literally see the difference.

This is one of those treats that can step up for breakfast or dessert.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

sunday brekkie

sunday brekkie
Originally uploaded by tuffcakes
Everyone seems to have their own variation on scrambler recipes. When I make it the ingredients are a bit of a mish/mash of whatever is on hand, thus creating a new variation every time. Well this time I hit pay dirt...GOLDEN BEETS, sprouts, broccoli, carrots, and of course tofu. I grew the sprouts myself and the beets, carrots, and broccoli came from my CSA box.
The bread is cinnamon raisin from Brunos Organics. Brunos is a family of bakers from Gary, Indiana who may possibly make the finest baked goods in the area. Sad to say a loaf usually only lasts a couple of days in our house. Total gluttony.
The smoothies, like the scrambler, vary according to mood and whats kickin around. This powerhouse came together with soymilk, bananas, blueberries, pineapple, and Vitamineral Green. The Vitamineral Green is a vegan herbal supplement that is a good source of green superfoods and probiotics.
All in all this breakfast was a great way to start the day.