Sunday, April 18, 2010

Chickpea Pancake Pizza

Tonight for potluck, I decided to make a pizza out of the chickpea
pancake recipe that I posted the other day.
The potluck theme was curry, so I created a quick pizza sauce by first  sauteing onion and garlic in olive oil, then adding diced fresh tomatoes, curry powder, nutritional yeast, garam masala, and salt/ pepper.

After the "crust" had cooked, I added chopped greens (chard, mostly), crumbled tempeh, sliced yellow bell peppers, and enough cheese to hold it all together.  It disappeared quickly at potluck, so I think it's a success!

The chickpea pancake/crust is very eggy in texture, so I think my next experiment will be to make a breakfast pizza.  NOM.

Friday, April 16, 2010


For Easter, I decided to stage a CAKE vs. PIE battle.  Except that there would be no losers in this epic fight because, really, what could possibly go wrong?

The cake: a triple layer carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.  The cake (a recipe from The Buttercup Bakeshop Book) was full of carrots, apples, pecans, spices.  To give the pie a fighting chance, I lightened up the recipe a bit by substituting applesauce for some of the butter (since it called for, oh, a whole cup AND A HALF--three sticks--of butter) and using flaxseed/water instead of two of the eggs.  However, slathering it with a rich cream cheese frosting didn't hurt anything.

The pie: a lemon crostata, courtesy of Gourmet (now defunct!), via my Epicurious iPhone app.  I used this pie as an excuse to try cooking with my iPhone, which actually worked out pretty well.  The pie was a good contender: the crust was made of toasted almonds and lemon zest, filled with a silken lemon curd.  The crust was more like a shortbread, and the lemon really sang.  And I'm a sucker for lemon. (Even though I'm biased toward cake, I had to make it a fair competition!)

The two opponents faced off over the Easter table.  The pie looked humble with its overly-darkened crust, while the cake stood tall and proud with its festive frosting carrots and coconut sprinkled sides.  Cake won for presentation.
It also won for ease of preparation, because even though the carrot cake was a fancy layer cake with colored frosting, the crust for the crostata was way too fancy and fussy.  And I had to blind bake the crust, make the curd separately, then bake the whole thing again.  The crust got too dark due to the double-bake.  But--it was still lemony and almondy and really freakin' tasty.

The battle began when everyone had to choose their dessert.  Lance's mom unequivocally voted in favor of pie: she is a pie person and cannot resist lemon/almond flavored pastries.  Lance went for pie, but ate some of my cake, and I got cake. Because I'm a cake girl.  Several people got both and insisted that they could not decide.  One was not dissuaded from cake, even though there was coconut and he hates coconut. But he liked the cake.

In the end, I asked everyone to pick, and most claimed they could not decide.  The two were so different, they cried, that how could they possibly choose?  And really--why should there be a battle when two such lovely desserts could exist happily side-by-side?

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
(makes 3 9-inch layers or two loaves)
adapted from The Buttercup Bakeshop Book

This is possibly the best carrot cake recipe I've ever had.  You could feasibly make it slightly healthier by substituting up to half the flour with whole wheat pastry flour.  It is a delicate cake, so be careful with the layers. 

  • 2.5 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger (or more, if you love ginger like me)
  • 1/2 tsp all spice
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseed mixed with 4 tbsp warm water (or just use three eggs total)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1.5 cups grated carrots (3-4 medium)
  • 1 apple, grated
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 3 tbsp heavy cream, half and half, or even whole milk
  • 2 blocks cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
For cake: preheat oven to 350.  Grease pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.  Butter/spray parchment (optional, but very helpful in the removal of cakes from pans).  Set aside

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and soda, salt, and spices.  In the bowl of your mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in the apple sauce, then the eggs/egg substitute.  Add the vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with the apple juice, beginning and ending with the dry.  Stir in the apple, carrots, pecan, and cream until everything is well incorporated.  Do not overmix.

Divide the batter and bake for 30-35 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.  Let cakes cool in pans for ten minutes then remove (CAREFULLY) from pans and let cool completely.

Meanwhile, make frosting: beat cream cheese and butter until creamy and fluffy.  Add vanilla.  Beat in powdered sugar a little at a time until frosting is desired consistency/sweetness.  If colored decorations are desired, set aside a bit for dyeing.

After cakes are completely cool, frost.  Place one layer on a plate, layer frosting, then add the next layer, more frosting, then the final layer.  Frost with a light crumb coat, let sit in the freezer for a few minutes, the frost with the top coat.  Decorate with colored frosting, chopped toasted pecans, or dyed/toasted/plain coconut.

(same carrot cake, just decorated with Peeps!! Also, it's a tiny cake!)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Savory Pancakes

I love pancakes.  I am, in fact, plotting a Pancake Fest, in which I will whip out several varieties of pancakes and feed lots of people.  (Booze, waffles, and breakfast meats will also be available).  Pancakes, however, are something that I can't eat daily for breakfast.  Something about all the sugar or something--basically, I end up hungry two hours later.

Lately my breakfast routine has been a bit rushed or dull.  I eat some fruit, and then I get a muffin from the coffee shop.  Not exactly healthy, so I obviously needed to shake up my breakfast choices.  I read somewhere that eating more protein keeps you fuller longer.  Since I'm a vegetarian, I can't really eat any meat, and while I like eggs, I usually want something else with them and too much animal fat (eggs, butter, etc) upsets my stomach. (Yes, I'm picky)

Then I remembered The Hungry Tiger had posted about breakfast lentils. Interesting!  I was lacking in many of her ingredients, but I liked the idea of something involving legumes and vegetables for breakfast.  I grabbed out my How to Cook Everything Vegetarian to see what Mark Bittman had to say about breakfast lentils.  Which was nothing.  However, he did have a recipe for lentil pancakes.

I didn't want to soak my lentils overnight, so I decided to use his recipe as more inspiration.  I'm pretty happy with what came out--it turns out that savory pancakes are almost as good as the traditional ones.

First, I cooked lentils and brown rice until they were done.  I had some leftover tomatoes from the shakshuka from dinner the night before, so I added a few scoops of that to the lentils/rice.  Then I added some spices, onion, green onion, mushrooms, celery, and garlic and pureed it in the food processor. It needed a bit more texture, so I added some oats, oat flour, and one egg.

Using my cupcake scoop, I scooped out portions and cooked them on the griddle until brown and toasty on each side.  I tried one, and they were delicious and, I imagine, infinitely customizable.  We tried one with salsa.  I imagine they'd even be good with a poached egg on top, if you're into that kind of thing.

Breakfast food experiment, success!

I also made this chickpea pancake (or socca) from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian for dinner.  It was kinda odd, but tasty--eggy, even though it didn't have any eggs.  It was also amazingly simple and contained relatively few ingredients.  I imagine it'd make a great base for a pizza-like dish.  Seriously, this book will never get old.  If you don't own, I highly recommend it.

Lentil Pancakes
Makes 10-12

This is a VERY rough recipe. Feel free to make substitutions like mad, depending on what you're in the mood for.  I'm sure you can skip the egg if you're after a vegan dish.  (I really should measure stuff when I experiment in the kitchen, especially when it's delicious.)
  • 2/3 cup uncooked lentils 
  • 1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
  • diced canned tomatoes (~1/3 cup or so)
  • onion and garlic, to taste
  • celery
  • nutritional yeast
  • mushrooms
  • spices, such as cumin, curry powder, chili powder, cayenne, salt and pepper, to taste
  • ~1/2 cup rolled oats
  • ~1/2 cup oat flour (to thicken)
  • 1 egg
Cook the lentils.  When the water begins to boil, add the brown rice (I just tossed in a handful).  Cook until lentils/rice are done.  Drain off excess liquid, if any.  Add the tomatoes.  Let mixture cool to room temperature, then puree in a food processor with onion, garlic, and celery (I'm sure some carrots would be good--I tossed in some chopped mushrooms).  Add oats, flour, and egg, and puree.  Add salt/pepper and spices to taste.  Scoop out and cook on a griddle like a pancake and eat with whatever you think will taste good.  I suspect ketchup, chopped tomatoes, a poached egg, greens, a mixture of the above, or anything else would go well.

Chickpea Pancake (Socca or Farinata)
Adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

Feel free to substitute other flavors for the onion and rosemary.  The original called for regular onion, but I used that in my lentil pancakes.  It makes a pancake that is eggy in texture and would be a good pizza-like base--simply cook, then add toppings and finish baking, instead of broiling.
  • 1 cup chickpea flour (also known as gram or besan flour)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • olive oil
  • green onion, whites and greens, sliced
  • fresh rosemary leaves
Put 1.5 cups warm water in a bowl and sift the chickpea flour into the water (else it'll be super lumpy).Add the salt, pepper, and 2 tbsp of olive oil together.  Cover with a towel and let stand for a few minutes or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 450.  Put ~2 tbsp olive oil into a cast iron skillet (oh, skillet!) and heat on the stove top until the oil and pan are hot (just like making cornbread, if you're a good Southerner).  Stir in the onion and rosemary (or whatever) and pour the batter into the hot skillet.  Put in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes until the pancake is firm and the edges are set.

Preheat the broiler.  Brush the top of the pancake with a bit more oil (which I forgot, and it totally turned out okay) and broil for a minute or two, or until brown spots appear.  Cut it up and eat it with salsa or whatever you want!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

13.1 Miles

On Sunday, April 11th, after about 4 hours of sleep, I crawled out of bed.  My stomach was jumping and I felt nauseated and nervous.  I choked down a bit of toast and peanut butter (before Lance ate it all) and drank some sparkling water.  Then Lance and I headed down to the square because the big day had finally arrived: the day of my first half-marathon.

Since December, I have been training for this day.  I have logged roughly 300 miles since the start of the year. I may have not always run happily or even as much as I could have, but I ran consistently, and it showed.

I honestly had no idea what to expect, so I simply planned to run it in under 2:15.  I didn't really even look up to see what my mile splits would be.  When I arrived, however, I discovered that Fleet Feet had pacers, and that one of my running buddies was the 2 hour pacer.  He asked, "Do you want to run with me?" and I said "Sure," thinking I would slow down if the pace was too intense.

At first, it was, but I kept J and his balloons in my sight until my legs adjusted to the faster pace, and I caught up.  I held that pace for about 9 miles or so, or until I hit the hills (if you look at the graph, you see that it begins and ends with some mean hills).  Then I hit a really ugly hill, and I had to walk.  (But then again, so did most people).

I rounded the corner on the last mile to be greeted with cheers and offers of a beer, not to mention pirates.  Fleet Feet was manning the first/last water stop, and they were amazing and so encouraging.  From that point on, I had a giant grin on my face. Even though I had woken feeling poorly, even though I got a crappy nights' sleep, even though this was my first half and I had no idea of what to expect, I knew I was going to finish and finish extremely well.

I crossed the line at 2:02:47, way under my initial goal of 2:05 and my revised goal of 2:15.  I was ecstatic.  Lance had cheered me on at the very end, and they announced my name as I crossed the finish line, and someone handed me a neat finishers medal.  I did it!

And now I'm completely hooked.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Too Cool For School

In Act III of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, the first song has three groupies singing about Captain Hammer's dry cleaning bill, "Four sweater vests!"

I do not possess four sweater vests.  I like sweater vests, however.  So I made myself one (Ravelry link).

 (Oh yeah, and I cut all my hair off.)

 This is the Back-to-School U-Neck Vest (Ravelry link) from the book Fitted Knits.  This book has so many cute projects, and the speed and ease with which I completed this project means I may pick out a few more to do from the book.  In fact, I finished it in three weeks, and I feel like I could have finished it in a few days if I had focused on it.  It's knit with Cascade Lana D'Oro, a soft alpaca-wool blend that I love.

Though I'm not in school (yet! Though I am accepted at UA...) anymore, this vest is perfect for work.  It's soft and comfortable, and I want three more in different colors, so that someone can sing about my four sweater vests, if I ever gain any groupies.