Random Catch-uppances

I’ve been more and more neglectful of this blog, it seems. Life continues to go on, and I make food, but there’s so much going on that I’ve not had time or motivation to spend much of my life blogging here about said food. I’ve been doing cookbook testing that I can’t talk about yet, for one, and music has been the centre of my life for two months straight. Priorities!

Here’s some of what I’ve been up to over the year.

  • One of the things I’ve been working through this year is continued growth in the mental/physical health arena. I was having a load of health problems earlier in the year – allergies causing sinus infections over and over again, on top of what I believe was spiritual oppression. I dealt with it for about 4 months, getting worse and worse. In July I hit a point where I could barely walk and then simply couldn’t get out of bed, because I was so exhausted, and then some things happened. First I was ordered back onto my antidepressants by my therapist, about the same time I also requested to be anointed at church. The anointing happened on a Sabbath after church, low-key and quiet in one of the elders’ offices at church, and I am happy to report by the time I got home afterwards that day, I was again able to walk and function like a normal person. It was such a drastic, immediate change after weeks of hardly being able to drag myself out of bed, and I revelled in it, praising the Lord, for several days before going to pick up the prescription that was waiting for me. So I’ve been back on the meds since July, and I have roughly 5 months to go now on this round of the medication before we decide if I try to go off it again. I don’t know where it will go from here, but I am doing so much better, and I’m thankful for friends who have more perception and wisdom than I do, who dragged me kicking and screaming through the fog to the light. It is so wonderful to have energy, to feel creative, to actually be sending out Christmas cards this year for the first time in years without being totally overwhelmed and shutting down.
  • Living in our house, unfinished as it may be, has been wonderful beyond words. If you’ve never spent over two years in a mouldy deathtrap of doom, you simply will not understand. I don’t even care that my house isn’t finished, I’m just so thankful to be in it. Little by little we’re working on it. But we have space, light, indoor plumbing, space, and heat. And space. This is far more than much of the world can hope for in their lifetimes. We are abundantly blessed.
  • I discovered I have Scottish blood in me and have been embracing this discovery with every drop of said blood. My ScottishSpam on Pinterest? I apologise for nothing.
  • I’ve been working on listing stuff in my Etsy shop. Take a look! All the money after fees and tithe from these sales are going towards paying off my harp loan.
  • The most important personal development of this year, by far, has been that I have held out my musician’s heart in trembling hands to the world. I have been mortally afraid of opening my past to my closest friends, let alone strangers, but I have now shared my story via another blog: The Harp in the Closet. It is raw, simple, emotional, my very soul spilled out in words: a side of me that has not ever been on this blog, and indeed few see even in real life. It has actually been published for about 6 months now, and gotten over 1000 hits, but I am only now getting the courage to share about it here with a wider audience rather than with just individuals. Consider taking a little time to read it from start to finish. If it resonates with you in any way, please share it with your friends.
  • Finally, here’s a picture of our pretty tree and a cute cat:

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 7.37.34 PMMerry Christmas (or whatever holiday you’re celebrating!) from all of us Pine Nuts.

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Categories: holiday, Mrs Pine Nut, pumpkitten, sickness | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

COOKIE GIVEAWAY WINNERS!

Categories: recipes | Leave a comment

Cookie Giveaway to Celebrate 100 Likes on Facebook!

This giveaway has now closed. I’ll be drawing names on Sunday. Thank you, everyone who entered!

Well, I have finally gotten to 100 likes on Facebook!

Actually, it’s been a couple weeks since this happened, but life and concerts have been going full steam ahead with little reprieve.

So, to celebrate, I have decided to have a cookie giveaway: three people will get a dozen cookies from my kitchen!

Here are your options.

If you want to try one of the cookies I’ve posted here, you can choose from these:
Brown Sugar and Apple Butter Cookies (except it’ll be pear butter, because I have no apple butter at the moment)
Gingerbread People (or cats, or foxes, or hearts, or teapots)
Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pie Wannabes
Everything But the Kitchen Sink Cookies

I’m also open to making the following cookies out of Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar:
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Kitchen Sink Chocolate Biscotti (you’ll choose 3 add-ins out of whatever I have on hand at the moment! :-))
Mexican Chocolate Snickerdoodles
Cowgirl Cookies (cranberries, cocoanut, and walnuts are in these)
Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

A few notes:

1. I cannot do gluten-free cookies because I cannot guarantee that anything in my kitchen is really gluten free. So if you’re celiac or otherwise sensitive to gluten this is, unfortunately, not the giveaway for you.

2. Regarding other allergies besides gluten: you will need to let me know if you have sensitivities to, say, soy or almonds or peanuts so I can substitute other things in their place. There will be no eggs, dairy, or honey in any of the cookies I make for this giveaway.

So, how to enter! Just leave a comment on this post telling me something about cookies, which cookie you’d choose if you win, or perhaps a happy cookie memory!

I will close this giveaway in one week, on October 31, and pick names out of a hat. And then I’ll contact the three winners within a couple days. If you do not respond within 24 hours with your contact info, I will then choose another winner.

Categories: giveaway | 13 Comments

Hollywood Squares, or Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

Hollywood Squares

As some of you know, I’ve been unable to consume peanut butter (or peanut anything) for roughly… *counts*… one year and seven months, because I was nursing Lou Who and she would get a Terrible Rash from my peanut consumption. Being an inveterate adorer of Snickers, pb&j, and Thai food, this has left a gaping hole in my life. But, you know, I’ve coped. I’ve actually coped pretty well, considering that I don’t like almond butter very much. And, thankfully, I could still have chocolate! Peanuts really are one of the easier allergens to deal with, and I’m very thankful it was that and not gluten.

So, one of the things I haven’t made for a Very Long Time is Hollywood Squares, which is a recipe a friend gave me when we were 12 or 13 and it’s basically like having a 13×9 Reese’s Peanut Butter cup in the palm of your hungry little hand. I made these many times for my coworkers back about 7 years ago and saw them vanish before my very eyes. I myself am *cough* capable of eating more of them at a time than I care to admit.

I have no doubt you could make these with sunbutter, almond butter, cashew butter, or any sort of nut butter, but I knew it simply wouldn’t be the same, so I’ve waited and waited to post this here.

Note: It’s helpful to have all your peanut butter layer ingredients ready in bowls so you can add them in quickly.

Note #2: It is VERY important to add the ingredients in the peanut butter layer in the order they are listed. Most recipes don’t care, but trust me, this one does. If you do them out of order, you’ll wind up with a lumpy mess. A tasty lumpy mess, mind, but probably not one that would make your co-workers compliment you on your Mad Attractive Food Skilz.

Note #3: If you cut the recipe in half, it’s perfect for 12 regular muffin cups (smash the peanut layer into muffin papers and then spread the chocolate on top).

And without further ado, here’s the recipe:

Peanut Butter Layer
1/2 c melted vegan margarine
2 c creamy peanut butter
2 1/2 c powdered sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Mix 1/2 c melted margarine well with the peanut butter, powdered sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla. Spread in the bottom of 13×9 pan.

Chocolate Layer
4 T vegan margarine
12 oz bag of chocolate chips

Melt together the 4 T margarine with the bag of chocolate chippies. Pour and spread chocolate mixture on top of peanut butter mixture. Chill. Cut into squares.

^^Bonus: a really lame video of me eating one of these babies a few minutes ago.

Categories: dairy-free, dessert, gluten-free, Lou Who, recipes, vegan | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Chicken Rice

One of the things I ate a lot as a child was that very yellow Lipton chicken rice. I remember having a curious love-hate relationship with it. It was good, and it was pretty, and yet I got sick of it so quickly. Maybe it was too salty for me. Boxed and packaged food usually is.

GooGoo wanted a picture of her food.

GooGoo wanted a picture of her food. I don’t know why she had the grumpface on.

But, I decided it would be fun to try to recreate this in vegan form. So, keep reading for the recipe.

***

Today’s musical selection has nothing to do with chickens, rice, or Lipton. It is, however, nostalgic for me, and that is reason enough.

***

In a heavy-bottomed pan, stir together:
1 1/2 cups brown rice
1 clove crushed garlic
2 T oil
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 T chicken seasoning
1/8 – 1/4 tsp turmeric

Turn on heat and cook rice for about 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly, to toast rice.

When the oil is beginning to absorb, add:
3 1/3 cups water

Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer. Allow to cook about 35 minutes. Turn off burner. Let stand 10 minutes before removing lid and fluffing with fork.

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Categories: dairy-free, gluten-free, lunch, nut-free, recipes, side dish, soy-free, vegan | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Spanish Rice

The first five rice recipes I have to share are rice basics, in a variety of flavours. Some of them will get re-used later on in my ricefest in other dishes, but all can be stand-alone side dishes as well. You will notice that all of them are based on the Brasilian rice method, which is why I shared that first.

***

In keeping with today’s Spanish theme, here’s a fine exhibition of tremolo on harp:

***

In a heavy-bottomed pan, stir together:
1 1/2 cups brown rice (I use plain long grain brown, but jasmine and basmati work fine too)
1 large clove crushed garlic
2 T oil
3/4 tsp salt
1 small jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 tsp cumin seed
1 T taco seasoning
2 small tomatoes, chopped (or 1/2 cup canned tomatoes, drained)
1 tsp onion powder

Turn on heat and cook all of the above for about 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly, to toast rice.

When the oil is beginning to absorb, add:
3 3/4 cups chicken broth (I stirred 4tsp chicken seasoning with 3 3/4 cups water)

Bring to boil, cover tightly, and reduce to a simmer for 45 minutes. Then let sit covered 10 minutes (do not remove from heat). Fluff with a fork and serve.

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Categories: gluten-free, nut-free, recipes, side dish, soy-free, vegan | Tags: | Leave a comment

Garden Pasta

We have green beans coming on, and I wanted to think of something to do with them besides, ya know, just steaming them. (Not, of course, that there’s anything wrong with just steaming them.)

So here is what I did.

I cooked 1 pound of shell pasta and rinsed it and set it aside.

In my food processor, I ground up:

1 heaping cup green onions
1/4 lb seitan/gluten
1 handful of fresh basil leaves (16 leaves, if you want an exact count)

Then I steamed 3/4 pound of fresh green beans whilst I chopped 2 cups fresh tomatoes.

Then I drained the beans and dumped all of the above components into a big pan, stirred in a little salt and oil and warmed it through.

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It was simply delightful and delicious, although neither Lou Who nor GooGoo would touch the green beans.

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Categories: dairy-free, garden, lunch, nut-free, pasta, recipes, side dish, vegan, vegetables | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Basic Brasilian Rice

I was going to take part in Vegan MoFo again this year. I signed up. My theme was going to be Music and Rice, and it was going to be super awesome.

But then I had a reality check. I’m preparing a concert with some friends that we’re intending to have ready by mid-September. I simply don’t have time to commit to MoFo with having to get that much music practise in!

So, I had to un-sign-up. Waaaaaaa. HOWEVER, I’m still planning to do my theme, just not all in one month. And I’m going to start now.

***

Among the various treasures preserved from my childhood is a cassette tape on which I’ve written in ballpoint pen: PIANO AND RICE.

Music and I go way back. This tape is a gem, created by my friend Edda and I, on which are some pieces she played from her piano lesson book and a fair number of brilliant original compositions such as “Mother and Me”, “Thunder and Lightning”, and “The Swan”, all of which were made up on the fly whilst our mothers, oblivious to the genius they had managed to gift the world, quietly had a garage sale out front.

Consider the lyrics to “The Swan:”

Gracefully she swims along
Down the Yahtzee river.
Along came a toad and ate her up,
Swimming down the river.
Along came a toad and ate her up,
Swimming down the river.
OH NO! Oh. No.

So, in honour of this ridiculous piece of nostalgia from my childhood, I have a dual, and perhaps wacky, theme this year involving two of my favourite things: music and rice. I will not limit this music to piano, because while I like piano, it’s not my favourite thing in the world any more.

So, to kick things off, here is some Bach, brilliantly executed on two harps, because Bach. And harps.

And why, you may ask, is the tape titled “Piano and Rice”? Well, the end of the tape is a recording I had running one evening when I was hungry for rice, and so it is a real-time chronicle of the making of a pot of rice for yours truly. I was probably 10 or 11. My dad sings a hit song called “Achy Breaky Rice” and one of the tracks is called “Atom Bombs and a Butt Imprint”.

Yes. I had an interesting childhood.

***

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I already used this picture in another post, but hey, rice is rice, and kind of boring to look at on its own.

SO ANYWAY. RICE IS KIND OF AWESOME. I’m kicking things off with my go-to rice recipe. It is super simple – just a few extra steps from regular rice cooking – but tastes like a million bucks, and I can’t really go back to plain old rice anymore! GooGoo and Lou Who both love it, even though GooGoo claims, “I don’t like gar-wick.”

This recipe is adapted from Matthew Locricchio’s The 2nd International Cookbook for Kids (this is *not* a vegan cookbook, but worth it for this recipe alone in my opinion!). My changes: reduce the oil, change the water/rice proportions, and use brown rice. And I’ve tripled it – the original calls for 1 cup of rice, but we go through so much rice in our house that it would be just dumb to not cook enough to last a few days all at once.

In a heavy-bottomed pan, stir together:
3 cups brown rice (I use plain long grain brown, but jasmine and basmati work fine too)
3 T crushed garlic (3 large cloves)
1/4 c oil
2 1/4 tsp salt

Turn on heat and cook rice for about 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly, to toast rice.

When the oil is beginning to absorb, add:
6 2/3 cups water

Stir together and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover pot, and allow to simmer 30-45 minutes. Don’t lift the lid until it looks like the water is almost absorbed.

When the water is absorbed (you will know because there will be steam holes in the rice that are no longer bubbling), turn off the heat and leave covered for 10 minutes. Then fluff with a fork and serve.

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Categories: gluten-free, nut-free, recipes, side dish, soy-free, vegan | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Corn Bread

When I first met Mr Pine Nut, he was more or less constantly engaged in a determined effort to make Really Good Cornbread. Except he didn’t want to use a recipe.

I tried to convince him that Baking is a Science, and Requires Accurate Measurements, but he wouldn’t believe me.

So we had quite a few pans of rather heavy cornbread together, unless I was cooking, in which case I used the recipe on the cornmeal bag, like my mother had always done. It came out okay, though it never seemed to be as nice as when my mom made it.

Eventually I got the recipe my mother-in-law had used when working in a retirement centre kitchen, and I’ve used it ever since with good success and very few adaptations (the original called for eggs, so that was my main change). It always comes out perfectly, except when I try to use flax eggs in it. Flax eggs do NOT work in this recipe. I don’t know why. I’ve tried a number of times and with varying amounts of water. So I stick with the Ener-G egg replacer for this one.

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The amount in black give you for either a pie pan or 9×9″ square pan. The amount in red gives you a 13×9″ pan batch.

Corn Bread
1 c (2 c) corn meal (sometimes I use a blend of corn flour and corn meal)
1/2 c (1 c) wheat flour
1/2 c (1 c) white flour
2 T (1/4 c) sugar
1/2 T (1 T) baking powder
1/2 tsp (1 tsp) salt
1/2 T (1 T) Ener-G egg replacer
2 T (1/4 c) water
1/3 c (2/3 c) oil (can do half applesauce)
1 c (2 c) non-dairy milk (any will work, and water will do in a pinch)
1/2 c (1 c) frozen corn (optional)

Now here are the SuperComplicated(tm) instructions!

In bowl #1, combine all dry ingredients.

In bowl #2, combine all wet ingredients.

Transfer contents of bowl #1 to bowl #2 and stir just until combined.

Pour into a sprayed pan and bake at 350. The 8×8″ will take roughly 20-25 minutes, and the 13×9 at least 30 minutes.

The toothpick test works this way for this recipe: at the end of your baking time, if it comes out clean, let it go another couple of minutes.

You can also do this in a cast-iron skillet with excellent results. I’ve been doing it that way a lot lately.

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Categories: bread, dairy-free, lunch, nut-free, recipes, side dish, soy-free, vegan | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Cookbook Review: Everyday Vegan Eats

I haven’t done any cookbook reviews lately, partly because I haven’t tried enough from any one cookbook to do it justice! But, Cadry’s Kitchen is having a giveaway of Everyday Vegan Eats, by Zsu Dever, and since I tested for this cookbook, I have tried a goodly number of the recipes in it (mostly different ones from the ones Cadry spotlighted! So, here goes. (Sorry that all the pics are lousy iPod pics. For some reason I either didn’t take any with my good camera, or they are hiding really well!)

Savoury Broth Mix: I have a mock chicken seasoning I make regularly that’s good enough, but I really liked this one for something with a little more depth and punch to it. It’s a good one to have made up and ready to go.

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Salsa Fresca: I’m a huge fan of fresh salsa and I really liked this. I particularly liked that it calls for no vinegar, which doesn’t sit well with me! It uses lime juice instead and it’s very simple to throw together.

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Timeless Tomato Sauce: Delicious! It has a secret ingredient that I would never have thought to stick in tomato sauce, but it was a great addition.

Tender Soy Curls: I made these once during testing to use in one of the tester recipes but I’ve also made it since then as a substitute for ground turkey in chili. Honestly I’m not the biggest fan of soy curls, but they tasted fine.

Bacon Tofu: This is the simplest, tastiest tofu bacon recipe EVER. It calls for 3 ingredients besides the tofu and it was fantastic. This has become my standard bacon. (For the record, it doesn’t work so well with tempeh. I tried.)

Comforting Noodle Soup: The flavour of this was awesome and it was a big hit with our Friday night group (despite the fact that I left the noodles in waaaaayyy too long and they had soaked up most of the broth. Oops.) In fact, it sounds really yummy to me right now being sick. Maybe I’ll make some for lunch today!

Chipotle Chili: Very tasty! I made this to try on its own as well as incorporated into the Chili Mac recipe. I liked the Chili Mac best but both were good.

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Mama’s Hungarian Bean Soup: I loved this one!

German Potato Salad: I didn’t officially test this one but I did make it on my own anyway. It was fabulous hot or cold.

Seven-Layer Tex-Mex Salad: This was delicious and colourful. Our Friday night group liked it!

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Meatless Pies in Buttermilk Herb Biscuits: This was the recipe I made the Tender Soy Curls for. I really liked these. They were a little time-consuming but not in a difficult way, just required some planning ahead.

Hungarian March of the Grenadiers: This is a potato dish that was so delicious there are no words. It uses the Hungarian Paprika Potatoes (separate recipe) and mashes them and serves them with pasta. Potatoes + Pasta = Always a win.

Whole Grain Rice Pilaf: I loved this so much. It is definitely one of the best pilafs I’ve tried. So many just fall short.

Mediterranean Quinoa with Fresh Herbs: I really liked this. It’s supposed to be eaten warm, but I made it as a cold salad and it was very tasty that way too!

Refried Beans with Tomatoes: These were so simple and so yummy.

Classic-Style Benedict: I’ve never had Eggs Benedict, but this was a mighty tasty (if also mighty rich) dish. Not something I would make on a regular basis, but definitely a yummy treat.

Fudge Brownies: These called for mashed bananas. Not being a fan of bananas, I made them anyway because it was such a small amount of banana! Both I and my friend’s bananaphobe daughter could still taste the banana. I still ate them though she didn’t want anything more to do with them. The banana flavour does intensify the next day, at which point I didn’t want any more to do with them either. But, the texture was really nice and everyone else aside from us two really liked them!

Caramel Sauce: Another recipe I’ve made multiple times since testing! I’m still struggling to get it right, because there are so many variables with candy making. Too hot? Too long? Sometimes it comes out like toffee and one time I actually got it slightly saucy. Any way it comes out, it still tastes good! I’ve used it in cookies, vegan ice cream, and other things.

Chocolate Chip Cookies: These taste like cookies from childhood. My favourite chocolate chip recipe is from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, but if you’re going for a more traditional texture and flavour, you would definitely want these.

Carrot Cake: I didn’t officially test this one either but I have made it. It was very good!

Blueberry Scones: DELISH.

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Soft Pretzels: I made the sweet cinnamon variation and they were all eaten up very, very quickly!

Are you hungry yet? Head over to Cadry’s Kitchen to enter the giveaway!

Categories: Cookbook Review | 3 Comments

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