Squash Randomly Stuffed

Yesterday I had the task of baking some acorn squash.  Of course, my first thought was that it would be incredibly boring alone.  Arming myself with random accessories, I went to work.

First up, onion, always have to have onion (it was about 1 cup total).  Diced well, it was.  Eyes watered, they did.  Finger check reveals all are intact, so that went well.  +10 XP for not slicing any fingers!

Next, cashews and Craisins.  Those were set aside to top the squash.  The dosage:  “enough”.  They are accents, so keep that in mind.

Finally, barley.  It had to have some substance to it.  I decided to be bold and not cook it at all before hand.  This, right here, was the very thing that prompted me to muse I hope this doesn’t taste like crap.

From this point, there’s what I did and what I’ll do the next time.

What I did:  Halved two acorn squashes.  Scooped out seeds.  Placed in appropriately sized casserole dish.  Liberally drizzed with olive oil.  Filled with mix of barley and onion.  Topped with craisins and cashews.  Poured a little maple syrup over each (2T?).  Baked at 400F for 1 hour covered.  Covered is important here to keep the moisture in — or you’ll end up with barley pebbles and that does taste bad.

What I’d do the next time:  put the barley in first and make sure it is covered, covered, covered by everything.  Completely.  I might even put 1T of water into each squash cavity.  The barley cooked but, heh, barely.  The barley on top was crunchy — which was not all that great.  It was edible, but not all that great.

Otherwise, this was awesome.  Perhaps adding some apple would be good too.  That would add more moisture and help the barley cook.

But the best part is that this was relatively fast.  The largest effort, in order was: (1) prepping the squash, (2) dicing the onion, (3) washing my hands to get the onion juice off.

And there you have it:  Squash Randomly Stuffed which did not taste like crap.

Exquisite Power Drink of Chilling (aka Iced Cafe Americano)

Trying to keep up here a little so, like adventuring, a little something is better than nothing at all.  A peek around a corner, an undiscovered treasure, or simply that room you’ve walked by dozens of times and never bothered to peek in.  And the latter is what this is for me.  I have an espresso machine.  I have ice.  I know what cafe Americano is (espresso + hot water so it is the same volume as a “cuppa”).  But I have never, until recently, made this … exquisite power drink of chilling.

What I didn’t know is that this can be done wrong.  You can either have something very tasty and chilled, or something bitter, vile, cold, and perhaps mistaken for that jar of dragon urine you keep around for disintegrating trespassers.

After no experimentation, and some reading, here is what happily hit on the first time.  Fill the intended glass with ice (typically a pint glass) and then empty that ice into a Pyrex measuring cup.  Brew the espresso, typically a double (i.e., doppio).  Place a metal spoon into the measuring cup and slowly pour the espresso over the ice.  The hot espresso will melt some of the ice yielding cafe americano.  The remainder of the ice compliments what is now an iced cafe americano.

Drink.  Enjoy.  Feel teh powah.  Roll save vs. caffeine rush.  Failure results in 1d10 turns spent talking like Cornholio.

Vegan Elixir of The Dude (AKA a Vegan White Russian)

Man… sometimes you just need some existential contemplation while ponderously crunching ice flavored heavily of coffee, drenched in a creamy flavor, and backed up by the liberating aspects of a good vodka.  Therefore, after trial and error, I bring you The Dude’s favorite beverage cast into a vegan form.  Polymorphed, if you will, but not transmogrified.

It’s simple, man.  Instead of cream, use Silk soy-milk.  It is, like, thicker than other soy-milks so it makes that creamy goodness that is enjoyable in a white russian.  My preferred mix is 1:1*, coffee liqueur to vodka, and then put in whatever amount of Silk I want which is usually at least twice the mixed amount.

Remember not to drink and adventure.  And, above all, remember… The Dude abides.

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Kale Chips … of FIRE

Lately we have been drowning in a see a greenery which has resulted in … yep … salads.  An adventure in a salad is a lot like a 15th level Paladin walking in on a room of 1st level skeletons.  For the uninitiated — none whatsoever.  However, there is sometimes a rare jewel that makes things interesting.  A bauble that drops from nowhere and suddenly the mundane turns interesting.  And so it is with kale chips of fire.

Typically I find kale unappealing.  I’ve used it before.  I’ve made soups with it.  I’ve sauteed it.  I’ve otherwise abused it into a form I would eat and hopefully digest.  But this recipe makes all the difference in the world.

Preheat an oven to 350F.  While it warms, remove the kale leaves from the stems and shred them into something resembling the size of your favorite chips.  Reckon an amount that would cover a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and reserve the rest for another time.  In a large bowl, toss the kale you plan to use with a light coating of olive oil, a dash of salt, perhaps a little pepper, and red pepper flakes (quantity of your choosing…).  Spread on the parchment paper lined cookie sheet and place in oven.  Bake for 10-20 minutes and keep an eye on them.  The goal is to bake them until most of them turn brown.

Let them cool a bit and enjoy.

When I first made this, I got a little eager with the red pepper.  As a result, I conjured a fire elemental to wander about the chips for awhile… and then in my glowingly warm belly.  They were kicky, but they were good.  And I vanquished them.

Spiced Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies (of enduring tastiness)

For a long time I made my grandmother’s recipe for oatmeal cookies.  Recently I started wanting crispier cookies and then we tried this vegan experiment which demanded finding a different recipe.

This recipe is almost certainly a lingering winner.  I am even experimenting with a protein-like bar variation.

  • 3/4 cup margarine
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup soy milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 cups quick cooking or rolled oatmeal
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Cream together the margarine and sugars until smooth. Add vanilla and soy milk and mix well.

Add flour, baking soda and spices until well mixed, then stir in oats and cranberries.

Spoon 1 1/2 inch balls onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees, or until done.

But, of course, I’m not posting here just because I like to use copy/paste.  My first modification to this was to find a way to increase the crispiness.  I tried baking for 20 minutes and that didn’t do it.  My attempt to bake for 25 minutes failed due to “I’ll remember” as apposed to using a timer… oops.  What I also did on that attempt was use vegetable oil instead of margarine — which I think helped.  The cookies did come out crispy, but some were a tad scorched.  I do also notice a huge difference depending on the pan used… so, as they say, ymmv.

My next, measured, test will be to follow the same second modification but to definitely time them for 25 minutes.  There is a chance I cooked them for 30 minutes which is why they were overly crisp, though still edible.

Protein Bar Attempt #1

This is a relatively easy variation.  Changes and additions were…

  • +1 cup flour (so, 2 cups)
  • 2oz (basically, two servings) protein powder of choice (mine was one soy, one rice)
  • +1/2 cup soy milk (so 1 cup)
  • Optionally, replace cranberries with another berry mix like an anti-oxidant mix

I then spread this out on a cookie sheet to get it as flat as possible.  Bake the same way.

Results:  It was edible, in a good way.  It wasn’t as dense as I wanted nor as protein-like.  It was also more moist than I inteded.

Next time:  an additional scoop of protein, 1/2c less flour (so 1-1/2c), and +5 minutes cook time.

Ambush of Spices Chick-Pea Stew

I learned a lesson recently that is very important:  no two powdered cinnamons are created equally.  Some are bland and cardboard-like and others can almost light my mouth on fire.  This (http://www.simpleveganrecipes.co.uk/index.html?recipe=recipes/vegan-chickpea-stew-recipe.html) recipe could vary wildly depending on what kind of cinnamon was used.  But that’s not the only ambush — for me, the ambush was the lack of spices listed in the ingredients list.  Once again there is much importance for a Kitchen Kleric to read an entire spell — you don’t want to invoke the Kooking Kthulhu because you trip up half-way through a recipe.

  • 2T ground cinnamon
  • 2T ground cumin
  • 2T ground corriander
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 8 oz. (200g) carrots, halved and coarsely chopped (about 4 … ish)
  • 4 oz. (100g) sweetcorn (1 cup)
  • 8 oz. (200g) courgettes (zucchini)
  • 8 oz. (200g) chick-peas, cooked (or 2 tins of pre-cooked chick-peas)
  • 3 cups water
  • 4 tbsp. tomato purée

Mix dry spices.  Heat 2T olive oil and saute onion and carrots for 5-10 minutes.  Stir in dry spices.  Cook for 2-3 minutes.  Stir in sweetcorn, courgettes, chick-peas, water, tomato purée.  Simmer for 25-30 minutes.

Paella — but you can call me Goulash

When I was a kid, a family friend once entered the room with a bowl of some sort of food.  When I asked what it was he gave me a sinister look and declared “Goulash…”.  I’ve since looked up goulash, but whenever I see a mixture of stuff that is tomato-rich, I think of him.

I think this (http://www.simpleveganrecipes.co.uk/index.html?recipe=recipes/vegan-paella-recipe.html) was one of the first vegan recipes I made from this book.  It is good enough to repeat and I think the presence of the cashews makes a nice crunch and adds a good flavor.  This was the amusing recipe I was thinking of that lists spices in the directions that aren’t in the ingredients list and the ingredients were very out of order.  I have fixed that below.

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2t chili powder
  • 12 oz. (300g) brown rice (1 cup)
  • 3 cups (800ml) of vegetable stock
  • 6 fl.oz. (150ml) dry white wine (or substitute with 1 tbsp vinegar)
  • 1 can (454g) chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2t tarragon
  • 1t basil
  • 1t oregano
  • 1T tomato puree
  • 1 red and 1 green pepper, roughly chopped
  • 3 sticks celery
  • 8 oz. (200g) mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 oz. (50g) mange tout [1] topped and tailed
  • 4 oz. (100g) frozen peas
  • 2 oz. (50g) broken cashew nuts (about 1/2 cup)

In a large, heavy saucepan saute the onion in 4T olive oil.  Add chili powder and the rice and cook for 4-5 minutes.  Add vegetable stock, wine, tomatoes, tarragon, basil, oregano, tomato puree, . Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add peppers, celery, mushrooms, mange tout and cook for another 30 minutes until the rice is cooked. Add peas, cashew nuts, salt and pepper. Heat through until peas are ready and serve.

[1] The other fun I had was “mange tout”.  Being silly I wondered “what’s a mangy toot?”  It’s unripened pea pods for the not French among us.