Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Honey Vs. Agave Nectar

Ah, the great veg*n debate. I use both, interchangeably. Honey doesn't bother me as much as it does other herbivores, and I think that's mainly because I know where my honey comes from. I know the bees (they visit my backyard often), I know the man who collects their wonderfulness (he lives down the way) and I know that he loves his little stripy friends*. I don't know where my Agave nectar comes from, other than Mexico. I think it's the ingrained Locavore** mentality I grew up with that makes me more willing to use the honey from less than 10 miles away than the Agave nectar from a whole different country.
Still, Agave nectar is pretty yummy! I prefer it to honey in some teas for it's less pronounced flavor, and it kicks ass drizzled over fresh fruit. Then there's the low glycemic load. For a fat chick, it's always a plus to find a natural sweetener that fits my food plan***.
The caveat with Agave nectar is that in some applications I tend to use much more to get the same result as honey, so it kinda cancels out the benefits.

*Seriously. I watched the man cradle a dying queen bee and cry. He talked to her the whole time and thanked her for her children, and buried her in the lilac bushes.
**Upcoming blog post on this!
**Yes, by the by, I know about and use Stevia. In tea. I haven't found another way I like it, it has an icky aftertaste to me.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

January's Ingredient: Corn Meal

Corn Meal. I think it's one of the most versatile dry goods you can stock. As corn meal mush cereal, Indian pudding, corn bread, corn muffins, coating for fried foods, antifungal for your feet, your scalp and your plants, exfoliant for your skin, drying flowers and natural pest control, it's one of the most useful items you can have in the house.

Recipe 1: Good old Corn bread, regular and vegan style.

2 cups cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar, or as desired
1 1/2 cups milk, buttermilk or soured milk
2 large eggs
5 tablespoons butter, melted

Grease a 9-inch square baking pan. Heat oven to 400°.
In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.

In another bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, and butter. Combine the two mixtures and stir until blended. Spoon into the prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center.

From VegWeb: Cathie's Southern-Style Corn Bread

Cathie's Southern-Style Cornbread


1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2-3/4 cup sugar (I like mine really sweet so I use 3/4 cup)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon EnerG egg replacer powder (do not premix with water)
1 1/2 cups vegan buttermilk (1 tablespoon vinegar in a measuring cup and rest nondairy milk), divided
1/3 cup oil
1/4 cup very warm water
nonstick spray or vegetable shortening
to grease the pan


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place skillet into the oven to heat up. Sift together all dry ingredients.

2. Pour the oil, 1 cup of the "buttermilk", and the water into the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. The batter should be somewhat thin and puffy (i.e. the leavening agents should really be working), if not add the other 1/2 cup of "buttermilk". To be honest I always need all 1 1/2 cups.

3. Carefully remove skillet from the oven and spray really well with nonstick spray. Pour the batter into the skillet. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until a inserted toothpick comes clean.

4. Let cool for a few minutes and then carefully flip the cornbread onto a plate. Eat and Enjoy!!!

Recipe/Tip 2: Scalp Treatment

Mix a handful of cornmeal with your regular shampoo and scrub it in really well. Don't do this with every shampoo, one a month should be enough, unless you have a nasty case of dandruff or scalp sores. Even then, once a week should suffice.

Recipe 3: To dry Flowers

2 parts cornmeal to 1 part Borax
I find that if you have a plastic shoe box size tote, 4 cups of cornmeal to 2 cups of Borax works great. Mix the cornmeal and Borax together and spread a 2 inch layer in the bottom of the box. Cut the flower stems short, like an inch long, and lay your flowers on the mix, making sure to gently spread the petals as flat as possible. cover the flowers with with another inch or so of the mix, and cover the box. Tight. Make sure to put it in a place where it will stay at fairly even room temperature and won't be disturbed, then leave it for about a month, NO PEEKING! They retain color and shape very well this way, and are perfect for art and crafts.

Recipe 4: Indian Pudding
Yum, yum, yum!
This is a treat from my childhood, a delicious dessert from the Colonial folks.

Indian Pudding

4 cups milk
½ cup cornmeal
2 Tbsp. butter
½ cup molasses
½ cup maple syrup (preferably Grade B)
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ginger
Pinch nutmeg
2 eggs, well beaten

Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter a 2-quart casserole dish.

In a medium pot, bring milk to a gentle simmer. Very slowly whisk in cornmeal briskly to prevent clumping. Cook for 20 minutes, adjusting heat to maintain a gentle simmer, until mixture has thickened and coats the back of a spoon well. Remove from heat. Stir in the butter, molasses, maple syrup, salt, and spices until well blended. Temper the eggs, meaning slowly whisk in about ¼ cup of the hot pudding mixture to the beaten eggs, then return tempered mixture to the pot. This prevents the eggs from scrambling.

Pour mixture into a buttered casserole dish and bake about 1½ hours, until center is set (the center will still be soft, but you don’t want it to look liquidy). Set the casserole dish in a larger pan, then pour boiling water into the outer pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the pudding dish. Let sit at least 20 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or just milk.

New England Indian Pudding
8 servings, Total Time: 1 hour

Delicious hot or cold.
This is a colonial favorite; the molasses and maple syrup give this delicious pudding it's charastic New England flavor.


1 1/4 cups lite silken tofu (extra firm)
1/2 cup molasses( mild)
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 cups plain soy milk
1 cup cornmeal

Preheat oven to 350°,lightly oil 2 qt. baking dish.

Place tofu in food processor or mixing bowl and blend until smooth. Add molasses, maple syrup and cinnamon, blend and set aside.

Place 2 cups of the soymilk in a medium saucepan and pour cornmeal in gradually, whisking to blend. Using a spoon, continue to stir continually over medium heat, bringing the mixture to a boil. Add the remaining 2 cups of soymilk and continue to stir and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.

Add cormeal mixture to the tofu and, using processor or mixer, blend until smooth. Pour pudding into prepared baking dish. Set the baking dish in a larger pan, then pour boiling water into the outer pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the pudding dish. Bake for 45 minutes.

Pudding will seem liquid but will firm up as it cools. Serve warm.

Recipe 5: Corn Meal Mush
Filling, hearty and warming, a great breakfast, supper for an invalid or convalescent, or after a hard day in the cold.

From the Hillbilly Housewife, my favorite recipe. as she says, " Of all the breakfast cereals you can buy, this one is the least expensive."
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup cold tap water
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups hot tap water
In a small bowl, combine the cornmeal and cold tap water. Meanwhile, in a 2 quart pan, combine the salt and hot water. Bring it to a boil over high heat. While the water is heating, add the cornmeal mixed with the cold water. Combining the cornmeal with cool water before adding it to the boiling water keeps the cornmeal from lumping up when it hits the hot water. When the water and cornmeal boil, reduce the heat to low. Allow the mush to simmer for about 10 minutes, or until it is nicely thickened. If your cornmeal is less than fresh, you may add half a tablespoon of sugar to make it taste fresher and sweeter. This is very hearty for breakfast, and also makes a nice snack in the middle of the day. This recipe serves 4 to 6 people depending on how hungry they are.

Serve as you like, with butter and cheese, Noochesan, molasses and milk, or just butter/margarine and salt.

See? So versatile!

Stay tuned, I haven't decided what next moth's ingredient is yet.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Wow. It's been a whole year?!

I started this blog with awesome intentions, and then...It's been a really kaka year for me, and I am SO over 2010.

I am now an herbivore.

I will be posting recipes which can be omni-fied, and some meat recipes, cuz I live with two meat-eaters and cook for them as well as me.

I'd like to try an ingredient-of-the-month feature, and see what people think.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Basics: Part the Second Part

AKA: The Tool Box

Right off the bat, let me admit to something. I am a kitchen gadget JUNKIE. I have more nifty doodads in my kitchen tool drawer than anyone probably should. That being said, I can, and have lived with the very bare bones in my kitchen. So tonight's list will include only the things that are absolutely necessary. This list also assumes that you have things to eat off of and with dishes, flatware, etc.

The Basic Kitchen Tool List:

Large-ish pot. Somewhere around the vicinity of 6 quart (about 6L) capacity. Indispensable for making soup, boiling pasta, cooking rice, making oatmeal, boiling potatoes...etc.

Skillet/Frying Pan: By no means does it have to be the monstrosity I have which is about 17 inches (about 44 cm) in diameter, but a good 10 or 12 inch (25-30 cm) with a heavy or double bottom is an excellent investment. I can tell you from experience, thin bottomed pans are a disaster waiting to happen!

Colander/Spaghetti Strainer: Speaks for itself. Most of those things you cooked in the large pot need to be drained. I got mine at an antique shoppe for next to nothing. They come in plastic, aluminium, copper, enameled steel, whatever you get will be fine.

Knives: I can't live without my Chef's knife. It's heavy, wide-bladed and cost me about $15 USD at a discount SuperMegaMart Which Shall Remain Unnamed. It does MANY more things than it is designed to for me. I may own about 30,000 blades, but all in all, I can get by with exactly 3 blades in my kitchen.
As Follows:
Chef's Knife: Oh, the possibilities. Slice, mince, dice, julienne, smash garlic.
Utility Knife: For all the things too small for the bigguns, but too big for the paring knife.
Paring knife: Peeling apples and melons and squash, opening bell peppers, scoring citrus peels.

Peeler: Scraping carrots and parsnips, turnips, potatoes. You can do these tasks with a paring knife, but the peeler makes it SO much easier.

Mixing Bowls: In a few different sizes. Make sure you have a fairly big one if you plan to do any baking, though.

Measuring Cups and Spoons: I like to have a set of dry measure cups and a 2-4 cup liquid measure too. Saves me from dirtying a mixing bowl to prepare the liquid ingredients to be added to the dry.

Wooden Spoons: To stir batter, crush sugar and salt, stir stir-fry, spank your husband when he invades your kitchen with (wait...that's just me). If you get the super-cheap ones, rub them with olive oil before you use them, it'll extend their useful life and cut down on "cheap spoon splinter syndrome."

Whisk: There are many things a whisk is good for, most of which you can use a fork for. The whisk simply makes it easier on your wrists!

Cookie Sheet: Not just cookies, but biscuits, pizza, bread, rolls, baked "fries" can all be made on a cookie sheet. Sides are nice, but not necessary.

Casserole/Baking Dish: Now, I have these in 3 sizes, but can get away with just 1, so long as it is a squarish, sturdy ceramic or glass baking dish about 10x10 or 12x12. Baking dishes can be used for casserole, pot pie, brownies, apple pie, bar cookies, roasting vegetables, you name it!

Blender: I could add this in the "nice, but not necessary" list, but if you are an herbivore like me you will use it every day. Doesn't need to be fancy, but should have a glass jar/pitcher part. Bought mine at a thrift shop for about $10.

This is the very barebones, basic, list. You can add gadgets and geegaws as you see fit, but with the implements on this list and nothing else you can make everything from humble oatmeal to a gourmet meal.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Basics: Stuff you should have on hand anyway

Most of my recipes are built on some staples that I always keep on hand. The foundation ingredients that I can't cook without. None of them are exotic, and chances are if you've got here, you have them, or their equivalent anyhow.

Stuff Like:

Flour: whatever kind you like, really. Personally I use 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 all purpose.

Corn Meal: another one of my favorite "nutritious and versatile" items

Milk: again, whatever you like. Ricemilk, Soymilk, Almond Milk, Cow Milk, Goat Milk. tend to keep regular whole milk in the house for coffee (COFFEE!!) and tea, and a big box of powdered milk for cooking and baking.

Eggs: Or your favorite egg replacer. has a pretty good article on egg replacers.

Onions: Tasty, versatile, nutritious onions.

Carrots: Also tasty, also nutritious, also very versatile.

Garlic: In cloves, in jars or just powder, garlic can liven up almost anything!

Rice: Any kind. But real rice, not instant, minute, or boil-in-the-bag.

Noodles/Pasta/Macaroni: Whatever you call them, they can complement, round out or stretch a meal with ease.

Butter: Or margarine, as long as it's the stuff you can cook with. I say that because some of the new fancy shmancy "buttery spread" type stuff says right on it "not recommended for cooking or baking". Believe them.

Baking Powder: Too many uses for it!

Baking Soda: If for no other reason that to put out grease fires in the kitchen!

Sugar: I don't use much, because I can't, but a little bit in the right places makes a BIG difference.

Salt: See sugar.

Oil: Here there be monsters. Oil comes in several different "flavors" according to what it's squeezed out of. Olive oil, canola (rapeseed) oil, corn oil, peanut oil, and the ubiquitous "vegetable oil," which is usually soybean oil. All I can honestly say is READ. THE. LABEL. One or two of these are always in my kitchen, usually some extra-virgin olive oil and vegetable or corn oil.

Shortening: Again, flavors. I prefer to use vegetable shortening, but if commodities/food pantry trips/whatever hand me lard, I'll use it.

Pepper: Black pepper, like garlic, can save almost any bland dish.

Cocoa Powder: Unsweetened cocoa powder is one thing I definitely can NOT love without. For making beverages, baked goods, stews and chili, it's another one of my go-to items.

CONDIMENTS: The ones I can't live without:

Soy Sauce or Tamari
Worcestershire Sauce
Parmesan Cheese
Peanut Butter (heh)
Syrup (pancake/maple)
Honey or Agave Nectar

YMMV, but this is my list. I'm sure there are things I forgot, but if you start with that list, you have several meals on hand. I can think of at least 3 breakfasts, a lunch or two, and with the addition of some different proteins, a few suppers.

Next up: The ToolBox!

Here there be Noms!

I have decided that it isn't yet economically feasible for me to publish my cookbook. So, At the behest of several of my friends, I shall blog my recipes for you!