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Culinary Wanderings #4

Welcome to the fourth edition of Culinary Wanderings! To give me a way to share a bit about my culinary adventures, and to learn from all of yours, I’ll be writing a post on the last Tuesday of each month to share any new recipes, ingredients, or other discoveries I’ve made in the kitchen. I would love for you to join by sharing your favorite or most recent food-related post from the month.  Anything food-related that you want to share is appropriate!

Last month I mentioned that, inspired by my friend Laura, I had started experimenting with baking all of our bread. Since then, bread baking has become something of an obsession. I had never realized just how intoxicating the smell of an almost done loaf is as it wafts from the oven. It’s addicting. I tried a no knead recipe, but the ease failed to excite me, instead making me realize how therapeutic kneading dough really is. Here are the different recipes I tried this month, along with a few notes. If you have a favorite bread recipe, please share!

Annabelle's response when I showed her how to juice the oranges after using their rinds for bread. She preferred to eat them instead.

  • Swedish Limpa Rye - This incredible bread was slightly sweet, thanks to orange rind and molasses, and was perfect at breakfast time. I baked it late at night, and the next morning Andrew half complained that its (amazing) smell had woken him up from a deep sleep. I took the recipe from my beloved old Betty Crocker Cookbook, but found and linked you to an identical one. I replaced the white flour with white whole wheat, and was sure to use blackstrap molasses, as it’s rich in iron.
  • Then there was this No Knead Sandwich Bread, which I baked twice because the husband loved it. I don’t love the microwave, so I was not crazy about the idea of heating my flour that way, but had success putting it in a warm oven while I got everything else ready and proofed my yeast instead. This is definitely an easy, quick bread, but it was really tough to look at that beautiful ball of dough and not stick my hands in it!
  • King Arthur’s Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread failed to excite me, though I did not have sunflower seeds on hand and had to substitute active dry yeast for instant yeast, which was a new concept for me. I have since secured some instant yeast and plan to see if it’s all King Arthur talks it up to be or not. I’ll report back.
  • My first attempt at Sourdough Rye was an exercise in frustration, but in the end I found it to be pretty good. I had tried making sourdough starters in the past, only to forget about them and end up having to toss them out. I was determined to stay with it this time, however, and made a beautiful rye starter over the course of a week. My initial failure with this recipe clued me in to the fact that there was more to sourdough baking than I realized, however, and I found some great, detailed information  on sourdough starters and, a new concept to me, sourdough sponges, thanks to a new-to-me blog. I was glad that I finally made an edible loaf with this recipe, but it was not my favorite, so I took my newfound knowledge and moved on.
  • This time, I turned to King Arthur yet again and tried my hand at Sourdough Pumpernickel Bread. It felt a bit odd to mix chopped onion with coffee and some bubbling concoction from my refrigerator, but the resulting bread turned out to be well worth any weirdness along the way. I took half of my massive loaf and shared it with friends to stop myself from eating the entire thing.
  • My main goal in the bread baking experiment was to find the perfect bread for sandwiches and toast. The breads we buy in the store are whole wheat, but are still soft and light and I really wanted to replicate that. I love a good, crusty bread as an accompaniment to soups and stews, but not so much for a sandwich. I finally found exactly what I was looking for in the recipe that Melissa of White Noise linked up last month. I could not believe how absolutely, magnificently perfect it was! I used whole wheat flour and replaced the sugar with coconut sugar, but still felt like the sugar content was high. The bread did not taste any more sweet than your average wheat, but the amount seemed like a lot. Melissa said she has had success cutting the amount in half, so I think I’ll give that a try next time.
  • As long as I was on a bread baking kick, it felt wrong to buy storebought tortillas when I made Mexican food, so I tried out this recipe for Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas and was thrilled with the result.

I made more than just bread, too, I promise! On our Mexican food night, I tried cashew cream instead of buying the terrible for you Tofutti Sour Cream I was craving. It was a bit saltier than it needed to be, but other than that I was pleased. I also tried making a Pepper Jack Block “Cheese” from The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook and I could not have been more happy. It sliced beautifully and was delicious, nevermind the great list of ingredients. All of my favorite storebought vegan “cheeses” are guilty pleasures because, while delicious, they’re not the least bit nutritious. Such was not the case with this one. I loved it!

Other new recipes tried included Tempeh Burgers, which were just okay and Lentil Meatballs, which worked out wonderfully with some recipe modifications and made great lentil burgers as well. If you’re interested in those, my review on the recipe linked explains them in detail, so I won’t go into it here. While I was toying around with gluten, I decided to give Vegan Dad’s Chickenless Nuggets a go as well. I wasn’t super thrilled with them, but may toy with the recipe some other time. I also tried the Orange-Basil Tofu that Jennifer linked to in one of her meal plans last month. There was no fennel in the store that week, so I tried it without and still found the dish to be very flavorful, if a bit spicier than I usually like.

Photo Credit: Studio Gabe // Gabriel Li on Flickr

The star of the month, however, was Alton Brown’s granola recipe, with a few changes to suit our sensibilities. I used coconut oil instead of vegetable oil, skipped the brown sugar, and added two tablespoons of blackstrap molasses, a teaspoon of vanilla, and a teaspoon of cinnamon, and it was absolutely perfect! The first batch went so quickly that I made a double batch the following week and just picked up more maple syrup today so that I can try again. Ever since our trip to Italy, Annabelle has been requesting cold cereal every morning and, while the kind I’ve been buying for her is pretty healthy, I don’t exactly feel like an awesome mom when I pour something out of a box into a bowl, cover it with something out of carton, and call that breakfast. I was so happy to offer her a bowl of homemade granola instead, and I’m hoping to phase the cold cereal out. The husband took jars of granola to work as a snack and I ended up having to share the recipe with one of his coworkers, while others asked if I was going to start selling the stuff. It’s fantastic!

While it may sound like I’ve been slaving away in the kitchen, baking everything from scratch, I must confess I have also been thanking my lucky stars for Amy’s Organics. The movers came yesterday and sent all of our things on their way, so it was hectic as can be around here for a week or so as we organized and prepared for the big day. Neither of us was up for cooking, so we have had some very lazy meals. I forgive myself.

What have you been cooking up? I’d love for you to link up any recent recipes, meal plans, or other food related posts of your own!

15 Responses to Culinary Wanderings #4

  • Rach says:

    Oh wow, they all sound amazing. I just can’t cook like that with B around. I try involving her (interested sometimes) but she will only tolerate me pootling around the kitchen for a little while before she starts wanting attention. Frustraing, but my days of proper cooking will return. It is part of my reason for moving, a big open plan space would make things easier for sure.

    • melissa says:

      I hadn’t even thought about how our floor plan might contribute to Annabelle’s willingness to hang around and work in the kitchen. I guess it is pretty ideal for that! Hopefully you can find a space that suits you all soon!

  • I’ve been thinking about trying my hand at homemade tortillas, but have never quite got around to it. I’m going to bookmark that recipe, though, and try it out one day!

    Also, I made pot pies yesterday with a cashew gravy, as per your suggestion last month, and they were so good! Thanks for the tip!

    • melissa says:

      I have tried them a few times, and I think this is my favorite recipe so far! So glad to know you enjoyed your pot pies – thanks for reporting back. Those are one of my favorite things! :)

  • Hi new reader here, found your blog from She always loved larking! These all sounds amazing! I would love to become a better cook!

    • melissa says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Jennifer! I’m glad you found me, and especially glad that you took time to say hello! :)

  • Jess says:

    Ooo Melissa! I love your cooking posts. Ok I have been wanting to make my own tortillas for a while (we eat a lot of them) and you have inspired me to just do it.
    My dad stayed home with us when we were little and was always baking bread, I have many memories of the smells. I may even have to try my hand at it.

    • melissa says:

      Thanks, Jess! So glad to know someone is enjoying them :) Sometimes I feel like these things are mostly for my own amusement!

      That must be one of the many reasons you have such a deep appreciation for your father – how cool that he was able to stay home with you, and that he was a baker, too! The more you talk about him, the more he seems like a pretty remarkable man. I’d love to hear how things go if you try the tortillas, or even give bread a go.

      • Jess says:

        Yep. He was a free-lance artist and made our formula using Adele Davis book. He was a very hands on dad, before it was ok to be. I am going to show David the recipe and I think we will tackle it together. He makes me do a lot of things I am hesitant about ;)

  • teresa says:

    Wow! I’m amazed. All those breads alone!!!
    I have to get that uncheese book. I can’t believe you made your own cheese. So cool.
    And the granola for sure. Especially with the blackstrap molasses. Melody needs that and I haven’t found a way to get it into her. It’s a bit strong straight up.
    I’m a bit intimidated by the quality of what you’ve done here…but since I know you and what you’d probably say to that… I will add a recipe too. I just have to think of something good.
    and of course, love the photo of A with the orange.

    • melissa says:

      Just remember that I’m trying other people’s recipes, not writing my own. I’m merely following directions! ;)

      I’d say any of your nutrition posts qualify, but I’d be thrilled to see a recipe from you, too!

      xoxo

  • Hi- thanks for hosting! What a wonderful linky idea- thanks for putting it up on my linky love page;-) Enjoy a great week! Rebecca@ Natural Mothers Network ( Seasonal Celebration) x

  • Hi Melissa and thanks once again for hosting- Enjoy the week ahead! Rebecca @ Natural Mothers Network ( Seasonal Celebration Sunday) x

    • melissa says:

      Thanks for adding your recipes Rebecca! I have been drooling over them, and can’t believe I’m just now getting over to look at them more closely. :)

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