Steak ‘n Eggs

As far as making things for other people goes, I’ve always been much more of a baker than a cook… this is also perhaps because I dated a chef for the last 3 years and let him handle that realm.

Since that ended, though, I’ve been meaning to try my hand at cooking things that would typical of something you would make for other people, even if they aren’t things I eat on a regular basis, say, steak. Never tried cooking a big piece of cow by myself before, and I’ve always had this sense that properly cooking a steak was some sort of life skill.

So, when this Groupon for Paulina Meat Market appeared in my inbox, I figure the opportunity had presented itself. I went with a friend last weekend, and picked up a decent-sized New York strip and a flat iron.

I broiled the strip, and that was pretty fun because I’ve never used the broiler function in an oven before. The first time I took it out, it was underdone, so I put it back in – probably for just a bit too long, since it ended up a little too medium for my liking. But, as it was my first time broiling anything, I was pleased with the result anyway.

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YEAH giant-ass food porn.

And yeah I instagrammed that shit all over my social media, I was so proud of myself. That sautee to the side was fantastic too – just garlic sauteed kale with mushrooms and onions, finished with balsamic vinegar. I’ll be making that again soon.

The flat top wasn’t as thick, so I cooked it on my grill pan. That came out perfectly, since I was able to employ the pokey method of testing for doneness… it’s supposed to feel like the area between your thumb and your forefinger or something? Cilantro lime brown rice with yellow pepper and black beans was my side for that, and I had some fancy leftovers for lunch all week. 🙂

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So, hurrah, steak. I can now make steak for people. What’s weird is that I sometimes get the inclination to learn how to make things that I’m allergic to, like eggs. I don’t know why. That seems ludicrous. I hope to have kids without allergies – that’s the dream, so maybe I’m thinking I would cook eggs for them? But I’ve heard they’re really easy to make, so that’s something I’ll leave for my future husband to make.

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Cornmeal Lime Shortbread Cookies

I’ve been baking more often than I’ve been posting, but like I mentioned earlier, I prefer to only post the recipes of things I’m happy with.

I made these bacon-soynut butter cookies, which were just a bit too greasy and had an odd texture… there was no flour in the recipe, just sugar, bacon and soynut butter, pretty much.

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Decidedly not vegan.

Then I made some potato onion poppy seed loaves. And supposedly those were pretty good, and the batter was good but I never actually got to taste the finished product so no, I cannot endorse it yet!20130819-195846.jpg

But anyway, since I can’t ever make normal things and I have a big ol’ box of cornmeal in the pantry, I looked up “cornmeal cookies” and found this cornmeal lime shortbread cookie recipe, from Vegan Mother Hubbard. Small alterations of mine included mixing by hand as opposed to a mixer, and using margarine as opposed to earth balance.

I think mine were about 2.5 inches in diameter, and that made 22 cookies.

Pleased to announce that this recipe’s a keeper. The cornmeal gives it an interesting flavor, and goes well with the lime, but there’s enough fat in there so that the texture isn’t overwhelmingly grainy. Good stuff.

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#nofilter

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I Met Travis Schaffner

This weekend has been so incredibly excellent – I caught up with old friends, had a proper beach day, and enjoyed a wonderful 4th of July, during which I watched one of my best guy friends propose to his girlfriend. But the part that actually relates to this blog is that I FINALLY MET TRAVIS SCHAFFNER AND TOLD HIM HOW COOL I THOUGHT HE WAS.

Eff yeah. I wanted to write about him a while ago and now I will.

Anyway, if you don’t know, Travis owns The Wormhole Coffee in Wicker Park, which is a cafe/shrine to the 80s-early 90s. It’s got a Back to the Future replica Delorean, a Nintendo system in the back (complete with Duck Hunt) and Gremlins toys and Goonies posters and is constantly overrun with hipsters. At some point when I first moved to Bucktown, I think I stopped in for the throwback vibe and discovered that, in addition to soy lattes, they also peddle vegan doughnuts (really superior ones at that)! Bam, go-to cafe. I holed up on the couch by the window dozens of times to study during the MPH years.

At some point when I was there, I remember asking the barista to make sure the steamer for my latte was wiped off due to the milk allergy. “Oh don’t worry, we have a dedicated steamer for non-dairy drinks.” Oh? That’s nice! “Yeah, our owner, Travis, is really allergic to milk too.”

orly

I mean when I think coffee shop, I think copious amounts of milk frothing everywhere. Not the first business I’d consider for someone with a dairy allergy.

But, how awesome. And yeah, why not take that dairy allergy and open up a cafe where people with similar restrictions can enjoy some good coffee and a doughnut? After I found that out, The Wormhole kinda reached beloved status for me, as did Fritz Pastry, where the vegan doughnuts and other offerings (pop-tarts!) are made (Fritz had different owners at one point, but Travis bought the place in 2011 – more on that in this RedEye article). I’d actually never been to Fritz, but I told myself I would go there someday and see where these magical doughnuts came from and maybe even meet the man himself. Maybe I’d even interview him for a blog post or something.

But I never really had the time or motivation to hike over there when I was in Bucktown and Wormhole was so much closer. Cut to now, when I live in Roscoe Village and Fritz is a very easy bike ride from my apartment. And last Saturday morning, I was craving something sweet after my bootcamp workout, and figured I’d go to Fritz on my way home.

So I go in and stroll up to the counter all, “I need something that’s vegan and nut-free.” Barista’s all like, “Okay, well there’s these doughnuts over here, and these muffins are all okay for you, and then there’s these cupcakes… oh and these scones here are vegan and nut-free too.” Ahhhhh! I was so overwhelmed I just went with a doughnut (cranberry-orange variety. for vitamins).

Anyway, while I was fishing out some money to pay for it, the barista goes “Hi, Travis,” so I’m all like “Wait, where’s Travis?!” and she points to the guy who has suddenly appeared next to me. So I turned to him and started babbling about my allergies and how much I loved The Wormhole and how awesome I thought it was that he owned a coffee shop even with a dairy allergy and how great it was that I could get a soy latte and a tasty doughnut, etc etc, all intents of any sort of “interview” forgotten (I’m sure he was busy anyway). But he let me shake his hand and introduce myself and he thanked me for my kind words.

No Travis, thank you! Because places like The Wormhole and Fritz exist, I can have a soy latte from somewhere other than Starbucks and not worry about any contamination, and I can have probably the best vegan doughnut in the city to boot… Oh, and Fritz also has a brunch menu with several vegan options (see post bemoaning the general lack of these) which I will come back to try in the near future. Again, you are awesome and inspiring, and I wish you the utmost success with all of your endeavors.

***

Oh and side note, another reason why I think Travis is cool is that he also seems to have a thing for classic RPGs, thus this Zelda-inspired Wormhole shirt that I have.

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power-wisdom-courage-caffeine

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Bully Article

Felt like breaking up the stream of recipe posts with a link to this sad article from the NYT on food allergies and bullying. I do have a “news” category, after all.

I’d love to be able to say definitively that the adversity I faced growing up with allergies has made me stronger and more resilient, but who knows.

 

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Assorted goods, perfectionism

I’ve actually been baking a lot since school’s been over-

School is over! Maybe forever! I have a master’s degree!

Anyway, since I don’t have to spend the evenings and weekends in academia land, I’ve had the free time to experiment with new recipes. None of which have been written about individually because I wasn’t 100% satisfied with them (except for maybe the cornbread, which I didn’t take a picture of anyway, go figure). That’s not to say that anything was totally awful or unappreciated – I just don’t feel like posting the recipe for something if I wouldn’t recommend it for someone else to try.

Especially not chocolate chip cookies.

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tastydough

They’re one of those standard goods that I feel anyone who’d call themselves a baker needs to have go-to recipe for, and I haven’t found mine. I tried making some a few weeks ago, and while the dough was delicious, they came out flat, crunchy and very greasy – not what I was going for. Therefore, I am not posting the recipe. My mom did give me a couple tips on how to get a fluffier texture, so I’ll probably make another attempt soon.

These lemon cake things were another taste-good, texture-not-so-much effort:

lemonrocks

lemonrocks

Don’t let the glaze fool you, these came out dry and dense, and I honestly could’ve used them as weapons a day later. The recipe said to bake at 350 for an hour, which I think was far too long.

Buuuuut last weekend I made margarita cupcakes, and I was actually pleased with how they turned out!

neondelights

neondelights

This recipe is apparently from “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World,” which is by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, of Post Punk Kitchen fame. She knows what she’s doing. These are moist and delicious and didn’t even require an egg replacement. Your kitchen will smell like tequila (added bonus?)

Cupcakes (makes 12)

  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp lime zest (1 lime)
  • 1 cup vanilla soymilk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp tequila
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Boozy Frosting
  • 1/4 margarine
  • 1 tbsp soymilk
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp tequila
  • 2+ cups confectioners’ sugar (as much as needed for desired consistency)
  • 2-3 drops green food coloring (optional, I suppose)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Fill a 12-cup muffin tin with liners.

2. In a large bowl, mix together lime juice, lime zest, soy milk, oil , tequila, vanilla and sugar.

3. In a small bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add to lime mixture and stir until just combined, then spoon into muffin tins (this is low-viscosity batter, it will be messy).

4. Bake for 20-24 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the cakes spring back when lightly pressed.

5. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

6. For the frosting, cream together margarine, soymilk, lime juice, tequila, and 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar.

7. Add in more sugar as needed to make frosting stiff, but spreadable. I added some cornstarch, as I ended up running out of sugar.

To be honest, you could probably halve all the liquids for the frosting and be all right. No matter how stiff it looks in the bowl, it will spread out over the cupcakes just the same, so you don’t need a lot of it (you can see I added too much to the top two in the photo and had to wipe away the excess). Enjoy!

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Date Bars

As in the fruit, date. Perhaps not as approachable as say, apples or raspberries, at least as far as dessert fillings go. Which I get, I mean they’ve got a pretty strong flavor. But every spring I actually get mild cravings for them, probably because my mom’s version of charoset always had dates in it. And the tastes pairs up well with oats. So, a few weeks ago, I took a stab at these oatmeal date bars.

Recipe stolen and tweaked from the Rollin’ Oats Market and Cafe website. I omitted the walnuts and added cornstarch, since the dates weren’t thickening up their own (maybe nuts are a thickening agent?)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Medjool dates, coarsely chopped (this seemed roughly equivalent to a 12oz package, maybe slightly less)
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • Pinches of nutmeg and cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups white flour
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup margarine or non-dairy butter alternative

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a saucepan, combine dates, WHITE sugar (I used the brown by mistake at first, it was annoying to fix), and water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, and add spices and cornstarch. Stir occasionally, 10-15 minutes, until dates are soft & mixture is thick.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar & baking soda. Knead in margarine until dough forms. Press half of dough evenly in the bottom of a 13″x9″ pan. Bake 15 min. until lightly golden.
  3. Spread date mixture evenly over hot crust. Sprinkle remaining oat mixture on top. Bake 25 minutes, until golden. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack before cutting.

NB: Again, make sure you use white sugar for the date mixture, brown sugar for the crust. Also it helps if you can sharpen your cutting blade before pitting and chopping up the dates – that step is probably the most time consuming.

datebars

And voila! They came out really well. I have no clue what the serving size is for date bars, so we’ll just say this recipe makes however many servings you want it to make, depending on your appetite.

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Dog-friendly cupcakes!

Classic midterm avoidance procedure: write a blog post.

Anyway, the dog has been doing much better, and I owe that in part to my lovely new friends over at Hamlin Park dog park. I try and take him there at least 3 times a week so he can run around and be social. It’s kinda become a zen place for me too.

So to thank everyone for being so nice and welcoming to us, I decided to make some dog-friendly (and vegan, of course) cupcakes. Recipe stolen and modified from here and here.

Cupcake Batter

1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup soynut butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup shredded carrots
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup applesauce

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the flour and baking soda. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well until combined. Put liners in a mini cupcake pan. Ball up a rounded teaspoon of batter and drop into each cupcake cup. Bake for 15 minutes (until firm and beginning to brown). Should make around 24 cupcakes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

Frosting

2 cups mashed banana
2 tbs peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
3 tsp flour (add more as needed for desired consistency)

Mix until combined, add honey to taste. Pipe frosting onto cupcakes and top with shredded carrots.

NB: I used creamy soynut butter, so that plus the 1/4 cup oil was a little too much for my liking. If using creamy peanut/soynut butter, I suggest using only a couple tablespoons oil.

All fancy-like.

All fancy-like.

They came out very well and the dogs loved them. And now I’ve learned my lesson and will never bring a bunch of mini-cupcakes to a dog park ever again. Sorry guys, it seemed like a great idea in theory…

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