Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Finding recipes

I love cookbooks, both for inspiration, and for cooking techniques, something I can always learn more about.  Most of these I perused at a bookstore or checked out at the library before deciding to add them to my bookshelf.

I've had cookbooks on my mind, because in preparation for a  recent cooking demonstration at our library, I put together a bibliography of cookbooks that are useful when cooking healthy foods.
Here's the list, all available from our LARL system:

Madison, Deborah  Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone 
Bittman, Mark How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman (2008, completely revised 10th anniversary ed.)
Bittman, Mark How To Cook Everything: the basics 
Waters, Alice  The Art of Simple Food
Weil, Andrew The Healthy Kitchen: Recipes for a better body, life and spirit
Katzen, Mollie Get Cooking
Katzen, Mollie  Honest Pretzels: and 64 other amazing recipes for cooks 8 and up
Katzen, Mollie Pretend Soup and other Real Recipes: a cookbook for preschoolers
David, Laurie The Family Dinner:great ways to connect with your kids, one meal at a time
Oliver, Jamie  Jamie's Food Revolution:  Rediscover How to Cook Simple, Delicious, Affordable Meals
Lair, Cynthia Feeding the Whole Family:  Whole Foods Recipes for Babies, Young Children and their Parents
Jenkins, Nancy Harmon  The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook
Swanson, Heidi  Super Natural Every Day
Lemlin, Jeanne  Quick Vegetarian Pleasures

Here are ones I currently  use most:

Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone  by Deborah Madison:  this is a big cookbook, but gives such detailed preparation techniques for vegetables.   I  often prepare meals based on what is in my CSA box or looks freshest at the grocery store, and can search this cookbook on how to use what I have.  She even has drink, muffin, and bread recipes, along with wonderful salad dressings and soups.  This summer I made the A Summer Bean and Vegetable Soup with Pesto several times, made the Winter Squash Soup and  used the Tomato Sauce section to cook our abundance of local tomatoes, along with the Honeydew and Lime Juice with Mint when our CSA gave us really ripe melon.

Quick Vegetarian Pleasures by Jane Lemlin:  these are simpler recipes than those in the Madison book but are delicioius!  I've made the Crunchy Lentil Salad, Tofu Hoisin with cashews and vegetables, and the Broccoli and Rice Salad, and have many more I want to try.

New Recipes from the Moosewood Restaurant: I love the Cuban Black Beans, Mapo Tofu, the Squash Rolls and the Apple Cake.

A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen by Jack Bishop.  This is a cookbook divided by season which I love!  We make the Chinese Noodles and the Red Curry-Braised Tofu often.  He has interesting chili recipes as well.

We don't cook meat that often, but if you do, I like the recipes in Cook This, Not That.  My favorite reference for Chinese dishes is: Chinese Cooking for Beginners  by Helene Siegel.  It may say it's for beginners, but I wouldn't want my stir-fry recipes any more complicated than these are.   This one won my heart with it's authentic tasting Kung Pao recipe.

Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day has lovely photography, inspiring me in my quest for beautiful meals.  She must use a different salt than I do, because her recipes only need half the salt called for.  Definitely make the Quinoa Patties. Yum!

I don't usually make a menu and then go to the store to find the ingredients.  Rather, I think about what is available locally, what is in season,  and what is in my pantry/freezer and  find recipes that go with those ingredients.  This summer,  our CSA has provided fantastic recipes to go with our  weekly vegetables, available on their website.  I've made the stuffed poblano peppers, the roasted cauliflower (without the parmesan because our meal had asian flavors),  roasted radishes, and cabbage soup.  

This may seem overwhelming at first.  Try new recipes based on what looks good to you and what vegetables you have.  Start collecting your favorites, with the goal of finding 10-15 that you can rotate regularly, and you will be well on your way to cooking better food.

Enjoy the adventure!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Essential Cooking Tools

I have been noticing the things I use for cooking on an almost daily basis, that make cooking with whole ingredients so much easier.

I love my enamel cast iron dutch oven.  I use this 6-quart one for making tomato sauces, cooking large batches of beans, and making soups and stews.

 If you don't buy anything else, get a good chef's knife.  So many kitchens I visit have drawers full of knives, but not one that will chop vegetables properly.  When cooking a plant-based diet, you will find there's a lot of chopping to be done!  So I love my decent- sized cutting boards as well as my 8-inch Henckels Forged Knife. Wusthof is another brand that makes good forged knives.  It does need to be sharpened after each use.  The only other knives you need are a paring knife and serrated knife.
This pretty mixer gets a workout at our house, mostly making bread dough, pizza dough, and whipping cream for special occasions.

I also love my 12x16 metal jelly roll pans for  making granola and roasting tomatoes and root vegetables.  Other kitchen tools I use frequently are:
* cast iron skillets
* a mixing bowl set
* bamboo spatulas for stir-fries
* a wok
*a good blender
*widemouth glass jars, for storing leftovers and pantry good.  Start saving them ones from your grocery store purchases, and also look for them at garage sales and thrift stores.
* a small pan with a spout, for heating milk and melting butter ( and then you won't need a microwave)
* 2-qt and 3-qt covered saucepans, for cooking grains

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A whole foods kitchen is never boring

Cooking with real ingredients may be tiring, chaotic, and messy but boring it is not. And often it is fun and delicious.  Yesterday we made both graham crackers from scratch and Muscovado Sunflower Kernels.  The graham crackers were inspired by the July issue of Martha Stewart Living; I'm not comfortable with the ingredients in the normal store-bought boxes, and the nicer organic ones cost around $5.00.  By making our own we could use much better flours,  fats ( real butter) and sugars, but I do think these turned out more like shortbread cookies than crackers.  Next time I'll try a different recipe.

The roasted sunflower seeds were made by my 13-year-old daughter and totally her idea.  She'd seen the recipe in one of my current favorite cookbooks,  Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson; she informed me that she this was one of the few recipes in the book she thought she'd like, and that she was going to make it!!!  1 cup sunflower seeds are first toasted in a skillet over medium heat, and then just one tablespoon muscovado (we used turbinado) sugar, lemon zest and salt are stirred in until the sugar melts and the seeds are coated.  We thought they were perfect.  And with the world-wide peanut shortage, with no peanuts at our favorite food co-op, sunflower seeds are a great substitute snack.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

My kitchen as a food studio

 I'm 6 weeks into an class called "Whole Food Kitchen"  by Heather Bruggeman of the blog beautythatmoves, and felt inspired to share our kitchen with you.  Our house it dated 1898, and these are the kitchen/appliances/countertops that came with the house when we bought it.  the center countertop is an obvious place for everyone to put their school papers, mail, books, etc as they walk in the back door, but for quite some time I've insisted that the space be kept clear.  I wondered if this was  a bit obsessive, but have recently heard several cooks I respect state that this is key to feeling inspired to cook more at home.  The majority of my day is spent here, and most of the time something is in process:  beans soaking, bread or pizza dough rising,  vegetables being chopped for the evening meal, etc.  In between, I like to keep the counters as clear as possible for the next meal, snack, or other creation.
 I have more spices that I use regularly than room on my rack.  I may have to do something about that!
Most pantry items I keep in wide-mouth glass jars.

My flours are still in plastic, for now.  I do like the airtight seals, but will be keeping my eyes open for large jars to switch to.

How do you view your kitchen?  Is its set-up conducive to mindful cooking?

I'd like to talk more about my favorite tools, but will save that for the next post.