Thursday, November 20, 2014

Playing at the table...

I am not sure the popularity of the show but Ashley, Kaleigh and I have been playing Chopped at dinner recently.  Basically, I cook dinner, then Ashley and Kaleigh critique it in the same fashion that the judges on the tv show Chopped would.

There are no mystery baskets which makes my job much easier but I think it is a good exercise for both myself and Kaleigh.  For me I get to hear some constructive criticisms of my food and get to think about meal plate and dish construction in a unique way.  For Kaleigh, she has been able to think about food and how flavors can work together or apart.  It is helping her develop a good palate while also helping her be articulate.  It has been a lot of silly fun.

Shepherd's Pie

Apparently, my Shepard's Pie needed me to transform the corn in some way.  The potatoes were the highlight of the well balanced bite.

Fried Banana

For dessert, I whipped up a fried banana.  It was a little too sweet and needed to be fried for a shorter amount of time on a higher temp to get that good crisp.

Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

My Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash was in need of a crunch.  Maybe some walnuts tossed in at the very end of the cooking to add some more texture.  Additionally, the green peppers were out of place.  It was all I had so I blamed the lack of items in the pantry.  However, the dish would have benefited from a more earthy veggie like cauliflower.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Can you dig it?

About 2 months ago, Ashley, Kaleigh, myself, and my sister and her family went apple picking.  I was just starting to get into jarring/canning and thought I would try something fun.  I made an apple crisp, admittedly not my strong suit and put about 5 servings in jars.  Yesterday, I wanted to see if it worked and kept a good lifespan.

Kaleigh and I were the brave folks who popped the jar and took the first bites.  It was very slightly soggy but nothing that it would not have been if it were a 3 day old freshly made crisp.  Otherwise, it tasted fresh.  It had worked!


We torn threw the jar as Kaleigh's after school snack.  I am pretty excited to have had this work. I still have some jars in our canning room and will keep trying it until I can tell it has hit its limit.  It really makes me wonder what else I could jar/can that will keep and be awesome!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Weekend Visitors!

Ashley, Kaleigh and I hosted my sister and my nephews this weekend.  They came up around noon on Friday.  We liberated Kaleigh from school and Ashley took the day off from work.  It is not often we get to see the relatives from Boston.

Kaleigh and the boys played very hard.  They played in the snow, we got a few inches the night prior, they played hide and seek and all sorts of other games.  They had a blast.  For dinner, in our tradition of Friday nights, we made pizza.  This time we made 3 of them.  They kids all ate them up and there was even enough left for the adults to get their fill.

As they were eating pizza I told them I had a surprise for dessert.  Kaleigh new what it was because she helped me make cupcakes the day prior.  They youngest of the nephews, age 5, was extremely skeptical of the possibility of dessert.  He even tried to convince the other kids that there was really nothing for them.  It was quite funny to him hear try to make his case.  After all his efforts, I broke out the cupcakes for the kids!  They were thrilled and destroyed them.


The following day, I made lunch.  Salad, mac and cheeze, and fried tofu tossed in a mesquite lime rub.  One kid ate all everyone's mac, the other ate all the tofu, the other all the salads.


It was a great time with the family.  Hopefully the house will be closer to finished on their next visit.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Recipe Update: Lemongrass Coconut Soup

Bringing it back for the foodies!  I have not shared many recipes recently so this is a fun update for some folks.  I am still trying to find the best spots in the new house for food pictures.  This was taken in front of our new pellet stove but it gave the image a strange yellow color.  I will figure it out I am sure.


Lemongrass Coconut Soup

1 lime
1 onion (chopped)
2 stalks of lemongrass
2 gloves of garlic (chopped)
12 oz of tofu
30 oz of coconut milk
1 cup of vegetable broth
2 tablespoons of tamarind
1 tablespoon of jalapeno pepper (chopped)
1 tablespoon of sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon of curry powder
1/2 tablespoon of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of fresh ginger (minced)
1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
salt as needed (depends on how salty your broth is)

the tofu

Press the liquid out of the tofu using a press or wrap it in paper towel and put something heavy on it for an hour or so.  Get as much liquid out of the tofu as possible.  Then cube the tofu in small pieces about 1/4 on an inch.

While the tofu is pressing, mix the ground ginger, 1 tablespoon of tamarind, soy sauce, and curry powder in a large bowl.

A deep fryer is ideal for frying the tofu but if there is not one available, pan fry it as close to 375 degrees as possible on all sides until golden brown.  Immediately upon removing the tofu from the hot oil, dash with some salt and add to the tamarind mixture and toss to coat.  Set aide and let marinade.  The oil from the frying should enable the mixture to stick to the tofu very well.


the soup base

In a pot, bring the sesame oil to a med heat.  Take the lemongrass and chop the ends off both sides.  Only use the yellow portion of the stock, avoid the white and green portions.  Set those aside.  Chop the yellow portion of the lemongrass into small pieces and add to the oil.  Let cook for about 5 minutes until it become aromatic and softens a bit.  It will still be very fibrous.  Then add the jalapeno pepper, onion, ginger, and garlic to the lemongrass and oil.  Cook until the onion is tender.  This should take about 5 minutes.  Do not allow it to brown.

Add the coconut milk and remaining tamarind to a blender.  When the lemongrass mixture is cooked, add it to the blender and puree on high until the lemongrass is not noticeable.  Pieces of lemongrass will be very stringy and fibrous in the soup.

Once pureed, add the blender contents back to the pot and add the broth, stir well.  Salt as needed.  Feel free to add some hot sauce here if s inclined.

Bring to a simmer, never let it boil.  Stir frequently.  I often add the remaining lemongrass white and green portions that I set aside earlier, just be sure to remove them prior to serving.  Just prior to serving, squeeze 1/2 a limes juice into the soup and add the tofu.  Garnish with the remaining lime and serve.

Monday, November 10, 2014

If it's not all ages, its not my punk rock.

Last night, Kaleigh and I went to another show in Skowhegan.  I am continually impressed with how much effort these kids put in, they are holding true to the DIY ethic in typical Maine fashion.  The show is generally littered with kids that do not really look like your typical punkers, while being really warm, inviting and welcoming to anyone who shows up.  They bands they book keep the pace as well.  It has been a great experience to take Kaleigh to these shows.  People have been very excited to see such a young kid at the shows.  If its not all ages, it's not my punk rock.

Last night was opened by an acoustic set and followed by Uncle Spudd.  Uncle Spudd is fun to watch because their drummer makes some really wild faces and beats those drums really hard for such a small space.  It really gives them a driving sound.

After Uncle Spudd was The Dintlos.  This was the first time I saw them play their own set.  Last time we were their they played an all Misfits cover set for Halloween.  They had some really good songs and I can see they will be very good very soon.  They are less poppy then Uncle Spudd and have some really good riffs.


Then came the surprise of the night.  Crystal Methodist.  These kids from Dover New Hampshire burned the place down.  Brutal power violence.  They were awesome.  Sometimes it is sad that bands like this get lost in the isolation of small town punk rock because these guys could throw punches with any power violence band out there right now.  Blistering, tight, explosive, and really energetic and fun to watch.  Kaleigh had been sitting on the floor for most of the show until these kids started.  She popped right up and got in close to the action!



Lastly was Tino Valpa.  I have been out of the New England scene for a long time but from what I understand, these kids have been in a lot of bands over the years.  Their experience showed.  Tight play and catchy guitar riffs kept the circle storm brewing.  Kaleigh really enjoyed this set as well, she was even stomping her foot to the drums!


It has been really inspiring to see these Skowhegan shows.  Since being back in Maine I have been to some shows in Portland as well and they just do not have that same feel.  They do not have the youthful energy of creating something new and having the pride of knowing it is your scene.  This is what punk rock is about.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Halloween!!!

Halloween was lost in the shuffle of dinner parties and snow storms but it did in fact happen.  It is great having a 7 year old in my life and holidays like this really make me excited.  When I was a kid, Halloween was one of my favorites and it is for Kaleigh as well.

This year, she wanted to be a dead princess.  She says that she doesn't like princesses so she wanted to be a dead one.  It was a little morbid but that is what Halloween is about.  There are far too many pre-made action hero costumes out there. I am glad that Kaleigh let us do her up and I think she had one of the coolest costumes we saw!


It was a night of candy, family, and fun.  I wish every day was Halloween!  I even got to talk to Kaleigh about some of the history of the holiday.  She was very excited!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The first of many...Welcome to Maine!

Sunday morning, the girls and I awoke to flurries of snow.  The type of flakes bigger than a quarter and sticky with moisture begging for creativity.  The girls were excited.  Their first snow fall as Mainers.

Within a few hours the prediction of 2 inches had been surpassed and the snow was limiting our vision.  Kaleigh was thrilled.  Ashley was interested yet concerned about driving to work the next day.  Tessa was curious.  I was beginning to wonder how long it would take to shovel.


A treacherous road adventure, snow sledding, shoveling, hot chocolate, and several hours later we were looking at quite a bit of snow.  The snow was up to Kaleigh's knees and still coming down.


The quaint excitement of the snow storm ended about 8pm when the power went out.  It was out for just over 24 hours, the girls had been pushed into the Maine storm season with little warning.  They will both be pros by spring.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

House guests!

I have started inviting folks to dinner at our house.  To share food and ideas on a few new projects I am bringing to the table in the near future.  The first dinner guests we had were my old pal Westie and his partner Amanda.  I hold a lot of value for both of their opinions and their understanding of the vegan market in Maine, as well as their networking ability.

Amanda if gluten-free and anti-mushroom which was a nice challenge for me as I tend to go for the gluten too often and I also eat a lot of mushrooms.  I made a corn encrusted tofu with sides of candied sweet potato, a gluten-free rice based mac and cheeze, and "collard" kale.  Ashley added to the southern soul food theme with her famous cole slaw.  We also had some blueberry coconut ice cream for dessert.


We had a great dinner and they both got to meet Kaleigh in person.  Her Cooking with Kaleigh web-series videos were noted several times.  I shared my plans and got some great feedback from the both of them with regards to the Maine vegan scene.

Do not tell Amanda but I let Westie sneak one of my non-gluten free cupcakes when she wasn't looking!


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

It has been 3 months!

It has been 3 months since I changed my life.  No boss, no job to hate, no customer service, no more neon lights, no more windowless offices, no more.  With some intelligent planning, investing and a great parent in Ashley, I have been making swinging improvements with my life.  I am happier, more relaxed, friendlier, and less hateful.

It has been a long road and the road ahead is longer still but it is all for the betterment of myself and the benefit of my supportive and understanding family.  Big changes are in the past and even bigger ones in the future.

I have been able to spend more time doing the things I enjoy.  Cooking has been at the top of the list.  I have been diligently working on new recipes and new ideas.  In the meantime, I have been hitting home runs with old favorites.

Seitan Steaks
Mashed Potatoes topped with Fried Tofu and "Turkey" Gravy
Vanilla and Coconut Ice Cream
Enchiladas
Fried Mushrooms with Tofu and BBQ sauce
Gazpacho

Pan fried Summer Squash

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Failure turned win

Over and over, like a broken record, I have stated I am not a baker.  Yet I try.  Often.  To the detriment of my baking esteem.  I am not sure I would call this another fail but a stumble onto success!

Since moving to Maine, the whoopie pie capital of the world, I have felt the desire to make some pies.  Whoopie pies.  As a child they were a staple of the sweets in Maine.  I have to master the whoopie, to re-gain respect as a Mainer.

Attempt number one left me with cake pieces that we too thins and stick the the pan.  I was able to salvage enough for 5 whoopie pies.  The rest end up sitting in a vintage dish, crumbled.


The icing came out wonderful.  I made a Maine maple syrup icing to tag along with the hazelnut chocolate cake.  The flavor combination was excellent and I assembled my 5 pies.  They came out decent, not perfect but certainly acceptable.

With an abundance of icing and a dish of crumbled whoopie cake, I knew what had to be done.  Maybe we can call it "whoopie pie deconstructed" I thought as I began to unload the icing into the cake crumbles.  After mixing it and giving it a taste test I knew it did not matter what I called it as long as I got to eat it for a bedtime snack!


Failure turned win!