10/28/2013

pumpkin pureé

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Alright, tell the truth: how many pumpkin recipes have you saved so far this year? I'd say between online bookmarking, Pinterest and the general tearing of pages from magazines (my apologies to anyone at my gym or in any waiting room I've visited that thought they were going to finish any articles), I'm roughly in the field of four million. At least.


So with four million, and counting, pumpkin recipes to get through, you can imagine that they all have at least one similar ingredient: pumpkin pureé, of course. Which means you could either buy a lifetime supply of the canned stuff from your local market OR you could wander over to the actual pumpkins in the produce section and make your own.

I have been previously scared off from using my own pumpkin for recipes. Too much work, some would say, results too stringy, others would gripe. Sheesh. Why would you bother when you can buy it ready-to-go in a convenient can? Well, generally because making your own usually results in a better flavor, PLUS, now having tried it, and always excited for an excuse to whip out the immersion blender: it's FUN.


There's not really any necessary ingredients for this project other than of course a pumpkin, any size or variety will do (for this particular round I used a Rouge vif D'Etampes, a French heirloom variety that is also known as the "Cinderella" pumpkin. You know, the one she rode off in to meet Prince Charming. That one.

Next, Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

The best way to carve into one of these guys is with a big (sharp) serrated knife. Be super careful, since the skin can be a little tough to work through. Once you get through the outer layer, it should get a bit easier, since there's usually about an inch or two of flesh before you get to the pumpkin's hollow center.


Depending on the size and shape of your pumpkin, cut into manageable chunks. For the rounder ones, you can usually just cut them directly in half. For the types that are more squatty and flat, quarters tend to make more sense. Scoop out the guts and seeds (yep) and set aside for roasting separately later: depending on the flavor palate you go for, pumpkin seeds can go great in salads, on granola, oatmeal, etc.

Place your pumpkin pieces flesh side down on a large baking sheet. Depending on the size of your pumpkin, you may need two baking sheets or to bake them in rotation. Flesh side down is mega important, otherwise you'll end up with dry, dehydrated pumpkin: pass. You could drizzle the flesh side with olive oil before you pop them in the oven, but this step isn't necessarily crucial. Consider what you will use the purée for: Soup? Risotto? Baking projects? If you plan on a strictly savory route, a little olive oil does wonders. Otherwise, simply place in the oven as is for about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the pumpkin. A simple note: while you can use homemade purée for just about any recipe that calls for pumpkin, including recipes that don't (pumpkin is a great substitute for oil or fat in many baking recipes), when the ingredients list calls for "packed" pumpkin, it's super important to strain your mixture, as a homemade purée is much more liquid-y than the canned stuff. If you skip that step, you may risk ruining your dough because of the excess moisture.


You'll know that your pumpkin is ready when you give the skin side a gentle poke: if it collapses immediately or gives way to the fork or spoon, you're ready to go. If it doesn't fold easily or leave an indentation, wait a bit longer.


Once the pieces are nicely cooked, take them out of the oven to cool for a few minutes. Then, using a metal spoon which makes scraping easier, scoop the roasted flesh from the pumpkin skin and deposit into a large bowl or pot. Once you've down this to all the pieces, it's time to blend using either an immersion blender or a regular once, which you can use if you purée in batches.


The Rouge vif D'Etampes yielded a LOT of purée, so I ended up freezing most of it (which is perfect for when you want to use pumpkin later in the season) and canning the rest. If you prefer neither of those options, it's best to use the purée within 7 days of making it, for optimum freshness.


10/23/2013

pumpkin spice bagels

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Okay. Listen. I have been saving, clipping and bookmarking pumpkin-themed recipes since about mid-August. I wish that was more of an exaggeration than the truth, but there it is. While I refrained from diving head first into all things pumpkin (precisely, until we got our first gorgeous Roughe Vif d'Etampes or "Cinderella" variety with our weekly farm share) until now, I was 100% dying to try my hand at pumpkin bagels.

I don't know about you, but bagels, or breads of all varieties, really, tend to intimidate me. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's the many steps in the process, the finicky temperament of the yeast (though the ingredient list is usually quite short otherwise) or the fact that bagels in particular require the extra step of boiling before baking. While the exact reason is really unknown to me, it's also now completely irrelevant, whatever it was, BECAUSE: these came out AMAZING.



I feel like I'm taking this a little too far and maybe, I don't know, even bordering on bragging about how fantastic these bagels were. But I think it's partially pure excitement at how legit they seemed (yes, totally the right occasion for the use of legit) and partially the combination of what ginger, cloves and cardamom can do to my brain. It was a win to the power of win.

This particular recipe is definitely a weekend project, a wake-up-on-Saturday-morning-raring-to-go kind of deal. The thing about bagels, or any bread endeavor for that matter, is that it tends to be an all-day affair. There's even an opportunity to drag this out into a 2-day marathon baking session, if you just can't fit it in all in one day. Though after you get to a certain point, trust me, you should go on. These are wildly worth the wait.

Here's the stuff for these guys. For the sponge (ahem: the sponge is the first step of a two-part bread making process, which allows part of yeast, flour and water to ferment) you'll need:

3 1/2 cups of bread flour
2 1/2 cups of water, room temperature
1 teaspoon of active dry yeast

For the dough:

1 teaspoon of active dry yeast
1 cup of pumpkin purée
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
3-4 cups bread flour
2/3 cup golden raisins 

For prepping the bagels for baking:

1 tablespoon baking soda, for boiling
1 egg, for egg wash
Brown sugar for sprinkling (totally optional)

Okay. So brace yourself. Maybe do a stretch or two, because there's a long, glorious haul ahead. Start out by making your sponge. Combine 1 teaspoon of your yeast and water and let it stand for a few minutes. It's super important that the water isn't too warm or too cold, or you risk killing the super temperamental yeast. After about five minutes, gradually add your bread flour. You don't want to fully mix it but gently fold it into itself, until all your flour is damp but not completely combined. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set aside for an hour or two.


Note: it's super important to go for the bread flour and not sub out for all-purpose flour. Bread flour is a high-protein flour that makes for a more elastic dough and a chewier texture to your bread, which is obviously perfect for bagels. If you go for something like all-purpose, it will (ehhh?) work, I guess, but the rise and the texture won't be quite right. Bread flour is worth the splurge. Especially since AFTER you make these you will 100% want to make them again.


After an entire hour and a half of thinking about bagels (what, that was just me?), it's time to prepare the main event: the dough. Begin by adding your second teaspoon of yeast to a small amount of room temperature water (about 3 tablespoons, ish). Set aside for about 5 minutes.

Since this was the first recipe I used to christen my new, beautifully shiny gold Kitchenaid stand mixer (swoon and swoon again), I set it up with the dough hook attachment and got ready to rule the kitchen. Is my immediate head-over-heels status too obvious? Of course you CAN attempt this recipe with hand-kneading. It's absolutely possible, it will just take a bit of extra oomph. You know, the official word for giving it all you've got.


Combine your pumpkin purée, salt, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. And your small bowl of yeast and water and continue to run your mixture on a slow speed. Now it's time to gradually add your sponge mixture, which will now have a somewhat sticky quality to it.


Once things looked pretty well mixed, it's time to start adding your 3-4 more cups of bread flour. It's recommended to add this flour in 1/2 cup increments, since you won't really know how much you'll use until, well, you use it. I ended up using all four, though I'm guessing this will all depend on your climate, location, the rise of your original sponge mixture, etc. Around cup three I felt the mixture start to ever-so-slightly strain, so at this point it's a good idea to scoop your dough onto a (suuuuper well-floured) surface and have at it by hand.

Let me tell you something, kneading bread-flour-based-dough is FUN. It's super stretchy and easy to work with, which made the promise of a bakery-worthy bagel all the more exciting. Knead until your dough starts to smooth out---it should be elastic but not sticky. Half the fun of understanding that is figuring it out yourself.


Now it's time to form the bagels. This amount of dough should make about a dozen pretty huge bagels. (If you want to get particular, you can weigh out the dough in about 4 ounce pieces, but that's up to you.) I weighed the first few and then decided to just figure it out by sight, so we ended up with some huge bagels and some baby ones, but ended up with about fifteen altogether. I can live with that. So cut up your initial dough into 12-15 pieces. Cover with a towel (doesn't need to be damp) for 20 minutes. I KNOW. MORE WAITING. BUT YOU'RE ALMOST THERE.

After 20 minutes have passed, it's time to make these dough balls look like actual bagels. While there's no right or wrong way to do this (I don't think), the easiest is to pinch through the center of each ball with your thumb, making a small dent and gently expanding that hole by rotating to the right (or left, if you're left-handed). It sounds hard until you get through the first few; after that, you're a bagel-forming champ. As you form each one, place them on baking sheets that have been prepped with a layer of parchment paper. Let them sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.


OKAY. LAST PHASE OF WAITING, I promise. Tightly cover each prepared tray with plastic wrap (lightly grease the side that's touching the bagels with some nonstick spray) and place in the refrigerator from four hours to overnight. Since I started this trek on a Saturday morning, I decided that four hours would do: seriously.

After the longest four hours of your life, preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Since using an oven at this temperature is slightly unusual, you may wonder, does my oven go that high? It does. Most standard ovens make it all the way up to 550. Fill the biggest pot you've got with some water and bring to a rolling boil. Once it's really going, add your tablespoon of baking soda. Taking two bagels at a time, drop them into the pot and boil for one minute on each side. The easiest way to flip them is with a large, slotted spoon. After each round, return them to the prepared baking sheet (still just parchment paper) and gently brush with your egg wash. This would also be the time to add your brown sugar topping if you plan to, though I skipped this step.



Baking six at a time, bake for 6 minutes, then rotate your pan, reduce the oven temperature to 450 and bake for 8 minutes more. At this point, you have officially made bagels. It might have taken you all day (or all of two days), you might be tired, it might not officially be breakfast time anymore (in fact, definitely not), but who cares. They're glorious with a slightly orange hue. They've got an amazing spiced aroma, nutmeg-y and gingery and only slightly sweet. Total win.





10/15/2013

vegan oatmeal pancakes

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Breakfast is easily my favorite thing to eat and make. I'm not mega-adventurous in this department, and usually go with what we've all been making for years now: hot cereals, eggs, yogurt and of course, pancakes. You'd be hard-pressed to find a pancake I'd turn away, in fact. What's in it or on it is really of no consequence to me. Can I add syrup? Then I'm sold.


Still, it's not often the healthiest option out there, especially if you're ordering a stack of them at your local diner. And we've all been there, right? Usually closer to midnight than morning hours, but you get it. 


Even French toast offers a little more nutritional value, depending on the bread you use and that sort of thing. But pancakes. Who wants to give up pancakes? Not this girl. On a mission to make them more accessible and every-day-eating, I discovered a pretty awesome vegan version in last month's issue of Vegetarian Times. In an effort to beef-up breakfast (without the beef, of course), VT took submissions for best brunch recipes, and Mary Shore's vegan oatmeal pancakes immediately caught my eye. 

With a few substitutions from my pantry, and Mary's suggestions, you'll need:

3/4 cup coconut milk (almond, soy or another non-dairy option here will also work)
1 tablespoon maple syrup, plus more for drizzling, DUH.
2 tablespoons coconut oil, plus more for the pan
1/2 cup steel cut oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour 
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of sea salt

Combine your coconut milk, maple syrup and oil in a small bowl. Add your oats and let them soak for about ten minutes, but no less than five. They'll absorb some of the moisture and soften up a little so your pancakes aren't too chewy.



While you wait, in a separate bowl stir together your flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Once your milk-oat combo is ready, mix these two together. You might find that you need a little more moisture to make the batter spread evenly. You can add more milk, a little at a time, until the texture is a tad runnier.

Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat and coat the bottom with more coconut oil. The great thing about using coconut oil here is that it adds a certain crispness to the edges of your pancakes. Now, I tend to make pancakes on the small-ish side, so you can probably cook 3-4 at a time if you keep them tiny. Mary suggests letting them cook for 2-3 minutes per side, but my luck with pancakes usually means that this time frame would result in an utterly burnt disaster, so you be the judge of when to flip. I've made these several times now (note: adding a few mini chocolate chips is wise) and they are a little slow to cook, so keep the heat low and don't wander off. 


Once you've run through all your batter (this mixture will make about 15 small pancakes), it's time to dig in: serve with more syrup, fresh fruit, peanut butter or cookie butter (um, HELLO). What a way to start the day. Honestly, my favorite thing about this recipe is that I never once found them lacking, or like I was missing a certain flavor or element of a traditional pancake that this healthy vegan variety didn't deliver: they were, to say the least, slammin'. 


10/07/2013

leaf vegetarian in boulder, co

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Nearly through 2/3 of our first year of marriage (yes!), cute Colin and I finally made it on our honeymoon to Boulder, Colorado this past August. While we took advantage of everything this spectacular area had to offer, from wildlife, beautiful scenery, breathtaking mountains, great coffee shops, local book stores and more, there is definitely something to be said for the awesome food we found there, too.


Being a vegetarian today is no doubt easier than it was maybe ten years ago. Honestly, maybe even one year ago. And I'd say it's definitely easier to be a specialized eater in a bustling city, where options are so abundant that you'd probably never have to frequent the same place twice. Still, Boulder was definitely the massive and major exception to this, as there were vegetarian options everywhere we went, as well as several fully vegetarian locations. Can you say score?

One of our favorites that we visited was Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant off of Pearl Street. The setting was intimate and beautiful, and the menu carried an array of seasonal, local options, all of which were majorly appealing.


To start, we went with the potato-beet gnocchi, which of course were a beautiful pink color due to the addition of beets. This little dish was served with orange butter (YUM), orange segments, and sautéed spinach. Amazing. We had this with a special cantaloupe salad that was paired perfectly with some peppery arugula, goat cheese and toasted pecans.


For our entrees, Colin went with the Jamaican Jerk Tempeh. Jerk flavoring is by far one of my favorites, and one I've yet to have, at least successfully, since my departure from the meat-eating world. Leaf changed that, in one artfully arranged dish. Combined with the tower of forbidden black rice, mango salsa and fried plantains, this presentation made the food almost too pretty to eat. Only almost, though, since it got polished off with every last bit of the coconut plantain sauce that came with it.


As for me, I went with the Raw Zucchini Manicotti. Since converting to vegetarianism, I have said several times that the completely vegan life will never be for me. While it's something I imagine would be a positive change for my overall health, you could never not once talk me into giving up cheese. Probably even for one day. (Okay, maybe.) It would have to take a lot of money, maybe a million dollars a year, and even then I'd probably be thinking about all the cheese I could now buy. Seriously. So because of this, I have usually not found many dishes from the raw/vegan movement all that appetizing. Salads, sure. And I have no general distaste towards raw vegetables on the whole. In fact, I normally prefer them that way. Still, despite my general hesitation, I don't know if it was the ambient lighting or the crisp mountain air, but I went for the raw manicotti. And Leaf delivered again. The cashew-pine nut "cheese" was smooth and deceptively creamy despite its cheeseless-ness and the sun-dried tomato marinara added a shot of acidic brightness. I was, to say the least, impressed. And full.


But not full enough, of course, that we'd dare pass on dessert. Oh, no. Not with vegan carrot cake, among others, and a daily selection of vegan pies to choose from. Still, what could honestly come before a vegan chocolate-peanut butter tart? There's something to be said here about vegan desserts: they are serious. There's no cream to wussy-down the flavor of the salty peanut butter and the dark chocolate. It's all there and it's INTENSE. And amazing. And on a peanut butter cookie crust to boot.


The next time we're back in Boulder (What's that, permanently, as in we're moving there? YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST.), we'll definitely be back to visit Leaf again. And we, cute Colin and I, truly hope that this lovely restaurant, as well as all the other local businesses and kind residents, are pushing through the tough time of flooding, that they feel the support and love of their friends and neighbors, and that they will pull through this devastating time stronger than they were before.

For a little more on our visit to Boulder, check out our short video of a lot of beautiful mountains and, of course, food.

10/01/2013

gram's blueberry cake

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Dearest friends, an announcement: not only is today, October 1st, World Vegetarian Day and the first day of Vegetarian Awareness Month (it's true), but it is also the 100th post for Green Girl Eats! YES INDEED. So how else does one commemorate such a momentous and trifold occasion? What else but with cake? And: THIS IS MY FAVORITE CAKE RECIPE OF ALL TIME.

"This?" you may ask. But it only looks something like a simple coffee cake, right? Where's the frosting, the bells and whistles, the elaborate overly complicated recipe and instructions? Well, truth be told, who needs bells and whistles when you can use NUTMEG, am I right?


Whenever July rolls around and then I roll around to picking somewhere between 4-15 pounds (whoops) of blueberries (they're small, it's not hard to do), as I eat approximating 2-3 of those pounds on the drive home (and imagine myself looking something like this), I am already thinking about using some of these beautiful berries in this very cake, knowing that once this cake is made and removed from the oven, I will be essentially powerless to stop myself from eating the entire thing in just one day.


The solution to that, of course, would be to make two. Which I usually do, and I can't say I'm the least bit sorry that these are the facts. Also, the beauty of blueberries is how easy they are to freeze, making this a comfort recipe you can whip up any day of the year. Like, you know, October.

For this recipe (if you plan on making only one, of course) you'll need:

2 cups of sugar + 1 tablespoon
1/2 cup of butter
2 eggs
1 cup of milk
3 cups of flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons of freshly grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 pint of blueberries, fresh or frozen



Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Combine your butter and sugar and cream until fluffy. Beat in your eggs, milk, flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and vanilla. Super easy. Gently fold in your blueberries. This will technically make one 9-inch square cake or two (hey!) 8-inch round cakes. Either way, you should definitely lightly grease your pan of choice to avoid sticking. Before you pop it in the oven, sprinkle some more granulated sugar on top and off it goes for 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and top is golden and shiny.


I'm not really sure how to sell you on this super simple cake other than to say you have to just try it. Seriously. It's so spectacularly unfussy and the flavor of those fresh summer blueberries and the spicy hit of nutmeg: it's perfection. I've mussed it up before by adding cinnamon or using yogurt, nope. Not necessary. The compliment of these two flavors is so spot on that no substitute will do. And the added crispness that that final sprinkling of sugar gives the top of this cake? It's almost like you can hear the heavens open up with song. Songs of blueberries. Delicious.

Happy eating, dearest vegetarians and non-vegetarians who enjoy a vegetable now and then! And have some cake while you're at it.