Coconut Pie

February 26, 2009

There’s nothing quite like homemade pie crust in the freezer. I still have a few crusts left over from the Pie Extravaganza, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. I can make pie on a weeknight, throw something together for unexpected guests, and experiment with fillings to my heart’s content. And none of it involves chopping sticks of butter until my arms go numb.

Inspiration struck last night, and I made a coconut pie. I beat three eggs, stirred in a can of evaporated milk, poured in a goodly amount of brown sugar (a cup? I didn’t measure), several capfuls of vanilla extract (I’m guessing I put in about a tablespoon), and finished off the bag of shredded coconut in my cabinet (I think I used about one cup of coconut).

I microwaved one of my frozen disks of pie dough for a minute, smooshed it into a pan with my fingers, poured the filling in, and stuck it in the oven. I  baked the pie 375 until I could smell the pie from the living room and the crust had turned golden brown. I’d guess that I baked it for about 40 minutes, but I wasn’t paying that much attention to the .

The point is that, once you stock up on pie crusts, you can do pretty much everything wrong (use a microwave, don’t use measuring cups, use your hands as a rolling pin substitute, ignore the pie while it’s in the oven) and it will still be delicious. You really don’t have to do anything special – anything with that much butter and sugar will taste good no matter what you do to it.

If you’d like to stock your freezer with some flaky, delicious pastry, there’s a recipe after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

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Oatmeal Bread

February 24, 2009

I try to make a few loaves of homemade bread at least a couple times a month. I bake four, freeze two, and devour the rest.

Here’s the version I made this Saturday – it’s a very dark, whole-wheatish version with molasses. You can make it with more white flour and honey if you’d like a lighter loaf.

4 cups milk

4 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3-4 cups oatmeal

1 cup molasses

2 tablespoons yeast

Great quantities of whole wheat flour (I never measure flour in this recipe, but I would have at least 10-12 cups on hand)

Smaller quantities of white flour (again, I don’t really measure flour when I make bread, but I’d have at least 6 cups on hand – better to have too much than too little)

Heat the milk, salt, and oil until it’s warm, but not hot. (Imagine that you’re going to give a baby a bath in it – that’s the temperature you want.) Remove the pot from the heat, stir in the oatmeal and molasses, and add the yeast.

Stir in great quantities of whole wheat flour and smaller quantities of white flour (the bread I made Saturday was about 3/4 whole wheat and 1/4 white) until you can hardly stir in another bit.

Clean off the counter, dry it, cover it with a mound of flour, and dump the dough onto the counter. Knead the dough for about ten minutes (fold, press, turn, fold, press, turn), then let it rise in a clean pot, covered with a dish cloth.

Once the dough has doubled in size (this should take a couple of hours – go amuse yourself), punch it down and knead it again. Divide the dough into four pieces, knead each one for a minute or two, then shape it into a loaf and plop it into a greased loaf pan. Cover all the loaves with a dish towel and let them rise until they double in size (this will take an hour or two, so go ahead and do something else for a while).

Bake the bread at 375 for 30-40 minutes. It’s best to cover the loaves with foil for the first 20 minutes or so – it keeps the crust from burning before the bread is done.


Whole Wheat Banana Muffins with Almonds and Raisins

February 24, 2009

banana-muffin-mosaic

Photo credit: 1. spotted banana 2. golden raisins 3. almonds 4. eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

3-4 very ripe mashed bananas

3 tablespoons yogurt (you can use plain or vanilla – I like to use Greek yogurt)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup white flour

1-2 handfuls of slivered almonds

1-2 handfuls of raisins

Beat the sugar and oil together. Beat in the eggs. (If you don’t have an electric mixer, beat the eggs in a glass first, then stir them in.)Add the mashed bananas. Stir in all the flour. Stir in the almonds and raisins.

Spoon the batter into a greased muffin pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. This will make somewhere between 12 and 15 muffins, depending on how big you make them.


Complementary Productivity

February 23, 2009

Saturday is my day to market, bake, and clean the apartment. In many ways, it’s my favorite part of the week: I get tangible results, time outside at the market, and I get to move around instead of sitting at a desk. Spending the day on real, concrete physical tasks balances all the theoretical work I do during the week–kneading bread and cracking eggs is the perfect antidote to endless cite-checking and bluebooking.

Most importantly, it also allows me to take a break without sacrificing productivity. Most breaks – slurping margaritas on the beach, mindless web surfing, gossip magazines – are a break from productivity. Doing something different on your day off – reading Dickens for a carpenter, baking bread for a lawyer – is a shift to a different kind of productivity.

In my experience, the difference between engaging in one kind of productivity at the exclusion of all else and engaging in different, complementary kinds of productivity during the week is like the difference between monocrop agriculture and polyculture. The former depletes the soil and poisons the water. The latter nourishes the soil, filters the water, grows a complete meal, and supports all sorts of life forms.

You might have guessed already, but I definitely recommend the polyculture approach.

Read the rest of this entry »


Farmers Market Inspiration

February 21, 2009

farmersmarketmosaic-02-21-09

Photo credits: 1. Don’t even think about it! 2. apples 3. beets 4. yams


Scallion Pancakes

February 20, 2009
Why, we wonder, do our scallion pancakes not look like this?

Why, we wonder, do our scallion pancakes not look like this?

Photo credit: megan.ohara.

Jerry and I are going through an obsession with scallion pancakes. How do you get them to cook all the way through? Is there a leavening ingredient? Why are the scallion pancakes we order in restaurants so much oilier than the ones we make at home? Could it be that they use more oil? Why do their scallions taste stronger than our scallions? Are scallions and green onions really the same thing?

You get the idea. We are looking for a good scallion pancake recipe, so if you have one, send it along!

Here’s our current approach:

Pour some whole wheat flour in a bowl. Beat a couple of eggs in a coffee mug, add some water or soymilk, and stir it into the flour until the it’s about the consistency of pancake batter. Chop up a bunch of scallions and stir them in. Heat some olive oil in a pan and pour in some batter. Get too impatient and/or paranoid about burning the pancake and flip it a little too early. (I know, I know, wait for lots of little bubbles, right? We have a hard time with this step.)

Eat it (with relish! they’re good even when they’re oozing batter from the middle) and wonder why they don’t taste like the restaurant version. Do you think they use more oil? Well, what kind of oil do you think they use? Why do their scallions taste so strong?

Update: I just found a scallion pancake recipe, on flickr, of all places. It turns out that you have to knead the dough before adding the scallions and the dough does not include eggs! And it’s true – they do use more oil in the restaurant version! They also use salt! Lots of salt! There are pictures of all the steps here and here.


Things I Love Thursday: Botanical Gardens

February 19, 2009

botanical-gardens

1.red-flowering gum buds 2.snowdrops 3.living rocks and succulents 4. coi

Arbors. Coi. Bonsai trees. Orchids. Humidity.

All the quiet painters observing the plants.

Living rocks.

The first snow drops of the year.