Monday, September 25, 2006

Blogging By Mail in the Main

Blogging by mail is really a load of fun. Last week, Shammi's box arrived in the mail, and I couldn't wait to see what she sent. She was very generous: two cookbooks, homemade spices, Marmite, and a homemade savory cookie snack. I haven't tried everything yet, but what I have tried has been very tasty. Thanks, Shammi!

Below is a photojournal of my blog-pal's blogging by mail box (except the little English cookbook, for some reason, the photo didn't come out).

Shammi's Garam Masala smells fantastic! She made this all-purpose Indian spice mix herself! We used it to flavor our samosas, and the house smelled heavenly. Every once in a while, I just open the container and sniff gingerly because it just smells so good.

In the box was a small container of Milagai Podi, a South Indian chutney powder. Shammi said this is mixed with oil and used as a side dish with steamed rice cakes (idlis) or Indian pancakes (dosa). It can be sprinkled sparingly over veggies or scrambled eggs, or mixed with yogurt to make a dip. Can't wait to try this!

Shammi also included a bag of 6 wee containers of Marmite, a yeast spread unique to the UK. She said that they can be used to make gravy if I don't like it as a spread. I haven't tried these yet, but I'm looking forward to it. I've eaten nutritional yeast in a few vegetarian things here before, but this looks like fun. The containers remind me of the sealed butter pats I sometimes get in diners or other inexpensive restaurants, except the Marmite packages are heart-shaped.

This cookbook, "Khazana of Indian Vegetarian Recipies" by one of India's most popular chefs, Sanjeen Kapoor, was also included in the box. In a later post, I'll show you the samosas John and I made using Sanjeen's recipe.

Shammi made me a nice container full of these crunchy Thattai. She says they are savory cookies that are a popular snack in South India. They are made with rice flour, urad dal flour, and split dried chickpeas. I'm sure they also are spiced because I could taste a few spices. Yummy! I polished these off in a matter of days.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Sugar High Friday -- The Surprise Inside

This was the first shot with my new Fuji Finepix F30. I'm still learning the fine points of it, so please bear with me during my learning curve.

Also seen here is my new cookbook holder from Levenger. It seems that they've sold out of this model, and it's no mystery to me since it was only $20.00. It works like a dream. I can't believe I waited this long to get one! The plastic holder is great for the kitchen since it keeps the cookbook clean and open to the right page.

My adaptaton of the Deep Dark Brownies recipe from Sweet & Natural Baking by Mani Niall is my entry for Sugar High Friday this month. I don't usually enter these, but the timing fit, so here it is. My surprises inside consist of cashews and macadamia nuts instead of walnuts, agave nectar for the sweetener, and carob instead of chocolate. They turned out way better than expected. Just ask Shammi! Below is my photolog of the brownies.

Unsweetened carob chips.

Chopping up carob chunks.

Surprise! These aren't chocolate, they're carob chips and chunks. It's a combination of dark roasted carob chunks and unsweetened carob chips. Both are unsweetened, and tough to find.

The recipe asked to melt 1.5 sticks or 12 tablespoons of butter, and add 12 oz of malt-sweetened semisweet chocolate chips. Well, I did the massive butter bit and added the mix of the unsweetened dark carob chunks and the unsweetened regular carob chips. Then, after they melted a bit in the butter, I used the whisk attachment to mix the butter and carob until smooth. Then, I let it stand for 10 minutes before adding 1 1/3 cup of agave nectar (instead of 1 cup of liquid fruit juice concentrate and 1/3 cup of maple sugar), 3 large eggs, 1 tablespoon of vanilla paste, and 1 cup of unbleached AP flour. The recipe also called for 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt, but since I used salted instead of unsalted butter, I didn't add any salt.

One of my surprises inside, well, two actually, was a mixture of chopped cashews and macadamia nuts I had in the fridge from another recipe. These are roasted and salted, so they would be a nice foil to the sweetness of the brownie.

After I added the nuts, I used a silicone spatula to mix them in instead of the mixer.

I had a bit of the mixture left over, so I called upon my friend, the mini muffin pan. The raw dough tasted fine, so I figured it was a good sign.

Fresh out of the oven, the brownie bites in all their poofiness.

Here's a peek inside the brownie bites I made in the mini muffin pans. They turned out much cakier than the actual brownies. There's the surprise inside -- a cashew. Very tasty, but not quite what I was after. The brownies did the trick, though.

This is the finished pan of brownies. It doesn't have your typical brownie top, but there's a definite fudgy layer below. Oh my goodness! These turned out way better than I expected. I actually had to send off more than half the brownies to my Blog By Mail partner because they wouldn't have lasted very long in my care. Highly addictive and much better than other carob brownies I've had. Dangerous in that I could eat the entire batch, if I'm not careful. The cashews and the macadamia nuts were such a nice bonus. If I were to do anything remotely different, I might add coconut or coconut milk just to try something else. But, man, these are good!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Frizzy, Benign, and MAD

Not me, my pal Richard. The New York Times has published another piece on Richard's work turning his Prius into an uninterruptible power supply for his house (when he's not driving it). He's got the story up on his blog, because unless you're a subscriber to the Times, you won't be able to view it without paying for it. If you are, it's in the NY Region section.

The "mad" adjective used by the Times reporter (and echoed in my headline as well on Richard's on his blog) doesn't fit him. Richard's a pretty sane, albeit eccentric, fellow. I'll admit that he's the only person I know who owns multiple 70 ft antennas to listen for ETs, but there's something to be said for having the humility to admit that we're not the only ones in the universe. Furthermore, if beings from another universe were to be met by Richard rather than others, I would feel pretty safe about them knowing there are some very intelligent, humorous and caring individuals here on Earth.

In other news, my blogging by mail partner, Shammi, received my package. She blogged about it here. I'll be posting about the brownies she loved here very soon.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

One of my newest cookbooks is one just dedicated to my friend, carob. Since I can't eat chocolate due to the migraines, I use unsweetened carob to get my chocolate fix. This book, Carob Cookbook, by Tricia Hamilton is full of all kinds of great recipes. I started by making carob brownie cookies.

This is the recipe. Taking the advice of the venerable Isa Chandra, I cut the oil to a few tablespoons and cut the sweetener by 1/3 to accomodate for the agave nectar. Also, I omitted the almond extract.

Just as an aside, I had the nicest email exchange with Isa. She's the coolest, and if you haven't bought her book, Vegan with a Vengeance, you really should.

Here's the dough. It's not pretty, but it tasted very rich and carob-y. I didn't like the texture though. The whole wheat flour made it feel very grainy. At the very end, I stirred in some chunks of unsweetened carob as well as unsweetened carob chips. I had two batches of those. One had been over-roasted, so it was almost bitter, and the chips were just Sunspire, unsweetened carob chips.

Photo 1 of mini muffin in the pan. I mistakenly took it with the flash on. I'm sure this has its uses, but it makes the top look really over exposed. You can definitely see the whole wheat texture of the flour.

Photo 2 of the mini muffin still in the pan. This time, I didn't use a flash, and used the macro setting. I like it much better.

This is the inside of the mini muffin. Not fudgy or brownie-like, but cakey. The big chunk in the middle is a dark-roasted hunk of unsweetened carob. I'm glad I added those and some carob chips. It broke up the cakeyness very nicely.

I'm not sure what caused the cookies and the mini muffins to poof up so much, but it made them light and airy. Unfortunately, I was going for fudgy and gooey. Oh well. Next time, I plan to use all AP flour, the full amount of sweetener and a bit more oil. And, I probably won't bake them as long. They're not bad, though. I'll eat 'em.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Ivonne "Doing the Tomatoes"

Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice fame is one of my favorite food bloggers. She's such a talented writer and her recipes are fantastic. And, if you're not interested in those, just visit for the photos.

Well, Ivonne's gone and topped herself by writing a great article about her experiences making tomato sauce. Boy, that sounds anticlimactic. But it isn't. She tells the story of what it was like to grow up every year "doing the tomatoes" with her family, canning tomatoes so there would be delicious homemade sauce all through the winter. It's a coming-of-age story within a how-to guide.
But don't let me spoil it for you.

Go read Ivonne's story for yourself.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Another Nice Interview

I just have to say that those people at ThisNext are very nice. Sean Timberlake, one of the muckity mucks there asked if he could interview me for their blog, and I obliged. He said some lovely things about me and my chocolates and didn't edit my words one bit. If you'd like to read it, the interview is here. While you're there, take a look around. ThisNext is a really neat community of people recommending products based on their experience with them. My list is here.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

As a belated wedding gift, my Aunt Elaine (seen earlier on this blog in August) gave John and me another piece of our great Polish pottery. This time, it was an oval baker large enough to serve a small dinner party. To break it in, I made up a very healthy recipe for dinner last week. My friend Judie was supposed to visit, but had gotten sick, so she wasn't able to come. However, I'd bought some great fresh veggies and had to use them. I cut a yellow squash, a zucchini, half a red onion, half a shallot, half a tomato, and a large handful of baby spinach in to very thin strips to make it look like a very colorful confetti. Then, I salted the veggies and mixed them all togther in a large glass bowl. Next, I spread a layer of the veggies in the bottom of the new baking dish, laid down a layer of tilapia (four pieces), and another layer of veggies. Then, I added about 1/2 a cup of vegetable broth and sprinkled about 1/2 a teaspoon of herbes de Provence over the top of the whole thing and baked it covered with aluminum foil for 40 minutes at 400 degrees F. I didn't set out to bake it that long, but that's how long it took after checking on it twice. Below is the photolog of the recipe. It came out much better than I thought it would, and I would definitely say it was dinner-party-worthy.

The tilapia layer.

Another layer of the veggies on top.

After pulling the baking dish out of the oven, there was a bit more liquid than what I poured in from the veggie broth. I noticed when I later cleaned the baker that I wasn't supposed to put it in an oven hotter than 350 degrees F, but it held up just fine at 400 degrees F.

The vegetable broth and liquid from the squashes fairly steamed the veggies and the fish.

The cooked tilapia was perfectly flaky and soft. The vegetables, by contrast, still had some crunch to them in the most pleasant way. I served it over mixed brown rices cooked in the rice cooker with no seasoning. I made enough for four people, so days later I'm still enjoying it.

Tyler and I Bake Pies

My young nephew Tyler likes to bake and cook, so I suggested that we make some little pies for him to bring home to his family after his visit with me. He wanted to make apple pies, so we walked to the store and bought organic granny smith apples. I knew ahead of time that I would use Elise's (from Simply Recipes' blog) pie crust recipe because it has almonds in it, and Tyler really likes almonds. I'm really glad he likes to cook and bake because it gives us something fun to do together.

I decided to use some ripe peaches and some very ripe red seedless grapes in my pies. I sliced each grape in half to prevent bursting.

Before we pre-baked the shells, Tyler glazed the edges with beaten egg yolk. He also used the same fork to poke holes in the bottom, hence the yolky spots in the middle of each of the wee pies.

Prior to baking the pies, I showed Tyler how to decorate the tops with the pie cut-outs. He really enjoyed cutting out the different shapes. Since he was making apple pies, he used a lot of apple shapes along with butterflies, suns and acorns. I also taught him how to make a glaze from some organic apricot and orange spread. You can see here that he and I glazed our pies prior to baking.

My new set of wee pie cutters had lots of butterflies and suns. Tyler wanted a butterfly pattern for his little sister, Becca, who likes butterflies. Isn't that nice?

The final pies. I made the ones on the right and Tyler decorated the ones on the left. In the upper left corner is a cookie he made from the remains of the pie shell dough.

This is probably one of my favorite new photos. You can see the grapes and the peaches as well as the buttery crumb of the pie crust. If you look carefully, you can also see the almond skins in the crust as well. It was mighty tasty, but I think I prefer the blueberry nectarine pie.

This is Tyler, my nephew. We were standing by the sphinx in the lobby of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. It's one of my favorite places in the City. Did you know there's a rooftop sculpture garden? Well, we didn't get there, but I'd been there in the past, and Tyler just wanted to see the armor and armory exhibit. Then, I gave him a map and he navigated us all around New York for our day together. Below is a photolog of our lunch at Angelica Kitchen. Yum! Tyler also really enjoys baking and cooking, so my next post will be all about our pie baking experience.

After Tyler and I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, we headed downtown to Angelica Kitchen (12th Street near 2nd Ave). If you haven't been there, it's an organic vegan paradise. For $6.50, you can have a "picnic plate," like I had, with a serving of hummus and pita, an interesting cold salad of roasted tomatoes and other lovely veggies in season, and my favorite bit -- the walnut lentil pate. Makes me want some right now just thinking about it, but since I'm an hour and change south and west of the City, that's not happening now. I have to commend my 11 year old nephew, who bravely tried everything. I wasn't crazy about the hummus, so he ate mine. I had his salad. But, he really liked the walnut-lentil pate, so I might just try to figure out a way to make it myself.

We each had "picnic plates," which were made up of three items from a select menu. Tyler's, shown here, had (in order from left to right) the simple salad, baked marinated tofu, and hummus.

About halfway through Tyler's cup of soup I remembered to take a photo. He had the minestrone, which was piled high with veggies and beans, with the pasta buried beneath. Tyler finished the entire portion.

I'm still not used to my new camera yet, as you can see by the quality of this shot of miso soup. It was far tastier and had many more veggies in it than other miso soups I've had.

Here's my young nephew, Tyler. He's standing on the steps in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It was his first visit to the Met, and I hope not the last. We only had time to see the armor and the armory before leaving for lunch.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Sitting Under the Desk Eating Cottage Cheese

Because John and I cut our cable to just the basic service and the Internet service (huge increases in monthly fees drove us to it), I will occasionally check in on the Daily Show via YouTube. Recently, I saw this clip, which was Jon Stewart's opening monologue just 9 days after the 11 Sept. 2001 tragedy.

Yes, I know that everyone and her brother has something to say about the 5th anniversary of that shocking and terrible day. But, as I grew up hearing, those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.

The headline for this entry refers to Jon Stewart's memory of Martin Luther King being shot, and how the event was handled in his elementary school at the time. This video is worth watching. It's just under 9 minutes long.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Guacamole for One

If you love guacamole like I love guacamole, you might want to read my newly posted recipe: Guacamole for One at Cooking for US. My column is called "More Organic," and I try to feature healthy recipes with organic ingredients. When you read the recipe, please comment and let me know what you think. Thanks!

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Value of the Face-to-Face

As a blogger, I'm cognizant of the fact that we live in an online world. Heck, I buy all kinds of things online, read the news and get the weather online, collaborate with others online, and much more.

When it comes to work, however, the value of the in-person meeting cannot be understated. I interviewed a couple of collaboration luminaries, Jim Ware and Charlie Grantham, on the subject of distributed and distance workers, and learned a great deal. If you're interested in finding out more, the first installment of my interview with the fellows from The Future of Work is available at

If you do read the series as it is published, please leave comments there to let me know what you think. I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks!