Thursday, September 30, 2010

My version of Kristen Chocolate Kefir muffins

The first time I tried this Kristen recipe for chocolate muffins @ Passion 4 Eating I made a mess... I did not have almonds meal so I crushed a bunch of almonds with a hammer, but that turned out not to be a big deal. Furthermore, I used milk kefir instead of coconut milk kefir. I thought it would not matter but after seeing the results, I realized that my kefir was also very acidic (like 48h sort of fermentation). Moreover, I do not use much baking powder so I have a brand that sucks! I had issues before using it. Lastly, I over-baked the muffins (though she recommends not to!) because I forgot that the batter had banana so I expected the toothpick not only to be clean, but also dry. They were a disaster, so chewy that even my boyfriend avoided them.

I was very disappointed because they look so good in her blog. Also, I really wanted to make kefir chocolate muffins and her recipe, in my understanding seemed perfect.

Given that the only real difference in the two recipes was realistically the acidity of kefir, that must have been the key for the failure. In my knowledge of kitchen chemistry, with such an acidic base I really did not need baking powder, which is just baking soda with acidic ingredients to make it react. So I decided to give these muffins another try, after substituting baking powder with baking soda. I also did not have enough almonds this time so I increased the amount of flour to compensate and I substitute olive oil with the vegetable oil I had in the kitchen. The batter was also not enough for my muffins pan so I doubled the dose. Final touch, I added white chocolate chips, just to spoil myself after the last failure...

The result was wonderful. The texture was soft and moist and no acidic flavor was detectable. I loved Kristen idea to use espresso powder in the batter, it really enhances the cocoa flavor. The presentation could have been a little better but given that it was almost midnight when I finished!

Here's my version of the recipe. Thanks Kristen for sharing your wonderful recipe!

  • 2 overripe bananas
  • 2/3 cups of sugar
  • 2 tsp of pure vanilla extract 
  • 2 Tbsp of peanut oil
  • 2 tsp of finely ground (espresso) coffee
  • 2 cups of AP flour
    2/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup of crushed almonds (I used a hammer)
  • 2 tsp of baking soda
    1 1/2 cups of kefir
  • white chocolate chips for topping (optional)
  • Preheat the oven at 350F. 
  • Mash the bananas and add sugar and coffee. Whisk until well incorporated. Add all the wet ingredients except kefir. 
  • Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add some of the dry flour mixture to the wet ingredients then add some kefir, it will start bubbling. Finish adding flur and kefir until well incorporated. Bake immediately for 20 minutes (or until it passes the toothpick test).

”Monthly Food Disaster”


Monday, September 27, 2010

Pearl barley and verza cabbage soup

Another groceries-less dish. I made this last week-after stating (even in one of my blog posts) the complete absence of food in my fridge, for the third day in a row. It is amazing how you can find stuff you did not see before, just by looking a little more carefully in the fridge. Well, in the huge emptiness of my fridge, I found leftover cabbage from my cabbage strudel and a bunch of carrots and here it was: my frugal dinner to eat before going to the movies.

The movie was a very good independent documentary about the American Indians Associations, A Good Day To Die. It is a little hard to find but definitely worth it.

I am so happy that fall is here and the soup season has officially started! Here's the recipe enough to  feed 4 people or your self 4 times (such as in my case).

  • 1/4 cabbage (verza)
  • 3 big carrots
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 cups of barley
  • 1/2 tsp cumin (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 fresh rosemary stem
  • 1 small potato (optional)
  • 2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups or more of vegetable broth (optional)
  • paprika to taste (and garnish)
  • Chop all the ingredients. On medium heat cook the onion in 1-2 tbsp of oil until golden brown. Add carrots and cook for 3-4 minutes then add barley and let it toast for about 3 minutes. At this point add the cabbage and the broth. I did not have broth so I used water, which you can always use if you are a fan of smooth flavors. The liquid should cover all the solid ingredients 2-3 inches above. Add the bay leaf and rosemary and cumin if you are using it or other spices if you like. 
  • Bring to boil and cook on medium-low for 40 minutes. Set some worm broth or water aside and keep it ready in case you fell that the liquid is absorbing too fast. I do not typically soak the barley before cook it but if you do it for 30-60 minutes, it may reduce the cooking time by 10-20 minutes (depending on the soaking time). The barley should be as tender as you like it: for me soft but still a little crunchy is right.
  • Remove from heat and serve with some paprika, if you like and a tbsp of the best olive oil you can find. 

Real Food Wednesday Beauty and Bedlam

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Mini-donuts with ricotta cheese and cocoa

My version of "ciambelline ricotta e cacao" from Le cuochine (if you can read Italian :-). The amount of butter seemed to be a little to much for so I reduced it. I did not have A/P flour so I used bread flour... They were tasty but a little chewy, so I corrected the recipe with 1/2 tsp extra of baking powder. The reason was also the poor quality of the ricotta cheese I used. I was not completed satisfied but given the circumstances, not bad at all. They are definitely worth another try. 

  • 240 g ricotta cheese
  • 60 g butter
  • 150 g sugar
  • 50 g cocoa powder
  • 200 g A/P flour (plus more for dusting)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup of powdered sugar for dusting 
  • Whisk sugar and ricotta until soft and fluffy. Add the egg and mix until well incorporated. Then add the cocoa, butter and the mixture of flour, salt and baking powder. The final dough should be sort of taught and compact. 

  • Shape the dough in little donuts (I made 16 but the original recipe called for 50...) Place them in a baking pan and bake at 300F for 10-12 minutes.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tempeh with cranberries and lemon-strawberry sauce and wakame seaweed as a side (my crazy lunch)

I should have gone to the store yesterday. I open the fridge to find something for lunch and what I see is emptiness and sadness. Definitely, I cannot afford to skip lunch again; so I have to be creative. Pre-packaged comes before frozen in my list of priority for desperate meals. Ans here it is! A package of tempeh not even open and bought a couple of wees before. That's it. 

Now it's all about finding something to mix the tempeh with, because I tried multiple times to eat it straight and it is not the most pleasant experience. Also, not recommended when you are eating because you know you have to, not necessarily because you really want to. Typically I like it sauté with oil, lemon (lots) and soy sauce. But lemons do not grow spontaneously in my kitchen so I have to buy it and, as I mentioned earlier, it's been a while since the last time I had a trip to the grocery store. 

One of the recipes I used to make when I was obsessed with tempeh was called something like "tempeh all'orientale" (oriental style tempeh). It called for pine nuts and raisin and yes, I have pine nuts! But of course no raisin and no lemon. At this point it becomes a challenge, whatever I find in the fridge or the shelfs is going to be good enough. And it was! Here's what I ended up doing:

Ingredients for one:
  • Tempeh (1 serving)
  • 3 tbsp of strawberry lemonade
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of pine nuts
  • 2 tbsp of dried cranberries
  • 1 tbsp of soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp of rice vinegar (optional)

  • Ina  small saucepan, heat the oil and add the tempeh and cook on medium-low until golden brown. Add pine nuts and cranberries and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add the strawberry lemonade, soy sauce and cook until the liquid is reduced a little. 
I served the craziness with wakame seaweed and a bunch of steamed broccoli. The former turned out to match pretty well while the latter I would not recommend... :-)

Linking to MMMmonday at Acting Balanced

VegetarianFodieFridaysHey What's For DinnerMyMeatlessMondays

September 21 is the international Day of Peace

But after all, every day is a good day to be reminded...

"Peace is available in every moment, in every breath in every step."
Thich Nhat Hanh

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Kefir and Dishcloth Give Away

Do not miss the opportunity to have a free batch of kefir grains to start your culture!
And after all this cooking I guess to have a couple of free cloths would not be bad!


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Verza cabbage strudel

Verza cabbage is one of the most delicious winter vegetables. The sweet flavor and the crisp texture makes it a great base for filling and the large leaves can be easily used as a wrap. In ages when you could only buy in season vegetable, there was a small window at the beginning of the winter to buy cabbage, but now you can basically find this vegetable  all year around.

The strudel is a great main dish for dinner, but it can be saved in the fridge for a couple of days and the dough will stay fine. There are mixed opinions about the toxicity of cooked potatoes stored in the fridge, especially when fried, and this dish contains some. I prefer not to eat them after 24 hours, especially because they do not taste good!


  • Dough*
  • 1 1/2 cups A/P flour
  • 1/2 rye flour
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  •  4 tsp olive oil
  •  1/4 tsp salt
  • Filling
  • 1/2 verza cabbage
  • 1 medium potato
  • 1/4 cup of emmental cheese
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp salt 
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 2 cloves of garlic (one finely chopped)
  • 1 small scallion
  • pepper to taste (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp coriander (optional) 
* You can substitute frozen phyllo or brisee dough and skip the dough preparation, if you are in hurry.


  • Prepare the dough: mix all the dough ingredients together and knead until smooth and elastic (about 7-10 minutes). Make a ball and refrigerat for about 30 mins. 
  • In the meanwhile, prepare the filling. Cook the potato (boiled or steamed) and mashed it. Cut the cabbage in medium-small pieces and wash it. Crush 1 clove of garlic, finely chop the scallion and cook them in the oil/butter mix until golden brown, then add the cabbage and cook until tender (about 10 mins). Mix cabbage and potato with the other ingredients.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.  

  • Cut the dough in a half and roll it very thin. Place half of the filling in the center and wrap it with the dough as many times as the dough's length allows. It was twice for me but it depends on the thickness. Place the rolls in a oiled oven pan and bake for 25-35 minutes, until golden on top and serve hot. 





Hey What's For Dinner


Lemon kefir ice cream

I had some extra kefir ready and I've always wanted to use it in a recipe that does not require cooking it, for avoiding to destroy the beneficial bacteria. Searching the web I found this lemon kefir ice cream on chocolate & zucchini. The flavor and aromas of this ice cream were very strong. I did not have any fruit when I made it, but I think it would go well with peaches or berries. Here's my version of the recipe.


  • 1 2/3 cups of kefir
  • The zest of one organic lemon
  • 1/4 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1/3 cup of honey
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp of white rum


  • Combine all the ingredients together and mix with a whisk, until well blended. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and freeze in the ice cream maker, according to the manufacturing instructions. 
  • If you do not have an ice cream maker, put the ice cream in the freezer and mix every 45 minutes until ready (about 5 hours). 
  • Or you can follow the instructions in this video.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Veggie BBQ

Who said that vegetarians cannot have a satisfactory BBQ experience? Well, of course if you stick with cardboard veggie burgers and nothing else, do not expect much from your grill. Surprisingly, one of my most satisfactory experiences came from when I did not have much in the fridge. That pushed me to try new, unexpected veggies on the grill (e.g., broccoli and cauliflower). Here's a coupe of pics.

Easy tips
Slice broccoli with the stem. Add oil and salt.
Wrap cauliflower in aluminum foil. Add butter and salt.
Any vegetable though would work.

A marinade with tofu is preferable, but oil and salt works as well. I also grilled seitan (I will post recipes on how to make homemade seitan soon), with the same marinade, it was really delicious. Try this sauce:

1/2 cup of mustard
2 tbsp of capers
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt an pepper to taste


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sourdough pizza and flour tortillas

So, the first time I tried tortillas it was from a Mexican book recipe, which call for a substantial amount of lard (I use vegetable shortening). Very disappointing. Then I tried the sourdough tortillas... and my boyfriend, from Texas and addicted to Mexican food, rated them as some of the best tortillas he ever had. Also very easy to roll with regular rolling pin and you wont need a tortilla maker. Perfect when you have sourdough leftover.

But here's the magic: you can use the same dough to make pizza (if you were wondering what the picture was all about). It is incredibly similar to the Italian style pizza dough and you can can keep it ready in the fridge for up to 10 days.


  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups of sourdough starter (I have 100%)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • Water as needed to make the dough fairly soft

Combine all the ingredient in a bowl and add water, if needed, to make the dough pretty soft and easy to knead. Knead for 5-10 minutes then let it rest for 30 minutes room temperauture. At this point, you can either make tortillas or store the dough in the fridge for up to 10 days (you can use the dough straight out f the fridge). Roll tortillas on a well floured surface (the more flour, the easier it is to roll them thin) and cook them on a hot pan. It the pan is hot enough the tortilla would inflate and form nice, big bubble in the middle. Transfer on a plate, wont stick one on each other.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Kefir pancakes

My new favorite recipe for pancakes is kefir pancakes. Well the previous one, contained farmer's cheese (such as Lifeway), so... sort of kefir pancakes as well. there is just a general consensus about the great texture of the kefir pancakes. They are fluffy, moist and very soft. Anyway, I used this basic recipe to make about 10 mini pancakes, enough for 2-3 servings:


  • 1 cup of flour
  • 3/4 tsp of baking soda (possibly not the same one that you keep in the fridge to get rid of smells)
  • 1 cup of kefir
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp of vanilla extract (not artificial flavor)
  • A pinch of salt 
  • Butter or vegetable oil for the griddle
  • Syrup and/or fresh fruit to serve

Mix the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Lightly beat the egg and stir in the wet ingredients. Incorporate them into the dry ingredients. You will see some activity due to the kefir and the baking soda reacting.

Pour about 2-3 tbsp on the pre-heated, lightly greased skillet to form the mini pancakes, as many as you can fit on the skillet. Wait until bubbles form to the top of the pancakes, flip them and gently press them so the heat ca go all the way through. After 2-3 minutes pile them on a plate and serve with syrup, syrup butter and fresh fruit.  

Milk kefir

The first time I had Kefir, my friend Yuhfen gave it to me, together with some grains to start my culture. Since then, I drink kefir almost every day.

Kefir is like a more liquid version of yogurt, but much easier to make. You just pour cold milk from the fridge on the grains and wait for 24-36 hours.

I don't need to talk about kefir that much, since there are people more dedicated than me reporting infor and instructions on what kefir is (here and here) and hoe to make it (here). Nonetheless, I gave my little contribution in my post about Kombucha tea. If you don't want to go to the link, here's what I say about it:
Non all probiotic foods are healthy. For example, it is easy to find scientific articles describing the link between kefir consumption and decrease of several types of cancer (e.g., Parvez et al., 2006). Kefir is a fermented milk that produces something similar to yogurt. It tastes a little alcoholic and it is known to have many health benefits. To give you an idea the search for "kefir+cancer" on a database such as pubmed gives you immediately more than 100 results.

Here, I just want to show my way to drink it: some fresh fruit and dark chocolate. My favorite is peach, but berries, kiwis and bananas are perfect as well.

You can even make stuff, like pancakes with it.