Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2010! Ch-ch-ch-CHANGES.

So, as I seem to say a lot in blogs and writing, and I guess anything I try to do regularly: It's been a while.
Sorry about that. But one thing you should know about me, lover, enemy or friend, I'm easily distracted and my commitment really has a lot of interruption.
SO, I bring you The Manual Labor 2.010-WITH A TWIST!
That's right dear readers WAY back in 2009 I made a life a change and will be applying it to the blog:
I am now a Vegan.
Now to clarify things:
I don't necessarily believe we shouldn't eat animals, I just don't believe the way in which we do eat them now or in whose hands the money we spend to do this ends up, is positive. We live now in an age in which we will have to begin answering for who we are and what we have done up until this point (or perhaps I am an age in which I have to answer these questions!) and I believe now that I can not answer the question of how I treated the world in which I lived so briefly in a way that makes me comfortable to continue it.

SO, now this blog will be a Vegan, Manual, Manual!
I plan to continue my use of non-electric appliances, green procedures for cooking and general quick nightly recipes, but with the twist of vegan-ism. Hopefully I will continue to make good food while doing this!

I will not divert to preachy rhetoric on vegan-ism or meats impacts on the world and our psyche or to the unending suffering it currently promotes (remember what I said about my commitment policy? You may see a few...) but hopefully will promote thoughtful eating and the creation of wholesome, enjoyable vegan food.

Lot's of love in the new year and looking forward to all the joy and happiness that is coming our way.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Santiago's Birthday Brunch (Part 1)

The 28th was James' birthday so we decided to have a birthday brunch on Saturday to Celebrate.
Tons of good food.
Jojo, the queen of appetizers brought the most delicious Fried Green Olives stuffed with Cheese, and lettuce bowls filled with a rice, beans, tomato, and corn mixture. AMAZING.
Taya brought a few of the best cheeses I've had in years, so delicious.
Here is the spread:

James made a Roasted Red Pepper, Sauteed Mushroom, Potato and Onion Crust Quiche and I decided to bake my first ever cake. (how did this blog become a baking blog when I never baked before I started it...)
So I made a Chocolate Tres Leches cake with strawberries, blueberries and a Cinnamon Ginger Whip-cream. It actually turned out really well! I was surprised, as I was expecting disaster...
But anyway, here is the recipe for the cake:
The original recipe came from google-ing 'Chocolate Tres Leches cake' and then making a few changes.

Recipe 5: Chocolate Tres Leche Cake Cake
  • 6 eggs seperated
  • 2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 2 cups wheat flower
  • 3/4 cup Cocoa Powder
  • 3 Teaspoons baking powder
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 3 teaspoons Vanilla
(I think some coconut or something added would be really good but I made it plane.) Sauce
  • 1- 12 ounce can evaporated milk
  • 1- 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 5 ounces unsweetened Chocolate melted
  • 1/3 cup Heavy Whipping cream
(Again you could add something to this- almond oil or something. keep it liquid though because you are going to poor it over the cake in the end and it has to soak into it.) Chocolate Ganache
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
(Add some Cayenne pepper for a little bite or some pieces of almond or something. Coconut?) Whipped Cream
  • Cup of heavy whipped cream
  • 1/3-1/2 cup sugar
  • Ginger, juiced with a garlic crusher
  • Cinnamon to flavor
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. You can prepare a cardboard cut out of the cake pan in order to let the chocolate drip off of it when you pour it in the end. I used a cake plate and use the chocolate that collected along the bottom to hold the sliced strawberries and blueberries- it was a bit messy, but fun!
  3. If you have access to them, use two 9-in round silicone pie pans, they are easier to pop the finished wet cake out of, but I used one silicone and one regular. It turned out fine, just that the metal pan was harder to get the cake from. Either way- grease the pan
  4. in a medium bowl combine: milk Vanilla
  5. in another medium bowl combine Flour, cocoa, baking powder (any other dry ingredients you may be adding to the recipe)
  6. in a Large bowl beat the egg whites until peaks form
  7. mix a little slower and add sugar to the whites
  8. once the sugar is completely mixed in, add egg yolks and beat for 3 minutes
  9. continue to beat egg mixture and add flour and milk alternately until well blended
  10. Divide the batter between the two pans and bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick insterted in center comes out clean
  11. after you pull them from the oven, poke holes in them with something wooden- I used a chopstick.
  12. Melt the chocolate for the sauce, if you want you can heat up the other ingredients with the chocolate (I did this.)
  13. Combine the sauce ingredients and pour evenly over the two layers.
  14. Place the cakes in the refrigerator and allow to cool.
  15. In a small, heavy sauce pan on medium heat stir the cream and chocolate together until chocolate is melted and mixture is blended.
  16. Add Vanilla and stir for 1 minute
  17. The cakes are very moist (ugh. I hate that word.) so you will have to work like a magician with them. Get them out somehow and make sure not to break them apart. If you are using the silicone ones it is pretty easy. If you prepared the cardboard flip one of them onto that and put it over something to catch the chocolate. If you did not (like me!) get a pretty big pie plate that some excess chocolate can collect around the side. Be prepared for a mess of chocolate that you will have to lick up!
  18. Pour some of the frosting over the first cake and with a spatula spread it across the top and sides.
  19. Flip the other cake on top of first and spread more frosting over both cakes (on top and sides.)
  20. Refrigerate until glaze is set
  21. in a small bowl combine all the ingredients for the whip cream and do it to it. Refrigerate
  22. slice up the strawberries (or pears, or mango or whatever fruit you feel like using) and wash the blueberries (or whatever, but come on- Blueberries! They're so f'n good!)
  23. Splash the whip cream where you want it, toss the fruit where it looks cute.

I will tell you about the Quiche and a few tips for leftovers in part 2 of the post, but now I must go for a jog and hope my heart doesn't burst from all the cream and sugar that's been pumping through my veins these last few weeks!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Quick dinner before a terrible movie.

I made last minute plans to go see Adam with my good friend Jojo last night. So I had to make a quick dinner.
First off- the movie was LAME. So lame in fact that all three of us ended up walking out. I didn't even care what ended up happening. I wont go off though because this isn't a movie blog. Your lucky it isn't. I tend to get angry at films.

Anyway- I tossed together a few things and thought I would post it because it reminded me of:

Cooking Tip #2: Find Standard, Versatile Ingredients That You Enjoy.
This makes quick meals good. My standard veggies I buy almost every time I visit the market are:
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Spinich
  • Kale
  • Heirloom cherry tomatoes
  • Basil (since I did my plant in trying to get rid of ants)
  • Frozen corn
  • Garlic
All of these can be used in a billion ways and styles. For instance you can steam, bake, broil, saute etc. brussel sprouts and make them Asian or Spanish or whatever you want really. This makes tossing together a quick meal a little more gourmet. Keeping a few key ingredients in your fridge at all times is key. Plus if they are foods you already know you enjoy it will urge you to try them in new ways.

So last night in 20 minutes I whipped up this:
I'm not really sure what you would call it but here is the recipe:

Recipe 2: Garlic Bread:
  • Garlic,
  • butter,
  • sourdough roll.
  1. Slap it all together,
  2. broil it.
Watch it close. I almost always get it darker than I mean it to be!

Recipe 3: Baked Kale:
  • A bunch of Kale
  • Coconut Oil
  • Salt
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion Powder
  1. Preheat oven to 420f
  2. Strip the kale from the stock and roll it around in oil, salt Garlic powder, Onion
  3. Toss it in a pan and broil for 5-10 minutes then pull it out and flip it.
  4. broil for another 12-15 minutes
Test out your levels of each. I like mine crunchy and salty so I add more salt and just eye-judge the oil depending on how much oil I feel like having.

Recipe 4: Grain Mix:

(Trader Joes has a good Harvest Grain Mix that's good to have around for times like this, it cooks in about 15 minutes Just follow the directions and add what you like to it. Otherwise here is the ingredients and recipe I used.)

For Grain:
1 1/4 cup mix of:
  • Israeli Couscous
  • Orzo
  • Baby Garbanzo
  • Red Quinoa
  • Butter
  • Spices (I used Garlic, onion, oregano, salt, pepper)
  • 1 3/4 Cups Vegetable Stock
Get veggie stock spices and butter boiling, toss in Grains, bring it back to a boil then cover and let simmer for 10 or so minutes.

(I added Sauteed mushrooms, basil and corn to mine)

Sauteed Mushrooms:
  • Any style of Mushroom
  • Butter
  • Garlic
I love the flavor of garlic and I knew I would be adding it to the grains so I used a bit of butter and TONS of garlic. On medium heat in a sautee pan I move the mushrooms around a lot until they turn brown. Keeping it on medium heat and keeping them moving keeps the garlic from burning.

Then I just stirred the Mushrooms, cut up basil and frozen corn into the finished grains.
AND BAM! Dinner.
20 minutes.

Add a beer. Treat yourself.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A lot of craziness in the kitchen this week- I bought my first manual cooking instrument: the beater in order to make my favorite dessert: Creme Brulee (photos of both to come- believe me they will be quick since I have to wait to eat the rest of the Creme Brulee until they do!)(Okay, so I'll have to make some more CB to take photos of because I ate it last night!) Besides this my DP upended the kitchen in order to finish painting it and I have been at war with ants that decided to make my kitchen plants there home.
SO lets get started.

I'll start with the infestation:
What does this have to do with the kitchen? The ants decided to nest in my kitchen plants which are my herbs.
I started noticing ants around the house only a week after I moved in. Of course it's New York and I live above a Pizza shop AND a bagel bakery so I didn't think much of it, but soon it seemed there a few too many, so I purchased a few of those ant traps where the poor things carry the poison back to their home. That worked. They seemed to thin out, but when I went to water the plants a million of them came up out of one of my flowering plants so naturally I tossed it out the window! The next day as I was watering my basil they rose out of that. I set it on the window sill and started looking online for what to do next. I love Basil and my basil plant was my favorite. Yes, I said was.
Online I found a tip: pour a little vinegar in the soil. So I did. The ants left, but my basil turned brown and died, and then I found the assholes in my thyme. I'm serious about trying really hard to be green, but when something messes with my herbs, their messing with my moral stability. Luckily my friend Jenn was quick on the e-mail reply and suggested a few things which I guess brings us to Household Tip #1!

Household Tip #1: How to Magically Rid House Plants of Ant Invaders (Thank you Jen!)
To rid your houseplants of ants in a green and humane way sprinkle a bit of
Cayenne pepper on the soil after spraying it lightly with soap water.

It worked! So far. I'm not sure how often you are supposed to do it but I'm just spraying the soil every other day and putting on more Cayenne as it disappears after a few waterings. I'll update you if this ends up creating super ants or ants with sombreros or kills my plants in some vicious and painful way, but so far so good.

Manual Kitchen Appliance #1: The Vintage Hand Blender
Last week, in preparation for the Tres Leches cake I'm making for James' Birthday, I bought a
vintage egg beater/hand blender. It's fucking amazing. And to test it out I made two types of Creme Brulee, which leads us to Cooking Tip #1 and Recipe #1, which is fitting that it would be creme brulee as it's the best fucking dessert in the world.

Cooking Tip #1: Make it your own
So, I know that technically creme brulee is baking, but I'm referring to it as cooking here as it practically is. When locating using a recipe, unless you are baking something that has to be exact, I really feel you should make it your own; this is where cooking/baking crosses the line of just being and becomes personal. Know yourself well. Dig deep into your likes and dislikes. It's an opportunity to discover yourself and be selfish. Always cook for yourself, even if it's ultimately for other people. Cooking is sharing. It's a labor of love and it should be yours. I always end up using about 40% or so of recipe and making the rest my own. For instance I like vanilla, so I add extra vanilla to my creme brulee, I like brown sugar so I use half a cup of this in place of the white sugar. Search out your own tastes and experiment. Don't worry if it turns out wrong, as long as you are trying; anyway, it would be really rare to make something so bad you can't even eat it!
Look at recipes not as maps, but as basic foundations for you to build off of.
When cooking I always end up adding
something to it; or taking something out.
That's the beauty of cooking
and how you can make it personal.

Recipe #1 Creme Brulee

So this is the basic recipe and you can add things to it. I made one batch plain and one batch Ginger.

1 Quart heavy cream
1 Vanilla Bean
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar (for top, or mix the two together and just set aside a 1/2 Cup)
6 Egg Yolks
Some Vanilla

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Cut the vanilla bean down the middle and then run the knife down it to get out all the seeds. I do this by pinching the end of it and with one hand and holding the knife tip with the thumb of the other hand (so the blade sort of rests on my pointer finger's bend inside the knuckle) then put the vanilla been on the pointer-finger and pull. It flattens out the bean and rests the seeds on the knife.

Put the seeds, pulp of the vanilla been and the Cream into a saucepan on med. high heat and let it come to boil, stirring it now and then. This is when you could add other ingredients of your choice, such as ginger, chocolate, etc. When it starts to boil, set it aside with a lid for 10-15 minutes. Don't forget to take out the pulp when it's done. (if you put in something like Ginger you will need to strain it before adding it to the egg mixture.

Whisk 1/2 cup Sugar and eggs together until it's well blended, here if you like vanilla you can splash in a little bit, or chocolate powder or whatever. When that's blended start adding the creme (don't forget to take the pulp out), not too much because it's hot and the eggs will harden, a splash every so often, whisk, another splash, until all the creme is added. When it's all added you can put the liquid into your ramekins. I used small used canning jars (3" high ones) and it worked great and looked cute. Just make sure it's not too deep.

Take whatever you choose to use and fill it with the liquid, place these in a large roasting or cake pan and fill it up with hot water up to half the height of the jars/ramekins Bake for about 40 or 45 minutes or until the creme brulee is just set in the middle. Remove them and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.

A little before you are going to serve them sprinkle the top with brown sugar and either broil them (carefully!) or use a torch to melt the sugar.

You can put anything you like on the top. I put blueberries on mine, both the Ginger and the regular ones.

Hope you like it! Let me know what you add to yours or how you modify the recipe. I love comparing.



A good friend of mine has been urging me to post a blog about my amateur cooking adventures. I have a knack at whipping together semi-gourmet dinners off of random ingredients I dig out of my cupboard and fridge; a knack she feels could be handy to document. I believe it comes from a respect of cooking that is often overlooked in American society. Cooking, to me, is a deeply spiritual act, connecting us to nature and community and a way to seek out and discover more deeper, less discussed, possibly primal things about our selves and those we love.
"What the fuck is this hippie talking about" you ask?
Well- that is precisely what I plan to explain. I'm hoping to use this blog to document my feelings about food and our connections to it while also giving handy tips, recipes and ideas. Along with this I plan to document my adventures and misshapes in trying to make a completely electric free kitchen (excluding the fridge and stove- I do live in Brooklyn after all!) Why a manual kitchen? There are a few reasons. One is that by taking away the 'convenience' in cooking it returns to a ritual of not just sustaining ourselves but also of a tool to discover ourselves, to work with our hands and minds and think about what we are doing. It connects us closer to our food and makes it a labor. I like that. I don't need my food to be convenient. I need it to be good! The next is the obvious reason of lowering our footprint. Though it's not by much anyway that we can lessen our impact is helpful. It's like the penny a day. Besides, I always try to think about how any convenience I have means someone doesn't have it. I don't know if this is true, but I do know there is some scientific law that governs that; placement or something... Whether or not it matters, I like to think of it. Positive energy into the universe is all we can really do. (I sound like such a hippie! I promise you I'm not really.) It's even better if we can get used manual kitchen appliances, that way new ones aren't being made wasting more resources, when there are tons of vintage one out there. Some people find the used kitchen utensils disgusting, I think that's more from our societies consumerist values than actual sanitary issues, but I digress...
So hopefully it will be helpful and entertaining and help me articulate my love of food and cooking a bit further.

Thanks for reading, enjoy!
P.S. If anyone sees any amazing manual appliances or has green ideas for the kitchen, please let me know!