One of the duties I’ll be taking over when I become writer in residence of Throbbing Manor is food prep and cooking, so this weekend seemed like a good time as any to start oozing into that roll.
At some point in my life, I’ll learn how to be a better food photographer.
This weekend, however, is not that weekend.
First up on the list was to find and make some kind of cold salad with broccoli as an ingredient to complement the sausage and peppers we were having for dinner. We had purchased a small broccoli head last week and it was starting to wilt in the fridge, so it needed to be used ASAP. I found this broccoli stem and carrot slaw recipe that ticked all the boxes and let me use up a few items that were getting close to be past their peak.
I had no idea what a cornichons (mini gherkin) were, I cut the mayo nearly in half, used half a white onion instead of a whole red, and we ended up adding a few dashes of salt to amp up the flavor. Instead of a Granny apple, I used a Pink Lady and I didn’t have Dijon, but used brown mustard instead.
While the salad turned out to not to be a good choice as a complement to the meal since the sausages were spicy, it was still a delight. We noted the flavors of the salad and the meat were dueling it out on our tongues and as a stand alone, the salad would be delish or as a side to more toned down meat like chicken. We both liked the different flavors, the salad’s crunch, and my substitutions worked really well together, making this salad fairly flexible.
While the broccoli slaw chilled in the fridge, I turned my attention to this no-bake 5 ingredient granola bar recipe I had recently discovered. I was drawn to the recipe because we already had all the ingredients and the idea that the bars could be formed without baking was greatly appealing. The lack of added sugar was also a big plus. I added in a dash of shredded coconut to the recipe for added flavor and added dried apricots to the mix as well. Apparently I didn’t press the mixture hard enough into the pan because after 20 or so minutes in the freezer, they came out more like bark than bars. TheHusband declare he loved it, and it’s something we can always make again since we normally carry all the ingredients in the house. We’re keeping the bark in the freezer to keep fresh and to nibble. Next time I’ll just need TheHusband to come down and use his manly strength to press the bars more firmly.
Lastly, I made another batch of vegan nutella. While it is super easy to make, I still hate de-skinning the hazelnuts as the skin bits get everywhere. Regardless, my toast this week will be partying hard with this on top.
While I’ll more than likely never get beyond as a very amateur cook, there is definitely something to be had for eating something knowing, “I made this.”
Truth be told, I’ve been pretty lax on the dairy restrictions around these parts lately because having a dairy allergy is akin to a death sentence. If you don’t live in a vegan friendly area, you’re pretty much fucked in the shopping and eating out arena as (mostly) everything has some sort of dairy-based ingredient in it. Thanks to my BFFs at VeganGR, GR has a growing vegan-friendly restaurant and food scene. But I am not vegan or vegetarian, I’m just allergic to dairy so I cheat.
Let me clarify that “cheating a lot” business. I mean that I won’t eat ice cream, but if a product has whey or lactose in it (crackers, chips, etc), and it’s not within the first five ingredients, I will eat it. If I am out to eat and an item has butter in or on it, I will eat it. I’ve been known to imbibe in a pizza or two and eating 2 Benadryl directly after ingestion.
Except cheating is becoming problematic. Before I could get away with having a pretzel stick here and eat eggs cooked in butter there, but the longer I keep cheating, the more compounded my reactions get. Finally, I’ve decided I’ve had enough of the constant heartburn, hives, lips tingling, stomach issues, and so forth. I have resolved no more cheating, and if I want something, I have to find or make a dairy free version of it.
One of the hardest things for me to replace is Nutella. It’s chock full of skim milk and they use milk chocolate. When I find dark chocolate variations of hazelnut spread, milk or whey is almost always involved. I’ve had a variation or two that seemed to be dairy free, but the flavor was off. I figured this was going to be one of the few foods I had to give up forever.
But this recipe, this recipe was easy. It had five ingredients, only required toasting of the hazelnuts and the use of a food processor. If I could get the roasting out of the way, as I’ve been known to burn bacon cooked in the oven, then I could totally do this.
I ordered already roasted hazelnuts from Nuts.com and waited for their arrival as I had everything else in stock. Once the nuts arrived (along with my personal mixed trail mix – yum!), I went to work.
First, I measured 2 cups of hazelnuts.
And since they were already roasted (smart thinking Lisa!), I dumped them into a clean kitchen cloth and rubbed the skins off.
After I got 98% of the skins off, because you won’t be able to get them all off, I dumped the lot into the food processor.
According to the instructions, when you start grinding the little bastards, first it goes into a meal, then into a ball, and then thanks to the heat and friction, it becomes butter in about 5 minutes of constant food processing.
Okay, I said to myself, I can do this. So I set the timer for five minutes and started processing.
My nuts went from nuts to butter in 1:30. One minute. Thirty seconds. I did not even get the satisfaction of the ball that would bounce around on the blades for a bit. Now the reason that I think they went almost immediately into butter is because the nuts were probably roasted with a bit of oil on them, so combined with their own natural oils, they liquefied pretty quickly.
After the nuts went into butter, then you dump in the confectioners sugar, vanilla, and the cocoa powder and continue to process until it was thoroughly mixed.
[insert photo I forgot to take of the processing of the rest of the ingredients.]
Now the recipe also calls for up to 1/4 cup of veg or nut oil added to liquefy a bit more if it was too thick to stir. I decided to use 1Tbsp of veg oil and go up depending on the results, and even that was way too much. But since it is living in the fridge for the next month or two (or week, if we end up devouring it), the cold will definitely thicken it up.
It bloody tastes like fucking Nutella.
I am a domestic goddess. Nigella, eat your heart out.
So a couple of notes:
If you buy your nuts already roasted (smart thinking!), you may find yourself not in the need of the oil
If you do use an oil, do not use veg, use a neutral oil instead. TheHusband, who has super human taste buds, claims he can taste the “rancid vegetables” from the oil
Jessica Su, the author of the recipe, put together another version (on the same page, but farther down) that does not use confectioners sugar. Her reasoning is that as confectioners sugar contains cornstarch, the first recipe seems a bit chalky in taste. We did not find that to be true, so feel free to mix/match between the two recipes she offers
If you order from nuts.com, a 1lb bag of roasted, unsalted hazelnuts should make two batches, a pint per batch
I use Hershey’s Special Dark powdered cocoa since it does not contain milk derivatives but any powdered cocoa will do
2 cups whole raw, roasted, unsalted hazelnuts
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
up to 1/4 cup neutral oil (grapeseed, coconut, something along those lines)
Remove the skins from the hazelnuts by putting them in a clean cloth and gently rubbing on them until the skins come off. You can also toss them in a bowl. If some skins are left on, that’s okay.
Dump the skinned hazelnuts into a food processor and process until they become butter. Time may vary, but it should go from whole nuts to meal to a ball of mass and then into butter. Stop and scrap down sides as needed. Process until you have a nice butter formed
Once the butter has formed, add the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and vanilla and process until thoroughly mixed. Scrape sides as needed.
If the mixture is too stiff, start adding the neutral oil, 1/2 Tbsp at a time until desired spreadability
Transfer deliciousness into a pint glass, cap tightly and store in fridge for 1-2 months
You may need to mix it before using
P.S. I snuck downstairs a few hours later and the Nutella was divine! I was eating gobs of it with a spoon and had to stop myself from devouring the entire jar.
My beloveds, I am deeply apologetic about the timing of today’s post. There were rumors around campus yesterday if the snow fell as much as the forecast was predicting, the college may be closing on Friday. Today was to be a short day for me, my two major appointments concerning food, so I decided instead of wrestling with fates on who was to be the victor, I stole the show and took the day off as an early vacation day.
On my first full day of freedom, I woke fairly early considering no alarm had been set and read in bed for awhile before the dog started getting antsy about going outside. TheHusband, whose been home on his holiday since Tuesday, snored gently to the tune of the whirring of the stand fan by his side of the bed.
I had told my office mates, well anyone who would listen, I was not planning on leaving the house for at least a week. One of them thought I was crazy — “I would go nuts,” she declared melodramatically, “If I stayed inside longer than two days!” No, not me. I even bought new yoga pants to celebrate. Not having to deal with asshole Michigan drivers swerving on rivers of snow, not having to beat feet around campus making meetings, not getting my pant leg tugged by staff and patrons on fixing something. The semester had been rough leading up to this point, I am desperate for a recharge and relaxation. And the opportunity to wear yoga pants and sports bras until they shred.
Today marks the 43rd day of a daily post from me, something I’m still a bit of a peacock about. I’m hovering at about 40K words during that period, or roughly about 1K words a day which is pretty close to NaNoWriMo lengths. I have been most excellent in keeping myself steady on this writing business, last week I had finished a few short stories and a few poems in addition to my daily writing here. I’m finding I am scribbling everywhere about everything, thus I decided during my holiday break to finally take a serious stab at writing a novel.
I have attempted, drunkenly stabbed at, stumbled towards writing a fiction novel since my early ’20s. I have outlines, characters fleshed out, half chapters finished of chaos and mess. Some of it is quite good, some of it also quite terrible. But I could never really get over that hump about getting my shit together and finishing the damn thing. Any of them. Ever.
If you’ve perused my writing page, you’ll see a couple of ideas I had been toying with at the time when I had thrown up the page in the summer of 2012. Of course I did not plan to spend most of that summer drugged on pain killers, which lead to spending most of early spring in the same situation, coupled with being on/off my bipolar and ADHD meds. While I am not trying to judge myself too harshly for my overly ambitious state of mind then, well, forgive me. It’s hard.
I came to the conclusion a few weeks ago I am coming at this finishing a novel business from the wrong angle. Once I started sorting out my technique, things as they tend to do, started to flow. The fruits of putting myself into a small challenge, writing and posting everyday, has been the catalyst for many minor and major life changes. I’m prioritizing my time better, I’m finishing work projects not at the last second but more often than not with time to spare. I feel more confident about myself, which is both a weird feeling and vaguely hysterical. I always knew I would be good at this, I just had to prove it to myself. I now have something tangible to look at and go yes, this is true. I can do this.
Where were we? Oh yes, so I was thinking the time is finally ripe to take one of my ideas and inseminate it with coffee, tea, spice cupcakes, and pug sweat. Last year I opened the door to people to preview my work as I go and I am going to do it again for this project. If you’re interested in joining, here are the details.
It should also go without saying that I’ll be writing about the whole process, etc etc here so be prepared for that onslaught in the upcoming weeks.
Also be prepared for a lot of food posts as well in the next few weeks. TheHusband and I are huge, HUGE fans of Mark Bittman and to deter the habit of always going out for food, we’re going to be cooking / baking all of our food from Bittman’s cookbooks while we’re home for the holidays. Since I’m handling a lot of the baking and breads, I wanted to document the process. Plus who doesn’t like good food and recipes to share?
I have also not forgotten the Making Happy project, but now that the semester is finally over and I can breathe, it should be easy to start up.