Skillet Cornbread Biscuits

Mark has become great at making soup. Tonight we enjoyed a cabbage cauliflower soup with skillet cornbread biscuits that I hope to make more often. They were super easy, and especially good with a little bit of maple syrup. Vegan of course.

Skillet Cornbread Biscuits – Vegan
Makes 12 biscuits
Ingredients
  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup vegan butter (I use Earth Balance) or coconut oil – kept cold
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

Stir together all of the dry ingredients. It is best to sift the baking powder and baking soda through a wire sieve if they are clumpy.

Start an iron skillet on medium low heat. I used the skillet we had sauteed vegetables for the soup and only barely cleaned it out. It should have a sheen of oil.

Chop up the shortening of your choice into tiny cubes.  Use a pastry blender to cut the shortening into the dry mix. It should be pebbly.

Mix together the almond milk and the apple cider and then pour this into the other ingredients. Mix until everything is combined but don’t overmix.

Scoop out about 3 TBS at a time and form into a biscuit patty.  Put 4 to 5 patties into the skillet and use your hand or spatula to flatten them a bit. They should cook on one side for approximately 8 minutes. Check them….turn them when they have browned nicely and cook on the other side for about 6 minutes.

If you are going to make all of them, put the finished ones on a plate inside a very low heat oven. Otherwise, keep the batter in a bowl in the fridge to make more biscuits for the next day.

These are very quick. I hope you have real maple syrup …..

The Inquisitive Skink

Oatgurt

I have been meaning to write about making my oatmeal yogurt for a while.  I am so happy to have discovered it.  I first read about making this in The Vibrant Table, Recipes from My Always Vegetarian, Mostly Vegan & Sometimes Raw Kitchen.  The title of this book grabbed me, as I have been vegetarian since 1975, am mostly vegan – but refuse to be religious about it – and raw foods is how I naturally eat for more than half the day.  Author Anya Kassoff has a talent I look for in cookbook writers….she tells a story while explaining her craft. 
Kassoff states that she requires a high-speed blender.  Even though my blender is sort of sucky in its well-used old age, it has worked out fine here. I’m trying to squeeze all the life I can out of it before it gets replaced.  Kassoff’s recipe calls for 1 cup of oat groats, 1 cup of rolled oats and ½ cup of Brazil nuts.  I didn’t have oat groats on hand and substituted 1 cup of steel cut oats the first time around. This still worked out fine…..though get the oat groats if you can, they make a better yogurt.
You rinse and drain the groats and cover with water (she states purified water….I used tap), making sure the water level is about a half inch above the oats.  You soak this 8 hours or overnight.  Make sure the bowl is glass or ceramic because of the fermentation process. I did this on a work night, but it took no time at all to blend them in the morning with their soaking water until smooth.  You can add more water if you like.  Just be aware that this yogurt does not thicken through fermentation, but from absorption.  You blend the Brazil nuts into almost a flour and add them to the mix.  I chose to soak the Brazil nuts right along with the oat mixture and ran it through the blender all at the same time.  
Now you just loosely cover the bowl and let the mixture sit at room temperature for one to three days. Instead of cheesecloth I used a clean cloth napkin held tightly in place with a large rubber band. I think this works better because it is easier to remove for stirring and tasting and it keeps the cloth from touching the surface of the oat mixture. Stir the yogurt with a wooden spoon every 8 hours or so and taste it for tanginess.  I like my yogurt sour so I go the whole three days.  It can be kept refrigerated for up to a week.
I don’t tend to leave recipes alone, so I am going to tell you how I make this oatgurt now. I really like a smooth and very thick yogurt so I wanted to do something to get more of a Greek yogurt consistency.  I didn’t feel any loyalty to keeping this recipe raw, and I figured that cooking the oat mixture would be the way to go if I wanted to get the thickness I craved. So I cooked the oats and groats (using groats instead of steel cut oats makes a huge difference in creaminess) along with the nuts.  I have tried Brazil nuts, almonds, filberts and raw cashews.  The raw cashews definitely win out in my opinion for improving the flavor and creaminess.  I doubled the nuts to a cup and now the recipe is even easier to remember – 1 cup each of thick rolled oats, oat groats, and cashews, and you can’t get much simpler than that. I bring it all to a boil and then simmer it (groats cook just like rice) and it takes about 45 minutes to be done the way I like it.  The water is pretty much 2:1 in ratio with the oats….I might add a little extra to counterbalance the nuts, but not much.  When it is cooked and at the consistency I like, I cool it down and then I blend it in the blender until it is as smooth as possible. Then I set it aside, covered to ferment, as explained before. The thicker your mix, the longer it takes to get its tang going, but if you stir it a little more frequently the timing is not that much different and it is still done in three days time…..sooner if you don’t like it as sour as I do. You can keep a small amount to add to your next batch as a starter so that it ferments quicker. Adding a plain soy or coconut milk yogurt to the batch would be a simple way to get this going more quickly also, though I must admit I am super happy with the plain old bacteria that occur naturally at my house for the fermentation process. You can also buy yogurt cultures, vegan or non-vegan, easily online.
I buy my oats and groats and nuts at the local co-op.  Making this really satisfies the need to be frugal. You get about two quarts of oatgurt for about $1. When going vegan I thought I would miss cheese and ice cream, but I just don’t…… yogurt was the one item I really missed. This stuff is amazingly satisfying and hits the spot. I keep it in my refrigerator every week now, and use it with fruit, granola, or maybe just a little maple syrup. I also use it to make a spread to put on my veggie wraps or pita sandwiches. Simply blend it to taste with a bunch of nutritional yeast, some tamari, and black pepper (and minced garlic if you have some). I usually just make how much I need on the spur of the moment, though you could easily keep this in a jar in the fridge.  I like this spread instead of mayonnaise and it has a cheesiness to it that goes well on sandwiches. You can thin it down and heat it to make a gravy for mashed potatoes. I tend to like kimchee on these wraps also…..another fermented food I love to make now, but that will have to be another article. 
  
So there you go! Give it a try!

The Inquisitive Skink

Thanksgiving Lasagna

About a year or so ago a wonderfully talented cook, Madelyn Hood, served Mark and I a wonderful dish of stuffed shells that had a delicious winter squash filling. She has since that time talked to me about a small catering she provided where the main dish was once again a pasta dish using winter squash (or was it pumpkin?). So I’ve thought about creating a pasta dish with winter squash for a while now.

My family spreads Thanksgiving out over the entire long weekend. Didn’t make it to Madison this year (though I managed to deliver a Bavarian Apple Torte and a Blackberry Pie to them) but we still had our small family gathering at home Thanksgiving Day, and then one with Mark’s family at a gathering at his sister’s in Indy on Saturday. I had made some Brie with caramelized onion fondue for day-long nibbling while dinner was made on Thanksgiving day. The following day I kept working on creating a recipe for a new lasagna for the Saturday gathering and decided to combine the flavors of butternut squash with the brie and caramelized onion. The following recipe is what I came up with.

Caramelized Onion Butternut Squash Lasagna
with Portabella Mushrooms and Brie

Ingredients


4 cups pureed butternut squash*
2 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbs minced garlic
1/4 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup fresh shredded Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 – 2 cups bread crumbs (from 3 slices of whole wheat)




(I really need to become better at food
 photography…..this photo does not do it justice)




6 -8 medium onions – halved and thinly sliced (5-6 cups)
2 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 cups thinly sliced portabella mushrooms
1 tsp fresh chopped rosemary
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper


1 package egg roll wraps
(trust me …..these work great as lasagna noodles)
1 lb. fresh mozzarella cheese
1 lb. round of Brie
more fresh grated Parmesan




Instructions:


For the Butternut Squash Puree:
I prefer the method shown by the folks at Food Mayhem for preparing puree. While the squash is roasting in the oven you can slice the onions and make the bread crumbs.

I don’t bother with the food processor for the puree.  A potato masher works just fine.  Add the puree to a pot in which you have already started the olive oil and minced garlic. Add the vegetable broth ( I usually buy the vegetable broth powder at Bloomingfoods) and cream and the shredded parmesan cheese.  Salt isn’t absolutely necessary, but be generous with the freshly ground black pepper.  Stir in the bread crumbs.
Set aside.

For the Caramelized Onions with Portabella Mushrooms:
The technique I prefer for caramelizing onions is the one advocated by Mark Bittman, the New Your Times columnist and the author of How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.  You cook the onions without oil for twenty minutes……if you have to, you can add a little water during this time.  You stir infrequently, with a wooden spoon scraping up the “browning” which is actually the sugar cooking off and stirring it back into the onions.  Once the onions have cooked for about twenty minutes you add the olive oil.  This is when I add the mushrooms, salt, pepper and the fresh rosemary. Stir and cook until the mushrooms have cooked and everything looks yummy!  I have a hard time refraining from just eating caramelized onions straight by themselves.  It can pay to make plenty extra since they keep in the fridge well and improve everything, in my opinion.

Making the Lasagna:

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees.  Mine at home bakes hot at 375 so I adjust accordingly. Grease a large baking dish.  I use a  half-size commercial baking pan, but you can use a heavy 9-12 in. baking dish.

Open the package of Egg Roll Wrappers. Keep a empty dish with a lid on the table to keep them in while in the process of layering so that they don’t dry out.  Be sure to peel them apart carefully…they are very thin.  Or you could opt to use two packages and have sturdier noodles, leaving them doubled.  I’m sure this would be fine.

Do the layering any which way you want…..really. But for those of you who want instructions:
Spread a very thin layer of the squash mixture on the bottom of the pan and cover with the egg roll noodles. It will take three noodles – two whole and one cut in halves.  Cover this with a layer of the onion/mushroom mix. You can see my camera phone picture of the strips of Brie I layer with the onions.

Another layer of noodles.  Next layer squash. Noodles. Mozzarella. Noodles. Caramelized onions with portabella mushrooms and Brie. Noodles. Brie. Noodles. Squash….and so on. On top a layer of noodles topped with mozzarella, brie and some parmesan.

Cover the casserole with foil for the first half hour of cooking time, and then uncover to let the cheeses get a nice and bubbly look to them.

Let the lasagna set for a good ten minutes before cutting into portions.  A hint from the kitchens (I manage Food Works for Middle Way House) is that you cut through the first layer with scissors. Then you follow these cuts with a knife to get perfectly evenly cut portions of lasagna.

This is a very rich dish!  Smooth and creamy.  Enjoy!!!!

The Inquisitive Skink