Cooking Experiments: Feats and Flops

Turnip picklesThis is a story of turnip pickles and ice cream.  No, I’m not pregnant.

During the summer I am more drawn than ever to very simple meals that can be made in a matter of minutes. (I plan on sharing a couple of those later this week!) However, I find myself doing more food projects. Either because I’ve discovered a new kitchen gadget or there’s more produce available, the time I’m not in the kitchen making lunches and dinners, I am instead having fun with food-related projects. (Some of them are more successful than others!)

First up, turnip pickles!

When a friend had to go out of town recently for business, she handed off her weekly CSA delivery to us. (Good friend, right?) Amongst the kale, kohlrabi, radishes, and more, there were three beets. Now, as regular readers may remember, I am no beet fan. However, there are a couple of ways that I can enjoy them. The number one way is by joining them with turnips for pickled turnips. (The beets are what give turnip pickles their gorgeous, vibrant, hot pink color.)

Pickled TurnipsI’ve written about my love of the David Lebovitz recipe before and their subsequent addition in Double Hummus Wraps. I picked up a couple pounds of turnips at the farmers market and set about peeling and chopping. The turnip pickles take a week to be fully ready, but I’ve been taste-testing them every day in the way that someone might taste chocolate chip cookies at every step in their making. With turnips being fresh and in season, I can tell already that this is going to be an especially good batch. (If you make them, remember to opt for small turnips. The big ones tend to be overly strong in their radish-flavor, which dominates and throws the taste off balance.)

Snickers ice cream - veganNext up, ice cream!

I must be hitting some kind of lucky streak, because in addition to my CSA bounty, I had the surprise delivery this week of a Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker that has been on my wish list since last summer, if not the summer before that. My mom decided to send me a “just because” present that keeps on giving! (First it’s the joy of discovering an ice cream maker on your doorstep. Then it’s the joy of ice cream!)

Just that morning, I had been admiring Kristy’s post about Red Velvet ice cream with much longing, while knowing that without an ice cream maker, I would be unable to sample a bite for myself. So once the ice cream maker arrived, I started pinning recipes that I’d admired in the past (like pistachio ice cream from The Sweet Life and Salted Caramel Pretzel ice cream from Chef Chloe).

Snickers ice cream - veganThat’s when this Snickers ice cream also from Keepin’ It Kind caught my eye. It’s made with a coconut milk base and has a swirling of caramel made from dates. It’s dotted with chocolate chips and peanuts. Sign me up!

I popped the freezer bowl into the freezer for the day while I picked up ingredients. The next day, I put the ice cream mixture into the maker to blend while I did some work at the computer. Fifteen minutes later I came back to the machine, and there was smooth, soft serve-style ice cream! (I realized later that I forgot to add the ¼ cup of non-dairy milk in the ice cream indicated in the recipe, but lucky for me, it still turned out just fine.)

Snickers ice cream - veganLooking at the ice cream I was reminded of the way I felt when I made almond milk for the first time. It’s one of those things that’s really cool to see happen in your very own kitchen. It seems like something that should be relegated to fancy restaurants or factories, but instead I had fresh homemade ice cream on my countertop.

The next step in the ice cream making process was adding the layers of caramel sauce and then putting it into the freezer in a loaf pan to fully set. But of course, I had to taste at every step along the way, in the same way a person might taste test… turnip pickles.

This ice cream is so incredibly delicious and decadent. It’s hard to believe that it’s only sweetened with dates! (Although, I did use vegan chocolate chips made with sugar.)

Wheatgrass JuicerFinally, in the less than successful realm, enter this wheatgrass juicer.

I have a standard juicer that I use for juicing celery, cucumbers, carrots, pineapple, tomatoes, oranges, and other watery fruits and vegetables. However, when it comes to leafy greens, it produces less than inspiring results, and it is totally unable to juice wheatgrass.

So when I saw this Manual Wheatgrass Juicer at a consignment shop, where I sometimes shop for blog props, I had to pick it up. It was only $15, which is much better than the usual $50 that it goes for new. I imagined that some person who was not at all interested in juicing had probably received this wheatgrass juicer for Christmas, never used it, and then took the unloved bit of machinery to the thrift store for a new life. I imagined that unlike that person, I was going to have a shot of wheatgrass every morning as a pick-me-up.

When I opened the box, I saw that it had, in fact, been used before, and there were no instructions inside. It wasn’t immediately intuitive how it might all fit together, and so I looked up some videos online. I followed the demonstration and then cranked and cranked until I had wheatgrass juice.

I’ve had juiced wheatgrass many times before at raw restaurants and juice bars. And I realized after that shot, this is not something I need all the time. For the $7 I paid for a flat of wheatgrass, I could have easily instead saved those wheatgrass-cravings for times when I’m at such a location. Plus, there wouldn’t be 5 minutes putting it together and 10 minutes of cleaning it for a shot that takes seconds to drink.

The whole system felt kind of rinky dink, leaking from places where it shouldn’t be with lots of parts to clean. The plastic arm felt a bit shoddy, and in the two or three subsequent times I used it, the wheatgrass got stuck in the nose of it, making it next to impossible to take it apart. Oh, well, at least it was only a $15 investment instead of $50 to find out I don’t really need a wheatgrass juicer. Welcome to the basement, buddy. I hope you like your roommate, Bread Machine.

Who knew that I would enjoy homemade ice cream more than wheatgrass? I know. No one could have seen that coming.

One more thing: Meredith over at Kale Crusaders made the cutest illustration of my recipe for Guac-Kale-Mole.  You should definitely click over to see it for yourself.  It’s adorable!

Disclaimer: This post includes Amazon affiliate links.

My Current Obsessions

Ethiopian style mac & cheese from Papa Tofu Loves EthiopianDuring this long holiday weekend, I thought it would be fun to drop in and share some of my current obsessions.

Ethiopian style mac and cheese from Papa Tofu Loves EthiopianMac & Cheese

I don’t know what has happened to me. I never used to make mac and cheese, but these past few months I’m nuts for it (cashews specifically). ;)  I keep trying new recipes (here and here), and I have found my definitive favorite – the Ethiopian-style mac and cheese from Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian. It has that rich, creamy cheesiness you expect with mac and cheese, but with an added layer of spiciness from berbere and paprika along with all of those wonderful flavors in niter kibbeh. And as luck would have it, David loves it too. He tends to not be a fan of mac and cheese, but this version is an exception.

Mac & Cheese Burrito with greens and barbecue Beyond MeatAfter making it for dinner one night with sautéed greens, I repurposed the leftovers the next day in a Homegrown Smoker-style burrito along with Beyond Meat that I grilled in my grill pan and tossed with barbecue sauce. I know it’s nothing to look at, but that thing was crazy good.

I’m not sure if a mac and cheese recipe will be in Kittee’s upcoming Ethiopian cookbook, but since this cook zine has been discontinued, I hope so!  Until then, I’ve heard great things about her Southern-style macaroni and cheese.

Dandelion necklace on Etsy by Ural NatureReal Dandelion Necklace by Ural Nature

I recently treated myself to a necklace I’ve had on my Etsy wish list for literally years – this real dandelion in crystal resin. The artist, Mariya Bogatyreva, is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Russia. She plucks the flowers and other plants she uses in her work from the Ural Mountains in the area where she lives. The necklace is a marvel, just imagining how the delicate seeds were preserved and not crushed.

Dandelion necklace by Ural Nature on EtsyI have always been a fan of dandelions, and I remember at a young age being disenchanted with the idea that they were considered weeds. (One person’s weed is another person’s wildflower.) Plus, as a long-time fan of wishes, I especially like the idea that I always have a chance to make a wish and manifest the future that I want. I interviewed the artist on Friday on Feelgood Style if you’re interested in reading more about her process.

Little Free LibraryLittle Free Libraries

Have you seen these Little Free Libraries? They are so cute! I first discovered one in Madison a couple of years ago painted very colorfully in front of someone’s house. They’re basically small structures that people fill with books, and then passersby are invited to take a book, leave a book, or both. The only requirement is that the structures can withstand whatever weather issues may appear in that area in the form of rain or snow. Otherwise, individuals can make them in whatever form they like – sometimes just something simple and utilitarian and others times people personalize them.  (There was an issue in Kansas recently, in which a little boy was forced to remove his library from his yard because of city ordinances.)

Little Free LibraryThis one is in front of a house, and it looks like a British phone booth. Plus, David found this book inside on time travel. A coincidence? Who can say?

Little Free LIbrary in front of a churchLittle Free Library in front of a churchThis one is in front of a church, and the little library is made to resemble the church’s own steeple.

I think it would be fun on a road-trip to try and see as many of these little libraries as one could manage along the way. The little libraries are registered on the Little Free Library website, and you can see if there are any in your area.  There are little libraries all over the world!

Truffle friesCelebrating 8 Wonderful Years!

Finally, I also celebrated 8 years of marriage to that guy with the time travel book! Yay! Iowa isn’t overflowing in fine dining establishments that cater to vegans, and so went casual and took our anniversary celebration on the road to the Quad Cities for a cheeseless pizza at Crust with roasted potatoes, artichoke hearts, and wild mushrooms along with a side of garlicky truffle fries (hold the aioli).  I feel so lucky getting to spend my life with him.

Crust Pizza - Bettendorf, IowaWhat are your current obsessions?