I <3 peanut butter!

Eating peanut butter every day on the Below the Line challenge in no way diminished my fondness for the stuff. As a child I found it unpleasantly claggy and did not enjoy the taste, but as an adult something changed and now I love peanut butter in both savoury and sweet recipes, crunchy or smooth.

I found I had just over 100g left of my value jar, and since the rest had gone into savoury crackers and salad it was time to bring on the sweetness. I whipped up a batch of simple cookies with the help of some brown sugar and a dash of rum.

Ingredients:

175g self-raising flour

105g crunchy peanut butter

45g vegetable oil

50g water

125g brown sugar

10g rum (optional, or you could use vanilla. I’m finding the alcohol base in flavour extracts goes a long way to boost baked goods, regardless of the ostensible flavour, and using supermarket brand rum is about half the cost of vanilla extract).

Method:

Weigh peanut butter into mixing bowl. If it’s the last of the peanut butter in the jar, add the oil and water to the jar and shake vigorously to help dislodge the last of the stuff hanging on to the bottom and side of the jar. Scrape into mixing bowl. Add the rum and sugar, and mix it all up to a runny paste.

Add enough flour to make a soft dough. In my case this was around 175g, you might try a bit more or less. Mix in with a table knife or spoon until no dry flour is left.

Take spoonfuls of dough and roll into the obligatory walnut-sized balls. Flatten down a bit and place on a lined baking sheet in a 180c/350f/gas4 oven with a cm or so space (they do spread a bit) for around 15 minutes (check after 10 to make sure they’re browning evenly and not burning) until just beginning to turn brown. This length of baking turned out crunchy-topped biscuits which are still a little soft and cakey on the inside, if you want them crunchy all the way through turn the heat down a notch and bake for longer.

These are a simple cookie which I think would go nicely with a banana milkshake. Sultanas and/or chocolate chips would be a great addition as well. Maybe next time!

peanut butter sweet cookies on a blue and white patterned china plate

peanut butter sweet cookies on a plate

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£100 challenge – day twenty-six

Big, exciting news, everyone! Are you ready?….. wait for it….

I finally cracked open one of the four Christmas puddings that have been sitting in my cupboard since January!

And the crowd goes wild! They didn’t expect that!

Yeah, sorry, my life is pretty boring at the moment. Instead of steaming the whole thing for hours when there’s no way I can get through 400+ grams of pudding in one go, and the packaging says not to reheat it, I just cut a couple of slices, lightly oiled my cast iron frying pan and put them on a medium heat for a few minutes each side. Sure, they were a bit chewier than Christmas pudding generally is, but I just drowned them in sauce (which included leftover chestnut and leftover pumpkin pie filling). Yum yum.

No spending again today. I’m still on £67.79 at the moment, but my oven has gone peculiar in the last few days, taking a very long time to come up to anything near baking temperature. I’ve been wanting a toaster/mini oven for years, especially just to heat a beanburger or two – obviously turning on a full size oven to do that is pretty wasteful. Now I’m thinking that if I carry over £30 to next month that can go towards something halfway decent – I’ve seen some “rotisserie” mini ovens around fifty quid, but they also come with shelves, and have a grill/broiler function, which I don’t currently have in my oven even when it’s working properly. It’d be nice to have the ability to brown the tops of things!

So, say I get the mini oven. That’s £20 from next month’s £90 straight away. Another £22ish for the dentist leaves me with £48. I also really want to go to another gig, which is going to be another £12ish. There are also Christmas fairs I’ve said I’m going to. My mother has pointed out to me (and this had genuinely escaped my attention!) that I’ll probably want to buy Christmas presents at these fairs. Even if there’s only a tenner’s worth of stuff from a fair that leaves less than £30 for food, and cupboards are noticeably emptier now, though I do still have a lot of gluten-free flour I bought to experiment with, pumpkin, squash and onions. Plus three and a bit Christmas puddings, of course.

Maybe I just cook everything on the stovetop for a while, eh?

Finally, here’s a leaf I found on my way into town some time back. I didn’t tamper with it, it was this shape when I spotted it. Pretty, huh?

heart shaped leaf


It’s the final Monday (doo-doo-DOO-do….)

So, it’s the last Monday of Vegan MoFo, and with this post I’ve met my goal of a blog post a day. Some have been a bit of a fudge (mmm, fudge), but I’m pleased with some of the stuff I’ve come up with. Can’t lie that some of the ideas I had for themes made me panic a bit and start inventing stuff I wouldn’t cook for myself in the normal way, particularly the amount of pies and scones, however there is some baking I do genuinely do on a regular basis, and that’s bread.

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I generally do half white and half wholemeal organic flour because I like the compromise between rise and nutrition this offers.

I weigh out what my scales tell me is 1lb flour, but judging how much more than half a pint of water I have to add (which is what my original recipe told me to add), my scales must be pretty out. I think I’m going to treat myself to some new ones with this month’s pay packet!

I divide my dough in half, then those in half, and then in half again, to get 8 pieces. What I generally do is make a tray of 6 quite flat bread rolls, which are useful for sandwiches. If I’m not going to get through the whole lot, I like to cut them in half and freeze them. Because I’ve made them flat each half can then fit straight from the freezer into my toaster.

unbaked bread rolls on baking try, held in left hand (only thumb visible)

With the remaining 2 bits of dough, I vary it according to what I fancy at the time, and if I have anything hanging around that needs using up. Sometimes I might make a spice bread, but I’ve plenty of that at the moment, or I occasionally divide those lumps in half again and make 4 pasty/calzone type things, but today I’m going for pizza-ish.

What I tend to do is slice up an onion with whatever else I’ve got around (sometimes just frozen sweetcorn), put a bit of Marigold bouillon powder and smoked paprika, and a slosh of oil in and mix it up in the same bowl I made the dough in.

chopped onion, mushrooms and tomatoes in dirty mixing bowl with small amount of smoked paprika and bouillon powder

The pizza bases are a bit of an odd shape so I can fit them on my baking sheet. And the reason I don’t just do one is because I’d be tempted to eat it all, whereas two means I can have one for lunch and one for another time.

oblong pizza bases topped with onion, mushroom and tomato

I also made hummus today, another regular staple. I buy giant 5kg bags of dried chickpeas, cook up about a kilo at a time and then freeze most of them in handy sized boxes.

Hummus in blender container with mixing spoon, viewed from above

Although the Vitamix is super for making things smooth in super-quick time, I do find it difficult to get the final scrapes of anything thick. Hating to waste things, I tend to plan stuff like this to co-incide with something like soup or stew where I can then add some water and add the watered down last bits of mixture to something else.   This time, instead I added fresh rosemary, dried oregano and some flaked almonds to make a sauce for my pizza. This sauce is nothing like cheese but it fulfils the same sort of function in terms of protein and holding the veg together.

two uncooked oblong pizzas on baking tray

And here’s my lunch!

cooked pizza shown from above on white plate, placed on floral background

If you’ve got this far, thanks for bearing with my rather boring final day’s post.

I’d also like to thank the Vegan MoFo team for their hard work, and say that I’m looking forward to next year already. Now I know how much work it is I’m going to start planning!

Blogging regularly has been a great challenge and I’d like to keep it up, so I’m going to start a new challenge for October. Watch this space…


Pie day Friday!

Let’s get one thing out of the way first of all, I live in the UK, and therefore am obligated to comment on the weather. A lot. It’s nearly always a nice safe subject that one can strike up a conversation about with a perfect stranger. You’re probably perfect, and also likely to be a stranger to me, so here we go!

So, today was one of those annoying days where it mostly just drizzled rather than raining properly or being nice and sunny. I took my big umbrella to work, but the rain wasn’t heavy enough to fall, it sort of drifted down with plenty of time to soak into my clothes as I walked through it.

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I had to change my clothes when I got home this afternoon!

All this damp had a few positives though. For one, the plants needed it. Also, it gave me a good excuse to turn the oven on (which I haven’t felt like doing in the muggier days earlier this week).

Today’s frugal ingredient is green chillies, which I was given by the same person who donated runner beans earlier in the week.

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She said she had no idea how hot they are as she doesn’t like spicy food! I’m happy to take a chance though.

One of my favourite pie ingredients has to be mushrooms. I’m rather partial to the mushroom pies made by Clive’s Pies, but they’re not cheap, so I sometimes make my own version.

I was all set to provide you with a recipe using weights when I discovered that my scales have been rather alarmingly out of whack! I assume that they’re relatively correct in that my recipes seem to come out okay, but they seem to say things weigh less than they actually do! So, take the following measurements with a pinch of salt although I don’t think this is the kind of recipe where it matters too much if things are a bit out.

Spicy garlic and mushroom pasties (I believe these are what residents of the USA refer to as ‘hand pies’?)

Ingredients for filling:

450g mushrooms (I’m using a mix of chestnut and white mushrooms)

2 small-medium onions (my scales say 126g, so say 150?)

1 teaspoon oil (I used olive)

4-6 cloves garlic

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

2 green chillies of a reasonably mild nature

2 tablespoons oat flour

Pastry:

Mushroom pies are lovely with puff pastry but it’s a bit of a faff to make so I’ve economised by making my own shortcrust pastry of an extremely basic nature. It’s just plain flour and fat (Vitalite non-dairy spread) at a ratio of 2:1 weight-wise. I weighed just over 200g flour and 100g fat, but as mentioned earlier this probably means it’s more like 250 to 125. I haven’t added salt as the spread has plenty in it already. If you’re as rubbish as I am at making pastry, I recommend you use purchased puff pastry instead! 

Method:

Peel and chop the onions mediumly (it’s always finely or coarsely with onions, why not mediumly?), add the oil to a fairly large saucepan that you have a lid for, on a low heat, put the onions into the pan and swirl them around to distribute the oil. While they start to cook, wash and slice the mushrooms.

Ignore anyone who says you should wipe rather than wash mushrooms, the reason people claim you should do this is because they say they absorb the water, but in fact the amount taken on by the mushrooms is minimal (do a search for it, someone has meticulously researched this!).

Add the sliced mushrooms to the pan in batches, add in the salt too. Put the lid on the saucepan after you’ve finished adding the mushrooms – you want there to be some liquid in the pan, which the mushrooms should provide (if it looks like it’s getting dry put about a tablespoon of water in there).

Crush or finely slice the garlic and add to pan. Remove rosemary leaves from the woody part of the stem, finely chop leaves and add. De-seed and finely chop the chillies and add those too. 

Sprinkle oat flour over the mixture and stir in for a couple of minutes. The flour should take up the liquid in the pan so you’ve got a little bit of thick gravy covering the mixture, which will hopefully prevent your pies from going soggy.

Turn off heat and allow to cool while you make your pastry. 

In a mixing bowl, Sieve the flour, then drop in the fat. Cut the fat into the flour, then rub it in to breadcrumb consistency. Dribble as few tablespoons of cold water as you can get away with into the mix, cutting them in with a table knife. When the mix starts coming together, gather it into a ball. Cover and leave to chill for half an hour or so.

Once your mix has cooled and your pastry has chilled (or you’ve got your shop-bought puff pastry out of the fridge), pre-heat your oven to around 200 degrees centigrade, 400 farenheit. Roll out pastry as thin as you think you can get away with without the mixture coming through when you go to make your pasties. I reckon maybe 3-5 mm thick should do it? Bear in mind it will stretch a little bit, so don’t go seethrough with the rolling out.

Cut shapes out of your pastry. I tried to be fancy with some, but really, circles are the best, then you can dollop a spoonful of filling on one side and fold over to a half moon shape.

Put the pasties on a greased baking tray, and pop them in the oven. Bake for around 12 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool on baking tray.

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Bonus cookies!

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Watching The Great British Bake Off makes me hungry. Since I don’t have a television at my house, and my boyfriend (who does have one) has some kind of sport-thing he does of a Tuesday, I have to wait for Wednesday evening to get my GBBO fix.

In preparation for drooling over fancy baking this evening I whipped up a quick batch of cookies earlier. When I need an urgent dose of sugar I generally go with the ‘Happy Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies’ recipe to be found on http://www.vegweb.com and then mess around with it. It may not be sophisticated, but it gets the job done. The added bonus is that the recipe is incredibly easy to remember, as it’s 2 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup oil and 1/4 cup water, some raising agent, chocolate chips and flavourings. The recipe says “a handful” of chocolate chips, which I take to mean half a cup. They don’t say whose hand it is!

This recipe is very customisable, the best received variation of these has been adding a cupful of dried mixed fruit (raisins, sultanas and mixed peel) instead of chocolate chips. I took them to work when the weather was chilly and people raved over them!

Today, I tried a new combination. In addition to chocolate chips, I added half a cup of chopped peanuts, omitted the cinnamon and put half a teaspoon of five spice powder instead. Not bad at all, although they made the house smell confusing, since the spices normally go in savoury food.

I also tried planting a few white chocolate chips on top of some of the cookies as soon as they were out of the oven. 

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Scones on Sunday! (Vegan MoFo 2013)

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I wanted to make something simple yet tasty with the tiny apples I scrumped yesterday. It also seemed appropriate to kick off MoFo with a scone recipe, and what better Sunday Brunch can you have than a delicious apple and cinnamon scone? ( Unless you’re talking about something involving fried potatoes, of course. That goes without saying!).

There are a lot of apple scone recipes floating around, but irritatingly they all call for apples by the number of apples, rather than giving an idea of weight or cup size. A search for “how much does a medium apple weigh” or “how many cups does x pounds of apples make” led me to believe that one medium cooking apple comes in at around 3/4 cup, so that’s the amount I grated. Here’s my recipe, based on the fruits of my internet searches and peeking into a few baking books.

Ingredients:

225g (2 cups) plain flour

60g (6 Tablespoons) caster sugar

60g (believe this is 2oz or 1/2 stick) fat. I used half Vitalite and half refined coconut oil.

145g (3/4 cup) grated cooking apple

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Method: 

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees C (400 degrees F, gas mark 6) – mine is fan assisted.

Seive everything apart from the apples and fat into a bowl. Add the fat and cut it in with a knife. After cutting in, mix the fat in with fingertips to make a fine breadcrumb texture. Set aside bowl.

Wash apples. Most recipes ask you to peel them but my apples were so tiny there wouldn’t have been much left! Instead I used a fine grater:

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Once I had 3/4 cup (which took 7 of the apples) I weighed them, and added them into the bowl of dry mix. To avoid over-mixing I used the same sort of cutting-in technique with a table knife that I used with the fat, turning and scraping the sides of the bowl to get it well incorporated.

Most apple scone recipes call for milk to be added, to make a soft but not sticky dough. However, the apples already added quite a bit of moisture, so the addition of 1 extra tablespoon of water was all that was needed to bring the dough together. 

Not sure what shape I would prefer, I went for 1 big scone and 6 smaller ones. Here’s the big one on its tray before baking:

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It went into the oven for 15 minutes, though I checked and turned it after 10 as the oven doesn’t bake evenly. This is how it came out:

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And once it’d cooled down for about 15 minutes I got to try it. One recipe I saw recommended adding preserves, so I had one piece with my mum’s home-made mixed fruit jam and some Vitalite. Of course, I had to have a piece without jam to compare! Image

The verdict: This was a very tasty Sunday breakfast, although to be honest the apple flavour doesn’t come through very much. Most of the recipes I saw suggested only half a teaspoon of cinnamon, so maybe I was greedy to add a whole one. Nevertheless, I feel this was a valid use of half of my apple haul!