Confessions of a Lapsed Vegetarian

I believe that I’ve mentioned that for about eight years I was Vegetarian. Actually, all three of us in our little family were all Vegetarian. Our diet did include eggs, but we avoided dairy products. When we made the choice to once again included meat in our diets, we decided that we wanted to

1.) eat less meat at meals (maintaining portion control, something many people don’t do with meat)


2.) continue to eat Vegetarian meals on a regular basis.

Honestly, eating small portions of meat hasn’t actually been that difficult for us. What has become more challenging is continuing to eat Vegetarian meals on a regular basis.

The problem isn’t a dearth of tasty Vegetarian recipes. Rather it’s a lifetime’s indoctrination of thinking of meat as the main portion of the meal. It’s difficult, even after eight years of strict, voluntary, and pretty happy Vegetarianism, to remember that a meal doesn’t have to be built around an animal protein to be delicious and filling. If you doubt that, just watch the show, Top Chef, a few times and see the complaints when chefs have to forego animal protein. They often don’t even know where to start! Part of me is baffled and saddened by that, but I do find myself falling into the same trap.

Born of the desire to maintain a healthy diet, I’m starting this section: A Meal A Week Vegetarian (MWV). I’ll be doing my best to cook at least one meal a week that’s Vegetarian. Usually the recipe will be for a main dish. However, because we do often eat meatless pasta dishes and meat-free homemade pizzas, sometimes recipes will be for things other than the main dish. Few, if any, recipes will use tofu or other ‘meat substitute’ products, mostly because I found that I’m allergic to soy and so we rarely eat it. (Cook’s rules rule!)

By maintaining this section, I’m hoping to remember to use some of the wonderful Veg-friendly recipes I’ve fallen in love with over the past decade. Today’s recipe is for Portabello Mushroom Burgers, and not just one of those ‘grill a mushroom, slap it on a bun and call it a burger’ kind! Also, these do not taste like beef (or turkey) burgers; they’re not a meat substitute. But they are easy-peasy!

This recipe has very few ingredients: one onion, 2 cloves of garlic and a pound of Portabello Mushrooms to begin. While we can now purchase sliced portabellas, I prefer to use the whole ones. Sometimes the sliced ones can be overly dry, however if that’s all that is available, go for it!

After chopping the onion and crushing the garlic, I sweat them in a few tablespoons of olive oil. The mushroom is diced and added to the pan. I usually use at least a 12 inch pan, which allows for a fairly even but not too deep layer of the chopped Portabella. At this point I add any seasonings to the pan.

Once the mushrooms have been cooked down and the liquid has evaporated, which usually takes about 15 minutes or so, the mixture is removed to a bowl and placed in the fridge to cool.

I could certainly cool them on the counter top, of course, but I invariably decide I want to make these for dinner on a night when I have less time. So usually they go into the fridge for a little bit. The objective isn’t to make the mushrooms cold, but to cool the mixture enough so that I can add the next ingredients without cooking the eggs.

Two eggs and a scant cup of seasoned bread crumbs get mixed in with the Portabellas.

Then I shape the burgers. This recipe makes enough for 4 burgers.

The burgers are cooked on a flat pan and topped with cheese. We ate ours on Beranbaum’s Best Buns, topped with tomatoes from our garden and fresh baby spinach, a great substitute for lettuce.

Super Yummy Portabello Burgers (Printer-friendly recipe)


1 medium Onion, chopped
2 large cloves Garlic, crushed
1 pound Portabello Mushrooms, diced
1 teaspoon each of dried Parsley and Oregano or 1 – 2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
2 large Eggs
3/4 – 1 cup Seasoned Bread Crumbs
In a saute pan, heat 1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sweat onion and garlic until translucent, then add Portabellos and spices. Feel free to add more or other spices to taste. Season with salt and pepper.
Cook mushrooms, stirring from time to time, over medium heat until tender and all liquid in pan has evaporated. Place mushrooms in a bowl and set aside on counter or in fridge to cool.
Beat eggs slightly and add to cooled mushrooms, along with 3/4 cup of the bread crumbs. Stir to incorporate, adding more bread crumbs if necessary for the mixture to hold together.
Form Portabello mixture into 4 burgers and cook over medium to medium-high heat until lightly browned and heated through. Top with cheese if desired and serve.

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Reinhart v. Mom (Battle Cinnamon Roll, part II)

When I started the BBA Cinnamon Roll Recipe, I realized it was a fairly traditional one. I have a similar recipe from my mom, actually. When I say traditional and similar, I mean that the BBA recipe uses two similar rise times and takes a good chunk of the afternoon. That recipe, and I do say this with a straight face, is Mom’s ‘short’ recipe. That is not the recipe I chose to use.

I used my mom’s ‘long’ recipe. I have to say that I love that she had these labeled short and long. Because the long recipe actually takes less time. Sort of.

Here’s how it works. (Oh, and I didn’t get photos of this dough either until about the same point in the process. I must have a problem when it comes to cinnamon rolls.)

First I halved Mom’s recipe, then mixed the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Next, I added some eggs, margarine and water. I ended up with a dough very similar to the BBA dough, though with just a tad bit less fat.

Speaking of fat, both doughs received the same type of fat. Just to be fair and all. However, the BBA dough used buttermilk and Mom’s recipe, water.

After being kneaded, the dough goes right into the fridge. Overnight. No rising. Got it?

The next morning, the dough is taken out of the fridge, turned out on the counter and let sit for about 20 minutes so that it can warm up.

The dough is rolled, not quite to the BBA specs but slightly thinner than that, about 5/8 of an inch. Don’t go too thin though. Reinhart’s, of course, right on target! Too thin and the rolls end up tough and chewy.

After the dough is rolled out, Mom’s recipe calls for the remainder of the fat in the form of room temperature butter spread over the rectangle of dough.

Next comes the cinnamon and sugar. First, the cinnamon. I put it on this thick. But only do that if you’re using real cinnamon. If using cassia cinnamon, put a bit less on that that.

I can just see a bit of the dough through the cinnamon. Next is the sugar. First we want brown sugar. This is a good amount.

Then the granulated sugar.

That should do it. Next the standard log shape and cutting.

Mom’s Cinnamon Rolls go into a greased 9×13 pan to rise for about 30-45 minutes.

Then into the oven.

The rolls come out looking great. Smells great, too! Because of the difference in filling the bottom looks like this, rather than being dry.

And here’s Mom’s closeup. Sorry; there’s that lighting issue again. November 1st is clock change time. My camera can’t wait.

The verdict:

  1. The BBA rolls had a nice buttermilk tang. Mom’s didn’t. This might be easily remedied by using buttermilk in place of some of the water in Mom’s recipe.
  2. But by day three most of the buttermilk tang was gone, and the two doughs tasted nearly identical.
  3. On day two, both rolls were still soft. Mom’s were softer.
  4. By day three, both were still fairly soft. Mom’s were still softer. I’m no expert, so the only reason I can figure my mom’s are softer is that the fat (butter) spread over the rolled dough before adding the cinnamon and sugar adds moistness in a different way than if it’s all put directly into the dough.
  5. By day three most of the buttermilk tang was gone, and the two doughs tasted nearly identical.
  6. We prefer a bit more filling in our Cinnamon Rolls and the caramel-like flavor of using a mixture of sugars.
  7. We were all in agreement that the BBA rolls were really, really good. No complaints about them at all. They were good enough that if the other rolls hadn’t been around, the BBA rolls would have been gone in a jiffy. That said, the BBA ones were the last to go.

Although the BBA Cinnamon Buns were good, I’ll be sticking with Mom’s recipe for a while longer. You can find her recipe below.

As always, a huge thanks to Nicole of Pinch My salt for instigating the BBA Challenge. I’ve enjoyed every recipe so far, and most of them I’ll be turning to again in the near future!

Mom’s Cinnamon Rolls (long) (printer-friendly recipe)

makes 18-20 rolls
7 cups of flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 package instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
8 tablespoons of butter, margarine, or shortening, at room temperature
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 – 2 cups lukewarm water, more as needed
butter, at room temperature
brown sugar
granulated sugar
In a mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, mix flour, sugar and yeast. Add salt and stir.
Using a spoon, or paddle if using a mixer, mix in eggs and butter. If using mixer, switch to dough hook and add 1 1/2 cups of water. Continue to add water as necessary until dough cleans the sides of bowl and just barely cleans the bottom. Dough should be tacky, but not sticky. Knead for about 8-10 minutes with the mixer, 10-12 minutes by hand or until the dough passes the windowpane test.
Choose a bowl which can hold the bulk of dough when doubled, spray with oil, and place the dough inside. Mist the top of the dough with oil, cover with plastic wrap or lid and place in refrigerator overnight.
The next morning, remove dough from refrigerator and bowl to counter. Divide in two, cover and allow to sit for about 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Roll half of dough into rectangle (about 12″ x 16″) and spread with a thin layer of room-temperature butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon, brown sugar, then granulated sugar to taste.
Roll up starting from one of the long ends. Cut log into slices about 1 3/4 inches thick. Repeat with second half of dough.
Place rolls, cut side down, in greased 9″x13″ pans. Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes.

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Reinhart v. Mom (Battle Cinnamon Roll, part I)

When it came time to make the Cinnamon Rolls from Reinhart’s book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, I was pretty excited. I mean, who wouldn’t be? After all, thanks in part to Nicole of Pinch My Salt, who organized this little bake-a-long shindig, I was making one of my favorite breakfasts desserts in the whole world! I love cinnamon rolls. And I’d actually just baked my usual recipe only about 2 weeks ago.

Having just had my mom’s Cinnamon Rolls, and seeing how other bloggers were really happy with the BBA recipe, I naturally had to do something special. Like what? Well, I had to make 2 recipes, of course! The one from the BBA Challenge and the one from mom. Actually to be clear, I have two cinnamon recipes from my mom, but the one I chose to make is my favorite. The reason why will become clear in a little while, I’m sure. And no, you can never have too many cinnamon rolls in the house. Really! What a question!

First, the BBA Cinnamon Buns. Oops, I’d better be frank here. I got so focused on the cinnamon, sweet dough and yummy end product, that I totally forgot to take any photos of the process of making the dough.

So, let’s pretend I’m mixing all the flour, yeast, water, etc., which I obviously must have done, because here’s the photo of the gorgeous dough which resulted.

I feel the need to be honest about something.

I didn’t use any lemon in the dough.

I realize some people like all their sweet dough with lemon or orange flavor, but I just can’t get into it. It always reminds me of boxed pastry, like Entenmenn’s or something. Me? In some doughs yes, but not in every sweet roll dough. Definitely not in Cinnamon Rolls. Yeah, I’m opinionated like that.

But, I did use buttermilk. More on that tomorrow.

Next, the dough is sprinkled with the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Then rolled into the traditional log and cut.

Aren’t those pretty rolls?

See this is how distracted I was while baking. You get no more shots after this until the cinnamon rolls are finished. Well, except for this one, when they’d already been in the oven for a few minutes. Whoops!

Here they are fresh out of the oven. Beautiful color and heavenly aroma. They’d risen nicely and smelled just perfect.

How about a closeup?

The verdict? These are good. Really, really good. Like ‘from the corner bakery’ good. The roll was soft, nicely textured and they stayed soft for a few days. Yum!

Tomorrow? Mom’s Cinnamon Rolls.

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Beranbaum’s Best Buns for World Bread Day 2009

Just for World Bread Day 2009, and because we need some hamburger buns around these parts, I bring you this post.

world bread day 2009 - yes we bake.(last day of sumbission october 17)

I’ve seen several burger recipes lately, all of which look wonderful and all of which are brioche-style buns. And to be honest, after making brioche I can certainly see how a brioche burger bun would be delicious. However, we really don’t eat that way around here on a regular basis. Really, butter is great, but I’d like to see my daughter grow up and I’d like to spend the next 60 years or so married to my darling husband. So those staggering amounts of butter and eggs are just not included in our regular diet.

But who said food that’s good for you can’t taste good? Too many people think that something that’s healthy doesn’t taste as good as something that’s fat and calorie-laden. This recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum, author of The Pie and Pastry Bible and The Bread Bible, proves that a soft, tasty bun does not have to go straight to your buns. Here’s my adaptation of Beranbaum’s Best Buns.

All the ingredients in one place.

Although the recipe only calls for 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour, I know I can increase that a bit and still come out with a nice light dough. The wheat flour is King Arthur White Whole Wheat. If you’re not a huge fan of whole wheat flavor, this is a good type to try. It’s less strong than regular (red) whole wheat, and it still has the benefit of using the whole grain.

I also use an unbleached white flour made by a small mill, Swany White Flour Mills, located in Freeport, MN. In addition to being unbleached (and organic), the flour has the added nutrition of the germ being added back into it. For those who don’t have access to a comparable flour, just add a bit of germ, maybe 2 teaspoons or so, to the flour.

The dough comes together nicely, although it’s raining here again today so I had to add a bit more flour than I expected.

The dough is ready to be shaped.

Each bun is 148 grams!

Shaped and ready for their second rise. Have I mentioned I love sesame seeds? I brushed the tops of the buns with milk before placing the seeds on top. Oh, and nope, no seeds in the dough.

Looks like the buns are ready to go in the oven. After a little wait, here they are. Ready for their burgers.

But tonight is Friday night, which in our house is homemade pizza night, so those burgers will have to wait until tomorrow. Boy, those buns look good though. I’ll post the burger photos in a few days. Yum!

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After It’s All Finished, Can I Get a Do-Over?

I wonder if anyone else is needing a do-over on one or two of these BBA breads? Up until now, I haven’t had any trouble with the recipes. Heck, I didn’t really have any trouble with this one either. But the Ciabatta al Funghi I turned out didn’t quite have the texture that it should have.

I should start at the beginning though. Here’s the flour. Where else would I begin?

Oh, oops! Probably with the biga. Which I forgot to photograph until the next morning. While it was resting on the counter in pieces trying to warm up from its night in the fridge.

Once the biga was mixed with the above flour and remaining ingredients, it made a really nice, very wet dough. But you’ve seen lots of dough, and how interesting is that? What you really want to see are the funghi. The dry ones:

These mushrooms are from our local farmer’s market. Every once in a blue moon, a trip to the market brings the delightful sight of a special booth. Local mushroom farmers, who usually sell to restaurants, appear and treat us to such beauties as these golden oyster mushrooms. They actually bring several varieties, both fresh and dried, but these were our favorites, so I stocked up on a bag of the dried.

And the fresh mushrooms for the Ciabatta. Yum!

After the requisite folding and couche-ing (is that a word?), the Ciabatta al Funghi made its trip into the oven. I don’t think I let it rise quite long enough, but what emerged was still very tasty!

I do think I’ll be making this again. Partly because I need that do-over, but mostly because this bread is delicious!

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Let Me Tell You My Secret

This isn’t the first time I’ve made Peter Reinhart’s Challah from his book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. Before I started the BBA Challenge —Thanks Nicole of Pinch My Salt!— I made just a few of the breads in the book. But you won’t tell on me, will you? As penance (ok not really) I’m remaking each one. Can you see how I suffer so?

Most of the Challah I’ve had in my life has been store or bakery-purchased. So, if I just don’t know my head from a hole in the ground, please correct me when I tell you that this Challah is amazing! Let me show you.

First I rounded up all my ingredients.

See my pretty red bowl there in the middle? I picked up a set of those little guys at World Market for $4! And they’re silicone!

Yes, I realized after I took this photo that I was short two eggs. All the eggs did make it into the bread though. See?

Please excuse the poor lighting, too. Fall and Winter are all about the waning of natural light in late afternoon.

Next the eggs and a few other things were whisked together.

Pretend there’s a lovely photo here of the dough, please. Because I really did add the flour and yeast and stuff, too. I’m not sure where my brain was while I was making this. Probably on the 6-strand braid I was planning to make!

It came out beautifully, and that braid is actually really easy! I found a video that made it so. Boy, was that bread good, too!

Tomorrow we’ll talk Ciabatta, ok?

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Stop Wasting Your Cheese on Crackers

Because it really belongs on pie. Specifically this pie. Well, crostata really, because it’s not actually in a pan. That’s one of the great things about pie; it doesn’t have to be baked in a pan. Another is that it can combine truly unique ingredients and still work beautifully!

Everyone in this household loves cheese. By this I mean we travel to our local wine & cheese shop —conveniently owned by the father of one of my daughter’s friends!— and allow him to ply us with cheese. Trips to his shop tend to take the better part of an hour, in part because he likes to ask questions about our favorites and then make even more recommendations from the answers. Every cheese in his shop is available for sampling. Every one. No kidding! To his credit, we always leave with at least a pound of cheese.

After one such visit we walked into our home bearing a half pound wedge of White Stilton with Mango and Ginger. White Stilton is cousin to blue, but without the mold introduced. We found the cheese to be a perfect dessert by itself and quickly came up with excuses to snack on it. A somewhat hard cheese, it’s delicate and a bit crumbly, the flavor somewhat yogurt-like and sweet, pairing beautifully with fruit. We’ve tried white Stiltons with cranberries and with apricots. Both were good also, however the mango-ginger combination is a clear winner. Luckily, after the continual snacking and with the unseasonably warm weather this year extending summer produce, just enough of the cheese remained for this crostata.

I used a pie crust, just rolling it right out like I would for a pie:


As you can see, I used almond meal giving it a less creamy texture than frangipane usually has. If you use almond flour or pulse the almonds and sugar (very carefully and not for too long!), a creamier texture will result.


The frangipane was spread onto the dough, leaving about a two inch border.



Now it’s time for the nectarines and Stilton. Then fold the crust up around the filling; pleating the dough helps to hold it in place. A light sprinkle of sliced almond finishes it off beautifully.


After a short bake in the oven:


Nectarine and White Stilton Crostata (printer friendly recipe)

Your favorite pie pastry (enough for one single shell pie)
1/2 cup Almond Flour
3 tablespoons Granulated Sugar
1 large Egg
3 tablespoons Butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon Dried Thyme
2 pinches Cinnamon
1 tablespoon Flour
3 medium Nectarines, sliced into segments
1/8 teaspoon Ginger
1-2 tablespoons Granulated Sugar

2-3 ounces white stilton (plain or with mango and ginger)
Sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 375F.
Toss nectarine slices with ginger and 1-2 tablespoons of granulated sugar.

Roll crust as you would for a pie. You may find it easiest to just roll this on parchment or on a cookie sheet so the crostata can be transferred with minimal effort.
Combine frangipane ingredients in a food processor until creamy.
Spread frangipane on pastry, leaving a two inch border. Arrange nectarines in concentric circles on top of the filling, and crumble the stilton on top of the fruit.
Fold the pie pastry over onto the filling, pleating it as you go so that it lies flat. Sprinkle with sliced almonds. Transfer crostata to sheet cake pan.
Bake at 375F for 20-30 minutes, until crust is golden and fruit is tender.

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