The Brellis House

 

Kitchen Updates

One thing that has been on our kitchen to-do list for years is to build a pull out trash can to replace the empty space where a dish washer should be. Dan finally finished it and it makes our kitchen renovation one giant step closer to actually being finished!

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To keep the cabinet consistent, we decided to reuse the original cabinet that held the sink. We took inspiration and some guidance from tutorials from Makely and Young House Love. First, Dan had to cut a section out of it and then splice it back together to get it to be the right size.

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After that, we puttied the seams and painted the front. Since the cabinet is pretty old, we reinforced the side walls with 1/4″ plywood and installed sliding arms on either side. To utilize the cabinet’s height, we removed the center front plate.

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We bought the trash cans from simplehuman and made a box the width of the sliding arms that would fit them snugly.

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Just like the cabinet, Dan took the doors and decorative top plate and cut them to size. He used metal brackets to secure them together and a 1/8″ board of  plywood to replicate the center block that we removed from the cabinet.

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All that was left for building it was to screw the trash can box to the sliding arms and secure the door to the box.

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Although the whole building of the cabinet took extremely long of on-and-off work, the hardest part was wedging it into place- under a concrete counter top and on slightly uneven tiles.

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After two coats of primer, I put on a final coat of paint and added the door knob. Fairly seamless one first blush! A simple kick plate across the cabinets and sink helps tie everything together.

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Kitchen pull out trash can. The Brellis House

Kitchen pull out trash can. The Brellis House

Cooking Is Like Love

cooking-is-like-love

I love this quote as much as I love cooking.

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.

– Harriet van Horne

Allez cuisine!

Baby Quilt

Dan’s sister is having a baby! We are very excited for her! I was especially excited to try my hand at a baby quilt. This was my first baby quilt and my goodness it was quick to make compared to the full sized quilts I’ve made previously!

baby quiltbaby quiltbaby quilt

Penne with Acorn Squash

Many times it’s hard to see pasta past a red sauce, but many of the best pasta dishes I’ve had get an extraordinary amount of flavor and complexity from subtle ingredients that would be otherwise masked by the robustness of a tomato. Such pasta dishes often have an oil based ‘dressing’, if you will, like spaghetti with white beans and garlic.

Penne pasta with roasted acorn squash and caramelized onions

Here I’ve taken a late season fall gourd, acorn squash, and roasted it along with spinach and caramelized onions. The roasted squash and sweet onions go really well together, offering a sweet and savory infused oil that lingers in your mouth.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound dry penne pasta
  • 1 medium acorn squash
  • 2 onions
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup vegetable stock (or just plain water)
  • 1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (either packed in oil or dry)
  • 1/2 pound washed baby spinach (or regular spinach, chopped)

Methods

*If you are using the tomatoes that are dried (not packed in oil), place them in the wine to allow them to soften.

  1. First we roast the squash by peeling it, cutting it in half (lengthwise) and scooping the seeds out. Cut into 3/4″ cubes and put on a baking sheet. Slice the onions and add to the squash. Toss it all with the 1/4 cup olive oil, big pinch of salt, paprika, cayenne and black pepper (might be easier to mix everything in a bowl first then place on the baking sheet). Bake at 400*F until the squash is able to be pierced by a fork (about 20 minutes), stirring everything 2-3 times to prevent the onions from burning.
  2. Cook the penne in salted water per the package directions until al dente. Drain, toss with some oil to prevent sticking and set aside.
  3. While the squash is baking and penne is cooking, heat some oil in a heavy bottom pan over med/low heat and add the garlic. Cook until just lightly browned and fragrant (1 minute). Turn the heat to high and then deglaze with the wine (remove the tomatoes if you were soaking them). Let the wine reduce for a bit (30 secs) over the high heat, then add the stock, tomatoes and spinach. Add the penne and mix thoroughly. Cook until the spinach wilts.
  4. Combine the squash with the garlic-spinach mixture. Season with additional salt or spices and add some extra olive oil as needed (for me I added an additional 1/8 cup) to make a nice mixture that isn’t overly oily.
  5. Serve with some red pepper flakes for garnish.

Vegan Croissants: An Adventure

Friend: What do you know about making croissants?

Me: Hm, I don’t know. Not much. They’re hard.

This conversation between a friend and myself took place a few months ago. I knew croissants were layers of fat and dough and I had added them to my vegan bucket list after seeing VeganDad play around with puff pastry. But, at the time, I didn’t even know they were a yeasted dough, and certainly didn’t think I was ready for it.

Well, I’m here to tell you, croissants aren’t that difficult to make. Yes, even vegan ones. Like most breads (and food), they take patience and dedication to detail. If you try to rush croissants, you’ll end up with a flat, oily mess.

Vegan Croissants :: The Brellis House

I don’t feel a need to post step-by-step instructions, because the methods for making vegan croissants aren’t any different than non-vegan ones. I will share some tips that helped me and the recipes I used.

I learned more from baking several batches of croissants than I did from research or reading recipes. For starters, there seems to be two types of croissants: 1) sweet, buttery, chewy/gooey desserts or 2) fluffy, bready, robust, roll-like croissants. The former makes sense to serve with chocolate and fruit while the latter can hold it’s own being cut open and stuffed for sandwiches. I made batches of each.

For the dessert croissants, I relied on VeganBaking.net. I adapted the recipe (based on my research) and came up with a nice result, which I think would have been improved by a longer proofing after shaping. This recipe uses sugar, milk (non-dairy) and fat in the dough so it’s more enriched (softer) and sweeter.

Vegan Croissants :: The Brellis House

For the bready croissants, I used the recipe from Tartine Bread. I love this recipe because it utilizes overnight rests, uses a poolish and a sourdough leaven, has less sugar and no fat in the dough. I gave these plenty of time to proof before baking and so they were oversized and lovely.

Vegan Croissants :: The Brellis House

In both recipes I employed some chocolate layering in half. Though I haven’t looked into it, I have a hunch that the chocolate should be added during the folds of laminating the dough. However, due to lack of foresight, I simply slathered some melted chocolate onto the croissant before I rolled it up.

Recipe Adaptations

Adapted from VeganBaking.net for a half batch. For the dessert croissants:

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Tbl active dry yeast
  • 5 oz warm soy milk
  • 4oz (approx 3/4 cup) bread flour
  • 2.8 oz (approx 1/2 cup) all purpose flour
  • 1 oz (approx 1/8 cup) white sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 14 grams butter

I made the dough and butter block (5in square block) in the afternoon, did two turns in the evening and then refrigerated overnight. The next morning, I rolled out the dough and did two more turns then refrigerated for 5 hours. I then rolled it out again, cut and shaped them, let them rose for an hour and then baked for 15 mins at 375ºF.

For the bready croissants:

I used the recipe for the dough laid out in Tartine Bread, only substituting soy milk for the milk and again made a half batch.

As for the butter block, I had perfect success with using 100% Earth Balance Buttery Sticks, though I dabbled with various ratios of coconut oil and shortening and they worked equally well. For the egg wash, I had best success with using orange marmalade mixed with a little soy milk to thin it out.

Sweet Potato Kamut Soup

The ancient grains have been gaining popularity lately. It started with quinoa, but now farro, bulgur, amaranth and kamut can be fairly easily found at most major grocery stores. What I love most about these grains, as opposed to rice, is their inherent nutty flavor (like in my bulgur-asparagus recipe) and toothy texture.

sweet potato kamut soup

This soup has a nice comfort food feel with onions, carrots, sweet potato and lentils with the added kamut grains for a unique chewiness. Kamut can take some time to cook, and the package I have suggests soaking them overnight.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw kamut (soaked overnight and drained)
  • 1 cup brown or green lentils, washed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and 1/2″ diced
  • 1/8 cup dry white wine
  • 15 oz can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup green onions/celery leaves/parsley for garnish

Methods

  1. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil, add the kamut and bay leaf and simmer for 10 minutes, then add the lentils. When both the kamut and lentils are tender (after about an additional 20 minutes) remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. While the lentils and kamut are simmering, bring some oil in a dutch oven over medium heat and add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic. Season with some salt and cook. Meanwhile, peel and chop the sweet potato. After about 15 minutes, add the ground cumin, black pepper and sweet potato; cover; and cook until the potato is just able to be pierced by a fork.
  3. Boost the heat on the veggies to high, deglaze with the wine for about 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes and 1-2 cups of vegetable stock.
  4. Bring to a boil and add the cooked farro and lentils (and any additional cooking water left over). Simmer until the sweet potatoes are soft.
  5. Serve in a soup bowl and garnish with parsley, celery leaves and/or green onions.
Raw kamut grains

Kamut grains (raw). Kamut is popular in many Northeast African cuisines and offer a chewy/toothy texture that compliments the soft vegetables in this soup.

Spinach, Lentil & Radish Salad

Yes, we’re all ready for spring after this long winter and it’s starting to make itself evident in Maryland. What we’re most looking forward to is gardening- we’ve started veggie & perennial seeds, we’ve been weeding like crazy, and ordering a bunch of shade loving plants for a big section of our backyard.

Another reason to get excited is the availability of cold weather produce. Radishes, lettuce, kale, spinach and more. I never really use radish, but couldn’t resist a bunch of them being so fresh along with a big bag of spinach.

Spinach, Lentil & Radish Salad by the Brellis House

Since most of our meals aren’t finished until well past sunset (and photographing food under light bulbs is less than ideal), I didn’t get a picture of the final dish. However, it was tasty enough that we plan on making it again and again. We ended up serving it warm by adding the spinach and radish to the warm lentils which resulted in slightly wilted spinach. I can easily see, though, serving it as a cold salad for lunch with warm pita bread or the like.

Ingredients

Salad

  • 1 cup of onion (about 1/2 large onion), diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 celery stick, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 3/4 cup of dried green or brown lentils
  • 1.5 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5-7 radish bulbs, sliced thinly
  • 1 bunch of fresh spinach leaves (about 3 handfuls)
  • 1/2 cup dried quinoa
  • 4 oz chicken style seitan (optional)
  • salt & pepper

Dressing

  • 1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced

Methods

  1. Cook the mirepoix in some olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot (dutch oven) with some salt over low heat until the veggies and soft and onions translucent. Add in the garlic and cook on high for a few minutes until any residual moisture is evaporated.
  2. Deglaze with the wine, then pour in the lentils, bay leaf, water/broth and thyme. Once the water is boiling, turn the heat to low and cook, uncovered, until the lentils are soft. As the lentils cook, stir occasionally and add more water to ensure the lentils are mostly submerged.
  3. While the lentils cook, make the quinoa according to package directions and make the vinaigrette by whisking together all the dressing ingredients in a jar.
  4. When the lentils are soft, turn the heat back up to high and cook off any remaining water and then kill the heat.
  5. If you plan to eat this as a cold salad, cool the quinoa and lentil mixture.
  6. Stir in the quinoa, radishes and spinach leaves. If you are using the seitan, saute it seperately in a fry pan and then add it into the lentil mixture.
  7. Drizzle on the dressing and stir to combine before serving. Season with additional salt and pepper.

Quince Tarte Tartin

quince

We happened upon a few quinces and really weren’t sure what to do with them. For weeks they sat in our basement, until finally we braved this tarte tartin recipe. Although it may not have turned out as beautiful as hers, it was delicious! We opted for a shortcrust pastry for the crust, which turned out very good. Shortcrusts are a type of dough with a 1:2 ratio of fat to flour with enough water to hold it together. To make the shortcrust I pulsed 200 grams of flour in a food processor with 1/8 tsp of baking powder. Then I added 50 grams of vegetable shortening and 50 grams of butter (cold). After pulsing until sandy texture formed I added enough water to form a dough, wrapped it in plastic, refrigerated for 30 minutes, then rolled it out for the tartin. quince tart tartin

Quince are extremely floral in taste and smell and are one of the few fruits that must be cooked to release their peak flavor and texture. The sugar syrup that we cooked the quince in is tasty too. We ended up with about 1/2 cup and used it to sweeten a gin and soda beverage.quince tart tartin

Backyard Sugarin’

We’re backyard sugarin’! After boiling sap from craigslist last year we wanted to tap our own trees so badly. Only, we knew we didn’t have any sugar maple trees in our yard. But after going to a maple syrup festival at a local park last weekend, we learned that you can tap all sorts of maple species. We brought home 2 spiles made from a sumac stem, which is apparently how the Native Americans would tap trees. I searched around in our yard, found a Norway maple, and immediately went to google. Not many people were talking about tapping Norway maples but it sounded like it might work.
sumac spile sumac spile

We didn’t want to invest in real spiles or collecting buckets just yet, so we improvised with an old maple syrup container (1 gallon)

maple sap collector

We drilled into the tree, about 3 feet from the ground, and about 2 inches deep, with a slight upward angle to help the sap flow down.

tapping tree

Then we gently tapped the wooden spile into the tree and placed the jug in a little notch we made on the spile.

tapping maple tree

Backyard Sugarin'

We’re excited but not really sure what to expect! Hopefully we’ll get some sap!

Valentine Doughnuts & Marshmallow Cream

Doughnuts are the best baked good to celebrate holidays, birthdays or any special day really. I have the fondest memories of my grandmother whipping up batches and batches of doughnuts for Fat Tuesday before Lent. She makes enough chocolate, cinnamon, jelly-filled and cream-filled flavors for all 7 of her sons and their families. I was actually able to get her recipe, but I found it doesn’t veganize as well as my go-to doughnut dough. Never-the-less, as a result, I have a sentimental part in my stomach for deep-friend dough on Fat Tuesday. Last year we were too busy to make doughnuts on Tuesday, so we had Susanna’s niece over to help celebrate Fat Thursday with doughnuts :) (which, coincidentally  was Valentine’s Day).

We made up two varieties, a yeasted gluten-free dough from VeganDad. This is more of a cake style doughnut (pictured below). Still deep-fried, still risen with yeast.

Gluten-Free Valentine Doughnuts

The second style was with my aforementioned go-to doughnut dough. With these I was able to make filled doughnuts with a delicious marshmallow cream. Oh, it was so good. Some we added a little peanut butter into the cream too.

Vegan Doughnut Marshmallow Cream:

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup tofutti cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup ricemellow creme
  • 2 tsp smooth peanut butter (optional)

Methods

  • Mix everything together with an electric beater until fluffed and slightly runny.
  • Use a piping bag to fill the doughnuts, or poke a small hole into the doughnut and drizzle in the creme with a spoon.