The Brellis House

 

Cornhole #3

The Brellis House Custom Cornhole Set

We made our first cornhole set for our wedding reception. It wasn’t too difficult by following directions from Cornhole How To. It does take some time and the lumber is surprising expensive (about $50-70). Even still, for Dan’s older sister’s wedding, we decided to collaborate with his younger sister and her boyfriend to make them a cornhole set as a wedding present. Lessons learned: an outdoor duck cloth fabric is crucial for the bags! We thought we’d get fancy with a cool canvas pattern, but unfortunately, the bags ripped after a few games… (cornhole is an intense sport).

Even still, one of her bridesmaids liked the idea so much that she asked us to make a set for a party celebrating her wedding. We saw this as a perfect excuse to buy a table saw- which we found at a yard sale. The table saw made it a lot easier and we used sturdy fabric and simple color patterns. She was happy with them.

The Brellis House Custom Cornhole Set Blue

 

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

I get most excited for the first pumpkins to mark the fall harvest. I bought two sugar pumpkins last week and used it all up in a week. Since we did such a great job canning tomatoes, I was hoping to do a lot of pumpkin preserving for the winter. However, I was disappointed in finding out that you can’t safely can pumpkin puree, though you can do pumpkin chunks, which I plan on trying.

The Brellis House :: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Since I immediately pureed my pumpkin, I had to find ways to use it all up (which wasn’t so hard). I made double batches of our pumpkin granola, delicious pumpkin cake (recipe to come), pumpkin red lentil curry, and these tasty cookies.

The cookies are soft and chewy with a hint of pumpkin and spice, though they probably could have taken more of each. The brown butter idea is from some similar recipes I found that used it to add flavor. Since Earth Balance doesn’t have as much lactic sugar as dairy butter, I added some Amaretto to add some toffee notes.

Makes 24 cookies.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance vegan buttery spread
  • 1/4 tsp Amaretto (optional)
  • 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp Vegg powder + 1 tbsp water
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups AP white flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Methods

  1. Brown the butter in a small sauce pan on medium-low heat and melt, stirring in the Amaretto. Let bubble for a few minutes (no more than 5) until a slight, but noticeable color change (light brown) and a nutty odor occurs.
  2. Add the now browned butter to a large bowl (or one of your stand mixer) and beat with the sugars. Add the Vegg powder and water and combine. Then add in the pumpkin puree, spices, vanilla and salt and beat until combined. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  3. Sift in the flours, cornstarch and baking soda and fold with a rubber spatula, then fold in the chocolate chips.
  4. Scoop tablespoon sized balls on a baking sheet (parchment or silpat) and bake for 10-12 minutes until the edges are browning (the tops will still seem soft, but they’ll firm up out of the oven).

Canning Tomatoes

canned tomatoesIt’s been a good year for tomatoes in our garden. We started this summer with a goal to can as many tomatoes as we could, and we’ve done pretty well. We’ve picked a dozen or so large tomatoes per week and made a few cans of salsa and sauce. We found this great asparagus pot at goodwill- and it works PERFECTLY for canning a single jar without wasting a ton of water to fill a large pot.

brellis-house-single-canning

brellis-house-homemade-salsa

Since canning a few here and there from our garden just doesn’t add up we decided to find some to buy at a good price. Dan found a great deal at a local farmer’s market and we bought 25 pounds of Roma tomatoes and canned them whole. It took a while but we ended up with 12 jars of whole tomatoes. I think with a few more from our garden and my mom’s garden we might just last the winter without having to buy tomatoes! Much better than our canning efforts in 2011.

summer tomatoes

canned tomatoes

Happy Third Anniversary To Us!

It’s that time of year again…our awkward yearly anniversary photo. This year we were too busy to even remember our anniversary and we didn’t get around to taking our photo until 11 days later.  Oh well, we’ll make it up next year!

The options for Year 3 materials were leather or glass. I think you can probably guess why we picked glass…

third anniversary

We didn’t quite have the focus right on this one, but it’s goofy so I wanted to share it anyway…

third yearIn case this isn’t enough silliness for you, you can check out our Year 1 and Year 2 photos!

 

Vegg Review: Lemon Poppy Seed Pancakes

maple-syrup-lemon-poppy-seed-pancakes

It’s always such a task to be the first one out of bed on a weekend morning and make what everybody is craving- pancakes. So far, we have utilized two pancake recipes, one for fluffy hand-sized pancakes and another for thin, silver-dollar ones. The latter, by the way, is terrific since you make it in a blender.

lemon-poppyseed-pancakes-series

In our recent efforts to use Vegg in our cooking, especially from the Vegg Cookbook, we decided to try out the lemon poppy seed pancakes from the cookbook. This recipe, from Meggie Woodfield of The Vegan Adventures of Meggie and Ben, was one of the best pancake recipes we’re ever had! “I forgot what pancakes tasted like”, Susanna surprised me after eating them Saturday morning. But she was right, these were not just good pancakes, but delicious. They were light and very fluffy and the lemon poppy seed was icing on the pancake. And so of course, I had to do that cliche pancake photo shot: staked up high with maple syrup running down.

Notes.

I used 1.5 cups of white flour and 0.5 cups of whole wheat and stirred everything until just combined (with a few lumps), then fried them without letting the batter rest for 10 minutes as the recipe suggests.

Experiments with Natural Dyes: Black Walnuts

black walnut dyeI got the idea about a year ago to make a quilt with all naturally dyed fabrics. Even though I haven’t finished my second quilt, I got started with the dyeing process this past weekend. Most of the plant material I plan on using is “ready” this time of year. My first experiment was using black walnuts. This isn’t meant to be a full tutorial, there are lots of good sources online and books. I’m simply documenting and presenting what worked (and didn’t work) for me.

Before dying, I scoured the fabric by simmering with some washing soda. This removes any waxes or junk on the fabric that would keep it from dyeing evenly.

scouring fabric

At first I didn’t mordant the fabric. I gathered about 10 black walnuts from the ground below a tree, they were mostly green, some browning slightly. Then, following directions from two books I got from the library (Harvesting Color by Rebecca Burgess and The Handbook of natural Plant Dyes by Sasha Duerr), I cracked the hulls and separated the nuts (which I left in our backyard and hopefully someone will eat them).

breaking walnut huskswalnut husks

Then I put the hulls in a 5 gallon bucket and added water and let fester in my basement for 2-3 weeks.  The water quickly became dark dark brown and stinky. Once it seemed ripe, I strained the liquid into a pot and brought the liquid to a boil, then simmered with the fabric for about 30 minutes. I had two pieces of fabric in the pot, so I decided to see what difference time made. I took the first piece out after 30 minutes of simmering, the second piece I let steep overnight. Then I rinsed and rinsed the fabric until the water ran clear(ish), let dry, and here’s how they looked:

walnut fabrics

While the colors were lovely (they both kinda appear white in this picture, they were actually much darker), I was expecting a much darker brown rather than a light gray. I had done lots of research and a lot of people said a mordant was unnecessary with black walnuts, but I also read that some people used one so I decided to experiment. I kept the darker of the original fabrics (the one that sat in dyebath overnight) and mordanted the lighter fabric and redyed it. I created an alum mordant by  simmering 20% alum per fiber weight, then let fabric steep for 4 hours, stirring occasionally. Additionally, I decided to try boiling the black walnut water with the black walnuts for an hour to try and extract more of the dye from the husks. After boiling for an hour, I added the fabric and soaked for about an hour on medium heat. Then I let it steep overnight and rinsed the next morning.

black walnut dye

What a difference those extra steps made! It’s now a much deeper brown, almost olivey.  So I have my first 2 colors- I need about 10 more to create the quilt I have in mind! This may take a few years. 🙂

Vegg Review: Tiramisu Cupcakes

One of the things I’m most excited about with using Vegg is with desserts. I bought a “Chocolate Bible” from a discount store a while ago and every cake recipe calls for 7-10 egg yolks. I tried one once, using a combination of flax meal and Ener-G Egg replacer… it was a thick, dense disaster. I’m optimistic that I can figure out how to veganize a sponge cake eventually, and maybe the Vegg is in that equation.

tiramisu cupcake

The best-sounding dessert in the Vegg cookbook, in our opinion, was the Tiramisu Cupcake recipe by Matthew Calverley of Vegan Heartland. We made it for a family dinner with my parents and siblings to see how they felt about a Vegg dessert.

tiramisu cupcake

Overall, approval was high. The cupcake, was much denser and chewier than cupcakes I’ve had before (vegan or not). The cream cheese frosting was very tasty, though a bit runny on a hot summer day.

NOTES.
The reason for the chewiness, I believe is over mixing. The recipe called for whipping the wet ingredients. Then, folding in the dry ingredients.  Then, stirring in additional milk and vanilla extract. I think this caused too much mixing and thus too much gluten development, thus a denser, chewier cupcake. I think the milk and vanilla extract should have been added to the wet ingredients to reduce the amount of mixing.

Also, the tiramisu flavorings came from cocoa powder in the frosting and a coffee glaze poured over top the cupcake. Unfortunately, I don’t think this provided enough flavor, especially since the coffee glaze didn’t really soak into the cake. Instead, next time I would add some coffee liquor/ground coffee powder and cocoa powder into the batter from the start.

I didn’t have enough cream cheese on hand for the frosting recipe, so I subbed in enough shortening to make it hold together. This worked pretty well and made a nice frosting which was easy to pipe onto the cake.

 

Overall, we were really pleased with how these cupcakes turned out, we can’t wait to experiment a little more with them.

Ginger Lime Cashew Seitan

Start off with the perfect vegetable combination of onions, carrots and celery: mirepoix.

mirepoix

Add chicken-style seitan and a sweet, tangy ginger lime sauce.

ginger-chili-sauce

Add in toasted cashews and reduce into a delicious glaze.

ginger-lime-cashew-seitan

Serve over cilantro rice.

ginger-lime-cashew-seitan-with-rice

This is a great recipe that came together super fast and has all the right tastes (sweet, salty, sour and spicy).

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp hot pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp corn starch
  • 1 drop liquid smoke
  • 1/4 cup water (experiment with orange or pineapple juice)
  • 12 oz package of chicken-style seitan strips, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1/4 loosely packed cilantro leaves
  • white rice for serving

Method

  1. Saute the mirepoix (onions, celery and carrots) in about a tablespoon of olive oil with some salt over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. If the onions begin to brown, turn down the heat. Cook until the veggies sweat and are soft.
  2. Meanwhile, make the sauce by combining everything from the garlic down to the 1/4 cup of water in a jar and whisk until the cornstarch is dissolved.
  3. Once the mirepoix is tender, turn up the heat to high and add the seitan, stirring often to brown the seitan.
  4. Coarsely chop the cashews (I like to leave a few whole) and toast them in a toaster oven (350°F ) or stove top until they just start to brown (cashews will turn from toasty to burnt in seconds. This takes about 10 minutes, but you should check every few minutes and stir occasionally.
  5. Once the seitan has browned, add the sauce to the pan, keeping the heat high, until it reduces and thickens a bit (add additional water if you’d like a more runny sauce). Turn the heat to low and reduce to your desired consistency.
  6. Serve on white rice with the cilantro.

Also, we grew a perfectly shaped carrot in our garden. I used it in this dish.

perfect-carrot

Vegg Review: Indian Quinoa, Pea & Potato Croquettes

The second recipe we made out of the Vegg Cookbook were these little bite-size Indian croquettes. Fried quinoa and potato patties, coated with bread crumbs from Nancy Montuari Stein of www.ordinaryvegan.net. We only had them fried, but she gives a baked option in the cookbook.

Indian Croquettes

NOTES.
In the cookbook, they’re suggested to be served with a spicy dipping sauce, which, disappointingly, is not in the cookbook, so we ate them with Trader Joe’s “Goddess” tahini dressing and peach, cherry chutney from last summer’s preserves, along with sauteed lemony kale and garlic from the garden.

Vegg Cookbook & Vegg Review: Broccoli Quiche

A few weeks ago, The Vegg, posted a call on facebook asking for vegan bloggers to review their new cookbook and product. We were quick to ‘offer’ our time to get a free cook book and chance to try out Vegg in a purposeful, systematic way. For those who aren’t familiar, Vegg is a ‘vegan egg yolk’ which can be used as a substitute for egg yolks in baking and cooking. It comes in a flaky, powder form and has gelling properties which can be used to spherify into a yolk or bind other ingredients.

vegg cookbook

We had used Vegg before, but without much thought, basically using it in lieu of the usual egg substitutes, Ener-G Egg Replacer, flax meal, etc. Now, though, with a whole cookbook of recipes, we were excited to try them out. The book has recipes divided, basically, into breakfast/brunch, entrées and desserts. The fun thing about the cookbook is that many of the recipes tackle the egg as a main ingredient. Things like egg noodles, omelets, egg salad, frittata, egg nog, and my first Vegg Cookbook dish, quiche.

broccoli quiche

I’ve never had quiche before, at least that I can remember, and never really had a strong urge to make it, especially eating vegan. There a re a few quiche recipes in the book. I made the Broccoli Quiche by Helen Rossiter of Vegetarian Recipe Club and Lots of Nice Things. I’ll tell you, I was very impressed by this recipe. In fact, I loved it. The recipe made one quiche in a 8″ pie plate and I ate half of it in one sitting.

The crust was very flaky, the consistency (primarily a silken tofu and vegg mixture) was rich and delicious and the broccoli and sun-dried tomatoes were a perfect filling.

NOTES.
For the pastry, I added the flour, salt and margarine in a food processor and pulsed a few times until a sandy consistency, then added just enough water to bring it together (less than a teaspoon). This made the dough difficult to roll and lay over the pie plate, so I did my best and pieced together most of it. I think this allowed for a more flaky pastry as adding 2-3 Tbs of water would have made it too tough and chewy.

Also, I mixed my broccoli, onion-garlic mixture and sun-dried tomatoes with the tofu-vegg mixture, then poured into the parbaked pastry crust. This ensured even distribution and prevented the veggies from burning by sitting on top.

Topped with a mixture of Diaya mozzarella and cheddar shreds.

broccoli quiche

After this first success, we are very excited to keep plugging away at the cookbook and trying our own recipes with The Vegg. Many of the recipes in the book were user submitted and credit the chef. This is another cool way to find new vegan recipe blogs to follow and share in the vegan community. However, a downside to this is that there isn’t much consistency as far as directions, serving sizes or methods. Some may be intimidated by this… or see it as a fun challenge!