Monday, August 19, 2013

Blackberry Lavender Popsicles

Sometimes you just need a little inspiration. I have been trying to push myself to feel inspired by giving myself a project. I set out to read 30 cookbooks in 30 days. I know there are 31 days this month, but 30 was my first thought so I stuck with it. What can I say, I like round numbers. I decided not to set any further restrictions than that it be a recipe based book of some sort. It's fine if it's 25 pages or 200. Doesn't matter it's sweet or savory, vegan or dairy heavy. I just needed to spend some quality time looking at ingredient selection, composition, and thinking about things that I want to make. It's very unlikely that I will make many of the recipes in their entirety. My brain just doesn't function like that. I always make substitutions and change basic ingredients out to fit my preferences. But that's exactly what I needed. Nineteen days in, I am doing well. I have made my way through sixteen books and have a stack ready to be browsed this evening. It's feeling nice to make lists again of things I want to see in my mixing bowl. It feels like a clean slate.

leaves and flours vegan Blackberry Lavender Popsicles

Like most people, I don't have a huge budget for cookbooks. I generally only buy one or two year depending on how many have been released that peak my interest. Last year was sort of an anomaly, and I ended up with 6 new books & a stuffed shelf. This month I have been relying heavily on the library. I have had a library card in every city I have ever lived in. Growing up, we made frequent trips to the library, and it's a trend that has followed me throughout my life. Aside from studying in the giant marble building throughout college, I made weekly treks to the fiction section to pick up a novel or sat in a chair reading magazines to give my brain a rest. It didn't hurt that the library assistant who often checked me out was really cute, and I needed frequent excuses to ask him questions.
The DC library system is even bigger and more wonderful than any of the libraries in my past. Last winter I went on a several month binge on teenage dramas (which there were plenty of). But now that I am using it for food related books, I was happily surprised to find an abundance of cookbooks in the system too. Based on the books that I have brought home, I can tell that they are well used. So I didn't feel too bad if I happened to drip some popsicle juice on one of the pages, which I may have done. These blackberry lavender popsicles are revised from an recipe in an issue of Bust Magazine that I read in one of the comfy couches of the library's coffee shop. I scrawled the recipe on notebook paper in my organic chemistry binder and never made it until this year when I stumbled upon the recipe again online.

leaves and flours vegan Blackberry Lavender Popsicles
Blackberry Lavender Popsicles
adapted from Lindsay Larick's recipe in Bust Magazine
1 cup sugar
1 3/4 cups water
3 tbl lavender buds
2 1/4 cups frozen blackberries (approximately a 10oz bag)
3 tbl lemon juice
In a sauce pan combine sugar & water. Bring to a rolling boil. Turn off heat, add lavender, & allow to steep for 30 minutes. Strain lavender pressing down on the buds to release all the syrup. Pour syrup into a blender with blackberries & lemon juice. Puree until smooth. Pour into popsicle molds & freeze for several hours. If you do not enjoy the seeds in the blackberries, you could puree the juice and blackberries and strain that before freezing as well.

leaves and flours vegan Blackberry Lavender Popsicles

While in the winter I found it really convenient to place holds on every book I wanted and have them delivered to my closest branch, this month I have been pushing myself to visit all the branches in my quadrant too. I have made it to three new locations so far, and am hoping to visit another three that aren't too far away by the end of the month. It's great browsing through an online catalog and picking out some books that interest me. But what's really been my favorite thing this month is just walking up to the shelves and looking at all the titles. I have checked out a few books I never would have selected online, which is teaching me a lot about my preferences and taste.
Most of you probably know by now that Vegan MoFo is September instead of October this year. While I originally didn't think I was up to the challenge again, I have decided to keep pushing myself in the right direction. I doubt I will blog every day for the month and I certainly won't have a solid theme again, but I think it's a good motivation. Who's going to join me for the craziness that will be vegan blogging in September? Also do you have any cookbook recommendations? My list is starting to get a little low!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Lavender Lemonade

leaves and flours vegan lavender lemonade leaves and flours vegan lavender lemonade

There have been a lot of thoughts on my mind lately, but I have been trouble keeping track of them all. A brilliant idea will hit me like a strike of lightning, and disappear before I can write it down. I will wake up from a dream with lots of hazy allusions that I am not sure how to interpret. I feel ready to run & ready to settle at the same time. I keep thinking about how little I have seen and done, and wondering when I will fit all the things I want to do in. Because if we don't make time, nothing will get done. I have been baking away, but none of those things will magically appear on the internet unless I take the time to sort through the extraneous photographs and turn some of this noise in my head into cohesive sentences.
Today Greg and I went to Roosevelt Island and wondered around the paths. We talked about driving across the country. How I haven't ever seen the Pacific Ocean. How we should visit all the cities we have never been to and see all the friends we haven't seen in too long. We are starting to feel a little stagnant in this city. Weighed down by the things we don't enjoy here. Hopeful about starting over in a new place. But here we are wondering swampy forest paths we have never seen before in a city I have only lived in for 2 years. When is it giving up too soon? When is wanderlust just a state of mind?
Lavender is one of those haunting ingredients. Much like honeysuckle, it reminds me of the country and smells like home. But as a flavor it morphs into something entirely else. More elite. Something you see infused in chocolates or ice creams in fancy shops in the city. Sparingly used, but perfection when it's done right. A middle road I am searching for.

leaves and flours vegan lavender lemonade
Lavender Lemonade
makes just shy of one gallon

1/2 cup dried lavender flowers
2 cups sugar
approximately 14 lemons
12 cups water

In a stockpot combine 4 cups of water with the sugar. Bring to a boil & remove from heat. Add lavender, stirring until all flowers are soaked. Cover & allow to steep for 30 minutes. Strain, pressing out all the simple syrup. Juice all your lemons. Stir juice & lavender syrup into remaining water. Stir, sip, & adjust to your preferences. Depending on the tartness of the lemons, I sometimes use a few more. I also have a tendency to reserve a little syrup just in case the lemons are sweeter than normal.

leaves and flours vegan lavender lemonade

The other day it started lightly raining as I was driving my long trek home. I saw a bright flash of light and instinctively assumed it was either a red light or speed camera. I am so disconnected from nature, that lightning didn't actually cross my mind until I saw the second flash. Later that night we sat in a beautiful, old movie theatre. All I could think about was how long it's been since I have been to a drive-in. I love the city, but I love being in the middle of nowhere. Where I do fit in this paradigm? There's a beautiful sunset over DC, but I certainly won't see the stars tonight.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Coconut Cream Pie

leaves and flours vegan Coconut Cream Pie

This summer has been escaping me at every twist and turn. Until this past week I hadn't gone swimming or seen the beach. I hadn't taken a spontaneous trip or gone a picnic. It's certainly been hot, and I have the bug bites to remind me of the season. But I wasn't getting any of the fun. The last few days I worked really hard to remedy that. I made it to my first Fort Reno of the summer, where I shared this coconut cream pie with a handful of friends on a picnic blanket while we listened to music as the sun set. It was a repeat of the pie I made for 4th of July, but somehow hadn't managed to post yet. It's been a busy summer full of moving, long work days, and nights with little sleep. I can't complain too much. Things are going well, and I am actually quite happy.

leaves and flours vegan Coconut Cream Pie

I managed to arrange a whole weekend off (a rare occurrence for me!), and used it to make my first trip to Ocean City. I swam in the ice cold ocean. Salt water does amazing things for my hair & my heart. I dug my feet deep in the sand and took a quick nap. A friend and I ooh-ed & ahh-ed over cake decorating books for several hours of the drive. We took silly photo booth pictures. A rampant child kicked sand all over us while running between our towels. A disgusting amount of sugar, soda, and Wawa soft pretzels were consumed.

leaves and flours vegan Coconut Cream Pie
Coconut Cream Pie

1 nine inch pie crust
3 cans full fat, canned coconut milk
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
1/2 cup blended, extra firm silken tofu
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Toast your coconut in a frying pan over medium heat until it becomes lightly browned. Don't neglect it, it will cook fairly quickly and burn the instant you forget about it. While that's toasting, puree your silken tofu. In a 2 quart stock pot, combine 3 cups of coconut milk (that's just shy of 2 cans, so you will have a little extra), one half cup of the tofu, the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk it until combined, then bring to a boil over medium-low heat. Remove from heat, stir in 1 1/4 cup of toasted coconut and vanilla extract. Pour into your pie crust and allow to chill overnight. When you place the pie in the fridge also throw in your remaining can of coconut milk to make coconut whipped cream. The next day top your pie with whip & remaining toasted coconut. If you are really impatient you can probably get away with only chilling the pie for 4-6 hours, but keep in mind that the flavor really does further develop overnight.

leaves and flours vegan Coconut Cream Pie

I am hoping to see a little bit more of summer before she leaves again. There's still so many things to be done. I haven't picked any ripe fruit or visited the city pool. I need to read a book in the sunshine while I drink giant glasses of iced tea. There's at least a few more pitchers of lemonade & little day trips in my future. Don't go away so soon. I will miss you when you're gone.