Friday, February 17, 2012

Teff-full Crepe and LOVE

Valentine’s Day 2012 is over, I KNOW…but I have to share my thoughts and recipe for a yummy and special meal. It was SOOOOO good and sometimes the “it” factor is needed, even for meals other than Valentine’s Day. This is “IT”!! A little time consuming, but a special thing to serve for the one or ones you love. FIRST…some background as to how this recipe came to BE! I have discovered a new grain for my culinary pleasure. It is a grain with an ancient history. The grain is called teff…LOVE it!!! It is nutty when cooked, with the reminiscent taste of my childhood…cream of wheat. EXCEPT it is wheat free and has a reddish brown color…burnt all you pigment people. Teff is really high in protein, iron, zinc, and calcium…best thing…it tastes good! I purchased the teff grain at our local grocery store, so I feel sure it is now easy to find. What I used is the Bob’s Red Mill brand of teff, but that is just what our local store carries. You won’t believe how small the grains are….LOOK!

Told ya!!! 

Teff, comes from the Ethiopian word…teffa, meaning lost (read this in my Vegetarian Times magazine). Yep… drop this on the floor and you could NEVER find all the little grains!!! I did some reading about this Ethiopian grain and found out that it is known as lovegrass and related to the weeping lovegrass growing on the hillside near our house. Lost….love…weeping….hmmmmm…

Well…I couldn’t let that go…lovegrass…Valentine’s Day meal?????? 
Yep…had to go down this road!!!! So, I figured out how to do a lovely 
teff crepe for our special meal. I am calling this Teff-Full Love Crepes.

Teff-Full Love Crepe Recipe:
(Makes 6 to 8 crepes…depending on the size of skillet used.)

Teff grains cook very quickly…15 minutes. Cooking the teff needs to be done before making the crepe batter. You could also make some porridge in the morning and have some leftover and make these from leftover teff porridge. 
(I seem to always finish all my porridge!!! ;-D)
In a small sauce pan:
1 cup water
Pinch of salt
Bring the water to a boil and stream in:
¼ cup teff grain
Stir well…

Cover the pan and lower heat to simmer for 15 minutes…
stir occasionally as needed.

Teff is thickened to a porridge consistency with the small grains absorbing all the water. In measuring the cooked teff, you will have approximately ¾ cup…
in case you are using leftovers…hahaa!!

Place cooked teff in bowl of food processor. Allow teff to cool a few minutes while getting out the ingredients to make the crepe batter.

1 T. ground flaxseed
3 T. water

Look….a heart friend…perfect for a Love meal!!!! 
Allow flax meal to get gooey with the water (technical term).

¼ cup of Earth Balance vegan spread…I do this in microwave…15 seconds…COVER WITH A PAPER…less spatters to clean…FYI

Add the flax meal, and melted Earth Balance to the teff in processor… Add:
1 cup unflavored almond milk
½ cup water (plus additional as needed later when cooking crepes)

Process the wet ingredients a few seconds to incorporate the teff with all of the liquids.

Now combine the dry ingredients:
½ cup whole-wheat pastry flour
¾ cup unbleached all purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt

Add dry ingredients to the wet and again…process for a smooth batter.

The batter should look like heavy cream with specks.

Most crepe recipes have you refrigerate the batter for at least 30 minutes or longer before using…I simply cleaned up my batter making utensils and processor bowl/blade…readied my crepe making at the stove…and started in making crepes. I think the grain makes it a little sturdier and easier to begin quickly making crepes. Heat a NON-STICK skillet. I used an 8” skillet because I wanted larger “dinner-sized” crepes. I cooked the crepes on a medium heat as you want them to cook quickly, but not brown much…the setting was between a 3 and 4 on my electric cook-top, but you will get a feel for it as you cook the crepes on your stove.

Lightly oil the skillet (spray or brush with olive oil)

Once the skillet sizzles when a bead of water is dropped onto the surface…crepe making begins…
It is really FUN!! Don’t be scared!!!

Lift oiled skillet off heat and pour a scant ½ cup of batter into the center of the pan. Immediately begin tipping and rolling the skillet…making the circle of batter larger and larger…until the batter has been rolled all across the bottom of the skillet and even a little up the edge. The batter should just thinly coat the skillet surface…

Place skillet back on heat and cook the first side of the crepe approximately 2 minutes…may take longer on the first crepe. Don’t worry if the first one is bound for the trashcan…it sometimes happens. 
Cook the crepe until the edge looks dry (you will see a change in color).

Lift the edge of the crepe with the tip of a table knife or metal spatula…then…simply using your hands…FLIP. 
(I flip front to back…but you may find it easier to flip back to front…
probably is a right brain, left brain thing….????)

The cooked side of crepe will be dry, but not really browned.

Cook the second side... again about 2 minutes…maybe a little less. 
Flip the cooked crepe out onto a plate.

Re-oil the skillet and do it again and again…until the batter is used up. 

(Should the batter be too thick for easy rolling…happens as it sits…
add 1 T. of water at a time…stir…and then make additional crepes.)

Place wax paper between the crepes and stack.

(At this point…you could stop…allow the crepes to cool completely…place in a ziplock bag…and have the crepes ready to go for the next day. I only filled four crepes, so I stored the rest for another meal. The crepes “keep” well in the refrigerator for a few days. Stuffed with tofu scramble for breakfast….YUM!)

Now here is the filling I used inside the teff crepes for our “LOVE MEAL” on Valentine’s Day.

Spinach and Mushroom Filling Recipe:
(This fills four 8” crepes…increase accordingly)

Into a hot skillet place:
2 T. of olive oil
1 8 oz. package of cremini mushrooms (FINELY chopped)

Allow the mushrooms to get seared and browned.

1 tsp. of dried basil
¼ tsp. ground poultry seasoning
¼ to ½ tsp. red pepper flakes…depending on your spice preference
1/3 cup FINELY chopped onion
2 cup (measured frozen) chopped spinach…defrost…squeeze dry

1 cup unflavored almond milk
¼ cup vegan cream cheese (Follow Your Heart brand...appropriate;-))
½ cup mozzarella veggie shreds (Galaxy brand)
½ cup FINELY chopped walnuts…(plus additional ¼ cup for topping)

Stir well…allowing the vegan cream cheese and shreds to melt.

¼ tsp. of salt…or to your liking…taste and adjust to your preference.

Remove skillet from heat and make white sauce for topping.

White Sauce:
(Enough sauce to cover four 8” crepes…increase accordingly)

Into a small sauce pan place:
2 T. of Earth Balance vegan spread

Anyone see a heart????

Melt Earth Balance over medium high heat and add:
2 T. of unbleached all purpose flour

Whisk the flour into the Earth Balance and allow the flour
 a minute or two to cook…now slowly whisk in:
1 cup of unflavored almond milk

¼ cup vegan cream cheese (Follow your Heart)
½ cup mozzarella veggie shreds (Galaxy brand)

Whisk until all is melted and smooth.

Grate some fresh whole nutmeg.

Add seasoning to almond milk mixture:
1 T. of nutritional yeast
¼ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. of salt…or to taste
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

All the parts of the crepes are completed…so now…FILL  CREPES 
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees…lightly oil a square 9” baking dish.

Lay one of the cooled crepes on a flat surface. Down the middle of the crepe, place about ½ cup of the mushroom/spinach filling.

Fold over both sides to the center over the filling.

Place the crepe seam side down into the lightly oiled 9” baking dish. Repeat this process for the other crepes.

Pour white sauce over the crepes. 

Sprinkle with:
¼ cup of FINELY chopped walnuts
Dash of paprika

Bake crepes In a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes...or until bubbling 
and hot.

Allow the baked crepes a few minutes to “set” before trying to serve…otherwise it will be difficult to keep the crepe whole for a nice presentation on the plate.

(I steamed some asparagus during this “crepe resting time” ;-))

OK…deep breath…serve carefully... supporting the crepe out of the baking dish with your serving spatula…


Candles lit, music playing, fireplace blazing…yes, it was a LOVELY MEAL... 
if I DO say so myself. Quite a special meal for a Tuesday!!!

We cleaned our plates and then exchanged cards.

Those who know us well, know how much we love our pugs!!
Well…here’s the Avanti card I gave Jim…

Jim’s card to me…much more elegant…a Hallmark card...

As we remembered the Valentine Days of the past (you do this as you get older…) we remembered Valentine’s Day three years ago. My father was dying. Jim, our son, and I had gone back to the nursing center where Dad was being cared for... just to check in on him for the night. We found him, sitting up in bed, being fed a small spoonful of sherbet by the young aide. Clear as can be, he asked if I would see that my mom receive a Valentine’s Day card. The remarkable thing was that Dad had not been really lucid about anything in the days prior to or after THIS brief moment in time. (It was a Grace Moment…as Jim calls them!) I assured him, Mom, would receive a card from him and we had our final two-way conversation with Dad in those brief minutes before tucking him in and saying goodnight. Not being able to find a card that would begin to say what I thought needed to be said…
I purchased a blank card and hand-wrote these words of scripture after they caught my eye.
(A framed paper cutting hanging on my wall.)

The only words that seemed to sum up the love of a 50-year marriage were these words.

Three years ago today…on the February 17, 2008 my father was gone…but love not lost…only out of sight. I’ve thought a lot about that time over the last three years. I lost the physical presence of my dad, my business, and a sense of my orientation during that week of Valentine’s Day 2008. It made me appreciate the parables in the Bible about the lost in a way that I never had before. These are the parables about the lost sheep... lost coin... and the lost son...  I gained a new understanding. 
(Look in the 15th Chapter of Luke if you are curious.) 

What is pursued by LOVE! 
That is what brought me comfort and hope. The knowledge... that no matter what... LOVE…NEVER fails…even when everything in life seems to fail. 
Even when lovegrass is weeping…

The scattered grains of love are not lost…only out of sight.

Grace (our black mutt) and I walk by this grass daily…I see this grass differently this week.

While walking…I’ve been listening to down-loaded new single on my phone that I’ve fallin’ in LOVE with…by Jason Mraz…”I Won’t Give Up”. 
One of the song’s lines says...” we didn’t break, didn’t burn, we had to learn how to bend without the world cavin’ in”…”I won’t give up…we’ve got a lot to learn…God knows we’re worth it…even if the skies get rough, I’m givin’ you all my love…I’m still lookin’ up”…

Nothing is LOST…only out of our sight…
LOVE finds us, holds us, sustains us…LOVE NEVER FAILS!

In memory and thanksgiving of the love of Charles L. Williams Jr.

This teff crepe is a special recipe…the crepe holds all of the “stuff”… the filling…the heart of the recipe... a warm enfolding, comfort food…the perfect meal for the ONE you love and for remembering the ONES you love. 
Love meals are needed more frequently than once a year on Valentine’s Day, SO… make some crepes:-).

Or hold a pug and remember…
LOVE pursues you... it will NOT LET YOU GO!!!!

Thoughtful Living Moment Today: EVERY small grain of love is gathered into our hearts, so not even ONE is ever LOST! 
Keep Looking Up!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Florentine Lace Valentine Cookies and Shadows

So… the buzz this week…did the groundhog see his shadow??? Yes…he did. Six more weeks of winter…ummmm….okay. I will try and endure it with all of my hearty genes!!!

I always find the whole Groundhog Day confusing. How is it that a sunny, bright day means more winter and a cloudy, dreary day means spring…it has always seemed odd to me.  But then again…I hadn’t really thought too deeply about it EVER!! This week, I thought about the whole shadow thing. Sometimes seeing my own shadow makes me want to run back and hide too!!!

Maybe the whole winter/spring prediction wasn’t what I was to notice this year! Maybe it was the part about running from the shadow. The story goes that the groundhog after seeing his shadow, runs back into his burrow to hibernate for another 6 weeks. As I thought about it, in order for a shadow to be cast…light must be present. Sometimes light shining on us is just too much. Sometimes what is cast for others to see is too much and we need time to adjust. I felt great love for that little rodent and the new insight I gained from my shadow watching.

In my everyday life, I have always been drawn to the positive space to view: the surfaces, colors, textures, movements, the solid forms of life, but this week…I forced myself to the shadows. The forms created by the shadows. I thought about it as an artist views objects…the dark is what makes the object have form!

Through the front window, a lacy pattern was cast on the carpet…  shadows from our landscape.

It was the beginning inspiration for the recipe this week. I KNOW…BUT… it involves chocolate…so hang with me on this idea!!!! I had been thinking about Valentine’s Day… hearts…LOVE…and all those wonderful images this week. Pair that with my shadow exploration and the two seemed destined for a recipe!!!! The shadow-side of love…think movie plot, opera, or nightly news cast!!! A lacy Florentine heart-shaped cookie with a dark chocolate backside was the cookie for the week. A great treat for my valentine sweet table…or simply a treat to share…a little chocolate indulgence. Yes…we do eat sweets occasionally!!! This little cookie is DELICIOUS!!

Florentine Lace Valentine Cookie Recipe:
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Makes 3 dozen cookies

Into a small sauce pan over medium high heat place:
½ cup Earth Balance vegan spread
½ cup soy coffee creamer
2/3 cup natural sugar

Stir as the ingredients are heating to dissolve the sugar and incorporate the Earth Balance into the creamer. Bring this to a rolling boil.

Remove saucepan from heat after coming to a boil.

(Grind walnuts in the bowl of food processor)

(You want walnuts to be a fine powder, but not ground to the point of a paste.)

Measure and place into a bowl:
2 cups finely ground walnuts
Into the emptied food processor bowl…no need to clean…measure:
1 cup of dried cranberries
½ cup tapioca flour
(Bob’s Red Mill brand is what I had on hand…flour made from the starchy cassava plant roots…has the texture of corn starch.)

Process the two together until the cranberries are finely chopped. The tapioca flour helps the dried cranberries to grind without becoming gummy.

Place ground cranberries and tapioca flour into bowl with walnuts and add the warm liquid from the saucepan.
½ tsp. orange extract
½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Stir until all ingredients are well combined.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper, scoop or measure 1 T. worth of batter per cookie onto the baking sheets.

Place the cookies FAR apart…only 6 cookies at a time per sheet. The batter will spread and it makes it easier to shape after baking if there are only 6 to cut while the next pan is baking.

Once the mounds of batter are on the parchment, place a spoon in a glass of water. 

The wet spoon makes smoothing the mounds into disks easier. Simply flatten the mounds into smooth disks.

The cookies are now ready to be baked in a pre-heated 350 degree oven.

Bake the cookies for 11 minutes. The lacy cookies will be golden around the edges.

Allow the cookies to cool on the sheet (DO NOT REMOVE) for 4 to 5 minutes. They will harden and become firm enough to pick up, yet still be somewhat pliable.

(While the cookies cool ready the next pan of cookies to bake and keep the rotation of baking and shaping going until all the batter has  been baked.)

To form the cookies into a heart shape…I use kitchen scissors. It makes the shaping quick and easy!! Cut into the circle at the top and take out a wedge shaped pie piece…the top of the heart!!

Now shape the bottom point from the sides…not much will need to come off…just a shearing of the edge to a centered point on both sides of the bottom edge of circle.

A finished heart now cools on rack until completely cool and hardened.

Continue until all hearts have been shaped.

Save all of the crumbs from shaping…these are great snacks, on top of oatmeal for breakfast, on coconut or soy yogurt…etc….yummy!!!

Now for the “shadow” side of the heart!!!

Melt in microwave:
1 ¾ cup dark chocolate (non-dairy) chips

Time the melting process in 30 to 35 second intervals…checking and stirring. The chip will still be visibly whole, but upon stirring in the hot bowl, the chips will  readily melt. This way you won’t burn your chocolate.

Stir and it becomes melted and smooth…shiny….yummy!!!

Turn each lacy heart over, so that the smooth side is up and spread this side with a thin layer of melted chocolate. Spread each cookie until all the hearts have been covered. 

Place the hearts back on the rack…chocolate side up until the chocolate hardens.

Once the chocolate hardens…try not to eat them all, but pack into airtight containers.

Right side up…the dark shadow of chocolate peeks through the lacy heart!

The chocolate adds weight to the cookie and strength. It seems more like a “real” cookie rather than just a fragile, sugary, confection filled with holes. It is yummy without the chocolate, but the chocolate adds substance.

In my shadow watching this week…I thought about how those we love have glimpses of our shadow side. We may not be Jekyll and Hyde, but we each have those parts in us that are shadows of our being that we run from, or avoid, rather than face. Sometimes the glare of the light seems too much, but given time, we return to embrace the light and see those parts of ourselves with the promise of spring…just like Mr. Groundhog. The shadows of our lives give us weight, they bind us to the earth just like those leaves way up in the tree found their way down to the carpet of my living room.

But the beauty is that the shadows in our lives make us whole…real. As I watched the shadows this week, the closer the object was to the light….the larger the shadow… the farther away the object from the light…the smaller the shadow. Shadows get a bad rap, but shadows make life interesting…they make the light visibly more spectacular. The light/shadow contrasts show the qualities of dark and light and all the textural nuances of creation. Without shadow…life would have no depth. What is THERE to be seen…regardless of the light's position…is THERE all the time. It is only experienced and seen in our eyes as the light travels around and above and beside. A revelation of the width, breadth, and height of life.

That is how I see life. The closer I stay to the LIGHT, the more of my own shadow is visible to me and to others…the real me…the earthbound me. My shadows add depth, strength, substance, and dimension to my life. Not to be feared, not to hide, not to send me back into a hole to sleep and avoid. No…the sweet treat of all this shadow study this week is…that as the dark shadows of life are allowed to peek through the holes of our hearts…real and genuine love is shared…imperfect…sometimes misshapen…just like my Florentine cookies, but good and sweet all the same. Don’t be afraid of your shadows…don’t run and hide…embrace the light and celebrate the promise found in the light illuminating the shadows of life. Mr Groundhog…SPRING is welcoming us in it’s light! Love is in the air…..the periwinkle is blooming…the flower of new friendship…fidelity…and spiritual harmony!

Love is in the air….

Will cleans the shadowy depths of his beloved Hope’s ears!!!

Now that is TRUE LOVE!!!

The shadows of clouds only make the light more spectacular…

Thoughtful Living Moment today: 
Allow the shadows of your life to peek through your heart 
and real and genuine love will be your sweet reward!