My brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life.


Seitan! 2

Posted on October 15, 2009 by crankycheryl
Breaded seitan cutlets frying happily away.

Breaded seitan cutlets frying happily away.

Put down that Tofurky!  Don’t torture your vegetarian friends while going broke on their behalf.  With just a few easy steps, and a couple hours of cooking and cooling, you can have a delicious and thrifty vegan alternative.

I grew up eating a lot of Chinese food, and what with 2 1/2 millenia of Buddhism, Chinese cuisines feature some of the most wonderful vegetarian foods.   I’ve always been especially fond of seitan in its many guises.  I like how it’s dense and chewy in a way that’s fairly unique in the veggie protein world.

After I complained about how pricey it’s gotten (nearly $10 a pound from a local company!), a friend clandestinely told me that she had worked out The Best Recipe for it.  But that it was a little complicated, and that it had taken her 9 years to develop, and that she wasn’t sure she could bring herself to share the recipe.

I think I had nearly convinced her to do so when I came across this one from my very favorite vegan blog, Post Punk Kitchen.

I almost felt guilty for having found a recipe that’s so easy, and that costs about a quarter what it would to buy it pre-made.  I’ve made it three times, and haven’t had it fail.  Though it grated on my attention-deficit nature, I followed the instructions exactly, especially about the temperature of the water when the seitan goes in (cold) and the time that the seitan stays in the broth after cooking (a while).

Give it a whirl.   You can double it and freeze some to have around when vegetarian friends drop by, or make it ahead for a holiday dinner.  Your guests will thank you, and you will bask in the glow of gratitude and thriftiness.

Homemade Seitan
From Post Punk Kitchen


  • 1 1/2 cups vital wheat gluten flour
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 cup very cold water or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or grated on a microplane grater
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Simmering Broth

  • 10 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce


  1. In a large bowl, mix together vital wheat gluten and nutritional yeast flakes.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together remaining ingredients: water or broth, soy sauce. tomato paste, garlic, lemon zest.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and combine with a firm spatula, knead dough for about 3 minutes until a spongy, elastic dough is formed. [It’s really cool how the wet mess turns into this spongy thing right before your eyes!] Let dough rest for a couple of minutes and prepare your broth, but don’t start boiling it.
  4. Now roll your dough into a log shape about 8 inches long and cut into 3 equal sized pieces. Place the pieces in the broth. It is important that the liquid be very cold when you add the dough, as it helps with the texture and ensures that it doesn’t fall apart. Partially cover the pot (leave a little space for steam to escape) and bring to a boil.
  5. When the water has come to a boil set the heat to low and gently simmer for an hour, turning the pieces every now and again.
  6. Now you’ve got seitan. Let it cool in the simmering broth for at least a half an hour. It is best if it cools completely.

What you do next depends on the recipe you are using. If it calls for gluten use it as is. If you want to store some of it for later use put it in a sealable container covered in the simmering broth.

Monkey Menu Monday: Tiny Russian Pancakes 0

Posted on September 21, 2009 by crankycheryl

0921091302aSo here we are on Day 3 of the EatLocal 100 mile challenge.  And it’s Monday, the day I cajole the boys into picking a meal from the international cookbook I keep foisting on them.

Last night we flipped through and landed on the Russia page, which contained the tiny pancakes called Sirniki (SEER-nih-ki, according to the helpful pronunciation key).

So that plus a fruit shake (Adam’s blueberries, Strafford Creamery Smooth Maple Ice Cream, and milk) became tonight’s dinner.  I added some pureed baked butternut squash to the pancakes, which is what I nearly always do to unsuspecting pancakes and baked goods here in the CrankyHouse.

Reading the recipe over made me think that these must have been a traditional dairy farm meal, since they call for a veritable sampler of dairy ingredients.  (If any vegan friends stop by, please do let me know if you see a way to veganize this one.  I couldn’t figure it out.)  The results are very cheesy, light, and savory.  I also like that they have no added leavening, instead relying on the beaten egg whites for their lightness.  The boys just ate them – all of them, 17 each –  plain, though we could have had them with the traditional sour cream, and the one I actually got to try would have been heavenly with some homemade jam.

Butternut Squash Sirniki
Makes about 25 – 35 tiny pancakes

  • 1/2 c. soft cream cheese (I bought some local stuff – pricey but good)
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour, sifted
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/2 c. pumpkin or butternut squash puree
  • 4 T. butter

For serving (optional):

  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 1/2 c. apricot or other preserves
  1. Mash the cream cheese with a wooden spoon until it’s smooth.
  2. Beat the yolks into the cream cheese, and add in the sugar, salt and squash puree.  Beat until very smooth.
  3. Stir in the cottage cheese, then add the flour.
  4. Beat egg whites until they’re white and stiff and hold a peak.
  5. Gently fold egg whites into the batter.
  6. Heat 2 T. butter in large frying pan just until lightly bubbling.
  7. Drop the batter by heaping tablespoons into the frying pan, and cook until the bottoms are set and the top looks nearly dry, about 2 minutes.  Flip over and cook for another 2 minutes.
  8. Remove from heat and keep warm while you cook the rest.
  9. Serve plain, with sour cream, jam, both, or whatever other kooky thing you come up with.

Nearly Silent Sunday 0

Posted on August 23, 2009 by crankycheryl

This Thursday is the last Thursday at the Intervale for the summer.  $5 family pass for American Flatbread Pizza, salads from Bluebird Tavern, Slow Food tastings, and all the wholesome summer evening fun you can shake a stick at.  You know, just saying.

Gazpacho is Good! 0

Posted on August 11, 2009 by crankycheryl

I don’t think there’s a food celeb that I love more than Lynn Rosetto Kasper.  When she starts launching in to the intro for The Splendid Table, I start getting all giggly.  Usually the boys have just come home from their dad’s and are hovering near, waiting for lunch, and I’m dawdling by the kitchen radio, listening to Lynn and how she knows about every ingredient under the sun.

Sometime in the last year, I heard a guest talking about real gazpacho, which we Americans, he asserted, have never tried.  This salad-in-a-glass stuff misses the point entirely, as it’s been stripped of the things that make it delicious – namely peasant bread, and olive oil.  Lots of Spanish olive oil.

Nothing wrong with salad-in-a-glass, of course, but I was interested enough to sock the idea away.  And when I was looking for something easy and soup-ish to make for dinner yesterday, I remembered it.  I gave it the full-on pitch as the boys and I were talking about the menu for Monkey Menu Monday, and asked if they’d help me pick the vegetables for it and help tear bread to smithereens.  They nodded solemnly, looking a little confused as to what they were agreeing to, which seemed like a good enough starting place.

So off we went to the garden to hunt for the produce, and we went inside to start.  They kept looking pointedly towards the TV and the copy of the Lion King we had picked up at the library, but I kept us on task until their pleas became verbal and loud.

By the way, parent friends: don’t show your 4 and 6 year old this movie unless you relish a discussion about why evil uncle lions kill their brothers and why vultures circle in the air above cute and sympathetic sleeping lion cubs.  Oy.

But before I knew it, the gazpacho was ready.  And oh geez.  It was incredibly, rapturously, unusually good.  Smooth, creamy, incredibly flavorful, tart and fresh.  CrankyGreg pronounced it, “Exquisite.” My dad stopped by, had some, and then finished the leftovers.

It’s more work than throwing some vegetables in the blender, but nothing too hard.  And you can have your kids help rip up the bread (I used the opportunity to help E. practice some knife skills by cutting the crusts off) and mash up the garlic and squeeze tomatoes.  If they’re like mine that will be the pinnacle of their muy autentico experience, since they’ll hate the soup.  But you will love it, I promise.

I skipped the suggested garnishes because I was sort of done with the chopping and whatnot by the time I had sweated my way to dinner.  But I added in some tempeh croutons (marinate in some oil, vinegar and sprinkle of sea or kosher salt, then broil until browned) for protein, which were good and look awfully cute on the rim of the glass, no?

Authentic Andalusian Gazpacho
From The Splendid Table, adapted from The Greatest Dishes: Around the World in 80 Recipes Serves 6

  • Four 1-inch-thick slices day-old coarse country bread from a round loaf, crusts removed, torn into small pieces
  • 3 pounds ripest, most flavorful tomatoes possible, washed and quartered [According to TST, “do not use Beefsteak tomatoes.”  But why?]
  • 4 T. good-quality sherry vinegar, preferably aged
  • 3 medium garlic cloves
  • Small pinch of cumin seeds or ground cumin
  • Coarse sea salt
  • 2 firm medium-sized Kirby (pickling) cucumbers, peeled
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, cored and seeded
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, cored and seeded
  • One quarter of a medium red onion, peeled
  • 1/2 C. fragrant, fruity extra-virgin Spanish olive oil, preferably from Andalusia
  • 1/2 C. bottled spring water, or more to taste

Garnishes (you choose):

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons each finely diced cucumbers, peeled green apples, slightly
  • underripe tomatoes, and green bell peppers
  • Slivered young basil leaves
  • Crispy croutons

1. Place the bread in a large bowl, and squeeze out the seeds and some of the juice from the tomatoes over it. Crumble and massage the bread with your fingers. Add 1 tablespoon of the vinegar and let it soak for 5 to 10 minutes.

2. Using a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic to a paste with the cumin and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

3. Transfer the bread mixture to a food processor along with the garlic paste, and process until completely smooth. Leave this mixture in the food processor while preparing the next step.

4. Chop the tomatoes, cucumbers, red and green peppers, and onion into medium dice. Place the vegetables in a bowl, stir in three large pinches of salt, and let stand for 15 minutes so that the tomatoes throw off some liquid.

5. Working in three batches, process the vegetable mixture in a food processor until as smooth as possible, adding a third of the olive oil to each batch. (The first batch will be processed with the bread mixture.) Transfer each finished batch to a sieve set over a large bowl.

6. Pass the gazpacho through a sieve, pressing on it with the back of a wooden spoon. Whisk in the remaining 3 tablespoons vinegar and the water. Adjust salt to taste. Chill the gazpacho for at least 3 hours before serving. (If making the gazpacho a day ahead, add the garlic 2 to 3 hours before serving, lest it overwhelm the other flavors.) Serve in glass bowls or wine glasses, with your selected garnishes.

Muy Macho Sweet Potato Hummus 3

Posted on August 04, 2009 by crankycheryl

Well, no, that can’t be quite right.  How on earth could a lowly little bean puree be macho?  Why, when it’s made into Sweet Potato Hummus by Macheesmo, of course!

I had come across his post a couple of days ago, and because my turn for the August cohousing meal had arrived and I had planned to do a vaguely middle Eastern menu, I had to fit it in.

Then, as usual, I left my laptop at home when I went up to our common house to cook, so I was left to wing it.  I remembered it had tahini in it, I remembered it was spiced, and off we went.

Now that I see Macheesmo’s, I see that I went pretty far afield.  But it was awfully good, and you can now feel free to make one version or the other.

  • 1 lb. dried chick peas, cooked and cooled (or 4 cans chick peas, drained and rinsed.  How do I know this is the equivalent?  Here’s how I know this is the equivalent.)
  • 1 lb. tahini
  • 2 sweet potatoes, baked at 400 for 1 hour, then cooled
  • ~1/3 c. olive oil
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 T. smoked paprika
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 1/2 t. ground coriander seed
  • salt to taste

Put it all in a food processor and blend until very smooth.  You can even get your little one to join in the fun of scooping the beans in.  Not that he’ll try the finished product, no matter that he helped make it and adores hummus and loves sweet potatoes.  No, no, he’ll not eat the result because IT’S NOT WHITE!

Sir Z. blocking the noise of the food processor with his rice bag helmet.  Awesome.

Sir Z. blocking the noise of the food processor with his rice bag helmet. Awesome.

Fruit Soup & Popovers 2

Posted on August 03, 2009 by crankycheryl

Welcome to my first Monkey Menu Monday!  I’m finding myself with the time to pick new ways to engage/annoy my children.  This means things like MMM, in which I sat down with them and this cookbook:

They got excited about the idea of fruit soup.  Then I offered them the choice of some bread we had around, or else popovers, and they picked popovers.  (Good one, guys.)  And then it was Monday afternoon, and we set to it.

Scandinavian Fruit Cup Soup
Whole Foods from the Whole World
4 servings

  • 3 T. tapioca
  • 2 T. sugar
  • salt to taste
  • 2 1/2 c. water
  • 1 6-ounce can frozen orange juice concentrate (the recipe called for pineapple-orange, but I didn’t find it)
  • 2 peaches, peeled & sliced
  • 1 c. fresh raspberries
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  1. Combine tapioca, sugar and a pinch of salt in saucepan; mix well.  Stir in 1 c. water.  Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.  Pour into bowl.

  1. Add frozen juice concentrate, stirring until blended.  Add remaining water and mix well.  [When I made it I put all the water in during step 1, with no ill effect.]   Chill until serving time.  Mixture will thicken slightly.
  2. Stir in peaches, raspberries, and lemon juice just before serving.
Lesson learned: skip the macro when taking pictures of primordial ooze soup.

Lesson learned: skip the macro when taking pictures of primordial ooze soup.

Popovers are one of those foods that people get extremely persnickety about – pans, oven temperature, type of milk, etc.  I’ve tried a few variations – batter into preheated pans, batter into cold pans, whole milk, skim milk, soy milk – and I have to tell you the truth:  I don’t think it makes a great difference.  They’re a kid-pleaser and a crowd-pleaser, puffy and delicious and still kind of light.  I just make them in muffin tins, but you can go whole-hog and get an actual popover pan like my friend Robin over at hippoflambe swears by.

From Joy of Cooking

Makes 8 large or 12 medium popovers (plan on 3 or 4 per person at least)

  • 1 c. unbleached flour
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 c. milk
  • 1 T. warm melted unsalted butter
  1. Preheat oven to 450.  Butter muffin tins/popover pan and set aside.  Some people will coat sides of pan with flour, sugar, or grated Parmesan, but I’ve never done this.  I do, however, put the pan in the oven to preheat too.
  2. Whisk flour and salt together in a large bowl (we sifted, because sifting is much more fun).

3.  Whisk eggs, milk and melted butter together in another bowl.
4.  Pour egg mixture over flour mixture and fold just until blended.  It’s okay to have a few small lumps.
5.  Fill cups about 2/3 full, and add water to any unfilled cups so that they don’t scorch.
6.  Bake at 450 for 15 minutes, then 350 for 20 minutes more, until well-browned and a little crusty.  Don’t open the oven to peek until the last 5 minutes of cooking.  Remove from the oven, unmold onto a rack, and puncture sides with a sharp knife to allow steam to escape.  Serve immediately or hold in turned-off oven for up to 30 minutes.

And E. & Z.?  Hated the soup, though E. tolerated it once I turned it into a smoothie in the blender.  Z. used his fingers to draw a diagram on the table to explain that it was both “yucky” because it tasted bad, and “yummy” because it had raspberries in it.  But the popovers were a rousing success, so I declare victory.

Blessed Silence Sunday 2

Posted on August 02, 2009 by crankycheryl

Dinner last night: black-bean jalapeno nachos with roasted zucchini & carrots.

Beet Gnocchi with Chevre Cream Sauce 2

Posted on July 28, 2009 by crankycheryl

Good Vermont goat cheese about to dive into cream sauce.

Thank you friends and foodies for all the nice thoughts about our dinner, and support for saving our beloved strip of trees!

Oh, I cooked for three days and sweated and calculated and worried, and in the end CrankyGreg and I produced a three course plated dinner for 41 neighbors, friends and well-wishers.

The only thing we ran out of must have been the best thing, it seems to me, and so that’s the recipe I’ll post first.  I was so excited to make this as part of the big feast, even though I had to buy (local) beets since the ones in the cohousing garden remain kind of puny.

Z. has a current love affair with all things pink and purple, and I had chosen this with him in mind.  He squealed adorably when I showed them to him while I was making them, and could barely keep his tiny little hands off the tray of magenta balls of goo.

If only it kept this color after cooking.

Beet gnocchi dough: if only it kept this color after cooking.

I know:  you don’t have any plans to slave stoveside with steaming pans or fuss with handmade pasta.  I agree with you.  But you should do it anyway because this is so darn good.

Beet Gnocchi
From The Recipe Files
Serves 6

  • 1 medium or two small red beets, washed
  • 1 pound ricotta, set in cheesecloth-lined colander set in a bowl and allowed to drain for a day
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 cup grated imported Parmesan cheese plus more for the table
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cups all-purpose flour plus more for dredging
  • Chevre cream sauce (recipe below)
  • 1/4 c. chopped parsley for serving

Place clean beets with their skins on inside a baking dish with a snug-fitting cover. Bake in 450 degree oven until tender, 45 minutes – 1 hour. Remove from oven, remove lid and let beets cool. Slip the skins off with your hands. Grate the beets into a mixing bowl on the large hole of a box grater. [I questioned grating rather than pureeing, but concluded that it may matter to have the extra structure that having shreds would provide.]  Add the ricotta, eggs, Parmesan cheese and salt and freshly ground black pepper to the beets. Mix well with a whisk or wooden spoon. Add 2/3 cup flour to the ricotta mixture and whisk together to mix. Set the mixture aside for a minimum of 2 hours in the refrigerator. Can be made up to two days ahead.

While the gnocchi dough is resting, go ahead and make the Chevre Cream Sauce.

  • 2 T. butter
  • 4 T. unbleached flour
  • 2 c. milk
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 6 oz. chevre, broken or sliced into 1″ pieces
  • 1/2 t. salt (or more to taste)
  • 1/4 t. nutmeg
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 1/2 t. smoked paprika

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat, and then slowly and thoroughly whisk in the flour.  Cook for 3 minutes.  Whisk in the milk and cream, beating thoroughly after each addition to prevent lumps.  Bring to a slow but steady boil, then turn down and simmer for one minute or until thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.  Remove from heat, and stir in goat cheese a little bit at a time.  Whisk, whisk, whisk until thoroughly melted and incorporated.  Add nutmeg, garlic and smoked paprika.  Place aside to keep warm while you form and cook the gnocchi.

Back to the gnocchi:  I’m writing in the instructions I followed for making them, but let me tell you that mine were really unattractive, like a platter of gizzards once cooked.  You surely are more dextrous than I am and will end up with something beautiful.  But just in case, here’s a link to alternate instructions for making them.

Our Dinner

Our Dinner

To form the gnochetti roll a walnut-sized piece of beet mixture into a nice [whatever] round. Drop it into the bowl of flour, carefully turning to coat all sides. Lay each dumpling on a parchment lined baking sheet lightly covered with flour. Continue forming the Gnochetti until all the mixture is gone.  Slip the gnocchi into a pot of gently simmering salted water [this is important since a big old energetic rolling boil can bubble your poor little dumpling to smithereens]. Wait until they float to the surface of the water and continue to cook for an additional minute. Using a slotted spoon, remove them from the water as they are done and place them on a serving platter.

When all are cooked and are on the platter top with the cream sauce and parsley and serve.

A Universal(ist) Snack 0

Posted on April 27, 2009 by crankycheryl

ricechexHere’s a gluten-free, vegan (dairy-free, egg-free, vegetarian), nut-free, slightly sweet snack mix.  At church this morning, it was a special hit with parents in our pre-school class.  And it was some good silly fun to watch how each little tyke would only eat one ingredient of the mix.  Except for my own smaller monkeyboy, who polished off the stale Veggie Booty instead.  (His brother would only eat the cereal bits that weren’t caramelized and delicious, Harry avoided the fruit, and no one under 6 would eat the sunflower seeds.)

Cheryl’s Ecumenical Snack Mix

  • 10 c. rice chex (because it’s one of few guaranteed gluten-free cereals that’s widely available)
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 1/4 c. maple syrup
  • 1/4 c. apple juice concentrate
  • 2 c. raw sunflower seeds
  • 2 c. dried fruit of your choice (I used blueberries and cranberries)

Preheat oven to 300.  Oil two cookie sheets and set aside.   Toss cereal and sunflower seeds with olive oil to coat, then mix in the syrup and juice and mix very well.  Bake for 30 – 40 minutes, or until lightly golden brown, stirring once or twice.  Turn off oven.  Remove from oven and stir in fruit.  Let cool completely before packing into containers.

[Sorry, by the way, that I don’t have a picture of the finished mix.  I was surprised both by how good it was and how thoroughly gone it was before I had a chance to snap one!]

Sesame-Lime Chicken Salad 0

Posted on April 25, 2009 by crankycheryl

carroll-shower-food-apr-09-030This is the last recipe I’m going to post from last week’s baby shower.   The grandmom-to-be wanted a chicken salad, definitely light, definitely no mayonnaise.  We tossed around some ideas, and agreed on this one.  It’s really nice – light and flavorful and fresh.  If you’d like it vegetarian, seitan would be a good substitution for the chicken, and umeboshi vinegar for the fish sauce.

Sesame-Lime Chicken Salad

4 servings

  • 4 halves of skinless, boneless chicken breast
  • 1/2 each of red, yellow & orange bell peppers, seeded, cut across horizontally, and then into thin strips
  • 2 cups snow peas,  steamed for 2 minutes and then shocked by plunging into cold water, drained


  • 3/4 c. olive oil
  • 3 T. lime juice
  • 3 T. fish sauce (or umeboshi vinegar or additional soy sauce if you don’t have fish sauce
  • 1 T. soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 T. sesame oil
  • 1 clove (or more) chopped fresh garlic

For garnish:

  • 1 T. sesame seeds, toasted on low temperature for 5 minutes in toaster oven
  • 1/4 c. chopped cilantro

Steam the chicken (a pot with a pasta-type insert works well) over boiling water for 35 or 40 minutes.  Move around the chicken in the pot a couple of times during cooking to make sure all the surfaces are being cooked.  Remove from heat to a cutting board, and let sit for 5 or 10 minutes before slicing into strips.  (Try to use a good, sharp knife so you don’t overly shred the meat.)  Let cool, then toss with vegetables in a large bowl.  Set aside while you make the dressing by whisking together all the ingredients in a medium bowl until well emulsified.

Pour half of dressing over chicken and vegetables and toss well.  Taste, and add more to taste.  Taste salad for salt, adding more tamari or lime juice as necessary.  Just before serving, top with cilantro and sesame seeds.  Unless you too make the rookie move of buying flat-leaf parsley by mistake, in which case you could decide whether to skip the green garnish or just go ahead and use it anyway.

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