Toni v. Tofu

IMG_2967Tofu
Part one of a three-part series

I don’t like tofu. I’m kind of a picky eater. It’s because my sense of smell is so strong (it’s my super-power). But tofu doesn’t smell like anything really, so that can’t be my excuse. I have to fall back on “I don’t like the texture, either.” I’ve had it cubed in soups and cubed in stir-fries. It’s just so spongy and bland. I also used it once in place of ricotta in a lasagna. It was fine…and nobody knew differently until I told them. Then all of a sudden I heard, “I knew there was something different!” But that was about 15 years ago.

So I’ve decided to see if I can find a recipe I like with tofu in it besides lasagna. Hence, this new three-part series.

For this series I started by googling “tofu for people who hate tofu.” The first hit was an article on 8 reasons why you (I) hate tofu. The one fact that I didn’t know was that you’re supposed to press excess water out of tofu. I was hoping that by adding this step it would completely change me into someone who loves tofu.

The next hit was “26 recipes that will make you love tofu” from buzzfeed. I found 3 that I think are promising. Sooooo….

For my first trick…er…recipe I’m going to make Baked Sesame Tofu Sticks with Peanut Butter, Tahini, and Ginger Sauce. I love all of the ingredients in this recipe, I love all of the ingredients when mixed together AND the recipe does something different than just cube and throw it in a stir-fry.

Right off the bat I had to deal with my nemesis: the tofu. I had trouble opening the package…trying to peel the plastic away, so I had to cut it open. I did it carefully so as not to cut the actual block. I drained it in a colander. It says to drain it for 5 minutes in a colander. That sounds like overkill to me. So I drained it as long as it took me to clear my working surface of the other ingredients…3 minutes, tops.

Next came the slicing and pressing of the tofu. I sliced it horizontally, so it looked like two pieces of bread ready to make a sandwich. To press it, I laid down 3-4 sheets of folded paper towels, put the pieces of tofu side-by-side, and put 3-4 more sheets of folded paper towels on top of he tofu. Then I placed my large wooden cutting board squarely on top, placed my large enameled cast iron stew pot on top of that, then put my homemade panini brick inside of the pot. It was sufficiently heavy, so I let it press for ten minutes.

During the first pressing I made the tofu marinade. I whisked together (with my adorable mini whisk) sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, Sriracha sauce, honey and grated ginger. I used honey because I’ve heard it’s a good substitute for agave nectar. I didn’t feel like buying agave nectar when I already had honey at my disposal. I also grated the ginger instead of using dried ground ginger. In my opinion one should ALWAYS grate ginger instead of using dried ginger…unless one is in a big hurry…the taste of the two are hardly comparable.

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I took the press off of the tofu, switched out the paper towels and pressed it again for 15-20 minutes.

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Next, I cut the tofu into strips and put them in a baking dish. I poured the marinade over the sticks and turned each stick over a couple times to ensure they were completely and evenly coated. Then I let them sit for 20 minutes.

After marinating I transferred them to my baking stone and sprinkled sesame seeds on each side. Then I put em in an oven at 400F and baked them for 20 minutes. While they were browning, I made the dipping sauce in my food processor. I used fresh ginger, smooth peanut butter, tahini, soy sauce, honey (again, it called for agave nectar), rice vinegar and water.

I pulled the tofu out of the oven, flipped them over, and cooked them for another 10 minutes. When the timer went off I brought them out of the oven and they were a bit too done, at least some of them were

I arranged them on a plate and served them. They looked pretty tasty.

The verdict? The marinade was perfect, the dipping sauce was amazing, and the tofu was…tofu. Pretty chewy. It was ok fresh from the oven, but when I heated it up the next day for lunch it was the consistency of a tire on a hot day in Texas. So I fed them to my dog. And he loved them. Another point for the Internet I’m afraid

I really loved the flavors so I decided to try it again, using chicken instead. It was a hit! Delicious! I’m going to make these often…just not with tofu.

Toni: 6
Internet: 3
1 tie

Toni v. Lavender Loofah Soap

Toni v. Lavender Loofah Soap

I was going to do a Pi Day-themed post, but I ended up doing two Pi Pies that didn’t really qualify for tonivstheinternet. The first was a Frito Pi Pie that Bob’s daughter, N and I invented. It was crushed Fritos and butter “shaped” into muffin tins to hold some leftover chili. They ended up looking more like hockey pucks than cups. Fritos and butter just don’t take shape like cookies and butter. But they were still used as a base for the chili. And it turned out ok. The other project wasn’t complicated. Well at least the part _I_ did wasn’t complicated. A. wrote out Pi to 50 places with chocolate and froze them to put on top of our peanut butter chocolate pudding Pi pie.

I was able to find all the ingredients for the soap within a 50-mile radius…except the loofah. I searched Bed, Bath and Beyond and several craft stores. Luckily Amazon Prime is my best friend. I got a set of 6 Loofahs and received them in 2 days. No shipping of course. They came completely flattened out and that had me worried. I received them at work but excitedly tore into them to see if I could reshape them into a cylinder. I put one in hot water and IMMEDIATELY it reformed to its original shape! Whew! It took at least a day for it to dry back out, but it held its beautiful full figure. I tried cold water too, and it didn’t form immediately AND it need some reworking from me. So hot water it is!

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I found the mold they show in the video at Michael’s, but Bob’s kids were with us and really liked the flower mold, so I let them choose which one I bought and we got the rose mold.

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N and I got out all of the supplies and assembled them into a nice arrangement for the picture. She helped with everything and took some of the photos too!

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The first thing we needed to do was to measure the loofah and mark where to cut it. We used a bright blue Sharpie so we could see it. N cut the first one. It was pretty difficult to cut through. Like a piece of tough meat, so I cut the rest.

Do you know where loofahs come from? I always thought they were sea sponges, and upon receiving them in the mail I started to feel guilty about the critter that died for my exfoliating enjoyment. Turns out it isn’t a sea creature at all! It’s actually a vegetable from the cucumber family! If you live in balmy-ish latitudes (unlike me) you can grow them on your own. You need 4 months to get them to the point they are Calgon-take-me-away ready. Apparently they taste pretty good too.

Next, N started cutting the white meltable soap. I bought a 2-lb block and decided to use 1/4 of it (1/2 a pound). It was pretty tough to cut through but N managed to do most of the cutting.

We cut them into 1 1/2-inch cubes and put them in a microwaveable bowl. We stirred every 30-ish seconds. The last little part to melt seemed to take a really really long time.

We got the “recipe” from Crafted on Facebook. I put recipe in quotes because there are no measurements of the things you need. Some of this and some of that. N had the idea of measuring everything so we could report accurately to y’all and to be able to make the recipe again more easily.

The next thing we did was put the lavender essential oil in the melted soap. We counted out a couple at a time then went to a few at a time. We ended up with 20 drops of essential oil. And it’s debatable whether or not we could’ve used more. Next we added 1 3/4 T. of organic local honey. We microwaved it a bit to get it super gooey. N stirred and stirred till it was all mixed in. Then we soaked six pieces of loofah in the soap for almost 5 minutes and then transferred them to the mold.

We poured 1/4 cup of lavender flowers in the soap. At first we thought it wasn’t going to be enough, but it turned out to be the perfect amount. N mixed it up pretty well and we started to pour the mixture over each loofah into the mold. It was already starting to congeal. Unfortunately the last couple of loofah soaps got the short end of the stick. It was just barely not comfortably enough. We scraped what we could into the molds and set a cutting board on top to make sure the loofahs didn’t float.

We went on to finish our Pi Pies and A and N made these adorable little cakes that you make with soup cans.

We were supposed to wait 4 hours but after almost an hour and a half we checked on them and they were done! We cut the ragged edges off the soap bottoms beautifully. In fact, we all kept wanting to eat them they looked so pretty. Then we remembered they were soap.

A couple things I’d do different next time:
Put in a tad more soap
Put in a tad more essential oil
DONT USE BRIGHT BLUE SHARPIE can you see how obvious it is? I think I’ll use pencil next time.

I very soundly beat the Internet this time. It wasn’t a blowout, but I came out of this with some pretty cool gifts…and of course we will use them too!

Toni v. The Veggie Burger pt 3

pt 3 of a 3-part series

Will this be it? Will this be THE burger? The ingredients are few and not remarkable, so I have my doubts. I had to cut this recipe from vegansandra.com in half. If they aren’t good I don’t want 20 of these things hanging around. I also watched the video she had put together. There was a recipe for vegan ranch dressing on there if anyone is interested.

This post is a short one…and when I thought about it there were two reasons. The first reason is that there are fewer ingredients therefore it’s so gosh darn easy to put together. And the second reason…NOTHING WENT WRONG THIS TIME! I think that’s the first time that has happened.

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I diced the onion and zucchini into small pieces and substituted black beans instead of kidney beans. I’m now getting used to the feeling of squished legumes running through my fingers. The only other three ingredients are whole wheat flour, salt and curry powder. I’m very skeptical that this will produce a burger with the correct consistency and taste.

It actually only formed 8 patties instead of 10, but I was wanting a bigger burger that would fit a normal bun, or at least a toasted English muffin. I fried ALL of he burgers this time instead of just the ones I was eating. I’m pretty happy with that decision. They are easier to store and I’m less afraid of them crumbling when I defrost them.

While I was forming the patties I had some red potato wedges baking in the oven and I sautéed the leftover zucchini for me since I’m the only one that loves zucchini. The mixture was a tad dry, but not so much that it crumbled.

The moment of truth…the big reveal…what do they taste like?

We loaded them like we would a normal hamburger and they were DELICIOUS! Bob and A don’t like zucchini, but really liked these. A commented that she didn’t love the big zucchini chunks in them…tho they weren’t THAT big. But shredding the zucchini instead of cubing it will take care of that and I believe it will give it the little added moisture I think it needs.

I love that the girl who invented the recipe did it with what she had at the cabin one weekend. It’s cool that this little gem was discovered through pure chance. And even with taking all the photos, it was by far the quickest of the three burger recipes I tried.

And now I wished I had made the recipe as is, instead of cutting it in half. I WANT twenty of these burgers hanging around!

An undeniable victory for team Toni!
My record? 5 wins, 2 losses and 1 tie

Toni v. Ultimate Cheese Sauce

Toni v. The Ultimate Cheese Sauce (Vegan)

I decided to make the Ultimate Cheese Sauce along with the Ultimate Mexican Nacho Burger…just for funsies. I’d also had a cashew-based Nacho dip from a local vegetarian restaurant that is very good. I wanted to see if I could somewhat duplicate it. So I’m taking on vegan cheese. That’s right…no dairy. I looked at the recipe before I started the burger and realized I needed to prep a couple things (see…I CAN learn). I boiled some potatoes, red peppers, carrots and onions, roasted more than enough garlic (because roasted garlic is good on almost ANYTHING. We put some on a pesto pizza and it was amazing) and started boiling my cashews.

After I put the burger in the fridge to get cold I started on the Cheese Sauce. From here on out I’m calling it Cheeze.

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While gathering the ingredients I stumbled upon a road block. It called for chickpea miso, which I had never heard of. I went to the local co-op and found some. FOR TEN DOLLARS!! It was probably a 16-oz. tub and I needed a teaspoon. I really want to try to stay authentic while doing my projects, but I’ve never used miso before and even if I had I’m sure most of that tub would’ve gone to waste. I looked up some alternatives…there were quite a few..and put together my own version. I used tahini with a bit of soy sauce, whisked it together, and I think I came out with a pretty good replica.

The garlic and potatoes were done. I had to pick the potatoes out to blend them together first. They make the base consistency. You are supposed to put them in a high speed blender and they come out gooey. And it’s true! The consistency after blending them was just like real Nacho cheese! But my blender isn’t high speed and it started to smoke. Why would they put a speed on a blender you can’t use?! So I gave it a little rest and put the peppers and carrots (for color) and onion and garlic (for taste) in. I started it up again and the blender started smoking again. And it wasn’t just steam from the hot veggies…I could smell the motor burning. So I transferred it to my food processor to finish the job. And now I know the difference between a blender and a food processor.

The processor didn’t even come close to getting the rest of the ingredients to the correct consistency. I added the rest of the ingredients…boiled cashews, lemon juice, the tahini miso, mustard seed, paprika and salt and turned on the processor. I could see cashew bits in the sauce and I couldn’t process them away.

We tried the Cheeze three ways: on top of the Ultimate Mexican Nacho Burger, as a topping for nachos and baked with pasta. It was a nice addition to the burger. I’m not sure we could tell that it wasn’t Cheese just because of all of the other competing flavors in the burger. As a Nacho topping it wasn’t bad. It didn’t taste like cheese…but it didn’t NOT taste like cheese. Some people who tried it compared it to Velveeta.

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Lastly, we waited a week and tried it as a pasta bake. I sautéed some onion, added the Cheeze, poured it over pasta and sprinkled some Panko bread crumbs flavored with oregano, onion flakes and garlic powder over the top and baked it. It tasted very good. Bob said it tasted more like a vegetarian lasagna than Mac ‘n cheese and I have to agree.

I wish I had a vita mix or some other high powered blender to complete this challenge, but it turned out ok. I think I squeaked by on this one. It would have been a sound beating if I had gotten the gooey, sticky consistency that I started out with.

My record: 4 wins, 2 losses and 1 tie.

Toni v. The Veggie Burger pt 2

Toni v. The Veggie Burger
Part 2 of a 3-part series

For my second Veggie Burger I’m taking on the Ultimate Mexican Nacho Burger from veggiesdontbite.com…complete with vegan cheese…but you’ll miss have to wait till next week’s article for the Cheese. I did some prep at work because last Burger was supposed to take 10 minutes but took a freaking hour due to cutting, dicing and “mashing.” I pre-diced the onions (I used purple instead of white) and pre-chopped the jalapeños and cilantro (ugh). Since I messed up last time by not pre-cooking the rice I had gotten it ready a couple days ago. The only thing I had left to chop was the tomatoes. You can’t chop those ahead of time because they turn into a soupy mess.

I got everything out and started putting it into a big bowl. When I got to the pre-measured, saved rice I was disappointed. It had been sitting in the back of the fridge for a couple days and it was practically freeze-dried. If you don’t live in a super-dry place you may not get why this happens. It’s so dry here that sometimes it can be pouring rain and the humidity is less than 50%. I’m not exaggerating. I’ve actually looked it up! I wasn’t going to wait another hour on a new batch of brown rice so I put in 1/4 cup of water and microwaved it for 30 seconds. Then I poured out the extra water and it was just fine!

So you put all the ingredients (except cornmeal) in a bowl and start mixing. I was dubious. When I tried to mash the chickpeas with a potato masher it was a no-go. I wasn’t sure I could scrunch the kidney and pinto beans into the perfect consistency. I started to squish the ingredients through my fingers and the beans somewhat flattened. As I squished some more I specifically crushed some beans each time with my finger tips and it worked pretty well. I noticed today as I was flash freezing them that I missed a few, but that’s part of the charm of a homemade patty. Right?

Once it was well-mixed I added the cornmeal and squeezed it again. It was like playing in the mud. Kinda fun and kinda gross. Then I set the mixture in the fridge while I started the Ultimate Cheese Sauce. It needed to sit for at least 30 minutes. That way the cornmeal is soaked into the mixture and it makes it sturdier.

After making the Ultimate Cheese Sauce (check in next week) I formed two patties for the grill. To one of them I added garlic and onion powder and pepper, just like I would a beef patty. I wanted to taste one with just ketchup mustard and pickles to see if it this might be THE ONE. The patty to replace them all. I carefully set them on he grill. So far, so good. When a few minutes passed Bob tried to flip one and it was a disaster. We waited awhile longer to flip the other one and it turned out pretty good. So I went inside and made another patty on the stovetop. I made sure it was done on one side before I tried to flip it. Almost perfect.

We plated the burgers. To the original burger we added tomatoes, jalapeños, salsa verde, lettuce and the Ultimate Cheese Sauce. To the altered Burger we left it with ketchup, mustard and pickles. Both burgers were served on a whole wheat English muffin, my burger bun of choice. The Ultimate Mexican Nacho Burger was very good and held together pretty well. The altered Burger was very good too. Maybe too much pepper (I can’t believe I actually said that…I LOVE pepper). It held together pretty well also, a little better than the Ultimate Mexican Nacho Burger. Never held together as well as the first Veggie Burger I made tho. I’ll have to figure out which binders work best.

So I’ll have to say I won his one. Taste was delicious, consistency was good (not perfect) and hold-togetherness was ok.

So my record is:
Toni: 3 wins, 2 losses and 1 tie

Toni v. The Veggie Burger pt 1

Toni v. The Veggie Burger
Part 1 of a 3-part series

I had planned on doing 1 project a week, but the Super Bowl wrecked that plan.

So I’m attacking the Internet via veggie burger. I plan to make three different veggie burgers…well actually vegan burgers since I despise egg yolks. I plan to grade them on taste, consistency and hold-together-ness. I always buy Morningstar Farms Spicy Black Bean Burger. It’s the only non-meat commercial burger I like. But that gets expensive at almost $1.00/patty. I want a veggie burger that tastes as close to a hamburger as possible. So after I try the three recipes I’m going to take the best parts of each and make my own…for taste.

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I’ve bought the ingredients for all three burgers, so I ask Bob to pick the one HE wants to try first. He picks the Ultimate Mexican Nacho Burger (with cashew nacho “cheese.” I wasn’t going to make the cheese but a local restaurant makes some and it’s pretty good. So I’ll try that too). I really did have all the ingredients. But it called for COOKED brown rice and all the rice I had was UNCOOKED. So I picked the Spicy Chickpea Veggie Burger from runningonrealfood.com. Already I’m hobbled from the start because I didn’t have all the ingredients prepared…it wasn’t the Internet’s fault but my own.

I started by mashing the chickpeas with my potato masher. Uh…no. Absolutely not. I’ll spend weeks trying to get those garbanzo beans smashed. I tried but chickpeas are just too hard. The Internet takes control the of the game. But wait…I pull out my food processor. I’m a little wary because I make hummus quite often and I don’t want THAT consistency. I put the beans in and use the pulse button. I pulse quite a few times and the chickpeas are pulsed into perfect pieces. I think the combination of pulsing and adding NO liquid ensures that I don’t have chickpeas the consistency of baby food. I have stolen the puck back and I’m headed down the ice toward the Internet’s goal.

Next I grate the zucchini. Bob doesn’t like squash that much so I hope
we won’t be able to taste it. I love the stuff, but I’m not wanting the taste of zucchini in my burger. I need some cilantro next so I bring out my herb de-stemmer. I don’t like cilantro but it doesn’t call for a lot, so I’ll put it in. I pick the correct hole for the size stem I have and it goes right through, taking off all of the leaves at once. This thing is so handy. I recommend it to everyone. And lastly, I chop the red onion…I cried and everything

I throw everything into the bowl…well that’s not really true. I put it in very nicely so the pictures would look good. I mix everything together with my hands. It’s really squishy. I made 9 burgers. I wanted them all English muffin size because that’s what I prefer as buns.

I put two patties in a frying pan. It’s too dark for the grill, but surprisingly not too cold! Each burger holds together PERFECTLY! I’m going to dress all three burgers the same…country mustard, ketchup and pickles. I’m not a big fan of yellow mustard but I love love love the Dijon and country mustards.

We each take a bite into our burger and it’s…delicious. And it holds together well even after a bite is taken out of it. But it’s not a burger REPLACEMENT. While it’s a nice cumin-y patty, it would never be a substitute. It’s good but not quite what I’m looking for.

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For our Valentine’s Day dinner I added one of the patties to our Salisbury steaks and mushroom gravy. Bob nailed it when he said that while it tasted good, it was more like the mashed potatoes than the burgers.

(Some cool close-ups)

 

I’m calling this one a tie. I got a great tasting burger with great hold-together-ativeness, but it will never stand up to Ron Swanson’s burger in a competition.

Toni v. The Stormy Ocean

Toni v. The Stormy Ocean

It probably should be named Toni v. The Painting, but I hope to do other paintings.  I’ve never painted a picture before. Im so excited! And nervous. A and I are doing this one together. I thought it would be fun. We had to go to the next town over to get our supplies. Our town doesn’t have a big craft store. So we drove over Saturday to buy what we needed: One 1-inch flat brush (since that is for the base layer only we shared it), 2 3/4-inch filbert brushes, 4 tubes of acrylic paint and two 9 x 14-inch canvases. It ended up costing about $36. For one person only I would’ve spent about $32, so I’m glad we decided to have both of us try it.

I found the step-by-step instructions on YouTube by Painting With Jane. It took her 4 min 57 sec to paint this scene: a stormy sky over a hill by the ocean. Granted, she fast-forwarded during parts, but it couldn’t have taken her too long. It looked like the easiest one she had, so that’s the reason I decided to do it. I also watched her episodes on color theory, should you paint the edges of your canvas, basic paintbrush handling, acrylic tips and tricks for beginners (that’s me!) and acrylic painting for beginners – simple abstract. All of those had some good information not found in the original video I wanted to use.

So on a Sunday morning A and I set up our canvases, side-by-side, on our piano. We got all of our supplies out and started by putting paint on our palette (read: paper plate). I set my filbert brush down for a second and it lands on her palette in the blue blob. I took a lot more pictures but I accidentally deleted all but four of them. *sob*

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It’s ok…I wash it off and wait for her to paint her foundation color of phthalo blue. No sooner do I sit down and I’ve dropped MY palette on the rug. It’s a very rough start. Fortunately acrylics wash out of carpet pretty easily.

She finished her background and I did mine. Brush direction didn’t matter so we are both good to go. You basically just want a base layer of color so the white canvas doesn’t show through

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We start with the sky. I bought each of us a 3/4″ filbert brush. Our paintings are going to end up mirroring each other because I am left-handed and I wanted my brush strokes to feel/look like they should. It was easier to do those up and down strokes tilting the other way because my hand wasn’t strained.

We did the top half of the sky in a blue/blue-red-white (purple) combo. Not very much red. We did the bottom half of the sky with a white/blue up-stroke. A and I were not too impressed with our paintings. And A felt like her palette looked prettier than her painting. My stormy sky ended up with small strokes and not a very different color. A’s had larger, bolder strokes and more different shades.

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After we mostly finished the sky we started the hill. Our hills are similar. My hill is more green and hers is more yellow. Like sand. It was a bit tricky where the sky meets the hill and we each had to redo sky and hill a couple times.

The last part was the ocean and the waves lapping up on the shore. That was my favorite part. As you can see it kinda looks like we made an island with the two paintings together.

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A and I had such a good time. We laughed and laughed. It was a great mother-daughter bonding time. I highly suggest it. Now we have to varnish them.

Who won today? I did. Actually A and I both won. We beat the Internet!

The score so far?

Toni: 2
Internet: 2

 

 

Toni v. The Everything-Bagel-Topped Cauliflower Roll

Toni v. The Everything-Bagel-Topped Cauliflower Roll

I was going to wait to do another food challenge, but I got invited to the best Packer Party in town (Go Falcons!) so I decided to make something exotic. I had just posted the Everything-Bagel-Topped Cauliflower Rolls from Lexi’s Clean Kitchen and they looked fabulous. The reviews/comments were glowing and I’ve been wanting to try a cauliflower dough recipe for awhile now. I went out Saturday to buy the ingredients. I bought three large heads of cauliflower – one for the rolls, one for a Cauliflower Quinoa Chowder (turned out amazing) and one to try another cauliflower dough recipe with A. I also went to the local co-op to get the spices and seeds for the Everything Bagel Topping. I loved getting black and white sesame seeds and poppy seeds. I hope I have something to use them for in the future. I had to buy coconut flour and almond flour since this was a clean (and gluten-free?) recipe. Coconut flour was $3.19/lb. (versus $1.79/lb. for whole wheat flour)! Luckily the recipe calls for 1 T. (2 T. since I’m doubling it). But that’s NOTHING! Almond flour was $12.19/lb.! I need 6T. total so that wasn’t too expensive. Still, I was shocked. But then I realized a pound of almonds wouldn’t be much cheaper.

I had one ingredient I couldn’t find. I looked a couple places for dried minced garlic and couldn’t find it anywhere. So I asked A. to make some while I took Mushu to the dog park. It turned out PERFECTLY. She took two heads of garlic, chopped it with our nut chopper, spread it out on a piece of parchment paper and cooked on the lowest temperature possible for 2 1/2 hours. Touchdown for me!

I had to search how to rice cauliflower. In the instructions it doesn’t say whether or not the cauliflower was cooked before it was riced. It took two tries before I found a video that specifies cauliflower should be raw when riced.

So I (quite expertly) cut my cauliflower head in 4 pieces and cut the thick support stalks out and threw them away. I filled my food processor with cauliflower and started it up. I quickly learned that one must rice only a little cauliflower at a time. So I took most of the cauliflower out and processed it in portions (about 1/5-1/4 head at a time). After ricing the whole head I measured out 6 cups (for my double batch) and still had at least 3 cups left. And it made a HUGE mess. I probably still have little pieces of cauliflower in tiny nooks and crannies in my kitchen. Touchdown for the Rolls.

At the end of the first quarter we are tied 7-7.

I mixed the ingredients of the dough together: almond flour, coconut flour, eggs, cauliflower, salt and garlic powder. It was looking good. The texture was pretty moist, but not unmanageable. So then I mixed the ingredients of the topping together. A. looked at me, kinda rolled her eyes and asked, “are you doing this blog just so you can use your little bowls?” “No,” I answered a little defensively, “but it’s awesome I get to use them and take pictures of them.” See, I have an obsession with little bowls. I think it’s related to watching cooking shows…those little bowls are so cute! I used to just use them to hold soy sauce for dipping. Now I get to use them for my blog. I also like measuring everything out ahead of time and throwing it in. Yes, it’s a few more dishes, but it’s worth it.

Another touchdown for me…I’m ahead at halftime, 14-7.

The halftime show ended up being the cold open and monologue of Saturday Night Live with Aziz Ansari. Pretty good stuff. Naked Putin is hilarious.

It’s kickoff for the second half and I fumble. The Rolls recover. I start to see water pooling in the bowl. I soak it up with a couple paper towels. No big deal. I make two (pretty moist) rolls and top them with the Everything Bagel Topping. I only do two because I have a sinking feeling about the moisture in the bowl. I bake them at 400° for thirty minutes (per the recipe) while I watch Aziz Ansari getting interrogated for not loving LaLa Land. I also check the bowl every 10 minutes and wick away the extra water. This isn’t looking good.

The Rolls make a touchdown AND a 2-point conversion. They are ahead 14-15.

After thirty minutes I check the Rolls and they aren’t quite done…10 more minutes. I take them out, let them cool while I make 12-ish more Rolls. To do this I SQUEEZE the dough pretty hard into the sink. I would say 1-2 T. come out of each roll. After forming the Rolls I sprinkle the topping on and press it down.

I taste 1/2 a roll while I give another 1/2 to A. and B. I think it’s disgusting, A. thinks it’s edible and B. kinda likes it.

Third quarter: That’s a kickoff return for the Rolls. 22-7

I taste the next batch, the one I had to squeeze the water out of, and it’s not horrible. Field goal for me. 22-10.

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I took them to the party and everyone thought they were tasty…another touchdown for me! But I really didn’t like them.

Final score: 22-17…The Internet wins another food challenge.

After the game interview: well…I did what I could but it just wasn’t enough. I just gotta go train and keep practicing. I’ll get ’em next time.
But seriously…if I were ever to make this recipe again I would squeeze all excess water out of the cauliflower. I feel like it changed the taste. And I’m surprised none of the videos or the recipe mentioned it. I would also put more garlic and onion and less black sesame and poppy seed in the Everything Bagel Topping. I saw a purchased bottle at my friend’s house and it had waaaaaaay more white stuff than black stuff.

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Toni v. The Apron

Toni v. The Apron

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Doesn’t The Apron sound like a WWF character name?

This fight should be a little more fair. I chose a fairly simple pattern with no elaborate stitches or fancy gadgets to sew on. I’m definitely no seamstress, so it will take all of my concentration. My daughter is the talented one when it comes to sewing. You should see her cosplay designs for Comiccon and Halloween!

First I went looking for some large men’s button-down shirts. I went to Goodwill and found FOUR right away that I liked. They were all in my favorite colors (purple and green and a little bit of blue) so I’m looking forward to making more after this one.

The next step was to find out what supplies I needed. By the end of the year I should have a pretty great set of cooking, baking, sewing, painting and construction tools. I bought a pair of fabric scissors. It’s not like I don’t have 5 other pairs in the house. I have AT LEAST that many. But they have all been used for various things and are all pretty dull. So I got the iconic pair of orange-handled scissors and they are specifically designated for fabric and fabric ONLY. It was like a hot knife cutting through butter. Ahhhhhh. I also had to buy a fabric marking pen, thread and fabric. I thought I had a seam ripper, but the daughter couldn’t find it. So the boyfriend went and got one at the last minute.

Finding coordinating fabric wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I went to Hobby Lobby twice and STILL only found fabric for 3 out of the 4 shirts. The instructions say to “go for flair” when picking out the coordinating fabrics. I’m afraid I didn’t go all out on the flair. But the fabrics DO go well with the shirt. The other aprons will have more flair. I asked my daughter and my boyfriend’s daughter which apron I should make first. They decided I should make the one with the colors I like the least, so I can work out the kinks. Solid.

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I didn’t have the seam ripper yet, so I took the pocket off using a little pair of sharp scissors. It worked rather well. Then I ironed that area to “close any holes” the stitching had made. First of all, it didn’t close any holes. Secondly, I don’t have an ironing board. And I don’t have room for one…that’s a project for another time. So I made one out of a towel, a piano bench and white duct tape. It worked well enough for this one project, but the towel was too thin and kept sticking to the bench because the iron was so hot. I thought I had done permanent damage, but after the project I took off the towel and the old bench seemed fine.

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I wanted my apron a little longer, so instead of cutting 15 inches from the bottom I cut 16 inches, which turned out to be right under the arms. The marking pen I bought was about as dark as a sharpie that’s been sitting capless for a week, but it worked. So I marked and cut across. The fabric has perpendicular straight lines so it was also easy to use those as an additional guide. Then I flipped it over and cut up the center of the back. I turned it again, spread it out and measured 15″ from the center on each side for a total of 30″ and cut there to make the sides. That made the apron front 16″x30″.

On each side I folded 1/4″ and ironed and then folded another 1/4″ and ironed. Well, to be honest it was probably more like 1/3″. 1/4″ is REALLY SMALL. I pinned them and sewed each side with my lime green thread.

The next part is one of the hardest parts of sewing for me…making a ruffle/gather. I’m always so afraid the thread is going to break! I set the machine to the longest stitch possible and sewed a half inch from the top. I followed the directions, but it’s safer to sew TWO parallel lines, 1/4″ apart when you are making a gather (is that how it is said amongst seamstresses?). That way, you gather both and if one of the threads breaks, you have a back-up. Alas, I sewed just one basting stitch (that’s what they called it) and hoped it wouldn’t break. I was pretty careful pulling the thread to make the gather and it DIDN’T break. You are supposed to pull the bottom/bobbin thread, specifically, to get it to gather.

Next, I was instructed to cut a 12″x60″ piece of fabric for the waist band. For some reason the fabric I picked was only about 40″ wide, so I had to cut 2 12″x30.5″ pieces and sew them together (with a 1/2″ seam) to make the correct size. This way it is easier to find the center of the waistband, though.

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I pressed the 12″ sides in “1/4″”. From now on when you see 1/4″ you should read “about 1/3″”. Then, lengthwise, I folded the top and bottom in about 3″ and ironed it. Then I folded it in half (lengthwise) again and ironed it. So my 12″ piece went down to 6″, then 3″ wide.

This next part wasn’t the easiest and I ended up re-sewing about 2″ in the middle. But it turned out ok. I lined up the center of the waistband with the center of the bottom part and tucked 1/2″ of the gathered edge into it. I closed it with pins and sewed from one end of the waistband to the other, which included the gathered edge tucked in to the middle 30″.

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Then I ate homemade pizza, went to the Tap House and played cribbage, drank craft beer and celebrated my one-year anniversary with my boyfriend at the site of our first restaurant date.

The next day I came back to finish up the pockets.
I cut two 7″x8″ pieces from DIFFERENT coordinating fabric then pressed 1/4″ on all sides. Then pressed another 1″ down on the top. I pinned them on then sewed them up. Then I forced my daughter to model them for me.

The whole thing probably took a total of 3 hours. I think they would make adorable Christmas gifts. And I think you could mass produce them…cut the shirts, waistbands and pockets one day, sew the shirts another day, gather them (while sipping wine so you aren’t tense and break a thread) another day, sew the waistbands another and finish the pockets the last day.

Thanks to P., boyfriend’s son, who helped me make the ironing bench, to my daughter, A., and boyfriend’s daughter, also A. for helping me decide which apron to make and for modeling, to boyfriend’s other daughter, N., for being my part-time photographer and to my boyfriend for getting the seam-ripper and encouraging me.

So who won today? I did. Toni beat the Internet. I didn’t break it (yet), but I beat it.

Score:
Toni – 1
Internet – 1

Toni v. Samoas

So I watched Rocky IV tonight while baking, or at least I watched and listened. (Spoiler Alert!) I don’t know how I never found out before today that Apollo Creed died, but I was shocked. And it happened just as he and Rocky had become friends! So you’ll have to excuse the boxing jargon as I take you through the tale of the bout of Toni v. Samoas Girl Scout Cookies (known in some regions as Caramel Delights)
Samoas are a worthy opponent. I’m not wild about coconut but put a box of Samoas in front of me and I will make quick work of them. There’s something about the mixture of the toasted coconut and caramel over the flaky shortbread cookie that takes away my will to cease and desist the consumption of that delightful confection.

Rounding up the ingredients should’ve been easy, and for the most part it was. I went to Walmart for the coconut and caramels and had some difficulty locating the caramels. I finally found a bag of nibs that looked suspicious but worked just fine.
I started by creaming the sugar and butter in an old-school mixer. The butter hadn’t sat out long enough so I chanced putting it in the microwave for just a bit. I let it stay in a little to long so it was a kinda melty, but it worked just fine. The old mixer worked well enough for the beginning, and it was nice to be able to walk away briefly, but I had to finish up with my cheap hand mixer. The old girl just didn’t have enough speed. In a separate bowl I whisked flour, baking soda and salt together and then added it to the butter/sugar mixture in three parts. They came together nicely to form a buttery-soft dough that I split into two disks and put in the fridge while I went swimming.
Round 1: Toni
Two hours later I took the dough out of the fridge and it was way too hard. So I made dinner…Thai Pork Meatballs…mmmmmm delicious!
While waiting I also toasted the coconut. It was so easy. 3 cups of sweetened coconut in an oven set at 350. The recipe says just ten minutes but here at 7220′ it took me more like 15-20 minutes. And the last few minutes needed almost constant stirring. I’ve never made fresh toasted coconut so I’ve never eaten fresh toasted coconut. It. Was. Amazing. It sat there on the cookie sheet while I was getting everything else ready and I kept going back for more. It was a light and airy texture with a sweet and nutty taste. And beautiful. Dark brown, light brown and tan ribbons of tasty goodness.
Round 2: Toni…this is looking good!


Now for the hard part…making the cookies. Earlier in the day I had bought a rolling pin and 8 circular cookie cutters from 4″ to 3/4″. So if nothing else I have some more kitchen gear for my baker girl.
I rolled out the dough on a lightly-floured counter…and it stuck to the rolling pin…a quick jab from the Samoas. Always remember to lightly flour your rolling pin! I Rolled it out again and cut a few 2-inch circles. Then I cut 1-inch circles inside of those. Dang but it’s hard to get those perfectly even! The rolling had heated up the dough a little too much so I scrapped a couple of the cookies. I ended up with 4 cookie rings and 5 cookie centers. I tried to carefully scrape them off the counter with a spatula but they became a bit misshapen in the process. I baked the cookies at 350 for 5 minutes, turned them, and baked them for 5 more. Here at 7220′ things sometimes take a little longer, so I added 1 minute and 11 seconds to the timer and they came out perfectly. And Kelly? Was right, underdone is better. For the next batch I used the 2″ and the 3/4″ cutters, thinking they would be more of a proper dimension, but I swear they look exactly the same.
And here is where the bout took a turn for the worse. I cut 9 rings and decided that was it for the pretty cookies. I stopped rolling them and just took a chunk, rolled it into a ball and pressed it into some semblance of a round cookie. You can see from the pictures it was more oblong.
Round 3: Internet

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Next I melted the caramels and the dark chocolate. No double boiler needed for either. I just zapped them (separately) in the microwave for 30 seconds and stirred. Then I microwaved them at 15-second intervals and stirred in between. I should’ve waited to melt the dark chocolate because I didn’t need it for a half hour. I took 3/4 of the caramel/milk/salt mixture and added it to the toasted coconut. Absolute heaven. Take that, Internet!
Round 4: Toni


If I thought cutting the cookies into round shapes was hard, was I in for a surprise. Spreading a thin layer of caramel onto each cookie then adding the coconut mixture on top of each was about as difficult, but twice as frustrating. The Samoas gave me the old one-two punch right in the gut. The coconut caramel mixture stuck to my fingers and made me feel like I had little globs of cement hardened on to each digit. Putting the mixture onto the non-ring cookies was easier but still a bit of a pain. Now to let them harden for 30 minutes (harder than cement?!)
Round 5: Samoas


I reheated the dark chocolate (62% cocoa from a 10000-calorie chocolate bar from Trader Joe’s) and dipped each cookie bottom in. I sat them back on parchment paper and drizzled each with a fork of chocolate. Out of the 9 ringed cookies, two of them looked like they could’ve snuck into a box of Samoas. The rest of the 7 were clear factory rejects and the non-ringed cookies? We won’t even talk about those.
Round 6: Internet


So how did they taste? Well…delicious. But they didn’t taste like Samoas. I’m going to freeze some and do a taste test when it’s Girl Scout cookie time and try to figure out the secret ingredient(s). The chocolate was probably too dark and the caramel wasn’t quite right. Or maybe the shortbread had shortcomings. Any way you look at it…
Round 7: Internet
IF I ever do this recipe again I will definitely do what I did with the second disk of shortbread: bar cookies! It literally took 1/10 of the time…and that’s if you count cooling time!
It wasn’t a total KO, but the decision went to the Internet. It wasn’t a total failure. I got two decent looking cookies and bunch of good-tasting confections.

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I’d like to thank my handler, Bob, for encouraging me to start this project. He was also my part-time photographer, cheerleader, taste tester, beater cleaner and all around great guy.

*recipe from justataste.com and instructables.com.