Monday, February 24, 2014

My New Obsession: Crafting Food

Homemade sourdough rye wheat batards and chocolate spread to bring to sewing club.

Sourdough rye and whole wheat batards and homemade chocolate almond bean spread, ready to bring to sewing club

I'm never fully happy without some kind of craft/make/do obsession taking hold of my brain and hands, so the months I spent healing from carpal tunnel and having to pretty much leave my hands alone were Not Easy.

But things are super good with my hands, wrists, arms and shoulders now (thanks to lots of rest, voice dictation software, meditation, restorative yoga and most especially some intensive classes in the Alexander Technique) and lately I've been MAKING and DOING and CRAFTING up a storm.

There's been some knitting (the Delancey cardigan and Knotty gloves—pictures soon!)... but mostly, I've been crafting from-scratch food: baking, scoring, stirring, pickling, pizza-broiling, fermenting, stewing, dumpling-making, miso-souping, sushi-making, kale-chip-dehydrating ... and all without any of my daughter's food allergens--dairy, eggs, tree nuts (except almonds and coconuts), sesame and mustard. Whew!

It all started with a small jar of sourdough starter gifted to me by a friend who makes fresh bread each week. It sat in my fridge for a few months and I assumed it was dead, but when I took it out and fed it, it quickly came back to life. And then it made some bread babies! My first attempts tasted good, though they didn't look quite right (the slashes weren't opening up, anyway):

First attempt at pain au levain sourdough bread... Think my slashing needs some work. Vegan sourdough English muffins are rising in background.

But now I've gotten into a sourdough groove, and I usually bake one or two whole-grain sourdough loaves each weekend, mostly from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads, which I initially got from the library but finally had to buy when I reached the max number of renewals. (He also has a Craftsy class on artisan baking, but it's mostly white bread, I believe). Here's a much prettier sourdough rye boule with sunflower seeds:

sourdough rye sunflower seed bread

We also have been sticking with our Very Strict Budget, which prohibits eating out more than once a month... and getting very sick of eating the same few allergy-free recipes over and over (my daughter is so allergic she even reacts to tiny amounts of contamination in foods that are made in the same factory as her allergens, so I have to call companies before purchasing anything packaged. We have one safer brand of pasta, one safer brand of ketchup, one safer brand of... you get the idea.)

There are just so many things she had never, or rarely eaten, and so in the evenings, I've been making them. Take falafel sandwiches. There are no safe pita breads or falafel mixes I can buy, and tahini sauce contains her most deadly allergen--sesame. Enter homemade baked falafel from scratch, homemade whole wheat pita bread, homemade fake-tahini sauce (I used Barney Butter almond butter), and homemade pickled red onions:

Falafel feast (minus the sesame)

Falafel feast (minus the sesame)

And when I made banh mi sandwiches (from Andrea Nguyen's Into the Vietnamese Kitchen), I had to make the baguettes as well. And the pickles. Etc:

Homemade Banh Mi sandwiches

Sadly, there is no natural light in my kitchen, so most of my photos are crappy low-light Instagram shots. And I didn't even document the sushi or the miso soup or the red beans and rice or the amazing steamed buns and veggie dumplings I've made so far from Asian Dumplings (also by the amazing Andrea Nguyen, who has Craftsy classes on pho and dumplings to boot)... they pretty much disappeared into my family's mouths instantly.

I've also been baking/making tons of vegan (and nut-free and sesame-free) sweet things, from banana bread and maple drop cornmeal biscuits to fruit leather and scones and waffles and English muffins.

Yes, I have a problem (you can tell from my Pinterest habits of late), but... making food is fun. AND it saves money. AND I get to eat my favorite things ever. While having fun and saving money. And eating dumplings.

I'm almost embarrassed to show you these blurry poorly-lit photos but trust me, this stuff was yummy:

Vegan chocolate coconut pudding (from Vegan Soul Kitchen) ... Daughter loved it, never had chocolate pudding before. #vegan #allergyfree

Vegan chocolate pudding with Enjoy Life chocolate chips and shaved coconut, from Vegan Soul Kitchen

Squares of homemade fruit leather: mixed berry and apple mango. #vegan #allergyfree

Mixed berry and apple mango fruit leather

Vegan chocolate chip cookie perfection... Chewy and delicious, from the book Vive le Vegan! #vegan #allergyfreebaking

Also: the best vegan chocolate chip cookies.

Z enjoying her homemade vegan allergy-free apple crisp with frozen vanilla soy cream #fb #allergyfreebaking

Daughter-approved vegan apple crisp with vanilla Soy Delicious frozen dessert

So... anyone else obsessed with making edible crafts? Or would that cut too much into sewing and knitting time?

P.S. In case you were curious ... we do eat and cook with some very small amounts of meat and fish and poultry, but I currently aim for most meals to be mostly plant-based (and we can't even keep eggs in the house, they're so dangerous for my kiddo), and for a large number of meals to be totally free of animal products... it's better for the environment, and for my cholesterol (which went downhill after a several month cheese binge).

P.P.S. Actually, my daughter has been sewing more than I have lately. Check out her first sewing sampler (done with my advice, but not my actual hands-on help—I just showed her once, then watched and answered questions):

Trying out some appliqué. #mytoddlersews #isew

Learning to sew on buttons. #mytoddlersews #isew

Sewing her first sampler. #isew #mytoddlersews #fb

Not bad for a three-year-old!


  1. Wow - your cooking sounds both challenging and very yummy. I'll have to check out Andrea Nguyen. And make falafels :-)
    I know MaryNanna gradually switched from sewing to cooking once she started cooking for her son who had a restricted diet, and gave up her sewing blog - don't do that, but it is cool to hear what you've been cooking! And your daughter's sewing sampler is great. What a cool idea and very satisfying for her!

    1. Oh, I won't give up sewing and knitting, though I have considered maybe having a small separate blog for some of the recipes I've adapted to be safe for my daughter. My husband and I do mostly cook easy weeknight recipes, but I really love tackling a few challenging recipes on weekends and at night after dinner... I think I pretty much take the same approach to cooking that I do to sewing, which is to try things way out of my skill set and see what happens. There are even some common skills--dumplings can have pleats, too!

  2. That all looks great! And it must be a relief to have so many safe foods to make now. I had a sourdough starter going for most of last year, but it finally died in December. I do love baking on the weekend though, mostly muffins and sweets, but I should get that starter going again to bake bread!

    1. It is a Big Relief, and I feel like I've finally really gotten the hang of substituting safe ingredients, especially in baking recipes. I've even made "mayo" out of flaxseed and olive oil... I also use the sourdough starter discard to make pancakes or waffles almost every weekend, which we freeze and eat later in the week.

  3. it's funny - i love to cook, but have done less and less of it as i have gotten more and more into sewing. one cuts into the time for the other! but how great that you;ve found a way to be creative and help feed everyone and still stay on budget. the holy trinity! :-)

    1. Totally! The thing I've been struggling with in the budget part is forcing myself not to buy lots of fancy allergy-free specialty ingredients... :)

  4. I have followed your blog for a long time, but I finally had to comment. I also love to cook and sew. We don't have any food allergies to deal with, but I just love the feeling I get from making all our food from scratch. The food tastes so much better too. I love Peter Reinhart's whole grain breads too. I haven't tried his sourdough recipes yet though I have the starter. I have been afraid to try it with bread for some reason. So nice to see a post from you again, and I hope you'll share more of your cooking experiences.

    1. Hi Erica! A lot of the recipes in Whole Grain breads can swap out the biga for an equivalent amount of starter, though I think all of the recipes also use commercial yeast as an extra leavening boost. I do want to try leaving out the yeast entirely to see how that works, but I'm nervous doing that with 100% whole grain breads.

      I've made some Breadtopia and King Arthur and Chocolate and Zucchini sourdough recipes with no commercial yeast at all and they came out great but they weren't 100% whole grain—they always had at least 25% all-purpose white flour.

  5. So glad to hear you are on the mend!! The food looks delicious.

    And I totally understand the need for a creative outlet of some kind!


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