rants & recipes

Archive for September, 2008

Good customer service …

Posted by trktos on 25-September-2008

Okay, we’ve had a Bosch Universal Mixer for a little less than a year. When we got the thing, it had this white petroleum jelly stuff on it … ran it through the dishwasher, which helped to distribute the jelly and bake it into a glue-like substance that even the miraculous Goo-Gone couldn’t help. After many washings and a little concern – What was that oily, lard-look-alike stuff, anyway? And why was it on my mixer? – we discovered that a little rubbing alcohol worked wonders in dissolving it. Yay, clean mixer.

Well, throughout these 10 months, our Bosch has had a pretty easy life. We’ve used it maybe 20 times – quite a few times for easy tasks like mashed potatoes, using the blender, making cake frosting. The other times, for two-loaf batches of bread (this thing is supposed to handle, like, 5 or 6 times that) and twice for making seitan. This is a machine touted by the homeschooling faction – you know, mothers with, like 10 kids, who bake about 5 loaves of bread a day. Every day.

So, a couple days ago, I used it to mix bread. It sounded kinda bad – sorta like a metal-on-metal knocking sound. Wasn’t absolutely horrible but I did remove the bowl to see what it would sound like, without having any work to do. It sounded a little better but …

I noticed this gooey, dark substance, oozing up from around the moving part in the bottom. Not good. Figuring it was still under warranty and there was no way I was tossing my bread – flour, like everything else, has gotten really expensive lately! – I finished kneading. (Bread was really good, btw!)

I posted my predicament online, and was told by several, 20-30 year+ Bosch users that this wasn’t normal and I should call the company.

One lady told me, though, the same thing had happened to her and the company told her she wasn’t drying the bowl well, so water was rusting the metal. They told her there was no oil down there to escape. I needed to dry my bowl better. A solution I thought was plausible until I got home and inspected the mixer again.

Expecting great difficulty with a return, we took photos of the goop and photos showing it not-dispersing in water (like it should, if it were rusty-watery-stuff) … Evin even took a little bit and stuck it in the flame of our gas stove – it caught fire and burned like a Roman candle! By this point, I was convinced it was definitely some oil type substance, broken transmission seal …

With some hesitation, I called customer service. I had been instructed to ask for a specific guy and, surprisingly, was transferred to him directly. I briefly described the situation and he told me that the gunk was food – stuff I had been mixing – that gets down into that area and eventually looks like grease. He also said that my machine shouldn’t sound bad and he’d send me a new one. No real questions – he didn’t even ask for any proof that I had actually purchased a mixer. He said the two events – gunk and sounding bad – are not related because there’s no oil down there to escape. He said the gunk was normal and could happen again with the new mixer.

On the one hand, I’m happy (and a little shocked) about the 100%-no-hassle exchange. On the other, I feel like there’s a bit of dishonesty going on – this has to be some kind of lubricant, coming up out of the machine. Our mixer bowl is like a bundt pan – with a tall column in the middle and no holes or seams in the bottom – nothing’s been escaping and selectively filling one little crevice in the machine. And besides, mixed-up food would dry and flake and get crusty – this stuff acts like pure oil and doesn’t dry up at all.

I fear there’s a bit of “image preservation” going on here – Bosch; at least this mixer; has a superb reputation … although we do have the new, “improved” model and you know how that usually goes. I also fear getting another machine with the same faulty design or whatever and being stuck in an exchange cycle, when, eventually, I’ll wish I had my money back to invest in the other mixer that competes with the Bosch Universal.

You be the judge … and for the record, I’ve made cake frosting with it, but never *chocolate* cake frosting. Which is a shame, come to think of it … will have to remedy that soon!

Posted in 1: Rants, bosch, products, services | Comments Off on Good customer service …

Meatless Loaf

Posted by trktos on 21-September-2008

Meatloaf is a work-in-progress, nothing strict about this recipe – add whatever you want as long as you end up with something that will hold a loaf shape and has good flavor! That’s one thing I like about vegan recipes, even “meatloaf” – you can taste at any stage and make decisions about what to add.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small to medium onion, diced (or about 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tbsp dried onion flakes)
  • 1 box extra-firm aseptic tofu
  • 1 tub firm tub tofu (14oz)
  • 1/3 cup dried parsley
  • 6 tbsp (low sodium) soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup tvp
  • about 1 1/3 cup fine bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 – 2 tsp marmite
  • 2 tsp peanut butter
  • 4 tsp tahini
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 4 tbsp ketchup
  • few drops liquid smoke
  • sprinkle of roasted garlic granules (or garlic powder or minced garlic)
  • about 2 tbsp each wheat germ, nutritional yeast
  • 2 tsp beaf flavoring (Bill’s Best)
  • 2 tsp miso
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp spicy brown mustard

Instructions:

  1. Sauté onion in olive oil until tender.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Mix all ingredients together. I usually do this by hand (sometimes wearing a vinyl glove because tofu is cold!) (Actually, now, I throw everything into the Bosch, with the dough hook – mixes like a charm!)
  4. Shape into two loaves, place in loaf pans.
  5. Bake for about 40 minutes.

Notes:

  • This makes enough for two loaves. To halve, just use one tub of either kind of tofu.
  • For drier meatloaf, use extra firm tub tofu and bulgar wheat in place of 2/3 cup tvp, 1/3 cup flour. Or, turn off oven and let remain in oven for 30 more minutes.
  • Next time, I may use tomato paste for the ketchup.

Updated:

  • I usually now make this with an added batch of okara, from making soymilk. When I do this, I increase the other ingredients by roughly 1/3rd.
  • And by all means, for the flavor ingredients, don’t “teaspoon” yourself to death – estimate, taste and adjust, if necessary! =)

Posted in 0: Recipes, main dish, meat subs, okara, tofu | Leave a Comment »

Creamy Spinach Soup

Posted by trktos on 16-September-2008

I’ve been wanting to make creamed spinach soup for a long time and finally, last night, with a huge tub of spinach that needed to be eaten, I finally managed to give it a try. The following recipe is just a compilation of lots of recipes I found online. If you’re not sure you will like creamed spinach soup, halve this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 1/2 carrots, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • generous amount olive oil
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 vegetable cube (I used Rapunzel no-salt)
  • about 2 tsp vegetable bullion (I used Better Than Bullion, Chick’n)
  • black pepper, red pepper
  • about 10-12 ounces fresh spinach
  • about 3 tbsp Earth Balance
  • dash soy sauce
  • dash Indian curry powder(I used Frontier brand)
  • about 2 tbsp Tofutti Cream Cheese
  • 2 cups plain, unflavored soy milk
  • pinch nutmeg, optional

Instructions:

  1. Sauté onions, carrot and garlic in olive oil for about 5 minutes.
  2. Add water, potatoes, vegetable cube and bullion.
  3. Bring to a boil and simmer until potatoes are almost done.
  4. Add spinach, peppers, soy sauce and Earth Balance.
  5. Cook until spinach is wilted. Lower heat.
  6. Add soy milk, curry, Tofutti. (Don’t boil after adding soy milk and Tofutti.)
  7. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth.
  8. Serve with extra Tofutti cream cheese, if desired

Notes:

  • My goal with this soup was to make a blended soup that was satisfying and a meal-in-itself … lower-fat versions would make a wonderful side dish.
  • Two onions would be better, I only had one.
  • Evin, an ardent blended-soup hater, said this was “better than he expected” – high praise, indeed!

    Posted in 0: Recipes, cream cheese, dairy subs, grains, starches, main dish, potato, soup, spinach, vegetables | Leave a Comment »

    Trader Joe, I`m coming and I want my $3 back.

    Posted by trktos on 11-September-2008

    In a effort to post at least one non-political something …

    I recently was happy to re-discover that Trader Joe’s sells their organic tofu for $.50 less/pack than Whole Foods. We eat a lot of tofu ’round here, so that’s sorta a big deal! TJ’s tofu is also much firmer and, as I was cubing the first block purchased from TJ since -I don’t know, a really long time – I had decided to make the effort to buy TJ tofu from now on.

    So, this was a week or two ago … I cubed this block of tofu, threw it in a pan with no oil or soy sauce, and cooked it a while, to cook some of the water out. Later added soy sauce and oil, and cooked as I normally do.

    Went to eat and I thought the tofu tasted a little sour. Evin couldn’t taste it, said it tasted fine to him. I remembered that this used to happen occasionally and wondered if I somehow curdled the tofu, trying to cook the water out of it? Evin pointed out that tofu is already curdled. So we started wondering if maybe they use a different firming agent than WF – they do – and if maybe that attributed to the slightly sour taste?

    Fast forward to last night. Two remaining packages of TJ tofu. I open one and smell of it – slightly sour! Evin can’t smell it … I open the other package, with an even later expiry date, and it’s worse! Evin could even tell something was wrong with this one. So, I open a package of WF’s tofu and, thankfully, it smelled just fine. (And curiously like the inside of a carving pumpkin.)

    Evin had the bright idea to smear a bit of the most-sour tofu on a slide and look at it under the microscope. I had little hope that he would see anything. But he did – thousands and thousands of little rod-shaped bacteria!!! Just for good measure, we also looked at some WF tofu, thinking we’d see a few bacteria but we saw none.

    Soooo, that means, not only a few weeks ago, but several times over the past 3-4 years, we’ve had bad tofu from Trader Joe’s (used to buy from them exclusively, before Whole Food’s opened in Alexandria) … and here I was thinking all along that maybe I cooked it “wrong” or something, and Evin could never taste anything sour – seriously, what does this say about Evin’s sense of taste?!? But, really, we were just eating bacteria!

    See all the dark blue, little rods in this (not very good) photo? Bacillus! And let me tell you, were they swimming, twisting and darting about – just having a blast!

    So, Trader Joe, I will be coming to get my $3 back. On principal, if nothing else. And I won’t be buying tofu from you again. Disgusting!

    Posted in 1: Rants, hobbies, microscopy, products, services | Leave a Comment »

    Apricot Cream Cheese Brownies

    Posted by trktos on 9-September-2008

    Ingredients:

    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/2 cup applesauce
    • 2 tbsp oil
    • 1/2 cup soy milk
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • about 1/2 cup apricot preserves
    • about 1/4 tub Tofutti Cream Cheese

    Instructions:

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Grease and line with parchment an 8*8 baking dish.
    3. Mix flour and baking powder in a large bowl.
    4. Mix together preserves and cream cheese in a separate bowl.
    5. Mix remaining ingredients in a third bowl.
    6. Add cocoa mixture to flour and stir until combined.
    7. Pour about half the brownie batter into the baking dish.
    8. Spread the preserve/cream cheese mixture on top.
    9. Cover with remaining brownie batter.
    10. Bake about 30 minutes or until brownies test done.

    Notes:

    • Modified from the first review (Duckbill’s) of this recipe.
    • The total weight for the filling ingredients was 210 grams, which was just enough.
    • Once cool, the filling in these was plenty sweet, so more cream cheese, less preserves would probably work, as well as preserves/jam from fruit that more traditionally mixes well with chocolate – cherry or raspberry come to mind.
    • These were wonderful, warm, out of the oven … but once they cooled, they were very sweet. Next time, I’ll use more cream cheese and less jam. Cream cheese and peanut butter would be good, too. (With maple syrup to taste, if using unsweetened peanut butter.)
    • These were also really good with the following for filling (omit apricot and cream cheese from ingredients list, of course): about 1/2 tub Tofutti Cream Cheese, about 1 tbsp Earth Balance, about 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger and 4-6 tbsp powdered sugar – soften ‘cheese’ and Earth Balance in microwave. Stir in ginger, add sugar to taste.
    • Also very tasty – about 1/4 tub of vegan sour cream, 2 – 3 tbsp cashew butter and powdered sugar, to taste.
    • Basically, this would be good with about a cup, to a  cup and a half, of any-flavored filling that goes well with chocolate. You want the filling to be about the same consistency as the batter, maybe a little more “spreadable”.
    • Don’t worry if the filling’s a little lumpy – it’ll even-out as it bakes.

    Posted in 0: Recipes, brownies, cream cheese, dairy subs, desserts, fruit | Leave a Comment »