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Category: Chefs du Château

We cook. Sarah cooks and homesteads and explores. I sometimes bake, cook a little, mostly help and make the often difficult decision of choosing between which B composer’s symphonies to listen to while cooking.

Marble Cake

My mom makes these as cupcakes now to get more crust out of the deal. For parties—bundt! I make this 1/3-scale recipe in the brownie pan Morgan gave me because I’m bundt broke.

3 T vegan butter, room temp (Melt, Miyoko, or Earth Balance sticks)
1 dollop of vegan butter for greasing
1 t flax seed
1 T (scant) water
1 t vanilla
⅓ C sugar (not too fine and white—a little grit and soul goes a long way)
⅓ C brown sugar (not too dark or light)
½ C soy milk (Trader Joe’s Soy Beverage or Westsoy Organic Unsweetened Plain)
⅔ C all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
¼ t salt
1 square unsweetened chocolate
⅛ t baking soda

Heat someone’s oven to 350º. Blend the flax seed in a spice/coffee blender and drown it in the water. In a comfortably-medium bowl, masticate the butter, sugar. Once the flax seed and water has pussed, mix it, the vanilla, and the Just Egg into the butter and sugar. In a more-medium bowl, obliviate the salt and powder into the flour. Thrice mix a third of the dry ingredients and a third of the milk into the wet ingredients. In the now-empty more-medium bowl (or, fancy lad, in a double boiler) melt the chocolate then feed it the soda. Sublimate just shy of half of the batter into the chocolate. Marble by gently considering stirring the staid and chocolate batters, perhaps while consolidating them into one of their bowls, perhaps right into the butter-greased half-sheet-of-parchment-paper-lined brownie pan.

Bake for 55 minutes (doubling seems to need 65). Cool. Powder? Cut. Eat.

Vegan Brownies

Eat food, mostly brown, not too many.

It’s might be me, but the vegan brownie recipes I’ve tried have two flaws. They aim to be gooey but just seem under-cooked. They harden when they cool.

The heavy dose of baking powder in this recipe seems to keep the butter from bricking. In my garbage kitchen, these ride the wave between cakey and gooey and stay yummy (won’t break teeth) after being in the fridge for a day.

1/4 C soy milk (Trader Joe’s Soy Beverage or Westsoy Organic Unsweetened Plain)
1 T vinegar
1/4 C (1/2 stick) vegan butter (I used organic Earth Balance)
1/2 C sugar
1 t vanilla
1/3 C dutch processed cocoa powder (Equal Exchange)
2/3 C all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1/4 t salt

Heat a small oven to 350º. Inseminate the soy milk with the vinegar and let it sit a mo. Garble up the rest of the wet (buttah, sugah, vanilla). Whip up the dry in its bowl then barely combine the wet and the dry. By barely, I don’t mean like how Chicago barely desegregated. I mean so you stop seeing clumps of dust but still see streaks. More like the SNL cast. Plop the lot into a small brownie pan lined with a vegan-butter greased sheet of parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes (unless your oven ain’t bust like mine). Cool just a few then enjoy with a glass of Westsoy Organic Unsweetened Plain soy milk.

These two recipes informed:

Simple Vegan Brownies | Minimalist Baker Recipes
Vegan Skillet Cornbread | The Spruce Eats

21-4-14 – reduced sugar from 2/3 C; increased vinegar to 1 T;

Vegan Oatmeal Cookies

Something about quick oats specifically makes them cousiny to Mexican wedding cookies. I dare you.

1 t ground flax seed
1 T water
1/4 C vegan butter SOFTENED
1/4 C sugar
1/8 C brown sugar
1 t vanilla
1 t cinnamon
1/3 C flour
2/3 C quick oats
1/4 t salt
1/8 t baking soda
1/3 C chopped toasted pecans
1/3 C raisins (maybe?)
1 lemon’s or a half-orange’s zest (possibly?)

  1. make the fake egg: let water and ground flax sit together for a few minutes and turn into an egg with magics
  2. zest the citrus
  3. beat butter, sugars, vanilla, cinnamon; and the zest if you’re feeling it
  4. add fake egg
  5. combine dry ingredients: flour, oats, salt, baking soda, pecans; and the raisins if you lean that way
  6. combine everything
  7. bake teaspoon drops of dough at 350º for 16-ish minutes—watch for liminal lightbrowningness.


What’s the best thing about baked goods? Eating twenty of them? Nope. YES. Pant. No. It’s fun to witch up the brew, good stink the house a’yum, and have a warm gooey burst of flavor and sugargrit mouthfeel. Alas, fifty cold hard cookies later and it’s sadness all the way down.

Make one “tablespooner” at a time and be saved with my nifty new recipe:

  • T organic softened vegan butter (I’ve been enjoying Melt)
  • T organic vegan raw sugar
  • T organic light brown sugar
  • T organic raw cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
  • T organic whole wheat flour
  • 2 T organic unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 t organic vanilla extract
  • 1/8 t organic peppermint flavor
  • pinch salt

Heat a small oven to 350º. Humiliate everything but the flours before gently under-folding those in. Do not overmix the flours. Just barely combine the flours with the rest of the muck. Make flat on a silpatted baking sheet a centimeter tall Pangea smear of the above. Bake for 15. There will be baked, but still gooey. Cool just a few then enjoy with a glass of Westsoy Organic Unsweetened Plain soy milk.

They was delicious!

Sarah’s Seitan Sausage

This is my standard, versatile fake meat. It is almost exactly the same as this recipe for seitan pastrami but quadrupled and tweaked slightly.

It makes 4 big sausages that you can freeze and use over a few months. It’s great in pasta sauce, fried up as taco meat, sliced and spread on a pizza like pepperoni, or diced and tossed in a salad.   32-40 servings

Preheat oven to 325 degrees


    • 6 cups instant gluten flour (vital wheat gluten) (order in bulk online)
    • 1 cup nutritional yeast flakes
    • 1 cup garbanzo flour (this is optional – you could also use whole wheat flour, soy flour or any other random flour you want to use up)
    • 2 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons paprika (or if that’s too complicated, just use your 1/4 cup and fill it 2/3 of the way.)
    • 1 Tablespoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1 teaspoon ground mustard (a squirt of wet mustard works fine too, but in that case add with wet
    • ingredients)
    • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
    • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
    • 2 1/2 cups cold water
    • 1 cup tomato paste (if you don’t have it you can sub ketchup for a sweeter sausage)
    • 1/2 cup soy sauce
    • 1 cup olive oil (or any flavorless oil, such as canola)
    • 12 cloves garlic, pressed (if this sounds like a pain, just toss in 2 T of garlic powder but add with dry ingredients)

Mix the dry ingredients (flours, yeast flakes and spices) with a fork in a large mixing bowl. Stir the liquid ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl. Pour theliquid into the dry ingredients, and mix them thoroughly. You will have to get in there with your bare hands and knead. If there is still flour around the edges, addwater a few tablespoons at a time until you have one big gluey dough ball.

Knead the gluten directly in the mixing bowl for about a minute. Pull it apart into 4 chunks (you can use a scale to make them of even weight.) Form the gluten into four sausages, each about 8 inches long. Cut 4 pieces of parchment paper and 4 pieces of foil, and wrap each sausage tightly in parchment paper then foil the ends and place the sausage seam side down onto a dry cookie sheet. Nestle all 4 sausages so they are touching on the sheet and put in the oven.

Bake the sausage for 1 1/2 hours at 325. When done, unwrap the seitan, transfer it to a cooling rack, and let it cool thoroughly. When completely cool, wrap the seitan tightly in plastic wrap and store in the freezer (for a few months) or the fridge (for a week or so). I like to keep one in the fridge and the rest in the freezer and I thaw them out as needed.

Finer Points of Yogurting

In an earlier post I mentioned my yogurt making, but in case you are trying it yourself and want some tips on technique, here’s my step-by-step approach:


  •  Yogurt maker (mine is a Eurocuisine that holds 7 little glass jars) 
  • 2 qt double boiler sauce pan
  • Candy thermometer (mine is from Sur la table and has a range of 100-400° F)
  • Wire whisk
  • 4 qt sauce pan, big enough for you to set your 2 qt sauce pan down inside of it
  • Ladle and wide mouth funnel (I have a stainless steel set that came with a canning kit)


  • 1 qt whole milk
  • 1 packet of frieze dried yogurt starter (such as Yogourmet)

Step 1

Fill the bottom of the double boiler with 2-3 inches of water, pour the milk into the top of the double boiler, and clip the thermometer to the edge of the pan to keep an eye on the temp. Use the wire whisk to stir the milk occasionally to avoid it forming a skin. (If it does, just skim it off with the whisk and throw it away.) Bring the milk to 175º F for a couple of minutes. (The reason for this is to kill off any unwanted bacteria so the yogurt will be the only bacteria growing in your milk. If you have a very trusted milk source, I’m told you can skip this step, but I never do.)

Double boiler with milk and thermometer 

Step 2

While your milk is heating, prep your 4 quart sauce pan by filling it about half full of cold water. This will be your bain-marie for quickly cooling the milk down to 120º F.

Step 3

Take the top of your double boiler (with the milk) out of the bottom part. Pour out the boiling water. Transfer the thermometer to the side of the now-empty bottom part. Pour the milk into this and place it inside the 4 qt sauce pan bain-marie. (The reason I transfer the milk is that the top part of my double boiler is ceramic and takes a long time to cool. The bottom is stainless steel and cools quickly.) Watch the thermometer closely and take the pan with the milk out of the bain-marie when it gets to 120º F. This only takes 4-5 minutes, so don’t go start some other project.

Milk in the bain-marie

Step 4

While your milk is cooling in its bain-marie, prep your little glass jars so they are arranged open and ready on the counter. If you have my same yogurt maker, you can also use this time to prep the lids with the date (this is utterly optional) and set them in the top of the plastic lid of the yogurt maker (see photo below). Also, get out the ladle, wide mouth funnel, and packet of frieze-dried yogurt starter.

Step 5

Dip up a half-ladle of milk and pour in the yogurt starter powder. Use the whisk to mix it around in the ladle before pouring it back into the pan of milk. Now use the whisk to blend it thoroughly in the pan. Place your wide mouth funnel on top of your first little jar. Dip up an almost full ladle of milk and pour it into the jar through the funnel. Repeat to fill 6 of the jars. For the 7th, you just have to pick up the pan and pour the remaining milk into your funnel. The jars won’t be quite full since you only used a quart of milk (they are meant to hold 7 oz each, but you’ll only have a little under 5 oz per jar. If you want to fill them to the brim, you have to buy a 1/2 gallon of milk and use a little more than half of it, which then goes bad by the next time you make yogurt if like me you don’t use milk for anything else.)

Filling the jars

Step 6

Almost there! Just place your jars on the base of your yogurt maker and cover with the big clear plastic lid. Plug it in and set the time for as long as possible. I like to let it go 10-12 hours, but it will be fully yogurted after 8. When it finishes, you will need to open it up, put lids on your jars, and place them in the fridge. Let them set for at least 3 hours, then enjoy!

Yogur en marcha!

Holiday Cocktail Grunts into Tradition

The somethingth anniversary of the inspiration and expression of my first original cocktail recipe graced this past December wheneverd. We toasted with and to it and our healths at our humble New Years Eve gathering to calls of “h-euch” and “if I sip it in careful quantities, it’s not quite as bad as the ingredients suggest it would be.” The former and similar I expected; the latter and lauds alike: my triumph!

Je présente …

The Christmas Dick

  • 2 parts Jägermeister
  • 1 part Peppermint Schnapps

Inspiration, inspiration! Among blessings we bathed in that night were extemporaneous recipes and resolutions to their realizations before the next boring of another martini.

Kid Natas
  • 2 parts Southern Comfort
  • 1 part Peach Schnapps

Rather than lie, I invite the internet to remind us of the ingredients for recipes no less memorable proposed, ipso obvios facto, less memorably by other dear patrons of the party.

The Christmas Dick with Wine or something, and warm?
  • yes
A Third Regional Variation featuring a relatively potent flavored liquor and a fruit Schnapps clad in a pithy name
  • 2 parts Harvey…? no
  • 1 part la-di-da Schnapps

Hearty Vegan Winter Stew

This recipe for “Deep December Ragout of Seitan, Shiitakes and Winter Vegetables” has been posted a lot on various sites, and the source is listed as: CHEF DU JOUR CRESCENT DRAGONWAGON SHOW #DJ9339. Here’s a link to it. I love it because it is really flavorful and hearty. All I do differently than the original recipe is I use my own homemade seitan instead of store-bought. And if you don’t have Umeboshi vinegar around you can sub red wine vinegar.

I’ve made it a few times  –  most recently for New Years’ Eve 2012. The leftovers are really good, since the flavors seem to deepen and melow over time.

DIY Yogurt and Granola breakfast

I can’t claim to be a full on urban homesteader, but I do have a breakfast routine that is almost all local ingredients, low on packaging, and homemade.

Every week I buy a quart of organic whole milk from the Dill Pickle Co-op in Logan Square. I like that it is in a glass jar that actually gets reused when you bring it back for your deposit! I make yogurt with my Eurocuisine yogurt maker and packets of yogurt starter from Yo-gourmet. The deal with making yogurt is that it takes a few times to figure out the process, but once you get it down, it really only takes about 30 min in the kitchen, and then just remembering to put the yogurt in the fridge when it finishes 8-10 hours later. (The longer you leave it, the tangy-er it gets. I love a 12 hour yogurt.) And then you have fresh yogurt from organic, local milk and no plastic waste!

Every two weeks or so, I make my own granola using a recipe that I got through my friend Liz, who adapted it from a Martha Stewart recipe. Check it out on Liz’s blog! For this recipe, I use organic oats from the bulk bin at Dill Pickle. The main building blocks are the oats, wheat germ (adds crunchiness), and the wet ingredients. For the fruit and nuts you can use whatever you have laying around. I’ve put raisins instead of cherries and various combos of pecans, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds instead of almonds. I love the coconut shreds, but it comes out fine without them too.

For breakfast every day I pour one little jar of my yogurt into a bowl and top with about a 1/4 cup of granola. If I have bananas around, I slice half a banana on as well. Ok, that’s not local. But you gotta get your potassium.


Butternut Squash Soup

I made this soup for Thanksgiving this year. It is originally a vegan recipe I found on a couple of sites (click here for one of them). I made a few small adjustments (such as less stock in the beginning and buttermilk at the end) so I’ll re-post the recipe here.


  • 2 1/2 qts vegetable stock (10 C)
  • 4 lbs butternut squash (2 squashes should be about right, I don’t think it has to be exact)
  • 2 C carrots (diced – doesn’t have to be perfect – you’ll puree it later)
  • 2 C celery (diced)
  • 1 C onion (diced)
  • 1/2 C sherry (dry) (I accidentally used sherry vinegar the first time I made this – I thought it was good but it was pretty tangy. You’re better off with actual sherry or white wine)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 t salt (use less if your stock is salted)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pinch white pepper (or more – pepper is yummy!)
  • 1/2 t nutmeg (freshly ground)
  • 1 T parsley (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 t paprika


Cut butternut squash in half lenghtwise and remove seeds, brush with olive oil.
Place squash cutside down on a parchment lined sheet pan and roast in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes or until squash is soft to the touch, and the skin begins to pull away from the flesh. (this can take up to an hour if the squash is thick.)
Remove from oven and let cool.
Spoon roasted squash out of the skin and pass it through a ricer or food mill to remove any of the stringy fibers. I used a food mill because I have one and wanted to get more mileage out of it, but I think you could skip this step. You will blend everything later.
Heat olive oil in a large stockpot and swet the carrots, celery and onions, until the onions and carrots just start to caramelize.
Deglaze the pot with sherry.
Add the vegetable stock, salt, pepper, nutmeg and bay leaf and bring to a boil.
Add the squash, reduce to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes.
Remove the bay leaf, and puree the soup in the pot with an immersion blender until it reaches a smooth, creamy consistency.
Add 2 cups buttermilk (or less if you don’t have 2 cups. Not an exact science.)
Taste, and add salt and pepper if needed.
Garnish with chopped parsley and paprika and serve.


Every once in a while at an Indian restaurant you’ll see a dish called “Tandoori Vegetable” or “Tandoori Phool” (Phool = Cauliflower). If you do, order it. Especially if you’re at India House in Oakbrook, where they make an especially yummy version. I always assumed that I couldn’t make it without a Tandoor oven. It turns out that it can be made at home.

Our version is adapted from’s recipe.


  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 big or two small stalks broccoli
  • Fresh lemon juice
    (at least 4-5 lemons’ worth, the more the better!)
  • 1 lemon for garnish
  • 2 T Chaat Masala
    (buy this at an Indian market, I like one called “Chunky Chaat Masala” from Patel Bros. on Devon in Chicago)
  • 1 C Gram Flour
    (aka chickpea/garbanzo flour, called “Besan” at the Indian market)
  • 2 T nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 1 T chili powder
    (I don’t think it matters what kind, cayenne should be fine)
  • 1 C plus 3 T water
  • pinch of salt
  • A lot of vegetable oil for frying
    (canola or other oil that says “refined for high heat”)


Break the cauliflower and broccoli into florets 2-3″ in diameter. Slice each floret in half. Mix the fresh lemon juice with the chaat masala. Put the cauliflower and broccoli florets in a gallon-sized ziplock bag and pour the lemon juice mix in over them. Marinate for at least 30 minutes, or up to a few days in the fridge.

Mix the gram flour, nutritional yeast (if you have it, no worries if you don’t), chili powder and salt in a bowl with a fork. Add the water and mix with the fork until all the flour clumps are broken up. You should have a sticky batter that will coat and stick to the cauliflower and broccoli florets.

Heat about 2 inches of oil in a deep frying pan or big sauce pan.

Dip the cauliflower florets into the batter, then drop into the oil (try to lay them on the flat side so they get submerged) and fry for about 1 min in the oil. You can put at least 6 florets in at a time, depending on the size of your pan. By the time you get to the broccoli, the batter may have gotten a little diluted from the marinade. Don’t worry, the broccoli does ok with a thinner batter.

As you fish out the fried florets with a slotted spoon, place them into a casserole dish.

Once they are all fried, bake for 10-15 minutes at 275° F.

Garnish with lemon wedges and serve.

Fun additions

Prep the casserole dish with bed of cooked white basmati rice, pour the remaining marinade over it, then arrange the fried florets on top of the rice and bake.

Tomato wedges and onion wedges can also be dipped in the batter, fried, and added to the casserole dish. They won’t hold the batter that well and it will get a little messy, but still very yummy.