December 20, 2012

Rich Cheesy Crackers

This cracker recipe is another one of my favorites from The Homemade Pantry. It makes quite a lot for our three person family, but they will last a week in a tin on the counter and also freeze well. So when I make a batch we can have some now and some for later. A tray of these makes nice nibbling at parties. The original recipe contemplates using a stand mixer, which I don't have. So I whir everything up in my food processor. This does require advance planning because the dough needs to chill at least two hours and they need quite a long time in the oven.

Cheesy Crackers

Ingredients:
6 ounces cheddar cheese - grated
3 Tablespoons cold butter, cut into cubes or chunks
1 1/2 Cups flour
1 teaspoon mustard powder
2 teaspoons white vinegar (or use cider vinegar if that's what you have)
an ice cube

How to:
Whir the butter, flour and mustard together in the large bowl of your food processor to a smallish crumb (or cut them together by hand with a pastry cutter). Add the cheese and process for a few more seconds.

Put the vinegar and the ice cube in a large measuring cup with 3/4 Cup water.

Add six Tablepoons of that mixture to the food processor and whir around for several more seconds. Add more water a Tablespoon at a time until the dough clobs up into one mass.

Mound the dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

When you are ready to bake: Preheat the oven to 325. Remove the dough from the fridge and let it sit out about 15 minutes. Then roll it quite thin -- 1/8 to 1/4 inch -- cut with a knife into squares or with a biscuit cutter into rounds. Bake in a greased sheet for 30 minutes or until slightly golden. Turn off the oven and leave the trays of crackers in there while the oven cools (an hour or so).

About timing and storage: Overnight or even a couple of days in the fridge is fine for the raw dough, so you can prepare the dough well ahead if you are making the crackers for a party. To make them even farther ahead, you can freeze the dough and then let it thaw in the fridge before baking. Once baked, the crackers keep fine in a covered container on the counter for a week. If you freeze the finished crackers, you can thaw them and crisp them up with a few minutes (5ish) in a hot oven.

Creme Fraiche

Once you have cultured buttermilk, making creme fraiche is a snap.

Ingredients:
One pint heavy cream
3 Tablespoons cultured buttermilk

How to:
Put the cream into a clean jar. Stir in the buttermilk. Rest the lid on top of the jar. Let it sit out at room temperature for 16-24 hours, or until thickened. Then store in the refrigerator for up a week. It really is that easy.

You can use as you would sour cream. Or try a dollop a top a slice of fruit pie. Or on a scone.

November 23, 2012

Moroccan Carrots

This cold carrot dish (doubled to feed a larger crowd) worked well as a lively side for our Thanksgiving table. The recipe comes from The Essential New York Times Cook Book.

Moroccan Carrot Salad

1 pound carrots
1 1/2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
A few cranks from your pepper grinder
2 teaspoons olive oil

Peel the carrots and slice them into 1/2 inch thick rounds. Steam for approximately 10 minutes, until tender but slightly firm. Drain. Dress with the remaining ingredients. Toss well. Cool to room temperature and then store covered in the fridge to marinate for several hours. Toss again before serving.

Notes: These carrots keep well, so making them farther in advance is fine.
The original recipe called for adding a Tablespoon of chopped cilantro. I left it out because we didn't have any on hand. If you have cilantro, add it to give another fresh layer of flavor.

November 21, 2012

Lemon Sorbet (with Buttermilk)

Immediately after culturing my first quart of homemade buttermilk, I began trying to figure out what I could do with it. This tangy dessert has a fresh lemon flavor without the ice-iness that you sometimes find in commercially available lemon sorbets. It is based on the Almond and Buttermilk Sorbet recipe from The Essential New York Times Cook Book. This sorbet require advance plannings. And an ice cream maker. If you don't keep the cylinder for your ice cream maker in the freezer, remember to put it in when you start the buttermilk. Time matters and they really do work best if the cylinder is frozen for 24 hours before you start churning.

Lemon Buttermilk Sorbet

Ingredients:
1/3 Cup lemon juice -- Fresh is fantastic. Bottled works fine.
1 Cup sugar
1/4 Cup light corn syrup
2 Cups buttermilk

How to:
1.Combine the lemon and sweeteners in a small sauce pan and simmer over medium low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Then let it cool back to room temperature.

2. Combine the lemon syrup and the buttermilk and chill. To speed the process, put them in a freezer bag, Seal it well and immerse it in a bowl of ice water.

3. Churn in an ice cream maker.

4. Remove to a freezer safe container with a tight lid. Put a sheet of parchment paper flush to the top of the sorbet. Then put on the lid and stash it in the freezer for a couple of hours.

Variations:
This sorbet is sturdy enough to stand up to some mix-ins like a little fresh lemon zest stirred in after churning.

The original recipe  called for taking 1/2 Cup of whole raw almonds, roasting them briefly in a small dry skillet on medium-high heat, pulverizing them in a food processor with 1/4 C sugar and adding that to the lemon syrup and buttermilk before churning. I haven't done it since we don't cook with almonds, but it sounds delicious.

Buttermilk

Cultured buttermilk is incredibly easy to make, keeps well for a week or so in the fridge, and really is wonderful in pancakes and baked goods. Making buttermilk is very easy. But it does require some advance preparation.

Some things you need to make buttermilk:

1. Buttermilk culture. I order from New England Cheesemaking Supply Company which has a user friendly website. Look in the "ingredients" section under cheesee cultures and mold powders. Once you have the culture, store it in your freezer.
2. A thermometer. I had thought I could use my candy thermometer with its handy clip, but then found that its dial starts at 100 degrees. For buttermilk you need one that reads accurately at lower temperatures. There is such a thing as a cheese thermometer, but I don't have one. So I use my meat thermometer and just keep dipping it in. Not as convenient as a thermometer that clips to the pan, but workable.

3. A clean mason jar with lid

Cultured Buttermilk

Ingredients:
1 quart whole milk (not ultrapasteurized)
1 packet (1/2 teaspoon buttermilk culture)

How to:
Heat milk in a medium saucepan until it reaches 72 degrees. Stir in the buttermilk culture. Transfer to clean jar. Set lid on top, but don't screw it on. Let the jar sit out at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours (or until thickened). Then refrigerate until ready to use. Keeps for a week or so in the fridge.

A note on timing: If I prepare the buttermilk in the evening, it isn't ready by the time I go to work the next morning. It is ready by the time I get home in the afternoon.

What to do with buttermilk? Buttermilk is fantastic in scones. Buttermilk can also be great in cakes. It's a key ingredient in ranch dressing. Where buttermilk really shines -- sorbet.

November 15, 2012

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

This modification of the Sour Cream Ring Cake recipe in Bakin Without Eggs, produces a cake that's dense, nutty and not too sweet. A great brunch dish.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

1/2 Cup granulated sugar
3/4 Cup brown sugar
1/4 Cup butter - softened
1 Cup sour cream
1/2 Cup skim milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 Cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 Cup quick rolled oats
1/4 Cup poppy seeds
1/3 Cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375. Grease a Bundt cake pan.

Sift into a mixing bowl the flours and leavening. Stir in the oats and poppy seeds.

In a large bowl, cream together the sugars and butter. Mix in the sour cream. Mix in the milk, vanilla and lemon juice.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet. Stir to combine. Do not over mix.  When almost fully combined, fold in the pecans.

Spoon into prepared pan and bake for 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean or with a few crumbs. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes or so. Invert onto plate or wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

Variations: The recipe from which I was working did not call for poppy seeds, but I think they are a nice addition. This is a pretty sturdy dough and you can vary the mix-ins a little by substituting other nuts or seeds or adding small amount of chopped dried fruit. 
The original recipe called for twice as much vanilla, so don't be afraid to add a little more.
Or heighten the citrus flavor by adding fresh orange or lemon zest with the dry ingredients.
Add zing with some grated ginger and smal chunks of crystallized ginger.

November 10, 2012

So much better than Jello

I love Jello. I'm an adult and I should know better. The artificial colors alone should put me off. But I do love it. Fortunately, as an adult I have discovered that it is very, very easy to make something equally delicious with many fewer chemicals. With just a few minutes of work and your favorite juice, you can make fruit gelatin.

Fruit Gelatin
(makes 4 Cups -- that's 8 half cup servings)

4 Cups of fruit juice
2 envelopes gelatin

Use a medium sized bowl. Measure 1 Cup of juice into it. Sprinkle both packages of gelatin into the bowl and let it sit.

While the gelatin is soaking, bring the other 3 Cups of juice just to a boil in a sauce pan.

Pour the hot juice into the bowl. Stir to combine and thoroughly dissolve the gelatin.

Pour the gelatin mixture into one large pan or several smaller serving dishes.

Chill for several hours.

Variations: Use your imagination and pick your favorite juices or blends. Today we enjoyed using a blend of apple, cranberry and pomegranate juice. It was a hit.

Optional fruit: Fruit can be added to the pan or serving dish before the gelatin mixture is poured in. Today we sliced in fresh strawberries. Frozen blueberries are also nice. If you have canned mandarin orange slices, those are nice too.

October 31, 2012

Cranberry Relish

Late October is the time we start to brainstorm for our contributions to the annual Thanksgiving potluck with my husband's family. We particularly enjoy bringing bright lively dishes with fresh tang, zesty crunch or straight up spiciness to balance out the traditional turkey, stuffing, potatoes and pies that we know will be there. Whatever else we bring, every year we also bring this fresh cranberry relish. It is standard of my mother's as well and is based on the Uncooked Cranberry Relish recipe in The Joy of Cooking (we have the First Scriber edition from 1995). We just reduce the sugar.

Raw Cranberry Relish

1 pound cranberries
1 orange (leave the peel on)
1-2 Cups sugar (the original recipe called for 2 Cups, we like less)

Grind the cranberries in a food processor. Remove the seeds from the orange, add it to the cranberries and grind them together. Stir in sugar. Cover and refrigerate. Ideally for 2 days, but one is fine and if you haven't planned that far ahead then serve it fresh. It will still be tasty.

October 27, 2012

Pear Carrot Cake

This is based on a recipe for Fat Free and Delicious Pear-Carrot Cake in Bakin' Without Eggs which calls for all purpose flour and less carrot and vanilla.  Yes, I understand you may be skeptical that a vegan carrot cake can be moist and delicious with whole wheat flour. But it's true. This recipe was from something of an accident. I was up late baking Friday night in preparation for our annual pumpkin carving party on Saturday afternoon. After a couple of batches of cookies and cupcakes, I started to prepare a carrot cake and realized only after shredding the carrots and dicing the pears that I had only a small amount of all purpose flour left. So I used my last cup of all purpose and substituted whole wheat for the rest and hoped for the best. Boy was I pleasantly surprised when party guests on Saturday afternoon declared the cake delicious. I tried a slice myself, to verify that it wasn't just a case of over-politeness, and can confirm that this is a great cake.

Pear-Carrot Cake

1 1/2 Cups shredded carrot (I used the larger of the shred disks on my food processor)
3 large ripe pears cored and diced relatively small, but not tiny
1 Cup all purpose flour
2 Cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 Cups sugar
1 Cup water
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 Cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 and spray a Bundt pan with oil. Use a large bowl. Add the carrots and pears first. Then the flours, leavening and spices. Then the sugar. Add the liquids and stir. Fold in raisins last. Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. 

Cool pan on a wire rack for several minutes then invert to turn cake out onto serving platter.

Notes: The recipe I was starting from gave a time of 35 to 40 minutes. That was not nearly long enough for me. Maybe my oven is getting wonky. But I suspect that 35 minutes wouldn't be long enough for any oven.

This kept well for me just letting it cool on the rack for awhile and then inverting it and placing the Bundt pan back over the cake and leaving it to sit that way until the following afternoon.

September 20, 2012

Radish Top Soup

This recipe came to me as a way to use up radish tops. The technique and flavors work equally well with turnip tops, beet greens or other flavorful greens like water cress, but I especially like it as a way to use up radish tops and I am always pleasantly surprised by their fresh flavor. It is readily vegetarian, soy-free and gluten free, depending on what liquid you use for cooking the potatoes (water is fine).

Radish Top Soup

4-6 Tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onions or leeks
8 cups loosely packed radish leaves (or as many as you have if you don't have that many)
2 cups diced potatoes
6 cups liquid (we use water, beef broth or veggie broth)
1/2 cup cream (optional)
Freshly ground pepper


In pan one: Saute the onions. Stir in the greens and cook covered over low heat until they are wilted (8 - 10 minutes).

In (larger) pan two: Cook potatoes in your liquid until soft. Add in the radish tops and cook for about 5 more minutes. Puree finely using a food processor or immersion blender. Add cream and pepper if desired.

Note: we almost never add the optional cream since we don't keep it around the house and I don't need the extra fat in my food. It's perfectly tasty without the cream.

 

Quick Daikon Salad

This fresh salad offers a gentle blend of sweet and tangy and is very easy to make with a food processor. A simple summer dish great for barbeques. It is also a nice counter point to heavier dishes at the Thanksgiving table.

Daikon Salad with Apple and Carrots

1 daikon
1 apple
1 large carrot or 2 small ones
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar

Grate the daikon. Toss it in a colander with a teaspoon of salt. Let sit.
Grate the apple and carrot and put them in the salad bowl.
Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar.
Toss the sweetened vinegar over the apple and carrot.
Squeeze excess liquid from daikon, rinse and drain. Add to apple and carrot.
Cover and chill for at least 20 minutes and then serve.


Eggless Brownies from a Box

Baking without egg does not necessarily require baking from scratch.

These are my favorite two ways to make eggless brownies from a boxed brownie mix.

(1) Take a can of black beans. Drain and rinse the beans. Return the beans to the can and fill the can to the top with water. Puree the beans and water in a food processor until very smooth. Add the bean puree to the brownie mix and stir to combine well. Bake according to package directions. You may need to add just a couple of minutes if your oven is fussy like mine. This version is dense enough to stand up to some mix-ins like chocolate chips, orange zest, chopped cystallized ginger or nuts.

(2) Instead of bean puree use 1 Cup of sour cream and an extra teaspoon of baking powder. This makes a slightly more delicate brownie that doesn't stand up quite as well to mix-ins, but my spouse prefers the texture and flavor over the bean version. Maybe I am just a hog for chocolate, but I like them equally well.

Mocha Brownies

This recipe is based on the Espresso Fudge Brownies recipe in Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. The brownies really are fudge-y. They can stand up to some mix ins like orange zest or chocolate chips or pieces of walnut. But they don't need it. They are good on their own.

Rich Mocha Brownies

3 ounces of semi sweet chocolate chips (or chop up a bar of baking chocolate)
5 Tablespoons butter 
2/3 Cup sugar
1/3 C milk
1 Tablespoon corn starch
3 teaspoons espresso powder (use decaf if you want to share with children)
1 teaspoon vanilla
just over 3/4 Cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 Tablespoons cocoa powder

Before you begin: Preheat your over. Line a baking pan with foil and spritz with oil.

Microwave the chocolate and butter in a large bowl at low power for 2 minutes or until you can stir the chocolate into the butter. Stir until smooth. Add sugar. Stir again.

Use a large measuring cup to whisk together the milk, cornstarch, espresso powder and vanilla. It will get a little foamy. Stir that liquid into the chocolate and combine well.

Sift in the rest of the dry ingredients. Pouring them in through a fine seive and tapping the dry ingredients through works well. Mix until it's all moist and a few small lumps are OK.

Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth it as much as you can. It will be thick.

Bake 22 - 24 minutes. You don't need it to be crumbless, just not gooey any more.
Cool on a wire rack. You can break into it after 30 minutes, but it is better if you wait.


August 20, 2012

Pumpkin Muffins

This recipe was inspired by the recipe for Kathleen's Pumpkin Bread in Bakin' Without Eggs. Decreasing the sugar and substituting whole wheat for part of the flour improves the nutrition profile. Making muffins is faster than a loaf of bread and results in food that's more portable for sending as my son's afternoon snack to Preschool.

Pumpkin Muffins

1 Cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 Cups all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 generous teaspoon pie spice (or cinnamon plus a dash of nutmeg and ground ginger)
1/2 Cup milk
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon greek yogurt
1/4 Cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Cup sugar
1 can pumpkin puree
handful dried tart cherries (chopping them up is optional)

Preheat oven to 375 and oil tin for 12 muffins.

In a large bowl, whisk together the milk and vinegar. Whisk in the yogurt.
Whisk in the oil, sugar and vanilla. Add the pumpkin and combine well.

In a separate bowl combine the flours, baking powder and spices.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet. Begin to combine.
When it's almost evenly mixed, add the dried cherries and stir to incorporate.

The dough should be pretty thick. If it's too thick to stir in the cherries then you can add a small splash of milk or water.

Spoon into muffin tins.

Bake 20-25 minutes.

Cool 10 minutes in pan. Then the muffins to cool completely on a a wire rack.

Variations:

This tastes just fine with raisins or craisins if you don't have dried cherries on hand. Or for less sweet you can omit the fruit altogether.

This dough is sturdy enough to also hold up to a cup of chopped walnuts to make it heartier.

Alternatively, for some crunch without the fat of added nuts, you can substitute 1/4 raw millet to replace part of the all-purpose flour. My son especially loves this variation.

For liquid, you can mix it up a little depending on what you have in your fridge. If you have buttermilk, you can use that in lieu of the milk, cider and yogurt (I just don't always have buttermilk). Or you can sourcream in lieu of the milk and yogurt. It works with various of those combinations. What you want is a slightly thick, slightly tangy liquid with a little acidity.



 


July 18, 2012

Lime Mint Ice Cream Bars (no ice cream maker needed)

I love the fresh flavors of mint and lime. A creamy dessert that combines them is right up my alley. You will need to clear some acreage in your freezer for these. And have patience. You have to make these in two stages and they take several hours to freeze.




















Lime Mint Ice Cream Bars

Ingredients:
1 package graham crackers
small handful salted pistachios
dash of ground ginger
1/4 Cup butter (1/2 a stick) (room temperature or fridge temperature both work)
2 Cups heavy cream
14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (we use fat free, but regular works)
1/2 Cup sour cream
1/2 Cup fresh mint leaves roughly chopped
finely grated zest of one lime (or two if you love lime like I do)

Make a crust for the bottom:
Preheat oven to 350.
Line a 9 X 13 glass baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving a few inches overhanging the sides.
Pulverize the graham crackers and pistachios in a food processor with the ginger.
Add the butter (in chunks if its cold).
Pulse until blended to a coarse meal.
Press into the bottom of the baking pan.
Bake until golden, 8 minutes or so.
Remove from oven.
Let cool completely.
This will mean waiting 1/2 an hour.

Prepare the filling:
Use an electric mixer to beat the heavy cream, condensed milk and sour cream into thick stiff peaks. This will take 4-5 minutes. Fold in the mint and lime zest. Pour into the baking pan. Use a spatula to smooth it to even depth. Cover and freeze until firm (several hours).

Serving:
When ready to serve, transfer to a cutting board and cut into bars. Makes 18 bars if you make two slices the length of the pan (for 3 long rows) and divide each row into 6 bars.

Variations:
The original recipe in Women's Day that was my inspiration called for a crust of gingersnaps and butter (36 gingersnaps and 1/4 Cup butter). It also called for 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla in the filling.

The original recipe also said they could be kept frozen for up to 2 weeks.
I can't attest to that because it's never taken that long for them to get eaten.

June 8, 2012

Tunisian Vegetable Stew

This dish from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home has really stood the test of time for us. We've been making it for years and I still love it!

Tunisian Vegetable Stew

Veggie base:
1 large onion thinly sliced (the original recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups, but I don't measure. Use two if your onions aren't particularly large)
splash of olive oil
1/2 a cabbage thinly sliced (original recipe calls for 3 cups)
1 bell pepper cut into strips

Spices:
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (original recipe called for 1/4, but we like more)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (or a little more)

To stew with:
28-ounce can of chopped tomatoes (undrained)
16-ounce can of chick peas (drained)
1/2 cup raisins (original recipe calls for just 1/3 cup)
juice of a lemon (original recipe calls for 1 Tablespoon)

To serve with: optional crumbles of feta cheese

How to:
Saute onions until softened. Add in the cabbage and saute at least 5 minutes more. Add the bell pepper and the spices. Cook another minute. Add the tomatoes, chick peas and raisins. Simmer covered for about 15 minutes. Add lemon juice and top with some crumbles of feta.

If you make ahead, hold off adding the feta until just before you serve it.
This keeps well in the fridge and tastes even better the next day.
It's dairy-free and vegan if you omit the cheese, in which case you may want to add salt.

Mango Salsa

This works well as a side dish or as a salsa in burritos, on burgers, etc.

Mango Salsa

2 mangos, peeled and chopped (into large cubes for salad or smaller dice for salsa
1/2 a sweet onion or a whole small one (chopped small)
a couple of anaheim peppers (remove seeds and chop small)
juice of a lime
sprigs of cilantro, chopped

Chop it up. Toss it together. Enjoy.

May 28, 2012

Coconut Rice

This thick, satisfying, slightly sweet rice dish has a lovely golden color and is a good counterpoint to curry. It comes from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home.

Coconut Rice

1 1/4 Cup water
1 Cup white basmati rice
1/2 Cup canned coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
small piece of cinnamon stick or a dash of cinnamon
1/4 Cup raisins

Bring water to a boil in a heavy saucepan.
Stir in the rice and everything else.
Bring back to a boil.
Stir once.
Cover, reduce heat and simmer on low for 15 minutes.
Remove from heat. Let sit a few minutes. Then fluff and serve.

Black Bean Burgers

Another favorite from Veganomicon. This is not a recipe to feed an army: just six small burgers. That's fine for our family. Double it when you have guests. They will want seconds.

Black Bean Burgers

What you need:
 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed (or two cups cooked if you start from dry beans)
 1/2 Cup vital wheat gluten
  1/2 Cup breadcrumbs (we use plain store bought panko)
  1 teaspoon chile powder
  an extra little dash of cumin
  1/4 Cup water
  a squirt of ketchup
  a couple of cloves of garlic and a little bit of onion (minced fine or grated)
  2 Tablespoons olive oil
  Extra little spritzes of oil

How to do it:
In a mixing bowl, mash the beans with a fork to break them up a bit. Add everything else except the oil.

Mix it all up with a fork and then knead with your hands until its well mixed and firm.

Divide burger mixture into sixths. Form six balls and then flatten each between your hands.

Preheat a griddle or heavy skillet. Add a thin layer of olive oil to the bottom. For each patty, cook it 5 minutes on one side, spritz with oil, flip and cook 5 minutes more on the second side.

I could fit three burgers at a time in my skillet. Don't try to crowd all six into the pan at once.

Notes: If you need to get these started and then set them aside for awhile, it's fine to make them ahead through the kneading of the dough, let it sit and then fry them up later. Just put some plastic wrap over it so it doesn't dry out while it's sitting.

Serve with: We like these with guacamole, but they are also good with the standard ketchup, mustard, lettuce, tomato and onion type fixings.

May 26, 2012

Chewy Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

These thin chewy chocolate cookies are a snap to make. Leave room between them on the cookie sheet because they do spread.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

Ingredients:
  1 1/2 Cups flour
  2/3 Cup cocoa powder
  1 teaspoon baking soda
  1/2 Cup hazelnut meal
  2/3 Cup canola oil
  1 1/2 Cups sugar
  1 Tablespoon flaxseed meal
  1/2 Cup chocolate hazelnut milk
  1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  3/4 Cup chocolate chips

How to:

Preheat oven to 350. Line three cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa and baking powder. Stir in the hazelnut meal.

In a large bowl, mix together the oil, sugar and flaxseed meal.
Add the hazelnut milk and vanilla and mix well.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet. Then stir in the chocolate chips.

Roll the dough into walnut sized balls. Flatten each slightly and place a couple of inches apart on the cookie sheets.

Bake each sheet for 10 minutes, then remove from oven.

Let cool for 5 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

I can only fit two sheets in my oven at a time. Stash one in the fridge while the other two are baking.

Variation: Finely grate the zest of an orange into the dough for an extra layer of bright flavor.

May 15, 2012

Bite Sized Brownies - Vegan and Gluten Free

Mistakes were made. I won't go into gory details of my early attempts to bake brownies with oat flour and palm oil back when we were also avoiding dairy and wheat and I hadn't gotten a good feel for eggless baking.

These tasty little bite sized brownies which I found in the recipe section of the website for the Enjoy Life brand were the first vegan gluten free chocolate dessert that I could consistently make successfully.

They call them Choco-Loco Bites. I call them delicious.

Brownie Bites

What you need:
   1/2 Cup applesauce
   1/3 Cup water
   1/3 Cup canola or other neutral oil
   1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
   3/4 Cup cocoa powder
   1 Cup sugar
   1 and 1/3 Cups rice flour
   1 teaspoon baking powder
   1 and 1/2 Cups Enjoy Life brand chocolate chips
   Mini-muffin tin

Ingredient Note: In addition to being free of gluten and Top 8 allergens, Enjoy Life brand chips are also smaller than standard semi-sweet chips and the small size works particularly well in this recipe. If you don't have them but you do have other safe chips, use those.

Equipment Note: If you don't have a mini-muffin tin you can use a larger muffin tin by only filling 24 cups part way. Obviously, these will be a different shape. But they will still be good. 

What to do:
   Preheat your over to 350.
   Beat together the wet ingredients.
   Beat in the sugar and cocoa.
   Stir in the flour and baking powder.
   Stir in the chips.
   Spoon into greased mini muffin tins (24 mini muffins worth)
   Bake for about 25 minutes until firming at edges.
   Let cool completely before removing from the tin.

May 9, 2012

Sweet Potato Salad

This variation on a sweet potato salad from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home has long been a favorite at our house.

The two basic elements of the salad are the steamed cubes of sweet potato (which we like a little larger than the 1/4 inch cubes called for the original recipe) and the easy mustard dressing.

For the rest, we mostly use whatever combination of fresh crunchy vegetables we have on hand and typically use cilantro instead of parsley called for in the original recipe.

Sweet Potato Salad

Ingredients:

2 large sweet potatoes - peel and cube

1 Tablespoon cider vinegar

1 Tablespoon good mustard

1 Tablespoon honey

1/4 canola or olive oil

1 Cup diced celery

1 Cup diced red bell pepper

Optional: any other crisp veggies you have on hand (carrot in small pieces, thin slices of zuccini, etc.)

handful of chopped cilantro (or parsley if you have that)

something from the onion family - such as a thinly sliced scallion or diced sweet or red onion

Technique:

Steam the sweet potato cubes for several minutes until softened but not mussy.

Meanwhile, whisk together the vinegar, mustard and honey and then drizzle in the oil whisking to make an emulsion. Chop the veggies and add them to the serving bowl. Prepare the onion and herbs and save those to add at the end.

When the sweet potatoes have steamed, dump them and the dressing into the veggies. Mix well.

Let cool a little. Then add the onions and herbs.

To make ahead hold off on adding the onion and herbs. Store in fridge. Stir to combine and then add the onions and herbs at the last minute.

April 28, 2012

Polenta Bites

These are an easy make ahead side dish that can be served multiple ways.

Polenta Bites

The basic recipe:
Bring 4 Cups of water and a pinch of salt to a boil.
Gradually wisk in 1 Cup corn grits (polenta)
Reduce heat to simmer. Stir in 1 Tablespoon of olive oil.
Simmer for at least 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
It will still be pretty loose.
Carefully ladle into the cups of a standard muffin tin.
Let cool and then refrigerate for a couple of hours.

Variations:
(1) Peppered and Crispy To make crispy polenta cakes, preheat oven to 375. Oil a baking sheet. Pop the chilled polenta cakes out of the muffin tin. Arrange them on the cookie sheet. Lightly spritz with oil. Sprinkle with fresh ground black pepper (and an additional pinch of salt if desired). Bake for 30-40 minutes until the cakes crisp up.

(2) Soft and Sweet These can also be served cold soft and sweet. I like to leave the filled muffin tin in the refrigerator overnight, then pop the cold cakes out into a little bowl and drizzle with maple syrup to eat with breakfast. Fair disclosure: neither my spouse nor my son likes them served cold. Both prefer the cakes either warmed briefly in the microwave to be served soft or crisped in the oven as described in variation (1) above.

April 24, 2012

Pea Dip: So Versatile, So Green

A friend of a friend cooked dinner for us in Portland on Saturday night. I was wowed by a delicious green dip she served with cheese and crackers as an appetizer. Double wowed when I realized the simplicity of the recipe. Triple wowed when someone at the table used it as a sort of sauce for the roasted cauliflower served with the main course.

Pea Dip

Roughly chop and saute one onion.
Thaw two bags of frozen peas.
Toss them in a food processor with the onion.
Puree to a consistency similar to hummus.
Garnish with a bit of finely grated Parmeson or other firm salty cheese (or just a pinch of salt to make it vegan).
Devour.

The color was gorgeous. The flavor reminded me of a bright pea soup I prepared last summer when we had access to fresh peas (with similar ingredients and technique, but cooked longer and thinned with stock). The pureed peas tasted great with the gluten free almond crackers served before dinner (like hummus but lighter, brighter and fresher) and also great as a dressing for the roasted cauliflower she served with the main course. It kept well overnight and was equally delicious with leftover cauliflower the next day. I am definitely adding this to my summer rotation.

April 14, 2012

Basic chocolate pudding

Chocolate Cornstarch Pudding

Ingredients:
1/3 Cup sugar 
3 Tablespoons cocoa
1/4 Cup cornstarch
pinch salt
2 3/4 Cups milk
1 Tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
optional: dash of cinnamon

How to:
Stir together sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, salt and optional cinnamon in a saucepan. Stir in milk. Bring to boil over medium heat. Boil, stirring, until mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla. Let cool briefly and serve warm. Or cool to room temperature, refrigerate and serve cold.

Variations for extra depth of flavor: Use Hershey's Special Dark cocoa. Add a pinch of ground cardomom with the dry ingredients the start.

April 9, 2012

Purple pudding

This pudding has a lovely color and thick satisfying texture. It keeps well enough to suitably make a day ahead. But you can also make it on a whim (like I did tonight) because it calls for ingredients I often already have in the pantry.  

Purple Rice Pudding (with dates)

Ingredients:

1/2 Cup Chinese black rice
1 1/4 Cups half and half (or milk for a lighter dish)
2 Tablespoons sugar (brown or white, both work. or honey if you prefer)
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (use orange if you don't have a lemon)
small piece of stick cinnamon (or a pinch of ground, if you don't have a stick)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 Cup chopped pitted dates

How to:

(1) Use a saucepan to bring 1 1/4 Cups water to a boil with the rice. Decrease heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Do not drain any extra water.

(2) Add the dairy, sugar, half of the lemon zest, the cinnamon and vanilla to the rice. Return to a boil, stirring several times. Decrease the heat and gently cook for 15 more minutes, stirring occassionally. It will still be a bit soupy. 

(3) Remove from heat and then stir in the dates and the rest of the lemon zest.

(4) Let cool a bit and serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: If you are making it ahead, transfer to a medium bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. Then cover and chill. You may need to add just a splash of milk to loosen it before serving.

This is a stripped down version of a lovely recipe from Ancient Grains for Modern Meals that calls for using rosewater infused dates -- something I would never do because I particularly dislike the flavor of rosewater. If you do like rosewater, then soak the dates in a teaspoon of it while the rice is cooking. 

April 8, 2012

Roasted Red Peppers

I sometimes need to remind myself that roasting peppers really is easy. And delicious.

I've tried it lots of ways (using a grill, dangling them dangerously with tongs over the open flame on my stove top). This method, which I learned from The Best Recipes in the World, has been the easiest for me.

Roasting Red Peppers

Rub several whole clean red bell peppers with a little oil.
Turn on your broiler and place the upper rack high up close to the heat source.
Put the peppers on a foil lined roasting pan or heavy jelly roll pan.
Slide the pan under the broiler.

Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, turning the peppers every few minutes (as each side browns).
When all sides are darkened and they are beginning to collapse, pull the pan from the oven. U
Use the foil that was lining the pan to wrap up the peppers to sweat them a little.

Let them sit until they cool enough that you can handle them.
Then slip off the skins, remove the seeds and tops.

You can then eat them right away or keep them in the fridge for a couple of days.
Serve with a little salt, a drizzle of oil and very little bit of vinegar.

Cavolfiore Soffocato - Smothered Cauliflower

This is a stripped down version of a great recipe from the Mediterranean Vegetables  cookbook. Roasting cauliflower in a sealed pan sweats the vegetable to release its own moisture and cook without additional water for a great texture. This simple version  calls for just two ingredients: cauliflower and oil. It is a particularly easy vegetable side dish for a dinner with roasted meat, when you'll already have the oven on anyway. This cauliflower also keeps well and can be served the next day at room temperature drizzled with a little more oil.

Cavolfiore Soffocato

1 head cauliflower. Trim and cut into 6 wedges.
Toss in a large baking dish with 1/4 Cup olive oil.
Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil so the steam can't escape.
Bake at 350 until tender, about 1 hour.

Note: The original recipe called for tossing the cauliflower a second time with a pinch of salt and the crushed threads of a pinch of saffron, which gives the vegetable a lovely flavor. It also called for tucking 10 or so green pitted olives in with the cauliflower before roasting. That is a tasty preparation, and one you should try. But my family also likes the smothered cauliflower plain, so don't avoid this recipe just because you don't have saffron on hand or aren't a fan of cooked green olives.

April 7, 2012

Cranberry Quick Bread

This is one of the first quickbread receipes we loved back when we were avoiding wheat (along with several other foods). We aren't avoiding nearly as much these days, but I still like this recipe.
Cranberry Bread (from the Sophie Safe cookbook):
3 Cups oat flour
1 Cups sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 Tablespoons oil
3/4 Cups orange juice
1 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 Cup cranberries (roughly chopped)
Mix dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients. Stir in cranberries by hand. Pour into greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 for one hour.
Note: This recipe is naturally vegan and soy free. It is easily gluten free if you use gluten-free oat flour.

(Hot) Chocolate Cookies

These cookies have the dense texture of snickerdoodles, but a completely different flavor -- rich and chocolately with a hint of cinnamon and a cayenne kick.

Mexican Chocolate Snickerdoodles from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar

For dough:

½ C canola oil
1 C sugar
¼ C maple syrup
3 Tablespoons milk (original recipe calls for nondairy milk alt)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (original recipe calls for one vanilla, one chocolate)
1 + 2/3 C all-purpose flour
½ C cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)
Original recipe also calls for ¼ tsp salt (we omit)

For topping: 1/4 Cup sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon

How to:
Mix wet ingredients and sugar. Add dry ingredients. Mix into a pliable dough. Form into walnut-sized balls. Pat dough balls into sugar topping to flatten into 2 inch discs.  Place on cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.

March 29, 2012

Mango Popsicles

If you are concerned these may be too spicy for a child's palate, you can reduce the chile or omit it, fill a couple of pops containers with the unspiced mixture, then stir in a little to make the rest of the batch with kick. My suggestion: just go for it. The pops are sweet and you may find that your child enjoys them even with the spice. 

Mango Popsicles (with a kick)

1 Cup mango juice or nectar
1/4 Cup sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1 large mango

Heat mango juice, sugar, lemon juice and 1/2 Cup water in a saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Transfer to a bowl. Chill in fridge.

Peel and seed mango and cut it into small cubes. Stir the chili powder and mango pieces into the liquid. Pour into ice pop molds. Insert popsicle stick. Freeze until solid (at least 3 hours).

Cranberry Duff

This easy dessert should be served while still warm. The recipe is from a Penzeys catalog.

Cranberry Duff

Ingredients:
2 Cups flour
1 Cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon (or a little more if you are a particular fan)
2 Cups cranberries
1 Cup milk
1/4 Cup melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or scrape a bean)

How to:
Combine dry ingredients. And remaining ingredients. Mix well. Pour into buttered 8 inch baking pan. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes.

After duff has been baking for 25 minutes, whip up a sauce using these ingredients:
1/4 Cup butter
1/2 Cup sugar
1/3 Cup cream (or half and half)
splash vanilla
pinch cinnamon

Bring butter, sugar and cream to a boil in a sauce pan. Stir in vanilla and cinnamon. Simmer 10 minutes.

Serve the duff warm, drizzled with the sauce.

March 24, 2012

Maple Spice Ice Cream

CSugaring was a spring family project when I was growing up in New York. I know my son won't have that experience -- the climate in Alaska doesn't favor maple trees and birch syrup really isn't the same -- but he does love the syrup we bring back from our trips to New York. A splash of syrup in plain greek yogurt is one of his regular snacks (good with or without roasted pumpkin seeds stirred in). This maple ice cream is a special treat.

Maple Spice Ice Cream

1/2 Cup maple syrup
2 Cups heavy cream
6 cardomom pods
2 whole cloves
14-inch cinnamon stick
1 Cup milk

In a second saucepan simmer 1 Cup cream with the spices until the cream begins to simmer. Remove from heat and allow to stand for 20 minutes.

While that cream cools, use a separate small saucepan on medium heat to reduce the maple syrup by 1/2 (about 10 minutes).

After the spices and cream have stood for 20 minutes, strain the contents of that saucepan into a bowl. Discard spices. Stir in the reduced syrup, remaining 1 Cup cream, and all the milk. Put in fridge.

After the mixture is chilled, pour it into your ice cream maker. Churn. Transfer to a storage container and freeze until solid (a couple of hours).

Allow to sit for a few minutes at room temperature before serving.

March 23, 2012

Eggnots

This isn't quite a recipe as much as a resource.

We haven't been using eggs for Easter crafts because of my son's egg allergy. Last year we had great fun painting wooden and papier mache eggs (we found them at Michael's). Earlier this month I learned about eggnots, which are white ceramic eggs that you can dye just like chicken eggs. They are available on-line from www.eggnots.com .

Last night we used the basic water and vinegar recipe on the back of our package of food coloring (1 tsp vinegar, 20 drops coloring and 1/2 C water) to dye one set. The results were lovely.


March 20, 2012

Watermelon limonade

Three ingredients. Two steps. What could be easier?

Watermelon limonade

Ingredients:
  2 lemons, peels removed
  1 lime, peel removed
  flesh of 1/2 a small seedless watermelon

How to:
  (1) Blend or food process to puree all the fruit together.
  (2) Strain through a fine mesh sieve.

Caveat: actually, the last step can get messy if you try to coordinate straining from colander or sieve into a pitcher. Trying to balance a funnel between a sieve and pitcher to keep the juice directed was an impossible balancing act. At least for me. The easier method (that dirties more dishes) is to use the sieve to strain the puree into a mixing bowl with one of those slight spouts or indents and then use that spout to pour from there into the pitcher or carafe. Or strain into your punch bowl and serve with a ladle.

March 17, 2012

Spicy Pickled Carrots

Alaska has long summer days that produce those enormous cabbages that set world records at the state fair. Lucky for me, the climate is also great for carrots. As of last summer, my new favorite way to pickle them is this recipe adapted from Sherri Brooks Vinton's Put 'em Up!

Spicy Pickled Carrots

   4-6 garlic cloves sliced
   1 tsp red pepperflakes optional
   2 pounds carrots
   4 cups distilled vinegar
   1 cup sugar
   3 Tablespoons salt


Divide garlic & pepper among 3 clean hot pint jars.
Trim, peel and cut carrots into lengths 1 inch shorter than jars. 
Boil vinegar in large nonreactive pan. 
Add salt and sugar. Dissolve. 
Pour brine over carrots covering by 1/2 inch and leaving 1/ 2 inch of headroom. 
Preserve with hot water bath method. 
Process time at full boil is 15 minutes. 
Turn off and let sit for 5 minutes.
Remove jars and let stand 24 hours. 
Remove rings and store in cool dry place for up to 1 year.

These pickles taste great. Another plus: I usually already the ingredients on hand and can make a quick project of putting them up on a late summer or fall evening (after bedtime for children).

We keep them in the pantry to pull out as a quick zingy side dish at dinner. I have also given them as holiday presents to foodies I know will appreciate the novelty (and the kick).

They are spicy. They will be less spicy if you reduce the amount of red pepper flake, but I don't think you should. The contrast between the sweetness of the carrots (and sugar), the sourness of the brine and the heat from the pepper is what makes them wonderful.

Not just wonderful. Prize winning. These pickles won a blue ribbon and the coveted Judge's Choice Award at the 2013 Alaska State Fair.