Saturday, March 30, 2013

Grilled Banana Pancakes

Grilled Banana Pancakes
Many years ago, when I lived in the Tropics, I used to eat a street food that was Bananas wrapped in something akin to Phyllo dough and deep fried - then sprinkled with sugar. It was heavenly! Cooking bananas carmelizes their sugars and really magnifies their natural sweetness.

These pancakes evoke some of the flavours of those delightful bites.

Grilled Banana Pancakes
Slice a ripe Banana
Prepare Cinnamon Sugar (4 parts sugar, 1 part cinnamon)
Banana Pancakes on the Griddle
Prepare Vegan Pancake Mix Batter
Heat Griddle.
Once griddle is HOT (a drop of water should sizzle on the griddle when dropped), pour on silver-dollar sized pancakes.
Top the pancakes with Banana Slices, then Sprinkle with Cinnamon Sugar.
As the tops become all bubbly and begin to dry around the edges, flip the pancakes over.
Leave them long enough to let the Bananas cook, and the Cinnamon Sugar carmelize (a little longer than you might otherwise leave pancakes without fruit cooking in)

Serve & enjoy!

I eat these plain, but they may be served with buttery spread & syrup, or even with Nondairy Ice Cream, if you like.

This is being shared on Healthy Vegan Fridays and Clever Chicks and Slightly Indulgent Tuesday and Anti Procrastination Tuesday and What's Cooking Wednesday and Simple Living Wednesdays and Frugal Fit Family and Frugal Days Sustainable Ways  and The Thrifty Home Penny Pinching Party and Weekend Wonders and For the Kids Friday

From Make Your Own Just Add Water Vegan Whole Grain Pancake Mix

Basic Vegan Whole Wheat Pancakes


Apple Cinnamon Pancakes

      Strawberry Pancakes


Blueberry Pancakes


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Strawberry Celebration Cupcakes and Seven Vegan Cookies!

Strawberry Celebration Cupcakes
These delectable cupcakes are perfect for celebrations - whether it is Easter or Pascha, a Birthday, a Name Day, or some other special event. They're not "health food," but because they aren't made with animal products or artificial colors or flavours, they're less unhealthy than many alternatives. And, they're Lenten.

My daughter's Name Day usually lands during Lent, so we wanted a special but vegan dessert for her. And, of course, it had to be pink. And Strawberry : )

These cupcakes are very easy, as you make them from your own homemade mix, and the cake is made all in one bowl. And since Strawberries are seasonal in Springtime, this is a perfect Springtime treat.

And, once you have the mix made, it's ready to go so you can make 7 different Vegan Cookies with no hassle (Scroll down for more details on that).

Strawberry Celebration Cupcakes
Prepare 1/2 cup finely minced Fresh Strawberries (I hull them and pulse them in the food processor)
Stir together
2 1/2 cups Stuffed Veggies' Vegan Cookie Mix *
1 Tablespoon Tapioca Starch (Arrowroot Powder is also good, Cornstarch acceptable substitute)
Then add all of the following, and stir till all the lumps are gone
1 cup Water
1/3 Cup Light Flavoured Oil (I use Sunflower)
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract (that's not a typo)
1/2 cup minced strawberries, above
Fill 12 muffin cups (paper liners are nice, but unnecessary). I use about 1/4 cup batter per cupcake.
Bake at 350degrees Fahrenheit, for 35 to 40 minutes, till light golden brown, and a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool Completely before Frosting

Strawberry Celebration Frosting
Using a hand mixer, blend
1/4 cup Vegan Margarine such as Earth Balance (or your other favorite fat that is solid at room temp.)
1/4 cup pureed Fresh Strawberries (I do this in the food processor)
Gradually mix in, 1/2 cup at a time, until frosting-like
2 to 3 cups powdered sugar
(If you find you've added too much sugar, a little more Strawberry Puree or nondairy milk may be used to thin it back down)

Frost Cupcakes when they're cool.

If you use a slice of strawberry to garnish (as I did) serve them immediately, or the strawberry will begin to weep juices on top of the cupcake (ask me how I know!). You could of course use other garnishes such as Jordan Almonds or Jellybeans, etc.

I got a pastry bag with tips from the dollar store to make the fancy swirl design.

* This mix also makes all of the following - which also might add to your celebration:
From Vegan Cookie Mix
       Vegan Brownie Snowball Cookies

       Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

       Vegan Gingerbread Crunch Cookies

       Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies

       Vegan Russian Teacakes ( Vegan Mexican Wedding Cakes )

       Vegan Slice and Bake Sugar Cookies

       Vegan Thumbprint Cookies

This is being shared on Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays and Food from a Pantry and Anti Procrastination Tuesdays and Kids in the Kitchen and Made by You Monday and What's Cooking Wednesday and Penny Pinching Party and Simple Living Wednesday and Clever Chicks and Frugal Crafty Home and Weekend Wonders and For Kids Friday

Friday, March 22, 2013

Scrambled Tofu Pantry Mix & Vegan Breakfast Burritos

Vegan Breakfast Burrito
I have a sweet tooth, and I'm American. So, when I wake up in the morning, I think of something sweet. But, I know many people who would much rather have a savory breakfast. This post is for them! (I eat this dish for dinner : )

When I first began experimenting with Vegetarianism, I used to buy a boxed mix of Tofu Scramble Seasoning. I tasted delicious, but it pretty well doubled the price of the tofu I was eating. Then, one day I encountered a recipe in a Seventh Day Adventist Cookbook that allowed me to make my own seasoning mix. That was years ago - so I'm not certain which cookbook it was, but I think it was called "Something Better."

This is my adaptation of that recipe. I don't use it a lot, so I make a small batch and store it in a reused spice bottle. If I used it every day, I'd double or quadruple it!

Scrambled Tofu from your Own Pantry Seasoning Mix

Scrambled Tofu Pantry Mix
Shake & Store in Pantry
1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast (not to be confused with Baking Yeast or Brewer's Yeast)
3/4 teaspoon Turmeric
1/4 teaspoon Celery Seed
1/2 teaspoon Salt (more to taste)
1 teaspoon Onion Powder
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
Pinch Pepper

Scrambled Tofu
Saute in Skillet
Your Choice Chopped Vegetables (whichever ones you prefer in an Omlete, such as Onions, Tomatoes, Black Olives, Bell Peppers & Mushrooms)*
Then Add
1 Block (about 1 pound) Firm Tofu (not silken), drained & crumbled
Scrambled Tofu Pantry Mix added till color is right (I use about 5 teaspoons)
Stir till warmed through, and serve as you would serve Scrambled Eggs.

*Vegetables are entirely optional - as they are when you make scrambled eggs. I like to chop extra veggies when topping Pizza one night, and use the same veggies in Scrambled Tofu the following night.

Vegan Breakfast Burritos
Fill Warm Tortilla with
Scrambled Tofu
Roll & Eat!

Tip for Dining with Omnivores: For Omnivores, you can make a Breakfast Burrito filled with Scrambled Eggs, Melted Shredded Cheddar (stirred into the Eggs) and Salsa wrapped in a Tortilla. The same sauteed veggies may be used in the Vegan and Egg versions.

This is being shared on Healthy Vegan Fridays

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

How to Freeze Pasta & Simply Pasta & Sauce

Simply Pasta & Sauce
Pasta FAQs:

Q: Can Pasta be frozen? If so, how?

A: I used to think that you couldn't freeze pasta and get good results. But, one day it occurred to me that a lot of frozen dinners are pasta! So, I experimented. This is what I found works. When the pasta is cool after it has been cooked (but without sauce), rinse it thoroughly till it is not sticky. Then, simply put it in your favorite freezer container. When you need to use it, just sprinkle it with a spoonful of water & microwave it, with the lid loosely on. It turns out perfectly.

Q: Why would I want to freeze pasta?

A: Great question! For a lot of people, the answer is that you wouldn't want to freeze pasta! It takes a lot of freezer space for something so easy to prepare as needed. But, if you have in your home a person who cannot cook but can microwave (for instance, a young teen/older child or an adult with certain disabilities) this method might make it possible for that person to be more independent. Likewise, if you need to grab a single meal quickly (like a packed lunch for work, or a quick after-work meal for one before a meeting),  or need a super-quick meal on a busy night, frozen pasta might be the perfect solution!

Q:What do I do if my pasta is done and it is all sticky or clumps together?

A: Well, this is my solution. It isn't the way a professional chef might do it, but it has worked for me many times. Rinse the pasta in the strainer in cold water till it is not sticky any more. Then, warm it up in the microwave. Keep in mind, some brands of pasta tend to be more sticky than others, so if this problem occurs frequently, you may want to try a different brand.

And, here are basic directions for how to make a simple meal of pasta - written for the beginning cook:

This is the simplest of meals. Good basic food for busy nights. Inexpensive & easy to prepare.

Why include such a basic recipe? Well, because there are always beginning cooks out there who need the basics : )

What you'll need:

1 box of your favorite shape of Pasta (in the picture: Medium Shells by Barilla Brand). The box should have 12 to 16 ounces in it. (A pound or so).

1 Can of your favorite "Spaghetti Sauce" or 3 cups Vat O' Spaghetti Sauce

A selection of your favorite veggies to put on Pizza. I like a selection of the following: Black Olives, Green Olives, Canned Mushrooms, Capers, Bell Peppers (any or all, according to what I have on hand).

Get out a huge bowl to serve the pasta in.*

Get Everything out. Open all the cans & packages. Chop anything that you feel should be chopped (like the Bell Peppers). Pour all the veggies into the big bowl.

Get out a strainer for draining the pasta when it is done.

Put a big pot of water on the stove (I use a 6 to 8 quart "Stockpot" or "Dutch Oven" for this task), and set it on a burner turned to high heat.

While you're waiting for the water to boil, set the table.

Put the pasta sauce in a saucepan (smaller pot) and let it warm over medium heat on the stove top. Put a lid on it, it splatters. (Alternately, you can heat it in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave - be sure to cover it - it splatters in the microwave, too.) If it isn't perfectly hot when you put it over the pasta, don't worry - the pasta will warm it the rest of the way. I have even used it at room temperature straight from the can and had it work.

When the water boils, dump in the package of pasta and give it a stir. Some people add a couple of teaspoons of oil to the water (to prevent sticking) or 1 Tablespoon of Salt (to enhance flavour) or a cube or two of Bouillon (to enhance flavour). I don't usually do any of that, but you can if you like.

Watch the pasta & water carefully for the first minute or two so you can reduce heat JUST to simmer, and not have it boil over, or stop boiling.

If you are a beginning cook, time the pasta according to the directions on the package (usually 6 to 10 minutes, depending on shape).

You can check it for doneness if you like. (If you're a brand new cook, look at the clock, if you're a more experienced cook, look at the pasta.)

Drain the pasta in your strainer*, and pour it into a big bowl. I recommend wearing oven mitts for this task to protect yourself from rising steam from the hot water. Pour the Sauce and veggies in and toss with a big spoon.

Serve & enjoy!

*If you don't have any equipment to strain the pasta and you don't have a big bowl, you can do this: When the pasta is done cooking, remove the pot from the heat and add a cup of COLD water. This will stop it from cooking, but it will still be hot. Then you can fish the pasta out of the water with tongs, a spaghetti serving scoop, or whatever works. Then simply toss it with the sauce & veggies right on your plate.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Good Strength!

The Mystical Supper
I absolutely LOVE this short video clip (about 3 minutes) in which a Protestant Pastor talks about Eternity. If you have 3 minutes or so - please watch it. He makes such a great point! And he says it in a way that I've never quite heard it before.

For those of us who are Orthodox Christians, today is the first day of Lent. So, I would like to wish you "Good Strength!" (Kali Dynami!)

Strength for what?  Lent is a time to focus on our Spiritual "workout" so to speak. A time to focus on Communion with God.  I read a lot of different blogs, and when I read those written by those with physical fitness as a profession or a hobby, I notice that there is no limit to the amount of dedication and commitment that those who are into physical fitness are willing to dedicate to the physical results they wish to achieve. Lent is a time for those of us who are Christians to attempt to have a similar dedication to our Spiritual fitness.

As the Bible says in I Timothy 4:8:
For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.

Getting into good shape Physically only benefits us during the years we are on this earth - less than 100 years for most of us. No matter how well we eat, or how diligently we exercise, most of us can't get the benefits of such things to last us more than a century. But getting into good shape Spiritually benefits us both in this age and in the Age to Come - for all Eternity!

Of course, it is one of God's many Blessings that the foods the Church recommends for our Spiritual Growth during Lent and many other times of the year (a Plant Based, mostly Vegan Diet with little or no oil), is the same diet that is the best for our Physical health! God sees us as Complete Persons - not a Physical bit there and a Spiritual bit there. He wants the best for us - all the way around : )

It really is of GREAT value to focus on our Spiritual health during this season. We focus on Prayer, Fasting & Almsgiving during this time to aid us in our Spiritual Journey.

Here are a few ideas you might like:

  • Do some batch Lenten cooking now. I have heard so many people say that they regretted focusing too much on recipes and food preparation during Lent, when they wish they had focused on more on Prayer & Worship. Filling your freezer early in Lent allows you to focus on Church on those evenings when there are services, instead of stressing over food. And, it also allows you to think about something besides what's for dinner tonight while you're at Church. Here are some Lenten Batch Cooking Plans:
                  Greek for a Week
                  Indian for a Week
                  World Tour One
                  World Tour Two

  • Consider what type of Almsgiving might suit you best. Some families like to keep a little box at the dinner table so that the Children (and Adults!) can have the experience of actually giving something each mealtime, rather than having the head of household write out a check that the rest of the family barely knows about. Some families tie it in some way to the sacrifices they make during Lent ("We at Peanut Butter & Jelly instead of Hamburgers- that saved us 50cents per person - so we'll give $2 to the poor this meal from the four of us.") But, what fits each family best varies a lot - so it's just something to think about. Here is a nice meditation on Almsgiving.
Good Strength! Kali Dynami!

This is being shared on Simple Living Wednesday and We Are that Family 
What are You Doing This Lenten Season

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Menu for the First Week of Orthodox Christian Lent

This beautiful Picture of a Russian Orthodox
Church was given to us by friends for our
First Wedding Anniversary.
This Sunday is "Cheesefare" Sunday - the day that Orthodox Christians are supposed to finish up all the cheese, butter & eggs in the house & prepare to be nearly Vegan for Lent. It is somewhat similar to Shrove Tuesday for Western Christians. This is followed by the first week of Lent, during which "fasting" practices vary widely. Some people elect to consume no food for the first day, or even the first three days of Lent. Others consume no cooked food for the same time period. Some go straight to a standard mostly Vegan Lenten diet during these days. And others may decide to go ahead and consume dairy & eggs or not to fast at all. This menu is designed for those who wish to have a standard Lenten menu for the first week of Lent.

What we eat during Lent is important for several reasons: it helps us learn to obey God rather than our tummies (a very difficult skill whether you're Vegan or Omnivore), to deny our own addictive desires (which we refer to as "passions"), to lighten our bodies and minds so that heavy food doesn't make us sleepy & keep us from prayer, and to give us a greater awareness of the poor.

But, far more important than what we eat is our Love for God & for others - for this reason, we are strictly forbidden to look at the plate of the person next to us and decide if they are eating what they should be during Lent!

As St. John Chrysostom said, "For what doth it profit if we abstain from birds and fishes; and yet bite and devour our brethren? The evil speaker eateth the flesh of his brother, and biteth the body of his neighbor." Love for God (Prayer) and others (almsgiving) are more important than food during Lent.

But, this menu can only address the food part of Lent - so, here it is.

Cheesefare Sunday:
Brunch after Church: Apple Cinnamon Pancakes with Fruit, Omelets with Cheese for Omnivores

Dinner: Pizza (add Cheese for Omnivores), Salad

Monday: Family Favorite Lentil Soup, Salad, Crusty Bread, Fresh Fruit

Tuesday: Black Bean Enchiladas, Baked Corn Chips, Salsa

Wednesday: Moroccan Red Lentil Soup, Carrot Raisin Salad without Mayo, Pita with Tahini Sauce

Thursday: Greek Bean Soup ( Fasolia Yachni ), Salad, Crusty Bread

Friday: Teriyaki Stir-Fry over Rice

Saturday: Greek Okra & Tomato Stew ( Bamies Yachni ), Salad, Crusty Bread

This is being shared on Menu Plan Monday and Menu Monday with Erin Branscom and Penny Pinching Party and Frugal Food Thursday and Healthy Vegan Fridays 
Empty Your Archive

Friday, March 15, 2013

Lentil Shepherd's Pie

Scooping Shepherd's Pie from the dish.
This is a favorite comfort food at our house. We all love it, and it doesn't stick around long. I started with this recipe from Nava Atlas via Fat Free Vegan, which was a little too complicated, pricey, and time consuming for my Midwestern style. So, I tweaked it to suit my simpler lifestyle. If you want the gourmet version - surf to her site and use her recipe : ) The pics on her blog turned out SO much prettier than mine - even if you don't use her recipe, look at the great pics on her site!

Lentil & Veggie Shepherd's Pie
Stir together filling***:
1 teaspoon Onion Powder (not Onion Salt!)
 2 tsp fresh garlic
The layer of lentils and veggies - before the potatoes are added.
I use a 2 quart rectangular dish for this one.
2 (4oz) cans mushrooms, drained
4 cups cooked brown lentils, drained *
2 Tablespoons dry red wine
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
2 teaspoons seasoning blend (I use Mrs. Dash Table Blend)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 (12 oz) bag frozen chopped spinach, thawed and pressed dry
Spread in oiled 2 quart casserole

Top with mashed potatoes **:
3 cups water
½ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoons Vegan Margarine, such as Earth Balance (or use oil) (may be omitted, but texture of potatoes will change slightly)
Stir in
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons Soy Milk or other non-dairy milk
Then gently stir in (do not whip)
2 ¼ cups potato flakes
Spread potatoes over top of lentils. Score with fork for decoration if desired
Sprinkle top with
Garlic Salt
Bake, 400 degrees, 30 to 40 minutes, till light golden brown on top.
Serve with Salad, bread, pickles, etc.

* You can use green lentils for this if you prefer (the standard grocery store variety of lentils that look brown) - but they tend to become a little mushy. I use Brown Lentils from the Indian Grocery. They are labeled "Whole Masoor Dal" and they hold their shape quite well, while still having a very similar taste to the Green Lentil. Other good substitutes would be French Puy Lentils or Beluga Lentils, but those varieties are much more pricey. I usually pay about $1/pound for Whole Masoor Dal. I cook a big batch of Whole Masoor Dal and keep portions of it in the freezer for this recipe, lentil salads, and other dishes.

** I know what you're thinking! INSTANT POTATOES?! Of course you CAN make real mashed potatoes from scratch if you have the time and inclination. I don't ; ) But, I find that when there is a thin layer of potatoes over a nice layer of lentils, the potatoes blend and are disguised pretty well.

About Freezing this dish: There are two good methods to freeze this dish.

First, make a batch or two of the filling (I like to make one for today, one for later) and freeze the filling. On cooking day, thaw filling thoroughly, and top with potatoes & bake. This means you can do an entree as easily as preparing a pot of potatoes. This has the added advantage of not tying up one of your baking dishes.

The second method is to assemble the whole dish in your casserole dish, potatoes and all. Generally it is a bad idea to freeze potatoes, but since these are mashed potatoes AND they will be baked, it can be done successfully (the oven-baking takes away any watery texture from freezing). In that case, wrap it securely before freezing (I use Glad Press and Seal wrap) and write baking directions on top. Carefully consider what type of casserole dish to use, as glass casserole dishes do have some inherent risks - you may wish to use a dish of a different material. Thaw in fridge 24 hours.  Baking time may need to be increased (about 20-30 minutes if a few ice crystals are still present when you start baking.

I edited this recipe in November 2013.
The original filling directions were these, for those who like the previous method:
Saute ***
1 cup chopped onion
 2 tsp fresh garlic
The layer of lentils and veggies - before the potatoes are added.
I use a 2 quart rectangular dish for this one.
Add and saute for a few minutes
2 (4oz) cans mushrooms, drained
4 cups cooked brown lentils, drained *
2 Tablespoons dry red wine
2 Tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos
2 teaspoons seasoning blend (I use Mrs. Dash Table Blend)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt to taste (1 ½ to 2 teaspoons, approx) (If you use regular soy sauce and salt may be reduced or omitted)
1 (12 oz) bag frozen chopped spinach, thawed and pressed dry
Spread in oiled 2 quart casserole

This is being shared on Lil Suburban Homestead and Healthy Vegan Friday

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Alphabet Soup ( Pasta e Fagioli )

Alphabet Soup ( Pasta e Fagioli )
My little daughter loves this soup - she asks for it by name. Of course, I changed the name (and the recipe) just for her : )

It is a traditional Italian soup, and this particular recipe began as a Nava Atlas recipe from her book Vegetarian Soups for All Seasons, if I remember correctly. I simplified it a bit, reduced the oil, and changed the pasta shape from Ditalini to Alphabets - which made the soup hugely popular in our house!

Here it is:

Alphabet Soup
1 (12oz) bag Frozen Peppers and Onions (or 1 Diced Bell Pepper & 1 Diced Onion)
1 teaspoon minced Garlic
3 stalks Chopped Celery
Add and simmer 30 minutes
6 cups water
2 (15 oz) cans Diced Tomatoes with juice
¼ cup dry wine (any non-sweet kind - I've used what I had on hand - from red to rice wine)
2 bay leaves
½ tsp oregano
½ tsp basil
¼ tsp rosemary
1 cube bouillon
Then add
1 cup Alphabet pasta
2 (15 oz) cans drained White Beans such as Great Northern or Cannelini (or 3 cups home prepared)
Simmer till pasta is done, adding more water as needed.

Serve with Salad & Crusty Bread.

This soup freezes well. If I'm going to freeze it, I leave the pasta out to prevent mushiness, and reduce the water to conserve freezer space. Then, when I reheat it, I add water & bring to a boil, and add dry pasta and simmer it till pasta is done.

Tip for dining with Omnivores: This Soup would go well with a Cheese & Salami tray, with Sandwiches, or with Grilled Cheese. Omnivores may also like some grated Parmesan or Cheese Toasts with their soup.

This is being shared on Penny Pinching Party, Food on Friday, Recipes for Kids to Make

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Dijon Potatoes

Dijon Potatoes
This is an adaptation of a recipe that was published some years back by Grey Poupon. I make it oil-free. It is very compatible with German-inspired foods, and it also adds a flavorful accent to complement bland foods.

These potatoes are VERY popular when I serve them. I usually make about 3-4 quarts of them at a time (about 2/3 of a 5# bag).  They just disappear : )

Dijon Potatoes
Red Potatoes cut in 1" to 2" pieces (try to make all the pieces approximately the same size, so they cook at the same rate)
For each quart of potato cubes, make coating as follows:
Stir together
1/4 cup Dijon Mustard
1/2 teaspoon Oregano
1/4 teaspoon Basil
1/2 teaspoon Minced Garlic
(1 to 2 Tablespoons oil may be stirred in, but is not necessary)
Toss Potatoes with Coating in a big bowl with a large spoon to coat evenly.
Pour Potatoes in a single layer onto a rimmed cookie sheet (or, if you don't have one of those, any large, shallow pan should do). You may need more than one pan, depending how many potatoes you made.
Bake at 425degrees Fahrenheit, about 40 minutes, on middle rack of oven, till tender and golden brown, stirring every 15 to 20 minutes.
If you make a lot of potatoes, and need to put pans on more than one shelf, you can put a pan on the bottom  rack of the oven. When you take the pans of potatoes out to stir them change all the pans to a different spot, putting the bottom pan on the middle rack and visa-versa.

Tip for Dining with Omnivores: These potatoes go well with Pork Chops and Sauerkraut. For the Vegan diner, add Sauerkraut, Slaw or Salad, and Peas or Lima Beans to make a complete and balanced meal. This dressing can also be spread onto Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts or Pork Chops a couple of hours before Grilling to make Dijon Chicken or Dijon Pork Chops.

This is being shared on:
Frugal Tip Tuesday

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Veggies Vinaigrette

Green Beans Vinaigrette - I get these beautiful, long
Green Beans from the Freezer at Aldi : )
Have you ever noticed that a lot of Omnivores put a lot of time, effort and money into making meat more attractive than it naturally is. Extravagant and time consuming dishes are created featuring meat - Lobster Thermidor, Beef Stroganoff, Chicken Kiev, Crown Roast. Then, more often than not, the vegetables are served as an afterthought. On a good day, they're steamed. On a bad day, they're dumped out of a can and heated in the microwave. Then, we wonder why so many people think meat is "better" than vegetables!

California Veggies Vinaigrette
The good news is, while it takes a lot of time, effort and money to prepare meat - from raising and butchering livestock, to fancy and time-consuming preparation methods - it doesn't take much to dress up a veggie! They're naturally attractive : ) And, if you're short on time or energy, you can make a vegetable delightfully delicious in a matter of seconds!

This is one of my go-to preparation methods for busy nights. When I prepare the veggies this way, I watch them disappear at about twice the normal rate.

I improvise my own microwave veggie steamer like this
Simply put a couple of tablespoons water in with the
frozen or fresh veggies, slide the plate on top, and microwave
according to package directions (generally 5 to 10 minutes)
on high.
I found this recipe years ago in Food for Life by Dr. Neal Barnard. While his book recommended preparing the recipe for each batch, I prefer to make the dressing in a larger quantity, and store it in a squeeze-bottle in the fridge (like those bottles used to serve ketchup or mustard at picnics). That way, it's a simple matter of steaming the frozen vegetables in the microwave or on the stove top, and pouring the dressing on top. Just add to taste. If you find that you LOVE this flavour, it's an easy matter to double the recipe so you can have it more often. It keeps well in the fridge.

Veggies Vinaigrette Dressing
Pour into bottle:
½ cup Seasoned Rice Vinegar (link gives basic info, as well as how to make your own substitute)
1 to 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Steaming in a pot on the stovetop is great for those who prefer
not to use the microwave (or, if your microwave already
has something else cooking). Use a metal steamer basket with a
little water beneath it (about 1/2 cup, usually), and steam with a
lid on the pot. After water boils, reduce to simmer & cook to
desired doneness - usually 5 to 10 minutes, depending on your
1 teaspoon Crushed Garlic
Shake well

I like this over non-starchy vegetables. Green Beans and blends like California Vegetables (Broccoli, Cauliflower & Carrots) are some of my favorites.

This is being shared on
Healthy Vegan Fridays and Frugal Tip Tuesday

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Greek - Inspired Oven Fries

Greek - Inspired Oven Fries
I find that many Americans are quite shocked to discover that French Fries are a staple of the diet of modern Greeks - but they are! Cyprus potatoes are uniquely delicious -like no other potato in the world- so it's not surprising that people would choose to eat them often. In addition to their use in French Fries, Potatoes are sometimes cut in large wedges and roasted in a generous layer of olive oil and seasonings for hours - producing an amazing and delicious, but high fat, specialty.

These are my Americanized way of making potatoes in the oven - with some of the seasonings found in Greek cooking, but with much less oil. I find that Yukon Gold Potatoes give the best result in this recipe. If you cannot find those, red potatoes do acceptably well.

I have provided two cooking temperatures & times here, so you can make them with other roasted dishes that have specific temperatures.

Greek - Inspired Oven Fries
Wash Yukon Gold potatoes and cut them in medium-sized fry shapes *

make dressing:
2-3 tsp olive oil
2 T lemon juice
1-2 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
black pepper

toss to coat
pour into rimmed non-stick foil lined cookie sheet or rimmed nonstick cookie sheet, and spread out
(The natural sugars in these potatoes will carmelize a bit during roasting, making them inclined to stick to the pan or foil a bit)
roast until they begin to brown:
450 degrees, 40 minutes, turning once in the middle
or 350 degrees 1 hour, turning once in the middle
(broil at end for more browning, if desired)

*Edited to Add: I tried making these with Russet Potatoes, and the results were excellent! They were golden brown, nice and crispy, and had a great flavour! Since at our grocery, Russets are nearly always substantially cheaper- it's good to know : )


Saturday, March 2, 2013

Simply Sauerkraut

Fresh, Homemade Sauerkraut
One of my Great Grandmothers was Pennsylvania Dutch ("Dutch" here is a corruption of Deutsch - and indicates German ancestry, not Dutch!). She always taught that a table should be set with "Seven Sweets and Seven Sours." Although I never had the Blessing of meeting my Great Grandmother Clara, I like to think that a Sauerkraut like this might have been on her table. (BTW, due adoption in our family, I have no clue if I'm German or not!)

Sauerkraut is one of those foods that seems intimidating and full of mystery - much like bread - until you try to make it and find out that you did all that worrying for nothing. And, although fancy equipment may be bought for this job, it's
completely unnecessary.

Start with one Quart of Cabbage, packed full.
This Sauerkraut takes just TWO ingredients - Cabbage and Salt. (Other cooks add ingredients like Carrots, Juniper Berries, Caraway, etc - but I like to keep mine simple)

This is the method for a small batch - but once you've made a batch successfully, I imagine that,  like me, you'll want to increase the quantity.

Making your own Sauerkraut at home is not only much cheaper & tastier than the canned or jarred variety, but it also preserves the healthy, natural probiotics in Sauerkraut.

Finely Slice 1 Quart of Cabbage (pack it down to fit as much as you can in your quart container).
I used my Salad Shooter, but a slicing disc on the food processor, or an old fashioned box grater, or even a knife will work!

Add 2 teaspoons Salt

After Massaging Salt & Cabbage together,
and allowing them to stand for a bit, pack
them down in their container, till their liquid
rises above the level of the veggies.
Massage (scrunch it up!) with your hands for a couple of minutes, until volume reduces by about half.

Walk away and leave it there for about 1/2 hour, so that the salt can draw out the juices.

Put it into your container (one that has a securely fitting lid), and pack it down with something firm and heavy (I think I used an old olive jar). Keep packing till the juices rise above the level of the veggies.

Put a weight on top of it, to submerge and hold the veggies below the level of the liquid. (I used a small jar from olive spread - can you tell I like olives? - filled with water & capped). Vegetables must be in an anaerobic environment to ferment properly, which is why you want them below the liquid level.

Put the lid on the container.

Here the Cabbage is, ready to ferment
you can see the little water-filled jar that
I used for a weight inside the container, and you can
see the liquid level above the level of the Cabbage.
Then put it at cool room temperature for a few days (I put mine in the basement). They say it might be done as quickly as three days, but I like to let it go 5 days, till it really tastes like Sauerkraut, and has lost its fresh green color. Expect it to bubble after a couple of days, then the bubbles will slow or stop when it is done.

Store it in the fridge (unless, of course, you eat it all as soon as it's done!)

(I have heard that it is possible for mold to grow on top during fermentation, and that it's safe to just remove the top layer with the mold and discard it. I've never had it happen, and suspect it happens more easily at warmer temperatures.)

This is being shared on Frugal Tip Tuesday and Simple Living Wednesday