I generally make a cheeseball for holidays and gatherings and I have posted some recipes on these pages. For Easter this year, I decided to go with a dip/spread, and I made it several days early so that the flavors would mellow.
You can vary it to suit the tastes and your dietary needs and of those around you. Nuts and seeds can be changed, or left out altogether. I’m making this one a little bland because I will be serving it with flavorful crackers and snacks.
Here is the recipe I made; variations in taste and vegan substitutions will be listed below:
7 oz of Neufchatel cheese (low-fat cream cheese)
1 Tbs cream
¼ -1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese,(or other moderate-to-mild white cheese)
A few drops sesame oil (no more than 1/8 tsp; sesame oil is very strong)
Mix the cream cheese and cream (or substitutes) together until smooth. Add the shredded cheese and mix. Add the sesame or other oil. Add 1 Tbsp. sesame or other seeds, (if using); mix well.
Add the lemon juice and minced garlic, the herb blend and blend well. Add the black olives. Mix well. Place in a small covered bowl or container, sprinkle seeds around the edges and garnish with added olive or ? Chill thoroughly or for several days before serving.
This can be served with any type of cracker. Since I need to go gluten-free for relatives, I like Trader Joe’s Three Seed Beet Crackers .I am also going to offer Harvest Snaps Red Lentil Tomato Basil snack crisps, available in many major markets.
Vegan “Cream Cheese” is made with cashews. I am told that it is easy to make one’s own, but it is fairly readily available in healthier-food stores and even supermarkets. With this, you can use 2 tsp. cashew, almond or other plant-based milk instead of cream. You may add vegan ‘cheese’, or leave it out.
Finely chopped nuts can be substituted for sesame seeds, or left out completely. Walnuts, cashews, pecans and hazelnuts, (filberts), are good choices; almonds are a bit bland to stand up in this recipe.
Other oils, such as walnut or almond, or even avocado, should be substituted for sesame oil if you aren’t using sesame seeds; use 1/8 tsp.
Avocado bits make a nice addition if you leave out nuts; fold in at the end.
Pimentos, green olives, or bits of mild chilies can be used in addition to, or instead of, black olives.
I hope that you try this for your friends and family.
A long-overdue overview of herbs and spices. This will be far from all-inclusive. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.
With the prices climbing drastically, I have been buying herbs and spices in bulk, and grabbing them on sale. Several teachings which came into vogue a few years back are false and most people pay them no heed now. One is that dried herbs are wrong to use. That is ridiculous. Fresh herbs have their place in some presentations and recipes, but for the most part, dried herbs are on easily kept hand and give you a great deal of flavor for the amount used. Too many fresh herbs ruin the texture of many dishes.
Another useless idea was that you should change out your dried herbs and spices every six-months-to-a-year. Harvesting for most is done once a year, so six months is foolish. Since the harvesting, drying, processing, packaging, shipping, warehousing, stocking and the like take many months, one year is also unreasonable. Kept in cool, dry places, most herbs and spices last for a number of years. And even if they degrade a bit after a while, you can use a bit more.
Avoid “dollar” any kind of herbs and spices in stores; they are the poorest quality. You can do better online and in bulk, or in smaller amounts from specialty shops.
Keeping herbs and spices cool and dry when buying them in bulk can be a challenge. Save large and small jars for these, use vacuum sealers, and/or share with family and friends to keep your supply usable. Some specialty stores, (ethnic or health food), sell repackaged herbs spices which they buy in bulk. Some have containers where you package your own in plastic or paper bags; discard any flimsy packaging these come in and repackage them yourself. Some stores sell in larger bags. Once opened, repackage and keep them closed.
I have purchased many herbs and spices online and for the most part, have been very pleased. Read the reviews, don’t just look at the number of stars. Many people have no idea how to rate items; great products can get one star from some people, some poor items get four-to-five stars. Read why the people gave the ratings to the items. You can save a lot, but if you get the poorest quality, you are wasting your money.
Price does not always reflect quality. Online prices for the same brand can differ greatly between companies and differ from store prices.
The only bulk problems I have had is with onion and tomato powders; they want to clump. I have some in vacuum sealed bags and some in jars on my kitchen shelves to use regularly. I have to use fork tines scrape enough to use the tomato powder, but the quality is still good. I have rectified the onion powder problem by never sprinkling it over cooking food to avoid steam entering the bottle and always using a dry spoon to carry it to the food.
A little onion powder does wonders for boiled/steamed vegetables, rice, grains and many foods, especially if you wish to avoid or cut back on salt. Sprinkle a small amount in the water of any that you boil or during cooking. A tiny amount in mashed potatoes is wonderful.
There is also another good reason for buying and mixing your own herb blends: you can adjust them to fit your own tastes, the needs of your family and to change things around a bit.
If you do not know a “Mrs. Dash”-type seasoning blend, they started out for low-salt/salt-free diets, however, I love it for many uses.
I use it on simple canned, frozen or freshly cooked vegetables. It does wonders for a side of green beans, peas, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower, (together or separately), and good over any roasted vegetables, including potatoes. It is good in or on any type of potato dish and over grains,(rice, barley, quinoa, buckwheat, any and all).
It can be used on simple pieces of fried meat, (especially chicken or pork), fish, (baked or fried), and is great on quorn, fried tofu, tempeh, seitan or many plain, plant-based entrees.
It adds a nice element in tuna, chicken or potato salads.
I love it sprinkled on lite cream cheese or vegan substitute on a bagel, toast or an English muffin. Mix it with cream cheese, sour cream or vegan equivalents for easy dips and spreads. Try sprinkling it on garlic or cheese bread warmed in the oven. It makes cheese sauce a little more special.
Here is a good, basic recipe for a nice herb blend. If and when you are more comfortable with flavors, you subtract some herbs and add others:
BASIC NO-SALT HERB BLEND
2 Tbsp. Garlic Powder
1 Tbsp. each:
¼ – ½ tsp Cayenne Pepper
1-2 tsp. Black Pepper
2 tsp dried Lemon Zest
2 tsp Savory
1 tsp Celery flakes or Celery Salt
Dehydrated Vegetables, [SEE BELOW]
Bend all well. If you have a small processor or grinder, (even a cleaned coffee grinder), use these, or you can place the mix in a plastic bag and pulverize it with a rolling pin, a heavy round bottle or a meat tenderizing mallet. Place is a sealed bottle.
Lemon zest is a nice addition to this. It is a good help when you don’t use salt and it is also very good sprinkled on fish before cooking, in or on muffins and cupcakes and in vegetable dishes. Consider having it on hand.
Savory can be hard to find. In fact, I could not find it anywhere locally or even in our next big city. I had not thought to check at the Penzey’s Spices store,(although it would have cost the amount of gas money to get back home. Again, I mail-ordered it.)
You can make your own Latin blends, too.
Basic Chili Powder Mix
2 Tbsp. ‘sweet’ paprika
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp. oregano
2 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 ½ Tbsp. onion powder
1 tsp salt-(Optional)
1 ½ tsp tomato powder (Optional)
½ tsp Cilantro (Optional)
Mix well. Keep closed tightly.
Options: Add flakes or powder of Ancho, Chipotle, or Mesquite. (It’s better not to mix these since they have good, distinct flavors.) Any one of these is particularly good as a rub for meat or vegetable-based protein with olive oil and then slow-cook them to be made into dishes, such as Cantina Bowls .(Recipes in upcoming posts.) These are also good on roasted corn, mixed with cheeses or sour cream, silken tofu, or any type of yogurt for dressings and sauces for rice, meat and vegetables.
Basic Italian Herb Blend
1 Tbsp. Parsley
1 Tbsp. Garlic Powder
1 Tbsp. Marjoram
1 Tbsp. Basil
½-1 tsp Ground Rosemary
1 tsp. Oregano ½ tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
(Grind or pulverize and store as above.)
Oregano is a Greek spice. It is used more in Southern Italian cooking than in Northern Italian dishes. It does have its place in Italian cuisine, but can be overused, as can Rosemary, which is also quite strong. Play around with the flavors for different applications. Add more Rosemary to chicken or beef. Add more Oregano to fish or vegetables.
Try different combinations with basic meatless tomato-based sauces, (what is commonly, though erroneously, called “marinara” sauce.)
I hope that you look into bulk herbs and spices. Dehydrated vegetables are also available and can be ground to add to your own blends. I keep green pepper, celery and carrot on hand to add to some of the herb mixes. There are mixes of flaked vegetables on the market, as well. Use these as toppers for potatoes and other vegetables, or to stews for extra flavor without added salt.
I hope that you try to keep herbs and spices on hand, and make combinations. They pack a great deal of flavor and if you have them ready, you can make great food in a short amount of time.
I find it hard to believe that after all this time I have never done a post of broths.
Broths are the basis of most good soups, sauces and gravies. You can make tastier rice and other grains, (like quinoa, barley, etc.), by cooking them in broth instead of water. Broths are extremely healthy and versatile, plus they are a wonderful way to stretch your food dollar. Frankly, I feel better making the most of the sacrifice of the meat that I eat.
I always trim meats and vegetables, put them away little by little, into freezer bags and when I have enough, I make broth. I may mix chicken and turkey, but I keep all others separated.
I am eating less and less pork and beef, but the way to make any meat-based broth is simple and the same:
Use scraps, no matter how fatty, and (hopefully) bones with meat, (at least 2 lbs-worth); bones add extra body, flavor and a good amount of calcium; the fat will come off later.
1 large onion (whole or cut into quarters)
2 large ribs of celery, cut into halves or quarters (preferably with leaves)
1 Tbs salt (to taste)
½ tsp pepper or 4 peppercorns
2 Tbsp. dried parsley (it makes a real difference in taste, and is a ‘superfood’ a powerhouse of nutrients)
(if using a slow-cooker, cook on high with less water; cook for 6-8hours). Add all to a large pot, (3 quart). Fill within 2 inches of the top with cold water. Put on a burner on high until it starts to boil, then turn down to a mild simmer; DO NOT BOIL. Allow 4-6 hours to simmer, (after 3 hours of cooking, you can taste for strength). Thoroughly cool and you can skim off all of the fat that will have risen to the surface. Strain and discard all meat and vegetables, which will be depleted of taste and most nutrients. (The one exception to this is when I make turkey/chicken broth and use giblets; I use extra meat to make the broth strong quickly and then chop the giblets for dressing.)
Now you can use this for the basis of sauce, gravies or any other types of soups, (many recipes are found in previous posts, with more to come.) Some ideas include: adding precooked meats, (meatballs), or sausages and vegetables. The meats can be barbequed, or spiced, (Asian, Mexican, Italian). You can add vegetables alone in any combination; let your imagination and personal tastes inspire you. You can add noodles, pastas, or barley, or go gluten-free with quinoa, rice, oats, buckwheat, corn, cooked beans and legumes and/or beaten eggs.
Today I have made Egg-Drop Soup with Fresh Spinach and Parmesan. I made it with chicken broth, but often make it with vegetable broth:
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
1/8 cup minced onion
2 1/2 cups chopped , fresh spinach or 1 cup cooked/canned spinach
1/4 cup chopped Parmesan cheese -or-
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan
4 beaten eggs
salt and white pepper to taste
Heat the broth. Add spinach, cook. Add eggs; stir until just cooked. Add cheese; let it melt and serve hot.
Vegetable broth varies much more than my meat-broth recipes depending on the season. I cut the ends from tomatoes, spinach, carrots, green beans, the tops of celery and bok choy, over-ripe onions, garlic, weak leaves and cores of cabbage, and lettuces, the peelings of quashes, the inner core and pith of bell peppers, you name it. (I avoid outer peelings of onions, and don’t use red ones, shallots or red cabbage as it makes the broth dark purple and unappetizing.) I put them in zip-bags in the freezer and when I have enough, I add salt, white pepper and some dried parsley and, as above, bring it to a boil in large pot of cold water and simmer for 5-6 hours. If using a slow-cooker, I add less water and cook on high for 4-5 hours If you need ideas, here are pictures of some of my gatherings, ready to be simmered into nice vegetable stock:
Any of the additions listed in the recipe for meat broth can be used. To go low calcium, low cholesterol, vegan, you can use plant-based meat substitutes to give your soups more protein, make the substitutes tastier and get more for the money out of them, since they are still generally quite expensive.
I hope that you give these recipes a try. You will find that canned broth or those in aseptic containers pale by far in comparison.
Looking for a low-carb, gluten-free, Keto or Passover dessert? Look no farther than a flourless cake.
(I cannot find my pictures; sorry)
This is an excellent easy, considerate dessert, or addition to a party table, when you want to accommodate diabetic or gluten-intolerant guests.
Consider adding other flavors for an impressive difference; some ideas are included below.
Depending on just how sweet or low-carb/low calorie you want to go, I give you several alternatives:
Basic cake ingredients:
I ½ oz of (good) bittersweet chocolate. (I use high-cocoa plain candy bars)*
½ cup pure cocoa powder *
1/2 cup butter cut into small pieces
¾ cups sugar of choice, or 2/3 cups stevia ‘sugar replacement’ for baking, ( made with sugar, erythritol or monkfruit)*
½ cup hot (not boiling) water
Dash of salt
½ tsp vanilla extract, (or tsp almond extract, mint flavoring, raspberry; 1 tsp hazelnut brandy or coffee liqueur)
*NOTE: More of these ingredients may be needed for toppings, along with any of the suggestions below.
Melt the chocolate gently and carefully in a microwave or double boiler. Add the butter chunks and stir until melted.
Put into a mixing bowl and add the sugar/substitute; add the hot water and beat until smooth.
Add the salt and one egg at a time, as soon as the mixture is slightly cooled, (so the eggs don’t cook). If using, add the flavoring at the end.
Prepare a baking pan (8-9” round, 8-9” square) with liberal buttering and dusting of cocoa, or use a pan-release, such as Wilton’s, or Pam for Baking. A piece of parchment in the bottom will facilitate the removal of the cake from the pan.
A tart pan or springform pan would make this even easier; the sides pull away in a springform; some tart pans have removable bottoms. The cake can be left in a nice ceramic tart or baking pan, as well, if you can cool it quickly.
Bake at 325F for about 30 minutes. It will look like it is rising and then fallen; this is normal. Test for doneness by inserting a thin knife, cake tester into the middle of the cake. When it comes out clean, it’s done.
Cool in pan for 10 minutes and remove, (if not using a ceramic baking pan). The cake will be flat and dense and as delicious as it is, it needs a little something on top.
When completely cool, you can dust the cake with cocoa and powdered sugar, (or the substitute baking blend whizzed in a grinder, blender or food processor to make an equivalent ‘powdered sugar’). You can then add grated bittersweet chocolate, nuts, berries or any combination for an even nicer presentation. Instead of the powdered sugar, you can simply drizzle with melted chocolate, or ganache and serve as soon as the topping is reasonably dry.
I think you will enjoy this as much as my family and guests do.
New Year 2020! I made a Gluten-free Lemon cake which was a hit.
This cake is simple and can be made as low on carbs as you’d like by changing sugar with a Stevia baking mixture, (stevia and sugar, or stevia and erythritol for even fewer carbs).
The delicate lemon flavor would be good for Easter.
Omit the baking powder and feel free to make this for Passover.
Lemon Gluten-free Cake
1 ½ cups almond flour (Instructions below on making your own)
4 eggs, separated (whites in one large bowl, yolks in another)
½ cup sugar or stevia baking mix, divided into two ¼ cup portions
1 tsp cream of tartar, (optional)
1 teaspoon baking powder (optional)
1 Tbsp. grated lemon rind
1 ½ – 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Powdered sugar or substitute sweet baking mix for serving.
Additional garnish of choice, such as almond slices or fruit. (I used fresh raspberries; blackberries would also be a good match. If using fresh fruit slices, such as banana, apple or pear, first dip in lemon juice or citrus soda so that they don’t turn brown; pat dry.)
With an electric beater, beat egg whites until very foamy. Add cream of tartar to add volume and give the egg whites more ‘body’, but it is not essential. Slowly beat in ¼ cup of sugar or stevia baking mix and beat until the egg whites are firm and glossy; to not let them become dry.
In another bowl, beat the egg yolks with spoon, whisk, or beat gently with hand mixer; (do the egg whites first; the beaters and bowl must be free of any oils or fats to whip well, but don’t leave them standing for too long).
Add the baking powder, (if using), the lemon rind and juice, and mix well. Add the other ¼ cup of sugar or stevia mix slowly and beat well. Add the almond flour and mix well.
Fold the egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture with a rubber/silicone spatula or a wooden spoon, in a downward, round motion until they are mixed. Mix thoroughly, but try not to deflate the egg whites completely.
This cake is too delicate to be inverted onto a cake rack, so plan on spooning the mixture into a spring-form pan, or into what I used, a tart pan. Either one you use, cover the bottom and insides with baking spray, butter and flour, or painted with cake-release.
Bake at 323F for 35-40 minutes, or until it is slightly browned on the edges and a cake tester comes out clean when put into the middle. Do not open the oven for the first 25 minutes. Whether using baking powder or not, the cake will rise then fall, and this is fine.
Cool, then garnish just before serving.
You can grind fresh, untoasted and even unblanched almonds into flour using a small food processor, a small electric grinder or even a well-cleaned coffee grinder.
As shown on my version of the cake, you can also make ‘powdered sugar’ this way out of sugar baking substitutes; what you see is a stevia-erythritol mix sprinkled over the cake.
You can adjust the strength of the lemon flavor by adding more zest, but I found the subtleness of the amount of lemon that I used refreshing, which would make it lovely for a tea, brunch or after a large meal.
Thanksgiving is here in America and with all of the holidays coming up, I find it hard to believe that I have never posted recipes for stuffing/dressing. Call it what you will, even if you need to go gluten-free or are vegan, you can enjoy this traditional side dish.
My family traditional dressing is made with bread cubes and turkey broth, often with giblets. I make a vegan version without the giblets, and with vegetable broth. Although you can use bread cubes, I go gluten-free and use quinoa.
Stuffing/Dressing, Baked or Stovetop
3 cups of bread cubes – OR- 1 1/2 cups of cooked quinoa, (prepared with ½ of the recommended amount of water);
¾ stick of butter or margarine
1 ½ cups minced celery
1 cup minced yellow onion
3 Tbs marjoram
3 Tbs. sage (rubbed)
½ tsp celery salt
(Or the equivalent in poultry seasoning of the last 3 ingredients)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp. ground pepper (any color)
2 Tbs milk, (cow or plain nut)
1 ½ + cups broth
In a heavy, large pan melt the butter or margarine
Add the celery and onion
Add the seasonings
sauté until the onions and celery are soft;
Simmer for 15 minutes until the milk is absorbed.
Add the broth, (and giblets if using), and simmer for ½ hour
Place the bread cubes or quinoa in a large bowl. Pour the cooked dressing mix over while it is still hot, and stir until it is mostly absorbed into the bread. (If the bread seems too dry, add more broth; the quinoa will not absorb the mix until it is baked or cooked)
At this point, you can:
place in a well-buttered casserole dish and bake uncovered at 325F for an hour or until it is browned at the edges and fairly dry in the middle
cook on the stovetop, in a large, heavy-gauge pan, (preferably with ceramic or other non-stick coating), stirring often, until fairly dry
stuff dressing made with bread into a chicken; double the recipe to stuff a turkey
I hope that you find this helpful, especially for those of you who find yourselves with family or friends who cannot enjoy traditional dressing.
Unfortunately, the camera did not do a good job and no, the right side of the pie‘s crust was not white; it was from a reflection of the flash.
I used homemade oat flour and almond meal. Homemade grain/seed/nut meals are easier to make than you think. You can find them in stores, and generally, they cost an arm and a leg. Oatmeal is inexpensive and if you grind your own almonds/nuts/seeds, (plus buy on sale or in bulk,) it’s much less expensive than bagged flours and meals. All nuts and seeds, in any form, can be frozen, (in as little air as possible).
The finished, unbaked pie crust can be frozen, as well.
To grind your own flours and meals takes little effort. You can do it in bigger batches in a strong food processor, but many leave bigger pieces in the bottom corners or on the top. You either end up with underground pieces or have the rest of your meal ground to powder/paste while trying to get the others ground down. I have three grinders from which to choose, but you only need one:
You may recognize the Mr. Coffee grinder; which is just about perfect. The Salton grinder is at least 40 years old; it was my aunt’s. The mini-processor is really convenient for grinding small batches and for whipping cream.( Mix any berry type into the cream or to coconut cream and you have a luscious, quick dessert, with or without other fruit or cake!)
I used old-fashioned oats and just turned on the grinder, dumping batch-by-batch into a bowl to measure out later.
The almond meal came out wetter, as would that of many nuts and seeds, but this isn’t a problem, since it helps with the cohesion of the crust. You can adjust up the amount of wetness by adding a little more water slowly, if needed.
For this Gluten-Free Pie Crust w/ Vegan /Tree nut-free Alternatives I used:
2 ¼ cups oat flour
1 ½ cup almond meal (or alternative nut/seed meal)
1 ¼ cup vegetable shortening (see note in the link above in reference to vegetable shortenings)
3 tsp sugar (any type), or less, if using a granulated stevia mix
1 ½ Tbsp. Apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. water
[OPT: 1/4 tsp vanilla or almond extract]
1 egg* or
1-2 Tbsp. flegg**
Mix the flours and sweetener. Cut in the shortening , (as directed in the ‘No-Fail’ recipe). Mix the water, (opt. flavor), egg/ flegg and vinegar together; mix into the meals.
This will not roll-out as the ‘No-Fail’ recipe. Gluten is what makes the crust pliable. You will need to press this into whatever pie plate you choose, as you would with a graham cracker crust. Press in gently but firmly; make sure that you have enough on the bottom and up the sides to hold the filling, but press out any excess that tends to build-up at the bottom edges. Since this will not cut-up or crimp, you will have to get creative with any attempts at decorations, as I did with sprinkles.
[Unlike graham cracker crust made with, well, graham cracker crumbs and butter or margarine, this cannot be used for refrigerator pies; it must be baked.]
*NOTE: To make a half-batch, use 1/2 egg. Crack a large egg and mix it. Use half in this recipe; cook the rest in other in any way, as in: add to an omelet, scrambled eggs, add to a cake recipe, (It will give more ‘lift’). It will keep covered in the refrigerator for several days. **NOTE: “Flegg” is an egg substitute made (usually) with flaxseed or Chia seeds. You can make your own by adding around 2 Tbsp. of seed ,(grind the flaxseed for better results), to a quarter cup of very hot, (not boiling), water.*
After a short time, you should have a sticky, gelatinous mixture that will add to the cohesion of your crust in the same way an egg would. The stickiness is ‘mucilage’ and if you are a certain age, you know that we used a type of this for glue, so you can imagine the help it gives to binding the crust. You can use flegg for many alternatives, but not when you need a ‘rise’, as in a cake. (Flegg also adds nutritional value, fiber and omega-3s)
[*NOTE: Please heat water on the stove or in the microwave. Water out of a water heater should never be ingested. Heavy metals from the heater can leach into the water and any impurities and/or contaminants that may have slipped passed your water authority, (or is considered within their acceptable parameters for tap water), will be condensed in the continual ‘cooking’ of the water.]
Here is a healthier, G-F /Tree nut-free+Vegan alternative to pie:
3 cups (approx) sliced fruit or berries
1 cup whole, raw oatmeal*
2/3 Chopped walnuts, other nuts, or non-tree nuts/seeds
4 Tbsp. sugar (beet, cane, turbinado, date, coconut, stevia mix), DIVIDED
(OPT: a little spice that you like, for instance: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice)
6-8 Tbsp. Butter or margarine, DIVIDED
Use 1 Tbsp.+ butter or margarine to butter the bottom and sides of a deep baking or casserole dish.
Slice apples, peaches, pears, etc., or add berries to nearly fill the dish. If desired, sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar/alternative. Dot with 2 Tbsp. of the butter or margarine.
Melt the remaining butter or margarine. Add the sugar (and spice, if using). Mix in the oatmeal, and walnuts/alternative. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit and bake at 350F for about 40 minutes, until the top is slightly browned.
Serve warm or cold, plain or with whipped cream, (or whipped canned, chilled coconut milk), or ice cream or frozen alternatives. *NOTE: I used old-fashioned oats in the crisp below, but they came out a little stiff. I will use quick-cook oatmeal to top it the next time. If you wish to layer the fruit and toppings, or will be using ice cream or frozen alternatives afterward, use old-fashioned oats, so that they will not become too soft.
I do hope that you try and enjoy the recipes above. Please let me know if you tried any other nut alternatives and how they worked for you.
Hello, Friends and Family! After many happenings and much time, I am here, but at first by request for baking tips.
It’s a good place to start, and just after Thanksgiving in the U.S., and before Christmas
Let’s start with a few basics.
Sift flours and powdered sugar. You don’t need a sifter; you can use a fine-mesh sieve: MEASURE: If you are not used to cooking, measure your ingredients, but cooking and baking isn’t rocket science. Feel free to play around. In fact, do so more or less with seasonings, herbs, spices, nuts, etc., but don’t guess with flours and leavening. It’s better to add slightly less leavening and flour than even slightly too much.
Contrary to some recipe directions, do not add your leavenings [baking powder, baking soda, salt,] and seasonings to the flour before sifting; too much gets lost in that which is not used.
Always mix your butter/margarine/shortening, then add sugar or sweetener, and mix well in between. If eggs are in the recipe, add them afterward and mix well, add flavorings and scrape the bowl often. DO NOT dump everything into a bowl and expect a nicely textured cake or cookies.
Alternate adding the sifted flour with any added liquid, and mix well in between each addition.
Rest your batter before adding extra flour and before putting into pans or trying to make drop cookies; the batter will set and become stiffer after it sits. You don’t want it to become too stiff.
Chill pie crusts that call for it and rolled cookie dough well; overnight is the best. Wrapped well, they will last for days in your refrigerator or months in your freezer.
Roll out your doughs on flour, parchment paper or waxed paper . Roll small amounts of cookie dough at a time if using flour and add more ‘fresh’ dough to the scraps each time to keep your cookies from becoming hard when baked.
Dip your cookie cutters in flour between cuts.
Spray cookie stamps with cooking spray or dip them in vegetable oil and blot to keep them from sticking to the dough.
Preheat your oven, and put baked goods onto the upper-middle rack. If your baked goods tend to brown on the top too soon, then use a lower rack. If they tend to brown too soon on the bottom, preheat your oven on BROIL. Make sure that the broiler is turned off and the oven on and set to the correct baking temperature, (generally 350F), before you add your cookies and cakes.
Test for doneness by gently touching the top of cookies; they should be gently firm. Lift a cookie to check the bottom for doneness; they should be only lightly browned.
Also touch the cake tops; your finger should leave no imprint. Use a toothpick or thin knife to test the middle of cakes; they should come out clean with no batter stuck to them
Prepare pans: Baking pans for cakes and quick breads can be prepared by greasing and flouring, but that tends to make them crumby on the outside. Aerosol baking sprays work well; liquid, brush-on varieties are best, but expensive. Regular greasing/buttering/sprays can be made more efficient by using strips of baking parchment paper.
Cookie sheets can be used multiple times in a row by using parchment paper alone, (clean the pans well before putting them away). Cool the metal sheets between batches by temporarily removing the parchment paper and running the pans under cool water, (use pot holders).
INGREDIENTS: DAIRY: Whole milk is best for baking, but 2% is useable. Skim milk simply does not work as well. Almond and other nut milks, Soy and Rice milks are useable.
You can make your own condensed version by simmering the milks until it is reduced, but canned coconut milk is the easiest to use.
Most recipes calling for buttermilk come out just wonderfully by using any of the milks above with 2 teaspoonsful of white or apple cider vinegar or my preference, lemon juice. I use real lemons whenever possible, but keep a bottle of reconstituted lemon juice in my refrigerator for this purpose alone. (I will not substitute the real buttermilk called for in my husband’s grandmother’s Carrot Cake recipe, however!)
You can make a sour cream substitution by making it even better: Crème Fraiche. Use heavy cream, add lemon juice and let it sit at room temperature for 24-48 hours, (in not too hot of a room). Refrigerate. It’s wonderful. A quicker version is a mix of cream cheese, (vegan or cow) and milk, (cow or nut/soy/rice milks).
Vegan milks will not thicken as well, as cow milk, (but can be used), especially with a little thickenings, such as milk mixed with a little corn starch. There are Vegan Sour creams and cream cheese on the market, but most are soy-based.
Goat milk is strong; I do not recommend using it for baking.
Whipping cream of coconut with a little coconut or other vegan milk is a good substitute for condensed milk. Well-chilled, full-fat coconut canned milk can be whipped like cream.
WHIP-IT and other brands of whipped-cream stabilizer made of dextrose and modified corn starch is quite helpful in both coconut and cow whipped cream.
SALT is also a leavening; leaving it out of baked-good recipes is a mistake. Baking soda is used alone with acidic batters, like those with butter milk/sour milk. Baking Powder is a mix of baking soda and cream of tartar; they are not interchangeable. Cream of tartar was often found on pantry shelves when more home-cooking was done. Its most common use is in volumizing whipped egg whites.
Palm and other sugars can be substituted for white sugar. Brown sugar sold in America is usually sugar which has had the molasses removed by refining, and has had molasses returned in varying degree, (light or dark). I know; it makes no sense. But what this means is that in a recipe, you can substitute white sugar with a little molasses beaten into the mix, but mix extra well, as the texture of the sugar is not as fine.
White and dark corn syrup can be used interchangeably. If you really want dark with a richer flavor, you can add a little molasses.
There are dark syrups available, (Sorghum was big in Kentucky for generations), but I am skeptical about Brown rice syrup and Blue Agave. Both can, contrary to earlier reports, raise blood glucose levels and agave may cause miscarriages.
Flours: All-purpose flour will be familiar to those of you who need to read this blog. Choose unbleached for nearly all of your basic needs. “White wheat” is a healthier alternative, but your baked goods will not rise as high and will not be as delicate.
Bread flour has higher protein and more gluten and makes for a chew consistency. Do not use for cakes and pastry.
Whole wheat flour takes extra effort and is harder to work with.
Alternative flours: I am experimenting now that I have family members who are gluten-sensitive. You cannot simply substitute other flours for the all-purpose flour most recipes call for and expect great results. It takes time and tweaking. Indeed, making bread and many doughs will not work at all with some flours because it is gluten that makes dough elastic. Plus, many flours, like besan, (chickpea flour), may be healthier, but they have an off-taste. You can disguise some of these with strong enough flavors. (I make a dense chocolate cake which basically covers the bean-taste.)
just developed a pie crust made of oat and almond flour. It is tasty, but it is not flaky, and it cannot be rolled-out, but needs to be pressed into the pie plate before filling. I’ll post that in the next post, soon.
I want to post this as soon as possible, although I have not touched on many points.
Please feel free if you have any ideas, questions or have any points you’d like to see addressed.
Yes, it’s me. I have not forgotten you. I had my promised series on antipasti ready and my computer crashed taking all of the recipes with it…and that was just the beginning!
I have pix of most of what I created and will try to sort out what was what, but in the meantime, here is a recipe I have been asked for by a few people.
The best way to make this is with boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Done right, they will not be dry. You can use boneless, skinless thighs, if you really prefer dark meat. There is no reason why one could not use thick slices of Tofurkey, (any brand of like product), or Quorn roasts to make a vegan or vegetarian version. I will add directions for alternatives below. I also, as usual, have short-cuts to make the recipe simpler.
The recipe will serve two big eaters. Simply multiply the ingredients to serve more.
2+1 Tbsp Butter or margarine
1 large onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, chopped,(or 1 Tbsp dried, minced garlic)
1 ½ Tbsp paprika,(regular or half can be smoked)
1 ½ lbs of boneless chicken breasts or thighs
1 ½ cups strong chicken broth…(if you are using canned or from a carton, cook over high heat to reduce and strengthen. If you want to use bullion, make it double-strength)
1 cup crème fraiche, or sour cream
1 Tbsp plain flour , 1 ½ tsp corn starch or rice flour
Melt the 2 Tbsp butter or margarine. Quickly brown the chicken on both sides, (it will raw in the middle). Remove from the pan. Lower the heat, add the extra butter, onion, garlic , paprika and salt to the pan and cook just until the onion is wilted. Add the broth and the chicken, and cook on low heat just until the chicken is cooked in the middle. Again, remove the chicken and keep it warm. Mix the flour into the crème fraiche or sour cream and mix until smooth. Add slowly to the broth, (a whisk is helpful here). Raise the temperature and stir until the mixture is thickened. Lower the heat to warm. Add the chicken, turning once, until the chicken is rewarmed throughout and has absorbed some of the sauce. Serve over rice, couscous, boiled or mashed potatoes. Be generous with the sauce.
Tofurkey or Quorn Paprika
2+1 Tbsp margarine
1 large onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, chopped,(or 1 Tbsp dried, minced garlic)
1 ½ Tbsp paprika,(regular or half can be smoked)
1 ½ lbs of thickly sliced Tofurkey or Quorn roast
1 ½ cups strong vegetable broth…(if you are using canned or from a carton, cook over high heat to reduce and strengthen. If you want to use bullion, make it double-strength)
1 cup vegan sour cream or silken tofu
1 Tbsp plain flour , 1 ½ tsp corn starch or rice flour
Melt the 2 Tbsp margarine. Quickly brown the meat substitute on both sides. Remove from the pan. Lower the heat, add the extra margarine, the onion, garlic, paprika and salt to the pan and cook just until the onion is wilted. Add the vegetable broth and heat to boiling. Mix the vegan sour cream or silken tofu with the flour until smooth and add slowly to the broth, (a whisk is helpful here). Raise the temperature and stir until the mixture is thickened. Lower the heat to warm. Add the Tofurkey or Quorn turning once, until it is rewarmed throughout and has absorbed some of the sauce. Serve over rice, couscous, boiled or mashed potatoes. Be generous with the sauce.
I hope 2016 is a great year for all of you! And as the first post for the new year, I have a prize to give away: An audio cookbook!
Dump Dinners Cookbook, by Daniel Cook, read by Diane Davis
Dump Dinners Cookbook:30 Most Delicious Dump Dinners Recipes For Busy People, by Daniel Cook,(apt name!). This is a perfect book for those who are insecure in their ability to cook, for those who are just plain busy and fun for those who cook often.
It’s a good time of year here in North America for slow-cooker stews and soups, but I have found that in the Summertime,(for those of you in the southern hemisphere), slow cookers are indispensable as an alternative to heating up the house with your oven or and more comfortable than standing over a hot stove.
The recipes contained in this audio book are so simple, yet so complete! This is real food, real cooking, real easy! It is perfect for the theme of this blog, which strives to let you know that anyone can cook and entertain without a great deal of effort.
After the introduction, the recipes only last a few minutes each They are completely uncomplicated, and often contain suggested garnishes and a few other options,(of which any reader of my blog know I am very fond of sharing!) However easy, the recipes have often sophisticated flavors and are not only wonderful for yourself and your family, you would be proud to serve them to any guests you may want, or need, to feed. There is something for every taste, All-American, Latin, Asian, Italian and others, (including Hungarian and Russian.)
Although most are heavy on meat, it does contain vegetarian recipes. Anyone used to eating and working with recipes that include Quorn, tofu, seitan, ‘Tofurkey’ or vegetable-based meat substitutes can adjust most of the recipes by cutting back the cooking times, (usually by1/2- 3/4), and adding the meat substitutes near the end.(Dairy substitutes can be used for cheeses).
Many recipes are Gluten-free or can be adjusted easily.
The many delightful and inspiring recipes in this book are read in a clear, delightful voice, that of my long-time friend, Diane Davis.
Diane is a woman of many talents. She is a singer-songwriter who can rock you with pop, rock, country and jazz. She is an actress who has been in several feature films and TV shows. She is frequently featured in ads that cross the U.S. and into other countries. She has had several radio shows that were not only popular in her market, but were broadcasted internationally over the internet. She continues to do podcasts and interviews, which I never miss. Her voice talents have been utilized a very short time ago in one major motion picture, and more recently, in audio books, such as this. I know you will find her easy to listen to and to follow in the directions.
The contest is open world-wide, so I hope that some of you from the other 50(!) countries who visited me here at Food, Friends, Family in 2015 will stop to comment. That’s all it takes. Leave a comment and an email address where I can reach you if your name is drawn. In two weeks, February 4, 2016, I will place your names in a hat and have a family member of mine draw one out.
[If you are uncomfortable leaving an email address opened on the blog, please leave a comment below and then private message me on the blog Facebook page : Tonette Joyce:Food, Friends, Family with your email address, where no one else will see it.]
I am sure any of you would truly enjoy this cookbook. I bought it, ($2.99-3.99USD), and I am ready to cook!
(Diane is also an expert in needlework and sells her creations. She recently recreated in crocheted form the ‘star’ of a popular mystery book series, a cat, for its author. If that isn’t enough, she is a computer expert, a realtor and blogs on casinos!n