Category Archives: dairy-free

Appetizers(III) vs. Party Foods

I have found confusion among some people concerning the difference between “Party Foods” and “Appetizers/Hors d’oevres.”

Appetizers are party foods, make no mistake, but not all party foods are appetizers. There is a time and a place for both. Dips, nuts, cheese boards and rolled sandwiches are wonderful party foods, but do not belong where you would serve appetizers.

Appetizers and Hor d’oevres are usually used in a less casual atmosphere, but they don’t have to be “stuffy”. I hesitate to use the rather old-fashioned terms “Cocktail Party” or “Open House” because I have found them to be something negative in people’s minds, just as I found the term “Dinner Party” is to many. That was one topic I suggested on my shared blog “Four Foxes, One Hound” here on WordPress and nearly everyone seemed to have thought that they had never been to one or that they have to be terribly uncomfortable experiences. A dinner party does not have to be a formal affair with oyster forks and starched collars any more than an “Open House” needs to mean pseudo-sophisticates making inane conversations.  Any time there are guests for dinner it is technically a ‘dinner party’; some are just more formal than others. Appetizers can be served at any of them.They are especially  handy when some guests will be arriving some time before  the others.

An “Open House” is a drop-in, casual  party that are usually held on weekends, often during any holiday or holiday season when many folks have other obligations and cannot stay for any length of time at one function. The host(s) simply state a starting time and are prepared to have guests in and out for several hours,(at least 4-5), or for most of the day.These are often held on a Saturday mid-day into the late afternoon or on a  Sunday  afternoon into the evening.Some are bold enough to hold them on Christmas Eve. New Year’s Eve  Open Houses usually go until the wee hours of the morning. Drinks are served, and usually a punch is kept going and the food will be light hors d’oeuvres.

[“Cocktail parties” are early evening affairs where hors d’oeuvres are served along with…you guessed it, “cocktails”. I don’t know if they are ever held under that name any more.]

Appetizers/hors d’oeuvres need to be one-two bite individual servings, without sauce and never to need any ‘work’ on the part of the guest, (no dipping, layering or cutting, for instance.) They are to be used to lead into a meal, or be served at a late gathering/lead into a function afterward, not to substitute for a full meal, as “party foods” often are.

You will find a variety of just how much or how little work you feel you want to do in this series.

Please try one more complicated one at a time if you feel you don’t have the time or the skill…you do have the skill. Try them when you aren’t pressed for something to serve and you’ll find you can easily follow my instructions. Most can be made in advance or have make-ahead components which can be put together closer to serving. Have fun trying them for yourself or w family and friends when you don’t have to worry about making an impression and you’ll gain confidence and knowledge in the making of all of the recipes and ideas I offer, which I hope will inspire more ideas of your own. A few will need to be served warm, so chose these to serve in your home; others can be taken to be shared elsewhere.

I will be back in a few days with more, but will leave you with a few adapted party-foods-turned-appetizers:

This "Party Food" can be made into mini appetizers

This “Party Food” can be made into mini appetizers

Baked Brie en Croute: (more complicated; vegetarian)
1: Make Old World Crust, [“You Can Make Pie Crust and Savory Pastry/(Vegan)/Chiffon
November 2013 Archive]
OR
Use ready-made pie crust
2: 1 Baby Brie
3:Small amount of Topping
[I often use Cranberry Relish,November8, 2012 Archive]
Or Use a jarred all-fruit
Or pie filling ,(added nuts optional)
Or Butterscotch/Caramel ice cream topping with added nuts

Roll and cut small rounds of pie crust.  Place very small portions of brie in the center; top with a very small amount of topping of your choice. Fold the crust around the cheese and topping and pinch to close. (Try to keep them closed or at least, keep the opening on the very top.
Brush with egg wash,(beaten egg mixed with 1 tsp water.) to create a nice golden brown.
Place on a greased baking sheet,(can use oil spray), or sue parchment paper.
Bake @375F until golden brown. Serve warm. May be made ahead and re-heated carefully.

Easy salad stuffed mini tomatoes can be a refreshing appetizer

Easy salad stuffed mini tomatoes can be a refreshing appetizer

Mini Stuffed Tomatoes (easy; pescetarian; dairy-free,low-carb, gluten-free)
1:Cherry or grape tomatoes, cored:
Stuff with:
2:Seafood Salad made with
Drained canned tuna (or salmon),
Or Flaked crab or imitation crab
Or tiny cooked shrimp
Or hard-boiled eggs
3: thinly sliced celery
4:finely minced green onions, white or yellow onion, leeks or shallots
5: celery salt or onion salt
6:mayonnaise or veganaise
Place small amount in tomatoes, top shrimp salad with a tiny shrimp; the egg with green or black olives; salmon or tuna with a cooked asparagus tip…or use your imagination.

I will be back very soon with more to finish this before the holiday entertaining season is over.

Any questions?

Appetizers II

I am quickly going to get out the promised appetizers here for the holiday season, although they can be useful at any time. All of these are gluten-free,low-carb and all are vegetarian; they can be made dairy-free and vegan.

A selection of appetizers

A selection of appetizers

The selection pictured above go from a little preparation to pull-‘em-out-of-a-jar. I simply stuck toothpicks in jarred pimento-stuffed green olives and those are fine for an addition to a plate, but please, don’t just serve those!
The tomatoes I prepped with a melon baller:

A handy tool:the melon baller

A handy tool:the melon baller

(A famous TV chef recently described this item as a “mini ice cream scoop”!)

The tool is used to ‘ball’ melons, but they also make a useful tool to hollow-out grape and cherry tomatoes.

The grape tomatoes above to the right in the picture are miniature versions of my Italian Baked Tomatoes [ October 15, 2012 archive], served on fresh spinach leaves.

The cherry tomatoes in the middle and the black olives to the lower right in the photo are stuffed with herbed cream cheese. I use Neufchatel, (reduced fat cream cheese) and usually add a few drops of olive or any nut oil, then I add herbs. “Vegan cream cheese” or silken tofu can be substituted for the Neufchatel cheese.

Some suggestions to mix into the filling are:
Italian seasoning , or mix any of the following{ parsley, marjoram, basil, garlic, oregano
Thyme and cracked pepper
Ground rosemary and parsley
Chives, celery salt, turmeric,paprika
Onion and pepper flakes
Cilantro and ancho powder,(be careful!)
Mesquite
Celery seed and saffron
Dill weed
Or use flavored, spreadable cream cheese from your grocer. Kraft has everything from pineapple to smoked salmon and everything in between. You can do the stuffing!

The black olives to the left in the picture have marinated chick peas (garbanzo beans) in them. Prepare as directed,{ You Know Beans, August 24, 2012 archive),or use drained, canned chickpeas. Marinate in olive oil and your choice of herbs or in Italian salad dressing for at least 3 hours .Drain and push into pitted olives.

The grape tomatoes to the left in the picture are fresh and filled with a vegetable mix that is easy and very useful. I served them on pieces of Romaine lettuce.
Frankly, I am not sure what was in that particular mix! I often fully cook whatever vegetables I have in the house,(at least 5-7 of them) along with some herbs and spices.

Use any or all of these, chopped finely:
Onion, chives, leeks and/or shallots
Celery, swiss chard, Romaine or any type of lettuce
Broccoli, cauliflower, spinach,
Bok choy, Chinese, red and/or green cabbage
Carrots, turnips, parsnips
Sweet peppers
Yellow squash and or zucchini
Green and/or wax beans, (canned or fresh)
Garlic
Opt: Parsley, ginger, celery seed, turmeric, paprika, salsify, saffron, thyme

Cook in olive oil or nut oil, stirring often. This mixture is very useful and makes a wonderful spread when mixed with cream cheese, silken tofu or to mix into or top hummus or polenta. (Recipes for both upcoming.)

I hope the picture and the recipes inspire you to try them or branch out on your own.
I will be posting more in quick succession.
Any questions?

Are You Still With Me?

Dear Friends and Family,
I know it has been some time since I last posted and I have missed all of you. I am looking forward to giving more advice to those who are insecure about cooking and entertaining and to those who need help with special diets. I also hope to continue to inspire fellow “foodies” with ideas of their own.

If you have any questions about food or diets, any questions about making entertaining easy and fun for you as well as your friends, family or even those you do not know well, please feel free to drop me a line here or at my Facebook page ,

Tonette Joyce, Food,Friends, Family on Facebook

I intend to continue offering main-stream recipes, as well as vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, low-carb and healthy alternatives. Please let me know if I can be of any special assistance to your specific needs.

When we last met I promised a series on appetizers and I assure you that they will be coming very soon, before the holidays. Everyone needs to know how to make at least the simplest of appetizers and canapés,( and to know what the difference is!) I promise that you will be able to make a nice selection, or just one or two, not to be caught like a non-foodie friend of mine who was invited to an up-scale affair at her husband’s new job. They were all to bring appetizers and she refused my help; instead, she took a plate of brownies. Her brownies were well-known among her friends and family, but that wasn’t what was expected of them. I promise you that most of what I will show you will be almost as easy as aerosol cheese squirted on a Ritz, but a whole lot more impressive in that you made unique offerings yourself.
We also may be covering new ideas, more guests and maybe a giveaway or two.

Thank you for hanging in there with me and I promise to be back very soon with a real post. Please pay me a visit!
Tonette

You Can Make Pie Crust and Savory Pastry/(Vegan)/Chiffon

Thanksgiving is approaching in the United States and with Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere, many people are in the mood for PIE.
Most people like pies. Many people dislike pie crust and even more hate or hesitate to try to make their own. We’re going to try to dispel both of those dislikes with a choice of several homemade pie crusts, which can be made vegan, and made ahead of time.

I am going to ask you to try more than one of these, as one person can have a completely different ‘touch’ from another and some just may not come out right for you, although one or another may very well become your signature crust. My mother made incredible Oil Pastry with which she made quite a name for herself. I, on the other hand, professional though I became, cannot do it justice. Maybe you will have better luck. However, I consider the other recipes fail-proof.

Done right, each of the pastries,(except the Graham cracker one), become flaky and fine. And most,(again, not the Graham cracker one), can be used for pot pies, meat pies, hand-held savories and appetizers, quiches, baked brie, etc. But I promise you, they are easier than you think and most are freezable.

You can’t crimp? My mother deftly did hers perfectly but I never had the patience to practice. I can’t take credit for the idea, but I have been cutting out edging with small cookie/pastry cutters for 30 years. Now, that is almost all you see on TV and in magazines. It is attractive and easy. Here is one example:

Use small cookie cutters to make easy, beautiful edging on your pies

Use small cookie cutters to make easy, beautiful edging on your pies

You can use any shape of cutter to suit the pie or occasion, (as I used shamrocks in the photo),be they leaves or apples for apple pie, leaves or pumpkins for …you get the idea. You can make egg-shaped ones around a pie for Easter, turkeys for Thanksgiving, dreidels for Hanukkah…again, use your imagination, but I suggest you have at least a small, all-purpose leaf-shaped cutter. With that, you can’t go wrong.
If you want a top crust, you can always use a bigger cutter and overlap the cut-outs.

Roll the crusts out to a consistent and thin round shape. You want to start in the middle and roll your way out, .Press gently at first and go from the middle outward. Roll on at least four directions.
There are mats you can buy to roll dough on, or you can use wax paper or parchment paper. If you use wax paper, you will have to put two sheets overlapping on the bottom; you can move one sheet around on top.This method is best used to the Oil Pastry.
For the others, I use a well-floured , large wooden cutting board. Be sure to flour your rolling pin. If it sticks to your pastry, rub all the stuck dough off with flour before attempting to roll again, or it will just keep sticking.(Do not wet the rolling pin until you clean it when you are finished.)
I inherited a marble rolling slab and matching rolling pin from my aunt. many people swear by them as they can be chilled so that pie crust, (and other dough), will not become loose or stick; it will be more delicate without the use of much added flour when the pastry is rolled. If you are that much into pastry, you won’t need my advice! If you need to read this, stick with added flour.

Move the crust carefully into the pie plate . This is best done by gently folding the dough into quarters and placing the folded point in the middle of the plate. If you use wax or parchment paper, you can invert the crust flat right over the plate. Do not stretch the crust; it will shrink as it bakes. Gather the over-hanging pastry up to the edge and crimp all the way around, then cut off the excess with a sharp knife .If you are going to cut shapes for the edges, cut all around the edge with a sharp knife, then re-roll the pastry a bit thicker and cut shapes. Overlap them around the edge. Press them together.(You may need to slightly dampen your fingers with water to get the cut-outs to stick together but do not over-wet the pastry.)

Before we get started on the recipes,, a couple of them will call for butter , margarine or shortening to be “cut into” flour. This means to incorporate the fat into the flour until it is evenly distributed; it should resemble corn meal. This is the best way to get a flaky crust and there are many ways to make it come about: with a pastry cutter, sometimes called a pastry blender:

A simple pastry cutter or pastry blender  helps make flaky crust

A simple pastry cutter or pastry blender helps make flaky crust

You can also use a fork, or two knives, (cutting through the flour with both hands simultaneously), or a food processor.

If you need a pre-cooked shell, that is, if you want to put a filling in it that does not need to be baked, you will need to weigh down the pie crust when you bake it to prevent it from shrinking a great deal and lifting up in the bottom. There are pie chains and pie weights you can buy, but generations of bakers have successfully used dried beans. Bake the pie shell at 350F until the desired shade of brown is obtained and when cool, remove the beans, weights or chain.
There are also pie guards available, but I use aluminum foil, in strips, placed lightly over the edges of my pies for the first half of the bake-time. This keeps the top edges of the crust from over-cooking and possibly burning while the rest of the pie bakes , and the crust browns on the bottom.

I prefer to use clear glass,(baking glass, that is Pyrex , tempered glass, etc), to make sure that I can see if the pie is browning on the bottom.

Oil Pastry:

This recipe is the one my mother always used and everyone raved. This one can easily be made vegan.

½ cup + 1 Tbsp. cooking oil (*see note)
¼ cup milk [can be almond or rice]
2 cups flour
½ tsp. salt

Measure oil and milk into one container; do not try to mix.
Mix the flour and salt; add the oil and milk quickly and mix thoroughly.
This pastry is best rolled between sheets of waxed paper, or can be rolled using extra flour, which will make it a bit tougher. This makes a delicate crust, but can easily be patched.

*Note: My mother always used vegetable oil. Unless you plan on using this for savory (non-sweet) fillings, please do not use Extra Virgin Olive Oil; it is too ‘olivy’. My personal opinion is that grapeseed oil is too oily for this recipe and canola oil is not oily enough . Nut oils would be a good alternative, especially for sweet pies.
Please see the post just preceding this one on Oils.

“No-Fail” Pie Crust

A friend of mine offered me this recipe and a ‘frisbee’ of one. The recipe makes 4 crusts and she would make a flattened ball ,(her “frisbees”), wrap and freeze the ones she did not use; and so do I.

4+ cups of flour, spooned gently into measuring cups
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 ¾ cups vegetable shortening [* see Note]
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 egg ( or your favorite vegan egg replacer…use prepared replacer mixed thickly or extra finely ground flaxseed or chia seeds. Mix 1-2 Tbsp with 4 Tbsp very hot water and let stand until it is is thick and gelatinous; use 1 -2 Tbsp.This will alter the consistency of the crust, which is quite elastic with egg)
½ cup water.

Stir together flour, sugar and salt. Cut in shortening. Mix the water, egg or egg substitute and vinegar into the flour mixture all at once. Mix thoroughly and divide into fourths. Wrap and chill before using, or freeze in an air-tight bag.
This pastry is too soft to use without pre-chilling. Roll carefully after chilling on well –floured board.

*NOTE: Use pure vegetable shortening, not lard or ‘pre-creamed’ shortening that contains animal fat. If you are concerned about hydrogenated fats, there are non-hydrogenated shortenings on the market, although they are expensive. I found them perfectly suitable , although they make a softer crust that becomes ‘loose’ faster. Chill well.

Old World Crust
This crust is easy and forgiving, you don’t even have to use a pie plate. This is the best choice here for savory fillings. I use this recipe for everything from Rustic Tarts to pot pies to Baked Brie en Croute,(recipe will be in an upcoming series on Appetizers.) For tarts, I sprinkle the inside of the pastry with sugar and then sprinkle a bit on the top before I bake them:

! cup of flour
6 oz cold butter (or margarine for vegan)
1 oz. cream (rice-based or coconut can be used; coconut good for tarts)
½ tsp salt
[egg wash, (beaten egg) to brush on the outside, if you’d like, or brush with melted butter or margarine]
Cut or process the butter into t he flour; add egg and salt. Can be rolled on floured board and used immediately. (This one you will want to roll a little thicker than the others.)

The above recipe can be enriched with a bit of sour cream, mascarpone and /or silken tofu; more flour may be needed.

If you wish to use the above recipes for non-sweet fillings, you can add cracked pepper and/or herbs that compliment the rest of the recipe. Use a light hand in adding extra flavors, however.

Now, here is a recipe that is almost a NON-recipe. Graham-cracker crust is so easy, you’ll be amazed. Vegan Graham crackers are available and with the use of margarine, you are on your way.

Graham Cracker Pastry Crust

I packet (8) Graham crackers, crushed, (Use a food processor or place the crackers in a plastic bag and roll with a rolling pin until they are crumbs)
or use 1 ½ cups Graham cracker crumbs
[Vegan Graham crackers are available]
½ cup melted butter or margarine

That’s it. Mix these. You’re done.
(You may use cinnamon Graham crackers if you feel it will compliment your filling)

This can be pressed into the bottom and sides of a pie plate or in the bottom of a baking dish. If you need to bake your filling,(custard, pumpkin, etc.), then fill and bake. If you are going to use a non-baked filling,(whipped cream filling, pudding, ice cream, etc.) then pre-bake the crust @ 325F for 15-20 minutes; watch that it does not burn. There is, of course, no reason to weigh this crust down.

Although Graham cracker crust is unsuitable for fruit pies, you can add a layer of fruit or filling over a layer of custard or other thicker layer. Graham cracker crust is THE choice for chilled and ice cream pies.
Homemade Pie for the Non-baker
Here is a dessert that can stand alone or can be placed in a pre-baked Graham or other crust. Trust me, it’s a hit.

Chiffon is an easy, homemde dessert that can stand alone or make a delicious chilled pie

Chiffon is an easy, homemade dessert that can stand alone or make a delicious chilled pie

Chiffon

1 package, (regular size), flavored gelatin [Strawberry or strawberry-banana is a favorite in my family, as is peach, but any favorite flavor will do; lime is refreshing.]
1 cup boiling water
3 ounces of Neufchatel (low fat) or regular cream cheese, softened
1 cup whipping cream
1 Tbsp sugar

Add the gelatin to the boiling water and mix well to dissolve. DO NOT ADD ANY MORE WATER; it will be double-strength. Immediately add the softened cream cheese and dissolve. You can use a beater for this. Chill until thick and semi-set.[If it becomes solid, you can microwave it for 30 seconds on high or place in a basin of hot water. Beat with a mixer until smooth]. Whip the cream with sugar until it is very stiff. When the gelatin is chilled and semi-set, add the whipped cream to it. Do not add the whipped cream to the mixture when it is thin and cold.
Fold the cream in gently with a flat spoon or spatula. Now it can be placed in your pie crust and chilled,(or in a serving bowl, in individual bowls or shaped in a gelatin mold. To mold, chill it until very firm and set. Place it in a basin of warm water for a few minutes and invert unto your serving plate.)

If you are still unconvinced that you can make a homemade pie, or just need something nice but fast, try something like this:

Individual homemade 'pies' like this one made quite an impression with little effort.

Individual homemade ‘pies’ like this one made quite an impression with little effort.

Homemade Pie for the Non-baker

Although I used brandy snifters, believe me, they are just as good in any other type of container, including clear plastic cups.

Pie in a Cup
All you do is place a prepared Graham cracker crust layer, place custard, fruit curd, pudding, etc. over the crumb mixture. Add fruit or berries if desired. You may top with whipped cream or other topping.
Some suggestions:
Apple, pear, peach slices cooked with honey,(or sugar),ginger and or cinnamon. Add or top with crushed nuts.
Or use pie filling. Add vanilla and/or nuts.(Almond is good in cherry filling)
Cooked or fresh berries with custard.
Whip cream cheese , mascarpone or silken tofu with fruit curd or pie filling. Top with more filling or curd.
Lemon or other fruit curd with whipped cream or ice cream.
Ice cream and whipped cream layered and frozen.

Chiffon

(All of these will work in a Graham cracker pie crust, as well).

You have made individual pies and you will make an impression.

Sliced fruit , a sprinkling of sugar, a bit of butter and you have a  beautiful dessert made with easy Old World Pastry

Sliced fruit , a sprinkling of sugar, a bit of butter and you have a beautiful dessert made with easy Old World Pastry

Rustic Tarts

One recipe Old World Pastry

1 ½ cups thinly sliced pears or apples
3 tsp. butter or margarine
add’l Tbsp melted butter or margarine
1 Tbsp. Sugar,(can be coconut sugar)
beaten egg for egg wash, if desired
1/8 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, if desired

Roll the dough to a consistent thinness of 1/8 inch ,(no thinner).
Place on a buttered baking sheet or pie plate, (or line with buttered parchment paper.)
Place sliced fruit in the middle, add nuts, if using. Sprinkle with the sugar and dot with the 3 tsp. butter.
Gently bring the sides up to almost meet in the middle and press close to the filling.
Brush with beaten egg or melted butter or margarine.
Sprinkle with sugar.
Back @350F for approx ½ hour or until browned.

I hope all of you who celebrate have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Any questions?

Oils; For Cooking,Dipping and in Recipes

Several months ago I gave a recipe here which required Olive oil. I specified “not Extra Virgin”. Tamara Leigh, The Kitchen Novelist, visited and asked why. (If you have not visited her site, please do yourself a flavor favor! Her recipes are one-dish complete and are often a bit more upscale than mine, but easy to prepare and as beautiful as they are flavorful! Click here:Tamara Leigh:The Kitchen Novelist

I explained why I asked for non-Extra Virgin Olive Oil, (or to borrow Rachael Ray’s term “EVOO”), and promised Tamara that I would do a post about different types of oils, their qualities and the best types to use in or with different foods.
Tammy, this one’s for you!

And there are many types of oils. Here is just what is in my local supermarket and believe me, in a big city there must be even more to choose from:store oils 1store oils 2
And even more, above the Italian section:store oils 3

We will start with Olive Oil:
The both major types of Olive Oil, “Pure”,( or “Virgin”) and “Extra Virgin” available in America today are milder than those of the past, as modern tastes demand. My sister, who has only recently tried her hand at cooking, called me a short time back and wanted to know why the Olive oils she has been buying do not have the same strong flavor that we knew as kids. Her question was, “When did they start ‘virgining’ olive oil?” She had no idea what she was talking about. Let’s see if I can enlighten her and everyone who needs to know.

“Extra Virgin Olive Oil” is made from the first pressing of olives. This, contrary to what most articles and cooking shows tell you, does not make it “best” for every use. EVOO is greener than ‘Pure’ Olive Oil; it contains particles of the fruit. The flavor is strong. Prove it to yourself by comparing the taste of the two. If you do not like to use Olive Oil, it is probably because you have only been exposed to Extra Virgin Olive Oil. EVOO adds a flavor to whatever it is added to or is cooked in it. It has a distinctive flavor and even if you love it, it does not always compliment the other flavors in a recipe. If, and only if, you like the flavor, it is good in salads and dressings, as something in which to toss pasta to keep it from sticking,(I prefer butter or margarine), or to bake fish in,(coat the pan or foil and pour over the fish , with or without herbs.) It also burns very easily; you don’t want to fry in EVOO, ever. I do use it in some recipes, if I want the taste of EVOO in, say a meatless sauce, but I seldom add I t otherwise. My mother NEVER used in cooking. Enough said.[Notice that I did not say “marinara ” sauce. Marinara does not mean “meatless”; it means “of the sea”. Most do not contain fish, clams, what have you. That is a pet peeve of mine!]

“Pure Olive Oil” is now what they are calling what was once always labeled as “Virgin” Olive oil; it is sometimes simply labeled , “Olive Oil”. This oil is from the later pressings of the olives. It is clearer, with a cleaner flavor, if any at all. It is suitable for all types of cooking and in recipes, although I do not use it in baking anything other than, at times, breads or savory,(non-sweet), pastries. It is also not suitable for deep-frying, as it will burn easily, although not quite as easily as EVOO.

There is a difference in quality of Olive oils but if you are getting most of your information from me, most of the time, the price will guide your decision.
I will admit to being partial to Italian Olive oils, after all, my extended family in Italy had olive groves (!) I always buy Mediterranean Olive oils, if Italian is not in my budget. The prices vary. Unless there is a sale on the smaller sizes that makes it worth while, I buy it in the gallon can.(Watch your unit pricing; bigger, although usually, is not always the best buy.) All oils will tell you the country of origin, you just have to read the label carefully. My local supermarket’s brand, (and other “bargain brands”), vary from which countries the oil(s) originate. There is a code on the can: A= Italy, B=Spain, C=Greece, D=Tunisia, depending on which sources were least expensive and/or available to them at the time of packaging. Today the “pure” Olive oil was a “D”,(Tunisian), while the top of the EVOO was stamped: “A, B, C”; ( a blend of Italian, Spanish and Greek oils). Next time, who knows? But I have used them all  with no problem whatsoever.
[Personally, I do not trust the cheaper oil from China. We have had too many recalls of foods from there and too many times have they been caught violating standards. Our government has little control and too few inspectors. I buy no foodstuffs from China.]

I did splurge for a better, smaller bottle of Italian EVOO to use for dipping oil, (to be discussed below), and in certain recipes, (as by drops in cream cheese-herb filling for stuffed olives; the recipe will be upcoming in post on appetizers. You need to know how to make hors d’oeuvres and appetizers. Yes, you do.)

BEWARE of “Lite” or Light” Olive oils. These are ‘watered down’ ,(diluted),with lesser oils, such as Safflower oil and sold at an inflated price. If you don’t like the flavor of EVOO, don’t use it, or mix it with other oils yourself.

Olive oil is food. It is healthy. If you are following a healthy diet,(and I hope you are), still use it in moderation, along with all other fats, but please use it.

As with off-brand Olive oils, “Vegetable oil”,( the least expensive oil on the supermarket shelves), is often a mix of whatever oils are available to the bottler, although the main ingredient is usually Soybean oil. The cheapest ones may contain Cottonseed, Corn, Sunflower, Flaxseed oil or Palm oils. I have no problem with using them for almost any recipe. Flavor is almost non-existent in them, so they don’t interfere with the flavors of your recipes and are some of the best for adding to sweet breads, muffins, cakes, waffles and other recipes calling for oil. They have a high-smoke point ; they can take high temps, so they are good for cooking and deep-frying.

Peanut oil is THE best oil for deep–frying. It will not smoke and therefore, it is the only oil that is allowed to be used for cooking on submarines. It is also good in baked goods, both sweet and savory; it adds a very slight taste that I find enhances many recipes.(If you pop corn the old-fashioned way, made with Peanut oil, it is delicious!) Some people with peanut allergies are able to eat foods made with or cooked in Peanut oil, although I would err on the side of caution if a person is not sure if it will kick up their allergy. I use it extensively. (I also buy this in the bargain size…and on sale when I can!)

Almost all Corn oil is a by-product of solvent extraction. The Corn oil is then highly processed, but there is still often a lingering taste. Although it has a high smoke-point, using it for frying increases the transfer of flavor. Again, the flavor can be an enhancement, but not always.

Canola oil is not, technically, ‘vegetable’ oil. It is made from highly processed rapeseed. It is less oily than Vegetable oils and frankly, I am not impressed with it. (There is some concern about its erucic acid content.)

Safflower and Sunflower oils are light oils,good for salads and within recipes. They have a medium-high smoke-rate but are quite expensive. I don’t know anyone who fries, (deep fries), with these oils.

Grapeseed oil is just that, oil made from grapeseeds, often  those of Chardonnay.It is a lighter oil, (much life Safflower), has little taste, and has a fairly high smoke-point, so it is often used in stir-frying.It is very good in salads and can be used in many of the same places I suggest for Nut  oils, (see below),and anywhere you would use Vegetable oil, although the price is much higher.

I have friends in India who swear by Coconut oil and use it not only for cooking and eating, but for skin care. I find it bland, although my husband eats it as a spread,( it is semi-solid  at room temperature). It has a mild taste, but it will impart its flavor into foods. I think it enhances many cookie and cake recipes, or to cook Coconut Chicken,(recipe will be posted in the future), but if anyone does not like coconut or may be allergic, it may not be a good idea to use it. Coconut oil also has a low smoke-point; do not use it to deep-fry.

Nut oils, such as Hazelnut, Walnut, Almond, etc. are very expensive…and very delicious!
They are fantastic on salads, or drizzled on fish before baking. They are good by drops in cheese fillings for dates, in spreads and dips, or in baked goods. Although they are very costly, little is needed. (These may affect people with nut allergies.)
“Truffle Oil” is Olive or Safflower oil infused with truffles…and terribly expensive. Buy only if you really know and like truffles. Use as Nut oils, or for dipping.

Sesame oil is VERY strong flavored. You should add it one drop at a time to flavor your cooking oil when making Asian or some Easter European-inspired foods. It is good, (in minute quantities), in cheese spreads, cheese balls or salads, including chicken salad, especially if you use sesame seeds in the recipe.

Also on the shelves you will find flavored oils. These are oils that are infused with herbs, alone or with spices. Some are Chili infused. These are generally Olive , Soy or Safflower oils that have been heated and had the desired flavoring items added. After some time, they were strained and bottled. Some are called “Dipping Oil”, and the herbs &/or spices remain in the bottle. They are often tasty, but you may get sticker-shock! You can easily make your own. To infuse flavors takes a couple of steps,(heating, adding, waiting, straining, but it’s worth it). “Dipping oil”, however, is a matter of simply adding whatever flavors appeal to you and which compliment the rest of your offerings. Here is a simple sampling:dipping oil 1

What is shown is a better Extra Virgin Olive oil with a little salt and basil,(dried , with a fresh sprig, because I had it; it isn’t necessary.)I added salt and a little parsley. The other has salt, cracked black pepper,(any would do), garlic granules, and ground rosemary. Use any dried herbs you like. Examples: Italian seasoning, (usually made of basil, parsley, marjoram, oregano, rosemary and thyme,[no sage!]) Mix or match any you have of these or other herbs.. Add garlic or onion powder. If you use garlic or onion salt, omit salt; if you are avoiding salt, do not add it at all. (“Mrs.Dash” or other non-salt additives, used alone, will work.) You can add a dash of dried lemon peel, or hot pepper flakes. If you have dried sweet peppers and or tomatoes,(flakes), you can add them, with or without finely diced olives.
Let your cabinet and your taste decide!

Try adding a splash of Thai Sweet Chili sauce, or Sesame oil,(either, alone) to your oil.
Again, if EVOO is too strong for you, use a good grade “Pure” Olive oil or any other better oil, (such as Safflower or Sunflower oil).

Traditionally, Italian bread is used to dip; French bread is acceptable, as are multi-grain types. Gluten-free breads are usually hearty and can easily be used.
Slice the breads thinly or pull the middle out of your Italian/French bread or rolls. Make the pieces big enough to pick up but small enough to avoid ‘double dipping’ . And don’t be afraid of them getting stale, as you want them slightly-to-very dry; damp bread is not good.
Try one or more before your next sit-down dinner or when family and friends gather; it is a perfect vegan snack or appetizer.

Keep all oils out of sunlight and away from heat. Do not store over your stove or next to your oven, so that the heat will not spoil them and because cooking oils are, of course, quite flammable. We don’t want any terrible accidents.
Since I usually buy the largest sizes of some oils, I keep a small bottle,(pint or quart), ready at hand and keep the rest in the coolest spot I can find, a cabinet against an outside wall in the Winter and then move them to near an A/C vent in the Summer!(It gets hot here.) You can keep them under refrigeration but many oils solidify and are hard to use or measure. DO keep Nut, Sesame and Truffle oils in the refrigerator. These spoil quickly if not kept very cool and you will probably use them sparingly over time. They will last much longer this way.

Do not use rancid, (spoiled) oil. You will be able to tell the difference by smell or by taste.

Did I cover everything? Are there any questions?

Emergency Prepareness II

I hope you have at least scanned through the previous post, as we are discussing being prepared for any emergency, but especially power outages. You never know when they can strike, but with a little pre-thinking, they can be much less stressful.
And we’ll talk about finding room for these even in a small apartment next time. I promise that you have more room than you know. We are certainly not talking ‘fall-out’ shelter here! Besides, if you put good, useful items aside, you can be equally as ready for a ‘guest emergency’.
I stress that I am not trying to be an alarmist, nor encourage you to be a food hoarder. Many people listen to those who would play on their fears and be pressured into making unnecessary and expensive purchases; don’t do it. Buy only a few extras at a time that you will use anyway and rotate them by using them before they have stayed untouched beyond their usefulness. Sure, you can buy MRE’s,(military ‘meals-ready-to-eat’), that will last for years, but, are you ever really going to eat them? I doubt that straits will ever get that dire for you,(let’s hope not.) If you buy food that you would never ordinarily use, (thinking that, if things were bad enough, you will use them), then you will end up throwing them away. It is terrible to waste not only money but food,(I find it particularly so with meat and animal products.)

Anyone on any budget can put away a few things at a time and be ready for trouble.
Buy what you and your family like; that is essential. If things are stressful, choking down unfamiliar and unliked food only makes matters worse. (In other words, if your kids like Spaghettios, put several cans away.)

Remember to keep all foods in as cool and dry an area as possible; no attics or garages. They must not freeze or be exposed to excessive heat.

Try to keep a number of protein-based cans or packages, plus fruits and vegetables. Ready-to-eat soups are good, and a good choice for vegans, as they will have their protein ready in them. Nuts and peanuts, shelled, roasted or in butters, are also good protein choices for anyone. I will caution you to keep them in their original containers and original seals and as with all the foods, keep an eye on the expiration dates and enjoy them before they get too old. You want to buy replacements and eat what is close to expiring, which is another good reason to stagger your purchases. You won’t find all of your stored foods needing to be eaten or replaced all at one time; that is inconvenient and can be expensive.

Processed meat products should be kept only if the people in your household like them.(Don’t load up on Spam if no one has ever tried it or can’t stand it.) Watch out for fat content in them, too. My choices lean toward canned chicken and tuna, although I have corned beef as well as deviled ham and roast beef spread.(OK, so it’s a little on the fatty side; they are only a couple of cans, honest!)

As for fruit and vegetables, unlike most of my shopping advice, I will tell you to buy small or even individual serving-sizes. They are usually more expensive, but in a power outage, you will have no way of preserving ‘left-overs’. Even if the weather is cold enough to put unused potions outside, you will want to conserve the warmth you have indoors by not opening doors and windows more than you need to.( More of heating options in an upcoming post.) Pick up a couple of boxes of zipper-close bags, small and larger, and put them aside; you’ll need them.(More upcoming on such necessities.) Raisins and dried fruit are some of my favorites and kids usually like them. They are good and they keep, unopened, for years.

The hardest part of preparing is trying to find a good source of carbohydrates; nearly all will become stale if kept for any time, so your best bet is to use what is in your cabinet to supplement your emergency rations and to rely on canned corn and beans.
(If your kids like cereal, look for a small box with a late expiration date.) DO NOT try to rely on dried beans, rice or legumes! I know people who did just that and found themselves unable to use them for two reasons:

1.Even though beans seem to store almost forever, they don’t. They continue to dry and become nearly impossible to cook, even in a slow-cooker.[See my post: “You Know Beans” in the August 2012 archives.]

2.And even if the beans or legumes are split, or the rice is ‘instant’, it will take boiling water and a heat source, both of which may be scarce.[Do not try to store par-boiled or “converted” rice; it spoils easily and is prone to become ‘buggy’.]

Keep at least a couple of bottles of, (or a number of boxed), fruit juice, fruit/vegetable juice and milk products. Milk, either dairy, rice, soy or almond, come in aseptic cardboard boxes that will last well over a year, (maybe more), on your shelf. Powdered milk goes stale and will use your water reserves. Water is a must and the only bottled water I have found whose containers do not degrade is Deer Park; I keep their ‘pods’. If you try to bottle your own water, you will find,(as I did), that it may very well grow mold inside the cap, making it unusable and unsafe. Even if your water remains on, it may have been shortly interrupted by the power outage and when this happens, it may be unsafe for a while or it can pull up rust and sediment that has collected at the bottom of the water mains,(mainlines), to where ‘boil water’ advisories may be in effect. (If sediment and rust are in your water, you may not even be able to use your “Pur”,”Britta” or other filters. Strain though cheesecloth or even a laundered, bleached white cotton cloth, such as a thin towel, a white sheet, pillow case or white tee shirt; a cloth diaper is perfect.) If you keep an extra bottle of chlorine bleach, (regular, unscented), you can follow direction on the bottle to kill nearly ever germ and bacteria that may have collected in the water. Read the labels; some of the ‘bargain brands’ are diluted to one-quarter strength or less. Many of the ‘name brands’ and some ‘store brands’ are now highly concentrated and available in much smaller containers which are more easily put away. Chlorine in the bleach dissipates leaving a bit of salt behind when exposed to air, so if you treat your water with it,(as you municipality does in your water supply), and let it sit open to the air, the water will be safe to drink. You may want to store away a favorite powdered drink mix to make it taste better, such as fruit-flavored, lemonade or instant tea.

If you foresee a storm, or other emergency, you might want to do what many used to do; fill your bathtub. If nothing else, if your water supply gets interrupted you can have some cleaning water and water to flush the toilet, as most work on gravity.(You’ll thank me later.)
If you have your own, learn to turn the water intake to your water heater. You will have that water to work with, but if whatever supplies your heat remains,(such as propane or natural gas), or comes back on,(electricity), and your tank is empty, it will break or perhaps explode or cause a fire. If you can’t turn the water supply to it off, simply do not empty your water heater. Tape or cover the hot water taps in every sink or tub as a reminder.

Any questions?

Next time we will talk about other necessities and, importantly, finding room to store them.

Nontraditional, Easy Fish Tempura/Favorite with Kids!

Friends, this is my version of an easy ‘dry tempura’. Tempura is the term used for batter-fried fish and vegetables; my recipe has the same ingredients, but done in an easy, double-step process: dipped first in liquid, then dipped in dry breading before deep-frying.

I will give my very basic recipe and try it this way, then you can become more adventuresome if you’d like, by adding spices or dried herbs to your breading,
(“Old Bay” seafood seasoning comes to mind, as does paprika, parsley, etc.). This recipe is good for kids and people who do not generally enjoy fish. I like it plain, with a little extra (sea) salt, or you can dip them in many types of flavorings.

This is best with any good white fish, and if you have read any of my previous posts, you know I will foremost suggest cod. Cod is the mildest tasting fish and you can’t go wrong using it in almost any recipe. It is the best choice for anyone who would like to avoid any ‘fishy’ flavor.

 

Fish Tempura, good alone or with a selection of sauces.

Fish Tempura, good alone or with a selection of sauces.

[Shown: approx. half-pound of cod; recipe feeds four with added salad or soup]

Fish Tempura

1 lb. frozen fish filets,[see information in Archives,Feb.2013 “Lent/Easy Baked Fish]
2 Tbs. lemon juice or 1 Tbsp. vinegar {distilled white or rice vinegar

1 cup flour {rice or all-purpose
¼ cup corn starch
1 Tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp. salt {preferably sea salt

2 egg whites or equivalent of reconstituted dry egg whites
2 tsp. lemon juice or 1 tsp. vinegar
1 Tbsp. water

2+ cups oil for deep frying {peanut or vegetable, not olive oil
Make it hot.

Thaw frozen filets in cool water with lemon juice or vinegar; leave in water.

Mix the dry ingredients well in a shallow bowl; reserve.

Whisk, (with whisk or fork) the egg whites, lemon juice (or vinegar) and water in a shallow bowl.

Cut fish filets into 1-bite or 2- bite-sized pieces, (not more than 1″square; shape does not matter)
Place some of the fish pieces in the wet mixture then into the dry mixture and drop in one layer into hot oil. Turn the fish when lightly browned and drain flat on paper towels.
Serve immediately.

I like these with just a little extra sprinkling of salt; others may like to go ‘Asian’ and use Teriyaki sauce, soy sauce or Thai Sweet Chili sauce. Others may like a honey dip, tartar sauce or cocktail sauce, (which I forgot to add to the picture, and now it is too late, all the fish has been eaten!).

If you keep your fish and egg white mixture very cold and your oil very hot, these should never be oily or greasy, but if you like the “fish ‘n chips” flavor, you can splash them with malt vinegar, rice vinegar,(or really, any vinegar).

These are well served with a salad or steamed vegetables, or soup; I suggest a nice vegetable soup, bean or lentil.[see August Archives, 2013].

This is the last of the Seafood series for now. I have requests for three other ideas, one on oil, one on keeping an emergency supply of food,(with severe weather season approaching, I think it is a good idea), and one on herbs and spices.

I hope all of you enjoy your Spring, Easter or whatever you celebrate and hope to hear from you now or in the future with any questions or comments. Please?

Twice-Baked Potatoes/From Appetizers to Entrées

Twice-Baked Potatoes/From Appetizers to Entrées

Yes, I said I’d put this recipe up before, but I had a quick request for my Codfish Cake recipe by people who missed the Gorton canned codfish cakes,(no longer available.)
Twice Baked Potatoes can be made with many ingredients, but I serve them often with seafood for Lent.

Twice-Baked Potatoes are also one of the tastiest ways to stretch your budget and leftovers. They are very convenient, and can be made well ahead of time and even frozen, ready in your oven or microwave in short order.

From appetizer to entree, an easy and delicious budget-stretcher

From appetizer to entree, an easy and delicious budget-stretcher

[The ones pictured above are made with tiny shrimp and spinach]

Twice-Baked Potatoes can be made with many ingredients, used as a side dish or as an entrée. They can even be made with mini-potatoes and used as finger-food, appetizers or placed on a buffet. They can be made with meat, seafood or vegetables and they can be made completely vegan.

You start with a nice, firm potato, any size. (For an entrée, I suggest russets.) Bake the potato to very soft in the middle. Times will vary according to the size of your potato, and, if using a microwave, the power of your unit. (Use 400F oven for baking 45-60 minutes or microwave on high for about 5-7 minutes for good-sized potatoes.)
Microwaves make perfectly acceptable Twice-Baked Potatoes, and makes them much more quickly, but when done in an oven, the potato skins become nice and crispy and the tops brown. One compromise is to first bake the potatoes in the microwave, (saving up to an hour) and then finishing them off in the oven, or even more quickly, under a low broiler.

If you are unused to baking potatoes, wash them first under running cold water and brush them with a vegetable brush or rub them using a clean cloth. If you usually wrap your potatoes in foil to bake them in the oven, omit for this recipe. Pierce the potato skin with a fork, just once. This will release enough of the pressure from the steam that may build up when the moisture in the potato get heated. If there is enough steam build-up and it cannot escape, potatoes can explode all over your oven or microwave!

When the potatoes are done, (a fork can easily slip all the way into the center of the potato), remove and, using a clean towel, oven mitt or pot holder, carefully cut through the potato length-wise. The potatoes will be very hot and the escaping steam may burn you if you are not careful. Allow to cool slightly, (but don’t let them get cold) and gently scoop out the inside of the potato, leaving the skin intact. (You may want to leave up to ¼ of an inch of the pulp all around the inside so that your potato skin does not break.) Place the pulp in a bowel, and now the creativity begins!

Here is where your taste, what is available and the season challenges you.

From appetizer to entrée any of the suggestions or your own ideas will determine your finished potatoes.

Start by mashing or even whipping the insides of the potatoes with any of the ingredients below, or a combination: [*See Note for easiest suggestions]

Butter, margarine or coconut oil

Cream cheese, sour cream or vegan sour cream, (made from tofu)

Small amount of cream or milk,{rice, soy, coconut or almond can be used

I usually use tiny shrimp, but have used crab meat and imitation crabmeat,(see ‘Seafood Pasta Salads’; Feb 2013 archive for guidelines), but I have used any pre-cooked fish.
You can also use minced bacon, ham, roast beef, or no meats at all. (For roast beef, you can add a little horseradish to the mix.)

You can add cheeses, (or vegan cheese substitutes); cheddar is the best choice here.

Use salt and pepper of any type.

You can add cooked, minced onion, green onion or onion powder, a little garlic or garlic powder;

Sautéed shallots, leeks, celery carrots, sweet peppers;

Cooked, (or frozen and well-drained), spinach is very good in these, as are canned or jarred asparagus

Parsley, paprika, celery salt, chives, sage

Dehydrated vegetable mix

A couple of drops of sesame oil and sesame seeds

Mix & match the above to taste.

* Note: I suggest you start out simply if you are unused to cooking. Add sour cream or cream cheese, salt and pepper, a little onion of some sort and vegetables, cheese, minced ham or tiny shrimp.

After you have mixed all the ingredients, spoon the filling or pipe it with a pastry bag,( or from a zipper-lock bag with the corner cut off), into the potato skin “boats”; they should be heaped in the middle, as there is more to the filling than what you scooped-out. Place the ‘boats” back in the oven, preferably under the broiler on low setting for a short time or placed back in the microwave until heated all the way through. These can then be cooled, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and frozen in a zipper-lock bag, (with as little air trapped as possible), for months. They are great to have on hand as a quick meal or for an addition when having unexpected guests. You can make the little ones ahead of time for a party or gathering.

I hope you try these.

Easy Codfish Cakes

From what I can gather, I am not the only one who misses Gorton’s canned codfish cakes. The mixture came solid in a can and one only had to slice and fry them in butter or margarine for a real treat. When they started getting scarce where I lived, (and now are non-existent), I developed the recipe based on the label ingredients, which I share with you today. I think it is close to what you may remember.

Codfish Cakes (Gorton-style)

1 lb of cod filets { frozen
1 ½ cups mashed potatoes
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. milk {can be rice, almond or soy milk
2+ Tbsp flour {all-purpose, potato or rice flour
(opt. 1+Tbsp. parsley)
Butter or margarine

Poach the cod by placing the filets in a deep flat pan and covering them with water.(Can be still frozen). Add 2 tsp. of salt and 1 Tbsp. lemon juice. Simmer until the filets are no longer translucent,(nearly clear), but opaque in color, (solid white). [ I used to wrap them in cheesecloth to prevent them from breaking apart while boiling but found that they are fine cooking a little longer at a gentle simmer, just under boiling.] Drain the filets and flake them in a mixing bowl.

Add premade mashed potatoes, [See Dec. 2012 Archive, You Can Do It…Breakfast Potatoes and Leftovers if you need instructions.] and milk and salt. Stir in the eggs, mix well and add the salt then sprinkle in the flour. Depending on the wetness of your potatoes and the absorbency of your flour, more may be required, but please do not expect the consistency of our belated, beloved canned codfish cakes: This mixture will be somewhat loose.

Melt butter or margarine in a large , flat pan or griddle,(preferably non-stick).Keep the pan on a medium-high setting and  pick up the cod mixture, roll into a loose balls and flatten before dropping onto the pan or drop the mixture by a large spoonful and immediately flatten with a spatula.( You need to make these rather thin). Leave the cakes cooking for some time until the bottoms are deep golden-brown and flip them gently with a ‘pancake turner’ once, and allow them to brown equally on the other side.(In the ones pictured,I went heavy on the option of parsley!)

codfishcakes2

I hope that if you grew up loving codfish cakes as I did, these will satisfy you.

One of my son’s friends was a local fellow and one day we were discussing food,(which should be of no surprise). He complained that he had gone to a restaurant with his father somewhere in New England and he had tried to order biscuits and gravy, but the waitress had no idea what he was talking about. I told him that biscuits and gravy was a local favorite and that I had not learned to make sausage gravy until I had moved to Kentucky.
He still did not understand; after all, the restaurant had been one in a national chain and he had ordered the same breakfast at nearby locations many times.
I said, “But the menus vary; they feature local favorites. For instance, I was born in Maryland and if I walked into a restaurant here and ordered codfish cakes, they’d look at me like I am crazy”, to which my Tennessee-born then-daughter-in-law replied, “Kinda like I’m lookin’ at you right now?”

Maryland or any where else, I hope you are crazy about the recipe for codfish cakes that you found here.

Last Minute Dinner Salads/Lent or Anytime

Last Minute Dinner Salads

One Ash Wednesday Husband came home late as he went to Mass after working overtime. Our sons and I had eaten our Twice-Baked Potatoes(next post) and the one good thing about them is that it is easy to make just enough, if you don’t care for leftovers. (Although they do freeze quite well for a short term, like 4-6 months).
When Husband came in, he informed me that his boss had been at Mass as well and he had invited the man to dinner.
Husband has done this to me a few times. When we got married I had never cooked for less than six people and we ate a lot of leftovers,(fortunately, I learned to freeze things well.) Let me make a couple of steaks, or a couple of chicken breasts and, used to having too much food, that seemed to be exactly when the Husband would invite someone to stay. I was always last-minute hustling!

I had to stow the baked potato and put together a salad with what I had on hand. I added small shrimp which I fortunately had left over from making the potatoes and I put in some diced cheese. I served rolls and crackers and the men ate well…the boss was none the wiser!

If I have posted on salads before, it bears repeating: Almost any vegetable can go into a salad, as well as fruits and not all of them need to be fresh. I have had someone break up a head of iceberg lettuce, pour on bottled ranch dressing and call it salad and I have had salads that included everything imaginable. You can put together a nice salad with many things you should already have on hand. Hopefully, you have some greens, a lettuce or spinach. Even if you don’t, you can wing it. Here is a list, although not complete, of what you can include in a nice dinner salad:

Any type of ‘greens’, iceberg or leaf lettuce, spinach, parsley, mustard greens, turnip greens
we all know:
carrots
tomatoes
cucumber
radishes

but how about:
celery
shredded parsnips
fresh pea pods
broccoli
cauliflower,
sweet peppers
bok choy
grated zucchini or squash
thinly sliced onions or leeks
diced green onions

Use your imagination

You can add fruit in with vegetables as long as they are firm, such as :
Pears
Apples

If you know your guests can tolerate seeds and nuts, you can add:[*See Note]

Almonds/Hazelnuts/Walnuts/Pine nuts, etc.

Peanuts

Sesame seeds

Sunflower seeds

Pumpkin seeds (roasted)

 

And, especially in a pinch, these canned items do a good job in rounding out sparse fresh veggies:
corn
peas,
beets
green beans
wax beans
chick peas/black eyed peas/
kidney/navy/pinto/black beans
black or green olive
pineapple
sliced apple rings
pearl onions

And I always keep pickled vegetables,(giardiniera ) on hand.

Mix and match, pick and choose. Add tiny shrimp/ crab or imitation crab meat, shredded or diced cheese,(Cheddars, Swiss, Provolone, Monterrey Jack, Pepper Jack, Havarti Muenster); you can also do a great job with diced ham, chicken, roast beef or turkey cold cuts, (or ‘Tofurkey’). Diced hard-boiled eggs can be added at the last minute,(they will break up in the tossing and it isn’t pretty.)You can use leftover roasts, chicken or whatever flavorful meat you have on hand.
With this type of salad, you may find that you don’t need dressing. If you have guests, allow them the option. On the other hand, I have found that if the flavors are a bit bland, I add some that I like to whip up quickly on my own using Olive oil and pomegranate molasses, which is bitter, contrary to it’s name, so I add honey or a syrup. I also have several vinegars on my shelf to use. However, there are perfectly good bottled dressings out there, and several flavors are in my refrigerator as I type this; use them.

As I did, serve with crackers, fancy beads or rolls. You can add prepared rice, couscous, barley or small pasta for a one-bowl meal, or serve a simple couscous, rice or pasta dish on the side.

[*Note]The real beauty is that these can be made for Lent, pescaterian, vegetarian or vegan.It is gluten-free, (without  cheese), dairy-free and can be served with meats, cheeses, fish, seeds/nuts, grains and  pasta on the side, if you are unsure of your guests’ needs.

I hope this gives you some ideas…and I hope you try some of the ideas, not only for Lent,(meatless), but throughout the year. These are wonderful in hot weather for a light but filling and nutritious meal that anyone can be proud to serve…quick and praise-worthy!