I first heard of tomato gravy on a writers’ Facebook page, (Flavor The Moments), but it was made with chicken broth. I still eat poultry, but I have been looking into more and more vegetarian and vegan alternatives, so I put my hand to it. I hope you find it as enjoyable as I do.
1 Tbsp olive oil (not extra virgin or ‘robusto’)
¼ cup minced onion
¼ tsp+ salt
dash of finely ground pepper, (preferably white)
1 28 lb can of whole tomatoes, or 1 ½ cups of tomatoes, blanched and peeled*
½ strong vegetable broth**
¼ tsp celery salt
½ tsp. thyme, or ground/rubbed sage
½ cup tomato sauce, (if not using canned tomatoes or ¼ cup if using weak broth)
1 Tbsp corn starch, (mixed just before adding into 1 Tbsp water) or
1/8 cup cooked quinoa or millet (GF)
*Do not use canned diced tomatoes; they are too tough for this recipe
** Place commercial broth in a pan and simmer to condense and reduce it by half, or make strong vegetable bouillon. You can also make your own vegetable broth. Recipe:
Add butter or oil to a saucepan and heat. Add the onions and cook slowly until they are just soft, not translucent or browned. Chop the tomatoes and add to the onions. Add the salt and pepper, ½ cup of the liquid from the tomatoes, (and tomato sauce if using), and the broth. Simmer for approximately 20 minutes. Add the celery salt, sage or thyme and simmer for 5-8 minutes. Add the cornstarch and stir gently until thickened. Remove from the heat and let rest. If using prepared quinoa or millet, omit cornstarch mix and let sit over low heat for 12 more minutes, occasionally stirring gently, until thickened. (Taste and add more seasonings or herbs if needed.)
Serve traditionally over biscuits, or try over cornbread, or prepared rice, grits, quinoa or buckwheat to be gluten-free and add protein, or add protein by serving over prepared cracked-wheat or barley.
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.
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.
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
When I went to my family reunion this Summer, my gentleman cousins treated me to dinners at a fine restaurant near where we stayed.(We also had a great lunch at a barbecue joint that looked like a barn, but I digress.)
At one of the meals I chose a dinner salad that came with glazed chicken and walnuts…it was wonderful. And when they offered me their raspberry vinaigrette for it, I was blown away! I had to go home and reproduce it as well as I could.
Since then I have been experimenting with glazes and meats, plus meat substitutes! I found that Tofurkey is amazing glazed and chilled and so is Quorm,( a vegetarian,but not vegan, meat substitute. Seitan can also be used and I have made it with Tempeh).
I don’t remember what they charged for the salad at the restaurant, but even using leftovers, you can recreate the taste at home for your own enjoyment, and even impress any guests you may have, for a fraction of the cost!
(If you are using raw boneless chicken, beef or pork, sear it at a high temperature on the stove with your glaze, then lower the heat, add a few Tablespoons of water and cover until they are fully cooked in the middle).
If using leftovers, Tofurkey or Quorn,(ground Quorn is good here) , simply sear on medium-high heat on the stove and turn as soon as it is seared on each side. Then chill. I have used slices of roast pork,(including commercially marinated pork roasts), chicken, (including rotisserie chicken), slice turkey and roast beef, (although the latter does not work as well, except for my leftover Sesame Beef…strips of beef dredged in salted corn meal and fried in a little sesame oil with sesame seeds.)
The glazes that I have used are honey with butter or margarine; Apricot, Plum, Blackberry and Raspberry preserves or ‘all-fruit’ spreads, or , if you can find it, Pomegranate Molasses.
Pomegranate molasses, ( or sauce), is not very sweet. It has a wonderful flavor, but I like to add a little honey, syrup or sweetener of some sort, even stevia. You can even mix it with any of the fruit spreads, or with a little sesame oil.
If you are daring, you can use commercial Asian Sweet Chili Sauce instead of a fruit glaze.
Toss in walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, or pumpkin, sunflower or sesame seeds with the meat or substitute. You might want to use a little sesame oil to fry the meat/meat substitutes if you are using sesame seeds, (it is strong and a little goes a long way). If you have any nut oils, you can also use a small amount of them to sear the meat/meat substitutes; it makes them even more special. See my post on Oils in the October 6, 2013 archive.
[Do you have someone with nut allergies or want to stretch out your budget? You can get a fantastic result from roasting chickpeas, (garbanzo beans). Use canned, left over or cook them until soft but firm, (see one of my first posts on beans in the August archives August 24, 2012), then roast them in your oven, turning them occasionally, until they are browned and dry. When cooled, crush them. You can place them in a closed container in the refrigerator or a zip-close bag in your freezer to use when needed. It adds a nut-like flavor and texture, and puts an extra protein punch, as do the nuts.]
Add a very little water to ‘degaze’ the pan in which you have cooked by heating it to boiling and scraping what remains in the pan into a container with your meat/meat substitute. What is comes from the pan will keep your meat moist and add extra flavor when added to the salad, along with the dressing.
There are some lovely commercial Raspberry vinaigrettes on the market and some beautiful infused vinegars to make your own dressing, ( I love pear-infused vinegar!). Again, you can use nut oils to make it extra special, but peanut, grapeseed or regular olive oil are really all you need.
I eat so much of this that I have prepared meat and meat substitutes in the freezer, ready to be thawed and used when I am hungry, or for guests. I often grab leftovers and glaze them before others can make a sandwich (Don’t worry; no one goes hungry here!)
I prefer to use green salad, with any combination of :
Fresh String/Sugar Snap beans /Snowpea pods
Feel free to add carrots, sliced peppers, cucumbers or
I generally add chow mein noodles or croutons to round out the meal and add a carbohydrate. I sometimes use prepared wild rice or even hash brown potatoes cooked very dry, and you may want to use these if you are wheat sensitive.
I hope you try this. It is healthy, easy, inexpensive, gourmet-quality food and you can even use up your leftovers making it! Impress yourself and your guests!