Category Archives: Family

Breadcrumb Alternatives – GF, Healthier Complex Carbs

When I started this blog, I had hoped to help people know that they are perfectly capable of cooking and entertaining,but to also help those faced with family and friends who need special diets. I was not aware of how many of my own recipes called for breadcrumbs, how many people need to go gluten-free,(including one of my sons), and how easy it is to add complex carbs and protein to recipes by using alternatives to breadcrumbs.

Grains and legumes also turn some vegetable sides into vegetarian or vegan entrees.
Grains can be very pricey at the grocery store. I suggest that you look for these in bulk, which can be less expensive in some stores, in bags at international markets or online. If buying online, read the lowest reviews, not just the ratings. There are great deals out there, but the quality can vary. A low price is not a bargain if the product is inferior.

When cooking the foods listed below to semi-soft, place the grains/chickpeas in a crockpot, place in a covered pot and bake, or cook simmering on the stovetop with more water, testing for the degree of doneness you need. Use less water than you would do to cook them completely soft. Normally most would call for 3 parts water to 1 part dried item. Err on the side of caution and start with equal parts water and legume or grain. If they are too hard when the water is gone, you can always add a a bit more and cook it longer.
(On the stovetop, you’ll need more water for evaporation, less if you keep a lid on the pot.)

To substitute grains for breadcrumbs is easy. I simply cook them as above. The grains will be semi-softened and ready to absorb the liquid or moisture in your meatloaf, veggie loaf, baked tomatoes,stuffed peppers, (or other vegetables), for in-meat or stovetop, vegan stuffing, you name it.You can add a bit of salt, olive oil, salt-free herb blend, any favorite herb, lemon, or perhaps a little garlic or onion while precooking any of the alternatives here.

Use the semi-soft grains while warm. The release of heat will aid in the absorption of the moisture of the rest of the ingredients, which is what the breadcrumbs would do.

The nature of the grains will not allow the foods to be made into very stiff loaves and balls, so treat them gently. Pre-browning balls will help,(in oven or on stovetop). Higher heat and little sauce over loaves is the best way to get them to hold shape.


I have previously mentioned using quinoa in some recipes and is my go-to when I am not using breadcrumbs. Commonly, quinoa comes in white, red or mixed versions.I prefer the mixed or white for breadcrumb substitutions.

QUINOA


I really like to use chickpeas for toppings, as you would with breadcrumbs containing butter and possibly herbs, as topping a casserole or vegetables. They add a nice texture, really dress up vegetables and again, add protein. These and the grains give potato dishes and all vegetables flavor and a truly polished look. Sprinkled over pasta,(GF or regular), they add so much.
These need to be treated differently than grains
You can cook dried chickpeas in a crockpot until soft, then lower the heat and let them dry out, or take them, baked, simmered, or canned chickpeas, and dry them on a baking sheet in the oven, or in a dehydrator.

(Drain canned chickpeas under running water before drying them out.)

As with the quinoa you can add spices or herbs while cooking, or sprinkle what you would like over the drained, canned ones before drying.

CHICKPEAS


When the chickpeas are dried hard, whirl them in a blender, food processor or place them in plastic bag, between paper or a clean towel and crush them any way that you can,(rolling pin, mallet, a heavy pan. Add whatever you would like to them and sprinkle away.

Millet is very small, and many find it grainy, but I like it. I add it to vegetable dishes and some soups to add substance and protein. Use this where there is plenty of liquid, (soup or vegetables that produce a good deal of liquid, such as tomatoes and squash), and cook for a short time. If you opt to cook it to use as a topping, use 1 part water to 3 parts millet,(it cooks that quickly). Millet is usually available in red or white, which tends to be a little larger.

MILLET

Buckwheat, despite the name, is not wheat and does not contain gluten, whereas Barley, Bulgar and Soft White Wheat do, so bear that in mind. All are good breadcrumb substitutes when cooked semi-soft to absorb and strengthen stuffings, meatloaf/ veggie loaf , or when cooked until soft and dried for toppings. Buckwheat has a stronger flavor than barley, bulgar and the soft white wheat, so adjust additions or amount to your own taste. I like to use pearl barley instead of whole groats, as it cooks more quickly, it is easier to use. It also has a milder flavor and absorbs more.
Course bulgar is best for breadcrumb-like uses.

BUCKWHEAT; BARLEY, BULGAR and SOFT WHITE WHEAT

Clockwise, starting top left: Pearl Barley, Buckwheat,Soft White Wheat, Coarse Bulgar

Personally,I have found SORGHUM to be a little sweet and cooks up a bit pasty for my taste, but feel free to experiment.

I hope that you will try some of these suggestions, even if you do not need to go gluten-free.

Make your meals healthier.

Easy Gluten-free, Low-sugar,Dairy-free Almond Cake

GF Almond Cake:

1 ½ cups almond flour (Instructions for making your own at the Lemon Cake site: https://tonettejoycefoodfriendsfamily.wordpress.com/2020/01/02/lovely-lemon-gluten-free-cake/)

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 teaspoon pure almond extract

4 teaspoons Almond (or other) milk

1/4 cup slivered almonds for top

1 1/2 tsp sugar or powdered substitute, (preferably stevia), for sprinkling on top.

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 almond extract plus the milk and mix well. Add the other ¼ cup of sugar or stevia mix slowly and beat well.  Add the almond flour and mix well. If the mixture seems very stiff, add a very little more of the milk.)

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, but check every five minutes afterward. Whether using baking powder or not, the cake may rise, then fall, and this is fine.

While the cake is still warm, sprinkle with the sugar or powdered stevia and serve or serve cold. If using a drizzle, wait until it is almost completely cool, and serve immediately.

Wrapped tightly, this cake freezes well. You can let it thaw on a countertop or microwave it quickly serve.

I hope that your family and friends enjoy this as much as mine have.

[https://tonettejoycefoodfriendsfamily.wordpress.com/2020/01/02/lovely-lemon-gluten-free-cake/]

Easter Spread/Dip; GF and Vegan Options

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:

Appetizer Spread:

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)

1 Tbsp. + 1/2 Tsp sesame seeds, divided

3/4 tsp lemon juice

½ tsp minced garlic

1 Tbsp. basic herb/spice blend: “Mrs. Dash” (homemade recipe in previous post)

¼ cup sliced black olives

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.

ALTERNATIVES:  

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.

Stovetop or Baked Stuffing: Standard, Gluten-Free and/or Vegan

 

 

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);
set aside

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;
add milk.

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:

  1. 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
  2. cook on the stovetop, in a large, heavy-gauge pan, (preferably with ceramic or other non-stick coating),  stirring often, until fairly dry
  3. 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.

Some Basic Tips

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: WP_20181113_004
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.WP_20181123_002

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.

Milk substitutions:

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.

Thank you for being with me!

Easy Gourmet withLeftovers-Vegan/GF/Nut Alternatives

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!)

Here’s how one of mine looked:

Gourmet dinner salads:easy, inexpensive, impressive!

Gourmet dinner salads:easy, inexpensive, impressive!

I prefer to use green salad, with any combination of :
Iceberg/bib/Romaine/leaf lettuce
Kale
Spinach
Onion, scallions/leeks
Bok Choy/cabbage
Celery/celery root
Broccoli
Fresh String/Sugar Snap beans /Snowpea pods

Feel free to add carrots, sliced peppers, cucumbers or
Roasted Cauliflower

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!

Dress Up Leftovers

Another (not so funny) thing happened to me on the way to continuing my last series; my husband was hurt. It was not a life-threatening injury, but one that literally knocked him off of his feet for three months. Unlike many men who malinger, I had to basically hold him down so that he could recover. (He does hit the bed when he has the sniffles, however!) Much went neglected, including this blog.

We will revisit with more antipasti and on to more party foods, but since this is Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S.A., I thought I’d start talking about not only using, but improving, on leftovers.

Ham and turkey, and for some, “Tofurkey” and Quorn “roasts”, were what was on the table last Thursday. My family enjoys another plate like the basic one, but let’s face it, too much is too much! And when the leftovers are small, or chunks, or scraps, you just need something different to do with them.

Here is what I made today:

An easy casserole to update your leftovers!

An easy casserole to update your leftovers!

It is made with leftover ham, mashed potatoes and vegetables, but it can be made with any combination of meat or meat substitutes and vegetables, or just vegetables. Substitute whatever you have that might fit and no one thing or measurement is absolute…this cooking, not rocket science. Gluten free, it can be adjusted to be  vegan.
“Leftover Casserole” just doesn’t sound right to me. How about :

Post-Feast Casserole”?
Pre-heat oven to 350F
1 +cup leftover ham, turkey or meat substitute
1 ½ cups mashed (or other) potatoes [Hash browns, (hash brown casserole),cubed and boiled with green beans, etc.]
½ cup sour cream or vegan sour cream [Do you have dip left over? Use onion, spinach or ranch]
1-2 cups leftover cooked vegetables, [I used broccoli and cauliflower. Green beans, (green bean casserole),Brussels sprouts, spinach,(spinach balls),carrots, etc. Increase the amount if you are only using vegetables]
Gravy,or sauce, optional [Did you make cheese sauce or a sauce for your Tofurkey or Quorm roast? Use what you have left]

Mix the potatoes with the sour cream or dip. Place half in the bottom of the casserole or baking dish. Add a layer of each vegetable you chose to use. If you have gravy or sauce, pour in about a 1/2  cup now. Cover with the rest of the potatoes and bake for approximately 30 minutes.

If you cool this completely and wrap well, it will keep in your freezer for at least 3 months. It will be either a nice break now from the regular leftovers, or a quick, warm, comforting meal on a cold night in the coming months.

I have been waiting to post an easy, very easy, upscale dinner salad recipe, but I think I will add it next, using leftovers as an option.

I hope you will continue with me.

Appetizers VIII; Custards,HUmmus, Couscous/Vegan

After too long of a break, we continue our series on appetizers. I have saved some of the most impressive ones for these last two post for the time being. I will give you a few unusual flavor combinations to try, or to spark your imagination for other combinations.

Although the next and,(for this series, the last), posts will feature possibly the easiest, the ones here today may take a little more time, but can be made ahead of time. In fact, it’s necessary.

We have already discussed making or buying hummus [December 13, 2014 Archive ] and polenta [January 4, 2015 Archive ], which are contained in the appetizers pictured. I have not discussed couscous, which is made of granules of semolina, (wheat), and can either be steamed or boiled to a softened-but-still-firm consistency. I often buy it made with vegetables, much like garden pasta, which makes a tasty and colorful alternative side dish to potatoes, rice and pasta. More couscous recipes will be in upcoming posts.

Some of the appetizers you see here today contain custard. Simple custard is made by a ratio of 1 large egg to 1 cup of milk (of any type, cow, almond, etc.), and baked in a slow/moderate oven, (325F), in glass or ceramic baking vessels. These need to be surrounded by water halfway up their sides , placed in a larger vessel of any oven-proof material.

Since simple custard is very “eggy”, other ingredients must be added. For a sweet custard, sugar, stevia, honey or other sweetener must be added, and can be made with many other flavorings. Most often, vanilla extract is added, but lemon or orange zest, coconut, nutmeg or almost any flavor that will not dilute the egg-milk ratio will work. Too much more liquid, and your custard will not “set”, which is to become firm. On the other hand, adding pre-cooked rice, (which is also good in the sweetened versions), will have little effect on the texture. Ground nuts, seed or coconut are also acceptable additives.

However, for savory recipes, you want your custard to noy

After too long of a break, we continue our series on appetizers. I have saved some of the most impressive ones for these last two post for the time being. I will give you a few unusual flavor combinations to try, or to spark your imagination for other combinations.

Although the next and,(for this series, the last), posts will feature possibly the easiest, the ones here today may take a little more time, but can be made ahead of time. In fact, it’s necessary.

We have already discussed making or buying hummus [ ] and polenta [ ], which are contained in the appetizers pictured. I have not discussed couscous, which is made of granules of semolina, (wheat), and can either be steamed or boiled to a softened-but-still-firm consistency. I often buy it made with vegetables, much like garden pasta, which makes a tasty and colorful alternative side dish to potatoes, rice and pasta. More couscous recipes will be in upcoming posts.

Some of the appetizers you see here today contain custard. Simple custard is made by a ratio of 1 large egg to 1 cup of milk (of any type, cow, almond, etc.), and baked in a slow/moderate oven, (325F), in glass or ceramic baking vessels. These need to be surrounded by water halfway up their sides , placed in a larger vessel of any oven-proof material.

Since simple custard is very “eggy”, other ingredients must be added. For a sweet custard, sugar, stevia, honey or other sweetener must be added, and can be made with many other flavorings. Most often, vanilla extract is added, but lemon or orange zest, coconut, nutmeg or almost any flavor that will not dilute the egg-milk ratio will work. Too much more liquid, and your custard will not “set”, which is to become firm. On the other hand, adding pre-cooked rice, (which is also good in the sweetened versions), will have little effect on the texture. Ground nuts, seed or coconut are also acceptable additives.

However, for savory recipes, you want your custard to not be sweet, so you will add salt and then, again, any herbs or dry, (or dry-ish), vegetables that strike your fancy. Sautéed onions or shallots are a good choice, or dehydrated peppers or tomatoes. Maybe you’d prefer herbs: parsley, sage, rosemary or thyme, (I don’t recommend them together!), or lemon zest. You can also add a little cheese before baking, but cut back just a bit on the milk.

Test for doneness as you would a cake. Insert a knife into the middle of the custard. When the knife blade comes out clean, your custard is done. The time depends on the size of your containers. One-cup capacity can be done in as little as 40 minutes; a large container can take up to an hour and a half. But never go by time alone.

I have not yet experimented with these myself, but I am assured that quite good vegan versions of custard can be made in several ways, at any level of cooking expertise.

Easy: Silken tofu or heavy, canned coconut milk * blended with a small amount of coconut oil, then chilled

Moderate: Almond or coconut milk blended with tapioca powder or arrowroot ,( plus flavorings), baked as above.

Nuts, (especially cashews), puréed with a little coconut oil or heavy, canned coconut milk*

Advanced: Pastry cream made of coconut or nut milks. This is cooked by whisking over a double boiler with water, salt, flour and cornstarch.

[* NOTE: Coconut milk in cartons is too thin for the quick custards which have this notation. Several types and brands of canned coconut milk are available. Although I generally choose the types that ‘slosh’ when I shake the cans, you want the ones that seem solid when you shake them. Do not use “Cream of Coconut”, as this is far too sweet.]

For the appetizers here, I used cooled custard, and put them together easily with purchased, premade filo cups and rye flatbread.

Filo custard cups, which are vegan, sometime come in grocery freezer cases, but if you will be using them quickly, refrigeration is not necessary as they are prebaked and ready-to-fill. Flatbread, which is also vegan, comes in packages in the cracker aisle. It comes in several flavors made from several types of grain. It also come in long pieces which I just snapped off with irregular edges. Since there is no way to cut them evenly, let’s say that it lends a certain handmade charm to the appetizers.(That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!) You can use any type of non-sweet cracker, gluten-free cracker or even corn chips.

Appetizers featuring Hummus, Couscous and Custard make an imaginative and impressive array

Appetizers featuring Hummus, Couscous and Custard make an imaginative and impressive array

Pictured are :

Pepper-Jack cheese melted over polenta in filo cup, feel free to use vegan ‘cheese’

Pepper-Jack cheese melted over couscous in filo cup, topped with a slice of black olive

Herbed rice custard in filo cup topped with an herbed tomato slice

Hot Pepper custard in filo cups with salmon cream cheese, topped with apple and bacon; vegan “bacon” can easily be substituted.

Hummus in filo cup topped with sautéed mixed vegetables

Hummus with toasted coconut in filo cup topped with toasted sesame seeds

Hummus with pistachio on flatbread

Hummus with coconut on flatbread

Herbed custard rice with herbed tomato on flatbread

Salmon cream cheese with cashew and apple on rye flatbread
(More on using cream cheeses in the next post.)

Of course, you should know by now that none of these combinations are absolutes. Try mixing and matching textures and flavors, herbs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains and anything that strikes your fancy. If you like it, try serving it!

Any comments?

be sweet, so you will add salt and then, again, any herbs or dry, (or dry-ish), vegetables that strike your fancy. Sautéed onions or shallots are a good choice, or dehydrated peppers or tomatoes. Maybe you’d prefer herbs: parsley, sage, rosemary OR thyme, (I don’t recommend them together!), or lemon zest. You can also add a little cheese before baking, but cut back just a bit on the milk.
Test for doneness as you would a cake. Insert a knife into the middle of the custard. When the knife blade comes out clean, your custard is done. The time depends on the size of your containers. One-cup capacity can be done in as little as 40 minutes; a large container can take up to an hour and a half. But never go by time alone.
I have not yet experimented with these myself, but I am assured that quite good vegan versions of custard can be made in several ways.
Easy: Silken tofu or heavy, canned coconut milk * blended with a small amount of coconut oil, then chilled
Moderate: Almond or coconut milk blended with tapioca powder or arrowroot ,( plus flavorings), baked as above.
Nuts, (especially cashews), puréed with a little coconut oil or heavy, canned coconut milk*
Advanced: Pastry cream made of coconut or nut milks. This is cooked by whisking over a double boiler with water, salt, flour and cornstarch.
[* Coconut milk in cartons is too thin for the quick custards which have this notation. Several types and brands of canned coconut milk are available. Although I generally choose the types that ‘slosh’ when I shake the cans, you want the ones that seem solid when you shake them. Do not use “Cream of Coconut”, as this is far too sweet.]
For the appetizers here, I used cooled custard, and put them together easily with purchased, premade filo cups and rye flatbread.
Filo custard cups, which are vegan, sometime come in grocery freezer cases, but if you will be using them quickly, refrigeration is not necessary as they are prebaked and ready-to-fill. Flatbread, which is also vegan, comes in packages in the cracker aisle. It comes in several flavors made from several types of grain. It also come in long pieces which I just snapped off with irregular edges. Since there is no way to cut them evenly, let’s say that it lends a certain handmade charm to the appetizers.(That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!) You can use any type of non-sweet cracker, gluten-free cracker or even corn chips.
Pictured are :
Pepper-Jack cheese melted over polenta in filo cup, feel free to use vegan ‘cheese’
Pepper-Jack cheese melted over couscous in filo cup, topped with a slice of black olive.
Herbed rice custard in filo cup topped with an herbed tomato slice
Hot Pepper custard in filo cups with salmon cream cheese, topped with apple and bacon; vegan “bacon” can easily be substituted.
Hummus in filo cup topped with sautéed mixed vegetables
Hummus with toasted coconut in filo cup topped with toasted sesame seeds
Hummus with pistachio on flatbread
Hummus with coconut on flatbread
Herbed custard rice with herbed tomato on flatbread
Salmon cream cheese with cashew and apple on rye flatbread
(More on using cream cheeses in the next post.)
Of course, you should know by now that none of these combinations are absolutes. Try mixing and matching textures and flavors, herbs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains and anything that strikes your fancy. If you like it, try serving it!
Any comments?

Guest: Author Edith Maxwell

I invited my friend, author Edith Maxwell, to do a guest post months ago and she agreed to help me with the appetizer,/party foods I have been offering.
So here is all the info you need to whet your appetite not only for the wonderful recipe she has graciously shared with us, but for the other recipes and stories in her Local Food Mysteries, as well as her many other stories, written under several pseudonyms. I turn the blog over to Edith Maxwell. Please welcome her.

Guest:: Author Edith Maxwell

Guest:: Author Edith Maxwell

Garlic Pesto Rice Crisps
My fictional farmer, Cam Flaherty, might make these next time there’s a potluck on her farm for the volunteers, even though brown rice isn’t particularly local to New England.
This is an easy and tasty gluten-free party appetizer. Makes about fifteen crisps.

Ingredients:

Garlic Pesto Rice Crisp ingredients

Garlic Pesto Rice Crisp ingredients

1 local egg
1 cup cooked medium or short grain brown rice
1 tablespoon basil pesto made with local basil and garlic
½ cup grated Parmesan (can be pre-grated)
1/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan
Olive oil

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Lightly beat the egg in a small bowl.
3. Add the rice, pesto, and first cheese.
4. Oil a baking sheet with olive oil.
5. Drop a tablespoon onto the baking sheet, flattening into a round.

How to make Garlic Pesto Rice Crisps

How to make Garlic Pesto Rice Crisps

6. Sprinkle each round with fresh Parmesan.
7. Bake about twelve minutes, until light brown underneath and on top.
8. Serve hot.

Easy, tasty Garlic Pesto Rice Crisps

Easy, tasty Garlic Pesto Rice Crisps

Autumn has descended on Westbury, Massachusetts, but the mood at the Farm-to-Table Dinner in Cam’s newly built barn is unseasonably chilly. Local entrepreneur Irene Burr made a lot of enemies with her plan to buy Westbury’s Old Town Hall and replace it with a textile museum–enough enemies to fill out a list of suspects when the wealthy widow turns up dead on a neighboring farm.
Even an amateur detective like Cam can figure out that one of the resident locavores went loco–at least temporarily–and settled a score with Irene. But which one? With the fall harvest upon her, Cam must sift through a bushelful of possible killers that includes Irene’s estranged stepson, her disgruntled auto mechanic, and a fellow CSA subscriber who seems suspiciously happy to have the dead woman out of the way. The closer she gets to weeding out the culprit, the more Cam feels like someone is out to cut her harvest short. But to keep her own body out of the compost pile, she’ll have to wrap this case up quickly.

Bio:Til Dirt Do Us Part is the latest in best-selling author Edith Maxwell’s Local Foods Mysteries series (Kensington Publishing, 2014). Her new Country Store Mysteries, written as Maddie Day (also from Kensington), will debut with Flipped for Murder in November, 2015.
Maxwell writes the Lauren Rousseau Mysteries under the pseudonym Tace Baker, which Quaker linguistics professor Lauren Rousseau solves small-town murders (Barking Rain Press). The second book in the series, Bluffing is Murder, released in November, 2014. Edith holds a doctorate in linguistics and is a long-time member of Amesbury Friends Meeting.
Maxwell’s Carriagetown Mysteries series features Quaker midwife Rose Carroll solving mysteries in 1888 with John Greenleaf Whittier’s help. Maxwell also writes award-winning short stories.
A fourth-generation Californian and former tech writer, Maxwell lives in an antique house north of Boston with her beau and three cats. She blogs every weekday with the other Wicked Cozy Authors:  (wickedcozyauthors.com),
and you can find her at http://www.edithmaxwell.com,
@edithmaxwell, on Pinterest,
and at http://www.facebook.com/EdithMaxwellAuthor.

Thank you for joining us and helping out, Edith.

.

Appetizers VII-Potatoes and Rice/Leftovers

Easy potato-based appetizers

Easy potato-based appetizers

Appetizers from left-overs? It’s possible. What you need to start are mashed potatoes.
(If you don’t know how to make your own, please see You Can Do It, December 10, 2012 Archive)

Many are vegetarian, many can be made as vegan. All can be made gluten-free.

Sautée sweet peppers, (multicolored are nice but not necessary), and a little onion, green onion, leeks or shallots. Add paprika and parsley. If you have a favorite herb, you can use it sparingly. Add a little flour,(may use rice flour), and an egg, to help make them firm enough to be picked-up. But the egg is optional if you want to ‘go vegan’. A little more flour and a little longer cooking time will be necessary. Or you can place them on a cracker, a piece of fresh endive, romaine or spinach.

To make them hold their shape, form the potatoes into small, flat patties and fry them slowly on medium-low heat until they are lightly browned on each side and are very firm.

Top them with anything you’d  like.

Examples are :
Bacon or Tofurkey
Grape or cherry tomatoes
Herbed cream cheese, sour cream  or vegan sour cream; (may add nuts)
More sautéed or pickled peppers
Any left-over vegetable dish,(above has Spinach Bake

These are hearty, more party-food fare,but  they will keep your guests satisfied if the night is long or the meal delayed.

Spinach Bake

2 packages frozen spinach, thawed and well-drained  or
equivalent in fresh spinach which has been blanched,(Submerged in boiling water until limp)
4-6 eggs
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
Optional:
2Tbsp. sautéed onions
1 Tbsp Parsley

Mix well. Place in buttered casserole dish.

OPTIONAL TOPPING: [Omit if going Gulten-free or to avoid carbohydrates]
4 oz melted butter
1 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs(I prefer half-Italian and half-plain mixed)
or
plain breadcrumbs with
1 tsp parsley
1 tsp. basil
1tsp marjoram
1 tsp. oregano (optional)

Mix butter and crumbs. Spread over the top of the spinach mix and bake at 375F  just until  set.(A knife inserted into the middle will come out clean)

I developed this recipe one day at my bakery/restaurant when we ran low on vegetable dishes during a Sunday dinner carry-out rush.I have had many requests for it.It was popular with my clients when I was a personal chef and is big with my family.  Served hot, it makes a great side dish, but cold and cubed, it makes a great appetizer.

Sampling of Spinach Bake and  Mixed Rice appetizers

Sampling of Spinach Bake and Mixed Rice appetizers

On the plate above, we have not only,chilled, cubed Spinach Bake topped with lightly herbed  mashed potatoes, but it is also stuffed into halved grape tomatoes.

Some of the gape tomatoes are filled with the mashed potato mixture recipe above, of course, without the eggs.

One of the white mixtures pictured is a quick chicken salad made with left over chicken breast,(baked, rotisserie or roasted).A little grated onion and celery,or just onion powder and celery salt with paprika. Mix into mayonnaise or veganaise and add to shredded chicken; it works beautifully .Add pecan pieces, hazelnuts, pistachios or walnuts and you have a truly special filling for tomatoes, olives or to be rolled into romaine leaves.

 

The other white mixture is cooked rice mixed with paprika, turmeric and celery salt. You can add parsley and, again, nuts,to add a spark. (Roasted or wasabi almonds add a bigger spark.) Mix with a slight amount of cream, coconut or almond milk enough to make it stick together somewhat.

You should always have a can or jar of black olives in your cabinet, and possibly some pre-made filo cups,(more with them next time), but they aren’t necessary. Tomatoes may not be in season or just not in your refrigerator . A slice of cucumber will work, as will an inch-and-a- half piece of celery or leaves of any lettuce or bok choy. And you can always use  bread or toast squares/triangles using any type: white, wheat, pumpernickel, rye, oat…whatever you have,
plus any type of cracker. You can even use chips, if they are big enough and curved enough to hold filling and be picked up.

Just be certain that your left-overs are fresh and your offerings kept cold.

Any questions? Just a few more posts to go in the series of appetizers.

I hope you have found some among them that you can use.