Category Archives: Family

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!

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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.

 

 

 

Appetizers VI/Polenta-based

I hope that everyone had a safe and wonderful holiday season and that the New Year finds all of you well and happy. Appetizers know no season.

As we continue with the appetizer theme, I will offer some that are all are gluten-free and can be made vegan. [By the way, did you know that Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies are vegan?]

Today our base is polenta:

Pictured below are:
Cooled stiff polenta with sautéed peppers , onions and parsley,  made into patties and lightly fried. They are topped with hummus,(see previous post),
Herbed mashed potatoes,
Herbed sour cream or cream cheese, (silken tofu or vegan sour cream can be substituted),or
Baby corn marinated ,and broccoli dipped, in Italian salad dressing
Pepperoni and provolone
I also show stiff polenta wrapped in turkey bacon,( you can use vegan bacon) and
Wrapped in cheese.

I also show the marinated baby corn and dipped , cooked broccoli wrapped in cheese, as well.

Polenta can make delicate to hearty appetizers

Polenta can make delicate to hearty appetizers

Polenta is basically cornmeal, not to be confused with grits, which are…grittier. Grits use a courser-grind of cornmeal.
Polenta can and has been confused, however, with ” mush“. which is cornmeal cooked in water and salt  alone,(basic polenta). In the southern parts of the U.S., it is usually cooked to full stiffness, cooled, then sliced and pan-fried; it is often served with syrup.

(Shortly after I moved to Kentucky, I left polenta and a pan of sausage sauce at a dinner at church.Before I could get back down to the kitchen, the women there had taken my sauce and added it to someone else’s barbequed cocktail wieners.They  misunderstood me as I had rushed out …they thought that I was bringing caramel sauce back for the “mush”.  What I made  was eaten very quickly by the Locals, who were glad to see ‘mush’ offered, but I was advised that I should have fried it before serving! My sons wondered who cooked like me when they ate the wieners.)

Polenta often has cheese or herbs added to it while cooking.One can even add well-cooked vegetables to the mix; common ones are onions, peppers, broccoli.

You can , in some areas, buy polenta mixes or pre-made polenta in tubes, which are often in the freezer case of your supermarket.

Making it from scratch is easy:

Basic Polenta

1 part corn meal (not self-rising!)
4 parts water

which means  use one-half cup of water to two cups of water; one cup of cornmeal to four cups,(one quart), of water;  two cups of cornmeal to  eight cups,( two quarts),  of water, etc.

Add at least 2 tsp. salt per cup of cornmeal

Bring the water to a boil and slowly add the cornmeal to keep it from lumping. (I advise using a wire whisk.)

You can add parsley, grated cheese,(I always add a little  grated Parmesan), plus onion or garlic powder, saffron , turmeric or any savory herb that you would like at this point; add any well-cooked vegetables at the end.

Stir continually over a medium high heat until your polenta is at a desired consistency…you want it very stiff to make appetizers.

You can leave the polenta for a few minutes if the heat is on low and you get right back and whisk it thoroughly. (Many Italian cooks would consider that last statement heresy, but it works.)

It’s a little more work but they should be made ahead of time and chilled. They could be made days ahead of time.

I have a few more samples to show you.I hope they inspire your own tatses.