Category Archives: Food

Vegan Tomato Gravy (Gluten-Free)

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.



Vegan Tomato Gravy over homemade biscuits or prepared tri-colored quinoa

Tomato Gravy

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.

Homemade “Mrs. Dash”, Latin and Italian Blends; Buying Herbs/ Spices in bulk

 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.

Many of my everyday herbs and spices. The bulk supplies are in tightly-sealed packaging where they are cool and out of the light.

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:

Marjoram
Sage

Thyme

Parsley
Basil

Onion Powder

¼ – ½ tsp Cayenne Pepper

1-2 tsp. Black Pepper

OPTIONAL:

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

Options:

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.

Broths: Meat or Vegetable; (Vegan,Vegetarian, GF, Keto)

 

I find it hard to believe that after all this time I have never done a post of broths.

Broths are the basis of most good soups, sauces and gravies.  You can make tastier rice and other grains, (like quinoa, barley, etc.), by cooking them in broth instead of water.  Broths are extremely healthy and versatile, plus they are a wonderful way to stretch your food dollar.  Frankly,  I feel better making the most of the sacrifice of the meat that I eat.

I always trim meats and vegetables, put them away little by little, into freezer bags and when I have enough, I make broth. I may mix chicken and turkey, but I keep all others separated.

I am eating less and less pork and beef, but the way to make any meat-based broth is simple and the same:

Meat Broths

Use scraps, no matter how fatty, and (hopefully) bones with meat, (at least 2 lbs-worth); bones add extra body, flavor and  a good amount of calcium; the fat will come off later.

1 large onion (whole or cut into quarters)

2 large ribs of celery, cut into halves or quarters (preferably with leaves)

1 Tbs salt (to taste)

½ tsp pepper or 4 peppercorns

2 Tbsp. dried parsley (it makes a real difference in taste, and is a ‘superfood’ a powerhouse of nutrients)

 

(if using a slow-cooker, cook on high with less water; cook for 6-8hours). Add all to a large pot, (3 quart). Fill within 2 inches of the top with cold water. Put on a burner on high until it starts to boil, then turn down to a mild simmer; DO NOT BOIL. Allow 4-6 hours to simmer, (after 3  hours of cooking, you can taste for strength). Thoroughly cool and you can skim off all of the fat that will have risen to the surface.  Strain and discard all meat and vegetables, which will be depleted of taste and most nutrients. (The one exception to this is when I make turkey/chicken broth and use giblets; I use extra meat to make the broth strong quickly and then chop the giblets for dressing.)

Now you can use this for the basis of sauce, gravies or any other types of soups, (many recipes are found in previous posts, with more to come.) Some ideas include: adding precooked meats, (meatballs), or sausages and vegetables. The meats can be barbequed, or spiced, (Asian, Mexican, Italian). You can add vegetables alone in any combination; let your imagination and personal tastes inspire you. You can add noodles, pastas, or barley, or go gluten-free with quinoa, rice, oats, buckwheat, corn, cooked beans and legumes and/or beaten eggs.

Today I have made Egg-Drop Soup with Fresh Spinach and Parmesan. I made it with chicken broth, but often make it with vegetable broth:

1 quart chicken or vegetable broth

1/8 cup minced onion

2  1/2 cups chopped , fresh spinach or 1 cup cooked/canned spinach

1/4 cup chopped Parmesan cheese -or-
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan

4 beaten eggs

salt and white pepper to taste

Heat the broth. Add spinach, cook.  Add  eggs; stir until just cooked. Add cheese; let it melt and serve hot.

 

Vegetable Broth

Vegetable broth varies much more than my meat-broth recipes depending on the season. I cut the ends from tomatoes, spinach, carrots, green beans, the tops of celery and bok choy,  over-ripe onions, garlic, weak leaves and cores of cabbage, and lettuces, the peelings of quashes, the inner core and pith of bell peppers, you name it. (I avoid outer peelings of onions, and don’t use red ones, shallots or red cabbage as it makes the broth dark purple and unappetizing.) I put them in zip-bags in the freezer and when I have enough, I add salt, white pepper and some dried parsley and, as above, bring it to a boil in large pot of cold water and simmer for 5-6 hours. If using a slow-cooker, I add less water and cook on high for 4-5 hours If you need ideas, here are pictures of some of my gatherings, ready to be simmered into nice vegetable stock:veg stock

 

Any of the additions listed in the recipe for meat broth can be used. To go low calcium, low cholesterol, vegan, you can use plant-based meat substitutes to give your soups more protein, make the substitutes tastier and get more for the money out of them, since they are still generally quite expensive.

 

I hope that you give these recipes a try.  You will find that canned broth or those in aseptic containers pale by far in comparison.

Lovely Lemon Gluten-Free Cake

 

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.

NOTES:

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.

GOOD, and Easy Gluten-Free Christmas/Holiday Cookies

Looking for really nice and gluten-free cookies for the holidays?  Here are two recipes that will impress even those who don’t need to go GF.

Of course, other than cookies, there are other gluten-free offerings which I will be serving, among them, quinoa-based dressing, rice pudding, cranberry relish and chiffon, (recipes in previous posts).

In a hurry, I decided that I could cheat by rising the temperature; unfortunately, that was a mistake, as they browned a little more than they should have. Leaving them in the oven for longer at lower temperatures will give you an even nicer presentation, however, depending on the sugars used, the colors could be darker, but none of these affect the flavors.

Both recipes are easy and need no prior refrigeration, rolling, cutting or icing/decorating afterward. A few sprinkles, jimmies, dates or nuts on top before baking is all that is needed to  make them a little fancier.

Also, both recipes feature dates. You may wish to experiment with well-drained maraschino cherries, Crasins in your favorite flavor or other dried fruits, feel free to do so. (I will be!)

Also, going with margarine in the second recipe makes both  dairy-free.

 

Walnut-Date Meringues

Whites of two large eggs

1/2 cup sugar, (white, coconut, date, combination or equal in stevia baking mix)

½ tsp vanilla extract

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup chopped dates

Assorted sprinkles, (if using)
or extra dates or walnuts for decoration

Beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the sugar(s) and vanilla slowly and mix until the egg whites are solid white but not dry.
Fold in (or gently mix by hand) the nuts and dates.

Drop by small spoonfuls onto liberally greased baking sheets,(or use baking spray).

Decorate with sprinkles or extra nuts/dates.

Bake slowly in a 290F oven for about  2 ½ hours; (check after 2). You want them to be quite dry. Remove to rack gently and allow to cool completely. Place in airtight container.

 

Pineapple, Pecan and Date  Drop Cookies

1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened

1 cup light brown sugar,(or date or coconut sugar)

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla or natural butter flavor
or  2 tsp brandy

½ tsp cinnamon (optional)

1 ½   cup chopped pecans

1  ¼ cup chopped dates (or other semi-dry fruit)

1  – 15 oz can crushed pineapple in juice, well-drained

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

2 cups or equivalent of gluten-free flour, (I used 1 full cup quinoa flour and 1 scant cup banana flour)

Beat the butter or margarine, sugar(s) and eggs until light. Add the flavoring, baking powder and baking soda; beat well.
Add the pineapple, dates and pecans, beat on low or mix well by hand.
Beat in the flour(s).

Note: Quinoa, chickpea and some other flours have strong flavors of their own, which is why I mixed them in this recipe. Flavoring is essential, and a little cinnamon is very helpful in disguising the flavor of the flours.)

Let sit for 5 minutes.

Drop by small spoonfuls onto  baking sheets  which are greased or lined with baking parchment. Flatten slightly.

Sprinkle with jimmies, colored decorator sugars, extra nuts, dates or pieces of fruit used.

Bake in a 300F oven for 1 hour (or longer). The dough is wet and you want these cookies to dry out in the low heat of the oven, browned on the bottom and not soft. They may appear tough, or overly dry when cooled,  but will soften when placed in an air-tight container. As with tea breads and other baked goods with fruit, these taste even better after the flavors develop in a day or two.

I hope that you have a wonderful holiday season, whatever you choose to celebrate and a wonderful 2020!

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!

Chicken[Tofurkey,Quorn] Paprika(GF, DF)

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.

wp_20170126_002

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.

Chicken Paprika
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
Salt
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
Salt
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.

An Audio Cookbook Giveaway!

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, 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!

Please enter!

(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

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!