Category Archives: Tonette Joyce

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.

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.

Rich Flourless Chocolate Cake, (Lower-carb, GF,Dairy-free, Keto, Passover)

Looking for a low-carb, gluten-free, Keto or Passover dessert? Look no farther than a flourless cake.

(I cannot find my pictures; sorry)

This is an excellent easy, considerate dessert, or addition to a party table, when you want to accommodate diabetic or gluten-intolerant guests.

Consider adding other flavors for an impressive difference; some ideas are included below.

Depending on just how sweet or low-carb/low calorie you want to go, I give you several alternatives:

Basic cake ingredients:

I ½ oz of (good) bittersweet chocolate. (I use high-cocoa plain candy bars)*

½ cup pure cocoa powder *

1/2 cup butter cut into small pieces

¾ cups sugar of choice, or 2/3 cups stevia  ‘sugar replacement’  for baking, ( made with sugar, erythritol or monkfruit)*

4 eggs

½ cup hot (not boiling) water

Dash of salt

½ tsp vanilla extract, (or  tsp almond extract, mint flavoring, raspberry;  1 tsp hazelnut brandy or coffee liqueur)

*NOTE: More of these ingredients may be needed for toppings, along with any of the suggestions below.

Melt the chocolate gently and carefully in a microwave or double boiler. Add the butter chunks and stir until melted.

Put into a mixing bowl and add the sugar/substitute; add the hot water and beat until smooth.

Add the salt and one egg at a time, as soon as the mixture is slightly cooled, (so the eggs don’t cook). If using, add the flavoring at the end.

Prepare a baking pan (8-9” round, 8-9” square)  with liberal buttering and dusting of cocoa, or use a pan-release, such as Wilton’s, or Pam for Baking. A piece of parchment in the bottom will facilitate the removal of the cake from the pan.

A tart pan or springform pan would make this even easier; the sides pull away in a springform; some tart pans have removable bottoms. The cake can be left in a nice ceramic tart or baking pan, as well, if you can cool it quickly.

Bake at 325F for about 30 minutes.  It will look like it is rising and then fallen; this is normal. Test for doneness by inserting a thin knife, cake tester into the middle of the cake. When it comes out clean, it’s done.

Cool in pan for 10 minutes and remove, (if not using a ceramic baking pan). The cake will be flat and dense and as delicious as it is, it needs a little something on top.

When completely cool, you can dust the cake with cocoa and powdered sugar, (or the substitute baking blend whizzed in a grinder, blender or food processor to make an equivalent ‘powdered sugar’). You can then add grated bittersweet chocolate, nuts, berries or any combination for an even nicer presentation.  Instead of the powdered sugar, you can simply drizzle with melted chocolate, or ganache and serve as soon as the topping is reasonably dry.
I think you will enjoy this as much as my family and guests do.

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!

Gluten-Free Pie Alternatives+Vegan/Tree Nut-free Options

As promised, I am back with gluten-free options for pie lovers.

I adapted the “No-Fail” Piecrust recipe which I posted five years ago for the pumpkin pie: https://tonettejoycefoodfriendsfamily.wordpress.com/2013/11/16/you-can-make-pie-crust-and-pastryveganchiffon/
which can, of course, be used for any baked pie.

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Unfortunately, the camera did not do a good job and no, the right side of the pie‘s crust was not white; it was from a reflection of the flash.

I used homemade oat flour and almond meal. Homemade grain/seed/nut meals are easier to make than you think. You can find them in stores, and generally, they cost an arm and a leg. Oatmeal is inexpensive and if you grind your own almonds/nuts/seeds, (plus buy on sale or in bulk,) it’s much less expensive than bagged flours and meals. All nuts and seeds, in any form, can be frozen, (in as little air as possible).
The finished, unbaked pie crust can be frozen, as well.

To grind your own flours and meals takes little effort. You can do it in bigger batches in a strong food processor, but many leave bigger pieces in the bottom corners or on the top. You either end up with underground pieces or have the rest of your meal ground to powder/paste while trying to get the others ground down. I have three grinders from which to choose, but you only need one:WP_20181202_001.jpg

You may recognize the Mr. Coffee grinder; which is just about perfect. The Salton grinder is at least 40 years old; it was my aunt’s. The mini-processor is really convenient for grinding small batches and for whipping cream.( Mix any berry type into the cream or to coconut cream and you have a luscious, quick dessert, with or without other fruit or cake!)

I used old-fashioned oats and just turned on the grinder, dumping batch-by-batch into a bowl to measure out later.

The almond meal came out wetter, as would that of many nuts and seeds, but this isn’t a problem, since it helps with the cohesion of the crust. You can adjust up the amount of wetness by adding a little more water slowly, if needed.

For this Gluten-Free Pie Crust w/ Vegan /Tree nut-free Alternatives I used:
2 ¼ cups oat flour
1 ½ cup almond meal (or alternative nut/seed meal)
1 ¼ cup vegetable shortening (see note in the link above in reference to vegetable shortenings)
3 tsp sugar (any type), or less, if using a granulated stevia mix
1 ½ Tbsp. Apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. water
[OPT: 1/4 tsp vanilla or almond extract]
1 egg* or
1-2 Tbsp. flegg**
Mix the flours and sweetener. Cut in the shortening , (as directed in the ‘No-Fail’ recipe). Mix the water, (opt. flavor), egg/ flegg and vinegar together; mix into the meals.

This will not roll-out as the ‘No-Fail’ recipe. Gluten is what makes the crust pliable. You will need to press this into whatever pie plate you choose, as you would with a graham cracker crust. Press in gently but firmly; make sure that you have enough on the bottom and up the sides to hold the filling, but press out any excess that tends to build-up at the bottom edges. Since this will not cut-up or crimp, you will have to get creative with any attempts at decorations, as I did with sprinkles.

[Unlike graham cracker crust made with, well, graham cracker crumbs and butter or margarine, this cannot be used for refrigerator pies; it must be baked.]

*NOTE: To make a half-batch, use 1/2 egg. Crack a large egg and mix it. Use half in this recipe; cook the rest in other in any way, as in: add to an omelet, scrambled eggs, add to a cake recipe, (It will give more ‘lift’). It will keep covered in the refrigerator for several days.
**NOTE: “Flegg” is an egg substitute made (usually) with flaxseed or Chia seeds. You can make your own by adding around 2 Tbsp. of seed ,(grind the flaxseed for better results), to a quarter cup of very hot, (not boiling), water.*

After a short time, you should have a sticky, gelatinous mixture that will add to the cohesion of your crust in the same way an egg would. The stickiness is ‘mucilage’ and if you are a certain age, you know that we used a type of this for glue, so you can imagine the help it gives to binding the crust. You can use flegg for many alternatives, but not when you need a ‘rise’, as in a cake. (Flegg also adds nutritional value, fiber and omega-3s)

[*NOTE: Please heat water on the stove or in the microwave. Water out of a water heater should never be ingested. Heavy metals from the heater can leach into the water and any impurities and/or contaminants that may have slipped passed your water authority, (or is considered within their acceptable parameters for tap water), will be condensed in the continual ‘cooking’ of the water.]

Here is a healthier, G-F /Tree nut-free+Vegan alternative to pie:

Fruit Crisp:
3 cups (approx) sliced fruit or berries
1 cup whole, raw oatmeal*
2/3 Chopped walnuts, other nuts, or non-tree nuts/seeds
4 Tbsp. sugar (beet, cane, turbinado, date, coconut, stevia mix), DIVIDED
(OPT: a little spice that you like, for instance: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice)
6-8 Tbsp. Butter or margarine, DIVIDED

Use 1 Tbsp.+ butter or margarine to butter the bottom and sides of a deep baking or casserole dish.
Slice apples, peaches, pears, etc., or add berries to nearly fill the dish. If desired, sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar/alternative. Dot with 2 Tbsp. of the butter or margarine.
Melt the remaining butter or margarine. Add the sugar (and spice, if using). Mix in the oatmeal, and walnuts/alternative. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit and bake at 350F for about 40 minutes, until the top is slightly browned.
Serve warm or cold, plain or with whipped cream, (or whipped canned, chilled coconut milk), or ice cream   or frozen alternatives.
*NOTE: I used old-fashioned oats in the crisp below, but they came out a little stiff. I will use quick-cook oatmeal to top it the next time. If you wish to layer the fruit and toppings, or will be using ice cream or frozen alternatives afterward, use old-fashioned oats, so that they will not become too soft.

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I do hope that you try and enjoy the recipes above. Please let me know if you tried any other nut alternatives and how they worked for you.

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

Appetizer Finale/Cream cheese and Vegan Alternatives/Liver and Mock Liver Pâté

Hello all! Despite the order in the name of this blog, family comes first, hence the long hiatus since my last post.
I nearly simply ended my series on appetizers, but since the last was ready and the most simple, I decided to go with it.

I personally prefer to use Neufchatel, which is “light” cream cheese, but you can use any cream cheese or ‘vegan cream cheese’ made of tofu, “Go Veggie” and “Follow You Heart” which is a mix containing soy, “Daiya” brand non-dairy, non-soy alternative, (to name a few). Any of these can be easily used for any of these recipes, or in any ideas of your own to make vegan or gluten-free appetizers.

Commercial cream cheese spreads come in very many flavors. You can find sweet versions mixed with strawberry, honey, honey and nut, pineapple and even chocolate. Savory versions include chive, dill, garden vegetable and salmon, which is more versatile than you might imagine.

Along with prepared cream cheese, dips, such as spinach and bacon-and-horseradish, can be used sparingly in appetizers. These have a looser consistency and must be contained within an appetizer or spread thinly.
Of course, you can mix any flavors of your own preference into a plain base, or use the pre-made ones on their own. However, these are so simple, a little imagination added along with a few unusual flavor combinations will make a big hit with family and guests.

Cream cheese and vegan cream cheese based appetizers are so easy and versatile!

Cream cheese and vegan cream cheese based appetizers are so easy and versatile!

Pictured above are:
Salmon Cream cheese on toast round with sliced olive, dried cranberry and a pear wedge
[Dip white-fleshed fruit, such as pear and apple, in lemon or other citrus-based soda, or pineapple juice to slow discoloration]
Salmon cream cheese in mission figs topped with smoked almond, pear piece and dried cranberry
Chive cream cheese on crackers, topped with sliced, jarred sweet pepper and nut (A candied walnut is shown, but a pecan, hazelnut or almond, whether plain , spiced or candied would work)
Chive cream cheese in celery topped with black olive, cranberry, nuts
Pepperoni roll with chive cream cheese or spinach dip
Baby spinach leaves with spinach dip, with or without nuts,(plain almonds, walnuts or pecans)

A recipe that was requested but that I hesitated to add was for my Liver Pâté. I will also add my vegan Mock Liver Pâté recipe. These can be a nice addition to any appetizer plate, be they spread on crackers, (topped with sour cream, cheeses or vegan alternatives, put into fresh spinach or romaine leaves slices of apple or stuffed into mission figs! Try it!)

Liver Pâté/Mock Liver Pâté
8 oz chicken liver, sautéed until just done OR 10 oz walnuts simmered until tender, either cooked with ¼ cup sliced onion
2 Tbsp. dried parsley
1/8 tsp. white pepper
1/8 tsp turmeric (optional)
1/4 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp garlic granules or powder, (NOT garlic salt)
Adjust all flavorings to taste. Chill before use.

One final word on appetizers: remember to keep the few hot appetizers I mentioned in the series as warm as possible, on a hotplate or in an electric skillet if possible. Keep all cold appetizers as cool as possible. Place some out at a time while leaving other refrigerated, or place them on plates or trays on larger trays of ice.

I do so hope this series has whetted your appetite for appetizers and that you will serve them with confidence, whether they be some of the recipes or suggestions that I offered, or some that you were inspired to make on your own.

Do you have any questions?

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?

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.