Tag Archives: Vegan recipes

Appetizers III Savory Fruit/ Gluten-free, Vegetarian, Vegan-optional

“Savory” and “Fruit” may not come to mind as being compatible, but when it comes to appetizers,the combination is perfect. Sweet and spicy or tart, plus pairing of textures, give a surprise spark to the taste buds and leave  guests wanting to experience more.

Stuffed dates, figs  and grilled pineapple make wonderfully surprising  appetizers

Stuffed dates, figs and grilled pineapple make wonderfully surprising appetizers

The stuffed dates, figs, apricots and grilled fruits above are quite easy and quite eye-catching.

To start, the easiest:

Grilled fruit:
Heat butter in a frying pan until slightly brown. Add slices of firm fruit, such as pineapple, peach, pear, plum,  apple, apricot.

On high heat, brown quickly on each side.You may sprinkle with spices, such as nutmeg or cloves, or you can go  hot, with a little white pepper, ginger, Indian  hot pepper, (be careful!) or paprika. Sugar is unnecessary as the caramelization of the fruit sugar in the pan-frying makes them particularly sweet.

Skewer with a toothpick.

Stuffed Dried Mission figs: slit, filled with hazelnut-chocolate spread,(Nutella), a smoked or wasabi almond, glazed walnut or any of the suggestions below.

 Stuffed Dates and Apricots
With a short,sharp knife, slit the fruit and open the cavity gently with a dull knife, (or a clean finger!), and insert any of the following:

sweet coconut, with or without nuts, or dried fruit bits,(mango, pineapple, crasins, cherries,(dried or Maraschino),

or with sweet cheese [ricotta, mascarpone or Neufchatel mixed with honey, sugar, stevia or other sweetener, plain or with the options of  nuts and/or spices, such as nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, allspice, etc. Silken tofu or “vegan cream cheese” can be used as well.]

Top these with a piece of dried fruit or  nuts.

These will also have to be skewered or placed in candy paper cups, or , easier, mini cupcake papers.

 

Note: Pre-made sweet coconut can be used or prepared with stevia or other sweetener as I suggested in the NuNaturals promo post of September 11, 2014.  Although I developed those recipes with  the product  in mind, ANY stevia product or sweetener of choice can be used. (I found that wasabi almonds are a fantastic mix with sweet coconut…I can’t get enough of the combination!)

Please see all of the September 11 post for more (sugar free)  sweet appetizer ideas.
Again, please feel free to use
  ANY sweetener of your choice.

It’s crunch-time for the holidays.I will post again in a day or two to get in as many appetizers as I can before most of the holiday season.

 

 

Back With New Recipes and A Give-Away!/NuNaturals Products

Dear Friends and Family,
I am so glad to be back with you and am touched by all of you who have kept in touch, commented or even to those of you who  took time to ‘like’ my posts. I send back the love!

I now find myself in need of revamping my diet to drastically reduce my carbohydrate intake. I have a couple of chronic health concerns that I have never let get me down,(and know that I have been extremely blessed not to have the complications many others experience), but my recent diagnosis of Type II Diabetes has thrown me for a loop.

I will continue to cook much of the way I had previously for others, and partake of most in modest portions. Let it be known that Diabetes is NOT caused by sugar consumption; I put mine down to genetics and possibly the fact that I became quite out-of-shape. It is not because I over-indulged in goodies or rich food, but the fact that I became sedentary because of the other health problems. That is the main reason why I took a long hiatus from this blog; I had many family concerns and a limited amount of energy  and, well… I thought of you, cooked and took pictures but even though the spirit was willing, the flesh was weak. Now, I have good care, more energy and am searching for more ways to enjoy food, friends and family.

This will not become a diabetic cooking blog. Nor will I often be touting products.
I have always stressed here the importance of being aware of people’s dietary needs and restrictions .I will continue to offer vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and other alternatives within many recipes, but I will continue to keep the blog ‘main-line’.

With new diagnoses and new medications, I am feeling very much better and am more active. Since I have a sweet tooth, cutting my sugar intake had been very hard on me. The American Diabetes Association suggests using sugar in moderation, I find that it takes up far too much of my carbohydrate ‘choices’. I missed my sweet teas and coffees most, since my carb allotments are better spent on good foods with carbs, such as fruit, grains, beans and legumes…(.and an occasional cookie or piece of cake!)

I’ve always believed that artificial sweeteners are detrimental to one’s health. Frankly, they give me headaches. Over the years I have searched for a natural sweetener for others who had problems with sugar, or who wanted to avoid white sugar, and for those who preferred more natural foods.

Many use honey, but that is not a wise choice for diabetics and also not for vegans. Many whole-food people use maple syrup. I cannot imagine having nearly everything taste of maple, and it, too, is a blood-sugar spiker.

Brown rice syrup was at one time touted as a good alternative for sugar in diabetic diets, but it was learned that it behaves in one’s system much like high-fructose corn syrup…again, not a good choice. Then everyone seemed to jump on the agave bandwagon, but it was found that it does spike blood-sugar and it can cause miscarriages . A time-tested natural sweetener that works so far for me is stevia.

Just as I feared I would be diagnosed with Type II diabetes, I entered a contest for NuNaturals on the blog “Bam’s Kitchen”  If you have not visited Bobbi Ann, please do yourself a favor. She is an American who lives in Hong Kong. Her recipes are wonderful, her stories are fun, her advice is sound and her pictures are beautiful. Go see her.BAM’S Kitchen

NuNaturals healthier alternatives

NuNaturals healthier alternatives

NuNaturals is a company of stevia-based products and they have been a blessing to me. This is the first contest I have ever offered and I would not do it if I had not won a generous amount of their products first, and tried them for myself. In their letter which arrived with my winnings, they offered me the opportunity to run a contest on my own blog. I immediately started trying the products and believe me, if I had not found them useful, I would not be offering them to you, and FOUR of you will win a package of four NuNatural products, plus a bonus gift. The contest is open to all,( world-wide), and everyone will get a 15% discount when ordering online with a discount code listed below. The discount is good until the end of the year,(2014).

NuNaturals stevia-based products are great! They are natural and free of artificial ingredients, including colors and flavors. The contain no Aspartame, Saccharine, Sucralose, High-fructose corn syrup, or sugar. They contain no soy, yeast, wheat, milk and gluten, so they are useable in almost every diet; diabetic, gluten-free, vegan, etc. It is made without preservatives and from no genetically-modified sources. The company prides itself on being “green”, which we can all feel good about.

Stevia is derived from the stevia plant and is highly sweet. It needs to be used sparingly and if you have experienced bitterness with it, you have probably used too much. If you resign yourself to a moderate, gentle sweetness, it is wonderful. However, it cannot always be substituted for granulated sugar in many recipes, since texture and volume are not the same. Still , I think that you will find the recipes I have developed using products from the NuNatural line will satisfy your need for sweetness without the carbs or calories of conventional sweeteners. NuNauturals has designed their products to reduce bitterness.

The contest is open world-wide and four winners will receive:
One 50-count box of NuStevia White Powder SteviaNuStevia 50 Packets Top Angle
One bottle of their New Cocoa SyrupNuStevia Cocoa Syrup
One bottle of their New Simple SyrupNuStevia Simple Syrup
One bottle of their incredible Cherry-Vanilla Stevia LiquidLiquid Cherry Vanilla
These four products have a full retail value of $54.00 plus, you will also receive
A Bonus Gift

The liquids and syrups are very concentrated and a small amount goes a very long way. Still, I asked Ron Redding , the “Sugar-Free Poppa” of NuNaturals, if they would be offering smaller sample bottles and he assures me that the idea is already in the works. I encourage you to look for them in the near future and experiment with their wonderful flavors.

I also have a bottle of their Mint Cocoa Syrup, Lemon Stevia Liquid, Mint Stevia Liquid, Orange Stevia Liquid and a jar of their NuStevia No-Carb Blend, and I love them all.
My NuNaturals arrived with a sheaf of recipes, too. In keeping with the theme of this blog, I will offer a number of easy no or lower-carb suggestions and recipes.(The NuNaturals stevia-based products are no-carb or have miniscule amounts which, when substituted for sugar and many other sweeteners, makes all of  the recipes ‘lower-carb’.)

One easy way to use NuNaturals is to substitute the Simple Syrup for honey or brown-sugar and water in my Chicken Wing Recipes,(January 2013 Archive).
I have every intention of substituting a little Stevia Powder in my Cranberry Relish (original recipe in the November 2012 Archives),
And I will be doing much more experimentation. In the meantime , I offer these mostly low-carb, simple recipes, including drinks, breakfast, snacks a main-dish, side dishes and dessert:

Easy Smoothie [Vegan; Gluten-free,Low Carb]

Banana Smoothie  with NuStevia

Banana Smoothie with NuStevia

I cup of Almond (or other) milk
½ banana, a peach, a plum, a ripe pear or apple
2-3 drops of Cherry Vanilla NuStevia Liquid
Blend. That’s it!
You would not believe how good this is!

Alternatives: Banana with NuStevia Chocolate or their Chocolate-Mint….mmmm!

Or simply mix a couple of drops of a NuStevia Liquid and a sprinkle of the White Powder Stevia to any unsweetened milk for a real treat.

A Ridiculously Easy Refreshments
A couple of drops of NuNaturals Cherry Vanilla, Lemon or Orange Liquid in ice water; delicious! Add a couple of drops to iced  tea or coffee. (Trust me; it’s delicious! The liquids blend and the powder dissolves instantly even in drinks with ice.)

A

Healthier Lite Yogurt [Gluten-free,Low-Carb]
I make my own, healthier version of ‘lit’ yogurt,(Greek-style and regular), by buying plain yogurt in bulk and adding a few drops of NuStevia liquid, sometimes with fresh or low-sugar fruit.(Water or juice-packed). No artificial ingredients and you control the flavor and carbs.

Easy Flavored Hot Cereal [Vegan and Gluten –free options,Lower Carb]
Cook Cream of Wheat or Oatmeal with milk of your choice and add a couple of drops of any NuStevia liquid in fruit flavor. Add fruit, fresh or dried, and/ or nuts, if desired.

A Very Quick Nut Snack [Vegan and Gluten-free,Lower Carb]

Delicious NuStevia -flavored Nut Snack

Delicious NuStevia -flavored Nut Snack

I took ½ cup each of almonds, pecans and walnuts. Add a couple of drops of NuStevia Orange Liquid and a slight sprinkle of NuStevia No-Carb Blend and tossed them. Fanstastic!
[ I imagine that an addition of low-carb cereal, (like an unsweetened Chex), or plain popcorn would make a nice addition to the mix, as well as making it a bit more filling.]
My 30 year-old firefighter son visited and asked, ”What do you have on these mixed nuts, Mom?!” He promptly ate half of them; it’s a good thing I had shot the picture just before he came in! He has no dietary restrictions but he does like to eat healthy foods. He was thrilled with them.

Dips [Gluten-free and Vegan options, Low-Carb]

Easy No-Carb/Low-Carb Dip

Quick and tasty low-carb/no-carb dip with NuNaturals

Quick and tasty low-carb/no-carb dip with NuNaturals

Use a few drops of NuStevia liquid in sour cream, plain or vanilla yogurt or vegan sour cream (Tofutti is one), to make a nice dip for fruit and vegetables.

Spread or Filling [Gluten-free, Vegan options,Low Carb]
A few drops of any NuStevia Liquid mixed into cream cheese or medium tofu to make a nice spread for crackers, toast, rice cakes or as a filling . BE SPARING, as the flavors are very concentrated .Start out with just 2-3 , blend and adjust to taste. You may thin it with any type of milk, (coconut is very good in this), and add a bit more sweetening with a few drops of the NuNaturals Simple Syrup. You can add pureed fruit if you’d like.
Adding the Chocolate Syrup with a couple of drops of Orange NuStevia liquid is divine! Use the fruit flavored ones to fill dates or dried apricots…try the chocolate-orange in mission figs.

Compote [Vegan; Gluten-free,Lower Carb]
A staple in the fancy boxed lunches I used to cater from my bakery/restaurant was a compote made in a slow-cooker for a short time,( or it can be cooked very slowly for a very short time on a stove-top). Here is the recipe, and the NuStevia alternatives:
2 sweet apples, cored and sliced in eights
1 pear, cored and sliced thinly
6 cherries, pitted and quartered
1 Tbsp. melted butter or margarine
1/8 tsp. white pepper
¼ tsp. ground ginger
½ cup walnut pieces
½ tsp. Vanilla plus 1-2 Tbsp sugar
OR
10 drops NuStevia vanilla or Cherry-Vanilla
Warm thoroughly and cook only if you apples are very firm; have them retain their shape
Serve warm or cold. Make a great presentation with a dried fruit,( stuffed as above), on top.

Whipped Cream /Flavored Butter [Gluten-free,Low Carb]

Sweeten and flavor cream with NuStevia

Sweeten and flavor cream with NuStevia

No-carb sweet flavored butter with NuStevia

No-carb sweet flavored butter with NuStevia

In a November 2012 post I told the story of making Caramel Whipped Cream for cookies which worked well, but then I re-whipped it and it made Caramel Butter, which was a fortuitous accident. I did the same with the NuStevia liquid. It made Tasty Whipped-Cream, but whatever I did wrong, it wept, so I beat it again and it became a lovely Fruit-flavored Butter ,(this one was Orange, but it could be any flavor.) Try it!
Simply add a couple of drops, (sparingly) of NuStevia Liquid and whip-away!(it is better if you let it sit until the chill is off the cream to make the butter.) You’ll have a wonderful, no-carb spread.

Coconut Balls [Vegan; Gluten-free, Lower Carb]

Sweet but refreshing Coconut  Balls with NuStevia

Sweet but refreshing Coconut Balls with NuStevia

1 cup flaked unsweetened coconut
Opt: 2 oz. ground nuts,(Almonds are a good choice. Want to add a little zip? Use wasabi almonds!)
2+ Tablespoons unsweetened coconut milk, (NOT Cream of Coconut).More may be needed if using nuts.
1-2 packets NuStevia white Stevia powder , I packet +1/2 tsp. NuNaturals Simple Syrup, or use NuStevia No-Carb Blend
½ tsp. ground ginger
Place in a covered container and shake to moisten. Let sit refrigerated for several hours to several days. Roll into balls. Chill again.

Rice Balls [Vegan, Gluten-free,Lower Carb]
(A great way to use left-over rice)
1 cup cooked rice
¼ cup ground nuts
½ tsp. NuNaturals Simple Syrup
3 of drops of Lemon NuStevia liquid
Roll into balls and chill. These are not too sweet and quite refreshing!

For thirty years I have been making a version of this recipe for special dinners; carrots in a sweet, buttery-orange sauce. Now, I discovered a quick, lighter way to have a similar flavor to enjoy more often:

Sweet but refreshing Coconut Balls with NuStevia

Orange-Glazed Carrots [Vegan; Gluten-free,Lower Carb]

No-carb Orange Glazed Carrots with NuStevia

No-carb Orange Glazed Carrots with NuStevia

2 cups hot, cooked carrots, (baby carrots or sliced, boiled in salt water until tender or use canned)
2 tsp. NuNaturals Simple Syrup
5 drops NuStevia orange liquid
½ tsp ground ginger
2 tsp. melted butter or margarine,(optional)
2 tsp. brandy,(optional)
Place carrots in pan and warm. Sprinkle the remaining ingredients over them, fold gently,(be especially gentle if using canned carrots).Warm thoroughly. Serve hot, or can be served cold if using baby carrots alone or with additions as an appetizer.(More appetizer recipes to come.)
Another favorite in my bakery/restaurant or with family and friends has been my Cole Slaw. My original dressing uses granulated sugar, but I have been making a great deal of a stepped-up recipe:

Broccoli Slaw (Gluten-free; Vegan options,Lower Carb]

Carb-free sweet and creamy Broccoli Slaw made with NuStevia

Carb-free sweet and creamy Broccoli Slaw made with NuStevia

2 cups of shredded cabbage,(preferably red)
1 ½ cups of shredded carrots
1 cup of shredded broccoli (This is a great use of peeled broccoli stems. Use the florets in other dishes or steamed alone)
Dressing:
Mix separately; ( this will not be as much or as creamy as some versions of cole slaw. Double the recipe if you prefer a lot of dressing ). Toss over mixed shredded vegetables.
2/3 cup mayonnaise of Vegoniase
½ tsp. paprika

1Tbsp finely diced onion
1 ½ tsp. celery seed
1 Tbsp. vinegar,(any type. Cider vinegar makes it tastier than white; Balsamic makes white cabbage a bit dark but ,OH, the flavor! White Balsamic is also an excellent choice, as do pear or raspberry infused vinegars)
½ tsp Stevia powder (or to taste; I like mine sweet)
½ tsp. NuNaturals Simple Syrup

Coconut Chicken* [Gluten-free, Lower Carb]100_2549
(I have been meaning to post a recipe for coconut chicken , but I’m glad I waited, because I have improved the recipe. In the original I called for sweetened coconut)
Prepared coconut (as for coconut balls; may omit nuts)
2 lbs chicken breast strips
2 Tbsp. Olive or other light-flavored oil
“Bread” the chicken with the prepared coconut. Place in pan in hot oil and brown over medium heat, making sure the chicken is cooked through. If some of the coconut falls off, simply retrieve it from the pan and sprinkle it over the cooked chicken. (This may be baked. Spray the chicken with “Pam” or other olive-oil cooking spray.)

*Same recipe can also be applied to  making Coconut Shrimp (use large shrimp)

Optional Sauce: [Vegan;Gluten-free]
½ cup unsweetened coconut milk (Originally recipe called for sweetened)
½ tsp. ground ginger
Dash of salt
1/8 tsp any NuStevia powder
Simmer and reduce to thickened state. Spoon over chicken.
-OR-
Cut chicken strips into bite-sized pieces and pierce with picks. Add sauce on side as dipping sauce.

Turn low-carb Coconut Chicken into appetizers

Turn low-carb Coconut Chicken into appetizers

I have developed a lighter, sugar-free version of my Rice Pudding recipe (November 2012 Archives)
Rice Pudding [Vegan; Gluten-free,Lower Carb]

Enjoy lower-carb, vegan Rice Pudding with NuStevia

Enjoy lower-carb, vegan Rice Pudding with NuStevia

1 ¼ cups cooked rice
1 ¼ cups plain unsweetened almond milk, (rice milk or soy milk)
1 tsp. NuNaturals Simple Syrup
7 drops Lemon or Vanilla NuStevia liquid
Cook slowly and fold gently until the milk is thick and mostly absorbed into the rice, (do not make it dry).
Optional additions can be 1/3 cup currants, raisins, nuts, dried fruit. Pina colada version includes unsweetened pineapple tidbits,(drained) and unsweetened coconut.(You may need to adjust sweetness.)

Years ago I ran across a recipe for a Greek dish that a favorite restaurant served. I had left them half-way across the country and was thrilled to find it. The recipe called for vast amounts of sugar, milk, butter and eggs cooked with farina,(Cream of Wheat) and wrapped in filo leaves. It is technically a dessert, but hearty enough for a food. I have experimented and come up with a lighter, faster take on it that I love for breakfast.

Farina Custard [Vegan, Lower Carb]

Sweet Farina Custard made  with NuStevia

Sweet Farina Custard made with NuStevia

½ cup farina,(Cream of Wheat)
2 cups milk, (any kind, plain and unsweetened; I prefer almond)
[basically 1 part farina to 4 parts milk to adjust the recipe]
½ tsp (or to taste) Stevia powder
Opt: ¼ cup ground nuts
Cook slowly, stirring very often, until stiff.
Place in bowl to chill. Top with fruit. Sprinkle with NuNaturals Simple Syrup and or Stevia powder.
For a change of pace or for the gluten-free needs of some friends, I offer Polenta Custard, which can be made basically as above, but I’m posting a pineapple-coconut version:

Pina-Colada Polenta Custard [ Gluten-free; vegan options, Lower Carb)

Gluten-free , sweet Polenta Custard for breakfast or  dessert

Gluten-free , sweet Polenta Custard for breakfast or dessert

½ cup corn meal, (NOT self-rising)
2 cups coconut milk
1 tsp. NuNatural Simple Syrup
¼ tsp. NuStevia powder
Cook slowly, stirring almost constantly , until very thick. Chill.
Layer with pineapple tidbits , prepared coconut ,(see Coconut Ball recipe above) and

Sweet Dessert Cream [Vegan; Gluten-free,Low Carb]
Beat:
½ cup mascarpone, low-fat cream cheese or silken tofu,
coconut milk (1/4 cup? Test consistency),
and sweetened with NuNaturals Simple Syrup or Stevia powder to taste.
A few drops of Lemon or Orange NuStevia liquid, optional
You could also layer this with unsweetened apple sauce, dried fruit bits, fresh fruit or berries and/or nuts

This is far from a comprehensive list, but it’s a start.

Now, here’s what you need to do for the contest. Remember, it’s opened to everyone, world-wide.
I will leave the contest opened until October 1, 2014.
NuNaturals requested one requirement to enter:

(The links are being temperamental. If they  won’t work, please  cut and paste them to your browser)
Go to Facebook and “like” NuNaturals’ page:

https://www.facebook.com/NuNaturals    Requirement]

and while you’re there
“like” my Food, Friends, Family Facebook page

 https://www.facebook.com/TonetteJoycefoodfriendsfamily?ref=hl       [for an  Extra entry]

 If you don’t Follow this blog, please do so [for an Extra  entry]

Leave a message below, telling me what you have done  and please leave an email address so that I can contact you if you win.(If you don’t wish to leave an email address publicly, please leave a message here and message your email address to me privately through the “Food, Friends, Family” Facebook page.) I will contact the winners and give them 72 hours to get back to me with their home address or forfeit the prize to another entrant. Please note that NuNaturals needs an actual physical address for you to receive your prize;( the prizes cannot be delivered to P.O. Boxes).

Everyone is a winner, as NuNaturals has offered a 15% discount to all of us until December 31, 2014 if you order and enter this code: BLOG1214
It is very easy to use, just log-on to their site:www.nunaturals.com, or call 1-800-753-4372
International # 541-344-9785
Their staff is friendly and competent.

They have many, many products including other natural sweeteners. I just ordered a fair amount of Xylitol ,(another natural sugar replacement), from them and cannot wait to start experimenting with using it in cooking and baking.

Remember that their products are HIGHLY concentrated and to be used in minute amounts, usually by drops and fractions of teaspoons.

Please feel free to spread the word to  you friends,(and readers, if you’d like).

So, what are you waiting for?
(Any questions?)

Refried Beans/Layered Bean Dip/Tortilla Roll-ups

Here is a quick and easy, but impressive and substantial dish. This is easy to make, you can make it ahead and it is an impressive contribution when joining with others to watch a game or to take to any gathering…or to serve at home game for or movie night.
It is gluten-free and can be made fat-free and dairy-free or vegan, (if made without sour cream; vegan ‘sour cream’ can be substituted, if desired. Check the labels to be certain no traces of gluten are included in the beans, or make your own; “You Know Beans” August Archive.)

Bean dip

Here is how I made it for the Superbowl,[with Crab Cheese Ball (December Archive), Hummus-stuffed olives and Tortilla Roll ups],but you can make this in any plate or shallow bowl. (Once I made it into the shape of a Christmas tree, used sour cream as ‘garland’ and ‘hung’ olives and  jalapeño peppers on it.)

 

This can be made as mild, (the way I like it), to very hot, depending on the ‘heat’ if your salsa and the option of additional jalapeño peppers. Without knowing that your guests like it hot, better to err on the side of caution and make it mild. You can place extra jalapeños on 1/3 to ½ of the dip.

You can make your own refried beans or use canned. You can make your own Black beans,(“You Know Beans” August Archive), or you can open a can of those, too. Simple, right?

Layered Bean Dip

1 Large can of Refried Beans (Frijoles Refritos) plus 1-2 tsp. chili powder
Mix these together in a bowl and set aside.
In another bowl, add:

1 regular can of Black beans (Frijoles Negro), plus  2 tsp. lime juice
(slightly mash the Black beans with a fork , a wooden spoon or a potato masher, but keep them chunky; add the lime juice

¾ cup red salsa or picanté sauce (mild-to-medium)
½ cup green chili salsa,(mild)
½ cup sour cream or vegan substitute (if desired)
optional: chopped black olives or jalapeños

Spread the Refried bean mixture to about ¾ inch thick. Spread the Black bean mixture on top, leaving about ¾- one-inch of the Refried beans showing.
Top the Black bean mixture with the red salsa, again, leaving a ¾-one-inch border and do the same with the green salsa. (If using, now spread lines of sour cream or substitute).

Take a spatula or wide, flat spoon and insert all the way down from the middle of the dip and . without lifting it, cut a curve toward the outside. OR, take a Tablespoon and push it down into the dip and do a half-twist. Repeat this about an inch or more apart throughout the dip. This will slightly mix the layers and flavors. If desired, garnish with the olives and/or jalapeño slices. Chill; serve.

Refried Beans (My mother-in law’s recipe)

1 pound of pinto beans, cooked (see “You Know Beans” August Archive) reserve some of the liquid,
(or used canned, cooked pinto beans)
Mash with potato masher or food processor until the desired texture is reached…some like their frijoles smooth, others, quite chunky.

Then add:
1/8-1/4 cup minced onion
1 Tbsp. (or more) crushed,(or minced) fresh garlic
½ tsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
OPTIONAL:1 Tbsp. bacon grease or vegetable oil ( I have found that it is really better with a little oil, but omit for ‘fat-free’;. If using olive oil, do not use ‘extra virgin’; it is too fruity and the flavors will be in conflict.)

Place in a heavy pot and simmer for at least ½ hour, stirring occasionally to keep the beans from sticking. Add reserved liquid,(or a little water), if the beans are too thick to stir. Cool and use for the recipe above, other recipes, (upcoming), or topped with grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, jalapeños, mild cooked peppers, onions, &/or salsa.

[The Tortilla Roll-ups are known at our house as “Superbowl Food”. My sons and I saw these ridiculously easy finger foods demonstrated at our local grocery store just before one Superbowl many  moons ago.We have had them ever since and everyone loves them…and they are no effort!]

Tortilla Roll-ups

1/2 cup Neufchatel (light cream cheese) or silken tofu,

one 1/8 cup salsa or picanté sauce,(mild-medium)

Approx. 4 large flour tortillas or  6 small ones

Mix the cheese and salsa; spread fairly thinly on the tortillas.Roll the tortillas and slice about 1 1/2 inches thick. That’s it.

Any questions?

You Can Do It…Breakfasts/Potatoes and Leftovers

To continue with the Breakfast theme I started, (and the uses for Parsley Potatoes from the previous posts), I have found that I can turn nearly any leftover into an omelet, scrambled eggs, or casserole, which is helpful when you have guests staying.

The Parsley Potatoes, or any leftover/pre-cooked potatoes, are a good way to diversify breakfasts. Leftover hash browns, Potatoes O’Brien,(recipe below), baked or mashed potatoes are easily cooked in an egg mixture, with or without added meat or cheese and can be made into breakfast.
All it takes is a little pre-planning to have leftovers in the first place.
Use sausage, bacon or ham, or any leftovers in your refrigerator.
Do you have steak or a roast? Ham or pork roast? Chicken? Whatever the form, if you can chop it, you can add it to eggs and if you have potatoes, all well and good. Pot Roast? Stew? Go ahead and add whatever veggies are left over; if there is gravy, add some as well. Believe me, especially if you have males in for breakfast, they will love it.

Want to wow them? Scramble eggs with spaghetti sauce. Go ahead, add potatoes,or serve with toast.

If it seems daunting, (or you can’t stay over the stove stirring), butter or oil a casserole dish, or pie plate and layer the beaten eggs and fillings,(preferably browning the potatoes first).
If you are not adding meat, or the meats are not very flavorful, please add cheese and/or your favorite sauce…hot pepper, soy, Worcestershire, chili, picante’ ; whatever you like. If you know your spices, (I’ll be talking about spices in the future), add some of what you like and bake until the eggs are set.

Want to go vegan? Fry or bake the potatoes with leftover vegetables, vegetable ragut or other leftover, flavorful dish, with added sauces. Zola’s Zucchini or Italian Baked Tomatoes,[October Archives], work well. (Ovo-vegetarians, these also go well with eggs.)

You can use mashed potatoes to make potato pancakes.

If you are truly unused to cooking and entertaining; let’s start with the basics:

Mashed Potatoes

Wash firm potatoes, [I like to use russets]
Peel and cube (approx. 1 inch squares; no larger. Make them as uniform as possible, except for a very few, which should be a bit smaller)
Place in a large pot; f ill with cold water and add at least 1 Tbsp. salt
Boil just until all the larger pieces are soft enough for a fork to easily slip into them; do not overcook.
Drain and immediately add butter or margarine and a little cream or milk,(almond or rice milk can be used).Mash, preferably with a hand-held mixer, until it is completely smooth.
Add more salt if needed.

Potato Pancakes from Mashed Potatoes

For each cup of mashed potatoes , add:

one egg ,(optional)
1 Tbsp flour (all –purpose or rice flour, if you have it)
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. parsley
1 tsp. sautéed onions, chives, scallions, leeks (or 1 tsp. dried chives)

Drop large spoonfuls onto hot, oiled skillet, flattening with the back of the spoon.
Fry until the bottom is browned. Lower the heat, flip gently and fry slowly until the bottom is browned and the insides are semi-firm.

These are also a good side dish.

Potatoes O’Brien

Wash, peel and slice potatoes very thinly; you can use a mandolin slicer, the large or medium side of a grater a food processor or you can use frozen hash browns from your grocery store.
In a large frying pan, brown the potatoes in oil with ¼ cup of diced onions (or scallions), and 2 Tbsp. diced green pepper for every cup of potato. Add salt and pepper. Fry until the potatoes are crispy on one side. Flip and brown until crispy on the other side.(It does not matter if it breaks apart.) Use as they are, or add to eggs or vegetables.

Any questions?

With a little ingenuity you can be a hit with family and friends…and entertain well on a shoestring.

Have fun; entertain and don’t stress out. You can do it!

Today I am adding a link to Food Bloggers’ ‘Support For Sandy. We are joining together to offer support by posting comfort foods we’d share with people in crisis, and to raise awareness for the continuing need for those who were in Sandy’s destructive path.

I have chosen to re-post my Savory Bread Roll-ups, which can be made quickly, frozen and thawed when needed.They are good warm or can be eaten cold, and are good for anytime from breakfast to midnight snack.
I have posted pictures of three, two with meat and one vegan version.

Savory Bread Roll-ups

If bread making is your thing, make basic dough. If you have a bread machine, pull it out. If not, use frozen bread dough, (thawed, of course).

Roll into a rectangle about ¼ inch thick on a floured surface. Brush with melted butter or margarine. Spread fillings (recipes to follow), to within two inches from all sides. Fold in the short sides; roll up from one long side to another, Pinch ends and press to close. Place on a cookie or baking sheet, which has been brushed with butter or margarine,(or lined with parchment paper); curve bread roll if necessary. Slice or snip slits through top layer about 3-4 inches apart. Cover with clean kitchen towel , waxed paper or foil; let rise to double in size in a warm spot. Uncover and brush with melted butter or margarine. Bake at 325F for about 45 minutes- 1 hour, or until the bread is thoroughly browned.(Do not cook at a higher temperature; the middle will not bake).

Meat Filling Suggestions:

Chopped roast beef, or shredded roast beef lunch meat with shredded medium–to sharp cheddar cheese; (a little prepared horseradish sauce optional).

Shredded ham with mild cheddar cheese

Shredded turkey (or turkey lunch meat) with pepper jack cheese

Pepperoni or salami with mozzarella or provolone cheese

Cheese Filling Suggestions:

Any cheese, preferably with sautéed onions

Soft cheeses, (cream cheese, Neufchatel, mascarpone) with herbs and or dried vegetables:

[ Italian blend, or basil, parsley and marjoram;

Southwest blend or any favorite chili powder, (chipotle, mesquite, etc), cumin,for example]

Mixed with red or green salsa

Seeded,(poppy, pumpkin, caraway, sesame)

Mixed with red hot sauce

Mixed with sautéed vegetables; [onions, bell peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, carmelized            zuccini

Any favorite cheese spread, (pimento cheese, onion dip, avocado)

Vegetable Filling Suggestions:

Sautéed or caramelized onions

Hummus,( regular or vegetable, or mixed with seeds)

Sautéed vegetable combinations, (mix & match): onions, tomatoes, peppers, artichoke hearts, asparagus,caramelized zucchini,black olives

Dehydrated vegetable flakes, (available often mixed in supermarkets or separate, (tomatoes, peppers), usually in specialty markets

Drained, mashed white beans (canned or homemade) with onions or garlic; chives, parsley, white pepper; dehydrated vegetable

Savory Bread Rolls: Turkey and Cheese/Vegetable/Pepperoni and Cheese

Pitfalls and Parties/Savory Bread Rolls

These easy bread rolls can be made with meat and cheese or as vegan- vegetable.They eaten warm or cold.

I know that the thought of hosting puts fear into many people. I may have jumped into telling you what to serve instead of how to serve guests.
When I had dinner parties, showers or receptions, I found that some people were downright intimidated by my offerings. You may have seen a buffet and thought, “I could never do that!” You probably can, but you don’t have to. Hosting can be fun, rewarding and make everyone think you are something, or it can stress you out, make you swear ‘Never again!” and make everyone think you are a witch, (and it wasn’t even a Halloween party.) You can make offerings short and simple, or pull out all the stops. We will approach all of these, and let you decide which is appropriate and when.  It may take me several postings, but I will try to give you tips and hopefully, some confidence.

 

Plan as far ahead as possible and do whatever you can as far ahead as possible. When you find the confidence, it will come easier each time. You will not only know the pitfalls and learn from your mistakes,( you will make mistakes), but you will have things in mind and on hand that you need, whether it be figuring out what to serve to where overnight guest will sleep. We’ll talk about it all upcoming in this blog.

 

You can over-do a good thing.

The first shower I threw was for an expectant mother. I made homemade cake with homemade filling and decorated it with blue and pink flowers. I molded flavored candy in bootie, rattle, baby bottle, (etc.), shapes in pink and blue. I made Madeline cookies dipped in pink and blue icing. I made finger sandwiches, nut cups and tea; I made coffee with all the amenities .I put up pink and blue streamers, made pink and blue sock dollies. I had several games, one of which was a basket filled with small baby items which I had the guests look at for 30 seconds and whoever remembered the most, got a prize; the mom got the items. It was something, I can tell you. But I did several things wrong:

#1. For whatever reason, when I have asked schools or churches to use their facilities, my group has been bumped at the last minute for someone else. Something about me and my plans seem to scream “Expendable”! Try to have your affairs in your home or pay for a site. In the occasion of the baby shower, I was supposed to have use of a school cafeteria. I was bumped for an Irish step-dancing class. As big as a book-lover as I am, I hated  but was desperate enough, to ask to use the school’s library. The library was on the third floor; the stairs leading directly to it were closed so the dancers’ bored-and-waiting siblings would not wander the school. So I had to all the food, decorations, gifts, etc, across the school, up one flight, across again, up another flight, then across the school again. I had to carry the hot coffee and tea from the cafeteria in the same pattern, very carefully and very slowly.

#2.I just plain over-did it.

I did not hear, “Oh, how lovely” or “How nice”. What I heard was, “I can’t believe how much you did”, to the point that a week later at another function I heard, “I kept telling Jim, (Julie, Bob), that I couldn’t believe how much you did”. It looked like I worked hard. Hosting should never look like you worked hard, and I want to see that you work as little as possible when pulling off your parties. I was not a close friend of the mom-to-be; I had taken it upon myself for the group from the school, but it may not have been my place, which may have added to the discomfort level of the others.

Don’t be too eager to please; only host when appropriate.

#3. I presumed on help.

Now, you should have everything under control, I mean, things happen. But if you accept help, make sure it is something that you can do without, or have a back-up plan. A friend of the mom’s volunteered a special punch. I planned on it; she changed the type without telling me.  What she made did not go with the food I had and the guests drank it because it was too warm for the coffee and tea. I felt stressed; it was a problem as the taste combinations were really being off.

AND I failed to be sure that some of those who attended, (whom I had always stayed to help), would/could stay there to help me. So I ended up doing the hallway-stair set-up marathon in reverse, by myself.

 

On the other hand, for years afterward I hosted a Christmas piano recital in my home for several years running, which were always a huge success.

Always be ready with extra food:

My sons were homeschooling at the time and they were studying with the same piano teacher as some of their homeschooled friends. The piano teacher had stopped having Christmas concerts but I decided that the kids needed to gain confidence and show off their skills, so every December we had our own little recital with their friends, the parents and a few adult guests.

I made my batches of Christmas cookies, candies and bread early, and froze either some of the dough or some of the finished goods for Christmas; (I did this up to a week in advance; the candy, maybe earlier.)

The day before the recital, (or the day of, if I held it on a weekday evening instead of a weekend afternoon),

I took the coffee table out, gathered every chair I could find and even a bench, (on which I put a folded quilt), and made several layers of seating in the living room behind the piano. We do not have a large living room; everyone understood when they sat knee-to knee at times.

While people gathered, I had Christmas music playing softly in the background on a CD. And I had small gifts for the performers.

Just before everyone arrived I made tea and coffee and spread them out on my dining table with the goodies for after the recitals. The children did whatever made them comfortable besides playing the piano; some sang, one played the guitar, one read a poem as well.

After one of the afternoon recitals a few of the guests lingered. I could see that the cheese ball and few other non-sweets were gone and the folk looked hungry. Fortunately, I was ready. I knew that I had savory bread roll-ups in my freezer. I pulled them out, warmed them in the microwave them and they were a hit, as expected. These are so handy and good. Make more than one type at a time. Slice, wrap well and freeze. These are great for snacks, late company, late-night movie watching, brunches and are our family’s traditional holiday morning breakfast. They are easy to get ready, are not messy, are a little special and will hold you over while you are waiting to eat a big mid-day meal. Guests will be impressed with the taste, the heartiness and the fact that you have them ready with next to no effort when you need them.

 

Savory Bread Roll-ups

 

If bread making is your thing, make basic dough. If you have a bread machine, pull it out. If not, use frozen bread dough, (thawed, of course).

Roll into a rectangle about ¼ inch thick on a floured surface. Brush with melted butter or margarine. Spread fillings (recipes to follow), to within two inches from all sides. Fold in the short sides; roll up from one long side to another, Pinch ends and press to close. Place on a cookie or baking sheet, which has been brushed with butter or margarine,(or lined with parchment paper); curve bread roll  if necessary. Slice or snip slits through top layer about 3-4 inches apart. Cover with clean kitchen towel , waxed paper or foil; let rise to double in size in a warm spot. Uncover and brush with melted butter or margarine. Bake at 325F for about 45 minutes- 1 hour, or until the bread is thoroughly browned.(Do not cook at a higher temperature; the middle will not bake).

Meat Filling Suggestions:

Chopped roast beef, or shredded roast beef lunch meat with shredded medium–to sharp cheddar cheese; (a little prepared horseradish sauce optional).

Shredded ham with mild cheddar cheese

Shredded turkey (or turkey lunch meat) with pepper jack cheese

Pepperoni or salami with mozzarella or provolone cheese

Cheese Filling Suggestions:

Any cheese, preferably with sautéed onions

Soft cheeses, (cream cheese, Neufchatel, mascarpone) with herbs and or dried vegetables:

[ Italian blend, or basil, parsley and marjoram;

Southwest blend or any favorite chili powder, (chipotle, mesquite, etc), cumin,for example]

Mixed with red or green salsa

Seeded,(poppy, pumpkin, caraway, sesame)

Mixed with red hot sauce

Mixed with sautéed vegetables; onions

Any favorite cheese spread, (pimento cheese, onion dip, avocado)

 

Vegetable Filling Suggestions:

Sautéed or caramelized onions

Hummus,( regular or vegetable, or mixed with seeds)

Sautéed vegetable combinations, (mix & match): onions, tomatoes, peppers, artichoke hearts, asparagus

Dehydrated vegetable flakes, (available often mixed in supermarkets or separate, (tomatoes, peppers), usually in specialty markets

Drained, mashed white beans (canned or homemade) with onions or garlic; chives, parsley, white pepper; dehydrated vegetables

Experiment and enjoy!

Note: Sometime after I posted this Fae, of “Fae’s Twist and Tango” posted a lovely alternative: use puff pastry instead of bread dough.Fae ‘s post with her version of fillings can be seen  here: Fae’s Savory Braided Puff Pastry.

If you have not visited Fae’s blog, please do!She not only has lovely recipes, but  photos and fascinating  stories from her many travels.

Thank you for letting me share this, Fae!

And please join me and fellow writers on a shared blog: “Four Foxes, One Hound” here, on WordPress.Four Foxes, One Hound