Tag Archives: vegetarian recipes

Last Minute Dinner Salads/Lent or Anytime

Last Minute Dinner Salads

One Ash Wednesday Husband came home late as he went to Mass after working overtime. Our sons and I had eaten our Twice-Baked Potatoes(next post) and the one good thing about them is that it is easy to make just enough, if you don’t care for leftovers. (Although they do freeze quite well for a short term, like 4-6 months).
When Husband came in, he informed me that his boss had been at Mass as well and he had invited the man to dinner.
Husband has done this to me a few times. When we got married I had never cooked for less than six people and we ate a lot of leftovers,(fortunately, I learned to freeze things well.) Let me make a couple of steaks, or a couple of chicken breasts and, used to having too much food, that seemed to be exactly when the Husband would invite someone to stay. I was always last-minute hustling!

I had to stow the baked potato and put together a salad with what I had on hand. I added small shrimp which I fortunately had left over from making the potatoes and I put in some diced cheese. I served rolls and crackers and the men ate well…the boss was none the wiser!

If I have posted on salads before, it bears repeating: Almost any vegetable can go into a salad, as well as fruits and not all of them need to be fresh. I have had someone break up a head of iceberg lettuce, pour on bottled ranch dressing and call it salad and I have had salads that included everything imaginable. You can put together a nice salad with many things you should already have on hand. Hopefully, you have some greens, a lettuce or spinach. Even if you don’t, you can wing it. Here is a list, although not complete, of what you can include in a nice dinner salad:

Any type of ‘greens’, iceberg or leaf lettuce, spinach, parsley, mustard greens, turnip greens
we all know:
carrots
tomatoes
cucumber
radishes

but how about:
celery
shredded parsnips
fresh pea pods
broccoli
cauliflower,
sweet peppers
bok choy
grated zucchini or squash
thinly sliced onions or leeks
diced green onions

Use your imagination

You can add fruit in with vegetables as long as they are firm, such as :
Pears
Apples

If you know your guests can tolerate seeds and nuts, you can add:[*See Note]

Almonds/Hazelnuts/Walnuts/Pine nuts, etc.

Peanuts

Sesame seeds

Sunflower seeds

Pumpkin seeds (roasted)

 

And, especially in a pinch, these canned items do a good job in rounding out sparse fresh veggies:
corn
peas,
beets
green beans
wax beans
chick peas/black eyed peas/
kidney/navy/pinto/black beans
black or green olive
pineapple
sliced apple rings
pearl onions

And I always keep pickled vegetables,(giardiniera ) on hand.

Mix and match, pick and choose. Add tiny shrimp/ crab or imitation crab meat, shredded or diced cheese,(Cheddars, Swiss, Provolone, Monterrey Jack, Pepper Jack, Havarti Muenster); you can also do a great job with diced ham, chicken, roast beef or turkey cold cuts, (or ‘Tofurkey’). Diced hard-boiled eggs can be added at the last minute,(they will break up in the tossing and it isn’t pretty.)You can use leftover roasts, chicken or whatever flavorful meat you have on hand.
With this type of salad, you may find that you don’t need dressing. If you have guests, allow them the option. On the other hand, I have found that if the flavors are a bit bland, I add some that I like to whip up quickly on my own using Olive oil and pomegranate molasses, which is bitter, contrary to it’s name, so I add honey or a syrup. I also have several vinegars on my shelf to use. However, there are perfectly good bottled dressings out there, and several flavors are in my refrigerator as I type this; use them.

As I did, serve with crackers, fancy beads or rolls. You can add prepared rice, couscous, barley or small pasta for a one-bowl meal, or serve a simple couscous, rice or pasta dish on the side.

[*Note]The real beauty is that these can be made for Lent, pescaterian, vegetarian or vegan.It is gluten-free, (without  cheese), dairy-free and can be served with meats, cheeses, fish, seeds/nuts, grains and  pasta on the side, if you are unsure of your guests’ needs.

I hope this gives you some ideas…and I hope you try some of the ideas, not only for Lent,(meatless), but throughout the year. These are wonderful in hot weather for a light but filling and nutritious meal that anyone can be proud to serve…quick and praise-worthy!

Christmas Cookies While We Wait

 

I have been negligent again. I have been very tied up and while we are waiting for a special guest blogger, I thought I’d post pictures of the few Christmas cookies I made this year. I usually add half a dozen more types, but like I said, I’ve been busy!Xmas cookies

Clockwise, starting with the front are my Cocoa-Gingerbread Men,(with Angels, and new this year, Teddy Bears.) Next are Peanut Butter Stamped Cookies,(Santas), above them are the not-so-pretty-but-delicious Pineapple Date Nut Cookies, (sprinkles help a little!).Next to them are Cherry-Nut Cookies,(with a few Basic Cookies).I see that some candy sneaked into the picture,(Nut Clusters, in the round bowl in the back).The white, sprinkled cookies to the right are Date-Nut Meringues; in the jar are Basic Cookies, dressed up for Christmas and in the middle are Spice Cookies.(The recipes for the last two  are in the October archives).

 

So, if you are doing last-minute baking, or looking for new recipes for your New Year’s celebrations, I have these here for you. Round cookies made with clock faces, or star-shaped are particularly fitting for New Year’s Eve, as would be any cookie with plenty of sprinkles… Ring in the New Year!

Of course, you don’t have to just make these for the holidays, but it is always nice to have a few that people look forward to, to make holidays special. Since the Date-Nut Meringues have no flour, they would be appropriate for Passover and for people who need a gluten-free diet.

 

The Date-Nut Meringue recipe came from an old magazine insert that my mother had. I adapted it just a bit.

 

Whites of 2 large eggs

Dash of salt

1/3 cup of sugar

1 tsp.vanilla, (or a dash of vanilla powder) OPTIONAL

1 8oz. package of dried dates, chopped

1 cup  of walnuts, chopped

 

Decors or sprinkles, if desired,(or sprinkle with ground nuts)

 

Preheat oven to 210F. Spray with cooking/baking pan spray or grease/ oil cookie sheets.(Even if using parchment paper; these babies want to STICK!)

 

Make meringue, not too dry. To do so, beat egg whites until foamy, add salt and vanilla, (if using). Beat on high speed and add sugar slowly. Beat until stiff peaks form when beaters are lifted.(If you had any accident, a little egg yolk was in the whites, the bowl or beaters were not completely grease-free, your meringue will NOT  peak. Don’t despair; your cookies should still work, as long as your ‘meringue’ is not runny).

Fold in the walnuts and dates,(mix gently).Drop by spoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheets. Bake for approximately 1 ½ hours. Turn the oven off and allow the meringues to sit until the oven is cool,(or overnight).You want the cookies dry, but not hard. Trust me, even if they get brittle, they are still good! Remove from the cookie sheets gently.

 

My mother always made me use a long, thin decorating spatula to remove cookies from the sheets, never  a ‘pancake turner’. Now that Mom is gone, feel free to use one, but don’t pick up more than one soft one at a time; they’ll become misshapen.

 

Another thing I will do is pass along Mom’s carefully-guarded Cherry-Nut Cookie recipe. I was sworn to secrecy on this one, but I had promised one woman who begged and begged that I would give it to her after my mother left us. When Mom died, I had to track the woman down over several states, but I followed through. My mother was an incredible cook, no one, not even I, to whom she taught everything, can duplicate her touch. (If yours come out as good as hers did, more power to you!) My mother taught me everything  because I could keep a secret. Mom would have me continue to be the keeper of the keys to the locked food cabinet. I realized some time ago that I have no  intention of keeping that family tradition. My grandmother took very many recipes to her grave; it makes no sense.(More on this when we discuss Spaghetti sauce in the future).

 

So, please eat these with love.

 

Cherry-Nut Cookies

1 cup minus 1 Tablespoon sifted all purpose flour(I don’t know why, but it does make a difference)

½ tsp. salt

½ cup butter or margarine

¼ cup sugar

1 egg , divided (separate white and yolk)

½ tsp vanilla extract

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1Tbsp. grated orange rind (fresh)

 

¾ cup minced walnuts

Candied or Maraschino cherries * see note

 

Cream the butter or margarine and sugar,(beat until fluffy)

Add salt and egg yolk; mix well

Add vanilla, lemon juice and orange rind, mix well

Add flour and mix well; dough will be soft

Refrigerate until cold and firm

(Do you realize I grew up doing all this creaming and mixing by hand? They were worth it, but a mixer is easier!)

Beat the egg white slightly, with about a teaspoonful of water. When the dough is firm, shape it into small balls and dip them into the egg white, then roll them in the nuts. Place 2″ apart on cookie sheets. Press half of a cherry into the middle of each cookie. Bake at 325F for about 20 minutes or until the bottoms as slightly browned.

 

  • *Note:My mother insisted on using candied cherries, despite the fact that none of us could stand them; we ate all around them and threw them away. My sister came up with the idea of using Maraschino cherries and told me to suggest it to Mom. If looks could kill, you wouldn’t be reading this now. She thought it was an abomination; but I always only use Maraschinos.
  • By the way, she would also do some in red cherries and some in green; I don’t always bother. My nieces used to call them “Stop and Go Cookies”; it seems the Christmas color idea was lost on them and they saw traffic lights!

 

 

Cocoa-Gingerbread Men/Angels

(Adapted from Hershey’s Old-Fashioned Christmas)

1 cup butter or margarine, softened

½ cup light molasses,(do not use dark or Blackstrap)

½ cup light brown sugar, packed** (see note)

1 egg

½ tsp. baking soda

3 cups flour

¾ cup cocoa powder

1 ½ tsp. brandy,(or vanilla )

 

Cream the butter or margarine with the sugar and add molasses. Beat in the egg and baking soda. Slowly beat in the cocoa; then slowly add the flour. Chill. Roll out on lightly floured board to about ¼ inch and cut into desired shapes. Place on greased or parchment-covered cookie sheets 1 ½-2 inches apart and bake at 350F for about 20 minutes until firm to the touch,(do not over-cook).Remove to cookie sheet and cool. Decorate with Royal icing,(October archives).

 

 

Pineapple Date Nut Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour

1  tsp. baking powder

dash of salt

1/3 cup butter or margarine

2/3 cups well-packed light brown sugar**(see note)

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

2 large cans crushed pineapple or finely chopped other canned pineapple,(approx.2 cups), drained.(I used the one packed in juice, then simply drink the juice)

1 tsp baking soda

1 cup minced,(finely chopped) dates

¾ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Sprinkles, jimmies, decors, etc. (if using)

 

Mix the drained pineapple with baking soda in a non-aluminum bowl; set aside.(it will fizzle or bubble.)

Cream butter with egg and sugars until light and fluffy; add baking powder, mix well.

Add pineapple mixture; add the flour, mix well.

Add the dates and nuts, mix well.

Drop onto greased or parchment –lined cookie sheets by spoonfuls 1″apart. Apply sprinkles,(if using). Bake at 325F for about 30 minutes,(start checking after 20). These cookies need to dry, as they are very wet. Allow them to become browned on the bottom. If they are still wet in the middle, allow them to stand in the warm oven for longer. They may seem to become a bit chewy, but they are good. Cool completely before storing loosely covered,(or they will stick together). Store in one layer or with parchment or wax paper in between layers in a closed container.

These are often many people’s favorite cookie.

 

**Note:Brown sugar is measured ‘packed’, that is, pressed into a measuring cup , compressed as much as possible with the palm of your hand or knuckles.

 

I hope all are having fun preparing for the holidays and that they are stress-free. I stressed-out over all of it for too long. I did plenty this year, even though I cut back, and yet, all are eating well, (too well!), and enjoying the decorations, while the CD’s or Christmas movies play away!

 

 

 

 

I have not yet taken the time to investigate the possibilities of these recipes using vegan egg substitutes. I have, however, found a site that is a wealth of  information:

The Best Vegan Egg Substitutes for Vegan Cooking and Vegan Baking

 

I have every intention of making a sincere effort to find the time to check these out and do some experimenting in the coming year.

Otherwise, all of the recipes are ovo-vegetarian friendly.

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!

Useful, Delicious Cheese Sauce

I have a recipe I want to share in the next post; it calls for my Cheese Sauce. I hesitated to add this recipe, as I very recently read that Martha Stewart makes a recipe close to this for her macaroni and cheese. I have never used this on macaroni, but I just might. However, let it be known that although Martha and I may have the same idea, I learned the basics at my mother’s elbow. Martha May have been making it before I was, I don’t know when she actually started to cook. She is a lot older than I am,(MEEE-OOOW!), but I learned the basics at my mother’s elbow.(My mother was old enough to be Martha’s as well; I’ll concede that).

First, you have to make a basic white sauce. It’s easier than you think.(Omit the onion, cheese and nutmeg and you have a basic ‘roux’,(pronounced “roo” or “rhoo”.) I will post recipes using it in the future.

Cheese Sauce
Take:
4 Tbsp. butter or margarine
2 Tbsp. minced onion,(fresh, or use 2 teaspoonfuls of onion powder, or onion juice and add after the sauce is thickened)
1/3 cup of flour (all purpose)
2 cups of milk
dash of white pepper,(or paprika)
dash of nutmeg,(optional)
dash of pepper sauce,(optional)
1 ½- 2 cups grated medium-sharp cheddar cheeses; I like a mix of both.If you throw in a piece of Gouda or other yellow cheese,it’s wonderful ( You can also make this with Pepper Jack, at your own risk..and it is not as versatile)

Melt the butter, (some people prefer it browned; I do not advise it). Cook the onion until tender, (again, not browned).
Remove from heat and slowly stir in the flour until it is as smooth as it can get with the onion bits in it; no flour lumps. It will be a thick paste.
Slowly add the milk,(a whisk comes in handy). Return the pan to the heat and stir constantly over medium heat ,(preferably with a wooden spoon), until it is quite thick. (If you need to leave it for any time, be sure the heat is very low and then whisk it strongly. Be sure to get the bottom of the pan and edges stirred throughout the entire cooking process).
Add the pepper or paprika, pepper sauce, nutmeg and /or onion options,(if using)
Lower the heat and add the cheese, stir until thoroughly melted and warmed through.
There you have it.

Now, serve it over any vegetable, baked fish, chicken, pork.

Pour over beef sliced thinly, piled on a bun thickly and make a delicious sandwich.

Serve over toast for a version of ‘Welsh Rabbit‘.

Mix with prepared rice or couscous for a side dish or as a complete non-meat protein,(rice/grain with dairy).Add cut green beans, peas or asparagus.

(Non-vegetarian: add grilled meat bits)

Pour over potato wedges, ‘Tater Tots’ or French fries for another tasty meatless protein; You can punch it up by topping it with meatless “Bacon Bits” or crispy-fried vegetable of your choice.

(Non-vegetarian: top with crumbled bacon).

Or, go ahead and pour it liberally over macaroni in a casserole dish. Top with extra cheese grated and bake until bubbly and browned..at least, that is what Martha would have you do. Make it with my blessing!

Placed in a sterilized jar and kept refrigerated, this will last for weeks;(do not freeze).

Kept chilled in a fancy jar or one with a fancy napkin or material square on the lid,this would also make a nice food gift.( You could add it to a basket of fresh vegetables, or pasta , couscous and/or fancy rice.)Just add a list of suggested uses and advice to keep it cold until use. Microwave or warm on stove on low,stirring often.

Take a Bite; Be Back in a Bit

I know I have been very negligent, but please bear with me.I haven’t posted much here or answered many of your posts because I am SWAMPED with painting and redecoration and getting ready for Thanksgiving fun with food, friends and family.
I can’t wait for my cousins to get here, but I have let myself get behind. Now, the fun with food prep starts.
The family will be here from Wednesday through most of the weekend, so you may not see me.I will have to forgo the blogs and emails, but I’m thinking of you and hope you are all doing well and having fun , if not for Thanksgiving in your part of the world, at least finding peace.
I will be back and trying to play catch-up with you as much as humanly possible.I have so many new friends online through this blog;it is one of the things for which I am truly thankful for this year.

In the meantime,I leave you with this quick side dish or nosh; inspired by a blog-pal ‘The Perky Poppy’, to whom I give credit.
[http://theperkypoppy.com/2012/10/12/roasted-okra-bites/]

You need to try it; if you like this recipe,please let her know.

I think these would be great on a buffet for a sports party.How often do you see any vegetables there,(except maybe a dish of broccoli and a dip of Ranch)?

I did not have fresh okra available, so I tried a number of veggies.There would be more in the picture, but I ‘sampled’ them quite a bit!{And I can’t wait to get my hands on fresh okra!)
It couldn’t be easier:

Crispy Veggies

Toss whatever vegetable you have sliced in a light coating of extra virgin olive oil and dust it with sea salt, (or regular). Spread the vegetables out in a single layer and cook in a hot oven,(depending on the thickness of your vegetables;Perky Poppy said 500F for diagonally sliced okra;I lowered it to 400F for the thinner vegetables. Watch that they do not burn.)

I made,(pictured below):

Leeks,French green beans, Parsnips, Green Pepper, Baby corn-on-the-cob, Baby carrots.

I sliced the leaks and fanned them out, I kept the French beans whole;I made fingers out of the parsnips, and sliced the Green pepper and the Baby carrots.I used canned, whole Baby corn-on-the-cob.I drained them, blotted them on paper towels and sliced them in half. Don’t let the look of them turn you off as they are very good. (I will admit, however,that they might be good on the table for a gross-out Halloween meal,frankly, they look like caterpillars!)

These can  all be made beforehand and then quickly  re-crisped in a hot oven.

So , thanks Perky Poppy!

I will be back when I can.
Please keep coming by! I will ‘see’ all of you very soon,and can’t wait for what new posts you have to share!

They taste better than they look!

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

You Know Beans

 I have been asked to post recipes before I go any farther, which is probably where I should have started in the first place. Bear with me, while I get a feel for where this blog should go; I’m open for suggestions and questions.

I should have explained that this all started as a letter to answer a call from an alumna of my husband’s college begging for ideas for ‘meatless Fridays’, as her kids were tired of tuna sandwiches and mac & cheese. I later had the idea to put out a pamphlet when I saw people struggling with meatless or less-meat entrees. Then I started a book when I found that people were intimidated by the idea of  entertaining. I wanted to help put people’s minds at ease. So here I am pulling pieces out of the middle of what supposed to be my book, and kind of making hash of it all! This blog is not about meatless eating. It is about eating and entertaining.

But here are the first recipes, most suitable for Lenten Fridays, Ash Wednesdays, vegetarian, some vegan, some cutting back on cholesterol, and of just plain good food.

I will give recipes with as many optional shortcuts as I can .

 

There will be plenty of meat recipes and tips in upcoming postings.

 

Let’s start with beans and legumes.

A slow-cooker, (Crock Pot), is a blessing when it comes to cooking dried beans and legumes. I will go so far as to say it is almost essential when living at high altitudes.(I had a neighbor who confided that although we lived about 25 feet above sea level, as a young bride she used the ‘high-altitude’ directions on cake mix boxes  when she lived in a nearby  high-rise apartment).

Without a slow-cooker, overnight soaking is required, and at high altitudes, bringing the beans to a boil, soaking, rinsing and repeating is required,(and even  then I could not get them soft enough when I lived in Denver.) A basic slow-cooker can be found at the time of this posting from ten –fifteen dollars; well worth the investment. Cooking times may need to be adjusted because of varying temperatures of brands and the size of the cooker.

 

There are quite usable pre-cooked , bottled white beans available in local supermarkets. Canned beans are too soft and not as suitable for these soups.

Note about oils: Extra Virgin (first pressing) olive oil has the taste of olive; regular,(later pressings), olive oils have a more neutral taste, which is actually more suitable for most recipes. Olive oils burns easily. Peanut oil  is good with beans and is better for frying than other oils as it does not easily burn and never smokes.(It is the only oil used in submarines for that reason).. These are the three oils used in my kitchen; Extra V olive oil, regular olive oil, and peanut oil. A little oil not only adds body but aids in the softening of  beans. It can be omitted. I know some people are against any and all oils.

The Country-boy in my father liked black-eyed peas and they were a ‘must-have’ on New Year’s Day, as they are considered to bring good luck.(Why it was continued throughout the years, I’ll never know, as we never had a lot of luck).  Mom liked to add a little vegetable oil to them and to any bean she cooked. My father once caught her and told her never to do it again. If my father was anywhere near the kitchen, she didn’t, but if she knew he’d be out, the oil would go in. Every time he would ask her which brand of peas or beans she had fixed. If she had added oil, they were a good brand; if she hadn’t, well, let’s remember not to buy that brand again, even though he was sure that was the ‘good’ brand he’d eaten the last time.  And Mom would snicker either way, every time.

Nothing could be simpler than these quick, tasty soups. If you have a vegetarian or vegan guest or in the family, they will love you for these:

 

Basic White Bean Soup: (slow-cooker, or shortcut below)

One pound of dried white beans( Navy or Great Northern)

One Tablespoon Salt

¼ cup minced onion

1/8th cup minced celery

two Tablespoons vegetable oil

½ teaspoon white pepper (optional)

one Tablespoon dried parsley (optional)

 

Place all ingredients in a slow-cooker with 1 1/2-2 quarts of cold water. Cook on ‘high’ setting for 8-10 hours, checking and stirring every couple of after the first six. You want the beans fairly soft.

(to cook beans suitable for other dishes, omit celery and onion; cook only for 6-8 hours.

SHORTCUT: Sauté onion and celery in two Tablespoons oil. Add to a pot with  bottled, precooked beans, salt, pepper and one quart of water. Simmer for at least one hour.

Mediterranean White Bean Soup-Greek style

 One pound white beans

One cup of thinly sliced carrots

¼ cup thinly sliced celery

one cup chopped onion

2 teaspoons crushed/chopped garlic,(or 1 teaspoon of dried)

one 16 ounce can of tomatoes or 2 cups fresh, pealed and chopped

½ cup vegetable oil (preferably regular olive oil

one bay leaf

1 Tablespoon salt; 1 teaspoon pepper

(Mediterranean White Bean Soup-Macedonian style:

Omit celery, add 1teaspoon dried thyme)

Add all ingredients to slow-cooker with 1-1 ½ quarts water; cook for 6-8 hours.

SHORTCUT: Cook vegetables with oil, herbs and spices for one hour in 1 quart of water; add bottled , cooked beans. Cook for at least one half hour.

OPTIONS: Serve with open-faced grilled cheese,(cheese on bread under broiler for a few minutes.) Experiment with cheddars, Swiss, Provolone, Muenster, Edam, Gouda and Mozzarella with Parmesan.

Adding a little extra water and quick-cook barley to the soups will make a vegan one-dish complete protein meal, as will adding pre-cooked rice.

More about Rice and rice cookers next time.