Thursday, February 6, 2014

Greek Rice Salad

I realize it's been a month (more!) since I've posted. However, Christmas, sickness, work, and the multiple snow days have hindered my ability to cook, take photos, edit photos, and post any recipes. It's a long and involved process, you see. This recipe for Greek Rice Salad is one of my favorites. It's refreshing and easy to make. And it stores well so you can eat it all week long. It is vegetarian but not vegan, although it can be adapted easily.

I have also started a new "diet," which has me cooking things a little differently than I'm used to (I will expand in another post). I've started eating a completely plant-based diet with no added oils or artificial ingredients. Basically, I'm eating no animal product at all like a vegan. But I'm taking it one step further and not cooking with oil or butter, not eating anything processed or prepared other than canned tomatoes and beans, and using only natural sweeteners such as maple syrup and dates. It's the Forks Over Knives way.

Why am I doing this? First and foremost, I need to lose weight. And I don't want to starve. This way of eating allows you to eat until full (which I'm still learning how to do) and not count calories. Secondly, I do believe it's a very healthy way to eat. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, animals are treated horribly and the less I contribute to that the better.

That being said, I miss my cheese. So I can't say I'll do this forever. But for right now, it's working for me.

Greek Rice Salad

1-1/2 c. instant brown rice
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
8 oz. feta, crumbled
10.5 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved
7 oz. jar Kalamata olives, pitted and rough chopped
1/3 c. olive oil
1/3 c. red wine vinegar
1 T. oregano
1 garlic clove, minced
salt & pepper

Cook brown rice according to package directions.  Cool.

Toss cooked rice, cucumber, and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl.

In a 2-cup measuring cup, whisk the oil, vinegar, oregano, and garlic.  Season with salt & pepper.  Pour over rice mixture and toss.  Season to taste.  Serve at room temperature or cold.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Triple Almond Biscotti

'Tis the season, everyone!  This time of year is filled with happiness and joy and giving and over-indulging. Who doesn't love that? One of my favorite holiday treats is biscotti. I have several different kinds I make regularly throughout the season and all winter long, if I'm being honest.  This Triple Almond Biscotti is very easy to make, and pairs famously with a mug of piping hot coffee or even hot chocolate.

Don't be afraid of the fancy-pants Italian name (which means "twice baked").  And if you've had some horrible cellophane packaged rock-hard biscotti in the past, that is like comparing the powdered mac 'n cheese to a creamy homemade goodness.

This recipe uses three forms of almond to power-hit these biscotti with loads of flavor.  There's almond extract (you'd be surprised at how many recipes don't use this), Amaretto (almond liqueur), and chopped almonds.  I don't put the almonds in mind usually, only because I don't like the texture and they are delicious with our without.

Triple Almond Biscotti

2 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 t. baking powder
1/8 t. salt
3 eggs
2 T. Amaretto
1 t. almond extract
1 t. vanilla extract
1 c. toasted chopped almonds (optional)
6 oz. vanilla almond bark or white chocolate
1/4 t. nutmeg

Pre-heat oven to 300°. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. 

In a bowl, combine first four ingredients with a whisk.  

In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, Amaretto, and extracts.  Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Fold in almonds.  The dough will be a bit sticky at this point but it'll all work out in the end. 

Turn out onto parchment paper and shape into two logs about 10 x 3 inches.  You may need to flour your hands to prevent the dough from sticking as you shape it.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until firm and lightly golden brown.  Remove and cool. Using a serrated knife, slice log into 1/2 inch angled slices.  

Lay the slices cut side down on the sheet pan and bake an additional 20 minutes, flipping halfway thru baking time.  Let cool completely.  

In a bowl, microwave the almond bark and nutmeg, stirring every 15 seconds until melted.  Using a spoon, drizzle melted candy over biscotti.  Allow to set.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Roasted Red Pepper & Swiss Dip

As a blogger, I am supposed to follow these silly guidelines on how to promote my blog.  {In 1950's announcer voice} "You too can be a popular blogger if you just follow these simple rules..."  It's really overwhelming and annoying, in my opinion.  I am going to eat some Roasted Red Pepper & Swiss Dip while I contemplate it. (See, I followed one of the rules - "make sure you put the name of your recipe in the first paragraph so search engines ping it).

For example, I'm supposed to comment on a bunch of blogs in order to get my name out there.  Forget it. Ain't nobody got time for dat! As much as I love reading my favorite blogs, most have so many security settings that it takes as long to enter the random letters and numbers as it does to read the actual blog post.

As far as my Facebook page goes, I refuse to inundate everyone's news feed with blog promos.

I realize I'm going to offend some people with this next opinion.  I apologize in advance.  I can't stand link-ups.  I understand why people do it, for sure.  I know it's a good way to "get your name out there."  I am just absolutely annoyed to death by link-ups of any kind, and ignore any link that comes from a link-up. Those kinds of things feel so self-serving (I know, that's the point) that I just can't bring myself to participate.

Yes, I sound like a bitter, grumpy old lady.  I'll just grab my tea cup, set it on my doily, and have a little bit of this rich and decadent Roasted Red Pepper & Swiss Dip while I watch Golden Girls.

Roasted Red Pepper & Swiss Dip

12 oz. (3 cups) Swiss cheese, shredded
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1 bunch scallions, sliced
1 T. Dijon mustard
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
12 oz. jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
chives for garnish (optional)
Crackers, sliced bread, toast points for serving

Pre-heat oven to 400ยบ.

Mix 2 cups Swiss cheese and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl.  Place in baking dish (fits in 8x8 inch dish or smaller).  Top with remaining cheese.  Bake 15-20 minutes or until bubbly.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

This Cheesy Skillet Bread is a sort of combination of stuffing and cheesy bread pudding.  It's crunchy on the top and bottom (the best parts!) and the middle is cheesy and gooey and custard-y like bread pudding.  It's a great snack to munch during a football game.

Cheesy Skillet Bread

1 lb. baguette, cubed to 1/2 " pieces
2-2/3 c. chicken or vegetable broth
2 eggs
5 T. butter, divided
8 scallions, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

Pre-heat oven to 450° and set oven rack to upper-middle.

Place bread cubes on sheet pan and bake until light golden brown, 12-15 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Whisk broth and eggs in a large bowl.  Add bread cubes and gently fold in until mixed well.  Set aside and fold over occasionally.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons butter in 12-inch non-stick oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat.  Add scallions and cook 5 minutes. Season to taste.  Add garlic and cook 30 seconds.  Stir green onion mixture into bread mixture.  Mix in shredded cheese.

Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in same skillet over low heat.  Add bread mixture to skillet, pressing down with a spatula.  Cook until bottom of bread is lightly browned.  Transfer skillet to oven and bake until center is hot and the top is golden and crunchy, 20-30 minutes.  Rotate skillet half-way thru baking.  Cool 10 minutes and serve.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Autumn Applesauce & Apple Butter

We try to go apple-picking every year.  I picture a chilly crispness to the air, bundled in a cozy sweater, the scent of a crackling fire wafting around us, warm apple cider, and we five laughing and teasing as we pluck ripe red apples from the trees, discussing the various ways we'll use these delicious apples.  We will make apple pie, apple muffins, Apple Spice Hand Pies with Cinnamon Cream, applesauce, apple butter, apple cider, and a lovely apple and parsnip mash.

Here's what really happens...  I insist we go apple picking even though 2 of the 5 of us (who shall remain nameless but both are male) don't want to go at all due to 1) having to spend time with the family (our son) and 2) there's sure to be many bees around and someone is terrified of bees (husband).  We all pile in the SUV and head out to the orchard.

Just as we arrive, it starts to sprinkle.  Fantastic.  And it went from 80° and sunny to chilly and damp.  Then one of our daughters decided to pick that day and that time to declare her hatred for her sister simply because we only had one apple picking stick and had to share.  I mean, seriously.  Sharing stinks.

She was grumpy and whiny and difficult while the rest of us were trying to make the best of it.  It did stop spitting rain on us.  The temperature increased to a comfortable 75°.  Our son took over the camera and was enjoying himself, at least as much as a 16 year old man-boy with his family can.

The lady who owns and runs the orchard goes on the honor system if she's not there. She leaves a bucket out on an old patio table near the orchard entrance and trusts you to pay for what you take. She leaves plastic bags and apple pickers to use at your leisure. And she almost always has some cookies sitting out for anyone to have a snack after apple-picking.

She wasn't there when we first arrived, so we went on our merry way picking apples. Later she came out to greet us and see if we needed any help finding the good ones. Her enormous orange tabby was faithfully following behind her. When I mentioned that our youngest kid had her grumpy pants on, she told her that the best way to get rid of the grumpies is to jump up and down as hard as you can. So Ms. Grumpy jumped up and down, giggling.

This kind lady told me a story of her childhood.  When she was a little girl, she used to love to go to a neighbor "grandma's" property.  She had an apple orchard and always had cookies for her to munch on. She loved picking the apples and feeding them to the horses so much that when she got older, she bought an orchard and horses and became that "grandma."  And she makes sure to always have cookies on hand for the little ones.

Adjust the quantities of sugar and spices to suit your tastes.  Put the sauce and butter into mason jars and freeze for later use.  The applesauce is particularly delicious while still warm, on it's own or spooned over vanilla bean ice cream.

20 servings

20 apples, cored and chunked
2 c. water or apple juice
4 T. cinnamon
2 c. brown sugar

Mix all ingredients in a dutch oven or slow-cooker.  Cook over medium-low heat in dutch oven until the apples are softened, 3-6 hours.  In slow-cooker, cook on low for 6 hours or so.  Puree to desired consistency using a blender or immersion blender.  For a chunkier applesauce, puree half and mix together.

Apple Butter
20 servings

20 apples, cored and chunked
2-1/2 c. brown sugar
1 T. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. ground cloves

Mix all ingredients in a dutch oven or slow-cooker.  Cook over medium-low heat in dutch oven until the apples are softened and the mixture is a dark brown.  In a slow-cooker, cook on low for 9-11 hours or until dark brown.  Puree in food processor, blender, or using immersion blender.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Vegetarian Pulled Pork

You're probably asking: how do you make a vegetarian pulled pork sandwich? Especially one that looks nearly identical to real pulled pork!  The answer is Jackfruit. What is Jackfruit?  It is the fruit of a tree native to South and Southeast Asia, but it's also grown in India, Africa, and the Caribbean. Jackfruit can be eaten raw when ripe, and the flavor is a sweet mixture of pineapple, bananas, and apples. When it's unripe, it needs to be cooked.  Which brings us to the pulled "pork."

My husband, also a vegetarian, and his band played a wedding reception for a vegan bride.  The food service consisted of pulled pork and vegetarian pulled pork. He took one look at the vegetarian one and moved on, convinced someone was playing a joke. Later, he learned from the bride that it was in fact vegan, so he dove head-first into the BBQ Jackfruit.  This is how I learned about my new bestie, Mr. Jackfruit.

I have since done a lot of research on this very bizarre fruit, including buying one from the Indian market we frequent. Unfortunately it rotted within a few days so I didn't get a chance to cook with it. So I made a trip to the Asian market and purchased an obscene amount of canned Jackfruit and avoided the fresh ones. By the way, when fresh, they look like gigantic avocados with spikes all over. They truly are strange looking, and I'd be scared if I didn't know what they were.

I apologize for the terrible photo quality.  I had only my phone with me and I was getting dirty looks from the workers in the Asian market.  And forgive my thumb in the lower left.

And apparently there are quite a few vegetarians and vegans who can't eat Jackfruit, simply because it looks so much like pulled pork or chicken that it grosses them out too much.  I admit, I had a bit of the same reaction, but being the selfless human that I am, I took one for the team and plowed through.

This recipe is really 3 recipes in one. There's the dry rub, BBQ sauce, and pulled "pork" sandwiches. Feel free to substitute or eliminate the dry rub marinade time if you want. You can sub your favorite bottled BBQ sauce as well.

The dry rub and sauce is a bit spicy. If you don't like it as hot, reduce the amount of chili powder. If you like it sweeter, add more brown sugar. The recipe below is our favorite, but adjust to your family's tastes.

Vegetarian Pulled "Pork"
This recipe makes 8 healthy sized pulled "pork" sandwiches. You will have about 1/4 cup of dry rub left over for another use as well as 1 cup of sauce for serving with the sandwiches if someone likes them extra wet.

Dry Rub (makes about 1-1/4 c)
4 T. kosher salt
2 T. hot Mexican chili powder
2 T. onion powder
2 T. garlic powder
2 T. cumin
2 T. brown sugar
2 T. smoked paprika
1 T. celery salt
1 t. cayenne
1 t. black pepper

BBQ Sauce
1 T. vegetable oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. dry rub
2 c. ketchup
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. molasses
1/2 t. liquid smoke

Jackfruit Pulled "Pork"
3 cans Jackfruit in brine or water, drained and rinsed
1/4 c. dry rub

Make the dry rub by combining all ingredients in a bowl.

In your slow cooker insert, toss together 1/4 c. dry rub and the rinsed and drained Jackfruit. Set aside while you make the sauce.

To make the BBQ Sauce,  heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and saute 5-10 minutes or until softened and beginning to brown. Add the garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds. Mix in the dry rub and cook 30 seconds, stirring. Add in the remaining ingredients and simmer gently for 30 minutes (if you have time).

Set aside 1 cup or so of the sauce for serving, if desired. Pour the remaining sauce into the slow cooker insert with the Jackfruit. Add about 1/2 can of water and stir together. Set slow cooker to low and cook for 4-6 hours, stirring occasionally.

Serve piled on hamburger buns or in tacos.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Double Chocolate Fudge Brownies

Please don't be alarmed by the first ingredient.  I know, I was a bit nervous too.  Forget the beans because you can't even taste them.  Let's concentrate on how these Double Chocolate Fudge Brownies are chocolaty and fudgey.  Without the eggs to make them rise high like a cake, they remain dense and... well... fudge-like. There's not a lot of flour to mute the chocolate taste.  And even with minimal sugar, the ripe banana contributes some natural sweetness along with the chocolate.  The molasses or coffee really adds depth to these rich, gooey, bites.

This recipe requires no mixer, no special equipment (other than a food processor or blender), and it doesn't create a million dirty dishes.  It actually comes together quite quickly so it's an easy dessert to throw together in the morning or after lunch for an after-dinner treat.

So what is the difference between vegan and vegetarian, anyway?  In it's most basic definition, vegetarians do not eat animal flesh at all and vegans don't eat anything that at one point came from an animal. A vegetarian would eat a black bean burger with cheese and a side of mac 'n cheese with vanilla pudding for dessert.  Wow, that actually sounds pretty good...  Ok, so a vegan would not eat any of that since the pudding, and the cheese on the burger and in the pasta contains dairy.

There are varying degrees of strictness to the food choices one makes too.  Some vegetarians and vegans eat fish.  Some vegans will not eat honey, drink certain wines and beers (made using isinglass from the swim bladders of fish), eat crackers or bread made with milk ingredients, or even Worcestershire sauce (made from anchovies).

Whether or not you eat flesh with a face, these brownies are truly amazing.  You'll love them.  Really.

Double Chocolate Fudge Brownies (vegan or not)
Makes 16 small brownies

1 c. canned black beans (about 2/3 of a can), rinsed and drained
1/2 c. sugar
3 T. canola oil
4 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ripe banana
2 T. molasses or instant coffee (depending on your tastes)
2 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
pinch salt
1 c. milk chocolate or vegan chocolate chips, divided
1/2 c. chopped nuts (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 350°.  Grease 8-inch square pan.

In a food processor, puree the beans, sugar, and oil.  Add the cocoa powder, banana, molasses or coffee, and vanilla and puree until smooth, about 1 minute.  Pour into large bowl.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.  Add to the bean mixture and gently stir until just combined without over-mixing.  Fold in 3/4 c. chocolate chips.  Pour batter into the prepared pan.  Sprinkle remaining 1/4 c. chocolate chips over the top.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in pan on wire rack then refrigerate.

Adapted from Vegan on the Cheap Chocolate Surprise Brownies