26 December 2011

White Bean Pesto Pate

Dump all of the following into a food processor or blender and blend; the amounts aren't exact, you have a lot of leeway:
  • 2-3 cups of white beans
  • 2-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • a fistful of basil
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • juice of 1/2-1 lemon
  • 1-2 tbsp pumpkin seed butter OR a small handful of pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • dash cayenne
  • salt & pepper to taste
If you make a lot, you can always use any extra pate as the base for one of my sausage recipes:

04 December 2011

Cuban Black Beans & Rice (GF)

Rice and beans is rather a staple in the vegetarian pantry.  That's the stereotype, at least.  There are so many variations of this dish; some of them are wonderful and some of them are kind of...meh.  This one is sometimes called Moros y Cristianos, and let me tell you something:  Cubans take their black beans very seriously.  Moros y Cristianos is never meh.

You will need to get yourself a big pot and the following (optional ingredients are listed in parenthesis):
  • 3-4 tbsp olive oil (you can reduce this by a lot, but I would not omit it entirely—your spices will really bloom with just a little oil)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 jalapeño (or a different kind of hot pepper or some red chili flakes, etc.  Please note that hot sauce is not a substitute for fresh or dried pepper.)
  • 1-2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup uncooked rice
  • 2 cups (or more) cooked black beans (drained)
  • ~2 cups water or stock (depends on what kind of rice you are using)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tbsp vinegar (any sort you'd like -- I used malt vinegar)
  • salt & black pepper to taste 
  • (lime juice or lime wedges)
  • (chopped fresh cilantro or parsley)
Fry the onion (and bell pepper) in the olive oil until it starts to turn clear.  Then add the garlic, cumin, and jalapeño, stirring everything gently until fragrant.  Stir in tomato paste, then add the rice and stir it up until all the grains are coated.  Add the black beans, water or stock, bay leaf, vinegar, salt, and black pepper.  Give everything a good stir, put the lid on the pot, and let everything simmer until the rice is cooked.  Remove from heat.  Stir in your lime juice and fresh cilantro or parsley (if using) just before serving.  (Garnish with lime wedges.)

02 December 2011

Easy Crusty Bread

Gluten-free people, please avert your eyes.  I have some GF recipes in the works for you, you know I love you, and you know I know how hard being gluten-free can be.

Check out my crusty bread:

I made it using this recipe.  The recipe is really easy, requires no kneading, and produces a FABULOUS crust, which I think is essential for good bread. 

I don't have a baking stone, so I used a cast-iron skillet for the sesame-caraway loaf and an enamelware dish for the bread with the rye flakes on top.  I used about twice as much dough for the rye-flaked one and they both turned out fine.  I preferred the one in the cast-iron skillet.  I also used a spray bottle to add even more steam to the oven.

Thanks go to Lydia over at Small Town Simplicity for the link!

01 December 2011

Wee Rosewater Cakes

This recipe is like the tiny-cake answer to sugar cookies.  I made some earlier this evening and they were pretty much all devoured within 5 minutes of leaving the oven.  If you don't like rose water or don't have any, just replace it with a different flavouring or skip it altogether.  This recipe will yield 12 tiny cakes.
  • 1 c self-raising flour (or 1 c flour and 2 tsp baking powder)
  • 3-4 tbsp sugar (I like them on the not-so-sweet side)
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil (any neutral-tasing oil will do)
  • 1/2 c soymilk (or other non-dairy milk)
  • 1/4 t rose water (you may want to consider adding even less than that)
Preheat your oven to 350°F/175°C.

Mix the flour and sugar together.  Mix in the oil -- I like to mush it in with the back of a spoon until it is all worked in and the mixture clumps together like coarse meal or soft brown sugar.  Stir the rosewater into the soymilk and stir that into the flour.  You should have something that is half-way between batter and dough -- sticky and gooey, too wet to knead, but not runny enough to drip.

Spoon onto a greased baking tray (if you don't grease it, you will have to use a spatula to remove the wee cakes), ensuring that the blobs of dough are an inch or so apart. 

Bake for about 10 or so minutes—an inserted toothpick or knife will come out clean, but you will know they are done because the cakes will rise and swell like an angry sea and the tops will be a pale golden brown.  You can pretty much eat these straight out of the oven, although I'd suggest giving them a minute or two to cool first.

30 November 2011

General Chlo's Seitan/Tofu/TVP (GF)

Hang on -- before we start, I want to say two things.  Normally this would be served over rice and not spaghetti, but I promised Beetroot (who thought I said 'pumpkin tree' when I really said 'blog entry') he could have whatever he wanted for lunch if he let me cut his hair and he wanted spaghetti.  And, yes, spaghetti and seitan aren't gluten-free, but if you make this with tofu or those giant TVP chunks and serve it over rice, then it is GF.  And a really zany grain-free twist on this dish could involve something like cauliflower or mushrooms instead of seitan/tofu served on zucchini noodles.  (Also, have you seen cauliflower 'rice'?  Do an internet search on it, it's a nifty idea!)

Okay, I know you are all salivating, so I'll cut to the chase.  And by the chase, I mean the sauce.  General Chlo's sauce.  Which is delicious.  You don't just have to use it for this!  Let's go over the ingredients first:
  • garlic (finely chopped)
  • chili (fresh & finely chopped (I used a red finger chili) or dry flakes)
  • ginger (fresh and finely chopped or dry powdered) OR Chinese 5-spice (or both)
  • toasted sesame oil
  • soy sauce (use tamari if GF)
  • sushi vinegar OR [rice vinegar & a pinch of sugar (or agave nectar or whatever)]
  • tomato paste
  • cornstarch (or a similar thickener)
  • stock (or water)
Just pretend the spaghetti is rice, okay?
Fry the garlic, chili, and ginger in the toasted sesame oil until fragrant.  Stir in your soy sauce, vinegar, and tomato paste.  Then you'll want to add the cornstarch and stock.  If you're like me, you'll just shake the cornstarch over everything and hope it dissolves when you stir it up, but you could also dissolve the cornstarch into the stock before adding it. 

I'll assume you know how to make rice and steam broccoli.  I'll also assume you know how to make or procure seitan* or where to find tofu or those big TVP chunks.  For the seitan, you can just stir it into the sauce, but you will need to rehydrate the TVP (soak in warm water or stock for a few minutes) before throwing it into the sauce and you should pan-fry the tofu a little before throwing it in.

Dish up some rice, put some General Chlo's on top.  Arrange the broccoli nicely around the outside of the rice & Chlo's, and top with a little chopped green onion.

Any questions?  :D

 *  And if you don't, would you like a blog post detailing my adventures in making seitan?

16 November 2011


I knew somebody who pronounced squash 'squarsh,' but I don't remember who.  Anyway, here is a fabulous recipe for winter squarsh.  You can use butternut, but I used this thing that looked like a mint-green pumpkin and had the very hard to cut flesh of a butternut squarsh.

Preheat your oven to 400°F/200°C.  Gut and chop your squarsh (save the seeds and toast them in your oven with a little salt later).  No need to remove the peel, it's totally edible!  Put it in a casserole dish, add about a kilogram (hey Americans, 28 oz will do) of stewed tomatoes (I used whole ones, but you can use chopped) large coarsely chopped onion, a tbsp or two of oregano, a generous a glug of olive oil, and salt & pepper to taste.  Give everything a stir.  Cover (I just used aluminium foil) and bake for about 40 minutes, uncover and stir, and then bake another 20-30 minutes (until the squarsh is tender), stirring occasionally.

Mix in some beans (I used black-eyed peas) and serve plain or over a bed of rice (or whatever!).

P.S.  Check out my new bling!  My friend made me this for my
birthday.  It is extra-cool because she is in America and still
managed to procure a 5 pound note.

15 November 2011


I tend not to make pesto.  Don't get me wrong, I love pesto, but pine nuts are expensive (not to mention hard to find) and I don't usually buy fresh basil -- I also tried growing it here and it does not agree with my area, indoors or out.  My husband brought a huge bunch of fresh basil (reduced price!  10p and in super good condition!) back from the store and I figured it was high time I made a batch of pesto.

Traditionally, pesto is made from basil, pine nuts, garlic, and olive oil (pureed in a blender or food processor, or smooshed* with a mortar and pestle)...and Parmesan cheese, but I don't eat cheese, so I always skip that bit.  Anyway, like I said, pine nuts are expensive, so I thought I'd try something else. 

Why does it look so creamy?  I don't know, but it was delicious!
I happen to have a large bag of pepitas (those green pumpkin seeds you find either in the health or Latino section of your grocery store) in my kitchen, so I substituted them for the pine nuts.  I didn't feel like cleaning my food processor,** so I got out my mortar and pestle.  Actually, my mortar broke a few years ago, so I got out a mixing bowl and my pestle.  I chopped the garlic and basil (on my cutting board) and ground the pepitas in my blade coffee grinder first.  Then I threw everything into the mixing bowl, added a glug or two of extra virgin olive oil and some salt & pepper and got grindin' with the pestle.  When everything was all smooshed into a paste, I spread it on some rustic bread (also reduced price from the store) and toasted it in the oven for a few minutes.  I ate some...I ate some more...and then I ate it all.  It was delicious!  :D

There are other variations on pesto.  I've made it with walnuts instead of pine nuts and ramsons (they grow wild here and are absolutely everywhere in the spring!) instead of basil and garlic.  I've also seen it made with cilantro instead of basil. 

Do you make any other variations?  Do tell.  I've often read one should make a large amount, store it in a clean glass jar, and refrigerate for later, but I generally only make a day's worth at a time.  I've tried making larger amounts in the past, but they seem to go mouldy pretty fast in my fridge.  :/

*  Okay, the culinary word is ground, but who cares.  Smooshed sounds so much more fun!
**  Not that it's not clean, it is, I just didn't feel like cleaning it after making pesto.

11 November 2011


Mouldy Travelodge Bed says, "Happy Birthday!"
Many Crabby Returns!
I don't usually make a big deal about my birthday, but it's 11.11.11!  I've been waiting for this birthday since I was a little kid.  I made gingerbread cupcakes from the book Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World -- I added nutmeg, extra ground clove, and black pepper because that is how I roll, yo.  They were delicious.  Beetroot really wanted to blow out the candle and started crying after I blew it out, so I lit it again and let him blow it out, too.  Raygold didn't care who blew out the candle, he just wanted a wee cake!
Later, Beetroot presented me with a keychain (my keychain) wrapped in a toilet roll.  What a great birthday present!  I was overwhelmed by his generosity. 

I'm laughing because my son is crying for his turn to blow
out the candle.  Moms these days.  Sheesh.

Sleeping Children.  The best birthday present ever.

31 October 2011

My Favourite Miso

Simmering.  Pre-miso.

As October and VeganMoFo come to a close, I find myself a bit under the weather.  Not lying-in-bed-moaning under the weather, but stuffy-head-and-sore-throat under the weather.  The kind you treat with hot toddies and warm, comforting soup.  Miso soup, to be exact.  Let's make some.

The first thing I do is simmer some veg in a pot of water.  Any of the following is pretty good:
  • broccoli
  • carrot
  • onion
  • cabbage or kale
  • mange tout (pea pods)
  • baby corn
  • leek
  • mushrooms (any sort will do), black fungus, or something along those lines

This is the miso paste I use.  It's frosty because I store it in the freezer.
Then to bulk up the soup a little, I add one or more of the following:
  • tofu
  • bean curd sheets, strips, or twists
  • (fresh or frozen) peas, broad beans, or edamame beans 
  • other kinds of beans (garbanzos work especially well)
  • rice, buckwheat (soba), or some other kind of noodles
  • quinoa or rice
To add different flavours to the soup, I add one or more of the following:
  • wakame or kelp/kombu or another kind of seaweed
  • toasted sesame oil
  • a pinch of cayenne, dried chili pepper, or sliced fresh hot pepper
  • lemongrass
  • ginger or galangal
  • kaffir lime leaves
  • tamarind, orange juice, or cider vinegar (if I fancy sour soup)

This is how I serve it to the kids.
Let everything simmer until the veggies are al dente.  Then turn off the pot and add some miso paste.  I like to scoop smear it along the inside of the pot -- this is the easiest way for me to get it to dissolve without clumping.  At this point, I taste the broth.  I add a wee glug of soy sauce (use tamari if you are GF) and maybe a little more miso paste.

Then I dish everything up and generously sprinkle the soup with chopped green onions before serving.  My kids aren't very good with broth, so I give them a generous serving of everything else.

Bye-bye, VeganMoFo 2011, it's been real, yo.

30 October 2011

Carrot Cake Waffles (Iron Chef Challenge)

This week's VeganMoFo* Iron Chef challenge was 'carrots and oatmeal.'  I am sure lots of people are going to be doing some kind of carrot cake or muffin thing and I thought I would just jump right on that bandwagon.  Except I am totally wafflising it.  I'm also including a baby food version.
If you have seen my Sunflower Seed and Oat Waffles,** you know I am no stranger to oatmeal in waffles.  The trick to adding oatmeal to stuff like waffles is to either cook the oatmeal ahead of time or grind it up (dry, obviously) in a blade coffee grinder.  I usually do the latter.

Enough talk, let's make some waffles! 
Mix together 2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup ground oatmeal, 1 tbsp cornstarch, 1 tbsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp ground ginger, and some freshly ground nutmeg (about 1/4 tsp).  Then add 2 cups nondairy milk, 1 cup of shredded carrots (about 1 carrot, but feel free to add more!), 1 tsp vanilla extract, 3-4 tbsp oil (I use sunflower oil, but melted coconut oil or any neutral oil will do), and 3-4 tbsp sugar or maple syrup.  If your batter seems a little too runny, add another tbsp or so of flour.  Mix everything together well and make some waffles!  This is also a great pancake batter recipe.

Also, you can totally make a baby food version of this recipe!
  Grind up some oatmeal in a blade coffee grinder until it is pretty much oat flour, which is pretty much instant baby oatmeal.  Mix in a pinch of ground ginger and a dash of nutmeg.  Shred some carrot and boil it in a little water (or coconut milk, if you're feeling feisty!) until it softens.  Add the oatmeal & spice mix, stirring well.  Wait for it to cool and serve it to your little one.  If you make it on the thick side, you can do the whole loaded-spoon trick and let your little dude try to feed himself. 

*  I did mention all my October blogging is because it's VeganMoFo, right?  VeganMoFo (Vegan Month of Food) is like NaNoWriMo, except everybody blogs about vegan food.  Veganmofo.com has all the basic information (like the VeganMoFo FAQ and blogroll), does a daily round-up of their favourite posts, and sets the weekly Iron Chef challenges.  Randomofo.com will take you to a different MoFo blog every time you reload the page or hit the 'next random blog' link.

**  Have you seen my recipe for Cornbread Waffles and Salsa?  It's delicious! 

29 October 2011

Cream of Mushroom Soup with Spaghetti

Every year, my parents would let me have whatever I wanted for dinner on my birthday and every year I picked the same thing:  cream of mushroom soup with spaghetti.  Not a bowl of cream of mushroom soup and a plate of spaghetti, cream of mushroom soup on the spaghetti.  It was pretty awesome.  And I always ate it with "the magical bamboo fork," which I got from my grandmother, who got it as a free sample in the post or something like that.

I decided to recreate my favourite childhood dish this afternoon.  Of course, you are free to have the soup on its own.  It's delicious either way!  I'll include directions for a richer version of the mushroom soup as well as a more authentic version (minus the tinny canned flavour).

In a frying pan, fry some onions in olive oil until they start to turn clear.  Add some chopped mushrooms and garlic and fry until everything is soft.  (To make this more 'authentic,' chop everything up into teeny tiny pieces.)

*This is a great base for a cream-of-anything soup right here:*  In a sauce pan or pot, make béchamel sauce (scroll down for the béchamel directions -- there are also some tips for making it gluten-free).  Add extra non-dairy milk (I prefer coconut or soy for this) or water to thin the sauce to a soup-like consistency.  Add some sage, thyme, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and a dollop of tahini paste (skip all of these for the more authentic version). 

Now it is time to add your onions, mushrooms, and garlic to the soup.  Deglase your pan with a little dry sherry or dry vermouth (or a little water if you're either not the boozing type or going for the more traditional canned soup taste) and pour that into your soup, as well.  And salt and black pepper.  Add a lot of salt if you are going for the canned soup version.

Stir everything up a bit more and then add some mashed or puréed navy (haricot) beans.  Skip this if you are doing the canned soup version.

Now simmer this on low and let the seasonings mingle.   Your mushroom flavour will really start to come out if you just let the soup hang out and simmer on the stove for a while.

Okay, now it's time to make spaghetti.  I don't need to tell you how to do that, do I?  When the spaghetti's ready, dish it up and pour the soup right on over it. 

The Magical Bamboo Fork—Of course, I still have it!

28 October 2011

Polish Cabbage Salad

I was flipping through an old diary of mine the other day and found some food-related notes I'd taken while travelling through Poland a few years ago.  I take notes if I eat out and discover something amazing -- this has happened more in Eastern Europe than anywhere else* -- and two salads I ate at Vega (the site's in Polish) really caught my eye.  If you are a long-time follower of my blog, you will not be surprised that this is because they had cabbage** in them.

There were two kinds, a white cabbage one and a red cabbage one.  In both cases, the cabbage had been boiled or steamed and then chilled (clever!).  I have done a little investigation since then and seen similar recipes where the cabbage is raw that involve salt-wilting the cabbage and then massaging it into suppleness.

White cabbage, parsley, shredded carrots, sunflower seeds, dill, vinegar, and oil.
Red cabbage, cilantro, sunflower seeds, hot pepper, vinegar, and oil.

You can mix and match ingredients with these guys, too.  And add beets!  Yesterday, I made the salad photographed above and called it 'purple monster salad.' My 3 year old could not get enough!

*  The most amazing thing I ever ate in a restaurant was in Lithiuania -- it was this hot and sour tomato soup with pickles and black olives.  I am pretty good at replicating it, but it's so hard to find unsweetened pickles here (let alone pickles without food colouring), I haven't been able to blog about it yet.  Anyway, the soup was so good, I went back to the restaurant again for more later that day!

**  By the way, I've added a cabbage tag to all my cabbagey posts now, since I post about cabbage so often, so you can see all my cabbage-related posts at once.

27 October 2011

Garlic Bread & a wee Blog 'Award'

Yesterday, I had a strange craving for garlic bread.  I haven't had garlic bread in at least 8 years and I've never made it myself, but I am never one to ignore a good food craving, so I took a stab at it.  I baked one unpeeled clove of garlic (on a wee enamelware plate) in the oven at 400°F/200°C for about 5-8 minutes (until tender/mushy).  While the garlic was baking, I spread some non-hydrogenated (I can taste hydrogenated oils a mile away, blech) margarine on some bread, but you could use olive oil or coconut oil,* too.  Once the garlic was done, I peeled it and spread it across the bread, sprinkled the tiniest amount of salt on it, and baked the bread for a few minutes so it was warm and just starting to get toasty and all the margarine had melted and all the flavours were mingling delightfully.  Then I took it out of the oven and ate it all up!  (Actually, I shared one slice with my kids.)

*  Coconut oil makes an excellent substitution for unsalted butter, if you ask me.

Aaand...Johanna GGG from gggiraffe nominated me for a Liebster Blog Award, the idea of which is to bring attention to blogs with fewer than 200 followers.  So with that in mind, I hereby nominate the following blogs:
There were one or two other blogs I wanted to nominate, but they've already received nominations.  Congratulations all around!  It's almost enough to melt my cold, crabby heart.

26 October 2011

Salad Dressing

When I was a little kid, salad dressing kind of grossed me out -- and at one point, I thought only French and Italian dressings existed!  I liked salad, but I only ever put pepper on it!  One day, I discovered the delights of oil and vinegar and I've never looked back.  When I lived in the US, there were all kinds of salad dressings, but here in the UK, everything seems to be salad cream, cream-based salad dressings, and these thick, too-sweet, fat-free dressings.  Not my bag, baby.  Where is the raspberry vinaigrette?  Why is British Italian dressing opaque?  Maybe I am just shopping in the wrong places, but whatever.  I make my own salad dressings now!

Beet & cabbage salad with mustard vinaigrette.
Sometimes, a simple oil and vinegar with salt and pepper is good enough, but if you're feeling feisty, here are a few of my fabulous favourites:

Maple Balsamic Dressing
1 part maple syrup, 2 parts balsamic vinegar, 2-4 tbsp olive oil.
This goes well with leafy salads, radiccio, spinach, and walnuts.

Asian-Style Dressing
2 parts cider vinegar or rice wine vinegar, 1 part soy sauce, 2-4 parts sesame oil, garnish with sesame seeds.
This is good with noodle-based salads (especially buckwheat (soba) noodles or raw zucchini 'noodles'), tofu, radishes, and chopped green onions.

Creamy Tahini Dressing
1 part tahini, 1 part lemon juice, 1 part cider vinegar, 2-4 parts olive oil, cayenne pepper, and black pepper.  Thin with a little water until desired consistency.  For a more yoghurty flavour, curdle some soy milk with the cider vinegar and thin the dressing with that instead of the water.
This is good on salads with crunchy lettuce, onions, and garbanzos.

GF Buckwheat Taboulleh!
Mustard Vinaigrette
1 part mustard, 1 part vinegar, 2-4 parts olive oil, salt, and black pepper.  It's also good with a little chopped fresh thyme or dill.  For a sweet twist, add 1 part maple syrup or agave nectar.
I like to use the last bit of mustard left in the jar, add the rest of the ingredients, and shake.
This is good on beet and cabbage salads, although I like it on pretty much anything.

The Citrus Splash
Extra virgin olive oil and orange juice or lime juice is simply delightful.  Especially if you add chopped fresh coriander or flat-leaf parsley and just a dash of salt and pepper.  Chopped fresh thyme goes well in this, too.
I especially like this on warm green beans or leafy salads with walnuts and fresh green fava beans or edamame beans.  Add a little cider vinegar and it's a great dressing for taboulleh.   Speaking of tabbouleh, if you're gluten-free, buckwheat is an excellent substitution for bulgar wheat.

While we're on the subject, why don't you tell me about your favourite kinds of salads and salad dressings? 

Here are two other unusual salads I've discovered:

And my recipe for a barley salad:

25 October 2011

Fruit Plates and Tablescapes.

My husband brought home a lot of fruit last night (he hit the grocery store after they'd reduced a lot of produce) and suggested I make a fruit salad.  I bristled.  I don't know why this is exactly, but fruit seems so much less appetising when presented as a fruit salad.  But a fruit platter?  I am so in.

In fact, sometimes a fruit platter seems even more appetising than plain ol' fruit.  Orange, mango, and pineapple are good, but slice 'em up and call it a 'Tropical Fruit Platter' and suddenly, ooh la la!

Plus, a pineapple top in an old peanut butter jar on top of an oven mitt you made when you were a kid makes a very tasteful tablescape.

24 October 2011

Grandma Peggy's Ratatouille

Click to enlarge.
I posted some recipes for gazpacho from my grandmother last year and have another recipe for you now.  I had misplaced this recipe for some time (which is shocking because I keep all my recipes together), but it turned out I'd used this as a bookmark in a vegetarian cookbook.  I apologise for the low-res photo; Mr. Crabby went hiking and took the good camera.  ;p

23 October 2011

Wheatberry & Fava Bean Stew (GF Alternate)

Before I say anything else, I want to mention that you can totally make this GF by using brown rice or quinoa instead of wheatberries.  The chewy texture will still be the same. 

Some people suggest soaking grains like wheatberries for a few hours before cooking, but I've heard it's not necessary.  I'll leave the soaking up to you.  It won't hurt and at the very least, it will cut your cooking time down by a bit.

Fry some chopped onion in a little olive oil.  When the onion starts to turn clear, add some chopped garlic, ground cumin, thyme, ground black pepper, and a pinch of cayenne.  Fry for another minute or so and then add a can (the 500g/14oz-ish size) of stewed tomatoes, another can of water, about 2 cups of chopped winter squash (butternut or whatever) and about a cup of wheatberries (or brown rice or quinoa).  Add a tsp of dried parsley (if you'd rather use fresh, stir in chopped fresh parsley about 5 minutes before serving).  Now just let everything simmer for about an hour.  Give everything a stir every so often and add some more water if things are looking too thick.  The wheatberries will puff up and their innards won't look quite so white when they are cooked (try one, they will be nice and chewy!) and the squash will be so mushy, it will practically disintegrate.

At this point, you can add your (cooked) fava beans (aka broad beans).  If you can't find fava beans, don't fret -- garbanzos make a good substitution and they are usually pretty easy to find.  Kidney beans would work, too.  I added maybe 2 cups of cooked beans (I'd say about a can if you are the canned-bean sort).  This is also a good time to add a glug or two of soy sauce (use a wheat-free tamari if you are GF).

Simmer everything for another 10 minutes or so and serve it on up!  This stew is really really filling and delightfully chewy.

22 October 2011

Slow-Cooked Coconut Tapioca

This is an easy one -- add 1 cup of tapioca pearls (the kind you find in Asian stores), about 5-6 cups of water (it's easier to start with about 5 cups and add some more later), and a 200g hunk of creamed coconut* to your slow cooker and cook for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.  The tapioca is ready when the little balls turn clear.  Sweeten to taste -- I used about 5-6 tbsp of raw sugar (agave nectar, maple syrup, or anything like that would be cool, too) in the whole crock, but I don't like mine very sweet.  It is so rich and creamy.  We served ours hot like porridge, but you can dish it into cups or bowls and let it set.

You can jazz this up by working the tropical angle and adding chopped banana or mango and maybe a little vanilla extract or some lime or something like that.

*  Hang on -- I know what you're thinking.  "Hey, Crabby, I can't find a hunk of creamed coconut anywhere!"  Never fear!  You may substitute a can of coconut milk for the 200g hunk of creamed coconut, but you'll probably want to reduce the water by half a cup or so.

Whatever you do, do not tell your children tapioca pearls are frog eyeballs.  They are wee starchy balls made from cassava root!

21 October 2011

Crabby Shepherd's Pie (GF)

Oh, boy.  This is an easy one.  It's not even really a pie and really should be called shepherd's casserole or something. 

The first thing you do is preheat your oven to 400°F/200°C and make some gravy (there are some GF gravy tips at that link).  Once your gravy is done, get yourself some veggies (I use mixed frozen veggies when I am short on time) and steam or boil them until tender (if you don't, this will increase the baking time).  To make the 'pie' a little more filling, you can add some TVP or seitan (seitan is not GF) or even some cooked lentils or some small kind of cooked bean, although I prefer to add cooked buckwheat.  Mix the veggies and the other filling into the gravy and pour into a small casserole dish.
Pasta is not a typical shepherd's pie side dish.  ;p

Now you need to make some mashed potatoes.  I linked you up to an old recipe of mine, but make them however you like.  Feel free to use instant if you are lazy or in a hurry.  Anyway, when the mashed potatoes are ready, spread that mash across the top of the gravy-covered stuff in the casserole dish.

If you haven't pre-cooked the vegetables, cover the dish and bake until bubbly, uncover and bake a further 10-15 minutes.  If you have pre-cooked the veggies, you just need to bake everything for about 10-15 minutes.  The top of the mashed potatoes should just be starting to brown up and the gravy should be bubbling up around the sides of the dish.

20 October 2011

Roasted Winter Squash

Eat the peels!  No, seriously, did you know you could eat winter squash peels?  It's a good thing, too -- peeling those things is a right pain in the asparagus.  You might be concerned that the peel is a bit chewy because it is so tough before cooking, but don't be.  Let me remind you that the entire squash is tough before you cook it and much like its innards, the peel softens, as well.  I used a celebration (how festive!) squash here, but just about any winter squash will do.*  I also scoop out the seeds and toast them in the oven (dry, no oil) with a little salt for maybe 5-10 minutes. 

Anyway, let's roast some squash!

Celebration Squash!  With a side of buckwheat and cabbage & beans.
Preheat your oven to 400°F/200°C.
Chop your winter squash (aim for bits that are no bigger than 1" in any length).  Take a couple smaller-sized onions and cut them into wedges.  Dump your squash and onions into a casserole dish.  Sprinkle on some red chili pepper flakes, sage, thyme, black pepper, and salt.  (Add some finely chopped garlic if you're feeling daring.)  Pour some olive oil (be generous) over everything and give it a good stir.

Put a lid on or cover with aluminium foil.  Pop in your oven for 40-60 minutes -- take it out halfway and give it a thorough stirring -- you want everything to be tender and soft; uncover for the last 10 minutes or so. 

*  Butternut, acorn, turban, and the like.  Spaghetti squash gets all spaghetti-like when cooked, although it will still work here (although it will still work here) so you might want to bake them whole (or sliced in half) and serve them with some kind of tomato-based sauce.  Pumpkin will work here, oo, but often they are rather watery (that doesn't ever ever ever stop me from cooking them), so keept that in mind.

19 October 2011

Ratacrabby, Slow Cooked

Ratatouille is a delicious tomato-based French dish with eggplant (aubergine), zucchini (courgette), onion, and bell pepper.  Some people like it baked or fried or crunchy, but I like it soft and simmered.  Someone on the internet somewhere (how's that for vague?) described it as 'jammy' and I think that's a great way of describing what I think the texture of ratatouille should be like.  I like it hot in the fall and cold in the summer.  Well, I would like it cold in the summer if it ever got hot here in the Scottish countryside.  ;D

With love from the bottom of my crock.*
I loosely followed the recipe from this book -- which, by the way, is a fantastic resource for those of you who like to crock it up a notch.  (I don't know about you, but when I got my slow cooker, I kind of didn't know what to do with it and now I even bake sweet potatoes in mine!)  I say I loosely followed the recipe for two reasons -- the first is that I always loosely follow recipes unless they are some kind of baked cake or pastry and the second is that I didn't have a bell pepper, so I substituted paprika -- paprika is ground up pepper, so I figured that was the next best thing I had on-hand.  ;p

Ratatouille is traditionally a side dish, but nowadays is often served as a main with pasta or rice.  Tonight, I served it with some pasta** and a side of white beans seasoned with garlic and thyme. 

*  Which is way better than love from the bottom of my crack.  Just take my word on that one.
**  Value Pasta (rotini) and Value Spaghetti are only 19p at Morrisons right now.  I stocked up.  Value Digestives are 19p at the moment, too!

18 October 2011

Stew Pack

 I took this: 

And with the help of my slow-cooker, some water, oil, white beans, seitan,* flour,** herbs, and spices, made a tasty country-style stew. 


*  I simmered the seitan right in the slow-cooker with the veg & water.

**  I made gravy with the stock from the slow-cooker when everything was done cooking, added some white beans, and the contents of the slow-cooker.

17 October 2011

Adzuki Bean Fudge (GF)

I made this fudge.  It's dairy-free, gluten-free, and low sugar.  I didn't have all the ingredients, so I made some substitutions.  I used this liquid sweetener called "Sweet Freedom"* and I skipped the spices and the salt and the stevia and subbed margarine for most of the coconut oil (I thought I had enough coconut oil, but it turned out, I only had 2 tbsp left!). 

It turned out less like fudge and more like nutella, but much much better.  I'm sure the texture would have been more fudgy if I had used a solid fat like coconut oil or shortening rather than margarine, but I was working with what I had. 
I also want to mention that the texture and flavour got better after the fudge has time to set, so don't flip out like I did and declare the fudge a failure before you've given it a chance.  When it was fresh out of the food processor, it tasted a little grainy from the adzuki bean hulls (is that the right word?), but after it had set, it was so delicious.  My kids and my husband and I gobbled it all up.

If the ingredients make that recipe look a little daunting, you could substitute peanut butter for the tahini, skip the stevia, and use a different kind of bean (I think black beans would work really nicely, although I might try it with mung beans next).  You could also sub non-hydrogenated shortening for the coconut oil, although I would try to hunt down coconut oil if I were you (I am crazy about coconuts -- I think coconut oil makes a really fabulous moisturiser, too).

Do you have a favourite dessert involving beans?  I am kind of a bean maniac, so I would love to hear about your beany adventures.

*  I always sing, "Shine sweet freedom, shine your light on me -- WOO-HOO-HOO!" when I use it.  And then I find myself absolutely in fits of giggles.

16 October 2011

Green & White Bean Casserole & Spicy Sweet Potato Wedges (GF)

Green & White Bean Casserole, Fried Zucchini (Courgette), and Spicy Sweet Potato Wedges.

I don't remember having green bean casserole when I was a kid, although I hear-tell it was a classic dish in the 1970s and 80s.  I really get a kick out of casseroles, so I thought I'd try this one.  It's really easy to make.  You will need to have the white beans and the green beans cooked and ready before you begin.  You can skip cooking them if you use canned and if you don't want overcooked green beans, just blanch them in hot water.

Preheat your oven to 350°F/175°C.
Chop and fry some mushrooms (you can actually skip these and the casserole will still be just fine) and onions in a pan.  Once they have started to cook up, make a béchamel sauce (see my how-to post on gravies here) with them by adding margarine, flour (you can make it gluten-free by using cornstarch, arrow root, xanthan gum, or rice flour), nondairy milk, salt, and black pepper.  Feel free to add a little thyme, too.  Add your white beans to this and kind of mash them up a little. They don't all need to be broken or anything, but their mushiness really enhances the gravy.

And now the easy part:  add the green beans, stir everything up, and pour into a greased casserole dish.  Top with breadcrumbs if you're not GF.  Bake in the oven covered for about 15-20 minutes and uncovered for another 10-15 minutes (you want the top to be a nice golden-brown).

And here's a quick bonus recipe for the spicy sweet potato wedges (this works fine with regular potatoes and other root veggies, too) -- pre-heat the oven to 400°F/200°C.  Boil some sweet potatoes until they are soft enough to stick a fork into, but not crumbling.  Slice them into wedges, toss them in olive oil, and dip them into a mixture of cornstarch and either your favourite herb & spice mix (cajun blend, curry powder, etc.) or some paprika, ground chili, ground coriander, ground cumin, oregano, thyme, and black pepper.  Bake in the oven until they are starting to get brown and crispy on the outside.  Toss a little salt over them and serve them on up.  Mmmmmmm!

15 October 2011

Calzones v. Pizza

Spinach, roasted onions, and corn calzones.  Yes.  Corn.  Shut up.

My friend Travis jokes that my pizzas are BYOC (bring your own cheese).  I guess my calzones are, too.  I never had a calzone before, but since they are basically pizzas folded in half, I didn't figure I was missing much.  I made some today, though, and they are pretty swell.  They hold two advantages over pizza -- you don't have to slice them and you don't have to worry about all your toppings falling off.

I used to make a thin crust pizza (where the dough is basically flour, oil, water, and salt) and I've even used puff pastry as a pizza base (not a good idea -- too flimsy), but I prefer thick yeast-leavened crusts nowadays.  They don't take much longer (I usually have my bread machine do most of the dirty work) and I let them rise while I'm busy making the sauce and preparing the veggies.

In order to have a good pizza, of course, you need a good crust and a good sauce, but I think the secret to a really good pizza is lots and lots of good olive oil.  Toppings (I love olives, mushrooms, and artichokes) are good, but will only get you so far.  Lots and lots of a really good flavourful olive oil is what takes a good pizza and makes it really really wonderful -- I go crazy and use extra virgin. 

So, if you make pizza from scratch, what are your tips and tricks?  

P.S.  The adzuki fudge I mentioned yesterday still hasn't set (I'm not sure it ever will, but that's maybe because I ran out of coconut oil and substituted margarine)!