30 September 2013

Spiced Tomato Millet and Friends (GF)

Someone asked me to Vegan MoFo up some millet side dishes.  Millet is a great gluten-free substitute for cous-cous and also works well as a substitute for white rice or any kind of grain that tends to clump together when cooked if you don't fluff it.  I was going to do millet and adzuki bean burgers today, but my adzuki beans just did not want to soften in time for dinner, so I made this instead.

Put a glug of olive oil into a sauce pan and gently fry thinly sliced onions and minced garlic on low heat.  Toss in some ground cumin and coriander (and a pinch of chili powder or smoked paprika if you're feeling feisty) and a cup of millet, stirring everything around and letting the millet get toasty in the bottom of the pan for a minute or two.  Then add a finely chopped bell pepper, 2 tbsp tomato paste, 2 tsp dried parsley (oregano would work well here, too), 2 cups of water, and give everything a good stir.  Put a lid on that sauce pan and let it cook until all the water is absorbed and the millet is tender.  If you take a peek and think things are looking a bit dry, stir in some water 1-2 tbsp at a time.

Once everything is cooked, remove from heat, stir in some lemon or lime juice and soy sauce or salt (feel free to stir in some beans right now, too) and let the millet sit, covered for a few more minutes. 

Now your fancy millet side-dish is ready to serve.  Take advantage of millet's clumpy nature and form it into a ball or a squatty cylindrical shape.  I served mine on a bed of lettuce, topped with some sliced black olives (my husband got his in burrito form) and splashed on some hot sauce. 

You could also wait for the millet to cool and then roll it into balls, smoosh the balls into patties, and bake or pan fry them.  (You can actually form the balls/patties first, but don't bake or fry until they've cooled -- otherwise the starches don't quite set and it can get a bit crumbly.)  Millet is really good for that kind of thing!

Two other options I've blogged about this month that would work well with millet are the Stuffed Bell Peppers and the side of herbed grains from the Tomato and Butter Bean Coriander Casserole.

29 September 2013

Trail Mix (GF option)

I don't know about you, but when I am out and about running errands and the like, I get friggin' hungry.  If I leave it for too long, I get hangry, the angry hunger.  Nobody wants to see that!  To combat this, and because I also have kids that become hungry on a whim, I always pack some kind of emergency rations.  The kids usually get granola bars.  My go-to snack is trail mix.

During the last month of my most recent pregnancy and for the first fortnight after, I was practically inhaling trail mix.  I had a bag by my bed at all times, I brought it with me to midwife appointments, and I even packed a bag of trail mix while I was in labour.  We are not talking easy labour, either.  I had to keep stopping to squat through contractions, but I was not going to the birthing centre without a big, fat bag of trail mix! 

At the very least, I feel that trail mix needs nuts and dried fruit.  The most basic of this is peanuts and raisins.  Now this is great, but I like a few different kinds of nuts (namely cashews, Brazils, and soy nuts), and while we're at it, why don't we add some dried apricots?  Skip this if you're gluten-free, but I also like to throw in some pretzels.  They get a little soft within about a day, but I kind of like them that way.  Gives a bit of a chew to them.  I will also sometimes break up a bar of dark chocolate and throw that in there, too.

My friend gave me some cute, reusable bags a year or so ago and they are perfect for trail mix.  I always try to keep a bag ready so I can pop it into my pocket or handbag before I hit the road.

What do you like in your trail mix?  Leave your answer in the comments.  :D

It looks like a cute little clutch!

28 September 2013

Crabby Corn Chowder (GF)

Joy of Cooking defines chowder as a thick soup, to which milk, diced vegetables, and even bread and crackers may be added.

Today I decided I wanted corn chowder.  I've never made corn chowder before and have never even had corn chowder as far as I can recall, but I figured I could throw something together.  I did and it was great.  I served it with a slice of homemade rye.  This would also be good with those crackers I made yesterday.

Boil in water until soft: 
  • 4 redskin potatoes (any potatoes will do, really, and you don't absolutely *need* 4)
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2-1 cup of corn
Then ladle out about half the liquid (save it to use as stock in another recipe) and do a half-assed job of pureeing the soup (I use an immersion blender, you can use whatever you like) so it is still a bit chunky.  Then add:
  • soy milk (enough to replace the liquid taken out earlier) or another kind of milk/fake milk
  • 1-1/2 - 2 cups of corn
  • finely chopped zucchini
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • (bell pepper) 
  • (chopped broccoli and/or cauliflower florets)
  • (thyme)
  • (paprika or smoked paprika)
  • (dash of cayenne pepper)
Heat on low/med, stirring regularly (or else the potatoey broth goo will stick to the bottom of the pan), until the veggies you added after blending are cooked.

If you don't want to blend anything, throw all the ingredients in at once, but chop them into small pieces.  Then ladle out half the liquid, smoosh the veggies with a potato masher or something, add the soy milk, and it's ready to serve when the soy milk is warm.

27 September 2013

Gourmet-Style Crackers

You know those crunchy, pillow-shaped gourmet Italian crackers that come in bags?  That's these, only I made them myself.  My friend Josi was the one who told me you could make crackers using a pasta machine, so today, I thought I'd give it a try.  These are easy to make and take almost no time at all.
Preheat your oven to 450°F/225°C. 

Start with about 1-2/3 cups of self-raising flour (or plain flour and about 3/4 of a tbsp of baking soda) and work in 1-3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil (you can sub any oil here, really and you can add more or less oil to make them lower in fat or to give them a richer flavour) either with your fingers or the back of a spoon.  Add a scant 1/4c of soymilk (or water or whatever) mixed with a tiny splash of vinegar or lemon juice (you could probably skip this, to be honest, but I was going for a buttermilky flavour) and knead all that shizzle together.

Then, either roll the dough flat with a rolling pin or run it through a pasta machine, score it into wee squares with a knife or pizza cutter, and use a flipper-type spatula to transfer the squares to a flour-dusted or nonstick baking tray.  Salt that shizzle (or not, maybe you are on a low-sodium diet), and pop it into the oven for 10-12 minutes.  The crackers will puff up and start to brown.

You can make a few different variations of this, by adding chopped rosemary, or black pepper and lemon zest, oil, or extract, or subbing tomato juice for the soymilk.  You could even use a dab of toasted sesame oil with whatever oil you're using and add some sesame seeds and have some fancy sesame crackers.

I like these plain, but you might prefer to dip these in something, such as Ghetto Hummous, Sprouted Chickpea Hummous, White Bean Pesto Pate, ZOMG Roasted Bell Pepper Salsa, or Big Momma's Salsa.  Maybe you would prefer these in soup?  Why not try them with Bodacious Borscht, Gazpacho, or Cream of Mushroom Soup?

Come up with your own cracker flavouring ideas and food pairings, and leave them in the comments section!

26 September 2013

Craving Veg Stir-Fry & Mooli/Daikon Radishes (GF)

I've been under the weather for the past few days.  During the worst of my illness, my stomach became quite delicate and I was eating rather bland foods.  Now that I am finally on the mend, I find myself craving vegetables.  I love vegetables.  If I were single and had to write a singles ad, I would mention my love of vegetables and say that anyone interested in dating me must eat their veggies!

Anyway, my quick-fix solution for vegetable cravings is usually in the form of a stir-fry.  My stir fries come in many shapes and forms, but this is what I put into mine this time:
  • mooli/daikon radish
  • carrot ribbons
  • green bell pepper
  • red cabbage
  • onion
I stir-fried all that in sunflower oil until the veggies were soft (I also added a tablespoon of water every time things started looking dry) and then a minute or two before serving it up, I stirred in:
  • toasted sesame oil (just a dab'll do ya)
  • soy sauce
  • Chinese 5-spice powder
  • chili powder

So, Mooli/Daikon Radish:  when eaten raw, it tastes like a regular old radish.  Very nice shredded in salads or sliced into sticks for a veggie platter.  But I read in The Complete Encyclopedia of Vegetables and Vegetarian Cooking: The Practical Cook's Guide to Every Type of Vegetable, with Over 300 Delicious Recipes* (which is just about the longest title ever, other than that one Fiona Apple album) that it's nice in stir fries, too, so I thought I'd give it a go.  It IS nice in stir fries and, when cooked, has the consistency and texture of an al-dente carrot, but a sort of turnip/potato crossed with the smell of a Chinese grocery store kind of flavour.  It's good!  Next time I get a mooli, though, I'm making kimchi with it!

I made a separate stir-fry for my husband because I prefer my veggies more on the al-dente side and he doesn't like Chinese 5-Spice (I know, right?).  So this is what he got: 

The Complete Encyclopedia of Vegetables and Vegetarian Cooking... isn't vegan, but is almost entirely vegetarian (it has a small "Practically Vegetarian" section at the end) and is an excellent and very thorough resource for different veggies (even some of the weird ones) and legumes and -- I really like this in cookbooks -- has a photograph of every single recipe.  I really, really like that in cookbooks.  Classic Vegetarian Recipes is one of my favourite cookbooks and it has a photo of every recipe, too.

25 September 2013

No-Bake Oat Bars or Baked Granola Bars (Raw & GF, depending on ingredients, etc.)

These are easy, healthy, and super-delicious.
  • 2-1/2c oats (I recommend porridge oats/rolled oats)
  • 1c sunflower seeds, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), or chopped nuts
  • 1/2c raisins
  • (shredded coconut)
  • 2/3c nut or seed butter (peanut butter, sunflower seed butter, tahini, whatever)
  • 1/4-1/2-ish c maple syrup or agave nectar or whatever (a runny jam would probably work, too)
Baked & Raw; I prefer raw, my kids prefer baked.
Mix all that stuff together.  If it's a bit too crumbly, add more nut butter or syrup or a little water or juice or something like that, but if you're adding liquid, I'd recommend adding no more than a tbsp at a time.  Spread it on a tray (1/2-3/4" thick) and chill for at least 4 hours (or freeze for 1-2 hours), before cutting.  I cut it into ~1" squares.
Bonus -- if you bake it (175°C/350°F for 30-40 minutes, basically until the top looks a nice golden brown), it turns into granola bars.  But make sure to slice it first, or else you end up with one giant granola bar.

If you are really lazy, just mix muesli with the nut butter and syrup, although I prefer the consistency of porridge oats in this because they are a little softer. 

The raw version is probably my favourite oar bar recipe ever, but feel free to share your favourite oat bar recipes because I love oats.

I could eat the whole tray!

24 September 2013

Adzuki Bean Brownies -- Big Momma's Official Recipe (GF)


You would not believe how many times I made adzuki brownies in the last fortnight whilst trying to solve the riddle of how to not end up with that beany texture!  Ground flax seeds!  I have no idea why ground flax seeds remove the beany texture from the brownies, but they do.  You can buy flaxmeal, but it's cheaper to just grind your own using a cheap blade coffee grinder (mine is useless for coffee, but great for grinding spices, flax seeds, and oatmeal).

By the way, flax seeds are also known as linseeds (I'm talking to you, UK).

Here is my final version of the recipe -- optional ingredients are italicised, but for the record, I like these better with the oatmeal.

Preheat your oven to 180ºC/350ºF.

Mix all this together, I use an immersion blender, but you can use a fork and mash and mix like crazy:  
  • 250g/1-1/2c mashed or pureed beans (adzuki, black, or white)
  • 1/4-1/2c sugar or agave nectar or maple syrup or what have you
  • 1 banana 
  • 2 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • 2-4 tbsp cocoa or carob powder
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1-2 tsp vanilla and/or almond flavouring (I use both)
  • (50g/1/2c porridge oats)
  • (1-2 tbsp tahini, peanut butter, or another nut butter)
Your mixture should be spreadable and sticky, not pourable or doughy/stiff.

Spread on a lightly greased baking tray or cake pan (skip the grease if it's silicone, obviously, but I swear, even non-stick pans need a little oil or something).  Bake for 15-20 minutes and then let everything cool for about 10 minutes.  You can cut and serve straight away, but it is still rather soft and mushy straight from the oven and things solidify up a lot better if you can wait.  Dust with some powdered sugar to make 'em pretty.

23 September 2013


If you'd asked me a few years ago what my favourite porridge was, I would have said grits.  I like all kinds of porridge, but lately, oatmeal has won my heart.  I eat it almost every morning.  I like mine with cinnamon, raisins, and a pinch of cayenne pepper.  Maybe add some chopped apricots and a little clove, nutmeg, and ginger, too, if I'm feeling feisty.  If I'm really feeling indulgent, I like it with maple syrup.  Sometimes, I go the Scottish route and have it with salt.

I'm always looking for new porridges (Hello, Gari!) and new ways to eat oatmeal (yes, I find it as exciting as Bert), so please leave a comment and share your suggestions.

P.S.  I used to work for these Time Travellers and got the cayenne pepper idea from the lady.  She had her oatmeal with sliced banana, flax seeds, and a pinch of cayenne.  Bosslady also used to laugh about instant oatmeal because oatmeal hardly takes any time to cook.

P.P.S.   Speaking of breakfast foods, check out this cute blog about toast!

22 September 2013

Barley Stuffed Bell Peppers (GF Alternative)

This was the only photo I took where it didn't seem like the peppers were looking at me.
The first time I ever made stuffed bell peppers, the peppers were really underdone.  The stuffed stuff was perfect and I knew if I cooked the peppers any more it would dry out.  What did I do wrong?  I was an inexperienced cook at the time and didn't know that the secret to stuffed bell peppers is parboiling them first! 

Dunk the bell peppers in boiling water for a few minutes, and then stuff them, and then bake them. 

Here's what I stuffed these guys with:

I cooked some barley with water and a little tomato juice (you can skip this or sub lemon juice for a bit of flavour), chopped onion, a tiny bit of chopped celery (don't go overboard with the celery unless you want it to be the dominant flavour), some parsley, a little brewer's yeast (not the same as nutritional yeast, brewer's yeast is nuttier and a teeny bit bitter -- you can skip this entirely or substitute marmite or a dash of soy sauce or miso or something like that), a tsp of extra virgin olive oil, and some salt and pepper.  Once the barley was cooked, I stuffed it into the bells and popped them into the oven at 180ºC/350ºF for about 15-20 minutes.  I was just waiting for the tops of the bells to brown.  It's nice this way -- the flavour of the pepper kind of starts to infuse into the barley.

If you are GF or don't like barley, you can sub millet or brown rice.  It's all good.

I served the stuffed bells with a side of Tomato and Butter Bean Coriander Casserole.  I didn't use spinach this time and used quartered baby onions instead of regular chopped onion.  It was delish and this meal was a big hit with my kids!

21 September 2013

The Accidental Adzuki Stew (GF)

I'm not sure what happened here.  I was just throwing some leftover bits and bobs together for dinner and ended up with something really splendid.  This was an almost meaty*-tasting stew that reminded me of the tinned potatoey beef stews that I had once or twice when I was a kid.

Chop and boil some:  potatoes, carrots, celery, and onion in a pot of water.  Throw in a tin of stewed tomatoes, a bay leaf, and some rosemary.  Simmer everything until the carrots are soft and the potatoes are starting to crumble.  Then add some adzuki beans and simmer for several minutes more, stirring occasionally.  Add some soy sauce.  Then thicken with some gari/garri** (or grits or polenta) -- it doesn't take very long to cook -- and serve.

**  Gari/Garri is fermented ground cassava root, popular in West Africa.  I know it might be a tricky ingredient for you to find and, like I said, you could substitute grits or polenta, but if you ever run across any gari, get a bag (or seven, in my case) -- it has a really interesting taste (and by interesting, I don't mean weird or gross -- it tastes nice, ever so slightly tart, and maybe even a little bit cheesy). 

*  I haven't had meat in almost 18 years, mind, so don't get all, "Where's the Beef?" on me when you try this. 

20 September 2013

Baking with Kids

American-style Pumpernickel, possibly the best
bread-machine bread ever.
It's important to me that my kids learn to cook.  Being able to cook from scratch is fun and saves a lot of money compared to eating out or even just eating packet/boxed/tinned foods and such.  There is also the added bonus that they might eventually cook me a meal, which would be totally awesome.  I love cooking and usually cook 3 meals a day, but I wouldn't mind a break every now and then.  :D

My older boys are 3 and 5, which seems a bit young to start cooking, but lately they've been hanging around the kitchen, asking me about what I'm doing, so I figured it was time to start a little 'Home Ec.'  (They've also asked me to teach them how to sew and knit, how cool is that?  I'm such a lucky mom.)

Baking can seem kind of daunting, so I decided we should start with that.  I thought we should make something simple and fun, but also really delicious and rewarding, so we started with (American-style) pumpernickel in the bread maker.  (Recipe coming soon!  I am going to tweak the recipe a bit more and then post it here -- it is the best bread my bread machine has ever made Most of the time I just use it to knead the dough because it turns out better in the oven, but there are a few recipes that are just as good in the bread maker.)

My kids were so excited, they could hardly wait the 3 hours it took for the bread to rise and bake.   The bread was ready for dinner and was devoured pretty quickly -- my oldest son said it was too soft and made me toast it, but otherwise, there were no complaints!

The next day, we made country biscuits, using my Star Biscuit recipe (which can easily be adapted into scones, by the way -- we made orange-raisin scones last night).  A friend of mine sent us some Cars 2 cookie cutters (my kids love Cars), so we used them and then had a great laugh eating the characters after they were finished baking.
Cars 2 Cookie-Cutter Country Biscuits

19 September 2013

Tomato and Butter Bean Coriander 'Casserole' (GF Friendly)

This dish is a great example of how good food doesn't have to be complicated.  It's simple and delicious.

I used passata (pureed, sieved tomatoes), but any sort of stewed tomatoes will do.  Add thinly sliced onions, minced or thinly sliced garlic, spinach (I used frozen; thawed and drained), butter beans (use cooked, frozen, or canned), ground coriander, salt, and pepper, and simmer until the onions have cooked.

Serve with a side of herbed millet, cou-cous, or bulgar wheat -- cook the grains as usual, adding a generous amount of parsley, salt, and pepper, and stirring in some lemon juice and a spot of olive oil when it's almost finished cooking.

This dish was inspired by a meal I had at the Whale Tail Cafe in Lancaster.  Their version had sliced veggie sausages, didn't have spinach, and came with a side of herbed cous-cous.  The Whale Tail Cafe is a great place.  It's very laid back and kid-friendly, the staff are friendly and helpful, and the food was delicious -- there were so many vegan options (and a few vegan and gluten-free options!), I could hardly make up my mind! 

18 September 2013

Adzuki Bean Tea

Adzuki beans with a side of Adzuki Bean Tea.  TEA!

The same guy who told me about sprouting chick peas told me about this drink.   There are all kinds of things written about Adzuki bean tea and how it has magical vitamin powers and will heal ailments and is good for the bladder and kidneys and is totally full of yang and such, but all that aside, it's also a pretty good drink.   I like it plain, but it's nice sweetened or with soy milk, too.

This is an easy one and it's very nice and soothing.  How easy is it?  Well, if you've cooked dry adzuki beans, you've already make the tea.  What you say !!  Yes, the bean liquid (the liquid your beans have cooked in) is the tea -- no kidding.  Unlike other bean liquids, which are more like broths or goup (talkin' to you, chick peas), this is sweet and nutty and, especially considering it came from beans, it's not really beany.  So grab a ladle and a mug and get drinkin'. 

Fun variation:
Cooking your adzukis with rice?  You can drink that liquid, too, and it's delish!  Word of warning, this sort of home made rice milk (seriously, one way to make rice milk is to just use the liquid you cook your rice in) retains it's heat like crazy!  It's great for warm winter drinks, but don't go glugging it down just because it's been sitting out for several minutes.

17 September 2013

Ultimate Pasta Sauce (GF)

I always make pasta sauce from scratch.  The store bought stuff is too sweet for me.  I've been making pasta sauce so often and for so long, it hardly takes any time at all and I don't even really think about it while I'm throwing everything together.  It's loads cheaper, too, which fits my budget perfectly!

At the bare minimum, my pasta sauces involve tomato, onions, garlic, and herbs (usually bay and loads of oregano).  Sometimes I get a little carried away and cram so many things I like into the pasta sauce that it becomes Ultimate Pasta Sauce, a pasta sauce that is so good and so full of different things, it levels-up from sauce to side-dish.  My most recent version featured chick peas, spinach, and black olives

And the thing is, I know I call it pasta sauce, but I've used it on pizza (add some extra tomato paste, so it's thicker) and as a sauce for other grains, like millet and rice. 

See also:  Magical Marinara, where I ramble on about pasta sauce and cookbooks, and Eggplant and Spinach Marinara, where I talk about the first time I ever found a bay leaf in my sauce.

16 September 2013

Stuffin' Waffles

I got this idea from an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.  Some place called Funk 'n' Waffles or something made them. 

I've made everything from hashbrown waffles to falafel waffles, so I thought I'd give these a try, too.  I just used a box of stuffing mix (Asda SmartPrice Stuffing Mix, which is only 15p and makes a good base for random stuffing experiments*) and added some leftover brown rice (I also like to add leftover beans or ground sunflower seeds, it makes the stuffing taste SO GOOD).  Then I sprayed my waffle iron with oil (it's non-stick, but some things need a little extra help), made some stuffin' waffles, and served them with a side of mashed potatoes and homemade gravy

Sometimes, it's like I've got the best greasy spoon diner going right in my own house.

*  I think Random Stuffing Experiments would make a great album name.

15 September 2013

Sprouting Chick Peas, Sprouted Chick Pea Hummous (Raw, GF), Roasted Chick Peas (GF)

I have this friend who had a food cart in Hawaii and one day he told me about sprouting chick peas.  He made his own sprouted chick pea hummous and said I should make some myself.  It's made the same as regular hummous, only I used sprouted chick peas instead of cooked ones -- I puree mine with a hand blender/immersion blender (that is the secret to the smoothest, most creamy hummous ever), add tahini, lemon juice, spices (paprika, cumin, and chili are my favourites), a dollop of olive oil, and a dash of sea salt

Oh, right, I forgot to tell you how to sprout the chick peas.  Easy-peasy.  Soak them in water overnight, drain them, and rinse or mist them every 8-12 hours until they grow little tails. 

I have the gnarliest silicone baking sheet ever.
But wait, there's more! 

You can also roast sprouted chick peas!  Toss them in a teeny little bit of oil to coat, add spices (I like curry powder, but smoked paprika or chili powder is good, too), toss a little more, lay 'em out on a baking tray, and then salt to taste.  You might also want to try lemon juice or salt and vinegar.  Pop them in the oven at 200°C/400°F for 20-30 minutes -ish.  You want them chewy, maybe even a bit crispy, but not so dry you'll break your teeth, so have a sample every few minutes after the first 15 minutes or so.

14 September 2013

Easy Coconut Beans and Rice (GF)

This is a pretty traditional recipe in several parts of the world, although the internet leads me to believe it's most popular in the Caribbean. 

It's super easy.  You can make it from scratch or make a simpler version using leftover rice and beans.

Cook your rice with a can of coconut milk, some chopped onion, garlic, ginger, and a (whole) scotch bonnet pepper (you can get all crazy and chop it up and mix it in first, but only do that if you are like me and enjoy really, really spicy food -- I ate a gigantic pot of rice, beans, and greens all by myself once because my husband thought it was insanely spicy).  Cook some beans, too.  (Or warm up some canned beans.  Whatever.)  Once your rice is cooked, remove the Scotch bonnet pepper, toss in some chopped scallions* and beans (I used adzuki because I bought 8kg of them last month, but kidney, pinto, black, or black-eyed beans will all do).  Add some salt or soy sauce to taste.

If using leftovers, which is what I did here, mix equal parts of rice and beans with a can (or less, depending on how much you are making) of coconut milk, some onion, a chopped fresh chili pepper, some ground coriander, and some salt or soy sauce.  Warm on the stove, stirring regularly, until the onion and chili pepper are cooked (or you could pan-fry them in a little oil first to save time).

*  You know, green onions/spring onions, but you simply must call them scallions if you're doing Cajun or Caribbean cooking.  Speaking of scallions, wouldn't Rap Scallion be a great rapper name? 

13 September 2013

Roasted Butternut Squash with Spiced Adzuki Beans and Tomato (GF)

Scroll down for the prison plate version!

This recipe is easy and versatile.  I hate it when I can't use a recipe because it calls for something major and unsubstitutable that I don't have in my kitchen (I have a lot of stuff in my kitchen) or something I can't even find at the shops (tempeh and a firm, not-silken tofu are the two biggest culprits).  I think things like that are partially why I hear people complain about how vegetarian food is expensive and hard to make when it's really not. 

Cook some adzuki beans.  Or lentils.  Or use black-eyed peas.  Or black beans.  LEGUMES, PEOPLE! 

Don't forget to soak your beans overnight unless you like doing the 'quick-soak'-method (we'll save that for another blog post, in the mean time, google it). You don't need to soak lentils. If you're really not into dry beans (and you should be, because it will save you a ton of money and they are not as heavy to carry home from the grocery store), use canned or frozen or whatever.

Then, make some brown rice.  No brown rice?  Make millet.  Or Quinoa.  Or cous-cous, bulghar wheat, white rice...You get the idea.  GRAINS.

Here's a slightly different version -- I slow-cooked squash, lentils, shallots,
garlic, and herbs and served them on a bed of bulgar wheat.
Use this recipe to roast your butternut squash (you can also do it in a slow-cooker).  If you don't have all the herbs, just wing it.  I didn't have any thyme, but I used fresh rosemary and it turned out lovely.  Any winter squash will do, it doesn't have to be butternut.  Don't fancy winter squash?  Try sweet potato.  Or carrots.  Rutabagas (swedes) would work.  Parsnips might work, too, although they are a bit sweet.  Potatoes or turnips or even cauliflower would work, too, although they are a bit bland for this.

While your squash is roasting, throw some oil into a pot.  Toss in 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp coriander, 1/4 tsp chili powder, and a dash of turmeric.  Don't have those?  Use 1 tsp or so of curry powder (Madras or a generic blend will do) or 1-2 tsp of a curry paste.  Heat your spices for a minute or so and toss in a can of chopped tomatoes.  I like to add 1-2 tsp of Marmite or another yeast extract spread, but if you can't find that, just skip it.  (I promise this does not make your tomatoes taste like Marmite, it just beefs up the flavour.)  Salt to taste.  (I use about 1/4 tsp.)

Once the tomatoes are starting to simmer, add your beans and some chopped fresh parsley or cilantro (or not, if you don't have any).  Cook for a minute or two more.

To serve (do I really need to tell you this?), spoon some brown rice onto a dish, then add some roasted squash, and finally, top with the adzuki bean and tomato sauce.

Prison Plate Version:  My kids had Pasta alla Nooch, Roasted Squash, the
Adzuki Bean and Tomato-thing, and some wild blackberries my oldest son
and husband picked earlier this week (we used the rest of the beans in berry
oat scones, let me know if you want the recipe).

12 September 2013

I've Got The Bean Brownie Blues (GF)

I have been tweaking an adzuki bean brownie recipe -- I've tried several variations, and I still have the same problem.  I keep reading about bean brownies and all these blogs say they don't taste beany.  Even my most unhealthy version seems a little beany.  They don't taste like beans, but they have a beany texture, no matter how much pureeing and mashing I do.  These brownies are good -- my 5 year old has been gorging himself on all my attempts and my recipe is similar to a few other highly touted recipes out there, so they can't suck that badly, but I still think they kind of have that dry beany feel to them, even though they are really moist. 

So anyway, here's the recipe.  It's very forgiving.  All the versions taste pretty similar, but do play around and see what you like.  The banana versions tasted a bit bananery (in a good way), and the one with more sugar tasted sweeter, and the oaty ones had an oaty texture to them (I think I prefer the oaty versions), but I couldn't taste much of a difference between the versions that did or didn't have tahini or flour.  Optional ingredients are italicised and in parenthesis.  You can put in a lot of sugar or a little.  I've put down a range, so go with what you like.  The full amount of sugar makes them taste as sweet as traditional brownies.  I like my stuff less sweet, so I went with half that.  There is also a range for the amount of cocoa or carob powder you can use.  I think 3 tbsp is perfect, but you might want yours more or less chocolaty/caroby.  (I also tried this with and without cornstarch to see how it would bind everything up and there really wasn't any difference in the texture, so I say don't bother.)

Preheat your oven to 180ºC/350ºF.

Mix all this together:  
  • 250g/1-1/2c mashed or pureed beans (adzuki, black, or white)
  • 1/4-1/2c sugar or agave nectar or maple syrup or what have you
  • 2-4 tbsp cocoa or carob powder
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder (omit if using self-raising flour)
  • 1-2 tsp vanilla and/or almond flavouring
  • (6 tbsp self-raising flour or plain flour, see note above)
  • (50g/1/2c porridge oats)
  • (a banana, mashed or pureed)
  • (1-2 tbsp tahini, peanut butter, or another nut butter)
Your mixture should be spreadable and sticky, not pourable or doughy/stiff.

Spread on a lightly greased baking tray or cake pan (skip the grease if it's silicone, obviously, but I swear, even non-stick pans need a little oil or something).  Bake for 15-20 minutes and then let everything cool for about 10 minutes.  You can cut and serve straight away, but it is still rather soft and mushy straight from the oven and things solidify up a lot better if you can wait.  Dust with some powdered sugar to make 'em pretty.

Do you have a secret to un-beany-textured brownies? 

11 September 2013

Lasagne Senza Cheese (and Senza Fake Cheese!) -- GF Friendly

Before y'all freak on me, senza means without.  This isn't a recipe for lasagne featuring some new cheese called senza.  (I'm sure you knew that.)  There's no cheese in here and no fake cheese, either.  I am not a fan of cheese (obviously) or fake cheese (especially after my most recent pregnancy, when I got some full-sized non-dairy 'cheese' free samples during the first trimester and thought I was going to die of grossness), so most of my recipes that might traditionally call for cheese don't have fake cheese in them.  (Notable exception -- sometimes I make a baked pasta and veggie dish with a fake mac-and-cheese-style sauce.  It's not cheesy enough to gross me out because it's more like a béchamel sauce.)

You will need tomato sauce (or even canned chopped tomatoes or tomato passata -- throw in some herbs, this will all cook up and get saucy in the oven), eggplant and/or zucchini cut into thin strips (using a vegetable peeler is the best way to do this), and possibly lasagne noodles.  If you don't want to use lasagne noodles, just use more eggplant or zucchini.  You are layering them like noodles anyway.

This got devoured in record time.
I know you know how to make lasagne because you're smart like that, but let me walk you through it anyway.

You don't need to grease your pan if you splash some sauce on the bottom.  If you are using lasagne noodles in this, you will need to splash a bit more sauce on the bottom than if you are going to just use veggies.  You don't need to cook the noodles first!  Just put the dry noodles right on in.  If you use a little extra sauce or a runnier tomato sauce -- heck, I even know a lady whose trick is to add a few glugs of red wine before throwing her lasagne into the oven -- and bake for about 40-45 minutes, the noodles will totally cook on their own.  It's all good, no worries. 

Anyway, start layering your noodles and eggplant and zucchini strips, putting layers of sauce and other goodies in-between.  When you are done, top with a layer of zucchini strips and brush with oil.  Shake a little salt and pepper over the top, too, if that's your thing.  I don't cover this with foil, but if you aren't brushing the strips with oil or using a different topping, you might want to consider covering the lasagne for the first half of the cooking time. 

Two notes about the eggplant:
  1. You don't need to salt the eggplant.  I have never salted an eggplant and no one has ever eaten my eggplanty dishes and said, "Hey, you didn't salt the eggplant first!  Rip-off!  Ptooey!"  I know there is a die-hard eggplant salter out there shaking his or her head.  Just trust me on this. 
  2. Your eggplant layers need to be really thin (about 2 thin strips deep) and it is a good idea to brush on a wee bit of oil (I find eggplant tastes much better with a little oil).  If your layers are thicker or your eggplant is sliced thicker, you will need to roast your eggplant first (or cook it in some tomato sauce until tender) or cook the lasagne for a bit longer.  Trust me on this.  Undercooked eggplant tastes gnarly.  (Zucchini cooks a lot faster, so you can make your zucch layers as thick as you like.  It also doesn't taste gross when undercooked.)
Prison Plate Lasagne
Fun layering options: 
  • Béchamel sauce (scroll down for the recipe).  (GF people, make it with cornstarch or something like that.  It is still just as awesome.)  I got this idea from an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.
  • Spinach.  This is my favourite.  I just use thawed and drained, frozen whole leaf spinach.  You can mix in a little tomato sauce to flavour it up, if you like.
  • Tofu.  You can either add it in strips or crumble it.  Silken or non-silken will do.  
  • TVP.  Mix that shizzle in with some sauce.  
  • Shredded carrots and onions.  Or either-or.  You don't have to cook them first if you are shredding them because they will cook thoroughly when the lasagne is baking.  I like to spoon on a layer of sauce and top with a thick layer of finely shredded red onion.  Heck, throw some garlic in there, too.
  • Olives, mushrooms, and capers.  What goes with tomato sauce?  That's right, olives mushrooms, and capers.  I'll put them on my pizza and I'll put them in my lasagne.
  • Slices of fresh tomato and bell pepper.  Like I said, if you'd put it on a pizza, put it in your lasagne.  No anchovies, please!  ;D
Now, bake everything in the oven at 180ºC/350ºF for about 40-45 minutes. What are you waiting for?  It's time to eat!

10 September 2013

The Prison Diet

I was looking up 'steel compartment tray' on Amazon and found a review where this guy liked his steel compartment tray so much, he came up with what he called 'The Prison Diet,' where he ate from the compartment tray and didn't have seconds.  Then I did an internet search for 'prison steel compartment trays' and found out some Indian restaurant got bad reviews for it's steel compartment plates because the customers felt like they were eating off of prison trays.  I was sold!

I found some Indian-style compartment plates on ebay for a song and now my kids are on 'The Prison Diet' (although they are allowed to have seconds).  These things are great.  They are easy to clean, pretty much unbreakable, and safer than plastic (you know, like the BPA scare and how chemicals from plastic leech into hot food).  I really like the compartments, they encourage me to give my kids a wider variety of food.

Okay, I know you want me to cut to the chase since this is a food blog, so here are some sample menus. 

Lunch is ready!  B likes his PBJ with strawberry jam.  He got a side of black olives, cucumber, and brazil nuts.  (For the record, I usually use wholewheat bread, but my husband found this loaf on clearance for...2p!  2 friggin' p!!!)

B's Lunch

R likes my homemade brazil nut butter on his PBJ (BBJ?).  He will have any kind of jam, so I gave him apricot preserves.  He also got a side of black olives (although he prefers green) and cucumber, but he got soy nuts instead of brazils because he likes them better.

R's Lunch

Dinner time!  It's my lasagne senza cheese (recipe coming soon).  B got a side of peanuts, some grapes, and some cucumber.

B's Dinner

R also got lasagne senza cheese.  Lasagne is one of their favourite dishes and they always eat loads.  R got a side of soy nuts, stir-fried zucchini because he doesn't like grapes, and some cucumber.

R's Dinner