Saturday, June 24, 2017

HERB HUMMUS

Quite a few years ago I used to make my own hummus and ate it quite frequently. I ate it so often that I needed to take a break from it as I couldn't stand to eat it anymore. Eventually over time, I started to buy hummus from the grocery store and got back into eating it but not as an every day staple. I would buy different kinds of hummus - garlic, red pepper, artichoke and onion. I would have trouble eating all of the hummus I would buy if I bought it from Costco as the containers are large and sometimes you get two in a package. The DH wouldn't eat hummus as frequently as I did so the hummus would sometimes spoil before I could consume it all. 

I had the bright idea this week to make hummus instead of buying it and I could make a smaller batch. I am also trying to eat less cheese and hummus is a great substitute for me as a snack or to spread on veggies or bread as part of a meal. In making this herb hummus I used fresh chives, mint and parsley from the garden. I also used canned chickpeas with no added salt. Instead of using canned chickpeas, you could use dry chickpeas and cook them ahead of time. The flavours of the herbs, chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, tahini and agave syrup are a great combination. The hummus turned out great and the DH said he liked it and it passed his seal of approval. 


After mixing in the small food processor.

Ready for sampling.

INGREDIENTS:

1 glove garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
zest of one lemon, optional
1/4 cup tahini
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil 
1 small bunch of parsley
6 fresh stalks of chives
6 fresh mint leaves
1.5 tsp maple syrup or agave
1 large can, 540 ml, of chick peas, drained and rinsed
up to 1/4 cup of water 
salt to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a food processor, add the garlic, cumin, lemon juice, olive oil and agave/maple syrup. Puree to make a paste. Coarsely chop the herbs and add them to the food processor. Puree the herbs with the paste. Add the chickpeas and bit of salt to taste. Puree the mixture. You can add a bit of water to thin out the hummus and get the consistency you want. If you like hummus to be very smooth, puree for longer. Makes 2 cups. Store in a container with a lid in the fridge. Will keep for five days.

Adapted from Naturally Nourished by Sarah Britton.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

BANANA PEANUT BUTTER OATMEAL COOKIES

With having enough bananas frozen in the freezer, I decided to make these banana peanut butter oatmeal cookies using ripe bananas that were not going to be eaten by myself or the DH. I prefer firmer versus soft bananas and once soft, they get frozen to use in smoothies. I adapted this recipe from Mark Bittman's cookbook 'How to Bake Everything'. The cookies use rolled oats and no flour. Since the bananas are sweet, minimal sugar is added. For fat, I used coconut oil. This is the oil that reminds me of Crisco, it is not liquid. It does get softer in the pantry during the summer months as compared to winter when the temperatures are colder. I used chopped almonds for the 1/2 cup of nuts in the ingredient list. I made a few modifications which I included in the ingredients. The recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of rolled oats. I added another 1/4 cup or so as I thought the batter was not thick enough. This can be due to using agave instead of dry sugar. The original recipe also calls for toasting the roll oat flakes in the oven for 15 minutes before making the cookies and I deleted that step. 

The cookies were delicious and got the stamp of approval. You could have these for breakfast as an option.


Cookies cooling on the cookie sheet. 
Sampling the cookies.

INGREDIENTS:

4 tbsp butter or coconut oil, melted 
3 large ripe bananas
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
3 tbsp PB2 (powdered peanut butter)
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
3 tbsp sugar, dry or agave or maple syrup
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon 

If you don't use PD2, you can use 1/2 cup peanut butter instead of the butter or coconut oil. The peanut butter will need to be softened first in the microwave.

DIRECTIONS:

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

In a large bowl, mash the bananas. Add the melted fat and vanilla and mix. Add the egg and combine well. If you are using the PB2 powder add it to this wet mixture. If you are using agave or maple syrup also add it to the wet mixture and combine.  

In a separate medium size bowl, mix the oats, sugar (if using), nuts, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.   

Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir until combined.

Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease it. Drop the batter by large tablespoons onto the cookie sheets with about 2 inches between each cookie. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown. Let cool on the cookie sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to finish cooling. Store in a container in the fridge. Makes between 1.5 to 2 dozen cookies. 

Adapted from Mark Bittman 'How to Bake Everything'.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

LEMON RASPBERRY MUFFINS

The DH likes fresh berries with his morning cereal. Sometimes the raspberries spoil too quickly in the container and I hate throwing them out in in the compost bin as they are pricier berries. An option is to use them in baking or freeze them for smoothies. Recently there was a container of fresh raspberries in the fridge that were looking like they needed to be eaten or cooked with, so I made a batch of lemon raspberry muffins. Friends were over visiting and helped with the sampling. Everyone enjoyed the muffins.

Flour mixture, wet ingredients and raspberries.

Ready for going into the oven.

Just out of the oven.

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup plain yogurt, I used Greek 0% fat yogurt
3 tbsp vegetable oil or mild olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar, I used Splenda
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1-2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 generous cup of fresh or frozen raspberries


DIRECTIONS:

In a small mixing bowl, beat the egg. Add the yogurt, oil and lemon juice and mix well. In a larger bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and zest. Add the wet ingredients to the bowl with the flour mixture. Combine and try to not over mix. If the batter is too stiff, add a little bit of milk. I found the batter to be stiff and I ended up adding 1/4 cup almond milk. Add the raspberries and combine.

Spoon the batter into muffins cups. I use muffin cup liners to make it easier to get the cooked muffins out of the individual tins. Bake at 400 degrees F for about 18 to 20 minutes. Makes 12 to 16 muffins depending on the size of your muffin tin.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

CARAMELIZED ONION TART

After spending some time reviewing the recipes in a new cookbook I got - Moosewood Restaurant Favorites, I decided to make a caramelized onion tart for supper. The tart or pie consists of caramelized onions, eggs, milk, five thin strips of chopped cooked bacon, about 1/4 cup shredded goat and vegan cheese baked in a pie shell. I made a few adaptations from the original recipe. I added chopped cooked bacon and left out a cup of cheese. I didn't have the hard cheeses suggested in the recipe and secondly, I am trying to decrease the amount of cheese and dairy I consume. Instead of first layering the onions and cheese on the bottom of the pie shell followed by adding the egg mixture, I combined the egg mixture, onion and bit of cheese together in the mixing bowl and added it to the pie shell. 

The tart turned out well and the DH went back for seconds. 

Top photo of onions starting to cook and bottom photo of onions after 25 minutes.
Ready to be served.


INGREDIENTS:

one pie crust for a 9 or 10 inch pie plate

Pie Filling

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil or other oil for sautéing
4 cups thinly sliced onions
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
4 large eggs
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp black pepper (I use less)
1 1/4 cups of milk (I use almond milk)
1 cup shredded sharp cheese
1/4 cup shredded smoked cheese

DIRECTIONS:

Make the pie crust dough or use a prepared bought pie dough

In a large frying pan, heat the oil on medium high heat. Add the onions, 1/2 tsp salt and dried thyme. If using fresh thyme, you will add it later. Sauté the onions for 5 minutes while they become translucent. Reduce the heat to low and cook the onions until they are very soft, browned and caramelized. They should cook for about 30 minutes and every few minutes stir the onions. If they are sticking add a little bit of water. Scrape the bottom of the pan if the onions are sticking. 

While the onions are cooking, mix the eggs, flour, mustard, the remaining 1/4 tsp of salt, the pepper and milk. Set aside. In a separate bowl combine the cheeses and caramelized onion.

Place the pie crust into the pie plate. Add the mixed cheeses and onions to the bottom of the pie plate. Spread over the pie crust. If you are using fresh thyme, place it on top of the cheese onion mixture. Pour the egg mixture over the cheese onion mixture. 

Place in a preheated 400 degree F oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the crust is crusty and golden. Let it sit for 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6. 

Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Favorites.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

APPLE PECAN LOAF

I have been reading a wonderful cookbook by Mark Bittman "How to Bake Everything". There are some many delicious recipes that it is hard to choose at times what to bake. In each of the recipes, Mark Bittman offers variations and where possible, how to make it vegan. I decided to make a recipe called 'fresh fruit and nut bread'. A number of interesting options are suggested for both the fruit and nuts. You can use fresh or dried fruit. I decided to use a fresh apple and pecans. It was also convenient that I had apple juice. I decreased the sugar and used 1/2 cup of Splenda. After mixing the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients (before I added the nuts and apple), I found the batter too dry to mix so I added about another 1/4 cup of apple juice. The batter is not supposed to be as liquid as cake since it is a bread style loaf but I thought it needed more liquid. I also added about 1 1/4 cups of chopped apple versus the 1 cup called for in the recipe. The apple I chopped was a generous size. Since I bake using a convection oven, the bread was done in 45 minutes.   

The apple and pecan loaf was scrumptious. It had chunks of apple, the pecans provided a nutty taste and the loaf was not too sweet.  The DH had to sample more than one slice. 

Chopped pecans and apple.

Top: Flour mixture with butter blended into it. Bottom: mixed batter.

Ready to bake in the oven.
Baked and ready for sampling.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups of flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon 
4 tbsp cold butter
3/4 cup of apple juice or milk
1 tbsp grated orange or lemon zest
1 egg
1 medium size apple, chopped (makes about 1 cup)
1/2 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped 

Note: If you use apple juice, reduce sugar to 3/4 of a cup.  

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, salt and cinnamon. Cut the cold butter into bits, add to the flour mixture and cut into the dry ingredients using a fork, 2 knives or a pastry blender. See aside.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg, add the juice or milk and zest. Continue to beat to mix the wet ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients. You don't need to overmix it. Add the apple and pecans and fold into the batter. The batter will be drier than a cake batter.

Add the batter to a greased 9 X 5 inch loaf pan and place in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees F. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until the loaf is golden brown. Cool on a rack before serving. After 15 minutes, you can carefully turn the loaf upside down to release it from the pan and onto the rack.  

Adapted from "How to Bake Everything" by Mark Bittman

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

COOKING A BRISKET

After all the years I have been cooking, I recently cooked a brisket for the first time.  I have eaten brisket cooked by others but never performed the honour myself.  Cooking a brisket reminds me of cooking a more sophisticated pot roast. 

What is a brisket and where does it come?  From the website "thespruce.com", the brisket is the breast section of the cow beneath the first five ribs, behind the foreshank.  The brisket can be a large cut of meat.  It is an inexpensive boneless cut that requires long, slow cooking to achieve tenderness.  The cut is quite long and usually cut in half.  Each half has a different name.  The flat cut, also known as the first cut, thin cut, or center cut is a leaner piece of meat.  The point cut, or second cut, or deckle, has more flavor due to a bit of extra fat.  Which one do you use?  The first cut is more attractive, it slices up neatly and is a good choice for corned beef.  The second cut is a favorite of Jewish grandmothers, as the fatty cap helps braise the meat.  Pitmasters also gravitate toward the deckle, as the preponderance of fat makes for a juicy smoked cut that shreds nicely.  Brisket is the primary cut for barbecue, corned beef, and Jewish pot roast.  It is also the main ingredient in a number of other classic dishes - Romanian pastrami, Italian bollito misto, English braised beef or pot roast, the classic Vietnamese noodle soup pho is made with brisket, and it is curried with noodles in Hong Kong.

I spent time researching all of the variations on cooking brisket and reviewed many recipes.  I decided to use Lucy Waverman's recipe for brisket.  I made a few small changes.  The brisket I bought from the butcher was nine pounds and I cut it in half as it was long and I didn't have a pan large enough to sear it if I hadn't cut it into two parts.  I also trimmed some of the fat cap on the meat.  The fat was more on one side of the brisket.  It was more fat on it than what I thought was necessary and I thought that shaving some of the fat off the brisket would not alter the tenderness.  The recipe calls for carrots and cayenne pepper among the ingredients and I didn't add these two.  I could have also cooked the wine down more that is added to the frying pan once the meat is finished searing.  I cooked the roast for three and a half hours before adding the dates and then cooked it for another hour.  Total cooking time was four and a half hours.  I set the oven temperature at 275 degrees F for the first three hours and then increased it to 300 degrees as I was worried it was not going to be tender enough.  
I cooked the brisket the day before I was going to serve it.  After the brisket was finished cooking, I let it cool on the counter and then placed the meat into a container and put it in the fridge overnight.  It is much easier to carve the brisket when it is cold.  I put the stock with the vegetables from the roasting pan into a separate container and also put it in the fridge overnight.  I wanted the stock to solidify and to skim the fat off the top the following day.  On the second day, the DH carved the meat with an electric knife.  I heated the meat at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes in the oven in a covered roasting pan with a little of reserved stock poured over it.  I removed the fat from the top of the cooled stock, strained the vegetables and heated it in a pot on the stove.  Some people like to pour a bit of the stock over their serving of meat.  
The brisket turned out really well and everyone enjoyed it.  The meat was tender and moist.  It is a bit of work to cook a brisket but worth every bite. 
Here are some photos to show the process of cooking the brisket.

Second half of brisket being seared.

Both halves seared. 

Sautéing vegetables. 

Vegetables placed on bottom of large roasting pan. 

Seared brisket added to the pan.

Stock being cooked.

Stock added to roasting pan and ready to be covered and placed in the oven.

Carved meat, ready to be covered with tin foil and then heated. 

Brisket with vegetables and horseradish.





Saturday, April 8, 2017

SAUSAGE BARLEY VEGETABLE SOUP

About three years ago I posted a recipe for a soup with vegetables, sausage and quinoa (vegetable sausage quinoa soup).  I recently made it again but used some different ingredients.  When I buy a pack of italian sausage at Costco, there is more than enough for a few meals.  I tend to use a few sausages for soup.  I like the mild italian sausage which I find spicy enough and don't dare try the hot italian sausage.  I added about a heaping one third of a cup pearl barley and I could have easily added instead half a cup.  If you are following a paleo lifestyle, you would not be adding the barley and could add potato or other starchy vegetables.  I made this soup using an electric pressure cooker but it can also be made in a large soup pot on top of the stove.  The soup was delicious and it will make great lunch or supper options.


INGREDIENTS:her 

1 large onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 stalks of celery, chopped
3 carrots, thinly chopped
1 can of sliced mushrooms, drained or 1 cup fresh sliced mushrooms
2 cups of frozen chopped green beans
1/2 package of frozen spinach 
1/3 cup heaping pearl barley
6 tomatoes, pureed or diced
2 italian sausages, chopped into small pieces
8 cups broth - vegetable, chicken or beef
1 tsp of italian seasoning
salt and pepper, optional

DIRECTIONS:

Add all of the ingredients to either a large pot on the stove or an electric pressure cooker.  If using the stop top method, heat to a boil and let simmer, covered, for 90 minutes.  If using the electric pressure cooker, cook on medium pressure for 16 minutes.  Makes 6 to 8 servings. 


Monday, March 13, 2017

BANANA COCONUT LOAF

Recently I saw this recipe from Karen Barnaby in my local newspaper and it looked so delicious that I had to make it.  It is a great combination of bananas and coconut.  I made a few changes to the recipe.  I used Splenda instead of sugar and almond milk instead of full fat coconut milk.  I baked the loaf in a silicon loaf pan, didn't line it with parchment paper and it took 60 minutes to bake in a convection oven.  The loaf turned out to be delicious and was enjoyed by the myself and the DH.


A wedge of the loaf ready for sampling.


You can see the sliced banana and coconut sprinkled on top. 

INGREDIENTS:


1½ cups  all-purpose flour
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut, divided 
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
½ cup coconut oil, melted
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed, ripe bananas, (3-4)
½ cup full-fat coconut milk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 ripe banana sliced into 1/4 inch slices

DIRECTIONS:

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F . Grease a 9 x 5-inch (23 x 13 cm), loaf pan. Line the bottom and sides with parchment paper. 
2. Whisk together flour, ¾ cup coconut, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
3. Beat the coconut oil and sugars until well combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.  Beat in bananas, coconut milk and vanilla
4. Add flour mixture to banana mixture and mix until just combined. Scrape into the prepared pan and top with the remaining 1/4 cup coconut and banana slices. 
5. Bake for 70-90 minutes. Test readiness by inserting a toothpick into the centre and it comes out with moist crumbs.  Let it cool before slicing.

Monday, February 20, 2017

NOODLE-LESS LASAGNA

I like to do some cooking on weekends in preparation for the week ahead when there is less time to cook supper.  I had some zucchini in the fridge and other vegetables along with some frozen ground beef.  I decided to make a lasagna without the noodles.  I didn't have any ricotta or cottage cheese nor mozzarella but I had frozen shredded herb cheddar along with parmesan in the fridge.  I knew that skipping the ricotta cheese would not be a hardship.  I used both fresh and frozen tomatoes to make the tomato sauce.  I added a bit of corn starch to thicken it.  Instead of fresh tomatoes you could use a can of tomato sauce.

In making this lasagna I had some ingredients leftover after assembling it in the large pan.  I used what was left and made a mini one layer lasagna in a small pan and froze it without baking for a future supper.  For a future supper, I will just need to bake it frozen and will pat myself on the back for planning ahead.

Sliced zucchini and mushrooms

Beef and vegetables sautéing. Then the tomato mixture was added to the pan.


Zucchini layer, followed by spinach and mushroom.

Second layer of meat, then zucchini followed by two kinds of cheese. 

Just out of the oven.

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound lean ground beef
1-2 tbsp oil, e.g. olive, avocado
1 onion diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 coloured pepper, chopped
I small can tomato paste
5 tomatoes
1 tbsp corn starch
1 small package of frozen spinach, thaw and drained in a colander
3 zucchini, cut into thin slices
5-6 mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp of dried oregano and 1/2 tsp dried basil or 1/2 tsp mixture of Italian herbs
6-8 ozs shredded cheese
1/3 - 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste


Sprinkle the sliced zucchini with some salt and place in a colander to drain.  Let it sit while you assemble the ingredients and do the initial cooking.  In a large frying pan, heat the oil to high, add the ground beef and reduce the heat to medium.  Sauté the meat breaking it up into small pieces and cooking it until the pink is gone.  Sprinkle with pepper.  Add the onion, celery, coloured pepper and oregano/bail or blended herbs.  Cook until the vegetables are softened.  Add salt if so desired.

Into a blender, add the tomatoes and puree. Add the can of tomato paste and blend well. Add the corn starch and blend for another 15 to 20 seconds.  Add the tomato mixture to the frying pan with the beef.  Mix well and let simmer for a few minutes.  Turn the heat off on the frying pan.

Oil a 9 X 13 casserole dish.  Layer about half the beef tomato mixture into the bottom of the pan.  Add a layer of zucchini slices using half of the zucchini slices.  Layer all of the spinach and sliced mushrooms over top of zucchini.  Sprinkle with half of the shredded cheese.  Layer the remaining beef tomato mixture followed by the remaining zucchini.  Top with the rest of the shredded cheese and finish with the parmesan cheese.  Bake covered with foil at 325 degrees F for 45 minutes.  Remove the foil, increase the heat to 350 degrees F and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes.  It is good to let the lasagna sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.  Serves 6.

Friday, February 3, 2017

TURKEY WILD RICE SOUP

With the turkey leftover from the number of meals over the holiday season, one of the things I made was turkey wild rice soup.  I had already froze the carcass and I had about two cups of leftover chopped turkey to use.  My options were to make soup or freeze the meat.  I had already made a turkey shepherd pie and froze it and had also froze part of a turkey breast after the first meal.  Freezing more turkey was not a preferred option.  I also had three sour cabbage rolls to use.  Using them would add some tang to the soup.   

I used a pressure cooker to make the soup.  My electric pressure cooker has a sauté option which I used to sauté the vegetables before cooking the soup.  I cooked it in the pressure cooker for 14 minutes on medium pressure.  The soup is delicious and the tanginess made it stand out as a soup.



Vegetables sautéing in the pressure cooker.


The wild rice and parsley added to the sauteed vegetables. 

Ready for sampling.

INGREDIENTS:

2 tbsp olive oil or avocado oil

1 clove garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
1 small coloured pepper, chopped
2 tbsp corn starch
1 cup water
4 cups water
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup milk - regular or plant based milk


DIRECTIONS:


Add the oil to a large pot and heat to a high temperature.  Add the garlic and onions and reduce the heat to medium.  Sauté for about 3 minutes and stir so that the onions and garlic don't stick. Add the celery, carrots, pepper and continue to sauté for about 5 minutes.  Add the wild rice and combine.


In a separate jar with a lid, add the corn starch and 1 cup of water and shake the jar to mix the starch with the water.  Add this to the soup pot.  Mix everything together.  Add the turkey, 4 cups of water, parsley, lemon juice and salt and pepper.  Combine everything and raise the heat back to high until it boils.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and let it cooked covered with a lid for about an hour.  If the soup is too thick, add some water.  When done, add the cup of milk.  Serves 6 to 8 depending on portion size.


Adapted from all recipes.com