Sunday, February 7, 2016

MISSISSIPPI SLOW COOKER BEEF ROAST

Over this past week there has been many printed and on-line recipes for food to make on Super Bowl weekend.   I like to make some meals on the weekend that carry over during the week and make supper preparation easier.   I have two slow cookers and an electric pressure cooker that has a slow cooker function so I have no excuses for not having enough appliances to make meal preparation easier.

This particular recipe featured in the New York Times caught my eye as it is for a slow cooker beef pot roast, it uses a ranch style sauce to create the liquid you need instead of adding water or tomatoes or canned soup and had a hint of heat to it in the form of peperoncini peppers.  These are pickled hot Italian peppers.  I have never used them before like this in a recipe and I don't go out of my way to eat hot pickled peppers.  I followed the recipe for the most part except for the following:
  • a smaller roast, three pounds; 
  • less salt and pepper in the flour blend that is used to coat the roast; 
  • instead of butter I used a vegan soy free buttery spread and used one less tablespoon than what was in the ingredient list; and. 
  • added seven peperoncini peppers as I was worried eight to twelve peppers might make it too hot.
The pot roast cooked for the afternoon and along with a salad, I made mashed potatoes with carrots to go with the meal.  Both the DH and I thought that this was likely the best slow cooker beef roast I have ever made.  The seven hot peppers did not make the meat hot nor the liquid at the bottom of the cooking bowl.  Next time I will add another pepper or two.

After searing in a heavy duty frying pan, it is placed in the bowl of the slow cooker.

Added the hot peppers and buttery spread.

After the roast with the peppers and butter heats up in the slow cooker, you add the ranch dressing.
Here is a link to the recipe for Mississippi roast.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

GREEN BEANS WITH LEMON DIJON DRESSING

I buy a bag of green beans from Costco from time to time and I am always looking for different dressings to use with the cooked green beans.  I found this recipe in a cookbook by Deena Burton 'let them eat vegan'.  There are lots of great recipes in this cookbook.  I like this dressing as it includes lemon juice and dijon mustard.  You can serve the cooked beans warm or cooled with this lemon dijon dressing.   I didn't have fresh herbs but I do have dijon mustard with dill so I used that.  Dijon mustard with dill is one of my favourite mustards to add to recipes.


INGREDIENTS:

1 pound green or yellow wax beans, whole or cut into smaller pieces
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp agave or maple syrup
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp fresh dill, parsley or tarragon
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Boil a pot of salted water and add the beans.  Cook for 5 to 7 minutes until tender.  Drain and let cool.  Set aside.

In a bowl, mix the remaining dressing ingredients except for the herbs.   Some like to add the oil at the end while mixing in order to emulsify it.  Add the beans to the bowl and thoroughly mix.  Serves 4.

Adapted from 'let them eat vegan'.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

YOUR BRAIN AND DOWNTIME

I came across an article written by Ferris Jabr in the October 15, 2013 on-line edition of Scientific American.  The article is about the importance of taking mental breaks or downtime to recharge your batteries, increase your productivity, solidify memories and enhance your creativity.  It is not just about getting enough sleep every day but it is also about taking a break from being busy, multi-tasking, concentrating for hours on end on a particular task or being subjected to constant stimulation.  It is about taking a break from the constant monitoring of emails, twitter, instragram, Facebook and texting. 

Your brain doesn't stop working; the molecules, hormones, cellular processes and all of the biological cycles keeps on going.  The article says that "during downtime, the brain also concerns itself with more mundane but equally important duties.  For decades scientists have suspected that when an animal or person is not actively learning something new, the brain consolidates recently accumulated data, memorizing the most salient information, and essentially rehearses recently learned skills, etching them into its tissue.  Most of us have observed how, after a good night’s sleep, the vocab words we struggled to remember the previous day suddenly leap into our minds or that technically challenging piano song is much easier to play.  Dozens of studies have confirmed that memory depends on sleep."

Have you ever noticed what you think about when you just let your mind wander?  It is far easier to let your mind wander when you are taking a walk, sitting at a cafe or on a park bench, travelling when you are not doing the driving, or taking a shower or a bath.  Do you replay conversations in your head, think about upcoming work or social functions, think about a recent book or article you read or just soak in your surroundings and tune in to the sights, smells and sounds of what you are experiencing.  I find that some of the best mind wandering can occur when you are taking a walk or in the shower or bath.  The time spent in the shower or bath would be briefer than a walk but it can still be impactful. 

Exercising is also another tool to use to let your mind rest.  I would venture though that not all exercising is restful as some can be competitive and your mind is working hard to strategize on how to win or meet your goals.  I have found that yoga can provide a great downtime as the room or studio is quiet and you are focussing on your breathing and the stretch you are doing.  Furthermore the inside chatter in your head stops.  You take a break from all of the rushed thinking and things you need to get done.  The last point that should be made is about allowing time for yourself to have some downtime.  

The article by Ferris Jabr reviews the impact of taking naps, vacations, incorporating more personal time into your daily life.  If you would like to read more about 
your brain and downtime, this link will provide lots more detail. 


Saturday, January 9, 2016

ALMOND AND COCONUT FLOUR BREAD

In my travels through the internet I come across wonderful food blog sites.  The pictures and layouts are eye catching as are the recipes.  I have posted several gluten/wheat free recipes for breads and muffins.  I decided to try this one from elana's pantry as I am familiar with her cookbooks.  The ingredient list to make this bread is not extensive and it requires both almond and coconut flour.  It does require five eggs which is more than some other loaves I have made.  The loaf is not large in size so one wants the loaf to rise while baking and also be tasty with the investment of both eggs and almond flour for the ingredients.

In making the loaf I didn't make any adjustments to the measurements for the ingredients.  I used agave instead of honey as the honey I have is solid.  I also melted the coconut oil in the microwave before adding it to the batter as I was worried about adding solid coconut oil to the batter and not having it evenly distributed.  I used a mix master to mix the ingredients using a small bowl.  The standard mix master bowl would have been too large for the size of this loaf.   I used a small non-stick loaf pan and greased it with coconut oil so that the loaf would come out easily.  I baked it for about 28 minutes at 350 degrees F using convection heat in the oven.  The loaf needs to rest for two hours in the pan and cool before turning it over to come out of the pan.  I let it cool down for an hour and that was fine.  The bread does not rise to the same height like regular gluten yeast bread.  But it is very filling I think due to the eggs.  It is not crumbly when slicing nor dry in texture.  The DH and I thought the bread tasted fine and he said it was like a banana loaf in terms of height.  One could add a mashed ripe banana to the batter and I am sure it would work.  I will store the loaf in the fridge in a plastic bag or container instead of leaving it on the counter or in the cupboard.

Batter mixed and ready to go into the loaf pan. 

The sampling has started.

Here is the recipe from elana's pantry - almond and coconut flour bread.  Enjoy!

Friday, January 1, 2016

VEGAN BURGERS WITH BBQ SAUCE

In looking to cook more vegetarian and vegan based meals, I decided to make vegan burgers for supper tonight.  I already have a box of frozen vegetarian burgers that are good but not great and could have used those instead but decided to make burgers from scratch after reading about the perfect vegan burger on Catherine Katz's blog site Cuisinicity.com.  These burgers are not mushy, they don't fall apart, are chewy and are filling.  One burger with homemade oven fries was enough for me and also for the DH.  I chose to make fries instead of having a bun.  I would make these burgers again.  They require prep time as you have to first cook the farro, mushrooms and lentils if you use dry lentils.

I followed the recipe for the burgers and didn't make any substitutions.  I made four big burgers, each about the size of a quarter pounder.  You can use either canned or dry lentils which of course require cooking first.  I used dry french lentils.  The recipe for the BBQ sauce looked good and decided to make it.  I am glad I did as it adds to the flavour of the burger and it is a sauce that could be used to baste other things.  I did not add the chipotle powder nor the turmeric.  I like turmeric but that spice bottle is empty and I do need to fill it up again with turmeric.  These burgers can be grilled but I made them in the oven.  The oven temperature was set at 375 degrees F and I baked the burgers for about 45 minutes.  I basted the upside of the burger and after 25 minutes I flipped them and basted the second side.  I think they could have been baked for less time but I was also baking the fries in the oven at the same time so it was all about timing.  I have attached the link for the recipe after the photographs.

Basting burgers with the BBQ sauce.

Just out of the oven.

Oven baked homemade fries with the burger.
   Here is the link for the recipe for vegan burgers.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

COTTAGE CHEESE PIE

Growing up I used to eat cottage cheese pie.  The pie was not made with any sort of pie shell but was a mixture of cottage cheese, eggs, raisins, a little bit of sugar and cinnamon.  It would be baked in the oven for about 30 to 40 minutes in a small casserole dish.  My mother would make this pie when the cottage cheese was getting close to the expiry date and there was too much to consume before it would start to sour.

Thinking about what to make for supper and having a few containers of cottage in the fridge due to buying it at Costco provided me with the idea to make cottage cheese pie.  I decided to make a crust and searched the internet for some ingredient ideas to mix with the cottage cheese.  Including raisins was not essential and I wanted it to be on the sweet side versus savoury side.  I found some ideas and provide the link below for the cottage cheese mixture I used.  I also decided to make a basic biscuit recipe for the crust as biscuit ingredients includes baking powder and is less fussy to make than a real pastry recipe.  Both the DH and I enjoyed this cottage cheese pie.  I especially liked the grated lemon peel using Meyer lemons and fresh lemon juice.  I will be making this recipe again.

Cottage cheese mixture.

Biscuit dough rolled out onto a pie plate.

Cottage cheese mixture poured into the pie shell.

Just out of the oven.


I used this biscuit dough recipe and didn't make any alternations.  The recipe made enough for two pie shells.  I did tweak the recipe for this mixture for cottage cheese .  I used 1/3 cup Splenda for the sugar, 3 cups of cottage cheese (750 gram container), I used the juice from half of the Meyer lemon and sprinkled cinnamon on the cottage cheese after pouring it into the biscuit pie shell.  The pie was baked for about 47 minutes at 350 degrees F using convection heating.  I didn't want the biscuit crust to over brown so I checked it for the last five minutes while in the oven.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

BLUEBERRY AND SASKATOON MINI TARTS

I wanted to bring a bite size dessert to a meeting at work and decided to make two bite mini tarts using frozen blueberries and saskatoons.  The recipe is really no different than making pie.  You can use a muffin tin which makes a bigger tart but I used mini tart tins to make them smaller.  The mini tins I have hold two dozen shells.  You could also use mini muffin tins.

Dough for a double pie crust makes two dozen shells.  I use the recipe from the Tenderflake website and I make it in a mix master.  The Tenderflake recipe makes three double pie crusts.  I like to freeze the dough I don't need for future pies.  I use vegetable shortening for the pie crust.

To get the shape for making the shells for the mini tarts, I used a glass whose rim was a bit larger than the diameter of each well in the tin.  After rolling out the dough I used the rim of the glass to cut out a round circle which I pushed down into each individual well.  The recipe for the fruit filling is very similar for regular pie.  I used only a small amount of sugar.  The recipe takes a bit more time to make than regular pie as you need to keep re-rolling the leftover pieces from cutting out the dough with the glass rim.  The mini tarts turned out great partially due to the addition of the lemon zest.

Filling each shell with the fruit.

Cooling off on a rack.
INGREDIENTS:

dough for a double pie crust.  Another recipe that I like to use is the one from Tenderflake.

2 cups of blueberries or saskatoons
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp lemon juice
lemon zest from one fresh lemon
pinch of salt


DIRECTIONS:


Mix up with the fruit, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, lemon zest and salt in a bowl and set aside.  Taking sections of the dough at a time, roll it out and use the rim of a glass jar to cut circles.  Gently push each circle into each well in a mini tart tin.  Instead of using the rim of a glass, you can also cut the dough into small squares and push each square into the well.  

To each tart shell, add a heaping teaspoon of the fruit mixture.  You don't want it to be heaping out of the tin well.  Depending on the size of the fruit you are using, you may need more than a teaspoon.  Bake at 375 degrees F for about 25 to 30 minutes.  Check to make sure the crust does not over brown.  Makes two dozen tarts.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

VEGETABLE CURRY STEW

I was looking for a vegetarian or vegan dish to make for supper and adapted this recipe from 'oh she glows' cookbook.  The DH can't eat a lot of beans in one sitting and tofu is not his go to source of protein so I was looking for a dish that provided some protein or fat in the way of nuts.  I like using raw cashews in recipes and this curry uses cashews.  I soaked the raw cashews for about eight hours.  You can soak the raw nuts for less time than that.  Other vegetables can be added than what is listed in the ingredient list.  I didn't add any spinach but could have and only thought of adding it after the dish was cooked.  I used a mild curry powder and you could add a chile pepper if you want to increase the heat.  Instead of grating ginger I have been buying fresh ginger paste in the tube and find that more convenient to use.  A big frying pan or skillet is required to make this dish.

The recipe makes four servings so the leftovers will be used for another meal this week.  Both the DH and I enjoyed this meal.  I made basmati rice to go with the curry stew. 

Cooking in the large frying pan.

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked beforehand
3/4 cup water
1 tbsp coconut oil or other fat
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp fresh grated ginger or fresh ginger paste
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced (2 to 3 cups)
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
4 mushrooms, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, diced
2 tbsp curry powder
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Blend the cashews and water in a blender or food processor until smooth. Set aside.  Heat the oil in a large frying pan on medium high.  Once hot, add the onions, garlic and ginger.  Reduce the heat to medium and sauté for five minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients except for the cashews and peas.  Saute for about five to ten minutes.  Stir frequently.  Add the cashews and peas, combine and reduce heat to low.  Cover the skillet with a lid and cook for 25 minutes.  Stir every few minutes and if the vegetables are sticking to the pan add some water.  The potatoes take the longest to cook and need to be soft for serving.  Serves four.  


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

VEGAN FAT FREE ZUCCHINI BROWNIES

Zucchini flourished in the garden this year and there are many recipes that can be made using zucchini.  You can add zucchini to muffins, breads, omelettes, casseroles, stews and soups.  You can sauté, fry, bake or roast zucchini.  I decided to make zucchini brownies as I saw this recipe in a blog that I follow- FatFree Vegan Kitchen.  I followed the recipe but made a few changes.  I used splenda for the small amount of sugar required.  I also added chocolate chips instead of walnuts to the batter.  I didn't make icing as I am not an icing kind of gal and I thought these brownies would be sweet enough with the splenda, dates and apple sauce added to the batter.  I baked the brownies for 35 minutes using convection heat but the recipe called for about 25 minutes.  We all like these brownies and they were consumed before it was necessary to freeze the leftovers.



Here is the link to the site for the recipe. 
vegan fat free zucchini brownies

Saturday, October 17, 2015

EGGPLANT WITH TOMATOES AND GREEN ONIONS

Recently I bought an eggplant from the farmer's market.  I grew up eating eggplant but I know that it is not part of everyone's vegetable menu.  This recipe is somewhat nostalgic as my mother would make it and I still remember eating it growing up.   The DH likes this recipe and he didn't eat eggplant until he met me.

It is a recipe made with a handful of ingredients, simple but delicious.  You can see from the photo that the tomatoes are coarsely chopped.  You can chop the tomatoes more finely.  I didn't as this was a juicy tomato from the garden.  I used the juice from half a lemon so the amount may have been a bit more than what I provided in the ingredient list.  I like lemons so the added juice is desirable.



INGREDIENTS:

1 medium to large size eggplant
1 green onion, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp good quality olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Cut the stem off from the end of the eggplant and pierce the eggplant in several spots with a fork.  Microwave in a dish for 10 minutes.  Let cool.

Cut the cooled eggplant in half lengthwise and peel the eggplant flesh away from the skin.  I use a fork to help peel it away and I also use the fork to scrape the skin of any remaining eggplant.  Place the eggplant flesh on a cutting board and chop into small pieces.  Place it in a bowl and add the remaining ingredients.  Use a spoon to thoroughly mix all of the ingredients.  Serves four as a side dish.

Option:
Before microwaving the eggplant, you could use a peeler and peel the skin off of the eggplant flesh.  I have never cooked the eggplant this way but it is an alternate way to get the peel off.