Autumn Appetites: Vegetable Frittata

“Finding the beauty….”

The other day I drove up a hill toward my mother-in-law’s and was surprised by the colors suddenly surrounding me. Red, purple, orange and yellow – the leaves of the trees closest to the highway had already begun to change, and set against the backdrop of a clear blue sky, the beauty of it all made me stop – literally, since I pulled over to be able to better drink in the scene.

For many of us, these many months of the pandemic have thrown a wrench into our normal routines, and slowly we have had to build new routines and wrap our minds around new ways of doing and being. But nature has continued its usual paths. The leaves are changing (for those of us in the part of the US where that happens). Temperatures are cooling. Frost warnings compel us to close up the garden.

This latter life cycle event has meant bowls of tomatoes, peppers, kale and onions adorning my kitchen counter. (Fortunately the carrots and potatoes can remain in the ground still for now.) And what to do with the abundance has been a daily question. Like the leaves, there’s a beauty in the deep colors of the vegetables and the fact that we grew these and are reaping from our hard work. So, they should not be wasted.

This is where frittatas are useful. Quick and easy, they are also nutritious, especially when loaded with onions, kale and tomatoes. There’s also the ‘beauty” of a frittata, which are its versatility and indestructibility. You can add whatever you want to a frittata, and you really cannot mess it up. Plus it’s a great way to use up leftover cooked vegetables and meats, which makes for a fast meal on those busy nights.

The Basic Recipe:

2 tsp olive oil (or other preferred plant based oil)

1/2 cup onions (any type: red, white, yellow, green)

1 tsp minced garlic

1 1/2 tsp seasonings (your choice: oregano, thyme, basil, marjoram, rosemary, cumin, turmeric, etc….)

3 cups of chopped cooked vegetables and/or meats (If you don’t have leftovers, dice and cook vegetables and/or meats until cooked through: Be creative with kale, spinach, collards, broccoli, peppers, drained tomatoes, zucchini, squash, bacon, ham, chicken, sausage, etc….)*

9 large eggs

1/2 cup unsweetened “milk” (your choice: regular, soy, coconut, oat, etc….)

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

*NOTE: If you want to add cheese (whether regular or dairy free) you can do that, too.

Basic Cooking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  2. In a 14 inch cast iron pan, add the olive oil with the onions and minced garlic. Cook over medium low heat until the onions begin to soften.
  3. Add seasonings and cook for a minute to release the flavors.
  4. Add the cooked vegetables and mix well with the onions and garlic and seasonings. *Note: If you are adding cheese, sprinkle it over the top of the filling before adding the eggs.
  5. Whisk the eggs with the milk, salt and pepper, and pour over the filling in the pan. Shake the pan as needed to evenly cover the filling and the pan.
  6. Cook for a couple of minutes until the bottom of the egg mixture begins to set.
  7. Pop the cast iron pan into the preheated oven and cook for 10 minutes. When done, the frittata will be puffed and firm to the touch with no runny egg.
  8. Enjoy!

 

Sweet Treats: Egg Yolk Chocolate Chip Cookies

“But what will you do with these….?”

I love making flour-less chocolate cake but if I don’t have egg whites and use whole eggs, I’m left with yolks which I don’t want to waste. So, I started looking around and discovered a nifty little recipe for egg yolk chocolate chip cookies. Of course, the recipe called for butter, sugar and all purpose flour, so a little revamping was required.

Here’s the recipe the kids and I reworked. Great little dessert bites for when you need just a little lift.

Gluten, Dairy Free Egg Yolk Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

6 egg yolks

1 tsp gluten free vanilla

1/2 cup soy free vegan butter

1/2 cup Truvia stevia-sugar blend

2 1/2 cup King Arthur whole grain gluten free flour blend

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cream of tartar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1 cup Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk together the egg yolks with the vanilla. Set aside.
  3. In a mixer, beat the vegan butter until smooth. Add the Truvia blend and mix well.
  4. Add the egg yolks to the butter mixture and combine until smooth.
  5. Blend together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add to the wet ingredients and blend well until combined.
  6. Add the mini chocolate chips.
  7. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Form batter into balls using level tablespoons of batter.
  8. Place formed cookie batter balls one inch apart on the cookie sheet and flatten each ball.
  9. Bake for about eight minutes, turning the cookie sheet halfway through the cooking time, until cookies are puffed and golden and firm to the touch.
  10. Let the cookies sit on the pan for two minutes before removing to a wire cooling rack to cool.

 

Summer Harvests: Tomato, Zucchini, and Kale Flatbread

“It’s what I want….”

Summer is a special time for our family because we celebrate two of our three children’s birthdays, one in July and one in August. The pandemic, though, put a bit of a damper on our usual festivities, so more emphasis was put on making something special and different for the birthday meals.

One of my daughters wanted to make flatbreads which is not as easy to do gluten free. However, I discovered that Schar makes a thin gluten free pizza crust which I could adapt, and with the garden providing an abundance of fresh tomatoes, zucchini, and kale, we could create our own gluten free flatbreads for my daughter’s birthday meal.

There are no measurements for the ingredients because it really depends on how many flatbreads you are going to make, but I suggest cooking up a lot of the ingredients because once you’ve made a couple of these, you are going to want to make more in just a couple of days!

Tomato, Zucchini, and Kale Flatbread

Ingredients:

garlic cloves (I roasted about 40 cloves)

fresh basil (at least a cup to two cups worth of leaves)

black pepper and salt (to taste)

olive oil (for both the garlic and for the basil-garlic sauce)

onions, thinly sliced (at least a couple of cups worth)

olive oil (for caramelizing the onions)

kale, thinly sliced (at least a couple of cups worth; remember that you double the amount of fresh to get what you need cooked)

zucchini(thinly sliced into half moons; about a couple of cups worth)

minced garlic, olive oil, dried oregano, salt and black pepper (for both the kale and zucchini)

tomatoes (thinly sliced and drained of the seeds; two to four tomatoes at least)

Schar gluten free thin pizza crusts (as many as you think you’ll make; each package has two crusts; we made four but then made another two a day later!)

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  2. In an ovenproof pan, coat the garlic cloves with just enough olive oil to keep the cloves from sticking. Roast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every five minutes until they are browned and shriveling and the aroma fills your kitchen. Remove from the oven and let them cool.
  3. Add the garlic cloves to a food processor with the basil leaves and begin to food process both, adding just enough olive oil to make a paste. Add black pepper and salt to taste. Set aside.
  4. In a pan on the stovetop, coat the sliced onions with just enough olive oil to coat and cook the onions over low heat for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring once or twice until the onions are golden and caramelized. Remove from the heat and let them cool.
  5. In a pan on the stovetop, separately saute both the kale and zucchini with olive oil, minced garlic, salt and pepper until they are tender. Remove and allow them to cool.
  6. Slice the tomatoes and drain them in a colander, removing the seeds. Set aside.
  7. Preheat the oven to 410 degrees. Place the pizza crusts on a cookie sheet and bake for 3 minutes. Then flip the crusts and bake for another 3 minutes.
  8. Spread some of the basil-garlic paste thinly over the crust. Layer with caramelized onions, then tomatoes, then zucchini, then kale.
  9. Bake in the oven for 6 to 8 minutes until the crust is crispy and browned.
  10. Remove to wire cooling racks for five to ten minutes. Enjoy!

 

Summer Harvests: Zucchini-Squash Bake

“That time again….”

This time of year is my favorite. The garden is blooming with zucchini, squash, eggplant, cucumbers, tomatoes, and kale. From the garden to the kitchen to the dinner table, these veggies make for great meals on summer days. The only down side is that we often find ourselves with such a plentiful yield that I need to come up with different ways of serving the vegetables so we are not caught in a rut.

This week, I had an abundance of zucchini and squash and thought I would look up some recipes online. I noticed that there were several sites boasting a zucchini-squash bake but noticed that they were actually the very same recipe over and over again for using heavy cream and butter and cheese to make a white sauce for the vegetables.

Since a dairy allergy precludes all three of those ingredients, I decided to revamp the recipe to create my own sauce. I also decided the recipe had too many complicated steps and made some changes so the prep work would be about ten minutes tops, and the oven could do the rest. The result was pretty tasty.

Zucchini-Squash Bake

Ingredients:

2 tsp olive oil

1 tsp minced garlic

1 tsp oregano

2 tbsp chopped green onions

8 cups sliced zucchini and squash (cut in half, then sliced into half moons)

1 tbsp olive oil (not a mistake – more olive oil in addition to the first)

2 tbsp garbanzo bean flour

1 cup unsweetened soy milk

1 cup Violife dairy free cheddar cheese

1 cup unsweetened soy milk (not a mistake – another cup’s worth in addition to the first cup)

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp ground onion powder

1 cup freshly chopped basil

2 tbsp chopped green onions (yes, another two tablespoons)

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large pan, heat the olive oil with the minced garlic, oregano and green onions for about a minute to release the flavors.
  3. Toss in the chopped zucchini and squash moons and saute for about two to three minutes, just until the colors become vibrant and the herbs have flavored the vegetables. Removed from the heat source and set aside.
  4. In a smaller pan, heat the 1 tbsp olive oil for about a minute. Add the garbanzo bean flour and stir until the flour is completely absorbed into the oil.
  5. Add the first one cup of soy milks, stirring until the flour mixture is dissolved and the mixture begins to thicken.
  6. Add the Violife cheese shreds and stir until until melted. It will be thick.
  7. Stir in the second one cup of soy milk until the sauce is thinner and smooth.
  8. Add the black pepper, onion powder and basil. Remove from the heat.
  9. Stir the sauce into the sauteed zucchini and squash until well coated.
  10. Pour the vegetables into an 11 x 7 pan and sprinkle the green onions on top.
  11. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, turning halfway through the cooking time.
  12. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Corona Cooking: Gluten, Dairy Free White Chocolate Cake

“For when….”

Last week, very dear and caring friends of mine brought me a basket designed to cheer me up during a difficult time. They had attached notes to every day items which began with “for when….” For example, “For when life just plain stinks,” was taped to a roll of deodorant. As my children and I unpacked item after item, reading each accompanying note, not only did we laugh but we felt the love that had gone into putting together the basket for us. Our difficult situation felt a bit more bearable, knowing we were not alone and that we had support.

So many times in life, we are in need of a “pick me up”. What that looks like can vary. Sometimes watching a comedy movie alone does the trick. Other times, we need to be with friends and have a good cry. Some people go for a run and let the endorphins do the trick. Others listen to their favorite music or go for a walk and enjoy nature. For other folks, indulging in a piece of chocolate works.

For me, I like to cook or bake something special. As anyone who has been reading my blog for a while knows, I tend to be a lazy cook who likes to make things quickly and efficiently. When I am in need of a “pick me up”, however, then I prefer to make something which requires time and will be “beautiful” when it is done.

So, a few weeks ago for my birthday, I decided to make a white chocolate cake, which requires time and patience, if you want to make one which is gluten and dairy free and which has a reduced amount of sugar. In order to not have a cake which is pasty tasting, hard as a brick, and flat, it requires careful steps and whisking and folding in egg whites. It is well worth the effort, though, so “for when you need something special”, here is the recipe.

Gluten, Dairy Free White Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:

Four 1.4 oz No Whey white chocolate bars (if you are not allergic to dairy, regular white chocolate bars are easier to find)

1/2 cup vegan butter

2 cups gluten free flour, sifted* (I use King Arthur’s gluten free whole grain blend)

1 tbsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

Four egg yolks (separated from the whites, which you will also use)

1 1/2 tbsp gluten free vanilla extract

1/4 cup Truvia/cane sugar blend (reduces the sugar by 75% but still has a little to support the cake structure, and is great because you can use so much less of it – original recipe called for 2 cups of sugar!)

2/3 cup vegan sour cream

Four egg whites (separated from the yolks you already used)

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1/4 cup Truvia/cane sugar blend

*Note: When “sifted” comes after the ingredient, it means to measure the flour and then sift. If you do not have a sifter, you can shake the flour through a wire meshed colander or you can whisk the flour for a couple of minutes with a wire whisk. You basically want to de-clump and add air to the flour to lighten it.

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line three 9 inch round cake pans with parchment paper.
  2. Break up the white chocolate bars into pieces and place them into a microwave safe bowl with the vegan butter. Microwave for a minute and stir until completely melted. If not melted, microwave in 20 second intervals until you can stir the white chocolate to a smooth, melted form. Set aside and let it cool.
  3. Mix together the sifted flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a mixer whisk together the egg yolks with the vanilla for a minute until the yolks are smooth.
  5. Add the the 1st 1/4 cup of the Truvia blend and whisk for a minute until well blended.
  6. Add the sour cream and blend for another minute.
  7. Stir the white chocolate mixture and add to the wet ingredients. Whisk for a couple of minutes until well mixed.
  8. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and blend well.
  9. Remove the batter to a large bowl which can accommodate the batter doubling in size, and clean and dry the mixing bowl.
  10. In the mixer, add the egg whites with the cream of tartar and begin to whisk. As the egg whites start to become frothy, slowly add in the 2nd 1/4 cup of Truvia blend. Continue to whisk the egg whites until they are white in color, doubled in size, and when you pull the whisk up, the egg whites form a peaked wave.
  11. Carefully fold the egg whites into the batter. If you haven’t folded egg whites into batter before, a large, flexible rubber spatula is the best tool, and as already mentioned, you should have put your batter into a large bowl with plenty of space for folding the egg whites. You gently scoop your egg whites onto the top of the batter in your bowl. Then, using the flexible spatula, you slowly slice down the center of the egg whites until your spatula hits the bottom of the bowl. Then, scoop around the inner circle of the bowl, gathering some of the batter in with the egg whites, and then fold both over onto the top. Repeat this motion until all the egg whites are incorporated fully into the batter. It is important not to rush the process and to resist the desire to simply stir the batter. You will deflate the egg whites and defeat the purpose. Folding in the egg whites adds air and breadth to your batter so it will be light and airy when it bakes.
  12. Divide the batter evenly among the three prepared pans and bake at the preheated 325 degrees until the cake layers are puffed, golden, pulling away from the sides, and when you touch them they spring back. Usually this takes about 15 minutes, but I always start with 10 and check.
  13. Cool the cake layers in their pans for at least 10 minutes on a wire cooling rack and then remove the layers from their pans and allow them to cool completely on the wire cooling racks.
  14. Frost as desired. (For our cake, I made a lemon frosting and put raspberry All-Fruit in between the layers. Then I topped it with mint leaves which I “sugared” by cooking them on the stovetop with a mixture of water and a little bit of agave.)

Corona Cooking: Vegan Chocolate Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cake

“It is all too much…”

For three months, the world has been in various stages of shutdown due to the pandemic. Bubbling tensions of hundreds of years of injustice is rising to the surface again. People we have known and loved have died, and the only comfort we can give to the families is through virtual funerals. Our family life has been upturned by an ongoing health issue. My brother and many people we know are worried that they will lose their businesses. Relatives and friends have lost their jobs altogether. People we care about have been exposed to and/or contracted the virus. We have not seen family and friends in person for months due to travel bans. For the first time in 25 years, I am back in that stage of applying and interviewing for jobs – just as jobs have become scarcer.

The other day, one of my children made the comment that “It is all too much.” I understood what she meant. At times, life can feel overwhelming. These are situations which we have little control over so they cause much stress, worry, and anxiety. We like to be in control. We want to be able to “do” something, to fix the problems. When we can do nothing, it leaves us floundering.

So, I find myself doing all the routine things. Making my bed in the morning. Mowing the grass when it is high. Gardening. Cleaning. Cooking.

As I continue with my routines, I pray.  I pray for all that I mentioned above. I pray for the people I know. I pray for the people I do not know. I pray for our state, our country, our world. I pray and ask, “Is there anything I can do at all?”

And I realize I can continue to love my children. I can lend support to my friends and strangers as I am able. I can attend social justice gatherings in my town. I can remember that every time one person takes a stand for good, others will join, and amazing things can happen.

And I can share with you my thoughts and my recipes: For those days when maybe you need a little lift, try this vegan, gluten free chocolate-chocolate chip-zucchini cake the children and I made the other day. Comfort food which you can feel good about eating.

Vegan, Gluten Free Chocolate Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cake 

Ingredients:

2 tbsp ground flax seed

6 tbsp hot water

2 1/2 cup gluten free flour blend

1 cup coconut sugar (if allergic, use golden monk fruit sweetener or truvia-sugar blend)

1/4 cup Hershey Special Dark unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips

3/4 cup plant-based oil (extra light olive oil, safflower oil, avocado oil, melted coconut oil, etc…)

2 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup dairy free milk (oat, soy, flax, etc…)

2 1/2 cups grated zucchini

Baking instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 11 x 15 pan with parchment paper.
  2. Mix the ground flax seed with the hot water and set aside to gel, stirring every once in a while.
  3. Mix together the flour with the coconut sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Stir in the chocolate chips and set aside.
  4. Mix the flax seed gel with the oil, vanilla, and milk. Add the grated zucchini.
  5. Stir in the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and blend until well-mixed. Batter will be thick.
  6. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, turning halfway through. The cake will be done when it is puffed, pulling away from the sides and firm to the touch.
  7. Put the pan on a wire cooling rack to cool. It is delicious warm and gooey from the oven, and just as good when it is cooled.

Happy Mothers’ Day: Layered Eggplant and Tomatoes

 

“It’s snowing…?”

Today is Mother’s Day, the second Sunday in May, and yet yesterday, it snowed on and off all day. When I spoke with my father about it on the phone, he said, “Maybe Mother Nature has the corona virus, and it’s affected her seasons.”

As we are all too aware, the pandemic has definitely affected our lives over the past many months, and I know that one of the ways I have been impacted is that for the first time in a long time, I find myself tired of trying to come up with dinner plans each and every day. With the virus impacting my ability to shop for groceries, our menus have been more limited, and thus has become rather boring.

However, since this is Mother’s Day weekend, the family decided to rise to the occasion. One of my daughters and my son made chocolate covered strawberries, and I decided I really wanted something summery since the weather was not cooperating on that front. Fortunately, I was able to get some eggplant and a variety pack of heirloom tomatoes. Using fresh basil and a vegan parmesan, I created a layered entree which was quite tasty and well worth the work.

I share it with you in case, you too, are looking for inspiration to liven up meal-time during the pandemic.

Layered Eggplant and Tomatoes

Ingredients: Amounts will depend on how much you are making and the size pan you are using.

eggplant

olive oil

oregano

basil

salt

pepper

pear tomatoes

grape tomatoes

cherry tomatoes

fresh basil leaves

minced garlic

vegan parmesan

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Slice washed and dried eggplant into 1/4 circles.
  2. Lay out eggplant circles on a large pan.
  3. Brush both sides of the eggplant circles with olive oil and sprinkle each side with oregano, basil, salt and pepper.
  4. Either grill or broil the eggplant a couple of minutes on both sides until browned.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  6. In an oven safe dish, lay out cooked eggplant circles to cover the bottom.
  7. Slice tomatoes into halves and layer on top of the eggplant.
  8. Slice the fresh basil leaves and sprinkle on top of the tomatoes.
  9. Sprinkle minced garlic on top of the basil.
  10. Sprinkle the vegan parmesan on top of the basil.
  11. Repeat layers until you reach the top of your dish.
  12. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.
  13. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Corona Cooking: Cinnamon Spice Belgian Waffles

“You have to look….”

Six weeks ago, I was checking out Broadway shows for the trip I had planned almost a year ago for the family to celebrate my birthday in May. We were going to go to NYC before my my eldest moved to CA for a job, my middle child left for an internship, and my youngest busied himself with summer college classes. Six weeks later, our trip is cancelled, our oldest has no idea when she will be moving to CA, and our middle child is waiting to hear if her internship can occur virtually. Only my youngest remains undisturbed because his classes are still going to be online.

Add health issues for my husband, concern for relatives with the corona virus, and trying to adapt life and work in a virtual world, and the adage, “Count your blessings,” can become a bit difficult at times. I was recently reminded, though, by friends who live in other countries with limited access to water, shelter and food and who are struggling with disease and death in magnitude in addition to the pandemic that we must always be looking for blessings to count.

So, I listen to people talk about going for long nature walks and spending more time with their families and learning to bake bread and any number of other “didn’t have time for before” things people are now doing, and I am once again reminded that counting blessings is about looking for them in the first place. If we take the time to look for the positive, the silver lining, the pockets of sunshine, most often we will find them.

Recently our family was thankful that we have had more time for “special” breakfasts as a family. With no early morning rushes to get to school or work, breakfast has become a time for leisure together and for making pancakes or French toast or waffles.  The other day I made gluten, dairy free Belgian waffles which we topped with unsweetened dairy free vanilla yogurt and berries. It was a wonderful way to start the morning, so I share the recipe here for anyone with Belgian waffle makers. They can also be made as regular waffles in a normal waffle maker, too.

Cinnamon Spice Belgian Waffles

Ingredients:

2 cups whole grain gluten free flour blend, sifted (we used King Arthur whole grain blend)*

1/3 cup garbanzo bean gluten free flour, sifted (we used Bob’s Red Mill)*

1/3 cup ground flax seed

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

2 cups unsweetened dairy free milk (we used soy but oat or almond or flax will work, too; don’t use rice milk)

1/4 cup plant based oil (we used extra light olive oil but any plant based oil will work)

3 eggs (if you want to use a substitute, I would recommend whisking 3/4 cup chick pea liquid)

* Note: A reminder that if the word “sifted” is after, then you measure before you sift. If you see the word “sifted” before the flour, then you sift before measuring.

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Prep your Belgian waffle maker according to instructions.
  2. Measure out the gluten free and garbanzo bean flours and sift. If you don’t have a sifter, you can sift by pushing the flour through a wire mesh basket or taking a whisk and whisking the flour until it is no longer clumped and has some air incorporated into it.
  3. To the flours, add the ground flax seed, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt and baking powder. Mix until well blended.
  4. Mix together the milk, oil and eggs.
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and blend until completely smooth.
  6. Let the batter rest for 30 minutes.
  7. Use the batter to make waffles according to your waffle maker instructions.
  8. If you need to keep waffles warm, put in a single layer on a cookie sheet in the oven on your lowest heat.
  9. Serve with unsweetened yogurt and/or berries and/or maple syrup and/or jam, and enjoy!

Corona Cooking: Lentil Pancakes

Let’s be creative….

I spoke with a friend yesterday who told me she was using the forced time at home to bake bread because it helped to keep her sane. I imagine many of us can identify – not necessarily with baking homemade bread, but with needing ways to keep our sanity during the COVID-19 circumstances.

In our house, we currently have five folks living life virtually – online classes, work meetings, church activities, music lessons, writing groups  – all vying for time on our WiFi connection and requiring us to find privates spaces throughout the house where we will not bother one another.

Add to that I am cooking our meals with the staples I have on hand because we are abiding by our state governor’s “stay at home” advisory because we have a family of “at-risk” folks for whom getting the corona virus would not be good. Since I always keep a well stocked pantry, finding items to make is not the problem. The difficulty is being creative so we are not eating the same foods all the time.

A couple of days ago, I wanted to use up the leftover lentils I had in the fridge from a lentil curry I had made for dinner one night. I was “feeling like” pancakes for some reason, so I googled lentil pancakes to see if that was an actual thing. It turned out it is, but that the options weren’t quite what I wanted.  Either I could make pancakes which were simply crushed lentils and spices or I could make a basic pancake recipe which just had about 1/2 cup of lentils added.

So, I had to go to work to create something of my own – a pancake which was chock-full of lentils but was still a pancake so my youngest wouldn’t turn his nose up to the idea. The result was surprisingly good. I made up a curry sauce of tofu sour cream, curry powder and soy milk which three of the family members dolloped onto the pancakes, while the other two chose to eat the pancakes with maple syrup. The recipe follows for anyone who also might have leftover cooked lentils in need of revamping, and  as a bonus for folks who need it –  these are grain free, too.

Lentil Pancakes

Ingredients:

4 cups cooked lentils

1 cup dairy free milk (oat, flax, soy, etc….)

1/2 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp curry powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1 cup chopped green onions

1 cup liquid egg whites (can also just use whole eggs, which would be about 4)

2 cups garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour

2 tsp baking powder

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Puree cooked lentils in a food processor until only slightly lumpy. You can puree them completely smooth, if desired, but I prefer a little texture.
  2. Add to the pureed lentils, your choice of dairy free milk, the cumin, garlic, onion, and cumin powders, salt and pepper, and green onions, and mix well.
  3. Add the liquid egg whites and mix well.
  4. Add the flour and mix until all the flour is completely mixed in.
  5. Add the baking powder and stir until completely dissolved.
  6. To cook the pancakes with a griddle, heat to 350 degrees. On the stove top, heat a skillet over medium heat. If you are not using nonstick pans, you’ll need to grease your pan in between batches with your preferred method.
  7. Use a 1/4 cup to scoop batter onto the griddle or skillet. The batter will spread. When the edges begin to look a bit dry and little air pockets surface in the middle, flip the pancake. Usually, this won’t take longer than a minute. The pancake will begin to rise. Allow it to cook until you no longer see hot air escaping and the sides are cooked through. This usually takes about a minute.
  8. When you remove the pancakes, you can put them in a single layer on a cookie sheet in the oven on your lowest heat to keep them warm or move them to a cooling rack to cool if you are cooking them to be eaten at another time.

 

 

 

 

Corona Cooking: Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

“It depends on your perspective….”

For many of us, the topsy-turvy daily changing world we are currently living in as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic is not welcomed. We fear for more than just our physical health. The closing of schools can exacerbate familial tensions. Mandated work leave may bring financial hardship. Social distancing can increase already felt isolation. Much stands to be lost, both globally and locally.

Yet, for just as many, this is an opportunity to embrace rest from the stresses of the daily grind and routine. Some see this as a time to be with family members we have too little time for in the midst of the usual “rushing here and there” lives we live. Others have been taking the unexpected time at home to spring clean or to create or to try something new. Many have been connecting more via social media, encouraging one another, even as social distancing prevents physical gatherings.

Perspective is an interesting concept. It refers to the view from which someone considers something, and recently I realized just how different my perspective is from a well-known cooking organization. “Ground-breaking recipes” in bold letters hailed my attention across the grocery aisle. I wondered what they had learned which those of us who had been cooking gluten free for years did not already know.

On the positive side, I was glad that this particular organization had created a gluten free issue of their magazine. It seemed to me, they’d been slow to do so. As I read through their recipes and suggestions, they appeared to offer good advice and had great tips, a couple of which I actually hadn’t tried myself before. They even had a short section at the end about those who are dairy sensitive as well as gluten, offering some ways to alter their recipes.

Where I took issue, though, was very bald statements they made about the fact that in order to create tasty gluten free food, only white rice flour should be used, that if you deviate from their homemade versions of flour blends you do so at your own risk, and that only a few of their recipes should be amended because the butter, whole eggs, and sugar were necessary. Since white rice flour has absolutely no nutritional value, and few people have the time to make their own homemade flour blends, and even more people are trying to eat healthier with less butter, whole eggs, and sugar, I found myself a bit put-out overall by the magazine.

And since I have a bit of time on my hands these days, I decided to see if I could literally make the magazine eat their words. I took one of their recipes for a dark chocolate cupcake and altered it to see if the difference was as stark as the magazine indicated it would be. My test-eaters agreed it was not, and that they actually preferred the version I had created. So, I share it here with you now, in case you, too, have some unexpected time to bake.

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

Ingredients:

1 cup safflower oil

3/4 cup Enjoy Life dark chocolate chips

2/3 cup Hershey unsweetened Special Dark cocoa powder

1 1/4 cup King Arthur whole grain gluten free flour blend

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup liquid egg whites

2 whole eggs

2 tsp gluten free vanilla

1 cup coconut sugar or monk fruit sweetener blend

1 cup non-dairy milk (soy or oat or flax)

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 24 muffin/cupcake tins with cupcake liners.
  2. In a large microwave safe measuring cup, melt together the safflower oil, dark chocolate chips, and unsweetened cocoa powder by microwaving for a minute and stirring until everything is smooth and completely melted. Set aside to cool.
  3. Combine in a bowl, the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, mix together the egg whites, eggs, vanilla and coconut or monk fruit sugar until well mixed.
  5. To the large bowl of liquid ingredients, add the cooled chocolate and milk, blending well.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the the liquid and stir until all ingredients are completely incorporated and mixture is smooth.
  7. Divide the batter evenly among the lined tins.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes until the cupcakes are puffed, dry and firm to the touch.
  9. Remove from the tins and allow the cupcakes to cool on wire cooling racks.
  10. Eat as is or frost with desired frosting.

 

 

Holiday Happenings: Chocolate Peppermint Drops

“It’s how you look at it….”

I am always amazed by the zeal with which folks I know begin the new year. For them, January is a time for resolutions, and if not resolutions, at least new opportunities. Since I have operated on a school year schedule for so many years, that energy tends to come to me in September. By January, I am usually tired, and after putting things on hold for the holidays in December, January is fraught with playing “catch-up” to everything I am behind with.

This year, I am so behind due to health issues my husband has been having that the Christmas gifts I received are still sitting underneath my sideboard in the dining room, waiting to be put away, along with random other Christmas items which did not get put away with the Christmas decorations.

The positive to this problem is that one of the items which my daughter found was leftover candies from the gingerbread house decorating the children did in December – peppermint candies to be specific – and the lovely thing about peppermint candies is that their red and white coloring perfectly matches a Valentine’s theme.

So, my daughter decided to use those peppermint candies to make chocolate peppermint drops which added a special treat to this new month of February and provided just enough energy that two of my Christmas presents got put away!

Chocolate Peppermint Drops

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups gluten free flour (we used King Arthur’s whole grain blend)

1/4 cup Hershey’s unsweetened special dark cocoa powder

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup vegan butter

1 cup coconut sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg (a large egg equal to 1/4 cup)

2 oz dark chocolate, melted and cooled

crushed peppermint candies

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt, and set aside.
  3. Cream the vegan butter in a mixer and add the coconut sugar, blending well, scraping down sides as needed, until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  4. Add the vanilla, egg and cooled, melted chocolate. Blend well.
  5. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low until all the dry ingredients are incorporated into the wet.
  6. Roll level tablespoons of cookie batter in the crushed peppermints and place them on the prepared cookie sheet, about one inch apart.
  7. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until the cookies have puffed slightly and begin to look drier and cooked.
  8. Remove the cookies to a wire cooling rack and allow them to cool.
  9. Enjoy when they are done cooling.
  10. To keep them fresh, put them in a sealed tupper ware to store.

Happy New Year: Dark Chocolate Cheesecake

“It has to be special….”

The ending of a year can generate different emotions. Sadness if the year was especially good. Relief if the year was especially difficult. Anticipation for the possibilities of a new year. Frustration about unfinished items. Guilt about lost opportunities. Joy for upcoming planned opportunities.

When the ending is also the ending of a decade (depending on how you count, that is), those emotions can sometimes be compounded because now we may be looking back at ten years instead of one and experiencing all the same emotions. For me, my husband and I celebrated a milestone this month – 25 years of marriage – so, for me, I find today holding all the joy, sadness, frustration, guilt and anticipation of and for two and a half decades.

As such, when the family talked about what food to have to celebrate tonight’s festivities, the word “special” kept coming up. A special dinner, a special dessert, special treats and snacks. The family wanted something we do not usually have and which would make tonight feel different and festive.

So, to celebrate, I made a dark chocolate cheesecake which is dairy and gluten free, and in case anyone decides they want something “special” in 2020, I am sharing it below. Happy New Year!

Dark Chocolate Cheesecake

Ingredients:

2 cups Enjoy Life dark chocolate chips

3 pkgs dairy free 8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature

3/4 cup coconut sugar or monk fruit sweetener blend

1/2 cup dairy free sour cream, at room temperature

2 tbsp unsweetened Hershey special dark cocoa powder

1 tsp vanilla

4 eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup coconut milk

1 cup Enjoy Life dark chocolate chips

chopped Enjoy Life chocolate

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 inch spring form pan with your preferred method and cover the bottom of the pan with two layers of aluminum foil. Boil water, and get out a pan large enough to fit the spring form pan inside.
  2. In a microwave safe container, melt the chocolate chips for a minute and stir until the chips are completely melted and smooth. If you need more time, microwave 15 seconds at a time until you can stir the chocolate to smoothness. Then set aside to cool.
  3. In a mixer, blend together the cream cheese until smooth.
  4. Add the coconut sugar and blend well, scraping the bowl as needed.
  5. Temper the chocolate mixture by stirring in a spoonful of the cream cheese mixture. Then add all of the chocolate into the cream cheese mixture and blend well.
  6. Mix the sour cream with the cocoa powder until completely blended. Then add the chocolate sour cream to the cream cheese batter and mix well.
  7. Add the vanilla and blend.
  8. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition, scraping the bowl as needed.
  9. Pour the chocolate cream cheese batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.
  10. Place the pan into the larger pan and place into the oven, pouring the boiling water into the larger pan to cover up to at least the halfway point of the spring form pan.
  11. Reduce the heat to 325 degrees and bake the cheesecake for 50 to 65 minutes until the cheesecake is mostly firm with the center being still a bit jiggly.
  12. Turn off the heat and allow the cheesecake to finish cooking and cooling in the oven with the heat off and the door open for about an hour.
  13. Remove the spring form pan from the oven and remove the aluminum foil and put the cheesecake into the fridge to completely cool, at least four hours, preferably overnight.
  14. Put the dark chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl with the coconut milk and microwave for a minute. Stir until the chips are completely melted and chocolate begins to glisten and become smooth.
  15. Remove the cheesecake from the spring form pan and carefully pour the chocolate ganache over the cheesecake to your liking.
  16. Sprinkle the top of the ganache with chopped chocolate and enjoy!