Friday, December 24, 2010

Feeding the Meat Eaters

I love when they all come home. I hate having to find one thing that several picky eaters will want to eat. Worse - they're all carnivores and the idea of vegetarian has them heading to the nearest fast-food joint.

So far, I've managed to feed them "safe" foods that they're used to eating sans meat, like fettuccine Alfredo. However, once we get beyond vegetable soup and grilled cheese, I'm in a quandary. What now?

Here's a recipe I cooked up that may do the trick. I've been craving it since my favorite restaurant moved out of town to a downtown location. Crepes are great because even if I'm not eating meat, they can use leftover turkey to fill theirs with whatever keeps them happy.

Spinach Rice Crepes with Mushroom White Sauce

The Sauce:
2/3 cup sliced mushrooms
cooking spray
2 Tbl. butter
2 Tbl. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup water (or substitute both milk and water for 1 cup milk)

The Crepes:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted

The Filling:
1 cup brown rice, cooked
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
1/4 cup minced or finely chopped onion
white sauce
dash of Herbes de Provence

Make the sauce first. Heat a skillet sprayed with cooking spray to medium heat. Add mushrooms and saute until soft. Add butter, melt, then add flour and cook for a minute until the flour is browned a bit. Slowly stir in milk and water, making sure to get all the lumps out (except the mushrooms, of course). Heat until thick, adding salt whenever you like. Set aside. This is a medium-thick white sauce.

If you have troubles getting it un-lumpy, toss the whole thing in a food processor, mushrooms and all - unless you'd rather have whole mushroom slices in your sauce.

Make the filling next. Using the still-hot skillet, saute the onion until clear. Add the spinach for a minute, wilting it. Transfer to a bowl, then add about 1/4 cup of white sauce (keep things somewhat moist, but not wet) and the rice. Season with Herbes de Provence (or thyme/sage as you prefer). Add salt and pepper to taste.

Make the crepes last. Mix the flour and egg in a large bowl using a whisk. Add milk and water gradually, then salt and butter, beating it until it's all smooth.

Heat sprayed skillet to medium hot. Using a measuring cup, pour 1/4 cup of batter into the pan, turning it until the batter spreads to cover the bottom entirely. They'll be thin, as they should be. Cook on each side for about 2 minutes, then remove it to a dinner or serving plate (heated, if you prefer). Fill with filling mixture (I use about 1-2 Tbls. depending on crepe size). Spoon a Tbl. of white sauce over it, garnish it with a mushroom or sliced almonds, if you prefer, and serve.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Just Peachy

I've had an up-and-down last few weeks with small health upsets and the loss of a long lost love, so I went into the kitchen looking for comfort. You'd be proud - I bypassed the Hershey Kisses. Instead, I put together a terrific peach cobbler that was less like cobbler and much more like a custardy thing. I can't explain it other than it was divine.

Peach Cobbler
2 lb. peaches
1 c. sugar, divided
1/2 c. flour
1 stick butter, cut into bits
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a square pan (I used a glass one). Slice peaches and mix them with half the sugar.

In a food processor, mix together flour butter, baking powder, and sugar. Stir in egg and vanilla.

Spread a small amount of the dough on the bottom of the pan. Put peaches on top. Drop remaining dough onto the top without spreading it. Bake for about 45 minutes.

Cool and eat.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Be A Pepper

The weather here is still hot, but with that late-August dryness that makes evenings gloriously cool. The farmer's market is loaded with choices, and peppers are looking fantastic. So, stuffed peppers!

Meatless Stuffed Peppers
4 large peppers
1 package Smart Ground veggie crumbles
1 cup cooked couscous
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. fresh chopped basil
2 cans diced tomatoes
Ketchup for the top

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Either cut the tops of the peppers or slice them in half - whichever way you like to stuff them.

In a bowl, combine all but one can of diced tomatoes. Stuff into peppers. Top with a little ketchup. Place peppers in covered dish, dump the second can of tomatoes inside the dish, then cover and cook 20-25 minutes. Spoon some of the tomatoes onto the peppers and serve.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Chilling with Summer Soups

This week the thermometer is topping 100 all week. Thankfully the humidity is blessedly low, but who wants to turn on an oven or even a burner in that heat?

Instead, I dug in the fridge for something cool, preferably cold. I'd just bought two packages of strawberries - soup!

I messed around with ideas and ingredients and here's the result:

Strawberry Soup
2 lb. strawberries
2 Tbls. Port wine
2 cups plain low-fat yogurt
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. cardamom
dash freshly ground cinnamon

In a blender, blend strawberries and wine until smooth. As it's blending, add yogurt.

Pour into a large bowl and add remaining ingredients. Stir well (until sugar is dissolved). Refrigerate an hour.


This was by no means my first chilled soup. I've made gazpacho before, but wasn't nuts about it (I'm not a fan of uncooked tomatoes). But I stumbled on a great mango gazpacho recipe that's been a favorite here for years.

Mango Gazpacho
3 soft mangoes, peeled and pulp removed any way you can manage it
2 cups mango nectar
2 cups coconut milk
2 Tbl. fresh minced ginger
1 Tbl. lime juice
1/4 cup brown sugar

In a blender, puree mangoes, ginger, and coconut milk until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and blend again. Chill at least an hour.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

It's Pronounced "Krepp"

My youngest enjoys when I make crepes - it's when she can correct my pronunciation. Three years of French and she thinks she's an expert....

What she doesn't argue is loving eating these things. For me, crepes are the most versatile thing because if it fits in there, it's all good. I've looked like a food genius numerous times because I managed to stuff the right things inside. This one in particular made everyone's day. And it's easy to make vegan, amen.

Broccoli Cheese Crepes

Enough egg replacer to equal two eggs
1/3 cup or more water
8 Tbl. flour
dash salt

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix egg replacer first, taking care to avoid lumps.

Add flour to the egg replacer. Slowly add 1/3 cup of water, mixing very well as you go. Add salt. Set aside.

1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1 cup fresh broccoli, steamed until mostly soft
1 Tbl. butter
1 Tbl. flour
1 cup fat-free milk (or soy)
3/4 cup fat-free cheddar cheese
1 tsp. vegan Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in saucepan. Add flour slowly. Add milk, Worcestershire sauce, and Dijon and whisk to avoid lumps. Heat on a medium heat until the mixture begins to thicken, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and add broccoli, rice, and cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat a skillet sprayed with cooking spray over a medium heat. Pour 1/4 cup of the crepe batter into the pan and tilt the pan to spread batter over the bottom. (Note: if your batter doesn't spread easily, add water a tablespoon at a time until it's a bit thin.) Cook on each side about 45 seconds to a minute, until the crepe is browned slightly. Carefully remove each crepe, making sure not to stack them (they'll stick like crazy). Cool slightly.

Spoon the broccoli mixture right down the center of each crepe, making sure to leave about an inch of space on each end. Fold/roll and place seam-down in an ungreased baking pan. Sprinkle more cheddar on top. Bake about 5-10 minutes until cheese melts and insides are warm (I go for nearly 10 minutes).

You can serve this with a vegan hollandaise sauce, if you like.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Un-Chicken in the City

Lately I've been craving comfort food - those things I ate from childhood that now that I'm vegetarian just aren't going to fly. When I was growing up we used to eat this wildly weird thing called city chicken. It was pork - on a stick, breaded, then either baked or fried (my mother was a fan of frying). Why was it called chicken? I have no idea. But I remember loving it.

So yesterday I decided the craving was strong enough for me to come up with a vegetarian alternative. I made my own seitan (you don't have to - just buy your favorite) and the result is this:

City Un-Chicken
Up to 1 lb of seitan (or a package of your favorite brand), cubed
1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbl. turkey rub (if it's against your sensibilities to buy this, just mix up a combination of paprika, sage, thyme, garlic salt, pepper. rosemary, and onion powder)
salt and pepper to taste
Egg replacer for dipping
Wooden skewers
Olive oil for frying

In a shallow dish, mix up your egg replacer. On a dinner plate, mix together the dry ingredient. Thread seitan cubes onto wooden skewers. Roll them first into the egg replacer, then into the flour mixture. In a large skillet, fry them in a scant amount of olive oil (don't use canola - it just stinks something awful) or spray a nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Fry until seitan is brown, turning until all sides are cooked, about four minutes each.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Filling the Pastry Shell

I wanted something fast, different, and tasty. I was chilly outside and I was in the mood for pot pie. But I didn't want to make it and wait - it was after 5 already. So I dug in the freezer. Did I really buy these puff pastry shells? Yes, I really did. Hmmm....I feel a plan coming on.

Here's the result. I make rice or mashed potatoes to go with this:

Single Savory Pies
1 box puff pastry shells
1/2 cup green beans, cut into 1-inch bits
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 carrot, sliced
3/4 cup soy crumbles
1/2 cup cubed butternut squash (I cut mine up and freeze it for just these sorts of occasions)
1 cup (more or less) vegetable broth
1 Tbl. olive oil
1/2 tsp. thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven according to puff pastry directions (I think it's 450 degrees). Bake shells for about 25-30 minutes until they are browned. Scoop out the tops, leaving a decent bottom portion. Set aside.

In a saucepan, heat oil, then brown soy crumbles for a few minutes. add beans and carrots and saute until cooked through. Add squash and heat through until slightly soft. Add, peas and heat 2 minutes, then add broth and thyme and heat through. Thicken mixture with a little corn starch. It should be bubbly and the consistency of a good gravy. Add salt and pepper, then spoon into shells. Serve with rice or mashed potatoes.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

When The World Gives You Lemons...

Sometimes you just want something different. What's more satisfying than say limoncello in December? Well, limoncello in January. Or February. In fact, I'd say it's a very nice way to bring a little sunshine into a cold, snowy environment. So I decided to make my own.

There are some critical things to know about making limoncello - you have to start with good lemons. The best, in my opinion, have a vibrant aroma when you run your nail across the rind. Also, you're using just the rind, and you're using seven lemons. Try to plan out what to do with the actual juice and pulp.

And that rind? If you get even an ounce of the white pith on the rind, you're going to end up with bitter limoncello. When the recipe says "rind only" consider it a warning.

You should know that making limoncello today means you're about two weeks from a finished product. It takes time.

I peeled the rind carefully, sat the works on the kitchen counter and waited the two weeks. It was worth the wait. Because you control the ingredients, you control the amount of sugar. I like mine less sweet, as the ultra-sugary ones in the stores are headache-inducing.

Here's my attempt:


7 lemons
1 bottle (750 ml) vodka
4 cups water
2-3 cups white sugar (less sweet is better)

Carefully peel the rind, making sure there's no white pith on it. Place into a large pitcher (2 quarts works well). Add vodka to rind and cover tightly with plastic wrap or a lid. Let it sit at room temperature for 10-14 days.

Ten to fourteeen days later, mix water and sugar in saucepan. Heat until the sugar dissolves. Cool completely. Add to lemon/vodka mixture. Strain out lemon rinds. (You can take out the rinds prior to adding the water, if you like.)

Bottle and store in the refrigerator. It will keep up to a year.

Because it's yellow, do label it. Otherwise, it looks, well, rather like a sample for your doctor.