I’m back! (to basics, that is)

It’s amazing how quickly time goes by during the school year, especially when you have two active teens. One of my new year’s resolutions is to make at least one blog post each week. I don’t have a picture for this yet, but I wanted to get it up since I think my mom is going to give it a try. I decided to start the year with some cooking basics that really make a huge difference in flavor, particularly if you cook without meat fats. I’m starting with the three most common stocks I use: dark, light and seafood. Traditionally, you would use beef, poultry and fish, respectively, but when you don’t use those ingredients, is it still possible to get a stock with lots of flavor and depth? Absolutely!

You’ll notice that many of the stocks have common ingredients with just a few variations in herbs or content, depending upon the desired flavor. Feel free to add other left over veggies you may need to use: like parsnips or tomatoes. Avoid starchy veggies, like potatoes, or bitter ones, like cabbage, as they tend to have adverse affects on the stock. Also, feel free to add or adjust the herbs listed below. These are my preferences, but you can toss in whatever herbs you prefer. It’s really difficult to mess up a stock, so be brave and daring. Toss something in and see what happens in the end! The only spices I don’t add to stocks are salt and pepper. This is because you want them as ‘clean’ as possible so that you can adjust the seasonings when you actually use them in a dish.

Dark Stock:

5 cloves of garlic, peeled

3 red onions, peeled and cut into quarters

3-4 carrots, scrubbed and cut in to chunks (~ 1-2 inches each)

3-4 celery stalks, washed and cut in to chunks (~1-2 inches each)

1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms

2 bay leaves

6 allspice berries

3 large sprigs of fresh rosemary or 4 Tbsp dried rosemary

1 small bunch of thyme or 4 Tbsp dried thyme

1/2 cup fresh sage leaves or 1 Tbsp dried sage

1/2 cup fresh parsley or 1 Tbsp dried parsley

2 cups full-bodied red wine (I prefer a good cabernet sauvignon, but you want something with strong earthy tones and moderate fruit)

5 quarts waters

Light Stock:

5 cloves of garlic, peeled

3 yellow onions, peeled and cut into quarters

3-4 carrots, scrubbed and cut in to chunks (~ 1-2 inches each)

3-4 celery stalks, washed and cut in to chunks (~1-2 inches each)

8 oz. white button mushrooms

2 bay leaves

6 allspice berries

1 large sprigs of fresh rosemary or 2 Tbsp dried rosemary

1 small bunch of thyme or 3 Tbsp dried thyme

1 cup fresh sage leaves or 4 Tbsp dried sage

1/2 cup fresh marjoram or 1 Tbsp dried marjoram

1/2 cup fresh parsley or 1 Tbsp dried parsley

2 cups full-bodied white wine (I prefer a good chardonnay, but you want something with an assertive flavor and moderate to light fruitiness).

5 quarts waters

Seafood Stock:

5 cloves of garlic, peeled

3 yellow onions, peeled and cut into quarters

1 stalk fennil, washed and cut in to chunks (~ 1-2 inches each)

3-4 celery stalks, washed and cut in to chunks (~1-2 inches each)

5 large pieces of kombu

1 cup of dulse flakes

2 cups full-bodied white wine (I prefer a good chardonnay, but you want something with an assertive flavor and moderate to light fruitiness).

5 quarts waters

Heat a large stock pot over medium heat. Add a few splashes of wine (not part of the 2 cups listed above) and toss in the first four ingredients from which type of stock you are making. You can use oil instead, but I personally don’t like the feel of the oil in my final product. I tend to saute in small amounts of wine that I allow to cook completely down before splashing in a bit more as needed. You don’t want to dump in a half cup of wine as the veggies will steam instead of saute. By splashing just enough wine to wet the bottom of the pan gives me a nice crisp to the veggies and some of the desired ‘stuff’ that sticks to the bottom of the pan, all without the fat and oily feel.

Once the onions are lightly browned, add the 2 cups of wine and bring to a boil. Once this boils, add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer. Let the stock simmer, uncovered, for about 1-1.5 hours.

Once it’s done, turn off the heat and let it cool. The liquid will be either light or dark, depending on which kind you made, and it will have a wonderful fragrance. The veggies will look dingy and soggy because they’ve given everything to the liquid. Remove the solids to a separate bowl and toss them in the trash or compost bin once they’ve cooled. Pour the stock through a fine mess sieve into a large bowl or pot. Depending upon the size of your sieve and how much of solids you’ve already removed, you may need to stop part way through and empty your sieve as it may clog up. As tempting as it may be, don’t try and squash out more liquid from the solids. This will only put solid particles into the stocks, which you don’t want.

Once the stock has cooled, you can either use it in a dish (as a base for soups, stews, reductions or gravies) or you can store in the fridge or freezer. I usually divide the stock into 3-4 containers. I’ll put one in the fridge and the rest in the freezer. If you plan to use the stock within a few days, but forget or something happens, don’t panic. The stock won’t go bad. All you have to do is pour it into a sauce pan every 3-4 days and bring to a boil for 15 minutes. Let it cool and put it back in the fridge. Stock will keep indefinitely doing this.

Next week: reductions and demi-glaces

Potato Angels

I got the idea for this vegan version of a deviled egg from this post on vegweb. I changed it up a bit to meet my tastes. I LOVE this recipe. And whenever I take it anywhere, everyone is always surprised and impressed with it. They really are super delicious, perfect bite sized appetizers, with zero cholesterol! I prefer mine served at room temperature, just like I do potato salad, because I think the flavors are stronger when they aren’t cold.

With something like this, I usually just ‘eye-ball’ it until I get the right taste/texture, which is subjective. Plus, who uses a recipe to make deviled eggs? With that said, here are the ingredients and some guidelines for what I like in terms of amounts. Change whatever you want in terms of quantities or ingredients to suit your tastes.

6 small, white potatoes, about the size of an egg

1/2 cup vegannaise

1/4 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp nutritional yeast

1/8 tsp paprika, plus additional for sprinkling on top

3/4 tsp Indian black salt*

Peel the potatoes and boil them whole in a pot of water just until done. Do not over cook or they’ll be too mushy to use . Once cooked, drain them and allow to cool to the touch. Once cooled, cut each one in half. Scoop out a small amount of potato from each half. I use a melon baller to do this as it makes the perfect shape and pulls out just the right amount of potato. Plus it’s much easier to get clean edges using it. Put all of the ‘scoopings’ in a small bowl. Add the remaining ingredients to the scoopings and mix well. You will need to mash the potatoes a bit to get them to blend smoothly. Taste as you go and add more of anything you want. Once the filling is done, scoop some back in to each potato half just as you would a deviled egg. Once done, sprinkle the tops with paprika.


*The key to this dish is the black salt, also called kala namak. I bought mine at a local indian grocery. This salt tastes just like hard-boiled eggs. When I take this to parties, everyone wants to know how I got these to taste like eggs. The black salt!

Categories: Appetizers, Kid-Friendly Tags: ,

Blueberry Pancakes

My daughter loves blueberries and pancakes, so I made her blueberry pancakes this weekend for breakfast. This recipe is adapted from the basic recipe in King Arthur Flour’s cookbook. I’ve been trying to use different whole grains besides just whole wheat, so I made this with millet flour. I couldn’t believe how incredible they turned out. You know that heavy feeling you get after eating pancakes? Like you swallowed a sponge that’s expanding in your stomach? Or maybe it’s just me. Regardless, the millet flour made these light and airy on the plate and equally light in the stomach. They puffed up beautifully as they cooked. The millet added a natural gold hue to the pancakes that was a softer shade than corn and made them look even tastier. I used Bob’s Red Mill millet flour. They usually keep it stocked at my local health food store and in the natural food sections of the larger grocery chains. I would have used ground flaxseeds instead of the egg-replacer, but I hadn’t been out to the store to get any yet. If you have that, feel free to use that instead of the egg-replacer.

1 Tpsp egg-replacer

4 Tbsp warm water

1 1/4 cup non-dairy milk

2 tsp vanilla

3 Tbsp Earth Balance, melted

1 cup millet flour

1/2 cup vital wheat gluten

2 tsp baking powder

2 Tbsp sugar

8 oz blueberries, rinsed

Combine the warm water and egg-replacer in a small cup and mix until it thickens. In a large bowl, combine the milk, vanilla and egg-replacer mixture and beat until foamy. Add the earth balance and blueberries and stir without breaking the blueberries. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, vital wheat gluten, baking powder and sugar. Whisk briskly so that the ingredients are evenly distributed. Pour the dry ingredients in to the wet ones and use a spoon to gently fold everything together. Mix just until the flour is moistened, but there wills till be clumps. If you have time, let it stand anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight. You can make them immediately if you want, but I think they come out tastier and fluffier if you let the batter rest a bit. Heat a griddle or non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Once it’s hot, ladle in the pancake batter. When it’s ready to flip, the top will bubble and half way up the sides will look cooked. Carefully flip it and allow the bottom to cook.

Irish Soda Bread

I got this recipe from a first generation, Irish-American friend. It’s her mom’s recipe. The only ‘veganization’ I did was replace the buttermilk with non-dairy milk and vinegar. It smelled so good that I had to have a slice before I got set up for the photos. On the plus side, this way you can see how beautiful the inside looks!

3 cups of all-purpose  flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup sugar

1 cup raisins

2 cups non-dairy milk (I used almond milk)

2 Tbsp white vinegar

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray some oil in an 8 inch cake pan. In a small bowl or measuring cup add the vinegar to the milk, mix and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Whisk briskly for about a minute to distribute the baking powder and baking soda as evenly as possible. Stir in the raisins. Add half of the milk to the flour mixture and mix with your hands. Once the milk is absorbed add half of the remaining milk and stir. Depending on the amount of flour, you may not need all of the milk. Keep adding the milk in smaller amounts until the dough is wet, but not gooey. Turn onto a floured surface and need until the dough is no longer sticky to the touch. Place it in the prepared cake pan, cut a cross in the top and bake for about 1 hour.

Categories: Baked Goods, Bread, Breakfast, Ethnic Tags: ,

S’More Bars

A few months ago my daughter emailed me a picture of s’more bars and told me that’s what she wanted when she came home from college. The recipe wasn’t vegan, but I decided to try and veganize it. I picked the wrong night to try it, though. After I got half way into the recipe, I realized that my son used the last of the flour yesterday without telling me. He also used almost all of the baking powder and dirtied all 3 sets of measure spoons. Why he needed 3 sets of measuring spoons to make 1 batch of waffles is beyond me. My daughter had my car, so I couldn’t run out and get flour or baking powder. I only had amaranth, quinoa, and millet flours on hand, so I used quinoa flour. I also was out of flax seeds and had to use egg replacer. Even with all of those bumps in the road, these actually came out!  Now, I couldn’t measure the egg replacer, baking powder or vanilla because washing the measuring spoons was my son’s responsibility. So I eye-balled them and wrote down what they should have been in the recipe. Oh, and feel free to replace the quinoa flour with all-purpose if you don’t have it.

I used ricemellow creme instead of marshmellows or marshmellow fluff. Not only is it vegan, but it actually tastes like toasted marshmellows, which is perfect for this dish.

1/2 cup Earth Balance

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1 Tbsp egg replacer

4 Tbps warm water

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/3 cup quinoa flour

3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs

1 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 cup Ricemellow Creme

2 baking bars of semi-sweet chocolate (I used SunSpire)

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl cream together butter and sugars. In a coffee cup, combine egg replacer and warm water and mix until it thickens. Add vanilla and egg replacer mixture to the butter mixture and blend. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, graham crackers and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to the butter mixture and stir until combined. The mixture will be crumbly. Spray and 8×8 baking dish with cooking spray. Take half of the graham cracker mixture and press into the bottom of the pan. Spread the ricemellow creme evenly over the graham cracker layer. Lay the chocolate bars side-by-side on top of the ricemellow creme. Pour the rest of the graham cracker mixture on top of the chocolate bars and gently press until it evenly covers the chocolate. Be careful not to push too hard or the ricemellow will start to squish out along the sides. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

I only used the equivalent of 1 egg when I made this, but the graham cracker crust was too dry. I think it was because the quinoa flour absorbs more liquid than wheat flour. In the recipe above, I doubled the egg replacer to help with that. I also cooked mine for 30 minutes, but the ricemellow bubbled out along the sides and ended up almost caramelizing along the edges. The center was still nice and marshmellow-y though. I think reducing the baking time from 30 minutes to 20 minutes will correct that.

Categories: Dessert, Kid-Friendly Tags: , ,

Quinoa Pilaf

I love this dish. Love it! The cumin and cloves really make it stand out. I normally make this with rice, but tonight I was in the mood for quinoa. My kids ended up fighting over the last of it for dinner tonight. That was a first!

1/2 red onion, small dice

2 carrots, peeled and cut into a small dice

1/3 cup frozen corn

1/3 cup frozen peas

1 cup quinoa

1 1/2 cups water

1 clove garlic, minced

4 cloves

1 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

1 bay leaf

Heat a large sauce pan that’s about 3 inches deep. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add carrots, onion, garlic, cumin seeds, bay leaf, and cloves. Saute until onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Add quinoa, water, corn, peas, ground cardamom, and ground cumin. Salt to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce hit to low and cover. Cook for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for another 10 minutes.

Philly Cheese Steaks

I’m from Pennsylvania originally. And when you think of food and PA, your first thought is always a philly cheese steak. This isn’t fancy or complicated and I doubt you need a recipe for it, but this really hit the spot for dinner and I had to post.   Instead of beef, I just use slices of large, portobello mushroom caps. The onions came out so good I was sneaking them out of the dish while the mushrooms cooked. The veggies were hot and juicy and messy as I ate. Just like a good cheese steak should be. I honestly think that it’s the cast iron frying pan that makes this taste so good. There’s something about the way it cooks the veggies that gives it that little extra something that has you burning your fingers as you snatch peppers and onions out of the pan to taste. You do need to taste check as they cook, right?

2 green bell peppers, seeded and sliced into 1/4 inch strips

1 large yellow onion, pealed, cut in half and sliced width wise to create crescent shaped slices

3 large portobello mushroom caps, stem and gills removed and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices

Daiya chedder cheese to taste

4 hoagie rolls

Pre-heat oven to 350. Heat a cast iron frying pan over medium high heat until hot. Pour in a tablespoon of olive oil. Lower heat to medium and add the peppers and onions and season with salt and pepper.  Saute over medium heat until the peppers or cooked and the onions are almost caramelized. They should be shades of light to medium brown, but not all dark brown. This should take about 15 minutes. Remove them to a dish and add another tablespoon of olive oil. Add the mushrooms and salt and pepper. Let this saute until the mushrooms release their juices. Remove them to the dish with the peppers and onions. Slice a hoagie roll, add cheese to taste and then pile on the mushrooms, peppers and onions. At this point, I usually go one extra step before eating. I roll the hoagie in aluminum foil and place it in the oven for about 10 minutes. This heats the bread and gives the outside a nice crisp crunch. It also melts the cheese and gets all of the flavors blending together. Remove it from the oven, unwrap and enjoy!

Categories: Sandwich Tags: , ,