29 November 2013

Easy Slow-cooked Butternut Squash with Lentils and Shallots (GF)

This is so easy and delicious -- it's pretty, too -- check out the photo.  The hardest part is chopping up the butternut squash.  I've posted variations of this before, but figured a slow-cooked version was due its turn!

Add to your slow cooker:  1 chopped butternut squash (aim for bits that are no bigger than 1" in any length -- no need to peel -- the peel will soften after cooking and is perfectly edible), quartered shallots (or onions cut into wedges), 1 cup dried green, brown, or French (Puy) lentils (not split lentils, though), 2 cups of water, a few garlic cloves (or 1-2 cloves of minced garlic), a generous glug of olive oil, red chili pepper flakes, sage, thyme, rosemary, black pepper, and salt.  You can also add a tin of chopped tomatoes to make it like more like a stew/a bit more saucey.

If you don't like lentils, you can just skip them and then skip the 2 cups of water, as well.  And you can skip the olive oil, too, if you want it fat-free, just add 2-3 tbsp of water if you're not doing the lentils.

This should take about 4 hours on low, 2 hours on high.  I like to stir everything up once or twice part way through slow-cooking and maybe add a little kettle water if things are looking a bit dry. 

I like it served on a bed of brown rice, but quinoa, millet, buckwheat, bulghar wheat, and such will all do just fine, as well.

09 November 2013

Pear Carob Cake (Fat-Free)

My husband came home with a bunch of pears the other day because they are in season right now.  And by in season, I actually mean really cheap

So, here is a cake recipe.  It's fat-free, delicious, and actually kind of tastes a bit like banana bread, even though there's no banana in it.  If you don't have carob powder, you can use cocoa powder and if you don't have pears to puree, you can use applesauce.  I cored and stemmed some pears and then pureed them, peels and all, with my immersion blender, but you could use a blender or food processor.

The whole cake is approx 1920 calories, and if you cut it into 8 slices, they are about 240 calories each and they are pretty generously-sized.  (The slices pictured are 1/16th of the cake each.)
  • 2 c flour (plain, whole wheat, spelt, or granary will all do)
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 c carob powder (or cocoa powder)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp ground clove (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • a few drops of orange extract (optional)
  • 1-1/2 c pear puree 
  • 1/2 to 1 c sugar
Preheat your oven to 300°F/150°C.  That's not a typo.  This cake bakes low and slow.

Sift the dry ingredients (other than the sugar) together.  Stir in the pear puree and extracts if using.  The batter will be a bit stiff and thick because of the corn starch.  Don't worry.  If you like sweet cake, go ahead and add the full cup of sugar, but if you are like me and don't like to use too much, stir in a little at a time, tasting the batter to see if it's sweet enough. 

Pour the batter into a nonstick or greased (yes, I know that means the recipe isn't totally fat-free) and floured cake pan or a bundt cake pan and even a small loaf tin should do. 

Bake at 300°F/150°C for about 50 minutes.  Mine rose like crazy in the middle.  Pop it out of the baking tin and let it cool for a bit on a cooling rack or something before slicing.

If anybody has any ideas on how to sub out that sugar and replace it with something else, leave a comment.  Heck, leave a comment anyway!  :D

10 October 2013

Tomato Soup (GF)/Well Played, Vegusto (Part One).

Fake cheese that I actually, really like.  (I never thought I'd say that!)
So, a few weeks ago, the folks over at VeganMoFo had a little giveaway involving some Vegusto products.  Long story short, I entered and won.  Now those of you who regularly read my blog know that I pretty much never cook with fake meats or cheeses.  There are a few reasons for this.  I won't get into all of them, but one is that certain fake meats make me comically gassy.  Another reason is that, with two or three exceptions, I don't really miss cheese or meat.  And then there were those Tesco Free From fake cheeses I got last fall (for free as part of a BzzAgent campaign), that were so horrible, I swore off fake cheese forever.  Fake cheese usually kind of sucks, if you ask me, but the Tesco stuff was nothing short of a horror show. 
"Hang on, Big Momma," you're saying, "when you did the Living Below the Line-themed blogs, you said you had a Linda McCartney veggie sausage for breakfast almost every day!"  That's true.  They are definitely an exception and they don't make me gassy at all.  (They don't really taste particularly meaty, either, but that's probably why I like them.)  Anyway, quit your nit-pickin' and let me cut to the chase.
My free samples of Vegusto didn't arrive in time to blog about them during VeganMoFo, but they did arrive and I've tried them all.  I have to confess, I was pleasantly surprised.

Usually when someone gets melty fake cheese, they make pizza.  Not me.  I make grilled cheese.  I feel like grilled cheese is the true test of a fake melty cheese (and grilled cheese is probably the only cheese-thing that I ever miss).  I have had some fake melty cheeses that stuck to my teeth and some that just kind of tasted like rubber.  Not so, Vegusto.  This is hands-down the best melty fake cheese I have ever had.  I actually really, sincerely like it.

Fake cheese that doesn't suck.
The other two cheeses they sent me were the Aromatic and the Piquant.  The Aromatic is supposed to be like a fake cheddar and that's totally what it tastes like:  fake cheddar.  The Piquant is supposed to taste like a Gruyère (I have NO idea what Gruyère actually tastes like) or a parmesan and I thought it tasted kind of like maybe a fake Swiss?  I'm not in love with these, but they are not bad at all and pretty cheese-like for fake cheese.  If you're vegan or non-dairy and really miss cheese, I'd recommend them.  Even my husband, who loathes fake cheese, said they were, "the least offensive fake cheeses [he's] ever had."  My 3-year-old loves them.  (My 5 year old...not so much.  But he is an equal-opportunity fake-cheese hater.  It ain't personal, Vegusto.)  The cool thing about these cheeses is that they're made with nut butters, which, of course, makes me want to experiment and see if I can't make my own fake cheeses that don't suck.

Anyway, I couldn't make a post about fake grilled cheese without a Recipe for Tomato Soup!

In a little bit of water, boil a small onion, 2-3 cloves of garlic, 2 carrots, and 2 stalks of celery.  You can also add a potato, too.  It's up to you.  Once everything is soft, add a can (or one of those new-fangled tetra-packs) of stewed tomatoes (the 400g/14oz size) and puree everything up.  After that, I add another can (or tetra-pack) of stewed tomatoes (if they aren't already diced, I chop them myself) for texture (obviously, if you want a smoother tomato soup, puree both cans) and warm everything back up again.  Then I add some freshly chopped rosemary, basil, or parsley (skip it if you don't have any, it's still good) and a little salt and pepper to taste.  It's also fun to stir in a little homemade soya yoghurtWhat you say!!  Oh, yes.  I started making my own soya yoghurt.  It's fantastic and you can make it either in a slow-cooker or an insulated flask (like a thermos, not a booze flask).  I need to blog about that so you can learn, too.  Remind me!  Leave a comment!  :D

Stay tuned for Well Played, Vegusto (Part Two), where I review their very meaty fake meats.

30 September 2013

Spiced Tomato Millet and Friends (GF)

Someone asked me to Vegan MoFo up some millet side dishes.  Millet is a great gluten-free substitute for cous-cous and also works well as a substitute for white rice or any kind of grain that tends to clump together when cooked if you don't fluff it.  I was going to do millet and adzuki bean burgers today, but my adzuki beans just did not want to soften in time for dinner, so I made this instead.

Put a glug of olive oil into a sauce pan and gently fry thinly sliced onions and minced garlic on low heat.  Toss in some ground cumin and coriander (and a pinch of chili powder or smoked paprika if you're feeling feisty) and a cup of millet, stirring everything around and letting the millet get toasty in the bottom of the pan for a minute or two.  Then add a finely chopped bell pepper, 2 tbsp tomato paste, 2 tsp dried parsley (oregano would work well here, too), 2 cups of water, and give everything a good stir.  Put a lid on that sauce pan and let it cook until all the water is absorbed and the millet is tender.  If you take a peek and think things are looking a bit dry, stir in some water 1-2 tbsp at a time.

Once everything is cooked, remove from heat, stir in some lemon or lime juice and soy sauce or salt (feel free to stir in some beans right now, too) and let the millet sit, covered for a few more minutes. 

Now your fancy millet side-dish is ready to serve.  Take advantage of millet's clumpy nature and form it into a ball or a squatty cylindrical shape.  I served mine on a bed of lettuce, topped with some sliced black olives (my husband got his in burrito form) and splashed on some hot sauce. 

You could also wait for the millet to cool and then roll it into balls, smoosh the balls into patties, and bake or pan fry them.  (You can actually form the balls/patties first, but don't bake or fry until they've cooled -- otherwise the starches don't quite set and it can get a bit crumbly.)  Millet is really good for that kind of thing!

Two other options I've blogged about this month that would work well with millet are the Stuffed Bell Peppers and the side of herbed grains from the Tomato and Butter Bean Coriander Casserole.

29 September 2013

Trail Mix (GF option)

I don't know about you, but when I am out and about running errands and the like, I get friggin' hungry.  If I leave it for too long, I get hangry, the angry hunger.  Nobody wants to see that!  To combat this, and because I also have kids that become hungry on a whim, I always pack some kind of emergency rations.  The kids usually get granola bars.  My go-to snack is trail mix.

During the last month of my most recent pregnancy and for the first fortnight after, I was practically inhaling trail mix.  I had a bag by my bed at all times, I brought it with me to midwife appointments, and I even packed a bag of trail mix while I was in labour.  We are not talking easy labour, either.  I had to keep stopping to squat through contractions, but I was not going to the birthing centre without a big, fat bag of trail mix! 

At the very least, I feel that trail mix needs nuts and dried fruit.  The most basic of this is peanuts and raisins.  Now this is great, but I like a few different kinds of nuts (namely cashews, Brazils, and soy nuts), and while we're at it, why don't we add some dried apricots?  Skip this if you're gluten-free, but I also like to throw in some pretzels.  They get a little soft within about a day, but I kind of like them that way.  Gives a bit of a chew to them.  I will also sometimes break up a bar of dark chocolate and throw that in there, too.

My friend gave me some cute, reusable bags a year or so ago and they are perfect for trail mix.  I always try to keep a bag ready so I can pop it into my pocket or handbag before I hit the road.

What do you like in your trail mix?  Leave your answer in the comments.  :D

It looks like a cute little clutch!

28 September 2013

Crabby Corn Chowder (GF)

Joy of Cooking defines chowder as a thick soup, to which milk, diced vegetables, and even bread and crackers may be added.

Today I decided I wanted corn chowder.  I've never made corn chowder before and have never even had corn chowder as far as I can recall, but I figured I could throw something together.  I did and it was great.  I served it with a slice of homemade rye.  This would also be good with those crackers I made yesterday.

Boil in water until soft: 
  • 4 redskin potatoes (any potatoes will do, really, and you don't absolutely *need* 4)
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2-1 cup of corn
Then ladle out about half the liquid (save it to use as stock in another recipe) and do a half-assed job of pureeing the soup (I use an immersion blender, you can use whatever you like) so it is still a bit chunky.  Then add:
  • soy milk (enough to replace the liquid taken out earlier) or another kind of milk/fake milk
  • 1-1/2 - 2 cups of corn
  • finely chopped zucchini
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • (bell pepper) 
  • (chopped broccoli and/or cauliflower florets)
  • (thyme)
  • (paprika or smoked paprika)
  • (dash of cayenne pepper)
Heat on low/med, stirring regularly (or else the potatoey broth goo will stick to the bottom of the pan), until the veggies you added after blending are cooked.

If you don't want to blend anything, throw all the ingredients in at once, but chop them into small pieces.  Then ladle out half the liquid, smoosh the veggies with a potato masher or something, add the soy milk, and it's ready to serve when the soy milk is warm.

27 September 2013

Gourmet-Style Crackers

You know those crunchy, pillow-shaped gourmet Italian crackers that come in bags?  That's these, only I made them myself.  My friend Josi was the one who told me you could make crackers using a pasta machine, so today, I thought I'd give it a try.  These are easy to make and take almost no time at all.
Preheat your oven to 450°F/225°C. 

Start with about 1-2/3 cups of self-raising flour (or plain flour and about 3/4 of a tbsp of baking soda) and work in 1-3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil (you can sub any oil here, really and you can add more or less oil to make them lower in fat or to give them a richer flavour) either with your fingers or the back of a spoon.  Add a scant 1/4c of soymilk (or water or whatever) mixed with a tiny splash of vinegar or lemon juice (you could probably skip this, to be honest, but I was going for a buttermilky flavour) and knead all that shizzle together.

Then, either roll the dough flat with a rolling pin or run it through a pasta machine, score it into wee squares with a knife or pizza cutter, and use a flipper-type spatula to transfer the squares to a flour-dusted or nonstick baking tray.  Salt that shizzle (or not, maybe you are on a low-sodium diet), and pop it into the oven for 10-12 minutes.  The crackers will puff up and start to brown.

You can make a few different variations of this, by adding chopped rosemary, or black pepper and lemon zest, oil, or extract, or subbing tomato juice for the soymilk.  You could even use a dab of toasted sesame oil with whatever oil you're using and add some sesame seeds and have some fancy sesame crackers.

I like these plain, but you might prefer to dip these in something, such as Ghetto Hummous, Sprouted Chickpea Hummous, White Bean Pesto Pate, ZOMG Roasted Bell Pepper Salsa, or Big Momma's Salsa.  Maybe you would prefer these in soup?  Why not try them with Bodacious Borscht, Gazpacho, or Cream of Mushroom Soup?

Come up with your own cracker flavouring ideas and food pairings, and leave them in the comments section!

26 September 2013

Craving Veg Stir-Fry & Mooli/Daikon Radishes (GF)

I've been under the weather for the past few days.  During the worst of my illness, my stomach became quite delicate and I was eating rather bland foods.  Now that I am finally on the mend, I find myself craving vegetables.  I love vegetables.  If I were single and had to write a singles ad, I would mention my love of vegetables and say that anyone interested in dating me must eat their veggies!

Anyway, my quick-fix solution for vegetable cravings is usually in the form of a stir-fry.  My stir fries come in many shapes and forms, but this is what I put into mine this time:
  • mooli/daikon radish
  • carrot ribbons
  • green bell pepper
  • red cabbage
  • onion
I stir-fried all that in sunflower oil until the veggies were soft (I also added a tablespoon of water every time things started looking dry) and then a minute or two before serving it up, I stirred in:
  • toasted sesame oil (just a dab'll do ya)
  • soy sauce
  • Chinese 5-spice powder
  • chili powder

So, Mooli/Daikon Radish:  when eaten raw, it tastes like a regular old radish.  Very nice shredded in salads or sliced into sticks for a veggie platter.  But I read in The Complete Encyclopedia of Vegetables and Vegetarian Cooking: The Practical Cook's Guide to Every Type of Vegetable, with Over 300 Delicious Recipes* (which is just about the longest title ever, other than that one Fiona Apple album) that it's nice in stir fries, too, so I thought I'd give it a go.  It IS nice in stir fries and, when cooked, has the consistency and texture of an al-dente carrot, but a sort of turnip/potato crossed with the smell of a Chinese grocery store kind of flavour.  It's good!  Next time I get a mooli, though, I'm making kimchi with it!

I made a separate stir-fry for my husband because I prefer my veggies more on the al-dente side and he doesn't like Chinese 5-Spice (I know, right?).  So this is what he got: 

The Complete Encyclopedia of Vegetables and Vegetarian Cooking... isn't vegan, but is almost entirely vegetarian (it has a small "Practically Vegetarian" section at the end) and is an excellent and very thorough resource for different veggies (even some of the weird ones) and legumes and -- I really like this in cookbooks -- has a photograph of every single recipe.  I really, really like that in cookbooks.  Classic Vegetarian Recipes is one of my favourite cookbooks and it has a photo of every recipe, too.

25 September 2013

No-Bake Oat Bars or Baked Granola Bars (Raw & GF, depending on ingredients, etc.)

These are easy, healthy, and super-delicious.
  • 2-1/2c oats (I recommend porridge oats/rolled oats)
  • 1c sunflower seeds, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), or chopped nuts
  • 1/2c raisins
  • (shredded coconut)
  • 2/3c nut or seed butter (peanut butter, sunflower seed butter, tahini, whatever)
  • 1/4-1/2-ish c maple syrup or agave nectar or whatever (a runny jam would probably work, too)
Baked & Raw; I prefer raw, my kids prefer baked.
Mix all that stuff together.  If it's a bit too crumbly, add more nut butter or syrup or a little water or juice or something like that, but if you're adding liquid, I'd recommend adding no more than a tbsp at a time.  Spread it on a tray (1/2-3/4" thick) and chill for at least 4 hours (or freeze for 1-2 hours), before cutting.  I cut it into ~1" squares.
Bonus -- if you bake it (175°C/350°F for 30-40 minutes, basically until the top looks a nice golden brown), it turns into granola bars.  But make sure to slice it first, or else you end up with one giant granola bar.

If you are really lazy, just mix muesli with the nut butter and syrup, although I prefer the consistency of porridge oats in this because they are a little softer. 

The raw version is probably my favourite oar bar recipe ever, but feel free to share your favourite oat bar recipes because I love oats.

I could eat the whole tray!

24 September 2013

Adzuki Bean Brownies -- Big Momma's Official Recipe (GF)


You would not believe how many times I made adzuki brownies in the last fortnight whilst trying to solve the riddle of how to not end up with that beany texture!  Ground flax seeds!  I have no idea why ground flax seeds remove the beany texture from the brownies, but they do.  You can buy flaxmeal, but it's cheaper to just grind your own using a cheap blade coffee grinder (mine is useless for coffee, but great for grinding spices, flax seeds, and oatmeal).

By the way, flax seeds are also known as linseeds (I'm talking to you, UK).

Here is my final version of the recipe -- optional ingredients are italicised, but for the record, I like these better with the oatmeal.

Preheat your oven to 180ºC/350ºF.

Mix all this together, I use an immersion blender, but you can use a fork and mash and mix like crazy:  
  • 250g/1-1/2c mashed or pureed beans (adzuki, black, or white)
  • 1/4-1/2c sugar or agave nectar or maple syrup or what have you
  • 1 banana 
  • 2 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • 2-4 tbsp cocoa or carob powder
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1-2 tsp vanilla and/or almond flavouring (I use both)
  • (50g/1/2c porridge oats)
  • (1-2 tbsp tahini, peanut butter, or another nut butter)
Your mixture should be spreadable and sticky, not pourable or doughy/stiff.

Spread on a lightly greased baking tray or cake pan (skip the grease if it's silicone, obviously, but I swear, even non-stick pans need a little oil or something).  Bake for 15-20 minutes and then let everything cool for about 10 minutes.  You can cut and serve straight away, but it is still rather soft and mushy straight from the oven and things solidify up a lot better if you can wait.  Dust with some powdered sugar to make 'em pretty.