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Heavenly carrot soup

23 Feb

I wish I had the patience for food photography. There are so many wonderful blogs out there that make your mouth water just to read them because of the gorgeousness of the photography. And food should be beautiful, in my opinion, if it’s at all possible. When food is beautiful and then the taste is scrumptious, then you don’t have to wait to see if there’s a heaven after this life on earth.

I made an amazing carrot soup tonight. I know it’s bragging, and it was kind of accidental, but everyone who tasted it agreed.

So, I’d loved to have photographed it properly and presented it to you like this:

This roasted carrot soup picture looks totally awesome, and I bet it tastes divine, too. If you want to try making the soup pictured here, I stole it from http://beingsuzyhomemaker.blogspot.ca/2011/02/roasted-carrot-soup.html. Click on the pic to go there.

This roasted carrot soup picture looks totally awesome, and I bet it tastes divine, too. If you want to try making the soup pictured here, I stole it from http://beingsuzyhomemaker.blogspot.ca/2011/02/roasted-carrot-soup.html. Click on the pic to go there.

Instead, this is what I’ve got for you:

Beautiful colour, but not such an impressive picture. But you know you'll want to make this soup.

Beautiful colour, but not such an impressive picture. But you know you’ll want to make this soup.

The problem with carrot soup is that the flavour depends so much on the quality of the carrots. And let’s face it, in the middle of winter, a lot of carrots have become kind of bitter, bland, or otherwise uninspiring, when what you really want is sweetness, with just a hint of zing.

That, my friends, is what this soup delivered. Pure, sweet, carroty goodness. My method was the taste-test-add-taste-again method, but I’ll try to estimate quantities for you.

Heavenly Carrot Soup

  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 5 or 6 large carrots, washed, unpeeled (so easy)
  • 1.5 – 2 L water
  • 1 tbsp savoury
  • 1 tsp celery seed
  • 1 – 2 tbsp salt
  • 2 – 3 tbsp creamed honey
  • 2 tbsp fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • fresh mint for garnish
  1. In a large pot, melt the coconut oil. Add chopped onions and cook until softened. Some slight browning is okay. Just let them cook while you chop the carrots.
  2. Discard the tops of the carrots and chop into 3-5mm circles. Probably you could chop into any size you want, but I wanted these to cook quickly. Add the chopped carrots to the pot.
  3. At this point I also added three peeled and chopped broccoli stems that I happened to have hanging about. I don’t think they did a thing to the flavour, but you know, in the spirit of full disclosure here…
  4. Add 1.5 to 2 L of water and bring that baby to a boil. Turn down to a slow boil or hot simmer. Whatever you feel like. I was impatient. Dinner was late as it was.
  5. Add the savoury, celery seed, and salt. I used coarse sea salt because I ran out of the fine stuff. I figured it would dissolve anyway and it wouldn’t matter. I like to be kind of generous with salt, I admit it. Salt to your own taste.
  6. Add enough honey to make the soup as sweet as summer carrots.
  7. Lemon juice adds just a slight puckery zing to the soup that is otherwise just too sweet. Don’t add too much or it’ll just taste like lemons. Fresh-squeezed is SOOOO much better than the bottled kind. I happened to have some leftover from last night’s dinner (but truly fresh-squeezed would have been even better, as I find it starts getting bitter when it sits out). But, hey, even bottled is better than none at all.
  8. After the carrots are cooked soft, get out your handy-dandy immersion blender (or transfer in batches to the other kind of blender) and whirl it all up until smooth(ish).
  9. Ladle into bowls and garnish with fresh mint. Ooooh, yeah. Mint and sweet carrots are a match made in heaven, baby.
  10. Michael had his soup as-is. Halia’s got the ice cube treatment. I added a splash of almond milk to the middle of mine. It was aaaaaalll good.
  11. Enjoy!

Here’s a PDF version of the recipe if you want it to be easier to print: Heavenly Carrot Soup

Made him a believer

11 Oct

Michael has never been a fan of eggplant. I’ve cooked it maybe twice in our 14 years together, and last summer he tried some he deemed “acceptable” while attending a wedding. This spring, Halia planted an eggplant at her dayhome, and it was duly transplanted into the greenhouse. It didn’t survive transplantation, but Michael planted a new one on the sly.

I harvested that one eggplant — with some injury to my fingers, because did you know that eggplants grow gigantic spikes?? — just before our trip to Ottawa and brought it all the way to Ontario with me so that we could cook it there and eat it together.

That eggplant is still sitting in my mother-in-law’s fridge. Or perhaps it joined the rest of the Thanksgiving scraps in the compost bin. Poor eggplant, so arduously cared-for all summer long. The whole saga is so distressing, I had to buy an eggplant when I did my big homecoming grocery shopping on Tuesday morning.

Today, I cooked the darn thing. And it was delicious. So delicious, in fact, that Michael proclaimed it something he would happily eat frequently. I do have my doubts about just how nutritious it is, being so fried and salted. But it’s delicious. And easy, too.

Oops, we ate them up so fast, there are none left to photograph. Here’s, uh, the pan I fried them in.

Gluten-Free Vegan Battered and Fried Eggplant

Ingredients:

  • 1 eggplant, any size you wish
  • salt
  • cornstarch
  • corn flour
  • coconut oil, or other oil of your choice for frying

Directions:

  • Wash, peel, and cut eggplant into 1 cm slices. You can remove the peel entirely or peel it in “strips” to leave a bit of the purple on the outside edge.
  • Generously salt the eggplant and set it in a colander for an hour. Salting the eggplant draws out the bitterness and also removes excess moisture that can cause the eggplant to be soggy when cooked.
  • After salting is done, rinse the excess salt off and use two hands to squeeze each slice to remove excess moisture.
  • Start heating your oil in a pan. I used coconut oil and had it about 0.5 cm deep, so a good thick layer of oil.
  • Toss slices in a bowl to give them a coat of cornstarch. Make sure both sides are coated.
  • Dip each slice into a bowl of water, then coat each side in corn flour.
  • Fry 4-5 slices at a time in hot oil, letting each side turn golden before flipping. Don’t crowd the pan!
  • Remove from heat and drain on paper towels. Let them cool a bit, and then enjoy! Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside!

Michael now believes in the deliciousness of eggplant.

Scallops in coconut lemon sauce

13 May

I wasn’t able to start cooking supper until 5:30 last night.  I always want to have supper on the table by 6 o’clock, so this gave me a very tight schedule.  Supper turned out to be delicious, though, and I pronounced it so on Facebook.  I’ve had a couple of requests for recipes, so here I am.

Michael had already put rice in the the rice cooker, and I had a bag of frozen bay scallops sitting in a sinkful of water.  I peeked into the fridge to see what we had and came up with the following.  Measurements are approximate, as I was making this up on the fly.  Both recipes make about four servings.

SCALLOPS IN COCONUT LEMON SAUCE

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • white and light green part from 1 leek, well washed and chopped
  • one bag of frozen bay scallops, thawed(ish)
  • 1 or 2 tomatoes, chopped (I used a handful of halved grape tomatoes)
  • half a can of coconut milk (don’t skimp on the quality!)
  • 3-5 tbsp lemon juice (to taste)
  • 1-2 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves (just a scant whiff of this)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tbsp tapioca starch or cornstarch
  • fresh ground pepper

Melt coconut oil in a saucepan.  Add  chopped onion and chopped leek and cook for a couple of minutes to soften.

Add scallops and cook for two minutes.  (Mine were still half frozenish, and I think that helped them from getting overcooked.  If they’re fresh or completely thawed, you might try adding them later in the recipe.)

Add tomatoes, coconut milk, lemon juice, honey, celery seed, cloves, and salt.  Simmer for a few minutes at medium heat to let the tomatoes cook a little.

Dissolve starch in a couple of tablespoons of cool water.  Stir into the sauce and allow to thicken.  Serve over hot rice with a sprinkle of fresh ground pepper.  This would also be good on pasta.

HERBED ZUCCHINI WEDGES

While I was waiting for the onion to soften and the scallops to cook and the sauce to thicken, I prepared zucchini for my vegetable side.

  • 2 zucchinis, slicked into pieces three inches long and a 1/4 inch thick.
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp dried or ground rosemary
  • 1/2 tbsp dried or ground tarragon
  • salt and pepper

Arrange zucchini slices on a foil-lined cookie sheet and drizzle them with good-quality olive oil.

Sprinkle ground herbs over zucchini.  (I don’t like eating those needly bits of rosemary, so I crushed my dried rosemary and dried tarragon with a mortar and pestle.  I think this really brings out the flavour of the herbs.)

Salt and pepper to taste.

Place under broiler and broil to desired softness.  (I think mine took around 5 minutes.)  Keep an eye  out because zucchini cooks quickly!

The resulting plates were beautiful, but we were too busy eating to take a picture.  But go ahead and imagine the green zucchini, white scallops, and red tomatoes.  Hmm, I’m thinking a splash of wine wouldn’t have gone amiss here.

Bon appetit!

Banana bread for the masses

23 Jul

I used to make banana bread on a pretty regular basis.  I don’t anymore for two reasons.  One is that there are banana monsters in my house, which means I rarely have any overripe bananas around.  Two is because I haven’t done much baking at all since we went gluten-free (not to mention egg- and dairy-free).

Last weekend I was motivated to try, though, so I Googled “gluten-free” banana bread and came up with a winner on my first click.  The recipe came from Pattycake.ca, and I am copying it here, noting the slight changes I made.

Easy Gluten-free Banana Bread from Pattycake.ca

Ingredients / Directions:

Combine:

  • 1 c brown rice flour
  • 1 c corn flour (not cornmeal) or brown rice flour
  • 2 Tbsp starch (tapioca starch or corn starch)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp gluten-free baking powder

Combine separately:

  • 3 med-lg very ripe bananas – mashed
  • 2 eggs (If making this vegan, soak 5 tsp flaxmeal in 6 tbsp hot water for five minutes and add to wet ingredients.  also increase baking powder to 1-1/2 tsp and add another half a banana.)
  • 1/3 c honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar (or 1/2 c sucanat or brown sugar)
  • 1/2 c milk or milk substitute
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 – 1 tsp freshly grated lemon or orange zest (optional — but not really)
  • 1/2 c chopped walnuts, pecans, chocolate chips, chopped dates, apricots, or other dried fruit (optional)
  • a few dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg

Mix wet and dry until just incorporated. If adding nuts/chocolate/fruit, fold it into batter. Pour into a generously greased and dusted loaf pan (I use a glass pan). Bake at 350 for about 55min – a toothpick inserted in center should come out clean.

If using all honey or agave nectar, your loaf may brown too quickly. If you notice this, lower the oven to 325 and/or loosely cover the top of the loaf with some foil.

Quite a few of my non-gluten-free friends tried this loaf, and everyone agreed that it was yummy!  I tried it last week with all rice flour (half brown, half white) and today I tried it with half corn flour, which I preferred, but I’d take it either way.  Mmmm, pass the vegan margarine, please.  (Or butter for me!)

Fruit pizza again! (And, shhhhhh, vegan…)

13 May

Some of my long-time readers may remember this post, in which I shared the recipe for Michael’s favourite dessert, fruit pizza.  It’s a tradition for me to make it for him for his birthday.  Sadly, since it contains both flour and dairy, it’s off Michael’s list of can-haves.

I put my thinking cap on,  revved up the creative engine, and rolled up my sleeves (enough metaphors yet?) to work on making it Michael-friendly; that would mean gluten-free and vegan*.

The crust came out great on the first try, but I failed at my first attempt at the filling when I used coconut milk and agar-agar.  Happily, I came up with a winner using cornstarch.  Sometimes it takes a bit of experimentation and yes, even failure.  But the end results are oh-so-sweet.

Fawn’s All-Vegan All-Yum Gluten-Free Fruit Pizza

(Edited to my latest refinements…)

FOR THE CRUST

  • 1/4 cup margarine (Earth Balance or Becel)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown rice flour
  • 3 tbsp almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
  • 1/2 cup ground pecans
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free oats

FOR THE FILLING

  • 1 can (400 mL) coconut milk**
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • fruit for topping (strawberries, kiwis, bananas, canned sliced peaches, canned mandarin segments, raspberries, blueberries, or whatever else you have on hand)

**NOTE: Use good-quality coconut milk and don’t skimp on the fat.  I recommend Thai Kitchen’s full-fat coconut milk,which is very sweet and luxuriously creamy.

FOR THE GLAZE

  • 1/4 cup apricot jam or orange marmalade
  • 2-3 tbsp hot water

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. To make the crust, melt the margarine and coconut oil, then blend in sugar.  Add flours, oats, pecans, and the mashed banana.  Spread onto a pizza pan.  I found that the oils made this batter difficult to spread using a wooden spoon, but using my hands to pat it in place worked very well.  Bake at 375°F until the edges brown (around 10 minutes).  Because of the banana, this crust is a bit cakier and takes longer to bake.  After the edges browned, I used the broiler to crisp up and brown the top of the crust, which took just a few minutes.  Watch carefully so that you don’t burn it!  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
    • The final crust was cookie-like and softened up to a nice chewy texture after being refrigerated with the topping on it.  It did taste quite oat-y compared to the original, but I rather liked that.  If you prefer less of an oat flavour, I think you could safely replace some or all of the oat flour with more rice flour.
  2. For the filling, shake the can of coconut milk to blend the fat and liquid.  Pour it into a medium-sized pot and set the heat to medium.  Dissolve the cornstarch in several tablespoons of cool water, then stir it into your coconut milk.  Add the maple syrup and lemon juice.  (You could also add vanilla, but I didn’t, as it doesn’t agree with Michael.)  As the mixture heats up, be sure to stir continuously to avoid starch lumps.  The cornstarch will start to work its magic, thickening up the coconut milk.  When it reaches the consistency of pudding, remove from heat.  Allow to cool before spreading it onto the crust.  It will thicken up a little more when it has been refrigerated.
  3. After spreading the coconut milk onto the crust, decorate with your fruit toppings as desired.
  4. Mix the jam and hot water together. Press through a sieve if you desire a smoother consistency.  Use a pastry brush or silicone basting brush to spread the glaze gently over the fruit. (The glaze seals off the fruit to keep it from oxidizing too quickly.  It also adds sweetness, so even if you use less than perfectly sweet fruit, the final dessert will still be yummilicious.)
  5. Cover the whole pizza with saran wrap and chill until set, at least several hours or overnight.
    • It’s also a good idea to put a bigger pizza pan underneath, if you have one, to catch any drippings from the glaze.

Although there are a few more ingredients to the crust, this recipe really isn’t any more difficult than the original fruit pizza, and it’s just as pretty and every bit as delicious.  Even the fruit pizza addict agrees!  (There would be photos of him enjoying the fruits of my labours, but of course, he scarfed it much too quickly for a camera to capture the action.  Next time I’ll use the sport setting.)

*No, we’re not vegan, but when you can’t have eggs or dairy, pretty much any dessert you eat is going to be vegan. Unless you’re into chicken breast on your desserts…

Michael-safe cornbread

19 Mar

When we first learned about all of Michael‘s food allergies, I went into high-creativity gear and started making all sorts of new things.  I was excited to post recipes about them but couldn’t without giving away answers to his “Villainous Vittles” competition.  But lately I seem to have lost my enthusiasm for cooking and creating new things, so there haven’t been any recipe posts.  Until tonight!

Baking has been very challenging since we’ve had to go gluten, egg, and dairy-free.  Gluten is the stretchy “glue” that gives baked goods their texture and replacing wheat flour often means mixing together all sorts of other exotic flours, the very thought of which makes me tired.

So imagine my pleasure when this cornbread turned out great on the first try!  Plus it was easy-peasy.  Now, I know some people are very particular about their cornbread, but as far as I’m concerned, this stuff is just as good as the flour-and-eggs version I used to make from the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook.
I found this recipe on a vegan cooking website called Notes from the Vegan Feast Kitchen and I’ll love Google forever if only for this.  Below is the recipe, copied and pasted directly from the other blog, with my notes in square brackets.

BRYANNA’S VEGAN ALL-CORN CORNBREAD
9″ square panful

I adapted this from a recipe in “The Best Light Recipe” by Editors of Cook’s Illustrated magazine.

  • 1 1/3 cup yellow cornmeal [I used Bob’s Red Mill Corn Grits, which gave things a lovely gritty texture]
  • 2 Tbs. plus 2 tsp. (8 tsp.) sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • another 2/3 cup cornmeal
  • 2/3 cup boiling water
  • 1 tbs. lemon juice plus [I’d run out of lemons AND bottled lemon juice, so I used apple cider vinegar instead]
  • soymilk or nut milk to make 2 cups [I used PC Blue Menu Original soy milk]
  • 1 Tbs. ground golden flaxseed [This is often used as an egg-replacer in vegan cooking, but there’s so little of it and it doesn’t get mixed with hot water by itself, so I’m not sure it’s really necessary]
  • 2 Tbs. melted Earth Balance [I was too lazy to do this, plus we don’t like the taste of the stuff, so I substituted 2 tablespoons of canola.  I did use Earth Balance to grease the pan, though.]

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Mix together the first cornmeal, sugar, salt, baking powder, and soda in a medium bowl.

In another bowl mix together the 2/3 cup cornmeal and the boiling water and stir well. Stir in the lemon juice/soymilk mixture, flaxseed and melted Earth Balance.

Pour this into the dry mixture and mix briefly. Pour into a well-greased 9″ square baking pan. Bake for 25 minutes or until it tests done and is crusty on top.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per square [cut into 9 pieces]):
157.5 calories; 24% calories from fat; 4.3g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 341.8mg sodium; 264.0mg potassium; 27.4g carbohydrates; 2.6g fiber; 5.2g sugar; 24.8g net carbs; 3.7g protein; 3.0 points.

I wasn’t sure it was cooked all the way through, as it was still a bit moist inside when I cut it (but just couldn’t wait any longer, with a hungry Halia on my hands!)  I found it was particularly tasty after it had cooled, and the extra moisture disappeared.  Halia, Amanda, Michael, and I all loved this cornbread, right down to the last square that got gobbled up the next day.  And I didn’t even get a picture!

Thai red curry

21 Jan

Kelli, aka Captain Momma, asked me for the curry recipe from this post and I typed it up for her in less than ten minutes.  Since I plan to be in bed before midnight for once, I figured it would substitute for a post.

We’ve only ever tried this with chicken, and we cheat because we use Indian curry paste (which is easy to find) rather than Thai, so I guess we’ve never had the “authentic” stuff.  I don’t think Michael ever follows the recipe exactly anymore, but it’s always danged good!

Thai Red Curry with Beef or Chicken from The New Canadian Basics Cookbook (Carol Ferguson)
If you’re not familiar with Thai cooking, this easy recipe is a pleasant introduction to typical flavours.  Adjust the curry paste to taste (Thai curry pase is very hot).

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp (or to taste) red curry paste
1/2 cup chopped onion
3/4 lb beef stir-fry strips or boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
1 sweet red pepper, cut into thin strips
3/4 cup coconut milk (Michael always uses to whole can and gets extra sauce, so he probably also uses extra curry paste to compensate)
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp lime or lemon juice (we always use lime)
3 cups cooked jasmine rice

In large skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil.  Add curry paste and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.  Add onion; cook, stirring, for 1 minute.  Add beef or chicken strips; cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until almost cooked through.  Add red pepper; cook, stirring, for 1 minute.  Stir in coconut milk, fish sauce, and lime juice.  Bring to simmer; cook, stirring often, for about 3 minutes.  Add more fish sauce (for saltiness) if needed.  Serve over jasmine rices.  Makes 2 to 3 servings.

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