Fall Recipe Parade – Yes, there’s some pumpkin

It’s that time of year – one of the many that sneaks up on me each and every year. While it is still sunny and warm here in mid-Maryland, I am apparently supposed to desperately want pumpkin everything. And honestly, I’m okay with that (except for the coffee thing, I don’t get it – but to each her own coffee). Here at the pantry we do have a healthy love of pumpkin. We also love the other flavors of fall and the opportunity to break out those super warming dishes as the temperatures begin to drop. To welcome this season of bounty and cool nights, we offer you a treasure trove of autumn yum. Most of these recipes are both gluten and dairy free. :-)

Morning Warmer Uppers

  

1. Pumpkin French Toast

2. Dark Chocolate Steel Cut Oats

3. Sweet Potato Apple Oats

Mains

  

4. Slow Cooker Burritos

5. Chickpea and Cashew Tikka Masala 

6. Sweet Potato Chili with Greens

Sides

  

7. Amazing Applesauce

8. Herbed Bulghur Pilaf with Pine Nuts and Cranberries

9. Waldorf Saute

Sweet Endings

  

10. Super Chocolate Pumpkin Brownies

11. Walnut Crust Apple Pie

12. Healthy Pumpkin Cookies

Yay for pumpkins and apples, for warm afternoons and cool mornings, for low humidity and crunchy leaves, for new pencils and new schedules. Here’s to fall and wonderful food, family, and friends. Delish!

Super Easy Freezer Pickles

 photo IMG_0689.jpgI may have mentioned it already, but I have a cucumber problem this year. I haven’t had a cucumber problem in many, many years. I can only assume that our relatively cool summer prevented the nasty powdery mildew and other humidity related diseases that eventually do in all of my curcurbits. In surveying my cucumber bounty, I knew there was only one answer, to pickle some of them. Big Sis and I have already shared some pickle preparations, but they aren’t really meant for the long haul, sort of more of a 10 day window on those puppies. My past experiences with hot water canning for pickles left a bad and totally non crunchy pickle taste in my mouth.

 photo IMG_0687.jpgAnd so in honor of our cool summer, I turned from one temperature extreme to the other in search of a perfect freezer pickle recipe. I found this one, and then didn’t follow it. :-) Who on earth needs 4 cups of sugar in anything? Not this momma. And I assume that the turmeric was added for the sake of color – to make them look more like commercial pickles, which use yellow food dye to look like what? What would happen if we all just decided greenish pickles are okay? But, I digress. I hustled out to the store and picked up some of these babies. I could use glass, and with a vinegar based brine I usually would, however, one of my kids’ new chores is to do the fetch it run from the downstairs freezer and I had visions of freezer pickles all over the basement. So I went with plastic.

This couldn’t have been easier. These won’t last as long as water bath pickles would, but given the reaction my kids had to the batch I prepared last week, they won’t make it until winter anyway.

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  • 8 pounds cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2T salt
  • 1 1/2 c maple syrup (oh yes I did)
  • 1 c white vinegar
  • 1 c apple cider vinegar
  • 1 t celery seed
  • 1 t mustard seed

In a large container (I had to use my largest pot), combine cucumbers, onion, and salt and let sit for 3 hours, stirring periodically. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl and let sit for 2-3 hours. Drain and rinse cucumbers and onions. Add liquid to cucumbers (being sure to get them out of the strainer first… I’ve done such things). Pack in 1 pint containers, being sure to leave at least an inch at the top for freezer expansion. Freeze for up to 6 weeks. Thaw in fridge, consume with a week or so. Crunchy, sour, sweet, delish!
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Creamy Roasted Tomato Pasta (DF)

 photo IMG_0756.jpgI don’t quite understand it, but my tomato cherry tomato plants just keep going. They look terrible. An ill-timed vacation left the plants vulnerable to the one two punch of japanese beetles and grasshoppers, but they don’t seem to have gotten the message that they’re kaput. And so I keep going out and gathering a few at a time. I have standard cherry tomatoes and these wonderful yellow pear shaped ones that I grew from seeds my Mom got for me while visiting Monticello. Yes, these are Thomas Jefferson’s tomatoes. What former history teacher wouldn’t geek out about that?!

At any rate, I featured these tomatoes in a an easy and satisfying dinner last night that got a 100% approval rating – yes, folks you heard me right. Last night I defeated Ms. Picky Pants. Granted it was pasta, so it’s kind of cheating, and I deconstructed the dish so she could have some control over the ratio of the elements, but the pasta had the creamy goodness already on it, and pre-sauced pasta without complaint is a victory over here! I take what I can get. We’d had a few not thrilled with dinner nights in a row, so I decided it was time for a dish that stood a better chance of at least being consumed without complaint.

 photo IMG_0753.jpgWhat makes this pasta meal special is three main elements. The creamy goodness (here I’ve used my friend Annie’s cashew cream which I think I could write a book on because it’s so wonderful), the roasted tomatoes (if you’ve not done this you have really been missing out), and the fresh herbs. The cashew cream provides just the right amount of cream feeling without the clumpiness of sunflower cheese or real dairy ricotta. And roasting tomatoes? Nothing brings out the sweetness like a little roast. Throw in a little olive oil, garlic, and balsamic vinegar and you’ve got a dresser upper for just about any dish. Fresh herbs? I say yes please!

The original version of this dish is here on Meatless Monday’s website, a great resource if you are looking for vegetarian meal ideas. Because my version is pretty close, I’m just going to cover a few highlights. In changing this recipe for my family, I removed the dairy, increased the pasta amount (because leftovers are good), and left the components separate (aside from combining the cream and pasta) because this is a more successful strategy with my children. You could also choose to use gluten free pasta or veggie noodles like these.

Roasting Tomatoes: To achieve super goodness, preheat the oven to about 350. Place clean tomatoes in a baking dish. Add olive oil, garlic, balsamic vinegar, and a dash of salt. Stir to ensure tomatoes all have contact with the other yum. Place in oven and cook until tomatoes have cracked skins and have begun to release their juice. Mine took 35 minutes, with a goose up to 425 for the last 5 minutes. Your kitchen will smell heavenly.

While the tomatoes are roasting, boil your pasta, chop your herbs, and if you have some toast some pine nuts in a pan. If you don’t have pine nuts, walnuts would also make a nice addition to this dish.

Creaminess: As I said, I used cashew cream for my version and simply added just enough to the dish to ensure that noodles all had some cream, but were not drowning. Many dishes with cheeses and cream sauces go overboard in my opinion, so I usually start with less than the recipe calls for and see how that looks.

Herbs: Fresh basil makes this dish absolutely sing. The combo with the tomatoes is a natural, and the basil cuts through the cream in a way that makes the dish lighter feeling, more summery. We also put chopped fresh parsley on ours.

Other veggies. After our initial taste, which garnered universal approval, Mr. Little Sis and I began our usual varia-bowl treatment by adding fresh spinach and other chopped veggies we had in the fridge. This would be a great place to use some zucchini noodles.

So there you go, another way to use that summer bounty, and to enjoy those flavors while they linger. May all your pasta be delicious and all of your meals garner 100% approval (or at least 75). Delish!

 

Cool Cucumber Soup with Herbed Cucumber Relish (DF)

 photo IMG_0726.jpgI have cucumbers coming out of my ears – and no Big Brothers, I did not eat a seed. I can only assume that our relatively cool Maryland summer has delayed the usual onset of powdery mildew (which has now arrived and I’m combatting according to Big Sis’ suggestion) long enough for my cucumber plants to go bananas, so to speak. I’ve regularly been harvesting not just 1 or 2, but anywhere from 6 to 16 (yes, I said 16) delicious cukes from my 4 cucumber plants. What variety is doing so well in my not very well tended garden? I have no idea. Seed mixups are a real bummer. I digress.

In order to take advantage of my cuke bounty, we’ve been experimenting with some things, and I’ll share more of them over the next few weeks before it snows and puts an end to this whole summer bounty thing. Today, while it is relatively hot, I’ll share a lovely cooling use for all those wonderful cukes.

If you’ve been playing along for a while, you already know how I feel about Deborah Madison. In addition to my Deborah Madison cooking bible, I have a slimmer volume dedicated only to soups, because I really like soup. In this beautifully produced and photographed cookbook, there are a few cool soups perfect for beastly weather. Last night I was inspired by her Cool Cucumber Soup, although as usual I was compelled to make some changes. At any rate we had an 85% approval rating (meaning Picky Pants initially enjoyed it and changed her mind later). So, for all you cucumber lovers, or just those of you who like the sound of an easy cooling meal made from the most abundant veggie out there right now…

Cool Cucumber Soup with Herbed Cucumber Relish (DF) adapted (and made larger and milder) from Deborah Madison’s version in Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen(serves 4)

Soup

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  • 2 pounds cucumbers
  • 1 1/2 c cashew cream (here, from our lovely friend Annie) or yogurt or sour cream
  • 3/4 c herbs (I used dill, basil, and parsley to great effect
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • zest and juice of 1 1/2 lemons

Relish

  • 1 pound cucumbers
  • 2 T chopped scallions
  • 1 T dill
  • 2 T chopped basil and parsley
  • 2 t olive oil
  • zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

Peel and seed the cucumbers – dice 1/3 of them (or one pound) and set aside for the relish. While I often recommend skipping peeling and such, in this case I peeled to remove the bitterness sometimes in the skins. Coarsely chop remaining cukes and place in blender with the rest of the ingredients for the soup. Blitz until smooth. Place in fridge to chill. Yes, that’s it. No, I’m not joking.

Just before serving, combine ingredients for relish in bowl and stir. Done. No muss, no fuss, no cucumbers wasted. Delish. Happy super late summer!

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Blueberry Pie w/ sweet potato & walnut crust- GF/DF

I do love sneaking the vegetables into places where no vegetable has gone before.  Vegetablization is like charting new territory and is great for your health ;-)  What better place to vegetablize than in places where I used to use gluten and can no longer due to Mr. Bigg Sis’ dietary constraints?  But don’t let no need to lose gluten slow you down here, because more vegetablizing is always a good, and in this case, a delicious thing.

You may recall that in the past I presented you with a walnut crusted apple pie.  It’s delicious but turns out more like a cobbler when all is said and done.  So I am still interested engaging the search for a healthy GF crust…. and will go back to the cobbler-y things if it doesn’t work, right?  Or try Little Sis’ nectarine cream pie with a walnut crust which is also GF / DF.  Oh the possibilities are endless…. and this possibility I combined the idea for a sweet potato crust (also tasty and cobbler-ish) with the walnut idea to see if that might yield something a bit more pie-like.

Blueberry Pie with Sweet Potato/Walnut crust

crust
2 cups shredded sweet potato
1 cup walnuts
2 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp maple syrup
1 pinch salt

3 c blueberries (mine were frozen at home)
1/4 c sugar
1/4 + 1/8 oats (that’s 1/4 cup and then about a half again of a 1/4 cup measure)

Preheat oven to 375 and grease a pie plate (I used coconut oil)
Shred the sweet potato in the food processor

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Take it out and put all the other crust ingredients in the food processor and reduce to a fine crumble

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Add the sweet potato back in and process into a mash

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Spread the mash into the bottom of a greased pie plate (I found fingers more effective than a spoon)
Bake at 375 for 15 – 20 minutes or until it starts to get a little crisp.  If your crust is a little thin it will crisp better, but the thick crust was nice as well – just spread out well and evenly and up the sides

While the crust is baking, mix the blueberries, sugar and oats
Pour into crust when it has baked

Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes.  You can cover the top with foil if you like to protect the edges of the crust.

Feed it to happy, intrepid, inter-vegetable travellers…

20140831_184827-001 Now I will say that this came out a bit cobbler-ish as well, but the edges of the pie crust were crispy, so I”m thinking that if I made it a little thinner and cooked it a little longer prior to filling that it might come out more crispy.  On the other hand, this really rocked, and all 3 of us had seconds… so why mess with it?

20140831_184835-001May your September be full of pie!

 

 

Pleasing Picky Pants…Oven Baked Carrot Fries

I have an unwritten policy as regards dinner planning in my house. It’s important to remind you all that I am the mother of one VERY picky eater. When I say picky I don’t just mean that she makes faces when she eats or that she really loves the foods that all children love most.  When I say picky I mean my daughter has about 5 foods in the world that she enjoys, the rest is either nearly tolerable or yucky. We spend a LOT of time in nearly tolerable. When I plan a few days worth of meals I attempt to ensure that at least every few days I make something that Ms. Picky Pants might actually almost enjoy (even if it’s not one of the top 5). If I know the main dish isn’t anywhere near the top 5, I try to make up for it with sides she might like to ensure some level of dinner time tranquility. Which brings us to tonight.

Having backed myself into a grocery corner by running out of time yesterday, I was committed to having my beloved nutshroom burgers. I should mention that Mr. Little Sis and I both love these. My son is not enthusiastic, but is accepting. My daughter USED to love these burgers. That’s the other thing I should tell you about the top 5 foods Ms. Picky Pants enjoys. They rotate out on a daily basis. I’m not making this up. In response to “I thought you liked this dish sweetie,” my daughter will say “I DID like it before, but I DON’T like it today.” Yes, she is going to be the death of me. You can, perhaps, now also see why I don’t accommodate her preferences more than I do. I’d have to actually know what her preferences are on that day to even consider accommodating her. I digress.

 photo IMG_0670.jpgIn order to make the nutshroom burger dinner a pleasant experience I had decided to make oven fries. Many problems can be solved with my oven fries. When the time came to get started this evening, I realized that I had failed to procure the needed spuds. My own garden spuds are not quite ready for fry size, so I decided to do some creative improvising. Internet search engine to the rescue. Carrot fries coming up, thanks to William Sonoma. Continue reading

GF Pancake Mix – Making Time for Pancakes

What if some fine morning when you have time to make pancakes you used 3 or 4 bowls?  1 bowl for the pancakes to make that day and the other 2 or 3 bowls to add all of the dry ingredients for another morning’s pancakes?  Might make it easier to get those cakes going on a busier morning…..

I’m still thinking about saving time, so when I saw this post from our good friend Annie at Unrefined Vegan, I decided I had to give it a GF go.  Please feel check out her version which is chock full of interesting grains and flours as well as the idea that you can flavor up a batch of pancakes or waffles once you start with the basic recipe.   Gluten free or Gluten full – pancakes are a lovely way to start the day and we’re going to see if I can whip up a batch of pancakes tomorrow morning before school if I have the head start of pre-mixing all of the dry ingredients. Continue reading

Zucchini “Crab” Cakes (GF,DF)

 photo IMG_0567.jpgIt would seem that I am not the only gardener overrun by zucchini this year, and I’m with most of the gardeners who responded to my last post; I’m delighted to have this problem of what to do with all of my zucchini. A few years ago a pal of mine posted a recipe on her Facebook page during the height of zucchini season. I was intrigued by the simplicity of the recipe and by the ingredient list which includes Maryland’s favorite spice mix, Old Bay Seasoning.

And so I began my usual process of fiddling, seeing how far I could move within the recipe while achieving the desired results. Over time I’ve adapted my friend’s lovely summer recipe and it is a zucchini staple in our house. While I won’t say that these actually taste like crab cakes (because my mother and many other Marylanders would be appalled by that idea), the flavor of these babies SUGGESTS crab cakes and they are just darned tasty crab facsimile aside. If Old Bay is not available in your area (I nearly passed out when I couldn’t buy it in California years ago), look for spice mixes intended for steamed spiced crabs, but be sure they don’t include super large chunks of spice as many shrimp boil spice mixes do OR try a homemade version like this one. Continue reading

The Zucchini “Problem” and My Vegetti

 photo IMG_0567.jpgThose of you who’ve grown zucchini know that if the plant works, you go very quickly from wondering if you’ll ever get any zucchini to stuffing zukes in neighbor’s mailboxes when they’re not looking to offload some of your surplus. For the past several years my zucchini have been decidedly in the NOT WORKING category, so I’ve not had to force squash on the cul-de-sac, but this year (largely I think because I got ahead of the bugs early), we have zucchini.

While I like zucchini, I admit that even I am not a fan of the traditional sautéed squash, so I’ve become a zucchini seeker. How else can we use this prolific nutritious gift without having it be, well, yucky? Big Sis and I have shared a few zucchini secrets in the past, but I found a new, and perfectly lovely solution, right there in the “As Seen on TV” display. If you just laughed, then you should admit that you’ve been tempted to look yourself. I just couldn’t stop myself when I saw a little gadget that claimed that it would spiral cut my vegetables for $10 and would fit in a drawer, the Veggetti Spiral Vegetable Cutter. I snatched that little sucker up.

And let me tell you what. It works. It actually does what it apparently says it does on TV. With little effort and about a minute of turning I had enough spiral zucchini noodles for 2 adult dinner sized portions – from one zucchini. Nice.
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 photo IMG_0499.jpgBeing fans of Mediterranean food, we naturally concluded that we could put tomato sauce right on those bad boys and call it dinner, but we were feeling a little zesty, so we went in another direction, sort of a deconstructed zucchini chili mac.I simply prepared the fixins that I would normally serve for us to make burritos and instead of wrapping everything up in a tortilla, we served it on top of zucchini noodles. And it was delish. My vote on the Vegetti? A resounding yes, and I can’t wait to make some zucchini noodles for Pasta Sunday. Next time I post I’ll have another fab zucchini suggestion straight from the heart of Maryland. Hope you’re all having a lovely summer!

Banana Biscuits – GF / DF

Look at all the lovely letters at the end of our recipes indicating what it is and what it ain’t.  Well these biscuits should be GF / DF / not CB, because they are not like cardboard.  They actually had a little fluff going on, and were really quite delightful.  I do love a biscuit, so one that is low on fat and can be eaten by y GF/DF family and friends is great except that it means less for me.  Ah well.  The problem with good food is that other people want to eat up all those potential leftovers, huh?

One key to a good biscuit is a hard fat that gets distributed without melting too fast or weighing things down with liquid.  No butter allowed over here at my house, so coconut oil placed in the freezer before use served the hard fat need.  Banana offered some moisture / replaced some of the fat, and good ol’ Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Baking Mix removed the wheat from the equation as well.

We ate these with a little orange marmalade and found that to be quite a treat for a weekend breakfast :-)

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Banana Biscuits (I will definitely double this recipe next time, but if you want to stick your toes in first, try this amount which yields 4 large biscuits)

1 1/2 cup gluten free flour mix (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp guar gum
1/2 tsp salt
1-2 tsp lemon zest
1/3 – 1/2 cup mashed banana (after mashing.  It was a medium large banana)
1/3 cup milk (I used unsweetened almond)
3 Tbsp hard coconut oil (Stick it in the frig the night before – or in the freezer if you forget)

Pre-heat oven to 375
Mix the dry ingredients and zest together.
In a separate bowl (or large glass measuring cup), mash the banana and then mix in the milk.
Cut the coconut oil into pieces and mix in with a pastry cutter or a large fork if you don’t have a pastry cutter.

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Add the mixed banana and milk and stir to combine but don’t over-mix or mash.
Spread out on a cutting board or counter to a thickness of about an inch.

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Use a glass to cut biscuits.
Place on a cookie sheet
Bake for about 12 – 14 minutes or until browning just a touch on top

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Eat warm.

My son ate his with peanut butter….. makes sense, don’t you think?