Hemp and Bean Sausage Patties (GF,V)

Let me just start by saying that in general, I am not a fan of meat substitutes. For the most part I like to create dishes that aren’t trying to emulate something else as I feel that it nearly always disappoints meat lovers and only occasionally really gets the vegetable crowd excited enough to bother. But there does seem to be a trojan horse for this particular problem. If you make something in the form of a patty, the adventurousness and acceptance both seem to increase – veggie burgers, falafel, or neatballs for sandwiches or pasta have all gained acceptance and, more often than not, enthusiasm over here. So when I saw a recipe for breakfast sausage made from beans, masa harina, and hemp, I was intrigued.

What is it that makes breakfast sausage worth emulating? This is a valid question, and an important one when deciding whether or not to bother. Breakfast sausage, for all their greasy yuck (in my non-that much grease loving opinion), have a combination of herbs and spices that really are tasty and it is my opinion that keeping that flavor profile solely for the breakfast table is nonsensical, but we’ll get to that. So, a less greasy plant strong version of that? Yeah, I’ll give that a go.

The result? Delicious, and as I suspected an excellent candidate for moving off the breakfast table into many other parts of the day. We’ve used our nausage patties as the centerpiece of a dinner that also included roasted plantains and sweet potatoes and fresh cut veggies. We had salsa, malt vinegar, and ketchup on the table to scratch any of the varied condiment itches I could imagine. The only thing I would do different the next time I make these babies, is that I would make at least a double batch and freeze the remainder so that they could be served with pancakes some morning. While not difficult to make, they were time consuming and so I would not want to execute these and pancakes at the same time (pre tea cooking must be strategically limited). If you have given up meat but miss breakfast sausage, these are a good fit. If you are trying to eat less meat and are more open to the whole patty concept, these are delicious and very flexible (in use, not in texture because that would be weird and gross).

A nice thing about this recipe, for me anyway, is that I had nearly everything I needed already in my pantry. Only one item was missing… the masa harina. Honestly I know my store carries it, but you know how I feel about dashing out for a single ingredient (and if you don’t know, let’s just say I suffer from a lack of self control at the store so limiting trips is best), especially when I don’t really know what that ingredient is. So I looked it up. Masa harina is a flour made from corn… so far so good. The corn is apparently dried, cooked in water with slaked lime, dried, and finely ground. The limewater imparts a distinctive flavor. And masa harina is more finely ground than corn meal. Okay, so I don’t have limewater and I’m not up to a chemistry experiment in addition to a recipe experiment. My solution? Grab that cornmeal and grind the crap out of it. I used my food processor, but would likely use my Vitamix next time. The only other problem with the recipe was that it requires that you refrigerate the sausage batter overnight… yeah, I may write a meal plan, but THAT level of planning is rare in this house. I added a little more ground corn meal instead to firm the batter up. I’ve also ditched the liquid smoke called for in the original recipe because I don’t regularly cook with it and there are some concerns with the safety of the product. The safety concern for liquid smoke is less, but still apparently present, in smoked paprika I am sad to discover. I actually have smoked paprika, and will use it here, but next time I may switch out the liquid smoke for scotch whiskey (boozy breakfast) and the paprika for a little extra pepper.

Hemp and Bean Nausage Patties (GF,V) - adapted from Spicy Hemp Breakfast Sausages in December 2014’s Vegetarian Times

Spice Liquid

  • 2 T maple syrup
  • 2 T dried parsley
  • 2 T dried rubbed sage (this is KEY, don’t skimp)
  • 2 t garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 t dried oregano
  • 2 t smoked paprika
  • 1 t black pepper
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • 1 1/2 t dried thyme
  • 1/4 t red pepper flakes
  • 2 c boiling water

Nausage Mix

  • 3/4 c plus 2 T finely ground corn meal (use food processor or power blender)
  • 1 c hemp seeds
  • olive oil for cooking
  • 1 15 ounce can of soft beans (or 1 1/2 c well- cooked from dried; I used black beans here, probably anything well cooked other than chickpeas would work), drained and rinsed

First thing to do is to make the spice liquid – it’s basically like flavor tea. Combine all of the seasonings in a medium sized bowl. Add the boiling water and set aside for at least 5 minutes. While the flavor tea steeps, collect the other ingredients. Place corn meal in large bowl. Place beans in skillet or large sauce pan on stove, but don’t heat. Measure out hemp seeds. Drink some water.

Add 1 1/2 c flavor tea to the beans on the stove. Turn to medium heat to bring to a gentle boil and then simmer, stirring occasionally until liquid is largely evaporated, leaving a thick mixture that looks a bit like refried beans. While they are simmering…

Add 1 cup of the flavor tea to the corn meal and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Add hemp seeds. When beans are done, add to cornmeal mix and stir.

Heat olive oil in pan on medium. Add nausage batter in plops with a large spoon. Allow to cook for a minute or so and then flatten a little with a spatula. Cook about 5 minutes per side or until crispy. Drain on paper towels. Serve wherever you like. Delish!

Loving Raw Chocolate Macaroons

Food makes a lovely gift.  Everyone loves sweets.  Most of us give sweets to those we love in some way, at some time, in some place…. and especially in February when Hallmark moves us….. I mean our hearts move us, to make our amorous leanings known through buying stuff.

Making a gift has always been a way to imbue a gift with an extra bit of love and caring because not only your resources but your time was given (albeit shopping for the right gift can take time as well!).  But how loving is it to hand someone a box of candy that consists of a whopping load of sugar and unrecognizable chemicals?  It feels like love when given, when received, when consumed, but the health consequences are surely not was intended by the giver in love.  See our Sugar Busting series if you need a reminder about just how rough sugar is on our bodies….. (How Sugar Strict Should You Be?, Salt, Sugar Fat, How the Food Giants Hooked Us, The Sweet Stuff (facts about sugar consumption), Eat Food, Real Food., Giving Hidden Sugar the Boot,)

But back to the problem at hand.  Our Sweetie-Dad is having a few health troubles that the doctors think would be helped by cutting back on sweets.  He is Sweetie-Dad because he is indeed wonderfully sweet and charming…. and also because he’s consumed enough sugar over the years to turn himself into plum jelly.  Of course the poor man has to listen to The Sis Daughters lecture here and again and is probably often frightened when we come by what we might try to pass off as dessert, however, as with all things, experimentation and perseverance can yield workable results.  I know of quite a few lower sugar treats that he enjoys and with Valentine’s Day in mind decided to try a recipe that had been stored on my Kindle for some time waiting for a test run.

Tessa the Domestic Diva created these morsels that are perfect for a pre-kiss Valentine’s exchange.  I only added one ingredient – an almond on top of each, so she really gets all the credit for this one ;-)  And Sweetie-Dad and I thank her.

Raw Chocolate Macaroons

2 c shredded, unsweetened coconut
1/2 c coconut oil (don’t over do it)
4 – 5 Tbsp cocoa powder (I used this)
1/4 cup maple syrup (she also lists honey or coconut nectar as possibilities)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
about 2 dozen raw almonds

Place all ingredients in food processor and mix well (scraping down sides as needed).  I am gathering from her description that she placed hardened coconut oil.  I melted mine first and mixed in the cocoa powder and vanilla before pouring into the food processor.  Mine probably mixed faster, her mixture was probably easier to shape.

20150206_120102-001Roll, scoop, plop, shape – just get it in reasonable portions onto wax or parchment paper or a silpat lined cookie sheet and chill in the fridge or freezer until firm.

20150206_134903-001You can store them in the refrigerator or the freezer and share them with the sweeties in your life knowing that your time and your love has translated into a treat that lacks processed ingredients without a high dose of sugar.  Love :-)

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If you’d like to give some other kind of loving sweets check out these other options from us and friends:

Chocolate Apricot Truffle Cups from an unrefined vegan

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Drop Cookies

Sweet Potato Crusted Apple Pie

Cocoa-nutty Good Bars / or Cake!

Nut Butter Bliss Balls

Crispy Chocolate Granola Stacks from Emmy Cooks!

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups from Vedged Out

For more ideas for reducing the amount of sugar and processed food in your life, check out our book!  Baby Steps to Better Health: Winning the Battle with Junk Food for Families and Individuals.  Eat well, Be well friends!

Broccoli Meatballs? Reallly? Yes, Really.

I don’t know about you, but my preparation of, or suggestion of broccoli to the youngest members of our tribe is rarely met with an enthusiastic: “Oooooo broccoli!” I confess I find it hard to understand as broccoli was one of the only vegetables I willingly ate as a child, but I digress. When I make broccoli (despite their admission that my preparations are better than most thanks to this broccoli secret) there is usually at least a few faces that range from disinterest to disgust and either an implied or directly stated requirement that it be eaten regardless of how you feel about it because it’s broccoli. Why should they (and by they I mean all of us) eat their broccoli?

If you’re a data hound looking for reasons to eat broccoli, check this out (lots of graphs for you). If you prefer paragraphs to charts, give this one a go. The long and short of it is that broccoli is one of the richest sources of nature’s good stuff out there. It’s so great it makes the Mayo Clinic’s list of top 10 healthy foods. I’m gonna assume at this point that you at least logically believe that eating broccoli is a good idea, even if it has not been your favorite in the past. I would suggest that this preparation is a winner and just might turn your broccoli feelings on their healthy little hearts.

Vegetarian Times says: “Broccoli Meatballs.” Okay, there’s a lot of problems with that name for a dish. First of all “broccoli meatballs” just sounds weird. Secondly the fact that these little gems are called “meatballs” suggests that they have meat in them, which they do not. Admittedly simply calling them broccoli balls would likely not increase their appeal. Even I, a broccoli lover, am not particularly interested in eating broccoli balls. These little dealios, strange name or no, are really quite delicious, packed with nutrition (they include yet another ingredient on the Mayo Clinic’s top 10 list, almonds), and pretty simple to prepare. So let’s get on with… broccoli balls or bust! Okay, yeah, still no on the broccoli balls.

Broccoli Meatballs (adapted from Vegetarian Times Broccoli Meatballs with Garlic-Tomato Sauce)

  • 4 cups chopped broccoli (original called for just florets, but that’s wasteful, so peel the stems and go for it)
  • 1 c raw almonds
  • 2 t sesame seeds + 1 t salt in a 1/4 c measure – fill the rest with nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
  • 11/2 T dried basil
  • 1/4 c chopped fresh spinach (shut the door – it’s another super healthy Mayo Clinic approved food!!)
  • 1/8 t cayenne pepper
  • 2 flax eggs

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease or line a baking sheet with parchment. Steam the broccoli until just fork tender (maybe 10 minutes). It should be bright green and not mushy. Remove from steamer and allow to cool. Pulse almonds in food processor until ground. Place in mixing bowl. Pulse broccoli in food processor until mostly chopped. Add spinach and pulse a few more times and then add to ground almonds. Add all remaining ingredients except for the flax eggs and stir to combine. Add eggs and stir until combined. Shape mixture into meatballs.

  

We made 12, but I would make more smaller ones next time. You will have to press a little to get them to stick together. Place on baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes or until browning on the outside. Serve wherever you might consider serving meatballs. We had ours in mini pitas (a slight size mismatch there) with some leftover Easiest Pasta Sauce EVER, a salute to my old favorite a meatball sub. Sauteed green beans on the side made it a super green dinner bonanza. Delish! Since then I’ve had the leftovers with pasta, on a salad, and on a bed of rice with more nutritional yeast. All of them were great, so I give this badly named nutritional powerhouse a super Sis Sisters thumbs up! Eat well, be well friends!

  

(OMG) GF Fudgy Mocha Pudding Cake

Once in awhile we post someone else’s recipe as is – unchanged.  I confess that part of my just taking the easy road and making this by actually following directions was that I was in a hurry.  You see I had to come up with some GF dessert that would make non-GF son feel like his birthday had been adequately celebrated.  Following Little Sis’ lead (see another birthday cake for Bigg Sis), I turned to Angela Liddon.

It is always an honor to point anyone in the direction of Angela Liddon who has a blog and a lovely cookbook that features vegan recipes.  I do believe that her specialty is sweets.  In fact she had a shop where she sold amazing vegan bars and baked goods before becoming a successful blogger and cookbook author.  Give this to-die-for fudgy mocha pudding cake a try and then buy her cookbook because the non-sweets in it are excellent as well!

Back to the cake….. Last night we celebrated our boy, well, young man’s 14th birthday with a bunch of his friends playing football, video games, eating pizza and I’m ashamed to say, a store bought cake.  Mr. Bigg Sis and I ate some and made yucky faces at the overly sweet, oddly gummy concoction with way too much icing.  I vowed to do better the next night when the 3 of us would celebrate family style.  The headache that came soon after (yes, I am a sensitive and delicate creature for sure) was also good motivation to get my tail up and cooking the next day.

So here is the recipe – totally ripped off but heartily acknowledged.

Fudgy Mocha Pudding Cake by Angela Liddon

1 Tbsp ground flax seed
1 1/2 c  oat flour (make sure its GF if you need totally GF)
3/4 c plus 1/3 c sugar (she recommends coconut – I used plain organic cane sugar)
1/3 c plus 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/3 c chocolate chips or chopped chocolate (she uses non-dairy choc. chips)
3/4 tsp salt (she used fine grained sea salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 c almond milk
2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup hot coffee or boiled water (I used decaf – not very strong)
confectioners sugar and toasted walnuts are optional toppings

Mix the ground flax seed with 3 Tbsp water in a 2 cup measuring cup, mix and set aside

Pre-heat oven to 375 and lightly grease an 8×8 pan (I used coconut oil)

In a large bowl, mix flour, 3/4 c sugar, 1/3 c cocoa powder, choc chips, salt & baking powder

Add the coconut oil, milk and vanilla to the flaxseed mixture and whisk / stir together

Mix the wet and dry together and pour into prepared pan and make even and flat with a spoon or spatula

Mix 1/3 c sugar and 2 Tbsp cocoa and sprinkle over the cake

Pour the hot coffee slowly and gently over the top of the cake

Bake for 27 – 33 minutes or until semi-firm on top and bubbly on the sides – mine was a tad overdone at 27 minutes, so check at 25.

20150125_180529-001Let cool for 5 – 10 minutes and then top if you like with sugar, walnuts or ice cream of your choice.

Now this may not look that good, but appreciate the consistency of the pudding like stuff that comes out with the cakey-like stuff.  Really quite something.  Everyone had seconds.  In fact I’m still full….. no room for the snack I usually eat at bedtime to prevent waking up at 2 am so hungry I have to go get a snack.  Okay, so I’m a rather ravenous but sensitive and delicate creature…. but I know a good real food GF cake when I eat one!

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Three Sisters Savory Cobbler – Cuz Baby It’s Cold Outside

As a direct result of my weekly meal planning initiative, when food magazines show up at my house, I actually read them looking for delicious, frugal, easy meals to include in the plan. This little number showed up in a recent Vegetarian Times. Yeah, I had to change it up a little, so I’ll share my non-dairy version with you. This is a winner – if you and your tribe like delicious stews with bread dumplings on top. Is there someone who doesn’t like such things?

This savory cobbler is essentially a vegetable stew that has cornbread baked on top of it. In addition to the ingredients that you will need, you’re going to need a Dutch Oven of some kind (no I don’t mean the horrible smelly thing that your big brother did to you when you were little – wait, was that just us?), but a large pot that can go in the oven as well as being on the stovetop. We received a beautiful La Creuset version many years ago, but this market has really grown and now Cuisinart and many other reputable brands make some kind of enameled cast iron cookware. Lodge makes one without enamel that is very affordable, and if you keep it seasoned, also nice and non-stick. It is far more affordable but, I should warn you, VERY heavy. If you are going to buy a dutch oven, please be sure that handles are also oven safe so you don’t get a melty mess.

We enjoyed our savory cobbler very much. Well, okay 75% of us did – and those of you who’ve been playing along know that this is a winning number for my household. Ms. Picky Pants enjoyed the cornbread dumplings and then stirred the stew around a lot. So, really it’s more than 75% but I’m not going to get too technical. It’s a lovely recipe and has the added bonus of some built in flexibility so you can score at least a 75% at your house too. ;-) Next time I will try to make the stew in a slow cooker – and I’ll give some speculative instructions on how I think that should be done in the recipe itself… shall we get on with it already?

Three Sisters Savory Cobbler (adapted from this version in Vegetarian Times) 

The Stew

  • Olive oil for the pan
  • 2 medium/large onions chopped to whatever fineness you like in stews
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced or mashed
  • 1/4 c flour (I used WW pastry)
  • 2 cups beans (I used kidney and black because I prepped them for another meal, so they were already soaked
  • 6 c veggie broth or stock
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 2 sprigs fresh or 1 t dried: thyme, rosemary, sage, marjoram
  • 1 medium butternut squash, chopped in about 1 inch pieces
  • 3 T dijon mustard
  • 6 oz (about 4 c) deep greens (we used kale)
  • 1 1/2 t smoked paprika (you could use a hotter alternative such as chipotle pepper or even a hot sauce if that works for you – I was attempting to get 100% approval)

The Topping

  • 1 c coconut milk (or whatever kind you like)
  • 1 c whole wheat pastry flour (or GF flour)
  • 1 c cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 t baking powder (I am realizing as I type that I left this out and it was still great, although the dumplings were a little dense and would have been more biscuity)
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 3/4 t salt
  • 1 egg (I used flax)

Procedures

For the stew, if you are working from dried beans, you will need to soak them overnight before hand (and you will not need the full 2 cups as they expand) AND precook them a bit so you don’t have to cook the stew for a terribly long time. Warm olive oil in a dutch oven. Add onions and a sprinkle of salt. Saute until they are just starting to brown. Add red pepper and cook for another minute. Add garlic and give it a couple of stirs. Then sprinkle flour in and stir to coat the veggies in flour. Cook for a minute or two but stir constantly so flour doesn’t burn. Add water, beans, tomato paste, herbs and paprika (If I were going to use a slow cooker, I’d do it here and add the squash and mustard, leaving the greens to add at the end). Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes or until your beans are tender (time will vary according to canned vs. dried, how long you precooked if dried, etc.). Remove herbs if you used fresh. Add squash, mustard and greens. Return to simmer until squash is tender.

  

While simmering, preheat the oven to 425 (arrange racks so there’s enough room for the Dutch Oven). Combine dry ingredients for topping in medium sized bowl. Whisk milk and “egg” together in smaller bowl. Add wet to dry and stir until just combined. Remove filling from heat. Use cookie scoop or soup spoon to drop topping on top of the filling. Bake uncovered for 12-15 minutes or until topping is browned.

Serve a few dumplings with a hearty ladleful of stew and be warm head to toe. We enjoyed ours with a green salad. Delish!

Tabil Spiced Chili over Roasted Potatoes

I am still on a quest to share uses for Tabil spice mix with the world – particularly the subset to whom I gave home roasted Tabil as a Christmas gift.  The presence of cumin and red pepper flakes speak to chili, and the rest of the tabil ingredients (coriander, caraway and garlic) seemed different enough to twist the chili up a bit.  I also thought that a different base than rice would be nice.  We do fall back on rice a lot around here, and although I’m glad to have it (and my son could probably eat it 3 times a day), nutritionally speaking, variety is indeed a spicy and healthy thing.  Enter the much maligned potato.  Potatoes have been bred into giant, dry, starchy behemoths that are meant to be smothered in fattening dairy products.  However, the little colored potato with all of it’s positive nutritional status is turning up in all kinds of places.  I recently got 5 lbs. of organic little red taters for 4.99.  That’s cheaper than the rice I use.  Woo hoo!

I’m thinking that all of you are as ready for simple as I at this time of year, and the Tabil helps keep this simple.  If you don’t have any Tabil, it is pretty easy to make* and once you have it…. next time will be really easy!  (Or you can buy it here).  If roasting potatoes does not seem simple, then by all means make some rice – but the rest of this recipe is really quick and easy.

Tabil Spiced Chili

About 2 lbs. red potatoes cut into small chunks for roasting or rice
Oil for sauteeing onion
1 Red onion, diced
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp Tabil spice mix
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes (I use Muir Glen because the cans do not have BPA in the liner)
1 6 oz. can tomato paste (Muir Glen again – same reason)
1 bunch swiss chard (or other hearty green) washed and cut or torn into pieces
1 – 2 colored peppers cut in chunks
1 small can (15 oz. ) black beans, rinsed and drained

Potatoes:
If roasting potatoes – allow 30 – 45 minutes at 400, depending on how small you cut the potatoes.  I made these bite sized because they are the base of the chili, therefore they roast faster and get crispier.  We snuck some before adding chili and I think I will roast potatoes this way always :-)
Either toss it all in a bowl with oil to coat (I prefer avocado because it withstands high heat), or just stir oil in right on the roasting pan.  Add some salt to taste and stick in the oven.  Stir after 15 or 20 minutes.

20150113_174450-001Chili:
Saute onion until becoming translucent
Add spices and stir until fragrant
Add tomatoes & paste, stirring occasionally over medium low for 10 minutes to heat
Add swiss chard and cook until wilted
Add peppers and beans and let simmer for another 5 or so minutes

Steamy!!

Steamy!!

Serve over the potatoes

The peppers were crunchy, everything else soft and spicy.  We all enjoyed this very much.  My son, who is a charter member of the no-food-touching club chose to eat his potatoes on the side.

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My husband and I mixed it all together and then argued – gently discussed – who would get the leftovers for lunch.  I won!

20150113_175352-001Stay warm friends – soon it will be time for seed catalogs and dreaming of warmer days.  For now, I’ll try to heat up my insides a bit with food and laughter.

* If you do decide to make your own Tabil, I have since made it in my Vita Mix which was faster and an easier clean up than my coffee grinder.  In addition, I recommend not adding garlic powder until after grinding to avoid sending a cloud of garlic dust into the air ;-)

In addition – we are starting a new series on Well-Being which Little Sis opened a week or so ago.  I’ll be posting the second soon.  If you or someone you know is wanting to eat better and feel better check out our e-book, Baby Steps to Better Health: Winning the Battle with Junk Food for Families and Individuals.

Roasted Squash Bowl w/ ‘Parm’ (GF/DF)

I love for my son to have a bunch of friends over to eat pizza and play games.  But I don’t like eating a bunch of pizza – and my husband cannot eat a bunch of pizza, so while the kids were racing Kartts around the track (4 people / 4 corners of the screen – how DO they do that!?), the kitchen was filling with the enticing aroma of roasting butternut squash, onions and garlic.

This is not a new combo around here.  In fact I posted a recipe for such a concoction that includes walnuts and red potatoes from an original made with pasta a parmesan, but I decided to try using my parmesan substitute made from sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, nutritional yeast flakes and salt and we were both very pleased with the results.

DSC07947 See how pleased we were?  This is actually a picture from the post that includes the walnuts – back in my young and frivolous days when I had time to draw with a sharpie on the outer layer of a perfectly good onion.  Ah youth!  But seriously – this is an easy fix and ’tis the season to pick up some squash for a little less.  The recipe is on the small side – enough for a good meal for 2 plus a large leftover lunch.  I’ll pick up a couple of squashes next time!

Roasted Squash Bowl with ‘Parm’

1 butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and cubed
1 onion, cubed
2 – 3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 Tbsp high heat oil (I used avocado)
Juice from 1/2 lemon
sprinkle of red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
Cooked brown rice
Vegan parmesan (recipe here along with other dairy free pasta toppers and below)

Pre-heat oven to 375
Toss squash and onion with garlic, oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper flakes
Spread on pan and roast for 30 – 45 minutes or until tender
While roasting, cook rice according to package directions

Prepare vegan parmesan:
Moo-less, Flavor-full Parmesan sprinkles
-adapted from Angela Liddon’s vegan parmesan cheez

1/2 c sunflower seeds
3/4 c sesame seeds (I used raw rather than toasted)
1/4 c nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 tsp salt

Place all ingredients in blender
Blend until powdery – don’t go too long or the sunflower seeds will start to turn into sunflower butter!

Place rice in a bowl, top with squash mixture and ‘parm’ to taste.  My parm has black specks because I used black sesame seeds.  I also didn’t grind the parm long enough because there are intact sunflower seeds.  Yikes – how did I have time to draw on vegetables in the past, now I don’t even have time to grind the sunflower seeds?  Ah well – it still tasted terrific.

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We have a new series starting this year on wellness.  Check out Little Sis’ first post in this series….
2015: A Year of Well Being  We’ll be adding to this as the year moves along – and it will, probably blindingly fast at times.  May we all pay enough attention to see the beauty and love that we encounter in the kitchen, at the table, in fellowship and in the world around us.

Stale Bread Made Great – Vegan Bread Pudding Two Ways

I’ve mentioned a few times that I struggle with quantities, particularly in the face of hosting guests. It would seem that in preparation for the holiday functions we hosted, I decided (through the fog of illness) that having enough bread in the house was the key. Not just frozen sandwich bread, but high quality bakery bread. The disheartening (and probably most wonderful) thing about good bakery bread is that it peaks, just like a bottle of wine. It has a moment when it’s at its very best and every moment after that is one step closer to that tasty loaf becoming squirrel food, or excellent bread fight ammunition (ow). Needless to say despite having a LOT of guests over the several days of the holiday season, we were unable to consume all the bread I bought for the occasions. And so it sat.

It sat so long that my omnivorous dog has begun to ignore it. It sat so long that it made a thud when moved. It sat so long I could no longer tear it with my hands or cut it with a bread knife. Yeah. That’s stale bread. What to do to avoid wasting all that previously wonderful bread? Yes, I could give it to the squirrels, but frankly between what they get from the bird feeder and what they steal from my garden, I think I’ve done my bit with them, so I wondered. Can I make a bread pudding without eggs and butter? Can I make a bread pudding with bread I can’t even tear? Does anybody but me eat bread pudding in this house? Three questions is enough for me. An investigation ensued, and it became clear pretty quickly that one can indeed make bread pudding without the dairy products that make my life unpleasant. Chef Joey’s recipe became my starting point.

Next problem: the rocks formerly known as bread. Mr. Little Sis thought adding a little water to the crust and microwaving them might make the bread bricks easier to manipulate. I couldn’t quite get my head around softening the bread that would then need to be staled again for good bread pudding – it’s ready just as it is; why would I soften it? And so, I looked for a tool based answer to my problem. I am lucky that Mr. Little Sis did some time at culinary school and that time prompted him to add some seriously great knives to our little block. As we considered the problem of the intensely hard bread before us, he reached over to the block and pulled out the one that I like the least, mostly because when it gets used it is on something that I don’t eat and think is gross and there’s a loud noise that goes with it – a bad combo for me. But… if it can help with bread pudding and preventing wasted food, I’d be happy to reconsider. Mr. Little Sis to the rescue…

Next problem: the question of the micro-local popularity of bread pudding. When I lived in the dorms at my central Pennsylvania college, I waited for the days that they served bread pudding in the dining hall. Bread pudding had not been featured in my childhood, so it was a new and thoroughly delightful surprise. My husband, having stayed in Maryland where bread pudding is apparently not a thing, had no such attachment to the dish and the kids? It’s pretty much always a 50/50 proposition there. The result? 100% approval of the bread pudding with caramel sauce as dessert, 100% approval of leftover bread pudding with maple syrup for breakfast (genius and awesome).

With all that fanfare, I’m guessing you’d like to know how I did this, so here we go:

Vegan Bread Pudding Two Ways (GF Option)

Bread Pudding

  • 5 cups stale bread, cubed (we used whole grain bread and it was superb, if you avoid gluten, use gluten free bread)
  • 6 T coconut oil
  • 3 flax eggs
  • 2 1/2 c almond milk (or whatever kind you like)
  • 1/2 c maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t nutmeg
  • 1/4 salt
  • 1/2 t vanilla
  • 1 c toasted pecans (pan, oven, 350, 10 minutes or until you smell them and panic)
  • 4-6 c boiling water

Caramel Sauce for Dessert

  • 1 c pitted dates
  • 3/4 c water
  • 1T + 1t nut butter
  • 3T almond milk (or whatever kind you like)
  • dash vanilla

Topping for Breakfast

  • splash maple syrup
  • chopped nuts
  • raisins

Prepare flax eggs (1T flax + 2 1/2 T water for each “egg”). Preheat oven to 350. Place milk in pan on stove to warm to just below boiling. While milk is warming, measure coconut oil into  medium or larger sized bowl. Measure spices and maple syrup into small bowl. Place bread cubes mixed with toasted nuts into two loaf pans. Place the loaf pans in a large baking dish. (Other pans would be fine. The trick here is that they must sit in a larger pan full of hot water, so I chose loaf pans).

 

Put at least 4 c water on to boil, preferably in a kettle so you can pour easily, but if no kettle, just be careful. While waiting on water, assemble the bread pudding. It is advisable to assemble the bread pudding as close to your oven as possible. You’ll understand why in a minute. When milk is just beginning to bubble, pour it over the coconut oil and stir to melt. Add flax eggs to maple syrup and spice bowl. Whisk to combine. Slowly add to milk/coconut oil bowl and whisk to combine. Pour 1/2 of the liquid into each of the loaf pans. If you’ve not yet moved near the oven, please do it now. Add boiling water to the BOTTOM pan (in my case a pyrex casserole baker). Have someone open the oven for you and CAREFULLY carry the pan and slide it into the oven. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until browned as you’d like on top. When you press on top, you might see a little liquid bubble through the cracks, but it shouldn’t be a lot. Let sit in pan for at least 10 minutes so it can set up.

For caramel dessert sauce, add all ingredients to a power blender and go. Yes, please use a power blender rather than a food processor. Trust me on that one. Blend until smooth and pour on plate and on top of bread pudding.

For bread pudding breakfast, reheat bread pudding and drizzle maple syrup on top. Add raisins or nuts as you like.

What could be better than upcycling insanely stale bread? Eating bread pudding for breakfast, that’s what. Delish!

For more healthy baked goods and ideas about how to save money on food, check out our E-Book:Baby Steps to Better Health: Winning the Battle with Junk Food for Families and Individuals. Eat well, be well friends!

Dipping Into a Healthier New Year

If you’re looking for salt, sugar or fat then our culture is rife with choices and temptations.  You can easily acquire all the salt, sugar and fat you would like most anywhere you go.  But January often brings thoughts of trying to cut back on these tried and true sensations.  I find that it is helpful to me to replace, not simply extinguish behaviors or foods that are problematic.  Exploring fabulous new flavors is a good way to open the palate to alternatives to salt, sugar and fat.  If you can also throw more vegetables into your life in the mix, well, that my friends is a win-win taste and nutrition sensation!

You may recall that I recently shared a GF carrot cake with the notion of shoving more vegetables into a sweet treat.  By the same token (and the same vegetable) I’d like to share a way to shove more vegetables into your dip :-)  In addition this recipe utilizes an even more simple version of harissa which we introduced in a post several summers ago.  Harissa is a North African spicy condiment that makes mere carrots (and other things) something exotic and exciting.

The carrot dip comes from Vegetarian Times, June 2013.  You will need tabil spice mix to make your own harissa, or if you live in a cosmopolitan place, perhaps you can find harissa in a store.  I make tabil spice mix to use in this dish and others and in fact it made a nice gift for some friends and family this Holiday season.  The tabil recipe is available on our old post here.  Harissa is really easy to make from tabil and chili garlic sauce.

Short cut harissa:
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp chili garlic sauce (I use vietnamese)
1 Tbsp tabil

Mix ingredients together

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And here is my very slight variation on the recipe for Carrot Dip with Crushed Walnuts (and Black Olives)

1.5 lbs of carrots washed and chopped (I did not peel)
3 cloves of garlic peeled and chopped in half
1 tsp ground coriander (the original recipe has instructions for roasting and grinding fresh seeds)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp harissa
1/2 cup chopped / toasted walnuts
the original used black olives as a garnish.  I did not.

Cover the carrots and garlic by 2 inches with salted water, bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 or 20 minutes or until the carrots are very tender.
Place everything but the walnuts in a food processor and pulse to a smooth consistency.Serve with walnuts on top with crackers / pita bread, other veggies or on a sandwich.

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20150103_175604-001And if you or someone you know is interested in changing the way you eat ….. and improving health or well-being via diet, Little Sis and I have published an e-book that can help!

“Better nutrition is a goal for many people. This book provides sensible, achievable steps that guide families or individuals in the transition to a healthier diet. The authors are 2 sisters who, using their experience as a nurse and a teacher, guided their own families to accept a real food diet. The results they saw in improved health, weight management and behavior, along with the delicious recipes they created (and include in the book) have helped make the changes both welcome and permanent. Humor, encouragement, economy and common sense carry the reader through reflections and actions for sustainable change, one baby step at a time.”

Baby Steps to Better Health: Winning the Battle with Junk Food for Families and Individuals

by the Sis Sisters – and if you’ve been longing to know our real names, they are listed at the link ;-)

GF Carrot Cake – Shovin the Produce Anywhere it Will Fit

Ha!  Don’t you love just the idea of carrot cake?  Why not replace some of the other moisture for a cake (like oil or eggs or milk) with some nice wet produce?  Why not indeed.  Anytime you can make something yummy that has produce in it, that’s a plus.  And carrot cake is even socially acceptable.  You don’t have to lie about what those little orange bits are in the cake.  This recipe is a favorite of our Step-Mother and she made it for Little Sis on one of their first evenings getting to know each other – what Little Sis fondly refers to as their ‘first date.’  Here’s to first dates, healthier cakes and parents who are wise enough to bring fabulous new people into their children’s lives.

So Step-Mo, also being very generous and wanting to look out for everyone, wanted Mr. Bigg Sis to be able to eat carrot cake as well, so we went GF and the results were truly delicious.

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Step-Mo’s GF Carrot Cake
(based on Fran’s Carrot Cake)

1 1/2 cup vegetable oil.  (I recommend avocado)
3 eggs (or flax eggs if you prefer)
1.5 – 2 cups sugar depending on how sweet your tribe is accustomed to
1 tsp salt
1 cup GF flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill Baking Mix)
1 cup oat flour (you can pulverize oats in the blender to make the flour)
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups grated carrots
2 cups flaked coconut (We used sweetened)
1 15 oz. can chopped pineapple – drained
1 cup chopped nuts (we used pecans)

Pre-heat oven to 350
Cream the wet ingredients together
Blend the flour, spices, salt and baking soda
Combine the two mixtures.
Then add carrots, coconut, pineapple and nuts
Grease and flour a bundt panBake 1 hour at 350 – until toothpick comes out clean

We dusted with just a touch of powdered sugar for looks.  The original recipe (from a personal friend) suggested cream cheese icing but this is a sweet cake – I don’t think it needs icing.  And it is very moist.

We enjoyed this and most of all because it was prepared for and shared with people we love.  It’s been a terrific year and we thank you for visiting us here at the pantry.  If you are looking for some encouragement and guidance in improving your nutrition and health in the New Year, check out our e-book, Baby Steps to Better Health.  Also great to share with a friend or loved one.

We wish you all a very happy and safe celebration of all that you’ve experienced, learned and loved this year with high hopes for a healthier New Year marked by peace and love.