This blog has moved.

I’ve changed the concept of my blog and will continue to post recipes on occasion, but I’ll also post about gardening, living frugally, etc.    I hope you’ll follow me here: Apples In The Fall. 

Raw Food: Zucchini Pasta with Alfredo Sauce

I’ve heard about raw food diets and have always been mildly interested, but I thought the diet consisted of salads and juices and that was pretty much it.  However, with the recent diagnosis of Rosacea and no real cure for the condition, I started doing research  and discovered that many sufferers experienced good success with the application of organic, unfiltered apple cider.   That then led to discoveries that many people enjoyed relief from many other health ailments by drinking the vinegar mixed with water.  And, then, as one might expect by the title of this post, that led to stories of the wonders of a raw food diet.   So, I decided to give raw foods a chance and see if I could notice a difference.    After reviewing lots of recipes, I learned that the raw food diet is wonderfully varied and isn’t limited to just salads and juice (although they do play a major role).   There are new techniques in preparation and traditional foods are prepared in surprising ways as this recipe illustrates.    This is my first raw foods recipe and I can’t wait for shipment of my dehydrator and sprouter jar so I can delve deeper into the raw foods experience.   Over the next week, I plan on easing into the diet, eating predominantly raw, and then eating only raw for 2 weeks to a month once I receive my dehydrator.

For the raw foods kitchen, the chef relies on a mandoline, juicer, blender, food processor, dehydrator, and sprouting jar instead of a stove or oven to prepare food.   And, the actual ‘cooking’ time is substantially reduced, although it does require advance planning for a lot of the recipes.  Soaking nuts and grains, sprouting seeds, and dehydrating crackers, breads, and burgers, can take 10 hours to a few days before being ready for assembly.  But, the time required is passive; just a few minutes in the kitchen, then assemble all the ingredients when everything is ready.  This dish took about 15 minutes total to prepare, but I started soaking the cashew nuts the day before.  You’ll need a food processor and mandoline for this recipe.   And, it’s delicious!

Fom saf’ restaurants’ recipe, slightly modified:

3 straight zucchini

2 cups of raw cashews

2 cloves of garlic

3 tbsp of olive oil

1 and 1/2 tbsp of light white miso

1 tbsp of nutritional yeast

1/2 tbsp of salt

About 3/4 cup of water

dash of pepper and nutmeg, to taste

Soak the cashews in water for 10-12 hours.

Once soaked, combine all ingredients, except the zucchini in a food processor and blend until desired consistency.  Use more or less water as needed.

Using a mandoline, slice the zucchini into thin strips, and then using a chef’s knife, cut the slices into linguine-width pieces.  Toss ingredients together and let sit for bit so the salt in the sauces softens the zucchini.

Breakfast Casserole

So, I went to the NC State Fair for the first time yesterday.   I don’t know how State Fairs are in other states, but in North Carolina, the State Fair is BIG.   Everyone here talks about all the deep-fried food you can get and how gooooood it is.   Wanting to be prepared to avoid temptation, I wanted to eat a hearty, satisfying breakfast that was also healthy.    I’ve always been a proponent of breakfast–I know when I eat a good breakfast, I’m less tempted to eat ‘bad’ stuff throughout the day so I usually always pack a breakfast to eat along with my lunch for work.  Since I was going to the fair with my meat-eating boyfriend, I decided to try and make something savory along the lines of  meat and potatoes, but more like eggs and potatoes, and I immediately thought of “Breakfast Casserole”.  

Vegetarian Breakfast Casserole with Tempeh

Something about a breakfast casserole always reminds me of the holidays–a special, prepared meal that included the usual breakfast foods like grits, eggs, bacon, etc, but was combined in such a way that made it special.  So, while at my boyfriend’s house I tried my hand at a healthy, vegetarian, breakfast casserole.   Using what he had on hand, it came out very well!  And, it did prevent me from over-eating all the deep-fried food at the state fair (I did come home with heartburn, thanks to the deep-fried snickers bar and the nachos with cheese and jalapenos!).  

But, being a bachelor, he of course, didn’t have everything on hand that I would use to make such a dish, and since breakfast is such an important meal, I decided to make another version here at home.   I usually always pack breakfast along with my lunch to carry to work.  It usually takes me a couple of hours of stirring around in the morning to get hungry, so I don’t eat before I leave the house, and I know it’s not healthy to wait until lunch to eat.  But lately, my breakfasts have consisted of either a whole-grain muffin with yogurt and fruit, or a cooked grain like steel-cut oats, millet, or quinoa with a sweetener and fruit added.  And to be quite honest, I’ve been craving something a bit more savory.  So, I decided to make another breakfast casserole using ingredients I had here at home.  This will serve 6-8 and lesson learned on this–you can be very versatile on the ingredients. 

1 cup of coarse-ground, organic cornmeal.

3 cups of water

1 tsp of salt.

Bring salt and water to a boil, then add cornmeal.  Stir vigorously with a whisk for about 5 minutes while cooking.  Once thickened, remove from heat and pour into a 9-12 glass baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. 

1 and 1/2 red onion diced (I only used the 1/2 because I had it in a plastic bag and it needed to be used and I wanted more than 1/2 an onion). 

1/2 bag of yukon gold fingerling potatoes sliced into 1/4 inch slices.

1 jar of salsa (I used some I had canned earlier this year that was a bit watery).

Vegetable broth to assist with cooking the potatoes until tender.

Salt and pepper.

5-6 slices of tempeh bacon crumbled.

Saute the onions in olive oil until translucent.   Add the potatoes and a bit of broth and cover and cook for a bit, checking on liquid level occasionally.  Once potatoes are al dente, add jar of salsa (did you know the acids in tomatoes can prolong the cooking time of potatoes?) and tempeh and continue to simmer until liquid is almost absorbed.  Pour mixture over polenta/cornmeal mixture in baking dish. 

7 eggs

milk of any sort

3/4 cups of grated cheese (I had jarlsberg on hand so that’s what I grated).

Beat eggs and milk together until blended, then stir in cheese.  Pour mixture over polenta and vegetable mixture, and then bake at 350 degrees until eggs are set, about 1/2 hour.

Persian Stew and Rice (Khoresht e Ghaimeh and Pulao)

I’ve never understood why Persian cuisine isn’t as well-known as other types of regional cuisines.   There really isn’t anything like it.    The cuisine makes use of widely available ingredients which makes it fairly simple to prepare.  There are however, a few ingredients that are  used often in various dishes, but are a bit harder to come by.   Most medium to large cities have small grocery stores that cater to a particular type of cuisine, and I encourage you to seek these out; they are culinary adventures.   The two recipes I feature here  make use of dried limes, yellow split peas, and saffron;  ingredients you may not easily find,  but they are essential.    If you’ve never had Persian food, I hope you’ll try these recipes and discover a whole new world.  

At pretty much every meal, the Persians will have a rice dish.    And usually, the rice is beautifully studded with herbs, dried fruits, meats, and nuts (not all in the same dish, however!).    The Persian preparation of rice is truly unique and results in perhaps perfect rice.  It is first rinsed, soaked, par-boiled, and then steamed, which results in perfectly cooked, fluffy, separate grains of rice.     This recipe is a basic recipe, but it forms the  basis of many beautiful, jeweled pulaos, which I hope to write about soon.

Persian Rice Dish

First, rinse 2 cups of long-grain white rice in cold water.  Continue to wash and rinse the rice until the water starts to turn clear.  I counted 10 rinsings on my batch. 

Take about 1/2 tsp of saffron and cover with a few tablespoons of hot water and let dissolve. 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and once boiling add the rinsed rice.  Do not overcook.  I cooked my rice for 5 minutes.  Drain immediately and then using the same pot, cover the bottom with a little oil.  (The Persians will usually cover the bottom of the pot with thinly sliced potatoes which forms a nice crust known as tah deeg, but I didn’t have any potatoes).  Add the partially cooked rice back to the pot and mound up a bit.  Then, cover the lid with a towel so that condensation doesn’t build on the pot lid and drop back down on the rice while it steams.   Turn the heat to medium-low and let cook for about 30-35 minutes.  Once done, scoop a bit of rice (1/2 cup or so)  out into a small bowl and add the saffron and water mixture to color the rice.   Then, using a large, flat spoon, carefully scoop the rice out on a platter.  This will ‘fluff’ the rice.    Then mix in the saffron-colored and flavored rice so that it is mixed in well.    Serve with a Persian stew.

Koresht e Ghaimeh

Persian Yellow Lentil Stew

The Persians fix many wonderful stews and most of them feature chicken or lamb.  I used seitan in this recipe. 

1 onion, chopped

Olive Oil

1 tsp of turmeric

1 package of seitan

1 1/2 cups of yellow split peas.

2 tbsp of tomato paste.

1 1/2 cups of Julienned potatoes

32 oz of Vegetable broth, plus water as needed

Salt to taste

2 whole dried Persian Limes

In a dutch oven, saute the onion in the olive oil until translucent, add the seitan, tomato paste, 1-2 tsp of salt, turmeric, half of the broth and 1/4 to 1/3 of the split peas (these will cook down and thicken the stew) and the whole dried limes.   Simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour, adding water as necessary,  until the dried limes are softened and you can puncture them with a spoon.  The yellow split peas should be starting to break down too.  Add the remaining lentils and more broth and continue to cook until the lentils are al dente, and then add the julienned potatoes and cook until tender.   Break the dried limes up into smaller pieces so that every bowl will get pieces of the lime.  Serve with a pulao.

Not everyone will want to eat the dried limes, and you can discard them if you like as they’ve already flavored the stew.   But I like to break mine apart and make sure I have a little section of it in every bite.   Delish!!

Tofu Preparation

Tofu is a ‘cheese’ essentially made from soy milk.  It is an ancient food, dating back about 2000 years ago in China.   And it is extremely versatile.   However, there are some tricks in preparing it if it is going to be used as a ‘meat’ substitute.    One of the challenges of cooking with tofu is its moisture content.   There are two methods I’ve learned that address this problem and change the texture and consistency of the tofu.  Whenever I want to use it as a ground beef substitute, I take it out of the packaging, dump the water it is packaged in, and then wrap it in foil and freeze it for a few days.   I usually will have a block or two on stand-by in my freezer.   When thawed, the tofu becomes more sponge-like and it readily absorbs whatever flavors of chili, soup, stew, or sauce you immerse it in.   I just tear chunks off the thawed tofu into whatever dish I’m preparing.  

But, for tofu steaks or cutlets for use in grilling or sautéing, this method doesn’t work as well.   In many restaurants, they first deep-fry the tofu, but I don’t like to deep-fry foods much at all.   So, I dry-fry it and this works just as well.  You’ll need a well-seasoned iron skillet for this.   First cut your block of tofu into 1/4 inch slabs that are easily manageable.  You can also cut them into triangles for later use in Asian stir-fries if you like.  Blot the slabs of tofu with paper towels, and press to get rid of some of the moisture, but don’t press so hard that you crumble the tofu.   Heat your skillet (no oil or spray!) and place the tofu slabs in the skillet and use a spatula to continually ‘press’ on the tofu.  You’ll see a little water come out of the tofu and sizzle in the skillet.  Continue to do this, pressing on the slabs all the while.  If your skillet is seasoned well enough the tofu shouldn’t stick.   Flip the slabs and continue with the same process.  When both sides are golden brown, you’re done.  Now your tofu is much firmer and denser and ready for whatever marinade you  have ready for it.   I marinated these in a Thai-style marinade with fish sauce (yes I know it isn’t vegetarian, but there just isn’t a substitute for fish sauce and it’s made from tiny anchovy-like fish with very little actual fish in it)  rice vinegar, blue agave syrup, and ground chilis.    I then ‘grilled’ them on an indoor grill.  They were delicious!

Tempeh Bacon

I’ll have to admit, there are some meat foods that can’t be easily replicated in vegetarian cooking.   Bacon is one of those.   I have learned when cooking things like beans and greens that normally use pork products for seasoning, that sautéed onion and a little liquid smoke flavor does a lot to impart that southern flavor of slow-cooked with pork fat.   And there are some decent bacon substitutes in the freezer section at the grocery.   This recipe is a good substitute for bacon, but I’ll warn you, don’t expect the crisp fat that you’d normally get with a piece of fried pork fat.  This is a good substitute, however, if the bacon is normally used as a component to a dish.   So, I like it on BLT’s and on egg sandwiches.  

Tempeh, Bacon, Vegetarian cooking

1 package of tempeh, sliced as thinly as you can into strips. 

1-2 Tbsp of olive oil

1-2 Tbsp of sugar syrup (maple or blue agave work well here).

1 tsp of liquid smoke

1-2 tsp of soy sauce

1/8 – 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper

Mix all the marinade ingredients together and pour over tempeh in a plastic container.   Swish around in the container until all the pieces of tempeh are covered in the marinade.   Let sit overnight.   Fry in a non-stick skillet with a little oil spray until browned on both sides.

Greek Stifado (Beef and Onion Stew)

When I lived in Atlanta, there was this little Greek restaurant that my mother and a few friends would go to occasionally for an authentic Greek meal along with some wine.   That’s where I first had a taste of Stifado, minus the beef tips.   Tomato, Red Bell Pepper, Whole Pearl Onions, Red Wine, Garlic, and Cinnamon create a comforting, yet slightly exotic flavor and the stew is excellent when prepared in a slow cooker.   So, with the arrival of cooler weather, I thought this ‘meaty’ stifado would be a great way to introduce people to seitan, if they’ve not had it before.  

Seitan, is simply the gluten protein from wheat with all the starch removed.   You can make seitan from whole wheat flour, but this is quite a process.  I’ve never attempted to make it from scratch as it is readily available in health food stores.  It comes packaged in water and it does need to be used within a few days of purchase, but you can also purchase seitan quick mix which you mix with water and knead a bit, and then voila you have seitan.   Seitan is extremely versatile, holds its shape well, and is the chewiest of meat substitutes.

 

 

 

1  8 oz package of seitan

2 cups of pearl onions, peeled, but left whole

1/2 red onion, minced

 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 red bell pepper chopped

1/2 can of tomato paste

1/2 cup of red wine (I used home-made Carmenere and then drank the rest)

2 tbsp to 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar

salt and black pepper

vegetable broth

1 tsp of cinnamon

Saute the red onion and red pepper in a skillet with some olive oil.  Once cooked down and the onions are translucent, transfer to a slow-cooker casserole dish.  Stir in the peeled, whole onions, seitan, seasonings, wine, and wine vinegar.  Stir and cover and cook on high heat.  Check ocassionally and add vegetable broth if it starts to thicken and stick to the casserole.   Cook for 4-5 hours on high heat in crock-pot.   Serve with a rice or a potato dish.

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