Food Tips, Meals

Casseroles

In times like we are facing now, casseroles can be a saving grace.  Even if you have a large family, you can usually bake once and eat twice by doubling recipes if necessary.

Hands down, the best and most comprehensive casserole cookbook available today is

The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever by Beatrice Ojakangas.

Not only will you find all the old favorites, but hundeds of imaginative ideas for quick food prep, most of which can be made the day before and popped in the oven as needed.

And, if you have time, recipes are included that replace the traditional use of canned soups, so you can control what goes into your food.

The one drawback is that there aren’t a lot of vegetarian recipes, but that’s what casseroles are all about.  You can substitute to your hearts content and still have a delicious dish.

We are huge fans of her Blueberry-Maple French Toast recipe.  I sometimes add sauteed breakfast sausage to the dish to boost the protein and then eliminate the blueberry sauce. A simple reduction of whatever frozen berries you have on hand, a little water and a teaspoon of sugar works well and reduces the sugar load.

If you like casserole cooking, this is the book for you.

Food Tips, Ramblings

Sourcing Healthy Foods

These last few months have been stressful for everyone.  In so many parts of the world, it has been difficult to obtain healthy foods as grocery store shelves have been stripped bare as a result of panic buying.  With the country under lockdown in most places, our shopping trips are limited which makes it harder to keep a stock of fresh fruits and vegetables on hand.

What we eat plays a huge part in the strength of our immune systems.  In Europe, Scandinavia and the UK small dedicated food shops are still the norm.  They are starting to make a comeback in the US.  It is my hope that when we climb out of the current economic disaster caused by the pandemic, the local neighborhood markets of my childhood with re-appear across the country.

In the meantime, there are many places where you can find either a CSA to join or a weekly delivery of food boxes from a local farm.

Community Supported Agriculture survives on the shares purchased by their customers every year.  The money the farmer takes in from the sale of shares determines how much they are able to grow in any given year.  Our local CSA is a five minute drive away, and we pick up our vegetables once a week.

CSAs usually produce organically grown food. In season, ours also offers fresh cut flower arrangements for an additional price.  Individual vegetables are also available to add to your share or for people who just pick up a few things each week.  This is going to be a real blessing for us this year, as the county has cancelled the farmer’s market which usually runs from May to October.

In some communities, you can subscribe to deliveries from an area farm.  Usually you get to choose your delivery schedule from once a week to once a month.  On your delivery day, you will receive a box of vegetables and possibly seasonal fruits. Sometimes there will be a local spot where you will pick up your order.

In these trying times, these services are a godsend.

Stay well!

Food Tips, Meals, Recipes

Barbecue Sauce

We love barbecue.  You can barbecue all kinds of things and there are as many types of sauce as there are lovers of the cooking method.  Many of them are regional, some are based on the special ingredient, but the main problem can be is that they are almost all tomato based.

I can tolerate tomato based products occasionally, my cousin cannot tolerate them at all.  So my daughter started experimenting with other vegetables and surprisingly realized that it’s the spices that count, not the base.

Barbecue sauce is a highly personal condiment, so I’ve provided you with the ingredients, the measurements are up to you and your taste buds.

Fresh or frozen spinach

Butter or olive oil

Garlic powder

Onion granules

Chili powder

Vinegar

Brown sugar

Worcester sauce

Steam the spinach and process in a food processor until you have a paste.  Add the other ingredients to taste and simmer.

That’s it!  Amazingly, it tastes just like any other barbecue sauce.  You can substitute spinach or zucchini or another vegetable of your choice in your favorite recipe.

Food Tips, Meals, Recipes

Autumn Soup

Summer is not even over, but I’m already looking forward to autumn soups and stews.  This recipe is one I concocted a few years ago from some of my favorite ingredients. It does contain chicken broth, cheese, cream and butter, but with a few tweaks, it can become a delicious vegetarian or vegan dish to warm your autumn evenings.

 

Autumn Soup

 

2 large sweet potatoes

1 carnival squash, or your favorite winter squash, about 1.5 c.

6 c. chicken stock

1 clove garlic

1.5 c. sharp cheddar

cream

rainbow chard

butter

salt, pepper, nutmeg

 

Boil the sweet potatoes and allow to cool before peeling.  Cut squash in half, remove the seeds and bake in a 350F oven 30 minutes or until done.  Cool and remove squash from the peel.

Puree the sweet potatoes and squash, along with the stock, in a food processor and add to your soup pot.

Heat the puree, adding minced garlic and grated cheese.

Wash, dry and chop the chard leaves then saute them in butter.

Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.

Add the chard mixture to the soup and continue to heat through. Stir in cream to taste, heat and serve.

This soup lends itself to many condiments. You can add more cheese, sprinkle with chives or parsley or even top with a spicy Asian sauce.

Food Tips, Snacks

Glorious Peanut Butter

When I started avoiding wheat as often as possible, I substituted various nut flours for making things like pancakes and crackers.  This worked well for about a year, then I began getting that tell-tale itch in my throat, first with almonds, quickly followed by hazelnuts.  Oh goody.  I was facing the beginning of an allergic reaction.

Luckily, I have no problems with peanuts, as long as they are organic.  Peanuts are not true nuts, but are classified as ground nuts, so they don’t bother me, but for some, coming in contact with even the tiniest bit of peanut dust can be fatal.

I do not cook with peanut oil or eat a lot of peanuts, but I do love peanut butter.  I like it on rice cakes, on apples and sometimes, right out of the jar.

Because organic peanut butter is so expensive, I try to always buy it on sale.  Then when I finally get around to opening a new jar, it has totally separated and is almost impossible to re-mix.

Recently, I decided to experiment with peanut butter and my Cuisinart stick blender.  I emptied the peanut butter into a glass bowl, no mean feat.  Then I mixed it for several minutes until the oil was completely incorporated again.  I spooned the now soft peanut butter into a glass Mason jar and put it in the fridge.

Several days later, here I am, having some with breakfast and it is still perfectly soft and completely blended .  It looks like the blender emulsified it to the point that it isn’t going to separate again. Yum!

Bread and Baking, Recipes

Vegan Banana Coconut Muffins

I’ve been making this recipe for years. Originally this was a recipe for Banana Bread, gotten from my mum, but I switched to simply putting the batter in muffin tins because the oven I was working with cooked them more evenly. Now, I’m just lazy, because I’ve found the loaves are a bit too hard to get right. They’re either over or under done, but which ever way you choose to make them, is up to you.

Over the last couple years I’ve made some new friends who are vegan, and my sister developed lactose intolerance, so I’ve had to modify. I also moved to the UK, where it’s very hard to find Crisco (an American shortening) and it’s quite expensive if you do find it. To that end, I have listed my modified recipe below:

¾ cup sugar
½ cup coconut oil
½ tsp salt
2-4 mashed banana
¼ cup sour milk*
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups flour

*To make sour milk, mix ¼ cup milk of your choice, I use oat typically, with ¾ tsp of cider vinegar and let sit for a few minutes.

Start by mixing sugar and oil together, add bananas and mix until you have a smooth batter, this can be done by hand or with a mixer, then add salt, baking soda, sour milk, and flour and mix. You’ll want to look for a fluffy and airy consistency. I’ve never had an issue with over mixing but it is possible, just like with pancakes. You’ll end up with heavy muffins/bread.

This recipe originally called for 2 eggs but I’ve found it doesn’t really make much difference as the bananas act as their own binding agent. If your batter seems a bit too dry, simply add an extra tablespoon or two of your non-dairy milk.

Preheat your oven to 325F, 180C

For bread bake 1 hour or until a toothpick or knife comes out clean.

For muffins bake approximately 20-25 minutes, checking often after 20 minutes. For me I go by smell. As soon as I smell it wafting out of the oven, I check the muffins and 9/10 they’re done.

Enjoy!

Caitlin

Meals, Recipes

Simple Italian Sauce

2 jars Mediterranean Organic fire roasted red peppers

2 cloves garlic

1 tlbs. minced onion

Basil

Oregano

Olive oil

Drain, rinse and de-seed the fire roasted red peppers.  Puree in a food processor to the texture of your choice.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet or saucepan just until you can smell the fragrance of the oil.  Add the onion and stir for 2 minutes.  Peel the garlic, put it through a garlic press and add, along with basil, oregano and other herbs of your choice. Stir briefly before adding pepper puree.

Let the sauce simmer until the flavors have blended to your taste. Use as you would a tomato based sauce. We love it on homemade pizza and lasagna.