Category Archives: Vegetarian

Secret Ingredient Pesto

Homemade secret-ingredient pesto

I love, love, love margherita pizza. Last week, I indulged myself on the way home from school and bought some basil (and roma tomatoes and whole milk mozzarella in ball form and whole wheat pizza dough) to make my favorite pizza…one day, I’ll remember to take pictures before I gobble it up. Luckily I had some leftover basil–a real treat in January in Boston–so I got to making a batch of pesto that only needed a bit of basil to make it work.

This pesto is not “real” pesto. It uses almonds instead of pine nuts and more spinach than basil. But since pine nuts and basil are such a luxury to come by, I think this is a perfect low-cost and high-deliciousness option! You could also use walnuts instead of almonds–I’ve seen that on other food blogs, though I’ve never tried it myself. If you don’t adore garlic, you might cut it down to 2 cloves.

I took Farm Girl Fare’s recommendation and tried this mixed with some rinsed garbanzo beans and chopped roma tomatoes, and OH MAN–it was divine and suprisingly filling! I’ve been using it this week for chicken sandwiches, too. So flexible and so flavorful.

Secret Ingredient Pesto
Adapted from Farm Girl Fare’s Recipe for Pesto.

1/4 cup toasted almonds
3 cloves garlic, peeled
Olive oil
3/4 cup frozen spinach, thawed
Bunch of basil (I had about 1 cup)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor, combine the toasted almonds and the garlic and process until finely chopped. Add about 2 tsp olive oil, the spinach, and the basil, and process. Add olive oil as needed to get the paste-y texture–it will probably end up being about a tablespoon. Taste (with processor OFF, haha!) and add salt and pepper as needed.

Try not to eat it all straight off the spoon!

This was really hard not to eat off the spoon.

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Daring Bakers January 2010 Challenge: Nanaimo Bars

I am known for my…ahem…tardiness. I have historically done a terrible job of predicting how long it will actually take me to complete a task. I also hate to tell my friends that I’m going to be late, so I used to tell them how long it would be until I would *like* to get there (even if I suspected that it might be a bit longer).

For whatever crazy reason that’s changed in the last year or so. I mention this because this is the first month I’ve actually completed my Daring Bakers challenge not only on time, but 3 WEEKS EARLY! (Though I’m posting along with everyone else). It was a lucky coincidence that I would also get the input of a real live Canadian in assessing this month’s dessert, which hails from Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada.

Nanaimo Bars

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.

These are very, very sweet and rich. They’re best in small pieces…that way you can pop them at intervals instead of getting overwhelmed by big ones! They also freeze well (and I preferred them cold); I wrapped mine individually in plastic wrap, then threw them in the freezer a day before the event and they held up perfectly in transport.

Give yourself a couple of days to make these, since the graham cracker dough needs to refrigerate for a while. You can also cheat and buy graham crackers, but these are really cool to create, so I’d recommend it if you have time and the inclination. I made only a half batch of the crackers and still had leftovers for the Nanaimo Bars, by the way.

For Graham Crackers

2 1/2 cups plus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup (200 g) (7.1 ounces) Dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon (5 mL) Baking soda
3/4 teaspoon (4 mL ) Kosher salt
7 tablespoons (100 g) (3 ½ ounces) Unsalted butter (cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen)
1/3 cup (80 mL) Honey
5 tablespoons (75 mL) Whole milk
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Pure vanilla extract

Directions:
1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal. If making by hand, combine aforementioned dry ingredients with a whisk, then cut in butter until you have a coarse meal. No chunks of butter should be visible.
2. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the honey, milk and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture until the dough barely comes together.
3. Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours, or overnight.
4. Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. Cut into 4 by 4 inch squares. Gather the scraps together and set aside. Place wafers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough.
5. Adjust the rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius).
6. Gather the scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and reroll. Dust the surface with more flour and roll out the dough to get a couple more wafers.
7. Prick the wafers with toothpick or fork, not all the way through, in two or more rows.
8. Bake for 8-12 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. The ones that started on the bottom browned faster–check early and often, because these can burn quickly.
9. When cooled completely, place enough wafers in food processor to make 1 ¼ cups (300 mL) of crumbs. Another way to do this is to place in a large ziploc bag, force all air out and smash with a rolling pin until wafers are crumbs.

Graham Crackers

Nanaimo Bars

Bottom Layer
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted butter
1/4 cup (50 g) (1.8 ounces) Granulated sugar
5 tablespoons (75 mL) Unsweetened cocoa
1 Large egg, beaten
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) (160 g) (5.6 ounces) Graham cracker crumbs (see previous recipe)
1/2 cup (55 g) (1.9 ounces) Almonds (any type, finely chopped)
1 cup (130 g) (4.5 ounces) Coconut (shredded, sweetened or unsweetened)

Middle Layer
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted butter
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons (40 mL) Heavy cream (or whole milk with a thin pat of butter)
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Vanilla custard powder (Such as Bird’s)– Vanilla pudding mix may be substituted
2 cups (254 g) (8.9 ounces) Powdered sugar

Top Layer
4 ounces (115 g) Semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) Unsalted butter

Directions:
1. For bottom layer: Melt unsalted butter, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 by 8 inch pan.
2. For middle layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder (or pudding mix), and powdered sugar together well. Beat until light in color. Spread over bottom layer.
3. For top layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool to a bit over room temperature (give it maybe 10 minutes). I let mine cool too much and it didn’t spread well! It should still glisten when you pour over the middle layer. Chill until firm, about 20-25 minutes.

Homemade Nanaimo Bars

Moosewood Restaurant’s Tamale Pie

I’ve mentioned a few times before that the best thing I’ve learned about cooking during my informal training (that is, living with Mike) is the flexibility of any recipe I find. I *used* to think that if I picked a recipe I wanted, I needed to go to the grocery store and buy every single thing in order to end up with a palatable dish. Nowadays, I shoot for about 25% of the same ingredients, and then anything above that is a bonus!

Moosewood Restaurant has released a few cookbooks that I’ve heard about but never actually held in my hands. I googled a few recipes as a way of deciding whether or not I’d buy my own copy. This recipe for Tamale Pie is from their low-fat cookbook, though I’m not sure it is particularly low-fat in any way. Essentially, it’s a bunch of vegetables with a bit of cheese covered by cornbread. And it’s GOOD. It’s vegetarian, though you could add cooked meat if you wanted to–maybe ground beef, or sausage, or bacon…yum.

The version of the recipe I came across calls for onions, garlic, carrots, yellow and red bell peppers, zucchini, chiles, crushed tomatoes, and beans. I had onions, garlic, carrots, a green bell pepper, golden acorn squash, dried ancho chiles, crushed tomatoes, and frozen corn on hand instead…so I went with it! I think any kind of veggie would work, really, as long as you dice it and let it cook for an appropriate amount of time. Essentially, onions should go in first, other veggies in the middle, and tomatoes last.

Since there is a lot of wait time between each step, I didn’t cut everything ahead of time–I just prepped the vegetables for the next step while the latest set was cooking down. I made the topping batter after I added the tomatoes, too, so everything came together nicely. From beginning to end, this took about an hour to assemble, then 30 minutes to bake.

Tamale Pie
Adapted from Cloudberry Quark’s adaptation of Moosewood’s recipe for Tamale Pie.

2 tsp olive oil
3 medium onions, chopped
3 tbsp minced garlic (5 cloves)
2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
1½ tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/2 cup water
2-3 medium carrots, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 golden acorn squash, seeded, peeled, diced
½ small dried ancho chile (ground up)
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
About 2 cups frozen corn
salt & pepper to taste

1/2 cup grated cheddar

¾ cup cornmeal
1 tbsp unbleached white flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
2 egg whites, beaten
½ cup nonfat buttermilk (I used Lactaid milk with 1 tsp of lemon juice and let it sit for a few minutes)
2 tsp canola oil (I used olive oil but canola is probably better)

Over medium heat, cook the onions and garlic in the olive oil with a big pinch of salt, covered, for about 10 minutes. Add cumin, coriander, Italian seasoning, the water to prevent sticking, and the carrots. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

Add bell pepper, squash, chile, and another big pinch of salt. Cover and cook for 10 more minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes and corn, a big pinch of salt, cover, cook for 10 minutes. If it looks very wet, remove the cover half-way through. After a few minutes, taste; if it needs more salt, add it. Add pepper to taste. While it’s cooking, prepare the topping (see below). Remove from heat.

Coat a casserole dish with cooking spray or butter and spread the vegetable mixture on the bottom. Sprinkle cheese on top.

Topping:
In a mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. In a separate bowl, mix together the beaten egg whites, buttermilk, and oil. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry until just mixed. Pour the batter over the vegetable mixture, spreading gently with a rubber spatula. Make sure your dish has enough room above the topping for it to rise. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 400°F, until the top is golden.

Banana Oatmeal Bake with Whipped Cream

I signed up for Twitter a couple of weeks ago. I can’t say that it’s been life-changing, given my current Facebook addiction, but it DID make me aware of National Whipped Cream Day on January 5th.

A few months ago I made whipped cream by hand during a dinner party at Becca and Kiki’s darling abode, but it was comical: the whisk was maybe 2 or 3 inches long and I had an entire pint of heavy cream. Eventually we did get it whipped and we dipped fresh peaches in it and ate the whole bowl. Wonderful.

Since I had spent the morning of Jan. 5th baking this banana oatmeal conglomeration and noticed the NWCD announcement while it was in the oven, I just decided to top it off with the fluffy stuff from the can….and ohhhh my goddd….it was divine. The bake alone is sufficient breakfast food–warm, hearty, simple, nutritious, and can be made in batches–but when you add the whipped cream it is over the top, wonderful, beautiful, subtle deliciousness.

Banana Oatmeal Bake

It’s one of those dishes that doesn’t LOOK too special, but I’ve had it both mornings since then and I’m looking forward to my last serving tomorrow bright and early 😀

I used a recipe from Kath Eats Real Food. I think I would add cinnamon next time to spice it up a bit. Otherwise it is an easy dish that can be multiplied if you have several mouths to feed!

Banana Oatmeal Bake
Adapted from Kath Eats Real Food’s recipe for Baked Banana Oatmeal. Her photos are helpful, too!

3 bananas
2 cups rolled oats
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt (I rubbed the salt between my fingers to make it a little finer as I added it)
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla
1-2 Tbsp brown sugar
Whipped cream, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line an 8×8 inch baking dish with parchment paper (bottom and sides), or lightly grease.

Slice 2 of the bananas into equal-sized slices. Cover the bottom of the lined or greased baking dish with half of the slices.

Combine the oats, baking soda, and salt. Mash the remaining banana. (I found it helpful to peel then microwave the banana for about 30 seconds before trying to mash it). Add the egg, milk, and vanilla to the mashed banana and whisk together. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until well combined. Pour this batter into the dish over the slices. Lay the rest of the banana slices on the top in an even layer.

Bake for 26 minutes. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the top of the bake, then broil for 3-4 minutes to melt the brown sugar (caramelizing it, essentially).

If you used parchment paper you can lift the whole thing out and cut it up; otherwise divide the bake into four servings and go. Add some whipped cream if you want to send it out of this world.

Roasted Stuffed Baby Portobello Mushrooms

I was hoping to post about my foray into ciabatta bread-making tonight. Unfortunately, my adventure turned into a dead end when the yeast just refused to cooperate after kneading the dough. I think I know what went wrong and hopefully soon I’ll be able to add to the chorus of praises for King Arthur Flour’s recipe for ciabatta.

It’s no great loss, though! Last night Mike threw together an impromptu dinner combining crap we had lying around in the fridge (well, not crap, but you know what I mean…) and some things we’d just picked up at the mecca of local grocery stores, Market Basket. Usually, Market Basket is nothing short of a madhouse on Sunday afternoons–no parking spots, packed aisles, many children and older people, and my favorite feature, sawdust on the floor. I think the snowstorm that lasted from Friday night until yesterday held some regulars back, though, because I wasn’t as exhausted after our trip as I normally am.

Working on the pork he’d picked out, Mike assigned me the stuffed portobello mushroom project.

Roasted Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

(Side note: Writing “portobello” feels funny to me. I’ve always preferred “portabello.” And then there’s “portobella.” Apparently, they are all correct, but portobello is by far more common in a Google search, so…I’ll trust the wisdom of the crowds and go with that one. Sheesh.)

He grabbed a handful of baby spinach that was hanging out in the fridge, a few cloves of peeled garlic we buy in bulk, and sliced a piece of the Tuscan loaf we’d just bought. A piece of pecorino cheese from a few weeks ago was starting to get moldy, so we sliced off the edges and chopped it up. Mike also pulled out the block of cheddar we’d just thawed (apparently it can be frozen!).

I did the extra-tough task of throwing it all in the food processor and adding enough olive oil to get it to blend smoothly. I performed my salt-and-pepper-adding magic and DELICIOUS. Try not to eat it all before stuffing the mushrooms.

We bought baby portobello caps, so they only needed to be relieved of the woody interior (what’s left of the stem). When I used a spoon, I tore open a cap. Try using your finger instead…I had much better results. Practice makes perfect, I found, as I was much better at it by the last mushroom.

These took about 30 minutes overall, with about 15 minutes of that being oven time. They would be difficult to make in concert with another complicated dish, but I think if I had been cooking alone I would have managed to flip the meat when necessary so that everything finished at the same time. Luckily, with two cooks in the kitchen, it was a breeze.

Roasted Stuffed Baby Portobello Mushrooms
1 1-inch thick slice of crusty white bread, like a rustic loaf, sourdough, or baguette (use 2 slices for baguette)
Handful of fresh baby spinach (1/8-1/4 cup of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry, might work)
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 oz. Pecorino, or any hard, waxy cheese (like Parmesan or Fontina), cut into pieces
2 oz. cheddar, cut into pieces
2-4 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
6 baby portobello mushroom caps

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Tear the bread into smaller pieces and add to food processor. Pulse until broken up into coarse crumbs. Add spinach, garlic, cheeses, and about 2 Tbsp of olive oil in food processor and pulse to combine with bread. Add more olive oil if necessary for easier chopping. Add salt and pepper, pulse, taste, and repeat until it tastes excellent.

Remove woody center of each mushroom cap and discard. Gently but firmly spoon filling into each cap so that the mushroom is full but not overflowing. Once each is filled, distribute the rest of the stuffing so that there are small mounds (giving it that “stuffed” look). This way you won’t run out before actually filling each.

Place mushrooms, stuffing side up, on a baking sheet. Roast for 12-15 minutes, checking after 10 minutes for doneness. When ready, they will feel “spongy” if gently squeezed–similar to the texture of a hard-boiled egg (a bit softer).

Sweet Amandine’s Almond Tart (in Tartlet Form)

This year, I made Christmas lists for my parents for the first time since elementary school. Instead of listing “a hamster” 30 times on one sheet of paper like I did in second grade, I picked some food-blogger-worthy items–a few square bowls, a big geometric serving platter, and 6 cute ramekins recommended by Deb of Smitten Kitchen. I found Sweet Amandine’s recipe for Almond Tartlets via her beautiful photos on Tastespotting and I figured this would be the perfect chance to get those ramekins in use!

Sweet Amandine's Almond Tartlets

Her original recipe is meant for a single 9-inch tart. I found an amazing resource on allrecipes: Cake Pan Conversions for most sizes and shapes of bakeware! After learning that a 9-inch cake recipe usually yields 6 cups of batter, I initially planned on halving the recipe and filling 6 ramekins about half-way. It worked out that I only filled 4 ramekins, though–so this was a nice mid-week impulse bake.

The almond flavor is intense. I might pull back a little next time and maybe add a little kirsch, just to balance out the sweetness a little better, but otherwise these were perfect. They’re better warm, I think, but not hot. In total the prep and baking took about an hour, so this is definitely doable for dinner parties!

Jess (of Sweet Amandine) oh-so-helpfully annotated her recipe with guidelines for when to do what. Instead of copying-and-pasting here, I think it best to link to her recipe, since I did this almost exactly as described (though I did halve the ingredients). So here it is, Sweet Amandine’s annotated recipe for Almond Tarts.

I baked mine at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, but I started checking after 20 minutes so that they didn’t burn.

Enjoy! I will hopefully have some non-baking exploits on here soon, and I’m hoping to get back into the thrice-weekly posting schedule I had going before last semester. We’ll see. Keep your fingers crossed, dear reader(s)!

Easy-as-Pie Cranberry Cake

You know what bugs me the most at the grocery store? Buying things because they’re on sale (bad habit, I know), then ringing in up front and having it come up as the original non-sale price. At any other store, I’d say something–but when it’s 60 cents, I just feel silly! It happened last week with some impulse-buy cranberries I’d grabbed.

In the end it worked out well, though, since those cranberries found a delicious home in a simple, easy, and beautiful cranberry cake. Be forewarned that this is a time-consuming cake: it needs about 12 minutes of solid attention while mixing and then 60-75 minutes in the oven. But if you have company, you’ve eaten everything, and you’re on the 5th or 6th bottle of wine–as I found my group of friends on Friday night–this cake is perfect! Minimal ingredients and fancy-schmancy lookin’.

CHOMP
(I took a bite while taking pictures, yum!)

Oh–the kirsch and almond extract are optional, but I highly recommend them both. Kirsch is good to have around for fruity ice cream anyway (thanks, David Lebovitz!) and almond extract…well, it rules.

Easy-as-Pie Cranberry Cake with Candied Walnut Topping
Adapted from TheKitchn’s Recipe for Cranberry Cake.

Cake Ingredients
3 eggs
2 cups granulated white sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened and cut into chunks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon kirsch
2 cups flour (I used a mix of mostly cake flour and some all-purpose)
12 oz. bag of fresh cranberries (I don’t think dried would work well here)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×13″ pan or a 10-inch springform (which is what I used). Beat together eggs and sugar for 5-7 minutes. They will be pale yellow and will form ribbons when you lift the beaters. Add butter, vanilla, almond extract and kirsch, and beat for another 2 minutes until well-mixed. Stir in flour by hand. Batter will be very thick. Fold in cranberries until well-distributed.

Pour batter into pan; spread so it is even. Bake now or make topping below before placing in oven. Check at 45 minutes and every 5-10 minutes thereafter until a tester comes out mostly clean.

Topping Ingredients

1 cup walnuts (or pecans), toasted
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the brown sugar. Add walnuts and stir continuously for about 2 minutes, or until the mixture looks somewhat smooth. It’s okay if the butter and brown sugar don’t look totally combined. *Before* putting the cake in the oven, pour topping over cake batter as evenly as possible.