Sunday, December 31, 2006

I have returned

I had the baby a little tiny girl, go here and here if you like to read birth stories. I’m back in my kitchen sort of. Thankfully one of the things I did get done was to freeze a whole bunch of meals so that I don’t really have to cook yet. Instead I’m baking. I invented this recipe today to use up some oranges that we were given that crossbred with lemons and are very sour. I think if you were to use orange juice this would be a whole lot sweeter. If you use lemon juice it will turn out close to the same as mine, not too sweet and a little bit addictive.

Lemon/Orange Ginger Bread Loaf

3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup of butter
1 cup lemon or orange juice
1/2 cup molasses
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour (I used white winter wheat)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ginger
1 cup chopped nuts

Combine ingredients in the order listed. Pour into greased and floured 9 by 5 loaf pan. Bake at 325 for 50-60 minutes. When a toothpick comes out clean it is done.

Notes, try using less sugar with the orange juice if you want fewer calories, or lower GI.

We also made molasses cookies this week. I’ve been messing around with throwing everything in a bowl until it looks right and this week’s batch was really good so I think I’m ready to share. The one thing is that I did add Sucanat to this recipe, which I’ve avoided before, and darn if they weren’t the best ones we’ve ever had. I’ve been making them sugar free up to this point, and though my kids like them, and you can do this recipe without the Sucanat, it won’t be a very sweet cookie. Let’s just say their friend wasn’t all that impressed, even though the Boy ate them by the handful.

Molasses Cookies

1/2 cup of butter
1/2 cup Sucanat
1 egg
1/3 cup black strap molasses
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger
1 cup ground almonds
1 cup whole wheat flour

Mix everything together in a bowl. Drop onto nonstick cookie sheet, we flattened ours with a fork; they were at least a tbsp, maybe bigger in size. Bake 9 to 15 minutes at 350. You can also roll these out if you refrigerate the dough first.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Beans, mexican style

So you thought I was going to post about beans on Friday. That was before the modem stopped talking to me again, and I started having contractions. (They've stopped for the moment, but I got distracted by all of the things I still have to do before I feel ready for this baby and thought I had 2 weeks left to finish.)

Anyway, I'm typing this on the laptop, which I hate, but I am so dedicated to y'all that I will do it anyway, forgive the typos.

This recipe is the only refried beans recipe I ever use any more and I totally didn't invent it. This is verbatim from 1000 Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Gelles


3 cups water
1cup dry pinto, black, or kidney beans
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 tbsp minced, seeded jalapeno peppers, or more to taste (I've used chili pepper or jalapeno hot sauce here in a pinch and it works out fine.)
3 (I use 6)cloves garlic, minced, divided
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes

1.Place the water, beans, onions, pepers, 1/2 the minced garlic, and the bay leaf in a 2 quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 1 1/2 hours or until beans are tender. Stir in the salt and discard the bay leaf; simmer 30 minutes longer. (I just put this all in a crock pot on low for 8 hours or so and add the salt an hour or so before the end.)

2. In a small skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes and remaining garlic. Cook stirring until tomatoes soften, about 3 mintues.

3. Place tomatoes and 1/2 cup of beans in a food processor container fitted with a steel blade, like a blender. Cover and process until smooth. Stir into bean pot and cook 10 minutes longer.

I like to make a big batch and eat it all week, or freeze in portions for later.

This is for Kate in Spain.

Yes there is a difference between the taste of different colored lentils. But the stronger the spices in the dish, the less likely you are to be able to notice a difference. The main difference is the red lentils are smaller, and cook a lot faster than green or brown so in Dahl for instance you end up with something more like mush than individual lentil texture.

In the next few days, if I don't go into active labor yet, I intend to post some recipes for holiday dinner side dishes and answer Mariah's question of many months ago, it seems, about kicking an entrenched sugar habit.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


My mother in law watched my kids yesterday so I could go to the midwife and get some shopping done by myself. Yay! I had planned to make the lentil and barley soup I posted the other day for dinner in the crock-pot but I ran out of time and so I ran out the door vaguely pointing in the direction of the lentils and barley sitting on the counter. She made a very tasty dish out of them. All I can tell you is that I'm missing a can of tomato paste, most of my bottle of Cajun seasoning, and all of my barley. But I'm telling you about it so that you know that it's not that hard to improvise with legumes, just use imagination and you can have a lot of fun tasty meals.

Here is the Dahl recipe I learned from the Genius Husband right after he got back from India and Nepal, where he made this dish every day for a few months in a little pot on a backpacking stove for a group of street boys that he befriended while in Katmandu.

3 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tbsp yellow curry powder

1 tbsp turmeric

1 tbsp paprika

1 tbsp cumin

1 tsp ground red chilies (not chili powder)

1 tsp ground ginger

2 1/2 cups red lentils rinsed and sorted remove small stones.
8 cloves garlic, minced

6-8 cups water or chicken stock

1 potato diced thinly

1-2 tbsp salt or to taste

In a large Dutch oven or saucepan heat the oil on high add spices and stir for about 30 seconds until absorbed in the oil. Add lentils; continue stirring for about one minute. (It’s better to go less than a minute if you’re not certain, burned turmeric just doesn’t taste that good so you have to moved fast. Add a cup or two of the broth or water and continue stirring. Add garlic. Continue to add liquid as the mixture thickens to prevent burning. Once the lentils begin to soften, add the rest of the liquid and the potato. Reduce heat to medium. (Use your judgment on the amount of liquid. It should never be so thick that the bottom starts to stick to the pan, add more liquid if needed. In India Dahl is often more like soup, this recipe is a little thicker but more liquid is quite all right.) Add the salt, taste before adding the second tablespoon, just in case.

Once the potatoes are cooked through remove from heat and serve with basmati rice or naan bread to use to eat it with. Yogurt can be used to cool it if it’s a little too spicy, apples and fennel and raisins taste surprisingly good on top with yogurt too, or some good chutney. A nice salad to go with Indian foods is quite simply diced cucumbers and tomatoes with yogurt lemon juice and whole cumin seeds stirred in.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you my all time favorite recipe for homemade refried beans.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Okay, I know I said lentils, but I’m feeling too brain dead to remember if it’s one or two tbsp of paprika when I make Dahl, so I’ll give you a rain-check. (I think I promised this recipe a long time ago anyway.) Here is a tasty party food in case you’re hosting any this month, and it has the added benefit of being already written down so I don’t have to think that hard. This is my absolute favorite tasting hummus and I figured out how to make it like this after the store where I used to live stopped carrying roasted garlic flavor and I couldn’t live without it.

Roasted Garlic Hummus

3 tbsp olive oil

6-8 cloves garlic peeled

1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (cooked from dry, or canned, drained)

3 tbsp tahini (Sesame paste)

3 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/7 tsp of salt or to taste

3-4 stalks of fresh parsley, washed

In a heavy bottom saucepan place olive oil and garlic. Cook on low heat, turning cloves often until they are a lovely golden color all over. (DO NOT WALK AWAY from the stove during this process, it only takes seconds for garlic to go from “Roasting” to burning and then you have black bitter tasting garlic and a stinky kitchen and you need to start all over.) Of course you could do this in the oven in a garlic roaster, but it takes longer and I don’t have one.

If you have a food processor the rest is easy. Put all ingredients in the food processor with a metal blade and puree it. Now you are done and you can serve it with vegetables, pita chips, crackers and anything else you can thing of for dipping, or with olives, pepperoncinis, hot sauce and olive oil on a plate to mop up with warm pita bread like they do in Israel.

If you are like me and don’t yet have a food processor here is how to make this work in your blender, trust me the order is important. First put in the lemon juice and parsley. Run on high until the parsley is finely chopped. Then add the olive oil with the garlic. Puree. Then add the chickpeas and spices. Puree, stopping several times to stir things around with a chopstick when it gets too thick and stops moving. Once the chickpeas are all pureed pour it out and stir in the tahini by hand, it will be too thick for the blender to handle otherwise. Anyone have a food processor that needs a loving home?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Lentil Barley Soup and good sausage

For a while, several years ago, the Genius Husband and I ate mostly meatless meals. Our friends assumed we were vegetarian until we told them that it was out of economy more than anything else. Well, it felt better to eat as we were also, but for my husband especially the meatless quality of our lives was an economy measure to get him through grad school. Even now, we usually eat 3-4 meatless meals every week. (Pregnancy doesn’t count of course because I need animal protein to make up for all of the extra work. I’m not a happy vegetarian mom though I’d like to be. I need steak.) All that is to say that I learned a lot from 1000 Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Gelles. When I first bought it in university I didn’t even know what quinoa is let alone have any in my cupboard but she teaches what things are, how to prepare them and there are so many recipes that there is something that will suit every taste.

Anyway, on to the recipe which isn’t from the book. You can also combine all of these ingredients in a crockpot and go to work and it will be done when you get home if you set it on low.

You will need 6-8 cups of water or broth. If it’s water add bullion I like the Better Than Bullion Turkey broth, which can be found at most grocery stores.

Put water/broth in a stockpot.

Add 1/2 cup of olive oil

Add 1 1/2 cups lentils
Add 1 1/2 cups barley (hulled or pearled, rinse it if it’s pearled.)

Fine chop one medium onion: add to pot.

Mince 4 cloves of garlic and add to pot.


Salt and pepper to taste.

1 tbsp thyme

1/2 tsp ground oregano

2 tbsp cumin

1tbsp curry powder (optional)

several drops chipotle Tabasco sauce.

Bring to a boil and simmer for 1/2 an hour or so until lentils begin to soften.

Add sliced celery, carrots, and any other vegetables that you want and simmer until vegetables are soft.

My husband really likes this soup when I add a spicy sausage to it.

I’ve mentioned sausage a few times, so I thought I’d tell you about a brand that I really like and yes it’s a Trader Joe’s, but also at Albertson’s and other places. Cantella’s makes really good sausage. It’s precooked, no MSG, no gluten, mainly chicken but they do make one pork Andouille that I mention recently. I don’t really like sausage by itself. I’m not one to cook a whole sausage and eat it straight, the texture tends to bother me, but I find it very useful in adding flavor to other dishes. That’s why I like Cantella’s because they have some really strong flavors that go a long way in other things like soup and casserole and quiche and other things, one or two is enough.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The start of legume week.

Remember this? One of the levels I have left pretty much untouched until now has been the level dealing with legumes. Well no longer, I bring you the tasty world of lentils. Lentils are a great food to include in your diet. They are very low glycemic index, they lower the glycemic index of your entire meal when they are present, and are therefore great for your brain function, your insulin levels, and your weight loss attempts. (Go read about low glycemic index eating to find out why this is so.)

Lentils are cooked round the world, so the good news is that there are many tasty and interesting ways to serve this humble wonder food, most of them exotic and exciting.

This recipe is easy for just about everyone to enjoy, and is a family favorite over here.

Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

My favorite lentils to use with this are organic French green lentils; they are tiny and have a lot of flavor. If you can’t find any you can use regular green lentils and they will work just fine.

2 cups cooked lentils

(This happens when you put lentils in a pot with water and boil them. Purists will tell you that you should rinse them and soak them over night, or quick soak by boiling them and then letting them stand for a few hours before cooking and then drain the water and then add fresh water 4 cups to 1 cup lentils bring to a boil and then simmer for 1/2 an hour to an hour until done. While this works, and is good advice for larger beans though the cooking times will vary, I’ve never been able to tell the difference between lentils done the “right” way and lentils that you just boil the heck out of for 30 minutes or so. Bigger beans can also be done in about 15 minutes in a pressure cooker, or a day in the slow cooker.)

3/4 cups chopped onions
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/3 cups vegetable/chicken broth
1 tsp dried thyme
salt to taste
pepper to taste
2 tsp cumin
1 tbsp medium curry powder
1tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp flour/cornstarch

In a saucepan heat the oil over medium high heat. Add onions and garlic; cook stirring until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir flour in until absorbed, add the broth and spices, cook stirring until mixture comes to a boil. Stir in lentils, spoon into a pie pan.

Make about two cups of mashed potatoes.
I like to add minced garlic to the potatoes just after they are drained while I mash them so that the garlic cooks a bit in the heat. About 3-4 cloves worth. I also like to add goat cheese with the butter and milk, reducing the amount of butter that I need and making it SO tasty, as well as dry parsley.

Spread the mashed potatoes above the lentil mixture in the pie pan, leaving a hole in the middle for venting. Bake at 350 F or until potatoes brown on top. If you care about pretty you can use a pastry bag and pipe this on, but I never bother with that part, my mother would have.

Variation: You can add frozen vegetables, mushrooms, zucchini, celery, leeks, etc to the lentil mixture.

Serving suggestions: Put hot sauce on the table and balsamic vinegar to sprinkle on top. Goes great with a mixed greens salad.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Leftovers, finicky internet connections, and prizes.

So my internet went down two days beofre thanksgiving because I have DSL and there are phone outages all over southern California if you have SBC, which I do. And then when it came back online, my computer was for some reason mysteriously excluded from any modem access, and remained so for days/weeks until the Genius Husband for some reason thought to try renaming our network, at which point it's acting like nothing was ever wrong, and "What do you mean why am I suddenly talking to you after snubbing you for no reason all this time? Of course I talked to you, you must be crazy." Not that I actually hear my my wireless network talking to me or anything....

Anyway, I wanted to share a whole bunch of Thanksgiving ideas and recipes that are seriously belated, though I suppose you could use them for Christmas too, so I'll pass along soon.

In the meantime, I decided to try a recipe for make in the pan pie crust that I found at Owlhaven's site. However, Thanksgiving morning arrived and still no internet, and I was getting desperate to do something with all the pumpkin we had cooked and pureed the night before before it was time for dinner. I phoned my mother, who was helpful on the filling but couldn't find a make in the pan crust recipe in her VAST collection, and I really was running out of time to make conventional pastry, what with the refrigerating and rolling and all. So I called my service provider and asked how long before the repairs could be made. He didn't know and apologized and I mentioned that my pumpkin pie was in crisis and it's Thanksgiving for crying out loud. So he looked it up for me. I swear. I gave him the url and he scrolled through her archives until he found the post about pies and found the crust recipe, and then dictated it to me over the phone. We were both laughing by the time he was done, and the pies turned out wonderfully with the kids' help, we got three from two mini pumpkins. So check out the recipe.

My new favorite quick dinner idea from Trader Joe's is their Cuban Mojito Simmer sauce. Pour it over chicken in a roasting pan or crockpot, and cook until done. (I pull the skin off first, but that's just me.) Serve with black beans, or TJ's Cuban Style Black Beans, and brown rice and dinner is served, except for salad.

Last weekend I took the leftovers from that, made a stock including the rest of the sauce and leftover meat, added some Cajun style pork andouille sausage. I sauteed it first and drained the fat, the sauteed green peppers in the same pan until they were a little bit black, browned a can of tomato paste, which means stirring it a lot until it changes color and gets a nice smoky flavor, and added all of that to the pot with some Thyme, ground mustard, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper, and leftover rice and it was the best gumbo I've ever made, at least we thought so. Don't add the peppers, sausage and rice until just before you're ready to serve or it will get mushy. (And don't ask me how much of the spices because when I'm making soup I just throw in and taste, sorry.) (In case anyone doesn't know how to make a stock, you throw all of the chicken leftovers into a pot, or crockpot, cover with water and simmer for at least a day, drain the broth, pick the meat out from the bones if you want to save it, and that's really all you need to know. For homemade chicken stock I always put the chicken carcass in the crockpot, with some garlic and onions and let it simmer, even if there is no meat left, there are a lot of good minerals to be had from those bones and simmering is the way to get at them, and it tastes good and you can freeze it for later, in ice cube trays if you're the kind who uses a bit of broth at a time for other recipes.)

While I'm thinking about it, here's the simplest ever remake of turkey dinner leftovers. Take leftover turkey and gravy and combine, add leftover vegetables, and spices that you like, garlic, salt, pepper, herbs, red pepper, hot sauce, Mrs. Dash, turmeric even if you like, whatever tastes good, put in a baking dish, spread the leftover mashed potatoes on top. Sprinkle with your favorite cheese and bake in the oven until the top browns. There you have turkey shepherd's pie, which even leftovers hater's will eat, because it's a new dish. In our version this year we also had leftover Kudo, (South African antelope, yes we are very traditional around here, not.) and one of the pork Andouille leftover from the gumbo, so I threw those in as well, they added a lot of flavor. So you can use that one after Christmas dinner, if you have Turkey again. It may work for duck or ham as well, though you may want to invent a sauce to go with the ham. Share any good ideas and I'll post them.

Today's last item is that I've not forgotten that I promised a prize, and it's been won a long time ago. So I'll get on that soon Kim, and I plead pregnant mommy brain for the delay.
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