Tag Archives: vegan

Hot and Sour Soup

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To my faithful readers, I know it has been a while since I have posted but the extreme heat and flurry of the summer’s activities, both good and bad, has left me feeling uninspired and void of creative spirit.  I decided rather than force the issue I would use the time for reflection, rest and healing much like a fallow field left unplowed and unseeded while it rejuvenates.

That said, we recently had a brief period where the weather felt like Autumn and my upcoming soup classes in the near future served as inspiration to develop a new recipe.  I am sure I have mentioned how much I love, love, love making soups.  There are always the stories that accompany each creation telling of its origin, the inspiration and creative process which delight me.  Here’s my story.  I have been thinking for sometime now that I should develop a recipe for my husband’s favorite Chinese soup, that is how it started.  Next I was talking to my BFF and she was describing what was on the menu as she prepared for having a dinner guest.  Turns out her first course was Hot & Sour Soup so I requested the recipe.  Having it in hand, I printed out several other recipes to compare and see how I could make it a bit simpler so it would appeal to my culinary students.  Since this soup is what my husband uses to evaluate every Chinese restaurant he visits, I was very pleased to receive high praise and accolades.  It was a huge hit!

 

Here is how it went down.

HOT & SOUR SOUP                    Serves 4-6

Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis

4 dried Chinese mushrooms such as, wood ear

6 oz cremini mushrooms or white button

2T neutral cooking oil such as, grape seed

1- piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and grated

1T sambal oelek (red chili paste),reduce if you want less heat

1/4 c naturally brewed soy sauce

3T rice vinegar

1T sweetened black vinegar (or 4T of just the rice vinegar)

1t sea salt

1t freshly ground black pepper

1 pinch of sugar

2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock infused with Asian flavors (see recipe below)

8oz. firm tofu, drained and cut into thin strips (about 1/4-inch)

2T corn starch mixed with 1/4c water (if you prefer a thicker soup, use 3T of the corn starch)

1 large egg, lightly beaten

4 scallions (mostly green parts with some white), sliced thin

1/2c cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)

  1. Reconstitute wood ears by soaking them in boiling water for 30 minutes.  Drain and cut into thin slices, discarding any hard spots.
  2. Trim the bottoms of the fresh mushroom stems and slice thick, about 1/4 inch.
  3. Heat the oil in a heavy soup pot over medium high heat.  Add the ginger, sambal oelelek and both mushrooms.  Stir to incorporate the flavors and cook for about one minute.  Combine the soy sauce, vinegar(s), salt, pepper and sugar in a small bowl.  Whisk to dissolve the sugar and salt.
  4. Pour the soy sauce mixture into the pot and toss with the mushrooms.  Cook for a minute or two and add the stock.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Add the tofu and continue cooking for 3 minutes.  Add the corn starch slurry and continue to simmer until soup is thickened to your liking.
  6. Remove the soup from the heat and using a whisk swirl the soup in one direction until you create a whirlpool.  Slowly add the beaten egg in a steady stream to the center.  The egg will cook almost instantly. Serve hot garnished with the scallions and cilantro, of using.

ASIAN INFUSED STOCK  Makes 2 quarts

2 quarts + 1c of chicken or vegetable stock (homemade or commercial will do)

1 medium onion, quartered

4 cloves of fresh garlic, smashed

3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and smashed

1t whole black pepper corns

Bring the stock and remaining ingredients to a boil in a large pot.  Lower the heat and simmer for an hour.  If time permits, remove from heat and allow to steep for another hour.  Strain through a fine sieve or strainer lined with cheese cloth.  Chill if not using immediately.

Can be made several days ahead and stored in refrigerator.

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Although I used homemade chicken stock, it is not necessary and if you want it vegetarian, use vegetable stock and if vegan, skip the egg.  Making the stock ahead is great as it is there when you need it.  The remainder of the process comes together quickly.  I chose to make mine without meat but pork is often seen in this preparation as is chicken.  Make it your own.

I must say I have missed you and it feels very good to be back.  I hope your summer has been filled with the things that make you most happy and that you made some memories by spreading the love, one dish at a time. For those returning to school, I wish you a most successful year as you move on with your journey.  Until next time, sending love from my kitchen to yours.  JeanneIMG_1003

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Snap Peas w/ Garlic Confit & Dill Vinaigrette

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We all know the saying, “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” but what to do when life gives you an abundance of fresh herbs?  Look for as many ways to utilize and preserve these pops of freshness, flavor and color as you can.  Right?  I have a lengthy history of growing and cooking with herbs but always welcome new recipes and ways to take advantage of their presence during our short but fertile growing season.  Professional chefs use herbs in abundance, but for many, their use may seem a bit intimidating.  There are many valuable tips on the subject available online so I won’t duplicate, but I will share a recent recipe I discovered and also another use that has delighted me as of late, herb bouquets.  That’s right, a bouquet that looks beautiful, has a sweet and pleasant aroma, gorgeous textures and is completely edible. It is a great way to give your plants a frequent trim so they remain full throughout the season.  Keep one near your workstation as a reminder that a bit of freshness is exactly what is needed for those seasonal dishes currently on your menu. I like to add a few flowers (edible of course) to mine for a colorful visual, my favorite being nasturtiums.  They are bright and both the leaves and flowers, bearing a bit of a peppery flavor, can be consumed.  They have had a presence in my garden for many years and I consider them an annual “must have.”

I discovered the featured recipe while perusing my cooking magazines.  It appealed to me because of its use of fresh dill, mint and green garlic.  If you cannot find green garlic, which is the young plant harvested early before the bulb is formed, regular garlic (be sure to use less as it is spicier and more intense) or garlic scapes can be used.  Scapes are the curly shoots from the plant that form later in the season as it matures.  This is what I used as green garlic is harvested earlier and no longer available here.

Here is how it goes down.

SNAP PEAS with GREEN GARLIC CONFIT & DILL VINAIGRETTE

Serves 6-8

Recipe by Jeremiah Stone & Fabian Von Hauske (featured on the cover of Food & Wine Magazine, July 2016)

2 stalks of green garlic, trimmed and thinly sliced crosswise (I used garlic scapes but I believe regular garlic would also work)

1c extra-virgin olive oil

1/4c fresh lemon juice

1/4c chopped dill

Kosher salt and black pepper

1 1/2 lbs. sugar snap peas, trimmed, some chopped and some left whole

6 white button mushrooms, halved and sliced thin lengthwise

1/4c torn mint or small mint leaves

  1. In a small saucepan, combine the garlic and olive oil and bring to a simmer.  Cook over low heat until the garlic is very tender, about 10 minutes.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool completely.  Strain the oil into a small bowl.
  3. Transfer the green garlic to a medium bowl.  Add the lemon juice, dill and slowly whisk in the oil until well blended.  Season with salt and pepper.
  4. In a bowl, toss the snap peas with 3/4 cup of the vinaigrette.
  5. Transfer to a platter and scatter the mushrooms on top.  Garnish with the mint and serve with the remaining vinaigrette.

Make ahead:  The vinaigrette can be made and refrigerated for 2 days.

I really enjoyed eating this and found it simple to make.  The spiciness of the garlic infused oil, paired with the grassiness of the dill and bright acidity of the lemon made a very flavorful dressing that I plan to use on future creations.  Then you have the winning combination of the sweet and crunchy snap peas, earthy mushrooms and just a pop of fresh mint.  Delicious and the epitome of seasonal freshness, this gorgeous dish has definitely found a permanent place in my recipe file.

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As we celebrate the Fourth of July, I hope we can all take a moment to reflect on our forefathers and their vision for the United States and its people.  Much has changed over the years, but one thing that must remain is the principle of equal opportunity for all.  This holiday, centered around family, food and fireworks, is the perfect time to give thanks for all we have and to spread the love, one dish at a time.  I will be taking a couple of weeks off from writing the blog to spend time with my daughter and her children.  Our visits usually serve as fodder for good stories and time in the kitchen.  Until next time, be safe.  Sending love from my kitchen to yours.  Jeanne

 

 

 

Jeanne’s Bourbon Balsamic BBQ Sauce

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Today is set aside to honor all the good fathers that are in our lives.  Mine is passed, as is the father of my children, yet we take a few minutes during this day to remember the times when our lives intersected and offered up both the trying times and those cherished moments we hold most dear.  One trait both these men shared was a deep sense of compassion for those less fortunate, those in need.  I have written about how my father always made sure that anyone who came to our door hungry went away with a full stomach.  He held a strong belief that his family would always be fed if he paid it forward.  My children’s father devoted his career advocating for people with disabilities to ensure their voices were heard.  They both left their legacy and we, who were touched by their presence, are richer for it.

With all dads and families in mind, I chose today to feature my newest creation to enhance the backyard BBQ which has grown, not just as a favorite summer activity, but a huge year-round industry.  Grills have not only increased in popularity but also in capability.  What was once an item pulled out of the garage once or twice a summer for burgers and dogs, the grills on the market today can smoke an entire pig, rotisserie whole turkeys and chickens, roast a leg of lamb or pork shoulder and much more.  As a child I never remember grilled vegetables as the common occurence they are today.  Nothing is spared the heat as we experiment with everything from grilled salads, pizza and fruits.  That said, the flavor enhancers, such a BBQ sauces and condiments have stepped into the spotlight as well.  With this in mind, I was inspired to play with the sauce recipe I developed a few years back and elevate it to new heights.

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Here is how it went down in my back yard kitchen this weekend.

JEANNE’S BOURBON BALSAMIC BBQ SAUCE         Makes about 2c

1 shallot, diced fine (or small onion)

¼ c neutral oil, such as, grape seed oil

1 large clove garlic, minced

1/3 c aged balsamic vinegar

2 T Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 t molasses, unsulphered

½ t dry mustard

1/2 t Sriracha sauce or more to increase spiciness (or other hot sauce of choice)

½ c chili sauce

2 oz bourbon

1 t sea salt

¼ c water

  1. Sauté onions in the oil until soft.  Add garlic and cook until softened but not brown.
  2. Add the vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, molasses, mustard, Sriracha, chili sauce, 1 1/2 oz. of the bourbon, salt and water.
  3. Stir well and simmer lightly for 25 to 30 minutes.  Add the remaining 1/2 oz. bourbon, stir and taste.  Adjust salt and Sriracha, if needed.

Use on chicken, beef, pork, tofu or vegetables.

**Can be made up to a week in advance.  Keep refrigerated.

This combination of ingredients, in my opinion, has it all.  The balsamic is both sweet and tangy, a touch of heat is offered by the Sriracha, Worcestershire contributes to the saltiness and depth while the addition of the bourbon, during the cooking and then right at the end, gives the gift of smoke and wood from its time aging in charred oak barrels. The beauty of this sauce is it can be used on almost anything and can be adjusted to suit the individual.  For instance, if you want it sweeter, add more molasses.  If more heat is your thing, add more hot sauce.  Get the picture?

Before going, I have a confession to make.  Outdoor grilling, and all that it entails, was my father’s least favorite thing.  He did not enjoy picnics, stating often how he ate with ants during his stint in the US Army during WWII and saw no reason to do it any longer.  He did, however, enjoy good food.  So in spite of his aversion to this popular American activity, I think he would have enjoyed the complexity of this sauce as he ate inside at the dining table, sans the insects.

I would be remiss if I did not mention another wonderful father who has deeply touched my life, my dear husband, Michael.  He dedicated his career to teaching children and enhancing their lives by nurturing their love and understanding of music.  He continues this work with both children and adults now and cheerfully serves as my culinary guinea pig.  I have been blessed to have crossed paths with many devoted fathers and for that I am grateful.  May the love you have given be returned many fold.

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My sauce graced chicken legs and thighs last night and tonight it will serve as a dressing for the beef (requested by the “dad” of the house).  I aim to please. Whether you are honoring your dad or other fathers today, keep spreading the love, one dish at a time.  I send my gratitude to all the dads that have touched my life.  Love to you from my outdoor kitchen to yours.  Jeanne

 

Southeast Asian Inspired Pork Stir-Fry with Greens

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In open markets across Southeast Asia, you will find all sorts of leafy greens, a testament to the role that deep green vegetables play in local  cuisines.  This trend has also taken off in the United States.  In part this is due to the growing  awareness of their health benefits but I believe it is also influenced by the increased presence of Hmong farmers at our local summer markets.  The Hmong in the U.S. came mainly from Laos as refugees after the Viet Nam War.  Their peaceful agrarian lives in the hills interrupted, the 2010 census counts roughly as many as 260,000 living within our borders.  Much has been written about their struggles but the beauty of their culture has added one more layer of richness to the U.S. melting pot.  Many have continued their farming practices bringing a wide variety of vegetables to American tables.  I thank them for their contributions.

According to Jill Nussinow, MS, RD, culinary educator in Northern California and author of The Veggie Queen, greens are the number one food you can eat regularly to improve your health.  This statement is strongly supported among the medical community as well.  WebMD asked the Veggie Queen to rank the country’s most widely-eaten greens from most to least nutritious.  Here are her top ten:

  1.  Kale
  2. Collards
  3. Turnip Greens
  4. Swiss chard
  5. Spinach
  6. Mustard greens
  7. Broccoli
  8. Red, Green leaf and Romaine lettuce
  9. Cabbage
  10. Iceberg Lettuce

The recipe I feature today, pairs my love of Southeast Asian flavors with my continued interest in eating healthy and incorporating as many greens as I can into my diet.  I used pork as my protein but this could easily be made with poultry, seafood, beef or tofu.

Here is how it went down:

Southeast Asian Inspired Pork Stir-Fry with Greens

Serves 4

Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis

1 bunch broccolini, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces

5 oz. baby kale (or bigger varieties, stemmed and cut into bite-size pieces)

2 t oil, neutral cooking oil such as, grapeseed

1lb. ground pork

4 cloves garlic, chopped

11/2 T chopped fresh ginger

1 Thai chile, sliced thin

4 T fresh lime juice

1 t palm sugar or light brown sugar

2 tablespoons fish sauce (soy sauce could be used but I recommend using fish sauce)

4 scallions, sliced thin (separate whites and greens)

2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

3 c cooked rice (I used brown basmati) or rice noodles

  1. Blanch broccolini in boiling salted water for one minute.  Transfer to an

ice bath to cool.  Drain and set aside with baby kale.

2.  Heat the cooking oil in a large skillet.  Break the pork up into the oil and

cook for a minute or two.  Add the garlic, ginger and chile and cook until

meat is cooked through.

3.  Add the lime juice, sugar, and fish sauce.  Stir over medium heat and

cook with meat for about 2 minutes or until slightly reduced.

4.  Add the kale and stir until greens begin to soften.  Add the broccolini and

stir until heated through.

5.  Stir in the white parts of the scallion.  Serve over rice, garnished with

scallion greens and sesame seeds.

All of the vibrant fresh flavors marry, creating a complete meal perfect for summer and its plethora of green vegetables.  If you prefer other green combinations they can easily be substituted and adjusted to your palate.  I decided on broccolini mainly because we love it and enjoy the crunchiness it provides, balancing the softness of the greens, but regular broccoli or other vegetables could be used.  The chili, fresh lime juice, fish sauce and sugar provide the flavor profile of hot, sour, salty, sweet that the cuisines of SE Asia are known for.  It is the delicate contribution and balance of these flavors that take this simple stir fry to new heights.

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This season doesn’t have to be just about what’s grilling.  This one pot meal may soon become a summer, fall, winter, or spring family favorite.  Just keep it seasonal and it will easily become a regular at your dining table.  Stir-fry Saturday?   Whatever you are serving up today, keep spreading the love, one dish at a time.  Summer love to all of you from my kitchen to yours.  Keep it simple, keep it real.  Until next time, Jeanne.

 

 

 

Marinated Lentils with Crunchy Spring Vegetables

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There is a lot of talk these days about “green living” but spring has had the green thing going on for a long time.  This week I taught a class themed, “Spring Soups and Salads” featuring many of the vegetables we associate with this season.  Among them were asparagus, sugar snap peas, spring peas, scallions, arugula, radish and fresh herbs, mint and parsley.  The end of class evaluations and smiling faces verified I made good choices for the featured recipes.  Among the ones I chose is the salad I selected for today’s post, highlighting  the lovely and often underrated lentil.  Lentils are popular in parts of Europe and a staple throughout much of the Middle East and India.  This lens shaped PULSE has long been used as an inexpensive meat substitute and serves as a good source of calcium,vitamins A and B, iron and phosphorus.  In addition to the common brown variety, there are also red lentils, French green and black beluga, all becoming more widely used and more readily available.  These are the varieties I am familiar with, but there may be more.  I welcome learning about them, but I have yet to make their acquaintance.

For this preparation, it is recommended that you use either the French green (that is what is pictured here) or the black beluga.  Both of these varieties are smaller in size and hold their shape and maintain some ‘tooth’ when cooked, not breaking down easily like the red and brown, which would be more suitable for soups or stews.  There are endless possibilities for using these tiny delights. They can be served hot or cold as a side or entree depending what you choose to pair with them.  They are extremely versatile so I urge you to think of them as a blank canvas.  They are perfect for all seasons and will partner well with many spices and seasonal offerings.

Since the first of May makes its grand entrance this weekend,  I have prepared this salad with crunchy radish, celery, and scallion and gave it a garnish of fresh herbs.

Here is how it went down in my kitchen.

MARINATED LENTILS with CRUNCHY VEGETABLES

Serves 4

Recipe from Bon Appetit,  April 2016

1 large onion, quartered through the root

2 bay leaves

1 1/2 c black beluga or French green lentils, rinsed, picked

Kosher salt

1/4 c olive oil

1t coriander seeds

1/2 t cumin seeds

3T sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar (love the sherry)

Freshly ground black pepper

6 radishes, trimmed, very thinly sliced (I shaved them on a mandolin)

4 scallions. thinly sliced

1c fresh parsley and/or mint

1c thinly sliced celery hearts and leaves

  1. Cook onion, bay leaves and lentils in a large saucepan of simmering salted water until lentils are tender but still firm, about 15-20 minutes.  Drain; discard onion and bay leaves and transfer to a medium bowl.
  2. Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat.  Cook coriander seeds and cumin seeds, swirling the skillet until fragrant, about 1 minutes.  Add the spice mixture and vinegar to the lentils, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat.
  3. Just before serving, top the lentils with radishes, scallions, herbs and celery;  season with salt and pepper.

NOTE:  Lentils (without the vegetables and herbs) can be marinated 3 days ahead.  Cover and chill.  Other seasonal vegetables can be added as you wish.

Lately I have really discovered many uses for sherry vinegar, which is what I used for this.  It might be my new BFF.  Just a small splash can really elevate many dishes.  The marinade infused with the toasted coriander and cumin seeds, is enhanced by the sherry vinegar giving it the perfect amount of warmth along with tang and vigor. The end garnish of fresh parsley and mint give it such a bright finish.  It is well balanced and satisfying and if spring has not yet sprung for you, this is the ticket to take you there.  As with all salad dressings, I always recommend using the best quality extra-virgin olive oil you have.  It makes a difference.

I am happy to report our first garden asparagus made an appearance this week and the local farmers markets have begun their rebirth.  This is such an exciting time of year!  The new calves, lambs and goats are all romping sweetly with their moms in the fields and the pastures resemble the Irish hillsides.  I look forward to tasting vegetables and fruits the way nature meant for them to taste as the seasons evolve.  Whatever you are up to, I hope you are enjoying life and spreading the love, one dish at a time.  Until next time, may good food grace your table and sunshine light your heart.  Sending love from my kitchen to yours.  Jeanne

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Indian Spiced Dal

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Unless you live in a rabbit hole, it is hard to escape the continuous chatter of the upcoming presidential election.  Promises spew from the mouths of the candidates and as good citizens we listen, wanting to choose someone whose values and goals for our country are most closely aligned with ours.  When I speak with people or read their comments on social media one thing strikes me as a universal need,  HOPE.  The opposite of hope is despair so we cling to the vision of a future that will have a positive impact on us all.  It was this line of thinking that brought forth the memory of my first winter as a Wisconsinite.  Relocating after 30 years in Northern California, the brutal cold and abundance of snow were a shock to my system, leaving me wondering what have I done.  It is a different kind of existence and although it can cause “seasonal affective disorder,” I observed that more often than not, it seemed to spark hope.  In conversation people would joyfully talk about the recently delivered seed catalogues and their garden plans.  The dread of early darkness in the days leading to the solstice  was quickly replaced with comments rejoicing in the incremental increase of daylight.  Those who love the snow and cold (they do exist, I promise) were full of tales of fresh powder and ice fishing adventures.  I didn’t understand how so many people could stay positive in the face of the longest and seemingly endless season of the year.  What I came to discover was what those positive thinkers had in common was HOPE.  They all held onto hope, knowing spring’s rebirth would soon arrive to delight us all.  Although I have never fallen in love with the wind, cold or snow, I now embrace the season knowing it has become my favorite time to hang in the kitchen and play with food. Unlike the warmer months, having the stove or oven on is actually welcomed.

Recently, my kitchen amusement has evolved into an effort to duplicate the soup or dal served at my favorite Indian bistro.  If not familiar, dal (aka: dhal, daal or dhall) is a Hindi word for any of the almost 60 varieties of dried pulses including peas, beans and lentils.  A dish made with any of these is also referred to as dal which can be spicy or mild depending on how you choose to spice it.  The most common dals found on menus are channa dal (made with yellow split peas) and massor dal (orange lentils) so for my recipe I decided to use these two and paired them with their green cousin, split mung dal.  This is simply whimsy on my part as they all turn yellow after they are cooked but after some failed experiments, I wanted to know if the trio added anything to the taste.  It may have but not in any significant way so orange lentils would most likely be my choice for the future as they cook quickly.

Here is how it went down in my kitchen.

INDIAN SPICED DAL                                Serves 4-6

Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis

1/3 C each yellow (Chana dal), red (Masoor dal) & green (split Mung dal) lentils (or 1c of one of the above)

5 c chicken or vegetable stock (water could be used)

½ medium yellow onion, finely diced

½ t sea salt

1/8 t ground turmeric or 1t fresh, grated

¼ t chili powder (preferably Indian) or cayenne

½ t ground cumin

½ t ground coriander seeds

½ t ginger root, finely chopped or grated

1 can cannellini beans (14oz), drained and rinsed

1 T ghee or mustard oil (or any neutral cooking oil)

1 t black mustard seeds

½ dried hot red pepper(cut this open and discard the seeds, break or chop to small pieces)

2 oz. fresh lemon juice (more or less, to taste)

2 T fresh cilantro, chopped

Plain yogurt for garnish, if desired.

  1. Sort and wash lentils until water runs clear. Drain.
  2. Place lentils, stock, onion, salt, turmeric, cayenne (or chili powder), cumin, coriander and ginger in a slow cooker. Cook for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low or until lentils are very soft. If mixture is too thick, thin it with water or more stock.
  3. Add the drained and rinses beans for the last 15 minutes or so of cooking.
  4. Meanwhile, a small skillet or saucepan with a lid, place the ghee or mustard oil, mustard seeds, and chopped dried red pepper. Cover and put on medium low heat. As pan heats up the seeds will pop and spatter. Shake the pan intermittently to avoid burning. When the spattering stops, take off the heat and wait several minutes before removing the lid. Be careful not to inhale the hot fumes from this pan as they may sting and burn your eyes.
  5. Add this mixture to your dal and stir in.
  6. Just before serving, stir in the lemon juice and cilantro. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Ladle into individual soup bowls. Garnish with a dollop of yogurt, if desired.

Note: The amount of heat is controlled by adjusting the amount of chili powder or cayenne whichever you choose to use.  Adding finely chopped jalapeno will bump up the heat as well.

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I chose to use a slow cooker but this could easily be made on the stove top.  Simply put the first 9 ingredients in a heavy bottom soup pot.  Bring to a boil, reduce to slow simmer and cook for 30 minutes or until the lentils are soft.  Add the beans, cook another 10 minutes.  finish as above.

The thickness of the soup is determined by the ratio of dried lentils or beans to the liquid.  I was striving for a more brothy texture so I used a 1:5 ratio.  This is a matter of personal preference.  If available, fresh turmeric and ginger (pictured above) add a vibrant flavor but dried is ok as well.  The splash of lemon gives just a bit of acidity and really wakes up the other ingredients.  Meyer lemons are now in season so if you can find them they are sweeter than the standard and are a nice touch.  The real key to success making this flavorful and economical dish is to not skimp on the seasonings and spices.  Indian spices or Masala are vibrant and said to be the “heartbeat” of Indian kitchen.  Just like any ethnic cuisine you may choose to learn, it is all about the spice palate.  Once that is learned it opens the door to many recipes.

Whether you are basking in the sun or putting on the mittens, comfort foods are always a welcome meal.  This recipe comforted me and gave me hope that I would again survive the frigid temps and live to see the lilacs bloom.  Regardless of what is brewing or stewing in your kitchen, keep spreading the love, one dish at a time and never give up hope for a better tomorrow.  I think my next kitchen adventure may just take me to Japan.  Until next time, may you be safe, warm and comforted.  Jeanne

 

 

 

Oat and Nut Cookies

IMG_9995When our thoughts drift to desserts or treats they usually go delicious and decadent but sometimes there is a desire for something sweet but healthier and guilt free.  Just seventeen days into the new year, my resolve to take control of my health through conscience eating remains vivid in my mind and explains my recent focus on recipes with less carbs, fats and added sugars.  Let’s take a moment to discuss sugar.  We have known it for many years as the culprit causing tooth decay but sugar has had a lot of attention lately as a possible cause of inflammation leading to cancer and other debilitating diseases.  This is out of my areas of expertise but for more information on this you can go to the Mayo Clinic site where there are a number of papers written on the subject.  I found it very informative and interesting.

Now that that’s covered, let’s get back to our cookies.  This treat is vegan, gluten free, dairy free and with no added sugars.  Starting to sound boring and tasteless?  Believe me these crunchy cookies are a perfect sweet and chewy bite.  You won’t even miss the sugar as the ripe banana and dried fruit lend the perfect amount of sweetness.  The base is oats and cashews although you could use other nuts if you wish.  I chose cherries for the fruit but any dried fruit would work.  If you can say “I have never tasted anything too sweet” you might want to try using dates which have a high sugar content.  A touch of honey would also work but then you could no longer claim, “no added sugars” or “vegan” if that is important to you.  Next time I make them I am going to try adding some unsweetened coconut and play with using unsweetened applesauce in place of the banana.  I say this because the banana flavor is very pronounced and I want to experiment to see if that will help some of the other flavors to better shine.  In addition, I confess, banana is not my favorite flavor of anything.

Here is how it goes down.

OAT AND NUT COOKIES                                     Makes 3 doz (small)

Recipe adapted from Yummly

Sweet and delicious guilt-free cookies with no added sugar, gluten free, vegan and without dairy.

  • 3 large, very ripe bananas
  • 2 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup raw cashews
  • 3/4 cup raisins or dried cranberries (I used dried cherries)
  • 1/4 cup peanuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F, position oven rack in the middle of oven and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  2. Combine ripe bananas, cashews, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until mixture is smooth and there are little to no lumps remaining.
  3. In a bowl, combine oats with dried fruit, sesame seeds and chopped peanuts, and pour wet banana mixture into the dry ingredients.
  4. Mix together so everything is fully incorporated and combined, then, using a spoon or your hands, begin forming your cookies and transfer them to your baking sheet. Note: you can place them close together since the cookies won’t rise.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes, or until edges just begin to brown, but centers are still a little squishy.
  6. Remove from oven, let cool 10 minutes and serve warm or room temp.

The original recipe said it would yield 1-2 dozen but I made them small and got three.  Keep in mind they do not spread so don’t worry about spacing them too far apart.  As with all recipes, using high quality ingredients will make a difference in the outcome.  The difference can be as small as the 3/4 t of cinnamon.  It may seem insignificant, but the effect of a fresh spice could be what takes a dish from OK to over the top.  Because of their freshness and variety, my favorite place to buy spices is Penzey’s and my hands down favorite favorite favorite cinnamon of theirs is the Vietnamese Extra Fancy.  Extremely aromatic, I cannot adequately express how special it is.

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The high temperature for today in Southern Wisconsin is predicted to be -1 degrees with a low tonight of -13.  Yea, you read that right, MINUS those degrees.  Smelling the beans simmering in the oven is causing my tummy to rumble and I cannot wait to sit down to a steaming bowl of “red beans and rice”, with a twist of course.  Sure to warm the inners, I hope to highlight this recipe next time, so tune in.  In the meantime, stay warm and safe regardless of where you are, and keep spreading the love, one dish at a time.  I see a lot of love brewing in my kitchen this week and look forward to sharing it with you.  Sending warm thoughts and love from my kitchen to yours.  Jeanne