Archive for Veggies

Spinach Mushroom Pie Goes Vegan

   
SOS Kitchen Challenge
SOS Kitchen Challenge

 This month’s SOS Kitchen Challenge ingredient is spinach.  The choice of spinach as the challenge’s ingredient really kick started my efforts to makeover my long time favorite recipe for Spinach Mushroom Pie. There is nothing like a challenge for motivation – thank you Ricki and Kim! Be sure to check out their sites for lots of other healthy recipe submissions by other bloggers.

   There was such wonderful feedback from my taste-testers on the texture of the Sweet Potato Pie ‘Cheesecake’ at the end of March that I printed out both of my recipes and started splicing. It always helps to have a plan of attack even if you eventually deviate from that plan.

    The blender and I had another ‘go-round’. And the red spatula lost a few more bits. The red shows up and is easy to pick out of the blended mixture so from now on all of my spatulas are going to be red!

   The cashews were soaked for well over twenty-four hours. The spinach was leftover from a batch of sautéed fresh spinach with garlic. The mushrooms were fresh. There was cooked quinoa on hand to use somehow in place of ricotta but I wasn’t too sure about how that would work out. And hazelnut meal was ready to stand in for grated Parmesan to provide taste and texture. Whew! That’s a lot of ingredients to bring together.

Gathering the Ingredients

Gathering the Ingredients

   So the first order of business was to prep the mushrooms. Clean, slice, sauté and put them in the mixing bowl with the spinach. Add 1/2 of the quinoa, hazelnut meal, and seasonings.

Saute the Mushrooms

Saute the Mushrooms

   Drain and rinse the cashews, warm in the microwave briefly (so they don’t solidify the coconut oil) and place them in the blender jar. Pulse the blender gently to begin the breakdown process. Add the warm coconut oil and the remainder of the quinoa also slightly warmed – and work the blender pulse control. This is where I had to improvise. The mixture became too thick sort of like super library paste so I warmed a couple of tablespoons of coconut milk (I was out of almond milk) and added it to the mixture. This was better but still way too thick. So in went another two tablespoons of warm coconut milk (how did we ever function without a microwave?). This was still incredibly thick but at least it was manageable. This is where I considered adding more liquid but the spinach and mushroom mixture had its own liquid going so I just dumped and scraped the nut mixture into the spinach mixture and stirred it all together.

   The pie plate was previously prepped with a coating of hazelnut meal stuck on with coconut oil (far left in the ingredients picture). Next all of the filling was carefully spooned into the ‘crust’, smoothed over, and moved into the 350*F oven where it baked for 45 minutes. I had no clue as to ‘how long’ to bake it – the ‘cheesecake’ had taken an hour. The pie was tested at 30 minutes with a thin knife and returned to the oven for another 15 minutes. After that test I returned the pie to the oven with the heat turned off so that the remainder cooked on residual heat. So it took a full hour like that ‘cheesecake’. Did I mention that the kitchen now smelled deliciously of all the herbs?
  
   After removing from the oven (total oven time was 60 minutes) the pie sat on a cooling rack while my guilty conscious drove me out into the yard to pull weeds and cut back the stems on the bloomed-out irises. Plus I was afraid of burning my tongue if I tasted this experiment too soon and all of you know what that is like! Finally it was cool enough to put in the fridge so I could ignore it for a while longer and allow the seasonings to mellow. And it was so worth the wait . . .

Looks Good, Smells Savory, Tastes Yummy!

Looks Good, Smells Savory, Tastes Yummy!

Spinach Mushroom Pie Goes Vegan
3 tablespoons hazelnut meal
Cooking oil or spray to coat a 9” diameter pie pan

1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 24 hours (1 1/3 cup expanded)(138 g)
2 Tbsp (15 ml) coconut butter, slightly warm
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup cooked quinoa, warm
1/4-1/2 cup coconut milk, warm

2 cups chopped, steamed fresh spinach
or 1 package (10-16 ounces) chopped, frozen spinach, thawed and well drained
or 1 can spinach, well drained
1 8-ounce package sliced fresh mushrooms, sautéed
or 1 8-ounce can sliced mushroom, well drained
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup hazelnut meal
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground dried savory

Plan ahead: At least one day before put the cashews to soak and cook enough quinoa so that you will have 1 cup for the pie filling. Store the quinoa in the fridge and the cashews as well if they soak for more than the 24 hours (and that’s OK).

Begin:
Prepare a 9” pie pan by coating it with oil or spray. Sprinkle the 3 tablespoons of hazelnut meal into the pan and then tilt and rotate it to distribute the meal to create a very thin ‘crust’. Do this maneuver over the bowl for mixing the filling so that any spills are saved – set the pan aside. Turn the oven to 350*F.

Put the spinach and mushrooms in your mixing bowl. Add 1/2 cup of quinoa, hazelnut meal, and dried herbs. Stir well to distribute the seasonings.

Drain the water from the cashews. If they have been refrigerated then warm them in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Dump them into the blender jar. Add the coconut butter, sea salt, the 1/2 cup warmed quinoa, and 1/4 cup coconut milk. Start the blender and begin to break down the cashews, pulsing and pausing to scrape down the sides as needed. Dial up the blender speed and begin to puree the mixture; again pulsing and pausing to scrape down the sides as needed.

Add the remainder of the coconut milk only if you really need it but do not hesitate if you do need it. The worst that can happen is that it takes a few minutes longer to bake. When the blender mixture is perfectly smooth like nut butter then add all of it to the vegetable/herb mixture and stir so that all of the ingredients are evenly distributed. Carefully spoon the mixture into the prepared pie plate and smooth down the top. Transfer the pan to the oven and set the timer for the first test (about 30 minutes). It will not be ready unless you have a really hot oven. Testing is similar to any other baked item – the knife should come out relatively clean. Add another 15 minutes and test again. If it is still not ready then put it back, turn off the heat, and go away for 15-30 minutes.

Cool the dish on a rack before cutting into serving portions. This recipe provides 4-8 servings depending on the rest of the meal. I cut it into 8ths so that it lasts more days for breakfasts and snacks!

Mom

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Tarragon Pickled Beets

   This month’s Diet, Dessert and Dogs SOS Kitchen Challenge ingredient is beets. My entry is really a two-fer; my adapted recipe plus the original one that inspired it. I never make the inspiration recipe anymore but I just wanted to share it as a hot vegetable option.
  
   The Tarragon Pickled Beets recipe is so simple it hardly qualifies as a recipe. It was adapted from a Harvard-style beet recipe to make one of my ‘Mason jar specials’ that were brown-bag lunch staples while I was working in the corporate world. There were 4-5 different ones that I made up for lunch treats. You don’t have to have a genuine Mason-type jar but you do need a jar with a tightly sealing lid. Fresh cooked beets, tender and sweet, are ideal if you have them. A 16-ounce can of sliced, diced or cut beets from your pantry will get you there also.

Tarragon Pickled Beets
Sweetener of choice, equivalent to 2 tablespoons sugar or more to taste (I use stevia)
2 T. apple cider vinegar (lemon juice for Candida diet)
1/2 t. dried tarragon
1 3/4 – 2 cups beets
Reserved beet juice

Put an ounce or two of beet juice in the jar. Stir in the sweetener, vinegar, and tarragon and then carefully spoon in the beets (so that red juice doesn’t splash and stain). Add enough reserved beet juice to cover your beets. Screw on the lid to make sure it is sealed and won’t leak. Shake to distribute the juice and seasonings evenly. Keep them in the fridge until you are ready to use them.

Filling the Jar
Filling the Jar

Harvard Beets
(even then I was choosing gluten-free)
2 T sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
2 T lemon juice
1/3 cup juice from beets
1 16-oz can sliced beets, drained
Mix the sugar, salt, paprika, cornstarch, lemon juice and beet juice in a small saucepan. Stir over low heat until the mixture bubbles and thickens. Add the beets and continue until beets are heated through.

Even though officially retired I still make the Tarragon Pickled Beets to jazz up lunch or garnish a salad every now and again.

Mom

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Monday in the Kitchen

Carrots
   Who remembers anymore what carrots look like fresh out of the garden? It came as somewhat of a startle when a large sack of carrots- roots, frost bit tops, mud, gnats and all showed up in the food pantry last Friday afternoon. The carrots themselves were fat and beautiful but I knew we would have to work fast to get them distributed. We divided out two pound bags and started giving them out with food orders. There was not the usual flood of clients that day (a rare occurrence) so we gave them out to all comers who stopped by the window. At the end of the shift Ann and Megan had already left and I didn’t have time to write up a note and put that one last lonely bag in the fridge. So I brought it home to reacquaint myself with basic veggie preparation.

   Into the sink with all of them, spray hard to soften and rinse off most of the mud, and untangle the tops (they were a large, green&brown, unruly fright wig mass) – they filled up the sink. Then I cut off the roots and carefully picked out the good green tops and threw away the brown ones. The roots were scrubbed with a brush to remove the last bits of mud from the crevasses, the greens were rinsed again and all of it set aside to drain. The top part of the carrot where the greens join the root was too hard to clean so that bit was trashed as well.

Tops to the Trash

Tops to the Trash

   Why bother with saving the greens? As I learned after my previous post on Carrots the green tops are not only edible but they are fabulously nutritious and all of that is usually thrown away by the time carrots arrive in the produce section of your grocery store as I was notified by the World Carrot Museum.

All Cleaned Up and Ready to Cook

All Cleaned Up and Ready to Cook

Quinoa Mushroom Pilaf
I hadn’t cooked quinoa in quite a while – too busy with baking experiments and other activities. But when I came across this recipe at Karina’s Gluten-Free Goddess blog for Quinoa Mushroom Pilaf something clicked into place. Mushrooms and green peppers in the fridge?, check, garlic?, check, parsley?, no but I have used carrot tops as a substitute before – so I really, really had to make this dish!

Time Out for Lunch!

Time Out for Lunch!

All About Stevia
   Ricki’s blog, Diet, Dessert, and Dogs is one of my favorite reads. Today she had a very interesting discussion going, All About Stevia. This product is something I have been playing with since Rita bought me a bottle of Sprout’s brand of liquid stevia over the holidays. So far I really like it as a sweetener in my lattes, both café latte and chai latte. The recent recipe for Banana Coconut Muffins has been well received by my taste test crew – with no added sugar, the sweetness all comes from a banana and that liquid stevia. And finally I have really gotten into Ricki’s super healthy creation Chia “Tapioca” Pudding. I’ve been having it most mornings for a couple of weeks.

Chia Seeds
   Chia has a fascinating nutritional profile and is now starring as one of the newest ‘super foods’. Soaked chia seeds are gelatinous in texture and a spoonful of chia seed mixed into liquid will set up as a soft pudding. I use 1/2 cup of warm almond milk adding one tablespoon of chia, eight drops of stevia, and four drops of vanilla. When set aside for several hours it becomes very much like a tapioca pudding because of the swollen seeds. They are seeds and may not be suitable for consumption by anyone that has texture issues! Chia is available pre-ground and if you plan to use ground chia I say buy it that way – I keep both on hand. My attempt to grind them with a mortar and pestle would make a good you-tube comedy – not one of the seeds were ground; instead they popped out all over the counter like a flea circus. The whole dry seeds are extremely hard and also have a static charge – not easy to chase and gather them back up.
   Ground chia is one of several substitution possibilities for replacing egg in baked goods for vegans or for those folks with egg allergy. Sprouted chia seeds can be used in salads and for sandwiches as well as on your Chia Pet.

Neglected Bananas
    Four weeks ago I bought bananas to ripen for banana muffins and possibly banana bread. Two batches of those Coconut Banana Muffins later and there were still four v-e-r-y ripe bananas hanging out in the guest room. So this afternoon I conjured up a new recipe that I had been thinking about, put it together, and I’ll post about it tomorrow. It’s been quite a long day in the kitchen.

Mom

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Cabbage Casserole

   When Don used to travel for work and I was at home at the house in the woods with only the cats for company, cooking everyday for myself was not a priority. There were too many other projects going on around the place. This was my home-crafted bookcase period (eventually seven of them), learning to crochet afghans and throw rugs, and attempting to landscape in caliche soil with alkaline well water compounded by the persistent Central Texas wildlife and blistering heat.
   Cooking this hearty casserole that lasted several days freed up more time for those other endeavors. This was (and still is) one of my favorite combinations. It is easy to adjust the seasonings to your own preferences or seasonal vegetables. This can be cooked in a crockpot, in the oven, or on the stovetop and for me that usually depends on the weather. If it is winter the oven or stovetop adds more warmth to the house. In summer the crockpot helps to avoid that.
   This week’s batch omitted the rice (the post-holiday low-carb version) and with no rice to be cooked the casserole only needs reheating to serve.

Cabbage Casserole

Cabbage Casserole

Cabbage Layer –
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 pounds cabbage, thinly sliced (at least 6 cups)
(Sometimes I add grated carrots or other veggies languishing in the fridge)
Sea salt and pepper
1 teaspoon thyme (from a jar)

Meat Layer –
1 pound extra lean ground meat – we used turkey
Sea salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Sauce –
1 can diced tomatoes
3 ounce can tomato paste
1 teaspoon basil
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 packet or cube of instant bouillon (whatever flavor you prefer)
8 ounces water (if you use rice)

Rice (optional) –
1/2 cup converted rice, dry

Cabbage Prep:
Place all ingredients in a very large skillet or pot and sauté until the cabbage is bright green and onions are transparent.
Meat Layer Prep:
Cook all ingredients until all traces of pink are gone and set aside. Grocery stores now carry pre-seasoned ground meat and sometimes I just cook up a package of the lean ground turkey with Italian seasoning (ever lazier – that’s me).
Sauce Prep:
Puree the tomatoes in a blender. Add the other ingredients and blend.

Assembly and cooking:
Layer these ingredients into a casserole starting with 1/3 of the cabbage, followed by 1/2 of the meat, 1/2 of the rice, cabbage, meat, rice, and finishing with the cabbage. Pour the sauce over all and work it into the casserole layers with a spoon. Bake it at 350*F for 45 – 60 minutes – checking to be sure the rice is done.

This batch provided enough for two hearty dinners for both Don and me – we don’t call it leftovers we call it planning ahead!

Mom

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Ken’s Salad Dressings

   In the post-holiday, workout, trim-back-down season it gets crowded up at the fitness center. We’ve been going a little later in the evening when it is easier to make use of the equipment without a lengthy wait. Part of the strategy also is to cut back on calories and for me that means load up on the salads and fresh veggies – not much baking going on right now.

   Theoretically I know that it doesn’t take that much effort to whip up a homemade salad dressing and wow, they are so much tastier than bottled dressing from the grocery store. But I don’t have the dedication to do that every time so there is always the gluten-free dressing in the fridge or pantry for a fall-back option to keep the diet on track. Ken’s Salad Dressings has many options ranging from fat-free, light, regular, gourmet and a few other choices. I am a big fan of Balsamic Vinaigrette and Chunky Blue Cheese – not your low-cal versions by any means but if it tastes really good it helps me to stay on track.

Easy Spinach Florentine
In the cold weather something hot is good too and I pull together this tasty, low-cal dish in a jiffy with these ingredients:

1 cup cooked greens, from a can or microwaved from frozen (your favorite greens)
Garlic powder
Sea salt
1 generous tablespoon of Ken’s Chunky Blue Cheese

Ken's Chunky Blue Cheese Salad Dressing

Ken's Chunky Blue Cheese Salad Dressing

Put the ingredients in a microwave safe dish and microwave for 30-40 seconds. Dig in. It is healthy, low in carbs and calories, high in vitamins and a bunch of other stuff that is really good for you. Do something good for yourself and it gives you a lift!

Mom

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Spinach Casserole

    This is another one of those versatile recipes that can be a side dish or a full meal with vegetarian options as needed. The truth is this recipe was inspired by the Greek Spanakopita spinach, onion, cheese, and herb pie. The mushroom layer is optional and not even part of the dish that inspired this – I just like mushrooms a lot and the ones in the produce section were locally grown and looked especially good. This is a great low-carb meal for the New Year’s get-back-in-shape resolutions as well as a super healthy year around choice.
    The spinach layer is where the essential combination of seasonings comes together. Fresh parsley really sparks this and it is worth waiting to get your hands on some before you put this together. I scattered a packet of seeds in the flower bed 4-5 years ago. In spite of my black thumb, deer, rabbits, Texas sun, and most recently freezing rain there was still fresh green parsley out there on January 1for this recipe. The dill came dried in a jar; you can use garlic powder, but please find fresh parsley somewhere. The lemon zest is part of the classic seasoning but afterwards I decided not to use it anymore.
   Classic Spanakopita is enclosed in rich flaky phyllo pastry dough. This casserole ignores all grains and either stands alone or layers with meat, tofu, or beans. We had some extra lean ground turkey with Italian seasonings in the freezer that I sautéed for the bottom layer to make a hearty meal for Rita and David before they departed for Virginia. The leftovers made my lunches for a couple of days . . . .

Spinach Casserole
Optional extra protein layer:
1 lb. ground lean meat, well seasoned
Equivalent amount of seasoned tofu
2 cups of cooked, seasoned drained beans

Optional mushroom layer:
1 tablespoon olive oil for sautéing
1/2 lb. fresh sliced mushrooms

Spinach layer:
1 tablespoon olive oil for sautéing
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic
1 lb. spinach (frozen OK, fresh is better)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon ground dill
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

Cheese and egg mixture:
2 large eggs
8 ounces feta cheese, coarsely grated, reduced fat OK
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, green can OK
1/3 to 1/2 cup thick yogurt or sour cream, low-fat OK

Prepare your optional protein layer and set aside. If using mushrooms then sprinkle lightly with sea salt, sauté them in a skillet with a bit of olive oil until they are fragrant and slightly brown and then set them aside.

Add the tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and sauté the onion and garlic. When they are translucent then add the spinach, cover, and steam until the spinach is bright green and tender, maybe 6-8 minutes. Add the parsley, dill, and lemon seasonings and mix well.

Lightly oil a square, oven-proof baking dish. Cover the bottom with cooked ground meat, sautéed seasoned tofu, or your favorite cooked beans (well drained) if you use this layer. Then layer the sautéed mushrooms in if you are using them. Then carefully spoon the spinach mixture in next. Beat the eggs and dairy products together and spoon over the spinach, spreading to cover.

Place the casserole in a 350*F oven and bake for about 35-40 minutes. The mixture will be firm enough to cut into squares for serving. Let it cool for 5 minutes or so before serving. The recipe makes about 6 – 8 servings depending on your layers and how hungry you are.

Mom

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Arroz Clásico

   This is the rice dish most requested by my family. It is easy to put together and the rice cooks while the rest of dinner comes together. The seasonings have changed as the children grew up and still it remains a favorite (basil, marjoram, and savory have replaced plain parsley). Rita is in Texas for the holidays and we had this with roasted chicken and green beans last night.

Arroz Clásico
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 cup converted rice (plain white or brown is OK, cooking time varies)
2 cups hot broth
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon savory
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

   Heat the oil in a skillet over moderate heat. Add onion and cook until it is wilted. Then add the rice and cook until each grain of rice is golden yellow in color. Some grains will begin to brown and some of the rice starch will be sticking to the bottom of the pan. Drain excess oil if necessary.

   Add the broth, basil, marjoram and savory. I usually use 2 cups of water with 1 tablespoon of gluten-free broth concentrate and that takes care of the seasoning. You may need to add salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer covered for 20-25 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. Turn off the heat. Add the cheese, stir well, and allow it to mellow until the cheese is melted.

   There was rice leftover with just three of us for dinner and I plan to mix it with some leftover butternut squash for lunch.

   A Holiday special of note: Ricki at Diet, Dessert, and Dogs is giving away a cookbook, your choice. So get over there and register for Festive Freebies 2: Reader’s Choice Cookbook Giveaway .

Mom and Rita!

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