Julember: ‘Tis the Season to Sit by the Fire and Eat Comfort Food

While most of the world is experiencing the summer fun of July, here in my part of the world we are experiencing Julember – the calendar may indicate it is July, but the weather is indicating it is November.  With temps hovering around 9C, I have spent the past week thinking of soup instead of salad, socks instead of sandals, and Santa instead of summer.  The normally ignored fireplace has been lit every day this week and I have been knitting – not one of my regular summer activities.

So, when a recipe for strawberry muffins popped up in my Facebook feed I jumped at the chance to mix a traditional comfort food with a summery delight.  I gathered the ingredients and immediately called my visiting sister and her family to drop over for a sit by the fire, coffee, and muffins.

With help from my adorable nine-year-old niece, and changes to the recipe to veganise it, the dual season muffin-making began.

As always, prepare your flax egg first:  1 tbsp of flaxseed and 3 tbsp of water.  Mix in a small ramekin and let gel.

This is also a good time to hull, clean, and chop the strawberries.

You will need:

  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance butter, softened (each Earth Balance butter stick is 1/2 cup)
  • 3/4 cup organic sugar
  • 1 flax egg
  • 2 cups flour  (Your choice; I used all-purpose)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used soy, but almond or rice milk will work just as well)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped organic strawberries

TOPPING:

  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • I usually make a small bottle of sugar and cinnamon to have on hand so I don’t have to prepare this much-used topping every time a recipe calls for it.  

With your nine-year-old niece having a tight grip on the mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add the flax egg and mix well.

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and let the wee child stir it about. Add the flour mixture and the milk alternately to the butter mixture (much more fun when two people are doing this!). Add vanilla. Stir in strawberries.

Spoon batter into muffin pans and sprinkle the topping on the batter.  Of course, only small children are allowed to sprinkle the topping on the muffins. 

Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes.

This recipe makes one dozen regular-sized muffins.

Now announce to all and sundry that the beaters, bowls, spoons, and spatulas are ready to be licked!  Go sit by the Julember fire and enjoy!!

BEFORE:

strawberry muffins raw

AFTER:

strawberry muffins cooked

Advertisements

Lemonade and Lemon Ice Pops

Cold, refreshing, lemonade!

As the summer gets hotter, we’re all looking for things that are cool and refreshing. There’s something about lemon that is bright and reviving on even the hottest days. Commercial lemonade tends to be too sweet for my taste. I like to taste the flavor of the lemon, and super sugary drinks don’t feel like they really quench thirst, especially since they leave my mouth sticky. So my formula for lemonade is a bright slightly tart one. If you want it sweeter, you can add make it sweeter, of course. A good idea is to make the basic batch that I make, then let everyone sweeten their glasses to their own taste if they they prefer something sweeter. I also use this same formula to make ice pops. After mixing it up, pour a bit into your favorite popsicle mold. Unless you’ve got a lot of popsicle molds, you’ll still have plenty left to drink because it makes 9 cups total.

  • 8 cups water
  • 1 cup Real Lemon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar (or equivalent of your preferred sweetener)

I use warm water to mix this up so that the sugar dissolves quickly and easily. If using something like honey or agave nectar, the temperature of the water wouldn’t be a factor. However, if you use something other than sugar, be sure to adjust the amount according to how sweet your sweetener is. A half cup of honey, for instance, will be sweeter than a half cup of sugar. So the amount of sweetener you use is dependent on what you use to sweeten the lemonade — as well as your own personal taste for how sweet you want it to be. My formula is a good starting place. It’s delicious as is, but is easily adjusted to suit individual tastes.

Stir the sugar into the warm water until dissolved. Add the lemon juice. Stir. The mixture will be cloudy. Chill thoroughly.

If making lemon ice popsicles, fill popsicle molds not quite to the top (liquid expands as it freezes). They’re ready to eat when they’re frozen solid. Honestly, I don’t know how long it will take to freeze. It depends on the size and shape (volume) of your popsicle molds. I typically don’t reach for a popsicle until the day after I put a batch into the freezer, but they should freeze faster than that! The sweet-tart flavor is perfect for a refreshing summer ice. Check out my Rocket Pops post for a different popsicle idea!

 

Pico de Gallo

Pico de Gallo

With a holiday in the U.S. this weekend, it’s prime time for a summertime party. We have lots of cookout ideas on the blog, some of which I covered at the beginning of summer with my Cookouts post. Here’s one more salsa recipe to add to last week’s Deadly Green Sauce. Unlike last week’s salsa recipe, this is a uncooked salsa, and it’s relatively mild. I suspect that the way I make it isn’t traditional. It is, however, flavorful, and makes a lot. The proportions of ingredients are a matter of individual taste. The amounts below are guidelines. Some people don’t like cilantro; you can substitute parsley, but keep in mind that the flavor will be radically different if you do. The amount of jalapeños depends on the size of the pepper as much as how hot you want it. Because this is a large batch of salsa, the amount of jalapeños in the recipe isn’t as excessive as it might appear. Use more if you want it to have more of a kick. Freshly chopped jalapeños can sometimes cause skin irritation so food handling gloves are recommended.

This makes about 6 cups.

2 onions
2 med or large tomatoes
3 average sized jalapeños (or 2 large)
1 clove garlic (2 if they’re small)
Bunch of cilantro
A little bit of parsley (optional)
5 Tbls vinegar
5 Tbls olive oil

The tomatoes should be diced by hand. I use regular slicing tomatoes for this. They’re very juicy and you’ll have a very wet mess of tomatoes when you’re done. Slide it, juice and all, from the cutting board into a large non-metallic bowl. Dice the onions finely either by hand or in a food processor. Dice the jalapeños very finely. The texture I go for is that the onions are cut finer than the tomatoes, and the jalapeños are diced more finely than the onions. The garlic I run through a garlic press. Chop up a supermarket sized bunch of cilantro as finely as you can, but don’t worry about it if some leaves slip through. I use the whole bunch, but use as much or as little as you want. I usually throw in a little parsley because I have Italian Flat Leafed Parsley in my garden almost year ’round. How much I add depends on whether it’s taking over the garden. 😉

The oil and vinegar give this almost the character of a chopped salad, albeit one in which cilantro and parsley stand in for the leafy greens. I learned to make it like this right after college; I had some that tasted great, so I asked what was in it. That’s how I found out about using an oil and vinegar dressing, which I think helps the flavors to meld.

Stir all the ingredients together well. Chill thoroughly before serving. This is good to make up ahead of time; the flavor will improve the longer it chills. Give it a good stirring before serving. As a dip, it’s fairly chunky. This is often used as a flavorful addition to wrapped-in-tortilla things.

See the Cookout for Vegetarian, Vegans and Friends who aren’t too sure about this post for cookout suggests for this Independence day. Also check out the snacks, yummy dips, and salsa tags for more recipes.

Deadly Green Sauce

This is the hottest thing I’ve posted here, so if you think some of my other recipes are too spicy, buckle up your safety harness ’cause this is rocket fuel (though the formula can be used with other, milder, peppers, if you prefer). It’s an authentic Mexican recipe and too hot to make often. But it really has a great jalapeño flavor, once your taste buds have adjusted to the assault. I also like the way it handles the jalapeños; you don’t have to use gloves or burn your fingers on chopping jalapeños. This is a good way to use up your heavy-bearing pepper plants in the summer. It’s a very, very, basic recipe. Fast and easy.

  • 15-20 whole jalapeño
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1 small onion, sliced (it doesn’t matter how thick or thin)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Put the tomato, jalapeños, and onion into a saucepan and simmer until the peppers are done. Test the peppers with a fork; they’re done when they’re soft. Scoop out the tomato, onions, and peppers with a slotted spoon, reserving the liquid. Put the vegetables into a blender and add the garlic powder and 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Blend until homogeneous. If the sauce is too thick, add more juice. Cool. Serve with chips. Warn your friends!

Terrific alternatives: As I mentioned above, this is a pretty basic recipe and if the idea of packing that many jalapeños into sauce horrifies you, there are less dangerous alternatives. There is a milder variety of jalapeño called the TAM jalapeño (developed at Texas A&M). If you want something hotter, try using habeñeros (though you might need to use fewer of them). I honestly wouldn’t want to recommend it because I don’t want you to hurt yourself. This jalapeño recipe ought to be more than hot enough for most people. This is a good formula for making a cooked chile pepper sauce. Try other types of peppers with different flavors and levels of hotness. You’ll need to guestimate how many to use since they’ll be a different size than the peppers used in the recipe. Choose a pepper (or assortment of chiles) you like the flavor of because this is mostly cooked pureed pepper, so that will completely dominate the flavor. It’s also a good way create your own custom salsa; experiment with mixing a variety of peppers until you get the blend of hotness and flavor you want.

At this point you may be curious what my own custom salsa recipe looks like. I should probably come up with one, but what I usually do is just fake my way through with whatever peppers I have on hand in the garden, which varies throughout the summer and from year to year. There was one year in which I let the jalapeños and a few other chile peppers (7 varieties total) ripen all the way to red…and it was an unusually hot summer where I lived at the time (temps over 100 on a daily basis, which results in hotter peppers). I showed up at a friend’s house bearing a container of sauce that stopped him dead in his tracks. “That’s a scary shade of red,” he said. It was, indeed. We emptied his cupboards of tomato sauce trying to dilute it down enough to use as an enchilada sauce. It was great, but we couldn’t really see the food because our eyes were watering so much! So, if you grow your own ingredients for this, be aware that letting chiles ripen all the way to red will result in a hotter pepper, and places with hotter climates will produce hotter peppers than places with milder summers. Mix and match with whatever you’ve got on hand from the garden or whatever is available from the supermarket. Summer through early fall is prime time for peppers. Experiment and enjoy!

When The Cupboard Is Bare: Fast and Spicy Pasta Sauce

20150610_191533

Hot, hearty, spicy, fast, easy, and delicious! What more could you want?

This is another of my “cupboard is bare” improvisations. There are a few things I’d recommend having on hand to keep from having absolutely no options when you need a fast flavorful hearty meal. Find a spice blend that’s not part of your usual flavor palette. In this case I’m using saté, a flavor combination which is Indonesian in origin. Having some blend that’s not your usual Italian, Mexican, Whatever, is a nice change of pace and can make those hasty “cupboard is bare” meals into something special. For this reason I keep not only saté, but also a Turkish seasoning blend from Penzys on hand.

I don’t generally recommend spice blends because over-reliance on them will result in everything tasting the same. Also, some spice blends include salt, which is not good if you need to restrict salt intake, but also in general it’s not good to have pre-added salt because it can potentially throw things off depending on what you’re making. But…it’s good to have one or two blends that you don’t use excessively — and which you can tweak by adding other seasonings. (If you need to restrict salt intake, look for blends with no salt; these days lots of companies — including Penzys — formulate no-salt options for at least some blends.)

Another thing I recommend keeping on hand is a lot of different flavors of pasta. Pasta cooks quickly and it’s filling. Flavored pastas are often colorful, too. What to put on it? Please, please, stock tomato paste in your pantry in addition to tomato sauce. Tomato paste is basically concentrated tomato sauce. Stocking it means that you can control the thickness of the sauce, so for fast meals when you want a thick sauce it doesn’t take as long to cook down to desired consistency. But stocking it in addition to tomato sauce means that you can still make sauce, even when you’re out of sauce! It’s also handy for thickening up a pasta sauce that’s too thin. When I use canned diced tomatoes for sauce I add tomato paste to give me a better thickness and texture to the sauce. So stock some small cans of tomato paste! They’re unbelievably handy!

For this recipe I used Penzys saté (which does have salt), paired with some complementary seasonings. For pasta I used a half bag of Al Dente Spicy Sesame Linguini. (I had more pasta than sauce.) It is not, to my palate, very spicy…though their red chili fettuccine is. So, you might want to omit the pinch of red pepper if using a spicier pasta than the Sesame. Or omit the red pepper if you’re leery of spicy-hot food. The saté seasoning has spiciness built in to it, so additional red pepper is optional and really a matter of whether you want this spicy or hot. The seasonings I used will still give you a very flavorful somewhat spicy sauce, with no additional red pepper added.

Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway) you can make a better version of this if using fresh mushrooms sautéd in a small amount of oil prior to throwing the sauce together. And adding more water and simmering this longer will allow the flavors to meld even more. But this is the fast version for those nights before the grocery shopping trip, or when for whatever reason (getting home late) you realize that you just don’t have the time or energy to do some more elaborate thing you’d planned. There’s no reason you can’t have a great tasty meal even if you have little time and few ingredients. Don’t settle for a can of something! Keep a special seasoning blend, tomato paste, and an assortment of pastas in your pantry. Don’t ever let those basics run out!

This makes enough for two generous servings. Increase sauce ingredients to make more.

1/2 tsp saté
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp tumeric
Pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 4oz can mushrooms, sliced or pieces
12 pieces Simple Truth Meatless Griller strips
Al Dente Spicy Sesame Linguini or other quickly cooking pasta.

Mix all the sauce ingredients, including the griller strips, in a saucepan. Add at least one can of water to the paste. You may need to add more. (I did.) Cook until the sauce is to the desired consistency and the griller strips are done. The griller strips package has a recommended temperature for cooking. Since the strips are frozen, make sure you simmer them long enough to cook them!

Cook the pasta according to package instructions. What will take the most time is getting the water to a boil, especially if you use a large pot, which I recommend to help avoid boil overs.

Serve sauce over pasta. Leftover vegetables can be served as a side dish. Or you can steam some in the microwave while waiting for the pasta water to boil.

Cookouts For Vegetarians, Vegans, and Friends who aren’t too sure about this…

Grilling the corn.

Grilling the corn.

I’m posting this a bit earlier than my usual schedule for weekly posts because no doubt by now you’re planning your holiday weekend. With the Memorial Day weekend just around the corner, and the beginning of summer cookout season, vegetarians, vegans and their omnivorous friends may all look at each other and say, “What do we do?” Casual outdoor parties which prominently feature hosts who play with fire need not be impossible to navigate for vegetarians, vegans, or the people who throw the party (who might not be vegetarian). There’s lots of options for everyone and this post will link to some of the yummy cookout posts here from previous years, as well as thoughts and tips for navigating cookouts that are less veg-friendly. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, there’s no reason you can’t throw a helluva party with amazing food that omnivores will scarf up with pleasure. Likewise, if you’re an omnivore, you don’t have to exclude your vegetarian friends from cookouts. Throw a great party around the grill! There are only two requirements and they’re easy.

Firstly, if you are hosting a cookout, always cook the vegetarian items on the grill before the meat items, if you’re planning on cooking any meat. (Vegetarian cookouts can be awesome! Check out the links at the end of this post.) The second requirement is that you and your guests love good food. 🙂 See? Easy.

Portobello burgers, grilled corn and homemade potato salad.

Portobello burgers, grilled corn and homemade potato salad.

There are some vegetarians and vegans who just can’t stand to be around any meat at all. Please, if you’re an omnivore, find out if your veggie-loving friends are okay with a meat option if cooked after the veggie components of the meal go on the grill. If you’re a vegan or vegetarian and you’re invited to a cookout with friends who are omnivores, ask if you should bring your own burgers or soy dogs or if they will be provided. If you’re bringing your own, arrive early. At least early enough that the whole meal isn’t held up waiting for the veg items to be put on the grill. Try not make too big a deal about it all, or inconvenience your host. This really shouldn’t be a big deal.

If they invited you to a cookout, it’s probably because they like you, enjoy your company, and want you to have a good time. You should honor their effort to accommodate your dietary choices and be happy to be included. On the off chance they invited you as some sort of passive aggressive way of disapproving of you and making you feel uncomfortable and unwanted, then they are very clearly and sadly in the wrong by any standard of civility and hospitality. How you respond to this is a personal decision and depends on the sort of person you are, whether you’re a “turn the other cheek” sort of person or a “my way or the highway” sort of person. Please don’t start a fight: people won’t remember that the host treated you poorly, only that you were screaming at them. Remember: the whole idea is to socialize, have fun, and eats tons of good food!

BBQ Baked Beans, hot and spicy!

BBQ Baked Beans, hot and spicy!

If no accommodation is made for your food choices, there are still some workarounds you can do as a vegetarian or vegan. One thing I did at a cookout was to make a sloppy joe style burger for myself out of the baked beans — which I had brought. If you didn’t make the beans you can’t know for sure if it’s vegetarian or vegan, but it’s a small compromise, as such things go. If you want to be sure such a work-around option is vegetarian, then offer to bring the BBQ Baked Beans. 🙂 They’re spicy and tasty and will win friends. I have people ask for this recipe every time I take it to a cookout where there’s people who haven’t had it before.

Frankenslaw

Frankenslaw

Social situations are supposed to be fun. Food is culture — and it’s inclusiveness, too. Sharing meals is one of those things that binds groups of people together. Making meals together, too. Also, potlucks. This is socially and culturally important. And fun. Let’s not forget the fun! Below are some previous posts about cookouts, about vegetarian burger and hotdog options, and recipes for various yummy things you can grill or bring. You will note that some of these posts refer to Thanksgiving. I live near the Texas Gulf Coast; cookout season easily extends to Thanksgiving and I’ve found that a vegetarian cookout for Thanksgiving is good analogue for a traditional Thanksgiving: everyone brings dishes and helps with the cooking, there’s a festive party atmosphere, and we all eat way too much! 😉

I don’t have a “bean burger” recipe (yet), and haven’t been diligent about creating one because I love the LightLife Backyard Grillin’ Burgers for cookouts. (Their other burgers are also good, but the Backyard Grillin Burgers are the absolute best for the grill.)

Give our blog a good browse and you’ll come up with desserts, too! (Throwing a party? Going to a party? Read about The Sticky Business of RSVPs. I wrote it for the Christmas season, but yeah, totally applicable to cookouts!)

Red Chile Fettucine with Tomatoes and Kale

20150427_185653

Red chili pasta with tomatoes and kale

This is a fast, easy, meal. Simple, but with complex flavors due to the combination of flavored pasta and seasonings. It’s also very colorful, lowfat, and nutritious. And did I mention it tastes good? I know some people aren’t crazy about kale, but if you season things right, the greens don’t overwhelm the other flavors. Greens. I added kale to this simply because I saw some nice looking bunches of lacinato kale at the store. You could do something like this with any type of greens that are in season, though, of course it would taste different depending on what you added and you would almost certainly have to adjust the seasonings to complement the alternative additions. Why throw in greens at all? It’s fast, easy, and nutritious. Greens of various types can be added to a lot of things pretty easily simply because they cook quickly. They’re leaves. It doesn’t take much to cook them. Most of these ingredients are staples that you may have on hand in the pantry anyway, so grab a handful of fresh kale and you’ve got bright delicious meal. The secret of this dish is in the pasta and the seasonings.

20150427_185107

Al Dente Red Chile Fettucine

I served this light sauce over Al Dente’s Red Chile Fettucine. It is spicy. If you use some other non-spicy pasta, you should probably add a little bit of hot pepper such as cayenne or Hungarian hot paprika to give it the missing spiciness.

Smoked Spanish Style Paprika (from Penzeys).

Smoked Spanish Style Paprika (from Penzeys).

Speaking of paprika…I recently discovered smoked paprika at Penzys and that’s the other secret ingredient in this dish. The first time I used it I went waaaaay overboard, so this time I used a more modest amount. If you want to really ramp up the smoky flavor use a bit more than I did. The smoky paprika when combined with the other seasonings and spicy fettuccine noodles is subtle in the amount I used.

I also kept the dish light using garlic powder instead of sauteing garlic in oil. The “sauce” is very thin and there’s not much of it. Mostly it’s pasta, tomatoes, kale, and griller strips. If you want more of a traditional red pasta sauce — or to increase the amount of servings — try adding a 15 oz can of tomato sauce in addition to the can of diced tomatoes. (You will need to increase the seasoning, if you increase the amount of sauce.) Alternately, when the weather warms up and there are tomatoes galore, you could make this with chopped fresh tomatoes.

This makes three generous (big bowl) servings or four more modest servings.

  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 3/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 garlic powder
  • pinch of salt
  • Lacinato kale, washed and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 bag of Simple Truth griller strips
  • Al Dente’s Red Chile Fettucine

While water for pasta is coming to a boil (use a big pot), simmer the diced tomatoes and seasonings on low-ish heat, in a medium (or large) saucepan, covered. The saucepan needs to be significantly bigger than the amount of sauce because you’ll be adding kale and griller strips — and you need to be able to stir without slinging bits of kale all over the kitchen. (Been there, done that.)

You don’t need to simmer very long before you add the kale, stirring it in and then covering the pot again. When the kale has wilted a bit, add a half bag of griller strips, stirring in. Since these are frozen, it will bring the temp down, so stir it quite a bit and make sure the strips have sufficient time to thaw and cook. It doesn’t need much cooking time, but it does need to heat up first!

By now the pasta water should be boiling. Or not. The pasta only takes 3 minutes to cook, so don’t fidget over how long it takes the water to come to a boil. Just keep the pot of sauce covered and the heat under it low, stirring occasionally, so it doesn’t stick or cook completely away. Remember: there won’t be much actual sauce. It’s mostly going to be veg and griller strips.

When the pasta is done, drain, but do not rinse. Serve the tomato, kale, and griller strips over the hot spicy Red Chile Fettuccine pasta. Enjoy.

20150427_185511

Spicy, smokey, and delicious!

 

Hazelnut Date Scones (Vegan)

Hazelnut date scones, piping hot!

Hazelnut date scones, piping hot!

This is yet another variation on my Hazelnut Scones Three Ways recipe. This is a fourth variation, with an added twist that I used soy milk for the milk. I’m experimenting with substituting soy milk in some recipes and used it recently in Apricot Ginger Scones, so I thought I’d see how it works in this recipe which has ground hazelnuts as half the base. The soy milk worked well and the dates were a good addition to this hazelnut scone recipe. I’m sure that there are some add-ins which won’t go well with hazelnuts, but so far I haven’t found any! If you’d like to browse my other scones recipes (and related articles) check out the scones tag. I’m in the process of testing my various scone recipes with soy milk; as I do I’ll make a note in each recipe if that substitution works.

I’ve used both dried chopped dates and whole pitted dates which I chopped myself. They both make delicious scones. I use slightly more dates than I do add-ins in my Hazelnut Scones 3 Ways recipe.

  • 1 1/4 cups of ground hazelnuts
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1Tbls baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbls sugar
  • 8 Tbls Smart Balance Original margarine
  • 1/3 cup dried dates (I used SunMaid Deglet Noor dates)
  • 1/2 cup Silk Organic Unsweetened Soy Milk

Preheat oven 425.

If you don’t have access to hazelnut meal (which I’ve rarely seen), do as I do and grind hazelnuts into a meal in either a coffee grinder or food processor. The meal will be soft and fluffy so it needs to be pressed down in the measuring cup to get an accurate measure. It only takes seconds to make the small amount of meal needed for the recipe, so this extra step in scone making does not add an appreciable amount of time or effort to the preparation.

Mix dry ingredients. Cut in margarine with a fork, pastry blender, or your fingers. Then toss in dates. Mix in with your fingers, breaking up any pieces that look or feel too big. This is especially important if you used whole dates which you chopped yourself, not because you did a poor job of chopping, but because those dates are much stickier and tend to clump. Separate out any clumps and sift through your fingers until the mix looks more or less homogenous.

Add soy milk. Stir until it forms a sticky dough. Form into a dozen balls, about 2 inches in diameter, I’d guess.

Bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 425 for 15 minutes. Your oven may vary. Scones should be slightly browned on top and done all the way through when tested with a toothpick. If some of the balls of dough were bigger than others, test those for doneness.

While the scones are baking, make a pot of tea (or coffee, if you prefer). These scones go particularly well with strong black British breakfast tea blends. Serve the scones hot from the oven. Store cooled leftover scones in an airtight container. They’re good the next day, too! (Assuming you have any left over!) 😉

 

Apricot Ginger Scones (Vegan)

20150331_161943

I have revised this recipe since it was originally published. You can find the revised version here.

Usually when trying something new I try to limit changes to one thing at a time so I know which new thing is the problem if my “fake it when you bake it” recipe goes awry, but I was pretty sure this was going to work out okay, so I used soy milk to see how vegan would work for scones. I’ve had this flavor combination in mind for a while, but only just recently threw a bunch of ingredients together and tried it out. Oh, wonderful!

I love crystalized ginger. I put it in my tea sometimes, or snack on it. But I realize that its combination of sharp and sweet may not be to everyone’s tastes, and I didn’t want it to overwhelm the other flavors so I used less of it than the dried fruit. More than 1/8th cup, but less than 1/4 cup. The ginger and nutmeg play very well together. Also, because the crystalized ginger is lightly dusted with sugar — and the fruit is sweet, too — I can get away with very little added sugar in this recipe. You might could pare the added sugar down even more, depending on how sweet you like your scones.

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 Tbls baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbls sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 8 Tbls margarine
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup dried apricots, diced
  • slightly less than 1/4 cup crystalized ginger, diced
  • 2/3 cup soy milk (I used Silk organic unsweetened)

Preheat oven 425. Stir together all the dry ingredients (first five ingredients). Then blend in the margarine with a fork, pastry cutter, or just use your hands, until it’s all worked in evenly. Toss in the fruits and stir in well so that it’s evenly distributed. Pour in soy milk. Stir until the dough starts to come together, then use your hands and knead it until it makes a firm round of dough. Divide into two more or less equal pieces. Shape each into a ball and then a flattened round probably 5 or 6 inches in diameter. Place the rounds on an ungreased baking sheet. Cut each into 6 equal wedge-shaped pieces. Separate the wedges on the baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes or until done. (If the wedges don’t come out equal sized, then test the larger ones with a toothpick for doneness when you take them out of the oven.)

This is heavenly! Good as is, or broken apart with a dab of margarine inside. You could put jam on them, but this has so much fruit and flavor that jam might be overkill! 😉

20150331_161908

Roasted New Potatoes, Mediterranean Style

I spotted an assortment of new potatoes in the store: red, white and…blue? Well, the third variety (and of course, they weren’t named) had a dark skin and though I’ve read about purple potato varieties in gardening magazines and catalogs I hadn’t actually eaten any. The assortment was lovely. In the future, however, I think I will choose a less dark way of preparing any dark/blue/purple type of potato because it sort of blended with the rest of the ingredients. On the other hand…once they are sliced in half the blue/purple potatoes have a strikingly lovely color that went all the way through. I want to look for more of these potatoes (or maybe grow my own). (Imagine what potato salad would look like!)

20150326_192246

Lovely spring color! Yummy, too!

This recipe a yummy way of cooking potatoes. If you don’t have new potatoes (though there should be plenty of small potatoes in stores and markets at this time of year) you can also do this with larger red or white (or purple) potatoes: just cut them into halves or quarters.

Cooking time on this is a bit variable, not just depending on your stove, but also depending on the size of the potatoes. I’ve seen some “new” potatoes that were pretty big for small potatoes, but on the other hand, in this assortment pictured here the potatoes were the smallest new potatoes I’ve seen. I bake these for an hour at 350. You can probably go less, depending on the size of the potatoes or potato pieces. They’re done when you can easily stick a fork in them.

You can use canned mushrooms in this, but fresh is sooooo much better. Canned mushrooms are for when you forget to buy fresh and otherwise have all the ingredients on hand. If using canned mushrooms, don’t saute them, just stir them in with the olives.

This smells amazing: olive oil, mushrooms, garlic and rosemary. Really, the potatoes are just an excuse to blend all these wonderful things together. Prep doesn’t take much time. This recipe is easy and can be made easily with no fuss or hassle.

1 lb white button mushrooms
1 med onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic (depending on size of cloves & how much you like garlic), minced or run through garlic press
Olive oil
1 1/2 lbs new potatoes
2 Tbls rosemary
3-4 oz sliced black olives, rinsed and drained

Preheat oven 350.

Wash and drain potatoes. Clean mushrooms and remove stems. Coarsely slice mushrooms. Saute mushrooms in a small amount of olive oil until they start to turn color and make their own juice. Add chopped onion and garlic. Let simmer over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, while you mix up the other ingredients.

In a large bowl, drizzle 4 Tbls olive oil over new potatoes. Sprinkle in 2 Tbls dried rosemary. Toss to coat. Add the rinsed and well drained black olives. Stir. By now the mushrooms and onions have cooked down a bit and have created a bit of yummy smelling broth. Dump the hot mixture into the bowl with the potatoes and stir well.

20150325_190710

Red, white, and purple potatoes, before they go into the oven.

Then transfer the potatoes to a shallow baking dish and bake uncovered at 350, uncovered, for 1 hour…or less depending on your oven and the size of the potatoes. They’re done when they’re tender.

20150325_201058

Hot out of the oven! Some potatoes were so small I probably could’ve cooked it for less time.

These make yummy left-overs…except that I’ve rarely had any left! It can work as a make-ahead dish which is then reheated in the microwave.