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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Faux Pepperoni for Pizza

For most of my teenage life pepperoni and black olives were the only things allowed on my pizza slices. Day after day after day where I worked at Mazzatta's Italian Restaurant.

In the past 20 plus years as a pescatarian I have indulged in pepperoni pizza on rare occasions, but not often because I prefer my meat to be "happy" and generally pepperoni in pizza joints doesn't fit that description.

But since working as a lunch lady making vegetarian meals only in a groovy, alternative charter school where I hear the plaintive longing for pepperoni on the pizza, an investigation of alternative forms seemed in order.

And then I found THE recipe on the Minimalist Baker.

Can I just say easy, delicious and quick!

If you have kids, big or small, with a vegetarian diet who are craving pepperoni this is the ticket. Don't be put off by the list of ingredients, you probably have all them in the pantry, and this just needs a few whizzes in the food processor and a quick bake and Voila! Magic!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Homemade French Fries - Easy, Quick, Amazing!

French Fries - you would think they would be impossible to make at home without a huge amount of hot oil that you were afraid was going to catch on fire or at the very least splatter all over your stovetop. So wrong! Or should I say So Right!

These were PERFECT! Simple, easy and the oil was hardly flavored so it was so reusable!

Yes, it will take a full bottle of oil (I used olive oil, it's the only oil I cook with; but use peanut or sunflower or canola or whatever you desire.) You simply cut up your russets, place them in a large, heavy bottom pot with enough oil to cover them by at least 1/2 an inch and bring it to a boil. Then watch as they bubble away for about 10-12 minutes and you get gorgeous, browned, crispy French Fries that will wow your eaters and blow your mind!

Keep in mind, if you use different size pots (because you want to make sure you have plenty of fries!) a small pot will cook faster. As soon as they look golden, spoon them out with a slotted spoon and let drain on newspaper or paper towels and sprinkle with salt immediately and inhale! Or, eat like an elegant French person, NOT!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Blue Corn Sopes with Refried Beans and Cheese

Sopes are another one of those Mexican comfort foods that so many people have yet to add to their repertoire let alone try just because they haven't become as ubiquitous as tacos or burritos. But really, they are equally versatile and delicious.

Here in northern Humboldt we are lucky enough to have a local purveyor of great masa - yellow and blue (Bien Padre, AKA Mala Madre according to my hubby), so I scooped up some blue masa to make these tasty morsels. Like Gorditas or homemade corn tortillas, you simply add water and salt to masa and let it sit; then you shape it and fry it as needed.

Making the dough is about trial and error - you don't want it too wet or too dry, and letting it sit for at least 15 minutes helps to allow the masa absorb the water. I simply dump some masa into a bowl - about 1 1/2 cups for about 3-4 sopes each - add about 1 cup of water and about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and let it sit while I'm getting the toppings ready. Then I check the dough and see if it needs a little more water or a little more masa. It should hold together when you make a ball and flatten it slightly; if it sticks to your hands, it needs just a little more masa. Conversely, if it's dry add a little more water. After a few trys you will see how it works best.

These were a brunch meal so it was a simple topping of refried beans, shredded cheese (ricotta salata, so similar to Mexican cotija) and some salsa and guacamole. Really, how can you go wrong!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Chicken Saltimbocco

A few weeks ago a landmark old-school style Italian restaurant closed its doors after serving the community since 1928...We of course had dinner before they shuttered for good. "Saltimbocco" means "jump in mouth" and this was their version of Chicken Saltimbocco, and it was tooooo diiiiie forrrrr!  So naturally it needed to be recreated at home!

Creamy cheesy marsala wine sauce, meltingly sweet sun-dried tomatoes and succulent chicken, really, how can you go wrong! Do not be put off by what appears to be long instructions, they are there to ensure a delicious end result.

It looks fancy but is deceptively simple; dust chicken breasts with flour, slip a few slices of prosciutto and mozzarella into a pocket in the chicken breast, brown, and make the sauce as the chicken is browning, and Eccola! Saltimbocco!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Gado Gado Salad

Gado Gado sounds like baby talk but this is not for babies, no sireee! This is a classic Indonesian salad that is a great way to use up all of those scraps of veggies you've got in the crisper bin. Little bits of cabbage, celery, few potatoes and a couple of green beans just hanging around taunting you? Whip up some peanut sauce or the like and you've got some Gado Gado!

Actually, it was the appearance of some free peanut sauce that inspired this meal (another freebie expired item from the co-op, courtesy of my hubbie).  But whipping up some peanut sauce (or other nut butter) is easy to do, especially as the water is boiling for making the eggs, potatoes and green beans.

This is an especially great meal when you realize that veggies have been AWOL from your meal plans in a while. Giving the cabbage a quick blanch makes this meal slightly warmed and less of a plate full of salad. Add whatever protein you choose, tofu is traditional and here I seared some and place it in the middle. Use what you have on hand.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Egg Foo Yung

Eggs and I have not always been the best of dining companions. A very fussy eater as a child when it came to anything besides salad, pickles and bread and butter, my mother once infamously made me eat to fried eggs, which were promptly regurgitated. Not a pretty scene.

Fast forward multiple decades and such food abhorrence's feel antiquated, so dutifully I try to overcome them. Egg foo yung was just one of those that sounded like it would make my tummy queasy again. How wrong can a person be!

This turned out to be a fun bunch meal, complete with the fun Asian BBQ dipping sauce I added, completely untraditional but delicious!

Fast, quick and with some veggies secreted inside, try this the next time you are at a loss for an easy and fun brunch meal.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Cauliflower Parmesan

So that Red Coated, Chocolate Dipped Faux Holiday is a few days away, and you want to make something special for your love, but you don't have tons of time to look up a fancy recipe...So make comfort food! Right! Happy, warm, yummy in your tummy food!

No, not pasta, but close, Parmesan! Cauliflower Parmesan!

(Wait for it...)

CAULIFLOWER PARMESAN?

Yes, you heard right, and why didn't I think of this sooner? Breaded cauliflower doused with tomato sauce, bechamel sauce and loads of parmesan baked to crispy perfection. I will bet the house that everyone will love this!

How can such a boast be made? Just seeing the look on my hubby's face when he spied the cauliflower florets awaiting their breading (it was of total horror) and then cut to him forking said florets transformed into magical goodness into his mouth. "I was skeptical, but this is amazing!" From the mouths of babes!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Morning Glory Muffins with Spelt Flour

What do you do with 3-4 cups of leftover raw shredded carrot and apple salad? Make morning glory muffins, of course!

One of my many fun food jobs is being a free-lance lunch lady at North Coast Preparatory Academy and usually the kids are fairly food adventurous. But too much carrot apple salad was just that, too much. So I found this muffin recipe and used up my leftovers. Voila! Repurposed salad in a hand-held breakfast.

Since wheat flour is out of my diet, I used spelt flour. And despite the original author's admonishments about the "correct" way to measure flour (which I didn't follow), and my need to just keep adding until the mixture looked right (spelt needs less liquid than wheat), these muffins turned out wonderfully! My husband's co-workers thanked me profusely for sending them in with him for the staff lounge.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Baked Ziti with Veggie Italian Sausage Crumbles

Awww, baked ziti, a phrase that invokes comfort, cheesy, Italian homemade goodness.

No? You must not be from the Northeast!

Baked ziti, AKA pasta al forno is truly second best only to pizza. If you are an omnivore, adding in some Italian sausage is always a good thing. Fortunately my freezer had some of my homemade veggie Italian sausage (gluten free!), so it was added to the mix. Delizioso!

This can be a quick pantry meal if you already have a few things on hand, such as prepared tomato sauce and veggie sausage crumbles. Preparation is simple: heat tomato sauce, cook pasta, sautee crumbles (all of which can basically happen simultaneously), combine and grate cheese over the top and bake.

If you have to use gluten free pasta as I do, then this is a great dish for hiding the less than exciting texture of such pastas. It also can handle a variety of cheeses, great for using up odd bits and pieces out of your cheese drawer. (What? You don't have a cheese drawer? So sorry to hear that! Get started on that right away!)

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Herb Crusted Tofu

Vegetarianizing (or veganizing) meat recipes is so much fun! But it doesn't always turn out great the first time around. Luckily this one did!

Taking inspiration from this fish preparation, this tofu dish is easy to whip together and bakes up in a snap! Super delicious and kid approved! Definitely one of those 30 minute meals that you can finish preparing the rest of the dinner as the tofu bakes. Even beginner cooks will find this not to challenging!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Bread Cheese Smothered in Warm Salsa

Once upon a time, there was a woman with a dream job, managing the wine, cheese and speciality food section of a food co-op in Santa Monica, California. She lived four blocks from the Pacific Ocean, rode her bike to work year round, and loved her work. One day, her ambition raised its ugly head and she thought to herself, "I am Bored! Where are the new challenges in life?" So she quit her dream job and spiraled down into misery and sorrow.

True story. It would be a sad story, but that spiral led her out of the Southland to the North Coast where she met the love of her life and has since lived happily ever after.

But during that dreamy job time she never met Bread Cheese. Why not? Where had Bread Cheese been hiding during that dreamy time? Why had the cheese vendors kept it from her? Thankfully, when she arrived in the land of happily ever after, the cheese monger at the local food co-op brought Bread Cheese out of hiding and she joyously felt her cheese life was now complete.

Do you despair that you have not yet found Bread Cheese? Know your rights! Demand it from your cheese monger today! And start on the road to your happily ever after too!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Tofu Pot Pie

Do you recall the first time you had a pot pie? Wasn't it a revelation! Buttery crust, warm, gooey stuff inside (probably chicken - my childhood was pre-tofu in frozen food). Burning your mouth on the hot gravy, but plowing through the next bite because it was so exciting. This was definitely food that your mother did not make at home. It always came in its own foil tin and was disposable (recycling hadn't become a household mandate yet.) 

Fast forward several decades and kids, young and old, still love pot pie. So make them a homemade version and make everyone happy!

The youngest daughter thought this version was "one of best ones" she had ever had. High praise indeed! This one has a rich mushroom gravy with some pan fried tofu tossed in for protein and fun veggies like corn and peas. 

Yes, this is a time commitment recipe, but just think of how pleased everyone will be with the results! If you read the recipe carefully, you will see that you can make the filling while the crust chills. Give yourself some time and enjoy a well made homemade pot pie dinner!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Zarzuela de Mariscos - Spanish Seafood Stew

Fish stews don't usually sound that exciting unless they have names like Zarzuela de Mariscos. Wow! What a mouthful! And let me tell you, as a maker of and afficionado of many fish stews, this one is really spectacular!

Don't let the long list of ingredients daunt you, it is really a tomato based stew with a few key ingredients that make it really amazing - almond meal! fresh rosemary and thyme! Honestly, who knew that a simple combination like that could transform a dish!

This dish definitely goes in the "smack your mama" file, meaning I should whack her a good one for never telling/making this for me! Yeah, it's that good!

So start out the new year with a list of must-make recipes and put this one at the top!