Category Archives: Grains Free

Classic Falafel – Vegan, and Gluten-Optional!

Eat a good falafel once and you understand why they are so loved. Crunchy on the outside, fluffy and bread-like on the inside. Packed with earthy, fresh, lemony herbaceous flavor, they taste sinful, but are actually all good! If you dip them into cool creamy tzatziki sauce, you have taken them to yet another level. Add bright summer tomatoes and crisp lettuce, then throw it all on flatbread and you have an unbeatable lunch or dinner.

The perk: its all plants. …well, except for the tzatziki sauce, but even that it packed with cucumber (and you could do a vegan version of that too). All those textures and savory flavors scream plant-based diet suitable for anyone, including carnivores.

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falafel
falafel

Here’s how… So Easy!

Soak chickpeas in water and let them sit overnight. You do not have to cook them or anything! Just soak them; it couldn’t be easier.

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Here is your flavor, your texture, all the yumminess you need.

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Drain chickpeas (after they have soaked overnight). Lay them out to somewhat dry. You do not want them to be soaking wet. Finely mince parsley, cilantro, and garlic.

You can use any combination of parsley and cilantro that you like. I like either equal parts, or a little more parsley than cilantro.

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Put all ingredients, except flour, into a food processor. Pulse until the chickpeas are minced. In order to have a nice texture with a bite, do not turn your mixture into mush. Taste and adjust seasonings and salt, if desired.

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Scrape down the sides and pulse once more.

If you feel you need a bit of a binder, you can add chickpea flour or all purpose flour. Pulse a couple more times just to incorporate the flour.

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In a sauce pot, heat cooking oil. I like coconut oil for its digestibility. Peanut oil is also good. Any oil that can withstand high heat will work. Using a portion scoop for uniformity, or just your hands, form little balls.

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Fry them until they are golden brown on all sides, flipping as needed. Remove falafel from oil using a slotted heat-safe spoon and set aside to drain, either on a rack or paper towels.

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Serve falafels over salad, or rice, or in a pita pocket or on flatbread with tzatziki sauce, tomato, lettuce, and cucumber.

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falafel
falafel
falafel

Classic Falafel – Vegan, and Gluten Optional

As-is, this recipe is delicious! But it is also easily customizable. Change up the flavors around anyway you like! Make them more lemony, add heat, whatever floats your falafel boat.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked in water overnight
  • 1 cup combination of parsley and cilantro, minced (equal parts, 1/2 cup each is very good)
  • 1/2 cup diced onion (about one small onion)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1/4 t. coriander
  • 1/4 t. paprika
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 t. lemon juice
  • 1 t. salt (or to taste)
  • optional: cayenne, to taste (if you can take the heat, this is highly recommended)
  • optional binder: chickpea flour or all purpose flour (1 T or more, as desired)
  • cooking oil, enough to fry falafel (I like coconut oil, or a blend of peanut and coconut oils)

Method

Drain chickpeas (they should have soaked overnight). Lay them out to somewhat dry. You do not want them to be soaking wet. Finely mince parsley, cilantro, and garlic. Put all ingredients, except flour, into a food processor. Pulse until the chickpeas are minced. In order to have a nice texture with a bite, do not turn your mixture into mush. Taste and adjust seasonings and salt, if desired.

If you feel you need a bit of a binder, you can add chickpea flour or all purpose flour. Pulse a couple more times just to incorporate the flour.

In a sauce pot, heat cooking oil. I like coconut oil for its digestibility. Peanut oil is also good. Any oil that can withstand high heat will work. Using a portion scoop for uniformity, or just your hands, form little balls. In pot of cooking oil at medium- high heat, fry falafel until they are golden brown on all sides, flipping as needed. Remove falafel from oil using a slotted heat-safe spoon and set aside to drain, either on a rack or paper towels.

Serve falafels over salad, or rice, or in a pita pocket or on flatbread with tzatziki sauce, tomato, lettuce, and cucumber.

Enjoy!

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Super Simple Seed Crackers

Seriously simple! All seeds, nothing else. No nuts. No flours. Which makes this cracker, of course, gluten-free, common allergen-free, vegan, and paleo. Nice!

In my circles, there is this really cool little group of money-saving, brainstorming, efficient, simple-living, inspiring women. They share deals and coupons, as well as ideas and resources for clean, debt-free, productive, purpose-driven living. I love these ladies!

The current group challenge is aimed at the kitchen, specifically the pantry… those items that sit there taking up space when they could be used to feed our families and save a trip to the grocery store. That’s money in the bank! The challenge is to scout out those items in our own pantries and use them up.

In my fridge and pantry, I have little bags of seeds. Hemp, pumpkin, chia, flax, sunflower, black sesame, white sesame, things that are not labelled… you get the idea. Seeds don’t last forever. It is time to use the seeds. Seeds can be used a thousand ways, which frankly is why I have the seeds, but I would like to use these seeds in one quick application.

The solution? Crackers! Gluten-free homemade sesame flavored crackers. For snacking, to serve along side soup, do dip, whatever. These nutrient-packed little bites will be eaten easily in cracker form.

Challenge accepted. Seeds done!

seed crackers

Here is the super simple method.

I am using a blend of about equal parts sunflower, pumpkin, and white sesame seeds, and throwing in a couple teaspoons, maybe, of flax seeds. When water is added, the flax seeds will act as a binder. Sunflower seeds create a great flour-like cracker texture. And pumpkin and sesame seeds will provide a pleasing flavor without having to add anything else but salt.

Maybe we will enjoy these with a simple asian soup, egg drop or wonton. I happen to have all the ingredients, including some soup stock in the freezer. 🙂 Still in the spirit of the challenge.

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In a mini food processor, grind your seeds down to almost a flour.

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Some clumping is fine. For texture, it is nice to leave some seed pieces in tact. Mix in salt and any seasonings you would like to use. Taste. Adjust seasoning if needed.

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Place seed “flour” into a bowl and add water, a little bit at a time. Combine seed flour with water to form a dough. You need very little water to do this.

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On a lightly oiled silpat or parchment-lined cookie sheet, press dough into a flat rectangle.

Note: My silpat is rather heavily oiled here, with olive oil. I thought about turning up the heat to get crispy edges. Oily crispy edges of this sometimes taste a little like bacon. Just an option.

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Cover with parchment to easily press or roll it flatter. I like a very thin cracker; you can go as thin as you like. Very thin crackers will be more delicate.

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Remove parchment. Pre-cut slices with a pizza cutter or sharp knife so they will easily break apart when baked.

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seed crackers

In a low oven, 200º or less, place cookie sheet. Prop the door slightly open with a wooden spoon to help crackers dry. Bake for about 2 hours. Check periodically.

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If you like the texture, remove crackers, break apart and serve. You can leave them in longer if you want them dryer.

seed crackers

seed crackers

Enjoy!

Super Simple Seed Crackers

This simple cracker is good on it’s own, but even better when added to a snack tray with fruit and cheeses! Also, try mixing in spices and herbs, or even veggie pulp from juicing. You can go just about anywhere with this method. 

Ingredients:

  • (1 cup) seeds – today I have a blend of equal parts sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame
  • about 1 T flax seeds – whatever seeds you are using, added flax or chia seeds will give your crackers a binder
  • salt, to taste
  • water
  • optional: spices and herbs, whatever you like

Method

In a mini food processor, grind your seeds down to almost a flour. Some clumping is fine. For texture, it is nice to leave some seed pieces in tact. Mix in salt and any seasonings you would like to use. Taste. Adjust seasoning if needed.

Place seed “flour” into a bowl and add water, a little bit at a time. Combine seed flour with water to form a dough. You need very little water to do this.

On a lightly oiled silpat or parchment-lined cookie sheet, press dough into a flat rectangle. Cover with parchment to easily press or roll it flatter. I like a very thin cracker; you can go as thin as you like. Very thin crackers will be more delicate. Remove parchment. Pre-cut slices with a pizza cutter or sharp knife so they will easily break apart when baked.

In a low oven, 200º or less, place cookie sheet. Prop the door slightly open with a wooden spoon to help crackers dry. Bake for about 2 hours. Check periodically. If you like the texture, remove crackers, break apart and serve. You can leave them in longer if you want them dryer. I have set the oven under 200º (on keep warm) and left them in the oven overnight (door still propped with a wooden spoon). They dry out and have a texture somewhere between baked and dehydrated. Very good!

Note: this recipe method suggests beginning with one cup of seeds because this amount fits easily onto a cookie sheet. You can make as much as you like!

Enjoy!

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Black Bean Hummus

If you ever tire of hummus, how about changing it up a bit with black beans! Switching out chickpeas for black beans takes that familiar-yet-exotic something we love about hummus and adds a deeper, richer flavor.

Use black bean hummus in recipes, as a dip or a spread, the same way you use any hummus, to add interest to your dishes. I love it spread on a tortilla and piled high with fresh raw spinach and summer tomatoes dressed simply with olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper. Mmmmm

A perk… it is difficult to find naturally gray food. I wish I had thought of this for the last game day when gray was needed to represent team colors! This comes out a beautiful light gray with black flecks. Really pretty! Images do not do it justice.

black bean hummus

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black bean hummus

black bean hummus

Organic restaurant style corn tortilla chips and black bean hummus = a natural pairing.

Party food. Movie night. Family night. Yes, please.

black bean hummus

Black Bean Hummus

For a delicious twist, use as a dip, a sandwich spread, or in any dish you make with hummus.

Ingredients:

  • cooked black beans, 1 3/4 – 2 cups (equivalent to one 15 oz can)
  • optional: 1/2 onion
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, smashed, skins discarded (optional: roasted if using canned beans)
  • 1 1/2 t. lemon juice (or 3/4 t. ume plum vinegar for a flavor variation)
  • 1/4 cup tahini (see noted below)
  • 1/2 t. cumin powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • optional: cayenne or hot sauce, to taste
  • optional: garnish with cilantro and/or a drizzle of olive oil

Method

If you are using dried beans: Soak beans in water for at least an hour, or overnight. Rinse and strain beans. Place beans into a pot, add garlic cloves, and cover beans with water. If you want onion flavor, add that in too. Simmer until beans are tender. Drain, saving the bean broth. Add salt. to taste.

If using canned beans: Drain and rinse. Garlic can be minced raw, or you can roast your garlic for a deeper and sweeter flavor.

Combine all ingredients and put them into a food processor. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides once or twice. Use just enough water, or bean broth if you cooked your beans, to loosen the mixture as it purees.

Taste puree and add salt, pepper, additional flavorings as desired. Garnish and serve with chips, veggie dippers, or use as a sandwich or wrap spread.

Notes: If you do not have tahini, you can grind about 1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds, then add a little oil to loosen it (olive oil or nonGMO canola), and add a couple drops of sesame oil. In a mini food processor of blender, puree until smooth. Salt, to taste. I used sunflower seeds flavored with sesame oil in this hummus because those things were in my pantry. It hit all the right notes!

Enjoy!

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Hash with Adzuki Sausage

I could eat this every morning. But that would be much too much potato.

The one real “trick” to making a good hash is in the treatment of the potato. Other than that, you just need lots of good flavor. In this version, fresh crisp green pepper melds with pungent onion, savory, spicy, Italian adzuki sausage, and creamy-crispy salty potato to make a very tasty bite.

You can use any sausage you like; click here for the recipe for Adzuki Bean Italian Sausage. Happens to be vegan. No soy. No wheat. No nuts. So much flavor!

hash with adzuki bean sausage

The one real “trick” to making a good hash…

First, brown your potato.

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Then smoosh it with a potato masher. Nest, let it just sit there getting all browned and crispy on the bottom. Let it just build and develop flavor for you. Mmm

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Salt it, pepper it, stir it around, and mix in your sausage.

Delicious and DONE!

But if you are not making a vegan dish, a fried egg with a runny yolk will provide an easy sauce, softening the potato and making it amazing!

hash with adzuki bean sausage

hash with adzuki bean sausage

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Hash with Adzuki Sausage

With or without an egg on top, this is simple and delicious… provided your sausage is already made.

Ingredients

  • cooking oil
  • one small potato per person, small dice
  • green bell pepper, small dice
  • optional: thinly sliced onion
  • optional: jalapeno pepper, small dice
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • adzuki bean sausage – get recipe here

Method

In a skillet, saute potatoes in oil. Add onion. When potatoes start to brown, add green bell pepper and jalapeno pepper, if using. Using a potato masher, break down and smash potatoes just a bit. Then allow them to sit in the skillet and get crispy brown on the bottom. This is flavor! When potatoes are to your liking, salt and pepper, to taste, stir them around, gently stir in some of your adzuki sausage, and remove them from the skillet.

If desired, top each serving with a fried egg.

Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

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Flourless Chocolate Muffin Tops

When a yummy dish from a brilliant blogger appears on my screen, I save it, fully intending to make the dish. But usually, it never gets made. Instead, I make whatever is already in my kitchen, usually from whatever is in season or was a good price.

Food blogs are fabulous sources for inspiration! Hopefully, you use this blog to inspire you to make your own kitchen masterpieces. Take an idea, tweak it, and make it your own.

Enter Dr. Sarah’s Chocolate-Glazed Chocolate Donuts

Recently, these little Paleo donuts from Dr. Sarah, The Paleo Mom, appeared in my newsfeed. Those adorable little donuts look so chocolaty and cakey that they prompted a little impulse baking. (most of the time, baking is my dear daughter’s job)

As if the lure of “chocolate” were not reason enough to try these, they are made from plantains! Plantains and bananas digest very well in my family. Nuts, not so much. This recipe calls for plantains, and no nuts. And did I mention, it adds chocolate. How can that possibly be wrong?

Dr. Sarah’s donut recipe calls for lard, palm shortening, or ghee, all of which would be delicious! She says that using coconut oil may make the donuts more chewy. So, being the rebel that I am, I had to try it with coconut. A few minutes after making a batch, they were all gone, so it seems that the coconut oil was fine. Because of the eggs, the texture is a little spongy. It is very light, and will definitely satisfy a sweet tooth.

I don’t have a cute little donut mold, but I do have a muffin top tray… so tweaking just a tiny little bit, this easy batter becomes 6 muffin tops.

This is what they look like as muffin tops. Not as cute as the little donuts, but just as delicious!

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Topped with chocolate. Mmmmm

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Filled with chocolate and turned into a chocolate muffin top sandwich…

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Chocolate cravings officially satisfied. 🙂

Paleo Mom’s Recipe for Chocolate Glazed Chocolate Donuts

Click here for details and to see those cute donuts!

Ingredients:

  • 1 large green plantain
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate (I used organic chips from the bulk bin at Whole Foods)
  • 2 Tbsp lard, palm shortening, or ghee (I used coconut oil)
  • 1/2 tsp ground vanilla bean (optional) – vanilla bean is better! but I had extract & threw in a splash
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • generous pinch salt

Method

Preheat oven to 350º

  1. Peel and quarter plantain and put in a blender with the eggs.  Puree until completely smooth.
  2. Meanwhile, melt chocolate and lard (coconut oil) together.  Now would also be a good time to plug in your mini-doughnut maker. – I just pulled out my handy-dandy muffin top tin. 🙂
  3. Add vanilla bean, baking soda and salt to the plantain-egg mixture in the blender.  Blend a few seconds to combine.
  4. Turn blender on low, remove the little insert in the lid so you can pour stuff in.  Slowly pour the warm chocolate-lard mixture into the blender and keep blending until it’s entirely incorporated.
  5. Fill your muffin top tins. Bake for just a few minutes, until knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Carefully remove and let cool on a wire cooling wrack before glazing.  Repeat with remaining batter.

You can get the Paleo Mom method for glaze here. It looks great! I needed a quick chocolate topping, so I used the microwave on medium, 30 seconds at a time (stirring between 30-second intervals) to gently melt chocolate chips with a spoonful of coconut oil. Mmm

It worked.

Enjoy!

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Adzuki Bean Italian Sausage

The idea of vegan charcuterie has always intrigued me. It is the ultimate contradiction. And one I have frequently explored. The mock meats, fakons, tofurkeys, and quorn… leave a lot to be desired. But if you are working at home and you start with your own wheat gluten or soy, you can make an impressive and delicious charcuterie plate.

To make it a real challenge though, take out the wheat and soy. And if you have an intolerance to nuts, take those out too. What are you left with? Some pretty amazing ingredients.

When making a vegetable sausage, it is good to think of it as just that… a vegetable sausage. Not a “meat substitute”. The substitute thing implies an inferiority complex, and a bit of a martyrdom factor, as though it really aspires to be meat, but can only be a sad little wannabe, an imitation.

My vegan food does not have meat envy.

For this particular sausage, I want umami, heat, and Italian cuisine flavor that will keep me coming back for more. And nutrition (without tasting “nutritious”). It has to taste good. And it does! And it makes me feel good too.

adzuki bean italian sausage

Key Ingredients

Adzuki Beans make a great base. They are meaty, a great source of protein, iron, potassium, and folic acid. And they are often more easily digested than other legumes. They have a nutty flavor that will add to the dish without overwhelming, or making muddy, the other flavors.

You can usually pick up organic whole adzuki beans at an Asian market, or order them online. Soak them in water overnight, then cook them like you would cook any dried bean… bring to boil, simmer til tender. When 3 random beans are tender (eat 3 beans), not mush, the batch is probably cooked.

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Sundried tomatoes have a deep rich gorgeous umami flavor.  Try to find a good brand, preferably organic, to get the best flavor. You can easily reconstitute dried tomatoes by putting them in a bowl and pouring boiling water over them. Just let them sit for 30 minutes.

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Then for this recipe, puree them into a paste. Flavor town!!!

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The secret ingredient.

Star anise, combined with tomato and pungent herbs, is the magical ingredient that makes this a sausage, and not just mushed beans. It is the ingredient that brings everything together and reminds you of pepperoni pizza.

If you buy it whole, you can grind it up in a mini food processor or with a mortar and pestle. If you do not have either of these tools, buying them will change your culinary world!

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Adzuki Bean Italian Sausage

Prepare your ingredients so that you can enjoy building your flavors. Mince onion, pepper, and mushroom very finely. If you use a food processor, be careful that you do not puree your ingredients. It should be minced for good texture.

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In coconut oil, begin sauteing your onion. You can be generous with the coconut oil. Sausage is better if it is fatty, not dry. Give onions time to get tender and begin to brown. This is flavor!

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Add hot pepper and mushrooms. Add more coconut oil, as needed.

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When mushrooms are cooked, add garlic. Cook for a few minutes. Do not allow garlic to burn.

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Add sundried tomatoes. For a deeper tomato flavor, add in a little extra tomato paste.

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Add cooked beans. To get a firm texture, be sure you have not overcooked your beans.

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Using a potato masher, break up all the beans. You do not need to completely pulverize your beans, you just need them all broken up and mingling with the other flavors.

Sausage is “forcemeat” I am forcing these meaty beans through my potato masher. 🙂

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Add the remaining ingredients. Taste, and adjust ingredients to your liking. Don’t forget salt and black pepper! Fresh hot peppers, red chili flakes, and black pepper hits different places on the tongue. They work beautifully all together. Spice up your sausage as much or as little as you like.

I like to add star anise until the mixture reminds me of pepperoni.

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If you would like your sausage to hold its shape a little better, remove from heat and stir in xanthum gum.

Divide mixture into even pieces and roll them into logs. Wrap them in cheesecloth, twist the ends to firm and shape sausages to your liking. This is not terribly pretty food. If you have kitchen string, you can tie the ends. If not, just twist them up.

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In a stainless steel calendar over a pot with water, steam sausages for about 15 minutes. This will allow them to begin to set, especially if you have added xanthum gum.  To help them set better, refrigerate them overnight. This is a great make-ahead recipe!

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When you are ready to serve your sausages, gently remove cheesecloth, slice and enjoy!

This is not the prettiest of foods. It doesn’t care. It has other virtues.

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adzuki bean italian sausage

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If you do not have xanthum gum, or just do not want to use it, your sausage will make a nice crumble, great for pizza toppings, over rice, in an omelette, etc. Here is a xanthum gum free sausage that I crumbled up.

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Enjoy any way you like! Consider a charcuterie plate with nut cheese and seed crackers. 🙂

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Adzuki Bean Italian Sausage

Ingredients

This is delicious as-is, but can also be a great base for any flavors you like. Because it is wheat and soy free, the texture is not as firm as a traditional sausage. It is delicious on a pizza, in hash, or as part of a charcuterie plate. Make it your own!

Ingredients

  • coconut oil, be generous… fatty sausage is a good thing
  • 1 medium onion, finely minced
  • 1 hot pepper (I really like a serrano)
  • 1 cup finely minced mushrooms (will take about 8 mushrooms)
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 3 T reconstituted and pureed sundried tomato paste
  • 1 T tomato paste, if needed
  • 1 cup cooked adzuki beans
  • 1 t ground star anise (at least, you may want more)
  • 1 t ground oregano
  • 2 t vegan worcheshire sauce
  • red pepper flakes, to taste
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • optional: 1 t xanthum gum -please see Chef’s notes below
  • cheesecloth

Method

Prepare your ingredients so that you can enjoy building your flavors. Mince onion, pepper, and mushroom very finely. If you use a food processor, be careful that you do not puree your ingredients. It should be minced for good texture.

In coconut oil, begin sauteing your onion. You can be generous with the coconut oil. Sausage is better if it is fatty, not dry. Give onions time to get tender and begin to brown. This is flavor! Add hot pepper and mushrooms. Add more coconut oil, as needed. When mushrooms are cooked, add garlic. Cook for a few minutes. Do not allow garlic to burn. Add sundried tomatoes. For a deeper tomato flavor, add in a little extra tomato paste.

Add cooked beans. To get a firm texture, be sure you have not overcooked your beans. Using a potato masher, break up all the beans. You do not need to completely pulverize your beans, you just need them all broken up and mingling with the other flavors. Add the remaining ingredients. Taste, and adjust ingredients to your liking. I like to add star anise until the mixture reminds me of pepperoni.

If you would like your sausage to hold its shape a little better, remove from heat and stir in xanthum gum.

Divide mixture into even pieces and roll them into logs. Wrap them in cheesecloth, twist the ends to firm and shape sausages to your liking. If you have kitchen string, you can tie the ends. If not, just twist them up. In a stainless steel calendar over a pot with water, steam sausages for about 15 minutes. This will allow them to begin to set, especially if you have added xanthum gum.  To help them set better, refrigerate them overnight. This is a great make-ahead recipe!

When you are ready to serve your sausages, gently remove cheesecloth, slice and enjoy!

Chef’s notes: Planning ahead makes this dish very easy! Cook your beans, ground your star anise, and puree your sundried tomatoes. You can even shop you veggies and store them in containers in the fridge. With this done, you can just build all the flavors in your skillet and enjoy the intoxicating aromas in your kitchen.

Fat is good in this. Water is not. Before filling your cheesecloth, use the skillet to cook out as much water as possible.

Xanthum gum does help the sausage to hold it’s shape so that you can slice into it. But to me, it adds a slightly gummy sticky texture which numbs the flavor. I prefer to leave out xanthum gum and crumble the sausage.

Enjoy!

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Vegan Lentil Soup with Mustard Greens

This is for my friend Kayrie, and for anyone who loves a hearty soup that will fill you up without weighing you down. My tastebuds can’t seem to get enough of this soup! I enjoyed a warm bowl every morning until it was gone! …right down to the last tiny lentil.

This comes from ATK’s new vegetarian cookbook. Kayrie expressed interest in a good vegetarian dinner, and as I had been carrying around my new toy, aka “The America’s Test Kitchen Complete Vegetarian Cookbook”, I tossed it over to her and asked her to choose something. She leafed through the pages and quickly found this one – White Lentil Soup with Coconut Milk and Mustard Greens.

Lentil Soup with Mustard Greens

This was a great choice! What a lovely evening we had chopping, dicing, and layering flavors. Sadly, we could not find white lentils anywhere. Whole Foods had black, yellow, green, orange, and a few other colors, but no white! So we used some french lentils from my pantry. French lentils hold up very well in a soup. Our mustard greens did not have much of a mustardy bite, but were still very delicious. When soup was done, we filled up our bowls and were surprised that after all those incredible aromas, the first bite was … mediocre. But the second bite was kinda good. The third was delicious. Which each bite, the flavors layered and built on the palate and each bite was more delicious than the last. The final bites were heaven.

Lentil Soup with Mustard Greens

The recipe calls for adding a little lime/tomato salsa to the top of the bowl. Do not skip this! It enhances flavors exponentially. For a twist, Kayrie had the idea of adding okra to this soup, which also sounds amazing!

Lentil Soup with Mustard Greens

And, oh! This happens to be vegan  and gluten free too.

From America’s Test Kitchen

White Lentil Soup with Coconut Milk and Mustard Greens

This recipe comes straight from America’s Test Kitchen’s new book! (I am a fan)

Ingredients:

  • 2 t cumin seeds (we had only powder, and used a little less)
  • 3 T vegetable oil (we used coconut oil)
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 jalapeno chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced
  • 2 T grated fresh ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup white lentils, picked over and rinsed (we had french lentils)
  • 5 1/2 c vegetable broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 t turmeric
  • 14 oz mustard greens, stemmed and chopped (we use stems too)
  • 3 plum tomatoes, cored and chopped fine (we just dice them & use everything)
  • 1 T lime juice
  • 3/4 c canned coconut milk

Method

  1. Toast cumin in 8-inch skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about one minute. Transfer to bowl. (Because we had only cumin powder, we skipped this and added cumin powder with the garlic in step two, to allow it to bloom)
  2. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and 1/2 t salt and cook until onion is softened and lightly browned, 5-7 minutes. Stir in half of jalapeno, ginger, and garlic (and cumin powder, if you are using powder in lieu of seeds) and cook until fragrant and beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Stir in lentils, broth, bay leaf, turmeric, and one teaspoon toasted cumin and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, partially cover, and simmer until lentils are tender, 40 to 50 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, microwave mustard greens in a bowl until wilted and tender, 3 to 4 minutes; transfer to colander and let drain. In a separate bowl, toss tomatoes, lime juice, remaining 1 teaspoon toasted cumin, remaining jalapeno, and 1/4 t salt. (See notes)
  4. Discard bay leaf from the soup. Puree 3/4 c soup and coconut milk in a blender until smooth, about 30 seconds, then return to the pot. Stir in mustard greens and bring to brief simmer. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Top individual portions with tomato mixture, and serve.

Notes: I’m very sure there is a sound scientific reason for microwaving the greens; it is probably delicious! But I can’t bring myself to do that, for fear of losing nutrients. I threw them directly into the soup.

Enjoy!

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Yoda’s Rootleaf Stew

In honor of Star Wars Day…

Hardcore Star Wars fans will immediately notice the faux pas on this page. But it is not in the food! The food is good! When these spices, which will now be “Yoda spice” to me, hit the pan, the aroma is intoxicating. A feeling of peace and serenity fills the air, and the soul. And with power spices like turmeric and ginger, this would be fabulous for a young Jedi in training!

According to Wookipedia:

Rootleaf stew was a favorite meal of Jedi Master Yoda during his exile on Dagobah. It was a staple of his diet, supplemented by yarum seeds, mushroom spores, galla seeds, and sohli bark. Yoda prepared rootleaf stew the evening that he met Luke Skywalker.

To set the scene…

The only information that Wookiepedia has on the stew’s ingredients is that they “came from plants found on Dagobah”.  So with no access to Dagobah vegetation or knowledge of their Earth counterparts, we have to use a little guesswork to create Yoda’s Stew.

This was done for us by Craig Claiborne in 1983. Chef Claiborne was hired by NPR to create this dish for a 10-part radio drama aired on the station. This recipe is his, with a few tweaks.

Chef Claiborne’s recipe is printed below. Feel free to make it as-is, or tweak it any way you like! It does contain the primary elements, roots (ginger, turmeric), bark (cinnamon), and seeds (cumin, cardamon). There should probably be mushroom added, and I do question the availability of lamb on Dagobah, but the flavors synergize nicely!

Yoda’s Rootleaf Stew

To make this recipe easier, you can gather all the spices together first. This is your coriander, cumin, turmeric, cardamon, cinnamon, and cloves… Yoda spice blend.

(This is pretty much a Garum Masala.)

yodaspice1

I am adding ground lamb because I have ground lamb. However, it seems very unlikely that there would be lamb-like creatures in the swamps of Dagobah. Maybe crustaceans, frogs, and snakes?

Cook the lamb first, then set it aside. Discard the grease from the pan. Keep the fond!

lamb_ground1

Chef Claiborne’s recipe calls for A LOT of parsley. I just chopped up about one half of a bunch, then threw in, maybe a cup. Use any amount you like.

parsley1

Blooming spices!

A little bit of coconut oil in the pan will bloom your spices beautifully, bringing out all that wonderful flavor and aroma. Ahhhh

If you have sliced your onions, brown those first! Then bloom your spices and throw in your bay leaf and ginger too. My Jedi do not like onion pieces, so I grate my onion and garlic and add it after the spices and ginger. If desired, add heat in the form of peppers. I have habanero, so that will go in.

spicebloom

Seriously, happy happy aroma…

spicebloom2

Now we have spices, grated onion and garlic, ginger and bay leaf… add water, just enough to make it soupy and allow flavors to continue to meld. I think Yoda would approve of this sauce.

yodastew_1

The lamb goes back in…

yodastew_2

About 5 minutes before stew is thoroughly cooked, with flavors developed to your liking, add fresh chopped parsley. As much as you like.

If you want your stew more soupy, add water, or chicken broth.

yodastew_3

The last item to go in is the spinach. It takes seconds for it to cook. Chef Claiborne cooks his spinach separately, probably to ensure that it is not overcooked, and to improve the texture. I prefer to save time and throw it in at the very end… and I use a lot less spinach.

yodastew_4

Jedi ready!

Yoda Root leaf Stew

In case you did not notice the faux pas… I thought it would be cute to use my daughter’s Old Republic symbol in the background, only to be quickly reminded that Yoda’s time was thousands of years AFTER the Old Republic.

Whatever….

Yoda Root leaf Stew

The stew is REALLY good! Serve it at your Star Wars party. 🙂

Yoda Root leaf Stew

Stay tuned for my Vegan version! To be posted soon!

Yoda’s Rootleaf Stew by Craig Claiborne

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds lean lamb or other meat
  • Salt to taste; if desired pepper to taste
  • Freshly ground 6 tablespoons oil, light or vegetable or other
  • 6 cups parsley, finely chopped
  • cups onions; thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic; finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons ginger root; finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon hot green or red chilies; finely chopped, seeded
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamon; ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 pounds fresh spinach; well rinsed and tough stems removed

Method

  1. Cut the meat into one inch cubes, and add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Heat half the oil in a heavy skillet and add the meat, turning to brown the pieces on all sides.
  3. Heat the remaining oil in a Dutch oven or heavy casserole and add parsley, onions and garlic. Cook, stirring often until the onions are wilted. Add the meat, coriander, cumin, turmeric, ginger root, chilies, cardamon, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir. (I add about 2 teaspoons salt at this point, then adjust at end)
  4. Add water to cover, bring to boil and cover tightly. Let simmer about 2 to 2 1/2 hours until the meat is quite tender.
  5. Meanwhile, drop the spinach into a kettle of boiling water with salt to taste and let simmer about five minutes. Drain well and run under cold water. Drain thoroughly.
  6. Squeeze the spinach to remove all excess liquid. Place the spinach on a chopping block and chop coarsely.
  7. Add the spinach to the stew and stir. Let simmer together about five minutes.
  8. I like to serve this over white rice with steamed carrots.

Enjoy! And May the 4th be with you.

For great food ideas for your Star Wars theme event, please check out my new ebook on Amazon.

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Yoda’s Rootleaf Stew – Vegan

Yes, I’m serious. Yoda stew. Because I am surrounded by nerds, I mean SciFi fans.

There is a school of thought that says that Yoda is vegetarian. If anyone is able to confirm or deny this theory, please do! In any event, with all due respect to Chef Chaliborne’s 1983 rendition of what Yoda’s Rootleaf Stew from the Planet Dagobah might look and taste like, the idea of a vegan version sounds plausible…. and recreating this iconic dish is just fun. Not to mention, a great way to convince young Jedi to eat spinach! Yoda loved it! 🙂

Yoda's Rootleaf Stew

According to Wookipedia:

Rootleaf stew was a favorite meal of Jedi Master Yoda during his exile on Dagobah. It was a staple of his diet, supplemented by yarum seeds, mushroom spores, galla seeds, and sohli bark. Yoda prepared rootleaf stew the evening that he met Luke Skywalker.

To set the scene…

The only information that Wookiepedia has on the stew’s ingredients is that they “came from plants found on Dagobah”.  So with no access to Dagobah vegetation or knowledge of their Earth counterparts, we have to use a little guesswork to create Yoda’s Stew. This was done for us by Craig Claiborne in 1983. Chef Claiborne was hired by NPR to create this dish for a 10-part radio drama aired on the station. His recipe – a Paleo version containing animal protein – is posted here.

The spice blend that Chef Claiborne uses is pretty much a garum masala. It is delicious! And it does contain the primary elements of Yoda’s stew, roots (ginger, turmeric), bark (cinnamon), and seeds (cumin, cardamon). These would be very nourishing and strengthening for a young Jedi in training!

Sooooooooo

When I think of available ingredients in the swamps of Dagobah, something like this comes to mind…

root_leaf1

Yoda did use mushroom, and some sort of tuber would fit in nicely.

Chef Claiborne’s recipe calls for A LOT of parsley. I just chopped up about one half of a bunch, then threw in, maybe a cup. Use any amount you like.

parsley1

To make this recipe easier, you can gather all the spices together first. This is your coriander, cumin, turmeric, cardamon, cinnamon, and cloves… Yoda spice blend.

(This is pretty much a Garum Masala.)

yodaspice2

Yoda’s Rootleaf Stew

In  a little cooking oil, cook the mushrooms first, then set them aside.

mushrooms1

Blooming spices!

A little bit of coconut oil in the pan will bloom your spices beautifully, bringing out all that wonderful flavor and aroma. Ahhhh

If you have sliced your onions, brown those first! Then bloom your spices and throw in your bay leaf and ginger too. My Jedi do not like onion pieces, so I grate my onion and garlic and add it after the spices and ginger. If desired, add heat in the form of peppers.

spicebloom1

spicebloom2

This grated onion and garlic looks like mush, but it is flavor! Full delicious flavor.

spiceoniongarlic1

Now we have spices, grated onion and garlic, ginger and bay leaf… add water, just enough to make it soupy, allow flavors to continue to meld, and to cook your taro root. If you prefer, use potatoes.

Add in your diced taro root. Couldn’t you imagine something like this tuber growing in the swamps of Dagobah?

stew_taro_root1

When the taro root is just about tender and cooked through (raw taro root can be toxic to the liver), add mushrooms back in, and your parsley. Use as much parsley as you like.

stew_mushroom_parsley1

rootleafstew_1

If you like, add lentils. This is about 1/4 cup rinsed and cooked french lentils. French lentils fill out the soup beautifully with a firm meaty texture and earthy flavor.

If you want your stew more soupy, add water. The last item to go in is the spinach. It takes only seconds for it to cook. Usually I use a heartier green in soups and stews, but spinach just seams more appropriately swampy.

stew_spinach1

stew_spinach_lenitls

Jedi ready!

Yoda's Rootleaf Stew

Yoda’s Rootleaf Stew

Altered from Chef Claiborne’s recipe from the 1983 NPR Star Wars features, this vegan version would do Yoda proud!

Ingredients

  • 8 oz mushrooms, quartered (baby portobella used here)
  • Cooking oil (I like coconut)
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced (or grated)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoons ginger root; finely minced
  • optional: 1/2 teaspoon hot green or red chilies; finely chopped, seeded
  • Spice blend
    • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
    • 1/8 teaspoon cardamon; ground
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup peeled and diced taro root
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup cooked lentils (I like french lentils)
  • 1 cup finely chopped parsley (use as much or little as you like)
  • 1/2 – 1 pound fresh spinach; well rinsed, sliced (or kale or collards, if you prefer a green leak that holds up better in a stew)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Method

  1. In  a little cooking oil, cook the mushrooms first, then set them aside.
  2. In the same oil (add a little more, if needed), brown sliced onions, then add peppers, ginger, and spices to bloom them. Lastly, add minced garlic. If you have grated your onions and garlic, add them in after the spices are bloomed.
  3. Add taro root (or potato, if using) and just enough water to cover and cook them. Cook taro root until it is just about tender, uncovered. Adjust water level as needed.
  4. When the taro root is just about tender and cooked through (raw taro root can be toxic to the liver), add mushrooms back in, and your parsley. Use as much parsley as you like.
  5. Add lentils, if you are using them.
  6. Add spinach at the very end. If you are using a heartier green, add it in about 5-7 minutes before stew is completely cooked.
  7. If you want your stew more soupy, add water. Adjust seasoning, as desired (salt and pepper).

Serve immediately. It is very good over rice!

Enjoy!

For great food ideas for your Star Wars theme event, please check out my new ebook on Amazon.

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Cheesy Turkey Quesadillas with Cranberry Salsa

It is all about options… and saving time, and saving money, and having delicious food with optimal nutrition… with options.

What could be more simple, or option-friendly, than quesadillas?

Tortillas

Oh how we love to wrap our foods! You can wrap up just about everything but soup. Wraps not only make our food easy to eat, and portable, but they add another layer of texture and flavor that compliments the filling. Because of this love of wraps, you can now find a version of a tortilla for pretty much any diet… vegetarian, gluten-free, grains-free… whatever you like!

They are pricey, but you can even purchase Paleo wraps – gluten-free, raw, vegan, low-carb and made from only coconut meat and coconut water. 

paleo_wraps

You can make these turkey quesadillas with any of those wraps for a great way to use up leftover turkey. But here is one more option to throw into the ring. Yuca Root works for almost all diets, from vegan to paleo, and offers a little variety for your sandwich/wrap dining experience.

Yuca has very little flavor on its own. It is slightly nutty, and starchy like a potato. If you do not cook it thoroughly, it can become a little gummy, so I roll it out as thin as I can and cook it until it looks almost overdone. At that point, it becomes crispy golden brown, holds its filling and its shape, and makes for a tasty little lunch.

Important! Never eat Yuca raw! It is toxic, especially bitter yuca (aka cassava, manioc). It is rendered safe through removal of its juices (or gasses in the juice), by soaking, fermenting, thoroughly cooking, and/or drying. When you buy tapioca flours, or African products such as garri, fufu, apu, and pupuru, this has been done for you.

For quesadillas, you will need:

  • tortilla wraps or yuca (cassava) doughget easy make-ahead instruction here!
  • leftover turkey
  • leftover turkey gravy
  • cheese – virtually any cheese you like
  • Cranberry Salsa – find the easy recipe here (other options here and here)
  • optional: diced jalapeno
  • optional: anything else you want to add, sauteed onion and peppers would be good

Assemblage…

Now you are ready to assemble your quesadillas.

You can portion your yuca dough any way you like, I like to use a 2 1/2 oz portion scoop.

yuca_scoop

Place yuca onto parchment paper. I lightly oil the parchment for easy rolling and removal. Add another piece of parchment over the dough and flatten and roll the dough until it is about the size of a corn tortilla.

Smaller tortillas are easier to mange in a skillet.

yucapress1

Remove the top layer of parchment and build your flavors, one layer at a time, on half of the yuca wrap.

Turkey…

turkey_yuca_ques7

Gravy…

turkey_yuca_ques6

Cheese and jalapeno…

turkey_yuca_ques5

Salt and pepper, if needed. Then use the parchment to fold the yuca tortilla in half over your filling.

turkey_yuca_ques4

Gently pull back parchment.

turkey_yuca_ques3

Use a nonstick skillet, or a heated and oiled skillet, to pan sear your quesadilla. Use the parchment to carefully transfer it to the pan in tact.

turkey_yuca_ques2

When the first side in browned, flip it over to brown the second side.

Notice the white fold… that is underdone and doughy. I press this down to get it more thouroughly cooked. And I do cook yuca a little longer than it seems one should. Flat yuca is good! Undercooked yuca is just gummy. In fact, if you want to be really sure that you don’t get gumminess, consider making two rounds, browning them both, then filling them, and browning them a little further to let the cheese melt. Mmmmmm

The fold method is the quick one. 🙂

turkey_yuca_ques1

When your quesadilla is sufficiently browned and crisp, serve immediately. But, if they have to sit, you can throw them back in the pan to re-crisp them.

Cut them into triangles.

turkey_quesadillas_yuca3

Cheese… Mmmmmm

turkey_quesadillas_yuca4

Get your cranberry salsa out of the fridge. It is time for it to join those cheesy quesadillas.

cranberry_salsa1_header

 

turkey_quesadillas_yuca2

turkey_quesadillas_yuca1

 

Enjoy!

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