Quick Summer Lunch

No picture, I haven’t made it yet for today, on my way to get the ingredients. But here is a real haiku for you about the salad:

summer tomatoes
small green cucumbers, happy
luncheon – tummy smiles.

Summer is here and it is sooooo hot, the average life span of a popsicle is about 15 seconds. Yes, I have air conditioning but I still like to cook as little as I can get by with. Call it a….Vacation away from the kitchen. No children in the house so that makes things simpler.  Actually, I took this to a friend’s and her kids loved it.  Depending on pasta type or optional ingredients added, this can be vegan or vegetarian or gluten free.

Wonderful summer tomatoes and small crisp, sweet cucumbers are also showing up at local markets. I am having to resort to local markets because a line of storms obliterated my garden. And I am envious of you all who have a kitchen garden.

Now, for super simple healthy lunch or, dinner if you like. No quantities are given. It’s a “do your thing” recipe. And, it is a keep it simple salad…nothing elaborate or stylish here, just good tastes. The best kind for summer.

You’ll need:
pasta – fettucine, rotini, elbow, whole grain, gluten free, whatever.
tomatoes – one per serving (depending on size)
cucumbers – one per serving (depending on size)
green onions – to taste
splash of rice wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Dash of sugar or sweetener
Optional – finely chopped basil, freshly grated parmesan, pine nuts, splash of olive oil.

Instructions:  Cook desired servings of pasta al dente, rinse with cold water and drain. Meanwhile, skin or peel tomatoes and cukes. Very coarsely chop tomatoes and cukes. Add to pasta along with salt, pepper, rice wine vinegar. Toss and let sit about 15 minutes for tomatoes to juice out and flavors to blend. Sprinkle green onion and optional ingredients on top and lightly toss. Serve with some crusty bread if desired. Dig in.  NOTE:  I peel or skin tomatoes or cukes this time of year because the peels can be tough and bitter.

WARNING: This salad will not taste the same if you use those mushy store bought tomatoes or big last season waxed cucumbers. if it’s all you have access to, well, then do your best.

Holidays are Coming: Festive Cauliflower with Swiss cheese sauce

cauliflower

Festive and cauliflower are not two words usually put together. In this recipe, though, the words work together beautifully. White cauliflower, swiss cheese sauce, and bits of red and green peppers…lovely, yummy, festive and easy.

Good dish for  company, good for a family meal, good all through the year. Fresh or frozen cauliflower works well. Simply adjust the cooking times of the vegetable so your cauliflower doesn’t turn to mush. If it does, then just mash it all together and serve it anyway. Make up a name for it that sounds special and fun. I think you will like this. My aunt served this years ago during a Christmas when we moved the family Christmas to Colorado during her first year of marriage.  It has since become one of our family favorites and is a regular on the holiday menu.

NOTE: Reduced fat milk and cheese can be used. It is not recommended for margarine with a high water content to be substituted for butter. Regular margarine can be used.  Large bag of frozen, defrosted cauliflower can be used.

Festive Cauliflower
1 large cauliflower
1 4 oz. can sliced mushrooms
1/4 c. diced green bell peppers
2 tbs. diced, drained pimiento
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. flour
2 c. milk
1 c. grated swiss cheese
1/2 tsp. salt

Break cauliflower into bite sized pieces. Cook 10 minutes and drain. Saute mushrooms and pepper in butter until tender. Blend in flour (make a roux). Slowly add cold milk and blend and cook until thickened. Add pimiento, 2/4 cup of cheese, and salt and stir until cheese is melted. Place one-half of cauliflower into a 2 quart casserole and cover with half of sauce. Add rest of cauliflower and top with remaining sauce and cheese. Bake in 325 oven for 20 – 30 minutes until cheese is melted. Six to eight servings.

Cold Weather: Two Hot Soups

Two soups: Italian Minestrone and Japanese Nikujaga. Minestrone:A wonderful, stick to your ribs soup is minestrone. My version is vegetarian but you can add cooked chunks of chicken to it or use beef or chicken broth. It is so rich and the beans add such good protein, I don’t think it is needed. this is just one version of minestrone. Italy has different culinary regions and the same dish may be different from region to region. This version goes together quickly and is so good served with a rustic, crusty bread.

The Japanese beef stew, while similar to many versions here in the US and elsewhere, is still, a little different. It is thinner than most stews and the snow peas and ginger add a wonderful difference. I like this served in a deep bowl over rice.

Either soup will warm your tummy, make your family smile, and make you glad to be inside where it is cozy instead of outside where it is cold and yucky.

NIKUJAGA
2 lbs beef stew meat (brown in a bit of oil before adding to crock pot)
1 cup water
3 tbs. Japanese sake
3 tbs. mirin
3 tbs. sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 lb baby carrots (whole)
3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large white onion, diced
10 snow peas halved (can substitute equivalent of shredded cabbage or bok choy)
quarter sized piece of ginger, grated
cooked sticky rice
garnish with some chopped parsley and/or slivered scallion

Directions:

1 Put all into crock pot and cook on low 10-12 hours or on high 4-6 hours.
2. Add snow peas last two hours of cooking time
2 Stir before serving. Serve over sticky rice. Use chopsticks to stir or stir carefully to not break apart

Minestrone
1 16 oz can kidney beans, drained and rinse
1 16 oz can navy, great northern, chick peas, or cannellini beans drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
1 stalk celery diced
2 potatoes, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1small can diced tomatoes and juice
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 quarts vegetable broth
bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, sprig of thyme, 1 tbs chopped basil)
2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
1 cup macaroni or any small pasta 1
Grated parmesan cheese, to serve
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tbs. sugar

DIRECTIONS
In a large heavy-bottomed stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and add the onion, carrots, potatoes, celery and garlic; reduce the heat and cook for 5 minutes until tender. Add the tomato paste and broth, stirring thoroughly. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the bouquet garni salt, pepper, and sugar, and cabbage and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside. Add beans and return to heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.Remove bouquet garni. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese to serve. NOTE: cooked chicken can be added and heated through.

 

Winter’s Coming: Easy Potato Soup

I was looking through my photo gallery and came across all the pictures of snow from last winter. The chill in the air this morning and leaves changing color and falling from the trees reminded me: Winter’s Coming. Not only the credo of the Stark family in Game of Thrones, it is a simple matter of changing seasons. Life moves on and we adjust.

Cold days and nights + warm soups = comfort. I have for you an easy potato. It is not vegan but it is vegetarian. Of course, you can add some crisp bits of bacon and cheese to it but you don’t have to. A grating of fresh horseradish to the soup adds extra snap. I like this option. Whole milk is used. Using 2% or less results in a less creamy soup but that is an option for you. A heart smart margarine option can also be used in lieu of butter. this is a recipe for two or one huge appetite.

A picture of the snow from last year and picture of little Kanzen when she was six adds to the message: Winter’s coming.

Recipe

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup water
2 tablespoons chopped onion
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk (2% or less will result in thinner, less creamy soup)cc
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Paprika and minced fresh parsley and minced green onion
Place the potatoes and water in a saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover and cook until tender; drain and set aside. Coarsely mash with potato masher. How chunky the soup is, is determined by you.

In the same pan, saute onion and celery in butter/margarine until tender. Stir in flour until blended. Gradually stir in milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Reduce heat; add the potatoes, salt, and pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with parsley, minced green onion, and paprika.

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Vegetable Pot Pie

free Wikipedia image

free Wikipedia image

Where’s the meat???? Well, you don’t need any for this recipe. Vegetable Pot Pie is healthy for people and animals. If you must have meat, add some chunks of cooked chicken. But honestly folks, you don’t need it. Lots of veggies in a warm thick sauce nestled between two pie crusts, making the house smell so good and driving away that cold weather outside.

You can add other veggies of course, but this recipe has classic pot pie veggies and what’s so good about it, you can use frozen bagged vegetable mixtures to save time and effort. And if you are really driven for time and want to simplify it even more, add the equivalent liquid amount of cream of mushroom or celery soup. Not as good and considering how easy it is to make a roux and add liquid, it would be a shame to take the canned soup shortcut.

If you have to cross over from vegan, a good extra touch is about 5 minutes before pulling from the oven, sprinkle a nice amount of grated parmesan or cheddar cheese on the top crust and allow to melt. Serve this with a hearty appetite. Get warm and comfy on the inside and smiley on the outside. Yowzer y’all, it’s good.

Vegetable Pot Pie
1 cup thinly sliced carrots*
1 cup frozen green peas*
1 cup small diced potatoes*
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery*
1/2 cup finely chopped onion* OR
*4 cups of comparable frozen vegetables
1/2 cup butter substitute, or heart smart type margarine
1/3 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
Freshly ground black pepper – a few good grinds
good pinch of celery seed
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 3/4 cups vegetable broth (I use the water I cooked the vegetables in)
2/3 cup almond milk (unsweetened, unflavored)
Two 9-inch unbaked pie crusts, lard free (I use ready made from the dairy case, room temperature and dusted with a little flour when rolling out)

Directions
Preheat the oven to  400 F. Line a baking sheet with foil to place the pie on before cooking; it will keep any filling from dripping into the oven and burning. In a medium saucepan, combine the vegetables. Cover with water, bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, drain and set aside. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the onions in the butter substitute until they are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour, seasoned salt, pepper, celery seed and garlic powder. Cook for 2 minutes to get the raw flour taste out. Slowly stir in the broth until smooth and then add the almond milk. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until thick, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the drained vegetables. Roll out one of the unbaked crusts to a 13-inch diameter and place in a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Pour the mixture into the bottom crust. Roll out the second pie crust and place on top. Seal the edges and cut small slits in the top to allow steam to escape. Bake until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is bubbly, 30 to 40 minutes. If the top of the pie becomes too dark, loosely cover with foil and continue cooking. Cool for 10 minutes before serving

Yummy Nuttin’ of a Sweet Treat Recipe

This really is a nothing kind of recipe, something I would read and flip past. Yeah, sometimes I am a food snob. Really I am! I had this at a friend’s house and she very kindly wrote down for me.  Thank you Minou.

You can use the last of the summer peaches or the very first of the new crop of apples. I used peaches because they are so precious, I want to  see if I can’t just wring every bit of wonderfulness out of them I can before they disappear into that place socks go in the dryer.

So…not as elaborate as my own recipe, but very good and on a busy night, this makes a wonderful end to a thrown together grilled cheese and tomato soup kind of supper. Apple/Peach Dumplings. So easy my SamCat could fix it if he wasn’t so busy being a cat.

Here’s the recipe. Y’all think of me when you serve and folks go…dang! That’s good!  <grin>

Super Easy Apple/Peach Dumplings

2 Granny Smith apples or similar size peaches, peeled
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
8 canned buttermilk biscuits or I prefer, canned “crescent” rolls
3 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg

Directions
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Peel, core and slice the apples/peaches vertically into 8 slices each.. Squeeze the lemon into a bowl of water and add the apple/peach to keep from turning brown. In a medium saucepan, mix 1 cup water, 3/4 cup of the sugar, the butter and vanilla. Bring the sugar mixture to a boil over medium heat. Separate each biscuit into 2 layers. For the “crescents”, separate into triangles, put the fruit slice in the center and seal roll around it and place sealed end down.  Wrap a biscuit layer around a slice of apple or peach, stretching the biscuit slightly to overlap, and seal on the bottom. Place the wrapped slices, sealed-side down, in a 9- by 12- by 2-inch casserole dish. Pour the hot sugar mixture over the apple/peaches slices. Mix the remaining 1/4 cup sugar with the cinnamon and nutmeg. Sprinkle the mixture over the tops of the wrapped apples/peaches. Bake until golden brown, 35 minutes. Top wth vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. NOTE: if you can find mace, use in the place of nutmeg. It is the ground hull around the nutmeg and has a wonderful old fashioned, mellow aroma and flavor. I frequently use instead of nutmeg.  And a tiny splash of good bourbon doesn’t hurt any either, added to the sugar water.

public domain images

public domain images

Green Tea Smoothie 抹茶スムージー

photo from Public Domain Images

photo from Public Domain Images

It is still summer and still hotter than a load of jalapeno peppers and fireworks.  This is an easy peasy smoothie that is so good, cooling, and good for you too.  An excellent breakfast, a lunchtime pickup, or just to sit and sip in the shade while listening to summer winding down.

You can use almond, soy, coconut, or other milk.  Also if you use the other “milks”, using the ones with vanilla added is good as well. I like to play with this recipe. You can use an equivalent amount or mix of avocado and/or pineapple instead of or in addition to the banana. I like some pineapple along banana along with ginger. Make this smoothie your smoothieI like recipes with interchangeable parts to make something unique that tastes like just what I want.
 
You will need a blender, one of those bullet blenders, whatever that is similar in function. Matcha powder can be found in many specialty groceries such as Trader Joe’s or Asian market. It can also be ordered from an online source. You want pure matcha powder. Ceremonial grade is not necessary but be aware of what you are ordering. There are some sweetened or “smoothie” types available. You want the unsweetened, non-additive powder. You can also use the powder for baking or making ice cream. I have posted several recipes: Green Tea Cookies and Green Tea Ice Cream.

Green tea not only is good for you, it tastes good and is a lovely, happy green in color. You cannot grind green tea leaves to make matcha powder as the matcha is made by a different process.

Recipe
1 Banana (or assorted fruit, add a bit of fresh ginger if you use pineapple)
5 ice cubes
¾ to 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or cow’s milk, coconut milk, etc)
1 tsp. matcha green tea powder

Put ice cubes and banana/fruit into blender. Add the “milk” of your choice. Add matcha powder. Blend until all ingredients are blended and smooth. Pour and enjoy!

 

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