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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Creamy Pesto Risotto

Summer is coming to an end soon.   My favorite herb is basil and I know that it will be gone soon so I am trying to use it as much as I can while I still have it.   The first thing that comes to mind when I think about basil is pesto.   I love pesto; I made it twice this week.   It is always best when it is freshly made.  The jarred pesto can't compare.   In an earlier post I wrote that I never ate white rice at home, I forgot about risotto when I was writing that because I do eat white arborio rice.   There is no substitute for the creaminess of arborio rice in risotto.   If I ever find a brown arborio I will definitely stock up on it but until I do this is delicious!   Some people server risotto as a side but I like it as a main dish.  

Creamy Pesto Risotto

Pesto sauce:
5-6 cups fresh basil
¼  cup pine nuts (or other nuts of choice)
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
¼  - ½ cup cashew cream or soymilk
2 cloves garlic
½ teaspoon salt

Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until fairly smooth, scraping down sides of bowl periodically to make sure you get everything incorporated.  Set aside.

(to make cashew cream put 1/8 cup of raw cashews in a blender with ½ cup water and blend until smooth)

2 cups Arborio rice
8 cups water or vegetable broth
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
¾  cup white wine

Place vegetable broth in a pan and heat to boiling, then reduce the heat to keep it simmering.  Place onions and garlic in a large sauté pan with enough water to steam fry (1/4-1/2 cup) Steam fry until onions are translucent, adding splashes of water if needed to prevent it from drying out.    Once onions are translucent and the water has all evaporated, add the risotto and stir with a non-metal spoon for about  2 minutes.   Add the wine and continue stirring until most of the wine has evaporated.   Set the timer for 25 minutes now.   Start adding about a ladle full of the broth to the risotto and continue stirring until most of the liquid has evaporated.   (you want the pan hot enough for the broth to sizzle when it is added to the rice)  Continue doing this until all the broth is gone (about 20-25 minutes).   Remove the cooked rice from the heat and mix well with the pesto sauce and serve.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Wild Rice Timbales, Mashed Cauliflower Potatoes, Mushroom Gravy, and Broccoli Rabe

I think this picture is a bit of a mess.   I was trying to get fancy with the gravy and made it look sloppy.    The timbales are absolutely divine.

I used this recipe from Susan's blog using gluten free bread for the bread crumbs.   You can find that recipe here:

The gravy recipe is here (substitute corn starch or arrowroot for the flour)

The mashed cauliflower potatoes are simple.   Use one full head off cauliflower, chopped into small pieces and about 4 medium potatoes, cut up.  Boil them until very tender.   Drain off the water and mash them just like regular mashed potatoes.  I add about 1/8 cup of nutrtional yeast to mine to give it a "buttery" flavor and a little salt. 

If you love greens and you have never had broccoli rabe (also called rapini) you don't know what you are missing.   It is a bitter green like turnip greens with a different flavor.  You can buy it at Whole Foods and Publix usually has it, too.   Trim off the bigger stems at the bottom and roughly chop it.   Bring a pot of water to a boil and add a pinch of salt.   Add the broccoli rabe and boil for 5 minutes.  Drain.   In a saucepan, bring 1/4 cup of water, a dash of cayenne pepper, and 1 teaspoon garlic powder to a boil.  Add the drained broccoli rabe and continue cooking until most of the water has evaporated.  Serve warm.

Gluten Free Chickpea Crepes

I love these crepes and they are so simple to make.  I substitute them for flour tortillas and pita bread.  Sometimes I use them for sandwich wraps.  They only take a few minutes to make.  The amount of water you add varies.   If you want a thicker crepe use less water, if you want a thinner one, use more.   I prefer that they are thinner.  Chickpeas and garbanzo beans are the same thing.   The flour I use for this is garbanzo flour - it is pure garbanzon beans that are ground to a flour.   I was buying this flour at Whole Foods and it was a little expensive; I started talking to my Indian friend at work and he told me to buy it at the International or Indian grocery stores.   It is called Besan or gram flour there and is MUCH cheaper and the quality is just as good.  Make sure your non-stick pan is really non-stick or this won't work!  I have a dedicated pan that I only use for pancakes, crepes, or johnny cakes.  Don't be put off by the fact that they are "crepes" - they are easier to make than pancakes!

Chickpea Crepes

1 cup chickpea flour
1 1/4 - 2 cups water
pinch of salt

Combine ingredients in a small bowl.  Preheat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.   Add 1/4 cup mixture to skillet and swirl around to get it to spread out as much as possible.   Cook for approximately 2 minutes and use your spatula to gently loosen the crepe around the edges, flip, and cook for approximately 2 more minutes.   You want the crepes to be lightly browned but not dark brown.   

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mediterranean Night

One of my favorite restaurants here is a Mediterranean restaurant down the street.   They have a vegetarian platter that I love.   It comes with hummus, falafel, lentils and rice, and tabouli.   Although I love the dish I also realize that it is LOADED with fat.  I only eat there a couple of times a year and I have come up with recipes to make it at home without all the fat.

We have hummus a lot.  It is high protein, rich in fiber, and delicious.   Most commercial brands have a lot of added fat.  It isn't necessary to add all that fat to get a wonderful, creamy hummus.   There are a lot of ways to use hummus.   You can use it for a sandwich filling or as a spread to replace mayonnaise.   The most common way to use it is to put a big spoonful of it on pita bread, throw a falafel or two on top and add a little hot sauce.  Falafel is very close to hummus but it is normally deep fried.   I bake it instead and it is great.   Leaving out the oil and baking it makes it a bit drier than the fried variety but once you have the hummus on top of it the moisture takes care of that.  Garbanzo and chickpeas are the same thing.   I use them interchangeably.

The lentils and rice were always the trickiest part of the dish - I tried tons of recipes and could never figure out how to get that distinctive taste.   I finally nailed it and it is just as good.   This post is going to be 3 different recipes.   I make the rice and lentils a day ahead so can just throw everything together when I get home from work.  It is a work intensive meal but it is worth it.

Mediterranean Lentils and Rice

  • 3-4 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup brown lentils
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
Add ½ cup water, salt, and soy sauce to a wide skillet. Add onion and cook until almost all the water evaporates; continue adding water a few tablespoons at a time and onions are browned (caramelized) – this can take 10-15 minutes.  You want to let the water almost completely evaporate before adding more, there will be bits of brown sticking to the pan and you want the pan to be hot enough for the water to boil up and release the brown bits, this is called deglazing the pan.    Add cumin, cardamom, garlic, and cayenne and cook for 3 minutes.
 Add lentils and broth or water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 40 minutes.

Cook the brown rice separately.  

Fluffy Brown Rice

1 cups brown rice
5 cups water
salt – to taste

Rinse the rice in a colander under cold running water for a few seconds. Add the water to a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat.  Once the water begins to boil, add the rice and stir once.  Reduce the heat to medium and boil, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  After 30 minutes, pour the rice into a colander and drain for about 10 seconds over the sink.  Return the rice to the pot, (make sure to remove the pot from the heat). Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and set it aside to allow the rice to steam for 10 minutes.  After you have steamed the rice for 10 minutes, uncover rice, fluff with a fork, and season with salt to taste.

Once rice is done, add the lentils and stir to combine.

Baked Falafel
1 15 ounce can garbanzo beans, with liquid reserved
1 small onion, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons dried parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons garbanzo flour (substitute regular flour if you are not avoiding gluten)
1 teaspoon baking powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans.  Put in a medium sized bowl and smash with a fork (or pulse a few times in a food processor). Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Form into small balls, about the size of an ice cream scoop and slightly flatten (the flatter they are the more uniformly they will cook. Place onto an oiled baking pan.
Bake for 15 minutes on each side, until nicely browned (since it’s baked; only the part actually touching the pan will be browned and crispy).

Low Fat Hummus

2 cans chickpeas (liquid reserved)
2 teaspoons garlic powder
 2 teaspoons onion powder
1 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne

Place all ingredients into a food processor and process, adding very small amounts of the reserved bean liquid at a time.   You want it to be totally smooth with no remaining chunks of chickpeas in it.  It won’t take very much of the reserved liquid to accomplish this.   Using plain water doesn’t give it the same creamy texture as the reserved bean liquid does.  

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hoppin' John with Perfect Brown Rice

I love Hoppin' John.   Black-eyed peas, collard greens, and plenty of peppers and onions - it just doesn't get much better than that.   My husband is from New York and I don't think he ever tried collard greens until he met me; I told him last night that I think it is illegal to have black-eyed peas in the South without collard greens.   If it isn't illegal it should be.  I serve this over brown rice to make it a complete meal.

I've been making brown rice for many, many years.   I don't like white rice and I never really have.   The only time we ever eat it is in restaurants.   White rice is bleached and all the fiber is stripped out of it.   All the wonderful benefits of eating the whole grain are lost with white rice.   It also has a much higher glycemic index than brown rice.  Brown rice takes longer to cook but you should make a lot of it at once and store the extra in the refrigerator for another meal.   Brown rice and quinoa are staples in our diet and we eat them often.

Until a few months ago, I always prepared brown rice according to the package directions; it always turned out a bit too mushy.   I've discovered a new way of preparing it that leaves it fluffy and light and we prefer it this way.  This method also preserves more of the slightly nutty flavor that brown rice has.  This recipe is enough for more than one meal.

Fluffy Brown Rice

2 cups brown rice
10 cups water
salt – to taste

Rinse the rice in a colander under cold running water for a few seconds. Add the water to a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat.  Once the water begins to boil, add the rice and stir once.  Reduce the  heat to medium and boil, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  After 30 minutes, pour the rice into a colander and drain for about 10 seconds over the sink.  Return the rice to the pot, (make sure to remove the pot from the heat). Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and set it aside to allow the rice to steam for 10 minutes.  After you have steamed the rice for 10 minutes, uncover rice, fluff with a fork, and season with salt to taste.

Hoppin' John

2 cans of black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 jalapeño peppers, minced
1 or 2 bell peppers, chopped
dash of cayenne
1 teaspoon paprika
1 bunch of collard greens, roughly chopped
1 cube vegetable bouillon
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon liquid smoke

Add ½ cup water to a sauté pan with 1 teaspoon toasted oil.   Add onion, bell peppers, jalapeño peppers, and garlic and sauté until onions are translucent.  Add beans, cayenne, paprika, and liquid smoke and continue to simmer, adding water as needed, while you cook the collard greens

To make the greens, wash them well and chop them up, set aside then add about 1 teaspoon of TOASTED sesame oil and about a tablespoon of hot sauce with water, bring to a boil and add a little salt.  Throw the greens in and cover, stirring them up occasionally until they are as tender as you want them, usually 5 to 10 minutes.

Toss the collard greens with the black eyed peas and serve over brown rice. 

Optional: Top with chopped tomatoes, onions, or peppers from the garden.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Low Fat Fettucine Alfredo

We haven't had a lot of luck with gluten free pastas until now.   I found a great one at Walmart this week and it is the closest to wheat pasta that we have ever had.  It makes great Pad Thai and fettucine alfredo and reheats well - most gluten free pastas taste like chalk when they are reheated.  This is the one I found:

I make fettucine alfredo when I am in a hurry or don't have a lot of time.   Last night we were very hungry so I threw this together in less than 30 minutes.   By the time the pasta was cooked the sauce was ready.  It tastes really rich and creamy with very little fat and calories.  It is comfort food and healthy at the same time.

Vegan Fettucine Alfredo

1 14-16 oz package of pasta
1/8 cup of cashews (preferably raw cashews - rinse if they are roasted)
1 cup of water
1 12-oz package Mori-Nu silken tofu
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound broccoli, steamed (optional)
1 small package of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (optional)
a few sprigs of fresh parsley for garnish, roughly chopped (optional) 

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain.

Place the cashews and water in a blender and blend until it is smooth and "milky".   Crumble in the tofu and spices and blend until smooth and well combined.   Pour sauce into a small saucepan and heat through until it is thick and creamy (this should only take a minute).

Combine pasta with sauce and mix together.    Put the pasta on plates, top with broccoli, tomatoes, and parsley if using.  Serve warm.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Pad Thai

We have been eating out a lot lately because my husband has been out of town for a wedding.  I am back on track now and I am going to be making quick, easy, and inexpensive meals for awhile.  One of my favorite cookbooks is the Happy Herbivore cookbook.   It is full of easy recipes that don't cost a lot to make.   I use it a lot.   I have to make substitutions sometimes because we avoid gluten but they are simple substitutions.  Neither of us have Celiac disease or anything but we have both found that when we stop eating gluten we feel so much better - it was just an experiment at first but it made such a difference that we now avoid it all the time.

Last night I made Pad Thai.   This recipe is from the Happy Herbivore and it is wonderful.  I make the sauce alone sometimes and use it for dip or dressing.   It is the best peanut sauce I have ever made and it calls for 1 tablespoon of peanut butter - not the full 1/2 cup that most recipes call for.   I didn't take a picture of this dish last night because I already had one - if I make something more than once it means we loved it!

We may end up having a late night tomorrow night because we are doing a disaster recovery test for work and we never know how long it will take to complete the test.   Here is what I have planned for the rest of the week:

Gluten Free Fettucine Alfredo with broccoli and tomatoes

Hoppin' John with "Perfect" Brown Rice (this is a new way I have discovered to make brown rice and I will post the recipe)

Wild Rice and Mushroom Loaf with Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes and gravy