Pumpkin Cake Bars (vegan, gluten free)

 Tried a new recipe from this post and was impressed! It had a great texture and was quite delicious!  It is a fall counterpart to these GF, vegan chocolate chip bars. These bars would make great travel (air or car) or lunchbox snack.  And I could see them on a brunch table or Christmas breakfast.

I swapped out the flour for ground oats and and used medjool dates instead of the sugar.  Assuming your oats are from a pure source, this should be gluten free.

Mix 1 TB flaxmeal and 2 TB water. Set aside.

3/4 C roasted pumpkin (without skin), or canned pumpkin puree (or cooked winter squash)
1/2 C rice milk or other nondairy milk
2 pitted medjool dates

In food processor, grind 1 C oats into meal/fine flour. Add:
1 tea baking powder
1/2 tea baking soda
1/4 tea salt
1/2 tea cinnamon
1/2 tea ground ginger
1/4 tea nutmeg

Mix the dry and wet ingredients (including the flax mixture and pumpkin).

Pour into a greased 8x8" baking pan.

Now the food processor is empty, pulse crumb topping until chunky texture:
1/2 C pecans
1/4 C pitted medjool dates
1/4 C oats
2 TB coconut oil

Crumble the topping over the batter.

Bake for 25 minutes at 350 F.

Pressure Cooker Fast Potato Broccoli Soup

My method for making this soup has evolved. And now I'm using a Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker (which I love!) Not that I was timing (although now I wish I had) I think this took under 25 minutes to prep.  This soup is great because it uses up broccoli stalks. And I often have potatoes, onion and garlic on hand. Since it doesn't require stock, I don't have to defrost anything ahead of time either.

Pressure cook for 4 minutes using steamer or trivet insert, then let cool off heat until pressure releases:
rough-chopped broccoli stalks
3 yukon gold potatoes, diced into 3/4" cubes
3/4 C water

Meanwhile, steam broccoli florets until tender.

In the now-empty broccoli-steaming pan, saute 1 diced onion and 2 minced cloves garlic in olive oil with a pinch of salt until softens.  Add the cooked broccoli stems and some of the cooked potatoes from the pressure cooker pot, along with the cooking liquid.

Pour all of that into blender with 1/4 C nutritional yeast and blend until smooth.

Once smooth, return to saucepan and add:
water (as needed for preferred texture)

steamed broccoli florets (roughly chopped)
black pepper
optional dried celery leaves or celery salt

Bring soup up to desired temperature and serve with more cracked black pepper. 


Barley, Oat Groat & Millet Porrigde (slow cooker)

Tried this from "Grain mains" cookbook (which has some great looking recipes!).  However the author must have had a much older crockpot/slow cooker as 9-10 hours was too long for my cooker. Next time I will try 4 hours on low, and it may need a max of 6 hours I'm guessing.

This is a nice change of pace from the normal steel cut oats, granola and chia oats routine. 

Throw in slow cooker:
1 C oat groats
1/2 C barley
1/4 C millet

3 C water
3 C non dairy milk
6 medjool dates, chopped
2-3" of cinnamon stick

Stick on LOW for 4-6 hours for a newer model slow cooker, or the book said 9-10 hours (probably for old 1980's slow cookers). Next time I will set it up (potentially sans the non-dairy milk) and hook up an appliance timer so that it turns on the slow cooker 4 or 5 hours prior to my wake up time.

Japanese Blanched Spinach

This is a simple and delicious way to eat through a lot of spinach. I learned this from my host mother in Tokyo.  The sauce is essential- you can use goma-dare as I do sub in your favorite sauce.  This is a good side dish, or even breakfast (my host family was very health centered so we ate steamed veggies + gomadare sauce for breakfast!).

Works best with fresh spinach from the farmer's market where it still has the stem ends connected in bunches (keeps the spinach together while blanching and you trim it off at the end).

Clean 1 bunch of spinach, remove all the dirt, leaving the stem/root ends intact.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Meanwhile set up a bowl with ice water.

Dunk a couple bunches of spinach at a time into the boiling water. Blanch in boiling water for 30-60 seconds, until it softens but is still bright green.  Using tongs, move spinach to the ice water bowl. Repeat for rest of spinach.

Roll up a couple bunches of spinach at a time in a sushi mat and squeeze out the excess water.  Lay on cutting board, trim off the root end, then slice into 2-2.5" inch chunks. Arrange on a plate and drizzle with a sauce.  I love it with goma-dare (slightly sweet sesame sauce).  Sprinkle sesame seeds on top for garnish.


Best Cornbread Ever (with Masa)

This is the best cornbread I've ever had and ever made. It is dairy free-- would be vegan except for the eggs (you could try substituting a "flax-egg"). It is pillowy and soft and just the right bit crumbly, with corn flavor, and not sweet.

Preheat oven with a cast iron skillet in it, to 425 F.

Defrost 3/4 C frozen corn.

Meanwhile, stir together:
1 C masa harina (corn flour for tamales)
1/2 C cornmeal
1/2 C whole wheat white flour
2 tea baking powder
1 tea salt (or more to taste)

Beat together wet ingredients:
2 eggs
1.5 C rice milk (or other nondairy milk)
4 TB olive oil

Once the oven has preheated, add wet mixture to the dry mixture.  Pull out preheated cast iron skillet, drizzle 1 TB olive oil and spread around to coat pan. Pour batter into the preheated cast iron skillet.  Return to 425 F oven and bake for 25 minutes.

Nothing Crazy Vegan Chili

It just started raining and it feels like winter.  I riffed off the whole foods recipe, but I really like the blended and chunky texture created with the following method.  Many vegan chilis are filled with crazy meat-alikes like seitan and TVP; this is just real whole foods like beans and veggies! You could beef it up with cooked grains like barley or brown rice. This wasn't spicy at all, next time I will roast a dried chili over the gas flame and then puree it with the soup!

Chop a bunch of veggies into dice:
1 carrot
1 stalk celery
1 onion (red or yellow)
1-2 bell peppers
2 mild chiles (jalapeno or other)
2-4 cloves garlic
Load veggies into hot saucepan, cook (dry- no oil needed) with 1/2 tea salt for 5-10 minutes until softened.

Add 1 tea oregano, 2 tea mild chili powder, 2 tea ground cumin, and 1/4 tea chipotle powder.  Stir for 30 seconds to toast spices along with the veggies. 

Deglaze pan with 2 TB water.  Transfer to blender with enough water to blend, and whiz until smooth.

Return pureed veggies to pan, add 1 can diced tomatoes (or a bunch of fresh tomatoes) and 2 C cooked beans (black, red/kidney etc.), stir.

Bring to a simmer, season with salt/pepper/chili powder.  Serve with cornbread.

Delicata Squash, Rosemary & Apple Saute

Delicata squash is quite tasty and cooks up much faster than other squash. And the skin is delicate so you don't have to peel it either.
For Two People:
Cut 1 delicata squash into roughly 3/4" cubes. (discard seeds)

Cut 1 apple into 1" cubes.

In a hot saute pan, add some olive oil, then the squash and 3 sprigs rosemary and a pinch of salt. Cook for 4-5 minutes on high until squash starts to turn golden in places.

Add the apple pieces, cook for 2 minutes until apple softens a little. Now add 1/4 C liquid (water or broth), and cover pan.

Cook for a couple minutes until it softens. Then take the lid off and let the liquid boil off, check for doneness. Taste for salt. Serve warm.

Green Tomato Noodles

I've been seeking out ways to use the plethora of green tomatoes from this season.  I was surprised how good the green tomatoes are (not as good as red of course, but still worth eating!)

Green Tomato Noodles
Coarsely chop 3-4 C green tomatoes.  Blend until smooth in a blender with a little water.

In a hot saucepan, drizzle some olive oil. Then add 3 mincedvcloves garlic and a pinch of salt, cook for 30 seconds. Then add the pureed green tomatoes.

Cook the sauce down for 12-15 minutes or until thickened. Season with salt, black pepper and optional 1/2 tea sugar (the green tomatoes are quite acidic!).

Serve tossed with warm cooked spaghetti, or for an all-veggie version toss 3-4 C julienne sliced zucchini into the pan and cook, covered for 4 minutes more until the zucchini "noodles" soften into the sauce a bit.

Serve with grated parmesan (or vegan cheese) and a fresh crack of black pepper. Add a pat of butter or some olive oil to make it more decadent.


Farmer's market Grapes

I used to think grapes were nothing special. The long ones at the grocery story that just taste like a globe of sweet and no character.  Then I tried a few varieties from the Tualatin Valley Gardener's club booth at the farmer's market- WOW! These are Grapes with a capital G. I need to jot down the names next time.  Great flavors like candy, and textures like gummi candies, they just pop in your mouth!  I always buy a bunch thinking I will put them in smoothies, but end up eating them just as is before they get a chance.

Italian Prune Plums

I love Italian prune plums.  First tasted them last season, almost by accident, and now I'm hooked.  They are great travel fruit becasue they aren't so juicy they are drippy or sticky, and you can easily pull the pit out. For these same reasons, I have read they make great fruit desserts, like clafouti or this recipe I want to try  becasue they don't have too much water.

They are great cut up over cereal (or home made granola), or eaten out of hand. Next year I will definitely make a dessert/tart/crisp with them.  And this year I couldn't help but freeze a bunch (see photo) for using later, and trying in smoothies! 

Italian Chickpea Soup with Rosemary (vegan)

 Although I'm not much of a fan of "normal" Italian food (too heavy in white flour and cheese), "cucina povera" or 'poor cooking' is quite exquisite! Lots of veggies and many vegan dishes too.  Non vegans will like this soup as it is creamy (even without dairy), satisfying and beautiful.  I think I may serve this at Thanksgiving.

We had a version of this soup in Rome, but with chopped egg noodles, at Armando Al Pantheon.  It was quite good, so I found a cookbook with a recipe and tried it out. This looks way too simple, especially since there is no stock/broth added. But it is delicious! Especially when using home-cooked dried chickpeas (as opposed to canned chickpeas).  This made our "favorites" list on the first try!

NOTE: I soak dried chickpeas in water overnight, then slow cook on low with water until soft, 4-8 hours; drain and store in freezer bags in the freezer. Just as convenient at canned, but healthier (no BPA nor salt), cheaper (dried chickpeas are about 50 cents a pound?) and much tastier!

Saute in 3-4 TB olive oil in a large saute pan until onion starts to caramelize:
 1 large onion, finely diced 
 2-4 sprigs rosemary
generous pinch of salt 
2 cloves minced garlic 

Add 1/2 tea ground black pepper, 2 C cooked/frozen chickpeas (see note), stir to combine.

Add 2.5 C water, stir and cover. Bring to a simmer.

Scoop out approximately half of the soup into a blender and blend until smooth. Add the smooth puree back to the soup pot, stir and bring back up to heat.

Serve with optional grated Parmesan cheese, and a drizzle of good olive oil.  Enjoy as is, or with toasted whole wheat bread.


Streamlined Chana Dal (using frozen cooked chickpeas)

This is a streamlined version of an older chickpea curry I've made, but looks about the same as the old photo (see older post here).  This time I use already cooked (and frozen) chickpeas that I made up in the slow cooker. All and all this can be made in less than half an hour, just remember to get the rice cooker going when you start!

Saute 2 diced onions until browned (15-20 minutes) in olive oil or ghee with salt.

Add 1-2 inches chopped peeled ginger, 3-5 peeled cloves garlic, stir until fragrant.  Pull off heat, puree with a little water. Reserve.

Meanwhile, puree 2-3 tomatoes. Set aside.

In hot pan with oil, warm up 1 tea cumin seeds and 1 tea mustard seeds for 30 seconds. Add the following powdered spices and stir to coat, 30 seconds.
1 tea turmeric
1/2 tea garam masala
1 to 1.5 tea coriander power
1/2 tea ground black pepper
3/4 tea mango powder (amchur) (you may need more amchur if your tomatoes are very sweet)

Add 2 C cooked and frozen chickpeas with 2 TB water and stir to incorporate the frond on bottom of pan. Cook until chickpeas are defrosted.

Add back pureed onion mix and pureed tomatoes. Taste and add additional salt as needed (amount will depend on if your chickpeas were cooked with salt).

Serve over steamed basmati rice.

Egg Drop Soup

I've always enjoyed egg drop soup at Chinese restaurants, and lately I've been hankering for American style Chinese food (weird huh!).   I think the key to this soup is keeping it simple and using really good broth (I make mine in a pressure cooker).  Also pay attention to the temperature of the liquid when you start working with the egg.

Chop up veggies into small pieces (so they cook faster):
optional other veggies
optional cooked rice or other cooked grain 

Bring 4 C of very good/thick chicken broth up to a simmer and cook vegetables until soft. Add quick cooking veggies like frozen green peas or optional frozen corn.

Season the broth with ginger powder, white pepper, salt, 1 tea sesame oil and optional soy sauce and/or garlic.

Beat 3-4 eggs.  When the broth/soup is at a simmer, slowly pour beaten eggs in a thin stream while stirring the pan-- the result is you'll get a spiral of eggs. Turn of heat.  Let it sit for 20 seconds for the egg to cook, then gently break up pieces of eggs.

Serve immediately.

Roasted Squash

Farmer's markets have many kinds of squash available now.  My favorites so far are acorn and butternut. This season I want to try Hubbard, Delicata and try some heirloom varieties!

When roasting, select a winter type, or one that is hard on the outside like acorn squash (as opposed to summer squash like yellow/green zucchini).

How to roast squash: 
  1. Cut squash into halves. If you have trouble cutting the squash, prick with a fork and microwave for 30-60 seconds. Then try cutting again.
  2. Lay squash halves cut side up on baking sheet. Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes to an hour, or until easily pierced with fork. 

Now you can use the roasted squash:
  • Scoop out flesh and use in soup, lasagna filling, muffin or pancake batter, quick breads or desserts like souffle, pudding, creme brulee or pumpkin pie
  • Cut roasted squash into chunks and toss into a grain pilaf, pasta salad, on green salad
  • Slice, scatter toasted nuts and drizzle with maple syrup and eat as is!

Thin Crispy Crackers

I surprised myself how good these are.  Awesome on their own, and I'm sure they'd be a crowd pleaser for any kind of appetizer/dip where you'd serve store bought cookies. And I bet a nice bag of these would make a nice gift (housewarming, hostess, christmas or any other event).  I may make some of these for a Thanksgiving platter!

2 C whole wheat flour
1/2 tea salt (or more if using coarse salt)
3 TB olive oil

Now add 1/2 C ice cold water and knead to combine. Knead a bit more until the dough is very tight and elasticized.

Let dough rest 10 minutes or more.

Split dough into quarters. For each quarter of dough, roll out very thinly (1/8th inch or thinner) with minimal flour to prevent sticking. 

Brush surface of one side of dough very lightly with water. Sprinkle liberally with coarse kosher salt.

Cut into squares or rectangles.  Place on ungreased cookie pan.

Bake for 10-20 minutes or until browned and crispy at 400 F.

  • use a pasta machine to roll the dough very thin. UPDATE Nov 2012: used pasta roller to roll crackers- tried setting 4 and 3 and found the smaller size 3 was best. I'm guessing it is called "3" because it may be 3 mm? It's less than 1/8th inch thick. Baked for 5 minutes on first side and 3 minutes on second side.  
  • add chopped herbs (rosemary, thyme, parsley) to the dough
  • use cookie cutters to make cute shapes
  • Sprinkle black pepper, paprika or other spices on top of crackers with the salt prior to baking


Roasted Ancho & Squash Soup

Winter squash have hit the farmer's market! One of the best ways to use squash is to roast it.  This soup is a beautiful color from the squash flesh and the chile. It would be pretty for a fall dinner or Thanksgiving side kick. It's pretty thick and creamy from the pureed squash-- and it's vegan (if you use veggie broth)!

Tips: If you have trouble cutting the squash open, try microwaving for 30 seconds at a time-- it just slightly softens the squash so you can cut it open.

Roast cut squash on a baking sheet for 45-60 minutes at 350 F, or until a fork easily pierces the flesh.

Toast 1-2 dried ancho chiles over gas flame until it puffs up. Soak in hot water for 10 minutes. Then cut open and discard seeds.

Combine the toasted-soaked-chile in high speed blender with:
2-3 C roasted squash (acorn, butternut etc.), without the peel (I used 1.5 small acorn squash)
2 C broth (veggie or chicken)
2 cloves garlic
black pepper

Pour liquid into a saucepan and heat until simmering.  Serve as is, or with warm corn tortillas and toasted pepitas.