Filed under Making Things

Brownies (sugar free, dairy free, grain free)

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1 1/4 cup chickpea flour

6 tablespoons cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup honey or rice syrup ( I use rice syrup)

1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon cooking oil (I use oil)

1 egg

Add dry ingredients together. Whisk the egg & add the honey or rice syrup and oil. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Spoon into an 8×8 pan & cook for about 20 minutes. Mine took about 25 minutes, but keep checking. You will know it is done when the top looks dry like brownies should look.  TIP: Add a little more oil if you like your brownies gooey –  cooking time may take a little longer.

These brownies take the edge off of  PMS cravings for me. They only take about 40 minutes to make & they satisfy a craving for a dense hit of sweet chocolate.

SUBSTITUTIONS:

I prefer using rice syrup for cooking with chocolate since I find honey is a distinct flavour which comes through baking, so I save it for fruit loaves or cakes, and  pies.

Chickpea flour is dense and may take getting used to for some people. You can substitute regular flour or another flour mix but use a little less oil (try 1 TBSP) as chickpea flour needs a little extra oil which is accounted for in the recipe.

Melted (cooled) butter can be used in place of cooking oil.

Chocolate Beet Bundt Cake

beet bundt ii

This September I flopped my dessert at a family gathering for the first time. It was truly sad. Yet, one should not go blaring into a situation with a new recipe, let alone a vegan carrot cake recipe. When people tell you something is THE BEST, do not believe them until you have clear evidence. Lesson learned. Again.

When my family gathered a few weeks after this gooey gaffe for Canadian Thanksgiving (a time of gratitude, not a tribute toward our genocidal forebearers), I was hoping to clear my shame & satisfy my own (gluten & dairy free) sweet tooth with a great dessert. This was it. I am ashamed to say I forgot my brother is not a beet lover (is in fact, a beet despiser) until he was shoveling this cake into his mouth. I haven’t told him he ate & loved beet cake. Ah, siblings.

So, here it is. A delicious bundt. A fairly simple slice delivering great taste with little fuss or guilt. Serve with whipped cream or serve it plainly, as it is fine on its own.

Gluten & Dairy Free (but you can use either or both in the recipe if you like)

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 55 minutes

Ingredients

3/4 cup cooking oil (I use light olive oil) or 1 cup butter, softened divided
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
3 eggs
4 oz semisweet chocolate
2 cups beet puree
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour, or regular gluten-y flour
2 tsps baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
confectioners sugar for sprinkling, optional

Clean beets & cut into 2 inch pieces. Cover well with water & boil 15-20 minutes or until a fork can easily slide inside. Allow beets to cool. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place beets in food processor and puree. Set aside. Combine 1/2 cups of oil or 3/4 cups of the softened butter and brown sugar, mix well with electric mixer. Add eggs and mix well. Melt the remaining 1/4 cup oil or 1/4 butter with chocolate and add to the wet ingredient mixture. Combine flour, baking soda and salt then add them to the mixture, blend well. The mixture should seem like it may be too wet to bake properly. Believe me, it will. You can add a little more oil or butter if you need help reaching this consistency. Pour the lot into a greased floured 10-inch fluted tube pan. Bake for 45-55 minutes. Allow cake to cool before removing from pan. Sift confectioner’s sugar over the top and serve.

beet bundt

White Willow – Salix Alba

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Salix Alba – White Willow.

Today I am making white willow herbal water in my home still to create a topical healing lotion (& will use the leftover water as a toner for my face as well as a rash salve for my youngest child).

Hippocrates, the Greek physician wrote about a bitter powder extracted from willow bark that could ease pain and reduce fevers.  Use of white willow has been traced to China in 500 BC and ancient Egypt.

White Willow (Salix Alba) is anti-rheumatic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antiseptic, and astringent. It is used mostly to cool fever & relieve pain. Willow contains high levels of salicin / acetylsalicylic acid, which inspired the creation of aspirin in the late 1800’s.

White willow’s analgesic effects are slower acting than aspirin, but have longer lasting results. Willow leaves can also be chewed raw if immediate pain relief is needed.

Willow bark & leaves are excellent remedy for fevers, chills, arthritis, rheumatism, digestive problems, colic, acne, dandruff, infection, inflammation, and bursitis.

White willow combines well with other herbs and often acts to boost their effectiveness as some herbal combinations create a synergy that becomes more potent than any herb taken alone.

Due to a high level of tannins, willow may help some gastrointestinal conditions. It is sometimes used as a mild digestive stimulant in the treatment of stomach problems.

* Willow should be used with precautions. It is best to consult an herbalist or health practitioner before using plant medicine. Always use common sense & start with small doses, observing their effects. Always consult with a physician before using any herbal remedy.

 

Empanadas: Easier Than you Think (Like so Many Things in Life)

It began, like many good stories of mine, with me & a house full of lesbians. I had moved to the big city with my friend Krista, into a house with many interesting room mates. They were all cool. They were all older. None of them sounded like Wayne from Wayne’s World when they spoke. Being from the North, I kind of did.

I did not know how to cook. I could barely make coffee. I’m not sure I had ever cooked an egg. I was embarrassed. Now & then I’d sneak into the kitchen when no one else was around (rare, there were five of us living together) and ‘make’ something. Fried egg sandwich, grilled cheese, toast. That’s it. Wait – countless bowls of cereal. Let’s not forget those.

Krista & I got jobs at a restaurant where the servers build meals for diners (who work their way down a plexiglass display case full of fun foods). I learned about “weird” foods like hummus, honey mustard, roasted breaded eggplant (looked like shoe leather) & antipasto. I learned how to make espresso. It was awesome – Mostly because we got fed there, but also because we learned about new foods, people, attitudes. Oh, the Big City. It was exciting to be anonymous.

Sometime during my first year away from home, an astute room mate noticed my lack of confidence in & distinct absence from the kitchen.  Kindly, when no one else was around, she spoke with me about it.  That day she taught me how to make stir fry – The 1990’s first year vegetarian staple. That started my love affair with cooking. I’ll never forget that long narrow kitchen & how much coffee making  (& life growth) happened there.

The first cookbooks I remember were Mollie Katzen’s & the Moosewood cookbooks. A friend of the house, Cathy the Dancer  from Winnipeg, used to come over to bake. She introduced me to making piroshki & calzone making (a la Ms. Katzen). From there I learned to love savoury pies & other comforting main courses involving dough of some kind. I also learned how much fun you can have in the kitchen & how your journey learning there never really ends.

I think my love of empanadas started with emulating Mollie Katzen’s piroshki  in a tiny kitchen on Dewson Street in Toronto. So, here’s to her, and to houses full of kind lesbians.

Saucepan of goodness

 Corn, Black Beans & Zucchini EMPANADAS (24 small ones)

* I’m (sadly, but healthily) gluten & dairy free so I’m including my adjustments to a regular recipe.

DOUGH (make it now as you’re going to have to refrigerate it for an hour so it doesn’t crumble)

2 1/4 cups of flour (I use 1.5 cups Bob’s Red Mill Biscuit & Baking & 3/4 cup brown rice flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
1 stick of cold unsalted butter, diced (I use olive oil, starting with 1/3 cup & adding more if needed to get the right consistency)
1 large egg
1/3 cup of ice water
1 tablespoon of distilled white vinegar

Sift flour(s) & salt into a large bowl. Work the butter in until the mixture is the texture of wee peas with some crumbs. In a separate small bowl, beat egg, water & vinegar, then stir it into the dry mixture until just incorporated. Flour your hands then gently shape the dough into a ball & knead it a few times on a lightly floured surface. Knead into a flat ball & wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour.

FILLING
You can go wild here. Honestly. I love spicy beef & greens, black olives, egg & chicken, there are so many possibilities. Sweet empanadas also rule. Really, apple with cheddar, hello? This time of year though, I like to get the most I can of the last of my local CSA farm share veggies. This is a ‘Three Sisters” version of the empanada with Corn, Black Beans & Zucchini (any squash will do). Plus, we’re laying off the meat these days.

-1 1/2 cups of shallots/leeks/onion in whatever combination you like (or skip this & add raw green onion later. I like to saute the allium family members up to add depth to my filling).
-1 1/2 or 2 cups roasted squash or  zucchini ( turn the oven to 400 so you can roast that stuff up now).
*OR  use grated zucchini instead of roasting to save time. Grate it & add to the saucepan after the leeks/onions/shallots are soft.
-1 1/2 cups corn-1 1/2 cups black beans
–  olive oil
-Salt & pepper
-3/4 cup shredded cheese (I omit for my own portion & include for the cheese-eaters in the house)
-zest of 1 lime
– 1/2 cup thinly-sliced green onions
– 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
– 2 tablespoons diced green chiles (or whatever spicy you like)
– 1 teaspoon ground cumin
– 1/4 teaspoon chile powder
* Sour cream & Salsa for serving, optional

EGG WASH
-1 egg, gently beaten with a fork (for the egg wash)

FILLING INSTRUCTIONS
Cut squash it into little cubes & cover it with a good dose of olive oil.  Roast for about 25 or 30 minutes, until soft.

Saute leeks/onions/shallots in olive oil on low-medium heat until soft. Add the raw corn kernels & raise the heat so they get a little golden & start to carmelize with your onions. Add the zucchini (if you are adding shredded zucchini) & let it cook down, about 5 min. Transfer to a bowl. Fold in black beans, roasted squash, cheese, green onions, cilantro, chiles, cumin, lime juice & zest and chile powder.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it into small pieces. You should get about 24 small rounds. You can also roll the dough to about ¼ inch thick, then cut out  4 inch rounds (or whatever size you like). Cover any dough you are not working with so it doesn’t dry out. Once you have all rounds made, place 1-2 tablespoons of filling in the center of each,  fold the circle into a half moon. Pinch and fold the edges to seal them, then place the formed empanada onto a prepared baking sheet. Ta da! You have made  empanadas!

Continue to do this with the remaining dough and filling. Fill to the size you like & enjoy your learning curve. Have fun. Once you are finished forming all your moons, brush them with the egg wash. This is my 5 yeard old’s fave job.

Bake empanadas for approximately 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Serve with sour cream & salsa, or if you are me, extra veggies! I am relentless with the veggies.

You can freeze formed uncooked or cooked empanadas. This rocks.

Please excuse the poor quality iPhone photos. I single parent most of the time. Things get busy. I often forget to photo document while sauteing my healthy meal, keeping the one year old alive & my five year old from making us all crazy. It’s a good life, but we’re busy.


 emp2

 

 

SWEET NAVY BEAN BAKE

I found this recipe in the New York Times and decided to make it. I did not have some of the ingredients on hand, so I made due with what I had. The NYT recipe calls for tomato & pomegranate syrup, I used cider & apricots. Once you are confident with the basics of cooking, you can gracefully re-fit a recipe to your needs & wants.

I have a sentimental attachment to baked beans. Growing up, my brother would beg my mother to make her French Canadian baked beans. We gobbled them up with glee. I’ve never made my Mom’s recipe for my family, preferring to keep those memories in that little house on Cartier Street in Sault Ste. Marie –  just between my brother, mother & I for a while longer. I forgot I could bake beans on other ways. Oh, yes indeed, there is more than one way to bake a bean.

This recipe is delicious. My husband is a devout meat-eater & admitted he could have loved this dish more with roast lamb or chicken on top. He did love it on its own though, maybe for lunch not dinner. I was perfectly satisfied with this as a main course. Adding nuts & cheese makes it lovely stew of a main meal. I did not use nuts of cheese for this one.

1 pound white beans, soaked for 4 hours or overnight in 2 quarts of water, and drained

1 bay leaf

6 cups water (more as needed)

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 large onions, preferably sweet red onions, finely chopped

1 – 2 cups apple cider

1 cups dried apricots

A few fresh rosemary sprigs

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 bunch Swiss chard or kale, stemmed, leaves washed and chopped

1/2 cup (2 ounces) finely chopped walnuts, toasted

Feta, goat or other tangy cheese – optional

Combine the drained beans, bay leaf & water (enough to cover by an inch) in a large, ovenproof casserole or Dutch oven & bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat, cover & simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, until beans are tender tender. Check from time to time to make sure the beans are submerged, add water if necessary. Remove the bay leaf. I add dried seaweed to my beans for added minerals, you don’t have to.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat 3 tablespoons or so of the olive oil in a medium heavy skillet over medium heat & add onions & rosemary. Cook, stirring often, until tender and lightly caramelized, (about 10 minutes). Remove rosemary before the leaves start to fall off. Turn the heat to low, add a generous pinch of salt, cover and continue to simmer, stirring often, until the onions are dark brown and have melted down to half their original volume, another 15 to 20 minutes (or more, depending on you & your stove – take your time, enjoy the process).

In the meantime, reduce that apple cider to 1/3 of a cup by letting it gently simmer down and work on stewing your apricots. Chop apricots into 3 or 4 pieces & cook in 4 cups of water until they are fluffy & gorgeous. Let the simmer down in volume as well. I used about three cups worth of apricots & the apricot water in the bean mix. Don’t worry if you end up with less, the flavour will just be more compact. You can always add more water to the casserole as it is going in the oven.

When the onions are finished, stir them into the beans, along with the stewed apricots, reduced cider and salt and pepper to taste. Place in the oven and bake, covered, for 1 hour. The beans should be very tender. Check from time to time to make sure the beans are submerged; add water as necessary or just press down on the beans to cover them with liquid. (They shouldn’t be swimming, though.) You really do not want dry beans, but you also do not want them swimming in water, use your best judgement. I thought mine would turn out more water-logged by placing the beans in the oven submerged, but I was wrong (yay).

Uncover the beans, taste and adjust salt, and stir in the Swiss chard or kale. Sprinkle the walnuts over the top, as well as the feta or goat cheese and drizzle on the final tablespoon of oil. Return to the oven and bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes more. Remove from the oven, taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot or warm.

Yield: 8 servings