Saturday, 20 December 2008

Huevos Rancheros

I really have been cooking in the last six months....just not a whole lot of time or inspiration to post here. But I've been thinking in the last week about several mainstays of our family meals that I could certainly post here--food that is delicious and time-tested as I've made them over and over again.

Here's one that I love to make as a very hearty breakfast or even dinner. I especially love it after coming home from church, when we've fasted for communion, and it's noon or 1 pm and we haven't eaten anything besides communion and high-sugar coffee hour treats. But I really only make it when I have good home-cooked black beans. I used to only make it from home-cooked refried beans, but last time I just made pot beans and this turned out very well, and not refrying deletes a whole extra recipe. I think I like it just fine this way! Anyway, either follow your own favorite pot beans recipe or refried beans recipe or follow my simple recipe. And I really don't make it anymore with canned refried beans, as I just don't think it's worth it. I like to wait until I have the real thing--it's worth the wait.

Pot Beans
Rinse one pound of black beans (or substitute your favorite beans--we like black beans over pinto beans) and put in a large pot with about enough water to 2 1/2 times as much as the level of the beans. I suppose this is probably about 10 cups of water. Add one large onion, peeled and cut into quarters, 2 or more cloves of garlic, peeled, a cinnamon stick or two, a teaspoon of dried oregano, and a dried chili pepper. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the beans are very soft, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Add at least one teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Use as is, or make refried beans.

Refried Beans
In a large saute pan, saute onion and garlic in oil. When the onion is softened, begin adding beans (and bean liquid) by the ladle-ful. Add two or three ladles-full and then mash with a wooden spoon while stirring, then keep adding beans and cooking and stirring. If you have an immersion blender this is a good time to use it! But it's fine to leave it somewhat chunky. Continue cooking until the liquid is cooked off to make a nice bean paste. Season with more salt and pepper, if desired.

Now, how I do this is to make refried beans with homemade flour tortillas, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and radishes or other veggies for dinner one night. We call it Mexican night, and now that I'm thinking about it, I did blog about it a couple of years ago. And then I have nice pot or refried beans leftover for the Huevos Rancheros.

Huevos Rancheros
For each serving:
Heat up your beans, about two or three spoonsful for each serving.
Fry one corn tortilla in oil on a skillet over medium heat. Be patient while frying and let it get nice and crispy, as this will affect how easy it is to cut it with your fork later, making for easier eating. Fry on both sides until nice and browned all over, pressing down with a spatula for even frying. Place the tortillas on individual plates.
On the same skillet, fry an egg for each serving. I fry them over-easy style, but you can fry them however you like them best. Season with salt and pepper.
Spread the beans on the tortillas, then place an egg on each one. Add jack cheese, salsa, and sour cream or creme fraiche.


Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Birthday Shortcake

Yesterday we celebrated Paul's 40th birthday! A big occasion! He's never been one for regular cake on his birthday. He likes pie or another kind of dessert. And falling in June, his birthday can take advantage of all kinds of summer fruit (plus enjoying it outside!).

We decided on Strawberry Shortcake this year. But with a twist! The shortcake is a Lemon Lavender Shortcake that I came up with myself! I used a scone recipe from Joy of Cooking for the shortcakes and added lemon and lavender. And just when our lavender in the garden is perfect for baking with!

Strawberry Lemon-Lavender Shortcake

For the shortcake:
Stir together 2 cups flour, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1-2 teaspoons finely-ground lavender buds (grind in a coffee grinder) and the zest of one lemon. Stir in 1 cup heavy cream and the juice from one lemon. Stir in enough extra cream for the mixture to just come together--use a light hand in mixing. Knead in the bowl just until the dough forms a rough ball and transfer to a floured surface. Roll out to about an inch thick and either cut out rounds or cut into squares. Place the pieces on a baking sheet and bake at 425 for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown.

For the strawberries:
Hull and slice 2 to 3 pints of strawberries. Place in a bowl and add sugar to taste--about 1/4 cup--and a handful of chopped fresh mint.

To assemble:
Split the shortcakes in half. Place one or two shortcakes on each plate and spoon strawberries on top. Dollop plenty of whipped cream on top of that. Enjoy!

Oh, yes, I even made a vegan version of this for Hibi. And it was surprisingly good, too! Instead of adding cream, just cut in 6 tablespoons of vegan shortening, then add enough non-dairy milk for the mixture to come together. Continue as directed. I've seen vegan whipped creams on the market but we didn't think of getting this in time....she enjoyed it plenty without the whipped cream!

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Vegan Biscuits and Gravy!

I've been wanting to figure out a good way to make vegan biscuits and gravy, and this morning I made some scrumptious ones! Oh, so good! I got the inspiration from a retreat center cookbook I have, but I changed it enough that I'm taking credit myself. :-)

First, make the biscuits:

Stir together 2 cups flour (you can use part whole wheat or other flour, but I used all white this morning), 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cut in 6 teaspoons non-trans-fat shortening (like Spectrum) until well-blended and the pieces of shortening are very small, about the size of grains of rice. Stir in 3/4 cup plain soy yogurt, then moisten the dough with enough soy milk for it to all come together. Knead just a few times in the bowl, then pat it out in a smooth layer on the counter or a large cutting board dusted with flour. Pat out to about 3/4 inches. Cut out with a biscuit cutter or a large cookie cutter and put on a cookie sheet. Bake at 450 for about 10 minutes, until golden brown and raised.

Make the gravy: toast 2 1/2 cups cashews in the oven--you can put them in while the oven is preheating for the biscuits and leave them until they're done, even with the biscuits in there too. In a small skillet, saute half a chopped onion in 2 tablespoons olive oil over low heat. In a blender, put 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 2 cups water, 2 teaspoons tamari (soy sauce), and whatever herbs you want--I used fresh rosemary and thyme from my garden. When the cashews are done, add them and blend until smooth (or pretty smooth). Add the cashew slurry to the onions and cook over low heat until heated through. Add more water for a thinner gravy. Add salt if desired.

Split the biscuits and ladle gravy over. Enjoy!

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Vegan Doughnuts!

Oh my! We are going to have a great Lent! (If you're just stumbling upon this blog and wondering, we are Greek Orthodox and just starting Lent next Monday.)

Recently the fabulous Jennifer Schmoo came visiting our house! And she came bearing a gift. She brought My Sweet Vegan, a treasure for vegans and Lenten-fasters! I immediately said "We're going to have a good Lent..."

We started using it before Lent since Hibi is a vegan, and her birthday was on Tuesday. These wonderful doughnuts are what we had for breakfast. I made up the dough the night before, put it in the fridge, then on Tuesday morning when I got up I formed the doughnuts and let them rise. They were ready for frying when it was time for breakfast, and yum, what a breakfast it was! Not even us non-vegan cheese-fare people were complaining.

Now, normally I would post the recipe. My understanding is that recipes cannot be copyrighted, and I'm within my rights to post them on my blog. But the author of this cookbook Hannah Kaminsky, is still a teenager! She also homeschools. And I find it so amazing that she could come up with such a tasty compilation at such a young age, that I am going to urge you to buy the book rather than posting the recipe. If you are at my house, you are welcome to copy it yourself. :-)

Also I would usually link to the Powells site rather than Amazon, but Powells doesn't seem to have it yet. Hey, Hannah, you should sell your book to Powells! It is definitely up Portland's alley.

Also, the night before we took the Root Beer Float Cupcakes from this book to a gathering as a birthday cake. They were also scrumptious! Definitely a good resource for those of us who avoid dairy and eggs at least part time.

Note: After I posted this, I thought I should add a thought on enjoying food during Lent: I realize the point of fasting is not to circumvent the rules and make something that tastes as good as the original that we aren't eating. However, as a former neighbor at seminary once said, you can fool your tastebuds but you can't fool your body! I think this is true and we do feel differently during Lent because of what we are not eating. Also, though, the fast is loosened on weekends which is when we would be enjoying things like this. It seems so much more of a treat when you've been fasting strictly all week.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Mystery solved! I can remember baking chocolate chip cookies where they turned out nice and plump, chewy and delicious. Then, several years ago, something changed. My cookies would spread in the oven and become paper-thin and too crumbly. I quit making them because it just didn't seem worth it. Hibi started making vegan chocolate chip cookies, with shortening and soy milk, and they came out better than my non-vegan ones! So, that made me think it had to be one of the components that are not in vegan cookies. I thought of eggs, but when I began keeping my own chickens again it didn't improve. I figured it was some change in commercial ingredients that came from the different treatment of farm animals. But I remained in the dark about what specifically it was.

Well, I don't know if that assumption was correct, but it turns out that it has to do with the butterfat content of the butter. I don't remember who it was who suggested it in conversation recently, but someone said "try European butter." My first thought was: uber-expensive Plugra? Wow, is that what it'll take for good cookies? But I found Straus European-Style butter at New Seasons and tried it out last night.

And it was definitely worth it! My cookies still came out crunchier than I like them but that was just because they got left in oven too long. But they have such a nice buttery flavor and they're plump and delicious. I used the recipe from my Kitchen Aid booklet. Oh, yeah, I bought myself a used Kitchen Aid mixer with my Christmas money, and I'm enjoying it a lot! In fact, I said I was still going to knead bread by hand, but I haven't done so since I got my Kitchen Aid.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Place sugars, butter, eggs and vanilla in mixer bowl. Mix on speed 2 (on a kitchen aid--low speed) and mix about 30 seconds. Stop and scrape bowl. Turn to speed 4 (medium speed) and beat about 30 seconds. Stop and scrape bowl.

Turn to Stir speed. Gradually add soda, salt, and flour and mix about 2 minutes. Turn to speed 2 and mix about 30 seconds. Stop and scrape bowl. Add chocolate chips and mix on stir speed for about 15 seconds.

Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto greased baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake at 375 for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from baking sheets immediately and cool on wire racks.


Friday, 25 January 2008

Egg Cups

Wow, it's been awhile since I posted a tasty treat here. But here's a good one! Especially if, like me, you are the proud owner of chickens, who are beginning to lay once again! Ah, all that fresh, truly-free-range eggy goodness deprivation gone for another year. Hurrah!

I sure wish I'd gotten a picture of these....they are so pretty, as well as tasty. They're pretty easy to make, though the philo is a bit tedious. Someone said that philo cups are available commercially, so that would be worth checking into.

Baked Eggs in Philo Cups with Lemon Sauce

Plan on one or two eggs per person...or more, if they're really hungry! Have as many ramekins on hand as you plan to make eggs. Melt butter and brush each ramekin with melted butter. Open up a package of philo dough and slice a strip off, about five inches wide. Cut this strip into thirds, to make squares (at least close). Brush each piece with butter as you work. Place a piece of philo into a ramekin, layering one on top of another overlapping, to cover the whole inside of the cup and sticking out a bit on top. Put at least 7 or 8 pieces in each ramekin...until it looks like enough, like a little philo cup. Repeat with all the ramekins. (Save the rest of the philo for another use.)

Put about 1 1/2 tablespoons of cream cheese or other soft cheese on the bottom of each philo cup. Then crack in one egg in each. Snip chives over the top (or you could use other herbs), drizzle with just a smidge of cream, and salt and pepper over the top. Place ramekins on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for oh, maybe 20 to 30 minutes? Depending on how done you like your eggs.

While the eggs are baking, make the sauce: melt two tablespoons butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. Add two tablespoons flour and stir and cook until the mixture is lightly browned. Add about 3/4 cup milk (honestly, I didn't measure--just keep adding it until it's the right consistency) and cook and stir until the mixture comes to a simmer and thickens. Add the juice from one lemon. Add more milk if it's too thick.

Drizzle sauce over the eggs at the table. Enjoy!