Vegetarian

Tapioca and Buckwheat Gluten-and-Dairy Free Crepe Batter

 

Savory Breakfast Crepes

Yesterday I woke and immediately started daydreaming about Sunday breakfast.   With all the writing and social networking that goes with my job(s), sometimes I just get cranky for time IN the actual kitchen.

Crepes.  I don’t know why, but I started daydreaming about crepes.  Filled with eggs and goat cheese and something bright colored to remind me what spring looked like.  Luckily I was only a few blocks from Whole Foods, where a bunch of gorgeous little tomatoes from Mexico found their way into my basket, along with some fresh cilantro and small Mexican champagne mangoes.  The sun was out, the air was warm, I walked home with my jacket unbuttoned and my raggedy hair blowing in the wind.  New Yorkers had a bit more of a spring to their step, and I didn’t realize at the time how this quick break from the cold would make smiles turn up a bit more on most of the lovely people I’d encounter in my day.

Anyway, back in the kitchen.  I had decided on using a little buckwheat – which is common in some crepe recipes but used sparingly as it can be a bit bitter – and tapioca flour to pull along with the eggs and soymilk I was using for the crepe batter.  A tiny bit of butter and salt, and that’s it!  I utilized the whipping strength of a blender and the ease of a non-stick skillet to aid in making sure that the eggs would be beaten light and fluffy and the crepes easy to flip.  When the first one actually WORKED I called my boyfriend to the stove, giddy like a school-child out the first day of holiday.  We delighted in a few seconds of cheery contentment, flipping gluten-and-dairy-free crepes onto a waiting pan while eggs slow-cooked nearby.

This recipe is quite simple, and quick, and with a little practice I soon had a stack of warm crepes that I filled with sauteed eggs and served with a guacamole-type mix and the freshly sliced champagne mangoes.

It was a good, good, good day.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cup soy or unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/3 cup buckwheat flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp melted butter or olive oil

Directions

Whip eggs and milk of choice in blender until creamy and a bit fluffy (if you don’t have a blender you can use a standing or hand mixer, or just whip the heck out of them with a whisk).  Add the flours 1/3 a cup at a time, whipping thoroughly with each addition.  Add the melted butter or oil and salt and whip quickly to incorporate.

Heat a large non-stick skillet on medium high heat and spray lightly with cooking spray.  Hold skillet away from heat and let cool for 5 seconds, then pour enough batter in the center of the skillet, swirling quickly to cover the entire surface, until the bottom of the skillet is just covered with batter.  Return to heat and cook for 15-20 seconds or until the sides of the crepe start to curl.  Flip gently and cook on the other side another 20 seconds.  Remove to plate.  Repeat until you get a pretty stack of crepes!

Before I started cooking the crepes I had a second skillet going on low heat with melted butter, slowly stirred eggs, fresh cilantro, soft goat cheese and the skins of these tomatoes:

I then reserved the insides of them and mashed them with avocado, more cilantro, a squirt of fresh lemon juice (in the absence of lime) and some sea salt and pepper.  And then adorned the dish with the fresh champagne mangoes.  They’re a little tarter, firmer and less fibrous than regular mangoes.

While the tomatoes weren’t quite what I wanted (beautiful in color but still lacking that perfect summer tomato sweetness), it was a gorgeous dish, paired with orange juice and locally roasted coffee.  The perfect start to one of the best Sundays I’ve had in a long while.

 

Creamy egg-filled crepes with champagne mangoes, avocado and Mexican tomatoes

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Coriander Cinnamon Carob Candy

Coriander Cinnamon Carob Candy

Rustic.

That’s a word I’ve been throwing around my kitchen lately.  My ambitions with allergy-alternative baking are to make gorgeous treats just as delectable for those without sensitivities as those with, that are as appealing to the eyes as they are to the tastebuds.

But sometimes things just look…rustic.  They taste delicious but look a bit like the ugly duckling pre-swan-age.

This recipe is one such recipe.  I’m playing with molding carob powder with spices and fat into a hard candy that is satisfying and palatable for even the most sensitive stomachs.  Once again, this combination tastes delicious – with citrusy tangs of coriander and a cinnamon spice – but it took a while to get them to release easily from the molds.  Like the little engine, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can… but for now I’ll enjoy my “rustic” treats.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup ghee (clarified butter) or unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground decaffinated coffee
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon, plus more for dusting
  • 3/4 cup coconut creme
  • 1 cup carob powder

Directions

  • Lightly grease mini-cupcake tins and dust heavily with cinnamon
  • Place a small pot on low heat and melt ghee or butter
  • Add 2 Tbsp cinnamon, coffee and coriander, and whisk to combine
  • Let sit on low heat for about 5 minutes to infuse
  • Slowly whisk in coconut creme, doing so until thoroughly combined and the mixture is a light brown with all the butter absorbed
  • Add carob, 1/4 cup at a time, whisking thoroughly with each addition.  By the second addition, the ghee may separate from the creme and start to lump with the carob: don’t sweat this.  It should absorb back into the final mixture, which should be rather lumpy.  The mixture should not be smooth like chocolate, but almost look like a big pile of used coffee grounds.
  • Use a scant tablespoon to fill each mold, and pat the tops down flat.
  • Heavily dust with two coats of cinnamon.
  • Refrigerate until hard, about 1 hour, then let sit for about five minutes to soften a tad.  Use a very thin knife to work around the mold and slowly ease candies from pan.  Dust with cinnamon.
  • Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Sugar-Free Coffee Carob Candies

Coffee Carob Candies

For a few years at the height of my illness, I wasn’t able to eat most things that one would consider an indulgence – chocolate, sugar, alcohol.  While my stomach is stronger and I can moderate some of these things back into my diet, I have a dear friend who still is very limited in what her body can digest.

She hit a pretty big birthday recently, and when I visit her to celebrate I want to present her with something special, indulgent and… digestible.

Carob is a delightful alternative to chocolate – it contains no caffeine, as much vitamin B1 as is in strawberries, and is full of protein, fiber and trace minerals.  It’s gentle on the stomach and naturally sweet, so you don’t need to sweeten it as you do raw cocoa.

So I made a mental list of things my dearie can have and played with proportions.  The result?  A fudgey, chocolate-y treat with a huge blast of coffee and a spicy finish.  An easy, quick way to indulge in a sugar-free treat!

Ingredients:

  • I cup carob powder
  • 1/2 cup ghee
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp ground decaf coffee
  • 3/4 cup full-fat coconut milk plus more if necessary

Directions:

  • Lightly grease mini-cupcake tins or candy tins.
  • In a small pot, melt the ghee, then add coconut milk, whisking continually until warm.
  • Add coffee and cinnamon and whisk to absorb.
  • Slowly add carob, whisking continually, until all the carob powder is smooth.  It won’t have the same consistency as chocolate, being a little thicker, but should be soft and malleable.   If desired, blend with an immersion or standing blender.
  • Press into individual molds and refrigerate until hard, about 1 hour.
  • Loosen candies from pan with a thin knife.
  • Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
  • Makes about 16 candies.

Blueberry Lemon Pancakes

Blueberry Lemon Pancakes

Oh.  My.  Dog.

Blueberry Lemon Pancakes.

Nothing remarkable in this combination.  Nothing remarkable in any of the FOUR types of pancakes I’ve baked and eaten this week.  Except that these are, in themselves, remarkable.  As remarkable as the last three.  So remarkable that I HAD to take pictures and write about them.   So remarkable that as I chew I’m already thinking of what other combinations of fruit and cake I can make for breakfast.

And as I tear into another piece, I realize that this sensory satisfaction has gone over the borderline.

I am a pancake junky.

I will not deny it.  At my best my body can tolerate most grains in unlimited quantity, so much so that I can even splurge on a wheaten food now and then and not suffer greatly.  At my worst, a grain as gentle as quinoa feels like a freight train careening through my digestive tract.  For years I would never dare to combine grains with fruit, because of the competing digestive enzymes (a practice I still keep as much as possible).  And for much of my childhood, ingredients and awareness of tasty alternatives to gluten and dairy were just not around.  So now I’m reveling in this treat that was absent in my life for so long.

I know, an addict can justify anything.  And I’m not so self-focused that I’m unaware of the difference between being addicted to a relatively-healthy baked good and, say, heroine (ask me about coming down off of 10-months of 24-hour constant doctor-prescribed opioids – now that wasn’t fun).

So instead of groveling in guilt and thinking about having, say, eggs and spinach for breakfast tomorrow, I’m just gonna come to terms with my adoration and spell out this easy, gluten-free, dairy-free source of this moment’s joy for all you fellow junkies out there.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour or gluten-free pancake mix
  • IF NOT USING PANCAKE MIX add 1/4 cup tapioca starch and 1 tsp xantham gum
  • the zest of one lemon
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened milk – I used soy but almond or cow’s works too
  • 1 Tbsp butter or Earth Balance, melted and cooled
  • at least 1 cup blueberries

Directions

  • Combine all ingredients in order listed except blueberries, mixing thoroughly with spatula.  The mixture should be just slightly smooth, enough that it doesn’t run but slides a bit off the spatula.  If too dry, add a few tablespoons more milk.
  • If possible, let mixture sit for at least 1/2 hour (I did for an hour, which was perfect)
  • Fold in blueberries, about 1 cup or more to taste
  • Heat a non-stick, stainless steel or cast iron pan to a medium heat and spray with nonstick spray
  • Drop about 2 soup-spoons worth of batter for each pancake, enough to make it about 3″ across
  • Cook until the pancake puffs and the underside is brown, flip and cook till brown.
  • Serve with fresh blueberries and real Maple Syrup.

I told you it was easy.  Nothing complicated or out of the ordinary.  But the lemon packs a huge punch and large, ripe blueberries provide enough sweetness that I only used a tiny bit of maple syrup.  Oh.  My.  Dog.

Sweetheart Chocolate Fudge Cake with Raspberry Sauce

I know it’s practically sacrilegious to admit to using boxed cake mixes when one claims to call oneself a baker.  But I’ve been doing the gluten-dairy-sugar free thing pretty much since I was twelve – about 18 years ago already!  And for the majority of those years, that meant going without.  Without bread, frosty desserts, birthday cake, or holiday celebrations in school.  As an adult, still, I’m usually surprised with a cake on my birthday by well-meaning relatives that not only can I not eat, but I must slice and serve to guests, with custard-y filling dripping down my fingers while they exclaim that “this is the best cake!”

So when I get to make my Nana’s birthday cake on the Sunday morning before Valentine’s Day amongst much work to do, a boxed cake mix seems like an exciting prospect.  Especially as my pantry full of flours and specialty equipment is back in my apartment in NYC.

At the store yesterday I grabbed two mixes – one from Gluten-Free Dreams and one I have never tried from King Arthur Flours.   Upon pouring them out of their plastic prisons I immediately noticed that the King Arthur had a smoother texture to it that was less grainy than the GF Dreams.  This would prove itself again when they were mixed and in the final baked products – the King Arthur was fudgey and soft with no trace of gluten-free graininess to it.  The six of us agreed it was the taste-test winner (I’ve tried a few other brands, and this is my favorite out of them all).

I used canned pumpkin and unsweetened vanilla almond milk as the moisture for the cakes rather than oil and eggs, making them lower in fat and vegan, while tasting just as rich and chocolatey.  Because they’re seemed to not be a matching set of cake pans in the house, I used an 8″ and a 9″, as well as a miniature heart mold that I knew was crammed in a cabinet here somewhere (I’m stealing it).

Now these cakes are so delicious that they don’t need frosting.  I simply pureed three containers of raspberries to make a sauce and it was the perfect accompaniment to the dark and fudgey cake.  But to glue them together and add some color I made a basic buttercream frosting with butter (bye-bye vegan and dairy-free) and a bit of almond milk.  This is only needed if you make two layers.

Speaking of layers – my Portuguese/Italian heritage of always making too much food reared its dark-haired head again, in my making a double layer cake for 7 people!  We had two-thirds of the cake left over.  So if you’re feeding 8-10 people of a healthy appetite, one layer is sufficient for a dense and classy cake.

To simplify, I’m going to give you the recipe just for the King Arthur mix.  If you were to choose the Gluten-Free Dreams, you’d simply reduce the milk by 1/4 of a cup.

Ingredients

  • 2 boxes of King Arthur Flour Gluten-free Chocolate Cake mix
  • 2 cups of pumpkin puree
  • 3 1/2 cups unsweetened milk – I used vanilla almond, but soy or cow would work just as well
  • 5 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 cups fresh raspberries
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 stick (8 Tbsp) butter, softened
  • red food coloring, if desired

Directions: Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Lightly grease cake pans of choice – I used one 9″ and one 8″ cake pan, plus the little heart molds
  • In a very large bowl: two packages of cake mix, 1 tsp baking powder, 4 tsp vanilla extract, 2 cups of pumpkin puree.
  • With a hand mixer, start to mix on low.  These mixes will easily fly into the air, so consider yourself warned!
  • When the pumpkin is incorporated, make a well in the center of the batter and pour in 2 and 1/2 cups milk (the rest is for the frosting).  Start mixing on low until incorporated, then mix in medium until nice and smooth.
  • Pour into cake pans and bake for approximately 25 minutes, testing after 20, and bake until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.
  • Leave in pans for 15 minutes before inverting onto cooling racks.  Cool completely before frosting.

Directions: Frosting and puree

  • In a food processor, process raspberries until smooth.  Set aside.
  • Clean and remount processor.
  • Whip butter into confectioner’s sugar until incorporated.
  • Add 1 tsp vanilla extract.
  • Slowly pour in almond milk, stopping when frosting is smooth and spreadable.
  • If desired, add about 5 drops of red food coloring until a delightful pink.
  • Put a dab of frosting between the layers, and a bit more on top to decorate as desired.  Serve with raspberry puree.

The Final Product

Happy Birthday Nana!

My sister and I dubbed this the Whoville Birthday Valentine Whobilation Cake.  Yes, it looks like something a Who would serve to their guests in a Dr. Seuss world. I do not deny this.  Nor am I too proud to share this with you.  But I did come home and sign up for a cupcake class next month so I can learn how to frost better.  And I think cake classes may be in my future in general.

Baked Blackberry Lemon Crisp Pancake

Baked Blackberry and Lemon Crisp Pancake

Last week I posted a recipe on Baked Blackberry and Lemon Pancakes along with a little story about the adorable girls who inspired it.  I thought the pancakes were scrumptious – and considering I ate the entire batch myself over three days, I hope you can trust me on that.

But I wanted a richer lemon taste and an even easier process.  So today, at my father’s house in CT where I don’t quite have my baking arsenal on me, I took on this quest.  And I think I conquered.

The challenge: no alternative sugars, so in this case I did use white sugar – it’s all I had – but there’s still only a trivial amount.  Also, my dad doesn’t have a saucepan that can go from stove to oven, so I opted for a Pyrex baking dish.

I increased the amount of lemon dramatically and added the zest of the lemon itself.  18 minutes in a 400 degree oven and it was good to go – and a triumph!

From the first bite to the last, you get an undercurrent of tangy lemon and the sweetness of blackberries amidst a cornmeal-like pancake.  The drizzled lemon and sugar gives the top a sweet and crunchy crust.  A tiny drizzle of pure maple syrup and you’re good to go with a treat perfect for a Sunday family breakfast or a brunch with your lucky sweetheart.

Prepare:

  • Rinse and dry 1 1/5 cups of blackberries.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degree F.
  • Spray an 8 X 11.5 inch baking pan (I used Pyrex) with non-stick pray or melted butter

In a large bowl mix together:

  • 1 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free pancake mix
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp sugar of choice

Whisk together in a small bowl:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice (I used the juice of the zested lemon and then filled to complete)
  • 4 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 cup milk – I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk

Mix in a very small bowl:

  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp choice of sugar

Incorporate and bake:

  • Slowly pour the egg/milk mixture into the dry and stir with a spatula to incorporate.
  • Fold in blackberries.
  • Spread batter into pan evenly with spatula, making sure blackberries are dispersed evenly.
  • Bake for 5 minutes.  Then drizzle the lemon/sugar mixture on the top of the pancake and use a knife to swirl into the batter.
  • Bake for another 13 minutes or until the top of the pancake is slightly browned.

This recipe makes enough for 4 people as a main plate or 6 as an partner for eggs or omelets.

On A Clear Day You Can See Forever Soup

It has come – that time in February when my body just won’t let my brain ignore it.  As anyone with a chronic illness can attest, there are some times of the year that you go into bracing yourself, no matter the positive attitude you live by nor the years of knowledge you’ve accumulated to date.  That time for me is now, when my body screams “hibernate!”

Lily and I backstage for FALL OF HEAVEN

Last year at this time I was in Cincinnati, Ohio working at the Cincinnati Playhouse on the premiere of Walter Mosely’s FALL OF HEAVEN, directed by the incomparable Marion McClinton and featuring a cast of some of the loveliest people I have had the privilege to work with.  I did stage-crew for this show, meaning every night at about 10 minutes to curtain I threw on what we called “The Liza Minnelli Choir for the God of Smurfs” costume.  Or some variation on that combination of ideas.  The pants were puffy and brown, covered in glitter.  Over that was a soft, sky-blue choir robe, hemmed above the knee, with bell sleeves and a darker blue hood, also covered in glitter.  Very comfy and warm!  My partner Lily and I would do one onstage costume-change with an actor, then spent the rest of the show moving set pieces, holding curtains during entrances / exits and sitting behind the scrim reading books and drinking tea, our blackberries on the table in front of us.  I haven’t done crew for a show in years, but didn’t mind it one bit.  In fact, I had a whole 25 minutes in the first act when I’d go to my dressing room and either nap under my dressing table or watch 90210 on my computer (the original, on DVD, courtesy of Lily).

Why relay these (somewhat shameful) tales?  Because being part of this company gave me a whole new group of people to meet and adore.  And to bake for.  It was cold in Cincinnati, horribly cold.  So only rarely would we go out after shows for a drink, as was the norm with other casts.  I was only working on this show, whereas throughout the rest of the year I’d be memorizing lines for one show while rehearsing or performing in another.  So I had my days free to huddle in bed, my space heater nearby, and, well, hibernate.

Along with black bean brownies and cinnamon pan bars, I made a lot of soup during this time.  I needed to get nutrients without much food, because when I’m run down my body doesn’t seem to want to eat.  So this soup recipe, now lovingly titled “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever Soup”, was the perfect answer to this need.  It contains edamame for protein, peas for vitamins, a good veggie stock for all things that are good, and seaweed for nutrients.  It’s both light and filling.  And I utilized the amazing frozen vegetable and stock selection that my neighborhood Kroger was stellar in supplying, so there was no chopping or lengthy simmering.  And this soup is simple enough that it can be sipped from a mug, backstage, with footlights blaring while you read Julia Child’s memoirs and an audience sits enthralled on the other side of a scrim.

Enjoy.

Clear Day Soup

In a large, cast iron pot combine:

  • 1 pint good, clear vegetable stock
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • 1 cup frozen edamame (shelled, obviously)
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 2 Tbsp. wakame seaweed
  • 2 tsp sea salt

Bring up to a boil, then turn to a simmer and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the edamame is soft.  Season with black pepper to taste.  I poured this over rice noodles for a heartier version.

Baked Blackberry and Lemon Pancake

Ginger Ann

This recipe is inspired by my very dear friend Amie, an amazing mom to two very young daughters that I love to death and sometimes get to have dance parties with, decked out in tutus and tiaras, in their living room.  One of Amie’s many impressive breakfast creations is a baked apple pancake.  While I’ve never tasted it myself (gluten and dairy), it looks amazing, and the girls gobble it up.

Lucy Jane

By the way, I dare you to tell me that these aren’t two of the most precious children you’ve ever seen.  And, come on, Ginger Ann and Lucy Jane?!?!  They slay me.  Though I hope Amie won’t for my putting a picture up with Ginger’s face covered in food.  And I think about two minutes after the picture of Lucy I couldn’t save her beautiful sweater from the hot chocolate I ordered her.  But Ginger looks awesome in those Yoko Ono sunglasses, no?  I digress.

Anyway, Amie gave me her basic process for this pancake, and I locked it away to make for myself when the time was right.  This morning, the time was right.

I decided to use Bob’s Red Mill Pancake Mix as the basis for the pancake so I can make these at my parents’ or boyfriend’s homes – which are the places I usually make such decadent things for breakfast.  And while baked apple pancakes are divine, I wanted to work into the recipes the berries that are actually delightfully sweet right now (thank you, product of Mexico) with the tartness of organic lemon juice and the sweetness of xylitol.

A note on xylitol. I try to use sweeteners as little as possible when I bake which, I know, is blasphemous in most kitchens.  When I do, I usually try to keep it to maple syrup, which has all the glorious nutrients of the trees it came from.  But because I wanted to blend some sweetness in without the caramel flavor of maple syrup, I used xylitol.  My doctor recommends this as a sweetener and, yes, I do always listen to what he says because he’s the genius that got me healthy again.

What is xylitol? It’s a natural sweetener that has 30% less calories, 75% less carbohydrates and causes relatively little change in insulin levels, so it’s safer for those with diabeties and hypoglycemia.  It’s also great for teeth (in some toothpaste) and aids digestion.  And it’s just as sweet as white sugar, with only a slightly larger grain, so it’s easy to use in baking.  It can be found, affordably, at most natural health markets.

Now, to the recipe!

If you think this is not the best picture, I agree. Leave a comment encouraging my photographer boyfriend to step in more - or I'm afraid more of these are coming

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 cups rinsed blackberries
  • 3 Tbsp xylitol (or sweetener of choice), separated
  • 1 1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill Pancake Mix
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (or soy, cow, rice etc.)
  • 4 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp starch (I used tapioca, but you could use corn or potato)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F with a rack in the middle.
  • Toss blackberries with 2 Tbsp sweetener or sugar in a bowl and let sit.
  • Combine the pancake flour, eggs, baking powder, milk and 2 Tbsp lemon juice in a separate bowl.  Whisk thoroughly to combine, incorporating as much air as possible.
  • Melt 2 tbsp butter in saucepan on medium heat.  When melted, be sure to make sure all surfaces of the pan are coated.
  • Quickly toss the blackberries in the butter, and spread out evenly in pan.
  • Pour on the pancake batter, smoothing over until the blackberries are completely covered, and put pan (without a lid) into preheated oven.
  • Meanwhile, in a (very) small bowl, combine 2 Tbsp lemon juice, 1 Tbsp xylitol (or sweetener of choice) and 1 tsp starch.  Blend thoroughly with a fork.
  • When the pancake has been baking for about 5 minutes, make a few slices in the top, pour on the lemon mixture, and return to oven.
  • Continue baking for another 15 minutes or until slightly browned.
  • Remove from oven and let sit for five minutes before running a metal spatula around the sides of the pan.

The Dusty Baker’s Notes:

Now, I used a 3.5 quart stainless-steel Cuisinart saute pan that could go easily from the stove to the oven.  Other amazing options would be a cast iron skillet (yay!) or a Pyrex dish.  If using Pyrex, simply melt the butter and pour it into coat.

To present the pancake, I recommend NOT flipping it to expose the blackberry top.  There are a lot of delicious berries in this recipe, but because of the thickness of the berries, it’s not gonna be the most beautiful thing you’ve seen from that angle.  Rather, I’d cut slices and present with the browned top exposed.  You could also sprinkle the top with your sugar of choice after adding the lemon drizzle for a prettier finish.

This pancake was deliciously sweet to me – not too much that it tasted like a dessert, but enough that I actually didn’t use syrup with it.  The sweet blackberries in a light and neutral pancake compliment each other well, along with the tang of lemon.  To pump it up a notch, I’d using the zest of an entire lemon in the pancake batter (this was a step I had completely forgotten I wanted to include that I’ll definitely try when I make this again this weekend).

Sweet and Savory Sprouts (of the Brussels Persuasion)

Brussels sprouts have gotten a bad rep and that makes me cranky.  They are, without a doubt, my favorite vegetable.  I roast the dickens out of them with whatever other veggies I have around, doused in olive oil and salt.  I saute them with bacon or in duck fat.  I even nuke frozen ones and toss them with ghee and spices when I’m lazy and needing something cleansing.  So I’m serious, here, people.

For Christmas my mother gave me a Cuisinart food processor, the kind that’s compact and also a blender – which in itself is a blessing for small NYC apartments that are already overstuffed with cooking equipment.  The addition of a crazy-awesome slicer into my kitchen has made me a little slicing-crazy, so the other night I decided it was time for the tiny organic Brussels sprouts I had picked up after my restorative yoga class (om, delicious) to face the wrath of my new friend.

The convenient thing about shredding sprouts is that they cook relatively faster and you can get a nice even coating of flavor.  They also crisp better, and while I love the texture of a crispy outside and soft inside of a sprout cooked whole, this is a delectable contrast.

Now I kept this batch rather middling on the whole savory-vs-sweet line.  I didn’t want too much maple flavor – that I reserve for Thanksgiving when all hands are on deck.  This was meant to be a healthy side that would taste great with my soup that night and my eggs the next morning.  And I’m trying to cut back on my salt intake – I usually pour that glorious stuff with abandon, as I have really low blood pressure and it helps curb induced headaches.  But I’m definitely not getting any younger and will take anything that will help me feel less puffy, so salt is simmering in quantity in my kitchen.

The result?  My favorite veggie just topped itself as my “ultimate, never-to-be-beaten, will-write-love-sonnets-to-them” veggie.  For these Brussels sprouts I would become a poet.

Oh, and in writing this entry I went back to my fridge and proceeded to heat and eat the last of the bunch – though I ate my second portion with lunch not an hour before.  Well played, watering mouth, well played.

Ingredients

  • 20-25 small Brussels sprouts, scrubbed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 12 dried apricots, chopped into small pieces (I recommend naturally-dried fruits without sulfates)
  • 1/2 cup raw, unsalted walnuts, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup pure Maple syrup (please don’t hurt your sprouts’ feelings by using pancake syrup)
  • sea salt and cracked pepper to taste

Directions

  • Heat olive oil on medium heat in a large saute pan
  • Meanwhile, run the sprouts through your slicer / shredder, or shred by hand if necessary
  • Add to pan and stir thoroughly to coat with oil, than cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sprouts soften.
  • Add salt to taste (this will pull a little moisture out, which you want at this point)
  • Turn heat up to high and quickly stir until sprouts are browned.
  • Turn heat to low and add apricots, nuts and then maple syrup, and stir thoroughly to coat.
  • Cook for five to ten minutes more on low until at desired softness.  Adjust salt and add pepper to taste.

Vegan Barbecue Soup

I think I’m coming down with something.  My body’s hot, my brain is cloudy, and I have a certain feeling of existential bewilderment that usually comes before a cold / flu / general feeling of nastiness.  I shake my fist to the universe – “what’s the point of anything?  Why should I cook?  Why wake up early for an audition tomorrow?  Who really cares?!?!”

Then I cook myself some soup, staple my resume to my headshot, and grab my computer.  As Sam the Eagle of the Muppet persuasion says, “It is the American way”.

Now this picture does NOT justify the deliciousness of this soup.  It’s adapted from the recipe Lemon and Lima Bean Soup I got from Bloodroot restaurant in Bridgeport, Connecticut – a vegetarian joint that’s been around since the 70s and serves up some of the most scrumptious, natural food I’ve ever had in a wonderfully women-centric environment.  I tend to use a bit more liquid and seasonings and a dash of something more to get the flavor I want, but their original recipe and cookbooks are highly recommended.

The first time I had this soup I was BLOWN away and ate up two servings of it with gusto.  So I HAD to buy the book, and have often made this soup when feeling a bit run down but wanting something more substantial than my ol’ veggie medley soup.

Have fun with the amount of flavors.  I like to call it Barbecue soup because the combination of tamari and tomato paste tastes like the best part of a bbq to my happy tastebuds.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of baby dry baby lima beans, picked through
  • 2 large red onions, sliced thin
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp Marsala wine
  • 4 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup tamari (wheat-free soy sauce)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup olive oil plus more to taste
  • 4 Tbsp ghee (clarified butter) (optional)
  • roasted walnuts (optional)

Directions

  • Soak the lima beans overnight or for at least 6 hours.  Drain and rinse thoroughly, then place in a large (preferably cast iron) pot and cover with water at least 3 inches higher than beans.  Add about 2 tsp salt.  Bring up to a boil, low to medium heat and cook until soft, about 2 hours.
  • After the beans have been cooking for about an hour, heat oil in a large skillet and cook onions and garlic on low until soft, about 1/2 hour, stirring occasionally.
  • Season onions with salt and pepper, add Marsala wine.
  • When beans are soft, remove about 1/3 into saucepan.
  • With a hand blender, blend the remaining beans with their broth until smooth.
  • Add onion / garlic mix with beans into large pot, add tamari, lemon juice and tomato paste.
  • Season with salt and pepper, and olive oil or ghee if desired.  Taste and adjust seasonings.
  • Serve with swirls of olive oil and toasted walnuts.

Makes four servings.

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