MASHED POTATOES & PARSNIPS: Add A Little Sweetness!

mashed pot & parsnips textMashed potatoes can get a little boring. True, they’re filling, easy, cheap, and everyone likes them. But, maybe it’s time to add in mashed parsnips…you know, to shake things up a bit.

If you’ve never had a parsnip, it’s really time you did. They have a slight sweetness, kind of like a carrot. In fact, the two are related.

And, just to show you what an adventurous gal I am, I use Yukon gold potatoes in this recipe, rather than the standard russet for mashed potatoes.

MASHED POTATOES & PARSNIPS – makes 3½ cups

  • 4 T butter
  • 8 oz parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/4″ slices (cut fat end into half moons)
  • 1½ lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4″ circles
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable stock (homemade or purchased)
  • 3/4 cup half & half (or half cream & half milk)
  • 2 T chives, chopped

Melt butter in pot and add parsnips. Over medium/high heat, sauté until browned – about 10 minutes.mashed pot & parsnips2 Place potato slices in strainer and rinse well to remove excess starch. Let drain. mashed pot & parsnips5When parsnips have browned, add potatoes to the pot. Cover, decrease heat to low, and cook about 20 minutes – until potatoes are tender. Uncover pot and let set 2 minutes to allow steam to escape.mashed pot & parsnips3 Mash mixture until smooth. mashed pot & parsnips4Warm the milk and pour 1/2 cup of it into the potatoes. (Use the rest, if needed. Save it for any leftover mash.) Add in chives and fold mixture gently together. Season with salt and pepper, if needed.

 

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GLUTEN-FREE CRACKERS: So Easy, So Good!

crackers textI’ve been a from-scratch cook for as long as I can remember, pushing the boundaries over the years as to what I would make and what I would buy. (Puff pastry and filo dough are still on my “never in a million years” list.)

While I whip up homemade tortillas, pasta, yogurt, and pie crusts without a thought, it never occurred to me to make crackers. I don’t even buy them unless we have company. But then I came across an America’s Test Kitchen recipe for paleo crackers and I was intrigued.

Of course, I tried them. Not only were they easy, but very tasty. The only issue I had was rolling them evenly since they’re so thin. I ended up buying rolling pin rings (they’re rubber bands) that fit on either side of the pin, allowing for a consistent depth. I used the 1/16″ size.

NOTE: It’s really best to weigh flours to get an accurate dough consistency.

GLUTEN-FREE CRACKERS

  • 2¼ oz (3/4 cup) almond flour
  • 1/2 oz (2 T) coconut flour
  • 1/2 oz (2 T) arrowroot flour (or arrowroot powder found in the spice section)
  • 1½ tsp sesame seeds, toasted, divided
  • 1½ tsp fennel seeds, toasted, divided
  • 1½ tsp poppy seeds, divided
  • 1/2 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder
  • 2½ T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1½ egg whites, divided
  • 1 T water

Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit.

Toast sesame and fennel seeds in a toasteroven or dry skillet. (You don’t need to toast poppy seeds.) Watch carefully – they can burn quickly. (Toasting brings out their flavor.)

Into a small bowl combine the 1/2 tsp sesame seeds, 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, 1/2 tsp poppy seeds, and 1/4 tsp salt. Set aside.cracker2Into a bowl combine the almond flour, coconut flour, arrowroot flour, remaining 1 tsp sesame seeds1 tsp fennel seeds1 tsp poppy seeds, 1/4 tsp salt, pepper, and onion powder.cracker3 In another small bowl whisk 1 egg white to break it up. Then whisk in the olive oil and the 1 T water. cracker1Pour egg white mix into the flour mixture and blend together with a spoon, until all flour is incorporated.cracker7 Lay out a sheet of parchment paper (NOT waxed paper). Place the dough in the middle and form it into a square with your hands – this will help the dough roll into a rectangular shape.cracker11 Cover with waxed paper (or parchment). Roll out the dough to a 12″x10″ rectangle – or as close as you can get. Mine was nowhere near that – it really doesn’t matter. The dough should be of even thickness – 1/16th inch. The bands really helped with that.cracker13 Carefully remove waxed paper and set it aside. cracker6Beat the remaining 1/2 egg white and generously brush entire top of dough. You won’t need all of the white so you can put the leftover in a small container and freeze it for next time (waste not, want not).cracker10 Sprinkle on the seed blend you set aside. Cover with the waxed paper and gently run your hand over top to press in the seeds. (Without the waxed paper the seeds will stick to your hand.) Remove and discard waxed paper. Lightly score top with a dull knife to desired shapes. cracker5Slide parchment onto a rimless baking sheet (I prefer silver colored). Bake at 375º F for 14-18 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking time to promote even baking, until lightly browned. The edges always turned darker for me.cracker4Slide parchment onto wire rack to cool completely. Break apart crackers at scored lines.

GLUTEN-FREE CRACKERS go great with hummus. Here’s my super-easy recipe: HUMMUS

 

 

BAKED ZITI: A Go-To Favorite!

ziti textBAKED ZITI is, admittedly, not a very pretty dish. But it’s absolutely delicious, and a kid-pleaser, to boot. (With my picky-eater children, this is a huge thing!)

The most time consuming part about BAKED ZITI is preparing the marinara sauce. This takes about 15 minutes for the normal person, and about 25 minutes for obsessive people – like me – who rather than buy canned chopped tomatoes, buy canned whole and then cut out the stem ends, imperfections, and any skin. THEN I chop them. (I’m not sure the companies do all that – I suspect they just wash them and throw them in a machine.)

However, if you like this BAKED ZITI recipe, next time double, triple, etc. the marinara and freeze in portions for future use. The rest of the recipe is very easy and quick.

I guess this would be a good time to acknowledge that while the preparation is fast, the bake time is 1 hour, plus a 20 minute set time. BUT THIS IS ALL HANDS OFF!!!

BAKED ZITI – makes 5-6 servings (unless you have a teenager)

Marinara:

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 14 oz tomato sauce
  • 8 oz canned whole tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried or 1½ fresh oregano
  • 1/4 cup + 1 T fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper

Casserole:

  • 1/2 lb uncooked ziti (or other tubular pasta)
  • 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 egg
  • 2¼ oz (3/4 cup) Parmesan cheese, grated, divided
  • 1/2 lb whole milk cottage cheese
  • 3½ oz (1 cup) Mozzarella cheese, shredded, divided

If you already have the marinara sauce made, then go straight to the Casserole instructions.

Marinara:  In a large skillet or saucepan heat the olive oil over medium flame. Add in the garlic and sauté about 30 seconds – until fragrant. Turn off heat and add in the tomato sauce, chopped tomatoes, and oregano. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then lower flame to maintain the simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes to thicken a bit. lasagna prep15Turn off heat and stir in 1/4 cup basil, sugar, and pepper.

Casserole: Bring 2 quarts of water to a full boil. Add in 1/2 T salt and the ziti. ziti7Cook for 5 minutes. SET A TIMER! You don’t need to cook it fully right now – it will continue to cook in the oven. Pour pasta into a strainer to drain, but don’t shake it to remove water.

While pasta is cooking, combine cornstarch and cream in a small bowl. flour-pasteIn another bowl, beat egg with a fork then mix in 1/2 cup (1.5 oz) Parmesan and cottage cheese. ziti6Once the pasta is draining, pour the cornstarch-cream mixture into the now-empty pot. Over a low heat, bring to boil.ziti8 Immediately turn off flame and stir in the cottage cheese mixture.  ziti9Add in half of the mozzarella and 1/2 cup of the marinara. ziti1Stir in the cooked ziti, breaking up stuck together pasta. ziti2Pour into an 8″ x 8″ casserole dish (or it’s equivalent). ziti3Top with remaining marinara sauce, then sprinkle on remaining mozzarella, followed by the rest of the Parmesan. ziti4Cover with a lid or foil and bake at 350º Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake an additional 30 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle on 1 T basil. ziti5Let set 20 minutes before serving.

ENGLISH TOFFEE BARS – Sweet Indulgence!

english toffee textWhen I harken back to Christmases past, one thing that stands out is the English Toffee Bars my best friend’s mother made every year. Besides my mom’s fudge, English Toffee Bars were a favorite.

Not only are they very easy to make, but they freeze well. As Queen of Freeze – this is a major bonus for me! And, while we’re on the subject, don’t forget to freeze the unused egg white that comes with the used egg yolk.

ENGLISH TOFFEE BARS

  • 1 cup butter, soft
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed (I use dark brown)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • about 7 oz milk chocolate candy bar, broken into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped well & lightly toasted

Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar for 3 minutes. englishtoffee8Add the yolk, vanilla, and salt. Beat 1 minute. english toffee9Add the flour and mix on low speed, just until flour is incorporated. english toffee10Place dough on a piece of parchment paper, and pat it out to 11.5″ x 11.5″, trying your best to keep it of even height.english toffee2 Slide parchment on onto a rimless cookie sheet. Place in preheated 375º F oven. Bake 11-14 minutes, rotating once, until browned. Remove from oven. english toffee3Immediately, top hot dough with chocolate bar pieces and let sit for 2-3 minutes , until chocolate softens.english toffee5Spread chocolate. english toffee6Sprinkle with toasted nuts, pressing very lightly so nuts adhere to chocolate.english toffee1 Cool bar on cookie sheet about 20 minutes so it sets. Slide parchment onto counter. Slice off uncoated edges, then cut slab into squares while still soft (if you wait until they’re hard, they’ll break when cut). Once bars are completely cool, refrigerate to firm up.

NOTE: The cut-away edges still make good eating – they’re just not very pretty.

PORTOBELLO CHEESE SOUFFLE – Savory & Easy!

souffle topped porto textSometimes advice passed on through the ages is wise and true. BUT, sometimes one needs to re-examine it, thus finding it no longer (if ever) viable.

Which brings me to the SOUFFLE TOPPED PORTOBELLO – a cheese soufflé baked directly on a portobello mushroom. Many people refuse attempting to make a soufflé, having heard they’ll collapse from loud noises or that they need kid-gloves whilst gently folding in the egg whites.

American’s Test Kitchen put those rumors to the test….and debunked them. (I actually screamed “NOOOO!” at the screen when the beaten egg whites were poured into the mixer with the batter.) To my shock and delight, the soufflé rose beautifully.

Yet I was still skeptical when I tried it for myself. I’ve made this recipe 3 times now, and they’ve come out beautifully each time.

Do not be afraid!!! This is a very easy and quick recipe to make.

SOUFFLE TOPPED PORTOBELLO – makes 4

  • 4 large Portobello mushrooms
  • 5 T butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated, divided
  • 2 T shallots, minced
  • 1 large garlic clove, pressed
  • 3 T flour
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup milk, preferably whole milk
  • 5 oz Gruyère cheese, shredded
  • 4 eggs,
  • pinch cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit. This is important!

Thoroughly clean mushrooms, discard stems, and dry gills up. skillet 1In a saucepan, melt 3 T butter. Sauté shallots over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Add in garlic and cook for 30 seconds more, just to bloom the garlic. Remove pan from heat. strata13In a small bowl, mix together the flour, paprika, salt, cayenne, white pepper, and nutmeg. Blend into the butter mixture, smashing out any lumps – this is your only chance to do so! porto souff1Return pan to heat and cook roux (that’s what this paste is called) for 2 minutes over medium/low heat. (This will get rid of the flour taste.) porto souff2Pour in the milk and cook over medium/low until thickened, stirring constantly. Turn off burner but leave pot in place in order to use residual heat. porto souff3Stir in Gruyère and 1/4 cup Parmesan until melted. porto souff4Remove pot from warm burner and let cool 5 minutes.  porto souff5Meanwhile, build a foil cylinder around each mushroom – heavy or regular aluminum foil will work. Cut 4 pieces of foil – 8″ long if using  heavy foil, and 12″ long if using regular. porto souff13For the heavy foil, fold in half lengthwise; for the regular, fold in thirds lengthwise. The goal is to make a 4″ high strip that will surround the Portobello. Grease one side of the strips with the remaining butter (You may not need all of it, but don’t be stingy – this will prevent the soufflé from sticking.) Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan on the greased strips, lightly patting down to make it adhere to the butter. porto souff14Surround each Portobello snuggly with a foil strip, coated side facing the mushroom. Secure it with a paperclip at the top. porto souff7Place mushrooms on a parchment lined cookie sheet and set aside.

Make sure the oven is preheated by now! 

Separate eggs. Stir the yolks together in a small bowl, then mix into the cheese sauce, stirring as you pour. porto souff6Let cool.

Place egg whites in the large bowl of your electric mixer. Begin mixing the whites on medium speed, adding the cream of tartar once they’re foamy. Continue beating on high until stiff peaks form. porto souff9Deep breath! Pour the cheese sauce into the beaten whites. Turn the mixer on low and mix until just combined. porto souff10Pour mixture on top of Portobellos, dividing as equally as you can – don’t get crazy about it, though. porto souff11Bake at 350º F for 25 minutes – don’t open the oven door to check before that time. The soufflé should be golden and jiggly. porto souff12Remove paper clip (take care – it’ll be hot!) and foil collar. Serve immediately.

HOT & SOUR SOUP – Super Duper!!!

hot & sour soup textOne of my family’s favorite soups is HOT & SOUR. Not only does it have an appealing kick, but I love that you can eat a lot of it with almost no calories. Yay! When I start my meal with a big bowl, it takes the edge off my hunger so I don’t inhale half a dozen eggrolls.

Added bonus:  HOT & SOUR SOUP is fast and easy!  Who doesn’t love that?!

HOT & SOUR SOUP – makes about 7 cups

  • 6 cups vegetable stock (homemade or purchased)
  • 9 oz (1 cup) fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • 8 oz canned bamboo shoots
  • 1 block extra-firm tofu
  • 1 tsp ground white pepper
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1¼ fresh grated ginger, or 1/2 tsp powdered
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 2 T rice vinegar
  • 4 T soy sauce
  • 1 egg
  • 3 T + 1/2 tsp cornstarch, divided
  • 3 T + 1 tsp water, divided
  • 2 scallions, sliced thin

Thoroughly wash shiitakes, discard stems, then cut into 1″-ish pieces. hot & sour6Cut bamboo shoots in half widthwise, then into slivers lengthwise. hot & sour9Press out excess liquid from tofu, then cut into 1/2″ cubes. hot & sour7Bring vegetable stock to a boil.  Add in mushrooms and bamboo shoots. Simmer for 5 minutes. hot & sour1In a small bowl stir together 3 T cornstarch and 3 T water. flour-pasteStirring stock, pour in slurry (cornstarch/water mix). Add in tofu, white pepper, tomato paste, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce, and scallions.hot & sour4Simmer 5-10 minutes. In a small bowl whisk together the egg, 1/2 tsp cornstarch, and 1 tsp water. Turn off heat. VERY SLOWLY drizzle in the egg in a thin stream, going in all directions. hot & sour2Turn the heat on again and whisk gently to break up egg strands. Serve.hot & sour3

MULLED APPLE CIDER – A Hot Drink For A Cold Night!

apple cider textWhat could be better on a chilly evening than sipping a nice mug of MULLED APPLE CIDER?! (You could even add in a dash of an adult beverage, if you like.)

This is very easy to put together…if you don’t make your own cider (Yes, I actually used to make cider from 400 lbs of organic apples every year.)

MULLED APPLE CIDER – makes 32 oz

  • 32 oz apple cider
  • 2 whole cinnamon sticks
  • 3 allspice balls
  • 3 whole cloves
  • about 4 thin slices of an unpeeled orange

Into a saucepan combine all of the ingredients and bring to a boil. apple cider2Cover and decrease heat enought to maintain a low simmer. (Make sure you cover the pot while cooking the cider. The first time I made it, I left it uncovered and most of the liquid evaporated.) Cook 30 minutes. Done.