Macadamia Cheese Biscuits -Tasty Tidbits

Macadamia Cheese Biscuits

Macadamia Cheese Biscuits

Go into any furniture shop and artfully placed amongst the tables, dressers, and credenzas, you’ll find tchotchkes (pronounced: choch’-keys).  You’re probably not even consciously aware of them – they’re the bits and bobs that decorate a room, turning a house into a home.  A crystal bowl filled with colorful balls. A hand-painted glass plate. A ceramic vase.

Why am I talking furniture in a vegetarian cooking blog? Because I see this week’s topic, Macadamia Cheese Biscuits, as the tchotchkes of the food world. They’re not the main event, but they add to the overall effect of the party.

What I love about these biscuits is that you can nibble at them discreetly as you converse with friends and colleagues. They’re not messy, so you won’t be embarrassed when taking a bite and the remainder somehow ends up on the front of your outfit, or worse – the host’s freshly cleaned carpet. Rather than enjoying yourself, your evening suddenly becomes about stain removal.

While they’re not exactly low in calories (I figure each one is about 58 calories), if you nurse at a Macadamia Cheese Biscuit in one hand and a drink in the other, this can keep you occupied enough so you don’t reach for the mini-quiches and bacon wrapped hot dogs.

Preparing the biscuit dough is a snap. Then roll into a log and refrigerate until it’s time to bake. Yay! I love party foods that are done ahead of time. I don’t know about you, but I turn into crazy-woman about 2 hours before guests arrive. The dough can even be frozen, so keep one on hand for drop-in guests.

MACADAMIA CHEESE BISCUITS – makes about 36 biscuits

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup butter
  • 8 oz Swiss cheese, shredded
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup macadamia nuts, chopped and lightly toasted

In a food processor pulse flour, salt, and butter several times to break up butter. Add in cheese, egg, and nuts. Whirl until the dough forms a large ball.

With your hands roll the dough ball into a long log, 1½” in diameter. Wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate.

slice dough into 1/4" discs

slice dough into 1/4″ discs

When ready to serve, preheat oven to 400º degrees Fahrenheit. Slice log into ¼” discs and place on greased or non-stick cookie sheet. They don’t spread, so you can place them fairly close together. Bake about 14 minutes – until lightly brown. Let set on cookie sheet for a minute or two, then remove to serving plate or wire rack.



Savory Mushroom Gravy – Vegetarians Give Thanks!

Savory Mushroom Gravy

Savory Mushroom Gravy

My husband and I have always had this unspoken agreement regarding the distribution of household duties. For example: I do the weeding and pruning, he mows the lawn. I make the home repairs, but when it’s something I can’t do, he calls the service people and deals with them. I do all the cooking, but he handles the barbecue. It’s a system that’s evolved over the course of our marriage, and works for us.

But here’s the kicker: Even though I plan, shop, and prepare the massive amount of holiday dishes, my husband is hailed with accolades for his one contribution:  gravy. Apparently, gravy is THAT important to my family.

So this year, I’m fighting fire with fire. Sharing the table with hubby’s giblet gravy will be Bonnie’s Savory Mushroom Gravy, which is my tweaked version from The Taste For Living Cookbook. Onion, shiitake mushrooms, and soy sauce form the base. Throw in a little sage and thyme for flavor. Then thicken with rice flour. You now have yourself a creamy, savory brown gravy with no fat! Add to this the fact that it’s the easiest gravy EVER, and this recipe will be on your table every time you serve mashed potatoes…or rice…or vegetables. (Can you see where I’m going with this?)

NOTE: This gravy is also vegan friendly.

Bonus:  Mushroom Gravy freezes well. Take it from the self-proclaimed Queen of Freeze (that would be me), if you like this recipe – double or even triple it next time, and freeze in portion sized containers.

SAVORY MUSHROOM GRAVY – makes about 2½ cups

  • ½ T oil (I use canola)
  • 1 cup (110g) onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup (95g) shiitake mushrooms, coarsely chopped (cleaned well)
  • 3½ (811g) cups water
  • ¼ (60g) cup soy sauce
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • ¼ tsp dried sage
  • 1/3 (42g) cup rice flour, tamped down

Heat oil in a saucepan over low flame. Add in onion, mushrooms, thyme, and sage. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often. Towards the end of the 10 minutes the mushrooms will have exuded moisture and the onions will have separated.

Mix in water and soy sauce. Cover and cook 10 minutes.

Sprinkle in rice flour, using a whisk or fork to blend.  Don’t worry too much about lumps since they’ll be strained out. Bring to boil, then lower flame to simmer gravy for 10 minutes uncovered, stirring often.

Pour through a sieve and either serve immediately or save for later. Can be made a few days in advance.

Barbecue Pulled “Pork” Sandwiches – Oh, Yeah!

BBQ "pork" sandwich with roasted carrots,  mushy peas, and a nice cool beer.

BBQ “pork” sandwich with roasted carrots, mushy peas, and a nice cool beer.

I’m NOT a southern gal, but after trying this Barbecue Pulled “Pork” Sandwich, all I can say is ‘hoo-weee!’

As an ex-carnivore, one of the things I miss most is BBQ – shredded pork or beef sandwiches, to be specific. It occurred to me that maybe there was something I could substitute for the meat. Thanks to the internet, I discovered that people were using jackfruit. What the heck was a jackfruit, I wondered? (Yes, aloud.) I learned it was an ugly looking fruit, popular in the Asian community, and you can buy it canned.

Off I went to the Asian market. Apparently, canned jackfruit is VERY popular because there were numerous brands, most of them in syrup. YOU DO NOT WANT THAT KIND!!! Look carefully, possibly in another section, and you’ll find jackfruit in brine. That’s what you want.

I began this Pulled “Pork” journey with Blissful Basil, a vegan blog, who posted about a jackfruit barbecue sandwich. Naturally, I had to put my own spin on it after trying her recipe. I opted to make my own barbecue sauce, which gave those sandwiches quite a kick. My nose was a-runnin’ and perspiration was a-beadin’ (sorry – it’s the spices a-talkin’)…but, I liked it! This Barbecue Pulled “Pork” Sandwich really satisfied that hankerin’ (I’ll stop now, I promise) for BBQ.

NOTE:  You can use bottled barbecue sauce, if you’d like, instead of making it.

BARBECUE PULLED “PORK” SANDWICH – makes 6-7 sandwiches

  • 2 cans jackfruit in brine, drained
  • 1 T oil (I used canola)
  • 1½ cups onions, chopped
  • 1½ T chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1½ cups barbecue sauce, recipe follows below

Cut off and discard any tough core bits from the jackfruit. Slice the pieces into thin strips.

In a large skillet, sauté onions in oil for  several minutes. Stir in chili powder, cumin, cayenne powder, and continue to cook another minute to bring the spices to life. Add the jackfruit and barbecue sauce and bring to a low boil. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring now and then. As this cooks, the jackfruit will soften and you can break it up even more with a flat wooden stirrer.

Pour mixture onto a jellyroll pan and bake at 350º Fahrenheit for 20 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Spoon onto whatever you fancy and serve.

BARBECUE SAUCE – makes 1½ cups

  • ¼ cup oil (I used canola)
  • 1 T garlic, minced
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup red cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp hot sauce (use more or less, depending on your spiciness preference)
  • 4 tsp dark brown sugar, packed
  • 4 tsp dijon mustard

Sauté garlic in oil until you can smell it but it hasn’t browned – about 1 minute. Add in ketchup, vinegar, hot sauce, brown sugar, and mustard. Bring to a low boil and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. At first, the oil will be floating on top, but by the end of cooking time it will be incorporated.

This sauce freezes well, so if you like it make a lot and freeze. It’s excellent on pizza!



Vegetable Curry Stew – A Winter Warm Up!

Curry Stew

Vegetable Curry Stew

There’s nothing better on a chilly evening than a nice savory stew. If you’re a curry lover, you’ve got to try my Vegetable Curry Stew. The combination of coconut milk, spices, and vegetables is the stuff of which dreams are made.

Besides warming the cockles of your heart (and stomach), this stew has the benefit of being low in calories. Who couldn’t use THAT as we begin our journey down Weight Gain Road. Even though Halloween is behind us, leftover candy certainly isn’t. Coming up are the food related holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s Eve, and the parties that go along with them.

You may be wondering how Vegetable Curry Stew could possibly be low in calories when coconut milk is involved. As always, it’s all about portion control. Instead of using canned coconut milk, I buy powdered. That way, I can use less but still get that luscious coconut milk flavor. If your store doesn’t carry powdered, just buy it online. I use Maggi brand, but I expect they’re all good.

Next, you may be wondering if you can just use part of the can and dilute it with water. While I’ve never done it, I see no reason why you can’t. But the reason I don’t is the powdered is so much easier to use, and it takes up less space in the pantry (always a plus.) Also, I don’t have to worry about what to do with the leftover (you know how I hate waste!). I’m not sure how well coconut milk freezes. Of course, you can double the recipe and use up the can that way.

Finally, you may be wondering how I know what you’re wondering. It’s a gift!

NOTE:  Don’t get frightened by the long list of ingredients.  Most of them are spices – all of which a well-stocked kitchen should have. The thing about herbs and spices is that they’re initially expensive.  BUT once you’ve bought them they last a long time.  Don’t believe those people who say you have to throw them out after a year. Buy the spices and cook from scratch – you are going to save money in the long run.

VEGETABLE CURRY STEW – makes 4 to 5 cups

  • 3 T butter
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves (about 1½ tsp), minced
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • ½ tsp dried ginger
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp cardamon
  • ½ tsp dried mustard
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • ½ stick cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp tumeric
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup coconut powder (or half can coconut milk)
  • ¾ cup water (eliminate this if you’re using canned coconut milk)
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 T lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
  • 1 cup potatoes, chopped (I use Yukon)
  • 1 cup yam, chopped (I use garnet)
  • 1 cup cauliflower, chopped
  • 2 mushroom, chopped
  • 1 cup broccoli, chopped

WHEW!  That’s a lot of typing. If you’re one of those cooks that likes to have everything prepared before you start cooking, go for it.  But I’m going to give you instructions for the fastest way to prepare this stew. There’s a lot of down time when various ingredients are simmering, so that’s when I prepare the next lot.

Melt the butter in a large pot. As it’s melting, chop the onions and skin the garlic. Add the onions and press the garlic into the pot. Sauté for 10 minutes.

As the onions are cooking (make sure you stir them now and then), assemble your spices, measuring spoons, coconut powder, water, and lemon juice. Chop the carrots.

When the 10 minutes are up, turn off the burner and add the spices. Sauté over a low heat for 2 minutes. Add in the coconut milk, water, carrots, and lemon juice. Bring to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes.

While this is simmering (stir now and then), prepare the potatoes, yam, cauliflower, and mushrooms.

When the 10 minutes are up, add in the chopped potatoes, etc. Cover and simmer 10 minutes.

As this is simmering, prepare the broccoli.

When the 10 minutes are up, add in the broccoli. Simmer 5 minutes.

Serve immediately or reheat later.


Pumpkin Bread Pudding

pumpkin bread pudding

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

I promise – this is the last pumpkin related recipe I’ll be sharing with you….for awhile.  But the saver in me just had to post this. Let me explain.

As you may know, I like my twofers (recipes that can be used two different ways).  In October I posted my Pumpkin Rolls recipe (click:  Pumpkin Rolls) and strongly suggested making the whole recipe or even doubling it, then freezing the leftovers. At the time my reasoning was that you’d have ready-to-go homemade pumpkin rolls waiting patiently in the freezer for you to zap them warm when dinner could use a little something extra.

THEN I had a dessert epiphany! I asked myself (and I’m pretty sure it was aloud), “What if I substitute Pumpkin Rolls for the pound cake in my Mocha Bread Pudding recipe?” “Hmmm,” I replied to myself (again, aloud) as I imagined the blend of pumpkin, chocolate, coffee, and almonds. So without further ado, I baked the pudding and it was delicious!

Of course, being true to cooks everywhere, I wondered if there was something that would improve it. Butterscotch chips, in addition to the chocolate chips (or, in place of), came to mind. The beauty of this recipe is you can tailor it to suit everyone since the chips are sprinkled in the individual custard cups.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding can be baked in one larger dish rather than the 9 custard cups. But there’s a method to my madness! Two words:  portion control. When you have to scoop out a serving, we all know how easy it is to spoon a little more. With the cups, one cup = one serving. No guesswork. No sneaking a little extra.

NOTE:  For best results, Pumpkin Bread Pudding should be made the day before. This allows the pudding to properly set and its flavor will be markedly improved. This is a good dessert to serve company since it’s one less thing to worry about when you’re trying to tidy the house and prepare the food.

PUMPKIN BREAD PUDDING – makes 9 custard cup servings

  • 3 cups pumpkin rolls, torn into ¾”-ish pieces
  • 1¼ cups chips (I used milk chocolate chips)
  • 2½ tsp instant coffee crystals
  • 1 T water, boiling
  • ¾ cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 cups milk (I used nonfat)
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ tsp almond extract
  • 1½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg

The custard cups are going to bake in a water bath, so put the cups into a large casserole dish(es). Use as many casserole dishes as you need – as long as they fit on the same rack in the oven. I use 2 casserole dishes.

Preheat oven to 325º Fahrenheit.

Divide the pumpkin roll pieces amongst the 9 buttered custard cups. Sprinkle in the chips. (Here’s where you can tailor to the taste of your family).

Fill a teapot with water and turn the burner on high.  Boiling water is going to be poured into the casserole dishes around the cups so the pudding can steam.

In a small cup, mix the coffee crystals with 1 T of the boiling water.

Into the workbowl of your food processor (please tell me you have one!), put the almonds and sugar. Pulse the machine until the almonds are ground. Add in the milk, eggs, almond and vanilla extracts, nutmeg, and coffee. Blend.

Pour the mixture evenly into the custard cups. I  find there’s less spillage if I transfer the liquid from the workbowl into a container with a spout, then pour into the custard cups.

Pour the boiling (or, at least, very hot) water from the teapot into the casserole dishes, so that the water surrounds the custard cups, coming halfway up the sides. Carefully place in oven. Bake at 325º Fahrenheit for 50 minutes. Remove cups from water bath, let cool, then refrigerate. Serve the next day for best results.