CRANBERRY SAUCE: Don’t buy – MAKE!

HOMEMADE CRANBERRY SAUCE - Easy!

HOMEMADE CRANBERRY SAUCE – Easy!

Thanksgiving is coming up in the United States and grocery lists are being compiled for the big feast.

Is cranberry sauce on your list? The jarred kind, or – yikes! – that jellied canned stuff? Cross it off RIGHT NOW! Instead, write down bagged whole cranberries (they’re in the produce section).

If you can boil water, you can make cranberry sauce because all you have to do is boil water, cranberries, and sugar together for 5 minutes. Done!

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Even non-cooks can make this. Remember, every time you buy prepared food, you give power over what goes inside your body to someone else. It’s time to take control!

CRANBERRY SAUCE – makes about 2 cups

  • 8 oz whole cranberries, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed (or, white sugar, if you prefer)
  • optional: zest from one orange (I never do this)

Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. When cranberries begin to pop, remove from heat. Refrigerate until serving time.

Deck The Halls With OLIVE CHEESE BALLS!

OLIVE CHEESE BALLS

OLIVE CHEESE BALLS

When planning for company, hors d’oeurves often take a backseat to the main course and dessert. Open a bag of chips or buy a party platter and you’re good to go, right? WRONG! You can do better than that!

You want yummy tidbits that whet the appetite and, more importantly, keep hungry guests from hovering around the kitchen asking how much longer.

My mother was a very unadventurous cook. I’m not sure if it was because she lacked interest or confidence. But she did have a knack for accumulating good recipes that she served for company. Olive Cheese Balls were a constant when she entertained. While they have to be baked just before serving, they can be prepared well ahead of time. The uncooked balls can even be frozen.

They’re easy to prepare, but do take a bit of time. When I was a child, this was my job. So put the kids to work! Olive Cheese Balls are a great recipe to introduce them to cooking.

OLIVE CHEESE BALLS – makes 24

  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 24 pimento stuffed green olives

Into the workbowl of a food processor, put the cheese, butter, flour, salt, and paprika. Pulse several times until mixture is blended. If you don’t have a food processor, blend the cheese and butter together in a bowl. Stir in the flour, salt, and paprika. Then make a mental note to put “food processor” on your holiday wish list!

Divide dough into 24 pieces. Roll into balls. One by one, flatten each ball, place an olive in the middle, pimento side down, and wrap dough around olive, pinching it closed. Use the liquid from the olive to help facilitate this. Squeeze the ball to compact it, then roll into a smooth ball. It works best if you wash your hands after every 4th or 5th to prevent the dough from starting to stick to your fingers. They can be refrigerated at this point, if you like.

To bake, place on a greased or nonstick cookie sheet. They spread, so don’t crowd them. Bake in a preheated 400ºF oven for 10-15 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes on cookie sheet before removing. Serve immediately.

ORANGE TOFU – Tangy Goodness!

ORANGE TOFU

ORANGE TOFU

There are a few things I miss from my carnivorous days. Orange chicken is one. I love the tangy orange sauce clinging to the deep fried batter surrounding luscious tender chicken pieces.

Now, as a vegetarian, I’m always searching for recipes that fulfill those cravings but don’t make me feel like my food is ‘less than’. If you start feeling like you’re eating second rate, that’s when you fall off the vegetarian wagon.

Unless you’re eating a plain steak, pork chop, or turkey slice, most meat dishes use meat as a foundation – the majority of taste coming from sauce, spices, and toppings. Using that knowledge, my challenge is to find a substitute that allows the essence of the original. Sometimes I use imitation meats (such as fake sausage, hot dogs, and chicken), and sometimes I find a similarly textured food (such as jack fruit in place of pulled pork).

In the case of Orange Tofu, I’m not trying to fool anyone – clearly, this is tofu, not chicken. My very first blogpost was THE ORANGE CHICKEN DILEMMA, in which I use imitation chicken (or turkey) to give the texture of the real thing.

However, there are people out there concerned about using imitation products. “What’s in it?” is a common question. While my family prefers Orange “Chicken” (quotation marks denote “fake”), I decided to make an Orange Tofu for those leery of faux foods.

So, donning my lab coat, I began to experiment with tofu. What I found was the longer you cook it, the more rubbery it becomes. Unfortunately, this rules out batter dipped deep frying because of the time it takes to get that golden brown crispy coat. Rather, a quick fry in a teeny bit of oil on a nonstick skillet worked best for taste. I will grant you, it doesn’t look as pretty as the deep fried version, but it’s delicious.  (And your arteries will thank you!)

ORANGE TOFU – makes about 3 servings

  • 1 block of tofu, extra firm
  • 4 T fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 T rice wine vinegar
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 4 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 T orange zest, packed (don’t be stingy!)
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1½ T cornstarch
  • 1 T water

Remove tofu from package and press with heavy plate for 1/2 hour to remove water.

Meanwhile, prepare orange sauce. In a small saucepan bring the orange juice, 1/2 cup water, vinegar, lemon juice, soy sauce, zest, sugar, ginger, and garlic powder to a boil. In a small bowl blend together the cornstarch and 1 T water until smooth. Slowly stream it into the boiling orange juice mixture, stirring as you pour, until sauce is thickened.

NOTE: As Queen of Freeze, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you this orange sauce freezes well. So, if you like it, double or triple the recipe next time and freeze in portion sized containers for future use.

Slice tofu into pieces 3/8″ in width. Heat about 1/2 T oil in a nonstick skillet. Fry tofu a couple of minutes on each side, until lightly browned. Be careful of oil spatter! If you don’t have a nonstick skillet, use a regular one and increase the amount of oil. Drain on paper towel.

Serve tofu on sticky rice, topped with orange sauce.

 

BROCCOLI & RAISIN SALAD: Addictive!

BROCCOLI & RAISIN SALAD: Addictive!

BROCCOLI SALAD

BROCCOLI SALAD

Broccoli is a staple in our home – we have it nearly every night with dinner. I put very little thought into it – at some point during meal prep I wash a liberal amount of broccoli, place it in a steam basket (attempting to put enough water underneath), and 14 minutes before meal time, I turn on the burner. It’s fast, easy, and healthy.

But every now and then I kick it up a notch and do something special with this green member of the cabbage family… just to show my family my wild side. One of our favorites is Broccoli & Raisin Salad. Even though it’s a little more work than just tossing it in a steamer, there is the advantage that I can make it ahead of time. I love those foods!

Broccoli & Raisin Salad keeps well, so go ahead and make extra. It’s good for packing in your lunch the next day, or to snack on during that late afternoon tummy growling time.

BROCCOLI & RAISIN SALAD – makes about 4½ cups

  • 4 cups bite-size pieces of broccoli, measure after chopping
  • 1/2 cup red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1½ tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 T dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped and lightly toasted
  • optional:  3 strips of fake bacon (I use Morningstar brand), baked crispy & crumbled

Put broccoli in a steamer basket fit inside a saucepan (don’t forget the water). Turn on burner to medium high and immediately set timer for 3 minutes. When timer goes off, check to see if broccoli has turned vibrant green (See photo).

steam broccoli

Once it achieves this color, remove broccoli from the steam basket, place in a bowl, and refrigerate. Otherwise, it will continue to cook – you don’t want mushy broccoli! Add in the raisins and red onions.

Whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar, brown sugar, and Dijon. Pour over broccoli and mix. Refrigerate until serving time.

Add in the walnuts and fake bacon (if using) at the last minute to keep them crisp.