“HAM” & CHEESE LOAF – Vegetarian Version Of A Fan Favorite!

ham loaf textSome people become vegetarians because they don’t like meat and/or it upsets their body. Not me. I grew up eating some sort of animal everyday – sometimes three times a day and loved it. So when I decided, for humanitarian reasons, to become a vegetarian, it was quite an adjustment.

I found that the key to not falling off the vegetarian wagon is to eat really good food. This is why I started my blog – to help others find delicious alternatives. Vegetarians don’t have to subsist on rice & beans and salads alone.

I’ve been a vegetarian so long now that I rarely miss meat, but when I do, I have my go-to fake meats. There are lots of them out there – some fabulous…and some not.

Which brings me to my “HAM” & CHEESE LOAF. The original recipe used real ham. I’ve found several good fake ham products out there that I substitute for the real thing. Now, let’s be honest – if I were to merely eat the “ham” (quotation marks denote imitation) on it’s own, it wouldn’t be worth the bother. But when I add it to casseroles or, in this case, the sandwich, it serves to give the illusion of ham (without the quotation marks).

Note:  For those of you opposed to imitation meats, just leave it out – it’s still a good sandwich.

“HAM” & CHEESE LOAF

  • 1 cup water
  • 2¼ tsp yeast
  • 2 T butter, soft
  • 1 cup (4-3/8 oz) rye flour
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • about 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 8 oz fake ham, cut into 3/8″ – 1/2″ pieces
  • 4 oz cheese, cubed – I prefer medium cheddar
  • 1/2 cup dill pickles, cut into 1/4″ pieces
  • egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 T water)

Heat the water to 100º – 104º Fahrenheit. Stir in the yeast and let proof about 5 minutes. ham loaf1Put the rye flour, sugar, salt, caraway seeds, mustard, and 1 cup of the AP flour into the workbowl of a food processor. ham loaf2When the yeast is proofed, turn on the machine and slowly pour in the yeast water. ham loaf4When it’s mixed, add in remaining flour a little at a time, until dough starts to pull away from the sides. You may or may not need all of the remaining cup of flour. ham loaf14Empty dough into greased bowl, flipping dough ball so entire ball is greased. Cover with tea towel or plate and let rise 1 hour.

Place dough on floured parchment paper that lays on top of a tea towel (so the parchment doesn’t slide). Roll dough out into a rectangle, about 14″ wide X 7″ tall (it doesn’t need to be exact).ham loaf6Spread on the “ham”, cheese, then pickles down the center of the dough. Make 1½” cuts along both sides – cut the same number for both sides.ham loaf7Fold in one end, then grab the first dough tabs and twist them together, pinching to make sure they stay. ham loaf9Keep doing this for all the tabs.ham loaf10 Slide the parchment onto a large, rimless cookie sheet. Cover loaf with the tea towel and let rise 30 minutes. At this time, preheat oven to 375º F. 

When dough has risen the 30 minutes, brush with egg wash and bake at 375º F for about 25 minutes, until golden brown. ham loaf12Remove to rack and let set about 15 minutes before serving.

 

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FAT-FREE BLUEBERRY MUFFINS – Easy As Pie…or Muffins!

blueberry muffin nonfat text2Being the loving husband his is, my friend, George, was whipping up a batch of fat-free blueberry muffins for his wife, Kathy, while we were visiting. I was curious about his recipe and what was used instead of the fat.

Turns out he uses a boxed mix. Sigh!!!  Besides being costly, boxed mixes contain 12-letter ingredients that can only be pronounced by a chemist. I knew I could do better! All I had to do was come up with an easy, tasty, and fat-free muffin. Piece of cake….or muffin!

After several batches, I had a winner. I’m not going to lie and tell you this Fat-Free Blueberry Muffin is the same a the full-fat kind. It’s not. It has a spongy texture – which isn’t a bad thing…just different than the crumbly texture of regular muffins. But if you’re watching your cholesterol and calories, this works great.

NOTE:  The calorie count per muffin is between 125 – 140, depending on how much sugar you sprinkle on top.

ADDITIONAL NOTE:  When I’m making something that only calls for an egg yolk (custards, cookies, etc), I always freeze the unused egg whites.  This is a perfect recipe to use them up. Conversely, I believe you can freeze unused egg yolks, but I’ve never actually tried it.

FAT-FREE BLUEBERRY MUFFINS – makes 12 muffins

  • 2 cups (9 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1¼ nonfat milk
  • 1 T lemon zest, packed into spoon
  • 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup small blueberries (I use frozen)

Preheat oven to 400º Fahrenheit.

Grease well a 12-cup muffin tin with vegetable oil.

In medium bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. blueberry muffin nonfat5In a larger bowl combine whites, milk, zest, 1/2 cup sugar, and vanilla.  Beat with an electric mixer on low, a hand-crank egg beater, or whisk until bubbles form on top – it takes about 30 seconds. blueberry muffin nonfat3Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and gently combine, until most of the flour is incorporated. Don’t overmix or you’ll get tough muffins. blueberry muffin nonfat6Add in the blueberries and fold in, just to combine. (Frozen blueberries – which I use – tend to bleed.)blueberry muffin nonfat7 Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tin, dividing batter equally. (An ice cream scooper is perfect for this.) Sprinkle about 1 tsp of sugar onto each. blueberry muffin nonfat9Bake in preheated 400º F oven for about 16 minutes, rotating them halfway through to cook evenly. They should be firm with slightly browned edges.blueberry muffin nonfat8 Remove from oven and let set in tin about 2 minutes. To remove, run a rounded knife around sides, then start pushing in around the bottom with the knife to help release the muffin. blueberry muffin nonfat4 Set muffins on a wire rack to cool a bit before eating.

 

SUBWAY ROLLS: Homemade Bread Is So Worth It!

subway rolls textI admit that I may be a little obsessive about making things from scratch. I make my own tortillas, pasta, yogurt, desserts, and most breads. The reason? As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become a firm believer in “you are what you eat”.

Take a look at the ingredients list of any prepared food and you’ll notice all kinds of unpronounceable words that would seem right at home in a chemistry lab. I don’t want that stuff in my or my family’s body. So I cook.

Learning to do anything new takes time. But the more you do it, the faster and easier it becomes, especially if you have the right tools. You also have to plan. Time needs to be allowed for hands-off cooking such as the 12 hours it takes for yogurt to develop, the simmering time for a stew, or the rise-time for yeast doughs.

Preparing a yeast dough only takes a few minutes – which includes the knead time…IF you have a food processor. If you don’t, it takes about 10 minutes (and more work). (New food processors can be expensive. Check out thrift stores – they’re a bargain there!) I know you can buy a package of 6 subway rolls in the supermarket for cheap, but there’s something very satisfying, as well as healthy, about baking your own bread. Give it a try!

SUBWAY ROLLS – makes 6

  • 1½ cups water
  • 2¼ tsp dry yeast (any kind)
  • 3½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 T sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • about 2 T milk (any kind)
  • about 1/4 cup topping blend of your choice (dried minced onion, hard cheese such as Parmesan, garlic powder, poppy seed, sesame seeds)

Heat 1½ cups water between 100º F – 104º F. Stir in the yeast and let proof for 5 minutes.

Into the workbowl of your food processor, put 3 cups flour, the sugar, and the salt. Turn on machine, the slowly drizzle in the proofed water through the pour tube. Add extra flour 1 T at a time, as needed, to get the dough to pull away from the sides but not be a hard ball. When you’re happy with the look of the dough, run the processor another 30-45 seconds more to knead.moo shu10 Empty dough into a greased bowl, flipping dough to grease both sides. subway rolls4Cover and place in a warm area to rise – about 1 hour. subway rolls5Pour dough onto floured board and cut into 6 pieces. Shape into a 2″ x 5″ rectangle and place on a parchment lined (or greased) cookie sheet. Cover with tea towel and let rise while you preheat the oven to 425º Fahrenheit – this will take about 1/2 hour. (If you have a portable oven thermometer, use it! Internal oven thermometers are often wrong.) subway rolls6While dough is rising, mix together your topping blend. (I like to use 2 T Parmesan, 2 T dried minced onion flakes, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, and 1/8 tsp salt.) subway rolls7When oven is hot, one by one, gently brush milk onto top of dough then sprinkle on topping. Lightly press down on topping to make it stick. subway rolls1Bake at 425º F about 15 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through. You’ll notice significant rise to the rolls after a few minutes. When golden brown, remove from oven to a wire rack. subway rolls2Let cool before slicing.

 

IRISH BROWN SODA BREAD – Slainte!!!

irish brown soda bread text2Saints be praised, St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner, sure.

Of course, traditional corned beef and cabbage is off the table for vegetarians – although, I do have an imitation version of a Reuben Sandwich. Not to worry, there are still plenty of good eats to be enjoyed!

Irish Brown Soda Bread is one of them. We generally see recipes for white Irish Soda Bread, but I find the brown soda bread is a more hearty, flavorful choice. Out of necessity at the time of the Irish famine, soda bread was widely made since it was cheap, filling, and easy.

My Irish mammy always made sure we wore green for St. Patrick’s Day. So, of course, that’s what I’ll be wearing when I bake my next loaf of IRISH BROWN SODA BREAD.

Note:  I’ve given the amounts for the flours in both ounces and cups. Weighing flour is much more accurate, but if you don’t have a scale, use measuring cups.

Additional Note:  The wheat bran and wheat germ in this recipe are making up for the lack of them in American (and perhaps other countries, as well) whole wheat flour. The Irish wheatmeal flour has more bits in it, making for a more flavorful loaf. If you have access to the Irish wheatmeal flour, then use 14-1/2 oz (3-1/4 cups) wheatmeal and skip the wheat bran and germ. The other ingredients should stay the same.

IRISH BROWN SODA BREAD – makes 1 loaf

  • 9 oz (2 cups) whole wheat flour
  • 4½ oz (1 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 1¾ 1 oz (1 cup) wheat bran
  • 3/4 oz (1/4 cup) wheat germ
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1½ tsp baking soda
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit.

You can use an 8″ cast iron skillet (which I use) or 8″ cake pan. If you’re using a cast iron skillet, place it in the preheating oven to get it really hot. (Don’t do this with the cake pan.)

Into a large mixing bowl combine all of the dry ingredients. irish brown soda bread4When the oven is preheated, remove skillet from oven and oil it. (Oil the cake pan, if you’re using that.)

Working quickly, stir  the buttermilk into the dry ingredients, mixing until flour is incorporated. irish brown soda bread5Pile the batter into the hot skillet, pushing it all the way into the corners but mounding the batter into a dome. (Only the bottom portion of the batter should touch the sides of the pan – this will create a higher loaf.)irish brown soda bread1 Slash top to make an ‘X’, 1/2″ deep and 5″ long.irish brown soda bread3 Bake in the preheated 375º F oven until interior temperature of the bread is 185º F – about 35-45 minutes. If you don’t have a thermometer, look for a golden brown top after 35 minutes.irish brown soda bread2 Remove hot loaf from skillet and cool at least an hour on a wire rack. Delicious with butter or jam.

 

CORNY CORNBREAD: A Moist Cornbread, Full Of Corn Flavor!

corny cornbread textCornbread often doesn’t live up to expectations. While it may look buttery-moist with it’s vibrant yellow color, one bite sends you reaching for the water glass. The other side of the coin is the cornbread you get at some restaurants, so full of sugar and fat that’s it’s really just a slice of cake.

Here’s a recipe I got from America’s Test Kitchen that uses whole corn kernels pulsed in a food processor to release their juice, combined with the usual cornmeal to maximize corn flavor. Make it in a cast iron skillet to get that lovely golden brown crust.

NOTE:  A blender probably wouldn’t work for chopping the corn – the kernals might get stuck under the blades. You could try running the blender empty, then dropping in the corn. Or better yet, try using canned creamed corn. I’ve not actually done that, but would think it would work.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: A cast iron skillet is best for cornbread – it gives it that nice crust. If you don’t have one, make sure your skillet’s handle can take the high heat of the oven. (Then put a 10″ cast iron skillet on your birthday or holiday list!)

CORNY CORNBREAD

  • 1 cup (5.75 oz) cornmeal (I use medium grind, but you can use fine grind if you don’t like the grit – or a combination)
  • 1 cup (4.5 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 2 T granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 4 T butter, melted
  • 1 cup frozen corn (canned or fresh would work, too)
  • 1 cup (8 oz) sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp Tabasco Sauce (or any hot sauce)
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 450º Fahrenheit.  Make sure you do this to get that nice crust!

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.corny cornbread3Melt the butter and set aside to cool a bit.melted butterInto the workbowl of your food processor (If you don’t own one, put it on your birthday or holiday list, which is becoming longer by the minute!)), add the corn, sour cream, eggs, and hot sauce. Pulse about 6 times to break up corn.corny cornbread4Pour the corn mixture into the cornmeal mixture and gently stir a few times. (The dry mixture will buffer the eggs so they don’t cook when the hot butter is added.) Then add in the butter and complete blending the ingredients just to the point where the flour in incorporated. Don’t over mix – overmixing a quick bread (which this is) will produce a tough bread.corny cornbread5 On the stovetop, heat the oil in a 10″ cast iron skillet over high heat until shimmering. Turn off heat and pour in batter (you’ll hear sizzling), spreading it out evenly and smoothing top. corny cornbread6Place in hot oven and bake at 450º F for 18-25 minutes. (Set your timer for 18 minutes and test with a toothpick – when done, it should come out clean. Reset timer and cook longer, if need be.) corny cornbread1When done, remove from oven and let cornbread set in skillet at least 20 minutes before slicing.

 

CHEESE SCONES: An Afternoon Pick-Me-Up!

cheese scones textWhat could be better when that late afternoon hunger hits than a nice cup of tea and a freshly baked scone?

You might think scones are time consuming and difficult, but nothing could be further from the truth. If you have a food processor, then they’re even faster.

My favorite is a cheese scone. Traditionally, they’re circle-shaped, but you can also cut them into large wedges, if you prefer.

Note:  Due to my frugal nature (yes, I’m cheap), I use a 2½” diameter diced chilies can with the top and bottom removed, rather than buy a cutter.  scone6CHEESE SCONES – makes 10 circles or 6 large wedges

  • 1¾ cups (8 1/8 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2½ tsp baking powder
  • 4 T butter, cold
  • 1/2 cup medium cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup cream or milk (the richer the milk, the richer the scone)

Preheat oven to 450º Fahrenheit, rack in center position.

Place metal blade in food processor. Add in flour sugar, salt, and baking powder. Pulse a couple of times to mix.

Cut butter (make sure it’s cold) into 1/2″ cubes (you don’t have to be exact) and add to work bowl. scone1Pulse 10 times to form a coarse texture. scone2(If you don’t have a food processor, then crosscut the butter into small bits using 2 knives.)

Into a measuring cup (use a 2 cup size so you don’t splatter), crack eggs. Beat with a fork to break them up. Add in cream to the 3/4 cup mark (you’ll need about 1/3 cup). Beat well with a fork to blend. scone3Empty flour mixture into a mixing bowl. Pour in all but 1 T egg mixture (you’re going to use the reserved liquid as a wash) and stir gently to blend. (You don’t want to overmix or the scone will be tough.) scone5Lightly flour a flat surface and dump dough onto it. With floured hands, pat the dough into an 8″x5″ rectangle if cutting circles, or a 6″ diameter circle if cutting wedges. scone7If you’re making circles, dip circle-mold in flour then press straight down into dough. Don’t twist. Dip into flour each time before cutting a circle. If making wedges, slice 3 lines, intersecting in middle to form 6 equal wedges.

Grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper. Place cut-outs, spacing them apart as much as possible. Brush on reserved egg wash. (If you forgot to save some of the egg mixture, then just use a little milk.) scone8Sprinkle on a few strands of cheese, if you like. scone9Place in preheated oven and bake until golden brown – about 12 minutes for circles, 13-15 minutes for wedges. Remove to a wire rack to cool a bit, then serve.

KING CAKE: Pistachio Sweet Bread Works For This Mardi Gras Favorite!

king-cake1-textMardi Gras is filled with a number of traditions. A yummy one is King Cake – a rolled cake decorated with purple, gold, and green. Often a plastic Baby Jesus or treat is hidden in the cake for some lucky person to be served.

This particular cake (actually, it’s technically a bread), Pistachio Sweet Bread, is a favorite of our family throughout the year. My husband loves it with a cup of coffee.

NOTE: Because I was decorating the cake for Mardi Gras, I used colored sugar. And because I’m a wee bit obsessive, I made my own homemade colored sugar with natural ingredients. Of course, this takes longer. I’ve put directions at the end of the post for those of you who choose to be chemical-free.

PISTACHIO SWEET BREAD

  • 2¼ tsp active dry yeast (1 packet)
  • 1 cup milk (I use nonfat)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 T  +1/2 cup  + 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3½ – 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup salted pistachio nuts, chopped & toasted
  • egg wash: 1 T egg + 1 T water, beaten together

At least an hour before starting the bread, cut up 1/4 cup butter and leave out to soften. (You’ll be using another 1/4 cup butter later.)

In a small saucepan over low flame, heat the milk, 1 T sugar, and water to 100º – 104º Fahrenheit. Remove from heat and stir in yeast. Let proof for about 5 minutes.

Into the work bowl of your food processor, put 3½ cups flour, salt, 1/2 cup sugar, and the softened 1/4 cup butter. Turn on machine then slowly pour in the proofed milk mixture. Let run about 30 seconds before deciding if more flour is needed – the dough should begin to pull away from the sides but not form a clump. (I usually need to add about 2 T-ish.) Empty dough into a greased bowl, flip dough so both sides are greased, cover, and let rise 1½ hours.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board. Pat into a rectangle, then let rest about 5 minutes before rolling dough to finished size. (Letting the dough briefly rest decreases its elasticity.) Roll dough to 18″ x 12″. Brush on the 1/4 cup melted butter all the way to edge. Sprinkle on 1/3 cup sugar and pistachio nuts, patting them gently into dough. Roll up dough from long side, leaving seam on bottom of log. (Try not to let the ends taper, so the ring is uniform in size.) Bring ends together to form a ring. Using a little water on your fingers, pinch dough together.

Carefully transfer dough to a greased cookie sheet. (Don’t use a dark sheet – it browns the loaf too much.) Cover and let rise 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375º F. When oven is hot and dough has risen, slice about halfway through dough in 1½” increments (I use kitchen shears). Brush with egg wash and bake 30 minutes, rotating cookie sheet after 15 minutes for even browning. Top should be lightly browned. Remove to wire rack to cool.

Let cool completely if you plan on frosting. If not, let cool about 20 minutes and serve warm.

WHITE FROSTING – makes 1 cup

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-4 T milk

Beat together the butter, salt, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Add in milk one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached. If frosting becomes too loose, add more powdered sugar.

COLORED SUGAR

Orange

  • 1/2 cup mango cubes
  • about 2 inches of carrot sliced very thinly

Boil carrots in water, covered, about 15 minutes. Let cool. Purée mango and drained carrots in blender.

Purple

  • 1/2 cup blackberries or blueberries

Purée berries with a little water, until paste-like.

Green

  • 1/2 cup spinach (don’t worry – you won’t taste spinach in the frosting)

Boil spinach with a little water for 15 minutes. Drain and purée.

To Make The Colored Sugar:

Place about 1/4 cup sugar in 3 bowls. Add about 1 tsp (depending on preference) of colored pastes to each bowl. Mix with backside of spoon until color is well distributed. It will be very thick. To dry, spread each color on a plate and let air dry. After a couple of hours or so, mix to break up clumps. Keep doing this until it’s pretty dry. Then smash out crystals with a flat bottomed glass or measuring cup. Spread out on plate and let dry some more. Repeat until you get dried colored sugar. Drying time will be dependent on weather and how much coloring you use. But, it will eventually dry.