Banana Quick Bread

I had some bananas going begging, this week, which just demanded a recipe for banana bread. Daughter #2 was particularly fond of this loaf. It has a distinct banana flavor, and is moist and vaguely sweet, with more densely sweet pockets provided by the dried fruit. It slices well, and it’s also extremely easy to make!

Banana bread4 oz brown sugar
2 oz margarine
4 medium sized eggs
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon
10 oz blanched almond flour
5 oz tapioca flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 large very ripe bananas
1 cup raisins or walnut pieces

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a food processor, beat together the sugar and margarine.

Add the eggs one at a time, and process until combined.

Sprinkle the rest of the ingredients (except for the bananas and raisins) over the egg mixture, and beat together until combined.

Cut the bananas by hand into 1″ lengths into the processor, add the raisins, and process for about 5 seconds (or by hand) to combine.

Turn the mixture into a loaf pan greased or lined with baking parchment.

Cook for 55 minutes at 350F on the middle shelf, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Allow to cool before eating.

Variation: Instead of baking in a loaf pan, smooth the batter into a silicone flan pan (same cooking time), and when the cake has cooled, fill it with bananas and custard made with 2-3 bananas.

Cooked flan case

GF Banana Bread flan case

GF Banana Bread flan case topped with bananas and custard.

GF Banana Bread flan case topped with bananas and custard.

Marinara Pasta Sauce for Grown-ups

Marinara and pastaThis isn’t your run of the mill marinara sauce that gets trotted out to kids as a standard in restaurants all over the U.S. The sun-dried tomatoes and black olives make this somewhat more sophisticated.

1 tbsp Earth Balance vegan margarine, olive oil, or oil used to store the sun dried tomatoes
1/2 large or 1 medium sized onion, finely diced
2 large cloves garlic
1 28 oz can of chopped tomatoes (crushed in tomato puree also works)
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes in olive oil, minced
1/2 cup black olives, drained and cut in half
1-3 tbsp of sugar, depending on tartness of the tomatoes

Marinara sauce

This sauce is good with pasta and as a pizza sauce, if you’re looking for something a little different.

Warm the fat in a large saucepan, then gently fry the onion over a medium low heat, until it has completely softened and started to brown (~10-15 minutes)

Add the garlic, and allow to warm through for a couple of minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients, and simmer for 30 minutes until the tomato chunks have started to disintegrate, and the sauce is thick and rich.
Check seasoning, and add more sugar or salt as necessary.

SouthWestern Salad

South Western SaladSunshine! Spring is showing its face here in the Pacific NorthWest, and it is far too warm to resist the urge to make salad, today. I’ve made variations of this salad over the last year, but I’ve finally come to the conclusion that less is more when it comes to the dressing for this flag-bearer of a salad. Here we have the quintessential SouthWestern ingredients, all dressed in little more than the sharp floral flavors of fresh squeezed lime. If you love avocado the way we do, add an additional one (in cubes) to the salad before using the final one to decorate the top. I’ve not given a quantity for the chili, as different chilis have such a variation in heat, and different people have such a variation in desire for heat. You should add enough chili to just feel the heat, here, but not overpower all the other flavors. I’ve been using 1-3 tsp of minced, fresh/frozen Hatch chilis, which seems to be about right for my family.

1 cup frozen sweet corn, defrosted
2 14oz tins of black beans, drained
minced fresh chili, to taste
2 spring onions, cleaned
7-8 small red/yellow/orange bell peppers
3 salad tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
juice of 1/2 a fresh lime (or more, to taste)
1 small head cos/romaine lettuce
1 large avocado (or 2, if your budget copes with it)

Mix the corn and black beans together in a large bowl.

Stir the minced chili into the beans.

Slice the spring onions on the diagonal into 1/2″ pieces, and the bell peppers, and tomatoes into cubes.

Mix these into the corn and beans, stir in the chopped cilantro, and dress with the lime juice.

Rip the bigger leaves of the cos/romain lettuce into bite-sized pieces and form all the lettuce into a bed in a large (or individual) bowl/s.

Pile the bean mixture onto the lettuce bed, decorate with the avocado, and squeeze some additional lime over the top, if desired.

Serve as is, or with tortilla chips or in GF tortilla shells.

Aubergine (Eggplant) Curry

I’ve recently got the curry bug, again. Here on the western side of The States, even up here near Portland, Oregon (which prides itself on its cuisine) good Indian curry isn’t really available. The problem with Indian curry is finding a blend of spices that appeals. Cooking the curry itself isn’t difficult, but many curry powders rely too heavily on cumin (a relatively cheap spice), in my opinion, which has left me searching for blends that please.

Warmly spicy and intensely flavored, this tomato based curry pairs well with sweet mango chutney, and plain, boiled, rice.

aubergine curry

One thing you’ll notice about this recipe is the huge variation in oil that is suggested. For a home-style (and healthier) curry, use the lesser amount. For a rich, indulgent, restaurant style dish, use the greater amount. Aubergine has a reputation for absorbing all the oil in a pan in seconds flat, but it will absorb much less oil and stick less when it cooks (and consequently leave oil in the pan to cook the spices), if it has been salted before cooking and the oil is sizzling hot when the aubergine is added.

Note: if your aubergine/eggplant is a bit on the small side, add a 14 oz can of drained chickpeas/garbanzo beans along with the tomatoes.

1 aubergine (eggplant), cut into 3/4″-1″ chunks
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground fennel
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 – 1/2 tsp crushed dried chilies
1 tbsp – 1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 large onion, thickly diced
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
14-20 fl oz (2 cups) tinned tomatoes
2 – 6 tsps sugar (optional – to counteract acidic tinned tomatoes)

Put the aubergine (eggplant) cubes in a bowl, and sprinkle with the salt. Allow to sit for up to 1/2 hour to soften and draw out some of the juices.

Gather the spices together in a small bowl.

Heat the oil in a medium sized saucepan, over a medium/high heat.

Drain the aubergine (eggplant).

Wait for the oil to get hot, then add the onions, and cook for 5 minutes until starting to soften. Add the aubergine (eggplant), and cook (stirring occasionally) for about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic, and allow to warm through. (~30 seconds)

Sprinkle the spices over the veggies. Stir and allow to warm through. (~30 seconds)

Add the tomatoes, cover, and cook until they have broken down into a sauce, and the aubergine is completely soft.

Taste, and add extra salt (~1/4 tsp) and/or sugar to taste.

Serve hot with cooked rice.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip CookiesAlthough I’m more focussed on savory meals, it does seem wise to have at least a handful of trusted recipes in my repertoire for sweet indulgences.

This makes about 24 two inch cookies.

2 oz cold margarine
2 oz brown sugar
2 oz sugar (3 oz if you like your cookies on the sweeter side)
4 oz blanched almond flour
4 oz all purpose GF flour
1/3 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla (optional)
1 egg
~1 tbsp rice milk as needed
1 cup dark chocolate chips

DSC_0014Pre heat the oven to 375F.

Blend together the margarine and sugar in a food processor (or by hand with a wooden spoon, if you’re still that virtuous) until fluffy.

Add remaining ingredients (except chocolate chips), and process into a coherent ball. Add a tablespoon of rice milk, if needed to get the dough to come together.

Stir in the chocolate chips, and put 1 tbsp quantities onto a parchment lined cookie tray (9 – 12 per tray), then roll gently to 1/2″ thickness with a rolling pin, or flatten with the back of a wetted spoon.

Cook in the top half of the oven for about 15-20 mins until barely golden around the edges. Remove from the pan, and allow to cool.

Vegan Cassoulet

Cassoulet is a classic comfort food from France: a thick, bean-y stew which clings to your ribs. I had it as a pre-vegetarian teenager, when we vacationed there years and years ago, and was so enamored of it, that when I turned vegetarian, I wanted to retain the ability to eat it.

CassouletWhen I first devised this veganized and simplified version, I was still eating wheat, and instead of tofu, I used 4 large spiced veggie sausages which were utterly yummy here, but much to my frustration were wiped off my menu when I realized I had to ditch the wheat. It took me a fair few years to get around to figuring this gluten free version.

Now, I should point out that ‘normal’ cassoulet not only has meat in it, it also has everything cooked together for quite a long time to cook the beans, tenderize the meat, and form a rich tasting crust. Tofu isn’t going to be improved by a long slow cook in bean juices! It’s quite tender enough, and if anything, it needs to be firmed up, which is why I bake mine first.

If you want to, you can certainly use 1 1/2 cups (~9 oz) dried beans in this dish. Just soak and cook them up according to packet instructions (along with the bay leaf) beforehand, and retain enough of the cooking liquid to cover them by about 1/2″ when adding to the other ingredients.

The tofu can either be fresh, or frozen and defrosted before use. Defrosted tofu has a different texture to that of fresh which releases its water more easily, and may well have a more acceptable texture for those folks who don’t normally eat tofu.

Serves 3-4 people

2 tsp oil or margarine
1/2 large (or 1 medium) onion, coarsely diced
2 cloves garlic
2 cans great northern, haricot/navy, or other small white beans (not drained)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 tsp pepper
salt to taste (depends on how salty your cooked beans are)

~14 oz firm tofu (regular, not silken), drained
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp pepper
dash of cayenne pepper (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400F, so the beans won’t cool down too much after being put in.

half cooked cassouletHeat the oil in a dutch oven, and cook the diced onion over medium heat until medium brown (~10-15 minutes). Add the garlic, beans, the bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, 1/4 tsp pepper, and enough bean liquor / water to cover by 1/2″. Check seasoning (it should taste slightly under salty at this point). Bring all to a gentle simmer, and transfer to the hot oven (uncovered).

Stir together the tsp of salt, nutritional yeast,  and one of the 1/4 tsp pepper in a large bowl. Add a dash of cayenne, if liked.

Cut the tofu into 3/4″ cubes or chipolata, pat dry with kitchen paper, and use your hands to toss the tofu gently with the seasoning mixture. (Defrosted tofu is particularly delicate.)

Spread the tofu out on a baking/cookie sheet which has been lined with baking parchment, and place in the oven for about 1/2-3/4  hour until starting to firm up around the edges. (This will depend on how wet your tofu is, and how big the chunks are.)

cooked cassouletWhen the tofu is ready (firmed up on the outside and chewy), stir it into the beans, and continue cooking the beans in the oven until the sauce has finished thickening (a total cooking time of about an hour for the beans).

Serve hot with crusty GF bread, and warm fluffy blankets next to a roaring fire.

Mushroom, Quinoa, and Cashew Stuffed Delicata

Delicata squash has a dense, rich flesh, and a thin edible skin, and it needs only a little salt to bring out the flavor, which is excellent. In my opinion, it is at its best when meltingly soft. I first came across it at a wonderful little diner called Our Bar in Washougal, Washington, where they baked the stuff, and tossed cubes of it into breakfast scrambles and vegetable fried rice.

DSC_0001

Stuffed Delicata Squash with Roast Potatoes and (vegan) Creamed, Garlicky, Cruciferous Veggies.

Stuffing the delicata turns them into a vegan, formal dinner center piece. Both my girls gave it the thumbs up … they are very partial to formal dinners with roast potatoes, orange and cranberry sauce, and cashew gravy.

The moist, herby, mushroom stuffing can be made the day before and stored in the fridge until required: a useful trait when there’s a lot of cooking to do! It must be about as damp as you’re going to want to eat it, as it doesn’t dry out much in the oven (and you wouldn’t want it to: quinoa tends to get a bit crunchy and stuck between your teeth if it dries out. Not so good.) If you have any extra stuffing left over after filling the delicata shells, mould it into 3″ round patties, and cook them along side the squash, to eat later as burgers.

Serves 6-8
1 recipe of the stuffing for Cashew and Mushroom Bake
3-4 delicata squash
oil as needed (~1 tsp per squash)
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)

Preheat the oven to 350-400F (depending on what else you have cooking in the oven).

Wash the squash, then use a hefty knife to cut them in half from stem to blossom end. Use a spoon to firmly scrape out (and discard) the seeds, rub oil over all surfaces, sprinkle lightly with salt, and place (cut side down) on an oiled cookie/baking sheet.

Cook the squash for about 30-40 minutes (or until a fork can pierce the flesh), then turn over, stuff with the mushroom mixture, cover lightly with baking parchment to avoid drying, and continue cooking until the nut mixture is hot (15-30 mins).