September 29, 2012

Broccoli Salad

Back in the ‘90s it seemed as though everyone was making broccoli salad. It was at the potlucks, picnics, even family events and I think that’s why I have always refused to make it. My older sister used to make it quite a bit, but given that I live far away I didn’t overindulge in it. Another reason I’ve always put off making one is because my stepmother had me make it one Christmas and she was so picky – I couldn’t cut all those pieces small enough – that I have actually refused to make one since. It turned me right off. Fast forward 10+ years and I actually thought about making one. I’m not sure exactly why, but it seems like a great way to take advantage of the great fresh broccoli at the markets. Plus I actually love broccoli (Yes, The Honey thinks I’m nuts).

The searching wasn’t that easy and after some digging I found a decent recipe on Kraft Canada’s website. While it is quite a simple recipe, it had been so long that I had no idea what went in it; broccoli of course, and I think sunflower seeds. But that was it. Kraft’s recipe seemed like it checked all the boxes and also seemed flexible enough that I could adjust it.

The verdict: It was a nice salad and made a nice quasi-healthy lunch for most of the week. I cut the dressing in half, added more raisins, sunflower seeds and bacon. If you’re not fond of this dressing, a good ranch dressing may add a bit more zip too. Below is the original recipe, so tweak away if you like.

Kraft’s Favourite Broccoli Salad
1/2 cup Miracle Whip Original Spread
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. white vinegar
12 cups broccoli florets
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup sunflower kernels
5 slices bacon, cooked, crumbled
Mix Miracle Whip, sugar and vinegar. Combine broccoli, onions, raisins and sunflower kernels in large bowl. Add Miracle Whip mixture; toss to coat. Refrigerate several hours. Sprinkle with bacon before serving.

September 27, 2012

Beet Soup – aka Barszcz

I love beets and coming from a Polish background (at least half of it) there was always lots of them. My babcia often made barszcz, and I ate it frequently while on a teaching stint in Poland. It was one of the few vegetarian safe foods and now, it is probably one of the few quick, safe celiac foods there too (you just have to double check there aren’t any little dumplings in it, but that’s usually only during the holidays). My English nana also pickled them, so I was never without.

This soup is so easy to make and relatively painless. I’ve been making it for years and I don’t get tired of it. Sometimes I leave the beets in small diced pieces while other times I grate it so the pieces are small. I also like eating it with a little ground pepper.

Two warnings though: Beets can stain your hands. It comes off in a day or two, but some people wear latex gloves when handling them. Also, if you see red when you visit the washroom, don’t panic. It happens when you eat a lot of them.

Barszcz – Beet Soup      Serves 4-6        1 ½ hrs to prepare
2 bunches beets or 1 lb sliced canned
1 onion quartered
3 tbs lemon juice
3 tbs sugar
Scrub and peel beets. Place in a large pot with the onion & 3 quarts water. Simmer for 1 hour or until beets are tender. Remove the beets & onion & discard the onion. Finely chop the beets & return to the soup. Add juice & sweetner. Cook for another 30 minutes.
** Can be served chilled.
** When served it can be clear or with chopped beets.

September 18, 2012

Perfect Pairs

I love peanut butter and banana together. As I child I would have them in a sandwich for lunch and it continued through to university. Why not? It tastes good, is healthy and cheap. I still make it to this day and I love it just as much as when I was a kid. I may get an odd look from my students, but I always tell them to try it before they knock it.

Why bring this up? Well, quite a while ago I met my sisters in Syracuse for a girls shopping weekend and we weren’t too impressed with the hotel breakfast the day before. The front desk clerks finally told us about a place called the Eggplant (I say finally because they initially told us there wasn’t anywhere else to go for breakfast; many were found later in the day) and stressed that it wasn’t that great. Upon arriving the three of us began laughing because the restaurant was packed. And I mean packed! It was obviously the place to be. Looking at the menu one thing caught J’s eye: peanut butter and banana pancakes. She had to get it to try it out and she loved it. Ever since, I’ve been meaning to try it out myself. That day finally came Labour Day weekend.

The verdict? Need you ask? To die for!

This is going to become my special weekend treat.  And really, if you can make pancakes, you can make these, or add anything else for that matter. Make a regular pancake recipe (I used up a mix that was hanging around in the cupboard), added 2 thawed bananas and some peanut butter and mixed it thoroughly. It was a little too thick so I added some more rice milk until it had the consistency I wanted – still thick, but not globular. As they were cooking up the excitement built and finally, with some maple syrup, they were what I expected: fabulousness on a fork.

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t make pancakes often because they don’t often turn out. Well, I finally figured it out (Sadly, I’m sure if I had asked someone, I would’ve learnt sooner). So if you’re like me, here’s how:
Make your batter before heating your pan. It seems silly, but trust me.
Heat your pan on high and when hot, turn it down to medium.
Add butter (a tsp or so) to the pan and melt it.
Pour some batter into the pan and wait. It really doesn’t matter what size, they’re your pancakes afterall.

Do not leave the stove! It’s tempting I know, but don’t do it.
When a lot of tiny bubbles appear in the pancake, flip it over. If there aren’t any bubbles, or only a few, wait.

After flipping, the pancakes won’t take long. After half a minute or so take a peak. If it isn’t ready, leave it for another 30 seconds. If it is, put it onto a plate.

Enjoy with real maple syrup. And I say real because anything else is crap. Support your farmers/syrup producers and buy the real thing. You’ll never go back.

September 14, 2012

My Long Lost Love

Being a celiac there are, obviously, things you miss. Some things you can live without, but others create a longing whenever you see them. There are two things for me: beer and HP sauce. I grew up with HP sauce (my Dad’s English side dominates) and I probably grew to love it because it covered up the taste of the meat I was forced to eat. There are stories that are both traumatic and hilarious that come from those experiences – To this day I cannot even smell roast beef without feeling ill and my dad and step mom thought I had finally come around until they took my plate away and saw all the chewed up bits under the edge of my plate (yes, gross, but funny).

I always had a bottle in my fridge at university (for my Veggie Sheppard’s Pie) and sometimes for my scrambled eggs – Yes, I know ‘So English!’. One of the cooks at a restaurant I worked at just couldn’t understand why I had steak sauce when I was a vegetarian. He couldn’t understand that I just liked HP Sauce and liked to put it on stuff that wasn’t meat (A word of caution for veggies: HP does contain anchovies). He never tired of asking me. Sadly it was the gluten-issue that made me give up my beloved HP Sauce as it contained malt vinegar. I was heart-broken. I had to start putting ketchup on my breakfast potatoes; ahhk that overly sweet bright red stuff. It just wasn’t the same!

My luck changed this spring when I learned that HP in Canada is gluten-free. I couldn’t believe it! How wonderful! So in making a Shepard’s pie this weekend I was able to eat it with HP sauce. I was in absolute heaven.

September 9, 2012

Comfort Food

With the sun shining bright this morning it’s hard to believe the tumultuous weather we had yesterday. If you didn’t experience it, you’d probably find it hard to believe. I kept waking up throughout the night whenever the rain began shipping across the house. It sounded so violent. Then waking up, the day just seemed like it would be a gloomy one. We laughed as we turned on the lights at 8am as the morning had gotten darker since waking up. That told us it was going to be a weird weather day. The rain came down so hard at times that our eaves-troughing couldn’t keep up and water poured over the sides. The water rose in our backyard (paved unfortunately) and we had to venture out with our rain boots to clear the drain of leaves. At times the rain stopped and the sun peaked out, but then another downpour followed. I’m not sure how many thunderstorms passed over our house yesterday. I know at least four, but I lost count after that. One began to wonder if it was all the same system or many mid-sized ones. The upside: We got a lot of work done at home. It was also a perfect excuse for Sheppard’s Pie.

This recipe is for a vegetarian Shepard’s Pie that is in The MoosewoodCookbook. The first time I made it I was in university and I fell in love with it. I haven’t made it in a while since potatoes don’t agree with me anymore, but my mom suggested trying some local squash we found at the market. It worked perfectly. I picked up two medium green and white squash (I thought they were sweet potato squash, but the vendor gave them another name), pierced them with a fork and cooked them in the oven until tender, about 45 mins. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the seeds and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Continue with the recipe as if they were mashed potatoes. The result: fabulous. The baked squash gave a different flavour and it complemented the vegetable hash perfectly. You may enjoy this version so much that you may just pass by the traditional meat-based Shepard’s Pie. I have yet to try one.

Note: The recipe looks long, but it isn’t, actually. Most of the time is spent chopping your veggies. I have combined steps for ease and I like how it’s turned out, and that is the recipe below. If you’d like the original from Katzen’s Moosewood, click on the link above.
*I left out the cheese this time round and it still all stuck together. Adjust the cayenne to your level of spiciness.


Shepard’s Pie         Serves 4-6 / 45 minutes to prepare, 25 minutes to bake
Mashed potato topping:
2 large potatoes
1 tbs butter
½ cup milk
3 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper
½ cup fresh parsley, minced

Vegetable hash:
1 tbs olive oil
1 ½ cups onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
black pepper
1 stalk celery, finely minced
1 lbs mushrooms, chopped
1 lbs eggplant, diced
1 medium bell pepper, minced
2 tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried oregano
1 cup peas
¾ cup grated cheese
¼ cup gluten-free bread crumbs
3 tbs cider vinegar
cayenne to taste

Mashed Topping:
Peel or scrub potatoes and cut into 1 inch chunks. Cook in boiling water until soft. Drain and transfer to a medium-large bowl. Add butter, garlic and milk. Mash well. Add salt and pepper and stir in parsley. Set aside.

Vegetable Hash:
Preheat oven to 350˚. Heat oil in a large deep skillet. Add onion and sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add garlic, salt, pepper, celery, mushrooms, eggplant and bell pepper. Stir until well combined, cover and cook over medium for 10 minutes. Stir frequently. Add herbs, stir and cover again. Cook for 5 minutes or until eggplant is tender. Remove from heat. Stir in peas, ½ cup cheddar, bread crumbs, vinegar and cayenne. Transfer the mixture to a casserole dish and spread it out. Spread mashed potatoes over hash. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the top and dust with paprika.
Bake uncovered for 25 or 30 minutes or until lightly browned on top and bubbly around the edges.