Sunday, October 5, 2014

Eggplant Pizza by Jill Piers




Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to announce that this latest post is from a guest blogger - my long time pal Jill Bradbury Piers! Jill made this amazing Eggplant Pizza the other day and when I saw the photo, I had to invite her to guest blog. She's funny too so I knew she'd be a good writer for the blog. Without further delay, here she is!

Guest Blogger - Jill Piers



So, I've known Dvorah and her dear brother Jonathan (aka Lionel) for about (yikes) 35 years now.....we met out of the womb.  Although Dvorah and I have only really seen each other once since about 1988....we've managed to reconnect by good old Facebook.  It is here where our latest chapter begins.  Last week, Dvorah announced that she was going to give up sugar for one month.  I'm thinking, "That sounds doable....I'm in!!"  I should also note, she also said she's not going to buy anything new for one month as well....(NOT in!).

So we start to chat and she shared with me a lovely bread recipe (http://richlerrecipes.blogspot.com/2013/06/meretes-danish-rye-bread-from-susan.html), as well as a recipe for granola (which I've yet to try), homemade peanut butter (http://richlerrecipes.blogspot.com/2014/05/homemade-peanut-butter.html)....delish....and on it goes.  

Then my son asked me to make a homemade pizza for Friday night supper.  No problem....for him and hubby....but what the heck am I going to eat???  Inspiration hits me!  Eggplant Pizza!!  What could be easier?  That will be just like eating pizza...but better.   

Truthfully?  Wasn't bad at all. Even better the day after. I shared a pic of this glorious new recipe with Dvorah and she asked me to be a guest blogger.  So here goes.....

Ingredients:

1 eggplant (I chose one that was relatively the same width from top to bottom)
2 vine-ripened tomatoes
8-10 fresh basil leaves
1 cup (approx) grated cheese (choose what you like, I used Monterey Jack)
1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F

Slice the eggplant in 1/3 inch slices.  Do the same for the tomatoes.  

Lay the eggplant on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  

Lay a slice of tomato on top of each eggplant slice.  

Layer all of the basil and roll tightly (like I cigar...I guess)....slice with a sharp knife into what is called a chiffonade (thin slices)....(for some reason, my son, John does not like that word...). 

Sprinkle the chiffonade of basil over each eggplant/tomato layer.  Then place some of each cheese onto each piece of layered eggplant, tomato and basil.  

Bake in the oven for about 20 mins until the cheese is bubbling and the eggplant is tender.

Enjoy!!



Thanks to Dvorah for inviting me to be a guest blogger.....!!!! This has been fun!!!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Snack Bars - Sugar Free!



Full disclosure - this recipe is from someone else's blog. Here is the original link: http://www.superhealthykids.com/blog-posts/healthy-no-bake-snack-bars.php

I am attempting to go sugar-free for a month. Today is Day 5. My friends have been kind enough to send me some recipes to help get me through the hard times and this is the first one I received. I made these last night and they are very yummy. I know those of you with kids are wondering if your kids will eat these - mine tried them. Sam said it wasn't terrible. Noah spit it out. There you go.

I don't have a big, long, rambling story to tell here, so I'm going to get right to the recipe!

Ingredients

2 cups pitted dates
3/4 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup nut butter (You have to use homemade or natural nut butter to ensure there is no sugar in there. Here is the link to my homemade peanut butter: http://richlerrecipes.blogspot.com/2014/05/homemade-peanut-butter.html)
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 pinch of salt


Method

Put everything in a food processor and mix it up until the mixture forms a ball. I put everything in except the nuts for the first few spins because I wanted the nut pieces to be a bit bigger. So after three or four pulses of the processor I removed the lid and added the cashews into the mix. This is what the mix looks like when it starts to form a ball in the processor.




Pour the mix into an 8 inch by 8 inch square pan





Press down firmly. Cover the pan and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes. 



Cut into bars or squares and serve! Make sure to store your squares in the fridge in an air tight container. They won't last long!

P.S. the original blog suggests using parchment paper in the pan, but I didn't have any and they turned out just fine.




Thursday, October 2, 2014

Raspberry Millet Muffins



On the last day of our yoga retreat when we returned from morning yoga in the yurt, there was a basket of something yummy on the big wooden table in the front hall. Whatever was in the basket was covered with a colourful napkin, and there was a sign next to the basket and a little ramekin as well. The ramekin had a couple of dollars in it. Interest piqued, and smelling something delicious, Sarah and I approached the table to read the sign.

It went something like this: muffins, homemade and fresh out of the oven. Please leave $2 and enjoy a muffin. An honour system for baked goods - how very Zen.

The Shanti yoga retreat also had a store of sorts, selling things like blankets made from yak wool, books on yoga and meditation, hand made soaps, lip balms, and salves. Yoga clothes and props, candles and incense. There was an exercise book (or 'scribbler' for you fellow Newfoundlanders) on the floor next to the credit card terminal, and a price list. If you wanted to buy something you just had to write it down and pay before you left. This is the kind of world I want to live in.

But I digress. Back to the muffins. We ran upstairs to our room hoping to find some coins and lucky for us, we did. $4 and two muffins later, we were replete. I pushed my chair back from the table and went to rinse my tea cup, then I noticed the Shanti cookbook open to the recipe for the muffins. That kind of sealed the deal - a cookbook would be coming home with me.

The recipe in the book is called Apple Cinnamon Millet Muffins, but the version we enjoyed was made with local blueberries that day, since that was what was on offer at the market on Wolfe Island. When I returned home I decided that I would make these muffins for myself. The challenge would be to make them without sugar.

I had decided (been inspired by Sarah, actually) to go sugar-free for a month when I returned from Shanti. So I had to modify the recipe to suit this dietary restriction. It was pretty easy to do and the muffins were still amazing. I made them on a Sunday afternoon and one warning for you bakers out there - by Wednesday they had mould growing on them and 6 whole muffins ended up in the compost. Sadness. So my advice to you would be to freeze whatever you don't consume on the first day. This of course, really makes you think about baked goods that you purchase from the grocery store. You know the ones that have a shelf life of 10 days or so? What do you think is in them to make them last that long? Indeed.

You've waited long enough. Here is the recipe for the muffins, my adaptations are in brackets, as always.

Ingredients

2 cups spelt flour
2/3 cup millet (looks kind of like big grains of cous cous)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt

1 cup non-dairy milk (I used skim milk from a cow)
1/2 cup apple sauce (I used unsweetened applesauce)
1/2 cup maple syrup (I used 1/4 cup of pureed prunes, but next time I will use 1/2 cup as they could have been a tad sweeter)
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups fruit (either apples and cinnamon, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, or whatever you want! I used frozen raspberries.)

Method

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and coat 12 muffin cups with a light coating of oil.

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.



Whisk together the wet ingredients in a smaller bowl. Combine the wet with the dry and stir until the flour is just absorbed.




 Then fold in the fruit.





Spoon the batter into the muffin pan and bake for 25 minutes.



Transfer to a cooling rack.



Enjoy! And Namaste.

Red Lentil Dhal




Yesterday I blogged about my amazing yoga retreat weekend and how delicious the food was. You can read all about the experience here in my blog about Shanti's herb biscuits: http://richlerrecipes.blogspot.com/2014/10/herb-buttermilk-biscuits.html

When I brought the Shanti cookbook home, I think I was trying to bring a little bit of Shanti back with me. Perhaps preparing the amazing vegetarian and vegan dishes from this cookbook would allow me to remember my experience at the retreat for a little bit longer. Perhaps if I could recreate some of the amazing dishes we ate, I could mentally transport myself back there where I was relaxed, at peace, and hanging with my pal. 

It was difficult to decide on the first recipe to taste; we had eaten three days' worth of delicious and lovingly prepared foods. When I finally decided on the biscuits, it wasn't because we had tasted them at Shanti (we hadn't). I chose them as my first recipe to test from the Shanti cookbook because I wanted to use the herbs in my garden. It was a good decision.

After the success of the herb biscuits, I decided to try one of the recipes that we had enjoyed at Shanti, so I settled on the meal we had eaten the first night we arrived - Lentil Dhal. I have never made a dhal before, which is kind of unbelievable to me because I love dhal, and also because I make various curries, raita, chutney, and have even made homemade naan before - why had I never tried dhal?

Dhal (or dal) is the name for a dried lentil (or pea or bean) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dal), but it also happens to be the name of the thick and delicious simple stew that is made with these lentils, peas, or beans. It's very basic, but can taste very complex after very little cooking time. That's right - a simple dish to make that tastes like you slaved over it. Where do I sign up?

Lucky for you I spent the weekend meditating and practising yoga, which has buoyed my spirits and provided me with incentive to cook and blog and share with you!

Here is the recipe for Shanti's Lentil Dhal. My adaptations are in brackets, as always.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups red lentils, rinsed (oops, I forgot to do the rinsing)
4 cups vegetable broth
2 chillies, whole dried (I buy a bunch and keep them in the freezer with my lime leaves and lemongrass)
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp coconut oil or olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds (I didn't have any so I used cumin powder)
2 onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 inch fresh piece of ginger root, grated (I also keep this in the freezer)
1 cup tomato, chopped
2 tbsp lemon, freshly juiced
1 tsp garam masala

Take a big pot out of your cupboard and put the lentils, broth, turmeric, and chillies in there. 



Bring the mix to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes until the lentils are tender. You are going to want to stir this pretty frequently, and feel free to add water or broth if it starts to look a little thick too soon.



In the meantime, heat the oil in a separate pan and (medium-high heat) and add the cumin seeds (or powder, but seeds work better). Sauté for about 30 seconds until the seeds are fragrant (don't burn them!). Then add the onions, garlic, and ginger and continue to sauté for about 5 minutes. 



When the onions are beginning to brown, add the tomatoes and cook for another 7 minutes or so. (All times are approximate).

Remove from the heat once the onion mixture is done. If your lentils are done by now, remove the two chillies and add the onion mixture to the lentil mixture. Stir it all up. Add the sea salt and the garam masala, along with the lemon juice.





Chop up some green onions and fresh cilantro. 



Serve the dhal with green onions, cilantro, and a dollop of plain Greek yogurt on top. 

Dhal is amazing when served with hot naan right out of the oven. If you don't feel like making your own, I have found that frozen naan is the most similar to restaurant-quality. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, toss in a couple of naan straight from the freezer. Bake them for 1 1/2 - 2 minutes and serve hot with your dhal. Thank me later. 

Namaste



Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Herb Buttermilk Biscuits



I am a lucky girl. And not just because I am pictured above eating a delicious biscuit, hot out of the oven, with real butter melting into the little pockets of herby goodness. I am a lucky girl for many reasons...if I start a list it might go on for quite a while. It would begin of course with my family - The King of Soup and my two kids, then the rest of the family, the dog, and on and on.

The reason I am lucky at this moment is that I just returned from a long weekend away with my BFFNAWBTOKILYA, Sarah. (Only she knows what that acronym means.) We spent a beautiful weekend together at Shanti Yoga Retreat on gorgeous Wolfe Island near Kingston, Ontario. Sarah was the first person able to get me interested in yoga, many years ago when we met at work. Other friends have tried (Kristin, I'm talking about you), but it never really stuck. For whatever reason, this time it stayed with me and I decided that I do like yoga. Perhaps it is related to the stage of life I am in (two young boys who sometimes stress me out and therefore I need yoga perhaps?), or maybe just that I finally recognize how much good yoga does for the body and mind. Whatever the reason, on January 1, 2014 I made a resolution to do more yoga. I started going once a week, then twice, and now I go three times a week and I wish I could go every day!

The idea of going on a retreat just popped into my head one day back in the spring and since I hadn't spent any quality time with Sarah in ages, I sent her a message and asked her to go with me. Without hesitation, she agreed and we started planning. Fast forward several months, and she was picking me up at the Go Station so we could hit the road for Wolfe Island.

The retreat was really nice. Yoga, meditation, a long walk into town for a blueberry tart, cows, cats, trees, water, geese, flowers, a yurt, yak blankets, silent breakfasts, catching up, wooden swings hanging from gorgeous trees, people who made us chuckle, garter snakes, crossword puzzles, and delicious vegetarian food homemade by the amazing staff at Shanti. The food was SO good that I bought the cookbook before I left and I have already made three recipes since then.

This is the first recipe I made upon my return. What appealed to me immediately was that I would be using fresh herbs from my garden in these biscuits. As well, I had most of the ingredients on hand and could easily substitute the one that I didn't have. Without further delay, here is the recipe (my adaptations are in brackets, as always).

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with either parchment paper or a Silpat.

Ingredients:

2 cups spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup fresh or 1/4 cup dried herbs (I used a full cup of fresh herbs, as recommended by Shanti)
1/2 coconut oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup almond or soy milk (I used buttermilk as that was all I had on hand)
1 tsp maple syrup (I omitted this as I am currently attempting to go sugar free for a month)

For the herbs, I used two kinds of rosemary, winter savoury, basil, chives, oregano, parsley, and lemon thyme.



Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the chopped fresh herbs and mix again.



Cut in the coconut oil using a pastry cutter (I used a food processor!).



In a separate bowl combine the vinegar, milk and maple syrup.

Combine wet with dry. The mixture will look like a muffin batter (thicker than pancakes, thinner than cake). If it doesn't look right you can add more milk.





Scoop the batter (~1/3 cup per biscuit) onto the prepared pan and bake for 10 - 12 minutes. Makes 10 - 12 biscuits (I got 10 nice large ones). I decided to sprinkle some sesame seeds on top before putting them into the oven.






Serve hot and enjoy! Wow, that's a lot of butter....


If you're feeling super generous, you can make breakfast for your significant other.


Namaste, Dear Ones.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Nutty Graham Picnic Cake


Take photos of your work. Take photos of your work. Take photos of your work.

You'd think that after writing this blog for a couple of years I'd remember to take photos of everything I make, but I don't. Sometimes, as in this case, I took photos of the process and then forgot to take a photo of the final product.

So what you see here is the photo of the last, lonely piece of cake; the cake that I made for my Mother-in-Law's birthday. This cake and I go way back. I think the first time my Mom made it I was around 8 years old or so. This cake became one of our standard family recipes for many reasons, not the least of which is that it's delicious. It's also easy to make, and pretty too because it's made in a bundt pan and it has a lovely glaze on top. Having said all of this, I had never made this cake for my husband or kids or husband's family until just this month - and my husband and I are about to celebrate 20 years together so that is pretty remarkable indeed.

So here's how it happened...I was looking through a box of old photos recently and came across one of my Mom, brother, and me sitting at the kitchen table with this beautiful cake in front of us. I looked closely - could it be? Yes! The Nutty Graham Picnic Cake!!! How had I forgotten all about this beauty?   I put the photo up on the fridge to remind me - next time you need a cake, make this one.

Fast forward to early this month - my Mother-in-Law's birthday. Just the night before I had made another old family recipe, Sour Cream Chocolate Cake, for a dinner we were going to. It was so crazy rich and delicious I actually couldn't even consider having another chocolate cake this night. It was over the top and simply should not be repeated two days in a row. What to make that isn't chocolate? And then I glanced at the fridge and saw the photo. And that was it - to the grocery store for some graham cracker crumbs and orange juice!

As you may have noticed in the title of this recipe, the word 'graham' appears. That's because there are graham cracker crumbs in the batter! You are probably used to using graham cracker crumbs for the crusts of pies and squares, but you are likely similar to me in that in all my years of baking I have never seen graham cracker crumbs inside the cake itself (other than this recipe obviously). The other complimentary ingredient in this cake is orange juice. The juice (and rind) help to cut the sweetness of the cake and give it a certain je ne sais quois.

Since I hadn't made this cake in about 25-30 years I decided to make no substitutions or adjustments just to see what it tasted like the way the author intended it to be. The second time I made it (the next day), I cut back on the sugar. I didn't really notice any difference. I also left the nuts out since I was making this second cake for my kids to take to school (and the school is a nut-free zone).

This delicious cake recipe is from a mini magazine called America's Bake Off and it was published by Pillsbury in 1978. The funny thing about this mini magazine is that almost every single recipe starts with "Take a XXX cake mix and add XXX...". Not typically my kind of recipe source. However, this cake recipe is totally from scratch and doesn't involve any boxed mixes.

Here is what the cake looks like in the mini magazine:



And here is the photo that inspired me:




So you can see that it IS actually possible to make a cake that looks as good as the professional photo in a cook book.

Without further ado, here is the recipe for the now infamous Nutty Graham Picnic Cake. Instead of re-typing the recipe I am going to show it to you since I especially love the little blurb about Mrs. Esther Tomich of San Pedro, California.




The only changes I made were to put the ingredients in the bowl in a specific order, and beat after each addition. As well, for my Mother-in-Law's birthday cake I used pecans instead of walnuts because that's what I had on hand.

Here are the ingredients in the order I prepared them:

CAKE

1 cup butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar (I left this out of the second cake entirely)
3 eggs
1 cup orange juice
1 tbsp grated orange rind
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (14 crackers)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

GLAZE

2 tbsp brown sugar
5 tsp milk
1 tbsp butter
3/4 cup icing sugar
1/4 cup chopped nuts (to sprinkle on top of glazed cake, before glaze cools)

Start with the butter, then the sugar:


Then the eggs, beating after each one.



Then I added the orange juice...note that the orange juice causes the batter to separate but don't panic. As soon as you put the dry ingredients in the batter will come together again nicely. Here is a photo of what it will look like so you won't panic:




And here's what it looks like when you add the dry ingredients (and orange rind and nuts if you so desire) in and keep on beating:


Once your pan is prepared, pour the batter in and place the cake in the oven. It took 45 minutes in my oven (and I have a hot oven) so I would start checking at about that time.


When it comes out of the oven, the toothpick should be clean. Let it cool on the rack in the pan for 15 minutes and then turn it out on to the rack. 

While the cake is cooling you can prepare the glaze.



Let the cake cool entirely before pouring the glaze over the cake.

Here's a photo of the cake after the glaze has been poured on, but before it has hardened (it firms up slightly as it cools). The cake in this photo has no nuts on top as this was the one I made for the kids for school:





I hope you enjoy this delicious cake as much as my family does! 



Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Mascarpone and Fresh Basil



The King of Soup made this beauty a few months ago and I can still taste it. Sooooooooo good. This soup comes from our soup bible, 500 Soups by Susannah Blake (page 86). It's hard to describe how truly delicious it is - let me try some adjectives. Creamy, rich, velvety, hearty, you get my drift. Although there are a few steps in the process, I promise you it is worth it. Make sure you double this recipe - you can freeze whatever you don't eat right away.

You might think that soup should be reserved for cold winter months when we need to warm up our insides and hunker down next to the fireplace. I think that you can enjoy hot soup all year round. I am sure you've heard before that the best way to cool down on a hot day is to drink hot liquid - well soup is definitely a hot liquid. (http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/a-hot-drink-on-a-hot-day-can-cool-you-down-1338875/?no-ist)

In fact, why not turn this into a barbequed soup? Try roasting your bell peppers on the BBQ instead of in the oven - thereby keeping your kitchen cool, and being able to advertise this dish as 'BBQ'.

I'd love to hear your comments on this soup! Here's the recipe. There are no adaptations because it's perfect as-is. Thanks Susannah Blake!

Ingredients:

6 bell peppers
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
5 cups vegetable stock
6 tbsp mascarpone cheese
handful of fresh basil leaves, plus extra to garnish
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Slice the peppers in half lengthways and place on a cookie sheet.


Bake them for about 30 minutes until they are charred.


Put the peppers into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let them sit for about 15 minutes until they are cool and the skins can be easily removed. You might find it easier to peel the peppers if you keep them whole. It's a personal preference.


Peel the peppers and remove the seeds. Set them aside.





Once your peppers are ready to go, heat the oil in a large soup pot. Add the onion and garlic and cook for about 4 minutes.





Add the tomatoes and stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for about 10 minutes.



Put the flesh of the peppers in a food processor or blender with any juices. This photo is of the flesh on its way to the blender.




Add the mascarpone. Pour this mixture into the soup with the basil and process the whole thing with a hand blender until smooth.



The King likes to strain the soup through a sieve after blending to ensure a velvety texture.


Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve piping hot with fresh basil leaves for garnish.



There's a reason he's the King.