Tag Archives: vegetarian

Vegetarian Friday: Mom’s fruitcake

NOTE: I managed to let the entire Christmas season get away from me without posting the holiday blogs I’d planned, so this recipe is either too late (seriously: Don’t make it today and plan on eating it Sunday, or you’ll be terribly disappointed) or impressively early. If you assume the latter and make it now, it should be spectacular by December 2017.

People who regard fruitcake as a punchline are miserable souls who have probably spent their lives eating the wretched commercially prepared alcohol sponges that pass for fruitcake in those gift baskets you buy for people you don’t really like.

It is entirely possible to make fruitcake that tastes good. I know because my mom has been doing it for decades.

Before we start, I need you to understand three important principles concerning fruitcake.

Principle 1: Candied fruit has no place in a fruitcake. People who think it does probably drink flavored coffee and approve of the designated hitter.

Principle 2: Green-tinted maraschino cherries are a Communist plot to destroy humanity. They are little green balls of mint-flavored poison, to paraphrase Patrick. Never, ever put them in a fruitcake for any reason.

Principle 3: Booze has a legitimate purpose in fruitcake, but that purpose is not to get you drunk. If you’re making fruitcake to hide your alcohol consumption, click here.

Now that you understand the basics, you’re ready to make fruitcake the way God intended: Using my mom’s recipe.

Ingredients
1 c. cider or apple juice
1-2 c. dried apricots*
1 pkg. whole dates (10 or 12 oz.)
1 c. raisins or currants
16 oz. red maraschino cherries, drained
1 c. English walnuts
1 c. pecans
1 c. hazelnuts or Brazil nuts**
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. butter
1 c. sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 c. orange juice or maraschino syrup
1/4 c. apple juice
1/4 c. molasses (NOT blackstrap)

Chop fruit coarsely. (Mom says poultry shears work well for this.) Boil 1 cup apple cider or juice and pour over dried fruit. Mix. Dump nuts on top of fruit and set aside.

In mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Combine liquid ingredients. Add to batter alternately with 2 cups of the flour, blending thoroughly after each addition. Add remaining cup of flour to fruit, which has been soaking in the juice, stirring to lightly coat fruit.

Add fruit to batter all at once, blending well so fruit is coated with batter.

Pack into greased and floured loaf pans so that each one is 3/4 full.

Bake at 275 degrees until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and cakes are a medium brown (at least an hour and 15 minutes; probably longer, depending on your oven).

Let cool in pans, remove, wrap in clean towels moistened with cider or hard liquor (Mom swears by Southern Comfort for this; I’ve gotten good results from Kilbeggan’s, but any decent whiskey is probably fine), then wrap tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator in a big ziplock bag.

About once a week, check the moisture level and re-moisten the towels as needed to keep them damp. Mom says to alternate between booze and cider for this or the fruitcake will end up tasting like whiskey, which is NOT what you want. Your goal here is just to keep it from drying out or getting moldy while it ages.

As long as you keep the towel moist and the bag sealed between snacks, fruitcake will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator. The longer it ages, the more the flavors will blend, so I wouldn’t even touch it for at least two weeks.

I like to keep fruitcake in the refrigerator and eat it after hard workouts. The nutritional content is just about ideal for refueling after a long run.

Emily

*You can substitute other dried fruit for some of the apricots. Mom has had good luck with dried pears and dried pineapple. Check the comments, because she’ll probably weigh in with suggestions.

**Black walnuts are also wonderful, but don’t use more than a half-cup, as their flavor is pretty strong, and you don’t want them to overpower everything.

Vegetarian Friday: Jalapeno soup

For several months, I’ve been seeing recipes on Pinterest for something called “jalapeno popper soup.” Some of the recipes looked better than others. None of them really impressed me, but the concept was solid enough, I decided it was probably worth making my own version.

The results were pretty good. I have an idea for a substitution, which I’ll include below. (If you’ve read this blog much, you probably already know what it is.)

Ingredients

1 pkg. cream cheese (I use Green Mountain’s Greek yogurt kind to boost the protein and cut the calories)
2 c. veggie broth
2 tbsp. butter
1 smallish onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. flour
About 1 c. of canned jalapenos, chopped coarsely
1 c. shredded cheddar
2 tbsp. taco seasoning (click here for a recipe)

Nuke the cream cheese in 30-second bursts, stirring after each, until it melts.

Dump the melted cheese into a pan.

Nuke the broth until it’s hot through.

Whisk the broth into the cheese, a little at a time.

Saute the onions in butter until they become translucent and start to brown. Add the garlic, stir once or twice, and then add the olive oil and flour and stir constantly until the flour browns to make a roux.

Remove pan from heat and whisk the roux-onion-garlic mixture into the cheese mixture.

Whisk in the jalapenos, taco seasoning, and about a cup of shredded cheddar and bring to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring frequently.

Garnish with jalapeno slices and serve with crushed tortilla chips.

Yes, I basically just ate an entire bowl of queso with a spoon. Don't judge me.
Yes, I basically just ate an entire bowl of queso with a spoon. Don’t judge me.

The Pinterest recipes claim the soup tastes “just like a jalapeno popper,” which is obviously a lie, because jalapeno poppers are either breaded or battered and deep-fried. I’m sorry to be the one to break this shocking news, but soup is never going to taste like deep-fried fair food. It’s soup, not midway fare. Get with the program.

What this soup will taste like is a pretty good queso. To make it taste like a really good queso, I’d swap the jalapenos for roasted green chiles. (You saw that coming, right?)

Feel free to disregard that suggestion if you really, really like the taste of jalapenos. I don’t. I can eat them if there’s no other hot pepper available, but I can name a half-dozen other varieties I like better. (Which reminds me: One of these weeks, I need to give y’all a tutorial on cooking with habaneros. They’re magic.)

Emily

Vegetarian Friday: Onion soup in a bread bowl

Today’s recipe is kind of a two-fer. You can make the bread in oven-safe mugs and hollow out the resulting oversized rolls to use as bowls, or you can just make a regular loaf and serve big slices alongside the soup to use in place of croutons. I went with the former because it’s prettier, but it tastes just as good the easy way. Either way, top it with plenty of cheese.

For the soup:

Ingredients

4-5 medium yellow onions
2 tbsp. butter or olive oil
1 can cheap beer (Stag, Budweiser, whatever)
1/2 c. strong vegetable stock or 1 veggie bouillon cube
1 tbsp. dried parsley
Shredded white cheese (Swiss is traditional, but I prefer mozzarella)
Grated Parmesan

Chop up the onions and saute in butter or olive oil until they become translucent and start to caramelize.

Dump onions into Crock-Pot with all remaining ingredients except cheese. Add a cup or so of water and cook for 6-8 hours on low.

For the bread:

Ingredients

2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole-wheat flour
3 tbsp. baking powder
1 can cheap beer
2 tbsp. honey
Oil or butter for the baking container(s)

Mix dry ingredients thoroughly, breaking up any clumps of baking powder. Using a sturdy wooden spoon, stir in beer, a little at a time, and then the honey.

If you’re making bread bowls, grease two to four of those big oven-safe Corning or Pyrex soup mugs — depending on how big you want the finished bowls to be — and use your hands to knead the dough just slightly and divide it among the containers. I used two and ended up with enormous rolls with enormous crowns — pretty, but I wound up cutting off the tops and carving out a LOT of bread to make room for the soup. Four mugs would have worked much better.

How ridiculous is the crown on this beer bread?
How ridiculous is the crown on this beer bread?

Bake at 350 until tops are brown and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. For two mugs, this takes about 45 to 50 minutes. A regular loaf pan generally takes upwards of an hour or more; smaller containers will go faster. (If you want to keep your portion size under control, muffin tins are a good alternative; plan on serving one or two rolls with each bowl of soup.)

I had to cut off the top before I could hollow out the space for the soup.
I had to cut off the top before I could hollow out the space for the soup.

For bread bowls, let the bread cool, then use a sharp knife to carve a big hole out of the middle, fill with hot soup, and top with mozzarella or Swiss and Parmesan.

Top with cheese. This is very important.
Top with cheese. This is very important.

This is a warm, comforting recipe for a chilly day.

Emily

Vegetarian Friday: Slow-cooker red beans

This is not a quick, easy recipe like the ones I normally post. It’s time-consuming. It involves some advance planning and a lot more ingredients than usual. And it is TOTALLY worth the effort.

If you want a quick version you can throw on the table in 20 minutes or less, with very little prep, I posted one a couple of years ago. What I’m posting today is the version you make when fall is finally settling in, the nights are just a little too cool for comfort, and you need something comforting and familiar with a kick of spice to warm you up.

Red beans absolutely MUST soak for 8-10 hours before you cook them, and they need to cook for a long time, so round up your ingredients ahead of time. This recipe is a variant of one I first tasted at a potluck during Twangfest in St. Louis about 16 years ago. The lady who made it shared the recipe, which in turn was a variant of one from a cookbook published as a parish fundraiser by the Holy Rosary School in Larose, Louisiana. She modified the original recipe for vegetarian purposes; I modified her version (which was baked for several hours) to work in a Crock-Pot, adjusted the proportions based on some stuff I needed to use up last night, and substituted a jar of my mom’s home-canned tomatoes and — of course — a hefty helping of roasted New Mexico chiles for the Ro-Tel listed in the original recipe.

Ingredients

1/2 lb. dried red beans
1/4 pkg. dry yeast
3-4 ribs of celery
1 green bell pepper
1 yellow onion
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 c. roasted green chiles
1 bunch green onions
5-6 cloves garlic
3-4 sprigs cilantro or parsley
1/4 c. Guinness or other stout
1 can whole tomatoes
1/3 pkg. Soyrizo (optional but SO good)
Jane’s Krazy Mixed-Up Pepper
Salt
1 can cheap beer (Stag, Budweiser, etc.)
3 bay leaves

Day 1: Place beans in crock, cover with water, and sprinkle with yeast. Let sit for at least 8-10 hours — overnight, while you’re at work, whatever.

Day 2: Drain and rinse beans. Cover with water and turn on Crock-Pot to high.

Split each rib of celery down the middle a couple of times, then chop finely. Coat the bottom of a large cast-iron skillet with olive oil, turn on the burner, and dump in the celery. Push it around occasionally with a wooden spoon or spatula.

While celery sautes, chop up the bell pepper. Add it to the skillet and stir.

Let the celery and pepper cook over medium heat for a few minutes, then add green chiles and stir. While the mixture cooks, chop the onion finely and add it to the pan. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is clear and starts to brown.

While the onion mixture cooks, peel the garlic. Lay the flat side of a chef’s knife on top of each clove and strike the flat of the blade sharply with your fist to crush the garlic. (Bruising it this way releases the flavor better.) Chop the crushed garlic finely.

Cut the root ends off the green onions and chop finely. Chop the cilantro or parsley finely. Add garlic, green onions and cilantro to the pan and cook for 30 seconds to a minute — just long enough to warm up the garlic a bit and release more flavor.

Add all the sauteed vegetables to the Crock-Pot.

Deglaze the pan with Guinness and add the deglazing liquid to the Crock-Pot. Stir.

Drain tomatoes and dump into skillet. Use wooden spoon or spatula to break them up into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle heavily with salt and pepper and simmer briefly, then add Soyrizo, breaking it up with a spoon as you mix it in. Let simmer a couple of minutes.

Dump tomato mixture into Crock-Pot. Deglaze the pan with the cheap beer. Pour the deglazing liquid into the Crock-Pot, stir in the rest of the cheap beer, and add bay leaves.

Cook 8-10 hours until beans are done. (They will be soft but not mushy — think al dente pasta, but in bean form. Red beans are always firmer than pintos or black beans, but they shouldn’t be hard in the middle.)

Serve over rice or couscous with plenty of Louisiana-style hot sauce available for those who like it spicier. (Rice is traditional, but I ran out and forgot to buy more, so we settled for whole-wheat couscous.)

Ridiculously time-consuming but inarguably wonderful.

Vegetarian Friday: No-bake recovery treats

These are a good, quick recovery snack after a hard workout.
These are a good, quick recovery snack after a hard workout.

This recipe isn’t particularly glamorous or photogenic, but it’s an absolute godsend if you happen to be an endurance athlete, because it’s an easy make-ahead snack you can keep in the refrigerator and grab quickly after a long run or a hard hill workout to give yourself a nice balance of protein, fiber, and sugar to keep you from crashing and speed muscle recovery.

Ingredients

1 c. rolled oats
1 c. peanut butter, almond butter, or a mix
2 tbsp. honey
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips (optional)

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Scoop out about a tablespoon of the mixture and form it into a ball. If the mixture seems too squishy, add more oats. If it seems too dry and crumbly, add more nut butter and/or honey. (The proportions aren’t precise, because the consistency of the nut butter you use will vary by brand, type, and oil content.)

Once you’ve adjusted the proportions as needed to make a workable texture, form the rest of the mixture into balls, place on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper, and chill until firm. Store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Emily

Vegetarian Friday: Cranberry sauce

This post is late this evening because I had to pick up some canning supplies so I could put up today’s recipe as soon as I finished cooking.

Look at these gorgeous berries.
Look at these gorgeous berries.

About nine years ago, my friend Laurel gave me a big bag of cranberries she’d brought back from a Maine cranberry bog — and then, upon discovering I’d never made homemade cranberry sauce, gave me a recipe and instructions for making some.

I lost Laurel’s recipe in the Great Mac Crash of 2013, but I’d riffed on it in 2007 and had enough presence of mind to post it here.

I’m grateful for that. Laurel passed away in January. I think of her every year and smile as I listen for the berries to pop, remembering the day I stood in her kitchen in Tulsa as she explained the steps.

I smiled tonight, blinking back tears and remembering Laurel and thinking about how amused she would have been by the latest political revelations that were pouring into my Twitter feed as I stirred the sugar syrup.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I have and use it to make some happy memories of your own.

Ingredients
1 c. sugar
1 c. water
4 c. cranberries
2 apples, diced
1-2 c. other fruit (berries, grapes, or more apple if you like)
3/4 c. honey

Peel and chop apples. Wash cranberries and any other fruit you’re using. (I used grapes tonight because I had some on hand, but I’ve also used strawberries, blackberries and extra apples, all of which produced equally good results.)

Heat water and sugar together until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to a boil, stirring frequently so it doesn't scorch.
Heat water and sugar together until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to a boil, stirring frequently so it doesn’t scorch.

Stir sugar into water and bring to a boil in a big saucepan, stirring frequently.

I love the sound of cranberries cooking.
I love the sound of cranberries cooking.

Add fruit, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring frequently. You’ll hear the berries pop as they cook. Remove from heat, stir in honey, and let stand to thicken.

Makes about 2 pints.

Cranberry sauce cans very well; just leave a half-inch of headspace and process for 10 minutes in a boiling-water bath. I made three batches tonight and put them up in wide-mouth pint jars.

Vegetarian Friday: Kettle corn

One of the foods I always associate with fall — along with hot cider and caramel apples — is kettle corn, which shows up at a lot of county fairs and harvest festivals.

I’m sharing the recipe now because I’m thinking of it, but you can make kettle corn at any time of year, and it’s way easier than you’d think. Cheap, too; I used to make it for our scholar-bowl team at Webster, and a batch big enough to feed two teams and all their alternates took about 50 cents’ worth of popcorn and sugar. The kids loved it and were disappointed if I let a game slip by without making it.

The big trick with kettle corn is having all your equipment ready so you can move fast once the oil heats up.

Equipment
Big saucepan or small stockpot with a lid
Big spoon
Oven mitts
Big bowl
Measuring cups

Ingredients
About 1/3 c. popcorn (use Orville Redenbacher, not the cheap stuff)
About 1/4 c. sugar
Enough canola or peanut oil to coat the bottom of the pan about 1/8″ deep
Salt

Step 1: Pre-measure the popcorn and sugar and set them next to the stove, along with the spoon and the big bowl.

Step 2: Pull the battery out of your smoke alarm and turn on the exhaust fan above your stove, because you’ll probably screw up and burn this the first couple of times you do it. It gets easier with practice.

Step 3: Put on the oven mitts. No matter how well your lid fits, oil and steam can escape around the edges and scald you.

Step 4: Cover the bottom of the pan with oil, throw in three kernels of popcorn, and heat on high until they all pop.

Step 5: Dump in popcorn and sugar — in that order — stir quickly, and cover. Remove from heat and shake vigorously every three seconds, holding the lid onto the pan as tightly as possible.

Step 6: Once corn pops (about five minutes or less), dump it into a large bowl, sprinkle lightly with salt, and enjoy.

If you let it cool down completely and then store it in a sealed container, it will stay fresh and crispy for several days.

Emily

P.S.: The little strings on the popcorn in the picture aren’t hair. They’re strands of melted sugar. The sugar melts into the oil, coats the popcorn, and basically turns into candy as it cools.