We put in two large vegetable gardens this year. I had no idea how much fun it would be to go out and pick dinner. Very cool. Our okra plants have been very prolific, as have our pepper plants. Tomatoes have been good as well, but those are nearing the end. We had a good crop of sweet potatoes and onions too.
With the okra bounty, my husband asked me to make up a recipe for Vegetarian Gumbo. I did and it is awesome. We had it fried many times as well. We have used the jalapenos in homemade Salsa, which is so good and fresh that you may never go back to salsa in a jar. The tomatoes were fabulous. My mother-in-law has been eating those for dessert!
The sweet potatoes have gone in to Sweet Potato Stew and Baked Sweet Potato Slices. We had yellow squash earlier, which we cooked a variety of ways, from frying to Skillet Squash and Onions to Squash Casserole.
We are getting new things now. Pumpkins are ripening, plus watermelons are amazing. I can’t wait to see what we come up with for these!
Until next time,
Lisa, aka Veggie Gal
My sister-in-law bought a cookbook at the Airing of the Quilts in Huntsville, Texas. It was put out by the Texas Thyme Unit of the Herb Society of America. As I thumbed through it, I noticed the TTU met on the fourth Wednesday of every month at the Wynne Home in Huntsville. I was finally in town and made it for the meeting this past month and was delighted to meet a terrific group of women who are dedicated to herbs—and more. Most of them are Master Gardeners!
The Herb Society of America (HSA) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that focuses on educating its members and the public on the cultivation of herbs and the study of their history and uses, both past and present.
The HSA is subdivided into districts and units. I happened to hook up with the Texas Thyme Unit just as the District Gathering is about to be held right here in Huntsville. Very exciting!
Membership is open to anyone interested in herbs or any business concerned with growing, processing or selling herbs and herb-related products. Individuals may join as a member at large or may choose to become active in a local unit. If you are interested, go to this link to get more information or find a Unit near you.
My mother married my stepdad when I was seven, merging their lives and children—her four and his two. We had a full house. (We have much more than a full house now when we all get together, with our spouses, children and grandchildren!) Mother died twenty years ago and my dad died last year. Since Parents’ Day is July 28, I found myself thinking about them more than usual the past couple of weeks. This blog and menu are dedicated to them.
Lamar’s (my dad’s) evening job was delivering and/or picking up children, attending football practices, baseball practices, etc. Mother’s evening job was cooking. She had six children, a large husband and herself to feed, not to mention the rotating assortment of neighborhood kids—everyone was always welcome at our house. I was grown and gone before I realized that cooking wasn’t something she particularly enjoyed. It certainly wasn’t a passion. In reality, my mother cooked primarily because she had to. And she still did it with love.
One of the best things she made was Chicken and Dumplings. This was a half-day affair. First she boiled the chicken, making a rich, tasty broth. Then the chicken had to cool before she could debone it. After cutting up the chicken meat and putting it back in the broth, she made chewy, stick-to-your-rib dumplings that were my favorite part.
Mother died before I thought to get any of her favorite recipes and shortly before I went vegetarian. I eventually came up with a vegan version of this comfort food, Seitan and Dumplings. I combine it in this Heritage and Heirlooms menu with Heirloom Tomato and Herb Salad and Cherry or Pineapple Icebox Pie, which is a pie Mother made at Thanksgiving. I hope you will make it and think of some precious heritage or heirloom you have in your life.
Seitan and Dumplings (V)Heirloom Tomato and Herb Salad (V or LV)Cherry or Pineapple Icebox Pie (LV)
Make the pie the night before or first thing in the morning, as it will need to chill for at least two hours.
Then start on the main event. The first problem to tackle when making Chicken and Dumplings for a vegetarian is, well, the chicken. Since there are basically two main ingredients in this dish, this is a fairly significant issue. Not to be deterred, I experimented with seitan, tofu and tempeh. I settled on seitan, which is a protein source made primarily from vital wheat gluten. Seitan is precooked. For this recipe, I brown it up front, then add it to the broth at the end.
Seitan comes in chunks or strips. Break it apart, then cut any large ones into bite-size pieces.
Brown it and set aside. Sauté the onions, then add water and a bouillon cube or vegetable broth.
Then make the dumplings.
Add them to the Dutch oven. After they have simmered for about 20 minutes, add the seitan and simmer for 10 to 20 more minutes until heated through.
Meanwhile, make the salad. Heirloom tomatoes are often available in orange and yellow as well as red. Different colors make a lovely presentation.
Serve the Seitan and Dumplings in individual bowls, with Heirloom Tomato and Herb Salad on separate salad plates. Follow it up with Cherry or Pineapple Icebox Pie and coffee, while you reminisce about a simpler time.
I was completely befuddled the first time I saw anyone peel a tomato. I saw no need for it, as the peels are not very tough. I then started noticing how tomato peels behave in recipes. They can become chewy or hard, particularly if the recipe is one that is eaten the next day. I came to the realization that there are some cases where peeling them is a very good idea.
The easiest way to peel a tomato is to blanch it first. To do this, put enough water in a sauce pan to cover a tomato, but no higher than 1-½ inches from the top. Bring the water to a boil. I blanch one tomato at a time, particularly if the tomatoes are cold because putting several in the water drops the temperature. You can put up to three in a pan if you extend their time in the boiling water.
Using a slotted spoon, put one tomato into the pan. Leave it in the boiling water for 12 seconds. If the water doesn’t cover the tomato completely, then roll it around during the 12 seconds. If you leave it in too long, the tomato starts cooking and you will get a pretty good layer of flesh off with the skin.
Remove the tomato from the boiling water with the slotted spoon. Immediately dunk it into cold water to stop its cooking.
Then, using a sharp knife, cut a slit in the skin and peel the tomato by catching the skin between your thumb and the knife. The skin should come off very easily.
Put the peeled tomato aside and blanch and peel the rest of them. You can slice or dice them all at once.
I love summer. Everything is green and blooming. We see a large variety of birds and butterflies, all attracted by our flowerbed and surrounding berry patches. This special occasion menu celebrates the beginning of summer.
The first day of summer falls on a Friday this year, so you may need to honor this event a day or two later. This picnic menu will help you launch the glorious days of summer and will work in your backyard or at your favorite park.
Wraps (O, V or LV)Black Bean and Corn Salad (V)Chips (O, V or LV)Chocolate Scotchies (LV)Ice cold watermelon (V)Your favorite beverages
First decide what stuffings you want for the Wraps. If you are going to purchase them at the store, then just add them to your list. If you are going to make some of them, then decide which ones you can make the night before. Garlicky Hummus, Salsa and Tahini Sauce are all good night-before recipes.
Make the Black Bean and Corn Salad the night before. Not only will this save you time on picnic day, it will give the flavors time to blend. The Chocolate Scotchies are also a good night-before recipe. This leaves just Herbed Tofu Scramble and sautéing tempeh and vegetables for picnic day.
The Wraps are a great choice for a picnic. Not only are they easy to transport, each person can customize his Wrap with exactly what he wants. Make them at home, put the assembled wraps in foil or plastic bags and put names on them.
Be sure to pack a large knife to cut the watermelon (yes, this is the voice of experience). Also carry lots of napkins and water. Find a shady spot with enough room nearby for T-ball, baseball, croquet or your favorite outdoor game, then just enjoy!
I needed an appetizer to take to a pool party that would appeal to children, plus was gluten-free, egg-free, nut-free and dairy-free. Whew! I came up with these Pumpkin Mini Scones. They were one of the first things to go. If you don’t have to worry about gluten, try them with King Arthur unbleached white flour.
My first four tries tasted good, but weren’t quite there. The dough was very sticky, so I added flour to it. The result was that the mini scones ended up between dry and chalky. Not very appealing. For the fifth try, I chilled the dough. Made all the difference in the world.
Here is how to make them. For a shorter version and for nutrition information, go to the recipe page.
In a small mixing bowl, put 2-¼ cups gluten-free baking mix, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp ginger, 1 tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp cloves, ½ tsp nutmeg and ¼ tsp salt. Toss lightly with a fork to mix well. Set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, put ¾ cup pumpkin puree, 3 Tbsp brown sugar, 2 Tbsp canola oil, 3 Tbsp molasses and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Stir together until blended. In a separate cup, put ½ tsp baking soda and 1 tsp apple cider vinegar. Stir to ensure it all reacts. Add this to the medium bowl. Stir to mix well. Add the flour mixture, ½ at a time, and stir to mix well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid and put into the refrigerator. Chill for at least one hour.
Thirty minutes before you are ready to bake the scones, preheat your oven to 400°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Here is the trick for the nice, triangular shapes. Lay out a rectangle of parchment paper on the counter. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Press it into a square or rectangle about ½ inch thick. Using a pizza cutter (works MUCH better than a knife), cut a line down the middle. Then cut two more lines parallel to this on each side so you have four rows.
Then cut lines perpendicular to those lines so you have squares or rectangles.
Then cut diagonal lines going one way only, intersecting the corners of the squares or rectangles.
You now have mini triangular scones. Using a table knife, nudge up the corner of each scone and put it on a cookie sheet. You should be able to get all of these on two sheets. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, until just done. Remove from the oven, then remove the scones to racks to cool completely.
For the icing, put 1 cup powdered sugar into a small mixing bowl. Add 1 Tbsp soy milk. Mix thoroughly with a spoon until it is smooth. It will be fairly thick. Spoon the icing into a plastic zipper bag. I use freezer bags since they are sturdy. Lay the bag on the counter and push the icing into one corner. Snip a small piece off the corner of the bag.
To minimize mess, lay parchment paper on the counter (you can likely use the parchment paper from the cookie sheets). Put the cooling racks loaded with scones onto the parchment paper. Squeeze the icing onto each scone.
Serve and watch these get snapped up.
Last year I incorporated a few herbs into our new flowerbeds. This year I dedicated the better part of two sections to herbs. This family portrait shows chives, dillweed, lemon balm, parsley, last year’s cilantro, this year’s cilantro, lambs ear, skullcap, stevia (looking pretty bad), sweet basil, last year’s Italian oregano, this year’s Italian oregano (note to self: see what survived and flourished before buying another one) and, I confess, an unknown. I sent a photo to my two favorite plant ladies to see if they can identify it. You can’t see some of the other herbs from last year: fennel (an interesting black color after surviving several nights below freezing), flat-leafed parsley, thyme and lemon basil (the only basil that survived even a frost). I will keep you posted on how they are doing.
I used some of these herbs routinely. Some I have only used dried, such as oregano. I look forward to discovering the differences between dried and fresh for these. Some I have never used at all and look forward to figuring out their uses.
What is very exciting is that I only need step out my front door to pick a leaf or two. I can’t wait to start using them!
Lisa (aka Veggie Gal)
A friend asked me if I had a recipe for Vegan French Toast. I did not. I volunteered to create one. I confess I did not consider being somewhat handicapped by never having eaten French Toast. I hear the gasps, but it is true. It apparently wasn’t in my mother’s repertoire and it just never occurred to me to order it before I went lacto-vegetarian.
So, before coming up with my own recipe, I decided to do a science experiment. I looked up regular French Toast recipes and all but one had this same ratio of eggs to dairy product: 2 eggs to ½ cup dairy. Dairy product varied from 1% milk to cream. That is a serious number of eggs to milk. So I whipped up two eggs in whole milk to see what consistency I needed to replace. Since I don’t eat eggs, I scrambled my science experiment and gave it to my large dog. He was thrilled at this unexpected bounty.
I needed a thickener. I opted for corn starch. I then looked up vegan French Toast recipes and found none with cornstarch. Most had 2 tablespoons flour per cup of non-dairy milk. A few used bananas. Since I didn’t want the banana taste, I didn’t go that route. I decided to stick with cornstarch (I think it mixes easier than flour for something like this) and, going by the 2:1 flour:cornstarch rule, it should have taken 1 tablespoon cornstarch. That ratio didn’t give me the thickness of the egg/milk combo. So I ended up using 2 tablespoons cornstarch and one cup almond milk.
Most recipes called for mixing this in a shallow bowl, which is then used to dip the bread in. Since I was going to whisk this, a countertop disaster briefly flashed in my head. So I mixed mine in a mixing bowl, then poured it into a pie tin.
The other thing virtually all recipes called for was stale bread. I didn’t have any stale bread, so I let some bread slices sit out for several hours and created some.
Then I was ready to begin.
First I assembled my ingredients. Bread was already out, so that left almond milk, cornstarch, cinnamon and vanilla extract. I mixed 1 tablespoon cornstarch and ½ teaspoon cinnamon together in a small mixing bowl, then whisked in the almond milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. As I mentioned, I didn’t like the consistency, so I ended up whisking in another tablespoon of cornstarch. I poured the liquid mixture into a pie tin.
I put on a large, nonstick frying pan on to warm over medium-high heat. I did not use any oil in the pan because I have fairly new pans that work well without it. You may need to oil your pan. At this heat, a lot of oils will burn, so I recommend misting your pan with a vegetable oil. Or pour a little oil in the pan, then wipe it with a paper towel. The trick is to get the oil evenly distributed.
I soaked the first slice of bread for 30 seconds on each side, then carefully picked it up and put it in the pan. I soaked the second piece and added it to the pan.
After they cooked for a couple of minutes, I edged my spatula under the first slice to see if it was ready to turn. It was and I did. After both slices were done, I put them on a plate and repeated with slices 3 and 4. I made only 4 slices. There was enough liquid for about 6 total.
They looked great!
But how did they taste? Well, I put maple syrup on them, then stood there and ate two slices in about two minutes. One word for them: yummmmm!!
For the recipe with nutrition information, go here.
Could there be happier occasion than a baby shower? Make it even more special with a brunch that will feed everyone. Start with the traditional Sandwich Quarters and add a new Vegetable Antipasto Platter, served plain or add your favorite sauces. For the main dishes, serve a quiche and ham, and side them with potatoes. Satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth with tart cookies and sweet, rich candies.
AppetizersSandwich Quarters (LV)Vegetable Antipasto Platter (V), with your favorite sauces (V or LV)
LunchEggless Broccoli-Cauliflower Quiche (LV)Pan fried or baked ham slices (O)Hash Brown Potatoes (V)
DessertLemon Sugar Cookies (V)Chocolate Peanut Clusters (LV)
Some things store very well, so make them in advance to take some of the pressure off. Make the Chocolate Peanut Clusters the day before, then put them in Ziploc bags. These take about 15 minutes to do, yet everyone will think you spent hours. And that you own a candy thermometer. When it is time for the shower, all you have to do is put them in cute dishes and set around the room.
The same goes for the Lemon Sugar Cookies. Make them either the day before or the morning of the shower. They also store very well in zipper bags.
Finally, make the Cucumber Spread for the Sandwich Quarters the night before. That will give it plenty of time to chill and thicken.
The next morning, assemble the Sandwich Quarters. Put them in a plastic container or cover them with plastic wrap and put them in the refrigerator to ensure they stay fresh. Alternately, you can assemble these last, which will ensure the bread is fresh when you serve them.
Assemble the filling for Eggless Broccoli-Cauliflower Quiche, then cover the bowl and put it in the refrigerator.
Preheat your oven about 1-½ hours before the shower, then dump the contents into the pie crust and put this in the oven when you have about an hour to go. This will be perfect timing for it to bake and set a few minutes before serving.
Next cut up the veggies for the Vegetable Antipasto Platter. The veggies and the hash browns will be on the stove at the same time. Get frozen hash browns—they are easy and good. For the ham, go with fairly thin-sliced deli ham. Heat them whichever way is easier for you. If you have more oven room, heat them there. If it is easier for you to manage three pans on the stove, then go for that.
Line everything up buffet-style and let your guests serve themselves. Set up a separate coffee bar, with an assortment of coffee goodies, such as flavored creamers and assorted sweeteners. Surprise everyone with a carousel holding cinnamon, raw sugar cubes and chocolate chips.
Most importantly, have a comfortable chair reserved for the mom-to-be, with someone designated to wait on her hand and foot. She will love you for it!
A Quinceañera is the Hispanic tradition of celebrating a girl’s 15th birthday. This birthday is celebrated differently from any other birthday, as it recognizes her journey from childhood to young womanhood. Though the celebration varies significantly across countries, one thing they all have in common is a shared meal. This menu will enable guests of all eating ideologies to share in the dinner festivities.
Chicken Taquitos (O)Beef Taquitos (O)
Garden Salad with Ranch Dressing (LV) and Mango Dressing (V)Refried Beans (V)Mexican Rice (V)Spinach Enchiladas (LV)Grilled Beef and Chicken Fajitas (O)Tortillas (V)Sautéed Onions and Sweet Bell Peppers, Chopped Tomato (V)Shredded Lettuce, Diced Onion, Sliced Jalapeno (V)Guacamole and Salsa (V)Grated Cheddar Cheese and Sour Cream (LV)
Sopapillas (V)Wedding Cookies (LV)
Taquitos are a good appetizer, as they are finger foods and therefore easy for your guest to eat while they are milling about. Go simple for these—get frozen chicken and beef taquitos at the grocery store. They can go straight from the oven onto serving dishes.
The Ranch Dressing and Mango Dressing are very quick. Make them early in the day or the night before. Serve them on the side with your garden salad.
You can also put the Spinach Enchiladas together the night before, or in the morning. Put them in the oven about 30 minutes before you want to serve them.
In the meanwhile, dice the tomatoes and mince the onion and pepper for the Mexican Rice. It will only take about 20 minutes to cook once you have everything in the pan, but the preparation takes a little while. The Refried Beans use canned beans and are very quick. Start cooking them when the enchiladas are in the oven and the rice is on the stove.
Make the Salsa anytime. If the night before fits into your schedule better, it will certainly keep.
If you marinate your flank steak and chicken for fajitas, do it early in the day or the night before as well. Fire up the grill a couple of hours before you want to serve—or earlier if you are having a large crowd and are grilling a lot of meat. Cut and sauté the onions and bell peppers on the stove. Chop and shred the accompaniments.
Make the Guacamole last.
If you have a good way to serve piping hot Sopapillas without tying yourself to the stove, then those are a great dessert. Otherwise, make Wedding Cookies the night before. Their crumbly sweetness is a perfect topper for this meal.
Most of all, enjoy your day as your beautiful girl celebrates her coming of age.
Lisa, (aka Veggie Gal)
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Each month we will bring you breakfast, dinner and special occasion menus starring the foods you are already cooking, and featuring tantalizing new vegetarian dishes to appeal to everyone.