Monday, December 31, 2012

Basil Tofu Ricotta

Traditionally at Christmas my family will make a big pan of lasagna for dinner. The thought behind it is that it is a day for the family to spend together and it is really hard to do that when you are trying to cook a turkey or ham and all of the fixings. This tradition has been great until this year when I found that I am allergic to the most delicious part of lasagna! In June I got really sick and after a visit to the allergist we found out that I am allergic to dairy. Really sucks when you like ice cream, cheese, yogurt, chocolate milk. Not wanting my family to miss out on our yearly tradition I did some research for tofu ricotta recipes and once I found one that I liked I went to work on changing it to where I would love it! Happy to report that below is the recipe that I came up with and we still got to celebrate our tradition albeit with 2 different pans of lasagna. Happy New Year!

  • 1 pound firm tofu, pressed
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground sea salt
  • 1 dash ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon freeze dried basil
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Parma Vegan Parmesan Cheese
1. To press tofu put it in a dish with a couple of paper towels under and on top of it.  I put one of my medium sized glass mixing bowls on it for about 20-25 minutes.  After about 10 minutes change the paper towels.  Trust me you will want to do this because they will be soaked.
To press tofu put in dish w/ couple paper towels under & on top & place bowl on top. Let sit for 20-25 mins. Might have to change paper towels part of way through. 

2.  In a large bowl, mash tofu with your hands until crumbly.

In a large bowl, mash tofu with your hands until crumbly.

3.  Add lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano & basil.

Add lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano & basil.

4.  Mix well with hands until it reaches the consistency of ricotta.

Mix well with hands until it reaches the consistency of ricotta.

5.  Add olive oil & stir with a fork.

Add olive oil & stir w/ a fork.

6.  Add Parma and mix all ingredients with a fork.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Add parma & mix all ingredients w/ a fork. Cover & refrigerate until ready to use.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Dark Chocolate Cake

My sister asked me if I could make her a dairy-free chocolate cake for her birthday.  The biggest challenge I had when I set out looking for a chocolate cake recipe was finding one that didn't require butter and milk.  It took me a week or two of searching and playing before I found one that I really liked and knew that I could change to fit my needs.  My dark chocolate cake was adapted from Beatty's Chocolate Cake recipe from the Food Network.

The one thing that had scared me was that I had never attempted a substitution on a recipe that called for buttermilk.  I now know that 1 cup unsweetened canned coconut milk and 4 tsp of apple cider vinegar will do the job.  I found that using unsweetened canned coconut milk (full fat, not light) works better than any other milk alternative.  I tried before to cook with almond milk but because of its strong taste it overwhelmed the taste of whatever I was making.

So after figuring out my substitutions for the cake I next had to figure out the icing.  You try and find a cake icing that doesn't have a lot of sugar or butter in it.  It is not easy and at one point I almost thought of getting a tub of store bought icing.  Don't ask me how I did it but somehow I stumbled upon a recipe for Paleo Chocolate Icing.  I had to make a trip to our local MOM's, I love this place so much I'm there every weekend, to get some of the ingredients for the icing and that is when I found the most amazing thing.  I found out that there is a chocolate bar for those of us that can't eat dairy and guess what?  It tastes amazing!!!!  The wonderful chocolate bar that I chose for my icing was the Chocolate Dream bar in Dark Chocolate.

This is an amazing cake but I have to warn you of one thing.  Even after letting the cake sit for 10 minutes after baking before flipping it onto a plate and my cake stand it was still steaming.  I would make this cake the day before you need it because it does take a while for it to cool.  Also don't make the icing until about you are ready to use it and don't leave it in the fridge for too long.  I kind of had to heat it up a little so that I could whip it.  And since the cake was still a little on the warm side the icing started to melt on the one side.  I did my best to fix it but in the end decided to live with it.

This cake was a lot of fun to make especially since i had my assistant baker/knight/cake guard/Christmas Caroler assisting me.

Rambo can't deny that she is his little girl!  besides watching the cake bake she was also singing,
 " you see what I see baking in the oven, do you smell what I smell baking in the oven..."

Dark Chocolate Cake
adapted from Beatty's Chocolate Cake recipe

PAM Original Cooking Spray (to grease both round cake pans)
1 3/4 cups Unbleached All Purpose flour
2 cups Sugar
3/4 cup Hershey's Dark Chocolate Cocoa Powder (or Dutch Cocoa Powder if you don't like dark chocolate)
2 tsps Baking Soda
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1 can unsweetened coconut milk (do not use light)
4 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup Freshly brewed hot coffee

1.  Preheat oven to to 350* and spray 2 round 8-in x 2-in cake pans and set aside.  In a large bowl mix together all dry ingredients.

2.  To make dairy-free buttermilk add 4 tsp apple cider vinegar to 1 cup of unsweetened canned coconut milk and let sit for 10 minutes.

3.  In another bowl mix together all wet ingredients.

4.  With a mixer on slow speed add wet ingredients, except for the coffee, to the dry.  With mixer still on low add coffee and stir until just combined.

5.  Pour cake batter into greased cake pans and bake for 30-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in cake comes out clean.

6.  When cakes are done put on a cooling rack and set timer for 10 minutes.  After timer goes off flip cakes onto two plates to finish cooling.  Trust me this cake takes quite a while to cool.  I thought it was cool, still steaming after an hour, and started to ice it after and hour and a half and well it started melting.  So do yourself a favor and make sure it is definitely cool!

Chocolate Icing 
adapted from Elana's Pantry

1 Chocolate Dream Dark Chocolate Bar
3/4 cup Enjoy Life Mini Chocolate Chips or Chocolate Dream Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1/3 cup Unrefined Coconut Oil
1 tbsp Vanilla Extract

1.  For icing melt both the chocolate bar and chocolate chips in a double boiler.  Make sure to stir constantly so the chocolate does not burn!!  The reason I had to use chocolate chips and the chocolate bar is because for some reason I figured the chocolate bar alone would be enough but after melting it I went oops and had to check my pantry for what I had to add to it.

Yummy dark chocolate bar!!!!
Alas, I needed more chocolate!
2.  Once the chocolate is melted add the coconut oil and vanilla and stir well. Put chocolate mix in the fridge for 15 minutes.  Don't let it sit in there too long or else it will harden and then you will have to heat it up a little just  to whip it.

3.With an electric mixer on low whip the chocolate until it thick and fluffy.

4.  After making sure the cake is cool frost!  If you don't make sure it is cool you are going to get a little melty look like I had.  Still tastes amazing but not as pretty if you wait for it to be totally cool!

5. Slice, pour nice glass of almond milk, sit back and enjoy!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Easy Chicken and Dumplings

After the dumplings are done remove the pot from heat & stir in chicken & peas & carrots. I like to serve it with toasted italian bread.

Having to go dairy-free can really be challenging at times.  I don't know how many dishes that I really really love that I have had to either give up or find work arounds for.  I've had to give up lasagne, stuffed shells, and ravioli's.  If you could only see my keyboard you would see the tear stains on it from having to type those precious words.  I've dairy-free cheeses and Daiya isn't bad but it's not the same as the real stuff.  Browsing through blogs one day I found a great recipe for old fashioned chicken and dumplings and my mouth was watering just from the picture.  Well, as the story of my life has been going lately I looked at the ingredients and found that it milk and butter were two of the ingredients in the dumplings.

I didn't tell my family but I decided to experiment on them.  In my house that happens a lot but I'm just smart enough not to let tell them what I'm doing.  I grew up in a house with a father that wasn't too keen on being used as a guinea pig.  So I've learned it's better to keep your mouth shut and feel really good when they start to praise you on how delicious dinner is.

For this recipe I got a little help from a great book called The Complete Guide to Vegan Substitutions by Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman.  One of the dairy substitutions that she lists for heavy whipping cream and whole milk is a can of unsweetened coconut milk and for the butter Earth Balance vegan butter sticks.  I used both and it was AMAZING!!!  My biggest fear was that the taste of the coconut milk would be noticeable and thankfully that wasn't the case.

The one thing that I will warn you about is that even though it is a pretty quick recipe, you can use a pre-cooked roast chicken, the most time consuming part of this recipe is cutting up the dumplings.  But it is well worth it because this is super yummy!!!  The original recipe can be found on the Tasty Kitchen blog.

Chicken & Dumplings (Dairy-Free version)
8 Servings

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 pinch salt
2 tbsp Earth Balance Non-dairy butter sticks
1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
2 quarts chicken broth
2 whole cooked chickens (meat removed)
2 cans peas and carrots cooked and drained

1.  In a large mixing bowl add the flour and baking powder.  Using a pastry blender or two forks cut the Earth Balance butter sticks into the flour until the dough looks crumbly.
In a bowl mix together flour & baking powder & then cut in Earth Balance using pastry blender or two forks. 

2.  Next mix in 1 cup canned unsweetened full fat coconut milk and a pinch of salt.
Add coconut milk & pinch of salt. This would be a good time to pour chicken broth into a stockpot & bring to a boil over med-high heat.

3.  On a well floured counter and rolling pin roll out dough, the more flour you use the better and don't worry it will help thicken the broth.
Heavily flour counter & roll out dough to about 1/2" thick. Using a pastry cutter, pizza cutter or a knife cut dough into small squares.

3.  In a large stockpot, over medium heat, add all of the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  In a separate pot cook the peas and carrots.

4.  Using a pastry cutter, pizza cutter or knife cut the dough into little squares.  Using a spatula, or the blade of a pastry cutter, layer the cut dumplings on a heavily floured plate.  And remember don't go easy on the flour between the layers!  In this instance more is better!
My little helpers job was to put the dumplings we cut onto a floured plate. Add flour between layers otherwise they will stick. Don't worry about using too much flour because it will thicken the soup.
My little helper whose job was to take the dumplings I had cut and
put them on the floured plate.

5.  Once the broth is at a boil start dropping the dumplings with the flour into the stockpot and cook all dumplings for, stirring gently, for 15-20 minutes or until they are no longer dough tasting.
Add dumplings one at a time to boiling broth & cook for 15-20 minutes or until the dumplings don't taste doughy. Make sure you stir it so the dumplings don't stick.

6.  Next add the cooked chicken and vegetables and mix well.
After the dumplings are done remove the pot from heat & stir in chicken & peas & carrots. I like to serve it with toasted italian bread.

7.  Finally enjoy!!!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Spicy Sausage Stuffed Peppers

One of my family favourites are stuffed green peppers.  I think what got me to make them was the fact that my neighbour/taste tester has been bugging me for the past 2 or 3 weeks to make stuffed peppers one of his most favourite dishes.  I don't know about you but before going grocery shopping each week I put together a menu along with my shopping list. D, my neighbor/taste tester, is always helping us with some sort of project and I had found out that his parents were going to be out-of-town for the weekend and decided that he wasn't going to be eating alone on Saturday night.  

I had dinner in the oven and asked Rambo to text D to let him know that dinner was going to be ready soon and that he should come over.  Now I should let you know that MJ and I were the only ones who knew what dinner was going to be and that was because she was with me when I went grocery shopping and told me I don't know how many times that she doesn't like green peppers or onions.  According to MJ they are gross and she doesn't want to eat them!  Thank good for Applegate Farms chicken nuggets.  I bet Rambo that I could get D to come over so I sent him a text that said "stuffed peppers will be ready in 20 minutes your invited to dinner" and not even a minute later he replied "ok thank u".  He was over about 5 minutes later ready for dinner.

The great thing about my stuffed pepper recipe was is that when I had to get rid of dairy in my diet the only change I had to make to this recipe was to remove the shredded cheese that I usually melted on top.  I've found that by skipping the cheese that I used put on food that I've been missing out on some really good flavors.  But of course on a couple of things, mostly restaurant food, I figured out why they put so much cheese on the food and that's because without it the stuff isn't edible.  Needless to say I've cut back big time on eating out!

Serves 7

7 green bell peppers
1/4 cup fresh cilantro (measurement was before it was chopped because I forgot to measure afterwards)
1 lb ground sausage
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic (have I mentioned we love garlic)
1 1/2 tsp McCormick Gourmet Chipotle Chili powder
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tsp grape seed oil
1 1/2 cups brown rice
3 cups water

1.  In a saucepan add the water and rice and let soak for 20 minutes.  While rice is soaking cut the tops off of the green peppers and remove the seeds and place them in a casserole dish.  After rice is done soaking put it on high until it comes to a boil and then cover and let cook for 20 minutes or until the water has been absorbed.  

2.  Preheat oven to 375*.  While the rice is cooking you can go ahead and brown the sausage breaking it up while cooking it. In a small pan over medium heat add grapeseed oil, onions and minced garlic and cook stirring occasionally until onions are translucent.  

3.  Once rice is finished cooking mix thoroughly rice, sausage, onions, and seasonings and fill the green peppers with the rice mix.  Place them into a casserole dish and fill 1/4 of the way with water and cover with foil.

4.  Cook for about 25 minutes in the oven or until the skin starts to get that crinkly look at the top.  I know it seems like a lot of work but it is well worth it!!!!!!  These are so filling that I usually serve with a small salad and maybe some crusty bread.

Before going into oven

Come on guys let me get the picture first!!!!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Beef and Veggie Stir Fry

I love one pot meals and one of the easiest ones that I have come to love is stir fry.  You take meat, veggies and some seasoning and you have dinner.  Depending on my mood and what I have in the pantry I will either make some rice in the rice cooker or cook up some spaghetti.  Either way it makes an easy meal!  This is the first time that I made this one and it was great I think the only thing I will change next time is instead of using the crushed red pepper flakes I am going to get dried chilli peppers like what I use when I make General Tso's.  For those following a gluten-free diet make sure that you pick up Tamari which is a gluten-free soy sauce.  I use San-J which can be found at most health food stores or stores with a gluten-free section.  Having had regular soy sauce and tamari I think the tamari has a richer flavor than regular soy sauce.  The great thing about this stir fry is you can change out the type of meat or omit the meat or even use different veggies and it will still be good.

Beef and Veggie Stir Fry

2 cups cooked brown rice
2 lbs beef round strips for stir fry
2- 8 oz cans sliced water chestnuts, drained
2- 16 oz cans young corn, drained (cut each ear into 3 pieces and then cut each piece in half)
2 green bell peppers, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1/4 cup Tamari Gluten-Free Soy Sauce
1 cup vegetable broth
2 tbsp crushed red pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced

Coat the inside of wok with 1 tbsp vegetable oil and cook minced garlic on medium heat for 30 seconds-1 minute.

Add green and red peppers and cook for about 7 minutes or until slightly softened.  Remove the peppers from wok and set aside.  I do this because my family doesn't like the peppers to be crunchy and I makes the whole thing cook faster.
Add stir fry meat to wok and cook for about 6 minutes or until meat is no longer pink.  Return peppers to wok and add tamari.  Mix well and cook for an additional minute.

Add remaining ingredients and mix well.  Cover and cook for 20 minutes stirring occasionally or until vegetables are soft and meat is cooked.  Water chestnuts should be tender but not mushy or crunchy.

After cooking covered for 10 minutes.

After cooking covered for 20 minutes.

Apple Cobbler

If you haven't noticed I have a sweet tooth!  It's not a good thing especially for someone who is trying to watch her weight but I'll admit it that I love my sweets.  One desert that I have always loved but hate how time consuming that it can be to make is cobbler.  I have no problem with the filling it's just that I hate making crust.  I buy pre-made pie crust or I will make a cookie crust before you will catch me making a regular pie crust.  So for this recipe I decided to make a cobbler with a strudel consistency.  And nothing is better than serving it warm with a little non-dairy vanilla ice cream.

For the apple filling I used the filling that I use for apple pie as well as baked apples.  Before we sat down to dinner last night I put the cobbler in the oven and MJ asked what it was and I told her that it was her baked apples with a crust on top.  That probably wasn't a good idea because she kept asking for baked apples with her dinner.  I told her that it had to cook and she could have some later so of course the persistent 4 yr old that she is started asking if she was a good girl and ate all of her dinner could she have some baked apples?  Did I mention that one of her favorite side dishes or desserts are baked apples or homemade apple sauce?  This is a really easy dish that is great as a desert after family dinner or as a pot luck dish.  Tastes good warm or cold right out of the refrigerator.  The crust would go good with any type of fruit mix that you want to do.

1 (3 lb) bag of gala apples, peeled and cored
1 package of Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry (amazing thing is this is dairy-free!!)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark it is all up to your particular taste.  I used both and both are good.)
1 tbsp Ground Cinnamon (or to taste, I really like cinnamon)
1/2 tbsp Ground Nutmeg
1 egg, beaten (this is for egg wash to go on crust)

Preheat oven to 400*

Mix all ingredients except egg and puff pastry in a mixing bowl.  Pour apple mixture into a 9x9 deep baking dish. 

Unroll and put on top of mix one sheet of puff pastry and brush top of pastry with egg.

Bake for 30 minutes or until crust is golden and apples are fork tender.

I couldn't find my deep baking dish so I used a shallow casserole dish and had to use 1 1/4 sheets of puff pastry.  Found my baking dish after I put the cobbler in the oven.

One Pot Oven Beef Stew

I've never really been a fan of stew. I've always been turned off by how strong the beef taste was and how at times the meat could be so tough. I hate excluding a food without trying to find a way to fix what I don't like. Well with this recipe I think I have found a former hated dish is now a really liked dish. Stew is a easy one pot meal as long as you have an oven-proof dutch oven.  I hate doing dishes and I like the way that the different ingredients enhance each other's tastes when they are cooked together. Okay so this a mostly one pot meal since you need to pull out another pot to cook the egg noodles. But trust me it is well worth it!!

5 large red potatoes, diced
1- 16 oz bag of baby carrots
1 onion, chopped
2 1/2 lbs lean stew meat
2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp Emeril Essence
salt and pepper, to taste
1 bag No Yolks dutch egg noodles or GF noodles

Preheat oven to 375*.

In a oven-proof dutch on medium add live oil, stew meat, salt, pepper and Emeril Essence. Cook stew meat until no longer pink on the outside. This is searing the meat it helps to keep in the juices!

Add diced potatoes and onions and mix thoroughly.

Next add baby carrots and vegetable broth and mix thoroughly.

Cover oven-proof dutch oven an cook in oven for 1 hour until stew meat is no longer pink in the middle. If the vegetables aren't really tender don't worry because you are going to, with the cover still on, let the stew sit on top of the stove for 25-30 minutes. I did this because I forgot to turn the water on for the egg noodles and the stew sat in my cast iron dutch oven for about 30 minutes and thankfully it kept the food hot an finished cooking the vegetables which came out melt in your mouth tender.

When there are about 30 minutes remaining for the stew to cook boil the water for the egg noodles or your choice of GF noodles and cook according to package directions.

Roast Veggie Pot Roast

I believe in the concept of the traditional family Sunday dinner.  This week I am making my Roast Veggie Pot Roast.  I always try to get a pot roast that is big enough for pot roast sandwiches for lunch the next day.

3 lb boneless chuck roast
2 potatoes, cut up
1 onion, cut up
2 handfuls baby carrots
2 cups vegetable broth
Sea Salt and pepper, to taste
Emeril Essence, to taste
2 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 350*.

I always have to trim the large chunk of fat off of the bottom of the roast otherwise I hear about it from the darling husband.

Rub roast with sea salt, pepper and Emeril Essence.

In an oven proof dutch oven on medium heat pour little olive oil and brown all sides of the roast.  (cook each side until brown 1 -2 minutes).

After you have browned the roast put the onions under the roast.

Next add potatoes, baby carrots and vegetable broth.  You can use beef broth but I find it has such a strong taste.  While vegetable broth acts in more of a complimentary role and enhances the flavor of the roast.

4.  Cook roast in oven until roast is 170*.  I usually check it after 1 hour and if it is not done continue to cook and check every 30 minutes.

Roast after 1 hour of cooking
When the roast is done remove roast and vegetables from pot and put in serving dishes.

Dinner is ready!!!
6.  In a measuring cup dissolve 1 tsp of cornstarch in 1/4 cup warm water.  Pour cornstarch mix into the dutch oven with the roast drippings and cooked vegetable stock.  Bring the mix to a simmer while wisking the gravy until it reaches desired thickness.  If you need to add more cornstarch add it slowly so that no lumps will form.

MJ's Great Nana's French Toast

When I was a kid and when we visited my grandmother there was no greater breakfast treat than when she would make french toast.  Even though my dad knew the recipe and would make it every once in a while it just didn't taste the same as when my Nana would make it.  Thankfully my dad taught me the recipe and I now make it for MJ whenever I get a chance and I am proud to say that she loves much as I did as a kid.  You tell her that she is getting french toast and the singing starts and the proclamations that you are the best ever or that this is the best day ever starts.  Hum, might need to make some this weekend.

1/2 loaf wheat bread
4 eggs or egg substitute
1/4 cup non-dairy milk of choice
2 twists of pepper grinder
2 twists of the salt grinder
1/4 stick of Earth Balance non-dairy butter melted
Plus more Earth Balance to grease pan

Preheat electric griddle to 350*.  In a bowl mix together egg, non-dairy milk, pepper, salt, and melted Earth Balance.  Dip bread in egg mix and place on griddle.  Cook each side for approximately 2 mins each or until egg is cooked and bread is golden.

I like to sprinkle each slice with some ground cinnamon and then top with a little pure maple syrup.

Peanut Butter Brownies

Another victory mama!!

I love brownies and in my quest to make the perfect brownie and I love, but can't have any more, Reese's peanut butter cups.  While going through the pantry looking for some cupcake liners I found a bag of Reese's peanut butter chips.  

I don't know about you but a bag of peanut butter chips just begs to be baked into something with chocolate.  So I decided to make a pan of brownies and instead of adding coconut I added the peanut butter chips.  They were really really good and didn't even last 24 hours!  It was a good thing that I made them when my assistant chef was in bed because I at least got to have two pieces before she got to them. 

If I had any left I would be heating one up and then topping with a scoop of Vanilla Bean Hempmilk ice cream and some coconut milk whipped cream.  Yeah I know, my sweet tooth is acting up big time!  Unfortunately I don't have any hempmilk ice cream or brownies but I do have some chocolate coconut milk ice cream and a can of coconut milk in the fridge.  So I think I'll have some ice cream tonight.

These brownies are easy and very delicious.  Enjoy!!


1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup Reese's peanut butter chips

1.  Preheat oven to 350*.  Grease a baking pan, couldn't find my round cake pan so I used a loaf pan, or line it with parchment paper.

2.  In a medium bowl, mix together the oil, sugar, and vanilla.

3.  In another bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.

4.  Gradually combine the flour mix into the egg mixture until well blended and then fold in peanut butter chips.

mmmm!! peanut butter & chocolate!!

5.  Pour into the greased pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from edges of pan.  Let cool on wire rack before cutting into squares.