Why I Am Posting These Recipes

I believe that it is healthier for an individual and for the planet to reduce the consumption of animal products in the human diet. However, I love to eat all kinds of delicious food, and find it really, really difficult to go totally vegetarian. Also, my family protests if I serve too many vegetarian meals in a row. So I am committed to making an effort to move towards a vegetarian diet without wholly doing so. I will post recipes several times a week that represent my philosophy of eating well, eating healthy, eating local. Most recipes will be easy to prepare, as I have a busy life. So I expect my followers to be people who love to cook and eat well, want to try to help the planet through their eating (by eating local foods and trying to reduce the use of meat in our diets), and have many other things to do each day besides cook.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Yellow Squash Casserole (Vegan)

Summer brings yellow squash, one of my favorite vegetables when locally grown and fresh.  The smaller ones are sweeter and more tender than the larger ones, so I like to choose small squash at the farmers' market or farmstand.  One of my favorite ways to prepare it is a custard casserole that has dill, goat cheese and eggs.  I wanted to see if I could adapt the recipe into a vegan version, because by eating plant-based foods and reducing my consumption of animal products I am doing a little bit to help the planet.  Animal farming contributes more to environmental degradation than plant farming does, especially when practiced on a large scale.  A lot of material I have read recently also says that a plant-based diet is healthier, so I am trying to limit my consumption of animal products for that reason, also.  
To adapt the original recipe, I substituted silken tofu, nutritional yeast, ume plum vinegar, and maple syrup for eggs, milk, goat cheese, and sugar.  I wasn't sure how well it would work, as I am unfamiliar with cooking with nutritional yeast and ume plum vinegar, but I have read that these ingredients can enhance the flavor of dishes in a nice way, and that nutritional yeast has a cheesey flavor.  I also have seen various "quiche" type of recipes that use silken tofu instead of eggs.  I thought maple syrup might add a nice sweet flavor to complement the tang of the vinegar and nutritional yeast.  I was very pleased with the result.  I think I like this even better than the goat cheese and egg version!  I found myself scraping the ramekin with my fork to get every last morsel.  The nutritional yeast, ume plum vinegar and dill combine to make a slightly tangy flavor that makes me want more.  I think this might be what they call "umami."  This is pretty quick and simple.  You can make it in a larger casserole dish, but using these smaller vessels allows you to save leftovers in a way that will present itself at the next meal as freshly made.  If you decide to make the casserole in a single vessel, just bake it a little longer.  

4 small yellow squash, sliced into rounds
1 small yellow onion, diced
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
11.5 ounce package silken tofu
¼ cup nutritional yeast
¼ cup corn meal
handful of fresh dill, chopped (equivalent of about 2 TBS)
1 TBS ume plum vinegar
1 TBS maple syrup

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (or 375 degrees convection bake).  Put yellow squash and onion in saucepan with water to cover.  Add salt to taste.  Bring to boil and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes, until squash is tender enough to mash with a fork.  Drain squash and onions (reserve broth for another cooking use that requires vegetable broth) and transfer to a bowl.  Add tofu, nutritional yeast, corn meal, dill, ume plum vinegar, and maple syrup.  Mash all together with a fork.  Grind black pepper over all and mash together some more.  Transfer mixture to individual ramekins or small loaf pans that have been coated with coconut oil.  Bake for approximately 30 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.  Serves 4-5.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Rustic and Super Easy Jam Tart—With Homemade Jam in Breadmaker

One of my good friends sometimes invites me over for morning coffee and something yummy that she has baked.  Once she made a delicious jam tart that lingers in my memory, often in the morning while I am drinking coffee and wishing that I had a piece of jam tart to eat with it.  I searched for easy recipes and could not find anything that could just be whipped up at the last minute, with little effort.  Most pastry recipes require refrigerating the dough, which takes too much time for a last-minute decision to bake something that I want to eat soon.  So I developed my own recipe, using approximate proportions that I read in other recipes and substituting ingredients that I feel might be more wholesome and nutritious than those called for in other peoples’ recipes, and using my own techniques for simplicity. 

I happened to have some strawberry jam on hand which I recently made with my breadmaker, so I will start by telling you how to make that.  Now, with summer firmly underway, we can pick or buy fresh berries in abundance.  Quick—before they go bad in your refrigerator—make some jam!  Then use the jam for the jam tart some morning.  And be as kind to the planet as possible when procuring your ingredients.  Picking the fruit yourself, or purchasing it from a local source, is best of all.  Consider the energy used to get the fruit from the farm to your kitchen, most likely dominated by fuel required to transport it.  The closer you live to the source the better.  The fruit will taste better if it is local, too, as it is probably fresher and picked when ripe that way.  Nutrients are lost as time passes after produce is picked, so the fresher it is the better for your health.

Strawberry Jam in Breadmaker (Don’t be intimidated, as it only takes about 5 minutes of prep time!):

3 ½ cups fresh strawberries, hulled and coarsely crushed with a potato masher or fork (substitute any fresh berries)

Lemon juice squeezed from ½ lemon

3 3/4 TBS powdered fruit pectin

1 cup sugar

Put crushed berries and lemon juice in bread pan and sprinkle fruit pectin over all.  Let sit 10 minutes.  Add sugar.  Program breadmaker for jam cycle and press start.  Let jam sit in breadmaker for about 15 minutes after cycle ends, then transfer into clean jars and let cool on counter before putting lids on and refrigerating.  Keeps in refrigerator for about 2 months.

Dough for Jam Tart:

1 stick (8 TBS) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cups coconut sugar
zest from 1 lemon
1 2/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 pinches salt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees (or 325 degrees convection bake).  Cream butter and sugar together until well-blended.  Stir in lemon zest.  Add pastry flour and salt and mix well.  Add egg and vanilla and mix well.  When you can form dough into a ball, put in middle of parchment paper.  Rub some flour onto a rolling pin and roll dough into roughly a 7”-8” circle on parchment paper.  Allow the dough to be thick enough so that you can fold it inward without it falling apart.  Spoon into the center of the dough circle about a jar of jam and spread it evenly towards the edge, leaving a couple of inches of dough around the edge so that you can fold the dough inward over the jam.  Using a flat spatula, fold the edges of the dough carefully towards the center, leaving jam exposed in the center.  If it breaks a little, use your fingers to carefully smooth out the dough in that area.  Bake for about a half hour, until golden brown.  Serves 8.