Thursday, March 22, 2007

Creamless Cream of Cauliflower Soup

This recipe is adapted from Feast Without Yeast by Bruce Semon.

I usually make it with just cauliflower and potatoes, but sometimes I'll add an onion or some red bell pepper. The original recipe called for adding an optional mild poblano pepper. If you can't tolerate nightshades, try substituting one or two large yucca (cassava) roots for the potatoes.

1 large head of cauliflower
About 5 medium red potatoes
1 tablespoon additive-free salt (kosher salt or unrefined sea salt)
Enough water to cover
Optional add-ins of your choice (onions, leeks, peppers, herbs and spices, ham or other meat, dill, etc.)

Wash cauliflower and cut it into about 1" or smaller pieces. If you want to add something like an onion, cut it up and cook it with or just before the cauliflower.

In a large soup pot, saute the cauliflower over medium-low heat with a tablespoon or two of oil. Cook the cauliflower, stirring frequently, until tender.

Meanwhile, wash and peel potatoes and cut into small cubes. When the cauliflower is tender, add the potatoes and enough water to cover the vegetables by an inch or two. I used 10 cups of water last time I made the soup. Stir in the tablespoon of salt, bring to a boil and then simmer until the potatoes are tender.

Allow the soup to cool enough to safely work with, then use a blender or immersable handheld blender to puree the soup until there are no lumps in it. Add more water if desired to make it as thick or as thin as you like. It will thicken a bit as it cools.

Add black pepper, dill, or whatever seasonings you like and reheat to serve. If you want to put cooked meat (or tofu for a vegan version) in your soup, add it at this point too. I haven't tried it, but I imagine a splash of cream or a topping of cheese would be delicious if you can tolerate dairy.

This soup refrigerates well and is even better the next day.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

French Onion Soup

This recipe is really easy, and so very delicious. It's a great way to use the leftover broth from making Crock Pot Roast.

You need:

2-4 onions
4-8 cups beef broth or soup stock
Salt and pepper to taste

I use about 1 part onions to 2 parts beef broth, but the proportions are flexible. You want enough onions to make a soup with some body, and enough broth to cover the onions by an inch or more.

Slice or coarsely chop the onions. Cook them over medium-low heat with the oil in the bottom of a soup pot, stirring frequently until tender. Add beef broth or soup stock, bring to a boil, and then simmer until the flavors are blended and the onions are soft and translucent. Add salt and pepper to taste if desired. Serve and enjoy!

I usually add about 1 tsp salt and 1/8 to 1/4 tsp pepper, but if the broth was salty you may not need to add more salt.

Crock Pot Roast

This recipe is so quick and easy to put together in the crock pot, and then you can let it cook all day until the meat is tender and falling apart.

You can cook other types of meat the same way, but I usually use beef. The crock pot is a particularly good way to cook grassfed beef, as it stays more juicy and tender when cooked longer at a lower temperature.

It's great to eat as a roast, or you can shred it for other recipes or use it as lunchmeat in sandwiches. Sometimes I'll even put the roast in the crock pot the night before and then it's ready for sandwiches by lunch time.

When cooking a roast this way, the water becomes a rich broth in the slow cooker with the meat. You can use the broth as au jus for French Dip sandwiches, thicken it for gravy, or use it as soup stock. It's great to boil down for bullion cubes, too--just simmer it in an open pot until it's about half to a quarter of the original volume, then freeze in ice cube trays. You may wish to strain the broth to get out the rosemary leaves, and be sure to remove the tough bay leaf.

I vary the seasonings and sometimes add vegetables such as carrots, potatoes and celery. Some people like to add a tablespoon or two of an acid such as apple cider vinegar, lemon juice or red wine. Many cookbooks recommend that you brown the roast before slow-cooking it to lock in the juices and give a nice color and flavor, but I never do. I just plop the raw roast in the crock pot, throw in some spices and water (I rarely measure), and turn it on.

Easy Crock Pot Roast

Place in the crock pot:

1 beef roast (any size that will fill your crock pot at least halfway will do, but I usually use about a 4 lb. roast)

Sprinkle over and around the roast:

2 or 3 cloves garlic (or 1 tsp garlic powder)
1 tsp. rosemary
1 tsp. thyme
1 bay leaf (optional)
Salt to taste (I usually put in somewhere between a teaspoon and a tablespoon, I would guess)
1/2 to 1 medium onion (optional)

Add enough water or beef broth to just cover the roast. If you're using a small roast, use enough water to fill your crock pot at least 2/3 full, as it won't cook evenly otherwise.

Turn the crock pot on low and cook for about 8 to 12 hours.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Matzo Cookies

Here's a Kosher Pareve cookie recipe I worked up using some of the corn/soy/dairy-free Kosher for Passover products available this time of year. I modified my mom's famous chewy oatmeal cookie recipe, using crushed matzo (also spelled matza, matzoh, or matzah, or in Hebrew מַצָּה maṣṣā) crackers instead of oats.

If you need a Kosher for Passover recipe, substitute matzo meal for the flour and K for P sugar or honey for the brown sugar. You may need to add a tablespoon or more extra flour if using a liquid sweetener, and the texture won't be the same.

I also tried the recipe with 2 tablespoons less margarine (6 tablespoons total) and 1/2 cup brown sugar with 1/4 cup honey. That worked fine although the texture and flavor weren't quite as good.

Matzo Cookies

1/2 cup Kosher for Passover Pareve margarine (I used Mother's brand regular salted margarine)
3/4 cup brown sugar (C & H is corn-free, pure cane sugar)
1 egg

1 cup flour (I used King Arthur White Whole Wheat)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. additive-free salt (kosher salt or unrefined sea salt)

2 large matzo crackers, coarsely crushed (makes almost 1 cup of crumbs)

1/2 to 1 cup of your favorite cookie mix-in (optional)
1/2 tsp. flavoring of your choice (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Crush the Matzos. I broke mine in quarters and put them in a sandwich bag, then pounded the bag with a blunt object (the bottom of my sea salt canister) to crush them.

Cream together margarine and sugar. Add egg and mix well. If you wish to add a safe vanilla or another liquid flavoring, stir this into the wet ingredients with the egg.

In separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt. If you are adding cinnamon or another dry flavoring, add it to the dry mixture.

Add dry ingredients to sugar mixture and stir just until blended. Mix in the matzo crumbs. If desired, stir in your favorite cookie mix-in (i.e. raisins, baking chips, candy, dried fruit or nuts).

Drop in small spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven while they still look soft and shiny in the center for cookies with a chewy texture; they will continue to cook a bit after you take them out of the oven. I baked mine for just 8 minutes and immediately removed them from the pan to a cooling rack.

Makes about 30 cookies.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Easy homemade shortening substitute

I've found a great solution for a shortening/butter substitute.

Take your favorite vegetable oil and FREEZE it!

It will get thicker and thicker, and eventually solidifies into something about the texture of refrigerated butter. If you work quickly with cold ingredients and utensils, you can cut it in with two knives (a pastry cutter probably wouldn't be strong enough) before it melts. (Note: Liz suggests grating it with a cheese grater, which sounds like an even better idea.)

If you just put it in the freezer for 30 minutes or a few hours, it will just be thicker colder oil, but it still works pretty well if you just quickly and lightly mix it in with a utensil or your fingertips, and avoid overmixing.

I haven't tried a pie crust yet, but it makes lovely flaky biscuits and crackers.