Fig + Plum Pie

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When I went to my parents’ house to pick their ridiculously abundant fig tree(s), all I could see making was fig pie. But of course, my parents, being of little faith, told me it could not be done. “Have you seen a fig? They don’t stay fresh. They just get smashed. They bruise. You can’t use them in a pie.” (Seriously, ye parents of little faith). My hope didn’t wane when I searched the interweb only to discover that fresh fig pie is definitely not a real thing. The one recipe I did find used dried figs as opposed to fresh figs. But I firmly believe that it can be done, and that it will be utterly delicious. So my attempt at breaking the fig-to-pie barrier is here (I decided to add some plums too):

 

The Recipe:

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Two 9-inch pie crusts

2–3 tbsp arrowroot

juice of 1 lemon

2 tsp vanilla extract

dash brandy to taste 

4 plums, diced

about 20 fresh figs, halved

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 tbsp sour cream

2 tbsp butter

1 tbsp flour to thicken

generous 1/4 tsp cinnamon

dash of mace

dash of sea salt

 

Directions: Melt butter in pan and add the figs and plums. Top with sugar, then add the brandy, lemon juice, and spices. As you stir together, add remaining ingredients. Simmer to let thicken, and add more flour/arrowroot if needed. If there is too much juice, you can strain the excess when you transfer into the pie crust. After ingredients are well-mixed, put into first layer of pie. Top with your pie crust. poking holes in the top layer. Decorate top with extra dough if desired. Cook pie in oven at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Then change oven temperature to 350 degrees, leaving to cook for another 45-55 minutes. Remove, let stand to cool. Update: I also made a second fig pie with peaches instead of plums. Recommended. 

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Cashew Curry

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I always want nothing more in life than to make authentic curry. I search and search for the perfect recipe, and there’s always something rich missing in the  base. I thought one of my favorite Athens restaurants, the Grit, might have a recipe that solved my woes, so I tried theirs this time in my curry quest. However, after making the recipe nearly exactly, I found the Grit’s recipe to be bland, and hardly even curry-ish. So here’s the extremely altered version I ended up making instead:

Ingredients

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1 tbsp olive oil

4 tbsp garlic

2 1/2 cups vegetable broth

1 can coconut milk

1 head broccoli

2 cups cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 yellow onion, sliced

1 1/2 cups cashews (if whole, halved or chopped)

1 cup baby carrots

4 tbsp soy sauce

1 8 oz pack firm tofu

1 avocado

1 tbsp hot chili sauce such as Sriracha©

1 tbsp sweet chili sauce

1 lime, juice squeezed

1/2 lemon, juice squeezed

1 tsp curry powder

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp white pepper

coriander to taste

salt to taste

1 vegetable bouillon cube (I use Rapunzel© from whole foods)

 

Directions:

While you get the other ingredients ready, drain the tofu and then weigh it down by placing a paper towel on top and putting something heavy, like a book on top. Place the olive oil, garlic, carrots, onion, mushrooms, and broccoli in a large stockpot. Sauté for a few minutes until the vegetables are mostly cooked through. Then add the vegetable broth and coconut milk. If you want your curry thicker, do not add the watery leftovers at the bottom of the coconut milk can. Add soy sauce, spices, lemon/lime juices, chili sauces, and vegetable bouillon cube as you bring it to a boil. After the tofu has been weighed down for at least a half hour, slice it into cubes and add to the stockpot.  Add half the cashews and reserve the rest for garnishing. Let everything simmer together and make sure curry is to your taste, especially depending on how salty the vegetable broth you use is. Serve over brown rice. Garnish with avocado slices, and the remaining cashews.

Hearty Taco Soup

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This is a great soup to start the new year with. You see, it doesn’t taste healthy, and it keeps you warm and full. If you like it spicy, you get even warmer. This comes in handy on a night like tonight, with 26 degrees as a low outside. And, even if you’re too cold to go grocery shopping, you can usually find most of the ingredients in your pantry.

Ingredients

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1 yellow onion, chopped

4 tbsp. minced garlic

21/2 cups vegetable broth

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

1 lb black beans

1 15.5 oz can pinto beans

1 can Mexicorn (or 1 1/2 cups frozen corn)

1 can green chiles

1 lb vegetarian imitation beef crumbles (I use Quorn because it’s soy-free)

As for the seasoning, I make my own from scratch, but if you’re in a hurry, you can use a taco seasoning packet to save time.

Taco Soup Seasoning:

1/4 tsp coriander

1/4 tsp white pepper

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 tsp harissa spice

1 tsp chili powder

1 tbsp garlic powder

2 tbsp cumin

dash ground chipotle

dash cayenne pepper

Directions:

Chop the onion and place in large stockpot. Add the garlic and olive oil, and saute for about 4 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients. Easy, right? Bring to a boil, and make sure seasoning is to taste. For added spice, I recommend adding the green chile juice as well. Yummy. Simmer as short as 15 minutes, or if you aren’t in a hurry to eat, an hour. The longer you let it sit the better the spices will blend.

Serve with shredded cheese, green onions, sour cream, or even tortilla chips.

Meatless Chili

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The more design work I have, the more I want to use my time to bake and cook. Going to the grocery store is the same as a kid’s excitement at a water park. It’s a fun way to spend the free time I don’t have. I’ve been wanting to make chili, even though it’s not cold out. Here’s a recipe for a HUGE batch. Can feed 8-10 people.

 

The Recipe:

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2 cans Kidney beans

1 can cannelini beans

1 cans Northern White beans

1 can Pitno beans

1 can chili beans

1 lb. smart ground fake beef crumbles

1 24 oz. can crushed tomatoes

1 can diced tomatoes

1 small onion, diced

1 green pepper, diced

3 stalks celery, finely diced

2 tbsp. minced garlic

1/4 cup pale ale (optional)

Dash lime juice (optional)

Spices (all to taste–I like it spicy):

Paprika

Salt (I use Tony’s Creole Seasoning instead of salt)

White pepper

Black pepper

Chili powder

Chipotle powder

Cayenne pepper

Garlic salt

Onion Salt

Celery Seed or salt

dash dill weed

Oil or butter

 

 

Start by putting your minced pepper, onion, garlic and celery in the bottom of your stockpot and sautéing them first with butter or oil(such as grapeseed oil). After a few minutes, depending on whether you like thick or thin chili, add all the cans of beans to a large stockpot with or without their liquids. I usually drain them a little, but not entirely. Next play with the spices. I prefer to make my mixture from scratch, however if you want to skip this step there are many chili-packets you can buy to cheat. Bring the chili to a boil, but then let it simmer for about an hour. If you are choosing to add beer to your chili wait until the end, at about 45 minutes into the simmering.

 

Spinach Artichoke Dip

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Friday night, while everyone else was out in bars, I was experimenting with artichoke spinach dip. You see, I’ve had the same package of frozen spinach for several months, and I just needed an excuse to use it before it became archaic. Though I didn’t have parmesan, a typical and even essential ingredient in artichoke spinach dip, I was determined to make my own version with the ingredients I did have.

 

The Recipe:

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1 package frozen spinach

14 ounce container artichoke hearts

16 ounces cream cheese

1/2 cup mayo

1/2 white onion, diced

2 tbsp. sour cream

2 tbsp. garlic

1 tsp, black pepper

dash lemon juice

dash smoked sweet paprika

pinch cayenne pepper

pinch white pepper

pinch sea salt

6 slices vegetarian bacon (this mostly adds a smoky flavor)

1/4 cup shredded cheddar

1 cup shredded pizza cheese blend

 

Directions: Use an oven safe and microwave safe casserole dish to cut back on dishes. Thaw the spinach by heating in the dish in the microwave. Then heat the vegetarian bacon in the same dish, so it will be cooked enough that you can taste the dip as you go. Slice the bacon into bits. Then add all the ingredients except the cheese, and heat a few more minutes in the microwave. Stir and make sure your spices are to your taste. Then mix the cheddar and 1/2 cup of white cheese blend into the dip. Put in the oven at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove, and sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese. Put back in the oven for 15 more minutes, for a total oven time of 25 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips, and get your carnivore friends to try it. When they don’t hate it, tell them there is fake bacon in it and it will blow their minds. Maybe even convert them to vegetarian one step at a time.

 

Feta Black Bean Dip

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I went to Whole Foods mostly get some fresh flowers, because they make me happy. Everything may be all gray and wintry outside, but inside it certainly doesn’t need to be. While I was at whole foods, I came across this great deal for feta cheese in a HUGE container for only 5 dollars. So I knew that in addition to fresh flowers I would have to make something with my feta. Making something, while also repressing the need to do productive things (aka not waste time cooking). So I decided to make a simple feta black bean dip. A colorful kitchen of flowers, and a tasty dip make for a pretty great day.

Defy winter.

The Recipe:

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1 can black beans

1/2 cup feta

1 tbsp. minced garlic

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped

1/2 white or red onion, chopped

1 tsp. cumin

1 pinch white pepper

salt to taste

dash lemon juice

(and, if you’re feeling spicy, a dash of cayenne)

Lightly stir all ingredients in a glass serving dish. This is a simple cold dip, so no need to fuss with the oven or a food processor. Serve with tortilla chips. The next day I used the leftovers to make another easy meal by turning the dip into quesedilla filling.

BBQ Tofu Sandwich

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I made up a fairly easy and quick recipe for BBQ tofu a while ago. It’s really more of a summer recipe, but it’s been on my to-do/to-blog list for far too long. I’m ready to cross it off. Hopefully I’m not forgetting any integral ingredients, but like I said, it’s very simple.

The recipe:

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1/2 bottle BBQ sauce

1 block firm tofu, drained

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 white onion, sliced

black pepper to taste

4 large sandwich buns

 

If you haven’t drained tofu before, simply put a paper towel on top, and then place something heavy on it (like a glass mixing bowl) for about an hour. This really helps to make the tofu extra crispy and nice on your sandwich. Shred the tofu to give it a barbeque consistency after it has been drained. It should look something like this:

Shredded Tofu

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. To prevent sticking, you can add a little oil to the tofu, but it really is optional. Mix the garlic and pepper into the tofu in your oven safe pan, and let bake for about a half hour. Then take it out, give it a good stir, and smother it in BBQ sauce.  Put it back into the oven until the sauce bubbles, and you will have a great BBQ sandwich. This is especially good if you add red-cabbage slaw to the sandwich, and can find the recipe here. Throw in a side of sweet potato fries and you have a fabulous, albeit southern meal.

Breville Pie Maker + Baby Apple Pies

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Apple-filled Breville Pies

The Breville Pie Maker. An excellent tool for the pie aficionado. It is similar to a George-Forman grill, except for making mini- pies. It looks like this:

Anyway, this is my newest baking tool. Of course, I’ve made plenty of apple pies before, but never adorable, mini-sized pies that cut out the extra step of weaving a lattice top. And only ten minutes for the pies to cook! For the Breville Pie Maker, you use any filling you want: cherry pie filling, apple, raspberry (you will want to precook filling first). I fully plan to use pizza crust to make mini-pizzas, a feta and spinach filling, vegetable pot pies, mushroom and walnut pates,  and whatever else I can come up with in the future. I know for a fact I will have a Breville Pie Maker dinner party one day (if I ever have time). If I was giving the Breville Pie Maker an official review, I would give it a 10 out of 10. It preheats in no time, is very cost-effective, and has a non-stick surface so that cleanup is easy and effortless.

I ended up making apple filling for my first attempt at the baby pies. It’s about to snow, and it can’t hurt to have some pre-made dessert. So I made a few pies to stock my own kitchen, as well to feed to my friend Matt.

Gluten-Free Flours

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I guess you could say I have a sort-of resolution to update this blog at least once a week rather than once a month, even if it’s just a small post or something non-recipe. So, this is more of a “Here’s what I ate,” post rather than a recipe. I’ve been on a break, and this means elaborate cooking some days, and lazy meals for others. If you are interested in gluten-free cooking, here is some basic information about the various flours you can cook with (keep in mind, these flours are often more expensive).

Potato Starch Flour This is a gluten-free thickening agent that is perfect for cream-based soups and sauces. Mix it a little with water first, then substitute potato starch flour for flour in your recipe, but use half the amount called for. It can be purchased in a health food store.

Tapioca Flour This is a light, white, very smooth flour that comes from the cassava root. It gives baked goods a nice chewy texture. Try it in white bread or French bread recipes. It is also easily combined with cornstarch and soy flour.

Soy Flour This nutty-tasting flour has a high protein and fat content. It’s best when used in combination with other flours and for baking brownies, or any baked goods with nuts or fruit, which will mask any “beany” flavor.

Cornstarch A refined starch that comes from corn, it’s mostly used as a thickening agent for puddings, fruit sauces, and Asian cooking. It is also used in combination with other flours for baking.

Corn Flour This flour is milled from corn and can be blended with cornmeal to make cornbread or muffins. It is excellent for waffles or pancakes.

Cornmeal Cornmeal can be ground from either yellow or white corn. This is often combined with flours for baking. It imparts a strong corn flavor that is delicious in pancakes, waffles, or muffins.

White Rice Flour This is an excellent basic flour for gluten-free baking. It is milled from polished white rice. Because it has such a bland flavor, it is perfect for baking, as it doesn’t impart any flavors. It works well with other flours. White rice flour is available in most health food stores, and also in Asian markets. Look for types called fine-textured white rice flour.

Brown Rice Flour Made from unpolished brown rice, brown rice flour retains the nutritional value of the rice bran. Use it in breads, muffins, and cookies.

Kamut and Spelt Flours These are ancient forms of wheat. While they aren’t appropriate for gluten-free diets, they can be often be tolerated by people with gluten sensitivities.

source: allrecipes.com