Cooking Without the Cow

I have a dairy allergy. I digest it well enough but it gives me a headache, which is not fun. I do use a little butter, especially in baking, because margarine scares me. Cheese is such a prevalent ingredient in even vegetarian offerings that I have had to experiment with different dishes to come up with some staples that will work for my family. I hope you enjoy them, too!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Battle of the Belles (Sausage Rice)

Paula Deen of The Food Network and Hazel Smith of (the latter of whom would probably beat me up for referring to her as a "belle") crack me up. I mean, check out their recipes. I'm not saying they're not tasty - I'm sure they are. Southern cooking can be lovely. I'm a big fan of homemade fried chicken and have made collard greens and corn bread more than once. And to be honest, watching Paula always makes me smile and Hazel is a riot, from what I've seen of her. I would love to see a cookoff between those two. Hazel's Grated Apple Custard is just as yummy as you could want a five-ingredient pie to be. But the proportion of butter, cheeses, sour cream and/or pork fat to all of the other ingredients in the majority of their dishes is just shocking to my Yankee senses.

For example, I turned on the Paula's Home Cooking tv show near the end while she was extolling the virtues of her simple Sour Cream Muffins and thought I'd look up the recipe to see what she was rolling her eyes and swooning over as she took a bite. My eyes nearly popped out of my head when I saw the ingredients - self-rising flour, butter and sour cream. Yes, that's all, folks. I suppose her comment that these were one of the only things she didn't put butter on should have clued me in. Likewise, Hazel's Sour Cream and Noodle Casserole is basically ground beef, noodles, tomato sauce, cottage cheese, cheddar and sour cream. Easy, yes, but yowza! Do southerners eat like that all the time? If I were to use that much dairy and fat, it would be in something truly extravagant like Fettucine Alfredo or a fudge cake of some kind.

To be fair, I only know about these women because they are a great resource. They are home cooks who've been at it a long time and obviously enjoy it, which is the most important ingredient of all. I've looked up recipes of theirs when I didn't have a good southern starting point and then tried to make them more healthy, or at least more my own. I knew nothing about grits, traditional black-eyed peas, greens or hushpuppies, and now I can proudly say I've made all of those things except the hushpuppies (but at least I know what they are).

My own most artery-clogging dish is my Sausage Rice. It's similar to my Rice and Chicken dish but more spicy, fatty and comforting. I wonder if the belles would approve.

Sausage Rice

1 lb hot sausage, broken up
3 cups chicken broth
¾ C brown rice
¼ C wild rice
1 10oz package frozen spinach, thawed but not drained

Make sure the sausage is well broken up. Boil the broth, and then add the sausage, brown rice and wild rice. Return to a boil and then reduce the heat, simmering for 45 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. Stir in the spinach and serve.

This dish would be a bit healthier if the sausage were cooked and drained first, but the final result is far less rich and flavorful.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Rainy day cooking (Pseudo-Japanese Soup, Pound Cake)

Today was an ugly, rainy day. The Boy played a computer game for most of the afternoon and I fooled around in the kitchen. I decided to bake something like this Easy Pound Cake because baking always makes a gloomy day more cheery, but had to add some cocoa powder. It's a compulsion - either chocolate or garlic, whichever makes more sense - my favorite ingredient must be added to almost everything. I have to say, it really was easy and not overly sweet. The actual recipe I started from, which link couldn't be found for some reason, was from someone named Dee (according to my recipe card), used a cup of cow's milk less one tablespoon, and no cocoa.

Dee's Easy Pound Cake, amended

3 cups sugar
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ cup butter, softened
1 cup soy milk
6 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
6 tablespoons cocoa
pinch of salt

Beat all ingredients together at high speed for 5 minutes. Pour into large ungreased tube pan. Bake at 350° (do NOT preheat oven!) for 60 - 80 minutes, until it tests done. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired.

For dinner, it had to be something light if we were going to have cake afterwards. I gave The Boy some leftover turkey/vegetable stuff and then made my pseudo-Japanese spinach soup to round out the meal. I call it pseudo-Japanese because I don't know if the traditional Japanese add udon to their dashi soup or if the addition of spinach or garlic would be an insult of some kind, as the norm is seaweed and scallion. But The Boy just loves it and, again, it's really easy. The best part is that when he and I went out for a birthday splurge to a sushi place, he tasted his soup and said, "This tastes just like the kind you make." How cool is that?

The secret is in the dashi powder or hon-dashi bonito fish soup stock, which you can find at any Asian food store. It's an odd, granular-looking product containing dehydrated bonito fish and must be refrigerated after opening. The most important thing to remember is that a little goes a long way. I understand from Obachan of Obachan's Kitchen & Balcony Garden that it is also sold in an easier-to-use liquid form, called shiradashi or shirodashi. I haven't been back to the store to check it out, but I still have plenty of the dry type to use up in the meantime.

The udon noodles are bound in little bundles and are sold about 10 bundles to a package. I love the way Japanese translates into English - they call it "Elementary Japanese Pasta". The Boy liked them the first time I made them and they are now a staple in our house. They look a bit like fettuccine when cooked but are softer and somehow hold up better in soup.

Pseudo-Japanese Spinach Soup

1 clove garlic, minced
8 cups of water or mild broth
1 bunch thin udon noodles
1 10oz package frozen spinach, thawed and not drained
1/8 teaspoon dashi powder (approximately)

Saute the garlic briefly in a medium saucepan. Add the water or broth, bring to a boil and then add and cook the noodles over medium heat for 10-12 minutes, according to package directions. Add the spinach, turn off the heat and then stir in the dashi to taste.

We enjoyed our dinner and then The Boy had some sort of issue with our dessert. He looked at the plate and said, "Pound cake isn't supposed to be brown on the inside, is it?" That's what I get for putting in the extra effort, lol.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Fear not the tofu! (Creamy Pasta Sauce)

Tofu is a very interesting food. It won't hurt you. It's high in protein and healthy fats. It takes on the flavor of any sauce, spice or marinade you mix into it. Regular tofu can be frozen, thawed, chopped and stir-fried to substitute for meat, or drained and chopped and substituted for scrambled egg. Silken tofu can be mashed and blended smooth to a custardy texture and then combined with fruit and sugar for a pudding-like dessert, or with more savory ingredients for a main dish. You can even add a spoonful of lemon juice or vinegar for a passable non-dairy sour cream or yogurt substitute. Stick blenders are fun to use for this purpose and they make weird outboard-motor sounds when you use them with silken tofu.

With my dairy difficulties, I've all but given up certain things I used to enjoy such as cheese, pudding and creamy soups and sauces. Tofu can give back some of these dishes if one is willing to give it a try, such as in this simple recipe which can be used as a soup, a dip or a pasta sauce, depending on the proportions of the bouillon. It has a lovely, creamy texture similar to alfredo sauce and clings beautifully to warm pasta, as illustrated by my endearingly amateurish photo.

Nutritional yeast is found in the health food store. It is deactivated brewer's yeast and is an odd by-product of making alcohol, or it can also be grown somehow on molasses. It's very high in protein and B vitamins and has a taste something like Swiss cheese when in flake form and adds creaminess when mixed into sauces.

Don't be afraid to try new things. You never know what you may like.

Don't-tell-'em-it's-tofu Sauce

1 package silken tofu (MUST be silken)
2-3 teaspoons chicken bouillon powder
½ t garlic powder
½ t crushed red pepper
2 T of nutritional yeast
1 10oz package frozen spinach or broccoli, thawed but not drained
pasta of your choice

Mash tofu with a fork (it's fun!). Add all other ingredients except the broccoli and pasta and blend with a stick blender until smooth. Be sure to put the blender away before you add in the green veggies or it will turn ugly.  Trust me.

Stir in the liquid from the spinach or broccoli. Add the spinach or broccoli and stir well. Heat gently and serve as is for soup, over pasta, or chill, mix in a tablespoon of water to lighten the texture (it becomes thicker when cool) and use as a dip.

NOTE: Bouillon powder can be very salty, so use a lighter hand if you're planning for soup or dip.

You can also substitute 2 tablespoons tomato paste or ½ cup of V8 juice for the green veggies for a tomato alfredo. More water may be needed to loosen it up if you use tomato paste. Either way, it's very good!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Recipe I've never gotten around to trying but want to share (Chéz Panisse Gingersnaps)

I was websurfing oh...ages ago...and came across this story and recipe on feeding dexygus seconds: Chéz Panisse Gingersnaps. Cute story and the recipe gets raves. One of these days I will jump on the bandwagon, myself. But do let me know if you are more proactive than I am and actually bake them!

Chéz Panisse Gingersnaps

8 ounces unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 small eggs or 1 1/2 large eggs
1/3 cup molasses
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper

Cream butter until soft. Add sugar, and beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs, and beat until fluffy. Add molasses and beat until well-incorporated. Sift the dry ingredients, and add to the mixture. On low speed, mix until it all just comes together. Line a 9" x 5" loaf pan with plastic wrap, so that some hangs over the outsides. Press the dough into the bottom of the pan. Pack it tightly, and try to make the top as level as possible. Cover the dough with the plastic overhangs. Freeze until very firm, preferably overnight. Unwrap and remove dough from the pan. Slice brick into thin slices, no more than 1/8". Place on a parchment-lined sheetpan and bake at 350 degrees until the edges turn dark brown, about 12 minutes.

-The dough gets soft quickly, so work fast.
-Because the cookies are so thin, there's a fine line between underbaked and burned. Keep an eye on them. And actually I think they taste best when they're very slightly burned on the edges.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

St. Patties day (Falafel, No-Bake Cookies)

No, not St. Paddy's Day - that's in March, when those of us who are Irish and those of us who are not join together in celebration of that island nation by cooking and eating a dish (Corned Beef and Cabbage) that the natives never eat in the Emerald Isle but only in America. No one knows why. But it makes people happy.

No, this is what I happened to notice after I'd made some No-Bake (yea!) Chocolate Fudge Cookies due to the extreme heat outside (yes to chocolate, no to the oven) and then decided I wanted falafel for dinner - I had a really dull-looking selection of food!

My teachers always said to vary the shapes and colors of your dishes and here I was looking at a platter of semi-round dark brown chocolate cookies and a platter of semi-round brown falafel patties (I didn't use as much bread crumb as I normally do, so the mixture couldn't hold a ball shape as in the first picture of 'normal' falafel.) with semi-round light brown pita bread (the round bowl of salad greens didn't help much). I looked around for some other color or shape to perk things up and found some baby carrots, which seem to be dominating the falafel in my pic. I'll have to re-take that next time. Dinner was not very attractive but it was tasty, with my light, spicy falafel and oaty, buttery chocolate cookies.  Mmmm.

My Falafel Recipe

1 onion
½ cup parsley
3 cloves garlic
1 egg
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 jalapeño peppers (optional)
1 cup dry chickpeas (garbanzo beans), soaked overnight
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste
cayenne pepper to taste
1 teaspoon baking powder
bread crumbs or shredded pita
oil for frying

Run the first six ingredients in a food processor until smooth (include jalapeños, if using). Add chickpeas and process until nearly smooth. Transfer mixture to a bowl and stir in the spices. Yes, it is supposed to be green. Add as much bread crumb or pita as you need to thicken the mixture enough to hold a ball shape. (I decided not to use as much as that and just made my funny little patties.) Form into golf ball sized rounds and either bake, deep fry or fry in a little bit of oil in a pan until golden brown. Serve in a whole wheat pita with some salad greens and some mediterranean sesame dressing, if you want to be more authentic. At its simplest, this consists of tahini - sesame seed paste - loosened up with a little water, a pinch of chopped garlic and enough lemon juice to make it pourable.

No-Bake Fudge Cookies (Thanks, Johanna)

¼ cup butter or margarine
½ cup cocoa powder
½ cup soy milk
2 cups sugar
½ cup peanut butter
3 cups oats
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine the first five ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Boil one minute. Add the oats and vanilla and let cool a bit. Drop by teaspoonsful (you can help to shape it with your hand) onto wax paper and cool completely. This recipe works with regular oats, which are better for you since they have nothing removed from them. I tried both and liked quick oats better in these cookies. I normally try subbing out the butter/margarine for applesauce, too. Will update when I remember to do that.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Winding down the cool-weather recipes (Chicken with Rice)

Sometime last year, I saw Diana Barrios Treviño, owner of Los Barrios restaurant in San Antonio, Texas, on television and thought, 'this is exactly the style of Mexican food I would like to play around with.' So, I found her recipe book, Los Barrios Family Cookbook and looked through. What fun!

Studiously avoiding the sweets (well, I did peek) I found her version of Arroz con Pollo to be simple enough to meet my low standards and made it my own with some additions and substitutions. I was running late and picked up a rotisserie chicken the other day and boiled the carcass for some lovely, garlicky broth to help cure The Boy's cold (which caused his strange smoothie comments last week) and voilà! (which I don't know how to say in English or Spanish.) Since the weather's starting to get warmer, my dinners will have to become cooler to both fix and eat, so I thought I'd make this before summer really kicks in.

Chicken and Rice ala Ana

¼ cup olive oil
1 cup brown rice
1/3 cup barley
1 small onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
14 ounces canned tomatoes with jalapeño
3 cups canned or homemade chicken broth
½ cup water
10 ounces frozen chopped broccoli, thawed but not drained
4 chicken tenders, cooked and chopped into bite-size pieces
salt , hot sauce/crushed pepper and black pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add rice and barley. Stir fry five minutes or so. Add onion and garlic and stir fry another two minutes. Add tomatoes, chicken broth and water, stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the grains are done, about 40 minutes. Add the broccoli, chicken and season with salt and pepper.

Note: you can add the broccoli earlier to make it less assertive, but I like it bright green and tender crisp to contrast with the other ingredients.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Senegalese Stew

There's a hearty peanut butter-based stew recipe that I stumbled upon (yes, via and tried out a year or so ago, called Mafé (pronouced "mah-FAY"). It looked suitably simple for my schedule and was forgiving as to veggies. I've since tried it with varying combinations of spinach, sweet potato, white potato, carrot, cabbage and squash, and it's always been good. The Boy likes it because I also add habanero sauce and either chicken or some other meat and the whole combination of tastes is just different enough from anything else I make that it seems like a special dish. I have to start making some of those hot spice mixes they use in Africa but first I need to remember to buy a coffee grinder.

* Oil -- 2 tablespoons
* Stewing beef, cut into cubes -- 2 pounds
* Onion, minced -- 1
* Garlic, minced -- 3-6 cloves
* Ginger (optional), minced -- 1 tablespoon
* Tomato paste -- 2 tablespoons
* Tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped -- 2 cups
* Water or stock -- 1-2 cups
* Natural, unsalted peanut butter -- 1 cup
* Salt and pepper -- to taste

1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high flame. Add the beef and sauté until lightly browned on all sides, 5-6 minutes. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
2. Add the onion to the oil in the pot and sauté until translucent, 3-4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and ginger and sauté another 1-2 minutes.
3. Return the beef to the pot, stir in the tomato paste and cook for about 1 minute. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 8-10 minutes to reduce the volume of the tomatoes somewhat.
4. Add enough water or stock to loosen the dish to a stewlike consistency. Simmer for another 10 minutes.
5. Stir in the peanut butter, salt and pepper and simmer for another 40 minutes, or until the beef is tender and oil rises to the surface of the dish. Add water as necessary to keep the dish stewlike.
6. Adjust seasoning and serve over rice or couscous.

6-8 servings


* Use goat instead of beef. Or use chicken pieces.
* When you add the water or stock, stir in some vegetables such as cabbage, yams, squash, okra, eggplant, potatoes, peppers or carrots if you like. Vegetarian versions are made with only vegetables.
* Some recipes call for cooking the peanut butter with the tomato paste, before adding the chopped tomatoes.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Instant gratification

Well, it was Saturday and I didn't feel much like fussing, since I'd spoiled myself all week with my blender meals. (I put some leftover hummus into a sandwich for lunch. Mmmm.) So, I set some whole grains on to boil and stared into the pantry for a while. I finally pulled out three instant choices from Trader Joe's and settled on the Tuna in Red Panang Curry. Now, that's not nearly enough to feed The Boy, so it was added to three cups of cooked brown rice/barley and 10 ounces of defrosted chopped broccoli. Gotta love Trader Joe's. I remember reading about them before they opened anywhere near me and thinking how much easier my choices would be if only there was a Trader Joe's. I was right. :)

What's hummus?

I didn't think about this yesterday, but as surprising as it is to The Boy, not everyone knows what hummus is. My apologies.

The real deal is a middle-eastern spread made chiefly of chickpeas, a little lemon juice, a spoonful of tahini (sesame seed paste, which tastes a little like peanut butter and can be found in both the ethnic section of most supermarkets or the health food store, if you prefer), some olive oil and garlic. It is often scooped up with pita triangles (some people call it pocket bread) and is savory, spicy and light.

I have dubbed my totally inauthentic version
Hummus a Few Bars (it's my recipe and I can call it that if I want) because I add hot sauce and various veggies into the blender that have no business being there and The Boy has no idea.  He thinks when I dip veggies into it and he gets to use whole wheat pita, that he's getting away with something.  Never underestimate your mother. :)
It goes approximately like so:

2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 cloves garlic (we really like garlic)
2 cups chickpeas (canned, rinsed and drained or soaked and cooked from dry)
1 small zucchini
1 small carrot
6 or 7 sundried tomato halves packed in oil
2 or 3 tablespoons olive oil (can use the stuff the tomatoes are packed in)
salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste

Prep the veggies to the specifications of your preferred appliance. Add everything to your food processor of choice and process until you're sure The Boy would see only a single homogenous color and texture. Which is not pretty, I have to say, so you really need to serve it in something pretty or in a pretty way.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Smoothie Week

I've been thinking about making a food blog and a chat with a friend yesterday confirmed to me that it may be a good idea. She was amazed by the variety of sources I drew from for a recent meal and said I should document it. So, welcome to my crazy kitchen!

I'm no gourmet chef by any stretch of the imagination. I do what's simple, what's healthy and what (hopefully) tastes good, and with as few ingredients as possible. My teenaged son (from here on out known as The Boy) only enters the kitchen to eat, so it's all my responsibility after my full day at work and grocery shopping on the way home. In other words, it has to be easy and fast as well as healthy. Mostly, I fool around with various ethnic ingredients, none of them dairy, hence the name of the blog.

Entry number one: I've been on a Vita-Mix kick this week. Noisiest, most expensive blender on earth, but it will mash anything, and clean itself when you're done. Not terribly hungry for dinner lately, I made fruit/tofu smoothies almost all week - a cup or so of frozen fruit, a teaspoon of sugar to boost the taste, a block of silken tofu and enough soy milk to make it go. Yum!

Blueberry/banana smoothie on Monday (which The Boy said tasted like pita - that was a little scary), peach smoothie on Tuesday (he guessed strawberry. I guessed his taste buds were broken), fresh (not frozen, which may have been the problem) mango on Wednesday (which he hated and said it tasted like...garlic??? It did have an odd, metallic aftertaste, but not garlic), for variety I made my veggie-licious version of hummus on Thursday (no weird comments on that, since my hummus is already full of garlic and weird enough, with the addition of hot sauce, zucchini, carrots and sundried tomato, to get The Boy to eat veggies. The Vita-Mix makes it so smooth he can't pick out a single one) and today, he actually asked for a fruit smoothie for dinner! I made blueberry again - with no banana this time - and he didn't say anything strange except, "Blueberry again?". Hey, I can only fit so much fruit into the freezer at a time. I thought I did pretty well for variety. Good thing I bought that case of tofu last time I was at the Asian superstore, as I like to call it.