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!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Simple Microwave Ratatouille

Rat-at-oo-eee. Sounds like a little kid shooting at an imaginary bad guy. It's really a savory French eggplant stew, full of herbs and garlic, which I've broken down for the time-challenged. It's not quite as good as a recipe that takes longer, but it's still tasty.

1 eggplant, diced
2 zucchini, diced
1 onion, diced
2 - 3 cloves garlic, minced
2T Italian spice mix (oregano, basil, thyme)
salt to taste
pinch of sugar, if needed
1 small can stewed tomatoes
1 - 2 teaspoons of quinoa, optional

Combine all ingredients in a microwave-safe casserole dish. Microwave on HIGH, covered, 20 - 25 minutes or so, until the vegetables are tender. The quinoa can be sprinkled in the bottom of the dish before adding the rest of the ingredients and will add protein as well as make the final product less soupy.  If I'm not bringing it to a potluck, I add some crushed red pepper, too. This can also be cooked on the stovetop, if you have the time to look after it. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Zucchini-Corn Sauté, Spinach and Beans

My friend, Sharon, shared my healthy-cooking kick some years back. Thoroughly enamored of my easy microwave ratatouille recipe - which I will post - she kindly shared two of her own delicious veggie dishes which I then fell in love with. This first one is not only healthy and fresh with bright summer flavors, but colorful, too. The second recipe is light and satisfying, and so easy to make!

Zucchini-Corn Sauté

1t oil
1 onion, diced
2 –3 cloves garlic, minced
2 zucchini, quartered and sliced thinly
1¼ cup fresh corn with juice (you can sub frozen, but it’s not as good)
½ t basil
1t seasoned salt (optional – I sometimes use a reduced-salt version of Emeril’s Essence)
1 cup tomato sauce
½ cup diced sweet red pepper
½ - 1½ cups cheese substitute (I use nutritional yeast)
parsley for garnish optional

Sauté onion, fresh corn and garlic in oil until onion is transparent. (Sharon adds the sweet pepper here, too. I wait until the end to maintain the fresh texture.) Add zucchini, basil and salt, if using. Cook and stir over medium heat until squash is half cooked. Add frozen corn, if using, tomato sauce, sweet pepper and cheese substitute. Stir until creamy and serve.

Spinach and Beans

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2T lemon juice
4T water
2t dill weed
1t basil
1t oregano
½ t black pepper
1 bunch fresh spinach or 10 oz frozen, thawed
1 can white beans, rinsed and drained

Sauté onion and garlic until onion is transparent. Add lemon juice, water, seasonings and spinach. Cook and stir until spinach wilts. Remove from heat, stir in beans and serve over brown rice or pasta.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Braised Pork Ribs from Rao's Neighborhood

This book, Rao's Recipes From the Neighborhood, is really getting a workout in my kitchen. Plus, I'm actually using those enormous packages of food they sell at our local warehouse store - a six-pound package of country pork ribs and a hundred-some ounce can of imported Italian tomatoes is enough for only two recipes and only yields leftovers sometimes, thanks to The Boy. The richness of the pork, the sweet acidity from the tomatoes and the freshness of the green beans together just taste like comfort.  Serve it with rice, pasta or potatoes, or a good loaf of Italian bread. The only ingredients not listed in the recipe title are garlic, salt and pepper and oregano.  It's one of those things that makes you wonder how something so simple to prepare could possibly taste so good.

Braised Pork Ribs with String Beans and Tomatoes
Serves 6

1½ lbs country-style pork ribs
(or 3 lbs boneless)
6 garlic cloves, smashed
56 oz imported plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
salt and pepper to taste
½ t oregano
1 lb string beans, trimmed

Braise ribs over medium-high heat. Add garlic when ribs are halfway browned. Add tomatoes, salt, pepper and oregano. Simmer, covered, 2½ to 3 hours. In a separate pot, boil water and cook string beans for seven minutes, drain and rinse in cold water. When ribs are done, add string beans and heat through.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Fruit Squares

I adapted this from a recipe I found in the newspaper many years ago. I originally cut it in half because I thought the full pan seemed like a lot for my needs. That was before I watched one person devour nearly the entire small batch in one sitting. Sweet, fruity and comforting, it's a great ending to a meal.  So, here it is. :)

1 banana, mashed or ½ cup applesauce
2 egg whites
2t vanilla
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
2t baking powder
¼ t salt
½ t cinnamon
3 apples, chopped
¼ cup sugar
1/8 t cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°. Beat banana or applesauce with egg, vanilla and sugars until smooth. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon, and stir into sugar mixture. Fold in apples. Pour into 13 x 9 x 2 inch pan. Blend sugar with cinnamon and then sprinkle over the top of the batter. Bake 30 minutes and cool on rack. Cut into 18 squares.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

So many banana breads, so little time

Because of all the smoothies The Boy and I have been having/making lately, I’ve been stocking up on bananas like never before. Sometimes they turn more brown than we’d like sooner than we’re ready, so it becomes time for banana bread.

While going through my recipes I discovered that, over the years, I’ve accumulated more recipes for banana bread than I realized – five, in fact, not counting the one I cobbled together. There is Applesauce Banana Bread, Easy Banana-Nut Bread, Fat Free Banana Bread, one simply called Banana Bread and, from Elise’s Simply Recipes site, is her ski friend’s mother’s recipe, so I gave it her name and now Mrs. Hockmeyer’s Banana Bread is also included in my file. I don’t know how to weed through these variations other than to make all of them...or maybe there’s no need. :)

My own recipe borrows the notion of replacing butter with applesauce and the healthier alternative of brown over white sugar. The cinnamon, raisins and/or blueberries were just an inspiration worth remembering for their pops of fresh, fruity, spiciness. I've also used cocoa nibs for a bit of chocolate crunch that's not overpowering.  Be sure not to skimp on the baking soda or the final product will be overly moist and very dense.

My Banana Bread

2 eggs, beaten
3 overripe bananas, mashed
½ cup applesauce
¾ cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
1½ teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
cinnamon to taste
¼ cup raisins or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 350°. Beat first four ingredients together. Sift the dry ingredients together and then stir them into the banana mixture just until moistened. Add raisins or blueberries. Bake in greased loaf pan for 60 – 65 minutes. Cool on rack.

On an unrelated note, does anyone know why the average word processing program will reduce halves and quarters to compact fractions but not eighths or thirds? I find that discriminatory. They should be included for their frequency of use in recipes, don’t you think? We should all send Microsoft a loaf of fruitcake come the end of the year. That’ll teach ‘em!

Monday, July 03, 2006

For the love of (Italian String Bean Salad) is the best. I'm on a tight budget and can't afford to buy every book or movie that interests me, so I go there and usually find what I want, gently used, for a fraction of the retail price.

Case in point - Rao's Recipes From the Neighborhood. (The link is to only because no one from reviewed the book.) I enjoy Italian food whenever I have it. This book, from its synopsis, looked like the Italian background I could have had, had I been Italian. I wish-listed it and was able to buy it used sometime later. Kids, this book is exactly what I needed - super simple, practical and delicious food.

I had tried out a copycat recipe for Olive Garden's Fettucine Alfredo on The Boy a couple of months ago for a special occasion, and he honestly wasn't wowed. (I don't eat dairy, but he does.) The homemade version from the Neighborhood, on the other hand, was much better in both texture and flavor and he thoroughly enjoyed it, my ever-present added spinach included. (I saw the adorable Tyler Florence make his version on television and, sadly, it seemed more like the recipe that paled in comparison to what I now refer to as the "real" one.) Then I made their String Bean Salad for a potluck because it looked tasty, healthy and didn't have any mayo in it to worry about on a hot summer day. I confess that my healthy dishes usually come home from potlucks at least 1/3 full, because an unfortunate number of people really aren't interested in food that isn't cheesy or fried in some way. This time, however, there wasn't much left in the bowl. As a matter of fact, one Italian man wanted to know who brought it because it brought back happy memories of his childhood picnics. What an unexpected blessing that was - and it was so easy to make!

Insalata di Fagiolini Verdi
Serves 4

1lb string beans, trimmed
½ c olive oil
1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 large baking potatoes*, peeled and cut into eighths, then boiled until tender, 12 to 15 minutes
¼ c red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the string beans and cook for approximately 7 minutes until they are just tender. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process and set the color.

In a large bowl, combine the beans, oil, onion, potatoes, vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Toss and refrigerate. Serve.

*Note: I use scrubbed, unpeeled red-skinned potatoes because I prefer them. They're healthier and prettier, too.