Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Note to Clarify

In response to some of my previous posts, a friend messaged me something regarding "gluten free" posts that I should probably clarify. On many of the posts that contain oats, there is the label gluten-free. Regular oats are not gluten-free. However, in many developed countries, you can buy oats/porridge labeled "gluten free" off the shelf. If you live in my part of the world, you may not find such things. So, when I label these things "gluten free," I work under the assumption that if you are gluten-free, you will know which ones to buy and whether you can find them where you are. I have known people with gluten intolerance who seemed to be fine with the local oats and others who could not use them so be careful if you're trying to prepare something "gluten free" for a guest visiting you. Also, some other recipes with the label "gluten free" are labeled as such because they can be easily adapted by making sure you use gluten-free stock cubes (no MSG) or homemade stock or opting for a different variety of vinegar.

Just wanted to make sure that was clear and thankful to the person who brought it up!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

One Pot Farmer's Market Pasta

I stumbled across this recipe recently while looking through a list of "one pot meals." I am often skeptical of one pot dishes. Usually one pot spaghetti dishes leave me feeling like something was not quite right, but this one does not disappoint. I pared it down considerably from the original from The View From Great Island just because I did not have access to all the vegetables, but this was incredibly easy and pretty delicious! And truly a one pot meal on top of it all--very "set it and forget it" as those infomercials would say. It is definitely worth giving a try with whatever vegetables are available in your neighborhood. Have a look at the original if you want to add some more veggies, too, but they do suggest you do not leave out the tomatoes or the cheese as they form the bulk of the “sauce” part. Another dinner—20 minutes or less—that is totally possible here. 

One Pot Farmer’s Market Pasta
12 oz spaghetti, broken in half
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
2 cups small local tomatoes, halved
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 handfuls leafy greens, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 Tablespoons olive oil
4 ½ cups water (or vegetable/chicken stock)
1 stock cube (omit if using stock as liquid)
1 Tablespoon vinegar (white/red wine, cider)
1 cup hard salty cheese, grated (parmesan, aged local variety)

Put all the ingredients except the cheese into the pot. Stir just to combine everything. Cover and bring the pot up to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, uncover and stir again. Allow the pot to boil uncovered for 7-9 minutes or until the pasta is tender. Stir the pasta occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once the pasta is al dente, remove the pasta from heat. There should still be a little liquid in the bottom of the pan. If there is too much, let it boil off for another minute or so. Add the cheese and stir until it melts. Serve with some fresh tomatoes or herbs sprinkled on top. 

Note: The vinegar in this recipe may dull the color of certain leafy greens. If that bothers you, try omitting the vinegar until the very end of cooking. 

Egg Roll In a Bowl

This one I have come to love since discovering it a few months ago. It has joined our regular rotation, and because of my thrifty use of pork in the recipe, I can have ½ pound of minced pork sausage ready for another meal. Mostly Homemade Mom comes through again on this one with a few minor adaptations for living here. We like to eat ours with rice rather than just as is. I can confidently say that if you cook your rice in a pressure cooker just as you start the cooking for the egg roll part, you can have dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes start to finish. Those are seriously hard to come by when you live in the developing world!

Egg Roll in a Bowl
500g pork mince, turned into sausage (omit herbs)
½ large head or 1 small head cabbage, sliced into ribbons
2 cups carrots, julienned
5 cloves garlic, minced
¼ - 1/3 cup good quality soy sauce (more if lower quality)
1 teaspoon dried ginger
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Green onions, tops only, sliced

Mix the dried ginger, sesame oil, and soy sauce in a small bowl. Heat a wok over high heat. Fry half the sausage mixture with a small splash of soy sauce until browned. Save the rest of the sausage in the fridge for breakfast or another meal. Remove the browned sausage from the pan. If the pan is still shiny from the fat in the sausage, just toss the garlic directly in. Otherwise, add a little oil. Stir continuously just until the garlic begins to look golden. Quickly toss in the remaining vegetables and the soy sauce mixture. Fry, stirring continuously, until the vegetables begin to wilt. Return the sausage to the pan and cook until vegetables are tender but still have a bite. Sprinkle over the green onions and add soy sauce as needed for seasoning. Remove from heat and serve over rice or as is.


Pinterest…that brilliant mixture of feeling like a failure and feeling inspired. Despite my love/hate relationship with it, I do often find amazing recipes through Pinterest, and I’m grateful for having that tool at my fingertips. This Beef-a-Roni from Mostly Homemade Mom is one of my lucky finds. Now, if you’re not American, you might be saying “What on earth is Beef-a-Roni?” Yeah…exactly. What is Beef-a-Roni? Really, it’s just a pasta bolognese with cheese on top. This recipe made enough for my family with 2 younger kiddos to have one 9x9 pan for dinner and save one for later.

1 lb./16 oz shell pasta or elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
500g ground beef/buff
2 cans tomato puree (or 1 large can)
1 Tablespoon oil
1 onion, diced
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon salt, to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups shredded cheese

Sauté onion in oil until translucent. Add the ground beef to the pan over medium heat and sauté until meat is browned. To the ground beef and onions, add all the remaining ingredients except the pasta and cheese. Simmer covered for 10 minutes over medium-low heat. Taste and adjust sauce seasonings accordingly. Remove from heat and toss the cooked pasta into the sauce. In a baking dish, layer half of the pasta mixture with half of the cheese. Repeat. Bake in a 170C/350F oven for 20 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and golden.

If you’re wanting to save some for later, split the pasta/cheese between two pans and freeze one before baking. When you’re ready to use it, let it thaw and then bake according to recipe instructions. Pat yourself on the back for preparing something for your future self, just when you needed a quick meal.

Morning Sanity Saver: Oatmeal/Porridge Cakes

My kids (and I) love these things. I found them while perusing Eating Well’s quick, healthy breakfast round up. Trying to get off to school in the morning with no major hiccups is an obstacle in our house. It can often make or break our day. I think breakfast can also be an indicator of how the day will go for homeschooling families. If things start off well, it can set a positive tone for the day. We all know what can happen if the day starts off rotten… These are a great change from boxed cereals and work well for children who aren’t into traditional oatmeal/porridge breakfasts. I make 2 batches of these to keep in the freezer. On school mornings when I have power, I pop them in the microwave for 1-2 minutes. When I don’t have power, I take them out the night before and then heat them up in the Miracle Oven on the stove top in morning.

Oatmeal/Porridge Cakes
2½ cups oats
1½ cups milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup honey, maple syrup, or brown sugar
2 Tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup fresh fruit, chopped (apples, bananas, strawberries, blueberries)

Combine the oats and milk in a large bowl. Once mixed, allow to rest 20-30 minutes so the oats can soak up the milk. After the milk has mostly soaked into the oats, add the remaining ingredients and gently stir to combine. You could also opt to put a tablespoon of the fruit on top if you don’t want to mix it in. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin or line with papers if you’re lazy like me. Pour ¼ cup of mixture into each muffin cup. Bake in a 190C oven for 25 to 30 minutes until they spring back like a cake when you poke them. Cool and freeze or refrigerate for future use.

Note: Use porridge specifically labeled as "gluten free" if you need that option. Regular oats cannot be assumed to be gluten-free.

1-2-3-4 Soup

I stumbled across this recipe recently through a link to Ciao from Debbie and loved the simplicity of it. When I first moved here, someone shared a similar recipe with me—more of a rough guide—that you could adapt for most kinds of vegetables. This one is incredibly versatile, and the original posting has some interesting flavor suggestions. So far we have made cream of broccoli-potato, zucchini, and spinach-potato varieties. If you start with uncooked starch, reduce the amount to ¾ cup and add some additional liquid to keep the soup from becoming stew.

1-2-3-4 Soup
1 cup onions, diced
2 cups cooked starch (potatoes, rice, beans, etc.)
3 cups vegetables, diced (broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini)
4 cups liquid (4 cups water + 2 stock cubes)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Milk or Cream, to taste
Cheese, grated (optional)

Heat a small amount of oil over medium heat. Sauté onions in oil until translucent. Add in the cooked starch, vegetables, and liquid. Bring to a boil. Cover and cook on low until vegetables are tender. At this point you can either leave the soup chunky, puree the whole thing, or puree part of the soup. Stir in some cream or milk and heat through. Cream will thicken the soup so it may need to be thinned to your liking.

Super simple! If you can count to 4, you can probably make this soup work for you. It’s a great way to use up leftover potatoes or rice hanging out in the fridge—just make sure they're not growing anything first.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Roasted Winter Vegetables

Yes, I've been intending to post this one for a while, and I am getting to it now that winter is drawing to a close. Ahhh...these vegetable are still around though so go ahead and give it a try. The original inspiration came from Simply in Season, one of my favorite seasonal cooking cookbooks. It's such a valuable book to have living in a place where most foods are just seasonally available. Be sure to include at least one "sweet" vegetable in your mix for that rich, caramel flavor. I used beets and carrots, and they pair beautifully! Kohlrabi and turnips also work well in this one. Omit the vinegar if you want to be sure it's truly gluten-free.

Not the best photo, but you get the idea, right?
Roasted Winter Vegetables
4 cups mixed winter vegetables, cut into 1 inch pieces
3-4 small onions, peeled, root and stem ends removed
1 bulb garlic, top sliced off but otherwise intact
1 Tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons dried herbs of choice (rosemary, oregano, thyme, parsley)
1-2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar (optional)

Lay the vegetables out on a baking tray and sprinkle with oil and other seasonings. Place onions together in a piece of foil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss with some oil. Wrap the foil up. Place the garlic bulb in another piece of foil with a light sprinkling of oil. Wrap that up. Place both foil packets on the pan with the vegetables. Roast in a 220C/425F oven for 30-45 minutes until vegetables are tender and golden. 20 minutes into cooking, remove the foil from the onions to permit browning. After the vegetables are cooked, squeeze the contents of the garlic bulb into a bowl. Toss in the vegetables and a splash of balsamic vinegar. The vegetables should have a shiny glaze once mixed. Enjoy warm or chilled.

Chickpea Salad

Salads....I love that a salad can really be just about anything you want it to be. I especially appreciate salads that you can make when good lettuce is either not available or not in your house that day. This chickpea salad is really not much of a recipe, but hopefully it will be an inspiration to you. This salad works well as the protein for a vegetarian meal. You can make it as simple or deluxe as you like, but here are the basics of what I do. You can use dried chickpeas or canned ones that you've rinsed and drained. You just need to add more salt if you've started from dried chickpeas.

Chickpea Salad
2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained
1 cup tomatoes, diced or chopped
1 cup red onion, sliced thinly
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1-2 Tablespoons vinegar (cider, red wine, or balsamic)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Optional add-ons:
1-2 cups fresh rocket/arugula
1 teaspoon dried herbs (basil, oregano, rosemary)
Crumbled cheese (feta, paneer, or even parmesan)
Fresh herbs (mint or basil)
Cucumber, chopped

Toss everything into a bowl. Adjust seasonings, vinegar, and oil to taste. Allow to chill and marinate at least 30 minutes before serving.