Tag Archives: non-dairy

Broiled Grapefruit with Pecans and Honey

27 Mar

As far as I’m concerned, the primary purpose for grapefruit is to make juice so a person can have a Greyhound once in awhile.  Other than that, I liken its consumption with penance, especially when combined with cottage cheese.  Until this week, that is, when my mom dropped off a few and they took over the fruit bowl.  Not wanting to waste them, I decided to give them a try and in the process have discovered one of my new favorite things.

Broiled Grapefruit.  

Much like people, the bitter side of grapefruit needs to be tempered a bit with some sweetness.  Before broiling, I added a bit of sugar and a dash of cinnamon to the open side of the grapefruit which when heated, created a slightly glazed and sweet surface.  After just a few minutes under the broiler, the grapefruit was warmed, sweeter, and ready for more toppings.  I added some raw pecan halves and drizzled the whole thing with honey.  The result was a really nice combination of textures and tastes.  For around 100 calories and with only a few minutes of prep, this would be great for a light weekday breakfast, or perfect to make on the weekend for a group of guests as a hearty, healthy side.

Broiled Grapefruit with Pecans and Honey
Serving size: 1/2 grapefruit
Serves: 2

1 grapefruit, halved
1/2  t. sugar
Dash cinnamon
12 raw pecan halves
2 t. honey

Cut the grapefruit in half and remove any visible seeds.  Run a knife along the sections to loosen the grapefruit from the membranes, and between the grapefruit and the peel.  Sprinkle the flesh side of the grapefruit with 1/4 t. sugar and a dash of cinnamon.   Place both halves, flesh side up in a pan.

Place the grapefruit under the broiler.  I like to start on low for 2-3 minutes then turn it up to high until the edges just start to turn brown, leaving the oven door open a crack so I can keep a watchful eye on the grapefruit.  When it starts to brown, remove the grapefruit, add a few pecan halves to the top and drizzle with honey.

Serve in bowls for easier scooping.

Estimated calories:  105 cal/serving

Print it: Broiled Grapefruit with Pecans and Honey

Creamy Chicken Soup

8 Mar

Earlier this week I spotted a recipe for Creamy Roast Chicken and Rice Soup at Fuss Free Cooking that sounded really good.  I LOVE creamy soups, but rarely make them because they can be a bit heavy and sometimes lose a little in the non-dairy translation.  This recipe, however, was ALREADY non-dairy and did not require any substitutes.  The trick here is genius – instead of adding cream or non-dairy cream, cook rice until it is mushy and then puree it to make a creamy base.  I loved the idea, but have to admit, that I doubted that it would work OR taste good.  I WAS WRONG.

I modified the recipe from the original to make a stock, added the meat that was used in the process, threw in some vegetables, and finished the soup in the crockpot.  As far as crockpot recipes go, this is a speedy one, which makes it perfect for those days when you have a little time but not the entire day for your meal to cook on the countertop.  This soup is very tasty, and as an added bonus, SUPER low in calories.  This recipe makes approximately 9 c. of soup, and each serving is only 157 calories.  Compare that to a regular cream of chicken soup which comes in around 240 cal for the same amount, and what you have is not only a tasty meal but a calorie saving jackpot.

This recipe was popular at our house, and I’d highly recommend it.

Creamy Chicken Soup
Serving size: 1 c.
Serves: 9

1 T. olive oil
3 chicken thighs, bone in, skin on
1/2 c. carrots
1 stalk celery, leaves included, coarsely chopped
1/2 onion, quartered
7 c. water
1 c. uncooked jasmati rice
1-1/2 c. carrots, chopped
1 c. frozen corn
Salt and pepper
In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook on each side for 3-4 minutes, or until browned. Add carrots, celery, and onion and stir, then cook for 2-3 minutes. Add water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for 1 hour. Remove chicken and set aside to cool slightly. Strain stock and discard solids. When chicken has cooled, remove meat and chop into bite sized bits, discard skin and bones.

Add stock and uncooked rice to a crockpot. Cook on low for one hour. When rice is cooked, puree with a hand blender. Add reserved chicken, carrots, and corn. Cook for at least one hour on low, adding water if it gets too thick.

Estimated calories: 157 cal/serving

Print it: Creamy Chicken Soup

Turkish Manti

24 Feb

About a decade ago, I received a Turkish cookbook from my friend Sevda’s mother, Mrs. Bulut. The cookbook is filled with loads of information about Turkish foods, traditions, and ways of serving guests. Reading through it recently, it made me feel a bit nostalgic for my own trip to Turkey, now almost twenty years ago. On that trip I met up with Sevda and her family, who took me around their home in Adana and in nearby towns. It was a wonderful trip, and was able to see places and experience new kinds of foods for the first time. Safely transported and guided by my hosts, this was the smooth part of my trip.

Just before joining up with the Buluts, I spent a few days on my own in Istanbul. This was the not smooth part of my trip. My plan was one of a young college student in pre-Internet times (translation: poorly planned, poorly connected). In my mind, the plan was so simple – arrive in Istanbul and meet up with a friend I had met while studying in Italy. In a letter, I had sent information a few weeks ahead about my plans and arrival date. And here’s where problems one and two come in: 1. my friend was not there to meet me, 2. so I found an inexpensive hotel in which to stay until I could find him. A hotel so sketchy that I used my backpack as a pillow, and that backpack had been placed on every pigeon poop covered piazza in Europe.

Even if you have never been to Istanbul, you may know this – it is one of the largest cities in the world. Having only my friend’s first and last name (no street address, no phone number, no idea what his parent’s names were), I figured I would walk to the post office, find a phone book, and start calling. In English. With this fine plan in mind, my first step was to buy a map so I could locate a post office. On the street and looking for a map, I walked past a rug shop and several men called me inside take a look at the rugs. Sure, I thought, why not. I’M 21 YEARS OLD AND I DON’T KNOW WHERE I AM AND NO ONE ELSE DOES EITHER, WHAT COULD GO WRONG (please note: the all caps is my adult-self shouting retrospectively at my young-woman-self).

I entered the rug shop and the men started showing me some rugs. They asked me how I was enjoying Istanbul, and why I was travelling all alone, a young American woman. Sure, I thought, why not tell them the whole story. Beans spilled to perfect strangers, they were shocked and appalled that my friend had not come to pick me up, and decided that it was unacceptable. They called to have tea brought in from next door, rounded up their cousins from a neighboring shop, and set out to call every Parmaksiz in Istanbul. AND THEY FOUND HIM. AND MADE HIM COME PICK ME UP RIGHT THAT MINUTE. In the meantime, I bought a rug. From the most helpful rug salesman in Istanbul.

Turns out, making manti is easier than tracking down a lost friend in Istanbul, but does take just about as many steps. Before we get into the details, I should state that I have NO idea how authentic this recipe actually is. There are many variations on manti, and I made a few non-traditional adjustments to the recipe to accommodate the tastes and food requirements of our household. They turned out to be really delicious, but it is very likely that they are different than those you might find in Turkey.

Manti are very much like other kinds of stuffed pasta found around the world. Similar in form to pot stickers, ravioli, or tortellini, manti are made with fresh pasta, filled, folded, cooked, and topped with sauce. Sometimes they are dropped in boiling water like their Italian counterparts, other times they baked. I opted for the baked version because I felt like they would be less likely to fall apart, which can sometimes happen when filled pasta is dropped in boiling water.

Since this process is somewhat labor intensive, I prepped some of the ingredients in the morning. Part of this recipe includes baking the manti in a pan filled with broth, and I wanted to be sure that the broth was great. I decided to start out by making stock out of beef shank, then using the beef from the shank as part of the filling. With the broth made and the filling in the refrigerator, Sophie and I set out to make the dough and assemble the manti together. My original thought was to use the pasta roller to create the pasta squares, but found that the dough did not hold up well that way. A rolling-pin on a lightly floured surface proved to be the most simple and fastest way to crank out the squares we needed. Sophie took on the task of filling and folding the manti. She’s a pro.

After the manti are shaped and placed in the pan they are baked until they are slightly hardened and start to turn color.  Then, the oven temperature is increased, the pan is filled with hot broth, and returned to the oven to bake until most of the liquid had been absorbed.  The result was a combination of chewy, crunchy textures and perfectly cooked outsides.  While the manti were soaking up all that delicious broth, we made a simple sauce using garlic, non-dairy yogurt, tomato paste, and broth.  A light pink sauce, this flavorful sauce would be delicious on any pasta or served over chicken.  I’ll definitely make that part again.

Turkish Manti
Serving size: 4 pieces + 1/4 c. sauce
Serves: 4

1 T. olive oil
1 lb. beef shank
1/2 onion, cut into big chunks
1/2 c. baby carrots
2 stalks celery, with leaves, cut into big chunks
8 c. water
Salt and pepper

1 c. reserved beef shank, chopped into tiny bits
2 T. onion, finely chopped
1/4 c. reserved beef stock
Salt and pepper

2 c. flour
3 eggs
2-4 T. water
1/2 t. Kosher salt

2 t. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T. tomato paste
3/4 c. reserved beef stock
1/2 c. plain soy yogurt
1/8-1/4 t. cayenne or crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper
Dried mint

In a stock pot, heat 1 T. oil over medium high heat. Add beef shank and brown on both sides. Add onion, carrots, and celery, cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add 1 c. water and stir up browned bits. Add remaining water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for one hour. Remove the beef shank and set aside. Strain and discard solids, reserve the liquid. When the beef has cooled, remove the fat and bone, cut remaining beef into tiny bits. Combine meat with the rest of the meat filling ingredients, salt and pepper to taste, stir, and refrigerate until ready to make manti.

In a large bowl, mix together the dough ingredients by hand adding water until a dough forms. Knead on a lightly floured surface for a few minutes until the dough is well mixed, but not so long that the dough becomes tough and overworked. Cut into four pieces. Roll each piece on a lightly floured surface until it is as thin as you can get it. Cut the dough into 2-3” squares and set aside.

Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray. If the reserved beef stock is not already warm, heat the stock. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place about 1 t. of the meat filling in the center of each square. Bring the corners together to the middle and pinch the sides together to form a sealed X shape at the top. Some of the dough may not be exactly that shape, just be sure that all of the seams are pinched together tightly. Place the manti in the casserole dish so that they are close together but not touching if you can help it.

Bake the manti for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, and increase heat to 400 degrees F. Pour hot stock over the manti so that they are almost fully covered. Return to oven and cook for 30-40 minutes or until almost all of the broth has been absorbed.

In the last few minutes of cooking, prepare the sauce. In a small saucepan over medium high heat, add oil. When oil is hot, add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add tomato paste, 3/4 c. reserved beef stock, soy yogurt, and cayenne pepper. Add salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low and keep warm until ready to serve.

Divide manti between four bowls, spoon sauce over the top, and sprinkle top with dried mint.

Estimated calories: 420 cal/serving

Print it: Turkish Manti

– You could make this an easier dish to prepare by using pre-made broth instead of making your own. And if you’re skipping that step, any cooked beef would be a fine substitute for the beef shank.
– Although I didn’t try it, I bet wonton wrappers would make a decent substitute for the pasta, but the cooking time would definitely be different.
– If you eat dairy, Greek yogurt would be really good in place of the non-dairy version we used
– If I were making this for just myself, I’d also add more cayenne than I used here.

Seven Layer Salad

16 Feb

A few weeks ago my friend Erin mentioned that she’d made a Seven Layer Salad, and much like a song you can’t get out of your head, this salad has sat in my mind just begging to be made.  In the 80’s, it seemed like you couldn’t go to a special occasion or a potluck without having a Seven Layer Salad on the table.  It has been YEARS since I had one and couldn’t exactly remember what each of the seven layers were.  After asking a few people, it turns out that there are lots of variations on this salad, each one OFFICIALLY THE BEST.  I’ll take every single person’s word for it.

The basic premise is this – pick six of your favorite ingredients, layer them in a tall-sided glass bowl so that they look beautiful, and top it off with a dressing made of sour cream and mayo.  In deciding what to put in this version, I chose ingredients that I knew would be well received by my family.  Of course, if you are not rigid like me, you could definitely add more than seven layers.  And considering some of the delicious ingredients people have used in their OFFICIALLY THE BEST salads, I would not blame you for making a nine or ten layer salad.  When you’re creating your own layered salad, consider the following ingredients:

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Mixed greens
  • Green onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Bacon
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Cucumbers
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Peas
  • Cheese (non-dairy, cheddar, feta, really any cheese because you cannot go wrong with a cheese layer)

For this version, I have also made it non-dairy by substituting non-dairy cheese and non-dairy sour cream (feel free to use dairy versions if you prefer).  The thing about non-dairy products is that sometimes they just don’t taste that great, and since the non-dairy sour cream is such an important part of the dressing, I decided to add in some flavor by using part of packet of Lipton Vegetable Dip Mix.  This dip mix does not contain any dairy, and really adds a lot of good flavor to the dressing.  Add as much or as little as you’d like, I found that about 1/4 of the packet seemed right to me.  The rest of it went into some more sour cream and we ate it with veggies this week.  I would also recommend making the dressing ahead of time so that it has more time to soak up the flavors of the dip mix.  The non-dairy sour cream really needs it, but if you’re using regular sour cream, you may not need that extra time.

This is a big, and hearty salad, but the calories are not super high per serving.  We ate loads of it at dinner, and we’ve been having the leftovers all week.  I was surprised at how well it holds up the next day.  I was also surprised at how good it was for breakfast.

See all that condensation on the inside of the bowl?  That happened because I made it ahead of time and it started to fog up a bit when I set it on the counter to serve it.  After just a few minutes at room temperature, the condensation was all gone.  Of course, so was about half of the salad.

Seven Layer Salad
Serving size: 1 scoop
Serves: 12

10 oz. bag romaine
6 eggs, -, cooled, peeled, and sliced
4 strips bacon, cooked, cooled and crumbled
4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1-1/2 c. shredded non-dairy cheese
1 lb. frozen peas, thawed and drained
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


1/2 c. non-dairy sour cream
1/2 c. reduced-fat mayo with olive oil
1/4 packet Lipton Vegetable Dip Mix
1 T. sugar


In a small bowl, mix together the dressing ingredients.  Refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight to let the flavors come together.

In large bowl (a flat-sided trifle bowl works great, but any deep bowl will do), layer the salad ingredients.  Press the layers to the outside of the bowl first, then spread evenly any remaining ingredients.  Sprinkle salt and pepper every layer or two.  After all of the salad ingredients have been added, drop spoonfuls of the dressing around the top. Gently spread to the edges, trying not to disturb the cheese layer.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.


Estimated calories:  230 cal/serving

Print it: Non-Dairy Seven Layer Salad

Non-Dairy Bette LeMae

12 Feb

As Valentine’s Day fast approaches, you may be on the lookout for a dessert that says “I love you very much.”  Look no further than Bette LeMae.  If you’ve ever stayed at Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge, you may have been lucky enough to have this dessert.  And if you’ve ever spent a summer working at Ruttger’s, you can probably attribute at least a few pounds of weight gain to having Bette LeMae on a regular basis.  A delicious, dense, flourless chocolate cake – Bette is tough to pass up.

Who is Bette?  We don’t know.  But I imagine that she is slightly bossy, and that she wants you to make this right now.

The bad thing about Bette, and I feel like I will be scolded for even saying a negative word about her, is that she is one dairy-laden dish.  For my family, this doesn’t work.  So, to make this special dessert at our house, I’ve come up with a non-dairy variation.  The end result is not quite as solid and dense as the dairy-filled original, but is really wonderful nonetheless.  It requires some time to sit and cool, then cool again, so be sure to plan ahead on this one.

As I plated the desserts and tried to take a photo, they were ripped out of my hands.  By the time I recovered, the plates were practically licked clean.  These shots are the only proof that I made the dish, which mostly illustrates that it is well-loved and impossible to eat slowly.

Non-Dairy Bette LeMae
Recipe adapted from the traditional recipe served at Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge
Serving size: 1 slice
Serves: 12

4 oz. non-dairy chocolate chips
2 oz. non-dairy dark chocolate
½ c. boiling water
1-1/3 c. sugar
2 sticks non-dairy butter
5 whole eggs

½ c. soy cream
1-1/2 c. non-dairy chocolate chips


Line a 9-inch cake pan with wax paper on the bottom.  Preheat oven to 350° F.

Bring water and sugar to a rolling boil.  Reduce heat slightly, add chocolate and butter and melt, whisk until well combined. Remove from heat then add eggs slowly, whisking constantly until totally combined.  Pour chocolate mixture into cake pan and place in larger pan filled with hot water.  Bake for 30 minutes in water bath, and then remove from oven.  Allow cake to sit in water bath for 10 minutes, then remove cake pan to a cooling rack and allow to completely cool.

In a saucepan bring soy cream to a boil over medium-high heat.  Add chocolate chips and stir until the chocolate is melted and combined with soy cream.  Turn cake upside down on a plate and remove the wax paper.  Pour glaze over cake and set aside to cool.


Estimated calories:  383 cal/serving

Print it: Non-Dairy Bette LeMae

Print it: Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge Traditional Bette LeMae


Pumpkin Gnocchi and Roast Chicken with Tomato Sauce

30 Jan

I love, love, love gnocchi.  But, I almost never make them, primarily because the idea of a big bowl of carbs just seems like a bad idea.  This weekend, as I stared down the items in the freezer, it occurred to me that if I added something less starchy to the gnocchi mixture, I may be able to lighten it up a bit.  And right in front of me was the perfect answer – pumpkin.

Last fall, I decided to roast the non-carved pumpkins I’d used to decorate the front step.  It was very easy, exactly like roasting a squash, but on a larger scale.  Here are the basics:
– Cut pumpkin in half, remove the seeds and discard (or save for something else)
– Place open side down on a baking sheet, bake at 350 degrees F until the flesh is tender.  Set aside to cool.
– When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and place in baggies to freeze.  I froze mine in 2 c. portions so that I wouldn’t have to measure later, and could easily thaw enough to use in most recipes.
– When ready to use, set at room temperature to thaw.

Roasted pumpkin is different from canned pumpkin (not flavored pumpkin pie filling, just the canned pureed pumpkin) in two big ways – texture, and moisture content.  To use the pumpkin in this recipe, I removed a LOT of water before it was ready for the gnocchi.  When I set the pumpkin to thaw, a bunch of water came out right away.  But when I gave it a squeeze, I could tell that there was still quite a bit of moisture in the pumpkin.  To remove even more liquid, I put the pumpkin into the potato ricer and used it like a press.  It isn’t important to get the pumpkin to come out of the ricer, it is simply a way to press out a ton of liquid.  When I was done, the pumpkin had reduced almost in half, but was nice and dry.  Still sort of chunky, I decided to chop it finely on the cutting board.  This left me with slightly stringy pumpkin mush, which turned out to be perfect in texture for the gnocchi.

For most recipes, I am a big supporter of substitutions.  In this recipe, there is one substitution you CANNOT MAKE – you must have a potato ricer.  If you don’t have a potato ricer, you’re definitely going to want to get one if you’re going to give gnocchi a good try.  In order for gnocchi to be light and awesome, all of the ingredients need to be mixed and handled gently.  Otherwise, you run the risk of having super heavy gnocchi, which while they still taste fine, serve as an anchor for your gut.  Using anything other than a potato ricer to prep the potatoes will result in heavy gnocchi – mashers and mixers that usually work fine on potatoes for other recipes, just will not do for gnocchi.  Trust me on this one – the ricer is totally useful, not very expensive, and essential for light gnocchi.

The combination of the gnocchi (now slightly healthier due to the pumpkin), tomato sauce, and chicken was delicious.  A flavorful and hearty dish, 2 out of 3 of us LOVED the dish.  At my house, this is considered wildly successful.  I’ll definitely make this again, probably when the other 1/3 is off doing something else.

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Roast Chicken and Tomato Sauce
Serving size: 1
Serves: 6

3 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1 t. olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 c. spaghetti sauce (Barilla Tomato & Basil recommended)

12 oz. yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced (about 2 c.)
12 oz. roasted pumpkin chunks (about 2 c.)
1-1/2 c. flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Kosher salt


Preheat oven to 450° F.  Spray an oven-safe dish with cooking spray.  Coat hands with 1 t. olive oil and rub over the chicken.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place chicken in dish skin side up and cook for 30-40 minutes or until chicken reaches 165° F.  Remove from oven, set aside for 10 minutes or until cool enough to handle.  When chicken has cooled, remove the skin and bones and discard.  With hands or fork, shred chicken into bit-sized pieces.  In a medium-sized pan over low heat, combine the sauce and chicken and keep warm.

While chicken is roasting, fill a large pot with water over high heat to bring to a boil.

In a microwave-safe dish, add potatoes and cover with water.  Microwave on high for 7-8 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Remove from water, rinse and set in a strainer to remove as much water as possible.  When slightly cooled, pass the potatoes through a potato ricer, and add to a large bowl.  Using the potato ricer, press as much liquid out of the pumpkin as possible.  After the liquid has been removed, place on cutting board and chop finely.  Add pumpkin to the potato, and mix well, trying to keep it as light as possible.  Add flour, eggs, and salt and stir gently.  Using hands, bring together until a dough forms and is pliable.

Lightly flour a work surface.  Pull a piece of dough about the size of a racquetball.  Gently roll into a tube that is about 3/4″ thick.  Using a knife, cut into one inch pieces.  Place the gnocchi on a baking sheet covered in wax paper.  Gently press with finger to create indent.  Repeat until all the gnocchi have been formed.

In several batches, drop the gnocchi into boiling water.  When they float to the top, about 2-3 minutes, remove with strainer and add to the warm sauce.  Stir well to combine, then serve.

Estimated calories:  297 cal/serving

Print it: Pumpkin Gnocchi with Roast Chicken and Tomato Sauce

– Feel free to make some substitutions with the chicken – chicken breast would be fine or leftover rotisserie chicken would be awesome.  If you prefer to have a meat-free dish, cannellini beans would be wonderful in this dish in place of the chicken.
– You can use any tomato sauce you like – home made or from a jar.  This time I used Barilla’s Tomato and Basil sauce, it is light, flavorful, and saved me a bit of time.
– I used pumpkin in this recipe, but really anything in the squash family would be just fine.
– If you’re like me, and love to make parts of the meal ahead of time, then this recipe should work well for you.  When I made this, I roasted the chicken in the morning and added to the sauce, then simply reheated when I put the water on to boil.  I also made the gnocchi in the morning, covered, and placed the cookie sheet in the refrigerator until I was ready to drop them into the boiling water.

Venison Whiskey Stew

18 Jan

Lately, when it comes to dinner, I have faced two problems:
1. I don’t know what I feel like eating.
2. I’ve had a recent string of failed recipes.  The kind of failures that no one wants to eat, including me.

So yesterday, when it occurred to me that what I could really go for was some hearty stew, I was so happy.  Problem #1 solved.  Once that was behind me, I practically crossed my fingers the whole time I made dinner, hoping that Problem #2 wouldn’t show up along the way.

I am happy to report (super, super happy) that this recipe was delicious.  So good, that I was glad to have it again for lunch.  Looked forward to it, even.

From start to finish, this stew is pretty quick to make.  After some prep work, it comes together quickly and finishes in around 15 minutes.  Whiskey, tomato paste, and beef broth form a flavorful base for this thick, chunky stew.  It is very hearty, but still came in at 200 calories per serving.  For me that means I can add a little crusty bread and some fruit to the meal which makes it much more satisfying without too many calories.  I loved the stew, and will definitely make it again.

Regarding the whiskey:
1. I used 2GINGERS Irish Whiskey.  It was delicious, but you could substitute your favorite whiskey (and I know you have one).
2. If you don’t have any whiskey, you could substitute  bourbon, brandy, red wine, or dark beer.  Each one would add a lot of flavor to this stew.
3. If you would like to make it alcohol-free, it would lose some of the flavor that the whiskey brings, but would still make a mighty tasty stew. If you omit the alcohol altogether, add an extra 1/2 c. of beef broth and an extra tablespoon of tomato paste.

Venison Whiskey Stew
Serving size: 1 c.
Serves: 6

1 T. olive oil
1 lb. venison cutlets, cut into 1” pieces
2 c. carrots, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 c. onion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
8 oz. button mushrooms, quartered
2 T. flour
1/2 c. whiskey
3 c. beef broth
2 T. tomato paste
1 T. fresh parsley, chopped

In a large deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Add venison and cook until browned, about 5-7 minutes.  Remove venison and set aside.  Add carrots, celery, onion and garlic, and cook for 3 minutes.  Add mushrooms and cook another 2 minutes.  Add flour, stir until well combined and cook for about a minute.  Add whiskey and stir to combine, it should start to thicken and bubble.  Add beef broth and tomato paste, stir well and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes.  Stir in fresh parsley and serve.

Estimated calories:  200 cal/serving

Print it: Venison Whiskey Stew

– If you don’t have any venison, or don’t care for wild game, sirloin would be a great substitution.  For this recipe, subbing an equal amount of sirloin would add about 70 cal/serving
– Don’t like mushrooms?  You must be my brother Ryan!  Whether you are Ryan or someone else, you can leave out the mushrooms but you may want to add something else in its place like diced potato, sweet potato, or red bell pepper would be my top choices.
– This recipe would be a good contender for the crockpot.  However, to build up the base of the soup, it really needs to start out in the pan.  The last 15-20 minutes of cooking could be replaced with 2-4 hours in the crockpot on low.  The advantage here is that you could start the whole thing out earlier in the day, and serve it up when you are ready.

Spring Rolls

9 Jan

I am not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions.  For me, they are usually a long list of things I think I ought to do instead of the things that actually get done.  The notable exception to this is the year I resolved to pair up socks before putting them away.  Totally manageable, and not so hard to achieve and repeat.  So this year, instead of making a resolution that is hard to set into regular action, I’ve decided to give myself a challenge.  Introducing, the 2012 10 Food Challenge.  My goal is to make my way through the following two lists.

Six Items I’ve Never Made Before:
1. Beef Wellington
2. Spring Rolls
3. Non-Dairy Banana Cream Pie
4. Sunday Gravy
5. Spatchcocked Chicken
6. Croquembouche

Four Items, A Search for the Ultimate Recipe:
1. Hamburger Buns
2. Pizza Crust
3. Pizza Sauce
4. Italian Sausage, for Pizza

I’m worried about some of these more than others.  To start, I decided to tackle Spring Rolls – manageable ingredient list, not a ton of prep, and something my family will eat.

Turns out, Spring Rolls are not that hard at all.  Most of the ingredients can be prepared in advance and kept in the refrigerator until you’re ready to assemble.  To me, this is a big deal.  Most nights the time between when I start cooking and when we eat is pretty short, so if I can have most of the work done ahead of time it makes dinner much less stressful.  One other thing I really liked about this recipe is that since each one is assembled separately, it makes customizing the spring rolls to the palate of the eater super easy.  For example, Sophie hates shrimp and cilantro and carrots and cucumbers, so I made hers without those items.  Martin hates rice wrappers, so he ate chicken and cucumbers while his Party Pizza was baking in the oven.  Please note: Party Pizzas are not in the ingredient list for this recipe, but it never hurts to have one on hand.

The thing that kept me from making Spring Rolls for so long is the rice wrapper.  How would I know when it was soft enough?  Could I assemble them without tearing the wrapper?  Would they hold together?  Like many things in life, I worried about this far too much.  Rice wrappers come in a package that looks a bit like a frisbee, and a quick soak in hot water is all it takes to turn the disk into a pliable wrapper.  For me, this transformation took about 15 seconds (longer as the water cooled).  I placed the soft wrapper on a flat surface, lined the ingredients in the middle, and folded over the top and bottom (see above).  Then, folded one long end completely over the ingredients in the middle and tucked and rolled until I reached the end.  I had a one roll learning curve to assembly confidence.

There are lots of variations on Spring Rolls, and this one is most like the Vietnamese variety.  However, I added more vegetables, and adjusted the sauce to be more like the one served at a nearby Thai restaurant.  So while not totally traditional, we thought they were delicious.  I think it is a very flexible recipe – feel free to add other vegetables, use beef or pork, or omit meat for a vegetarian roll.  As long as the ingredients are cut into strips and are cooked, it should work just fine.

Spring Rolls
Serving size: 1
Serves: 8

1/4 c. water
2 T. lime juice
2 T. sugar
1 T. fish sauce
1 t. sesame oil
1/2 t. sriracha
1/4 t. chili flakes
1 clove garlic, minced

4 oz. chicken breast
1 oz. bean vermicelli
8 medium-sized shrimp, cooked, peeled, and deveined, halved lengthwise
2 c. lettuce, shredded
1/2 cucumber, julienned
1/2 c. carrots, julienned
1/4 c. cilantro, coarsely chopped
8 rice wrappers

Place all of the sauce ingredients in the food processor and pulse until the garlic is finely chopped and everything is incorporated.  Set aside at room temperature until ready to use.

Cook chicken breast in a pot of boiling water for 5-7 minutes until fully cooked.  Remove and shred or cut into thin strips, set aside.  In still boiling water, add bean vermicelli and cook for 3 minutes.  Remove and drain, rinse with cool water and set aside.

Prep all other ingredients and set up like an assembly line.

Add very hot tap water to a large bowl.  Take one rice wrapper and place in the hot water and move it around so that it is fully coated.  The rice wrapper will begin to soften.  Remove the rice wrapper once it is just soft enough (a bit stretchy, flexible, but just before it starts to tear).  When the water is hot, this takes about 15 seconds, and a bit longer as the water cools.  Place the wrapper on a flat surface and add little bits of ingredients to the center.  Fold down the top and bottom sides, then fold over one remaining side to completely cover the ingredients.  Tucking as you go, roll as tightly as you can without tearing the wrapper.

Repeat with remaining rolls.  Serve with a side of sauce.

Estimated calories:  106 cal/serving

Print it: Spring Rolls

– Feeling nervous about the assembly part?  I was.  Until I watched this, then I felt ready to give it a go.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uw-7pYq7wSc

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

16 Dec

I don’t do a whole lot of baking, even at Christmastime.  In fact, my entire holiday baking plan includes two recipes – sugar cookies and ginger snaps.  They are both good, non-dairy for Sophie, and easy to make.  A few weeks ago I started daydreaming about a Christmas treat I remember from when I was a kid – Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Balls.  It turns out that there are tons of variations on this treat, but the one I really wanted was the kind served up in Central Minnesota c. 1985.  Luckily for me, my mom’s friend Betty had the exact recipe I was looking for.  In fact, there’s a good chance that I had one of these cookies made by Betty back in 1985.

This no-baking required cookie is super easy to make.  Simply mix together a few ingredients, roll them up, dip them in chocolate, and set them somewhere cool to set.  Here in December, that place is the Minnesota Walk-in, also known as the garage.  If location makes this impossible, you could use the refrigerator.

I’m so glad that Betty had the recipe and was willing to share.  She’s an excellent baker.  Oh look, here’s Betty now, planking on a giant peanut butter ball.  Safety is important to Betty, so she wears a helmet whenever trying new stunts.

These treats are delicious and super easy to make.  There were some differences though when I made the non-dairy version, so I would not recommend a 1:1 substitution of ingredients if you use dairy.  To make it easier, I’ve included printable versions of Betty’s original recipe and the non-dairy version below.  Make some immediately, they will make you very popular this holiday season.

Non-Dairy Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

1 c. powdered sugar
1/2 jar of  reduced fat chunky peanut butter (16.3 oz. size)
2 T. non-dairy margarine
1 T. water
1 c. rice krispies
1 package non-dairy chocolate chips


Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper.

In a double-boiler, melt chocolate chips.  Reduce to low and keep warm until ready.

In a large bowl, cream together sugar, peanut butter, and butter.  Add water as needed to help the mixture stick together enough to form a ball that can keep its shape.  Add rice krispies and mix until well combined.

Form a ball with the peanut butter mixture about the size of a super ball.  Set aside.  Dip each in chocolate until totally covered, set on prepared cookie sheet.  When all of the peanut butter balls have been dipped, place somewhere cool until the chocolate sets.

Print it: Betty’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls (full recipe, dairy)

Print it: Non-Dairy Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls (half recipe, non-dairy)

– Usually I don’t find a ton of differences in recipes when I start to substitute ingredients.  In making these, I made a few changes from the original.  The non-dairy version was WAY dustier than I’d expected once I mixed together the first three ingredients.  I added more peanut butter than used in the original, and also added some water to moisten the mixture enough so that it could form a ball.  It could have been the non-dairy margarine, or the reduced-fat peanut butter.  I’m not sure.  Either way, if you find that your dough is too dusty, add water a teaspoon at a time until you can form a ball with the dough.
– I used reduced-fat peanut butter because that’s what I had on hand, but I think it may have been the dusty dough culprit.  You may want to use the regular chunky peanut butter, because this is not a health food anyway.
– Speaking of health food, I didn’t even bother to calculate the calories on this one.  I think there are a lot of variables that would change how many each recipe makes and the amount of chocolate needed to coat each one.  My suggestion is to have a few and then immediately give the rest away.
– I think I ended up with a couple dozen peanut butter balls when making the non-dairy version. They should be gone by morning.

Venison Barley Mushroom Soup

5 Dec

I am highly suggestible when it comes to food.  Last week my friend Nicole mentioned that she was making Beef Barley soup, and just like that, I was trying to figure out how I could get some.  She looks too far away for me to beg for her to bring me a bowl, so my next best option was to make some myself.

One of the things that sets a good barley soup apart from a mediocre one is the silkiness of the broth.  A watery soup base that lacks flavor and texture just makes a disappointing soup.  I’ve found that this happens a lot when I try to lighten up soups.  By taking out much of what makes a soup taste rich and flavorful (namely the fat), the soup becomes boring.  Really, really boring.  I’ve been experimenting with ways to boost the texture of soups without adding a ton of fat, and have found two super star ingredients:  1) bacon (duh), 2) gelatin.

If you’re looking for a vegan or vegetarian soup, this won’t help you at all.  But for the rest of us, these two gems can add a lot texture without a big impact on the overall calories in the soup.  In this soup, I decided to use gelatin since I planned to have a lot going on in the soup already.  The gelatin’s job in this recipe is twofold: thickens up the soup and adds a silky texture.  Sounds weird, but really makes a difference.

Venison Barley Mushroom Soup
Serving size: Approx 1 c.
Serves: About 12

1 c. boiling water
1 packet gelatin
1/3 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
1 lb. venison, cubed
3 T. flour
1 t. Cooper’s spice (or pepper spice blend)
3 T. olive oil, divided
1/2 onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. carrots, diced
8 oz. button mushrooms, quartered
6 c. chicken stock (or beef)
1/2 lb. frozen pearl onions
1 c. pearl barley
Salt and pepper to taste


In a small bowl, mix together boiling water and gelatin until dissolved.  Pour over dried mushrooms and set aside for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, remove mushrooms and chop finely, reserving liquid.

In a bowl, mix together venison, flour and pepper spice blend until the meat is well coated.

In a large pot, heat 2 T. oil over medium high heat.  Add venison and cook until lightly browned.  Remove meat and set aside.  Add remaining oil and add onion, garlic and carrots; cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add mushrooms and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Add chopped porcini and venison to the pot and stir.  Add reserved mushroom liquid and bring to a boil.  Scrape up browned bits from the bottom.  Add stock in two or three batches, scraping up all the bits from the bottom and bringing back to a boil between each.  When the bottom is scraped clean and the liquid is boiling, add pearl onions and pearl barley.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover.  Cook for 30-45 minutes until barley is tender (should be kind of al dente). Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Estimated calories:  166 cal/serving

Print it: Venison Barley Mushroom Soup

– If you don’t have venison, lean beef would be an excellent substitute in this soup
– You could also make it without meat altogether.  In that case, I’d suggest omitting 1 T. olive oil, and adding the flour/spice mixture to the vegetables after they’ve cooked a bit, but before you start adding the liquid.
– I made this ahead and reheated it, and it thickened up quite a bit.  In some cases, you may want to add a little broth when reheating.