Dutch stamppot

We just returned from a delightful holiday in Holland. The picture below was taken on a cold morning in Amsterdam. The weather was cold and mostly dry, though we did get a bit of snow.

While in Amsterdam, we rented a small apartment so that we could experience the city more as a resident and (a little) less like a tourist. We shopped at the local Albert Heijn market and cooked many of our own meals. I know many people like to get away and leave the kitchen and the dirty dishes behind, but we find it oppressive and expensive to eat out 3 meals a day, every day of our vacation. The apartment helped us avoid this–breakfast at “home” before we set out for the day’s adventures, lunch at a restaurant, and dinner back at “home,” when we just couldn’t walk around any more.

I love visiting grocery stores when I travel to other countries. I love seeing what different types of foods are available and how they’re packaged. Judging by our local Albert Heijn, the Dutch eat a lot of potatoes! They sold bags of partially-cooked, peeled potatoes in a wide variety of different shapes and sizes. The also sold large bags of chopped kale, or “boerenkool.” I was extremely excited to see that kale!

The bags of boerenkool were sold to use for the Dutch comfort food, Stamppot. It’s basically like Irish Colcannon–mashed potatoes with kale (or cabbage) and various seasonings. The Dutch serve it with boiled (!) sausage on the side. It is simple and hearty, a perfect antidote to the cold, damp weather they have in Holland. Oh yeah, and here in Boston, too. Cold, damp–does that sound familiar to anyone?

There are a variety of recipes out there, and it seems like you can really make it any way you like. I think it would be fantastic with some roasted garlic mashed in. It’s a great way to get more kale into your diet.

Here’s one of the recipes that I found on the internet. The original recipe includes sausage, but I’ve removed that. When we made it, we served it with an English lentil roast (a recipe that I will post later).

Stamppot

3 lbs potatoes
2 onions
1 bay leaf
1 lb kale
1 pinch salt
1 pinch ground pepper
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter

1. Peel and dice potatoes and onions.
2. Clean, trim and slice kale.
3. Add the potatoes, onion, kale, a bay leaf, a pinch of salt and just enough water to cover all in a 3 qrt pan.
4. Cover and boil gently for about 25 minutes.
5. Remove the bay leaf, drain the vegetables, and mash them.
6. Add milk and butter. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Elana’s Pantry Biscuits

Biscuits have always been one of my favorite breakfast foods. I prefer them with just a pat of butter–no jam, nothing fancy.

I haven’t made biscuits in a while–they are a little time-consuming–but I’m excited to try this recipe from Elana’s Pantry.

They’re made of almond flour, so they are much higher protein than your standard white-flour biscuits. I suspect the texture will be quite different, but they do sound tasty

I can’t wait to try them.

You can see Elana’s original post here. I’ve pasted in her recipe below.

Biscuits

2 ½ cups blanched almond flour, plus about 1 cup for dusting the dough
½ teaspoon celtic sea salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup earth balance natural buttery spread (soy free)
2 eggs
1 tablespoon agave nectar

1. In a medium bowl, combine almond flour, salt and baking soda.

2. In a large bowl, blend together buttery spread, eggs and agave.

3. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet until a nice dough forms. Roll out dough between 2 pieces of parchment paper to 1 ½ inches thick. Dust dough with extra almond flour if it is sticky and/or misbehaving.

4. Cut the dough into biscuits using a mason jar with a 3-inch wide mouth. Using a spatula, transfer biscuits to a parchment lined baking sheet.

5. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes, until biscuits are browned on the bottom edges.

Yield: 10 biscuits

Chickpea soup with saffron and almonds

As the weather gets cooler, I’m enjoying being in the kitchen again. I love summer so much that I don’t want to spend any time at all inside in the kitchen. When it starts to turn cool (and wet), being in a warm kitchen seems like the most reasonable thing to do.

I’ve been making a lot of soup lately. I’ve been experimenting with making stock, and then using it to create two different soups. This give me leftovers for nice lunches and dinners for the rest of the week.

In the fall and winter it’s especially important to eat warming, cooked foods. Chinese medicine teaches us that when it’s cold out, you should skip raw foods because they cool the body and put the digestive fires out (when it’s cold outside, you need warming inside). Soups are the perfect replacement for the salads of summer–nutritious and hydrating for the dryness that comes with cold air and indoor heating.

I just recently tried Mark Bittman’s recipe for Chickpea Soup with Saffron and Almonds from his book, How to cook everything vegetarian. I followed his recipe almost exactly, and made my own stock. If you don’t have time to make stock, just use whatever stock you like. I often use Imagine Foods No Chicken Stock when I don’t have time to make my own.

The inclusion of coarsly chopped almonds gives this soup and interesting texture. I mashed a few chickpeas to thicken the soup, but left it very brothy overall. Bittman says to mash the chickpeas to whatever consistency you prefer–there’s no wrong way.

Basic stock

1 large onion, with (clean) skin, cut into large chunks
2 medium carrots, cut into quaters
2 stalks celery, cut into quarters
3-6 Whole garlic cloves, with skin on, gently crushed with side of knife
Olive oil, for sauteeing
Stems from dried mushrooms (I used Maitake/Hen of the Woods), optional
2 bay leaves
1 Tsp dried thyme (or several branches of fresh)
6-8 cups of water

Sautee onion in olive oil until it starts to soften a bit (about 5 minutes). Add the carrots, celery and garlic saute until the veggies are slighty browned.

Add bay leaves and thyme and sautee briefly.

Add water and optional mushroom stems, bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for at least 30 minutes, but longer if you have time.

Chickpea soup with saffron and almonds

3/4-1 cp roasted almonds (best with skinned)
2 cups cooked chickpeas (2 cans, or cook 1/2 pound dried)
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
Olive oil, for sauteeing
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp crumbled saffron, or more, if you like
6 cups vegetable stock or water or combo
1/4 cp chopped parsley

1. Coarsely chop the almonds. Set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in large soup pot. Sautee onions and garlic with a large pinch of salt and ground black pepper. Cook until onions start to brown, stirring occasionally throughout. Stir in almonds and saffron.
3. Add stock or water and chickpeas. Mash chickpeas to desired consistency with a potato masher or back of a spoon. Gently heat, stirring occasionally until hot. Taste, and adjust seasoning.
4. Serve garnished with parsley.

Blueberry pie with almond crust

Every summer my husband and I seem to need to have at least 1 home-made blueberry pies or we feel like we missed something. The problem is that it’s too hot to want to turn on the oven! I’m also still experimenting with gluten-free crusts, which sometimes feels like a lot of work.

So, because of the heat and the gluten-free challenge, we haven’t had a blueberry pie in 2 years!

I’m taking the week (mostly) off of work to have a mini-vacation while I take the morning intensives in the South Boston Yoga teacher training program. I’m having a great time!

Monday I finally got over the heat/challenge thing and made this superb blueberry pie with almond crust. I found a recipe at Elana’s Pantry for this nice almond-flour crust. Since Elana’s instructions said to pat the crust into the pan rather than roll it out, I knew it would have a crumbly consistency. I decided to double the recipe and use 1/2 of it as a crumble topping, which I added in the last 15 minutes or so of baking.

Make sure you have vanilla ice cream on hand–the first bite makes it clear that you must have it a la mode! I love either Purely Decadent or Cocobliss‘s vanilla coconut milk ice cream for this.

The crust is not as cohesive as a wheat-based crust, but it crumbles charmingly and tastes delicious.

Blueberry pie with almond crust

For the crust and crumble (see Elana’s original posting here):

3 cups almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cp light-flavored healthy oil of your choice (Elana recommends grapeseed)
4 tbsp agave/brown rice syrup/maple syrup/honey
2 tsp vanilla

For the filling:

2 pints fresh blueberries
2 tbsp tapioca flour
1/3-1/2 cp sugar (I used Succanat)
1 tsp cinnamon
butter (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make crust and crumble:

Combined almond flour, salt and baking soda in large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl combine oil, agave and vanilla.

Stir oil mixture into almond flour mixture, mixing well to combine. Consistency should be fairly crumbly.

Press 1/2 of the almond mixture into a pie plate, reserve rest for topping.

To make filling:

Combine tapioca flour, sugar and cinnamon. Gently fold into blueberries, making sure everything is evenly distributed. If you’re using butter, put small pieces here and there on top of the blueberries.

Put blueberries into prepared pie crust and cover tightly with foil with a few small holes punched to let some steam out.

Bake covered for about 40 minutes. Uncover and distribute reserved crumble topping over pie (don’t touch! It’s hot and sticky).

Return pie to oven, uncovered, and bake for 15-20 minutes longer, until crumble topping is nicely browned.

Hazelnut chocolate chip cookies

I spend a significant part of my day talking about how important it is to eat a healthy, whole-foods diet. Food is medicine. In Chinese medicine, eating a healthy, balanced diet is often the best way to have good health.

I think too many people think a healthy diet is about self depravation and no enjoyment. They’re totally wrong. My personal approach is to eat the healthiest meals that I can–whole grains, beans, lots of kale and green things, fresh fruit, nuts, all delicious, no depravation–then I’m free to indulge a little every day. It’s totally guiltless, and that lets me enjoy it so much more.

Here’s a recipe for one of my indulgences. These cookies are super rich because they’re mostly hazelnut meal, so don’t overindulge. I think they’d be equally good make with almond flour, but I like the sweetness that hazelnuts add. The thing I love most about these cookies is that there are so many things here that are good for you. That’s my most favorite treat–tasty and healthy. Balanced.

Sadly, I have no pictures of this treat, but I’ll post some next time I make them.

Hazelnut chocolate chip cookies

2 cups hazelnut meal
1/2 cup buckwheat flour (or flour of your choice)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter, Earth Balance or coconut oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup agave, honey, maple or a combo
1 tbsp vanilla
1/2 cp chopped pecans
1/2 cp chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan, cover with parchment paper and butter the paper.

Combine hazelnut meal, buckwheat flour, salt and baking soda in a mixing bowl. Whisk together until well blended.

Beat butter/Earth Balance/coconut oil and liquid sweetner until creamy and well-blended. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add vanilla.

Add flour blend in several small quantities, beating after each addition. Dough should be fairly thick, but might still seem very moist. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips

For best results put dough into refrigerator for at least an hour, but as long as 24 hours. You can also bake them right away–they will just spread out more. The rest time lets the buckwheat flour absorb some of the moisture.

Spoon 1-2 tablespoons of cookie batter onto prepared pan, leaving some room for them to spread. Bake for 15 minutes.

Veggie burgers

I’ve finally finished by 10-month yoga teacher training, and while it’s bitter sweet to be done, I’m looking forward to having more time for my blog. I have a lot of recipes to post, and Chinese medicine and yoga to discuss.

Today’s post is for my homemade veggie burgers, which are a constantly-evolving, free-form food that I change based on my whim and what I have on hand.

veggie burgs

I’ve been experimenting with a couple of different recipes and found a nice combo in my last batch. It’s an amalgamation of Molly Katzen’s Tofu Nut Ball recipe (from The Enchanted Broccoli Forrest) and Mark Bittman’s Nut burger (from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian).

My version is pretty flexible for the proportions of rice/nuts/tofu–the key is to add enough whole cooked rice at the end to be able to form nice burgers.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to make your own burgers, we love Sunshine Burgers. They are gluten-free and made of sunflower seeds and other tasty things.

Cathy’s Veggie Burgers

1 cup raw almonds
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
1 onion
1/2 block Chinese-style tofu (about 8 ounces)
1-2 tbsp tahini or peanut butter
Sriracha hot sauce to taste (we like a lot–1/2-1 tbsp), or any other hot sauce or ketchup (optional)
Soy Sauce to taste (about 1 tbsp)
1 egg

Grind almonds in a food processor to make a coarse meal. Add about onion, tofu, tahini or peanut butter, Sriracha, soy sauce, egg and about 1/2 of the rice. Pulse to form a thick, fairly uniform puree.
Dump puree into a bowl and add enough brown rice until the mixture is mold-able but still a bit wet (not sopping wet, just a bit wet).

I like to cook these on my double-burner cast iron griddle, but I think they’d also do well in the oven.

To cook on your stovetop: heat a thick griddle or skillet to a medium to low temperature. Mold 1/2-3/4 a cup of mix into patties (easier to do this with wet hands). Cook on griddle for 5-10 minutes per side. Turn your burgers carefully–they should hold together pretty well, but need to be handled gently. The idea is to slowly evaporate the liquid out while cooking the egg to hold it together. Keep the temperature low so that your burgers don’t burn while they slowly dry out.

To cook in the oven: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place patties on a greased baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, or until patties are crispy and brown on the outside and cooked through.

Serve with whatever burger toppings you like. My favorite toppings are avocado, dijon mustard, and tomatoes. My husband usually likes to melt some cheese on his burger just before it comes off of the griddle.

Rice Porridge for a happy tummy

Congee or Jook is a special rice porridge eaten throughout Asia when someone is sick or feels the need to eat simple foods to cleanse the system. Traditionally, it is made of white rice cooked slowly in a large quantity of water, i.e. 1 cup of rice cooked in 3-8 cups of water for however long it takes to become a thick porridge. It is extremely bland and very gentle on the system.

I often make congee with whole grains, and then I add other things for flavor. For breakfast, I might add some dried fruit and nuts, and maybe a spoonful of agave nectar or honey. For lunch I like to add some sesame oil, soy sauce, cooked edamame, spinach, and if my tummy feels up to it, some chopped green onions. If you have the time, it’s nice to soak the grains to help make them easier to digest. I like to use brown rice, and often add other grains like quinoa or millet. If you are not avoiding gluten, whole barley and wheat berries are nice, too, but they work best when you soak them ahead of time, and add the maximum amount of water when you cook them. Whole oats, or even steel-cut oats are a nice addition, too.

Whole grain congee is not tradional, but I think that when you soak the grains, and cook them for a long time, they can be gentle to your system, and more nutritious than traditional white rice congee.

Maki at JustHungry.com give a recipe for a new year’s congee that includes 7 greens. You can read her posting here. The recipe is below:

Recipe: Nanakusagayu using local greens

Makes 4 servings

Since this is such a simple dish, make sure to use the best quality ingredients you can. The quality of the rice in particular is important, as is the rinsing and drying process. Use fresh greens and a salt that really tastes good.

* 1 cup white medium grain or Japanese style rice (see Looking at Rice).
* Mixed dark leafy greens
* 8 cups water
* Sea salt, to taste

Rinse the rice with several changes of water (see How to wash rice) until the water runs clear. Drain the rice into a colander, and leave for at least 30 minutes to dry.

Wash the greens. If you are using any slightly bitter or tough greens like kale, collard greens, daikon radish leaves (not sprouts), turnip greens, puntarelle or cabbage, blanch them briefly in boiling water, drain and refresh under cold running water. Tender greens can be used as-is. Chop up all the greens. You should end up with about 1/4 cup of cooked greens or 1 cups of raw greens, or a mix of both.

Put the rice and the water in a heavy bottomed pan (traditionally you might use a donabe or earthenware pot, but I just use a cast iron enameled pot). Bring up to a boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer.

Cook, while stir up the rice from the bottom of the pan occasionally as it cooks, so that it doesn’t burn or stick, for about 40 minutes, until the rice porridge is creamy, like a loose risotto. Add 1 tsp. salt and stir. Just before serving, add the prepped greens and stir in well. Serve piping hot, with additional salt on the side that people can add to taste to their bowls.

Congee cooks up nicely in a crock pot–just set it up before bed and you’ll have a nice porridge in the morning. I make mine on the stove and reheat it as needed (though Maki doesn’t recommend this. I find it works just fine for me).

Risotteria, NYC

On a recent trip to NYC, my husband and I had the pleasure of dining at Risotteria in Greenwich Village.  Risotteria is a fantastic find for anyone with dietary restrictions, be they voluntary or required by a medical condition.  The serve basically 3 types of foods–pizza, paninis and risotto. I had a risotto made with a vegetarian stock and it was fabulous.  My husband had a pizza and also found it delicious.  Their menu simply buy clearly denotes foods that are vegetarian, non-vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free.  We didn’t try the gluten-free pizza, but if it was anything like the gluten-free breadsticks that started the mean, I’m sure it is the best gluten-free pizza you’ll ever have.

The kitchen takes all the proper precautions to keep your food from being contaminated with whatever it is you can’t have in your diet, so people on restricted diets can happily and healthily eat here.  One drawback is that the place is tiny. The tables are pretty much right on top of each other, so you’re either going to be annoyed with the people dining next to you, or you might end up striking up a fun conversation, which is what we did!

The restaurant is on Bleeker St., which is great for a stroll in Greenwich Village.  I suspect we’ll go to this restaurant every time we go to NYC.

Mincemeat has a bad rap

For about a year now, I’ve been thinking about trying to make home-made mincemeat for my husband. My father loved mincemeat, and my mother would buy jars of Nonesuch Mincemeat and make a pie for him every winter. As a picky eater, I resolutely refused to even taste it. I don’t think my mom especially liked it, and perhaps my older brother would eat a bit. Despite my refusal to have even one taste of it, I remember thinking it smelled good. It was dark brown, and smelled sweet and spicy.

My memories of this good smell made me think that my husband would enjoy mincemeat, and that I might actually like it, too. We both love that other, much-maligned holiday treat, fruitcake (but only from Deluxe Fruitcake in Corsicana, TX–it’s the only one worth eating). I did some internet research for recipes and found one that looked like the right combination of tasty and not too difficult.

So, what is mincemeat? It’s been around for hundreds of years and no one seems to know what it’s all about. Traditionally, it did contain finely minced beef, along with fruit (fresh and dried), spices, fat (as suet) and some sort of alcohol like wine. It was a way to preserve meat and fruit in a time before refrigeration. I did find several recipes that had beef listed as one of the ingredients, but since I don’t eat beef (and since it sounds kind of yucky to put it in a sweet pie), I sought out an all-fruit version.

From reviewing several recipes, I determined that it’s a fairly flexible recipe that should contain some fresh apple and maybe some fresh orange, a variety of dried fruit (raisins, cherries, peaches, apricots), butter, spirits like brandy and spices. It’s actually really easy to assemble, and cooked quietly and happily on the stove for about 40 minutes.  I used the recipe for Bubby’s All-Fruit Mincemeat (found at globalgourmet.com), and adapted it to what I had on hand. Here’s a link to the original recipe.

I haven’t yet made my mincemeat pie, but this stuff is awfully tasty just eaten with a fork!

My adaptation of Bubby’s excellent recipe is as follows:

Cathy’s Mincemeat


1 Granny Smith apply, peeled, cored and cut into small pieces

1 naval orange, cut into small pieces (including skin and pulp)

2 small (or 1 large) Bosc pears

1/2 cup red wine

1 cup succanat (or rapidura, an unrefined sugar)

3/4 cup Brandy

1/4 cup dark rum

1/2 cup water

4 oz raisins

4 oz dried bluberries

4 oz dried apricots, cut into small pieces

3 oz mixed dried apples and peaches, cut into small pieces

5 tbsp butter

1 oz candied ginger, cut into small pieces

1 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp salt

pinch cayenne

Combine all ingredients in a 6-quart saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat to low and let it gently simmer for about 40 minutes, or until all of the dried fruit is plump and soft, and the liquid has been reduced to a very thick syrup. Cool completely. This should keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Now you’re ready to make pie!

Let mixture cool completely. It is not ready to use as a pie filling, or whatever else sounds good to you.