Mediterranean-Style Eggplant with a Vegan Twist

My mother-in-law makes delicious eggplant sauce. She bakes the eggplant whole, making sure to blacken the bottom to impart a smoky flavor. She blends it with lemon, salt, pepper, sour cream and a little mayonnaise. It’s very good.

My husband won’t eat even a little mayonnaise, nor will he eat sour cream. So, on New Year’s Eve, I baked an eggplant on a cast iron skillet (50 minutes in a 350 degree oven did the trick). Whirled it, skin and all, in the food processor. Scooped it into a bowl and added one-third a container of Tofutti (plant based) sour cream. That’s it. Only those two ingredients. The sour cream and eggplant were tasty enough, on their own. I served it with toasted sourdough, Greek olives and baby spring mix salad.

This Vegan version worked for both me and hubby. If you want to try my mother-in-law’s version, you can find it in my cookbook, “Poor Jonny’s.” Happy New Year!!!

Suellen Ocean is the author of the vegetarian cookbook, Poor Jonny’s Cookbook. Available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Poor-Jonnys-Cookbook-Suellen-Ocean/dp/0965114031

 

 

 

 

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Quick Baked Potatoes in the Microwave

It’s hard to imagine that potatoes would taste fine cooking them in the microwave instead of baking them but they’re wonderful once you get the knack. The first time I tried it, I almost blew out my microwave. The reason? The potatoes were too dry. The microwave thought it was on fire. It almost was. That problem was easily solved. I put the potatoes on a plate and added a little water. I experimented slowly with the timer and now I’ve got it down.

This method is perfect for making hash browns without really frying them. Microwave the potatoes until soft. Cool, then slice them and throw them into a cast iron skillet with a little olive oil on the bottom. You might want to throw chopped onions into the skillet first. Because the potatoes are already cooked, you don’t need to cook them very long. The more oil you use, the browner and crustier the potatoes will be but oil is high calorie so be careful. They’re just as tasty with a little bit of oil. Once the onions have been cooked, crack your eggs and stir them in. Keep the heat down on the skillet. The hotter it is, the more the eggs and potatoes stick to the skillet.

This microwave method is also effective for baking yams. I love yams. Not just because they taste good but because they provide nutrition galore. They are the ultimate fast food. We must eat vegetables and we must get our vitamin A. Put two yams on a plate with a little water on the plate and press start. For those days when we’re too lazy to make a salad or chop and steam broccoli, yams are a blessing.

Suellen Ocean is the author of the vegetarian cookbook, Poor Jonny’s Cookbook. Available herehttp://www.amazon.com/Poor-Jonnys-Cookbook-Suellen-Ocean/dp/0965114031

Avoid Post-Holiday Fatigue: Cook Beans and Legumes for Quick and Easy Wholesome Meals

If we let our diet slide during the holidays, it’s important to get back into the swing of things. Beans and legumes are a great place to start. When I’m fatigued, a bowl of chili gives me strength. This time of year, when it gets dark early, we need all the help we can get. Help yourself by keeping them around.

Those of us who prepare the meals, love it when we have ingredients in the fridge that we can whip up. Problem is, prepared foods are expensive and probably not as fresh. Vegetarians rely on beans, legumes, nuts and grains as staples. Keep containers of cooked beans and legumes in the fridge. Knowing that there’s a container of cooked lentils in the fridge that you can turn into a nice easy meal, might keep you from eating unhealthy fast foods. Here are some ideas:

Lentils: a can of tomatoes and a bag of frozen vegetables, seasoned with a
bit of olive oil and soy sauce, make a nice soup. Or roll them into
tortillas with salsa.

Garbanzos: Throw garbanzos in with spring salad mix, tomatoes and avocados. Or make a soup from cooked garbanzos whirled in the blender with a big chopped onion. Simmer it and season with a spoonful of olive oil and soy sauce. Serve with a tasty bread.

Black beans: these cooked beans make great burritos but another options is
to serve them with cooked brown rice. They’re a little bit dry so load them up with salsa and add soy sauce. Sour cream and black beans are also tasty.

There are days when we don’t feel motivated. When it happens, remember… beans and legumes are our best friends.

Suellen Ocean is the author of the vegetarian cookbook, Poor Jonny’s Cookbook. Available herehttp://www.amazon.com/Poor-Jonnys-Cookbook-Suellen-Ocean/dp/0965114031

Anxious to Try Eating Acorns? Time to Think About It

Leaching Acorns

People tell me all the time that when they see acorns on the ground, they think of me. So now, when I see acorns on the ground, I think of the people who are thinking of me when they see acorns. Sometimes there are acorns… everywhere. I’ve had people tell me that they rake up bags and bags of acorns in the fall and… sigh… put them in the garbage.

Some areas have prolific acorns. In other areas, when a few acorns fall to the ground, there will be fifteen different wildlife creatures fighting over them. Vultures love to hang out near the road where cars drive over them and crack them. Squirrels fight for their share. Deer eat them. Horses will eat them too but I’m not so sure that they should. Field mice come running in for their share and then the tiniest of creatures, the acorn worms, well, sometimes they are the first to get at it. That’s why it’s important that you get there first, with the intention of analyzing your area so that you leave enough for the critters.

What do you do, once you’ve gathered the acorns? I’ll tell you what you shouldn’t do and that’s leave them lying around. If there are any worms in there, they will devour them. It’s best to… get cracking. Once you’ve cracked them and removed the shells, put them in Ziplocs and freeze them until you’re ready to use them. My husband Jon, made a video of my acorn leaching process. Watch the how-to video, Acorns and Eat’em www.youtube.com/watch?v=CG-5EDrHDhM

And I wrote a book and created lots of delicious recipes, Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns. Find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Acorns-Eatem-How–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973

Have fun! You’ve no excuse. Unless of course, you live in an area where the acorns are sparse and you know the animals depend on them.

Making Gravy Out of Acorns

My father taught me how to make gravy. Growing up in New Orleans, he worked as a chef around a lot of French cooking. He had plenty of praise for “browning flour.” He called browned flour “roux.” Browning flour takes a little skill because it burns easily. The best skillet to use is cast iron, along with a metal spatula to scrape the flour so it doesn’t burn. A quarter cup of flour is all you need. More finesse is needed to add liquid to the flour but hang in there. You can get the lumps out. Add the liquid slowly and make sure it’s not hot. Cold is best. It will become a paste and with more liquid, it will become the desired gravy consistency. The liquid should be flavorful. Soup stock is preferable, the tastier the better. You can either make your own or purchase it. To turn it into acorn gravy, you only need to add a quarter cup of acorns that has gone through the leaching process I explain in my book.

Suellen Ocean is the author of Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns. Find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Acorns-Eatem-How–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973

On a Cold Day, It’s Easy to Make Soup and Dumplings

Take a couple of bags of mixed frozen vegetables and throw them into a large pot. Throw in a handful of dried barley and a handful of dried black-eyed peas. Chop an onion and several stalks of celery and a handful of your favorite greens and throw them in. Pour enough water in to keep it from getting thick. ( The beans and barley will swell tremendously.) Pour a little olive oil in for flavor and shake some soy sauce into the pot too. Add your favorite soup seasoning. I used the following dried spices: paprika, parsley, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, cayenne, black pepper and sweet basil. Get the soup boiling moderately for five minutes and then turn it down. Once the vegetables have cooked, turn it way down. The heat will merge the spices with the ingredients and a simmer is enough to cook the black eyed peas and barley. Once that’s accomplished, let the pot sit on the stove on the lowest setting. Just keep it warm. Four hours later, warm it back up again and drop teaspoons of dumplings into the soup. Here’s the dumpling recipe:
In a small bowl, sift 1 cup of whole wheat flour with 3/4 teaspoon baking powder. Set aside.
In another small bowl, combine 2 slightly beaten eggs with 1/4 cup of water, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce.

Slowly mix the flour mixture with the egg, water and spices.CreatespaceAcornsAndEat'emFRONTCOVER

Add teaspoons of this mixture into your hot soup. Cover and simmer for ten minutes.

Before serving the soup, do a taste check to see if it needs more soy sauce. Enjoy!

Suellen Ocean is the author of the vegetarian cookbook, Poor Jonny’s Cookbook and Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acornsAvailable here:

http://www.amazon.com/Poor-Jonnys-Cookbook-Suellen-Ocean/dp/0965114031

http://www.amazon.com/Acorns-Eatem-How–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973

ACORN CHOCOLATE CHIP RAISIN WALNUT COOKIES

CreatespaceAcornsAndEat'emFRONTCOVERMy freezer stalled on me. Unfortunately, I had bags of shelled acorns that I was saving in there. They got a little moldy so I tossed  them outside. The deer ate every last one. I also had a tupperware dish of leached acorns. They were still good. Poor me, I had to think of some way to use them before they went bad with my refrigeration on the blink. Cookies to the rescue! You’ll find the recipe below. Remember, you must first grind and leach the acorns. To see how it’s done, watch the how-to video, Acorns and Eat’em www.youtube.com/watch?v=CG-5EDrHDhM

There is no added oil in this recipe. Fats in here are in the chocolate chips, walnuts and in the acorns.

Mix with spatula:

1 cup leached & pre-cooked, drained & cooled acorns

½ cup honey

2 egg whites

1 tsp vanilla

Add & mix well:

2 cups whole wheat flour

½ tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

2/3 cup milk

Then add this too & mix well:

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup raisins

1 cup walnut pieces

Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. Always watch your cookies, oven temperatures vary.

Suellen Ocean is the author of Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns. Find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Acorns-Eatem-How–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973

Apricots… a Quick Way to Beautiful Skin

If you want to have beautiful skin, eat apricots. A 100-gram portion contains 2,700 units of vitamin A. That’s a lot. In the summertime they’re plentiful and in season, so they shouldn’t be too expensive. Another summertime source of vitamin A is cantaloupes. I was pleasantly surprised at the high vitamin A content in those sweet, tasty melons. I’ve had pretty good luck growing them in my California garden. Cut into chucks and packed into ziplock bags, they freeze well. In the wintertime, it’s good to have dried apricots on hand. Really, the secret to rosy cheeks and a nice complexion is good old vitamin A. When it’s cold outside and we turn our ovens on, sweet potatoes, yams and pumpkins are the vegetables to bake and make pies with as they contain higher amounts of vitamin A.

Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Suellen-Ocean/e/B001KC7Z78

Grape Juice is Wonderful… Fermented or Not

I always say, it’s the things we love the most that will bring us down in the end. I hope grape juice is not one of those things. I love grape juice. The unfermented kind. I love everything about it; the color, the tart sweetness as I gulp it down, the sound of ice cubes rattling as I sip it. Even though it’s 100% fruit juice, and contains natural sugar, it is still a sugary drink so I must be careful. Even though I water it down, those calories can add up. Especially on hot days when I want to gulp it down, glass after glass.

Looking at a chart, I see that table grapes are not that high in vitamin A nor vitamin C. (100 units of A and 4 units of C in a 100 gram edible portion.) This is why vitamin C is added to a bottle of grape juice.

Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Suellen-Ocean/e/B001KC7Z78

 

Take it Straight from an Italian Girl… Bread and Pizza Dough

My daughter-in-law comes from a large Italian family. When I watched her whip up a loaf of fresh bread, I was taken back by the ease at which she went about it. It was a hot summer day, so she would have no problem with the yeast rising. We went hiking in the Arboretum while the dough rose and when we got home, she stuck it in the oven. We had fresh bread for dinner.

When I bake bread, I make four loaves. It is a big deal and consumes a lot of my day and my time. But today, when I pulled out an Italian cookbook and looked up pizza, I found my answer. The recipe calls for one cup of warm water and one pound of flour. I looked up the equivalent of one pound of flour and found that it was only two cups. I got out a big wooden bowl and prepared the dough. It was so much easier than the eight cups of flour I usually have spilled over my kitchen counter. The recipe was for pizza dough but I can use the same simple recipe for making one little loaf of bread at a time. Here’s the pizza recipe:

2 cups of flour

1 tsp salt

1 cup lukewarm water

1 cake yeast or 1 tablespoon yeast granules

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon olive oil

In a large bowl mix the salt, yeast, honey, olive oil and lukewarm water. (I used a rubber spatula.) Add the flour. Mix and knead it for about fifteen minutes. Shape it into a ball and cover the bowl with a clean dishtowel. Set it in a warm spot on your counter for about three hours until it doubles in size.

After it has risen, oil a cookie sheet (or pizza pan if you have it) and spread the dough onto it. Add your toppings, sauce and cheese and bake it at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. If you like it browned, lower the oven to 350 degrees and bake another ten to fifteen minutes.

Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Suellen-Ocean/e/B001KC7Z78