Sunday Sweets – Debbie’s Ginger Snaps

I don’t anticipate that Sunday Sweets will become a regular thing. However, I thought–could not believe it wasn’t–that our family’s all-time favorite cookie recipe was on the blog… And I was Wrong!

Many years ago, a church friend discovered that Teen enjoyed Kitchen Time. Mostly because he was food-motivated, which propelled him to find his way around to satisfy his occasionally odd teenage cravings. I think what happened (so long ago I don’t accurately remember the sequence of events…) is that she made the kiddo some cookies. He loved them, raved about them, ate most of them without sharing. So she shared the recipe, and they became his signature cookie.

They’re hers through and through, but I’m not sure we’ve made another cookie in this house since. Tween loves most things his brother likes, so brought these as his class birthday treat all through elementary school. Both kids have made them every year for their Scout summer camp (and most years the kids don’t get them because the adults eat them first!). And now Teen and Nephew will receive them in college care packages.

Nephew’s box prompted this post, actually. We didn’t have just the right box to mail the water bottle he left at our house and the cookies, so we went to the post office with both in hand. Business was slow and two friendly postal workers offered to help find the best box for the best rate. The cookies were in a Ziplock bag and one of the gals commented that they looked so good they were making her hungry.

So here you go, kind postal worker, and all who enjoy a hearty, spicy, crunch of a cookie.

Debbie’s Ginger Snaps
Makes 3-4 dozen

3/4 c butter-flavored shortening
1 c sugar
1/4 c molasses (unsulphured–I use Grandma’s brand–not blackstrap)
1 beaten egg
2 c flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 t each cinnamon, cloves, and ginger
1/4 t salt
granulated sugar for rolling

In a stand mixer, cream shortening and sugar. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Roll into walnut-sized balls and coat lightly with sugar. Please on ungreased cookie sheet space 3-inches apart. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes. Cool on pan 2-3 minutes, then remove and cool on paper bags.

P.S. At church this morning, I introduced myself to someone who already knew me. She reminded me that, one morning this last year, she had been sitting in front of me at a women’s program; she struggled to get her sweater on, and I gently reached forward to help her with it. She had said to herself, “Who is this kind woman?” and I suppose asked around to find out.

Such a quick moment, such an easy act, but apparently it was meaningful to her then and meaningful to me today.

Kindness is easy, friends. Let’s all spread a little more Sunday sweetness, through cookies or other simple and generous acts.

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Meatless Monday – Tofu Scramble

Tween and I had a nearly perfect week while the Big Guys were away.

With a good balance of (age-appropriate) work and activities and play, alone-time and friend-time, and a huge stream of quiet flowing throughout, we thoroughly enjoyed each day and, at week’s end, we both felt productive and well-rested.

One thing on which we did not spend a lot of time: cooking. I made a couple quick-and-easy family meals (ramen, roasted veggie spaghetti) that provided leftovers. We ate one dinner out with a friend and again came home with leftovers.

For my own enjoyment, I made a tofu scramble that, along with some leftover roasted potatoes, made for several scrumptiously satisfying meals.

When we moved to the Bay Area more than a decade ago, I asked around for breakfast place suggestions. Repeatedly I heard about Rick & Ann’s, which–despite the 20-minute drive and at least 20-minute wait time–has become one of our family’s favorite special occasion spots.

Each of us has a favorite order, the thing we get every time, and mine is tofu scramble. Over the years I have kept my eyes peeled for a copycat recipe; I tried one that looked okay, but wasn’t.

I recently discovered Kathy Patalsky’s recipe in Healthy Happy Vegan Kitchen. With just a couple of tweaks (add fresh garlic and ginger and curry powder, skip maple syrup), this is as close as I’ll come to the real deal.

Even better? It’s so easy! Start to finish, I think it took less than fifteen minutes.Tofu Scramble
Serves 4

12 oz firm or extra-firm tofu
1/2 c diced onion
1/2 c other veggies (bell peppers, mushrooms)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1″ thumb fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 c spinach, rough chopped
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/3 c nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp curry powder
salt/pepper to taste
Green onion and/or cilantro to top (optional)

Drain tofu, then wrap it in paper towels between two plates, weighted to press out extra liquid. Set aside while you gather ingredients and chop veggies.

In a large pan, saute onion for 3 minutes; if necessary, add 1/2 tsp water to keep onion from sticking. Add other veggies, garlic and ginger and saute for additional 2 minutes.

Add tofu. Either break the block apart with your hands as you add to the pan or (easier if you have it) use a potato masher to break the tofu into bits. Add spinach and remaining spices and stir occasionally until spinach wilts and scramble warms through. Taste and adjust spices as desired.

Top with green onion and/or cilantro, and serve with roasted potatoes or potato-veggie hash and whole wheat toast.

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Meatless Monday – Golden Wellness Smoothie

I love a quiet, lazy, summer weekend! Going to bed early with a good book, the fan gently whirring its white-noise breeze through the warm night. Sleeping as long as necessary and still waking early-ish. Caring for pets while the coffee drips; sipping coffee and Bible: flowing, life-giving streams, both.

Gearing up for a workout or, if not too hot, a dog-walk around our lovely neighborhood. Two days in a row scorched, which makes me (and pooch) extra grateful for lower temps and a slight breeze. I laugh that the dog knows, once I indicate left or right at the bottom of our street, what our route will be. She anticipates, pulling slightly, her favorite sniff-and-water spots. I watch the progress on landscaping or home reno projects; I look for newly bloomed flowers since our last stroll. I pray for neighbors I know living in houses we pass. Sometimes I remember to pray for neighbors I don’t know.

I breathe deep the beauty of this quiet, suburban town. The undeveloped ridge lines, the California bleached-blonde hills, the deep green trees. The bright blue cloud-dappled sky. As we pass I greet neighbors walking and running, some with their own dogs. We pause briefly for a quick hello with a mother-daughter duo jogging to the local pool for a swim—it is, truly, a gorgeous day.

Summer has a golden glow.

As a kid I was a huge fan of the ice cream truck that inched through our neighborhood, tinny canned music popping through bad rooftop speakers announcing its delicious approach. Yum… What would I get this time? An Astropop, a Fudgesicle, a Creamsicle?

These days, I lumber up and down neighborhood streets, stepping-in-time to tunes thumping through my earbuds. And still, sometimes I anticipate a delicious cold treat to enjoy at home.

A healthy one, to boot. One that can truthfully qualify as Breakfast, Lunch, Snack or Dessert: you choose!

A few weeks ago at the library I picked up Healthy Happy Vegan Kitchen by Kathy Patalsky. I am loving it! Although I try to get most of my books from the library, I’m tempted to buy this one.

And while I most often make a green smoothie (meaning my smoothies almost always have spinach in them), the Golden Wellness Smoothie has fast become one of my new fav’s. It’s perfect for summer’s golden-hot days!

I described it recently as “spicy ice cream” with a hint of Creamsicle. It might not have appealed to the little girl waving a dollar at the Ice Cream Man, but it sure appeals to me now!

Here’s the thing: most of those ingredients are in my house at most times. My kids love bananas, but only for that hot second between too-green and spotted. Once spotted, I peel them, cut them in half, and stick them in a freezer bag. I can defrost a few for banana bread or add them to a smoothie. We all like oranges, but if you buy a big bag and don’t get to them fast enough, the peel loses appeal. So I cut the peel off and toss it in the blender (Kathy recommends freezing oranges, too; I haven’t tried that yet, but I will next time I buy a bag of oranges). Almond milk is our go-to milk (I add a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract to this smoothie since I always buy unflavored non-dairy milks); maple syrup our go-to sweetener; spices always on hand (mine need to be restocked, actually).

Golden Wellness Smoothie
1 serving

1 large orange, fresh or frozen
1 c vanilla almond milk–or 1 c almond milk + 1 tsp vanilla extract
1 banana, fresh or frozen
1/2 tsp maple or agave syrup
1 tsp turmeric powder
a few pinches of cinnamon
a pinch of cayenne

Blend from low to high speed in a good high-speed blender. I add a handful of ice to make it super-duper extra-frosty cold, which might require adding another glug of almond milk to make it blend properly.

Go check out Kathy’s blog and buy her book. Good stuff, I’m telling ya!

 

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Meatless Monday – Potato Enchilada Pie

Hello from my kitchen!

In the end-of-school-year craziness, I haven’t been cooking as much. Way more take-out than usual, which is fine and tasty and fun but not as budget- or waistline-friendly, though, as always, lots and lots and lots of grace for whatever season we (you!) are in.

Last week, however, I found a few pockets of time to make special food to make that last school week, well, special. I made fruit tarts, one with apples and another with nectarines, both topped with peach jam infused with lemon zest and juice and fresh chopped ginger… Oh my! I made banana muffins. I made pancakes with berry sauce. Hmm, it sure looks like my go-to treats are breakfast-snacky, and carb-y, huh? They’re also all long gone.

Yesterday, I got back to dinner. To make a big pot of enchilada sauce (find the recipe here) I first mixed up a batch of chili powder from the spices in my drawer! I’ve regularly had a store-bought blend but had run out. So I googled it, and as it turns out, chili powder consists of more than just ground chilis: cumin, garlic and onion powder, paprika, oregano. Honestly, I’d rather use the spices I already buy to create blends than buy pre-made versions. That way I’ll use up my spices within their best-taste window and have fresher, tastier blends. Another time I might try a recipe that starts with dried chilis, but for now this was easy.

Once the enchilada sauce was simmering, I got to work on Potato Enchilada Pie. The origin for this recipe came from Forks Over Knives. Living in California, we eat a lot of Mexican food. Before I leaned plant-based, I regularly made enchiladas, but even when I loaded them up with veggies they still contained cheese. Without resorting to soy-cheese I despaired of finding a recipe as satisfying. This one does the trick!

I’ve modified the recipe to make it easier and to add black beans. You could also add other veggies, like corn or bell peppers, but in this case I think simple might be best.

Easy Chili Powder Blend

4 Tbsp paprika
4 tsp oregano
2 1/2 tsp cumin
2 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper

Add all spices to a small bowl and mix them. Store in a clean and dried spice bottle for up to six months.

Potato Enchilada Pie
Serves 6

3-4 large potatoes, cut into 1″ chunks
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely diced
1 tsp chili powder
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 c fresh spinach, chopped
1 recipe Enchilada Sauce
3 whole wheat tortillas
garnish: cilantro, green onions, diced avocado (optional)

Boil the potatoes for 5-7 minutes until almost fork-tender.

In a large pan, saute onions for three minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and saute for two more minutes. Add jalapenos and cook for one minute. Add chili powder, beans, and cooked potatoes and mix well. Add spinach and cook for one minute.

Preheat oven to 350. Add sauce to bottom of a pie pan to cover. Top with one tortilla; cover with half the filling. Drizzle with more sauce. Repeat layers: tortilla, filling, sauce, tortilla, and sauce to cover. Bake for 25 minutes. Dress with desired garnishes and slice into wedges.

One of the reasons I love making this recipe is that I have multiple dinners built in: I will use the extra enchilada sauce later in the week to make another of our favorites: Tofu Chilaquiles.

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Meatless Monday – Potato Leek Galette

I made a Fruit Tart and had an extra sheet of puff pastry. I made Leek & Potato Soup and had an extra leek. I wanted something quick and easy to accompany leftover soup for dinner. I opened the fridge and there they were, leek and puff pastry, side-by-side. Potatoes were in the pantry. Ingredients? Check!

I have never made a galette. I think I’ve only tasted one once and it contained roasted squash. So, not the same, but similar. How hard could it be?

One of my fav foodie sites is Food 52, and they have this thing about no-recipe cooking. So do most home cooks, but our (my) version of no-recipe cooking is boiled pasta and canned sauce, salad, or whatever is in the freezer. Theirs is, thankfully, more inspirational. Although I’ve definitely had my share of failed attempts while following recipes, I’m also not above winging it once in a while.

So I read a bunch of recipes, and then went for it. Here’s what I did…

Flour a parchment-lined cookie sheet and roll out the puff pastry. Preheat oven to 350.

Thinly slice 2 medium potatoes. I used Russet, but I’d bet most any potato you like would work. A mandoline would probably make this easier, but I’m afraid of mandolines as I’m fairly certain I would manage to clumsily slice off all my fingertips. So I use a knife, slowly, and aim for evenly thin slices. Put them in a pot of boiling water and cook for about 5 minutes.

Slice 1 leek, white and light green parts, in circles. Rinse really well to remove all dirt. In a saute pan, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil and add leek. Press 2 cloves of garlic and add to pan. Sprinkle with some Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes.

Leeks and potatoes should be done at roughly the same time. Rinse potatoes under cold water, then pat dry.

Leaving a little room around the edges, lay potato slices in rows. No need to be OCD about it, you just want even filling. I tucked thinner slices between and around thicker slices and used up all but the little round ends of my potatoes. I could’ve used those, too, but I fed them to my bunny (yes, really, we have a bunny and when I wonder, “Will she like xyz?” I think, “Peter Rabbit did…”).

Here’s the one thing I didn’t do and wish I had: chop up some fresh rosemary and sprinkle it under and between layers of potatoes before adding leeks. Next time…

Tuck pastry edges up and over the potato edges, then top potatoes with leeks. Pop it in the oven for about 30-ish minutes, checking periodically to make sure it’s baking evenly. My oven was a little hot, so I turned it down and rotated the pan.

The results? It needed the rosemary, or at least a little more seasoning. The leeks were crazy good, and so more might have been good, too. The kids were distracted and a crabby so they tolerated but didn’t love it (well, they prefer fruit tart, so potato tart seemed odd and fancy-sounding galette didn’t impress them even a little bit).

I, however, thought it worked nicely. And was so easy. And paired perfectly with the soup. And would be a fantastic addition to whatever potluck dinner I host or attend next. It looks kinda fancy, and might just be peasant food. Whatever. It’s all good!

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Meatless Monday – Lentil Soup

The fickle spring weather turned chilly again just as half our family returned from a house building week in Mexico, overtired and weezy from dust. I decided a hearty pot of lentil soup might do the trick: warm and comforting, restorative in the best ways.

Ten years ago I couldn’t tell you if I had ever eaten a lentil. A new friend brought over a package of lentils as a salad additive and I looked at them as if she’d handed me a seed packet; they might do something great, but I have No Idea what to do with them…

These days lentils are one of my go-to ingredients. They’re easy, yummy, eat them simply or add them to almost whatever. Inexpensive and healthy to boot.

But there are lentil soups and more lentil soups. I’ve made many and they’re good, fine, meh. I needed a better-than-the-rest lentil soup to clear away the fog and funk. I read several recipes, improved on the base of one with additives from others, and I think I’ve got it.

It began with this recipe. I’d bought celery special–I wanted, expected, celery in my lentil soup. Onion, carrot, celery: the essentials, right? Add lentils, veggie broth, some spices, and you’re right on track.

So I checked other recipes, compared ratios, and added celery. I omitted the oil and salt, because why add them? The canned tomatoes and veggie broth add enough salt to flavor. Then I found a perfect zucchini in the crisper. Why not add zucchini to a lentil soup? Maybe that’s a little ‘minestrone’ of me, but I tell you, it worked. And if I hadn’t had a zucchini, I would have added a drained and rinsed can of garbanzo beans. More veggie goodness = great!

And then I oops-ed by confusing curry powder with ground cumin, almost the same color. The ratios were meant to be two teaspoons of one and one of the other, but I did two of the wrong one…and found out it wasn’t wrong. To the contrary, it was just more right.

A couple of weeks ago, Tween and I were watching a cooking show. Of course they were preparing some dish, or many, that included meat. He commented, “Sometimes I wish I could eat meat. I might like to try something like that.”

I get it, Buddy. I really do. I ate meat for 20+ years of my life until I gradually realized I didn’t any more. And now I don’t, and don’t want to.

I told my kiddo: “You know, their food probably tastes great. But it’s not as healthy for their bodies or the planet. And because they eat meat they eat less veggies, which are better for bodies and the planet. I truly believe they are missing out. Not us.”

This lentil soup reminds me of that conversation. The desire for a fab lentil soup elicited greater creativity and led me to a fab end result. I’m not missing out. Not at all.

This past weekend Teen came home early from an event and put himself to bed because he felt so sick. The next day I discovered the truth: he wanted to try it, so he’d had a few bites of chicken. However, his system didn’t want it, and those bites of chicken are still biting back three days later. (In terms of rebellious teen behavior, I don’t feel too badly…)

As he recovers, you know what he asked for? Another favorite veggie soup. Bring it on!

Lentil Soup
Serves 4-6

2 c medium yellow or white onion, diced
2 c carrots, peeled and diced
2 c celery, diced
4 garlic cloves, pressed
1 c zucchini, diced (optional, or sub 1 can drained/rinsed chickpeas)
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp curry powder
½ tsp dried thyme
2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 c brown or green lentils, picked over and rinsed
4 c vegetable broth
1 ¼ c water
Pinch red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
1 c chopped fresh collard greens or kale, tough ribs removed; option to sub chopped spinach
Juice of ½ to 1 medium lemon, to taste

In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, add chopped onion, carrot, and celery. Cook, stirring often, until the onion has softened and is turning translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, zucchini (or chickpeas), cumin, curry powder, and thyme. Stir constantly for about 30 seconds. Add undrained tomatoes and cook for a few more minutes, stirring often.

Pour in lentils, broth, and water. Add red pepper flakes and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to a boil, then partially cover and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, or until lentils are tender.

Remove pot from heat. Using a stick blender, gently pulse to puree some of the soup. Alternately, transfer 2 c of soup to a blender and purée until smooth, then pour puréed soup back into the pot. Add chopped greens and stir until wilted.

Remove the pot from heat and stir in the juice of half of a lemon. Taste and season with pepper and/or lemon juice until the flavors really sing. Serve immediately.

Note: Produce varies wildly by size. For me, this recipe was about 1/2 of a large onion, 2 exceptionally fat carrots, and 6-ish skinny celery stalks. So I approximated about 2 cups of each. If you have a little more or less of an ingredient, you’re fine. Also, if you have a 28-oz can of tomatoes, just add a little more water or broth. Don’t sweat yourself, just sweat the veggies 😉

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Meatless Monday – Farro & Kale Soup

A friend sent the best kind of text. She asked when I could be available to come for dinner; she had a vegan recipe she wanted to make for girls’ night. Count me in!

She set the table with a charming quilt she’d made and heirloom china, beautiful plates with a raised spot for a tea cup in which she served soup. She had veganized a recipe she’d tried a few times to good results, and we went back for more and more and more–dainty cups couldn’t contain enough hearty veggie goodness. The kale for the soup came from her garden; so did the lettuce in the salad, to which she added strawberries, walnuts, and avocado. Another friend came straight from her shift at a local winery toting a couple of bold reds. With inviting hospitality, good friends, delicious food and drink, this weeknight could not have been any better.

Before grocery shopping this weekend, I noticed that the weather report indicated another cold front approaching. Indeed, today on this first day of spring the skies have again turned gray and wet, which makes it a perfect soup night. I bought butternut squash, already cubed because I couldn’t find whole, but forgot the kale. Imagine my delight when I came home to find a bundle of fresh kale on my doorstep, yet one more gift from my friend.

Farro & Kale Soup
Serves 6

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 c butternut squash, peeled & cubed
pepper/Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute, to taste
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 c farro
6 c reduced sodium vegetable broth (I use Better Than Bouillon reduced-sodium vegetable base)
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes with juice
1 tsp dried thyme or 1 Tbsp fresh thyme
1/2 tsp Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute
2-3 c kale, spines removed & leaves chopped

On a roasting  pan, drizzle cubed squash with oil and sprinkle with pepper and 21 Seasoning Salute (or other no-salt herb mix). Roast for 25-30 minutes at 400 degrees. (Note: you could skip this step, but roasting brings out so much fabulous flavor that I think it’s worth it. If you add squash straight to the pot, you might need to add another 5 minutes or so to the total cooking time).

In a large stock pot, saute onion for 2-3 minutes until softened. Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Add farro and toss to coat. Add broth, roasted squash, tomatoes, and spices. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and partially cover, simmering until farro is cooked, about 25 minutes. Stir in kale and simmer until wilted, about 2 minutes (if you’re not serving right away, you can add kale and remove pot from heat; leave covered until ready to serve). Adjust seasonings to taste.

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