Southwestern Twice Baked Potato Casserole – gluten-free, vegan, warm, soothing, and delicious

Southwestern Twice Baked Potato Casserole

 

Potatoes and frozen veggies

Whole potatoes and frozen veggies

Oh my goodness it’s been a long time since I last posted here!!! I always have good intentions of posting twice a week — and then life gets in the way.

My daughter Kendra and I adore this recipe. It is my adaptation of a recipe for Southwestern Twice Baked Potatoes from the very yummy cookbook Forks Over Knives by Del Sroufe.

a diced potato

The easiest way to chop most veggies is to cut them in half first (from top to bottom, not sideways like in this picture!), so that you have a flat surface to put on the bottom.

I have changed the recipe enough that it barely resembles the original. Actually I feel a little weird about the changes that I made, because Forks Over Knives is an oil-free cookbook, and I have added some oil to this recipe. It feels disrespectful to fundamentally change a recipe like that. It’s like taking a vegan recipe and posting that you think that you made it better by adding meat — that feels wrong to me. But I do think that it’s important to have some fat in our diet. Fat is needed for absorbing fat-soluble vitamins. Plus, research shows that unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as canola and olive oils are associated with healthier outcomes. So I think it is important to include them in one’s diet.

Toasted potatoes

The bottom layer of toasted potatoes, before spreading them out evenly.

The original version of this recipe involved baking whole potatoes in the oven, then topping them with a variety of veggies and beans, and adding a creamy white sauce on top, made from blended tofu — a bit like sour cream but much healthier. I have speeded up this recipe by dicing the potatoes into little cubes before baking them. In addition to being much faster to cook, I think this dish is easier to eat that way, too.

All layers except for the sauce

All layers except for the sauce

The casserole after baking

The whole casserole after baking

Also, I have replaced the creamy topping with a salty version of my adaptation of the house dressing from the awesome vegetarian Moosewood Restaurant, located in Ithaca, New York. Like the main recipe here, my version of this dressing has diverged very far from the original version, but it is awesomely yummy. I have also given my salad dressing recipe its own page on this website, because it is so yummy that it is really worth talking about. But I am also including it as an ingredient here.

Southwestern Twice Baked Potato Casserole
 
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My daughter and I totally adore this casserole, made of toasted potatoes, red bell peppers, corn kernels, black beans, and a creamy vegan sauce on top that is made from blended silken tofu that tastes like sour cream but is much healthier.
Author:
Recipe type: dinner
Cuisine: American
Serves: 6 servings
Ingredients
Potatoes
  • 6 cups of potatoes -- about 2 pounds
  • olive or canola oil
  • salt
Toppings
  • 1 red bell pepper, or about 1 cup of frozen, chopped bell peppers
  • 10 ounces of frozen corn kernels -- "supersweet" corn is good in this, though any kind should work
  • 1 15-ounce can or bag of black beans, drained and rinsed
Sauce
  • 1 12.3 ounce package of silken tofu (I like Mori-Nu organic)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2-4 tablespoons olive and/or canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Dice the potatoes into cubes that are 1/2 inch or smaller.
  3. Place the diced potatoes onto a non-stick cookie sheet.
  4. Sprinkle on some salt (maybe 1/2 teaspoon) and some oil (maybe 2 tablespoons).
  5. Stir the potatoes, oil, and salt until they are evenly mixed.
  6. Bake the potatoes in the oven, stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown on most sides. When I did not preheat my oven ahead of time, I clocked this step at 30 minutes. If your oven is fully pre-heated, figure maybe 20 minutes. When the potatoes are done, they should look like gorgeous cube-shaped nicely-browned french fries. If you are in a hurry, you can bake them less, just until they are soft when pierced with a fork. That will work fine too, though I think they are yummier when they are browned.
  7. Meanwhile, while the potatoes cook, defrost the corn in a bowl in the microwave. Microwaves vary, but in my microwave this takes about 4 minutes.
  8. If you are using fresh bell pepper, chop it. If you are using frozen, defrost it in the microwave.
  9. Rinse the black beans -- I like to put them into a strainer and run cold water through it to do this.
  10. Add all of the sauce ingredients to a blender. Blend until smooth.
  11. When the potatoes are done, remove them from the oven and lower the temperature to 350 degrees.
  12. Carefully pour the hot potatoes and any oil that is with them into a 9x13 inch pan. Distribute the potatoes evenly throughout the pan.
  13. On top of the potatoes, add layers of beans, corn, and bell pepper, spreading out each one evenly.
  14. Pour the sauce on top. Use a spatula to spread it out to almost reach the edges of the pan, but not quite touching. (By not quite touching the edges, this keeps the sauce from sticking to the sides of the pan, which makes cleanup easier.) Keeping the sauce at about 1/4 inch of distance from the edges works well.
  15. Put the 9x13 inch pan in the oven, uncovered.
  16. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
  17. Serve!

 

Fresh Fruit Pie with Chocolate Brownie Crust – gluten-free, raw, vegan, beautiful and yummy!

Fresh Fruit Pie With Chocolate Brownie Crust

Fresh Fruit Pie with Chocolate Brownie Crust This summer when the market was full of beautiful fruit and berries, I bought lots and made them into a series of beautiful pies. These pies take about 20 minutes to make, need no baking, look gorgeous, and taste delicious. Yum!!!

I fell in love with this recipe this summer, so I made it again and again, all summer long.

The chocolate brownie crust is adapted from a recipe in Chocolate Covered Katie’s cookbook.  And the cardamom cashew cream filling is adapted from a recipe in an older edition of the cookbook Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2 People by Jennifer Cornbleet. I love cardamom and think that the hint of it in the cashew cream really makes this pie recipe over-the-top amazing.

Two more pictures and then the recipe!

Fresh Fruit Pie with Chocolate Brownie Crust

Fresh Fruit Pie with Chocolate Brownie Crust

 

5.0 from 1 reviews
Fresh Fruit Pie with Chocolate Brownie Crust - gluten-free, raw, vegan, beautiful and yummy!
 
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This beautiful pie is raw, gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free, free of refined sugar, quick to make, totally delicious, and full of fruit!
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 1 pie
Ingredients
Crust ingredients:
  • 1 cup dates, with pits and any bits of stem removed
  • 1 1/3 cups nuts (for example 1/2 cup walnuts, 1/2 cup pecans, and 1/3 cup of almonds)
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon water
Cardamom Cashew Cream Filling Ingredients:
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 dates, with pits and any bits of stem removed
Fruit Ingredients:
  • strawberries, perfectly ripe mangoes, blackberries -- or whatever fruit you have handy, cut into chunks
Instructions
  1. Place all of the crust ingredients in a food processor. Blend until you have tiny bits, much smaller than the head of a pin. The mixture should have tiny bits of nuts visible in it but be soft and mashable. Don't blend it for so long that you turn it into nut butter!
  2. Empty the food processor into a pie plate. Use your hands to press down on the mixture, to flatten it. Push some of it against the sides, too, so that there is an even coating of crust pushed down all over the bottom and sides of the pie plate. I usually don't put the crust on top of the edges of the pie plate, because on a raw foods crust that tends to fall off during serving. Take the time to make sure that the crust is pushed down into the corners of the pie plate and that the edges are finished off neatly. I usually make the edges a tiny bit taller than the pie plate, so that the pie can be deep. If you press down on the pie crust on the insides of the pie plate, the crust will get taller and do exactly this.
  3. Place all the ingredients for the cardamom cashew cream in the food processor. (You don't need to wash it out after making the crust.) Blend until you have a very smooth cream. It should look and taste smooth. I usually let cashew cream sit in the food processor while I work on other parts of a recipe and then come back to it to re-blend it once the blended bits of cashews have had a chance to soften.
  4. Wash the fruit and cut it into chunks. If you are using strawberries, cut out the stem from each strawberry and then cut it in half. You can leave blackberries whole. For a mango, imagine a mango pit with a piece of paper on top and another piece on the bottom, lying down flat. Now imagine that pit inside a whole mango, and use a knife to cut where each piece of paper is, so that you end up with two mango hemispheres, and an oval of mango left behind that includes the pit. Now on each hemisphere, cut 2-3 lines through the flesh in one direction, cutting down to the skin but don't cut through the skin. Now cut 2-3 lines across in the other direction, across the first cuts, making a grid. So you should have a mango hemisphere with its skin still intact and the mango flesh scored into about 12 squares. Then use a dinnertable tablespoon to separate the mango flesh from the skin, so that you end up with about 12 cubes of mango. Repeat on the other mango hemisphere.
  5. Re-blend the cashew cream (which is still in the food processor) until it is super smooth, then put it into the pie crust and spread it evenly over the bottom.
  6. Arrange the fruit prettily on top of the cashew cream, to fill up the pie crust. Tip: A ring of cut strawberries interlocks really nicely, like Lego. :)
  7. Voila! One quick and yummy fruit pie!

 


This recipe is entered in Gluten-Free Fridays, Allergy-Free Wednesdays, and Meat-Free Mondays!

Cucumber Sandwiches – gluten-free, dairy-free, sophisticated, and easy!

Cucumber Sandwiches

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Chocolate Chip Fresh Cherry Bread – gluten-free, dairy-free, and addictively amazing!!!

chocolate chip fresh cherry bread


I wait all year for fresh cherries to appear in stores, so that I can make this recipe. I long for this recipe all winter long. It is that good.

This may be the most amazing and wonderful recipe in this entire collection!

Years ago now, I was thinking that a loaf with chocolate chips, fresh cherries, and some cardamom woChocolate chip fresh cherry breaduld be really amazing. So I searched the web to see what I could come up with. I found this recipe for Fresh Cherry Bread, from www.recipesource.com. The recipe credits the newsletter of King Arthur Flour – The Baking Sheet for the original version of the recipe. I modified it by adding chocolate chips, adjusting the amounts of cardamom and vanilla extract, and making it gluten-free.

The one thing I don’t love about this recipe is that it uses refined sugar. I have experimented with making a version of it that is sweetened with fruit, and I will post that someday. But for now, this is the reliable original version of the recipe — and it does use refined sugar.

I hope you will try this recipe — it is soooo good!

Chocolate Chip Fresh Cherry Bread - gluten-free, dairy-free, and addictively amazing!!!
 
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A dessert loaf made with chocolate chips, fresh cherries, and cardamom. I long for fresh cherry season all year so that I can make this awesome recipe!
Author:
Recipe type: dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 1 loaf
Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 3/4 cup gluten-free flour mix, or regular flour (for example, today I used 1/2 cup of teff flour, 1/2 cup of quinoa flour, 1/2 cup of tapioca starch, and 1/4 cup of garbanzo bean flour)
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum or guar gum (omit if you are using regular flour)
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom, ground
  • 1 tablespoon gluten-free baking powder (or, instead, 1 teaspoon baking soda + 1 teaspoon cream of tartar)
  • 2 eggs - or, for a vegan version, use 2 flax eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cherries (about 1/2 pound), pits removed and cherries cut into quarters or eighths
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Oil a loaf pan, and flour it (for gluten-free, I like brown rice flour for the flouring).
  3. Put all dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Stir well.
  4. Add all wet ingredients. Stir well, making sure you find all the pockets of dry flour and get them mixed in. The batter will be thick, like cookie dough.
  5. Pour the batter into a loaf pan. Smooth it flat with a spatula.
  6. Bake for 55 minutes.
  7. Let cool, then refrigerate.
  8. Best served at refrigerator temperature.
Variations:
Mini-muffins: Use one medium cookie scoop (1 1/2 tablespoonfuls) for each muffin, and bake for 13 minutes. Makes about 24 mini-muffins.
Muffins: use 1 1/2 to 2 scoops (2-3 tablespoons) of dough for each muffin, and bake 15 minutes. Makes about 16 muffins.
Muffin-bread: Multiply recipe by 1 1/2. Use a spatula to smooth out the whole batch of dough onto a very nonstick cookie sheet, and bake for 18 minutes.

 

Valerie Brownies – gluten-free, dairy-free, and awesomely yummy!!!

valerie brownies

This is the recipe that I’ve sent to a zillion potlucks and bake sales at my kids’ schools.

I put a lot of work into testing and perfecting this recipe — a process that was a LOT of fun!!!

Valerie Brownies in a ringThis recipe very reliably makes really wonderful brownies.

My theory of potlucks is that people see the words “gluten-free” and get scared off. So I counteract that by adding lots of good adjectives to the sign on my brownies, so that the good words outnumber the words “gluten-free.” So the labels that I put on my brownies for potlucks call them, “Valerie’s Amazing Awesome Gluten-Free Brownie.”

Wall to Wall Valerie Brownies - Yum!For potlucks, I keep a sheet of label images on my computer so that I can print them off on my printer. I keep snack-size ziplock bags on hand. To package up the brownies, I put each brownie into a snack-sized ziplock bag, zip it, then tape on a printed label. That way the brownies are protected from cross-contamination by other foods at the bake sale.

This recipe was long-ago based on a brownie recipe from an old edition of the Betty Crocker cookbook.

Yum!!!

Valerie Brownies - gluten-free, dairy-free, and awesomely yummy!!!
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
This recipe very reliably makes awesome gluten-free, dairy-free brownies.
Author:
Recipe type: dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 16 brownies
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup brown rice flour (I like Arrowhead Mills brand) (if you are not gluten-free, replace this with regular flour)
  • 1/3 cup potato starch (I like Bob's Red Mill brand but would fervently like to find an organic gluten-free potato starch) (if you are not gluten-free, replace this with regular flour)
  • 1/2 cup baking cocoa (I like NOW Foods brand)
  • 1 cup sugar (I like the big bags of organic sugar from Costco)
  • 1/3 teaspoon xanthan gum or guar gum (if you are not gluten-free, leave out this ingredient)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (I like Equal Exchange semi-sweet chocolate chips)
  • 2 eggs (preferably free-range)
  • 1 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla extract (I like Nielsen-Massey brand)
  • 1/3 cup canola oil (I like Spectrum organic)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Oil (with canola oil) and flour (with potato starch) an 8x8 inch square pan.
  3. Put all dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Mix.
  4. Add all wet ingredients. Mix
  5. Pour the mixture into the pan. Smooth out the top with a spatula.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes.
  7. Let cool.
  8. Cut into 16 squares.
  9. Best served at refrigerator temperature.

 

Muffin Bread – awesomely healthy sugar-free banana bread – gluten-free and dairy-free

Muffin Bread

My son Corbin named this recipe, when he was little. You can bake it as muffins, a loaf, or cupcakes. Usually I bake it on a cookie sheet and then cut it into squares. I have some awesomely nonstick cookie sheets — which unfortunately are not sold anymore. Baking on the cookie sheet is the easiest and quickest way to make this recipe.

Corbin takes muffin bread with him to school every day. At home sometimes it is all he wants to eat.

Luckily, it is a 100% healthy food, and even fairly well balanced. So it is okay for Corbin to eat as much as he wants.  :)Roblox HackBigo Live Beans HackYUGIOH DUEL LINKS HACKPokemon Duel HackRoblox HackPixel Gun 3d HackGrowtopia HackClash Royale Hackmy cafe recipes stories hackMobile Legends HackMobile Strike Hack

Because this recipe contains no refined sugar, it is much less sweet than the typical sugar-bomb banana bread recipe. Its sweetness is more comparable to a loaf of slightly sweet whole wheat bread than to a typical banana bread.

Because this recipe is less sweet than most, the amount of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves looks low compared to other banana bread recipes. But the amounts listed here work really well for this recipe — more would be overwhelming.

Tip: This recipe works great as French toast! Bake it, cut the muffin bread into slices, dip the slices in beaten egg, and fry each side in a little bit of oil. Serve with maple syrup. Yum!!!

This recipe is originally adapted from a cookbook called Sweet and Sugar Free – An All-Natural Fruit-Sweetened Dessert Cookbook by Karen E. Barkie. I really like that cookbook, because it replaces refined sugar with natural sweeteners or just leaves it out entirely.

I normally make this recipe nut-free, so that I can send it to school or feed it to Corbin in the mornings before school. But if you don’t have those restrictions, it would be great with 1 cup of chopped nuts (eg. walnuts) added to it.

This may be the single recipe that I have made the most in my life. I make it for Corbin so often that have it memorized.  :)

Muffin Bread - awesomely healthy banana bread - gluten-free and dairy-free
 
Prep time
10 mins
Cook time
19 mins
Total time
29 mins
 
A super-healthy gluten-free vegan banana bread. No refined sugar! Sweetened entirely with ground-up raisins (it doesn't taste raisin-y) and bananas.
Author: Valerie Mates
Recipe type: snack
Cuisine: American
Serves: 16 squares or 1 loaf
Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 overripe bananas, broken into chunks (frozen and defrosted is okay)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (or 2/3 teaspoon cream of tartar + an additional 2/3 teaspoon baking soda)
  • either 2-3 tablespoons ground flax seeds, or 1 1/2 teaspoons of xanthan gum or guar gum
  • 2 cups gluten-free flour mix (I usually use 1/2 cup each of: quinoa flour, teff flour, garbanzo flour and either potato starch or tapioca starch)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • optional: 2-3 cups frozen chopped kale or spinach, defrosted
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Put the raisins, eggs, and bananas in the bowl of a food processor. Run it for a few minutes, until the raisins are broken down into tiny pieces and everything looks mixed.
  3. Add all of the other ingredients, except for the kale or spinach.
  4. Run the food processor until everything looks mixed.
  5. Add the kale, if you are using it.
  6. Run the food processor until the greens are in small pieces and everything looks mixed.
  7. Pour the batter either onto an awesomely non-stick cookie sheet and spread until it covers the sheet, or into muffin cups or a loaf pan. You can decorate the top with artfully arranged pumpkin seeds (without shells on!) or sunflower seeds -- I like to make muffins with pumpkin seed flowers on top.
  8. Bake for 19 minutes for the cookie sheet or muffins, or 45 minutes for a loaf.
3.4.3177

 

Quick Ethiopian Dinner – gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan, and really yummy!

Quick Ethiopian Dinner

Quick Ethiopian DinnerI love
Ethiopian food! The salty complex flavors, the variety of different dishes, the unusual way of eating it family-style with flatbread instead of silverware. Fun and yummy!

When my family first went gluten-free, I thought we would still be able to eat at our local Ethiopian restaurants, because all of the Ethiopian stews are gluten-free, and the Ethiopian flatbread, called injera, is made with teff flour — and teff is gluten-free. Alas, when I asked the local Ethiopian restaurants about it, I found out that they all use regular American flour, made from wheat, in their injera. So I could not eat there. How sad!

Cooking Ethiopian

In the front you can see three pans that are cooking injera. In the background is a pot of split pea alecha. To the left you can see the batter for the flatbread. In front of the batter, I keep a saucer with a metal 1/4 cup measuring cup, for scooping batter into the frying pans.

So, of course I had to learn to make my own!

Ethiopian food is usually served family style, with a single platter shared by everybody at the table. You are served a huge metal platter, covered in injera, with about six piles of different types of Ethiopian stew on top of the injera. Sharing food with your tablemates is hygienic because instead of silverware, you use pieces of injera to pick up your food — and then you eat the injera and the food together. I think of it as eating my silverware after every bite, so that there is always brand new, fresh, clean silverware for the next bite.  :)

Injera

A stack of cooked injera.

I wanted to be able to make Ethiopian food as a weeknight dinner, so I have greatly simplified this recipe, in order to be able to make it quickly enough to serve it as a regular dinner for my family. It isn’t nearly as fancy as a real Ethiopian feast at a restaurant. But it has that same yummy Ethiopian flavor. Plus, because it is quicker to cook, I make it a lot more often, so we end up eating it much more often than we would if it was a more elaborate recipe.

Split Pea Alecha

Split Pea Alecha

 

Quick Ethiopian DinnerRelatedly: I recently bought a cookbook called Teff Love: Adventures in Vegan Ethiopian Cooking, which is an entire cookbook of vegan Ethiopian recipes, made with Americanized ingredients. I haven’t cooked anything from it yet, but I bought a copy and am eagerly looking forward to experimenting with it. I’ve linked its title to the book on Amazon in case you are interested in finding a copy too.

My Ethiopian recipes in this posting are heavily adapted from the wonderful cookbook Vegan Lunch Box: 130 Amazing, Animal-Free Lunches Kids and Grown-Ups Will Love! — another really wonderful cookbook.

There are three parts to this meal: Injera (the flatbread), a split pea stew called Split Pea Alecha, and some broccoli.

I make Injera from my crepe recipe, but replacing most of the gluten-free flour mix with teff flour. Teff is the smallest grain, and the highest in iron. It is from Africa. It gives a “wheaty” taste to gluten-free baked goods.

The timing for this recipe works like this:

  1. Start cooking the Split Pea Alecha.
  2. While it cooks, make the injera. IMPORTANT: Make a triple batch of injera, so that you’ll have enough.
  3. Toward the end of making the injera, cook a pound of frozen broccoli as a side dish. See my quick and easy broccoli recipe here.
  4. To serve, put a piece of injera on each plate. Add a scoop of Split Pea Alecha, a scoop of cooked broccoli, and a folded piece of injera.
  5. Serve!
  6. Eaters tear off a piece of injera and use that to scoop up a bite of stew or broccoli, then eat it. They may need some extra injera to eat their meal. When you finish your folded piece of injera, you can also eat the injera that is under the food on the plate. Yummy!

To make injera, make a triple batch of my crepe recipe. You can optionally replace up to three quarters of the flour mix with teff flour, to make it more Ethiopian.

My broccoli recipe is here. It is quick and yummy.

Split Pea Alecha - gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan, Ethiopian food and really yummy!
 
Prep time
Total time
 
This is the main component of a quick weeknight Ethiopian dinner. It has the lovely allure of Ethiopian spices, but it is simple enough to cook for dinner on a weeknight.
Author:
Recipe type: dinner
Cuisine: Ethiopian
Serves: serves 6-8
Ingredients
  • 3 cups dried split peas - either green (cooks faster) or yellow (more authentic) is okay
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 slices (1/4 inch) fresh ginger, chopped finely
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (or 2 pods, crushed)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (or 1 clove, crushed)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • a pinch of nutmeg
Instructions
  1. Put the split peas into a big pot, with water. Sprinkle with the turmeric. Check the package from the split peas for how much water to use, or use 6 cups if you are using green split peas, or 10 cups if you have yellow split peas. (Yellow seems to be more absorbent.)
  2. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat.
  3. Simmer until the liquid has been mostly absorbed and the stew is starting to look thickened. The amount of time that this takes varies widely depending on the variety of split peas and how long ago they were harvested. In my experience it can take anything from 30 to 90 minutes. Green split peas cook faster; yellow ones take longer.
  4. Stir in all of the other ingredients.
  5. Serve on injera (see recipe notes), with broccoli and more injera for scooping.

 

This recipe has been entered into the Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck. Yum!!!

This recipe has been shared on Gluten-Free Fridays.  Yum!!!

What to eat when you are too upset to eat — in memory of Jan Wolter

Jan Wolter

Wow. It’s been three months since I last posted here. This is a big gap! My goal is to post something every few days.

What happened in these three months?

First my kids were off school for winter break. Then we all came down with the flu. And then my life-partner, a kind and gentle man named Jan Wolter — died. The doctors said that he choked on mucus from a combination of allergies and the flu, and the choking stopped his heart. I called 911. Ambulances, police cars, and fire engines came to our house. They re-started his heart and took him to the hospital.  But, a few days later, he died. I had no idea that a person could die that way. Poor Jan!!!!!

As you can imagine, our lives have been turned upside down. As you would expect, the kids and I are sad and sorry and wish that he was still here.

But we are also doing okay. I am honestly surprised by how okay we are. I am also surprised by how, despite the awfulness of losing Jan, how little our lives have been changed.

But since this is a cooking blog, I am not here to talk at length about Jan and our kids. But, because it is a cooking blog, I will talk about the impact that losing Jan has had on my cooking.

For one, I have three kids, all of whom are limited eaters. So my cooking audience has changed quite a bit.

The youngest of my kids has autism and has been working on toilet training for a long time. After two years of hard work, in December he finally got the hang of using the bathroom consistently. But now he visits the bathroom a zillion times a day, often making four visits to the bathroom while I am cooking dinner. He is seven years old, but functions about like a two year old, so he generally needs some amount of supervision. So now when I cook, I am also multitasking between cooking and supervising a kid who behaves like a toddler and may make four visits to the bathroom while I am cooking a meal. So, after Jan died, it took a while for me to find my stride and start cooking longer meals again. For a while all of the dinners that I cooked were just the quickest homemade meals that I could make. But over time I have started branching out again into more elaborate meals too. And I am finding my way with this process of cooking while also supervising a kid — it is okay.

Still another change in my family’s eating habits is that Jan was allergic to tomatoes, onions, and garlic, so there was very little of any of those in the recipes I posted. Now that Jan is gone, I have been experimenting with cooking with those foods again. So far I have found that garlic fits right into my cooking and we are enjoying it. Tomatoes are touch-and-go, but mostly go. But onions, to my surprise, have been harder to add back in. Recently I cooked a favorite dinner that Jan used to cook, called Pasta, Beans and Greens. (I will post that recipe on this site someday — it is a great recipe: easy, yummy, and nutritious.) Jan and I had been cooking that recipe without the onions, even though the original recipe called for onions. So I added onions back in. And, to my surprise, I found that I like the recipe much better without the onions! So adding onions back into my cooking is going to take some time and experimentation.

Another change in my cooking is a reduction in how much rice we choose to eat. Consumer Reports has released more articles about the dangers of arsenic in rice. It seems that the danger of rice increasing your chances of getting cancer are a real concern, especially for people who eat gluten-free and have a lot of rice in their diet. So I have been reducing the amount of rice my family eats, and replacing it with other, safer, foods.

Anyway, during the three months since my last blog posting, I have thought a lot about what to put into this next blog posting. I wanted to write a posting in memory of Jan, and something that talked about the transition my family is going through. So I decided to write about what to eat when you are too upset to eat, since, when Jan fell ill, that was how I was feeling.

Now I am okay again. I am eating just fine, and I am honestly surprised by how cheerful and happy I usually feel each day. It feels strange to be so cheerful again — I feel like I should mourn Jan’s death for at least a year. But my finding my way back to cheerfulness again makes me think of a TED Talk that I listened to recently, about how people adapt to bad things that happen to them. The speaker said that when people had a choice, they agonized over their decision and had a hard time coming to terms with it. But when they had absolutely no choice or control over something bad that happened to them, then they just adapted and went on with their lives. This TED Talk really resonated for me — it is how I feel. If I could choose, of course I would choose that Jan would still be alive. But he is gone, I don’t have a choice, and so the only thing I can do is adapt. And so adapting is what I am doing. And honestly adapting is going pretty well.

But I still want to write about how I got through the weeks when I was too upset to eat, because I experimented and learned and found my way through a really difficult time in my life, and I think that this could be valuable information for other people who are going through their own life experiences that make them too upset to eat.

Of course I don’t know if what worked for me will work for anybody else. But here is what I did:

I found that what worked for me was to cook healthy, nutritious, simple, soupy foods, such as 15-Minute Chili or Spinach Bean Soup. Storebought soup would have been fine too. When I set a soupy food down in front of myself, I didn’t want to eat it or anything else. But if I could make myself eat a few small spoonfuls, then my appetite would come back and I could eat. After the first few spoonfuls, I would find that I was hungry enough to comfortably eat the rest of the serving of food.

Will it work for anyone else? I don’t know, but I think it could.

If you are reading this because you are too upset to eat: Hang in there, and take good care of yourself. I am sending you **a long, quiet, peaceful hug** from me to you.

Farewell, Jan Wolter. You are missed.

Riz Bi Har – an addictive recipe with eggplant, vegan Tzatziki sauce, and rice

Riz Bi Har
cutting eggplant

To cube an eggplant, cut off the stem end, then cut it in half to make a flat surface. Then cut parallel lines the long way, half an inch apart. Turn the cut strips of eggplant on their sides, flat side down, and cut the long way again, so that you have long thin pieces of eggplant. Then cut crosswise to get cubes.

Once upon a time, there was a local Ann Arbor restaurant called Sharayar. Whenever I ate there, I always ordered a dish called Riz Bi Har. They had lots of other good food on the menu too, but I really especially adored the Riz Bi Har, so I started to order it every time I went there.

The restaurant Sharayar was a favorite for many years of happy eating. It was a sad day when they closed.

After years without Riz Bi Har, I decided to undertake making my own.

eggplant ready to cookI started by asking people on the Ann Arbor Parenting e-mail list, Arborparents, if they remembered the Riz Bi Har from Sharayar, and what they thought was in it.

People remembered eggplant, rice, cauliflower, other veggies, vermicelli noodles, and a tantalizing white garlicky sauce, wrapped in a cylinder of flatbread.

cooked eggplant

This is the same tray of eggplant after cooking. The volume decreases a lot as it cooks.

So, I set out to make that.  My experiments led to something really good, even on the first try. But over time this dish has evolved into something less like Sharayar’s version and more truly my own.

The magic in this is the combination of eggplant with a creamy, tangy, garlicky, vegan Tzatziki sauce. All of the other ingredients in this recipe can be swapped around and the results will still taste good. As a variation, you can serve it in a bowl

assembled riz bi har

Here is a filled tortilla, ready for folding or rolling. This one is really full, so I folded it in half rather than trying to roll it up.

instead of wrapped in a tortilla. You can swap around which vegetables you choose. If you are not a fan of eggplant, you can swap it out and replace it with some additional grilled or roasted veggies instead.

I am so glad that I tried making my own Riz Bi Har. If it was gone forever I would have missed it — it is very yummy and one of my favorite recipes.

riz bi har after folding

Folded, the yummy stuff inside gets covered up, which is harder to photograph. But it is still yummy. :)

 

Riz Bi Har - an addictive recipe with eggplant, vegan Tzatziki sauce, and rice
 
Prep time
Total time
 
A mix of rice, grilled veggies, and an addictive, garlicky, vegan tzatziki sauce, rolled up in a tortilla, makes a really delicious meal!
Author:
Recipe type: dinner
Cuisine: Middle Eastern-ish
Serves: serves 5
Ingredients
  • 11 tortillas (or a double batch of my homemade tortilla recipe, made with a little salt added to the batter)
  • tzatziki sauce or creamy white salad dressing (click to see my recipe for it)
  • 1 small to medium sized eggplant
  • 4 cups of assorted veggies (can be red bell peppers, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.)
  • optional: a 15-ounce can of beans, eg. pinto beans
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • brown rice
Instructions
  1. Start cooking the rice, according to package directions.
  2. Cut the eggplant and other veggies (but not broccoli or cauliflower) into bite-sized pieces or half-inch cubes. Place on a nonstick cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and some salt. Bake at 400 to 450 degrees, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are getting well-browned and the eggplant looks toasted.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the broccoli and/or cauliflower in the microwave.
To assemble:
  1. If the tortillas are not warm, warm them up.
  2. Inside each tortilla, place a few tablespoons of rice, a few tablespoons of veggies, a few tablespoons of tzatziki sauce, and optionally the beans, if you are including beans.
  3. Roll up the tortilla and serve! Or, if it is too full to roll, then fold it in half -- that works nicely too. Mine are always too full to roll! :)

 

Potato Pancakes – gluten-free Latkes for Chanukah or anytime!

Chanukah table with potato pancakes

In honor of Chanukah, here is my potato pancake (latke) recipe. Served with a salad or a veggie on the side, these make a lovely dinner.

I’ve replaced most of the potatoes with sweet potato, and drastically reduced the oil, to make really healthy potato pancakes that taste delicious! Even my pickiest kids love these.

latke batter

The batter. You can see that it is mostly sweet potatoes, but there are also some regular potatoes in there too.

I originally got this from my oldest son’s kindergarten teacher, many years ago. His birthday is right around Chanukah, so when I asked his kindergarten teacher if I could bring in cupcakes as a birthday treat, she decided that since I am Jewish I should also help the class to make potato pancakes. It was really neat watching her cook with the class — she had one student practicing reading by reading the recipe, another student practicing math by multiplying the ingredients, another one learning kitchen skills by grating potatoes, and so on, with each student matched to a task that practiced something appropriate for that kid. I wasn’t happy about being pressed into volunteering in the classroom, nor about the teacher’s assumption that being Jewish meant I’d be knowledgeable about potato pancakes. But I ended up with an appreciation of differentiated multi-grade education and also a very yummy recipe for potato pancakes. This version is very different from her recipe — I’ve cut way down on the salt, reduced the eggs, took out the onions, replaced most of the potatoes (no nutrients) with sweet potatoes (lots of nutrients), added optional green leafy veggies, and lowered the oil content far below what’s traditionalatkes cookingl. And the resulting potato pancakes are delicious!

Some tips:
* If your nonstick pan is pretty good and the pancake is sticking anyway, it is not fully cooked. Let it keep cooking for a few more minutes and then try again.
* I always think about balancing the liquid as I’m making this recipe. The potatoes gradually give off liquid as they sit in the batter. So at first the batter is on the dry side, and later on it gets wetter. So for the first pancakes, I use batter from the wettest part of the bowl, to make sure there is enough liquid. Later on, I stir the batter to keep the liquid proportionate to the solids, so that both the liquid and the potatoes last until the end.

My pickiest eater, who normally eats only beige food, will gobble down potato pancakes and serve himself more. Go figure!

Jewish cooking tip: A pizza cutter is a quick way to cut up potato pancakes for a small child.  :) Kitchen scissors can do this as well.

IMPORTANT: This is a small recipe, about enough to serve one person. I multiply it by five to make dinner for the family.

Potato Pancakes - gluten-free Latkes for Chanukah or anytime!
 
These healthy potato pancakes taste delicious! I've replaced most of the potatoes with sweet potato, and drastically reduced the oil. Even my pickiest kids love these.
Author:
Recipe type: main dish
Cuisine: Jewish
Serves: 1 person -- makes 4-6 latkes
Ingredients
Note: I usually quintuple this recipe.
  • 1 1/2 cups sweet potatoes, grated (use a food processor -- it is much faster and safer)
  • 1/2 cup potatoes, grated (don't omit - their liquid makes the recipe work)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons potato starch or, if you're not gluten-free, regular flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • optional: a few leaves of greens (chard, kale, etc.), chopped finely in the food processor
  • 1 or 2 glugs of oil (not a very exact measurement -- a glug is about a tablespoon)
  • toppings: applesauce, sour cream, homemade beannaise, etc.
  • a green side dish, such as broccoli or a salad
Instructions
  1. Preheat one or more nonstick frying pans on the stove. Good pre-heating helps to prevent sticking. For a big batch, I use three frying pans at once. I preheat the empty pans on medium-low, then turn the heat up to Medium a couple of minutes before adding food.
  2. Mix all ingredients (except toppings and side dishes!) in a big bowl. Stir very thoroughly, to make sure it's all well mixed, so that there aren't any lurking patches of salt or potato starch.
  3. Use a dinnertable tablespoon to ball up a wet blob of the mixture, then drop it into the pan and pat it with the back of the spoon to gradually widen it and shape it into a pancake shape. At this point for the first batch turn the heat up to medium-high, then once the pancakes are really cooking, lower it to just above medium and leave it there. When the pancake is gorgeous and brown on the bottom, use a spatula to flip it, pat it down, and cook the other side. When the second side is cooked, remove the pancake to a serving plate.
  4. Serve with bowls of toppings on the table. Eaters get 3-4 potato pancakes, and then put a spoonful of applesauce or sour cream or beannaise on top, spread it around and eat with a fork.
  5. The cooking time varies depending on how big a batch you are making. When I quintuple the recipe, it can take maybe 90 minutes to cook everything.