Poor Man’s Pesto

And the seven years of famine began…and there was great hunger in the land…

Over here, we’ve had a few weeks of plenty, also known as carb overload. We’re trying to be done eating chametz in the house by the middle of the week so we know that what we clean stays crumb-free. As my sister’s friend said last year, cleaning for Pesach (Passover) with kids at home is like brushing your teeth while eating an Oreo. So, we’ve been eating lots of macaroni and cheese, lasagna, French toast casserolechallah kugel, birthday cakes, cookies, zucchini muffins, and banana muffins. On Friday afternoon, I used up the very end of the flour to make peanut butter swirl double chocolate fudge brownies, and they came out so good that I would love to share the recipe, but I can’t because there is no recipe. I know, real bakers out there, I committed a baking sin. I didn’t spoon and level the flour or sift the dry ingredients together or cream butter and sugar. I bake like your bubby. I just threw some oil, sugar, cocoa, etc into a plastic bowl and mixed with a wooden spoon. I didn’t measure anything. I’ll let you in on my secret–my Pyrex measuring cup broke months ago, and I haven’t replaced it yet. But you’re not here for a brownie recipe anyways. This is supposed to be a healthy food blog, right? Until Pesach, this blog is going gluten-free.

Pesto. It’s popular for a good reason. The main ingredient, basil, is worth buying just to make my refrigerator smell good. Garlic is also a starring flavor and healthy to boot. The problem with traditional pesto, other than that basil is not readily available all year, is the extra ingredients:

  • Pine nuts, I discovered when I was first married and gifted a bag along with the apartment where we were living, are a great salad topper. They’re nutty, but mild. In pesto, they add a richness to the flavor. When that first bag was empty and I went to buy more, I learned how expensive they are.
  • Parmesan cheese is out because it’s dairy. I like my pesto parve so I can spread it on challah on Shabbos. It’s also almost as expensive as pine nuts.

So, what’s left to put in poor man’s pesto? I know people who replace the pine nuts with walnuts, but I find this unnecessary. This pesto is not as rich-tasting as one made with pine nuts and Parmesan cheese, so it’s not as tasty to eat straight with a spoon, but for adding to salads or using as a spread, it’s great. I like to use it to dress tomato salad. My pesto has just four ingredients: basil, garlic, olive oil, and salt. Process, and presto! You’ve got pesto.

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Pesto spread on cracker

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spaghettini with flaked salmon and pesto

Poor Man’s Pesto Recipe
Yield: about 1 cup

Ingredients:
1 large bunch basil (about 4 cups loosely packed leaves)
5-6 cloves garlic
1/3-1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Wash and dry basil leaves and remove from stems.
  2. Place basil, garlic, and salt in food processor.
  3. While the food processor is running, add olive oil until the pesto has reached the desired consistency.
  4. You may need to stop and scrape down the sides a few times.
  5. Serve as a spread on matzah, crackers, or bread, or as a salad dressing.

 

 

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Banana Muffins with the Works

I am typing with a baby on my lap. In fact, most of the 38 posts I have written since I started this blog three months ago I wrote with a baby on my lap. He eats or climbs up my shoulder and pulls my hair or my sleeve or tries to jump off my lap, and I type. Win-win, right?

I recently read an article published about a year ago in Huffingpost Post entitled “Having It All Kinda Sucks.” The author describes an extreme situation in which she takes off exactly one day of work to have a baby. Since she works remotely from home, not of her clients saw her bulging belly, not did they know if she was on a conference call while nursing her newborn, and she is her family’s main breadwinner. She also has a 3.5-year-old out of the house until 5 o’clock and a husband who expects her to keep up with the cooking, cleaning, and laundry the same way she did before she had a baby. Her point is that American society, which influences Western society in general, creates unrealistic expectations for all women to be working mothers. “Stop telling women they can have everything without sacrificing anything. Here’s the truth: You want to have a career and kids? You totally can, but both will suffer.” Women, she claims, should not be ashamed to choose either of the alternatives–being a stay-at-home-mom or not having children.

I think everyone would agree that work-life balance is difficult, and many women second-guess their decisions related to career and family. However, this article discusses extremes. I would like to suggest a middle ground that is sometimes, depending on the field of work and family dynamics, an option. How about working part-time? If that’s not possible, why not hire a babysitter and/or a cleaning lady? I know many career-minded mothers–one who cut her maternity leave short in order not to lose a whole semester of lecturing, some who have nannies put their kids to bed almost every night, some who bring sick kids to work with them. I myself finished my Bachelor’s degree on my second maternity leave and my Master’s degree on my fifth maternity leave. Still, I don’t know anyone who went back to work full-time the day after giving birth.

I have never worked full-time. My first year working, I was pregnant and commuting 1.5-2 hours each direction, four days a week. I stayed home with my first baby for a year. After the next three, I went back to work part-time (anywhere from 16 to 30 hours a week) as soon as the legally-mandated 14-week maternity leave was up. (Good news for working mothers in Israel: Maternity leave has been lengthened to 15 weeks.) After my current baby was born, two days after moving to a new city, I decided to leave my desk job and work from home. I could have it all, to be with the baby, not miss any cute “firsts,” not need to take off for sick kids or birthday parties, and be able to keep my brain cells stimulated and make a little money at the same time. This worked for a while, until the wee one stopped taking long naps and started crawling. Forget about getting work or Pesach cleaning done, I can barely keep up with the laundry. Now, though I protested for a long time that the whole point of working from home is to be with the baby, I’m ready to send him to a babysitter for a few hours a day. Maybe I’ll even be able to start eating lunch again.

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Every year, as Pesach (Passover) approaches, I clean out my freezer and closets from opened packages, especially baking supplies that may have gotten flour in them. Usually, what results is an “everything cake.” I throw things into a bowl, mix, and pray for the best. The problem is that since I’m not using a recipe, I can never recreate the same cake again. Lucky for my family, I wrote down what I put in the banana muffins I made this week to post on the blog, so they can have them again! I made muffins instead of cake because:
a) We’re out of cornflakes, and these are almost healthy enough to eat for breakfast, though not as healthy as the zucchini muffins the kids ate this morning
b) Cutting a cake makes crumbs, something I am trying to avoid now. I can stick muffins into sandwich bags and send the kids down to the park.
These are basic banana muffins with the addition of almond flavoring, instant oatmeal, chocolate chips, walnuts, and dried cranberries. A little of everything. What more could you ask for in a banana muffin? Now, I think there are just enough odds and ends in my kitchen for a big batch of kitchen sink cookies.

With these banana muffins, you really can have your cake and eat it, too.

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Banana Muffins with the Works Recipe
Yield: 24 muffins

Ingredients:

5-6 ripe bananas, at least partially defrosted and mashed (about 4 cups)
2/3 cup oil
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup date syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup quick oats
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Directions:

  1. Defrost and mash banana. I find a potato masher works well for such a large amount, but you could manage with a fork. You don’t want the bananas frozen when they come in contact with the eggs so they won’t freeze the eggs.
  2. Add oil, sugar, vanilla, and almond flavoring. Mix well. (You can use a mixer if you want. I use a bowl and wooden spoon.)
  3. Add eggs. Mix well.
  4. Add flour, oats, baking powder, and salt. Mix well.
  5. Add chocolate chips, nuts, and dried cranberries. Mix a little, until evenly distributed.
  6. Bake at 180C/350F for about 20 minutes.
  7. These freeze well.

 

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Savory Challah Kugel

“You’re not allowed to eat the ends of bread loaves!” I hear from the other room.
“You’re not allowed to throw out good food. It’s baal tashchit!” another voice responds.
“The ends of bread don’t count as food,” the first voice replies.
“That’s ridiculous! It is food!”
“It makes you forget everything you learned!” The first voice is now shrill. “You’ll fail out of college!”
I recall a conversation from twelve years ago. My college flatmates are arguing again. The fight ends in a truce. “Fine, you throw out the ends of your bread, and I’ll keep mine.”

Bread-eaters all seem to be divided into two camps: those who eat the ends of loaves and those who don’t. In my family, the bread heels get wrapped up  and tossed into the freezer until I make stuffing, french toast, or challah kugel.

My mother says when she was a child she always had to eat whatever she was served. “You don’t like Lima beans? Eat them anyways. There are starving children in Africa.” Unfortunately, we don’t have to go as far as Africa to find starving children.

Another food that is often overlooked, which I included in this kugel, is celery leaves. I used to throw them out. On one shopping trip a few years ago, I was standing in front of the refrigerated produce when a lady started rummaging through all the celery, which had all the leaves removed. “What happened to the leaves?” she asked me. “Did they retire?” At that point, I didn’t understand why she wanted celery leaves since I would just throw them out, but recently my celery has had big, beautiful, bright green leaves, and I don’t want to waste them. One bunch went into turkey neck soup, another into this kugel. When cooked, celery leaves taste very similar to spinach, and they are much cheaper.

The following challah kugel recipe can be used to stuff a whole chicken, as well, if the eggs are reduced to two.

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Savory Challah Kugel Recipe
Makes 1 small pan (12 servings)

Ingredients:
4 cups bite-size bread pieces
1  tsp oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 cups celery leaves, chopped
1 cup parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon thyme, rosemary, or other herb of choice
3 eggs
Grated cheese (optional)

Directions:

  1. Tear bread into bite-size pieces. Place in large bowl.
  2. Pour enough boiling water over bread to soak it.
  3. Saute chopped onion and carrot in oil until the onion is translucent and the carrot soft, about five minutes.
  4. Add celery leaves, parsley, salt, pepper, and herbs of choice. Saute another minute.
  5. Add vegetables to bread and mix it all into a mush.
  6. Add eggs, mixing after each one. You don’t want the eggs to sit on the hot mixture very long so they won’t start cooking.
  7. If making this dish dairy, you could sprinkle grated cheese on top before baking.
  8. Bake at 180C/350F for about 45 minutes.
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Jerusalem Marathon

I am a runner.
I am not a distance runner. I didn’t run in the Jerusalem Marathon today. I have never run in a marathon.
I sprint.
Friends will attest to spotting me running on a regular basis. 200 meter dash to preschool pick-up. 700 meter dash to school pickup. 100 meter dash to a bus. Somehow, I always seem to be running late. I’m always trying to squeeze more into my day, so getting from one place of action to another is a rushed afterthought. At work, it may be putting a few more books away, answering one more email, photocopying one more worksheet, or speaking to one more student. At home, I just need to fold two more shirts or wash a few more dishes. Technically, I should have time to do it all. Inevitably, though, the photocopier will jam, the phone will ring, the computer will want to update something, the student will be especially chatty, or the baby’s diaper will leak just as I want to walk out the door. So I am left running out the door. One busy day this winter, I managed to clock over 6km with local errands–dropping kids off at preschool, taking one to the doctor, dropping forgotten homework off at first grade, taking kids to an activity at the local community center, stopping at the pharmacy. This is not uncommon, but I only added up all my walking that one day.

Jerusalem is a difficult place to run a marathon because it is very hilly. For the same reason, it’s fun place to sprint. I used to practically roll down the hill in mornings to the bus or light rail. 7 minutes walking, 5 running. For many years and at various stages of pregnancy, I ran uphill to catch buses in Bayit Vegan. This was a good meter for judging the level of compassion and patience of Egged bus drivers. When they didn’t wait, I faced tests of my own to remain calm and patient, which I didn’t always pass.

I charted my favorite Jerusalem sprint route in the year I worked in the Old City. Two mornings a week, I ran from the light rail station near the municipality building, through the Jaffa Gate, and through the Arab shuk (market) to the school where I taught in the Jewish Quarter. At nine in the morning, this route was not yet jammed with tourists. Most shops were still closed, and some were just opening. I passed under the cold, stone arches, over dirty puddles, past brightly-colored scarves, t-shirts, bowls of beads, and tables of trinkets. The cool, morning air carried the scents of spices, freshly-baked bread, yesterday’s garbage, and tarnished metal. I kept my eyes of the ground ahead of me so I wouldn’t slip and thought to myself, “Am I really here? Am I really living in Jerusalem and working in the Old City?” At the same time, a smaller voice whispered, “Please don’t stab me. Please don’t stab me. Please don’t stab me.”

I still run, but I miss running in Jerusalem.

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Peatitim

Update: An incomplete draft without the full recipe was accidentally published yesterday. I have corrected it.

Happy Monday! I know, it’s really Wednesday, but with Purim on Sunday, the kids all still on vacation Monday, and Tuesday being “get to preschool late because I’m tired from vacation” day and national weekly end school early day and one of my kids’ birthdays, my “normal” week is getting off to a late start. And it’s almost over. Today is another birthday, and tomorrow I already need to get ready for Shabbos because there’s another family event on Friday. So cleaning for Pesach (Passover) is getting a slow start. In the meantime, however, the annual two weeks of carb-binging followed by two weeks of gluten-free meals in an effort to rid the home of leaven is in full swing. Does your home look like this between Purim and Pesach, too?

PROBLEM: My two-year-old wants macaroni and cheese for lunch every day. I am trying to use up all flour-based products in the next two weeks so I can clean for Passover knowing that Cheerios will not get kicked down the hall when I turn my back. My pasta supply is now dangerously low.

SOLUTION: P’timim. This orzo-like toasted pasta is commonly known in English as “Israeli couscous” or “pearl couscous” because of its round shape, resembling couscous. (Don’t be fooled. Israeli couscous is not considered couscous in Israel.)

I made it into a complete, healthy meal by pairing the “pearls” with peas. Since they are the same shape, they mix in well and look nice, in addition to adding fiber, protein, and vitamins.

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Okay, I guess looking nice is relative. They do add a splash of color!

For the sauce, I use partly 28% fat grated yellow cheese and partly 5% fat gevinah levanah, soft white cheese. My preferred brand of gevinah levanah is Strauss “Ski” because it contains a little cream and tastes the creamiest. If you don’t live in Israel, I suggest subbing low-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt for the gevinah levanah. 

The most important difference between p’titim and pasta when making macaroni and cheese is that pasta normally has the starch rinsed off, whereas p’titim are not rinsed. So although a bit of flour or cornstarch is normally added to the cheese sauce for macaroni and cheese, it should not be added to p’titim.

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Peatitim Recipe

Ingredients:
1 teaspoon oil
500 gram bag ptitim
salt and pepper
2 cups frozen peas
250 gram (about a cup) soft white cheese or Greek yogurt
1 cup shredded yellow cheese
turmeric, paprika, garlic powder (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in pot over medium flame. Add p’titim and stir to prevent burning.
  2. Boil 1 liter water.(May be done before step 1, too.)
  3. Add salt, pepper, and any other desired seasonings to dry p’titim and mix.
  4. Add water CAREFULLY. The p’titim tend to jump and splash onto the stove. I recommend having the pot cover handy to clamp on immediately. Any other methods of keeping the p’titim from jumping out of the pot are very welcome in the comments.
  5. Reduce the heat to low. Simmer for five minutes until most of the water has been absorbed.
  6. Add peas and cook for one more minute.
  7. Turn off stove. Add grated cheese and stir until it has melted.
  8. Add white cheese and stir until a uniform cheese sauce coats the p’titim and peas.
  9. Adjust seasonings if necessary.

 

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Stuffed Stuff

Imagine if Hitler had a Jewish mistress (but he didn’t know it) with a cousin who had saved his life, and one day in 1939 she revealed her identity, and he said, “Really? You’re Jewish? No way! Hey, I like Jews after all. I guess I really shouldn’t kill all the Jews in the world.” Would you call that a miracle? This is comparable to the Purim story. When Queen Esther revealed her hidden identity to King Ahashverosh, the decree to eradicate all the Jews in the world was mitigated by allowing the Jews to defend themselves. Skeptics could call it luck, chance, or coincidence because this miracle was hidden. It was less obvious than ten plagues, walking through the Sea of Reeds on dry land, eating manna from heaven, or one day’s worth of oil lasting for eight. It takes some insight to look at the whole story and say, “Wow!” This is reflected in the foods we eat when we’re celebrating. Traditional foods are all based on the famous idea of, ‘They tried to kill us; G-d saved us; let’s eat.’ On Purim we eat foods with fillings, surprises inside, stuffed stuff.

Filling and stuffing is time-consuming. For a cook short on time, this can be a challenge. I chose dishes that could be made ahead and frozen or with very easy fillings. Here are some last minute quick ideas for a stuffed stuff menu, soup to nuts:

  • Turkey neck soup with kreplach.  Kreplach are a traditional stuffed Purim food I have never made from scratch: meat-stuffed dough triangles usually served in soup, the Jewish version of wontons. Why turkey necks instead of classic chicken? The evil Haman wanted to hang Mordechai the Jew on the gallows, and he and his sons were hung in the end.
  • Stuffed peppers, stuffed with meat or rice and covered in Hidden Veggie Tomato Sauce. It’s like the vegetables are all in costume.
  • Vegan Burritos with Easy Refried Beans could be stuffed with ground meat as well. They go great with Sunny Avocado Salad.
  • If you make hamentashen, try put different fillings, such as Lite Chocolate Ganache or a date-based chocolate filling, Gluten-Free No-Bake Brownie Bites stuffed into cookies. Or simply serve walnut-stuffed dates.

I hope this helped stuff up any holes you still had in your Purim menu.

Happy Purim!

 

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Lite Chocolate Ganache (Parve, Vegan)

When I was a kid, my shul (synagogue) had a sisterhood. The members cooked for congregational Chanukah and Purim parties, organized an annual rummage sale as a fundraiser, and had lots of Sunday morning meetings. My current shul doesn’t have a sisterhood, but the ladies do have a WhatsApp group. Welcome to the 21st century. The first message I received after joining the group two weeks ago was an invitation to a chocolate workshop in honor of the happy Hebrew month of Adar. Because women+chocolate= :-). Am I perpetuating stereotypes? Oops.

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Most recipes for ganache or truffles call for chocolate and cream or nondairy creamer. Since nondairy creamer is right below margarine on the list of things not allowed into my kitchen, I was happy to learn that ganache can be made with just chocolate and hot water. Apparently, it is not just a way to save money on cream. Chocolate purists prefer using water to thin the chocolate because it doesn’t adulterate the chocolate flavor. Who knew that cheap could be chic? This is good if you’re using high-quality chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids). If you only have chocolate chips, they’ll taste like melted chocolate chips without the cream to enrich the flavor.

Whereas the classic ganache recipe calls for equal parts cream and chocolate, if water is used, less is needed since it is thinner than cream. The standard size of local chocolate bars is 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces). To make ganache, add 85 ml (about 1/3 cup) boiling water to each 100 grams of chocolate, broken into pieces. Let it sit for a minute, and then stir until melted together. No whisk or mixer needed. A regular bowl and spoon work just fine. If there are stubborn lumps of chocolate after a few minutes of mixing, microwave for 30 seconds or heat over a double boiler until the chocolate has all melted. At this point, you can add flavorings, such as liquor or peanut butter. For mocha flavored ganache, melt the chocolate with hot coffee instead of hot water. If using the ganache to frost cake, you’re ready to go. Let that chocolate flow. If you want to use the ganache more like a mousse, such as to fill dessert cups like in the picture, you have a little more work ahead. Put the chocolate mixture in the fridge to cool for about a half hour, until it has thickened to frosting consistency, but not hardened. Fill a pastry bag or corner of a zip-top plastic bag (Regular sandwich bags aren’t strong enough.), snip the end, and pipe into place. Decorate with nuts, shredded coconut, or sprinkles. If the chocolate mixture hardens too much in the fridge, simply microwave for increments of 10-15 seconds until it’s soft enough to squeeze out of pastry bags.

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Lite Chocolate Ganache Recipe

Ingredients:

100 grams good quality chocolate
85 ml (about 1/3 cup) boiling water
1 teaspoon liquor, coffee, nut butter, or other flavoring (optional)
nuts, shredded coconut or other toppings (optional)

Directions:

  1. Break chocolate into small pieces and put into microwave-safe bowl.
  2. Pour hot water over chocolate. Let sit for one minute.
  3. Stir until an even, smooth sauce is formed.
  4. Mix in flavoring, if desired.
  5. If you want a thicker consistency, refrigerate for a half hour.
  6. Spoon into pastry bag or zip-top bag with the corner cut off to frost with.
  7. Decorate with toppings, if desired.

If you’re looking for a healthier option, try Gluten-Free No-Bake Brownie Bites.

 

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Sweet and Sour Flowers

Forget door bells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles. Just give me flowers. It might sound cliche, but they really are one of my favorite things. Since it’s Adar, the happiest month on Hebrew calendar, I’ve been indulging in happy things. I spent a morning hiking with some of my favorite people people and saw magnificent  flowers. The white petals are raining from the almond trees, and the hills surrounding my house are full of bright red poppies (פרג) and anemones (כלניות) sans Wizard of Oz. I can’t actually tell the difference between them, but I still love them. Fields are yellow with spring groundsel (סביונים), and purple cyclemen (רקפות) are hiding in the shade behind rocks and trees. No picking, though! Cyclemen and anemones are officially “protected flowers” that are illegal to pick in Israel. If you’re here, try to find a chance to get away from your computer, the kitchen, the Pesach cleaning, and the half-made Purim costumes and get out to see the beauty around you. If you’re not in Israel, this is what you’re missing:

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almond blossoms

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Poppy or anemone?

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spring groundsel

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cyclemen

Even closer to home, my parking lot is full of yellow flowers that have the same nickname in Hebrew as sour sticks candy, chamtzutzim (חמצוצים). They are actually called חמציץ נטוי chamtzitz natui, known in English as Bermuda Buttercup or Soursob. Their sour name comes from the fact that if you pick them and suck on the bottom of the stem, they taste sour. My girls love them.

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Soursob

But not as much as they love these sweet flowers growing down the block. They pluck the orange blossoms from this local variety of honeysuckle and suck the sweet nectar.

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wall covered in honeysuckle

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honeysuckle

 

As far as I know, the sweet and sour flowers aren’t “protected.” For a complete list of protected and endangered wildflowers in Israel, see  Wild Flowers of Israel.

What are some of your favorite things?

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Vegan Burritos with Easy Refried Beans

I grew up in a fiber-rich household. We ate bran muffins, not blueberry; Sorbees, not Skittles; macaroni and baked beans more than macaroni and cheese. At school, I sat across the lunch table from white bread with mayo and American cheese or solid white tuna with Ritz crackers while I ate my supper leftovers. Once, a boy turned his nose up at my refried beans and tortilla chips, saying, “That looks like poop.” The non-confrontational child that I was, I refrained from slapping him. Anyways, my refried beans probably tasted better than his peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I remember my father soaking and boiling pinto beans, pureeing them in a blender, then adding them to a cast-iron skillet waiting with sauteed onions and spices. I don’t have time for so many steps, so I simplified the process. My refried beans didn’t come out tasting like my father’s, but they’re very tasty with much less work. My kids said they tasted like Cheetos. Coming from a four-year-old, that’s a big compliment!

These burritos make a great weeknight supper or Purim side dish. Since they are wrapped up, tortilla concealing the contents, they fit well with the tradition of eating foods with hidden centers, like hamentashen and kreplach, to remember the hidden miracle of the Jewish people’s salvation on Purim.

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Burrito Recipe
For 2 burritos

Ingredients:
2 tortillas
1/2 cup refried beans (recipe below)
1 tomato, chopped
1 small avocado, chopped or 1/2 cup Sunny Avocado Salad
2 tablespoons corn
1 tablespoon chopped green onions
1/4 cup salsa (optional)

Directions:

  1. Spread 1/4 cup refried beans down the middle of each tortilla.
  2. Layer on chopped tomato, avocado, green onion, and corn, leaving about 2-3 centimeters (an inch) of clean tortilla at the ends. Add salsa if using.
  3. Fold two sides in and hold down while placing in sandwich-maker/electric grill. Grilling warms the fillings and seals the tortilla closed so it is easier to hold and eat. Let it sit for two minutes. Do not press closed, lest you squeeze the stuffing out.
  4. Enjoy!

Refried Beans Recipe
yield: about 4 cups

Ingredients:
500 grams (about 2 cups) dried red kidney beans
water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions:

  1. Put beans in pot and fill with water at least 2 cm (about an inch) above the level of the beans. Cover and leave at least 6 hours.
  2. Pour out soaking water and replace with water to the same height. Add salt and stir.
  3. Boil for about 2 hours until bean skins are cracked open and beans are soft.
  4. Season with cumin, onion, and garlic.
  5. Mash with a potato masher or puree with an immersion blender. I like the smoother consistency achieved with the hand blender,. If you prefer chunky, use a potato masher (or if you’re really stuck, even a fork).
  6. Adjust seasonings if necessary.

 

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French Toast Casserole

I used to make French toast at least once a week. As a meal for two or three people, it’s very fast and easy, and there are always remains of challah and the ends of bread loaves floating around my freezer. Got milk and eggs? Got supper. Recently, however, the French toast has gone the way of the pancakes I used to make more often. I simply cannot get them out of the frying pan fast enough for my kids. Regular French toast means at least a half hour of running between the frying pan and the table, the frying pan and the milk, the frying pan and a pile of napkins. I needed a lazier faster, more efficient way to make French toast. A few weeks ago, after hearing about a savory bread pudding, I threw together this dairy bread pudding, which is basically baked French toast. Any sweet or savory add-ins are optional.

I’ve seen many recipes for French toast casseroles that includes layers or sweet syrups. If that what you’re looking for, this recipe is not it. This is about as simple as it gets, but it was still good enough to be the recipe that got my daughter to say, “Did you use a new recipe or make one up?”

“I made it up.”

“It’s so yummy. You should stop using recipes and always make up your own.”
I understood this to mean supper was successful.

Why is this casserole better than individual slices of French toast, other than less prep time? The outside gets a golden crust, while the thick inside stays soft and moist. Next time you’re trying to use up extra bread, try this, and you may never go back to pan-fried French toast.

French Toast  Casserole Recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients

One loaf worth of assorted bread parts
6 eggs
2-3 cups milk (or non-dairy alternative, such as soy milk, almond milk, or coconut milk)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
Optional sweet add-ins: chopped apples, raisins, nuts, maple syrup, brown sugar
Optional savory add-ins: fried onions, sauteed celery, shredded cheese, canned corn, chopped spinach, fresh herbs

Directions:

  1. Tear bread into bite-sized pieces. Put into big bowl.
  2. In another bowl, whisk (can be with a fork; you don’t actually need a whisk) eggs, then add 2 cups milk, salt, vanilla, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.
  3. Pour egg mixture over torn bread to coat it and let soak for about 5 minutes. If the bread is not all moistened, add more milk and mix. In any case, mix. You do not need the pieces of bread to remain distinct. It is good if they mingle and merge.
  4. Coat casserole dish with cooking spray and dusted with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.
  5. Pour bread mixture into casserole dish. Sprinkle another 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon on top
  6. Bake at 350F/180C for about 45 minutes, until golden brown.

 

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