Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes (Vegan)

'Bout to get drowned in syrup ...

‘Bout to get drowned in syrup …

If you’re wondering why the streak of breakfast foods, it’s mostly because recent life changes have conspired not only to make me too tired to cook anything but breakfast, but also to crave carborific breakfast treats that I normally would never eat because I would be too full after scarfing my now forbidden runny eggs. (Sorry, vegans. They were humanely farmed, at least.) That being said, I’ve also been experiencing some personal recidivism on the dietary front in general, and finding myself increasingly put off by the concept of animal products – again. Are we re-invegginating ourselves? I don’t know, maybe. A recent bout with having to feed my geriatric dog baby food due to veterinary issues brought me face to face with the horror of pureed chicken, which got me reflecting on the benefits of raising baby HashTag* on a vegetarian diet. And then there are some other things to consider, but that’s a long story for another day and I don’t want to stand in the way of you and these awesome pancakes.

Please note that you can swap out the coconut milk for any other kind of milk – rice, almond, soy, dairy, whatever. Also, you can pretty much use any kind of oil you want – I used walnut because I was trying to use it up before it expires, but you could use coconut oil, vegetable oil, peanut oil (though the latter might add some peanutty flavor – but that could awesome too, so go for it!).

You can also use regular white flour instead of wheat flour – whatever you have handy.

Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes

  • 1 1/2 c. coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp walnut oil
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1 c. wheat flour
  • 1/2 c. cornmeal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1  c. fresh blueberries

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees and have a baking sheet handy so you can keep the completed pancakes warm as you cook the remaining batter.

Mix the dry ingredients, then stir in the wet ingredients, then stir in the blueberries. Let the batter rest for a few minutes.

Heat a tiny bit of oil in a medium size non-stick skillet on medium heat. When everything is hot, pour 1/4 c. of batter onto the skillet and cook until the edges firm up and the batter begins to bubble a bit.

These pancakes do not bubble as much as your typical pancake, so keep that in mind and check them with a pancake turner for firmness. When they are cooked on bottom, flip and cook another minute or two on the other side. Transfer to baking sheet to keep warm. Serve with maple syrup, berries or jam.

*Not his real name.

Savory French Toast with Sundry Sauces (Vegetarian)

french-toast

Tastay

This French toast was inspired by my newfound constant craving for French toast and my perennial wish to make something J would like. Tragically, he doesn’t like sweet things for breakfast. Reasoning that French toast is pretty much just a bread omelette, I figured it shouldn’t be a problem to prepare and garnish it as such in lieu of the typical powdered sugar and maple syrup. Mind you, these days I am not quite so precise and careful at measuring things as before, so I can only give you an approximate recipe. You will have to give yourself over to that universal instinct that prevents most independently functioning people from being able to mess up French toast.

For the sauces, I served it with a few things I had on hand, including:

… but don’t feel limited by my choices (btw, recipe for the sapote butter is coming soon).  It would go well with pretty much anything you might use as a condiment for eggs.

Savory French Toast with Sundry Sauces (Vegetarian)

  • 3 – 4 large, organic cage-free eggs
  • 3 tbsp heavy cream or half & half (could also use milk if you prefer)
  • 1/2 c. grated cheese (I recommend Parmesan, Cheddar, Monterey or Gruyere*)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Dash of cayenne, if desired
  • ½ loaf of French bread or baguette, sliced thickly (about 2 inch slices)
  • Butter or olive oil

Preheat your oven to the Warm setting (or 200 degrees if you don’t have Warm). Have a baking sheet handy.

Crack the eggs carefully into a medium sized bowl. Break up the yolks first, then whisk in the cream briefly. Be careful not to over-whisk; over-whisking results in excessively fluffy eggs, which I can not abide. Also, you want the eggs to be extra thick and eggy for a more savory toast. Not necessarily something anyone would notice besides me, but hey. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper, and stir in about half the grated cheese, reserving the rest for topping.

Heat a large skillet on medium. When the skillet is hot, add the butter (or oil) and heat. Dunk a bread slice in the egg mixture on each side, making sure each is thoroughly saturated. Place in skillet and cook on each side until cooked through and lightly browned, approximately 3 – 5 minutes each side. I recommend cooking two or three slices at a time. When each slice is done, place on baking sheet and sprinkle with a bit of cheese. Place them in the oven to melt the cheese and keep them warm until they’re all ready to be served. Garnish with the egg dressing of your choosing and a sprinkling of parsley or basil, and enjoy! If you need ideas, the Seared Grape Tomatoes with Balsamic is quick and easy.

*Some cheeses are made with rennet, which is not vegetarian. Depending on which type and brand of cheese you use, this dish may not be 100% free of “meat.” Just saying. Gotta keep it real.

 

 

Seared Grape Tomatoes with Balsamic (Vegan)

This is a bastardization of a delicious tomato sauce our friend Anthony makes. I once asked him how he made it and he said nonchalantly, “Oh, you know, sear the tomatoes and add some vinegar. Balsamic, sherry, red wine, whatever.” I, however, have never succeeded at achieving either his exact sauce or his nonchalance. But I think my version isn’t too bad. Makes a great topping for Savory French Toast, or pasta, or bruschetta, or just chomped plain. Also it’s really easy and takes just a few minutes.

Seared Grape Tomatoes with Balsamic

  • 4 oz grape tomatoes, halved (or cherry tomatoes – whatever)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Balsamic to taste (about 2 – 3 tbsp, or a few light shakes of the bottle)
  • Chopped basil or parsley as garnish, if desired

Heat a medium skillet on medium-high. When it is hot, toss in the tomatoes, stirring constantly. Cook until they begin to darken and soften, about 3 – 5 minutes. Add a few splashes of balsamic and continue to stir a bit longer until the liquid is reduced. Stir in a dash of salt and pepper. Serve immediately and garnish if desired.

Phyllis’ Old-Fashioned Baked Beans (Vegan or Vegetarian)

“If there’s a secret to any of the few dishes I can create, it’s simplicity. And sugar, you can never go wrong with sugar.” – Phyllis (my mother)

Sage words, indeed. Phyllis said this in response to my fanatical raving about how awesome my baked beans turned out after I used her recipe for a 4th of July party and asked her where the heck she got it from. It is a dish that she has distilled to perfection over several decades of experimentation, based on a – yes, seriously – Betty Crocker original from a cookbook that she was given as a wedding gift in the 60s. Anyway, don’t let its humble origin fool you. These beans are fantastic and if you serve them at a party, they will disappear in short order.

A word about baked beans in general. They are a Midwestern potluck and bbq staple, and as such, we must make certain allowances for their unique strategy for tastiness. I am often a little hesitant and bashful to share the ingredients of some Sweet Home recipes of mine, because people are sometimes shocked at their … pragmatism, to put it delicately. In more candid terms, what I mean is that on the West coast I think people usually assume anything delicious comes from fresh, organic, farm-raised, sustainably produced, obscure and esoteric ingredients. Not always so back at Sweet Home. See, there’s this magic, versatile substance that is a mainstay of countless classics, which can be substituted for any number of more expensive, time-consuming and unpredictable ingredients … trust me, you’d be amazed. The mystery food in question. Is.

Catsup. There, I said it.

Now, before you judge me for using catsup instead of something more bohemian (not that you would, I’m just projecting), please consider for a moment the controversial cultural origin of America’s favorite condiment. For instance, it’s been theorized that modern catsup has origins as distant and arcane as 16th century Chinese tomato and fish sauces, or possibly similar time period Indonesian, Thai or Phillipino concoctions, or even possibly 17th century European adaptations of an Arabian pickling sauce, which evolved from the Arabic term “kabeees,” anglicized to “caveach,” the term for something you might know as “escabeche.” The thing is, food and language historians can’t agree. So instead of thinking of catsup as something commonplace and American, let’s appreciate it’s exotic and mysterious properties. And further, with these potential Asian/Indo/Euro origins in mind, I’d like to postulate a theory about the genealogy of old-fashioned “American” baked beans as we now know them, and suggest that perhaps they’re not too distantly related to the beloved Indian dish known as chana masala? Think about it – the white beans, the sweet and sour sauce, the hint of spiciness? Anyway, this is how I like to think about them. Don’t talk to me about English breakfasts or Boston beans. Chana masala is my story and I’m sticking to it. The end.

So without any further ado …

Phyllis’ Old-Fashioned Baked Beans

  • 1 large green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 1 – 2 jalapeños, minced
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Dash of cayenne
  • 6 cans navy beans (cannelinis could work too)
  • Ketchup to taste (~2 tbsp
  • Brown sugar to taste (~1 cup)
  • Salt to taste
  • 5 tbsp olive oil or butter to be used in phases (if you choose butter that renders it unvegan, obvi)

Preheat oven to 300.

Heat a large skillet on medium. When the skillet is hot, add 2 tbsp olive oil or butter. When the oil or butter is hot, add the onions, pepper and garlic, and saute until softened. Salt to taste and stir in a dash of cayenne, to taste. Set aside to combine with the beans later.

To prepare the beans for baking, in the words of Phyllis:

“I use a rectangular cake pan but it doesn’t matter. Layer 1 to 2 inches of beans, sprinkle brown sugar generously over beans.* Continue layering until you reach the amount you want. At the top, instead of brown sugar, layer catsup . Doesn’t matter how much. I’m not crazy about catsup so I don’t use lot. Bake around 300 for about 45 min or until the catsup on top is thickened and beans are hot. Salt if preferred.”

*At this juncture I should point out a couple of departures I made from Phyllis’ method. For one, when I was layering the beans and brown sugar, I also dropped in small pats of butter for each layer. When I talked to her live she told me that sometimes she does it. You could also drizzle a tiny amount of oil or vegan butter instead. This is not mandatory but does add a creamy, rich flavor.

Also, the vegetables are my own embellishment. They are not standard but intended to make up for the fact that she usually makes them with ham or bacon or both, so I wanted to add flavor to compensate for the absence of pork.

Anyhoo, after you follow Phyllis’ method of preparing the beans, when they are five minutes from fully baked, pull them out of the oven and stir in the sauteed vegetable mixture. If you like, drizzle a bit more catsup on top and then bake for another 5 minutes or so. Serve hot.

Spicy Baked Eggs (Vegetarian)

First of all, I invite you to follow me on Twitter @zdoerck for my 140 character version of this recipe and more to come. For those of you who are seeing this on Facebook, apologies for the redundancy.

This is an adaptation of a Pakistani recipe from The Spice Spoon (bonus: contains charming nostalgic reflection upon author’s childhood experience). My modifications include doubling the onion, adding garlic, cayenne and red chili flakes, and cooking stovetop instead of baking. You certainly can bake it if you prefer, but I find the eggs cook more uniformly on the stove, and it is also easier to avoid over-cooking them. You could also use any form of chili you like – a bit of minced jalapeño or serrano would be lovely in place of the dry chili seasonings.

Spicy Baked Eggs

  • 4 cage-free organic eggs
  • 2 tbsp olive or grapeseed oil
  • 4 medium tomatoes, blanched, peeled and diced
  • ½ onion
  • Pinch turmeric
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 1 – 2 cloves garlic
  • Red chili flakes to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chopped cilantro for garnish

Blanch tomatoes for one or two minutes. When skins begin to break, plunge into cold water to stop the cooking. Peel off the skins and dice the tomatoes.

Heat oil on medium heat in medium sized skillet. When the oil is hot, add the onion and sauté until translucent. Stir in the tomato and spices and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 – 7 minutes.

Place the raw eggs on top of the tomato mixture. To ensure no broken yolks or eggshell, I would recommend cracking each egg into a small bowl and carefully placing them on the mixture one at a time. Incidentally, did you know that some chefs recommend cracking your egg on a hard, flat surface rather than an edge, to ensure more even cracking? I’ve tried it and it does seem to yield better results …

Once the eggs are in place, cover and leave them to cook. Check back in about 12 to 15 minutes – if you prefer runny yolks, 15 to 17 minutes is probably all you need; for more solid yolks, you may need about 20 minutes.

Garnish with cilantro and serve immediately with naan or pita.

Sweet Chili Jam (Vegan)

Enough about all this vegan-zeegan-schmeegan business. It’s time to can some sweet chili jam, son.

Sweet chili jam, son

I got 99 problems but the perfect breakfast condiment ain't one.

That’s right. I know you’ve been wondering what to do with all those peppers and tomatoes that your garden spat out in ungodly heaves during the late, glorious death throes of fall. Also I know you’ve been thinking to yourself, “Oh fiddlesticks, if only I had the perfect condiment to accompany any possible egg dish conceivable to humanity …” And furthermore I KNOW you’ve been thinking, “Boys, I think it’s about time I got my canning on.”

And if you haven’t been thinking any of those things, don’t worry, I was just joking, I certainly wasn’t either … um … yeah …

So anyway, Sweet Chili Jam. I love this stuff so very much, and it truly does go perfectly with anything you can think of to do with eggs. Also, since it’s a jam, it will keep for a long time in your refrigerator in a jar. You don’t even need to go through any complicated official canning process, you can just stick it in any old jar and you’re good to go.  You can find jars of various sizes in the baking section of many grocery stores, or you can recycle one. For instance, I had this random Classico jar, which is weird, because I honestly can’t remember ever having bought any Classico product in my life, but whatevs, that’s not the point. Sealed tightly and refrigerated, the jam should be good for a couple of months. However, I think you will eat it all before then.

This recipe is an adaptation of an Alice Hart recipe. My modifications include roasting and peeling the tomato and bell peppers first; that way you don’t end up with bits of skin in the jam. (Note: You can skip the roasting – see asterisked comment below). Also I added a smidge of cayenne, increased the garlic, adjusted the amount of water and vinegar, and somewhat disregarded the instructions she gave about what peppers to use.

In our house we eat this with plain eggs, omelettes, frittata, Spanish tortilla, tamales, anything Mexican, and whatever seems like it needs a dollop of sweet and spicy.

Sweet Chili Jam

  • 2 – 3 large garlic cloves,  peeled
  • 3 – 5 small, medium or long red chilis (sweet, medium or hot; use more chilis if they’re smaller, less if they’re larger)
  • 1 oz piece fresh ginger, peeled (I use a carrot peeler)
  • 12 – 16 oz ripe tomatoes
  • 2 red, orange or yellow bell peppers (or any combo thereof), deseeded
  • 3/4 c. Demerara sugar (can also use turbinado or azucar morena – available in most baking sections of grocery stores)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 c. rice vinegar
  • Dash of cayenne (to taste)

Preheat broiler. When broiler is quite hot, place tomatoes and bell peppers on baking sheet and broil, turning occasionally (use tongs) until blackened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool until they can be handled. Slide skins off and discard.*

Pulse the garlic, chilis and ginger in a food processor until well minced. If you are afraid of the heat from the chilis, try de-seeding a couple or all of them.

Chop the tomatoes roughly and the bell peppers a little more finely.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine peppers, ginger, garlic, tomatoes, sugar, cayenne, salt and vinegar. It is at this stage that I usually find it useful to add about 1/8 to 1/4 c. of water and a couple splashes more vinegar in order to control the texture. I leave this to your discretion. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer, stirring often, until viscous, about 30 – 40 minutes. Taste and adjust salt/sugar/cayenne as necessary.

Cool and pour into jars. Refrigerate. Serve with any of the items I mentioned above or anything else that sounds good to you!

*Note: You can skip the roasting of the tomatoes and bell peppers and it will not affect the flavor of the jam noticeably. The only drawback to that method is that the skins of the tomatoes and peppers toughen and piece off, somewhat disrupting the texture. You may not mind this – for instance, it doesn’t bother J at all. It is just my personal preference to avoid the skins, and roasting the vegetables is an easy way to accomplish that.

Blueberry Cucumber Smoothie (Vegan)

Speaking of cucumber weirdness, I’ve been loving this unlikely marriage of everyday cukes with our magnanimous friend the blueberry almost enough to ease my sorrow over giving up bagels.

Got the idea for this one from Vegetarian Times, but I have made a handful of changes to a) make it vegan; b) add protein; and c) enhance the flavor immeasurably, IMHO. (Side bar – can an opinion ever be humble? Seems like a rather unctuous turn of phrase to me … please accept my apologies.)

Anyway, for a detailed account of changes I made (which you are free to unmake), see the Notes section below.

Blue Cue Smoothie

  • 1 c. fresh blueberries
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and seeded (I just scoop out the seeds with a spoon)
  • 1/2 c. unflavored non-dairy yogurt (I use Soyogurt)
  • 1/8 c. sliced raw almonds (unsalted)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 1/8 c. (or more, to taste) non-dairy frozen yogurt, vanilla-flavored

Chop the cucumber and toss it in a food processor or blender with the other ingredients. Pulse several times until you reach desired consistency, and voila – a quick and healthy breakfast or snack containing vitamin C, protein, fiber and hella antioxidants, under 300 calories all told. The quantity here is enough for two servings – they’re pretty filling.

Notes

The Veg Times version calls for twice as much cucumber, twice as much yogurt (the latter being dairy and vanilla-flavored), lemon instead of lime, and no almonds or frozen yogurt. The almonds are critical for me – they add a smooth richness that makes it much more filling as well. And the fro-yo adds a bit of sweetness and structure. As for the lime, it was just because I had lime and not lemon, but I’m sure either is fine, though lime may be milder.

Play with the ratios all you want – personally I prefer to go heavy on the blueberries. And of course, feel free to use dairy versions of either the yogurt or frozen yogurt. You could make it with only frozen yogurt, but be careful with that because it could end up uber-sweet, and a strong vanilla flavor will mask the cucumber. (Learned this the hard way.)

 Blueberry pic from Interbay Farmer's Market

Not Remotely Vegan Mushroom Leek Omelet (Vegetarian)

Let’s face it. There are times in life when you have no choice but to eat a delicious omelet. Unless you’re strictly vegan, in which case there may be times when you have no desire to eat a delicious omelet but would certainly still enjoy a nice tofu scramble. If that’s the case, I promise you I will post a vegan alternative to the aforementioned omelet one of these days. Promise. Pro. Mise.

In the meantime, however, all I have is this totally non-vegan omelet, with nothing to say for myself except that I love this omelet.

Actually, I do have one more thing to say for myself, which is that we went on a lovely trip to the Russian River for the 4th of July holiday this past weekend, and stayed with our friends Ben and Harley and Harley’s awesome parents at their river house. And the house was full of animal products all weekend. And everyone had brought more eggs than anyone knew what to do with. And we had a house full of hungry friends each morning. And we had me, always wanting to cook something that will make everybody happy. And me, always one to throw rules to the wind for festive reasons. And me, additionally harboring twice as many mushrooms as I knew what to do with. And so I invented this omelet. I was forced to really, I had no choice. I couldn’t let all those eggs and mushrooms and potential omelets go to waste, could I?

But why am I being an omelet apologist? You don’t have time for that. You have a fantastic omelet to devour, and now I’m just standing in your way. So onward. The omelet. Let the fruits of our Independence Day revelry live on.

Mushroom Leek Omelet

The filling

  • 1 leek, thoroughly cleaned, sliced
  • 8 oz baby bella (cremini) or chanterelle mushrooms, sliced in 1/4 inch slices
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (Note: If you’re not opposed, replacing the oil with butter makes it extra delicious. I know, I’m miserable at being vegan.)
  • 1 c. fresh corn from the cob (canned or frozen also works)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 c. shredded gruyére (optional)
The omelet
  • 4 cage-free organic eggs
  • A bit of water or (if you must) milk
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

For the filling. Heat a medium sized pan on medium to medium high. When hot, add oil. Once the oil is hot, add the leeks, stirring to cover thoroughly with oil. (If you’re using butter, let the butter melt completely before adding leek.) Saute a while, stirring often, until leek begins to soften, about 2 or 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and stir to coat with oil. Continue to cook for another minute, stirring regularly. Cover, and leave the mixture a while for the mushrooms to juice, about 2 or 3 minutes more, stirring occasionally. When the mushrooms have juiced, remove cover. Add corn and cook another 2 or 3 minutes, being mindful that the leeks and mushrooms don’t overcook. Add salt to taste. Remove from heat to a bowl.

For the omelet. Crack the eggs into a medium sized mixing bowl, being careful to remove any bits of shell that may get involved. Add a bit of water (or milk, if that’s what you’re using); approximately 1/8 to 1/4 cup. Whisk briskly until mixture is fairly uniform, being careful not to over whisk. (Whisking eggs too long introduces bubbles and can make them intolerably fluffy. Just my humble opinion.)

Heat a large skillet on medium high, add oil. When oil is hot, pour in one half of the egg mixture slowly (my brilliant friend Ben ladles it in with a 1/4 c. measuring cup, letting the egg solidify as he adds the mixture). This part of the omelet takes omelet talent. Let the egg cook through on bottom, occasionally tipping the pan to let any liquid reach the edge of the pan.

When the egg mixture seems mostly cooked through, spoon about half of the mushroom filling in the middle of the omelet. (Note: Eyeball it to make sure the amount of filling makes sense. Too much filling is a common source of fallen omelets.)

Allow the omelet to cook just a bit longer, and if you’re using the cheese, now would be the time to sprinkle it in. Flip one side of the omelet over to cover the other. If you are omelet-inept, using a combination of a spatula and spoon may be advisable. Beyond that, all I can tell you is that omelets take practice and finesse. But if your omelet falls, don’t despair. It tastes the same, no matter what shape it’s in.

When you have folded over the omelet, cook on each side until slightly browned.

Voila. So there’s my favorite omelet.