If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then you know I’m a little bit challenged in the kitchen. I do pretty well if I have a recipe in front of me and understand what it’s asking me to do (I only recently learned what it means to “broil” something, and I still don’t have a clue how to “julienne” anything), but I usually try to stick with the basics. Every now and then, however, I’m met with a culinary challenge and I have to admit that it’s pretty fun to pull out all my cookbooks and plan a menu! This weekend, our friends Tracy, Brian and Alan are coming over I’m getting yet another opportunity to stretch my “skills.” As I mentioned the last time they came to visit, there are many things that Tracy can’t eat, and things that Brian and Alan choose not to eat (Alan, for instance, is a vegetarian, and neither Brian nor Tracy eat sugar). Last time they were here, we were trying to work around wheat and yeast (and sugar and meat), but after allergy testing, it’s been revealed that Tracy is not allergic to wheat or yeast, but has a difficult time with dairy products, many different kinds of nuts, and some vegetables. So I guess that means that this time we’re planning a dairy-free, sugar-free, nut-free vegetarian menu with a limited option of vegetables. Anyone interested in coming over for dinner? I’ll be serving dirt. ;)
Actually, it was really fun trying to come up with a menu for Saturday and in preparation for our meal, I pulled out one of my favorite cookbooks, Vegetarian Times, which I actually don’t use very often because it’s full of recipes that call for ingredients I’ve never heard of, such as amaranth and kudzu (is it a fruit? A vegetable? A spice? Is it found in some remote corner of Africa and only available at a health food store in California? All I know is that I’ve never seen it before and don’t know how to cook with it. Then again, I only recently learned what “scallions” are, so that’s not saying much.)
Every now and then, I find a little gem in this cookbook that utilizes ingredients that us ignorant normal people can cook with and this time I found a great recipe for pasta with roasted carrot sauce. It didn’t contain any ingredients that might be a problem for Tracy, or that I can’t pronounce. I’ll be leaving out the onions, but otherwise I’ll be following this recipe:
Pasta with Roasted Carrot Sauce (serves 4)
12 carrots, sliced
2 onions, chopped
2 tbsp virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound uncooked pasta
2 cups vegetable broth
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the carrots, onion, olive oil, and garlic in a small bowl, then spread them out on a baking sheet. Bake until golden and tender, stirring twice, for about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the pasta according to the package directions; drain. Puree the roasted vegetables with broth in a food processor or blender. Toss with hot pasta and top with chicken. Serve immediately.
With this I’ll be serving garlic bread using a recipe one of my midwives gave to me a few years ago and I’ll top it with olive oil and fresh garlic and pray for the best. :) The bread is free of dairy, eggs, and white sugar and tastes really good. I’m giving you the recipe exactly as it was given to me. Unfortunately, it’s something you really have to try for yourself in order to understand. But if you’re looking for this type of recipe, it’s really worth the effort. At some point I’ll try to take pictures of us making it, so that you can see what I mean in some of these steps. For now, though, here is the recipe for anyone interested in trying it:
Sheryl’s Dairy Free, Egg Free, Sugar Free Bread Recipe (makes three loaves)
4 c. warm water
1/4 cup honey or sorghum
1 1/2 tbsp yeast
8-10 cups wheat flour
1 tbsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil
Dissolve honey in water and sprinkle yeast on top. Let dissolve and sit until it starts to bubble (3-5 minutes)
Stir in 4-5 cups of flour until you get a sponge. Flour should be thick, but you should still be able to beat it. Beat 100 strokes.
Cover and let sit until dough doubles in height.
On top, add salt and olive oil. Stir down with a spoon.
Work in the rest of the flour – just enough to make an elastic dough. Kneed until smooth. Cover and let sit until dough doubles in height.
Divide into three loaves. Knead each loaf until there is a round lump. Let sit for 10 minutes.
Turn dough upside down and throw it on the table, to get rid of the air. Fold in half.
Pick up ends and work the dough, stretching, flipping, and flopping it to elongate it (don’t tear it).
Take both ends and fold toward the middle so that the ends touch. Press flat with hand and then fold over on itself once, pinching the ends together with your knuckles.
Let rise until it begins to leave a light fingerprint when pressed.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, or until done.
In another of my cookbooks, I found a recipe for a simple salad that I’m also planning to serve, and what I liked about it is that we won’t need any additional dressing on it, so I won’t have to worry about making a dressing from scratch, or trying to find a pre-mixed dressing that doesn’t contain any allergy triggering substances. I also like the fact that it gave me a simple combination of ingredients to use because A. when it comes to the kitchen I don’t like to guess at what might taste good together (yes, even in salad making my cooking abilities are exceptionally lacking), and B. the salad recipes I found in my Vegetarian cookbook call for about 15 ingredients each, at least one of which I’ve either never heard of or have no idea where to find (can anyone tell me where “couscous” might be? Or what “capers” are? Where on earth would I find “bamboo shoots” and what is a “pomegranate cell?”)
Sooo… for better or worse, here is the simple salad I’m planning to make:
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp black pepper
3 cups baby spinach leaves
1/4 c. sliced mushrooms
1/4 c. halved grape tomatoes
1/4 c. olives
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
Along with this, I plan to serve baked chicken (for the non-vegetarians) and steamed broccoli (I think I can handle this without a recipe.) For dessert I’ll be making dairy free, sugar free brownies using the recipe below (My step-mom found this for me online and I can’t find it to reference it – sorry!) I’m using olive oil where the original recipe called for butter and honey for the sugar. No idea how that will turn out, but if it flops, at least the kids will eat it. :)
Sugar Free, Dairy Free Brownies
¼ c. olive oil
¼ c. unsweetened cocoa powder
½ c. honey
¾ c. flour
1/8 tsp salt
¼ c. rice milk
½ c. walnuts (Tracy can have walnuts.)
Sift together dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine oil, eggs, and honey. Combine with dry ingredients and stir. Pour into a greased pan and cook at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.
Pray for the best, and I’ll let you know how it goes!