Saturday, October 19, 2013

Quick Vegan Lentil TVP bolognese

I am a fan of both lentils and TVP to sub for ground beef. But either can get boring. Lentils have a nice texture, but... I don't know, they just aren't quite right. And TVP doesn't have quite enough bite to it for me. Luckily Mr. More Calories brought me some TVP from home and it's probably enough to last me comfortably for the next two months, hooray!

Tonight I thought about blending the two. I've been working harder to prepare things ahead here because there are so few convenience foods that I want to eat. Yes, there is plenty of inexpensive street food, but a lot of it is so salty and meat-based and it's just not what I want to be eating. I don't even like to eat at restaurants often at home. I keep frozen lentils on hand here because they take a while to cook, and it's not that much longer to cook 3 cups than it is to cook the one half I might possibly eat. If you drain them well before freezing, they are really easy to break up without thawing, too.

btw, yes, the name bolognese means it's got meat in Italian, but it's meat-substitute, right? Good enough for me.

Quick Lentil TVP Bolognese
Serves: 1

1/4 cup cooked lentils
3 T tomato paste
1/4 t salt (or to taste)
1/2 t basil
1/2 t oregano
1/8 t paprika
dash cayenne
2/3 c water

Put everything into a sauce pan and heat over medium until hot.

I ate this with about a cup and a half of spiral pasta. I don't know the proper names for it, but it held the lentils and TVP really well!

Nutrition info: Cal - 250   Fat - 1g    Protein - 21g    Carbs - 42g

Monday, October 14, 2013

New recipe try - but fail

I went to start lunch at 11:40.
Kinda later than I meant, but still before I was actually hungry.
Put the pot on with water for lentils (b/c I had looked up a decent soup recipe) and then got out the lentils to sort them.
Sorting them is important always, according to my mom, but I have definitely found rocks, etc in them here.
I noticed some sort of white speckling on them, but honestly didn't think much. Picked out two rocks.
Until I saw a dead bug. The kind I've seen on my bottom shelf and put bags, etc around the sugar, flour and cookies to combat.
But it wasn't in the sugar/flour/cookies, maybe because they were protected. It was dead. In the lentils.
Didn't think much, continued, and saw second Mr. Dead Bug. Probably Ms, actually.
Then I looked more closely at the speckles because they certainly weren't there before.
And at the bag of lentils, about 2/3 full. And could see from the outside many other nasty, annoying dead bugs. And lots of holey lentils.
So apparently there is some kind of little weevil thing that likes lentils and other 'pulses.' Jerks.
Googled it, apparently those speckles are eggs and the holes may have more. Or, better yet, larvae.
Some people say cook it and they'll be dead, you can skim them off.
Or freeze 48 hours to kill them, then sort, cook and eat as usual.
Lentils into trash. Next bag will be stored in freezer, as this is apparently a decent option and it's not like you can buy a lot of frozen foods here anyway.
Ate tuna melt, particularly pleased that I had though to pick up tuna on the way home last night.
And more than a bit grossed out by the lentil guys.

What would you have done?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Ovenless Carrot Cake!

I am having an amazing afternoon snack of freshly baked Carrot Cake. I am thrilled by it.

When I was little, my mom almost always had an after school snack for us. Cookies or cake or popcorn or who knows what. To be honest, I mostly remember cookies. There may have been other things. It was so consistant that we would sometimes have other people drop in. They were boys, just older than my sister, and I kind of wonder if she was the one to make it sometimes to get them to come over...

In Morocco lunch is the main meal of the day, often around 1 or 2pm, and dinner might not be until 9 or 10. So there is a 'casse-croute' around 5 or 6pm a lot of times, because who can last 8 hours between meals?? Coffee or tea and bready treats with jam or butter or olive oil or honey. I need to learn how to make a bunch of those things, but that will take time. I have also been bemoaning the typical lack of oven, as you saw with the biscuits, and found a crazy idea to bake on a panini press. For whatever reason panini press-like electric grills are common, and one came in my furnished apartment, so I headed out today to buy ramekins!

I started with the brilliance of CCK's single serving cakes, since I know they work well, and had to adjust for availability of ingredients and 'baking' method. Luckily I found a bunch of spices at a store nearby, including whole nutmeg! Awesome.  For all of you with access to a microwave, feel free to use the original recipe here. You can also find suggestions to decrease the calories and fat. For anyone else without an oven, or with a taste for odd methods, continue on.

Carrot Cake, 'baked' in ramekins on a panini-press 
Serves 2 (or 1 me)

1/3 cup flour (I happen to have cake flour, but at this amount I doubt it matters)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp fresh nutmeg
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 Tbs white sugar
1 tsp vanilla sugar (or use 1/4 tsp vanilla extract)
1 egg (original uses just half an egg's worth of replacer, so mine is certainly heavier, but I had no good way to keep half an egg!)
1/2 cup finely grated carrots, 
2 Tbs milk
2 tsp oil (or more milk if you'd rather)

- In a small bowl, mix dry ingredients (not carrots).
- Mix carrots and wet ingredients in a separate bowl. 
- Mix wet and dry ingredients and mix well.
- Pour into four greased ramekins (mine are 1/2 cup)

- If on press, 'bake' at just under 2 (or medium-low) for 10-15 minutes. Let the top of the press sit on the tops of the ramekins, which is why mine have the lovely grill marks on top. If using microwave, Katie says 1 minute, 20 seconds, or 350º for 15 minutes.

- Let cool a bit before wolfing down.

First attempt - heavier than the final recipe

Nutrition info: Cal: 227    Fat: 7.4g    Protein: 5.7g    Carbs: 35g    (Also has 94% of your vitamin A needs!)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Fried Apples

After looking around the interwebs, it looks like the secret to these is typically bacon grease. And of course that is an ingredient that I will have less than no access to for the next four months. Even if it sounds pretty likely. So I went with what I could get - margarine. Not exciting, but you do what you can. I suppose I could call it vegan then, eh?

With four apples I had sitting in the fridge, I used three of them.

(Vegan) Fried Apples
Serves 3-4

3 medium apples (green apples are said to be best)
3 Tbs margarine
3 Tbs sugar (brown if you have it, I had white)
1 tsp cinnamon (you could add nutmeg if you have it)

- Cut apples into thin slices (mine were 20-24 per apple.) and then in half so they're kind of small squares.
- Melt margarine in a skillet over medium-high.
- Add apples to hot skillet and make sure they are not fully stuck together. Unless you have an insanely large pan they'll be on top of each other, but that's fine.
- Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon over apples. And let cook for a several minutes.

- Stir occasionally for 10 or so minutes, until the juices are all bubbly and the apples smell amazing.
- Enjoy while still hot, preferably with some buttermilk biscuits!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Stove-top biscuits

Being in another country means adjusting ingredients and cooking methods. Let me show you around my kitchen.

First, here it is! The fridge is to the left, and there is a small set of shelves that you can see on the right. I think the stove and oven are recognizable, and to the right of those is the sink. That's right, no cabinet. Those who are more observant may notice a large bottle of gas under the counter and next to the stove. Yep, that's what we use for cooking.

And here is a closer look at my oven. You see those knobs at the top? They don't have any really levels. Just a sort of more or less. But it's not at all precise or very helpful. And you see the row of white dots in the back across the top and down the left? Those are the vent holes. I mean, I know that ovens need vents, but.... I don't think I'll be trying this thing out until it's cooler outside.

So my solution was to find a way to 'bake' on the stovetop. I easily found a recipe for "Cowboy biscuits" and decided they looked worth a try!

Of course, I haven't gotten a big enough mixing bowl yet, so I had to halve the recipe. And when I end up at a one of those "homey" chain restaurants, I like fried apples. And happened to have 4 in the fridge that are in danger of going bad. It's hard to buy less than a pound of fruit, or else you end up paying a lot more or getting lesser quality, so I have only been getting one kind at a time.

But back to the baking! Or cooking. Or whatever I should call it. First, the Stove top biscuits. You can have fried apples another day.

Stove Top Biscuits
Made 8 little biscuits (2-inches roughly)
All measurements are rough, due to lack of measuring implements

1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup butter (I had to use margarine, but butter is always better and all)
1/2 cup buttermilk (mine was vanilla flavored, lol)
- Preheat your skillet to medium if you are quick enough, or leave this until you have the biscuits almost ready.
- Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Cut in the butter however you can - pastry blender, fork and knife, or your fingers. Blend until the butter chunks are smaller than peas.
- Add the buttermilk and mix until JUST blended. Dryish spots are fine.
- Flour your counter or table and put the dough onto it. Make it stick together, and pat until it's about half an inch thick, if you don't have a lid, or a full inch if you do.
- At this point, you could cut it out with a biscuit cutter, but I just cut it into eight pieces.
- Put the biscuits into your heated skillet. Add lid if you have one.
- Cook until they start to look done at the bottom and soft on the top. The butter in them will look all wet and melted. Flip and cook until they look done through. If you are using a lid, take it off toward the end so they can get a nice crust.
- At this point, mine didn't quite look done. I actually opened up the first one, and it was basically baked, but I decided to cook the others on their sides to help them finish. Yes, I lost track of one and it got burned.
- Serve with fried apples, or whatever else sounds delicious to you.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ile Flottante - So delicious and potentially so light

One of the first "fancy" desserts that I was introduced to in France was the Ile Flottante or Floating Island. I had had many pastries before that, but it was when I went out to a restaurant somewhere and someone else was paying so I got a dessert (I was 18, that's how it was.) They are so fun looking, with the mountain of egg white on top of the sea of creme anglaise. How can you resist??

Ten years later and I still enjoy it. The egg whites let me pretend it has some redeeming nutritional value, and the caramel and cream are delicious and rich. I even got one on Friday when I had a lunch so big, all I wanted was salad and a thin soup for dinner. Would you like to see it? Let's go through the whole thing, shall we?

First, Foie Gras with Ris de Veau en Croute. (Foie Gras [goose liver paté] surrounded by veal sweet breads, all in a pastry crust.) On the side is some fig spread that made it awesome and a sneeze of salad.

Then Cod with a super tasty sauce and what I think is a beet chip. It was tasty. So was the fried onion. Like an onion ring without the breading. Oh, and the fish was quite nice, too.

I thought our wine glass line-up was pretty. Red, water, water, rosé.

And the sides, to be shared for the table. Fried slices of potato and a macaroni gratin (i.e. fancy french fries in a different shape and extra super fancy mac n cheese.)

And finally, our desserts. We shared 2 between four people. The star of the post is in the front.

You could also try Barefoot Contessa's version, I trust her with desserts:

However, if you want to go the easy route (as I fully intend when I get home) then I would buy some tasty caramel topping and some good vanilla ice cream. I'll probably pick a lite one or a coconut-based one. The you'd make just the island, and melt the ice cream to be your "sea." If you are cautious about the egg whites, just buy the pasteurized stuff.

Time for dinner here, bon appetit!!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tartelette au Crumble: The best of two cuisines

If you couldn't tell, I am now in France, enjoying all the progress that French gastronomy has made in however many thousand years. I am also in a city that claims to be the capital of gastronomy - not too bad! So I will share some things with you, even if I haven't tried them yet. I have discovered a brilliant little pastry shop and bakery just 2 blocks away from my house. French people eat dinner relatively late (7:30 is when my family eats, and they consider that quite early!) so I need a snack somewhere between my lunch at 12:30 and dinner time.

Today when I stopped in, there was a beautiful tartelette (small tart) au crumble. Yes, crumble is a totally English word. American even, I think. This one was made of "fruits rouges" or fruits of the forest. Here that means blueberries, red currant, blackberries, sometimes raspberries and black currant. A nice mix of flavors to make you want to savor every bite. The tart has a typical tart crust, then the fruit, with an American style crumble on top - you know, sugar, butter and flour. I was going to eat just half, so as to not spoil my dinner, but suddenly realized I was 2/3 of the way through it. Haha, just less for tomorrow!

Fruits of the forest Crumble Tart

I took this picture and then went searching for a good looking recipe and stumbled on one right away. And even more amazing? She posted it IN ENGLISH, too!! Check it out at her blog directly, since I haven't tried it myself yet:

You'll still need to convert measurements unless you are using a scale. Remember that the equivalent for dry ingredients is ingredient-specfic! Put a cup of powdered sugar in one bowl and a cup of butter in the other and you can feel the weight for yourself. I often use this site, but some ingredients need a bit more searching:

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Strawberry Mousse Sorbet

I am now in France, enjoying all kinds of delicious foods, and staying with a host family. My host mom has a magic machine that you can't buy in the US (yet) called a Thermomix. It mixes, it heats, it weighs, it times, it chops, it kneads. So you can see why it's magic. Today we made a Strawberry Sorbet that was extra  magical. It was just strawberries, sugar and an egg white but it had an incredible texture. I'm sure it's due in part to the special whisk attachment of the Thermomix, but I bet you could do it with a VitaMix, too. I shall charge my little sister with making it and reporting back.

I did the nutrition info to post it, and I am stunned at how decent it is! It was so rich and creamy!

Strawberry Mousse Sorbet 

Prep time: 10 min     Servings: 3-6

250 grams frozen strawberries (8.8 ounces, just over half a pound)
40 grams granulated white sugar (1.75 ounces, or 1/4 cup minus 1 Tbs)
1 egg white (you can buy pasteurized egg white in most grocery stores if the truly raw ones worry you.)

- Put the sugar in your mega strong blender and blend until fine.

- Add strawberries (however many your machine recommends at a time) and blend until they are all basically chopped. Hers took 5-6 pulses. You'll mix it more, but this gets it started. Use a spatula to push down the parts on the walls of the blender.

- Blend strawberries with sugar for 1 and a half minutes on high.

- Add egg white and blend on medium for 1 minute. You could also pour it into a bowl and use an electric hand mixed to incorporate more air.

A view through the top of the magic machine as it spun:

Nutrition info for 1/4th of recipe: Cal - 26     Fat: 0g     Carbs: 5.8g     Protein: 0.9g

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Healthier Box brownies

Years ago I posted a version of a brownie mix recipe that is lower in fat and calories. While that is great, it's not enough for me anymore - I don't just want to have a treat that isn't "bad" for me, I want it to be good for me, too! I add 2g protein per brownie, so it's ok, but not perfect. These are not quite as far in that direction as the amazing chocolate muffins that I will tell you about soon, but they are going the right way.

Being a little ridiculous, like I am, I decided to just adjust the recipe for half of the box, so I had a direct comparison! These are definitely less decadent than the full-fat version, but are still very rich. I did use the Ghiradelli Double Chocolate box, so it was a good starting place. One benefit is that by adding things I got more brownie out of the mix.

More Protein, Less-Fat brownies from a box! (with help)
16 servings, 10 min prep, cooking time varies by brand
Regular recipe on right, healthier version on left.

1 box brownie mix, intended for 8x8 (or 9x9) pan
1 egg
soy milk to replace water called for (1/4 cup in mine - really doesn't add much nutrition, though!)
low-fat or non-fat greek yogurt to replace oil (1/3 cup in mine)
1/2 cup oats (I used old-fashioned)
2 T whey protein (10 grams)

Nutrition info for DRY MIX (1/16th of box): Cal: 140     Fat: 3.5g     Carbs: 26g    Protein: 1g
Nutrition info for my additions (1/16th of total): Cal: 32     Fat: 0.8g    Carbs: 4g      Protein: 2.1g
Total nutrition info, made my way (1/16th of total): Cal - 172    Fat - 4.3g   Carbs - 30g   Protein - 3.1g

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Whole wheat blueberry muffins from pancake mix

The other day we had a TON of blueberries (they were on a good sale!) and we didn't want them to go bad, so we decided that muffins were in order. Feeling lazy, I though I might see if I could make them from pancake mix. I based my idea on this recipe, but instead of using a mix that included dried blueberries, I added the fresh ones to the whole wheat honey pancake mix. I also didn't want to add any sugar, figuring that the blueberries were sweet enough on their own, or any oil, since the pancake mix doesn't usually need any. I decided to add another egg, since... actually, just because.

The only drawback is that these were definitely best on the first day. If you intend to eat them over multiple days, freeze them immediately, and then microwave before eating - this is my basic method for low-fat baked goods!

Whole Wheat Honey Blueberry Muffins (from Pancake mix!)

2 1/2 cups Honey Whole Wheat Pancake Mix (I used Krusteaz)
2/3 cup water
2 eggs
1 cup blueberries, rinsed

- Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line cupcake tins, or grease if you prefer. I used silicone, but didn't grease it and they were fine!
- Mix first 3 ingredients JUST until moist.
- Fold in 2/3 cup blueberries gently.
- Fill muffin tins until 2/3 full, then top with the rest of the berries (so you can see them!)
- Bake 14-16 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Nutrition Info per muffin: Calories: 113, Fat: 1.6g, Carbs 21g, Protein 3.5g