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Moroccan Lamb with Rice

February 23rd, 2013

This dish is adapted from several different lamb-with-dried-fruits recipes I’ve found on Food Network. Most of the dishes I came across had a ton of ingredients and so many individual steps that it looked like one would spend an entire day preparing it and dirtying up every food prep implement in the kitchen. Complicated isn’t a way I like to cook, so I created this simpler approach to a classic. The rice with vegetables can be served separately and is completely vegan.

You’ll need an electric slow-cooker or a dutch oven for slowly braising the meat.

For the Lamb
3 lbs. lamb, cubed or small bone-in cuts like chops, trimmed of all fat.
2 cups dried fruits, pitted and chopped. Traditionally apricots and golden raisins are used, but figs, dates and even a handful of prunes or cherries would be tasty.
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth
2 medium onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 head fresh cilantro
1T honey
1T coriander
1T cumin
2t dried ginger
2t turmeric
1/4 t cinnamon
2t salt
1t freshly ground black pepper

Mix the spices together in a small bowl. Rinse the meat and pat dry, then coat with the spice mixture.

In the bottom of the slow cooker layer the onions and garlic, then the meat, and top with the dried fruits and drizzle the honey. Add the broth, place the lid on tightly, and set on high. Cook for 3 hours before testing the meat for tenderness. (If using a dutch oven layer the ingredients as above and place in a 275F oven.)

After cooking the meat should be very tender and pull apart easily with a fork. A total of 4 hours may be required depending on the size of the cuts used.

Meanwhile make…

Vegetable Rice
1 1/2 cups (dry measure) brown basmati rice
1 cup vegetable broth plus water to cover rice
2 zucchini
1 large or 2 small red bell peppers
2 medium carrots
1 onion
14 oz. can diced tomatoes
14 oz. can garbanzo beans (low sodium preferred)
1T olive oil
2t turmeric
1t cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

In a rice cooker, cook the rice according to the machine directions, substituting the vegetable broth for part of the water required. On the stove, use a small sauce pan with tight-fitting lid, add the rice and broth and then cover with water by 1 inch, cook on low heat until water is absorbed.

While the rice is cooking, wash and dice the onion, zucchini, pepper, and carrot. I a large skillet or shallow enamel brasier, sauté the onion and spices in the oil for a few minutes, then add the zucchini, pepper and carrot. Cook for about 3 minutes until the vegetables begin to cook but are still firm.

Add the tomatoes (with juice). Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans and add them as well. Cook for a few minutes more until some of the excess liquid from the tomatoes evaporates, then turn off the heat and let stand uncovered until the rice is done.

A few minutes before serving, add the cooked rice to the vegetables and toss to combine. Cover with a lid and if the dish has cooled off to much put it on low to reheat for a few minutes.

Tear the leafy head of the cilantro bunch from the stems, wash thoroughly and spin to dry. Roughly chop the cilantro just before serving the dish.

On a large platter, place the rice to make a bed. Layer the lamb and pour all of the cooked fruit/onion mixture over the top, then sprinkle heavily with the cilantro and serve immediately.

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Vegan Chocolate Cake

February 23rd, 2013

Adapted from the Moosewood Restaurant

9-inch round cake pan
Sauce pan and stainless steel bowl OR microwave-safe dish

1 ½ cups unbleached white flour
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup sugar
½ cup organic canola oil
1 cup brewed coffee, cooled
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
Cooking spray or extra canola oil

Chocolate Glaze
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate (Check the label on the package to make sure you’re getting a truly vegan product. Some semi-sweet chocolate contains milk solids.)
1/2 cup chocolate soy milk or vanilla rice milk

Preheat the oven to 375º.
Spray the cake pan with cooking spray or wipe the inside liberally with oil.
Sift together the flour, cocoa, soda, salt, and sugar into a large mixing bowl and stir until thoroughly combined.
In a large measuring cup, measure and mix together the oil, coffee, and vanilla.
Pour the liquid ingredients into the baking pan and mix the batter with a fork or a small whisk.

When the batter is smooth, add the vinegar and stir quickly. There will be pale swirls in the batter as the baking soda and vinegar react. Stir just until the vinegar is evenly distributed throughout the batter, then quickly pour into the cake pan and place in the oven.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes and set aside to cool for 15-20 minutes. Turn the cake onto a wire cooling rack and set out to cool another 30 minutes before topping with glaze.

To make the glaze, melt the chocolate in a double boiler, microwave oven.
Stir the soy or rice milk into the melted chocolate until smooth.
Pour the glaze over the cooled cake and smooth the top with a spoon.
Refrigerate the glazed cake for at least 30 minutes before serving.

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Slow-Cooked BBQ Beans

July 30th, 2012

I was inspired to make my own barbecue beans after receiving a gift of Saint Louis BBQ sauce from a former coworker. You can make these vegetarian or carnivorous.

It is important to wait until the beans are completely cooked before adding the BBQ sauce, as the acid in the sauce can halt the cooking process.

2 cups dried pinto beans
1 large ham hock or 2 lamb shanks (optional)
1 medium onion
6 cloves garlic
1 cup (more or less) BBQ sauce
1/2 t. dried mustard (or 1 tsp Dijon)
1 T. maple syrup
1 t. salt, or to taste

Rinse the beans thoroughly, put in the slow cooker and cover by 1/2 inch with boiling water, and turn the cooker on HIGH.

Peel and roughly chop the onions and garlic and add to the cooker. Cover with the lid and cook for 1 hour. The beans should start to get plump but will not be cooked yet. Top off with a little hot water if needed, enough to keep the beans just under the surface.

If adding meat, make sure it is completely defrosted first, then trim any excess fat from the outside and place on top of the beans. Cook an additional 3 hours, checking every hour to make sure the beans are still slightly covered with water.

Test the meat – it should be very tender and start to fall off the bone. When the meat is tender, lift it bone and all onto a cutting board and let cool slightly. Separate the lean bits of meat from the bone, fat, sinew etc, and cut into bite-sized pieces. Add the meat pieces back to the cooker.

Add the BBQ sauce, mustard, and maple syrup, stir and let cook for 20 minutes. Taste, adding salt and/or more BBQ to your liking. If the mixture is too thin continue to cook it with the lid off, stirring occasionally, until it reaches the desired consistency.

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Easy Vegetarian Cottage Pie

April 25th, 2012

This is a quick and easy dish that captures the essence of the meat-based original. In our home it is often made on the weekend for a few days of quick suppers or portable lunches.

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Large yellow onion (diced)
2 Medium carrots (sliced or diced)
3 Medium crimini mushrooms
2 Cups peas (thawed if frozen)
5 Large russet potatoes cut into large chunks
2 Tablespoons butter
1/4 Cup sour cream
1 Tablespoon dried sage (ground)
1 Teaspoon dried thyme
3 cloves of garlic (whole)
12-ounces Condensed cream of celery soup (we use Pacific Foods organic)
1/4 Cup milk
12-ounce Package of Morningstar “meal starter” crumbles
Salt & Pepper


  • Boil water in a large pot and pre-heat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC)
  • Add the olive oil to a large saucepan over medium heat. When the oil is heated add the diced onions and cook for a couple of minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add the meal starter crumbles to the saucepan and stir them into the mix.
  • Add the carrots and mushrooms and stir the mixture.
  • Once the mixture is heated through add the condensed soup and milk and stir until combined.
  • Add the sage and thyme and turn up heat to a simmer and thicken.
  • While the mixture is cooking, add the cut potatoes and garlic cloves to the boiling water, and cook until potatoes are cooked.
  • Drain the water from the potatoes and mash the potatoes slightly.
  • Add the butter and sour cream to the potatoes and mix or mash until blended.
  • Remove the “meat” and vegetable mixture from the heat and stir in the peas.
  • Spread the mixture into a glass Pyrex dish.
  • Spread the mashed potatoes over top of the “meat” and vegetable mixture until covered.

Place dish in oven and turn heat up to broil setting. Depending on your broiler’s power, leave in oven until potatoes on top are slightly browned, but not burnt!

Remove from oven and enjoy!

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Cranberry & White Chocolate Holiday Bread

December 11th, 2011

For years I’ve baked cookies for friends and neighbors for the winter holiday season. I enjoy it, but wanted to try something new this year, and decided to go with breads. This recipe is adapted from “Bread Machine Breads” for regular oven baking, and a little richer than the original. For gift-giving I’ve been doubling the recipe and baking two loaves at a time.

10″ bread loaf pan
Stand mixer with dough hook (optional)

Makes 1 loaf

1 egg
1 1/4 cups milk
2 T. butter
2 T. sugar
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1 t. salt
1 1/4 t. dry yeast (a little more if using fresh)
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Measure the flour into your mixing bowl or bowl of the stand mixer.

In a microwave-safe container, combine the milk, butter, salt, vanilla, and sugar. Heat the mixture until warm to the touch but not hot (about 80-90 degrees). Add the yeast and stir thoroughly.

Whisk the egg and pour into the center of the flour, then pour in the milk mixture. Mix the dough until all ingredients are combined, then work a little more to release the gluten in the flour. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and place in a warm spot to rise for about 45-60 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, grease a loaf pan and prepare a work surface dusted with flour. Measure out the cranberries and chocolate into a small bowl.

Dust your hands with flour and turn the dough out onto the work surface. Stretch the dough out into a flat shape and spread the cranberries and chocolate on the surface. Then roll the dough into a log shape to engulf the add-ins and knead for a few minutes, turning the dough 90 degrees after every few strokes, re-flouring as needed to prevent sticking on the work surface, and pushing any cranberries and chips that pop out firmly back into the dough. Pull the dough into a log shape and place in the loaf pan. Cover the dough again and let rest for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350F.

Remove the cover from the dough and bake for 45 minutes until the top of the bread is golden brown and makes a hollow sound when tapped.

Place the loaf pan on a wire rack to cool for 5-10 minutes before attempting to get the bread out. The loaf will shrink as it cools and should pop out of the pan but may need a tap or two. Transfer the loaf back to the cooling rack for 30 minutes before serving.

If this is a gift, you can wrap it tightly in aluminum foil and place in the refrigerator for up to 4 days before giving it away, or use a seasonal colored plastic wrap to preserve freshness and make a festive presentation.

I like this toasted slightly with a little butter. It’s great for dessert, tea-time, or breakfast.

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Cranberry Relish

November 21st, 2011

My grandfather loved his cranberry jelly in a can; for me that stuff was the one part of Thanksgiving Dinner that was never touched. It wasn’t until I learned to make my own that I understood why this dish is traditional at all. I call this version of “cranberry sauce” a relish because it has discernible chunks of fruit in it. With the addition of some caramelized onions and apricot jelly this could become a lovely cranberry chutney.

Makes 2 pints of cranberry relish.

1 pound fresh cranberries
2 medium oranges (choose a juice variety with nice skin)
1 cup water
2 cups port
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp dried ginger
1/2 tsp dried allspice
pinch salt

Carefully wash and pick over the cranberries, discarding any that are squishy. In a large sauce pan cook the cranberries in the water and port over medium heat, stirring occasionally. You’ll hear them pop as the skins burst.

Meanwhile, zest and juice the oranges, finely chopping the zest. When the cranberries have started to break down (5-7 minutes) add the zest, juice and other ingredients and stir well. Continue cooking until the liquid has reduced and the pectin from the fruit is released. The mixture will take on a jam-like consistency. Taste for sweetness and seasoning, and adjust as necessary. Serve warm or at room-temperature with turkey.

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Black Forest Stollen

October 24th, 2011

For some time now I’ve been searching for a Stollen recipe that is authentically German and not overly sweet like the versions I’ve found in American cookbooks. As luck would have it, one of my coworkers is the son of a German baker. With a little pleading I was able to get a couple of authentic recipes.

This version is adapted from a recipe published in a modern German cooking magazine and the original version that my friend’s father made in his bakery. Without the marzipan center and the thick coating of powdered sugar, it is decidedly more bread-like and less sweet than American adaptations of this traditional recipe.

Measurements have been converted from weight to American volume and tweaked to my own tastes. You can adjust the amounts of the fruits and nuts to your liking.

Note: this recipe should be made at least one week before it is eaten, to allow the flavors to mature and blend together. Will keep for weeks unopened, so it’s great to make ahead of time for holiday gifts.

Makes 2 Stollen

A large mixing bowl (at least 14-inch diameter) to mix and rise the dough
Stand mixer for first stage of the dough (optional)
Parchment paper
Aluminum foil

6 & 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour + 1/2 cup
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2-3 T. fine sugar for dusting
2 packets dried bread yeast
1 pound unsalted butter plus extra for brushing
1 & 2/3 cups milk
2 cups whole almonds
4 cups golden raisins (sultanas)
1/2 cup (packed tight) candied lemon peel
1/2 cup (packed tight) candied orange peel
1/3 cup medium or dark rum (not spiced rum)
1/2 t salt
1/4 t nutmeg

1. Roast and chop the almonds.

2. Chop the candied citrus and place into a bowl with the raisins. Toss all the fruit with the 1/2 cup flour to ensure they are not clumping together.

3. Melt the butter and warm the milk slightly. In the large mixing bowl combine the 6 &1/2 cups flour, salt, 2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar, yeast, nutmeg, melted butter and warmed milk and mix until thoroughly combined. (Optionally, mix this first dough stage in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, then transfer to the large mixing bowl.) Dough should be wet and sticky; if not add a little more milk. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen cloth and set in a warm place for 20 minutes to rise.

4. Add to the dough the dried fruit, almonds, rum and remaining granulated sugar, and knead together for 8-10 minutes or until thoroughly combined. If the dough is not wet enough it will be very difficult to work in all the fruit and nuts – add a little more milk if needed. Form the dough into a ball and let rise for another 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350F.

5. Divide the dough in half. Dust with flour and roll each half into a flat rectangle approximately 14 by 14 inches. Shape the loaf by making a crease in the dough lengthwise at 1/3 of the width, then fold this third over onto the remaining 2/3 of the loaf. Repeat the folding process with the second loaf and place both loaves onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a non-stick silicone baking mat. Set aside and allow to rise for a final 30 minutes.

6. Bake at 350F for 60 minutes. Remove the Stollen from the oven and allow to cool sightly. Brush each loaf with melted butter and dust with the fine grained sugar.

7. Wrap each loaf tightly first in parchment paper and then in a layer of aluminum foil. Store in a cool, dry place for at least one week before unwrapping and cutting. Stollen will keep for several weeks after cutting if kept wrapped between servings.

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Hardy Lamb Cobbler

January 8th, 2011

Hardy Lamb Cobbler

Having picked up some lamb from Tamarack Tunis on New Year’s Day, I was charged with making a “lamb dish” by the week-end. Waking to snow on Saturday morning, I knew I wanted to make something warm and filling. Something to remind me of those chilly days on our recent trip to England, Wales and Ireland. This recipe was perfect, and the smoked bacon from our neighbours at Back Beyond Farm really helped this dish.


    1 tbsp olive oil
    1/4 lb bacon, thick slice preferable
    1 lb lamb, cubed
    2 medium-sized yellow onions
    5 large carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
    3/4 lb crimini mushrooms, washed and trimmed
    1 1/2 cup peas thawed to room temperature
    4 tbsp all purpose flour
    2-3 bay leaves
    2-3 pinches ground sage
    1 tsp oregano
    1 tsp basil
    1/4 bottle Cabernet Sauvignon, or other red wine
    250 ml beef stock
    1 splash Worcestershire sauce
    1 egg to wash the tops of the cobbler biscuit topping

The Cobbler Top

I used Bisquick and followed their directions for biscuits/dumplings, which calls for 2 1/4 cups Bisquick mix and 2/3 cup milk. Mix together and then kneed 10 times before rolling out on a flour-dusted surface to about 2/3″ thick. I then used a metal measuring cup (I didn’t see any cookie cutters, so I improvised) to cut circular biscuits. Gather the scraps, and roll out to cut more biscuits if necessary. I do this procedure about 20-30 minutes before the dish comes out of the oven (see below).


Heat oven to 350ºF (~180ºC). In a oven-safe dish heat the oil over medium heat, and sizzle the bacon for 5 minutes until it crisps. Leave the bacon in the dish, and turn up the heat before adding the lamb. Cook the lamb for about 10 minutes until brown. Remove the meats carefully with a slotted spoon and set them aside. Turn the heat up to maximum and add the carrots, onions and mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes and then add the flour. Return the meats to the dish and add the herbs. Pour the wine, the beef stock and the Worcestershire sauce into the dish. Lightly season with fresh ground pepper, then cover the dish and place it in the pre-heated oven. Allow to cook undisturbed for about 1.5 hours.

After an hour of the cook time has passed make the biscuit dough as described above. When the dish is done cooking for the 1.5 hours, remove from the oven, add the peas and stir them into the dish. Then lightly place the biscuits discs onto the top of the meat and vegetable mixture. Wash the top of the biscuits with the beaten egg. Return the dish to the oven and allow to cook for an additional 35-45 minutes or until the biscuits are golden brown.

Remove from oven and let sit for 10-15 minutes, which will allow the gravy to thicken. Serve with the remaining Cabernet Sauvignon!

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English Trifle

November 27th, 2010

When not traveling for the holidays, we like to host a traditional Boxing Day dinner party at our house. Of course, this being a British tradition, it requires such delights as pudding, brandy, and the pulling of Christmas Crackers. And after having the best and most decadent Christmas dinner in England a few years ago, I’ve added Trifle to the dessert offerings. You can pretend it’s healthy because it has fruits in!

This recipe is adapted from #291836 at Syllabub: Words on Food.

Large round or oval clear serving bowl with a wide flat bottom
Large heat-proof whisk
Hand-mixer for whipping cream (optional)

For the Custard
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 T vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
2 T cornstarch

1. In a saucepan heat the milk and cream to boiling.
2. In a large bowl whisk the egg yolks with the sugar, vanilla and cornstarch until smooth and pale.
3. While constantly whisking the egg yolk mixture, slowly trickle in the hot milk/cream.
4. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over gentle heat whisking frequently until the custard thickens sufficiently to coat the back of a spoon. Do not allow the mixture to come to a boil – it will split.
5. After thickening, chill the mixture in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

For the Trifle
6 cups assorted fruits*, washed, peeled, pitted & sliced as needed
36 ladyfingers, or enough to cover the bottom of your trifle bowl in two layers
4 cups custard (above)
1.5 cups brandy, sherry, or fine Marsala
1.5 cups heavy (whipping) cream
12 amaretti cookies

1. Layer ladyfingers in two layers in the bottom of the bowl and douse liberally with brandy, reserving a couple of tablespoons for the cream.
2. Layer fruits one at a time, with heavier varieties on the bottom and lighter fruits like raspberries on top.
3. Spread the cooled custard over the fruits, leaving about 1/4 inch of space from the custard layer to the edge of the bowl.
4. Crush the cookies and sprinkle the crumbs over the custard.
5. Finally, whip the cream until fluffy, adding the remaining tablespoons of brandy as you go, then dollop this over the top of the trifle.

*I prefer assorted berries but you can also use cherries, peaches, mangoes, etc

Keep the trifle chilled until served. Allow your guests a moment to admire the beautiful layered concoction before the first portion is served and the entire assemblage collapses into a bowl of delicious sloppy mush.

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Holiday Stuffing

November 25th, 2010

I used to use store-bought stuffing mix to make my holiday stuffing, and to be frank, it wasn’t bad at all. But after years of something that felt a bit like cheating, I decided to make my own stuffing this year from scratch. The results were amazing and now I know I can’t go back to that package again!

Large frying pan
Baking dish 9×12″

1 recipe Vermont Maple Cornbread
1 large loaf rustic wheat bread (whole wheat or white)
1 package spicy pork, chicken or faux veggie sausage
1 stick butter, melted (8 tablespoons)
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
3 apples, cut into 1-inch chunks – a sweet & firm variety like Macon or Fuji
3 medium onions, any type, minced
2 tsp. dried sage
2 tsp. dried thyme
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts (optional)

Fry the meat sausage in a large skillet until cooked through, then remove from heat and when cooled, peel off the casings and crumble the meat into a bowl and set aside. Drain off some of the excess sausage grease leaving about a tablespoon in the pan.

Saute the onion in the grease (vegetarians use olive oil) with the dried herbs and a small pinch of salt for about 5 minutes. When the onions have started to soften, add the apples and walnuts and cook for another 2 minutes until the apples are just heated but still crisp. Set the pan aside and allow to cool slightly.

Roughly chop half of the wheat bread and place into the baking dish. Crumble in half of the cornbread and add half the onion/apple mixture and sausage and toss this with your hands. In the skillet, add the remaining half of all the ingredients and toss this together as well, then add this to the baking dish. Press down slightly to squeeze everything into the dish.

Drizzle the melted butter and stock over the top. Bake at 375 F in the top of the oven for 45 minutes or until the stuffing is hot and steamy and the top is browned.

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