Tag Archives: homemade

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili

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I’ve been working on a Vegetarian Chili recipe for quite a while. After a lot of back-and-forth on the ingredients, and a bit of debate on slow-cooker vs. stew-pot, I finally settled on a recipe I was content with and put it to the test. I know, you’re thinking summer doesn’t exactly scream chili, but I decided to try this dish served cold with some tortilla chips. I am quite pleased with the results and am happy to share this recipe with all of you.

Vegetarian Slow Cooker Chili
Recipe from Handmade By Tracie

2 15-oz cans Red Kidney Beans
1 15-oz can Cannellini Beans
1 15-oz can Black Beans
1 15-oz can Diced Tomatoes
1 28-oz can Crushed Tomatoes (I prefer Tuttorosso as they’re nice and thick)
1 or 2 6-oz cans Tomato Paste (depending on how thick you want your chili)
1 32-oz box Pacific Organic Low-Sodium Vegetable Broth
1/2 cup Green Lentils (dried)
1/4 cup French Lentils (dried)
1 large Cooking Onion, diced
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Small Head of Celery, diced
4 Carrots, peeled & diced
1 Red Bell Pepper, diced
1/2 Green Bell Pepper, diced
1 Small Zucchini (or 1/2 large), diced
1 Small Yellow Squash (or 1/2 large), diced
1 Small Eggplant (or 1/2 large), diced
1 Small-Medium Sweet Potato, peeled & diced
3 Tbsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Paprika
1 1/2 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 1/2 tsp Salt
2 Bay Leaves
1 1/2 Rapunzel Vegan Vegetable Bouillon Cubes with Sea Salt
OPTIONAL:
Dried Chili Peppers, Red Pepper Flakes or Diced Fresh Chilis to kick this up from mild to spicy

Prep Note: Most of the vegetables were diced “bean size” except the squashes and eggplant which were a bit larger since they shrink down a little during the long cooking process.

Instructions: Add all cans to the slow cooker, saving one can of red kidney beans and tomato paste to add later. Add all vegetables and lentils to the cooker.

In a small bowl, mash your bouillon cubes with a fork. Add a little of the vegetable broth and mix together until the bouillon starts to break up. Add in the chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper and mix together to form a paste. Add more broth until you have a soupy consistency, then pour in your slow cooker. Add the rest of the broth to the slow cooker along with the bay leaves. Mix everything together and set your cooker to High. (Above is a photo of what your chili will look like before it starts cooking.)

Stir every couple of hours throughout cooking process.

Once everything has cooked down a bit and some of the liquid has evaporated, go ahead and add your last can of beans and some tomato paste to thicken the mixture.

Your chili will be ready after about six hours, or once it gets to the consistency you’re looking for. I wanted a thick chili so mine actually cooked for a full seven hours. The longer it cooks, the thicker it becomes and the more the flavors meld together.

Remove bay leaves before serving. Serve either hot (great with warm biscuits) or cold (great with tortilla chips).

Cooking Tip: After working with onions or garlic, wash your hands with some lemon to help neutralize the odor. After juicing a lemon for my tea or water, I usually toss the empty rind into the sink so it’s handy for such a situation.

This dish is very flavorful and quite filling. The texture is great and I dare say that if I gave a bowl of this to my meat-loving father, I don’t think he would even notice it was “missing” any meat! Personally I don’t like spicy food so this is a very mild recipe in the spice department, though it is still chock full of flavor. I added optional ingredients for those of you who love some heat. So, test this recipe out and come back to tell me what you think of it!

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New York Crumb Cake

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I recently decided to make a crumb cake for my parents. They are both big fans. Anybody from New Jersey or New York knows that you need the right crumb to cake ratio for a successful crumb cake (apx 2/3 crumbs to 1/3 cake); this is something that many bakeries down the shore and up north have mastered. Crumb cake is one item I was surprised we didn’t have a family recipe for. We only have a variation that includes ricotta for a crumb/cheese cake. After searching around the internet for a bit I thought Martha Stewart’s recipe for New York Crumb Cake looked like it would be great for experimenting.

New York Crumb Cake
Recipe from Martha Stewart
Yield: Makes one 9″ by 12 1/2″ cake

2 Tbs canola oil, plus more for pan
4 Cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1/2 Cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
1/2 Cup milk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 Cup packed light-brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Place rack in center of oven, and heat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly brush a 9-by-12 1/2-inch baking pan with canola oil, dust with flour, and tap to remove excess. Set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together 1 1/2 cups flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a second bowl, whisk together egg, milk, canola oil, and vanilla. Using a rubber spatula, fold dry ingredients into egg mixture.

Spread batter evenly into prepared pan, and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine remaining 2 1/2 cups flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Pour melted butter over flour mixture, and toss with a rubber spatula until large crumbs form. (Tracie’s note: You may want to work with your fingers a bit at the end to make sure you combine the mixture into as many large crumbs as possible. Any small crumbles will just fall right off of the cake and the rubber spatula will leave you with a lot of useless tiny crumbles.) Sprinkle crumbs over batter.

Transfer pan to oven, and bake, rotating pan after 10 minutes. Continue baking until a cake tester comes out clean, about 10 minutes more.

Transfer baking pan to a wire rack to cool. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Using a serrated knife or bench scraper, cut into 3-inch squares. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

I think the cake portion was pretty excellent; I could tell even as I spread the batter into the pan. The crumbs were okay, but something seemed a bit off with the consistency. Not sure if it was too much sugar, maybe? I think they will need a little more experimenting next go around. Overall, I think the recipe is a keeper.

Vegetarian Tortellini Salad

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I love Whole Foods for many reasons, one reason being that it is so easy to find Vegetarian cheeses there. Here’s my take on a super-easy Vegetarian tortellini salad.

Tortellini Salad
Recipe from Handmade By Tracie

1 pkg Whole Foods 365 Organic Frozen Cheese Tortellini
1/3 pkg Whole Foods 365 Organic Frozen Peas
1/4 cup Sundried Tomatoes
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Red Wine Vinegar
Dried Basil
Salt + Pepper
Whole Foods 365 Organic Vegetarian Parmesan

Prepare tortellini according to package instructions. I prefer mine al dente. Once ready put in a mixing bowl and set aside to cool. 365 brand tortellini is great as they use Vegetarian cheeses to stuff the pasta.

Save a tiny bit of the pasta water and add a vegetable steamer to the pot. Add the frozen peas, cover pot and steam for about 4 minutes. Once ready add the peas to the bowl with the pasta.

Take your handful of sun dried tomatoes (I prefer the “moist” tomatoes – not the hard ones) and cut into pieces. Add them to the mixing bowl.

Season the salad with freshly ground black pepper, your salt of choice (sea, kosher or table), and basil. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the pasta. Add a couple tablespoons of red wine vinegar. Sprinkle parmesan over the top and mix together. Note: You can get the 365 Vegetarian Parmesan either Grated or Shredded near the Fromagerie (in the case by the fresh mozzarella). You can also get Stravecchio Reserve in the Fromagerie if you like to grate your own – this is the Vegetarian version of Parmesan that is available in brick form at Whole Foods.

Place the salad in the refrigerator. Serve cold.

Apple Sharlotka

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A sharlotka is a traditional Russian dessert – their version of an apple pie, though it’s not very pie-like. The closest thing I had ever made was a clafoutis but even that is not a great comparison. If I had to file this in a dessert sub-category I suppose I would choose “cakes & pies”.

Last month a friend of mine described to me the version that she makes for the holidays every year; an old family recipe. I decided to create my own recipe for a sharlotka as a Valentine’s treat for my family.

Apple Sharlotka
Recipe from Handmade By Tracie

3 Granny Smith Apples
1/2 cup Sugar
1 Egg
1/2 tsp Vanilla
1/2 cup Flour
Dash of Cinnamon (optional)

Preheat oven to 350*F. Peel and chop the apples and set aside.

Cream the sugar and egg together with an electric beater. Mix in the vanilla. Mix in the flour and cinnamon.

Line the bottom of a springform pan with parchment paper. Using butter, grease the paper well along with the sides of the pan.

Add the apples to the pan. Spoon the batter over top of the apples and press it down a little so it settles.

Bake in a 350* oven until cake tester comes out clean, approximately 50 minutes. Keep an eye on it as it’s easy to over-cook!

Let cool. Remove from springform pan. Sprinkle top with powdered sugar and cinnamon if desired.

I imagine this would be delicious served warm with some vanilla ice cream!

Lillian’s Lemon Bread

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A friend of mine shared this recipe with me. In discussing some baking recipes together we got onto the topic of lemons (we are both big fans) and she mentioned a lemon bread that sounded delicious. I have to say – this recipe did not disappoint! I highly recommend it if you enjoy lemons.

Lillian’s Lemon Bread
Recipe from Farmhouse Cookbook
Yield: 2 loaves

3 cups All-Purpose Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt
1 cup Unsalted Butter (at room temperature)
2 cups Sugar
4 Large Eggs
Minced Zest of 2 Lemons
1 cup Milk
1/4 cup Coarsely Chopped Walnuts
1/2 cup Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice

Preheat the oven to 350*F. Line two 9×4 inch loaf pans with parchment paper. Generously butter the paper.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together onto a piece of waxed paper.

In a medium-sized bowl, or the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter until it is pale yellow and light. Add 1 1/2 cups of the sugar and beat until it is incorporated and the mixture is fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then add the lemon zest and mix well. Add the dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix just until the dry ingredients are incorporated. Do not over-mix or the bread will be tough. Fold in the walnuts.

Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pans, smoothing it out on top. Bake in the center of the oven until the breads are golden and spring back lightly when touched, 45 to 50 minutes.

While the breads are baking, mix the lemon juice with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a small bowl. Set it aside. (Tracie’s Note: I used 1 full cup of lemon juice and was very pleased with the result.)

When the breads are baked, transfer the pans to wire racks to cool. While the loaves are still hot, poke several holes in the top of the breads with a fork or a cake tester, and pour the lemon juice mixture over them. (Tracie’s Note: I used a wooden skewer and would recommend this – you can poke the holes deeper this way.) Let the loaves cool, then turn them out of the pans. Remove the parchment paper if you plan to serve them immediately. Otherwise, leave the paper on the breads, wrap them tightly in aluminum foil, and freeze.

Multigrain Pumpkin Pancakes

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I had pumpkin leftover from the bread I made a few days ago, so I decided to use some of it in my pancake batter. When I want plain pancakes I typically make them from scratch, but for multigrain pancakes there is a great organic mix from Arrowhead Mills – you add a tablespoon of canola oil and just over half a cup of milk and you’ve got some pancakes. So simple. Of course, that’s not how I make them. I go for more of a homemade variation when I use this mix, I have never made pancakes simply as the directions advise.

The mix is great. It’s full of whole grains and has a wonderful flavor & texture already built in to your pancakes. Pumpkin is sort of a bitter squash, so I started by fork mashing a slightly overripe banana in my mixing bowl. Not only would that create great texture, but it would add a nice flavor and counteract the bitterness of the pumpkin.

After mashing my banana, I added 1 1/2 cups of the multigrain mix (double recipe), 2 tbsp canola oil, 1 cup and a few tbsp of fat-free organic milk, and close to 1/2 cup pumpkin (just under, maybe). Then I needed to spice up the batter. I added approximately 1 tsp vanilla, a touch of honey (maybe 1/2 tsp), a dash of allspice, ground cloves and nutmeg, a few shakes of cinnamon, and about 1 tbsp of brown sugar. Mixed up my batter with a fork and it was a good consistency. If your batter is too thick you can add more milk, if it’s too thin you can add more multigrain mix).

It depends on your stove, but pancakes are generally best cooked somewhere around MED-LOW heat. These will be slightly darker than white flour pancakes since they have all of those whole multi grains in the batter, but they still cook up with a nice golden brown color.

Add some greek or plain yogurt to the top, fresh fruit or nuts, a touch of maple syrup and you’re ready for a delicious breakfast. These are so quick and simple to whip up – and they are great to make ahead on the weekend and heat up later in the toaster on a busy weekday morning! Just wrap them in foil and store them in the fridge. I have never frozen them, though I am sure you can freeze them in a ziploc if you like.

I only make the pumpkin pancakes once a year when I have some leftover pumpkin sitting in the fridge. Usually I make these with any variety of fruit or flavorings including: blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, apples, bananas, cinnamon, honey, blackberries, or really anything I have on hand at the moment. I have also used the multigrain mix to make waffles.

Pumpkin Bread

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October is here and when it comes to food, pumpkin is the word that comes to mind. I have been thinking of my Great Aunt Marie’s pumpkin bread for weeks. On this chilly Fall day, the time had finally come to whip some up!

If you are going to bake one pumpkin bread this season, this is the recipe to try! It is moist, has a smooth texture, a great pumpkin flavor and just the right amount of spice to enhance yet not overpower the pumpkin. It is delicious.

AUNT MARIE’S PUMPKIN BREAD
Recipe from Aunt Marie Caruso

1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin
1/3 cup water
1 3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Cream shortening and sugar. Add eggs and beat well. Add pumpkin and water to the mixture. In separate bowl, sift together flour, powder, soda, salt and spices. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix well. Add nuts and blend into mixture. Grease pans well and fill 3/4 full. Bake at 350* until cake tester comes out clean.

The recipe was paraphrased a little bit in my shorthand. Also, while it did not call for vanilla extract, I threw in a teaspoon to my batter. For breads I tend to use canola oil as my shortening (for cookies it’s butter). I generally use walnuts in this recipe, or even no nuts, but I think pecans would be good to try. I think I erred during the dry ingredient step and used less baking soda on this go around, but my bread still turned out delish! I baked most of the batter in a loaf pan for close to one hour, and the rest in two pumpkin-shaped forms for about thirty minutes.

This recipe can be baked into many different forms. My aunt has traditionally baked it in cans (like the kind you buy your beans, diced tomatoes, etc in), you can also use a cake pan, a loaf pan, cupcake pans, some cute pumpkin silicone forms or whatever you have on hand! Just be mindful that your cooking time will vary depending on your baking form. This bread also freezes very well which can come in handy if you want to prep ahead for an evening of entertaining, some out of town guests, or just to have something available when you get that unexpected craving!

I hope all of you enjoy this recipe. Let me know how yours turns out!

Welcoming Fall: Banana Apple Cranberry Bread

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Today is the first day of Fall! My favorite season. What better way to welcome in the cool weather with a nice warm baked treat?

Banana bread has always been a frequent visitor in my family (I say visitor because it doesn’t stick around very long). I remember when my brother went to college, I would always bake him banana bread when he came back for breaks. I still do make it when he comes up to the NE for a visit.

This recipe is my family’s favorite for banana bread. It comes from an old vintage book, McCall’s Cook Book: The Absolutely Complete Step-By-Step Cooking and Serving Guide (from 1963), and has certainly stood the test of time. As a side note, one of my great aunts used to be a pattern maker for McCall’s. They would bring in the latest fashions and women such as my aunt would write a pattern so all those crafty people out there who know their way around a sewing machine could sew their own designer digs!

Every time I make this bread and share it with others, somebody always asks for the recipe! It is light and fluffy; a definite crowd pleaser.

BANANA BREAD
Recipe from McCall’s

2 1/4 cup sifted cake flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2 or 3)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk or sour milk*

1. Preheat oven to 350*F. Grease well and flour two bread pans.
2. Into large bowl of electic mixer, sift flour with baking powder, soda, salt and sugar.
3. Add shortening, bananas and vanilla; at low speed, beat just until ingredients are combined.
4. At medium speed, beat 2 minutes, occasionally scraping side of bowl and guiding mixture into beaters with rubber scraper.
5. Add eggs and buttermilk; beat 2 minutes longer.
6. Pour batter into prepared pans; bake 40 to 45 minutes or until surface springs back when gently pressed with fingertip.
7. Cool in pans 10 minutes. Remove from pans; cool thoroughly on wire racks. Slice and enjoy!
* To sour milk: Place 1 1/2 tsp vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring cup. Add milk to measure 1/2 cup. Let stand a few minutes before using.

Note: You can embellish the recipe any way you like. Whenever I make this banana bread, I generally add apples and cinnamon to the mix. On occasion (depending on who I am making it for) I will add nuts or chocolate chips. As this is the start of Fall I thought cranberries would be a nice touch.

What I’m listening to as I write this post: the rain outside

Handmade Bird Cage Cover

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I have a little Australian Grey Cockatiel named Bird. He is the cute guy with the yellow head that you see in a photo off to the side of my post.

Bird has had a few cage covers in the past including old sheets and fabric that was intended to be sewn into a proper cover, but never was. Exhibit A (piece of fabric):

I took a trip to the store recently in search of 2 fabulous fabrics, one for the lining and one for the shell (that would match the new drapes). I couldn’t find anything with little birds on it for the lining, but I did find a cute fabric with bird houses. It would have to do. For the shell I picked out a pale green with an off-white floral pattern. Why line this piece? Because I was using a lightweight cotton-poplin and wanted to make sure there were two layers to avoid too much light coming through the cover.

I started by drawing a rough sketch of the cage and taking some basic measurements. I wanted to create something fitted that would keep him covered at night, but that could also be folded back and left on the cage during the day (especially in the Fall/Winter to help avoid drafts and give him a nice shady corner for napping).

I laid the fabric out and drew the back piece to the shape of the cage, using the measurements I took as a guide and factoring in seam allowance. Next I marked off the two side panels. I cut all three of these pieces out (both fabrics at once for consistency and efficiency).

Finally I needed to create the two front flaps. I took my back piece, folded it in half, marked the fabric and cut it out. Then I adjusted the fold to be slightly larger than half and cut out a second piece. Why slightly wider for the second flap? So there would be an overlap and give a nice closure to the piece.

I decided the easiest way to do this would be to sew the lining together, then the shell together, then to sew the two pieces together.

Lining: The two sides were attached to the back piece (try on cage for fit before adding the remaining pieces – looking good!), then the two front flaps were sewn on. Shell: Repeat steps from the lining assembly.

When I had sewn the two sets of five pieces together, I ironed flat all of my seams. Then I turned the shell right-side-out and placed it over the lining piece making sure the seams were aligned.

I decided that I wanted to see stitching on the bottom hem plus on the front flap openings. Once I had the two pieces pinned together I sewed first the flaps, then the bottom hem.

The result turned out great! Perfectly fitted – and this cover is reversible! (Though I do prefer the bird houses as a lining.)

The front flaps close with no gaping as the one piece is about 1″ wider so it can be tucked under the regular-size flap.

Check Bird out all relaxed and fluffed up, enjoying his new decor.

What I’m listening to as I write this post: Patsy Cline

How to get rid of fruit flies

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We had some peaches that went south. Result: a ridiculous amount of fruit flies. Gross. After the peaches were tossed, many of the little things decided to attack and ruin my fresh pears while the others decided to make a home on my melon. This situation had to be resolved.

A quick Google search produced an interesting homemade solution so it was time to create my own version.

I took a disposable bowl, put in some rind from the melon I had just cut up plus a couple of raspberries (any fruit would really work here). Next, the bowl was covered with a layer of plastic wrap and scotch taped under the rim to ensure the plastic was secure. I took a toothpick and poked a few holes in the top. And just in case the fat little insects could read, I took a Sharpie and wrote “FRUIT FLY TRAP” on top of the plastic (actually, that was so nobody would see the trap and throw it out thinking it was just a bowl of fruit left out to rot).

Time to put it to the test! I found the perfect spot on the counter: near a nightlight where the fruit flies like to gather in the dark. The trap would sit there overnight. My bowl of fresh fruit was moved to the other side of the kitchen, far from the trap.

Results: In the morning, there was a lot of activity: 10 fruit flies in the trap who realized they were completely stuck. Woo hoo! They are not very bright – flying toward the rim for some sort of escape (and just bouncing off the plastic) when all the holes I poked were in the middle. I did not take an “after” photo because… well, it was just gross. I tossed the trap in the trash can and gone are the flies.

Let’s hope that is the last of them. I saw one stray guy flying around this morning, but maybe I can squash him before this goes any further.

September 29th Update: Another remedy that has worked is soap suds and wine vinegar! Take a small bowl, make it sudsy with some dish detergent and water, and add some red wine vinegar. Leave it out on the counter where you usually keep your fruit bowl. The fruit flies will be attracted to the vinegar and they will drown in the soap suds. It is pretty effective.