Welcome To Our Patio

We’re happy that you’ve dropped by. Pull up a chair and have a drink while we turn on the radio and fire up the grill. We can swap stories, recipes and memories of days gone by. If you’re not in a rush, maybe we’ll even light a campfire and get the guitars and ukuleles out. In any case, we’ll share some good food and great company.

Make yourself at home.

Vegan Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Bowl of Vegan Mac 'n' CheeseI’ve been experimenting with nutritional yeast lately, and found this recipe from Deli Devi.

Cook 12 ounces of macaroni.

Steam:
2 C chopped carrots
1 C cauliflower florets
1 C potato cubes

Add to a blender with:
3 C of plant based milk (I used oat)
1 T olive oil
1 T maple syrup
1 T balsamic vinegar
1/2 C of nutritional yeast
1 t onion powder
1 t garlic powder
1 t smoked paprika
1/2 t ground turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste

Maybe add a little bit of the pasta water to the blender if you’d like.

Once the mixture is blended smooth, heat it in a sauce pan on medium for five minutes or so until it thickens, and then combine well with the cooked, drained pasta.

I added a little hot sauce and soy sauce for flavor and umami.

This turned out super tasty, ooey gooey, and is a lot healthier and more nutritious than a Kraft box.

Plant-Based Albondigas Sandwiches

Beyond Beef Albondigas SandwichesI love to cook outdoors. Before I quit eating meat, I was obsessed with learning to prepare new recipes on the Weber Kettle and Genesis grills.

I still get emails from Weber, and my first reaction when I received the one with this recipe for Grilled Albondigas with Charred Salsa was “this looks really interesting, too bad it has meat.” I sometimes still forget that there are decent plant-based ground beef alternatives available nowadays.

Meier’s happened to have Beyond Beef on sale for a little over $5 a pound, so we picked up two pounds and adapted the recipe. The meatballs turned out really well. I used a little olive oil in place of the egg. I did use sour cream for the crema, since we haven’t left off dairy yet, but I imagine that you could easily substitute a little nut or oat milk for that.

For the salsa, I used two cans of fire roasted diced tomatoes and seven or eight slices of pickled Jalapeños along with the onion and garlic in the recipe. It turned out great as well.

I’ll have to work on the queso. I followed the recipe pretty much as is, and it came out thick and globby. I really would like to find decent alternatives to dairy cheese, but haven’t experimented enough with the products available to find things that we like yet.

The family, including the carnivores, seemed to like this recipe a lot. Along with a nice green salad, it fed four of us for Sunday Dinner, and there were leftovers enough for one evening meal for Kid this week, and snacks as well.

If I make this again, I’ll probably try it with Impossible Burger, as I like the texture of that product a bit better. Otherwise, the recipe is “a keeper” and something that the entire family can enjoy together, regardless of whether they are meat-eaters or not.

Quick Weeknight Curried Chickpeas

Chickpea CurryClaudia makes an incredibly delicious curried chickpea dish with spinach and all sort of other goodies, so I was a little hesitant to even try this simple recipe, but it seemed like an easy weeknight meal, so I finally decided to give it a go.

I took a few liberties, but kept it simple.

I sautéed a chopped onion, some diced fresh ginger and a few minced cloves of garlic in some olive oil.

Then I squeezed in some tubed tomato paste, and added my standard curry spices, stirring everything together until it all was toasted and fragrant.

  • 2 t Garam Masala
  • 2 t Curry Powder
  • 1 t Mustard Seed
  • 1 t Coriander
  • 1/2 t Chili Powder
  • 1/2 t Paprika
  • 1/2 t Turmeric
  • Some Red Pepper Flakes

Finally, in went two cans of diced tomatoes, two cans of chickpeas (drained), and a can of coconut milk. Then it was just a matter of letting it combine and heat up well while making the rice to go under it.

From start to finish, this took a little more than half an hour to prepare. It fed three of us, and there was plenty left over.

It certainly didn’t measure up to Claudia’s recipe, but it wasn’t half bad.

French Press Cold Brew

French Press and Coffee BeansWhen I first heard mention of cold brewed coffee, I was disdainful. It just sounded like another insipid trend to me at the time.

Then one day were at a Stan’s on a warm Chicago afternoon, and there was nothing on the drink menu that appealed to me, so I tried an iced black cold brew. The first sip knocked my taste buds on their butts. It was sweet, and refreshing and had a depth of flavor for which I was completely unprepared.

I remember saying “wow” or something equally banal, gushing about it being “really delicious” and insisting that Mrs. Noe try a sip. She was not particularly inclined to do so, but humored me, and was also taken aback.

After some research online, and consulting Annie, our coffee expert cousin, we decided to brew some at home. After a couple of delicious (but time consuming) attempts that required straining, I turned to my trusty French Press, and that’s the way we’ve brewed it ever since.

The tricks to a successful batch of cold brew are grind, proportion, water quality and timing. We use a Hario hand crank grinder set for a course grind. The proportions are 1/4 cup of beans to one cup of cold filtered water, which sits in the press overnight on our kitchen counter. It needs to go at least twelve hours, but not more than sixteen. I usually stir it a time or two along the way, but not immediately prior to pressing and decanting.

That’s pretty much it. The hardest part other than the hand grinding is waiting for the first batch to finish. After that, we try to keep a couple of three cup batches in glass jars in the fridge, and get another batch started when one is close to empty.

To serve, we like it over cracked ice, diluted a bit with water or milk (my favorite is oat milk). You could certainly add flavorings or sweetness of some sort, but it’s really so surprisingly sweet on it’s own that we don’t find that necessary.

So, I’ve learned my lesson about judging a book too hastily by it’s trendy Bougie cover.

Cheers!

Cassoulesque for Sunday Dinner

Cassoulesque Ready for the Oven

I used Field Roast Italian Sausage in this one, and Great Northern beans. I also started with Olive Oil and added some Wright’s smoke seasoning instead of using lardons or bacon. Otherwise, I pretty much followed the same process as I did when making faux Cassoulet before.

The photo above is how it looked before going into the oven.

I can’t claim that this version was vegan, since I did top it with chicken thighs for the carnivores, and some of the fat from that would have made its way into the beans. Plus, I added the Knox gelatin, which is not plant based.

Tasty, and I’m honestly not sure that it needed the Field Roast. The beans might be hearty enough on their own.

Thanksgiving Dinner 2020

We had a lovely day.

Meal info to come. Maybe. 🙂

First Run at Tofu Scramble

I had picked up some tofu to try it out when I made Pho awhile back, mostly out of curiosity. I don’t miss the protein portion on my plate when it’s absent from a meal, and I get plenty of protein in my diet from the grains and legumes that I eat (and I also still consume dairy from time to time).

But shortly after that, Claudia ran across tofu at Aldi’s and picked up a block for me, figuring that I’d find some use for it. I searched for something along the lines of “best way to prepare tofu” and got several returns for scrambles. It seemed like a fairly simple, almost elegant way to use the product, so I narrowed down the search and came up with three iterations that informed this meal.

I grabbed a potato masher and was ready to go, except for one odd thing that was not in our pantry. More than one article listed a spice called Kala Namak as an essential ingredient to get an “eggy” flavor. At $4 for 3 1/2 ounces, I figured it was worth picking some up to try and have on hand. It is a pinkish salt from the Himalayas, but despite its hue it is generally referred to as “black salt.” It has a slightly sulfurous aroma, as one might expect.

I used the spices and proportions from this recipe at Loving It Vegan. We didn’t have soy milk so I substituted almond. I also started with a sauté of Portobello Mushrooms and spinach in the pan before adding the tofu, and used olive oil instead of vegan butter.

Here’s the sauce, the way I made it.

2 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp Black Salt (Kala Namak)
1/4 tsp Onion Powder
1/3 cup Almond Milk

I whisked that together in a measuring cup while the mashed tofu and veggies were heating. Once I added it to the pan and tasted, it still seemed just a bit bland to me, so I added another 1/4 tsp of the Kala Namak, some fresh ground black pepper and a little bit of my favorite barbecue spice mix.

This turned out to be a decent meal. It’s not something that I would go out of my way for, but if someone served it to me and I didn’t know better, I would think it was eggs. The main difference is that in our household scrambled eggs get loaded with cheese, and although the nutritional yeast adds some cheesy flavor, the gooey texture isn’t there. I suppose we could use some vegan cheese if we wanted, but it’s not something we keep on hand.

The nice thing about preparing a meal like this is knowing that if someone I love had a dietary restriction that precluded eggs, whether for ethical or health reasons (albumen allergy or cholesterol limits, etc.) I could still turn out a satisfying, flavorful, traditional breakfast dish for them. This makes me happy.

Simple, Perfect Bread

Simple Peasant Boule

I made cheese soup for Sunday Dinner this week, and baked a nice peasant boule to go with it.

The cheese soup recipe is one my sister gave me many years ago. It was one of the specialty dishes of a restaurant in the town where we grew up (The Brown Jug in Decatur, Illinois). It’s one of my favorites, especially during the autumn and winter, with cooler weather.

The bread is the master recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Claudia had requested the book for Christmas many years ago, but didn’t really get into it. At some point I became interested in trying to rely less on “manufactured food” and picked up the book, thinking that I would bake bread for us every day.

I haven’t picked up that habit yet, but I do love the way these loaves turn out, and nothing could be much simpler to make, once you get your hands on a Danish Dough Whisk, a wooden peel and a baking stone (which are all pretty necessary to the process).

I used 5 1/2 cups of all purpose flour and 1 cup of whole wheat. That gets stirred together with 3 cups of lukewarm water, and 1 1/2 tablespoons each of kosher salt and yeast. Once it rises overnight, I’m ready to bake, and the dough that’s left will keep in the refrigerator for a week or two. I usually get three or four nice sized boules per batch.

One of these days, I’d like to try my hand at sourdough. Claudia gave me a copy of the Tartine Bakery’s book, and I may delve deeper into it one of these days. But it is honestly hard to beat the AB5 bread for ease of preparation, time invested, and the simple, delicious beauty of the finished product. It has the combination of chewy crumb and crunchy crust that I adore, and the addition of some whole wheat flour, or whole wheat and a little rye, gives it just enough funk for my taste.

The bread board was my mother’s, and I believe that it had originally been her grandma’s, so it is likely over 100 years old. It’s something else that I love for its simple beauty.

Cedar Planked Salmon for Sunday Dinner

For Sunday Dinner this week we grilled Cedar Planked Salmon, Brussels Sprouts and baked potatoes. Claudia made a nice salad, and baked an incredibly delicious chocolate and peanut butter cake for dessert.

For the salmon, I simply soak the planks in water for a couple hours, then place them on the grill to char a bit before turning them over and setting the salmon on them to cook for maybe 20 minutes. The salmon had been seasoned with Pork Producers seasoning, Old Bay and a sprinkle of Turbinado Sugar. I did the Brussels Sprouts on the plancha with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.

Claudia used a yellow cake mix, adding peanut butter and chocolate to some of the batter, and then drizzling Wilton PB melt over the chocolate frosting.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Yogi Tea

Good for grounding, energy, digestion and detox, “Yogi Tea” is one of our favorite beverages.

Our friend (and Kundalini Yoga teacher) Warren Armstrong introduced us to this marvelous tea. It was popularized in America by followers of Yogi Bhajan. Warren serves it after Gong Healing sessions to help restore balance and equilibrium. It is also excellent for reducing inflammation. I sometimes drink it to help with joint pain or muscle soreness.

I researched recipes online and brewed several batches before arriving at our variation on the process. We brew two quarts at a time, and keep it in the refrigerator to drink either cold (diluted with a little water) or hot (warmed in the microwave with almond milk and honey or raw sugar).

  • 15 whole cloves
  • 20 black peppercorns
  • 3 sticks of cinnamon
  • 20 green cardamom pods
  • 1 piece of fresh ginger, chopped
  • 2 bags black tea

Get two quarts of water boiling while preparing the ingredients.

Crack open the cardamom pods with the flat of a chef’s knife, and cube up a five or six inch piece of ginger. There’s no need to peel the ginger first.

Once the water is boiling, add the cloves and let them boil for a minute or so before adding the other ingredients. Add everything else except the black tea, return to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for thirty minutes. Remove from heat, add the tea bags, and cover to steep overnight (or at least six hours). Strain into a container, and add water to replace what has evaporated to make two quarts.

If serving cold, I dilute about half and half with water. For hot tea, the ratio is 2/3rds tea and 1/3rd milk. You may sweeten either, if you’d like. I prefer it without sweetener when cold, but with just a taste of honey or raw sugar when hot.