Three Tomato Sauce

A couple of weeks ago I finally used some of the seemly simple tomato sauce I made during harvest in the fall. It was even better than I remembered. It’s a fairly involved recipe but the results are worth the effort. I made it easier by not straining or peeling my Roma tomatoes, but a food mill works well for that task if you want to do it. I used an immersion blender but a food processor or blender can be used if necessary. To blend in the onions and garlic, put them in the cup of food processor or blender with a couple cups of tomato sauce. Purée until smooth & return the sauce to the stockpot.

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Double batch of tomato sauce

I call this a three tomato sauce because it uses three different cooking times for the tomatoes: lightly cooked sauce, slow cooked sauce, & long cooked tomato paste. This method gives the sauce a complex, rich flavor that you can’t find in commercially made sauces. I use Roma tomatoes but any plum tomato can be used or a combination of types of tomatoes. Plum tomatoes are not as watery as larger tomatoes & make great sauces. Cooking times vary based on how much water is in the tomatoes. Due to limited energy, I purchased tomato paste rather than making my own. This recipe is easily doubled, but make sure you have a stockpot or bowl big enough. I made & froze a single batch and a double batch.

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Two gallons of Roma tomatoes

The sauce can be used as it is or other ingredients can be added to make a heartier sauce (herbs, celery, mushrooms, Italian sausage, meatballs, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, etc.). It’s very versatile.

1 gallon plum tomatoes
1 sweet onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño, optional
2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs tomato paste
A few leaves of basil or tomato plant
Salt to taste

Quarter and core tomatoes, removing bad spots. Put them in a large stockpot and simmer until the juices are released and the flesh has broken down to a watery sauce. Run the sauce through a food mill at this time to remove seeds & skins or purée with an immersion blender. Set aside 3 cups of lightly cooked sauce. Steep the basil or tomato leaves and jalapeño, if desired, in the lightly cooked sauce for up to an hour. This gives the sauce a brighter, fresher flavor. Add the tomato paste to the stockpot with the rest of the sauce and simmer for several hours, until it decreases by at least a half, stirring often. Sauté onions and garlic in the olive oil until the onions are translucent. Add the onions and garlic to the stockpot & purée once again with an immersion blender. Add the reserved lightly cooked sauce to stockpot. Season with salt to taste; it’ll take more than you expect, likely several tablespoons. Remove from heat and either put in jars to can or in containers to freeze.

Posted in Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Grain Free, Sauces, Specialized Diets, Vegan | 3 Comments

Strawberry Balsamic Shrub

After a persistent infection required me to be on antibiotics for 9 months this year, I started looking for foods to increase the good bacteria in my gut. Fermented foods are one way to do that. In my quest for easy & tasty recipes, I discovered shrubs, or sipping vinegars, made from fruit, vinegar, and sugar or honey. A variety of fruits or fruit juices and vinegars can be used and the recipe can be easily adapted to suit whatever you have on hand. Herbs and spices can be added to create different flavors, too. Most often I use raw apple cider vinegar that contains the “mother” but other vinegars can be used. I don’t use sugar in my cooking, so I use local honey in my shrubs. Either can be used as can maple syrup, coconut sugar, or raw sugar. Experiment with combinations of ingredients that you like.

This is my current favorite shrub flavor but the ratios are the same for any fruit or berries: 3 cups fruit, 1 cup sugar/honey, 1 cup vinegar. It’s easy to scale the recipe up or down depending on the quantity of fruit you have on hand. I often half the amount of honey I use in the shrub then sweeten it with stevia if necessary as I use it. Fruit juices can also be boiled down to create a syrup then vinegar and sugar/honey added. The cold method gives a richer, fresher flavor in my opinion, but boiling works best with juices like apple or grape. Currently I have a dozen bottles of shrubs in my refrigerator: strawberry balsamic, apricot cherry, blueberry white balsamic, raspberry lime, ginger lime, watermelon mint, nectarine, grape, apple cinnamon, thundercloud plum, & blackberry. All but the apricots, nectarines, limes, and ginger were locally sourced and picked either by my parents or myself. Shrubs age under refrigeration, improving the flavor and taking some of the bite out of the vinegar. I usually wait two about two months before using.

A few tablespoons of shrub syrup can be added to alcohol to make cocktails, to water or club soda to make flavorful and healthful drinks, or to olive oil and herbs or spices to make a vinaigrette for salad. Ginger lime and raspberry lime are my favorite shrubs to use in vinaigrettes.

Strawberry Balsamic Shrub

3 cups strawberries, hulled
1 cup mild flavored honey (clover, raspberry, wildflower)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

Mash the strawberries and honey together with a fork or potato masher in a nonreactive bowl. Cover the bowl and let it sit at room temperature for at least 24 hours but no more than 72 hours. The longer it sits, the more the fruit will ferment. Strain the fruit through a fine mesh sieve or chinois (also called a China cap) to separate the berries from the syrup. Add the vinegars to the syrup, stir well, and bottle the syrup in sterilized bottles or jars. Refrigerate. Shake the bottles or jars every few days. Use once the flavor suits your tastes. I usually wait two months before using it in drinks and less when using it in a vinaigrette.

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Beet and Parsnip Latkes

Latkes are one of my favorite fall/winter foods. They’re very versatile and the traditional potato and onion can be exchanged for pretty much any firm vegetable. I like sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, and purple potatoes in any combination, with or without onion. I even made summer latkes with shredded apples, onion, and fennel bulb this year. I picked up parsnips at the store recently & made baked latkes with them and beets from my garden. I baked them because it’s easier for me than frying them. I like to serve them with seasoned Greek yogurt. My current favorite is garlic cumin yogurt. I add minced garlic, salt, black pepper and cumin to plain, full fat Greek yogurt to taste. One day I’ll measure ingredients and type up a recipe.

2 medium beets, peeled & shredded (about 2 cups)
1 large parsnip, peeled & shredded (about 2 cups)
1 egg
2 Tbs flour of your choice (I use quinoa)
1 Tbs coconut oil
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare a baking sheet with a silpat baking mat or parchment paper. Squeeze all the moisture out of the shredded beets and parsnips with a flour sack towel or paper towels. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and stir until the vegetables are evenly coated with the other ingredients. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop up latka mixture and form into tight balls with your hands. Place on the baking sheet and flatten with your palm. Bake for 15 minutes, flip the latkes over and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven & serve.

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Chickpea & Seed Bread

I had 4 egg whites I needed to use so I decided to make bread. Whipped egg whites folded into the dough gives yeast free breads a lighter texture. I hoped combining chickpea flour and almond flour would give the bread a less cake-like texture. For extra nutrition, I added a bunch of raw seeds. I used what I had on hand. I recommend pulsing the hempseeds in a food processor a couple of times to crush them. I didn’t do that and they were very crunchy in the bread. Other than that, I’m very happy with how this recipe turned out. It tastes good, has a good texture, and doesn’t crumble as easily as most grain free breads.

1 1/2 chickpea flour

1 cup blanched extra fine almond flour

1 1/4 cup water

4 egg whites

2 whole eggs

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup flaxseed meal

1/4 cup psyllium husk powder or chia seed meal

1/4 cup raw pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)

1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds

1/4 cup hempseeds, crushed

1/4 cup raw sesame seeds

1 Tsp apple cider vinegar

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 325°F. Prepare a loaf pan with a piece of parchment paper in the bottom and coconut oil or olive on the sides. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients: chickpea flour, almond flour, flaxseed meal, psyllium husk powder, pepitas, sunflower seeds, hempseeds, sesame seeds, baking powder, and salt. Stir until well mixed. Whip the egg whites into stiff peaks and set aside. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the whole eggs, olive oil, vinegar, and water. Whisk wet ingredients together with a fork to break up the eggs. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with a wooden spoon until well combined. Gently fold the egg whites into the bread dough. Pour into prepared loaf pan. Bake for 60-75 minutes, until the top is light brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool at least 30 minutes before removing from the pan. Keep refrigerated or freeze.

Posted in Breads, Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Grain Free, Specialized Diets | 1 Comment

Sugar Free Almond Coconut Cupcakes

For my birthday last week I adapted a recipe I found online for almond coconut cake. It’s the most successful grain free, sugar free cake I’ve ever made. The texture is light and fluffy, the flavor is buttery and sweet with a hint of almond. I had it with previously frozen blueberries for breakfast and with fresh raspberries and real whipped cream for dessert after dinner.

Almond coconut cake

I again used Pyure brand pre-blended stevia extract and erythritol and am still very happy with it’s performance. A word of caution, though, don’t buy the baking blend which has added maltodextrin and measures 1:1  with sugar rather than 2:1. With stevia and erythritol blends, less is more. Truvia also is a stevia extract/erythritol blend. Making your own is also easy if you buy granulated erythritol and powdered stevia extract. Until I found the Pyure stevia blend, I made my own.  1/2 cup erythritol + 1/2 tsp stevia extract = 1 cup sugar = 1/2 cup stevia/erythritol blend.

I used giant muffin tins to bake these cupcakes in and greased them with a liberal coat of coconut oil so I didn’t need paper cupcake wrappers. The thick batter filled the cups about 3/4 of the way full. I used the back of a spoon even out the top of the batter and push the batter down into the cups. It made 6 perfect large cupcakes. If baking in a 8″ or 9″ round or square cake pan, bake for 45-60 minutes and allow to cool completely before removing from the pan.

I use the scoop and press method for measuring my almond flour. It yields more flour than the fluff and spoon method but I find it works best for my recipes.

1 1/2 cups extra fine milled almond flour
3/4 cups cold butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into thick slices
1/2 cup stevia/erythritol blend
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup almond milk
4 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 350*F. Grease the cups of a muffin tin with softened coconut oil or butter. In a large mixing bowl, cream cold butter and stevia/erythritol blend. Add one egg at a time, blending well before adding the next egg. Add the rest of the ingredients, leaving the mixer running the entire time, if possible. Mix until batter is well combined, scrapping down the sides of the bowl if needed. Spoon into the prepared muffin tin, level the batter with the back of a spoon, and bake for 25-30 minutes until the tops are lightly brown and slightly cracked and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry. Let cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes before attempting to remove them from the tin.

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Coconut Mango Popsicles

It’s supposed to be over 90°F here the next few days so in preparation I made dairy free, sugar free popsicles. I used Pyure brand Organic Stevia, a stevia/erythritol blend, I found at my local Walmart as the sweetener. It’s nearly same ratio of stevia extract to erythritol I use in my baking but I only need to buy one product instead of two. Decrease the stevia blend by half if you leave out the lime juice. I used the “glass method” for peeling the mangos and it worked pretty well but was a little messy. It involves using the edge of a drinking glass to separate the flesh of a mango from the skin. You can find videos online if you’re interested.

This recipe made 12 1/3 cup sized popsicles. It’ll make more or less depending on the size of your molds, the mangos, and the coconut milk (cans variety in size between 13.5-14oz).

1 can full fat coconut milk

2 mangos, peeled and diced

1/4 cup stevia/erythritol blend

Juice of one lime

Add all ingredients into the large cup of a blender. Puree until smooth. Pour into popsicle molds and place in the freezer. Freeze for at least 8 hours or overnight before eating. Run hot water on the outside of the molds to make removal of the popsicles easier.

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Green Banana Mango Smoothie

Last fall I made huge changes to my eating style: fruit smoothies for breakfast, 2 tablespoons of light olive oil in a few ounces of water for lunch, and roasted vegetables with 3-4 ounces of protein for dinner. I lost weight, had more energy than I’d had in years, and felt great until three months into it when my neuropathy returned in part because I wasn’t eating quite enough protein or nutrients. My blood glucose levels were also elevated. I’m now trying to return to that diet but with a few major changes: less carbohydrates and more protein.

Bananas were the base of my fruit smoothies but they’re very high is carbohydrates and sugar. A little research showed that unripe (green) bananas are high is resistant starch but not sugar. Resistant starch doesn’t affect blood glucose levels like other carbohydrates. Green bananas aren’t the tastiest fruit, though. They are used much like their cousin the plantain in many parts of the world. They’re fried, boiled, and sometimes used in curries. That gave me the idea for this smoothie. I choose the other ingredients for their flavor or nutrient values. It’s a little more savory than most smoothies but it tastes good and is nutritious. The turmeric in yellow curry powder is supposed to have anti-inflammatory properties and cinnamon improves blood glucose levels. I also add my liquid iron supplement to the smoothie.

Chia seed meal could be used instead of flaxseed meal, both are high in fiber and omega 3 fatty acids. Pumpkin seed protein powder can be used instead of hempseed protein powder, both are complete proteins. And coconut milk can be used instead of almond milk, I just keep almond milk on hand.

1 unripe banana, sliced
1 cup frozen mango, diced
1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 Tbs flaxseed meal
1 Tbs hempseed protein powder
1 tsp mild yellow curry powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
dash of ground cloves

Add all ingredients in the cup of a blender. Blend until smooth and serve.

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