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Monday, November 30, 2015

Biscuits and Gravy for One

I’d heard about biscuits and gravy for years but never tried it. It sounded strange to me. But when a friend from the south danced around my living room touting the virtues of this particular dish, I decided that I had to find out for myself.

For the Biscuits:
¼ cup almond milk
1 tsp vinegar
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking soda
1 ½ TBSP cold vegan butter
For the Gravy:
1 ounce white button mushrooms (or a variety), about half a cup
1 teaspoon vegan butter
1 teaspoon minced shallot (or onion)
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour (possibly a pinch or two more)
¼ cup veggie stock or water
Pinch of fresh or dried thyme
Pinch of salt
A few grinds of pepper

Make the Biscuits:
Preheat a baking pan or baker’s stone in a 450 degree Fahrenheit oven. A hot pan makes browner, crunchier edges. If you don’t want it crunchy, don’t preheat the pan.
  1. Add the vinegar to the milk and stir. Set it aside
  2. Place the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl and combine. Cut the butter in with a fork or a pastry knife until it resembles wet sand.
  3. Add the milk and vinegar, which should be nicely curdled by now, slowly and stir until combined. (You may not need all of the liquid, so add it slowly. It shouldn’t be too wet, but all the pieces should clump together.)
  4. Turn the dough onto a floured surface, sprinkle a little flour on top, and knead the dough two or three times. You’re not trying to get a glutinous mixture, you’re just trying to make sure the fats are well-distributed.
  5. Press the dough into a circle or rectangle. Don’t overwork it, or the biscuits will be tough. Cut with a biscuit cutter or shape into disks. This should make three very large biscuits or four or five medium/small ones, depending on how thin you press it out. It doesn’t rise much, so keep that in mind.
  6. Place the formed biscuits on a hot stone or line the hot baking pan with parchment paper and put the biscuits there. Bake for 10-13 minutes.

While the biscuits are baking, make the gravy.

Make the Gravy:
  1. In skillet over medium to medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the shallot and mushroom and cook for 3 or 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Cook until the mushrooms are soft and brown, and most of their liquid is evaporated.
  2. Stir in the flour and reduce heat to medium. Cook for another minute or two.
  3. Slowly add veggie broth or water while stirring to reduce clumps.
  4. Add in the thyme and stir it in too.
  5. You may want to use an immersion blender at this point if you want smooth gravy. I love the tang of biting into a mushroom, so I almost always skip this step.
  6. Reduce the heat to simmer and continue to stir until it reaches desired thickness, about 5 minutes. If it appears too thin, add a touch more flour and whisk. If it’s too thick, add more broth or water.
  7. Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.  

Assemble the Plate:
  1. Place the baked biscuits on a plate in a pattern that pleases you. I like a straight line or a slightly curved one, depending on how many biscuits I plan to eat in a single sitting.
  2. Slosh the gravy over the top of the biscuits. Again, I like a line, but another way to go would be to make a puddle of gravy and settle the biscuits into it. 

Shown here with fresh fruit salad.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Cheezy Garlic Balls for One

You could eat this little treasure for breakfast, as part of a mid-day snack, as a side dish for dinner, or for an evening pick-me-up after rehearsal. The degree of ooey-gooey depends on your choice of faux cheese, but the bready part has a nice crunch to the crust and a soft “tooth,” as bread-makers say.

2 TBLSP all-purpose flour (plus more for kneading)
Pinch rapid rise yeast
Pinch baking soda
Pinch garlic powder
Shake of salt
1 ½ TBLSP plain vegan yogurt (or faux sour cream)
¼ ounce hard faux cheese (I had some Miyoko’s Triple Cream Chive hanging around and I also had some homemade Camembert—from Miyoko’s cookbook. Both were excellent, but Daiya shreds would work too.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  1. In a small bowl, combine the flour, yeast, baking soda, garlic powder and salt. Add the yogurt or sour cream in and mix it well.
  2. Plop the blob of dough onto a clean surface (I like to do it on waxed paper for easier clean up), and knead it for a bit, adding flour until it’s no longer sticky but is still quite soft.  This could be as much as a whole TBLSP more.  Keep kneading until the dough is barely sticky anymore but has a silky smooth texture, about 3 minutes.
  3. Divide the dough in half. Roll each half into a ball and then flatten it on the waxed paper or counter. I like to use my knuckles for the most even spread.
  4. Cut the cheese into small cubes (or use shreds), and drop them into the center of each dough disk. Fold the edges of the dough up and around the cheese to engulf it and roll it between your hands to form balls and remove any evidence of a seam.
  5. Place them on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15-17 minutes, until golden brown. I like to roll them over about half-way through, but maybe your oven has more even heat than mine.

Serve with a dipping sauce (like olive oil, crushed fresh garlic, parsley, and salt), douse them with mustard, or toss them into your picnic basket just as they are.

  • Put 1 teaspoon of dried basil (or any other herb that makes you happy) into the dough with the other dried ingredients.
  • A little chunk of faux meat (like a brat or cooked Unbacon) would be a nice surprise, too. Just put in a little less cheese to make room for it.
  • You could wrap a piece of cheese in a bit of spinach with a tiny bit of onion and a slice of mushroom and have a whole spanakopita thing going on. 
  • Switch the all-purpose flour out for whole wheat. You’ll need a larger pinch of the baking soda to make this heavier flour rise, but it will still work.
  • Smear some pesto or other sauce on the inside of the flattened round of dough before you put the cheese into it if you’re picnicking so you don’t have to bring a dipping sauce.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Cream of Mushroom Soup for One

I love soup. I love it with chunks and I love it smooth, I love it both cold and hot, and I love it clear and I love it creamy. The earthy flavor of this quick little soup will have you dancing with joy, too!
The Vegetables:
Slosh of olive oil
¼ medium onion, chopped
½ stalk of celery, chopped
½ carrot, chopped
The Mushrooms:
1 ½ cups button mushrooms (or a mixture of mushrooms), cleaned, stems removed, and quartered
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of dried sage
½ TBLSP all-purpose flour (you can use cornstarch for gluten-free, or just leave this out)
The Broth:
1 cup water or veggie broth
2 ½ TBLSP vegan sour cream
The Garnishes:
Whole or sliced button mushrooms
Chopped chives or green onion
  1. In a stock pot or deep saucepan, sauté the onions, celery, and carrots in the oil until they begin to soften.
  2. Add in the mushrooms and sauté for 5-10 minutes, until the mushrooms begin to soften and brown. Keep an eye on them so they don’t get too soft and mushy, though. You want them to retain some texture. Add in the salt, pepper, and sage before they’re entirely done, just long enough for the sage to infuse everything with flavor.
  3. Stir in the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes, until the flour is cooked a bit and whatever juices are in the pan start to thicken. If there aren’t any juices, slosh in a little water (maybe a teaspoon or so).
  4. Add the water or veggie stock and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
    • If you want a smoother soup, hit the soup with an immersion blender or transfer slightly cooled soup to a blender or food processor and give it a whirl. Put it back in the pan (if necessary) after this step.
  5. Add in the sour cream and stir until it’s all bended and creamy.
  6. Add in the whole or sliced garnish mushrooms so that they have a chance to heat through. You might save a couple for making it pretty later if you don’t mind raw mushrooms.
  7. Garnish with chives and any remaining mushrooms, and serve. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Mushroom and Onion Tart for One

You won’t want to wait until this pretty little treat is cool enough to eat because the smells will have been taunting you for quite a while. But after you finish burning your upper palate, you’ll love how simple this pie tastes, how earthy and savory, and yet so delicate at the same time!

For the Crust:
¼ cup all-purpose flour
Pinch salt
1 TBLSP coconut oil (or vegan butter)
2 ½ teaspoons cold water (half could be vodka)
½ TBLSP olive oil
For the Filling:
Slosh of olive oil
¼ yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
½ TBLSP water (or veggie broth, or white wine)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ½ TBLSP non-dairy milk (I like almond, but coconut or soy would be nice, too)
1/3 cup of mushrooms, sliced or chopped (I used button, but a mix of oyster, Portobello, and etc. would be even better)
1 or 2 thin slices of onions, halved
Another slosh of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 sprig of fresh thyme (or a pinch of dry), stems removed

Make the Crust:
Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a single-serving pie or tart shell with parchment paper, cutting it neatly to fit. Mine is about 5-inches across. (It doesn’t have to be round, and you could even free-form it on a lined baking pan.)
  1. In a small bowl, combine the flour and salt. Cut in the coconut oil with a fork until it makes little pills. Add in the cold water (or half vodka) and oil, and mix together. Use your hands to make it into a nice tight ball.
  2. Press the dough into the prepared tart shell with your fingers, bringing the dough up the sides at least ½-inch. You want a good lip to help control the tasty goodness that goes inside.
  3. Bake for 5-7 minutes. It won’t have changed color at all, but it will have a slight skin when you touch it with your fingertips.

Make the Filling:
  1. In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil, and then toss in the chopped onions. Cook them until they’re translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute, and then add the water (or wine or broth) and deglaze the pan, scraping up any lovely onion bits that might have stuck to the pan. Salt and pepper generously, and then take the pan off the heat.
  2. Put the sautéed onions in a blender or food processor, add the milk, and blend until it’s smooth.
  3. In a small bowl, toss the mushrooms and sliced onions in another slosh of olive oil, and sprinkle with some salt and pepper.

Assemble the Tart:
  1. Spoon the smooth onion mixture into the tart shell.
  2. Sprinkle the mushrooms and onion slices generously across the top of the filling. Sprinkle the thyme leaves over the top.
  3. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown and the edges of the mushrooms are also golden and scrumptious.

Devour as if the gods will steal this tart in 3, 2, 1….

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Persimmon and Pecan Muffin for One

Autumn has arrived rather suddenly and persimmons are in every shop and on every tree. I’m not normally a big fan, so I was delighted when I figured out this great way to consume this nutritious gem.
Makes two muffins.
For the Muffin:
¾ TBLSP ground flax seed meal
1 TBLSP warm water
4 TBLSP granulated sugar
2 ½ TBLSP melted coconut oil
1/3 cup persimmon pulp (a little less than half a persimmon)
Splash of vanilla extract
4 teaspoons almond milk (or the non-dairy milk of your choice)
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
A pinch of baking powder
A dash of cinnamon
A pinch of kosher salt
4 teaspoons chopped pecans
For the Glaze:
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about as wedge’s worth)
½ teaspoon lemon zest

To Make the Muffin:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two muffin tin spaces with parchment cup/muffin liners.
  1. In a small bowl, stir the flax seed and warm water together. Leave them alone to form a glop, about five minutes.
  2. In another small bowl, combine the sugar and the coconut oil. Add in the persimmon, vanilla, milk, and the flax seed glop.
  3. In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
  4. Combine the dry and wet ingredients, stirring until just mixed. Add in the pecans. Don’t over mix!
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared tin, filling to the top of each cup.
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Allow to cool completely before glazing.

To Make the Glaze:
  1. In a small bowl, mix the powdered sugar, juice, and zest until it’s smooth. Add more juice if it’s too thick, more sugar if it’s too thin.
  2. Drizzle the glaze over the top of the muffins once they’re cooled.
  • Skip the nuts and toss in some chopped candied ginger.
  • Try adding raisins. 
  • You could use pumpkin pie spices in the batter--or, just for fun, in the glaze! 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Pear Tart for One

Every day, I count how many grams of protein I’ve eaten. Sometimes it’s hard to get up to my “normal” range (39-45 grams a day), so I have to supplement my meals with a protein-heavy dessert like this one. <sigh> Poor me. It’s such a chore to get enough protein sometimes.

For the Crust:
2 teaspoons vegan butter (I like Earth Balance)
4 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 ½ TBLSP almond meal (garbanzo or coconut flour would also work, as would all-purpose)
2 teaspoons brown rice flour
1 teaspoon brown rice syrup
For the Filling:
2 ½ TBLSP almond butter (you could certainly use peanut butter, too)
4 teaspoons water
2 teaspoons maple syrup
Slosh of vanilla extract
For the Pear Topping:
1/3 (or so) of a medium-sized pear
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
Sprinkle of ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons of sliced almonds for garnish (you don’t have to match the butter—if you’re using peanut butter in the filling, you could still use almonds on top, or mix and match. Whatever makes you happy.)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Make the Crust:
  1. Melt the butter in a small bowl in the microwave (30 seconds should do it). Then add in and combine the sugar, almond meal, and brown rice flour. Mix in the brown rice syrup. Stir it enough that all the dry ingredients are a bit moist.
  2. Press this mixture into the bottom of a single-serving tart dish (mine is about 5-inches across) or freestyle it in the center of a parchment lined baking sheet. If using a tart dish, bring the crust up the sides a bit. If freestyling, make a little lip to catch the cream filling.
  3. Set the crust aside.

Make the Filling:
  1. Put the almond butter, water, maple syrup, and vanilla in a small bowl and give it a vigorous stirring until it’s well combined and not watery or lumpy with almond butter. 
  2. Spoon the cream into the crust and smooth the top.
  3. Set the crust and its friend the cream aside.

Make the Pear Topping:
  1. Core and slice the pear by cutting it in half lengthwise and then cutting the half in to 1/8-inch slices. (Don’t peel them. The peels add nutrition and flavor, but they also make it pretty.) You’ll probably need more than a quarter of the pear and less than half. It all depends on how crowded you make the top. Don’t worry. You can always eat any extra slices.
  2. In a small bowl, toss the pear slices with the sugar and cinnamon.
  3. Place the pears on top of the cashew cream in the crust. I like to make a circular pattern, but you could go wild. Why not?
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the pears are soft when you poke them with a fork.
  5. Sprinkle the finished tart with sliced almonds as it rests comfortably on a rack to cool. It doesn’t have to be cold before you slice it, but it tastes best cooled to room temperature.

  • Try it with almond milk (or other non-dairy offering) instead of water in the cream. You'll get a more creamy cream that way. Yogurt would also be nice. 
  • Mix in some raisins or other kind of dried fruit, like apricots or chopped dates. You could put them in the cream or sprinkle them on top of the cream as a layer, or mix them in with the pear pieces in the cinnamon and sugar. 
  • You could certainly use apples instead of pears.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Fennel and Cauliflower Casserole for One

Autumn is rolling in (no matter what the weather is doing), and it’s time for comfort food. Some recent events also call for such things, at least in my life. So I put together this little treat. This dish seems like it ought to be heavy, but with such delicately flavored veggies, it’s really light as a feather.

½ cup pasta (I used a blend of things—rotelli, penne, etc.), gluten-free if you like
1 TBLSP olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced small
½ fennel bulb, large diced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 TBLSP all-purpose flour (or corn starch for gluten-free)
Pinch of fennel seeds (ground or whole)
Pinch of ground bay leaves (or other spice of your choosing)
Blop of Dijon-style mustard
¼ cup non-dairy milk (I use almond milk, but any will do)
Zest from half a lemon
2/3 cup cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
3 TBLSP grated faux cheese (I use Daiya mozzarella-style)
2 ½ TBLSP breadcrumbs (gluten-free bread works too)
1 ½ TBLSP faux parmesan cheese (or more mozzarella-style Daiya)
Juice from 1/3 of a lemon
Slosh of olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Heat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  1. In a larger pot than you need for such a small amount of pasta, cook the pasta in plenty of water. You can prepare the veggies while it cooks. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water, and then thoroughly drain the pasta and set it aside.
  2. Once the pasta is done, use the same pot to make the béchamel sauce. Heat the olive oil on medium high and then add the garlic and fennel. Season with salt and pepper, and stirring occasionally, cook it for 2-4 minutes, until softened and fragrant.
  3. Add the flour, fennel, bay leaves, and mustard and cook, stirring frequently for another 1-2 minutes. If it seems too dry, add a bit more olive oil.
  4. When the flour is golden and the spices are fragrant, add the faux milk and reserved cooking water. Season with salt and pepper again. Stir occasionally over the next 3-4 minutes, while the sauce thickens up a bit.
  5. Add in the cauliflower, zest and faux cheese, and season with salt and pepper yet again (this sauce really needs seasoning). Cook for 2-4 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender. Remove from the heat.
  6. Off the heat, stir the cooked pasta into the pot of deliciousness, and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a baking dish. (You may have enough for a second small casserole for tomorrow.)
  7. In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs with the faux parmesan (or more daiya) and squeeze the lemon over the top of it. Add a slosh of olive oil and stir to combine well.
  8. Spread the breadcrumb mixture over the top of the casserole.
  9. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown and slightly crispy on top. Let it stand for 2 minutes before devouring.

  • Use broccoli or asparagus instead of cauliflower.
  • Add cut up meatless sausages, Unbacon or some form of crumbled seitan.
  • Give it ethnic seasonings by adding garum masala (Indian), curry (Indian), ground cumin (Mexican), or oregano (Italian) instead of fennel seeds and bay leaf.