Tag Archives: vegan

Simple Gifts

I woke up the other morning with a list running through my head. Not a grocery list or a to-do list, but a list of several people and things I am grateful for.

Late summer plumbs in a hand-made bowl.

It feels as if, just like the cornucopia of food at the local farmer’s markets in August, I too have a bounty of blessings. The unexpected gift from a friend at church who made me a set of pottery bowls because he thinks every good cook should have a set of nesting bowls. All summer long those bowls have been filled with seasonal fruits and other yummies. The gift of father who lived a very abundant 88 years*. A husband who is willing to dumpster dive in order to find the pearl earring I lost while we were doing some demo at a volunteer job. Yes miracles do happen – he found and rescued the lost earring from a soggy shop vac bag. Plus the every day gift, which makes it that much bigger, of my wonderful family who love to eat whatever I come up with in the kitchen.

There have been challenging moments over the last few months because that’s just the teeter-totter of life, but I’m trying hard to focus on the plus side of things. One giant plus I discovered during a dinner at a friend’s house. It was a lovely, late-spring meal and since I was one of the guests who lived close by, I offered to bring a few culinary contributions. My friend Jessica tasked me with bringing the green sauce for the poached salmon plus a gluten free/dairy free dessert. I knew which green sauce I was supposed to bring, but of course me being me I began to tinker and play around in the kitchen. I arrived not only with the requested green sauce and a gf/df rhubarb crumble, but two other green sauces I thought might go well with our supper**. While all of those green sauces were yummy (trust me – I put generous scoops of all three on my plate and drizzled or dipped with abandon) the one I have been making weekly ever since that meal is Continue reading


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Not Too Sweet

Hilary and Missy knitting

The women in my knitting group have something in common besides knitting. They all follow a gluten free diet. Which makes me the odd duck of the group, wheat eater that I am. So once a month I try to come up with a yummy GF recipe. Not that our endless cups of tea, comradery, and gentle clicking of needles needs much sweetening, but it’s an excuse to explore new recipes. Besides my friends are a willing group of guinea pigs taste testers.

If you’ve read this blog before you know the idea behind it are the stories of how I came across/found/or was given each recipe. A large part of the fun is about the route I took to get the recipe. A map as it were, between biting into something delicious and where I was before I even knew I wanted to bite into that morsel of food in the first place. This tracing of a recipe back to its source is intriguing for me – especially when it comes to the interweb and folks I’ve never met.

Occaionally Eggs gluten free chocolate cookies

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Vegan Pumpkin Date Nut Balls

Sometimes you never know what will suit. You can make all the educated guesses you want, but people will surprise you with their likes and dislikes.

So it was interesting for me to note which foods went first at the church coffee hour Shawn and I hosted a few weeks ago. In the blink of an eye two dozen of Rick Ellis’s deviled eggs disappeared, which made me glad, since they had been the last thing I prepared the night before and I almost didn’t make them thinking I had plenty of food (which I did, but then you have the question when is enough enough?). Inspired by Julia Child, the hard-boiled eggs first have their yolks pressed through a chinoise sieve so that the yolks transform into yellow yolk clouds. Next some room-temperature butter blended into the yolk clouds (along with a spoonful of dijon, mayonnaise, a squirt of fresh lemon juice, and a dash of cayenne) which combines to make these the most etherial deviled eggs that will ever pass your lips. Tired and cranky as I was the night before I was glad to have made the effort when I saw what a hit they were.Gluten Free Pumpkin Date Nut BallsThe next platter of food to vanish was Isabelle’s Vegan Pumpkin Date Nut Balls. It almost doesn’t feel like a recipe to me since they don’t go in the oven or get cooked, but they were a smash hit and people were popping them into their mouths as if they were candy. Continue reading


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Lentils of Love

Yesterday was Father’s Day, and I admit I was at a loss as to what I should get for my Dad. He’s an avid fisherman, but trying to buy someone a present connected to their passion, if it’s not one that you share, is one of the trickiest shopping trips you can embark on. My brother has gone on numerous fishing expeditions with him, and so has a better sense of which fly might tickle his fancy or what the latest fishing gear is that might not already be in his collection. I tried fly fishing a few times, but found I’m more of a cook than fisherwoman. Plus his preferred choice of catch and release fishing doesn’t bring home much salmon or trout.

Joe and Jay at Togaik Lake

While fishing is not where we connect, food is. I love to cook and my Dad and I both love to eat. His repertoire in the kitchen is primarily the grill, his infamous champagne punch, and willingness to help punch down the bread dough. Where he really excels is as a volunteer taste tester. I don’t think I’ve ever had him pass on taking a nibble or slurp or bite of something, “just to make sure it’s good”. Even when he’s not asked. Self sacrificing all the way.

Dad preparing to punch down dough

When I was going through my first vegetarian phase I made a dish called Funistrada. It sounded great in the cookbook – noodles with a cream sauce – but as this was the 70s and because vegetarian cuisine wasn’t quite as sophisticated as it’s become this recipe had a serious flaw. The cream sauce was made using all whole wheat flour and no herbs or seasonings, though it may have had some cheese. It was as if you made a vat of paper maché goop and layered it between seven layers of noodles. For some reason Dad hadn’t wandered into the kitchen as I was putting it all together so there was no taste testing that day. Which is too bad because Funistrada is disgusting.

I told everyone to dig in as I brought the salad and bread to the table and Dad happily dug in and kept eating. My brother, who has not always been known for his tender ministrations toward my feelings, took one bite of the stuff and spat it back out announcing loudly that it was so awful it might kill him. I was horrified, but after one spoonful I had to agree. It was inedible. My father looked relieved and wanted to know if this meant he didn’t need to finish it all. He had been ready to sit at our kitchen table and eat this nasty stuff because his daughter had made it. I don’t think I would have made the parental sacrifice myself if faced with a plate of Funistrada. So as an honest taste tester perhaps he’s not so good, but as a Dad he’s great, plus he let us order out for pizza that night.

For many years I baked Dad his presents. Cookies were easy to bake and mail, but when he was diagnosed with diabetes the gift of cookies didn’t seem like such a thoughtful present. He manages his illness really well, but it seems unfair to give someone gift they had to take a pill for. So I’ve made donations of honeybees and goats in his name, which is actually a great thing to do for someone who has enough stuff (and who shouldn’t be eating sugar). Then yesterday I was wishing I could just make him something yummy and healthy. I came up with Lentils of Love.

Lentils of Love salad

It’s a dish I made last weekend for Russell’s non-graduation celebration (yes, my youngest is skipping his senior year in high school and instead heading off to Simon’s Rock College this fall). It’s what a good vegetarian/vegan recipe should be. Flavorful, interesting, and edible. I’ve made it on and off for years after I was first introduced to le puy lentils. While some foodies will tell you must use the small green pulses grown in the volcanic soil around Auvergne, France I can tell you the world will not stop spinning because you use green lentils instead. I’m not saying le puys aren’t great, because they are, but rather that the secret to this recipe is a lentil that won’t fall apart and get mushy when you cook it.

The real trick, which Russell’s godfather Rick reminded me of, is to cut the vegetables into teeny, tiny squares, hardly bigger than the cooked lentils themselves. In the past I’d chopped my carrots, celery and onion into small cubes, which was just fine. However, when Rick minced those same three vegetables into a micro mirepoix instead of chopping them I found it elevated the dish to the next level.

Micro mirepoix vegetables

Now, as you will probably note this is not something I can send to my Dad in the mail, so the bonus of these Lentils of Love is that I’ll need to take a road trip to see him, and make them for him in person. Maybe he’ll join me in by cooking something on the grill.

Lentils of Love

1 1/4 cup Le Puy or green lentils

2 1/2 cups water

1 small bay leaf (or half of a large one)

1/2 teaspoon thyme

2 carrots, peeled and cut into micro squares (about a cup)

3 celery ribs, trimmed and cut into micro squares (about a cup)

1/2 red onion, peeled and cut into micro squares (about 3/4 cup)

1/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

dash or two of cider vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

Bring the lentils, bay leaf, thyme and water to a boil, then cover and cook until the lentils are they are soft, but not mushy about 35-43 minutes. There should be almost no liquid left, but keep an eye on things so you don’t simmer them dry. If there is any liquid left drain it then cool the lentils a bit.

While the lentils are cooking cut up your mirepoix. Place in a large bowl and add the slightly cooled lentils (you want them to be warm enough to suck up the oil and vinegar, but not so hot they cook the vegetables), olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste. If you need a brighter note to this salad add a few dashes of cider vinegar.

You’ll want to retaste this when the lentils have cooled down to see if you need to tweak the oil/vinegar/salt/pepper ratios. I will often double or triple this recipe thinking there will be tons left over, but no mater how much I make it all seems to disappear in a day or two. Just letting you know.

You could also top this with some chopped walnuts or pecans. Or a crumble of cheese. There is a myriad of possibilities.

Here’s another variation on this recipe (so many tweaks are possible) from Heidi Swanson who tweaked one of Deborah Madison’s recipes.

Dad and me



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Thankful Pie

It always seemed to me that in America we celebrate Thanksgiving at the wrong time of year. A Thanksgiving meal, for which you have endless gratitude for the abundance of the crops, should be held when the stalls at the farmer’s markets are overflowing with the summer’s harvest. Anyone not thankful for the end of summer bounty is the worst type of curmudgeon and should be shunned by society at large. The trick is that for the calendar shift I envision to happen I’d either need to move to Canada, convert to Judaism or become queen of the world and since I’m pretty sure none of those things will happen soon (though I like the idea of being Queen of the World…) I’ll clam up about the when and concentrate on the what. Simply put what I adore about Thanksgiving is the gathering of family and friends around delicious food.

"Dad carving the turkey"

Dad carving the turkey ca. 1970

I have a fondness for all the foods associated with Thanksgiving from butternut squash to cranberry sauce to pumpkin pie and beyond. I love seeing what other folks make for their family traditions as much as I delight in reading what the food magazines cook up each year for this holiday. I have an affection for long storing root vegetables, hardy above ground foods like brussel sprouts, kale, and leeks, as well as fall squashes of all shapes and colors. Once in a while the tastes of Thanksgiving do show up in months other than November. It was September a number of years ago when my friends Bill and Elaine Streeter told me about this amazing dish they’d eaten at The Old Creamery in Cummington. Bookbinder by trade, Bill comes from a long line of Cummington farmers, many of whom still live near the family homestead. On the drives up Bill and his wife will often stop by The Old Creamery to just to see what temptations are available in the bakery and deli.

"Bill and Elaine Streeter"

Bill and Elaine helping out at their daughter's farmer's market stall.

Referred to by locals as the Creamery it’s the kind of store I wish we had in my town. If you were to mix together a grocery store, bakery, craft gallery, wine store, deli, and local hang-out, then squished them all into a store with a life-size model cow on the roof you’d have something akin to The Old Creamery.

"creamery cow"

The Old Creamery cow last winter.

Located off Route 9 as you drive into the hilltowns the Creamery isn’t near anything unless you live out that way. If you do live in the vicinity of the Creamery its well stocked shelves will save you from having to drive 20+ miles into one of the bigger towns down valley. Need some bulk dried beans? They’ve got them. Motor oil? Check. A dozen organic eggs, head of lettuce, and loaf of bread? It’s there. Local beer, hard cider or valley brewed gin? They’ve got those too. Want to sit and eat a freshly baked apple muffin while you sip some coffee? The Creamery. Like I said, they’ve got just about anything you could need. The only problem is since I don’t live in Cummington, getting there requires a special trip.

"auto supplies at the Cummington Creamery"

Auto suppies

"wines at the Cummington creamery"


"local pottery at the cummington creamery"

Local pottery

When Bill and Elaine described this vegetable shepherds pie I immediately thought of Thanksgiving. The dish has so many of the flavors I associate with the holiday it seems like a natural to make not only when butternut squashes first hit the farmer’s markets but also as a wonderful addition to a Thanksgiving table or as a great combo of turkey day leftovers. I’ve played around with the recipe tweaking it to fit my family as well as to what I have in my cupboards. The original recipe went something like this–creamed butternut squash, a layer of wild rice, mushrooms, cheese and toasted nuts, all topped off with a mashed potato crust. Since we have dairy and non-dairy folks in our house I’ve made this into a vegan dish by tweaking the mashed potatoes and leaving out the cheese. I don’t always have mushrooms on hand so they’re another thing you’re welcome to experiment with but they didn’t make it into the final version of this recipe. I’ll be interested to hear how you tweak this dish in the comment section.

"mashing butternut squash"

Butternut Squash

"raw wild rice"

Wild Rice

"mashed potatoes"

Potatoes ready to mash

Thankful Pie

A few things to note when making this dish. The first is that I expect everyone to experiment and play with this recipe. Not a vegan then by all means add milk and butter to your mashed potatoes! Love toasted nuts? Add more. Hate them? Leave them out. It really is a flexible recipe that you shouldn’t feel you need to follow too literally. Secondly making this dish from scratch is a bit of a juggle. You need to roast the squash while you simultaneously boil the wild rice and potatoes in separate pots. It’s doable, it just takes a bit of time and coordination. Another thing to be aware of is that if you make the pie up a few days ahead and refrigerate it the brown from the wild rice can sometimes bleed a little into the mashed potatoes. It doesn’t affect the taste but if it offends your visual appetite I suggest squinting at your fork or looking at your dinner companion across the table while you eat. It still tastes delicious!

Layer #1

1 Butternut Squash, split, seeded and roasted till soft

3 – 5 Tablespoons vegan margarine or butter

3 – 6 Tablespoons maple syrup

salt & white pepper

Layer #2

12 – 16 ounces wild rice, cooked

one medium to large onion, finely chopped

3 Tablespoons olive oil

3/4 – 1  1/2 cups pecans or walnuts, roughly chopped

2 – 3 teaspoons thyme

salt & pepper

Layer #3

3 – 4 pounds of potatoes (depending on how deep you want your “crust”) cooked until soft

3 – 6 Tablespoons vegan margarine or butter

leftover water from boiling or milk, enough to make the mashed potatoes creamy

a few pinches of freshly ground nutmeg

salt & white pepper

If you don’t know how to roast a butternut squash read about it here. When the squash is cool enough to handle scoop out the flesh and season with the margarine, maple syrup, salt and white pepper. Mash until smooth and adjust seasonings. I find that a normal squash fills roughly two 9-inch pie plates or one 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Try to use glass or ceramic rather than metal for this dish.

"layer one of thankful pie"

Layer #1 seasoned butternut squash

In a large pot of water boil the wild rice in a generous amount of water. Wild rice is not the same as regular rice where you want to have a specific ratio of rice to water and want all the water absorbed. Instead you want wild rice to swim in the water as it cooks. Usually a 4:1 water rice ration works. It takes about 45-55 minutes for the rice to soften enough to open and start curling backward. You don’t need every grain to do this, but a significant portion should be “popped”. If during the cooking time your water level boils down so not all the rice is covered, simply add a little more water. Drain when done.

While the wild rice is cooking dry roast the pecans until toasted and fragrant, about 5-9 minutes in a cast iron frying pan over medium heat, making sure to stir often so they don’t burn. After the nuts are toasted pour them into a bowl and saute the onions in the olive oil in the same pan (yes, there will be a lot of dishes to wash) until translucent over a medium low heat for 10-15 minutes. Season with thyme, salt and pepper and add them to the nuts. Combine the drained wild rice with the nuts and onions and mix. Layer on top of squash.

"cooked wild rice"

Wild rice ready to become layer #2

Mashed potatoes. I’m hoping I don’t really have to tell you how to make them. Skins on or off, add some roasted garlic if you like, or not. Just don’t use a food processor to mash them as you’ll end up with glue instead of mashed potatoes. Use a potato masher instead. If you’re doing the vegan version you can use some of the water the potatoes cooked in or you can use a little unsweetened soy or rice milk. I prefer the potato water but any of those three will work. If you really need help you can email me at 50recipes at gmail dot com and I’ll try to answer your mashed potato questions.

"thankful pie ready to bake"

Thankful pie ready to bake

If you have made the Thankful Pie from scratch you just need to heat everything up until it’s all hot again and the potatoes are browned slightly on top. If you made a Thanksgiving Pie in advance or are using leftovers you’ll need to bake it for longer as your ingredients will be cold. I usually bake a fresh pie at 350ºF for about 25-35 minutes. A cold pie will need 60-70 minutes or until hot all the way through and browned on top. You can also raise the temperature a bit if you’re in a hurry, just be careful the top doesn’t brown too much before the pie is hot all the way through.

"thankful pie"

Thankful Pie


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Vegan War Cake

I find it intriguing to see how people put a different spin on the same old thing. During the second world war my Grammy Caldwell often had to make due with limited amounts of sugar, butter, and eggs in order to do her part for the war effort. Today I often do without those ingredients because I know or am related to so many people with allergies or special dietary needs. Same recipe, different rationals.

This applesauce cake comes from my friend Jessica and is a great example of the “something old is often the same as something new” theory. Her daughter V. was allergic to eggs and nuts as a baby and toddler and Jessica found this recipe in an old Fanny Farmer cookbook out of necessity. Before bookstores had shelves of cookbooks devoted to allergy free cooking and blogs targeted at any and all dietary quirks she needed a safe, quick, kid-friendly recipe to bring to school events and birthday parties ( after all it’s not too fun to be invited to a friend’s birthday party only to be told you can’t eat the cake or ice cream). This is the recipe she often used, leaving out the nuts and cutting back on the ginger and cloves which don’t often sell well with the under four set. It became her recipe for all occasions.

"applesauce cake"

Applesauce Cake

I first tasted the by then infamous applesauce cake after Jessica and her family moved to Massachusetts. She served it to our knitting group one night warm and fragrant, straight out of the oven. It was divine, not just roll-your-eyes divine, but sneak away from the group and sit in the kitchen scarfing the whole pan down in one sitting divine. It’s not that this cake is a looker–it’s a plain Jane of cakes, but it tastes fantastic.

More quick bread than cake it has become one of the signature dishes I bring to soccer games, potlucks, and church coffee hours. It works for many allergy issues (when you leave out the nuts) and has the added advantage of being really quick to make. This recipe is the reason my cupboards are rarely without a box of raisins, bag of walnuts, and a jar of applesauce.

Walnut Raisin Applesauce Cake

7/8 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup applesauce

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans or almonds), optional

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 3/4 cups flour

Preheat the oven to 350º F and spray or grease an 8″ x 8″ pan.

Mix together all ingredients. Scrape into prepared pan and bake 35-40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. If there is a nut allergy you can leave out the nuts and add an extra 1/4 cup of raisins instead.

"crumbs of applesauce cake"

What is left...


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Muffin Meltdown

I got up at 6am yesterday to make muffins for the kid’s last day of camp. It was 80ºF before I even turned the oven on to preheat so you might ask if I was suffering from heat stroke (I wasn’t) or if I’d simply lost my mind (not that I know of). What would have inspired me to make muffins in the middle of an excruciating heat wave in an un-air conditioned house? Because my kids had asked me to.

It’s my achilles heel being asked by someone I love to cook for them. I can say no to people I’m not related to, though I often say yes. I can even be quite snappish with my own two offspring when they tell me they need something baked in a mere two hours (but Mom  I forgot to tell you I needed them…..). This time Russell asked on Monday–four days in advance, and he said please. Once Isabelle heard I was baking magnificent muffins for him she asked for some too. So of course I agreed. Which is why I was turning the oven on the day the thermometer promised to top 100ºF.*

"Russell holding magnificent muffins"

Ready for the last day of camp

I like muffins. They’re a happy, all-American breakfast food that you can hold in your hand. These muffins are particularly delicious, hence their name – magnificent muffins. Moist with pumpkin, zippy with blueberries with a nice messy streusel topping make them hard to resist. This recipe is adapted from Ken Haedrich’s book Feeding the Vegetarian Family. Besides the great taste this is a vegan recipe, which means it will work for folks who are allergic to dairy (if you’re baking for people with tree nut allergies you’re out of luck). I’ve come to believe that while I don’t personally want to be a vegan, it’s always a good idea to have a few vegan recipes in your recipe box, especially if you live here in the happy valley. The final selling point I have for these muffins is that you can make your wet and dry mixes the night before. Store the wet in the fridge and the dry and streusel mix on the counter, have your muffin pans ready so by the time the oven has preheated you’ll be ready to slide them in to bake.

Magnificent Meltdown Muffins

I use frozen blueberries in the winter and fresh in the summer. One can of pumpkin will make two recipes.

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 cup orange juice

½ cup maple syrup

½ cup vegetable oil

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup whole wheat flour (sometimes I use white)

1 cup walnuts chopped super fine (measure first then chop)

1 ½ teaspoon baking soda

1/2  teaspoon salt

1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon allspice

1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

Streusel (see recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Oil or grease 24 muffin cups then dust with flour or extra streusel topping or wheat germ. Whisk together pumpkin, oj, maple syrup, and oil. In a separate bowl stir dry ingredients together. If using frozen blueberries plop them into the flour mix to keep them from smearing too much when you combine the wet and dry mixes. Gently mix together pumpkin  mix with flour mix and if using fresh blueberries add them in near the end. Spoon batter into muffin cups and sprinkle with streusel mix. Bake 35 minutes, cool in pan for 10 minutes then finish cooling on wire rack.

Streusel Mix

This topping is so good that I usually make a triple batch and store it in the freezer. It’s good for simple fruit crumbles, on top of plain yogurt, or as the topping for magnificent muffins.

1 1/2 cups walnuts

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup oatmeal

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2-3 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Pulse walnuts in a food processor until fairly fine, then add rest of ingredients and pulse to combine. You don’t want the mixture to be too oily or too dry so pinch a bit between your fingers to test as you’re adding the oil.

*Weather Update: After camp we went into Northampton to grab a few things at the store. When we got back into the car (which was parked in the shade) the thermometer read 106º. After we rolled down the windows and drove for a bit it climbed to 108º! As we wound our way back to Whately we watched it drop – to a cool 87º! 



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