Savory Upside Down White Bean Tart

The vegan child was hungry and the grocery store was too far away on a Friday night. Although we have lots of up-all-night markets I … just … didn’t … want … to … go. It was FRIDAY, the end of the work week, and ok ok ok I was being lazy so I had to rely on the staples and the overlooked “that doesn’t sound good” food we had on hand. But laziness inspires creativity and I was d-e-t-e-r-m-i-n-e-d not to leave this house.

 And I didn’t. Oh snap.

 So here’s what you need for a savory, filling, easy meal inspired by my companion, Sloth. For my vegetarian and omnivore friends, please see the Veg & Omni ingredients list. I only give alternates instead of the entire list.

 

 Kitchen Items:

4 quart casserole dish

Medium mixing bowls

Food processor, blender, pastry blender, or fine mesh sieve

Your favorite vegetable-chopping knife

A couple of spoons for mixing

 

 Topping:

1 box Jiffy Corn Muffin mix (Or use 1 c. cornmeal and 1 tsp. baking powder)

2 Tbsp. your favorite oil

¾ c. unflavored almond milk

¼ c. tofu, pureed (If you don’t have a food processor or blender, puree by pushing through a fine mesh sieve or use a pastry blender. It won’t be as smooth but it’s really not going to matter for this recipe.

1 Tbsp. fresh chives, optional

 

 Savory white bean filling:

1-1/2 c. cooked white beans, with ¼ c.(ish) of the cooking juice

4 Roma tomatoes, chopped or sliced (These are going in the food processor if you have one so don’t knock yourself out unless you’re food-processor-free.)

¼ c. water

¼ c. salsa (You can make your own but Sloth said to use the jarred stuff in the fridge.)

1 c. cooked jasmine rice, white or brown

¼ of a sweet onion, chopped small

1/8 c. to ¼ c. nutritional yeast IF YOU HAVE IT. If you don’t, no biggie. This gives it a cheesier flavor and aroma without adding cheese. It doesn’t contribute to the matter of cooking since it’s deactivated, although it is a very healthy add-in. It is a complete protein and full of B vitamins. 

1/3 c. frozen corn

3 – 6 Tbsp taco seasoning, depending on how spicy you are (You can make your own … but I? No. Lazy.)

 

 Alternate Topping Ingredients for Veg & Omni:

Instead of ¾ c. almond milk, use ¾ c. regular milk plus 1 Tbsp of your favorite syrup; and although it’s my favorite syrup, chocolate probably won’t work here. Try for a maple-esque flavor. Or use molasses.

Instead of tofu puree, use 1 egg

 

Alternate Filling Ingredients for Veg & Omni:

Instead of 1/8 to ¼ c. nutritional yeast, use grated cheese. Sharp cheddar would be great. Cottage would be incredible.

If I weren’t so lazy, I’d tell you how to make taco seasoning and salsa. Heck, I’d even tell you how to make cottage cheese. But another day. Maybe you can experiment and tell me YOUR favorite taco seasoning and salsa recipes! That would make my life easier and I would be eternally grateful. 

This recipe is already super-easy to make, but it’s even easier if you use convenience ingredients like canned corn (drained), canned beans (kind of drained), canned tomatoes (not drained at all), and instant rice (put it in uncooked, and cut the measure down ½ cup so that when it cooks and expands it doesn’t dry out your filling).

If you make the topping with cornmeal and baking soda instead of a boxed mix, make it as runny as pancake batter so that it doesn’t overcook the topping and undercook the filling. Because I have food texture issues I prefer to use the Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix rather than cornmeal because it’s not as gritty. The premade stuff has more sodium and preservatives than the stuff you make at home but I’m in my late forties and am so full of preservatives by now that it’s probably the glue that’s holding me together. I highly recommend it.

 Here are the directions for this dish the way I made it. If you change up the ingredients you may have to tweak the cooking time a little bit. Just keep an eye on it and you’ll be fine!

 Preheat your oven to 325. Kind of low, yes, but you want the cornbread topping to have time to cook and the chili to have time to heat through and soften those onions.

 Topping:

  • Pour all ingredients into a medium-sized bowl. Mix well, set aside. The batter will probably be slightly lumpy. Don’t try to stir all the lumps out because it will make your topping too dry. All you have to do is get the biggest lumps out so you don’t bite into a dusty cornmeal ball. 

 White bean filling:

  • After you chop up the tomatoes in the food processor (make them as fine or as chunky as you like), add the water in the chimney thingie and process a little more until the water is incorporated.
  • Pour the tomatoes in a mixing bowl and add everything else, and mix until all ingredients are evenly distributed.
  • Cheese option: you can either incorporate the cheese throughout the chili OR you can use it as a layer on top of the chili. (Note that if you are using nutritional yeast, leaving it as a layer on top of the filling would probably be gross. Mix it in.)

 Put it all together it spells YUMMY!

  • Put the chili in the casserole dish.
  • Pour the cornbread batter over the top, and use the back of a spoon or a spatula to make it cover all the chili.
  • Put it in the oven and bake for 1 hour, or until the topping is golden and makes a sound if you tap it. “Bloop” is  sound too, but if you hear “bloop” you probably need to cook it a little longer until is says “tap, tap, tap.” Lava topping hurts when you eat it. My oven is temperamental and sometimes it takes longer, and sometimes it takes less time, so I am not sure of an exact cooking time. To be on the safe side, check on it periodically starting around 45 minutes.
  • If you are using the vegetarian / omnivore version of this recipe, when the crust is nice and brown and sturdy, rub it with butter and let it cook another minute or so. You will be very glad you did. (I didn’t, since it was for the vegan child, and it was still dang fab.)

 This seems like a lot of writing and instructing for something that was so easy to make, or maybe I’m just ridiculously verbose. This savory upside down tart really is a simple thing to make. I made it Friday after a day at work and a long commute, and the only time it made me cry was when I wept for joy at the flavor. (Yeah, not really, but I love the exaggeration.) The pairing of the sweet topping and the spicy white bean mixture is nothing short of delightful.

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Carly Beth’s Pasta Primavera with Avocado Spinach Salsa Verde

My sweet daughter is a new vegan … well … “mostly a vegan” she says, because she doesn’t often cook for herself, vegan cooking is new to me, and I don’t always have the ingredients, time, or desire to cook vegan dishes, especially after a long day at work, and double-especially since my carnivore son won’t touch a vegetable that doesn’t come in French-fry form. I don’t make my daughter eat meat but I do like to make life easy on myself, using the same pot of rice to make easy, separate meals for them. It’s not hard to do: I throw veg in the steamer for her, and dump a can of black beans in a pot to warm; and for him I broil a piece of chicken or beef, make a little milk gravy, and voila! Meals! And let’s get real: sometimes the day was so long and I am so tired, all I want to do is make eggs or quiche. An hour and a half one-way commute can take a lot out of a person. (Yeah, my college major wasn’t the most marketable so let that be a lesson to you.)

But a family cannot live on easy meals alone. The flavors get boring. So I have to cook now and then. Really cook. It was a lot easier, or so I thought until becoming more aware of different ingredients and different methods, to cook with meat and dairy. There are lots more things to do with them to adjust flavors and textures, and it was WAY easier to make quick meals with them. But what can you do when the most kind-hearted daughter in the world decides to be a vegan after learning more about how food animals are treated? I tell you what you can do: learn a new way of preparing meals. Before I agreed to this lifestyle change, however, I looked up dietary requirements for teenage girls and was pleasantly surprised how easy it is to get plant-based protein and calcium.

A few months and a lot of tempeh, quinoa, and beans into this change, the book Oh She Glows showed up in my Amazon feed. The cover was gorgeous so I investigated it because sometimes I do judge a book by its cover, especially recipe books. Until getting my hands on this book, vegan cooking (to me) left a lot to be desired. As one of my neighbors so aptly put it, “Vegan meals equal nasty.” Not so with Angela Liddon’s book! We (ok, I) made lots of these recipes and haven’t yet found a stinker in any of them. With words like “creamy” and “cheesy” and “smooth” Angela Liddon transformed my thoughts about vegan cooking into thoughts about how easy it would be to create my own vegan recipes. This recipe is a direct result of Angela Liddon’s inspirational book.

 

Sauce:

2 ripe avocados

2 c. packed fresh spinach

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar (or ½ Tbsp any other kind of vinegar and ½ Tbsp water); can increase to 2 Tbsp of vinegar or vinegar-plus-water if you like the taste

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, pressed or chopped fine (or up to 1 tsp garlic powder)

½ tsp fine grain sea salt (Thank you, Angela Liddon, for alerting me to the existence of this stuff!),  optional

Several twists of fresh-milled pepper (or ¼ tsp black pepper), optional

 

Vegetable Topping:

½ sweet onion, rustic chopped (or hell, chop it how you like it)

3 c. fresh broccoli crowns

5 – 6 medium sized carrots, peeled and chopped into 1 inch-ish pieces, the fatter ends chopped into 1 inch-ish pieces and then sliced in half length-wise

Asparagus stalks (I used about 10), woody ends trimmed, the rest chopped into 1 inch-ish pieces (some were longer, some were shorter – I’m not a neat cook)

1 c. mushroom slices (whatever kind you prefer)

½ red bell pepper, chopped into ½ – ¼ inch-ish pieces, set aside in fridge

No-salt seasoning, optional

 

Pasta:

Whatever you like, enough for 2 – 4 people. You already know how to cook it.

 

Directions:

  • Split the avocados, seed, and squeeze them into your food processor. If you squeeze them in while the peel is still on, it keeps your hands from getting overly messy. Discard the peel.
  • Process the avocados until they are kind of mashed up in there. Then add the spinach and the balsamic vinegar. Process a little bit, open the processor, stir the spinach and mash it down into the avocado, so that it all gets chopped up.
  • Once the avocado, spinach, and vinegar mixture is smooth, open the processor again and add the salt, pepper, and garlic. Process this for 30 seconds or so, or until you feel the flavors are evenly distributed.
  • With the processor running, slowly drizzle the olive oil in from the “chimney” thingie on the food processor. Once all the olive oil is in, process 20 – 30 seconds more so that the oil is distributed.
  • Set aside.
  • Put the carrots and broccoli on to boil. Add only enough water to semi-cover the vegetables. You don’t want to drown them (unless you want mushy veg, and if you do, cool. Cover and boil the hell out of them). Boil for about 4 minutes to have them crunchy but not hard / not soft. Drain and set aside.
  • While boiling the carrots and broccoli, pour a tablespoon of your favorite oil in a frying pan. Throw in the chopped onions, and mushrooms, and cook for about two minutes, then add the asparagus pieces. Of course you’re going to have to stir these things every now and then to avoid burning, but I usually don’t add that step to recipes. Maybe I should. Here it is.
  • Chop the broccoli crowns until they are in bite-size pieces (or don’t) and add the broccoli and carrots to the frying pan. Cook until everything is warmed through. Stir, stir, stir. I added a liberal amount of no-salt seasoning and stirred that around really well. It made a big difference in taste.
  • While the other stuff is happening, or afterward if you don’t like juggling lots of kitchen activities, boil some pasta. I used whole wheat but discovered that my daughter is really put off by the texture, so next time I’ll use a spinach fettuccine or something. Use what you have or what you like best. This will really be no good if you don’t like the noodles.
  • Once the noodles are done, drain them.

Now for the assembly. I prefer my sauces rather thick but if you find that you would prefer this sauce to be thinner, add some water to the avocado spinach verde sauce and process until it’s distributed. I’d use ¼ c. of liquid at first, and then maybe just little splashes until it’s as thin as you want it. If you do add more liquid, don’t forget to taste and season the sauce. Then again, maybe you prefer bland. If so, never mind me.

Put good layer of pasta in the bottom of your bowl. Scoop on some sauce, and if you leave the sauce thick, use a spoon to mash it across the width of your spaghetti heap. Add another layer of pasta, another layer of sauce, and then add the cooked veg. My bowls only had enough room for these two layers but you can do as many as you want.

To finish off the dish and to make it look all pretty I sprinkled on some of the red bell pepper that was set aside in the fridge and then a made a cute little dollop of avocado spinach verde sauce on the top. If you thin out your sauce you’re not going to be able to dollop unless you set a dollopable portion aside! If you want to go vegetarian instead of vegan, blop on a big fat spoonful of sour cream.

And there you have it. And the best thing is that you can add, remove, or totally change this recipe to your taste. All these ingredients are optional. If you don’t like broccoli, substitute something else. Same goes for any / all of it. Don’t like vinegar? Use lemon juice (or some other acidic liquid to keep your avocado sauce from turning brown too quickly). Play with it! Make it your own!

This recipe makes two generous, three smaller, or four very small portions. You will probably have avocado sauce left over, you lucky devil, so use that savory yumminess in a thrown-together veggie roll-up for lunch the next day. And really, you could just as easily convert this recipe into a veg burrito. Just omit the pasta step. Or don’t. I bet pasta is a pretty dang good substitute for rice.

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Savory cheese & chive quiche

A couple of months ago, after reading a list of ideas for quick and cheap kitchen makeovers on Alana Chernila’s blog “Eating from the Ground Up”, I realized that my wood and bamboo cooking utensils needed conditioned, some of them so far beyond dry they were on to parched cracking and splintering. In the past I threw these pieces away, unaware of how easily they could be fixed and oblivious to the utter Zen of bringing them back into a state of usefulness. All it takes is food grade wax and a little time.

The pictures of rounded bricks of amber beeswax wrapped in brown crinkly paper were irresistably pretty but trying to locate a block at local stores proved fruitless (I prefer to buy local). The Internet is loaded with beeswax sellers but the shipping prices tend to cost more than the product. We are a one-income family, and despite the intense desire to possess my own beautiful wax brick I couldn’t justify the cost. But oy. I really really really wanted to wax the wood (sounds dirty, huh?). And because I really really really wanted to do it, I eventually found a perfect substitute in a tube of John Boos Board and Block Cream, a mixture of food grade mineral oil and beeswax, and it shipped for free. Problem solved.

The package arrived close to suppertime on the day my son had dance so I put off the task for “a day or two.” And, as typical, the next day was too hectic, and the day after that was too busy, the next day was overscheduled … and the poor dehydrated wood spoons and spatulas were forgotten, wasting away in the drawer under the cooktop. My little bit of counter space was frenetic with holiday cooking and candy making and the little tube of magical elixir got buried in the holiday rubble. The morning after Christmas, though, unable to tolerate the visual kitchen cacophony for one more second, I put everything away and re-found the forgotten board cream, not realizing it was missing until then.

Bing!

After a cup of coffee and many lingering glances, I hand-slathered each piece of cookware with board cream. After they were dried and buffed, the texture was luxurious beyond expectation. The process was so pleasurable that I took an unhurried inventory of the pantry, cabinets, and fridge to decide on what kind of cooking joy could match this moment; and the only thing that could possibly match the magnitude of self-indulgery (don’t use that word in Scrabble) was … QUICHE!

Our little backyard flock gives us a few fresh eggs per week during the dark months and about two dozen eggs a week when the days are longer. Always having fresh eggs is a delight even though the cost of feed probably exceeds output. The biggest payoff is in watching their silly chicken antics (yeah, we don’t have cable and are pretty easily entertained) and the darling way they rid the yard of scary things and bitey things and gross things (bugs, spiders, and the occasional little snake).

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But let’s get back to the day in the kitchen! Like the freshly oiled and waxed woodenware, quiche is silky, smooth, rich, and it was a nice follow-up the chore that was a meander in spoony serenity. The sensuous feel of the utensils and the contentment of making (and eating!) quiche chased the rainy day out of the house. Quiche doesn’t ask for much – just a few ingredients based solely on your mood. It’s a very forgiving dish. I opted to keep it simple in flavor just because going minimalist seemed fitting.

Cheese chive quiche

 

Savory cheese & chive quiche

Uncooked pie crust for 9” pie

6 eggs

3 over-heaping Tbsp sour cream + milk to make ½ c.

¾ c. buttermilk (regular milk works fine if you don’t have buttermilk)

3 c. grated cheese (I used 1-1/2 c. cheddar and 1-1/2 c. Swiss)

3-1/2 Tbsp flour

½ tsp kosher salt

¼ tsp ground black pepper

4 Tbsp (or to taste) snipped tops of green onions or 2 tsp dried chives, optional

Instructions:

1. Bring all ingredients to room temp

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

3. Press crust into 9” pie plate.

4. Combine sour cream and milk mixture with buttermilk or sour cream / milk mixture and mix well. Fabulous tool for the job: sauce whisk.

5. Add eggs, salt, pepper and flour to milk / sour cream mixture. Mix till combined well. Fabulous tool for the job: spring whisk.

6. Add cheese and green onion tops or dried chives. Stir till evenly distributed.

7. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until middle is set and the top is golden brown. Since this recipe contains an abundance of cheese, the knife test doesn’t work well. When you shake the pie plate there should be no lava-like bobble.

Notes and suggestions:

1. Fat free milk and buttermilk seem to work just fine with this recipe, probably owing to the fat in the cheese (I do not buy fat free cheese). Reduced fat sour cream also works well.

2. If you don’t like green onions or chives you can try different savory ingredients, like mushrooms pieces and well-drained chopped olives. Adding ingredients may affect cooking time.

3. Using 3 cups of nothing but cheddar may make your quiche very oily. If you use cheddar, consider pairing it with Swiss or finely-grated parmesan.

4. While it’s in the oven, the filling in the middle of the quiche may be lower than that on the sides. This is fine. The filling will level as it cools.

There you have it! Simple fine ingredients combining to make a savory decadent meal couldn’t be much easier or more satisfying to make. Quiche is inexpensive, quick to bring together, and pretty difficult to mess up. It’s a versatile meal that can stand by itself or paired with soup and crostini, spinach salad, fruit salad, or a full-flavored meat like ham.

Thank you, Ladies, for the main ingredient. The next time you molt I’ll lay off the FrankenHen jokes.

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