Saturday, December 29, 2012

Pumpkin Bread without Pumpkin? Pumpkinless Pumpkin Bread!

As I was making pumpkin bread, I wondered why I needed four times the liquid I usually use. As I looked at my very dry batter I thought, "Wow, this whole wheat flour seems to need much liquid today."

I added the extra liquid and wondered why white whole wheat flour would demand so much more liquid that whole wheat "pastry" flour?

I made the batter and  filled up the same two loaf pans, which I regularly use to bake pumpkin bread. What I had added to this pumpkin bread was two cups of raisins and cut up dried apricots to make the "pumpkin" bread more like a fruit cake.

When the bread was baking I realized that I had forgotten to put the solid packed pumpkin, a 29 ounce can, into the batter! My husband said "take it out of the oven and add the pumpkin," but I told him it is much too late and we are now baking an "experiment."

Herein is a picture of my "pumpkinless" pumpkin bread which my husband says he likes very much, in fact, he might like it more than the normal "pumpkin" bread I have made in the past! The recipe has no oil, no eggs, and no dairy. One can see the raisins in the bread, but the diced apricots are more difficult to see in the photograph.

To my surprise, my husband says he loves this "pumpkin" bread! He said this is the best pumpkin bread every. This "pumpkin" bread has no eggs, no oil, no dairy, and no PUMPKIN!

Kale and Kale

My favorite kale variety to date is the Russian Purple Kale which turns completely purple after a frost. The kale appears to be more tender than other varieties and the color is superb, however, I noticed the kale turning from dark purple to a very dark green as I was cooking it. I immediately added a bit of lemon hoping to preserve as much of the purple color as possible.

Per my previous posts where the stem of the kale did not soften on cooking, I have found that the stem of some varieties becomes tender on cooking and the stems of other varieties remain almost woody.

I found frozen kale in one store, Whole Foods, and have it in the freezer for those occasions when I can not get to the fresh market, such as on very snowy days as today!


I have been putting kale in everything from stir fry to soups and we continue to love it.

I will be searching for kale seed as it gets closer to spring and hope to plant several varieties in my garden.

I have found that the flowering kale in my flower garden, is the most delicious and tender kale of all and it is safe under the snow outside until I am ready to pick it. One of our local vegetable markets sells the flowering kale as a vegetable and it is the most expensive of the kales at our store, definitely worth planting for its beautiful color, tenderness and taste in cooking!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Kale Stems

The kale stems which were separated from the leafy kale turned out to be tough no matter
how long I seemed to cook them. They seemed to be fibrous, yet the kale's leafy blades were tender.

I am glad that I did not cook the stems along with the kale, and that I removed the stems from the kale stalk.

Although once cleaned-up and sliced on the diagonal for a pretty presentation, the stalks proved to be inedible! The color is beautiful in the raw sliced stalks below, but not chewable.

I purchased the kale at a wonderful local fruit and vegetable market. I will try kale stems again, just in case the stems were tough on only the type of kale which I purchased.

As one of my favorite cooks on HGTV would say to such stems if she tossed them in the trash,

                                     "Thanks kale stems for visiting!"

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


This will be our first Thanksgiving on a semi-vegetarian diet, I say "semi" as I do not plan on buying meat, but plan to start using up what I have in the freezer, but only serve meat once a week. We had Cheerios for breakfast along with a tablespoon of ground flax seed, which we purchased at Costco after listening to Dr. Esselstyn's lecture last Saturday and being inspired to eat healthier by his wife, Ann Crile Esselstyn.

Dr. Esselstyn mentioned that we need to avoid sucrose. I just bought ten pounds of sugar for holiday baking and hope sugar lasts for a very long time. Dr Esselstyn does not suggest using Stevia or sugar substitutes and I seem to have more than a few varieties in my kitchen! Dr. Esselstyn does not promote maple syrup or honey either, sugar is a "no, no."

I know I will have to modify recipes as sugar is a liquid in baking, but for cooking I can easily come up with some quick fixes.

I purchased fresh cranberries and wondered how to sweeten them for my cranberry relish. After thinking about, since my family loves bananas, I decided to add the usual apple and orange to the cranberries and chop them up in the blender or food chopper. I started in the blender and decided to use the sweetest fruit I have in the house, other than dates. I added a sweet Yellow Delicious apple and an orange to the cranberries as I usually do. I did not add the usual 1/4-1/2 cup of sugar as I usually do.

I saw two ripe bananas on my counter and dates from California. I decided to put the two bananas in my Ninja chopper and puree them into a soft, creamy consistency. I poured the pure banana "syrup" over the cranberry/apple/orange relish and gently folded the banana, which turned to a liquid, into the mixture.

The relish is just sweet enough, perfectly sweet, and we do not mind the banana flavor in our cranberry relish and have the benefit of not having to use sugar!

Grocery Shopping

I went grocery shopping to today, the first time I have shopped since we attended Dr Esselstyn's lecture at the Mayfield Regional Library last Saturday. I am thankful that my husband came to the lecture and that he accompanied me grocery shopping. Because he went to the lecture and heard so much about kale, my husband was interested in seeing kale in our local market.

I always grow flowering kale in my yard and have cooked it in the past, only to have to eat it by myself. However, after attending the lecture, my husband not only tasted the kale both raw and cooked, but helped prepare it, by stripping the leafy areas from the stem as Dr. Esselstyne's wife demonstrated.

To strip the kale, take a leaf and hold the stem in your right hand and strip the softer leafy areas, away from the stem in one continuous motion. My husband is actually better at this than I am.

We used the kale tonight as we would have used pasta, the base for a vegetarian bean and barley chili.

Having lived in Cincinnati for 14 years, combining homemade chili with pasta is natural. Substituting cooked and slightly chopped kale for the pasta, was not only delicious, but a way to disguise kale for the non-kale eating world! My husband loved it and so did I!

I used about a cup of dried black beans, 1/2 cup of red pinto beans, and put them in a put, and just covered them with cold water. Per the instructions on the bean package, I boiled them for two minutes and let them sit for about an hour before continuing the cooking process. The directions say that the beans will cook in two hours, but they are always a bit too hard for us at the two-hour stage. I prefer to cook them twice the time stated on the package, add more liquid, about 1 cup of spaghetti sauce, tomato paste, or even sausa taking up too much room in my refrigerator! I had at least a teaspoon of cinnamon, garlic powder, onion powder and ab out a cup of each of chopped onions, celery, and carrots.

I had cooked the kale until tender, the mass of kale barely made two generous servings for the base of a bowl of chili!

Notice how the kale quickly cooked down. I have flowering kale in my yard, but don't want to pick it yet.
I also purchased a huge cabbage and plan to make "stuffed cabbage casserole" without using meat.

We may find ourselves between Dr. Dean Ornish's diet and that of Dr; Esselstyn, but in any case, we were energized to include more crucifers in our diet and hope to make kale a regular visitor at our house!

Have you ever seen such a huge cabbage?

The stripped kale filled up the pot, but watch how it shrinks after cooking.

The kale cooked down in the picture below where it turned from a bright green to a very deep green.

Below is how the kale looked after stripping the leafy areas from the stalks using the method which Dr. Esselstyn's wife showed at the lecture at the Mayfield Regional Library last Saturday.

I took the stems of the stalks and cut them on a slant into bite size pieces which I plan to cook tomorrow for lunch with our left over vegetarian bean and barley chili. Mrs. Ellelstyn mentioned that she cut the stems on a slant, and I think that cutting the stems into equal pieces on a slant, may speed up the cooking process.

Below is the large pot of vegetarian bean and barley chili cooking on the stove. I cooked it for more than four hours. After about three hours I blended some of the bean and barley mixture in the blender and pureed the mixture before putting it back in to the pot.

                               Yum, it is so much better than I expected!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Vegan Diets

Went to Dr. Esselstyn's (Cleveland Clinic) very interesting lecture at the Mayfield Regional Library last Saturday and was impressed with his wife's input (granddaughter of the founder of the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Crile)  -- found a portion of the lecture on YouTube at

Discussion emphasizes, but not limited to heart issues from arrhythmias to attacks, and Dr. Esselstyn and his wife talk about cancer prevention (he was a breast surgeon).

No dairy, no meat, no oil, no sugar are key, he says eat nothing which has a mother or a face, in the plant-based diet.

Have followed Dean Ornish for years per my husband's diet. Dr. Esselstyn's is a bit stricter, but the same theme.

I will check out Dr. Esselstyn's recipes and see if we might try the program, but in any case, we will be making more trips to the fresh fruit and vegetable markets and I will plant more flowering kale in my garden next spring!

I am looking forward to reading his book and his son's book!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust- Review

I make the pizza crust using about 1/2 to 2/3rds whole wheat flour and the remaining 1/3-1/2 of the flour mixture being unbleached flour.

I usually make crusts for two huge pizzas and have sometimes have dough left over to make a small bread for sandwiches, depending on how big I make the pizzas.

The recipe I commit to memory is easy to member:

4 teaspoons yeast (I buy it in bulk from Costco and love their yeast)
4 cups lukewarm water (I microwave cold water from the tap until lukewarm, never use warm tap water)
4 teaspoons sugar

I mix the above together in a huge nonmetallic bowl. I do not use metal measuring spoons or let anything metal get near my yeast mixture, which is a living organism.

I wait a few minutes to see if the mixture changes in any way, such as seeing bubbles or anything different and then carefully add the flour.

I add 8 cups of flour (using my 2 cup measuring cup this is again, 4 loads of flour) slowly while mixing the batter until my batter becomes a dough. This morning my dough was too sticky, so I added almost another load (2 cups) of the flour mixture (half and half, whole wheat and unbleached) and continued to mix together with a wooden spoon.

Because I hate to cleanup, I knead the soft dough in the same large mixing bowl for a few minutes using either wetted hands or oily hands -- placing a bit of oil on my hands before kneading the dough, keeps it from sticking to my hands.

After kneading for a few minutes, I form the dough into a round ball, sprinkle a bit of flour on top of it, cover it with a clean kitchen towel and place it in a safe place. It is important to keep the dough away from cold drafts as that will slow down the growth of the yeast. The best place I have found to raise yeast dough is in my oven (turned off).

Some place the dough in the refrigerator and let it rise overnight. I have done this on occasion, but since I am usually making the pizza for dinner, I let it raise in a warm place.

When the dough in my bowl rises to double the size that it was when I first placed it in the cold oven, it is time to punch it down, and place it in the greased pizza pans to let it rise for a second time.


If one can toss the dough as seen on TV, one gets an incredible hand tossed crust. Hand tossing really improves the texture of the crust. I am not an expert at hand tossing the dough, but if I have time, I gently
toss it from one hand to the other and let it enlarge.

When I do not have time to hand toss, which is most of the time, I place about 1/3 of the dough in a pizza pan and press it to the edges of the pan, and leave it alone again until double in bulk.

When my pizza dough has doubled in bulk, I will edit this blog to add additional photographs!

Easy Colorful Vegetarian Pizza

I get much color in my homemade vegetarian pizza from buying green peppers that have some color on them. This saves me the trouble of buying yellow and orange peppers as I look for those colors on a green pepper. If I buy a red pepper and a green one with yellow and orange sides, it adds much color to a homemade vegetarian pizza. Onions add much flavor and I microwave all the vegetables gently to reduce the vegetable juice exuding from the vegetables onto my pizza.

One can easily spot the liquid left in a bowl after the vegetables are microwaved for a minute or two before adding them to the homemade pizza crust covered with sauce.

For pizza sauce, I have found that there are many options and everything works! Sometimes I mix a can of tomato paste with a bit of ketchup, sometimes I use spaghettis sauce or if I have a plentiful tomato harvest, I have placed fresh tomatoes on my pizza. I love putting basil sauce on my pizza too.

The peppers give the pizza much color and along with the onions, much flavor. I selected green  peppers with some color.

I cut one of the green peppers and a red pepper into small pieces to make the pizza below:
My husband asked me to make pizza today and I will mix the yeast, lukewarm water, sugar, and whole wheat flour, and let it rise while I finish my blog and run errands!

Vegetarian Pizza without Cheese

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Everything Eggplant

           Wow, we seem to have the most beautiful eggplants in our markets this fall!

To select an eggplant, I look for one that is lighter, rather than heavier, for its size. I like a shiny, dark purple coat with as few blemishes as possible. To check for freshness, I look for a greenish stem near the top of the eggplant.

In the late summer and early fall, I put eggplant on the grill. Just spraying slices of the eggplant on both sides with a little bit of Pam Cooking Spray, keeps the eggplant from sticking to my grill. We eat the eggplant right from the grill, but the skin. I never peel my eggplant as love the deep purple color of the skin!

When I want to have a softer, edible purple skin, I prefer to gently broil the eggplant. I place slices cut to about 1/8" on a baking sheet and broil for a few minutes on each side. I only put a bit of cooking spray on the bottom of the sheet or broiler pan, to keep the slices from sticking. One must be careful as once the eggplant slices begin to turn a bit of brown, they can broil to the overdone stage almost instantly. Some say to only broil the eggplant on one side, but I prefer to broil the slices on both sides.

I make lots of homemade pizza as my husband loves it. However, since he is "sensitive" to cheese, I make cheese-less pizza's for him, or refrain from putting cheese on his side of the pizza.

A medium sized eggplant, cut into 1/8", round slices, filled up my homemade pizza very nicely. The slices were broiled as described above, then placed over the sauce on the pizza. The skin of the eggplant in this case was very soft and easy to chew after baking!
It is easy to see the eggplant slices in the areas of the pizza where there is no cheese. We love any kind of fresh sweet pepper and onions on our pizza too, as they complement the eggplant well. I always microwave the diced or sliced peppers and onions, just to the soft state, before placing on the pizza, as we don't like raw onion on our pizza and prefer the peppers soft too.

We like lots of toppings on our pizza, over our mostly whole wheat crust, the recipe for which is earlier in this blog. I doubled the recipe to make a 9" X 11" inch square pizza and the very large round pizza above.

I generally pre-bake the crust for 8-10 minutes on a high temperature, such as 4025-450 F. A secret to keep the crust from getting soggy, is to put cheese as the very first topping on pre-baked, homemade pizza dough, but because my husband is "sensitive" to cheese, I can no longer use that secret trick.

I have discovered that microwaving the vegetable toppings, such as onions and peppers, helps to get rid of some of the veggie juice that would otherwise make my pizza soggy!

I never bake in the summer, but it is October 9 2012, and am glad to turn on my oven in these cooler days of fall in Cleveland, Ohio!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Walk Forward

My book, Walk Forward, was published on Amazon Kindle Select yesterday. and for the moment it is #6 of  47 in its category!

The book includes foods loved by my family, such as potato pancakes, German spaetzle, homemade applesauce, and streusel kuchen.

I made the best streusel kuchen for my Mom earlier last year and remember how she enjoyed it.

I am so thankful that I took the time to make the yeast dough, while she gently and precisely made and distributed the streusel over the yeast dough base. She created wonderful butter streusel, while sitting at my kitchen table.

I was honored to have her call my house, her "home," for her last three years on this earth.

In my book, Walk Forward, I describe my mother's visits with her cousin Wilma, whose father was a baker. For a barn raising, he would bake huge streusel kuchens and cut them in long strips, about three inches wide. He would  place the strips in a layer, and place the next layer of strips over the one below it, going in the opposite direction.

When I close my eyes, I can still smell the streusel kuchen baking in my oven and imagine my Mom sitting in my kitchen. Recipes are connected to family and memories, as are sights and smells in the kitchen. We eat with our nose and our eyes, but also with our memories.

I will include recipes for foods mentioned in the book, Walk Forward,  in future posts,  but if you are interested in reading about my family and its roots, please check out a free chapter of my book, Walk Forward, on at:

and "Yes," that is a picture of my Mom, taken in 1938, on the cover of my book.

If you like reading the chapter, download the entire book, come back for the recipes, and continue to Walk Forward!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Secret Russian Tea Biscuits

Russian Tea Biscuits freeze well and are a wonderful treat to bake in cool weather to enjoy anytime. A single recipe makes containers full of wonderful treats to share with family and friends. I like to keep some on hand in the freezer for special company or for those occasions when it is too hot too bake as this summer of 2012. Luckily, I baked a load of the raspberry treats in the early spring. Since I don't bake them as often as I would like, my biggest problem is to remember how much filling to put on each biscuit before I roll it up.

The secret to great tea biscuits is to buy the best filling products,  such as the best raspberry jam you can find, as it will be worth the wonderful aroma these biscuits have even after months in the freezer!

My husband prefers pecans to walnuts, thus, I use pecans but walnuts work fine too. I use Smucker's raspberry preserves as preserves are easier to spread than jam and don't try to use jelly, the pastry dough is too delicate!

Turn off your phone and prepare to spend some time making the most wonderful Russian Tea Biscuits. You will not regret it. The dough comes out perfect every time and does not stick to your rolling pin or break as you role up the cinnamon, raspberry preserves, raisins and chopped nuts.  I have used orange juice or lemon juice in the dough and both work great!

For those dairy allergic or following Kosher dietary rules for a Parve desert, use a margarine that does not include dairy products. I have used Fleishman's and Mother's margarine for an excellent product. Per its healthful benefits, I prefer using canola oil which tastes great in baked goods.

Here is the recipe and the next time I take some out of the freezer, I will post a picture, enjoy!

Sift together:

4 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
3/4 cup sugar,  note:  (you will also need a few tablespoons of extra sugar for the biscuit tops)

Make a well and add the liquid ingredients:
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup margarine melted
1/4 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 whole eggs plus, note: you will need an extra egg white as a dip for the rolled biscuit dough. 

Mix the above and knead for ten minutes until the dough forms a soft ball. Divide into quarters if making the normal size biscuits. Roll each quarter of the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness and add filing of red raspberry preserves, raisins, nuts and cinnamon. Try not to over stuff the roll with filling but you can use as much or as little as you like. Please note that if you use too much raspberry, the roll might leak yummy juice in the oven. Roll up the stuffed roll like a jelly roll.

Spread the top of the roll with egg white and dip the roll in granulated sugar before you cut the roll into slices as it is much easier this way (I can verify that it is time consuming and tedious to cut the roll into serving pieces and dip each piece into the egg white and granulated sugar). Cut the roll into one inch slices and bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes on a greased cookie sheet.Share with your best friends and your favorite cup of tea.