Category Archives: Books

Vegan Cheesy Sauce

I’m vegan for health reasons, and mostly I have no cravings from my former way of eating.  But sometimes, sometimes I want cheese on something.  I want that melty smoothness that can bring the other flavors in a dish all together.  Take for instance, one of my fall and winter favs: Stuffed Squash.  To make it low fat, I sprayed the cut edges of the squash with cooking spray rather than using butter.  I think it’d be OK without cheese, but I found this cool recipe in my current go-to cookbook, The Happy Herbivore.  A melty smooth cheesy sauce with no dairy at all.  How yummy and cheesy-licious does this sauce look on my stuffed squash?  What about flavor?  Not cheese exactly, but yummy and satisfying in a cheesy sort of way.


I had all the ingredients on hand (Hurray!)


  • 1 1/4 cup non-dairy milk  (I used unsweetened almond milk.)
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast  (Find in the bulk food area of a health food market.)
  • 2 TBSP yellow miso  (I had white miso.  Find this near the dairy section.)
  • 2 TBSP cornstarch
  • 1 tsp granulated onion powder
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika  (Smoked paprika would give you a smoky cheese sauce–mmmm!)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric

This is so quick and easy you’ll have cheese sauce in no time!  Place all ingredients in a small pan over medium heat.

all in the pan

Whisk and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and stir frequently until it thickens.

whisk together

Spoon over whatever you want; this yummy stuffed squash, perhaps.  This is the place in the recipe where the squash get stuffed, cheesed, and then baked for an additional 15 minutes.

spoon over filling

The sauce browns and I added a bit more before topping with a bit of cilantro–excellent flavor addition!


One of the most fun things about being vegan after being not vegan for over 50 years, is experimenting with new ingredients and recipes.  I don’t feel like I’m on a “diet” because the food is sooo satisfying.


Usually diets make me feel like I’m being punished.  Being vegan makes me feel pampered, happy and healthy.  I highly recommend vegan food, even for just a couple of days a week.  Really!  Yummy!!!


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Filed under Books, comfort food, dairy-free, dinner, Garden produce, recipe, Vegetarian

(Nearly) Fat-Free Hummus

Wait.  Before you think fat-free means flavor-free, have a look at this quick, easy-peasy, and yes, uber-yummy hummus.  Based on the “Healthy Homemade Hummus” recipe in The Engine 2 Diet, you’ll be wanting to make a big batch for snackin’ right now, and again any time you need to bring an appetizer to a party.


It’s nearly fat-free, because the garbanzo beans have 2g of fat per serving just being their beany selves.  Garbanzo beans are also known as chick peas, but I like saying garbanzo.  Garbanzo, garbanzo, garbanzo.  Ha!

I went pretty much with the basic recipe in the book, adjusted just a bit for our tastes.  Which is one of the groovy things about hummus–flavor it however you like: different herbs, roasted red peppers, nuts if you’re cool with a bit of added fat, maybe Thai chili pastes….wherever your imagination and palate take you.


  • 2 15-oz cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 TBSP hot sauce
  • 1 TBSP Tamari (soy sauce) NOTE: you may want to start with less, depending on how salty your soy sauce is.
  • 3 TBSP lemon juice
  • 4 TBSP veggie broth (can be adjusted according to the hummus texture you prefer)

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender.

all in the processor

Puree/blend until desired smoothness.  Add more veggie broth if you want it smoother.

blend til smooth

Spoon into a bowl (mind the blades!), surround with your favorite cut veggies or chips and enjoy!

serve with veggies

So amazingly yummy!  It took all of about three minutes to make the hummus, and about double that to cut up a few veggies.  Thanks to my friend Janell in Dillon Beach for serving radishes with a bit of their leaves on to use as a dipping handle; never occurred to me to do this and works perfectly!

If your schedule allows you to make the hummus ahead of time, it’s even better after it’s been in the fridge for an hour or two.  I can’t wait to try different beans and different flavorings.  Yummy AND fat-free(ish).  Who-da thunk?!

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Filed under appetizer, Books, Garden produce, Gluten-free, Holiday foods, Potluck, Vegetarian

Pot Roast For Two

Michael and I are empty nesters now that Mr18 is in college, creating a whole new challenge in cooking.  Most of my recipes work for my family of three with enough leftover for one more meal or lunch.  These very same recipes now last three or four days!  They are yummy, but really.  A couple times is plenty.  I am not an organized “freeze in dinner-sized portions for later” person, although I may learn to be that way.  🙂

Fall has happened and I have begun to yearn for slow-cooked, aromatic fall foods….like pot roast.  Can you imagine how long those leftovers would be around?!  While snooping around the grocery store the other day, I came across a chuck roast package weighing only 1 1/2 pounds!  Perfect!  I could make a tiny pot roast for two! (Now of course, it occurs to me I can buy a regular-sized roast and cut it into smaller portions–duh!) I opened my Julia Child How to Cook for inspiration, (Smothered Brisket of Beef) gathered a very few things and was on my way to fall food yum-a-palooza!  This recipe should double or triple easily for larger families.

(Based on Julia’s recipe, adjusted for amounts and what I had on hand)

  • 1 1/2 pounds beef chuck roast
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme (or 1/4 tsp dried thyme–fresh is better if you have it)
  • 1 large clove of garlic, pressed or very finely minced
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • a few grinds of black pepper, approximately 1/8 tsp
  • 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 4-6 small potatoes, washed and cut in half
  • 4-6 carrots, peeled and cut in half

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Combine salt, thyme and garlic in a small container.

Add oil and whisk together.

Rub the garlic mixture over all surfaces of the roast, place it into a large casserole or slow cooker.  Place potatoes and carrots on top.

On top of that, add the can of tomatoes, including liquid, and the onion.

Cover with the casserole’s lid or foil and place in the oven for 3-4 hours, or slow cooker on high for the same time, or slow cooker on low for 6-7 hours.

Within an hour, your house will start to fill with that wonderful November Sunday dinner at Mom’s or Grandma’s aroma.  At the end of the cooking time, remove from the oven.  Mmmmm! doesn’t that look yummy?!

Remove veggies and roast to a platter or large plate and tent with foil to keep them warm.

Strain and de-fat the drippings.  You can use a special little pitcher that pours from the bottom, specifically designed for this, or if you have time, place the drippings in the fridge to solidify the fat, or be like me and use a spoon to skim off as much fat as you can.  I’ve also heard you can wrap an ice cube in a paper towel and skim it over the surface to get more fat off, but I wasn’t all that concerned.  Transfer the drippings to a small sauce pan over medium heat.

Take out 1 TBSP of the drippings and place in a small bowl.  Add 1 1/2 tsp corn starch.  Blend well and add back to the pan.  Heat until boiling while stirring, reduce heat to a simmer.  Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings as needed.

Serve up your pot roast in perfect portions and drizzle with the sauce.  Add a slice or two of crusty bread to mop up any leftover sauce.  Alas, in my excitement to consume this yummy meal, I totally forgot to get the bread out!

There. Moist, tender, flavor-y.  Fall comfort food on a plate, just like Mom used to make.  We each had a satisfying portion of roast and veggies and had one more portion left over.  I love cold potatoes and I’ve already snitched a couple from the fridge and plan to use the roast in quesadillas tonight.  As Julia said of this recipe. “It makes prime eating.”

I’ve been somewhat obsessed with Julia lately (I’m on a first-name basis with her, as you can see), having just finished Dearie, a biography.  I’ve also read Julie and Julia, and My Life In France.  I’m all inspired to try more Julia-esque recipes this fall and winter.  Do you have a favorite Julia recipe?

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Filed under Books, comfort food, crock pot, dinner, recipe

Zesty Pasta Sauce

I’m a reader.  I’m a gardener.  I work at keeping my carbon footprint as small as possible.  My BFF Becky knows me really well, and a few years ago recommended the perfect book: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  It’s a memoir of the year she and her family lived as locovores–written in Kingsolver’s characteristic style with all sorts of compelling essays on the whys of eating locally.  I keep this book with my cookbooks in the kitchen, so the recipe for this pasta sauce is at the ready when I need it. 

How satisfying to have some of your summer saved in beautiful jars!  How spectacular to have the flavor of summer on your pasta on a cold, grey winter’s day!

This is quite a project–totally do-able–but time consuming.  Set aside a day, make yourself as much working space as possible, and gather up a rather imposing (But really do-able!  Really!) bunch of ingredients.  I’ll give the amounts of each from the book; you may need to adjust amounts according to how much tomato puree you end up with–more on that later!  The best plan is to wait until you have LOTS of tomatoes and make a bunch of sauce all at once.  I freeze tomatoes while I accumulate them.

NOTE: You MUST stick closely to the recipe if you’re canning for proper pH. If you’re freezing the sauce, feel free to add fresh veggies.

This recipe will make 6-8 qts–any combination of quart or pint jars or freezer boxes.

  • 10 qts tomato puree ( I use all sorts of tomatoes.  Paste tomatoes, like romas, thicken the sauce faster.)
  • 4 large onions, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup dried basil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 4 TBSP dried oregano
  • 3 TBSP salt
  • 2 TBSP ground, dried lemon peel
  • 2 TBSP thyme
  • 2 TBSP garlic powder (or more, to taste)
  • 2 TBSP dried parsley
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Start with blanching the tomatoes to make them easier to peel.  Cook briefly in boiling water–just until peels start to loosen, about 1-2 minutes.  I use a blancher–a double pot with a strainer that lifts out.

As soon as peels show evidence of cracks/loosening, dump them into an ice bath to stop the cooking.  I fill my (very clean) sink with cold water and ice.

Peel and chunk the tomatoes. 

I set up my processor next to the sink, with a bowl to place the chunked tomatoes in and a measuring bowl to measure the puree.  An apron is recommended–tomatoes squirt and splash as you peel them and pour the puree from the processor to the measuring bowl to the cooking pot.

Place chunked tomatoes in the processor and puree to a fairly consistant smoothness, but not liquified.  Pour puree into the measuring bowl, keep track of how much puree you have as you go along, pouring into a large stainless steel or enamel stock pot.

When all tomatoes are pureed, figure your total amount of puree and adjust the rest of the ingredients in the recipe accordingly.  For example, if you end up with 5 quarts of puree, cut all amounts in half.

Peel and chop the onions and sweat/soften them in a pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Add a small amount of water if needed, but NO OIL if you are canning! 

While onions are softening, measure out the rest of the ingredients and add to the puree.

Add onions to the mix when they are soft.

Bring to a boil and simmer on low heat for two to three hours until sauce has thickened to your liking.  (Your kitchen will smell amazing!) Stir frequently, especially toward the end, to avoid burning.  Meanwhile, heat water in a canner, wash jars and rings or sterlize in a dishwasher.  Rinse jars and rings well and hold in hot water.  Boil lids and hold at a simmer.

Fill jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.

IMPORTANT–NOT OPTIONAL: Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice OR 1/2 tsp citric acid (Fruit Fresh) to EACH quart jar. (Half as much per pint.)  This ensures that the sauce will be safely acidic.

Wipe rims, place lids and adjust rings.

When all jars are filled, lower them into the boiling water of a canner.  Most canners hold up to 7 jars at a time.


Process (boil) quarts for 35 minutes, pints for 25 minutes with the lid on the canner.  Start the time when the water starts to boil again after placing jars.

Carefully remove jars with a jar lifter and let cool.  Listen for the metallic “thunk” indicating the jars are sealing.  The lids will be concave when sealed.  Label with whatever you decide to call your sauce, along with the date you canned it.  (The sauce will keep for a year in normal house temperatures–not that it will last that long!)  Have fun!  Be creative!  BFF Becky calls hers “Romalicious.”  🙂

There ya go!  You just made the yummiest pasta sauce ever!  Use it on pasta (duh!), or as a pizza sauce, a sauce to jazz up a meat loaf, a sandwich spread, or most any time a recipe calls for tomatoes!  Mmmm!  Yummy!

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Filed under Books, Canning and preserving, comfort food, Garden produce, recipe

Cravin’ Corned Beef and Cabbage!

I got to work this morning wearin’ my green, including shamrock head-boppers, and a friend comes up and asks, “Who’s having corned beef and cabbage tonight?  I’ve got mine goin’ in the slow cooker.”  Just like that, a craving hit.  But what’s a girl to do if she didn’t think ahead of time about having a traditional St. Patty’s Day meal? 

As luck (of the Irish!) would have it, we had a cool, overcast day (47 today after a 74 degree yesterday!) that kept gardeners at home and I got to go home early!  I had time to stop by the store for last minute ingredients.  I gathered up the smallest corned beef brisket I could find and a small head of cabbage.  Super pleased with myself for scoring the answer to the craving, I had a moment of panic–I’d never made corned beef and cabbage…it was never on the menu growing up…what to do?

Of course, the answer just had to be in my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, right?  Right!  Page 239!  Yay!  Back on track, the rest of the ingredients were right there in the kitchen:

  • A 3-4 pound corned beef brisket  (Mine was 2 1/2, pre-packaged with a little spice packet.)
  • 1 head cabbage, cut into 6 wedges  (Leave the core intact to keep leaves together.)
  • 6 medium potatoes, peeled  (I cut mine in half to speed the cooking.)
  • 6 carrots, peeled  (I always have baby carrots in the fridge, thank goodness, ’cause I had no idea I needed them while at the store!)
  • small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves

Place corned beef in a dutch oven or large pot.  Add onion, garlic, and bay leaves.  (I also added the spice packet that was included with the corned beef.)  Barely cover with hot water, cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer, cook 1 hour per pound of brisket.

Remove meat from liquid.  Set aside and keep warm.  Add potatoes and carrots.  Return to a boil, cook 5 minutes.  Add cabbage and cook an additional 25 minutes. 


Slice corned beef, plate with potatoes, carrots and cabbage.  Pour yourself a stout beer and enjoy being Irish for the day!

You might have noticed a slice of bread on the plate as well.  Another craving struck while cruising Facebook as the brisket was cooking.  A friend posted that she had soda bread today!  Yup, I just had to make that too–recipe tomorrow!  It was the perfect hearty addition to soak up juices and use as a pusher to get those last little tidbits. 

I really enjoyed this plate of Irish comfort food on a rainy St. Patty’s night.  I mixed the cabbage in with the potatoes–yum!  Maybe I can find a place in my garden to plant cabbage…..hmmmmm.   I hope the luck of the Irish was with you today as well!

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Community Cookbooks are Cookbooks for the Heart

While the BHG Cookbook is my go-to book, the cookbooks that are dearest to me are the ones with spiral bindings and tabbed dividers.  They contain recipes that have ingredients like breakfast cereal and “cream of” soups; recipes with names like “Company Casserole” and “Donna’s BBQ.”  Great potluck recipes come from these books; the ones created with love by communities of cooks.

Here are some of mine.  My Grandpa worked at John Deeres, I went to elementary school at Roosevelt School (just imagine how old those two are, eh?!), I have two from the church we went to in the little town I grew up in, and a couple family cookbooks–my nostalgic favorite is the Stavanger Lutheran Church Cookbook from Ossian, Iowa, celebrating 150 years as a church(in the upper left corner).  My mom grew up in Ossian, and this book is full of names I know from my childhood, even people I never met, like my Grandma–Mom’s mom.  Lots and lots of traditional Norwegian recipes here, and some, like Chicken Cordon Bleu and Pesto, that I didn’t expect to see!

I love how these little books capture the essense of the era in which they were written, and the flavor of the area of the country they represent.  When I want a recipe for rhubarb anything, I know to look in one of the books from Iowa.  Rhubarb grows here in Western Colorado, but doesn’t seem to be as revered by Colorado cooks as it is by Iowans.  Looking for a peach recipe?  the Grand Valley grows amazing peaches–look in the Grand Junction’s Newcomers’ Favorites Cookbook.  Want a classic Midwest-y salad from the 60s–maybe one containing fruit cocktail?  Check the John Deere or Roosevelt books.

Mr16’s Band Parent Association is looking into producing a cookbook as a fundraiser.  In the age of the internet, this project seems fairly do-able.  I can’t imagine the hours and hours spent by whoever compiled some of my older books, retyping on an actual typewriter, so that all recipes would have a uniform appearance.  I’m asking for recipes sent to me as email attachments, which I can open, highlight and change to whatever font I want in the blink of an eye, and store in a folder.  I’m hoping this project will come to fruition, so I can add another community book-full of yumminess to my collection, as well as continue to support a fabulous band program.

Here’s a picture of the band, just because I love all of these band kids so much!  (Especially my own personal band kid!)

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Filed under Books, Food memories

The Magic 8 Ball of Cookery

Meet my Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, copyright 1976.  I have tons of cookbooks–newer cookbooks, snazzier cookbooks, “gourmet” cookbooks, but this is my favorite.  It’s the one I go to when I have a cooking question–it’s my Magic 8 Ball for cooking! 

The Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book was once THE gift given to new brides.  It’s almost like having all the “women folk” in your family right there on the counter, ready to help you with whatever you’re cooking.

On the inside covers, there are charts for oven temperatures, thermometer readings for meats, weights and measures, emergency substitutions, and go-to recipes for white sauce and pastry.

It’s ring-bound with 18 tabbed sections, each with their own table of contents.  There is an index called “creative uses for leftovers”, a calorie tally, and a glossary of cooking terms.  Anytime I get stumped with a recipe, or can’t remember how long to waterbath something I’m canning, the BHG New Cook Book is the one I reach for first. 

My copy is water damaged and has food stains.  They make a trail to the yummy recipes I use most, like the “Oh Boy Waffles” in the Breads section.  (This is the waffle recipe I ruined by adding blueberries….oh boy!) 

“Sift together 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour, 4 tsp baking powder, 3/4 tsp salt, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar.  Mix 2 beaten eggs, 2 1/4 cup milk, and 1/2 cup salad oil.  (I also add 1 tsp of vanilla)  Add all at once to dry ingredients, beating only until moistened.  Bake in preheated baker.  Makes 10-12.”

If you have a waffle iron, this is a perfect weekend breakfast.  (Just don’t add blueberries!)  Buy your own copy of this book when you get a chance and find out why Amazon’s review says, “Discover why every kitchen worth its salt has a flour-dusted, bouillon-stained, batter encrusted and whisk-maimed copy.”


Filed under Books, recipe