What do Vampires Have to do With: A Variation on Macco di Fave (fava bean puree)?

We’ve had a reading breakthrough in our house! I guess all it takes is the right book. After baseball, Evan was tearing around the house and I wanted him to settle down a bit so I asked him to sit down and do some reading while I made dinner, and to pick something that was at his level so he could actually read it. (As opposed to, Avengers: The Ultimate Guide to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, which, though I can see the appeal and the movie is on my list of mindless fun, that encyclopedia-type book is quite advanced).

Lovely lima beans…because I didn’t have fava beans

I came into the living room to tell him dinner was ready and found him reading to himself and not wanting to stop (who are you and what have you done with my child?) for dinner.

“Hey kiddo, since it’s just the two of us for dinner tonight, why don’t you bring your book to the table and I’ll bring mine and we can read and chat about our books?”

He was thrilled. Normally the dinner table is a no book/toy zone so it can be about Having a Conversation. Sometimes ya gotta break the rules.

So ace reporter/skeleton, Dirk Bones, joined us for dinner and solved the Mystery of the Haunted House, when he encountered a vampire using a typewriter: “Clickity-click, clickity-clack, ding!” Evan had trouble with the word ‘typewriter’. Understandable. “Mommy, what’s a typewriter? Why does it go ding? Have you ever used one?”

(Flashback to Grade 9 Typing with Mrs. Holroyde k-i-k-space, k-i-k space, d-e-d space, d-e-d space, l-o-l…).

“Yes, honey I’ve used one…this is how it works…” My inept description was ultimately followed by a You Tube demo and then his “...cool, can we get one?!

So back to the story…the vampire was writing a cookbook! Ev thought that was hilarious, especially when I asked him if he thought the vampire should start a food blog. He couldn’t put it down and at the end exclaimed “What a great book!” How appropriate, a vampire foodie. With a recipe for bat foot stew with crispy worm brains to boot. Not quite what I had in mind for dinner, but perfect for my budding reader.

This isn’t exactly bat foot stew, but is a lovely spring soup, picture it served warm but not piping hot, with good bread and a warm breeze on the deck….OR picture it as a warm, satisfying meal during these currently dreary Seattle days….whatever works where you are! To bring this back to the ‘dinnerversions’ theme….no, this soup wasn’t kid-friendly in our house…but we also had outrageously expensive corn on the cob because it was warm and we could pretend it was summer. So the kid ate the corn and had the merest lick of soup…and lots of baguette. C’est là vie.

Macco di Fave (fava bean puree)
Inspired by and minimally adapted from La Tartine Gourmande. It’s a beautiful blog with gorgeous photography. Check it out!

This is a very simple and delicious recipe with only a few ingredients: beans, onion, sage, good pecorino romano cheese. Perfect. Beatrice from La Tartine Gourmande used fava beans, tarragon and parsley in her recipe. I didn’t have fava beans on hand, so I used lima. 

1 red onion, finely chopped
1.6 pounds fresh or frozen lima beans
2 teaspoons finely chopped sage
4 1/2 cups hot water
1 cup grated Pecorino romano cheese, or more to taste
Sea salt and pepper

Sweat the onions in olive oil for a few minutes until soft but not brown, add the sage and beans and stir until fragrant. Turn down the heat to med-low and add the water. Simmer until the beans are very soft and start to fall apart (or puree with a hand blender when soft), then season with salt and pepper and stir in cheese until melted. (Note: adding salt to beans will prevent them from softening so don’t add it until the end).

Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and more romano and sage.

Chocolate Bundt Cake with Dulce de Leche

It was Cinco de Mayo the other day, and so am I giving you a fab recipe for fajitas or enchiladas or even mojitos? No….though Bob made a kick ass fish taco last night. Or so I’m told. I’m allergic to fish, remember? But our friends said it was great. Next time he makes it I’ll take some photos and let you in on the recipe. Because quite honestly, this dinner party was all him….he planned, invited, grocery shopped, prepped and cooked. What a guy! It was really fun too. I did virtually nothing. Except make this cake. And the dulce de leche that is decadently running down the sides. Oh my god, you guys.

This is the easy way to make dulce de leche, using a can of sweetened condensed milk. I picked it up from Stephanie Eddy’s Icing on the Cake column in the Globe and Mail (Canadian paper, for my friends here in the Excited States). There are methods out there that call for boiling the unopened can in a pot of water but you do risk having the can blow up and wasting all that decadent sweetness doing some serious damage to someone or your kitchen cabinets.

For this method, you pour the sweetened condensed milk into a 8 or 9″ pan, cover tightly with foil and make sure the foil is not hanging down. Tuck it up tight like in the photo above.

Then put your covered pan in a larger one, like a roasting pan and fill with water until about halfway up the sides of the smaller one. Pop in the oven at 450º for about 90 min. You will probably have to add more water at some point. Check the water level at the 45 min mark. Don’t add cold water though, boil the kettle and use that to top up the level.

When it’s done, it will be this lovely caramel colour. I did mine on convection and it was finished in about an hour (good thing I decided to check under the foil!) It was about the consistency of pudding. Give it a good whisk to get it all smooth if there are lumps. The first time I made this, my oven was not on convection and I just left it for 90 min. It was not lumpy at all.

It will thicken a bit more as it cools. While it’s still warm eat it by the spoonful ladle it on the crest of the bundt cake and it will slowly drip down the sides. Or, let it cool and spread it between two cookies, or stir it into plain yogurt…keep leftovers in the fridge.

Bundt cakes are trendy right now for some reason. With a traditional round or 8″ square eggless cake, the middle always falls a little. But I wondered if the shape of the bundt pan might lend itself well to an eggless cake. I was right!! It didn’t fall and it rose very well. However, I needed to alter my original eggless chocolate cake recipe because for some reason, in the bundt pan, it turned out dry the first time I made this. So I added 1/4 cup of stewed prunes (baby food prunes would work really well because it’s so smooth, but applesauce or pureed dates would likely be just as effective). Recipe below. If you want to make this with dulce de leche as a topping, make the cake first and have it cooling while the oven is working its magic on the sweetened condensed milk.

Chocolate Bundt Cake (eggless)
Proportions are for a 9″ bundt cake pan. This makes a large amount of batter. Preheat oven to 375º . If you don’t need to make the cake eggless, skip the balsamic vinegar and the prunes and add 2 eggs.

2 1/2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup melted butter
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups milk (1/2 milk, 1/2 buttermilk)
1/4 cup stewed prunes (date puree or applesauce would also work)

In a large measuring cup, melt the butter (microwave), then stir in milk, vinegar, vanilla and prunes. Then sift the dry ingredients together in the bowl of a stand mixer and stir to blend well. On low power, slowly pour in the wet ingredients. Once you’ve got a little moisture in there you can turn up the mixer and not have flour flying around everywhere. Let it mix vigorously for a few minutes.

Spray the bundt pan well with non-stick spray. Pour in cake mix and bake until a toothpick/skewer comes out clean. Let cool completely before attempting to turn it out of the pan. Even with a ton of non-stick spray I still lost thin patches of cake, but that will be covered up by the dulce de leche (or whatever you frost it with). For a good review of bundt pans go here (you’ll need to sign up for a free trial to see the whole article if you’re not a member).

Appies for Dinner

I’m truly shocked that I actually cooked, got dinner on the table while still hot (in spite of the photos along the way and after), uploaded said photos, and wrote a post all in one evening! Although, this is actually an exercise in positive thinking because I haven’t finished anything yet…this is only my first paragraph. We’ll see how it goes. Come to think of it, you won’t know either way because if I don’t finish it, I can always edit. Mwaa ha ha ha (evil laugh). (Is it lame that I told you that was an evil laugh?)

I suppose I’m on a roll because this dinner required quite a bit of rushing around to get it all done at the same time (the perils of making different versions of the same dinner) so I guess I’m on an energy high at the moment. Which is why I’m ignoring my child enjoying my hobby right now rather than Harry Potter-ing myself into a post-reading stupor after which I can barely mutter good night to him before flopping sideways on the couch and reaching for the remote. It’s good to still be vertical.

So. Back to dinner. Evan’s been asking for ‘hot wings’ lately because of something he saw on Phineas and Ferb. He didn’t really know what ‘hot wings’ were, but he wanted to eat them nonetheless. Who am I to argue with that? It’s a new version of chicken for him (which totally counts as a new food if you’re in our picky-eater world). So we talked about it and I suggested that I make some ‘not-hot wings’, that were sweet, tangy and sticky! He was all for it…as long as they looked like little drumsticks. (I guess cartoon chicken wings only come in one shape).

Well wings are great for the omnivores in the family but our resident pescatarian would need something else for his protein. Tofu! I could certainly fry it until firm and crispy and then glaze with the same sauce as the wings. Brilliant. But what about veggies….well two desperate looking yams became oven-baked fries and a little of the wing/tofu glaze sauce mixed in with some (eggless)* mayo became the most amazing dip. Seriously. This post really should be all about the dip. Oh. My. God.

I probably should have put together a salad to add some green, but it was more than I could handle putting together when also trying to get photos. (Which sort of suck by the way….but I didn’t have time to take a gazillion pics, or stage the food with lovely napkins or rustic props. I’m also back to using my iPhone again because my brother had to go on a trip and needed his camera back. Once you fly business you can’t go back to coach…you just can’t. 😉  Well, it was fun! Guess I’ll have to bite the bullet and shell out for my own one of these days!).


Honey Ginger Marinade and Glaze

3/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
3/4 cup honey
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
~1″ x 1/2″ piece of fresh ginger, grated

In a 2 cup measure, whisk soy sauce, honey and hoisin sauce together. Mince garlic and grate ginger into sauce and combine. I use a rasp to grate ginger and it makes it very fine, almost like a paste so it’s a bit hard to give you an exact measurement of the amount. But a piece of ginger about an inch long and 1/2 inch diameter should do it. Makes about 1 cup of marinade. Scale up as needed.

Honey Ginger Chicken Wings

6-10 chicken wings, separated at joints, wing tips discarded.

Preheat oven to 375°
Prepare the wings and place in a ziploc bag or bowl. Pour about 1/3 of the above marinade over them so they’re well coated. The longer they marinate the better, but even if it’s just 20 minutes, that’s fine. It’s the weekend, so I prepped the chicken in the morning and they marinated all day.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (tip: sprinkle water on the baking sheet before you lay the parchment so it doesn’t slide around)
Arrange chicken wing pieces on the parchment.
Bake for about 20-25 min per side, pausing to brush more marinade on as they bake.

Yam Fries
Slice yams into thin wedges with skin on.
Spread on parchment lined baking sheet.
Brush or spray lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt.
Bake at 375° for about 40-50 min

Honey Ginger Mayo
2/3 cup mayonaise
2 tbsp honey ginger marinade
Serve as a dip for roasted veggies, oven fries etc.

Honey Ginger Tofu Sticks
1/2 block of tofu, sliced into sticks
1/3 cup honey ginger marinade

On med-high heat, brown tofu in a bit of oil, turning on each side. When fully browned, but still in the pan, pour the marinade over the tofu (it should sizzle) and then turn off the heat. Fully coat tofu and serve.

So how did it rate…? “Mommy this is the best chicken EVER!”
*Oh and a note about eggless mayonaise. We buy Vegenaise, manufactured by Earth Island. You can find out more here. It’s fabulous.

Butternut Squash Quesadilla

This squash is shocked that I would steal a little work time to play around with the camera.

It was a beautiful spring day (finally) and spending another minute in my windowless home-office surrounded by decidedly non-foodie and non-spring-y things wasn’t doing it for me. Heading upstairs and poking around, I found butternut squash, spinach and some tortillas that needed using up. Voilà, this quesadilla was born.

You can’t tell me that this squash isn’t a little reminiscent of Wallace….though it would be more so with some googly eyes.  (Check out this link for a LOL).

So this is the quick version of this quesadilla. I can already think of ways to improve it but I’ll leave that for another day. A speedier version can be had using leftover butternut squash, or bag-o-squash. I had to cook mine.



Butternut Squash Quesadilla

With apologies to those who like formal recipes, this was pretty free form. I cut my squash in half, scooped out the seeds, sprinkled with seasoned salt (see pic of my fave one below) and put it in the microwave for about 5 minutes on high. Then scooped out a couple of tablespoons worth and spread it on a tortilla. A squeeze of lime would probably be good, though I didn’t have a lime to do that.

Add some spinach leaves, thinly sliced shallots, clumps of goat cheese, fold the tortilla and place it in a non-stick skillet on med heat.  Flip when it gets brown and toasty.  Cut into sections, drizzle with crema. Enjoy!

Buttermilk Crema

1/2 cup sour cream
salt and pepper

In a measuring cup whisk together sour cream with enough buttermilk to thin it to a pouring consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

This is my favourite seasoned salt. I use it for everything. Roasting vegetables, potatoes, seasoning a roast or chicken….I found it in the salt section of my grocery store. You can find it on Amazon too. It’s worth the splurge.

Banana Bread

If I’d bubble-wrapped the bananas I brought on my annual girls cross-country ski weekend we’d be having a different conversation right now, but bubble wrapping bananas is just this side of nuts. Bananas definitely don’t travel well. Plus, they can’t have have more than one or two brown spots for me to eat them fresh. Bob is more forgiving and doesn’t mind a bruise or two and Evan?….he won’t eat them, period. Fresh, that is, banana bread is a different story entirely.

I’ve been making this banana bread for more than 20 years…I still use my stained and spotted hand-written recipe, copied from my mom’s before I headed to Montreal for university. I don’t think either of us uses Crisco anymore though!

You can make this with or without eggs and you can’t really overmix it. For the eggless version it’s definitely best if the butter is pretty soft so that it ends up kind of whipped up when mixed with the sugar and egg substitute. The final batter will be pretty thick but it rises well.

It will make one standard loaf or three mini loafs. I tend to make the smaller loaves because one or two slices are the perfect size for E’s lunch box, and to make it last longer I’ve been making it with eggs lately, which prevents me from eating it!! The egg thing is interesting and a novelty for me. Until a couple of years ago I’d never cracked an egg…weird, I know, but with a severe allergy there was a) no need and b) paranoia about dealing with raw egg. Disposable nitrile gloves solved the latter problem and it’s been fun.

Banana Bread
I usually use white whole wheat flour for this, or a mix of all purpose and white whole wheat. For the egg substitute, I’ve used EnerG egg replacer, or any of the sour dairy products listed and all work fine. Applesauce also works well (same amounts as below). If you use EnerG egg replacer, be sure to give it a good whisk so it gets foamy and well mixed before adding it to butter/sugar. Also, overripe bananas (particularly those that have been frozen and thawed) give the best flavour. You can also throw in 1/2 cup of nuts if you’re inclined, or chocolate chips (yum) at the end.

Preheat oven to 350˚

3/4 cups sugar (1/2 white, 1/2 brown)
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs (or 4 heaping tbsp yogurt/sour cream/buttermilk)
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 large bananas, mashed (about 1.5 cups)

Beat together sugar, butter and egg/substitute for 3 minutes at high speed (or med on stand mixer). Fold in mashed bananas.  Sift together flour, baking soda, powder and salt. Fold into wet ingredients. Pour into buttered/sprayed loaf pans and bake 45-60 min or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool.

Braised Brussels Sprouts with Dijon Sauce

I’ve always wanted to like Brussels sprouts. I’ve tried them different ways over the years and never really liked them, which bugged me because it’s the only (well, aside from turnip, which I’ve never been a big fan of either) vegetable I don’t like. So just before the holidays I saw Smitten Kitchen‘s recipe for braised Brussels sprouts and thought, “This is it, this will be the one I like, finally!”

It wasn’t until I saw Brussels sprouts in a cute little mesh bag at the grocery store that I remembered I wanted to try this recipe out. I forgot to weigh the bag to let you know how many go into the recipe but I’m guessing it was about a pound. Enough to cover the bottom of a 12″ skillet. If you were really Type A you could count the number of sprouts in the skillet photo….oh nevermind, I’ll do it for you: 46.  23 whole sprouts.

And OMG, I was right about this being “it”. They were delicious. I think the Dijon paired with the bitter sprout is absolutely the right combination and adding a small bit of cream mellows it all out. Bob’s never been a big fan of Brussels sprouts either and was quite impressed with them. I even had seconds, willingly! So this is my go-to method and opens another vegetable door. Yay! I think we’ll even grow them this year.

Braised Brussels Sprouts with Dijon Sauce
Adapted, barely, from Smitten Kitchen

1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and sliced in half, lengthwise
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup broth (chicken or vegetable)
2 to 3 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tbsp heavy cream (oh go for it! It’s only 2 tbsp in the whole dish)
1 tbsp smooth Dijon mustard

Trim the ends of the sprouts and cut them in half, lengthwise. On medium-high heat add the butter and oil (using both allows for higher cooking temperature without burning the butter) and place the sprouts cut side down. Add a good grind of salt and pepper. Cook until the bottoms are golden brown, about 5-6 minutes.

Add the shallots, wine and broth, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook until sprouts are fork tender, but not mushy. About 15-20 min.

When cooked, lift the sprouts and shallots from the braising liquid and place in a serving dish. Add cream to the skillet and simmer for a few more minutes, then whisk in the Dijon. Pour over the sprouts and serve immediately.