October 2009

When adapting pastry recipes to accommodate food allergies or special diets, cookies are by far the most forgiving.  They are small in size, fairy sturdy in texture, and don’t need a lot of rise.  Unlike cakes and loaves, which tend to sink or crumble when eggs are absent, cookies require relatively little leavening (a little baking powder or soda works just fine) and aren’t picky when it comes to binding (pureed fruit, ground flaxseed, or even a little milk or water will suffice).

This chocolate chip cookie is adapted from the classic Toll House recipe and remarkably similar to the original.  I use Earth Balance Buttery Sticks instead of butter.  They’re salted, so I reduced the salt in the recipe from 1 tsp. to 3/4 (you could reduce it further — I like a little extra salt in a chocolate chip cookies).  1/4 c. soy or rice milk replaces the 2 eggs.  Milk adds moisture but won’t bind like eggs, so to prevent excessive spreading I cut the sugar by 1/3 (I find Toll House cookies a little too sweet, anyway) and lowered the oven temperature by 25 degrees.  To compensate for the missing flavor of the brown sugar, I doubled the vanilla.  And since the new cookie dough has less volume than the original, you don’t need the whole bag of chips.

Classic chocolate chip cookies, egg- and dairy-free

Yield: 2 1/2 – 3 dozen

2 ¼ c. unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

3/4 tsp. fine sea salt

1 c. Earth Balance Buttery Sticks or dairy-free margarine

½ c. granulated sugar

½ c. packed, light brown sugar

¼ c. soy or rice milk

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 ½ c. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl with an electric mixer, cream butter or margarine and sugars until very light and fluffy, scraping beaters every few minutes.  Beat in milk and vanilla.  Add flour mixture and mix until just combined.  Fold in chips.

Drop by spoonfuls, 2-inches apart, onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake 12-14 minutes, or until edges are golden and centers are just set.  Let cool a few minutes on the pan, then remove to wire racks.


I’m always on the lookout for easy, economical, dairy-free pasta recipes, particularly ones that don’t rely on red sauce or lots of meat.  This one, from the latest issue of Martha Stewart Living, fits the bill.  It’s light, zesty, and (mostly) 4-year-old-approved (he liked the cauliflower and the capers but not the parsley).  The original recipe called for only 8 ounces of pasta — I increased it to 12 to stretch the dish out to two meals and added a little extra vinaigrette to compensate.

Pasta with roasted cauliflower and lemon

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living

Yield:  Serves 6

1 large head cauliflower, cut into small florets

1 red onion, quartered and sliced

1/4 c. capers, rinsed

About 1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

12 oz. orecchiette or other small pasta

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

1/2 c. finely chopped, fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Toss cauliflower, onion, and capers with about 2 tbsp. of the oil in a mixing bowl.  Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Season with salt and pepper, and roast, turning occasionally, until cauliflower is browned and tender, about 35 minutes.

While cauliflower cooks, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Cook pasta.  Drain.

While pasta cooks, whisk remaining 1/4 c. oil with lemon juice and zest in a large mixing bowl.  Add drained pasta, roasted vegetables, and parsley, and toss to coat with vinaigrette.  Add a bit more oil if pasta seems dry, and season with additional salt and pepper to taste.  Serve hot.

Two things little kids like to eat:  crispy foods cut into wedges, and sweet potatoes.  I like these cheeseless quesadillas (or just ‘dillas?) with salsa and a cup of black bean soup.  If you like yours con queso, try stirring about 1/4 c. crumbled blue cheese into the filling.  If you like them spicy, a few teaspoons of finely diced jalapeno should do it.

Sweet potato quesadillas

Yield:  30 wedges

2 c. mashed sweet potato (from about 2 good-sized potatoes)

1/2 c. finely chopped, seeded tomato

1/2 c. cooked black beans (rinsed and drained, if canned)

1/3 c. finely chopped red onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tbsp. finely chopped, fresh cilantro

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

10 8-inch whole wheat tortillas

Canola or safflower oil, for frying

Combine mashed sweet potato, tomato, beans, onion, garlic, and cilantro in a mixing bowl.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Evenly spread about 1/2 c. sweet potato mixture onto one tortilla, to within 1/2″ of the outer edge.  Top with a second tortilla.  Repeat with remaining tortillas and sweet potato.

Warm a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Drizzle in enough oil to generously coat bottom of pan.  Fry quesadillas until browned and lightly crisped, a few minutes per side, adding more oil to the pan as needed.  If tortillas brown too quickly, reduce heat to medium.

Using a chef’s knife or pizza wheel, cut quesadillas into 6 wedges.  Serve hot.

Quesadillas freeze beautifully:  allow to cool completely, then wrap in foil or store in zip-top freezer bags.  I thaw frozen quesadillas overnight in the fridge, then reheat in a 350 degree oven until hot and crisp.

Make it gluten-free: Use brown rice or corn tortillas instead of wheat ones.

If you’re feeding a family of four or more and don’t have at least one recipe in your arsenal that begins, “Open a can of…” let’s face it:  you’re sunk.  This particularly can-tastic soup is one of my favorites.  It’s quickly and easily made with ingredients that are already in my pantry, and I actually prefer its simple flavors and creamy texture to other, more complicated black bean soups I’ve cooked in the past.  We like it with a spoonful of sour cream or plain yogurt (for a dairy- and soy-free option, try the coconut “nogurt”  recipe, below) and sweet potato quesadillas on the side.

Easy black bean soup

Yield:  Makes about 10 cups, serving 6

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 large yellow onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp. finely chopped, fresh thyme leaves (or 1 1/2 tsp. dried)

2 tsp. ground cumin

1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes

3 15-oz. cans black beans, rinsed and drained

1 qt. chicken or vegetable stock (boxed or canned broth is fine)

1 tsp. Tabasco sauce

Salt, to taste

Warm a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat.  Drizzle in oil, then add onions.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are very soft and tender, about 8 minutes.  Stir in garlic, thyme, and cumin and cook 2 minutes more.  Add tomatoes with their juice, beans, stock, and Tabasco*.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer soup until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes.

Ladle about 1/3 of soup into a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.  Stir puree back into pot.  Season with salt as needed.

* Our kids are not big on spicy food, so I don’t add the Tabasco to the whole pot.  Instead, I add a dash or two to the grown-ups’ bowls just before serving.

Coconut “nogurt”

Creamy and tangy, a little like sour cream and a little like yogurt, I use it as a dairy- and soy-free substitute for yogurt, sour cream, and buttermilk in cooking.

Yield:  2 cups

1 15-oz can lite coconut milk

1 1/2 tbsp. fresh lemon or lime juice (from about 1/2 lemon or 1 lime)

5 tsp. cornstarch

4 tsp. granulated sugar

Whisk ingredients together in a small saucepan until well-blended.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking frequently to prevent lumps.  Let cook about 1 minute, until thick and glossy.  Transfer to a pint container and press a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper over the surface of the nogurt (to prevent a skin from forming).  Let cool at room temperature until lukewarm, then refrigerate until cold.  Nogurt will thicken as it cools.  Stir well before serving.

We went apple picking last Monday and brought home a half bushel — that’s about 20 lbs. — of apples.  One week later, only five remain in the bottom of the bag.  The rest have been sliced, diced, grated, baked, sauced, or eaten raw — a team effort (at least the eating part) to be sure.

Having polished off last week’s pie and diligently stocked the freezer with three quarts of sauce, this afternoon’s project was a giant apple crumble.  I wanted it just sweet and buttery enough to make a satisfying dessert, yet not too rich to serve for breakfast with a few spoonfuls of yogurt.  (For breakfast?  Yes, breakfast.  Such are the sacrifices one makes after picking a half bushel.)

If you’re headed out to the orchard — or the farmers’ market — this week with baking in mind, choose you apples wisely.  My all time favorites for pies, crisps, cobblers, and crumbles are tart and sturdy:  Northern Spy, Pink Lady, Gravestein, Jonagold.  I love Macouns, too, though they’re very juicy — toss them with a little extra flour before tucking them into a pie.  Cortlands are drier and hold their shape perfectly when baked, but I find their cooked texture a bit mealy.  And nothing beats Macintosh for apple sauce — they’re sweet, requiring little if any added sugar, and they fall apart quickly when cooked.

Apple crumble

Yield:  One 13×9″ pan, serving 6-8

For apples:

4 lbs.  (10-12 medium) apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2″ slices

About 1/4 c. packed, light brown sugar (depending on the sweetness of your apples)

Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 tbsp.)

2 tsp. cinnamon

For crumble:

1 1/2 c. rolled oats

1 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/2 c. packed, light brown sugar

Pinch fine sea salt

1/2 c. cold butter (or use a non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening), cut into small pieces, plus a little extra for the pan

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly butter a 9×13″ baking pan.

In a large mixing bowl, toss sliced apples with sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine oats, flour, sugar, and salt.  Using your fingertips, rub butter into oat mixture until moist and crumbly.

Spoon apples and any accumulated juices into baking pan.  Top evenly with crumble.  Bake until lightly browned and bubbly, 45-55 minutes.