Clean Out the Vegetable Drawer Bolognese Sauce

Whip up this bolognese sauce during late summer when the tomatoes are threatening to take over the kitchen. It's so tasty!Once again, this recipe comes to you courtesy of multi-generational living, via my daughter. During July and August she prepared this bolognese sauce whenever the tomatoes threatened to take the kitchen hostage. The wide variety of vegetables make the sauce a banquet of flavors mingling together. And it’s a good way to clean out the vegetables languishing in the fridge. Just remember that the secret of good sauce is to let it simmer for several hours. So you’ll be wise to start it right after lunch. But be warned–smelling the sauce all afternoon will work up a big appetite. So make plenty!

Clean Out the Vegetable Drawer Bolognese Sauce

1 pound ground beef
1 onion, diced very fine
2 carrots, diced very fine
2 stalks celery, diced very fine
2 cloves garlic
1/2 small head of cauliflower, chopped into small pieces
4 or 5 fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons or more olive oil
2 teaspoons salt or more to taste
1/4 cup red or white wine
balsamic vinegar (optional)

In deep, heavy pot heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Sauté onions, carrots and celery until onions are translucent. While sautéing the vegetables, add the salt. Add the cauliflower, chopped into small pieces, roughly the size of cooked ground beef.

When the vegetables begin to brown, add the ground beef. Cook until the beef is browned. Add in the garlic, pressed or chopped finely. Add the tomatoes. Stir and let the mixture come to a simmer. Simmer the sauce until the tomatoes and the juice reduce and thicken, 2–3 hours.

Once reduced, add wine. Simmer for a bit and taste. Add more salt if needed. Keep in mind that favors will be stronger in the end. Let the sauce simmer and reduce for about an hour more. The end product shouldn’t be chunky but not watery, rather than saucy like marinara. The tomato and red wine should stick to the meat and vegetables much like stir fry sauce does. Taste again. The flavor should be rich and savory. If it’s a little weak ,add 1 tsp balsamic vinegar, stir and let cook for 10 more minutes. Serve over spaghetti noodles.

No Futter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

This recipe replaces butter or shortening with oil to make the most delicious chocolate chip oatmeal cookies ever.Along our gravel road, cookies are considered an art form. Within that art form, chocolate chip oatmeal cookies sit at its summit. I thought I had scaled that particular peak with a wonderful dairy-free recipe that uses “futter,” Gravel Road’s affectionate term for all non-dairy shortenings. However, my daughter found a no shortening recipe from the Half-Baked Harvest website. The daughter’s version cuts the sugar and chocolate chips by half and uses dairy-free chocolate chips (this time from Trader Joe’s) so it is really, truly a non-dairy delight.

No Futter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup dairy-free chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°. Put eggs, sugar, oats, flour, soda, salt, canola oil, and vanilla in a large bowl. Mix them well by hand. Mixture will be crumbly. If it is too dry, add a few tablespoons of rice milk, cashew milk, or some other milk substitute. Add the chocolate chips and mix well.

Use your hands to make balls of dough and place them on heated baking stones. Press the balls down with your hand. Bake 10-12 minutes. Let them sit on the baking stone a few moments before removing them from the baking stone.

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Chicken Salad

The surprise ingredient in this chicken salad adds a delicious crunch to this lunchtime favorite.Sharing the kitchen with my daughter and her family has many advantages. One of the greatest advantages is that I am in charge of only half the meals. Another is the opportunity to learn new recipes from the cook who’s in charge of the other half of the meals. Here’s her take on chicken salad. I never would have guessed how much cauliflower can add to this simple dish.

Anne’s Chicken Salad

2 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped fine
4 large pickle spears, chopped
1 small head cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 cup mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste

Saute cauliflower in olive oil until some pieces begin to brown. Remove from heat.

Combine chicken, onion, celery, pickles, and cauliflower in a large bowl. Add mayonnaise 1/4 cup at a time until it reaches the consistency you like. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate 2-4 hours before serving with your favorite bread or on a bed of lettuce.

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Our Latest and Greatest Fake Butter (also known as Futter)

This dairy-free, soy-free butter substitute offers several variations that are perfect for high maintenance dietary needs.A new conundrum has arisen in our Gravel Road kitchen. In addition to having several adults in the house who have dairy allergies or lactose intolerant, the toddler has begun to sprout a terrible diaper rash when he’s fed soy. So the most available version of Earth Balance, our favorite butter substitute known affectionately as “futter,” is off limits to him. (Earth Balance has a soy free version, but it is almost impossible to find where we live.)

Thankfully, my daughter discovered a recipe for a very good vegan butter substitute created by Miyoko Shinner. Her recipe offers variations for baking futter (regular and hard versions), spreading, futter, and unsalted futter. The daughter has fiddled with the recipe and perfected a version that is very good for baking and meets all our high maintenance dietary needs.

Gravel Road Futter

Ingredients

1/2 cup rich, unflavored, unsweetened cashew milk (our recipe for a DYI version is coming soon)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 3/4 cups refined coconut oil (don’t use extra virgin, or it will taste like coconuts!),
2 teaspoons liquid lecithin

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in blender and process at a medium speed for about one minute.
  2. Pour into a container of your choice*
  3. Set it in the refrigerator for a few hours until hard.

For a Harder Futter substitute ¼ cup of the melted coconut oil with ¼ cup melted cocoa butter. Reduce liquid oil by 1 tablespoon.

For Whipped Futter increase the liquid oil by one tablespoon, and process at high speed in the blender for about 2 minutes to incorporate as much air as possible. (We have tried this version several times without success.)

For Unsalted Futter leave out the salt.

*We use mini-loaf pans that hold 1 cup each. Once the futter is hard, it can be cut into 1/2 cup sticks the same size as regular sticks of butter or margarine.

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Shrimp Tacos

These shrimp tacos are dairy-free, filled with summer veggies, and a perfect meal at the end of a hot day.It’s takes a village to feed a high maintenance eater like me. So I’m thankful my village is populated with people like my big sister who keep their eyes open for delicious dairy-free recipes. She’s the villager who sent an email with this recipe for shrimp tacos. The dish is packed with vegetables that are plentiful during the summer months. Plus, it uses olive oil rather than butter to cook the shrimp and doesn’t suggest using cheese or sour cream as a garnish.

Because this recipe is truly dairy-free, there was no need to substitute ingredients or to omit others. Everyone at our house agreed it was delicious and a perfect meal to enjoy at the end of a lovely summer day. The tweaks I made are designed to keep the heat out of the kitchen in case a lovely summer day is also a hot one.

Shrimp Tacos

ingredients

1 pound raw shrimp. peeled and devaeined
1 lime, juiced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 avocados, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons dry Cajun seasoning
1 tablespoon olive oil
12-6 inch tortillas

Directions

  1. Turn slow cooker on high. Wrap tortillas in foil and place in the slow cooker to warm for 30 minutes.
  2. Gently mix tomatoes, onion, avocados, cilantro, lime juice, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp and sprinkle with Cajun seasoning. Saute for about 3 minutes, turning often until shrimp are pink and cooked through.
  4. Put shrimp, tortillas, and vegetable mixture in separate serving dishes for diners to assemble at the table.

 

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Lemon-Blueberry Zucchini Bread

The zucchini in this quick bread makes it moist and light, while the blueberries and lemon make it pop with fruity zest and summer goodness.For the past week, our refrigerator has been playing host to a pint of blueberries, a large zucchini, and some lemons that need to be used. So when a recipe for blueberry zucchini cake with lemon buttercream frosting appeared in my Facebook news feed, it caught my eye.

The original recipe was very high in sugar and the frosting used butter, so I decided to fiddle with the ingredients and convert the cake into a glazed quick bread. The taste testers at my house (not the Man of Steel since he eats very few desserts these days) all liked the tasty treat. They thought it tastes more like pound cake than quick bread, and I have to agree. We enjoyed one loaf and froze the other to avoid overdosing on too much lemony goodness.

Lemon-Blueberry Zucchini Bread

Bread Ingredients

3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
3 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup white sugar

2 cups finely shredded zucchini
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon

3 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 pint fresh blueberries

Glaze Ingredients

juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 to 1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease 2 loaf pans.

In a large bowl and using a hand mixer, beat together the eggs, oil, vanilla, sugar, lemon juice and zest. Fold in the zucchini. Slowly add in the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix in by hand. Gently fold in the blueberries. Divide batter evenly between prepared loaf pans.

Bake 40-50 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of loaf comes out clean. Cool 20 minutes in pans, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.

 

Put lemon juice, zest, and water in a small bowl. Whisk in powdered sugar 1/4 cup at a time until it is the consistency you like for glaze. Use a fork to poke holes all over the top of each loaf. With a spoon, drizzle the loaves with glaze until the top is well coated.

The zucchini in this quick bread makes it moist and light, while the blueberries and lemon make it pop with fruity zest and summer goodness.

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Cucumber-Onion Salad Encore

This recipe for cucumber-onion salad was passed down from Grandma to Mom to me and my siblings. It's easy, inexpensive, non-dairy, healthy, and keeps well.Thanks to our weekly CSA share, the vegetable bin is overflowing with cucumbers. So cucumber-onion salad is gracing our table almost daily.  Because today is my birthday and I’m celebrating by not experimenting with a new recipe, I’m rerunning this one that was first featured on Down the Gravel Road in July of 2012. It’s easy, it’s tasty, it’s non-dairy, it’s low-cal, and the longer it sits in the fridge, the better it tastes. No wonder this recipe has been consistently discovered and repinned on Pinterest since the day it first appeared there.

Cucumber-Onion Salad

1 medium cucumber, peeled and sliced thinly
1 onion, sliced into thin rings*
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper

Place vegetables in a small serving bowl. In a smaller bowl or measuring cup, mix vinegar, water, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir well and pour over vegetables so they are completely covered with liquid. Cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to serve. This salad can be stored for several days or a week in the fridge.

I try to make it at least 8 hours before serving so the flavors can meld and the vinegar has time to pickle the vegetables a little. Also, more cukes and onions into the brine after the original veggies are gone. I usually do that once before discarding the brine and making a completely new batch.

*I used red onions, which is why the salad looks so pretty in the picture, but any type of onion is fine.

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Family Camp’s Brown Sugar Snaps

These Brown Sugar Snaps are easy to make dairy-free, but way too addicting to have in the house.Galavanting from here to there and back again doesn’t leave much time for cooking. So today, because of present galavanting at Shadow Valley Family Camp, this recipe comes from the camp cookbook. A dairy-free fix would be easy with Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks and coconut or cashew milk. But even if there was time to fiddle with the recipe, I wouldn’t dare…because having a batch of Brown Sugar Snaps in the house would be way too tempting.

Family Camp Brown Sugar Snaps

Warning: These cookies are addictive. Unless you like to live dangerously, don’t read another word.

Truth be told, all the food at Idaho Family Camp is addictive. Every time a nummy recipe is posted, I’m enabling an addiction. Usually it’s my addiction. But post-wedding and post-family camp, inundated with veggies from our CSA, and deep into a twelve step, healthy eating program (which means Hiram puts the key to the padlocks on the fridge and pantry twelve steps up on a ladder I’m scared to climb), I’m feeling strong enough to resist temptation.

I’d never tasted these before or even heard of them before this summer. Brown sugar snaps are sort of ginger snap meets snickerdoodle, molasses crinkle meets sugar cookie. And as mentioned before, they’re addictive. Very addictive. Give them a try and leave a comment with your description. But remember, you’ve been warned. So don’t blame me when you can’t stop eating them!

Brown Sugar Snaps

Cream:
2 cups white sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
4 sticks butter
2 teaspoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

Add: 2 eggs and beat again,

Add:
5 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking soda
3 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Chill dough for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll dough into balls, dip in sugar, and place on a cookie sheet. Turn oven down to 375 degrees just before putting in cookies. Bake about 9 minutes. Cookies should have nice deep cracks. You will need to reheat the oven to 400 degrees between pans.

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Non-Dairy Strawberry Crisp

Today's recipe for strawberry crisp is the latest in a long series of fruit crisp recipes at Gravel Road.Just a few weeks ago, I posted my recipe for low sugar rhubarb crisp. Until today, it was the most recent installment in a Gravel Road unintentional series of crisp recipes such as blueberry crisp, apple crisp, and strawberry-rhubarb crisp.

But not anymore. Because strawberries were on sale at the grocery store last week, so I bought several boxes to make strawberry-rhubarb crisp. The son-in-law is not a big rhubarb fan, though he said he thought a strawberry crisp would be just fine. Here’s the recipe I fabricated, and which he said was mighty fine.

Strawberry Crisp

6 cups washed strawberries, hulled & sliced
1/3 cup softened, non-dairy, softened non-dairy shortening substitute like Earth Balance
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup oatmeal
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Heat oven to 375°. Place strawberries in 2 quart baking dish. In medium bowl, mix all dry ingredients. Cut in shortening until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle on top of fruit. Bake for 30-45 minutes until fruit is bubbly. Serve warm.

Hot Bacon Dressing

Looking for a good, simple salad dressing recipe for summer? This one's easy and adds just the right zing to fresh greens.The cooks in the house are gradually getting used to the new meal routine. We even had time to do some menu planning before grocery shopping, so we’ve been enjoying having the ingredients needed for evening meals on hand. One of my cooking nights was really easy–just a big salad to be topped with pork slices cut from a couple left over brined pork chops grilled by the Man of Steel a few days earlier.

My daughter suggested topping the salad with hot bacon dressing using a recipe she found at The Pioneer Woman website. The original recipe involved bacon bits and caramelized onions. But because our salad already was sprinkled with onions and topped with pork slices, we skipped those ingredients. Below is the recipe that was perfect for our big salad of romaine, sweet peppers, onion, toasted pecans, and strawberries. Served with non-dairy lemon scones, we all gave it a thumb’s up.

Easy Hot Bacon Dressing

3 tablespoons bacon grease
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon Diijon mustard
dash of salt

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Whisk and stir on medium heat until ingredients boil. Pour into a pitcher and set it on the table. (I doubled the recipe because our salad was really big!)