Day three and a promise

Day 3 of the cleanse brings a promise from me.

I promise to post about something else as soon as:

1) This cleanse thing is over; OR

2) I have a day where I forget to take photos; OR

3) I have a day in which I eat all stuff I’ve already posted about.

But in the meanwhile, here’s the food for day 3 of the cleanse.

Breakfast: Fried O’Brien potatoes, homemade ketchup, watermelon, and V-8


Lunch: Big salad with homemade sesame dressing (mixed up sesame oil, rice vinegar, agave nectar, grated fresh ginger, wheat-free tamari, and grated garlic to taste), topped with sesame salt; fresh cherries

Salad and cherries

Snacks: Nuts, seasoned seaweed, and Oh, so much fruit. More than I can show you here, but among the bounty was more watermelon. Also, white peaches so ripe it’s making my mouth water to tell you about them. And more cherries. And so on. Plus a latte made with decaf espresso and homemade soymilk. (The soymilk maker is still in the testing phase. I’m working on it.)

peaches, watermelon, and soy latte

Dinner: Tamale pie. The plan was for chili, but I was waffling on finding a good vegan, gluten-free cornbread, and James suggested I just make some more polenta, add olives to the chili, and make tamale pie. Those of you who’ve been around a while know that James is big on suggesting yummy and time-consuming things for me to make, so I was happy to oblige with this relatively quick and easy dish.

Tamale pie

I also added some olive oil and a fair bit of garlic and nutritional yeast to the polenta before pouring it over the chili (which I dished into the baking dish with a slotted spoon so it wouldn’t be too soupy). The chili is based on the Moosewood recipe that Susan V. adapts here, but I left out the bulgur and used some olive oil in the preparation.

So there it is. There’ll be more Mom Food when this is over. I promise!

Dinner in 30: Lazy pot pie

Winter requires hot soup or stew, and nowadays, leftover soup just begs to be made into pot pie.

Winter is a funny thing for me. Until I was seven, I lived in places like Connecticut, Philadelphia, and Washington State, where they have serious winter. I remember being so bundled up in snow clothes that it was hard to put my arms down at my sides. We slid down the hill on garbage-can lids, and ate freshly fallen slow as though it were Sno-Cones.

Snow on spruce tree needles
[Photo by Loren Sztajer on Flickr; Creative Commons licensed]

Then Dad got stationed in southern Spain, where winter means the temperature drops a few degrees and it rains for a couple weeks. Then San Diego, where basically, the same thing. And I left winter behind. In the last thirty years, I’ve seen snow a handful of times, and winter essentially means the rainy season, but it doesn’t feel like “real winter” because we can walk outside without heavy coats, and nothing is frozen except the food in the freezer.

Rainy Day in Spain
[Photo by elgringospain on Flickr; Creative Commons licensed]

I’m visiting my mom while she gets both knees replaced, and this weekend’s been a classic San Diego Winter Wonderland: Rain, wind, and more rain. The wind blew our rental car almost out of our lane on the Coronado Bridge, and last night, my nephew’s car hit a puddle on the freeway and hydroplaned across four lanes of traffic! (He’s fine, as is the driver of the truck he hit on the way back over the four-lane freeway. Oy.)

So it’s soup weather, and it’s pot pie weather. They are the same thing, no? I don’t have much time for cooking today, but I’m determined to make soup, so I’ll grab some meat out of my mom’s freezer, defrost it in the microwave, and throw it in a slow oven for a few hours to make soup for the family. While I’m out, I’ll also grab some frozen puff pastry so that tomorrow, if there’s leftover soup, we can have one of our favorite winter dishes, this lazy pot pie. Here’s one I did a while back with some leftover chicken soup:

white corningware dish with a browned square of puff pastry draped over it

I’m not sure when it became my habit to make pot pie out of leftover soup or stew. If it were my own mother making dinner, we’d just eat the soup again. For this one, I thickened the soup, added TVP because the chicken had been picked out (not mentioning any names, but it was the teenager), and plopped a square of store-bought puff pastry over the top. Talk about lazy! Sometimes I bother using pie crust and even maybe crimping the edges, but it’s no matter. The key is flaky crust and hot filling. The filling should be hot going in. Bake at 400°F until browned, over a tray to catch any drips from the hot liquid.

Mmmmm, winter is so delicious!

close-up of a piece of pot pie. chicken gravy, carrots, peas, etc., and browned puff pastry crust

Mertie’s Mondays: Holiday Squash Pie

Squash pie Chez Hansen.

I think I’ve mentioned that no one could touch my Mom when it came to pies. Apple, mince, squash pies were her favourites, and we had at least one of each every Thanksgiving and Christmas. As I write, it’s Thanksgiving Eve in the United States, although it’s only Wednesday evening here in London. I’m not having a turkey tomorrow, even though I will be giving thanks, in a quiet way, for another year coming to a close, for my husband, for my friends, and for everyone. Squash pie is a really good way of giving thanks.

Now I’m not going to give a recipe for the pie crust. I was very lazy; I used cold rolled piecrust from Tesco’s. It comes in a box like a wax paper box, and it’s rolled up inside like a scroll, with some waxed paper in between the layers. You just lay it in the pie plate and cut around the edge. It wasn’t quite big enough for a 9″ pie, so I took a bit of the cut-off edge and repaired the place where the edge of the roll just fell short of the edge of the plate. Then I crimped all around the pie with my thumbs. I shan’t apologise for my piecrust, as I don’t have enough counter space nor the right equipment, to roll out a full pie crust and the few times I’ve tried I’ve not been able to do it very well. This one came out just fine! My Mom would have understood, I’m certain.

Now squash pies are pretty controversial here in the UK. Nearly everyone I know who is a native Brit thinks that squash and pumpkin pies are terrible—they also hate root beer, among other American delicacies. However, the Guardian newspaper printed a squash pie recipe a few months ago so perhaps the British are slowly coming around. The recipe I’m about to give you can be used with butternut squash, pumpkin, or sweet potato. The rest of the ingredients are the same.

First, peel two medium butternut squash. Cut them into medium-size pieces, scoop out the seeds and discard, then boil in unsalted water until they’re tender. Drain, then mash and rice them. This will give you a smooth pie without lumps of squash in it. Take two cups of squash and, if there’s any left over, freeze it for later pies. In a bowl, beat three eggs well, then add to the eggs:

the squash
3/4 cup sugar or Splenda
1 tablespoon molasses (optional)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup evaporated milk

Now if you want an adult pie, add

1/4 cup bourbon or Jack Daniels

Otherwise, add another 1/4 cup evaporated milk

The alcohol boils out of the bourbon during cooking so your pie will not intoxicate anyone[see footnote]. Leave that for the eggnog. However, the bourbon taste is quite pronounced, so if kids are going to be wanting a piece of squash pie, make one without the alcohol.

Stir until well combined. Now comes the most difficult part: getting the unbaked pie in the oven. The best thing to do is to put the pie shell on the oven shelf, which you’ve pulled out, and then pour the mixture into the pie shell right there and carefully push the pie into the oven, which you have preheated to 450 F/Gas Mark 8. Here’s what it will look like:

unbaked squash pie
Unbaked squash pie

Now leave it to bake for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 325 F/Gas Mark 3 and leave for around 45 minutes. At that point, open the oven and jiggle the pie a bit. If only the centre of the pie wobbles, it’s done. Take it out and cool it on a rack. Here’s what the finished pie looks like:

baked squash pie
Baked squash pie

Mine looks a bit more rustic than my Mom’s did. Hers was nicely deep tan in colour, with no bubbles or dark spots in it. I don’t know how she did that but it doesn’t matter. The taste is what counts. This pie has a firmer texture if refrigerated before eating. Even though it’s firm, it’s still a bit mushy until after it’s been refrigerated.

About 13 years ago, I was in an amateur dramatic production of Oklahoma!. As those of you who know the musical may remember, a sweet potato pie was part of the plot (a small part). Well, if I do say so myself, we all made a valiant effort, but failed to turn in a Royal Shakespeare Company level performance. We stank, actually.

I was a bit sad about this, so to cheer up the cast I made two Bourbon Sweet Potato Pies and contributed them to the cast party. They were an instant hit. Too bad that our production wasn’t.

I hope you will enjoy this pie as much as we do Chez Hansen & Tan.

Footnote: [Note from Serene: Not really. But if it’s your house, it’s your pie, and I say use bourbon if you want!]