Thursday, July 27, 2017

Roasted Rutabaga & Carrots

Today, I tried another new vegetable, courtesy of Imperfect Produce: The rutabaga.

Surprisingly, given that the rutabaga is, apparently, a cross between cabbage and a turnip, and I avoid turnips as 'though they are THE PLAGUE, I rather liked the rutabagas I cooked tonight, so I thought I would share the recipe here. Because I had only two rutabagas, and 5 ~ or, let's be honest, 4 ~ people to feed ~ I cubed and roasted them with some organic rainbow carrots (which are really cool, and will make your dinner beautiful). I got mine at Trader Joe's.

This is a very simple dish, and you could probably make it with any root vegetable. I am sure parsnips, which we also recently discovered, would work well here, and potatoes would have been a nice addition, too. Play around with it, and see what you think.

You will need: 2 rutabagas 6-8 carrots any other root vegetables you want to add salt & pepper to taste
1-2 TBS olive oil 1/2-1 TBS dried parsley flakes (more if using fresh (always better) 1/2-1tsp balsamic or apple cider vinegar

Here's what you do:

Preheat oven to 425℉

Peel and cube your rutabaga. I cut mine about 3/4", I think. Here is one method I find it easy to do a kind of variation of this, in which I slice off the root end first, instead of slicing through it.

Scrub your carrots. I used 3 of the red/purplish ones, 2 yellow and 2 orange carrots. You can peel them if you prefer. I did not. Cut each carrot in to about 3-4 pieces, then cut each of those pieces lengthwise. You can cut them any way you like, really. I just thought they looked nice this way. You want them to be fairly substantial in size, so they don't cook too quickly. Toss all vegetables with the olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt & pepper, then transfer to a shallow baking dish and cover with foil. Cook for 30-40 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Remove from oven, remove foil and let stand for a minute or two, then sprinkle with parsley, drizzle with vinegar, toss lightly and serve immediately. Yum.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Stuffed Mushrooms

Today, Kaia had her physical, with our very favourite pediatrician ever.  So happy to have health insurance again.  She did need to have a blood test, which was not fun, so we stopped for a treat on the way home, and then I made sure to make something she would especially enjoy for dinner: baked ziti, made the way my mom taught me ~ Nana's is STILL the best, but mine's really good :)

Well, that was great for the kids, but it is really full of cheese (to which I am allergic), and it is definitely not a low-fat, low-carb, healthy option for Shane, who is sort of watching what he eats these days; so I decided to make something to go along with that would take the emphasis off the pasta for him, and actually provide me something I could eat for dinner.  First, I decided to add salad to the menu.  We happened to have a bag of salad greens and a  container "Healthy 8" from Trader Joe's (it's basically a chopped salad), so that was simple enough.  I wanted something a little more exciting than salad, however, and I didn't have a lot of stuff to make a really great, interesting salad, so I decided to add one more dish to the menu.  I had picked up some small portobello mushrooms last time I was at the grocery store, with intentions of stuffing them.  Tonight seemed like as good a time as any.

Now, I have made variations of stuffed mushrooms before, and most of them have contained eggs, cheese and/or sausage.  They're really good, but I can't have cheese, and I wanted to avoid soy, since I just had a veggie burger yesterday, so I decided to try something a little different.  I figured, if I was going to leave out the cheese, I might as well try to make them vegan.  The recipe I use for sliders, which is a favourite around here, relies on walnuts for it's hearty, "meaty" texture, and I thought they might work here, too.  I decided to give it a shot, and I am so glad I did.  They are positively delicious, so I thought I would write down the recipe while I am thinking about it, so I don;t forget.

Stuffed Mushrooms

1 TBS olive oil
6 small portobello mushrooms
1/3 cup walnut pieces, finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 TBS parsley
1/2 tsp oregano
2 TBS white wine
salt & pepper to taste
1/4-1/3 cup panko, or other dry breadcrumbs
about 1/2 cup water

Clean mushrooms and remove stems.  Place 5 caps top side down in a baking dish.  Dice stems and 1 remaining cap.  In a medium-sized skillet, heat olive oil over low-medium heat.  Add mushrooms, garlic and finely chopped walnuts (use food processor if you don't want any larger chunks).  Sauté for a few moments, until mushrooms begin to soften.  Add parsley, oregano and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Continue to cook, tossing gently to evenly cook.  Stir in white wine, reduce heat and cook until wine evaporates.   Add about 1/4 cup water, and continue cooking until water evaporates.  Remove from heat, and gently stir in breadcrumbs.  The mixture should sort of hold together and be moist, but not soupy.  (If it is too wet, cook longer, or add a few more breadcrumbs.  If it is too dry, add a little more water.)  Taste, and adjust seasonings.  Carefully spoon mixture into mushroom caps, pressing the mixture firmly in to the caps.  They should be slightly overfull.  pour about 1/4 cup of water in to the bottom of the baking dish, cover the dish with foil and bake for 30-40 minutes in a 350ºF oven.  If desired, remove foil and increase heat to 425ºF for the last 5-10 minutes of cooking, to lightly brown the tops of the mushrooms.  Let stand 2 minutes before serving.

These were delicious.  I will definitely make them again.  I think they could easily be made using smaller mushrooms to serve as a nice appetizer or party fare.  I thought they were simple and delicious, but you might play around with the seasonings a bit to see what suits your taste.  I think they would be great with the addition of a little finely diced scallion or onion, and served with brown gravy.  Thyme might be a nice touch, too, but I didn't happen to have any this evening.

Unfortunately, I was so excited about eating them that I forgot to take a picture of them when they came out of the oven, but I did take this picture, right before they went in:

I hope, if you give these a shot, you enjoy them as much as we did.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Vegetable Skillet

I am sure I published something like this long ago, but tonight I had one of my very favourite dishes in the whole wide world, and I happened to comment, while eating it, that I could eat some variation of this every single day and be happy.  It's true.  The trick here is that there are infinite variations on this dish, so it would never have to be the same.  I would never ever get bored.  Really.

So, what is this wonderful dish?

I have no idea.  Seriously, no clue what to call this, because it is not really one thing, so much as just an idea, a way of cooking.  I  have decided to call it a "Vegetable Skillet," because it is made of vegetables, and cooked in a skillet.  To work this out perfectly, in my opinion, you will need a large cast iron skillet.  If you don't have one, another type of skillet (or maybe a wok) should work, but I highly recommend cast iron.  I like the way it heats up, and it brown the veggies nicely.

Here's what you do:

First, assemble your vegetables.
It's a good idea to chop everything into roughly the same size chunks, then group them according to how dense they are (or how quickly they will cook).

So, what do you put in this thing?  That's up to you.  I know, I know, it's not really a recipe!  But I will give you an example or two to get you started.

Tonight, I used: 1 large green pepper, 4 carrots (one orange, one yellow and two purple, believe it or not), 2 zucchini, about 1 1/2 cups of broccoli florets, 1/2 head cauliflower, 3 cloves of garlic and 1 can of chick peas.

One of my favourites has: onions, red peppers, garlic, potatoes, broccoli, corn and canned black beans.

Another great combo is: onions, garlic, peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, tomatoes and white beans.

Or how about: cabbage, potatoes, carrots, peas & scallions?

Don't limit yourself.  Include lots of yummy veggies ~ halved brussels sprouts, asparagus, lima beans, artichoke hearts, sweet potatoes, squash, celery, green beans...the possibilities are endless.

Here's what you do with all this good stuff:

Heat your skillet over medium heat.
Add 1-2 TBS olive oil, coconut oil, or whatever other oil you prefer.

Now, start adding your veggies.  If I am using onions, peppers and/or mushrooms, I like to start them first (sprinkled with just a tiny bit of salt), so they get nice and brown, and the onions caramelize. After that (or, in lieu of that, as the case may be), I add the veggies that take the longest to cook first, cook and stir/toss for a few minutes, then add the ones that take a little less time, etc, until I get to the ones that take very little time to cook (like canned beans, that just need to heat, really).

As you add veggies, you'll want to add in some seasonings.  You can tailor the seasonings to suit your taste, whim, or the other ingredients you are using.  If you are using stuff like onions, garlic & peppers, you might just need a little salt and pepper.  Sometimes I add classic Italian seasonings, like basil, oregano, crushed red pepper, thyme and parsley.  Another great combo is cumin, smoked paprika, chili powder and cilantro.  Steak seasoning is a nice quick flavourful choice, as is curry powder, or, another favourite Old Bay Seasoning.  (Tonight, I used freshly ground mixed peppercorns, a touch of seasoning salt, Old Bay Seasoning, dill weed and a touch of mustard.)

So, you just keep cooking and stirring until the vegetables are all evenly seasoned, and then, if you want them to brown a bit, turn up the heat and let them cook without stirring for a few minutes.  then, gently stir (or toss, or use a cake turner, whatever works, and let the veggies brown a little bit more.  Just keep doing this until it is the way your like it.  If adding canned beans, I toss them in for just the last couple of minutes.  If adding nuts or seeds, I just toss them in after I turn off the skillet.

When it is cooked to your liking, turn off the skillet, remove from heat, and serve.

To make this simple meal complete, I usually include beans and/or nuts (or sometimes I toss in cooked vegetarian sausage, chicken strips, beef strips or something like that), and serve with rice, bread, quinoa or pasta.

So, that's my favourite food.  And, see, I could eat it every single day, and it would never have to be the same.  Sorry I don't have a picture this time; I was too busy eating.  In fact, I might be going back for seconds.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Simple Jelly from Bottled Juice

I keep forgetting to share recipes here, then link to them on The Low Life!

So, I failed on that one.  Instead, this one time, I will redirect you to our family blog, The Low Life, for a truly simple apple jelly recipe that is just divine.

This evening, I am making some beer bread (one loaf for us, and one for our friends, and I plan to enjoy mine with a big glob of apple jelly.  I might even make some honey butter, too, but I am still too in love with jelly to eat anything else.

Yum, yum!

Jammin ~ by Sam, at The Low Life

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year's Blackeyed Peas

Nationwide, many, many people observe the tradition of eating blackeyed peas and greens on New Year's Day.  This practice, rooted in the South is said to bring good luck in the coming year.  The peas, which are not peas at all, but, rather beans related to the cowpea, can be prepared in a variety of ways ~ from Hoppin' John and Texas caviar to more modern salads.  Often, they are served with greens and cornbread to round out the meal.  The peas are said to represent coins, the greens, bills, and the cornbread, gold.  Some people say that each bean consumed ensures one day of good luck in the new year.  According to that logic, to ensure good luck every single day, one should eat 365 blackeyed peas on New Year's Day.  Ha.  Well, I can't manage that, but I'll take all the luck I can get.  Besides which, I like blackeyed peas.  They're yummy.

I have to admit, they are especially yummy when cooked with bacon, and, try as I might, I have never managed to make them taste quite as delicious without all that fatty, flavourful meat.  Of course, I don't want to eat that, so I have just muddled through with my "eh...okay" blackeyed peas.  This year, however, I decided to step it up.  I really wanted to get it right, and, this year, I think I finally did.  Shane and the kids agree.  Since it turned out so well, I decided to jot down what I did, so I will remember how to do it again.  and, I figured, as long as I am writing it down, I might as well post it here.  So, here goes.

You will need:

1/2 lb dry blackeyed peas
1-2 TBS safflower oil
4 strips vegetarian bacon, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBS dried parsley
salt, pepper & crushed red pepper to taste
1/2 TBS. red wine vinegar
2 cups greens*, cleaned & sliced into thin ribbons
Onions powder, or a couple of thinly sliced green onions
1 cup vegetable broth (I used chicken-style)

Rinse and sort 1/2 lb. dry blackeyed peas and place them in a medium sized pot.  Add cold water to about 2 inches above the top of the peas.  Bring to a boil.  Boil 2 minutes, then turn off and let stand for 1 hour.  Drain, return peas to pot and add cold water again to about 2-3 inches above peas.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 1/2 hour, or until tender, but not mushy.  Drain peas and set aside.

In the same pot in which you cooked your beans, heat oil (use the higher amount if you like the mouthfeel that you get with bacon, less if you want to watch your fat intake) over low-medium heat heat.  Add bacon and cook until it starts to crisp up.  Reduce heat to low.  Add garlic, parsley, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring, until the garlic is soft, but not browned.  Be careful to keep the heat low and stir constantly, to prevent browning, which will make the dish bitter.  Add red wine vinegar, and cook until the liquid evaporates.

Return peas to pot.  Top with greens, then sprinkle with onion powder or green onions.  Pour broth overall.  Cover and cook over low-medium heat until greens and peas are done and most liquid is gone.  Stir very gently, to avoid breaking up the peas.  Taste, and adjust seasonings.

That's it.  It was so good.  What I especially love about this dish is that it looks as good as it tastes.

* The greens I used were from our garden, a variety or early-harvest broccoli that claims to combine qualities of broccoli and turnip greens, as I recall.  I wish I could remember the name of the plant.  It has grown quite vigorously, but produces far more leaves that florets.  Good thing we can eat them all :)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Super Soft Wheat Bread

Since I got my bread machine, I have been on a quest for the perfect bread.  I LOVE the wheat bread I posted here before, but the kids have been wanting some bread that is softer, fluffier, more like the packaged bread from the store to which they had become accustomed.  Don't get me wrong, they like the other bread, but, for sandwiches, they wanted a bread that was lighter in texture.  I can understand why. That other bread is delicious, but it is dense, moist, rich ~ almost a meal on its own.  That's why it makes great breakfast toast.

Well, not long ago, I found a recipe for a soft white bread made in the bread machine.  You can find it here:  Extremely Soft White Bread  It is a wonderfully simple recipe, and yields a delightful result.  I have made two loaves, and both have been gobbled up "like candy," as one of my daughters said.  I was pleased with the result, but I really prefer wheat bread.  As a parent, I would rather give my kids wheat bread.  It just seems more like real, healthy food.  I also happen to prefer the flavour and texture of wheat bread.  So, I decided to tweak this recipe just a tiny bit, to see if I could make a soft wheat bread that would satisfy the kids and me.  I decided to use half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose flour, and I decided to sub honey for the sugar in the original recipe, because I like a good honey wheat bread best of all.

Here's what I came up with:

1 cup hot water
2 teaspoons yeast
3 generous tablespoons honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour 

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Place hot water, yeast and honey in bread machine.  Close the lid, and let stand for 12 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients, set your bread machine to the white bread setting (I used the light crust setting) and press start.  That's it.  Your work here is done.  Come back later to remove the finished loaf, slice, make sandwiches, amaze your friends and family with your soft, fluffy homemade wheat bread.  

Doesn't that look yummy?  It is!

As you can see, I really didn't make many changes.  Kudos to the originator of the recipe.  It is really a great one.  

While my bread machine was doing its thing, I made a batch of raspberry jam to go with our lovely wheat bread.  Please refer to your canning book (I use Ball's Blue Book) for complete instructions. I'm just goign to give a quick rundown.  I put 9 cups of crushed raspberries and 6 cups of organic sugar into a saucepot, and heated slowly until the sugar dissolved.  Then, I cooked it quickly to the gelling point (this took a few tries, but I eventually got it there), stirring to prevent sticking. I ladled the hot jam into clean, hot jars, leaving 1/4" headspace, wiped the rims, screwed the two-piece lids in place, lifted the jars carefully into my prepared water-bath canner and processed for 15 minutes.  Again, if you are going to do any canning, please refer to a reliable resource.  The only reason I brought it up here is that I wanted everyone to see just how relatively simple it is to make and can your own jam.  I'd say it's easy as pie, but I think it's even easier.  

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Zucchini "Crab" Cakes

Tonight, I made a triple batch of these (using one green zucchini and about 1/3 of a golden zucchini ~ yeah, they're that big).  We ended up with one dozen for tonight's dinner, and about 3 dozen to put in the freezer, for a future dinner.  For the record: I fried the ones we were eating tonight in hot oil in a cast iron skillet, but the ones I plan to freeze, I baked.  I figure, that way, once they are frozen, we can heat them in an oiled skillet when we are ready to serve, and they (hopefully) won't be completely drowning in oil.  I will give directions for both cooking methods.  I hear you can just bake instead of fry, to save on fat and calories, but, to be perfectly honest, I like my crab cakes fried.

Anyway, in case there is anyone reading who doesn't know this, I grew up in Maryland.  Maryland, in case you haven't heard, "is for crabs."  (A weird but true travel and tourism slogan I recall from my childhood.)  In short, we know crab cakes.  Now, I can't eat them.  I am allergic to shellfish (idoine, actually, I am now told), besides which, I am vegetarian, so I wouldn't eat them, anyway.  Crabs are not vegetables.  I know, because I have looked one in the eye.  Nevertheless, I do not want anyone reading this to let that fact make them think these "crab cakes" will be anything but delicious.  I am not the originator of this idea.

What readers may not know about Maryland, is that it was not only home to crabs, it was home to one of the best zucchini growers and cooks I have ever known.  I mean, this guy was famous for his zuchhini.  And if he wasn't, he should have been.  He was, I am very lucky to say, my godfather, my mom's twin, Jim Gambino.  I don't know how my zucchini crab cake recipe compares to Uncle Jim's, but I hope it's maybe half as good.  That would make it pretty awesome, I think.  I hear tell that people have been served zucchini "crab" cakes without knowing they contained no actual crab, and never been the wiser.  I do not know about that, but I know that, a few years ago, when I was home for a visit, I made some at a friend's crab feast, so the kids and I could have some "crab cakes," and they flew off the table.  No, they were not enchanted.  Harry Potter and his cohorts were nowhere nearby.  I just mean to say that people liked them.  People who were eating actual crab.  So, I think that's a good review.  I decided to post these today, in honour of Uncle Jim's (and my mom's) birthday.  Happy Birthday, Mom!  I hope you have a beautiful day.  And Happy Birthday, Uncle Jim.  We sure do miss you.  But...have you seen my zucchini?  They're HUGE!!!  I think you'd appreciate them.

Now, I posted a recipe from which I work in the comments in my previous post, but I decided they needed a post of their own.  I also decided I should probably try to post exactly what I do, instead of the recipe on which I based what I do.  So, here ya go:

2 1/2 c. grated zucchini (I do not peel it)
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp. melted butter (I use Earth Balance)
1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning (or to taste ~ I add a little more)
1/2 tsp. prepared mustard
1 1/2 c. fine dry bread crumbs, seasoned with oregano, thyme, garlic powder, Old Bay seasoning, salt & pepper (sorry, I wish I knew how much of these to tell you to use.  You can use Italian seasoned breadcrumbs, if you prefer, but I cannot, unless I can find dairy-free ones)
1 sm. onion, chopped fine, or about 1 tsp. onion powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp. sweet red pepper, chopped very fine
1 tbsp. mayonnaise 
2 TBS chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Mix all ingredients well.  If mixture seems too wet, add a few more breadcrumbs, but it should be a loose mixture (not too dense).  
Place more breadcrumbs on a plate, and season as above.  If desired, add a little nutritional yeast.  Again, if you prefer, use Italian seasoned breadcrumbs.  
With damp hands, gather lumps of dough into roughly golf-ball-sized...well...balls.  Sorta.  Like I said, it's a loose mixture.  Gently dredge each ball in the breadcrumbs, then fry* in hot oil for a few minutes on each side, until golden brown and crispy on the outside. Drain on paper towels.  Serve as you would crabcakes ~ with tartar sauce or cocktail sauce.  You can make crabcake sandwiches with them (they're about the right size to fit on one of those little Hawaiian rolls, or a soft dinner roll).

Part of that seems unclear, so let me walk you through it:
1. Pick up a lump of the mixture and kinda form it into a ball.
2. Dredge the ball in breadcrumbs; flatten slightly.
3. Place on a plate or tray.
4. When you have all of your little patties formed, fry them in batches in hot oil.
5. Drain on a plate or tray lined with paper towels.
6. Eat.
* If you prefer to bake them (for whatever reason), form your cakes as above, then place on a lightly oiled baking sheet.  Bake in a very hot (500 degrees fahrenheit) oven for 5-7 minutes on each side (until lightly browned).

Now, unfortunately, we gobbled up the fried ones before I managed to take a picture.  I say, "unfortunately," not because I regret eating them, but because I think they look more appetizing than the baked ones.  I took a picture of the baked ones, so I will post that.