Sunday, August 31, 2014

Dairy-Free Four Grain Rice Salad

Jamie has added a bunch of new vegetarian, vegan, gluten and dairy free recipes to his website.  It makes me quite happy, because the main food sensitivity I have been diagnosed with is dairy.  All the cheeses ranked highest, followed by cow's milk, and, strangely, yellow corn and beans/chick peas.  Avoiding dairy completely is going to be quite the challenge.  Thankfully, I can still tolerate yogurt, I assume because of all the cultures it contains.

My son invited me over for dinner tonight, and asked me bring a fruit salad and a "rice dish".  I remembered one I'd seen recently, so I went to the Bulk Barn and got everything required.

441.  Four Grain Rice Salad recipe

I was able to get wild rice and pearl barley in bulk, but I couldn't locate red rice.  I finally found it in the grocery store, but I surely didn't need a huge $7 bag of the stuff, so I substituted basmati rice instead.  I put all the rice & barley in a pot, along with a bulb of garlic (unpeeled) and the stalks from a small bunch of mint and parsley (picked from the garden).  I covered it all with water and brought it to a boil, then let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

I was supposed to save the cooking water but of course I strained the cooked rice in the sink, so I put a bit more water in the pot and brought it back to the boil.  I placed the strainer over the water, covered it with some foil, and let it steam for another 10 minutes before letting it cool.  In a small bowl, I squeezed out the garlic cloves and mashed them, then added the chopped herbs, juice of a lemon and olive oil.  Once the rice was cool, I mixed the garlic & herbs through and seasoned with salt and pepper.

The last step was to fry some fennel & cumin seeds in a bit of oil, then add some rolled oats and toast until golden.  I stirred half of this through the rice, and put the rest aside to sprinkle over at the last minute.

I found this salad quite bland, surprisingly, especially with the amount of garlic involved.  I suppose I should have checked the seasoning again prior to serving, as the rice seemed to have soaked up the dressing.  I added a bit more salt, pepper & lemon juice to my portion and that brought it up a notch.  I enjoyed the chewiness of the oats and wild rice but I'm not sure other guests did.  This type of dish is not up everyone's alley, but it would be great at a gathering of health conscious people.  I'm glad I brought it, because apart from the chicken served, the only other option was a Caesar salad (full of dairy).

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I love seafood!

So what will I be doing on my five year blogger anniversary?  In past years I've attended a Michael Smith cooking demo, won an award, or cooked something awesome.  How can I top that?

This year, I'll be going for food sensitivity testing.  Whoop whoop!   Might not sound exciting to you, but I'm happy to finally have a doctor who wants to get to the bottom of my digestive issues.  I've restricted my diet to the point of losing 10 pounds this summer (not that I'll miss them!), but it would be nice to be able to eat somewhat "normally".  I'm sick of saying "I can't eat this, I can't eat that" when really, I'm just guessing.  I'm hoping for something more definitive.

Tonight, I'm going out for sushi.  Next week, I have plans to meet a friend at Red Lobster for dinner.  Please God, don't let them tell me that fish and seafood are bad.  Anything but that.  :p

Monday, August 25, 2014

The last Monday of summer

Well, technically summer goes into September, but for me, Labour Day weekend is the end.  My garden already looks like fall is here.  Some of the leaves on the trees are turning colour early, and the farmer's almanac is predicting another vicious winter with "polar vortex" temperatures and lots of freaking snow.  Ugh.  I'm trying to soak up as much sun as I can, while I can.

I spent my weekend puttering around the kitchen and backyard.  I made two batches of no-sugar-needed strawberry jam, using a bit of honey as a sweetener instead.  On top of all the pickles from last week, I had to clear out one full shelf in my cabinet to devote to canned goods! 

Last night I decided to throw together a batch of beef chili, using up leftover bits and pieces from the fridge.  I even added zucchini.  I boiled some corn, which I can't get enough of at this time of year, but since I am out of butter and margarine, I spread it with last year's frozen herbed butter.  OMG such a delicious combination! 

I really have no money to buy anything from now until Friday, so a meal plan is a no-brainer.

Lunch - leftover Garden Soup, with crackers and cheese
Dinner - leftover beef chile with corn on the cob

Lunch - leftover Garden Soup, with crackers and cheese
Dinner - out for dinner for a birthday celebration!

Lunch - leftover beef chile with toast
Dinner - Aloo Gobi with pan-fried trout

Lunch - leftover Aloo Gobi
Dinner - Hungover Noodles

Lunch - leftover Aloo Gobi
Dinner - leftover Hungover Noodles

I really want to make something special for my 5th blogging anniversary, but I fear it might have to wait until the weekend.  If I can squeeze it in sooner, I will!

Garden Soup

I brought in my first beets of the season the other day...they are still quite small, but hopefully the more I pull will solve the overcrowding problem and they'll get bigger.   Look at this colourful tray of veggies!

Ok, some of those are radishes from the market, but they also roast well.  I seasoned with salt, pepper, fresh thyme & rosemary, and added red wine vinegar & olive oil.  I splashed a little water in, covered with foil, and let them roast in a 400 F oven until soft.  Then I removed the foil to let the water evaporate and let them crisp up a bit.  Roasted veg are great to snack on!

My zucchinis are starting to peter out...same with the tomatoes.  The cranberry beans are pretty much done, but the green/purple/yellow string beans are doing quite well.  This season has been really weird for gardens.  Hot one week, cold the next, I think the plants are quite confused. I grew a few things as an experiment this year, and one of them was purple okra.  It's not done much all summer, but just this week I noticed that it was starting to bloom. The flowers are beautiful.

I'm not sure if I'll really get anything off it before the weather turns cold, but we'll see.  My purple sprouting broccoli is huge, but since it's only year one, nothing's going to come of it.  I'll let it over-winter but the harsh Canadian temperatures are sure to kill it.  I always find it so sad when the garden starts winding down for the summer.
Onto the soup!  I still have cucumbers to use.  I didn't think you could cook them, but I recently acquired a copy of the 50th anniversary edition of Jamie Magazine, and lo and behold, you apparently can!  So I thought I'd make a quick and nutritious soup for lunch.
440.  Cucumber &  Lettuce Soup (Jamie Magazine, Issue 50 - July 2014)
I had a partial grocery store romaine lettuce needing to be used, so I chopped it and added it to some mesclun leaves from the garden.  They've gone to seed at this point, of course, but no use wasting them. I also grabbed a couple of sorrel leaves on my way in.  I figured their lemony taste would go well with this soup (and add to the green colour).  In place of green onions, I used half a white onion.
I was supposed to skin two regular cucumbers, but I approximated two large handfuls of dill cucumbers instead, and just washed and chopped them.  All the veggies went into a pot with a little olive oil, to soften, then I added 500 ml of veggie stock and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Once hot, I got out the hand blender and made it as smooth as I could. I seasoned with salt and pepper to taste.
Jamie suggests adding creme fraiche to the soup while cooking, but I waited until it was plated before adding a dollop of non-fat yogurt instead.  The consistency is still a little chewy, but that's ok since it's basically a salad in a bowl!  I really enjoyed the flavour.  Definitely cucumber-y and lemony.  Very refreshing actually.  It should do well as leftovers for lunches.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Hamper Of Cucumbers?

I ordered a hamper of dill cucumbers on the weekend from a local berry farm.  I had no idea what a "hamper" meant, but I envisioned a bucket of some description.  Wrong!  It was a large, cardboard box, roughly the size of my stovetop.  OMG!  What the heck was I going to do with all of those cucumbers?

The first day I decided to make dill pickles.  I enlisted some helpers, got all the canning stuff out, bought a case of mason jars, refreshed my memory on safe canning practices, and got to work.  After about 4 hours we had 12x500ml jars and 4x1 litre jars, and still roughly half the cucumbers left.  I managed to find spots for them all in the fridge, so headed off to Toronto the next morning for a day of pre-season figure skating competition.

Yesterday we had no choice but to tackle the cucumbers again.  I bought more jars, more vinegar, and some sugar, and we started on sweet, bread & butter pickles this time.  12x500 ml jars later, we went back to dill for a while, then called it quits.  I have enough pickles to feed an army.  But I still have cucumbers left.  What to make with them?

439.  Greek Salad (Jamie Oliver's Food Escapes, page 238) recipe

The key to this salad is fresh ingredients.  I have those!  The garden tomatoes are finally ripening (all at once), and the herbs are loving the cooler weather right now.  It's been a while since I had a nice, big salad for dinner, so this recipe fit the bill.

I got out two large bowls, so that I could tailor the salads to our individual likes and dislikes.  I had some romaine lettuce that I wanted to use, so even though it wasn't called for, I figured it would bulk out the salads a bit.  I selected my two ripest red tomatoes, and a variety of purple & yellow cherry tomatoes.  I sliced four dill cucumbers, but also used some of the bits & pieces from the food processor that were rejected while pickle making.  I picked fresh dill & mint from the garden, and finely sliced a bit of red onion.  I didn't have a green pepper, so I substituted a red pepper, and sliced it into half rounds.  I had to skip olives since I didn't have any (for the basic reason that I don't like them).

I put a touch of Jamie's Chianti red wine vinegar in each bowl, drizzled with EVOO, and tossed.  I garnished each salad with a chunk of feta cheese, and sprinkled with dried oregano.  We crumbled the feta prior to eating, and dug right in.  I haven't enjoyed a salad this much in a long, long time.  I found it very satisfying, and I most likely will have another tonight!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Roasted Veg Vindaloo with Golden Gnarly Chicken Skewers

I went to see a naturopathic doctor this week, and she recommended that I eat a diet high in liver boosting foods, due to poor digestion.  On that list are bitter greens, beets, cruciferous vegetables, and turmeric.  Coincidentally, I had already planned this next meal!

I thought I'd covered every type of curry, but apparently never a vindaloo.  Jamie always seems to come up with something new for me to try.  He describes this recipe as a "standout" vegetarian curry with a meat "kicker" for any non-veggies at the table (which was perfect for my needs).  He was inspired to create this one when in Leeds visiting the Goan community.  I looked up the Leeds episode of Jamie's Great Britain, but unfortunately it only features the Jewish and Iranian communities.  I'd love to see the footage that got left on the cutting room floor! 

438.  Roasted Veg Vindaloo with Golden Gnarly Chicken Skewers (Jamie Oliver's Great Britain, page 142) recipe

For the full recipe click above, but I thought I'd list the ingredients for the curry paste, because they are quite unique.

  • 1 bulb of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • 1 heaped tablespoon each of turmeric and garam masala
  • 2 heaped tablespoons raisins
  • 1 level teaspoon each of sea salt and cumin
  • 1 heaped teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 2 dried red chillies
  •  A bunch of fresh coriander, leaves picked
  • 1 red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 200ml (7fl oz) white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons each of Worcestershire sauce and rapeseed or olive oil

  • My daughter refused to eat this because it contains onions and cilantro.  I didn't think the recipe would stand up without them, so we compromised by making some of the chicken skewers with a simple tandoori marinade instead.

    For the veggie curry, I had a huge head of cauliflower that I got at the farmer's market, but it also calls for some combination of peas, corn, broad beans and spinach.  I decided to make use of my garden and include my rainbow beans and chard instead.

    I threw all the ingredients for the curry paste into the blender.  Half went to marinating the chicken for about an hour, and the other half was mixed through the cauliflower and onion, which was then roasted for 40 minutes with a bit of water.  Once that came back up to the stovetop, I added some blitzed tomatoes, veggie stock and a can of chick peas and let it simmer away.  I got my chicken breast strips threaded onto the skewers and attempted to grill them, but the pan was too small, and not much of the chicken actually came in contact with the heat.  The parts that did burnt quickly.

    I decided to balance the skewers across a rectangular cake pan instead, and put them under the broiler.  Had I been thinking in advance, I would have started the BBQ (which might have been even better).

    In the last few minutes of the cooking time, I added my chopped beans and chard to the curry pot, until soft.

    The skewers came out golden and gnarly, as described.  My son made off with two of them, burning his fingers in the process, and reported that they tasted "just like the chicken satay skewers at Ben Thanh" (a local Viet-Thai restaurant).  That is high praise indeed!

    I stirred some non-fat yogurt through the curry prior to serving, and sprinkled with the cilantro leaves.  I made a big pot of basmati rice to serve with it.   I found the flavour really different to anything I've had before....I think it's the amount of white wine vinegar.  "Vin" = vinegar and "loo" = garlic apparently.  I wouldn't say it was my favourite (that still is Keralan curry), but it was tasty and there are a lot of left overs, although I halved the recipe.  Only the vegetarian and I ate the curry....the other two picky eaters ate chicken and rice with soy sauce.  :p

    Tuesday, August 12, 2014

    Tuesday Meal Planning

    I'm a bit late with this post but I just couldn't wrap my head around meal planning yesterday.  I went home from work with the intention of making a vegetarian curry, but my daughter came over and I ended up boiling corn on the cob and pan-frying more of those wonderful Jamie Oliver Fully Loaded Chicken Burgers instead, served with sliced garden tomatoes.   It was a quick and easy meal that satisfied everyone.

    Tonight I'm going to an early showing of the Hundred Foot Journey, so my plan is to make myself a quick Greek Toastie with more of the lovely, ripening garden tomatoes that I've waited so long for.  I have to be sure to pick them as soon as they ripen, or I run the risk of my adorable but pesky, tomato-loving dogs getting to them first.  :p

    Of course, I know I'm going to come home with an incredible craving for Indian food, so tomorrow I plan to attempt a recipe from Jamie's Great Britain:  Roasted Veg Vindaloo with Golden Gnarly Chicken Skewers.  No doubt I'll be eating left overs for at least Thursday and probably Friday as well, but that's ok!