Monday, March 30, 2015

Off-The-Cuff Cooking and Jamie's Italian Toronto

I'm back!  I had an off-the-cuff cooking week, with nothing really planned.  I just made whatever I felt like.  On Wednesday for our weekly Survivor party, I adapted my an old butter tart square recipe to be dairy free.  It's just a quick shortbread base (margarine, flour, sugar) covered by an ooey-gooey topping (eggs, margarine, brown sugar, maple syrup, vinegar, vanilla, walnuts), and baked in the oven for about an hour.  It's was a hit all around.

Another night, I was seriously craving a bowl of pho from my favourite Viet-Thai restaurant, but I knew if I went there I'd end up spending more money than I wanted to.  I decided to make my own using an organic vegetable stock cube, some green onions, fresh cilantro and rice noodles.  I wanted tofu  - I know a lot of people don't like it, but I love the stuff - but I wanted it to be crispy!  I looked through Oh She Glows and discovered that I needed to press my extra firm tofu for a while to extract some of the moisture.  So I wrapped it in paper towels and a few tea towels, piled some cookbooks on top, and after a few crashes (heh) it was ready to pan fry, with a bit of garlic powder, salt & pepper for seasoning.  Delicous!

On Saturday I needed to use up some green beans and a head of cauliflower from my crisper.  Since I already had the oven on for a Ground Beef Wellington (the kid's dinner), Michael Smith's Roasted Sweet Potato Aloo Gobi recipe looked like it would work.  I swapped out the can of chick peas for some quickly boiled green beans.  I added the remainder of my fresh cilantro for colour (and flavour) and served it with some plain coconut yogurt.  Next time I think I'd make some soured cashew cream instead (less sweet). But what a quick and easy way to make this dish!


 
 
On my way to Toronto yesterday, I couldn't resist making a stop at Yorkdale Mall to check on the progress of the new Jamie's Italian store that's supposed to be opening.  I asked at the information counter, and was advised that it was taking the space recently vacated by TD Bank.  I wandered over and discovered this:
 

 
 


Wheeeee!  It's really happening!  I am so excited.  Doesn't look like it's going to be ready for a spring launch, but that's ok, I can wait.  It's a great location, right at a front entrance to the mall.  It's the space on the left in the picture below.  The construction on the right is not related.  I'll have to check back often to watch it's progress.  It's going to be the first Jamie's Italian in North America!


 
 
This week, I have to be a bit more organized.  We are picking my son up from the airport Friday, and then I will have Saturday to prepare for an Easter feast for 9 or 10 people.  I managed to get a frozen turkey the other day, but I still have a few things to buy at the last minute.  It's going to be the traditional meal, nothing funky this time.  I am hoping to be able to adapt a typical pumpkin pie recipe to use almond milk and eggs, that way making it safe for everyone to eat (including me!)
 
 
 
 
Monday - I'm in Toronto for mom's medical appointment.  She bought me some veggie burger patties, a salad and fresh fruit for lunch, but I will have to find something to eat for dinner on the way home.
Tuesday - left over Roasted Sweet Potato Aloo Gobi with JO fish fingers
Wednesday - Pasta Arrabbiata with mushrooms
Thursday - quick tortilla pizza with roasted tomato basil pesto, Daiya cheese and veggies
Friday - dinner out with the family (after the airport)
Saturday - prep day, snack while I cook (although I may sneak away to have some Nepalese breakfast at the famer's market first)
Sunday - Easter feast!  Turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied carrots, broccoli casserole, turnip, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie

Friday, March 20, 2015

Go Vegan For A Day - Meat Out 2015

I couldn't let today pass without posting a vegan recipe.  Happy first day of spring!  Happy #InternationalDayOfHappiness!  Happy #Meatout2015!
 
Last night I was still in leftover mode.  I needed to use up the second roasted squash and the remainder of the roasted garlic.  I remember a squash pasta recipe that I'd done not too long ago, and took inspiration from it to create a lovely vegan dish for myself for dinner.  Who doesn't love mac 'n cheese?
 
Lisa's Asparagus Mac 'n "Cheese"
 
Ingredients:
1 small roasted acorn squash
1 head of roasted garlic
1 bag of GoGoQuinoa penne pasta
1/4 tub of Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
1 sprig of rosemary
1/2 fresh or frozen red chile
 
Method:
I put a bit of olive oil in a pan, and fried my rosemary and chile for a couple of minutes, while I got a pot of boiling water on to boil.  I scooped the squash out of it's skin with a spoon, and added it to the pan.  I squeezed the garlic out of it's paper and added it as well.  I broke the squash up a bit and thinned this mixture out with water until it became the right consistency for a pasta sauce.  I threw in a couple of small handfuls of nutritional yeast for added cheesiness, then added the Tofutti cream "cheese" and seasoned to taste.
 
In the meantime, I washed and chopped my asparaus, leaving the tips off to one side.  I briefly boiled the asparagus in the water and removed it when it was just a touch under done, then added the pasta until al dente.  I threw the asparagus tips into the sauce for about a minute, just to soften.  Then I removed the sauce from the heat, and I drained the pasta (reserving a cup of pasta water for later).  I combined the pasta with the sauce and voila, dinner was served.
 
 
 


Just the perfect combination of sauce, pasta and veggies in my opinion.  Creamy and cheesy....I doubt anyone would realize that it was dairy-free if they didn't know different.  However, it was just me, so lots of left overs for tonight!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Roasted Vegetable Recipes

Last night I decided to put my oven to good use, and roast up some veggies!  I had a bunch of basil that was starting to wilt, so that was my first priority.  I discovered a great Roasted Tomato Basil Pesto recipe on Oh She Glows that I figured I could use over my roasted spaghetti squash.  I also found a decadent looking Roasted Tomato, Onion, Garlic & Coconut Soup recipe that I couldn't live without for one more second.  LOL.  Some things just jump off the page at me!




I had three trays of veggies to roast:  onions, two different squash, garlic bulbs wrapped in foil, and of course the tomatoes (that I got for $1.50 on clearance).  Everything except the garlic was seasoned with salt and pepper, the onions, garlic and squash were drizzled with olive oil, and it all went into a 400 F oven.  The onions came out first, once golden, then the squash, then the garlic, and finally the tomatoes.  I did another, quick tray of almonds and the washed squash seeds, and put these into a reduced temperature oven (325 F) for another 10 minutes.  I love to snack on squash/pumpkin seeds.

For the pesto, I added a large clove of raw garlic to the processor for a minute, then the bunch of washed & dried basil, some EVOO, the roasted almonds, nutritional yeast, roasted tomatoes, salt & pepper.  My spaghetti squash was soooo tiny, I decided to also use my speed peeler on a zucchini that I had kicking around in the fridge.  Honestly, I wasn't sure how great this was going to taste, but it was amazing.  Really, really good.  I didn't miss the cheese (or pasta) at all!




I froze the remaining pesto in an ice cube tray.  Apparently it also works well as pizza sauce!

Next up, the decadent tomato soup.  I combined the remaining roasted tomatoes, all the roasted onions and half of the roasted garlic in a large pot.  I added some veggie stock, a frozen cube of tomato paste, and some shelf-stable creamed coconut (in place of a can of coconut milk).  I brought this to the boil and let it simmer for a few minutes, then pureed it with a hand blender.  I added a couple of spoonfuls of my homemade cashew cream to my bowl and dug right in.


 
 
I can't tell you how much I love creamy tomato soup.  It's one of the things I really miss since going dairy-free.  No more!  This is fantastic and not lacking in flavour, let me tell you.  Totally indulgent.  I added some stale buckwheat rye bread and let it soak up the goodness for a few minutes.  Afterwards, I was stuffed!  What a fantastic vegan night of cooking.  I still lots of left overs!

Monday, March 16, 2015

It's Monday Once Again


I'm starting off the week with left overs, but my veggie drawer is bursting, so I need to get cooking!  I'm going to try to do a new dish every night, and use any left overs for lunches.  I might also make a pot of Creamy Roasted Tomato, Garlic, Onion & Coconut Soup because it sounds absolutely to die for, and it's supposed to turn a bit chilly again this week.  A nice hot bowl of soup always warms me up.
 
 


Here's the dinner plan:

Monday - left over Sausage Gnocchi
Tuesday - Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Basil Hemp Pesto (tacos for the kid)
WednesdayCauli-Power Fettucine Alfredo with steamed green beans
ThursdayPan Roasted Salmon with Brocolli Rabe (burgers for the kid)
Friday -  Tofu stir fry to use up some veggies!  Kid's on his own...

What are you eating this week?

15 Minute Meals: Moroccan Bream with Couscous

I'm closing in on my 600th post.  Wow!  This weekend was kind of grey and drizzly, so I didn't do much of anything.  I puttered around the kitchen, went shopping, and watched TV.  I managed to make some more of those wheat-free turkey dog treats that my gang love so much, and I made the most amazing dairy-free Lemon Zucchini Spelt cake for myself.  I decided to use up some trout from the freezer for the next recipe, since there's nothing called "bream" here!

471.  Moroccan Bream with Couscous (Jamie's 15 Minute Meals, page ??)

DailyMotion video

So obviously I didn't use whole bream, LOL.  But I had three filets of trout with skin on, so I went with that.  Instead of making a batch of couscous, I used up some remaining cooked millet from the other day.  For the yogurt side, I used homemade vegan sour cream (made from cashews).

I started out by making salsa in the food processor with jarred red peppers, dried apricots, a preserved lemon, fresh cilantro and a swig of POM pomegranate juice.  Then I soaked a bit of saffron in boiling water while I got to frying my fish.  After a couple of minutes I added sliced spring onion, some dried thyme, Siracha sauce and the saffron liquid.  I covered this with a wet piece of scrunched up parchment paper to let it steam briefly.



 
Garnishes were toasted sesame seeds, and the vegan sour cream marbled with a bit of rose water and more Siracha.  I enjoyed the way all the flavours went together (the salsa was surprisingly good!) but I found this more of a snack than a meal.  I'm sure if I served it with a large green salad and ate a couple of pieces of fish at a time it would have been more filling.   

Monday, March 9, 2015

Vegan Delights

Quite often on a Sunday, I wake up thinking "I don't feel like cooking today".  However, by the time lunch rolls around, I realize that if I don't cook something, I'm going to be scrambling for breakfasts and lunches later in the week.  I really need to have something pre-made, and it's harder to find the energy during the week, you know?

471.  Vegan Chocolate Pots

JamieOliver.com recipe

I'm so happy that Jamie has jumped on the vegan bandwagon!  Couldn't have been better timing, for me.  Although I'm NOT a full vegan, I seek out the recipes.  It's hard to find a dessert that doesn't include dairy in some form. 

I've tried a number of different dairy-free chocolate pudding recipes:  chocolate silk pudding with soy milk, egg whites, corn starch, corn syrup and cocoa powder,  guiltless chocolate mousse with avocado, maple syrup and cocoa powder, and vegan chocolate mousse with avocado, cocoa powder, coconut milk, maple syrup and dark chocolate.  What makes this one different is the use of silken tofu. 

The first step is squeezing the water out of your tofu.  This wasn't very pleasant, because the tofu completely fell apart and stuck to the tea towel in tiny little bits.  I managed to scrape it off with my fingers.  The only cooking involved is melting a bar of dairy-free, dark chocolate over simmering water.  Everything else is just thrown into the food processor with the tofu.  As usual, after whizzing things up, I got ahead of myself and scooped the pudding into ramekins before I realized that I'd forgotten two key ingredients:  maple syrup and lime zest.  Oops.  I managed to stir the maple syrup into each ramekin, but left the lime zest for garnish.


 
 
Oh my God, oh my God, I've died and gone to heaven!  This is totally rich and decadent and there is no way I could eat more than one of these at a time.  I didn't get any of the chile kick at all, but the lime zest was a really nice touch.  I have to say that these are my favourite of all the recipes I've tried.
 
~~~~~~~~~
 
I made a couple of other vegan delicacies from the Oh She Glows cookbook that I got for my birthday, to see me through the week.  This afternoon, I cooked a large pot of "On The Mend" Spiced Red Lentil, Kale and Tomato Soup, and ate it with some delicious, artisanal turmeric & sweet potato bread.  This will be great for lunches at work.
 

 
 
Last night, it took me five minutes to combine the ingredients for Easy Vegan Overnight Oats.  This morning, I took them out of the fridge and combined them with some frozen berries that I'd defrosted.  I added a spoonful of coconut yogurt, a drizzle of maple syrup, a sprinkling of hemp seeds and voila, breakfast was served (with left overs for tomorrow)!
 

 
 
As for the rest of the week, I've got my eye on a few things I'd like to make.  I hit four different markets & grocery stores this weekend, so I'm well stocked.  For veggies, I've got kale, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, green onions, red & green peppers, celery, onions, potatoes, butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash, zucchini, tomatoes and iceberg lettuce.  Whew!  I also have some fresh basil, cilantro and rosemary.  I'd better get busy.
 
 
 
 
 
Monday:  The kid has requested that I make mashed potatoes so that he can have another shepherd's pie. If I'm doing that, I may as well have potatoes too.  I'll serve mine with some of the JO fish fingers and a salad.  There are some great kale salad recipes in the Oh She Glows book.  I have my eye on one that uses millet, roasted squash & a tahini dressing.  I can roast the squash at the same time as I heat the shepherd's pie.  Left overs would make great lunches, too!
 
Tuesday:  Left overs, so maybe I can motivate myself to get to Aqua Zumba. *fingers crossed*
 
Wednesday:  I have a large flat of chicken thighs to cook (gift from my Mom). I plan to make a chicken tray bake with tomatoes, garlic and basil.  This should leave enough left over for the kid to eat tomorrow, because I want to make fish for myself.
 
Thursday:  I want to try another JO 15 minute meal, this time Moroccan Bream with couscous.  However, bream doesn't exist around here.  I may have to use rainbow trout instead.  I saw some whole fish at Farm Boy today that weren't too expensive.  I'm not sure if I'm brave enough to actually cook them whole, or if I'll wimp out and use filets.
 
Friday:  Left overs for me.  Kid can fend for himself.  ;) 
 
~~~~~~~~~
 
One year ago, there was a few feet of snow in the yard, I was planting seeds in the house, and making a Meat Free Monday curry.
 
Two years ago, the tulips were peeking through the dirt already, and I was making Chorizo Carbonara and a Catalan Market Salad.
 
Three years ago, it was still winter but spring was on the horizon.  I got a spatchcocked chicken and winter salad in while there was still time!
 
Four years ago, I was whining about the freaking weather.  Rain, ice, tulips peeking through the dirt and then a blizzard.  Ugh.  I made scrambled eggs.
 
Five years ago, I appear to have given up on the weather, and was taking off for warmer climes after making Grilled Tuna and Asparagus.
 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

15 Minute Meals: Chicken Cacciatore

I drove to the indoor farmer's market at lunch to pick up a few things.  I'd defrosted four chicken thighs overnight, decided to use two for a quick pot of Spanish rice for the kid, and save the other two for myself.  It's been a while since I made one of Jamie's 15 Minute Meals!  I skipped this one originally because I knew the kids wouldn't like it.

470.  Chicken Cacciatore (Jamie's 15 Minute Meals, page 186)

A Glug Of Oil recipe
Daily Motion video

I bought a bunch of fresh basil, and then spotted these two jars near the cash as I was checking out.  I figured that they would add authenticity, so I splurged and bought them.  Since no one but me would be eating this, why not?

 
 

I was smart and did all my "mise en place" before turning on the stove.  I skinned and deboned the thighs, then chopped them into small pieces.  I roughly chopped my mushrooms, finely sliced a frozen red chile, chopped a couple of pieces of turkey bacon (in place of pancetta) and washed and tore up my basil.  I assembled the rest of the necessary ingredients on the counter, so that I wasn't searching through the pantry at an inconvenient time.  Then it was time to cook!  I put a large frying pan over a medium heat, filled a pot with salted water for the pasta, and brought it to the boil.

This came together very quickly.  I fried the chicken and mushrooms in a lug of EVOO with the rosemary for a couple of minutes, then added the anchovy, the red pepper, and the olives.  I added some capellini to the water, then added garlic and chile to the frying pan, along with the tomato sauce.  When the sauce was simmering, I turned off the heat and threw in most of the basil.  I drained the pasta, keeping some of the water aside in case I needed to loosen the pasta up later.


 
 
I combined the pasta with the sauce, and tore over the rest of my basil leaves.  The full recipe serves six, but since I only used half quantities, I portioned this into three bowls.  Because of my dairy restriction, I didn't use any parmesan cheese, but I'm sure it would be a lovely addition.  I didn't miss it at all, however, because thiswas so flavourful!  It's been a long time since I allowed myself a big bowl of pasta, and I wolfed it down.  It had a little kick from the chile, but no fishy taste at all from the anchovy.  I was impressed!  This dish really stretches a small amount of chicken.  I mean, two thighs for three portions!  But it was plenty.  I was quite stuffed afterwards.  I look forward to left overs.  :)
 
Quite a healthy pasta, really, if you consider the basil, garlic, tomatoes and mushrooms. I read all about their health benefits this afternoon. Who knew!
 
Basil: Basil is often recommended for those with diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular problems. This herb reduces stress and cortisol levels better than any other plant or even other types of supplements, all without any side effects. Basil also reduces inflammation, a key component of heart disease and many other chronic diseases that plague us today.
 
Mushrooms: Consuming mushrooms regularly is associated with decreased risk of breast, stomach, and colorectal cancers. Portobello, oyster, shiitake, maitake, and reishi mushrooms all have anti-cancer properties—some are anti-inflammatory, stimulate the immune system, prevent DNA damage, slow cancer cell growth, cause programmed cancer cell death, and inhibit angiogenesis. Keep in mind that mushrooms should only be eaten cooked: several raw culinary mushrooms contain a potentially carcinogenic substance called agaritine, and cooking mushrooms significantly reduces their agaritine content.
 
Tomatoes: The tomato is a super fantastic cancer fighter. Recent research studies show that eating tomatoes can help protect men from the devastating effects of prostate cancer. They can protect the DNA in your cells from the type of damage that allows cancer to grow. Always make your own tomato sauce and juice from organic tomatoes at home, rather than buy them commercially to avoid unwanted ingredients such as sugar and salt. The regular consumption of tomatoes are consistently associated with a lower risk of cancer as well as heart disease.
 
Garlic: Several large studies have discovered that those who eat more garlic on a regular basis are much less likely to develop certain cancers, especially cancer of the stomach, colon, and throat cancer. The active ingredients in these strong smelling bulbs seem to top the cancer causing compounds in your body from becoming active, or at least stop them from multiplying. For best health, buy fresh, organic garlic. You can add garlic to almost anything you are cooking.