Monday, January 24, 2011

The love of veggies continues

I didn't write about the organic box when it arrived last week, mostly because I was sick and couldn't fathom doing more than eating the apples and pears that came in it straight out of the box. I got jona gold apples this time, if you're wondering, I prefer galas to jona golds, I'm a fan of the crunch.

The full contents of last week's box:
living lettuce
bok choy
acorn squash
baby carrots

Other than snacking on the baby carrots, apples and pears, I hadn't done anything with the contents until today. It was -29 degrees outside before windchill, and I took a salad to work. With a base of living lettuce. It was delicious. I'm surprised it didn't freeze and wilt on the 2 minute walk from the PG Express to the door.

I decided to do something with the acorn squash, and had been looking at stuffed squash recipes. 95% of the times that I've cooked squash, it's been soup. I once tried doing spagetti squash as a pasta substitute, that was an epic fail. I tried doing sauteed ginger squash as F so deliciously prepares once, also an epic fail. I was determined not to make this an epic fail.

The Not an Epic Fail Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

2 acorn squash
1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cup veggie stock
3 shallots
1 bok choy
8 dried apricots
3 dried figs
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
olive oil

Cut two acorn squash in half, then cut off either end, so that it will sit flat on the plate.
Place the half face down and spread olive oil over the skins. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.

While your squash is in the oven, rinse 1 cup quinoa, and bring to a boil in 1 1/2 cup of veggie stock. I used half a little square of a veggie boullion cube. I'd use the whole square if I were you. Once boiling, reduce heat and cover, until water is absorbed.

Now, chop 3 shallots and add to a pan with olive oil until soft. Add the chopped bok choy, figs and apricots, let cook for a few minutes:

Now here is where I think I went wrong. I didn't follow the recipe to a T, for example, it did not call for bok choy, but it did call for celery. I substituted. I think this was ok, bok choy has a stronger flavor just like celery. That's not where I went wrong, this is:

I had no idea what mirin was. It called for a tablespoon of mirin, so I wiki'd it. It's like a sweet rice wine. My brilliant Monday brain decided that rice wine vinegar would be a good substitute. So I think that the whole deal was supposed to be sweeter than it turned out. At the same time as I added the rice wine vinegar, I added the lemon juice, some olive oil, and the cooked quinoa. The mixture was good, it just wasn't deliciously amazing. The mixture was ready just a bit after the timer for the squash had gone, so time wise this was excellent. I stuffed those squash halves, and sprinked with slivered almonds:

This squash attempt was not an epic fail. It was totally edible and the balance of quinoa, squash and dried fruits was delightful. What was missing was a mixture of strong flavours, they all just kind of blended together in a big ol' "ho hum". Any suggestions on what to make this pop? If you say mirin, I ask that you include where to buy the stuff!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Make this.

It's yoga weekend! I've been pretty uninspired when it comes to cooking the last couple of weeks, mostly because I was sick and anything more complicated than adding dried fruit to yogurt really took all of my energy. But knowing that I would be doing lots of activity, I had to come up with something tasty to give me energy. I saw this recipe on (never home) maker for pesto quiche. What really caught my attention was the oatmeal crust, so simple yet so tasty.

3/4 cup oats
1/2 whole wheat flour
3 tbsps butter
3 tbsps almond milk
pinch of salt

Put the oats, flour and pinch of salt in the food processor and zap for a second to mix. Add the butter, I used earth balance for the first time, I had been reading about it for a while so decided to give it a shot, it's tasty! Blend the three ingredients blend together for a few seconds, until they ball together. Add the almond milk and blend a bit more. (never home) maker then rolled the dough out inside of plastic wrap. I just pressed it evenly into the dish before popping it into the 400 degree preheated oven for 10 minutes.

A photo of the ingredients for the crust:

4 eggs
1 onion, thinly sliced
4 tbsps pesto
1 tbsp grainy mustard
2 tbsps almond milk
2 tbsps parmesan cheese
ground pepper

This is slightly different from the recipe that I followed. The original called for 3 eggs and 3 egg whites. I know the egg whites are to make it fluffier, but I decided to just use 4 eggs instead. I also didn't use peppers, I really like onion quiche.

Fry the onion in olive oil until soft. While the onion is doing it's thing, in a bowl:
Beat the 4 eggs together
Add the 2 tbsps almond milk, 1 tbsp mustard, 3 tbsps of the pesto (save 1 tbsp for the crust), and the ground pepper. Whisk together until well blended.

Your crust is probably done by now. Remove from oven, and spread your last tbsp of pesto on the crust. Then sprinkle the parmesan cheese on it. Add your onions onto the crust, and finally your egg mixture on top. Reduce your oven temperature to 350 degree, and let the quiche bake for 30 minutes.

This is the result:
Your home will smell amazing. You'll cross your fingers that it tastes half as delicious as it smells. You won't be disappointed. You'll take it to whatever day long activity you have and your colleagues will wide-eyedly ask you what it is. And you'll tell them that they'll just have to start reading your blog!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Mac n' Cheese

Every parent has their favourite stories about their kids. One of my mum's is when I was 12, babysitting age, a mum asked me to prepare Kraft Dinner for her son. My response was I didn't know how, my mum never taught me. The only memory that I have of Kraft Dinner in our house is when I was 9, and it was overcooked. Mushy KD is not delicious.

There are some things that I love about Americans, one of them is their love of mac n' cheese, and how it seems that everyone's mum or granny makes the best. I was reading (never home) maker tonight and decided to try out their recipe for mac n' cheese. Here is what I did, a couple of small adjustments:

1 1/2 cups veggie corkscrew pasta
1 tbsp olive oil (I measured!)
1 tbsp whole wheat flour
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
the rest of the cheddar cheese that was in my fridge, a little over a cup
1/2 cup pureed garbanzo beans (pureed in my Magic Bullet, yes!)
1/4 tsp pimenton de la vera (paprika)
1/2 tsp pepper

Heat the oil and add the flour, stir until thick, then add the almond milk. Stir constantly for a couple of minutes until thick. Add the pumpkin, garbanzo beans and cheese, stir until all melted together, and add the spices.

Pimenton de la Vera is a smoky paprika that is popular in Spanish cooking. I bought some as my cousin suggested adding it to salads, it's pretty tasty! It's got a very distinct smoky flavour. Here is my melted mixture, looks cheesy!:

With the veggie corkscrew pasta:

This is pretty delicious stuff. I might reduce the amount of paprika that I add next time, as it is a strong flavour. I'm looking forward to this at lunch tomorrow though!

I was so pleased with the Organics Delivered trial, I signed up for 6 months. This weeks box contained: swiss chard, celery, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, garlic, grapefruit, pears, apples and mangoes! Come back and see what creations come out of this :)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

'Twas the season!

Oslo and I are recently back from a two week trip out east. We drove 1,253km from our door to my dad's. It took us 16 hours, between naps, pee stops and snowstorms. My friend P surprised me on the last day of work with a box of her homemade goodies. P had been bringing in samples of her Christmas baking to work throughout November and December, they were divine and I was thrilled to be presented with a whole entire box to myself. While Oslo is pictured here, he had no more than a taste of the banana bread.

Every Maritimer has a list of things that they get excited about when they go home. As I cooked a total of twice while at my dad's, I will tell you about the foods that I look forward to consuming in a gluttonous fashion. I'll warn you now, there is high content of offensive, artery clogging food coming up, unlike anything you'd normally see on here.

Pizza Delight
Pizza Delight is family dining, and while they serve up an amazing panzerotti, and the best 6" seafood pizza that keeps a Grampy coming back, I'm a fan of the lunch buffet. They have different salads like pasta, garden and caesar as well as lasagna, spagetti and a variety of pizzas. The kicker at this lunch buffet though, is the donair sauce. A donair is an east coast thing, one may be tempted to compare it to a kebab, though it's nothing like it. The Halifax Donair was invented in the 70s, by the owner of King of Donair it's the sauce that makes it unique, made with evaporated milk, it's both sweet and garlicky. At the Pizza Delight Lunch Buffet, they have a tray of individual portions so that you can dip your whole meal into it. My mouth is watering just thinking about it, and I'm lucky that this doesn't exist in Ottawa.
Seafood is an essential when you go home. You should really make your best effort to try it all when you're out there, as it's all delicious. This time I had fish cakes (the fish was salmon), prepared by S's mum when I went to visit them on The Island on Christmas Eve. Fish cakes are always delicious, and always have their unique twist added by the maker. I had three of the Christmas Eve beauties. I also had seafood chowder a couple of times over the holidays, again, always delicious. On Christmas Day, once we had arisen from our turkey induced comas and decided we could go for a snack, my dad prepared some bacon wrapped scallops. mMm.
If you've never been to the Maritimes and are planning on going, you should also consider the lobster roll. And the scallop burger. And the fried clams. Locals places will always offer up just the sandwich or the platter. A sandwich platter is manageable, but if you consider ordering the Seafood Platter for two, make sure you have a third person. Of fourth. You'll be surprised by the amount of clams, scallops and other fish that can be piled onto your platter.
Any of you who know me know that I am a fan of beer. This is hereditary, my dad and Grampy are both good consumers of this product. You're probably familiar with Alexander Keith's, that began it's export to Ontario about 10 years ago. This fine India Pale Ale is just the beginning of the delightful brews you'll find on the Atlantic Coast. One of my favourites is a Moosehead brew called Clancy's, it's a rich amber ale that is truly New Brunswick. If you're heading Moncton's way, you should also check out the Pumphouse Brewery. It's fairly young and delivers deliciously innovative beers. You can also find them in the NB alcool liquor stores. If you're in Halifax, you should consider checking out the Garrison Brewery. Also innovative, they offer up brewery tours as a group night out. Always delightful!
Dad's cooking
My dad doesn't have a love for vegetables as I do. He's probably where my definition of man vegetables started. Onions, potatoes, carrots. That's about as far as it goes in his kitchen. He was speechless when I walked in with my Organics Delivered box announcing that I brought all of my veggies with me. He does make a good Man Meal which I can digest for a few days at least. A reuben sandwich. A damn fine stuffing for the turkey. A mean meatloaf. Delicious ribs. More meat that I eat in all the time that I'm on my own really. This time he got all ethnic on me and served up burritos one night.
That's it for this edition of beloved Maritime food, I'm sure I'm forgetting others, feel free to leave a comment with your own favourites!
As I mentioned, I did take my veggies down with me. There were three squash that had to be dealt with, perfect soup making opportunity! My sister, Emily, lives not far from my dad. She's 4 years older than I am, and has cerebral palsy and epilepsy. We moved apart when we were teenagers, so she had never been subjected to my cooking. Until now!
My Sister's Soup:
3 small squash, cut in half and roasted for about 45 minutes to soften them up. Once they're soft, removed the skin.
While your squash is in the oven:
- chop 2 small onions and add to a pot with some olive oil to let soften
- chop up a carrot and a couple of small potatoes, add to the pot with the onions
When your squash is ready, add to the other veg in the pot with a litre and a half of water or so. Bring to a boil and let simmer on low heat for another 45 minutes or so, until the carrots are soft. Add a bit of salt and a tiny bit of seasoning, but no bouillon cubes. Zap into a puree and serve.
The squash that I used were really flavourful, and made a beautiful creamy soup with no additives. My sister is on a fat free diet, and while I didn't get a nutritional analysis done, I'm pretty sure this fit well into the rules of what she can eat. I was pleased that we agree on things worth gobbling up:
Ok, it looks like I've got a conniving look on my face, but I am a little sister. It's part of the role description ;)