Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mashed Potato Pancakes

I know I'm probably starting to sound like some kind of mashed potato freak because I talk about them quite a lot. I promise I'll stop after this, but I figure you might have some extra mashed potatoes laying around your fridge after Thanksgiving and need something to do with them. Last night I made some pancakes with my leftovers. They were tasty and went well paired up with a yummy salad (greens, toasted walnuts, cranberries, red onion and a balsamic vinaigrette) and some leftover soup. I had some corn in the same container, so I mixed it right into the pancakes. You could also make some of the gravy from yesterday's entry to pour on top.

Mashed Potato Pancakes
2 cups cold mashed potatoes
1 egg slightly beaten
1/4 c butter or vegan margarine
1/2 c flour for dredging
salt and pepper to taste
1 small onion minced (optional)

1. Mix the potatoes, onion and egg together and form into 6 lean patties or 4 fatter ones. (I didn't include the onion. I was afraid it wouldn't cook enough)
2. Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Dredge the patties on both sides in the flour.
3. Sautee in the pan, browning both sides and making sure the patties are heated through.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Mushroom Gravy

Even when I did eat meat, I don't recall liking gravy all that much. It just never did much for me. Maybe it was just that I so enjoyed my mashed potatoes, I didn't feel the need to smother them with anything. I suppose if you grew up eating fake mashed potatoes (the kind that come in a box as little flakes that you rehydrate) you would certainly need to put something on them to make them taste good. In which case, the potatoes just become a vehicle for eating gravy.

I remember watching my grandmother making the gravy in the pan, whisking it all around in a frenzied manner. I didn't know then what all the action was about, but I now realized she was trying to work all the lumps out of the flour. If you're serving dinner to my cousin's husband, you don't even need to go to all the trouble to make gravy, because his gravy of choice is ketchup. I often watch in awe as Derven takes the bottle of ketchup and pours it all over the entire Thanksgiving dinner his wife just took all day to prepare. Now that I think of it, maybe he uses gravy AND ketchup. I'll have to pay more attention next time. But, hey, to each his own. I enjoy a good squirt of ketchup on many things as well, and sometimes plan a meal just as an excuse to eat some ketchup. I'm not knocking him, just making an observation is all.

I've tried a few vegetarian gravies before, a couple out of a package and a couple made from scratch. The last time I had the packaged kind, I didn't like it at all. It tasted very artificial. When I was planning my Thanksgiving dinner, I got the idea that I should include gravy just because it seemed like the right thing to do. So, I went searching for a recipe, and found this one. I liked it and it was easy to make. I would definitely use it again. I think it would be a nice complement to the vegetarian shepherd's pie I make. I should mention that even Barry liked it. This is significant because Barry is a carnivore AND a picky eater, so if he likes something, I know I've got a winner!

This Thanksgiving has left me with a newly found appreciation for gravy, and will be looking for some more opportunities to utilize it. Maybe if I'm feeling really adventurous, I'll even try mixing gravy and ketchup!

Vegetarian Mushroom Gravy
3/4 cup white or button mushrooms, chopped small
1 small yellow onion, minced
1/4 cup vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance)
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth (I use Imagine No Chicken broth - it's not tomato based)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tspn each of sage, thyme and marjoram
salt and pepper to taste (it's pretty salty already, so salt is probably not necessary)

1. In a large skillet, melt the margarine and add onion and mushrooms, Sautee for just a minute or two over high heat.
2. Reduce heat to medium and add veggie broth and soy sauce. Slowly add flour, stirring well to combine and prevent lumps from forming. Bring to a simmer or a low boil, then reduce heat.
3. Add seasoning, stirring consistently. Allow to cook 8-10 minutes, stirring regularly until gravy thickens.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

If butternut squash wasn't such a darn pain to peel, I'd probably cook with it more often. I know, I know, I can buy it already cut and peeled at the store. But, I just don't feel right about that. And, isn't it less fresh that way? Maybe there's actually a better way to peel it that I don't know about. I usually just use a potato peeler to take the skin off, and I peel away until I can see orange. It's also sometimes a Herculean effort to cut the squash into chunks, but maybe my knives just need to be sharpened.
But, it's worth the effort. These odd shaped winter squashes yield some pretty tasty meals. Tonight I tried a curried butternut squash soup. I originally thought of roasting it, but that takes more time. Plus, I had been told that last year's cyclocross race in Northampton (where I spent this whole past weekend) had Curried Butternut Squash Soup, so I was disappointed they didn't have it this year, and I had to settle for a mediocre veggie chili. So, I figured I'd just have to make my own curried squash soup.
I'll give you the recipe as is. I had cut back on the apples thinking it might be too much, but I actually think it would have been o.k., and it might give the soup a thicker consistency than mine had.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
1 cup chopped
4 cloves
garlic, minced
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Red (cayenne) pepper to taste
2 1/2 pounds
butternut squash, peeled, seeded, halved lengthwise, and sliced thin
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
3 cups water
1 pound tart
apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large soup pot over medium heat, heat olive or vegetable oil. Add onion and saute until golden brown.

2. Add garlic, curry powder, cumin, and cayenne pepper; cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds.

3. Add squash, vegetable or chicken broth, water, and apples. Bring liquid to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, 25 minutes or until squash is tender. Remove from heat and cool 15 to 20 minutes.

4. Puree mixture in a blender or food processor, in batches, and transfer back into soup pot. Season with salt and pepper.