Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Baked Mushroom Risotto

In a cooking class I took with Helen Rennie, we made this dish and I have made it at least five times since, probably more. I have made risotto many times the traditional stove top way and much prefer the way it comes out in the oven. I like the texture better. I also love mushrooms and this with the mushroom broth is quite good. Here is the link to Helen's post since she includes many other variations. I am partial to the mushroom version and want to have it easily accessible.

Helen's post on baked risotto:

Baked Mushroom Risotto

2 oz of dried porcini mushrooms
3 cups boiling water

1/3 cup chopped shallots (about 2 medium)
2 tblsp olive oil
1 cup Arborio or Carnaroli rice (do not subsitute with another kind of rice)
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 tblspns butter sliced into 4 pieces
2 tblspns freshly grated parmesan or asiago cheese
1 lb of sliced and sauteed mushrooms (see recipe just prior to this one)
salt to taste

1. In a heat proof bowl, pour the boiling water onto the dried poricini mushrooms and let sit for at least 30 minutes. While that is sitting chop the shallots, measure the rice and start chopping mushrooms.
2. Preheat the oven to 400. Once the porcini mushrooms have sat for 30 minutes, drain them using a sieve and a paper towel lining the sieve. Put the liquid into a pan bringing it to a simmer.
3. Place a heavy bottom 3 qt pot with an oven safe lid on the stovetop and set it on medium low heat. Add the olive oil, shallots, and a generous pinch of salt. Cook the shallots, stirring occasionally until soft and translucent, but not browned. This should take 8-10 minutes. If they start to brown turn the heat lower.
4. Salt the stock to taste. I use at least a couple of teaspoons.
5. Raise the heat to medium and add the rice to the shallots. Cook, stirring constantly for about 2 minutes until the grains are shiny and translucent around the edges.
6.  Add the wine and stir constantly until it is absorbed, about 2-3 minutes.
7. Add 2 1/4 cups the hot stock and stir well. Once it comes to a simmer, cover it and immediately transfer it to the oven.  Cook for 18 minutes. Reserve any leftover stock in case you want to add more at the end.
8. While the risotto bakes, cook the mushrooms. You can use the recipe posted prior to this one or cook them any way you like. I've also added small pieces of the mushrooms used for the stock near the end of sauteeing them.
9. Remove the risotto uncover (USE AN OVEN MITT), and taste. Depending on your preference and how al dente or liquidy you like it, you can mess around with it here. If you want to cook it more on the stove top, add more stock (or water if you ran out) over medium heat stirring constantly until you like the consistency. I usually like it the way it is right out of the oven. Sometimes I add a little more stock, but don't cook it anymore. I just want a little more liquid.
10. Stir in mushrooms, butter and cheese. Adjust the salt and stir.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Perfect Mushrooms

I have arrived! I know I have really made it in this world. Do you know how I know? Because I just joined a gym that provides towel service.  You have no idea how happy this makes me. It doesn't even matter to me that the towels are glorified facecloths and that I need to use five of them during my typical morning swim routine.  Not having to schlep a towel around town just makes for an overall better gym experience. While I've long made it a point to try to stay active and fit, I have not always made it a point to belong to a gym. It's just not my thing. I like to run and ride because I like to be outside. So to do these things indoors is not motivating to me and just walking into a gym can sometimes instantly envelope me in a feeling of sadness. But, I do like swimming indoors and I have to get a weight routine going for all those things that you have to think about in middle aged life. So for the last 3 years I've contemplated joining the Boston Sports Club in Waltham. They have a very nice facility and pool, but that comes with a hefty price tag. I couldn't justify it. But, this Fall as the weather started to turn cold, I knew I needed something to shake up my routine for the winter, so I just went ahead and did it.
The couple of other times I belonged to a gym with a pool, they did not have towel service, or any other kind of service for that matter. Forgot your shampoo or soap? Sorry! You'll have to go without that day. This place even has an iron & ironing board and mouthwash and hair dryers.  I go in the morning on my way to work, so all these little things make it a whole lot easier to do. I haven't forgotten my underwear or shoes yet, and I don't believe they have remedies for that. I'm sure one of these days I'm going to be walking around work in skirt with running sneakers on. I just hope that's a day that I don't have to leave my desk much.
Another thing that makes me happy recently are these mushrooms. I found them on Helen Rennie's blog, Beyond Salmon, after a class I took with her. It appears she got this recipe from Julia Child. The original use for these was for a baked risotto recipe that I will blog next, but now I eat them often as a side dish because they are so delicious.
Helen talks a bit on her post about washing mushrooms. I've always been very careful to just wash them with a damp cloth which can be pretty tedious. She used to do the same to be sure the mushrooms didn't absorb too much water but now she has changed her ways. It's ok to wash them as long as you dry them a bit after. Here is the link to her post. I still want to have the recipe on my own blog because it's easier for me to find, but definitely take a look at her post.

Sauteed Mushrooms

3 tblsp olive oil or butter or a combination of both
1 lb sliced mushrooms (baby bellas, cremini or portabella work good. White is also fine, but I found them more watery and didn't like as much)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tspn fresh lemon juice
2 tblspns madeira, port or red/white wine. (I've always used dry white wine, but I bet red would be great0

1.  Heat a heavy bottomed large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil/ butter and wait for it to heat up. Add mushrooms, wine. lemon juice and salt. Stir and cover. Let cook for about 8 minutes, until the mushrooms release all their juices.
2. Uncover. Raise heat and boil until all the liquid is evaporated.
3. Turn down heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally until mushrooms are browned. Taste and add more salt if necessary.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Rice and Beans with Coconut Milk

Last year I went to Philadelphia for dinner. My train ride was about 10 hours round trip and my total time in Philly was slightly longer than that. I had a friend who was going to be there for a visit from Colorado, so I figured that I might as well meet up with him while he was "in the neighborhood". I recall it was a very busy time at work and I had no business going away, but taking the train allowed me to work on my laptop so I could be productive and also get to take this little getaway. I've learned a few things about managing work stress in my days and one of those things is that I can't let work completely take over my life. In times when it gets super busy I used to forego almost all things fun so I could get my job done. But doesn't make for a very happy me. Now I'm more conscious of the benefits that taking a day off can have in the middle of a hectic period. It recharges me so I can be more productive and overall have a better attitude. Also, when I reflect back on my life, I'm not going to remember how busy I was and how much work I got done, but I will remember the time I met Claude for dinner in Philly. What I recall most distinctly about that trip was the rice we had at the sushi restaurant we went to for dinner. It was coconut rice and it was melt in your mouth delicious. I intended on trying to make it, but somehow have still not gotten around to it all these months later.

When I was messing around on the internet the other day looking for recipes, I came across Jamaican
Rice and Peas. It looked promising and reminded me of the Philly coconut rice so I decided to make it as part of that night's dinner. It was tasty and it will become a regular for me. It's nice to have some different rice and bean dishes to mix things up a bit since that is a staple dinner for me. From the comments I was reading, I gather that this isn't the traditional Jamaican rice and peas recipe, but rather a twist on that, so I don't feel comfortable calling it that. I'm not sure what else to call it, so I'm differentiating it by the use of coconut milk. If you don't like coconut, however, please don't be scared off. It's not a strong coconut flavor. The milk just sweetens it up a bit and makes it creamy and the mix of spices is fragrant, but not overpowering. Using the whole pepper gives it a very subtle flavor. Somewhere I read it described as the equivalent of using a bay leaf. I halved this recipe and still used the whole pepper and that was fine.

Rice and Beans with Coconut Milk

2 tblsp vegetable oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 cups basmati rice
1 tspn salt
1 tspn grated ginger
1 cup of water
1 cup veggie broth
2 cups coconut milk
1 15 oz can pinto beans, kidney beans or pigeon peas
2 tspns dried thyme
1 habanero pepper whole (or a Scotch Bonnet Pepper if you can find it)

1. Heat oil on medium high heat in a medium pot. Saute for about 4-5 minutes until the edges begin to brown.
2. Add rice and garlic and stir almost continuously for 2-3 minutes so it doesn't stick to the pan.
3. Add coconut milk, broth, water, ginger and salt and stir. Add the beans and habanero pepper and then sprinkle the thyme all over the top. Bring to a simmer, then turn heat to low and cover.
4. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until liquid is absorbed. Then leave covered for about 10 minutes. Fluff rice, remove pepper and serve. You can squeeze some lime juice on the top too to brighten it up a bit.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Sallie's Black Bean Salad

The few weeks leading up to my 2 week vacation were a bit intense and I found myself wondering if it was really worth it, also knowing that my return to work post-vacation would be similar. So as I sit here on the eve of said return, I want to record that it was, in fact, worth it. (Ask me again in 48 hours.) Two weeks vs just one week makes a really big difference in my ability to disconnect and settle into a different mode. My vacation was a great mix of everything I wanted it to be. I already mentioned in an earlier post I got to try new things. I had some time away and also some time at home to do things in the area. I visited with friends and family and met some new people. I got to linger, meander and ponder. I read a couple of books. I saw movies. I ate lots of good food (and some not so good for those of you who know the food poisoning story). I spent lots of time outdoors, biking, hiking, SUPing, walking, picnicking. I slept well. I cooked a bit. I wrote in my blog after a long hiatus.  Sure there were other things I wanted to get to and didn't, but that's OK. I feel satisfied and re-charged.

And while it feels like most of my summer whizzed by without much notice, I do have a few highlights I'd like to dwell on for a moment:
  • Attending the Robert Plant show at the Boston Pavilion with my cousin, one of her BFFs and one of my BFFs. The show way exceeded my expectations and it was great to be with people who enjoyed it as much as I did.
  • A four day bike trek in Massachusetts with Kathy discovering places in my home state I never knew existed with some other fun things to discover along the way (Turners Falls, Deerfield, Greenfield, many covered bridges, mischievous piggies, The People's Pint, cute country store with great sandwiches).
  • A super quick trip to Nantucket to visit Sallie and an exhilarating bike ride in the rain.
  • A day-trip to the Peabody Essex Museum, Gloucester and the area.

Sallie's black bean salad was a signature dish for Summer 2013 so it seems fitting to capture it here since I made it again tonight. It's cool and refreshing, perfect for hot, muggy, summer nights like tonight when you don't want to put the stove on. You could also add some feta if you were in the mood.

Black Bean Salad

Add more or less of the following according to your likes:

1 can black beans
1/2 bag frozen corn, defrosted
2-3 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 mango, peeled and diced
1 bunch scallions, chopped finely
1 avocado, diced
salt and pepper to taste
2 tspns cumin
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
The juice from one good sized lime

1. Mix all ingredients in a big bowl and blend well.

Pickled Eggs with Dill

Smith Rock, Oregon
You may have noticed that I like to have some variety in my life and to try new things here and there. I have my tried and true activities that I like to do consistently, but need a healthy infusion of new and different every so often to keep me going. As I reflect on my last two weeks of vacation and consider how enjoyable that time off was, a component of my "rating system" concerns whether I did anything new to me. Of course, I saw new places in Oregon that I hadn't been to before, Smith Rock being a highlight for me. But I did also try my hand at some new things: Stand up paddle boarding, riding a Brompton, and pickling eggs. My report is as follows.

Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) as I understand has been around for a while but just now catching on here with some vengeance in the Boston area. Most of the women I've mentioned it to have either tried it or expressed interest in trying it and most of the men seem confused by it and can't understand why one would want to do such a thing. "Why not just kayak?" seems to be a common question. This, however, is not based on a very large sampling, so I wouldn't consider this any kind of conclusive research. I've SUPed four times thus far, so I'm certainly not an expert, but I can tell you what I enjoy about it. First off, I'm kind of excited to have a water sport. I'm not a person who grew up spending a lot of time in the water, so when I wanted to try a tri in my 30s, I actually had to learn how to swim for real, not just doggy paddle style. Secondly, I find SUPing rhythmic and peaceful when doing it on the river. I know ocean SUPing will be a different experience and I look forward to seeing what that is like. Compared to kayaking, I like having my whole body free, and being able to use the lower half of my body as well. I will sometimes kneel on the board or lie down just to feel something different, or stop and do a couple of yoga poses, or jump in the water when it gets hot. Last, I also like that SUPing works my core and upper body since cycling and running is mostly focused on legs.

As for riding a Brompton, you could argue that it's not really new, since it is riding a bike and I have done that plenty of times before, but since I had never even so much as taken Todd's for a short spin, I felt a little nervous as we picked up our rented fold up bikes and got ready to head to Sunday Parkways in Portland. I still haven't gotten the hang of the folding and unfolding process and needed to think very carefully as I did it. And as we headed over to ride up and then down Mt. Tabor I was feeling nervous about how it would be ascending and descending on those little wheels. But, all was well and it was a fun and comfortable bike to ride around the city on. I took it to yoga one day and was extremely impressed with myself for getting there and back without getting lost. Portland is such a great city to ride a bike around with clear markings for where bikes should be at any point where it might otherwise get confusing.

And then, yesterday, I made an attempt at pickling eggs. I've never pickled or canned anything before but have always loved things prepared this way. When Kathy and I were on our 4 day bike trek via a Mass Bike tour a few weeks ago, we ate one night at a place called The People's Pint in Greenfield, MA. I loved everything about this place and will definitely make a trip back there. They had pickled eggs as a snack you could buy at the bar and I learned that this was, for a long time, a popular pub food. ? How did I get to this age and never eat a pickled egg? Not that I can remember, anyway. So, when we got back from Portland, I went straight to Tags Hardware, bought a case of pint sized Ball jars, looked up some recipes and boiled a dozen eggs. The hardest part is peeling the eggs, which I am exceedingly bad at, despite the many tips that have been given to me. I think I just may need to practice. The eggs need to pickle for at least a week and so I can't yet give you an accurate report, but I did want to record the recipe before I forget what I did. I just tried one even though it's only been 24 hours (I used the excuse that I was testing it so I could write this post, but really I'm just impatient.) So far it tastes like a hard boiled egg with just a hint of flavor, but at least it wasn't offensive. I'm looking forward to next Sunday and hoping for some good results. There are so many variations of ways to flavor them and if this goes well, next I will do some green beans.

Pickled Eggs with Dill

1 dozen hard boiled eggs, peeled
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1/2 cup water
4 tspns salt
3 tblspns chopped fresh dill
a couple of shakes red hot chili pepper
1/4 tspn white pepper
1/2 tspn mustard seed
pinch of sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tspn dried onion flakes

1. Put all the pickling ingredients in a pan, bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes.
2. Put eggs in jar(s), pour hot liquid over them. Screw on caps and refrigerate immediately.
3. Pickle for 1-2 weeks, then eat!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Corn Cob Stock

We just got back last night from a ten day trip to Oregon, and after lots of eating out, I am ready to cook. I've got some granola baking in the oven now and I'm heading to the Belmont farmers market shortly. I've started to make corn chowder a bit of an end of summer tradition over the last few years and I figure I may as well continue it. The last time I made it, I got the idea somewhere to make the broth from corn cobs. I thought this made a difference and would like to try it again. I have taken a couple of cooking classes with Helen Rennie (This is her: http://www.beyondsalmon.com/). In the last class I took with her, we made a baked risotto, and one thing
that was imprinted into my cooking mind forever was: DON'T USED BOXED BROTH. I'm not sure if she meant this just in the context of risotto, but I doubt it and am taking her message to heart. She said for risotto, you're better off using water than boxed broth. The flavor results will be better. This isn't to say I will never used boxed veggie broth again, but I will consider my alternatives for sure.
There are, of course, different variations of corn cob stock recipes out there, but I used the most basic last time (corn cobs and water) and will do the same this time.

The recipe I use for the chowder calls for 6 ears of corn and 6 cups of stock, so I'll make the broth based on that. If I were making broth just to have on hand, I may make the ratios a little different.

Corn Cob Broth
6 ears of corn

1.  Shuck the corn, slice all the kernels off the cobs and set the kernels aside.
2.  In a large stockpot, cover the cobs with water (break the cobs in half if you have to in order to fit them) and bring to a boil.
3. Once at a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer covered for about 45 minutes to an hour, until the broth has a nice "corny" flavor.
4. Remove cobs and discard. If you want a more concentrated broth, you could continue to simmer the broth without the cobs.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Sauteed Kale with Balsamic

She is beginning to feel like a house guest that has long overstayed her welcome. She has grown ever so tiresome. The sight of her dirt-fringed snow on my lawn, once a bright and welcome sight, now looks dank against a dull grey sky. It makes me want to retreat back inside.  The sound of the meteorologist's voice telling me over and over again that there is going to be yet another weekend storm is grating on my nerves, like the screech of an MBTA green line car coming to a halt.  My wool coat suddenly feels like a ball and chain. One day I don't really notice it and the next it feels as if it weighs 50 pounds and I can hardly bear the weight of it as I head off to work in the morning. These are the telltale signs when I've become: SICK OF WINTER.
Part of me wants to carry on to you about all the inconveniences this rude season has begun to bestow upon me as of late. But I won't do that. Instead, I am going to challenge myself to list at least five things I appreciate about Ms. Winter. If I don't change my attitude, it's only going to make the next month and a half less enjoyable than it could be. I don't like to live my life waiting to get to a time or a place (ex. vacation, retirement, summer), because if I do, I could be missing out on something along the way. I've long liked the line by John Lennon, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans".
So here I go, attempting to embrace what I have in this time and place. Five great things about winter, in no particular order:
  1. The birds that live in the evergreen shrub in front of my porch. They are around in summer too, but they tend to hug in tight to the shrub and are less apt to fly away when I come outside. They chirp throughout the day and it makes me smile.
  2. Zuree, of course. She loves the snow and the cold. We recently went out for our night walk during the peak of a blizzard and walked through the cemetery behind our house with over a foot of snow, into the powerful winds and the blinding snow. At one point I looked back to see a 40 pound snowbeast walking behind me. Her face was completely snow covered and we could hardly see where we were going, but she was practically trotting along as if nothing was happening. She was perfectly content being outside.
  3. Soup. It's just not as enjoyable in warm seasons.
  4. The Somerville winter farmers market. They have cider donuts if you get there early enough. There's also a musician playing fun cover tunes.
  5. Snowshoeing. I haven't done it much this year, but will try to take advantage of the remaining snow.
I did it! And, it wasn't even hard. I feel much better now. Thank you. I've probably said this same thing before, and even written about it. And, if that's the case, at least I'm consistent.

Birdie prints on my porch
In celebration, I am going to go make some kale. I made it this way the other night and liked it. This recipe is T-friendly. I think I have figured out that I like lacinato kale the best. I believe lacinato is synonymous with black kale and dinosaur kale. Don't quote me on that, but it appears that way on Wikipedia. It's also possible that I just liked the texture of the kale as a result of cooking it this way. So to really be sure, I'd need to conduct a test kitchen and cook some curly kale and lacinato kale side by side using the same method and compare the results. And, while this does sound fun. I don't really have the time for such a luxury. I will be traveling a bunch for business in the coming weeks and will be eating out lots. So, any time I get to cook for myself will be coveted and much appreciated.

This is also a great way to cook broccoli.

Sauteed Kale with Balsamic
1 large bunch of kale, stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
1 tblspn olive oil
1/2 tspn red hot chili flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced or sliced
1/4 cup veggie broth
2 tblspns balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Heat the oil in a large sautee pan over medium heat. Add the chili flakes and let them sizzle for a moment. Add the garlic and cook for a minute, but do not brown.
2.  Add kale and then toss it around in the oil mixture.
3.  Add broth. Once to a boil. lower heat, cover and let the kale cook until most of the broth is absorbed, about 5 minutes.
4. Remove cover and add salt and pepper to taste. Turn off heat and add vinegar.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Kale and Chickpea Soup

Spice Blend from Sarasota
I may have mentioned that as a personal goal this year, I decided to get a yoga teaching certification. The first level of certification is a 200 hour program. As of this evening, I hit a milestone and have made it to the halfway point. I now have 100 hours of training under my belt! I am excited to have reached this point, but truthfully, it's not all about getting to the end. I'm not even sure if I'll teach when I'm done. Mainly I wanted to deepen my own practice and to take on a challenge that would engage me both mentally and physically. This process has turned out to be exactly what I wanted it to be. I am amongst a great group of fellow yogis, learning about asanas, alignment, Sanskrit, anatomy, the history and philosophy of yoga, and about myself. We have a great blend of teachers with many years of experience to guide us along. I look forward to the next 5 months and the lasting effects this experience is likely to have on my life.
Helps to digest beans
As if I wasn't already exhilarated enough when I got home, I then put a concoction of ingredients into a soup pot, cooked it for less than 30 minutes and was rewarded with a tasty meal. There is something very satisfying about doing this. I often follow recipes or at least look at recipes for inspiration. So, when I can put together a variety of spices, veggies, grains and beans that work well together and it works, I get pretty jazzed.
I wouldn't recommend that you run to your kitchen and make this. It's not THAT good, but I did want to record it for myself. I never measured any of the spices, so I'll just take my best guess. Speaking of the spices, I should mention something about those. I used two spices I recently tried from Penzey's. One is called Ajwain. On the label it states that "Ajwain is especially useful in vegetarian lentil and bean dishes, partly as a flavoring, partly because ajawain has the ability to temper the effects of a legume based diet." I thought they stated that very nicely. I found myself wondering how long it took them to come up with that wording and whether there were any chuckles in the office that day as they came up with other possible ways of communicating this message. I will say that I have tried it a few times and have found their claim to be accurate, and that's all I'm saying about it. The other ingredient I used from Penzey's was Toasted granulated onion. It smelled so good in the store I had to buy some. I've found it pretty useful in marinades, salad dressings and soups.
I also decided to use a dried mushroom and spice blend I bought last year in Sarasota that's been sitting on my counter untouched, just looking for an opportunity to liven up a meal. I liked it and could see myself adding it to other soups, and would also like to come up with some other uses for it.

Kale and Chickpea Soup
1 tblspn olive oil
1 carrot, sliced or diced, depending on thickness
1 small or half a medium onion, diced
4 cups of veggie broth
1 small russet potato, diced
1 tblsn nutritional yeast
1 tspn toasted granulated onion
1 tspn ajwain
1 tblspn mushroom paradise blend
2 cups loosely packed chopped kale
1/3 to 1/2 can of chickpeas
1 tspn white wine vinegar
Bragg's liquid aminos to taste
1 cup cooked quinoa

1.  In a soup pot, over medium heat, sautee onion and carrot for about 5 minutes.
2. Add broth, potato, nutritional yeast, granulated onion, ajwain, mushroom blend. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
3. Add, kale, chickpeas, salt and pepper if you want, and vinegar. Let cook about 10 more minutes to wilt kale.
4. Serve over quinoa. This waters down the flavor a bit. I might cook the quinoa in the broth for a bit next time or add more seasoning.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Lemon Tahini Dressing

Jar of tahini dressing
Most days, I eat a salad for lunch, but when the weather gets cold, I find my body reacts better to warm foods. A few winters ago I was having some digestion issues. My doctor recommended I stopped eating salads for a while and instead have some lightly steamed veggies. This did the trick, so from then on I've tried to give up lunchtime meals of salad for the winter months. This shouldn't be that hard to do since there are so many options - soups, veggies and grains, etc., but I struggle with it a bit since I get into a good routine of preparing salads. I also keep a stock salad dressing ingredients in my desk drawer. I did finally purchase a couple of different containers for transporting soup to work. This helps a lot because in the past, I've had several messes by the time I got to the office, or just didn't bring soup because I was too nervous about it.

Recently for lunch I brought some quinoa with steamed veggies and lemon pepper tofu. I then squeezed lemon all over the top and sprinkled it with sesame seeds. It was fine, but was lacking some oomph. Then, as if my my food prayers were being directly answered Meaux Marie posted this lemon tahini dressing that was exactly the thing I was looking for. I had it this week over quinoa, steamed broccoli and carrots, and then sprinkled some dried cranberries on it. This makes for a tasty and satisfying lunch. Plus, the dressing can't be easier to make. I used a mason jar to make it in and then left the jar of it at work so I had a few days worth of lunches. I'm going to try baking some tofu in it and see how that goes. I'll report back. If you want Meaux's full recipe, here's the link to her blog: http://thevegandelicious.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/quinoasteamed-veggies-with-lemon-tahini-sauce/#comment-248

Lemon Tahini Dressing
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tspns tamari soy sauce
4 tblsns tahini
juice from one lemon (or more to taste)

1.  In a jar add all the ingredients and shake vigorously.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Spinach Parmesan Balls

Spinach balls go well with hot sauce
My friend, Sallie, made these for a gathering she had recently. I found them to be good party snacking food because of their size and texture. They are tasty and they don't crumble all over the place when you bite into them. You can also get creative with dipping sauces. I was eager to try them out, so I brought them to a football watching gathering last night. We poked around in the fridge for something good to accompany them and ended up just mixing up a couple of different hot sauces and Voila! it was perfect. We also experimented with dunking them in the Cashew Lemon Dip I brought (see earlier post). I didn't think that combo was a match made in heaven, but it was clear that something lemony would go really well with these also. A lemon tahini dip would be quite nice I think.
One word of caution: don't be fooled by the fact that they have spinach in them. Spinach doesn't necessarily equate to healthy when the spinach is rolled up in cheese, butter, eggs and bread crumbs! I was taken aback a little when I noticed how much butter was in the mix. At first I thought it said 1/4 of a cup, but then realized when I went to go make them that it was 3/4 of a cup! I ended up using Earth Balance vegan "butter".  It worked fine and made me feel slightly better about eating them.
Sallie made some variations on the original recipe she found on Food.com and then I made a tiny bit of a variation from hers, so here is the final outcome.

Spinach Parmesan Balls
2 10 oz boxes frozen spinach, thawed and drained well
3/4 cup earth balance (or unsalted butter)
1 small red onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
4 eggs
1/2 tspn paprika
1/2 tspn of ground chipolte pepper (alternatively use 1 tspn of smoked paprika in place of the paprika and chipolte)
1/2 tspn salt
1/4 tspn pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. Sautee the onion and garlic in a little of the butter on medium low heat for about five minutes. Add the paprika and chipolte. Cook for another minute or so, then add the rest of the butter until it is melted.
3. Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix all the other ingredients. Then add onion butter mixture.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the mixture into balls the size of a walnut. I ended up getting about 35 of them.
5. Bake for 15 minutes, then take them out, flip each of them over and bake another 15 minutes. The original recipe called for 20 minutes in the oven without turning them, and that might be enough for you, but I wanted them browned on both sides.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Cashew Lemon Dip

If you've had your fill of hummus and/or you're going to a party with vegans, this is a great recipe to have on hand. You need to have a little foresight, however, because the cashews need to be soaked for 12-24 hours ahead of time. Although, my friend who gave me the recipe said she has skipped that step, added some water and it's been fine. I served this with some gluten free crackers at a party and that satisfied needs for both dairy and gluten free folks.
This was originally called Creamy Cashew Cheese, but I don't think that represents it that well. The nutritional yeast does give it a hint of a cheesy flavor,  but I almost think it's a turn-off calling it that. Maybe cashew and cheese don't go that well together? There's probably something better to call it, but I'm going with dip for now.
Once you get the base recipe you can mess with adding things in it. I put chives in it the last time I made it. I have some ground chipolte pepper and I'm thinking of trying some of that to give it a smoky flavor.

Cashew Lemon Dip
2 cups raw unsalted cashews, soaked for 2 hours
2 tblsp nutritional yeast
1 tblsp lemon juice (I added quite a bit more)
2 tsp white balsamic vinegar (I think I used cider vinegar)
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp granulated onion powder
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp white pepper

1.  Place cashews in food processor. Process about 1 minute until rough paste forms.
2. Add the water and remaining ingredients. Process 3-5 minutes, until smooth.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Thai Peanut Sauce

A postcard from the MFA exhibit
Today I saw an exhibit at the Boston MFA. It showcased postcards and the important role they played in communicating and also in advertising in the early 1900s. It was a great collection and I highly recommend it.  It's fun from a graphic design and also a historical point of view. There's also a great looking show at the ICA currently: Art, Love and Politics in the 80s, and the Peabody Essex Museum has a hat exhibit going on that looks fun. So if you're looking for something to do on a winter weekend, there you go.
On a completely unrelated side note, I went to a Three Kings Party last night that included a Yankee Swap. One of the gifts was a pair of squirrel underwear. Yes, that's right. It was a very popular gift in the game. I have some things to say about this, but I think I'll just leave it alone for now. 
I've been meaning to post this recipe for Thai Peanut Sauce for some time now, and I plan to make it this week, so it reminded me. I've tried several different recipes for Thai Peanut sauce. This particular one was given to me by my friend Kathy. I've had it a few times and thought it was very good, so I think I'll stick with it. I typically use this for baking tofu, and/or putting it over soba noodles with stir-fried veggies. Kathy has stir-fried veggies in the sauce and then put them in tortillas for roll-ups, as another idea.

Thai Peanut Sauce
1/4 cup honey
1//4 cup (4 tblsp) smooth peanut butter
3 tblsp soy sauce
2 tblsp rice vinegar
2 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tblsp sesame oil
2 tspn fresh minced garlic (2 small or 1 large clove)
1 tblsp minced fresh ginger
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Stir all together in a small bowl. That's it!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Baked Lentil and Brown Rice Casserole

I think it's fair to say that I've tried lots of things thus far in my life, but it's also true that there are so, SO many more things yet for me to experience. For instance, I have never poached an egg. This isn't the kind of meaningful or awe-inspiring activity I would add to my bucket list, of course, but I do feel motivated to try it in the near future.
Great cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi
The impetus of this desire is coming from two sources. One is the lovely new cookbook a friend gave me for Christmas. It's called Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. The pictures alone are worth owning it for. There is a recipe for Mushroom Ragout with Poached Duck Egg that is calling my name and I anticipate this to be the first recipe I will attempt from this collection. Then, this past weekend, I had brunch with my cookbook giving friend at the Beehive in Boston's South End. I adore this place. The downstairs is brick walled and funky with live jazz or blues music playing often. I remember the first time I walked downstairs, I felt like I had accidentally stepped out of Boston and into Manhattan. Somebody from Manhattan would likely disagree with me and tell me I have no idea what I'm talking about, and this is likely true. All I'm saying is that this place has some serious character. Anyhow, Sallie ordered one of their signature dishes, Eggs Shakshuka, and I panicked when the waiter came over because I wasn't ready, so ordered an omelet. When our meals were delivered, I immediately had poached egg envy.  So I either need to get myself back to The Beehive soon, or learn to poach an egg for myself.
 I'm also intrigued by trying an egg from a fowl other than chickens. It goes without saying that whatever egg I eat is derived from feathery friend is living a good life roaming the range by day, sleeping in a soft bed at night, eating real food not seeped in antibiotics and willingly hands its eggs over to the farmer as payment for its room and board. I've started going to the Winter Farmers Market in Somerville on Saturdays. They do have eggs, but I'm not sure if they only ever have chicken eggs, but I plan to find out.
So, I will get back to you on how egg poaching goes. In the meantime, I have lots of recipes I need to post from dishes I tried over the holidays. This one is not picture worthy because it's not necessarily visually appetizing. It is nothing to get excited over, but it's a good one to have around. It's a basic, nutritious and extremely easy casserole. If you're in the mood for a casserole, but you're not in the mood for several steps, this is what you need to make. Nothing has to be cooked prior to adding it in. The ingredients are just mixed up in the baking pan and tossed in the oven.  It takes a long time to cook which is the trade-off, but you hardly have to tend to it at all.
It would be great with a green veggie on the side. It also lends itself well to experimenting to suit your tastes. I will provide you with the basic recipe which has many Internet sources, and you can play with it.

Baked Lentil and Brown Rice Casserole
3 cups veggie broth
3/4 cup uncooked lentils, sorted and rinsed (I tried a small black variety that I preferred over the green ones)
1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
1 small onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced (or high quality garlic powder)
1 tspn (at least) Italian seasoning and/or whatever other spices seem like a good idea to you (the 2nd time I made this I used a tblspn cumin and a couple tspns of oregano and liked this blend better)
salt and pepper to taste
shredded cheese, optional
chopped avocado, optional (when using cumin blend)

1. Pre-heat oven to 325
2. Mix all ingredients in a 2 qt casserole or 11X7 baking dish
3. Cover with foil and bake for at least an hour or until all water is absorbed. I check it after an hour, but have found it typically needs at least another 20 minutes.
4. If using cheese, add now and bake for another 10 minutes until melted. When I made the cumin blend, I did not bake cheese on the top, but topped it with chopped avocado and thought that was a good combo.