Sunday, March 3, 2013

Just Veggies

One of my main goals when cooking is to use fresh ingredients. Sometimes, cheating is necessary. There are nights that a frozen pizza is just what the doctor ordered. However, tonight was all about the pure... the pure goodness of vegetables. There are few vegetables that I don't like... I think that list includes beets and turnips...but that might just be because I haven't found the right vessel for them yet. Tonight's meal, er, I mean, feast was based solely on veggies!

First... I made my recent obsession. Salad.

I have been eating salad for lunch! For dinner! And even incorporated some salad into breakfast. (Fruit smoothie with spinach)

Anyway, dinner...

Spring mix lettuces (baby romaine, arugula, spinach and some other neat colorful leafy things.) And my homemade dressing. This might be one thing I am most proud of. I can't take total credit, my mother taught me to make it... but I feel like my dressing is spectacular. It is one of those recipes I eyeball... the "eh looks right" method works swimmingly here.
Olive Oil (a good amount)
Balsamic Vinegar (some)
Fresh Garlic (a clove)
Fresh Shallot (a few slices)
Stone Ground Mustard (a dollop)
Honey (a squirt)
Black Pepper (many grinds)
Salt (a coupTle pinches)
Mix well with a fork. Pour over baby lettuces, blue cheese and baby tomatoes.
Add a few croutons. (Croutons would be some of those not-so-fresh, store bought foods that I love... I know.. I could make my own. Maybe next week)

The "meat" of this course was simple. Roasted veggies.
Asparagus
Mushrooms
Brussel Sprouts
(the above were my favorites, the below were necessary)
Green Pepper
Red Pepper
Carrot
Onion
Garlic
Lots of salt and pepper! Drizzle with olive oil.
Roast for 25 - 30 minutes at 400.

The attached picture was my feast for the night. It was magical. Would make this again, could eat this every night. Tastes fresh and is yummy.



Monday, February 25, 2013

My favorites.

Some of my favorite kitchen tools are the most basic. In my humble opinion - a good wooden spoon can make any meal taste better. And, not all spoons are created equal. The wooden spoon has to fit your hand. This comes to down to personal preference. Too, it cannot be too heavy or it just gets in the way. I have a favorite. I think I use it whenever I cook. Not sure where it came from... on the handle I can still make out the words "The Pampered Chef..."

This spoon has made some yummy meals. Specifically... some delish soups. Winter brings real soup weather. Cold, windy and snowy days make me crave the ability to slop up some soup.  Note: When eating soup I find it is best to keep the apron on, it acts as an adult bib and you look stylish! 

So far this winter... I have made...
1. Vegetarian Chili
2. Spicy Corn Chowder
3. Potato/Leek Soup
4. Creamy Sweet Potato Soup
5. Curry Vegetable Soup
6. Pea/Basil - green soup!

1. Chili is one of my favorite things to make! When I ate meat - and now as a veg - it remains at the top of my list. My favorite way to cook is to eye ball and say "eh looks right to me!" and nothing is better suited to this style of cooking than a big pot of chili. For vegetarian chili I use... Trader Joe's vegetarian chili beans, a can of kidney beans, lots of peppers (green, red, yellow, orange and jalepeno!) and onion.  Next, dump some cans of tomato products - maybe some crushed tomatoes, a can of sauce, and some diced tomatoes - why not! Add gobs of Penzey's hot chili powder and simmer. The longer the better.

2. Spicy Corn Chowder - pictures included in this post! Borrowed the basis for this recipe from the BrokeAss Gourmet. I spiced it up a lot with jalepeno. I mean... this was very spicy. It was delicious topped with cilantro and sour cream. Served with a side of blackbean/corn cakes.

3. Potato Leek Soup. This was a made up recipe...I used the chili method "eh looks right to me!" If I were to open a restaurant, I would tweak and perfect this recipe and it would appear on the menu. I would want a better name...I like the name Dirty Potato Soup. Why? Because it grabs your attention and it has lots of stuff in it that makes it look 'dirty'.

First, I chopped 2 large, okay huge, russet potatoes (skins on), some red and green pepper and yellow sweet onion. I sauteed these together in a big glob of butter for some time. Maybe enough time to drink a beer? Then, I added a lot of vegetable stock (didn't measure, but it was enough to cover the potato/onion/pepper mix). I cooked until the potatoes were tender. Next, I added half a block of cream cheese and a small container of heavy whipping cream - and SO MUCH FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER. Photos attached of this meal!

I made this soup yesterday after watching the best of SNL - Dana Carvey - the fresh pepper sketch must have been on my mind...

4. Creamy Sweet Potato Soup.
Say that again.
Creamy... Sweet Potato... Soup.
Doesn't it just sound wonderful? It was. I made this mostly because I wanted to use my new immersion blender. (Another favorite kitchen toy!) There might have been a recipe at some point for this soup... but I can't remember. My recipe went like this ... 
Make homemade vegetable stock. Why? Because it needed to be gluten free - and some of my favorite things in life are gluten free!
Cook sweet potatoes in homemade vegetable stock. Add some leeks. Add some half and half. Then...IMMERSE! Blend. Serve. Eat. Repeat.

5. Curry Vegetable Soup was an accident. I made the homemade (gluten free) vegetable stock and had all these beautiful cooked vegetables left over. So...I added some curry paste and Penzey's Hot Curry Powder, Cumin, and Tandoori seasonings and immersion blendered it all together. YUM. Happy accidents in the kitchen are my favorite kinds of kitchen accidents.

6. Green Soup! Another inspiration from the Brokeass Gourmet. This recipe was... some vegetable stock. A bag of frozen peas. Some green onions. Fresh basil. Fresh parm. Cook. Blend. Top. Serve. Photo does it full justice! The happy accident in this recipe was when making the parmesan bread - a lot of parmesan ended up on the pan... and baked into this little thin crispy crusts of crunchy cheese.

Green soup - topped with parm, basil, and green onion... served in goblets - because... why not?

Potato Leek Soup with beer bread

Creamy Sweet Potato Soup -- made you say it again! It is still delicious. 


This is the Spicy Corn Chowder - seen here being served as a left over lunch with a veggie sandwich and salad. The soup paired nicely with the greens and sandwich because of its intense heat. 

I have not forgotten you!

Hello, hello!

While it has been awhile since I blogged about my vegetarian food adventures... I have not stopped playing in the kitchen. The kitchen, like my life, is as busy as ever and the vegetarian adventures are, as expected, exciting - challenging - and delicious.

I plan to post lots of photos tonight. Catching you up to all of the fantastic things my stomach has enjoyed. Keep in mind...these delicious dishes were made over a period of time... not all this evening!

Let's start with tonights dinner.

I love Italian food.

Somewhere - in my German, Lithuanian, Latvian and Danish roots I think there must have been an Italian. If it involves tomato, garlic and parmesan it is most likely one of my favorite foods. (Except tomato soup... can't stand it.)

Part of the reason the blog posts have become slimmer (just like me - down 10 pounds since cutting out meat and eating lots of fresh fruit and veggies!) is because of my hectic work schedule. I know... I am not alone in this. And hell, I don't have anyone else to be responsible for...no wife or children that need attention... just a roommate that enjoys the food. So, the opportunity to cook is one I cherish.

I look for meals that require some effort - I do enjoy being in the kitchen after all - but meals that don't require the entire array of kitchen tools.

Tonight's dinner was no exception. I got to cook for me. I am far more likely to cook dangerously and try new things in the kitchen when I know I am the only one that might have to suffer if they are no good. I am calling tonight's dinner... Weekday Ravioli Lasagna. The ease of the dish came from a few very lucky things... I had mariana sauce already made in the freezer - ready to be used. I bought some store bought ravioli... now just to combine.

First,  I cooked some fresh spinach with a TON of garlic and shallot. I love the way the fresh spinach cooks down to nothing. It is so fun to start with a full pan of bright green spinach and end with just a few spoonfuls of wilted deliciousness.

Okay, okay, first I had to thaw the mariana sauce. My famous (within my apartment) mariana sauce was a brick when I got home because of course I didn't think to take it out of the freezer this morning... The dinner idea hit me at about 9:30am when I got the morning munchies...

Next, I cooked the packaged ravioli. You can't hate me for using some Trader Joe's products. The package said to cook for 8-10 minutes. I did about 5... I knew they would continue to cook in the oven... lasagna... remember?

For a period of time my stove top looked like I was preparing a feast instead of a meal for one. (Feast is such a better word than meal, am I right?)

Finally it was time to assemble... I mixed the spinach in with some ricotta cheese. YUM.

1. Sauce.
2. Place a few ravioli.
3. Add the ricotta/spinach mixture

Repeat layers!
Add lot of cheese on top...

Honestly, cheese is my favorite food group.

Bake for 20 minutes at 375...or until an acceptable bubbly top has formed.

Add more parmesan! And serve. Just cut right in... don't worry about getting the ravioli out in "whole" pieces. It all tastes perfect. Trust me.

The photos showcase the process. Enjoy!

The layers of lasagna....

Spinach/ricotta mix

The end result! 

Here are all the parts that made up the lasagna.


This was a very easy dinner! 
Would make it again in a heartbeat. Would love to try various raviolis. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Homemade curry heaven!

This was another successful - delicious - affordable dinner. I'll start with my rating. 3.7. Would cook this several times a week.
Ingredients can be whaaatever is in the fridge. I used a yellow squash, zucchini, red and green pepper and a little onion. A few cloves of garlic for good measure too. I chopped all ingredients then salted, peppered and sprinkled them with curry powder. I let them bask in their glory in the bowl for a bit.
A little lesson...(I am a teacher after all) everything you read says you need curry paste. Well, I didn't have any on hand. So, I improvised. (Improv is another favorite past time.)
I mixed my can of coconut milk with about 1.5 tablespoons of curry powder, 2 tablespoons flour (for thickening), about a teaspoon of peri peri seasoning (because why not) and whisked feverishly. I let this hangout and sit for a bit.
Next, heat two tablespoons of oil in a skillet. Add veggies and cook for 8-12 minutes. Add the coconut mix and let cook for another 6-8 minutes.
Cook some rice. I am not telling anyone about cooking rice. It's easy.
Photos of the process and finished product attached. Enjoy vicariously through my photos.

PS thanks for the bowls mom!










...Gooey butter cake

Om nom nom is all I have to say about this classic ooey gooey dessert. Not incredibly expensive, used some of the pantry items: eggs, butter and vanilla. Had to buy a cake mix aaaand it uses an entire box of powdered sugar. (I don't know why people call it confectioners sugar. It's flipping powdered sugar).
Delicious. I'd rate it a 4! Definitely make it again. A little time consuming so perfect for the day off.

Breakfast! Avocado boats.

Breakfast has always been on my favorite meals. I love biscuits and gravy, fried eggs, toast and jam, pancakes - hell, I'm happy with a banana and a bowl of Cheerios.
Seeing as today is my last day of winter break before returning to my second semester of teaching... I was thinking I needed to figure out a yummy (easy) (cheap) breakfast!
I looked around the pantry and fridge and stumbled upon some eggs and am avocado. Omelette was my first thought. Then... I remembered a recipe I had seen online a few days earlier. So, I split the avocado, ripped the seed out, scooped a little avocado out of each half, cracked an egg and plopped an egg into each avocado half. I topped with salt and pepper (from my shaker and grinder from Penzey's) and into the oven they went. They came out and I topped with paprika and crushed red pepper (okay okay and a little tabasco sauce). Wow. What a success. Delicious. Incredibly rich and creamy. I mean... Very very rich. The avocado was like buttah under the soft egg. Not a practical breakfast for a work day, but an absolute repeat for a weekend at home.
That brings me to a good point, my idea, the standard, the rule for a good recipe : would I make it again? I'll begin rating my recipes with my "make again" scale. A 5 means I'm probably making it again right now, a 1 means... It was a good try.
So, for my avocado boats, I'd say a 3.8. Yes, I would make them again!

The photos are the initial product and the finished product.



First total Veg dish

Last night I attempted my first full vegetarian dish. I have to give a shout out to the Brokeass Gourmet for providing the recipe for the dish. It was one of the most exciting dishes I had cooked in a long time. The excitement as I prepared the dish (this time with my mom) was almost overwhelming. The recipe was simple, cost about 14 dollars in new ingredients plus a few from the pantry.
The most thrilling part for me was the noodles... Instead of noodles - the starch layer was wonton wrapper. HOW EASY. And delicious.
Easy enough, sauté veggies (original recipe calls zucchini and eggplant only, I added mushrooms as well), layer sauce, ricotta, veggies and wonton wrappers - top with mozzarella and bake!
Whoa.
Delicious.
This is the finished product. Topped with a little fresh parm from The Cheese Shop of Des Moines.


Philosophy

My philosophy in the kitchen is complex. I was raised with home cooking... made from scratch, no boxes, delicious food. My mother was always willing to take a chance in the kitchen, and I sure as hell prospered from her risks- some of the biggest risks resulted in the most delicious food. As a poorer - first year teacher - living on my own - my kitchen philosophy continues to morph. I want to cook flavorful, easy, cheap, complex food. I want flavor. Spice. But I always have to be budget conscious... This is what makes me think my kitchen philosophy is complex. Yummy, easy, affordable food. Sometimes I blame my mom for raising me on good, old fashioned food - it makes being a poor first year teacher difficult at the grocery store.
I recently decided to go vegetarian. Why? No particular reason, other than a culinary and personal challenge. I also decided to grow a beard.  I don't think the two are related.
As I begin the vegetarian cooking excursion I am keeping in mind the way I was raised on food, pure ingredients, home cooking, and taking chances. I have never cooked tofu - gonna learn now. It is my mission to master Indian cooking...mmm (open to advice). I want to cook more fresh veggies and play with flavor and spices.
Follow the blog to follow my journey. (Also, I bought a Dodge Journey this fall, and no, it is not a mini van.)

This is me, and my pooch, Yogi Bear.