Monday, October 20, 2014

Gorgeous Gado-Gado and Cruise Planning

I haven't cooked much of anything since Thanksgiving, other than a large pot of turkey noodle soup.  I had a few meals out at restaurants this past week, due to special occasions.  However, I had a productive weekend, both shopping and cooking-wise.  I hit two farmer's markets and four grocery stores over the course of two days!  I have all the ingredients to make a couple of new recipes to sustain me this week, as well as everything I need to throw together a lasagne for the kid.  Sunday morning I baked two more pumpkin pies, a batch of granola bars (that turned into granola when they wouldn't hold together) and a crock pot full of delicious almond milk tapioca pudding.  For lunch, I wanted something fresh and light.

451. Gorgeous Gado-Gado (Jamie's Comfort Food, page ??) recipe

This is another healthy dish from the book.....they are kind of few and far between, but I'm glad they are included!  I thought this one was so intriguing when I saw it on TV, because of the way Jamie coats the bowls in the peanut sauce first, and then layers up the salad on top.  It's like nothing I've ever seen before. 

I started out by boiling up some potatoes and eggs, and pan-frying some cubed, extra firm tofu in sesame oil.  I let these cool while I assembled my ingredients for the dressing and salad.  I had sliced radishes & cucumber, bean sprouts, shredded Napa cabbage & tomatoes that I diced into bite sized pieces.  Into the blender went natural peanut butter, tamarind paste, soy & fish sauce, garlic, fresh red chile from the garden, brown sugar (in place of palm sugar which I couldn't find) and the juice of a couple of limes.

I coated the bottom of one of my JO bowls with the 1/4 of the sauce, then layered up all of my salad ingredients and topped with a dollop more sauce. 

I would never have thought to use a peanut sauce in a salad.....for dipping chicken satay skewers or fresh shrimp rolls, yeah, but a salad?  But it worked.  It didn't look pretty once I mixed it but it was really, really tasty.  Tonight I'm going to assemble another one for dinner, but this time I'll remember to add cilantro leaves and perhaps some nice, crunchy rice crackers.

So here we are, four days until we leave for our Carribean cruise!  I am in packing & planning mode this week, wanting to make sure I leave enough food for the kid to survive (although I am sure he is resourceful enough to go to the store if he runs out), but also not wanting to buy more fresh stuff than I can eat before I take off.  I have a couple of new recipes I might make this week if time permits, but here is my basic plan:
Lunch - left over sushi
Dinner - Gado Gado salad and creamy ginger butternut squash soup
Lunch - Gado Gado salad
Dinner - Michael Smith's Vegan Lentil Burgers
Lunch - left over squash soup
Dinner - left over burgers

Lunch -  left over squash soup
Dinner - Lasagne

Lunch - left over squash soup
Dinner - Florida here we come!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Skunks & Hummingbird Cakes

Our Thanksgiving meal was interrupted when my son's German shepherd started barking in the yard.  We had just finished dinner but had not yet had dessert.  Have you ever smelled that aroma of burning tires, when a skunk first sprays?  Sure enough, that's what happened, in the light of day.  WTF?  We think he disturbed a skunk who was sleeping under the neighbour's shed.  Thankfully, I had a supply of hydrogen peroxide for just such an occasion, so he got an unscheduled, chilly bath in the yard.  

After all that excitement, it was time for dessert.  I had spent most of the morning creating the following masterpiece.  It went nicely with the pumpkin pies, whipped cream, and carrot/cream cheese muffins Mel brought.

450.  Hummingbird Cake (Jamie's Comfort Food, page 358) recipe

This was really quite the undertaking....perfect for a special occasion.  I started early in the morning, mixing up the batter for the two round cakes.  It was a bit like a banana bread, with pineapple mixed in, but no butter.  It called for olive oil instead, which suited me just fine.  Self raising flour, cinnamon, sugar, eggs, vanilla and pecans rounded out the ingredient list.  I divided this into the tins and set them in the oven for about 40 minutes.  They rose up quite nicely.

When they were cooled (and one had sadly sunk in the middle) I made two different batches of icing.  The first used the standard butter & cream cheese, while the second was modified for my dairy-free diet, using Tofutti cream cheese and Earth Balance butter.  Both had icing sugar and lime zest & juice added, and were beat until creamy.  I put them in the fridge to firm up a bit.

The hardest part was to create the pecan brittle topping.  I put a half cup of sugar in a non-stick frying pan with a splash of water, and turned the burner to a medium heat.  The sugar bubbled like crazy, but it took forever to colour.  I swirled it around to try and keep it moving, because you really aren't supposed to use a spoon, but I found it was going hard around the edges, almost crystally.  So I got a wooden spoon once it was golden, and pushed it all into the centre.  It finally turned into a thick, brown syrup, so I mixed in the pecans to coat, and turned everything out onto a piece of greased parchment paper.

Once the brittle was cooled, and after I tasted a small piece to be sure if was good (ha ha) I smashed it up with my wooden rolling pin.  I put the sunken cake on the plate first, spread it with the dairy-free icing, then put a circular piece of waxed paper on top.  Then, I placed the good cake on the waxed paper, spread it with the butter/cream cheese icing, and topped everything with the smashed brittle.

I thought it was pretty impressive looking!  It would have been even prettier sprinkled with edible flowers, but a) I didn't have any and b) the kids said they would refuse to eat it if I did.  LOL.  I had to separate the layers before cutting it up, and of course I sprinkled more brittle over the bottom half.  I was pretty excited to be able to have a piece, because I generally can't eat icing. 
It was to die for.  A serious sugar rush.  Reminded me of pineapple upside down cake a bit.  The praline topping was killer.  I am going to have to freeze half or I'm going to go into a sugar coma.  Oops, I just had another piece for breakfast.  Somebody stop me.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sicilian Roasted Cauliflower & Brussel Sprouts

I make a mean broccoli & cauliflower casserole, with a creamy cheese sauce and a garlicky breadcrumb topping.  It usually disappears with minimal leftovers at every family gathering.  So there was no way to get out of making it for Thanksgiving this year, but I needed to have some sort of dairy-free alternative for myself.

449.  Sicilian Roasted Cauliflower & Brussel Sprouts (Jamie Magazine) recipe

When I sent an email to my kids with a proposed Thanksgiving menu, I was met with "but why brussel sprouts?" in all responses.  I don't understand why they are so universally hated.  I mean, I've always loved them!  I liked the simplicity of this recipe too, because I knew I would be pretty busy dealing with all those boiled veggies needing mashing and making gravy out of the turkey drippings, among other things.

I prepped the veggies in the afternoon, so all I had to do was throw them on a baking pan, drizzle them with oil, and shove them in the oven to roast.  On a separate pan I spread some pine nuts to toast for a couple of minutes, and I also poured boiling water over some dried cherries (in place of raisins, which I can't have) to rehydrate them.  Everything gets combined and voila, the dish is done!

It kind of got lost in the shuffle of the big dinner, but I enjoyed it and my son's gf Mel said she did too.  Tonight,  I needed a nice, light dinner and I thought maybe I could brighten the dish up with a quick dressing.  So I tossed some of the left overs in the toaster oven to warm briefly, and mixed minced garlic, lemon juice and EVOO in a jam jar.

The dressing really did the trick!  This was a light but satisfying warm salad, just the thing my stomach needed after all the heavy food I've been ingesting in the last 24 hours.  I love the addition of dried fruit, which is not something I would have thought to do on my own.  I'll keep this one in my back pocket for a rainy day.
I have to give a shout out to Janet & Greta Podleski for their awesome Roasted Sweet Potato & White Bean Dip!  I made it as an appetizer for Thanksgiving dinner, and for something for me to munch on in the kitchen while I prepared the meal.  It went over a real treat - the kids all loved it with toasted pita wedges and sliced cucumber and red pepper strips.  The only hold out was, of course, my mom, who, when presented with a tiny bit on a spoon, acted as if I was trying to poison her.  LOL.  Of course, when I told her of my plans to make a pot of turkey noodle soup with the turkey carcass, she said "it won't be as good as Campbell's".  :p
This post has been shared at the Wednesday Fresh Foods Link Up at She Eats!

Thanksgiving Trials

Why do we go through this ritual of making massive amounts of food that takes days to prepare, and yet is eaten in minutes?  LOL  It's a strange tradition, but one that most of us look forward to, regardless of how sick we generally feel afterwards.  At least it's usually quite vegetable heavy....well, in this house.

I started cooking three days in advance, and then yesterday spent 90% of my day in the kitchen, on my feet, to get dinner on the table by 6 p.m.  I sent home as many leftovers as I could, but I don't know how in the hell we're going to eat what's still here.  Of course, this year was a little different as I had to observe some dietary restrictions.  I never knew how difficult it was to cook something you can't even taste.  Countless times I almost put a spoon in my mouth to check the seasoning, or to lick some cake batter or whipped cream off a frustrating!  But I was determined to keep to my new dairy-free diet, and if I fell short on anything else yesterday, I managed at least that.

This vegan pumpkin pie was my reward, and wow, was it good.  It came out so dark that it looked more like chocolate pudding!  But it was made using freshly baked pie pumpkins (pureed),  almond milk, arrowroot flour (in place of cornstarch), maple syrup, brown sugar, molasses, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt.  The graham crumb crust was held together with coconut oil, and the topping was whipped coconut milk.  What a revelation!  Total indulgence and yet healthy enough to eat another piece for breakfast this morning.  :)
The first dish I cooked this week was one that Jamie thoughtfully posted in time for Canadian Thanksgiving.  As soon as I saw it, I knew I would have to make it.
448.  Incredible Nut Roast with Salsa Rossa Picante (Jamie's Food Tube)
There are a LOT of ingredients in this loaf.   I had quite a few on hand, but had to go out and get the rest at the bulk barn.  I think I'm the only one in that place that doesn't just buy candy.  ;)  I still managed to spend over $60, the majority on nuts to replenish my mostly empty mason jars.
Butter (I used Earth Balance)        
Olive oil
Vac-packed chestnuts
Cayenne pepper
Smoked paprika
Dried oregano                  
Field mushrooms
Dried cranberries         
Dried apricots
Mixed nuts, such as walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts and brazil nuts
To give credit where credit's due, I didn't make the actual roast myself.  I was not feeling well that evening, so I got all of the ingredients out on the counter, whizzed up some bread in the food processor for crumbs, chopped up the onion and picked the rosemary from the garden, then left my daughter to fend for herself while I took a bath.  I'm sure she was wondering how in the hell she got elected, but I was confident that she could follow the recipe.  It was just a matter of sautéing veggies, and then measuring and adding all the other ingredients to form a loaf.  She wasn't familiar with some of them, but she did a great job and put the loaf pan in the oven to bake.  I covered it with a tea towel and left it to cool overnight, then wrapped it tightly in plastic in the morning.  It sat safely in the fridge until Saturday.
A couple of hours before dinner, I made the salsa in a roasting pan.  I used a couple of red chiles from the garden, a stick of cinnamon, a small onion, a handful of thyme leaves, and a can of plum tomatoes.  Once it was cooked and thickened, I removed the cinnamon stick and one of the chiles, and sliced the other chile open.  I removed the seeds, chopped it up, threw it back in the pan, then added the pre-made loaf.  Before grating cheese over the top, I sliced a piece off for myself, and put it aside.  Then I popped it into the oven to heat.

I don't think anyone other than myself and Tiffany, the vegetarian who this was intended for, tried any.  My daughter certainly didn't - too many onions.  However, it was their loss, because this was truly delicious!  So many great ingredients, and such a meat-like texture.  It definitely needs the salsa to moisten it, and now I get why Jamie wants you to add an extra can of water.  When you heat it, the salsa gets very, very thick.  I saw Tiffany slathering hers with cranberry sauce, to boot.  I have a bit of plain loaf left to eat today, but I wish I had kept more out of the pan before covering it with cheese!  I'm sure that Tiffany won't let the rest go to waste.  :)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Meal planning takes on a whole new meaning....

when it's the week of Canadian Thanksgiving!  I've slowly been figuring out my menu, and I need to get my ass in gear if I want to have it accomplished in time.  We are having our big family dinner on Saturday rather than Sunday this year.  Not only do I have to make sure that I can eat the majority of the dishes, I also like to include some sort of a vegetarian alternative to the turkey.  Of course, we also have to eat regular meals each night this week.  LOL.

So a day late (because I'm not quite as organized as I'd like to be) here is my weekly meal plan:

Monday - I made a pot of chili with ground chicken, red bell peppers, fresh chiles from the garden, and canned tomatoes and kidney beans.  The kids loaded it up with sour cream and grated cheese and loved it. I drizzled mine with some organic almond yogurt which was totally delicious!

Tuesday - I'll make the kids a quick fried rice with ground beef and veggies.  I'll have a filet of trout with some of the plain rice and either a salad or some cabbage.  Then I'm going to hit the grocery & bulk stores, armed with my list. I should also bake my pumpkins before bed, so that they will be ready for the pies later in the week.

Wednesday - I want to make the first dish for Thanksgiving this evening:  Incredible Nut Roast with Salsa Rossa Picante.  It's so awesome that Jamie tweeted this in time for the Canadians!  I can reheat it on Saturday with some grated cheese on top.  As for dinner, we'll probably have bacon & eggs or BLTs.  Something quick and easy.

Thursday - I plan to make a cauliflower & broccoli casserole that I can pop in the oven on Saturday to finish cooking.  This involves blanching the veggies and making the cheese sauce and the bread crumb topping.  While I'm doing this I'll make a quick sausage pasta for dinner.  The biggest hurdle will be finding somewhere in the fridge to store the casserole dish! 

Friday - I'm hoping to sneak away from work at noon so I can have more time to get things done.  I want to make two pumpkin pies (one as usual and one vegan) and also make Jamie's new Hummingbird Cake.  I will make one with cream cheese & butter icing, and one with Tofutti cream cheese & Earth Balance butter, and then I'll just keep them separate rather than layering them.  I'm really looking forward to the pecan brittle on top!  Dinner is a toss up...perhaps we'll order in if my Mom has arrived for the weekend.  If not I can throw myself something together, maybe an Asian noodle soup.

Saturday - I'll be up bright and early to get the bread, onions & celery ready for the stuffing.  I also hope to have time to make Janet & Greta Podleski's Roasted Sweet Potato & White Bean Hummus that we can snack on throughout the day (with either raw veggies or pita wedges).  I'll get the stuffed turkey in the oven by 9 o'clock (he's about 17 pounds) and then I can work on getting the veggies all prepped.  We're just going to have mashed potatoes, mashed turnip, and candied carrots...they're expected.  I want to also make a tray of  Sicilian roasted cauliflowe​r & brussel sprouts as a dairy-free veggie option for me.  At dinner I'll just have to make the gravy from the drippings, and afterwards whip up the cream and coconut milk for the pie topping.

Sunday and forward - left overs for as many days as they'll last!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Huevos Rancheros for one

So the other day was apparently International Vegetarian Day.  It was also the day that Jamie Oliver visited Toronto, making an unexpected appearance at a local Sobey's store and chatting with customers.  Can someone tell me why I wasn't informed in advance?  LOL.  Damn.  So close and yet so far.

Anyways....I thought it would be a good night to christen my newest cookbook, Jamie's Comfort Food!  I was only cooking for myself, and this recipe looked like something that would be able to portion easily.  It's vegetarian to boot.  :)

447.  Huevos Rancheros (Jamie's Comfort Food, page 162)

This reminded me more of the South American Style Brunch than it did of the Huevos Rancheros recipe in Jamie's America (that I've yet to do).  It was very easy to throw together and I had everything required on hand.  Tomatoes, avacado, eggs, flour tortillas, a can of beans, fresh cilantro from my garden, and a frozen jalapeno pepper.

Using one frying pan, I first crisped up the tortilla by rubbing it with a bit of olive oil, then putting it in the hot pan briefly.  I pushed it into a mug so it would keep the shape, then added a bit more oil to the pan, a few cumin seeds, and the canned beans.  I let them get crispy before removing them to a plate.  Finally, I turned the heat down in the pan, and gently scrambled a couple of eggs.  I skipped the addition of cheddar cheese, to keep this dairy-free.

In the meantime, I cut up an avacado and a tomato, and used my trusty pestle & mortar to create a spicy green sauce with the cilantro, a bit of a jalapeno pepper, and some pickle juice.   I plated everything up and drizzled it with some Frank's Red Hot sauce.

What an easy, delicious dinner this was!  The green sauce gave it a nice little kick.  Just the thing to make for breakfast, lunch OR dinner if you don't have a lot of time, or don't want much washing up, or both.  :)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Vegan Chocolate Mousse & Sticking to the Plan

I find the hardest part about going dairy free is that need for something's really hard to accomplish!  I've made chocolate pudding with avocado before, but it's never been quite as creamy and decadent as this next recipe makes it!

446.  Dairy Free Chocolate Mousse recipe

The secret to the decadence is two-fold - coconut milk and real, dairy-free dark chocolate.  The first step is to melt your chocolate in a bowl, over simmering water.  Once that cools slightly, combine all your ingredients in the blender:  avocado, cocoa powder, maple syrup (to keep it vegan), coconut milk and chocolate.  Whiz until smooth.  Can't get much easier than that!

It seriously is to die for.  I split mine between four little bowls so I can enjoy one each day.  Heaven!
I made my big pot of chicken vegetable & noodle soup tonight for dinner.  It was delicious, and should last me at least three days, for quick lunches at work.  I also have some canned tuna and deli salami for sandwiches on purple wheat & flax bread.  As for dinners, I have a few ideas of what I'd like to make, but whether or not I will stick to the plan is anybody's guess.  Sometimes I just have to go where inspiration strikes me!  As long as it's in my own kitchen, I figure I'm still ahead of the game.  ;)
Huevos Rancheros (Jamie's Comfort Food)
Pan-fried trout with roasted beets & sautéed chard
Farm Boy Thai turkey sausages with rice & green beans
Roast pork with mashed potatoes & applesauce