When two great things come together

July 10, 2009 at 10:53 pm (ideas, links, recipes, soup, spicy, vegetables) (, , , , , , , , )

Actually, this is more like when three great things come together — my CSA, pho, and kimchi.

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Paring down

June 11, 2009 at 7:00 pm (basics, gadgets, random) (, , , )

The past two months have been crazy. I’m selling my house, and this meant gutting it, fixing it up, making it look pretty, and then keeping it that way. I’m ten different kinds of tired.

It’s been an interesting excercise on many levels, though, and one I’m ultimately grateful to have gone through. As I’ve packed things away, I’ve had to spend a lot of time considering what’s ‘essential’, what’s merely nice to have, and what’s just plain junk that needs to leave…permanently. The kitchen did not escape this process unscathed, and an interesting post today on Unclutterer made me decide to write something similar — my own list of kitchen essentials.

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Shopping from the freezer

April 22, 2009 at 10:51 pm (Uncategorized)

One of my favourite websites is Unclutterer. Whenever I need some incentive to organize, declutter, or clean, I head over there to procrastinate get some ideas. Today’s browsing yielded some good thoughts on using frozen foods, and a good tip I thought I’d share:

One of the ways you can use a freezer to help with meal planning is by vacuum sealing foods you buy in bulk. If you don’t own a product like a FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer, using freezer-safe zip-top bags and squeezing out as much air as possible can work as well. To get the air out of a zip-top bag, close the bag except for an inch at one of the corners. Submerge the exterior of the bag in water almost to the top of the bag. Let the pressure of the water release air from around your food, and then quickly close the last inch at the top of the bag. Be careful not to let any of the water into the bag and onto your food.

Simple…and eliminates the need for one whole gadget. (I’m moving in a couple months, so decluttering is my current obsession!)

I also particularly like their suggestion for shopping from the freezer before hitting the grocery store — such a simple idea really.

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When BLTs grow up

April 17, 2009 at 6:35 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

Bakn, kale, and tomato bagel

Bak'n, kale, and tomato bagel

It’s official, I no longer miss bacon, because I’ve found something better.

My friend D shared her amazing fake ‘bacon’ recipe with me last week. Omg, sooooo good. I’ve been trying to take some pics, but always end up eating the entire batch before the camera gets involved, so today I made a double batch so enough would be left over for pics.

Here you see the ultimate creation — one lightly toasted Montreal bagel, several rashers of ‘bacon’, some Sheese, cherry tomatoes, and crispy kale (lightly pan fried with the bacon). This is what BLTs dream of becoming when they grow up.

Damn, now I’m hungry again.

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Caffeination

April 6, 2009 at 10:22 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

It’s early April, we’ve had crocuses up for weeks, and yet today brought us snow. *horror* Mother nature is playing a late April Fools joke on us.

The fluffy flakes have me thinking wistfully of hot drinks. Hot chocolate. Mulled cider. Tea. But really, my not-so-secret vice is coffee. I love good coffee, and I’ll take it over pretty much anything else. Mmmmm, java.

Over the years I’ve tried pretty much every way of making and (I think) drinking coffee. The best cup I ever tasted was made using ‘vaccuum‘ technology — very good, but far too complicated for everyday brewing. At home I use a French press — it seems to best balance my needs for flavour and quick/easy preparation. If I can’t make a pot of coffee when I’m half asleep, what’s the point?

I drink the stuff black. Originally I started doing this to try and cut back on the amount I was drinking. That backfired — I just learned to love it that way. But I also started tweaking what went in the press. My favourite addition is ground cinnamon. A healthy couple shakes added to the grounds makes a fabulous combination — somehow richer, definitely more fragrant.

Today this staple got a new tweak in the form of — ready for it? — dried cranberries. Not a lot, maybe a tablespoon or so, but just enough to add a slightly fruity note to the coffee. Yum! It’s probably not for everyone, but I love the combination. So while it snows outside, I’ll just cozy up here with a warm cup held in my hands and think happy thoughts.

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Once more with feeling [ow]

October 25, 2008 at 12:30 am (random) (, )

Just stopping by! I’ve been quiet lately because of a combination of overly busy life and Yet Another Injury. In this case a ‘hyperextended’ thumb, after a likely dislocation. The very nice doctor I saw claims it’ll be five to six weeks healing, which means another four or so of typing owiness.

So keeping things short, all I really wanted to say was ‘boo, Fall!’ We said goodbye to our most wonderful CSA last week, picking up a wonderful last haul of leeks, parnips (big enough to club someone with! or possibly juggle!), and squash. I’ll miss seeing the same group of friendly faces each week, as well as the lottery-like suprise of finding out what veggies were in.

One lasting goodness in particular stands out from a summer of CSA-supplied veggies; it’s broken me of my lifelong habit of fitting food to my whims. In the past I decided what I wanted to eat, then went out and bought it. Now though, my cooking follows a different pattern: What’s fresh this week? What can I make with it? There are a lot more experiments, and there’ve been a lot of tasty surprises. Tonight’s involves gnocchi with a cashew-squash sauce. Mmmmmm. (I hope.)

That’s all for now. Hopefully I’ll be back in less than four weeks. 😉

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Roast vegetable salsa

October 2, 2008 at 7:56 pm (photos, recipes, Uncategorized, vegan, vegetables) (, , , , , , )

Tomatillos

One of the perks of joining a CSA is that you get to try new vegetables. This summer mine brought me my first ever ground cherries, and more recently tomatillos. I adored both, especially the way that they come in little papery husks that you peel off to find the fruit itself.

At about the same time the tomatillos arrived I also found myself with a few cobs or corn needing a tasty home, as well as some caramelized onions, eggplant, and cilantro. All together these spelled salsa. I decided to roast the veggies first to bring out the sweetness of the corn, and generally add a richness to the flavour.

Roast vegetable salsa

  • 2 banana peppers
  • 1 hot pepper
  • 2 small purple eggplant
  • 2 cobs corn
  • 1 lb tomatillos
  • 1/2 lb tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup caramelized onions
  • 1 bulb garlic
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 to 2 T balsamic vinegar
  • ~1/2 cup water
  • oil
  • salt and pepper [to taste]
  • Smoked paprika, mushroom powder, or other seasonings [to taste]

To make the salsa, first roast your veggies:

  1. Cut the top off the bulb of garlic to expose the tops of all the cloves. Wrap the bulb in foil, drizzle with oil, then seal the foil packet. Bake at 350F for approximately 30 minutes.
  2. Slice the tomatoes and tomatillos fairly thickly and spread out on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. (You might need two pans to hold all the veggies.)
  3. Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds, put on a pan with the tomatoes.
  4. Prick the eggplant all over with a fork and put it on the pan too.
  5. If you like, you can drizzle a bit of oil over the veggies and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  6. Husk the corn and wrap both cobs in foil to form a well sealed packet. Sprinkle with a tablespoon or so of water just before sealing this up.
  7. Bake at 375F for around 30 min.
  8. Let the garlic and veggies cool. If you like, you can lightly oil the roast corn and then put it under a broiler for a few minutes to blacken it and get an even richer flavour, but watch it carefully!

Then make your salsa:

  1. Once cool, cut the roast eggplants in half and scrape out the middles.
  2. Pulse all the veggies (but not the corn!) together with the garlic, onions, cilantro, and balsamic vinegar in a food processor until just combined. Add water a little at a time until you reach a good consistency.
  3. De-nibble the corn. =)  Add the niblets to the salsa and stir in. You want to do this after using the food processor so that you get whole niblets in your salsa.
  4. Taste and adjust the flavour with whatever strikes your fancy. I like the smokiness I get from adding smoked paprika, and find mushroom powder balances the acidity of the tomatoes. YMMV — experiment!

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Harvest

October 2, 2008 at 3:04 am (garden, growing, photos, Uncategorized, vegetables) (, , , , , )

I went to pick up the weekly bundle of vegetables from our CSA this week, only to hear sad words when I arrived. “Last week for tomatoes! Last week for eggplant and herbs.” With October comes frost, and with frost the end of the season. The squash and brussel sprouts and suchlike still have some time, but the veggies that always remind me of hot sun and long warm days are on their way out.

Harvest

At home it was time to harvest my own little balcony garden. The chard and brussel sprouts and tomatoes are still out there (quite a few cherry tomatoes still hoping for a few more frost-free days), but I dug up the potatoes and picked the last few beans. The turnips yielded a few tubers, though I waited just a few days too long and their greens went all straggly before I could harvest them. The peppers did well, both hot and sweet types. There was even one huge cucumber tucked away in a corner. All in all, a tasty and satisfying yield that helped make our Mabon dinner special.

Still to do, picking the last of the beans I left out to dry, so that I can use them for seed next year. Also beheading the dead marigolds and calendula, likewise hoping for seed. And then it’ll be time to start planning next year’s garden. =)

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Homemade udon

August 6, 2008 at 6:58 pm (dinner, links, photos, reviews, vegan) (, , , , , )

Last week found me daytripping to Toronto, with the promise of a potluck at a friend’s house to round out the day. I wanted to make something fun and different, and that’s when I remembered Cookbook Catchall‘s post last month about udon.

I looooove udon. Noodles in general, but udon in specific. They’re chewy and tasty and full of yum. And also, it turns out, just about the most fun thing ever to make. Why? Because you get to dance on your food!

Seriously! I used this version of the recipe, because after mixing and kneading your dough you wrap it up well in plastic and a towel, drop it on the floor, and start dancing on it. You use your entire body weight to knead it. It sounded a little complicated at first, but proved to be a super-easy recipe. I made them the day before the potluck, boiled them, then tossed them with a little sesame oil to keep them from sticking. The next day I used them in a random stirfry of beet greens, ‘frenched’ yellow and green beans, green onions, and sesame seeds, all tossed with a sauce made up of garlic, ginger, tamari, sesame oil, and vegan oyster sauce. Everybody loved it. I’ll be making these again…a lot.

Homemade udon

Homemade udon

Recipe notes: Half the recipe fed five people handily as a side dish. The only alteration I made was in the amount of water, because my dough needed twice the amount of recommended water to shape up.

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A weekend of vegetables

August 5, 2008 at 6:24 pm (baking, bread, desserts, links, photos, recipes, salad, sweet things, vegan, vegetables) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

It was a long weekend here, and I spent much of it trying to use up the countless veggies in the fridge. There was a lot of spinach and a lot of basil, so poof! then there was pesto. This made for a lovely pasta dish topped with steamed chard. And since I still had pesto left over after that, and also a whole bunch of root veggies, I made a warm salad of roasted potatoes, turnips, and radishes, all tossed with green onions and pesto and vegan parmesan. Yum! Now I can at least fit things into the crispers, but I still have cauliflower and beets and corn and zucchini and carrots and beans and yet more potatoes to work my way through.

Zucchini cherry bread

Zucchini cherry bread

To make a dent in the zucchini I tried making a zucchini cherry bread today. It’s really just a veganized version of this recipe, but with dried cherries in place of walnuts (I was all out). The bread turned out quite well, if a bit sweet. Next time I’ll add walnuts (but keep the cherries!), reduce the oil a titch, and reduce the sugar by a quarter or third. Cranberries might work nicely in this too — their tartness would help balance the sweetness of the bread.

Zucchini cherry bread

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup grated zucchini
  • 3 T soy milk or other liquid
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp egg replacer powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries

To make:

  1. Preheat oven to 325F. Lightly oil a bread pan.
  2. ‘Cream’ the oil and sugar together until a little fluffy.
  3. Stir in the zucchini, vanilla, and soy milk.
  4. In another bowl, mix together the flour, cinnamon, soda, baking powder, salt, and egg replacer powder. Stir into the wet mixture.
  5. Quickly fold in the cherries.
  6. Pour batter into the loaf pan, and bake 60 to 70 minutes.

* If using a flax egg or other egg substitute, just replace the egg replacer powder and soy milk in the above recipe.

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