Tag Archives: vegetables

Cauliflower-Rice

Reducing or avoiding carbohydrates in the diet is important for many people so, even though I enjoy mashed potatoes, rice, noodles or spaetzle/nokedli as a base for a dish of roast or paprika chicken, I decided to finally try ‘rice’ made out of cauliflower. Since cauliflower is not one of my go-to vegetable options, I had some concerns.

It turns out that the concerns weren’t warranted. Buy the cauliflower when it’s on sale, prepare and freeze for a fast (<15 min) side dish from frozen.

Cauliflower head with green leaves and stem trimmed off.

Quarter the head of cauliflower and pulse each quarter until the florettes are broken down into coarse rice-sized and shaped pieces. Bag and freeze. No blanching necessary. Each bag held a bit over 300 gms … enough for 2 servings.

Mint Chimichurri Butter Maryland Chicken with Cauli-Rice

Paprika Chicken over Cauli-Rice

Basic Cauli-Rice – serves 2

300 gm cauliflower rice, frozen
1 tbsp sauteed onion
~1 tsp salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil or drippings from roasted chicken

In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, combine the oil or drippings with the sauteed onion.

Add the frozen cauliflower rice and break it up as much as possible. Add a tablespoon or two of water and cover with a lid. Let steam for 5 minutes. Remove the lid, break up the cauliflower, sprinkle the salt and pepper over the top and combine the cauliflower with the oil/drippings. Cook for a few minutes until the ‘rice’ chunks are separate and have a bit of colour. Taste, adding more salt if needed and serve.

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Steamed Artichokes with Chipotle Yum Yum Sauce

How hungry was the first person who tried geoduck, or the first person who ate a raw oyster?

I was thinking the same thing when I first ran across the artichoke. I watched video after video of the way to prepare (and eat) this vegetable, but it wasn’t until this past week, when I saw them on sale at the grocery store for 99 cents a piece, that I decided to actually buy and cook them myself. Of course, stuffed artichokes were the recipe I saw posted most often, but I didn’t have any Parmesan cheese in the house, and it’s not on this month’s grocery budget, so steamed artichokes seemed to be the way to go. Especially as I already had dip (leftover chipotle yum yum sauce) made to serve with them. Digging out the ‘choke’ on the raw artichokes also put me off.

(Over) Cooked artichokes, ready to eat with chipotle yum yum sauce

Things I forgot … you have to put your prepped artichokes in acidulated (lemon juice) water because, once cut, like with peeled apples, they’ll turn brown as they sit. And, it’s always a good idea to test the item you’re steaming BEFORE the maximum cooking time (25-30 min) suggested or you’ll over-cook it. Leave about an inch of the stem below the bulb as some of it is edible.

You can see the browning edges of the top (discarded) and the base already in the picture below. All the stuff on the top left is wastage from that one artichoke.

The inner side of each artichoke leaf is where you find the ‘meat’. In the second picture you can see the very small amount that was edible and scraped off with your bottom teeth. The amount of ‘meat’ increases as you get closer to the center. (Watching a video on how to eat an artichoke really helps I found.)

The hairy ‘choke’ under which you’ll find the tasty artichoke ‘heart’ needs to be scraped off.

The cleaned ‘heart’ … cut it up into small pieces, dip and enjoy the whole thing. It broke while I was cleaning because it was over steamed.

On the whole, my novice cooking attempt was successful and I don’t regret making it. I’d give myself a solid 6 out of 10 for the result. The taste of artichokes is pretty mild, mostly dependent on the dip you serve them with, so it shouldn’t turn anyone off from giving them a try. On the other hand, prep time and wastage before and after cooking may be more than you want to deal with. It’s not something I’d order if going out to eat with people I want to impress however. (I wouldn’t order lobster in those circumstances, either.)

More Wastage

In conclusion: Tasty and with a good texture, especially if you don’t over cook them but, if I have an artichoke craving in the future, I’ll buy canned artichoke hearts and add them to a dip.

Creamy Corn, Ham and Potato Chowder ver 3 (or is it 4)

I rarely make a soup the same way twice in a row. Like this ham and potato chowder. Usually, I use carrots as well as celery to give it added body and flavour. Sometimes I add cream. Sometimes it’s just milk. And the thickener may be flour or cornstarch. Sometimes, there’s no thickener except for the starch from the potatoes. For a change of flavour, I used dried thyme in this batch. It’s always good.

Creamy Corn, Ham and Potato Chowder

2 tbsp bacon fat or butter
2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced (optional)
1 medium onion, small diced
1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels or kernels cut from a couple of cobs of fresh corn
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
3 cups stock (chicken, vegetable or ham*)
1 1/2 cups whole milk (or 1 cup 2% milk and 1/2 cup whipping cream**)
2 medium or 3 small Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2-3/4 inch cubes
7-8 oz (220 gm) leftover ham, 1/2 inch cubes
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

* Ham stock used from boiling a smoked picnic shoulder ham with a tablespoon of pickling spices.
** I didn’t have any whole milk and I liked the richness that the whipping cream gave the chowder.

In a large saute pan over medium/medium high heat saute the onion in bacon fat or butter, until it’s translucent and starts picking up some colour on the edges. Add the diced garlic and saute for another minute or two.

Stir in the corn and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.

Stir in flour and cook for another couple of minutes. Gradually stir in the stock, and cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. Stir in potatoes.

Bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer covered until the potatoes are tender, about 12-15 minutes.

Stir in the ham, milk, salt and pepper, to taste, heat until the ham is warmed through. If the chowder is too thick, add more milk as needed until desired consistency is reached.

Serve immediately.

BBQ and Mint Chimichurri

I’ve had a beef/steak craving for a while and picked up a couple of rib steaks (cap off), as well as a tray of pork chops, also on sale this week, with a plan to barbecue. Unfortunately, with Friday and Saturday’s rain and thunderstorms, it took a post-supper lull on Saturday before I could finally throw a few things on the grill.

There’s nothing like chimichurri to dress a bbq’d steak or pork chops. I’ve used cilantro, mint and parsley to make it, in the past, but this batch just used mint and parsley. And for a veggie side … steamed artichokes with a chipotle yum yum sauce (leftovers) to dip into. I’ll share the pictures in a separate post

Mint Chimichurri – makes about 2/3 of a cup

2-3 cloves garlic, chopped (about 2 teaspoons)
1 cup fresh mint (spearmint) leaves, packed
1 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves, packed
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp Kosher or coarse sea salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
6 tbsp olive oil**

** I used extra virgin olive oil since that’s all I had.

Place garlic in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times until finely chopped. Add the mint and parsley leaves and pulse until finely chopped.

In a medium sized bowl, add the vinegar, salt, and red pepper flakes and stir until the salt has dissolved. Add the mint-parsley mixture and stir until well mixed. Stir in the olive oil.

Transfer to a glass jar, seal and refrigerate. The chimichurri will keep for several days in the refrigerator.

Perfect to serve over steak, lamb or even roasted potatoes!

Steak, potatoes and mint chimichurri – I put the chimichurri on the potatoes for visual contrast though it’s generally served on top of your grilled meat.

Dessert was a couple of large cream puffs filled with chocolate Chantilly cream

Mixed bbq grill – Rib steak, Yukon gold potatoes, a package of hot dogs and a couple of pork chops

Chicken, Corn and Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Recently I cooked up the last of my tri-colour quinoa and used part of it to make shrimp and Chinese sausage quinoa fried “rice”. I set aside a cup of the cooked quinoa and finally used it up this past weekend to stuff some sweet peppers that had been lingering in my vegetable crisper drawer.

Warning: Times and amounts in the recipe below are rough estimates based on scaling up the recipe for four people and your particular oven.

Chicken, Corn and Quinoa Stuffed Peppers – serves 4, 2 pepper halves per person

1 small onion, small dice
1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 medium sweet peppers, orange, red or yellow
1/2 lb ground chicken, breasts, thighs or both
1/2-3/4 cup corn kernels (cut from one cob of corn)
1 cup cooked quinoa
1/2-3/4 cup marinara or spaghetti sauce
salt and pepper to taste (start with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp ground black pepper)
1/2 cup (8 tbsp) grated cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese
2-3 thinly sliced green onion tops, for garnish

NOTE: The peppers and filling may be prepared and assembled the night before, covered and refrigerated and then baked the next day.

Cut the peppers in half, removing stems, ribs and seeds. Place into a 9 by 13 inch baking dish.

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large saute pan over medium/medium-high heat, saute the diced onion in the vegetable oil until the onions are translucent and just picking up some colour around the edges. Add the ground chicken, season with salt and pepper and saute until no long pink. Add the corn and cooked quinoa, mix through the chicken and onion and saute for a few minutes until warmed through.

Stir in half a cup of marinara sauce, mix thoroughly and, if it seems too dry, add a bit more of the marinara sauce. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed.

Spoon the filling into the pepper halves. Add about 1/4 cups of water to the baking dish to help with cooking/steaming the peppers and cover tightly with a sheet of aluminum foil.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the peppers are tender. If you’ve refrigerated the dish, you’ll likely have to add an additional 10-15 minutes to the bake time.

Remove the foil and add about a tablespoon of cheese to the top of each stuffed pepper half. Return to the oven and bake for 5-10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbly. If you want a bit more colour, you may turn on the broiler on high for a few minutes but, watch carefully, so that the cheese doesn’t burn. Serve while hot with a sprinkling of sliced green onion.

Soup Duo … Vegetarian Friendly

Half an onion and four cups of stock (vegetable or chicken) form the base of both these soups. Your choice depends on whether you want the final product to be vegetarian or veggie-friendly. For some reason, both of my soups are in the orange-red colour palette.

First, an Indian flavoured vegetarian soup. The soup that inspired this used whole cumin seeds but I couldn’t find them in my pantry and I was out of ground cumin so I used a combination of curry powder and garam masala. For a middle-Eastern themed soup, you may used harissa paste or a dry harissa seasoning mixture.

Spiced Carrot and Red Lentil Soup

Spiced Carrot and Red Lentil Soup – serves 4

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
400 g carrots, peeled, trimmed and coarsely chopped
140 g split red lentils, rinsed and drained
4 cups/ 1 liter vegetable stock (or chicken stock)
salt to taste (start with about 1/2 tsp)

Yogurt for garnish
Warmed naan bread, to serve

In a large saute pan over medium heat, saute the onion in vegetable oil until it gets translucent and pick up some colour on the edges.

Add the curry powder and garam masala and toast for a few minutes to freshen the dry spice mix. Add the carrots, lentils, salt and the vegetable stock. Bring to a boil then cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the carrots are tender.

Puree the soup with a stick blender, in a stand blender (in several batches) or in a food processor until smooth.

Season to taste and adjust the thickness with more vegetable stock or water. Another option is to add some milk (coconut or regular milk) to thin down the soup.

Serve with a spoonful of yogurt and warmed naan breads, if desired.

A dozen home made ravioli (sweet potato, ricotta and Parmesan cheese) stretched to serve four in this hearty soup which is put together quickly with the help of a liter of stock and a cup of jarred marinara (or spaghetti) sauce. If you have fresh tomatoes, you can peel, seed and dice them and add them to the soup instead. For a vegetarian version, omit the sausages and use vegetable instead of chicken stock as a base.

Ravioli and Vegetable Soup

Ravioli and Vegetable Soup – serves 4

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
1 cup fresh corn kernels, cut from a whole cob (diced zucchini are another vegetable option)
3 links hot Italian sausage, removed from casing (optional)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 tsp dried basil or Italian herb mix
4 cups/ 1 liter vegetable stock (or chicken stock)
1 cup/250 ml marinara or spaghetti sauce
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 dozen frozen ravioli, home made or purchased

Frozen sweet Potato, ricotta and Parmesan cheese ravioli

In a large saute pan over medium heat, saute the onion in vegetable oil until it gets translucent and pick up some colour on the edges

Crumble the sausages over the surface of the pan and cook until no longer pink. Try to break up the sausage as much as possible. Add the minced garlic, corn kernels and dry herb mixture and saute for a few more minutes.

Pour the chicken stock and marinara over the vegetables and sausage. Add about half of the salt and the ground black pepper and bring the soup mixture to a boil. Turn down to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Add the frozen ravioli, making sure that they’re submerged in the broth and cook covered for 5 minutes, then flip the ravioli and cook for another 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Serve.

Mushroom Duo

Spring is finally here … daffodils are the first flowers that bloom in my ‘garden’.

I didn’t grow up eating mushrooms. In fact, my first exposure to them came in the form of canned mushrooms which, texturally, didn’t appeal to me at all.

And then I discovered fresh mushrooms, especially the ubiquitous white, button mushrooms that are often found on sale. They used to be available loose in grocery stores but now, they’re usually packaged in half and full pound versions, sliced or whole.

BUYING TIPS for button mushrooms: If possible, buy them whole as they’ll last longer. Also, make sure that the mushrooms in the package are compact and white without the browning ‘gills’ being exposed. Gills are an indicator of maturing/mature mushrooms and the flavour is more intense. If you want a ‘cleaner’ presentation, stick to the young, solid white mushrooms. Size is not an indicator of maturity so don’t be fooled. There’s also less wastage if you buy young mushrooms since, as they mature, the stems become tough and ‘woody’ and you’ll want to discard them.

Bacon and Mushroom Quiche

I used one of the pre-baked shells from the coconut cream pie recipe. With the additional baking and the savoury filling the pastry was perfect, backing up my belief that under-baking was one reasons for the disappointing cream pie result.

Bacon and Mushroom Quiche – serves 1

1 5 1/2 inch pre-baked pie shell
1 large egg
1/3 cup milk
pinch of salt
pinch of ground nutmeg
2-3 strips crispy bacon, sliced
1-3 (depending on size) mushrooms, diced
2-3 tbsp grated cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 deg Fahrenheit.

Place the pie shell on a baking sheet to prevent spillage during transport. Spread the bacon and mushrooms over the base of the pie shell.  Sprinkle some of the cheese over the top.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, salt and nutmeg. Pour the custard mixture over the contents of the pie shell. Sprinkle the rest of the grated cheddar over the top.

Transfer the baking sheet and quiche into the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the custard is set. Let cool and serve with a salad for a light lunch.

Mushroom and Shrimp Scampi

Mushroom and Shrimp Scampi – serves 2

2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound white button mushrooms, sliced and diced
1 small red, orange or yellow sweet pepper, medium diced
9-12 large raw shrimp, peeled except for the tail
2-3 tbsp green onion tops for garnish
salt and white pepper to taste
1/4 tsp garlic powder

200 gm fettuccine or spaghetti, cooked according to package directions

In a small bowl, combine the raw shrimp, a pinch or two of salt and the garlic powder. Let sit for a few minutes.

In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add the butter and olive oil. When hot, add the mushrooms. Sprinkle about 1/2 tsp of salt over the top and saute until most of the moisture is gone and the mushrooms are lightly golden. Add the diced peppers and saute for another couple of minute until barely tender.

Push the vegetables to one side and add the seasoned shrimp. Saute just until the start getting pink on one side and then turn and continue sauteing until the second side is also pink and the shrimp have started to curl up. Combine the shrimp and veggies, taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed.

Add the cooked pasta, stir through to coat with the butter and olive oil. Taste and adjust seasoning a final time.

Divide the pasta evenly onto two plates, sprinkle the green onion tops over the pasta and serve

BONUS: Tortilla pizzas topped with the last of the mushrooms in the veggie crisper.

Shrimp and Chinese Sausage Quinoa Fried “Rice”

While browsing the Fridgg website, I decided to google the term ‘quinoa’ and ran across this great idea for a fried rice dish using quinoa. There was no need to add any protein to the dish, other than the traditional fried egg, but I like to go above and beyond whenever possible.

Shrimp and Chinese Sausage Quinoa Fried “Rice” –  makes 4 cups, about 3 servings

1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup carrot, small dice
3 large mushrooms, medium dice
1 small pepper (red, orange or yellow), small dice
2 green onions, bottoms added to the saute and tops used as garnish
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
3 large raw shrimp, peeled and tailed, halved and diced
1 raw Chinese sausage, halved and diced
1 large egg, slightly beaten
~ 3 cups cooked quinoa
2 tbsp Kikkoman soy sauce
shake or two ground white pepper

In a large saute pan, add the butter and oil and over medium heat, saute the carrot, pepper, onion bottoms and mushrooms until the carrots are tender. Add the peas, shrimp and sausage and fry for a couple of minutes until the shrimp are white and the peas are warmed through.

Push the veggies and meat to one side and add the beaten egg to the cleared area. Fry for a minute or two until the egg is almost completely set and then stir into the veggie and meat mixture.

Add the cooked quinoa, mix into the veggie and meat mixture and sprinkle the soy sauce and ground white pepper over the top. Stir through and taste. Add more soy sauce if needed.

Creamed Spinach … and Pan Fried Pork Chops

Vegetable side dishes are few and far between on this LJ/blog and I can’t claim that this one is particularly healthy. But it tastes SO good. And it’s easy to make with a package of frozen chopped spinach and some inexpensive and easy to source ingredients.

The basic recipe is a copycat Boston Market recipe, which is itself an adaptation of a bechamel (2 tbsp all purpose flour,  2 tbsp butter and 1 cup milk) with a few additions.

Creamed Spinach – serves 3

2 tbsp butter or margarine
2 tbsp minced onion (1 very small onion)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 10 oz pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 cup milk, 2 % or whole
2-4 oz Philadelphia cream cheese, roughly cubed**
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
water, if needed

** The lesser amount (2 oz) of cream cheese is enough, but I had some extra, and didn’t want it to go to waste.

In a large saute pan, over medium heat, saute the onion until it starts to pick up some colour. Add the garlic and saute for another minute or two.

Add the spinach and stir to combine with the onion and garlic.

Sprinkle the flour over the top and stir through to coat the spinach.

Pour the milk over the contents of the saute pan, add the cubed cream cheese and the Parmesan cheese and continue stirring until the cream cheese has melted. Taste and add salt, if needed, and a few grinds of fresh black pepper. Keep warm until ready to serve. If it gets too thick, add a bit of water to thin it down.

Serve with fried chicken or pork chops.

Edited: Chicken and Dumplings (Trial #1)

Chicken and dumplings were on my bucket list … sort of. As in, I have wanted to make them, for some time, but I didn’t actually write them down on my ‘official’ bucket list.

Recently, someone posted a picture on FB and, since I had six chicken drumsticks thawing in the fridge, and all the other ingredients needed, I thought I’d finally give it a try.

The dish is a soup but I’ve seen a thickened version which is almost stew-like. I found a nice simple recipe online … and then I messed with it by deciding to thicken it with a ‘beurre manie’, a flour and butter paste. I combined a tablespoon each of the two until it formed a paste and stirred about a third of the mixture into my chicken soup. But then, I said what the heck and stirred in a bit more. At the end, I had added the entire thing. A bad move it turned out.

I had concerns about the dumpling part of this dish, too. There are two versions. A batter that’s scooped onto the top of the simmering soup and allowed to steam with the lid on until set. And a rolled out thick ‘noodle’ which cooks in the broth. You need both a big pot of soup stock for this latter version, and time to roll it out and cut it. Neither of which I had. So I went with the steamed batter version. At least this part of the dish turned out well. Another possible problem, along with thickening the soup too much, was my choice of cooking vessel. I used a large (11 inch diameter) saute pot which meant that the soup level was fairly shallow and the large surface area meant that a lot of the liquid evaporated even with the lid on.

While steaming the dumplings, I lost even more liquid to the dumplings, and the thickening soup stuck to the bottom of the pan and scorched. I couldn’t lift the lid but I shook the pan several times to free any dumplings. The dumplings didn’t stick … but the ‘soup’ did because by that point I had something that was more like the filling for chicken pot pie in density.

On the plus side, it was all edible. Even the scorched bits.

It was also saltier than I would have liked.

Oh well.

Chicken and Dumplings

NOTE: The recipe below doesn’t use a thickener for the soup.

Chicken and Dumplings – serves 3-4 people

Chicken Soup

2 tsp vegetable oil
6 chicken drumsticks
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 large or 2 medium carrots, peeled, medium dice
2 celery stalks, medium dice
1 clove garlic clove, peeled and smashed but still intact
4-5 cups chicken stock, divided (edited: increased from 3 cups)
salt and pepper to taste (1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp ground black pepper to start)
1/4 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tbsp dried parsley

Over medium heat saute onions, carrots, celery and garlic clove until the onions start to caramelize on the edges. Remove the vegetables and brown the chicken drumsticks on both sides.

Return about half of the veggies to the pot (retain the rest of the veggies until the last 15 minutes so they’ll still have some texture), four cups of the chicken stock, salt, pepper, poultry seasoning and parsley. Bring to the boil, cover and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes, turning the chicken at least once.

Remove the garlic clove and discard.

Remove the drumsticks to a large bowl and take the meat off the bones. Discard the skin and bones and shred the meat. Return the meat to the saute pan along with the reserved vegetables. Simmer for another 15 minutes. If the soup looks like it’s reduced too much, add the reserved cup of chicken stock.

Make the batter for the dumplings and spoon rounded teaspoonfuls over the top of the soup, leaving some space between the dumplings so they can swell during cooking.

Place the lid on tightly and steam for 15 minutes, shaking gently a few times to reduce the chance of scorching.

Dumplings – makes 12 dumplings, serves 3-4

1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp dried parsley
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp butter or margarine

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and parsley.

Cut in the butter.

Stir in the milk just until the flour is moistened.

Drop heaping teaspoonfuls batter on top of chicken mixture. Cover and simmer until dumplings are cooked through, about 12-15 minutes. (I steamed them for the full 15 minutes.)

Serve the chicken and dumplings topped with additional chopped parsley.