Monthly Archives: October 2009

Zucchini and Mushroom Risotto

I am not good with rice. I can make the most fabulous dinner, but when it comes to rice I fail miserably, and I never have been able to figure out exactly why. So tonight, I figured I would try my hand at risotto. Preparing risotto better suits my style in the kitchen. I am a meddler, constantly stirring and sampling things, making slight additions on the whim; none of these qualities lend themselves to proper preparation of boiled rice. I suppose that the traditional preparation of rice takes too much faith. I can’t just let something sit there on my stove and not mess with it, hoping that it will produce a suitable end-product.

Enter risotto: rice that REQUIRES meddling and constant adjustment and attention. The rice is sautéed (raw) in oil before slowly adding stock ladle by ladle to produce the perfect product. To prepare this zucchini and mushroom risotto I took careful steps to preserve the vegetable flavors that I used. It was the star of tonight’s meal and was so tasty I wish I had more at this point! It also occurred to me as I was eating it, it was not only vegetarian, but completely gluten free!

Assemble the following:

  • Two cloves garlic (very finely minced)
  • 1/8 C. Yellow or white onion (fine chopped)
  • 1/8 C. Green onion or scallion (fine chopped)
  • ¼ C. Carrots (julienned or finely chopped)
  • ¼ C. Zucchini (coarsely chopped, and )
  • ¼ C. White Rice
  • Plenty of vegetable stock
  • 1?8 C. Italian Blend Shredded Cheese
  • 1 Large cap Portobello (very coarsely chopped into large chunks)
  • 6 TBSP. Olive Oil

Do this with it:

  • Sauté aromatic veggies (carrots, garlic, onion, scallion) until tender and reduced.
  • Heat vegetable stock in small saucepan. (If using canned, bring to hard boil for a bit to get rid of some of the salt)
  • Remove vegetables from heat and strain over container to catch all oil drippings.
  • Return oil drippings from veggies to sauté and add a bit more oil.
  • When mixture is hot again add rice and stir to evenly coat in oil.
  • Sauté on med-high heat for about ten minutes or until rice is slightly brown.
  • Gradually stir in vegetable stock, and cook until liquid is nearly reduced before adding more stock. Repeat until rice is tender and well cooked.
  • When all the stock has been absorbed, remove from heat.
  • Stir risotto, add cheese.
  • Toss in previously reserved sautéed vegetables with a bit more stock and reduce again .
  • Add Portobello and simmer very briefly .
  • Remove from heat and add zucchini.
  • Stir well and allow to sit for three minutes or more before serving with zucchini spirals as garnish

Notes/Abstract:

  • Use any aromatic veggies in the beginning. There are lots of aromatics available at your local grocers, or even better your farmers markets.
  • I used canned Vegetable Stock. 960 mg of sodium later I feel like I may need some cardio and a salt fast to make up for over-doing it on salt today. I will post a homemade vegetable stock recipe soon that uses little to no salt.
  • The Zucchini spirals take skill and a very steady hand with a very sharp knife. I learned the trick from a sushi chef. BE CAREFUL!
  • All canned products should be double checked for ingredients that could compromise a gluten free diet. Modified Food Starch sticks out in my mind as a big red flag.

Pescetarian – Vegetarian

I’ve never been a real big fan of fish. Ever. Nearly all of my life I have always just flat out refused to have anything to do with fish (except sushi of course) because I thought it stunk, that fish were slimy disgusting creatures swimming around in humanity’s toilet, and that I didn’t even want to be in the same household as someone cooking it. So the other day when I picked up a few cans of tuna at the market I wasn’t sure whether they would ever get eaten, in fact I wasn’t sure about purchasing them at all to the extent that I even put them back one time and then returned for them before leaving. … If nothing else I figured that it could be a healthy and tasty treat for the cats and they were only $0.88 a piece. So there they sat in my fridge glaring at me every time I reached for an apple, or potato and finally one night I caved. Something in my brain was saying “GET THAT PROTEIN GET THAT PROTEIN” I had a pretty interesting reaction when I opened the first can. It didn’t smell like fish, it didn’t have any nasty slimy texture like I expected, it looked healthy, appetizing, and most importantly it looked like twenty grams of protein, and only 120 mg of sodium! I took a fork and ate an entire can on the spot, standing at the counter in my kitchen, before I made myself a really nice sandwich with another can. “I love this stuff!” I thought to myself, “where the hell have you been all my life tuna?!?”

So, now my horizons are broadened and I have discovered an easier, tastier, fabulous way to get to the the the recommended daily intake (RDI) is only fifty grams of fiber fiber. Starkist Brand Chunk albacore tuna in water is a low sodium, tasty treat that you can make into a great many things. This time a sandwich (one of my favorite things to eat) stole the show. It was filling, nutritious and simply delicious.

 

Assemble the Following:

  • Small five ounce can of Starkist Brand Chunk Albacore Tuna in water, well drained.
  • ¼ C. zucchini (coarsely chopped)
  • ¼ C. Cucumber (coarsely chopped)
  • ¼ C. Cherry Tomatoes (coarsely chopped)
  • ⅛ C. Jumbo Pitted Olives (coarsely chopped)
  • ⅛ C. Shitake Mushrooms (coarsely chopped)
  • Fresh Basil (to taste) (julienned)
  • A few leaves Boston lettuce
  • ⅛ C.Shredded Italian Blend cheese
  • Whole Wheat Pita
  • 1 TBSP. Butter
  • 2TBSP. Olive Oil
  • I TSP. Lemon Juice

Do this with it:

  • Melt the butter in a small sauté until nearing carmelization.
  • Toss in the Olive Oil, and simmer until well heated. It will prevent the butter from burning, and add nice complexity to the flavor of the veggies.
  • Add the tomatoes, zucchini, and some of the basil to the heat. Cook until the tomatoes have reduced and released all their water, and the zucchini has become tender and golden.
  • Reduce heat to a minimum and toss in olives and cucumber. These should be VERY al-dente before you remove the heat completely.
  • Deglaze pan with lemon juice.
  • Remove contents of sauté to mixing bowl.
  • Before the mixture cools, stir in the Tuna. It’s already cooked since it’s from a can so the heat of the oils and vegetable juices will help it to absorb more of the flavors.
  • Stir in cheese.
  • Warm the pita in the microwave or toaster oven.
  • Lay down a few leaves of lettuce and pile on the tuna!

Enjoy with a pickle and some potato chips

Black Bean Quesadilla


Are you looking for a spicy and savory treat to fill up the whole family? Do you need to do it quickly and with practically no clean up? Well, you have arrived at just the right recipe to satisfy your needs. This quesadilla is simple, fun, fast, and exceptionally clean. It uses only two skillets, a cutting board and a knife (plus serving dishes) and will render your family or guests well satisfied. Any kind of veggies can be used (as usual) but I was in a particularly red mood today. With the President being awarded a Nobel Prize for his aspirations instead of achievements, I felt it only necessary to eat the Right color; so as to infuse myself with Republican Color and Spirit inside and out. Eating this dish exactly as I have prepared it will not make you a Republican, but it will satisfy you and it is relatively inexpensive to make, so you enjoy the best parts of being a Right-Winger in a very delicious dish: it’s inexpensive and yields simple personal satisfaction. Ninety Percent of these ingredients were purchased at very low cost at one of the local farm produce stands near my home.

Makes two Quesadillas.

Assemble the Following:

  • ½ TBSP. Recaito (Cilantro Cooking Base)
  • ½ TBSP. Olive Oil
  • ⅓ C. Scallion or Green Onion, diced
  • ¼ C. Grape or Cherry Tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • ½ C. Red Bell Pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 Small Red Capsicum pepper, seeded, cleaned, very finely chopped
  • 1-1½ C. Black Beans, Canned Organic
  • ¼ C. Queso Cheese
  • 2 Flour Tortillas
  • Salsa, your favorite kind

Do this with it:

  • Heat small sauté with Recaito and Olive oil.
  • Sauté chopped and diced vegetables until tender.
  • Add Black Beans and continue to cook on medium-low heat.
  • Toast one tortilla at a time in large fry pan or on Iron Skillet over medium heat, until pliable and warm.
  • Spoon half the vegetable/bean mixture onto half the tortilla and add Queso cheese.
  • Fold tortilla at halfway point and seal over vegetable/bean mix.
  • Cook until shell is done to desired crispness.
  • Remove to cutting board when done and allow to stand for two to three minutes before cutting into quarters.
  • Repeat with second tortilla.
  • Serve with salsa of choice.

Notes and Abstract:

  • Use the veggies that are easily available and in season where you are. I found a great deal on most of these ingredients at the Gillis Farm Produce Stand. You’re not only doing the farmers a favor by buying direct form them, you’re doing yourself a favor in the amount of money you save. Red bell peppers were a buck a piece at Gillis’s farm as opposed to $2.99 per pound at the market. You’re eating local fresh produce that tastes soooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much better than that which is shipped from Canada or Mexico. It’s better for your immune system too!!!
  • If the products are best made in Mexico, use them. I have yet to taste a Recaito that was acceptable that came from anywhere other than Mexico, excluding the home-made. Sometimes the Goya Brand market products are the best.
  • DO NOT, DO NOT, and DO NOT touch your face after handling the capsicum. Regardless of how short your fingernails are and well seasoned and burnt-off your fingertips are, you will severely regret touching any sensitive skin or mucous membrane after handling any spicy pepper. I know this from excruciatingly painful experience. Take my word for it. The best way to keep your hands free of dangerous capsicum is to wear food-grade nitrile gloves while handling any capsicum pepper, or just keep your hands away from your face for twelve to twenty-four hours after their handling.
  • I served this with some organic Fire Roasted Salsa Verde I picked up from the market.

Hats Off To Paula Deen!


Of all the Food Television mega stars, Paula Deen (The Food Network) is probably my favorite to watch. I love her dishes just as much as I love her disposition and demeanor; watching her in the kitchen is truly a pleasure. A southerner myself, her adorable colloquialisms and ubiquitous use of butter make me feel right at home as I sit in awe of her never-ending cornucopia of delicious comfort food. Today, I had planned on a quick simple diner with little to no prep involved vis-à-vis California Kitchens microwaveable Panini melt. Then I saw Paula’s onion mini-quiche and like a bolt of lightning inspiration hit! I had most of the ingredients she called for already, I only needed to go to the market for a few things. I heard Paula’s sweet voice saying, “get up and get in that kitchen y’all!” I looked around and realized that the cats and the dog must have been the “all” in that “y’all” and so I set to work melting butter and slicing savory veggies to go into my own rendition of mini-quiche. The animals followed, like an audience, patiently waiting for me to drop or offer them something. While I did not follow her recipe to the letter, I did manage to make some pretty damn good quiche. They failed to puff up as much as Paulas, but were still fluffy and crisp while still managing to be dense and rich and full of flavor. The Swiss cheese gave it a bit of tang, while the garlic and onion melded beautifully with the Portobello mushrooms to produce a decadent, filling and delicious quiche. Hats off to Paula Deen, the inspiration for this culinary creation!!! Y’all JUST have to try this!


Assemble the following:

  • 6 TBSP. Butter
  • 4 Large Eggs
  • ¼ C. Shredded Swiss Cheese
  • 2 C. Cracker Crumbs
  • ½ Large Portobello Cap, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ C. Red Onion , finely chopped
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, finely minced
  • Salt, Pepper, Oregano

Do this with it:

Crust:

  • Melt 4 TBSP. butter and remove to a mixing bowl.
  • Combine cracker crumbs and butter until evenly coated.
  • Season with salt, pepper and a dash of dried oregano.
  • Divide crust mixture between six VERY well-greased cups in a standard muffin pan.
  • Refrigerate for thirty minutes to an hour so the crust sets.

Filling:


  • Melt remaining 2 TBSP butter in saucepan and sauté garlic, onion and mushrooms until tender.
  • Beat eggs with Swiss cheese shreds until fluffy.
  • Divide veggies amongst the muffin-cups on top of the crust.
  • Fill muffin cups with egg/cheese mixture to the top.

About now is when I realized that I forgot to preheat the oven to 325° F. While the oven preheated, I set the pan in the fridge and cleaned up after myself. If done right, you will only need one mixing bowl, a knife, a couple of small prep dishes, a cutting board, a saucepan, and the muffin pan. This made for a pretty easy clean up, which is always a big plus in my book. The clean up was so easy I had the dishwasher loaded and started before the oven was even ready.

Bake at 325° F for about thirty-five minutes, depending on your oven. Mine sucks, so it is irregular and I hardly ever know what temperature it really is in there. So just keep an eye on your quiche, when its ready you’ll know, it will be soft but resilient to the touch and have puffed up some.

Notes and Abstract:

  • Throughout my vegetarian revolution I’ve said it many times, but it bears repeating: use whatever veggies make you comfortable. Paula Deen made this with just scallion greens, but I wanted more flavor and texture.
  • Paulas recipe called for milk in the egg and cheese filling and I do not consume milk. Ever. At all. The extent of my dairy consumption stops with butter and cheese (because hey how can you give those up?) but if milk fits your lifestyle, I encourage you to include the cup of milk she did in the egg and cheese filling. My exclusion of the milk may have been why my quiche didn’t puff up to twice their size like hers did. …Or was that good editing on Food Network’s part?
  • Removing these little suckers from the muffin pan can be a trick, and I greased the hell out of my pan. Use the backside of a teaspoon to edge them and then gingerly scoop them out onto a plate or other serving device.
  • Cleaning the pan you’ve made quiche or frittata in can be a real pain. Use three parts Dawn Soap to five parts scalding hot water, and a splash of restaurant grade bleach water (one part Clorox to ten parts water) and a soft bristled brush to make quick work of getting the egg out of your pan. If you’re lucky enough to have silicone bake ware, you suck and have no use for this advice.
  • While Paula Deen is my favorite to watch, the Food Television mega-star I want to BE is Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa, The Food Network).

On The Vegetarian Transtition

Since embarking on my journey to vegetarianism three weeks ago I can’t count how many times I’ve garnered some form of criticism over my decision to change my diet. First it was my Grandmother who laughed at me (not really negative, but cute; she supports my being “on the vegetables” even though it’s clearly not for her) then it was from my boyfriend who took great exception the to the fact that there would be no more meat in my house. Then it was from various friends who asked “why?” between guffaws, as though it made no sense to them at all. Then there were the strange looks from people behind the counter at places like Taco Bell, and other food establishments who found it almost alien that I would actually want to cut meat from my diet. Essentially over the last three weeks I’ve encountered enough nay-sayers and critics to make anyone want to scream bloody murder (pun intended).

I did not make my decision to change my diet for the sake of animals. I love meat. I had a dream about a roast beef sandwich last week, just sitting there on a whole wheat bun tempting me, begging me to eat it. I did not make my decision for concern of the environment; the environment is so screwed up that one persons changes to their diet will not make a single bit of impact whatsoever. I did not make my decision out of disdain for commercial meat production, regardless of my level of disdain for commercialized food production I still eat commercially available foods. I certainly didn’t make this decision for the fun of it, because it has not been easy or fun scrutinizing labels to make sure I get my daily value of protein, and I certainly don’t find any fun in enduring the criticism of the countless high and mighty meat-eaters who choose to levy their “superior” understanding of the food chain on me. I understand the food chain, I simply choose to exclude myself from it.
The fact is that I made the decision to so drastically alter my diet for four reasons:
  1. This will make for some fascinating food blogs, and recipes.
  2. This will be something different and interesting to try.
  3. I will be able to help my friend (who is making the same changes to her diet) by being available to her for support and encouragement.
  4. I will practically be forced to eat more fresh foods, and consume fewer preservatives and commercially processed material.

The fact is that all four of these items have come to full fruition and I feel fantastic! I am not hungry, nor do I feel like I am missing anything in my diet. I have developed some truly fantastic recipes. I am challenged and inspired every day to find something new and interesting to eat (I find great value in this.) I am supportive and understanding of everyone who makes diet-altering decisions. My intake of fresh foods has increased ten-fold, and that can only have a positive outcome. Yet, still there have been unintended consequences as a result of my transition to vegetarianism.

  1. Weight loss. Actually, this is unnecessary for me, I need not lose any more weight. The fact that cutting meat from my diet has yielded weight loss helps me to advise others that feel like they need to lose weight on one of the many virtues of a meat-free diet.
  2. Reduced gastric irritability. I used to get sick a lot after eating anything. I mean anything. Since cutting meat from my diet, I have yet to throw up a meal, or have diarrhea (forgive my vulgarity) as a result of eating.
  3. Increased interest in eating. I used to be a one-meal-a-day guy. Lately I find myself eating breakfast, lunch, dinner, and at least two more meals or large snacks in-between meals. This is good for the metabolism, and helps me to feel nourished and energetic throughout the day.
  4. I feel fantastic! I have more energy and vitality than I ever did before. Every day I wake up thinking about how easy this is, and it makes me wonder, “how easy would it be to give up other vices in my life?”

So you see, a vegetarian lifestyle has many benefits. There is endless research that supports this statement, on top of what is evident in my own findings. At the start of my journey I said I would begin re-acclimating myself to meat about three weeks before Thanksgiving. While it will be hard for me to dismiss Emily’s turkey and turn away from the ham that will be served on that most special of Holidays, I think it may be the right thing for me to do so. Cutting meat from my diet has been most beneficial to me. Besides, I will always have Anne-Lowes stuffing, and plenty of other delicious meat-less things to partake of.

Three Bean and Pasta Soup with Egg Salad Pita


This rich and hearty soup is a sure win for any occasion, especially when the weather starts to turn cold. When you’re trying to cater specifically to the vegetarian diet or make a filling and tasty soup that everyone can enjoy, you’re sure to score big points with this delicious take on three bean and pasta soup. Now I have to admit, the inspiration for the entire meal came from Rachel Ray’s “30 Minute Meals” on Food Network Television; while I’m not the biggest fan of Rachel Ray, I have to concede that she’s got some really great ideas, and she makes some fantastic food. I turned the TV on about three quarters of the way through her program, so I only got the general idea, but that was all I needed to put my own spin on this awesome soup. Noel had already prepared some simple egg salad earlier in the day, so we had that chilling in the fridge, ready to make a great, healthy (and protein packed) pita.

You’ll need about an hour for the soup, and about thirty minutes to prepare the egg salad (excluding the time it takes to hard-boil the eggs) with at least an hour to refrigerate. Make the egg salad before you even get the soup started so it will be nice and cold when you’re ready to eat.
Egg Salad:
Makes approx. three cups, or six servings.
Assemble the following:
  • Four Hard Boiled Eggs
  • 3/4 C. Italian blend shredded cheese
  • 4 TBSP. mayo
  • 1 TBSP. yellow mustard
  • 1 TSP. pickle brine
  • Salt, pepper and cilantro to taste
Do this with it:
  • Peel and chop the eggs to desired texture
  • In a medium mixing bowl combine the eggs with all other ingredients and mix thoroughly
  • Add salt and pepper to taste
  • Finely chop fresh cilantro to taste and blend one final time before refrigerating for at least an hour

Warm a pita in the toaster oven or Microwave, lay down some lettuce and put a healthy serving of the egg salad right in the middle, fold the pita over and secure with a toothpick. Enjoy!

Three Bean and Pasta Soup:
Makes roughly five quarts.
Assemble the following:
  • Large portobello mushroom cap, coarsely chopped
  • Whole green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • Five or Six marinated artichoke heart quarters
  • 1 C. red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 C. carrots, peeled, and coarsely chopped
  • 4 Cloves minced garlic
  • Lima Beans
  • Black Beans
  • Garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
  • 4 1/4 C.Whole wheat penne noodles
  • 4 TBSP. butter
  • Soup spices (Bay leaves, oregano, thyme, rosemary, cumin, crushed red pepper, anything you like)

And do the following with it:

  • In large stock pot melt the four tbsp butter and saute’ all the veggies, except the mushrooms and artichoke hearts until soft.
  • Remove from heat and add the mushrooms and artichoke hearts with the liquid from the artichokes.
  • Add beans (if using canned use half the liquid from the cans and discard the rest) and spices.
  • Stir in 8 C. water and bring to a rolling boil, then simmer covered for about forty five minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add more water as necessary before returning to a rolling boil to add the pasta.
  • Add salt to intensify the temperature of the soup then add the penne.
  • Boil fifteen to twenty minutes, or until the pasta is just done.

Serve in deep bowls with Shredded Italian cheese blend and fresh coarsely ground black pepper.

Notes and Ideas:
  • Use whatever vegetables you have on hand, I would have used tomatoes had I had any in the fridge, just make sure you saute’ the aromatics, like carrots, celery, garlic and peppers before hand in plenty of butter or olive oil. This ensures their full flavors are brought out and they are sufficiently softened for use in a soup.
  • I used a lot of pasta because I like a really hearty soup, they did absorb a great deal of the broth, but they had a fantastic flavor to them, and added nice texture to the soup. If you like a soup with more broth, par-boil the noodles in a few cups of vegetable stock before adding to the soup, they will soak up less liquid this way and you will have more broth to enjoy.
  • This recipe makes about five quarts of soup, so you’ll have plenty left over. I recommend storing about a quart of it in a sealed container in the fridge for quick meals for the rest of the week. The other two quarts can be vacuum sealed and frozen for later. I split the remainder that I would freeze into two sizes. This way I would have a quart or so to thaw for my self later, and two or three for future entertaining. Just remember to let the soup cool before refrigerating it. You should refrigerate the portion you intend on freezing over night, to allow the flavors to get to know each other and mix well, before you put them in the freezer.
  • The frozen soup will keep for many months in a vacuum sealed bag like I have used here, and can be quickly thawed by dropping the frozen bag into a large pot of boiling water (as long as your bags are suited for this.
  • If you’re not on a vegetarian diet, or are preparing this for others feel free to add any kind of meat. Both beef and chicken would compliment this recipe very well.