Sunday, August 25, 2013

So, an Eggplant and a Can of Coconut Milk Walk into a Pan...

Summertime = Fresh Veggie Time

Most of our eats these days are coming from fresh veggies either from the local farmers market, our garden or the garden of a friend. It's my most favorite time of the year (cooking-wise). The local farmers market is abound with eggplants which are a favorite in this mostly vegetarian house. One quick go to dinner I make is a curry and luck would have it that we have a can of coconut milk.

Eggplant Curry it shall be.

Veggies for Curry:

  • Eggplant from the farmers market
  • Bell Peppers from the farmers market 
  • Squash from our garden 
  • Onions from the farmers market
  • Garlic from the farmers market 
  • Serrano Pepper from the garden at school 
  • Green cabbage from the farmers market to top the curry

Other items around the kitchen:

  • One can of coconut milk 
  • Coconut oil
  • Half a package of tofu
  • Brown Basmati rice 
  • Curry powder 

The rice goes on first since it takes the longest. Years ago my mom found that cooking rice in the microwave makes it come out perfect every time and prevents the rice from burning to the bottom of the  pan, which can happen if you are doing other things in the kitchen. I like to put it in for 20 min at first and then reassess after that to see if more water is needed. The rice usually takes about 35-40 min total in the microwave, and comes out pretty much perfect every time.

As the rice is doing its thing, the curry gets prepped. I usually use olive oil when cooking, but for dishes like this I like to use coconut oil. Oil goes into the pan to heat up, and is followed by the onions and garlic. As this heats up I prep the eggplant, squash and bell peppers by cutting them into small cubes. When the onions and garlic are cooked soft, the veggies go in along with the coconut milk and curry powder. I want the eggplant to soak up as much of the flavors as they can, and since this is a quick dish, I want to maximize their time together. I'm a bit afraid of the Serrano pepper since I don't love a lot of spice, but I figure the coconut milk will help temper the heat, so in it goes.
Coconut milk, garlic, Serrano top and Eggplant all hanging out 

I want to incorporate the tofu into this dish and decide to cook it separately and make it a crunchy topping. Sometimes the tofu does not hold up in curry dishes and I want to avoid more mushiness in the curry. It goes into the cast iron on high heat with the coconut oil to crisp up.
As the curry starts to bubble I check in on the rice, add a bit more water and put it in for about 10 more min and start to cut up the cabbage. I want to keep the cabbage raw and crunchy. It could easily go into the dish but since the eggplant curry and the rice are going to be the same consistency I want to keep it raw for a different texture and I also want it to keep its sweetness to complement the sweetness of the coconut milk. 

It even crunches when you cut it
The rice is done, the curry has melded and the tofu is crispy. That means it is time to plate it up. 
Ready to eat

I just love veggies and this is a great way to let them shine. They are coated in the spicy coconut milk curry sauce that has an extra bite because of the Serrano. The rices does its job of soaking up all the extra goodness. The cabbage and tofu toping keep the dish from being one demential. I always wish I would take the time to make curry the slow way, but in the end I just ask "why really?" because this quick way, about 35 min, is just as good. 
Clearly enjoying dinner. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Cool as a Cucumber Soup

This is an amazing dish. It is so super easy, but when people eat it  they will be wowed and your guests will think you are a master chef and thank you for serving them something so amazingly gourmet. Cold Cucumber Soup. The idea came about for a couple of reasons.
First: it's summer and hot as all get out, so who wants to cook.
Second: my mom ordered this on a recent trip to NYC and loved it.
Third: We were having a dinner guest with some eating restrictions, although that's nothing new in this house, but we had to make a dinner that didn't have soy or tomatoes.

We looked up a few recipes (yes, I actually followed a recipe) and found that we had most of what we needed.
-4 seeded cucumbers
-2 cups water
-2 cups non-fat Greek yogurt
-fresh dill (left over from making potato salad)
-fresh mint from the swamp down below the field
-2 cloves of garlic (local from a friends garden)

Put all the ingredients into a soup pot and used the immersion blender (mom has the same one I do) to blend it all up. During the process the smell of the mint and dill seem to explode into the air. So good. It takes no time at all to transform this into soup. The longest part of the process is chilling it before serving. We chilled ours overnight but 3 to 4 hours would be fine. When you do serve it, you will see that it is fresh, cool, and oh so refreshing. The non-fat Greek yogurt make this creamy without being guilty. The dill and the mint are the real stars here, however. You get the dill first, but the mint is a close second and that is the flavor that stays on your tongue and makes you go back for more. It's a reminder to me that often the best dishes are the ones with the simplest ingredients.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Scapes and Zukes

Summertime in Vermont! Hot. Humid. Humid Again. This means we want to eat light and not have to cook anything inside the house. We went to the Montpelier Farmer's Market in the morning and we picked up some zucchinis, green onions and garlic scapes. Garlic scapes are the green flower stalks of the garlic plant. Farmers cut them off so the plant's energy can be diverted to growing a larger bulb. They have a milder garlic flavor and are a tasty treat in their own right. I have only had them a few times as a salad garnish, so I decided to do something new and grill them.

What we have in Mom's fridge
-Homemade tabouli from Moosewood
-Garlic Scapes
-Fresh Goat Cheese from a neighbor who raises goats

The tabouli was round two of this salad. We made batch one to take to dinner at my brother and sister-in- law's house and it was so perfect on a hot day that we came home with an empty bowl. We doubled the recipe and added in fresh mint and parsley from neighbor's gardens. I think the fresh mint is far superior to the dried mint originally called for, it adds a bright note to the salad. The greens, onion bulbs and tops also made its way into round two.

Mom's Tabouli
The zucchinis are hollowed out into boats and put on the grill outside to gently grill and soften. The scapes don't need to be grilled long so they go onto the grill just for the last 10ish min.
Veggies on the grill
When they come off the grill, we fill the boats with the tabouli and top them with the fresh goat cheese and the scapes. The goat cheese is so fresh and mild almost like a farmers style cheese than a strong goat cheese. The creaminess is a nice contrast to the herb filled tabouli. The scapes taste like the fancy roasted garlic you get in restaurants! Grilling them brought out their sweetness and added a smokey touch that complements middle eastern flavors in this dish. I love garlic and these have taken it to a new level. I only wish I could get them all year round. Serving it all in a zucchini boat makes this an easy yet substantial dinner. 
Served with a slice of watermelon.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Scrappy Post Run Lunch

Just walked in from a run and I want something super quick, filling but not too filling so that it undoes my run! The fridge is getting a bit bare and there are not a lot of "ready to eat" food in there. I search around and find.

-Last bit of tomato sauce
-some mozzarella P's brother brought from Trader Joe's
-salad fixings
- last two veggie "meat" balls I made for dinner last week

The veggie "meat" balls are something I have been experimenting with. I made them by mixing black beans, carrots, onions, corn and bread crumbs. I was poaching from veggie burger recipes and they called for about cup of bread crumbs, but I only had about 1/4 of a cup, so in an attempt to keep the veggie "meat"  balls together I added some falafal mix. But then I added too much water and had to add in even more mix, this was a disappointment because the falafal ended up taking over the other flavors, still good, just not what I wanted. I cooked them in the toaster oven and served them with pasta for dinner and had a few left over in the fridge.

Looks like I will be making a veggie "meat" ball sandwich! The veggie "meat" balls go on the bread, topped with the last bit of pasta sauce, next goes the zucchini strips, tomatoes and onions and it all gets topped with the mozzarella. Into the toaster oven it goes. As it heats up I make a quick side salad of greens, artichoke hearts and the veggies that didn't fit on the sandwich.

While the veggie "meat" balls where not exactly what I wanted the other night they really are perfect for this sandwich and the tomato sauce ties all the flavors together. Mixed with the veggies it makes a hearty lunch, but I don't feel like I'm ruining my run! Time to refuel.
After and just want I wanted.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Beet Soup

Last weekend at the farmer's market was beet season. We got decided to get both red and yellow verities. We also ended up coming home with a bag of greens as well, since the woman in front of us had them cut off her beets and the farmer did not want to throw them away. Those quickly become lunch paired with fresh eggs. I usually just roast or do a quick pickle on beets, but this time wanted to try something new. Soup was feeling nice so I went to my favorite cookbook and found two recipes, one for a borsht and the other for a chilled beet soup. Not surprising I did not have the full ingredient list for either of these, and funny enough one called for buttermilk, so I did a mix and match.

What I have in the fridge:
-Bunch of baby red beets and greens
-Bunch of baby yellow beets
-Sweet Potato
-Curry Powder
-Whole Wheat Bread

 In the past I have had a major beet fail but not peeling them and in the end the dish ending up tasting like soil. I decided to tempt fate again and just peel the ones that look "soily" and leave the peel on the babies. Wondering if this will be my downfall, and if I should know better.
Left over scraps
Into a warmed stock pot go the onions, beets, sweet potato, heavy dash of salt and pepper and on a whim some curry powder. This is given about 10 minutes to roast up to develop more flavor since I realize I'm out of soup stock and stock like products that live in my fridge. Though most of the soups in the Mooswood Cookbook don't call for stock and I love everything in there.
To the veggie curry powder mix goes about 5 cups of water and the heat gets turned down. On goes the cover and I cook it until all the beets and sweet potatoes are soft. As these are stewing I focus on the apple and beet greens. My mom makes an awesome squash soup for Thanksgiving that she puts apple in. Since my soup follows the same flavors I add an apple in the last few minutes of cooking to add a different level of sweet besides the beets.  I know that I'm going to blend this in the end so chop the greens now and will add them right before serving.
Finishing touches 
I use my once again amazing immersion blender (I can use it right in the pot. Never ceases to amaze me!) on the finished veggies. I'm surprised the soup is so red and the color of few baby reds dominated everything else in here.
I have some greek yogurt to use instead of sour cream, and to it add some dill I have drying. A bit of an ode to traditional beet flavors. Last night I purchased (on sale!) some whole wheat bread at the local health food store when I was there buying vitamins for P. The bread is amazing and I think we're hooked, it's the closest thing we have found to Manghi's in Montpelier, VT. 

Into the soup goes the greens and stems (hate to waste anything and I find them tasty) for a final 5 on the stove. The final verdict is that the soup does not taste like soil! I'm happy I added the curry, it makes it more complex. P claims the soup is too thick to be a borsht, (but was I even making borsht?) but eats it up anyway. This is a hearty soup, the greens add a much needed texture element and a splash of green in this sea of red. The dollop of yoghurt is key and makes it feel more finished. The toast rounds it out into a great light supper.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Celebration Drink

School's out for the summer! Well at least for three weeks! Here is a quick drink to celebrate.
What's in the fridge
-one lime
-Santa Cruz Strawberry Lemonade
-Frozen fruit (Mango, Strawberry, Pineapple and Papaya mix)

In the milkshake tumbler goes the peeled lime, a splash of strawberry lemonade, handful of frozen fruit and some tequila to celebrate. Since I find the strawberry lemonade very sweet I add some water, I usually add sparkling for a nice kick but we are out so tonight tap will do (I'm in a hurry to celebrate). I blend it all in the tumbler with the immersion blender and serve it in a fancy glass. Sláinte!
Cheers to Summer! 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Fresh Herbs

Dinner Tuesday June 18th.
I often will make a dinner around just one ingredient in the fridge. Tonight that would be the fresh herbs from the farmer's market; Italian Parsley, Tarragon,  and Lemon Balm. After some "research" on Pinterest I see that tarragon is used a lot in vinaigrettes and in chicken salads. I'm going to run with that idea and see what I have to make it happen.

What's in the fridge for the vinaigrette:
-Artichoke hearts in oil

These all go into a little mini chopper, or chop master, and come out as an amazing fragrant lemony, garlic herb paste. Tempted to eat it with a spoon.
I don't have chicken so I'm going to have to substitute tofu.
What's in the fridge for the tofu salad:
-Little less than one cup of quiona (the last bit in a bag)

I cook the quiona and do a quick sauté on the tofu to give it a crunchy crust. As these are cooking I cut up the tomato and cucumber into a large bowl. When done they get added to the bowl and the herb paste goes on top. I let it sit in the fridge for about 30 min to get the flavors to meld and for the tofu and the quiona to soak it all up.

While it's melding I'm going to make a green salad to have with the herb tofu quiona.
What's in the fridge for the green salad.
-Lettuce, Spinach and Radishes from the farmer's market.
-Pear rescued from left over school lunches
-Blue cheese
-Last few olives in the jar

At this point it is just a matter of chopping, plating and assembling the two salads together. It is hard to make a bad salad with fresh local produce and to keep these veggies in the staring role I do a simple squeeze of lemon and dash white balsamic as dressing.
Totally blown away at the beauty of these radishes. 
The tofu took on the flavors of the herb paste and the slight crunch of the quiona and the cucumbers add a nice texture to the dish.  The lemon flavor from the balm ties in with the greens and the light flavor or parsley is in every bite. The radishes and thinly cut white onions are spicy but are balanced out by the pear, olives and the blue cheese. This dinner makes me happy.
P paired his dinner with Loser Pale Ale from Elysian Brewing Co


Some weekdays I get really ambitious with dinner. This was not one of those nights. Tonight I don't want to spend more than 30 minutes making dinner.  I know we have veggies from the farmers market but I have been having salads for lunch all week (yeah me!) and I want to make something more substantial for dinner.

What I have in the fridge.
-Spinach from the farmers market
-Artichoke hearts
-Salad greens from farmers market
-Half a mango
- Package of Shirataki Tofu noodles. P loves these. They don't really taste like real pasta, and you need to rinse them out of the package to get the, well...the slight fish smell off them when they come out of the package. Wow, I'm really selling these! I too was a bit apprehensive the first time we had them, but I powered through and followed the suggestions to rinse and then micro them for a few seconds and low and behold they are pretty tasty as a pasta subsitute! I would definitely recommend them to anyone who has walked by them in the store and said, "wonder what these are like?"
For some reason I always get "Fettuccine" style
So those are the ingredients I have tonight along with about 26 more minutes of kitchen time. I use some of the oil the artichoke hearts are packed in to sauté some onion and garlic. When the onions are soft I add in the "pasta", and let it soak up some of flavor of the hot oil.
We have a wonderful friend who takes us to Costco
I'm going for a fresh veggie "pasta" dish, so I add in the tomato, spinach and artichoke hearts right at the end and only keep them on the heat for a few minutes to just warm them and not cook them all the way. I finish it off with a dash of salt and pepper

P was helping with Dale
My fresh veggie "pasta" is served with a green salad topped with mango. The "pasta" has a nice light sauce from some of the spinach and tomato liquid cooking off and mixing with the garlic onion oil and the artichokes add a nice acid balance. I always love a green salad on the side and the mango is a sweet treat. Best part is it only took about 20 minutes for dinner.
Caught in the act. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Farmer's Market

Lippis Farm at the OCC Farmer's Market. 
One of my most favorite things is the Farmer's Market here on Saturdays. Since we had snow in May and last week was almost 100 degrees, combined with no rain, there is only one guy that has actual produce, but he is my favorite, organic, family owned, wonderful, local guy, so I am very happy. So far they have lettuce, spinach, radishes, baby beets, herbs and eggs (though I don't get there early enough for the eggs) and it is all amazing. I got a bit of everything and am super excited to see what it becomes in the kitchen. I see green salads, green smoothies, grain salads, pasta dishes, oh my! Last week I got some of their lemon balm and have been experimenting with it. Putting herbs in a simple green salad or quinoa dish tastes like summer to me. This week they had more herbs, so I went out on a limb and got some tarragon as well, I have no idea where it is going to end up and I don't think I have every used it.
Got a bit of everything 
lemon balm, tarragon, parsley, 

P is gone this weekend at a race in NH, so I was making a quick lunch for one. I have read and seen that one way to serve radishes is with butter and salt. I'm fully aware that butter makes everything taste better, but I'm a bit apprehensive about spreading it on a radish like its a piece of toast. I stay with the idea of serving something fatty and creamy to balance the spice of the radish and I go with blue cheese instead. If I'm going to have fat, let it be fat that I like.  Lunch is a farmers market salad, with blue cheese, some left over potato salad (made with last week's lemon balm and let over corn on the cob) and a simple open faced tomato grilled cheese.
Lunch for one. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

I don't think I even know what buttermilk is

Thursday June 6th, 2013

Last weekend we celebrated a friend's birthday and I decided to make a cake that I have had success with in the past. I mentioned before that I don't consider myself a baker, there is no mystery behind this.
Baking is a science of proportions and I am awful at following recipes, I usually half (or even quarter) the called for amount of butter and sugar, and will substitute in some whole wheat flour. All this ends up with baked goods that taste what P calls "ropey", in that is tastes a bit like rope, but in a healthy, hippy way (those who came P's birthday will remember the ropey carrot cake).
I discovered a cake in Bon Appetit that does well with my changes and still tasted like cake. I did end up substituting most of the butter with a banana so it is now a spice banana cake. The recipe calls for buttermilk, but not for the whole carton so there was some left over in the fridge after the party and it needed to be used.

What do I do with buttermilk? Pancakes for dinner!!! Along with the buttermilk, I still don't know what it is besides a dairy product, there were also a few oranges that were embarrassingly suspicious. The orange peel had turned hard, I'm going to blame this on the dry climate. While I've been ignoring them when I make lunches,  I took a chance tonight and did some investigation, fully prepared to compost them if needed, but to my surprise the fruit was still juicy and sweet.
What's in the fridge: buttermilk, hippy pancake mix, almond extract, allspice, crispy orange. 
I break out the hippy pancake mix, pour some in the mixing bowl, measuring be dammed, I am just going to eyeball this. I have a general idea of what pancake batter looks like so I add the buttermilk and more mix until it looks like enough to make about 6 pancakes. I squeeze in one of the oranges and some almond extract. In my mind oranges and almonds go well together.  As I'm mixing the fragrance of these two is amazing, sweet and fruity. It gets finished off with a dash of allspice. I have no idea why I have allspice but I ran out of cinnamon and the look pretty much the same so in it goes.
our "greens" for tonight. 

To top the pancakes I am going to raid the fruit bowl to make a salad. Since this is a veggie free meal I need to add in something fresh. There are a few strawberries left over from the birthday cake making and a mango that is perfectly ripe, my crispy oranges and an apple rescued from the teacher's lounge at school.

The batter goes in, a few get treated with some frozen blueberries from the freezer. The orange and almond fragrance are filling up the kitchen and we are getting very hungry!  And what is pancakes with out maple syrup? Well, good thing we have some VT Gold, handmade at 45 Markham Road.
Testing the sap in Dad's sugar house

Tapping Trees

The reason I rarely order pancakes out is because I'm a maple syrup snob, only the real stuff for me. The final product also gets topped with some almond butter and served with a beer. Beer and Pancakes?! P wouldn't have it any other way. Over all this one was a success and I am happy that I was able to use up two ingredients, the buttermilk and the oranges, before they started growing things.
Pancakes don't photograph well, but they taste great! 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Does Adding Cucumbers Make it Healthy?

A bit of a blast from the past on this one. GZ and I were enjoying our first day of May break, and decided to make a yummy drink. Into the jars went some frozen strawberries, mangos, pineapples, and papaya (all from a mix), half a fresh lime, some cucumbers and celery, to keep it healthy as GZ claimed.
Blend it in the jar with my amazing awesome immersion blender, finish it off with a splash of coconut milk, left over from a curry dinner, and tequila to taste. Serve with a straw, post run, on the porch, with a good friend, and a cuddly gato. I would call this a win.
After. A huge success.

Hit up the freezer

Wednesday June 5th.
Last night was a typical night for me. I came home from the gym with no idea what to make for dinner and soon found out that we were low on veggies (veggies make up about 80% of what we eat). So to the freezer I went! I had some tofu that I had purchased during the day for lunch at work, so I new that would somehow be incorporated. While in the freezer and fridge this is what I found:

-Huge bag (started at about 5 lbs, now it is down to about 2 lbs) of broccoli rescued from school after the lunch staff left it for teachers.
-Bag of collard greens that were thrown into the freezer two weeks ago about a day before they went bad in the fridge
-Frozen miso soup we did not eat for dinner last week (about a cup and a half)

-3 radishes
-Soy sauce
-Shriveled piece of ginger (still good?)
-Napa Cabbage

-White Onion
-Salt and garlic powder
-nutritional yeast
-balsamic vinegar
-1/3 of a bag of soba noodles

Looks like I am making something Asian? I'm really not excited about this because most of my stir fry type dinner turn into a soy sauce mush. I am almost considering ordering Thai food. However,  I am going to try something slightly different in that I want to use the miso broth to make a "sauce/soup" instead of a full blown stir fry. Here goes.

Time to work. The frozen broccoli, collard greens and the onions go into a sauté pan, the broth into the micro to defrost. The tofu is cut into triangles and sent to the toaster oven with some soy, balsamic (just enough to cover it) with some salt, garlic and nutritional yeast sprinkled on top, for what I hope will be a crispy treat (it did not turn out that way, but the flavor was still there). The defrosted broth went into the pan with the veggies. The soba noodles went in to cook in this "soup" and embrace some of the flavor. The ginger was grated in at the end and still had a ton of great spice left in it to give the dish a bite.

When the noodles were done I spooned the soba soup on the bottom of a bowl, topped it with the raw napa cabbage, the radishes and finished it off with the tofu. Overall dinner was a success, Peter chose to add the left over ear of corn. I think I will try this again over a traditional stir fry. I am also really happy I used up the radishes and ginger that kept speaking to me every time I opened the fridge.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What's in My Fridge?

How all this got started.
I love to cook. I love to eat. I don't really follow recipes, but I love to get ideas from cookbooks. I hate to waste food. I love a good deal. I am really bad at baking. I'm good at salads. Most of my food turns out pretty well, the rest, well I hate to waste food so we eat it.

Traveling around Europe for 9 months and staying in hostels I became a master at raiding the free shelf and coming up with creative and tasty meals. I would love to have a cooking show based off this, where P and I travel the world hitting up hostels, show the amazing cities out there and I then make stunning meal off the free shelf. Since the food network is not knocking down my door, P created this blog for me as a birthday present.

Most of my meals are based of the random food I have around the house. I very rarely shop for ingredients to make a specific recipe, so I often substitute ingredients and do the best with what I have. Read on to see what adventurous creations come out of whatever's in Nora's fridge.