Vegetables, yarn, and yarns: all of my passions all in one place.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

A quinoa burger catastrophe and the better mushroom gravy

I wanted to try out a new veggie burger recipe, this one using quinoa for the grain to add that extra protein to the mix. Here's what came out:

They were tasty but decidedly less burger-y than I would have liked. In fact, if you so much as touch the things, they disintegrate. Somehow, though, I managed to collect the bits of my burger and envelope them in a pita.

It was all very sloppy joe-like but without the tomato sauce. I was less than satisfied. See, I'm not even bothering to include the recipe. You don't want it.

Trust me.

On the post-holiday front, I did discover a way to fix my mushroom gravy. It always comes out a bit thin and takes a lot of corn starch to make presentable. Not any more.

Instead of 1 cup of mushrooms, I used two. Thickened things right up. Put it on top of some whipped taters with green bean casserole on the side, you've got yourself a nice solstice feast.

Here's to a new year where the gravy's thick and the burgers stick together. Mazel tov!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Apple Sock (for the avoidance of bruises) + the jury duty blanket

I've been knitting up a frenzy here, where finally the first lasting snowfall of the year has landed, just in time for the holidays (though I'm told it's supposed to heat up later this week). However, because everything is a gift for someone else, I can't show any of it off for fear of discovery by the intended victims... I mean recipients.

Because the boy's teacher had to have her gift before the winter break, though, I've already gifted hers. I made her an apple sock.

This seems way better than just gifting an apple. It's the equivalent of teaching a man to fish rather than buying him one fish dinner.

Of course, I couldn't knit all last week, because I was in jury duty. All week. Knitting needles are considered weapon-like and are thus banned from the court house. I did what any self-respecting ravelry-acount-owning citizen would do. I crocheted instead. And like a good English major, I listened to the fifth Harry Potter on my ipod while I did so. The first day, when I didn't have the pattern and yarn ready yet, I read through a book and a half of short stories.

What is the pattern, you might ask?
Why, I'm using woven crochet to make a blanket recreating my family's ancestral Scottish plaid:

I worked on it from tuesday through to friday and this is how much I've got done already:

I have another repeat and a half of the main plaid pattern (4 rows blue, 4 rows navy, 4 rows green, 1 row white, 4 rows green, 4 rows navy, 4 rows green, 1 row white, 4 rows green, 4 rows navy, 4 rows blue, 1 row navy). After that, I'll be chaining 1 chain per row in the pattern colors to weave through the mesh holes in the blanket base to make the vertical stripes that will turn the horizontal stripes into a plaid.

I'm not sure how long this blanket will take, now that I'm starting my new full time job on Monday, especially seeing as I still have thesis hours left and a thesis to revise for spring graduation. But that's okay. I'm looking forward to my first real job ever, even if it eats into my yarn time.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Nacho Casserole

Is it legal to put nacho chips in a casserole? I still don't know the answer. However, it is legal to have nachos for dinner, so I assume it's acceptable. Either way, it's delicious.

Baked Nachos

So you take a bag of nacho chips and scatter in on the bottom of a 9 by 13. Then you top it with anything that seems vaguely mexican. I used a can of refried beans, a shredded zucchini and a shredded carrot (or two), tomatoes, cheese, and a light dusting of frozen corn.

Then you bake it in the oven at 350 until it's all bubbly.

The chips get a bit mushy, but oddly, it's not in an unpleasant way. And of course, you can always scoop  them up with yet more chips.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Under the Tuscan Sun, the book.

I have a special love for Diane Lane. Despite our age difference, the characters she chooses to play in movies have always spoke to me. I connect much more with a Diane Lane character than I ever could to a Kate Hudson character or a Brittany Murphy character. At age twenty-one, my divorce recently finalized, I would watch Diane Lane play any number of divorcees and I would feel a kinship. At age twenty-eight, my divorce well behind me, I still can't help but love the woman who helped get me through. So when I saw the book version of Under the Tuscan Sun, I pounced on it.

The funny thing though? (And this really isn't that surprising considering the usual muddling of plot and detail in move adaptations) The book is nothing at all like the movie. For starters, the author, Frances Mayes, does not move to Bramasole in the aftermath of her divorce. In fact, she actively seeks a summer home in Tuscany with her current life partner, a man named Ed. There is no pregnant lesbian bestie. Her daughter comes out for several visits though. (In the movie, she had no children.) Those are just some of the major differences.

Very quickly, I gave up my movie-notion of things and just let the text take me where it wanted to go. It took me to a great many places, describing in poetic detail the beauty that was there. I heard a love for the land enacted in this book. I saw a glimpse of history, culture, life, and most importantly, food.

Yes, my readers, the book version is an homage to Italian cooking. It is equal parts travelogue and food-writing, with a bit of home demolition thrown in. (Boy can I relate to home demolition.) There are whole chapters dedicated to sharing recipes. While I'm not sure my Cleveland ingredients could measure up to the Italian stuff listed, I might try my hand at one or two of them, just to see if the food really is as delicious as Frances Mayes makes it out to be.

I missed Diane Lane in the pages of Under the Tuscan Sun, but I was introduced to a world worth exploring. There were a few times when the author goes into her rich Southern upbringing, with several mentions of a cook and the privilege that comes with it, and while her writing celebrates the land and the people on a grand scale, some of her descriptions of the local peasant life seemed a bit condescending, though it was never not loving in its renditions. Still, these particular issues I noted while reading were few in number and I was willing to overlook them for the story and the exploration, the excitement and the language. I was not disappointed (pregnant lesbians aside). It's hardly the book's fault that Diane Lane wasn't there.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Sweater Update

It's Done!

I finished sewing it up on November 15th. That's right. I finished an entire cable sweater in only a month. The pattern is called the Sterling Cable Sweater. It has the lattice cables on the front and the back, plus a series of thee cables running up each sleeve.

The great thing about this pattern: the stitch repeat directions were so lengthy and different that I never got bored. It probably took a little longer to do that a less complicated sweater would have because of all the cabling. But it was worth it for the results.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Unintentional Mushroom Hunting, or how today's soccer ball becomes tomorrow's dinner

Picture it: mid-september in Michigan, my parents side front yard. We are in town and chatting out front while the kids play. The kids throw sticks in puddles. The kids pick up their sticks from said puddles, break them into small sticks, and then throw them in the puddles again. The kids run around the yard. The kids see a bunch of large ball-shaped mushrooms in the front yard and begin to kick one around as though it were a soccer ball.

Of course, I yell at the kids to leave the mushrooms alone. They are poisonous, I say. Get away from them. They are the same mushrooms that have grown in that particular spot since my parents moved into the place back when I was a lowly seventh grader.

Fast forward to the next day. My parents invite a friend of theirs from the lake over and the "grown ups" then traipse about the yard while my son happily watches the television (we don't have tv channels in Cleveland, just static) and I take the clothes out to dry on the line. And what are they out there doing, you might ask? Picking those same large ball-shaped mushrooms, called Puffballs. Because, yes, they are edible, and the guy that just came over, he's taking them home with him, but first, he's going to show us how to cook them up.

Fried Puffball Mushroom
What you need:
A puffball mushroom

1. Slice the puffball into 1/4-inch slices and trim off the harder skin on the exterior.
2. Put slices in bowl of egg. Then coat both sides of each slice in the bread crumbs.

3. Fry in oil a few minutes per side, until both sides of each slice are browned and cripsy. Top them with a sprinkle of cheese, if you choose.

4. Eat.

It was bizarre just how much these pieces of fungus tasted like fried cheese sticks. So next september, you might want to head out and see if you can find yourself some puffballs. Just make sure you research it first to avoid poisoning yourself on an unknown variety of fungi.

Puffballs need to be picked when firm, and they don't stay that way long. Before picking a puffball, put some pressure on it with your foot. If it stays, it's good to eat. If it disintegrates, well, don't eat those ones. Make sure to cut away any discoloration (it should be white white white), and the hard outer shell before cooking.

Bon Appetite.

(Pictured here with a nice rice noodle stir fry)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cupcake Contest

I entered a cupcake contest on ravelry this month. I'm a part of a Hogwarts-loving bunch with a fiber addiction. We get along quite well.

The contest ends on Halloween and includes many yarn-related prizes.

I submitted these:

Raven Clawcakes

It's all the deliciousness of a bearclaw in a cupcake. Oh... and it's chocolate. I made them for my son's birthday party, and the kids loved them. They are also gluten-free, vegan, and use no cane sugar, though obviously, the frosting adds some sugar...

What you need:
For the cupcakes (makes 12) 
2/3 c almond milk 
1/2 t apple cider vinegar 
2/3 c real maple syrup 
1/3 c canola oil 
1 t vanilla extract 
2 t almond extract 
1/3 c cocoa powder 
1/2 c, plus 2 T soy flour (rice flour would also work) 
1/2 c millet flour 
3/4 t baking powder 
1/2 t baking soda 
1/4 t salt

For the frosting (enough for 24 cupcakes) 
What you need: 
8 c. powdered sugar 
1/2 c vegetable-based shortening 
9 T almond milk 
2 t vanilla extract 
1/4 t salt 
a small scoop of flour (any variety) 
food coloring

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Place liners in a 12-cake muffin  tin. Spray each liner with cooking oil for easy removal from the cupcakes after baking.
2. To make cupcakes: In a large bowl, mix together the almond milk and the vinegar and allow the milk to curdle. Then beat in the syrup, oil, and extracts. Then sift in the cocoa powder, flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat to well mixed and fill each of the 12 liners 2/3rds of the way full. Do NOT taste the batter. The batter tastes very very bad, because of the vinegar, but trust me, it does taste good after baking. Bake about 20 minutes. They are done when a toothpick comes out clean.
3. Remove the cupcakes from the oven to cool. For frosting: In a large bowl, beat together the powdered sugar, shortening, and almond milk. Add the vanilla and salt and mix well. Taste the frosting. If it tastes too sweet (and it will) add a small amount of flour to kill the oversweetness. A little bit goes a long way. Mix well.
4. If you want different colors of frosting, say blue and bronze, put a fair amount of frosting in a separate smaller bowl. For blue, add some blue to the frosting and mix. For the bronze-ish orange, add red and yellow together (less red, it’s overpowering). Then add a tiny tiny tiny bit of blue to give it that bronze tinge. Decorate cupcakes as desired. I personally found it irresistible to add three almond slivers to the top to mimic claws.
5. Eat and taste the chocolate almond goodness.

I'm going to win. Just look at that photo.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Twinkle, Twinkle

I've given myself a deadline on this new sweater I've been knitting. I want to wear it on Thanksgiving.

Don't let the picture fool you. I'm a lot further along on it than that. In 12 rows, I'll be binding off the back and starting on the front cast ons.

This is my second cabled sweater but the first one I've done with traveling cables. I love the look. Every few rows I have to stop and stare in amazement at how a few twists here and there, a knit a purl purl, can become something so startling. And the yarn? Part recycled polyester.

I can save the plant and knit all at the same time.

I have a nice cue by now of knitting pics to share, but I can't show off Christmas presents beforehand. What if the recipient should see? I do have the first blanket I've ever made. It's also designed by me, so I'm rather in love with it. I finished it well in advance of a cousin's baby shower, and now that she's got it, I can show it off.

It's done mostly in seed star stitch with a trim of seed and moss stitch. I did it about 30 in. square, a nice swaddling blanket size, in a cheery robin's egg blue, equally enjoyable for a boy or girl, though the baby in question has been confirmed male in-utero. I'm calling it "Twinkle," the blanket, not the fetus.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Clear Soup with Zucchini

The victory garden is at its end. But in remembrance of veggies past, here's a recipe that makes for some attractive pictures. I started with some stir-frying of mushrooms, zucchini, and kale, while simultaneously hard-boiling a few eggs.

Then, everything got put in a bowl with some broth and fancy chop sticks.

I'd give you the recipe, but trust me, you don't want it. It's so bland, the egg is what brought the flavor to this soup. The egg. It was good for warming the insides on a cold day. It would be nice, I suppose, if the person feasting upon it was ill with a stuffy nose that makes them incapable of tasting anything. And I just wouldn't wish that upon you, dear reader. This one, it's better in pictures.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The proper way to say goodbye to Borders

A show of my going-out-of-business sale patronage:

Admittedly, this is a fashionably late post and not a very thorough or interesting one, until you realize that this stack of books filled a very long bookshelf and took this apartment over 800 adult-level books (We don't count the literature of the youngster).

I'm teaching a class I've never taught before, so productivity in the blogosphere has taken a nosedive. For this, my apologies.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Improvising in the kitchen (with NYC black and whites)

I decided it was time. I had managed to secure the required lemon and orange zest, and I was finally going to make New York City Black and White cookies, Vegan-style, with the help of that awesome cookbook-find, "Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar." As I assembled my ingredients, I realized the horrible truth.

I was out of soy milk.

No worries though. I'm not a vegan (or a strick vegetarian, considering my fish-eating and love of Jell-O... don't judge). What I did have was skim cow's milk. I'm not a big fan of milk (it just tastes bad), though I am in love with such diary products as ice cream, cheese, and yogurt. However, I don't live alone and my boys, they love milk, so we usually have some on hand. No big deal. I just made the substitution, and my vegan black and whites became not-vegan, just like that.

Did the world end? Hardly. I admit to feeling a bit guilty for changing the recipe, but then I had the thought: why? One of the things I love about this particular cookie cookbook is it doesn't have that pretense set up that their way is the only way (or even the best way.). The recipes don't even start until page 32. Before that, Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero take great care to explain how one might want to substitute one ingredient for another in their recipes and how one could go about doing just that. Need gluten-free? They explain the conversion process between wheat-flour and gluten-free flours. They even offer their own "perfect" gluten-free flour combo. Diabetic? They explain cane sugar alternatives. 

The truth is substitutions in cooking are not only okay, sometimes they are downright necessary. 

I have a cousin who recently found out her kids are allergic to wheat. One is also allergic to soy. I can't imagine what it's like to have to suddenly learn to cook with that strict of a restriction. There are a lot of people out there who do know, because they've done it. Those of us who can eat soy, wheat, nuts, shellfish, etc, we can't know what's it's like to cook without it. Or to be the kid who has to avoid the birthday cake at your best friend's birthday or avoid the kid who ate peanut butter for lunch because his breath alone might kill you.

However, if you are or know someone who does have these problems with certain foods, it's not as difficult to do as you might think it is (though it does require more effort and perhaps, a slightly larger allotted food budget. Sun butter ain't cheap, folks.). It's all about substitutions. By some twist of fate, I was out of soy milk. Look at it another way and I just made my cookies one step closer to safe for my cousin's kids. These babies are soy free.

Like it or not, food allergies, for whatever the reason, are on the rise. Dietary restrictions are common. I saw an article a few months back, featuring Sandra Beasley's allergy girl as an example, that discussed this topic in regards to children's birthday parties. That article suggested that the host should make sure to ask about any dietary restrictions right in the invitation for the allergic guest's parent to fill out when RSVPing. I admire the spirit of this suggestion, particularly in light of the recent parent picket in Florida in which the parents demanded a young girl with a severe peanut allergy be home-schooled. However, asking for dietary restrictions from every guest means a parent hosting a party will have to cater to every potentially expensive dietary whim of the parents of the party guests (little Suzy can only eat organic), not no mention if these whims clash (Ed is vegetarian and Bobby doesn't eat carbs). I've noticed that parents have a way of making sure you know if their children have serious restrictions. My son's best friend is Muslim and his mom was sure to mention that he could not have pork (I assured her that, as I'm vegetarian, there is always a nonpork option. Always.).

If you know, though, that someone does have an allergy, I encourage you to take that step without provocation, and just make food that child can eat with everyone else. It seems like a lot. In the article on children's birthday parties I mentioned before, they included only one gluten free cupcake recipe and one of the ingredients in it was coffee (because that's a wise move at a children's birthday party...). It doesn't seem like there are a lot of options out there, but if you know how to substitute ingredients, you can make these adjustments in any recipe you have. I can relate to being the only one in the room who can't eat anything on the food table. Meat-eating is still the dominant mode, and there are several restaurants I can't eat at because even the salads come with meat on them (I know, you can hold the meat, but I'm not paying the price of meat when all I'm getting is a salad). 

It's not hard to learn substitutions, and I encourage you to pick up a copy of "Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar" if you are interested in non-egg binding agents, sugar alternatives, or gluten-free options. If that's not for you, keep in mind that the internet can be a great resource for recipes, as well as suggestions for substitutions. If you are a reader of mine and you have allergies that make some of my recipes useless to you (or so you thought), keep in mind, that you can always substitute. Can't eat soy but you are okay eating meat? I'll bet chicken would work fine. Can't have wheat flour? Try oat flour, rice flour, or millet flour (I really love the texture of a baked good made from millet flour). I also hear spelt has some gluten, but significantly less than wheat. You could experiment with spelt flour. There is an endless list. Can't have diary? There are a growing number of diary alternatives: soy milk, hemp millk, even almond yogurt.

You might feel guilty at first, but don't. You might worry about the outcome of your cooking. Maybe it won't turn out right because of the substitution. I'm here to tell you that, yes, some adjustments may need to be made (chicken usually takes longer to cook than soy, for example), but I'm big with substitutions. Everybody, whether they have an allergy or not, has a dietary restriction in some way or another. Some people only like food that is white in color (an admittedly extreme example). Some people value local foods. Some value organic. Some people don't eat carbs. Some people don't like red meat. Some don't eat meat at all. I don't like onions, so I either go without when a recipe calls for them or I substitute with celery (similar texture, different taste). I don't eat meat, so when a recipe calls for meat, I have to get creative. It doesn't stop me from using the recipe. That's really what it means to Kate-ify. It means substituting out what the recipe requires of me for what I like or have on hand.

I love my cookie recipe book for making it okay to substitute. There are many books that make it practically a crime. (I recently got "Babycakes Covers The Classics," (it's a gluten-free vegan baking cookbook) which uses high-priced ingredients and expressly states that you should make no substitutions. Like it would kill the recipe to use corn starch instead of arrowroot.) I can tell you that I always make substitutions and whether or not the recipe I've Kate-ified says it's okay to substitute, the result has turned out fine. Gwyneth Paltrow's new cookbook ( "My Father's Daughter") is another that uses fancy ingredients, but unlike "Babycakes," she understands that not everyone has her food budget. Not everyone, after all, can be Gwyneth Paltrow, so she offers suggestions of substitutions for the more expensive items in her pantry right on page 44.

What I'm trying to say is: experiment. Try things out. What's on the recipe page isn't set in stone. It's on a piece of paper. If it makes you feel better, you can white out the original ingredient and write in the one you used. The world will not end. The food will taste good, and sure, you might end up with a few flops. Every flop, though, is a learning experience, a mistake you won't make next time. Who knows when your kid will come home and announce that his new best friend is allergic to eggs or when that woman you just met who can't eat wheat grows to become your maid of honor. Wouldn't you want her to be able to eat the cake at your bridal shower? Substitutions. They work.

So I didn't have soy milk. My non-vegan cookies tasted so good. Just as good as they would have with soy milk. It's not a big deal unless you make it into one.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Going to the Zoo Zoo Zoo. How's about you, you, you?

I have a revamp of the blog in the works. I've decided to branch out in my written recipe to include the other passions in my life. Don't worry, there will still be plenty of food. In the meantime, here is a surprising lunch I had at the Cleveland Zoo, in a cafe next to the aquarium/primate house.

A veggie burger! At the zoo! It was a rice and veggie mix with a definite spicy pepper zing. Copious amounts of water were consumed in the eating of this burger, but I didn't care about a semi-scorched tongue. It was delicious just the same. By the way, look a little closer and you may be able to tell that the bun? Totally wheat bread. Now that, folks, is not a find to make light of. White flour buns are a dime a dozen, but wheat flour is a rare find in a restaurant setting. And I was at the zoo, no less. A place that often leaves me with the option of nachos, fries, or an ice cream cone and that's about it.

Sometimes Cleveland manages to get something right. Another thing Cleveland got right? Okaying to house the set of the newest Whedon flick. (I heart Whedon.) The Avengers is now shooting, and on the way to campus, I catch glimpses of the action. Today, I even spotted the set's food tables. Unfortunately, Joss Whedon was apparently not hungry when I was walking by, nor was any other member of the cast and crew.

Pre-veggie burger lunch at the Zoo, I spotted something else in the primate house worth sharing:

Since when do monkeys do yoga?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Buttermilk White Whole Wheat Flour Pancakes

There was a slight problem in our frig. A carton of buttermilk, purchased for some baking purpose my loves-to-bake man decided against only after collecting all the ingredients. Buttermilk. Yeah. Thick, heavy, ugh-I'm-not-drinking-that-plain buttermilk. What's a girl to do? Why, make pancakes of course.

(Pictured here with a light drizzling of honey, the under-used, but equally as delicious as syrup, pancake topping)

The other problem was there are a lot of buttermilk pancake recipes out there, and I do mean A LOT. All of them are oddly very different in what goes in to the batter and how much. I went to a source I knew I could trust, taste of home. Their buttermilk pancakes seemed to fit the bill, and they were very good overall, a nice even batter, not to thin, not to thick. Nice fluffy pancakes. There's really not much to say about a pancake recipe other than is it a successful pancake recipe, and I have tried out some terrible pancake recipes. I'm thinking of one in particular, a sesame pancake one, that was supposed to be pancake batter but was so thin it came out all crepes.

True, it is no surprise that taste of home would pick a solid buttermilk pancake recipe, and I must say, I didn't know I could really enjoy a buttermilk pancake. I did, and aside from the fact that the recipe required 4 cups of buttermilk and our carton contained only slightly over 3 cups (I substituted the last 3/4 c with regular milk), I had no trouble at all making these tasty breakfast treats. The surprise wasn't with the recipe, the surprise was in the ingredients. You see, I didn't make all-purpose flour buttermilk pancakes.

I made these babies with white whole wheat flour.

What is white whole wheat flour, you ask? Why, it is a flour made from white whole wheat, an albino form of wheat with no bran coloration and a very mellow taste. It is whole grain wheat in a flour without the hassle of trying to stuff dry, gritty, "funny colored" bread down a loved-one's throat. I love whole wheat. I love the grittiness. I love how it has a taste. I love it's density, but my white-flour-loving spouse and child disagree on this point. When I make things with flour that the whole family is supposed to eat, I have to make it as a compromised mix of whole wheat and white flour. It has some taste and some whole grain without the full bite of a just whole wheat outcome. And that, my friends, is exactly what white whole wheat flour tastes like. Except it is entirely whole grain. It's the whole package. It's too good to be true, and yet, I have buttermilk pancakes sitting right on a plate that confirm it is, in fact, true.

(Pictured here with a more dessert-ish strawberry jam and confectioner's sugar topping)

Sometimes you really can have it all. These pancakes were rich and delicious and flavorful but not whole wheat flavorful, and they were 100% grade A certified whole grain. The kid loved them, as did the adults.

Add a side of eggs with ribbons of kale and this is a full meal that hits all the nutritional bases, whole grain, protein, fruit (hey jam counts), and veggies. Not to shabby for a last minute breakfast.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A LOT of mushrooms

There was a sale on organic baby bellas. We're talking buy 10 for $10 and get one free, so I did what any logical mushroom lover would do. I threw many many cartons into the cart. Of course, the problem, when we got home, became: what in the name of Zeus are we going to  do with all these mushrooms?

I read somewhere that mushrooms keep better in a paper bag in the refrigerator. Thus, I found an old paper bag and began filling it. Somewhere between six and eight cartons later, this is what I had:

Looking at this mass of fungus, I had an idea. I could stuff these babies. Oh, yes. I could stuff them good.

Stuffed Mushrooms

What you need:
1/2 c bread crumbs
1/2 c mozarella
2 minced garlic cloves
2 T parsley
1 T mint
salt and pepper
2 T olive oil
28 mini mushrooms

1. De-stem all 28 of your mushrooms.

2. In a bowl, combine the crumbs through to the oil. For lack of actual mint in your house, you could do what I did and see if any of your peppermint tea is made solely of mint leaves. One tea packet is about 2 T. I felt silly as I was sprinkling the leaf bits out of the packet, but once they were in the bowl, I swear I wouldn't have known the difference.

3. Stuff the mushrooms and line them up on a jelly roll pan. Cook in the oven at 350 F for about 25 minutes. Perhaps less time if you have a high-burning gas oven. Mine were a little on the crispy side.

And what better side dish to accompany this feast that some nice linguine.

Very succulent and cheesy. I'd even go so far as to say decadent.

Of course, this meal, large enough for three days worth of leftovers, consumed less than half of our mushroom load. I stir fried the rest. Half went in the freezer for a later date. With the other half, I made this:

I can't recall now what it is exactly, but it appears to be a bubbling cauldron of mushroom, zucchini, carrot, and tomato with some bell pepper thrown in. Then, there's rice added to the mix, what I assume to be some form of Spanish rice imitation.

Well, whatever it was, it was tasty too. It's hard for something to not be tasty when the veggies it's made from come fresh from the victory garden.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Parmesan of Vegetable Proportions

The eggplant have arrived. So far, three Japanese and one globe. Time to break out the first Giada eggplant recipe: Vegetable Parmesan.

Tonight that's what I'm making. It's my second time making Giada's Veggie Parm. I first made it last week, when all I had was one measly japanese eggplant. I halved the recipe and it worked out fine. Tonight, though, I've got enough for the whole recipe, including a big fennel bulb I nabbed at Meijer in Sandusky for $1.

I had never used fennel before this recipe. It's a white bulb with fern-like leaves at the top and also goes by the name of anise. It looks a lot like bok choy once it's cut. You do that by chopping off the leaves (they aren't edible) and taking off the outer covering of the bulb. Then you cut off the bottom end of the bulb and cut out the hard heart center. Then, you chop it. What you'll notice while chopping is that fennel smells heavily of licorice, but don't worry, it has a very mild taste.

To pre-cook the veggies, I roasted them in the oven for 20 minutes before layering them like lasagna and cooking them again in the casserole (for full recipe, click the link above). I added a chopped red pepper (first one from the garden!) to the fennel layer for a little something extra.

When it was all cooked and cooled, I plated it and served it with a side of salad, complete with red lettuce and cherry tomatoes from the garden. Overall, this is one decadent veggie dish. All that cheese melts into everything else, so that every bit is infused with mozzarella, parmesan, and (because I used a mixed Italian cheese blend) provolone, romano, and asiago. The three 3/4 cups of sauce add just enough moisture and tomato-y sweetness, while the fennel adds a slight crispness to the otherwise mushy consistency.

At this point, I would kiss my fingers and fling them outward like an Italian Chef in a cartoon, but you wouldn't be able to see the gesture anyways.

For dessert, consider that innocent reminder of childhood campouts, the s'more. While at Meijer, I also picked up a bag of strawberry marshmallows. I didn't have chocolate, but I wanted the melted marshmallow/graham cracker combo, so I melted the mallow on a fork over one of the burners on my gas stove. Then, I smeared some peanut butter on half a graham and smooshed that and the mallow onto the other half of the graham. There's something delightfully simple about peanut butter and marshmallow. Even better when that marshmallow tastes like fake strawberry.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Thinking outside the salad bowl

This summer of Giada De Lairentiis has been quite insightful so far. I'd even have to say that she is making me re-revaluate the potential of bake-ability  of everything in my frig and in my pantry. All this over one dish. A dish that, of all things, cooks lettuce.

Now, I know that spinach is tasty cooked, as is Kale and every other dark leafy green like it, but for some reason, my American upbringing never allowed my brain the luxury of contemplating lettuce in anything but a bowl with dressing and sliced raw veggies. Maybe croutons if I'm feeling feisty.

No more. I have seen the light and it came shining from a Giada Cookbook.

Penne with Treviso and Goat Cheese

I'm not going to give the full recipe now as it can be found here. What I will give is my own substitutions. I vegetarianized this mostly vegetarian meal by replacing the meat stock with veggie broth. I could not find treviso in Cleveland (go figure), so I decided on the equally acceptable raddicchio option. Of course, I didn't find a head of raddicchio by its lonesome, only in a bag mixed with romaine. I decided: what the heck? So my own meal pictured is really Penne with Raddicchio-Romaine and Goat Cheese.

I will also warn you that when it comes time to add the cheese, do so very carefully and exactly as she instructs or you might end up pulling apart mounds of molded together stringy melted cheese to salvage your dinner. And we don't want that do we?

Other than the cheese fiasco, this meal went off without a hitch (though this farming cliche is vaguely lost on my suburban mindset). My son was at his fathers the week before we made this and it was his welcome home dinner. He made quite a fuss, even though we assured him that he quite likes lettuce. Then he tasted it, and we had no more complaints. It's delicious. I'm not sure I've ever before tried balsamic vinegar in any form that wasn't sold in a salad dressing bottle with fruit mixed in. I have now, and there's no going back. Balsamic vinegar is heaven in a bottle. It's worth its weight in gold... which is probably why it's so darn expensive at the supermarket.

Cooked lettuce, I might add, is divine.

In other news, the garden has begun whipping out veggies in mass quantities. Look, we even have our first eggplant of the season! There's two more Japanese eggplanis on the bush, growing nicely, and one half-grown globe eggplant. Things have been cooking up in my kitchen, to say the least.