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

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mushrooms: It's What's for Dinner

If there's one food I'm happy I discovered before I'm snuffed out of this world, it's portabella mushrooms. They are just so light and low-cal and, in a word, delicious, especially when you are willing to take the extra time to make the perfect marinade.

I like my marinades sweet and fruity, just like I like my wines come to think of it. This one's easy, it just requires an extra 15 minutes for prep and a grill. Did I mention we have a grill?

For those out there who don't know this, I will impart this wisdom upon you now: Don't grill in your kitchen. Even if you totally have this tiny grill and you have a window open for ventilation and really, it's just harmless. Not that I would know from first-hand experience--because I'm so not that much of a moron--but if you attempt to grill indoors, it will get smoky fast and you'll thank your lucky stars that your smoke detector is a piece of junk and your neighbors didn't assume your apartment was on fire and call the fire department. Just saying.

Where was I? Ah yes, marinating mushroom caps. My marinade is simple and goes a little something like this:

(for up to four mushroom caps)
1/4 c olive oil
1/8 c vinegar
1 T lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
between 1/2 c and 1 c fruit juice (I prefer those with a strawberry component for this one)

Mix all of these in a small bowl (Mine's not small. I got a little carried away.)

Marinated Portabella Mushroom Caps
(serves 3 or 4)

3 or 4 big portabella Mushroom Caps
a bowl of my sweet n fruity marinade
6 to 8 sprigs of rosemary (opt)
salt and pepper

1. On a large plate, preferably one with a rim,  place the caps gills up. Fill each cap with the marinade, allowing some spillage. Make sure the spillage ends up underneath each cap, so it gets some fruity love on both sides (take that how you will). Salt and pepper each and place two sprigs of rosemary (if you have them) on top of each one.

2. For 15 minutes, go do something else. I'll bet your toilet needs cleaned or you have one last measly chapter in that book you are reading. Perhaps you know how to knit. Knitting will really make the time go by.

3. Fire up the grill on med. heat. Lift each cap, allowing most of the marinade to spill back onto the plate, and place them on the grill gill side up. Cook for 3-5 minutes. Flip. Cook another 3-5 minutes. Turn off the grill.

These mushrooms pair really well with kale in any form, raw or cooked, and also go well with a bit of whole wheat spaghetti.

They also make quite a tasty burger. Your choice.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Chickpeas n Quinoa: the Ultimate Picnic Salad

With all the hubbub of June, I'm again a little behind on my blogging. I could give you excuses -- family illness, family parties, that dang novel rough draft revising process, a trip to Chautauqua for a writer's conference-- but really, it all comes down to procrastination, doesn't it? I mean, I'm only writing this (finally) now because I should be working on a short story revision.

So there it is. I'll get better. I promise.

Back at the beginning of June, the church I attend in Cleveland had its annual picnic, and this is the first year I haven't been in Michigan and thus, could take part in the festivities. The only problem? I needed a dish to pass. I thought and thought and thought. I wanted something with protein. I wanted something I could eat. And it needed to be able to be served cold and sit on a picnic table unrefrigerated for several hours. The solution:

Quinoa Salad with Chickpeas!

1 roasted red pepper, chopped (or if you're lucky like me and you scored clearanced canned roasted red peppers, use half a can)
1 1/2 t olive oil
1 c quinoa
2 c veggie broth
half an onion (diced)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 ears of corn ( in kernels) or 1 can's worth
1 can chickpeas
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
2 T lemon juice
1 T dried parsley

1. In a medium pot, heat the broth and the quinoa to a boil. Then, cover and simmer  on low about 15 min, or as long as it takes to absorb all the liquid into the quinoa. Allow to cool to room temperature.
2. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over med heat. Add the onions and cook to translucent. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the corn and cook about 6 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature.
3. Combine quinoa, red pepper, corn mix, chickpeas, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and parsley in a portable container and prepare to picnic as you've never picnicked before.

It was the first time I ate something healthy at a picnic, which was thrilling. Usually I'm stuck dipping fried chips into taco dip the entire party... not that taco dip and chips aren't delicious. It was just nice to feel good about my picnic food, and you know what? I think I indulged less at the dessert table too because I didn't want to ruin how great I did at lunch.

Such is the magic of quinoa.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Garden 2011: First Pics of the Season

Here it is, the planted garden. We have plot 6 in the fore and just behind it, the plot that runs perpendicular to it, plot 20. Or course, Art's in there too, in the background, helpfully watering all plots that looked at all wilty. It's better to be a good neighbor.

The tomato cages are in.

The cherry tomato plant is staked with a genuine stick of bamboo.

The red russian kale and little eggplant starters are taking root, getting comfy in their new home.

More than that, things are starting to sprout and bloom. The zucchini and cucumbers already have flowers, though the pics don't capture the blooms as I'd like. They are there.

The edamame seeds have sprouted.

And despite last years epic fail on the lettuce seed-growing front, we have lettuce as well peaking out from the dirt.

Most exciting of all is our unexpected second plot, which we dutifully tilled and seeded with a combination of pie pumpkins, butternut squash, and spaghetti squash. Since then, all of the seeds have broke through the earth with happy rounded dark green leaves.

Right now, there isn't much to look at but the little plants popping up every three feet. Once they start to pick up steam and vine all over, I'll get a nice picture of the squash patch as a whole. There's a lot of good veggie recipes in store for this crop.

Now, all we have to do is wait.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Miso Stir Fry with BBQ Tofu

What I wanted was a stir fry sauce made from miso, so that's what I got, with a nice sweet honey contrast.

I paired it with a BBQ tofu "steak" and, of course, rice, which we managed, despite its long grain nature, to turn into sticky rice.

To Make Sticky Rice:

It's basically just a process. Put the rice in the rice cooker as usual with the asked for amount of water. Then, instead of turning on the cooker, let the rice sit there, soaking in the water for 30 minutes. Then, add back whatever water was absorbed (there should be measurement lines on the sides of the cooker) and turn that puppy on. When it's done, the rice should be sticky. Pretty cool, right?

BBQ Tofu:

Cut the block of tofu in half widthwise and then slice those in half lengthwise. Put the resulting "steaks" on a baking sheet and slather on your favorite BBQ sauce. Broil, about 5 minutes per side, more if you want it more browned than it looks after the first 5. Voila, BBQ tofu.

Miso Stir Fry

What you need:
1 bag frozen Asian veggie mix
1 carrot, sliced (if veggie mix doesn't contain carrots)
1 T miso
1 t hot water
1 t soy sauce
1 T honey
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 t cornstarch
a few shakes sunflower oil (optional)

1. in a bowl, mix the miso, hot water, soy sauce, honey, garlic, a few shakes of ginger, cornstarch, and the sunflower oil.

2. In a skillet, stir fry the carrots about 6 min. Add veggies. Stir fry to heated through. Add the miso sauce mix. Fry another min, mixing well.

Now, you can plate the stir fry with the tofu and add a nice bowl of the sticky rice. It's very flavorful and makes for a nice light meal. Fair warning, if you want to make miso soup with the leftovers, remember (as I didn't) that there's already a lot of miso in the veggies already and adding the entire required amount of paste for the soup will make a very very potent soup. So don't do that.

Because I succeeded with the sticky rice, I also had fun playing around with making rice balls, which are like Japan's delightful answer to the tuna melt. First, combine 1 T of mayo with a can of tuna and a splash of soy sauce. Then take a handful of sticky rice, put it in a bowl, plop a bit of the tuna on the rice, and then use a spoon to mold the rice into a ball around the tuna. To really make it look authentic, add a strip of nori wrapped around the outside of the ball. It's an odd but welcomed change for a little kid's lunchbox.