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

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.