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Posts tagged ‘spinach’

Vegan Challenge-Week 1 check in

Well…… I’ve DONE it!!  One whole week with not a hit of animal product past my lips! As suspected, it really hasn’t been that hard because we already enjoy many vegan dishes a week, so it’s not like it feels all “weird” to be eating the things we do, it’s just the every meal aspect of it and of course the cow milk in my tea! Oh and much to my dismay, discovered that most, readily available, chocolate products all seem to contain dairy!!

So what have I been eating you ask?

vegetables II

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On the first night I whipped up a little “Spicy Tofu with vegetables and noodles”.

Start a little before and marinade the tofu for maximum flavour.

Marinade:

  • 2 cloves crushed fresh garlic
  • 1 inch knob of fresh minced ginger
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 tbsp sweetener of your choice – I used brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp soy  or Bragg sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar

I whizzed it all up in my mini chopper but if you do your mincing and crushing by hand, just mix it all in a bowl.

Meanwhile, chop up a block of firm tofu into 1 inch cubes.  I put them directly into a glass baking dish in one layer and then pour the marinate all over them and make sure they are evenly coated.

Let sit for at LEAST half hour, but the longer the better.

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When you are ready to eat, assemble your goods.

So now like any “stir fry” type thing, feel free to use what ever vegetables you enjoy but this is what I used:

  • 1 large onion thinly sliced
  • 4 medium size cremini mushrooms cut into fours
  • 1/2 head of green cabbage thinly sliced
  • 1 large handful of baby spinach with a rough chopped

Meanwhile:

Put on a pot of water to boil for the noodles.

I was surprised to find out that “Catelli Multigrain” noodles are in fact vegan.  I use these most of the time anyway but had never registered that they were egg free before because it wasn’t a priority, but good to know.

Then while the water is boiling, you might as well prepare a little garnish to go on top.

I chopped up a couple of green onions and made some carrot juliennes ( match stick size) with my new julien peeler ( I’ll show you that another time)

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Okay, let’s get started.

Firstly, in a large skillet or wok,  you want to pan fry your marinated tofu ( adding the marinade in a little at a time till it cooks down)  in a little neutral oil, till it gets  a little crispy on each side, just to give it some texture and the marinade makes a bit of a gooey sauce.

Then remove from the pan and keep warm in a heat safe container.

Add a little more oil and then toss in your vegetables.

Put you noodles in the boiling water and give a little stir.

Keep tossing the veg around until the cabbage starts to get nice and wilted.

Once the noodles are done, drain quickly and keep a bit of the cooking water.  Then toss the noodles into the pan with the veggies and toss them together.

Turn off the heat.

Give them a generous shot of soy sauce, sesame oil and rice vinegar and a sprinkle of sesame seeds and then keep tossing it everybody is well acquainted.

Place into your favorite bowl,  spoon on a helping of tofu, then top with the green onions,  carrot sticks and a sprinkle more sesame seeds.

Voila!  Vegan!

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Spicy Meatball Soup

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I can’t help it. This time of year I just like eating warm comforting things. And now that the holiday season is behind us, there seems to be even less time than usual.  You come in after a busy day and you just want something fast and satisfying. But before you call the pizza guy…..maybe give something like this a try first. On this particular week night I had the idea that I was just going to whip up a batch of my tried and true “Favorite Soup“. Which is usually made with chicken or tofu as the base, but I didn’t have either of those on hand. But what I DID have was some some left over ground meat from making Kofte two nights before. And if you have been following this blog for any time now, you know I am a great believer of making “clean up the fridge” food!

Start by getting your broth going.

  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2-3 cloves chopped garlic
  • aprox 1 inch knob of ginger chopped
  • 1 carrot finely chopped ( optional)
  • 1 celery stock finely chopped ( optional)

In your dutch oven or large pot, get these things going with a bit of olive oil.  Cook them till they are wilty and sweaty looking.

Then add some spices in no particular order and PLEASE feel free to add, omit and change amounts…it is YOUR easy soup!

But rule of thumb about 1 tsp to 1 tbsp of each

  • cumin
  • ground coriander
  • chili flakes
  • curry powder or turmeric
  • garam masala

And then

  • 1 -2 tbsp natural peanut butter ( or other nut butters)

Work these all into the cooking vegetables.

Then add a generous splash of

  • rice wine vinegar
  • soy sauce/tamari/Bragg

Stir those in, let them get acquainted then add

  • aprox 4 cups water or stock of your choice

Bring it all to  boil then turn it down to low, put the lid on it and let it simmer.

Meanwhile

You want to get your meatballs done.   And again, use what YOU have available but try keeping in the flavour range of what you have used in your broth.

I basically used all the same spices in both things.  So a shot in the pot and a shot in the meatball bowl!

So you will need

  • ground meat ( whatever you like)
  • 1-2 cloves finely (super fine) chopped garlic
  • 1 -2 chopped green onion
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup binder like bread crumbs, panko etc
  • handful of fresh chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • assortment of spices from above

Squeeze that all up together and then roll into nice, slightly smaller than golf ball, size balls.

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Meatball soup001

Then you want to pan fry them first and add to the soup after, other wise, there is a good chance they will get soggy and break up…..which is fine too…..but I like to keep them in tack.

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So while those are cooking, you can now add some other stuff to your soup.  And here is where the “clean out the fridge” element comes into it.   More or less chop up and add whatever say greens you might want.  I used spinach and some savoy cabbage,  but kale would do nicely or chard.

And then I added some nice sliced up cremini mushrooms.  But you want to add these fairly close to the end so they retain a little bit of texture.

Meatball soup007

Then for convenience sake, I like to use the old college favorite ramen noodles!  But I always toss out the package of weird who knows what that come with them and just use the noodles.  But feel free to use something else, or nothing at all.

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I really don’t like trying to fight with getting the noodles back out of the soup pot once I’ve put them in so instead I add one packet per person to the soup bowl first.

Top with the boiling hot soup and then cover with an upside down plate or something like that and let sit for about 10 minutes until the noodles absorb the liquid.

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Then make sure the noodles are done by giving a bit of a stir with a chop stick to loosen them up.   Then add the cooked meat balls to the top and any sort of  additional topping you might want, like chopped green onion or cilantro and some chopped peanut or a sprinkle of sesame seeds…..whatever you like to jazz it up.

And then just before eating, squeeze a shot of fresh lemon juice on top to help brighten the flavours AND give you a little shot of vitamin C!!

Enjoy!

Meatball soup017

Savory Bread Pudding

Here’s another little gem you might want to enjoy over the holidays……..

I call it a “savory bread pudding” but I’m sure you could come up with other names for it.

Savory Bread Pudding

This could be used as a nice alternative to stuffing (dressing) if you are still looking for a bready side dish without all the turkey bother.  It does have dairy and eggs, but no turkey juice, so the vegetarians can eat this.

Here is what you will need:

  • aprox 3 cups of cubed bread of some kind
  • 1 onion or shallot finely diced
  • 1 cup of mushrooms of your choice, sliced
  • 1 -2 cups of chopped baby spinach ( depending on how much you chop it)
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme ( or poultry spice if you have that)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup of 1/2 & 1/2 cream ( or whipping cream if you are inclined)
  • few dashes of hot sauce
  • some cheese ( I used some good white cheddar and a little bit of blue and parmesan cause I had it)

Heat the oven to 375 degrees and grease a pan with butter or olive oil.

Then in a frying pan with a bit of butter or olive oil, saute the onion and mushrooms, then add the thyme or PS and the S&P.

Meanwhile, cube your bread into 1/4 or 1/2 inch cubes and add them to your greased pan.  Then add in your cooked onions and mushrooms and toss them all together.

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Then lay on a layer of spinach and a good handful or two of the cheddar cheese and then stir those into all the other stuff till everything is thoroughly mixed.

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Then is a separate bowl, beat the eggs with the cream and the hot sauce.

Then pour the eggs and cream all over the bread then kind of swirl it around to make sure everyone is getting a little of the creamy love!

Even squeeze the bread down into the cream a bit to make sure it is all getting a bit soaked.

Then finish with a few sprinkles of the other cheeses like some blue cheese and parmesan.

Pop into the hot oven for at least 1/2 hour and then have a look at it.  Giggle it a bit, if it is still too wabbly, put it back in for a few minutes.

Then you might want to put it under the broiler for a few minutes just to brown off the top.

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To be honest, I probably could have just eaten a big bowl of the stuff by itself.   But instead I used it as a side dish with a spicy sausage stuffed Portobello mushroom.

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But I definitely feel it is worthy of a holiday side dish!

Cheesy Eggy Pie

I think I might be watching too many episodes of “Top Chef” on the food network, because I am getting very good at just putting something together out of whatever happens to be around!!

For those of you who have never seen the show, Chefs are often given a few random ingredients and are expected to make something editable out of it.

I’d say my cheesy Eggy Pie might qualify!

So here is what is in mine, but as is always my motto, what ever you happen to have around will do!

  • 1 medium onion finely sliced
  • 1 bell pepper sliced ( any colour or combo)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced.

Toss these into a frying pan with a slosh of oil and saute till wilted.   Then add them to a casserole dish.   Then I added:

  • a large handful of chopped spinach
  • asparagus chopped in 1 inch bits ( fresh or left over cooked)
  • 2 green onions chopped

Toss in with the peppers.   Chopped tomato  or zucchini would go fine too.

Then add some cooked pasta.  I used rotini, but any short hearty pasta will do.  If you are going to use noodles, I would break them in half before cooking.

Toss all that together.   Feel free to add some chopped fresh or dried herbs like oregano or parsley.

Then, you will mix up some egg with cream or milk like you are going to make something like a bread pudding.   Add a few shots of hot sauce if you like, or paprika.

Then pour this mixture all over the pasta and vegetables.   It shouldn’t be swimming but enough to maybe fill up the sides half way.

Then sprinkle with your favorite cheese and bung it in the oven at about 350 degrees for about 20 minutes to half hour.

You will know it is ready when you take it out and shake it a little and there is no liquid moving around and the cheese is melted nicely.

Spoon it up and serve with a little green salad and you have a quick Summer supper!

Cheesy Eggy Pie

Spinach crepes with mascarpone

I found myself with a grave dilemma.

I had a tub of mascarpone cheese in the fridge that I had been “saving for something special” which I simply never got around to and now was faced with a looming expiry date!  And that stuff isn’t cheap, not that ANY cheese these days cheap!  So I had to come up with something to do with it and fast!

But it was just a regular week night, no company was coming, I didn’t feel like making some involved dessert, so WHAT to do??

I decided to go with a savory route and make it into a dinner item.  Why not make some spinach crepes and stuff them with some sort of delectable mascarpone filling??

First I whipped up a batch of spinach pancake mix.   ( click here  ) for Kale pancakes and exchange the kale for  spinach and add a little extra liquid so the batter is a bit runnier.

Then put that aside.

Then for the filling heat some oil in a skillet and add:

  • 1 medium onion sliced ( or shallots would be nice if you have them)
  • 2 cloves minced fresh garlic
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms ( any kind)
  • chopped or dried herbs of your choice ( thyme, parsley etc)
  • salt & pepper

cook these up till nicely wilted then put aside in a bowl to cool a little, but don’t clean out the skillet because you want to save the flavour for making the crepes.

So once the filling has cooled a little, mix it with about 3/4 of the mascarpone.

Now to the crepes.

In the same skillet, heat some oil and then pour some batter into the pan.  You will have to experiment with amounts depending on the size of your pan.  Pour the batter in and quickly swirl it around till it covers as much of the bottom of the pan as you can manage.

Let it sit until you see the bubbles or tell tale holes form on top and then it will be time to flip it.  Be careful, this is always a high risk procedure!

Once it is done on both sides, transfer to a flat surface, like a baking sheet or cutting board or something.  Then pour another pancake.

Once the first one has cool enough to touch, spoon in a few shots of filling to the centre of the crepe and roll it up and then put it in a baking or casserole dish, seam side down.

Repeat till you run out of ingredients.

But before you use up all of the filling, put aside about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the mixture into a sauce pan, add the remaining mascarpone and about 1/4 cup of milk.   Slowly heat these up, stirring frequently till you have a nice topping sauce.

Once you have made all the stuffed crepes put them in the oven ( don’t put on the sauce yet) at  350 degrees for about 15 minutes just to make sure everything is nice and heated again.

Then serve them up with a bit of sauce and some side salad and you’ve got a nice little meal.

Now I’ll admit that I did a bit of a bushwhack job on these because we just wanted to eat, so my sizes were all over the place and my sauce a bit sloppy.

Spinach crepes with mascarpone filling

But if done with care, these could actually be quite a fancy dish to be served on a special occasion.

Just sayin.

Indian style chicken and red lentils

See now this is a prefect example of how easy it is to be creative in your kitchen and use what you have.

This all started when I was looking at the online flyer from my local grocery store and saw that they have something called “Tandoori red lentil soup” on sale this week their “home meal replacement” department.

I thought to myself ” hmmm…..now that sounds good, bet I could make some of that!”

So I punched that title into our friend Google and a whole bunch of recipes appeared.  I looked at a few and some seemed more complicated than others and so I went through the ingredient lists to see if I could get away with making any of them without having to go to the store!

This is what I came up with.

I started by taking out the trusty dutch oven and over medium heat drizzled in a bit of olive oil.

Then I added:

  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 medium onion finely diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic finely minced
  • about an inch of fresh ginger finely chopped
  • 1 large handful of fresh parsley finely chopped ( cilantro would be MUCH better here but I was without!)
  • about a cup of finely chopped baby spinach  ( it was on it’s last legs in the fridge so in it went!)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

I let those cook a bit and get to know each other.

Then I added :

  • 1/2 cup rinsed red lentils

Stir those in and make sure they are well coated.

Then in a small bowl I combined:

  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seed
  • 1 tsp crushed chili flakes
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • zest of two lemons ( keep lemons for juice later)
  • a few grinds of black pepper

Make a hole in the vegetables at the bottom of the dutch oven to expose the cooking surface and pour in the spice mixture.  Stir it around a little to “toast” it which will release the flavours.

Then mix everything in together.

Then add:

  • 1 tin crushed tomatoes ( feel free to use fresh but I didn’t have any)
  • 1 tin coconut milk
  • 1 small tin tomato paste

Stir well.

Now you could stop here and have a lovely vegan item, just put on some rice and you are in business.

You could also add a tin of say chick peas or the like if you were so inclined.

But I can only feed the Chef vegan items so many times a week so I also added a couple of chunked up raw chicken breasts.   Cooked would be fine too.

Stir it all up, put on the lid and let’er simmer till the chicken and lentils are good and cooked.   Red lentils pretty much just disintegrate into a nice thick sauce so no need for any thickening agents.

Indian style chicken and red lentils

But I know what you are thinking.   “This doesn’t sound like soup!”

You’re right.   I mean, it COULD be soup if you wanted to add a bunch more liquid and thin it out, but we are eating it on rice for more of a “something I found on the Indian buffet” type item.

Add the juice from the two lemons just before you are ready to go to the plate.  It will balance the flavour and give you a shot of vitamin C to boot!

I of course added a little steamed kale on the side, cause I’m crazy that way!

What we had for dinner

And there you have yourself a hearty, tasty, week night, comfort dish!  

And I didn’t even have to go to the store!!

Creamy chicken and sausage pasta

Sometimes the BEST meals come from “cleaning out your fridge”!

That’s pretty much what this dish was all about.

I still had some left over sausage and peppers from the other night and it seems we always have some left over cooked chicken kickin around so that was the base for how this dish evolved.

I started with a hot deep skillet and then added:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • one large onion ( of your choice) coarsely sliced or chopped
  • 4 -5 gloves fresh chopped garlic

Let those cook up awhile and get to know each other.  Then add:

  • left over sausage and peppers
  • left over cooked chicken ( cubed up)
  • any other interesting left overs  ( I had about a 1/4 of caramelized onions for some reason)

Heat those through so that everything is nice and warm then add:

  • about a cup of heavy cream 

Now if you are a non-dairy type you could add crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce of some sort at this point and go in that direction.  But then we couldn’t very well call it “creamy chicken and sausage pasta” anymore.  So if you want that on your conscience so be it!

Heat until the cream is almost coming to a boil, turn it down a little and let it “reduce” by about half.

Then add in some of your other favorite flavours.  I added:

  • some poultry seasoning
  • some thyme
  • some oregano
  • some smokie paprika

keep stirring and then add some cheese if you wish.  Again, I was just cleaning out the fridge and found a partly used pack of pepper corn Boursin cheese which I added and a reasonable chunk of blue cheese to give it extra zing.

Once that was all melted down and everything was super creamy I added a few handfuls of washed baby spinach, just to give it some extra colour and nutrition count.

Then it was ready.

In goes your favorite cooked pasta, toss it up and there is no time you have a yummy yummy creamy pasta dish!

Top with a little fresh grated parmesan cheese if you have it and away you go.

Creamy pasta with chicken and sausage

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