Good things to eat

Posts tagged ‘Tomato’

Growing stuff – July 20

Well the summer is progressing along and things on the balcony garden are still growing.

But the weather this year has been so weird that I’m not sure how things will turn out.

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The potato plant is still growing like gang busters.  I’m not sure when I am supposed to harvest that.   I had trouble last year and so they never got to fruition.

Potato plant

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The arugula is looking fantastic and we hope to eat some of that this weekend!

Arugula

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Bit of trouble with the cabbage.  Seems that some sort of florescent green little worms have been eating their fill of it.  I caught them in the act munching little holes all over, so I “removed” them.   I will have to keep an eye on them.

red cabbage

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The beets are doing great, but again, don’t know when they will be “ready” to pick?

Beets

 

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No tomatoes on the plant

The tomatoes continue to disappoint.  I can’t believe after growing them from seed starting in like January….and coddling them in the living room window all winter and giving them painstaking care…..that there is still as yet not even ONE tomato growing anywhere on the plants!   Sad, very sad.

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And then the Chard is FINALLY doing very well after a challenging start!

 

Swiss Chard

 

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And last but not least, I have a very pleasing batch of lettuce going.   But as usual, I had to move it inside because the BIRDS love lettuce and will keep eating it until they fall over!  Maybe that’s the answer!

Lettuce

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Happy Gardening!

 

Pulled Chicken Pasta

A few weeks back I gave you a recipe for “Pulled Chicken Tacos“.  

This has turned into one of our favorite things to eat lately.  It is easy and flavourful and great in summer.

But as much as I could eat tacos several times a week, sometimes it is nice to change it up a little.   Or maybe you just don’t have the rest of the fixins to go with the tacos?  Whatever the case, here is something to do with your left over “pulled chicken” if for any strange reason you actually have any!

Pulled Chicken Pasta

Cook up a pot of your favorite spaghetti.

Meanwhile, heat up the left over pulled chicken.  If it is too dry for what ever reason, add some salsa or tomato sauce, crushed tomato or even just a bit of water till it is “sauce” like.

Top your spaghetti with it.

That simple and SO good. 

I have a feeling we will be eating this…….a LOT.

Salad Week – Deconstructed Greek Salad

I thought what with Summer now upon us……well some places are getting Summer anyway….that it would be a good time to roll out “Salad Week”.

I love salads and the combinations are endless, so let’s see what we can come up with.

Today we have “Deconstructed Greek Salad”.

Now don’t be intimidated.   This might sound all “Chefy” but it couldn’t be simpler!

Impress your friends with this simple tasty salad.

Gather all the ingredients typically found in a Greek salad and cut them into even sized bits.

Here we have:

  • Green pepper
  • Yellow pepper
  • Red onion
  • tomato
  • cucumber
  • Kalamata olives

So chop them up evenly and put them in little piles in a flat casserole dish like small 9 x 9 glass lasagna dish.

Then make up the dressing:  Thee parts oil, one part vinegar

  • red wine vinegar
  • olive oil
  • honey
  • chopped fresh herbs – parsley, oregano etc

Stir up and then pour all over the vegetables and let them marinade for at least 1/2 hour before serving.

When you are ready to serve, arrange even piles of the individual vegetables around the plate.

Here we have a dollop of goat cheese, but crumbled feta would do nicely too.

Season with salt & pepper and sprinkle with additional chopped herbs if you have them!

Voila!  So simple and so good!!

Deconstructed Greek Salad

Please feel free to share YOUR  favorite salads with me.  Post a link to your blog if you’d like my friends to check it out too.

Happy Salad Week!

Growing stuff – June 8th

The weather hasn’t really been co-operating too much this year.

It hasn’t been very sunny or warm, but things are still doing their best to grow!

I have had to bring the poor chard back inside because those pesky birds had a go at it!  I’ve never had so much trouble trying to get something as usually hardy as chard to grow!!

Swiss Chard

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I also had to bring the tomatoes back inside as well.  They have been outside for a couple of weeks but it got so windy the other day, I thought they might fall over.   I have tied them up on sticks but I wasn’t sure it was helping.  They are only now starting to show a couple of flowers here and there.  Will be lucky if I get tomatoes by October!

Tomatoes

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There is a new addition to the balcony garden.  Last week at the farmer’s market I picked up a patty pan squash plant.  I’m hoping that will turn out to be fun!

Patty Pan Squash

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The potato plant on the other hand, is freakishly big and thick, I hope the potatoes grow a big!

Potato plant

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The purple cabbages are coming along nicely but today I was being terrorized by two squirrels playing tag all over the balcony and stomping all over the cabbage.   I chased them and squirted them with the water bottle but they just laughed in my face!

Purple cabbage

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The beets are coming a long nicely, but much like the potatoes, we can only see what’s going on with the foliage and not what’s growing underneath!

Beet plants

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And last but not least, I am FINALLY seeing a few bean sprouts squeezing through the dirt!  I had just about given up on them.

Sprouting beans

Growing stuff – May 18th

Well things seem to be progressing along nicely in the balcony garden.

I planted some beans this week.   Those skinny French green beans.   Nothing has happened yet of course.

The poor Swiss chard still isn’t growing too fast.  But I did have a basket like cover over them to keep the birds off which I think was stunting their growth.  I have stuck a mini twirly doodle in the middle of them to see if that will help with the birds.

Swiss Chard

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The oregano plant is coming along very nicely all by itself.  The birds don’t seem to care for that, too strong I guess.

Oregano

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And the mint is slowly coming back.

Mint

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The latest batch of lettuce is doing well, but I have been bringing it inside when it is unsupervised, because the birds LOVE it!

Lettuce

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The tomatoes are doing VERY well.  But I admit I am babying them.   Putting them out during the day and bringing them in at night.

Tomato plants

I don’t know if you can tell by the picture, ( look right in the middle ) but I am seeing the start of the little flowers that will turn to tomato!

Tomato flower bud

I just love the way touching a tomato plant makes our fingers smell!

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Added a couple of flowers for colour and so the bees will visit and pollinate stuff.

This is the big planting weekend in Canada!  But be careful, I’ve seen they are calling for frost and SNOW in some places!! 

Weird weather this year!

Happy Victoria Day Weekend!  And happy planting!

Pulled chicken tacos

I seem to have gone taco crazy lately.

Not sure why I haven’t enjoyed them more in the past?  I always tended to be more of an enchilada type girl before, but I am finding the taco experience so much lighter and fresher.

Here are some super easy chicken tacos to try.

Start with a good size heavy skillet and add:

  • 1 onion chopped into small cubes

Saute in a little oil till they are nice and translucent

Then I added four frozen  boneless, skinless chicken breasts ( the frozen part was poor planning on my part).  However boneless chicken of any sort will do just fine.  Then I add just enough water to cover them about half way, then put a lid on  and let them simmer a spell.

If you are using fresh chicken, I would brown on all sides and then follow the rest of the recipe.

Once the (frozen) chicken has thawed in the water and turned white it is time to add the rest of the ingredients:

  • 1/2 jar ( or more) of store bought salsa of your choice
  • equal part of water or stock
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar

Mix that in evenly and cover again for about 15 minutes at a slight boil, to make sure the chicken is cooked thoroughly.

At this point, test to see if the chicken is done inside by taking two forks and “pulling” the chicken apart.  Resulting in the “pulled chicken” part.

If the chicken comes apart easily, then it is time to add the herbs and spices.   But if you like you can shred up the chicken first, or leave it in the larger pieces and shred it later.  Doesn’t really matter too much.

So then I added and this is just a suggestion, what ever you have, or what ever you like better is fine, but this worked well:

  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp smokie paprika
  • 1 tbsp chili powder ( the kind that is more flavour than hot)
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ( more or less) of chili flakes
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • salt & pepper to taste

And if you wanted to take it up just a notch,  add a couple of tsp of brown sugar.

Mix that all in well, cover again and let simmer about another 10 minutes until you are ready to serve.  Add a little more liquid if it gets too dry.

Now you are ready for assembly

I prepared a bit of a “taco bar” so we could dress our own.  Some possibilities are:

  • fresh made guacamole
  • sour cream ( I added chopped cilantro and hot sauce)
  • grated cheese
  • salsa
  • chopped tomato
  • chopped cilantro

Start with the tortilla of your choice ( warmed or not) and start piling on the fixins!

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Pulled chicken tacos

Happy times!

Decidedly Mediterranean

All right, I’ll admit it.  I’ve been on a bit of a Mediterranean kick lately!

Sometimes I just can’t get enough of it.  Luckily the Mediterranean covers a large choice of things to eat, but the one thing they all have in common is a lot of flavour!

So someone asked me if I’d ever made Imam Bayildi”  which apparently translated means “the Iman fainted”, I guess cause it is supposed to be THAT good!  But I had to admit  that I’d never heard of.

Needless to say I looked it up and felt the need to try and make it myself.

So this is what I came up with that is loosely based on most of the recipes I came across.

Basically it is an eggplant stuffed with other vegetables.  But I felt the need to bulk it up a little and use it as a more substantial main dish.  So I added some bulgur wheat to it.

Bulgar is quite easy to make, just put about 1/2 to 1 cup dry Bulgar ( depending on how much you need, it expands a lot!) into a heat safe bowl.

Pour boiling water over it, enough to cover it and then swim a little.   Then cover it with a plate or something like that and let it sit for about 10 minutes or so.

Then when all the liquid is sucked up and the bulgur is all puffed up, you are ready to use it!

Meanwhile, get a nice size eggplant, or a few small ones, depending on if you are making it as a main dish or side dish.   Wash them, pat dry and remove the green bits off the stem.  Then slice them in half and place them in a shallow baking dish.  Put in the over at about 375 for about 15 minutes.   But keep a close eye on them.  You don’t want to cook them fully, just enough so that the innards are soft enough to remove easily.

On top of the stove, in a large skillet add:

  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 red and/or green pepper diced
  • 2-3 cloves fresh garlic minced
  • 3 coarsely chopped Roma tomatoes ( with juicy bits from inside)

Start with the onions and peppers and cook till softened.

By now your eggplant should be done enough, so remove it from oven and give it a minute or two till you can handle it without pain.

Scoop out the innards and chop it up well and add it to the pan with the onions and peppers.  Set the shells aside waiting to be stuffed.

Then add the tomato and let all of that cook till it is well acquainted.

Then add:

  • a tsp of ground cinnamon (gives it that Mediterranean flare!)
  • juice of half a fresh lemon
  • a good handful of fresh chopped flat leaf parsley

At this point you have more or less the traditional filling, but now is when I added about 3/4 of a cup of the cooked bulgur wheat and mixed thoroughly.

Now you are ready to stuff your eggplants.   Spoon in generous amounts of the filling and pack it in there.  Everything is basically already cooked so we will just be essentially re-heating.

The real recipes don’t call for it, but you could add a bit of bread crumbs on top, or like what I did with a bit of grated parmesan cheese, just to give it a bit of a crust.

Bake for about 15 minutes till everything is nice and warm and serve with the side dishes of your choice. And a little drizzle of good olive oil to make it particularly Mediterranean!

Stuffed eggplant

Tonight I just made some lemon and herb brown rice pilaf to go with it.  The other thing that would go nicely with this and which I had toasted and waiting on the counter but simply forgot to add, would be some pine nuts.   The would definitely add to the “decidedly” Mediterranean taste!

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Lamb and lentil stew

We get good lamb around these parts.

It is my feeling that if you are going to eat meat, then you need to at least eat the best quality of products.  From farms that treat the animals ethically and under the best circumstances.

And I am also of the feeling that you can eat meat, without having to eat a LOT of meat.

This lamb and lentil stew is a perfect example of that.

I started with a fairly small amount of meat, about a pound, cut into bite size chunks and brown them in your Dutch oven in a little olive oil.

Once well browned, all a large onion coarsely sliced and or chopped so that you have nice big pieces.

Stir those in with the lamb meat.  Cook until then are wilted down and even a little brown is okay because it adds flavour.

Then add about a cup of rinsed green lentils and stir them into the mix.

Now add the flavouring.  This is what I used, but feel free to come up with your own:

  • 2-3 minced fresh garlic
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smokey paprika
  • six dried dates finely chopped

Add all of these and mix in well.  Then add:

  • one can of tomato paste

Stir in to coat everything well.

Then add about 4 cups of water or stock of your choice.

Stir well and then put on high and cover till it comes up to the boil.  Then turn down to a low simmer.

The longer you can leave it the better, but keep checking it and adding more liquid if you need it.   Cook until the lentils are tender and you have a nice thick sauce.

We had it on a bed of couscous.

Very comforting.

Nelson’s Beans – revisited

A while back I shared a recipe with you.

A recipe for something I called “Nelson’s Beans”.    ( click here )

I told a story about how when I was visiting my cousin in California, his son was visiting from Scotland and made “Nelson’s Beans”.

I always assumed that Nelson was a Scotland guy…….but I learned when we were there visiting over the holidays that  in fact he is actually a California guy.

This makes WAY more sense now.   I don’t know how many of you are familiar with Scottish cuisine, but “spicy stuff” isn’t really the first thing you think of.

I just wanted to clear that up.

We had a good batch of them for dinner last night, with a little salad, a little hummus and pita makes a great little Vegan dinner.

Nelson’s Beans

Almost garden season!

I am very lucky to live in the Pacific Northwest, where we are almost always in a state of “Spring”.

Things still grow all winter here, not all things, but things.

I’m ready to get started growing some things.

My friend sent me this crazy little cactus terrarium from Christmas. 

I followed the directions and within a few days I got these crazy little cactus sprouts.   Unfortunately they haven’t got much bigger and look a little like they are molding, but I haven’t given up on them yet!

Sprouting cactus

I

n another window, I have one of those other “kits” growing.  I think this one is the “pizza” or “Italian” one with tomatoes and basil

It is doing quite well and I will have to transfer those tomato plants soon.

Pizza combo

I have also started my lettuce.

Recently the Chef and I were eating somewhere and the dish was topped with “micro greens” which I just assumed were those lettuce you get in the box…..baby ones, as it were.  But in fact, they are a different product all together.  Micro greens are picked even sooner than baby greens!  basically just after they sprout!

sprouting lettuce

So I’m gonna give them a try and see how that goes.

(Click here)  to see late year’s lesson in lettuce growing!

I also saw something on a home decorating site that I am trying too.  Lentil sprouts!   These people are using them as ” Spring table decorations” but I think you could probably eat them too!

I soaked some green lentils over night and then added them to this bowl that has a damp piece of paper towel in the bottom as to their instructions.   I’ll let you know…….

Sprouting lentils

Won’t be long now!  I will once again be at war with the squirrels!!  Have to start thinking up some strategies!

Fish tacos

Two things that I really don’t like the smell of in the house are fried and fish.  So you can only imagine how much I would dislike “fried fish”!    ψ

We’ve been watching a lot of the Food Network’s ” Eat Street“.  A show about various food carts or street food all over the place.  They really come up with some great ideas and I would love to eat at least 95% of everything they have on there.  The other 5% usually involves shell fish of some kind which I am allergic to and therefore must avoid.

But something I’ve been dying to try is Fish Tacos!

I tried looking up some recipes but most of them call for frying the fish.  Which I’m sure tastes great, but brings me back to the problem of smelly stuff in the house, but I found a way around it!  I BAKED the fish instead!  Worked great.

You will need some firm white fish.  Although I imagine you could use salmon too but that is a much stronger flavour.  On this occasion I used haddock and it worked great.

I chopped it into bite size chunks, put it in the dish and drizzled it with a bit of olive oil.  Then sprinkled it with cumin, chili powder and some pre-packaged “Cajun spice” that I had.

Then I put it into a 400 degree oven for about 12 – 15 minutes or until it is nice and opaque.

Baked haddock

Meanwhile, I got my toppings ready.

First I took sour cream and mixed it with chopped fresh cilantro, Chipolte Tabasco sauce and S&P.  Put that aside and let it get acquainted.

Then I chopped up:

  • 1 ripe tomato
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 1/2 small red onion
  • handful of fresh cilantro leaves

While all of this was going on, I wrapped a few tortillas in some tin foil and popped them into the toaster oven.  Make sure you cover them up or they will get very dry and nasty.

So, when the fish is cooked, the tortillas warmed, the garnish chopped, it is time to assemble.

First lay down the tortilla.

Then a dollop of the chipolte cilantro sour cream

Then a few pieces of fish

Then top with tomato, red onion, avocado and a few leaves of cilantro!

There you have it, a beautiful, non fried, fish taco!!

Fresh fish taco

Roll it up and eat it!

Oh and for a little extra zing and some vitamin C, add a splash of fresh lime juice over top!

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Chili con carne

There must  be millions of recipes for chili.

Everyone family and even every person has their own version.  There are chili cook-offs and festivals and so on all over the world.  Chili is a big deal.  Do you know why?  Because it is so dang easy!  That’s why.

So on this blustery day, I’ve whipped up a batch of my own.

Here’s what I used:

  • 1 pound or so of lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 of one red pepper and 1/2 of one orange pepper diced ( cause that’s what I had around)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tin red kidney beans ( rinsed)
  • 1 tin diced tomato
  • 1 tin tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes ( more if you like)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • salt & pepper

So out comes the ol Dutch oven.  Heat it up and add just a drizzle of olive oil to keep things from sticking.  Then add the ground beef and cook until you no longer see any pink bits.

Then add the onion and mix through.  Let that cook a bit and then add the peppers and jalapeno.

After that has cooked for a while and the onions and peppers look a little sweaty, make a hole in the middle of the pot to expose the bottom.  To this hole, add all of your herbs and spices and let them “toast” a little.  This helps release their oils and flavours.  Then stir everything together.

Add the vinegar, mix in.

Then add the tin of diced tomato, mix up and then bring up to the boil but turn it down to a simmer as soon as it does boil.  Let this cook awhile like this, the longer the better.

When you are getting close to serving time, like half an hour out, add the beans.  You could put them in at the same time as the tomatoes, but if you leave it till the end they don’t get as mushed.

Then about 10 minutes before serving, add the tomato paste ( and maybe the tomato paste can full of water to get out the bits at the bottom and add a little liquid ) and the chopped garlic.  Stir these through till completely mixed.  Then turn off the heat completely!!

I know, sounds crazy, but this will thicken it up nicely and if you don’t cook the garlic too long it will have more flavour AND retains the medicinal properties!!

Chili con carne

 

I’ve served it up with some nice corn tortilla chips and some chunks of avocado with a few squeezes of lime juice.  Always need to try to have something “alive” with every meal because that’s where the enzymes are that help digestion!

Chili night

 

I suppose I should have waiting for “Spanish Class Night” for this but we needed this tonight!

Lamb curry

To eat or not to eat?  We can go off on a whole debate about whether or not it is appropriate to eat meat or more specifically lamb but we’re all grown ups and you are free to choose whatever it is your are comfortable doing.

My “holistic philosophy” is to try and put the best things for you into your body.  Be that from a nutritional, ethical, spiritual or otherwise point of view.

We are blessed with some very fine lamb in these parts, they lived on nice farms and were ethically cared for so I feel fine that they did this for me.

There, Sunday sermon over.

This recipe is based on a recipe I watched a nice lady on the Food Network make.   Her show is called “Spice Goddess” and her name is Bal Arneson.  Her show is about making Indian food look easy.  So I thought I’d give her recipe called “Once a Month Lamb Curry” a try.

Now as I am always trying to emphasize here, you “do the best you can with what you’ve got”!  You don’t always have to follow a recipe to the T for it to turn out great, especially with things like soups and stews and sometimes things can turn out even better than it was supposed to.

If you don’t happen to have the exact ingredient, then use something similar or something completely different!  It’s OKAY!

Now obviously if you have important dinner guests that you need to impress trying some crazy new thing might not be the best approach, but when you are just trying to please yourself and have a creative time…….do as you will!!

So let’s start the curry, it takes a couple of hours to cook so if I keep talkin it won’t get done!

You will need the trusty Dutch oven.  Get it on the stove and get it heated up.

Ingredients called for:

  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour 
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 2 pounds lamb shoulder ( I didn’t have shoulder so I used de-boned leg)
  • 2 tbsp grapeseed oil ( I used olive)
  • 1 red onion chopped ( I only had “plain old yellow”)
  • 2 tbsp grated fresh garlic ( I used five cloves chopped)
  • 2 tbsp grated fresh ginger ( I used about a 2 inch hunk chopped)
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds ( I only had ground cumin)
  • 1 tbsp garam masala  ( I had that!)
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste ( I used a whole of one of those small cans)
  • 1 green chile finely minced ( I used one of those thin red ones, but chili flakes would do too)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (WHAT??  Hey whatever, it’s chocolate, I’m cool with that!)
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes ( I used four Roma tomatoes)
  • 1 red pepper seeded and chopped ( I had a small orange one kickin around too so I had both)
  • 1 cup red wine ( Okay.  I feel bad wasting wine in food but sometimes you gotta sacrifice!)
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • Extra water as needed

 

 

So it’s a bit of a shopping list of stuff to do but on a Sunday morning I find it therapeutic to chop things.

May I suggest you do all of your chopping first before you get started.  I didn’t and felt quite rushed as things were called for!

Start by mixing the flour, coriander, salt and pepper in a bowl.  

Then chop lamb into bite size cubes ( leave a little fat on but not too much) and then toss into the flour mixture and toss till coated.

Add oil to Dutch oven and when heated add lamb bits a few at a time so they aren’t crowded and give them a tap over the flour bowl before they go to the pot to get off excess flour.

Brown on all sides ( don’t crowd as they say) and then transfer to a different dish while the rest gets browned.  Keep doing this till they are all browned.

Meanwhile back in the pot……

Add the onion, garlic and ginger and stir till they get a nice colour on them.  Then add cumin, garam masala, tomato paste, chile and chocolate chips stir well.  Then into the pot goes chopped tomato, red pepper, browned meat and red wine.

Stir all that in with another pinch of S&P and if you need to add a little water, now is a good time.

Put the lid on and turn down to a medium low heat, like #3 on my stove, and let the magic do it’s thing for about 2 hours.

So that’s where I am with it.  

I will let you know how it turns out!

Panzanella

Or BREAD salad!

Do you ever find yourself with too much left over crusty white bread?  It entices you in at the store or bakery with it’s inviting smell and promise of comfort so you bring it home, eat your fill, but when you aren’t looking dries up into a brick!

We aren’t really “white bread” people at our house…..it is the “forbidden bread” unless of course we are making it ourselves, but sometimes even we get sucked in by the seduction of the golden crust!

But then what?  It doesn’t really make good toast because it is so hard it cuts your mouth and unless it is Thanksgiving, how much “stuffing starter” do you really need??

So I found a little something to do with it, a Mediterranean Panzanella salad.

Start by cutting your left over bread up into nice bite size cubes.  Try and cut it so that there is a piece of crust on every bite, like you would for a cheese fondue.  And let it sit out a bit in a bowl or on your cutting board to dry out even more.

Then in a nice large salad bowl combine:

  • 3 or 4 ripe tomato, seeded and cut into bite size bits
  • 3 or 4 yellow, red and/or orange roasted, seeded and chopped peppers
  • 1/2 English cucumber, seeded and cubed
  • 1/2 of a red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp capers, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • salt & pepper
  • chopped fresh basil

I have seen anchovies in this dish before but that is a personal choice.  And I choose not to.

Mix all these items in the salad bowl except the basil ( and not the bread YET!!)

Let that sit a bit to get to know each other.

Marinating vegetables and crusty bread

Then when you are getting close to eating, mix the bread into the vegetables and make sure it is all well combined and then top with fresh chopped basil.

 

 

Panzanella salad

 

Serve on top of some lettuce or use as a side dish.

Good way to get rid of your bread!

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!!

Balcony garden update II

There has been a lot of turmoil on the balcony garden.

The cauliflowers were all lost, growing like mutants or just rotting.  Prehaps it was because they were living with the potatoes?  Hard to say.  Maybe I needed to tie them up into balls?  Maybe I was just letting them grow wild!

And then today I found  my ONE tomato with a bite out of it!  Someone must have thought it was good!

Tomato with bite out of it

But they won’t win!  We ate it anyway!  What’s a little bite between neighbours?  I just cut around it!

This tomato made beautiful sweet bruschetta!  Topped with a little fresh basil from the window sill!

Bruschetta from my tomato

Then my curiosity got the better of me and I could wait no longer to see what’s under that potato plant!  Well the smaller one anyway.  The one I kept hacking down to let the cauliflower grow!

I was a little disappointed on first pull.  Not too much came out. 

Potato extraction

 But then I dug around a little deeper and found a few choice nuggets!  I’m not all together convinced that there aren’t still some more down there but I didn’t have time to sift through all the dirt.

Freshly harvested potatoes

Considering I never actually planted any potatoes and the plant just had the will to live, I’m thinking anything I get is a bonus! I roasted them up with a few yam parts and they were all sweet and delish!

Roast potatoes and yam

I need to be patient with the other potato plant and let it keep going awhile but I don’t want them to rot.  Then again THIS plant was just part of the other one that I ripped out of the other box to help make room for the cauliflower, but then when I saw it had a bunch of tiny potatoes growing on it, I quickly replanted it!

Escaped potato plant

This is just one plant taking over the place!!

And then luckily after a rocky beginning of being half eaten to death by the birds, the chard and the lettuce have bounced back nicely!

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Mediterranean style club sandwich

Here’s the recipe for the Mediterranean style club the Chef made for our movie night in the park picnic.

You will need:  amounts will vary depending on how many people you are feeding.  And please feel free to add, subtract or substitute according to taste and availability.  This is just a guideline, but I must warn you, it was delicious!!

  • a large baguette or other crusty bread
  • marinated chicken breast
  • smoked cheddar
  • bacon
  • onion
  • tomato
  • avocado
  • blue cheese/goat cheese/sun-dried tomato/mayo
  • olives

Start by marinading your chicken breasts in a marinade of:

  • chopped fresh garlic
  • chopped fresh basil
  • chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • olive oil

Meanwhile make up your “bacon jam”.  Bacon is always delicious but sometimes it is unmanageable when it is crispy and often falls out of the sandwich!  So if you make it into a nice spreadable “jam” it will solve the problem.   You’ll need:

  • a good size onion, sliced
  • a few strips of bacon

Grill up the bacon until nice and crispy, remove and let cool.   Add the onions to the same pan with and cook until brown in colour and soft and squishy.

Bacon jam

Chop the bacon into fine bits and mix it in with the carmelized onions until you have a nice paste or “jam”.

Once that is cooling, make up your “mayo” by combining some blue cheese, goat cheese, sun-dried tomato, a bit of fresh basil and a little mayo.  Cream these together till you have a nice thick spread.  Now if you don’t happen to have these kicking around like we always seem to have, then straight mayo will work fine.

blue and goat cheese mayo

Then grill off your chicken in the same pan as the bacon and onions were in to add extra flavour.

Marinaded chicken

Then slice up the extras and you are almost ready to assemble.

Sandwich fixins

Slice your baguette or crusty bread into three, length wise and toast in the oven.  If you want to be really decadent, you can brush a little of the left over bacon fat on the bread before toasting.

Grilled baguette

Now it’s time to assemble.

Start, as many good sandwiches begin, with the first layer of bread on the bottom!

First goes the bacon jam.  Spread a nice thin layer on the bottom slices.  Then a layer of fresh sliced tomatoes, then a layer of smoked cheddar, then chicken.

As soon as the chicken is cooled enough to touch, slice up the breasts to go into your sandwich.

Then we are ready for the middle layer of bread, top that with the cheesy mayo concoction. Then another layer of thinly sliced chicken breast, followed by another layer of smoked cheddar and then topped with creamy avocado.

Layer ingredients on bread

Spread another thin layer of the bacon jam on the top slice of bread and add it to the stack.

We secured it with tooth picks with olives on top but when the Chef makes them at the restaurant he uses fresh sprigs of rosemary to hold them down and add extra flavour!

Mediterranean style club sandwich

So if you were super hungry you COULD eat this whole thing yourself  BUT I think it is much too good not to share!

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Stuffed things

My old roommate and I always used to call them that.

I suppose they would be “stuffed tomatoes” or “stuffed peppers” or stuffed whatevers but we never really knew what we would be stuffing so it was safe to just call them stuffed things.

This recipe is based on my memory of my roommate’s mother’s so hopefully I will remember it all.

First start by getting some “things”.

As mentioned before, you can stuff pretty much any vegetable that can have a hole in it!  But you usually always need at least some of them to be tomatoes because you need the tomato innards as part of any filling.

So for the sake of this exercise, we will use tomato.

Start with some nicely shaped tomatoes, wash them, give them a little slice off on the bottom so they will sit up straight without too much of a fight.  Then carefully cut around the top going in quite deep like you might do with a pumpkin when making a jack-o-lantern!

Then grab that whole circle of tomato flesh ( don’t pull by the stem cause it will just come off and ruin your presentation potential) and give a gentle turn and pull the whole piece up.  You should have a tomato cap with a sort of “root” on it now.

Cut off the excess bottom of the lid and drop it in the food processor.

Then get a sharp spoon and scrape out all the tomato innards into the food processor and then repeat with each tomato and place them in a baking dish.

Hollow out tomatoes

Meanwhile, back at the food processor.  Add:

  • 2 – 3 cloves fresh garlic
  • good handful of fresh mint, stems removed or 1 tbsp dried
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • juice of half of a lemon
  • salt & pepper

Give that all a good whirl up in the machine till it is all nice and chopped.  Then transfer to a mixing bowl where you will add about 1 pound of ground pork and 1/2 cup of uncooked rice.

This part is a little trial and error.  I always use whole grain brown rice which takes longer to cook so if you want to par boil it a little first that’s okay.  Or if you have left over cooked rice you can go with that but add a full cup instead.

Mix all of this thoroughly.

Pork, rice and spices "stuffing"

 Now you are ready to start stuffing your “things”.

Gently spoon mixture into each one and give them a firm push down to make sure they are well packed.

Replace the caps and then put just enough liquid in the bottom of the dish to cover it.  I used broth but water is fine too.  Then cover them with tin foil and place in a 375 degree oven.

Stuff the tomatoes and replace lids

Bake them for about 45 minutes or until the rice is cooked.   Check on them and take a little taste to see if the rice is cooked.  Then replace in the oven uncovered for about another 10 minutes just to brown up the top.

Then remove and enjoy.

Stuffed tomatoes

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Breakfast idea?

So what to do with left over corn bread pizza crust?   Could happen!

Well, why not make it into some sort of breakfast item?

Replace your usual toast, english muffin or what ever else you usually put under your eggs with the corn bread.

Think of a nice eggs “benny” (  that’s what they call eggs Benedict around these parts) on corn bread.

Or some rancho huevos on corn bread instead of tortilla!   Adds so much extra flavour!

Or what I did this morning, just some grilled up bacon with an egg on top and my favorite ol chipolte style Tabasco sauce on top!

Add a little tomato and avocado to freshen it up!   You could even have this for lunch!

Bacon and eggs on corn bread

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Salmon and pancakes

So put them all together and what do you get?

We have “What we had for dinner”!

However this would make a really good brunch or lunch too.

Start with the roasted tomato pancake as the base, top with salmon, add some healthy greens and then drizzle with a little left over salmon cooking juice and you have yourself a lovely meal.

Maple ginger salmon with roasted tomato pancakes

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