27 November 2007

Chicken and Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Rosemary Gravy and Steamed Baby Boy Choy

I think there is something wrong with me. Something wrong that makes me incapable of making gravy. I try, I really do, but it just never thickens properly. This kind of gelled a bit, once the leftovers had sat in the pan while I ate, but my bok choy got horribly over-steamed while I fought with the pan of "gravy" and so I gave up and just poured it over everything (everything but the green stuff, anyway) and called it good. It tasted right, anyway, so I guess that's close enough.

I spent most of my work day today thinking about all the things I could make for dinner today - soups of various sorts (I was leaning toward one with meatballs in it) and then chili (I've got some in the freezer...) and then mashed potatoes with gravy. Obviously that was the thought that stuck. And then I had to think of something else to eat with gravy. And something else to eat with that.

The rosemary gravy is something I've made (or tried to make) before, so that meant turkey scallopini (which is what I first had the gravy with), but I couldn't FIND turkey scallopini, so a butterflied chicken breast did in the pinch. The bok choy was the first vegetable I saw in the store that popped out at me. (After kohlrabi and fennel anyway. But I didn't know what to do with those.)

And finally, the red plate is used in honour of the fact that I woke up to a mountain of snow (and more falling all day...). I despise winter. Why do I have to live somewhere so cold, hm?

26 November 2007

Rotini with Moroccan-spiced Root Vegetable Sauce

Okay. I think was even better as a pasta sauce than in its incarnation as a baked potato topping. This was a pretty fantastic use of leftovers. (And I'm having it for lunch tomorrow. Yum.) I think I may have helped it out a little by adding the rest of the can of tomatoes, plus a bit more of each of the spices.

I really like the brand of pasta that I used today, Barilla Plus. It's not very common in the grocery stores up here (Catelli and Primo are the two most common) and, alas, I picked up the box when they were being discontinued at the store I work at. What I like is that it's got a really great texture and it holds its shape perfectly. And for a whole wheat pasta, it's not the least bit slimy, tough or just plain horrible.

At any rate, this was a really great sauce to use on a whole wheat pasta because the flavour was quite intense and hearty and robust enough to stand up to the pasta without being overwhelmed by it.

25 November 2007

Baked Potato with Moroccan-Spiced Root Vegetables

This was a really tasty dinner. I found the recipe by way of Little Foodies, who created it for the Pimp My Potato challenge at The Great Big Vegetable Challenge, though of course my version came out a bit different. I couldn't find any celeriac and the parsnips only came in a 5lb bag (and since I use perhaps two a year that seemed like a bad way to buy one), so my version was as follows:

2 to 2-1/2 cups of vegetables, comprised of the following items:
- 2 garlic cloves (minced)
- red onion (I used half a small one)
- 2 carrots
- 1 small turnip
- rutabaga (aka Swede) until the measuring cup was full

Dice them all up to approximately the same size - they're meant to be about 1cm cubed, but I think mine came out a bit smaller. Drizzle over with a good bit of olive oil and add as much of the following mixture as you think you need and then stir to coat evenly:

Ras al-Hanut (found here, but much cut down, since I knew I wouldn't use it all).
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp turmeric
a pinch each of freshly ground black pepper, nutmeg, cardamom, and paprika

I only used about half of this mixture, but I probably could have used all of it - I forgot that adding tomatoes would dilute the flavour a bit.

Roast the vegetables at 375F for 45 minutes or so, then stir in half a can of diced tomatoes with their juice, roast an additional 10 minutes. Taste and add a bit of salt and more pepper if necessary.

Serve atop a lovely baked potato and gorge yourself on the delicious flavours.

I actually ate this along with a chicken breast that I'd done like Shake and Bake chicken (but made by me instead of the company), which is hiding in the cut-off portion of the picture because I forgot to put a bit of fat on top, so it didn't brown well and looked a bit bland (though it tasted good). In the end, I didn't eat more than the first two bites because the potato was too good and too filling, so I sliced it up and put it in a sandwich for lunch tomorrow at work.

The leftover vegetables have been refrigerated and I suspect that they might make an appearance on pasta tomorrow (with the other half can of tomatoes and some more spices).

22 November 2007

Vegetable Beef Bundles

I think I've posted too many things in the last couple days because I don't really feel like saying anything this time around. It looks tasty, though. (I think. Even if I did singe it a little.)


This was more or less a tasty and sort of dramatic looking way to serve steak and vegetables. The meat was meant to be like Korean Bulgogi (in the sense that it's marinated and grilled beef), and it was a pretty similar recipe to most of the versions I've looked at online. The flavour of the marinade was pretty plain - a hint of sesame, but otherwise it tasted like a sweet soy sauce - so I think when I make this again I'll have to add some diced hot pepper to the marinade. It tasted quite good with the lettuce, also, so I think next time I'll make them and then wrap them with lettuce leaves to eat.

Perfect Brown Rice

I am a convert to Jack Bishop's method of cooking brown rice.

The problem with brown rice is that it tends to be a bit sticky in a bad way. Or kind of waterlogged and heavy. Or just always texturally not very exciting. It's like a lump of unpleasantness that is best served with saucy things that hide it a bit. (My exception to the rule is a brown rice blend with wild rice. In particular, the one made by Lundberg, which is absolutely fantastic. I haven't made it in a long while because the last time I did I managed to smoke out the entire upstairs whilst reducing the rice to a lump of black charcoal. Yes, really. But it is a really, really tasty blend.)

At any rate, Jack Bishop's book A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen offers up a solution to the brown rice problem. (Though he rightly points out that brown rice just isn't suited to every dish, and nutritional benefits be damned, sometimes you just have to eat the white stuff.) The method sounds a little fussy, but it only adds one extra bit of kitchen hardware - the steamer insert - and one extra step. It doesn't add extra time.

So here's the way to do it:

Cook the rice like pasta, in a ton of water (he uses one part rice, six parts water), for about 30 minutes. Drain it into a steamer insert. Put about an inch of water back into the pot and return to the heat. Put the steamer insert back into the pot, cover, and steam for another ten minutes.

The results should be fluffy with individual grains of rice, rather than the sodden lump (or crunchy lump, depending on your usual results) that the directions on the bag generally give.

I made it yesterday and I don't think I've ever had such good brown rice. (Which I promptly mixed into a bowl of chili, thus rendering the extra step a bit of a waste, since the usual old brown rice would have sufficed. BUT I made four servings and froze the rest for later.)

21 November 2007

Ginger-Soy Chicken on Iceberg Lettuce

Among the anti-fan set, Rachael Ray is often derided for being (among a great many other things) an endorsement whore. I'd never really seen proof of it, maybe because I'm Canadian and my exposure is thus a bit limited? I don't know. At any rate, I work at a Safeway store and they play over the intercom what I call Safeway radio. It's basically just a set playlist of vaguely pleasing (to some, I suppose) pop and a few classics intercut with some ads for various products or items that are on special and a lot of pharmacy related content. (Diabetes is a popular subject.)

Well, a few days ago I noticed a new ad. "Hi guys! Rachael Ray here!" etcetera endorsing Nabisco crackers. So in honour of Rachael Ray, endorsement whore, I decided to cook one of her recipes.

I actually own her book 365: No Repeats and have made two or three things from it in the past. And say what anyone will about her, I still like the food she makes. This was no exception. The crunchy iceberg lettuce was a really delicious change from noodles or rice, and the flavour was just right: a little sweet and a little gingery and a little spicy without being too much of any of those things.

19 November 2007

Recipe: Chicken Couscous Cakes

This recipe comes from Jean Pare's Company's Coming Whole Grain Recipes cookbook. It's a little bit fussy to make, and messy. (It stuck to my hands really badly when I made the cakes.) But I really thought the taste was worth it.

This is the recipe as written, but I made half (still using a whole egg, since it seemed to need the extra liquid) and it worked quite well.

1/4 cup whole wheat couscous
1/2 cup boiling water

1 tsp oil
1 cup onion, finely chopped
1 cup red pepper, finely chopped

2 cups cooked chicken, diced
1 cup wild rice, cooked
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1 tbsp garlic and herb seasoning (I used an Italian seasoning blend)

1 egg, fork beaten
1/2 cup jalapeño Monterey Jack cheese, grated

1. Preheat oven to 375F/190C. Cook couscous according to package directions.
2. Heat oil in a frying pan. Cook onion and pepper until softened, 5-7 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
3. Add chicken, rice, bread crumbs, seasoning and couscous to cooked vegetables. Stir together. Add cheese and egg, mixing well to combine.
4. Divide into 12 equal portions and shape into patties. Arrange on greased baking sheet. Lightly spray with cooking spray. Bake for about 20 minutes or until firm.

The recipe doesn't suggest it, but I served mine over an herb/baby greens mix with some balsamic vinaigrette and a (small) quartered tomato.

Tortellini Stirfry

Okay, so I said elsewhere that this dinner wasn't bad but that it's too weird to be good. And that's about the most I can say: too weird to be good.

I had a lot of tortellini leftover from when I made soup with it a while back, so I decided to use a little more of it up (I froze the extras) and went to Olivieri's website to see what recipes they'd have up there. (The tortellini is actually Olivieri's Whole Wheat Beef and Vegetable Tortelloni. I don't know what the difference is between tortellini and tortelloni, but apparently there is one?) So there was this weird looking recipe for tortellini with stir-fried vegetables.

How could I not try it? (I won't try it again, mind.)

They didn't show a picture on the website, which I think is because it's not the most attractive looking dish. (Though if I worked like a food photographer, I'd have kept the sauce off the vegetables, and poured it on artfully so that the vegetables would all look pristine and beautiful.) Anyway, it wasn't bad tasting. It smelled really good, actually. But I'm just not sure my brain or taste buds are prepared to accept the flavour combination of soy sauce and pesto.

17 November 2007

Chicken and Chickpea Chipotle Chili

I seem to make chili quite a lot. But it just always tastes good, and you can do it a million different ways.

This one used up some leftover chicken, a lot of green and red pepper, and some chickpeas I'd frozen a while back. My sister's friend - Hi Tanya! Thanks Tanya! - sent some spices over to our place in hopes we'd use them, and one of them was a jar of chipotle chili powder, so I used that rather than regular chili powder. At first my impression was that it was a lot hotter than regular chili powder, but I don't think that it is at all. I think it was actually only hotter in comparison to our chili powder that has been sitting around for so long it probably is only half so potent as it once was. At any rate, after that initial taste, it was the smokiness of the chipotle that I really noticed, as well as a richness from the cocoa and balsamic vinegar that were different additions than any of my usuals.

This was good, definitely worth a remake somewhere down the line.

16 November 2007

Chicken Couscous Cakes on Mesclun

My mom bought me a recipe book for my birthday or maybe for Christmas that focuses on whole grains. I've never cooked anything out of it before, but I had a bag of wild rice I wanted to start using up, so I cracked the spine, and made myself Chicken Couscous Cakes. It was sort of a two day operation, since I made the wild rice and bought a deli chicken on Wednesday, and then actually assembled everything on Thursday. (I was too tired and/or lazy to cook on Wednesday.)

Anyway, they were very tasty. They're made (mostly) of whole wheat couscous, wild rice, chicken, and vegetables. And they sort of, together, reminded me of chicken and stuffing baked into little cakes. It has a little bit of jalapeño jack cheese in them, but I couldn't taste it at all, so I think I might skip that if I make these again. But I think I'll add some red pepper flakes when I'm cooking the vegetables because I think it could stand up to some heat.

I've become fond of eating hot foods on lettuce and I'm really not sure why. Usually I'd get all squicked about (possibly) wilty lettuce, but this just seemed to work. A little lettuce, some vinaigrette, and a bite of my little chicken cake all together was just perfect.

ETA: This was a part of my on-going quest to use up what's in my cupboard. It probably says something about me that I won't like that I would choose a recipe that uses one ingredient I have - wild rice - but requires me to buy two more that I don't - couscous and bread crumbs.

13 November 2007

Pinwheel Gift Block

I made this block for one of the members of my livejournal group, Birthday Blocks. She had requested any pinwheel block done in lavender and butter yellow with accents of spring green.

So it's a bit more vibrant than lavender, butter, and spring green. But I actually really like the effect, and I hope the recipient does too. She had gotten one block with some really dark purple in it (darker even than this) and so I hoped to help balance things out a little by adding some more dark. I really hope that it helps. As for 'spring green' I wasn't entirely sure what that meant, so I just found something that popped. It pops a little too much, I think, since the lavender actually sinks back (you don't notice so much that it's also a part of the pinwheel).

At any rate, I really hope the recipient liked it, even though it didn't quite fit her requests.

12 November 2007

Spicy Beef and Refried Beans with Fresh Salsa, Toxic Cheese Sludge and Taco Chips

I'm so in love with these dishes that I'm going to find a way to put everything I eat into them for, like, the next month, I think.

Anyway, I hadn't had any liquid cheese food in a while, so I picked some up over the weekend to have with the last bit of refried beans and beef that I'd made and frozen quite a long time ago. Today I just heated everything and made up a quick fresh salsa to go along with it.

Tasty goodness. (But no more cheese product for me for a long while. It makes my stomach very unhappy a short time after making my tongue very happy.)

10 November 2007

Quinoa Pilaf with Caramelized Onions and Toasted Pecans

I have a bunch of weird grains like Amaranth and Quinoa and Buckwheat (not so weird for some, I know) and mostly I've only used them once. And only for breakfast foods, but I don't really care for hot breakfasts all that much. So I need to find other ways to use them up.

This quinoa recipe came from a really lovely cookbook I've got - A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen by Jack Bishop. If you google the title of the book, it'll bring you to that google books thing where you can see several of the recipes from the book (not this one, however). I've only made a couple of things from the book so far, but they were both really good. (The other can be seen here.)

Anyway, it was really simple to make, which was fantastic since I started cooking at 9PM, and quite tasty.

Fabric Origami Ninepatch

I mentioned in the comments in my last entry that I had thought about making a quilt for my mom with a bunch of ugly floral prints that I own made into these origami flowers. Well, the idea morphed a little, so that it'll be for my grandmother rather than my mom because I've already got two projects half finished for my mom, and I think she'd probably rather I finish one of those than start with something entirely new. (Also, my grandma is quite hard to buy for - what does she want for Christmas at her age? Not much. She just buys whatever she needs, always.)

Anyway, this photo is just to show the basic idea of the thing. It'll be composed of nine patches like this one (which hasn't been sewn together), alternated with nine patches in green and that beige floral print. The green, like the flowers, will be made of a variety of different green prints, so that it's all going to be quite scrappy.

I have such a hard time with scrappy quilts but my grandma comes from the If You've Got the Fabric, Use the Fabric school of quilting, so my sister has quilts in the basement from her that are black and red in the sashing and borders, but have pink blocks and every other colour imaginable, whether or not it matches. And I love those quilts, so I'm going to struggle through my natural dislike of making scrappy quilts myself. And it's a good way to use up some of the really ugly florals my mom has bought me over the years.

Anyway, I plan to tie this quilt. There will be buttons in the centre of each flower, so I can either tie down from there or I could sew the buttons on before making the sandwich and then tie the quilt when I tack down the petals of the flowers. In either case, neither option tells me what to do about the green sections of the quilt. Hmm...

08 November 2007

Cavatappi with Spinach and Pine Nuts

This was tasty, if not fantastic. It's pretty basic - pasta with pine nuts toasted in butter, wilted spinach, and some dried cranberries and blueberries. The recipe I was kind of sort of following asked for port soaked currents. I didn't have currents or port and wasn't going to buy either, but I can see the benefit in soaking the fruit. I think if I make this again, I'll let them cook a bit with the pine nuts and see if they soften up a bit.

I think I'm going to be sick to death of spinach if I eat it again anytime soon.

Turkey Burger with Steamed Broccoli and Edamame

Another sort of blurry picture (it looks better in this small version than it does at full-size). Anyway, it might be just as well because edamame are not super pretty. (Or these ones aren't, anyway.)

A little while ago I bought some of those Glad microwave bags for steaming vegetables because I wondered how well they'd work. And then I was a bit dumb and did the broccoli and edamame together. Which left me with slightly overcooked broccoli, and slightly undercooked edamame. At any rate, they were both tasty, just not quite as tasty as they might have been.

This is the first time I'd ever made edamame before, so I just assumed they'd cook up similarly to snow peas or sugar snap peas, but the actual beans are a lot more solid than a pea, hence the not quite cooking enough. Flavour-wise I liked them, anyway.

05 November 2007

Turkey Spinach Gratin

There isn't all that much to say about this one, really, it's just a really simple, easy to make casserole that is pretty tasty and a good way to use up leftover turkey. I've been eating a lot of turkey lately, haven't I? And spinach.

I used fat-reduced cheese on this, and it really shows in the weird way that cheese melted on top. I tried and tried to brown the cheese under the broiler, but this was as far as I got it after several minutes. I was going to wind up burning everything else, though, so I gave up on it.

Turkey Tomato Roll-ups

This is kind of yesterday's lunch redux. I didn't put the soup in the picture again, because day old wilted spinach (even in soup) doesn't look so hot. And also I didn't feel like transferring it to a prettier dish than the plastic container it was stored in. So.

This time I did put a bit more effort into the roll-ups. Not much more effort, but some. I added some sliced cheddar cheese, a bit of sliced red pepper, and a couple spoonfuls of a jarred bruschetta mix that my mom left out here.

04 November 2007

Vegetable - Tortellini Soup with Turkey Roll-ups

Mmm... I love soup. Though it's not the best picture - the soup kind of looks muddy, but it's a very dark broth that I used, and the roll-ups are so white/beige that they look unappetizing, but I was too tired and lazy to cut up red pepper or lettuce or anything to tuck in with the turkey and mozzarella. Thank goodness it all tasted good.

It amuses me to compare my photo to the one in the book the soup came from, where there are four perfect looking tortellini, one in each quadrant of the bowl, and a few pieces of each of the other ingredients - carrot, zucchini, tomato, yellow (though I used red) pepper, spinach - showing to their best advantage. Me... I just spoon it into the bowl, might stir it around a bit to get some more stuff showing, and then decide that it's good enough.

02 November 2007

Orzo Salad with Cranberries, Spinach, and Feta

If I ever manage to line the foods I eat up with the season I'm living in... I'll have to make this in summer, for something outside, like a picnic, I guess. (Though I can't actually remember the last time I ate outside. Or if I ever had a picnic.)

This is a variation, which I found at Ventures with Veggies, on Giada De Laurentiis's Tri-Colore Orzo salad recipe (which you can see here) made with dried, sweetened cranberries in place of the cherries, spinach instead of arugula, feta instead of ricotta, no basil or pinenuts, and way less olive oil. It was really light and delicate (and not at all suited to the cold weather we've been having) and wonderful and very pretty

01 November 2007

Sausage and Pepper Scrambled Eggs with Sautéed Potatoes

October was a kind of uninspiring month for me, food-wise. I only made (according to my photos, anyway) 12 things new and interesting enough to be photographed. Which isn't a lot, at all. So I'm hoping that I'll be a little better this month about cooking. But this wasn't a very inspiring start, was it?

I've said before that eggs are sort of my stand-by dinner when I'm feeling tired and lazy and don't really want to put in effort... but I've made eggs plenty of times that have at least looked nicer than this. It tasted quite good, but looks like a mess on a plate. It is a mess on a plate. (I don't like scrambled eggs - they never look nice, really.)

If I don't go out for dinner tomorrow, I'll be making something much more interesting, though, so I hope the photos turn out. And I hope this month I manage more than 12 days of cooking new things.