27 November 2011

Review: Candy Cap Mushrooms

Initially, Marx Foods approached me about participating in a Candy Cap Mushroom contest.  Through a series of unfortunate events including empty grocery shelves and the stomach flu, I was unable to meet the deadline, but I did want to review these mushrooms for you.  I ended up using them as a twist on my Thanksgiving dessert, and it worked out quite well!

When the mushrooms arrived, I wasn't quite sure what to do with them.  Reviews described them as tasting like maple syrup and being very sweet, but the smell was more of a smoky/sweet combination, and somewhat unusual.  What would they go well with?  I ended up doing something very simple, and it worked out very well.  Since dairy takes on flavor so effectively, I let a good handful of the dried mushrooms sit in a small bowl of heavy cream overnight.  When I whipped it, I added a couple of teaspoons of maple syrup, resulting in a great smoky/sweet topping for pumpkin pie.  My take?  Surprisingly good!  I'm not sure I could find many uses for these, but as a special treat, they're a fun and unusual accent to a recipe.

30 October 2011

Balsamic Onion Cheesy Biscuits

This post is about a recipe that my girlfriend Hilary and I made way back in March, and now it's just coming around to be cold enough again to make sense to post.  I know I've been lagging on this blog, but I want to continue to post the recipes I make, and hopefully will get more regular about that with time.  This particular idea was Hilary's invention, adapted from the amazing Simply Recipes recipe for Rustic Onion Tart.  Instead of using the rustic tart dough, Hilary made cream biscuits, split them for a base to cover the bottom of a loaf pan, layered the onions on top, and topped with Dubliner cheese to melt in the oven.  This was an awesome idea.  Oniony, balsamicy, buttery, cheesy, yum.  You can also slice the melty mess into individual biscuits again, wrap, freeze, and then just stick in the toaster oven one at a time for breakfast.

05 September 2011

Farmer's Market Finds: Dallas-Style Cornbread and Green Tomato Okra Stew

As you may have noticed, I took a break from this blog for the summer.  Unfortunately, I realized when loading it back up again that a post queued for May never appeared!  In that post, I reviewed Kelapo coconut oil.  Many apologies to the Kelapo team for not posting the review!  Instead of putting that old post up now, I decided to make a different recipe with their product.  I also wanted to bring back Farmer's Market Finds after heading to the Waverly Farmer's Market in Baltimore with my friend Hanne this Saturday and bringing home an impressive haul.  I put together a green tomato and okra stew, adapted from a Mark Bittman recipe, and realized that cornbread was the perfect accompaniment.  In comes the coconut oil!
Kelapo makes a virgin coconut oil that is probably best used as a finishing oil, given the strong flavor.  However, I wanted to add a little to the sweetness of this cornbread, contrasting with the poblano pepper I picked up at the Farmer's Market and substituted in place of jalepeno in the recipe.  I used 1/3 cup coconut oil in place of the canola oil I would normally used, and I thought the coconut flavor contributed very nicely.  This is a dense, moist cornbread, sweet and spicy and perfect with butter melted on top.  (I used South Mountain Creamery butter from the Farmer's Market).  Next time I try this recipe with coconut oil, I'll probably cut the sugar down.

Chou-Chou's Original Dallas Hot-Stuff Cornbread
from The Cornbread Gospels by Crescent Dragonwagon

1-1/4 cups unbleached white flour
1-3/4 cups stone-ground yellow cornmeal
3 T sugar
1 T + 1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 t salt
3 eggs
2-1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup mild vegetable oil (or coconut oil)
2 fresh garlic cloves, pressed (I used 2 t Trader Joe's crushed garlic)
1 large onion, finely chopped or grated
1 cup canned cream corn (I used the whole can)
1/4 to 1/2 cup sliced jalapenos (or a diced poblano if you can't take spice)
1-1/2 cups (6 oz) grated sharp Cheddar or Jack (I used a taco blend)
1 T butter

Preheat the oven to 400 and spray an 11 x 15 baking pan with oil.  Sift or stir together the first six ingredients.  Whisk eggs well, then whisk in milk, oil, and garlic.  Combine wet and dry with a few swift strokes, then add onion, corn, peppers, and half the cheese.  Pour into pan and sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Bake 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.  Dot with butter and sprinkle with salt.

I got some really awesome okra, as well as a box of green tomatoes, at the Farmer's Market.  I love okra, but I'm not a big fan of the whole drench-and-dredge fry preparation.  Instead, I went hunting through my vegetarian bible for something else to do with the okra and found Mark Bittman's recipe for okra stew with tomatoes.  The green tomatoes were perfect for this.  It's kind of a Southern taste explosion.

Okra Stew with Tomatoes
from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman

6 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, halved and thick sliced
salt and pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 lb okra, trimmed
2 T chopped garlic
4 cups chopped tomato (can be canned, I used 5 chopped green tomatoes)
1 T minced fresh oregano (optional, I completely forgot it)
chopped parsley leaves for garnish (didn't bother)

Put 2 T oil in a deep skillet or large pot (I used my Dutch oven) over medium-high heat.  Add onion, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, 2-3 minutes or until soft and turning golden.  Remove with slotted spoon.  Add remaining oil to the pot and turn heat down to medium low.  (My stove is a bit wimpy and I actually ended up having to up the heat again at the end because my roux wasn't getting much darker).  Add flour and cook, stirring almost constantly, until the roux becomes tea-colored and fragrant.  This is supposed to take up to 10 minutes and you should lower the heat if it's sticking.  I had to up the heat and it got darker but never tea colored.  When I added the okra though, the oil splattered and it got dark fast.  Add the okra and stir 3-5 minutes or until the okra starts to soften. Add the garlic and cook a minute or so, stirring once or twice.  Add onion and tomato, plus a cup of water (maybe a little more if you're using green tomatoes).  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bring to boil, then bubble gently, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes or until okra is very tender and sauce is thick.  Add oregano if you like and garnish with parsley.

22 May 2011

Product Review: FungusAmongUs Mushrooms

As I'm sure will be no surprise to any regular readers of this blog, when I have a chance to sample a mushroom product, I always take it! I recently had a chance to try FungusAmongUs dried porcini, chanterelles, and porcini salt, and used them to create the recipes below. If you're interested in FungusAmongUs, you can visit the FungusAmongUs website or take advantage of a Facebook deal they're running now for $10 truffle products. Or, stay tuned for a giveaway coming up on the blog where you can win a FungusAmongUs sample! Disclaimer: The products reviewed on this post were provided free of charge by FungusAmongUs. No other financial ties exist between the blogger and FungusAmongUs.

Grilled Cheese for Grownups

1 cibatta loaf
3 slices baby Swiss cheese
1 oz dried porcini mushrooms, snipped
a splash of red wine
olive oil
a pinch of porcini salt

I've been wanting to get my hands on some dried porcini mushrooms for ages, so I was thrilled to try this jazzed-up grilled cheese with porcini and Swiss. You could do this with a fancier cheese, too. I simmered the dried porcini in water first, then added some Cabernet once the water cooked off. Next, I tossed in some olive oil and dried herbs, along with a pinch of the FungusAmongUs porcini salt. After cleaning out the skillet, I assembled the sandwich on cibatta, using a portion of the mushroom filling, plus a spread of mayo and the cheese. I generously buttered the outside of the sandwich to grill, getting a good dark crisp on the outside. The mushrooms had a nice dark, earthy flavor, a good compliment to the mild cheese.

Chanterelle, Sundried Tomato, and Mozzarella Omelet

2 eggs
generous splash of milk
salt and pepper
1/2 oz dried chanterelles
handful of sundried tomatoes
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
a few chives

This was a somewhat less successful experiment, though I do know the reason. I reconstituted the chanterelles in hot water, but didn't cook them before adding them to the cooking eggs in the pan. The best thing to do would be to chop them up very small and sautee, then toss in the omelet with the cheese and tomatoes. The texture of the chanterelles is less appealing to me than the porcini, though I think they'd be a good addition to a soup or stew.

Chanterelle and Sundried Tomato Couscous

1/2 oz dried chanterelles
handful sundried tomatoes
1 cup dry couscous
olive oil

With the leftovers from the omelet, I made a somewhat more successful dinner. This is very simple--cook the couscous with olive oil and sea salt, then toss with sundried tomatoes, sauteed chanterelles, the olive oil from the sauteeing, and a bit more salt.

20 April 2011

4/20 Celebration Snack: Peanut Butter Jar Fudge

Although I don't partake in the activity for which 4/20 is famous, I feel that I oughta post a recipe for those of you who do. I also feel that I should note that if you're at all concerned about the toxins found in plastic, this recipe is not for you. For me, the risk is worth the bliss of a one-dish easy dessert that can be made from what I have lying around the apartment.

This was something of an experiment, so I figured it out in steps. Basically, you want to take a peanut butter jar that's about a third full and dump a couple of tablespoons of powdered sugar in the jar. Use a mug to microwave about a half a stick of butter, add to the peanut butter, and stir until the mixture is smooth. While you're stirring, microwave an almost full mug of chocolate chips and then stir the melted chocolate in. I originally did a little too much butter and not enough chocolate, but I think this is about right. When it's smooth, put the lid back on and chill overnight. You'll have delicious fudge in the morning, or for a holiday-appropriate late night snack.

11 April 2011

From the Pantry: Frozen Vegetable Weeknight Casserole

This is a thrown-together, easy and healthy casserole that anyone can throw together on a weeknight using simple ingredients that anyone has around the kitchen. Start with a layer of brown rice, then add a few bags of frozen vegetables. I used a bag of mixed veggies, a bag of collards, and a small bag of green peppers. You don't even have to thaw, because nothing will burn in this. Dump in a can of cream of mushroom soup, add a cup of shredded low-fat mozzarella or cheese of your choice, and put the dish in the oven at 350 until hot, bubbling, and the cheese is melted.

28 March 2011

Sweet Potato Enchiladas with Lentils and Couscous

I keep seeing recipes around for sweet potato enchiladas and burritos, and it had given me a craving a couple of weeks ago. My initial plan was to stick pretty much with a recipe from Budget Bytes, but after I got the sweet potatoes I realized that I didn't have any soy chorizo. So instead, I decided to improvise a little bit and instead of chorizo and poblano I used some couscous and lentils I had left over, mixed with canned green chilis. It was a little odd, but I think it turned out really well once the whole thing was smothered with requisite sauce and cheese. I used burrito sized tortillas, three to an 8 x 8 pan, and rolled them in advance so when I got home all I had to do was add the sauce and cheese and pop the whole thing in the oven.

24 March 2011

From the Pantry: Bulgur Beanastroni

I think the bulgur in this variation on my Daddy's recipe may just kill the "oni" part, but I'm willing to live with this. This is a super-easy, super filling meal that's packed with protein. It may not look like much, but it's pretty tasty for healthy food. My trick was to start with the Trader Joes 17 legume mix, which has just about everything. I soaked the beans and got them simmering with oregano and a bay leaf, then towards the end, turned the heat up a bit and added a large sliced carrot and some chopped onion. Normally, Daddy throws some pasta in here, but instead once the veg was cooked I tossed in a cup of bulgur and took the pan off the heat, letting it soak covered for half an hour. At the very end, I added a drained can of garbanzo beans and another of diced tomato. I didn't even add salt, because I thought the bay and oregano were enough. A little bit of cracked pepper and you're good for two weeks of dinners!

Like Me On Facebook!

Quick news: I have a new Facebook fanpage so that you can follow my posts on your news feed and also see food-related comments and photos of things I've been eating that aren't on the blog. I'd love to see you there--just click "Like" on the Page and suggest it to any vegetarian foodie friends!

22 March 2011

Restaurant Review: Shuckers of Fells Point

I realized when I started to write this review that I'm doing something I've never done before on this blog. I'm showing you something that isn't actually vegetarian. So, warning! If pictures of seafood make you sad, click away! I quietly went pescatarian in November, and while I won't be sharing any seafood recipes here, because I do remain dedicated to this blog as a vegetarian food blog, I had to share this review because I loved the restaurant so much.

Shuckers is a popular Fells Point seafood place and bar, but I'd never actually been there, so I was happy to have the chance to use a Groupon and get a good deal. Their prices are moderate, high for my budget, but they do have a $5.95 lunch menu every day and some pretty good specials. For a treat, I'd definitely recommend it. If you're not familiar with Baltimore, Fells Point is an historic neighborhood near the water, set back a little bit from the touristy inner harbor. It's a popular drinking destination for young people, and also where you can get the best seafood.

We started with an appetizer that really justifies the term "food porn." Ever since I first looked at the menu, all I knew is that I wanted crab dip. And this is crab dip. Melt in your mouth, cheesy, creamy, and of course heavily laced with Old Bay. We kind of wanted to beg for the recipe.

Once we recovered from the Holy Crab Dip, we decided to split an oyster po boy and an order of Prince Edward Island mussels. The mussels were delicious and served with a buttery broth you'd want to just slurp up from the bowl. I had to share this photo, though, because of my devoted love of sweet potato fries. What is it that makes the seasoning so perfect? The sandwich was, well, a po boy, though I was impressed by how gargantuan the oysters were.

20 March 2011

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

So my vacation has been kind of a flurry of cooking. I had a houseguest who actually actively enjoys cooking (as opposed to me, loving cooking only because I love eating) and doesn't get flustered in a grocery store. I kind of let her do whatever she wanted, so wandering around the grocery store she got the idea to do a shepherd's pie with mushrooms instead of meat. As you can see, we used a large souffle dish that was not quite large enough for all our vegetables. Being a teacher, I kind of had to giggle that she forgot about the concept of displacement. Fortunately, a cookie sheet underneath worked pretty well.

This is one of those "it's not a recipe, it's a process" things. Basically, a couple of packs of white button mushrooms and an onion, sauteed, then a pack of onion and mushroom gravy powder added to the mix and some cornstarch mixed with water to thicken into a gravy. Pour in the pan, add a couple of bags of thawed veg (we used peas and corn) and top with some instant mashed potatoes. These were romano cheese flavored and very good. Bake at 350 until you see some browning on top. Eat.

04 March 2011

Comfort Chili and Spoonbread

I really think this is the ultimate comfort food. Chili, courtesy of Mark Bittman's recipe for Black Bean Espresso Chili (page 608 of How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, available on Google Books), along with the Dixie Spoonbread from Crescent Dragonwagon's Cornbread Gospels (page 191). This chili has an amazing, unforgettable depth of flavor from the espresso and the cinnamon, and though the spoonbread was maybe a little uneven in terms of texture, the two went really, really well together. A successful experiment in cookbooks and a new favorite recipe!

03 March 2011

Vegetable Cobbler

A little bit earlier in the winter, I decided to try my hand at a really intriguing recipe for Vegetable Cobbler that I found on Ezra Pound Cake's blog. It's a Moosewood recipe, packed with good veggies, and though it looks pretty daunting with all the ingredients, it turned out really well. The taste of the liquid is amazing, and you can sop your biscuits all up in it--extremely filling, so you don't want any side dishes, but very tasty.

I started this recipe by making stock with a method a friend suggested for all my leftover vegetable odds and ends. When you have leftover onion tops, parts of veggies, whatever, toss them in plastic bags and fill full with water before closing. Freeze them, and then just dump the veggie-ice in a pot to make stock. Salt to taste and boom, you're done. This process does take quite a while if you have a big baggie, as you can see from the chard here. You also want to make sure your bag is smaller than your pot!

I pretty much carried on with the rest of the recipe as is. I love the mix of vegetables because it's colorful and therefore pretty rich in nutrients. The biscuit topping is really amazing, though I would probably try smaller spoonfuls and more biscuits next time, so that a serving size isn't so epic. You end up grabbing a bunch of veggies so you have enough liquid for the biscuit, and it's kind of overdoing it.

28 February 2011

Back with a Vengeance

Chirp, chirp. Anyone still here?

I've been rather absent on this blog in recent months, but I'm hoping to turn that around with a brand new site redesign and a new focus in my life on healthful, mental health-friendly foods! I've been struggling with anxiety and depression all winter long, and I've come to admit that, as much as I disagree with the diet movement and the absolutely poisonous and disgusting attacks on obese Americans, I do have some "trigger foods" that are negatively impacting my life and making it harder to cope.

So I'm back to cooking more, and trying to focus on large healthful meals with things like whole grains, beans, tempeh, and vegetables. These foods, incidentally, also help a lot with IBS. That doesn't mean I'll stop posting desserts here! But I've noticed that my blog is balanced a little heavily towards the sweets side, which doesn't make a lot of sense for a vegetarian blog (since all sweets are vegetarian). I'll try to feature more great vegetarian main courses and side dishes that I find in my cookbooks, my favorite food blogs, and my experiments. So, if you've stuck through the lull, thank you! I owe you one. Stay a little longer and I hope to reward you with some tasty eats.