Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Cajun Style Beans and Rice

Mardi Gras is a favorite of mine and so is Cajun food. This is my take on red beans and rice. It includes the "holy trinity" of Cajun cooking: onion, celery and green pepper. In this one, I used Farro for the rice because that's what I had in the pantry. So please enjoy and Laissez les bons temps rouler!

1 C farro or white rice
Water or broth
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion
1/2 C celery, chopped
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 green Bell pepper
1 can (14.5 oz) kidney beans
1 can (14.5 oz) tomatoes
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp Cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
Salt & pepper, to taste
12 shrimp
Oil olive
1 tbsp blackening seasoning

Prepare farro or rice according to the package. I used broth to enhance the flavor.

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Saute onion until start to soften. Add celery and sautee for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and saute another minute then add green pepper and saute for 3-5 minutes. Next add kidney beans, oregano, thyme, Cayenne, salt and pepper. Saute for another 2 minutes. Then add tomatoes and bay leaf. Bring up heat so tomatoes start to boil then bring heat down to a simmer. Let simmer gently for about 20-30 minutes. 

Brush shrimp with olive oil then dust with blackening seasoning. Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Once hot, add shrimp, turning half way through. This should only take a couple of minutes to complete.

To serve, place a scoop of farro or rice in bowls. Then pour bean stew over and top with shrimp. Serve and enjoy!

Yield: 4 servings

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Sesame Dressing

Brussels Sprouts are my favorite. I usually only saute them. Yesterday I tried something I had read about - shaved sprout salad. I tried an Asian-inspired dressing to change it up and it was great! Enjoy!

Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Sesame Dressing


2 C Brussels Sprouts, shaved
2 carrots, shredded
1/2 C cashews
Sesame seeds, for garnish

1/2 tsp garlic, minced
2 tbps soy sauce
3 tsp rice vinegar
1/2 C vegetable oil
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp minced ginger
Pinch Cayenne pepper


Wash and remove outer leaves and stem portion. Shave Brussels sprouts (using a mandolin is easiest). Place in medium size bowl. Shred carrots. Add to Brussels sprouts. Add cashews. Toss to mix.

    1. For the dressing, whisk garlic, soy sauce, vinegar and ginger in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in vegetable oil, then sesame oil (dressing will thicken slightly); season with salt and pepper. Do ahead: Dressing can be made 2 days ahead. Transfer to a jar; cover and chill.
    2. Pour over Brussels sprout mix. Serve room temperature or chilled.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Still 'Shroomin'

Mushroom Crotini
A while back I wrote about my wacky love of fungus (see the blog post here). What I wrote then is still true today; I freakin' love mushrooms. 

Mushroom Crotini with kale salad
I know not everyone does but I encourage the haters to try mushrooms in this hearty appetizer. You will be swayed! Who could not love these fungi sautéed in garlic and butter then topped with cheese? You would have to be practically dead to not like them.  This dish pairs well with a nice salad (like one of these) for an easy weekday lunch or light dinner. It's a meatless way to have a hearty meal.

Mushroom Crostini

1/2 lb. baby bella mushrooms (or mushroom of your choice), chopped
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp thyme
2 tbsp red wine or balsamic vinegar
1/2 C. Parmesan, shaved
1 baguette of French bread, sliced
Olive oil, enough for basting bread

Preheat broiler. Slice bread into slices, brush olive oil onto one side. Place under broiler until lightly toasted on top.

Meanwhile, melt butter into skillet over medium low heat. Sauté garlic then add thyme. Once fragrant, toss in mushrooms, continue to sauté then add wine or vinegar turning up the heat until liquid is reduced and mushrooms are softened. 

Top toasted bread slices with mushroom sauté then add Parmesan on top. Place under broiler until cheese is melted and lightly browned. Serve warm.

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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Kale If I Know part 1

Touted as a super food, kale packs a nutritious punch. Great! The difficult thing is that it's not always easy to chock down. It can be tough and earthy not to mention GREEN. Many are adverse to anything GREEN. Luckily I am not and I love a good challenge. 

The best way to eat vegetables is, of course, raw. That can be tricky with kale for the reasons mentioned above. But two things can be done to get around that: massage adult kale a bit to break down the fibers or get baby kale instead. That's what I did recently for two different salad ideas. To add a little different texture & flavor, I also mixed in some baby spinach. 

For the first salad, I went with a sweet fruity flavor balanced with a mustard vinaigrette. The raspberries added a delicious sweet berry flavor that tempered the earthiness of the kale. The next one I went with dried cranberry that added sweetness to balance the pungent blue cheese.  

In all, both turned out great and made the kale extremely palatable. So give this super food a try in a salad. You might not even realize it's in there!

Raspberry Kale Salad

4 C. washed baby kale
2 C. washed baby spinach
1 C. washed whole raspberry
1/4 C. pine nuts
1/2 C. shaved parmesan
4 tbsp virgin olive oil
3 tbsp flavored vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
black pepper, to taste

Chop kale & spinach. Divide up between two bowls. Sprinkle Parmesan then raspberries then pine nuts.

In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Lightly drizzle over salads.

Cranberry Blue Cheese Kale Salad
4 C. washed baby kale
2 C. washed baby spinach
1/2 C. cucumber, sliced
1/4 C. dried cranberry
1/4 C. blue cheese
4 tbsp virgin olive oil
3 tbsp flavored vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp fresh thyme
1/4 tsp fresh rosemary
black pepper, to taste

Chop kale & spinach. Divide up between two bowls. Place slide cucumbers. Sprinkle blue cheese then cranberries.

In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Lightly drizzle over salads.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Mid-westerners love layered salads

Whether it is a 7-layered one or jello, Mid-westerners love to layer a salad. I don't know what it is but go to any potluck or family dinner and there is bound to be some sort of striated salad. Growing up we had said 7-layer salad every summer, and, every Thanksgiving, a lime jello with cottage cheese and pineapple version. Cooking on my own, I have followed in the same Mid-western footsteps and make my own version.

There's an Asian version that my mom would make sometimes with broccoli slaw (out of the package) and Ramen (can't beat it!). So I put my own twist on it (of course) and tried it with cabbage - both Napa and red - bean sprouts, cucumber, carrots, green onions, cashews & Thai basil.

I started with the Napa cabbage first as a had a large head of it and chopped it finely. Next was the red cabbage chopped in the same manner. On top of that I put freshly washed bean sprouts. Side note: I want to like these but that earthiness is hard to overcome sometimes. It is just too funky, and not in the James Brown acceptable kind of way.

The next layer were cucumbers seeded and halved, then matchbox carrots, cashews and chopped green onions. I cheated a bit on the dressing using a bottle of store-bought ginger lime but jazzed it up a bit by throwing it in with some peanut butter in the food processor. That added to the Thai feel I was going for. The end result was a colorful and flavorful dinner companion, great for summer-time.

As I put it together, layer by layer, I became more in touch with my Mid-western roots. It must be the easiness of the preparation that draws us to dishes like this. Mid-westerners are somewhat known for being no fuss, no nonsense types of people. So embrace your inner Mid-westerner and layer up a salad for your next potluck or family gathering. 

Serve up this salad with some barbecue ribz. Check out my blog about it here.

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(fill in the blank)-free foods are no fun

A lot of the time food labelled "(fill in the blank)-free" aren't that much fun. Fat-free. Sugar-free. Gluten-free. I'm not advocating a full-fat or all-sugar diets but there's gotta be a balance somewhere.

Gluten-free seems to be all the rage right now. And I understand there are certain illnesses that require one to have a certain diet. Totally understand that. What I think is a misunderstanding is that gluten itself is bad or harmful. Quite the contrary. It's only bad or harmful to those with celiac and other such illnesses or conditions. Gluten in itself is really just a protein and one with many uses. 
I myself am not gluten-free. With that said, I recently ventured into the world of imitation meats using wheat gluten. Friends turned me on to a barbecue "ribz" recipe lately so I wanted to give it a shot. (Thank you, Loki Van Lancaster!) 

I know what you might be thinking: imitation meat, really? Isn't that "meat"-free? That's just weird, right? 

Yes, for most meat-eaters, the texture alone will be different, but it's not too far off the mark. My dinner companion/taste-tester husband said they were good but admitted he wouldn't want them very often. OK I'll give you that, meat-eaters. But the grilling at the end really finishes it off. This is where you get that caramelized sauce effect with those crispy, burnt edges that really make ribs taste so good. This isn't even mentioning the protein punch that gluten carries. No wimpy vegan meal here! For these ribz, it's 27g of protein per serving. Bam! 
The meal was rounded out with an Asian-theme cabbage salad with ginger-lime dressing - a suitable summer-time companion that provided a fresh balance to the rich-flavored ribz. Check out my blog about this summer salad here.

Overall, I would definitely try these again, perhaps using a more traditional BBQ sauce next time. I've also been researching some "loaf" ideas for fall. It would be a nice vegetarian alternative come Thanksgiving as it's pretty versatile and can take on really whatever flavor you infuse.

So if your diet allows it, don't limit yourself with (fill-in-the-blank)-free foods. Have some fun and try something new!

Check out the recipe on my vegan Pinterest board.

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Z is for Zucchini

With each summer comes plenty of zucchini whether it comes from our garden or what we find at the farmer's market. It is abundant. I'm always amazed how much we get out of our plant or two each summer. Normally I fall back on old tried & trues like grilled zucchini & zucchini bread but all this abundance requires some creativity.

Recently I tested out some ideas using just one giant guy we picked up at a farmers market: salty and vinegar chips, "sushi"-style rolls & zucchini pizza crust (what?!?!). Check out my zucchini Pinterest board to see the recipes.

I started with chips as they would take longer to bake. These were pretty straight-forward to make: slice them thinly width-wise then add the olive oil and vinegar. For a little kick, I added some of my homemade cayenne pepper sauce for one of the parts of vinegar. It added a nice little zing. Then baked them on low for about two hours. They came out great! Crispy and zippy.

Next were the "sushi" rolls. I've been hearing and reading a lot lately about squash ribbons and this was a way to try it out. Using a peeler, I thinly cut the zucchini length-wise creating a ribbon of sorts. I had to be careful of making sure they were even. 

The recipe called for mashing up cashews into a paste (I assume to make it vegan). No cashews in the pantry. No cream cheese either. What to do? Here is where I took my own MacGyver spin and used some good ol' French onion dip that we had in the fridge. It wasn't as thick as what the cashews or cream cheese would have been but I got it to work,trying not to lick my fingers during the whole assembly process. 

Now on to the pizza crust. On top of the ribbons, I also heard about cauliflower pizza crust - a low-carb way to enjoy a personal favorite. So when I read about the zucchini version, I thought, why not? Plus this meant I could use up the whole "carcass," if you will, of this versatile veggie.

Again, pretty straight-forward recipe without a lot of intricate steps. The one thing I would recommend is letting the zucchini drain for a sufficient amount of time so that your dough isn't too wet. I did this and I think it really helped.

I had to MacGyver it again on this recipe as it called for "almond meal". Ok, I'll admit, I don't really know what that is exactly, but I'm guessing it just really ground up almonds, right? While we didn't have any cashews, we luckily did have almonds in the pantry this day. So using the handy grinder I proceeded to make my own "meal". If that is not what almond meal is, it turned out just find anyway.

Here is, during the baking step, the only time on this zucchini adventure did it get tricky. I baked them on one side in the cookie sheet. It did seem to take a while but I did do it on the grill so the temperature was a little inconsistent (note to self: self, do this in the oven next time). Then I wanted to put them on the baking stone but I didn't think mine was large enough to fit the both of them so I kept them on the cookie sheet. 

By the end, they came out ok, good flavor and all, but a little flimsy. I think the baking stone would have crisped them up nicely. (another note to self: self, maybe use two baking stones, in the oven, next time).

Regardless how all of these things turned out, it really showed how versatile this vegetable is (hooray for versatility!). I used to stick to some limited versions of preparing it but I'm glad I experimented and found some new ways. Try something new yourself!

Check out my Pinterest board about this versatile veggie.

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