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Archive for the tag “vegetarian”

Pickled Beets and Eggs

Some lovely purple pickles.

Some lovely purple pickles.

I’ve recently gotten very interested in pickling. Pickling is a fantastic way to preserve vegetables so that you can eat them out of season. Making them yourself also means that you can cut sown the amount of sodium to make them even healthier. Pickled vegetables retain their fiber and vitamins, and properly fermented vegetables boost healthy gut bacteria for better digestion. I started my pickling adventures with pickled beets because I’ve had, and enjoyed, them before. Turns out their quite easy to make at home.

Ingredients for 1 quart

3 eggs – hard boiled, peeled and quartered

3 medium beets – roasted, peeled and sliced

1 small onion – thinly sliced

1 cup white vinegar

1 cup water

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

Once you have all of your vegetables ready, it should only take about 15 minutes to make your pickles. Just combine the vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a pan and put over medium heat on the stove. You don’t need to bring the mixture to a full boil, just dissolve the sugar and salt. You can omit the sugar and salt if you like, but I wouldn’t recommend leaving those out if kids will be eating the pickles. Also, remember to avoid standing over the pot due to the vinegar fumes.

While the pickle is heating, layer all of your prepared vegetables and eggs in a 1 quart jar. You might want to wear gloves while you work with the beets or your hands will end up stained. You might have to press the vegetables down slightly to pack them in.

Once the sugar and salt in the pickling liquid has dissolved, let it cool slightly so that you will be able to handle the glass jar as you fill it. After it is cool enough, just pour it slowly over the vegetables. It is important to go slowly so that the liquid can get down between the vegetables and fill all of the spaces. You will probably have some liquid leftover. Let the jar rest for a few moments before you put the lid on because sometimes there are little air pockets or the vegetables will absorb some of the liquid and you will need to add more liquid. This is totally normal. When you feel like you’ve added as much liquid as you can, put the lid on and put it in the fridge. Leave it alone for at least three days before you eat the pickles.

Pickled beets and eggs with tuna noodle casserole.

Pickled beets and eggs with tuna noodle casserole.

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Leftover Rice Pudding

Rice pudding made with leftover rice and coconut milk.

Rice pudding made with leftover rice and coconut milk.

I recently had a lot of leftover rice from Chinese takeaway. Everything but the rice had been eaten and I didn’t want to throw out 2 cups of rice. Usually when I make rice pudding, I cook the rice in a thick custard, but this time I decided to make something closer to what I used to have at breakfast in KSA. I even had real cinnamon and cardamom pods to add, which is what you see in the lower left and top center of the pot.

Ingredients for 8 servings

2 cups leftover rice

1 12 oz can coconut milk

1 1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp salt

1 egg

cinnamon and cardamom to taste – optional

This recipe couldn’t be any easier. Put the leftover rice in a pot and break it up a little. combine the coconut milk, milk, sugar, salt and egg in a bowl and add it to the rice. Add cinnamon and cardamom if you like. Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally until most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes.

Pudding mixture before cooking.

Pudding mixture before cooking.

The rice will soften and the liquid will thicken slightly. Don’t expect a custard-like pudding when you finish. This Arabic style rice pudding is much thinner. Try topping it with crushed pistachios for a bit of crunch.

Cream of Broccoli and Mushroom Soup

Broccoli and mushroom soup with cheddar.

Broccoli and mushroom soup with cheddar.

This recipe combines my two favorite cream soups and is much healthier than the traditional recipes. I traded half of the milk for whey, which I had leftover from making farmer’s cheese, and still got a rich creamy taste.

Ingredients for 6 servings

2 cups whey

1 small head of broccoli – chopped

1 cup sliced mushrooms

2 tbsp flour

2 cups cold milk

salt and pepper to taste

Cheddar cheese for garnish if desired

This recipe is very simple and fast. Pour the whey into the pot of your rice cooker and set it to cook. When the whey begins to boil, add the vegetables. The broccoli needs to cook down until it is very soft. It will take 10 – 15 minutes for the broccoli to become soft and the mushrooms to cook through. * It’s important to keep the top of your rice cooker open while you are boiling liquid in it. If you close the cooker, you risk having the soup boil out of the steam vent and onto the electrical plug.

Cooked broccoli and mushrooms.

Cooked broccoli and mushrooms.

I like to keep the broccoli in bite sized pieces, but some people like to have it mashed into the soup. If you prefer to have the broccoli mashed, it is very easy to do with a potato masher. Just be careful not to splash the hot soup onto your hands.

When the vegetables have cooked, stir the flour into the cold milk. The milk needs to be very cold to mix the flour in without lumps. When all the flour has been absorbed, stir the mixture into the soup along with the salt and pepper. It should thicken quite quickly leaving you with a creamy soup. Now just pour it into bowls and top with cheese if desired.

Roasted Pepper Spread

Roasted pepper spread on a hamburger.

Roasted pepper spread on a hamburger.

I’m not a fan of plain mayonnaise on sandwiches. I do, however, love roasted peppers. I came up with this creamy spread to add a bit of extra flavor to sandwiches. This time I used green peppers for a bit of change, but it’s also great with red or yellow bell peppers for a slightly sweeter taste.

Ingredients for about 1 cup of spread

1 bell pepper

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 tbsp mustard

salt to taste

The first thing to do is roast the pepper.If you’ve never done this before, don’t worry, it’s easy. You can roast your pepper directly on the flame of your stove top using tongs to turn the pepper as soon as the skin begins to blacken. You can also roast it in your toaster oven. Just use the upper heat source at 375 – 400 F and, again, turn the pepper as soon as the skin begins to blacken. When all sides of the pepper are slightly charred, set it aside to cool.

Roasted pepper.

Roasted pepper.

When the pepper is cool, just slip the skin off. It should peel away very easily and the flesh inside will be very soft.

Peeling back the pepper skin.

Peeling back the pepper skin.

Chop up the pepper as finely as you can, then scoop it into a bowl and combine with the mayonnaise, mustard and salt.

Mixing the spread.

Mixing the spread.

The pepper will be very juicy and probably won’t maintain much crunchiness. This is what you want as it will help the spread become smooth and creamy. I thing it tastes great on pretty much any kind of sandwich.

Tomato Sauce

Fresh, homemade tomato sauce.

Fresh, homemade tomato sauce.

Today I want to share with you how I make fresh tomato sauce. It’s incredibly simple and only takes three ingredients (plus some water). I got about 12 ounces from just 5 roma tomatoes, so it’s also pretty economical. It isn’t easy to find high quality tomato sauce everywhere, but you can almost always find fresh tomatoes.  There are only a few steps, but it does take a bit of time, mostly for simmering.

Ingredients for approximately 12 ounces

5 roma tomatoes

4 cups boiling water

4 cups ice water

1 – 2 tbsp olive oil

salt to taste

It is possible to use other types of tomatoes. For example, if you have a blender, you can use cherry tomatoes and skip the boiling and skinning steps. Or you can use some other medium-sized tomato as long as it has a high flesh to seed ratio.

The first step is to get the skin off your tomatoes. To do this, cut an X on the bottom of each tomato. The cut doesn’t have to be very deep or long. Just slice gently through the skin. Have your boiling water and ice water prepared and set right next to each other. You might be able to use your rice cooker to boil the water, but I find a pan on the stove is much better.

Boiling and ice waters.

Boiling and ice waters.

Place the tomatoes in the boiling water and watch carefully. The skin will start to peel away from the flesh. As soon as it peels back or the X you cut splits, take the tomato out of the boiling water and place it in the ice water.

Tomato with split skin cooling.

Tomato with split skin cooling.

After the tomato cools, the skin will slip right off. The tomatoes should only take a couple of minutes at most in the boiling water. Sometimes, they will peel at the stem end, even if you cut the X at the bottom.

Once all of the tomatoes have cooled and you have slipped the skins off, the messy part begins. Take the tomatoes over to the sink and squeeze out the seeds. Even if you will save the seeds to add to a dish or use in making stock, it’s best to do this down in the sink because the seeds sometimes squirt out of the sides. Don’t worry if you can’t get all of the seeds. The most important thing is to remove as much of the liquid and as many of the seeds as possible.

After you’ve finished that bit, put the olive oil and tomatoes in a pot over low heat. You don’t want them to do more than simmer. Have a potato masher on hand so that you can occasionally smash the tomatoes as the heat. It will take at least half an hour for the tomatoes to really break down. The longer you cook, the smoother the tomatoes will become. *If the tomatoes you used have a woody or fibrous center, remove that at the same time you remove the seeds because it won’t break down as it cooks.

Nearly finished tomato sauce.

Nearly finished tomato sauce.

It’s really up to you when the sauce is done based on the texture you want. I like a smooth thick sauce with lots of fresh tomato flavor. Just add salt to taste and pour into a storage container. I’ve saved it in the fridge for up to a week.

For those who are using cherry tomatoes and a blender, skip the boiling, cooling, peeling and seeding steps. Throw about 1 pint of whole tomatoes into the pot with olive oil and cook them down gently. They will burst open as they cook and begin to fall apart. At that point, put them in a blender and pulse until you get the consistency you like. The add salt and store just like the other recipe.

If you want to add more flavor to your sauce you try adding garlic or herbs like basil, oregano, tarragon or rosemary to the tomatoes while they are simmering. It takes a little more time and effort than I’d like, but fresh tomato sauce is definitely worth the effort.

Pumpkin Curry

Pumpkin curry with rice and homemade cheese.

Pumpkin curry with rice and homemade cheese.

Curry is a favorite meal of mine because it simple, versatile and filling. It’s also an easy meal to make when living abroad because you can find packages of curry sauce almost anywhere in the world. Here I used a golden curry and added a bit of my homemade cheese. Farmer’s cheese is very similar to Indian paneer, so it makes a great addition to many Indian dishes.

Ingredients for 4 servings

1/2 squash – pumpkin, calabaza, butternut, acorn or kabocha

2 potatoes – red or yellow potatoes have the best texture for this dish

2 carrots

3 cups vegetable stock or whey

1 can chick peas

1 package golden curry paste

1/2 homemade cheese

The first steps is to cut the squash and potatoes into about 1/2 inch cubes and slice the carrots. Ideally, the vegetables should be bite-sized and somewhat uniform.

Vegetables for curry.

Vegetables for curry.

Place the cut up vegetables in the pot of your rice cooker along with the vegetable stock or whey and set to cook. I used whey because I had so much left over from making cheese to add tot the curry, but stock works just as well.

When the vegetables have softened, add the chick peas. You can add the liquid from the chick peas as well if you want the curry a bit thinner, or drain the liquid if you like a thick curry. I used about half the liquid.

Now it’s time to add the curry. If you’ve never used this product before, you might find it a bit strange. Real Indian curry is not made with these blocks of spices (the paste is made by mixing spices with a fat that is solid at room temperature and formed into blocks). Getting all of the individual spices and then mixing them in the right proportions can be difficult bordering on impossible in many countries though. Break the blocks apart and add al of them to your vegetables. They will thicken the sauce as they melt.

Blocks of curry sauce. The odd coloring of the liquid is because I used whey instead of stock.

Blocks of curry sauce. The odd coloring of the liquid is because I used whey instead of stock.

Keep your rice cooker set to high until the paste melts completely. Stir it slowly sot hat you don’t break up the vegetables. When all of the curry has blended perfectly, just top it with some homemade cheese and serve.

Homemade Enchiladas

Enchiladas.

Enchiladas.

One of the hardest things to find overseas is really good Mexican food. Even really bad Mexican food is hard to find. A can of enchilada sauce? Forget it. The only answer is to make it from scratch. Of course, once you’ve tried completely  homemade enchiladas, you’ll never want the store bought stuff again.

Ingredients for 8 servings

1 batch corn tortillas (recipe can be found here)

2 chicken breast – fully cooked and shredded

2 – 6 dried chiles depending on taste

1 1/2 cups very hot water

1 12 oz can tomato sauce

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 tsp cinnamon

2 cups cheese

This recipe is for a very basic chicken enchilada. You can add herbs and spices as you like, but I recommend trying the basic recipe first. You might be surprised by how much flavor is already there.

Put the chiles in your toaster oven at about 350 F using both heat sources for 2 minutes or less. They will begin to darken very quickly. When the skin is just beginning to turn black and is starting to smoke lightly, take the chiles out. This will give them a smoky flavor, which adds a lot of depth to the sauce.

Toasted chiles.

Toasted chiles.

Break the stems off the chiles and shake out the seeds. Now place the chiles in a bowl and cover them with the hot water. THe water should be almost boiling. Cover the bowl and let it sit for about one hour.

Soaked chiles.

Soaked chiles.

The chiles will soften and the water will turn dark red. The skin will still be tough and won’t be used in the sauce. Using a spoon, scrape the flesh away from the skin and throw out the skins. It’s okay if there are still a few seeds in the sauce. Try to break up the chile flesh as you scrape.

Scraped chiles.

Scraped chiles.

Now simply add the tomato sauce, cinnamon, salt and pepper to the water. Keep breaking up the chile bits as you go. Then mix in your shredded chicken and let it sit for at least an hour. The longer it sits, the better the flavor gets.

Chicken in enchilada sauce.

Chicken in enchilada sauce.

Now all you have to do is spread some of the chicken mixture down the center of a tortilla, roll it up, and place it in  a foil-lined pan. Put the enchiladas in the pan fairly close together. Once you have a single layer of enchiladas, sprinkle cheese over the top and start making another layer. Keep going until all of the enchiladas are in the pan and spread any remaining cheese over the top.

Put the pan in the toaster oven on 350 F using only the lower heat source for about 20 minutes. Let the enchiladas sit for about 5 minutes before serving.

I usually have more sauce than I need for the chicken enchiladas, so I reserve some before adding the chicken and make cheese enchiladas as well. Dip the tortillas in sauce and fill with cheese before rolling. Pour any remaining sauce over the cheese enchiladas and cover with more cheese before baking in the same way as chicken enchiladas.

Homemade Granola

Cranberry almond granola.

Cranberry almond granola.

Granola is incredibly difficult to find in most countries. If you do find it, it will probably be very expensive. But, with a few inexpensive ingredients, you can easily make your own. It’s simple to alter the recipe to suit your tastes. As long as you include the oats, sugar and oil or butter, you can add or remove items until you have a granola recipe that’s perfect for you.

Ingredients for 1 batch

2 cups rolled oats

1 tsp cinnamon

1/3 cup cane sugar

2 tbsp oil or melted butter

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1/2 cup dried cranberries

There are only a few steps to make granola. Combine everything except the cranberries in a bowl and mix until the oats are evenly coated. Make sure that you aren’t using steel cut oats. Rolled oats work best because they are thin enough to cook quickly.

Spread the mixture on a foil lined baking sheet (you might need to divide the mixture if you have a small toaster oven) and bake at 300 – 325 F  or using both heat sources for five minutes.

After five minutes.

After five minutes.

Stir the mixture on the baking sheet and bake for another five minutes at the same temperature. It might cook more or less quickly in your toaster oven. If you start to smell burning sugar, it’s cooked too long. Sadly, it can go from perfect to burnt in less than a minute,  so keep an eye on the oats. Stir in the cranberries and store in an airtight container.

Pesto

Spinach pesto.

Spinach pesto.

Pesto is a delicious and versatile sauce that you’ve probably never considered making without a blender or food processor. But why not? The Italians managed to make it by hand since at least the 1800’s. As long as you have a sharp knife and 15 minutes, you can make it too. And, since you’re making your own, you can change up the recipe to suit your tastes. More garlic, less oil, walnuts instead of pine nuts? Sure. Once you know the basic recipe, it’s easy to mix and match flavors. In fact, I made this pesto with spinach and pecans.

Ingredients for traditional pesto (not shown)

1 bunch basil leaves

1 – 2 cloves garlic

1/2 cup parmesan

1/4 cup pine nuts

olive oil

Ingredients for spinach pesto (pictured)

1 bunch spinach leaves

2 cloves garlic

1/2 cup parmesan

1/4 pecans

olive oil

Start by separating your spinach (or basil if you’re making traditional pesto) minus the stems into 2 or 3 small bunches. Get out your cutting board and sharpest knife. If you don’t have a very sharp knife, go get one before you try this recipe. Otherwise you’ll end up with bruised, smashed leaves and your pesto will not be delicious. Put one of your bunches of spinach on the cutting board and chop the leaves as finely as you can. As you’re cutting, keep changing the direction of the blade. Try scooping all the leaves into a pile and then chopping some more.

Finely chopped spinach.

Finely chopped spinach.

When your spinach looks like this you can add the next bunch. Now, chop some more. Yes, in theory, you could chop all the spinach at one time instead of doing it in three batches. Unchopped leaves take up more space and you are more likely to make a mess. It’s also a lot easier to miss bits if you have it all in one big mass. As you’ve probably guessed, after you have the second bunch as fine as the first, you’ll add the third.

Once it’s all well chopped, which will probably take you about 10 minutes, toss in the nuts, garlic and cheese. You can make this part a bit easier by pre-crushing the nuts in a small, sealable bag and smashing the garlic with the side of your knife first. Now, get back to chopping. You want to chop until everything has almost transformed into a paste. You should be able to form it into a ball that just holds together.

Almost finished pesto.

Almost finished pesto.

Finally, add the olive oil. No amount is specified in the directions because that will depend on how you will use it. You can add a very small amount and use the pesto to coat fish before baking it. You can add just enough to make a paste and use it for pizza or beef wellington. You can add enough to make it a thin sauce and use it on pasta. No matter how much oil you add, try to use real olive oil. No other oil I’ve found gives quite the right taste or texture.

Pesto pizza.

Pesto pizza.

Beef Wellington.

Beef Wellington.

 

Vegetable Stock

Vegetable stock

Vegetable stock

As part of my never ending quest to save money and not throw out anything that can still be used, I started making vegetable stock about a year ago. I use it to replace any kind of stock or broth in recipes. It’s also completely free of fat and salt. As a bonus, the leftovers are great for composting.

Ingredients

Vegetable scraps

Water

Yep, that’s it. Just leftover vegetables (and occasionally fruits) and water. Whenever I peel vegetables, cut the ends off vegetables, etc. I put what won’t go in the recipe into a quart sized freezer bag and store it in the freezer.

Frozen vegetable scraps.

Frozen vegetable scraps.

When the bag is full, I put all the scraps into a pot with 2 1/2-3 cups of water and simmer it over low heat. The amount of water depends on how full your bag is. There should be enough water to cover all the scraps but they shouldn’t be swimming. You’re making stock, not soup. Cook everything down for about an hour or until the vegetables are all soft. You can do this in a rice cooker, but I recommend using the cook top.

Simmering vegetable stock.

Simmering vegetable stock.

After your stock has cooked down, drain the vegetables over a bowl. Let them drain until the stock has cooled enough to handle and most of the liquid has drained into the bowl.

Draining vegetable stock.

Draining vegetable stock.

If you want to avoid any sediment in your stock, line the strainer with cheese cloth or something similar. Once it’s cooled, set the strainer aside and pour  your vegetable stock into freezer bags and save in the fridge for up to a week, or store for up to three months in the freezer.

Note: I also add apple peels and cores, pear cores, and sometimes melon rind. If you add apple cores to yours, remember that apple seeds contain trace amounts of arsenic, so you might want to remove the seeds first. You might be okay adding other fruit peels (not bananas) but I have not tried it and can’t say for sure if it would work. If you want a meatier flavor you can add dried mushrooms or sun-dried tomatoes.

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