Friday, July 31, 2009

Peach Ginger Smoothie

peach ginger smoothie

I have been waiting, with the degree of impatience I once reserved for Santa Claus, for the first local peaches of the season. Ontario peaches come in cute cardboard baskets with handles and are instantly recognizable. They are also delicious and juicy and perfect for freezing for smoothies.

When I'd finished at my volunteer shift on Tuesday, I clued in that the grocery store was on my way home, and I stopped in to pick up a few essentials. And there they were! Ontario Peaches! All lined up and lovely looking in their baskets. Hoorah!

Of course, when I got to the cash and put my few items on the belt I remembered one thing: I don't bring my wallet with me when I go to volunteer. In fact, when we're trained we're taught to leave valuables at home. I scurried back to the produce section and put my peaches away. Bummer. I had to wait a few more days before I stopped in, with my wallet, to get some. Luckily, this smoothie is worth the wait.

Something about the combination of peaches and ginger is greater than the sum of its parts. They just combine so well, especially in the summer when the peaches are fresh and the weather is, in theory, warm. (Maybe all you west coasters can send us easterners a letter telling us what summer heat is like. Because I think we've forgotten.) Anyway, this is an easy and delightful addition to your breakfast, no matter how dismal the weather is outside.

ontario peaches

Peach Ginger Smoothie

1 banana, peeled, frozen and cut into a few big chunks
1 whole peach, peeled, pitted and chopped into big chunks
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk or soy milk
1 tsp grated fresh ginger

Blend everything together until it's all nice and smooth and there are no gross banana chunks leftover. Serve with sliced peaches or bits of candied ginger if you're fancy.

Some Notes:

-Use your microplane grater or the smallest surface of your big grater to do the ginger. Then you don't end up chewing on bits of ginger while drinking your shake. And everyone by now must know that ginger is so much easier to grate if you keep it frozen all the time. Do it! Your life will change.

-Looks like I'm going to get to go back on TV and do some more cooking demonstrations! If anyone has any suggestions of what I should cook, please let me know. The number of dishes that be demonstrated in under 7 minutes, with only a stove top, while talking, are few and far between!

-I usually put in way more ginger than the recipe calls for, but I didn't want to over-ginger you, my readers. But by all means, use the "to taste" method of ginger distribution. I also freeze my peaches along with my bananas, but that's not required.

J.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Broccoli Rice Casserole

Broccoli rice casserole

Things have been a little whirlwindy since I returned from Chicago. If I didn't have a vacation (or rather a "staycation") booked for next week, I'd be weeping in a corner somewhere right now. Three of my five work days this week involve driving at least four hours, and that gets old very quickly. Plus, the Man of Science was away AGAIN for business, so I had a few days of enjoying sole responsibility for all the dog wrangling.

And then this morning, while making my bleary, early morning way downstairs, I discovered (by way of stepping in it with my bare foot) that one of the animals had relieved themselves on the staircase. This has never happened before, so I wasn't expecting it at all. The Man of Science helped me hop back up the stairs to the bathroom so I could wash my foot. While I was doing that, the cat came in and tried to drink out of the toilet.

"Argh!" I yelled, shooing her away. "Toilets on staircases and cats in the toilet!"

And The Man of Science replied by singing, "These are a few of my faaaaaavourite things..."

Which is kind of why I like him.

So anyway, here's a casserole recipe, excellent for busy weeks. It makes a good side dish for dinner or a base for other items like tofu or beets or roasted cashews or whatever you like, really. It is easy to make and always tasty and has served me well since my vegan university days when I first tried it. In other words, it is one of my favourite things.

broccoli

Broccoli Rice Casserole

1 head of broccoli (between 2 and 3 cups)
3 cups cooked brown rice
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp turmeric
salt and pepper
1/2 cup water (or more as needed)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the rice and spread it across the bottom layer of a casserole dish.

Steam broccoli until it is bright green and still a little bit crunchy. Then layer it over the rice.

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until onions are tender, and sprinkle over broccoli.

Mix remaining ingredients in a blender (or vigorously by hand!). Add more water if you would like a thinner sauce that will soak into your rice. Add less if you'd like a thicker sauce that will sit on top of the dish.

Bake for half an hour, or until broccoli starts to get a bit brown and roasty.

Some Notes:

-I am in love with the brown rice/wild rice blend that can be found at Loblaws grocery (organic) and Bulk Barn (not organic). I have always had a thing for wild rice, but I find a dish where ALL the rice is wild rice to be a bit strange. I used to mix the two myself, but having it pre-mixed allows me to use my brain for other things. Like wondering what creature is eating all the baby zucchinis in my garden.

-Check out my sidebar! It's now on the side! Thanks to Sarah who was excellent tech help at the Blogger conference.

-I'm going to do a post next week about oppourtunities to donate time or money to charitable programs involved with food here in Ottawa. I have a bunch in mind, but if you have ideas, please e-mail me!

J.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I miss my stove/ she's all alone/ call it love...

stove

I'm off to Chicago for the Blogher Conference. Yes! Me! I'm a little nervous because usually my days are spent talking to the plants in my garden and cooking and reading books in bed with dogs. And I don't think much of any of those things will happen at Blogher. I'm having high-school style anxiety that everyone will think I'm weird. But I'm going to be brave.

Here is the link to my local TV cooking demo from yesterday. I suspect that maybe it is only viewable in Canada, which is kind of a bummer. Like some kind of inadequate Canadian revenge for the travesty that is Hulu. It was great fun to do and I'd love to do it again. Everyone was quite fun and welcoming and they told me that apparently I'm a "natural", which was very nice.

I'll try to be on the Blogher band wagon and post a bit from the conference. Hopefully the food part of it will be an entertaining adventure. I'm still hoping to make it to the Chicago Diner! And my lovely beat friend and conference roomie, Kat, has a Thai Resaurant in mind for at least one of our dinners! Hooray!

J.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Fried Zucchini Blossoms (and Other Local Delights)

fried blossoms and blackberry spinach salad

My zucchini plants have been happily flowering for about a week now, and I have been eyeing those flowers and thinking about deep frying them. Of course, I'd never actually done this before, only seen it on Top Chef, so I was a little wary. I'd like to say I was concerned about the fat content, or the effect picking the flowers would have on my plants, but truthfully, I was actually just worried that they would taste weird. I mean, how often does one eat deep fried flowers? Uh, never. I'd never eaten deep fried flowers before.

However, with the Man of Science away on business this week, I am left to my own devices. There are only so many dowloaded episodes of L.A. Ink that one girl can watch, so early last evening I got bored enough to experiment with the zucchini flowers.

As I am a gardening novice, it hadn't occurred to me that zucchini flowers have genders. The lady flowers have a zucchini attached to them and the man flowers don't have a zucchini attached to them. I just picked the man flowers. No point in wasting a perfectly good zucchini. I took my three flowers into the kitchen and put them in a bowl of water to get the dirt off them. Also, there was an ant inside one of them, so if you're going to do this check your flowers for bugs first.

clean 'em up

I put about 1/2 inch of sunflower oil in my cast iron pan and put it on a burner set to med-high. Then, I mixed up the following:

1/2 cup of water
1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 tbsp cornmeal
a few shakes of salt and pepper

and dunked the blossoms into the mixture. When the oil was hot, i tossed all three blossoms into the pan and let them sizzle away for a couple minutes. When the batter was starting to look crispy at the edges, I flipped them over and let them fry for another couple minutes. Then I let them sit and drain on a paper towel for a few minutes.

fried zucchini blossoms

They were a great side-dish treat with my spinach and blackberry salad. And guess what? They don't taste weird at all! They don't actually have much of their own taste, but their texture is great when they're all fried up like that. I'm glad I don't have more zucchini plants because I just would have kept on frying and eating the flowers.

And, as a bonus side dish, some local Ontario peas! Boiled for mere seconds (like, just under a minute) until bright green and then graced with a bit of Earth Balance margarine and some freshly ground pepper and salt. So good.

yum

Some Notes:

-I get asked now and again about how to photograph food. It is quite a challenge, what with food often looking really unappetizing in photos. The Pioneer Woman posted some great tips today, so go here if you want some extra help with your food photos. I agree with everything she said and would add two things of my own: 1) taking photos from directly above your food allows people to see everything much better and makes for artier shots, and 2) wait until the food has stopped steaming before you try to photograph it. Occasionally, I photograph the next-day leftover portion of a dish because I've been stubborn about wanting to eat it when it was still hot the night before.

-If you are a Rogers cable type person and happen to be home in the middle of the day on Wednesday, you can see me do my first live cooking demo ever (eek!) on Rogers Daytime. I have to practice the whole thing tonight for an audience of pets. It seems like they (the show producers, not the pets) put most of the segments up on line, so I'll provide a link when I can for those of you without cable and/or with day jobs.

-Are any other vegetarians and/or food bloggers heading to the BlogHer Conference in Chicago this coming weekend? I will be there, and I'd love to chat and/or eat (Chicago Diner anyone?) with some new blog friends.

J.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Roasted Grape Tomato and Olive Sauce

roasted grape tomato sauce

My tomato plants have blossoms on them! And one of them, one blessed blossom, has given way to a tiny green blob that I imagine will soon become a tomato! Praise be! I can't wait until I'm using my very own tomatoes in my recipes. Until then, I'm relying on the yield of the local groceries and farmers' markets.

It is a lovely time of year for grape tomatoes and cherry tomatoes and this recipe can be made with either. I was delighted to come up with a sauce that went very well with gnocchi, given that standard tomato sauces can sometimes just render those lovely little dumplings all soggy and turn them an unappealing shade of pink. Ugh. Not this sauce! No way! This compliments the chewy little gnocchi perfectly in all its olive oily, garlicy, goodness. Yum. We ate the whole pan of sauce for dinner last night and I am sad that there are no leftovers. So you may want to make two batches.

roasted grape tomato sauce

1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 onion chopped up small
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/4 cup black olives, chopped
1/4 cup green olives, chopped
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp oregano
a sprinkling of salt and pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

Place all ingredients in a baking dish and bake at 325 degrees for about 45 minutes. Serve over pasta or gnocchi.

Some Notes:

-This was great with another seasonal favourite: roasted asparagus. I drizzled it with olive oil and threw it in the oven beside the sauce for the last ten minutes of cooking time. To serve, I sprinkled it with chopped pecans and salt and pepper.

-Shamefully, I've never made my own gnocchi. Heck, I've only now learned how to spell it properly. Perhaps the actual dumpling making is a project for the near future.

-If you haven't already, I highly recommend reading this article from the Sunday Times Magazine a few weeks ago. It is an inspiring look at a man who has done amazing things for city gardening on a huge scale. When so many cities neigybourhoods are losing their walking-distance grocery stores, gardening becomes one of the only options for fresh food and citizens need guidance from people like Will Allen.

J.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ginger Chocolate Cookies

ginger chocolate cookies

Regular readers know that I was in California earlier this year visiting friends and doing some readings from my totally-unrelated-to-cooking book. The trip ended with me visiting my friend Todd, who edits the excellent punk rock magazine, Razorcake. I did a couple of podcasts for Razorcake while I was visiting, both of which were recorded in one afternoon at the magazine's HQ. During our break in between recordings, one of the magazine's volunteers, Adrian, stopped by to pick up some review materials. Adrian was a young guy, probably in his early twenties. Todd spent a bit of time berating him for his lack of a record player, but I had a whole different "Kids These Days!" moment: I was floored by the fact that Adrian had no idea that food could be bought in bulk.

"You know," Todd told him, "Like how you can go to Whole Foods and get, like, popcorn... or lentils... or flour from the big bins? And they just weigh it and you buy it like that?"

Blank stare.

Here in Canada, we are blessed with The Bulk Barn, which is a large bulk food store that I don't visit nearly often enough. I usually buy my bulk foods from my local healthfood stores or coop, but the Bulk Barn is also great to visit now and again because of their ridiculously large selection. Good for stocking up on essentials. I've heard complaints that their stock isn't as fresh as some of the smaller places, and that is certainly possible. I haven't had any quality issues with what I've bought lately, but I do tend to buy things that don't get stale very easily.

Anyway, thanks to Monday's Bulk Barn trip, I had a bag of candied ginger slices just burning a hole in my baking cupboard. I was dying to bake with it since I've been all about ginger lately. So fresh tasting and sweet with a great spicy kick. Perfect for summer recipes. These cookies were delicious and the recipe made quite a lot. I'm going to need to take a bunch of them to work or to the neighbours so I don't put myself into a sugar coma.

ginger + chocolate chips

1 cup vegan margarine
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unrefined white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon molasses
1/4 cup applesauce or other egg replacer
2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped candied ginger
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Let margarine sit until it is slightly softened, then cream it together with sugars.

Add vanilla, egg replacer, and molasses and stir well.

Add flour, baking soda, and salt and stir until a sticky dough forms. Stir in chocolate chips and ginger.

Plop tablespoons of dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for ten minutes.

Some Notes:

-The Man of Science made me some excellent ice cream sandwiches for dessert tonight using these cookies and some vanilla ice cream. I ate two sandwiches and then had to go change my pants because my belly was too full. This is why I am no good at dieting. Because the Eat-Cookies-And-Change-Pants option is way too tempting.

-If you take your cookies out of the oven after five minutes of baking and gently bang the whole sheet of them against the counter top, your cookies will be chewier and softer. For real.

-It seems that I might be doing a cooking demo on local cable TV. I know. Crazy! I'll keep you posted.

J.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Black Olive and Tomato Toasts

snacks made!

The Story About The Rice

I alluded to this story in my last post. It has nothing to do with this post, but what's there to say about these excellent little snacks other than holy, go make them they are delicious and will help you remain rational when you are almost too hungry to make smart decisions about what to cook for dinner. There we go. Now, on with the rice story.

Many, many years ago, I had a boyfriend named Murray. He was my first serious boyfriend and, as boyfriends go, was fairly benign. We met in our first year of university and broke up in our third year which seemed to me like an eternity. There are many excellent stories about Murray, but the one involving rice happened in our second year of university. Murray and I had moved into an off campus townhouse with three other friends and I quickly realized that I didn't know how to cook. At the time, I was working towards veganism, so cooking was somewhat mandatory. The first thing I learned how to make was a vegetable stir fry. This dish is probably single handedly responsible for me not starving to death or getting scurvy while I wrote essays about what birds symbolized in the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Murray, who knew even less about cooking than I did, asked me to teach him how to make a stir fry. He claimed his family had made a similar dish at home and he was excited to replicate it in our kitchen. On the appointed evening we met in the kitchen after class and chopped vegetables together. Then it was time to make the rice.

"Okay, put on some water to boil," I said.

"What for?" he asked.

"For the rice." I answered. He looked at me like I was bonkers.

"You don't boil rice!"

I looked at him and blinked a few times, unsure of how to proceed.

"Well," I said carefully, knowing this wouldn't end well. "How does your family cook rice?"

He guffawed. "Well we sure as hell don't BOIL it!"

I went upstairs and listened to two Lemonheads albums. Murray spent an hour pushing dry rice around in a frying pan while adding more and more soy sauce to it, hoping it would turn into cooked rice. I feel the need to add here, that Murray was a science major. When the soy sauce failed to magically rehydrate the rice, he called his mother.

"What did she say?" I asked, when he appeared in my bedroom doorway looking sheepish.

"She said to apologize to you and get you to show me how to boil rice."

Score one for the English Literature Major.

Now you know the story, so you can go make some delicious toasts. Just be sure to follow my directions carefully. Don't be a Murray.

snacks in the making!

Black Olive and Tomato Toasts

four slices of bread cut into quarters and spread with butter or margarine
2 cups black eyed peas
1/2 cup black olives, pitted
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 cup parsley
1 tsp fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
salt and pepper to taste
sliced tomatoes
rosemary sprigs for garnish

Butter up your bread and put it on a cookie sheet under the broiler until it is toasty and brown, but not crouton-hard.

Combine all other ingredients (except for the tomatoes and garnish) in your food processor or blender until everything is smooth.

Spread a knifeful of the olive/black eyed pea business on one of your pieces of toast and top with a slice of tomato and sprig of rosemary. Repeat as necessary.

Some Notes:

-Also, once, Murray tied a travel mug of milk to his shoe. He did this because he wanted to keep the travel mug of milk on his window sill all night so he could have cereal with milk for breakfast in his dorm room. So, to keep the mug from falling off the window sill, he tied it to his shoe to anchor it. It worked, but then he forgot that his shoe was tied to a glass of milk and picked up his shoe to put it on, thereby launching the still-half-full glass of milk into his lap.

-And also, Murray kept an Oh Henry bar is his dorm room for an entire year of school. My friend Dan, who was always hungry, would beg and beg Murray to give him the Oh Henry bar, but Murray insisted that he was "saving it".

-Perhaps in retaliation for the Oh Henry bar incident, Dan spent our entire second year of university hiding in places from which he could leap out and frighten Murray. Favourites included: my closet, the laundry room, and behind the shower curtain.

J.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Birthday Burritos

birthday burrito

Last week was a wonky one here at the House of Science. Wednesday was Canada Day, which for most people is a fun day off. For us, because our neighbourhood is populated largely by yahoos, it is sort of stressful. It wasn't all bad, we did go for a nice walk to The Glebe (a neighbourhood in Ottawa for you non-Ottawegians) for lunch with our friend Sonja. But the evening was full of fireworks and yelling and other things that scare my poor dog so much she tries to climb on my head. The fireworks went on until the wee hours and the only reason I got any sleep was because I put earplugs in.

Then Thursday I woke up with a migraine, and Friday morning we got in a tiny little car accident. No one was hurt and it wasn't my fault so it wasn't that bad. But this all made of an exhausting week anyway.

And Thursday? Thursday was the Man of Science's birthday! Happy birthday Man of Science!

Because of the crazy week, I wasn't in any condition to try ambitious new recipes, so I stuck with what I've been doing for many quick meals lately. I filled up taco shells or flour tortillas with whatever beans and local vegetables I could scare up.

These burritos were the MoS's Birthday Dinner and wow, were they ever delicious.

birthday burritos

1 cup brown rice (uncooked, when cooked it makes way more)
2 cups of water (to, uh, cook the rice in. Someday I will tell you the story of why I feel the need to be explicit about this.)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped small
1 can or roughly 1.5 cups of black beans
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp powdered soup stock
chopped lettuce and avocado
salsa
cilantro

Cook rice.

Heat oil over med-high heat and add onion and garlic.

Saute until onion is translucent and then add beans and spices and soup stock.

Reduce heat to low, add rice and a little water if the rice starts sticking. Mix everything together.

Place rice and bean mixture on centre of tortillas, add all other items in desired quantities, roll, bake for a few minutes, eat.

Some Notes:

-The cheese on the Man of Science's burrito is called "Red Hot Chili Pepper Jack Cheese". It looked good, but I didn't have any because I ate cheese on Canada Day and I think it was in part responsible for my next-day migraine. (And I don't ever wanna feeeeeeeeeeel, like I did that day...) Stupid cheese. But this spicy cheese seems pretty nice for those of you who like that kind of thing.

-The cilantro and lettuce were from my garden and they were aching to be harvested. I've now cut the cilantro back dramatically in the hopes that I'll get more from it. The lettuce, much to the slugs' dismay I'm sure, is pretty much done.

-Happy Fourth of July, Americans! Enjoy a bunch of veggie burgers for me and may your dogs remain unafraid in the face of explosions!

J.