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Archive for November, 2009

Beautiful Bounty

Occasionally, I’ll convince Husband to have an all-veggie dinner with me. I usually do it when I have a plethora of veggies lying around that need to be eaten within a day or two before they spoil. We are always extremely satisfied after the meal and never feel like we’re missing the carb or protein. This past all-veggie dinner was no exception.

I had a head of cauliflower that was destined to become cauliflower popcorn…one of my favourite ways to eat cauliflower ever! The cauliflower is chopped up and tossed with a little olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and roasted in a hot oven till golden brown and a little crisp around the edges. We also had two cobs of corn left that were simply steamed and then smeared with a dab of Earth Balance and sprinkled with sea salt.

The main attraction was the peppers. I had watched an episode of French Food at Home where the host had made something almost identical to these peppers and it looked so good on the show, I just had to try it. I made a quick olive relish with some plump, salty green olives, a little bit of garlic, and just enough fruity olive oil to moisten the mix. A spoonful of the olive relish was spread in the bottoms of each pepper half. Then, I put a fresh basil leaf on top of the spread and finished each pepper half off with two wedges of juicy tomato and a drizzle of the same fruity olive oil.

The peppers were roasted in a moderately hot oven until they were “slumpy” and softened and really juicy. I loved that, when plated, the dish looked so warm and sunny…it was the perfect meal for an uncharacteristically mild November evening!

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My mother-in-law does not like birthdays. She gets very cranky when one approaches and does not want any fuss made over her; frankly, she’d rather curl up in bed with a good book and just wait the day out than actually enjoy it. So, we always stick with a low-key, simple family dinner when that dreaded day rolls around.

This year, Husband and I decided that we would make her birthday dinner for her as her gift (it’s the least we could do considering my in-laws have let us come and stay with them while we attempt to get ourselves back on our feet!) and seeing as it was a chilly November day, I figured a thick, hearty stew with a little carb heaven on the side would be perfect.

I settled on the Smoky Red Peppers ‘N’ Beans Gumbo and Skillet Cornbread recipes from the almighty Veganomicon. My mother-in-law is a huge fan of roasted red peppers and an even bigger fan of one-pot meals so I figured it would be perfect and perfection it surely was!

My first bit of excitement was roasting my own red peppers, something I’ve always wanted to do but have never actually got around to doing. Mind you, I’ve never had a gas range and I imagine you need the flame to help the skins char properly. Once the peppers were finished, the recipe came together really quick.

I made a few slight changes to the original recipe: I used fresh green beans instead of the frozen okra, I used chopped yellow bell peppers instead of green, I went with a 6-bean medley instead of the red kidney beans, and I didn’t have any beer in the house so I substituted an extra cup of veggie stock. It was a delicious gumbo…the charred peppers and the added liquid smoke gave such wonderful flavour to the dish, and the thick, tomato-flavoured broth made the dish a great deep red colour.

The cornbread, however, was kinda “meh” for me. Everyone else seemed to love it but I wasn’t crazy about it. I am extremely picky about my cornbread! I like it to be a little more on the gritty side with lots of sweet flavour (I usually opt for brown sugar in mine) and a great crust on the edges. This one didn’t have that. I found the interior to be a little on the gummy side…I did bake it in a baking pan instead of a skillet…maybe that affected the overall texture? Oh well, it was still dip-worthy and sopped up the leftover broth from the gumbo with ease.

For dessert, Husband and I made a checkerboard cake. It’s a retro “company” cake that never fails to impress people once sliced. You prepare two separate batters, a vanilla and a chocolate, then you bake three cakes: one with a vanilla batter ring on the outside, a vanilla batter dot in the centre and a chocolate ring between them, then two cakes in the opposite bulls-eye pattern. Once they’re cooled, you stack them with a fruit spread between the layers. Make sure the layer with the vanilla outside ring is in the middle, then you slather the entire thing in a rich chocolate ganache.

Once it’s sliced, each piece has this really impressive checkerboard pattern and everyone “ooh”‘s and “ahh”‘s over your culinary prowess. I know, I know, no pictures?! We basically devoured everything before I could get a chance to photograph it…but I assure you it was impressive!

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grilled cheeseA friend of mine refers to the diner-style Kraft-Singles-and-white-bread grilled cheese as “dirty” grilled cheese….mostly because it’s made from things that are processed and hardly resemble food anymore, and because that version contains little to no nutritional value. Of course, none of that information meant anything to us when we were six years old. All we knew about dirty grilled cheese sandwiches back then was that they were a delicious treat and Mom didn’t let us eat them nearly enough!

Every once in a long while, I indulge that childhood craving and make a dirty grilled cheese. Of course, my palette has developed a little in the last 20-some years and the idea of store-bought white bread between my teeth makes me cringe and gag at the same time…so I use a delicious grainery bread with flax that toasts up so nicely in the pan I could consume the bread without the fillings!

The dirty part comes in with the fillings. The cheese is Vegan Gourmet mozzarella style cheese…something I always feel guilty about purchasing because I can’t eat it on it’s own; it’s only tolerable to me when it’s used in small quantities and melted together with/into something else.

I also threw in some Tofurky deli slices with the cheese. Again, I almost never purchase these. I didn’t like lunch meat sandwiches before going veg, I certainly don’t like fake lunch meat sandwiches now that I am veg. Husband, on the other hand, would live off sandwiches if I’d let him! So, occasionally, I’ll throw him a bone, so to speak, and get some fake meat slices for him.

The whole works got slathered in Earth Balance and pan-fried till toasted and gooey. I cut them in half diagonally (just like Mom used to!) and we dipped them generously in a very gourmet side of ketchup (organic ketchup! once you go organic, you’ll never go back to Heinz again, I promise! the flavour of organic ketchup is so superior in every way to that other red sauce. give it a shot, if you haven’t already).

I have to admit, it was pretty tasty. I could never eat dirty grilled cheese as often as I wanted to as a child; but, as a very occasional treat to use up the faux products in the fridge, it hits the spot. Just make sure your next meal is a really large, really green salad!

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fruit saladThis morning, the sun was shining through the window in just such a way that the mango in the fruit basket was glowing with a lovely warmth. It might as well have been trying to jump directly into my mouth! I scooped it up quickly and all but sprinted to the cutting board; ready to cut into that mango and reveal the wonderful sunshine-coloured flesh inside.

I remembered the pomegranate in the fridge and decided that those sparkly red jewels would go perfectly with the tropical bounty. I tossed the two with a little banana and purple grape for variety and texture and Husband and I inhaled our heaping bowls of juicy, ripe fruit along with our morning coffee.

This fruit salad quickly became one of my all-time favourites. The combination of the smoothness of mango, tart crunch of pomegranate, creamy sweetness of banana and toothsome chewiness of grape exploded with flavour all over the palate. It definitely woke up my taste buds this morning and was such a wonderful way to start the morning…curled up in a comfy chair with my bowl, a mug of steaming dark roast, and the hazy morning sunlight warming my cheeks.

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Hello?!

Hello, dear blog, hello…
I’ve completely fallen off the face of the earth in the past week and a half or so…so sorry, dear blog.
Husband and I just finished a 400km move away from the Big City and back to our relatively small home-town. It went well; if not exhausting! We’ve spent since last Thursday just organizing, unpacking, settling in, and sleeping. I just haven’t had the energy or time to post…nor have we been eating anything even remotely blog-worthy as of late.
I’m hoping that I’ll do some major cooking this weekend and have some “real” posts ready for next week. Thanks for the patience, dear blog (and readers!)….I’ll see you very soon.

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