Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Monster Mash! - Potato or Cauliflower Mash

Yes, I know I'm cheesy. Give me a break. It's October, I'm a recovering goth, and Halloween is just over a week away. I'm allowed to have Bobby Pickett stuck in my head when I mention "mash", OK? OK.

Now that that's settled, how about a couple of recipes? OK? OK! So the days are getting shorter, there's less vitamin D around, and your body is searching for mini serotonin highs via carby comfort foods. And that's OK. It happens. As with anything, just don't overdo it! There are ways of making your favorite comfort foods a little better for you, for those times when you want to indulge just a little. So I present, for your reading and eating pleasure: mashed 'taters, and its lower-calorie, lower-carb, nutrient-rich cousin cauliflower mash. Enjoy!

MASHED POTATO INGREDIENTS:

2 lbs Yukon Gold, Russet, or Idaho potatoes, scrubbed, peeled, and cubed [leave the peels on if you like them that way, but only if they're organic]
4-6 cloves of garlic [I usually use about 1 clove per potato, but I love garlic]
1 cup (or less) plain unsweetend rice milk, vegetable broth, or a combination
2 TBSP Earth Balance margarine, melted, or Extra Virgin Olive Oil [optional]
Chopped Chives [optional]
Sea Salt
Water

MASHED POTATO DIRECTIONS:

- Place potatoes and garlic cloves in a large saucepan and add water until it is about 1" over the potatoes. Add a couple of dashes of sea salt. Bring to a boil, the reduce heat and simmer until a knife easily pierces the potatoes, approx. 10 minutes.

- Drain the potatoes and garlic and return to the saucepan. Shake over the burner [which has been turned off, but is still a little warm] for about 30 seconds to get rid of a little more moisture.

- Mash by hand with a masher and some good old-fashioned elbow grease until smooth. (or use a ricer or a stick blender. You cheater.)

- Pour ricemilk or veggie broth or a combination of the two over the potatoes in a steady stream and mix to incorporate. Use as much as you need to achieve your desired consistency, up to 1 cup. Here you can also add some margarine or olive oil to make it a little richer.

- Season to taste, adding chopped chives or other herbs if you wish.

CAULIFLOWER MASH INGREDIENTS & DIRECTIONS:

Guess what?? Making Cauliflower mash is pretty much just like making mashed potatoes! Yes it's true!! The only difference, aside from obviously using a chopped head of cauliflower instead of potatoes, is that you're likely to use a little less liquid in the end after you've mashed it. That's it! Otherwise it's all the same. How easy is that? Yum!

For A Chilly Night - Veggie Shepherd's Pie

Disclaimer: I have never eaten a proper Shepherd's Pie. I became a vegetarian long before I discovered the pleasures of this simple, hearty dish. Therefore I have no idea if my version bears any resemblance whatsoever to The Real Deal [sans meat]. All I know is it's tasty and it's a dish I return to quite a few times during the colder months. I also know that, just like the original dish, which has apparently been around for the last 225 years or so, it's a great way to use up lentil, veggie, and potato leftovers. The recipe below outlines how to make one from scratch, but you can see where leftovers could easily come into play. I also offer two ideas for the crust - the traditional mashed 'taters, or the nutrient-rich, lower-calorie, lower-carb substitute that I have to admit has finally weaseled its way into my heart and tummy - mashed cauliflower! (Don't knock it 'till you've tried it, folks. I'm not a cauliflower-lover and yet this I love.) This dish yields great leftovers and can be frozen in individual portions after cooking.

FILLING INGREDIENTS:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
1 portobello cap or 4-6 baby bella mushrooms, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup lentils, soaked
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 TSP vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
2 TBSP tomato paste
1/2 cup frozen peas
sea salt & pepper to taste


Shepherdess Pie, naked!


FILLING DIRECTIONS:

- Soak your lentils in water while you prep your veggies or for up to 8 hours before you prepare your meal.

- Cook the onion in a drizzle of olive oil until they become translucent, approx. 5 minutes. Add your carrots, celery, mushrooms, and garlic and a pinch of salt and cook until the mushrooms just begin to let go of their juices, approx. another 3 minutes. Sometimes here I add a dash of red wine and stir until the mushrooms soak it all up because the flavors really compliment each other.

- Mix in the drained lentils and add about 2 1/4 cups of the vegetable broth. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes so the lentils cook through.

- By this time the lentils should be cooked and the broth should be mostly gone. I generally turn the stove off but leave the pot on the burner at this point. Now it's time to season - add the Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste and mix them in well. Add the rest of the vegetable broth, or as much as you need to get a consistency you like and create a tiny bit of "gravy" in the mixture. Season with salt and pepper. You can stir in some frozen peas at this point. Don't worry, they'll thaw and cook in the oven in a bit!

- Spread the lentil filling into a baking dish. Top with potato or cauliflower mash (recipes here and you only need about 1/3 of the recipe to top this dish).

- Bake in the oven at 350 for 15 minutes. Broil the top of the mash for a couple of minutes until it is just browned. Be careful not to burn it! Broilers love to wreak havoc the second you've turned your back on anything in there. I'm on to you, broilers!

- Enjoy!


Shepherdess Pie

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

As Autumn Approaches - Quinoa Pilaf

Quinoa Pilaf

As the days grow cooler and shorter, my tastes change. I want fewer salads and more soups. Summer's the time for iced rooibos sun tea, watermelon slices, and pops. But there's nothing like a spiced hot apple cider after a brisk fall walk. When I get home from work and it's already dark, I find comfort in tending to a vat of warming stew. Here is one of my favorite transitional recipes that is perfect for those changeling September nights when the air isn't sure if it's clinging to Summer or letting go to Autumn at last.

Quinoa Pilaf ingredients

INGREDIENTS:

3/4 cup Quinoa
1 1/2 cups Water or Vegetable Broth or a combination

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 - 1/2 of a small Onion
1 big clove of Garlic
2 cups sliced Mushrooms [I prefer portobello or baby bella, but you can use any type]
1 med. Zucchini
1 cup Chickpeas
Pine nuts, toasted or untoasted [optional]
Parsley, Basil, Thyme, Salt, Pepper

DIRECTIONS:

- Soak your protein-rich quinoa in water while you wash, slice, and otherwise prep your veggies. This will remove the saponin, which is a naturally occurring bitter coating on the seeds. Drain off the water using a fine mesh strainer, rinsing one more time if you wish.

- Cook the quinoa and water [or broth or a combination thereof] over medium heat for 10 minutes, then turn the heat off but keep the pot on the burner and leave the pot's cover on to let it steam for a bit while you finish up the veggies.

- While the quinoa is cooking, heat a bit of Olive Oil in a deep pan and cook down the onions until they are translucent. You can skip this step if you're an onion-hater. [Don't be a hater!]

- Add the sliced mushrooms, chopped garlic, and a pinch of sea salt and stir. Cook until the mushrooms begin to let go of their juices.

- Throw in the sliced zucchini, another pinch of salt, a couple of grinds of pepper, and cook to almost desired doneness. [Is "doneness" really a word?] In stews, I prefer my zucchini more tender than if I were serving it on its own, but your mileage may vary.

- Mix in your chickpeas. Whether you soaked dried ones [preferred] or drained canned ones, these are ready to go and only need to be incorporated into the mix and warmed through, which happens quickly enough.

- Next you will throw the veggies into the quinoa pot or the quinoa into the veggies pan, depending on which has more real estate, and mix them together adding your desired seasonings to taste. Basil and parsley taste lovely in this dish, but my favorite is fresh thyme if you have access to it.

- Serve warm topped with toasted pine nuts, if desired, and a nice sided salad. Enjoy!

Monday, September 5, 2011

There's a garden in my drink

mixer_ing2
I remember way back in the day when I fell in love with gin and the Gin & Tonic.  I wasn't a big vodka fan (that came later) and G&Ts were perfect for a hot day and I was living in Texas so there were plenty of those.  Made well a Gin & Tonic is light and crisp not too sweet and not too heavy like even sometimes the most everyday pilsner can be (for me anyway).  It seems like for a long time there was quality gin and rotgut both more or less mass produced and that was pretty much about it.  At least here in the US.  Anyone doing anything close to micro batches or anything with a bolder botanical profile was likely making it in their bathtub or perhaps a distillery like they had on the tv show M.A.S.H.!

Enter gins like Hendrick's from Scotland and a little closer to home Death's Door from Wisconsin.  There's a great list here of different brands of gin, their flavor profile and where they are crafted if you really want to see the variety.

Cut to about a month ago when M sent me a link for a Gin Martini made with cucumber, mint, and tarragon.  We were doing a lot with cucumber and tarragon - those popsicle recipes - and I believe her comment was, "this looks great!  we should try it out!"
mixer_ing
Cut to last Wednesday when I was cruising  at the farmers' market and they had all kinds of great herbs.  Everything except my tried and true cilantro, but there was mint, tarragon, dill, four varieties of basil and lastly the lovely shiso.  Completely intrigued by shiso (up until this point I had only seen shiso in the few Japanese grocery stores I frequent and it's always highly guarded under a thick layer of plastic wrap and styrofoam - I think it is where Fresh Direct got their idea about produce delivery - such a waste, but anyway...) I gave it a sniff and for 2 bucks I was in.  It's part of the mint family and it did have that, but there was also some pepper going on and it was grassy and delicate.  The wheels start turning.  I look in my bag and see that I've already purchased a gazillion kirby cucumbers, tarragon - check, mint - check (and just in case), the shiso and M's birthday is coming up on the weekend.  I start to have visions of cute antique jars, gifting this ├╝ber botanical mixer and serving my friend a fancy cucumber tarragon martini to toast her!

The link to the recipe is above and here.  I replaced the mint with shiso leaves.  Depending on the size of the leaves use 2 - 4.  The cocktail is strong and herbaceous.  The St. Germaine gives it just enough sweet to round everything out.

Happy Birthday M!  

mixer_gift

The leaves sticking out of the top of the jar was supposed to look like a sophisticated and subtle hint about the ingredients - a card of sorts.  I can't help, but think of a mullet when I look at this picture - business up front and a party in the back.  Next time I'll remind myself "less is more".

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back in the saddle again. Soon.

Hello dear readers.
It's true, there has been radio silence up here at Club Complicatarian. We were positively stoked to have placed in the YumUniverse contest and we've got some really fun recipes and party ideas in store, but then work got a little nutty for all of us, then there was that pesky little earthquake-thing followed by that hurricane-dealie you may have heard talk of... and suddenly everything just seemed to come to a grinding halt.

Or rather, it had already gone there.

Wait, we haven't posted in how long? Oh, oops. And forget about posting, how are we doing on our respective journeys towards treating ourselves right and eating clean? Ehhhhhhh... not so good, Al.

On a more personal note, I, for one, have fallen off the wagon for sure and I've been letting that get me down. There has been no time to plan and make my own healthy meals, no time for the gym, lots of angst, and lots of sleepless nights. So last night when my husband and I went to the diner because our power was still out and we'd grilled the last of what we could salvage from the now-warm fridge the night before, I just caved and ordered a veggie burger patty melt. (That'd be a veggie burger sandwiched inside a grilled cheese, y'all.) Not that there's anything wrong with that once in a while, but I've been making those kinds of poor choices for a couple of weeks now. Sometimes more than once a day. And I've felt noticeably worse for it. Did I mention I ate half of my husband's french fries as well? Yeah, I did. Somehow, and this makes no sense, that makes it easier for me to keep moving along this downward spiral. My logic, if you can call it that, goes "well, I've messed up. It's all over. I've failed. Oh, look, a brownie ice cream sundae..." which tastes divine and makes me happy for all of 20 minutes until I start to digest it, and then my body does all the bad stuff it loves to do to me when I've had too much dairy, wheat, and processed junk. What I forget is how great I feel when I do eat right, go to the gym 5+ times a week, drink tons of water, and sleep well. I forget that despite constant proximity with ill co-workers I haven't been sick in more than 3 months, which, as sad as it may sound, is actually a record for me these days. I forget that the good stuff can be, well, good!

But there is a solution. Quite simply, I need to approach all this in a different way. It's not all or nothing, at least not yet. Maybe one day it might be. It's a process and I'm still relatively new to it. If I make a bad choice here or there I need to remember that I have the opportunity to make a good choice the next time. It'll take some time, but I've got time. All is not lost. Baby steps. Etc etc. As many pep talks as I give myself, I could always use one more, so this paragraph is for me to read and re-read as often as I need it. Maybe it'll help you, too. I think I'll have a salad for lunch. Go get 'em, tiger.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Woot woot!

Thanks so much for your votes everyone! We placed second for our Basil, coconut and lime pops and we couldn't have done it without your help! We hope you enjoyed our pop recipes. Cheers!


DSC_0096edit


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mango Lime Ginger Tarragon Popsicles

Yeah we're a little consumed with popsicles. It's the heat. It's the fact that there's so much great fresh food at the market. It makes throwing a few ingredients into a blender and freezing for about an hour and half the easiest and best summer treat. So here we go!

mango_pop

INGREDIENTS:

2 large ripe mangoes peeled (approximately 3 - 4 cups)
2 tbsp Turbinado sugar (can use other sweeteners - what ever you have/like - would probably avoid something like mollasses though)
1/4 - 1/2 tsp lime zest
juice of one medium lime (approximately 2 tbsp of juice)
1 tbsp fresh ginger chopped
1 tsp fresh tarragon chopped
pinch of salt
pinch of cayenne (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

- Peel, chop, zest, juice everything into one bowl or put it directly into a blender or food processor.
- Add sugar, salt and cayenne.
- Blend everything until incorporated. On this step you can experiment a bit. If you don't want everything super smooth, but maybe some bits of mango and ginger you can blend in short bursts. Also all ingreditents can be adjusted to taste so feel free to experiment with that too.
- Fill molds and place sticks in.
- Put in freezer for minimum 1.5 hours

makes 6 pops

We haven't posted our experiment with the sweet plums we bought at the farmers' market, but that pop also came out good! We did a mostly sweet plum and lime pop with a cumumber and lime "rind". We pitted about a quarts worth of plums (with the skins on) threw them in a blender with the same amount of sugar and lime zest and juice as above. We let that freeze for about 45 minutes (just so that it was frozen through enough so that when we poured the cucumber mix they would stay distinct and not so frozen that the stick wouldn't go in). The cucumber mix is the same one we used for the watermelon prosecco pops here.

Food Science Geekery Alert! Every wonder why store bought pops and homemade pops don't taste as much alike as you'd expect? And we're not just talking about flavors etc. It has to do with the quickness of commercial freezing process. Home freezers don't work as quickly as commercial freezers and therefore there is time for the liquid and the sugar to separate a bit. We think this might not be as much of an issue with fruits like mango and bananna that have a lower water to fruit ratio. You can read more about this here.

frosty army
the first of the frosty army!