Recipe Disaster Number One

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So, I had a great plan for this week’s veggie dish.  I thought it would work, got the ingredients, and went to work on it.

Yeah….  not so much.

The first and biggest mistake was that I purchased the fresh ginger and snow peas at the grocery store.  I just couldn’t get to whole foods this week because of a doctor’s appointment, so I figured I’d give the supermarket one final shot.  BIG mistake.

So, here’s how the recipe disaster went down:

I washed and prepared the carrots, mushrooms and snow peas, and started cooking the chicken pieces.  At this point I got the fresh ginger and started to peel it.  It was grey, and dark brown inside.  It had started to rot.  I guess, from reading, it’s not uncommon for supermarkets to keep ginger root on the shelf till it rots, wrinkles and shrinks up.  But mine didn’t look bad from the outside, and it felt firm.  I thought it was good.  I was oh so wrong.

Okay, so now I don’t have my main spice ingredient, but I’ve already started this.  What to do.  Well, what I did was stare inside my refrigerator for what seemed like forever trying to think what I could substitute.  I had tossed all condiments containing soy, thus no soy sauce and no teriyaki sauce.  Only some soy free barbecue sauce and a peach whiskey dipping sauce.  Then I saw it!  An unopened bottle of Kikkoman’s plum sauce (soy free) laying on its side on the bottom shelf, behind the molasses and olives.  Not what I had planned, but I was sure I could make this work.

So I started frying the ingredients, chicken, garlic, carrots, mushrooms, and finally the snow peas and a little plum sauce to flavor the dish. It actually looked very appetizing.

I plated it up, took a a photo, and finally took a bite….

…..oh, geeze!  Bleck!

The sauce was plain but doable, the carrots, chicken and mushrooms were okay, but the main element of the dish–the snow peas–that I was trying to highlight, were a disaster.  I cooked them quickly to keep their crispness, as I’ve done so many times before with great success.  But when I chewed into them this time, their texture wasn’t tender and sweet….they seemed squeeky.  It surprises me that I can’t describe it any other way.  When I chewed, they actually squeeked against my teeth.  And, to make matters worse, they tasted like they were bathed in some sort of bitter chemical.

All I can do is laugh.  Once again, supermarket produce failed me miserably.  I threw out another meal.

When will I ever learn.

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Every Beet of my Heart Cake (Vegan Chocolate Beet Bundt Cake from My Darling Vegan)


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So, this was Valentine’s week and I wanted to explore something different with veggies.  I scoured and hunted for something on the sweet side that I’ve never tried.  And of course, something with veggies.  Avocado pudding almost won, but I wanted something that was a bit more festive.  And I looked at Neapolitan Eggplant and Chocolate, but it looked very complicated.  I still want to try that, but I think I need a little more experience baking first.

I finally settled on beet cake and hunted for a recipe that received a ton of positive reviews.  My Darling Vegan’s recipe got amazing reviews.  Still, I wanted something pink, and this recipe is all chocolate, right down to the chocolate ganache frosting.  Instead, for the frosting I used a buttercream frosting with beet puree to color it pink.

 

My Darling Vegan did such a great job with the instructions, so I decided it wasn’t worth retyping the recipe.  So, just click the link here:  Triple Chocolate Beet Bundt Cake 

And for the Buttercream frosting go here:  http://www.simplybloom.org/2013/08/beet-this-pretty-pink-buttercream-frosting.html

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Now, for this recipe I have two reviews:  one review of the prep and baking processes that I learned in the course of this project (And this one I do call a ‘project’!), and one review of the actual outcome.

Review of the cooking process: 

First of all, if you’re going to do this, make sure you have a food processor.  I thought I could get away with a blender.  And even though I was able to get my puree with the blender, it was a lot of work to do it this way!  I even tried putting some of the beets through a juicer and that achieved absolutely nothing but wasting my time, and making more mess for me to clean up.  This experience taught me the hard way, I must get a food processor to keep doing experimental recipes with veggies.

Secondly,  I was surprised that my kitchen wasn’t beet stained when I was done.  Beet juice went everywhere, and I do mean everywhere (confession: I’m not a neat baker).  But I kept a sponge handy and just kept cleaning as I went, and nothing stained.  I didn’t get any on me, amazingly enough, so I’m not sure if clothing would be as lucky as my counters.

Cooking the beets and skinning them wasn’t bad once I figured out that using a knife didn’t work well.  Instead just rub the surface firmly with your fingers till it slides off.  I finally got my rhythm on the final two, but now I know how to do this quicker and more efficiently.

Putting together the ingredients was no big deal, except I misread and only folded 1/2 the chocolate chips into the batter before pouring into the bundt pan.  No big deal, I just gently mixed the rest right into the cake, in the bundt pan.

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Baking took longer than recommended.  For me it was about 70 minutes at 350°F.  I tested with my knife at 45 minutes, 60 minutes, and then at 70 minutes till it finally came out clean.  Hmmm…  I wonder if my oven is working at a lower temperature–I’ll have to get an oven thermometer and check that.

NOTE:  Do Not lick the batter spoon when you are done.  You will think you did something terribly wrong!  This does not taste like normal cake batter.  Uncooked, it is bitter.  Seriously, I went over the process in my head twice trying to figure out where I went wrong.

Review of finished cake:

Where to begin?

The cake was wonderful.  Even my veggie hating husband tried some and declared it ‘okay’ and said it just tastes like chocolate bundt cake.  Now okay, that may not sound like much, but to get a review like that from him, when he knows veggies are in it, is truly amazing.  I also brought it to work.  Everyone at work raved at how moist and rich it was.  It also was commented how it was rich but didn’t make you feel overly full and icky afterwards, like some super rich cakes with butter, eggs and milk sometimes do.  It was still very sweet, but everyone (except my hostess cake lovin husband) said it didn’t need the frosting.

As for the frosting…  it looked nice right when I put it on, but wasn’t really meant for this cake.  It melted in a short time.  Possibly the cake wasn’t cool enough for this, but I suspect a glaze would have worked better here, or the original recipe’s ganache.  Still, the cake was so sweet that next time I plan to just top with a light coating of powdered sugar and maybe explore how to make candied edible flowers.

Cleanup:

More than the usual scratch cake disaster for cleanup.  I kept cleaning items along the way, and still had tons of cleanup in the end.  This is a holiday or special occasion treat recipe.  When I first finished it, I said that I would never make it again because it took me, no lie, 4 hours from start to finish.  But then after tasting it, I amended my decision.  This cake IS so worth it.  And with a food processor, I should have better control of what I’m doing.

At 8 servings, it has 1/2 cup of beet puree in each serving.  I’m not sure in puree form if that’s 1/2 of a serving or a whole serving of veggie, but it’s certainly  more veggie in a cake than I’ve ever had before.

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Good cooking, if you try this one, and Happy Valentine’s Day to all!

45 Day VegMe challenge review

45 days on the VegMe challenge.  That’s 7 weeks, and 7 recipes.

 

What I’ve learned so far:

  • Organic fruits and veggies seem more consistently flavorful.  That’s not to say that ‘conventional’ fruits and veggies are all flavorless.  (As I write this I’m eating a ‘conventional orange that is just exploding with sweetness and flavor.)  Instead, what I mean is that the ‘conventional’ fruits in the regular supermarket are hit or miss (mostly miss), and you never know if you’re wasting your money until you sit down to eat.  I’ve thrown out so many fruits and veggies in the past because of this.  Not to mention, having been so frustrated.  For this challenge I’m going with organic whenever I can…  for consistency.
  • The more I’ve included vegetables in my diet, the more I crave cleaner foods instead of processed foods.  I want an orange instead of a twinkie, I want cheese instead of potato chips.  Now that’s not to say I haven’t eaten those things, but I see the cravings for them declining little by little as I increase the veggies in my diet.   
  • Getting 5-7 servings of veggies in each day seems like an uphill battle.  The most I can seem to get so far is 4 (on a good day when I’m at home, not work).  The current USDA dietary guidelines are so cumbersome, as to be counterproductive.  I don’t know about you, but the “make 1/2 your plate fruits and veggies” does not work when you don’t eat ‘by the plate’.  I eat sporadically through the day when I have time.  And if I have to keep a tracker I will give up–(confession:  I’m just too lazy).  So instead of all the tracking, I’m working at just increasing where and when I can.  I’m asking myself, can I opt for carrots now instead of crackers?  Leftover greenbeans instead of pasta?  In other words, switches instead of counting (I was never good at math, and this seems like a logical approach).  At the end of the day, I think back over the day and count up my servings.  It seems to be working.  When I started I think I was getting 0-1 servings per day.  (I’m not counting starchy vegetables in this challenge)  Now, it’s getting to be consistently 2-3 and sometimes 4 servings.  When I figure out salads, I may be able to get to the 5-7 servings.

 

I hope to keep learning new things as I go along.  Specifically, preparation tricks.  I want to learn the art of the ‘amazing salad’.  My mother and the Olive Garden make ‘amazing salads’ that I would eat forever.  My salads are….  meh.  The only ones I make, that I like, are sugar filled or fat filled (think: drenched in bacon dressing or catalina honey dressing).  My mother’s are veggie filled, light, and flavorful.  

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

 

Garbage Soup (yes, that’s what I said)

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So, another Monday snowing and work is closed.  It’s freezing out, and I can’t even play in the snow (much) because of my recent surgery.  I look in the fridge and find veggies about to go bad.   Hmmm…  I’ve got a little time.  Time to make garbage soup.  I don’t know who coined the term, and it certainly doesn’t sound appetizing, but believe me it works.  Think of it as making something from all the things that will become garbage in a few days unless you find a use for them.

This isn’t technically a VegMe challenge recipe since I make it all the time, but it is a great way to get the veggies into my diet.  So, I decided to share.

I start with the things closest to expiring and build around them.  Today it’s two red potatoes, a red pepper, and some spinach.  I decide on a chicken veggie soup.  To round out the flavors, I add carrots and dried cranberries.  (Have I told you that I’m addicted to sweet and savory?).  Oh, and I almost always add a parmesan rind (or two) to chicken soups.  If you’ve never tried this, it’s a great thing!  The rind imparts flavor, and at the end you get a soft piece of ‘parmesan heaven’ to eat–double bonus!  Most store deli counters carry this, sometimes you have to ask.

Today, I decided the spices would be onion, garlic, thyme, and nutmeg.  I have never tried nutmeg in soup before, so we’ll see how that works.  And, of course, salt and black pepper.

I find that soups are pretty forgiving and a veritable playground for trying some new combination.  Sometimes it’s mushrooms, carrots and wild rice, sometimes yellow squash and zucchini.  Whatever is about to go bad.  And as for spices and overall flavors?  Stick to your favorites.  If you like spicy, go for curry or chili powder to your level of taste.  I like fruity sweet tones so I use cranberry most often.  It’s whatever you’re in the mood for.  I’ve even used a plum in a beef stew soup!

Usually I make my stock from the carcasses of chicken roasters we get periodically at the supermarket.  I save them by freezing them, then when I have 2 carcasses, I boil the heck out of them then just pour through a colander and throw out the bones.  Oh, and when you freeze the carcasses, make sure you include the juice in the bottom of the container.  Today I didn’t have that so I used my backup container of chicken stock.  I don’t like using plain chicken broth, it has far too little taste for me, the stock is far better.

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Ingredients:

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

32 oz Chicken Stock

1 & 1/2 cups leftover Chicken (Saved/frozen from the last roaster we had)

1/2 small bag of Baby Carrots chopped in half

2 medium Red Potatoes

1 & 1/2 cups Baby Spinach

1 Red Pepper 

1/4 cup Dried Cranberries

1/2 medium Red Onion

1 Tbsp jarred Chopped Garlic

1/4 tsp Ground Thyme

1/4 tsp Ground Nutmeg

Salt and Black Pepper to taste

1 or 2 Parmesan Rinds

 

Recipe:

Wash and chop red pepper, potatoes and carrots to about the same size pieces.  (I like hearty, so I make mine about 3/4″ pieces.  I also prefer to keep the skin on my potatoes, but if you don’t like skin, that’s okay too.)

Chop onions (I like to make them larger pieces to show up in the final product, but if you prefer, you can dice them smaller)

Heat oil in a stock pot on medium-high

When heated, drop temperature to medium and throw in onions, garlic, salt and pepper.  

When onions have browned, add chicken stock and turn up temperature to high. 

Add nutmeg and thyme, and stir.

Drop in potatoes, carrots, red pepper, dried cranberries, parmesan rinds, and chicken pieces.

Let everything  come to a boil, then drop to low heat and simmer for 30 minutes, occasionally stirring so the parmesan rind doesn’t burn to the bottom of the pot.

At the 30 minute mark, the potatoes and carrots should be softened, but still hold shape.

Add spinach and stir into soup.  

Let simmer for about 3-5 minutes until spinach wilts.

Serve with a little grated parmesan sprinkled on top, and a crust of bread, if so desired.

 

Review:

Love it!  ‘Nuf said.

 

Cleanup:

Well, it’s soup.  Lots of chopping, lots of bowls, measuring utensils, pots….  you get the picture.  Yeah, it’s a bigger cleanup, but this time I say it’s worth the chore.

 

**  Special note:  this weekend is Valentines Day and I’m exploring deserts made with vegetables!  Some if these are really fascinating and actually look delicious!  Check back on Sunday to see what I decided to make.

For the Love of Green Beans!

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I call this recipe “For the Love of Green Beans!”

I like green beans.  I don’t love them as much as I used to, but they’re tolerable.   So, this week my goal is to make beans great again!  This recipe is something that’s been knocking around my head for quite a while now, but I’ve been a little afraid to try it.  I’ve found similar recipes, some incorporating the tomato idea, some with the maple-bacon idea.  But haven’t found this exact combination anywhere on the internet.   So, let’s see if it’s divine…  or disgusting, together.

 

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time:   45-50  minutes

 

Ingredients:

12 oz Fresh Green Beans

10 oz Grape Tomatoes

10 oz Sliced White Mushrooms

4 slices Bacon

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

3 Tbsp Pure Maple Syrup

1/2 tsp Original Tabasco Sauce

1/4 tsp Salt

Chopped Pecans or Almonds (optional)

 

Recipe:

Cut or snap off green bean stems and tips and wash.  (I was lazy and got a bag of beans that was already prepped–yeah, me!)

Rinse mushrooms, rinse tomatoes.

Chop raw bacon into 3/4″ chunks.

Throw all the veggies, maple syrup, olive oil, tabasco and salt into a lidded, leak-proof tupperware bowl.  This  includes the Olive Oil, Maple Syrup, Tabasco and salt.  Shake and roll around the contents till they are completely coated.

Dump and spread out the contents onto a cookie sheet lined with non-stick aluminum foil.

Drop the bits of raw bacon on top, spread out evenly.

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Bake at 400°F for 45-50 minutes, stirring and turning once about 1/2 way through the roasting.

Put into serving bowl and sprinkle with chopped nuts

 

Review:

Overall, I liked everything except the Tabasco.  I’m not a spice lovin’ girl, so next time I’ll make it a sprinkle of ground white pepper (a milder pepper).  However, I am a New England girl who loves her maple and this worked great for me.  And the mushrooms really absorbed the maple flavor nicely.

The bacon cooked well, and not overly crispy.  If you want crispy bacon, I suppose you could cook the bacon first and then add it to the roasting pan.  I roasted for 60 minutes, and I think that was too long. The green beans were overcooked. So I’ve adjusted the time on the instructions to roast for 45-50 minutes.   Yes, I suppose this would be a decent weekday side dish.

All in all, I wasn’t WOWed by the final dish, but I’ll try it again and adjust things to see if I can get a WOW out of it.    

 

Cleanup:  Okay cleanup.  This is the first time my foil stuck to the cookie sheet, so there was some scrubbing there–I think because I overcooked the dish a bit.  Measuring spoons, cutting board, knife, tupperware container, colander, and of course a serving bowl, and a plate and fork for eating.

 

Spinach and Blue Cheese Mini Tarts

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Spinach.

Just the word fills so many children with dread.   Some of us even carry this through to our adult life.  However, spinach is one of the vegetables that can be made in many ways, or just added to other dishes and we may barely even notice it.  I’ve found recipes for soups, pizza, quiche, meatless balls, dips, salads (of course), and countless other gourmet recipes like the pear spinach tart (I plan to try that one soon!)

I confess that this is one of the vegetables I actually like outright.  I mostly like it just boiled with salt, or creamed.  In light of that, it’s easy to see that this weeks veggie choice wasn’t that much of a stretch for me.  Today’s recipe is more of an experiment for a new way to incorporate it into my overall diet.

Now, it’s obvious that this won’t give you a full serving of veggie from one or two of these mini tarts.  I’m thinking of this as an accompaniment to the salad of your choice, with a meal, or as an appetizer.  I think for those who don’t like spinach, this will not be too overpowering.

Prep Time:  10 mins

Cook Time:  5 mins stovetop, 15 mins oven

 

Ingredients:

1 package Crescent Rolls (I use the Immaculate brand, but I’m sure any brand will work fine)

1 Tablespoon Canola Oil

1 slice of dice red onion

2 cups fresh chopped baby spinach

Blue Cheese Crumbles

Salt and Pepper to taste

 

Recipe:

Dice red onion, chop baby spinach (throw away stem ends).

In a frying pan heat oil on medium heat and toss in onion.  Add a pinch of salt.  Occasionally stir with wooden spoon till onion just starts to brown a little then reduce heat and stir every few minutes till onions are browned well.  Next, toss in spinach and stir till wilted slightly.

Open and separate crescent rolls.  Squish each into a ball then flatten out to about 1/4 inch thick, and place into ungreased muffin tin, like little pie crusts.  Put a crumble or two of blue cheese on the bottom of each, and then spoon in spinach mixture to about half filled (remember, the crescent dough is going to rise when cooking).  Top with a few more blue cheese crumbles.

Place in oven, set to 350°F, and bake for 12-15 minute till golden brown.

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Review:

I really liked these, but thought the blue cheese was the predominant flavor, not the spinach.  That should work really well for people who don’t like the actual taste of spinach.  Since I actually like the flavor, next time I will put less blue cheese crumbles on, or switch to goat cheese for a milder flavor. Overall, they were warm and very tasty.  I served it with a spinach and fresh strawberry salad with mushrooms and pecans.  In that setting, the blue cheese was fabulous!  The rolls accented the fresh flavors very well.

I think this is a recipe that can be altered to anyone’s taste with a few minor adjustments.  I was thinking that adding a few chopped pecans may be excellent, or maybe a bit of chopped tomato.

The down side is that it required a close watch through the whole cooking process, so that it didn’t overcook.  For that reason, this will be a weekend or special occasion item.  I can’t see myself having patience with this after getting home from work.

Cleanup:

Just a little more to clean up, but not terrible at all.  Thankfully the muffin pan was not tough to clean after letting it soak for just a couple minutes.

Measuring spoon, measuring cup, cutting board, knife, standard muffin pan, frying pan, wooden spoon, plate and fork for eating.