Monday, February 20, 2017

Parmesan Eggplant Meatballs

I was super irritated the last few summers with the meager supply of eggplants at my local *big box* garden center. Am I really the only person in my town who grows eggplants at home? Can’t the garden centers carry a few plants for the eggplant lovers out there? Apparently not.

Anyway, last year I wanted the classic globe shaped vegetable, but ended up with a Japanese variety. They were way too narrow for eggplant bacon, and I hated to waste them (they grew like crazy!), so I had to find another way to use them. Luckily I found the perfect recipe. Even those of you who are eggplant shy, will enjoy these little beauties.

This is how they look directly from the oven.
Obviously mine were not beautifully shaped balls, but it didn't matter. 

Parmesan Eggplant Meatballs (veganized by me, originally found in the 'Heirloom Gardener' catalog) 
Here’s what you need:
1 ½ pound of firm, small, peeled eggplants, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 T olive oil
½  t salt
½ C fresh parsley
1/3 C fresh basil
1 C panko bread crumbs
2/3 C vegan parmesan cheese (my favorite recipe can be found HERE)
2 eggs (I used 2 flax eggs)

Last night's dinner : I pulled the eggplant meatballs directly from the freezer and fried them. Delicious! Crunchy on the outside and creamy and tender on the inside. 

Here’s what you do:
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Toss eggplant cubes, garlic cloves, and salt with oil and bake in a foil covered baking sheet for 30 minutes, or until everything is nice and soft. Allow to cool and remove any excess moisture by squeezing it out. (To speed along the process, you can chill the veg in an ice bath by putting the hot veg in a big bowl, and then placing the bowl in a larger bowl of ice water.) Increase oven temp to 375.

In a food processor process the parsley and basil until coarse. Add the eggplant, bread crumbs, parmesan, and eggs and blend until its nice and smooth.

Line a baking sheet with parchment, use wet hands, form meatballs about 1 ½ inches in diameter, bake 25 minutes at 375 degrees.

I froze these in dinner-size portions and they have behaved beautifully right from the freezer.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Festive Portobello Mushroom Wellington from Bosh!

The most difficult part of this beautiful recipe is finding chestnuts. I had never used chestnuts in any capacity, so I was really interested to taste them and learn that they have a very meaty taste and texture. Luckily, I found whole, cooked, and peeled nuts. I can’t imagine the amount of work involved to peel and roast (or steam?) 2 Cups of chestnuts, so look all over your town for prepared nuts….and then forge ahead! This is really a simple recipe and such a beautiful presentation! I am going to remember this for Thanksgiving or Christmas or a dinner party or when company is coming or Sunday dinner or ….. whenever!

I served my wellington with mashed potatoes, peas, and a mushroom gravy. Festive, indeed!

Here’s what you need (directly from the Bosh! Facebook page)
4 portobello mushrooms
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T fresh thyme (I used 1 t dried)
1 T fresh rosemary (I used 1 t dried)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

1 red onion, minced
1 T fresh rosemary (I used 1 t dried)
Salt and pepper
1 C white wine (dry)
½ T brown sugar
2 C chestnuts
2 C pecans
2 slices seeded bread
½ C vegetable broth

Short crust pastry (I used 2 sheets of puff pastry)
½ C non-dairy, unsweetened milk

Here’s what you do:

Thaw the puff pastry according to the package.

Clean, trim, and roast the mushrooms. I like to scrape out the black gills, but for this recipe, I left the stem intack. Season them with salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary and a splash of olive oil and bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. Make sure they are nice and soft.  Allow to cool.

Saute the onion in olive oil until translucent. Add rosemary thyme, salt, and pepper. Add the wine and simmer for a bit. Add the brown sugar and caramelize the onions. Set aside.

Process the chestnuts, pecans, and bread in a food processor until it’s all crumbs. Pour into a large bowl and add the onion mixture and mix well. Slowly add the veg broth until the mixture clumps up … not too wet, not too dry. Your hands are the best tool here. 

Here comes the fun part. Place the pastry on a parchment lined baking sheet. Arrange a large amount of the nut mixture over one sheet of pastry, forming it into a long oval of sorts. You’ll need to leave about 1 inch all around the edges. Arrange the four mushrooms over the nuts and then arrange the remaining nut mixture over the mushrooms. For me, it was difficult to get all the nut mixture in, but use whatever you can. The mushrooms should all be encased in the nut mixture. (A hint for the mushrooms: place one right side up, then the next one upside down, then the next one right side up, and the last one upside down. Snuggle them in nice and tight.)

Place the second sheet of pastry over the mound of goodness and crimp the edges with a fork. Trim and use the excess pastry to decorate the top of your wellington. Use a fork to make air holes. Brush the pastry with milk.

Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes, but be sure to check it once in a while.

Cool for a bit and slice carefully with a serrated knife.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Cauliflower Bisque (Love Soup, by Anna Thomas)

What a glorious soup! Truly, perhaps the best soup we have ever eaten! The color was magnificent. These photos really don’t capture the delicate creamy yellow that was the end result of cauliflower and carrot gently cooked and then blended. I wondered if the method of sautéing the carrot and celery before adding them to the cauliflower-broth mixture would really make a difference, but I don’t think I would change a single thing about this recipe. Follow the method to the letter and you won’t be disappointed.

Here’s what you need:
1 large white cauliflower, trimmed and cut in small pieces
4 C LIGHT colored vegetable broth
2 C water
1 lemon, cut large strips of peel off (don’t cut into the white pithy part) and then squeeze
1 ½ t sea salt
2 medium carrots, peeled, trimmed and cut in pieces
2 medium stalks celery, trimmed and cut in pieces
1 large sweet onion, peeled, trimmed and diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
1 t herbes de Provence (a MUST for this recipe!)
2-3 ounces cream cheese

Garnish – buttered bread crumbs
1 C freshly made soft bread crumbs
2 T non-dairy butter

Here’s what you do:
Heat the oil and saute the carrot, celery, onion, and salt until soft and beginning to brown on the edges. Add the garlic and herbes de Provence and cook for another minute until very fragrant. Never brown your garlic, so maintain a gentle heat.
In the meantime: 
Simmer the cauliflower in the water and broth. Also add in two large pieces of the lemon peel. Again, be careful not to cut into the white pith. Add 2 T of the lemon juice. This should simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes. After that, remove the lemon peel.
Add the carrot mixture to the soup pot and continue to simmer, covered,  for another 15 minutes or so.
Next, add the cream cheese and allow to melt into the soup.
When the soup has cooled a bit, blend until very smooth. Add more salt and/or lemon juice if needed.

To make the buttered bread crumbs:
Place large chunks of day old bread in a food processor and create crumbs – not too small, but not too big.

Saute the crumbs in the melted butter until nice and toasted. Store flat on a baking sheet or place until ready to use.  

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Butternut and Apple Soup

A new year is upon us and that’s a good thing. I love a new start. Yes, I love Mondays. I love new novels and new shoes. I love new haircuts. I love to taste a new wine or to eat at a new restaurant. I just purchased new drinking glasses and, honestly, I feel like singing!

Adding an apple to a squash soup was new to me…..and I loved it. Be forewarned, this soup is not like other squash soups you may be familiar with. There’s no brown sugar, no nutmeg, no curry…just that apple. And that’s enough.

Here’s what you need:
2 C cubed butternut squash
2 leeks, sliced and washed thoroughly
1 medium onion, diced
1 russet potato, peeled and cubed
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and cubed
1 quart vegetable broth

Here’s what you do:
Throw it in a soup pot, simmer for about 30 minutes, allow to cool a bit, blend.

I guess I could have added a garnish, but , whatever….. I am actually sipping a cup of this soup as I write this post….no time for parsley.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Asparagus and Walnut Lasagna

Here is a very simple and elegant lasagna based on a recipe found in the tiny gem of a cookbook: “Vegan…Made Simple.” I have mentioned this book before and I can’t recommend it enough. (As I write this, I see there are used copies on for $.01… kidding!)

Check out how simple the ingredient list is. The method is equally simple. The result is very sophisticated.

Here’s What You Need:
1 pound of fresh asparagus
2 T olive oil
2 T non-dairy butter
½ C minced onion
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ C flour
4 C soy milk
1 T soy sauce
1 T Worcestershire sauce (optional because this is not a vegan ingredient)
1 C chopped walnuts, divided
8 lasagna noodles

Here’s What You Do:
Prepare the lasagna noodles as directed on the package. Set aside.
Use a vegetable peeler to remove the tough ends of the asparagus. Lightly steam it. Set aside.
Sautee the onion and garlic in the oil and butter until they are very soft, but not brown. 

Add in the flour and incorporate it into the melted fats. Add the milk, a bit at a time, whisking it thoroughly. When the milk has all been added, continue to cook over medium high heat until it thickens. Season with soy and optional Worcestershire.
Layer ½ of the asparagus, ½ of the walnuts and 1/3 of the sauce in the bottom of a 9x9 baking dish. Arrange 4 of the lasagna noodles over the sauce. Make another layer, ending with sauce. Sprinkle 1 few table spoons of walnuts on the top of the casserole. Bake for about 20-30 minutes until warm and bubbly.

Allow to cook for at least 5 minutes before cutting and serving. 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Lemony Carrot Top Pesto

If you are lucky enough to come across freshly picked carrots at your local farmers market, buy them. Especially if they still have their gorgeous lacy green tops. Make a simple carrot soup with the roots and for a gourmet finish, make a pesto with a handful of the tops. You won't regret it! I use this beautiful green pesto in all sorts of ways. You see it here smeared on a grilled cheese sandwich. Puts a soup and sandwich meal over the top.

Lemony Carrot Top Pesto

Here's what you need:
2-3 garlic cloves
1/2 C raw almonds
large handful fresh carrot tops
small handful fresh parsley or basil
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt to taste
olive oil

Here's what you do:
While the food processor is running, drop in the garlic cloves. This will chop them very finely. Add the almonds and greens and run the processor, helping incorporate all the leaves with a spatula if necessary. Add about 1/2 cup olive oil and continue to process. Add salt and pepper and lemon juice to taste. This pesto can be as thin or thick as you prefer.

This pesto freezes nicely. Use it as a dollop on soup, or mixed in dressings or over pasta.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Petosky Stones on a Michigan Beach

Have you noticed a spirit of discontent and dissatisfaction that has absorbed into the fabric of people lately? I see it everywhere and it troubles me. I see people raising their voices at strangers. I feel the disgust toward me from people who are of a different political persuasion. I sense judgement, prejudice, condemnation.  I hear members of my own ‘clan’ criticizing each other behind the backs of so-called friends.

We attended an art show this week and my husband commented, “All the art seemed so angry.” – loud and in our faces.

I don’t know….maybe it’s just me.

As I age, I want my life to be a gentle and peaceful presence upon this planet. I want my tiny splash to make ripples of goodness and grace and forgiveness and acceptance.

Remember that old song? “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” 

Are you humming? Me too. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Gift of Purples

Majestic is what we say
Harkening back to times of thrones and wealth
Rare and royal; adored or despised; youthful and mature at once

Even the word itself is special:
               Effort needed by both tongue and mind

We foolishly try to capture purple:
               Paint in little girls’ bedrooms
               Jellybeans; Easter eggs; nailpolish; eye shadow; construction paper
               I loved a purple turtleneck once:
                               metal buttons on the cuffs, worn with a purple plaid skirt

I think better to allow nature to provide the majesty surrounding purple:
Sunsets that fill a horizon
Violets under our feet
Shadows on a half-buried shell

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Cheesy Cauliflower Mash Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms

For whatever reason, my zucchini plants have produced tons of male flowers and very few female flowers the past few years. The male flowers have long stems and never produce any fruit. The female flowers grow very close to the base of the plant, they have stockier stems, and they develop into the squash.

So, I have learned to prepare and eat the gorgeous blossoms! How lucky is that? They are so fantastic! If you are fortunate enough to have blossoms on your zucchini plants, consider stuffing them and treating yourself to the most amazing treat!

Today, I stuffed them with leftover Parmesan Mashed Cauliflower and leftover corn.

Here’s what you do:
Pick the blossoms
Carefully open them, rinse out little critters and bees (I’m serious)
Remove the hard yellow part inside
Carefully stuff them with goodness (usually a cheesy mixture, but whatever seems good is appropriate)
Dip in a mixture of 1 C milk and 1 T cornstarch
Roll them in a mixture of 1 C flour and some seasonings (oregano, thyme, basil, salt, pepper, etc)
Lightly pan fry them until golden on all sides.

Admittedly, these were very delicate because the cauliflower mash was probably softer than the traditional stuffing used in blossoms, but no worries. They were delicious! 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Parmesan and Herb Mashed Cauliflower Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

I live in a tiny village. One small grocery store (that does not carry tofu), one small Dollar Store (that sells great canned refried beans), one little coffee shop (it’s NOT Starbucks), and one drug store (walking distance from my home and a regular stop when I run errands).

We DO have a fantastic bakery (I’ve been known to eat a cookie or two) and butcher shop (I’ve never stepped foot in it), and we DO have a great library (if they don’t have the book, they will gladly send for it). 

I didn’t grow up in a small town, so it’s always nice to be reminded of the ‘small-town’ feel that surrounds me. People smile and say hello! We wave at each other! Our community Facebook page is *mostly* filled with praise for local businesses, tips on local services, and compliments on particular events. (Oh, we do have our complainers, but let’s ignore them for now.)

Last week at the grocery, Dawn (my cashier, the daughter of my neighbors, and at whose home we store our boat all winter), commented on my mushroom purchase. We had a nice little mushroom conversation; other people in line even chimed in. So nice. Small town. Friendly. Hopefully, I educated about what to do with large, beautiful, delicious Portabella mushrooms.

I hate the name of this recipe, but I wanted to get in all the elements. Please try this! I’m planning to serve this the next time I have a dinner party. A true culinary creation!

Here’s what you need for the Parmesan and Herb Mashed Cauliflower:
1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets, non-dairy butter, non-dairy milk
½ C cashew Parmesan (1 C raw cashews, ¼ C Nutritional Yeast, 1 t salt, high speed blender)
Lots of fresh herbs (basil, chives, cilantro, dill, parsley)

Here’s what you do:
Place the prepared cauliflower florets in boiling water and cook until very soft. Place in food processor and whirl until creamy. Add margarine, salt and pepper, and only a tiny bit of milk. Use a spatula to encourage any stray pieces to stay under!

Add the Parmesan and herbs and whirl until blended. Season with salt and pepper. You’ll have way more than you need for 4 giant mushrooms, but you can eat the leftovers exactly like mashed potatoes.

Here’s what you do for the portabellas:
Remove the stem and gills from the underside of the mushroom using a small spoon. Cook on a grill pan, drizzling a tiny bit of oil on the round side of each mushroom. A little salt will help draw out some of the mushrooms’ moisture, and that’s a good thing. Turn the mushrooms over once in a while and do not rush them….you want them completely cooked and knife tender. Use a foil tent to help them steam a bit. They're not going to fall apart, so keep grilling them till they're nice and soft. 

Remove the mushrooms to a baking sheet. Fill with the cauliflower mash. Top with bread crumbs. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. DIVINE!!! Super elegant! 

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