Repairing Relationships…with Vegetables

In my previous post, I mentioned that I haven’t always gotten along with mushrooms. Things have gotten much better between us, but that doesn’t mean I reach for new fungi every time I’m in the store. In fact, during my last weekly grocery run, I realized that mushrooms aren’t the only vegetable this vegetarian had avoided until recently, “recently” meaning within the past five or so years. (This revelation kind of made me think that I’ve been subsisting on iceberg lettuce, baby carrots, green beans for the past twenty years – bland, boring, and American, by golly!) And I’m not talking about utterly fantastical veggies like kohlrabi, salsify, and fiddleheads. I’m talking about fairly run-of-the-mill produce that I spent a long time skipping over simply because I didn’t know any better. Thankfully, vegetables tend to be quite forgiving after being long ignored, and here are five veggies with which I’m currently making, or trying to make decent inroads.

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Brussel sprouts

brussel-sprouts

Long the butt of jokes concerning their taste and general odiferousness, the first time I ever had brussel sprouts was three years ago. And I’m really not kidding about that. My parents never made brussel sprouts (that I can recall), and I never sought them out on my own. But then, a few years back I was looking expand my traditional holiday dinner fare and found a recipe for roasted brussel sprouts that couldn’t have been simpler. Sprouts, olive oil, salt pepper. Clean the sprouts, cut them in half, toss them in the oil and seasoning, roast a 400 degrees from 15 or so minutes. I was amazed at the tender, nutty, and flavorful results! I’ve since tried to make brussel sprouts more regularly. Granted, the smell from cooking them does linger, but the immediate deliciousness of eating them is worth the price of a few air fresheners.

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Olives

olives

Unlike my childhood that resided with the lack of with brussel sprouts, I did grow up with olives, LOTS of olives because my Dad really, really likes them. If there was one thing that was always, without fail, in our fridge, it was olives. And particularly the green Spanish olives with the pimento centers. (Perish the memories!) And because of that, olives ended up in so many recipes…so many recipes that I avoided because I hated olives! Oh my, how I couldn’t stand them as a kid! To me, they smelled bad and tasted worse, all sour and salty and yucky! Since becoming an adult, I have tried very hard to rectify this hatred, but it’s tough. Though I now don’t mind the way olives taste, their texture just doesn’t sit well with me. I’ve managed to accept sliced black olives, and only sliced black olives, on pizza and in pasta salad. But that’s as far as it goes…for now.

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Asparagus

benefits-of-asparagus-700x325

Asparagus is another vegetable that simple wasn’t around in my house growing up. As an adult, it was never on  my grocery radar – green beans, peas, broccoli – those were my “green” staples. But asparagus? Don’t you have to prepare it in some complicated manner? Doesn’t it smell funny? Isn’t it hard to cook? No, no, and no were the answers I discovered when I made my first batch of roasted asparagus about five years ago. Since then, it’s become my first “green” staple, when it’s in season, that is. (And even when it isn’t, the imported stuff isn’t that bad.) I’ll admit that I haven’t strayed too far in terms of asparagus recipes as I just like it roasted in olive oil, salt, and pepper, but there’s plenty of time to get more esoteric.  Asparagus Lemon Gelato, anyone?

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Avocados

o-FREEZING-AVOCADOS-facebook

In my early years of vegetarianism, I discovered that avocados were good for more than just guacamole. They were just as excellent in their naked form cut to top a salad or mashed and spread on a sandwich. Helping the situation tremendously was that, at the time, I lived in a place where avocados were local produce and were always guaranteed to be ripe and ready to use. When I moved to a place where that wasn’t the case, I remained spoiled, and it didn’t help that the avocados in the big ol’ chain grocery store were hard as rocks and never seemed to ripen properly. Eventually, I stopped buying them altogether. What’s brought me back to them in the past couple years is hope…and maybe a few health concerns – fiber, vitamins, triglycerides, all that adult stuff.  And this tip about finding ripe avocados from Lifehacker has saved me from bringing home bad ones.

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Okra

fresh-okra

Like brussel sprouts, I couldn’t haven’t identified okra in a vegetable line-up until I was in my twenties. My husband, being the good southerner that he is, took great delight in introducing his Yankee wife to okra. The results? Um…ewwww, and that was with the fried variety! Worse yet was having it in soup or stew when the okra turned gooey.  Over the years I have gotten okra (usually frozen, sometimes breaded) at my husband’s request, but you couldn’t have gotten me to eat it, no way, no how. But considering how my palette has calmed down and matured (I guess), it seemed only natural that someday, eventually, I have to try okra whether I wanted to or not. And that time came last year when I reluctantly agreed to make a vegetarian version of a gumbo recipe that was already in our arsenal. Substitute veggie stock as needed, omit the seafood and chicken, and voila! I’ll be honest, it wasn’t half bad. Really, it wasn’t, and that was despite the gooey okra (which was nearly as gooey as I remembered it.)  Though I don’t feel ready to fully accept okra into my life, we’re going to try growing it in the garden this year. If we get a decent crop then I won’t have a choice. Okra or bust!

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What foods (vegetables or otherwise) have you gotten to know better, and for the better in recent years? Any suggestions as to other oft-overlooked vegetables that should undoubtedly be in my kitchen?


While Cary’s happy to talk food here, she’s also pretty good at doling out words about video games at United We Game while simultaneously maintaining her own blog, Recollections of Play. You can also find an archive of fun, geeky articles from her and like-minded souls at Geek Force Network.

I don’t like blueberry bagels, and other arbitrary food musings

This post was originally published on Geek Force Network, December 5, 2014.


A lovely picture from Think Fooditude.

When I was in grad school, one of my professors once said, “There are only three kinds of bagels in this world: plain, poppy seed, and sesame.” Well… two out of three ain’t bad. But my dislike of poppy seed bagels (too many damn seeds to get stuck in your teeth!) reaches nowhere near the height of my abhorrence for blueberry bagels. Oh, I’ve tried to quell my hatred – just the other week I purposefully added two blueberry bagels to my grocery store stash just to see if my opinion had softened. Nope. They were still yucky. I think it has to do with the fact that they don’t taste at all like blueberries. In fact, I really don’t care for any baked goods that contain blueberries – muffins, scones, cookies, cakes, pies, even pancakes. Not only is the blueberry flavor never all that pronounced in these items, but it seems that they end up extra sweet to make up for that lack of taste. Plus, when you cook blueberries, they tend to disintegrate into mush. When I want blueberries, I want that extra-fresh *pop* of flavor that only comes from them being fresh. I can handle fresh blueberries in salad or on top of cereal or oatmeal. But in a bagel? Never.

The exact opposite is true of raisins. The thought of eating raisins straight out of the box is perfectly vile. The chewy/gritty texture is one thing, but their heady, sweet n’ sour taste makes my stomach churn. Cook them however, and they become magical. In fact, I l-o-v-e- cinnamon raisin bagels. Yep. Had one just this morning with cream cheese, and it was perfect. Cinnamon raisin bagels aren’t nearly as sweet as blueberry bagels (if you have to go with fruit bagels, that is), and the taste pairs really well with a nice, slightly bitter cream cheese. See, most of the time, raisins rehydrate slightly when they are cooked. So you’re not left with complete mush (like blueberries) or hard, inedible bits (like, well, raisins) when you add them to cookies, bread, pies, etc. They become plump and moist and lovely-tasting. The same kind of goes for yogurt-covered raisins. At least covered they stay more moist than usual.

I was on the hunt for yogurt-covered raisins at the store the other day. Didn’t find any, and I ended up bringing home yogurt-covered cranberries and yogurt-covered peanuts, just because. I’m not sure what fool enjoys eating dried cranberries straight, but I’ve never been so silly. They are solely for making pumpkin-cranberry bread in my house. Covering them in yogurt makes for an okay snack, but they are oddly sweeter than yogurt covered raisins, and are also extremely tart. Like a Sweet Tart covered in yogurt. Hmm…no thanks on that front. As for the peanuts…icky and insipid. I was hoping they’d fall in the sweet n’ salty realm, but no. They taste just like you’d expect plain peanuts covered in a slightly sweet yogurt shell would taste. And that taste would be bland.

Speaking of bland, as a vegetarian, some people think that I live in a world of free from flavor. That because I’m not cooking everything in bacon fat and chicken grease, I’m stuck with boring vanilla vegetables and cardboard-y fake meats. Well…I can’t really deny that latter because some vegetarian “meat” is pretty rank. (And this after many advances in the science of creating said fake meats, which must be a college major by now.) But some of it is very edible and even delicious! I’d offer you some of my fake bacon, but I won’t because I like to too much. Also, you’ll hate it. So, win-win! But going back to the bland factor, I have a cupboard full of spices, which are quite easy to obtain. Want to punch up your broccoli? Add a couple dashes of garlic powder. Hate cooked carrots? Go with some dried sage or curry powder to spruce things up a bit. Wish that your coleslaw tasted like anything other than cabbage? Then you need a good palmful of celery seeds. There’s absolutely no end to the flavor combinations that can turn any boring foodstuffs from bland to brilliant! I’m fully aware of the flavors that I’m missing by not cooking my black-eyed peas in bacon or making my split-pea soup without ham hocks. But that doesn’t mean I can’t make black-eyes peas or split-pea soup. I can, and I do, and it’s all just as flavorful.

Around this time of year (i.e. the “holidays”), one family member or another will always ask me if I miss meat. I really don’t. Except…for one thing. My mom’s sausage and peppers. Boy oh boy…if I think about it long enough, I can start to smell it. The sweet and hot Italian sausage cooking away in a crock pot with a glorious array of bell peppers, all in a hearty tomato sauce. At dinner time, warm up some hoagie rolls (Amoroso‘s, please) and spoon out the delectable mix of meat and veggies. Mmmm, mmm, good! Though it’s been 20+ years, the thought of that meal makes me smile.

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Care to share any favorite food musings/memories so I don’t feel like such a dork here?


While Cary’s happy to talk food here, she’s also pretty good at doling out words about video games at United We Game while simultaneously maintaining her own blog, Recollections of Play. You can also find an archive of fun, geeky articles from her and like-minded souls at Geek Force Network.

That Holiday Classic — Spanikopita!

In two days, we (read: Americans) will be engorging ourselves on a feast that only comes round once a year: Thanksgiving dinner. I’m talking sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, yeast rolls, stuffing/dressing/whatever you prefer to call it, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, ham (at least at my house) and, of course, spanikopita! Uhh, you mean…turkey?  No, actually I mean spanikopita, a classic spinach pie with Greek roots. I discovered this magical meal early on in my turn towards vegetarianism, and it became something of a holiday-only thing because of the limited availability of phyllo dough. Back then, the only time I could find phyllo dough was in November and December. Now, that quirky pastry dough is easily findable year-round, but I still tend to only make spanikopita during the holidays. Putting aside the difficulties of working with phyllo dough, spanikopita is a delicious, savory, and satisfying dish that can be equally enjoyed by all. (Seriously, and I’m not much of a fan of spinach!) Yes, you have to be a little easy on the papery phyllo, but the results are worth ten times the effort.

The recipe below serves 6-8 people and can easily be doubled or tripled (which might require 2 packages of phyllo dough). It’s made in an 8- or 9-inch pie plate, but you can also use a similarly sized square baking dish. Or, if you’re feeling brave and creative, you can also cut the dough and fold the filling into triangular “packets.” (Place them on a greased baking sheet and cook at the same temp and time.) But you’ll have to venture elsewhere online to find out how to do that — I just don’t have the skills and patience.

Spanikopita

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil olive oil
1 lb spinach washed and drained, or 10-16 ounces. frozen chopped spinach, thawed
6-7 scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped, or 1 tablespoon dried parsley
Salt and pepper
6-8 ounces of feta cheese, crumbled
1 egg, lightly beaten
3-4 tablespoons of butter, melted
1 package of phyllo dough, thawed (if obtained frozen)

 Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare an 8- or 9-inch pie plate with a little cooking spray.

2. In a large pan, heat oil over medium heat and add spinach. Let it wilt fully and then remove from the pan. Place on paper or cloth towels to cool and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

Note:  If using frozen spinach, simply thaw and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

3. In same pan sauté scallions in remaining oil until soft. Add spinach back in along with parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well until spinach is warmed through. Remove mixture from pan to cool at least to room temperature.

Note:  Spinach mixture can be made up to a day in advance and stored in a tightly sealed container in the fridge.

4. Once spinach has cooled, stir in feta cheese and egg.

5. Unwrap and unroll thawed phyllo dough and place all the dough between sheets of damp paper towel. Basting each sheet carefully with butter, layer six sheets crossways — alternating between placing them left to right and top to bottom — in bottom of pie plate. (Some of the dough may hang over the edges and that’s okay.)

6. Place spinach and cheese mixture into pie plate and spread evenly. If your phyllo dough hangs over the edges of the plate, wrap it over the top.

7. Again basting each sheet carefully with butter, arranged 6 more sheets of dough on top of the spinach. (You can wrap or fold the dough in whatever manner you like to cover the pie, but none should hang over the edges of the plate, otherwise it’ll burn.)

8. Baste top layer with butter and cook for about 30 minutes, or until top is browned and filling is set.

9. Once done, cool for 10-15 minutes before cutting into wedges.

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Because of phyllo dough’s tendency to become soggy, spanikopita is best enjoyed the day it’s cooked. Leftovers reheat well enough, but the dough will not become as crispy as when it’s first cooked.


Let’s see just how many blogs Cary can put on her roster before going mad! While you’ll find her here on occasion, you’ll more likely to catch her over on United We Game or Geek Force Network; or better yet, working on her own blog about gaming and nostalgia and such, Recollections of Play.

The Quintessential Guide to Traditional Swiss Fondue

I am a great cheese enthusiast. I love cheese from all around the world, in all variations, flavors, textures and colors. Melted cheese is sensational in any dish and there are few dishes as iconic for my home country as traditional cheese Fondue. Anyone who ever comes to visit me will at least get to eat Fondue once, be it spring, summer, fall or winter – even if it’s considered more of a winter than summer dish (rubbish if you ask me). To the Swiss, Fondue is strictly about cheese and it can be found and eaten almost anywhere, from small local restaurants to gas stations. The first mentions of Fondue in Switzerland date back to the 17th century and it’s since evolved into an important food tradition most people will indulge in several times a year.

The Fondue Tram on Zurich

The Fondue Tram in Zurich City (myswitzerland.com)

Fondue is a rustic and amazingly social dish that requires time to eat. It is therefore particularly popular at family and friend gatherings and often served on birthdays, Christmas or New Year. It is also simple to make, assuming you have access to the right cheese, get the correct equipment and follow a few basic guidelines. The following pointers are my comprehensive guide for anyone looking to make their next Fondue night a raging success!

1. The Cheese
Naturally there is nothing more essential to Fondue than the cheese mix. Unfortunately this is also the trickiest part to get right for anyone outside Switzerland, certainly outside its immediate neighborhood. Contrary to popular belief, Fondue is in fact not just “melted cheese” but a mixture of several cheeses as well as more ingredients like alcohol and starch. The balance of this mixture is vital and will not only decide over your Fondue’s flavor and consistency but whether the cheese curdles completely and becomes inedible. Therefore even here, nobody mixes their own Fondue; people will either rely on a local dairy for homemade mixes or get some (no less excellent) store-bought Fondue cheese. The most common cheeses used in Fondue are Emmentaler, Vacherin and Gruyères, the last two known as the magic formula of “moitié-moitié” (half-half or fifty-fifty) but there are many regional variations to what people prefer.

fgerber

Breaking up the cold mix before cooking

One of the universally most endorsed Fondue brands is Gerber’s red and I implore anybody seriously looking to make a great Fondue to put in the extra effort (and money) and order online. There are several websites including Amazon that export Fondue nowadays and since it’s not something you’ll have often, it’s worth getting the real deal. Really, a rubbery or curdled cheese mess ain’t pretty!

2. Equipment
As Fondue is meant to be eaten slowly over the course of one or even several hours, it comes with its own equipment that consists of either a clay or iron pot called “caquelon” (iron pots heat up faster), a steel rechaud (with oil or burner paste) and of course extra long Fondue forks. Most households around here own their own Fondue sets but maybe you can borrow yours or find alternatives to what essentially comes down to a boiling pot over a fire. Dedicated rechauds come with heat regulators but you can always keep it simple – I rarely use the regulator because we tend to obliterate our Fondue like rabid wolves anyway.

frechaud

Fondue rechaud with adjustable flame and lid

3. Sides
When I say “sides” I am referring to all food that’s being dipped into your Fondue. Traditionally, Fondue is eaten with bread cubes or diced cooked potatoes (popular especially in the French part of Switzerland), as well as less commonly with brussels sprouts or canned pineapple (and other fruits). Bread needs to be crusty: there should be one side of crust to every cube, so getting long, thin (baguette-shaped) bread is ideal. Nothing is as boring as ordinary soft, white bread for Fondue so try to pep it up with nut&seed bread, tomato or olive bread etc. Potatoes are a more light-weight alternative that I personally love, as well as steamed brussels sprouts if I’m feeling more lowcarb.

As far as complementary sides go, Fondue is always served with different pickles (cucumber, onion, baby corn) – the vinegar helping a great deal to cut through some of that heavy cheese. Some people will also serve canned mushrooms as well as chilli or stuffed peppers. No matter what sides you prefer, remember absolutely everything gets dipped in delicious cheese!

Steamed brussels sprouts, bread and pickles

Steamed brussels sprouts, bread and pickles

4. Spices and Ingredients
Only very few things go into traditional Fondue whilst cooking. Regional differences aside, most people will agree that Swiss Fondue is to be prepared with fresh garlic, nutmeg, Fondue spice mix and Kirsch (cherry brandy) or white wine (usually Fendant from the French part of Switzerland). While the alcohol may be optional for some (although it will cook out!), I would be devastated to discover I am out of garlic or nutmeg before cooking Fondue.

The amount is up to taste; as a garlic fan, I usually go with 8 cloves per pot. I press them for stronger flavor but you can also slice the garlic and make people go dive for it later on. If you’re not familiar with nutmeg, rather start using too little than too much or you’ll end up ruining everything.

Ground pepper, Fondue spice, nutmeg, garlic, lemon juice, Kirsch

Ground pepper, Fondue spice, nutmeg, garlic, lemon juice, Kirsch

Other than the basics, I will add a squirt of lemon juice to my Fondue sometimes to take off the edge of the fat. I also like adding a bit of paprika and ground pepper. If your Fondue runs too thin for some reason, Maizena corn starch dissolved in a bit of water will save the day.

5. Drinks
No Fondue is complete without the right drinks which come down to either Fendant (a white wine that is not too sour and very light) or slightly sweetened, warm black tea. This may sound weird but nothing complements Fondue quite as well as a simple Lipton Yellow Label (or more fancy if you prefer) which also helps with digestion later on. Try it, it’s lovely!

What is absolutely not recommended with Fondue are soda pops, sparkly water or anything of the sort as they don’t agree with the cheese.

6. Cooking Your Fondue / Step-by-Step Recipe
Once everything is set up, it’s time to cook that Fondue! I personally measure about 800 grams of Fondue for 3 people (=1 store-bought box of Fondue usually, containing 2 packs of cheese). A reasonably big pot can serve about double that amount of cheese but it’s recommended to have 4-5 people maximum per pot. If you’re planning for a big party with many guests, you’ll need several cooking sets or the hunger games are on.

Break up the cheese mass in your pot with a wooden spoon before heating things up to max temperature. If you’re going for a double serving, start off by filling the pot by half, adding the rest of the cheese slowly over time to avoid clumping. As your Fondue starts melting, stir slowly to avoid any burning on the bottom. When you reach creamier consistency, add nutmeg, spices, garlic and Kirsch (and whatever optionals). Keep stirring for about 10-15 more minutes after that; the cheese should become perfectly creamy and glossy before serving. Perfect Fondue consistency is neither watery nor thick as double cream – it should allow dipping in bread chunks with ease while covering them up nicely when removed. The closest in terms of consistency is probably melted chocolate / ganache.

Make sure the rechaud is set up and burning before you take your pot off the stove and gather everyone around quickly – dinner is served!

Creamy awesomeness

Creamy awesomeness

7. Fondue Tips, Tricks & Traditions

  • The “correct way” of dipping bread and other food in Fondue is by running your fork in a few (usually about three) clockwise circles around the inside of the pot, then twirling several times as it comes out to lose those strands of cheese.
  • As you’re eating away, a crust will form at the bottom of the pot which may be thicker/thinner and more or less burned depending on how fast you eat and how hot the cheese is cooking. Do NOT ever try to break up Fondue crust while there’s still cheese left to eat! A bitter, black crust will ruin the rest of your Fondue if disturbed and there’s no reason to do so. Leave the crust for the end and check if it’s yummie or not. A great crust is coveted among Fondue connaisseurs and colloquially called “the Grandmother” so treat that last bit as a special delicacy.
  • Fondue is often served in several rounds through the course of a night. If you only have one pot for too many people or didn’t quite get enough the first time around, take a break and prepare another serving in a bit!
  • Dedicated Fondue restaurants serve all kinds of different flavor Fondues: Chilli Fondue, Mushroom Fondue, Tomato Fondue, Bacon Fondue or Fondue with a variety of herbs or cream cheeses (often Gorgonzola) added while cooking. So if plain cheese sounds too boring for you, experiment away!
  • If your Fondue gets too watery and just won’t come together, a few spoonfuls of liquified Maizena (corn starch) are your best friend!
  • Do not ever wear warm sweaters or long sleeves that you cannot take off to a Fondue dinner! Trust me.
  • Since Fondue is such a social party dish, there are many traditions that have formed around it. The most common such tradition is this: before anyone is allowed to dig in, the stakes and punishment for losing one’s bread in the pot are agreed upon. Repercussions generally range from public shaming to kisses or more painful rituals in a set progression.
fasterix

Crazy Fondue traditions in “Asterix in Switzerland”

8. Waste not! About Fondue Leftovers
Sometimes you won’t quite finish your Fondue and that’s no problem because it’s still absolutely wonderful the next day. Do not ever throw away leftover Fondue – cover the pot and leave it standing! Break out the hardened Fondue the following day and enjoy it with some bread and meat cuts or alternatively, as a pure treat like I do (all you need is a spoon!). If you still have leftover potatoes or brussels sprouts, heat them up in a pan and cover with last night’s cheese for another round of delicious Fondue goodness! However, don’t consume cheese that’s been standing for longer than a day.

Happy Cooking!

And that’s it, the end of my Fondue knowledge! You have all the tools in your bag now, so I hope your next Fondue night will knock people off their socks! There’s nothing left for me to say other than happy cheese time and En Guete!

Baked Vegetable Enchiladas

Going for more inspiration from my most favorite and well-loved cookbook, Favorite Recipes: Vegetarian, here’s another crowd pleaser that falls firmly under the heading of “Tasty Tex-Mex That’s Mostly Good For You:” Baked Vegetable Enchiladas. Though making the sauce kicks up the difficultly level a little, the results are insanely delicious. (I guess you could use a canned enchilada sauce… I guess.) You might look at the ingredients and think that a vegetable medley in tortillas is hardly filling, but I beg to differ. Once you get everything together with the sauce and the cheese, and chips and salsa, I guarantee that a hearty meal awaits.

So the recipe below differs from the original mainly with the sauce, which called for crushed tomatoes to be mixed with everything and then reduced over high heat. Now maybe it was just my stove-cooking naïveté showing, but I had a repeatedly awful time with the red liquidy mixture popping out all over my white stove as it was boiling on high.  So I altered the recipe to use a thicker, canned tomato sauce (no seasonings, just tomatoes) that could be slow cooked over low heat.  Yes, it took longer to cook, but making it proved much less messy, plus it tasted wonderful in the end, so win-win. This sauce can be made well in advance and keeps in the fridge for about a week.  If you want to make the enchiladas all in one day, plan to cook the sauce for at least an hour beforehand.

Note that you can change up the veggies depending on what you have, keeping in mind that you’ll probably want to stick with things that won’t compete with the enchilada sauce. Squash and green beans, for example work well, but things like broccoli and kale don’t. (Too pungent.) Additionally, you can easily add cooked chicken, pork, or beef to the mix. Just work it up like you would for tacos and roll it up with the vegetables.

I can get eight enchiladas out of this meal, which serves four.  If you end up with leftovers, they keep well in the fridge and can be easily reheated.

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Baked Vegetable Enchiladas

Enchilada sauce

1 28 oz. can of tomato sauce
1 1/3 cups vegetable broth
2 small red or green chili peppers/jalapenos, diced, seeds removed (or not if you like)
2 shallots, diced
1 T chili powder
1-2 T sugar
1 t salt

Instructions

Place all ingredients into a large pot and stir well.  Bring to a boil then reduced to low.  Simmer, partially covered, for about an hour or until the sauce has reduced by about 1/3rd. Be sure to taste check as the sauce cooks to adjust sugar and salt levels.  The sauce should be sweet and tangy, but not overly salty or spicy, by the time it’s done.

Vegetables

2 T olive oil
2 leeks, each sliced in half lengthwise, and then thinly sliced crosswise
1 cup chopped onion
3-5 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup bell peppers (any colors)
1-2 carrots, chopped
½ cup fresh or frozen corn
8 oz. chopped spinach, cooked and drained, or frozen, thawed, and drained
½  cup fresh or frozen peas
1 cup black beans
1 T cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

You’ll also need:

6-8 flour tortillas
1 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, monterey jack, pepper jack, etc.)

Instructions

(Veggies can be prepared in advanced and kept in the fridge for a few hours before cooking enchiladas)

  • Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  • In a large sauce pan, heat oil over medium and sauté leeks, onion, and garlic for a minute or two, until you can just smell the garlic begin to cook.
  • Add peppers, carrots, and corn, and sauté for 7-10 minutes – carrots should be relatively soft.
  • Add in spinach and stir well.
  • Stir in peas, beans, cumin, salt, pepper, and cook for another few minutes until everything is well incorporated together.
  • Spray or coat bottom and sides of an 8 x 8, 9 x 9, or 8 x 11 (inches) baking dish
  • Place a few tablespoons of filling in each tortilla and roll.  Pack rolled tortillas tightly into baking dish.
  • Cover tortillas with a generous amount of sauce.  You may or may not use all from batch depending on the number of tortillas used.
  • Sprinkle cheese over and bake in oven for about 20 minutes or until cheese is browned and bubbly.
  • Remove and cool for at least 10-15 minutes before serving.

Serve with chips, salsa, and/or guacamole.


Let’s see just how many blogs Cary can put on her roster before going mad! While you’ll find her here on occasion, you’ll more likely to catch her over on United We Game or Geek Force Network; or better yet, working on her own blog about gaming and nostalgia and such, Recollections of Play.

Recipe: Oven Roasted Veggies with Feta

I love colorful food that’s easy and quick to make. Veggies are an integral part of every healthy diet and yet veggie dishes are often considered heavy maintenance due to prepwork or amount of waste. So, here’s one of my favorite recipes for lazy people that’s also super flexible (you can pick almost any vegetable you like) and takes no more than 10mins of prepwork! There are no exact measurements for this recipe since the amount of vegetables is determined by the size of your baking sheet and number of people to serve.

veggieround

Some of my favorite veggies and feta cheese.

~ Ingredients ~
(serves 2-3 people for a main dish or 4-5 people as side)

  • 2 Red tomatoes
  • 2 Zucchini
  • 2 Medium-sized leeks
  • 15 Spring / baby potatoes
  • Feta cheese
  • Olive oil extra vergine
  • Rosemary and herbal salt
  • (Optional: diced bacon)

Preheat the oven at 220°C and start chopping your different vegetables. Cut the baby potatoes into even halves, bigger ones may be quartered. Make sure you’re not cutting other vegetables that contain more water, such as zuchchini / tomatoes / leek too thin, or they will dry out before the potatoes are done.

veggiecuts

Spread all vegetable slices on your baking sheet (covered with baking paper) and coat with a generous amount of olive oil. Add rosemary and any flavor of herbal salt you prefer – I tend to either go with italian or provençale flavors. Use your bare hands to mix and “massage” the oil and herbs onto all your veggies.

veggiemix

Spread the vegetables evenly, making use of the entire size of your pan. Finally, sprinkle feta cheese to taste over everything and put in the pre-heated oven for approx. 25-30 minutes at 220°C. This dish is basically done whenever your potatoes are.

veggiesdone

It’s omnom time!

Serves as a main vegetarian dish or side to any protein. I tend to go for a plate of purely veggies, sometimes with added bacon, and a spoonful of yoghurt or cottage cheese on top. Bon apétit!

Recipe: Seared Halloumi Cheese on Watermelon

Halloumi is a very salty cheese from Cyprus / Greece that can be bought in specialty stores or larger supermarkets. Unlike other cheese, Halloumi remains firm when grilled or pan-seared, with a crispy outside and creamy center. In combination with fresh watermelon, the saltyness of the rich cheese is a flavor sensation, making for a delicious and light summer dish that takes no more than 10 minutes to prep and serve.

halloumi01

~ Ingredients ~
(serves two people for a main dish or four people as starter)

  •  1/4 of a small watermelon (cooled)
  • 200-250 grams Halloumi cheese
  • Fresh mint (ca. 10 leafs)
  • Olive oil

Get a quarter of a small watermelon cooled from the fridge. Slice into  6-8 triangle shaped pieces and arrange on your plates.

Cut the Halloumi cheese into medium thick slices, the way you would slice mozarrella cheese. Pan-sear in your best oilve oil for approx. 5 minutes, until both sides got a crispy, golden crust. The cheese is quick to overcook and get rubbery, so make sure it does not sear beyond a light, golden color(!)

Arrange the seared Halloumi on each of your watermelon slices. Quickly throw the fresh mint leafs into the still hot and oily pan. Stir for no more than 1 minute, so the leafs can curl up and get crispy. Sprinkle the mint and remaining olive oil over the melon and cheese. Serve immediately while the Halloumi is still hot.

Enjoy! ~ Kalí óreksi!

haloumi02

It’s the color in the middle you want to aim for.

Syl writes over @ mmogypsy.com – a blog about video game design, MMOs, RPGs and high adventure. She also co-hosts the Battle Bards VGMusic podcast and can be contacted via twitter @Gypsy_syl.

Roasted vegetables with pasta

veggies

Greetings all! I don’t want to bore everyone with a long introduction, because this is the Internet and you can easily find links and such, but suffice to say I’m thrilled to be here and am looking forward to sharing my recipes and reading those of my fellow gamers.

‘Nuff said. Let’s get cooking!

*****

I’m starting off here with one of my staple meals — roasted vegetables with pasta. It’s a great any time of the year, and especially any time when you have a surplus of fresh veggies. It can be made as the main dish, a side, and is great leftover (cold or warm). I prefer the mixture of tomatoes, corn, onion, and asparagus, but I’ve also made it with string beans, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, carrots, and other add-ins. If a vegetable can be roasted, then it’ll be perfect here!

Ingredients
(Serves 2-3 people as a main dish; you can adjust accordingly)

  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes (or 2-3 large tomatoes, chopped)
  • 1 cup corn, fresh or frozen, or canned but drain first
  • 1 medium-sized onion, chopped
  • 10-12 asparagus spears, chopped (and be sure to remove the woody ends)
  • 3-4 whole garlic cloves
  • (Other veggies of your choosing, chopped into bite-sized pieces)
  • Pasta of your choice.  Large shapes, like egg noodles (my fav), bow ties, or shells work well.
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded
  • Salt and pepper

You’ll also need a medium to large pan on which to put everything — a cookie sheet, roasting pan, 13 x 9 baking dish, etc. — to which liberally apply a cooking spray of your choosing.

Should you wish to add meat, roast chicken or pork work well. I’ll often cook a piece of chicken (simply seasoned with salt, garlic powder, and pepper) in the oven along with the veggies, then shred and mix it in with the appropriate serving.

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees

2. Place all the veggies and garlic cloves on the pan/dish, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for about 20 minutes. (My gauge for doneness is when the tomatoes start to pop open.) Remove from oven once done.

3. Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling, salted water.  Drain thoroughly but do not rinse.

4. In same pot as you cooked the pasta, melt a few tabs of butter over medium-low heat and add in a few splashes of olive oil.

5. Once this mixture is warm, add in all the veggies except for the garlic cloves.  Mash garlic cloves separately (in a press or on a board), then add and mix.  Gently stir in the pasta and mix in a decent handful of parmesan cheese.  (Add chicken, if using.)  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with warm garlic bread.


Let’s see just how many blogs Cary can put on her roster before going mad! While you’ll find her here on occasion, you’ll more likely to catch her over on United We Game or Geek Force Network; or better yet, working on her own blog about gaming and nostalgia and such, Recollections of Play.

Recipe: Spring Strawberry Avocado Salad

Summer brings all kinds of produce here  in North America, and that means it’s time for my favorite salad ever. It takes a bit of elbow grease to prepare, but on the upside you never have to turn on your stove and it’s a great one-bowl dinner for raid nights.

Spring Strawberry Avocado Salad
Serves 1 as a meal, 2 as a side

20140406 153740 1 415x500 Recipe Corner: Spring Strawberry Avocado Salad

Ingredients
1 pint of strawberries
1 Haas avocado (on the firm end of ripeness)
1/4 of a red onion
2-4 hot peppers (I use fresno peppers)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons of sugar
a sprinkling of salt
an optional sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes if you like SPICY

Preparation

Chop everything! I usually do the strawberries in large bite sizes and everything else in equal smaller size.

Juice the lime over the chopped stuff. Add the sugar and salt and stir it all together.

That’s it! Let it sit in the fridge for at least 10 minutes before serving so the flavors have a chance to mingle. Stir again before serving.

This salad is amazing with seafood like salmon or prawns, or pork cutlets.


Jessica, aka Liore, can usually be found griping about video games on her blog and podcast at Herding Cats, or on Twitter. She likes saying “flavor profile” and going light on the carbs, and dislikes measuring things. Jessica is currently obsessed with Korean cuisine.