Monday, March 28, 2011

Wheatberry Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

I hate to post another salad recipe with it still being in the negatives outside and it not feeling like spring or summer at all, but I am really excited to share this one. It is the dressing which is the exciting part, really. I went to a Birthday party on the weekend and was bringing along a side dish. I decided to make a wheatberry salad and wanted to have a dressing that resembled pesto, or had a lot of basil in it. After a failed attempt of making my own pesto based dressing, I found a recipe on Farm Fresh Living, a website I hadn't come across until recently. With the success of this salad dressing recipe, I may just have to try out more of their recipes.

Wheatberry Salad with Basil Vinaigrette
serves 8-10 as a side

4 cups cooked wheatberries
1 cup thawed edamame
1 can no salt added corn
2 cups fresh chopped spinach
feta cheese, crumbled (I used about half of purchased container - use as much or as little as you'd like)

Dressing (makes double what you need): slightly adapted from Farm Fresh Living
1/2 large shallot finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
juice from 1 fresh lemon
1/2 large tomato, diced
6 tsp dried basil
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. Combine all the salad ingredients into a large bowl.
2. Combine all dressing ingredients except olive oil into a food processor (or magic bullet like I did) and blend.
3. Add olive oil as a stream while processing (or add in 2 batches in the magic bullet).
4. Mix half of the dressing just before serving, add crumbled feta, and mix in.

I loved the salad and I THINK it may have won over even the toughest critics at the party. The guests at the party ranged from 'foodie' to 'open-minded' to 'an animal must die at every meal' to 'what is a vegetable?'. So while it was pretty brave for me bringing a wheatberry salad to this party, I am glad I did.

I REALLY liked this dressing. I sort of doubled the recipe that I had found, so I had a lot of extra dressing in the end. I am sure glad I did though because I used it in an amazing salad that I made for lunch today. The salad was spinach based, with some toppings: 1/2 cup wheatberries, 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds, 1 green onion chopped, crumbled feta. The dressing was wonderful on this salad. I am usually a 'make a bit of dressing as you need it directly onto the salad' kinda girl, but this recipe has converted me. I can now see myself making up some of this dressing to use throughout the week in the near future.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Roasted Garlic and Greenhouse Vegetables

Tonight I roasted some garlic in preparation for my dinner tomorrow night. My housemate roasted garlic a few weeks ago and I tried a clove. It is delicious. If you have never done this or heard of doing this before, check out this video by Dani Spies, where she originally got the idea. One tip I was given was not to eat the whole garlic bulb in one sitting, as you will emanate garlic from places you didn't know garlic could emanate from.

On that note, I added a couple cloves to my salad for dinner this evening. Note: 2 only. Now, I normally veer from salad in the winter months (or when it is spring and snow is still in the forecast) becuase A) I am not in the mood for it, and B) most of my favourite salad ingredients are not as fresh and for the most part, not grown close to home. However, today while at the farmer's market, I found some Ontario greenhouse cucumber, tomato and bell pepper. I think I am a fan of this method of growing food. While very energy intensive, I like to think that it is better for the environment than importing these foods from the USA, Mexico, or Chile. Check out this link for more information on how the produce is grown.

With these vegetables in hand I had a fresh salad in mind. To add some protein I decided to throw in some lentils, and I would have added goat's milk cheese too if my last little bit hadn't gone bad :(

Greenhouse Vegetable Salad

1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 cup chopped cucumber
1/2 green bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup cooked lentils

2 roasted garlic cloves, mashed
1/2 tbsp olive oil
red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

For this salad I encountered a couple problems with putting it all together.
1) I had larger chunks of veggies and I think chopping them finer would have been easier to eat with the lentils.
2) I usually make salad dressing myself, directly into the salad, mostly eyeballing it. However, I think I would have gotten the most out of the garlic had I shaken it up with the dressing outside of the salad, being sure to break up the garlic, and then dress the salad.
So keep these points in mind if you decide to make yourself this salad.

All-in-all it was a refreshing change from my recent hot meals. The tomatoes, bell pepper and cucumber, tasted no different than what you find at your grocery store currently (read: tasted okay). I got a bit of a taste for summer, and I cannot wait to get my hands on some backyard tomatoes.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Clam and Pesto Spaghetti with Peas and Shallots

Spring is finally starting to arrive! In my mind it is anyway. There is no snow in the 7 day forecast, and the highs are all above 5 degrees. This makes me very happy. Regardless of the weather, I can feel the winter gloominess lifting, and that is all that matters really.

I have mentioned before how much I love clam pasta. It is so simple when you use canned baby clams and is a great source of protein. I wanted to use up some leftover pesto from when I made this, and thought that pesto + pasta + clams would be a great combination. I added some peas to get in some vegetables. The resulting sauce, or shall I say green mush, turned out better than expected considering the appearance. I have been thinking about this recipe for well over a week so I was very excited to finally put it all together.

Clam and Pesto Spaghetti with Peas and Shallots

Serves 3

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large shallot
2 cloves of garlic
sprinkle of red chili flakes (whatever you can handle)
3/4 can peas (if you have fresh or frozen...use them instead)
1 can baby clams, drained
~1/4 cup pesto (depends on your taste really...)
spaghetti, cooked

1. Heat olive oil in pan on medium-high heat.
2. Saute shallot for 1 minute and add garlic. Heat until fragrant. Add chili flakes.
3. Reduce heat to medium and add peas and clams. Once warm, add pesto and stir to combine.
4. Remove from heat.
5. Top spaghetti with pesto and clam mixture.

This meal was really quick to put together. If I were to do it again (and I probably will), I wouldn't use spaghetti. I would use rotini or farfalle (bowtie) or even cheese tortellini. The chunky "sauce" does not really mix well with the long noodles and I ended up cutting up my spaghetti like a 6 year old. I would also top it with some fresh Parmesan cheese if I had it. Finally, as noted in the ingredient list, I would use fresh or frozen peas over canned peas if I had them (canned peas up the mushy factor). Now, if clams or canned seafood are not your thing, then by all means substitute chicken, small cubes of tofu, or even lentils. However, it won't make the dish look any better I suspect. While tasty, this might not be a meal you serve your friends unless you show a track record of good cooking and they trust that you are not trying to serve them baby food.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mushroom, Tomato, and Chickpea Barley Risotto

Some food for thought: The USA wastes 40% of all food produced in a year. I am guessing the picture isn't much better in Canada. About half of this can be attributed to household waste. In today's world we have an obesity epidemic and massive food waste on one side of the planet and an undernourished population with food scarcity on the other side. Although reducing our food waste won't immediately solve the world's food problems, it will at least save us some money.

Being the food safety freak that I am, I no doubt waste a lot of food. I won't leave leftovers in the fridge for more than a few days and if I forget to freeze it, there it goes into the green bin. I like to be on the safe side. This goes for produce as well. Sometimes I don't use up all the fresh vegetables I have bought before they wilt away. In the spirit of Lent and self-improvement I think I will try and consciously waste less food. This recipe is an example of an attempt to waste-not. I had celery from last week that was wilted, not fit for direct consumption, but would work beautifully cooked up. The mushrooms were getting to the end of their life-time as well. So instead of making the clam pasta that I have been dying to make all week, I made this barley "risotto" inspired by an Oh She Glows recipe, and my withering vegetables.

Mushroom, Tomato, and Chickpea Barley Risotto

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small stalk of celery, chopped finely
13 white mushrooms, chopped
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp oregnao
1 cup pot barley
2 3/4 cup tomato soup (I used Imagine's Creamy Garden Tomato Soup)
3/4 cup water*
1 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas

1. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add celery an saute for 3 minutes.
2. Add mushrooms, basil and oregano and cook until mushrooms begin to soften (about 3-5 min).
3. Add barley and stir for 3 minutes until hot.
4. Add soup, water and chickpeas and bring to a boil.
5. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Allow to simmer for about 30-40 minutes, until barley is cooked.

* Depending on the thickness of the soup you use, you may need to add more water.

This is such a quick way to get a "risotto" type dish. It was very flavourful due to the fantastic soup that I used. If your soup or broth is less flavourful, pump up the seasoning. Cumin or tumeric would would wonderfully instead of basil and oregano. This was a great dish to have for dinner with the current weather: cold and rainy. I look forward to coming home to these leftovers tomorrow. I'll be sure to freeze or eat any leftovers before they get a little sketchy...

Anyone have any good tips to avoid food waste?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Shrove/Fat/Pancake Tuesday

Shrove Tuesday, also known as fat Tuesday or pancake Tuesday has came out of nowhere for me ever since I went off to school and no longer live at home. Every year my Dad usually made us pancakes for breakfast, always to my Mom's dismay as that was her (now ruined) idea for dinner. Traditionally this day exists to have one more glutonous day, using up fat, dairy and sugar before Lent begins, where one is not supposed to receive pleasure from food. As a kid and teenager I always gave up chocolate and chips (my two vices) for lent. I have not given up anything for Lent in a while but as spring (and summer) nears I tend to try and eat a bit better anyway. I will still be celebrating pancake Tuesday, but thanks to this recipe, not fat Tuesday.

This pancake recipe is adapted from my go to recipe for Healthy Spelt Pancakes for One from Oh She Glows, and is not an overly sweet or rich pancake. The recipe is so simple, versatile, and nutritious. I also happened upon an article from the Globe and Mail that was rather timely. It suggested to whip egg whites to achieve fluffiness instead of using baking soda. I usually add an egg to the OSG recipe so I thought I would try this egg whipping idea a try.

Raspberry Spelt Pancakes adapted from Oh She Glows

1/2 cup spelt flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup soy milk (any milk really)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup frozen raspberries, defrosted
1 egg

1. Wisk together spelt flour, cinnamon, and baking powder.
2. Beat egg with electric mixer until foamy (~ 1 min).
3. Mix together milk and vanilla. Add to dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Add raspberries and mix in.
4. Fold in egg until combined.***
5. Ladle onto hot greased pan. Flip once bubbles no longer close when popped.

Makes: 4-5 pancakes.

*** Ok, so here is the deal. The whipped egg ended up thinning out the batter tremendously, which means I had to add some more flour (~1/8 to 1/4 cup) at this point. I do not recommend whipping the egg for this recipe, and just mixing it in with the wet ingredients.

The pancakes were very thin and did not have much fluff. Maybe the tip on Globe and Mail only works with your standard pancake recipe. This is not your standard pancake. I think I will stick to my usual method. Since these are not overly rich, I suggest you be creative with the toppings.

Topping Ideas:
1 small banana, sliced
1 frozen banana, processed into banana soft serve
maple syrup
peanut butter

I topped mine with banana soft serve and peanut butter. 

Since they were so thin I bet this would make a great crepe batter recipe. I have never looked into how crepe batter is made so this is really just a guess.

While I didn't celebrate fat Tuesday with this recipe, the gigantic cinnamon buns that my professor brought to class today surely made it a traditional fat Tuesday. On that note, you may not see any cookies, cakes or treats on the blog for the next..oh...40 days. You will see a new pasta recipe coming up in the next couple days though.

I hope everyone enjoyed some pancakes today!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Banana Walnut Oatmeal

I start five out of seven days of the week (on average) with a bowl of Vegan Overnight Oats, which I initially discovered on Oh She Glows. As much as I love this breakfast, I like to change it up sometimes too, particularly on the weekend. I came across this Banana Pecan Oatmeal Brulee recipe on Pinch my Salt a couple days ago, and thought it would be the perfect recipe to try this weekend. I made some slight changes to the recipe based on what I had on hand.

Banana Walnut Oatmeal adapted from Pinch my Salt

1/2 cup quick oats
1/2 cup Bob's Red Mill 7 Grain Hot Cereal
2 cups water
1/4 cup soy milk
1 tbsp ground flax seed
1 banana
Sucanat or brown sugar
walnut pieces

1. Put quick oats, hot cereal and water in a microwave/oven safe dish and heat on high for 3-4 minutes*, until desired consistency is reached.
2. Mix in ground flax seed and soy milk.
3. Slice banana and place on top of oatmeal. Sprinkle with sucanat or brown sugar.
4. Place under preheated broiler for 5ish minutes to melt sugar.
5. Sprinkle with walnuts.

* Alternatively you can make an equivalent quantity of any kind of oats/hot cereal on the stove stop, such as steel cut or scottish oats.

This was a nice treat yesterday morning, being so rainy outside. I liked the combination of the oats with the 7 grain cereal, something I have not done before. Even the leftovers were good this morning, when instead of rain, I awoke to snow... Not really jelling with my spring fever.

I came across an interesting article the other day as well, so I would like to share it with you.

It may be scary for some who have been told their whole lives that "fat is bad!", but it is becoming increasingly evident that saturated fat is not the problem with our diets. I was first introduced to the saturated fat myth by Michael Pollan when I read his book In Defense of Food. This article was brought to my attention on twitter and I think it is a good read, especially if this is news to you:

This doesn't mean go out and start deep frying all your foods. What it means is that be weary of 'low fat' convenience foods. What is taking the place of the fat? Most likely sugar, which we are now learning is our immortal enemy. I think the worst culprit I have seen for this type of advertising is any Special K product. While the fat debate will mostly go on far past our lifetime, there is one thing we can be sure of: there is no debate on trans fat, it is most definitely very bad for us.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Heather's Quinoa and Wheatberries

I have a bit of spring fever. Yes, I know, I know, it's only March 3nd, and it's below zero. Regardless, I am itching for spring, and Heather's Quinoa by Heidi Swanson has contributed a bit to my spring like temperament. It all started last year in April when was on a kick. I made Heidi's recipes all the time. It was exam time, I had just cleaned the entire house, it was a beautiful day, and I picked up some fresh pesto from a natural food store in uptown Waterloo, a store that I dearly miss. I bought the pesto to specifically use in this recipe. It was my first experience with fresh pesto, and boy was it memorable. I thought I didn't like pesto; turns out I was wrong.

To this day the thought of this dish, and particularly the combination of corn and basil brings me to that pleasant spring day when I was very, very happy in that simple moment. I had made some modifications to the recipe a year ago, and I have done it again today. The reason this time being that I have been dying to try wheatberries. I had purchased them over the Holidays and have been waiting for the perfect recipe to use them in. So in this case, instead of 3 cups of Quinoa, I used 1 cup cooked wheatberries, and 1.5 cups cooked quinoa.

You can find the recipe here and I highly recommend that you make this recipe soon. It is easy to make, quick, full of flavour and is easily modified. One note I do have however is that the quality of pesto makes all the difference. Last year, I used a fresh vegan pesto that was purchased in the refrigerated section and was in a container, not a jar (therefore not heated). I couldn't find fresh pesto at my local grocery store, and since it is the winter I do not have an excess of fresh basil to make it myself. I was not overly impressed with the jar I ended up buying. It looked good on the label (fresh basil was 1st ingredient, and didn't have anything I would not have added myself) but it just didn't suit my tastes. This pesto had Parmesan cheese in it and maybe that is what made the difference. Morale of the story: make your own fresh pesto or use a brand that you love the flavour of becuase it will make all the difference. And if you can avoid jarred pesto, then avoid it.

In other news, I have joined the twitter world. You can follow me at @ddidonat

Anyone else suffering from or experiencing premature spring fever?