Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bread and Butter Pickles

I may have mentioned before that I have been searching the Earth high and low for some pickling cucumbers. Even more organically inclined or specialty-ish grocery stores have been seriously letting me down in this realm. But I guess now I have one more reason to appreciate the farmers market because they have answered my prayers and now with cucumbers in hand I embark on a mythical quest to make a mighty fine pickle. I tend to love all pickles of all different vegetables but for these I really wanted to make the slightly sweet, perfect with cheese and crackers bread and butter pickle which has always been so near and dear to my heart. Just as a warning, there is no canning going on here, I just made them in an airtight jar so they will keep for about 3 weeks in the fridge.

Also, an added incentive arose! Earlier in the summer when I was telling my mom about my journey to make my own pickle and asking her if she had seen them in any stores I cleverly got her to promise to try one if I made them. She is on a crazy restrictive diet (crazy but highly highly effective) and so she has not been allowed to try anything I've made since the inception of this blog. Two months ago though, I garnered the promise and I made her eat one of my pickles darn it! She liked it but I wouldn't take that too seriously because she hasn't eaten anything really awesome for a while now. The rest of my family who have eaten real food recently though (myself included) also thought these were pretty tasty.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Beet Hummus

So that same problem I have with eggplant transfers over to beets. I really want to like them but have never found a way to. From everyone I have talked to about beets I've only heard that they taste like dirt or they are in love! Though during pregnancy especially, some women crave dirt or clay (Truth!) so maybe that could explain their appeal. I think that nature was cruel to the beet in making it so vibrant and lovely to look at yet so generally distasteful. That all being said about how much I dislike them, I think I have found a solution that even the illustrious Dwight Schrute would be proud of. It's the same basic formula as the lasagna where you take something you know and love but combine with a foreign flavor. This recipe marries the unlikely players beet and hummus. I was instantly won over by the unconventional color of this but continued to love it well after just looking at it. Personally, I am a fan of tahini but some people find that as distasteful as a beet and if that is the case than this recipe probably isn't for you. Also, apparently tahini here only comes in a bucket so don't be surprised if there are more recipes featuring it soon.

I treated this just like regular hummus and served with pita chips and vegetables. My favorite was bringing a little tupperware full of the hummus to school and eating it with some celery sticks. O. I'm back to school now which is seriously debilitating my cooking time. Luckily this recipe is less than labor intensive.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Every-Vegetable-My-Boyfriend-Hates Lasagna

I have this problem with eggplant. Really I want to love it and it seems that every time I go into a grocery store I feel tempted by it so I buy it and then I get home, come down off my produce high and remember that I really dislike eggplant. That being said, I really like lasagna and I think it disguises things I don't like really well. So while I'm disguising things, I might as well just go all out and throw in some other things that won't get eaten in this apartment. I think that it turned out really well. Surprisingly well for my first attempt at lasagna (the making of lasagna was always reserved for my mom and I'll admit I called her a couple of times when deciding how this should go). I made it in an 8x8 pan since there are only two of us but the recipe could easily be doubled and put into a 9x13 dish. The eggplant became very tender and retained an eggplant-y flavor without repulsing me. As for the other components, I have always loved pasta, ricotta, spinach and zucchini and I still loved them all together.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Sushi Time!

I think there are few foods as intimidating as sushi-- pristine rolls of vegetables and raw fish seem very beyond the skill level of the average home cook. Lucky for the vegetarian though, the raw fish is already eliminated as a potential problem. I will admit that even if I ate meat, raw preparations would certainly frighten me. In the meantime I am still going about 8 years strong as a vegetarian so sushi is an excellent not terrifying meal. Just know that in the recipe to follow, I'm not claiming to be a Morimoto or even close really. Sushi can be so scary because so many people are absolute experts at it and sometimes the sushi served at restaurants is on the same level as an art form. They include intricate designs with unique and well planned patterns. I have heard that some of the best sushi chefs in the world think it's an insult to dip the sushi in anything. Sushi is really just pretty amazing to me.

So while not a sushi expert, I still produce a mean meal with some soy sauce and some wasabi.Shockingly enough too, the only additional equipment needed is a bamboo mat to roll the sushi in, everything else is just optional. The first time I made this, I just happened to have a bamboo mat on accident because I thought they were neat... It was during my Asian decoration phase that I never really got out of. The ingredients are not things that many people have in their kitchen but nori and sushi rice really aren't difficult to find in a run of the mill supermarket. No need even for a specialty store.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cake Truffles

I was snooping around the depths of the internet when I came along some cake truffles for sale for nearly twenty dollars for a dozen tiny balls of cake covered in chocolate. I decided to snoop further into this topic because how they were made completely eluded me. They must be really difficult too because of how expensive all of the ones I saw were. Were the balls of cake baked in that shape? how is the cake formed in that shape and so moist? Well it turns out I was right about the labor intensive part of my theory. However my other theories regarding the shape were grossly off... Essentially, it is a baked cake mixed with frosting to become malleable and moist. The people selling these delicious snacks by the dozen are (I assume and hope) baking their own cake from scratch and then combining it with frosting also made from scratch. Suddenly the price makes sense. I found this recipe which is much less involved. It is still quite a process though. The end result, though coming from the humble beginnings of a cake mix and store-bought frosting, is fabulous. They look amazing and professional and taste even better. They are super sweet though so 1 or 2 is the limit every time. The cake inside is so moist even after all it has been through. I was surprised and they stay this good for a while because they keep in the fridge very well. Which is necessary because the recipe yielded about 60 truffles for me.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sweet potato and black bean burritos

I've made myself a new friend in these burritos. They are really amazing and it should be no secret that I'm obsessed with black beans. I hear tell they are good for me too which only adds fuel to my fire. I was mostly inspired by a recipe in the low fat moosewood cookbook that I got at a garage sale for a dollar. I love garage sales and don't know that I could ever pay full price for a cookbook. In fact, looking at my cookbooks right now, none of them were full priced. Anyway, back to the task at hand. I added cheese on top because that sounded good but without cheese the burritos would be vegan. The pictures also include the yellow rice I made on the side (to de-healthy the dish a bit naturally). The flavor is really unlike any other burrito I've ever had before but it was just spicy enough with a little bit of salsa on top. Cilantro and lemon juice mixed in with the black beans add another appreciated dose of flavor to the mix. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Samoas Bars

I'm not too proud of the way these turned out. I know. They're ugly. What can I say? I was in a hurry. That being said though, they really are delicious and surprisingly true to the flavors of a real girlscout samoa. And truly with girlscout cookie prices rising every year these prove to be a good alternative. Now if only I could get the samoa look down. Instead I will just say that I desperately needed to go to the auto parts store and had a ride ready so my cooking took the back seat so to speak. The bars are just a buttery shortbread topped with a caramel-coconut mixture and then drizzled in sweet sweet chocolate. I thought that I could handle them in the short amount of time I had but I was very wrong. The times in the recipe are deceiving because the bars desperately need to cool in between every step. I was a little rushed. That's why they don't look so appetizing. Taste though? Amazing!

Also have I ever mentioned how much I love bar desserts? Love them! I'm completely obsessed in fact.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Vegetarian Reubens

One of my favorite things is turning a very meaty meal into something equally good and vegetarian. In fact in the case of the reuben, I would only ever eat it vegetarian. Corned beef and I never got along. When I ate meat I also didn't like burgers but I absolutely love veggie burgers. I also didn't really like mushrooms when I ate meat but without meat I can really appreciate the heartiness of mushrooms and in fact I've been known to claim that if I was to exist on one food alone, it would be mushrooms. I've also been known to talk about mycology for extensive periods of time. Back to the Reubens though. I made them as traditional as I could without any meat. I got some great rye bread, sauerkraut, swiss cheese, a homemade Russian dressing, onions and of course the wonderful portobello mushroom.The end result is rich and gooey and kind of tangy. It's excellent.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Orange French Toast

Well I had a friend over for breakfast the other day and he was kind of in a hurry so I needed something I could prepare in advance and would hopefully be pretty impressive. Yes I'm petty like that. I make french toast a lot since I am so blessed to live so close to a whole foods which makes excellent rustic baguettes that are absolutely perfect for french toast. My brother went through a phase where he would make himself french toast every single morning with just the plain white bread we kept in the house that came in a plastic bag. On second thought, maybe I should have saved this recipe for if he ever comes to see me. I've had the french toast from Village inn too which also uses kind of a plainer bread. Trust me though, using a crusty baguette is ultimately the best way to go. I also wanted to make this one kind of special so I decided on a sort of citrus theme with orange zest and juice in the batter which soaks into the bread and really infuses the flavor. It's a super easy recipe and as I said, can be prepared well in advance. Just let the bread soak up the batter and whenever you're ready to serve it, a quick fry in a pan is all it needs.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Black Bean Tacos

 I make these tacos more often than I should because they are so easy and the result is really fantastic. I found the recipe while looking for a taco with some sort of slaw on top a while ago. I don't know why but I just really wanted a vegetarian taco with slaw on top. It sounded good and thank god I'm so peculiar because I found these great tacos. They use soft tortillas but they get sauteed in a bit of olive oil until they are crunchy and golden brown on the outside. Feta may seem at first like a strange choice for a taco but it is salty and delicious. Who knew Latin and Mediterranean food would get along so well? There is such an easy slaw that goes on top and after constantly being assaulted by coleslaw in a restaurant coated with mayonnaise, one using only lime, cilantro and olive oil is so refreshing. It's perfect for summer too. O, and if you were wondering, I used the rest of the slaw I used on my portobello mushroom sandwiches. So if you're planning your menu for the week these two would be easy to make in the same week.