Grilling…

grill with fire

Lit grill (from Wikipedia commons)

There’s nothing quite like grilling out, and one recipe that has turned asparagus-haters into asparagus-lovers in my family is grilled balsamic asparagus.  There are quite a few tasty yet simple variations available online.  Mine is as follows; amounts are determined by the amount of the veggie you are making.  The coriander provides a citrus-y zing that goes well with the balsamic.

This recipe is easy to make in a skillet/wok, though flame grilling provides a better flavor, IMHO.

To prepare the spears, it’s not required to trim them with a knife or peel them.  You can snap the spear in two towards the bottom (the more fibrous part will separate from the more tender part naturally).

 

Grilled Balsamic Asparagus

Bunch(es) of fresh asparagus spears

Olive or vegetable oil

Balsamic vinegar

Salt

Pepper

Coriander (crush the seeds with a mortar and pestle or use powdered coriander)

 

Rinse and prepare asparagus (as noted above).  Put all ingredients into a sealable plastic bag and set in a baking pan (in case the bag leaks).  Refrigerate and marinate for at least 1 hour, mixing at least once or twice, so all spears sit in the mixture/are coated well.  Grill until the spears are cooked to desired doneness, rotating as needed.  (I prefer to cook them until darker green, but not so much that they are mushy.)  Serve hot.

Enjoy!

(And watch for grill flare-ups due to the oil; make sure to grill safe!)

 

 

Vegan/Vegetarian Pulled ‘Pork’ (Spaghetti Squash)

We had some remaining spaghetti squash from this year’s growing season, (it’s December, and they keep really well!) and had just had the classic spaghetti-squash-with-spaghetti-sauce iteration recently, so we wanted something different (and simple!)

I stumbled across the original recipe idea: http://greatist.com/eat/recipes/barbecue-spaghetti-squash-pulled-pork-tacos, but wanted something even simpler than that.  A crock pot beckoned.

 

 

Ingredients:

1 or 2 spaghetti squash (depending on size, may need more if smaller squash)

Coconut Oil

Cumin

 

BBQ Sauce (I used a bottle of Sweet Baby Ray’s: http://www.sweetbabyrays.com/ but use whichever you like, or make your own)

1 large onion

2 cloves garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Cut squash length-wise and remove seeds. Remove the stem end. (You can make and snack on roasted squash* seeds** while you are waiting for this to cook!)   Put aluminum foil in a baking pan large enough for squash (use a pan with sides). Rub coconut oil on cut sides and in center of squash halves.   Sprinkle cumin over all and put cut side facing down, onto aluminum foil. Bake halves at 350 for at least 45 minutes, until squash is tender- check with a fork. (It should string out like spaghetti from shell.) More baking time may be needed; it will depend on the size of the squash.

 

Put 2 cups of water in crock pot. Mince onions and garlic and add to crock pot. Add half of squash to crock pot and top with BBQ sauce. Add remaining squash and top with more BBQ sauce. Follow crock pot directions (can be on low or high setting).   Stir halfway through cooking time.   Add more BBQ sauce to taste. Let cook with crock pot cover off for a little if mixture is too watery. Serve on rolls/buns.

recipe in crock pot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crock-potting it up!

 

 

 

recipe plated with rolls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post-crock.

 

Feedback:  The cumin gave the squash a nice deep flavor, and the BBQ simmered down to be very rich and robust. We would definitely make this again.  We froze some for later use.

Some family members said they liked this better than actual pulled pork because it was not fatty.

The squash (not altogether unexpected) was maybe lighter than my hardwired-for-pulled-pork brain was expecting.  Next time, I may add a few lentils to cook in the crock pot with the mix to add a little more heartiness to the dish/make it more toothsome.  I’d have to watch the liquid levels, though, just so nothing dries out.

*                                                                   *                                                            *

 

*Yes, these squash seeds will work too- move over, pumpkin!

**Additional recipe for roasted squash seeds: Check out the link, or use my way- cover a pan with parchment paper- no butter/oil needed.  Add squash seeds (no need to rinse, though you may want to pick out any random squash strands).  Shake your favorite seasoning over seeds.  Salt, if desired, or a no-salt seasoning works just fine too.  Stir and season again.  Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and stir.  Add more seasoning if desired.  Bake another 10 minutes or until seeds have completely dried (the seasoning will dry/adhere to the seeds).  Enjoy!

So Much More Than Cake!

Oliver's Bakery sign with sunset

(Photo from Oliver’s website: http://oliversbakery.com/)

One of the businesses that I truly wish we had in our town is a bakery; sadly, the one that was here closed before we even moved here.  Regardless of our town’s bakery-having-or-not status, we make a point to stop at Oliver’s when we visit Kenosha- and for good reason.  I was initially introduced to Oliver’s goodness via my wife’s recommendation.  While their doughnuts are some of the best quality I have had, they offer a robust selection for those sweet options, as well.  It is the perfect place to visit if you are looking for the classics, but also if you want to consider something less common (they have custard filled, but also are purveyors of a tasty peanut butter and jelly doughnut).  I’ve had several doughnuts, and they are always fresh and flavorful.

Oliver’s is more than just exceptional doughnuts.  We’re also fans of their muffins- there’s a similarly delicious wide selection here also.  I’ve had Kringle from a few different vendors, and I can write with certainty that theirs is also among the best.  Particularly, they have plenty of filling (some other Kringles are rather light on this… and someone should not have to think to discern a Kringle filling or flavor!  Certainly not a problem here- delicious!)

Our recent visit was on a Friday, and we were surprised to note that they also had fried fish and shrimp.  While fish fry in Wisconsin is definitely not a surprise, availability at a bakery definitely was.  While we were there selecting our purchases, several customers came in to pick up both fish and shrimp. Upon noting this to my wife’s parents, we were told that an uncle was known to have driven for hours to get their fish fry.  Oliver’s website (corroborated by my wife’s parents) notes that this has been available for quite a while.  I will have to give it a try next time we are in on a Friday.

In addition to our typical doughnut purchase, we decided to try one of their pies in the refrigerator case- a pecan pie.  It truly was an excellent choice.  The crust was flaky, and the filling was a perfect sweet complement to the nuttiness of the pecans- without being too sweet (an issue I notice quite often with an average pecan pie).  We certainly will be buying one (and more!) again.

If you’re in Kenosha, make sure to stop by Oliver’s. And don’t forget the coupon!

 

Recipe: Chettinad Tomato Lentils

I have to recommend the recipes in The Curry Bible by Jacki Passmore; we’ve tried a few so far and they’ve been excellent quality and variety-wise.  The base spice mix for this curry (from pg. 90) is my favorite so far.  There are so many curries, and they go beyond the pre-bottled store curries for sure.  We have made this recipe several times, and it is a pleasant mix of hot and spice.  It could very easily be made hotter with more/other peppers.  We’ve modified the original to be less hot to work for both of our palates.  (I’m more of a heat fan.)   The original calls for chicken as the main ingredient, but I wanted to give lentils a try as an alternate option; it’s also a little more affordable.  The lentils also hold up well in the curry, even as they are already cooked. (I was a little nervous it would be mush.)

1 lb lentils, made according to package directions

3 dried red chilies, seeds removed (I used 1 each of guajillo, ancho, and mulato chiles)

1 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

4 teaspoons cardamom

3/4 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 tablespoon salt

7oz dried coconut (unsweetened)

Oil (I used olive)

1 large onion

4 cloves garlic

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1 1/2 teaspoon star anise

6 oz tomato paste (I used the whole 12 oz can to use it up.)

2-3 cups water

2 tomatoes

1 fresh chili pepper (I used Poblano)

Additional salt to taste

Lemon juice

Make the lentils in a pot according to package directions.  (Ours were at medium heat – simmer/boil for about 20 minutes, and they were tender.)  While lentils are cooking, prepare the curry. (When the lentils are done, remove from heat and drain.)  Roast the coriander seeds in a pan on medium-low heat for a minute or two and remove from heat.  Put the deseeded peppers, roasted coriander, peppercorns, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, fennel seeds, and salt in a blender and blend to a powder.  Add coconut and blend until fine.

Curry powder mix

Curry powder mix

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heat the oil in a pan.  Chop the onion and add to the pan.  Let cook for a few minutes, stirring as needed.  (The onions don’t need to be completely soft.)

Onions in the pan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crush the garlic- (a garlic press works well) and add to pan with the onion.  Add the ginger.  Don’t let the garlic cook too long- you don’t want it to burn.  Add the star anise and tomato paste.

Tomato paste added

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stir in the cooked lentils slowly.  Add the water- you don’t want soup, but you don’t want it to burn.  Keep stirring frequently to prevent sticking.

Lentils added

 

 

 

 

 

I chopped and added the tomatoes and chili pepper at this point (you may want to wear gloves with the pepper), but depending on how cooked you would like them, you could add them earlier.

Tomatoes and pepper added

 

 

 

 

 

 

Almost done!  I cooked the mixture with the added vegetables for about 5 minutes more, so they were not cooked completely through.  Keep stirring as needed, and add more water if needed so that the lentils do not stick to the pan.  Season with additional salt to taste, and top with a splash of  lemon juice.

Finished dinner!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy!!! Remember to have fun and experiment with curry!

 

Also, here are some quick general spice equivalents, if you have whole spices:

1 stick cinnamon= 1 teaspoon

1 pod cardamom= 1 teaspoon

1/4″ piece ginger= 1/4 teaspoon

1 star anise pod= 1/2 teaspoon

1 whole clove= 1/4 teaspoon

Steep It!

Lately, I’ve been coming across recipes that call for steeping items over a period of time, so savor the spirit of slow with me!  I started homebrewing recently, and while I don’t know that I’d describe the brewing process with “steeping” at any point, essentially that’s what I did with the last batch to infuse some cherry flavor during the fermentation process.  As long as we’re on the subject of alcohol, let’s start with a primer on extracts.  Those tiny bottles in the stores aren’t the cheapest item on the shelves, so let’s see how to make our own vanilla extract:

I’ve got a batch processing in a small canning jar, and it has gone along nicely.  It is handy to know that it is essentially an endless/bottomless recipe, too!  I was also referred to a similar recipe by a friend and found it again in a vanilla cookbook at a resale store (it also mentioned vanilla sugar!)

For more adult beverages, we can make coffee liqueur or orangecello.

Another intriguing idea was to infuse honey using lemon verbena leaves to impart the lemon flavor (pouring the honey over the leaves in a small canning jar).

Steep it good!

Recipe Rehab

We might have lost some Saturday morning cartoons, but one show not to miss on Saturday mornings is Recipe Rehab on CBS.  Above is the promotional clip from today’s Chicken Pot Pie episode.  The basic synopsis revolves around transforming an enjoyed but unhealthy family recipe (high amounts of fat, salt, using prepackaged goods, preservatives, and/or lack of fresh vegetables, etc.)  The half hour show pits two chefs against each other in a friendly, yet competitive game to create an improved version of the dish utilizing the essence of the original.  The new meals are prepared by the family, and rated in several categories like ease of preparation and taste.  A nutritionist also provides one of the scores.  Often, the chefs will re-imagine the presentation of the dish along with finding ways to impart flavor through additional ingredients, spices, and fresh vegetables.  If the show is not on your station, or you can’t otherwise watch, episodes and recipes are available online.  It’s difficult to not get hungry much too early in the morning, even after breakfast!  I’d highly recommend checking it out as a way to think about eating healthy.  Whether you are cooking for yourself or for your family, it exhibits some excellent ideas about swapping ingredients for the better and encouraging all members of the family to participate in meal making and cooking.