Saturday, September 13, 2014

Spaghetti Squash with Oyster Mushrooms and Artichoke Pesto Tomato Sauce

We had this as a first dinner after getting back from Labor Day. While we didn't eat as unhealthy as we usually do on family vacations*, it was nice to have something healthier and lighter and full of veggies when we got home. It's not the prettiest because of the mushrooms darkening the sauce to a muddier color but this isn't a dinner party meal anyway.

This recipe is a bit seasonally confused. Winter/fall spaghetti squash and artichokes, summer tomatoes and seasonless oyster mushrooms.  Our Harris Teeter stocks spaghetti squash year round and with the freezer and canning most stores stock artichoke hearts in some form. The tomatoes came from my aunt's garden and the mushrooms from the HT produce section but normally I would use mushrooms from the mushroom stand at the farmer's market (found out it is/was ranked top in the country in it's size category- totally deserved, it has a fantastic selection.)

Here's what you need:
6 tablespoons of  The Lean Clean Eating Machine's Lemon Artichoke Pesto (we had them frozen in ice cube form from another dinner, used 3 ice cubes)
1 large spaghetti squash
Olive oil
Italian Herb Mix
Dried Basil
Onion powder
Garlic powder
1 lb oyster mushrooms, shredded into large chunks
4 cups grape tomatoes, halved (I added in some mystery tomatoes, chopped)*
1 T butter (or butter substitute)
3 cloves garlic, minced
Nutritional yeast
  1. Roast spaghetti squash (I use Oh She Glows' method but used salt, pepper, Italian herb mix, dried basil, garlic powder, and onion powder) and then shred the squash when roasted
    1. At about 35 minutes into the roasting, prepare the sauce
      1. In a pot throw in tomatoes and oyster mushrooms with a little olive oil, butter (substitute), and garlic.
      2. Sauté until mushrooms are cooked and release liquid.
      3. Toss in pesto to the pan until enough sauce is created that you have enough for your liking, taste and add nutritional yeast if desired
    2. Toss all ingredients together in the pan/pot, let sit for a minute for the flavors to meld, and serve. Top with nutritional yeast or shredded cheese if desired (I had nutritional yeast, DH had some mozzarella)
    *This might have been that I cooked 2/3 of the dinners there. And did the majority of the grocery shopping. I like feeling like I'm a contributing adult (as much as family members fuss about the fact we still have student loans to pay off, we really are okay guys, really. )
    **If you get them in season, careful. We started to run low as I kept snacking on them while preparing the mushrooms. The tomatoes were *so* sweet. Even the larger mystery variety that I tossed in (my aunt grew several varieties this summer, the grape were a surprise and I didn't get the names of all the ones she grew, I know Heinz and Big Boy were among them) were great examples of why you buy use in-season when possible. 

    Tuesday, September 9, 2014

    Grilled Med Salad with Greek-inspired Dressing

    During this diet change, I've discovered I really like international foods more. Sure before, we had Chinese take out and went to Bangkok Royal and Clay Pot in Waco but I always got Pad Thai and the Chicken Clay Pot. Even "Mediterranean", which admittedly isn't often that crazy as far as difference goes, was snubbed beforehand. I still don't have a container of pomegranate molasses in the pantry but we do have two overflowing racks of spices on the counter now. I will say going mostly vegan has caused a greater appreciation for the use of spices.

    Vegetables marinated in homemade greek dressing make a fantastic base for a filling dish - Crossing The DelebearGrilled Mediterranean Salad, based loosely off of 

     This is not a pretty salad once all combined but it tastes fantastic, it also looks much nicer when just the veggies are laid out fresh off the grill. I did make quite
     a few changes to the recipe to reflect our tastes and where I saw some gaps.

    First things first, thanks to the Oh She Glows cookbook, we've started marinating veggies for at least 30 mn before grilling to get better flavor. So usually around mid-afternoon I'll chop or slice the vegetables as needed and pour the dressing over everything and let them stew, turning carefully every hour or so, as time allowed.

    We discovered the other week that we love artichoke hearts. It's a sweeter vegetable and tastes *fantastic* grilled so we doubled the amount of artichoke hearts.

    The dressing I made is based off of Zoe's Kitchen but minus the canola oil and with a lazy herb mix. 

    Instead of using just plain chickpeas, I make spiced roasted chickpeas using the same spice blend as the dressing. 

    I also tossed the farro in garlic and salt.

    Vegetables marinated in homemade greek dressing make a fantastic base for a filling dish - Crossing The Delebear
    Here's what you need for the Grilled Med Salad:

    1 medium purple eggplant, peeled and sliced lengthwise 1/4-1/3" thick
    2 zucchini or summer squash, sliced 1/4-1/3" thick lengthwise
    2 cans artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed, halved
    1 red or orange bell pepper, cored and halved
    1 sweet onion, sliced into 1/2" rings (cut counter-intuitively for dicing, hold the stem and root at the equator, not the poles, and slice straight through)
    1 cup greek salad spiced chickpeas
    1 cup cooked farro, tossed in 2 cloves minced garlic and a pinch each of koshers salt and pepper
    double recipe Greek dressing

    Place all of the prepared vegetables into a large bowl. Pour enough greek dressing over it all to to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, tossing occasionally to make sure everything is coated with the herb mixture. Be careful with the artichokes as they are delicate.

    Heat your grill or grill pan over medium heat.

    Work in 2-3 batches. Lay vegetables out, rotating 45 degrees to get nice grill marks and flip, repeat until cooked through. You need to shake off extra oil or it will smoke (less of a problem outside but still a concern for flare up.) Artichokes need the least amount of time.

    Once cooked, lay all of the vegetables in groups by type (squash, artichoke, eggplant, etc). Chop into bite size pieces. Place on a platter or large shallow bowl for serving.

    Serve over mescalin mix with farro, chickpeas and extra dressing as needed.

    Here's what you need for the Greek dressing (barely adapted from Stone and Feather's take on it):

    1/3 cup red wine vinegar
    1/3 cup Olive Oil
    1 T Italian Herb mix
    pinch each salt and ground pepper
    1 tsp dried basil
    1 tsp garlic powder
    1 tsp onion powder

    Mix together. I usually pour directly into a mason jar and shake.

    Saturday, September 6, 2014

    Smokey Barbeque Chickpeas and Zucchini Corn Fritters

    I'm proud of this recipe. I took a couple of recipes floating around and tweaked them, especially for the fritters. The chickpeas were based off a recipe from The Salad Ninja. I bulked up that recipe with onions becuase why not? The fritters remind me of a no-cholesterol version of Texas Corn Pudding (which I miss so much.) One of the nice thing about cutting out meat and eggs is I rarely have to worry about cross contamination or E.Coli from undercooked eggs (E. Coli is a concern with mung beans, sprouts, and similar though.)

    This isn't a super quick meal unless you prep the fritter batter the night before. Definitely drain the onion and zucchini well. Extra liquid makes it hard for the fritters to hold together. 

    Yield: 10 patties, 2 cups barbeque (3-4 adult servings with left over fritters)

    For the Zucchini Corn Fritters you need:

    1 zucchini, shredded and drained
    1 ear sweet corn

    1 medium white onion, shredded and drained
     3/4 C cornmeal
    ½ C oat or whole wheat Flour
    1 Tbl Almond Milk
    2 Tbl Nutritional Yeast
    1/2 teaspoon dried basil
    1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
    1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (or 1 clove minced garlic)
    Salt & Pepper, to taste
    1 T ground flax
    1.  Combine 1 Tbl of ground flax seed to 3 Tbl of water. Mix well and place in the refrigerator. 15-30 mn. Now is a good time to drain your zucchini and onions
    2. Process the zucchini and onion together. Transfer to a large bowl and fold in the corn.
    3. To the zucchini and corn mixture, mix in the rest of the ingredients. Add more corn meal as needed to firm up the mixture.
    4. Heat a large skillet (preferably cast iron) on medium- high heat. Oil is not needed with a well seasoned cast iron but may be for other skillets.
    5. Spoon mixture onto skillet, flattening on the skillet. Size is up to you- bite size or patty size.
    6. Cook both sides until toasted.
    For the Smokey Barbeque Chickpeas you need:

    2 tablespoons olive oil
    2 cups chickpeas, drained and rinsed
    1 medium yellow onion, chopped
    1 1/2 tablespoon tamari
    1 1/2 rounded tablespoon tomato paste
    1 ½ tablespoon pure maple syrup
    1 ½ teaspoon liquid smoke (preferably hickory)
    3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

    1. Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat with a little oil (I used sunflower since it has a neutral taste)
    2. Add the chickpeas and onion and saute until golden (there will toasty parts, this is okay) 6-8 minutes
    3. While the chickpeas and onion is cooking, whisk the liquid/paste ingrediants together. Add to the chickpeas and onion once golden.
    4. Cook the sauce until thickened, does not take long. Stir regularly so the sauce doesn't burn.
    5. Sprinkle on the nutritional yeast and stir in. 

    To serve: Top the fritters with barbeque or have them separate and top the fritters with avocado or tzatziki. We had ours with spinach salad and tzatziki. (tzatziki recipe is coming, I promise.)

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

    Fox & Friends Quilt

    This spring I wanted some sort of sewing project but since I wasn't at my goal fitness (right around where I am now) I didn't want to sew anything since my size was changing and I was mourning the loss of several pieces to being too big to even bother altering. My cousin has an obsession with foxes and really, I wanted a fun light project, so this seemed like a good pattern to try out.

    Fox and Friends Pattern by Sew Fresh Quilts, purchased as a kit through Mad About Patchwork

    I haven't bound this quilt yet for whatever reason but I can at least comment on the pattern.

    By and large, I can't complain too much. There are a couple of things that should be clearer in the pattern but as a confident beginner pattern, it's a safe bet.

    - The pattern doesn't make it explicitly clear that the organization of blues in the sample and the layout (which don't match) are just suggestions. You're really supposed to randomly assign spots for the shades, so you will have left overs at the end. This is a bit of a hassle if you're not paying attention since you'll notice too late that you have two of the same color together or you try to layout the whole thing like the layout and don't have enough of some shades. 
    - There has to be a tidier way of applique-ing the eyes and noses (speaking of, I'm disappointed the foxes do not have masks, this will change in future variations.)
    - Definitely use a scant 1/4" and pay attention to the grain. You can see rumbles from where I didn't and it bothers me

    This is meant as a sort of working muslin for the pattern. It's definitely going to be a baby quilt for someone but I also want to play around with the critters and colors.
    Variations I'm thinking of:
    - Household pets instead of some of the critters
    - Greens and browns for the background
    - Batiks for fur OR the background (I think it might get too busy otherwise)
    - Adding a mask to the foxes
    - Just machine quilt the whole thing, hand quilting was unnecessary and I used the wrong batting for it so I tore up my fingers.

    I discovered the following pattern on pinterest when trying to find a quilt pillow pattern for left over precuts for another pattern. It's a perfect accompaniment to the quilt!

    Saturday, August 30, 2014

    Spiced Roasted Chickpea Variations

    When I started my diet change I bought a bag of spiced roasted chickpeas. They were okay but it wasn't amazing. A couple of months ago, I decided to give them a second chance. It was worth it. Usually I have a problem of struggling to make sure the chickpeas make the dinner table. Not sure that's a bad problem to have. There are endless variations too. We've only made savory variations but I imagine sweet variations might be a good option (cinnamon sugar, maybe?) I made a list of so-far untested (by me) variations to get you going on thinking of your own.

    Roasted spiced chickpeas offer a variety of variations - Crossing the Delebear

    What you need:
    Cooked chickpeas (I soak, cook, and freeze my own according to these instructions)
    High smoke point oil (I use sunflower oil, many recipes call for olive oil but you're losing the nutrients and flavor and risk smoke cooking at this high of a temperature)
    Silpat or Tin Foil on a jelly roll pan (DH informs me calling it tin foil is a regional thing, whatever you call the silver-colored metal sheets, use that)

    Basic Instructions:
    Pre-heat your oven to 400F.
    Place your chickpeas in a medium bowl
    Drizzle a little bit of oil over the chickpeas (I use maybe 2 tsp for 1.5 cups), toss to coat.
    Sprinkle your spices over the chickpeas. Toss to coat. You want to be able to see the seasoning.
    Dump the chickpeas on your lined pan, spread out.
    Bake for 20 minutes, shake to roll the chickpeas around
    Bake for 20-25 minutes more. I found a longer bake time keeps the chickpeas crunchier longer
    Let sit for 5-10 minutes before eating.

    Oh She Glow's Salt and Vinegar Chickpeas - I felt the vinegar could be heavier but still good
    Greek Dressing Chickpeas- Italian Herbs, Dried Basil, Salt, Pepper
    Felafel Chickpeas- Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Dried Parsley, Cumin, Paprika, Salt
    Basic Spiced Chickpeas- Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Salt, Pepper, Oregano

    Untested Variations:
    Sour Cream and Onion - onion powder, garlic powder, dried parsley, dried green onion and/or chives, nutritional yeast or cheese powder
    Cinnamon Sugar - cinnamon, sugar (watch this one for burning, maybe hold off toss them in sugar until partly baked)
    BBQ - liquid smoke, onion powder, garlic powder, sweet paprika, chili powder, salt, smidge brown sugar
    Crab Bake- Old Bay or follow this recipe to make your own (
    Curry- Yellow Curry, Garam Masala, Paprika
    Gumbo- Bouillon cube (crushed for powder), onion powder, garlic powder, file, celery seed, cayenne
    Japanese take out - crushed nori, ginger, garlic powder, sesame seed

    I think taking inspiration from your favorite potato chip flavors would be good, maybe not the weird Lay's flavors they have out but then Japanese take out could be like their Wasabi Ginger so who knows

    Tuesday, August 26, 2014

    Stuffed Monsters

    Easy to design and sew - Crossing The Delebear
    My cousin's angel of a daughter turns one in September. Seriously, this child is perfect. We went on vacation with them and her fussy is a normal child's good day. This is the who my mom and I made this quilt for last year (part one, part two.) So when my cousin asked if I would be willing to sew a couple of stuffed monsters for a Pink Monster themed birthday party, I was happy to. It helped that I was waiting for fabric for a quilt to arrive and I had nothing better to do with my time.

    She asked for bright versions of yellow, purple, blue, and pink. She had a couple of requests in terms of what some looked like but otherwise I had artistic freedom. The dog-earred monsters were closely based off a commercial brand but the others are looser. My favorite is the cyclops and the sort of adipose-like ones. My cousin seems really pleased.

    I made my own patterns but I can walk you through the process.

    For 8 stuffies here's what you'll need:
    1 1/2-2 yards of fleece, I used polar and non-pilling. You will have left overs
    Sheets of craft felt in accent colors (black, white, and whatever compliments your fleece colors)
    8-10 oz poly-fil
    black embroidery floss
    variety of thread to match fleece/felt
    stuffing stick (comes with the poly-fil)

    To make a pattern:

    The basic shape for half of the monsters were pear shaped. The top shape varies depending on how many eyes you want the monster to have. Plan on loosing 1-1/2" in height and width to the stuffing. I made my pattern 8 1/2" high
    Plan out what features you want the monster to have - horns, eyes, mouth, spots, hands, feet, etc. Decide if you want them attached (harder to turn and stuff) or flat sewn (easier but maybe harder for little hands to hold onto.) Sketch those onto the pattern.
    Add a 1/4" seam allowance.

    How to Sew:

    Trace the pattern on to the fleece and cut.
    Cut out the felt for teeth, iris, eye whites, mouth, arms, hands, etc. You need double layers of felt for horns, and flat limbs
    sew teeth and iris to the mouth and eyes respectively. I hand stitched these but you might be able to machine sttich them.
    Machine stitch the spots, mouth, and eyes to the body.
    Sew the horns inside out, turn and stuff. Sew the end shut for ease of attaching.
    Sandwich the horns and limbs so that they point toward the center of the fleece sandwich (remember you're turning it inside out).
    Stitch all the way around, leaving ~1 1/2-2" unsewn to turn.
    Stuff the ears and arms as you're sewing, it's easier, trust me.
    Turn the whole plushie and stuff.
    Secure the opening with a ladder stitch.

    Each monster takes about an hour start to finish but I did it assembly line style broken up over a week.