Friday, 29 February 2008

Pasta Bake

Here's my meatless dinner for Friday again. I was going to make pizza but completely forgot to make the dough on Thursday night, oops. Instead I made a pasta bake. The first pasta bake I made when I was in high school used a recipe seen on adverts for a UK supermarket. It remains a starting point for most of my pasta bakes today!

For this incarnation I cooked up some puy lentils (far and away my favourite kind of lentil) in some broth with garlic (I cooked extra with extra liquid so that I can make soup with the rest over the weekend).

Meanwhile I made a tomato sauce (well actually I chopped some celery which I fried a little before adding a large can of Muir Glen Organic Tomato Sauce because I was in a hurry and then threw in some black pepper, basil and oregano), and cooked some pasta.

Mixed together pasta, sauce and lentils and placed a layer in a baking dish. Added a thin layer of shredded fresh mozzarella (I've also used the shredded processed type of mozzarella made with skimmed milk which I like too, but fresh is better in my opinion) followed by the rest of the pasta mixture. Finally I grated some Parmesan cheese on top and put in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minute to get the cheese bubbly and a bit of crispness to the edges of the pasta on top.

This is always a popular dinner in our house, I sometimes use cheddar cheese, with or without the other kinds. I also make it with some, or several of the following with or without lentils and celery:
bacon chunks
minced beef
quorn chunks (when I lived in the UK)
roasted red pepper
... the possibilities go on and on it's such a good basic idea that you can use what ever bits and pieces you have in the pantry, fridge or freezer for.

Also this week I have made what I think must be my first loaf of bread this year amazingly enough. It's my "usual" version of the No-Knead Bread recipe (using 1 1/2 cups white bread flour, 1/2 cup whole wheat bread flour, 1/2 cup oat flour, 1/4 cup each barley and rye flour plus handfuls of sesame and poppy seeds).

I want to start making more of our bread again, and supporting local bakeries when I don't get around to baking myself (that part I've been doing, possibly too well, so far this year!). I like using the no-knead type recipes a lot of the time (as in this case) since it seems more possible with a toddler around who is liable to "need" me just as I'm in the middle of kneading or some other important step! Still I resolve to try some more of the recipes in the Bread Bible this year. In the no-knead bread department though I'm determined to make this chocolate bread I saw at flickr very soon!

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Soup and Bread

The Soup

Made this for lunch today with a little help from my daughter.

  • In a frying pan with some olive oil cooked half an onion (left over from cooking dinner last night), the last of a cabbage and a rib of celery.
  • Added those to a blender with a can of white beans, a can of crushed tomatoes and some home made chicken broth.
  • Daughter did the honours blending ingredients 'til mostly smooth.
  • Returned soup mixture to the pan and added chopped carrot and some brown rice leftover from last night's dinner plus garlic powder, celery salt, black pepper, basil and oregano.
  • Simmered until the carrots were cooked. Served and ate.

The Bread

I read at slashfood that it was banana bread day and since I had some over ripe bananas I'd been meaning to bake with I took it as a poke with a sharp stick to get on with it!
I looked at my saved up to try recipes (since I didn't have enough bananas for the banana bread recipe I most often use) and found one for banana gingerbread which sounded good for this time of year.
I made it basically as in the recipe although I did use yoghurt instead of buttermilk, and just ginger, cinnamon and allspice for the spices. I was going to add chopped dates but as I was making the cake and cooking dinner simultaneously I ran out of time, but next time I definitely will.
It comes out with a nice gingeriness, not tasting a lot of banana in my first piece though perhaps I need to make banana jam next...

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Ganmodoki with Vegetable Stir Fry over Rice

Originally uploaded by commonplaceiris.
Friday again and another meatless dinner. This time a vegetable stir fry over rice with ganmodoki on the side.

I printed out a recipe from ganmodoki I came across at the mostly vegan blog bunnyfoot a few years back. I made them and enjoyed them back then but had not made them for ages; prompted by the less meat project I dug out the recipe and had another go.

I didn't have green onion so I used half a yellow onion (which I sauteed a bit before adding to the mix). I left out the mushroom because daughter doesn't like them so far. Also had no ginger so put in some five spice mix. I used tamari instead of salt and not quite as much hijike as suggested (not being sure how well it would go down with husband and daughter). They're a little more crumbly to work with than is ideal, maybe next time I'll puree some of the tofu and or add some tahini and see whether that helps. Crumbliness aside, they were very tasty, I've been picking at the leftovers for the last few hours!

Also on the plate a stir fry of broccoli, carrot, shitake mushroom, green beans and garlic. Made a sauce using the water from soaking the mushrooms, a little broth, tamari, rice vinegar, sesame oil, five spice and tahini.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

a filling day

Today the weather was much warmer than it has been in some time. It made for quite the misty, moisty morning! Here's a picture taken from outside the kitchen door. I didn't venture further outside than that however because it was wet and I suspect very slippery as all the compacted snow and ice got melty but didn't have time to actually disappear.

I actually spent the day trying to make some more headway in the house. It's part of my new start resolutions to get a grip on housework and clutter. I tackled the kitchen for a start, clearing things off the floor and vacuuming, I was hoping to wash the floor during naptime but my daughter woke up just as I was about to start. She mostly kept off the wet floor though so it all worked out. She had fun helping me move stuff and working beside me with her very own broom and dustpan and brush (which she got for Christmas). She's in constant motion these days but not totally ready to occupy herself for stretches of time (especially if it looks as though I'm trying to get something in particular done!!).

After the kitchen floor I ended up giving the same treatment to our front room's floor after my daughter threw her bowl down after polishing off a bowl of couscous, egg and peas. It shattered and the pieces covered a lot of ground so she had to wait in her high chair while I made the floor safe for little feet again.

After a long day I figured we needed a treat so I thought I'd try out a recipe that's been calling to me since I came across it a few days back. Checking out recipes at the Boston Globe I noticed molasses brownies and immediately printed out the recipe to try. They seem so appropriate for me since my usual breakfast includes a mug of hot cocoa sweetened with molasses.

I love them (husband and daughter seemed to agree). The molasses taste is strong, I'd say it overwhelms the chocolate -- it was like eating a treacle toffee cake! (NB I didn't add the coffee, I don't know what difference that would make to the taste balance.) I ate mine with some banana, maybe next time I'll try baking some banana into the brownies themselves. It's also quick and easy to throw together so will be going on my list of cooking projects for my daughter to join in with.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Dinner: Cheesy Leek & Potato Bake with Burgers

I'm trying to do the less meat thing generally, but also want to make at least one meat free dinner each week (certainly during Lent and hopefully beyond).

So this was our Friday night dinner for this week.

The potato cheese and leek bake is a big favourite in our house. We could eat just this really, and I've served this with some baked beans on the side before which goes well but I'm the only one in the house that likes baked beans (maybe that's what I'll have with the leftovers).

The burgers were an experiment based on a couple of recipes I've used in the past -- I prefer nut burgers to bean burgers but had some cooked beans that needed using up so made a compromise batch!

Cheesy Leek & Potato Bake
(based on a recipe from the Sainsbury's Vegetarian Cookbook -- I have two veggie recipe books that Sainsbury's put out back in the early 90s when I was a vegetarian and I still use them often.)

2 leeks thinly sliced and steamed for about 10 minutes
5 small/medium potatoes sliced thinly and par-boiled (could use a few more or less depending on appetite)

Layer the leek and potato in an oiled baking dish and pour over a cheese sauce, sprinkle some reserved cheese (or grate on some parmesan perhaps).
Bake for a bout 30 mins at 375-400 degrees

For the cheese sauce melt a good knob of butter (or warm other fat) in a sauce pan, sprinkle on flour and cook until toasty. Add in some mustard (I used honey mustard but have used other kinds in the past) and pepper. Pour in liquid (I used about a cup of chicken broth so this wasn't actually suitable for a vegetarian but I have also made it with veggie stock in the past, and with milk as per the original recipe). Bring to a gentle boil while stirring. Remove from heat and stir in cheese (I used 4 oz grated cheddar, the recipe calls for 2oz but we love cheese and I wasn't using milk in the sauce).

(based on recipes from Mark Bittman in the NYTimes -- two years ago exactly it turns out! -- for bean burgers and nut burgers)

1 cup nuts (I used brazil nuts, almonds plus a handful or two of sunflower seeds)
1 cup beans and lentils
1/2 cup of oats
1 egg
1 shallot
1 clove garlic
some leeks saved from the bake
generous Tbspn of tahini and another of tomato paste
celery salt, paprika, basil
(I think that's everything, I meant to write it down as I went along.)

I put the oats and nuts in the food processor first to get them ground up evenly then gradually added in the other ingredients dryer first and wetter last.
Shape into burgers, I coated them in a little oat flour and fried them up.

They came out pretty tasty if a little bland. In the original recipes there's a lot more spice added but I was hoping my daughter would eat some and didn't want to over spice so erred on the side of caution. I think next time I'd certainly add more tomato paste at the very least. I ate mine with a bit of ketchup, my husband had mustard with his and that was plenty flavourful.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

January KAL - first sock finished!

Still working on my January socks for the 2008 sock knitalong group at ravelry. I finished the first one (modeled here with help from my lovely assistant).

I'm close to turning the heel on the second sock, so maybe I'll manage to finish in time to start February socks in February!! Once they're finished I'll try to get a better photo since none of the ones I took today came out particularly well (I'm just pleased they're in focus since my daughter was climbing all over the place while I was trying to take them).

Diagonal Rib Socks by Ann Budd from Interweave Knits, Winter 2004(my project page at ravelry) (download pattern as a pdf file here). The yarn is ONline Supersocke 100.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Less meat and hopefully more blogging.

One of the things on my list of aims for Lent, and for my Making A New Start objectives, is to eat less meat. It seems to be better both for our health (because it encourages eating more veggies, pulses and such) and for the planet (check out this article) so that should be good incentive. Here's our dinner for the first Friday of Lent a stew of beans, tomatoes and vegetables.

It's not actually vegetarian because I did use some bacon fat and the last of the gallon of duck broth I made after we had roast duck a few weeks back. They add nice flavour (and also mean I'm making better overall use of the meat we do eat). Of course it can easily be vegetarian, and I've made it that way for friends who are veggie and for myself during my 7 years as a vegetarian.

Start by adding a small onion (chopped) into a pan over low heat in the fat of your choice and cook until they start getting clear. Add garlic, then celery and carrot and saute a while adding in some pepper, paprika, a little chili powder, oregano and basil. Then add in tomatoes (I used a large can), and beans. (For the first time in a while I soaked and cooked a mix of dry beans myself - black, pinto and white beans, black eyed and chick peas, but more often of late I've used canned.)

In this case I served the beans over potatoes roasted in a little duck fat and broth but it's good over baked or mashed potatoes, egg noodles, rice and probably any other grain that takes your fancy, or I'm guessing it would work over greens of some kind too. Leftovers with extra liquid (probably stock of some kind and extra canned tomatoes) make a hearty soup too. And of course there's lots of room for playing with this recipe depending on what vegetables/beans/pulses you like/are in season/you happen to have on hand.

To balance the sensible food choices of the main meal I decided to make something more decadent for dessert (to keep the husband on side, or perhaps because I wanted chocolate...). It's Chocolate Pudding Cake, I know it doesn't look that wonderful in the photo, and you can't really see the sliced banana and warmed through raspberries underneath which added a lot to the dish but this is mighty tasty. There are lots of recipes for this kind of chocolate cakey dessert where you mix most of the ingredients in the cake tin (fewer dishes to wash), then sprinkle over more sugar and cocoa and pour over more liquid and it cooks into a cake with a gooey chocolaty sauce on the bottom.

(I don't use the coffee because I don't much care for coffee, and my 18 month old doesn't get coffee yet. Also I think I would add less vanilla next time, I am never quite sure I'm crazy about vanilla essence in things and it struck me while taking a bite of this that it's because it reminds me of play dough... I told my husband about my realization and he complained because it had never occurred to him before but now it was reminding him of play dough too).

Well, I've spent longer talking about the food than I meant to and need to go to bed if I'm going to make it to church in the morning so this will be all for now, but I'm excited to be posting more often again and hope to be back soon with more (including a picture of the first of my diagonal rib socks!).

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Apple, Cranberry and Raspberry Crumble, and some other thoughts.

Yesterday I was making crumble for our dessert and I decided to experiment with crumbling in some cookie (spice biscuits) dough that's been sitting in the fridge a while. I figure basic crumble is a lot like a biscuit dough in terms of ingredients. Surprisingly it made the crumble sweeter, I always thought I added more sugar than I probably should to the crumble already!

The spices in the dough went very nicely with the fruit combination -- allspice, ginger, cinnamon and cloves with apple, cranberry and raspberries.

(In making this I used up cranberries that have been sitting in the fridge for ages as a change from the blackberries I'm using up by making crumble, they have been sitting in the freezer for ages!)

Made some custard to pour on top, yummy. Well my husband and I thought so. I think my daughter prefers the blackberry and apple combo, or the regular crumble mixture as she didn't gobble it up they way she usually does. She did eat some, and all of the custard I hadn't mixed in already.

Not the most exciting post I'm afraid, but something at least. I've decided that my 2008 is only now officially beginning as January has been a bit of a disaster. A constant rotating succession of illnesses in our household and just chaos generally. By the end of last week I was something of a wailing puddle on the floor and then I got a blocked duct. Blah. Managed to avoid mastitis but did get a low fever and extremely low energy.

Anyhow. I'm now back on form and apart from my daughter's still snotty nose we seem to be in fairly good health so I'm back to thinking about new beginnings and maybe resolutions and the like. It's almost time for Lent so I'm going to try and get my head around a list of goals for Lent and the year beyond Easter. Oh and maybe I'll actually finish my January socks one of these days (I'm almost done the toe of the first sock...).