Saturday, December 27, 2008

Happy Holiday Feasting

So, What Do You Eat, Anyway??

One of the most common questions we vegetarians hear around the holidays (and at any other time, really) is "so, what do you eat if you don't eat meat?" My answers range from "everything but the turkey" to providing a detailed listing of the menu offerings for my holiday dinner that particular year. The latter is usually the more enlightening of the two responses, so here it is... my winter solstice feast for 2008:

Menu - Christmas Dinner, 2008

Roasted squash and coconut milk soup
Mixed green salad with lemon vinaigrette
Roasted root veggies with maple, balsamic glaze
Spinach and ricotta filo strudel
Pumpkin pie with vanilla ice cream

These were all very easy recipes to make and total cooking time from beginning of prep to digging in at dinner was approximately 90 minutes with two of us on prep-and-cook duty. The "meat substitute" was the filo strudel, of course, which forms the pretty focal point for the meal and it offers a savory counterpoint to the sweet roasted root veggies and a satisfying crunch!

Meat substitutes like "Tofurky" are fine for alleviating any concerns that the vegetarian's platter "isn't complete without the meat", but I prefer to opt for a healthier, non-processed, homemade main instead whenever I can. That said, I've been known to enjoy a store-bought "chickeny cutlet" at a holiday dinner from time to time!

When I'm hosting, however, strudels or savory tarts are the holiday main. This year, other than the salad, my menu was comprised entirely of recipes from two of my favorite cookbooks and are not my own creations, however I unhesitatingly recommend them.

The roasted root veggies are from a fantastic vegan cookbook published in 2008 called "Get it Ripe" by Jae Steele. Jae lives here in Toronto and her book has become my favorite cookbook of 2008! Jae also has a blog, called Domestic Affair, which is where I found the squash soup recipe. The spinach-ricotta strudel is from a Rose Reisman cookbook (not vegetarian) called "Secrets for Permanent Weight Loss", published in 2005 and which has been a wonderful resource for me with amazingly flavorful and creative dishes that are also low in calories. If you are interested in any of these recipes, please feel free to email me and I'll be happy to share them with you.

I'll be posting more of my own recipes very soon, so stay tuned.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Wild Mushroom and Pea Risotto

Risotto is one of my favorite comfort foods. It's so smooth and creamy! This one's a classic, mushrooms and peas. Making risotto is really just a method and once you have the method down, you can mix in anything you like that goes with rice...the possibilities are endless.

In a nutshell, the method usually includes first softening the onions and garlic in the butter and oil, briefly toasting the rice with the onions, then adding the liquids starting with the white wine first, then the simmering vegetable stock, one ladle at a time. It's the stirring action that helps the rice to release all it's starchy goodness, so don't neglect the stirring. If you have friends over you can enlist someone to help stir and keep you company in the kitchen! It's well worth the 20 minutes and it goes by fast. Let me know if you try the recipe and if you have any favorite flavor additions for your risottos!

Wild Mushroom and Pea Risotto

2 T butter or margarine
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1½ cups Arborio rice
½ cup white wine
4 cups vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
½ cup frozen peas, thawed
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Mushroom mixture:
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 portobello mushroom, chopped
2 cups chopped white or brown button mushrooms
1 cup chopped shitake mushrooms

In a small-medium saucepan bring the vegetable stock to a boil, then reduce heat to low and maintain at a simmer.

Place the chopped hazelnuts in a dry skillet and bring to a medium heat until toasted, stirring frequently, about 3-5 minutes. Remove to a bowl to cool and to stop the toasting.

Heat a skillet to medium-high and add the olive oil and chopped mushrooms. Saute the mushrooms until golden brown, then add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until tender and translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add the rice to the onion and garlic mixture and toast, stirring for a minute or so. Then add the white wine and continue cooking and stirring until completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Using a soup ladle, add the simmering vegetable stock to the rice, one ladle at a time. After each ladle, stir rice until the stock is absorbed into the rice before adding more stock. Continue ladling stock into the rice until about 4 cups of stock have been absorbed and rice is smooth and creamy, but not mushy. Rice can be slightly al dente, this should take about 20-25 minutes.

Remove from heat and add the grated parmesan cheese, mushrooms, walnuts, peas and salt and pepper to the rice and stir gently until combined. Turn into a serving bowl and sprinkle with more grated parmesan cheese, if desired.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Carrot Apple Soup with Ginger

It's my favorite time of year...soup season! In honor of the season, here is one of my recently developed creamy soups, Carrot Apple Soup with Ginger. I tend to prefer pureed, creamy soups, although some broth soups are wonderful, too. I created this recipe to satisfy a craving I had for a creamy carrot apple soup earlier this Fall. The smooth texture is enhanced by the silken tofu added to the puree stage. The tofu adds no flavor so don't worry, if you think you don't like tofu give this a try.

Tip: don't forget to remove the centre plug from your blender's lid and cover it with a kitchen towel before don't want to get hot liquid everywhere!!

Carrot Apple Soup with Ginger

2T extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1T fresh ginger, grated

2 cups chopped carrot

2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped

1 apple, peeled and chopped

Pinch hot pepper flakes

1 bay leaf

Salt and pepper to taste

1/3 cup white wine

4 cups vegetable stock

½ cup silken tofu

In a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat add olive oil and onion and sauté until translucent, for about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, carrot, potatoes, apple and seasonings and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 more minutes.

Add the white wine and simmer 1-2 minutes, stirring to make sure any browned bits come up off the bottom of the pan and until the alcohol is cooked off.

Then add the stock. Turn heat to high and bring the soup to a boil, then turn heat to medium-low and simmer 20 minutes or until all vegetables are softened.

Remove the bay leaf and pour all ingredients into a blender and add the silken tofu. Puree until smooth. Add small amount of stock, if necessary, if the texture is too thick. Add back to pot to re-warm and serve.

Pepper Steak Surprise!

I've always enjoyed cooking, even though I thought I didn't. My first memory of enjoying cooking was in home economics class way back in grade 5 or 6. I hated 'home-ec' and yearned to take shop and to be like the girlie stuff for me! But when I took home an assignment that required me to cook my family a dinner, that all changed. The recipe was "Pepper Steak Surprise"...and I WAS surprised! I was surprised by how much I enjoyed chopping the green peppers and onions, slicing the steak, cooking the ingredients and stirring the sauce...watching it all come together on the stove top. And the instant positive feedback from my family wasn't bad either. Of course I don't do steak anymore, but the final result turned out to be one of my favorite meals back then, and my family's too! Sadly, that was the only cooking assignment in the class and I did go on to join a shop class, as the only girl in the class. My shop teacher was worried that I'd injure myself so he did all the wood table-sawing for my bookcase. All I had to do was hammer in the nails, sand and paint it. It turned out nice, but it was definitely NOT as fun as cooking my Pepper Steak Surprise.

Welcome to My New Blog - Suzi's Kitchen!!

I've just created my new blog, Suzi's Kitchen, welcome! I'll be sharing with you my favorite recipes (mostly my own creations), cooking techniques for fast and tasty meals, and some useful information about environmental issues that are related to...well, food.

My recipes are vegetarian and vegan and are designed to appeal to both herbivores and veg-curious carnivores alike. I call the recipes "simply gourmet" because although they're not too complicated, everything is made from scratch (where possible) with quality ingredients and flavour one step above the ordinary.

I prefer to use everyday ingredients that can be found at most grocery stores, since I don't have the time to go running around to specialty shops hunting for obscure "vegetarian" ingredients and most of you probably don't either. It's my belief that anyone can live vegetarian without having to make a dramatic shift in special manual is required to become vegetarian, really! It's easy!

There will also be some great food photography courtesy of my husband, Don, who is fast becoming an accomplished photographer.

So, stay tuned and keep on the lookout for new postings. I also want to hear from you so if you try my recipes, let me know if you liked or disliked them or if you have any questions or comments, please write.