Tag Archives: vegetarian

Last Minute Budget Holiday Gift Ideas

20 Dec

Howdy!

It never fails: Five days until Christmas and one of two things always happened to me; I either ran out of money, time or both. I always forgot to give a gift to my dog walker, the neighbor who took in my mail if I forgot to, or to that customer that always remembered my birthday.  So, I  would always reach into my bag of tricks and produce a hand-made gift that always seemed to mean more to the recipient than anything I could buy. You can do the same thing without spending too much time, money or both!

1) Do you have a signature dish? Do you have a killer lasagna recipe? Do people salivate at the mere thought of your spinach dip?  Give a coupon that promises you will make the dish for them at a later time.

2) Another variation on this theme is to make your famous ( or infamous) BBQ sauce, Sugar cookies or other treats and creatively package them as gifts.

3) Instead of giving gift cards, give gift certificates toward your recipient’s favorite restaurant. Times are tough, and people are foregoing eating out in order to save money. They will appreciate the chance to get out of the house.

4) If your friend or family member loves  a good Bloody Mary, make your own mix. Package the mix in a mason jar and present it along with a small bottle of vodka for a homemade Bloody Mary kit. Here is a great recipe that I’ve had success with. I developed this recipe some 15 years ago when I worked at a funky little bistro in Federal Hill.

Bloody Mary Mix

1 32 oz. bottle of tomato juice

Juice of two limes

2 tsp celery salt

1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

2 tbl. prepared horseradish

1 tbl. Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 tsp. sugar

1 1/2 tsp. Old Bay (optional)

Mix together and package in either 12 oz. or 16 oz. mason jars and decorate with ribbon. Makes just about 3 – 12 0z. jars or 2 –  16 oz.

Here’s an easy sweet treat you can make for friends and family and the kids can help with this. I have loved chocolate covered pretzels since I was a kid and are cheaper to make than to buy. The sweet and salty treats can be made ahead and dressed up with colorful ribbons

Chocolate covered pretzel rods

I box pretzel rods

1 1/2 lbs.  good quality semi-sweet chocolate

1/4 cup heavy cream

2  to 3 cups of crushed candies such as peppermints, heath bars, mini peanut butter chips or  chopped nuts of your choice ( peanuts, pecans, walnuts).

Put together a double boiler by using a medium-sized pot and adding about 3 inches of water.  Using a metal mixing bowl; place the bowl inside the pot, making sure the bowl does not touch the water. Set aside.

Chop up candies and/or nuts and place on separate plates. Take a sheet pan and cover  the bottom of the tray with either with parchment paper, foil or plastic wrap and set aside. Sort through the pretzel rods and remove the broken ones.

Chop up chocolate into uniform pieces and place in metal mixing bowl.  Add  the cream to the chocolate. place bowl back on the pot and turn on heat to medium and simmer. Stir chocolate mixture until chocolate and cream are melted .Turn heat to low.

Arrange an assembly line  as follows  pretzels, chocolate, candies or nuts and covered sheet pan.  Dip a pretzel into the warm chocolate and using a fork, coat completely. Remove coated pretzel with a fork and allow excess chocolate to drop off. When the dripping stops, roll pretzel in the candy or nuts and place on the covered sheet pan. Repeat until all of the pretzels are covered. Refrigerate until the coating sets.

Wrap 5 or 6 rods with  colorful plastic wrap and a decorative ribbon.

The point is to give from the heart, not from the wallet. Your homemade gifts will be greatly appreciated.

I will post more ideas tomorrow!

Mmmm! My famous Macaroni and Cheese!

23 Nov

Hello All!

Well, after months of my 32-year-old oven being offline for four months, I finally got it fixed! The problem was an ignition that gave out.  My Tappan 1979 36″ gas range is back online, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything* on this planet. Unless of course someone ( Wolf, Viking or Garland) would like to sponsor this blog and send me a new oven!

*You all know I had to try;  Tappan, you can send me another oven as well!

Now that I’m back in business, this is just in time for my famous Baked Macaroni and Cheese recipe. I won an ad-hoc contest between my old boss and I at one of the Super Bowl parties we used to host, and my family loves it. It is a variation of my beloved mother’s recipe  that she made for years and is decadent and rich.The technique is simple but exacting; you must follow to the letter the directions to this recipe. Once you master the technique, play around with it to see the endless possibilities with adding vegetables and meats.

Enjoy!

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

1 Lb box elbow macaroni
3 cups milk ( use at least 2% milk)
3 Tbl. butter
3 Tbl. flour
1/2 cup grated parmesan ( not fresh grated; San Georgio or Kraft)
16 oz. shredded mild cheddar cheese
8 oz. monterey jack block cheese block, cubed
8 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese block, cubed
1/4 tsp. ground white pepper
dash of cayenne (optional)
8 oz. shredded sharp cheddar (optional)

Cook macaroni in boiling water for 6 minutes, then drain and run cold water over macaroni to stop cooking. Set aside.

Heat milk in a saucepot until warm. Do not scorch. In a heavy bottomed pot ( 4 qt.) melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and mix with wire whisk until all lumps of flour are gone, about 3 or 4 minutes.

**do not allow butter/flour mixture to brown. You will have to start over if it does** If mixture gets too hot, lower heat.

Add milk all at once to roux and stir until well blended. Continue to stir until edges of milk start to bubble. Lower heat to lowest setting.

**The next steps are important. If this sauce burns or breaks (separates), you will have to start over. Follow to the letter.

Add one handful of shredded mild cheddar cheese to milk mixture. Whisk in with wire whisk until completely melted. Add another handful of cheese and repeat. Do this until all of the mild cheese is in the sauce. Repeat with the Parmesan cheese. Add white pepper, cayenne pepper and taste. Add a little salt if needed, but no more than 1/2 teaspoon.

Put cooked macaroni and cubed cheese in a large bowl. Toss with cheese sauce until all pasta is coated. Butter a 10 x 12 dish and add macaroni mixture. Top with shredded sharp cheese, cover with foil and bake in a 350 degree oven until bubbly ( about 45 minutes). Uncover and bake for another 10 – 15 minutes or until brown.

Let rest for at least 20 minutes, then serve.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Vegan Sweet Potato Bisque

12 Nov

The  cooler weather is settling in on the eastern seaboard. The leaves are turning vivid colors of yellow, orange and red and the nights are getting crisp. My brain is still fried from our super-hot summer, but I am finally open to the change of seasons. After all, it is mid-fall and it is the perfect season for my silky-smooth vegan Sweet Potato Bisque.

Bisque you say, Culinary Chick? I thought that bisque was traditionally made from seafood!

You are correct!  Traditionally a bisque is made from seafood, utilizing the trimmings  from shellfish.  The French didn’t waste anything, and came up with a technique which extracted every ounce of flavor by  sauteing the trimmings and mirepoix , simmering them in stock, adding various flavorings,  passing them through a fine sieve and finally adding a bit of cream to add a rich and silky finish to the soup. I utilized the same techniques here to achieve the desired texture: I wanted the soup to glide over the tongue and not be encumbered by bits of vegetables. It’s a bit of work, but well worth the effort!

Vegan Sweet Potato Soup

4 tbl. olive oil

2 cups peeled and diced onion or leeks*

1 ½ cups peeled and diced Fuji, Gala, Jazz , Golden delicious or Honey Crisp apples

1 Tbl. fresh grated ginger

2-2½ lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and diced ( about 3 or 4 medium to large )

2- 2 ½ cups carrot juice ( available in produce isle; I used Bolthouse Farms)

3 ½ cups vegetable broth ( make your own or use Swanson Vegetarian Vegetable Broth)

½ tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. curry powder

¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

2 tsp. ground black pepper

2 cups unsweetened almond milk (optional)

In a heavy-bottomed stockpot over meduim heat,  heat up the olive oil. Add the onions and apples and saute, stirring occasionally until onions are transparent and apples begin to soften, about seven to eight minutes. Do not brown; if starting to brown, turn down heat and add a bit of the broth.  Add ginger and saute until fragrant; about two minutes. Place the peeled and diced sweet potatoes in the pot and add the broth and  carrot juice. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat to low. Add cinnamon,  nutmeg, curry powder, salt and pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes uncovered or until potatoes are soft. Turn heat off and let stand for 20 minutes.

In small batches, process the vegetables and broth in either a blender or food processor until smooth. Place pureed soup through a fine-mesh strainer and force through with a ladle or spoon until all the liquid is extracted. Discard the pulp** and repeat until all the soup is strained. Return to pot and add almond milk and adjust seasonings to taste. Serve warm with crusty bread and salad as a lunch or a light dinner. Serves 6 to 8.

* If using leeks, cut off the green stalks and root end, saving the white part. Split the leek in half lengthwise,  dice and float the leeks in cold water. Allow the leeks to soak for 20 minutes, occasionally agitating to water to loosen the grit . Remove the leeks from the water with a slotted spoon and discard the water. Run the leeks  in cold water in a colander  for a minute and drain. Proceed with the recipe.

**I saved the pulp and gave it to my doggie in her meal. She loved it.

Rigatoni with Chard, Tomatoes and Garlic

22 Feb

Last week, I ventured out and went to the store for the first time in weeks and bought some chard with the intention of posting it for the blog. Then this great lady beat me to the punch.  If you haven’t stopped by the blog Dianne’s Dishes, you should.  She puts up recipes for everything from soup to nuts five days a week, and does a great job of doing so.  I ribbed her about it, then I tried her recipe with one half of the chard ( which was quite dee-lish), and sat on the other half and pondered what I would do with the other half. This is what I came up with.

For those who aren’t familiar with chard, it is a leafy vegetable that comes in several varieties. When eaten young, ti can be used raw in salads.  Mature chard can be sauteed, roasted or used in sauces or soups. When cooked, its texture is a bit heartier than spinach, and is slightly more assertive in flavor.

Rigatoni with Swiss Chard, Tomatoes and Garlic (serves two to four)

1 bunch of fresh chard ( 1 to  1½ lbs)

2 tbl. olive oil

½ c. chopped onions

1 tbl. chopped garlic

1 ½ c. chopped tomatoes

1 cup chicken or vegetable stock

8 oz. dried rigatoni or other similar pasta

2 tbl. Parmesan cheese

Salt and Pepper to taste

red pepper flakes (optional)

Prepare chard by cutting off the last inch or inch and a half off the ends of the stems.

Chop chard into bite-sized pieces and float in a tub of water to wash off any sand and grit.

Drain chard in colander until ready to saute.

Cook rigatoni in boiling salted water until al dente, about 10 minutes, drain and set aside. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute onions and garlic in olive oil until tender and fragrant, being careful not to brown. Add tomatoes and saute for three minutes, then add chard to pan. Toss chard with the tomato mixture and add stock.

Cook chard until wilted and leaves are tender, about seven or eight minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Toss rigatoni into chard mixture and serve immediately with Parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes.

Thia makes a  quick and elegant light supper, and healthy to boot!

Risotto 101

3 Feb

Hey Kids!

Ye olde Culinary Chick is having guests over this weekend, barring any shenanigans from the weather this weekend.

On the menu are braised lamb shanks with dried cherry and rosemary demi-glace,  saffron risotto and roasted broccoli.   One of my guests, a childhood friend, loves potatoes and I serve them every time she comes over. However, this time I wanted to make something a bit different and dust off some of the skills I acquired over the years. One of them was how to make risotto. And believe it or not, you can too. If you follow my directions, you will have a great side dish to dazzle your friends with.

Risotto is an Italian dish made with arborio rice, a short grain rice prized for its al dente  texture and creaminess when cooked.  The version we will cook is Risotto ala Milanese. C’mon, its easy!

You will need the following equipment:

heavy-bottomed pan ( cast iron or aluminum [plain or anodized])

a wooden spoon

a ladle

1 – 2 qt. saucepan

Risotto Milanese (serves one as a main dish or two as a side dish)

2 tbl.  olive oil

1/2 c. arborio rice

1/3 c. diced onions

2 c. chicken stock or broth

pinch of saffron*

2 tb. parmesan cheese

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1-2 tbl. butter

1 tbl. chopped fresh parsley

In a 1 – 2 quart saucepan, bring chicken stock and saffron to a simmer. Keep warm.  Heat olive oil over medium heat in heavy-bottomed pan and add onions and saute until clear and soft ( do not brown)

Add rice and saute, making sure all rice grains are coated and center of rice is visible.

Add one ladle of  hot stock to the pan with the rice and onions and stir with wooden spoon until all of the liquid is absorbed.

After all of the liquid is absorbed from the first ladle of stock, add another ladle of stock and stir again with the wooden spoon until absorbed. Repeat these steps until you have used all of the stock and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

By this time your rice will have doubled in size and you should see a  small amount of thickened stock in bottom of pan.

Add butter and stir until incorporated. Add parmesan cheese and pepper. If needed add a scant amount of salt ( taste first).

Add parsley and serve with a side salad as a main dish or as a side dish with seafood or meat.

A note: Saffron can be found in specialty stores and can be pricey. If you do not have saffron, you can still enjoy this dish without it. The addition of some fresh chopped herbs  or seasonings that will compliment your main dish will suffice such as  lemon zest, chopped chives, tarragon or roasted garlic puree  as an example will add flavor and color to your risotto. And, if you are a vegetarian or vegan, you can make this using vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock and omitting the butter and cheese.

Yum.

Kwik Killer Kale

16 Jan

Killer Kale with bacon, garlic and onions

Today at the office, one of the doctors at the practice received a very large “Edible Arrangement” from one of her clients. This thing was humongous, and we all ate chocolate-covered strawberries, pineapple and melon until we were full. Even then, there was enough fruit left over for an army and nobody wanted it. You know what I did.

Okay, for those folk who really know me will acknowledge that I waste nothing. NOTHING.

I took that bad boy home, took it apart and was surprised (as I pulled off the nearly five pounds of fruit left on this thing) about 1 1/2 lbs of fresh kale used as a base for the fruit-tastic sculpture. So I cooked it for dinner, and here is the recipe. It took about 45 minutes from start to finish.

(For all you veg-heads out there, omit the meat and substitute fire-roasted peppers for a little smoky flavor.  Similarly; if you loves the meat add as much or as little as you care to)

Kwik Killer Kale

2 lbs.  fresh kale

2 tbl. olive oil

4 strips diced bacon ( optional)

1/2 cup diced roasted peppers (optional)

1/2  cup thinly sliced onion

4 cloves chopped garlic ( about 1/4 cup)

1/2 cup chopped jalapenos, poblano, or banana peppers

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 cup water or chicken stock

Salt and black pepper to taste

Kale comes washed and bagged in most upscale markets. If you get loose kale, pull off stems and discard. Float kale in a sink full of cold water for 30 minutes, tossing occasionally to remove all of the grit.

Heat up olive oil in a heavy-bottomed sauce pot. Add bacon and saute until crisp over medium heat. Remove  bacon from pan and set aside. Add onions, garlic and peppers and saute until soft. Add kale, vinegar and stock, and cover pan with a tight-fitting lid.

Cook for five minutes, then remove lid and stir kale.  Replace lid and continue to stir kale until losing its bright green color, and leaves are tender. Season with salt and pepper, then top with bacon. Serves around 2 to 4 people.

For the vegetarian/vegan crowd:  Add olive oil to pan. Over medium heat, saute hot peppers, garlic and onions until tender. Add  kale and roasted peppers to pan and toss with garlic mixture. Add water and cover pan with lid. Toss and cover until kale turns dark and leaves are tender. Season and serve.

Bread, can we still be friends?

7 Jun

Dear Bread,

How have you been? I’m hoping you  are well.  I know I’ve been distant lately, and after reading this letter, I hope you understand why.  I hope it won’t upset you, I’ve realized over our break these past two week s that I can no longer see you.

Our relationship over the 15 months or so have frankly been rough for me; you were there, so you already know what I’m talking about.  I’ve tried you whole-grain and no-grain, french and Italian-style, tandoori and tortilla, and even pitas and it’s all come down to the same sad conclusion: I cannot digest you, and you know it.

Is this some post-Atkins craze excuse? No, and you know this. You know I defended you against all these low-carb freaks that insisted I use lettuce instead of you to make wraps, while all the while those fake protests against eating french fries dissipated into the ether as plate after Atkins-friendly plate came back void of all french fries I placed next to those sandwiches.  I just smirked to myself and knew that like all diet crazes, that this too shall pass.

Had I known that my enjoyment of you would turn into a Faustian nightmare, I would’ve made the transition earlier.

Am I allergic to gluten? No, I don’t have Celiac disease. What is or has happened to us is simple. I eat too much of you; and, let’s just say I , oh fuck it: Bread, I can’t poop after eating you!

There, I’ve said it.

I just can’t go to the bathroom after eating you in any form. And frankly, I’d rather poop than have a sandwich. I just want to know if we can still be friends. Well, can we?

I want to know if I can still touch you ( through the plastic wrapper, of course). Do I have permission smell the  heady aroma of a properly baked loaf of rye as it comes out the oven. Can I  vicariously enjoy the sweet, earthy scent of cinnamon when you appear as raisin bread. Or, when you show up as one of those artisinal types, can I still marvel at the visual richness of your crumb or smile when I see you as a chewy, crater filled ciabatta?

Will you let me love you from afar? I hope so, because this is the only way we can continue.  I hope you understand. Can we still be friends? Let me know.

xxoo,

Culinary Chick