Archives for posts with tag: Fruit and Vegetable

Today’s the day… time for an early harvest of my tiny sprouts! I know I could grow them for two or three more days, but I am anxious to give them a taste. Tonight they will find their cute little way into a mixed salad.

about to leave their glass home for the free-living lifestyle of a salad

I will immediately “plant” more in the jar. In a day or two I’ll start another jar’s worth of sprouts, so that I will have sprouts ready every couple of days.

little pals, eager to nourish? I hope so

In the future, I’ll have two or three different sorts of sprouts, and do this staggered method of germination and harvesting with all of them. I’ll refine the system, and try to set it up to look nice, too.

I love sprouts! Gardening you don’t need to put on shoes or a coat for…

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

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not seaweed. not white rice.

Last night I really wanted to eat something cute for supper, while at the same time using up things from my pantry and freezer. I don’t know why I felt compelled to eat something cute, but such is life. I decided to make “sushi” out of brown rice, potatoes, eggs, frozen spinach, and a bit of avocado. I like normal sushi, but I don’t have seaweed (though I like it) nor did I feel like making and eating white rice (though I’d have eaten it gladly if someone else had made it) and I didn’t have wasabi nor pickled ginger nor soy sauce. Oh, and I don’t have a sushi mat.

Having recently been inspired by making “fake sushi” out of felt, I thought why not use my own ingredients to make edible, fake sushi? Something formed like sushi, that looks (possibly) a little like sushi, but certainly isn’t sushi…

To start, I boiled up some brown rice… about a cup or so. While it was finishing up, I added in two small, sliced potatoes. This was to make a starchy mash. I boiled this for a few minutes, then just covered and let stand for about ten minutes.

chopped up, rolled fake sushi is ready for the oven

In the meantime, I also boiled a few little frozen-spinach pucks. You could use about a half block of frozen spinach, if that is how your frozen spinach is sold to you. Once it had loosened, I placed it in a casserole dish. Then I cracked a couple of eggs into this dish, and stirred it around with the spinach. I pressed this down with a fork (yes, and my hands too), then popped it into the oven (about 350 F) for fifteen minutes.

I used this spinach/egg combo as my “seaweed”. I took it out of the oven, loosened the base with a spatula, and let it cool a little. Then I spooned some of the smushed-up potato/rice blend onto the half closest to me. On top of that, I laid out some thin slices of avocado.

Next, I rolled up this “sushi”. I popped it back into the oven. I cooked it for about five minutes in roll format, then took it out again to slice it into little rolls. I then placed them flat in the casserole dish, and baked an additional thirty minutes or so.

edibly delicious

This was quite delicious, however it honestly could have used a little sauce, home-made ketchup, or chutney. For a very late Monday night meal it did, however, completely fill the bill! Leftover mashed potato/rice and avocado worked deliciously scrambled into eggs the next morning. For the breakfast mash I added a large amount of chili powder and pepper, and this was so good that next time I will try this blend in the “sushi” too.

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

a pan of these lovlies, ready to pop into the oven for a quick appetizer

One of the quickest, easiest things to make with savory, sweet, salty, or miscellaneous ingredients is a plate of mushroom caps. True, you do need some fresh mushrooms, but besides the necessity of that one ingredient, pretty much anything else you have on hand can stuff them. I love how the natural moisture of the mushroom comes out, stewing whatever is stuffed in them into a little pocket of taste. When I was a child, it was an old standby in our house to have mushroom caps as an appetizer: Mom would use orange cheddar and a “seasoning salt” to fill them. I’ve been trying out a few different options, lately.

mushroom caps stuffed with hot peppers, hot peppers stuffed with mushroom stems

Some of my personal favorite combos are:

-any sort of pepper (green, jalapeno, spicy, etc) with a drop of cheese on top and maybe garlic too. Sprinkle on some black pepper and any range of herbs such as oregano or basil or rosemary or dill or…

-the stems from the mushrooms mixed in with tomato and a bit of honey and/or soy sauce or any other type of “sauce” you like and have. Or skip those sauces and mince up some olives.

cheese and black pepper. Any type of cheese.

salsa of any type, with or without leftover vegetables like zucchini, eggplant, sweet potatoes.

bok choy with spicy chilli pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.

sour cream and broccoli and paprika.

rosemary and goat cheese.

leftovers… any type of leftovers that can fit into a mushroom.

even in the heat of summer, these are worth turning the oven on for

Really, most any mixture works. I normally would “see what I have” then adjust my plans accordingly. I like to mince the ingredients up finely, then stir them together and spoon into the ‘caps. Sometimes, though, I don’t. This is a great type of recipe: there really aren’t any rules. Alright, one rule: if you use cheese, put it on top. That way it will melt and be a sort of “lid” for the rest of the ingredients in your little mini-casserole dish.

Cook at about 300-350 degrees ferenheit, for about 20-30 minutes… ’til “done”!

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

Puy lentils

lentils

5 lovely lentil recipes I want to try in the coming weeks.

Lentil and Escarole Soup

Lentil Stew With Pumpkin or Sweet Potatoes

Lentil Salad With Walnut Oil

Lentil Soup With Chipotles

Lentil and Tuna Salad

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/19/five-ways-to-love-lentils/

 
by Natasha Henderson, Montreal
 

When I moved across the country from British Columbia’s Vancouver Island to Montreal, Quebec a little over three years ago, I knew that I would experience many changes. Not the least of these changes, I felt, would be to my diet.

The view from Kitty Coleman, in the Comox Valley

I had in mind that I would indulge in new things, new foods, perhaps try French Cuisine… it is true that I experienced some change in my diet and lifestyle, and a lot of that was due to what was available in the supermarkets. Different vegetables, different prices, smaller cuts of meat, and a wider selection of new cheeses greeted me at the first supermarket I visited in the downtown core of Montreal. After a couple of months I learned about the fresh farmer’s markets in the city. I began shopping for goods that were more locally grown, and in season whenever possible. Now, three years into life here, I am signed onto a CSA programme with a local organic farm for weekly veggie and fruit delivery. While enjoying the process of transformations within my new life in a new city and province, I was developing an interest in what I was putting into my mouth… an interest beyond the question of simply flavour.

Festivities and poutine abound in Montreal

After realising how much I liked poutine, but how guilty I always felt whenever I indulged, I figured that I must find a way to make a healthier option of it… something I could do at home, too, and save a little cash in the process. The first thing that I tried was to purchase frozen fries at the grocery store, and whenever I had some leftover gravy (not that often, of course… it’s GRAVY) I would make poutine the next day. While experimenting a little more with cooking, I finally discovered the joyous root that is the sweet potato. One day I had some potatoes, so made some wedgie-fries like my mom used to make out of their delightful Yukon Gold potatoes from the home garden in Comox, BC. Butter in a pan in the oven, bake. Easy. I thought about some fried sweet potato chips a friend had treated me to a year or so before that, this seemingly exotic chip. We had dipped them in home-made mayonnaise. That’s another delightful story… I had found the intense flavour of the sweet potato a little powerful, a little overwhelming. So I made a batch of wedgies with some potato, some sweet potato. Perfect combination (for me, anyhow).

Using sweet potatoes in place of, or as well as, regular potatoes for the fries is a tasty option that makes a poutine “healthy”. Sweet potatoes are full of vitamins. Their flesh is a bright, appetizing orange, and their flavour carries a pleasant sweetness. Try to leave the skin on for your fries, like you would with regular potatoes. Just cut off the ugliest bits, and the “eyes“. Cut the sweet potatoes and potatoes into even-thickness strips, like house-fries in restaurants. One healthy option for baking the fries is to use butter or olive oil and fry them in a pan until soft, then bake until crisp. Another is to simply bake them in the oven until they are crisp, using no fat at all, or you can add a little olive oil or butter on the pan for taste. When the fries go in the oven, try sprinkling some salt, pepper, chilli pepper, garlic, steak spice, rosemary… any spice or flavouring that you like on them. You could even add some grated parmesan cheese, though with the upcoming level of cheese curds it might not be necessary. Bake them at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until done to your liking.

Options for the gravy include using butter or olive oil as a tasty start; you don‘t have to have fat drippings from a roast. To thicken and add flavour, stir into the saucepan a small handful of flour, about 2 tablespoons (depending on quantity of gravy you are making). If you’d prefer to not use flour, try using another starchy substance, such as cooked lentils or beans that have been mashed a little with a fork. Once browned, thin out the roux (browned flour or other starch) with a little veggie, beef or chicken stock. Use wine, beer, or water if you have no stock. Bring to bubbling while stirring, then simmer and reduce, adding more of your chosen liquid (or now switch to plain water) as you go. During this reduction process, I like to add a good generous sprinkle of pepper. Other spices can be added, according to your taste. Rosemary, garlic, paprika… the kitchen ceiling‘s the limit. Or, just leave it plain, and practice gravy-making to find your own favourite combo!

Poutine, the "UN-Healthy" version. Click to read CTV story...

The fries will take about an hour once in the oven, and the gravy can be re-heated once it’s made, so I would start in on making the gravy as soon as your fries are baking. That way the fries will be nice and hot when it is time to eat them, and that is quite important for full enjoyment of poutine. You can find cheese curds readily throughout Quebec, and in some regions across Canada. However if there are none in your supermarket, there are other options. A white, flavourful cheese is all right to use for this poutine (though purists would argue not.) I have used Edam, or Havarti, or Old Cheddar as a cheese curd replacement in poutine, with similarly tasty results. You could add a nice tanginess by adding some feta or parmesan, if you have it. Lately, I’ve switched to non-pasteurized, old cheddar and the results are excellent. I like to put the cheese onto the fries inside the oven, to melt a little, and even turn a light brown. Again, it’s about options and taste. It’s all up to you what you do with your meal. Some would add the curds and gravy to the fries, stir around so it is a melting mess, others like to layer their food neatly. If you are serving to guests, I would recommend placing the fries on each plate, then adding the cheese, then the gravy on top to melt the cheese a little.

Healthy Poutine. Seriously.

Now that I’ve shared a little dash of this story with you, I hope that you have fun experimenting with taking those traditionally unhealthy treats and turning them into sustenance to truly enjoy!

Experience #1: Khyber Pass Afghan Restaurant

by Natasha Henderson, Montreal

In recent months, I have been working on becoming 95% vegetarian. When I tell people that I have a Once-A-Week-Meat-Eat, they usually laugh and say “then you’re not a vegetarian!”. That is true. I am not a full vegetarian. However, I am aware that there are many, many positive things about being mindful of what one eats. I think it is necessary to understand that if you buy a typical “steak”, this piece of a cow will have been born, raised, slaughtered, and chopped up in the factory-farming system. I would prefer to not support that system. So, I am trying to be more vegetarian both at home and in restaurants.

Fried Eggplant with Yogurt

I recently enjoyed a trip to an Afghan restaurant in Montreal. The Khyber Pass is a medium-sized restaurant, decorated to feel cozy with richly embroidered and decorated tapestries and textiles on the walls and ceilings. For a textile-loving-girl such as myself, this was a wonderful distraction. However, once the food was served, attention shifted from the surroundings to the table.

The meal began with little flat squares of Afghan bread, served warm in a basket. Dipping sauces accompanied them. The sauces were delicious, and varied greatly in flavour, colour, texture, and spice. This all went well with our wine… my group of six people all brought our own wines. The corking service is a delightful advantage of many restaurants in Montreal.

I had walked by the Khyber Pass several times before, usually stopping to read the menu posted outside. Cauliflower, yogurt, eggplant… all looked delicious to me. Of course I also saw lots and lots of lamb. When my friends and I were settled inside, I mentioned what I’d seen on the menu, and my own assumptions about Afghan cooking (lots of lamb). Fortunately, our waiter overheard me, and corrected me. “In Afghanistan, lamb is only cooked for celebrations. Here, Canada, every DAY is a celebration.” His explanation clarified why most every dish on the menu featured lamb. All my friends ordered various lamb dishes (I heard that it was “divine”.) I went Veggie.

My order: Red Lentil and Fresh Coriander soup, Fried Eggplant with Yogurt appetizer, Veggie Combo main dish (eggplant, cauliflower, spinach, okra, and three types of Basmati rice), dessert was a delightful Rosewater with Pistachio pudding.

Red Lentil Soup with Fresh Coriander

The soup was a tangy and pleasantly warm beginning, what one would expect from a spiced lentil soup. Not “remarkable”, but for the warm-up dish, who’d want that? It was similar to soups I make at home. Perfectly fine.

I had the fortune of dining with friends who were so kind as to share their appetizers. Once I’d bitten into it, I realised that my pal’s dumpling actually was filled with (a very tasty) meat. Well, I recommend it for someone who likes their meat, and is looking for something filling and satisfying. They reminded me of my Mom’s “won-tons” that she’d make at Christmas. Deep-fried triangle pockets, filled with hashed meats and diced onions… delicious indeed. I wouldn’t order them, personally, because on a Once-A-Week-Meat-Eat diet it would, perhaps, be a little disappointing.

Meaty Dumplings Ooops!

Another wonderful appetizer that was fortunately shared was the spicy Pumpkin Borani. This was a stewed pumpkin, softly mashed, baked in a small casserole. Served with yogurt and tomatoes, it felt warm and stick-to-your-ribs, full of both vitamins and comfort. The subtle taste of pumpkin was allowed to glow forth in this wonderful dish, I would eat it every day if I could.

My Main Plate

As for the main plate, my friends didn’t offer forth any of their lamb. Granted, I didn’t ask to try any of it, but I think they knew it would be good. There certainly were no complaints! I found my gently flavoured Basmati rice to be divine, the spinach and yogurt and eggplant were all very rich yet homey-tasting. I could feel the vitamins and nutrients concurrently providing energy and flavourful pleasures. Pure and healthy comfort-food.

Everything that I ordered this day, I would order again. Next time, though, I must have some of the Pumpkin Borani, perhaps two or three of them!

Natasha will continue her voyage into Vegetarian Cuisine in Non-Vegetarian Restaurants next week, with a visit to the Bistro Sur la Riviere…

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