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Shepherding those pesky lentils into a line – er, I mean pie.

music to read by :: Shepherd (Genesis)

One of our favourite cold weather foods, here at casa vassal, is my veggie shepherd’s pie. Why? Because it is limitless in it’s versatility, and can be customized for a variety of dietary needs.

Except for meat eaters, of course. Then it just becomes regular ol’ shepherd’s pie. And that’s not what it’s all about today.

I’m pretty sure I started out, eons ago, with a recipe. Something tells me it might have been from a magazine, but I’m not sure anymore. I work this shepherd’s pie like most my meals, doing a little something I like to call “cooking”; using what I have on hand, and flavouring to taste.

So go, now! and grab yourself some brown lentils. Do they *have* to be brown? No. Go wild! Use the green ones! Mix them up, if you’re feeling crazy! Continue reading

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Pearl Jam. Chick peas. Hummus!

music to read by :: Hummus (Pearl Jam)

Yesterday, I woke up determined to make a food I have, at that point, had no luck with.

Yeah. Me. Can’t make hummus.

I have no idea why; it’s not like it’s difficult, you know, like making butter … And it’s not like I don’t have recipes or access to the interwebs.

Hummus just eludes me.

So. Yeah. Yesterday.

I woke up ready to kick me some hummus ass, which made my fam happy as this meant there would be a better than even chance we would be having pizza.

And our pizza rocks!

Lucky for me (and, I guess, them) I had chick peas soaking in quantity for some planned falafel. I grabbed a cup of my soaked chick peas, covered with 6 cups of water, brought to a boil, then simmered for three hours.

Then I tossed out all my recipes, took a deep breath, and pulled out the food processor.

Into the beast, I tossed my chick peas, 1 large clove garlic, 2 tbsp tahini, a good drizzle of olive oil, and the juice of one very juicy lemon. Then I blended like there was no tomorrow, until the chick peas were no more, ’til all was smooth and …. well, you get the picture.

For the topping, I chopped up another clove of garlic, fresh garlic greens, and fresh onion greens, plus another drizzle of oil and some paprika. For a moment, I thought maybe I was going too wild, but hey! It’s not like it ever turns out anyway …. or so I thought.

Daaayuuum! I kicked it’s ass! I really did!

While a bit thicker than I would have liked, it tasted amazing. I might even make it again.

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Focus on the mayo, not the broccoli

When I was in my early twenties, and of a clubbing mentality, I would frequent a local dance club that catered mainly to the gay male of our species, and played the best club music around. As a straight female, this was a pretty safe place to hang as long as one was comfortable with co-ed bathrooms and all that implied in a gay dance club. Sure, my wardrobe probably wasn’t up to standard, but I could bust a move, and as long as I was allowed to pee in peace all was good.

One evening my to-be-husband and I decided to take our then roommate to this club, forgetting it was male stripper/dancer night.

Oi vey.

Continue reading

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mmmmmmmmmmmKorma (or “can’t yell, my mouth is full”)

In 2010, my family and I spent approximately 4 weeks in India, mostly in Delhi, but with visits to Jaipur, Agra, and some small communities in between. We even managed to spend a lovely morning visiting with and learning about Bulbuls, the Indian equivalent of Brownies, not the sopngbird.

While not untravelled, I experienced a bit of culture shock, stress of over crowding, and the inevitable food issues that arise from travelling with a then 7/8 year old.

The food was delicious, plentiful, fresh, and cheap, but man, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much pizza on on trip before.

Chicken Korma, with Paneer

The Paneer :: So easy! I don’t have a cheese press, so my paneer isn’t as “solid” as the store bought stuff. As a result, I add mine in the last 5 minutes of cooking the curry. But, oh my. Yum! Continue reading

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Some days you just have to yell, “it’s tomato soup makin’ time!”

…and when you wake up on an April Monday morning to a snow covered magnolia, that’s the day.

Making tomato soup is the best simply because anything goes; simple or chunky, rice, pasta, or not, spicey, or plain. It’s all good. Tomato soup – like most soups – requires no measuring so I am all over that. Play around with what you have on hand and as long as you keep to a few constants, you will always have amazing tomato soup in as little as one hour.

Holy Crap It Snowed Tomato Soup

Start with a few veggies, but always onion. Chop, Chop, Chop. I’ve done this with white potatoes and with sweet potatoes in the past, but last night’s soup used a carrot and celery base.

Melt about a tablespoon of unsalted homemade butter (or that store bought stuff) in your soup makin’ pot, and toss in a dash of flour if you are feeling a thickened soup.

Stir, stir, stir, over medium heat, until the veggies are good and coated with the butter, and then let them settle for a few minutes, or as long as it takes you to roughly chop your tomatoes.

I always use roma tomatoes. If you have other types on hand, mix them up – plum tomatoes are great to add.

 

How much? It depends on how much soup you are making. I think I put in 6 chopped tomatoes. Three of us ate and there is enough left over for me to have a yummy lunch today.

Stir, stir, stir, for a few minutes, the add some broth. This part is pretty flexible depending on what type of soup you are going for. I mostly use a veggie broth or an onion broth, rarely a meat based on. Once, all I had was homemade chicken broth, so I just used water and upped the seasonings.

So, add the broth ensuring the veggies are completely covered, but be warned if you add too much liquid you will have a more liquid-y soup.

Add onion greens and garlic greens. (do it! yum!)

Cover and let simmer until all your veggies are cooked.

Use an immersion blender (if ya got one) and blend up all that goodness right in the pot, then grind in some pepper.

Add chopped fresh basil. You can add other fresh herbs at this point, but definitely the basil.

Now add a dollop of balsamic vinegar. Do it.

(Or, if you are going for a different style of tomato soup, skip the herbs and such and add some chile peppers.)

Let the soup simmer for 5-10 minutes to absorb your seasonings, but not too long.

Serve. Garnish if desired.

 

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My thumb is turning a light shade of green!

2012 has been designated the year I become less dependant on society to accomplish my day to day. I don’t mean in a “can you drive me to the store” kind of dependant, but more in the “can you teach me how to change my bike tire so I can do it in the future”, kind of way.

It is also my year to live a more sustainable and frugal life.

Sustainable, in this case,  can be defined as

– pertaining to a system that maintains its own viability by using techniques that allow for continual reuse: sustainable agriculture;
– able to be supported as with the basic necessities or sufficient funds: a sustainable life

And frugal as

– economical in use or expenditure; prudently saving or sparing; not wasteful;
– able to be supported as with the basic necessities or sufficient funds: a sustainable life

Challenging myself (and therefore my family) to a whole food “diet” has been part of this lifestyle change, as it forces us to purchase foods of one ingredient and for multiple purposes. But I think this challenge falls mostly to the frugal side of things (and healthy. let’s not forget healthy)

For sustainability, I’ve started looking at what I *do* with some of these whole/real foods once I’ve prepared a meal, with the big kick in the head coming when I started planning my garden.

I want to expand my garden this year, to include more foods we eat, both in the ground and in containers. So in March, I started making a list of the plants and seeds I wanted to buy. Then I made dinner and found myself scraping seeds and such into the compost.

Wait!?

What!?

Yeah. I’m a city girl …..

yellow peppersAfter banging my head against the counter for a time, I dug into the compost and pulled out some seeds. Then I wandered around, planting the seeds into already existing indoor pots – it was still winter here.

As you can see, my peppers, mentioned in a previous post, have poked their heads even higher and are almost ready for transplant. I’ll separate them out in the coming weeks and nurse them along. I think these will be container plants so I can attempt to over winter them. The jalopeno plant wintered indoors and seems ok, but we will see if it fruits.

I also channeled my inner kid and dug out the egg cartons. A few weeks later and I have quite a few tomatoes (I think they are roma) greeting the sun.

Depending on how many sprout, I will spread them between containers and ground. Last year I managed to keep a cherry tomato fruiting indoors until the new year.

I’m not sure why it took me so long to use my already existing seeds. The past has always found me wandering the garden stores picking up seedlings and transplanting them at home. It has been expensive and not very sustainable – unless, of course, you own the garden store!

My latest “duh” moment came while staring at my green onions. I use a fair bit of green onions making our flavoured yoghurt cheese, and they sit on the shelf on the fridge wilting and looking sad.

Now, they are stored in a jar of water, on my kitchen window sill and just keep regenerating. I’ve been working off of the same bunch for a few weeks now, and they are tasty! I just change the water every few days. I’ve also stuck a few in dirt (inside) to see what happens. Will they  multiply? No idea. City girl, remember.

I’m feeling a bit more “with it” now, in regards to my garden and how to sustain it. I’m looking at our foods closely, deciding if I want to harvest the seeds and try growing the item. I’m also planning a potato bed and an onion container, and am trying to decide if I want to seed potatoes on hand (they are organic), or just buy the seed potatoes and go from there.

Either way. I’m pretty happy that some of my city brain has moved over to allow a bit more gardener room. Hopefully together, they will figure out how to use this city lot to it’s best potential.

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Whole food challenge. Grade = B-

Looking back on last week, I think it is the first week where we made some progress on this whole food thing. Sure, there was still some bad, purchased, packaged foods but nowhere near as much. This can most definitely be attributed to the meal plan, so yeah. Meal plan = good.

Did we stick to the plan? Yes. If sticking to the plan means allowing for the swapping of days to suit the mood. There was only one day where we ate a meal that was not listed somewhere on the plan, but we used most of the same ingredients and did not venture forth to purchase any new foods.

Yay, us!

However, I am noticing my fridge is running out of non-whole food products, which is great! It’s also scary, since I will have to either figure out how to make them, or use up a freebie to purchase.

Things I am starting to run out of? Dijon, vanilla extract (spoiler alert! I did something yesterday!), and worcestershire sauce. I have a recipe for dijon tucked away that i am going to try, but worcestershire? I’ll have to start searching.

The Good
As usual, bread was made, last week in the form of french and dinner rolls. There was yogurt cheese, and yogurt, and strawberry freezer jam. I also made mustard and butter, freezing the buttermilk for future pancake use, and then ventured into the fresh pasta arena. Funny shaped homemade paneer was also had. Our meals, for the  most part, were simple.

Non-whole foods used that were already on site were corn chips, naan (found in the freezer. yay!), and butter chicken sauce.

The Bad
Both freebies were used as we broke down and bowed to our craving for some of Mr Christies good cookies. We also bought chocolate eggs to hide for the kidlette.

We bought cheese, an allowable purchase, for now. I have some guilt with this as I still have not re-attempted the making of mozzarella. I’ll give it another go next week since there is a still a small block of mozzarella in the freezer.

The Ugly
We had cupcakes and date squares bought from a local bakery. I don’t regret it! They were yum! But this goodness is what earned us a B- instead of a good solid B grade.

Oh well.