Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Crockpot Week

So this week has, unintentionally become the week of the crock-pot in my house.  This past weekend we had the tastiest baked beans that have ever come out of my kitchen with veggie burgers on homemade honey oat buns and something else that I've forgotten at the moment...oh right, baked cajun potato wedges.  Last night we had Mushroom and Green Bean Stroganoff and tonight we're having Potpie with a biscuit crust (recipe can be found below).

Until about a year and a half ago, I think I maybe used the crock-pot twice.  I had been talking about my lack of crock-pot knowledge and how I would really like to use it more often but don't know how to go about using while still depriving it of fleshy stews.  So for my birthday last year a foodie friend of my gave me the book Fresh From The Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson.  Since then I've been utilizing the lovely contraption at least once a month and like this week, sometimes much more.

I think the reason I don't use it more is because I'm, most of the time, a last minute cook.  I wait until 3 or 4 hours before dinner to think about what we're going to have, sometime having to run to the store before the meal is able to be made or on most occasions, the boy calls on his way home from work to ask if we need anything for the nights meal.  So this plan ahead, cook all day so I don't have to concept that I love, has been hard for me to grasp.  The most difficult being the dried beans.  I have really had to work to think far enough in advance to look through the cookbook and decide on a recipe in case I may need to spend the day before soaking beans, the night before cooking beans then the day of the meal, cooking the actual recipe.  I love the idea of spending a dollar or two on a bag of beans (or better yet, buying them in bulk from the co-op) but have the hardest time with "I want it now" syndrome.  I want three bean chili tonight not two days from now. 

So I suppose, spending some quality time with my crock pot is a lesson in patience and planning ahead.  Two virtues that I am glad for the practice to work on but also two virtues that the rest of the country really needs to look at a little closer as well.  Maybe Crock-pot week should be a national holiday, like earth day or grandparents day.  As far as my yearly calender goes, it's official January 11-16th is Crock-pot week and I will enjoy every evening that my crock-pot is cooking and I'm not, relaxing and taking a breather from the past two months of craziness and enjoying some quality time with the boy. 

Here's to Crock-pot week! (and if we're giving toasts, to local beer)!!

Crockpot Potpie

Tweeted: January 13, 2010
Origin: Fresh From The Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson

Slow-Fashioned Potpie with Biscuit Crust
serves 4
slow cooker size: 3.5-4 quart
cook time: 6 hours

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 med size yellow onion, chopped
1 lg carrot, chopped
2 Tbsp. ap flour
1 lg ap potato, peeled and diced
3 cups slow cooked or two 15.5 ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup frozen peas
3/4 cup vegetable stock
1 Tbsp tamari or other soy sauce
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried savory
salt and pepper

1. Heat oil in med skillet over med heat.  Add onion and carrot, cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
2.  Transfer the onion and carrot to a lightly oiled slow cooker. Stir in flour.  Add potato, chickpeas, and peas, stir in the stock, tamari, thyme, and savory, and season with salt and pepper.  Cover and cook on low for 5 hours.

Biscuit Crust
1 cup ap flour
2 tsp baking powder 
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 T olive oil
1/2 cup milk or soy milk

1.  About 1 hour before you're ready to serve, make the crust: in a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Quickly stir in the milk and the oil until just blended.
2.  Spoon the biscuit topping over the surface of the simmering vegetables.  Turn the heat setting to high, cover, and cook until the crust is cooked through, about 1 hour longer.  For a drier crust, cook with cover off.  Serve the potpie within 10 to 15 minutes after the crust is finished cooking for best taste results.

Suggestions and notes:  I added about 1/4-1/2 cup of frozen green beans to the potpie.  I also used about 1/4 of whole wheat flour and 3/4 cup all purpose for the crust to give it a heartier flavor.  Didn't have savory so just used a little extra pepper but can replace it with marjoram or sage.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The only Pasta Salad worth making

Tweeted: January 12, 2010
Origin: The Cook's Encyclopedia of Vegetarian Cooking by Linda Fraser adaptations have been made to original recipe.

Penne Pasta Salad
serves 4 (but I like to make a double batch.  It tastes so much better after soaking up the juices overnight and it's great for a light lunch for a few days.)

2 1/4 cups dried penne
1 pound grape tomatoes, halved
10 oz. mozzarella, drained and cut into smallish cubes
1/4 cup olive oil
2Tbsp. +or- balsamic vinegar (I tend to like more but start with this and add more if you like)
zest and juice of one lemon
15 fresh basil leaves, shredded (optional, I don't use this unless I can get it fresh from the garden)
salt and pepper to taste
basil leaves for garnish (also optional)

1.  Cook the pasta in boiling salted water, until just tender.
2.  In a large bowl, (large enough to fit everything, including the pasta) mix together the oil, vinegar, lemon zest and juice.
3.  Add cubed mozz and halved tomatoes to the oil and vinegar.  Mix well.  I usually try a piece of the cheese at this point to make sure the oil and vinegar ratio is acceptable but remember that it's going to be a lot weaker than this once it's spread throughout the pasta.  But you'll have plenty of time to test again along the way and adjust as necessary.
4.  Drain pasta and let it sit for a bit, 20 minutes is probably fine.  Adding it to the mix too soon melts the cheese slightly. 
5.  Mix the pasta in with the rest of it and add salt and pepper to taste and adjust vinegar accordingly.  Garnish if you so choose with basil.

MMM  enjoy!!

Serving suggestion: Great bring along to summer pot lucks or to shake off that winter cabin fever feeling with a summery meal.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Coconut Curry

Tweeted: January 10, 2010 as Seitan Curry with Brown Short Grain Rice
Origin: I don't know where it came from, I've had it and adapted it to my liking long ago, so it's origin at this point is me!

Coconut Curry with Seitan or Tofu 
Served with rice or lentils
Serves 2 with the chance of a little bit for lunch the next day

Curry Sauce
1 can coconut milk (regular or light)
1 tsp. curry paste
1 Tbsp curry powder
3 tsp minced ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
dash of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

In a med bowl combine all sauce ingredients, whisk until thoroughly combined and set aside.  

Tofu or Seitan
oil and butter (1 T)
1 med onion, chopped
1# tofu or seitan (could use more if desired) sliced into bite size strips
salt and pepper
1 tsp curry powder
1 heaping Tbsp peanut butter
1 cup or 1 med roasted or fresh red pepper
optional: 1 cup thinkly sliced water chestnuts
1 cup scallions, white and green parts, sliced thin
chopped fresh mint for garnish
lime wedges for serving

1. Start cooking the rice or lentils so they are ready when the rest is ready.
2.  Coat large skillet or wok with veg or olive oil.  Saute tofu or seitan until browned.  Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
3.  Add 1 Tbsp. butter to still hot skillet.  Add onions and cook until starting to brown.  Add the tofu/seitan and heat through.  Season with s+p and stir in curry powder.  Add peanut buter and allow to melt and coat seitan.
4.  Add red peppers, chestnuts, scallions and saute to release flavor.
5.  Pour coconut sauce over items in skillet and stir gently.  Cok until warmed through and thickened a bit (10 minutes or feel free to let it simmer until it's at a desirable thickness for your liking).  Season as needed and fresh squeezed lime juice.  Garnish with fresh lime slices and mint.

Serve over rice or lentils.

Serving suggestion: Top with sesame sticks or cashews.  If to warm in spice, dollop with plain yogurt.