All alone with my memories…

Mushrooms and Polenta

I don’t watch TV very often, at least compared to the “average” person, but there are a few shows that I am addicted to. One of these shows is Top Chef on Bravo, because it not only gives me great ideas for food combinations it also gives an hour long escape. While the vast majority of the recipes on the show are unusable as is (they have a strange affiliation for pork that I don’t get) watching the season finale for Top Chef Master got me thinking. Part of the challenge is to create a recipe based on your earliest food memory, which for me was simple. One of the earliest memories I have is of my paternal Grandma cooking Cabbage and Polenta in our old house. I remember her cutting up the cabbage and tossing into this HUGE pot along with anything else she could find: carrots, tomatoes, onions, and some type of meat. She would then move on to the Polenta and would occasionally let us help her stir the polenta and attempt to show us how to tell if it was ready. She would then place it in the bottom of our bowls and start ladeling in the deliciousness of the cabbage dish. While my sibling normally didn’t touch this meal I had great fondness for it, and can also remember picking out the “icky” pepperonnis that occasionally made their way in to the dish. So I decided to recreate her polenta and top it with a variation of a mushroom “sauce” I saw on the Food Network courtesy of Mr. Guy Fieri. I’m not sure what restaurant he was visiting but they served this over rice and it was also more like a cream of mushroom soup while I did mine thinner to go better with the Polenta. I tried recreating it based on what they threw in during the demo but since they were doing a mass batch for the first part of the dinner rush I’m 90% positive that my ratios were off, however this was still AMAZING and will be a repeat dish due to the ease in which it was made and the amazing flavor combination!

For the Mushroom Sauce:
3 cups thinly sliced mushrooms (I used a combination of baby bella & white)
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp butter
1 cup Monterey Jack, shredded
1 medium tomato, diced
1/2 onion, thinly diced
1. Place mushrooms, water, and butter in a medium saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook 6 minutes.
2. Stir in cheese, tomato, and onion, cover, and cook 5 minutes or until the cheese melts.
3. Pour into a serving bowl and serve hot with fresh polenta.
For the Polenta
1/2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 cups water
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups skim milk
2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups yellow cornmeal
3 tbsp butter
1. Warm the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat, add the garlic and saute for 3-5 minutes or until the garlic is slightly golden.
2. Add the milk and water and bring the mixture to a heavy simmer. Add the salt and then gradually whisk in the cornmeal.
3. Reduce heat to low and cook about 15 minutes or until the mixture thickens, stirring often. Turn off the heat, add the butter and stir until melted. ENJOY!
To make a really authentic polenta use a cast iron skillet instead of the saucepan, one day I will buy a larger one…

Summer time

Every now and then I hear something, either on TV or the radio, where I have to stop and ask myself if I heard that correctly. This would frequently happen when watching House or Glee or while listening to one of the various local “shock jocks.” However it has rarely happened as the result of a commercial yet the other day while driving to work I heard a Subway commercial that really made me pause and wonder if I heard them correctly. Now I’m not saying I agree with them but the “summer tips from Officer Jim (?) are some of the funnier things I had heard on radio in awhile. I’m not going to give details about this very un-PC commercial but I’m sure that it can easily be found online by googling Subway and “keep our beaches beautiful.”

Now on to the real reason you are here, the recipe. Many moons ago I had this amazing zucchini and cheese side dish at a restaurant near my college. I basically decided to take an already amazing side dish and make some changes to make it more of a main dish. This is not one of the healthiest vegetarian dishes out there but it could easily become less sinful by changing out the cheeses for a part skim mixture, or even subbing with a low-fat vegan cheese.
Three Squash Casserole w/Two Cheeses
1 zucchini, sliced 1/4 in thick
2 yellow squash, sliced 1/4 in thick
1 medium eggplant, sliced 1/4 in thick
1 medium onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
5 ounces Gouda, shredded
5 ounces Pepper Jack, cubed
salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 375
2. Lightly spray a medium size casserole dish with cooking spray. Arrange a layer of squash slices evently on the bottom of the dish, alternating between the zucchini, squash, and eggplant. Top with a layer of onion and green peppers and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Layer a 1/4 of the shredded Gouda along with dots of the Pepper jack. Repeat the layers, ending with a layer of cheese.
3. Cover the casserole with aluminum foil and bake for 35minutes. Remove the foil and continue to back an additional 30minutes, until the squash is tender and the cheese is bubbly. Let stand a few minutes before serving.
I’m not sure what cheeses were in the orginal version of this dish, I’m sure cheddar was one of them but I’m not sure as to the second cheese. I have a feeling that any combination of smooth and sharp would work well.


Joe’s Corner: Mushroom Stroganoff

This dish was a good stepping point for me. I had three things going at once while cooking this one up. Of course the last step of the recipe caught me off guard considering I had just started sauteing when I read it: “serve over cooked egg noodles.” I knew there was a new bag of noodles out for a reason… I managed fine enough though. Starting the noodles right as I finished sauteing timed well. I guess I’m just developing a natural touch for this art. There were two things I learned from this dish.

1) “cook until the mixture has reduced by 1/3.” I know it reads straightforward enough; however, I was still surprised to learn this literally means cook until 1/3 of the original amount has evaporated. Of course I took it off the heat too soon, but since we have sour cream to add, I think for this dish less is more. A little too creamy is much better than a little too watery.
2) Don’t boil sour cream. I didn’t but I’m glad I broke my rule and asked about this beforehand. In step 4, once the sour cream is added, make sure it doesn’t return to a boil. It apparently curdles. Gross.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 cups mushrooms, sliced
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1. Heat olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-heat. Add onion and garlic, and saute, stirring until softened.
2. Turn the heat up to medium-high, and add sliced mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are limp and browned.
3. Stir in wine and vegetable broth; bring to a boil, and cook until the mixture has reduced by 1/3. Reduce heat to low.
4. In a small bowl stir together the sour cream and flour; then blend into the mushrooms sauce. Cook for an additional 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to prevent sticking.
5. Stir in the parsely, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over cooked egg noodles.

I thought some seitan (a soy protein that’s the best replacement when a dish needs meat) would be pretty good in this dish, but I was firmly convinced otherwise. That being said, the mushrooms are your “meat” replacement here, so feel free to use a lot if you like mushrooms. I’m so-so on mushrooms, so this dish was ok for me. I ended up putting old bay on it. I still say some ground seitan would be perfect, but maybe that’s just the carnivore in me talking…

Completely Incomplete

Good evening! This past weekend was totally insane, between seeing CATS on Friday night and having my brother’s graduation party on Sunday every moment was packed with something. I mentioned before that I love ethnic food, and of all of them Italian is by far my favorite. I know that when it’s 90 some degrees outside the last thing I should want to do is spend the evening cooking risotto but apparently I am a glutton for punishment. I made a pea and mushroom risotto a few weeks ago but I still couldn’t resist doing another mushroom risotto after seeing how delicious the mushrooms looked at the store the other day. I wound up getting three types: white button, baby bella, and portabello with the plan to do something with all of them. So I decided to use the first two types in my dish, with the plan of leaving the portabellos for Joe to do something with. That plan didn’t exactly happen but that’s a story for another entry.

Creamy Mushroom Risotto
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp fresh parsley
1 cup baby bellas, sliced
1 cup white button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup skim milk
1 cup Arborio rice
4 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup grated Paramesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and garlic in 1 tbsp olive oil until onion is tender and garlic is slightly browned. Stir in the parsely, mushrooms, salt, and pepper. Reduce heat to low, and continue cooking until the mushrooms are soft. Set Aside.
2. In a small saucepan simmer 4 cups vegetable stock.
3. Meanwhile heat the remaining olive oil in the skillet over medium heat. Add the rice, stirring until rice is fully coated in oil. Add the wine and milk and bring to a simmer while stirring. Once the milk/wine has reduced by about half begin adding the vegetable broth to the rice a half cup at a time. Keep Stirring! Remember to let the liquid fully absorb before adding the next amount, the longer it takes to add the liquid the better the risotto will taste.
4. When the rice has finished cooking stir in the mushroom mixture and remove from heat. Serve hot and topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Risotto is one of those dishes that takes forever to make the first time but once you know how it works you can do it in your sleep. At this point a nice risotto is a fail safe dinner idea, just make rice and add the freshest vegetable available!

I don’t know what you’ve done to me

I wonder if they offer rehab for True Blood addiction, if so I need to consider signing up. “hello my name is Amanda and I am addicted to True Blood.” The latest DVD arrived from Netflix the other day and in honor of the marathon that was to come I decided to make a vegetarian (actually wound up Vegan) Jambalaya. I have been fortunate enough to have true Jambalaya thanks to a dorm-mate in college who was from just outside of Baton Rouge, and this recipe is the closest non-meat version I have ever found with one exception that I’ll mention later. This is also a recipe that can easily be tailored based on how spicey people prefer their jambalaya as well as those who like it “juicier.” This is considered a Creole Jambalaya since it does have tomatoes in it however I did omit celery due to personal preference, something that would never be done in a true Jambalaya. For those of you who want to keep the traditional ingredient it should be added with the peppers and in an amount proportional to the peppers. The combination of Onion, Pepper, and Celery is referred to as the “Holy Trinity” of Creole/Cajun cooking and is normally done in a 2:1:1 ratio.   If you are looking for more of a Cajun Jambalaya skip the tomatoes.  This recipe can also be easily adapted for a slow cooker, or tossed in a slow cooker towards the end and kept on low heat for a stronger taste.

– 1 tsp olive oil
– 1 tsp cayenne pepper
– 1/2 tbsp red chili flakes
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 medium onion, chopped
– 1 green bell pepper, chopped
– 1 red bell pepper, chopped
– 1 jalepeno, deseeded & chopped (leave seeds if you like it spicey)
– 8oz seitan, crumbled (if you can’t find crumbled then cubed will work, it can be broken up while browning)
– 1 1/2 cups long grain brown rice
– 3 cups vegetable stock
– 2 large tomatoes, chopped
1. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch Oven over medium heat. Stir in the cayenne pepper and the red chili flakes and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the onion and saute 3minutes, or until onions are slightly translucent. Add the peppers and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
2. In a separate skillet brown the seitan over medium heat, breaking up into smaller pieces as it cooks if needed.
3. Add the seitan to the pepper and onion mixture. Turn heat to high and add the tomatoes, rice, and broth bringing to a quick boil.
4. Cover and reduce heat to low, cook for 30minutes or until rice is done.

I don’t always place this in the slow cooker at the end, in this case it was done so the dogs could be walked before the mini-marathon began. I put the temperature on high and had the slow cooker set to turn off after an hour, just in case I wasn’t back in time. I could have kept it in the Dutch Oven on low heat but I trust the slow cooker more than the oven when it comes to leaving something on and unattended.


So the third post wound up not happening but that’s alright because now I am posting from an Air Conditioned house, and it’s wonderful because I didn’t realize how much I need air conditioning until I didn’t have it anymore.

Now for the recipe, I actually made these muffins this past Saturday morning as a surprise for Joe. I had two missions with these muffins: find a nut free banana muffin recipe and make them vegan. I couldn’t find anything that fit both of them so I decided to adapt my mom’s cinnamon apple recipe, which is vegan, and substitute the apples for bananas. The result was amazing! Nut free vegan banana muffins in under 30minutes.

Banana Cinnamon Muffins
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter substitute (smart balance)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup applesauce (cinnamon or regular)
4 overripe bananas
1. Preheat oven to 350
2. In a large bowl combine flour, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl cream together butter and borwn sugar. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blened. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten.
3. Pour batter into a lightly greased muffin pan. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the muffin comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10minutes, then serve.

Life is your Restaurant

So two posts in one night…and maybe even a third depending on how the night goes. Last week was more than a little hectic so things are more than slightly delayed. The fact that I have a new addiction doesn’t help. Someone thought it was a good idea to introduce me to this tv show called True Blood. Now at first it really wasn’t my thing but now…well…it’s amazing! We are almost part way thru season 1 right now thanks to Netflix and I’m hoping to be up to date soon.

Now on to the recipe! I got this idea from seeing a bunch of curry recipes on allrecipes.com that used sweet potatoes; however all of them used lamb and none of them had enough veggies for my taste. So I took a little bit of column A, some of column B, and then a dash of column C for good measure.
So this is the end result, and I have a feeling this is one of those dishes that will continue to be modified because there are so many combinations of vegetables that could be used.
– 4tbsp olive oil, divided
– 1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
– 1 medium eggplant, sliced
– 1 green bell pepper, diced
– 1 red bell pepper, diced
– 2 carrots, chopped into 1in sections
– 1 onion, sliced
– 4 cloves garlic, minced
– 1tsp ground turmeric
– 1/2 tsp ground cumin
– 2tbsp curry powder
– 1tsp ground cinnamon
– 1tsp chile powder
– 1 can chick peas
– 1 cup carrot juice

1. In a large Dutch Oven place sweet potato, eggplant, peppers, carrots, onion, and 2tbsp oil. Saute over medium heat for 5 minutes.
2. In a medium saucepan place two tbsps olive oil, garlic, turmeric, cumin, curry powder, and cinnamon over medium for 3 minutes, creating a paste.
3. Pour the garlic spice mixture into the dutch oven with vegetables in it. Add the chickpeas and carrot juice. Simmer for 20 minutes, covered. Serve hot over rice.

I was a BIG fan of this, but the best part was while Joe was eating this he kept commenting on how good the carrots were, so sweet an tasty. It wasn’t until he saw the recipe that he realized the “tasty carrots” were actually sweet potatoes!