Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

Greetings, my readers.  What a long and strange time it’s been since I’ve shared my culinary experiments with you. The dreadfully long and hot summer has came and left, thank the gods. We didn’t have a CSA share this year due to the whole Pembroke thing and move back to Ottawa in early June so my creativity has been a bit lackluster lately. Alas, it is now Fall, Hooray!

On this day before my birthday, I have been blessed with an unprecedented emancipation from my fatigued stretch of incessant toil. That is, I’ve finally been blessed with two consecutive days off from work. I made this quick dinner one quiet Sunday evening over two weeks ago and have been eager to share one of my first recipes of the Autumn (or Fall) season with you.

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Tiny, condensed pantry, big ideas! 

I can only begin to describe how much I adore the Fall: The crisp, cool air on my face on a sunny Fall day ; the delectable taste of hot cider on my lips; the aromatic scent of pumpkin spice and apple cinnamon candles. The joy of seeing the leaves fall into shades of crimson and gold as the Halloween/Samhain season creeps in on us with the frights of horror movie marathons, costumes, decorations and haunted houses. There isn’t one thing I don’t like about this month that I was born in; it’s deeply embedded in my veins.

Without further ado, let’s get to it!

Grab the potatoes, poke them with a fork and put them in the microwave for about 5-10 minutes or until tender. These potatoes weren’t actually “twiced-baked” but feel free to pop them in the oven beforehand for about 5 minutes. Slice the taters down the middle, scoop out the flesh and set aside, leaving only the skin of the potatoes intact. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.

Nutrition Factoid on Sweet Potatoes: Sweet taters are one of the healthiest foods on the planet. Their rich orange colour indicates that they’re high in beta-carotene which is a precursor to Vitamin A that strengthens our eyesight, boosts our immunity to diseases, wards off cancer and slows down the aging process. Among the myriad of their other health benefits, sweet potatoes are also high in Vitamin B6 which helps reduce the chemical homocysteine in our bodies which is linked with heart and blood vessel disease. Since this is a vegetarian food blog, I’ll mention the fact that homocysteine is acquired mostly from eating meat. Just sayin’! Orange  is the new green in the world of vegetables.

You should also start by cooking the quinoa. For those that don’t know the drill: Add 2 cups of water and 1 cup of quinoa. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside. You shouldn’t need to drain the quinoa, if you do, you’ve used too much water. This makes 4 portions; since I was cooking for 2 people I was able save some of the quinoa to use for another day.

 

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An empty canvas of possibilities

Chop and dice some onion, garlic (not pictured) , peppers and kale.

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Saute in oil for about 5 minutes or until tender. Add the potato flesh, quinoa, veggies and seasonings in a bowl to combine. I added about 2 tablespoons of Italian bread crumbs for taste, along with the seasonings. Nutritional yeast flakes would have added an extra kick here as well, but of course I didn’t have any. I also added the jar of homemade stewed tomatoes my good friend Ashley made. Thanks, Ashley! They were awesome and I wish I had time to can my own tomatoes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Fill each potato skin with two big spoonfuls of the quinoa filling. Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake for 10-15 minutes.

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I forgot to add the protein source until after, but black beans or lentils would be a great addition to these. I decided to heat up some leftover lentils and made a green salad to make it a complete meal. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 3-4 Sweet potatoes
  • 1-2 cups Quinoa, cooked
  • 1 cup Black beans or Lentils
  • 1 can Diced tomatoes
  • 1/2  Cup Kale, chopped
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Red onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp, Italian Breadcrumbs or Nutritional Yeast
  • 1 Cup Shredded Cheddar  Cheese
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste
  • Chili powder, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Hot sauce (optional)

 

CSA post: Pumpkin Soup

In this Thanksgiving edition of  Ottawa Green  Cuisine, I’m sharing an easy Fall-themed soup for my final CSA-related post of the year.  Last week we received a sugar pumpkin (or pie pumpkin) in our last CSA share of the season, and I figured a soup would be perfect to warm our souls in this October chill. Love is the figurative feeling of pouring warm pumpkin soup over your heart. Ahhh!

To start off, poke a few holes in the poor little pumpkin with a fork, place in a glass casserole dish or pan. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake for an hour or until the pumpkin is tender.

In the meantime, get your ingredients ready because there’s such an overwhelmingly long list of them. I used vegetable broth (bouillon cubes), heavy cream (called whipping cream here in Canada),  cinnamon, nutmeg, a pinch of allspice and molasses in place of maple syrup. I’ve been using molasses a lot lately in place of maple syrup. Besides saving 10-15 dollars on a can of real maple syrup, I’ve become a new fan of cooking with molasses in a lot of my autumn-themed dishes because it gives them that little extra punch it needs. I recently used it to roast sweet potatoes for a quinoa “stuffing” for Thanksgiving. When I pulled the potatoes out of the oven, it was like they were kissed with this gorgeous sweet and spicy flavour. Yay for molasses!

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The little team that could.

Heat about 2 cups of vegetable broth in a pot on low while the pumpkin finishes baking. Once the pumpkin is ready, here’s the fun and messy part: Slice the top off the pumpkin,  slice it in half and begin separating the pulp from the seeds. Put the seeds in a colander or strainer and rinse off any remaining pulp. Set the seeds aside for the moment. Scoop out the pumpkin flesh and add to the pot of broth. Using a potato masher, mash out the pumpkin and stir as the mixture heats up. While the pumpkin is heating, add the seeds in a small skillet  and toast on low for about 5 minutes until they’ll all brown, crisp and toasty.

Returning to the pumpkin mixture, add 1/3 cup of molasses and stir. Add dashes of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice then turn off the heat. Transfer the pumpkin mixture into a blender or food processor and place the blender in the fridge to allow it to cool.  In my experience, the heat will actually make the plastic crack if you blend it right away. I ended up destroying one of my blenders before I got my Ninja by doing this. To be on the safe side, let it cool for about 20 minutes.

Once it’s cooled, add 1/2 cup of the heavy cream, a.k.a. “whipping cream” to the blender. Blend until smooth.  Sprinkle a handful of pumpkin seeds to each bowl and serve. Voila!  Enjoy.

 

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Ingredients

  • 1 sugar Pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream/ Whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup Molasses, any kind
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • A dash of Cinnamon
  • A dash of Nutmeg
  • A dash of Allspice

 

Lazy woman’s Roasted Chickpeas with Broccoli and Cauliflower

This past Friday I was having one of those tiring weeks where, when  I finally made it Friday, I just wanted to plant myself on the couch and not move an inch unless a fire broke out. So when dinner time rolled around, I decided to chop up some veg, season some chickpeas and throw them in the oven. I was back to the couch in no time!

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For the chickpeas I used canned because, of course, this was the lazy woman’s edition of roasted chickpeas but I usually soak the dried ones overnight and cook them myself. I rarely have digestive issues but dried beans make a world of difference. After 13 years of vegetarianism, I’m used to the cheap and easy protein that beans  provide and have become immune to the gassiness that it causes in other people. If you’re really concerned about that, try out the old trick with the strip of seaweed that they do in Japan. I haven’t tried it myself but I’ve read that it does help make the magical fruits more digestible.

Now, enough of the bean talk. For the seasonings, I grabbed the half a jar of sundried tomato pesto that I had in the fridge and coated the chickpeas in it. Anything with pesto makes the flavour of the food pop, and combining that with roasted vegetables, I was sure to get maximum flavour. My love for pesto has no bounds, whenever possible, I try to put it in as many dishes as possible.

Set aside the chickpeas in a bowl. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lay a sheet of aluminum foil on a cookie sheet (one less thing to wash later, yay!) toss the broccoli and cauliflower in olive oil, minced garlic, sea salt, pepper, oregano and italian seasoning. Make friends with these wonderful cruciferous vegetables,which also include cabbage, bok choy, kale and brussels sprouts. Why? They contain large amounts of antioxidants, phytochemicals, minerals and vitamins. Studies show that they can lower the risk of cancer so eat your damn veggies!

Pop the beauties into the oven, plop yourself on the couch and bake for about 30-40 minutes or until it’s golden brown and crispy.

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You can serve with quinoa or rice, but it’s perfectly filling on it’s own. I personally couldn’t be bothered with it.

Ingredients

  • 1-2 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jar Sundried tomato or Basil Pesto
  • 1 can Chickpeas
  • 1 head Broccoli
  • 1 head Cauliflower
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp Oregano
  • Paprika, a pinch
  • Italian seasoning, to taste

This dish happens to be vegan, Gluten-free, peanut-free, low-carb, low-calorie, sugar-free, air-free, grass-free, etc, so no one is left out. Even the gluten-free fad dieters who I don’t usually cater to. So, enjoy!

Cheers,

L.K.D.

 

CSA Post: Lentil stuffed peppers

I’m back, folks! After all the birthdays this month, a trip home to Plattsburgh and working more hours I finally snagged a free night to set aside for writing. Writing and cooking for you guys requires quite a bit of free time and concentration from all other worldly distractions.

So this week I bring you one of my personal favourites with the lovely bell peppers we got from Herbivor farm in our last CSA share two weeks ago.  Although they were a bit on the small side, I was able to put a spontaneous spin on my Sloppy Lentil recipe to create the miniature version of the weeknight classic.

Vegetarian Nutrition Factoid

Do not fear the size, these peppers were filling enough for a full meal. Due to the power protein in lentils ( 18 grams for one cup, 9 grams for 1/2 cup), two or three of these peppers will fill your belly and hold you over until the next morning. On the essential amino acid side of things, you could pair these with a small serving of brown rice if you are a big eater like my husband. That way, all your amino acid needs are met. If you had other grains or protein earlier in the day, don’t worry about it. You won’t DIE if you don’t get all your proteins packed into one meal. Just like you won’t die from NOT eating meat. The key is to just eat a balanced diet throughout the day. Personally, I was way too full to even think about rice.

Alright, enough of that. Let’s get to business! Grab the peppers, take out the membranes and slice them in half vertically. Sorry the picture turned out so dark, but you get the idea right? Okay. Place them in a baking dish lined with aluminum foil and set aside.

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Chop two or three scallions , a couple baby carrots(both from Herbivor), a bunch of cilantro (also from Herbivor, yay!) , half a red onion and two cloves of garlic.

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Add all your veggies to a frying pan, sauté on medium  heat for a few minutes. Crack open a can (or fresh if you so desire) of Fire-roasted diced tomatoes and add to the pan.  Add some chili powder, cumin and salt and pepper to taste.

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Once your taste buds are satisfied, stuff the peppers with the lentil filling, sprinkle some cheddar cheese on each and pop them in the oven for 20 minutes. Or until the cheese is melted and the peppers are all bubbly and desirable. Yum!

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Enjoy, my friends!

Ingredients

* 7 Bell peppers, sliced vertically in half

*1-2 Cups Brown Lentils

* 2 cloves Garlic

* 1 can Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes

* 2-3 Scallions, chopped

* 1 bunch fresh Cilantro

* 1/4 cup Baby carrots, diced

* 1/2 Red onion, diced

*Chili powder

* Cumin

* Dijon mustard (optional), to taste

* Salt and pepper

* 1 cup Brown or Wild rice (optional)

 

 

 

 

CSA Post: Spicy Oyster Mushroom Barley Risotto

Last week when we received a package of Oyster mushrooms in our share from Herbivor (actually from a different farm in Quebec), I immediately started brainstorming for ways in which I could use the mushrooms. Maybe a soup? Nah, that’s been done before. A salad? Meh. I was thinking bigger and more inventive, so after a couple of hours of wracking my brain, I had it: Barley risotto! I wanted it to be spicy, because, why not? And I wanted to give it an Asian influence with rice wine since, apparently I’ve been doing that a lot lately.

I couldn’t find any rice wine at Loblaw’s but life went on and I proceeded with good ol’ white wine instead. So it goes.

And without further ado, let’s get to it!

 

    Ingredients

  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp Extra virgin Olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup Barley, rinsed
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 4 cups Vegetable broth (depending on serving size, mine was for 2 people)
  • 1/2 cup White cooking wine
  • 1 package Blue Oyster mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 package Button mushrooms, chopped
  • Sugar snap peas, a handful
  • 1 tbsp Gardenia Lebanese Red pepper paste
  • Black pepper to taste

Directions

We start off with some minced garlic (from Herbivor!) and butter and olive oil in a large pot, letting it cook for a minute or two.  Then add a cup of the Barley and a cup of the Arborio rice. Lower the heat and stir.

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Then we move on to the star of the show: the oyster mushrooms. Grab those and chop them up, add them to a pan with oil or butter on medium heat.

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Chop up some button mushrooms and add those to the pan as well.

Now, back to the pot of rice/barley. You should be adding vegetable broth if you haven’t already, one cup at time until the rice/barley absorbs the liquid. Once it’s absorbed, you can add a 1/2 cup white wine, stirring occasionally.

And here’s the moment when I just remember that I have sugar snap peas (From Herbivor) in the fridge. Let’s add those!

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Now that we’ve got everything added to the pot, it’s time to spice things up a bit. I wandered down the “Asian food” aisle (Anything remotely ethnic goes here)  at Loblaw’s and came upon a jar of Lebanese Red pepper paste. I decided to take a chance on it and I wasn’t disappointed.

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All we need is a tablespoon of this stuff and the risotto is complete.

Yay, now it’s time to eat! Enjoy, my friends.

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CSA Post: Stir Fry with Local Pac Choy and Garlic scape

When we received our first CSA share from Herbivor Farm last week, I was both overjoyed and challenged in my quest to find the most creative ways to utilize the items in our basket. Since we were given many greens in the first batch, one of them of course being Pac choy, this proved to be an easy task.  Most of the items including the  Mesclun mix, Dinosaur kale, Baby Swiss chard and even the White Kohlrabi can be thrown into salads for work, so I was able to maximize my efforts to reduce waste.

Now that Bluesfest is over with, and I have my husband back, I can go back to cooking for two instead of just one plus a whole bunch of leftovers in the fridge.  The crappy veggie burger and salad they gave him most nights only held him over for so long, and I’m always well stocked in the leftovers department for midnight cravings.

So, enough of the small talk. Let’s get down to business! In their email, the farmers mentioned that Pac choy (A.K.A. Bok Choy) is delicious when sauteed with garlic and sesame oil. So , I thought, why not a stir fry? Pair that with the garlic scape, some leftover cabbage and carrots in the fridge with a sesame dressing and you’re good to go.

So, what’s this garlic scape stuff you ask? It is the flower of the garlic plant which is harvested early in the season in order to allow the garlic to grow large bulbs instead of reproducing. It can be chopped and minced just like I am doing here, and added to a stir fry, soups, chili, etc. So I chopped the scapes in half, and put one half away in the fridge to use for later.

Here’s our list of ingredients you need on hand: (Recipe is below) 1 bunch Pac choy, 1 bunch garlic scape, 1/2 head Cabbage, 2 Carrots, 2 Scallions, any other vegetable you have on hand. Extra virgin Olive oil. Soy sauce, Sesame oil, Rice vinegar, toasted Cashews, Peanut butter.

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Then you chop and mince those babies up as finely as you’d like and add them to a pan with oil.

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The picture is blurry because my hands were shaky due to my excitement over this curious new product. One day I’ll have professional looking photos of my food for you. One day.

Chop up the Pac choy, and carrots and add to the pan. Lower the heat, cover the pan and let it sit for about 5 minutes while you make the Sesame dressing.

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At this moment I also remembered that I had cabbage and scallions in the fridge! So I chopped those up and added them to the party!

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Now, I return to the dressing. In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil. Add sauce to the veggies, coating them with sesame goodness. I also added a tablespoon of peanut butter here to help thicken it.  It’s up to you.

Let it cook on low heat for about 5 more minutes or until the veggies are tender and the flavours are evened out.

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For the cherry on top you could add toasted cashews on top just before serving. I was planning on doing this but I didn’t remember until after I had devoured my first bowl. Whoops!

Enjoy, friends. And many thanks to Herbivor Farm for the delicious veggies and factoids every other week.

They are a small farm in Blackburn Hamlet in the East end of Ottawa. Check them out on their website here :http://herbivor.com or on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Herbivorfarm

I can’t wait to see what we get in our basket on Thursday! Happy cooking, folks.

 

Laura D.

Stir Fry with Baked tofu and Peanut Sauce

One of the first meals you will ever learn how to cook as a vegetarian, or as an adult, is a stir fry. It’s probably one of the easiest, and quickest things to make in the world. No stir fry is treated equally, nor do they all have to look and taste the same.

I scoff at by-the-book folks who scowl and burp out ignorant comments like “This is not how you make this”, or “It’s supposed to have chili paste.” Oh really, every version of every single dish is SUPPOSED to be the same? According to whom? The Holy Book of Cooking? Just because your mom used only snow peas and sprouts in her stir fry doesn’t mean that’s the right way to make it. If that was the case, I would go on a hunger strike and vow not to eat anything. What a boring life that would be.

Here at Ottawa Green Cuisine rules are made to be broken, honey! Squash them all like a bug!

You can basically do whatever you want when cooking this classic week night wonder, as you combine your own ingredients and establish your own rules. It’s also an excellent dish to train yourself on as you learn how to cook. I whipped up thousands of stir fries on a hot plate in my dorm room back in the day as the rest of the student population with meal plans bloated themselves with processed carbs and fats.

I mixed things up with the sauce, like I always do, and added peanut butter in the absence of cornstarch and brown sugar and it sure was a hit.  I may not please most Asian food purists but I really don’t care, I know how to make a mean stir fry based on the style that works for me. And damn girl, do they ever taste good! Just ask the tall, hungry man that lives with me.

Stir Fry

* 1 package Organic Firm Tofu, sliced into 1 inch cubes

* 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

* 1 head of Broccoli, chopped into florets

* 2 Carrots, peeled, sliced lengthwise and diced

*1/2 cup green beans

* 1 Red bell pepper, diced

* 1 yellow onion, diced

You can also add any of the following:

Snow peas, bean sprouts, bok choy, mushrooms, green onions or shredded carrots.

Sauce

*1-2 tbsp Soy sauce

* 1 tbsp Sesame Oil

* 1 tbsp Creamy Peanut butter

*Pinch of red pepper flakes

About an hour before cooking time, prepare the tofu in a marinade. Pat and dry with a paper towel and slice the block into strips and the strips into 1 inch cubes. Toss the cubes into some soy sauce and sesame oil in a tupperware container. Shake the container lightly to make sure the sauce covers the tofu. Keep in refrigerator for one hour.

Once tofu is marinated and all your veggies are chopped and ready to go, get your stir fry sauce ready. Whisk together the soy sauce, sesame oil, peanut butter and red pepper flakes in a bowl. Set aside.

Now it’s time to get that tofu into the oven to bake. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread cubes on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes until nice and crispy. This baking step is optional, I just happen to like my tofu extra crispy.

Once the tofu is out of the oven, heat oil in a large skillet, add onions and cook until translucent. Stir fry broccoli, carrots, and peppers until they are softened.  Add the tofu and stir in the sauce ,coating  the vegetables and tofu for about 5 minutes or so.  Add the green beans towards the end.

Finito. You’re done.  Serve in bowls with a scoop or two of brown rice.

Enjoy, my friends. That’s all for today. See ya next time!