Friday, November 11, 2011

Ratatouille (Soup-ish edition)

A little while ago, I picked up a "Good Food Box" from school. Essentially, for $15 we got a random assortment of 15-20 lbs of produce. It's a really good deal and part of the fun is figuring out what to do with some of it. For example, this time we got (in part): red peppers (gave one away), a beet (didn't use it quickly enough, oops), and an eggplant. Eggplant? What the heck am I going to do with eggplant? I don't like eating it and none of my friends could be blackmailed or bribed into taking it. Thus, I started googling eggplant recipes in search of something I might possibly eat. The final decision to try this one came from the fact that I enjoyed the Disney movie, "Ratatouille".

This recipe has a lot of vegetables in it that I normally would never eat. However, in the interest of trying to expand my culinary horizons, I decided that I would try making something with things I don't like in it with the hopes that the blend of them together would turn into something I actually like eating. A little more nutrition never hurt anyone either. And so the experiment began...

Substitutions and modifications: I didn't change much of this recipe. In the mistaken hope that the Charmer would eat some of my ratatouille too, I bought one red pepper and one orange one because I heard him say before that he likes coloured peppers better than green ones. Due to my dislike of any peppers, I cut the ones I bought into really small pieces, the better to hide them from myself. I diced my onion because I'm still not really a fan of it. I've grown to tolerate it in cooking as long as the pieces are really small and it's well cooked. As for the tomato part, I ended up using two 540 mL (19 oz.) cans of diced tomatoes with Italian spices in them. This gave me more liquid than the recipe called for, but in the end, you'll see that worked in my favour. I used 4 small zucchinis, sliced pretty thinly. I added a couple of handfuls of sliced mushrooms, cooking them up with the garlic and onions. At the end of the cooking time, I also added 1 cup of chicken stock to make my version a little more soup-ish. I just couldn't stand the thought of eating a mouthful of vegetables I don't like unless they were part of a soup. I also added another tbsp of oil when I added the eggplant because the additional mushrooms changed the composition of my pot and things were sticking. Finally, I used squeeze-tube parsley, if anyone's keeping track.

Overall, this recipe wasn't too complex to cook. There's just a lot of prep although the Charmer pointed out that the food processor could help with all the chopping. Maybe next time. If I make this recipe again, I will add the zucchini sooner as mine was still kind of crunchy, even after an extra 10 minutes of cooking. I am not thrilled with crunchy zucchini. I'm also not excited to be the only person eating ALL of the ratatouille soup I made. It's pretty good, but it's a WHOLE lot of vegetables for one person to face down. Next time, I shall make sure others take some or I'll cut the recipe in half first. Maybe next time, I'll enlist a rat to help me with this recipe!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Lightened-Up Hummus

I made a recent discovery - I like hummus! I recently came into a 2lb. bag of carrots so I figured making my own hummus would be a good way to eat up some carrots. It's also a good way to use up some of the garlic and spices I have. I figured I'd try this recipe since it's a "lighter" version. It's also a good source of fibre with all the chickpeas.

The yogurt in this recipe was a PITA. Maybe my cheesecloth was too tightly knit? I checked it after 2 hours, then again last night, then again this morning. When I came home from school, it finally seemed to have reduced by half or so. You might want to leave some extra time for yours, just in case.

Aside from the yogurt incident and trying to find sesame oil at the grocery store, this recipe was straightforward and simple to make. I'm not 100% in love with the sesame flavour residue, but overall, the hummus is nearly the same as the stuff I was buying. Thankfully, it's cheaper when I make it myself, and it makes more than the equivalent of one container from the store. Now I just have to find a recipe to use up more of the sesame oil...

Quick Cheesy Shells & Beef

Omnomonmnom! This recipe is delicious. At least, the way I made it. This recipe showed up in my inbox this week - Thank you, Canadian Living Dinner Club.

I made a few substitutions: we didn't have the large pasta shells on hand so I used the rigatoni in the cupboard, I used half of a giant onion and a little onion that came from the community garden at Mount Royal Uni, and instead of the bottled strained tomatoes, I used a 540mL can of chopped tomatoes that happened to have spices and stuff in them. The red pepper flakes were optional and I added them to mine. Some of my stuff is a little bland so I thought I'd use a little more "zip". Oh yeah, and the ground beef was just shy of 1lb.

The only trouble I had with this recipe, and it may not happen to you if you don't substitute the tomato part like I did, was that the recipe was a little soupy at the end. I cooked it a little longer (maybe 10 minutes?) on low to try and get rid of some of the liquid. It was still a bit soupy when I added the pasta to the sauce, but the whole thing seemed better after the pasta got stirred in. The taste test was my favourite part because the end product is delicious!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

"Take-Five" Banana Bread

I'm not entirely sure how this recipe got its name. Perhaps, "take five ingredients, throw them in the oven, and voila!"? Regardless, there are only five ingredients.

I should probably tidy up the kitchen a little more some time soon. With only five ingredients, I was sure I had everything on hand, but when I went to make this recipe this morning, I couldn't find the sugar anywhere. I was pretty sure we had some, but the Chocolatarian was asleep and it seems my brain was, too. I ended up going to the store to get some cheesecloth for a different recipe so I picked up some more sugar. When I got home, I went to continue with this recipe when I suddenly saw the sugar I couldn't find sitting on the counter right in front of me - where it had been the whole time... sigh.

I chose this recipe because I found two ripe bananas in the freezer and I had another ripe one that I didn't want to eat. I don't like eating bananas when they taste too much like bananas, if you know what I mean. I left the frozen bananas out to thaw overnight so I could bake with them. In retrospect, this may have been a mistake. When I went to peel them for the recipe, the texture and consistency, along with the oozing of clear liquid, was making me gag. G-N-A-R-L-Y. The Chocolatarian, upon hearing this story later, recommended throwing them in the food processor frozen next time so you might want to consider it too.

Surprisingly, Miracle Whip was an ingredient in this recipe. I know - Miracle Whip?! Yep, and you wouldn't even know it by the delicious taste of the final product. I assume it helps keep it moist and sweet. I didn't substitute anything in this recipe. Substitution tends to be harder in baking than cooking. I have considered using Splenda instead of sugar next time, mostly because we have a huge bag of Splenda for some reason, but I'm not sure what it might do to the taste. Too sweet? Maybe. My friend also suggested (after the fact) adding walnuts and I had considered chocolate chips, but forgot them in the final process. That just means there's room for modifications in the future!