Good Eats Good Times

I think this is going to be a blog about cooking.

Quinoa Zucchini Burgers

It was a Sunday night and my long time pal (all the way from high school in the Jerz to McGill in MTL) Liz invited me over to her place to make some dinner. When we cook together I often end up taking a backseat (not necessarily a bad thing) so she deserves most of the credit on this one.

For the inspiration, we thank the nice person/people of Smitten Kitchen, who gave us this recipe (http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2011/08/zucchini-fritters/) for zucchini fritters. However, ours are deliciously gluten-free and have quinoa in them, which I think makes them a bit heartier. These are a great finger food but could also be eaten like a veggie burger.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 zucchini
  • 1/2-1 cup cooked quinoa (cooks just like rice!)
  • 1/2 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 large onion (scallions would work nicely)
  • Pinch of fresh squeezed lemon
  • Salt, pepper
  • Olive oil (for frying)

Prep time: 30-40 minutes. Serves 2-3.

First, shred the zucchini using a grater and sprinkle some salt over them. Similar to what you do with potatoes when you make latkes, an extremely important step is drain the excess liquid from the zucchini. Although Liz took some convincing on this one, I promised her it would be worth it and actually be lots of fun. Scoop your zucchini into a clean wash cloth or cheese cloth, and squeeze the zucchini juice into the sink (or a bowl, as a mesmerized Liz did….don’t ask what she did with the juice later).

Liz oozing zucchini juice

Liz oozing out the zucchini juice

After getting as much juice out as possible, throw the zucchini into a large mixing bowl, and add the onion, egg, squeeze of lemon, another healthy pinch of salt and some pepper. In a separate bowl, mix the flour and baking powder, and then throw that in too. Begin to mix the ingredients with your hands or a spoon. Add a few scoops of quinoa, and notice how the mixture really starts to gain shape. You can tell that the mixture will lead itself well to patty-making.

And it does! With your hands, form patties to whatever size you like; anywhere from 1-2 inches in diameter should work well. Heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan and throw in the patties. Probably 3-5 minutes on each side, and the patties should be golden. Smitten Kitchen suggests throwing them in the oven for 10 minutes at 200 after they’re done frying, which is probably a good idea, but we were to hungry to wait.

the mixture, ready to be pattified

the mixture, ready to be pattified

They’re best served with any sort of dips, really. Smitten Kitchen’s garlic-lemony sour cream dip sounds delicious (of course difficult for me since I’m off dairy) and Liz and her roommate Brooke enjoyed them with some ricotta cheese. I tried some different stuff lying around in the fridge: pesto, tomato sauce, hot sauce…pretty random, but these bad boys are open for some creativity! Next time I’d definitely like to try eating them like veggie burgers. Anyways, enjoy!

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Midweek Feast: Gluten Free Meatballs, Herby Mashed Sweet Potats, Sautéed Spinach

It was around 9:00 pm on a Tuesday or Wednesday, but my roommate Josh and I (since we buy groceries together we usually cook together, too) felt like throwing a feast together. Although we don’t buy meat very often, there was a pound of ground beef calling our names in the freezer. Burgers? Meatballs? Tacos? We went with meatballs.

To add to the feast Josh made some herby mashed sweet potatoes, I sautéed some spinach, and also attempted a dairy-free creamy mushroom sauce to go with the meatballs, which ended up being a bit of a failure (so I’m leaving that one out for now). The meatballs are gluten free which makes this a great, filling, and easy meal for any occasion.

Photos by me this time (prob why they're a bit out of focus)

Photos by me this time (prob why they’re a bit out of focus)

Meatballs: 1 lb ground beef, handful of potato chips, 1 chopped onion, spices: garlic salt, chili, mustard powder, herbamare, black pepper, worcestershire sauce, south african smoke

The meatballs are pretty straightforward. Throw the ground beef into a medium/large mixing bowl. Chop the onion very finely and crush up the potato chips (for the record, I used Kettle Chips Sea Salt and Black Pepper, my favs) in a ziploc bag or with a spoon. I used the potato chips because they’re a nice, easy alternative to breadcrumbs (even the gluten free ones I bought still have dairy and other not-so-good stuff in them). You could also add an egg (but I have a sensitivity to eggs and am trying to be strict with my diet right now) to help hold the balls together. They definitely held up nonetheless.

Add a nice pinch of each of the spices and a splash of the worcestershire sauce. The South African Smoke is from Trader Joe’s and adds a a rich, smoky flavor. Herbamare has always been a mainstay in my kitchen growing up (we call it “herbie salt”) and I recommend picking some up in the health food aisle.

Anyways, after mixing the ingredients with your hands, form nice, approx 1 inch balls and put them on a cookie sheet. The recipe yields about 15-17 meatballs. Cook them at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

Josh’s Herby Sweet Potatoes: 2 sweet potatoes, olive oil, butter/earth balance, basil, italian seasoning, rosemary, herbie salt, pepper,

Rinse, peel, and cut the sweet potats into quarters (so that they cook quicker). Put them into a medium-sized pot and cover them with water. Add a bit of olive oil and salt. Leave the pot uncovered and bring the water/sweet potats to a boil. Cover the pot and let them boil for about 10-15 minutes. Once the sweet potatoes are nice and soft, mash them using a hand masher or hand blender.

Add about 2 tablespoons butter/Earth Balance to give them a nice, creamy texture. Now add the spices. A healthy sprinkle of each is perfect. The idea behind the rosemary is that we usually put it on sweet potatoes fries when we make those. These savory sweet potatoes are quite mouth watering.

Sautéed Spinach: 2-2.5 cups fresh spinach, olive oil, 2-3 cloves garlic, salt, pepper, chili flakes

This one is really easy and barely needs directions, but you can never underestimate the importance and deliciousness of adding some green to your meal. Rinse and dry probably about 2-2.5 cups of spinach (as you probably know, it shrinks). Chop the garlic (when cooking it with greens, I like to leave the pieces a bit bigger) and sauté it in a pan for a few minutes with some olive oil. Throw on the spinach and a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and a few chili flakes. Sauté for a few minutes until the spinach has shrunk nicely and  you have a tasty, healthy addition to any meal.

In all, this meal should serve 2.5 hungry students.

There you have it. An easy, well-rounded, filling meal.

The Feast

The Feast

Chana Masala (kind of)

Before Christmas, my family and I visited some friends in South Jersey for a home-cooked Indian meal. One of the dishes that really stuck with me was the Chana Masala, a classic, tomatoey, chickpea-based curry dish. Our friend/chef briefly explained how to make the dish, and although I wish I took some notes, it sounded pretty easy.

While trying to reconstruct her instructions, I referred to canadianliving.com’s Chana Masala just for a better idea of what spices and such to use, but also added a few of my own ingredients and substitutions (broccoli, diced tomatoes instead of tomato paste, fresh cilantro instead of ground coriander, sadly didn’t have garam masala) based on what was in my kitchen at the time. Nevertheless, I think it worked out pretty well!

Photos by Joshua Paul

Photos by Joshua Paul

It’s a wonderfully easy dish that can for the most part be thrown together in a short amount of time with common kitchen staples.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (15 0z) can chickpeas 
  • .5-1 cup canned diced tomatoes
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 large red pepper
  • 1 head broccoli
  • Fresh cilantro/coriander
  • Spices: curry, cumin, turmeric, hot madras, chili, black pepper, (usually made with garam masala but I sadly didn’t have any lying around the house)

Serves: 2-4, best served as a side dish or would be good as an appetizer/dip!

Prep time: 20-25 mins

Sizzlin up in the new wok!!!

Sizzlin up in the new wok

First, chop all of your veggies. In a large pan (I used the awesome wok my sister got me for Christmas) sauté the onions and garlic in a bit of olive oil (or your grease of choice), adding a bit of each spice (depending on your preference). After a few minutes, add the red pepper and broccoli. Let the veggies really sauté and get soft. After another 5 or so minutes, add the chickpeas (drain them). Let the chickpeas sit in the pan for another few minutes, and then add the diced tomatoes. The tomatoes make it a bit more saucy, but continue to let the mixture sizzle on high in order to get rid of some of the juice (depending on what consistency you want). You can also add the fresh cilantro at any point, or wait until the end and add it as a garnish. Of course, feel free to spice it up a bit more after adding all of the other veggies.

The (kind of) Chana Masala is ready to be enjoyed!

Carrot, Potato, and Ginger Soup

After the long first day of the winter semester, and with our super-cool friend Emma over, it was the perfect time for my roommate Josh, Emma, and I to cook up this thick, carroty, savory soup. Quick and easy, this soup is a perfect, hearty, vegetarian meal for a winter night.

Not sure exactly where this idea came from, but some of the inspiration came from a Spicy Carrot Soup recipe in Gluten, Wheat, and Dairy Free, a cookbook Josh got me for Christmas. I feel like people often use butternut squash soup for a soup like this, but since we had potatoes lying around the apartment, we decided to make it work. 

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Ingredients: 

  • 8-10 carrots
  • 8-10 medium sized potatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 large onion
  • 1.5 cups red lentils
  • Approx. 1 tbsp ginger
  • Approx. 1.5 tbsp Earth Balance (or other buttery spread)
  • Approx. .5 cup mimic creme (see Mushroom, Leek, and Potato Soup for more info)
  • 2-3 cubes Veggie Bouillon
  • Spices: cumin, cayenne, chili, salt, pepper

Serves 4-6, makes a BIG pot of soup!!

Prep Time: about 45 minutes (plus time to let the soup cool before you blend it)

First, in preparation, chop the onions and garlic, peel and quarter the potatoes (so they cook quicker), peel and slice (or even chop) the carrots, and peel and chop the ginger.

Sauté them in the bottom of your pot with some olive oil and good helpings of cumin, cayenne, chili, and pepper. After about 5-7 minutes, throw in the potatoes, ginger, carrots and, lentils and cover the mixture with water (at least 6-7 cups, maybe more). Bring this mixture to a boil and let it simmer for about 20-30 minutes. 

During this time span, add the bouillon, Earth Balance, and Mimic Creme. You probably don’t  even need the latter two, but they are great if you want to add some richness!

Once the carrots and potatoes are nice and soft, the first phase of the soup is done. You can now let it cool for a bit (or throw it out in the snow, as we did).

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After cooling for a bit, the soup is ready to blend. Sadly, we only have a magic bullet in our apartment, and you can imagine the process of scooping the chunky mixture into magic bullet containers is a bit tedious and can get messy, but I think it’s worthy it. 

Anyways, once the soup is nice and blended (but don’t blend too long, since sometimes a few chunks can be nice), it should have a pretty thick consistency and a nice, orangey-beige color. Top with homemade croutons (refer back to my first soup posting for a quick how-to) and fresh cilantro, and the soup is ready to enjoy!

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Photos by Joshua Paul. Follow @jawshuwa

Gluten Free and Dairy Free Pizza: Sausage, Onion, and Mushroom // Tonno

The other day, I did something near impossible. I created a pizza. This pizza did not have wheat or gluten. This pizza did not have dairy. And it tasted GOOD. My sisters, sister’s friend Jess,cousin, and mom can all attest to that. Although I must admit, I felt a bit lazy (I’d like to experiment with making my own crust), I was really happy with the Nature’s Hilights gluten free dough, especially since it held up well to the plethora of toppings.

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Everyone loves pizza. And having come home on Christmas break to New Jersey, which I’d like to consider one of the pizza capitals of the world, and not being able to enjoy a nice cheesy slice, I had to cope somehow, right? Of course, I had to make it interesting. Thinking about what was lying around my house, I decided to create a Pizza Tonno, inspired by a pizza I had at Vapiano’s, a popular Italian restaurant chain in Europe over the summer, and a sausage, mushroom, and onion pizza (SMO), a combination that was introduced to me back in high school and which I continue to enjoy.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 package Nature’s Hilights Brown Rice (gluten free) Pizza Crust (contains 2 crusts)
  • A few tablespoons preferred tomato sauce (I used Trader Joe’s Tomato Basil Marinara)
  • Approx. 1 cup shredded cheese (I used Trader Joe’s Goat’s Milk Gouda)
  • Pizza Tonno: .5 red onion, 1 can of tuna, 2 cloves garlic, basil, oregano, red pepper chili flakes, black pepper
  • SMO Pizza: 1.5 Trader Joe’s sun-dried tomato chicken sausage, .5 large yellow onion, 5-7 baby bella mushrooms, basil, oregano, crushed red pepper, black pepper

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Prep/cook time: Approx 30 mins

Serves: 3-4, (depending on your hunger and how you want to serve it…we ate it as appetizers but I’m sure I could eat a whole pie by myself)

Instructions:

First, follow the pizza crust directions. In a nutshell, you have to let the crusts thaw, drizzle some olive oil on them and then defrost them in the oven at 500 degrees Fahrenheit for about 5 minutes.

Next, shred the cheese. Obviously, if you don’t have any problems with dairy, go for a classic mozzarella or another creamy, mild cheese. I love the Trader Joe’s Goat Gouda. I am a cheese lover. And since I stopped having dairy, goat cheese (which I used to think kind of icky), has become a staple in my diet. I really miss Trader Joe’s when I’m in Canada and their goat cheeses kick ass.

After you stop reading about my love affair with cheese/goat cheese, spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on each crust. Since we’re using a lot of toppings and the crusts are thin, I recommend not going to sauce-heavy. Then sprinkle a good-but-not-to-much layer of the cheese on the sauce. Save a bit of the cheese for after the toppings go on. At this point, both crusts have been preheated, and sauce and cheese have both been applied.

Now, move onto the preparation for the SMO pizza. Slice the onions and mushrooms, and sausages thinly, and sauté them in a pan with olive oil, dried basil, oregano, salt, and pepper (chili flakes too if you like spice like I do). This is a really important step since the veggies and sausages need this extra cooking in order to come out of the oven perfectly. After about 5 minutes on the stove, you can put this mixture right on top of the pizza crust. Then, sprinkle the remaining cheese over this pizza, which is now ready.

For the Pizza Tonno, chop the garlic and slice the red onion, and once again, sauté them in a pan with some olive oil. You can also add basil, oregano, and I really like this one to be spicy, so plenty of chili flakes. After a few minutes in the frying pan, you can spread this over the other pizza. You can also put the tuna (which I recommend putting in a bowl and mashing a bit first) right onto the pizza. Since the tuna gets a bit dry, you might want to sprinkle a bit more olive oil on top.

Both pizzas are now ready to go in the oven. Bake them at 425 degrees F for between 8-10 minutes. If you want them to be crispier and the cheese to brown, 1-2 minutes on broil never hurt!

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Mushroom, Leek, and Potato Soup

Sometime during this past semester, the idea popped into my head to make a leek, potato, and bacon soup. It turned out pretty well, but the next time I made it I used mushroom instead of bacon (not saying one is better than the other, but the mushroom of course makes it vegetarian/vegan). The main directions I got were from my mom, who texted me to sauté the mushrooms and leek with some spices, to add water and boil the potatoes with spices and bouillon (she did give me the idea to use nutmeg). I don’t think she said much else. Anyways, after experimenting a bit, this is what I’ve come up with. I ended up making it Christmas Eve and my family enjoyed this not-too-heavy, savory, a bit spicy and a bit nutty, soup.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 leek
  • 1 container of baby bella mushrooms
  • 2.5 lbs of potatoes (about half of 5 lb. bag)
  • 1-2 cubes vegetable bouillon (or equivalent)
  • 0.5 cup Mimic Creme (http://www.mimiccreme.com/ cream substitute, or you could use cream)
  • Half a stick or a few tablespoons Earth Balance
  • Spices: chili powder, cayenne, nutmeg, and black pepper to taste

Prep time: about 30 minutes, (plus 1-2 hours of cooling, and then a few more minutes for blending)

Serves: 4-6

First, wash and peel the potatoes and then set them aside. You can also cut them into smaller pieces so that they cook quicker. Then, slice the leek thinly and chop the mushrooms. Throw them into the bottom of whichever pot (it should be pretty large) you’re going to use with some Earth Balance or olive oil. Sauté the leek and mushrooms for about 5 minutes until they start to soften. Put the first round of spices in. I use a healthy amount of chili and cayenne, since I like my meals to have a kick, and the nutmeg works really well with the flavors of the mushroom, leek, and potato. Of course, salt and fresh black pepper never hurt either.

Next, plop the potatoes right into the pot and put enough water in to cover them. Bring the soup to a boil and allow for the potatoes to cook until soft. This should take about 10-20 minutes. During this time, add the bouillon and Mimic Creme (made up of almond and cashew cream, I think it adds a nice, thick consistency and a subtle nutty flavor). I would also probably add a bit more of each spice, according to taste, and some more buttery Earth Balance. When the potatoes are done cooking, you can turn the stove off and set the pot aside.

I then wait a few hours (or as long as your patience lasts) and let the soup cool. Then, I scoop it into a blender (will take a few rounds of blending depending on how much you made) and blend it for a few seconds. I wouldn’t blend it too long, since it’s nice to have a few chunks and so that it’s not completely like baby food. You can then heat it up once again, adjusting the consistency and flavor according to your preference. I like mine to have a pretty thick consistency, especially since the soup isn’t too heavy.

When I served this soup to my family for Christmas Eve, I had to add an extra touch. So I took a few slices of Udi’s Gluten Free whole grain bread, cute them into cubes, and threw them into the frying pan with olive oil and salt until they were toasted.

Quick, easy, and savory, homemade croutons are a perfect addition to any soup. Now, the soup is definitely ready to be served! Enjoy!

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