Take Stock. Literally!

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Ok let’s just be honest. Brown food isn’t the easiest thing to photograph. My recipe today is vegetable stock, and it’s a short recipe that has limited pictures because stock is that brown, soupy colour that just cannot look appetizing. But the recipe is great and is a fabulous alternative to the stock / broth or dried bullion cubes out there.

When I started cooking, I used to like using the Maggi bouillon cubes to flavor my soups until I looked at the ingredients one day and really noticed the crazy amount of ingredients in that one little cube, many of which I couldn’t pronounce. It also contained MSG as one of the primary ingredients. So that was that. I stopped using it. As for chicken or vegetable stock, it wasn’t really a common item in supermarkets here, and so I started using plain ol’ water. Having water in soup instead of stock really gives the other ingredients a chance to shine, although I did tend to miss the complexity of flavours at times.

A lot of recipes I’ve checked out suggest you toss the vegetables in with the water at the same time and let it simmer. Since I’m a fan of deeper flavors and I absolutely love the smell of carrots, onions and celery being sautéed together, I let that magic happen for about 5 minutes, got my aromatherapy on, and then added the water.

You’ll notice that the vegetables are roughly chopped. Why are they roughly chopped, you ask? The short answer is because I live life on the edge. The long answer is that you want to coax out flavour and you don’t want to cook something so finely chopped that it dissolves after a few minutes.

The Graduating Stock Class of September

The Graduating Stock Class of September

Vegetable Stock

  • Time: 1 hr 10 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

2 tsp. Olive Oil

3 Onions (roughly chopped)

4 cloves Garlic, peeled and crushed

2 Carrots, roughly chopped

2 stalks Celery, roughly chopped

2 medium Potatoes, roughly chopped

2 Bay Leaves

2 tsp. whole Black Peppercorns

3/4 tsp salt

10 cups water

Ingredients 

Pour Olive oil into a large stock pot. Add onions, carrots & celery and saute for 5 minutes. Add garlic and potatoes and cook for another 2 minutes. Add water, peppercorns, bay leaves and salt and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and let simmer for approximately an hour. Strain stock. Discard solids.

Use immediately, refrigerate for 3 days or freeze for 6-8 months.

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After the stock had cooled, I measured out two cups at a time and filled freezer-friendly bags with the pre-measured portion. Of course you can measure out as much as you want, or store it all in one bag, but don’t blame me when you have to defrost a huge block of ice for half of the stock!

I kind of think that vegetable stock is pretty forgiving. You have a list of vegetables that you can potentially use (some vegetables like tomatoes and beets don’t work at all in stock) and you can mix and match as you’d like. I chose not to use parsnips or mushrooms or sweet potatoes in this mix, but I will be trying different combinations in future batches.

It ain't pretty. But it smelled warm and inviting!

It ain’t pretty. But it smelled warm and inviting!

For my blog followers preparing to experience Autumn (or maybe the weather has cooled off significantly already?), now is a great time to embark on this no stress weekend project. You’ll totally jump start your Fall & Winter soup prep work! For my warm weather friends, you know you’ll also make soup at some point. Don’t deny it. This post is still relevant :)

Jeweled Kale Salad w/ Citrus Soy Dressing

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I was ridiculously excited to see Kale in the market the other day. Kale! I mean, we’re a tropical country so it doesn’t really grow here (as far as I know), and there isn’t large enough of a market to sustain large scale kale (ha! Everyone’s a poet nowadays) importation.

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The culinary equivalent of Emeralds and Amethysts. Yes, family and friends…I just made your gift shopping for me infinitely easier.

I’m not really a jewelry kinda gal. I wear my wedding rings but not all the time, and I’ve taken to wearing a watch recently. I have phases with different types of jewelry (sometimes just expect to see me in a bracelet or a long necklace) but when it comes to coordinating the two, you’ve come to the wrong girl. Plus earrings? Forget about it.

So yes, I’m a nerd who loves food and would rather spend my money on a fancy coffee cup or fancy ingredients than a fancy necklace, so I guess it makes sense that the only jewels that catch my eye are the tones of this salad. Lol. See how I brought it back to food?

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I love the look of green and purple together – the simple opulence of the combination makes me think of royal, exotic places, of billowing scarves and lanterns casting their muted golden glow on peacocks roaming around freely. If you’re reading this blog because you’re a food nerd like me, I’m hoping that you can see where I’m coming from. If you’re reading this for any other reason, I’m pretty sure you’re thinking “um…all this for a SALAD!?” Sorry. We eat with our eyes first and that’s what I see. Just don’t call me the salad whisperer.

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Jeweled Kale Salad w/ Citrus Soy Dressing

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 10 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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For the Salad

1 cup Kale, washed & chopped
1/2 cup Purple Cabbage, chopped
1/2 cup Cashew nuts, raw
1 tsp Sesame seeds (optional)

For the Dressing

1/4 cup Orange Juice
1/4 tsp freshly grated Ginger
1/2 tbsp. Soy Sauce
Pinch Black pepper
Pinch Red Pepper Flakes

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast Cashews for 8-10 minutes until golden brown, watching closely to ensure that it doesn’t burn. In the meantime, prepare the Dressing by whisking all ingredients together.

Toss Kale, Cabbage & Cashews with the Dressing. Top with sesame seeds if desired.

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Although I love the dressing that paired with this recipe, if you want a heartier, more fall-type salad, or basically just want to use up extras, you can use the Toasted Pumpkin Seed Oil Vinaigrette I posted about a while back instead. It totally works.

Have a fantastic weekend, catch up on all the great shows that have made their debut, get your weekend projects done, call that friend you’ve been meaning to call, read a few more pages in that book on your shelf. Just remember to eat well and be happy.

Chia Cherry Limeade

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I know for most of you, the weather is cooling down, summer is over and the fall fashions are out. But here in Guyana? It has been ridiculously hot recently. Humid and draining, and some days it’s been so hot I can’t even concentrate. Which brings me to my drink recipe today.
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It’s been a while since I posted a drink recipe. Truth be told, I lapsed on my Food Resolution – I didn’t make any smoothies for myself in July & August. I know. Terrible. I kind of feel it’s because I’ve been extra addicted to that caffeine kick recently that I didn’t have it in me to drink something cold in the morning regardless of the heat. But I’ll try to be better this month although the month is almost done. I have some frozen peaches just waiting to be inhaled!

Today I’m sharing a very simple recipe I came up with in June. It’s a healthy play on Cherry Limeade. There’s no sugar in it (apart from the naturally occurring sugar in the cherries), and I added chia and walnuts for a bit of texture and a hidden Omega-3 boost.

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Chia Cherry Limeade

  • Servings: 2
  • Time: 5 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients
1 cup Frozen Cherries
1 cup Water
1/2 cup Walnuts
1/2 Lime, juiced
2 tsp. Chia Seeds
Instructions:
Blend all ingredients together.
I’ve also been working on a new project which I’ll talk a little bit about on Friday. But it involves my Birthday in November. Stay tuned!

Wow. What a short post. Did I really not have anything else to say today? This is worrying :s

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Cilantro Lime Quinoa & Food Breakups

This relationship isn’t working anymore. It was great at first but just suddenly, out of the blue, that was it. I didn’t realize it was you at first, but after spending time together, my stomach would hurt. I loved you, I defended you to friends and family, I did everything right. Although I want you in my life all the time, there’s just something about you that doesn’t work for me anymore. It pains me to say this but it will pain me more not to say this. Quinoa, it’s over. It’s not me, it’s you.

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It’s true. This sucks. I was never a fan of rice and when I came across quinoa, I finally got the point of non pasta, potato or bread type side dishes. I ate it so much and became so familiar with it that I ended up creating some recipes which included my favourite – Foolproof Lime Cumin Quinoa.

So imagine my joy when I came across red quinoa in the supermarket. I had all these grand recipe ideas, but decided to try it plain first. And then I spent that entire afternoon clutching my stomach and wondering if 29 was too young to be having a heart attack. I didn’t actually realize that it was the new quinoa that had me feeling that way, so I proceeded to eat it 2 more times after that before I realized what was happening. So I switched back to regular white quinoa. But by that time, my body took the figurative form of a toddler strongly set against something – crossed arms, stomping feet and vehement head shake, yelling “no! no more!!” Although it tasted great, the acid I’d feel afterwards was pretty brutal.

I don’t get it. I know that you need to wash quinoa before cooking to get rid of the bitter soapy saponin coating on the quinoa. Which I did. I cooked it properly too. Right now I know my siblings are laughing pretty hard at me – it’s a running joke that when they come over and I offer them food, they always ask whether there’s quinoa in it. I even had quinoa pasta! Sigh.

So here’s my Dear John recipe. My simple, healthy and awesome twist on the Cilantro Lime Rice you get at Chipotle.

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I made cilantro lime rice once before – with dried cilantro and the bottled lime juice *shakes head sadly at the culinary-ly ignorant Indi of 3 years ago* and shockingly enough, it didn’t taste like anything except rice that was in the fridge. I cannot stress this enough – use fresh ingredients!!

Cilantro Lime Quinoa

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1 cup dried Quinoa

3 tbsp. freshly squeezed Lime Juice

4 stalks fresh Cilantro

¼ tsp Black Pepper

1/8 – ¼ tsp salt (to taste)

Instructions

Rinse Quinoa thoroughly and cook according to package directions. Usually the ratio is 1 part Quinoa to 2 parts Water. Cook on medium heat until water is absorbed and the little white string things in each grain pops out from the grains. Let cool slightly.

Finely chop cilantro. Toss Quinoa with lime juice, cilantro, pepper and salt.

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So enjoy, guys. Take this gift that I’ve given you and thoroughly enjoy it because you’ll never know when your favourite food will become your enemy. Surprisingly enough, I’ve been through a food breakup before with cantaloupe. My favourite fruit ever started making my lips itchy and swollen when I ate it. So now I occasionally indulge in a few pieces but eat like a crazy person and open my mouth pretty wide so that nothing touches my lips. Pretty genius, right? Cheese can give me heartburn on occasion as well but I continue to dance around my food issues like a boxer in a ring, jabbing my intolerances at random times so it won’t have time to react before I digest. Damn, I’m great at metaphors.

Have a wonderful weekend and if you’ve ever experienced anything similar, I’d love to hear about it!

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Life after PSLs

I’m about to tell you something very controversial. I may lose a few friends and followers…but I have to say it: I don’t like Pumpkin Spice Lattes. *pause for gasps and indignant murmuring*

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I just don’t get it. To me, the flavor lies more in it’s scent – you smell it more than you taste it. And the taste is like warm milk with spices. Also, warm milk grosses me out. And now it’s that time of year again where the Pumpkin spice craze is sweeping the food world (Pumpkin Spice Oreos? Really?).

What makes is worse is that because I’m a caffeine junkie, friends and family just assume that I love PSLs (Pumpkin Spice Lattes). A few years ago I was in New York in October so the ads were everywhere and every time my brother or husband bought a PSL, they’d ask me “want a sip?” until I had a minor meltdown in a random Starbucks along the lines of “NO, I do not EVER want a SIP of a PSL so STAAAHHHP ASKING!!” Now it’s a running joke and the Pumpkin Spice K-cups in my house are purposely left on the rack just for me. They’re so thoughtful. I do occasionally have my pumpkin revenge though – usually when it’s Rabin’s turn to get groceries, I write ‘pepitas’ instead of pumpkin seeds on the list and it gets him really confused in the supermarket *evil laughter*

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The funny thing is, I don’t hate pumpkin or pumpkin type food though. I make a pretty great Pumpkin Mac & Cheese (excessive humility really is a flaw of mine) and I have more than one pumpkin bread / muffin recipe saved and ready to try. But there’s just something about that drink!

Anyways, to show that Pumpkin and I don’t have a beef (can I say that about a vegetable?), I’m sharing my warm weather twist on Pumpkin – A Pumpkin Seed Oil Vinaigrette. I saw this at Trader Joe’s a while back. I passed it on the shelf, picked it up, put it down and did a lap around the store. But I passed it again (man, taking a lap really screws you over) and decided that I didn’t want to regret not buying it when I had the chance.

I know what you’re going to say though. Vinaigrette again? Ah well, what can I say… I’m kind of in that phase right now. Also, I’m starting to think that trying out a vinaigrette is the first step to really becoming familiar with an oil. You have the opportunity to taste a milder version of the flavor and not be overwhelmed by the oiliness of it all. Even better, you get to pour it on neutral-ish tasting foods and see what works and what doesn’t. You’ll know that I recently tried out Avocado Oil and also Walnut oil, so I may be on the brink of a oil obsession – Oilsession? Does that work?

Toasted Pumpkin Seed Oil Vinaigrette

  • Time: 3 minutes
  • Difficulty: super easy
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Ingredients:
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp. Pumpkin Seed Oil
1 1/2 tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

Instructions:
Whisk all ingredients together. Pour on prepared salad or vegetable of your choice.

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I have to say though that I’m pretty surprised at the colour of the oil. It’s a deep greenish so it surprises you a bit when you first pour it out, but I got over it pretty quickly. Thanks Trader Joe’s and suck it, PSLs. I’m quite happy with all the other variations of you! (Except pumpkin pie. That’s another story.)

Anyway have a great Friday and a great weekend!

Three Things Thursday: Visitors, Parties & Resolutions

It’s been a while since I linked up to 3 Things Thursday hosted by Salma at The Write Balance, Raj at Pink Chai Living and Nisha at Love Laugh Mirch,  so I’m visiting them today, and sharing 3 of my favourite things with you guys this week.

Visitors
I know you thought I was going to say people, right? Well, our side gate was left open the other day. As I was putting together my lunch, I heard a soft clanging and happened to glance out my window
and caught sight of some unusual visitors…

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Funny enough, this isn’t the first time animals have wandered into our yard. When we were first building our house and our gates weren’t put in as yet, we were paid a visit by four horses. I started to hop around, freaking out that this might be the four horsemen of the apocalypse (too much Sleepy Hollow for me), but eventually abandoned that idea and started thinking about how cool it would be to have a pet horse, and then settled on the possibility that I have crazy animal whisperer skills.

Another bit of evidence? There’s a stray dog in the area that seems to have adopted us. Rabin has named her Andy Griffith without my consent. She is semi-psychic because she always seems to know which gate we’re coming out of, and is so ridiculously well behaved. The other day my sister was at the gate and when we looked out, Andy was in the driveway sitting right behind her waiting to be let in too! Another day I opened the gate and Andy appeared from nowhere, walking in as if she owned the place! She actually looked offended when I instinctively closed the gate.

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Christmas & other end of year events
I really do like the end of the year. Let’s ignore our resolution failures and the panic that comes with it for a second. September – December always has some of the best parts of the year all rolled into one. Apart from the premiere of returning and new TV shows, Rabin, my sister and I all celebrate birthdays during this period (I’m hitting the big 30 this year), there’s Diwali and the utter magic and joy that is Christmas, and New Year celebrations. Guyana has even recently picked up on celebrating Halloween and Thanksgiving so there’s always a party or event or something to look forward to.

Everything feels different now that I’m in a new place, and I actually have different plans for all of these different events this year. It’ll be lots of work, but I’m indulging my inner hostess (and dragging Rabin along for the ride) and finally making use of all my beautiful entertainment related wedding gifts. Friends and family, you’ve been warned!

Palate Evolution
The most perfect meal in the world is Cheese & Crackers. I have been obsessed with it since I was a child and although I occasionally switch out the crackers for toast, there’s something infinitely perfect about biting into a crisp, crumbly cracker adorned with a slice of salty cheddar cheese. Man. That stuff is addictive. My siblings and Rabin know that I have a special song for Cheese and crackers and no, we’re not a musical family nor do I have the voice of an angel. I just make up songs a lot.

Where was I going with this? Oh right. So yes. As I got older, I started to get heartburn after I ate C&C, especially at night. I branched out a little more and started to try other types of cheese. Apart from sharp Cheddar & Edam, my favourites so far are Muenster, Brie & Pepperjack although I respect what Mozzarella, Ricotta, Parmesan, American & Swiss bring to the table. I could never see myself liking Goat Cheese or Feta, but I thought that maybe I haven’t given them a fair enough chance.

Cue the Food Resolution & cheese immersion. I didn’t actually immerse myself in cheese, that’s disgusting. But I decided that I’d put aside my reservations and try Goat cheese in a number of different forms. I wouldn’t try it once or twice, but would try it in a number of different recipes to give it a fair chance. If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll see that I made GC Ravioli in a Walnut Wine Sauce, GC Quesadillas and GC Crostini with thyme & caramelized onions recently. I’ve also used it in a few other recipes I found online and it turned out pretty well. I actually don’t hate the regular GC, but I could do without the flavoured ones. I tried the Honeyed GC and one with Peppercorns, and they ranged from ‘meh’ to ‘spit it out disgusting’.

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Apart from the recipes I created, I found some recipes online including Pearl Cous Cous with Roasty Roots, and stuffed Chicken Breasts with Pepperoncini & GC and both were pretty delicious. So yes, I’m surprised that I like regular GC, and while I won’t cook with it regularly, I wouldn’t shy away from it in a dish. One more thing? I don’t actually like it on crackers. That’s definitely reserved for cheddar.

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So that’s my three this week! See you here tomorrow for another original recipe!

Blueberry Spinach Salad w/ an Agave Vinaigrette

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I was so excited when I came across spinach at the market last week. Usually only the local one is available, which isn’t very great to eat raw since the flavor is a little too intense. I immediately pulled out all of my books and searched for spinach salad recipes and planned to overdose on salad all week. I started out well, but I ended up giving in to junk food cravings and comfort eating. Why is fried chicken so damn good??
 
I’m pretty proud of today’s recipe since I put it together myself. A while back, Rabin and I went to a restaurant in Toronto and tasted one of the greatest salads I’ve ever had. There were roasted golden beets and arugula, goat cheese and candied pecans and some kind of sweet vinaigrette. I tell you – I’ve never thought I would have liked 3/4 of those things, much less combined. Additionally, a lot of those ingredients aren’t readily available here, so I wanted to make something that felt a little crazy (but worked) like that salad rather than “this salad has turned me off all salads for the rest of my life” crazy.
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So here’s the recipe, it’s pretty simple to throw together and is filling and fresh. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the original salad at all, but when Rabin tried it, he said “you know what this reminds me of? That salad we had the last time we were in Canada…” Mission accomplished :)
 

Blueberry Salad w/ an Agave Vinaigrette

  • Servings: 2 as a main dish, 3-4 as a side
  • Time: 10 mins
  • Difficulty: super easy
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Ingredients for Salad
4 cups loosely packed Spinach leaves
1/2 cup Pecans, roughly chopped
1/3 cup Blueberries
1 Apple (I used McIntosh)
1/2 tsp ground Flaxseed (optional)
 
Ingredients for Vinaigrette
1 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 tbsp. Lemon Juice
1 tsp. freshly grated Lemon zest
2 tbsp. Agave Syrup
Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes
Pinch of Black Pepper
 
Instructions
Toast Pecans in a 350 oven for 8 -10 minutes. Watch carefully to make sure it doesn’t burn. In the meantime, prepare the vinaigrette by whisking ingredients together. Dice apple. Toss salad ingredients with vinaigrette. Sprinkle with flaxseed if using. Serve immediately.
 
Note: If you’d prefer to serve later, prep as usual, but don’t dice the apples – cut them before you’re ready to serve. The lemon in the vinaigrette will keep the apples from browning to an extent, but it really depends on how long in advance you’re preparing the salad.
 
Another Note: I would totally use the flaxseed every time. The only reason most of these pictures don’t have flaxseed is because I kind of forgot to sprinkle it on before :s
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So what else is going on? I’m pretty excited about the new season of shows starting in mid September. We’re almost there! I had a TV Pilot night with my siblings last week – we watched the few Pilots that have been released and I’m the most surprised by ‘Selfie’. When I first heard the name, I literally rolled my eyes and thought to myself “this better get cancelled soon”. Surprisingly, it’s a kind of charming modern day version of My Fair Lady. I actually liked it more than A to Z, but I’ll still watch future episodes because I haven’t dealt fully with the HIMYM betrayal and seeing Cristin Milioti in a romantic comedy feels like NBC is patting me on the back saying “there there, we’ll fix what that mean old CBS did to you.”
 
Another notable pilot? The Flash. The CW so clearly has the ‘handsome leading man + funny sidekick + seemingly unattainable love interest + unlikely love interest that will blossom into the one you root for + one supportive parent (or two supportive parents but one will die at some point in the show)’ equation down cold. Seriously, think about it. Arrow, Smallville, Dawson’s Creek, Gilmore Girls…even Supernatural has most of those elements. Peace out movies – TV is back! 
 
What does this have to do with salad? Not a thing. No wait, I have a connection! Eat this salad while you’re watching TV premieres instead of stuffing your face with popcorn / junk food. Boom. See? My mind isn’t THAT random :p . Happy weekend!
 
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