Saturday, February 28, 2015

Braised Fennel Wedges with Saffron, Tomato, Zucchini and Thyme

Last time Dave went to the grocery store he came home with a list of new ingredients he wanted me to incorporate into blog posts. The first one was fennel. I don't think I've ever had fennel before, but I was willing to give it a go.

Recipe from Green Kitchen Stories.

-1 large fennel bulb
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-1 zucchini
-1 onion, diced
-1/2 tsp ground saffron
-1/2 tsp dried thyme
-1 clove garlic, crushed
-3 tbsp tomato paste
-1 cup water
-sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
-1 handful fennel greens

The fennel is incredibly easy to work with. First, cut off the stalks and greens. Save the greens for later, and add the stalks to your freezer bag of veggie scraps (I save mine in a gallon size freezer bag to use for vegetable stock later). Next, cut the fennel bulb in half, there is a hard inner core, use your knife to remove the inner core and toss that into  your stock bag as well. Now slice the remaining fennel into thin wedges.

Heat the olive oil in a wide saute pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion, saffron and thyme and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the fennel and zucchini. Cook them until golden, turning occasionally to ensure that they are cooked on all sides. 

Once the fennel and zucchini are golden, add the garlic, stir in the tomato paste, and then add the water and salt & pepper. Cover the pan and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.

You can serve this with rice, however, we choose to serve it with ramen noodles to give it a little more substance. The fennel had a light flavor, but all of the ingredients paired together nicely and complemented each other. There was a little bit of sauce at the bottom of the pan that I used to spoon over our noodle servings. This is an ingredient I would work with again. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Candied Clementine Peel

I was curious if there was something I could do with the peels of all these tiny clementines I've been eating. In this post, I'm sharing my candied clementine peel. While for me it's something of a curiosity, if you collected the peels of a few at once, this could turn into a regular treat.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart.

-1 clementine
-1/4 c brown sugar
-1 to 2 T granulated sugar

Cleanly remove the peel from the clementine, I sliced a strip out of the middle. Carefully remove the pith from the interior of the peel, or as much as you can because it can be bitter. Cut the peel into strips or one inch squares.

Boil the peels for about 10 minutes, then remove and let dry on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Next, bring 1/4 cup of water to boil with the 1/4 cup of brown sugar. Return the clementine peel to the pot and boil for roughly another 10 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent burning. It will be done when the syrup has thickened. Transfer the peels back to the wire rack to cool for an hour. The citrus-infused syrup can now be used to sweeten and flavor tea, for example.

After the peel has dried for an hour or more, toss it in the 1-2 tablespoons granulated sugar. The sugar should adhere and evenly coat the candy peel. Enjoy the resulting light and sweet citrus candy!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Chocolate Turtle Cake

Today we're celebrating the 3 year blogiversary of Vegetarian & Cooking!

I cannot believe it's been another year. This year saw a lot of changes to the format of the website, as well as a lot more original posts. I spent almost the entire year as a solo blogger for the first time since the inception of the blog, however, I certainly couldn't have done this without a lot of help from Dave and some photography support from Kayla.

As the blog continues into year 4 I can only hope for more opportunities for Vegetarian & Cooking! as well as myself. This continues to be a wonderful hobby for me and I expect only great things from here.

Adapted from The Cake Blog, photos by Kayla.

-Cooking spray
-Unsweetened cocoa
-1 (18.25-oz.) package devil’s food cake mix
-1 (3.9-oz.) package chocolate instant pudding mix
-3 large eggs
-11/4 cups milk
-1 cup canola oil
-1 tablespoon vanilla extract
-1 (6-oz.) package semisweet chocolate morsels
-1 cup chopped pecans
-1 (16-oz.) container ready-to-spread cream cheese frosting
-1/2 cup canned dulce de leche
-1 package Take-5 bars
-1 (12-oz.) jar caramel ice-cream topping
-1/4 cup pecan halves, toasted

To make the cake layers:

Prepare two 9 inch cake pans by spraying them with cooking spray and dusting them with cocoa powder.

Beat cake mix, instant pudding mix, eggs, milk, oil and vanilla extract at low speed with an electric mixer for 1 minute.  Beat at medium speed 2 minutes. Then fold in chocolate morsels and chopped pecans.  Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake at 350 for 30-32 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly in the pan, then flip the cake onto wire racks to finish the cooling process.

While the cake is cooling prepare your frosting, mix the cream cheese frosting with the dulce de leche.

Once the cake layers are cool, assemble your cake.

Start with a base layer.

Top generously with the caramel frosting, you want to use about half.

Add the other cake layer.

Top with the remaining frosting.

Kayla hard at work. 

Add the remaining pecans as well as the Take 5 bars to the top.

If desired, drizzle the caramel ice cream topping onto the top and down the sides.

Happy 3 year blogiversary! 

Only more good things to come.
Serve and enjoy the amazing that is this cake, I hope you invited some friends over!

This cake was about as decadent as they come (YES, Dave and I are still abiding by our New Year's resolution of being healthier, NO, I will not tell you how many calories are in a piece of this lovely cake, you don't want to know). The caramel cream cheese frosting was creamy and full of flavor, the color contrasted nicely with the chocolate cake layers. I know exposed cake layers are all the rage, It really did make for quite a pretty cake. I decided to use Take-5 bars on top because that was the closest thing I could find to candy turtles at the store. Overall, I was very, very happy with how this turned out. Cheers to another year! 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Red Curry Coconut Butternut Squash Soup

It's the last Soup Wednesday! Starting next week for all Wednesdays in March and May I will be posting salad recipes. Salads can be pretty boring, I'm sure we've all had a boring side salad before, however, I will be looking for new and exciting recipes to help spice up your salad eating routine. 

-1 butternut squash
-1 cup coconut milk
-1 teaspoon red curry paste
-1 cup vegetable broth
-salt to taste
-toasted pumpkin seeds

To roast the butternut squash for this recipe, simply preheat the oven to 400 degrees and roast the squash whole.

To make the soup, cut the roasted squash in half, scoop out the seeds and discard. Using a large spoon scoop the rest of the butternut squash into a medium sauce pan. Add the coconut milk, red curry paste and vegetable broth. Heat until the entire mixture is warmed through (whatever temperature you like your soup), then use an immersion blender to mix until smooth.

Top each serving of soup with a few tablespoons of pepitas.

Dave and I both really liked this soup, the small amount of red curry paste gave this a little bit of a kick, but nothing overwhelming, just a nice heat throughout. The coconut milk and the butternut squash complemented each other nicely. The preparation could not have been any easier, the butternut squash roasted while I worked-out, then heating the soup up and blending it took less than ten minutes. Overall I was very happy with this recipe. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Artichoke Dip Stuffed Mushrooms

I found this recipe while browsing Pinterest for low-carb appetizers to bring over to my friend Steph's. However, I forgot that her boyfriend really hates mushrooms -- which I don't quite understand as a mushroom lover, but my vehement hate for bananas has been quite the talk about the lunch table at work, but I digress. I guess everyone has an ingredient that they dislike.

Photos for this post are by Kayla.

Recipe from Sugar Free Chic.

-1/2 cup Miracle Whip
-1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
-1/2 cup grated cheddar jack cheese
-1 can of artichokes, drained
-2 cloves crushed garlic
-1 teaspoon dried parsley
-1 teaspoon garlic salt
-pinch of ground pepper

-Stuffing mushrooms, cleaned, stems removed

In a medium bowl combine all ingredients for the filling and mix well. 

Stuff each mushroom cap with several spoonfuls of filling.

The original blog called for broiling these for 10 minutes or until the cheese was golden. However, that left me with raw mushrooms. If the stuffing mushrooms are small, broiling them should result in cooked mushrooms, if you use larger stuffing mushrooms like I did, then bake them for 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees.

Everyone enjoyed this recipe, the artichoke dip filling was tangy and cheesy, the cheese on top browned nicely allowing for some crispy texture. These would have been good with some spinach mixed into the filling as well. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Nutella Stuffed Browned Butter Blondies

Rich and wonderful blondie dessert pieces stuffed with pockets of hazelnut spread filling. Perfect for sharing with people you like.

Recipe from The Food Charlatan.

-1 c Nutella, or substitutable hazelnut spread
-10 T butter
-2 c flour
-1 t baking soda
-1/2 t salt
-2 c brown sugar
-3 oz cream cheese
-2 t vanilla extract
-2 eggs

Scoop the hazelnut spread onto waxed paper on a cookie sheet in 12 approximately equal portions. This should use about a cup of hazelnut spread. Shove the cookie sheet into the freezer.

Combine the brown sugar and cream cheese in a medium-sized bowl.

In a separate bowl, add and toss the flour, baking soda, and salt.

On the range, melt all the butter. Leave the melted butter on medium to high heat so that it bubbles and darkens.

Add the browned butter to the cream cheese and sugar, stirring well for two minutes. Next, add the vanilla extract and eggs to the wet ingredients, mixing again for a few minutes. Fully incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet, then pour into a lightly greased 9x13.

Now, take the hazelnut spread out of the freezer, arrange and press into the batter.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Cut in 12 pieces around the hazelnut spread when done. Each piece gets its own.

We loved the richness of this dessert. I was instructed to make these blondies alone, and I confess to using culinary license. The source recipe said it would make messy blondies, and the pictures looked goopy and difficult to eat. "I know how to fix that," I said to myself, and I excised some of the cream cheese and extra hazelnut spread from my version. "Won't Alecia be so pleased that I fixed the recipe." For an oozier, more decadent blondie, go ahead and add another ounce of cream cheese and a 1/4 cup swirl of hazelnut spread to the batter. Either way, you can't go wrong on how delicious they taste.