Getting Hitched

Hi folks – just wanted to say I'm in Prince Edward Island right now to get married, so no posts this week! Back in two weeks with more tasty recipes. 🙂

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Vegetarian Crispy Chickpea Tacos

Vegetarian Crispy Chickpea Tacos

https://www.macheesmo.com/crispy-chickpea-tacos/

These tacos were the hands-down star of chickpea week. I’m already a big fan of Macheesmo, and these definitely didn’t disappoint. A creative change of pace from standard taco fillings, they’re a perfect snack or entree for hot summer days. No oven required; you just sauté the chickpeas for a little while on the stove.

I was initially skeptical of the prep time for these (prep time 10 minutes, total time 25 minutes), as recipes in general (and Macheesmo recipes in particular) often take me longer than the stated time. I may be timing it differently; I start counting when I walk in the kitchen door, but I think many recipe authors assume that some of the basic prep work is out of the way first. Things like getting out your knives and cutting boards, getting the spices out of the cupboard, untying the knots on the plastic produce bags (which I assume some adorable person out there is actually doing; I just rip into them obviously) and throwing them away. My kitchen layout is pretty middle-of-the-road, neither notably efficient nor irritatingly horrible, but I do find that logistical stuff like this adds up. I’m also still learning what order works best for each recipe I make; sometimes I realize I started the wrong thing first and could have saved a lot of time by chopping one thing while something else was roasting, etc. I’m getting better at it, but with a new recipe it’s not always obvious right away.

Anyway, all that to say that I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly this came together. I mixed up the chickpeas first and started them frying while prepping the other ingredients. Since the cooking time for the chickpeas is pretty flexible, it worked out really well.

I also saved time by using a pre-chopped broccoli slaw mix in place of radicchio, since I find radicchio too bitter. I looked for sliced cabbage at my grocery store, but broccoli slaw was the closest thing they had, and it turned out great. Honestly, I think you could substitute a lot of different things and still get a great result. You’re just trying to add a little crunch; any firm, mild-tasting green veggie, cabbage, or even kale or lettuce would probably be fine.

I also couldn’t find queso fresco at my local market. (My Canadian fiance tells me that Mexican food isn’t a big thing up here, which is good news as far as he’s concerned but super disappointing for me.) I substituted bocconcini, which as far as I can tell is some kind of mozzarella relative. I knew that queso fresco was a simple cheese, not aged at all but eaten fresh, and the bocconcini seemed to fit that description. It turned out fine; I think cheddar or spicy jack or even feta would also be tasty.

It all looked so pretty laid out in taco bar form.

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The lime sour cream sauce was fantastic – so simple to throw together and super delicious. I actually used the full lime’s worth of juice with the same amount of sour cream, and the extra citrus zing was really nice.

Keeping the sauce and veggie slaw separate makes it easier to store, too. I packed everything up and enjoyed it just as much for lunch the next day. But if you were serving a crowd, you could toss the veggies with the sauce to save a little time.

All in all, a super satisfying, light, and tasty recipe that I’ll definitely be making over and over this summer.

Deliciousness Score: 9
Easiness Score: 6

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Vegan Avocado Chickpea Lettuce Wraps

Vegan Avocado Chickpea Lettuce Wraps

http://www.glutenfreeveganpantry.com/avocado-chickpea-lettuce-wraps/

My favorite thing about these little wraps is that they’re dead simple to prepare on autopilot at the end of a long day. I was starting dinner way later than I planned, it was a hot day, and I was already bone tired from working out. These were the perfect solution: just mash up some stuff in a bowl, slice a few bell peppers, and you’re good to go. (I had also had a carb-heavy day, with just cereal for breakfast and pasta for lunch, so carb-free lettuce wraps were sounding great to me by dinnertime.) It was a fun way to eat a ton of veggies, and it hit the spot. And it’s especially perfect for summer days when you’re just not excited about turning on the stove – literally no heat required.

The author conceived of this chickpea mash as a vegan alternative to egg salad. I’m not vegan, so I don’t have any particular need for an egg salad alternative, but it was in fact kind of similar. The chickpeas provide a hearty, smooth base; the soft, fatty avocados add some richness; and the celery & green onions (familiar staples from every egg salad recipe everywhere) add crunch.

While it was definitely a nice, easy light meal, I found myself wanting a little bit of a flavor boost. I used all of the juice from my lemon, more than just 1 Tbsp as written, and still wouldn’t have minded more. I also upped the salt and pepper. If I make this again, I’ll add the lemon zest as well as the juice, and possibly some dijon mustard to take it in an even more egg-salady direction.

I’ll definitely be making this again, because it’s such a light, refreshing summer meal. If you don’t think it’s quite substantial enough for dinner, you can always try it as a healthy lunch or lightweight snack.

Deliciousness Score: 6
Easiness Score: 8

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Grilled Zucchini Corn Tostadas with Spicy Hummus

Grilled Zucchini Corn Tostadas with Spicy Hummus

http://www.nomingthrulife.com/grilled-zucchini-corn-tostadas-spicy-hummus/

This is one of the best recipes I’ve come across in terms of effort-to-deliciousness ratio. It only takes a little bit of work, and the payoff is more than worth it. As long as you have all the ingredients on hand and have the time to grill or roast the veggies, the prep work is a snap, and you end up with a flavor-packed dish that seems like it must have been a lot harder than it really was.

If you have a grill, this is an easy summer staple, great for a light dinner or substantial snack. We technically do have a grill at our house, brand new this summer in fact, buuuuuuuuuut… it’s electric. I have mixed feelings about the electric grill. My fiancé, who is all about no-fuss cooking and alternative energy, was super excited about it, and has had mostly positive results so far. He cooks a lot more meat than I do, and has been very pleased with the grill’s ability to produce precisely-cooked, extra-juicy steaks and such. Personally though, grilling doesn’t do much for me if it doesn’t suffuse everything with that smoky, charred charcoal flavor. We do have some hickory chips for smoking; sometimes they make a difference? But mostly, food isn’t on the grill long enough to really absorb the smoke. I will admit that the setup and cleanup are much less hassle than with a standard charcoal grill. But with some things, the extra work is worth it, and for me summer grilling is one of these things.

That said, when I myself am already roasting from the heat of the day and just can’t deal with the idea of turning on the oven, the grill does a totally adequate job of cooking veggies.  If you’re looking to avoid heating up your kitchen, you can definitely go this route.  When the weather is cooler, I generally use the oven for this recipe.  I don’t roast the vegetables whole in this case. Instead, I dice the zucchini and cut the kernels off the corn, then spread everything in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Add some salt and pepper, toss/stir a bit to combine, and then roast at 425 for about 20 minutes. Your time & temperature may vary; sometimes I bump it up to 445 and roast for a shorter time. You do have to stay in the kitchen and keep an eye on it to avoid ending up with a blackened mess (ask me how I know), but I like to have a little bit of char on roasted vegetables, and the higher temp is great for that (as long as you pull it out in time).

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Once you have your grilled or roasted veggies, it’s just a matter of assembly; spread your hummus on tostadas or tortillas, then top with veggies. I also add feta cheese or queso fresco on top, which I highly recommend. The recipe includes a tasty basic hummus recipe, but naturally you can use any hummus you like, including storebought; if you’re not making hummus from scratch (or are using previously-prepared hummus), it cuts down the prep time even more. I do find that spicy hummus really shines in this recipe, moreso than regular hummus (and I say that as a total lightweight when it comes to spicy foods) – I never order above a 1 at Thai restaurants, but I do like a little spice in this. If you only have regular hummus on hand, you can always throw it into the food processor with a little cayenne pepper or chili powder.

Also, I find that I actually prefer regular tortillas to tostadas here. The tostadas are tricky to eat; they tend to drop toppings if you try to eat them with your hands, but they still crumble awkwardly if you go after them with knife and fork. A soft tortilla can be rolled up like a burrito, and is more convenient in my opinion. Alternatively, you could serve these like nachos, with either tortilla chips or pita chips – a unique & tasty appetizer, easy to whip up in small or large amounts.

I’m always excited to find quick, healthy vegetarian recipes that deliver strong flavors, and this one doesn’t disappoint. I come back to it every couple months and it’s solid every time. You could definitely experiment with other veggie toppings, too: roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, or really anything you like. Hope you’ll give it a try this summer and let me know how it goes!

Deliciousness score: 8
Easiness score: 9

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Grocery List – Week 5 – Dinners That Won’t Heat Up Your Kitchen

Summer is here, and even in Canada the weather is officially hot. It’s gorgeous out and the garden is loving it, but the last thing I want to do in the evening is turn on the oven. So this week I have a list of light, refreshing entrees that are great for hot evenings, no oven required. They’re all pretty versatile:  handheld wraps, tacos, or tostadas that would also make easy lunches or tasty snacks.

You might also sense a chickpea theme; for whatever reason, chickpeas just sounded totally delicious to me this week, so if you’ve got some chickpeas hiding in the back of your pantry, now is a good time to break them out. Also note that this week is 100% vegetarian. If you need a more substantial protein, you can easily throw some grilled chicken into any of these dishes.

Note: It’s unlikely that you’ll use up all your sour cream on entrees this week. Usually I try to plan more than one Mexican recipe in a week when I’m buying sour cream, but with the chickpea theme it didn’t quite happen this week. My latest favorite way to use up extra sour cream is to whip up a batch of Sally’s master muffins:

https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2017/04/19/master-muffin-recipe/

They’re infinitely customizable; you can throw in chocolate, bananas, peanut butter, berries, nuts, whatever you like. I made some with haskap berries from our local market last week and they were totally delicious. I may or may not do a writeup on the muffins this week, but just something to keep in mind if you have extra sour cream on hand.

 


Recipes

Roasted Zucchini Corn Tostadas with Spicy Hummus from Noming Thru Life

Avocado Chickpea Lettuce Wraps from Gluten Free Vegan Pantry

Crispy Chickpea Tacos from Macheesmo


 

Shopping List

Produce

2 avocados
celery
green onions
2 lemons
Boston lettuce (or another lettuce with large leaves)
3 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers
radicchio or sliced cabbage
red onion
1 serrano pepper
cilantro
1 lime
2 large zucchini
3 ears of corn

Optional toppings for chickpea lettuce wraps:
cherry tomatoes
alfalfa sprouts
cucumbers

Shelves

3 cans chickpeas (15 oz.)
medium flour or corn tortillas
1 jar roasted red peppers
tahini

Refrigerated/Frozen

queso fresco
sour cream

Pantry Staples

garlic
salt, pepper
olive oil
cumin
chili powder
cayenne powder

Super Simple Not-Too-Sweet Granola

Super Simple Not-Too-Sweet Granola

http://thelivefitgirls.com/2014/05/super-simple-granola/

This granola has become a staple at my house, and is in fact super simple to make. It’s nice because you can easily customize it to the sweetness level you prefer, and level it up with whatever nuts or berries or other add-ins you enjoy.

My fiance quit eating sugar last year, and as a result, almost all breakfast cereals taste too sweet to him now. So we’ve been on a quest for granola that holds together, is crunchy, and doesn’t turn out too dry or too mushy, without being overly sweet. It’s trickier than you might think; in most recipes, sugar or honey or syrup or molasses is responsible for the granola’s crunch and stick-together-ness. There is honey in this recipe as well, but I’ve found that you can decrease the amount of honey and increase the coconut oil, and still end up with granola that has good body. (Is “body” a term that applies to granola? I’m not sure.) But the texture is what you’d expect from granola, and it keeps well without losing much of its crunch.

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The recipe as written asks you to toast your oats and almonds together; I prefer to do these as separate steps. I’ve learned the hard way that different nuts have different toasting times, and they can go from perfectly toasted to a burned mess in the blink of an eye. I usually add two or three different nuts to this granola (pecans, hazelnuts, and almonds are our favorites), and you really do have to keep an eye on them and pull them out the moment they’re done. Here’s a quick primer on different ways to toast nuts:

http://thepioneerwoman.com/food-and-friends/3-ways-to-toast-nuts/

It’s pretty simple though; just spread out your nuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and toast in a 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes. When they’ve darkened by a couple of shades and you can smell the toasted nut aroma, they’re done.

You can toast the nuts first, or wait and do it while the granola is cooling.  To make the granola, I start with oats and unsweetened coconut:

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

I roast these dry ingredients at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Then I pull them out and drizzle them with the wet ingredient mixture:

  • 1/4 cup raw honey
  • 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

This is half the honey called for in the original recipe; the missing honey is replaced with more coconut oil. We’re still experimenting with other binders to keep the granola together: mashed bananas, pumpkin, and peanut butter are all on the list to try (although probably not all in the same batch).

Anyway, just drizzle the wet mixture onto the roasted oats, stir to combine evenly, and then pop it back into your oven and turn it off. The granola will sit in the warm oven for 5-10 minutes to finish toasting. Pull it out and let it cool completely, then mix in your nuts, raisins, or other additions.  I usually add raisins and dried cranberries.

We store this on the counter in an airtight container, and it keeps for about two weeks, which is about how long it takes us to go through a batch. We love it with yogurt and berries; you can also sprinkle it onto a smoothie bowl, or just eat it with milk.

Enjoy customizing your own super simple homemade granola!

Deliciousness score: 8
Easiness score: 9

0 granola rating

Summertime Watermelon Slushies

Summertime Watermelon Slushies

So, buying a watermelon at the grocery store is probably in my top 10 exciting things to do. (Other things on this list include spinning yarn and seeing cute dogs, so I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions about how exciting my life is.) Seriously though, getting to buy a watermelon is great. It means summer is officially here, for one thing. It’s fun to pick it out, thumping around the bin until you find the one that speaks to you. And it feels so decadent. Why yes, I am going to purchase this ten-pound thing larger than my torso and consume it.

But then, of course, the issue is that you have a ten (or more) pound watermelon at your house. I’ve never managed to consume that much in slice form, and of course once you’ve picked out your perfect juicy melon, you don’t want it to go bad. So here’s my favorite thing to do with it: a simple slushie with just a few ingredients, totally perfect for hot summer evenings.


Watermelon Honey Mint Slushies

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 watermelon, cubed
  • Juice of 2-3 lemons
  • 1 tablespoon honey (or sugar to taste)
  • 1-2 trays of ice cubes
  • A handful of mint leaves (optional)

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I found that about a quarter of a watermelon was the most I could fit in my blender; honestly, you may want to use a little less. Just cut up your melon and dump it on in, along with the rest of the ingredients. Depending on how watery your melon is, you might get a slushie, or something more like aqua fresca. It’s great either way. If you want a thicker texture, just keep adding ice until it looks right.

Another way to get that thicker slushie consistency is to start with frozen watermelon cubes. And incidentally, this is also a great way to store your remaining 3/4 watermelon (or however much you have left after your family has eaten their fill of slices).  To freeze, cut up your remaining watermelon into cubes, and arrange them on a foil or parchment-lined baking sheet.  (Mine are a bit too close together here; ideally they should have a bit more space between the cubes.)  Place the whole tray in the freezer.  Once frozen, you can transfer the watermelon to a plastic freezer bag.

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Freezing does alter the watermelon’s texture, and also makes it a bit less sweet, so you may not want to thaw your melon again once it’s been frozen. But it’s perfect for smoothies and slushies throughout the summer. You can make the same slushie above, or blend it up with some vanilla ice cream or yogurt & lime juice, or berries and honey, or whatever else you can think of.

Incidentally, here are a few tips and tricks on picking the best watermelon:

https://brightside.me/inspiration-tips-and-tricks/how-to-pick-a-perfect-watermelon-tips-from-an-experienced-farmer-209205/

I was surprised to learn that bigger fruits are generally not better, and also that the sex of the plant makes a difference in the sweetness. (“Girl” watermelons, which are smaller and rounder, tend to be sweeter.)

Happy watermelon hunting!