This Is How You Become The Fungi At A Party

At that moment, Salinger remembered just what happened after he got into the catnip last night.

At that moment, Salinger remembered just what happened after he got into the catnip last night.

There are several ways to become the life of the party. In my younger and single days, I achieved this through bringing my best buddies along: Jack, Jose, and Captain Morgan. Now that I’m older and married (translation: boring), I up my game through nummies.

Yeah, I said it. NUM. MIES.

The problem is, most of my appetizers in the past have consisted of something meat related, in small, Swedish, and sauced variety, so for the most recent Sunday dinner that promised to be a meat and gluten bonanza, I needed to work my usual magic to not only provide myself with something I could eat, but once again prove to my family that vegetarian food can be, y’know, delicious.

This is what ensued:

Never has so many shades of brown looked so fiendishly edible.

Never has so many shades of brown looked so fiendishly edible.

And this was my family’s reaction, as retold by cats:

I'm shocked, SHOCKED to find out there is no meat in this appetizer!

I’m shocked, SHOCKED to find out there is no meat in this appetizer!

Oh no, she DIDN'T...put any meat in this.

Oh no, she DIDN’T…put any meat in this.

I can tell you want to blow your peers away with this too, so take a few minutes out and make:

MUSHROOM CLOUDS OF QUINOA

RAW MATERIALS:

1 pound Baby bella or cremini mushrooms

2 cups cooked quinoa

1/2 medium red onion, finely diced

1/2 green bell pepper, finely diced

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup mozzarella cheese (substitute Daiya cheese for a vegan version)

1/4 cup freshly shredded Parmesan (substitute cashew “parmesan” for vegan)

1 tbsp dried Italian seasoning

1-2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

ASSEMBLY INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375°.

Create the appetizer housings: Remove the stems from the mushroom caps (they snap right off with a little pressure). Finely chop and set aside for the stuffing. Now for the insanely fun (translation: tediously mind-numbing) part: Using a small spoon, scrape the ribs gently out of the mushroom caps to create a small “bowl” in which to place your stuffing (once it’s created, of course). Set aside on a lightly sprayed baking sheet.

Creating the yummy center: Cook quinoa according to the package instructions (quick shortcut: you can do this in a rice cooker, and just like it’s grainy friend, quinoa also cooks at 2 parts liquid to 1 part dry grain. Use vegetable stock instead of water for a flavor boost). Turn out quinoa into a medium mixing bowl and fluff with a fork. Meanwhile, heat your olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion and green pepper, cook until it starts to become soft, about 2-3 minutes. Add chopped mushroom stems and cook for a further 3 minutes. Add Italian seasoning, then salt & pepper to taste. Remove from heat and fold into the quinoa until thoroughly combine.

Arming your flavor bomb: Spoon approximately one tablespoon of the stuffing into each mushroom cap (add more or less depending on the size of the caps). In a small mixing bowl, mix mozzarella & Parmesan (or Daiya & cashew cheese) with red pepper flakes and sprinkle across the top of all the caps.*

Bake for 15 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and serve warm. They will disappear in approximately .000001 seconds.

Don’t like mushrooms? No problemo! This same filling works just as well in large jalapenos, bell peppers, or tomatoes.

Now party on, dudes!

* Cool tip: don’t worry about cheese falling between the mushroom caps. They’ll create sweet cheese crisps in the oven that you can break apart and place on top of your mushrooms for an extra pop.

My Cookies Will Kick Your Cookies’ Ass

Salinger Sez, "Oh noooo she didn't...!"

Salinger Sez, “Oh noooo she didn’t…!”

My cat is often thoroughly appalled by my bad language. Being named after an author, I’m sure he thinks that I should be expanding my vocabulary. Or, as my dad would say, “Here’s what the cat is thinking: ‘Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz’.”

But this post isn’t about my cat. (Or IS IT????) No, it’s about these little gems:

A cookie moms can give to spawn for breakfast. Seriously.

A cookie moms can give to spawn for breakfast. Seriously.

You are about to hear the greatest recipe title, guaranteed to make you shed a tear of joy and possibly inspire you to send me money.* Or not. I don’t want to oversell this:

OATMEAL CINNAMON BANANA BREAKFAST COOKIES

Breakfast. COOKIES. These are also good whether it is the breakfasting hour or not; totally not going to judge you. Much.

BONUS: These are gluten free, vegan, and have no sugar. AND THEY TASTE GOOD. I am totally a witch.

Want to prove me wrong? Make these, eat two, and call me in the morning to apologize:

UNREFINED NOMS

1 1/2 cups gluten free rolled oats (like these)

2 large, ripe bananas

1/3 cup ground pecans

1/2 cup (total) dried fruit, cut to a small dice (I like using Craisins and Turkish apricots)

2 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

2 tsp vanilla extract

CONCOCT YOUR FLAVOR BOMBS

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a baking sheet with coconut oil (if you can find a compressed version, or rub with 1 tsp of the jar stuff. Worst case scenario: Pam. It’s easy to find and cheap, just how I like my men. Wait, what?)

Grind your pecans and set them aside in a large mixing bowl, before slicing your bananas to gooify (a technical term) in your food processor, such as I did with the Banana Ice Cream.

In the ground pecan bowl, add your rolled oats, chopped dried fruit, nutmeg and cinnamon. Mix with a spatula until everything is coated in the cinnamon & nutmeg. Add the banana goo and vanilla. It will look something like this:

Before being buried in delicious and nutritious goo.

Before being buried in delicious and nutritious goo.

Potassium lake...I mean, nutritious vegan fruit binder. That...doesn't sound any better, does it?

Potassium lake! I mean…nutritious vegan fruit binder.
That…doesn’t sound any better, does it?

Stir the banana & oat mixture until thoroughly combined and forms a “dough.” If it’s at all dry, add more pureed banana – this should be a bit wet before going in to the oven.

Drop rounded tablespoons about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet (these do not puff up or spread out, fyi, as there is no leavening agent in this recipe) and bake for 15-18 minutes.

Cool for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Or eat those puppies hot with a cold glass of almond milk.

SHEER. HEAVEN.

And Happy Friday!

* Not that I’m, y’know, asking, but it would sure be nice.

Recover From a Meat Coma… Or, How To Party Like A Vegan Rockstar

And your name doesn’t even have to be Morrissey. Because, really? No.

Seriously, just looking at the meatballs from Monday is making me food coma sleepy and dull, when normally I’m annoyingly bright eyed and bushy tailed. Sarcastically, sarcastically bushy tailed.

And when I’m sleepy and dull, there are few things in this world that will pick me up and feel all right again. One of them is My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. The other one is this dip:

It's like hummus, but Italian and better.

It’s like hummus, but Italian and better.

What is this wonder, you ask?

Why it’s…

NOTMMUS

(See what I did there?)

Yes, this is a bean dip, but it doesn’t have the usual garbanzos or tahini, so it’s not like I can call it a hummus, but my OCGP did correctly peg it as “hummus adjacent,” so Notmmus was born. Here’s how you can bring it in to being:

EDIBLES & AMOUNTS

1 can Great Northern or Cannellini beans (15 ounces)

1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes + oil (in other words, get sundried tomatoes packed in oil and use that delicousness later on…we’re coming to that)

2 cloves roasted garlic (see Veggie Lasagna recipe for instructions)

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tbsp Sriracha (or a bit less, if heat is not your thing)

2 tbsp dried Italian seasoning (also known as a mix of oregano, marjoram, thyme, basil, and sage. At least, it is in my world)

2 tsp red pepper flakes

3-4 tbsp water

THE PATH TO PUREED GLORY

In a medium fry pan, heat the oil from the sundried tomatoes.* Once the oil is heat, add the drained and rinsed beans, plus 1 tablespoon of the Italian seasoning. Heat through, about 4-5 minutes. It will look glorious, kinda like this:

Damn this interwebs lack of scratch and sniff!

Damn this interwebs’ lack of scratch and sniff!

Important safety tip: Do NOT (repeat: donotdoNOTDONOT!) put the hot bean and oil mixture in your food processor. It will explode and this is bad (in theory). Let it chillax and cool down for at least 15 minutes before proceeding.

Ok, now that you’ve waited oh-so-patiently, pour the bean mixture into your food processor, along with the other tablespoon of Italian seasoning, the red pepper flakes, and the Sriracha. Blend until mostly smooth. Add water, a tablespoon at a time, until you reach the desired consistency (a thick paste. Mmmmm, paste).

FYI: it will have a slightly grittier (or in foodie terms, “rustic”) texture to it, but again, this is Notmmus, not that other stuff. Tastes great warm or cold and I find it most satisfying with raw veggies like celery, carrots, and cucumber.

So remember kids, any time you need to recover from some meat eating, here’s your go-to:

This magically erases all the guilt I've felt from consuming that 54 ounce ribeye - thanks GCEI!

This magically erases all the guilt I’ve felt from consuming that 54 ounce ribeye – thanks GCEI!

* Comes to about a little more than a tablespoon. Handy dandy tip: if you put the jar in the fridge, the oil becomes basically solid. Scoop out your quarter cup, and let the oil melt as the pan heats up. Once you start hearing a little sizzle from the tomatoes, you can add the rest of your ingredients.

Sometimes, It’s A Carnivore’s World

There are times when I have to take a break from only making veggies. These times are usually the result of me taking pity on my husband and thinking to myself, “Perhaps I can whip something meat related that will not send him running to get a hoagie comprised of approximately five million calories of processed Italian meat.” Or, as he refers to it as, delicious.

Also, I still have an egregious amount of meat in my freezer leftover from my “partaking in meat before I knew THAT’S what was making me feel like ass” days. I can’t exactly donate it to a food pantry (even though I’d like to) because of its perishable status, so instead I go into Tasmanian Devil-like cooking whirlwinds and just try to get some of that meatiness out of my freezer and into my husband’s belly.

Here was the result:

Yes, Virginia, apparently is is possible for chickens to have balls.

Yes, Virginia, apparently it is possible for chickens to have balls.

Oh, that’s not pretty enough for you Foodie McFoodbloggiefooderson? How about…

That's how chicken meatballs roll. See what I did there?

That’s how chicken meatballs roll. See what I did there?

…NOW?

BOOM. That’s what I thought.

To be fair, neither of these are best, most appetizing pictures of my food, ever. However, they are the only pictures I could get of these little guys before they were inhaled by my husband. Deal with it. Then make them.

SERIOUS POULTRY CAJONES

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, raw, approximately 6 oz each

1-2 boneless skinless turkey thighs, raw, approximately 8 oz total

1 large red bell pepper, finely diced

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1 tbsp garlic powder

2 tsp onion powder

2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp celery salt

salt & pepper to taste

EASIEST. PREP. EVER.

Grind your poultry meat. Don’t have a grinder? Noooo problem. Cut the meat into chunks and grind it in your food processor. Voila: poor man’s process(or)*. FYI, if you don’t want to go through the painstakingly knifework of doing a great fine dice (and lord knows I’m one of those lazy people), you can drop quartered pieces (minus stems and seeds. ALWAYS MINUS STEMS AND SEEDS) into the processor separately from the meat, and a few quick pulses will make short work of that bell pepper. Just make sure to thoroughly wring the juice out in a paper towel, or through a fine mesh strainer, otherwise your balls will be too soggy.

And nobody likes soggy balls.

In a large mixing bowl, dump all of your ingredients. Now, do me a favor, don’t be a pansy, and work all that goodness together with your hands. Sure, you could use a spoon or a spatula…if you want uneven pockets of flavor. Our fingers are good for so many things. This is one of them.

Balls should be about a 1/4 cup each. I have no idea if that’s accurate, but it sounds right – what I normally do is drop a smallish pinch in the palm of my hand and roll it until I can see if it’s slightly larger than a golf ball. If it is, hooray! If it’s smaller, add some meat. If it’s starting to feel heavy or doesn’t fit easily into the center of your palm, it’s too big. #stoptryingtocompensate

APPLICATION OF FIRE TO PRODUCT

Pre-heat oven to 375°.

Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a skillet or on a flat griddle over medium heat. Brown meatballs (3-4 minutes per side), then transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Remove and rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS

* Last night, I was rushed, so I just threw together a meatball sub for the Hubster, on a hoagie roll (buttered and garlic-fied, of course) and topped it with some leftover homemade marinara that I had in the freezer and a generous helping of mozzarella cheese. Apparently it worked out well because it disappeared within 10 minutes.

* Plain ol’ spaghetti & meatballs

* With red-pepper cream sauce (which I’ll post as soon as I figure it out)

* Use tiny versions (half the size of above) to add to Albondigas or Italian Wedding soup. Cooking times will be shorter, as it will not take as long to cook through.

* Have a delicious, messy, meatball fight

And soon, back to our regularly scheduled vegetarian programming…

* Little joke for all my film production friends. Nerd, I am one. Yes.

 

Barbeque: I Will Make You My Vegetarian Bitch.

“Will you make something for {insert major family event here}?”

The above sentence is something I hear from my mom almost as much as, “Have you paid your bills?” To be fair, the day I pay my bills also happens to fall within the same 24 hour period which is known in my neck of the woods as Family Dinner. I hear in other parts of the country, they call it “Sunday.”

So a few months ago, my mom, still very confused about my newly enforced vegetarianism said what anyone would say in the same situation, “Well I’m going to have your brother grill chicken for  Mother’s Day. What can you make for everyone that you can also eat?” Hmm. Thanks, Mom. This was Saturday night and I had to be at my parents’ house the next day at noon. Ooooookay…this needs a solid plan. My plan was to sleep and worry about it in the morning. It worked like a charm, too.

If there’s one thing that goes with grilled chicken, it’s vegetable skewers and grilled red potatoes. Simply, here’s what you do:

FIVE MINUTES TO VEGETABLE DELIGHT

2 red bell peppers, cut into chunks

2 green bell peppers, cut into chunks

2 yellow or orange bell peppers, cut into chunks

1 medium red onion, cut into chunks and layers separated

2 bulbs of garlic, all cloves separated and peeled

8-16 ounces of baby bella mushrooms, wiped clean and stems removed #screwbuttonmushrooms

2 tbsp olive oil (I like using basil infused oil for this)

2-3 tbsp pork or beef spice rub (say WHAAAAAAT? Yep, it’s not just for meat anymore, bitches!)

PREP: After chopping your vegetables, toss in a large mixing bowl with spices and oil and mix with your hands until thoroughly coated. GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY. It’s dirty with flavor, baby, yeah. Thread on to skewers (I love these flexible metal ones from Bed, Bath, and Beyond) and throw on the grill for about 10-15 minutes. Voila. It’s really that simple.

GRILLED RED POTATOES

6-8 red potatoes, sliced into 1/4″ rounds

2 tbsp kosher salt

3 tbsp olive oil

1/8 cup chopped fresh dill

1/8 cup chopped fresh thyme

PREP: After slicing your potatoes, spread them out on paper towels and sprinkle with salt (this will draw excess moisture out of the potato and, I’ve found, makes for a crispier grilled potato). Leave about 20-30 minutes. Wipe off excess moisture, dump the potatoes into a Ziploc bag, along with the olive oil, dill, and thyme. Shake vigorously like, I dunno, how your milkshake brings all the boys to the yard or something. Once this deliciousness is evenly distributed, place in a single layer directly on the grill, about 6-7 minutes per side (you want grill marks). Remove from grill and serve immediately. Or later. But they taste better hot.

So, after my vegetable grilling detour, let me get back to the matter at hand: Mother’s Day. Sunday morning. WTF was I going to make?

I opened my fridge and saw the most glorious sight I ever did see: a bag of badass brussel sprouts. Yeah, that’s right: BAD. ASS. These tiny little cabbage-y nuggets of glory are not just for torturing kids with anymore!

Now, in case you didn’t know, brussel sprouts actually grow on stalks that need to be harvested and actually do not come pre-packaged into frozen plastic bags like all of our mothers led us to believe. It was a shock to me too. The first time I actually came across these little guys ON THEIR STALK, I bought it for the sheer novelty factor. And to freak out my husband (it worked). The first time I cooked these up, I steamed them in a bamboo basket, then finished them off with season salt and shredded Irish cheese. OH HELL YES. But I didn’t have Irish cheese that day. Dammit.

But at least I had the brussel sprouts. And this harvest grain mixture from Trader Joe’s. Oooh, and marcona almond pesto. A frozen bag of pearl onions, huh. Diced red pepper? Sure. Vegetable broth. I can work with this.

I packed it all up and dashed off to the parental homestead, brimming with false bravado.

“Do you know what you’re going to make?”

“Pfft, of course I do! Do you really think I wouldn’t plan this, Mom?”

And then this happened:

You can't handle all this deliciousness. Unless you want to. And believe me, you very much want to.

You can’t handle all this deliciousness. Unless you want to. And believe me, you very much want to.

Not bad for pantry shopping, eh? Here’s how you can recreate all this awesome into your own impressive side dish:

WARM COUSCOUS & BRUSSEL SPROUT SALAD

1 package of Israeli couscous – 16 ounces (see Harvest Blend link above for the mix I like that also includes orzo, red quinoa, and red lentils)

1 quart (32 ounces) vegetable stock (or broth)

1 pound fresh brussel sprouts, out leaves and stem removed, quartered

1 package frozen pearl onions (10 ounces)

1 red bell pepper, diced

8 ounces prepared pesto

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp olive oil (again, I like to use my basil infused here) + 1 tbsp

salt and pepper to taste

ATTACK!!

1. Leave pearl onions out to thaw approximately 30 minutes before starting.

2. Remove the very outer leaves of your brussel sprouts and cut off the toughest end of the stem. Discard the refuse and quarter the brussel sprouts. If you insist on using frozen, you can (and it works; it’s just cheating), but make sure you leave them out to thaw, along with the onions. Dice red pepper.

3. Heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a dutch over over medium-high heat. Once shimmering, add your grain mixture and coat it in the oil, stirring constantly to toast it slightly (1-2 minutes). Add vegetable broth and stir to keep any couscous sticking to the bottom. Bring to a boil and REDUCE THE HEAT to medium for 10 minutes, covered. After you keep your damn hands off of it for that amount of time, lift the lid to check how much liquid has been absorbed and stir the grains. The liquid should be about 2/3 gone now (meaning it’s looking thick and poofy, but still more like a stew than finished grains). When you see that, TURN OFF THE HEAT and cover it up. It will retain the heat and continue to cook/absorb the liquid. LEAVE THE LID ON. <– Got that? ON.

4. While the grains are chilling out in their vegetable hot tub, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add onions and salt, and leave it! LEAVE IT! I know letting things cook on their own is scary, but just do it. It will sizzle and smell delicious, and people will assume you are a culinary genius because it already smells so good. But it’s onions, olive oil, and salt. The fools. Let them go for about 4-5 minutes before stirring; they should be just starting to get brown. Add your red pepper and brussel sprouts, further salt and pepper to your taste (spoiler alert: you won’t need much more salt, if any). Cook, stirring, for about 2-3 minutes. Add 1/3 cup water to the skillet and cover. Let steam over medium-low heat for 5-8 minutes, depending on your preference of doneness. Hint, hint: IT SHOULDN’T BE MUSH. Vegetables should still taste a little melty on the outside and crispy on the inside. I know that’s counter intuitive, but this isn’t a french fry. Different kind of love needs to be shown.

5. Mix 4 to 3. Add pesto and balsamic vinegar. Stir until it’s evenly incorporated. Serve warm (can also be stored overnight and served cold the next day, and let me tell you – it’s still freaking great).

Just as a reminder, this will be the outcome of this work:

I'm happier, you're happier. Your family/friends/pets are happier. This is the first step towards world peace, my friends.

I’m happier, you’re happier. Your family/friends/pets are happier. This is the first step towards world peace, my friends.

To this day, my mom still doesn’t know that I threw this together on a wing and a prayer with ingredients I found ten minutes before driving to her house. Well, now she will. If she reads this. Dammit.

And I’d just like to note: the skewers, potatoes, and couscous salad? DEMOLISHED. The chicken? Not so much.

TAKE THAT BARBEQUE!

No Vacation Like A Vegas Vacation

So I should have been writing and cooking this weekend. Knowing that I had to work, I did what every hard-working American woman does: I said, “Screw this!” And went to Las Vegas for the Star Trek Convention instead.

20130812-203127.jpg

The above is the easiest meal for a vegetarian to procure in Sin City.

You want a steak in Vegas? You. Are. GOLDEN. Seafood? Rock it out. Chicken, squab, hen, duck, quail – you are on Easy Street. What does that leave for me? Italian! Ooooh, wait. I get sick on gluten.

Salads and eggs. That’s what’s available. Until 3/4 of the salads have walnuts (deathly allergic), and every fruit salad has melon (double deathly allergic). *FACEPALM*

And then I found the most magical place on Earth: Slice of Vegas People: there is an entire VEGAN menu (but I still totally had real cheese. Please). Not only was their vegetarian curry pizza delicious, but they have the best (THE BEST!) gluten free crust I’ve ever tasted. Mind BLOWN.

The only thing better than knowing I get to go back there next time we decide on an impromptu vacation, but they own another restaurant: Hussong’s. And they have an entire vegetarian and gluten free menu too!

I think I may just shed a tear…and this time not because of the money I left in the slot machines.