Gourmet Veggie Mama

Sailor’s Ale

I bought a bottle of Flor de Caña gold rum right before I got pregnant with Amelia, around this time last year. I was really looking forward to experimenting with some rum cocktails… and then I was sidelined. So, imagine my surprise when I pulled the bottle out of the back of the bar… and it was mostly empty.

Sigh. The hubby hadn’t realized it was anything special, and thus had been using it to spike his limeade when he went to the pool last summer. A lot.

But, onward and upward!

rum

A toast to Sailor’s Ale — originally a concoction of rum, ginger syrup, lime and dark beer. However, I didn’t quite feel like making ginger syrup, and I happened to have ginger beer on hand (everyone in our neighborhood is currently obsessed with the Moscow Mule), so I made it more like a slightly tricked-up version of a Dark and Stormy — just heavier on the lime.

sailor's ale

It was delicious, refreshing and perfect for this weird patchwork of winter and spring we’re currently experiencing. Drink up!

Sailor's Ale
Author: 
Recipe type: cocktail
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 3 oz gold rum
  • juice of 2 limes
  • ginger beer (1 can)
Instructions
  1. Combine the rum and lime juice in a shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into 4 rocks glasses (each will be about half full).
  2. Top each glass with about an ounce of ginger beer. Stir gently. Garnish with a lime slice, if desired.

 

Risi e Bisi

Ladies and gentlemen, the Naptime Chef is back. I thought, after a couple of years of being limited to meal prep during naptime, that I was past all that. With a child in preschool and plenty of time around the house by myself, I thought I could start to prepare meals like a normal person. Then along came Amelia.

Babies certainly have their own ideas about meal prep — namely that it’s not their favorite thing, and that there are a number of other endeavors on which their waking hours should be spent. So, I am, once again, limited to prepping dinner during naptime, however sporadic and undependable that may be.

And here I am, the Naptime Chef again. I guess that’s how it’s going to be for a while, at least. But, that’s okay, because I do have a few of my old tricks memorized, and I’m sure to discover some new ones along the way.

The difference is, this time, we’re starting out with a young palate to please as well — and yes, Nora has turned out to be quite the picky 3-year-old, despite my best efforts.* But, one thing she does like is rice. The kid will shovel handful after handful of the stuff into her mouth. And peas are one of her favorite veggies, too.

* I guess it happens to most kids eventually, at least to some degree. I just try not to cater to it too much, and hope it’ll pass sooner rather than later!

So, imagine my delight when I ran across this Slate article about the best thing to make with arborio rice that isn’t risotto, complete with a recipe for Risi e Bisi — an Italian rice and pea dish.

risi e bisi

Of course, I wouldn’t be touting it if it weren’t also pleasing to adult palates as well. It has many of the same ingredients as risotto — arborio rice, broth, butter, parmesan — but it’s far less time consuming. Even better, it’s something I can easily make ahead (during naptime, naturally) and finish quickly at dinnertime. Now that’s something I can get behind — particularly as our freezer stash is running low and I have to start cooking real food again on a regular basis.

Risi e Bisi
Author: 
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 5 cups vegetable stock, divided
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1 14-oz bag frozen peas
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, grated, plus additional for serving
  • salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until light golden brown and beginning to caramelize.
  2. Add 4 cups of the vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Stir in the rice and peas.
  3. Add a generous pinch of salt, cover and cook at a low boil until the rice is just tender, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.** Thin with additional stock if needed. The consistency should be thick, but not quite as thick as risotto.
  4. Stir in the parmesan and taste and adjust seasoning. Serve topped with additional parmesan cheese.
Notes
** If you are making the rice ahead, simply stop a couple of minutes before the rice is done to your liking and refrigerate; reheat later, adding some of the reserved broth and finishing with the parmesan.

 

Snow Falling on Agave

My mom gave me the most thoughtful Christmas present this year: A book of “literary-inspired” cocktails called Tequila Mockingbird (ha!), a bottle of Z Tequila to mix with, and (just for kicks) a gift card to Barnes & Noble. What a way to combine a couple of my greatest pleasures! While I look forward to trying out a few of the recipes from the book, none of the tequila-based drinks grabbed me, so I decided to break open the new bottle to try out a great drink from one of my favorite wine bloggers, SAHMmelier — the charmingly named Snow Falling on Agave (actually a Prado in disguise).

snow falling on agave

The combination of tequila and maraschino liqueur is not one I would have thought to try, but it was lovely. This drink is herbal-tasting and smooth — the tequila doesn’t back much of a punch at all. The “snow” is the foamy white layer on top of the drink formed by the egg white when shaken with the drink. Cheers!

Snow Falling on Agave
Author: 
Recipe type: cocktail
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Ingredients
  • 3 oz tequila
  • 1½ oz freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 oz maraschino liqueur
Instructions
  1. Mix all the ingredients in a shaker filled with ice.
  2. Shake vigorously until cold and strain into two cocktail glasses.

 

Hearth Bread

One of life’s great joys, as far as I’m concerned, is fresh-baked bread — preferably warm from the oven with a nice slather of butter. Sadly, though, fresh-baked bread can be hard to pull off without much notice. While I do love beer bread (which can be ready in just over an hour), it’s just not quite the same as a warm loaf of traditional yeast bread. But, so many yeast breads require multiple rises, or lengthy kneading, so this busy mama simply can’t work with that on her current schedule (or lack thereof).

hearth bread

Enter my new favorite bread recipe: King Arthur Flour’s Hearth Bread.* It’s super-easy, basically foolproof, requires only one rise and bakes in well less than an hour. Plus, I’ve adapted it so that my Kitchen Aid can do the kneading, so it requires no floured countertops or messy hands. Easy peasy. And since we’ve been thawing lots of soups from our freezer stash to enjoy in the cold weather, a nice loaf of freshly baked bread is always a welcome accompaniment.

*I let Nora, my kitchen helper extraordinaire lately, shape one of the loaves. Can you tell which one?

The recipe makes two loaves, so I always freeze one for later. That’s always a nice surprise for a rainy day!

Hearth Bread
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2 loaves
 
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 cups warm water (less than 110°)
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour*
  • 2½ - 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • olive oil for greasing
  • cornmeal for dusting
Instructions
  1. Mix the yeast, sugar, salt and warm water together, and let stand until the salt and sugar are dissolved and the yeast begins to bloom.
  2. Pour the yeast mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. With the mixer running on low, add the flour cup by cup (beginning with the whole wheat) until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure all the flour is incorporated.
  3. Switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed for 5 minutes.
  4. Let the dough rest while you grease a large bowl generously with olive oil, then knead for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  5. Shape the dough roughly into a ball and transfer it to the greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until doubled, 1 to 2 hours.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400°. Punch the dough down and knead briefly by hand to press out any bubbles. Separate the dough into two roughly equal parts and shape into loaves.
  7. Dust a baking sheet with cornmeal and place the loaves on the sheet. Slash each 3 times with a sharp knife. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown and sound hollow to the touch. Remove from the oven and cool slightly before slicing. Enjoy!
Notes
* I like to use white whole wheat for a lighter taste. If you want a heartier loaf, use regular whole wheat; you can also substitute an equal amount of all-purpose flour if you don't have whole wheat.

Texas Grapefruit and Bourbon Cocktail

I promised a new cocktail last week, but, well, life got in the way. I’d rather bring you something great with just a little delay than something subpar right on time. So, here we are. Cocktail Thursday is back!

For our first installment after hiatus, I turned to my old standby: bourbon. The hubby did a bit of experimenting with bourbons while I was pregnant, kicked off by our old favorite, Maker’s Mark, announcing that it would cut its alcohol content (it later reversed that decision). He decided that Bulleit Bourbon was his new favorite, and now that I can actually taste-test rather than just sniff, I agree. Bonus: It’s a little less expensive, too.

So, what better to pair with bourbon in January, the height of grapefruit season, than Texas grapefruit? Texas’ Rio Grande Valley is known for it’s juicy, sweet, bright red grapefruit, and they are perfect and delicious at this time of year. Bourbon and grapefruit, however, was not a pairing I would have thought of myself, until I stumbled on this cocktail recipe from Food & Wine. With just a little tweaking, it was perfect — and this is one of my new favorite cocktails!

texas grapefruit and bourbon cocktail

The hubby heartily agreed. I just can’t get enough of that Texas grapefruit this time of year, so, while I’m still going to have it at breakfast, I may as well shake some up and have it at cocktail hour, too!

Texas Grapefruit and Bourbon Cocktail
Author: 
Recipe type: cocktail
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Ingredients
  • 2 oz fresh grapefruit juice
  • 4 oz bourbon
  • ½ oz agave syrup, stirred with ½ oz warm water (or substitute 1 oz simple syrup)
  • grapefruit slices and maraschino cherries, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Combine grapefruit juice, bourbon and diluted agave syrup in a shaker filled with ice.
  2. Shake well and strain into two rocks glasses over ice. Garnish each with a grapefruit slice and maraschino cherry.

 

Having Our Cake and Eating It Too

Last Friday was my first full day home alone with two kids. Yikes.

The hubby was able to take about a month off for Amelia’s birth, which was wonderful — but it also means that we have some more adjusting to do now that he’s back at work. Nora is in preschool four days a week, which makes it considerably easier on me, but on Fridays, it’s all Mommy, all the time. I was pretty anxious about how it would go, given that Nora tends to get bored with just me, especially hanging around the house, and with a new baby — especially in cold and flu season — there is necessarily a lot of hanging around the house involved.

We all survived, so I count that as a victory. And, honestly, it went just fine. Trying to brainstorm fun indoor ideas (since, of course, it was rainy on top of everything else), I had asked Nora the night before if she’d like to bake cookies the next day. Nope. “I want to bake a cake,” she countered. “A vanilla cake. With vanilla frosting. And chocolate inside.”

Thankfully,* the chocolate inside idea got dropped somewhere along the way, but we did bake a vanilla cake with vanilla frosting. And it was, per her specifications, very vanilla.

photo

*For simplicity’s sake only. A chocolate ganache filling would have been delicious!

I love that Nora is getting to an age where she really likes to help out in the kitchen, and she can actually help (slightly) more than hinder. And I am pretty darn proud of myself for managing to bake a cake with a 3-year-old sous chef and a one-month-old sleeping in the Moby wrap. Skillz.

It was not a beautiful cake, which is why I don’t have a glossy, magazine-ready photo of it. It turned out little bit dry, since I left it in the oven for a couple of minutes too long while we finished up a book we were reading, and I let it cool for too long in the pan, rather than turning it out onto a rack, since it was time to put Nora down for her nap, so the bottom sunk in a little bit. But it was still delicious, and we had fun making it, which is really what counts.

Very Vanilla Cake
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 16
 
Ingredients
For cake:
  • 1¾ cups (7 oz) cake flour, plus more for pans
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 3 tsp good-quality vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool, cut into small pieces
For frosting:
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) butter, softened
  • 2 lbs powdered sugar, sifted
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 tsp good-quality vanilla
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice
Instructions
For cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans and fit the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment paper. Grease the parchment and then flour the pans.
  2. Beat the eggs, milk and vanilla in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on low speed until combined. With the mixer still running, add the butter a few pieces at a time and mix until beginning to clump, with the largest pieces about the size of peas.
  4. Turn the mixer to medium-high speed and add about half of the egg mixture, beating until light and fluffy. Add the remaining egg mixture in a stream with the mixer still running. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and then beat on medium-high speed until the mixture is well combined and beginning to look slightly curdled.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans, smoothing with a spatula, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cakes are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool slightly in the pan on a wire rack and then turn out onto the rack to cool completely before frosting.
For frosting:
  1. Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer on high speed until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar a cup at a time, beating until combined.
  2. Add the milk, vanilla, salt and lemon juice and beat until well combined and smooth.

 

Happy New Year!

… a day late and a dollar short, I know, I know. But I have a good excuse! Her name is Amelia.

 Amelia

This little cutie arrived on December 10, and let me tell you, this whole mom-of-two thing is not for sissies! We are all doing fine, though, and settling into our new routine (such as it is).

That said, I plan to be around more in the coming weeks… and I’m reinstating Cocktail Thursday!* I’m not really up to cooking much just yet — thank goodness for friends and family and frozen meals — but we’re getting there… so we’ll start with drinks and simple, make-ahead meals, yes? Alright then.

*Yep, a cocktail now and then is fine while breastfeeding.

All of that said, I am honored and pleasantly surprised to again be on the Austin Chronicle’s list of the Top 10 Austin Food Blogs. Check out the list — there are some great finds on there! There are several of my old favorites on there, and a couple of new ones that I’m eager to check out.

I’ll be back next week with a fun new cocktail — promise!

Candy-Making!

It’s that time of year again! You know, the time of year when I get in way over my head making a bunch of Christmas candy for neighbors, teachers, friends and co-workers.

A candy-maker I am not. I really should stick to cookies and such,* but every year I get a wild hair to break out the candy thermometer and do something complicated. Sometimes the results are great; other times, they are a frustrating failure.

* Like, for instance, the eggnog cookies with bourbon glaze I shared for Local Savour’s 12 Days of Holiday Cookies this year. Check them out!

I have had a couple of big successes this year, though, so I’ll share them with you this year in hopes that you may be as fortunate.**

** Yes, I am a little early making Christmas candy this year. I do have a baby due this month after all!

First up: Sea Salt Caramels.

Fleur de Sel Caramels

These. Are. So. Good. And, as far as caramels go, they actually are very easy. The hard parts are: (1) Making sure to really let the sugar mixture brown before adding the cream, (2) Using a candy thermometer to make sure your caramel reaches the right temperature so that it sets up right (don’t skip the thermometer!), and (3) Cutting it in a non-ugly way. Honestly, #3 gave me the most trouble — the other two are just a matter of being patient and following instructions. My not-so-pro tip: Let the caramel soften out of the fridge a little bit (honestly, more than you might think) before attempting to cut it. Otherwise, you might end up breaking it into shards instead of cutting into neat little squares.***

*** Ahem, speaking from experience. I ate the ugly ones myself.

Click on over to Sugar and Grace for the recipe. You won’t be sorry!

Next: Dark Chocolate Pecan Turtles.

I forgot to even take a picture of these, but they weren’t as pretty as the originals. They were really delicious, though, and quite easy to pull off. I omitted the salt on top, since I was already doing salted caramels, but they’d be lovely with or without.

Head on over to Alaska from Scratch for the recipe.

Last but not least: Hello Dollies.

hello dollies

These are a page straight from my Grandmommy’s recipe book. I needed something super-simple to make with Nora for a LiveMom piece about making Christmas candy with your kids, and these yummy 5-layer bars really did the trick.

Head on over to LiveMom for the recipe, plus my tips for candy-making with the littles!

Stocking the (Vegetarian) Freezer

With a baby due this month (!), we’ve been working on stocking our freezer with delicious, healthy meals for those hazy newborn days when cooking just isn’t a priority… or sometimes even a possibility. Since Nora made her appearance a little early, we didn’t do as much freezer stocking last time around, but we made it through just fine with a mixture of family and friends cooking and bringing meals for us, prepared foods, and takeout. This time around, we are pretty well prepared, I think. We’ll see soon!

For a couple of months, I’ve been making larger batches of some freezer-friendly meals and putting the extra in the freezer. I’ve actually done very little cooking exclusively for the freezer, but we’ve been building up our stock bit by bit.*

Stocking the (Vegetarian) Freezer

* Yes, there are some prepared meals in there, too. Michael Angelo’s is good stuff, yo. And don’t knock Amy’s either.

There are tons of resources out there for stocking the freezer for omnivores, but, I found, relatively few for vegetarians. A lot of freezer meals tend to be crockpot-ready meals, and those tend to be pretty meat-centric. However, that doesn’t mean that vegetarian meals can’t be freezer-friendly, too! So, I thought I’d share some of the recipes we’ve used to stock the freezer, as well as a few tips I’ve learned along the way.

In general, soups freeze really well, as do non-cream-based pasta sauces (just make fresh pasta to go with it), lasagna and enchiladas (freeze the sauce separately, or use good-quality packaged sauce). Beans are also good freezer candidates, and you can either freeze them cooked plain (so you can throw them into other dishes) or prepared, as in a soup or chili. Don’t forget bread (it’s nice to have a homemade loaf to go with that soup) and a few treats you can bake at a moment’s notice, like chocolate chip cookies. Yep, I think we will eat just fine for those few weeks after the baby arrives.

C’mon Baby Girl! We’re ready to meet you!

Tips for Freezing:

  • Use disposable baking dishes. Normally I’m not a fan, but not having dishes to clean up when you are dealing with a newborn (or recovering from surgery, or what have you) is priceless. Foil baking pans with lids are the bomb for things like enchiladas, pasta or lasagna.
  • Use freezer bags, and lay them flat to freeze. This saves a lot of space, and they’ll thaw a lot faster when you’re ready to use them, too.
  • Be sure to print meal names, dates and reheating instructions on every container. Make it idiot-proof so you don’t have to think too much about it. Some of us are pretty dumb when sleep-deprived.
  • Make sure to leave plenty of time to thaw your meal before you’re ready to eat it! This seems like a no-brainer, but some things take longer than just a day in the fridge to completely unfreeze, and you don’t want your dinner plans upset when you realize your mac and cheese is still a mac-and-cheese-sicle after an hour in the oven. Not that that has ever happened to me. *ahem*
  • Start early. If you freeze a few meals here and there, it won’t seem like such a huge undertaking, and before you know it — voila, you have a freezer stash!

What’s in Our Freezer:

Roasted Fennel Tomato Sauce (just add pasta and parmesan)

Crock Pot Potato Soup

Sweet Potato and Chard Enchiladas

Veggie Chili

Various beans  – including crock pot pinto beans, borlotti beans and cooked chickpeas

Black-Eyed Peas

Veggie lasagna (I made a big pan and froze half of it, wrapped in freezer Press ‘n’ Seal)

Garlic-artichoke pasta sauce (frozen without the cream)

White Bean Soup with Mushrooms, Spinach and Quinoa

Split Pea Soup

Cloverleaf French Bread

Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza

 

Other Freezer-Friendly Meals:

Mexican White Bean Soup

Creamy Roasted Tomato and Orzo Soup (freeze prior to adding the cream)

Baked Rigatoni with Eggplant

Kale and White Bean Soup

Spiced Red Lentil Soup with Kale

Black Bean Soup

Lentil-Spinach Soup

Lentil Soup

Tunisian Vegetable Stew

Black Bean Chili

Black-Eyed Peas and Greens with Leeks

Butternut Squash and Chickpea Tagine

Chard and Sweet Potato Stew

Spinach and Mushroom Enchiladas

Chard Enchiladas

Macaroni and Cheese

Chard Lasagna

Chard and Mushroom Lasagna

Hearty Vegetable Lasagna

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Sweet Chili Sauce

You know what’s good? Brussels sprouts. I know, I know — they’re all the rage right now, but I have to say, I’m so glad they’ve been re-discovered and that people are actually doing them right!

Roasting is the way to go, hands-down. You’re not still cutting those little Xs in the bottom of your Brussels sprouts and boiling them are you? Roasting is so much easier, and so much tastier, too.

The hubby and I went out to dinner at Uchiko a little while ago, and, among the many dishes they wowed us with was a side of crispy roasted Brussels sprouts with sweet chili sauce. Since I love Brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving and wanted to include them in our feast, I decided to try my hand at a similar recipe. Although ours didn’t come out as crispy (or, truth be told, as greasy*) as Uchiko’s, they were still awesome.

Roasted Brussels Spouts with Sweet Chili Sauce

* Not necessarily saying that’s a bad thing — they were utterly delicious.

I love the combination of soy sauce and sweet chili sauce on these, for a slightly Asian spin that was still perfectly at home with more traditional Thanksgiving foods. We had the rest of the sprouts (recipe testing, round 2) with a dinner of caramelized tofu with ramen noodles a couple nights ago, and it went great with that, too. Definitely a must-try!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Sweet Chili Sauce
Author: 
Cuisine: Asian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
 
Ingredients
  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 2 Tbs canola oil
  • 2 Tbs tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs sweet chili sauce**
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet.
  2. Toss the Brussels sprouts in a bowl with the oil and soy sauce to coat them, and then spread them in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast for 10 minutes, or until partially tender.
  3. Toss the sprouts and then raise the oven temperature to 400. Continue to roast for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until tender, crisp and browed, tossing every few minutes to ensure even browning.
  4. Remove the Brussels sprouts from the oven and toss in a bowl with the sweet chili sauce. Serve immediately.
Notes
** Available at Asian groceries or the Asian foods section of some grocery stores.

 

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