Chopped Leeks

Promises, Promises

It’s Vegan MoFo Week 3!

Yes, I know. You missed me yesterday. I’m back this evening for your foodie enjoyment, and a little birdie told me there’s a morning edition on its way, too.

First up: pesto veggie sandwiches! Oh. You mean, you’ve seen those before here? Or here? Hey – I promised I’d try to make 20 posts about food in the month of October. I never promised it’d be different food every day!

What can I say? I eat a lot of pesto veggie sandwiches. To make this instance a tiny bit more palatable, I will show you one of my magic kitchen weapons. This little beast makes chopping veggies super easy:

Pampered Chef Food Chopper

Pampered Chef Food Chopper

It’s the Pampered Chef Food Chopper. I couldn’t really tell you if other choppers work as well. I’ve used this one for years and it still looks and works like the day I bought it. The thing can take a beating (I’m a clutz) – it just keeps chopping away.

Now, I didn’t use it to chop these leeks…

Chopped Leeks

Chopped Leeks

… but I did use it on the baby bellas (got a sweet deal on organics!) and the red peppers:

Leeks, Baby Bellas, and Red Peppers

Leeks, Baby Bellas, and Red Peppers

Sometimes I use onions instead of leeks. It just depends what’s in my fridge. These leeks were on their last legs, for sure. This mix is made of 1 carton of baby bella mushrooms (16 oz), 1 large sweet red pepper, 3 leeks, and 3 cloves of garlic. Saute and salt to taste… voila!

Pesto Veggie Sandwich and Green Bean Fries

Pesto Veggie Sandwich and Green Bean Fries

With my buddies the Green Bean Fries on the side (baked, not fried… 18 mins at 400F… salt and pepper… nom).

Pesto Veggie Sandwich with Grilled Asparagus

Another holdout

Yes, I’ve been keeping something from you… again. But instead of waiting a couple days to tell you, I’ve waited a couple weeks.

Terrible. I know.

So, I’ve been eating this one sandwich…

(OK, that could probably start every food-blog post this summer).

Rewind. A couple weeks ago, I was at a restaurant called Olivers in Oak Forest, IL. It’s really more of a martini bar & grill. Or a sports bar. Whatever. At any rate, I was having an early dinner at Oliver’s, and ordered their Pesto Veggie sandwich.

It was heavenly.

Pesto, where have you been all my life?

(Full disclosure: I often relax my vegan ways to vegetarian at restaurants. I don’t eat out often, but still, the ethical battle that rages between my non-confrontational nature and my love of the cows is exhausting… but I have to remember that I eat this way to reduce suffering, and I accomplish a lot to that goal!)

Anyway. Where was I? PESTO!

Wow. Pesto. Self, meet basil! I never really knew basil was basil. I’ve had it before but never had a name for it. Now, I know what basil looks like and smells like and tastes like, and I know that basil is in pesto! How do I know this?

Because after eating at Oliver’s, I went out and bought a basil plant and made my own (vegan) pesto. I’ve made 3 batches so far, and almost have it perfected (at which point, I’ll likely post it here). I’m currently digging a mix of half-almonds, half-cashews. (Haven’t tried actual pine nuts, but going for a less calorie-dense version anyway).

So this homemade pesto frenzy has been feeding my new sandwich obsession – a clone of the Oliver’s Pesto Veggie sandwich.

For 4 servings:

  • 1/2 sweet or red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup or so of mushrooms, diced (I’m liking portobello the best)
  • 1/2 of a red bell pepper, diced

Saute that all up in a little bit of olive oil until the onions are soft. Stack that between a couple slices of bread with a generous smear of pesto and some Daiya mozzarella, and press for 4 minutes in the panini press… oh my word. It tastes great on a crusty Italian sourdough, but also delish on regular ol’ Italian bread (or what I call, junk food bread).

Pesto Veggie Sandwich with Grilled Asparagus

Pesto Veggie Sandwich with Grilled Asparagus

I’ve literally eaten this sandwich 10 times in the past couple weeks. The only reason I didn’t eat it yesterday was that I ran out of pesto (and I seem to have already killed my basil plant… it’s outside now working on its resurrection). I thought I pruned it correctly. YouTube says I did, anyway. Still, it doesn’t seem to be growing new leaves. It just seems to be dying. Sigh.

In other news, I’m still obsessed with grilling veggies on my Griddler. That gadget is one of the best kitchen investments I’ve ever made (and it was really too cheap to call an “investment” – but I use the thing multiple times per week. Love it).

Unfortunately, my kitchen adventures are likely to be boring for the next 2 weeks. I’m 12 days from The Big Move, and have to eat through my freezer by then. I’ve been dreading this time. I don’t know why I stock my freezer full of frozen veggies. I know they’re supposed to be convenient, but I just prefer fresh. Maybe I just haven’t learned how to properly cook using frozen veggies.

My plan is to check the web sites of the frozen veggie manufacturers and find some recipes specifically written for those veggies. Maybe with some techniques under my belt, I’ll find a reason to fill my new freezer with them. (I’d much rather fill it up with jam!)

Do you have any favorite recipes that make use of frozen veggies? Please share! 🙂

My New Friend, Spaghetti Squash

Make new friends, but keep the old…

I made friends with butternut squash this past winter, early into my “try new foods” experiment. This week, I made friends with a dear relative of the butternut squash – the spaghetti squash. And what a perfect name! This squash makes spaghetti! For real!

It makes a great substitute for traditional pasta noodles, and I plan to try it in every noodle dish I’ve ever had! Last night, though, I did a double-dip into the new foods arena: I roasted a spaghetti squash, and topped it with a sauteed mushroom sauce. Pretty brave, methinks. I’ve been terrified of mushrooms pretty much my entire life. Ironically, I think that they taste good – but I still have to avoid thinking about what I’m eating in order to tolerate them.

I got this recipe from Emily at The Front Burner – Spaghetti Squash and Vegan Mushroom Cream Sauce

Now, I’m certain this recipe would work just as well as a traditional non-vegan cream sauce. (In fact, I had to make mine an almost-vegan cream sauce, because the local grocery store didn’t have non-dairy creamer and I didn’t feel like making the 30 minute trek out to Whole Foods, so I had to get the dairy kind – but I did use soy milk as my sauce base).

Here’s what my dinner looked like (you can find many more photos of the process at the original link):

http://www.thefrontburnerblog.com/2010/09/spaghetti-squash-with-vegan-mushroom-cream-sauce.htmlIt was delish!

I think what “made” the dish was the garlic and olive oil rub that I did on the spaghetti squash before roasting it. I’ve heard that butter and cinnamon works well too, for a more dessert-style side dish (thanks, Athir!) There really isn’t much to it other than, cut the squash in half, scoop out the guts, rub with seasonings, and roast for an hour or so at 375F. When it’s nearly done, prep your sauce, and voila.

The spaghetti squash is a little crunchier than pasta, but not much. It’s also a little bit sweet (so I can see where it would make a great dessert side). It tasted great with garlic!

I plan to try a marinara/cream sauce mix this evening with the leftovers 🙂