Accidental Vegetarian Week

Rob and I  find ourselves eating less meat these days. Not sure we could commit to full time vegetarianism, but we are finding that eating satisfying meatless meals is pretty easy and sacrifice free. When we do include meat, we splurge on high quality, local produce, which has a lower carbon footprint, supports local farmers and tastes better. Every two weeks or so we commit to a meatless menu for the coming week. This is what it looks like:

Monday, is the one night where neither of us has to be anywhere after supper so I usually choose a garlicky menu item. Also known as “Bottle-of-wine Monday”, tonight’s meal will be pasta — Spaghetti Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino or spaghetti with garlic, oil and chili flakes, and a nice Italian red.

The pasta is simple, but flavorful with a bite from the garlic and heat from the red chile. It’s rounded nicely with a grating of parmigiano reggiano, some good olives and a nice chianti.

Tuesday sees a rush at dinner hour. I have kickboxing and get home to three animals who need to be fed, so I usually choose something that I can prepare quickly or ahead of time. This week we are having Paneer and Tomato Curry. For this recipe I quarter 5 of the tomatoes and dice the other three. I add them all at the same time. I substitute garlic and ginger paste, available at any Indian food market, for the garlic and ginger. I find the garlic more mellow and does not repeat. Perfect for a chilly fall day, warm with Indian spices, rich with coconut milk and hearty with paneer, this dish satisfies. Rob stops at our local Indian take out on the way home for naan. You can serve this with basmati rice or grocery store naan, but tandoor-oven naan is really unbeatable. We often freeze the leftovers for another day. This recipe is filling, and satisfying. It’s excellent comfort food for a cold night and truth be told, it’s even better another day after some time in the fridge to let the flavours marry.

Wednesday I am preparing a Cauliflower and Aged White Cheddar Soup. It’s good to try at least one new recipe a week. This was cheesy, delicious. and quite thick. Thin with more broth if you like.

Thursday is quiet for me. No appointments, nowhere to be until 11 pm hockey. So it’s a day I like to cook something that takes a little time, iPod on, Josie at my feet, kitties sleeping on the stairs, something that makes the house smell good and blows raspberries at November weather. This week I’m making a creamy, cheesy, Mushroom Risotto. I use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. The mushrooms and liquid from soaking the dried porcinis makes this dish quite beefy tasting. Like every good risotto, this is creamy, rich and satisfying. The mushrooms provide a meatiness all to themselves.

Friday this week I have chosen something light but elegant that we can open a bottle of wine with and curl up in front of the TV and fire. We are going out to dinner tomorrow at Steven Beckta’s new resto Gezellig, so we will indulge or likely over indulge then. Tonight we will have to be satisfied with Peach and Brie Quesadillas and a chilled bottle of Pinot Grigio. We used bottled peaches in juice and a white sweet onion instead of red.

I guarantee with a little planning around your schedule, you will be surprised that you can eat very well and not even realize you had no meat. That’s why we call it accidental vegetarian. We choose a recipe because it will be tasty specifically, not because it was vegetarian. That’s just a happy coincidence.

 

Classic Baked Mac & Cheese

It is a blustery, rainy day in Ottawa. We are experiencing the remnants of Hurricane Sandy. Can’t complain, it’s really not much different than a normal rainy October day. People south of us have really suffered through more devastating effects of the hurricane weather. That said, classic Halloween weather for this region puts me in the mood for comfort food and there is nothing that fits that bill more than mac and cheese. I’m sitting in Wag, a dog cafe, enjoying a cappuccino – Josie, the newest member of our family is beside me, happily gnawing an elk antler and making friends, human and canine. A soothing soundtrack and the warm orange glow of everything Halloween warm up an otherwise dreary day.

My “family” mac and cheese recipe hails originally from Canadian Living Magazine. I’ve been making it for 25 years and can no longer remember if I have made changes or if it is intact. I  omit the salt because I find canned tomatoes salty enough. If you are using no-salt tomatoes, add salt. I like this recipe because it is cheesy, tomatoey and uses summer savoury, a Down East herb from my childhood. This version is vegetarian but you can fry up some burger and add it for more protein, calories and to see you through a hockey game. Typically I use elbow macaroni. Tonight I am using Mezzani Tagliati — long tubular pasta — but any short pasta will do.

Old-Fashioned Backed Macaroni and Cheese
Serves 6

250 grams Elbow Macaroni
250 grams Shredded Cheddar
28 ounce can Diced Tomatoes
1 tsp. Sugar
1/2 tsp. Summer savory
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Pepper
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 Eggs, beaten
1 cup Milk

1. Cook macaroni until tender but firm. Do not overcook. Drain and transfer to a greased 12 cup casserole. 2. Drain 3/4 cups of the juice from the tomatoes and discard. Pour tomatoes and remaining juice into bowl. Stir in half of the shredded cheese , sugar, savory, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce; pour over macaroni and mix well. Top with remaining cheese. 3. In a small bowl, blend eggs with milk; pour over cheese covered macaroni. DO NOT stir. Bake at 350℉ for 40 minutes until top is golden.

Click HERE for a printable version of this recipe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re back – Sort of.

Man, where did the time go?

We took some time off due to prepare for the wedding of our youngest daughter, Hannah. It was a wonderful affair on the single most rainy day of 2012. We had a terrific “plan B” and by all accounts it was a huge success (because, by all accounts, Hannah and Mike are still married).

Of course, life has a funny way of throwing curve balls. We lost a dear brother-in-law in October and we just were not ready to make a comeback quite yet.

Also in October, we gained a new family member. This one’s all fur and tongue and tail and irrepressible cuteness. Meet Josie.

 

She’s an English Shepherd/Golden Labrador mix and is now just about 11 weeks old. Maureen and I are adjusting to being puppy parents. Josie’s training us well and we are slowly catching on. She has doubled in size in the 3 weeks we’ve had her. Our cats have resigned themselves to her presence and the ice melts a little more each day.

We were going to make some minor changes to the site design and that may still happen, so pardon our dust if you see some work in progress.

Stay tuned for new posts!