Adventures in the kitchen!

So after that last blog post, I realize i really am in a little cooking groove here. Been eating at home pretty much all week, and having fun with it. Yesterday I threw together a little “kitchen sink” lasagne using a technique I’d been wanting to do for awhile: mix in pureed veggies in an attempt to eat more vegetables.

I want to eat more veggies, I really do. But the problem is that I look at most of the veggies at the store and I just remember how much I didn’t like them as a kid, and I really haven’t tried new recipes that have changed my opinions very much. Most everything I’ve tried has pretty much reinforced my existing opinions. There are some veggies I like: broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, lima beans, string beans, peas, beets, raw carrots, raw peppers … and the starchy ones like corn, potatoes, winter squash. And lettuce, but I really prefer the interesting kinds, like baby spring greens and such.

And then there are veggies that I’m ambivalent about: zucchini, summer squash, kohlrabi, radish, turnip, parsnip, eggplant, to name a few.

But I very much dislike a few of the most common veggies, too, especially onions and celery. And cooked carrots and cooked peppers. And spinach. Although there is one place on earth where I will eagerly order and scarf down the exquisitely delicious spinach, and that place is Stir Crazy. I first had the spinach there in Chicago about a decade ago, and was delighted to find that the recipe hadn’t changed over the years or across their locations. I should figure out how they prepare it, because it’s buttery silky delicious! But I digress…

So most of the time I come home with a package of broccoli or cauliflower, sometimes brussels sprouts, or string beans. Those are easiest and tastiest to steam, with a little seasoning over top like lemon pepper. I adore beets, but won’t steam them, so I really only buy them if I’m planning to cook on the stove or throw them into the juicer. (Tip: if you have a juicer, my absolute favorite fresh juice is this – one beet, one carrot, one apple. My cells do the happy dance before the juice even leaves my mouth!)

Anyway, seems I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent there. All that to say that I think if I cook up and puree veggies I don’t particularly like, and add them to foods that will hide their taste, I will be able to get their nutrition into me much easier than if I try to force down veggies I really truly dislike. So, to that end, to test my theory, I took the cauliflower that I’d steamed the other day, the one in the picture in my last blog post, and I ate half and pureed the other half in a bit of its own steaming juice. It pureed quickly and beautifully. Then I put it in the fridge for future use.

I had imagined mixing it in with tomato sauce for maybe spaghetti, but at the last minute decided to make lasagna instead. So I mixed the pureed cauliflower in with a can of pureed tomatoes, defrosted some ground beef I’d cooked up and frozen awhile ago, and made a package of gluten free rice lasagna noodles. Layered it all with some cottage cheese and a can of green beans (idea stolen from a recipe one of my brother’s long-ago girlfriends gave me), and sprinkled italian seasoning and garlic salt on the layers as well. Topped all with grated mozzarella cheese from the freezer, and into the oven at 350° until done. I left it in too long and the cheese on top browned too much, so I can’t say exactly when I should have taken it out, but definitely less than the close to an hour I left it in there.

It was good, but I gotta say it was even better the next day.

I also steamed my first artichoke yesterday! Didn’t make an aioli to go with it, which would have been better, but at least now I know how to do it. I like a good artichoke, so hopefully my skills will only improve.

And then today I made an experimental “treat” … I call it a treat because it’s sweet and fattening, but it probably fits under the “energy bar” category better. Here’s the story on that.

The other day I decided to make my own peanut butter, but in keeping with my recent trend of assuming I know what I’m doing without a recipe, I bought the wrong peanuts. I bought raw, unsalted, unroasted peanuts and brought them home. And ground them.

The result was “peanut butter,” but nothing like the taste most of us know and love. It was bland and very nutty, but with none of that delicious roasted flavor. I didn’t think I could enjoy the stuff spread on bread, no matter what I topped it with, so I put it in the fridge while I thought about what to do with it.

And then while I was looking through a sugar-free cookbook I have, I spotted a recipe for peanut butter balls. It called for peanut butter, apple juice, sesame seeds, vanilla almonds, oats, nuts and coconut. I didn’t have everything it called for, but I had a lot of similar things, so I improvised.

So long story short, I took about a cup of the “peanut butter” that I’d made, and put it in the KitchenAid mixer (along with a good sprinkling of sea salt), a couple of splashes of organic white grape juice, two big spoons of black sesame powder (from the asian market, I LOVE that stuff!), a splash of vanilla, and about a cup of Gluten Free Sensations French Vanilla Almond Granola. Mixed it all around for a minute or two and … YUM!!

I haven’t made balls out of it though. I just put it in a glass container in the fridge, and I’ll just scoop “balls” of it out when I feel like having some. The rest of the ingredients really complemented the bland taste of the raw peanuts.

I love experimenting like that. The only trouble is, I won’t launch my creations on anyone else, because I’m certain other people don’t have the same taste as me. So I end up eating all of what I make.

My goal, though, is to know that I could make things from absolute scratch if I had to.

Oh yeah. And to sneak veggies into my own food. 🙂

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3 responses to “Adventures in the kitchen!

  1. Haven’t been to Stir Crazy, but I suspect that the “buttery” leads to the “silky.” Lisa used to have similar problems w/veggies until she realized that to her taste, her mom overcooked everything. It was just a matter of figuring out the way to cook it to her own.

  2. There’s something about the season that inspires creative and pretty ways to use vegetables. I am a zucchini fiend and make a zucchini dish every other day. Of course, I’m Italian…

  3. When Eric visited (the Drawing America by Bike guy), I became such a cooking fiend, I didn’t recognize myself. I even adapted a recipe that called for canned mixed veggies by buying all fresh and steaming them before mixing in. Ever since, I’ve found brand new joy in the kitchen. I don’t know why. Maybe it was just that someone said “this is AWESOME” at every meal. I thought the joy died long ago, but it seems to have only been asleep. A little appreciation goes a long way, I guess!

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