Creole Okra with Chicken and Tomatoes

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I don’t really know that much about southern food except that I like it a lot, and whenever I’m down south (I’m talking the southern US states here) I eat as much of it as I can. This dish started because I found okra at a good price at the grocery store and is more Creole-inspired than actually authentic (because again I don’t know much). It is adapted from something I found on The Kitchn. I doubled the amounts, prepared half this recipe in the pan and then chucked half of it in the freezer for later, like the clever person that I am†. Not that this recipe isn’t dead simple. I’m just lazy.

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I accompanied this one-dish meal with another dish: steamed beet greens.

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Preheat your oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Zest 1 lemon.

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Gather your spices. Creole spice blends tend to run to mixtures of the following, so make one to suit your own taste (this one is about 1 teaspoon of each): onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, parsley, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, cayenne. The recipe I was looking at didn’t use creole spices; instead it called for a bit of cumin and coriander. So I just used everything. Set that aside for a few minutes.

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Start with your okra, about 1lb, and slice the tops off before cutting it in half lengthwise. Apparently people either love or hate okra, because it’s a bit slimy. I am ambivalent so far.

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Lay that on your baking sheet and sprinkle with about 1 cup (canned/drained/rinsed) black-eyed peas.

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Next, slice up a small white onion.

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Sprinkle that onto the pan, together with a few cloves crushed or minced garlic.

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Give that a good drizzle with some nice olive oil.

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Now here’s where I kind of diverged from the recipe. This dish is a good meal all in itself as a vegetarian option, but I feed boys (boys who are not vegetarians) so I had to chuck some meat in here somehow. In a large bowl, I threw 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs together with a 14oz can of diced tomatoes and your lemon zest.

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Then I chucked in all those lovely spices and gave it a good mixing.

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Spread the chicken and tomatoes evenly across the top of your peas and okra and shove it in the oven for about an hour. Give it a stir once or twice to make sure everything is browning evenly.

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We served ours over rice with the beet greens and it was pretty good. The Pie thought the okra was a little slimy (#1 reason why many people dislike it) but I thought it was pretty good!

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If you plan to freeze this recipe for later, I would recommend freezing it in two parts: in one bag goes the okra, peas, garlic, rice, and oil, and in the second bag goes the tomatoes, chicken, and spices. It just seems like a logical thing to do to tenderize the meat and prevent the peas and okra from getting too soggy.

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S’meaches: In the Woods

Summer is drawing to a close, but why not give it one last hurrah with this gorgeous take on the traditional s’more treat? I saw this video a few years ago and I’ve been wanting to try it ever since.  Step one is building yourself a good fire and getting a nice consistent flame. I like to grill things in the coals so it’s a good idea to have this going for a while before you’re ready to have dessert. I apologize in advance for the terrible quality of these photos. There’s only so much you can do when your only light source is a campfire. If you want pretty pictures, check out the above video.

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Grab yourself 2-3 fresh peaches. August is peach season in Ontario so these are like fuzzy heaven to eat.

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Remove the pit by halving the peach and then slice the halves horizontally into peach patties.

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Mix together 1 cup brown sugar and 1 tablespoon cayenne (or more if you’re feeling adventurous). Dredge your peach slices in the brown sugar and cayenne mixture. Grab a package of large marshmallows and jam a marshmallow on your roasting stick, together with a slice of peach.

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Roast until you get it the way you like it. The sugar should be all caramelized on your peach, and the marshmallow should be exactly as you wish.

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Smush the contents of your roasting stick between two graham crackers and shove it in your face.  Repeat as necessary.  And it WILL be necessary.

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Tabouleh, Take Two

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Mid-September in Ottawa is when the garden tomato harvest is at its peak.  For as long as my parents have lived in this house, they’ve had more tomato plants and therefore more tomatoes than they really know what to do with.  This year, however, was a different story.  Having spent a large chunk of last winter and spring in Florida, my parents got their plants in too late to have a particularly good yield.  In previous years, my parents have given plants and tomatoes to everyone who will take them.  This year, those recipients are paying them back.  So the next two dishes this week will be tomato based while I try to get the tomatoes used before they go soft.  This is my second tabouleh recipe here on the blog (first one is here), and this one is more or less traditional, though I added a few extra spices just for fun.

Tabouleh Take Two 1

Start with 1 cup bulgur, and about 3 tablespoons olive oil.  Stir those together in a medium-sized bowl.

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Cover the oily bulgur with 2 cups boiling water; give it a stir and set it aside for at least 15 minutes.

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Now grab yourself an enormous hunk of fresh parsley (probably about 2 cups total). We have two kinds in our garden — this fluffy one:

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and this more flat-leaved variety.

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You also want a hunk of fresh mint (about half a cup).  This has seen better days (it was the only survivor of our weed-burning escapade at the back of the house), but it’s still good.

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I was feeling lazy so I chucked all those things in a food processor.

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So much easier than mincing!

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Now comes the annoying part: you have to dice AND SEED all your tomatoes.  If you don’t seed them then your tabouleh will be mushy and that’s just gross.  I used about 10 medium-sized tomatoes for this particular recipe.

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When you’ve got all the tomatoes done, season them with salt and pepper.  I also threw in a dash of ground coriander and another of cayenne.  I figured the coriander is also a parsley sort of thing so it could only boost the flavour.

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Chuck in your other herbs.

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Your bulgur has by now absorbed all the water that it’s going to, so you’re going to need to drain it.

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Use either cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer to get as much water out of it as you can.  I find the cheesecloth helps because I can just pick it up and squeeze it.

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Add the bulgur to your tomato mix and add a few dollops more olive oil.  Stir in lemon juice to taste.

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Serve garnished with a piece of parsley, or stuff a bunch into a pita for a quick snack!

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Baked Spinach and Artichoke Dip

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I have another recipe for an artichoke dip here, but for Krystopf and Atlas’ baby shower this past weekend, I decided on a lighter version that I got from The Best of Clean Eating 2and it was such a hit that despite it making more dip than I ever thought possible, it was completely gone after just three hours.  Cait liked it so much that she insisted I push forward all other blog posts so that she could get this recipe as soon as possible.  So here you go.  I made this dip the day before the shower and chucked it in the fridge, saving the last step of baking and sprinkling of cheese for right before the party.

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Start by defrosting a 10oz package of frozen chopped spinach.

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Drain it well (you can see my handprint from pressing on it) and set it aside.

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Chop up 4 or 5 green onions and set those aside for now as well.

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Chop up about 1 1/2 cups cauliflower (this is the low-calorie filler in this dip) and pop that in a pot.  You could use frozen cauliflower as well, if you’d prefer.  Cook it until it’s tender and drain it.

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Huck the cauliflower into the bowl of a food processor and add 1 250g/8oz package cream cheese, as well as 3 tablespoons milk.  Purée that sucker to a fine liquid, then transfer it to a bowl for now.

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Chop up a large white onion and several cloves of garlic.  Don’t worry about getting them too fine.  Whip those into a large frying pan with a few drops of olive oil.  Sauté those for about 8-10 minutes, until the onion is all soft and see-through.  Chuck those in the food processor you were using before.

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Crack open and drain a 14oz can artichoke hearts.  Chop those suckers up smallish and throw them in the processor.

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Take your spinach and chuck that in as well, together with about 1/4 cup fresh dill sprigs, a few pinches salt, and a half teaspoon ground cayenne pepper.

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Give that a go in the processor until it’s a texture you like.

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Dump it out into the bowl with the cauliflower/cream cheese mixture and add in the chopped green onions.  Give it a good stirring and add more salt or cayenne as required.

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To bake the dip, preheat your oven to 350°F and smooth the dip into a largish-sized casserole dish.

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Bake this, covered, for 20 minutes.

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Uncover it and sprinkle it with grated cheese (this is a mix of mozzarella and cheddar).

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Bake again for 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and dip is hot all the way through.  Serve it hot with pita and chips!

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Treats Week: All Truffles, All the Time

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I think I would lead a happier life if every Wednesday was a truffle day.  Just sayin’.

I have an easy kind of truffles for you today, delicious to the max.  They make great nibblies to have on hand for guests who drop by, and also elegant little gifts.  And the best part of this recipe (which I have modified from here and here), aside from its simplicity and versatility, is that they’re totally vegan and gluten-free.  So you can make everyone happy.  Serve them with chokladboll for fika and it will be even more impressive.

Soak about 15 medjool dates (those are the big ones) for about 15 minutes.

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While the dates are relaxing in their nice bath, take about 1 cup dessicated coconut, and chuck it in your food processor.  Pulse that until you have teeny flakes, and set half of it aside for coating the finished truffles.

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Do the same with 1 cup walnuts, almonds, pecans, or nut of your choosing, reserving half for coating.  I toasted these ones first.

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Dump the other half of the coconut and nuts back in the food processor.

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Add the soaked dates to the food processor, as well as 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/4 cup full-fat coconut milk.  Alternately, you can use a few tablespoons of coconut oil.

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Now what you should know here is that I both doubled the recipe and my food processor is really small, so I did this in batches and mixed it together in a bowl.

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Pulse that gooey mass until it’s all finely combined and forming a huge ball.  Chuck that in the fridge for about 15 minutes.

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Then you can start making truffles balls with your hands.  Take about 2 tablespoons of the mixture and roll it in your palms to form a rough sphere. This was my hand after doing the whole batch.

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Roll about a third of your truffles in unsweetened cocoa powder (with an extra sprinkling of cayenne if you wish), another third in your coconut flakes, and the last third in the crushed nuts.

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Keep these in the fridge, or freeze them for later on down the road. My doubled recipe made 48 truffles.

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They’re so pretty and tasty and spicy!

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Butternut Bisque

Butternut Bisque

I’m not the biggest soup fan (I prefer to drink my hot liquids), but I’m starting to acquire a taste for them.  I’m especially fond of blended soups (because then it’s like a savoury pudding and I’m less likely to burn my tongue on the hot broth).  This one comes from Martha Stewart and is a good match for a nice late-summer lunch or a good accompaniment to a fall comfort meal.  It’s quick and easy, which I like in a soup.  You can also freeze it and enjoy it at any time.

First, do your chopping.  In this case, chop up 1 medium onion, 2 cloves garlic, and 1 large butternut squash.  Peel the squash, cut it open and remove the seeds, and then hack it into smallish cubes.

Butternut Bisque

Then, get your spices ready to go.  You’ll need 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper.  Also, not shown, is a pinch or two of coarse sea salt.  Feel free to add more or less, according to your own taste.  It’s only soup, after all.

Butternut Bisque

Melt about 3 tablespoons butter into the bottom of a large saucepan.  Add in the onion, garlic, and the spices and cook until the onion is tender and translucent, about 7 minutes.

Butternut Bisque

Dump in the squash cubes, as well as about 15oz chicken broth and 1 cup half-and-half (you could use plain milk if you wanted to be healthier, but do you really want to do that?), and then about 3 cups water.  Bring that whole thing to a boil and reduce it to a simmer for about 20 minutes.  Your squash should be squishy at this point.  You should be able to squish your squash with the back of a spoon.

Butternut Bisque

Remove the pot from the heat and use your immersion blender to squish — er, purée — your squash and onions and all that stuff.

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Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of cayenne, if desired.

Butternut Bisque

Tofu Feature Month: Tofu-Spinach Calzones

Tofu Spinach Calzone

[Note from Photographer’s Ego: Yes, I know these pictures fail to follow that number one rule of food photography: use natural light!  I will be building myself a light box soon, not to fret.]

This will be our final tofu recipe for you folks for a while.  Our digestive systems are not used to so much soy and they have unequivocally had enough.  The Pie especially so.  Poor man.  Pity him that his wife cooks new things for him on a regular basis.  Tsk.

The last time the Pie and I attempted calzones, we ended up with floor pizza.  I was determined to get it right this time.  The recipe below, with some modifications, comes from the Savvy Vegetarian, and it’s pretty easy.  The dough is nice and stretchy, and I could definitely use it again for a calzone with a different filling, which is exciting!  The yield for this is 10 hand-hold-able calzones, and I halved it (because there’s only the Pie and myself — Gren doesn’t get people food).

For the dough:

In a small bowl, dissolve 1 teaspoon granulated sugar in 1 1/4 cups warm water.  Stir in 2 teaspoons active dry yeast and allow that to sit for 10 minutes.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Or until it gets all foamy.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

In a larger bowl, add 1/2 teaspoon salt to 3 cups flour and mix well.

Rub in (exactly how it sounds) 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Rub it between your fingers until there are no large clumps left.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Stir the water/yeast mixture into the flour until it forms a shaggy ball.  Make sure to get all the floury goodness at the bottom of the bowl.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

On a floured surface, knead the ball for about 10 minutes.  The more you knead it, the tackier it will get, so you will need to add more flour on occasion.  Also, keep in mind that the more you knead it, the more elastic it will be (because you worked all the gluten together).  You want your dough to be nice and stretchy.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover it with a clean cloth and set it in a warm place to rise for about an hour.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

For the filling:

Dice up 1/4 cup onion, and about 8 mushrooms and toss them in a frying pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons minced garlic.  Sauté until soft.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

In a small bowl, mix up 1 tablespoon flour, 1 tablespoon powdered vegetable stock, 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon dried basil, a pinch of cayenne, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Toss that on the vegetables in the pan and stir it around.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Plop in 16 ounces fresh baby spinach (you can use frozen spinach, if you thaw it and drain it first), as well as 2 12-ounce packages of firm silken tofu and a dash of soy sauce.  You can break up the tofu before you toss it in, but it gave me something to do while I waited for the spinach to wilt.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

I had some leftover chèvre, 8 ounces worth, so I tossed that in as well.  So if you’d like to add that to this recipe, chuck in 8-16 ounces goat’s cheese and stir it around until well-incorporated and completely melted.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Remove the mixture from the heat.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Calzone Assembly and Baking:

Preheat your oven to 425°F.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Punch down your dough.  Literally.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Divide it into 10 equal parts, rolled into balls (remember, my recipe is halved, that’s why you only see five).

Tofu Spinach Calzone

On a floured surface, roll each ball out into a 6″ round.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Divide the filling into 10 equal parts and place each portion on a round, slightly to one side.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Wet the edges of the dough with your finger and fold over each round to make a half circle.

Squish down the edges with your finger and crimp with a fork to seal them.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Place the calzones on a baking sheet.  You can brush them with oil and sprinkle them with salt if you like, for a crusty, salty top.  I chose to cook ours on our pizza stone, which I put in the oven when I turned it on. Cut two diagonal slices in the top of each calzone to let the steam escape.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Bake for 15-25 minutes, until the dough is golden brown and the filling bubbles up through the holes.

Tofu Spinach Calzone

Be careful, they’re HOT!