Spicy Shitake Mushrooms and Edamame Soba Bowl - Vegetarian Recipe

On the top of my stack of magazines is a Vegetarian Times from March with a beautiful Soba bowl on the cover.  Soba is a type of Japanese noodle made from buckwheat that looks a lot like linguini.  These noodles can be served cold or hot.  I love soba noodles.  They are much tastier than ramen, but not quite as tasty as wide rice noodles.  However, I'd been looking at this cover for weeks, ehem, months now.  I decided I must try making a soba bowl.  I didn't even open the magazine.  Instead I went directly to FoodGawker and TasteSpotting for some inspiring blog posts.  Mainly this one from Smitten Kitchen and this one from Two Blue Lemons.   And I set out to make my own version of a vegetarian soba bowl. 

I came up with a delicious combination.  Although I did manage to over cook the noodles.  No worries, to prevent this problem all it takes is rinsing the noodles in cool water before tossing them with the stir fry. 

I choose the combination of shitake mushrooms, cabbage, carrots, edamame and onions in a delicious spicy soy ginger sauce.  It was just enough heat to be able to feel it, but not so much the other flavors got lost.  This recipe is flexible; feel free to substitute in broccoli or snow peas or bell pepper. 

The best thing about this recipe is once you've got the ingredients chopped it comes together very quickly. 

Spicy chili sauce:

1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons cup soy sauce or Tamari
2-3 teaspoons hot-chili sauce (like Sambal or Sriracha)
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons vegetable bullion
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 clove minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

Soba noodles:

2 inches fresh ginger, minced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
10 oz fresh shitake mushrooms (any mushroom would work)
2 cups cabbage, sliced
1 cup red onion, sliced
1 package soba noodles
2 carrots cut into matchsticks, about 2 cups
2 cups frozen shelled edamame

egg (optional)

Step 1:  To make the sauce put all the ingredients in a medium sized bowl and whisk to combine.  Let it rest a couple minutes so the brown sugar has time to dissolve.  Meanwhile, chop the vegetables and heat a pot of water to boiling for the soba.

Step 2:  In a large skillet saute the garlic and ginger in a bit of oil.  Add the cabbage, carrots, mushrooms and onion.  Saute until the cabbage is just starting to soften (2-4 minutes).  Then add half of the sauce and continue sauteing with the vegetables until the sauce has reduced and there is very little liquid left. 

Step 3:  Once the water reaches a boiling, drop the soba noodles and edamame into the water.  Cook according to the noodles directions until al dente, about 8 minutes.  Then drain and rinse the soba noodles and edamame under cool water.  Toss the noodles with the remaining sauce.  Then put the stir fried vegetables on top.  Garnish with cilantro and crushed peanuts.  For a little extra protein serve with a fried egg on top. 

Serve this dish hot for dinner and take the leftovers to eat cold for lunch the second. 

Servings: 4

Nutrition:  430 calories, 6 grams of fat, 6 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber for a total of 8 Weight Watchers Points.  (Information does not include egg)


Preserving June Sour Cherries - Dry Freezing

Sour, tart or pie whatever you call these cherries they are a little too acidic eat straight from the tree, but they make delicious pies, jam, preserves or cobblers.  Jeff and I went out and picked a couple pounds this weekend.  The color is almost this florescent red.  I considered toning down the color in PhotoShop, but decided I might as well let it shine (or perhaps glow is a better word).  Also I dropped my camera and it is now held together with masking tape.  The autofocus was never great, but now it's painful.  Might be time for a new camera.  Any recommendations?

Back to the cherries...

How to Preserve Cherries in the Freezer: 

Basically all we did was pick the sour cherries, wash them, pit them with a parring knife and toss them with a bit of lemon juice (to preserve that electric color) and then put them into jars and froze them.  I ran out of jars so we did measure them into (reusable) freezer bags in four cup increments.  Four cups is how many are generally called for in pies. 

Most of these cherries are destine to become dessert or possibly pancake topping.  I'm thinking cherry pie will be a delicious treat for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Right now I've only got enough for four pies maximum.  Perhaps I'll get more next week. 


Frittata with Wild Onion, Potato, Goat Cheese and Thyme - Vegetarian Recipe

** I looked at this post on my work computer and holy cow is that frittata glowing?  This is one of the problems with doing PhotoShop on a laptop. If you do make this frittata it will not be florescent I promise.  Note to self: maybe only bump the saturation up just 5% instead of 15%.     

Frittatas aren’t just delicious for breakfast and brunch, they also make delicious filling dinners. This frittata is loaded with spring onions, potato, goat cheese and thyme. We usually do an egg as a main dish meal once a week. Eggs are good vegetarian protein. Plus we get our eggs from a farm house with a sign out front declaring "Brown Eggs $2.00". The hens are free range and organic in all ways but having the official paper work.

Easy Cucumber Tomato Salad
This is a great recipe to showcase amazing eggs. If you have the eggs, you probably have everything else on hand. Feel free to substitute sharp cheddar or any other strong flavored cheese if you don't have the goat cheese.

In the spring asparagus is a lovely side or and in the summer a Tomato and Cucumber Salad is refreshing.  

One of the biggest problems with frittatas is that they get over cooked and the egg gets rubbery. Cook's Illustrated suggests half cooking the frittata on the stove and then finishing it in the oven. It works like a charm. Just make sure you have a skillet that can go from stove to oven.

Frittata with Wild Onion, Potato, Goat Cheese and Thyme

2 medium red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup wild onion (or regular onion) diced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
1 ounce goat cheese
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, ground
6 large eggs, slightly beaten

Step 1: In a sauce pan bring a couple cups of water to a boil; add a teaspoon salt and the potatoes. Reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are just tender. A fork should go in without breaking the potato, but it shouldn't fall apart either. Drain the potatoes and set them aside.

Step 2: Adjust the oven rack so it is in the upper middle position. Then preheat the oven to 350.

Step 3: In a 10 inch skillet heat the butter until foamy. Put in the wild or spring onions and sautĂ© them until limp and glassy. Then add the potatoes and thyme and toss to coat them in butter. Spread them in a single layer on the bottom of the skillet.

Step 4: Mean while mix the thyme, salt and pepper into the eggs.

Step 5: Pour the egg mixture into the skillet and dollop the goat cheese on top. Allow the frittata to cook a little until the edges start to set 1-2 minutes. Tilt the skillet to ensure the egg is evenly distributed.

Step 6: Pop the frittata into the oven for an additional 2-4 minutes or until the top is just set. Then remove the frittata from the oven and run a rubber spatula along the edge to loosen it then invert it onto a serving plate.

Frittatas can be served warm, room temperature or even cold depending on your preference.

Yields: six servings

Nutrition: 165 calories, 8 grams fat, 2 grams fiber, 9 grams protein


Balsamic Corn and Black Bean Salad - Healthy Recipe

This is the best summer salad.  I love it because it is vegetarian, light and healthy. It is the perfect dish for a potluck or picnic.

Balsamic Corn and Black Bean Salad

8 oz whole wheat rotini noodles
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups black beans, rehydrated, drained and rinsed
2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups sweet corn kernels
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 ripe avocado
Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Step 1:  Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. While pasta cooks, in a small bowl whisk together vinegar, garlic, oil, salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.  Drain pasta and rinse briefly under cold water.

Step 2: In a large bowl put the pasta, beans, corn, tomatoes, green onions, chives and cilantro.  Toss gently.  pour dressing over pasta mixture and toss again.

Step 3:  Drizzle a little lemon juice over the top and serve warm with a slice of avocado or refrigerate for an hour and serve cold.

Yield: six large servings.

Nutrition per serving: 346 calories, 13 grams fat, 11 grams protein, 50 grams carbohydrates and 10 grams fiber.  That's 7 Weight Watcher's Points per serving.


Wild Raspberries Vs. Wild Blackberries

Is this a wild raspberry or a wild black berry?  I can see where the confusion lies.  Wild blackberries and wild raspberries look remarkably similar.    I got a lot of people responding to my post and photo wild raspberries saying, "what you've got is blackberries."  I did some detective work. I think I have discovered a couple key ways to tell the difference between blackberries and raspberries.   
Which one's which?

The first one is a wild blackberry and the second one is a wild raspberry. Both are members of the rose (Rosaceae) family. They are even the same genus, but not the same species. The wild raspberry is Rubus occidentalis while the wild blackberry is Rubus ursinus.

So how to tell which one is which? Taxonomically the best way is to look at how the fruit comes off of the stem. When you pick a raspberry the center is hollow so that you can stick them on your fingers and eat them off one by one. Come on, we've all done this right?  Blackberries are not hollow. The receptacle comes off with the berry. Also raspberries have little hairs on the fruit while blackberries are completely smooth. That's a difference you can actually see in the photos. 

The plants also look different. Blackberries are much larger reaching heights of six to ten feet tall. Raspberries will get about three to four feet tall. And of course the taste; Blackberries have a mild, sweeter flavor than the tart wild raspberries. All of which I can't really convince you of with my close up photos. 

So there you go.  I am indeed picking wild raspberries in North West Indiana.  I hear there might be some blackberries around here too, but I haven't found them yet.


Wild Raspberries - Ideas and Recipes

Look what I found!  Aren't they beautiful?  I didn't even realize until I looked at the photos that somebody else was also admiring the wild raspberries. 

Isn't he pretty? I'm assuming since this is a daddy long legs spider that he's a boy. I suppose it could be a mommy long legs but that just doesn't have the same ring somehow.

The plan is to pick a bucket full of these little lovelies (the berries not the spiders) on Friday. Anyone have any exciting ideas or recipes for wild raspberries?


Preserving June Strawberries - How to Dehydrate and Freeze

Strawberries are at their peak in North West Indiana this week. At the Valparaiso Farmer's Market, we got three quarts of berries for seven dollars. They are the little dainty strawberries with big sour strawberry flavor; nothing like those large watery strawberries from the grocery.

Jeff and I aren't big jam or jelly people, but we do eat strawberries on our pancakes. To enjoy our strawberries all year, we dry froze five pints and dehydrated some as well. I just got a food dehydrator and I'll tell you how my first foray went. First things first, prepare the berries.

How to Prepare Strawberries for Freezing or Dehydrating:
Whether you plan to freeze or dehydrate start by preparing your berries the same way, rinsing the whole berries. Don't soak the berries this could leach out some of the flavor. Then cut the green tops off the strawberries. You can cut them into slices, leave them whole, or do what we did and cut them in half. Then I rinsed them one more time. It's important to work quickly with strawberries because when they are ripe, they go bad fast. You can hold them in the refrigerator for a day or two if you have too.

How to Dry Freeze Strawberries:
I used Jeff's Grandma Irene's technique for packaging the strawberries. However, I did skip her step of covering them in concentrated sugar water. I simply packed the strawberries into freezer containers, adding no water or sugar. Then I covered the top with plastic wrap to make sure things are air tight so there isn't any freezer burn. Put the lid on and quick ring of masking tape making sure the tape goes all the way around and overlaps with itself. Just a strip of tape will fall off plastic once it is frozen. Then I used a permanent marker to write what's in the container along with the date. Popped them into th freezer and done!

How to Dehydrate Strawberries
I didn't have enough containers to freeze all the berries so I decided to dehydrate what was left. I cleaned and halved the strawberries then arranged them cut side up onto the dehydrator tray. The directions that came with my dehydrator say strawberries should be halved and dried for 8-12 hours at 135 degrees. It took a little longer, but I got them dry. I honestly don't like them very much. They are kind of hard and chewy. Perhaps they'll be good in muffins or something? Anyone have any excellent ideas for using dried strawberries?


Valparaiso - Taste Five a Food and Wine Festival

Sample of the food at Taste Five Food and Wine Festival in Valparaiso, Indiana - Slow roasted pork from Don Quijote and Mac n' Cheese from Bon Femme Cafe. 

As a new citizen of Valparaiso, Indiana and a foodie I was thrilled to see that Valparaiso has more than just a Popcorn Festival. The downtown area is invested in making Valparaiso a destination for fine food and specialty shops. They are not quite there yet. No matter how much Lite Rock they pump over the speakers on every street light (which they really should turn off when there is live music) there aren't many specialty shops and only a handful of fine dining places. But that handful got together and have started a campaign to get Valpo on the map. The five restaurants are Bistro 157, Bon Femme CafĂ©, Don Quijote, Paparazzi and Pikk’s Tavern. Check out http://www.valpodining.com/ to find more details and dates about future events.

The Taste Five Food and Wine Festival takes place at downtown Valparaiso in the Central Park Plaza which is currently under construction.

Let me state for the record that I hate the shortening of Valparaiso to Valpo. It sounds so po-dunk, much less exotic, than its French origin. Although it's not pronounced like a French word. Imagine George Bush saying Amer'ca with all the nasal A's. That's how Valparaiso is pronounced around here. We're definitely not in Valparaiso, Chili.

Back to the Second Annual Taste Five Festival; it's the center piece of the campaign to liven up the downtown. I fully support this effort. On Saturday June 4th, 2010 from Noon to 9:00 pm the Taste Five Food and Wine Festival was held. Five Lincolnway restaurants had tents offering the best of their dishes.

I'm not a big meat eater and practically every menu item was a meat dish. I did have some tasty mac n' cheese from Bon Femme. Jeff got some slow roasted pork from Don Quijote which just made me realized we should have gone to the COCHON 555.

Slow roasted pork and lamb from Don Quijote restaurant. 

There was live music which was pretty good. It was really loud when sitting at the tables. I noticed the couple in front of us was texting each other back and forth. A far more effective method than the shouting into each other's ears that Jeff and I were using.

Even with good food and good music it was hard to get over the concrete and orange cone ambiance. The paper baskets, Miller plastic cups and zero presentation with the food wasn't helping. I noticed the average attendant was holding a Miller beer cup (which could have contained a local brew but no one would know as it was all served in Mill High Life cups) and had selected the most bar food like options, mini burger, fries and completely by passing the more original and exciting dishes.   There were some wines available if you asked, but no one was drinking them and they were not put out for display.
Five downtown Valparaiso restaurants are featured at the Taste Five festival.  From left to right: Pikk's Tavern (not shown), Don Quijote,Paparazzi, Bon Femme Cafe, and Bistro 157.   

My conclusion, this is a great concept for a festival it just needs more attendance and a little more thought to make it all look appealing. The square next to where the festival is being held is currently under construction and from the signage looks to be made into a park square where perhaps future Taste Five can be held in Valparaiso. Then with a little thought to food presentation, perhaps a little more Outstanding in the Field and a little less county fair this festival would be embraced by North West Indiana. 

I am hopeful Taste Five 2011 will be better.


Art in the Garden - Taltree Arboretum and Gardens

Artists set up their booths.

The green grass and the arching flower beds made a lush back drop for the artists to display their wares at Art in the Garden Sunday June 6th, at Taltree.  A crisp morning turned into a sunny afternoon with folks
sitting on the lawn enjoying the string band and even more folks wandering the booths.

This is the second year for Art in the Garden at Taltree.  Last year Taltree staff wasn't sure what to expect when they invited vendors and visitors.  It was an incredible success, better than expected.  Over 1,000 visitors attended.  The parking lot was full.  I haven't heard the numbers for this year, but the new parking lot was very close to full and the extra volunteer parking attendants were well utilized.  

The first guests check out the wears of the art vendors.

Among the twenty four art booths were oil and water paintings, carved wood, hand thrown pottery, repurposed antique glass, jewelry, metal garden sculptures, hand painted silk and extravagantly designed hats.  This is a juried event that only accepts vendors who sell their own original art. 

Down at the James E. Meyer Memorial Pavilion Suzie's Cafe served up coffee and donuts in the morning and barbeque and sweet treats in the afternoon.  In the Hitz Family Rose Garden a series of musicians invited folks to pull up lawn chairs or spread picnic blankets and enjoy the harp, hammered dulcimer and string group String Time.  Over at the Native Plant Garden learning activities taught kids about monarch butterflies and their host plants. 
Folks took advantage of the shade to pull up a lawn chairs and enjoy the String Time.

It was a lovely day and an excellent time was had by all.   That is until the dark clouds blew in and dumped rain around 3:00 ending the festivities an hour early.

Can't wait for next year!


Fresh Eggs - Juevos de Patio

We lived in Panama for two years, out in the country side where life still goes on without electricity and cars. My neighbor ladies would tell me that I shouldn't buy my eggs in town. Those eggs were old and the yolks were sad. They would bring me one or two eggs at a time from their hens; their pollo de patio.

These chickens had free range of the yard and produced the most beautiful eggs. They had bright, high sitting yolks of a deep marigold yellow; completely different than the store bought eggs. If I didn't wash them they would last weeks sitting on the counter; unless of course the cat got to them.

Somehow our terrible jungle cat discovered he could knock the egg box off the shelf and lap up the gooey rewards. If he was around when I was cooking I'd put the shells down for him to lick before tossing them into the compost.

These days, in Indiana, he distains any offer of eggshells. Even the roadside stand's eggs are not good enough for him. Our cat is right. The eggs from our Panamanian neighbor ladies were just better.