Sunday, July 1, 2012

Ode to the C

Vegetables that begin with 'c', that is.  Cabbage, cauliflower, and cilantro, in particular.  Is cilantro actually a vegetable or just an herb?  In any case, it has been a while since I've posted any recipes, so here are a few of my recent favourites.  Actually, it's been a while since I've posted anything!  Life just seems to get busier, doesn't it?
The first recipe is easy, relatively inexpensive, and delicious!  It's a good recipe for company because you can assemble it earlier in the day and pop it in the oven a while before they arrive.  Because we all know what those dinnertime hours can be like when you have small children.

My version of that includes O wanting to play different versions of make believe games in which I have to pretend to be somebody else.  Usually, it's one of his cousins, or his Strong Start teacher, or a character from TV.  Somehow it evolves into me having to be several different people at the same time: "Mommy, you be Dora and Diego and Boots and Barney, okay?"  I end up chopping onions, tears streaming, and having a five-way conversation with myself and O, with me carrying on four parts of the conversation.  "O, can I just be myself for a while?"  "Okay.  But you be Barney pretending to be Mommy, okay?"  Meanwhile, T is alternating between crying to be picked up and crying to be put down.  Oh, the hilarity.  At least I can look back on those times once they are tucked in bed and laugh at the craziness of it all.  On to the recipes!

Cabbage Roll Casserole

2 pounds ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
1 (29 ounce) can tomato sauce
3 1/2 pounds chopped cabbage
1 cup uncooked white rice
1 teaspoon salt
28 ounces of Beef Broth (I use McCormick's All-Vegetable Bouillon and water)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
In a large skillet, brown beef and onions in oil over medium high heat until redness is gone. Drain off fat.  In a large baking dish, combine the onion, tomato sauce, cabbage, rice and salt. Add meat and mix all together. Pour broth over meat mixture and bake in the preheated oven, covered, for 1 hour. Stir, replace cover and bake for another 30 minutes.

It's all the deliciousness of cabbage rolls without the work of rolling cabbage leaves.  I know it's best to show pictures of the recipes, but, to be honest, this is not a meal that looks really nice.  It has a nice personality and great sense of humour though.  

The next recipe is also a cabbage recipe.  It looks nice, especially if you use a mix of green and purple cabbages, but I still don't have any pictures of it.  I made a giant salad yesterday for a family gathering but I ate all the yummy leftovers for lunch today before I remembered about taking a picture.  Next time.

Asian Cabbage Noodle Salad.

2 heads of cabbage - green and purple
2 packages of Mr.Noodles or similar noodle soup package
1/4 to 1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup white sugar

1/2 cup canola oil
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup vinegar (cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, white vinegar, or rice vinegar all work fine)
2 TBS. soy sauce
1/2 cube McCormick's all-vegetable beef bouillon.  (Most versions of this recipe call for the packet of seasoning that comes with the noodle soup but...throw that little packet of MSG out!  This way tastes much better)

In a non-stick skillet, heat the sugar, slivered almonds, and crushed noodled until noodles and almonds are nicely sugared up.  Chop or shred cabbage.  Combine ingredients of dressing in a small jar or container and shake it until well-mixed.  
Important note - the dressing will make the noodles soggy eventually, so it's best to put the dressing on the salad just before serving.  If you are just making this salad for your own family, you might want to let people put the dressing on their own portion of salad, and keep the noodles and nuts in another container, so that the leftovers aren't full of soggy noodles.  

And now for the cilantro recipe.  Again, fairly inexpensive, pretty easy, and tasty.  The trifecta of recipe requirements in my estimation.  

Walnut Cilantro Pesto Pasta

1 cup walnut pieces
2 bunches of cilantro, chopped (discard the stems)
4 cloves garlic
4 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
ground pepper to taste

12 oz pasta (spaghetti or fettucini work well)

Prepare pasta according to package directions.  Meanwhile, place walnuts in a dry pan over medium heat.  Shake pan or give a stir every 20 or 30 seconds to prevent burning.  Do this for a couple of minutes until walnuts emit a toasty fragrance.  Remove from heat, set aside.  In a blender or food processor, combine the cilantro, garlic, and walnuts until finely chopped.  With the food processor still running, slowly add the olive oil to achieve a smooth paste.  Add salt and pepper, mix well.  Toss with cooked pasta and serve.  If you have leftover pesto, it also tastes fantastic on pizza in place of traditional pizza sauce!

And finally, the cauliflower gets his turn.  I will admit that I have never been a fan of cauliflower.  I always avoided the ghostly little guy on the vegetable platter at parties.  However, I recently unlocked the secret to enjoying this vegetable: roasting.  In the past, whenever I saw "roast whatever vegetable in oven blah blah blah..." I skipped that step in the recipe.  If you are going to cook the dish later, why bother roasting it beforehand, right?  Wrong, as it turns out.  It gives a different dimension to the taste of it - kind of nutty, and sweet in a caramelized way.  Cut the cauliflower into florets and place on a cookie sheet or large baking dish, slather them in some extra virgin olive oil/butter/margarine, and roast, uncovered, in the oven for about 20 to 30 minutes at 400 degrees Farenheit.  You can sprinkle it with salt and pepper, or a combination of herbs and enjoy on its own, or mix with some quinoa cooked in broth and cooked cubed chicken breast.  Once you have tasted roasted cauliflower, you too may have a whole new appreciation for this once humble veggie.  Who knows, cauliflower may yet have his moment of fame and become the next quinoa or acai berry.

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