Shrimp Filling for Tamales

Contains:  Shellfish (shrimp).  Is:  Gluten-free, Paleo, if by itself.  

tamales, shrimp, Mexican, recipe

A while back, I made and posted about two tamale recipes.  I won’t today post the making of the masa that surrounds the filling.  We were doing a tamale making party at a friend’s house; I made a couple of fillings in advance, and other people did other things for the gathering – the masa, of course, two styles.  A vegan filling (black beans and sweet potatoes).  Another friend made five different sauces for us to enjoy.  We also had Pozole soup and cranberry beans cooked Mexican style.  And a unique bread pudding of Mexican origin for dessert – which featured both cheese and blueberries, and thankfully NO raisins!

By the way, making tamales as a family or a group together is a good Mexican tradition, occurring around the Christmas holidays.  The occasion is callled a tamalada, and is a great way for people, traditionally mostly women, to get together and share their lives and any gossip with each other.  Especially now that I have done this last weekend with others, I fully appreciate the point!  And one need not wait for Christmas, either.

Today I will simply write up the shrimp filling – but you are welcome to peruse my older recipes for tamales – which incorporated only New World foods:  Turkey & Tomato and Vegan Tamales (Beans, Squash, Arbol), to complete the process.

recipe, tamales, shrimp

Tamales, with a small scoop of cranberry beans done Mexican

What I would change down below next time:  I’d take one of those tomatillos and chop it up to add to the shrimp, raw.  Still, do pre-cook the other one.

Timings here are for the filling, only!  Recommend steaming these assembled shrimp tamales for 30 minutes, no longer.

Prep Time:  15 minutes.  
Cook Time:  10 minutes  
Rest Time:  Not essential, but may help to meld flavors.
Serves:  Depends, it is a filling.
Cuisine:  Mexican/Central American
Leftovers:  Sure.

Shrimp Filling for Tamales

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tomatillos, de-husked and finely chopped.
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 pound / grams medium-sized raw shrimp, peeled, deveined and halved lengthwise.  Some if larger can be chopped in half.
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped, or two teaspoons dried oregano flakes.  Using Mexican oregano is best.
  • 2 tablespoons more or less of fresh cilantro leaves and stems, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

METHOD: 

In a skillet, pan fry the onion in the cooking oil, about ten minutes.  Add the garlic and the tomatillo., cook for another two or three minutes.  

Allow this to cool to room temperature.  

To the shrimp add all the other ingredients.  Mix with your hands. 

When the cooked portion is cooled, add in the shrimp mixture.  Blend gently.

Use this as your tamale filling as described in either of these two recipes:  Turkey & Tomato and Vegan Tamales (Beans, Squash, Arbol),

Steam for 30 minutes, allow to cool to a warm temperature, and for the masa to set up.  Approximately 15 minutes.  

Enjoy!!!

Oh, if you just want to enjoy the filling – a quick pan frying for about 6-8 minutes should do the trick.


This recipe is shared with Fiesta Friday, co-host Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook;

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Savory Avocado Smoothie with Blood Orange, Spinach, Scallion, Cilantro

Contains: No major allergens.   Is:  Quick and easy, raw, vegetarian, vegan.

I have always preferred savory over sweet – this thick beverage is a feature of this. You really do need the cilantro/coriander leaf in this one, or otherwise the beverage will be on the blander side.  You can adapt with just one half of a avocado, too.

Smoothie, avocado, vegan, vegetarian, spinach, savory

(The initials etched on the glass are my Dad’s.)

Blood oranges – a red internal flesh – to me tastes more interesting than more regular oranges, but you can use the regular type if you can’t find blood oranges.  And, don’t just juice – keep the pulp!

I like onion in my smoothies (as I don’t see smoothies or vegetable juices, for me, as being anything like a dessert, simply a different way of getting my veggie intake into me.

I do find that most commercial juices or smoothies overemphasize both too much sweetness and/or too much ginger for my own tastes.  A little ginger is good – but a little more goes too far a long way!

Prep Time:  15 minutes.
Cook Time:  It’s RAAAAWW!  Zero time.
Serves:  1-2.
Leftovers:  Avocado browns too quickly.

Savory Avocado Smoothie with Blood Orange, Spinach, Scallion, Cilantro

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 blood orange (or other orange).  Juice (include pulp, but remove any seeds) this.
  • 0.5 – 1 Haas avocado, peeled, de-seeded, coarsely chopped.  
  • 2 scallions/green onions, roots removed, chopped.
  • 1 goodly handful of fresh spinach.
  • Fresh cilantro leaves, bring in more than you may think you will need.
  • 1/4 teaspoon mild curry powder. 
  • A little fresh ginger is optional.
  • Water, to the liquidity texture you prefer.

METHOD:

Add all to a container from which you can use an immersion blender.  Otherwise, simply put in a regular but small blender and blend on “pulse”.  Start with a little water; add more as you need to the thickness/viscosity you prefer to drink.

Pour, sip and enjoy.

savory. smoothie, recipe, avocado, vegan

.This recipe is shared with Fiesta Friday, co-host Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook

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Homesteading: Farm and Garden, May 2022. Zone 5.

Yesterday the temperature outside climbed to 88 F, and rather humid.   The sort of weather that reinforces my decision not to follow my brother and his family down to the Tampa area of Florida.  I know this is nothing to them.  We just get this stuff periodically up here in western Massachusetts, not incessantly.  Today is supposed to be about the same.  I certainly don’t thrive on it.  At least with cold weather one can always put on more clothing.  The reverse isn’t really true.

Homesteading

Incoming Spring Storm (early May)

At any rate, what’s up, up here?

My Cat:  Serenity had to have her “lion cut” a few weeks ago.  Starting about age 16, she stopped grooming herself effectively.   So, she ended up with quite the mat in her ruff.  Took her in – she now looks all skin and bones, basically because she IS all skin and bones under that fur.  Unfortunately, I forgot to inform the woman hired for this purpose NOT to do the tail.  She now has a little puffball of fur at the end of the tail, and nothing at all covering the rest of it.  (There’d been no mats in her tail fur.)

The same woman had shaved her the previous year, and I had been grooming her once the hair grew back in.  Evidently the standard cat brush isn’t the best way, as she’d grown the neck mat back anyway. I accidentally ran across a Jackson Galaxy video where he pointed out the best brush to use – ordered it, but this was too late to take care of the ruff matting or a couple smaller ones she was developing.

ragdoll, cat

A cat comma!

She’s 20 and a half years old now.  98 years old in human years.  A grand old lady with osteoarthritis and a special kidney diet.  She needs a lot of attention, so I hesitate to leave her alone for more than a day or two.    Yes, someone could come in, but I doubt they’d be with her for more than fifteen minutes or so, and then leave.  She still wants to eat, but if she gives up on wanting as much food as she does eat – yes, she will be sent to cross that proverbial Rainbow Bridge to join her old buddies, Orion and Obi-Wan, as well as her first favorite cat, Ptarmigan.  Hopefully she’ll remember Titania, too.

20.5 year old cat, ragdoll

Trying to get warm after a shave, sitting in the remains of sun.

PLANTINGS

So far in the Raised Beds:

Bed 1.

homesteading, rhubarb

Rhubarb, with flower top

Section A:  this is the perennial spot.  Rhubarb, strawberries, golden thyme are coming up.  No idea if the saffron survived.  I also added in a little asparagus, anise hyssop, and hibiscus this year..  Rhubarb should be available for harvest next year.
Section B:  Cleaned out, but a leek is coming back up, a survivor from last year.  Otherwise, this will house Snow Peas, Avalanche (Pisum sativum).   I don’t see the seedlings yet.
Section C:  Peas, “Little Marvel”.  24 inch trellising recommended.  Two rows.  Some seedlings are doing their thing!
Section C:  Peas, “Super Sugar Snap”, 60-inch trellising recommended.  Two rows.

homesteading, sugar snap pea

Pea seedling poking up

Bed 2:

Section A:  TBD
Section B:  Tomatoes (cherry and grape).   I have had little luck in the past with full-sized tomatoes.  Parsley.
Section C:  2 rows of Turnips, Amelie Hybrid (Brassica rapa).  Seedlings are not yet popping up.  A row of red beets, and a row of cauliflower.  Which are up.

Bed 3:  (Currently just weeds!)

Homesteading,

Bed #4. Onions, Potatoes, Greens

Bed 4:

Section A:  Winter hardy leafy greens, as in spinach and lettuces,  Planted in April, they are doing well.
Section B:  Yukon gold potatoes, with a few red potatoes.  They are doing well.
Section C:   Onion sets, reds and whites.   I planted them close-ish to each other.  I will be thinning them out for scallions/green onions alternately, so the remainders grow up to be adult onions.

In the Circular Bed:  

Edible flowers:  Nasturtiums, marigolds, borage, calendula.

homesteading, borage

Other:  Jalapeño peppers, red bell peppers.

homesteading, peppers, edible flowers

East Side Herb Area:

horseradish, homesteading

Horseradish, returning in the spring. Probably impossible to get rid of, but I don’t want to!

The wormwood returns to life, as does the horseradish and the lady’s mantle.  I’m fairly certain that the Jerusalem artichokes (aka sunchokes) will be coming back. Unfortunately, there are signs of garlic mustard, which I am trying to harvest before any of it goes to seed.  Terribly invasive – at least it is edible! (And, tastes great.)  Below, btw, is a photo of Lady’s Mantle.  A plant just for pretty.

homesteading, lady's mantle

To Be Planted (ASAP): 

Cannas, hosta, an elderberry, a selection of apple saplings.  Cucumber seeds.  I have perhaps missed something.


Chickens:   4 roosters, and now, alas, 14 hens.  Something killed and partially-ate Chickpea, the first hen I had hatched here on site – actually, her foster mom is Yin, a black Australorp, who still lives here.  Near as I can figure, Chickpea was a cross between a silver laced Wyandotte roo (this part I’m certain about) and a buff Orpington.  Pretty bird, nearly all white, with black fleckings on the wings and a few more elsewhere.  She was taken April 28th by some creature that prefers (like I do) thigh meat.  As that was all that was eaten – both thighs.  Feathers, however, were all over the place.  Chickpea had put up a fight.  Best guess is a fox.  Yin, by the way, still exists and still lays eggs – I caught her at it recently.

(Above:  Athena, back and front.  My newest hen.  Rather shy.)

Everyone is inside, no free ranging, for the next month.  They will then cautiously go back out in June.

homesteading, barred rock, rooster

Barred Plymouth Rock rooster. This is either Chester or Otis. I can tell them apart when they are next to each other. Chester is the dominant one, too. They get along because they were raised together, and Otis knows when to back off.

I’ve ordered 15 new baby chicks for early August.  Most will be meat birds (straight run Delaware Broilers from McMurray’s).  I just don’t feel like starting up brooders right now; I want a vacation.  Indeed, I’d love to take a real one, but I am concerned about my cat.  See the top.

Quail:  Not starting more up this year.  Next spring or summer is fine by me.  I miss good pickled eggs – yes, you can pickle chicken eggs, but the problem is that the whites get too rubbery for me waiting for the pickling juice to get deep into the yolks, due to egg size.


Exterior Staining:

Just got my deck and pergola stained – the deck will need a touchup at the least, and the pergola, well we ran out of the stain base, and are waiting on the Supply Chain to bring it to Sherwin-Williams.  A local man of good skill has been hired to take this on, and his work is essentially completed.

Homesteading, pergola

Pergola:  Leeward color, polyurethane semi-transparent stain, by Woodscapes.
Deck railing and supports:  Ember, acrylic solid color stain, by Woodscapes.
Deck floor and steps:  Fallow, solid stain, by Superdeck.

homesteading, deck

Extra Leeward will be used to stain the raised beds.  A misbegotten color of stain, Russett Brown, fought far too much with the log color – as it can’t be returned, it will be used to add trim color to the small Tractor Supply coop. I’ll be doing these two last staining projects myself – the coop project is nearly done.

Other Projects:

Small fabric three-tiered raised bed structure – for strawberries and other small things.  One can never have enough strawberries!  Constructed, and filled with soil.  Needs plants or seeds!  (Alas, I missed the week that strawberry plants were for sale here, and I’ve now filled the spaces with other plants, see above.)

Wood double-stand raised bed platform.  Still in boxes, have to decide on the most efficient spot for it.  I prefer the back yard, probably close to the pergola – or it may be closer to the house.  May need staining – I’ll have a variety of leftover stains to choose from!  I am thinking flowers AND veggies, depending if I can orient it to where I can enjoy the flowers from the house.

Assemble the rabbit hutch.  Not for rabbits, but as the Sick Bay for any chickens that may need such.

Assemble the two DIY meat chicken houses.  I figure each will hold 3-4 birds, depending on size.  They’re not going to be winter-proof, so this is only temporary housing for cockerels/pullets.  (Some of my meat pullets will be made into laying hens, btw.  I figure the large coop can house 3-4 more hens, and the dark brown coop, two more.

Assemble the cheap assembly thingie for setting food upon, to be set down at the pergola. It also has an interior space for storage.

Maybe work on the stone fire pit.  At least get the stones over to the spot.  I have a good friend who wants to assemble it – he did it in the past when we were living in the same house, back down in Connecticut.  Some of the stones are actually the same – yes, transport northwards sometimes works!

Indoors, solve the mouse incursions once and for ALL!  I have electronic rodent zappers.  Because I am not live-trapping mice and driving them to someone else’s yard to release them there.  A rude idea to do that.  I am also inventorying the pantry goods.

Clean out & reorganize the garage, and clean out and reorganize the basement.

Today:  High temps at 86, dropping fast as a storm now rolls in (it is 6:50 pm right now.)  7 pm on the nose – torrential rains!  EDIT:  Temp is now 65 F, at 8 pm.  Rains were good here!  (This post uploads in half an hour.)

I saw a black bear on the roadway around 12:30 today.  Could be a mama or a near-mature juvenile.  Size of a large dog, but its ears were definitely BEAR.   Obviously, didn’t get out of the car to check anything further.

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Steamed Scallop Wontons

Contains:  Shellfish (scallops, oyster), gluten.  Is:  Quick and easy.  

recipe, wonton, steamed, scallops, Chinese, cabbage, Asian dipping sauce, #FishFridayFoodies

This recipe is designed for #FishFridayFoodies.  Theme this month is “Small Bites”.  You will find the links to other creators in this challenge at the end of this post.

You can adapt this recipe for frying (pan or in a deep dish) – I simply prefer the steamed texture of the wonton wrappers over the fried – and, well, secondarily, it’s healthier this way.  And third, if you do have a wonton break open, it’s less fatal to the wonton.

Speaking of that, here’s how they finally got folded (some of the earlier ones I made above started to shape up better as I got the below technique down:

Prep Time: 30 minutes.
Cook Time:  15 minutes.
Rest Time:  Maybe a minute.
Cuisine:  Chinese.
Makes:
   40-50 wontons.
Leftovers:  Dash some drops of water over before re-heating.

Steamed Scallop Wontons

.INGREDIENTS:

Dipping sauce:

  • 4 tablespoons low sodium tamari or soy sauce.
  • 2 tablespoons black vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sesame seed oil.
  • A bare pinch of sugar.
  • Optional:  a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds and/or a few chopped cilantro (coriander) leaves.

Wontons:

  • 1 large shallot, peeled and finely chopped.
  • 100 grans cabbage finally chopped
  • 3-4 tablespoons oyster sauce.
  • 1.5 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice seasoning
  • 1.5 teaspoon ginger paste
  • 100 grams scallops, chopped (either bay or sea scallops)
  • Wonton wrappers – about 40-50.

Make the sauce first:  add all the above ingredients under Sauce together.  If you are making the sauce significantly in advance, add any cilantro (coriander) leaves just prior to serving.

For the wontons, cook the shallot and cabbage in a skillet with cooking oil, about 5 minutes, stirring.  Add the oyster sauce, Chinese Five Spice and the ginger paste, stir another minute to combine.

Add the scallops and celery (or water chestnuts), cook for 1 or two minutes longer.

Line the bottom of a steamer with either lettuce/cabbage leaves, or parchment paper, to prevent sticking.  Wet the edges of each wonton wrap with a dab of water – use a brush or your fingers.

Place a teaspoon of stuffing in the center of a wrapper, then fold one corner to the most distant corner.  Press to seal.  Add a neighboring corner to the first two, and follow up by adding the last to the first three.  Press to seal, and move down  the edges so that the stuffing remains sealed inside.  (Don’t overstuff.)

Place in the steamer basket, on leaves and parchment.  Do this until your steamer is full, making  sure the wontons don’t touch each other – they will stick together.  Extra wontons should be assembled now and left to wait on a place or baking pan (atop parchment paper) until their turn at the steamer.

Add sufficient water to the bottom of the steamer that it won’t all evaporate while steaming.  Set the bottom to boil, and once boiling, reduce heat slightly, and add basket to the bottom, and cover.

Steam for about 5 minutes.  Use tongs to remove wontons, add in a second batch, and steam those.

Serve with the dipping sauce.

recipe, scallop, wonton, steamed, cabbage

Shared with #FishFridayFoodies, this month’s recipes are under the theme:  Small Bites.  Member Recipes below!

Link Parties:

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Stuffed Eggplant/Aubergine: Farro, Mushroom, Shallot, Celery, with Shawarma Yogurt Topping

Contains:  Nightshades, dairy or coconut.  Is: Vegetarian, can easily be made vegan / dairy-free.

By the way:  Eggplant = Aubergine; Yogurt = Yoghurt.

For the yogurt topping, you can use low or full fat dairy, or use coconut yogurt – I’d avoid fat-free.

recipe, yogurt, shawarma, eggplant, aubergine, vegetarian, mushroom, shallot, mid-eastern

April for me turned out to be personal “sludge” month, so I am extending vegetarian/vegan recipe making halfway into May – up to May 15th or so.

I used a moderately-sized European style eggplant, which should serve two.  Flavor profile I decided upon leaned towards the Middle-Eastern.

recipe, yogurt, shawarma, eggplant, aubergine, vegetarian, mushroom, shallot, mid-eastern

Make a cut around the perimeter of each half an eggplant. You will be removing this for stuffing (and will be adding that portion of the eggplant back to the dish!)

Salting the eggplant will draw out any bitterness, and the lemon juice over the eggplant will help prevent or discourage discoloring of the eggplant.

If you want the stuffing to hold together, which is not at all necessary, you can make the stuffing, allow it to cool, mix in an egg, then add it to the eggplant.  I did not.

recipe, yogurt, shawarma, eggplant, aubergine, vegetarian, mushroom, shallot, mid-eastern

Pre-cooking the stuffing before it is stuffed!

Prep Time (hands-on):   25-30 minutes.
Prep Time (marinating):  6 hours.
Cook Time: 1 hour.
Serves: 2.
Cuisine:  Middle-eastern inspired.
Leftovers:  Yes.

Stuffed Eggplant: Farro, Mushroom, Shallot, Celery, with Shawarma Yogurt Topping

INGREDIENTS:

The Yogurt Topping:

  • 1 cup / 240  mL yogurt (dairy or coconut, but NOT zero fat/fat free)
  • 1 teaspoon shawarma seasoning 
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon.  

The Farro:

  • 1/2 cup / 100 grams farro 
  • Water as per package instructions (typically 1;3 ratio)
  • 1/2 teaspoon mushroom “Better than Bouillion”.  This contains salt, so no need to add more.   

Stuffing the Eggplant:  Amounts of ingredients vary due to variance in eggplant sizes.

  • 1 eggplant, sliced longitudinally in half.  
  • Salt
  • Juice from about a third of a lemon.  
  • 2 good -sized shallots, peeled and chopped.
  • About 4 button mushrooms, chopped.
  • About 2-2.5 ounces / 60-70 grams of celery, chopped.
  • About 1/2 cup / 120 mL of the above cooked farro.  
  • Cooking oil (or olive oil)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano.
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • Optional garnishes could include rinsed capers, chopped cilantro/coriander leaf, chopped parsley.

METHOD:

Make the yogurt topping first, as it will have to develop flavor.

In a small bowl, mix all the topping ingredients together, cover, and allow to sit in the fridge for 6-24 hours.

For the Farro:  Add those ingredients together, and cook how you normally cook farrow (I use a rice cooker).  Set aside.  You can even make this a day in advance, which is what I ended up doing, and regrigerating, but it is not necessary to make it up that far in advance.

Now, for the eggplant / aubergine and its stuffing:

Take the sliced halves and sprinkle the cut surfaces with a heavy layer of salt, and squeeze lemon juice over this surface.  Let sit for 30 or so minutes.  Wipe off the salt and lemon after this point.

Pre-heat your oven to 350 F / 175 C.

Cut out the area of the eggplant half to be stuffed, and chop this up.

Place the remaining shell of eggplant into the oven for about 5-7 minutes, to soften.  Remove and set aside.

To a skillet, add the oil and bring to a medium/medium high temperature.  Add the shallots, stirring, and allowing them to grow translucent and lightly brown, about 5 minutes.

Add the mushrooms, celery, farro and the scooped out bits of eggplant to the skillet, and cook until the mushrooms release their water Add the oregano and ground pepper, stirring together.

Stuff the eggplant slices, and return the now-stuffed eggplant shells to the oven.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, testing texture with a fork.

To serve:  lay out each eggplant half on its own plate, garnish as you choose or not with the suggestions above.  Provide a good dollop of the yogurt topping to each serving, and optionally give each person more on the side.

This recipe is definitely a keeper!  And this topping would be good with so many  other items!..

recipe, yogurt, shawarma, eggplant, aubergine, vegetarian, mushroom, shallot, mid-eastern

This lovely recipe has been shared with:

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Vegetarian Breakfast Wrap: with Brussels Sprouts, Red Onion, Spinach, Egg and Cheese

Contains:  Egg, wheat, gluten, dairy, nightshades.  Is:  Quick and easy, vegetarian.

Breakfast, wrap, burrito, egg, cheese, vegetarian, Brussels sprouts

Apologies for missing some of the posts I want to make recently.  I twisted my ankle which has meant I don’t want to stand there and make some of the recipes (just yet) that I’d planned.  Nor has it made me want to type down much of anything, either.  And my lovely remaining feline was nearly put to sleep this last weekend, but she’s on the mend.  (She’s over 20 years old, and has resided with me longer than any other living being, human or otherwise.)  I will note I don’t really expect her to make 21 years.  But right now she’s willing to eat and do other cat-like things.  No, I will not go to all ends of the Earth to make her survive at any cost.  She’ll let me know she’s no longer happy – and I will check to see if something reasonable can be done, and if not… Rainbow Bridge time. She does miss Obi-Wan and Orion, I’m sure.

Breakfast, wrap, burrito, egg, cheese, vegetarian, Brussels sprouts

Mixed veggies and Monterey Jack, over on a momentary resting plate.

So, we are going with an overstuffed breakfast wrap today.  One that I recommend you cut on a plate to eat, rather than just carry off.  Of course, you can put less food into the soft tortilla, but that’s up to you.

Some would say this is a breakfast burrito – an alliterative term, but there’s nothing Tex Mex about this, much less Mexican.  So — a Wrap it is!  Recommended to serve hot, by the way.  The egg and cheese may well thank you…

Breakfast, wrap, burrito, egg, cheese, vegetarian, Brussels sprouts

Make a line on the tortilla, then sprinkle Pecorino Romano.

Prep Time:  10 minutes.
Cook Time:  20 minutes,
Rest Time:  Not needed.
Serves:  Description is for one wrap per person.
Cuisine:  American.
Leftovers:  Iffy, but up to you.

Breakfast Wrap: with Brussels Sprouts, Red Onion, Spinach, Egg and Cheese

INGREDIENTS:

  • About 5 Brussels sprounts (regular size).  Chop off the stems if brown.  Then dice each up.
  • Two slices of peeled red onion – this should be chopped semi-fine (or 1 medium shallot, peeled and sliced very thin).
  • 1 small mini-bell pepper, de-seeded and chopped.
  • 1 goodly handful fresh spinach.
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten.
  • About an ounce or ounce and a half of Monterey Jack or your favorite melting cheese.  Thin sliced.  
  • A scattering of freshly shredded Pecorino cheese.
  • About a heaping quarter teaspoon of marrakech Moroccan spice (or ras al hanout, or za’atar).  Choice of spice combo is up for grabs.  
  • 1 soft tortilla shell, approximately 8 inch diameter. 
  • A splash or so of cooking oil (my oil of choice is avocado oil)

METHOD:

Add about a tablespoon of cooking oil to a skillet set to medium/medium high heat.  You can either add in the Brussels sprouts, onion and pepper all at once, or to make the Brussels sprouts a bit more crispy, you can add those in first for an extra five minutes at a slightly higher temperature, effectively to give them that roasted ambiance.  Then, reduce to that medium/medium high, adding in the onion and pepper.

Let this cook for about 5 more minutes.  Add in the spinach, and let it wilt, stirring as needed, for about a minute or so.

Remove to a plate, reduce heat to just plain medium, and add in the egg, and scramble it to your preference, stopping short of being done.  It will cook further soon.

Toss back in the veggies and combine, adding in at the same time the sliced Monterey or other melty cheese.  Continually stir gently with a spatula until the cheese melts, but keep the innate heterogeneity of the mixture.  Transfer this back to the aforementioned plate.  This will take maybe two minutes.

If you need to, add a small dollop of cooking oil back to the skillet, reduce heat further to LOW, and lay down the  the tortilla.  Allow the oil to coat the tortilla lightly, a little bit on what will be the interior, and a little more on the exterior, especially the outer rim.  You will be flipping this to accomplish the goal.  The goal is NOT to have any of the tortilla be dry in texture at the end of cooking.  This takes about a minute.

Add the veggie mixture as a line down the center of the tortilla, which is sitting in the still-hot skillet.  Sprinkle the top with pecorino cheese.

Carefully roll the wrap up.  This is overstuffed so you will likely NOT be able to seal the ends, burrito-style.  The carefulness refers to your please avoid burning your fingers.

Roll, remove with a wide spatula, and enjoy,  Best served hot/warm.

NOTE:

If you plan to make a few of these (more than two), I’d recommend preheating your oven to 200 F, setting in a pan with water to keep the tortilla from drying out, and a warming pan you can add each wrap as youmake them, covered loosely so some of the humidity can join the wraps.  If you do make multiples, I suggest you cook up a whole batch of veggies, a whole batch of egg, and divvy as appropriate for the number of tortilllas.

recipe, breakfast, wrap, vegetarian, cheese, brussels sprouts

Shared with:

Fiesta Friday

What’s for Dinner?  Sunday Link Up.

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Hearts of Palm, Cabbage and Avocado Salad

Contains:  Nightshades.  Is:  Quick and easy, gluten-free, vegetarian, paleo, Whole30.

This recipe is inspired by something found from Food and Wine, although I’ve changed the dressing.  I also added cabbage, and diddled with concentrations.

The Inspiration Recipe is HERE.

recipe, hearts of palm, avocado, tomato, cabbage

I was originally planning to make this for my culinary group a couple months ago – we were going to meet in person but suddenly it turned into Zoom. But I could not find the hearts of palm, searching high and low through three supermarkets!  I ordered what I have now, but too late for the Culinary Group, for which I made something else.  (Theme had been “Hearts”, interpret any way you wanted.)

So, here we are – finally, Hearts of Palm, Cabbage and Avocado Salad!  PS, the original salad dressing for this dish is here… It is a creamy avo-based vegan dressing.

Prep Time:  15 minutes.
Cook Time: RAW!!  (ie, no cooking!)
Rest Time:  None.
Serves:  4-6.  Scale up as needed.
Leftovers?:  Avo goes brown fast, so not much time for that. 

Hearts of Palm and Avocado Salad

INGREDIENTS:

  • Coarsely shredded cabbage as a base
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved   Or 1 cup grape tomatoes, as is. 
  • 1/2 small sweet red onion, cut into thin slivers
  • Two 14-ounce cans hearts of palm, drained and sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 avocado, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  •  A sprinkling or more (to your taste)  of coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley and/or cilantro (coriander leaf)
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons extra vrgin olive oil
  • Salt and fresh-ground pepper

METHOD:

In a medium bowl, toss the halved cherry tomatoes with the onion slivers, hearts of palm, & avocado.  Place over the cabbage.   Add cilantro or parsley as garnish.  In a small bowl, mix the lime zest and lime juice with the mayonnaise and oil; season the dressing with salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad and serve immediately.

recipe, salad, hrearts of palm, avocado

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Fiesta Friday.

What’s for Dinner:  Sunday Link Up.

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Posted in Cooking, Salads, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

A Month of Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes

April is to be my month of vegetarian and vegan foods.  Besides posting recipes with this theme, I will be eating this way much of the month, except when out with others.  (And to use up some salmon and some lamb tripe still in the fridge.)

basil leaves and avocado on sliced bread on white ceramic plate

Photo by Lisa on Pexels.com

Any exceptions will be if I am served foods being made by friends – since I am not truly vegetarian nor vegan, I think it would be rude of me to decline things that others have gone to the effort to create, make and serve to me.  The occasion of course is entirely different if you really identify yourself as vegan or vegetarian.  (In which case, please inform your host or hostess in ADVANCE of any food restrictions, allergies, or religious avoidances!)

At any rate, all meals posted this month on this blog WILL BE either vegan or vegetarian.  Many will be vegan.  If my hens lay eggs during this month, well – I am not going to waste them.

I will likely focus on cultures with a strong past history for vegetarian foods.  My favorite cookbook for this sort of diet is Silk Road Vegetarian:  Vegan, Vegetarian and Gluten Free Recipes for the Mindful Cook, by Dahlia Abraham-Klein.  Going this way provides a good solid food plan because it has been tested by generations, rather than by a few recent-decade meat-abstainers.  The author includes a very few recipes with eggs, and none with cheese.  Ghee, a dairy product, is occasionally used in her recipes.

You WILL NOT see faux cheeses or faux meats this month.  Dishes will have to stand on their own, without the “miracles” of modernized industrial food processing to prop them up.  Since (despite the above caveat) I will be eating this way for a month myself, I am aiming to post fully-satisfying meals here during the duration.  And, yes, I will continue to partake of (and post) many wholly-plant meals after this month is over.  I’ve done so before, so why not?  There are so many tasty ones to consider!


vegan chili bowl

Photo by Alesia Kozik on Pexels.com

Satiating vegetarian/vegan foods for me include:  avocado, eggplant, mushrooms, just about any type of beans or lentils., sweet potatoes, winter squash.  Some would include nuts in this, but I can’t eat many of those without gastric repercussions, and of those I can eat I really don’t want to eat many of.  If you can – go for it!

In June, I will be doing a testing of ground burgers – making ground beef, ground Beyond Burger and ground Impossible Burger in two different formats: 1) Sliders with lettuce wraps and 2)  Mini-meatloaves.  I’ve been wanting to try this for some time, although I still live by the principle that a good vegetarian burger doesn’t have to taste like meat – it’s healthier and probably tastier if it doesn’t try to go down that road.  See my Grilled Veggie Burger recipe!  (This linked one does contain egg, but vegans can try one of those healthier egg substitutes, since the only purpose of the egg in that recipe is to hold everything together).

This April, I’m plotting to make a variety of dishes.  The list you see below is potential, and not definitive.  April here in the Northern hemisphere and at latitudes above 40 degrees – a great time for homesteading development as well.  I have some fruit trees (which include a couple of quince and a couple of elderberries) will be mailed out to me on April 11th, so they should be planted by the end of the month.

  • Hearts of Palm, Cabbage and Avocado Salad.  (Had planned this for Valentine’s Day, but hearts of palm were scarcer than hen’s teeth.  Which, if you find any of the latter, won’t be et this month!)
  • Panera’s Vegan Black Bean Soup (improved copycat, and I agree improvement may not be necessary).  I made this once recently for a potluck but didn’t get to remember to photograph it.  Mine had a nice kick to it.  I also made this from fresh beans.
  • Baked Tofu in Thai Peanut Sauce
  • Stuffed Eggplant (ingredients TBD, but it will be vegetarian rather than vegan – will want true cheese.  Cashew “cheeze” does the intestinal rumba here, NO Thank You!  This plan may be modified for a ingredient needed for an online food challenge where I need to use yogurt somewhere.  Or maybe I’ll make two distinctly different and vegetarian variants).
  • Chinese Buddha’s Delight.  (I am waiting on an ingredient I don’t have to include, but I want to – it was actually going to be made back in February, but the pantry mice got into it. And it takes more than a month for a new batch to arrive.)

Oh, PS, May will be Tex-Mex, Central and South America month, for recipe postings!  And no, despite the day today, this post is NOT an April Fool’s joke.

Posted in Commentary, Cooking, Vegan, Vegetarian | 2 Comments

Chili Bowl with Beef and Pinto Beans

Contains:  Nightshades, legumes. Is:  Gluten-free.  

chili, beef, tomato, bean, pinto bean, guajillo, recipe

Use a steak or meat not meant for long term cooking.  Mine was labeled “Beef fajita meat”, and it resembled skirt steak already sliced up when thawed.  Flank or flat iron steak would also work here. One could use ground/minced meat, but I find that the taste/texture experience of the chili with meat chopped into small pieces as in this recipe provides a different approach. 

chili, beef, tomato, bean, pinto bean, guajillo, recipe

You can switch out the pinto beans for whatever other beans you have to hand.  This recipe uses canned beans – for dried beans, soak them overnight, rinse, add back some water, and then roughly measure and use.   

For the tomatoes, I prefer to use a product with few if any additional ingredients.  I like the chunky heterogeneity of stewed or whole canned tomatoes – if you use whole canned tomatoes, coarsely chop those.  

chili, beef, tomato, bean, pinto bean, guajillo, recipe

As far as toppings go:  if serving for your family or friends, allow them to top their chili as they choose.  Provide shredded cheese, sour cream, cilantro – and possibly a small bottle of hot sauce!  

chili, beef, tomato, bean, pinto bean, guajillo, recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes.
Cook Time:  40 minutes.
Rest Time: Not needed.
Serves: 3-4.
Cuisine:  Tex-Mex.
Leftovers:  YES! 

Chili Bowl with Beef and Pinto Beans 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 can (15.5 oz / 440 g) Pinto Beans.  If you drain, add back an equivalent amount of water.
  • 1 can (14.5 oz / 410 g) stewed tomatoes.
  • 1 medium large yellow or white onion, diced, about 1/4 inch cubes.
  • 0.25 pounds beef, diced – about 1/4 inch cubes.  This was fajita/skirt steak.
  • 1 dried guajillo pepper, de-seeded and chopped finely.  
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder (I used a medium mild powder)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder (add more if you wish)
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt. 

OPTIONAL TOPPINGS:  

  • Cheese,  Ideally choose either Oaxaca or young (meltable) cotija Mexican cheeses.  If not available, go for cheddar or Monterey jack, Shred the cheeses, yourself.  Never buy the pre-shredded stuff.  
  • A dollop of sour cream.  
  • Cilantro (coriander leaf), coarsely chopped.

METHOD:

Add all the Ingredients (NOT the toppings) together in a pan.  Bring to a boil and immediately reduce to a good simmer.  Cook for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add more water if needed – you don’t want this to burn or to go dry.  

When serving, individuals should choose their preferred toppings.  

Suggested sides:  Rice; Salad.  Perhaps a simple veggie tamale or three.  Or, an ear of roasted corn?  

chili, beef, beans, pinto beans, recipe

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Posted in Cooking, Meats, South of the Border | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Cook Unity! A Five-Week Review of Meals

A second food service review:  PS, these weeks are NOT consecutive.  No way.

Mind you, these reviews are of services I’d not normally pay attention to, but running a food blog, I felt it was important to try a couple out.  Plus, I was just a bit curious.  What would I want, if I can’t get out to shop?  What would I want if I can’t cook (physically, or just supremely busy?)   And, depending on the deal each of these services runs at a time, you can get the initial meals at a steep discount, occasionally even free.

Cook Unity’s scheme is to send out meals that are already put together, and the only thing left to do is cook them.  Consider them upscale TV dinners.  The recipes are from genuine chefs, two or three of whom I have vaguely heard of.   If you don’t filter in favor of certain dietary plans or restrictions, there are over a hundred choices each week.  If you favor, say, vegan, the site will keep this as your recommended, should you forget to order or skip.  (Unlike Hello Fresh, which has many vegetarian but few if any vegan meals, Cook Unity has several vegan meals to choose from.)  You can also choose from other categories not  specifically available on Hello Fresh (keto, paleo, etc.)

You can order anything on the menu for a given week, not necessarily in a plan or not.  You have to order a minimum of four meals (each of which serves ONE person).  Hello Fresh aimed to serve two people with each meal, just to refreshen our memories.  Of course, you can order 2, 3, 4 or more meals of the same thing, depending on family size / needs.

You can’t order, or decline ordering, as far out as you can with Hello Fresh.  But you do have about three weeks to decide.

The meats aren’t going to be pastured here.  (I still want to review a  service that uses only pastured meats.)  I’m ordering at least two meals a week that are vegetarian (and apparently mostly vegan). I am also focusing largely on low carb, sometimes Paleo foods, and I want at least one seafood dish a week.

:Week One:

Ode to the Chicken under a Brick – Marc Forgione.  Any recipe that respects the dark meat of a chicken NEEDS to be sampled, IMHO.  (Forgione is the chef and co-owner of  Marc Forgione Restaurant, in Manhattan, NYC, New York.  He won the title of Next Iron Chef, 2010 – Food Network).  

This was good.  Was it great?  No.  But the chicken was tender and tasty.  The broccolini was overcooked, but I am always fine with carrots being overcooked. The potatoes worked.  But overall, the dish didn’t sing the way I’d hoped.  I think this dish could have been supplemented with something more, not sure what.  I think the seasonings needed a bit more, ahem, zing.  But I get it… they don’t want to offend any customers with overly-spiced foods.

I do give them plus marks for daring to use the dark meat from a chicken.  And if I ever get to the source restaurant, I am likely to order this fresh-up.

Blackened Catfish with Citrus Pico de Gallo – Tony Perez.  This one sounds like South US meets Tex Mex, but I’ll know more, later.  Gluten-free and Paleo, this comes with cauliflower rice.  (Perez first shows up as a baseball player under a Google search, but this particular Perez is the executive chef at River Spirit Casino. Tulsa, Oklahoma.)

Simply remove the plastic film atop, remove the salsa, and heat for 10-15 minutes, eat and enjoy.  As with all the recipes involving cooking, there is also a microwave instruction set.  No reason to microwave, if an oven is to hand, however.  This was the second meal I tried from them.

The salsa / pico de gallo was wimpy and bland, I threw it out.  The catfish was tender and good, and I welcome the tasty crunch of the riced cauliflower.  I’d have welcomed a bit more heat with this dish, and a small salad to the side would be nice.

Yubu Japchae – Esther Choi.   Korean, gluten-free, and vegan.  I love a meat-based japchae, so I figured I’d test drive a vegan one, now.  (Choi is the owner/chef of Mokbar, a restaurant in Chelsea Market, Manhattan, NYC, New York.  Focus is Korean.) 

This dish comes with straightforward directions.  There are instructions for the oven, and for the microwave – as I will, throughout, I went with the oven.  I tried this dish first the evening the week’s package arrived.  Heat and bake at 350 F for 15-20 minutes, pour the room temperature sauce over, and enjoy.  I went with 18 minutes of baking time.  The sauce amounted to  about 2 scant tablespoonsful.  I might have wanted more sauce, but but as it turns out, I’m happy it was just this amount…

WHAT is YUBU?  Good question. From Microsoft Bing:  it is “dried tofu skin, a staple of Chinese and Japanese cuisines. This somewhat buoyant, and rubbery ingredient naturally forms on top of soy milk, and simply put, it’s made of coagulated soy proteins”.   (I didn’t look this up, until my meal was in the oven.  At least it isn’t seitan…, which is always a faux and unwelcome pseudo-food to me.  Yubu didn’t come across as rubbery to me.  In fact, I want MORE Yubu.)

The sauce ended up a bit too salty (and sweet), so I am glad there was a limited amount.  I really liked the crunchiness of the bell peppers here.  I rate this 3.5 out of 5, mostly due to the sauce, which I would eliminate next time should I order this again.  The actual dish, however, was great, though not as good as the Pork Japchae I’ve made in the past.  I think I would have added more veggies, personally. This dish by itself was satiating as a single meal.  I would order again, but I’d ditch the sauce.  And add some Korean red pepper flakes.

MIcro Balancing Bowl – Tony Perez.  Another vegan recipe.

cook unity, review, salad, balancing bowl

It comes with brown rice, avocado, various veggies, kidney beans, and so forth.   This recipe is served cold from the fridge, no cooking needed.  It can be dressed with a tahini salad dressing, which alas is advertised as “sweet”.  But I won’t have to use more than I want….

The rice seemed more white than brown, but the veggies were tasty, as was the tahini salad dressing, which was not nearly as sweet as advertised online – thankfully!  I really liked the kidney beans and most of the veggies.  Even the corn was fine.  I really do wish there had been twice as much dressing, however.

:Week Two:

Kale Efo Riro and Black Eyed Pea Ndambe Stew Over Liberian Red RIce – Pierre Thiam.  This is gluten-free and vegan, and hails from Africa.  (Thiam hails from Senegal, and is eager to introduce west African cuisine to America.  He is owner / Executive chef of restaurants in Nigeria, Senegal and the casual dining place, Terenga, in New York City.)

Cook Unity, efo riro, review

I selected this to explore more African cuisine than I’ve been exposed to.  Seriously good, happily spiced, and just the right amount of food for a decent and satiating meal.    Oh, the kale is not as bitter as some variants of this vegetable can be. And I am glad to taste the okra in here.  I’d order this again.

Salmon and Avocado Sauce, with Cucumber Salsa – Andres Mendes.  Gluten, dairy, and soy free, and definitely Paleo.  (Mendes works at Extra Virgin, a restaurant in NYC, but I (on my admittedly cursory look) could find out little more about him.)

I had this dish the morning after it was delivered (delivery was on the proper day, and the ice packs were fine) – the cucumber was older and a bit mushy (but still could be eaten).  This salad/salsa, however, was half the dish.  Which if it had been more crispy would have been wonderful.  Cucumber doesn’t travel well.  The avocado sauce is excellent, but loaded with cilantro (coriander leaves) for those who lack the ability to taste cilantro’s true nuances.  i used this mostly on the salmon.

The salmon itself was nicely seasoned.  I can see ordering this again.

Wild Mushroom Bibimbap – Esther Choi.  The base of this meal is millet, brown and black rice.  Not gluten-free, but definitely vegan.

cook unity, vegetarian bibimbap, mushrooms

This one was perfect!   Enjoyed every second of it, including the spicy sauce provided.  (Unlike the first week’s contribution from this chef, nothing was over-salted.)  YUM.  6 out of 5 stars!!!!

Grilled Hangar Steak with Asparagus and Mojo de Ajo –  Akhtar Nawab.  This one is low carb, but not gluten-free.  (He’s a “Kentucky bred chef of Indian heritage”, and since I’m Kentucky born, this rather appealed to me.  Which I didn’t know until after I’d ordered and eaten the below, so Kentucky had no influence on my dietary choice.  Apparently he melds Mexican and Indian influences together in his restaurants – he owns and is overall chef at a restaurant in NYC and in New Orleans and plans/planned to open up one in Nebraska in 2019, but with COVID fall out, and a lack of updating on the website – who knows?)

I would not have purchased a beef steak here, except one of the reviewers stated she/he could heat this up to medium rare.  It was already a bit past medium rare when I opened the box, but I soldiered on.    I realize there are pitfalls translating dishes from a chef’s vision to what can be sent out already cooked, to a bunch of subscribers.  There are things that simply won’t work.  I will note as positives, 1) the steak was extremely tender anyway, and tasty, and 2) they didn’t commit the mortal sin of over salting.  I would have liked a bit more kick to the Mojo de Ajo, but the service has to deal with their audience. Easier to add more yourself than to delete – but I’m more or less reviewing these things as received.

The asparagus was good, but since it is locally asparagus season here, (when I ate this dish) I can’t rate a pre-cooked asparagus stalk as high as a freshly cooked one from my region.  But I see these stalks as serviceable, and definitely better than I’ve had at some establishments.

:Week Three:

Panchit Bihon with Chinese Sausage – Jordan Andino  (And what it says about him, besides being a chef in New York City, and having online cooking tutorials:  “Blending Filipino and south eastern Asian flavors with French and Italian technique, Jordan’s food is not only inspired by his travels, but by his father’s tutelage and grandmother’s soulful cooking.”  I guess that presses all the right buttons for his regular clientele.  $35 per month, $210 for six months.  Each month he provides a recipe – but we don’t know what they are in advance.  No dice on that!)

cook unity, panchit bihon, review

This Filipino dish was quite good, I really enjoyed the morsels of Chinese sausage with the backdrop base of rice vermicelli and veggies.  Nicely seasoned, as well.  This one recommended a microwave re-heating, so I complied – first time I have microwaved any of these meals.  (I prefer not to microwave, but will do so if the recipe insists.)  However not good enough to pursue any teaching courses.

Sweet Potato Curry, with Laotian RIce – Marc Forgione.   Vegetarian.

cook unity, review, sweet potato, curry, rice, vegetarian

This vegetarian dish was rather impressive.  The veggies – bell pepper, onion, zucchini – were all cooked but still retained that tasty nutritive crunch.  This time, the curry sauce was an integral part of the rice – I appreciate this. Seasonings get a chance to cook in and meld.  If one stays the course with Cook Unity, this is a keeper.

Lamb Kebob with Turmeric Hummus – Akhtwar Nawab.

I do want to encourage Cook Unity to provide more and more dishes with lamb.  Hence I ordered two lamb meals this week.

Very disappointed.  The ground lamb that went into their kebob meat had an extremely fatty overtaste, and although the kebobs (2) were large and seasoned well, I could not finish this dish.   I fear for the moussaka dish, “created” by the same chef.  We shall see.  (Since it is in my fridge, we will HAVE to see.)  Note – I have eaten and prepared ground lamb myself before – you can find plenty of examples on this blog – but the Chef Unity contribution was – terrible.   I ended up saving the sweet potatoes – but most of the lamb went into the trash.  Turmeric hummus and the lightly pickled cucumbers were, however great.  But not good enough to order this ever again.    PS, hummus really should be more than a little something tossed into a one-two ounce container, like a regular sauce….

Lamb Moussaka with Eggplant and Cauliflower Bechamel Sauce – Akhtwar Nawab.

After the previous ground lamb dish invented by the previous chef, I was pleasantly surprised to see that this one was indeed very edible.  Not as great as I’d like a moussaka to be, but it was more than serviceable.  This one uses cauliflower instead of potatoes – and you can’t really tell the difference!  There is also coconut milk in the dish (no dairy), probably to help smooth out the cauliflower.  I’d do this one again, on an occasion.  Still doesn’t measure up to a true moussaka but not needing to avoid, either.   And the lamb wasn’t fatty….

Mushroom Crusted Chicken Thighs with Sheet Pan Maitakes, Potatoes, Bok Choy, and a Carrot-Lemongrass Sauce – James Grody.  He teaches cooking at Sur la Table, and has his own company, The Tailored Chef, where he works on creating menus for corporate and other clients.

I was very impressed – the chicken thigh was large and tender, and the mushroom coating was lovely.  Everything had a great flavor.  I think the only flaw was the over-cooked bok choy, but in a pre-prepared dish, such a thing is to be expected.  This recipe specifies oven cooking procedures, but notes that using a microwave is not recommended for this dish.  I’d order it again.

Mediterranean Chicken Thighs, with Sautéed Artichokes, Roasted Peppers, Tomatoes and Crispy Kale – Tony Perez.

This chicken thigh was significantly smaller than the previous chicken thigh.  Not bad, not great, but serviceable.  The artichoke bits were hard to find (but there were some available).  Ditto the roasted peppers.  There was plenty of kale and tomato.  The dressing was good.  Might, or might not, order again, though I really did like the taste of the thigh and the cilantro-heavy dressing.  The tomatoes are cherry tomatoes, which do retain a lot of intrinsic flavor over the hot-house ones that the larger varieties (don’t) have.  PS, they do include feta in this salad.  Oh, if i could, I’d order the dressing by itself!

Cauliflower Shepherd’s Gardener’s Pie – Tony Perez.   Vegan, and renamed “Gardener’s Pie” by yours truly, as no sheep are involved in this dish, and thankfully no faux cheese made with gut-destroying cashews….    They subbed with a Pork Longanisa dish, as perhaps they ran out of the pie?  I’m actually fine with substitutions if they do it if I only have the minimal required FOUR ordered dishes, but since I had these seven this week, they should just leave substituting OFF.

Pork Longanisa Pork and RIce – Jordan Andino.  An apparent substitution for the dish directly above.

I hadn’t had high hopes for the dish, but it turned out really, really good.  Even if the dish used scrambled egg instead of the sunny side up one depicted on the on-site photo.  Totally fine with that (especially since I hadn’t ordered the dish to begin with…)  The rice texture and taste were very good.  Apparently Longanisa is a Filipino sweet and barbequed sausage – I could definitely get behind this.  The spicy sauce that comes with this was outstanding, and gives me hope for further spiciness as any other orders or dishes go forward.  Dish would be even better with a spot of something green, but really – I was satiated when done.

:Week Four:

Bacon, Egg and Kimchi Bowl, with Farro and Arugula – Esther Choi.  Korean adaptation.  Breakfast with veggies! Right up my alley!  (Or, so I thought!)

cook unity, review, Korean, farro, egg, kimchi

It’s sort of okay, or perhaps a fair bit less than that.  A little too much salt, and the farro is too hard.  The arugula tastes rather like one of the lesser subspecies of kale.  The fried egg is fine – just thankful it isn’t one of those “trendy” burnt bottom eggs one sometimes sees nowadays.  As for the kimchi — couldn’t find it!  Don’t recommend you ordering this one, an utter waste of $13.50.

Split Pea with Falafel Bowl, with Golden Tahini, Black Rice, and Aleppo Slaw – Lena Elkousy.  A vegan dish.  I do have to surf through the ingredient lists on some of these dishes to make sure they aren’t using some sort of gut-wrenching cashew cheezoid product.

This was quite good, nearly excellent.  It needs a bit more sauce, however.  Sauces added on at this site tend to “need” to fit into a “standard sized” individual plastic tub.  A shame, as otherwise this recipe really deserves some serious kudos.  It was also extremely filling for one person (which is fine, I can always use leftovers!).  I would order this again.

LA Galbi Rice Bowl – Esther Choi.  Korean.

cook unity, Korean, review, galbi

This recipe was okay, the rice left something texturally to be desired, however.   At least it didn’t swarm with Choi’s typical signature salt.  It really didn’t feel authentic for galbi, however.

Braised Lamb Sabzi, with Cumin Seed Rice – Einot Admony. Yes, I ordered another lamb dish from here.  This lamb was part of the shoulder and not ground.  AND it was a different chef’s recipe.  Alas, cancelled and replaced with the dish below….

Braised Short Rib with Roasted Yucca – Anthony Nichols.  He’s a “private chef” in the New York (city), the Hamptons, Greenwich CT area, and has worked with corporate accounts.

cook unity, short rib, yucca

Have to say, when I first opened the dish, I thought the long whitish strips next to the hunk of meat were short rib bones….   No, that’s the yucca, and unfortunately, the yucca turned out to be… yuck.  The skinniest pieces were edible (but not very good), and the thicker ones were unyielding when I tried to bite through them.  The short rib hunk of meat was tasty, and I loved the sauce.  Although not depicted in the photo, the dish comes with a bunch of chives to sprinkle over after re-heating – which I forgot about until I’d already started eating this meal.  They were fresh, but they didn’t add anything to the dish other than they might have added some color to my photograph…  Overall, not impressed.

There were a few orange-colored bits of root vegetable (no, not carrots) that were tasty, but I can’t figure out what they were.  (Possibly a type of mild radish?)

Roasted Shrimp and Eggplant, with Mint Couscous and Harissa –  Ruben Garcia.

The combination of all the ingredients played well together, and the shrimp was fresh, not remotely rubbery, but tasty. I’d get this one again, certainly!   While I really didn’t taste much mint, and I would have liked to, this was still an excellent entry to this food service.

:Week Five:

Roasted Eggplant Parmesan with Garlicky Broccoli Rabe and Pepper

Have to say the dish presentation looked terrible, but being mailed in these cardboard trays doesn’t really do anything justice (photos on the website are all nicely plated, and probably just-made, rather than shipped).  That’s fine, but this came looking sadder than usual.

Have to say I did like the Eggplant Parm portion very much – good slices of eggplant, and no breading!  I loathe places that serve paper thin slices of eggplant with so much dredging in breading or batter that you cannot begin to taste the eggplant!  The unfortunate thing is that there is so little of this portion of the meal.  The other side of the divide in the container was the broccoli rabe and pepper – sufficient quantity, and rather average.

Butternut Black Bean Chile with Polenta and Avocado Butter – Emily Peck.  This meal is vegan.

A Tex-Mex entry, this one was very tasty and filling.  I’d do it again.  The quantity was sufficient, and I was satiated even with only 530 calories.

Seared Salmon with Yogurt Dill Sauce, Sautéed Squash and Zucchini – Chris Massiah.

OVERALL REVIEW:

Some features: 

Cook Unity provides a place to list your preferences, should you forget to order what you want in time.   That way when they send you something automatically, they won’t send you something you are allergic to.  (Or can’t stand, or that you find objectionable for whatever reason.)

Cooks Unity

The drop-down menu lets you choose among several “special diets”:  Keto, Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian, Whole30.  Or, the No Restrictions that I chose.

Next up you are asked the types of foods you’d most love to eat, and you can see how I selected above.  They also added Beef, Chicken, Kid Friendly (not sure what that last nonsense is, as I grew up eating what the parents ate….), Plant Based (they mean vegan as plants aren’t just the base, but the whole thing), Super Foods, and Turkey as choices.

Foods one would like to avoid consists of an extensive list of items to choose from.  I am avoiding all three tree nuts I know I am now highly sensitive to, as well as hazelnuts – which I despise enough not to want to undergo any remote possibility of the gut-wrenching effects the others now have on me.  I added Beyond Burger and Velveeta due to their “foodoid” potentials, and palm sugar for a few important environmental reasons.

They then ask you some demographic info, which you can simply not answer as you choose.  In fact, you do not need answer any of this section, but if you do have food sensitivities or allergies, downright hatreds, or religious/other reasons, I’d fill in the pertinent sections.  Otherwise, be diligent in coming back often to select your menus for a given week!  Because I think they’ll send you whatever is at hand.(Or, just to skip.)

Not shown here, they then ask you what your goals are with regards to foods.   Pick up to two.  I chose Overall Wellness and Delicious yet Balanced.   This is also the place where you could note Diabetic, if needed.  Or leave this section blank.


Pros:

When super buys, or just not in the mood for whatever reason, you just pull off the outer plastic and cook in the oven.  You also have a microwave option (which I did not utilize except for the one time the dish said an oven was not appropriate).  There may be one or two things, usually sauces to be used at room temp/cold, that you take out prior to cooking.  I did get one salad that needed no further treatment but a fork.  In other words, in a busy life, these dishes may be useful, and they take that old “TV Dinner” I grew up with when the parents went out to dinner without us children, to a far higher level.

There is a variety of cooking styles and seasonings.  Probably to reflect most of the chefs and their cultural backgrounds (although I had never heard of any of these chefs before).  One of the things that got my to try this particular food service  was NOT the chefs – but the multicultural foodie potential.  I do think there’s an extreme at the moment in glorifying chefs – but it does balance out the attitude a generation back or so, where chefs as a creative or explanatory force were under-rated, minus Julia Child, of course.

I also admit I tried this one for the pre-prepared feature.  Hello Fresh was beginning to annoy me, having to make their recipes just the way they wanted to make them.  (I felt largely obligated as a reviewer to do just that – minus any ingredients that could rip my gut out, of course.)

Cons:

The essential problem with pre-cooked foods that are then shipped to you is that some of the foods will necessarily degrade.  There’s really no way around this, so accept it if you sign up for a service of this nature.  The corollary to this is that some of the foods will arrive over-cooked if you prefer more crunchy/more rare items. They do try, and there are some uncooked salads as well.

Some of the recipes are dialed down, seasoning-wise.  I figure many would consider this a positive, but for the rest of us, it should be noted.  Don’t be afraid to raid your spice cabinet for a few dishes,  I didn’t do so simply for the purposes of food review, but if I do keep this service on my back burner, I will certainly do so.  (After writing the above, I did end up with recipes which are fully seasoned, especially using the often-enclosed sauces or dressings.)   Not all, but enough.

Maybe I was doing it wrong (quite possible) but when I discovered that a vegetarian item I’d selected was really vegan and made with cashew “cheeze”, to which I am painfully (as in gut-wrenchingly) sensitive, when I went back in to the list of meals to delete that and add a different meal, the site deleted them all and I had to order everything else over again.  Annoying and this should be avoidable.  (I am not blaming them for my not reading the ingredient list prior to ordering, but for having a customer making a change for whatever reason was so entirely unnecessarily irritating.)

Costs:  Not sure if prices are location-dependent (shipping and all) but my meals cost $13.50 apiece.  This is not cost effective overall, but can be useful for those who for whatever reason can’t cook, or are too busy to cook.  Many (not all) of the meals will indeed cost more if ordered out at a restaurant – but cost-wise, best to cook your own food.  I will note that when they had to substitute a meal for something I HAD ordered, they didn’t charge me for that meal.  For which I won’t complain a second more about the above substitutions!

In comparison to Hello Fresh:  the cost at Hello Fresh was less per meal – but they packed two meals together in the same package (I am fine with that in the decreased wastage department), and you need to cook that yourself.  Also, for some of Hello Fresh’s dishes, they add in a surcharge due to certain ingredients, which elevates that meal considerably, pricewise.  Cook Unity doesn’t do that.

There are more recyclable items in the Cook Unity boxes than in the Hello Fresh contributions.  Here, the plastic film is of course not recyclable, nor are the bags housing the ice packs.  (THEORETICALLY the stuff inside current ice packs can go down the drain, and is labeled “non toxic”,  BUT is also labeled “Keep out of the reach of children” – okay, just WHICH is it???)

Will I check out a third food delivery service?   Not in any rush.  Maybe this spring or so.  Maybe.  If I do, i have my eye on one that supplies organics and / or pastured meats exclusively, and that sells both pre-made meals as well as meals you cook yourself; you can pick either plan.  I’m considering Sunbasket.

All in the service of this blog, of course!

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