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Making the Most of Leftovers: Easy Pickled Vegetables

Pickled veggies displayed prior to consumption.

Pickled veggies displayed prior to consumption.

Given that I’m not a morning person, I usually prepare the day’s lunches the night before. Tonight I was making Thai spring rolls, and had some sliced green peppers left over. And given that I have a waste not, want not philosophy when it comes to food, you know I had to use them up somehow. So I made some pickled vegetables!

Want to make some too? They’re the work of a few minutes only!

Easy Pickled Vegetables

  • 3 small carrots, sliced thinly
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 1/2 green pepper, cut in thin strips length-wise
  • pinch mustard powder
  • 1 c. water
  • 1/2 c. white vinegear
  • 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
  • pinch black pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pinch of hot pepper flakes

Mix vinegars, water, and all spices (so everything but the veggies) in a bowl and heat in the microwave for 3 minutes. The pickling brine should be nice and hot when you pour it over the chopped vegetables in a large bowl. Make sure to press down the veggies so that they all get bathed in the brine; I stirred and pressed down gently with a potato masher, repeatedly for about 5 minutes. Then I scooped the veggies into sterilized jars, making sure to top up with brine to cover all the veggies in the jar. Let them sit for at least overnight. And then voila — condiment time!

Stirring the veggies with the pickling juice.

Stirring the veggies with the pickling juice.

I used these quantities and ended up with just the right amount to fill three half pint jars. Given that I fully expect to eat these pickled veggies within a few weeks, I only sterilized the jars in the microwave. I’ll keep the jars in the fridge until used, but had I done a quick water bath, they would be properly canned and could stay on my cupboard shelves for several months. But they’re too tasty to last that long!

Now, what shall I use these pickled recipes on? I shall probably use it as a topping for veggie burgers, sandwiches, and salads. I’ve used previous batches on pizza, which was surprisingly delicious with crumbled feta. Mmm…now I want to eat! Maybe I’ll just eat one of the Thai spring rolls that I had leftover from tomorrow’s lunch prep. Yes, that’s what I’ll do!

Next Post: Cherry Pie, a la Francais! Followed by homemade copycat oreos. Chocolate-dipped copycat oreos. So. Good!

Post-Pub Edit: Do link-ups work? Bloggers say that they increase blog traffic, and hey, I’m all for that! So this is now my contribution to Christy Jordan’s latest link-up.

Memories of Meals Past: Homemade Soft Pretzels

Pretzels! Nummy, nummy pretzels!

Pretzels! Nummy, nummy pretzels!

Every now and then some recipe comes across my facebook feed that I really want try. In this case, it was a post by The Artful Parent that talked about the soft pretzels that she made with her daughter. They used Alton Brown’s pretzel recipe and raved about it so much that I had to try it myself. So I did!

I’m calling it a Memory of Meals Past post, as I’m posting it on a Thursday, and it’s not an original recipe from me, nor a bake-a-long recipe. Not strictly a Memory of Meals Past, given that I made it today, but…hey, it’s a Thursday, and I’m linking to a recipe as opposed to writing up a new one, so good enough!

The traditional brown colour of the baked pretzel is achieved by doing a number of things: once the dough is made and you’ve twisted it into a pretzel shape, you boil the unbaked pretzels in a baking soda and water bath for half a minute. Then you place them on a baking sheet and brush them with an egg yolk and water mixture, then bake until they’ve achieved that deep golden brown colour.

Baking soda bath!

Baking soda bath!

The baking soda and water bath sort of blanches the dough, if you will, so that when it bakes up, the outer (blanched) crust has to crack to let the dough expand. This creates those cracks in the deep brown texture that you often see in the professionally made pretzels.

How many whisks up would I give this recipe? Three and a half. Maaaaybe four. (I’m a tough critic, I think. Especially given that I’m criticizing a recipe from that famous, professional chef, Alton Brown! But I promised myself when I started this blog, that I’d always be honest, so this is what I truly think. Even if I’m wrong.)

Here’s why:

  • I had to add at least half a cup of water to the dough in order to get it to be as pliable as Alton says it should be.
  • Also, the baking soda bath should have been longer that the recommended 30 seconds, in order to get those traditional and professional-style cracks that I mentioned above.
Post boiling, and pre baking.

Post boiling, and pre baking.

What I did wrong and what I’ll change next time:

  • I admit it, I under-baked the dough by 2-4 minutes, according to Alton’s recipe. I generally under-bake, because I find most recipes call for a crustier whatever-it-is than I like. In this case, I probably should have at least baked the pretzels for 12 minutes as opposed to 10. Mea culpa!
  • Next time I make this recipe, I plan to boil the pretzels for at LEAST a minute, to see if that makes any difference to the crust. Will it make it browner? Or just more crack-y? (What? It’s a word!)
  • I’ll also use official pretzel salt. I only used standard size sea salt this time, and I think pretzel salt would definitely add a nice bit of texture.

The recipe makes for an easy and tasty dough, but if you make it, I recommend making the changes I outlined above. Or don’t, and let me know whether it was just me! I’ve packed some for the DH and I for lunches tomorrow. Now to figure out some delicious dipping sauces! Hmm…any ideas?

Next Post: Probably a salad post. Because IBS.

Kiwi-Mango Vanilla Pannacotta & Stomachaches ‘R’ Us

Kiwi, Mango, and Vanilla Bean Pannacotta

Kiwi, Mango, and Vanilla Bean Pannacotta

This week my bake-a-long group is making Mango Vanilla Pannacotta, from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi cookbook. For a few days before I made it and wrote this post, I was trying to think of a ‘hook’ for the post, something to make it funny, or tell a bit of a story, but nothing came to mind, and the recipe went (relatively) smoothly. Dorie writes delicious recipes, and this one is no exception. (I think. I didn’t actually eat it myself. But I’ll get to that in a moment!)

I think the only unique thing about this post (besides the fact that the mango I saved for the recipe went bad and I had to replace most of it with the only other tropical fruit in my fruit bowl, kiwis), is that this post is a day late. Possibly even two days late, by the time I finish writing it up. I’ve mentioned before that I have IBS and I had another lovely episode at work yesterday, so I came home all trembly and weak, ignored the dishes on the counter that were looking at me reproachfully, and lay down on the sofa with a blanket, a pillow, and Netflix. I didn’t move until the wee hours of the morning when I flopped myself into bed.

I felt better today, but the nasty, horrible IBS symptoms came back at work again. (Probably means I haven’t been sticking to my lettuce-for-lunch-five-days-a-week diet recently. Yay, lettuce.)

However…I persevered! Pain or no pain, I was going to make the pannacotta after work! Even if I couldn’t eat it myself. The pannacotta contains gelatin, and being a vegetarian, I gave eating this one a miss, and passed it on to the DH. I knew he would appreciate my sacrifice. My delicious, tasty, sacrifice.

Shot o' pannacotta! (playing around with presentation)

Shot o’ pannacotta! (playing around with presentation)

The recipe itself is pretty easy to make. Just make the fruit puree and spoon it into some pretty glasses. Boil up the cream/milk with a vanilla bean, add in the gelatin, let cool, and pour over the chilled fruit puree. Let sit in the fridge until set. Serve! Easy, yes? Even with a stomachache I could manage it.

The DH thoroughly enjoyed the pannacotta, and I will say, the puree itself was delish! I’d love to try making this recipe with some agar agar, or another vegetarian gelatin alternative. I wonder if any of the other bloggers did? Want to see what everyone else made? Check it out here!

Next Post: Something that won’t make my stomach hurt. Maybe time for another Salads I Have Known and Loved post!

Baby, It’s Hot Outside: Double Layer Ice Cream Brownie Bars

Cut and plated and ready to be devoured!

Cut and plated and ready to be devoured!

Last weekend, there was a bit of a heat wave in Toronto, and temperatures hit the 40’s (Celsius) with the humidex. When you stepped outside, you were hit with a wall of humid heat, and you progressively wilted the longer you were outside. I was running errands and luckily remembered to pack that old-fashioned thing, a handkerchief, with which I mopped my face until I could practically wring out the fabric.

In case I haven’t mentioned it before, let me clear something up for you: I am not a super-duper heat lover. What I do love, however (aside from chocolate. Or snacking at midnight. Or, you know, the DH) is…my A/C. I come home on those horribly humid and sweaty hot days and stand in front of the vent pumping out that lovely, icy, air-conditioned air. I’ve also been known to walk to work and then promptly stick my head in the staff room freezer when I arrive, just to try and cool off a bit before starting the day. (A walk-in fridge would come in handy!)

All of which is a preface my latest Memories of Meals Past post, which is Double Layer Ice Cream Brownie Bars! A/C is all well and good (and oh boy, it’s soooo good!) but sometimes you have to regulate your temperature from the inside out! Also, brownies. And ice cream.

Layer it up!

Layer it up!

I’ve been seeing a lot of ice cream recipe posts on pinterest and twitter lately, and they inspired me to make my own dish! I started with a brownie based layer (this one, if I remember correctly, although I added in chopped walnuts), baked in a parchment paper lined springform pan. Once cooled, I spread a layer of softened mint chocolate chip ice cream on it and stuck it back in the freezer. While that was setting/refreezing, I mixed up a half-batch of homemade vanilla ice cream, using this recipe. I spread that over the top of the now set mint chocolate chip ice cream layer, and stuck it back in the freezer for several hours. And voila, Ice Cream Brownie Bars!

What’s great about this recipe is that it’s SO flexible! Choose any ice cream flavour you like! I think the brownie base, with a strawberry ice cream layer, topped with the homemade vanilla ice cream, would be just fabulous — a Neopolitan ice cream bar! Mix up your own ice cream brownie bar (it’s SO easy!) and impress your friends, families, and those ever-important taste buds. Summer has arrived!

Next Post: Parisian Pannacotta, or my Twisted Spinach & Feta Pie. Or maybe something else, depending on what I’m craving!  

Nutella Rice Krispie Squares — Kid-riffic! Also great for your neighbourhood chocoholic.

Chocolate-y, chewy squares of yum!

Chocolate-y, chewy squares of yum!

A number of weeks ago, my on-line bake-a-long group made a recipe involving Nutella. While the recipe only called for a small amount of Nutella, I, being the chocoholic that I am, managed to eat the rest myself. And promptly bought another jar. I couldn’t eat the entire second jar by myself, so I used up some of it to make Nutella Rice Krispie Squares!

If you have kids, they’ll love this! Or if you’re a chocolate-lover, you’ll love this. Even the DH loved this, and he doesn’t even like chocolate. In other words, they’re tasty!

Basically, they’re just Rice Krispies squares with Nutella stirred in. Easy, yes? But if you want a more specific recipe, here it is:

Nutella Rice Krispies Squares

  • 6 c. Rice Krispies cereal (I’m sure the generic version would work just as well)
  • 1 smaller pkg. marshmallows (if you’re veg, get the gelatin-free kind)
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 3/4 c. Nutella, essence of the chocolate gods
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Melt butter and marshmellows in a pan over medium heat. Stir in Nutella until mixed, then remove from heat. Fold in the vanilla extract. Stir in the Rice Krispies cereal until thoroughly mixed. Pat the mixture into a  buttered lasagna pan. Chill in fridge. Cut into squares and devour.

Pro Tip: Butter your hands before patting the mixture into the pan for cooling. This helps you spread it evenly, and prevents it from sticking to your hands!

Variations: I imagine that you could try this with other cereals. Or you could mix in some peanut butter for a peanut butter cup-style treat. Or drizzle melted chocolate on top. Or…well, you tell me! What’s your favourite mix-in?

I made a batch of these and they were so tasty that they disappeared within a few days. So I made another batch! I mean, I AM a chocoholic!

Cocoa-riffic! So tasty! And dairy-free too (except for the yummy, yummy Smarties).

Cocoa-riffic! So tasty! And dairy-free too (except for the yummy, yummy Smarties).

In case you doubt my chocoholic status, let me present exhibit A: my sister made me a birthday cake recently. Chocolate cake, with chocolate icing, covered with chocolates. A favourite from my childhood that tastes just as good as an adult.

Brunch? Don't mind if I do!

Brunch? Don’t mind if I do!

Not convinced yet? Check out exhibit B: amongst other things, the DH gave me chocolate for my birthday, 5 bars of it. Plus a bag of snack size bars. Plus a giant Toblerone bar. Plus a ‘rose’ made of Lindor chocolates. Plus a bag of Lindor chocolates. He knows me well, my boy! 🙂

So yes, I do love my chocolate. 🙂

Next Post: Strawberry Pannacotta — a fancy, easy dessert to impress non-veg guests.