Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Palak Paneer

3 words: salty cheese balls.

See, now you want them too.

I know you’re fighting the desire to sing Chef’s ‘Suck on my chocolate salty balls’ from South Park, but the salty cheese bites in this recipe are sooo, so good.

If you can’t locate palak (the Indian squeaky cheese), you can substitute with halloumi (which we did because we had it leftover from the other night).   If you do cook with the halloumi, don’t fry it long.  Unlike paneer, halloumi does melt in high heat (though not as much as mozzarella), so you just have to get the outside melted a bit to get the flavour. If you can’t locate either cheese, or want to make this dairy free, use extra firm tofu, but add a 1/4 tsp of salt when adding the other spices.

I didn’t take a picture of this one, because lets face it, mulched spinach with white chunks won’t look pretty no matter which way you serve it.


1 inch cube of fresh ginger, grated
1 cup cubed paneer, halloumi or tofu.
1/4 tsp garam masala
2 pinches cayenne pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
2 pkgs frozen spinach (thawed) or 1 1/2 lbs fresh (will need to add 1/4 cup water)
1/2 cup cream or half and half


1.  Heat oil in a pan.  Add tofu or paneer and fry until golden.  If using halloumi, add to hot pan and toss until outside is softened.   Sprinkle with garam masala and 1 pinch of cayenne.  Set aside.
2.  Fry spinach with ginger, garlic and pinch of cayenne for about a minute.  Add cream and continue cooking.  If mixture gets too thick, you can add a bit of water to make it a little more sauce-like.   Heat on low for 10 minutes for the flavours to blend.
3.  Add paneer and serve over rice or with naan.

*(recipe calls for up to 6 cloves…I used 6 and didn’t taste it, but my garlic detector could be dead). 

The original recipe includes directions to make paneer yourself, but I’m a long, long way from feeling the need to make my own cheese…but come the time that I start milking my own cows and grocery stores evaporate from the face of the planet, I’m set.

Toughest Critic Rating: 8.63

Toughest Critic is enjoying his rating duties way too much. 

Toughest Critic served me some sort of store bought angel food cake wannabe foam rubber thing (maybe it’s the dog’s chew toy?) for dessert today….am considering revoking Toughest Critic status until I question his tastebuds.

Tofu Fried Rice

This has been my go-to rice dish for quite some time now.  Originally it was from my copy of Help! My Apartment Has A Kitchen, but I’ve long since stopped using the book.   I was going to make home made spring rolls to go with it, but lets face it, I’m lazy, so I’ll save those for another day.  The Costco ones are a great accompaniment.  I’m sure Martha just serves those anyway.


For the record, fried rice is not the least bit photogenic.  Least it could do is smile.

Again, if you’re one of those ‘think ahead’ people, you could marinade the tofu in some soya sauce to give it some flavour.


3 eggs
1 pkg extra firm tofu
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped mushrooms (I like to use shitake and cremini)
1 cup frozen peas (or you could use one of those frozen pea/carrot combo bags)
3 cups rice
1/4 cup soya sauce
1 tsp ginger (optional)


1.  Scramble the eggs until the yolk is fully cooked, set aside.
2.  Fry onion until soft, and mushrooms and cook until slightly brown.
3.  Add rice, peas, tofu soya sauce, garlic and ginger (if using) and stir until well mixed and rice is evenly coated. Cook until tofu and peas are fully heated.
4.  Mix in egg.  Serve.

This freezes well and makes great low fat lunches.

No Toughest Critic Rating….he’s stuck eating this anyway.

Greek Rice Pilaf

So I tried making a single meal portion of rice in my rice cooker and ended up with something that was a cross between soup and rice pudding, soo in order to avert any future epic fails, I’m collected recipes that use pre-cooked rice, so I can start getting rid of the containers full in the freezer.

Throw in some marinated chicken to make this a non-vegetarian meal…omit the tofu.


If you’re really planning ahead, which I’m incapable of, marinade the tofu overnight in a lemon, dijon and olive oil mixture to give it some flavour.


1 onion, chopped
3 cups cooked rice
1 pkg extra firm tofu, cubed 
1/4 cup water or broth
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 cup frozen peas
2 cups canned artichoke hearts, drained and quartered (can use the marinated ones for more flavour)
2 tsp dried oregano (or 1 tsp minced fresh if available)
1 tbsp minced fresh parsley
salt and pepper
3/4 cup pitted sliced kalamata olives
3/4 cup feta cheese


1.  Fry the tofu until lightly browned and set aside. 
2.  Fry the onion until soft and translucent.  Add the garlic, rice, water and lemon juice.  Stir until rice is coated with the liquid.  
3.  Reduce heat and stir in the peas, artichoke hearts, tofu, oregano, salt and pepper. 
4.  Crumble feta cheese on top when peas are cooked and pilaf is ready to serve.  

Leftovers are really good rolled in a pita.

Toughest Critic Rating:  8.2

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Three Cheese Baked Penne

This is one of those dinners that's so good that you really question brushing your teeth afterward because you want to keep that taste in your mouth....I said question...


If you're a meat eater (like me) and eat tuna (not me), then it might make a good addition to the the dish for those 'I can't eat a dinner without smeat' people.


6 cups dried penne (you could also use macaroni)
1 500g pkg of marscarpone cheese.
2 tbsp dijon mustard
250g grated fontina cheese (I grated a 1" wedges worth...not sure what it actually yielded)
1/2 cup grated romano cheese
salt and pepper to taste


1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add penne and cook to desired tenderness.
2. Drain water and return to pot.
3. Heat the marscarpone until melted in a microwave safe dish.  Pour over pasta.
4. Add mustard, grated fontina, garlic, salt and pepper and 1/4 cup of the romano cheese.  Mix well.
5. Transfer mix to an oven safe dish and sprinkle with the remaining romano.
6. Preheat oven to 400F, and cook for 25-30 until cheese starts to brown on top and the rest is bubbling.

I made a penne dinner (with a homemade Alfredo gruyere sauce) the night before and assembled the dish from the extra noodles so it was ready for oven cooking today.  It keeps well overnight in the fridge as it helps the garlic fully penetrate the cheese...and we all know I love me some garlic.

This recipe is based on the one from this book:  Easy Vegetarian.

Toughest Critic Rating: 9.6  (with a few implied gold stars - insert happy clap).

On an unexpected note, Toughest Critic and I were sitting down for dinner when we looked out the window and saw a new neighbor:


Thought for a second I stumbled into a Jack Hanna special.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Well, they can't all be winners.

So, last night was one of those meals where you really wonder 'why do I bother?'.  I was trying a recipe for fried udon noodles from one of my new 30-minute cookbooks and took a left turn somewhere past edible and into 'there's so much salt I could preserve dead bodies' land.

Sure, my first sign should have been when I spilled the tahini jar and ended up with sesame goo all down my arm and all over the counter (a texture I should add that reminds me so much of that troll bogey scene from Harry Potter).  So instead of spending my afternoon trying to manhandle the tahini, I opted for white miso.....yeah..not the best of ideas.  But Toughest Critic put on his brave face when he went for the gallon of water and loaf of bread instead of the zantac right away. 

Since I won't be posting the recipe (unless you do plan on preserving dead bodies - though I'm not sure what that says about my readership), I'll post the picture:

Gross Concoction

Chocolate Tart

This recipe is dairy-free, gluten free and egg free (but thankfully not taste free!).  It was originally taken from the book Clean Food, but somehow made twice as much crust as I thought was edible...unless you have a thing for crust.  This is my altered version, because the cake needed a little 'somethin' somethin'.



1 cup pecans
1/2 cup white rice flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 1/2 tbsp canola oil
2 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
pinch of salt


2 300g pkgs silken tofu
1/2 cup cashew butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 tbsp sugar


1.  Preheat oven to 350F.
2.  In a food processor, combine pecans, flour, cocoa and salt.  Process until smooth and crumb-like.
3.  Add oil and syrup and blend until fully combined.
4.  Place mixture in a 7inch spring-form tart pan and press until even.
5.  Pierce crust with a fork and bake until browned, about 15 minutes. Let cool.

1.  Using a stand mixer, whip tofu until creamy. 
2.  Add cashew butter, syrup and sugar, and blend until fully combined.
3.  Using a double boiler, melt chocolate until smooth, and combine with other ingredients.
4.  Pour chocolate mixture over top of the crust, and smooth with a spatula.
5.  Chill for at least 30 minutes before eating.

If you can, find a friend that makes FANTASTIC vanilla bean rice cream to serve with it.  Makes for a REALLY tasty vegan treat.   And just a note about plating, while Nesquick may have seemed like a wise idea to embellish the plate, it's really not....I mean, unless you're a fan of bitter, runny goo (in which case, you might also like the double crust thing too).

Toughest Critic Rating: 8.7

Saturday, July 3, 2010

This is NOT my first post.

So, welcome.   This is the blog I've been procrastinating, the new leaf, if you will.  My new 'raison d'ĂȘtre' if we're flashing around cheesy catchphrases.

The point being that I've been on this 'healthy grown up lifestyle' kick for going on 6 months now, and while it looked great in the brochure, I'm slowly falling back into that lifestyle of grilled cheese and eggs every other night of the week.  I need something to motivate me, something to keep me inspired, and mostly, somewhere to contain my sarcasm so it doesn't eek into other areas of my life.

Solution: The Questionable Domestique.

A tilt of the hat to my not-so-french roots, sure, but it was unanimously voted on by Toughest Critic (TC) who giggled at the double entendre of cycling reference and my lack of any domestic skill whatsoever.  Though for the record, I'd probably make a better Popovich than housemaid.

Toughest Critic is my husband:  vegetarian picky eater, co-decorator and helper extraordinaire. 

I hope (because we're going for poignancy with this intro) that I'll keep you enticed with good vegetarian food, fun crafting, interesting links, and other juicy tidbits...even if 'you' is just 'mom' and are here 'only because I was reminded'.  :)

Spinach and Halloumi Galette

Halloumi is a cheese Toughest Critic and I fell in love with while honeymooning in New Zealand. If it's not readily available, you can substitute with mozzarella.



1 pkg frozen spinach
1 pkg puff pastry dough
1 cup grated halloumi
1/2 cup feta cheese
2 tbps fresh oregano, minced
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk or cream
salt and pepper


1. Preheat oven to 415F.
2. Thaw spinach and press in sieve to remove excess liquid.
3. Roll out puff pastry to 1/4 inch thickness, remembering to dust lightly with flour to keep from sticking. Place on baking sheet.
4. Sprinkle spinach, feta and halloumi onto pastry leaving a 1.5 inch border on all sides.
5. Cut a slit into each corner of the puff pastry and fold the sides up around the filling. Use a bit of water to get the corners to stick.
6. In a bowl, mix eggs, oregano, milk and garlic together until well blended. Using a basting brush, brush a small bit of the mixture around the edges of the puff pastry, then pour the remaining mixture over top of the cheese filling.
7. Bake in oven for 30-40 minutes. Keep an eye on it. When pastry and cheese filling starts to brown, the galette is done.

Toughest critic rating: 9/10

* I put in 3 cloves of garlic into this recipe, but I've been told I like my food garlicky enough to banish vampires from the planet with my very breath, so we'll just leave it as 'to taste'.

The awesome thing about puff pastry dinners is that they look so gourmet and require minimal effort. If rolling the pastry is too much, you can buy the pre-rolled pie crusts and use that without even touching a rolling pin. You can also make individual ones if you're going for that super fancy 'I watch lots of foodtv' look. Don't forget to garnish the plate with a sprig of oregano and a line of balsamic glaze...or at least that's what Martha would say.