My Veg Table Posts

okra-myvegtable
Red and green okra fresh from the market.

Slimy: the first word that always came to mind when I thought about okra. My relationship with that funky pod is a fairly new one. I used to think you could only eat okra fried or use it in gumbo. The fried are tasty–but often greasy–and after one bad gumbo experience, that slime memory was all that I needed to cross okra off my list. Except for the occasional piece of fried okra that my mom will put on my plate at Cracker Barrel, this stuff was never on my radar. It took one meal to change my mind…

Inspiration

blueberries-myvegtable
14 CUPS of blueberries–methinks I’ve gone too far…

Ok, so maybe a bunch of blueberries: maybe even a truckload. Since it pretty much feels like varying degrees of summer all year ’round in Florida, I rely on produce to tell me when summer has officially arrived: corn, cherries, melons, and stone fruit are in abundance. Best of all, it’s finally time when organic berries don’t cost an arm and a leg for a half-pint. Florida’s strawberry season comes sometime between December and February, but summer is when blackberries, raspberries and blueberries come into their own here. Last month, I found an entire pint of blueberries for $3.99…I bought two. I should have bought four. I went back to Publix a couple of weeks after and they were $3.00…I bought six. Six pints of blueberries; that’s about 14 cups! I laughed as they practically filled an entire shelf in my fridge. I was feeling so ambitious, I didn’t want to freeze a single one. And so the baking commenced!

Inspiration Tidbits

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Almond bath: the only two ingredients you need to make your own almond milk.

Paleo, vegan, lactose-intolerant, allergies: whatever your reason for dumping dairy, it will inevitably leave a nagging void in the milk department. Although nut milks seem to reign as the “other” milk of choice, those with nut allergies can rejoice as there are hempseed, rice, soy, coconut, and oat milks all trying to make their mark. They each have their own unique flavor; choosing one is a matter of taste and nutritional restrictions. Of the lot, almond milk is the go-to staple in my house.

The first time I saw an article about homemade nut milks, it was in a Martha Stewart Living magazine. Of course she makes her own nut milks: it’s such a Martha thing to do. I filed that one under “someday” in my mental file–like sooo many other things. As time passed, I started seeing it more and more on blogs and Facebook posts. I would have never thought I had the time to make homemade milk, but it turns out that soaking time aside, it took less than 10 minutes…10 MINUTES! I only needed four things to make my first batch: almonds, water, a blender and a nut-milk bag. This was so simple; it made me wonder why I didn’t Martha it up sooner.

Inspiration

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Our hotel for the week: Le Chateau Frontenac.

Ah, Quebec City…land of poutine, cheese curds and maple. We visited QC for a week during Spring Break for some snow, some culture–it was my son’s first trip out of the country–and, of course, for some food. Eating our way through Quebec City was, by far, the biggest culinary challenge to date; this town wasn’t exactly a vegetarian’s paradise. The Québécoise fare with a blend of French and Canadian cuisine was big on game; meat and seafood dominated nearly every menu we perused. With so many of the menus in this town being in French, learning enough of the language to translate them proved to be the most important thing I did to prep for this trip. In French, everything sounds amazing: even lapin–rabbit, wapiti–elk, cerf–venison, canard–duck; if I hadn’t focused so much of my time learning foods in Francais, who knows what would have landed on my plate! After much research, in the midst of all the carnage, we managed to find several spots that really made it count.

Travel

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My grown-up egg sandwich…

Oh, the simple egg. Used in just about everything, savory or sweet, it is the most versatile food on the planet–and one of those few things I don’t think I could live without! Back in my quiche post, we talked about the importance of a good egg; good quality will make all the difference in your dish! Topics on the Table today are the three ways I love eggs: fried, soft-boiled and hard-boiled. Let’s break them into sections–I just can’t resist a good pun!

Inspiration

zucchini-bread-myvegtable

Today is National Zucchini Bread Day! It is a great excuse to discuss my least favorite vegetable–which is technically a fruit: zucchini. I’m not exactly sure who designates these national food holidays, but given the fact that summer squash is starting to pop up everywhere, it makes perfect sense why today’s feature would highlight a way to use up the overabundance of zucchini that we will be seeing in the upcoming months.

Why don’t I like zucchini? Well, in a word, it’s bland. When it is cooked, its texture is nothing short of mush. Despite its lackluster qualities and the fact that few chefs do it justice, it’s amazing to me that zucchini has been crowned king of the token ingredients used in vegetarian dishes on soo many menus. Blah

I have big plans for zucchini; I want to find more ways to make it palatable, maybe even cravable. Despite my gripes, I need to give zucchini the proper credit: it is one of the most versatile ingredients. This squash can be eaten raw, roasted, fried, or grilled; it can be baked into breads and muffins; it can even be pureed into a soup. My favorite zucchini recipes cover the gamut from savory to sweet.

Inspiration

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The maple candies on our pillow…

Or, more accurately, a boatload of maple… Like most folks, we use our fair share of maple syrup on breakfasty things like waffles, pancakes, and French toast; I also love to use it in muffins and cupcakes and icings. On a savory note, I remember when my mom used to make chicken dipped in maple syrup and coated in crushed pecans. I even go so far as to whisk this stuff into my homemade maple mustard vinaigrette. I knew maple syrup was versatile; I had no idea how versatile until our recent trip to Quebec City.

Tidbits Travel

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Our apple booty: (from left to right: Gala, Honeycrisp, Gala).

I know what you’re thinking; you don’t even have to say it: “Breakfast again?!” It is said to “write what you know,” and I know breakfast foods–oddly enough, I rarely eat them in the morning. So much so, that when my son was younger, I made eggs for breakfast one morning; he promptly told me, “Mommy, eggs are for dinner, NOT breakfast!” This isn’t a post about breakfast per se; it is about apples–and lots of them.

Inspiration Travel

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Red-leaf beets I found at the Saturday Morning Market.

Do you ever receive or share cooking tips with the cashier at your grocery store? It happens to me often. I have been given tips about how to ripen avocados–put them in a paper bag with an apple; how to grill a whole Brussels sprout stalk–just oil it up and throw it on; and many recommendations from cashiers on their favorite supermarket items. I’ve shared many tips as well and the most recent topic was beets. Beets seem to be one of those all or nothing kind of foods: people either love ’em or they hate ’em—it may just be their uniqueness that turns people away. If you are of the latter group, humor me as I attempt to sway your opinion of my favorite vegetable on the planet.

Inspiration

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My February 14th day surprise…

My husband, Ed, and I are not your typical schmoopy Valentine’s Day couple: no candlelit dinner with roses and wine, no balloons and definitely no stuffed animals. There’s really no acknowledgement of this commercial holiday except a “Happy February 14th” to one another and take-out for dinner. Why wait until this one day of the year to celebrate with the obligatory masses when we could celebrate any other day? On any given day–no occasion needed–he may bring me a special treat: Vosges chocolates or cookies from Alessi Bakery are especially exciting.  If it’s a really special day, he might bring me my favorite–a croissant. I wrote this piece unbeknownst to Ed, and this morning, I awoke to freshly squeezed orange juice, a cafe au lait, and a package of warm croissants, brioche and a scone from my favorite bakery. Apparently, I spoke too soon. Is this his way of breaking our non-Valentine’s tradition? Or is he just teaching our son, Everett, the ins and outs of this lovey holiday?

Making it count