Special Dish for the Week: Mushroom Risotto & Citrus Winter Greens Dinner

For this instalment in my birthday month celebrations, joined by two good friends who bring wine, dessert, and home baked nutritious cookies—my favourite types of gifts: edible!—I serve a menu chez Maggie, where we celebrate for every occasion, comprised of 3 courses and paired with beverages of choice, featuring as the main course (le plat principal):

Mushroom Risotto & Citrus Winter Greens Dinner

Risotto & Citrus Greens Dinner Menu

Risotto & Citrus Greens Dinner Menu

Grilled Peppers and Zucchini Hors d'Oeuvres

Grilled Peppers and Zucchini Hors d’Oeuvres

We begin with a toast of Australian Cabernet Sauvignon red wine to our health and to celebrate my birthday month occasion. The aperitif accompanies the tender and sweet grilled peppers and zucchini medallions topped with feta mixed olive tapenade—one of the last remnants of the gift basket I won as top fundraiser last August while Kayaking to Inspire Health. The vegetables are grilled in the oven with olive oil, garlic and a red Thai chili pepper.

Grilled Peppers and Zucchini Hors d'Oeuvres Ingredients

Grilled Peppers and Zucchini Hors d’Oeuvres Ingredients

Mushroom Risotto & Citrus Winter Greens Dinner

Mushroom Risotto & Citrus Winter Greens Dinner

Fresh Oysters Steamed in a Turkey Roaster

Fresh Oysters Steamed in a Turkey Roaster

For a delightful chef’s special surprise, one of my dinner companions delivers gigantic oysters freshly harvested on one of the Pacific Gulf Islands that very day. We steam the tantalising beasts in a little bit of water for 10 minutes at 400F in the oven in my large turkey roaster as a makeshift oyster steamer.

Served with lime juice, the oysters are a mouthwatering, fun dinner activity and treat.

Fresh Steamed Oysters with Lime

Fresh Steamed Oysters with Lime

Winter Greens with Roasted Citrus Vinaigrette

Winter Greens with Roasted Citrus Vinaigrette

For le plat principal, I heat up the previously prepared Ancient Grain Mushroom Risotto, and prepare afresh the Winter Greens with Roasted Citrus Vinaigrette.

As usual, I “Maggify” the recipe a little by spicing it up with red Thai chili peppers and garlic, and sweeten it while adding more sulfur rich nutrients within the sautéed onions.

The result is highly impressive, never having tried this recipe before, taking a culinary risk that is enjoyed by our little dinner party.

Colour Bursting Roasted Lemon and Mandarines

Colour Bursting Roasted Lemon and Mandarines

The vinaigrette ingredients of the Winter Greens with Roasted Citrus Vinaigrette include:

  • lemon and 3-4 mandarines, cut in half and oven roasted
  • garlic, minced
  • red Thai chili pepper
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and black pepper, to taste

I mix the roasted pulp of the citrus with the remaining vinaigrette ingredients using my handheld smoothie blender. I slice up the lemon rind for an added sweet-and-sour touch to the stir fried winter greens.

Winter Greens with Roasted Citrus Vinaigrette Ingredients

Winter Greens with Roasted Citrus Vinaigrette Ingredients

The veggie winter greens ingredients include:

  • olive oil, for sautéeing the onions and winter greens
  • onion, sliced
  • purple kale, shredded and ribs saved for another dish
  • 1/2 or 1 medium radicchio, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2-3 Belgian endives, halved and thinly sliced
  • cilantro for garnish
  • black sesame seeds for garnish

I marinade the shredded kale in some of the vinaigrette prior to lightly wilting it in my skillet while I sautée the onions. I combine the remaining roasted citrus vinaigrette, warmed kale, sautéed onions, radicchio and Belgian endive for a few minutes in the skillet. I garnish these with black sesame seeds and serve it from the skillet.

The Writer and Her Birthday Cake

The Writer and Her Birthday Cake

We are treated with a triple dessert, courtesy of my enthusiastic dinner companions. We begin with a mint-chocolate cake—as apparently one cannot have a birthday celebration without a birthday cake—which I am pleasantly surprised I actually enjoy, being a big fan of chocolate, but not of cake, and even less, of chocolate cake. This cake is delicious!

We also enjoy one of my favourite desserts: apple crumble, as well as “the everything cookies” made likewise with TLC by my dinner companion.

We sip on my recently discovered and quickly made favourite roasted dandelion root tea, and polish off the bottle of the Australian Cabernet Sauvignon red wine. An evening among friends, feelings of love and appreciation abound—a true birthday celebration!

The Writer/Chef and Her Fellow Engineer/Connoisseur Dinner Companions

The Writer/Chef and Her Fellow Engineer/Connoisseur Dinner Companions

Meal ideas & recipes from Whole Foods Market.

Special Dish for the Week: Peanut Sauce Stir Fry Dinner

Slowly feeling more festive, having heard my first Christmas carols a few days before, I enjoy a Sunday night dinner with good friends—feeding the taste buds and the soul—serving a menu chez Maggie, where we eat like queens and kings, comprised of 4 courses and paired with beverages of choice, featuring as the main course (le plat principal):

Peanut Sauce Stir Fry

Peanut Sauce Stir Fry Dinner Menu

Peanut Sauce Stir Fry Dinner Menu

Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup

Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup

Upon a small toast of Apothic Dark red wine to greet my guests’ arrival, I begin serving the previously featured Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup. This time, I use green Thai curry and one of each: yam and sweet potato, instead of the suggested ingredients. The soup is purposefully a little less spicy than my usual to please the palate of a guest, and a little less sweet and colourful with the introduction of the sweet potato in place of one yam—and it still most delicious!

The hors d’hoeuvres are accompanied by “a little something from the chef” (i.e., not specified on the menu), which turns out to be Fermented Beet Juice.

Beet & Red Cabbage Hors d’Hoeuvres

Beet & Red Cabbage Hors d’Hoeuvres

The hors d’hoeuvres consist of a small serving of Beet and Red Cabbage salad served on a bed of arugula and sprouts, sprinkled with a dash of sesame oil and balsamic vinegar.

The Peanut Sauce Stir Fry main course (le plat principal) is accompanied by red lentils, prepared with a tablespoon of wakame flakes (a type of seaweed), which I add during cooking of the lentils. The lentils are pre-soaked overnight in order to induce the germination process previously explained.

The Peanut Sauce for this dish is a mildly spicy sweet and sour sensation is a “Maggified” version of a dish inspired by a personally made recipe book from some good friends. The ingredients for this sauce, all mixed and lightly heated in a pan, consist of:

  • 1/4 cup chunky peanut butter (Adams 100% Natural)
  • 1/3 cup of water (or more, for desired consistency)
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp Bragg soy sauce
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1/2 red Thai chili pepper (or more, for desired spiciness)

For the stir fry, I shred, dice and slice the following ingredients:

  • onion, coarsely chopped
  • carrot, thinly sliced
  • red and orange peppers, diced
  • green onions, chopped
  • pre-cooked chicken, shredded
  • coconut oil
  • cilantro, on the side for garnish
Peanut Sauce Stir Fry

Peanut Sauce Stir Fry

Just before serving le plat principal, I combine the separately heated stir fry ingredients and the Peanut Sauce. I serve the Peanut Sauce Stir Fry together with the wakame lentils, and trying this dish for the first time, it is a tasty success! Next time, though, I think I might try bigger chicken chunks rather than shredding the chicken, for more some defined texture to the dish—although the chunkiness of the peanut butter assists this goal too.

For dessert, I serve little dollops of Fancied Cottage Cheese with Flax Seed, which I recently re-discovered and have been experimenting with varying its flavours and textures.

Meal ideas & recipes from Maria Elia’s “The Modern Vegetarian” book, the “Food and Love” book, from Whole Foods Market, from “The Wahls Protocol” book, and from the Budwig Diet.

Special Dish for the Week: Zucchini and Onion Pancakes

This Special Dish for the Week uses the anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant rich zucchini and onion ingredients that are also highly alkalizing in the body once digested, to make the kind of savoury pancakes that I really like:

Zucchini and Onion Pancakes

Zucchini and Onion Pancakes

Zucchini and Onion Pancakes

I begin by following the suggested recipe quite closely, as I have not made pancakes with zucchini before—although I have previously made and quite like the potato version of these, with the key ingredient actually being the onion. As usual, I cannot resist modifying the recipe to my liking and for greater nutritional value—such as adding turmeric with black pepper for the added anti-inflammatory effect—and for the vibrancy of seasonal colour.

In a large bowl, I mix together the following ingredients with my handheld smoothie blender:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp milled flax seed mixed with 1/4 cup of water
  • 1/3 cup kefir
  • 1/3 cup spelt flour (or more, as needed for consistency)
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder

In my small electric blender, I finally chop and then add to the above mix the following ingredients:

  • 1 zucchini
  • 1/2 medium onion
Zucchini and Onion Pancakes Dish

Zucchini and Onion Pancakes Dish

I spoon out small portion onto a pre-heated non-stick crêpe making pan, using only tiny amounts of coconut oil for added flavour, nutrition, moisture, and finishing colour to the pancakes. After assessing the first round, I find I need to add about another 1/3 cup of spelt flour to the slightly too wet mixture in order to improve the consistency and to reduce the cooking time required to make the pancakes flipable.

Zucchini and Onion Pancakes with Plum Chutney

Zucchini and Onion Pancakes with Plum Chutney

I serve these vibrant and delicious pancakes with a side of plain yogurt and a plum chutney, gifted to me by a good friend who made it with plums from her garden. The wine that accompanies this mid-day meal is the very richly flavoured limited release Apothic Dark red.

Meal ideas & recipes from Whole Foods Market (their app is fantastic, with the On Hand feature, which gives you recipe ideas when you type in up to 3 ingredients that you have on hand).

Special Dish for the Week: Creamy Cashew Risotto with Butternut Squash

For this Special Dish for the Week I introduce a seasonal ingredient into my culinary repertoire—something from the squash family—and combine it with the all-around goodness of a nut, in this:

Creamy Cashew Risotto with Butternut Squash

Creamy Cashew Risotto with Butternut Squash

Creamy Cashew Risotto with Butternut Squash

I begin this dish the night before, by soaking the cashews and the rice in water for about 24 hours. By soaking them in advance, the softened cashews purée into a rich and creamy sauce, while the soaked rice transforms some of its nutrients into a form that does not interfere with the absorption of essential trace metals, that does not contribute to inflammation, and that enhances the digestion of the rice protein (Source: “The Wahls Protocol”).

Using a tip from my recently visiting aunt, I bake butternut squash at 350F for about 30 min till fork-tender. I let it cool a little before cutting it in chunks, pitting and peeling the chunks, and then cutting the chunks into small cubes. Why, it seems so simple once it is done, and yet, with the squash so impenetrably hard, it is so daunting at the beginning.

In a blender, I purée the following ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw soaked cashews
  • 1 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp powdered rosemary
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt

Meanwhile, I cook the pre-soaked organic brown rice in my rice cooker.

Creamy Cashew Risotto with Butternut Squash Dish

Creamy Cashew Risotto with Butternut Squash Dish

Next, I sautée the onions in the coconut oil until they become translucent. I then add in the squash for a few minutes before stirring in the cashew mixture, cilantro and raisins.

  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 1/2 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled butternut squash
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • water, as needed

Finally, I stir in the cooked rice, adding water as needed to make desired consistency, allowing the dish to simmer until it thickens to my desired consistency.

I serve the risotto with a side of arugula and cherry tomatoes, sipping fermented beet juice and red wine, in turn.

Meal ideas & recipes from Whole Foods Market (their app is fantastic, with the On Hand feature, which gives you recipe ideas when you type in up to 3 ingredients that you have on hand).

Special Dish for the Week: Beet Apple Charoset Salad

With the downtown farmers market in full bloom this summer, and beets of various varieties and colours—red, orange / yellow, and white even—I embark on a search for additional  beet recipes to the cooked beet ones that I well know and love from my childhood, and I am rewarded with this delicious gem, with RAW beets no less:

Beet Apple Charoset Salad

Tri-coloured Beets for Charoset

Tri-coloured Beets for Charoset

This beet and apple charoset salad turns out to be most delicious, particularly for one with a sweet tooth! It really does not need the honey for more sweetness, although the additional nutrition from the honey is always welcome.

Later in the summer, I discover another, similar version of this salad—one that uses raw red cabbage instead of the apple. Most surprisingly, it is nearly as sweet with the red cabbage as with the apple, and likely even more nutritious.

Ingredients of the Charoset

Ingredients of the Charoset

The first time that I make this salad, I spend the time and get a pretty good arm workout grating the beets by hand. Also surprisingly, the beets are not as difficult to grate raw as it would seem. On following iterations, I use a small electric chopper, and it goes a bit quicker. I chop the first 4 ingredients in the chopper, and add the other ingredients upon transferring the chopped ones into a large bowl. Then I hand-mix all the ingredients.

This salad freezes very well, so I make it in large batches and freeze small portions in glass jars for snacks, at home or on the go.

Beet and Apple Charoset Salad

Beet and Apple Charoset Salad

The ingredients for this salad comprise:

  • 3 medium beets: red, yellow and white, peeled and finely chopped or grated
  • 1 medium Fuji apple*, peeled (*1 small or 1/2 medium red cabbage, finely chopped)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped green* onion (*sweet, red or white onion)
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts* (*pecans, cashews)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup squeezed grapefruit* juice (*orange, lime or lemon)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil* (*coconut oil, heated in the jar by warm water to liquefy it)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg or cumin
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper

I serve the salad over arugula and garnish with cilantro, or sometimes have even a little more fun with and get my food to make some funny faces at me from my plate.

Beet and Apple Charoset Funny Face

Beet and Apple Charoset Funny Face

Meal ideas & recipes from Whole Foods Market and from “The Wahls Protocol” book.

Special Dish for the Week: Mushroom Stroganoff with Quinoa

This Special Dish for the Week starts a new theme for the next few weeks — mushrooms! — which are the only ‘vegetable’ that contains Vitamin D, naturally (all other natural food sources are from animals, or foods are fortified with Vitamin D), not to mention that they are great supporters of the immune system:

Mushroom Stroganoff with Quinoa

Mushroom Stroganoff with Quinoa

Mushroom Stroganoff with Quinoa

I make this dish with a good friend – who is an amazingly fast vegetable chopper, too! We follow the recipe somewhat closely, varying a few ingredients and adding a few extra nutritious touches. While I try to keep up chopping the various mushrooms, my friend slices through the onion, whips up some vegetable broth, puts on the quinoa, and gets busy with mixing the ingredients that comprise of:

  • 1 1/2 lb assorted mushrooms (we use shiitake, oyster, portobello, and brown crimini)
  • 3 shallots, thinly sliced (we use a sweet onion)
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tbls Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbls paprika
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • sea salt to taste
Mushroom Stroganoff with Quinoa Dish

Mushroom Stroganoff with Quinoa Dish

As I continue my mushroom chopping, leaving the oyster mushrooms for last, as these cook the fastest, my friend prepares the cashew cream in her handy blender. The cashew cream is surprisingly simple, and oh, so tasty! It only contains:

  • 2/3 cup raw cashews (we use roasted ones and skip the soaking)
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • Pinch sea salt

As an add-on, I prepare a mushed avocado topping that uses finely chopped cilantro roots, turmeric and black pepper, and freshly squeezed lime juice. A dollop of the avocado and chopped fresh cilantro serve as garnish to this delicious dish! We enjoy this hearty dish with my friend’s daughter, and a couple of glasses of Paul Mas white wine from France.

Meal ideas & recipes from Whole Foods Market (their app is fantastic, with the On Hand feature, which gives you recipe ideas when you type in up to 3 ingredients that you have on hand).