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zucchini, carrot and sunflower seed slice

Today is just the second day in the last two months that it hasn’t rained, a gorgeous sky blue day but my garden is still too wet to plant.  The zucchinis have struggled in the wet, but the tromboncinos have done really well right through all this rain.  (And the Suyo Long cucumbers – very impressed with their mildew resistance).

So my glut crop is tromboncinos rather than zucchini, but this recipe works equally well with both.

Zucchini, Carrot and Sunflower Seed Slice

Turn the oven on to heat up.

Grate 1½ cups of carrot, 1½ cups of zucchini, and one onion.

Put them all in a heavy pan with a good swig of olive oil and fry, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes.  The idea is just to heat the vegetables through, soften them, and evaporate a bit of moisture.

While they are cooking, blend together:

  • ½ cup of  cottage cheese 
  • 3 eggs
  • a good handful of flat leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 big tablespoon of wholemeal plain flour
  • salt and pepper

Grease an ovenproof dish well.  I have a square, pyrex dish 20 cm square that is perfect for it.  You may like to line the base with greaseproof paper – it does come out without it but it makes a little less risk of sticking.

Mix the egg, cottage cheese and parsley mix with the vegetable mix.  Add 1/3 cup sunflower seeds and mix well. Tip into the oven dish and smooth out the top.  Sprinkle the top with grated cheese.

Bake in a hot oven for 15 minutes until golden on top.

Allow to cool for about 5 minutes, then tip it out and slice into little squares or fingers.

Serve on a platter to share, with chili jam or chutney or homemade tomato sauce, or cold in a lunch box or picnic basket.

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Second of the cauliflower season Tuesday Night Vego Challenge recipes. It’s an oldie but a goodie.  This is a fairly low fat, low GI version of the ultimate cold winter night comfort food. I like cauliflower cheese soup kept very simple, and I find adding potato tends to make it gluggy, so this version has no potato and low fat cottage cheese.

The Recipe:

For two adult dinner serves.

Gently sauté an onion in a little olive oil in a large, heavy pot with a tight fitting lid, or a pressure cooker.

As it softens, add

  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped,
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon dill seeds
  • grating of black pepper

As soon as the seeds start popping, add ½ cauliflower, stems and all, chopped into flowerettes, along with 2 cups of vegetable stock. If your stock is homemade, you may like to add a pinch of salt too, depending on how salty you make your stock.

Simmer for around 15 minutes or pressure cook for 5, until the cauliflower is quite soft, then add

  •  ½ cup of low fat milk.
  •  ½ cup of low fat cottage cheese
  •  ½ cup of grated tasty cheese 

Blend until it is very smooth.  I find my stick blender the best tool for this, but you could use a food processor or even pass it through a mouli or sieve.  I like cauliflower soup very smooth.

Put it back on the heat and bring it back up to temperature, stirring all the time and not boiling. If you boil it at this stage it will curdle, and if you don’t stir, it will stick.  It just needs to be brought back up to eating temperature. Taste and add salt if needed.

Serve with a sprinkle of chopped dill as garnish and some good wholegrain toast for dipping.

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Saag just isn’t photogenic. Unfortunately, because it is very delicious, and I have bucketloads of silverbeet (chard if you are not in Australia)  in the garden at the moment and saag is one of the very best recipes I know to use bucketloads of it (and still want to come back for more tomorrow).

Saag is a northern Indian spiced puree of spinach (or silver beet).  This far north I never have spinach in those kind of quantities, but I do have silver beet – it’s a garden no-fail this time of year, and it’s a superfood for a whole heap of reasons.  It has lots of  antioxidant beta carotene, good for protecting against aging inside and out due to cell damage.  And it’s  a  good source of folic acid, which is good for the immune and nervous systems and with the number of colds and flu’s going round right now, that’s a good thing. And it has heaps of calcium and magnesium and vitamin K which are all important for bones.

The Recipe:

Serves two generously.

Into a cup, put:

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel or dill seeds
  • the seeds from 5 cardamom pods

(It’s better if you use whole seeds for this)

Chop and have ready to add:

  • 2 finely diced chilis (more or less, depending on how strong your chilis are and how spicy you like your food.  Saag is best mildly spiced though).
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • a heaped teaspoon of grated or finely diced fresh ginger
  • a heaped teaspoon of grated or finely diced fresh turmeric (or substitute a scant teaspoon of turmeric powder)

Heat quite a decent swig of oil in a big pot or pressure cooker.  Traditionally it would have been ghee, but I don’t like to use quite that much butter.  Olive oil is a bit strong flavoured though. I use macadamia oil, but any sweet or mild flavoured oil would work.

Add the seeds and cook, stirring till they start to pop.  (Don’t let them burn). Then add the chili/ginger/turmeric/garlic mix. Cook stirring for another minute or two, then add

  • a cup of vegetable stock, with some salt in it
  • the shredded leaves from a BIG bunch of silverbeet.  Just the leaf stripped from the stem, chopped reasonably fine.  Lots – at least two packed cupfuls.  I often add a few mustard leaves too.
  • bay leaves
  • 3 cm of cinnamon stick

Pressure cook for 5 minutes, or simmer for 15, then reduce until there is just a little bit of liquid left. Take it off the heat and blend in 3 or 4 heaped dessertspoons of cottage cheese (low fat works fine).  I use a stick blender for this, but you could use a blender, food processor, or even a mouli.

Serve with naan bread for scooping.

Do you have a favourite Tuesday Night Vego Challenge recipe for this time of year?  Links are welcome in the comments.
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We’re just a few days out from the winter solstice now, the shortest day and the longest night of the year.  And I’m so looking forward to getting to the other side of it.  This time next week the days will be the same length but I’ll be much more cheerful, because, little by little, second by second, they will be getting longer.

I think I must have plant genes in me – I can almost feel like I can sense the difference. Plants can sense not just the daylength but also whether the days are getting longer or shorter.  I always find that stunning. It always makes me stop and realize, all the other living things on this planet are living. They’re not just things. They’re part of a moving, sensing, adapting, creating, network with nuanced responses that are amazingly clever.

I think I must also have hibernating bear genes in me too.  This time of year, I need comfort food – complex carbohydrates that slow burn and keep me from wanting to just curl up under a doona all day. We have the slow combustion stove going every night now , perfect for cooking beans, and beans are the perfect low low low GI carbohydrate, and so full of various vitamins and minerals that they’re pretty much the complete healthy dinner.

I can do this in half an hour from scratch if I have put the beans on to soak in the morning and use a pressure cooker to cook them. And if there are still embers enough to just put another bit of wood in the slow combustion stove when I get home of an evening.  If you start with cooked beans, it should be easy to meet the  Tuesday Night Vego Challenge rules of quick, easy, healthy, in-season, from scratch.

The Recipe:

Makes 6 little pannikins. They are very filling, so one pannikin with some good toast for mopping up is a good dinner for me.  My partner can polish off a couple.

Turn the oven on.  You need a hot oven.

Soak 1 cup of dried beans (I used my Purple Kings) overnight or for the day, then simmer for around 30 minutes or pressure cook for 10 minutes until they are soft.

Sauté

  • 1 diced onion
  • 1 large or two small diced carrots

Cook till the carrot is softened, then add

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon mild mustard (I use my home-made seeded mustard. If you use a hot mustard, use less to taste).
  • 1 cup tomato passsata
  • 1 dessertspoon treacle
  • ½ cup cottage cheese (low fat is fine)
  • salt to taste
  • half a cup or so of water, depending on how liquid your passata is.

Spoon the mix into individual pannikins on a baking tray.  Top with grated tasty cheese.

Bake for 15 minutes or so until the cheese is melted and golden.

Do you have any good Tuesday Night Vego Challenge recipes?  Links and recipes in the Comments are welcome.

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Right now I am in a state of being where the rules of the  Tuesday Night Vego Challenge apply every day. I work three part-time jobs, and every so often, all three converge into a perfect storm of busy, where I leave home at 7 am and get home at 7pm, starving. No time for shopping, no creativity for interesting cooking, no patience for lasting more than half an hour.  But  when I’m this busy, I really don’t want to eat junk food – I can’t afford to get sick or run down.

My wonderful partner has been cooking dinner most times, and his forte is slow cooker soups and stews.  But when I cook, it is recipes like this – the last of my potato harvest recipes – comfort food that needs no thinking.

The Recipe:

Makes 4 serves.

Turn the oven on to medium hot to heat up.

If you have a fry pan that can go in the oven, use that as it will save transferring the potato to an ovenproof dish and thus save washing up!

Wash 350 gm new potatoes and slice them, skin on, very thin.

Finely slice 2 red onions.

Fry the potatoes and the onions in a little olive oil for just a few minutes, just enough to get them coated in oil, hot all the way through and just starting to soften.

While they are cooking, blend together

  • 250 gm low fat cottage cheese
  • ½ cup vegetable stock
  • 1 egg
  • black pepper
Pour over the potato and onion mix.
Top with grated cheddar cheese.
Bake for around 20 minutes till the top is browned and the potatoes are soft.
Serve with steamed vegetables and/or salad.
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I think these are latkes.  The have eggs, so they’re more latke than rosti, but they have no flour, and I don’t think the cottage cheese is part of any traditional cuisine.  Whatever. They’re very fast – fast enough to be a breakfast option as well as a Tuesday night vego. The cheese and eggs means they have a decent quantity of protein, and though they’re fried, they don’t absorb lots of oil.

I dug the late summer planting of potatoes on the weekend. Usually this is the best potato harvest of the year here. Spuds do better when the nights are getting cooler as they set the crop (as opposed to the spring planting, when, by the time they are ready to harvest in November, the nights are often so warm that the plants just don’t seriously go into food storage mode).

Home grown new potatoes are a gourmet delight, absolutely nothing like supermarket spuds.  They’re so good that they spoil you for out of season potatoes (and we don’t need the calories anyhow). So I treat potatoes like I treat asparagus, looking forward to the season, relishing it, then letting go till it comes round again.

The crop this time was a bit disappointing in quantity. It has been so wet and overcast this year, I think they just didn’t get enough photosynthesis in.  Nevertheless, there’s enough here for potatoes to feature for a few weeks.

The Recipe:

(Two generous serves)

Grate 2 potatoes – a waxy variety like Dutch Cream, Kipfler,  Bintje, Nicola,  or Pink Eye. I used the  kipflers that I grew this year for these.

Mix with

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 spring onion, chopped
  • a good handful of chopped parsley
  • 3 dessertspoons (30 ml) low fat cottage cheese or ricotta.

No flour makes them hard to handle until they start to set.  So heat a large pan with a little olive oil, wait till it’s hot,  and then use wet hands to make little patties and drop them in.  Place them carefully because you can’t move them till they set.

Squash them down with the back of your eggflip. Wait till they are set and golden on one side, turn and cook the other side.

Serve with a tomato salsa and a salad or steamed vegetables, or just make a platter of small ones and eat them as is, dipped in chili jam or tomato sauce.

Did you do the  Tuesday Night Vego Challenge this week? Links are welcome in the Comments.

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Have you noticed yet that I have a certain amount of experience with zucchini recipes? There is a Marge Piercy poem that I think perfectly sums up zucchini: Attack of the Squash People. I thought I had learned the lesson: One, no more than two, zucchini each planting break.

But then this year I discovered trombochino.  I like climbers in my fortress fenced up-gardens  – they maximise the use of space – and I really like trombochino. They taste pretty much like zucchini – a bit firmer and denser, like zucchini minus the middle bit.   But I don’t know whether it is just this year – it has been a perfect curcurbit year, cooler and wetter than usual but with the long, light days of summer – but the trombochino are triffid-like taking over the garden. I leave bags of them in the roadside mailbox. The chooks refuse to eat any more.

This is the third in the Tuesday Night Vego Challenge series. It’s an old favourite. It uses about 4 medium zucchini.  Eight if you double the recipe – it also makes good leftovers for lunch. Makes a small dint.

The Recipe:

Makes four large serves.

This can be done in half an hour but you have to really multitask at the beginning because most of the half hour is baking time.

  • Oven on to heat up.  You need a fairly hot oven.
  • Kettle on to boil for water for pasta.
  • Food processor out.  You can do it all without a food processor, just with a grater and a blender or eggbeater, but I can’t promise half an hour.

Part 1: Pasta

Cook a cup of pasta in boiling water till just cooked. Don’t overcook it.

  • Macaroni, shells, or small spirals work best.

Part 2: The Crumble

Crumb

  • two slices of heavy wholegrain bread and mix with
  • two dessertspoons of olive oil and
  • a dessertspoon of grated parmesan.

I do this in my food processor. Leave the crumbs a bit coarse, not too fine.

Part 3: White Cheese Sauce

In a small pot, heat

  • a cup of low fat milk with
  • a cup of low fat cottage cheese and
  • 3 bay leaves,

till the milk starts to rise. It will curdle – that’s ok. Fish the bay leaves out.

While the milk is heating, tip the crumbles out of the food processor and (you don’t need to wash it), blend

  • 1 egg and
  • 2 big dessertspoons of plain wholemeal flour.

With the blender going, add the hot milk-cottage cheese mix. Pour back into the small pot and reheat, stirring with a wooden spoon, till it thickens. This will take just a minute or two.

Part 4 – Grated Zucchini and Feta

Grate

  • two packed cups of zucchini (or trombochino) and
  • 100 grams of low fat feta cheese.

Slice enough tomatoes to cover the top.

Assembling:

Mix the grated feta and zucchini into the white cheese sauce and tip the lot into a small baking tray.  I have a square, pyrex 21 cm dish that is perfect for bakes like this.

Cover the top with sliced tomatoes, then spread the crumble mix on top of them.

Bake in a medium hot oven for around 20 minutes till the top is golden and crunchy and the middle is hot all the way through.

Great on its own, or with a green salad, and makes good left-overs for lunch the next day as well.

Did your Tuesday Night Vego recipe feature zucchini too?  Feel free to leave links in the comments.

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This recipe is a riff on Mollie Katzen’s Enchanted Broccoli Forest, or at least it owes some heritage to that inspired combination of broccoli, lemon, eggs and cheese – which you wouldn’t think would work but it so does.

I’m still picking lots of broccoli side shoots every day and using every broccoli recipe in the repertoire to get through them. Luckily broccoli is a super food and you can’t eat too much of it –  huge amounts of calcium, folate, antioxidants (including one that’s good for protecting against macular degeneration), and  cancer preventative phytochemicals.

I remember when I first started gardening being amazed how productive broccoli is.  The supermarkets only ever sell the first big head, but that’s just a fraction of the harvest. The broccoli is the unopened flowers, and the plant is trying to get them open and fertilised by the bees, so it can set seed. Once the first head is cut, the plant has another go at flowering with side shoots.  So long as I can keep cutting, they will keep trying.  The buds get smaller and smaller, but you can keep them going for ages. The small buds are perfect for recipes like this.

The Recipe:

Two big serves.

To do this weekday morning fast…

  • Chop two cups of broccoli into flowerettes.
  • Put a medium sized heavy frypan on to heat up with a little olive oil.
  • Chop the white part of two spring onions and add to the pan.
  • Stir for a minute, then add the broccoli, then most of the spring onion greens.
  • Squeeze in
    • the juice of quarter of a lemon
    • a good grinding of black pepper.
    • and add just a dessertspoon of water
  • Put the lid on the pan and let the broccoli cook in its own steam for about 3 minutes, till it has just lost it’s crunch.
  • Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender, blend
    • 3 eggs,
    • 3 big dessertspoons of low fat cottage cheese,
    • and just a dessertspoon of milk.
  • Give the broccoli a stir, then pour the egg mix evenly over it.  Turn the heat down low and put the lid back on. Cook for about 3 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, put some toast on to cook, turn the griller on to heat up, and grate a little sharp cheddar cheese.
  • Sprinkle the cheese over the top and put the pan under the griller.  Grill until the cheese is melted and golden.

(The Breakfast Cereal Challenge is my 2011 challenge – to the overpackaged, overpriced, mostly empty packets of junk food marketed as “cereal”. I’m going for a year’s worth of breakfast recipes, based on in-season ingredients, quick and easy enough to be a real option for weekdays, and  preferable, in nutrition, ethics, andtaste.  The Muesli Bar Challenge was my 2010 Challenge.)

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This recipe is challenging. It is much better the next day.  Now that is hard to achieve in our house!

I don’t have a freezer, not even a little one in the fridge.  We live with stand alone solar power, have done for nearly 30 years now.  It’s a very good way to learn about the electricity use of various appliances, and how to make educated decisions about their costs and benefits. And a freezer has never warranted the cost.

Thus I’ve never got into the habit of cooking ahead.  But this one, when I make it I make a decent sized batch and we eat it for a couple of lunches and dinners.  It’s just as good cold as hot and good enough to still look forward to the third time!  We rarely manage to postpone the first serving, but the second one the next day really is much better.

If you’ve visited here before, you will know my thoughts about kangaroo as the red meat of choice for Australians. This recipe is a kind of fast and easy moussaka-ish dish rendered double healthy by using, besides the very lean kangaroo, low fat dairy foods, eggs, and lots of vegetables.

The Recipe:

Part One: The Meat Sauce

This is simply a matter of making your favourite  bolognese sauce using 300 grams of kangaroo mince. My version is:

In a heavy fry pan

  • brown 300 grams of kangaroo mince in a little olive oil, breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon.
  • Add two diced onions and two diced carrots and continue cooking till they start to brown.
  • If you like a bit of spice, add a sprinkle of crushed dried chilies or chili powder
  • then add
    • lots of chopped garlic,
    • some diced mushrooms,
    • good handful of finely chopped oregano,
    • and (this time of year) a jar of tomatoes.
  • Depending on how rich your tomatoes are, you might also add a spoonful of tomato paste.

Salt and pepper to taste and simmer for a few minutes till it is a nice thick sauce consistency.

Part Two: The White Sauce

This version is much faster, simpler and healthier than the traditional bechamel.

In a food processor or blender, blend together:

  • 3 eggs
  • 250 grams low fat cottage cheese
  • 250 grams low fat greek yoghurt
  • 60 grams low fat feta

Part Three: The Silver Beet

Remove the centre vein from a dozen large silver beet leaves but don’t chop the leaves.  Blanch by pouring boiling water over them in a pot, putting the lid on, and leaving for a couple of minutes, just to soften them so they will lie flat.

Part Four: Assembling and Baking

The baking dish I use for this is 30 cm by 20 cm. Spread half the meat sauce over the bottom, then a layer of silver beet, a couple of leaves thick over this.Spread half the white sauce on top, then the other half of the meat sauce, another layer of silver beet and another layer of white sauce.

Sprinkle grated parmesan lightly over the top, then bake in a medium oven for around half an hour until the top is lightly browned.

It’s great served with a green salad with a vinaigrette dressing.

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