Ratatouille with Polenta

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Ratatouille with Polenta. This is the first time I’ve made Ratatouille. I received a complimentary cookbook Famous Dishes from Around the World that has 30 traditional dishes from various places around the globe, countries in Europe, Asia, South America, the Middle East. I picked French Ratatouille since there is such an abundance of vegetables this time of year, it makes a great summer dish. I changed a few things from the original recipe, for example the recipe had 10 cloves of garlic and I used 3, because I can’t handle too much garlic, as much as I like the flavor. I also used 2 cans of diced tomatoes rather than using marinara sauce and tomato paste. In any case it came out really good! I’ve had good and bad Ratatouille and this was definitely good. It tastes very fresh. 

I like the cookbook, it’s fun and all the recipes are fairly easy, and it has some cooking tips as well. I love all kinds of food so I think I would be happy to make any of these recipes. I want to try the Moroccan Tagine with Chicken next! Oh and It’s bilingual, each recipe is in English and Spanish, so if you’re learning either language you might enjoy this. The Ratatouille recipe here is vegetarian, but you could easily add some meat if you like. If you do add something like sausage, simply cook the meat first in the pot, then remove and add it in later with all the vegetables. Enjoy!

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Ratatouille

  • 1 large eggplant, 1” slices

  • 1/2 cup olive oil

  • 1 red onion, chopped

  • 10 cloves garlic, minced (I used 3 cloves of garlic)

  • 2 large beefsteak tomatoes, cut into 1” cubes

  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced

  • 2 medium yellow squash, sliced

  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced

  • 3 bell peppers (red, green and yellow), cut 1” pieces

  • 2 14oz cans of diced tomatoes

  • 5 bay leaves

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh basil

  • 2 teaspoons fresh or dried oregano (or rosemary if you prefer)

  • 2 teaspoons fresh or dried thyme

  • Salt & pepper to taste

(Note: the original recipe cooks each vegetable separately in another pan, then added to the larger pot, I cooked everything in one pot and it worked out fine)

Place eggplant slices on paper towels and sprinkle slices with salt for one hour to make them sweat. Blot them dry with a paper towel. Cut into quarters.

In a large dutch oven cook the eggplant in some olive oil until about half way cooked. Add the onions, garlic and tomato to the pot, sauté a few minutes until soft. Add the zucchini, squash, mushrooms, peppers, adding more olive oil as needed. Cook for 5 more minutes or so. Stir in the cans of tomatoes and the herbs (save some basil for garnish). Cover the pot and cook for about 30 minutes on a very low heat, stirring every so often. 

While the Ratatouille is simmering prepare the Polenta.

Serves 6-8 (This completely filled my dutch oven and I could not add one more thing, so it makes quite a bit!)

Recipe adapted from Famous Dishes from Around the World: Healthy, Tasty, and Affordable

Polenta

  • 1 cup Polenta (I use Bob’s Redmill Polenta Corn Grits)

  • 1 cup water

  • 1 cup milk

  • 1 cup chicken stock

Bring water, milk and chicken stock to a boil, stir in the polenta, then reduce heat to low. Cook for 5 minutes, then let it sit for a few more minutes until ready to serve.

Kale Pistachio Pesto

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I made this pesto a few weeks ago with hazelnuts, and wow it was so good. But I’ve been seeing folks make it with pistachios and since I had some leftover from the pistachio cake I made last week I thought I’d give this a try. Honestly I love it with either nut. What’s nice about this kind of pesto is that you can change the nuts or the greens, add basil or not, add parsley or cilantro, there’s a lot of room to get creative and it just tastes so good. It’s really perfect for a vegetarian dish, or you could add bits of roast chicken if you wanted more protein. I joined Sprouted Kitchen Cooking Club a while back where Sara has made some variations on this pesto, and David Lebovitz posted a Kale Pistachio Pesto on Instagram that got me going on this. Most recipes say to pulse all the ingredients except the olive oil, then slowly add olive oil, but I just put everything in the food processor and it comes out fine, you might need to add a little olive oil after it’s finished if you want a different consistency. I just put it in a bowl, drizzle a bit of olive oil and give a stir. Lacinato Kale (or Tuscan or Dino, so many names for the same thing!) is such a great vegetable. It will store fairly long in the fridge, you can add it to soups, you can make salads, here’s a whole bunch of Kale recipes, and now pesto! I think it’s delicious, let me know what you think. Enjoy!

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Kale Pistachio Pesto

  • Tuscan kale, about 5 ounces chopped

  • A bit of basil or fresh herbs, but not needed

  • 2 garlic cloves

  • 1/4 cup roasted unsalted pistachio nuts

  • 1/2 cup olive oil

  • 1/3 grated parmesan cheese

  • Juice of half a lemon

Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse several times until it’s a granular textured consistency. Place in container and add a little more olive oil if needed. Toss with pasta and add a dollop on top with some grated parmesan.

CBD Infused Coconut Oil

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CBD Infused Coconut Oil is surprisingly easy to make thanks to Jeff Danzer’s recipe. I’ve seen CBD Hemp infused oil for sale online and it’s very expensive. Not only is making your own more economical, you have more control over the type of oil you want to use and the strength. Why CBD Infused Coconut Oil? I’ve been meaning to cook with Cannabis for some time now. I’ve been reluctant because it’s hard to know the exact potency unless it’s been tested in a lab, or you try your recipe yourself and take the whole day off as a precautionary. That can be a bit much. But CBD is derived from Hemp and it’s a whole different experience.

I’m working with a farm in Southern Oregon, Cascadia Blooms, to develop some recipes with the Hemp they grow. If you’re not familiar with CBD, Cascadia Blooms has a great FAQ section here, basically CBD Hemp will relax your body without the psychoactive high you would experience with THC in Cannabis. Adding it to your food or drink is a great way to consume it. 

You can use the CBD Infused Coconut Oil the same way you would use any Coconut Oil. I wanted to try it without making a whole batch of cookies, so I first tried about a teaspoon in coffee (people are doing that? yes) but I didn’t like it, I drink my coffee black but if you use cream and sugar you might like it, in any case the 1 teaspoon did nothing for me, so then I smeared a heaping tablespoon on toast, and that was the right amount. (Keep in mind it takes at least an hour to feel the effects, so best to take your time and see how you feel after 1-2 hours.)

The effects? Within about an hour I felt relaxed, it definitely reduces anxiety. As a result I felt more focused on whatever I might be doing, it’s kind of incredible how many distractions there are, never mind social media and email, sometimes I have a hard time focusing because of my mile-long list of things to do. I can’t seem to walk through any room in the house or the yard without seeing something to do, fix, clean, update, really around every corner (and our house isn’t even messy!). I think that creates a kind of low level anxiety for me. But with CBD it felt different, I know those things to do are there, but I’m not anxious about it. That’s the most profound effect that I experienced. It lasts for about 4 hours and tapers off.

I’ve included the cleaning process below but it is optional as Cascadia Blooms takes care to keep their Hemp flower clean, organic and ready for food consumption. The cleaning process also produces a lighter tasting oil which helps to control flavor. The coconut oil I infused had very little smell or flavor of the Hemp, however you might want to skip that process if you want that flavor depth, it will be determined by the flower you use, but it generally has an herb-like flavor, a little peppery that would be suitable for savory dishes. The entire process is done in a French Press, which I think is rather brilliant, it worked out great for steeping and straining. This is first of a series of CBD Recipes as you will need the infused ingredients to work with (butter, coconut oil, olive oil, etc). I look forward to sharing more with you!

You can order online everywhere in the U.S. (except Idaho and South Dakota, sorry!) and the Hemp is shipped in double-lined sealed bags so that there is no odor at all in your mailbox. You can read more about their packaging and shipping info here.

This is a sponsored post on behalf of Cascadia Blooms, all thoughts and opinions are my own, the recipe below provided by Jeff Danzer.

So let’s get started!

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Break the large hemp flower into popcorn size pieces

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Soak the hemp flower in French Press with distilled water, submerged, for 2-3 days until water is clean, changing water twice a day

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Run through salad spinner to remove excess water. Dry and decarb on baking sheet, bake 60-90 minutes until dry (foil should be loosely covering the pan, not too tight or it will steam!)

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Add the oil and dried Hemp flower to French Press

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Steep in boiling water for 2 hours

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Strain oil through French Press into sterile jar or container

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As I mentioned above, I recommend a tablespoon per serving for optimal effect, but use your own discretion as to what works for you best

Hemp CBD Infused Cooking Oil

  • 4g Hemp Flower

  • 8 ounces Olive or Coconut Oil

  • Distilled water

  • French Press

  • Pot of boiling 

Hemp CBD Infused Cooking Oil - Cleaning and Drying

Soak

Pick the buds off the stem. In a French Press Completely immerse the buds and stems in distilled water and soak for 2 to 3 days, changing the water twice a day until the water in the French press is clear.

Rinse

Remove the herb from the French Press and place in a salad spinner. Spin for about 30 seconds to remove excess water.

Dry and Decarb

Preheat oven to 240º F.

Spread the hemp evenly over a large baking sheet and place a large piece of light aluminum foil loosely over the top of it. Crimp the edges to keep in any odor (but don’t seal it too tight or it will steam.) Bake for 60 to 90 minutes until completely dry. Your Hemp is now clean and ready for infusion into your butter, oil, alcohol or vegetable glycerin.

Hemp CBD Infused Cooking Oil - Simple Steeping Method

Place Hemp flower buds in French Press along with the oil. Fill a pot halfway or so with water and bring to a boil. Your water line should not be much higher than the oil level in the French Press. 

Stand the French Press in the pot of boiling water and let steep for 2 hours. Adding more water as needed if it boils down.

Strain the oil through the French Press into a sterile jar or container. It is now ready to use. 

Endive Salad with Blue Cheese + Dijon Vinaigrette

Endive Salad with Blue Cheese + Dijon Vinaigrette

This recipe is so easy it seems hardly worth a blog post, but deserves it still. It goes way back for me. When I was in college in New York City (a million years ago!) I waited tables at a french restaurant called Les Tournebroches.

Read More

Coconut Cake

Coconut Cake

Wouldn’t you know. On Jeff’s Birthday I’m ready to make this cake and… the oven is broken. It won’t heat and it’s only three years old! Luckily I had only prepared the cake pans while attempting to preheat the oven, so it wasn’t a total loss.

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Mushroom Lasagna

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This Mushroom Lasagna is absolutely delicious. It’s the second time I’ve made it and even changing the types of mushrooms and cheese did not disappoint. I saw the recipe about two years ago on Adventures in Cooking and finally gave it a try. Mushroom, cheese and pasta generally are a good combination, still sometimes things sound good but are just meh. Not this time. It was wow! it’s so good! And it makes quite a bit too, even with four people we had leftover. It’s even better the second day.

I shopped at Trader Joe’s knowing they would have better prices on the cheese, but I would sacrifice mushroom selection. The last time I made this Mushroom Lasagna I had shopped at Whole Foods, and the selection for Ricotta cheese was slim, I had the choice to fork over $7 for one container (and you need two for this recipe), or get the low fat version at around $4+. They were all out of the 365 brand, and this seems to be an ongoing problem with Whole Foods lately, the shelves are bare! They started a new inventory system called order-to-shelf (OTS), which was designed and implemented a year ago (long before Amazon purchased them, so don’t blame Amazon as tempting as it is), the new system is good in that it’s cost-cutting, and will help prevent food spoilage from excess inventory going bad in the storage room, but damn, if you look at some of those photos, I haven’t seen it that bad here in Portland but I have experienced times where some fairly basic items normally in stock are just not there. Mostly in produce, like where’s the parsley? Hopefully now that it’s had some press Amazon will do something about this. 

The recipe is very forgiving in that you can add whatever mushrooms or cheese you have. The original recipe used a sharp cheddar, which I did the first time, but then I opted for Trader Joe’s Quattro Formaggio on the second time. Both were delicious so you can mix up whatever kind of shredded cheese you want.

When this came out of the oven yesterday it smelled so amazing, but then I thought, no way was this going on the blog, it just looked like a big heap of stuff in my old ugly-ass pyrex dish, but a day later and a few food styling tweaks, it looked presentable. There are certain foods, dishes, that really don’t lend themselves to sexy food. For example, raw mushroom, sexy! Cooked mushroom, er, um, cover me up please. I took some photos of the sliced mushrooms cooking on the stove and it looked so unappetizing I didn’t include it here. Smelled great though.

By the way, January marks my five year anniversary with Pixels + Crumbs blog. And guess what, my very first post was a mushroom post! Mushroom Soup. I remember how I labored over it, the whole thing seemed to take forever and I wondered if I’d gotten myself into something a bit crazy. It’s like hours of cooking, hours of food styling, photos and editing and writing. Well the writing gets a bit short because I’m completely burnt out at that point, ha ha. But I’ve kept this blog alive after five years. I don’t post as much as I used to, now it’s more of a monthly post, but I can’t seem to let it go. 

See you next month and thanks for stopping by.

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Mushroom Lasagna

Mushroom Layer

  • 1 large onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons Unsalted Butter
  • 6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 6 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 ounces chantarelles, chopped (all mushrooms will work, I used only white button mushrooms and Crimini and it tasted great)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine

Cheese Layers

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 30 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh sage leaves chopped (or dried, but tastes better with fresh)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 pound (12 oz bag)  white cheddar, grated (or mixed cheeses)

Lasagna Layers

  • 9 sheets dried lasagna noodles
  • 1 lb crimini mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil on bottom of pan
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • pinch black pepper

For the mushroom layer, melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Sautee onion and garlic in the butter until softened and transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and olive oil and sauté for about 5 minutes, then add the white wine. Cook until most of the liquid is gone for an additional 5 minutes or so. Remove the mushrooms and onion, place in a small bowl and set aside to cool.

For the cheese layer, add 1/4 cup butter to the pan and allow it to melt. Add the flour, a little bit at a time, whisking constantly until a roux forms. Place the roux in a large bowl and add the ricotta cheese, milk, thyme, sage, oregano, black pepper, and salt. Set aside.

Toss the quartered crimini mushrooms with the olive oil and salt in a medium bowl and set them aside.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Place some of the lasagna noodles in the water and allow to cook until slightly bendable, about 3-4 minutes, working in batches as necessary. Remove with tongs and place three of the noodles on the bottom of a roughly 9 x 13-inch rectangular casserole dish, keeping them in a flat even layer.

Spread 1/4 of the sautéed mushroom mixture over the noodles, then sprinkle with 1/4 of the grated cheddar cheese. Spread 1/4 of the ricotta mixture over the cheddar, then place 3 to 4 noodles in an even layer on top of the ricotta. Repeat until you have used all of the sautéed mushrooms, cheddar, and ricotta, but do not place noodles over the top and final layer of ricotta. Instead, evenly distribute the quartered mushrooms over the top and sprinkle with a pinch of black pepper. Place the pan on a baking sheet and place the baking sheet in the oven. Cook until the cheese is bubbly around the edges and the mushrooms on top have turned a deep brown and wrinkled, about 45-50 minutes. 

Adapted from Adventures in Cooking