Caramelized Garlic Mushrooms

I never gave mushrooms much of a chance until I became a vegetarian in my late teens. The strange, squidgy texture and the fact that my sister loved them, was more than enough reason to reject them outright.  But then one evening, during my decade long stint as a vegetarian, my mother served a mushroom barley risotto that revealed to me the sublime,  natural umami taste of edible fungus.  

This mushroom recipe is inspired by a vegan friend's mushroom cooking method.  The first time I saw her leaving the mushrooms to cook in mounds of garlic, for over 15 minutes, I thought for sure they would be burnt, dry and chewy.  Vegan leather anyone!?  But boy, was I wrong!  The abundant quantity of garlic mixes with the mushroom juices to create a sticky caramel coating that perfectly enhances the natural meaty, umami of the mushrooms.  This dish can easily make a meal served on some sort of mashed root vegetablethese kale mashed potatoes, or polenta.  It would also work as a decadent side dish for any type of meat, particularly steak.  Or it could be served as an appetizer with some toothpicks.  I ate it for lunch with a salad and a slice of focaccia and couldn't stop eating it.  I had intended to save some to eat with eggs at breakfast, but that didn't happen!   

8 oz whole cremini or other mix of mushrooms
1/2 head or 2 tbsp. minced garlic (I used 1 oz)
1/4 cup white wine or broth
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 -3 sprigs of thyme
3 tbsp olive oil plus more for drizzling
1-2 tbsp nutritional yeast or parmesan

1.  Pull the stems off of the mushroom caps and discard or save to make vegetable broth.  

2.  Heat the olive oil in medium skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium heat, and add the garlic.  Cook, stirring constantly, for around 1 minute, just until starting to turn golden. 

3.  Add the mushroom caps, thyme and salt to the pan and coat with the garlic.  Cook for 2 minutes more and then add the white wine to deglaze and coat mushrooms.  If the garlic starts to burn, turn down your heat and/ or add the wine. 

4.  Once the wine has mostly evaporated, turn down the heat to low and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, flipping the mushrooms occasionally and watching to be sure the garlic doesn't burn.

5.  Once the mushrooms are golden brown and coated in a sticky, garlic coating, sprinkle with nutritional yeast or cheese and let cook for 2 minutes longer.    

Enjoy in any or all of the above mentioned ways!  
Serves 1 to 2

Magical Roasted Veg and a Green Smoothie

January was a month for dragging my butt around.  I was majorly procrastinating and I didn't have nearly the amount of  energy I wanted to.  The day's activities often felt boring and bothersome and piles of laundry were taking over our bedrooms.  So last week, I decided that it was time for a change.  I can't make the sun shine and I can't turn my children into perfect little listeners who never fight (despite the claims of many bestselling parenting books) but I can take charge of what I'm eating and I can and will fold the laundry, gosh darn it.   In an effort to develop the energy required to tackle my mounting to-do list,  I decided to "eat mostly plants"  as Michael Pollan would say.    So far, this approach seems to be working and the proof is in my tidier house and this blog post. 

For me, the key to cultivating a plant-based reality, aside from the crucial motivation, is all in the prep.   So to start off last week I made a big batch of green smoothies and a batch of sweet potato soup from My New Roots Winter Weekend Cleanse to eat for breakfast and lunch.  I also whipped up a batch of Amy Chaplin's chia seed pudding, which is my son's new favourite.   To kick off this week, I made a beautiful tray of roasted vegetables, more smoothies and some  steel cut oats using coconut oil and coconut milk. 

I have to admit, I found this tray of roasted veggies to be particularly inspirational.  Just looking at all of the vibrant colours cheered my spirits - like sunshine in a pan! First, I served them with Meera Sodha's masala roasted chicken for dinner on Sunday night, and for the rest of the week I've been enjoying them in a frittata (see below).  It got me to thinking about how many possibilities there are in a simple tray of roasted vegetables,  and this type of magical vegetable thinking, leads me to believe that I am slowly but surely regaining some much needed pizazz.  

Oven Roasted Vegetables
3 to 4 lbs of hearty vegetables chopped into 1.5 inch chunks (butternut squash, sweet potato, beets, carrots, celery root, parsnips, fennel etc.)
1 lb of either leeks, shallots or onions chopped into 1.5 inch chunks and/or 1 or 2 heads of garlic, cloves left whole (peeled or unpeeled, depending on preference) 
1 lbs of other tender vegetables (broccoli florets, cherry tomatoes,  cauliflower florets, brussels sprouts cut in half etc.) 
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. olive oil, maybe more for drizzling
Sea salt and pepper, and lemon zest (optional) 
Fresh herbs - thyme, rosemary, oregano (also optional)
1 to 2 tbsp. balsamic or red wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 400F (200C) and line 2 baking sheets with parchment or foil. 

1.  Toss whatever hearty veg and onion you are using with the 1/4 cup olive oil, sea salt, pepper, fresh herbs and lemon zest (if using) and evenly distribute on baking sheets.  Place the trays in the oven, side by side if they will fit, or on two separate racks. Check every 15 minutes or so and switch after about 30 minutes, if you are roasting them on separate racks.  

2.  After 30 to 40 minutes, when the tougher vegetables are starting to soften, add the tender vegetables.  This should be the last 15 to 20 minutes of cooking.  I like to roast cherry tomatoes separately, tossed in a bit of oil, salt and pepper for 15 to 20 min and then add them at the end. 

3.  When the vegetables are all soft and nicely golden brown,  splash with a bit of balsamic or red wine vinegar and pop back into the oven for 2 minutes.   Serve as a side dish and enjoy the leftovers for a few days.  If you are  planning to use the leftovers, I find potatoes don't stand up to the test of time the way other tubers do.  This recipe can easily be halved, if you don't want leftovers. 

Leftover Roasted Veg Ideas:
I made a frittata with feta that reheated nicely for three lunches!  To do this I reheated the veg in a medium frying pan, added in some spinach to wilt it, removed everything from the pan and wiped it out.  Then I added a glug of olive oil and 5 beaten eggs with salt and pepper into the same pan.  I pulled at the edges a few times for even cooking and then added in all of my veg back in, while the eggs were still runny on top.  I let it cook for around 2 minutes more and topped with crumbled feta.  I finished it under the broiler for a few minutes until puffy and set.  I enjoyed it with a generous drizzle of my favourite hot sauce.  

Here are few other ideas:  
 - Mix with cooked chick peas,  lentils or other legume and some greens such as sunflower sprouts, arugula or shredded kale and top with a simple dressing of olive oil and vinegar or lemon and lemon zest.  If you chose a hearty green like shredded kale, this should last in the fridge for a couple of days.  
 - Add in a whole cooked grain like farro, barley, couscous or quinoa.
 - Chuck in some toasted seeds or nuts for crunch and added protein. 
-  Add in some avocado.  
 - Scoop some hummus or pesto on top. 
 - Top with a poached, fried or boiled egg.
 - Toss into a lentil stew. 
 - Kimchi - somehow you could involve kimchi in to the mix, especially if there is a fried egg involved.  
 - Reheat with some broth and puree into a soup. 
 - Add to a bowl with brown rice, pan fried tofu and peanut sauce.  Top with nice sprouts or micro greens and some sesame seeds.  
*Some of these options will depend on how you seasoned your roast veg in the beginning.  For example, if you've used a lot of fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary etc. then the tofu, peanut sauce bowl may not be the best leftover option.

Green Smoothie
This is a smoothie that drinks like a drink, not a meal which I tend to prefer because then I can also chew something at breakfast.   If you want this to feel more like a meal, then you can add in an avocado.   

750 ml water
5 cups of greens (spinach, kale and chard are my usuals)
1 pear and 1 apple (or 2 apples or 2 pears)
1/4 cucumber (optional)
handful of grapes (optional)
juice of 1 lemon or lime
1 inch knob of ginger
20 or so mint leaves and/ or a handful of cilantro.
For an added boost and a green tea flavour, you could add in 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp of matcha powder

Blitz in high speed blender.  Makes approximately  1.5 to 2 litres and lasts for around 4 days in the fridge.