2015 – A Year in Review

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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So – WordPress sent me a list of statistics for my blog and I found it very interesting.  The most interesting thing was that my Easy Spicy Southern Chicken Spaghetti (seen above) is – by 500X – THE MOST POPULAR recipe on my blog.   To date – it has gotten 312,149 views!!!  The next most popular (I will list them all below) is my Spicy Vegan Chinese Eggplant (seen below) with a mere 55,874 views.  It is curious that these two reign supreme because both posts involve stories of my house failing me.  In the case of the chicken spaghetti, my stove would not heat beyond 200 degrees so I overcooked the fuck out of the dish.  Also – because it has meat in it – it is one of the few recipes I have posted that I have never tasted.  I made this in an effort to recreate the badass, Miles Miller’s, grandmother’s recipe.  I was winging it, ruined it, photographed it very poorly & never tasted it – and it has gotten 300K+ views.

In the case of the eggplant – it was a plumbing failure involving raw sewage & plumbers & money woes.  One reader even complained that I including talk of fecal matter in a food blog post – and that is a valid complaint.  Still – it remains my number 2 most popular post.

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Rounding out the the 5 all-time most popular are my Grown-up Fireball Whiskey Cupcakes (39,053 views), my Margarita Pizza Quesadilla on Homemade Spinach Tortillas (32,574 views), and my ZERO CALORIE ZERO CARB Vegetarian Shirataki Pho (13,138 views) – seen below, respectively.

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Another interesting thing is that none of those top 5 were posted in 2015.  I am not sure if that is because they have just been up there the longest or if they just struck a chord with folks.  I guess time will tell.

I have posted over 700 posts and the blog has gotten 624,455 views by 481,055 visitors  – over all.  If it were an exhibit at the Louvre, it would take 26 days for everyone to see it.  My most popular day was Nov. 8, 2015 with 5819 views – a day that chicken spaghetti got something like 3000 views.

In 2015, the 12 most popular recipes were:

Easy Vegan Meatloaf

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5-minute Sticky, Spicy, Korean BBQ Chicken with Sesame Hibachi Noodles (Vegan)

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Annie & Dan Shannon’s Vegan Yankee Pot Roast Dinner

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Vegan Spicy Citrus Black Beans (Slow Cooker or Stove Top)

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Rustic Pizza with Vegan Sausage, Broccolette (Broccolini), Shaved Brussels Sprouts, Mushrooms, Farmers Cheese, Goat Cheese and Micro Arugula

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Spicy Indonesian Street Cart Noodles – Mie Goreng – with Vegan Chicken (and Crispy Shallots)

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5-Minute Vegan Burnt Brown Sugar Chicken Fingers

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Vegan Meatballs

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Fast and Easy Stove Top Vegan Mac and Cheese

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Vegan Jackfruit Spicy Szechuan Dan Dan Noodles

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20-Minute Spicy Vegan Kung Pao Chicken

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and

Easy 10-minute Vegan Firecracker Chicken

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The most amazing discovery was that raw egg heals the pain and scarring of terrible burns – almost INSTANTLY.

Miracle Cure for Burns

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I probably cooked these most often:

Easy Crispy Oven Baked French Fries

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Craziest fake “meat” option:

Vegan Jackfruit Tuna Salad & Avocado

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And I took a lot of photos of food!

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Potato Hash – Vegan or Not

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Creamy Vegan No-Pasta Zoodles with Arugula & Chanterelle Mushrooms & Thyme

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Burnt Eggplant with Pomegranate Seeds & Cucumber – or Really Fancy Baba Ganoush

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Vegan Creamy Sweet Potato Pasta with Fried Sage

 

And I made a LOT of pizza!

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Spicy Jalapeno Pizza with Avocado & Cilantro

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The Best Fast & Easy Vegan Mozzarella – for Melting & Grating

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Sweet Potato and Asparagus Pizza with Vegan Mozzarella & Watercress

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Caramelized Fennel & Spinach Pizza with Goat Cheese

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Peach & Tomato Caprese Pizza with Mozarella, Basil & Balsamic Reduction

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Vegan or Vegetarian BBQ Pulled Chicken & Jackfruit Pizza

And there you have it.  That is my 2015 in food.  See you in 2016!!

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Vegan Roasted Butternut, Kabucha & Delicata Squash with Pomegranate, Mint, Balsamic Glaze & Roasted Pepitas

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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I had managed to collect a variety of squash with no real plans for them.  Today – as I often do – I looked around for inspiration & came up with this.  It is gorgeous & light & delicious and can be served warm or room temperature.    I have leftover roasted squash & pepitas & if you end up with leftovers, too – consider cutting the skins off the squash & make a salad!  Toss with arugula & pomegranate seeds & pepitas & a balsamic vinaigrette (adding goat or feta – if you are a cheese eater) – OR – make a pizza with slices of squash atop a crust with some mozzarella (vegan or not – up to you) and then top the cooked pizza with arugula & pomegranate seeds & pepitas.  Lots of ways to use all these pretty colors & flavors.

This is not a difficult recipe.  The most painstaking parts are seeding the pomegranate (or you could buy pomegranate seeds) and roasting the pepitas (you could buy roasted pepitas).  It is far more satisfying to do it all from scratch.

I used three kinds of squash.  You can use all one kind or choose different kinds – but use ones that all have thick skins so the cook at the same rate.

Speaking of which – I tossed the seeds from all 3 squash into the same bowl to clean & roasted them together.  In the future – I will keep the kabucha seeds separate – as they are far larger than the others.  I will put the smaller seeds on one cooking sheet & the larger on another – so I can take each out of the oven at the rate they are ready.

The ratio of ingredients here is kind of up to you.  You might like more or less glaze, more or less pomegranate or pepitas or mint – so – assemble yours to taste.

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Roasted Pepitas

Seeds from the squash

Fine salt

Olive oil or cooking spray (I used olive oil spray)

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to about 325.

Get a large bowl of water & put the messy seed mix in there.  Separate the seeds from the flesh & the seeds all float to the top.  Use a slotted spoon & get those suckers outta there.

Boil some water & add a tsp of salt.  Lower the heat, add the seeds &  simmer the seeds, uncovered, for about 10 minutes & then drain them.

I let them set out to dry a bit & then tossed them with just a hint of olive oil or some cooking spray.  If you have two wildly different sized seeds – cook them on separate sheets so you can take the smaller ones out sooner than the larger.

Spread them on a cooking sheet in as thin a layer as you can – trying to minimize overlap so all the seeds get heat equally.  Sprinkle with a little salt & bake for about 10 minutes.

Take them out & stir them around.

Now continue roasting in 5 minute increments because you DO NOT want to burn these.  They are done when they are just starting to look golden but the real test is how they chew.  So – cool a few off each time you test them & eat them.  They are done when they chew easily & are nice & crunchy!

Save extras in a jar.

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Vegan Roasted Butternut, Kabucha & Delicata Squash with Pomegranate, Mint, Balsamic Glaze & Roasted Pepitas

6-10 as a side – depending on the size of your squash & appetites

INGREDIENTS

3 squash of your choice (I used butternut, kabucha & delicata)

Roasted seeds from your squash (recipe to roast them above)

Balsamic glaze (store bought or homemade – recipe:  Simply boil a balsamic until it reduces by about 50-75% and has a thick syrupy texture.  It really does reduce a LOT so – if it reduces to too little for your squash – just reduce some more.  If it gets too thick – add a few drops of water.)

Pomegranate seeds

Fresh mint – chopped

Olive oil or cooking spray (I used olive oil spray)

S&P

Parchment paper optional but it makes clean-up so easy!

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Heat the oven to 425.

Seed the squash & put the seeds in a bowl of water.  If there is a large disparity of size – separate them in different bowls by size.  I did mine altogether but I risked burning the smallest seeds waiting for the large kabocha seeds to cook.  It worked out – but I would still separate them next time.

Cut the squash into 1″ to 1.5″ inch slices.  Arrange on a cooking sheet.  Toss with olive oil (or spray with cooking spray on both sides) – and add some S&P.

Roast about 30 minutes – flipping once – or until they are soft & beginning to caramelize or brown a bit.

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If you are using homemade glaze – make that while the squash cook.  Simply boil a balsamic until it reduces by about 50-75% and has a thick syrupy texture.  It really does reduce a LOT so – if it reduces to too little for your squash – just reduce some more.  If it gets too thick – add a few drops of water.  If you like a lot of glaze – start with at least a cup or more before you reduce it.

Seed your pomegranate.

When the squash is done, arrange it on a platter.  Drizzle glaze & then sprinkle the pomegranate, pepitas & mint on top.

Gorgeous & healthy.  Wow the villagers with this shit!

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Easy Vegan Baked Polenta Fries

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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I made Vegan Creamy Polenta Bowl with Roasted Beets, Toasted Walnuts, Thyme & Balsamic Glaze (seen above) the other day but I had a ton of leftover polenta.  What to do with it?  Once polenta gets cold – it sets – so I packed it into a greased loaf pan & chilled it.  Then – I flipped it onto a cutting board & sliced it up to make baked fries & they were TREMENDOUS!   Nearly guiltless, crunchy & crispy yummy!  I dipped one batch in ketchup & another in a warm & spicy pasta sauce.  You could use any dip that floats your boat but these are really easy & delightful to I recommend them very highly!  You can either make fresh polenta or buy some premade in a tube – the latter ratcheting up the simplicity of this recipe exponentially.  The fresh polenta that I used came together (polenta & stock) in a slow cooker in two hours, though, so it isn’t like fresh polenta is labor intensive.  I only seasoned with S&P but fresh herbs might make these that much more elegant.

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Easy Vegan Baked Polenta Fries

Some prepared polenta  (from a tube – or my slow cooker recipe for the polenta is HERE)

S&P

Cooking spray (I used olive oil cooking spray)

Parchment paper (optional but awesome)

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Cut your polenta into fries & place on parchment paper or directly on a greased cooking sheet.  Spray with cooking oil & add S&P.

Bake for 20-30 minutes – flipping once – or until cooked to your desire.  See?  EASY!  Now – get your ass to dipping these motherfuckers!

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Vegan Creamy Polenta Bowl with Roasted Beets, Toasted Walnuts, Thyme & Balsamic Glaze

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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Once again, I created a dish out of an effort to use what I had on hand and, I must admit, I am quite delighted.  I had a bag of polenta from the bulk section at Lassen’s (a store that is a wonderland of healthy foods but 1) mixes meat & vegan items in the same cases & it can get confusing and 2) is SO FUCKING claustrophobic that I am in a mild panic the whole time I am there).  I also had some roasted beets I needed to use.  Voila!

I am a huge fan of both polenta & grits (grits being the same thing, really, but just not as finely ground).  I especially like them creamy & soft – like a porridge.  Most polenta & grits recipes have cheese in them & you can certainly add cheese but this didn’t need it.  AND – I cooked the polenta in my slow cooker while I went spinning this morning!  I came home, exhausted, to a vat of steaming, creamy polenta.  Win win!

If you are not vegan, some crumbled goat cheese on this would be divine!  Acctually – they make lots of vegan cheeses that are like goat cheese or Boursin & a little bit of one of those might be a nice addition to this dish.   If you don’t like or don’t have walnuts – I think pistachios would be better, anyway – I just didn’t have any.  Oh – and polenta is naturally gluten-free.  This is a very low fat recipe but is warm & hearty & great for winter weather.  If you really want to get all cold-weather crazy – stir a small can of pumpkin puree into the polenta.   Yuuuum!

I used this balsamic glaze (below) but a balsamic reduction is VERY easy to make.

BALSAMIC REDUCTION

Simply boil a nice balsamic until it reduces by about 50-75% and has a thick syrupy texture.  It really does reduce a LOT so – if it reduces to too little for your pizza – just boil down some more.  Be careful not to burn it! I used about a tablespoon of the reduction on this polenta.

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Vegan Creamy Polenta Bowl with Roasted Beets, Toasted Walnuts, Thyme & Balsamic Glaze

This makes enough polenta to feed 4 easily.  The quantity of the toppings is up to you.

INGREDIENTS

2 cups dry polenta

8 cups vegetable stock

Beets

Walnuts (or pistachios)

Fresh thyme removed from stems

Balsamic glaze (see recipe above if you want to make it yourself)

(Adding vegan goat cheese – or any other very soft cheese) at the end with the beets & nuts would take this to the next level.  Fried sage – in place of the thyme – might also be nice.)

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

I cooked my polenta in a slow cooker by simply putting the polenta & stock in there, setting it on high (cover on) and two hours later – I had a lot of creamy goodness.  If it gets too thick, add more water or stock.  If it is too thing – cook a bit longer (taking the top off accelerates this process).

OR – cook your polenta according to the package (using stock rather than water).  Stove top – this should take 30-40 minutes.

Wrap beets well in foil. You might want to drizzle a bit of olive oil in there but that is not necessary.  Place on a baking sheet and bake until beets are slightly soft to the touch, 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on their size. Cool beets and then rub off skins (use a paring knife for tough spots).

Toast the nuts in a dry pan for 2-3 minutes – stirring frequently so they do not burn.  Set aside.

Now – assemble your bowls.  Spoon in the polenta, top with beets & nuts & a drizzle of balsamic glaze & some thyme leaves.  Add cheese – if you are using some.  I did not.

Eat’m up!

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Creamy Vegan No-Pasta Zoodles with Arugula & Chanterelle Mushrooms & Thyme

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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Zoodles.  Noodles made from spiralized zucchini.  No carbs.  No guilt.  Really yummy & very easy.  I prefer the hand held & less expensive spiralizer like THESE for zucchini.  It is fast & easy to use & has minimal clean up – but if you have a tabletop version – knock yourself out.

I used Chanterelle mushrooms because I had them but any of the more mildly flavored mushrooms will do.  I might avoid portobello only because they can get dark when cooked and not look so pretty.  I also used arugula but spinach or any other leafy green, like kale or chard, would also work.

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I used my own, homemade vegan mozzarella (seen above) but any mild vegan cheese will do – and even real cheese would work – if you are a cheese eater.

This was my first effort with zoodles where I did not add real pasta to the mix so – without the heat of pasta to toss them with – they needed some cooking.  My result was more watery (you can see in the photos) than was ideal and so – in the future – I will use THIS technique to drain them a bit before cooking them and I recommend you do, too.  The procedure is simply to lay the zoodles on paper towel & lightly salt them & press more paper towel on top.  Maybe change out the top towel – if necessary.  Roll up in paper towel & squeeze.  This should get most of the excess moisture out.

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Creamy Vegan No-Pasta Zoodles with Arugula & Chanterelle Mushrooms & Thyme

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INGREDIENTS

2 very large zucchini (enough so you get about 5-6 cups of spiralized noodles) – spiralized

1/2 lb mushrooms (I used Chanterelle) – sliced

1-2 cups arugula (or spinach)

1-2 cups grated vegan mozzarella (I used one cup but would suggest going with two)

2 garlic cloves – chopped

Olive oil

Several TBS Fresh thyme – removed from stems

2 TBS vegan butter

2 TBS flour

1 cup almond (or other vegan) milk

S&P

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DIRECTIONS

Spiralize the zucchini & follow THESE steps to remove excess moisture.

Heat the butter in a stock pot & whisk in the flour.  Add a TBS or two of fresh thyme.  Incrementally add the milk in small amounts – allowing the roux to thicken each time.   Add the cheese & stir with a wooden spoon until the cheese melts & the sauce is creamy.  Season with S&P.  Stir in the arugula.  Set aside on medium-low to keep warm.

In  saute pan – heat a TBS olive oil & cook the mushrooms.  When they are almost done to your liking – add the garlic & a TBS of thyme & stir to incorporate.  After 2 minutes or so – remove from heat because you don’t want to burn the garlic.  Season with S&P.

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In that same saute pan – heat another TBS or two & quickly cook the zoodles – not more than 2-3 minutes or they will get too mushy.  Toss the zoodles with the cheese sauce & heat through.

Serve on plates & spoon some mushrooms onto each serving.  Garnish with more thyme & freshly cracked pepper.

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Potato Hash – Vegan or Not

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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NOTE – the hash itself is vegan.  Eggs, clearly, are not.  If you are vegan – just skip the eggs.

So – I had a lot of leftover Simple Salt & Pepper Roasted Brussels Sprouts – seen above.  Looking around the kitchen, I saw potatoes & determined to make this hash.  I used only onion, potato & the leftover sprouts but you could add garlic and – if you eat seafood – salmon (smoked or otherwise) would be delicious in this!  Also – I fried an egg (free range & fertilized – from Farm Fresh to You) and put it on top of the hash – primarily because I always love photos with eggs in them.  The egg was steaming hot & vibrant & made for pretty images – but I could not bring myself to eat it.  I fed it to my dogs.  While, currently, I am merely a vegetarian – I lean closer & closer to veganism, all the time.  I never use any real milk products – and, at this point, even very fresh milk smells sour to me & tastes thick & gross.  I almost always use vegan butter & now that I discovered this The Best Fast & Easy Vegan Mozzarella – for Melting & Grating (seen below) – I use this on my pizzas.

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While I do still eat real cheese sometimes – I have made a real effort to get off eggs completely.  That will be easier now that I seem to have developed a psychological block against them.  I really could not even put that egg to my lips.

But folks love eggs & lots of you would really enjoy this hash with a fried or poached egg on top of it.  Know that if hen cruelty concerns you – you should buy only eggs labeled PASTURED (meaning – out in a pasture) – and not cage-free.  Cage-free just means they are not contained in battery cages but they are still packed, indoors, in an ammonia-soaked environment & they suffer terribly.   If you want to see a bunch of free-range hens being rescued & released into a sanctuary – watch THIS video.  It is not gross or gruesome but it shows you how sick & devastated these “free range” chickens are.

Anyway – back to pretty pictures of eggs & some delicious hash!

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Potato Hash

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

5-10 roasted Brussels sprouts – chopped (if you don’t want to roast them first – grate them up or shred them & they will cook nicely)

1/2 small onion (I used a red one) – diced

1 large Russet potato – peeled & diced small

S&P

2 TBS vegan butter or olive oil

Eggs – OPTIONAL – in the quantity that suits you (one or two per person)

Parsley – chopped as garnish

OPTIONAL – chopped garlic, chopped smoked or other cooked salmon, diced jalapeno, diced red bell pepper

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the butter or oil over medium-high heat & cook the potatoes a few minutes.  Add the onion & the Brussels sprouts & some S&P.  Add any other ingredients you are opting to use.  Cook until the potatoes are soft.  Lower temperature to low & keep warm.

If you are using eggs – fry or poach them.  Put some hash on each plate & top with eggs (if using) and a pinch of parsley & some S&P.

Easy!

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Simple Salt & Pepper Roasted Brussels Sprouts

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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I love Brussels sprouts.  They can be cooked lots of ways & go great in pasta or on pizza.  They are also wonderful, raw & shredded, in salads.  Here are some of my posts using these babies.

Vegan Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Spicy Candied Walnuts

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Rustic Pizza with Vegan Sausage, Broccolette (Broccolini), Shaved Brussels Sprouts, Mushrooms, Farmers Cheese, Goat Cheese and Micro Arugula

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Mixed Vegetable Risotto with Fennel and Roasted Brussels Sprouts (Vegan – Vegetarian)

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Tricolore Salad with Shaved Brussels Sprouts, Belgian Endive and Radicchio

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Orecchiette Pasta with Creamy Blue Cheese, Shaved Brussels Sprouts & Arugula (Vegan or Not)

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Pasta with Crispy Brussels Sprouts and Creamy Gorgonzola and Pear

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Brussels Sprouts & Burrata Pizza with Pecorino & Dried Meyer Lemon Zest

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Pizza with Roasted Red & Golden Beets, Garlic Fried Brussels Sprouts, Pistachios, Feta & Honey

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Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Toasted Pistachios, Dried Cranberries & Pomegranate Seeds

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Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie with Brussels Sprouts, Carrots & Jalapeno Mashed Potatoes

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Raw Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Toasted Pecans & Feta Cheese

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So – today – I just cut a bunch of these guys up – tossed them with a little olive oil and S&P.  They were delicious, as is, and could be served as a side dish or – as I did – served as an appetizer with some dipping sauce of your choice.  I happened to have truffle aioli by Stonewall Kitchen (I am helpless against their packaging which makes all their products almost irresistible to me) & it was a perfect, if very rich, flavor with the Brussels sprouts.  You could make your own aioli or use a dressing – like ranch or something.  The best part was the crispy outer leaves.  Mmmm!

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Simple Salt & Pepper Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Feeds as many as you like – depending on how many you make

INGREDIENTS

Brussels sprouts – halved or quartered if they are very large

Olive oil

S&P

And your choice of dipping sauce – optional

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Toss the sprouts in a drizzle of olive oil & some salt & pepper.  Roast 15-20 minutes or until they are done to your liking.  Bust out the dip & go to town!

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