Meatless Monday -‘Gno’ way!

Gnocchi three ways.

Gnocchi are potato or flour based dumplings boiled in water and served with sauce. They are found in Italian cooking. I find them really quick and easy to make and an ideal canvas for creativity. And of course, easily meat-free!

Here are just a few of the incarnations that I have tried. In each case, steam the vegetable portion and let cool slightly. Mash then set aside. Combine all the other ingredients then mix in the vegetable mash. Roll dough out on a slightly floured surface into a long strip. Cut off thumb-sized pieces then press each one down with the back of a fork. Cook in salted boiling water and let cook about five minutes. They will float to the top when done. Remove from water and add sauce. Serve immediately. Any leftover gnocchi bits should be stored in the fridge for one day or freezer for several days.

  • White potato: 1 organic Yukon gold potato; ¾ spelt flour; ¼ semolina flour; pinch of salt; 1 chia ‘egg’
  • Sweet potato: 1 sweet potato; ¾ cup spelt flour; ¼ cup semolina flour; pinch of salt; 1 flax ‘egg’
  • Butternut squash/pumpkin: ½ cup mashed squash; ¾ cup spelt flour; ¼ cup semolina flour

Sauce suggestions:

  • white potato: tomato sauce and fresh basil
  • sweet potato: a kale pesto sauce
  • butternut squash/pumpkin: a sage butter sauce

*For the chia and flax egg, mix 1 tablespoon of ground chia/flax seed and mix with 3 tablespoons of water. Let sit until it ‘gels’. Alternatively, you can use just a regular egg if you are vegetarian.

*You can use any type of gluten-based flour if you don’t have spelt.

*For extra binding action, you can also add a sprinkling of tapioca or corn starch.

*Additions to serve on top: complimentary veggies, legumes, nuts/seeds, cheese


Safety first

The first thing I did after I got home from my food safety course was rearrange the food in my fridge.

Today I took a course in basic sanitation with TrainCan Inc. ®. This is a company that undertakes training and certification programs in food safety in Canada for those in foodservice/hospitality and retail/grocery businesses.

Here are some tips that I think would be useful for a home cook.

  1. The temperature danger zone for food is 4°-60° C. From preparation to cooking, food should not stay in this range any longer than four hours.
  2. Properly freezing can kill parasites but not bacteria.
  3. The greatest tools for food safety are clean hands and a thermometer. Clean your hands thoroughly and often. Use soap and water to scrub the cuticles and clean hands front and back and in between the fingers. Do this for at least 15 seconds each time you wash your hands. Food thermometers vary in price, from $6 – $100 and you get what you pay for.  Generally the higher the price, the more accurate the reading.
  4. Cooked rice is a potentially dangerous food. If not cooled properly, bacterial spores on the rice can multiply and may form toxins. Cook rice in small amounts and cool any leftovers quickly.
  5. The best way to thaw food is in the fridge.
  6. Only reheat food once.
  7. Avoid keeping easily perishable items in the door of the fridge.
  8. Wet cleaning sponge with some water and add a little soap. Leave in the microwave for two minutes to sanitize.

Some news and information from the TrainCan website:

Meatless Monday – A soup for all seasons

Coming up with interesting recipes is an on-going challenge. And to do so while maintaining a varied diet is even more so. There are three meal ideas, however, that can serve as a canvas of inspiration year-round: soup, salad and sandwiches.

While the format remains the same the ingredients change with the seasons. Research what’s in season in your area and pair with heavy sauces/dressings in the winter and light refreshing ones in the warmer seasons. Cold weather is suited for slow cooking. Choose grains and veggies that take awhile to cook and prepare. The warmer seasons encourage more outdoor time. Pick ingredients that are quick and easy to prepare. Generally cooked and warming/comfort foods are ideal for winter while raw foods are ideal during the warmer months.

Soup – All you need is a broth base, some protein and seasonal vegetables and herbs/spices.

spring-cream of asparagus; summer-gazpacho; autumn-butternut squash; winter-minestrone

Salad – Use any leafy green as the main component and add seasonal vegetables. Top with some grains, beans/tofu/tempeh and nuts/seeds and dress with appropriate dressing.

spring-baby greens with nuts/seeds ; summer-potato salad (a picnic classic) on a bed of lettuce; autumn-the “3 sisters” i.e. squash, corn and beans; winter-roast  vegetables with couscous on a bed of steamed greens

Sandwiches – Two slices or one, double-decker or open-faced, you will need an edible vessel (usually bread) upon which to insert an assortment of veggies (raw, cooked, puréed), some protein (spreadable or pieces) and usually some condiments. You could also use grilled vegetables in place of the bread e.g. portobello mushroom, eggplant. Instead of condiments you could use a bean or vegetable purée,

spring-a wrap filled with cucumbers, tomatoes, avocado and ‘bacon’ tempeh; summer-chickpea ‘egg’ salad; autumn-a Thanksgiving burrito full of ‘stuffing’; winter-lentil sloppy joes