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Happy New Year Recipe – Freekeh Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Resolutions, diets, cleanses, gym memberships… It is that season right? And by now, as mid-January quickly approaches, some of the lofty goals set for 2016 while under the influence of a great too many drinks on the Eve don’t seem to make so much sense anymore right? New Year Resolutions are often such epic and drastic plans of self-makeovers, they almost seem impossible to achieve. Especially without a solid plan of attack in place. Are your resolutions already simmering on a back burner? Or are you procrastinating jumping in? I personally find New Year’s Eve resolutions so… Hmmm… So restrictive? So absolute? So unforgiving? Almost like setting ourselves up for failure on improvements we want to see happen but have not yet been able to conquer… Personally, I am not fond on New Year’s Eve celebrations: I have always found the farewell to the past year very anticlimactic as we often decide to change the very things we wanted to change the previous year. And by the time December 31st rolls around, I am completely partied out. My stomach has a hard time handling yet another puff pastry, cheese-filled, cream-laced, bacon-wrapped, sugar-coated treat. So by the time the clock strikes midnight on the first day of the new year and I force down that glass of really good champagne, I am so saturated that I feel ready to make the biggest resolutions ever to go on a cleanse, eat only veggies, lose X number of pounds and exercise every day!!! Until the vapors dissipate… Thankfully, with age, and dare I say wisdom, I have come to accept that the same old, same old New Year resolutions are actually more a work in progress than an entirely new and clean slate. Therefore, I propose to change the word resolution to evolution!

If you are anything like me, your budget is pretty dry right now from spoiling every one you love but yourself and your belly is probably a little bloated. Instead of removing every «forbidden» food item from my list on January first, I simply decided to continue with my evolution by giving myself a break from spending money on stuff while giving myself some much needed TLC. It is quite an accomplishment for me to have been able to maintain a healthy body weight over the last 2 years. Yes, there have been a few set-backs but overall, I am very pleased to say that I currently have a good grasp over my food demons. Well, maybe not always a good grasp as the Tales of December Feasts can tell… But it has been easy to rein myself in once all the parties stopped. My skin tone is revealing stories of late nights, excellent wines paired with just as excellent cheeses! My sleep patterns are also wonky. But heck, it was worth it! And I will probably succumb to another several rounds of feasting come December next year!!! Since it took a full 10 days of gorging to start feeling the effects of the Holidays tables’ plentifulness and decadence, I was expecting it would take at least a full 10 days before the gut started to stop «vibrating», swooshing and acting weird. As I am writing this, I can say the «healing» has begun!

The biggest challenge I will face with my evolution in the upcoming year is making quality time for this blog. My biggest hurdle is the lack of creative energy after I tend to all the «have to do» activities of daily life… Work is busy, home life is busy and social activities are busy. Since I am a tad perfectionist, I find it difficult to simply write a short intro to any recipe I may want to share. It has held me back from posting on this blog. More often than none, I create recipes, lay out the ingredients, and take fabulous pictures with my blog in mind. As these activities take place, I am excited and gong-ho with writing a fabulous piece for the blog. And then, the demands of life set in:  creativity vanishes! Soooooo for 2016, I will try to rein in my obsessive need to write what I feel is the perfect story and instead, share a bit more of the good stuff: the FOOD!

Without further ado, I am presenting to you my first recipe of the year. It was inspired by a new cookbook I received for Christmas: Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. There is a recipe in the book for stuffed portobello mushroom caps. Typical me, I bought the caps without looking at the rest of the ingredients. And typical me, I had to improvise to fill the caps since I was missing half the ingredients!!! Cooking the mushroom caps in the oven before stuffing was the only part of the recipe I «poached» from the book. The end result was very, very good! And I must say that these mushroom caps tasted even better the next day. Both the King and I agreed that the flavours matured tremendously with time. I made enough that we were enjoying them again 4 days later and they were still excellent, if not better.

As part of a healthy way of life, I try to keep my intake of grains to a minimum and concentrate on the really weird ones I have absolutely no idea how to prepare. One even has the name Freekeh. Freaky eh?

Freekeh Stuffed Portobello Mushroom Caps

What you need:

*Freekeh is a popular Middle-Eastern grain. It is actually green wheat that has been roasted. It is a good source of fiber and protein. It can also be replaced with any other favourite grain such as bulgur, barley, rice, quinoa… When substituting the grain, select one that is slightly sticky when cooked: you need the filing to bind well in order to stay in the mushroom caps. Freekeh has a lovely mild flavour. Once cooked, it is very tender yet still yields a bit of a chewy texture.

*Swiss chard: to easily chop Swiss chard leaves, remove stems, lay each leaf flat piling them one on top of the other. Roll all the leaves in a tight cigar looking shape. Cut slices, the thickness depends on how large you want the slices to be. You can replace Swiss chard with any other leafy green of your choice.

How to do it:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Rinse freekeh well under cold water. Place in a large saucepan with plenty of salted water, 3-4 cups. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a very gentle boil, cover and cook for 20 minutes or until Freekeh is tender. Drain and rinse under cold water until grain is cooled. Set aside
  3. While the freekeh is cooking, line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  4. Clean mushroom caps, removing stems. Remove gills by gently scraping the inside of the cap with a spoon.
  5. Brush the inside of the caps with one tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place mushroom, inside caps up, on baking sheet and bake in oven for 20-25 minutes
  6. In large saucepan on medium heat, add the other 2 tbsp of olive and the leeks. Sauté until the leeks are tender and start to caramelize slightly. Add carrots, thyme, garlic, 1 tsp salt and cook until carrots start to soften, 4-5 minutes. Add white wine and cook until almost all evaporated.
  7. Add the Swiss chard to the saucepan and stir until wilted. Add about half of the reserved Freekeh* to the vegetable mixture. Add the fresh tarragon and the parsley. Remove from heat, taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed.
  8. Assembly: leave the mushroom caps on the baking sheet. Drain any liquid that may have accumulated in the caps during the cooking process. Using a large spoon or ice cream scoop, divide the filling between each of the mushroom caps. Shape with hands to form little mounds. Flatten tops slightly. Top each mushroom cap with ¼ cup of cheese.
  9. Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese has melted and starts to brown a bit
  10. This dish also keeps well for a few days: make great leftovers for lunches.

Happy Evolution!