Categories
Who is following us?









Proud member of FoodBlogs

Archive for the ‘Vegetarian’ Category

A Holiday Worthy Appetizer

According to the looks of my Google Reader, it is definitely the holiday season, and there is no doubt that everyone has sweet treats on their mind. I have seen so many incredible recipes for cookies, cakes, bars and candy. I am pretty sure I have enough recipes saved to last me for a few holiday seasons to come, and I would like to thank you fabulous cooks/bakers out there for sharing them.

With that said, we can’t possibly live off of sweet treats alone for the next month. Although many of you may beg to differ, I think even my large sweet tooth will need a break here and there.

With the holidays comes entertaining, and with entertaining usually comes a need for appetizers. I know when I entertain I like to make as much as possible from scratch.  There is just something about people enjoying something that you created. Although, I have learned from experience that if you want to enjoy yourself, you have to pick and choose your battles. For some reason though, it always seems like the great sounding appetizers are also time consuming, and are best prepared right before serving. Obviously the last thing you want to be doing when your guests arrive is slaving in the kitchen with those appetizers. Well my friends, I have found an appetizer that is not only a cinch to make, but will make your taste buds forget all about those sweet treats we have come to love this time of year.

The fabulous Ina Garten has come through once again. When I saw her make a roasted tomato caprese salad, there was no doubt in my mind that I would have to try it. Oh, and try it I did! Twice actually! I made it for my husband as part of his birthday dinner, and we fell in love with it. After raving about it to my dad, he insisted that I make it for him as well. So, when my dad’s birthday rolled around last week, I was sure to put it on the menu for his birthday dinner as well. He loved it, my stepmom loved it, and my husband and I loved it all over again.

It is a must try recipe! It is simple, doesn’t call for a lot of ingredients, and (although it takes a while to cook) it doesn’t take much prep time at all. What more can you ask for? I promise, it will be a hit!

tomatoes 3-1

tomatoes big

Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad

courtesy of Food Network and Barefoot Contessa

12 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise, seeds (not cores) removed
1/4 cup good olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
16 ounces fresh salted mozzarella
12 fresh basil leaves, julienned (or left whole)

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.

Arrange the tomatoes on a sheet pan, cut sides up, in a single layer. Drizzle with 1/4 cup of olive oil and the balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with the garlic, sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 2 hours until the tomatoes are concentrated and begin to caramelize. Allow the tomatoes to cool to room temperature.

Cut the mozzarella into slices slightly less than 1/2-inch thick. If the slices of mozzarella are larger than the tomatoes, cut the mozzarella slices in half. Layer the tomatoes alternately with the mozzarella on a platter and scatter the basil on top. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Serve at room temperature.

Note:  I left the basil whole the first time I made it, but the second time we julienned it.  Personally, I preferred it julienned and found it easier to eat that way.

Yields: approximately 6 servings

Share

Perfect Pesto & More

As you may have noticed, I was absent for about two weeks, up until two days ago. My husband and I were actually in Long Island and NYC for a wedding and vacation for a few days and then I had family visiting for a week. So it has been a bit hectic and I apologize for my lack of posting. I promise that I will be sharing some highlights from our NYC trip very soon though. Needless to say, we had some amazing food during our visit.

While wandering around the city we decided to check out the market and shops in Grand Central Terminal. We were very excited to find a Penzey’s, since we don’t have one in South Florida and have always ordered online. We were also intrigued by this little oil and vinegar shop we came across, Oliviers & Co or O & Co. I let my husband take a peak while I ran to a different store to pick something up for my mom. When I returned he seemed quite excited about what he had found in the shop. The lady pretty much let him taste every oil and vinegar in the shop, even the bottles that were priced well over $100. They also had a great selection of imported pastas. So now the question was, what do we buy? So I tasted a few and we finally made some decisions.

Our final choices included:
Gaec Salvator Extra Virgin Olive Oil – France
Basil Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fig Vinegar – Provence
Purple Basil Vinegar – South Asia
Penne with Wheat Germ
Straccetti with Wheat Germ

We were so excited to return from our trip and find our products were shipped right behind us and arrived a couple of days later. My husband’s birthday was quickly approaching and he loves pasta, so I knew this would be a great opportunity to try out some of our new goods. I decided to do a pasta tasting for his birthday dinner. One of the dishes would have to be pesto, because I felt that would be a great way to showcase our new Gaec Salvator. I started searching for a great, simple recipe. Of course I turned to Cook’s Illustrated and was happy to find a classic version in my The New Best Recipe book. I figured I couldn’t go wrong with that.

The outcome? A perfectly simple pesto that was made even better with our incredible EVOO.

Stay tuned for more recipes to come using our delicious new additions!

Pesto 2

Classic Pesto

courtesy of Cook’s Illustrated,
The New Best Recipe

1/4 cup almonds (pine nuts or walnuts are fine too)
3 medium garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves (optional-I did not use)
7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Toast the nuts in a small, heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until just golden and fragrant, 4-5 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a plate.

Add the unpeeled garlic to the empty skillet. Toast, shaking pan occasionally, until fragrant and the color of the cloves deepens slightly, about 7 minutes. Let the garlic cool, then peel and chop.

Combine the basil and parsley (if using) in a heavy-duty zipper-lock plastic bag. Pound the bag with the flat side of a meat pounder or rolling pin until all the leaves are bruised.

Place the nuts, garlic, pounded herb(s), oil, and 1/2 tsp. salt in a food processor. Process until smooth, stopping as necessary to scrape down the sides of the workbowl. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl, stir in the Parmesan cheese, and adjust the salt to taste.

The surface of the pesto can be covered with a sheet of plastic wrap or a thin film of oil and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Yields: about 3/4 cup

Share

Yes, you heard me right!

I absolutely love soup. Even though I live in a place where it is at least in the 80’s, if not the 90’s most of the year, I can eat soup all of the time. Maybe it’s because I am cold natured and once the air conditioning hits below 75 I am chilled. I don’t know, but I am not going to complain because soup is an easy meal that can be made a million healthy ways. I love the fact that it is usually hearty, but it doesn’t have to be laden with fat, calories and sodium to be that way.

With that said, you are probably thinking that cream based soups are definitely out of the question then. Wrong! A fellow blogger of mine, Cara at Cara’s Cravings, is always coming up with healthy, yet delicious and satisfying meal ideas. She is amazing at thinking outside of the box. Well, a while back I found a recipe on her blog for a Creamy Asparagus Soup. The word’s “Amazingly Healthy” were also placed in front of the title. This was definitely something I was going to have to try!

So, you ask, how does she make this so called “creamy” soup creamy while still keeping it healthy? Don’t you dare snub your nose at this when I tell you!!! Cottage Cheese. Yes, I said cottage cheese. As we all know, this is something that you either like or you loathe. I am pretty sure most people loathe it because of it’s not so appealing texture. I mean it is instilled in us from a young age that chunks in dairy products aren’t usually a good sign, except of course with cottage cheese. Well, I assure you that this “creamy” soup will in fact be creamy and not chunky. The trick is pureeing the cottage cheese so it actually has a completely smooth texture and resembles a cream substance. I honestly thought this was genius and would have never thought to do it on my own. As Cara reminds us in her post, not only are you making a soup creamy without guilt, but you are also adding a good amount of protein and calcium to your dish.

So, Cara dared us to make this for our non-cottage cheese eating husbands, which I did. The first time I made this I made it exactly the way she did. Although my husband was a bit freaked out by the thought of the cottage cheese, he did admit that it was a great soup and that if he didn’t know, then he would not be able to tell there was cottage cheese in it. Well, I decided to make it again recently, but try it with different veggies. Instead of asparagus I included broccoli and cauliflower. It turned out just as fabulous as the asparagus version. So I send you off to go try the cottage cheese method and experiment with it a bit. I assure you, you will not be disappointed.

Brocc Soup OS 3 cropped

Creamy Broccoli and Cauliflower Soup

adapted from Cara’s Cravings

1 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
12 oz. of fresh broccoli/cauliflower mix (or 6 oz. of each)
freshly ground salt & pepper
1/4-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4-1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 cups chicken broth
6oz low fat cottage cheese
1/4 cup nonfat milk

Wash the broccoli and cauliflower, and chop into small pieces, about 1/4-1/2″. Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook for about 7 minutes, until softened and translucent. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add broccoli and cauliflower, salt & pepper, lemon juice and seasoning and stir to combine. Add chicken broth; this should be enough to just cover the vegetables in the pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 10-15 minutes until vegetables are tender.

Blend together the cottage cheese and milk in a blender or in a separate container using an immersion blender, until completely smooth. Set aside.

Remove the soup from heat and process until smooth, either using an immersion blender or by transferring to a food processor or blender. Return to medium-low heat and gently stir in cottage cheese mixture. Bring to a boil, and cook for 1-2 minutes to let it fully thicken.

*Notes:

-Cara used Penzey’s Greek seasoning in her version instead of the spice blend. If you have the Greek seasoning, feel free to use 1 tsp. of that in place of the garlic powder, oregano and lemon juice that I used.

-I have used both a blender and an immersion blender, I recommend the immersion blender over the regular blender if you have the choice.

-Be sure to blend the cottage cheese until it is COMPLETELY smooth. If you don’t get it completely smooth, then you will have small chunks in your soup.

-You can also make this soup vegetarian by using vegetable stock/broth.

Yields 4 smaller servings

Approximate Nutrition Facts (according to Spark Recipe)
Serving Size: about 2 ladles full
Calories: 92.1
Total Fat: 2.6 g
Saturated Fat: 1.7 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.4 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 0.6 g
Cholesterol: 10.3 mg
Carbohydrates: 8.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.7 g
Protein: 9 g

*The sodium content is going to vary depending on the type of stock/broth that you use. I recommend using a low sodium version. I used a cottage cheese that had a 4% fat content, feel free to use something less.

Share

Black-Bean Soup with a Kick

If my husband had his way, he would eat a vegetable (preferably broccoli) and a starch with his dinner every night. Don’t get me wrong, he is not a picky meat and potatoes kind of guy, but he would still be completely content with the simplicity of those side dishes on a daily basis. Me on the other hand, would probably give up eating altogether before I would eat the same stark meals day after day. So I am always on a mission to find new, but healthy side dishes to compliment our meals. I mean let’s face it, we could all eat mac n’ cheese, loaded potatoes and every other calorie laden side dish every day of the week if our waistlines and arteries would let us, but that is not realistic. At least it isn’t in my world. So that leads us back to finding the healthy, but tasty and satisfying variety of dishes.

After plastering the title of boring eater to my husband, I will now give him some credit because he is the one who suggested black bean soup over our fairly regular black beans the other night. Although I was the one who raced up the stairs in hopes of beating him to a great recipe. See, he will look for a recipe and then try to change it in every way possible in order to not follow the recipe. In many cases this leads to a fabulous dish (b/c he is a great cook), but in other cases he turns into the spice monster and tends to “over flavor” the dish. So I raced to my computer and immediately went to Epicurious.com, which is my new favorite recipe source. One of the first recipes I pulled up was one from the December 2008 issue of Gourmet magazine. I thought it was going to be something a little too obscure for our simple dinner, but surprisingly it was a simple yet delicious sounding concoction. I passed it along to the anti-recipe guy, since I was going to put him in charge of making it, and to my surprise he said it sounded great! No only that, but he made the recipe without altering it beyond recognition. Of course we did change it up a tiny bit, but for the most part it was great the way it was.

So we now have a new side dish to add to our repertoire and my husband actually followed a recipe without completely changing every element. Don’t get me wrong though, I may like to give my hubby a hard time, but he is an amazing cook and I love him dearly.

BB soup 1-cropped

BB soup 2-cropped

Spicy Black-Bean Soup

adapted from Gourment 12/08 via Epicurious.com

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 fresh jalapeño (2 inches), seeded and minced
1 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 (15-ounces) cans black beans, 1 drained and rinsed, 1 with liquid (we use low sodium)
2 1/2 cups chicken stock/broth (use 2 cups if you prefer it thicker)
1 bay leaf
Green Onion, chopped for garnish

*Use vegetable stock to make this dish vegetarian.

Heat oil in a 4-to 5-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat, then sauté onion, garlic, and jalapeño with chili powder, cumin, and oregano until onion is beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add beans, stock/broth, and bay leaf and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until soup has thickened slightly, about 15 minutes.

Transfer about 1 cup soup to a blender and purée (use caution when blending hot liquids). Return to pot and reheat over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Discard bay leaf. Season with salt if desired. Add green onion for garnish.

Yields 4-6 servings

Approximate Nutrition Facts (according to Spark Recipe)
Calories: 229.7
Total Fat: 3.9 g
Saturated Fat: .09 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.5 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 0.9 g
Cholesterol: 3.1 mg
Carbohydrates: 44.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 11.6 g
Protein: 13.6 g

*Please note that these are very approximate nutrition facts since one can of beans was rinsed from it’s liquid. This is also why I left the sodium out b/c it was not going to be accurate at all.  These facts were also based on the amounts for 4 servings.

Share

Kicked Up Green Beans

I’ll be honest; I am not a huge fan of many vegetables. I mean I don’t mind them and I will eat most of them, enjoying some more than others, but if I were forced to not eat a good number of veggies I would have no problem with that. Greg on the other hand will eat almost any vegetable you put in front of him.

Knowing that it is a must for me to include lots of veggies in my diet, I take my so-so relationship with vegetables and try to find ways to spruce them up so I will enjoy them more. Green beans are a vegetable that I like for the most part and I love onions, so when I saw this recipe I figured it would be a great combination for my vegetable picky taste buds. It is a simple recipe but just gives that extra something. It is also a great side dish for gatherings; we have served it twice for family get-togethers and everyone loves it.

green-beans

Green Beans with Caramelized Onions

courtesy of Cooking Light

2 tbs. olive oil, divided
2 (16-ounce) packages frozen pearl onions, thawed
1 tbs. sugar
1 tsp. salt, divided
2 pounds green beans, trimmed

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Pat onions dry with paper towels; add to pan. Increase heat to medium-high; sauté onions 5 minutes. Add sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt; sauté 15 minutes or until onions are tender and golden brown. Spoon into a bowl.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add beans; sauté 8 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add onions, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper; cook 2 minutes or until mixture is thoroughly heated.

If you like a little heat, add crushed red pepper to taste towards the end.

Yields: 10 servings

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1 cup
Calories: 89
Total Fat: 2.9 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 249 mg
Carbohydrates: 15.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.6 g
Protein: 2.5 g
Share

Summery Soup

When it comes to dinner, sometimes I’m just not in the mood for meat, veggies and a starch; I want something different. So, while thumbing through my Ellie Krieger cookbook I came across a recipe for Summer Corn and Vegetable Soup and knew that would be a great change-up. It called for lots of my favorite vegetables and it was more of a chowder style so I knew it would be hearty.

I whipped a batch up one night and served it with a half of a sandwich. It was so filling! I couldn’t even finish my bowl. Greg was even satisfied by this “lighter” meal. It is jam packed with fresh and easy to find ingredients and is a cinch to make. What more could you ask for?

corn-chowder

Summer Corn and Vegetable Soup

Courtesy of The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger

4 cups fresh corn kernels or two 10 oz. packages frozen corn, thawed
2 cups non-fat milk
1 tbs. olive oil
1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups)
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced (about 1 cup)
1 small zucchini (about ½ lb.), diced
2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
¾ tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ cup fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons

Put 2 cups of the corn and the milk into a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and zucchini and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining 2 cups corn and the broth and bring to a boil. Add the pureed corn and the tomatoes and cook until warmed through but not boiling. Add the salt and season with pepper. Serve garnished with the basil ribbons.

Yields: 6 servings

Nutrition Facts (according to book)
Serving size: 1 ½ cups
Calories: 180
Total Fat: 5 g
Cholesterol: 5 mg
Sodium: 365 mg
Carbohydrates: 32 g
Dietary Fiber: 4 g
Protein: 9.5 g

Share

My Ode to Pasta Salad

Oh how I love a great pasta salad. My mom always makes pasta salad in the summer; it is an old standby in our household. Her version is delicious, but it could probably add up on the waistline a bit. It isn’t that bad, but she does love to put chunks of cheese in it and lots of dressing. So over the years I have made my own versions of pasta salad and usually try to make them on the lighter side. I find it to be very subjective and I love that about it. You can make a million different versions and adapt it to practically anyone’s diet restrictions.

With summer in the air; yes I do realize it is only April but in south Florida we don’t really have a spring. So with summer in the air I decided to make a good old pasta salad for Greg and I. As some may know, I have really been trying to take some weight off, tone up and get Greg and I back on a more healthful and balanced diet. So I made this pasta salad with whole-wheat pasta and I went light on the pasta and heavy on the veggies.

As I mentioned earlier, I think pasta salad is very subjective so I have decided not to post an exact recipe. I figured this entry could serve more as inspiration than as a definite idea. So please, add what you like….have fun with it! I don’t think I’ve ever made a pasta salad the same way twice.

This past time I used the whole-wheat pasta, broccoli florets, zucchini, carrot, red onion, black olives, pimento, homemade Italian dressing and Italian seasoning. It was light, satisfying and deliciously summer.

pasta-salad

Share

Love is in the air.

Since Valentine’s Day was on a Saturday this year, Greg and I decided that we were going to celebrate at home. We didn’t want to be bothered with the crowds at restaurants to only receive a sub-par meal from an overwhelmed kitchen. We thought that cooking together and enjoying a romantic dinner with a bottle of great wine would be much more enjoyable. As a side note while I am mentioning wine, I picked up a bottle of Mark West Pinot Noir a while back since Pinot is Greg’s favorite and I had read that this was a fantastic wine for the price.  This was the bottle we chose to have with dinner and to my surprise and happiness, Greg loved it and thought it was one of the best Pinots he has ever had. Score one for me!

Getting back to dinner, we decided that Greg would grill up some steaks, which he does incredibly well, and I would be in charge of side dishes and dessert. For the sides, I ended up going with a cheesy smashed potato crock and zesty asparagus with shallots and fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

After sitting down to our home cooked masterpiece, we both agreed that we made the right decision by staying in. The food was amazing; especially his steaks and we were able to enjoy each other’s company without the hustle and bustle of the Valentines crowd. This may just be a new tradition for us.

dsc_0026

Cheesy Smashed Potato Crocks

1 large baking potato
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
½ cup cream (or milk)
1 tbs. unsalted butter
¼ cup chopped green onion
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Peel the potato and cut it into about 1 inch chunks.  Place the cut potato into a medium pot of salted water and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Boil the potatoes for about 10 minutes or until a knife can be inserted easily.
Drain the potatoes and place in a mixing bowl.  Using a fork, smash the potatoes to the consistency you desire (I chose to leave small bits in ours).  Add ½ cup of cheese to the bowl (please note that you can use as much or as little cheese as you desire).  Add the cream (or milk), butter, green onion and salt & pepper to taste.  Mix well until all ingredients are incorporated.

Divide the potato mixture into two crocks or individual sized casserole dishes.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of each dish.  Place the dishes on a baking sheet and insert in oven.  Bake 15-20 minutes, or until tops have golden brown specs.

Serve the hot crocks carefully.

Yields: 2 servings.

dsc_0032

Zesty Asparagus

1 package fresh asparagus
2 shallots, sliced
1 tbs. butter
1 ½ tsp. Penzey’s Tuscan Seasoning (or Italian seasoning)
1 tsp. dried red pepper flakes.
¼ cup fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

Wash the asparagus and cut into 2 inch pieces. Place the butter in a sauté pan on medium-high heat. When the butter has begun to melt, add the sliced shallot and the cut asparagus. Add the Tuscan Seasoning and red pepper flakes. Cook for about 10 minutes or until your desired tenderness. Remove from pan and put in a serving dish, sprinkle the top with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Yields: 2-3 large servings.

Share

A Healthy Lasagna?

I love to cook Italian food. Lucky for me my husband equally loves to eat Italian food. Unfortunately neither of us has the naturally skinny gene and Italian food isn’t usually the least fattening of things to cook. Once again I turned to Cooking Light as a resource to get my wheels spinning. I found a great recipe that I was able to tweak to fit to our tastes. You can imagine my happiness to be able to create a great tasting, low fat/cal lasagna that we don’t have to feel guilty about eating. Bring on the seconds!

lasagna

Vegetable Lasagna

adapted from Cooking Light
1 teaspoon olive oil
3/4 cup chopped spinach
1 cup chopped zucchini
1/2 cup sliced carrot
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper (or any color you have on hand)
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
26 ounces of your favorite (tomato) pasta sauce
2 tablespoons commercial pesto (feel free to use your own)
1 (15 oz) container part-skim ricotta cheese
cooking spray
6 hot cooked lasagna noodles, cut in half
3/4 cup (3 oz) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the spinach, zucchini, carrot and bell pepper. Cook for five minutes, stirring frequently. Add pasta sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Combine the ricotta and pesto in a small bowl. Spread 1/2 cup of the tomato mixture in the bottom of a 8 inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 4 noodle halves over tomato mixture. Top noodles with half of the ricotta mixture and 1 cup tomato mixture. Repeat layers, ending with noodles. Spread remaining tomato mixture over noodles; sprinkle with mozzarella.

Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 2o minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Note: I placed baking dish on top of a cookie sheet to prevent spillage in the oven.

Share
A word from my sponsor…

WC Nesties Blogroll


Facebook Blog Followers

Valid CSS! [Valid RSS]