Thursday, December 8, 2011

Spicy Black Beans and Rice

You can adjust the heat on this dish by using regular tomatoes instead of Mexican style, adding a dash of Sriracha or other hot sauce, and adjusting the amount of red pepper you use.

Spicy Black Beans and Rice
Better Homes and Gardens: Vegetarian Cooking

~1 C uncooked brown rice
*1 15 oz can tomato sauce (optional)

1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 15 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 14.5 oz can Mexican Stewed Tomatoes (or other canned tomatoes of  your choice)
1/8 to 1/4 tsp ground red pepper (you can use flakes if that's all you have)

Cheddar cheese or sour cream to serve

First cook the rice. It needs about 3 C of liquid, so I usually do the can of tomato sauce with additional water, but if you prefer only water that is fine as well.

In a pot, saute the onions and garlic in olive oil until they are tender but not browned. Stir in the beans, tomatoes, and red pepper. Bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat and allow the mixture to simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes.

Serve the bean mixture over the rice, topped with cheddar cheese, sour cream, or freshly chopped onion

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Classic Vegetarian Lasagna

This recipe has been in the family for as long as I can remember. It's dependable, healthy, and delicious! The secret is that is uses a homemade sauce, rather than something out of a jar. I also recommend using whole grain lasagna noodles - they are better for you and will produce a better texture.

Vegetarian Lasagna
Inspired by Better Homes and Gardens: New Dieter's Cookbook

12-16 Lasagna noodles
16 oz package frozen broccoli
2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1.5 C each: chopped celery, onion, and green pepper
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
2 bay leaves
2 cloves minced garlic
2 beaten eggs
3 C cottage cheese
3/4 C grated Parmesan cheese
1 C shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Start by putting the broccoli into a strainer and running warm water over it. Allow is to defrost and drain
 in the sink. You want to get rid of as much water as possible so that it doesn't make the lasagna too wet.

 Meanwhile, stir the undrained tomatoes, tomato sauce, celery, onion, green pepper, garlic, basil, oregano, and bay leaves together in a large pot. Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. When the sauce is thick, remove from heat and take out the bay leaves.

While the sauce cooks, boil water for the noodles. Prepare a large amount of counter space covered with wax paper to drain them on. When the water is boiling, add the noodles and allow them to cook only half way - for about 3 minutes. You want them to still be crunchy so that they cook to perfection in the oven! Remove the pasta from the water with tongs, and lay each strip flat on the counter so that it drain. Do not overlap the noodles - they will stick together!

Finally, mix the eggs, cottage cheese, and Parmesan, and about 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper in a bowl. Add the drained broccoli to this mixture.

Now it is time to assemble. Use a 13 by 9 inch baking dish, or something close in size. First, spread about 1/2 C of the red sauce on the bottom of the pan. Place half of the noodles into the pan next, arranging them in an even layer - you may need to trip some pieces to create a full layer. Top the noodles with half of the broccoli mixture and half of the remaining sauce. Repeat another layer of noodles, broccoli mixture, and finally the last of the tomato sauce.

Bake the lasagna for 25 minutes at 375 degrees. Then sprinkle it with the mozzarella, and return it to the oven for another five minutes, or until the cheese begins to crisp and the juices are bubbling. If the lasagna looks dry at any point in the baking process, feel free to add a little low-sodium V-8 juice. Be careful though, you do not want it to get runny!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Spicy Black Bean Cakes

These have been a family favorite for a while now. We serve them with pretty much anything - green veggies, potatoes, rice, you name it.

The other night I made mashed sweet potatoes to go along side. It was heaven. Here is the recipe for both:

Spicy Black Bean Cakes

2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
6 green onions, finely chopped
1/2 C finely chopped red bell pepper
1/4 C chopped fresh cilantro
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tbs minced seeded jalapeƱo chili
2 tsp ground cumin
1 large egg, lightly whisked

2 tbs plus 1 C yellow cornmeal

First, mash the beans in a medium bowl with a fork or potato masher. Add all of the other ingredients plus 1 tablespoon of the cornmeal.

Place the remaining cornmeal in a shallow bowl. Scoop heaping tablespoons of bean mixture into the cornmeal,  fully coating them. Press each ball into a patty - about 1/2 inch think. 

Heat 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. When it is hot, place the cakes into the pan and allow them to cook through, between 3 and 7 minutes per side depending on how fast they crisp up. When they are completely cooked and browned to your liking, remove them from the heat.
 If you life them crispier, you can use more oil and cook the over a hotter flame. 

Serve them with salsa and/or sour cream. 

Mashed Sweet Potatoes
This makes enough for two people - adjust accordingly

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled

~1-2 tbs brown sugar (adjust to your liking)
~2 tbs butter

Dice the sweet potatoes into cubes. Steam them in a covered pot until they are tender - the timing will vary based upon the size of your cubes. 

When the sweet potatoes are soft, blend them in a food processor or blender. Add the butter and sugar and pulse until everything is mixed.

Feel free to add nuts or spices. I personally love them plain with their natural flavor and a hint of sweetness.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cherry Tomato Salad

I'm a big tomato fan and I put them on just about anything. I could eat cherry tomatoes like candy, and if you're like me you'll love this recipe as much as I do.

Get any type of cherry of grape tomatoes you can. It's great if you can find the yellow ones, and it's your lucky day if you stumble upon dark purple or any other variety of heirloom. 

This makes enough for two people, so adjust amounts accordingly

Yummy Cherry Tomato Salad
-My brain

1 C assorted cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
2 tbs chopped red onion
1 clove garlic, finely minced

Adjust these measurements to your desire:

A swirl of olive oil (~tsp)
A few shakes of balsamic vinegar (~tsp)
salt and pepper
freshly snipped cilantro

Mix the tomatoes, onion, and garlic together in the serving bowl. Add the oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and cilantro.

Mix it together and enjoy!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mini Mexican Frittatas

These are quick, easy, and you probably already have all of the ingredients on hand. 

Halving the recipe works fine - I made this for my mom and myself tonight

Mini Mexican Frittatas
-Better Homes and Gardens: Vegetarian Recipes

1 10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 C cottage cheese
1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 C shredded cheddar cheese

4 eggs
1/4 C milk
1 tsp cumin
fresh snipped cilantro or parsley

Turn the oven on to 375 and lightly grease a muffin pan. Mix the spinach and cheeses in a bowl. Separately mix the eggs, milk, and spices. Combine the two mixtures. 

Spoon the mixture into 12 muffin cups and back for about 25 minutes. If the eggs are not quite set or if you like your eggs well done, feel free to broil them for about 2 minutes at the end.

Remove them from the oven and let the pan stand for about 5 minutes. Remove them with a rubber spatula. Serve with salsa and/or sour cream.

We had ours with slightly spicy salsa - it gave them a nice little kick!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Black Bean Soup

This is a new recipe and it's a keeper.  The secret ingredient is sun-dried tomatoes. They come in jars packing in oil or water as well as in vacuum-packed plastic containers but I always buy the plastic containers - i think it's cheaper.

For the record, I cut this recipe in half because I was only cooking for my dad and myself. It worked great simply doing half of everything

Black Bean Soup
-Moosewood Restaurant  Cooks At Home
(sorry, no picture!)

10 sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil)

11/2 C finely chopped onion
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 jalapeno chile, minced

1 tsp ground cumin
1/3 C water
3 C un-drained whole canned tomatoes (28 0z can)
4 C black beans (2 16oz cans) **

V8 juice 
1/4 C chopped fresh cilantro

**The recipe said not to drain your beans. I personally like to drain mine - especially if they are not the "no salt added" variety - but feel free to go whichever way you prefer

First, boil about a cup of water and pour it over the sun-dried tomatoes in a small bowl. Set the aside to soften. 

Meanwhile, saute the onion, garlic, and jalapeno in olive oil in a large soup pot. Allow them to cook over medium heat for about five minutes until the onions are translucent. Next add the 1/3 C water, cumin, and juice from the tomatoes. Coarsely chop the tomatoes right in the can using a knife against the walls - don't ruin a good knife though! Add the tomatoes to the pot and bring it to a boil, then cover and simmer the mixture for about five minutes.

Take the sun-dried tomatoes from the hot water and chop them into thin strips. Add the black beans and sun-dried tomatoes to the pot and cook for another five to ten minutes. 

Stir in the cilantro. Puree about half of the soup mixture using either a food processor, a blender, or your trusty immersion blender. Recombine the pureed mixture with the original mixture. The soup will most likely need a little liquid, so feel free to add as much V8 (or other tomato juice) as you need. It should be pretty thick, but not too chunky. (In my half recipe, I added an entire mini can of V8 juice)

Heat the soup a little if needed, and enjoy!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fresh Tomato, Lentil, and Onion Soup

 This is a quick, healthy, and dependable soup. This is one of my favorites and it's popular with everyone in my household. The herbs de Provence are key to the flavor, so if you don't have in any in your kitchen I wouldn't try to replace it. This soup is great for chilly nights with warm crusty bread and a green salad.

Tomato, Lentil, and Onion Soup
-The Cook's Encyclopedia of Vegetarian Cooking

Here's the picture from my cookbook. For once, the soup actually turns out just as the picture shows it :)
1 large onion, chopped
3 or 4 celery ribs, chopped
3/4 to 1 C split red lentils (dry)
2 large tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
33/4 C vegetable stock
2 tsp herbs de Provence (don't skimp!)
salt and pepper to taste

First heat some olive oil in a large soup pot and saute the onions and celery for about five minutes over medium heat. When the vegetables begin to get tender and aromatic, add the lentils and cook for one minute more. Add the tomatoes, stock, herbs, and a little salt and pepper. Cover the pot, bring it t a boil, then reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for about 20 minutes until the lentils are tender, stirring as needed.

Allow the soup to cool a bit, and then it's time to puree! If you have an immersion blender this is a perfect time to use it (and if you don't, this is a perfect reason to buy one...they're AMAZING). If not, transfer the soup to a food processor or blender. Process the soup until it reaches a consistency that appeals to you - I go until there are no large tomato or onion chunks but there is still a little bit of texture.

Serve the soup in a pretty bowl and garnish with parsley for a beautiful display.

About the immersion blender - I absolutely love this little tool that my father bought a couple of years ago. This is the one I have: KitchenAid Immersion Blender
There are tons on the market though and  it's definitely worth looking into. They are easy to clean and perfect for mixing and pureeing pretty much anything.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Maple-Glazed Tofu

I had this at a friends house and loved it, so I made it the other night with stir fry for my family. It would go well with anything --the recipe I used actually called for it to be served with Spaghetti squash.

I learned something about making tofu that seems like it should have been obvious when making this recipe. I've tried everything, from pressing for hours on end to pre-baking the tofu in the oven, but I could never quite get the firm texture I was looking for. Turns out, all you have  to do is slice it thinly and cook it in a sauce pan like a burger...

Maple-Glazed Tofu via Rory McGuinness

1 C chicken broth
2 tbs maple syrup
1 tbs apple cider
1 tbs soy sauce
1/2 tbslemon juice
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1 teaspoon cold water

1 (14-ounce) package extra-firm tofu, drained and patted dry*
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

*You can cut the tofu first or leave it in the whole block to drain it. I usually cut it first. See the directions for draining tips.

Slice the tofu into 1/2-inch-thick slabs. Then cut each slab into little bite-size squares. To drain, place the tofu on a few sheets of paper towel and press down firmly. You may need to do this a few times with fresh paper towel to drain enough of the liquid. If you have time, after the initial draining you can place a cookie sheet on top of the tofu and weight it down for a while with cans to allow the moisture to seep out even more.  

Stir together the broth, syrup, cider, soy sauce, lemon juice, and garlic in a skillet. Boil the mixture for about 5 minutes, then whisk in the cornstarch and whisk it until the glaze thickens, about 1 to 2 minutes. 

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the tofu, laying each piece in, and cook it on each side for about 3 to 5 minutes, until it's getting crispy and golden brown. 
Drizzle the glaze on the tofu and serve!

Here is the link if you're interested: Maple-Glazed Tofu with Spaghetti Squash

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Cinnamon-Apple Oatmeal Cookies

Yesterday, being such a beautiful autumn day in Ann Arbor, Michigan, my sister and I were craving fresh picked apples and the flavors of fall. We decided to take my classic "Healthy Oatmeal Cookies" recipe and  morph it into the perfect fall cookie. Dee-licious.

Use any fresh apple you'd like in these cookies. I personally love Gala apples, and freshly picked Michigan Honey Crisps would also work well. 

Cinnamon-Apple Oatmeal Cookies
~One Hundred Percent Made Up

This is an easy recipe to post, because to make these cookies you pretty much just follow the directions for my regular oatmeal cookies (find the recipe here)

Here are the only changes to the recipe:

Add ~ 1 tsp cinnamon to the dry ingredient mixture, or more if you'd like
Replace the 1 C raisins with ~1 C finely diced apples (1 -2 apples)
Add ~3/4 C  chopped pecans or other nut of choice (optional)

I've only made these once, but they came out great. I wasn't in my kitchen, so I didn't have and wheat germ or vanilla extract but I will definitely include both (as the recipe does) next time I make them. Bake time is pretty much the same, but with this version of the recipe be sure to let the cookies cool sufficiently so that they set up well.

Enjoy these with a glass of milk or mug of warm cider :)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Peanut Butter...'nuff said

Being a protein-seeking vegetarian, peanut butter is one of my main food groups. It's great as a snack, as a flavoring agent for curries and stir fries, on a sandwich, and spread onto fruits and veggies. This delicious treat is high in protein and, if you use the right kind, it's an optimal source of "good fat". This brings two questions: "What is the 'right kind?" and "What kind of fat is actually 'good'?"

Let's look at the fat question first. Fat is actually very important to the diet, and certain types - what I call the "natural ones - are vital to our health. These types include monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, which among other things actually help to lower cholesterol. Fats to avoid include saturated fats and trans fats - anything with the word "hydrogenated". 
Guess what types of fat are found in peanuts? The good kinds, of course!

Knowing what we do about fat, the second question, asking which type of peanut butter is best, can be easily answered. My rule is, always opt for the least processed option. This holds true for peanut butter as well. Natural peanut butters are made from just peanuts and a touch of salt. By limiting the ingredients to just these two natural items, all of the extra sugar and oils (sources of hydrogenated fats) are cut out. 
Thus, all you have to do when shopping for peanut butter next time is to find a label that says "Natural", double check that the ingredients include only peanuts and salt, and you're good to go.

My favorite brand is Smucker's, just because you can find it everywhere. Here are some other common brands:

One other thing to remember: you should have to stir. Some brands market "No need to stir" natural peanuts butters. I may be incorrect, but that seems like an oxymoron...If you look at the ingredients, these types usually have a little something extra added. Go for the jars that say "stir and enjoy", because after you stir them once and incorporate all of the oils, just pop it in the fridge and it will stay mixed anyway.

I have been looking into making my own peanut butter, and it actually looks really easy if you've got some peanuts and a food processor. Here is a link to homemade peanut butter. I've looked at a lot of websites, but this is the simplest recipe I could find. I always go for simple, but feel free to look around for some others.

Try it out...I'm going to!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Zucchini-Quinoa Lasagna

This is a great spin on classic lasagna - replace the noodles with zucchini strips and the meat with quinoa!  I made this for the first time tonight, and we loved it.

Zucchini-Quinoa Lasagna
- Vegetarian Times, July/August 2011
2 large zucchini, cut lengthwise into 12 1/4 inch slices

2 C vegetable broth
1 C quinoa, rinsed and drained
1/2 C tomato sauce
1/4 C finely chopped onion
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 C each fresh basil leaves and fresh parsley, chopped
2 tbs cream cheese (optional) *
25 oz jar marinara sauce**
1/2 C shredded mozarella cheese

*I used a little bit of cottage cheese instead. Either  or neither works

**I never use pre-made marinara sauce. "Mariana" technically means seafood based, but nobody really pays attention to that...Anyway, I usually just make up some combination of tomato paste, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, Italian herbs, and perhaps some veggies such as onions or peppers. Often times I puree the mixture after it has cooked for a while to thicken it and make it smooth. Feel free to use a jar if you prefer though.

Preheat the oven to 400!
First, lay the zucchini slices out on paper towel and sprinkle them with about a teaspoon of salt and let them ssit and release their moisture. Meanwhile, combine the quinoa, onion, tomato sauce, oregano, and broth in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Let it simmer, covered, for about 15 to 2 minutes until all of the liquid is absorbed.

Now it's time to assemble. Spoon about 1/3 C of the red sauce into a medium sized (about 8 inch) baking dish. Blot the zucchini dry to rid it of any extra moisture. Spread an even layer (4 slices) over the tomato sauce layer. Spread half of the quinoa on top, and add another layer of red sauce. Repeat this process, and end with an extra layer of zuchinni and red sauce, topped with the mozarella cheese. It only calls for 1/2 C but don't skimp - I put a little extra on top. :)

Bake it for about 20 minutes until it's bubbly and the zucchini is tender. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Healthy Oatmeal Cookies

These are the best cookies ever. They are low fat, full of oatmeal, and they taste great too!

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
My Recipe

1/2 C sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
2 tbs butter
1/3 C apple sauce
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 C flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
~1/3 C wheat germ

2 C oats
1 C raisins*

First, beat the sugars and butter together with an electric mixer. When the mixture is fully combined, add in the egg, applesauce, and vanilla and mix on low until combined. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and wheat germ. Combine this mixture with the applesauce mixture and stir it together by hand. (You don't want to over-mix the dry and wet ingredients)
Add the oats and raisins. Drop the dough by heaping tablespoons onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake them for 10 to12 minutes, rotating the sheets half way through, at 375 degrees. When they are turning golden brown around the edges, take them out and allow them to cool on the sheets for about 2 minutes so that they set up completely. Allow them to cool completely on a wire rack. Keep them in an airtight container so that they stay soft for days.  

*If you want to, substitute chocolate chips, cherries, or any other tasty bits for the raisins!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Easy Guacamole

This is titled "Easy Guacamole", but the truth is, all guacamole is easy. You can make this up in about 10 minutes or less - depending on how fast you chop :) - and it's totally worth it. 

My made-up recipe

2 ripe avocados
2 small/medium finely chopped tomatoes (about 3/4 cup)
1 small finely chopped onion  - I used yellow usually, but red is good also
1 lime
1/2 a small lemon
Big handful of fresh cilantro, chopped (Optional)

I guess I should start with a quick lesson in avocado cutting! First, cut around the outside of the avocado along a vertical axis, cutting in until the knife hits the pit (like you would a peach). Twist the two halves apart (again, like a peach) and you'll have two separate pieces like this:
Remove the pit from one of the halves by scooping it out with a spoon. Next, take the spoon and run it along the edge where the skin meets in the inside of the avocado. If you catch it right, you should be able to simply scoop the insides out all at once. 
Like this...thank you Google images.

There you go, you've got your avocado peeled! Now, mash it up with a fork or potato masher in a bowl. Toss in the tomatoes onions, and cilantro. Sprinkle in a pinch of salt squeeze the juice of the lime into the mixture. mix it well and taste it, then add as much lemon juice as you prefer. Adjust the juice/salt content until your happy with the flavor.

I guarantee this won't take more than ten minutes, and it
is so worth the satisfaction of making it yourself.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Creamy Vegetable Lasagna

I'm not usually into creamy dishes, but this Lasagna is to die for. Instead of classic red sauce - which I have an amazing recipe for as well - it uses a bechamel sauce. It's not winning all the health awards out there but boy does it taste good.

Vegetable Lasagna
The Cook's Encyclopedia of Vegetarian Cooking

15-18 Sheets of lasagna noodles
1 medium onion, chopped finely
11/4 lb fresh or canned tomatoes, chopped
11/2 lbs sliced mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic
juice of 1/2 a lemon
11/2 grated Parmesan cheese

Bechamel Sauce
4 C milk
5 Tbs Butter
4 Tbs flour
Put a big pot of water on for the noodles and preheat the oven to 400. While the water comes to a boil, start by cooking the onions in olive oil over medium heat, until they are translucent. Add in the tomatoes and cook the mixture for about 7 more minutes, stirring it periodically. Meanwhile, heat about 3 tbs butter in a sauce pan and cook the mushrooms until they start to juice. Add the garlic and lemon and cook the mixture until most of the juices have evaporated and the mushrooms are browning.
Cook the lasagna noodles until they are only about half way done - probably about 4 minutes. You want them to still be a little crunchy so that they don't get soggy when the lasagna cooks. Spread the noodles out on a sheet of waxed paper to drain.

To make the bechamel, first put the milk on the stove to boil. Meanwhile, melt the butter over low heat in a shallow saucepan. Once the butter is ready, slowly stir in the flour to make a roux. It will appear a little gloopy at first, but just keep stirring. It should resemble a thick paste - don't add too much flour that it gets dry. Let it buble for about two minutes then remove it from the heat. Add the boiling milk and stir the mixture vigorously with a whisk to incorporate to roux into the milk. Bring this mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, and then boil it for about two minutes to allow it to thicken. Viola. 

Grease a shallow baking dish and assemble all of your layers: the tomatoes, the mushrooms, the noodles, the bechamel, and the cheese. Start with a thin layer of bechamel, and then place a layer of lasagna noodle on top of it. Spread some of the mushroom mixture on, and then another spoonful of bechamel. Top this layer with a light sprinkling of cheese, and then another batch of noodles. Repeat the process, this time adding tomatoes instead of mushrooms. Keep adding layers until the mixtures run out, and top it off with a layer of noodles, bechamel, and cheese.

Bake it for about 20 minutes and then allow it to cool for at least five. Enjoy!!

Also, I've cut the recipe in half many times and it works fine. The full recipe serves about 6 to 8 people!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Quinoa Salad

So, another way to use quinoa is by making a "quinoa salad". This can mean anything from tossing some cooked quinoa into a leafy green salad, to making a tabbouleh-esque grain salad. 
Here's the recipe I use - credited to Kara Sharpe. I made this for lunch yesterday...and with dinner tonight :)

Quinoa Salad
From Kara Sharpe and my brain

2 C cooked quinoa
1 lemon
olive oil
salt n' pepper

First, cook your quinoa. Then, you have endless optional add-ins. Here are some of my favorites:

Black beans
Cheese- I use Parmesan or feta, feel free to experiment
Bell pepper

Dice your add-ins so that they are bite size, then toss the quinoa, juice from most or all of the lemon, and a couple swirls of olive oil together.
If you'd like, you can mix in some fresh parsley or other herbs and top it off with as much salt and pepper as your prefer. 

It's quick and easy and can be eaten as a main dish, side dish, or snack. Perfect!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Crispy Quinoa Cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

I recently fell in love with quinoa, the tiny grain that not many people know about. It can replace anything from rice to couscous, but it's chop full of nutrients and other yummy things. It's got tons of fiber, all 8 amino acids, and it's a super source of protein! 
Here is an article from the "New York Times" all about quinoa. It's got some good information and a recipe to cook plain, simple quinoa. Click here!

It looks cool too...what's not to love? This is red quinoa and regular quinoa

Cooking quinoa is about as easy as it gets. You just throw some uncooked grains in a sauce pan and add some water. The ratio i usually do is 1 part quinoa to 3/4 parts water, but different people like different methods.  Then, bring it to a soft boil, reduce the heat, and let it simmer for about 10 minutes until the water is absorbed and the quiona is fluffy. Ta da!

Here's one of my favorite Quinoa recipes. More to come though, don't despair...
Crispy Quinoa Cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
from "Vegetarian Times" September, 2011

1 egg
2 tbs. flour
1 1/2 tbs tahini or nut butter*
1 1/2 tsp. wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
1/2 cup finely grated sweet potato
1/2 10-oz. pkg. frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry**
1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped nuts, optional
2 oz. crumbled feta cheese, optional
2 Tbs. finely diced onion
1 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
1/2 tsp. salt

*I used peanut butter my first time making this because I was out of gave the cakes such good flavor that I have yet to try tahini.
**I have always used fresh spinach. Just be sure to bump up the amount and chop it finely

Stir together the egg, flour, tahini, and vinegar. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix. Form the mixture into patties, about 1/4 C each, and put them on a pre-sprayed cookie sheet. Bake them at 400 for about 20-25 minutes till they're golden brown and crispy

Combine 1 1/2 C drained roasted red peppers, 1/2 C toasted almonds, 1 clove of garlic, and about a teaspoon of red wine vinegar in a food processor or blender. Blend till smooth. Dollop a little on each cake. Mmmmm.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Easy Curried Lentils

This is a really great meal for a weeknight. It's quick, delicious, and has really simple ingredients. It'll only take about 30 minutes from start to finish.
Serve it with naan or over rice and with a nice leafy salad.

Curried Lentils
The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook 

1 C red lentils
2 C vegetable stock
1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1 tbs butter (or ghee if you can find it!)
1 chopped onion (about a 11/2 C)
2 gloves garlic, minced
1 large green chilli, seeded and finely chopped
2 tsp each: ground cumin and ground coriander

2 large tomatoes, chopped
1/2 C coconut milk

Put the lentils, water, and turmeric into a large pot. Bring the mixture to a boil and then let it simmer for about ten minutes, until the lentils are almost cooked. 
Meanwhile, saute the onions in the butter for about five minutes, until the begin to soften. Add the garlic, chilli, and spices and sautee the mixture a little while longer.
Add the onion mixture to the lentils and stir in the tomatoes. Let it all simmer together for about five minutes. When you are ready to serve it, stir in the coconut milk and reheat it a little if necessary.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


A lot of people are turned off by kale. I'm not sure if it's the color, the scent, or just the reputation, but you really should give it a try. It definitely has a specific - sometimes bitter - taste, but I really like it. Plus, kale is extremely nutritious. It's high in vitamins and minerals, it has a moderate amount of protein, and it's PACKED with fiber!

There are millions of ways to incorporate kale into your meals, but here is a really simple one that I came up with the other night when I was cooking for just myself:

Kale N' Raisins
One bunch of kale
Handful of raisins
Handful of slivered almonds
~2 tbs Red wine vinegar

Start by cutting the kale into bitesize pieces. Steam it in a shallow pan over medium-high heat for only about 3 minutes. When it starts to wilt and lose brightness, add the raisins, nuts, and the vinegar. Let it simmer for about a minute more, allowing the vinegar to be absorbed and the raisins to plump up a bit.

That's it! Enjoy this as a delicious side to pretty much anything

**Remember this is the amount I made for myself...adjust the amounts of each ingredients based upon the number of people and your taste. Also try experiementing with other add-ins!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Veggie Mu Shoo...Plus Homemade Wrappers!

We all love some good Mu Shoo, but if you're like me the thought of trying to make it for yourself seems daunting. Luckily, Seeing a recipe in last month's issue of "Vegetarian Times" convinced me too give it a shot, and guess what - it was easy as pie. (no cooking pun intended...) Believe it or not, I made the wrappers also and they turned out spot-on. 
Here's the recipe. Try it and you'll be impressed with yourself. 

Mu Shoo Wrappers

2 C flour
3/4 C boiling water
sesame oil

Mix the flour and water together. Let it cool a bit, and then knead it until it is smooth. Divide it into 8 balls and flatten each ball into a patty with your palms. Take one patty and brush the top with sesame oil, then place another patty on top. Roll the pair as one into a thin round about 8 inches wide - or about the size of "professional" mu shoo wrappers ;) Do this with the rest of the patties, making four pairs.
Heat a skillet on low. Throw a patty-pair right into the pan.- don't peel them apart and no, no greasing necessary. Cook it about a minute each side, until it looks like it has cooked a bit and perhaps bubbles a little. Let it cool for a few minutes and then peel them apart - IT WORKS, TRUST ME! Keep them warm while you make the remaining pairs.

Vegetable Mu Shoo  
Vegetarian Times: September 2011

1/2 C vegetable broth or water
2 tbs. low-sodium soy sauce
2 tbs. sesame oil
1 tbs. lime juice
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp honey

Shake it up...

3 eggs
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil

1 small red onion, sliced
2 tbs fresh grated ginger
1 c stemmed shiitake mushrooms, cut into strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 C shredded cabbage
1 1/2 C snow peas, cut lengthwise into strips
1 1/2 C shredded carrots

*4 oz tofu - optional. I added this, gives it some extra protein!

First, heat your preferred type of oil in a wok, and cook the onion and ginger on medium until the onion begins to get soft. Next add the mushrooms and garlic, and cook about 5 more minutes or until the mushrooms seem to have cooked a bit and turn brown. 
While all this is happening, whisk the eggs with the little bit of soy sauce and sesame oil. Cook the egg as one flat patty in a pan. When it's done, cut it into strips and save it for later.
Go back to the veggies. When the mushrooms are ready, toss in the cabbage, peas, and carrots and keep it cooking for a couple more minutes. *If you want tofu, cut it into strips and add it at this point also.
Add the sauce and let it simmer - or as I like to say, "fester" - for about 3 minutes until it thickens.
Viola! Serve it with your homemade wrappers and hoisin sauce. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Cookin' In the North Woods

I spend all summer in Michigan's Upper Peninsula on Lake Michigamme. Yoopers call summer cottages "Camp", and in my family's case Camp is a lot like a summer camp. We have a total of five buildings including a bath house, bunk house, and most importantly, the Cookie. 

The Cookie is an 8-by-8 ft building plumbed by hoses that we use as our kitchen. With only enough room for a refrigerator, small counter, and tiny amount of food storage, most of the cooking is actually done outside.

The Cookie!

Outside, we have  grill, an industrial size griddle, a stainless steel cook table, and a new addition: the range! Because the range really shouldn't be outside, we're making plans to expand: we're going from 8-by-8 to 8-by-12. In the meantime, the range gets covered every night with a chair cover to protect it from the rain.

The prep table...A.K.A pots and pans holder.

The griddle and the range.

It can be tough when it rains...and when more than two people need to cook at once...but I wouldn't trade the Cookie for the world! Wait till next summer when you can check out the new setup!

Whole Wheat Bow Ties with Pesto. Yum.

This recipe is in honor of my mother, who claims it's her  "all time favorite".

Who doesn't love a big bowl of pasta every now and then? It gets even better when you make your own hearty dough and toss it with fresh, nutty pesto. If you don't have time to make your pasta, that's fine. Choose your favorite brand and toss it in. Maybe you don't like pesto, this dough recipe works great in any shape and with any sauce. Enjoy!

So, most people think that homemade pasta must be a giant pain to make. False! It's actually really easy. You don't need a special mixer or special ingredients, and the pasta roller is totally optional. I love mine and would strongly recommend one to any serious pasta makers out there, but don't let the absence of a pasta machine bar you from trying out homemade noodles! Here's the recipe for pasta:

Here is the pasta maker I have - thanks to Wendy VanPeenan . It seems to be the most popular one on the market.

Fresh Whole Wheat Pasta:
1 C All-Purpose flour
2 C whole wheat flour
4 eggs
~1 tsp salt
1 tbs olive oil
4-6 tbs water

If you're using a mixer or food processor, thoroughly mix the dry ingredients and then add the eggs and oil and mix completely. Otherwise, mix the dry ingredients well on a smooth, clean surface. Make a pile and create a small well in the center. Some people crack the eggs straight in, but I find it easier to whisk them first. Either way, pour the eggs into the well and add the oil. Stir slowly with a fork, grabbing flour from the sides of the well to incorporate the eggs and dry mixture.
(Either method continue here) Place the dough onto a floured surface and strat to knead with your hands. Add the water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough sticks together but isn't too sticky. Wrap in i plastic and let it sit four half an hour so that it is easy to work with. 
Now you roll. If working by hand, roll the pasta out in batches until it's as thin as you can get it - or want it. If using a pasta machine, roll it through each level adding flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Once you have flat strips of dough, you decide your shape. Simply cut it into strips or send it through the machine for spaghetti, but I like to do bow ties:
Cut the flattened dough into strips about one inch wide. Cut each strip into pieces one to two inches long, creating little rectangles. Simply sinch the center f the rectangles together and viola, you've got bow ties.

Once you have your pasta made, let it sit out for at least an hour. This way, it hardens up a little and cooks great! 

When you're ready to cook, just boil and big pit of water and salt it well. Toss all the pasta in at once, and stir it right away to unstick it. Then watch closely, it wont take more than about three or four minutes!

Pesto Sauce:
It all starts with pines nuts. Such expensive little buggers if you buy them in a jar. I'd recommend  trying to find them in bulk somewhere, where you can get them much cheaper. Once you've got your ingredients, you can't go wrong with this sauce. It's delicious!

2 oz. fresh basil leaves, with stems
2 cloves garlic
1/3 C pine nuts
4 tbs olive oil
1 tbs butter
1/3 C fresh Parmesan cheese

Put the basil, pine nuts, garlic, and olive oil into a food processor and pulse until smooth. Transfer the mixture to the bowl you're serving the pasta in. While the pasta is cooking, take about two tablespoons of the salted water and add it to the pesto mixture along with the butter. Stir in the cheese. Drain the pasta and toss it with the pesto. Ta-da!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mexican Salad

This is one of my latest favorites to make for lunch, but I figured why not make it for dinner as a quick and tasty meal?
You can basically out whatever you want in your version of this salad, but here's what I did for salad to serve four:

  • One head of romaine lettuce, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • A few handfuls of baby spinach
  • About a quarter cup of finely chopped onion
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1/2 C garbonzo beans
  • one ear of corn, precooked
  • 1/3 C salsa
  • Shredded Mexican four-cheese mixture
  • E.V.O.O.
  • one lime
  • Salt, pepper, cumin
Heat some oil in a pan and slowly cook the onion to soften it up.  Season it with salt, pepper, and about half a teaspoon of cumin. Once the onions are soft, add the beans and corn to heat them through, then allow it to cool slightly. Toss the spinach and romaine with the juice of half the lime and about a tablespoon of olive oil. Mix in the salsa. Add the sightly cooled onion mixture and the cheeses.

Serve it with warm tortillas on the side, fresh tortilla chips, or just enjoy it alone! I also like to add some guacamole to my serving, and others may want to top it off with sour cream or a little extra salsa. 


Monday, June 13, 2011

I'm Still Alive

It's been a while! Exams are almost over, and I pledge to get back into the daily routine of blogging. For day one of returning to the blog, I'm posting a dessert!
Both rhubarb and strawberries can be found at the farmers market right now, so yesterday I mad delicious strawberry-rhubarb crisp. It's fun to divide it into individual ramekins, or make one big dish if you like.

Here's the recipe. Enjoy!

**I would suggest using a little more oatmeal than it calls for :)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Veggies on the Grill

On warm nights it's a lot of fun - and really tasty - to cook your veggies on the grill. I've found that you can do pretty much any vegetable you want. You can grill up a green vegetable to give the usual side dish a different flavor, or marinate your favorite collection and roast them on skewers. (If you do it that way, a good way to marinate is by simply picking your favorite vinaigrette and throwing it all in a freezer size ziploc)

Tonight for example, I grilled corn on the cob and brussells sprouts.
 For the corn, you simply wrap each ear well in aluminum foil, and toss them on over direct medium heat. They'll take somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 minutes total, but be sure to rotate and flip them (head to tail) every 7 or so minutes.
For brussells, and other loose veggies, I use a thin grill pan. I start by coating them in a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then i put them in the pan right onto the grill. Each veggie cooks differently, so you probably should babysit them at least to start, being sure to stir them every so often. If the grill is too hot and they are charring too much for your taste, it's easy to put a piece of foil between the pan and grill surface to redirect some of the heat. Experimenting with a little water to steam them can be good too.

My philosophy with veggies is that with a little e.v.o.o., salt, and pepper, and heat, they'll always taste good!
Bon appetit!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter Dessert - "Pear Cake"

Now comes dessert! We had a delicious "pear cake", which is very similar to apple spice cake, but made with pears instead of apples. It tasted great, but it looked even better! The pears fanned out on top and then drizzled with honey made it very pretty - perfect for a special occasion.
Check out the picture of the cake below...And click HERE for the recipe!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Beans And Rice!

This recipe puts a middle eastern twist on classic beans and rice. The red, greens, and yellows created a beautiful dish that has as much color as it does flavor.I served it with a citrus salad, steamed asparagus, and oven warmed flour tortillas.

A few things to consider:
It implies to serve this cold. If that's what you're looking for, go for it! However, I chose to make it warm. First, just keep the rice warm when you stir in the onions and sauce. Also, I cooked the peppers in the remaining sauce for a few minutes then added the beans and cilantro. I put a lid on it and let is cook over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes or so, just to heat it through. I liked the idea of not only serving it hot, but also giving the peppers a little cook time to soften them up. It worked well!

CLICK HERE  for the recipe!

Happy cooking!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tortilla Casserole

Last night I made up a dish. It was a kind of Mexican lasagna, with tortillas instead of noodles and different veggies.
First, I sauteed some onions and green pepper in a little olive oil and added a pinch of cumin and a little sprinkle of cinnamon. Then, I added half a can of black beans and half a can of navy beans (left overs in the fridge) and a handful of chopped fresh cilantro to that mixture.
To assemble, i started with a layer of tortillas - i used corn. Then I alternated layers of the bean-onion mixture, salsa, and cheddar cheese. I baked it at about 350 till it was warm, somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 minutes.

It was pretty tasty, but one thing to consider is flour vs corn tortillas. I used corn because I thought they might hold up better, but flour may actually provide more of a chewy texture. I think it's just personal preference.

It's a quick and easy dish to make, and I served with a salad of fresh romaine, tomato slices, avocado slices, and (leftover) grilled corn. Yum!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Egg Night

My dad hates eggs, so we always wait for a night that he's missing dinner to enjoy them. Sometimes I try something fun like a frittata, but there's nothing like a gold old omelette.
I made some oven roasted green beans - just tossed with salt, pepper, and oliv oil and cooked at 450 for about 15 minutes. (You can speed them up with the broiler, but be careful!).
For the omelette, we mix it up based on our mood. There are a couple basic things we always have though.

A cheese! Try the classic - cheddar, or mix it up a bit with some swiss or provolone...or whatever you like!

Veggies. This is where you can play around. I like to throw in some mushrooms, green peppers, spinach, or tomatoes. Some people like to experiment with beans or other veggies too. The important thing is not to overdo it. You don't want a soppy pile in the pan!

To make your omelette perfectly, start by whisking together your eggs really well. Then melt about a tablespoon of butter till it just bubbles. Add the egg and throw on some salt and pepper. Wait till the egg starts to bubble, then add your goodies. Let that cook for about a minute or two. Then comes the tricky part: folding and flipping. I find that the easiest way is to fold both ides up toward the middle, creating a kind of taco effect (rather than the classic fold-in-half method). It makes it easier to flip, and hold all the guts in.

An omelette seems pretty simple, but they're really fun to try new flavors...and to make!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Dahl Lentil Soup

We had "Dahl Lentil Soup" tonight with naan bread, salad, and fruit.
It was a new recipe...I really liked it!

CLICK HERE for an online recipe. This one came from my book called, Vegetarian.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Looking for Protein?

We all know it is tough to get your protein in as a vegetarian, and you can only do so much soy. Here are my favorite proteins and the best ways to eat them:
  1. Peanut Butter: Anything from PB&J to peanut butter and celery, I can't get enough of it! Go for the all natural though - it's better tasting and better for you!
  2. Beans: They're so good! There are dozens of types and millions of ways to eat them. Salads, rice, pasta, and burgers are some of the most common ways.
  3. Eggs. If you aren't vegan, eggs are a great way to get protein. Try omelets for dinner, or get creative by making mini tortes or tossing some scrambled strips into a stir fry.
  4. Spinach: It has more protein than you think. Toss it in a salad, put it on a sandwich, or stir it into pretty much any pasta or grain to add delicious flavor and health-factor.
P.S. What's For Dinner? 
It's family dinner night! We're making fajitas - perfect for a crowd of cousins