Vegetarian


I can’t believe it’s been almost a month since I posted last. Bad me. But, I hope you’re enjoying the summer so far. Any big plans?

One exciting thing a few of my friends are doing this summer is splitting a CSA share from a local farm. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and, basically, we pay a fee to get a share of the farm’s vegetables each week from June to November. I really enjoy going to farmer’s markets and this takes things a step further. It’s been fun so far and has allowed me to try a few new recipes. I am a big proponent of supporting local farms and businesses plus, by being apart of the CSA, we are getting fresh organic vegetables soon after they are picked. Oh, and we get fresh, organic eggs, too! 

Included in our share last week was escarole – a hearty green and part of the endive family. Have you had escarole before? I had eaten it in a restaurant but I hadn’t cooked with escarole so I quickly went onto my favorite recipe website, allrecipes.com, to find the perfect dish. I immediately saw a recipe for Escarole and Beans which was simple and healthy so I gave it a whirl. I actually had all of the ingredients on hand, which is always a plus!

This recipe was really simple to put together and made plenty of leftovers. I would actually consider it a comfort food based on it’s thicker consistency so you can definitely enjoy this dish year round. Escarole and beans makes a fiberful side dish or a light dinner. I was expecting it to be basic in flavor but the garlic and red pepper flakes gave it a nice kick and I really enjoyed it. Leafy greens, such as escarole, are a great source of fiber as well as vitamin A and K. Who can’t use a little tasty nutritious dish in their life?

I’ll be back with another easy summer recipe in a few days so stay tuned!

If it’s hot where you are, like it is here in Boston, hope you’re staying cool. It’s supposed to be in the mid 90’s here tomorrow! Have  a great week!

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I love risotto but was always a little nervous about making it at home. I’ve heard it can be time-consuming and a little tricky. All I could picture was me standing in my kitchen for an hour resulting in rice stuck to the bottom of the pan! Luckily, my first risotto-making experience turned out great and it’s not as complicated as I expected!

There are so many variations to risotto but since my parents gave me two butternut squashes, I thought I’d incorporate that winter vegetable into the dish. I decided to add spinach too, for some greens.

I found the process to be pretty  simple but it does take a bit longer than the average rice or pasta dish. I my opinion, the extra time is worth it! This dish was pretty darn tasty and was hearty without being too heavy. This makes a great meal or side dish…especially for a cold winter night!

 

Butternut Squash and Spinach Risotto

(loosely based on a recipe by Ina Garten – but mine’s healthier!)

Servings: 3-4

Ingredients:

1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed

1 Tsp. olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

3 c. low sodium chicken broth

1/4 stick butter, unsalted

1 shallot, minced

3/4 cup Ariboro rice

1 1/2 c. fresh baby spinach leaves

1/2 fresh grated Asiago cheese

Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 400*. Put butternut squash on a cookie sheet. Brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, turning squash at least once. Once squash is soft, mash well and set aside.

2. While squash is roasting, heat chicken broth in small sauce pan on medium heat.

3. In a saute pan, melt butter. Add shallots to butter and saute until shallots are clear.

4. Add rice to butter mixture and cook for 2-3 minutes.

5. Add 2/3 c. of the chicken broth to the rice mixture and cook, stirring often until no liquid remains.

6. Continue adding chicken broth 2/3 c. at a time following step 4, until rice is al dente. This should take about 25 minutes.

7. Take rice of heat and mix in butternut squash, spinach and cheese.

8. Enjoy!

How was your Halloween? I can’t believe it has come and gone and now it’s November. Time sure flies.

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I was excited to fit in a little baking over the weekend. I bookmark a handful of recipes every week, ones I see other bloggers make and those posted on recipe sites. On Saturday, I baked up some Applesauce Spice Bars, which I originally saw on Tracey’s Culinary Adventures. They were just mouth-watering and I knew it would be a great fall treat. The recipe originates from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours cookbook and the recipe can be found here.

My photos may not be as pretty as Tracey’s but the bars turned out moist and tasty (not to mention, they were pretty easy to prepare).

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I’ll leave you with a photo from the weekend’s festivities. Here’s my friend, Holly, and I on Halloween. I secretly want to be a dressed up as a cowgirl. Although, I think that’s obvious.

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Someone recently said to me that I seem to make a lot of “stuffed” recipes. Of course this was after I’d just prepared Caramelized Onion-Stuffed Baked Potatoes. 😉

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Looking back at my recipe listing, I realized that, so far, I’ve posted PB-Stuffed French Toast with Bananas, Quick and Easy Stuffed Quesadillas, Stuffed Acorn Squash, Stuffed Spinach & Feta Turkey Burgers, and Summer Stuffed Peppers. I never realized it but I guess I’m all about “stuffed” dishes.

My most recent recipe, Caramelized Onion-Stuffed Baked Potatoes, came from Cooking Light. While I’m not a huge fan of baked potatoes in general (they tend to be kind of bland in my opinion), this recipe caught my eye because the ingredients included cheese and caramelized onions. Aren’t caramelized onions just delicious?! I love the texture and sweet flavor plus they are so easy to prepare. So much better than raw onions!

This dish calls for Gruyere cheese but I replaced it with crumbled blue cheese – just because it’s what I had in the fridge. I’m sure any cheese would work well.

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Not only was this dish tasty, (the combination of sweet onions, savory cheese and smooth potato was excellent), but it opened my eyes to what other ingredients could be stuffed into potatoes. How about prosciutto and fontina cheese? Mmm. Or BLT-stuffed potatoes?

You can prepare these potatoes as a side dish (a serving = 1 half potato) or as a meal (a serving = one whole potato). Either way, you’ll be stuffed!

What’s your favorite stuffed dish?

I almost always order Eggplant Parmesan when I eat at an Italian restaurant. It’s just so delicious and a dish I always enjoy. I also like ordering eggplant when I’m dining out because I’ve never had much success cooking it at home…until now. Through a little research online I learned how to make tender eggplant and the trick is simply to make sure the eggplant cooked thoroughly (otherwise it will be tough).

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This Eggplant “Lasagna” is actually noodle-less and while I thought I’d miss the pasta (I love pasta!), I really didn’t. I call it lasagna because it’s built the same as the well-known Italian dish. Sauce, eggplant, cheese, spinach, onions…repeat. I got inspiration for this meal from one I saw in Real Simple. I was going to make that recipe but decided to add more veggies and switch out the cheese. This dish is made with cottage cheese in place of ricotta (I’m not a huge fan of ricotta and cottage cheese is a healthier alternative).

This is a quick dish to prepare and is especially tasty! It’s a great weeknight meal and it’s budget friendly, too.

Eggplant “Lasagna”

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

1 large eggplant, sliced lengthwise into 1/2″ slices

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. salt

2 c. tomato/marinara sauce (I used store bought to save time)

1 c. reduced fat cottage cheese

1/2 c. reduced fat shredded mozzarella cheese

2 c. fresh spinach

1/2 c. sweet onion, chopped

 

Preparation:

1. Preheat over to 350*

2. Lay slices of eggplant flat on a plate or paper towel. Sprinkle lightly with salt and let stand 30 minutes or so. (This brings out the eggplant’s flavor)

3. Rinse eggplant with water and pat dry.

4. Using a pastry brush (if available), lightly coat each side of the eggplant with olive oil and place on a baking sheet.

5. Bake eggplant slices for 20 minutes.

6. In the meantime, coat glass baking dish with marinara sauce.

7. When eggplant is done, remove from oven and place two (or so) sliced on top of the sauce in the baking dish.

8. Top with layer of 1/3 c. cottage cheese then sprinkle with mozzarella. 

9. Top the cheese with a handful of spinach and sprinkle with chopped onions.

10. Repeat steps 6-9 two more times. Top the final layer of spinach and onions with marinara then mozzarella.

11. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. The eggplant should be soft and tender.

12. Enjoy!  

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After my last post of sinful (yummy) cake pops, I figured I should come back to reality and post a normal healthy meal. I try to eat nutritious normally but definitely indulge on the occasional treat. Lately I have been trying to eat more vegetables so when I found a recipe for Quinoa with Mushrooms, Kale and Sweet Potatoes I knew I should give it a try. This recipe was in the September edition of Real Simple. This is a vegetarian meal that is also gluten-free.

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Have you cooked with quinoa before? I have a few times and the preparation is very similar to cooking rice (bring quinoa and water to a boil then simmer allowing quinoa to absorb the liquid). Quinoa is a whole grain that has been part of cuisines all over the world for thousands of years. Only recently has it become popular in North America. As a whole grain, quinoa is filling and is a great substitute for rice or barley. The texture of quinoa is light and almost airy.  I still like rice more but quinoa is a great alternative.

I was afraid this dish would be bland but the olive oil, white wine, garlic, parmesan and black pepper provided a nice flavor to the quinoa and veggies. This dish wasn’t totally bursting with flavor but wasn’t bland at all. I also liked the texture of all the vegetables together. I love sweet potatoes and kale but don’t normally care for mushrooms. In this dish, however, the mushrooms were a nice addition. For those of you who haven’t had kale, it’s a green leafy vegetable. It’s heartier and tougher than spinach – which is a good thing; it holds up well in a dish like this one.

This meal is served hot and makes a great dinner option for the fall. I also made plenty for leftovers and it was just as good the following day. Enjoy!   

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Now that I’m back to my healthy ways, I made dinner at home last night for my roommate and I. When I went grocery shopping last Sunday, I bought the ingredients for last night’s dinner so I would be prepared to cook when I had a free night this week. I made Red Lentil-Rice Cakes with Simple Tomato Salsa from Cooking Light.   This was a recipe I ripped out of the October 2008 edition and it’s been in my recipe binder ever since.

I generally followed the recipe ingredients-wise but to speed up the cooking process, I used canned kidney beans  and just rinsed them off before use. Canned beans are preserved with sodium so as long as you rinse them well beforehand, the health benefits are the same as when cooking with fresh beans. I also used brown rice instead of basmati, for more whole grains. Beans and brown rice are an excellent source of fiber and fiber keeps you full!

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Ok, the results. I thought this meal was good, but not great. I think it lacked a little flavor and those who also reviewed the recipe online seemed to think so too (too bad I didn’t see those reviews before last night). These bean and rice cakes do have a nice mix of flavors but next time I think I’ll use a bolder cheese instead of mozzarella and maybe add some cumin or a dash of cayenne pepper. This recipe is definitely worth making with a few simple additions. On the positive side, this meal was filling and healthy (with about 300 calories for two cakes and the salsa).

Happy weekend everyone! I have some excercise, cleaning, shopping, eating, cooking and relaxation planned. How about you?

BLOG NOTE: I’ve added a new tab, “Recipes,” to the blog. All my recipes are now listed in alphabetical order by meal for your reference and mine!

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