Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Crispy Cheddar Cheese Pita Triangles

It's been so long since I've been here. This blog has been grossly neglected for some time now. Partly because I keep falling off the vegetable wagon and partly because life has been very different for me in the past 6 months. I recently came across a blog where the blogger was writing about his meatless experiment for one week. That seemed reasonable to me. When I took this project on, I boldly declared that I would go without meat for one whole year. Actually, for me, going meatless is something to be taken one meal at a time. Going meatless takes some real self-discipline especially when you smell all the grills firing up in the neighborhood. Add on to that the fact that I still have my hands in meat every night when I prepare meals for the rest of the family. One thing I'm learning is to be prepared. If I plan my personal meatless menu for the upcoming week and stick to it, I do much better. I haven't been 100% successful with this to date, but I am committed to being persistent until going meatless is as simple as breathing.

Today, my husband took the day off. It's a treat to have him home at lunch. We took a nice walk in to our little town. Since it's really getting chilly here, I thought Cream of Tomato soup would be a perfect thing for lunch. Since I love having something to dip in to my soup, I made some Crispy Cheddar Cheese Pita Triangles. And they were the perfect accompaniment. Pita bread is a wonderful and versatile thing to work with. You can stuff it with peanut butter and sliced apples. You can fill it with scrambled eggs and roasted veggies. You can toast it up with endless toppings. Later this week I'm going to try toasting the pita triangles in the oven with pesto, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese.

Crispy Cheddar Cheese Pita Triangles
One large piece of pita
grated cheddar cheese
sea salt
black pepper
Parmesan cheese

1. Take one large piece of pita and carefully slice it through the middle to give you 2 pieces of pita. Cut each half in to 4 triangles.

2. Line a cookie sheet with foil. Spread the pita triangles on the foil. Before topping each pita, spray each one lightly with some cooking oil spray. Top each pita with grated cheddar cheese, sea salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese.

3. Place the pita triangles on the top oven rack and set to broil. Watch carefully and remove from oven when the cheese is brown and bubbly.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Today I want to write about a beautiful orange variety of cauliflower that I recently stumbled upon. There I was minding my business in the produce aisle looking for my usual head of white cauliflower when I suddenly notice Fiestaflower right next to my old standby. It was so lush and gorgeous in all of its orange glory. How could I not purchase it? I think about cauliflower and I have to smile. When I was growing up I don't remember my mother making cauliflower and if she ever did, it was probably boiled to hell and served up next to the broiled steak. But now that I'm a big girl, I've discovered the joy of roasting veggies. Simply take a handful of your favorites, toss them in olive oil, season them with garlic, sea salt and pepper and toss them in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes. The flavors are amazing and no veggies were killed in the submersion of boiling water. Yesterday I roasted my Fiestaflower with some asparagus and cherry tomatoes and served it with some barbecued tofu for lunch. The Fiestaflower got even deeper in its color as it was roasted.

If you're curious, like I was, about how the cauliflower got its color, I've done the Google search for you. There is no trick of the dye here. It's naturally orange, more healthy for you than its white counterpart AND it looks pretty on your plate during this time of the year! So go ahead and try it if you should happen to find it at your local supermarket or Farmers Market.

Orange cauliflower voluntarily showed up in a Canadian farmer's field nearly 30 years ago. Fiestaflower™ has 25 times more vitamin A than white cauliflower and contains so much beta-carotene it actually causes the cauliflower to take on the orange color. Orange cauliflower contains approximately 320 micrograms of beta-carotene per 100 grams making it much more nutritious than the traditional white cauliflower.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Peanut Butter Pie

We take our sweets very seriously around here. This is one hell of a good pie. Comforting and satisfying. And so ridiculously easy to throw together. You store it in the freezer and it's much better than grabbing for the gallon of ice cream. No baking required either! The bonus here is that I got to use my microplaner to shave the leftover Hershey bar from Kendall's Halloween bag.

Peanut Butter Pie

1/2 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup milk
1/2 (16 ounce) package frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 (9 inch) prepared cookie crust (I used the oreo crust found in the baking aisle)

Beat together cream cheese and confectioners' sugar. Mix in peanut butter and milk. Beat until smooth. Fold in whipped topping.
Spoon into pie shell, add some chocolate shavings or broken Reeses PB cups) on top,
cover, and freeze until firm.
Eat a slice, forget about the calories and go back for seconds.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Chocolate Nut Clusters

I've been trying to be good all week. Cutting back a bit. Salads for dinner. But this morning, my inner child was stomping her feet and yelling, "Enough of the lettuce already!! Give me some chocolate and nobody gets hurt!" What can I say? I'm a wimp who loves chocolate.....I simply had to give in to her temper tantrum. It's not like I make this kind of thing very often, but sometimes you just have to be a little decadent.

Let me say that this is the easiest recipe known to mankind. All you need is a microwave, some chocolate, a little butter and mixed nuts. Since my kids don't like nuts, it's safe to say that Breen and I will be the only ones eating these. I think I might have to ask the kids to hide them so we don't eat them all in one sitting!

Chocolate Nut Clusters
1 cup of chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate of your choice)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup of mixed nuts

In a microwave safe bowl (I used a glass measuring cup), melt the chocolate and butter. It took me around 3 minutes and I checked and stirred the chocolate after each minute to make sure it didn't burn. Remove from microwave and add the nuts. If you have a hard time mixing, simply add A DROP or two of water to help it move a little. Once the nuts are coated in chocolate, drop spoonfuls on a wax paper lined cookie sheet and chill in the refrigerator until set. Store candy in an airtight container for up to one month OR eat them all in one sitting, but don't yell at me :)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Cashew Curry

This is the best curry recipe I've made to date. I prepared it for my lunch today and it was simply sublime and sensual. The vegetables and tofu simmer in a rich broth of coconut milk and curry. It was quick and easy to make. I've experimented with lots of curry dishes on this journey and I don't think I ever need to look further than this one. I prepared some white rice cooked in water and coconut milk. I spooned the rice in to my bowl and ladled the cashew curry over it.

One cup of coconut milk
1-2 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 large red onion, chopped
One large garlic clove, chopped
1/3 cup of water
4 oz extra firm tofu (half a block), cut into small cubes
1/2 cup of snow peas
One cup cauliflower, cut into small florets
One red pepper, cut into thin strips
1/3 cup of cashews

Bring half the coconut milk to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Whisk in the curry powder and salt. Stir in the red onion and garlic and cook for a minute. Stir in the remaining coconut milk and water and then the tofu. Cook for another minute or two. Add the snow peas, cauliflower and red pepper and cover with a lid. Let it simmer for a minute or two until the vegetables become crisp tender. Remove the pot from the heat. Serve in a bowl over a little rice and garnish with the cashews.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Cheese Straws

I was so busy this past week. I had the best intentions of featuring lots of "C" recipes and I simply could not find the time. Last week, I was out finishing some last minute errands for my husband's birthday when I came across a cookbook for $3. Here's the thing about cookbooks: you spend the money on them and, half the time, there are only about 6 recipes out of 100 that you actually like. Not this cookbook. This one is entitled, "Gifts from the kitchen" published by Love Food Books. Apparently, they have a series of others just like this. I swear I can't wait to bake all 40 of these yummy recipes. Each one is straight forward and easy to put together. Things like Chocolate Nut Clusters, Easy Nut Brittle, Pistachio Turkish Delight, Almond and Cashew Toffee and Herbs de Provence Oil. The pictures are gorgeous and mouthwatering too. Today, I'm featuring the Cheese Straws. These go great with salad and soup or for a nice afternoon snack.

Cheese Straws
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
8 oz grated sharp cheddar cheese
4 oz Parmesan cheese
1 cup sifted flour
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Cream the butter in an electric mixer, then add the remaining ingredients (the mixture will be very crumbly). Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and shape the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 425. Slice off pieces of dough and roll them in to 1 inch balls. Then, with the palms of your hands, roll the balls into long, thin strips, like straws. Place them on a lightly greased baking sheet (I HIGHLY recommend using parchment paper instead of greasing the sheet; simply cut off a piece the size of the baking sheet and lay it on the baking sheet). Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden and crispy. Once cooled, store in an airtight container for up to one month.

Here are some highlights from the book:

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Carrot Tea Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I'm finally moving on to the "C" recipes. Don't forget about the apron giveaway. I'll be picking a winning name out of a jar this Friday. Winner gets this fun apron:

Let the "C" begin!

Let's face it, I'd rather swim in a cesspool naked without goggles than eat a plateful of carrots. But it felt sacrilegious to feature vegetarian "C" recipes without as much as a nod to the carrot. So, here's my contribution to the nasty orange demon. There is one good thing about this recipe; my kids are eating their carrots in such a sweet way. As for me, I'm only in this for the cream cheese frosting :)

Carrot Tea Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Serves 8
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup packed grated carrots (from about 2 carrots)
1 bar (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 5-by-9-inch (6-cup) loaf pan. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Using an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy; beat in eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in carrots. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture; beat just until combined. Transfer batter to prepared pan; bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in pan 5 minutes. Turn cake out onto a wire rack, and let cool completely.
Make frosting: Using mixer, beat cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla until fluffy. Frost top of cooled cake.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bleu Cheese Macaroni

This is the last "B" recipe for now. Tomorrow I'll be offering you a sweet "C" recipe. How could I let "B" end without glorifying my absolute favorite cheese of all time? I love bleu cheese so much and this dish certainly showcases it perfectly. I'll warn you now that this is not a typical kid-style mac and cheese. If you want to go for something over-the-top decadent, you've simply got to try this. It's rich, super creamy and filling; a little goes a long way. You may be cursing me for the calories, but you'll be thanking me for a forkful of Gorgonzola heaven.

Note: I cut the recipe in half for myself (with plenty leftover) and used whole milk instead of heavy cream. Also, start off with less Bleu Cheese and add acording to taste.

Bleu Cheese Macaroni
2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup sliced green bell pepper
1/2 cup sliced red bell pepper
3/4 cup heavy cream or whole milk
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 cup crumbled blue cheese (or a little less if you don't want it so strong)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add macaroni and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium heat combine butter, salt, pepper and bell peppers. Simmer until heated through. Stir in cream, flour, yogurt, bleu cheese and Parmesan cheese.
Stir cooked macaroni into cheese mixture and serve hot.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Butterscotch Oatmeal with Spiced Pumpkin Butter

I have no idea how you’re going to thank me for this recipe. It’s that heavenly. This past weekend, I found a small jackpot of pumpkin recipes. Since Fall is approaching quickly and the stores are loaded with pumpkins now, I simply couldn't wait to make some pumpkin butter and share it with you. Just one problem: Pumpkin butter starts with the letter P and I’m still on letter B. So I thought to myself, what can I put the pumpkin butter on so that I can still sneak it in now? Oatmeal came to mind but that starts with the letter O. Then, out of NOWHERE, the phrase Butterscotch Oatmeal with Spiced Pumpkin Butter hit me like a bolt of lightning. Butterscotch???? What the Hell? So I Googled it and found one obscure recipe! It turned out so incredibly phenomenal. Imagine the mellow flavor of butterscotch accented with the earthy spice of pumpkin butter. Then add on some toppings like toasted coconut, roasted almonds and crisp Granny Smith apple slivers. Oh my stars! Yes, you’ll find a way to thank me, I’m sure.

Butterscotch Oatmeal (from the collection of mrbreakfast.com)

(2 servings)

1 and 3/4 cups milk
1 cup rolled oats
1 egg - beaten
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons butter
In a medium-sized sauce pan at medium-high heat, combine milk, egg and brown sugar. Stir in the oats. Cook until you get a rapid boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until thick. When you get your desired consistency, stir in the butter until melted and mixed. Sprinkle with toppings.

Spiced Pumpkin Butter

2 cups canned pumpkin
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup apple juice
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt

In large heavy saucepan, combine all ingredients. Bring to boil, reduce heat. Cook uncovered, over medium heat for about 20 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently. Careful for mixture splattering. Let it cool and spoon in to an airtight container. Store in refrigerator for 1 week; freezer for 6 months.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Banana Chip Cookies

These are one of my favorite cookie recipes. I admit that I've been disenchanted with vegetarian desert recipes. But I've been a big fan of 101 Cookbooks blog for quite some time. Heidi finds a way to take very healthy, wholesome ingredients and turn them into delicious dishes. I've been making these cookies for my husband for a while now. He's got quite the sweet tooth and I feel better that he's eating cookies with whole wheat flour and natural raw sugar. Trust me when I write that these cookies are bursting with flavor and yummy goodness! The trick to baking these cookies is to NOT overcook them (7 minutes total). They might not seem fully cooked when you initially pull them out of the oven but, once they cool down, they are the perfect consistency. If you overcook them, they will turn out like rocks. Also, always use parchment paper when you're baking. I think it helps to turn out the perfect cookie every time (easy to find in the supermarket with the aluminum foil and saran wrap).

Banana Chip Cookie Recipe

If you can't find whole wheat pastry flour, regular all-purpose white flour will work. If you can't find wheat germ, substitute an equal amount of flour. I look for organic banana chips - the ones I like are made with organic coconut oil and bananas.
1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (see head notes)
1/2 cup (toasted) wheat germ
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup natural cane sugar (or brown sugar)
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup banana chips, loosely chopped
1 cup chocolate chips
2/3 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 375 degrees, racks in middle/upper middle. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Whisk together the flour, wheat germ, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, or stand mixer, beat the butter until lightly and fluffy, then beat in the sugar until it is the consistency of a thick frosting. Beat in the eggs one at a time, incorporating each fully before adding the next, and scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times along the way (important!). Stir in the vanilla. Add the reserved flour mix in two increments, stirring/mixing a bit between each addition (but not too much). By hand, stir in the banana chips, chocolate chips and walnuts - mix just until everything is evenly distributed.
Drop 1 heaping tablespoon of dough for each cookie onto the prepared baking sheets 2 inches apart and bake for about 7 - 8 minutes, until barely golden on top and bottom. Resist over baking, they will come out dry and not as tasty. Cook on racks.
Make about 24 cookies.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Basil Pesto

Basil pesto has been a long standing favorite of mine. I love the flavors of olive oil, garlic, Parmesan cheese and pine nuts. Basil is such a nice herb to work with. You can snip it off and add it to sauces for subtle flavor or you can go on basil overload and whip up some pesto. I've been known to slather pesto on my veggies and tofu slices while they're grilling. Simply said, basil pesto adds a wonderful flavor to just about anything you're cooking from pasta to bruschetta. The recipe for basil pesto is very simple and pretty much the same from cookbook to cookbook. This one comes from Giada De Laurentiis's "Giada's Family Dinners."

It all starts with this:

Try it on french bread slices with a little blue cheese and roasted red pepper:

Here it is over gnocci with fresh chopped summer tomato:

Basil Pesto (makes 1 cup)

2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1 large garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

In a food processor, pulse the basil, pine nuts, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper until finely chopped. With the food processor still running, gradually add enough olive oil to form a smooth and thick consistency. Transfer the pesto to a medium bowl and stir in the cheese. Season the pesto with more salt and pepper to taste. Pesto can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bow ties and kasha

It’s kosher time in the neighborhood.

I live in a highly populated Jewish area. In the local supermarket, there’s an entire section of the store dedicated to the kosher community. I used to be married to a Jewish man, so I know the culture. If I may be so bold to give myself snaps, my matzo balls were legendary in these parts. Many a Jewish maven picked my brain for the recipe. Who knew the shiksa could make a killer ball?! But today’s recipe is not the Matzo Ball (unless I want to feature it as “Ball, Matzo” under my “B” category). But I digress. Bow Ties with Kasha is something I’ve always wanted to try but never got around to making. It’s also a recipe steeped in Jewish tradition. So, today I decided to go to my local supermarket and hang out in the kosher department with a bewildered look on my face. You see, there’s a high holiday being celebrated in the Jewish community and I suspected the supermarket would be swarming with good Jewish women doing their food shopping for the big dinner on Saturday night. And I was right. Of course I could just Google the recipe for Bow Ties and Kasha but it’s much more rewarding to get the best recipe straight from the horse’s mouth. All it took was a few inquiries and I had a handful of mavens offering suggestions. It took a little playing and adjusting, but it was well worth it. Kasha, if you aren’t aware, is actually buckwheat grains. I love the nutty flavor. I did something completely unorthodox and splashed it with a little Panang Curry sauce from Whole Foods for some extra zip. Yummy!!!

Bow Ties and Kasha
3 oz. bow tie pasta (about 1/4 of a full 12 oz. box)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
one large onion, chopped
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
one cup sliced mushrooms
salt and black pepper to taste
one egg, beaten
1/2 cup of kasha (whole roasted buckwheat groats)
1 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup of panang curry sauce (this is very mild and OPTIONAL)

1. Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. Add onions, garlic, mushrooms and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the onions and mushrooms are nice and tender. Remove and set aside in a bowl.

2. In a pot, cook the bow tie pasta until tender and done (about 15-20 minutes). Drain and toss with the onion/mushroom mixture.

2. In a small bowl, beat the egg and add the kasha until it is well coated. Add them to the skillet that you cooked the onion/mushroom mixture in. Cook them on high for about 2-3 minutes until the grains are toasted and separated. Reduce the heat to low and add the vegetable broth. Cover and cook for about 7 minutes until the broth is absorbed. Add the pasta, onion/mushroom mixture and the panang curry sauce. Heat it through and serve in bowls.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Bruschetta; two ways

Today marks the beginning of "B" recipes. Today's feature is embarrassingly simple but sometimes simple does the trick. I've always been a BIG fan of "little dishes". Anything ranging from Dim Sum to Tapas. If life were perfect, I would eat 5 or 6 little meals instead of 3 each day. Bruschetta is a perfect way to enjoy crusty french bread and a few favorite toppings. So easy to put together too! For lunch today, I made some traditional bruschetta with tomato and basil and another variety using blue cheese, toasted pine nuts and black olives.

1. a few hours before making the bruschetta, chop a big ripe tomato and add 1/4 cup of chopped basil and one minced garlic clove. Drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil, cover and marinate. The longer you let it marinate, the yummier it tastes!

2. Buy a loaf of fresh crusty French bread. Slice it in to 1/4 inch slices and toast lightly. Rub each slice with a garlic clove and drizzle olive oil. Top the toasted bread with a heaping spoonful of the tomato and basil mixture. For the blue cheese bruschetta, follow the same steps but top with a slab of blue cheese, toasted pinenuts and black olives.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ridiculously simple "A" recipes

I'm nearing the end of the "A" recipes and I'll be a busy bee researching some "B" foods, which will start next week. Today, my "A" choices hardly need any explanations; I think they speak for themselves!

Sometimes in the afternoon, I crave a nice healthy snack with my green smoothie. I can think of nothing better than red delicious apple slices slathered with triple cream Castello Blue Cheese. You want the recipe? Simple. Slice an apple and spread on the blue cheese. There are all kinds of yummy, buttery blue cheeses ranging from Castello to Saga. Pears work well with the cheese too. So do Asian Pears, which are a funky hybrid of pear and apple.

Another favorite for me is the Avocado. I could eat them right out of their skins with a little shaker of sea salt and garlic powder. But this week, I've been slicing them and making whole wheat pita sandwiches for lunch. For an added special treat, I take a few tablespoons of light mayonnaise and blend it with crushed garlic, sea salt and pepper. It makes a lovely spread that really enhances the flavor of the avocado. I toast my pita bread, open it up and stuff it with avocado slices, fresh tomatoes and lettuce. Serve it up with some kale chips!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Apple filled crepes with granola and roasted almonds

It was only fair to include a fruit recipe in my alphabetical cooking. Today, it's all about the apple. I had this for a very late breakfast but I imagine it could also turn a few heads as a dessert too! I decided to add some homemade granola and chopped roasted almonds as a topping.

Sauteed Apples
1/4 cup butter
4 large tart apples - peeled, cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a large skillet or saucepan, melt butter over medium heat; add apples. Cook, stirring constantly, until apples are almost tender, about 6 to 7 minutes.
Dissolve cornstarch in water; add to skillet. Stir in brown sugar and cinnamon. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and serve warm.

Simple Crepes
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and the eggs. Gradually add in the milk and water, stirring to combine. Add the salt and butter; beat until smooth.
Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each crepe. Tilt the pan with a circular motion so that the batter coats the surface evenly.
Cook the crepe for about 2 minutes, until the bottom is light brown. Loosen with a spatula, turn and cook the other side. Serve hot.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Artichoke sauce over linguine

I admit that artichokes have always been a mystery to me. My mother never made them once when I was growing up and even if she did, I wouldn't have touched them with a ten foot pole; corn was the only vegetable that passed my lips back then. Nowadays when I go to the Farmers Market, I eye them as a thing of beauty. Just the form of an artichoke is something to behold. But, I'm still too intimidated to buy the fresh ones and figure out how to prepare them. So yesterday, I bought canned artichokes and used them in to a delicious sauce for linguine. I'm sure that one day I will tackle a fresh one but for now, I'm happy to used the ones that come marinated in a jar or a can. I now offer up recipe number two in the "A" category. This pasta was just awesome. I think the fresh lemon juice and addition of tomato really brought it to life!

Artichoke Sauce with Linguine

¼ cup butter
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup vegetable broth (or chicken for meat eaters)
1 clove garlic, minced
Juice of one fresh lemon
Salt and white pepper to taste
One 14-ounce can artichoke hearts packed in water, drained
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons capers, rinsed, drained
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon salt
1 pound linguine, cooked, drained
1 large, ripe tomato, chopped

Melt ¼ cup of butter with ¼ cup olive oil in saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour until thickened, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low. Add garlic, lemon juice and salt & pepper to taste. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Cut artichokes in to slices. Add with 2 tablespoons cheese, capers and parsley to sauce. Simmer, covered, for 8 minutes. Melt one tablespoon butter with 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in remaining cheese and a teaspoon of salt. Add linguine and chopped tomato, tossing lightly. Arrange linguine and tomato on a platter. Cover with artichoke sauce.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Tomato Gravy

I know that Italians refer to their tomato sauce as "gravy" but, trust me, this is not the Italian version. I'm breaking protocol here today with my alphabetical cooking, since I'm still on the letter "A". But there was no way I could wait until the letter "T" to give you this mouthwatering recipe. I believe it will quite possibly be the easiest thing you've made since toast and I think you'll thank me for finding such a delicious way to use up all of those tomatoes.

Here's the story. When I was growing up, my dad made tomato gravy every summer. Usually at the end of the summer when the fat, juicy, overripe tomatoes were falling off the vines. He served his over a bed of white rice. Oh, my god how I loved his tomato gravy! So this weekend, I met my friend Wayne at the Farmers Market. Outside, while waiting for him, I spotted big white boxes of huge, juicy tomatoes. I immediately took out my camera and began snapping away. When I got home, I called my dad to find out what his recipe was for tomato gravy. I couldn't reach him so I went on with my day. A few hours later, my mother called to tell me that she and my dad had been out shopping and saw two bags of big, juicy tomatoes. My dad immediately snatched them up thinking about his tomato gravy. He bought one bag for me and one bag for him. Call it Kismet. Call it clairvoyant. I call it a reason to make one of the best damn comfort foods I can ever remember. This tomato gravy is so simple. Only 3 main ingredients: butter, flour and tomatoes. That's it. I've made it for my lunch today just the way dad did; over a bed of white rice. I've just enough left over to heat it up tomorrow and mix it in with some linguine or shells and some fresh Parmesan cheese.

Tomato Gravy
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
3 large, ripe tomatoes
salt, pepper, garlic powder and fresh basil, if you have it.

Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the flour and wisk until thick and smooth. Chop up all of the tomatoes and add them to the roux. Make sure to add the pulp of the tomato too (the juice of the tomato is what makes the gravy). You will see the tomatoes begin to cook and turn in to a nice, thick gravy. There is no need to add any liquid! Season the gravy with salt, cracked black pepper, garlic powder and freh snipped basil. Turn it down to a low simmer while the rice cooks. Spoon it over a bed of rice and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Asparagus quiche and some sweet redemption

I believe I have redeemed myself since the Alsatian Tart fiasco. Last night, determined to be successful with dessert, I whipped up a Peanut Butter Pie with Chocolate Shavings. Just the kind my mother used to make and trust me, that woman doesn't make any kind of low fat dessert! Here is a secret I'll reveal: I have always wanted to have a pie thrown in my face. It's true. I don't want it staged either. I want to ambushed with a Boston Cream or blueberry pie. Key Lime I don't care for, so don't ring on my door bell with that in hand. Last night's pie has definitely made it to my list of "acceptable pies to be thrown in my face". But...today is about my first letter A recipe.

I had a craving for a quiche last night. I love quiche on so many levels: it can be served for breakfast, it's great leftover and it's damn easy to put together. I opted for an asparagus quiche with tomatoes and a nice quirky addition of Tabasco sauce and Dijon mustard for a nice little kick. I'll be eating it for lunch today with a nice little spring salad. Don't forget to leave a comment here for a chance to win a funky apron! In your comment, let me know of something meatless that you like to eat. It's that simple.

Asparagus Quiche

1/2 cup chopped onion
1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
a few dashes of Tabasco sauce
1 (9 inch) unbaked pastry shell
3 eggs
1/2 cup half-and-half cream

In a skillet, saute onion in a little bit of butter or olive oil until browned;
Cut eight asparagus spears into 4-in.-long spears for garnish. Cut remaining asparagus into 1-in. pieces. In a steaming basket, cook all of the asparagus until crisp-tender; drain.
In a bowl, toss the onion, asparagus pieces, tomato, cheese, flour, salt and pepper. Pour into pastry shell. In a bowl, beat eggs, cream, Dijon mustard and Tabasco sauce; pour over asparagus mixture. Top with asparagus spears. Bake at 400 degrees F for 30-35 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean and crust is golden brown. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Beets with olive oil

When I think about how I've embraced this meatless diet, I almost have to laugh at myself. Seriously. It's very funny. When I was growing up, we were a meat eating family for sure. My mother was raised that way and it would have been unheard of not to have meat in your diet. In fact, I think she found all vegetarians to be far out hippies from California. But I detested ALL vegetables with the exception of corn. My mother made the standard veggies: corn, carrots, peas, green beans and spinach. Many a summer evening I remember having to sit at the table, long after my brothers were excused, staring at a plate of cold, slimy spinach until I finished it. There were some things even she never ventured in to: beets, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and rarely broccoli. I love my mother to pieces but she killed vegetables in boiled water. It wasn't until I was an adult with a changed taste palette that I learned how to prepare veggies in different ways to make them actually good. But I digress. Recently, we were at my step son's house and he had prepared beet salad. I wrinkled my nose up when he offered me a taste. Breen challenged me so I took a bite. It was really quite good. He had them drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with sea salt and black pepper. They kind of taste like a slightly sweet white potato. I made them last night as a side vegetable. Not only are they a gorgeous shade of purple-red, they also have great nutritional benefits.

Beets with Olive Oil, sea salt and pepper

one bunch of beets (about 5 nice medium sized roots)
Olive oil
sea salt
black pepper

1. Rinse the beets, and cut the leafy stems off
2. In a large pot, fill it with water and bring to a boil
3. Drop the beet roots (unpeeled) in to the water
4. Cook on low boil for 25-30 minutes
5. Remove beets from water, let them cool and peel away the skin
6. Slice the beets in to thin slices and toss with olive oil, sea salt and pepper

Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Lemon Orzo with summer vegetables

I've got to give credit where credit is due. Somehow, I stumbled upon a wonderful blog called Short Stop. She features some of the tastiest recipes. Since I was just writing about reinventing the wheel for my side dishes, there was no way I could pass this one up. It was so tasty and it makes for great leftovers the next day. You can serve it any temperature you like and I imagine that you could add any variation of vegetables. This is a great way to enjoy some of the fresh summer produce!

Lemon Orzo with tangy lemon vinaigrette

5 ears fresh corn
1 1/2 cups orzo
1 green pepper, finely chopped
1 yellow pepper, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1/4 cup scallions, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Heat a large pot of water to boiling. Add orzo and cook for 7 minutes. While orzo is cooking, remove corn from cob, carefully cutting corn off of the cob with a with a knife or corn zipper. After orzo cooks for 7 minutes, add corn to the pot and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Drain corn and orzo in a colander and set aside.

In a large bowl, using a whisk combine the juice of one lemon, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon rind from the juiced lemon and beat with a whisk until thoroughly combined. Add orzo and corn, peppers, basil and parsley. Toss to combine.

Serve hot, room temperature, or cold.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

reinventing the side dish

I'm not sharing any recipes today; just some random thoughts I've been having about food this morning. It's been a few weeks since I got back up on the meatless wagon and I've managed to stay there, which I'm proud of. Yesterday, we attended a 50th birthday party for my brother. His wife had ordered all sorts of smoked meats and pulled pork. This is usually what a meatless eater encounters at parties. Thankfully, there was macaroni and cheese, baked beans, corn bread and salads. The meat smelled good but I looked at it and didn't long to have any of it on my plate. I guess I'm making some progress.

This morning I woke up and found myself thinking about food. When I was eating meat, it became the main attraction of my meal and the side dishes took a back seat; almost an afterthought. But now that I'm eating meatless, the side dishes have become my main dishes. I no longer look at a mound of plain rice as a complete meal. I'm almost forced to reinvent the wheel so to speak. I have to find new ways to incorporate more items in to the rice. When I was eating meat, I would get bored to tears if I ate chicken every night. The same goes with tofu. I love it, but I get bored eating it all the time. One thing that has been helping me immensely is to look at meat recipes and exchange the meat for mock beef strips or tofu. I enjoy getting creative with my cooking and finding solutions to keep meatless eating a satisfying and healthy experience.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Chewy Peanut Butter Brownies and a product review

I keep a binder in my kitchen that holds all of the interesting meatless recipes that I find on the Internet. It was a rainy day yesterday and I thought it would be the perfect day to bake something. I tried these Chewy Peanut Butter Brownies and I have to say that they are delicious. Not too sweet. Made with whole wheat flour. Very dense and moist. Perfectly paired with a glass of cold vanilla soymilk. When I make these again, I think I'll melt some milk chocolate and swirl it through the batter for an extra touch of sweetness.

1/3 cup margarine, softened
2/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons water
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees Celsius). Grease a 9x9 inch baking pan.
In a large mixing bowl, beat together margarine and sugars; add eggs one at a time, and beat until mixture is light and fluffy. Stir in peanut butter, vanilla, and water.
In a separate mixing bowl, mix together flours with salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir into peanut butter mixture and blend well. Spread batter into the prepared pan.
Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the top springs back when touched. Cool and cut into 16 squares.

Let's talk presentation for a moment, shall we? Every desert deserves to be elevated to new heights..literally. Here, I took an old glass candlestick and an old plate that I found at a thrift store. I took some epoxy and glued the two together. Let the epoxy set for a few hours (even overnight) and the result is a fabulous cake stand for all of your sweet treats. People will think you spent a small fortune for it at a little swank kitchen shop but you know that all it cost you was an old plate and a candlestick. I've seen this done where people actually managed to drill through the china and embellish the plate with old crystal chandelier pieces. Let your imagination do the work. In addition, you can bring this as a hostess gift to your next dinner party or luncheon.

Now on the product review. Yesterday, I stopped at the grocery store for a few items and I found these luscious yogurt treats. I've been to this Acme a million times and I've never seen this brand before. Bonus: it was on sale. How could I resist such names as Relax: Vanilla Chai, Calm: Plum Honey Lavender and Exotic: Orange Strawberry Mango? Each one has lived up to it's Delicious name. I'm going back for a few more today while they're still on sale. I took it upon myself to do a nutrition comparison with the Wegman's brand that I buy for Breen.

Rachel's: Wegman's:
Calories..150 170
Total Fat..2.5G 2G
Fiber......1g 0G
Sugars.....23G 31G
Total Carbs..25G 32G
Protein....8G 7G

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Blog Video of Kale Chips

My son Max has started to take an interest in making little movies. We've decided to team up and make some cooking videos. Here is my first attempt to show you how I make Kale Chips. After we posted this on Youtube, I found several other videos for kale chips as well. Most of them are geared towards raw food eaters as they never raise the oven above 200 degrees. With this recipe, I roast them in the oven for 10 minutes in a 400 degree oven. You could always cook them for 20 minutes in a 200 degree oven if the raw food aspect is key to you.

Mock Beef Stroganoff

I've been walking the walk of shame since I started this blog. Honestly, I had the best intentions to go meatless. But once I fell of the vegetable truck, it was so hard to get back on it again. My honeymoon was spent in California recently. I got my fill of meat there and then some. On the plane ride home, I had hours to sit and think about my eating habits and nutrition. Since I've been home, I'm proud to say that I've gone meatless again with the exception of one little tiny slip when my son made an amazing dinner for all of us and I tasted a bite of his Chicken 1890.

Recently, I found a list of 40 easy recipes on RealSimple.com. Most of them were meat but I realized I could simply substitute the meat with tofu or mock beef wherever it was called for. Last night, I made a delicious and quick mock beef stroganoff. I poured it over a plate of warm and fluffy egg noodles. It was comfort food personified.

1 12-ounce package egg noodles
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound fresh mushrooms
1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced (optional)
1 package of beefless strips from Trader Joe
1 8-ounce container sour cream
2 1/2 tablespoons steak sauce


1. Cook the noodles according to the package directions. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onion and salt and cook for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and bell pepper (if using) and cook for 5 minutes. Add the beefless strips and cook until warmed through, about 8 minutes.

2. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream and steak sauce and stir the mixture into the beef and mushrooms. Divide the drained noodles among individual plates and top with the stroganoff.

Monday, July 13, 2009

White Beans with Sage and Shells

On Friday, I stopped at the library on the way home from dropping my son off at summer camp. I walked out of there armed with at least 6 cookbooks. I spent part of the weekend pouring through each one with little pieces of torn scrap paper for my bookmarks. I decided my first recipe would be White Beans with Sage from Sarah Fritschner's Vegetarian Express Lane cookbook. I've got an abundance of sage right outside my kitchen door. This was my lunch on Sunday: tender shell noodles with a white bean sauce infused with garlic and earthy sage. It was so ridiculously easy and fast to prepare and it was absolutely delicious (recipe at the bottom of the post).

1.Don't be afraid to be generous with the Parmesan after you've ladled this in to a bowl.

2.Use FRESH sage leaves for the best flavor. I really love the taste so I nearly doubled the amount called for.

3. If you want to make this in a "meat version", I would substitute the vegetable broth with chicken stock and saute a slice or two of pancettta with the onion and garlic.

Fresh Sage is the key here:

The ingredients are so simple.

Can you see the delicate broth in the bowl?

3 tablespoons Olive Oil
2-3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, chopped
2 16-ounce cans of white beans with their liquid (4 cups)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 cup of water or vegetable broth
1/2 - 3/4 pound of shell pasta
Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a wide skillet over high heat and add onion and garlic. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Onion will be barely tender. Add beans with their liquid, salt, pepper, sage and broth or water. Simmer for at least 10 minutes to let the flavors blend.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add shells and cook for about 10 minutes or until tender. Drain well.

Put the shells in a serving bowl and add the bean mixture. Toss well and ladle in to individual serving bowls. Grind some more fresh black pepper and lots of Parmesan cheese on top. Enjoy!!