Saturday, November 14, 2015

Sweet Ginger Asian Noodle Salad

Yes I know I already did another "Asian Noodle Salad" but this salad is so different than the last one. This is a great recipe. So great in fact that we had it twice in one week. Which is RARE for me to do. I like a varied meal plan. Again, I took this recipe from another recipe, only switching it up a little bit. If you click on the link in the previous sentence you will notice this recipe comes from The Pioneer Woman (PW), who has some excellent recipes. Last Christmas Eve, the only day of the year I roast meat in my kitchen, I used her pork with apples and onions good.

This recipe is so full of veggies and yummy, sweet, gingery dressing. PW adds fresh spinach and romaine to her salad. I omitted it here to make this dish more "dinner" and less "salad", if that makes sense. I couldn't find any bean sprouts in my local grocery store so I didn't use them, and to be honest, I really didn't miss them at all. There was plenty of crunch in the salad already. The last thing I didn't use was the jalapeno, which is just my personal preference.

I will also admit that I took a bit of a short cut with my cabbage by using bagged, shredded purple cabbage and a bag of coleslaw cabbage, which has shredded carrots in it as well. I'm all about saving a little time!


Sweet Ginger Asian Noodle Salad
Prep Time: 30 min Cook Time: 10 min Servings: 6

1 lb. Linguine noodles, cooked, cooled and rinsed
1/2 bag of shredded purple cabbage
1/2 bag of coleslaw cabbage mix
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 orange bell pepper, sliced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (more to taste)
3 scallions, sliced thinly
1/2 large english cucumber, chopped
1/2 lb roasted, salted cashews, lightly chopped
Juice from one lime
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 Tb sesame oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 Tb fresh ginger, grated or minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

  • Mix salad ingredients together, making sure the cooked pasta is well drained
  • Whisk together dressing ingredients
  • Pour dressing over salad, and mix until combine

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Dal Nirvana and Homemade Naan

Lentils have become a frequent guest at our dinner table lately. We got a big bag of them from Costco, so I feel like I HAVE to use them...which has turned out to be a good thing. Its an ingredient that I didn't know much about, but they pack a huge nutritional punch. One serving can give you half of your DRV of protein and fiber. Win win in our house!

So it was perfect when a few weeks ago a friend mentioned she had an Indian dish called "dal" at a mutual friend's house using lentils. I was intrigued. I've never heard of it, and when I got home I did a little google research on it. Dal (or Dhal) is a broader term to include all legumes in the pulse family (lentil, dried pinto beans, navy beans, dried peas, etc.) that are very common in South Asian cuisine. Dal also refers to the stew made with these pulses.

This particular recipe is from Steamy Kitchen (which, by the way is a wonderful food blog, check it out!) It's basically lentils, stewed with tomato, ginger and garlic with a touch of cream at the end. To me, it sounded so simple I couldn't imagine it would be good. But I was SO WRONG. This stuff was AMAZING. This is hands down the best Indian dish I have made at home. It's creamy and spicy and so good scooped up with fresh homemade naan.

I've made naan before, but this time I decided to use a different recipe. I did a quick search and based on the ingredients I had on hand, this recipe from Taste and Tell fit the bill. Homemade naan is a little time intensive because you do have to let the dough rise twice. I guess if you were pressed for time you could skip the second rise, but I'm a firm believer in the second rise for a really nice texture.

To cook up the naan I just used a cast-iron skillet. I think next time I will use my large griddle so I can cooked a few at a time. Doing them one by one resulted in me standing in the kitchen with oil and flour covered hands for an hour with my little one year old screaming at me the whole time to pick her up. Oh the joys of dinner time crazies. It's only from about 4-5:30 that I wish I had a nanny so I could cook dinner in peace. Oh well. I'll put it on the list for Santa Claus (I wish...).

On to the recipes!


Dal Nirvana
Prep Time: 5 minutes  Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes Servings: 4

Notes: For this recipe I used a lentil trio mix. I think any dry lentil will do in this recipe. Just whatever you can find at your local grocery store. Also, canned coconut milk would be a really nice substitution for the cream in this recipe. I'm going to try it next time! 

1 cup dry lentils
8 oz crushed tomato
1 Tb grated fresh ginger
1 Tb minced garlic
1/8 - 1 tsp cayenne pepper (based on heat preference)
1 cup water
4 Tb butter
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
minced cilantro for garnish
  • Cook lentils according to package directions, drain off excess water
  • Place lentil back in pot and add tomato, ginger, garlic, cayenne pepper, water, butter, salt and pepper. 
  • Bring mixture to a gentle boil, then turn down heat and simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn't burn on the bottom.
  • Add cream, stirring to combine and serve with cilantro


Prep time: 1 hour 45 minutes  Cook time: 30 minutes Servings: 12-15 medium sized pieces

Note:  It is ok for them to get some burned spots...that's what makes naan so tasty!

1 Tb active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup white sugar
3 Tb milk
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp salt
3 - 4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup melted butter
  • In a large bowl of a stand mixer, bloom yeast in warm water with a sprinkle of sugar
  • Once yeast is bubbling, add remaining sugar, milk, egg and salt
  • Add in flour gradually until the dough starts pulling away from the side of the bowl (for me this took just under 4 cups)
  • Knead dough in mixer for 5 minutes
  • Turn dough out onto floured surface and form into a ball and put into an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for an hour, or until doubled.
  • Once dough is doubled in size, punch it down and turn out onto floured surface.
  • Form dough into balls, and place on greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise 30 minutes. 
  • Preheat griddle or cast-iron skillet to medium high heat
  • Roll balls out into thinly, and put onto lightly greased griddle and cook for 1-2 minutes
  • Before flipping, brush uncooked side with butter, then flip and cook until dark brown.
  • Place cooked naan on a plate, covered with a tea towel to keep warm and prevent drying out

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Pasta with Spinach and Butternut Squash Sauce

I discovered this recipe a few years ago when I was trying to look for healthy versions for a creamy pasta dish. At the time it was a foreign idea to use squash as a sauce, but I tried it and we really enjoyed it. Since then I've seen it all over the place. You can even buy butternut squash pasta sauces in a jar. I can promise you though, this is better than anything you could buy in a jar.

The original recipe calls for sausage, which I can imagine would be VERY delicious, but I obviously omitted it. It also calls for fresh sage leaves. I never have fresh herbs on hand and I never can justify the money in buying them for just one dish (remember, starving student mode here...) but by all means add it. I'm sure it's delicious. (Aside: this is probably what separates me from the REAL food bloggers and makes me a mediocre cook. Someday when finances are easier, maybe I will be able to fulfill my food blogging potential and splurge on the good stuff!)


Pasta with Spinach and Butternut Squash Sauce
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 30 minutes Servings: 5

Tip: Peeling a butternut squash is no fun. Here's how I've started to do it: poke the squash all over with a sharp knife and then stick it in the microwave for 7-9 minutes, let it cool and then it's soft enough to peel and seed easily. 

1lb butternut squash, peeled and diced (about the size of a medium squash)
2 TB butter
12 oz of pasta (rotini, bowtie, etc.)
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups baby spinach
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste

  • In a large pot, bring salted water to boil
  • Add butternut squash to water and boil until it is fork tender
  • Remove squash from water with slotted spoon and place in blender and blend until smooth
  • Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to package directions 
  • While pasta boils, melt butter in large, deep skillet and saute onions and garlic until soft
  • Add squash to onions and garlic and season with salt and pepper to taste
  • Add baby spinach and parmesan cheese to sauce
  • If sauce is a little thick, add some pasta water until it reaches your desired consistency
  • Add cooked and drained pasta to sauce and mix until coated

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Spinach Balls

(apology: I seriously tried to think of a different name for this recipe, but I couldn't do it. Spinach rounds was the closest I got, but didn't quite work. So I just stuck with spinach balls, which does not sound appetizing at all. But I promise, read on and you won't be disappointed. Also, I use the word "balls" a lot in this post...)

On a recent road trip our family stopped at Subway for lunch...probably for the fifth time this summer. Its really the only place that's vegetarian friendly and quick. Plus they're everywhere! Well, we go up to order and I place an order for a meatball sub. My husband gives me a weird side-look and moves on. He later told me he didn't know I liked meatball subs. I guess after 9 years of marriage, there's still LOTS we don't know about each other. But the truth is, yes, I do love me a good meatball sub. Maybe it's the bostonian inside of me? Not sure. But I just can't resist a perfectly seasoned meatball swimming in a lovely sauce topped with melted provolone on warm and chewy bread. Hmm so good.

Well that one meatball sub set off a craving for meatballs a few weeks ago. I wondered if I could make a delicious meatball myself at home. So I decided to make them for dinner one night and also make a vegetarian version for my husband. (I'm so nice, aren't I?) I found this recipe from My Kitchen is My Playground and thought I'd give it a try. I was skeptical, but they turned out awesome! I even liked them better than that actual meatballs I made. Turns out I can't make a decent meatball, but I sure can turn out some fantastic spinach balls.

The recipe makes a ton of balls, so I would suggest making the full recipe and then freezing the ones you don't eat for future meals or halving it. The picture above is from one of those freezer meals. I remembered I had some in the freezer and I stuck some in the oven to defrost and crisp up and we had them with some rotini. When my son (4) saw what we were having for dinner he was so excited and kept telling us how much he loves meatballs. He scarfed them down and asked for seconds. It wasn't until after we finished eating that we informed him that he had just eaten spinach balls. Surprisingly he was just fine with it and asked to have them again sometime. Mom for the win!

Ok, now on to the recipe. I didn't stray at all from Tracey's recipe. The only thing I changed was I made my balls just a bit bigger. I used my 1.5T cookie scoop to kind of evenly portion them out. To freeze them, let them cool off after baking and stick in a freezer bag in the freezer. Then you can pull out the amount you need for each meal.


Spinach Balls
Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time: 20 minutes Servings: 6-8

Notes: not all stuffing mixes are vegetarian, but Pepperidge Farm is. 

2 10oz. packages frozen spinach
2 small onions, finely minced
2 1/4 cup herbed stuffing mix
6 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp black pepper

  • Defrost and drain the spinach, making sure all the water is drained off
  • In a large bowl, mix all ingredients until combined
  • Form into desired sized balls and place on a greased cookie sheet 
  • Bake at 350 F for 20-25 minutes or until balls are starting to brown and cooked through 
  • Serve with your favorite pasta and sauce or as a lovely meatball sub alternative

Friday, August 21, 2015

Vegetarian Green Chili Enchiladas

Hmmm, just looking at this picture makes me want to gobble it up! This is another recipe I adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe. Her recipe calls for chicken, so I just replaced it with spinach, corn and black beans. Everything else stayed pretty much the same.

I'd like to report that my kids loved these, but they actually caused quite an emotional dinner that included whining, screaming, crying, food throwing, spitting, and almost vomiting. Seriously, I felt rather deflated sitting there at the dinner table. But on the bright side, (kid's weird food preferences and aversions aside) my husband and I LOVE these and we had plenty of leftovers.


Vegetarian Green Chili Enchiladas
Prep Time: 30 min Cook Time: 20-30 min Servings: 6-8

1 10oz. package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and drained
1 15oz can corn, drained
1 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 4oz cans green chilies
8oz cream cheese, cubed and softened

2 TB butter
1/2 onion, diced
2 TB flour
1 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 10 oz can green enchilada sauce
1/2 cup sour cream

For assembly:
8 flour tortillas
2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
diced tomato and avocado for topping

  • Start by combining spinach, corn, beans, green chilies and cream cheese in bowl. Set aside while you prepare sauce
  • Preheat oven to 375 F
  • In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add onions and cook 3-4 minutes until onions are translucent. 
  • Add flour to butter and onions (roux), stirring around and cooking for about 1 minutes. It will clump up, but you want to cook it enough to get the flour taste out. 
  • Slowly add vegetable broth and milk to the roux, whisking constantly to avoid clumps. 
  • Once sauce starts to bubble, lower heat and add enchilada sauce and sour cream. Whisk together. If sauce seems thick you can add more milk or broth until it reaches a good consistency. 
  • To assemble enchiladas, start by spraying a 9x13 casserole dish with non-stick spray and spread 1/2 cup of the sauce on the bottom of the pan. 
  • Fill each tortilla with 1/2 cup of the filling and top with a small handful of cheese. Roll up and place in the pan. Continue until you have 8 filled tortillas, rolled and in the pan. Top the enchiladas with the remaining sauce and cheese. (if there's leftover filling, you can put that on top of the enchiladas before putting the sauce and cheese on)
  • Baked enchiladas for 20-30 minutes or until cheese is browning and bubbly. Let cool for 15 minutes.
  • Top with cilantro, avocado and tomato. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos

We love this recipe so much that we have it almost weekly. A few months ago VH (vegetarian husband) asked if we could have a break from these tacos....too much of a good thing I guess.

This recipe is by far my most requested recipe by friends. I've gotten, emails, texts and even facebook messages exclaiming people's love of these tacos. I think I've converted a few people from hating vegetarian food, to loving vegetarian food with this little gem. I made this recipe for a large family reunion last week and it worked great for 30+ people and went over well with the crowd. 

I got the idea when I saw a recipe for a sweet potato tostada or something like that. I remember thinking, "ooh ooh what a great replacement for meat." So I whipped this up one night and my husband and I LOVED it. Its super simple and only takes about 30 minutes from start to finish.

We love to eat this with sour cream, shredded cheese, mango peach salsa, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes and guacamole. And what kind of tortilla you use is up to you. Or you could even go the crunchy taco route. We prefer using fresh tortillas that you grill up yourself. We buy ours at costco, but I've also seen them at our local grocery store. My next adventure is to make homemade tortillas!

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos
Prep: 10 min Cook time: 20 min Servings: 4-6 tacos (depending on tortilla size)

Notes: All spice measurements are approximate. I honestly have never actually measured them out. If you want more heat you can add more chili powder or even add a few dashes of cayenne pepper. You may need to add a few tablespoons of water when adding the spices; sometimes they can dry up the mixture. 

1 large sweet potato, diced
1/2 small onion, diced
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1-2 TB olive oil
¼ tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin powder
½ tsp coriander
½ tsp garlic powder
salt & pepper to taste
2 TB minced cilantro
4-6 tortillas (depending on size)
your choice of toppings (cheese, sour cream, salsa, avocado, tomatoes, lettuce, cilantro…)

  • Sauté sweet potato and onion in olive oil over medium-high heat until sweet potatoes are tender and cooked through. 
  • Turn heat down to low add chili powder, cumin, coriander, garlic powder, salt and pepper, and the rinsed and drained beans. 
  • Cook until beans are warmed through, mix in minced cilantro and serve in tortillas with your favorite toppings. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Crunchy Asian Noodle Salad

I love asian flavors, but I've only made a few vegetarian dishes using those flavors that have really been repeat recipes that we would have again. This is one of those! I first made this recipe about five years ago and we've been eating it ever since. It's a great dish to take to a BBQ or potluck since it's a cold salad. Also great in the hot summers!

When I made this the other night for dinner my husband said "I could eat this every night for dinner" "vegetarian husband" (let's go with VH for short) approved! Both my kids (4 and almost 1) ate this. It's always a good dinner when I don't hear too much complaining or food being thrown on the floor. Actually, I won't kid myself, food ALWAYS ends up on the floor with kid #2. There's just something about those highchairs I guess that entice them to throw.

So this recipe comes from Ina Garten. You know, the "Barefoot Contessa" of Food Network fame. I used to watch her show religiously. I would say I was kind of obsessed with the Food Network back in the day. Now that I don't have cable, not so much. But that Ina can cook! I've tried a bunch of her recipes and they've been great. I only made a few changes to her original recipe for this one and they're simply just personal preferences. First, I cut the amount of oil in half to only 1/2 cup. Now I've done it both ways and they both taste equally yummy. Putting in all the oil does make the noodles, how should I say this without putting you off this recipe?....kind of more slippery? Less clumpy? So by only adding half, the dressing does tend to be thicker, but since it significantly cuts the fat and calories out, I'm totally fine with that. I also added fresh baby spinach and grated carrot this time around to increase my vegetable intake for the day. The beauty of the recipe is that you can pretty much add any vegetable you want. I've done it with blanched broccoli and would love to try it with shredded cabbage too. Oh and I didn't use fresh parsley. You know my feelings about fresh parsley...never have it, never use it.


Crunchy Asian Noodle Salad
Prep time: 10 min Cooking time: 25 min Servings: 6

Tips: (1) Buy fresh ginger, peel it, then stick it in the freezer. When you need fresh ginger, just take it out of the freezer and grate what you need using a fine cheese grater. (2) Most sesame seeds you can buy in the store are not toasted. To toast, put sesame seeds in a dry frying pan and cook them, while stirring over a medium heat until they are light brown and fragrant. Watch them carefully so they won't burn. 

1 lb thin spaghetti
1 lb sugar snap peas
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 TB sesame oil
1 TB honey (or brown sugar)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
3 TB toasted white sesame seeds
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
4 scallions, chopped

  • Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain and rinse well with cold water and set aside. 
  • Blanch the sugar snap peas by boiling them in salted water for a few minutes and then sticking them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. This will cook them but keep them nice and crisp. 
  • Mix up the dressing by whisking together the oil, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, garlic, ginger and sesame seeds. 
  • Combine your vegetables with the spaghetti and dressing in a large bowl and toss. Salad can be stored covered in the refrigerator until time to serve. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Quinoa Burgers with Caramelized Onions

This is one of our favorite recipes at our house. My husband tells me everytime I make them that he would be perfectly happy eating one of these burgers everyday. I would too! As a non vegetarian who's sampled many "meatless" burgers, this easily ranks as my top pick. Have you ever tried to make your own meatless burgers before? I have. Many times. Sometimes they taste alright, but most of the time they're a sloppy mess. These burgers actually stay pretty firm, so there's no squirting out of the bun going on. (You know what I'm talking's not pretty)

We first came upon this recipe when a friend of ours brought us dinner one night after my daughter was born. She called them quinoa sliders because we ate them on dinner sized rolls. I was skeptical at first but was blown away with how good they were. I believe I emailed her that night asking for the recipe. She used this recipe from Mel's Kitchen Cafe. 

(SIDE NOTE: if you haven't visited Mel's Kitchen Cafe, please do. I love her recipes. I have taken many of hers and made them vegetarian. I've only ever not liked one of her recipes, which was a frosting recipe, but I'm pretty sure I messed it up somehow!)

In true Jen fashion, I made a few slight changes to how I prepare them. First, I always cook my quinoa in vegetable stock. It gives it such lovely flavor. Second, I replace the fresh garlic with garlic powder. I know I know. You garlic purists out there are shaking your heads. But I tried them with the fresh garlic and I don't think the burgers cook long enough to cook the garlic all the way through. So garlic powder it is for me. Third, I added flour to my burgers. This helps them bind a little better and stay a bit firmer. Lastly, I NEVER have fresh parsley, so I use dried. There nothing I hate more than buying something for a recipe, using what I need, and then the rest just rots away in my fridge (I'm looking at you celery...).

But what really throws these burgers over the top for me are the caramelized onions. Oh there's nothing better than the sweet and savory flavor of onions that have been sauteed in butter until they turn brown. The key here is low and slow. Low heat, slow cooking. They're so good and so easy. We also love green beans with caramelized onions. Very yummy. Oh and in an ideal world, we like to top these burgers with avocado.

I usually serve the burgers with oven potato fries, but as you can see (from the pic) sometimes we switch it up and serve them with roasted veggies.


Quinoa Burgers with Caramelized Onions
Prep time: 30 minutes Cooking time: 15 minutes Servings: 6-8

Note: I like to cook my onions while the quinoa is cooking so I can reuse the pan to cook the burgers.

For Quinoa Burgers:

1 cup dried quinoa, rinsed
2 cups vegetable stock
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 tsp garlic powder
1 TB dried parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup seasoned panko bread crumbs 

2-3 TB flour
1 TB olive oil

  • Put quinoa in saucepan with vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer covered until liquid is absorbed. 
  • Put quinoa into a large bowl and let cool down to room temperature. I usually stick mine in the freezer for a bit to speed this process up. (you can also cook your quinoa ahead of time and keep it in the fridge until you're ready to use it)
  • In a large bowl, add all ingredients to quinoa and mix until well combined. 
  • Next, add flour, 1 TB at a time, to the mixture and mix. Keep adding flour until the mixture is the right consistency to form burgers. The amount of flour you use will depend greatly on how moist your quinoa is. 
  • Form mixture into 6-8 patties and let rest on a parchment lined baking sheet for 5-10 minutes. 
  • Heat a little olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook patties 5-7 minutes on each side or until a rich golden brown. 
For Caramelized Onions:
1/2 large red onion, sliced thinly
1 TB butter
sprinkle of salt.

  • In a nonstick skillet, melt 1 TB butter over medium heat.
  • Add onions and a sprinkle of salt
  • Cook onions, stirring occasionally until they turn a dark brown
  • Top quinoa burger with caramelized onions and serve with your favorite burger toppings (lettuce, tomato, avocado, cheese, ketchup, mustard, etc.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Spinach and Artichoke Pasta

There are lots of spinach and artichoke pasta recipes out there trying to take our favorite spinach and artichoke dips and turn them into pastas so we can enjoy that cheesy, salty, wonderful goodness as our main meal. I've tried some of those recipes and, to be honest, they weren't satisfying for me....

(WARNING: boasting below)

So tonight I was trying to think about what to make for dinner with what I had in the house and I remembered the artichoke hearts I got on sale last week and the spinach I had in the freezer. So I decided to tackle the Spinach Artichoke Pasta...without a recipe. And guess what?! It turned out great! So below you have my very own original recipe that I made up tonight to feed my family. I feel proud. I told my husband twice that I didn't follow a recipe. He wasn't as laudatory as I thought he should have been, but my 4 year old actually ate it, so there's that...

I always keep a bottle of minced garlic in my fridge to have on hand when I don't have fresh garlic. That is what I used in this recipe and it turned out great. I used approx. 2 tsp. Also, make sure you're using freshly grated parmesan cheese off the block. It's SO MUCH better than the pre-shredded or stuff in the green bottle. Trust me. Once you use the real stuff you'll never go back! And lastly, this recipe is NOT for the dieting crowd. BUT, you can always switch out the cream for milk in the sauce. If you really want to take out all the fat, go ahead and use skim milk, but I would recommend using milk with some fat in it. It just makes the flavor so much better.


Spinach and Artichoke Pasta
Prep time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 30 minutes Servings: 6

1 12oz box of bowtie pasta
2 TB butter
1/2 large onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 TB flour
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 14oz can artichoke heart quarters, chopped
1 10oz package frozen spinach, defrosted and water squeezed out
salt & pepper to taste

  • Start by bringing a large pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions
  • While the water boils, melt butter in saute pan over medium high heat
  • Add onions to melted butter and cook 3-5 minutes or until onions are translucent, then add garlic and cook an addition 1-2 minutes. Do not burn the garlic. It is not a pleasant taste. 
  • Add flour to onions and garlic, whisking vigorously
  • Keep whisking and cook for 1 minute. The mixture will clump together (this is called a roux) but keep moving it around the pan so it won't burn. 
  • Then slowly add cream and milk to roux while you continue to whisk the mixture. As the mixture comes to a boil it will thicken
  • Once the mixture has thickened, add parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese (this is now a mornay sauce) and whisk into the sauce
  • If the sauce seems too thick at this point you can always add a little of the pasta liquid or some extra milk to thin it out to your liking
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste
  • Combine, spinach, artichokes and sauce with pasta and enjoy! 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Southwest Mango Quinoa Salad

This recipe is so yummy! This one comes from Gina at I love her recipes. She's all about healthy, low-fat recipes and because of this, many of them are vegetarian friendly or easily adaptable. This one can be a great side dish or jazzed up a bit as a main meal. We really enjoy this one with tortilla chips, making it more like a "dip" but hearty. When we do it as our main meal, I will shred up some cheese and chop up some avocado to put on top. I've even thought about grilling up a few chicken breasts to have with it for the kids and I. And I think the flavor of this salad just gets better with a little time in the refrigerator, so it's perfect as leftovers.

Once again I made just a few changes to the original recipe to make it my own. First, I doubled the amount of everything in the recipe, except for the vegetables. I felt like this gave a better ratio of grain to vegetable, making it a more hearty meal. I also omitted the jalapeno pepper because I don't like heat in my food, so the husband just adds hot sauce to his. I also added a tsp of sugar to the dressing because I felt like it needed it to balance out the lemon and spices, but just omit it if you don't want the sugar; it shouldn't change the flavors at all. Lastly, just a quick note, I almost always use red onion in this recipe, but when I made it, as pictured above, I used a regular yellow onion and it was still delicious. Enjoy!

Southwestern Mango Quinoa Salad
Prep time: 10 min Cook Time: 15 min Servings: 6 (as a full meal)

1 cup dried quinoa, rinsed
2 cups vegetable broth
1 15 oz can corn, drained (or 1.5 cups frozen, defrosted)
1 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 large mango, chopped
1/2 large red onion, diced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
juice from 2 lemons
3 TB olive oil
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
salt and pepper to taste


  • Start by adding vegetable broth and quinoa to a medium sized pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let summer for 10 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. 
  • While quinoa is summering, add corn, black beans, red bell pepper, mango, onion and cilantro to a large bowl.
  • Mix together lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, cumin, chili powder and turmeric and pour over vegetables, mixing to combine.
  • After quinoa is done cooking, pour into a separate bowl and let cool to room temperature (you can always stick it in the refrigerator or freezer to speed this process up)
  • Add cooled quinoa to vegetable mixture and mix to combine. 
  • Add salt and pepper to taste 
  • Serve immediately or refrigerate until you're ready to serve

Monday, May 11, 2015

Easy Peasy Pizza Dough

In our family, Friday is Pizza night. We've been doing this for a couple of years now and we love it. I've made pizza dough so many times that I don't need a recipe. I just sort of do it and it goes fast. So this is my attempt to put the "recipe" down on paper. I'm sure there are superior ways to make and cook pizza dough, but this is what works for me.

I don't use anything fancy to cook my pizzas. Just a regular old cookie sheet. I have found that if I use a light colored cookie sheet that I need to pre-bake my crust for 7 minutes or so before adding the toppings and finish cooking it. But I have two, rather old, cookie sheets that were once light, but have been quite "seasoned" and are pretty dark now. With these I don't have to pre-bake my crust, which makes it go quicker.

I also don't roll out my pizza dough. The dough is soft enough to just press and stretch into the pan. (see below)

For our pizzas I almost always just use jarred pasta sauce and then grate a block of mozzarella cheese. I've found grating my own is so much better than the shredded stuff in the bag. But of course, pizza is so versatile that you could pretty much put anything imaginable on it and it would be delicious (well, almost anything).

Easy Peasy Pizza Dough
Prep time: 15 min. Cook time: 15 min.
Servings: 8 slices

Notes: The amount of flour you will need will vary depending on the humidity in your house, etc. The key is to start small and add flour small amounts at a time until you reach a desired consistency. Putting too much flour in will result in a thicker, denser dough. Also, I've done this recipe with whole wheat flour and half wheat/ half white. Both turned out great. Just know that with wheat flour, you may not need as much flour because it absorbs more water. 

1 TB Yeast
1 TB honey or white sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup warm water
2-3 cups all purpose flour

- Preheat oven to 400F
- In stand mixer with dough hook attachment, put in yeast, honey (or sugar), salt and water. Slightly mix together and let sit for a minute.
- Once the yeast looks like it's starting to bubble, start adding flour. Start with 2 cups, mixing on low-medium speed and gradually increase to high speed. Start adding flour in 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup at a time until the dough comes together and pulls away from the bowl, cleaning the edges of the bowl as it mixes.
- Knead the dough with the mixer for 3-4 minutes until its nice and smooth.
- Let dough rest for 10 minutes in bowl (I grate my cheese and prep my other toppings while it rests)
- Grease a large cookie sheet with cooking spray
- Press dough into pan, using flour on your hands if it's a bit sticky
- Top dough with desired toppings
- Bake pizza for about 15 min or until the cheese is slightly brown and bubbly.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Vegetable Corn "Chowda"

I came across this recipe by Kristen on and just had to try it! I made a few variations to put my own spin on it. First, I only used one green bell pepper and one red bell pepper and made up the remaining volume with yukon gold potatoes. It just didn't seem like "chowda" (said with thick Boston accent) unless I was going to have me some potatoes! I also attempted to "roast" my corn (which was canned and may have been my problem) and I don't think it made too much of a difference in the recipe. I do imagine though that if you grilled your corn, as the recipe suggests, and can get some good char on it that it would add some great smokiness to the chowder. But alas, I do not have a grill. It also seems like a lot of work to me and I'm all about simplicity in my cooking.

I'd like to put a little plug in for my all-time favorite vegetable broth. Pacific Organic Vegetable Broth. I've tried quite a few pre-made vegetable broths...some good, some awful, but I always come back to this one. Its on the pricier side, but I get mine in bulk from Costco when they have it in stock and it makes the price per carton much cheaper. I have attempted to make my own vegetable broth before, but it didn't turn out so well. It was very bland and didn't really add any depth to the dishes I used it in. If someone has a secret to homemade broth, let me know!

Seeing all those yummy vegetables makes me feel better about adding cream at the end....sort of.

I forgot to take a nice posed picture of the soup when it was done. So this is my half-eaten bowl, which looks less appetizing, but I promise is SO GOOD! It will make a solid addition to our dinner rotations. The soup is so creamy and flavorful and perfect with a side of freshly baked bread (recipe to come).

The recipe below is my recipe with the variations I made. If you'd like to try Kristen's recipe with roasted corn, just click on over here


Vegetable Corn "Chowda"
Prep time: 10 minutes  Cooking time: 6 -7 hours
Servings: 8

4 cups canned or frozen corn
4 cups vegetable broth
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1.5 cups yukon gold potatoes, chopped
2 bay leaves
1.5 cups skim milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper

-Add corn, broth, onion, garlic, carrots, celery, peppers, potatoes and bay leaves to slow-cooker. Cook on low for 7 hours.

-With one hour of cooking time left, puree half the chowder in a blender or food processor and then add it back to the slow-cooker. Add skim milk and continue cooking until done.

- When finished cooking, add cream, salt and pepper to the chowder. Mix until incorporated and serve.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Sweet Potato Vegetarian Chili

On a cold day there is nothing better than a warm bowl of something steaming and a side of bread. One of our family's favorites is chili and cornbread. This version incorporates one of my favorite vegetables...the sweet potato! They make a great meat substitution in many recipes, plus they taste good.

This recipe is super simple and can either be done on the stovetop or in the crockpot. I will include the crockpot variation as well.


Sweet Potato Vegetarian Chili
Prep time: 5 minutes  Cooking Time: 30 minutes (stove top) or 4 hrs (crockpot)
Servings: 6

Notes: Sometimes when I make this on the stovetop the chili gets rather thick, so I will sometimes think it out with vegetable stock about 10 minutes before its done cooking. Sometimes the reverse happens with I cook this in the crockpot and I will have to thicken it. When this happens I add a slurry of 1 TB flour to 2TB water 30 minutes before its done cooking and that usually does the trick. This recipe also freezes really well. We can usually get two meals out of this one recipes.

1 TB olive oil (stovetop only)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large sweet potato, diced
1-2 garlic cloves, minced (depending on your preference)
1 32 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 15 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15oz can chopped tomatoes, do not drain
1 1/2 TB chili powder
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black peppers
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1 TB honey
1 cup frozen corn
sour cream and shredded cheese for serving

Stovetop Directions:
- In a large pot (I use my 6 Q enameled cast iron dutch oven) over medium high heat, sauté onions and sweet potatoes in olive oil until onions are cooked and translucent. Then add garlic and cooked for another two minutes.

- Add crushed tomatoes, black beans, red kidney beans, chopped tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, and paprika. Bring this mixture to a slow boil, then reduce heat to low and cover.

- Let chili cook for 20-25 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are soft and tender.

- Add honey and corn and continue to cook for an additional minute.

-Adjust seasonings to taste, adding more chili powder for more heat or paprika for more smokiness.

- Serve hot with shredded cheese and sour cream.

Slow-cooker Directions:
- Put all ingredients in slow-cooker, except corn and honey. Set the slow-cooker to high and cook for four hours. With ten minutes left in the cooking time, add the honey and corn and finish cooking.