Tag Archives: the veg project

Lasagna Stuffed Zucchini Boats

1 Oct

I learned today that it is Vegetarian Awareness Month, so it felt fitting that I make a vegetarian meal for dinner. Not to mention the calorie laden meal I prepared yesterday that I needed to counteract. I do what I can to try and balance out my meals, even if it’s from one day to another by having light soup or salad or vegetarian meals if I am going to be having heavy carb-filled meals during the day or week.
I have made different kinds stuffed zucchini boats and each time they are light yet filling and mighty delicious. I got the idea for the lasagna stuffed zucchini boats from recipes I’ve seen where you replace lasagna pasta with zucchini slices, I felt like this captured that spirit but was less messy and quicker to make.

Lasagna Stuffed Zucchini Boats
Servings: 4
4 large zucchinis
3/4 cup ricotta
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 egg
1-1.5 cups tomato based pasta sauce (I used my ‘everything’ veggie pasta sauce)
1 cup shredded mozzarella

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Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Slice ends off washed zucchini, cut zucchini in half lengthwise. Carefully scrape out insides of zucchini but leave enough of a wall to keep stuffing inside (see picture below). Place zucchini in a baking dish. In a medium bowl mix ricotta, egg, salt, pepper, and garlic until well blended. Spread ricotta mixture in boats then cover with tomato sauce, cover baking dish with foil. Bake for 20 minutes, then cover boats with mozzarella, recover, and bake for another 15 minutes. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

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I decided to serve mine with roasted Brussels sprouts which were a great side dish for this, but you could use orzo, pasta, garlic bread, etc.

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This meal had a great Italian flare but less calories than a traditional lasagna. There are so many great recipes that you can use out there for stuffed zucchini boats that incorporate all kinds of flavors and can give you your own ideas of how to make your own creation – like I did with this one!

Party Prep, Taste Test

29 May

A lot of people collect all different kinds of things, I collect cookbooks. I love cookbooks, I read them the way and with the same enjoyment that one would read a novel. And one of my very favorite chef/authors is Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa. I have almost all cookbooks that she has written and I find them to be some of the most delicious recipes out there as well as full of great tips and tricks. When it comes to party planning one of Ina’s biggest suggestions for success is to make sure that you try out your recipes before you make them the day of the party. This is very sound advice. And when discussing our menu options for our party, I look primarily to the Barefoot Contessa for inspiration and decided to do a little trial run of some of the dishes I planned to make.

I did a lot of vegetarian dishes (minus the spicy sweet turkey meatballs which I just used a package of meatballs with a cup of BBQ sauce, a can of pineapple chunks and a couple dashes of hot sauce and cooked in the oven per the package instructions) because our guests for the evening were both vegetarians. I made my spin on Barefoot Contessa’s Panzanella Salad, Confetti Corn, White Cheddar and Carmalized Onions on Hawaiian rolls (from Barefoot Contessa Parties!), a store bought artichoke and pequilla pepper bruschetta,  and Kelsey’s Essential’s Vanilla Almonds. In the summer I love to have vintage candy and things from our childhoods so I got a bunch of peppermint salt water taffy and served ice cream sandwiches and S’more’s Crack Dip for dessert- and yes, it’s just as amazing as you imagine it to be! The dinner was a success and the new recipes are definitely going to be used again. 

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Grilled Cheese Goodness: let’s kick it up a notch- as they say

23 May

grilled cheese

Foodie files: best grilled cheese ever I make this vegetable soup that I love love love- super delish- but that’s for another post. But my favorite accompaniment to my homemade veggie soup is grilled cheese. Normally I opt for just kraft singles on the whole wheat bread that we keep on hand (since that’s what I always had when I was growing up), not bad but nothing to write home about. So last night I thought I want to make these sandwiches a little more ‘gourmet’. I went to Trader Joes and got a loaf of sourdough swiped a little butter on the outside sides, melted a slice of extra sharp white cheddar and smokey Gouda and a few thin slices of granny smith apple and crisped it to golden perfection. Ooey gooey and perfectly crunchy- best I have ever had.

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Seafood Tacos, How I Love Thee

15 May

Had the most delicious shrimp tacos at an authentic little Mexican restaurant in Westlake Village, Loteria Grill. They had a great balance of spice and creaminess, with the cool avocado and perfectly cooked shrimp. Loved them! Even the picture is making my mouth water!
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Quick pasta bake

6 May

I happen to love lasagna and lasagna soup too (OMG Bobby Deen’s recipe is to die for). But traditional lasagna takes a long time to make and frankly boiling the noodles and not having them break, making sure the filling is solidified, cooked thoroughly, and that it ‘stands up’ rather than sliding into a sloppy mess on your plate- without overcooking the dish and making the cheese rubbery can be difficult. I could use ‘oven ready’ noodles but there is just something about the  texture that I am not a fan of. I try to make a home cooked meal most nights and that sometimes means starting dinner around 6:45 pm after commuting, picking up my daughter, errands, getting Madeline settled, straightening up the house, etc so when I want the lasagna feel but don’t want to waste my time with all the difficulties associated with making it and I don’t have a lot of time, I do this. Here are my short cuts:

First I boiled about half a pound of penne pasta, cutting the time about a minute short of the cooking instructions. I took my “Everything Veggie Pasta Sauce” (https://amyblandes.wordpress.com/2013/03/25/everything-veggie-pasta-sauce/) and spread it over the bottom of a medium size Pyrex baking dish, then I dumped about half my strained pasta and spread that out. Then I simply took spoonfuls of ricotta cheese and spread them (as well as I could, plain ricotta is a little hard to spread) took a little more sauce and spread it over those and then added the rest of the pasta, sauce and then covered the top with shredded mozzarella cheese. I covered it with foil and baked for 15 minutes and it was perfect. All the things I love about lasagna but made so much easier! It had the creaminess of the ricotta without having to wait for it to cook through as there was no egg added, the melty gooey mozzarella cheese. It was totally easy and quick! This can work with alfredo sauce, a butternut sage sauces, or even pesto. *This made more than one meal so I saved it and we reheated it covered with foil at 360 degrees for about 20 minutes and it was still very tasty two nights later.

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What’s for dinner?

30 Apr

It’s been a while since I began the Veg Project and its coming to that time of year again where my biggest weakness: BBQ seems to be all I see, smell, and can think about. This was my breaking point when I was a vegetarian in high school. I am working on trying not to fall into that delicious meaty trap. I still feel like I am making a healthier lifestyle choice to stay away from meat, however I have recently realized that I have been carbo-loading like there’s no tomorrow and that I started eating a ton of sweets since I have been focusing on eliminating meat. I know I need to start eating a healthier vegetarian diet, trust me, it’s easy to fall into the “I’m just going to eat fries everyday because, hey, I’m a vegetarian”. I do diversify my meals as much as possible but I need to keep my meals more natural, less manufactured and practice my least favorite thing: eating in moderation.
So last night I made roasted salmon filet (425 degrees with just a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic for 20 minutes), grilled zucchini planks, grilled shrimp with lemon, salt, garlic powder, and cracked black pepper, and a spinach salad with raspberries, roasted slivered almonds and honey mustard dressing- totally delish.

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Black Bean Enchilada Stack

30 Apr

Black Bean Enchilada Stack

I love Mexican food, I have it probably 5 to 6 times a week between burritos, tacos, tortilla soup, huevos rancheros, etc. Since I began the Veg Project with my friend Steph, I have been working on changing some of my previously meat centric foods into a healthier vegetarian options. They are always amazing and totally delish. I used to make this enchilada stack with chicken but I think it’s even more tasty as a black bean veggie enchilada stack.

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Black Bean Enchilada Stack

 

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 red bell pepper chopped

1 green bell pepper chopped

1/2 yellow onion chopped

1 zucchini chopped

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 1/2 teaspoon cumin

1 cup cooked brown rice

1 15 oz can black beans

1/2 cup frozen corn kernels

1/2 can enchilada sauce (heat level to your preference)

corn tortillas

1-2 cups cheddar cheese shredded

garnishes:

chopped onion

cilantro

diced avocado

sour cream

 

Heat vegetable oil over medium heat, add chopped onion, bell peppers, and zucchini with garlic powder, cumin, & chili powder and saute till tender (not browned) about 4-5 minutes, add in black beans, frozen corn kernels and  brown rice and heat until warmed through about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat once all warmed through.

In a baking dish spoon enchilada sauce onto the bottom of the dish just to cover, dip corn tortillas in sauce and then flip them over so that both sides will have sauce on them, place them in the bottom of the dish so that they cover the bottom (may be overlapping). Spoon veggie/rice/bean mixture onto tortillas and cover evenly, add cheddar cheese to cover layer. Add another layer of sauce (may want to use the back of the spoon to spread the sauce over the tortillas and then add mixture, cheese, and sauce, (now for me this was to the top of my dish- it may not be for you, you can make as many layers as will successfully fit in your baking dish), then I added my last layer of tortillas and sauce and covered the top with a nice layer of cheddar cheese. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake in oven for approximately 20 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve with garnishes listed above. Enjoy!