Tag Archives: vegetarian

What I Love Now

28 Oct

I love roasting vegetables, I don’t know how I ate veggies before discovering this amazing form of cooking- o wait, I avoided stand alone vegetables back then. If it wasn’t mixed in with something else or a green bean I was like not into it (think valley-girl speak). Well ever since roasting vegetables rocked my world I have been regularly enjoying a bounty of delicious and nutritious vegetables. This is the perfect time of year to enjoy seasonal favorites roasted, carrots, butternut squash, pumpkin, Brussels sprouts,  etc the possibilities are endless!

I personally used to hate carrots until I started roasting them and now they are one of my go-to sides. Carrots have a ton of vitamin A which is great for sight. Brussels sprout? Yea, I avoided that like the plague until about a year ago because frankly, I thought they were weird and smelled a little funny. NO, its not true, they are delicious and crazy nutritious. Brussels sprouts have chemicals called indole-3-carbinol which may help to prevent cancerous cell growth. I will literally eat these leftover roasted sprouts all by themselves, even cold right out of the fridge. Butternut squash is so amazing when it’s roasted, it is definitely my favorite way to cook it. Butternut squash is insanely difficult to cut up (so purchasing chopped and prepared fresh packages is great) but they contain a ton of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, and potassium.

Roasting vegetables couldn’t be easier also, see below for my tips.

Carrots

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For carrots, I either trim them and then cut them into planks like you can see above or I will halve them and make them into chunks about 2 1/2 inches long. I try to lie them flat in the baking dish so that everyone will cook evenly. I usually toss them with a drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle of salt and pepper, place them in a preheated over at 400 degrees for 20 minutes until softened and in some places browned.

Brussels sprouts
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For Brussels Sprouts I like to trim their ‘stem’, remove any unsightly or yellowed leaves, then cut them in half and rinse them using a colander. I toss them with salt and pepper and olive oil as well and try to have them all in a single layer. I place them in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes as well, they should be tender (you can stick a fork in it) and browned where the olive oil coated them.

Butternut squash
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For butternut squash I peeled the skin off, then chopped the squash into smaller even pieces. tossed with salt, pepper, a dash of nutmeg, and olive oil. Roasted them in a preheated 400 degree oven for 35-40 minutes until tender (check by sticking a fork in it).

Roasting is easy since you literally just cut things up and put it in the oven, no occasional stirring or keeping your eye on it which frees you up for other cooking tasks. Hopefully you will start loving roasted veggies and up your intake of these valuable nutrients.

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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!

Super Veggie Soup

21 Jun

Growing up I didn’t like a whole lot of different kinds of soups except my mom used to make a vegetable bacon soup which had a base of V8 juice. And oh man did i love it when I was a kid! Now, if you have read any of my previous posts regarding The Veg Project you will note that I haven’t eaten any pork related products since I was 11 years old, therefore when in my mid-twenties I decided that I wanted that little slice of my childhood I needed to adapt the recipe. It also involved a series of microwaving different items- which I am generally not in favor of doing so it differed greatly, but still provides me the same comfort as it did as a child.
It’s healthy, delicious and above all, nutritious. I honestly don’t think you could pack any more servings of vegetables into one soup! I am also a weirdo who happens to love making homemade soups all summer, I know I’m strange. I don’t know if its because I soup is light and I generally try eat a little lighter in the summertime or if its because my husband keeps my house Arctic cold (and my office at work is as well), but I love soup in the summer.
Here’s my Super Veggie Soup recipe:

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Super Veggie Soup: 

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 yellow onion chopped
4 Yukon gold potatoes peeled and diced
3 celery sticks chopped
3 carrots chopped
3 cups Original V8 Juice
1.5 cups water
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
2 zucchinis quartered
1 yellow summer squash quartered
1/2 cup frozen peas
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
*A couple dashes hot sauce optional

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Heat olive oil over medium high heat and add chopped onion, sauté but do not allow to brown, add carrots, celery, and potatoes, cook for approximately 3-4 minutes stirring occasionally to avoid sticking. Add V8 juice, garlic, and water, stir to combine. Add salt and pepper and a couple dashes hot sauce if desired. Bring mixture just to a low boil and add zucchini and summer squash and reduce to simmer. Simmer approximately 20 minutes until vegetables (specifically potatoes are tender), add frozen peas, allow to summer for another 3-5 minutes until cooked through. Enjoy!
I decided in the middle of making the soup that I would enjoy mine with some freshly baked wheat bread (since I had it on hand) so I made a “no knead” wheat bread mix. I must say that for a 50ish minute box recipe deal, it wasn’t bad at all. In fact it was quite good!

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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!

Gallery

Veg Project: Date Night In

2 Apr

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A lot of things change when you become a parent, this is not a surprise. There is more Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and less God Father marathons, more juice and less cocktails, more diapers and a lot less sleep! One thing that we have been really good about is making sure that we are still going out for date nights and my in-laws definitely help make that happen with their willingness to babysit.  But even when we can’t get out for the night I like to try and make a special effort when I can to not only make a healthy homemade meal for my husband and I, but also make a fancy dinner date. I was lucky enough to have the day off due to Good Friday so I could go grocery shopping and spend time with my daughter and I also had time to plan out a sexy dinner date for my hubby and myself.

What’s for dinner? Spinach and mushroom quiche, a mixed green salad with heirloom tomatoes and homemade balsamic vinaigrette, ricotta and honey on a sourdough baguette with strawberries and white wine. I was inspired after watching an episode of Kelsey’s Essentials on the Cooking Channel, in which she made a similar menu. I have never actually made a quiche before and only had a couple quiche ‘bites’ appetizers over the years and I wasn’t a big fan. But since I started the Veg Project (see: https://amyblandes.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/the-veg-project/) I have made an effort to try some more things that I normally would not have been interested, plus I love being adventurous in the kitchen. I started the menu for Friday with the quiche planned, but then I thought I wanted something to balance out the creamy quiche, so I thought tangy salad dressing, I wanted it to feel like a picnic so I went with the baguette that Kelsey Nixon used in her episode and although I thought my husband (a man who only really likes cheddar cheese) would not be into the ricotta I got it just to try. It was amazing! The quiche was creamy, fluffy, and so full of delicious flavor. Really, the whole menu, the strawberries balanced the baguette with ricotta and honey drizzle, the salad and dressing balanced the creamy cheesy quiche and the wine complimented it all. It was all light, flavorful, and scrumptious!

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I adapted a recipe from Kelsey Nixon for the following (for her recipe please see: http://www.cookingchanneltv.com/recipes/kelsey-nixon/ham-leek-and-gruyere-quiche.html)

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter

1 package baby spinach chopped

10 crimini mushrooms washed & thinly sliced

1 clove crushed garlic

5 eggs

1 cup whole cream

1 tablespoon corn startch (Kelsey Nixon’s tip- it really works!)

¼ tablespoon Kosher salt

½ tablespon ground black pepper

Dash nutmeg

½ cup finely shredded havarti cheese

½ cup finely shredded gruyere

1 frozen pie shell baked according to package instructions

After the pie shell has been baked, preheat oven to 375 degress. Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat, once melted add in mushrooms, saute for approximately 2 minutes coating mushrooms in butter.  Add in spinach and garlic until spinach is wilted and cooked through, remove from heat and set aside to cool. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, cream, cornstarch, salt, pepper, and nutmeg until blended well. Spread vegetable mixture over the bottom of the cooked pie crust, sprinkle cheese evenly over the vegetables, then carefully pour custard mixture over it. Place in the over on a foil lined large sheet tray (in case of messes). Bake until center is set and crust is golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool on wire rack, serve at room temperature.

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For the salad I simply added a mixed greens with halved miniature heirloom tomatoes, sprinkled salt & pepper, and drizzled a homemade vinaigrette over it:

Balsamic Vinaigrette:

3/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1 clove crushed garlic

1 teaspoon brown sugar

Salt & pepper to taste

I like to put it in a mason jar with a lid and shake well.

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