Saturday, November 28, 2009

Super-easy Sweet Potato Casserole

Admittedly, Thanksgiving Day is not the perfect time to decide to try something new. I'm a bit too spur-of-the-moment, though, and that's what I did about 45 minutes before dinner. The thought of those sweet potatoes just plopped onto a plate didn't appeal. The result is a new favorite -

Sweet Potato Apple Casserole

1 can yams/sweet potatoes (I added another big sweet potato that was here)
1 large pie apple, peeled and chopped (I used a granny smith)
2 Tbl. butter, melted
1/4 cup molasses
1/3 cup brown sugar (adjust to your own taste)
2 eggs
1/2 cup apple cider
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 cup raisins

Mash potatoes (cook any fresh potatoes first). Add the rest of the ingredients, mixing well to make sure the eggs are blended. Bake in a 2-quart casserole at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until set (should resemble a custard).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What Rhymes With Slumgullion?

Warning - the following recipe is most likely not low in fat or calories. It's lower in fat than the traditional slumgullion (that's Irish Gaelic for "watery meat stew"), but I think it packs a wallop of flavor that the old "dump and eat" casserole provides. Since it's been chillier here this week, I needed something with some staying power. I remembered having slumgullion, which is a tomato-based casserole, when I was a kid. But I'm tired of tomatoes, so I decided to create a savory version.

Gourmet Veggie Slumgullion
1 12-oz. package of Smart Ground veggie crumbles
1 8-oz. package Monterey Jack shredded cheese (or your favorite vegan cheese)
1 small red pepper, chopped fine
1 head broccoli, chopped small
1/2 to 2/3 cup merlot
1 cup vegetable broth
1 sprig fresh tarragon
12 oz. egg noodles (or eggless if you're going vegan)
2 slices bread, buttered on both sides and cut into cubes
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In skillet fry pepper and broccoli in a little oil for about 3 minutes. Add wine and cook two more minutes, until veggies are soft but not limp. Add broth, cheese, veggie crumbles, salt and pepper to taste, and tarragon and simmer a few more minutes.

Meanwhile, bring water to a boil in a separate pot. Cook egg noodles per package directions. Drain and set aside.

In a 2-quart casserole dish, layer noodles, then mixture, etc. End with noodles. On top, place buttered bread cubes. Bake 30 minute until the bread crumbs are browned on top.

This makes a thicker stew than the typical slumgullion, so no need for serving over anything.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Seitan-ic Versus Tempeh

Couldn't resist the play on words. :)

I wanted cheese un-steaks last night. Badly. Alas, no seitan in the house and I wasn't tempted to drive 6 miles to get it. I had tempeh, but since I hate it, I refused to use it. So I hauled out the recipe books and pulled together a pretty decent substitute that was both tasty and easy to make. The fine ladies who have published Veganomicon, probably the best vegan cookbook imaginable, are to be thanked for the basis of the recipe. I tweaked to suit.

1 cup plus up to 1/4 cup more wheat gluten (I buy Bob's Red Mill, available at my local supermarket)
3 Tbls. nutritional yeast
1 Tbl. dried sage
1 tsp. dried thyme (the fresher the better)
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup tamari
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 Tbl. olive oil

Mix dry ingredients (including spices) together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients. Pour wet into dry, mixing until it's absorbed. Pick this up and knead it in your hands until it becomes like bread dough. If you need more flour, add a bit more wheat gluten. Break apart into pieces.

Prepare a large saucepan with about 6 cups of water and 2 Tbls. Better Than Bullion (or use 2 bullion cubes or half water, half vegetable broth). Bring it to just about a boil, then reduce heat and partially cover for about an hour, turning the seitan hunks. After an hour, turn off heat and use a slotted spoon to remove seitan from the liquid. Drain until cool, then cut as you need it. I freeze some for later use. For a more meatlike flavor and texture, flash fry seitan in a skillet sprayed with cooking spray for 4 minutes on each side. You can freeze this, too.

Monday, September 28, 2009

It's-a Gouda Food (a)

Ever get the urge to just do something different, to shake up the usual and take a chance? I did in a big way this weekend. I'd been reading a Scottish magazine I'd brought home from a recent trip, and in it was a restaurant review complete with a recipe for smoked salmon ravioli. Okay, so I've never been a fan of salmon, even when I was eating meat, and certainly not now. But I thought about the smoked part. Smoked. Hmmm. Then I got out the bowls, the ingredients, and got to work.

My pasta dough was laughably thick - how can any Italian women be heavy? You need muscles and stamina to roll that dough wafer thin. So I rolled out what I could muster of the dough I'd concocted (I won't even bore you with it as I wasn't impressed with the results) and went for an easy stand-by: wonton wrappers. Oh, if I'd started with them, I'd have made dozens of raviolis!

Here's what I did to fill them:

Smoked Gouda and Spinach Ravioli

1 cup shredded smoked Gouda cheese
6 ounces fresh spinach, chopped and steamed
1 tsp. fresh dill, chopped
1 tsp. fresh tarragon, chopped
1 tsp. fresh chives, snipped
zest from 1/2 lemon
Wonton wrappers (large square ones)

Cut wonton wrappers into fourths. Place on a floured cutting board to keep them from sticking to everything in sight.

In a bowl, add all ingredients, adding steamed spinach last as it'll make everything stick together if it's hot. Place a smidgen of this (I used about 1/2 tsp. to 1 tsp.) mixture onto one wonton square. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush an empty wonton square, then place it wet-side-down onto the filling one. Carefully press all sides together well. If you have a crimping tool, this could be your chance to use it!

Cook for about 4 minutes in boiling water. Remove and serve with the following sauce:

Corn and Citrus Sauces
1/2 cup frozen corn
1 cup vegetable broth
1 Tbl. chopped leek
1 Tbl. whisky (I used Jack Daniels)
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup skim milk

1/4 cup passion fruit juice (I used Goya)
1 Tbl. ground cardamom
1/4 cup frozen corn

Add corn, broth, leek to saucepan and boil until it reduces to half. Blend in a blender (or use an immersable blender - safer). Press through sieve and remove corn bits. Return to pot. Add whisky and bring to boil. Add cream, again bringing to a boil, stirring constantly until it thickens a little (it may still be quite liquid - that's okay). Add skim milk and remove from stove.

In another pan, add passion fruit juice and cardamom. I also added a little more corn (about 1/4 cup) to maintain a consistent flavor between the sauces. Heat until the cardamom has melded with the corn and passion fruit. If you want, sieve this. If you prefer keeping the corn, by all means.

Place ravioli on your plate. Froth up your cream mixture using a milk frother (I use a little whisk). Pour about 2 Tbls. on your ravioli, and add the citrus sauce (about 1 Tbl.) on top of that. I don't mix them as I like to control how much citrus "bite" I get out of the sauce. My husband, however, mixed them together and loved every minute of it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lentil Love

Maybe it's because they cook up so quickly, but I'm a lentil fan. The French lentils are my favorite - nice texture, super taste, and again, easy cooking.

So I was opening cabinets and trying to land on a dinner idea the other day - voila! Full jar of lentils. Hmmm. And it was a clear, warmish day. Lentil loaf!

I bastardized one I'd found in 1,001 Low-fat Vegetarian Recipes. If you've not bought this cookbook yet, you're missing tons of great recipes!

Anyway, my version goes something like this:

Low-fat Lentil Loaf
2 c. cooked lentils
1/2 cup cooked bulghur
3 carrots, shredded
1/4 cup diced onion
3 sticks celery, diced
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. caraway seeds
1 tsp. celery salt
1 tsp. cumin
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
1 cup shredded cheddar (I used that Mexican blend of cheddar and monterey jack)
2 eggs
salt and pepper

Coat skillet with cooking spray. Fry veggies and seeds for about 5 minutes until the veggies are soft.

In a bowl, mix together lentils, bulghur, veggies, cheese, and nuts. Mix in eggs. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Bake in a greased loaf pan at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Serve with your favorite sauce on top. I use this one:

Tomato Raisin Sauce
1 can tomato sauce (small can)
2 Tbls. fresh basil, chopped
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. paprika
dash of cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves
1/4 cup raisins
salt and pepper

Heat all over med-low heat until hot. Let stand for 30 minutes. Serve on top of loaf.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Rolling On

Sometimes the stuff in your fridge just happens to be the stuff you need to pull together a delicious miracle. If you're like me, it's more often the case that the one item you need is still at the store.

So last night I pulled out the leftover phyllo dough (you should always have this stuff around - it's so versatile!), the pepper with the waning shelf life, the onion, the aging broccoli, the Swiss cheese, and the butternut squash. What resulted was a tasty, low-fat strudel that had us wanting more.

Vegetable Strudel
1 cup chopped broccoli, steamed
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 bell pepper (any color), chopped small
1 cup butternut squash, chopped small
1 cup Swiss cheese, shredded
phyllo dough (5 or 6 sheets for each roll - this can make a few rolls and lots of leftovers)
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tsp. thyme
1 Tbl. corn starch

Preheat oven to 375. Steam the broccoli. Next, make your sauce as you'll need to add it to your other ingredients later.

Saute onion and pepper together for about 5 minutes. Add the broccoli and squash and cook through for about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add 1/2 cup sauce, the Swiss cheese, and the salt and pepper.

On a flat surface, lay one sheet of phyllo dough on a towel. Spray with cooking spray and layer the remaining sheets the same way, spraying each layer. Spread about 1/2 cup of the veggie mixture onto the dough. Tuck in the short sides, then use the towel to help roll the dough up. Carefully place the roll on a baking sheet (no spraying needed). Spray top and bake for 15-20 minutes or until it's golden brown on top.

Cut into slices and serve with the remaining sauce.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Right Stuff (ing)

Did you ever see those gorgeous little baby portobellos in the store? I wasn't even thinking of mushrooms when I saw them. But they were so white, fluffy, and cute. Yes, cute. I'm attracted to looks.

I found this recipe on Reader's Digest
and modified it to fit what I had on hand. It's amazing. My husband is not a mushroom fan - he wants me to save the recipe.

Stuffed Baby Portobellos

4 large or 8 baby portobello mushrooms
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
1 cup Pepperidge Farm herb stuffing, mashed a bit
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Parmesan cheese for tops (fresh stuff, not the grated kind)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray baking sheet lined with foil with cooking spray.

Remove and chop mushroom stems. Add stems and onion to a skillet. Fry until onions are clear (or microwave it for 2 minutes).

In a small bowl, mix together the sour cream and eggs. Add spinach, stuffing, feta and onion mix.

Spoon mixture into caps, making sure to gently push filling under cap rims. Place on baking sheet and bake 20 minutes for small mushrooms, 35 for bigger. Sprinkle with Parmesan and bake another 5 minutes.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Russian Front

The farmer's market this week had some interesting finds, including the nicest looking Russian kale I've ever seen. Well, the only Russian kale I've ever seen. I had to have it. Then came the obvious dilemma - what to do with it.

I decided soup. Soup seems to be the easiest way for me to test out new things, to mix their flavors with old familiars, maybe creating new familiars in the process.

If you don't have Russian kale handy, any kale will do.

Bean and Russian Kale Soup

1 large bunch Russian kale (about 1 1/2 cups), chopped
2 small carrots, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
1 tsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1 can Great Northern beans (or your favorite), drained and rinsed
1/2 can diced tomatoes or better yet, 1 fresh tomato, diced
2 cups vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

In a soup pot, heat a scant amount of cooking spray. Add celery and carrots and saute, adding water to keep the lot from burning and to keep the fat low. Cook about 4 minutes. Add beans and kale and stir. Then add the remaining ingredients and cook about 20 minutes, covered, until all is soft. Place in bowls and sprinkle with cheese.

Monday, June 15, 2009

That's Bulghur!

I admit it - I hate the word "bulghur." It's the sound. Love the stuff, but hate the word. I'm the same way with "house finch." It sounds so ... common. In my world, they're linnets.

Anyway, we cooked some of that unmentionable stuff tonight for dinner. What to do with cups of bulghur? Burgers. Bulghur burgers. Here's what I did -

Bulghur Burgers
1 cup cooked lentils (if you have them lying around, as I did. If not, skip them.)
1 cup cooked bulghur
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 eggs
1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives
1/2 cup chopped red/green pepper (red gives it nice color)
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 carrot, diced

Spray some oil in a skillet. Heat on medium and fry carrots and peppers until soft.

In a bowl combine bread crumbs, lentils if you're using them, bulghur and eggs. Add fried veggies. Mix in eggs, olives and spices. If you need to, add more bread crumbs until the mixture holds a solid shape.

Fry in skillet until brown and "crispy" on both sides, about five minutes each side.

I served this with corn and fried new potatoes (those itty bitty potatoes) - Here's how I did that:

1/2 pound new potatoes, cut into quarters
1 Tbl. chili powder
1 tsp. Adobo seasoning

Put all in a bag and shake until it's all coated. Cook, covered, in a skillet. I add a little spray oil and a little water to help steam cook the potatoes and keep the fat content down.

Monday, June 1, 2009


I'm a huge fan of a sammich. My old favorite used to be a bologna and mustard sandwich on white bread, washed down with a Coke. Alas, no more. My new favorite is ten times more flavorful and doesn't require any Coke to digest it.

Portabello Sandwiches
2 whole portabello mushrooms, stems and gills removed
1 Tbl. red wine
1 medium Yukon Gold potato, sliced very thin
1 onion, sliced
1 tomato, sliced thin

In frying pan, saute onion until clear. Set aside. Using a potato peeler or cheese slicer, slice the potato wafer thin. Fry over medium heat on both sides until soft (crisp on the edges). Set aside.

Saute mushrooms in wine on both sides four minutes or until liquid is reduced and mushroom caps brown. Assemble burgers by placing a slice of your favoirte cheese on a kaiser roll (I used Swiss). Put the mushroom on top, then the potato, tomato, onion, lettuce and top with the following sauce:

2 Tbls. chopped roasted red pepper (mine mashed easily)
2 mashed avacados
1 Tbl. chili powder
1 tsp. horseradish (I used my dad's home-grown stuff)
1 Tbl. Ranch dressing

Mix all and spread on rolls.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Tofu Made Edible!

My husband has made it no secret that tofu could disappear from our dinners and he'd never miss it. So when I served up my un-fish fried fish, all he could say was "Oh," You know that one.

But to his surprise and delight, this was different. This time, I'd soaked the sliced tofu overnight in beer. When I was ready to cook it, I drained the beer off and used it to make the batter. Wow! What a difference in flavor!

Also made some potatoes to go with it. This wasn't so much a recipe as a dump-as-you-go method. Here's what I used:

chili powder
fresh pepper

If you have paprika, add it. I didn't.

Add thinly sliced potatoes to the mix, shake 'em around, then remove them and fry them in your skillet until they're cooked. If you like them crispy, make those slices very thin.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Cold Day, Warm Bowl

It's been what I consider to be a fairly cold March/April here on the Eastern seaboard. While I was raised on frost warnings in May (western PA), I've gotten used to the milder weather in eastern PA. However, this is the year that sweaters were made for.

So last week between the 60-degree days, we were hit with a 40-degree day or so with some mighty high winds. Okay, I can take it, but not everyone here can. It was that rainy, windy cold that seeps into your bone marrow and practically begs you for soup.

Soup it was. I wanted something minestrone-like without really being minestrone, so I opened the fridge and tossed in what appealed. It came together beautifully, and made a wonderfully rich soup without all the fat involved.

Mock Minestrone

1/4 cup chopped onion
2 carrots, sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 tsp. vegetable buillion (I used Better than Buillion)
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp. thyme
1 handful veggie crumbles, optional (I used frozen)
2 heaping handfuls spinach
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a saucepan, add about a tablespoon of water and heat. Saute onions, celery and carrots in this for about 3 minutes or until water mostly steams off. Add vegetable broth one cup at a time, stirring in buillion to make sure it dissolves. Add beans, thyme, crumbles, salt and pepper. Heat for about 20 minutes, until veggies are softer and the flavors have blended. Turn off heat. Toss in spinach and stir in for a few seconds until it's wilted.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Lunch Time

Had a craving the other day for something from elementary school. Remember those sloppy joes, dripping down the side of the bun, rife with ketchupy, oniony flavor that warms you from the inside out? Yea, that's what I wanted.

So I mixed and tasted and concocted until it was just so. Here's what I came up with:

Meatless Sloppy Joes

1 pkg. frozen veggie crumbles (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 can rinsed kidney beans
1/2 tangy barbecue sauce (honey-flavored doesn't taste so good here)
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 cup water

Saute onion in skillet until clear. Add remaining ingredients except for water. Cook for a few minutes on medium, then stir in water as needed to the thickness you like. Simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fish and Chips, Minus the Fish

Sitting at my favorite Irish pub the other day, I saw a big platter of fish and chips going by perched (pun intended) on the waitress's arm. A fish joint alumnae (I was First Mate at the seafood shoppe), I was struck with longing - not for the fish, but for the batter. Oh, that batter. So I concocted my own vegetarian version - beer batter...tofu. Yep. Tofu. White fish is relatively without flavor (not entirely), so this turned out to be a better idea than I first thought. And to be honest, my first thought was "Lori, you're crazy. That's going to taste like crap."

It didn't. It even passed muster with my England-raised husband, who thrived on fish and chips.

Beer Batter Tofu

3 egg whites (vegans, you can easily substitute Egg Replacer here)
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup beer (I used Boddingtons Ale, but any mild ale will do)
2-3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbl. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 Tbl. cornstarch
1 Tbl. Old Bay Seasoning
1-2 tsp. salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
Oil for frying (eliminate if oven baking)
1 carton extra-firm tofu

Drain tofu and press slightly between paper towels to dry. Cut tofu on a diagonal, corner to corner, making two triangles. From there, stand one triangle on the "fat" end, then cut through, making three same-size triangles. Repeat with the other side. Set aside.

Mix flour, baking powder, soda, and cornstarch in a bowl. Set aside.

Beat together egg whites and milk. Add beer. Slowly stir in flour mixture, making sure all dry ingredients are wet. Add more flour as needed to make sure consistency is thick and doesn't run easily (this may take a little more flour - just keep experimenting until the batter is thin enough to adhere to the tofu and thick enough to not all run off).

Heat about 1/2 inch of safflower or vegetable oil in a skillet on medium heat. Once oil is heated, dip tofu into batter, using a wooden spoon or small spatula to keep the tofu from tearing or getting lost. Lower into oil carefully and fry, 4-5 minutes on each side, then transfer to paper towels to drain.

If you don't want to fry it, bake it! I did it both ways. Frying is much more flavorful, but the baking still retained a good deal of flavor. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray. Dip tofu as described above and place on tray (expect a bit more batter run-off with this method). Bake for 20 minutes (crust should be golden).

Serve with fries or boiled potatoes. And plenty of malt vinegar!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Red Hair, Freckles - Guess Who's Irish?

Despite the blonde highlights to hide the gray hairs, I was born an auburn-haired girl. Though it's faded over time, one need look only to the freckles to confirm the obvious. And today is my favorite day.

Since I couldn't wait to post my Irish stew recipe last month, I'll share my favorite Colcannon recipe here. Enjoy!


3 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 small bunch of kale, sliced thin
2 cups cabbage, sliced thin
1/2 onion, sliced thin
3 Tbl. butter, cut into small pieces and softened
2/3 cup scalded milk
1/4 cup half-and-half (I use fat-free)
1/2 tsp. mace
salt and pepper to taste

Get your potatoes boiling. Meantime, coat a large skillet with cooking spray and heat. Saute onions, cabbage, and kale until cabbage and kale are soft. (I do this by adding water a few minutes into the saute and covering it.) Season with salt, pepper, and mace. Scald milk in a double boiler, making sure to heat it until just before boiling. NEVER boil it.

Mash potatoes in a large bowl, adding milk, half-and-half and butter as you mash. Add saute mixture and season again with salt and pepper to taste. If you like, add more butter or milk. There are no rules! Just enjoy.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

How to Stuff a Wild Zucchini

Sometimes I just want something more than steamed zucchini or fried zucchini. Sometimes I want zucchini to be just a touch more exciting than, well, zucchini.

I'd seen numerous recipes for stuffed zucchini, but none struck my fancy. So I made one up. It's not quite perfect, but it's better than plain zucchini.

Stuffed Zucchini

1 cup couscous
1 cup vegetable broth
2-4 zucchini, sliced lengthwise, seeds scooped out
1/2 medium green bell pepper
1/4 cup mushrooms (your choice)
1 3.5 oz container crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup chopped onion
3 Tbls. white wine (I used Riesling)
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375.

Heat broth in microwave until hot, about 1:30 minutes. Add to couscous and stir. Set aside.

Spray nonstick skillet with oil. Saute onions, peppers, and mushrooms until onions are clear, adding wine halfway through the sauteeing, reducing until almost gone. Add vegetable mixture and feta cheese to couscous and stir.

Stuff mixture into zucchini, pressing down lightly to compress filling. Place zucchini in a lasagna pan. Pour water into the pan until it's about 1/3-inch from the bottom (not the top!). Bake, covered with foil (or lid) 40 minutes. Take foil/lid off and cook 10-15 more minutes to brown the top. Or if you like your zucchini a bit more roasted, eliminate the water, spray the pan bottom with oil, and broil the entire thing for 15 minutes.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Rocking the Risotto

A quick update on the 50 Million Pound Challenge that doesn't consider vegetarians - I got a note back from the doctor in charge of the food plan and he tells me this:

"Unfortunately, we can't change the diet that's currently on the website. We understand that many people have different dietary restrictions and requirements, but we currently lack the ability to alter the plan. However, you might want to try the 4 Day Diet which can be modified to meet your needs. Many vegans and vegetarians have found success with this plan as it has been better suited for their eating style since it allow substitutions and is more flexible."

The 4 Day Diet? Yea, you have to purchase that. While I truly appreciate the doctor's response, once again I'm left wondering why we vegetarians are overlooked by a meat-eating world (and a medical community) that is constantly expressing interest in cutting out meat from their diets. The eternal conundrum.

Perhaps if they ate more risotto, they'd understand. Mind you, I don't make a lot of risotto because it seems to be the only thing some restaurants can serve that's truly vegetarian. I appreciate the offer, but after five restaurants in a row, I begin to see the "offer" as more of an easy cop-out instead of truly understanding the vegetarian population. Whatever. Let's just say the doctor's note put me in a mood. It's certainly not as bad as the "vegetarian" meal I was served at a wedding a few years ago. I ask you - could YOU survive on a pile of white rice and three broccoli stalks?

Anyway, I've been wanting to make risotto, but not just any risotto. I looked for recipes, but nothing was really speaking to me. So I concocted this one, and my husband fell in love with me all over again (so he says). ;) I used smoked Gouda, which turned a good dish into an amazing one.

Cheese Risotto with Smoked Gouda

1/4 cup chopped onion
1 cup arborio rice
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup white wine (I used Riesling)
1/2 cup grated or shredded Parmesan
1/3 cup smoked Gouda, diced small
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, heat onion in 2 Tbls. water, covered, until onion is soft (2 minutes). Add rice, broth, wine and salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until rice is al dente. Turn off heat and add cheeses, stirring well.

Can anyone explain how to make risotto without standing over it? Even then the darned stuff sticks like glue to the bottom of the pan. What do you do?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

My Version of Fast Food

I worked a little later yesterday, despite trying to get away from the computer at 3. I was here until nearly 5:30. When I got up, I realized I hadn't given one thought to what dinner might be. Time to go quick-and-easy. But do you sometimes feel that you can't make something either quick or easy that tastes good?

Since I'm not a processed-food user (or eater), opening a can of soup isn't going to work. I dug through my recipes and there on top was a white bean soup that saved the night. It took about 15 minutes to cook thanks to the potatoes, but we were eating by 6. Amen. Soup saves the day again!

Actually, I have a few soup recipes that are fast and perfect for when you're tired and don't want to take forever to get something good on the table. Here are a few:

Tomato Soup
4 tomatoes, chopped (I prefer Roma, but whatever is on hand is great)
1 or 2 Tbl. of fresh dried basil (or a small handful of fresh basil, chopped)
1 Tbl. sugar
2 tsp. salt or to taste
1/2 to 1 cup water

This recipe requires you to measure less, eyeball and taste more. Don't get hung up on amounts so much as how it tastes. It's literally 10 minutes from start to eating.

Heat all ingredients in saucepan until tomatoes are soft. Put all in blender and puree until smooth. If you like a thicker soup, serve as is. If not, press mixture through a sieve (I use a handheld metal colander). Serve.

White Bean Soup
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 Tbl. olive oil
2 carrots
1 medium-to-large potato, cubed
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup water (or more broth, if you like)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. parsley
Dash Herbes de Provence (or toss in some thyme)
fresh ground pepper
1 can cannelini beans, drained and rinsed well

In a saucepan, heat oil and add onions and carrots. Saute until onions are soft. Add the rest of the ingredients, cover, and cook until potatoes are soft. If you want to make it creamy, try processing a cup of the soup and mixing it in to the rest of it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Frustrated Foodie

Have you seen the commercials for the State Farm-sponsored 50 Million Pounds Challenge? Great idea - sign up online and get tips, online support, and a month's worth of menus handed to you for free. Only...what about vegetarians? See, the menus are full of meat. And while I usually just substitute where I can, how do you substitute for a sirloin? Tofu? Beans? How much is that sirloin worth in terms of calories and fat?

It just seems shortsighted to me that a doctor-supported plan would neglect a sizable portion of the population in this weight loss program. I'm disappointed, State Farm. I was hoping that, like Weight Watchers, you understood that some of us don't eat meat. Weight Watchers does a great job of responding to that, but perhaps that's because they're in the business of weight loss - State Farm is merely dabbling. It could've been a great program, but I'm afraid I can't participate.

For those of you who do eat meat, please check it out at 50 Million Pounds.

Monday, February 16, 2009

What To Do with a Gazillion Eggplants

In our neighborhood we have a produce market called, aptly, Produce Junction. It's a great place to buy fresh veggies and fruits. Only trouble is where you might want to buy oh, 3 tomatoes, you're actually expected (required) to buy a few pounds. It's cheaper, but it requires some pre-planning so there's no waste.

Alas, there was no pre-planning involved last week when he stopped by after work and came home with a bag of 24-30 baby eggplants. My first thought was "Great!" because it's tough to find baby eggplants. Then I saw the bag. Oops. Now what?

Here's what - ratatouille and eggplant soup. Mind you, ratatouille is going to be an easier sell with the kids thanks to the movie, but even my husband curled up a lip at the thought of eggplant soup. But he went for seconds. And thirds. It was a hit.

1 eggplant (or 12 baby eggplants if your husband brings home a huge bag), sliced thin
1 small onion, sliced very thin
1 green pepper, sliced thin and chopped to about 1 inch
3 Roma tomatoes, sliced thin (I use Roma because they're meatier)
1 Tbls. thyme
2 Tbls. dried basil (I used what came from our garden - make sure it's really aromatic)
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put sliced eggplant in colander. Salt and let stand for about 30 minutes. This releases some bitterness (if any) and a fair amount of excess liquid. Rinse thoroughly and pat dry on paper towels.

In a square casserole (8x8), spray a small amount of cooking spray, then put a thin layer of onion. Top with eggplant. Top that with pepper, tomato, and then sprinkle on basil and thyme, salt and pepper. Repeat until you're out of veggies. Make sure to end with tomatoes and then the spices.

Drizzle the oil on top (don't drench) and bake, uncovered, for an hour. Make sure to check on it occasionally and press down on the top once in a while to compact the veggies. Serve hot. This goes great with veggie dogs or lentil meatloaf.

Eggplant Soup
1 eggplant (or 8-10 baby eggplants)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 green pepper, chopped
1 Tbl. olive oil
4 cups vegetable broth
salt and pepper (I used white pepper, but black pepper works, too)
1 large roasted red pepper (from a jar - or about 3 Tbls)
1 tsp. sugar

Pierce eggplant skin a few times. Under broiler, bake eggplant for 20 minutes. Cool. Scoop out eggplant pulp and chop (if using larger eggplant).

Meanwhile, heat oil in large saucepan. Saute onion and green pepper until soft. Add eggplant and broth. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Blend soup in blender until smooth. Add salt and pepper, roasted red pepper and sugar.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Is There Anything Better Than Spinach?

Like I promised, today's the day I share my latest find - a spinach au gratin that's baked in the oven.

I love when I find a recipe that allows me to buy more fresh spinach. I love when that recipe is low in fat. This from a girl who used to hate spinach - LOATHE spinach. Now it's to the point where he says "Can we not have spinach again?" No problem - you cook then! LOL

Anyway, I was leafing through one of my favorite cookbooks - 1,001 Low-fat Vegetarian Recipes by Sue Spitler - when this one jumped out at me. It went great with the meatless loaf from yesterday. In fact, to me it was the bigger hit. Of course! Per usual, I've modified slightly to make this work for me:

Spinach Au Gratin

1 bag fresh spinach, washed
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1 tsp. butter
1 Tbl. oil
2 Tbl. flour
1 cup fat-free milk
1/4 cup fat-free sour cream
Freshly ground nutmeg
salt and pepper
1/8 cup Parmesan cheese
1/8 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Wash spinach and put it directly into saucepan. Cover and cook on medium for 4 minutes, until wilted. Drain.

Heat butter and oil in saucepan. Fry onion until clear. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add milk and whisk. Bring to boil, whisking constantly, until it thickens. Take off heat. Add sour cream and mix.

Set aside 1/4 cup of mixture. Add spinach to saucepan and mix. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper. Pour into smallish casserole dish (I used 8-by-8). Top with remaining sauce and sprinkle first with Parmesan and then with cheddar.

Bake at 375 degrees for 8 minutes.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Crockpot Meat-less Loaf

It was a nice lazy weekend (we don't get those too often) so I hauled out the recipe books. I wanted a nice meat-less loaf recipe that would go in the crockpot. Alas, none. So on to the web - again, many nice recipes, but none with crockpot directions. I did find one with lamb involved, so I bastardized my own version of a meatloaf and used the web-found cooking directions. Here's what I made:

Crockpot Meat-less Loaf

1 package ground meatless meat (I used a Gimme Lean one, about 16 oz)
1 cup cooked lentils (French lentils)
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1/3 cup onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
3 sundried tomatoes, diced
2 Tbls. white wine
Cooking spray
1 egg
1 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/2 tsp. marjoram
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. crushed bay leaf
salt and pepper

Spray skillet with cooking spray. Heat, then saute diced veggies until the celery is soft, about 8 minutes, adding wine after 4 minutes. Set aside to cool a little.

Meanwhile, mix together the ground meatless soy and the lentils. Add spices and vegetable mixture. Mix, then add bread crumbs and egg. If it's too moist at this point, add a little more bread crumbs.

Press into the bottom of a crockpot. Add a thin layer of Tomato and Red Pepper Sauce (below). If you don't have that, don't bother with anything. Heat on high for an hour, then turn to low and cook for 8 hours. (If you can't let it pre-cook at high, just crank it up when you get home. )

Serve with tomato and red pepper sauce, below.

Tomato and Red Pepper Sauce

1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes
1 large roasted red pepper, drained and chopped
1/2 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Blend all ingredients in a food processor. Heat in microwave and spoon over cooked meatloaf.

If you do this correctly, it'll look like it's burning on the sides. It is, but it gives you that wonderful meatloaf-y crust.

Originally, I used 1 cup of vegetable broth, but I recommend cutting it back as it was too watery and I had to cook it with the lid off.

I served this with a Creamy Spinach Au Gratin, which I'll share with you tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Getting My Irish (Stew) Up

It snowed here last night - absolutely beautiful to wake up to (especially since I work from home). But with the snow came a cold spell, so even though I was saving this recipe for St. Patrick's Day, I'm figuring today's a good day for it.

I can't take credit for this one entirely - the original showed up in a Vegetarian Times issue not long ago. But I've made it my own with a few changes while trying to stick closely to the original (because it really was so darned good). Full credit to VT for the idea.

Irish Stew

Nonfat cooking spray
1 tub Ray's Wheat Meat (or your favorite seitan)
2 carrots, sliced
1 Tbl. flour
4 slices Fakin' bacon, sliced into strips (I use one that looks like Canadian bacon)
1 tsp. fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme (use fresh if you can)
1 cup stout beer (I use Belhaven Scottish Ale, but Guinness works, as does any good brown ale)
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup butternut squash, cubed,
1 Yukon potato, cubed (I prefer the potato)
1/2 cup frozen edamame

Spray a soup pot with oil and heat. Stir in carrots and cook for about 5 minutes. (add a little water if it begins to stick, but not more than a few Tbls.) Add flour and cook for 2 minutes.

Add seitan (without draining), bacon, and thyme. Stir and cook for 2 more minutes.

Add beer and bring to a boil. As it boils, scrape the bottom of the pan frequently. I tend to reduce the liquid to a little over 1/2 cup. Add broth and potato/squash. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Add edamame and cook 5-10 more minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

I serve this with mashed or boiled potatoes. Because you add flour to this, it usually gets thick enough to serve on a plate.

Meat eaters - this one's easy to convert. Just substitute beef cubes for the seitan.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Sometimes, You Just Need a Drink

Oh boy, did I have a day today! A client issue that refused to clear up may mean that I have to turn my back on a lucrative, ongoing gig. But I'm of the opinion that sometimes things happen as hidden blessings. This situation may be just that as it will free me up to find more lucrative jobs (I'm a freelance writer by day - food fanatic by night).

So I did what anyone would do in times of stress - I exercised like mad, meditated, and then mixed up a pitcher of sangria. Here's my favorite way to make it, which I think makes it good enough to be lethal. Careful! If you use too much sugar, you'll end up with too much buzz, and then an unwelcome headache.

One note - I've made this with both white wine and red. I prefer the white (lower calories) for summer, but either will work for you.

Sangria the Right Way

1 bottle red wine, preferably merlot or pinot noir (I buy fairly cheap ones)
2 peaches, sliced thin
1 lemon, sliced thin
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup club soda
1/4 cup passion fruit juice (I've used guava juice with excellent results)

Pour wine into 2-quart pitcher. Add sugar and stir well. Add sliced fruit, juice, and club soda. For a deeper flavor, don't add club soda until you've let this mixture sit in the fridge for an hour or so. This allows the fruit flavors to really come out before you drink it.

Drink with care and please, drink responsibly. If you'd prefer non-alcoholic, this is great with a sparkling white wine substitute.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Game On!

If you're not nailed to the television for the Super Bowl today, perhaps this post won't be your favorite. Likewise if you're not rooting for the Steelers, I'm not sure you're in the right place. ;))

Today I sit 300 miles from Pittsburgh and all the fever that envelopes the city and nearly all of western PA whenever their team goes to the big game. My daughter, who attends college there, said the restaurant where she works is closing at 6 today. In fact, most businesses will, as well. There's no point staying open - no one is out. If they're not glued to a television, they've claimed their spot at the local watering hole for game time. Kids in the area will enjoy a two-hour delay tomorrow morning. School districts know - they'll be up late tonight. Most of the area is swathed in black and gold and everyone from Gramma on down to newborns are wearing the colors and waving the towels.

I miss it. Alas, I'm not anywhere near the rallies and the excitement. I'm here in Philly, where the only mention of the game is a cursory "In sports, the Steelers and Cardinals will play in the Super Bowl. Locally, no games are scheduled." Thanks. Thanks for the support.

At any rate, I'm five hours from the best tailgate parties on the planet, but that doesn't mean I'm not eating! I've already made my chili. My guacamole (recipe below) is in the fridge. I'm even making cheese un-steaks. The food, to me, is as important as the game (or the commercials).

My guac is one I created after eating what I still believe is the best ever at my wedding reception. Since the caterer refused to give up her secret recipe, I began experimenting, trying to hit on the perfect combo. While hers is now a distant memory, mine has won a few rave reviews. The secret (and yes, I share my secrets) - corn and roasted red peppers.

Because the chips I use have plenty of salt already, I cut down on how much I put into this. You won't miss it.

Guacamole Heaven

2-4 hass avocados
1/4 cup diced onion
2/3 cup frozen corn
2 roasted red peppers (I use jarred)
2 Tbs. sliced jalepeno rings (again, I use jarred ones)
1/4 tsp. ancho chili pepper (McCormick's)
1 Tbl. butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
garlic powder

Heat skillet (I usually start with a small amount of oil, then add the butter) and melt butter. Add chili pepper powder, garlic powder, jalepeno rings and then corn. Saute until corn is cooked, about 5 minutes. Set aside. Add onion to the skillet and saute until it's clear, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Hollow out the avocados into a bowl. If you like, dice them. I don't. I use the "random slice" method, which means I just stab at it until it looks smaller. Dice the red peppers and add to the avacado. Add the corn mixture and the onion. Stir until mixed. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cool in the fridge. Serve with tortilla chips.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lower-fat Eggplant

Show of hands - who loves eggplant parmesan? Another show of hands - who avoids it because of the fat? What - you didn't know this stuff was loaded with fat?

The traditional eggplant parm uses oil, eggs, and a wad of cheese that could block arteries from fifty paces. For those of us watching our fat intake (and yes, even vegetarians have to be careful), it can be disastrous to the diet.

However, I've come across a great way to make this stuff without all the fat. Instead of frying the eggplant in oil, you bake it on a baking sheet sprayed with scant amounts of oil. And those eggs? Replaced with egg yolks. Add some reduced-fat or fat-free cheese and you'll be savoring this stuff without missing the clogged arteries.

Low-fat, High-flavor Eggplant Parmesan

1 smallish/medium eggplant, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 egg whites
1 cup plain or Italian breadcrumbs
1/2 cup low-fat/fat-free parmesan cheese
2/3 cup skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 1/2 cups spaghetti sauce
2 Tbs. dried basil or 10-12 leaves fresh basil, thinly sliced
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Slice eggplant and salt. Allow to drain in colander for about 20 minutes. Rinse thoroughly.

Mix egg whites and about 2 Tbs. of water to a froth. In a separate bowl, mix together the parmesan, bread crumbs, basil, salt and pepper. Dip eggplant into egg whites, then into dry ingredients.

Place slices on baking sheet sprayed with oil. Bake 15 minutes on each side. Remove from oven.

In a casserole dish, coat bottom with 1/2 cup of sauce. Add eggplant, then top with remaining sauce. Add mozzarella to top and bake, covered loosely with foil, for about 15-20 minutes, or until things are bubbly.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Because I'm Tenacious

Remember my earlier post about my quest to perfect paella? I was at Ikea and found what I thought would be an excellent dish for paella. And it was, except for the fact that you can't use it on the stove top, which is where paella is perfected. So I modified, tweaked, and tried like heck (read that I tried once and got lucky) and managed to find a way to bake a pretty darned good paella.

Oven-baked Paella

Olive oil for sauteing
3 carrots, chopped
About a dozen black olives, sliced
1/2 cup onion, choppped
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp. vegetable bouillon (I used Better Than Bouillon)
Healthy pinch of saffron threads
1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms, rehydrated, reserving liquid
1 cup frozen corn
1/3 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 can diced tomatoes or 4-6 Roma tomatoes, chopped
3 shallots, sliced
1 cup brown rice
Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in cast-iron skillet and saute carrots and onion for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and broth, olives, corn, tomatoes and shallots. Saute a little more until the tomatoes soften. Transfer to a shallow baking dish. Add rice and broth and cook in oven, covered with foil or lid, for 45 minutes. Remove cover and add peas to top. Replace cover and heat through for about five minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

This worked really well to help form that "crust" I've been trying for.