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Squashbanzo Soup

26 Aug

This weekend was absolutely gorgeous. The kind of North Carolina weather that makes visitors decide to put down roots. The beautiful weather came a little early, though I suspect this was just a small taste, and we’ll be back to normal sweltering for a few more weeks. Regardless of what Mother Earth brings next, this cool sunshine was a reminder that… drumroll, please… fall is on its way!!

As a kid, summer used to be my favorite season – duh. But as an adult, fall is where it’s at. Nice weather, awesome fashion, delicious food and warm drinks, great traveling. Plus, fall is when the BF and I celebrate our anniversary, so I’m typically reminiscing about falling in love back when we were in college (awwww). And this fall, we’ll celebrate our first wedding anniversary, so I’m looking forward to that.

This summer seemed to go rather quickly, and we have a few fun trips coming up that I think will keep things speeding along. And since I was in the mood to celebrate fall, even if it isn’t here yet, I spent a little time in the kitchen yesterday making this soup. Between the squash and the warm autumn/winter spices, it certainly tastes like fall come early.

Squashbanzo!

I found a recipe for a curried squash soup I thought about trying, but I already shared a curry vegetable soup with you, and I wasn’t in the mood for curry anyway. So I played around with the spices and opted for a more wintry flavor profile. It reminds me of pumpkin bread or chai latte. I also wanted to make this soup a little more substantial so it could be a meal on its own, so I added in some garbanzo beans. Hence the name: squash + garbanzo = squashbanzo. (It seemed like a better name than garsh soup).

This soup is healthy, light, but filling enough to make a meal. The spices certainly fit well on a cold night, but overall, the flavors are light enough and delicious enough to make it enjoyable year-round. Plus, it’s a great way to use up all that summer squash that’s flooding the farmer’s market and our CSA box. Give it a try!

Squash Soup

Squashbanzo Soup adapted from Bon Appetit

1 1/2 large summer squash, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 tablespoons olive oil

Heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the squash, onion, garlic, and spices. Cook until tender, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the garbanzo beans and chicken broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until very tender, about 25 minutes.

Puree until smooth using an immersion blender or by transferring to a blender or food processor and pureeing in batches.

Just before serving, swirl in a spoonful of plain Greek yogurt and crumble walnuts over top.

Linking up With:

Funday Monday from Still Being Molly and Lipgloss and Crayons
Market Yourself Monday from Sumo’s Sweet Stuff
Made by you Monday from Skip to my Lou
Time to Sparkle from Love Grows WildInside BruCrew LifeThe Recipe Critic, and The Gunny Sack
Create It Thursday from Lamberts Lately
All Things Pretty from Sparkles and a Stove and My Fashion Forward Blog

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Stuffed Acorn Squash

5 Aug

This was so easy and so delish, I’m about to go out and find me some more acorn squash. The acorn made a terrific bowl that both held tasty fillings and also made for good eating. Like a tasty bread bowl for soup expect it doesn’t get soggy and mushy.

As we ate this for dinner last week, we brainstormed all the amazing ways we could prepare it. Italian style with sausage, tomatoes, mozzarella, and herbs. Greek style with lamb, tomatoes, olives, and feta. Mexican style with beef, tomatoes, cheese, and taco seasoning. There are loads of all-veggie options too.

Mmm cheesy goodness

This is such a versatile recipe. If you try it, you should definitely experiment and make it your own. Think up what flavors you’re in the mood for, and run with it. And if you don’t have a veggie on the ingredient list, no worries. Just leave it out or substitute it for something else. No big deal. It will still be delicious.

Better yet, prepare this on a night when you have guests over. The presentation is pretty amazing. They will think you’re a secret top chef.

This recipe was enough for the BF and me, but we’re pretty light eaters, so one half of a filled squash was enough for each of us. I’d recommend getting two squashes and doubling the recipe.

For me, the key to this recipe is to chop everything really small — that way, you can cram more into your squash bowl.

Beautiful Squash

Stuffed Acorn Squash adapted from TheKitchn

1 medium acorn squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 bell pepper, chopped small
handful cherry tomatoes, chopped small
1 large sausage link or vegetarian substitute, diced small (I used sweet apple chicken sausage)
1/2 teaspoon French or Italian herb mix
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup baby spinach
Salt and pepper as needed
Bread crumbs (I used crushed-up seasoned croutons — they gave a little extra flavor!)
1/4 cup parmesan, finely grated

Wash the squash and halve it. Scrape the insides and seeds out of the squash. Place the squash in a shallow dish with about half an inch of water. Microwave on high for 7-10 minutes or until tender. Leave in microwave until ready to use.

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, bell pepper, tomatoes, and sausage. If using uncooked sausage, cook until sausage is almost cooked through. If using pre-cooked sausage, cook until the garlic starts to smell.

Add the spices and stir well. Add the spinach and cook, covered, until wilted. Add salt and pepper as needed. Remove from heat.

Place squash halves on a lightly greased baking sheet. Spoon the filling into squash halves, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add one tablespoon of water to each squash. Coat the filled squash with breadcrumbs. Sprinkle with a thick layer of grated cheese. Broil just until cheese is lightly browned.

Dig In!

Linking Up With:

Funday Monday from Still Being Molly and Lipgloss and Crayons
Market Yourself Monday from Sumo’s Sweet Stuff
Made by you Monday from Skip to my Lou
Time to Sparkle from Love Grows WildInside BruCrew LifeThe Recipe Critic, and The Gunny Sack
Link Party Wednesday from Lil’ Luna
Create It Thursday from Lamberts Lately
All Things Pretty from Sparkles and a Stove and My Fashion Forward Blog

Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes

22 Jul

I was never a big pancake fan as a kid, or even a big breakfast fan. I grew up eating cereal or granola bars, even on the weekends.

The exception was when my grandparents were in town, and my Poppee would cook up grits, bacon, and “dippy” eggs to order. I had no idea that the majority of America didn’t refer to eggs over easy as dippy eggs, though I think it’s a much more sensible term. (After you finish your egg whites, you break the yolk and dip your toast into it. Get it?)

Aside from those occasional big family breakfasts, I generally avoid breakfast. I don’t really like American-style breakfast foods, so I either eat very simply, like an apple and peanut butter, or I eat leftovers, like pasta or stir fry or soup. My favorite breakfast is probably spaghetti and meatballs. People tell me that’s weird, but personally, I think it’s weird that there’s so much amazing food in the world that we’re not supposed to eat before noon. Why not eat spaghetti and meatballs?

Well, instead of something as “weird” as pasta, I’ll share a more normal breakfast recipe — pancakes.

Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes

At first, pancakes were just not that interesting to me. Plain bread with plain sugar maple syrup. Meh. But as an adult, I discovered a much wider world of pancakes. Adding in bananas or pumpkin, nuts, chocolate chips — now that’s a delicious breakfast.

For these pancakes, I used whole wheat to make them a bit healthier, and I mashed a couple bananas to stir in. As I cooked them, I added in chopped walnuts to about half of them and a few dark chocolate chips to the other half. Yum! You can enjoy these pancakes the classic way, with butter, whipped cream, and/or maple syrup. Or, I prefer a healthier and more on-the-go preparation: folded in half like a taco, with peanut butter spread inside. Delicious and protein-rich!

Peanut butter-Pancake Taco

The big plus of these pancakes is that they are really excellent to freeze and re-heat. Whenever I make them, I make a really big batch, enjoy a couple, and then freeze the rest. Just slide the pancakes into ziploc bags with a square of wax paper in between each one. When you’re ready to eat them, heat in the microwave for 45-60 seconds, and they’re ready. Amazing!

Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes from 100 Days of Real Food

2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon honey
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 ¾ cups milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 ripe bananas, mashed
Walnuts or pecans, optional
Dark chocolate chips, optional

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Make a hole in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the honey, eggs, milk, and melted butter. Whisk together thoroughly, but do not overmix. Gently fold the mashed bananas into the batter.

Heat a griddle or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add pancake batter in small scoops (I use a 1/4 cup measuring cup). If desired, sprinkle a handful of nuts or chocolate chips on top. When the pancakes have begun brown on the bottom, flip them over to cook the other side.

Note: For vegan pancakes…

  • Substitute 2 tablespoons flaxseed and 6 tablespoons warm water for eggs. Stir together and let sit for a couple minutes until thick.
  • Substitute soy or almond milk for milk.
  • Substitute maple or agave syrup for honey.Breakfast is served!

Linking Up With:

Funday Monday from Still Being Molly and Lipgloss and Crayons
Market Yourself Monday from Sumo’s Sweet Stuff
Made by you Monday from Skip to my Lou
Anything and Everything Blog Hop from My Thrifty Chic
Time to Sparkle from Love Grows WildInside BruCrew LifeThe Recipe Critic, and The Gunny Sack
Link Party Wednesday from Lil’ Luna
Create It Thursday from Lamberts Lately
All Things Pretty from Sparkles and a Stove and My Fashion Forward Blog

Grilled Cheese & Guacamole

1 Jul

My aunt/godmother tells me this story of the first time I met her now-husband, my uncle John. I was 5, and we were out to dinner somewhere. I ordered a grilled cheese, which was always my favorite. He asked me if I liked it, and apparently I responded, with complete sincerity and gravity, “I love grilled cheese so much, if I didn’t have it at least once a week, I would die.”

Let me tell you, ain’t nobody better get between me and some cheese. I don’t play around. As a tween, the first thing I learned how to make on my own was Kraft macaroni and cheese, and the second was a perfect grilled cheese. I don’t think you can expand much on a perfect grilled cheese — Bunny bread, Kraft singles, and Country Crock — but you can have other perfect grilled cheeses.

See, to me, fancy grilled cheese — like the $10 ones you can get at locavore foodie restaurants — are really good, but they’re pretty much a different food altogether. I will very much enjoy a fancy grilled cheese, but if I’m craving a perfect classic grilled cheese, a fancy one just won’t fill that craving. I feel the same way about delivery pizza versus gourmet pizza. That’s why it’s perfectly acceptable to go out to Pizzeria Toro for gourmet pizza and to order from Papa John’s for delivery pizza all in the span of a couple days — they’re totally different meals.

I didn’t have much in the fridge last week, and I was super hungry for dinner. We had had this delicious Country loaf from Bread & Butter with butter and raspberry jam for breakfast:

Good morning!

Mmm… it was so delicious and still warm! So with the second half of the loaf, I decided to make a grilled cheese for dinner. And then I remembered that I had seen this on Pinterest. Seemed like a no-brainer.

The major difference between my Grilled Cheese & Guacamole and the one on Cooking Stoned is that mine is not as pretty. This is not surprising to me. The other thing I did was dice my tomatoes and mix them into my guacamole instead of having slices of tomato. I just don’t like raw tomatoes all that much. It would be good either way. An important part of the process that I learned from Cooking Stoned, is to broil or toast the bread with cheese first so that the cheese gets all melty.

Cheesy Melt!

(I don’t know why there’s only one piece of bread in that picture. I cooked both slices that way. Whatever.) Ooey gooey deliciousness:

Gooey deliciousness

Talk about a grown-up grilled cheese. OMG YOU SHOULD ADD BACON. I’m going to do that next time.

Here’s a recipe. I didn’t really use amounts because sandwiches are one of those things where you should just put however much you want to on the bread.

Guacamole Grilled Cheese Sandwich adapted from Cooking Stoned

2 slices of bread
guacamole
handful of grape tomatoes or a few slices of a regular tomato
cheddar slices
butter
(onion and/or cilantro might be a good idea, but I didn’t use those)

Prepare the guacamole. (I use an avocado, lime juice, and Wildtree guacamole seasoning. You could also purchase prepared guac.) Dice the tomato and stir into the guacamole. Set aside.

Arrange slices of cheddar cheese on the surface of both slices of bread. Broil or toast until the cheese is melted and the bread is slightly crispy.

Melt 1/2 tablespoon butter in a pan over medium heat. Transfer a slice of cheesy bread to the pan, spread on a whole bunch of guacamole, and then sandwich the other slice of cheesy bread on top. Flip the sandwich when the bread is golden brown, only a couple minutes on each side.

ENJOY IT.

Linking Up With:

Funday Monday from Still Being Molly and Lipgloss and Crayons
Market Yourself Monday from Sumo’s Sweet Stuff
Made by you Monday from Skip to my Lou
Anything and Everything Blog Hop from My Thrifty Chic
Time to Sparkle from Love Grows WildInside BruCrew LifeThe Recipe Critic, and The Gunny Sack
Link Party Wednesday from Lil’ Luna
Create It Thursday from Lamberts Lately
All Things Pretty from Sparkles and a Stove and My Fashion Forward Blog
Link Party Thursday from Somewhat Simple

Summer Pasta Salad

24 Jun

It’s officially summer time! And with the summer solstice, it certainly got dang hot in North Carolina. And muggy. And gross. I’m sweaty all the time. But just for the record, this is NOT a complaint. I most certainly prefer this weather to anything below 60 degrees. Though we’ll see if I’m willing to negotiate that number come July. It’s maxed out at 90 so far, so I may change my mind once it gets into the triple digits.

I went to my nephew’s 6th birthday party on Saturday, which meant hot dogs and pasta salad and cake and ice cream. Yum. That night, I was heading to a potluck for a friend’s housewarming party, and I hadn’t any ideas. But the pasta salad was good inspiration, and I decided to make my own.

IMG_1914

My mom and sister make a very simple, classic pasta salad: noodles, olives, and feta cheese, all held together with Italian salad dressing. I expanded on the idea by adding a bunch of veggies I had in the fridge from our CSA delivery. I left out the olives though: disgusting.

When you make this, there are only two basic things to know:

Girard's

1) Use Girard’s Italian dressing. For reals, it’s the best. And don’t put it on until within an hour or so of serving it. If you put it on too far in advance, the pasta will soak up the dressing, and you’ll have to add more to get more flavor, which is just wasteful, both of the delicious dressing and of calories. If you need to make it in advance, just put everything together except the dressing, and add that when you’re ready. Easy peasy.

2) My family’s basic ratio is a pound of pasta to a bottle of dressing. I cut it to about 3/4 of the bottle, but go with what works for you. As long as you keep that ratio, you can then add whatever fresh, raw veggies you want.

Oh, here’s another tip! Let the pasta air-dry a little bit before you mix everything together. If there’s too much water, the oil-based dressing won’t stick. (But if the pasta is too dry, it will absorb all the oil and flavor.)

The cool thing about this dish is its versatility. You can add whatever veggies you and your family like, so it’s completely and easily customizable. And it can easily serve as a side to hot dogs and burgers OR as a cold main dish, perfect for a hot summer night. Add some beans — edamame would be awesome! — and it would be an even better main course.

IMG_1911

Summer Pasta Salad

1 lb pasta, preferably rotini or bowtie (farfalle)
1 bottle Girard’s Italian dressing
feta cheese, crumbled
1 zucchini, diced and quartered
1 yellow squash, diced and quartered
2 carrots, sliced into rounds
1 handful grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

Boil the pasta to al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

Chop the vegetables. Place pasta and veggies in a large bowl. Pour in the dressing. Add crumbled feta cheese, to taste.

Toss and serve.

Note: For a vegan dish, omit the feta. For gluten-free, substitute rice-based or other gluten-free pasta for the rotini.

Linking Up With:

Funday Monday from Still Being Molly and Lipgloss and Crayons
Market Yourself Monday from Sumo’s Sweet Stuff
Made by you Monday from Skip to my Lou
Anything and Everything Blog Hop from My Thrifty Chic
Time to Sparkle from Love Grows WildInside BruCrew LifeThe Recipe Critic, and The Gunny Sack
Link Party Wednesday from Lil’ Luna
Create It Thursday from Lamberts Lately
All Things Pretty from Sparkles and a Stove and My Fashion Forward Blog
Link Party Thursday from Somewhat Simple

Curry Coconut Vegetable Stew

17 Jun

Oh my goodness, y’all, so I finally got around to finishing this last season of Revolution, and let me just say, after those last 10 minutes, my mind = blown. I almost gave up on that show because I thought the middle part of the season was getting kind of lame, but it really picked up there at the end. And that last scene? Whaaat? I don’t even know what to think.

Okay, Revolution is not at all related to this recipe, but I just had to get that out of my system. I don’t know anyone who watches that show, so I never get to talk about it. Onto the stew!

I had a ton of veggies in my fridge, and not much else. And I was looking for something easy, so what better than a soup? The thing I love about soups is that they’re easy to customize based on preference and available resources. Don’t like greens? Leave ’em out. Got zucchini but no squash? Whatever, that’s fine.  If you stick to similar weights/amounts, and then just use whatever suits you, you’ll be fine. And actually, I used chicken stock instead of vegetable stock, just ’cause that’s what I had.

Mmm... Stew

This is a really hearty stew. The rice and beans definitely fill you up. But the coconut curry flavor keeps it light enough to eat year-round. And it’s super healthy too. The coconut and curry flavors are delicious and definitely noticeable, but not so strong that you don’t still taste the vegetables themselves. You definitely want to stick with fresh vegetables, for that reason. Don’t bother with canned or frozen — just use whatever’s fresh in season.

You can’t really see it in the picture, but there’s definitely some liquid down in the bottom there. It’s soup-y the first go-round, and thickens up to more of a stew texture when eaten as leftovers. Both are equally delicious. As you’re cooking, try to keep the lid on the pot as much as possible so you don’t lose too much liquid. That way, at the end, if it’s too runny, you can simmer with the cover off for a little while to reduce it. But it’s hard to go the other direction.

Don’t forget that when it’s ready, you have to shout, “Soup’s on!” :)

So many veggies!

Curry Coconut Vegetable Stew

1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 Tablespoons garlic, minced
3 1/2 cups vegetable stock
3/4 cup white basmati rice
3/4 lb potatoes, diced
1/4 lb carrots, sliced
1 Tablespoon curry powder
salt and pepper
1 tomato, diced
1/2 lb squash, sliced
1/2 lb zucchini, sliced
1/2 lb green beans, ends removed and cut into 1″ pieces
1/4 lb greens (chard and kale)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can light coconut milk

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a simmer.

Add the rice. Cover and cook for 8 minutes.

Add the potatoes and carrots. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

Stir in the curry powder, salt, and pepper. Add the tomato, squash, zucchini, and green beans. Cover and cook for 8 minutes.

Add in the greens. Cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted.

Stir in the black beans and coconut milk. Cook until heated through. Serve hot.

Soup's On!

Linking Up With:

Funday Monday Link-Up from Still Being Molly and Lipgloss and Crayons
Market Yourself Monday from Sumo’s Sweet Stuff
Made by you Monday from Skip to my Lou
Anything and Everything Blog Hop from My Thrifty Chic
Time to Sparkle from Love Grows WildInside BruCrew LifeThe Recipe Critic, and The Gunny Sack
Create It Thursday from Lamberts Lately
All Things Pretty from Sparkles and a Stove and My Fashion Forward Blog

Homemade Pesto

1 Apr

I love pesto, and I love pasta. I really prefer creamy pesto, but in recent years I’ve found that a regular pesto is also pretty delicious.

Last summer I had a basil plant growing in a little pot on our balcony. It was really cute and awesome to have around. Problem was, I kept forgetting it was out there. I’d forget to water it for a week or two, then remember and bring it back to life with huge cupfuls of water. I actually did revive it a few times this way, but not without ill effects. The stalks became really woody and tough, and the leaves became less flavorful and a little bitter. After a few near-death experiences, it just wasn’t working out anymore, and I put the poor thing out of its misery.

But before it met its end, I got quite a few good leaves out of that basil, and with it, I made my own pesto. This project was actually my original reason for buying a food processor, if I remember correctly. I whipped up this pesto, which I used as a sandwich spread and as a base for a pasta sauce. I subbed inexpensive walnuts for harder-to-find, pricey pine nuts.

Basil, pre-haircut

Before

Basil, post-haircut

After

Overall, I remember thinking that it just needed more. More garlic, more parmesan, more flavor. This recipe is pretty good — good enough that I’ll return to it again. But if you have a hit-it-out-of-the-park, homerun of a pesto recipe, please share! I’m thinking of getting a new basil plant this spring.

Homemade Pesto

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup walnuts
3 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper, to taste

Place the walnuts in a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped. Add the basil and garlic, and pulse a few times until mixed.

While the processor is on, pour in the olive oil in a steady stream. Stop and scrape the sides of the food processor bowl with a spatula. Add the grated cheese and a dash of salt and pepper. Pulse until blended.

Pesto!

Serving Suggestions:

  • Crostini: Serve as a spread with toasted baguette slices.
  • Panini: Use as a spread for sandwiches.
  • Pasta: Toss with pasta, vegetables, etc. I made one with whole wheat pasta, broccoli, asparagus, pesto, and parmesan.

Mmm... tastes like spring!

 

Linking Up With:

YOLO Mondays from Still Being Molly and Lipgloss and Crayons
Monday Meet Ups from Covered in Grace
Market Yourself Monday from Sumo’s Sweet Stuff
Your Great Idea Link Party from Or So She Says
Time for a Party from Fine Craft Guild
Made by you Monday from Skip to my Lou