Protein, Iron and Zinc– oh my!

Recently,  my husband gave  me the idea of starting a cooking blog, and I thought, why not? I am omnivorous by nature, but I cook mainly a vegetarian diet at home.  My posts will reflect this.  However, know that I love meat and intend to continue eating it, though not everyday.

It is my hope that I can dispel the thought that vegetarian cooking is boring.   Considering that the vast majority of the world’s cuisines in their indigenous forms are mainly vegetarian, I wonder why one might ever fear bland vegetarian cuisine.  Think about it… Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Lebanese, Greek, Japanese, Mexican, Korean, Italian, African– many of these cultures eat a great deal of vegetarian (or at least pescetarian) meals, and they certainly don’t want for flavor!

With that being said, and before we dive into any actual recipes, I want to quell the fears of my omnivorous friends who think that a vegetarian diet is dangerous.  Fear not!  Here’s some good food for your brain:

thanks to for the following information

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Poached Tilapia

Poached fish is a simple technique for can cooking lean fish like tilapia, cod, sole, haddock, snapper or halibut, as well as fatty fish like salmon or trout.  Poaching preserves moisture and adds flavor without adding fat — though you may want to serve poached fish with a sauce made from the leftover water.



  • Filet of fish
  • Large skillet
  • About 4 cups of water, fish stock or vegetable stock
  • 1 Lime (1/2 sliced and the other 1/2 left for juice)
  • A few sprigs of fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 White Onion (sliced into “coins”)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1-2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1-2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of either Sea Salt or Kosher Salt


  1. Start by making a series of shallow, diagonal cuts on the skin side of the fish fillets. These cuts prevent the fillet from curling during the poaching process.
  2. Heat the liquid on med-low until it reaches the point of almost simmering– the liquid should be hot but NOT boiling.
  3. Add the fish to the hot liquid, skin side down.  The fish should be covered completely by the liquid.
  4. To this, add the sliced onion, minced garlic and lime slices.
  5. Cook for about five minutes or until the fish is just done without being overcooked. (It should just have reached the point of becoming opaque and is no longer translucent.)
  6. Carefully remove the fish and the onions– set aside. Cover the fish to keep it warm while you do the next step of preparing the sauce.
  7. Remove the lime slices and discard.
  8. Cook the liquid over high heat until it has reduced by half.
  9. To the reduced liquid, add 1-2 Tablespoons of butter and whisk into the liquid.
  10. Next, add the same amount of all-purpose flour to the mixture (equal amounts flour to butter)
  11. Whisk until flour is cooked and mixture has thickened (it should smell more like toasted bread rather than “doughy” when the flour has reached the point that it is cooked).
  12. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  13. Place the fish on a plate and garnish with the onions that you set aside.
  14. Top fish with the sauce, garnish with some freshly chopped cilantro, lime juice and an extra pinch of salt (sea salt if you have it; if not, then Kosher salt will do.)

*Instead of making a white sauce to top the Tilapia, you could instead top with a Roasted Salsa Verde (or a Basic Salsa Verde) which you can make ahead of time.  You can serve the fish with rice, pasta or on top of a bed of fresh spinach.


Egg-topped Pasta

     This might, at first glance, seem a bit odd, but it’s really delicious!  You can basically start with ANY olive oil-based sauce, add pasta and vegetables and top with an over-easy egg for a simple and hearty meal.  Here’s what I made just the other night:


  • Whole-wheat angle hair pasta (cooked al dente)– I used about 8oz
  • 1 Cup of fresh arugula
  • 1 Cup of fresh spinach
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes (cut in half)
  • a few leaves (to taste) of fresh sweet basil (sliced thinly)
  • 3 cloves of fresh garlic (thinly sliced)
  • 3 Tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • grated parmigiano reggiano cheese (to taste)
  • Eggs (one for each bowl of pasta served)


  1. In salted, boiling water, cook pasta until it is al dente
  2. Once cooked, strain the pasta and set aside.
  3. In a not-stick skillet, heat olive oil over med-low heat and add sliced garlic (be sure to watch the garlic closely so that it doesn’t burn) and heat until you can start to smell the cooked garlic (it shouldn’t take long)
  4. To the hot garlic-oil add the fresh spinach and arugula
  5. Add a pinch of Kosher salt and a bit of freshly cracked pepper
  6. Using tongs, turn the fresh greens in the oil so that they start to wilt just slightly.
  7. To this, add the tomatoes and the strained pasta and fold all ingredients together, coating the pasta with the olive oil and (as best you can) evenly distributing the greens and tomatoes among the pasta.
  8. Place pasta in bowls and set aside.
  9. In the same non-stick skillet, add just a touch of olive oil (or you can use butter) to the pan and heat to a medium-high heat (not too high as olive oil has a low smoke point and can burn easily!)
  10. Cook your eggs “over-easy” and season with salt and pepper.
  11. Once cooked, place the hot eggs on top of your pasta (one for each bowl of pasta served)
  12. Top with grated parmigiano reggiano  and fresh basil
  13. Serve immediately as you want the yolk to remain runny when you cut into it so that it runs down over the pasta, adding flavor and substance to the sauce– as it sits atop the hot pasta, it will continue cooking, so you really want to be quick about serving!

*To this recipe, some people like to add crispy bacon– delicious addition!egg-topped pasta

Katie’s Matzo Balls

This recipe is taken from Passover Seders Made Simple by Zell Shulman.  Thanks for sharing, Katie!

Ingredients:Matzo Meal3browneggs

  • 3 Large Eggs (separated)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of ground white pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup Matzo Meal


1. In medium bowl, combine the egg yolks, salt, pepper and cinnamon.

2. Beat egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Fold them gently into the egg yolk mixture.

3. Gently fold in the matzo meal 1/4 cup at a time; it should be absorbed but still hold air and not become think like paste. You may not need the entire 3/4 cup; it all depends on the size of the yolks. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

4. Partially fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Remove the matzo ball mixture from the refrigerator. Moisten your hands with cold water, then take 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the mixture into your wet hands. Form it into a ball and drop it in to the boiling water. When all the matzo balls are in the pot, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes.

5. Remove the matzo balls with a slotted spoon to a large bowl. When cool, add them to your soup. Simmer in the soup for 15 minutes before serving.

*Note: Matzo ball mixture can be made 1 or 2 days ahead and kept in the refrigerator.


I doubled the recipe without any problems. The key to light fluffy matzo balls is the egg whites! Its taken me a few years and a TON of egg whites to be able to get them right! I had never made meringues before so I had very little experience with how temperamental egg whites can be!

Hope you enjoy!


The Soup~~~~~~~~~~

You can use them in pretty much any soup you would like. Typically its a chicken soup. Last year I used them in a simple vegetable broth that was really tasty. Below is the recipe from the same recipe book!

  • 2 large russet potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
  • 1 rib celery
  • 4 medium carrots, sliced
  • 2 parsnips, sliced
  • 3 onions, quartered
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 16 black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 10 cups water

1. place all ingredients in a large stockpot, cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for at least 2 hours or until potatoes are soft when pierced with a the tip of a knife.

2. Strain the stock through a colander lined with cheesecloth. Press liquid from the vegetables and discard. Refrigerated for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

From what I have read they are basically a substitute for noodles or dumplings since you can not use typical flour/leavening during passover! They are funny little things!



Brine, baby, Brine!

What IS Brining?

In cooking, brining is a process similar to marination in which meat or poultry is soaked in brine before cooking.[1] Equal parts sugar and salt is added to cold water in a container, where the meat is soaked usually six to twelve hours. The amount of time needed to brine depends on the size of the meat. More time is needed for a large turkey compared to a broiler fryer chicken. Similarly with a large roast versus a thin cut of meat.

Brining makes cooked meat moister by hydrating the cells of its muscle tissue before cooking, via the process of osmosis, and by allowing the cells to hold on to the water while they are cooked, via the process of denaturation.[1] The brine surrounding the cells has a higher concentration of salt than the fluid within the cells, but the cell fluid has a higher concentration of other solutes.[1] This leads salt ions to diffuse into the cell, whilst the solutes in the cells cannot diffuse through the cell membranes into the brine. The increased salinity of the cell fluid causes the cell to absorb water from the brine via osmosis.[1] The salt introduced into the cell also denatures its proteins.[1] The proteins coagulate, forming a matrix that traps water molecules and holds them during cooking. This prevents the meat from dehydrating.

Thanks to  Wikipedia   for the above info!

*You can brine any proteins (or even vegetables) that you’d like, but I recommend it most with poultry.  A good brine will yield the moist, succulent kind of meat that every cook is looking for.  Here is a simple brine recipe that you can use for any meat:

Basic Brine Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon warm (not hot) water
  • 3/4 cup kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup sugar


        Combine all ingredients in a large pot or bowl and whisk together until the salt and sugar is dissolved.  Submerge meat in the liquid and place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight.  Once the brining process is complete, take the meat out of the liquid, strain off liquid and dry well with a towel.

*Some brines contain herbs, spices, vinegars and citrus.  You are welcome to find any recipe or try anything you like to infuse flavors into your food through brining.  This Basic Brine recipe is just a jumping-off point– the possibilities are endless.  Believe me though, once you brine, you’ll never go back!



The Technique of Braising

     “Braising“(from the French “braiser”) is a combination cooking method using both moist and dry heat; typically the food is first seared at a high temperature and then finished in a covered pot with a variable amount of liquid, resulting in a particular flavor. Braising of meat is often referred to as “pot roasting”, though some authors make a distinction between the two methods based on whether additional liquid is added


     I couldn’t have written it better myself, so please visit THIS BLOG to learn the technique of  braising.  Thanks to  The Reluctant Gourmet   for such a detailed explanation of how and what to braise– great post!

Roasted Salsa Verde

This salsa is great with chips, as a topping for grilled fish, as a base for chicken enchiladas– it’s a MUST-HAVE, GO-TO Tex-Mex sauce that can be used in a variety of ways!  This particular recipe is a rather involved process starting from scratch and roasting all the vegetables.  For a simpler version, try the Basic Salsa Verde.  If you DO decide to the time to make this roasted version, you’ll come to appreciate complexity and layering of flavors!


  • One pound of fresh tomatillos
  • 8-10 cloves of fresh garlic
  • 1 large white onion
  • 1 large jalapeño pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • Juice of 4 limes (or about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
  • 1-2 Tablespoons ground cumin*

*I suggest toasting whole cumin seeds in a pan over medium heat for a few minutes (making sure to keep the seeds moving around so as not to burn one side) and then grinding the seeds with a mortar and pestle– this will give you more of smokey flavor than just using pre-gound cumin. But, if you’d rather not take the time, regular ground cumin will work just fine.


  1. Start by peeling and rinsing the tomatillos– they will be sticky, so be sure that all the mud/dirt is rinsed off of them.
  2. Peel garlic cloves (trying to keep them intact if possible)
  3. Peel the onion and quarter it.
  4. Wash the jalapeño pepper– don’t feel the need to take the stem off or the seeds out; just leave it whole.
  5. Place all of the prepared vegetables in a roasting pan, drizzle with vegetable oil, and sprinkle with salt.
  6. Roast vegetables at about 425°F for approximately 30 minutes (or until the vegetables are starting to brown and are softened to the point that they could easily be punctured by a fork).
  7. Once the vegetables are done roasting, take the stem off of the jalapeño pepper (it should be so soft that it can easily just be slipped right off), and put all ingredients into a blender.
  8. To the vegetables, add cilantro, lime juice and cumin.
  9. Blend until smooth.

*Make sure to taste the salsa and add more salt if needed.  Also, if you would like to tone down the spice of the salsa, you can add plain yogurt or sour cream to the mix and blend it in– this will make the salsa creamy as well!


Flavor Profile: TEX-MEX


~ Essential Spices and Herbs ~

Cumin Powder
◦    This aromatic spice is of the carrot family and can be described as a rich, earthy flavor. Cumin, originating in the Mediterranean, is used in almost every Tex Mex dish, from taquitos to refried beans. Sprinkle cumin powder on tortilla chips and pop in the oven for a delicious seasoning.  **Try toasting whole cumin seeds in a skillet and ground with a mortar and pestle– it will bring out a smokey flavor!

Chili Powder
◦    This flavorful spice varies in taste from mild to extremely hot. Chili powder has little aroma, but can pack a punch in soups, taco meat or sauces. Made from grinding various dried red peppers, chili powder can also have a smoked flavor to complement pork or carne asada.

◦    Paprika is Hungarian for “flavor.” A mild spice, this deep red powder is cultivated from a variety of red capsicum peppers. Sweet to taste, paprika can be used as a Tex Mex topping on pizzas or tortillas or mixed into chili to even out the hot flavor.

◦    The word adobo means marinade in Spanish. Sprinkle on Mexican cheese for adobo topping, use to spice Tex Mex pasta or pizza recipes or marinate meat for spicy adobo main meals. Combined adobo is mixed in many different ways and can include parsley flakes, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin powder, achiote powder from annatto seed and lemon or lemon pepper.

◦    Chipotle spice is a mixture of spices used for seasoning fajitas, tacos or meats such as poultry or pork. It is a combination of chili powder, dried cilantro, cumin, Mexican oregano, basil, garlic powder, thyme and crushed chipotle pepper. This spice can also be mixed into salsa for a more mild, earthy condiment.

◦    Otherwise known as Mexican saffron, azafran possesses a pleasantly bitter flavor, and most dishes require only a small amount. To use, dissolve first by crumbling a small amount in hot water. Frontier European saffron is an excellent substitute in dishes that call for azafran.

◦    The dried seeds of the coriander plant yield a different taste than coriander (cilantro) leaves. Ground coriander seed is used in breads, cakes, and other desserts, as well as in savory dishes such as soups and stews (especially chili), and with meat and game. The whole seeds are also used; dry roast them to enhance their flavor.

◦    Cinnamon was first introduced to Mexican cooking by the Spanish, and it’s most often used in beverages (such as chocolate drinks). You’ll also find cinnamon in rice pudding and chorizo sausages. Mexican cooks use both the sticks and ground cinnamon, (Remove the sticks before serving.)

◦    Cilantro, although an herb, is used to spice many Tex Mex dishes. With its fresh, pungent flavor, cilantro’s green leaves are a key ingredient when making salsa and Tex Mex vinaigrette salad dressings.

Mexican Oregano
◦    Different from Greek or Italian oregano, the flavor of Mexican oregano is somewhat more savory-like, instead of the piney hint of rosemary flavor in “regular” oregano. The flavor complements many dishes including pinto beans and soups. **Oregano leaf is more desirable than powdered oregano, and in some recipes, the directions call for lightly toasting the oregano leaf before adding to dishes.

◦    Thyme has a dry, fresh, pungent flavor that complements the heat in many Mexican dishes. You’ll find it in Mexican soups and sauces, salads and dressings.

10 Essential Chinese Spices and Sauces


1: Soy Sauce
Widely considered one of the world’s oldest condiments, soy sauce is a fermented soy bean product. It was probably first discovered more than 3,500 years ago in China as part of the process of preserving fish. It’s used in seafood, meat and vegetable dishes and as a base for other sauces, like teriyaki.  Soy sauce is available in a number of varieties: light, dark, low-sodium and blended. Blended soy-based sauces incorporate other Asian herbs and spices, like garlic, five-spice powder and ginger for added flavor.

2: Sweet and Sour Sauce
Sweet and sour sauce awakens your taste buds by incorporating two strong flavor perceptions into one sauce. Thick, rich and often a vibrant cherry red color, sweet and sour sauce can minimize the greasy flavor of fried foods, enhance the delicate texture of vegetables and boost the flavor of mild meats.  If you want to make this traditional sauce, there are a number of options available to you. Although most recipes will use some form of vinegar — like white vinegar, red wine vinegar or rice vinegar — for the sour side of the sauce, the sweet contribution can come from sugar, corn syrup, fruit juice, marmalade or jelly, depending on the recipe involved.

3: Sesame Oil
A couple of drops of light, fragrant sesame oil can add a lot of taste and aroma to wok dishes. It’s also light enough to work well in cold dishes, dressings and dipping sauces.  Sesame oil is available in both cold-pressed and toasted varieties. Cold-pressed oil has a lighter flavor and is almost colorless, making it a good addition to salad dressings, while the toasted variety has a nuttier, smoky flavor.  Use sesame oil sparingly. Its flavor is distinctive and can easily overpower other ingredients.

4: XO Sauce
XO sauce probably isn’t something you’re going to find in a typical fast-food Chinese restaurant. Instead, it’s considered to be one of the nation’s more highbrow condiments. Originally developed in southern China, the “XO” name can be attributed to XO Cognac, a well-known, high-end liquor, which happens to be a main ingredient in authentic, homemade versions. Don’t worry too much about letting the kiddos enjoy the manufactured variety, however. Most commercially produced XO sauces mimic the taste without any of the actual alcohol.  The sauce can also include red chili pepper, ham, dried scallops and dried shrimp, depending on the chef’s or manufacturer’s recipe. It’s generally enjoyed with a variety of dishes, including dim sum, sushi, squid, vegetables and many types of stir-fry recipes.

5: Black Bean and Garlic Sauce
When it comes to Chinese black bean and garlic sauce, a little goes a long way, thanks to the salty, bold flavor it’s known for. Most amateur chefs prefer to purchase the pre-packaged variety because the preparation is quite lengthy. In fact, the black soybeans used in most recipes are fermented for about six months before they can be pureed and seasoned with other ingredients, like flour and ginger.  In general, only a spoonful or so of the sauce is necessary when preparing your favorite stir-fry recipe.  Once opened, the contents of the can should be refrigerated to prevent spoilage.

6: Ginger
Ginger is an indispensable spice that can add heat and delicate flavor to meat, vegetable and fish dishes. Ginger is sold fresh, powdered, pickled and candied.  For a subtle, fresh flavor with a peppery aftertaste and flowery aroma, pass on the dried variety and choose a chubby fresh specimen from your local produce market. Ginger is like a knobby beige root with a papery covering. Once you’ve stripped off the outer layer, the light yellow, fibrous flesh can be grated or finely chopped and included in either cooked or cold foods.  Ginger freezes well — just tightly seal it in

7: Hoisin Sauce
Lovers of Peking duck or mu shu dishes have already developed a healthy appreciation for hoisin sauce, also known as Peking sauce. Thicker than your average sauce (think a ketchup consistency) hoisin sauce is extremely versatile and is commonly used as a dipping sauce, marinade for barbecued meats or an ingredient in stir-fries.  Although it does have a slightly spicy kick to it, hoisin sauce is beloved for the sweetness it lends to dishes, thanks to ingredients like sugar, sweet potatoes, soybeans and wheat flour.

8: Five-Spice Powder
Five-spice powder packs a powerful flavor wallop. It has a simple base — just five ingredients — but a couple of them are unusual in most Western cooking. You can’t get the punch of five-spice powder with any substitution, and a small amount can wake up the flavors in vegetables, meats, starches and fruits.  The basic blend is comprised of star anise, fennel seed, Szechuan pepper, cinnamon (or cassia) and cloves. Although you can make a serviceable five-spice powder by using equal amounts of all ingredients, there are a number of variations that use more of one or less of another to create subtle differences.

9: Oyster Sauce
Most commonly used to add a briny twist to noodle dishes and vegetable stir-frys. Known for its dark brown color and smooth consistency, the main ingredient of this flavorful sauce is minced oysters and the juices contained therein. Extra ingredients typically include sugar and soy sauce.  Although oyster sauce is prized for its seafood friendly flavor, experts recommend avoiding the cheaper, plastic-bottled variety in favor of higher-end versions in glass containers. Simply put, the less you spend; the “fishier” you can expect the sauce to taste. Once the bottle has been opened, be sure to store it in the refrigerator to help it last longer.

10: Duck Sauce
Duck sauce suffers from an identity crisis of sorts, considering that it’s actually made primarily from plums — not duck, as its name implies. The sauce does have a relationship with the delicious fowl, though, since it was developed for dipping bites of roast duck. But you don’t need to stifle the possibilities of duck sauce with its namesake bird, since it’s actually also commonly used with chicken and beef dishes In fact, most Americans recognize the sweet and spicy orange sauce as the substance egg-rolls are commonly dipped into.  Typically, plums are the main ingredient, though many recipes also incorporate peaches, dried apricots, bell peppers, vinegar, ginger and sugar. Combined, the ingredients give duck sauce its trademark sweet, tangy taste that Americans and lovers of authentic Chinese cuisine have grown to love.

Thanks to  for the info!

Flavor Profile: Classic French Cuisine

frenchHere are some basic spices and herbs used in French cooking.  This is just a starting point and some good tips.  Ultimately, cook what you like and what tastes good to YOU!

Poultry Spices
Salt and pepper are the primary spices in the vast majority of French cooking. Chicken dishes are prepared most often with mustard, paprika, garlic, ginger, thyme, basil, bay leaf, and cayenne pepper. Mustard also rates high in turkey dishes, along with garlic and parsley. Cumin is an important seasoning for orange duck.

Red-Meat Spices
Beef French-style invariably is seasoned with bouquet garni, which is a bundle of herbs including bay leaf, parsley and thyme; other popular spices are garlic, rosemary, ginger, saffron and mustard. Lamb is often prepared with cumin, cayenne, tarragon, mint, thyme, bay leaf, basil, tarragon, parsley, ginger, coriander and cloves. Roast pork recipes include laurel and nutmeg.

Seafood Spices
Fish dishes are typically prepared with paprika, saffron and ginger. Scallops, a favorite seafood, are cooked with basil, thyme, white pepper and garlic. Herbs de provence are spice mixtures in two varieties often used in cooking seafood: either thyme, marjoram, rosemary and savory, or tarragon, chervil, fennel and lavender.

Vegetable Spices
Zucchinis and other squash in French cooking are often seasoned with combinations of clove, thyme, basil, garlic, nutmeg, parsley and chives. Thyme and bay leaf are favored for potatoes, and many tomato-based dishes rely on garlic, parsley, brewer’s yeast, oregano, thyme and basil.

Spices for Fruit
Various fruits are used for sauces and deserts. Favored spices include mint and vanilla. Bananas are cooked with ginger and rum extract.  In Canadian/American-French cooking, cinnamon is often used with apples, but this is not so in traditional French cuisine.

Dessert Spices
From chocolate cakes to fruit crumbles, French desserts are flavored with many spices. These include: vanilla, almond extract, lemon and orange zest, nutmeg, cardamom, salt–and, surprisingly, pepper.

Bouquet Garni
A French herbal mixture. It consists of a collection of herbs, gathered together and tied into a bundle or sachet in cheesecloth, or directly tied together when using fresh herbs. It is used to enhance the flavor of stews, broths or stocks