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  betterhealth.gov for the following information

Continue reading

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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:

Ingredients:

  • 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)

Preparation:

  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

Preparation:

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.

matzohballs

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!

~Katie

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!

~Katie

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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!

Ingredients:salsa-ingredients1

  • 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.

tomatillosalsa9Preparation:

  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!

salsa-verde-3-602x399

Ellen’s Silken Tofu Chocolate Pie

This recipe is taken from one of Alton Brown‘s recipes.  Very easy and so delicious!  Another great way to introduce tofu into your diet and save on some calories!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups chocolate chips (I use 60% cocoa – bittersweet)
  • 1/3 cup coffee liqueur (optional – it’s just as good without it)
  • 1 block silken tofu (this is also sold as “Soft” tofu)
  • 1 tablespoon honey (more or less to taste)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 – 9″ pie crust (chocolate, graham, cream cheese [baked] – they’re all good 🙂

Melt chocolate and liqueur in a double boiler, add vanilla, honey and salt.

double boiler

Combine sauce with the tofu in a blender and liquify until smooth. Pour into pie crust.

Chill for 2 hours or until set.

rich creamy chocolate pie

No-Boil Mac ‘n Cheese

     This mac ‘n cheese is mostly a recipe that I got from my dad, and it’s (in my opinion) the BEST!  You can eat it simply as-is or add beans and vegetables to the mix to up the nutrition factor.  I have made it with garbanzo beans and edamame (fresh whole soy beans), but you could also try carrots, peas, green beans… whatever you’d like.  As a refresher (or, if you’ve never made a cheese sauce before), you may want to read over: Basic Cheese Sauce

  • In about 3 Tablespoons of Butter, sautée 1/2 Cup of diced White Onion
  • To the onion, add a table spoon of Dijon Mustard, a dash of freshly grated Nutmeg and a pinch of Salt and Pepper
  • Once the onion is soft, add 1-2 cloves of minced Garlic; heat for about a minute
  • To the mixture, add about 3 Tablespoons of All-purpose Flour; whisk constantly until the flour is cooked (see: Basic White Sauce for tips)
  • After the sauce is a toasted blond color, add about 3 cups of Whole Milk
  • Whisk constantly over high heat until the sauce comes to a boil.
  • Once the sauce boils, take it off the heat and then stir in about 8oz of shredded or crumbled cheese (I prefer a mixture of sharp cheddar and mozzarella).  Whisk until the cheese is all melted and the sauce is smooth.
  • In baking dish, place 16oz of uncooked Macaroni pasta, and pour the cheese sauce over the pasta so that the pasta is completely submerged– if you need to add more milk to raise the level of the sauce so that the pasta is completely covered, do so.
  • Top with more shredded cheese if you desire a cheesy crust!
  • Cover the dish and bake at 375° for about 30 minutes.
  • After 30 minutes, increase the temperature to 400° and bake for another 10-15 minutes.  *You can add bread crumbs on top at this point if you’d like.
  • You’ll know it’s ready when the cheese on top starts to bubble and brown.  Yum!

mac 'n cheese

Provence Potato Gratin

Thanks to Cooking.com for the following recipe!

Provence Potato Gratin

Contributed By: Jeanne
Active Time:  1 Hour
Total Time:  2 Hours
A lovely side potato dish to accompany Daube du Bouef or other beef dish. Add a Caprese Salad, a green vegetable of choice and a rich red wine for an elegant dinner.

INGREDIENTS

Yukon Gold, Red or White Potatoes, amount depending upon number of servings you want.
Creme Fraiche (made with 2 cups heavy cream, 2 cups sour cream)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
DIRECTIONS

Make Creme Fraiche several days ahead in a crockery bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 24 to 36 hours to thicken. When it reaches desired thickness, refrigerate until ready to use.
Peel and slice potatoes. Layer in buttered shallow casserole dish – potatoes, creme fraiche, lightly salt and pepper on each layer. Bake, uncovered in 350 degree oven for approximately 2 hours or until tender.

Crispy Seared Tofu

     It seems to me that quite a lot of people have heard of replacing meat with tofu, but hardly anyone knows what to DO with those questionable-looking white blocks of it that they see in the store.  First, you have to decide what kind of tofu you’re needing.  The soft tofu is good to use in smoothies and also sauces that call for soft cheeses (light ricotta).  However, if you’re going to be putting tofu in a dish and you don’t want it falling apart, you’ll want to purchase the “hard” or “extra-firm” version of this soy-wonder.  What I’ll be describing is how to prepare crispy seared tofu made from the extra-firm variety.  This would be the kind of tofu that would work well in curry dishes, hearty stews or eaten on their own with a yummy dipping sauce.  So, here we go!

Tofu

  • As I mentioned before, you’ll want to start with a very firm block of tofu.  You can find these in almost any major super market near the produce or the cheese sections of the store.  If you can’t find it, just ask!
  • Tofu is stored in water, so you’ll want to drain the water off of the block of tofu and pat it dry with a clean towel.
  • Next, cut the tofu into cubes (or whatever shape you like, really) that are roughly the same size.
  • Using a non-stick skillet, lightly coat the pan with oil (preferably one that doesn’t have a low smoking point– I prefer canola oil) and set the heat on high.  You want that sucker to be good and hot!
  • Once the pan is nice and hot, arranged the cut tofu around the pan so that they are not touching and are evenly distributed.  What you’re going to do is sear the tofu until it is golden and crispy.
  • After a side has been seared, gently turn tofu and start searing another side.  You will repeat this process until all sides are golden and crispy.
  • Once all sides have been seared, remove the tofu from the pan and place it on a towel (or paper towels) in order to get some of the excess oil off– you don’t want your tofu to get soggy.
  • Lightly salt (or season with whatever seasonings you’ll be cooking with) and set aside.crispy tofu

Now you’ve got some great looking, crispy tofu that’s ready to eat, thrown into a sauce, mixed with rice or eaten with pasta!  It’s easy, it’s cheap, and now you know how to work with it.

fried tofutofu patties

Making a hearty vergetarian meal

     Many people who have attempted a vegetarian diet often feel discouraged quickly because they feel like they’re “missing something”, and that can often be the case if you’re making your regular recipes and just subtracting the meat.  You have to re-think your plate.  Instead of basing your meals around your protein, you have to start thinking of dishes as a whole.  Basing the meal around whatever sauce you are wanting to make is a great way to re-train your brain.  Making a hearty, vegetarian meal requires very little effort, once you get the hang of it.  Here are a few ideas to help you:

  • Remember that the majority of our world rarely (if ever) eats meat, and so you will want to be willing to look to different cultures and flavor profiles to see what other cultures eat– it may require you going out of your comfort zone, but it can be a worthwhile adventure!
  • Don’t be ashamed of making”one pot meals” as these are often the source of great vegetarian cooking– plus it can save you time!
  • Base your meal around your sauce and go from there.
  • Tofu is a great option for a adding chunky, protein-filled punch to your meals
  • Having various kinds of beans and lentils on-hand to add to dishes that normally would call for chicken or ground beef makes these proteins easily interchangeable.
  • Eggs are also a great source of protein and can be easily added to sauces (see: How to temper an egg), fried over-easy and put on top of pasta (non-tomato based sauces), baked on top of pizzas, boiled and put on top of salads, fried into a sheet and cut up to add to pasta and rice dishes.  Eggs are really a versatile wonder-food!
  • Lastly, try to remember that vegetarian cooking is not about taking something out, it’s about replacing what you usually use as protein with something else.  There are a great many opportunities to try your hand at vegetarian cooking, so take on the challenge– you might be pleasantly surprised!

* Feel free to comment and ask any questions you might have.  If there’s a particular recipe that you’re wanting to know how to make in a vegetarian way, I can try and help you!  Look over some of your favorite recipes, check out new recipes from other cultures, and just get creative.  And remember, I’m always here to help 🙂

Stuffed Butternut Squash

This dish can be served as a side or as a main dish.  It’s a great vegetarian option for a Holiday Dinner because of the flavors and seasonality of the ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Butternut Squash (I prefer smaller, round squashes)
  • 8oz. 0f Bread
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 Onion
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 6-8oz. Fresh Spinach or Seasonal Greens* (chopped)
  • 4oz. mushroom* (diced)
  • 2oz. of sweet peppers*
  • 1/4 cup of Flat-leafed Parsley*
  • 8oz. extra-firm Tofu* (optional)
  • Lemon (or 1 Tbsp. lemon juice)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter (softened)
  • Olive Oil
  • Spices:
    • Sage,
    • Rosemary
    • Salt & Pepper to taste

*These ingredients should be organic whenever possible

Mise en place~

Before you begin, it makes sense to complete your mise en place— this makes assembling the dish much easier.

  1. Turn on oven and pre-heat to 450ºF
  2. Dice bread, then spread out on dry backing sheet.  Put into oven while you wait for it to pre-heat.  The bread should toast until dry (but not crumbling).
  3. Dice onion (preferably white) and then rinse in cool water; set aside.
  4. Mince garlic cloves; set aside.
  5. Rinse and dice sweet peppers; set aside.
  6. Rinse, dry, and chop Spinach (or whatever seasonal green you like/have on hand); set aside.
  7. Clean mushrooms by wiping down with a clean towel.  Chop them to roughly about the same size; set aside.
  8. Rinse, peel, and scoop out butternut squash– be sure to keep the squash intact, and also to cut the bottom off so that the squash is flat enough to bake “sitting up”. (If you want to take the time, you could save the seeds that are scooped out during the cleaning process; rinse, salt to taste, and toast until yummy!).  Once cleaned, oil the squash inside and out with olive oil; set aside in roasting pan.
  9. Be sure to check on your bread in the oven– you don’t want to overly toast or burn it.  (This is a great way to use up any stale bread you might have in your fridge.)
  10. In a bowl, whisk together the 2 eggs, softened butter and  1/4 Cup of milk.  Add salt, pepper, sage and rosemary to your taste/liking.

Now comes the fun part!

Directions:

  1. Let toasted bread cool to room temperature.  Once cooled, add them to the egg mixture.
  2. To the bowl, add the rest of the mise en place vegetables and juice of 1/2 of a lemon.
  3. Mix ingredients together until ingredients are uniformly dispersed.
  4. At this point, if you have decided to include tofu in your recipe, this would be a good time to gently fold it into the mixture.
  5. Once finished, stuff the dressing into the empty cavity of the squash. (If there’s not enough room inside the squash, you can always oil some ramekins and bake the dressing separately, covering ramekin with foil.)
  6. Once stuffed, return squash to “sitting position” in roasting pan, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper (It should stick because the squash was oiled during prep.), cover pan loosely with foil
  7. Bake at 450ºF for 30 minutes.
  8. Then, uncover the squash and reduce heat to 400ºF
  9. Bake for another 20 minute (or, until the butternut squash is well-roasted– you should be able to easily puncture the squash with a fork).
  10. When squash is done, take it out of the oven, and let it rest for a good 10-15 minutes.
  11. Once it has cooled a bit, turn squash over onto it’s side and carve horizontally.

Once plated, you can sprinkle a few of the toasted seeds (if you so choose to save them) and/or a little bit of finely, freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Enjoy!