Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Best of 2014 Blog

I can't believe that 2014 is already coming to a close. This year has seen a lot of changes for Vegetarian & Cooking!. There is an awesome new lay-out, I'm running the blog myself (with a little help from Dave) and I've tried a lot of great new recipes on here with ingredients that I haven't previously used.

Although I'm not usually one for making resolutions, Dave and I have created a three step plan to be healthier overall in 2015. Part of that plan involves creating healthier lunches to balance out the wonderful dinners we create and the new restaurants we try. In 2015 I will be posting some of those healthy lunch options, I have a lot of great recipes planned already, it should be a really good addition.

Without further ado, here are the ten most popular recipes of 2014.

The most popular recipe of 2014 was this Strawberry Lemon Sangria from February. A light and refreshing party drink.

Next was Mini Pepper Nachos from January. These are a nice low carb alternative to traditional nachos, while maintaining all of the great cheesy flavor. 

Peanut Butter Cup Rice Crispy Treats from May came in at number three. These are incredibly easy to make and full of that classic peanut butter and chocolate flavor. 

The Vegetarian Croque Madame from April was number four. This was part of the first Grilled Cheese Month series which featured 30 different grilled cheese sandwiches. The Vegetarian Croque Madame is full of rich gruyere cheese and topped with a fried egg. 

The fifth most popular recipe from March was General Tso's Cauliflower. A lightened up twist on General Tso's Chicken, this recipe is full of flavor. 

The sixth most popular recipe was Arancini (Italian Rice Balls) from January, they can be enjoyed as an appetizer or a light dinner.

The seventh most popular recipe was Blueberry Scones from March. A recipe that we've made many times, Dave is our resident scone maker.

Next was Strawberry Long Island Iced Tea, also from March. A twist on a classic cocktail.

Followed by the Vegetarian Muffaletta Sandwich from the beginning of March. This Mardi Gras inspired sandwich is packed with vegetables and flavor.

Lastly another Mardi Gras inspired recipe from March, Fried Pickles with Spicy Remoluade

Have a safe and wonderful time ringing in 2015! We have plans with friends later (the first time either of us has gone out to celebrate) so we're excited to have a good time before starting school again.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Sangria Jelly Guacamole

I love to make variations on guacamole. However, I haven't had the opportunity lately due to the price of avocados. These avocados were on sale and a great way for us to use some of our sangria jelly.

A Vegetarian & Cooking! original. 

-2 avocados
-1 jalapeno, diced
-Splash of lemon juice
-1 orange
-3-4 tablespoons Sangria Jelly

In a large bowl combine the flesh of the avocados, the diced jalapeno, the flesh of an orange, salt and a splash of lemon juice. Mash the avocado with the other ingredients until the avocado is smooth and the other ingredients are combined.

Add the guacamole to a bowl and make an indentation so that you can add several tablespoons of sangria jelly. 

I enjoyed this recipe, I thought the sweet/savory combination of the sangria jelly paired well with the smoothness and salt of the guacamole. We served this with tortilla chips, it would have also been good spread on toast or served with some sort of flatbread. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Sangria Jelly

Dave and I are excited to unveil the Christmas gifts that we put together for our family and friends. We're in our last year of graduate school, so we wanted to make sure we had a gift that was thoughtful, but also affordable for us. This sangria jelly recipe is great as a spread on toast or used in a variety of dessert recipes. 

Recipe inspired by Tastebook and Cooking from Scratch.

-3 c sugar
-1.5 c wine (a bottle of wine has a little more than 3 cups - we made 4 batches, 2 with a cabernet sauvignon and 2 with a zinfandel)
-1/2 c orange juice
-2 T lemon juice
-2 T triple sec
-1 3-oz package liquid pectin

Combine the wine, orange juice, lemon juice, and triple sec in a sauce pan. As it heats up, stir in the sugar gradually until it dissolves. Bring to a boil.

Have your jars prepared beforehand. Set them in boiling water for a few minutes to destroy any bacteria, and do the same for the lids. The lids should be new regardless, but it is better to be safe. I like to boil the lids in a separate pot of reserve water, so that I have extra boiling water ready in case I need it.

The wine is approaching a boil.

After it reaches a boil, take it off the heat for a moment and stir in the pectin. Return the pot to the heat source and resume the hard boil, for about 2 minutes.

The boil may rise considerably. Take the jelly liquid off the burner. There shouldn't be too much foam, if any on top, but if there is, simply ladle it off into a bowl in the sink. Pour the jelly liquid into 4 1/2-pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch space from the lid of the jar. Screw on the lids and place in the pot of boiling water, left over from sterilizing the jars.

Boil hard for 10 minutes, then remove from heat and let sit for 5. Remove carefully from the water, at this point the lids should seal if they haven't already. The result may not look solid at this point, it will take some time, maybe 24 hours, to set.

Then it's jelly.

Overall, we were very happy with how this turned out. I preferred the jelly made with the cabernet. It was lighter in color and had less of an intense wine flavor. The zinfandel had a stronger wine flavor, but went well with the recipe that we will be posting tomorrow. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Spinach Artichoke Hummus

I first tried spinach artichoke hummus at a bridal shower about a year ago. It's a nice twist on hummus and was popular with my party guests when I served it to a group of friends a few weeks ago. I purchased a large jar of tahini since I make hummus once or twice a month. The investment is worth it if you enjoy store bought hummus -- making hummus your self is so much cheaper and you can get more variety. 

Recipe from Shugary Sweets.

-2 tablespoons olive oil
-4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
-5 ounces fresh spinach
-14 ounce can of artichoke hearts, drained
-15 ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and peeled
-2 tablespoons tahini
-2 tablespoons lemon juice
-1 teaspoons kosher salt
-1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

In a medium skillet, heat olive oil, garlic and spinach for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until spinach wilts. Add artichokes and saute an additional minute. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a food processor (or high powered blender) combine all ingredients. Process until smooth. Enjoy!

I enjoyed adding the fresh spinach to the hummus, it added a nice color. The flavor of this was reminiscent of spinach artichoke dip, without all of the cheese that makes that appetizer fattening. This was good served with tortilla chips or flat bread, fresh veggies are an alternative as well. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Sweet Potato Hash & Egg Stuffed Poblano Peppers

This is a fun twist on breakfast food, we made this on a week night as a breakfast-for-dinner meal. You could easily prepare this on a weekend morning though, if you wanted to have something with a little more substance for breakfast.

Adapted from No Spoon Necessary

-2 large sweet potatoes, diced
-Olive oil
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/4 teaspoon pepper
-1/2 teaspoon cumin
-1/4 teaspoon paprika
-1/4 teaspoon onion powder
-1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
-4 scallions – white and green parts, roughly chopped
-1 small shallot – small dice
-4 poblano peppers
-4 eggs
-Cheddar cheese
-Salsa, optional

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Coat the poblanos in oil and place on baking sheet. Roast until skin is blistered all over, about 20 minutes, turning poblanos over half way through cooking time.

Once the skin of the poblanos is charred, transfer them to a brown paper bag and allow them to steam for 10 minutes.

Peel and remove charred skin from poblano peppers. Use a paring knife to make a slit down the center, lengthwise, and remove all seeds from the poblanos. Transfer poblanos, slit side up, back to aluminum lined baking sheet and set aside.

While the poblanos are roasting, heat oil in a large skillet. Add the shallot and sweet potatoes. Cooking until the sweet potatoes are crispy and browned on all sides.Season
Heat a small amount of olive oil in a skillet. Then crack the four eggs into a large bowl, season with salt and pepper. Whisk, until eggs are light and frothy. Lower heat under skillet to medium. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet and prepare scrambled eggs.

Spoon the potato mixture into each poblano (you will probably have extra potatoes). Fill each with scrambled eggs and top with a small amount of cheddar cheese. Put back into the oven on broil for one to two minutes or until cheese is melted.

Top with salsa and sour cream to serve. 

Dave and I were really happy with how this turned out. The roasted poblanos added a nice amount of heat to the dish, the sweet potato hash was well seasoned and including everything inside the pepper made for a nice presentation. I added salsa to the top of mine for additional color and flavor. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Eggnog French Toast

Around the holidays, maybe there's an eggnog somebody thought they wanted but then other people weren't really sure if they liked it or not. But you want to use, but what's in it anyway? Here's a recipe for an eggnog french toast that makes a good holiday twist of a traditional drink and a classic breakfast.

A Vegetarian & Cooking! original.

-3 slices sourdough bread
-1 egg
-1/2 cup eggnog
-1 T brandy
-pinch nutmeg

Combine and mix thoroughly the egg, eggnog, brandy, and nutmeg.

Coat the bread in eggnog mixture and cook in a frying pan.

Pay attention to how the bread looks and feels, taking care not to burn it but making sure that the french toast is firm throughout, more time than typical french toast.

Serve with syrup and confectioner's sugar.

Since my eggnog already contained corn syrup and sugar, I chose not to add any additional. Served with syrup it was plenty sweet. The eggnog mixture made for a denser french toast, I was wary of using too much egg but I might increase the egg to eggnog ratio in future.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Red Wine Poached Pears (in Slow Cooker)

Merry Christmas! I hope everyone has a wonderful day with their family. The final part of my Christmas meal is these gorgeous poach pears which are made in the slow cooker.

Recipe from Rachael Ray.

A Hamless Holiday
Snowman Cheeseball, appetizer
White Christmas Sangria, drink
Pear, Pomegrante and Spinach Salad, side dish
Chunky Root Vegetable Soup with Swiss and Herb Croutons, main dish
Red Wine Poached Pears, dessert

-1 bottle red wine
-1 cup sugar
-1 cinnamon stick
-8 whole cloves
-6 firm but ripe pears-stems left on, peeled
-Vanilla ice cream, for serving

I cut this recipe in half to make 3 pears. I used a loaf pan to reduce the size of my slow cooker. You want the pears to be covered in wine, however, if like mine a little is peeking over the edge of the wine, just rotate the pears halfway through the cooking time. Or if you're making this with six pears in a large slow cooker, add water to the wine to make sure they are covered.

In a large bowl, stir together the wine, sugar, cinnamon, cloves.

Arrange the pears in the slow cooker (or loaf pan in the slow cooker).

Cover and cook on high heat until the pears are fork-tender, about 2 1/2 hours.

Using a slotted spoon remove the pears and serve alongside vanilla ice cream. 

I love the color of these, they were incredibly beautiful alongside the Christmas decorations. We think the ice cream with these is an absolute must to help cut through the slight bitterness of the red wine. This is something I would love to make for a dinner party, especially since it's easily made in the slow cooker. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Chunky Root Vegetable Soup with Swiss Cheese Croutons

I decided to serve soup as the main dish, partially because one of these posts falls on Soup Wednesday and partially because a nice hearty soup easily serves many people. This recipe is full of vegetables and can easily serve a crowd if doubled or tripled.

Adapted from the Clever Carrot

Other Soup Wednesday Posts: Roasted Wild Mushroom ChowderSlow Cooker Butternut Squash Soup with Maple Roasted Chickpeas;  Onion Soup with Fontina and Thyme.

A Hamless Holiday

Snowman Cheeseball, appetizer
White Christmas Sangria, drink
Pear, Pomegrante and Spinach Salad, side dish
Chunky Root Vegetable Soup with Swiss and Herb Croutons, main dish

-1 cup chopped red onion
-1 cup chopped carrots
-1 cup chopped parsnips
-1 cup chopped celery
-1½ cup chopped red potatoes, skin on
-4 cups vegetable broth
-olive oil
-salt and pepper

-2½ cups cubed day old bread
-½ cup grated swiss cheese

In a large pot, warm the olive oil over moderate heat. Add the chopped red onion, carrots and parsnips. Season with salt and pepper, and sautè until the vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes.

Add the vegetable broth and the potatoes. Bring to a gentle boil. Then reduce the heat to low, and simmer until all of the vegetables are tender and cooked through, about 30 minutes.
Using a hand-held immersion blender, puree a small portion of the the soup; you want the texture to be chunky but not too thick. 

For the croutons: Add the cubed bread to a small bowl. Drizzle with melted butter to coat and season with salt and pepper. Layer the bread cubes on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper and sprinkle the grated cheese over the top. Place the croutons under a low broiler for about 2-3 minutes. They are ready when the bread is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and top with croutons.

This got mixed reviews. Dave really liked this soup and had seconds. He thought the best bites included the croutons and a hearty mix of root vegetables. I thought it was just okay, but ate leftovers for lunch the next day. It had a good flavor, but it didn't do anything to wow me. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Pear Pomegrante and Spinach Salad

Both the appetizer course and the main course are a little heavy, so this pretty red and green salad helps to lighten the meal. Using a salad for the side dish helps to incorporate some fresh elements into the Christmas meal (aside from the sangria soaked fruit, although I totally think that counts) and the Christmas colors keep everything festive.

Recipe from Cooking Classy.

A Hamless Holiday
Snowman Cheeseball, appetizer
White Christmas Sangria, drink
Pear, Pomegrante and Spinach Salad, side dish

-3/4 cup pomegranate arils
-3 oz feta cheese, crumbled
-2 Bartlett pears (firm but ripe), cored and sliced
-9 oz baby spinach

-1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
-3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
-1 1/2 Tbsp honey
-1 tsp dijon mustard
-Salt and pepper, to taste

In a small container, whisk together the dressing ingredients.

Combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl and dress as desired.

This was also a hit. I really liked the dressing, it had good acidity and good flavor. It also kept well, I took the leftovers to work and all I needed to do was stir the dressing with my fork and it was ready to coat my lunch. Dave liked the feta in the salad, he thought it added a nice salt to the dish. I liked the red and green Christmas colors.