Saturday, January 31, 2015

Cucumber Cups with Mediterranean Salad

How cute are these?! I recently served this recipe as an appetizer for girls night and they were the perfect healthy appetizer. 

Recipe from the Comfort of Cooking.

-2 cucumbers
-1 small green onion, finely chopped
-1 vine ripe tomato, seeded and finely chopped
-1/8 cup black olives, pitted and chopped
-1/4 tablespoon dried oregano
-1/8 cup fresh feta, crumbled
-1/4 cup parsley, chopped
-Juice of 1 lemon plus 1/2 tablespoon zest
-1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
-Salt and ground black pepper
Using a vegetable peeler, remove the skin from the cucumbers to make stripes.

Cut the cucumbers into one inch "cups" and use a grapefruit spoon to remove the inside.

Mix all other ingredients together in a small bowl and mix thoroughly. Spoon the salad mixture into the cucumber cups and top with additional feta and green onion if desired.

These had wonderful flavor. I think I cut mine a little too big, they weren't perfectly bite size, but rather more like two bites. The salad on the inside was full of flavor and very colorful making for a lovely presentation. I had a few leftover and they kept pretty well in the fridge for about a day until Dave was able to eat them. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Fried Bananas with Coconut Polenta

Guest post from Dave, finally free from the banana hating Alecia:

I had an opportunity to make breakfast just for myself, and I picked up a bunch of bananas to celebrate. This fried banana served on coconut polenta takes you to the tropics while still in your pajamas.

A Vegetarian & Cooking! original.

-1 banana
-flour, 1 egg, flour and brown sugar
-1.5 T butter, divided
-1/8 c walnuts
-1/2 c instant polenta
-1 c coconut milk
-1/2 c milk
-1 oz mozzarella cheese

Slice the banana into large pieces, we want thick, prominent banana for our topping. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet, then toss the banana pieces in flour, dip them in egg, and coat them in a mixture of flour and brown sugar, and put them instantly in the melted butter. Watch the butter so it doesn't burn. Flip the bananas once so that a crust has developed on both sides, and set aside.

Toast the walnuts. When you just start to smell them, they're done. You want a toasty aroma but no burn.

We're cooking the polenta by the package instructions, except substituting milk and coconut milk for some of the liquid. Bring the coconut milk, milk, and 1/2 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Right when it boils, add the polenta and whisk vigorously. If the polenta and whisking doesn't keep the boil down, lower the heat and remove the pan from the burner momentarily until you can control it and it isn't boiling over. The polenta will begin to thicken and release hot bubbles, continue stirring. For additional creaminess, melt in 0.5 tablespoon of butter and an ounce of milk flavored cheese.

Serve polenta with fried bananas and walnut topping.

My inspiration drove an uncommon breakfast. The coconut milk was a leftover in the fridge, and I decided it would give the meal an "island" theme. The coconut polenta surprised me by being delectably creamy, with an undercurrent of coconut taste. Though the component parts were a success, the dish failed to fully cohere, except that it was a fun means, in the throes of winter, to bring some of the tropics right to the breakfast table.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Skinny Avocado Pizza

Pizza is my dieting weakness. There's just something about bread + sauce + cheese that is magical. Sure, I like toppings on my pizza. But plain cheese pizza is just a wonderful combination too. I saw this recipe on Pinterest and it did average much less calories than a traditional pizza and it included some fun ingredients so we gave it a try on a Friday night at home.

Recipe Adapted from Little Broken.


-1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed out overnight in refrigerator
-1½ firm-ripe avocados, cubed ½ inch
-2 med. tomatoes, seeded, cored and diced ½ inch
-½ med. onion, thinly sliced
-1⅓ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Pizza Pesto**
-3 tsp. white vinegar
-1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
-½ tsp. lemon juice
-½ teaspoon honey
-¼ teaspoon paprika
-2 garlic cloves
-2 green onions, roughly chopped
-½ tablespoon sugar
-1 teaspoon black pepper
-1 teaspoon ground cumin
-¼ cup olive oil
Avocado Sauce**
-½ cup Miracle Whip
-2 tablespoon milk
-1 green onion, roughly chopped
-2 garlic cloves
-1 avocado
-squeeze of fresh lemon juice
-salt and pepper

**These will make enough for two pizzas, but the pesto and sauce in half if you're only making one pizza.

To make the pesto -- combine all ingredients in a food processor.

To make the avocado sauce -- combine all ingredients in a food processor.

Lastly to make the pizza you will:

Roll out puff pastry on a floured surface ¼" thick. Pierce the puff pasty with a fork to prevent bubbling (make sure to pierce it all over, I had a piece bubble up, but I popped it with a fork when it came out of the oven) and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet.
Spread the pizza pesto evenly over the puff pasty and sprinkle with cheese. Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 10 minutes or until golden crisp around the edges.
Remove the puff pasty from the oven and top with the tomatoes, onions, and avocado. Drizzle with avocado sauce and enjoy!
We really enjoyed this pizza. The flaky puff pastry crust was nice and crunchy. The pesto added a ton of flavor to the crust and although this didn't have too much cheese, there was just enough for you to know that it was there. The toppings were fresh and colorful, I really enjoyed the addition of the avocado. We liked the avocado sauce as well, it helped to add a little tartness to the pizza. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Red Curry Vegetable Soup

Happy Soup Wednesday. The weather sure has taken a turn for the worst, especially if you're living on the east coast. Make sure to stay safe and warm everyone! 
-1 tablespoon canola oil
-12 oz. cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets (3 cups)
-4 large green onions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
-2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
-4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
-1 15-oz. can petite diced tomatoes in juice
-¾ cup light coconut milk
-6 oz. green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
-1 tablespoon lime juice

Heat the oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add cauliflower and white parts of green onions saute for five minutes. Add curry paste, and saute one more minute.

Add the broth and tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer ten minutes.

Next add the coconut milk and green beans, and simmer five minutes, or until beans are tender.

Stir in lime juice and remaining green onions. Season with salt and pepper.

I really enjoyed this soup. It was packed with a variety of vegetables which helped to make it filing. The curry added a little bit of heat, but just a little, it was nothing unbearable. This also took less than thirty minutes to make which is also great when it comes to a week night dinner. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Fried Egg & Massaged Kale Salad with Cheese Crisps

This salad showed up in the side bar of the website I'm using to track my calories in an effort to be more healthy. It didn't have too many ingredients and looked pretty easy to make, which made it perfect for a week night dinner.

Recipe from My Fitness Pal.

-5 tablespoons parmentino cheese, grated
-1 head kale, stems removed, leaves thinly sliced
-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-1 clove garlic, minced
-1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
-1/8 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
-2 fried poached or sunny side up eggs, for serving
Separate the grated cheese into 1 tablespoon piles on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
Bake at 400 degrees for 5 to 8 minutes .

The cheese crisps should end up like this. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, mustard, and salt until well-combined.

Prepare the salad by adding the raw chopped kale to a medium-sized serving bowl and pouring the dressing over the kale, Use your fingers to massage the dressing into the kale leaves (this will slightly wilt the kale).Add the cheese crisps and serve with a poached egg.

Dave and I both really enjoyed this salad. We actually made this twice, we served it along side some soup for dinner one night. The next day we enjoyed it as lunch on it's own. I like eggs with gooey centers, I think that the yolk added to the dish as a whole. The cheese crisps added a nice texture. And the dressing was well flavored.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Baked Spring Rolls

These baked spring rolls are a nice accompaniment to homemade take-out. I served them with the Tofu and Vegetable Stir-Fry that was posted yesterday. 

Adapted from Cooking Thumb.

-18 spring roll wrappers (8" x 8" size)
-2 cups shredded cabbage
-1 cup shredded carrot
-1 cup chopped green onion
-1 tbsp minced fresh garlic
-3 dashes powdered ginger
-1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
-1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
-1 teaspoon granulated sugar
-1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar
-1 tbsp oil

First prepare the sauce by mixing together the soy sauce, black pepper, granulated sugar and rice vinegar. Set aside.
Heat the oil in  a small skillet and add the garlic and ginger.
After one minute add the rest of the vegetables and saute until tender.
Add the sauce and cook until absorbed.

Add a small amount of filling to each spring roll wrapper and wrap. (If you don't know how check out my tutorial from my post Vegetarian Salad Rolls).

Brush with a little oil and bake at 425 for twenty minutes.
Flip once halfway through the cook time.

These baked spring rolls were so good. The spring roll wrapper got incredibly crispy and the filling had a great flavor despite the fact that not too many ingredients were used. This is something that we will be making again. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Tofu and Vegetable Stir Fry

An excellent dish, with crusted tofu coated in rich sauce, accompanied by fresh, still just crisp veggies, equally nutritious in the first - and second - helping.

Recipe found on MyRecipes.

-1 package firm tofu
-1/4 t black pepper
-2 t corn starch, plus 1.5 t
-3 green onions
-3 cloves minced garlic
-1 t ginger
-1/4 head of cabbage
-2 carrots
-1 c snap peas
-2 T cooking wine
-1/4 c vegetable broth
-2 T soy sauce
-1 T hoisin sauce

Compress the tofu for twenty minutes to reduce the moisture content.

While the tofu is being pressed, cut the green onions into 1-inch pieces, slice the cabbage into strips, julienne the carrots, and trim the peas. Thoroughly mix the cooking wine, broth, soy sauce, hoisin sauce and 1.5 tablespoons of corn starch, and set aside.

Dry the tofu, then cut into identical, bite-sized cubes. Toss the cubes in a bowl with the black pepper and 2 tablespoons of corn starch, until evenly coated. In a medium to high temperature wok, fry the tofu in 1-2 tablespoons oil, turning with a wooden spoon or spatula until browned on all sides. Remove and set aside.

Add the garlic and green onion to the wok, taking care not to burn them. After thirty seconds to a minute, remove and again set aside.

After adding another 1-2 tablespoons oil to the wok, add, in turn, the cabbage, carrots, and peas, frying for a few minutes after each addition, stirring frequently.

Pour in the cooking wine and stir, then return the tofu and garlic to the wok. Give the broth combination another thorough whisk, then pour, and cook until the sauce thickens.

Serve by itself or over rice or noodles.

Make the process easier by preparing the raw ingredients and sauce before heating up the wok, since you want to be working with a hot wok but don't want to leave it unattended for too long.

Although I rued not having a sweet element in the dish, the addition of orange or pineapple to the sauce for example, we considered this a very enjoyable and healthy dinner, and found ourselves going back for more.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Butternut Squash Chipotle Chili with Avocado

This chili is hearty and full of protein which will keep you full. The mix of spices and fresh flavors will make you glad that you have leftovers.

Adapted from Cookie and Kate

-1 medium red onion, chopped
-1 red bell pepper, chopped
-1 green bell pepper, chopped
-1 small butternut squash, peeled and chopped
-4 garlic cloves, minced
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-ground sea salt
-1 teaspoon ground cumin
-1 tablespoon chopped chipotle pepper in adobo
-1 bay leaf
-¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
-14-ounce can diced tomatoes, including the liquid
-2 cans, rinsed and drained
-2 cups vegetable broth
-2 avocados, diced

In a large soup pot, sautée the chopped vegetables (onion, bell peppers, butternut squash, garlic) in one to two tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat. Stir frequently to make sure the ingredients get cooked through.

Once the onions start turning translucent, turn the heat down to medium-low. Add all of the spices (salt, cumin, bay leaf, cinnamon) and canned ingredients (chipotle pepper in adobo, diced tomatoes, black beans, veggie broth), and stir. Cover for about one hour, stirring occasionally.

Serve topped with diced avocado. 

I wasn't sure if I would enjoy this, however, I loved it. The fresh avocado added a nice creamy element to the chili and helped to round out the spiciness. Dave thought adding the squash to the chili would make it sweeter, but the chipotle with adobo's heat and smokiness counterbalanced the sweetness making for a really great vegetarian chili. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Strawberry Sorbet

We made this sorbet for ourselves and some friends, and it was a big hit. The perfect ruby color and smooth, cold sweet strawberry flavor comprised an excellent dessert for a fun get-together.

Recipe from Ezra Pound Cake.

-1 lb strawberries
-1/2 c sugar
-1 T lemon juice
-1 T vodka

Blend the strawberries in a blender or food processor. I used frozen strawberries, which made it more difficult to blend without additional liquid, but which ultimately accelerated the process of making the frozen sorbet treat.

After blending, transfer the strawberries to a bowl, add and mix until dissolved the sugar, lemon juice and vodka. The vodka's purpose is to lower the freezing point of the sorbet for a smoother product; it does not affect the taste.

Keep the sorbet mixture cold until you are ready to finish it in your home ice cream maker.

Make sure that you have prepared the ice cream maker's mixing bowl beforehand, and mix the sorbet according to the ice cream maker instructions.

Return the sorbet to the freezer until it is ready to be served.

It may be cold outside, but we can still enjoy a delicious, low fat treat indoors with friends. This strawberry sorbet delivers and was very easy to put together.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Broiled Tomatoes with Pesto

This quick and easy side dish has beautiful and tasty results. I served this alongside the Cauliflower "Risotto" which was posted Tuesday.

Recipe adapted from Vegetarian Times

-1.5 cups basil leaves
-1 clove garlic, peeled
-2 teaspoons lemon juice
-1/4 cup olive oil
-4 medium tomatoes, cored and halved crosswise
--5 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs

In a blender or food processor add the basil, garlic and lemon juice. With the motor running add the olive oil until a thick paste forms.

Evenly spoon the pesto on all tomato halves and divide the breadcrumbs among each of the tomatoes.

Broil for 3 to 5 minutes or until the tomatoes are hot and the bread crumbs are toasted.

These were a wonderful complement to the Cauliflower "Risotto" which I served for dinner. The tomatoes were juicy and the panko added a nice crunch. The pesto added just enough seasoning to keep them from being too simple. I would even go as far as to say that this could be a substitute for a pizza craving. The only thing that it missing is cheese, but you probably won't miss it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Creamy Tuscan White Bean & Garlic Soup with Rosemary

Happy Soup Wednesday! With all of this crazy cold weather, there's no better time to enjoy soup than now.

-2 tablespoons butter
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-1/2 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
-2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
-1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
-4 cloves garlic, cut in half
-2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
-3 cups vegetable broth (low-sodium recommended)
-1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
-Additional coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan heat the olive oil and butter. Once the butter has melted, add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent and tender, about 5 minutes.

Next  stir in the rosemary, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and beans, and cook for another minute.

Add 3 cups vegetable broth and bring to a simmer. Simmer uncovered until the garlic is tender, about 20 minutes.

After the 20 minutes has passed, use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Return to the heat, add in the heavy whipping cream as well as additional seasoning to taste.

This got mixed reviews. I thought it was just okay. I was expecting the garlic and rosemary to be a little more prevalent in the flavoring. I thought it was just a little bland. Dave enjoyed it and liked the texture. He was also fighting off a cold when I made this so he happily consumed all of the leftovers as well. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Cauliflower "Risotto"

One of our very good friends has embarked on a low-carb diet following a recommendation from her physician. I never realized how many carbs every contains, even healthy ingredients such as apples contain her entire day's worth of carbs.

When her and her boyfriend came over for dinner recently, I was a little unsure of what to make. However, this cauilflower risotto recipe turned out to be the perfect solution. It's pretty low-carb and evokes the sense that you're eating actual rice which has been off limits to her for a while.

This is another vegan recipe! I know it seems like I'm going down the path to veganism since this is my third recipe in a row which is vegan. However -- I would like you to know that I still really love cheese and milk -- but they are so high calorie!! With this more health conscious journey Dave and I started with the new year, getting dairy into my recipes was one of the first things to go. It will make a come back soon. 

Adapted from Fork and Beans.

-1/2 medium head of cauliflower, grated
-1 8-ounce package frozen spinach, chopped
-1/2 c. vegetable broth
-1 small onion, diced
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-2 tablespoon sundried tomatoes
-1 tablespoon capers
-1 teaspoon dried thyme
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-Salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil on medium heat until warmed. Add the onion, garlic, and thyme and saute for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant and translucent.
Next add the grated cauliflower, sun-dried tomatoes, and spinach. Add in the vegetable broth and stir constantly until the broth is well incorporated (you do not want this dish to be runny).

Prior to serving add the capers and season with salt and pepper. 

I was honestly skeptical about this recipe because I am a lover of all things carbs. However, after my first bite, if I hadn't known better, someone could have told me that this was rice and I would have believed them. The onions and garlic helped to flavor the rice, the spinach added a nice color contrast while the capers and sun-dried tomatoes added a salty element. This is something I will be making again. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Vegetarian Salad Rolls

In another attempt to make homemade take-out I served this with yesterday's Spicy Orange Tofu with Peppers. Salad rolls are essentially a spring roll which has not been fried. I found spring roll wrappers in the Asian section of my local grocery store. I also found the rice noodles there as well.

Recipe from MattiKaarts.

1 handful of vermicelli rice noodles, cooked according to package directions
1 packet of spring roll sheets
1 large parsnip, jullienned
2 sticks of celery, jullienned
small handful of fresh basil – chiffonade
small handful of green cabbage, finely sliced

Gather all of your ingredients in an easy to reach place.
Stuff the center of each salad roll with some of each ingredients.

Fold the sides in over the ingredients.
Then fold the bottom up.
Finish the salad rolls by rolling the center to the edge.

Click here to see the video I made showing you how to roll these. I promise it's much easier to see it done and really not that complicated.


Serve with some sauce if desired -- I mixed some soy sauce, hoisin and Sriracha together to make ours.

Dave and I both really enjoyed this as a side dish to our stir fry. The fresh vegetables added a nice crunch, the parsnips added some peppery flavor to the rolls. The sauce that I threw together was a little spicy which we both enjoy, but if you don't like spice, these would be good with any dipping sauce that you enjoy with take-out -- if you have some leftover packets of duck sauce or soy sauce that would work too.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Spicy Orange Tofu with Peppers

Dave and I really enjoy take-out, however, in our effort to eat healthier it's much better to re-create recipes at home so we know what's going into them, rather than trying to guess what mystery ingredients are in a sauce. This quick and easy recipe is more delicious than take-out and is also vegan.

Recipe from Vegan Richa.

-3 teaspoons cornstarch
-2 tablespoons warm water
-2 tablespoons soy sauce
-2 tablespoons rice vinegar
-2 tablespoons maple syrup
-2 teaspoons of Sriracha
-Zest of 1 clementine
-Juice of 1 clementine (about 1/3 cup)

-1 tablespoon oil
-1 package extra firm tofu, cubed
-2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
-1/2 green bell pepper thinly sliced

In a bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water. Add the remaining sauce ingredients, set aside.

Heat oil in a very large nonstick pan or wok over medium-high heat. Add tofu to pan and cook, browning on most all sides.

Once the tofu is browned, add the garlic and sliced bell pepper and cook for one minute. Add the sauce and cook until sauce begins to bubble. Then reduce heat, cover and cook for another 2 minutes. Serve with rice if desired (I just used Uncle Ben's Jasmine Rice).

This was really tasty. The heat level was nice, but it wasn't overwhelmingly spicy. There was a nice texture contrast between the barely cooked green pepper and the tofu. I think it's best to serve this over rice to make it a more substantial meal, but it would have been fine eaten alone. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Spaghetti Squash "Mac" and Cheese

The spaghetti squash for this recipe came from the freezer, the last of a crop of squashes that produced recipes like southwestern spaghetti squash, pad thai, stuffed peppers, and spaghetti squash cakes. This recipe is a take on the classic comfort dish macaroni and cheese.

Recipe from Popsugar.

-1/2 spaghetti squash
-1 T olive oil
-1 T flour
-1 c milk
-1 c reduced fat cheddar cheese
-1/4 c Parmesan cheese
-Panko bread crumbs

Defrost the spaghetti squash and press out the excess moisture. (To prepare and use a fresh spaghetti squash roast it, then freeze the rest for later!) Put the squash into a 9x5 loaf pan and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat, then whisk in the flour for 1-2 minutes. Add the milk, whisk regularly and bring nearly to a boil, then stir in the cheddar and Parmesan cheeses. When the cheese is melted and the sauce is creamy, pour it over the spaghetti squash and mix them well in the loaf pan.

Top with bread crumbs and cayenne pepper. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes.

The creamy texture and rich cheesy taste of this dish were reminiscent of macaroni and cheese. The spaghetti squash, however, was not a perfect substitute for pasta. The recipe has the friendly character of a "mac and cheese lite," and was a healthier version to be sure. Still, it contained enough cheese and milk that it may be better to look no further than classic macaroni and cheese for that delicious and comfortable meal or side, and eat it moderately, if you can.