Archive for the ‘Vegetarian’ Category

Blueberry-Banana Breakfast Smoothies

September 26, 2011

One positive thing about losing power for a few days was that I was forced to do a freezer-inventory.  There were quite a few things past their prime which were relegated to the trash.  I also made a few nice discoveries, like a container of homemade pesto that accidentally got pushed to the back of its shelf.  I was also reminded that I had a few bags of frozen blueberries we’d picked earlier in the summer.  They are perfect for pancakes and muffins, but also for smoothies!  By adding them to your blender frozen, they provide the ‘icy’ part of the smoothie without having to water down the flavor with actual ice cubes.

What I love most about these smoothies is that they are both healthy and delicious, and when made with Greek yogurt and calcium-enriched orange juice, they pack the 1-2 punch (protein & calcium).  I use fat-free plain yogurt, which is high in protein and calcium, low in sugar, and adds creaminess.  Don’t worry if you’re kids don’t care for yogurt—-it is undetectable when blended with all the flavorful fruit.

Blueberry Banana Smoothies

Makes 2 cups

1 cup frozen blueberries

1 small banana

1/2 cup plain, fat-free Greek yogurt (or substitute plain regular yogurt)

1/2 cup orange juice (I prefer calcium-enriched)

Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend for approximately 1 minute, or until thoroughly combined and thickened.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

“Greek” Guac

September 19, 2011

I looooooooove guacamole.  It leaves salsa in the dust any day of the week in my book.  avocados have a fair amount of fat, but it’s healthy, plant-based fat, rather than the artery-clogging animal-based fat.  Traditional guacamole is simple–mashed avocado, salt, a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, and perhaps some jalapeno and minced onion.  Some call for freshly diced tomatoes, others call for sour cream.  I’ve made it in a wide variety of combinations and I love them all.

On a recent night I was making fish tacos and had half of an avocado in my fridge.  Knowing that small amount wouldn’t be enough, I considered how I could ‘stretch’ it a little.  Non-fat Greek yogurt to the rescue!  By adding just a touch of the yogurt, it added creaminess, tang, and smoothed out the consistency of my guacamole.  Best of all, it adds some protein and calcium, which is an added bonus.  Even my all-things-green-skeptical children proclaimed it “mmmmm–delicious!”.

Serve with tacos, on top of a burger, or simply with tortilla chips (check out my easy homemade tortilla chip recipe here).

“Greek” Guacamole

Makes 1.5-2 cups

1 ripe avocado, peeled and diced

2-4 tablespoons non-fat plain Greek yogurt (adjust to taste/desired consistency)

1/4 cup minced red onion

1 lime, juiced

1/2 teaspoon cumin

salt and pepper

By hand, mash the avocado with a fork until creamy.  Add additional ingredients and continue to mash/stir until smooth.

In a food processor, add all ingredients to work bowl fitted with the metal blade and pulse until smooth.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

Roasted Red Pepper Salad with Pine Nuts…VOTE!

July 18, 2011

One last push before voting closes on July 25th!!!

Ages ago I entered a recipe contest on a whim, and ended up the first runner-up.  The prize was the Cooking with All Things Trader Joe’s Cookbook, which became one of my favorites.  It also began a nice collaborative relationship with the authors, Deana Gunn and Woni Miniati.  I’ve been contributing recipes to their cookbooks ever since.

When I saw that one of my favorite magazines, Saveur, was having a Home Cook’s Recipe Challenge and the topic was “BBQ side dishes” I knew exactly what to enter.  It’s one of my favorite recipes which I’ve been making for something like 15 years.  My Roasted Red Pepper Salad with Pine Nuts is not only delicious, but simple to prepare (the peppers roast right on the grill next to your burgers or ribs).  It also happens to be delicious!

Check out the recipe, give it a try (you won’t be sorry!), and cast your vote today!  Thank you!

Vote for Season To Taste’s Roasted Red Pepper Salad with Pine Nuts here!


Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

A Scone Too Good Not to Pass Along

June 6, 2011

I love creating recipes based on something I ate in a restaurant, something I heard about, or whatever is in my refrigerator.  However, sometimes I come across a recipe in a magazine, cooking show, or in this case, from a friend via another food blog, that is just too good not to share.  When my foodie friend Sarah updated her Facebook status with “Feta and roasted tomato scones. Ah mah gah” how could I not be curious?  Well, turns out the recipe is from “Sweet and Savory Life” , a photo-centric food blog written by Alice, a wonderful photographer, home-cook, and mom of three.  Her recipe for Roasted Tomato Feta Scones is wonderful. 

We usually think of scones as sweet, but this savory scone is delicious and would be perfect with brunch, lunch or dinner.  The roasted tomatoes are slightly sweet ( I roasted my own, but you can purchase them already roasted at the grocery store, as Alice suggests), the feta is tangy, and the scallions give a oniony bite.  They are also really pretty–the colors are fantastic.  Okay, so mine weren’t as perfectly triangular as hers, but I’m sure they tasted just as good.  I made a double batch and put half in the freezer for another day.  If you have a food processor (my very favorite small kitchen appliance), they mix up in a flash and are really very simple.  Give them a try–you will be saying “ah mah gah” too.

Roasted Tomato Feta Scones from Sweet and Savory Life

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

Broccoli-Rice Bake with Cheddar

May 16, 2011

For me, spring cleaning isn’t just about scrubbing corners and clearing closets.  I extend my clean-up-and-clear-out to the freezer.  I am an expert at stocking up and  freezing meals, pestos, sauces, and soups all winter long, when the kitchen creature in me is in high  gear.  The problem is that then I forget what’s in the freezer and it never gets defrosted and eaten.   Project Freezer Clear Out must commence.

Tonight I found three huge boneless pork chops, a half bag of frozen broccoli, and a packet of brown rice in my freezer (for those of you who haven’t tried Trader Joe’s frozen organic brown rice, it’s a Godsend).  In my fridge I had a small piece of cheddar cheese, one egg white, and I also  found a bag of almond meal (not sure why I ever purchased that).  Well, the pork, egg and almond meal would become Almond Crusted Pork Chops (sounds pretty good for leftovers, right?), and I’d make a broccoli bake with the rice and cheddar.  After doing a quick internet search on “Broccoli Cheese Rice” I found many recipes for casseroles, and every single one included using a can of condensed “cream of whatever” soup and/or cheese-wiz. No thanks!   I decided to make a less processed cheese sauce (similar to that used in last week’s mac and cheese) and then just mix it with the broccoli and rice.

Once put together, the dish doesn’t even need to be baked, but I liked the crunchy top that was created when I did.  I already had the oven hot for the pork chops, so why not.  I thought it was a very simple side dish that would go well with any number of main courses.  And to think, it was made entirely from items I wanted to clear out!  Open your freezer this spring and start cleaning it out—you might be surprised by what you can create!

Broccoli-Rice Bake with Cheddar

Serves 4

8 oz frozen broccoli florets (thawed)

2 cups cooked brown rice

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon flour

1/2 cup skim milk

2 oz cheddar cheese, shredded

pinch nutmeg (optional)

salt+pepper to taste

1/4- 1/2 cup Panko or regular bread crumbs for topping (optional)

Place rice and defrosted broccoli in an oven-proof dish.

In a medium saucepan, heat butter until melted and add flour.  Cook, while whisking, for a couple of minutes to create a “roux” (it will be thick and whitish).  Add milk and continute to whisk until thickened.  Add shredded cheese and whisk until melted.  Add nutmeg if desired, plus salt and pepper to taste.  Pour on top of broccoli/rice mixture and stir until combined.

Top with breadcrumbs (if desired) and place in 350 degree oven until heated through and breadcrumbs are  lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Serve hot.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

Veggie Macaroni and Cheese

May 2, 2011

There are a few things to which I should never admit.  For instance, my insane weakness for BLTs and bacon in general.  Or the fact that I occasionally put an ice cube in my wine during summertime.  Even worse, that I get inexplicably excited when I realize I have all the ingredients for a recipe without having to go to the grocery store.  Better yet, if in the process I can also use up a few things that would otherwise have been gone to waste in my refrigerator, I’m in heaven.

This is exactly what happened after a string of classes that left me with a couple different varieties of leftover blocks of cheese, two thirds of a can of diced tomatoes, broccoli florets, and some whole milk (which I never usually buy).  To me this screams homemade mac-and-cheese. 

I grew up eating great homemade macaroni and cheese.  My mother would cube both cheddar and Velveeta for her baked dish, which always yielded a delicious result.  These days both my mom and I avoid as much processed food as we can, so I’ve switched from Velveeta to Gruyere, but kept the cheddar (I prefer white sharp cheddar).  I also added some veggies…diced tomatoes and broccoli…to rev up the nutrients in my mac and cheese.  It also makes it more colorful, which I love.  Top with some crunchy Japanese-style “Panko” breadcrumbs and you have a delicious, homey dish, which was perfect for this “oh my goodness it’s spring but it’s snowing!” kind of days!

Veggie Mac & Cheese

 Serves 6

1 lb pasta (I used “orechette” –but any short shape works)

2 cups broccoli florets

4 tablespoons (half a stick) of unsalted butter

1/4 cup flour

2 cups milk

2 cups grated Gruyere cheese

1 cup grated sharp white cheddar

1/3 cup grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon salt

freshly ground white pepper

1 cup diced tomato (drained of juices)

In a large pot of salted water, cook pasta according to package directions.  During last minute of cooking time, add broccoli directly to the water.  Drain pasta and broccoli and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large pan, heat butter until melted.  Add flour to pan and whisk vigorously for a couple of minutes until it forms a bit of a paste.  Add milk to pan and stir.  Allow to heat for about 5 minutes, then add all the cheeses until melted (stir occasionally).  Add nutmeg, salt, and pepper and stir to combine.

Toss the pasta, broccoli and diced tomatoes to the cheese mixture and transfer into a large baking or casserole dish.  Top with panko breadcrumbs and run under the broiler for a couple of minutes until top is toasted and golden.  Serve hot.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

Easter Egg Salad Sandwiches

April 25, 2011

Coloring eggs is one of my favorite traditions, however come Easter Monday, we always seem to have more pastel hard-boiled eggs than we know how to use.  Luckily, I’m a huge fan of egg salad. 

 I tend to be a bit of  a ‘purist’ about many food-related things.  I don’t like pineapple on my pizza.  I don’t want cherry flavor in my Coke, and other than mayo and salt, I prefer my egg salad “naked”.  Nothing in it or on it was how I rolled.  That was until recently.

Faced with a lot of eggs and produce drawer full of left over vegetables, I decided to step out of the egg carton and try something new.  Being my first foray into experimental egg salad territory, I didn’t get too crazy.  I’d start simply.  Chopped celery was my first addition, and since I hadn’t broken into a cold sweat yet, I decided to also add some chopped scallions.  The color alone was gorgeous–the pale yellow of the yolks with the light green celery and dark green scallion already looked better than my usual version.  But how would it taste?

Delicious.  See what happens when you take a walk on the wild side?  Better watch out, next thing you know I might be ordering chicken on my pizza!

Easter Egg Salad

Makes enough for 3-4 sandwiches

6 hard-boiled eggs

1/3 cup mayo (or more if desired)

1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

2 scallions, finely sliced

Using an egg slicer or knife, dice the eggs and place into a medium bowl.

Add the mayo, salt, celery and scallions and mix to combine.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

Fettucine with Lemony Mascarpone

April 4, 2011

Every so often I hit the jackpot with a recipe.  Tonight I was looking for a way to use some mascarpone cheese I had leftover from one of my Connecticut cooking classes.  Mascarpone is an Italian cream cheese…not as sweet as the cream cheese you put on your bagel, but richer and creamier.  If you’ve had Tiramisu (or at least real Tiramisu), you’ve had mascarpone.  I knew it would make a delicious and creamy sauce for pasta, so I went hunting for a good recipe.

Well, I found it.  I love when what I find is from a fellow food blogger rather than some commercial site.  The recipe I found, for “Spaghetti with Mascarpone, Meyer Lemon, Spinach and Hazelnut” was a winner.  Amazingly, I had all the ingredients, save for a Meyer lemon (sweeter and more expensive than regular lemons).  I did have a regular lemon, but I had a suspicion it would work just fine.  I was right.  O. M. G.  Delicious.  I used fettuccine instead of spaghetti, but “same difference” as people love to say.   I almost couldn’t believe I didn’t make any changes.  It was that good. 

With my hat off to the folks over at The Kitchn…here is the recipe. Enjoy!

 Spaghetti with Mascarpone, Meyer Lemon, Spinach and Hazelnut from The Kitchn

Carrot Applesauce Muffin Bread

March 21, 2011

I had a bunch of baby carrots left over from an untouched crudite platter, and they were looking a little dry.  In my daughter’s world, this means they are completely inedible and ‘yuck’.   Never one to waste food, I threw them into the food processor and whirred them around until I had a nice bowl of shredded and decidedly not-dry looking carrots.

Now, what to do with them?  I considered a carrot-ginger soup, but also anticipated a “yuck” response to it, so I went in search of baked goods recipes.  When I came across a few for Carrot-Apple muffins, I figured I’d hit the jackpot.  When the “apple” turned out to be applesauce, I was even happier since it meant no peeling and chopping required. 

Although the recipe I found from WholeFoods was pretty healthy, I decided to take it a step further and reduce the sugar and eliminate the oil entirely.  Applesauce can often be substituted for oil in baked items, and since this recipe already had applesauce, I simply added a bit more to replace the oil.  I also split the recipe so instead of a dozen muffins, I made six muffins and one mini loaf of quick bread. 

The results were met with mixed reviews.  They definitely were not sweet, which for an adult is fine, but the kids didn’t care for them as much.  My kids also didn’t love the not-so-sweet cream cheese frosting I used to top the muffins.  I also think it’s best to process the carrots a bit more finely so there are no “chunks” in the batter (grating them on a box grater is probably the best idea).  The recipe below takes all this into consideration, and yields a tastier, more kid-friendly muffin bread.

Maybe I should have stuck to the soup…

Carrot Applesauce Muffin Bread

Makes 2 mini-loaves

(adapted from WholeFoods)

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon non-aluminum baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup finely grated carrots 
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1 tablespoon turbinado sugar

canola oil or other non-stick spray

Preheat oven to 350°.

Spray two mini -loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray.

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

In another bowl, combine carrots, applesauce, eggs, milk,  and vanilla.

Add half the carrot mixture to the flour mixture, stir until blended then add the rest pf the carrot mixture.

Pour batter into prepared pans and top with chopped walnuts and a sprinkle of turbinado sugar.

Bake about 30 minutes or until a toothpick in the center of bread comes out clean. Serve warm.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

St. Joseph’s Macaroni, Simplified

March 14, 2011

St. Joseph’s Day, or the Feast of St. Joseph,  is celebrated on March 19th but is not widely recognized in this country.   In countries like Italy, Spain and Portugal, it is also Father’s Day, so holds a greater significance.  However, in my Italian-American family, the day was marked with a special dish.  My grandmother’s “St. Joseph’s Macaroni” is a hearty vegetarian dish;  a thick soup featuring three types of beans and three types of pasta.  Two years ago I posted her original recipe which is made from dried beans.  Dried beans require both overnight soaking and around three hours of cooking time, so this year, I decided to try a ‘short-cut’ version.   By using canned beans I cut my prep time significantly, and I have to say it was still delicious. 

The three types of beans in this dish are red kidney, lentil, and split peas.  The first two are widely available in cans (I actually used pre-cooked lentils I found in the refrigerator section at Trader Joe’s), but I’ve never seen split peas in can, unless you substitute a can of split pea soup, as my mother later suggested.   Therefore, I did have to soak and cook those, but because they are so small they actually cooked in a short period of time (well under and hour).   For the pasta, my grandmother traditionally used broken spaghetti, ziti, and elbow macaroni, and for the most part I stick to the same shapes.  The only other change I made this year is that I left out the fresh fennel from the original recipe, in hopes of my kids liking it a little better. 

By using a few short-cuts, cooking time on this dish is reduced by over 2 hours, but the flavor is not compromised.  I have a feeling my grandmother would have appreciated those 2 precious hours, and so do I.

Simple Saint Joseph’s Macaroni

Serves 8

2- 15 oz cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups cooked lentils
1/4 lb split green peas
2 onions, chopped
1/2 lb pasta (combination of elbows, ditallini and broken spaghetti)
6 oz fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
Olive oil
Place the split peas in a large bowl and cover with water by about 2 inches. Soak for 8 hours or overnight.
Drain peas in a colander and place in a large soup pot with 1.5 quarts of water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
Simmer for 30-45 minutes, or until peas are softened.
Add the kidney beans and lentils together with the pasta and return to a boil.  Continue cooking until pasta is al dente.
Add the spinach and stir to combine until it is wilted
Season liberally with salt and drizzle about 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil into the dish.
Stir again, and serve hot.
Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.