Tag Archives: vegetarian

Foraging-Pantry Style

16 Feb

Holidays were so busy this year. I had house guests throughout the season. I dearly love a bustling holiday crowd, but let’s face it-it’s work. Now the holidays have passed with warm happy memories lingering, warming even the coldest of winter days. But I am tired. Which is why I foraged in the kitchen for dinner tonight. It was an epic win. Why? No trip to the store. Created from items on hand. It was easy. And delicious.

It began as a late afternoon (post catnap…isn’t that what weekends are for?) scattered thought-what sounds good for dinner tonight? So I meandered off of the couch and went to the freezer. Score! There was some ravioli that was fresh but had been tossed into the freezer. I pulled it out. It was the starting point. On to the pantry.

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It is a time saver to get fresh pasta. It cooks much more quickly than dried. Don’t have time to cook it? Toss it in the freezer for later!

After flipping the pantry light on and gazing somewhat absentmindedly (my brain may still have been in nap mode!) at the shelves, I silently willed inspiration to come. The ravioli was my center of the plate star, but it needed sauce. Something interesting, fun, different. And above all, quick and easy.

I found a can of artichoke hearts, diced tomatoes, olive oil, and a couple of garlic cloves. The fridge had some fresh celery, butter, half and half, and some leftover chicken stock. I could work with this. So (a lazy) dinner prep got underway.

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This is what I foraged from the pantry and fridge.

I took out a sauce pan, put it on a medium heat, and added about 1 tablespoon each of butter and olive oil. While the butter melted into the oil I roughly chopped some celery stalks and leaves. Listen y’all, there is no reason not to use the entire celery stalk for a sauce. I chopped the garlic as well.

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Start with extra virgin olive oil and good quality butter.

When the butter and oil were hot, the celery garlic mixture went into the pan to sizzle for a couple of minutes. I stirred and kept it on a medium low heat-garlic can burn quickly so it must be watched and stirred.

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The garlic and celery filled the kitchen with delicious aromas. Don’t forget to use the celery leaves!

In between stirs, I drained the artichoke hearts. They were packed in water so after they were drained I squeezed them upside-down over the sink to remove excess liquid between the leaves. After a rough chop I added them to the sizzling garlic and celery. Mmmmmm. The kitchen smelled wonderful.

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Drain your artichoke hearts to control the seasoning in the sauce.

Next in went a can of diced tomatoes, juice and all. Mindful to layer flavors, I added salt and pepper. I keep a salt cellar of a high quality salt and pepper mixture next to my stove. This makes it easy to layer in seasonings as I cook.

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Keeping a salt cellar on the counter is an easy way to layer flavor as you cook.

If adding salty ingredients such as capers to a sauce, I go directly for the pepper and leave the salt out until the last minute, adding if necessary. No capers here, so salt and pepper were a must.

The juice in the tomatoes needed a fresh minutes to reduce and thickness slightly. The heat was still on medium and it took about 8 minutes for this lovely sauce to thicken up. Time to layer some more flavor. A few splashes of chicken stock was sounded yummy.

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Any kind of broth will do for this easy recipe!

After adding the broth, I added a few red pepper flakes as well.  I just can’t stop myself from adding a heat layer. Since this was a recipe for two and Denis is not as fond of heat in a sauce as I am, I went light with just s few flakes. A good stir incorporated all of these lovely flavors.

The sauce was simmering beautifully. Time for the creamy. I added about 1/2 cup of half and half. If you are lactose intolerant you can leave this out. The sauce will still be thick and lovely.

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Oh the creaminess of half and half!

With a good stir and the heat lowered to medium low, this fragrant sauce needed only a few minutes to heat through. I had put a pot of water for the ravioli on, and it was boiling. Time to get the ravioli cooking. It had defrosted and was a fresh pasta. It cooked up in a snap.

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Add a heaping Tablespoon of salt to your pasta water. This not only helps add a bit of flavor to the pasta, the starchy water will thicken any pasta sauce.

Before draining the pasta, I gently removed about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and slowly stirred it into the pasta sauce. A little cooking hint for you-starchy pasta water helps sauce thicken and cling to the pasta. It is a step that is worthwhile to incorporate.

Time to plate this up.  I had opened a can of green beans to cook up quick as a side dish. I chopped up 2 small peppers I’d found in the fridge and added those to the green beans.  Goat cheese crumbles were on hand, so those were lightly sprinkled onto the green beans. Again, this was all foraged from the pantry and fridge. No trip to the grocery store tonight!

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I use my Christmas plates long past the holiday. They just make me happy, so it is usually mid January (okay truth be told maybe even a little later than that) by the time they get put up. Here is the finished super easy dinner. Look at how that sauce clings to the pasta perfectly.

There was just a few ravioli left, so into the fridge they went. My daughter nabbed them the following morning after a long run. Dare I say they were better the next day? Pasta always is! What can you make from your pantry? Send me a postcard and let me know. I love hearing from you!

Artichoke Tomato Sauce

  • 1 Tablespoon each olive oil and butter
  • small stalk celery, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 14 ounce can Artichoke hearts in water
  • 1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 4 ounces chicken stock (can substitute vegetable stock for vegetarian option)
  • 4 ounces half and half (may omit for vegetarian option
  • Cooked pasta of choice-enough for 2 people
  • 4 ounces pasta cooking water
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Add butter and olive oil to pan and heat on medium. When sizzling add celery and garlic and turn heat to medium low.  Stir and let cook for about 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile, drain and roughly chop artichoke hearts. Add to the pan and stir. After 4 minutes, add tomatoes with the juice. Add salt and pepper. Stir and simmer for 8-10 minutes until slightly reduced and thickened. Gently stir in the stock. After well incorporated, add the half and half, if using.

Let the sauce simmer. Add to pasta and enjoy.

NOTE-If a keto or gluten free diet is your thing, this sauce is also wonderful spooned over a piece of chicken or fish instead of pasta. If this needs to be a vegetarian sauce, leave out the half and half and use vegetable broth. For the dairy intolerant, omit the butter and the half and half. How is that for a flexible sauce? Gotta love that!  Let your imagination run wild with this sauce and let me know what you create!

 

 

 

Pignolia. A Love Story.

29 Dec

Pignolia. Pine nuts. Whatever the name oh how I love ’em! This more than just a passing crush or a fanciful flirtation. J’adore! Flexibility with this seed means that they can go into so many dishes! Are you living a keto, vegan, paleo, or gluten free lifestyle? No problem. Bring on the pignolia. Not only that, with a busy lifestyle, the grab and go ease of pine nuts just add to their fabulousness!

Pine nuts often get overlooked. If you have eaten them in the past and gotten away from them, this is a little nudge to add them back into the mix. If you have never tried them, well, there is no time like the present.

These buttery textured delights can be a perfect addition to a granola snack mix, tossed on a salad, or blended into your favorite pesto and home made hummus. The flavor packed pine nut shouldn’t be saved for the special occasions-add them into the regular rotation of goodies!

Pine nuts are literally the seeds from pine cones. There are many species of pine nuts but don’t let that intimidate you. Don’t let the cost sway you away from these delicious little nuggets either. A little can go a long way.

Why add them into your diet? Pine nuts are rich in many nutrients that boost metabolism and bolster immune system health. So they not only taste delicious, they can help your body resist disease. Also, they are especially rich in monounsaturated fatty acids which can naturally lower bad cholesterol.

And if you still need convincing, look no further than your mirror. Pine nuts are rich in vitamin E. What does that have to do with your beauty regime? Vitamin E is excellent for cells-which helps maintain beautiful skin. Toss that makeup aside and start eating more of these flavor packed kernels.

They are delicious right out of the bag, but toasting pine nuts kicks my love affair with them into overdrive. Why go through the extra step to toast pine nuts? It intensifies their unique nuttiness and adds a slightly firmer bite. Adding them to a recipe, a salad, or even a creamy slice of cheesecake lends a wonderful toasty flavor layer.

And it is easy peasy to do. First simply toss the pine nuts into a dry heated pan. No oil is needed here.  Put them on a medium heat and spread in an even layer.

 

Put the pine nuts in a dry pan.

Keep your eye on them, stirring every few minutes while they heat up. They will become deliciously fragrant as they toast.

As these seeds toast they begin to emit a lovely warm fragrance.

Don’t leave the kitchen-nuts can burn quickly. While they toast, the enticing scents wafting through your kitchen will get your mouth watering!

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When they are perfectly golden brown, remove them from the heat and place them on a plate. It is hard to resist the temptation to pop those delectable nuts into your mouth by the handful while they cool.

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Now you can add them to your favorite recipe or simply sprinkle on anything! Put them on a salad. Add them as a cheesecake garnish. Make a big batch of pesto-some for now and some for later. Create some one of a kind home made hummus. Add them to a granola and nut snack mix. Let your creativity abound! One taste and you will fall in love with toasty pine nuts too!

Basic Pesto:

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves
  • 1 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves fresh garlic finely minced
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Use as a sauce for pesto or vegetables, or brush on fish or chicken. 1/2 cup cream may be added for a creamy pesto sauce which is lovely on tortellini.

Hummus:

  • I 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, plus more for garnish
  • 2 T. Fresh lemon juice
  • 2 T. Tahini (may substitute 1-2 T. peanut butter or omit
  • 1 t. paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Place all items in blender and blend until smooth. May add more olive oil if necessary for desired consistency. Garnish by sprinkling more toasted pine nuts before serving.

 

 

Soup Time!

30 Dec

Cold weather is soup weather. When the chill sets in, the soup goes on. I decided to try making a soup I had never made before. And I wanted to make it from scratch. My darling Denis talked about his sister Kathy’s Italian Wedding Soup. He remembered it being quite delicious. Decision made.

Italian Wedding Soup has meatballs, so my first order of business after finding a recipe that I could start with (while making it my own) was to make meatballs. I used a couple of types of ground meat, bread crumbs, a beaten egg, and some italian seasoning. While some epicureans fry their meatballs, I bake mine. I cooked up a big batch so there were extra to put into the freezer for another day.

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While the meatballs were cooling, I assembled the rest of my ingredients. Cooked meatballs, chicken stock (both homemade and store bought), shredded carrots, celery, arugula and spinach, orzo, eggs, parmesan cheese, and finally salt and pepper were set to come together in one magnificent soup. The homemade chicken stock was loaded with succulent herbss-and would perfectly season the soup.

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Next I started chopping. I like everything ready when I begin making something, It just makes it easier to assemble.

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Just a little FYI…when I use celery in a recipe, I use both the outer stalks and the leafy insides. I don’t waste any flavorful tidbit when I cook.

Next I sautéed the carrots and celery in a little butter. Then I added the stock. My first  ever soup kettle of Italian Wedding Soup was underway. The tantalizing aromas floating through the house brought my darling Denis to the kitchen. One of the many things I love about cooking…the kitchen becomes an impromptu gathering place.

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The soup was bubbling away, and the scents wafting through the house made the frosty day outside fade away . Next, more building of the flavors when the chopped arugula and spinach went into the broth.

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Then it was time to froth up the eggs. When I add eggs to any recipe, they sit on the counter for about 20 minutes to come to room temperature before adding them to a recipe. Eggs work better in recipes when they are room temperature.

 

After whipping the eggs, I stirred the soup and slowly drizzled the eggs in-they cooked slowly as they were added. The soup was coming together beautifully.

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The house was filled with the warmth of bubbling soup.

In went the meatballs. They just had to be heated through and the soup was complete. Time to dig in!

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Freshly grated parmesan garnished the soup. Cripsy garlic bread completed the meal. While it was chilly outside, inside it was warm and oh so delicious.

Soup lends itself to personal csutomization. It can be easily tailored to taste. Love pepper? Grind some flavorful heat into the soup. Want more veggies? Chop them up and toss them in. Is vegetarian soup your preference? Use tofu and vegetable broth. Easy Peasy. Let your food express your personality and have fun!

 

Edamame

22 Apr

Edawhat?  Edamame!  And it is time you try some!  Okay, so snobbish foodies are known for giving things fancy names.  Edamame is no exception.  They are simply green soybeans.  Or more accurately, young soybeans.  As asian staple for centuries, their popularity is picking up here in the good old US of A.  Which is great news for us!

Soy beans are a fruit that grow in a pod and considered a protein.  They are a legume. Besides soy, other legumes include peas, lentils, and beans.  They pack a wonderful nutritional punch.  And they are very versatile.  Soy beans, or edamame, can be prepared in so many ways!  But first, back to the nutrition.

Edamame can be beneficial to our health.  They are low in calories, and high in fiber.  Half a cup has about 9 grams of fiber (we should shoot for about 20-25 grams of fiber daily) and less than 8 grams of fat.  They are a good source of folate, vitamin k, manganese, and many other essential vitamins and minerals.  They are also low in sodium.  Fabulous news, right?

Now even more good news.  They can be prepared a million different ways!  They can be enjoyed “naked”, simply shelled and out of the package.  This is a fresh healthy way to eat edamame.  They can also be steamed with a little salt and used as a good plant protein for any meal.  Simple, quick and delicious.

Bring something new to your next get together.  Make a dip using edamame.  Introduce your friends to it, and become a hero with a savory new party food!  Alton Brown has a fabulous dip.  Here it is:

12 ounces shelled, cooked, and cooled edamame, about 2 cups, recipe follows
1/4 cup diced onion
1/2 cup tightly packed fresh cilantro or parsley leaves
1 large garlic clove, sliced
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
1 tablespoon brown miso
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon red chili paste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons olive oil

Place the edamame, onion, cilantro, garlic, lime juice, miso, salt, chili paste and pepper into the bowl of a food processor and process for 15 seconds. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl and process for another 15 to 20 seconds. With the processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Once all of the oil has been added, stop, scrape down the bowl and then process another 5 to 10 seconds. Taste and adjust seasoning, as desired. Serve with chips or crackers. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

I have played with that recipe a little, and it is yummy!  I have also made an edamame cold dish for a dinner party when I was having both “meatatarians” and vegetarians at the same table.  I like to have several protein as well as vegetable options at my parties.  And it is easy peasy!  Here it is:

10 – 12 ounces shelled edamame (I buy them in the refrigerated produce section)

1 roasted red pepper (I have used these from a jar to save time)

1/4 cup each olive oil and vinegar of choice (i prefer balsamic, but your favorite vinegar will certainly do!)

1 clove fresh garlic, minced

salt and pepper to taste.

Cut the red pepper into thin strips, and mix all ingredients together.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  Enjoy!

Like roasted chickpeas, edamame is also savory when roasted and makes a great snack.  Thaw some frozen edamame, drain on paper towels, toss them on a baking sheet and sprinkle a little olive oil over the top.  Next, add your favorite spices (but don’t forget the salt and pepper), and toss into a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes, stirring 2-3 times during roasting.  Warning: these are addictive!

As you can see, edamame will make a great addition to your diet.  Go ahead.  Try it.  And let me know your favorite way to enjoy this nutritionally packed food!