Meatless Monday – Buffalo Cauliflower Bites (vegan, gf)

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Perfect for Game Time!  Right now we have basketball and hockey playoffs – right in the middle of baseball season.  These buffalo cauliflower bites are a crowd pleasing snack that is a twist on the traditional buffalo wings but without the chicken.  They are not meant to taste like chicken but they do taste pretty good. It’s really all about the buffalo sauce. This is a fun recipe that can cater to various tastes and dietary needs.  In my house, we have vegetarian (me) plus gluten free and dairy free omnivores.  Everyone was happy.

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I posted a recipe for Buffalo Wings Two Ways five or six years ago just before I stopped eating chicken.  It included a recipe for both chicken and cauliflower ‘wings’.  I decided to circle back and improve on the cauliflower recipe and try to give it more of a coating for the buffalo sauce to stick to.  We (me and my test kitchen peeps) went through a few variations and methods but are satisfied with this final version.  Due to my gluten free people, I used half almond meal and gluten free panko instead of flour.  I was aiming for a thicker and crisper crust.  Using white flour or gluten free white flour will result in a lighter crust which some people might prefer.  You can also use a whole grain flour like white whole wheat flour for a few extra nutrients or crushed breadcrumbs for some crunch. Any combination of flour and breadcrumbs will work as well.

20161025_160100 Why cauliflower?  For me the biggest reason is because its not chicken and I still get to have the buffalo sauce. 😉  For everyone else, cauliflower is a chameleon that can become whatever you want it to be.  It’s mild nature allows it to absorb flavors and it can be grated and formed into a multitude of carb free and gluten free foods;  rice, mashed potatoes, pizza crust, tortillas…  Cauliflower is not empty though in spite of its white color.  Its an excellent source of vitamin C and good source of B vitamins.  Click through for 18 Massive Benefits of Cauliflower

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BUFFALO CAULIFLOWER BITES

  • 1 large head cauliflower (4-5 cups) 
  • 1 cup vegan milk or water
  • 3/4 cup flour/breadcrumbs (or almond meal, GF panko)*See TIPS.
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • cooking oil spray (optional)
  • 1 cup Buffalo Sauce(some use butter so check labels) 
  • 1/2 cup Ranch or Blue Cheese Dressing (optional)
  • 1-2 cups carrot and celery sticks (optional)

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  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.Remove core and cut cauliflower into florets.  Cut the larger ones in half.

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  • In a medium bowl, stir together flour/bread mixture, garlic and onion powders, pepper and salt. Add milk and stir until smooth.  If it feels too thick (and its not sticking to the cauliflower), add more milk or water. Heavier flour mixtures may need more liquid.

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  • Using a fork, dip the cauliflower florets into the batter to fully coat and place on the baking sheet. Don’t crowd them, or they will stick together. Spray with cooking oil (optional). Bake for 25 minutes.

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  • While the cauliflower are baking, prepare the veggies and dips

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  • Remove the hot baking sheet from the oven.  Using a fork, dip each floret into the buffalo sauce on each cauliflower bite and place back on the baking sheet.

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  • Bake for another 10- 20 minutes.  You can broil for a few minutes for a golden color but don’t take your eyes off of them. They should be tender but not soft.

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  • Serve with your chosen veggies, dressing and some extra buffalo sauce.

Tips:

I used half almond meal and half gluten free panko (as I was serving gluten free people) which made a nice crunchy coating, however, all purpose white flour is a little lighter.    Or feel free to use a combination of flours and breadcrumbs. I also found that dipping them individually into the batter provides better coverage than brushing or stirring them all together.  Dairy free people need to check labels to make sure the Buffalo Sauce doesn’t include butter.  I used Sweet Baby Rays which does not.

Buffalo Cauliflower Bites

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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BUFFALO CAULIFLOWER BITES

  • 1 large head cauliflower (4-5 cups) 
  • 1 cup vegan milk or water
  • 3/4 cup flour/breadcrumbs (or almond meal, GF panko)*See TIPS.
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • cooking oil spray (optional)
  • 1 cup Buffalo Sauce
  • 1/2 cup Ranch or Blue Cheese Dressing (optional)
  • 1-2 cups carrot and celery sticks (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Remove core and cut cauliflower into florets.  Cut the larger ones in half.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir together flour/bread mixture, garlic and onion powders, pepper and salt.
  4. Add milk and stir until smooth.  If it feels too thick (and its not sticking to the cauliflower), add more milk or water. Heavier flour mixtures may need more liquid.
  5. Using a fork, dip the cauliflower florets into the batter to fully coat and place on the baking sheet. Don’t crowd them, or they will stick together.
  6. Spray with cooking oil (optional). Bake for 25 minutes.
  7. While the cauliflower are baking, prepare the veggies and dips (optional)
  8. Remove the hot baking sheet from the oven.  Using a fork (since they’re hot), dip each floret into the buffalo sauce on each cauliflower bite and place back on the baking sheet.
  9. Bake for another 10- 20 minutes.  You can broil for a few minutes for a golden color but don’t take your eyes off of them. They should be tender but not soft.
  10. Serve with your chosen veggies, dressing and some extra buffalo sauce.

Tips:

I used half almond meal and half gluten free panko (as I was serving gluten free people) which made a nice crunchy coating, however, all purpose white flour is a little lighter.  Or feel free to use a combination of flours and breadcrumbs.  I also found that dipping them individually into the batter provides better coverage than brushing or stirring them all together. Dairy free people need to check labels to make sure the Buffalo Sauce doesn’t include butter.  I used Sweet Baby Rays which does not.

Meatless Monday – 12 Trader Joe’s Favorites

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You have heard of Oprah’s Favorite Things.  Well this is not that.  I can’t give you a free car or a surprise gift under your seat, more like several fun and easy vegan and vegetarian cooking hacks and ideas for quick and easy appetizers and meals.  People are often surprised when they come over and I haven’t made everything that I’m serving.  However, I love a good shortcut just as well as anyone.  So when I see something that I really like that saves me time or is an easy presto-chango dish that I can put on the table at the last minute, I’m all in.  It’s always nice to have a few tricks up our sleeves (or in our freezers), especially with the holidays already here.

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Okay, it’s actually 13 favorites plus a bonus.  I just miscounted and didn’t want to remake the collage.  Trader Joe’s has quite a few frozen foods that are actually really high quality and an excellent selection of vegetarian and vegan foods.  They also have the best selection of nuts, cheeses and snacks as well as some good prepared foods for when you REALLY don’t even want to turn on the oven.  Here is a list of some of my current favorites and some suggestions.  My top five that I always have in my refrigerator/freezer are Starred.  Oh, by the way, I’m not getting paid to mention Trader Joe’s products.  I’m just sharing because I like you and its the season of giving.

  1. VEGETABLE BIRD’S NESTS (VEGAN)*
  2. BANH MI INSPIRED NOODLE BOWL (VEGETARIAN/DRESSING HAS EGGS)
  3. THAI VEGETABLE GYOZA(VEGAN)*
  4. FIVE CHEESE GREEK SPIRAL (VEGETARIAN)*
  5. MIDEAST STYLE FEAST (VEGAN)*
  6. EGGPLANT CUTLETS (VEGAN)
  7. MEATLESS MEATBALLS (VEGAN)
  8. SEEDY ALMOND SALAD TOPPERS (VEGAN)
  9. CARAMELIZED ONION AND FETA BITES (VEGETARIAN)
  10. CAULIFLOWER AND BROCCOLI VEGGIE PATTIES(VEGETARIAN/EGGWHITES)
  11. FRENCH ONION SOUP (VEGETARIAN)
  12. BUTTERNUT SQUASH MAC AND CHEESE (VEGETARIAN)
  13. VEGETARIAN SAMOSAS (VEGAN)*
  14. BONUS! PUMPKIN SPICE ALMOND BEVERAGE.  JUST IN TIME FOR THE HOLIDAYS!

SCROLL DOWN FOR PHOTOS, DESCRIPTIONS AND SERVING SUGGESTIONS.

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  1. VEGETABLE BIRD’S NESTS (VEGAN):  These tasty treats are like a potato latke on steroids but with kale and other vegetables rather than potatoes.  They are crispy and delicious and come with their own soy dipping sauce.  Ready in 20 minutes.

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And here is the finished product…great as an appetizer or a side dish.  Especially great for your non-dairy friends. Buy two boxes, just because.  You can thank me later.

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2. BANH MI INSPIRED NOODLE BOWL (VEGETARIAN/DRESSING HAS EGGS)  I love this combination of ingredients which are well balanced with lots of protein.  The dressing is really good too.  This is large enough for two meals for me but you may devour the whole thing in one sitting.

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Just toss together with the yummy, slightly spicy dressing.  I like to cut the tofu into smaller cubes for easier eating and better dressing ratio.20181020_123247.jpg

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3. THAI VEGETABLE GYOZA(VEGAN):  This is my favorite Sunday breakfast served with fresh edamame, sliced oranges and the Sunday paper.  Whip up a quick dipping sauce of soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil and sriracha while they’re cooking and you’re good to go.  Or provide small bowls and let your diners create their own dipping sauce. I recommend skillet directions. Ready in less than 10 minutes.

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These are a house favorite.  Really delicious!

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4. FIVE CHEESE GREEK SPIRAL (VEGETARIAN):  Need I say more?  Just delicious and decadent with a wonderfully flakey pastry crust.  I will admit to making this my whole meal. Not on purpose, it just kind of happened. Ready in 30 minutes.

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This will go fast!  Guaranteed…

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5. MIDEAST STYLE FEAST (VEGAN):  This is an entire value meal;  stuffed grape leaves, hummus, lentil salad and tomato cracked bulgar wheat salad.  I love every part of this ready to eat HEARTY feast. Grab a fork!

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This is a hearty meal for one or two people or an appetizer for a small group. Just re-plate and go… and maybe add pita chips or naan.  Of course, you can make it prettier than this with some fresh herbs or a sprinkle of feta cheese.

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6. EGGPLANT CUTLETS (VEGAN) These breaded eggplant slices are a great time saver.  There are so many ways to use them.  Bake in a hot oven until brown and crispy, then let your imagination take over. Layer them with tomato sauce and cheese for a quick eggplant parmesan.   Tip:  Only cook what you are going to use right away.  They don’t refrigerate well.

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Roast and build a super sandwich with your favorite ingredients. Or just serve as they are with a drizzle of olive oil and some fresh herbs.

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7. MEATLESS MEATBALLS (VEGAN):  These soy protein based meatballs have good flavor and texture. Saute with tomato sauce and serve with toothpicks as an appetizer, a slider or over pasta. (Sauce not included)

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  Everybody loves a good meatball. 

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8.  SEEDY ALMOND SALAD TOPPERS (VEGAN):  These were such a great find.  This combination of seeds, nuts and spices will up your salad game and make any salad seem like you labored over a recipe.  Just open one of the individual packets and sprinkle over any combination of greens, veggies or fruit. Drizzle something. Done!

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9. CARAMELIZED ONION AND FETA BITES (VEGETARIAN):  I have made these by hand and they are delicious but it’s way easier to just pull them out of the freezer and pop them in the oven.  Delicious appetizers ready in 25 minutes while you get the wine ready.

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I have had them turn out prettier before, but I was making lots of food for a book group, so may have been rushed as my guests were arriving.  I know I dropped a few while plating.  They are really tasty though and small one bite treats.

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10,  CAULIFLOWER AND BROCCOLI VEGGIE PATTIES(VEGETARIAN/ CONTAINS EGGWHITES) These tasty cakes made with broccoli, cauliflower and potatoes were a pleasant surprise and a good quick little snack or appetizer.  They are a decent size but there are only four per box.   I recommend stove top instructions. Ready in 12 to 17 minutes. Serve immediately for best results.

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I served these veggie cakes with a jalapeno tartar sauce for me and a spicy cocktail sauce for my husband.  They would also be good with a salad as a light meal.

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11.  FRENCH ONION SOUP (VEGETARIAN):  Most onion soups have a beef based stock but this one features a nice vegetarian broth along with the traditional onions, swiss cheese and crouton.  Ready in 5 to 40 minutes depending on preparation.

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Be warned.  There are only two servings in each package.  My husband asked for seconds.  Oops!

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12.BUTTERNUT SQUASH MAC AND CHEESE (VEGETARIAN) This mac and cheese has a nice cheesy sauce and the butternut squash adds some extra flavor (and nutrition too).  Microwave five minutes.

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This is comfort food at its best. Dig in…

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13. VEGETABLE SAMOSAS (VEGAN):  These are seriously delicious!  These crispy triangles are filled with an Indian spiced mashed potatoes, carrots, peas and lentils.  I like them hot from the oven.  They are also a great small size for passed appetizers.

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BONUS! PUMPKIN SPICE ALMOND BEVERAGE:  Start your morning off right with this seasonal, not too sweet, pumpkin spice ‘milk’ frothed into your coffee.  It’s like the holidays in a cup.  Savor one sip at a time…

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Tomatillo Salsa

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I recently asked all of you for suggestions on what to do with all the tomatillos I’m harvesting from my garden.  The vast majority of you said to make Tomatillo Salsa, better known as Salsa Verde because of its vibrant green color.  So right you were.  It’s fresh and delicious with just the right amount of zing.  I quick broiled tomatillos and garlic, and combined them with jalapeno peppers, onion, mint and cilantro in my food processor with a bit of salt, cumin and lime.  The blackened but still raw tomatillos added a slightly smokey flavor to the salsa and tempers the natural acidicity of the fruit, while the cilantro and mint give it a freshness.  However, you can skip the broiling step and make an all raw salsa too.  This salsa would be great on enchiladas, tacos or just with tortilla chips.  This recipe uses very few ingredients and takes less than 30 minutes.  If you can, make it the day before because the flavors will develop and improve with passing hours.

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What are tomatillos?  Tomatillos (Physalis philadelphica) are also known as the Mexican husk tomato, since that is where they originated. They are related to the tomato, but grow enclosed in a papery husk. They taste a little bit like a green tomato, which can be used as a substitute in this recipe. They are usually green or yellowish in color. I have one bush that grew larger yellow to almost white fruit and two other plants that grew smaller green fruit.  The yellow fruit is sweeter and the green is more tart, so a combination works well in rounding out flavors.

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Tomatillos, like tomatoes, are actually a fruit, not a vegetable.  If you are planning on growing tomatillos, you need to plant at least two plants or more, as one plant will not produce fruit on its own.  The plants are quite pretty but somewhat leggy, so I have mine in tomato cages.  The tomatillos remind me of paper lanterns with their pretty papery skin and hot air balloon shape.  After picking, tomatillos can be kept in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, longer if the papery skin is removed before storing.

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Tomatillos are a very good source of dietary fiber, niacin, potassium, and manganese. They contain 20 percent of the daily recommended value in vitamin C, 13 percent of the vitamin K, and a healthy amount of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and copper. They don’t have any protein but they don’t have any fat either.

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TIPS: The salsa can be stored in the refrigerator for about two weeks but it can easily be frozen for later use.  Cool salsa before freezing to prevent condensation which can change the taste and texture when thawed.  Pour into an airtight container or sealable plastic freezer bag. Leave at least an inch of space as foods expand when they are frozen. Remove as much air as possible before sealing.  If you have a clean straw, use it to suck out the air or press it out with your hands before sealing.  If you have a large quantity of tomatillos, you can find directions to can the salsa from Ball Fresh Preserving  but keep in mind, that for safety reasons, only hot salsa can be canned so heat it up first.

 

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TOMATILLO SALSA

  • 1 1/2 lb tomatillos (about 4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 3-5 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup mint leaves (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 Jalapeño peppers OR 2 serrano peppers, stemmed, seeded and chopped (you can use whole for more heat if you want)
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp cumin (optional)
  • Salt to taste

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  • Remove papery husks from tomatillos and rinse

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  • Cut the tomatillos in half and place cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Add the garlic cloves in their skin.

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  • Broil on high for  5-7 minutes until the skins of the tomatillos have slightly blackened. Let cool and remove the garlic skins.

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  • While the tomatillos are roasting, roughly chop the onion and pappers.

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  • Place the tomatillos in a blender or food processor with the garlic, peppers, onion, cilantro, cumin, lime juice and 1/4 cup water to the and pulse to a coarse puree. Transfer to a bowl, add salt, and thin out as desired with water. Taste and adjust salt, and set aside to let the flavors develop.

Tomatillo Salsa

  • Servings: 3 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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  • 1 1/2 lb tomatillos (about 4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 3-5 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup mint leaves (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 Jalapeño peppers OR 2 serrano peppers, stemmed, seeded and chopped (you can use whole for more heat if you want)
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp cumin (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  1. Remove papery husks from tomatillos and rinse
  2. Cut the tomatillos in half and place cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Add the garlic cloves in their skin.
  3. Broil on high for  5-7 minutes until the skins of the tomatillos have slightly blackened. Let cool and remove the garlic skins.
  4. While the tomatillos are roasting, roughly chop the onion and pappers.
  5. Place the tomatillos in a blender or food processor with the garlic, peppers, onion, cilantro, cumin, lime juice and 1/4 cup water to the and pulse to a coarse puree. Transfer to a bowl, add salt, and thin out as desired with water. Taste and adjust salt, and set aside to let the flavors develop.

 

 

 

 

How Do Bloggers Birthday? (Plus Recipes)

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Happy Birthday to Me!  So how does a food blogger celebrate her birthday?  Hint;  food will be involved, (too obvious?) and if she’s lucky, maybe some fun and games.  Last week I was in Maine for my birthday and a few of my peeps threw a goodmotherdiet party for me.  This theme was a sheer stroke of genius by friend and party planner extrordinaire, Kerri Eng (KGEvents) where all my guests brought dishes that have been featured on this blog. I was aware of the goodmotherdiet aspect but not what people were actually bringing, so each new dish was a surprise as well as a walk down memory lane.  I’m sharing the dishes that were prepared for the party as well as a link back to the original recipe, so if you feel inspired, feel free to make and send me a photo.

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Our evening began with a sunset cruise of Bear Pond on a pontoon boat featuring Mango Margaritas made by my friend, Rick from the original blog post: Mango Margaritas and Homemade Tortilla Chips with Grilled Pineapple Salsa

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While we cruised around the lake, we munched on a yummy Asparagus Goat Cheese Tart made by my friend, Karen, from the original recipe: Asparagus Goat Cheese Tart Karen was kind enough to make one without goat cheese for those who abstain (cough, my husband) which was also delicious.

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We also enjoyed a wonderful version of my Cranberry Jalapeno Cream Cheese Dip which had been ‘summerized’ by Kerri by substituting strawberries which are so sweet and delicious right now while cranberries are hard to find.  I love how the same recipe can be turned into a seasonal delight just by changing one ingredient.

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Alas, we finally had to leave the lake and head in to dinner where more goodies awaited.

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Dinner was a fabulous group effort. First up was deliciously spicy Salt and Pepper Shrimp with Garlic and Chile.  I believe that the crew of Kerri, Rick and Jason had to improvise with chile sauce since they didn’t have Chinese 5 Spice.  It was hotter and wetter than the original but delicious. Other substitutions for Chinese 5 Spice would be any combination of star anise, cloves, fennel seed, cinnamon, Sichuan peppercorns and a dash of Creole Seasoning, red pepper and chili powder.  You can’t go wrong and this effort proved it.

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But the ‘piece de resistance’ was the Maple Bourbon Glazed Salmon made lovingly by my son, Eric, and his sous chef, Hannah Grace.  I say lovingly because Eric is an experimental cook like I am, rarely following a recipe twice but this time he followed the recipe painstakingly in honor of the occasion with perfect results, even with our finicky oven.  This dish is a family favorite and a great main course to prepare for dinner parties as it take very little fuss and cooks quickly giving you time to enjoy your own party.

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Eric and Hannah Grace also served a platter of perfectly roasted veggies, including eggplant, red and yellow peppers, yellow squash, zucchini and mushrooms.

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No dinner is complete without a fabulous salad like this Caesar Salad made by my friend, Geof, who went to the trouble to make his own dressing and homemade croutons.  Yum! Marjie brought a delicious carrot cake which wasn’t from my blog but then I don’t make many desserts.  Hmmm, maybe that will change…

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Then the fun and games portion of the evening began with a hotly contested game of FAMILY FEUD hosted by our own ‘Richard Dawson’.  The ‘girls’ squeaked out a narrow victory over the ‘boys’ in spite of the fact that I missed the last of the ‘Top 7 Barnyard Sounds’ by answering Meow instead of Cluck, which if you know that I am also know as the Chicken Lady that is pretty funny. (Check out Mrs Vs Rescue Chickens )  In my defense, my mother in law had already said cock a doodle doo so I figured chickens were taken.  Sigh…  Then on to music.  This photo taken before fab musician, Peter arrived.

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During dinner, my son gave a very sweet birthday toast and then asked me how it felt to see so many of my recipes come to life and if it was intimidating.  Surprisingly, I found it very validating as a blogger, especially one who is not experienced at creating recipes (which is harder than you might think).  All of the recipes were a success, even those that were adapted to accommodate seasonal ingredients or availability.  Whew!  I suppose it could have been a disaster, but it was sure fun.  For someone whose Mom always had to scrape up enough neighborhood kids that were in town in July to make it seem like a birthday party, I feel pretty lucky. (I’m sure other summer birthday people know what I’m talking about) Maybe I’ll celebrate the whole month…

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Caramelized Onion Tart with Brie and Cambozola

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Welcome to my new favorite appetizer, which “Hint” would be great for Fourth of July.  This tart has only six ingredients but together they create quite a taste sensation. Imagine  sweet and savory caramelized onions with creamy melted brie and sharp cambozola baked on puff pastry until golden brown.  This tart takes almost an hour to prepare because it takes about a half hour to caramelize the onions, which is worth it.  Otherwise, the preparation is easy.  Just unroll the puff pastry, spread the onions evenly over the top and dot with cheeses and bake until golden brown and melty.  If you are sharing, you won’t have any leftovers.

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You are probably familiar with brie which is a rich and creamy cheese that adds a richness especially when melted. We all know that Brie is calorie and fat laden,  but did you know that it is also a good source of protein? A serving of brie can provide 5 to 6 grams of protein. Brie also contains a good amount of both vitamin B12 and vitamin B2, so it is not just decadent and delicious but actually provides some good benefits. You’re welcome…

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Cambozola is a combination of a French soft-ripened triple cream cheese and Gorgonzola, although it is milder than gorgonzola and more like a camembert with a subtle blue cheese flavor.  You can easily substitute gorgonzola or blue cheese for a more pronounced flavor.  Or if you are not a ‘stinky cheese’ fan, use twice as much brie or substitute any other soft cheese and eliminate the cambozola altogether.

I first spotted this recipe from Your Home Based Mom.  Other good variations would be caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms and gruyere OR if you’re not an onion fan, try thinly sliced tomatoes. mozzarella and fresh basil for a fresh take on that summertime favorite.

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CARAMELIZED ONION TART WITH BRIE AND CAMBOZOLA

  • 2 large onions
  • 2 Tbsn olive oil
  • 1 Tbsn brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsn balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 oz brie
  • 2 oz cambozola (or blue cheese)
  • 8 oz puff pastry, defrosted
  • 1 Tbsn fresh herbs, thyme or tarragon (optional)

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  • Slice onions into rounds and saute them in olive oil and until beginning to soften and brown about 10 minutes.

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  • Add sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper. Turn the heat down and continue to cook unjtil caramelized, about 10=15 minutes. Remove onions from heat and let cool.

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  • Roll pastry into a 10-to-14-inch rectangle on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Prick with a fork all over to prevent the pastry from forming bubbles while baking.

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  • Place onions over pastry.

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  • Dot with cheese. Sprinkle with fresh herbs if using.

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  • Bake in a preheated oven at 400°F for 15-18 minutes or until cheese has melted and pastry is crispy

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  • Cut into squares and watch them disappear…

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Caramelized Onion Tart with Brie and Cambozola

  • Servings: 12 pieces
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
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  • 2 large onions
  • 2 Tbsn olive oil
  • 1 Tbsn brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsn balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 oz brie
  • 2 oz cambozola (or blue cheese)
  • 8 oz puff pastry, defrosted
  • 1 Tbsn fresh herbs, thyme or tarragon (optional)
  1. Slice onions into rounds and saute them in olive oil and until beginning to soften and brown about 10 minutes.
  2. Add sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper. Turn the heat down and continue to cook unjtil caramelized, about 10=15 minutes.
  3. Remove onions from heat and let cool.
  4. Roll pastry into a 10-to-14-inch rectangle on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  5. Prick with a fork all over to prevent the pastry from forming bubbles while baking.
  6. Place onions over pastry.. Dot with cheese. Sprinkle with fresh herbs if using.
  7. Bake in a preheated oven at 400°F for 15-18 minutes or until cheese has melted and pastry is crispy
  8. Cut into squares and serve warm.

Lemon Ricotta Appetizers-5 Ways (Vegan)

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How can you turn one easy dip into four (or five) different appetizers?  Here you go… Make this lovely Lemon Ricotta Dip and serve it with sliced baguette or crackers (or bake it for a yummy hot appetizer).  Roll it up in grilled zucchini slices with a fresh basil leaf, add Kalamata olives and red chili peppers and fill cucumber boats, or make a spring bruschetta with fava beans or edamame and fresh mint.  All are delicious and all vegan if you use my new kitchen favorite, dairy free Kite Hill Ricotta.  It is creamy and buttery just like the original made with cow’s milk but made from almonds so it is guilt free as well.

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This lemon Ricotta dip is quick to prepare and can be served immediately or you can bake it until it’s warmed through for a delicious hot dip.  This vegan ricotta holds up well in cooking and it’s becoming one of my go to ingredients when I’m craving creamy comfort foods. The addition of lemon zest and juice, scallions and red pepper flakes gives the buttery ricotta some zing.  A drizzle of olive oil is the perfect finish.

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LEMON RICOTTA DIP

  • 8 oz ricotta
  • 1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 scallions, minced
  • 1/4 tsp salt (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • drizzle of olive oil (optional)
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil and serve with crackers or sliced baguette.  This dip can also be baked in a greased baking dish at 375 degrees until heated through (about 15 or 20 minutes).  Drizzle before serving.

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Take advantage of seasonal fava beans or edamame and make easy Spring Bruschetta.  I was disappointed not to find fava beans or edamame in my local market so I used frozen edamame which were just as good as fresh.  The hardest part of this appetizer is remembering the toasting bread in the oven… or maybe that’s just me.

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LEMON RICOTTA BRUSCHETTA

  • 1 cup lemon ricotta dip
  • 1/2 cup fresh shelled fava beans or edamame
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • additional lemon zest (optional)
  • baguette, sliced
  • 1 Tbsn olive oil

 

  1. Brush baguette with olive oil and toast under broiler for a minute or two on each side.  Let cool.
  2. Spread lemon ricotta mixture on each slice and top with fava beans, fresh mint and lemon zest.
  3. For a low carb, gluten free option, fill endive leaves instead of bread.

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Using the Lemon Ricotta mixture as a base, I added chopped Kalamata olives and spicy red chili peppers to make cucumber boats.  I thought that the crispy cool cucumbers would perfectly balance the salt and heat.  I was not disappointed.  I left some of the cucumber peel for aesthetic purposes but you can always peel the whole thing or leave the peel intact. It’s just a matter of taste.  Chilling the filled cucumber to firm up the ricotta mixture before slicing makes it easier to cut perfect bites.

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RICOTTA CUCUMBER BOATS

  • 1 cup lemon ricotta dip
  • 1 red chili pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Kalamata olives, roughly chopped
  • 2 large cucumbers
  1. Stir the chili pepper and olives into the lemon ricotta mixture
  2. Using a potato peeler or sharp knife, remove strips from the cucumber skin.
  3. Slice cucumbers in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds.
  4. Fill the cucumbers with the lemon ricotta mixture and smooth with a knife.  Chill 10 or 15 minutes to firm up, if you have time.
  5. Slice into 1 inch half circles and serve cold.

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If you’re looking for a more sophisticated (but still easy) appetizer, try these Zucchini Roll Ups.  Grill or broil zucchini strips, then spread them with a thin layer of lemon ricotta mixture and roll them up with a whole basil leaf.  The sweetness of grilled zucchini really complements the creamy ricotta.  It’s really easy but it doesn’t look like it.  You can’t go wrong here. My Zucchini Roll Ups were inspired by The Kitchn

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LEMON RICOTTA ZUCCHINI ROLLUPS

  • 3 medium zucchini
  • small bunch fresh basil
  • 2 Tbsn olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Remove both ends from the zucchini and slice lengthwise into slices 1/4-inch thick using a sharp knife or mandolin. .
  2. Brush or spray each side of the zucchini slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Grill or broil until lightly browned, about 2 minutes on each side.  Zucchini slices should be soft enough to roll without breaking.  Let cool completely.
  3. Spread a thin layer of ricotta mixture on a slice. Place a whole basil leaf on one end  and roll up starting with the basil end (so the basil ends up in the middle like a little flag)

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Lemon Ricotta Dip

  • Servings: 1 cup
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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LEMON RICOTTA DIP

  • 8 oz ricotta
  • 1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 scallions, minced
  • 1/4 tsp salt (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • drizzle of olive oil (optional)
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil and serve with crackers or sliced baguette.  This dip can also be baked in a greased baking dish at 375 degrees until heated through (about 15 or 20 minutes).  Drizzle before serving.

Bruschetta with Ricotta and Edamame

  • Servings: 24 bites
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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LEMON RICOTTA BRUSCHETTA

  • 1 cup lemon ricotta dip
  • 1/2 cup fresh shelled fava beans or edamame
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • additional lemon zest (optional)
  • baguette, sliced
  • 1 Tbsn olive oil
  1. Brush baguette with olive oil and toast under broiler for a minute or two on each side.  Let cool.
  2. Spread lemon ricotta mixture on each slice and top with fava beans, fresh mint and lemon zest.
  3. For a carb free option, fill endive leaves instead of bread.

Cucumber Boats with Olives and Chili Peppers

  • Servings: 24 bites
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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RICOTTA CUCUMBER BOATS

  • 1 cup lemon ricotta dip
  • 1 red chili pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Kalamata olives, roughly chopped
  • 2 large cucumbers
  1. Stir the chili pepper and olives into the lemon ricotta mixture
  2. Using a potato peeler or sharp knife, remove strips from the cucumber skin.
  3. Slice cucumbers in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds.
  4. Fill the cucumbers with the lemon ricotta mixture and smooth with a knife.  Chill 10 or 15 minutes to firm up, if you have time.
  5. Slice into 1 inch half circles and serve cold.

Zucchini Roll Ups

  • Servings: 12 bites
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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LEMON RICOTTA ZUCCHINI ROLLUPS

  • 3 medium zucchini
  • small bunch fresh basil
  • 2 Tbsn olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Remove both ends from the zucchini and slice lengthwise into slices 1/4-inch thick using a sharp knife or mandolin. .
  2. Brush or spray each side of the zucchini slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Grill or broil until lightly browned, about 2 minutes on each side. Zucchini slices should be soft enough to roll without breaking.  Let cool completely.
  3. Spread a thin layer of ricotta mixture on a slice. Place a whole basil leaf on one end  and roll up starting with the basil end (so the basil ends up in the middle like a little flag)

 

Meatless Monday – Lentil & Quinoa ‘Meatballs’

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Meatballs are a perennial favorite, one of America’s most common comfort foods.  Serve them dipped in a spicy barbecue sauce as an appetizer or over zoodles for dinner.  This gluten free version uses red quinoa, brown lentils and whole oats which make a surprisingly delicious meatball with the help from a few spices and some TLC.   This is a vegetarian recipe with vegan alternatives.

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I have made vegetarian meatballs before using eggplant, breadcrumbs and parmesan with good results Check out Eggplant Meatballs.  This time, my goal was to make a meatless, gluten free meatball that has a similar texture and flavors of the meatballs and meatloaf I used to make when I still used ground beef. I have a frequent guest at my table who is gluten intolerant so, whereas I never worried about gluten before (just empty carbs) my priorities have changed.

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I know there are faux meat beef substitutes  but not everyone has access to them, so I prefer to experiment with normal everyday foods.  In this recipe, I used red quinoa which has been a great stand in for ground beef in taco and chili recipes. Check these out: Quinoa Black Bean Tacos with Chili L:ime Sauce and Black Bean Chili Con Quinoa.

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I like red quinoa (or multi colored), as opposed to white for this recipe because it has a heartier consistency and flavor. Plus the color helps create results that look more like we are used to seeing when cooking with red meat.  I paired the quinoa with cooked brown lentils which add a creamy consistency and raw oats to absorb liquid and give it bulk.

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So these vegetarian/vegan meatballs are pretty satisfying and delicious but how do they stack up nutritionally speaking?  Both lentils and quinoa are high in protein and fiber with virtually no fat. Both are also rich in nutrients. The third part of the meatball triumvirate is oats which also has protein and fiber. Although oats are hulled, the bran and germ are not stripped away, as is common with other grains, which means the bulk of their nutrients are retained.  If you serve them over zoodles, you’ve got a low calorie, low carb, low fat meal that is nutrient rich. Win Win!

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TIPS: I made this recipe twice.  The first time I used cooled quinoa and lentils and oat flour.  The second time I used cold, refrigerated quinoa and lentils and raw oats.  Hands down, the second meatballs won.  They were easier to roll and maintained their shape.  So I recommend making the lentils and quinoa the night before or in the morning to speed things along. The second meatballs also had a better consistency which I contribute to the oats.  You could also use panko bread crumbs which won’t give you the same nutritional boost and they are not gluten free.  Store meatballs and sauce separately for best results.

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LENTIL & QUINOA MEATBALLS

  • 1/2 cup dried brown lentils (or 1 cup cooked)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 1/2 cup red or tri color quinoa (or 1 cup cooked)
  • 2-3 Tbsn olive oil or spray (divided)
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 egg or 1 flax egg (1 Tbsn ground flax seed + 2 1/2 Tbsn water)
  • 1 Tbsn soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos (GF) or vegan Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 Tbsn ketchup or steak sauce
  • 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning or oregano
  • 1 tsp each salt and pepper (or to taste)
  • 3/4 – 1  cup oats (GF) or bread crumbs
  • 2 cups tomato sauce (optional for serving)
  • 4-6 large carrots or zucchini, or 12 oz pasta (optional for serving)

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  • Rinse and drain the lentils. Bring vegetable broth or water to a boil in a large saucepan,  add the lentils. Reduce heat and cook for about 15 or20 minutes until the water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let cool completely.

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  • Rinse and drain the quinoa and cook as directed for about 20 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the ‘tails’ are visible. Remove from heat and let cool completely.

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  • If you are making a flax egg, combine the flax seed and the warm water in a mug or small bowl. Mix and let stand for several minutes until it becomes a gel.

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  • If you are making veggie noodles, wash and remove the stem ends and slice into ‘noodles’ using a spiralizer, a mandolin or a potato peeler. Set aside

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  • Saute onions in a heavy cast iron pan until transluscent and slightly browned, 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

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  • Put the lentils, onions, egg, parsley and spices in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Or you can smash with a potato masher. The mixture should be chunky not smooth.

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  • Transfer the lentil mixture to a large bowl and mix in the quinoa.

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  • Mix in half of the oats and try to roll a ball.You want the consistency to feel firm, like a meatball. If it feels too moist, add more oats. I used a whole cup

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  • Put the meatball mixture into the fridge for 20 to 30 minutes to allow the oats to absorb liquid and make it easier to roll into balls.

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  • Take the bowl out of the fridge and scoop up some of the lentil mixture and roll it into a ball with your hands. This recipe makes 3 dozen 1 inch meatballs. Make them whatever size you like but make them all the same size so they cook evenly. Roll it until it feels sturdy.

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  • Place them on an oiled baking sheet and spray the tops with olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. You can broil for a few minutes to brown the tops.

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  • Wipe out frying pan and pour in tomato sauce.  Heat on medium until bubbling and then turn to simmer.

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  • Remove meatballs from the oven and place in tomato sauce.  Spoon sauce over to cover.

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  •  Saute the noodles in oil or butter with a pinch of salt, if you prefer.  If you are using regular pasta, follow the cooking instructions on the package. Or you can par boil Zucchini noodles for 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.

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  • Serve over hot noodles with fresh parsley and a sprinkle of parmesan, if desired.

 

Lentil & Quinoa Meatballs

  • Servings: 36 1 inch meatballs
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
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  • 1/2 cup dried brown lentils (or 1 cup cooked)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 1/2 cup red or tri color quinoa (or 1 cup cooked)
  • 2-3 Tbsn olive oil or spray (divided)
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 egg or 1 flax egg (1 Tbsn ground flax seed + 2 1/2 Tbsn water)
  • 1 Tbsn soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos (GF) or vegan Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 Tbsn ketchup or steak sauce
  • 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning or oregano
  • 1 tsp each salt and pepper (or to taste)
  • 3/4 – 1  cup oats (GF) or bread crumbs
  • 2 cups tomato sauce (optional for serving)
  • 4-6 large carrots or zucchini, or 12 oz pasta (optional for serving)
  1. Rinse and drain the lentils. Bring vegetable broth or water to a boil in a large saucepan,  add the lentils. Reduce heat and cook for about 15 or20 minutes until the water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
  2. Rinse and drain the quinoa and cook as directed for about 20 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the ‘tails’ are visible. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
  3. If you are making a flax egg, combine the flax seed and the warm water in a mug or small bowl. Mix and let stand for several minutes until it becomes a gel.
  4. If you are making carrot noodles, scrub the carrots and remove the stem end. Or cut ends off of zucchini. Slice into ‘noodles’ using a spiralizer, a mandolin or a potato peeler. Set aside
  5. Saute onions in a heavy cast iron pan until transluscent and slightly browned, 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
  6. Put the lentils, onions, egg, parsley and spices in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Or you can smash with a potato masher. The mixture should be chunky not smooth.
  7. Transfer the lentil mixture to a large bowl and mix in the quinoa.
  8. Mix in half of the oats and try to roll a ball.You want the consistency to feel firm, like a meatball. If it feels too moist, add more oats. I used a whole cup
  9. Put the meatball mixture into the fridge for 120to 30 minutes to allow the oats to absorb liquid and make it easier to roll into balls. Take the bowl out of the fridge and scoop up some of the lentil mixture and roll it into a ball with your hands. This recipe makes 3 dozen 1 inch meatballs. Make them whatever size you like but make them all the same size so they cook evenly. Roll it until it feels sturdy. Place them on an oiled baking sheet and spray the tops with olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. You can broil for a few minutes to brown the tops.
  10. Wipe out frying pan and pour in tomato sauce.  Heat on medium until bubbling and then turn to simmer.
  11. Remove meatballs from the oven and place in tomato sauce.  Spoon sauce over to cover.
  12. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add carrots and boil for 2-3 minutes. Zucchini noodles will only take 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.  Or you can saute the noodles in oil or butter with a pinch of salt, if you prefer.  If you are using regular pasta, follow the cooking instructions on the package.
  13. Serve over hot noodles with fresh parsley and a sprinkle of parmesan, if desired.

Cheesy Cauliflower Breadsticks

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These cheesy grainfree breadsticks are a guaranteed winner!  They are yummy enough to satisfy that carb craving that we all know so well, without adding empty calories and they are wheat and gluten free. This is one of the blog posts that went missing during my technically challenged summer, however, I certainly didn’t mind ‘having’ to make it again.  The first time I spread the cauliflower ‘dough’ into rectangles  (like a sheet pizza) and cut it into strips to serve.

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This time I decided to try making into individual strips or bars which can be picked up by hand to eat.  I am a crispy crust lover so I figured this would maximize the crispy edges and I was not disappointed.  I sprinkled the cooked breadsticks with fresh basil but you could also provide warm tomato sauce or pesto for dipping.

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Cauliflower is a great carb substitute and provides vitamins, and minerals plus fiber and very few calories (only 27 per cup), very low fat and no cholesterol.  It is a surprisingly excellent source of Vitamin C which we need more of, especially this time of year as flu season approaches.

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This recipe can also be used as a pizza, either rectangular or round.  Just add tomato or pesto sauce.  I would go light on toppings as it may not hold up. Here is a photo of my first Cheesy Cauliflower Breadsticks based on the recipe from Jo Cooks.com

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I have blogged about Cauliflower Pizza before.  My older recipe calls for the addition of almond flour which makes it more of a traditional crust and great for lots of toppings.  Check out my original recipe for Cauliflower Crust Pizza which also featured caramelized onions and mushrooms.

 

I have the luxury of fresh eggs from my own backyard hens.  I have 9 hens, most of whom have been rescued from Factory Farms where they lived in warehouses and never got a chance to go outside or eat fresh food.  (Yes, even my organic cage free hens.)  You can follow my ‘girls’ on their Facebook Page  Mrs Vs Rescue Chickens.  However, if you don’t have access to backyard chickens, please buy Pasture Raised eggs from the store.  That is the ONLY label that means that the hens got a chance to go outside.

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TIPS:  I used a food processor to ‘rice’ my cauliflower which is very easy, however, I am starting to see Cauliflower Rice in stores (even Costco) if you are looking for a shortcut. Then I steamed the cauliflower rice in the microwave which is the easiest way to ensure you don’t have excess moisture. If you prefer not to use a microwave, you can steam the cauliflower on the stovetop with a bit of water before ricing.  Just make sure any excess water is removed by squeezing with papertowels.

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CHEESY CAULIFLOWER BREADSTICKS

  • 1 large head of cauliflower (about 4 cups riced)
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (or a blend of cheeses)
  • 1-2 cups mozzarella cheese (optional topping)
  • 1 Tbsn fresh basil, chopped (optional topping)
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  • Preheat oven to 425 F degrees. Prepare 2 pizza dishes or a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

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  • Remove outer leaves and roughly chop cauliflower into florets.

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  • Add the florets to a food processor or blender and pulse until cauliflower resembles rice.

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  • Place the cauliflower in a microwavable bowl and cover. Microwave for 10 minutes. Let cool.

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  • Stir in the oregano, garlic, red pepper and salt and pepper. Taste (before adding the eggs) and adjust spices if necessary.

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  • Mix in eggs and 2 cups mozzarella.

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  • Divide the mixture in half and place each half onto the prepared baking sheets and shape into individual strips (about 5 or 6 to a pan) or into a rectangular shape that you will cut into breadsticks later.

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  • Bake the crust (without toppings) for about 25 minutes or until nice and golden. You may have to push the sides back in with a spatula if you see spreading.

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  • Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese and put back in the oven for another 5 minutes or until cheese has melted.

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  • Serve with fresh basil.

Cheesy Cauliflower Breadsticks

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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  • 1 large head of cauliflower (about 4 cups riced)
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (or a blend of cheeses)
  • 1-2 cups mozzarella cheese (optional topping)
  • 1 Tbsn fresh basil, chopped (optional topping)
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F degrees. Prepare 2 pizza dishes or a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Remove outer leaves and roughly chop cauliflower into florets.
  3. Add the florets to a food processor or blender and pulse until cauliflower resembles rice.
  4. Place the cauliflower in a microwavable bowl and cover. Microwave for 10 minutes. Let cool.
  5. Stir in the oregano, garlic, red pepper and salt and pepper. Taste (before adding the eggs) and adjust spices if necessary.
  6. Mix in eggs and 2 cups mozzarella.
  7. Divide the mixture in half and place each half onto the prepared baking sheets and shape into individual strips (about 6 to a pan) or into a rectangular shape that you will cut into breadsticks later.
  8. Bake the crust (without toppings) for about 25 minutes or until nice and golden. You may have to push the sides back in with a spatula if you see spreading.
  9. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese and put back in the oven for another 5 minutes or until cheese has melted.
  10. Serve with fresh basil.

 

Deviled Eggs – Three Ways

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Chickens and their lovely eggs are part of my childhood.  My Mom had chickens and I have fond memories of helping my Mom on the ‘farm’.  Now I’m following in her footsteps and have a small flock of chickens that were mostly rescued from slaughter at factory farms by Animal Place.  They are sweet girls who have lived tragic lives and I am lucky to have them live with me AND they make a lot of eggs! People ask me all the time when I’m going to make some egg recipes with this abundance of eggs.  Well, here you go!  I have always liked deviled eggs so decided to come up with a trio of deviled eggs that include the basic recipe plus one with Southwestern flavors, like cumin, chili powder and cayenne pepper, and another taste sensation with lemon, capers and smoked salmon (just like you would put on a bagel but without the bagel)
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If you have been following goodmotherdiet for a while, I will apologize for repeating myself but I think there is a lot of misinformation out there about the eggs that we buy from the market.
Interesting fact:  In the US eggs for sale are required to be washed, pastuerized (with heat) and then refrigerated.  In the UK eggs for sale are not allowed to be washed, pastuerized or refrigerated.  The reasoning is that the eggs are born with a ‘bloom’ that protects them from bacteria and procludes the need for refrigeration which reduced the nutrition.  The UK also wants to keep their farmers accountable for creating conditions that are clean enough that eggs don’t need to be washed.  What a concept!  United States, are you listening?
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The Classifcations for eggs are purposefully misleading.  90% of eggs in America are from chickens raised in battery cages where they live crammed together with other hens, each with the space the size of an iPad, their entire short lives.  I am lucky to have a small flock of chickens that were rescued from factory farms, both from battery cages and ‘organic’ cage free.  Well none of them (even the organic ones) had ever had fresh food before because they didn’t recognize fresh fruits and veggies as food when I first got them,  AND the battery caged hens had never walked before. Think about that concept. I know that people are trying to make good decisions but it is difficult with the lack of oversight in labelling.  Living Homegrown has decoded the labels for us in real English.  Here is the deal:
  • REGULAR EGGS: These chickens are raised tightly together in cages stacked to the ceiling for the duration of their lives.  Their wings are clipped and they are debeaked to prevent pecking in such cramped conditions.  Don’t support these practices by buying these eggs. (See photo of my debeaked hen, Donette, below.  Her upper beak was cut off when she was a tiny chick and now she has trouble picking up food because she has been deprived of her most important tool. She is learning though and now she can RUN 🙂
  • CAGE FREE: This only means that the chickens were not in cases. They can still be confined in very close quarters inside a building where they are standing in their own muck and can barely move. They have little or no access to the outdoors.
  • FREE RANGE: According to the USDA regulation, “free range” only means that the chickens were allowed “access” to the outside with no specifications as the quality or the duration of that outside exposure. So unfortunately, this term is mostly used where the chickens are crammed in large warehouses that has a small door on one end that opens to a few feet of outside dirt space. Most of the chickens never even know that door exists and couldn’t get there even if they wanted to.
  • PASTURE RAISED: Although it does not have any current regulations, it is being used by sustainable farmers to mean chickens raised in the outdoors..in the pasture. Pastured raised eggs are what we think they are. This is what you want to buy if you are shopping for eggs.

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For those of you who are less concerned with animal welfare and more interested in nutrition, here is a photo of eggs from my hens who spend all day outside along with the paler yellow eggs from my newer hens who were just starting to eat ‘real’ food.  The darker yolks, not only have more flavor, they have a lot higher nutritional value. Regular store bought eggs will be even paler by comparison.

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Donette, my former battery caged hen, debeaked and dewinged as a baby

My chickens have their own Facebook Page if you want to follow them.  They LOVE getting LIKES! I named their page in honor of my Mom, Mrs V’s Rescue Chickens (just copy and paste into URL).

So, lets get back to making devilled eggs.  I have provided a recipe for traditional devilled eggs, followed by a spicy Southwestern version and one with smoked salmon, lemon and capers.  Choose one or make them all!

TIPS: Devilled eggs are usually made by slicing the eggs in half the long way but I have a tray that keeps them perched straight up when I cut them in half.  I think they look cute, so feel free to break with the norm.  You can spoon the filling back into the eggs, or if you want to get fancy, pipe it in.  If you don’t have a piping tool, you can put the filling in a small plastic baggie and cut one of the corners off for a homemade tool. Just squeeze gently into whatever pattern or design you prefer.

Traditional Devilled Eggs

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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CLASSIC DEVILED EGGS
6 large eggs
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1 tsp vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt
Dash of pepper
paprika (optional)
  • Place eggs in a single layer in a saucepan; add water to cover eggs by 2 inches. Bring to a boil; cover, remove from heat, and let stand 15 minutes.
  • Drain and fill the saucepan with cold water and ice.
  • Peel and rinse eggs with cold water.
  • Slice eggs in half, and carefully remove yolks.
  • Mash yolks in a food processor or with a fork until smooth. Stir in mayonnaise, mustard, salt, and pepper; stir well.
  • Spoon yolk mixture into egg whites. Garnish with paprika, if desired.

 

Southwestern Deviled Eggs

  • Servings: 24
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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SOUTHWESTERN DEVILED EGGS

12 eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chilipowder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1-2 Tbsn lemon or lime juice
Dash of hot sauce (optional)
1 Tbsn cilantro
1 red or green jalapeno pepper, sliced
1 Tbsn black olives, sliced
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Place eggs in a single layer in a saucepan and add cold water to cover eggs by 2 inches. Bring to a boil; cover, remove from heat, and let stand 15 minutes. Drain and fill the saucepan with cold water and ice.  Peel and rinse with cold water.
  • Slice eggs either vertically or horizonatlly and carefully remove egg yolks leaving egg whites intact.
  • Mash yolks until smooth in a food processor or with a fork. Blend together yolks, mayonnaise, mustard, cumin, chilipowder and salt.
  • Spoon or pipe yolk mixture into egg white halves.
  • Top with jalapenos. olives and cilantro. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper.
  • Serve cold

Smoked Salmon and Caper Deviled Eggs

  • Servings: 24
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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12 eggs
2 oz smoked salmon
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 Tbsn capers, drained
1 tsp lemon zest (plus more for garnish)
2 Tbsn lemon juice
1 Tbsn parsley or cilantro (optional)
  • Place eggs in a single layer in a saucepan and add cold water to cover eggs by 2 inches. Bring to a boil; cover, remove from heat, and let stand 15 minutes. Drain and fill the saucepan with cold water and ice.  Peel and rinse with cold water.
  • Slice eggs in half either vertically or horizontally, and carefully remove yolks, keeping egg whites intact.
  • Mash yolks until smooth in a food processor or with a fork. Blend together yolks, mayonnaise, mustard, salt, 1 Tablespoon capers, 1 teaspoon lemon zest and lemon juice.
  • Spoon or pipe yolk mixture into egg white halves.
  • Top with smoked salmon, capers, cilantro and lemon zest.
  • Serve cold

 

 

 

 

Meatless Monday – Eggplant “Meatballs”

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Sometimes the answer is just meatballs.  These vegetarian beauties, made with eggplant are tasty and perfect as a main dish paired with a salad,  over pasta or even spooned over mashed potatoes or rice.  They also make great game day sliders.  Just add small brioche buns and extra sauce, and maybe a slice of fresh mozzarella .  Or for a simple appetizer, make smaller ‘meatballs’ and serve with toothpicks.  Delish!

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I love eggplant for it’s color, flavor and versatility.  In this recipe, it doesn’t even taste like eggplant, which is a good thing because we’re making ‘meatballs’ not eggplantballs. The combination of sauteed eggplant, bread crumbs, parmesan, garlic and herbs all held together with a beaten egg is surprisingly tasty and ‘meatballish’.  The texture is nice, firm but not hard or soggy.  Eggplant meatballs are not going to have as much protein (or fat) as traditional meatballs but they do have quite a bit of nutrition, including protein. According to http://www.Skinnytaste.com, four of the smaller sized meatballs have 259 calories, 12 grams of fat, 9 grams of protein, 30 grams of carbs and 6 grams of fiber. Eggplant, itself, also adds some good plant based nutrients like, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B-6, fiber and important phytonutrients.

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TIPS:  Serve these meatbals hot right out of the pan or on a serving platter. For a main course serve with pasta, rice or mashed potatoes.  For a cheesier dish, serve with a dollop of fresh riccotta. To boost the nutrition, use whole grain breadcrumbs, if you can find them or make your own.  Sometimes I make my own tomato sauce and sometimes I just pick it up from the grocery store.  There are many good ones availble so don’t feel like you have to make your own.  If you want to try a homemade tomato sauce, I have included an easy recipe below.

Since the eggplant is sauteed, you don’t have to salt it first unless you think your eggplant may be old and slightly bitter.  In that case salting first, may sweeten it up.  Otherwise, the cubed eggplant can go right into the saute pan.

Recipe adapted from http://www.skinnytaste.com/eggplant-meatballs/

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EGGPLANT ‘MEATBALLS’

  • 1 1/4 lbs unpeeled eggplant, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 Tbsn olive oil (or olive oil spray)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbsp chopped basil, plus leaves for garnish
  • 1 1/2 cups Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated, plus more for serving
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 cups tomato sauce(24 oz)
  • part skim ricotta cheese, for serving (optional)
  • brioche slider buns (optional)

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  • Cut eggplant into 1 inch cubes.

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  • Place 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. When hot add the eggplant and 1/4 cup water. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring occasionally until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. If eggplant gets too dry, add a bit more water.

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  • Transfer to the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times, but don’t puree.

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  • Transfer to a bowl and add bread crumbs, beaten egg, cheese, parsley, garlic and chopped basil into the eggplant. Season with salt and pepper.

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  • Form the eggplant mixture into balls about and transfer to an oiled baking sheet. Makes about 24 1 oz balls or 12 or more large meatballs.

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  • Bake at 375°F until firm and browned, about 20 to 25 minutes.  You can broil the last five minutes for better browning, if desired.

 

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  • Heat the sauce in a large deep skillet to warm the sauce or make your own using the recipe below. Add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. Garnish the meatballs with basil and serve with ricotta cheese, slider buns or pasta.

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EASY HOMEMADE TOMATO SAUCE (Double the recipe if you like lots of sauce as this makes a scant 2 cups)

1 Tbsn extra-virgin olive oil
3-4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes with liquid (or 2 cups peeled and diced fresh tomatoes)
1/4 tsp. dried oregano (or1 Tbsn fresh oregano, minced)
1 Tbsn fresh basil, minced
salt and pepper to taste

  • Saute the garlic in olive oil until it becomes fragrant.  Add the tomatoes with the juice, oregano and basil and let it cook at a low simmer until it’s thickened.  You can break up the tomatoes with a fork as it softens to make the mixture more sauce like.

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Eggplant Meatballs

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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  • 1 1/4 lbs unpeeled eggplant, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 Tbsn olive oil (or olive oil spray)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbsp chopped basil, plus leaves for garnish
  • 1 1/2 cups Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated
  • 1 Tbsn chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 cups tomato sauce (24 oz)
  • part skim ricotta cheese, for serving (optional)
  • brioche slider buns (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray
  2. Place 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. When hot add the eggplant and 1/4 cup water. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring occasionally until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. If eggplant gets too dry, add a bit more water.
  3. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times, but don’t puree.
  4. Transfer to a bowl and add bread crumbs, beaten egg, cheese, parsley, garlic and chopped basil into the eggplant. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Form the eggplant mixture into balls about and transfer to the prepared baking sheet.
  6. Bake until firm and browned, about 20 to 25 minutes. Makes about 24 1 oz balls or 12 or more large meatballs.
  7. Heat the sauce in a large deep skillet to warm the sauce or make your own using the recipe below. Add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. Garnish the meatballs with basil and serve with ricotta cheese, slider buns or pasta, if desired.

EASY HOMEMADE TOMATO SAUCE (Double the recipe if you like lots of sauce as this makes a scant 2 cups)

1 Tbsn extra-virgin olive oil
3-4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes with liquid (or 2 cups peeled and diced fresh tomatoes)
1/4 tsp. dried oregano (or1 Tbsn fresh oregano, minced)
1 Tbsn fresh basil, minced
salt and pepper to taste

  • Saute the garlic in olive oil until it becomes fragrant.  Add the tomatoes with the juice, oregano and basil and let it cook at a low simmer until it’s thickened.  You can break up the tomatoes with a fork as it softens to make the mixture more sauce like.

Root Vegetable Chips with Two Dips

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Root vegetables, I know – they’re homely and mostly relegated to salads and stews… but not any more!  These root vegetable chips will please almost anyone, especially people who love savory snacks!  They are like a potato chip on steroids, more flavorful and more healthful. Parsnips, red, yellow and pink striped chiogga beets sliced thinly, brushed with olive oil, dusted with salt and pepper, and baked into crispy chips.  They are absolutely delicious and crunchy and  a great way to get people to eat more non-traditional veggies.  I mean, who eats parsnips?  Well, a whole group of people ate them and came back for more at my house the other night.  I served them with a homemade Lemon, Parmesan Aioli (my go-to dip) and a traditional guacamole, but really they were good enough to stand up on their own. The dips are just extra for people (like me) whole love a good creamy dip or thinks chips can’t be served without guacamole.

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I owe the idea for these veggie chips to my sister, Carole. Last weekend I attended a family event and stayed with Carole, who had a recipe for making chips from root vegetables that she wanted to try.  I had never made them before but we had fun making them together and were happy with the results.  They are very easy to make if you have a mandolin.  Just peel and slice the veggies and bake them on low heat for an hour and a half or so until they are crispy.  The original recipe my sister used called for them to be cooked at 195 degrees which I eventually increased the heat because they weren’t crisping fast enough for us. There are many root chip recipes out there that call for various oven temperatures (even up to 400) and lengths of time (as little as 30 minutes) but most of the commentary was not positive.  I decided this time to bake at 250 degrees because so much flavor is retained with the low temperature and there is little chance of burning.  It’s almost like speed dehydrating but it works and everyone loved the results!

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Root vegetables are a treasure chest of nutrients in spite of their unattractive and intimidating outer appearance.  However, once you cut them open, their jewel toned flesh is revealed.   These intense colors are not just gorgeous, they are indicative of their rich nutritional value.  Root vegetables are high in vitamins and minerals like iron, calcium and potassium that they absorb from the ground and they are an excellent source of fiber. Even parsnips, which look like white carrots, are loaded with nutrients like their more colorful cousins. Use a combination for maximum nutrition and to ‘Eat the Rainbow”.

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TIPS:  I sliced the parsnips and the chiogga beets on my mandoline on the thinnest setting  but sliced the red and yellow beets on the second setting because  I wanted to see if there was a difference in quality.  The thicker beets took about 20 minutes longer to cook and were definitly thicker.  The thicker you slice, the longer they take to crisp and the yield is smaller.  I prefered the thinner chips but the crowd preference was pretty split between thick and thin.  For thin slices, you will need one baking sheet per vegetable.

When selecting root vegetables from the market, choose larger specimens as they shrink quite a bit during baking.  Also choose smoother skinned ones, if possible.  The ‘hairy’ parts are harder to peel, in fact, I had to use the tip of my peeler to remove them.

Using an olive oil spray makes prep easy and fast but you can also use the old fashioned oil and brush. Feel free to add other spices before baking. Chili, curry or garlic powder, ground cumin and cayenne pepper are all good choices.

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ROOT VEGETABLE CHIPS

  • 4 root vegetables(any combination of beets, parsnips, rutabaga, carrots, sweet potato, etc)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (or olive oil spray)
  • salt and pepper to taste

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  • Peel and trim root vegetables

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  • Using a mandolin or sharp knife thinly slice vegetables lengthwise

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  • Spray or brush oil on the bottom of each baking sheet and arrange veggie slices in a single layer. Spray or brush slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper

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  • Bake at 250 degrees for about an hour and a half.  Thicker slices can take up to two hours. Remove from oven when crispy and let cool

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  • Serve with dips if desired. (I made a quick Lemon Parmesan Aioli  and guacamole)

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LEMON PARMESAN AIOLI

  • 1/2 cup mayo (I love Just Mayo)
  • 1/4 cup parmesan, shredded
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • zest from one lemon
  1. Combine all ingredients and spoon into a small serving bowl

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QUICK GUACAMOLE

  • 3 ripe avocados, peeled and seeded
  • 1/2 cup red or yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves, garlic, minced
  • juice of one lime
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. In a medium bowl, mash together avocado, lime juice and salt.  Mix in the rest of the ingredients and spoon into a serving bowl.

 

Root Vegetable Chips

  • Servings: 2 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

 20160522_164045

ROOT VEGETABLE CHIPS

  • 4 root vegetables(any combination of beets, parsnips, rutabaga, carrots, sweet potato, etc)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (or olive oil spray)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Peel and trim root vegetables
  2. Using a mandolin or sharp knife thinly slice vegetables lengthwise
  3. Spray or brush oil on the bottom of each baking sheet and arrange veggie slices in a single layer
  4. Spray or brush slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper
  5. Bake at 250 degrees for about an hour and a half.  Thicker slices can take up to two hours.
  6. Remove from oven when crispy and let cool
  7. Serve with dips if desired.

LEMON PARMESAN AIOLI

  • 1/2 cup mayo (I love Just Mayo)
  • 1/4 cup parmesan, shredded
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • zest from one lemon
  1. Combine all ingredients and spoon into a small serving bowl

QUICK GUACAMOLE

  • 3 ripe avocados, peeled and seeded
  • 1/2 cup red or yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves, garlic, minced
  • juice of one lime
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. In a medium bowl, mash together avocado, lime juice and salt.  Mix in the rest of the ingredients and spoon into a serving bowl.
 

Meatless Monday – Caprese Garlic Bread

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Garlic Bread is always a fan favorite.  Now imagine this fav topped with other love, ripe tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, drizzled with a sweet and tangy balsamic reduction.  Hungry yet?  Best of all it requires very few ingredients and a short prep, pretty close to being ready to eat!  The key to this dish is using really high quality ingredients, like perfectly ripe red tomatoes, fresh mozzarella (not the kind you use on pizza), fresh spicy basil, good bread and lastly, a splash of a nice balsamic vinegar.  I like to intensify the balsamic by adding honey and reducing it into a delicious syrup but you can skip that step if you don’t have time.  It’s hard to go wrong with a good balsamic vinegar. Mmmm…

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I’m not even going to talk about the nutrition of this dish because you just want to eat the whole thing because it’s so good!  That said, instead of the relatively empty, fat-laden calories of most garlic bread, the addition of real food on top ensures you’re getting some good vitamins and minerals in there.  Everyone already knows about tomatoes and lycopene and antioxidants… Eat on!

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Only my most loyal readers will notice that I didn’t post anything last week.  My Dad was in town, for the first time in almost 9 years and the first time he’s had to deal with our current airport security nightmare.  I’m sure no one will fault me for spending every moment with my wonderful father. My sister, Margaret and her husband Scott flew down with Dad for the weekend too.  Margaret the Human got to meet Margaret the Chicken. For those of you who don’t know what that means, read about my new passion, my mini chicken rescue ranch: (copy and paste) https://www.facebook.com/Mrs-Vs-Rescue-Chickens-1500893156880649/

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We went on lots of dog walks, including Crissy Field with the lovely backdrop of the golden gate bridge.   Even after all these years, sometimes I think the GGB looks like a prop on a set because it’s so picturesque.  We even went to iconic San Francisco show, Beach Blanket Babylon, which became a longtime favorite of Mom’s and Dad’s after I took them 30 years ago.  I did cook (you will forgive me if I didn’t share) but we also frequented many local restaurants.  Love you Dad!

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TIPS: For this dish, I like to use a long thin baguette which develops a nice crispy crust and is also the perfect width for a sliced tomato.  If you like a heavier bread ratio, use a thicker sourdough or  ciabatta loaf, but you may need to double the garlic butter quantity. For a quicker prep time, buy pre-sliced fresh mozzarella or try out a vegan version by checking our Miyako’s Kitchen’s new vegan mozzarella.  There are NO substitutions for fresh, ripe tomatoes… so plan ahead and set them in your windowsill to ripen for a few days.

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CAPRESE GARLIC BREAD

  • 1 thin baguette (sourdough or ciabatta loaf-see TIPS)
  • 1/2 cup salted butter, softened
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced (or garlic paste)
  • 12 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 2-3 medium tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
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  • Slice baguette in half lengthwise, then cut in halves or thirds (whichever fits on your baking sheet) In a small bowl,combine butter and garlic. (You could also add a dash of Italian Seasoning if you wish)  Spread evenly over bread.

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  • Slice tomatoes and mozzarella into 1/2 inch rounds.

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  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place bread on large baking sheet cut side up. Bake for 3-5 minutes, or until butter is melted and edges are golden.

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  • Remove from oven and arrange mozzarella slices on bread and bake in oven for about 10 minutes or until cheese is melted but not falling off. You can turn to broil for the last few minutes, if desired.

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  • While bread is cooking, reduce balsamic vinegar. Bring vinegar and honey to a boil, in a small saucepan, reduce heat and simmer for 7-10 minutes, stirring often, until vinegar is reduced by half or until vinegar is a nice syrupy consistency. Remove from heat.

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  • Remove bread from oven, line with tomato slices, season with salt and pepper and basil. You have the option of cooking for another couple of minutes or serving tomatoes room temp. Drizzle with balsamic reduction. Cut into tomato sized slices and serve.

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Caprese Garlic Bread

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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  • 1 thin baguette (sourdough or ciabatta loaf-see TIPS)
  • 1/2 cup salted butter, softened
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced (or garlic paste)
  • 12 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 2-3 medium tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  1. Slice baguette in half lengthwise, then cut in halves or thirds (whichever fits on your baking sheet)
  2. Slice tomatoes and mozzarella into 1/2 inch rounds.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place bread on large baking sheet cut side up.
  4. In a small bowl,combine butter and garlic. (You could also add a dash of Italian Seasoning if you wish)  Spread evenly over bread.
  5. Bake for 3-5 minutes, or until butter is melted and edges are golden.
  6. Remove from oven and arrange mozzarella slices on bread and bake in oven for about 10 minutes or until cheese is melted but not falling off. You can turn to broil for the last few minutes, if desired.
  7. While bread is cooking, reduce balsamic vinegar. Bring vinegar and honey to a boil, in a small saucepan, reduce heat and simmer for 7-10 minutes, stirring often, until vinegar is reduced by half or until vinegar is a nice syrupy consistency. Remove from heat.
  8. Remove bread from oven, line with tomato slices, season with salt and pepper and basil. You have the option of cooking for another couple of minutes or serving tomatoes room temp. Drizzle with balsamic reduction. Cut into tomato sized slices and serve.

 

 

Meatless Monday – Spring Vegetable Tart with Asparagus and Artichoke Hearts

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Nothing says spring like artichokes, asparagus and spring peas.  Here they are featured in a creamy puff pastry tart dotted with fresh herbs. Cherry tomatoes add a dash of color and a pop of sweetness. This tart is very pretty and great for parties or special occasions, like Mother’s Day Brunch, perhaps.  I made it for a ladies luncheon and it was a big hit. Best of all, it is deceptively easy, no pre-cooking or extra pans.  Just defrost a sheet of puff pastry, mix ricotta with garlic, feta and basil, and spread it on the pastry. Decorate with raw veggies and pop it in the oven.  Gorgeous and ready in 25 minutes.

Spring is my favorite season.   The hills are vibrant green from winter rains and wildflowers abound. Crocuses have pushed their way out of the damp earth and gorgeous camelias are in bloom.  My favorite spring flower, though, is the California poppy, so cheerful and delicate but hardy and tenacious enough to grow in the most dire of situations. I’m just sorry they don’t last all year long. But I digress.  Let’s go back to our other harbingers of spring, asparagus and artichokes, both of which add not only color but a lovely combination of flavors as well as fiber and loads of important vitamins and minerals.

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Ricotta is certainly not a diet food, as it is fat laden and high in calories, but it does have a surprising number of nutrients to offer as well. Riccotta is a good source of protein, calcium, vitamin B-12, riboflavin, phosphorous and zinc.  The fat in ricotta is mostly saturated fat which can reek havoc on cholesterol levels but lower fat versions are available, if that is a concern, but they also offer less protein. You could also try substituting cottage cheese as a lower fat alternative.  However, as a special occasion dish, I would encourage the full fat version.

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TIPS:  I used a combination of ricotta and feta cheeses.  If you are not a fan of feta, substitute goat cheese or another soft cheese that you enjoy.  You can also just add grated hard cheeses like parmesan, asiago and fontina but may not want to add a whole cup.  Taste before adding the eggs to be sure you got the combination right. When spreading the ricotta mixture, make sure you leave a wide border as the cheese has a tendency to expand and you could lose your border. Don’t skip the fresh herbs…

I adapted this recipe from http://www.prouditaliancook.com

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SPRING VEGETABLE TART

This recipe makes one tart about 12″ x 16″,  two smaller round tarts or 6 individual 4×4 squares.

  • 1 package of frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 3 cups ricotta, drained if necessary
  • 1 cup feta, crumbled
  • 2 eggs
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 small bunch of asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 1/3 cup fresh or frozen peas, defrosted
  • 1 cup artichoke hearts (frozen or canned in water), defrosted and drained
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup parmesan
  • 1 Tbsn fresh thyme sprigs
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  • Prepare all herbs and veggies. Preheat oven to   400°F.

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  • Unfold the pastry onto a piece of parchment paper. Using a rolling pin, roll pastry ½ in. bigger on all sides. Slide the pastry and parchment  onto a large baking sheet.

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  • In a medium bowl beat the eggs until combined.  Brush the outer 1 inch edge of the pastry with the egg wash and prick the center with a fork in about a dozen places to prevent the center from rising.

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  • Add the ricotta, garlic, basil and parmesan to the remaining eggs and stir until well mixed together.

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  • Spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the pastry leaving a generous one inch border all the way around(ricotta will expand in the oven).

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  • Arrange the veggies evenly into the ricotta mixture, pressingly slightly.

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  • Sprinkle with 1/4 cup parmesan.

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  • Bake in a 400 F. oven until the pastry has puffed and is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes and the ricotta has set.

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  • Top with additional parmesan and fresh thyme, if desired. Let it cool slightly before serving.

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Spring Vegetable Tart

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

 20160325_124248

This recipe makes one tart about 12″ x 16″,  two smaller round tarts or 6 individual 4×4 squares.

  • 1 package of frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 3 cups ricotta, drained if necessary
  • 1 cup feta, crumbled
  • 2 eggs
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 small bunch of asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 1/3 cup fresh or frozen peas, defrosted
  • 1 cup artichoke hearts (frozen or canned in water), defrosted and drained
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup parmesan
  • 1 Tbsn fresh thyme sprigs
Instructions
  1. Prepare all herbs and veggies. Preheat oven to   400°F.
  2. Unfold the pastry onto a piece of parchment paper. Using a rolling pin, roll pastry ½ in. bigger on all sides. Slide the pastry and parchment  onto a large baking sheet.
  3. In a medium bowl beat the eggs until combined.  Brush the outer 1 inch edge of the pastry with the egg wash and prick the center with a fork in about a dozen places to prevent the center from rising..
  4. Add the ricotta, garlic, basil and parmesan to the remaining eggs and stir until well mixed together.
  5. Spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the pastry leaving a generous one inch border all the way around (ricotta will expand in the oven).
  6. Arrange the veggies evenly into the ricotta mixture, pressingly slightly.
  7. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup parmesan.
  8. Bake in a 400 F. oven until the pastry has puffed and is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes and the ricotta has set.
  9. Top with additional parmesan and fresh thyme, if desired.
  10. Let it cool slightly before serving.

Meatless Monday – Steamed Artichokes with Two Dipping Sauces

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If you love artichokes dipped in creamy mayo but your honey swears by melted butter, this one is for you! Picture whole steamed artichokes dipped in either Lemon Herb Butter or Garlic Parmesan Aioli.  It’s yummy but easy too!  I couldn’t decide which sauce I liked better so I kept trading off.  Why play favorites if you don’t have to?  Yes, you might say I am still on an artichoke kick but they are in season and so good right now that they are hard to resist. I have recently oven roasted, pan roasted and stuffed artichokes with great results but wanted to try steaming them, just like Mom used to do.  It’s definitely the easiest way to cook them and it makes a fun appetizer or side dish, especially when you have delicious sauces to dip them in.  For the more adventurous artichoke lover, check out https://goodmotherdiet.com/2016/02/08/meatless-monday-roasted-artichokes-fennel-with-lemon-parsley-pesto/, or https://goodmotherdiet.com/2016/01/04/meatless-monday-roasted-artichokes-stuffed-with-garlic-parmesan-quinoa/ or https://goodmotherdiet.com/2015/04/20/meatless-monday-pan-seared-artichokes-with-blackened-garlic/

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Artichokes are great for scooping up yummy sauces but are they actually good for you?  The answer is Yes! Did you know that artichokes have more  antioxidants than cranberries or blueberries and more fiber than lima beans or prunes? They are also loaded with important vitamins and minerals including vitamin K, magnesium, potassium and manganese. Click through to read more about the amazing artichoke:   12 Unexpected Health Benefits of Artichokes .

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Those trying to limit or eliminate dairy from their diets should try a couple of fabulous new products.  Miyoko’s Creamery has just come out with a vegan butter made from cultured cashew milk.  It is delicious and tastes just like real butter. Miyoko also makes really delicious cheeses and is coming out with new types all the time. I really like the Double Cream Chive soft cheese. My other new fav is Just Mayo from Hamptom Creek which is so good that the mayo industry tried to shut them down.  It’s egg free and made from pea protein but best of all it tastes just like the real thing.  I love promoting new products that are really good.  Look for them in your store.  I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

TIPS:  I like to cut the sharp tips off the ends of the leaves but you can skip this step if you are in a hurry or don’t want to go to the trouble.  You can also just throw them in a pan with plain water and they will turn out just fine.  A wide pan where the artichokes can fit in a single layer works better than a tall one.

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STEAMED ARTICHOKES

4 artichokes
1 bay leaf
3-4 cloves garlic
3-4 lemon slices or 1 Tbsn lemon juice)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

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  • Bring 2 inches of water to a boil and add bay leaf, garli, lemons, salt and pepper.

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  • Cut the stems off each artichoke so they can sit upright. Trim the prickly thorn tips from each petal and cut the top half inch off of each one. Rinse them under cool water.

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  • Place them upside-down in the water, cover the pot and simmer on low for 25-35 minutes, or until a knife can be easily pierce the bottom.  While the artichokes are simmering, prepare your dips.

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  • Using tongs, remove the artichokes from water and allow to drain.  Place on a serving platter.

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  • Serve with dips and lots of napkins.

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LEMON HERB BUTTER

1/2 cup butter (or vegan butter), melted
1 Tsp fresh or 1/2 tsp dried thyme, oregano or basil
1 Tbsn lemon juice

  • In a small bowl, stir together all ingredients.  Taste and season with salt if desired. Serve warm.

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GARLIC PARMESAN AIOLI

1/2 cup mayonaise or plain yogurt
1-2 cloves garlic, minced (or garlic paste)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

  • In a small bowl, mix all ingredients together.  Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Steamed Artichokes with Two Dipping Sauces

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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4 artichokes
1 bay leaf
3-4 cloves garlic
3-4 lemon slices or 1 Tbsn lemon juice)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

  • Bring 2 inches of water to a boil and add bay leaf, garli, lemons, salt and pepper.
  • Cut the stems off each artichoke so they can sit upright. Trim the prickly thorn tips from each petal and cut the top half inch off of each one. Rinse them under cool water.
  • Place them upside-down in the water, cover the pot and simmer on low for 25-35 minutes, or until a knife can be easily pierce the bottom.
  • While the artichokes are simmering, prepare your dips.
  • Using tongs, remove the artichokes from water and allow to drain.  Place on a serving platter.
  • Serve with dips and lots of napkins.

LEMON HERB BUTTER

1/2 cup butter (or vegan butter), melted
1 Tsp fresh or 1/2 tsp dried thyme, oregano or basil
1 Tbsn lemon juice

  • In a small bowl, stir together all ingredients.  Taste and season with salt if desired. Serve warm.

GARLIC PARMESAN AIOLI

1/2 cup mayonaise or plain yogurt
1-2 cloves garlic, minced (or garlic paste)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

  • In a small bowl, mix all ingredients together.  Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Serve cold or at room temperature.

9+ Superbowl Recipes

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9 Superbowl Recipes

If you are still looking for Superbowl inspiration, here are a few (mostly vegetarian ) crowd pleasers that might help you plan your halftime snacks.  For some of us, especially if our team didn’t make it to the final showdown, the Superbowl is all about the food and the commercials, maybe the halftime entertainment (although it will be hard to beat the gloriously fun Kati Perry extravaganza from last year). Yes, Buffalo Sauce is in here… Click through for recipes.

https://goodmotherdiet.com/2014/04/28/meatless-monday-asparagus-goat-cheese-tart/  4 Ingredients = yum!

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https://goodmotherdiet.com/2015/01/30/buffalo-wing-popcorn-with-a-side-of-superbowl-fun/ Because Buffalo sauce…

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https://goodmotherdiet.com/2014/01/31/buffalo-wings-two-ways/ Both Cauliflower “Wings” and Chicken Wings. ( This recipe is back from when I still ate chicken ) Now chicken is off my menu, but I would make the cauliflower ‘wings’ again.

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https://goodmotherdiet.com/2014/08/01/feta-chili-lemon-dip/  Just add crackers. Yum!

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https://goodmotherdiet.com/2014/12/10/wheatless-wednesday-root-vegetable-chips-with-scallion-parmesan-aioli/ Fun alternative to chips and dip.

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https://goodmotherdiet.com/2015/03/25/wheatless-wednesday-endive-salad-bites/ Three bite salads made with citrus, grapes, avocado and crumbly cheese.  If you can’t find endive, use any small headed green as a ‘cup’.

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https://goodmotherdiet.com/2015/09/21/meatless-monday-barbecue-pulled-pork-sliders-with-spicy-slaw-vegan/ Delicious vegan sliders made with heart of palm.  Won my crew over!

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https://goodmotherdiet.com/2014/10/27/meatless-monday-quinoa-stuffed-peppers/ This is a Vegetarian Times all time favorite.

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https://goodmotherdiet.com/2015/09/02/wheatless-wednesday-black-bean-corn-butternut-squash-tacos-with-chile-lime-sauce/ Make a Taco Bar with loads of toppings.

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https://goodmotherdiet.com/2014/02/03/meatless-monday-black-white-chili-with-garlic-toast/ Everyone loves chili! Chili Bar?

Black and White Chili

https://goodmotherdiet.com/2016/02/01/meatless-monday-black-bean-chili-con-quinoa-2/ My all time favorite!

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