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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Meatless Monday – Sesame Crusted Tofu

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I’m sorry for going MIA this summer.  A combination of travel without my computer,(Iceland is another coming post)  made blogging (and cooking) difficult and the recent illness and death of my beloved father left me with a void that I am struggling to fill.  He was a kind man. He chose family and a career in education over wealth and prestige. Dare I say it was not the exciting career he probably thought he was going to have. He and my mom fostered dozens of kids and believed in uplifting others, especially those that really needed help the most.  I suppose, his death, following hers three years ago, only reaffirms my growing belief that we should try our best to  leave a gentle footprint on the earth and make a positive difference in the world, no matter how small.  Kindness matters. Voting with your pocketbook matters.  Our choices matter. Speaking up for those that have no voice matters.  I guess a tofu recipe is a good start.

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This is my favorite, quick and easy, protein filled, go-to dish.  I especially like to make it for my meat eating friends who think they don’t like tofu.  I have changed some pretty closed minds with this one.  The tofu is savory and crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside.  I like to serve sesame crusted tofu over pasta or rice to take advantage of the yummy pan drippings.  Surprise! Vegan food can have pan drippings. This time I tossed together some sugar snap peas sauteed with ginger and garlic until they glisten, tender but firm.

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I love the combination of black and white sesame seeds, but if you think they are just a pretty decoration you would be mistaken.  They add a nutty flavor and add to the crunchy texture in this dish, but for their small size, they also provide quite a bit of nutrition. Sesame seeds  are an excellent source of copper, a very good source of manganese, and a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc, molybdenum, selenium, and dietary fiber.  Black sesame seeds are unhulled while white seeds are hulled.  Since most of the calcium is in the hulls, black sesame seeds have more calcium.  Otherwise, they are nutritionally similar.

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TIPS:  This time, I served the tofu over thin spaghetti which picks up the sesame seeds and spices easily but angel hair pasta would work well too.  I just stirred the hot, cooked pasta in the same pan I cooked the tofu to evenly coat the strands. I often serve this with brown jasmine or basmati rice.  Just cook with vegetable broth and a 1 inch knob of peeled fresh ginger or teaspoon of ginger paste and drizzle the sesame oil and pan drippings over the rice.  Yum!…  (*smacking lip sound*)

This recipe serves two to four people, depending on appetites.  I can only eat one 4 ounce tofu steak but my husband can eat two.  You can easily double the recipe. I also prefer the 4 oz steaks because I like the crispy edges.

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SESAME CRUSTED TOFU

  • 1 block extra firm tofu
  • 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup black sesame seeds
  • 1-2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 cup + 1 Tbsn sesame oil, divided
  • 1 Tbsn soy sauce (or gluten free tamari)
  • 2 Tbsn cornstarch
  • 3 scallions, minced (optional garnish)
  • 8 oz thin spaghetti

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  • Drain tofu and slice in half lengthwise into two wide slabs (8 oz. steaks).  You can also cut the slabs half again for four 4 oz. servings.  Arrange in a single layer on double papertowels or a clean dishcloth, cover with more towels and let drain 15 or 20 minutes.  Placing a heavy pan on top might help press the liquid out.
  • Cook spaghetti as directed, drain and set aside

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  • If you are making sugar snap peas, in a cold saute pan, stir together a Tablespoon each of olive oil and sesame oil, 1 teaspoon minced ginger or ginger paste and several cloves of crushed garlic. Remove stems and strings from the peas, rinse and stir them into the garlic mixture.  They can sit until you are ready. Cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat just before you cook the tofu.

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  • Place cornstarch in a shallow pie pan or plate

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  • Stir together 1 Tablespoon sesame oil and 1 Tablespoon soy sauce

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  • Combine sesame seeds, red pepper flakes, garlic and onion powders in a shallow pie pan

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  • Heat a heavy fry pan (cast iron if you have) on medium heat and add remaining sesame oil while you prepare your tofu.
  • Dredge tofu on all sides in cornstarch

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  • Dip tofu in soy/sesame mixture, all sides

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  • Press tofu into sesame seed mixture making sure to coat all sides. Repeat with remaining pieces.

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  • Cook in hot sesame oil several minutes on each side, or until crispy and golden brown.  Lower heat if the oil starts to smoke.

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  • Remove tofu from pan and set aside. Turn heat to low.

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  • Toss cooked spaghetti in hot pan used for cooking the tofu until sesame seeds and oil are evenly distributed.  Add any remaining seeds and spices or a drizzle of sesame oil, if desired.

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  • Serve tofu topped with tofu steaks and sugar snap peas, garnish with scallions, if desired.

 

 

 

 

Sesame Crusted Tofu

  • Servings: 2 - 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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  • 1 block extra firm tofu
  • 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup black sesame seeds
  • 1-2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 cup + 1 Tbsn sesame oil, divided
  • 1 Tbsn soy sauce (or gluten free tamari)
  • 2 Tbsn cornstarch
  • 3 scallions, minced (optional garnish)
  • 8 oz thin spaghetti
  1. Drain tofu and slice in half lengthwise into two wide slabs (steaks).  You can also cut the slabs half again for four servings.  Arrange in a single layer on double papertowels or a clean dishcloth, cover with more towels and let drain 15 or 20 minutes.  Placing a heavy pan on top might help press the liquid out.
  2. Cook spaghetti as directed, drain and set aside
  3. If you are making sugar snap peas, in a cold saute pan, stir together a Tablespoon each of olive oil and sesame oil, 1 teaspoon minced ginger or ginger paste and several cloves of crushed garlic. Remove stems and strings from the peas, rinse and stir them into the garlic mixture. They can sit until you are ready.  Cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat just before you cook the tofu.
  4. Place cornstarch in a shallow pie pan
  5. Stir together 1 Tablespoon sesame oil and 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  6. Combine sesame seeds, red pepper flakes, garlic and onion powders in a shallow pie pan
  7. Heat a heavy fry pan (cast iron if you have) on medium high heat and add remaining sesame oil
  8. Dredge tofu on all sides in cornstarch
  9. Dip tofu in soy/sesame mixture, all sides
  10. Press tofu into sesame seed mixture making sure to coat all sides
  11. Cook in hot sesame oil several minutes on each side, or until crispy and golden brown.  Lower heat to medium if the oil starts to smoke.
  12. Remove tofu from pan and set aside
  13. Toss cooked spaghetti in hot pan used for cooking the tofu until sesame seeds and oil are evenly distributed.  Add any remaining seeds and spices or a drizzle of sesame oil, if desired.
  14. Serve tofu topped with tofu steaks and garnish with scallions, if desired.

 

 

Meatless Monday – Zoodles with Vodka Sauce

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Get your spiralizer out!  If you are looking for an easy, low carb, gluten free meal, or if you’re still harvesting loads of zucchini from your garden, here is a tasty dish to try.  The Vodka Sauce is delicious and so creamy, you won’t believe it’s vegan.  The vodka gives the sauce a bit of zip (although the alcohol is evaporated out so this is actually a kid friendly dish).  Zoodles, or zucchini noodles, are low calorie, low carb and naturally gluten free. Check out the handy chart below which compares zoodles and regular pasta from Dr Axe or check out his blog for more info.  Of course, if you are a pasta lover like I am, feel free to use regular pasta, no guilt intended.

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I love kitchen tools like my spiralizer and my mandolin!  They transform homely veggies into glorious pasta; spaghetti, linguini or even lasagna depending on which blade you use.  Dark green zucchini makes the firmest noodles but finicky eaters might not like seeing the bits of green.  Of course, you could peel it first but then you would lose out on a good part of the nutrients which hang out in or just under the skin.  Yellow zucchini (or summer squash) looks more like regular noodles and are generally softer so cook more quickly.  Just don’t forget to cut the zoodles into 6 or 8 inch strips or you could end up with a 6 foot long noodle which only works if you are in ‘Lady and the Tramp’.

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For other zucchini ‘pasta’ recipes, check out these two goodies:

20170625_200431.jpg Veggie Zucchini Lasagne or

Zucchini Spiral Salad1Zucchini Apple Spiral Salad with Basil and Mint which was the original inspiration for the Lady and the Tramp reference.

My zucchini plant is still going strong but my tomatoes are mostly done for the year.  Time to plant some winter veggies! If you are lucky enough to still have fresh garden tomatoes, you can use a couple of them in place of the canned chopped tomatoes.

 

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TIPS:  Not all vodka is gluten free as it is usually made from grains like wheat, barley and rye which contain gluten.  However, vodka made from potatoes, corn or other fermentable foods are gluten free.  If you are having trouble finding gluten free vodka, here is a surprisingly long list – Gluten Free Vodka List from Very Well

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Zoodles with Vodka Sauce

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  • In a large skillet saute garlic, onion and shallot in olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes

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  • Stir in tomatoes and vodka, and let simmer for 10 minutes

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  • Stir in coconut milk, red pepper flakes and basil. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and let simmer for about 20 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste and more red pepper flakes if desired.

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  • While the sauce is cooking, spiralize zucchini to make ‘zoodles’ and cut into 6 or 8 inch strips, if necessary

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  • Saute zoodles in a splash of olive oil for about 4-5 minutes, stirring often

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  • Serve zoodles topped with vodka sauce.  Garnish with fresh basil and freshly grated parmesan, if desired.

Zoodles with Vodka Sauce

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

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  1. In a large skillet saute garlic, onion and shallot in olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes
  2. Stir in tomatoes and vodka, and let simmer for 10 minutes
  3. Stir in coconut milk, red pepper flakes and basil.
  4. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and let simmer for about 20 minutes
  5. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste and more red pepper flakes if desired.
  6. While the sauce is cooking, spiralize zucchini to make ‘zoodles’ and cut into 6 or 8 inch strips, if necessary
  7. Saute zoodles in a splash of olive oil for about 4-5 minutes, stirring often
  8. Serve zoodles topped with vodka sauce.  Garnish with fresh basil and freshly grated parmesan, if desired.

10 Fabulous but Easy Tomato Recipes

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Tomatocollage

Are you a tomato lover? If so, this one is for you – 10 easy recipes featuring the lovely tomato. The French called the tomato the pomme d’amour, or The Love Apple, and they believed that tomatoes had aphrodisiac powers.  Believe it or not, but right now tomatoes are so delicious and plentiful that you may just fall in love…

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You may have noticed that my blog posts have recently been few and far between. I have been travelling so much this summer that I have spent very little time in my kitchen.  Now that I am back in California for a while, I’m making up for my neglect with this post featuring some of my favorite recipes starring luscious tomatoes which are still gloriously in season.  There are three different yummy tarts, bruschetta, pasta, salads and vegetable platters.  You really can’t go wrong here… Just click on the link to go to the original post and recipe. Don’t skip the scrumptious Rustic Roasted Tomato Tart which will melt in your mouth. Enjoy!  New recipes beginning again soon!  Pinky swear…

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Rustic Roasted Tomato Tart

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Zucchini Tomato Tart

Eggplant Tart2

Summer Vegetable Tart

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Spaghetti with the Best No Cook Tomato Sauce

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Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Peaches with Balsamic Reduction

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Bruschetta with Pesto and Heirloom Tomatoes

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Arugula, Corn and Tomato Salad with Jalapeno Vinaigrette

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Roasted Beet and Tomato Salad

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Tomato and Eggplant Stacks with Basil Vinaigrette

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Roasted Eggplant, Peppers and Tomatoes with Burrata

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.

Meatless Monday – Penne with Butternut Squash, Mushrooms & Spinach

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There is a reason pasta is a fan favorite.  It’s fast, versatile and oh so satisfying.  It’s easy to adapt ingredients to feature the best of the season when you know the most abundant fruits and veggies are at their peak freshness and also their least expensive, due to good old supply and demand. Right now winter squashes and mushrooms crowd our supermarket shelves and dark leafy greens are still readily available. So stock up and do yourself a favor; whip up a quick batch of this yummy pasta. You won’t be disappointed.

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I love the colors of this dish.  As you know, via the concept of Eating the Rainbow, the more colors you can include in your food, the more likely you are to have a vast array of vitamins and minerals.   Any time you can sneak dark, leafy greens into meals, you’re adding important vitamins and minerals, but did you know that both butternut squash and spinach are good sources of fiber and Vitamin C and excellent sources of Vitamin A?  Mushrooms also add great nutritional value and help provide the feeling of fullness without adding unnecessary calories, fat or cholesterol.

20161101_195227TIPS:  Whatever you do, don’t forget to scoop out the pasta water which is a magic elixir.  It turns non-tomato based pasta sauces into velvety deliciousness and ‘loosens’ up a dry or too thick sauce.  Regular water just doesn’t give the same results.  Feel free to substitute the spinach for any dark leafy green.  Swiss chard or kale are good choices but may take a bit longer to wilt.

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PENNE WITH BUTTERNUT SQUASH, MUSHROOMS AND SPINACH

  • 12 ounces whole-wheat or multigrain penne
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups diced peeled butternut squash (or other winter squash)
  • 6-8  crimini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 large shallot or 1/2 onion, small dice
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups spinach or other leafy green
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried
    • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook as directed. Scoop out 1 cup cooking water and set aside before draining pasta. Leave pasta uncovered to prevent overcooking.  If it looks sticky, add a bit of pasta water.

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    • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the squash in a tablespoon of olive oil with half of the salt and pepper, stirring occasionally, until golden and tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

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    • Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, and saute the mushrooms with the remaining salt and pepper, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 4-5 minutes. Transfer to the plate and set aside.

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    • Add the garlic, onion and red pepper flakes, adding a bit more oil if necessary . Cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent, about 3-5 minutes.

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    • Stir in the spinach and saute about one minute until slightly wilted.

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    • Add the pasta, squash, mushrooms and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water to the spinach/onion mixture. Cook, stirring, until heated through,1 to 2 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup parmesan and the oregano. Add more of the cooking water, if desired, to make a juicier sauce.

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    • Serve with remaining parmesan and fresh oregano.

    Penne with Butternut Squash, Mushrooms and Spinach

    • Servings: 4
    • Difficulty: easy
    • Print
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    • 12 ounces whole-wheat or multigrain penne
    • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 2 cups diced peeled butternut squash (about 8 ounces)
    • 6-8  crimini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
    • 1 medium shallot or 1/2 onion, small dice
    • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
    • 2 cups spinach or other leafy green
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/4 tsp pepper
    • 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (optional)
    • 3 tablespoons fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried
      • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook as directed. Scoop out 1 cup cooking water and set aside before draining pasta.
      • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the squash in a tablespoon of olive oil with half of the salt and pepper, stirring occasionally, until golden and tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
      • Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, and saute the mushrooms with the remaining salt and pepper, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 4-5 minutes. Transfer to the plate and set aside.
      • Add the garlic, onion and red pepper flakes, adding a bit more oil if necessary . Cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent, about 3-5 minutes.
      • Stir in the spinach and saute about one minute until slightly wilted.
      • Add the pasta, squash, mushrooms and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water to the spinach/onion mixture. Cook, stirring, until heated through,1 to 2 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup parmesan and the oregano. Add more of the cooking water to make a juicier sauce.
      • Serve with remaining parmesan.