Meatless Monday – Spring Vegetable Tart with Asparagus and Artichoke Hearts

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I spent last week digging a trench in my garden and hauling wood chips so my blog posts didn’t get written-maybe later in the week. Since spring is finally here in all it’s glory, I thought it timely to bring back my Spring Vegetable Tart. 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. 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.

goodmotherdiet

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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.

california-poppy.jpg (500×316) Photo Credit: https://berkeleygardencoach

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…

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Meatless Monday – Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Pistachios

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Roasting beets intensifies their natural flavors and jewel toned colors.  Slicing them into rounds creates a gorgeous base for creating a spectacular but simple salad.  I topped the roasted beets with crumbled goat cheese and pistachios with a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette. The goat cheese adds a creamy tang that complements the earthy beets and the pistachios provide a satisfying salty crunch. This is the perfect departure from the traditional tossed green salad, although you could lay the sliced beets on top of a bed of baby greens.  Other good additions would be citrus slices or segments, pomegranate seeds, thinly sliced red onion, avocado, burrata or sliced fresh mozzarella.

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The intense colors of BEETS are not just for show. The pigments that give them their rich colors are phytonutrients called betalains. which are either red or yellow, and provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.  Beets give you a big bang for the buck.  They are vitamin rich, including iron, vitamin C and B6, while also low in calories (35 calories in a 2 inch beet), no cholesterol and almost no fat, so they can be your guilty pleasure.  Speaking of guilty pleasures, this Four Pepper Goat Cheese from Trader Joe’s was a nice extra touch.  However, use any cheese that you prefer.  A great vegan option would be using one of the soft cheeses by Miyoko’s Kitchen which is starting to get traction outside of the Bay Area, so check them out!  I have good luck finding it in Whole Foods Markets.

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Pistachios are one of my favorite nuts.  They are delicious and easy to use if you buy them pre-shelled.  Although this salad uses only a small amount of them, they still contribute more than just flavor and crunch. Pistachios have protein and fiber and as a bonus, contain fewer calories and more potassium and vitamin K per serving than other nuts.

TIPS: The beets take about an hour to roast and then they have to cool, at least enough to handle.  Luckily, they can be roasted a day or so ahead of time, peeled and refrigerated until you are ready to use them.  Or you can sometimes buy already roasted beets for a super short cut.  Once the beets are cooked and cooled, the salad is ready in minutes. Enjoy!

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BEET SALAD WITH GOAT CHEESE AND PISTACHIOS

  • 4-6 beets, preferably different varieties (red, golden or chiogga)
  • 1/4 cup pistachios (toasted almonds, walnuts or pecans)
  • 2 oz (2-3 Tbsn) goat cheese (or other crumbly cheese like feta)
  • 1 Tbsn fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

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  • Cut off beet greens and save for another use.  (They are delicious sautéed in butter or olive oil with salt and pepper} Take care not to cut into the beets or you will lose some of the juice in cooking.  Leave the root or ‘tail’ end.  It’s easy to pinch off after it’s cooked.  If you must remove it, leave a short tail to minimize juice seepage. (I absent mindedly cut mine off without thinking and they turned out fine but a slightly harder clean up.)

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  • Spray a baking dish with olive oil and place the beets inside.  Spray or drizzle them with olive oil.  Cover tightly with foil. For an even easier clean up, line the bottom of the pan with foil too.  Bake in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for about an hour.  They should be easily pierced with a fork but not soft and mushy. Remove from heat and let cool.

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  • Remove the beet skins with a papertowel and pinch off the stem and tail.

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  • Using a mandolin or a sharp knife, slice the beets and place on a platter in a single layer.

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  • Here is your opportunity to be artistic.  I recommend slicing your golden beets first to prevent having to wash the mandolin between colors. Warning:  the red beets will dye anything they come into contact with, so don’t use anything with a porous surface (like wood).

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  • Roughly chop the pistachios and parsley and sprinkle them on top of the beets. Crumble the goat cheese and sprinkle it as well.

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Whisk the oil and vinegar together (or combine in a shaker).  Season with salt and pepper to taste (I usually use 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper).  Drizzle over beets and serve with remaining dressing on the side.

 

 

 

Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Pistachios

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 90 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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  • 4-6 beets, preferably different varieties (red, golden or chiogga)
  • 1/4 cup pistachios
  • 2 oz (2-3 Tbsn) goat cheese (or other crumbly cheese like feta, or gorgonzola)
  • 1 Tbsn fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Cut off beet greens and save for another use.  (They are delicious sautéed in butter or olive oil with salt and pepper} Take care not to cut into the beets or you will lose some of the juice in cooking.  Leave the root or ‘tail’ end.  It’s easy to pinch off after it’s cooked.  If you must remove it, leave a short tail to minimize juice seepage.
  2. Spray a baking dish with olive oil and place the beets inside.  Spray or drizzle them with olive oil. Cover tightly with foil. For an even easier clean up, line the bottom of the pan with foil too.  Bake in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for about an hour.  They should be easily pierced with a fork but not over soft. Remove from heat and let cool.
  3. Remove the beet skins with a papertowel and pinch off the stem and tail.
  4. Using a mandolin or a sharp knife, slice the beets and place on a platter in a single layer.  Here is your opportunity to be artistic.  I recommend slicing your golden beets first to prevent having to wash the mandolin between colors. Warning:  the red beets will dye anything they come into contact with, so don’t use anything with a porous surface (like wood).
  5. Roughly chop the pistachios and parsley and sprinkle them on top of the beets. Crumble the goat cheese and sprinkle it as well.
  6. Whisk the oil and vinegar together (or combine in a shaker).  Season with salt and pepper to taste (I usually use 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper).  Drizzle over beets and serve with remaining dressing on the side.

 

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
  • Time: 10 minutes
  • 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
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • 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
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • 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
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • 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 – Roasted Artichokes Stuffed with Garlic, Parmesan & Quinoa

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It’s artichoke time again (at least here in California)! Take advantage of the season’s gorgeous bounty when they are freshest and abundant. How about stuffing them with a yummy cheesy quinoa filling and roasting them to perfection? Yum! I may have to make these again…

goodmotherdiet

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My Mom used to steam whole artichokes and serve them with bowls of melted butter or mayo as a special treat. I have fond memories of sitting around the table with my brothers and sisters, peeling off leaf after leaf and watching the piles of toothmarked leaves growing ever larger.  That is certainly the easiest way to prepare artichokes and sometimes simple is best, however, I was looking for a recipe that would feature an artichoke as a main course, rather than an appetizer or side dish.  Most of the stuffed artichoke recipes I found call for some variation of garlic, olive oil, parmesan and breadcrumbs, which I’m sure is delicious, but I wanted something healthier and heartier.  So I swapped out the breadcrumbs for red quinoa which is more nutrient dense, added fresh herbs and several cheeses. I used an Italian blend of parmesan, romano, mozzarella and provolone. The…

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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
  • Time: 90 minutes
  • 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 -Thai Red Curry Soup

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So you might have noticed that I am still on a soup kick.  It may have something to do with the constant deluge of rain blown sideways by strong gusts of wind.  This soup, in particular, is designed to use winter veggies like sweet potato, squash and mushrooms with fresh ginger  in a deliciously spicy red curry, coconut milk broth. I added tofu for extra protein and millet, brown rice ramen noodles to make a pretty hearty meal in a bowl.

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I love the spicy but comforting flavors of this soup. It’s loaded with vegetables that make it a nutritional feast but also provide interest.  Each spoonful is a different culinary adventure, from the creaminess of the sweet potato, to the earthy mushrooms and the just tender bok choy all swimming in a yummy coconut curry broth.

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What really makes it though, is the garnishes of sliced red onion and fresh cilantro (or parsley if you’re not a cilantro lover), so don’t skip this step. You can use whatever vegetables you prefer or have on hand.  Japanese eggplant would be a good choice.  Just keep in mind that some veggies take longer than others to cook.

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TIPS: I used whole grain ramen noodles which I was trying for the first time.  They had a good flavor and texture but broke into small pieces which made it easier to eat but not quite as pretty as intended.  Rice vermicelli or spaghetti would hold it’s shape better.

This recipe calls for several Thai spices which are easy to find in my grocery stores. I’ll admit that the list of ingredients is pretty long but each adds an important flavor to the mix.  If you don’t have the ingredients or can’t be bothered to buy them, you may be lucky enough to find a curry soup base in your market.  Just add the fresh ingredients and you’re done.

Draining the tofu isn’t absolutely necessary, especially if you are pressed for time, since it’s going into a liquid base, but I prefer to squeeze out the water it was packed in to allow the flavors of the broth to be absorbed.  It makes the tofu more flavorful.

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THAI RED CURRY SOUP

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 2-3 Tbsn Thai red curry paste
  • 2 tsp red chili paste (optional)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 13oz. can coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsn fish sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos (GF)
  • 1 Tbsn lime juice
  • 2 Tbsn brown or white sugar
  • 1 block extra firm tofu, drained and diced
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and sliced or diced
  • 1 cup winter squash or zucchini, sliced or diced
  • 4-5 shitake or criminy mushrooms, sliced
  • 2-3 sliced baby bok choy, 1 cup shredded Napa cabbage or 1 cup shredded leafy greens
  • 6 oz. whole grain ramen noodles or rice vermicelli noodles (GF)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion

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  • Drain tofu on papertowels, cover with papertowels and gently press water out by hand or with a heavy pan.  Let sit while you prepare the other ingredients. Add garlic, ginger, red curry paste, red pepper paste, vegetable broth, coconut milk fish sauce and half of sugar to a large soup pot and bring almost to boiling. Reduce to a simmer. Taste and add rest of sugar if desired and more

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  • Add sweet potato, tofu and squash (If you are using zucchini, add with the bok choy) and simmer for about 10 minutes.

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  • Add bok choy, mushrooms and noodles and cook another five minutes.

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  • Serve topped with sliced red onion, chopped fresh cilantro and maybe a drizzle of sriracha.

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Thai Red Curry Soup

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 2-3 Tbsn Thai red curry paste
  • 2 tsp red chili paste (optional)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 13.5 oz. can coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsn fish sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos
  • 1 Tbsn lime juice
  • 2 Tbsn brown or white sugar
  • 1 block extra firm tofu, drained and diced
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and sliced or diced
  • 1 cup winter squash or zucchini, sliced or diced
  • 4-5 shitake or criminy mushrooms, sliced
  • 2-3 sliced baby bok choy, 1 cup shredded Napa cabbage or 1 cup shredded leafy greens
  • 6 oz. whole grain ramen noodles or rice vermicelli noodles
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion
  1. Drain tofu on papertowels, cover with papertowels and gently press water out by hand or with a heavy pan.  Let sit while you prepare the other ingredients. Add garlic, ginger, red curry paste, red pepper paste, vegetable broth, coconut milk fish sauce and half of sugar to a large soup pot and bring almost to boiling. Reduce to a simmer. Taste and add rest of sugar if desired and more
  2. Add sweet potato and squash (If you are using zucchini, add with the bok choy) and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add bok choy, mushrooms and noodles and cook another five minutes.
  4. Serve topped with sliced red onion, chopped fresh cilantro and maybe a drizzle of sriracha.

 

Meatless Monday -Breakfast Tacos

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I was tired of toast for breakfast, so decided to ratchet it up a notch with breakfast tacos.  I love Mexican food so this was a no brainer, and even though these tacos are vegetarian, they even satisfied my husband who went back for thirds. Warm corn tortillas loaded with Mexican Chipotle ‘vegan sausage’, scrambled eggs (or tofu), jalapenos, black olives, tomatoes and shredded cheese were a great way to start the day. I’m pretty sure you will like them too. We had them for Sunday morning breakfast but I would eat them for dinner too…

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Those that follow me know that I’m not a fan of fake foods, i.e. fake ‘meat’.  I usually prefer to make my own substitutions, or just not eat it at all, so I have pretty much stayed away from store bought ‘meat’.  Luckily for me (and vegetarians everywhere), our choices are getting better all the time and I decided to give the Field Roast Grain Meat ‘sausages’ a try. I chose the Mexican Chipotle because I thought the flavors would be great in a taco. Well, I loved it.  My husband loved it. I will definitely be trying the other flavors too.

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For those like me that don’t know, grain meat is a combination of grains and vegetables that are ground up like a traditional sausage.  The links are encased in plastic, which must be removed before cooking, in contrast to natural casings which are made from animal intestines. Sausage is sometimes enclosed in artificial casings made of cellulose, collagen or synthetic materials, so know what you are buying.

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I have 12 chickens, most of whom have been rescued from  factory farms so I am lucky enough to have plentiful and beautiful eggs from happy hens who have been given a second chance at life.  If you don’t have access to eggs from your own backyard or a farmers market, look for Pasture Raised eggs in your supermarket.  All the other labels like Cage Free and Organic are misleading.  I have written about this before so won’t repeat myself.  For those that haven’t read my egg rant or are still confused about egg labeling, click  HERE for more info on how to decipher egg labels. They are designed to keep people from making informed decisions. (i.e. organic may not mean what you think it does).  The bottom line is DON’T BUY CHEAP EGGS. My chickens, ambassadors for factory farmed animals, have their own Facebook page,  Mrs Vs Rescue Chickens .Check them out. They love new followers.

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*If you are vegan or don’t eat eggs, tofu makes a good scramble.  You can buy boxed tofu scramble or you can make your own using extra firm tofu.  Click HERE for a Basic Tofu Scramble Recipe.

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BREAKFAST BURRITOS

  • 2 Field Roast Mexican Chipotle Sausages (vegan)
  • 1/2 block firm tofu or 3 pasture raised eggs*
  • 1 Tbsn olive oil
  • 1 tsp vegan butter or butter
  • 6 corn tortillas

Suggested Toppings:

  • 1 small tomato, chopped (or several cherry tomatoes cut in quarters)
  • 1/2 avocado, chopped
  • Sliced black olives
  • Sliced or chopped jalapeno peppers
  • Shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack Cheese (vegan options available)
  • Sriracha or other hot pepper sauce

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  • Remove the plastic casing from the sausages and break into pieces with a spatula or fingers (it’s a bit messy).  Saute in olive oil on medium for about 5 minutes.  Reduce to low. (The sausage can get too crispy if overcooked)

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  • While sausage is cooking, prepare your toppings. You don’t need very many.

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  • If using tofu, follow suggested recipe* or your own.  If using eggs, add 1 teaspoon cold water and scramble in butter until done and remove from heat.

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  • Heat tortillas. My favorite way is to wrap in papertowels and microwave about 30 seconds.  Keep warm in foil or a cloth, or a tortilla warmer if you have one.

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  • Fill tortillas with a spoonful of sausage and egg

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  • Add the toppings of your choice.  Top with hot sauce, if desired.  Goes well with fruit.

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Breakfast Tacos

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

 20170205_115008

  • 2 Field Roast Mexican Chipotle Sausages (vegan)
  • 1/2 block tofu or 3 pasture raised eggs*
  • 1 Tbsn olive oil
  • 1 tsp vegan butter or butter
  • 6 corn tortillas

Suggested Toppings:

  • 1 small tomato, chopped (or several cherry tomatoes cut in quarters)
  • 1/2 avocado, chopped
  • Sliced black olives
  • Sliced or chopped jalapeno peppers
  • Shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack Cheese (vegan options available)
  • Sriracha or other hot pepper sauce
  1. Remove the plastic casing from the sausages and break into pieces with a knife or fingers (it’s a bit messy).  Saute in olive oil on medium for about 5 minutes.  Reduce to low. (The sausage can get hard if overcooked)
  2. While sausage is cooking,
  3. If using tofu, follow suggested recipe* or your own.  If using eggs, add 1 teaspoon cold water and scramble in butter until done and remove from heat.
  4. Heat tortillas. My favorite way is to wrap in papertowels and microwave about 30 seconds.  Keep warm in foil or a cloth.
  5. Fill tortillas with a spoonful of sausage and egg and the toppings of your choice.  Top with hot sauce, if desired.  Goes well with fruit.

Spicy Black Eyed Pea Soup (Vegan)

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You have heard that ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’.  Well, this yummy soup was a brainchild of a recent severe rainstorm, on a day we lost power for 4 or 5 hours due to heavy rain and high winds.  Our lights came back on around 6:30pm so I went around blowing out candles and then had to come up with something for dinner, now that I had no excuse not to cook.  I found a bag of frozen black eyed peas and a few veggies in my refrigerator.  Threw in a few canned items from my pantry and I ended up with a big pot of some pretty tasty hot soup.  I didn’t take any photos because I didn’t think those humble ingredients would amount to much.  Boy was I wrong!  The fire roasted tomatoes and peppers combined with cumin and enriched with a splash of Worcestershire sauce (or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos) add a savory and slightly spicy backdrop for the veggies.  Luckily for my family, I had to make it again just to take photos – such a hardship…

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Black eyed peas are not peas (which are actually seeds in a pod).  They are legumes (beans) and the seed we eat is called a pulse.  There you go, that was the vocabulary lesson for the day. Black Eyed Peas are a good source of protein (at 6.7 grams per half cup), fiber and a host of vitamins and minerals, including iron, zinc, potassium, Vitamin A and Folate.  They are also low in fat and have zero cholesterol, making them an ideal food. They also have a mild flavor and firm texture which makes them a popular choice in soups and stews.

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Frozen black eyed peas are just fresh peas that have been frozen with no additives, so they are my preference if you can find them.  Occasionally, I am lucky enough to find them fresh in the produce section and consider it a great find. For those that live in areas where you can’t get good fresh produce year around, I recommend stocking your freezer with fresh frozen beans,  dark leafy greens and pre-cut veggies.  You won’t regret it, especially on nights where you are searching the kitchen for dinner ideas. Add whatever veggies you have on hand.  I used kale, zucchini, carrots and celery.

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TIPS: If you are using canned black eyed peas, drain and rinse them before adding them to the soup.  Just in case you’re wondering about that slimy liquid with them in the can, it is mostly water and salt  and/or calcium chloride (both of which are preservatives ) along with natural starch given off by the beans.  Some recipes call for the starchy liquid to thicken dishes but I usually rinse because I don’t care for the texture or the flavor which is sometimes metallic from being in the can. Those watching sodium in their diets will also benefit from rinsing the extra salt from the beans.

If you are using dried beans, I would recommend soaking one and a half cups of them overnight in cold water.  Drain and follow the recipe but increase cooking time to about an hour, or until beans are soft.

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SPICY BLACK EYED PEA SOUP

  • 32 oz bag frozen black eyed peas (or 2 14 oz cans)
  • 1 Tbsn olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, scrubbed and chopped
  • 1 large stalk celery, trimmed and chopped
  • 8 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 16 oz can fire roasted chopped tomatoes
  • 1-2 4 oz can fire roasted green peppers
  • 1-2 tsp cumin
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1-2 tsp Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce or liquid aminos (GF)
  • 1 small zucchini, chopped
  • 1 cup lacinato kale, stems removed and thinly sliced

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  • Saute onion, carrots and celery in olive oil until softened (about 5 minutes)

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  • Pour in vegetable broth and add all remaining ingredients, except zucchini and kale.  I recommend adding 1 can of peppers, 1 teaspoon cumin and 1 teaspoon of your chosen sauce to begin. Simmer about 30 minutes.  Add more broth or water, if necessary.

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  • Taste broth and add cumin, soy sauce, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste. If you want more zing, add another can of fire roasted peppers.  Stir in zucchini and kale and cook another 5 minutes.

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  • Serve with crusty bread or a fresh green salad.

Spicy Black Eyed Pea Soup

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

 20170125_215908

  • 32 oz bag frozen black eyed peas (or 2 14 oz cans)
  • 1 Tbsn olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, scrubbed and chopped
  • 1 large stalk celery, trimmed and chopped
  • 8 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 16 oz can fire roasted chopped tomatoes
  • 1-2 4 oz can fire roasted green peppers
  • 1-2 tsp cumin
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1-2 tsp Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce or liquid aminos (GF)
  • 1 small zucchini, chopped
  • 1 cup lacinato kale, stems removed and thinly sliced
  1. Saute onion, carrots and celery in olive oil until softened (about 5 minutes)
  2. Pour in vegetable broth and add all remaining ingredients, except zucchini and kale.  I recommend adding 1 can of peppers, 1 teaspoon cumin and 1 teaspoon of your chosen sauce to begin. Simmer about 30 minutes.  Add more broth or water, if necessary
  3. Taste broth and add cumin, cayenne pepper, soy sauce, salt and pepper to taste. If you want more zing, add another can of fire roasted peppers.  Stir in zucchini and kale and cook another 5 minutes.

 

 

Wheatless Wednesday – Ginger Miso Tofu Noodle Bowl

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Here’s a delicious way to kick that cold. The Japanese have known the health benefits of miso and scallions and have used miso soup to cure the common cold since ancient times, kind of like a vegetarian version of homemade chicken soup. I originally made this soup last January, so it’s about time to make again… Enjoy!

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The Japanese have known the health benefits of miso and scallions and have used miso soup to cure the common cold since ancient times, kind of like a vegetarian version of homemade chicken soup. We have all had miso soup in Japanese restaurants, that savory broth with tiny cubes of tofu and thinly sliced scallions  floating on top. Usually, in restaurants we consider it as a small starter before the main courses arrive but in Japan miso soup is a staple and eaten for breakfast and throughout the day loaded with eggs, fish and other garnishes.  So I figure that they must be onto a good thing and decided to create a miso soup that is simple to make but worthy of being a main course for lunch or dinner, and I came up with this Ginger Miso Tofu Noodle Bowl. For more on using miso soup to cure the common cold…

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Meatless Monday – BBQ Tofu Pizza

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Pizza lovers will go back for seconds or thirds on this one – yes, even your meat eaters. I am on vacation this week so NOT COOKING but still sharing. I just made this pizza last week and loved it all over again. You can also add more veggies or a bit of buffalo wing sauce as your heart desires. Enjoy!

goodmotherdiet

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Two of America’s favorite foods are barbecue and pizza.  Now imagine them together for the ultimate in delicious comfort food.  This version is vegetarian, using tofu, crumbled and browned with barbecue sauce, in place of more traditional chicken with pretty great results.  The barbecue sauce, smoked cheddar, mozzarella, purple onion and fresh tomatoes all melted together into quite a tasty pizza. My guests actually didn’t believe that it was tofu at first but they quickly became believers…

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I used a very spicy barbecue sauce that has a slightly smoky flavor, so I used it sparingly.  I didn’t want the pizza to be so hot that people couldn’t eat it. I may have used a layer of tomato sauce if I had it but used fresh tomatoes instead. Next time I will do both or use a milder barbecue sauce. I also doubled down on the smoky flavor by using a combination of mozzarella and smoked…

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Meatless Monday-Roasted Artichokes & Fennel with Lemon Parsley Pesto

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Happy 2017! I have to confess that I haven’t spent much time creating new recipes over the holidays so I have decided to share a favorite seasonal goodie from last year. If you love artichokes and fennel, then you won’t be disappointed. When roasted, fennel gets sweet and delicate while artichokes deepen in flavor and richness. Roasted garlic is creamy, and mellow enough to eat whole (yep) and caramelized shallots are melt in the mouth delicious. These veggies are all good on their own but when combined with the yummy pesto, made with parsley and pistachios, divine…J

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Who says size doesn’t matter? I mean, this IS the age of supersizing. Picture thick caramelized slices of fennel and quartered artichokes, shallots and garlic, topped with a large dollop of savory Lemon Parsley Pesto.  I’ve made this dish several times and each time I’ve made the slices and wedges bigger and each time it came out better. When roasted, fennel gets sweet and delicate while artichokes deepen in flavor and richness.  Roasted garlic is creamy, and mellow enough to eat whole (yep) and caramelized shallots are melt in the mouth delicious.  These veggies are all good on their own but when combined with the pesto, made with parsley and pistachioes, divine…

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According to legend, the artichoke was created when the smitten Greek god Zeus turned his object of affection into a thistle after being rejected.  Hmmn,  anyone else wonder about the back story?   Despite this thorny beginning, artichokes…

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Meatless Monday – Hot and Sour Soup

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If hot soup equals a warm belly, what about hot soup that is also hot-spicy? As you can see, I’m still on my hot soup bender – and judging by the forecast for seven days of rain next week, it’s not ending any time soon. My husband is in bed with the sniffles so I decided that Hot and Sour Soup would be the perfect antidote. I am a true believer in the medicinal power of soup.  I used to rely on chicken soup but now I’m looking for vegetarian options and it looks like this one will do the trick.  Hot and Sour Soup contains anti inflammatory aromatics, like red chile and ginger, lending some truth to the old saying, that ‘soup is medicine in a bowl.’

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This soup has all the healing properties you need to fight infections, help digestion and boost both your immune system and your metabolism.  It’s also a great way to warm up on a cold winter’s day. The soup’s warm and silky texture feels great on a sore throat, and its hot and sour flavors help clear a stuffy nose and sweat out toxins. Plus the combination of mushrooms, tofu and bamboo shoots swimming in a flavorful broth that tickles your tastebuds is reason enough to enjoy this satisfying dish.

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Photo Credit:  Wikimedia.org

 

Here’s your fun fact of the day:  Bamboo Shoots are not just an empty filler only found in Chinese food.  They are rich in dietary fiber, vitamins (including B vitamins) and minerals, especially copper and iron which are used to produce red blood cells and potassium, important for healthy heart and blood pressure. They also contain 2.5 grams of protein per 100 g serving for the low price of 27 calories. Not bad for such an innocuous little veggie…  The photo above is of a young bamboo shoot just peeking above the ground.  I decided to look it up because I didn’t know what they look like in nature.  You’re welcome.

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I have made this soup once before but this time I’m perfecting it.  It is based on a Tyler Florence recipe which I veganized and added a bit more spice (because I love it). Here is the original Food Network Recipe which was my inspiration. Don’t forget to try a few drops of sesame oil on the top. Mmmm…

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TIPS:  Most Hot and Sour recipes call for Chinese mushrooms like wood ear or cloud ear which are easier to find dried than fresh.  However, any kind of mushroom can be used.  I used a combination of fresh criminy and maitake which provides good flavor and texture. If you use dried mushrooms, pour boiling water over them and let sit for about a half hour to reconstitute, then slice.  The scallions, cilantro and sesame oil are optional garnishes but I think they add a lot.  I liked the sesame oil so much that next time I may add it right to the pot.

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HOT AND SOUR SOUP

  • 2 Tbsn light oil (avocado or canola)
  • 1 Tbsn fresh ginger, finely grated (or ginger paste)
  • 2 Tbsn red chili paste
  • 2 cups criminy mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small clump maitake mushrooms(optional)
  • 1  block extra firm tofu, cubed
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (or liquid aminos for GF)
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 quarts vegetable broth
  • 3 Tbsn cornstarch + 1/4 cup water
  • 1 large egg, room temperature (optional)
  • scallions, chopped (optional)
  • cilantro, chopped (optional)
  • sesame oil (optional)

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  • If you are using dried mushrooms, put them in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand for 30 minutes to reconstitute. Drain and rinse and discard any hard clusters in the centers.  Wipe fresh mushrooms clean with a paper towel and slice.  Pull apart Maitake mushrooms.

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  • Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high flame. Add the ginger, chili paste, mushrooms and bamboo shoots; cook and stir for 1 minute to infuse the flavor.

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  • Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar in a small bowl and add it to the mushroom mixture.  Gently stir in the tofu taking care not to break the cubes apart.

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  • Add the vegetable broth and simmer for 10 minutes. Dissolve the cornstarch in the water and stir until smooth. Slowly pour it into the soup and continue to simmer until the soup thickens.

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  • Remove the soup from the heat and stir in 1 direction to get a current going, then stop stirring. Slowly pour in the beaten egg in a steady stream. It should feather and spread out in the broth.

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  • Serve with chopped green onions and cilantro, and drizzle with a few drops of sesame oil, if desired.

Hot and Sour Soup

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 30 minutes or less
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

 20161215_183530

  • 2 Tbsn light oil (avocado or canola)
  • 1 Tbsn fresh ginger, finely grated (or ginger paste)
  • 2 Tbsn red chili paste
  • 2 cups criminy mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small clump maitake mushrooms(optional)
  • 1  block extra firm tofu, cubed
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (or liquid aminos for GF)
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 quarts vegetable broth
  • 3 Tbsn cornstarch + 1/4 cup water
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • scallions, chopped (optional)
  • cilantro, chopped (optional)
  • sesame oil (optional)
  • If you are using dried mushrooms, put them in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand for 30 minutes to reconstitute. Drain and rinse and discard any hard clusters in the centers.  Wipe fresh mushrooms clean with a paper towel and slice.  Pull apart Maitake mushrooms.
  • Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high flame. Add the ginger, chili paste, mushrooms and bamboo shoots; cook and stir for 1 minute to infuse the flavor.
  • Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar in a small bowl and add it to the mushroom mixture.  Gently stir in the tofu taking care not to break the cubes apart.
  • Add the vegetable broth and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Dissolve the cornstarch in the water and stir until smooth. Slowly pour it into the soup and continue to simmer until the soup thickens.
  • Remove the soup from the heat and stir in 1 direction to get a current going, then stop stirring. Slowly pour in the beaten egg in a steady stream. It should feather and spread out in the broth.
  • Serve with chopped green onions and cilantro, and drizzle with a few drops of sesame oil, if desired.

Meatless Monday – Butternut Squash Barley Risotto

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20161207_194811 Risotto is so rich and creamy that it seems fancy and somewhat decadent.  Well this version is no different, even though it is made without meat or dairy and I used barley instead of the traditional Arborio rice which adds flavor and interest. If you are intimidated by making risotto at home, don’t be.  It’s actually a pretty easy (mostly) one pot dish.  Yes, you do have to stir it but not constantly.  You don’t have to be a slave to the stove but it is the technique of slowly adding broth and allowing it to absorb into the barley which creates the rich and creamy almost sauce-like texture which is the result of the barley releasing starch into the broth. Starch is that magic ingredient that helps marry the ingredients.  (This is same reason I always save a cup of cooking water when making pasta). The barley risotto is a wonderful, slightly chewy consistency and the butternut squash is sweet and perfectly accented by the lovely ‘sauce’ and fresh tangy sage. The end result is worth the extra attention, however, I have a short cut in TIPS below for those who can’t be bothered but still like the idea of butternut squash and barley.

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Risotto is traditionally made with Arborio rice which lends itself to a creamy consistency but I decided to use pearl barley instead to give my risotto a heartier, winter ‘stick to your ribs’ feel and to boost the nutrition. So what exactly is pearl barley?  Pearl Barley, or pearled barley, is barley that has been processed to remove its hull and bran. All barley must have its fibrous outer hull removed before it can be eaten; pearl barley is then polished to remove the bran layer.  Although pearl barley is not a whole grain, it still has twice as much fiber than white and brown rice. Adding fiber to your diet helps prevent cardiovascular disease and diabetes and keeps your digestive system running smoothly. Pearl barley also has almost four times the amount of calcium than white rice but white rice, surprisingly has a bit more iron and more protein.  Go figure. You can also buy hulled barley, which still has the bran, for even more nutrition.  It may not make as creamy of a dish and will take about 20 minutes more to soften.  To read more on Livestrong, click HERE

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TIPS:  If you like this combination of ingredients but don’t have the patience to add the broth a half cup at a time, just saute the onions and squash, then add 3 cups of broth, the squash and half the sage, cover and cook on low heat about 25 minutes. Stir in parmesan and remaining sage.  It won’t be as creamy but should still taste pretty good.  Since the squash will continue to steam, it may fall apart but that is probably okay.

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BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND BARLEY RISOTTO

  • 4 cups vegetable broth plus 2 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil, butter or vegan butter (0r half and half)
  • 12 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cups butternut squash, diced into bite sized pieces
  • 1 cup pearl barley (or arborio rice)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped or 12 teaspoon dried
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese (optional)

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  • In a small saucepan, bring the broth to a boil. Cover, and reduce heat to low. Heat oil in a medium sized pot and saute onion over medium heat until tender.

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  • Add squash and sauté for another 5 minutes.

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  • Add barley and stir to coat. Add 1/2 cup of the boiled broth, and chopped sage. Simmer, stirring often until broth is absorbed, about 5 minutes.

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  • Add remaining broth slowly, about 1/2 cup at a time, allowing it to be absorbed each time before adding more.

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  • Cook until the barley is tender but still firm, about 35-40 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

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  • Remove from heat and stir in parmesan and remaining sage.

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  • Serve with fresh sage or parsley, if desired.

Butternut Squash Barley Risotto

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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  • 4 cups vegetable broth plus 2 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil, butter or vegan butter (0r half and half)
  • 12 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cups butternut squash, diced into bite sized pieces
  • 1 cup pearl barley (or arborio rice)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped or 12 teaspoon dried
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese (optional)

 

  1. In a small saucepan, bring the broth to a boil. Cover, and reduce heat to low.
  2. Heat oil in a medium sized pot over medium heat.
  3. Add onion and sauté until tender.
  4. Add squash and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add barley and stir for 2 more minutes.
  5. Add 1/2 cup of the boiled broth, and chopped sage. Simmer, stirring often until broth is absorbed, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add remaining broth slowly, about 1/2 cup at a time, allowing it to be absorbed each time before adding more.
  7. Cook until the barley is tender but still firm, about 35-40 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
  8. Remove from heat and stir in parmesan cheese. Serve with fresh sage or parsley, if desired.

Meatless Monday – Creamy Mushroom Soup (Vegan)

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Calling all mushroom lovers!  My husband declared this the BEST MUSHROOM SOUP HE’S EVER HAD – and I have to agree with him.  I have had some pretty delicious mushroom soups in restaurants but I think this one, stocked with a blend of earthy mushrooms and a rich and creamy base, beats them all.  Best of all it is very easy, ready in less than 30 minutes and requires few ingredients.  It’s vegan too! Many soups are made delicious by adding thick creamy ingredients that add fat and cholesterol and actually mask the natural flavors of the main ingredients.  I substituted the traditional heavy cream with almond milk and veggie broth, thickened with a bit of flour, which really cuts calories without losing flavor.  This soup was wonderful served immediately after cooking, but the small bowl that was leftover that I ate for lunch a couple of days later was even better.  So this is a great soup to make a day or two ahead and reheat when needed.  What could be easier? For other soup ideas, check out last week’s blog post, 12 Vegetarian Winter Soups.

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The stars of this soup are the mushrooms, so choose your favorites but make sure they are good quality. I love a combination of mushrooms to deepen the flavor and add texture.  I prefer brown criminy mushrooms over white mushrooms, also called button mushrooms, since I think they are more flavorful but how do they compare from a nutritional standpoint? White button mushrooms have more vitamin C and slightly more iron but criminy mushrooms are the clear mineral winner.  Criminy mushrooms have twice as much calcium and significantly more potassium and selenium than white mushrooms.  The two mushroom varieties contain similar amounts of vitamin B12, vitamin B6, riboflavin and niacin. Surprisingly, white mushrooms contain slightly more fiber and protein than criminis, although criminis are slightly lower in fat, however they are both extremely low in fat.(Livestrong) So nutritionally speaking, it’s really a toss up, so go with your tastebuds or better yet, use a combination for the ultimate in flavor and nutrition.

TIPS: I have provided substitutions in this recipe for gluten free people.  For more information on gluten free thickening agents, check out this article from SF Gate.  I would like to offer one word of caution for those who are not used to cooking with almond milk, make sure you buy unsweetened, not original flavor, or your soup stock will have an underlying sweetness that is hard to cover up.

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CREAMY MUSHROOM SOUP

  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 Tbsn olive oil, butter or vegan butter ( like half oil half butter)
  • 1 carton criminy or brown mushrooms (about 10 oz or 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 carton Portobello mushrooms (2 large or 10 small)
  • 1 generous Tbsn flour (or cornstarch, arrowroot or tapioca flour for GF)
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1-2 cups almond or cashew milk (unsweetened)
  • 2 tsp soy sauce (or liquid aminos for GF)
  • salt and pepper to taste

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  • Saute onion in olive oil or butter in a large soup pot until translucent.

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  • Wipe mushrooms with a damp papertowel.  Don’t rinse or they will get soggy.  Cut smaller mushrooms in half and slice larger mushrooms. Really large Portobello slices might need to be cut in half.

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  • Add mushrooms to onion mixture and saute about 5 minutes or until the mushrooms start to lose their water.

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  • Stir in flour until absorbed by the juices and add thyme.  Let cook several minutes.  If you like really thick soups, add another tablespoon of flour.

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  • Add vegetable broth, soy sauce and 1 cup almond milk and stir to combine.  If you want it creamier, add the remaining almond milk.Cook about 10 to 15 minutes stirring occasionally until soup thickens and flavors develop.   If your soup is not as thick as you would like, dissolve another tablespoon of flour in a quarter cup of water, stir in and allow to simmer. Taste (as broths can vary in saltiness) and add salt and pepper as needed.

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  • Serve hot with a sprig of fresh thyme

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 Tbsn olive oil, butter or vegan butter
  • 1 carton criminy or brown mushrooms (about 10 oz or 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 carton Portobello mushrooms (2 large or 10 small)
  • 1 generous Tbsn flour (cornstarch, arrowroot or tapioca flour for GF)
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1-2 cups almond or cashew milk (unsweetened)
  • 2 tsp soy sauce (or liquid aminos for GF)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Saute onion in olive oil or butter in a large soup pot until translucent.
  2. Wipe mushrooms with a damp papertowel.  Don’t rinse or they will get soggy.  Cut smaller mushrooms in half and slice larger mushrooms. Large Portobello slices might need to be cut in half.
  3. Add mushrooms to onion mixture and saute about 5 minutes or until the mushrooms start to lose their water.
  4. Stir in flour until absorbed by the juices and add thyme.  Let cook several minutes
  5. Add vegetable broth and 1 cup almond milk and stir to combine.  If you want it creamier, add the remaining almond milk.
  6. Cook about 10 to 15 minutes stirring occasionally until soup thickens and flavors develop. If your soup is not as thick as you would like, dissolve another tablespoon of flour in a quarter cup of water, stir in and allow to simmer 10 more minutes. Taste (as broths can vary in saltiness) and add salt and pepper as needed.
  7. Serve hot with a sprig of fresh thyme

 

12 Vegetarian Winter Soups

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picmonkey-collage-1 SOUP GLORIOUS SOUP! Soup is the ultimate comfort food for cold, rainy or snowy days.  It’s hot, steamy goodness warms you up from the inside out. As promised, here is a collection of twelve of my favorite soups. Mmm, so good!  All soups are vegetarian or vegan (or easily adapted for vegans) and gluten and wheat free.  Since they are meat free, they are naturally low in calories but nutrient dense, so dig in!  Each link will send you to the recipe and original blog post. Sharing is caring. -J

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Tuscan Bean Soup with Squash and Kale

Cauliflower Leek Soup2

Creamy Cauliflower Leek Soup

Black Bean Soup1

Spicy Black Bean Soup

CArrot Sweet Potato Soup1

Carrot, Sweet Potato Soup with Turmeric

Mushroom Barley Soup 1

Mushroom and Barley Soup with Cannelini Beans

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Fall Harvest Minestrone

Autumn Harvest Soup11

Butternut Squash and Potato Soup with Crispy Fried Sage

Black and White Chili

Black and White Chili with Garlic Toast

White Bean and Swiss Chard Soup

White Bean and Swiss Chard Soup

Carrot Coconut Soup with Marinated Tofu Triangles

Butternut Squash Soup and Polenta Tower2

Butternut Squash Soup with Polenta Towers

Dhal Lentil Sou[p

Dhal Lentil Soup with Quinoa Cauliflower Cakes