Lemon Ricotta Appetizers-5 Ways (Vegan)

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

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

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LEMON RICOTTA DIP

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

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

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LEMON RICOTTA BRUSCHETTA

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

 

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

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

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RICOTTA CUCUMBER BOATS

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

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

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LEMON RICOTTA ZUCCHINI ROLLUPS

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

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Lemon Ricotta Dip

  • Servings: 1 cup
  • Difficulty: easy
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LEMON RICOTTA DIP

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

Bruschetta with Ricotta and Edamame

  • Servings: 24 bites
  • Difficulty: easy
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LEMON RICOTTA BRUSCHETTA

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

Cucumber Boats with Olives and Chili Peppers

  • Servings: 24 bites
  • Difficulty: easy
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RICOTTA CUCUMBER BOATS

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

Zucchini Roll Ups

  • Servings: 12 bites
  • Difficulty: easy
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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)

 

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
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 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.

 

 

Crab Bisque with Sherry

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Recipes are back – and this bowl of velvety goodness is ready in less than 30 minutes!! You may have noticed that I had gone radio silent, but since mid summer I’ve been in Techno-Hell. I knew I was in trouble in July when I heard my cell phone buzzing and read the message “DELETING”…  Six days later, my computer was hacked and I lost several blog posts which were in progress, including homemade tomato sauce, pickles and making cauliflower breadsticks among others. ( I had just spent three weeks picking everything in my garden and having fun with my canner.)

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Then my cell phone provider forced an update which torched my new phone and the two subsequent phone(s) wiped themselves clean three times; no photos, no contacts and no apps, just empty phones.  As a result, Goodmotherdiet has been on a sort of forced ‘vacation’ while I worked on rebuilding my  contacts and recreating some of the lost recipes. More soon…

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I created this recipe for Crab Bisque this summer while I was in Maine. (Yes, it was one that was deleted) My friend, Kerry, opened a bottle of chardonnay that had caramelized and she asked me to come up with a recipe to use it up.  I thought the ‘aged’ wine tasted quite a bit like sherry, so I developed this recipe for Crab Bisque with Sherry, but this might be a good time to use a wine you have that has gone over the top. (Just taste it first).  I also had the further restriction that my husband dislikes food made with heavy cream, so I used a combination of coconut milk and fish stock with surprisingly good results. As a bonus, coconut milk is highly nutritious and rich in fiber, vitamins C, E, B1, B3, B5 and B6 and minerals including iron, selenium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous. Unlike cow’s milk, coconut milk is lactose free and dairy free which is a great alternative. Best of all, this recipe is ready in less than 30 minutes but only gets better as it sits and the flavors meld.  It’s also good the next day if you are lucky enough to have leftovers.

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Tips:  Bisques are known for their rich, creamy and smooth texture, so I pureed the shallots in my food processor before sauteeing.  If you prefer a chunkier soup, skip this step and mince or chop the shallots with a sharp knife. Fresh crabmeat is always wonderful, however, if you can’t find it frozen or refrigerated lump crabmeat is a decent option for soup and it is much easier than cracking and deshelling fresh crab.

Old Bay is a ubiquitous seasoning, especially in the South.  It is readily available in most supermarkets, however, if you don’t have it in your pantry, try substituting celery salt, red and black pepper and paprika.

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CRAB BISQUE WITH SHERRY

  • 3 Tbsn butter or vegan butter
  • 3 large shallots, minced
  • 3 Tbsn flour or potato starch (optional thickener)
  • 4 cups fish, clam or veggie stock (2 cans)
  • 2 cans regular coconut milk
  • 1 tsp Old Bay spice
  • 1 lb. fresh or frozen lump crabmeat
  • 1⁄2 cup dry sherry (plus more for drizzling)
  • parsley (for garnish)

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  • Puree shallots until fine (for a smooth soup)

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  • In a large soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter and saute the shallots until translucent, 2 to 3 minutes.

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  • Stir in flour until smooth but don’t let it burn

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  • Pour in the stock, coconut milk and Old Bay seasoning and bring to a simmer.

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  • Reduce the heat to low and stir in the crabmeat and the sherry. Cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. (Don’t let it boil) Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.

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  • Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a sprinkle of Old Bay, parsley and a drizzle of sherry . Serve immediately.

Crab Bisque with Sherry

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

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  • 3 Tbsn butter or vegan butter
  • 3 large shallots, minced
  • 3 Tbsn flour or potato starch (optional)
  • 5 cups fish, clam or veggie stock
  • 2 cans regular coconut milk
  • 1 tsp Old Bay spice
  • 1 lb. fresh or frozen lump crabmeat
  • 1⁄2 cup dry sherry (plus more for drizzling)
  • parsley (for garnish)

 

  1. Puree shallots until fine (for a smooth soup)
  2. In a large soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter and saute the shallots until translucent, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in flour until smooth but don’t let it burn
  4. Pour in the stock, coconut milk and Old Bay seasoning and bring to a simmer.
  5. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the crabmeat and the sherry. Cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. (Don’t let it boil)
  6. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a sprinkle of Old Bay, parsley and a drizzle of sherry . Serve immediately.

Meatless Monday – Spicy Tofu with Sauteed Greens

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Spicy Tofu

Calling all tofu lovers! This one is for you… Even if you’re not a big fan of tofu, this might change your mind. The tofu is crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, nestling in a bed of gingery greens and topped with a spicy Asian chili sauce. Yum!   I’m still making my way through my CSA box which is proving to be a fun ‘job’.  I wanted to use the beautiful bok choy as well as the gorgeous beet greens that I clipped off of the beets I roasted for yesterday’s salad.  When you buy beets with the greens, it’s kind of like getting two for one (or eating your cake and having it too!). Beet greens are delicious and full of precious vitamins so don’t throw them away! Use the beets for one dish and the beet greens in another.  If you are interested in roasting beets check out this recipe for Roasted Beet Salad with Ripe Peaches and Goat Cheese which gives easy directions for roasting beets.  The salad can be seasonally adjusted or to suite your tastes.

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I remembered making a really delicious Crispy Glazed Tofu and Bok Choy that I was tempted to make again because everyone liked it so much, but in the theme of New Year/New Ideas decided to give it a bit of a makeover using what I have on hand.  My favorite way to cook  =  a little bit from memory + fresh veggies available + pantry magic + weather outside.  I actually think looking out my window determines a lot about what I decide to make for dinner.  These days I’m craving warm, spicy and comfort foods because it’s so chilly outside.  Soon enough, I will be yearning for cooling salads and refreshing drinks on the patio.

TIPS:  If you don’t have beet greens handy, or you don’t like beets, substitute any somewhat bitter green like mustard, kale, chard or collards.  The length of cooking time will be determined by the coarseness of the greens.  Broccolini is a great substitute for bok choy, just check for doneness by slicing a bit of stem off one end to taste before removing from the pan. I like to make my own sauces but it’s not really necessary, as there are really good ones available. The one below uses an Asian Chili Paste, garlic and ginger which I was really happy with but you can play around with what is available in your pantry.

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SPICY TOFU WITH SAUTEED GREENS

1 pound firm tofu
3-4 baby bok choy or small bunch baby broccolini
1 bunch bitter greens (like beet greens, chard, kale, collard or mustard)
2-3 Tbsn high heat oil (like avocado or coconut)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup water
3 scallions, finely chopped
1 Tbsn sesame seeds

SPICY CHILI SAUCE
1 Tbsn Asian chili paste
1 Tbsn fresh ginger, minced (or fresh ginger paste)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

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  • Drain the tofu and slice into 6 rectangles. Then cut each rectangle at a diagonal into 2 triangles. Place in a single layer on a layer of paper towels.  Cover with more papertowels and place a heavy pan on top to press out the water.  Let stand for at least 10 minutes.

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  • Combine sauce ingredients in a small saucepan (except red pepper flakes) and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer for 3 or 4 minutes or until slightly thickened. Taste for spiciness and add red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt, if desired. Turn off heat and set aside.

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  • Dry toast the sesame seeds (if desired) in a small pan over medium heat for several minutes until golden.  Set aside.

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  • Slice bok choy lengthwise into quarters and rinse.  If using broccolini, just trim the ends and leave whole.

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  • Cut greens into 2 inch strips, keeping any rough stems separate.

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  • Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil and one third of the garlic and ginger over medium heat in a large, heavy nonstick skillet or wok, and saute the greens stems  for several minutes before adding the leaves. Saute until softened but still al dente. Transfer to a serving platter.

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  • Add a bit more oil, if needed, plus a third of the garlic and ginger and the water and saute the bok choy until softened and all the water has evaporated.  Transfer to serving platter.

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  • Add remaining oil to the pan and  increase the heat to medium high and fry the tofu until lightly colored. Flip to brown the other side. Transfer to platter with the greens.

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  • Reheat the sauce and drizzle over the tofu and greens.  Sprinkle with scallions and sesame seeds.

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Spicy Tofu with Sauteed Greens

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Spicy Tofu

1 pound firm tofu
3-4 baby bok choy or small bunch baby broccolini
1 bunch bitter greens (like beet greens, chard, kale or mustard)
2-3 Tbsn high heat oil (like avocado or coconut)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup water
3 scallions, finely chopped
1 Tbsn sesame seeds

SPICY CHILI SAUCE
1 Tbsn Asian chili paste
1 Tbsn fresh ginger, minced (or fresh ginger paste)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsn soy sauce
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

  • Drain the tofu and slice into 6 rectangles. Then cut each rectangle at a diagonal into 2 triangles. Place in a single layer on a layer of paper towels.  Cover with more papertowels and place a heavy pan on top to press out the water.  Let stand for at least 10 minutes.
  • Combine sauce ingredients (except for red pepper flakes) in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer for 3 or 4 minutes or until slightly thickened. Taste for spiciness and add red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt, if desired. Turn off heat and set aside.
  • Dry toast the sesame seeds (if desired) in a small pan over medium heat for several minutes until golden.  Set aside.
  • Slice bok choy lengthwise into quarters and rinse.  If using broccolini, just trim the ends and leave whole.
  • Cut greens into 2 inch strips, keeping  rough stems separate.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil and one third of the garlic and ginger over medium heat in a large, heavy nonstick skillet or wok, and saute the greens stems  for several minutes before adding the leaves. Saute until softened but still al dente. Transfer to a serving platter.
  • Add a bit more oil, if needed, plus a third of the garlic and ginger and the water and saute the bok choy until softened and all the water has evaporated.  Transfer to serving platter.
  • Add remaining oil to the pan and  increase the heat to medium high and fry the tofu until lightly colored. Flip to brown the other side. Transfer to platter with the greens.
  • Reheat the sauce and drizzle over the tofu and greens.  Sprinkle with scallions and sesame seeds.