Friday, August 30, 2013

Chickpea Medley over Barley

Do you have any dishes you really like, not only for the taste and ease, but also for the sneaky-ness of it?  This is one of mine.  It's originally from Angela over at Oh She Glows -- she just puts out the best recipes! -- and while it's good and I will probably make it again, it's not a family favorite at this time.  I think the Cilantro-Lime vinaigrette was a bit much for the little ones.  I did cook my beans from their dry state because I had the time, but this meal would come together quite quickly (and you'd need less added salt!) if you used canned beans.

I just love all the spinach that's in this.  And cilantro.  Oh, the cilantro.  If you don't like cilantro, then you won't like this meal at all -- but if you like cilantro like this girl, you'll love this simple dish.

I served the beans over barley and we really liked that, but any whole grain would work.

Happy early Labor Day, everyone!

Chickpea Medley over Barley 
serves 6-8

  • 2 cups dry chickpeas, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained, OR 4 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 5 oz package spinach
  • 1 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, stems cut off
  • 3/4 cup red onion
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups pearled barley + 4 3/4 cups water/broth mixture for cooking.
-- Cook chickpeas (that had been soaking) by placing them in a large pot, covering them well with water, bringing them to a boil, reducing the heat and simmering, uncovered for 40 minutes until fork tender.  (If you forget to soak the beans or just don't have the time, use canned!)
-- Cook barley in a rice cooker or on the stove according to directions
-- In a food processor, puree the spinach and cilantro together.  (May need to do this in batches depending on the size of your processor.  I have a 7-cup and it all fit in just fine.  Amazing, right?)
-- When beans are done cooking, drain and rinse them off.  In a large bowl, combine the beans with the green puree and chopped onion.
-- Whisk the remaining ingredients together and drizzle over the beans.  Stir well and let chill for at least an hour, and the longer the better in my opinion!
-- Serve over barley, or other grain, and season with salt and pepper!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cowboy Caviar [Trader Joe's Copy]

Don't you love it when people do all the work for you?  Sometimes, it's just so nice to not have to figure out how much of what ingredient, matched with how much of another ingredient, will yield the same, or very similar flavor of a known favorite.

Well, over at Milo&Me, the secrets to Trader Joe's addictive Cowboy Caviar are revealed in the form of a recipe.

A recipe, I unashamedly made and took to a party not to long ago and got rave reviews for.  Well done, Milo&Me for such a fabulous copy-cat recipe. (I did make my version oil-free, and very low spice, but we all still loved it!)

Cowboy Caviar

  • 3 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 large avocado, diced
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup finely sliced scallions
  • 3 TBLS lime juice
  • 1 TBLS cumin
  • 1 TBLS sugar
  • s & p to taste
-- Combine everything in a serving bowl and gently stir well to combine
-- Add red pepper flakes, or hot sauce, if you want there to be a kick.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Falafel Burgers + Sweet and Sour Slaw

With summer coming to a close, we're squeezing as many burger nights as we can!  We have burgers in the other seasons, too, don't get me wrong.  A good thing is a good thing, right?  But there's just something about burgers on a warm night out on the back deck that makes them taste just that much better.

I saw this recipe for a Falafel Burger and knew I had to try it.  Scot loves falafel and while I haven't perfected making them at home (they always break apart!) I figured I'd give the burger route a try since I do pretty well at getting those to stick and not crumble.  And now that we know we like this recipe, I may actually try to make them into falafel -- put them in a pita and find some tzatziki sauce.  Mmmm...oh yes, this is a winning recipe!

The original recipe has a recipe for a Tahini sauce that's good -- Scot's not a fan of Tahini in general so I need to find a good dairy-free Tzatziki sauce to go with these burgers, but that's ok.  I think I can manage.

The burgers got two thumbs up from my gang and they are on our new burger rotation!  I served them with a fabulous Sweet and Sour Coleslaw (recipe below -- don't miss it!) and we all loved it. Original recipe can be found here. I am actually going to throw out my other coleslaw recipes and use only this one from now on.

Falafel Burgers
makes 8 (1/3 cup) burgers

  • 1 TBLS minced garlic
  • 1 cup packed cilantro, stems cut off
  • 1/2 cup scallions, roughly chopped
  • 2 cans of chickpeas, some liquid reserved to the side, the beans rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup rolled oats, quick or old-fashioned
  • 2 TBLS lemon juice
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 8 buns, pitas, or tortillas
  • favorite burger toppings: tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, grilled onions or peppers, etc
  • tahini or tzatziki sauce, if desired, to make it more "authentic"
-- Puree the garlic, cilantro and scallions in a food processor until smooth
-- Add the remaining burger ingredients and pulse until blended well but NOT paste.  The mixture needs to stick well together and be fairly uniform in appearance.  If not sticking very well, add some of the chickpea liquid in 1 TBLS at a time until desired consistency is reached.
-- Using a 1/3 cup measuring scoop, form 8 patties.  Lay on a baking sheet or plates and chill for at least 30 minutes.
-- Dry pan-fry, using a non-stick skillet, over medium heat 5-7 minutes each side.

Sweet and Sour Coleslaw
feeds 8

  • 4 cups thinly sliced or shredded cabbage.  I used 1/2 red and 1/2 regular and highly suggest it!
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced length-wise and then cut in half to make 1 inch pieces
  • 1 cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1 cup julliened or thinly cut carrots
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup loose chopped fresh cilantro
  • salt and pepper to taste
-- Put all salad ingredients in a bowl and toss.
-- Mix the vinegar with the sugar and stir until dissolved.  Drizzle over the salad and toss some more to adequately coat

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Zucchini Quinoa Casserole [re-vamped]

Sometimes I really like a dish.  Like, really like it and make it a few times, but then I find other dishes I like more.  Or, really, that are less time consuming.

Such is the case with this Zucchini Quinoa "Casserole" -- I made it a few times, we always loved it when I did, but I soon realized that it just took too long for such a simple dish.  Simply delicious dish, I might add, but an hour between start and finish is not a quick weeknight dinner in my book and it wasn't fancy enough, or unique enough, to warrant more time on a weekend.

In the past year, I've probably made this dish once.  Maybe.  I've looked at it, thought it would be nice to try again.  That it might be nice to slowly slice those zucchini, and let them weep, and gently dry their tears.  Might me nice to then (after sitting and waiting for the quinoa to cook) layer everything and wait yet again for it to all cook some more...but then, time after time, I passed the recipe over.

I had the privileged of having my grandmother stay with us for a week earlier this month.  She has a sensitive stomach and I thought to myself: Now is the perfect time to make that Zucchini Quinoa Casserole again!   I knew I would have the time, and it was simple enough, and not spicy, that it would suite her tastes and what we needed.

Well, life happens, and we were out in the afternoon later than planned and me, being one to not deviate from a set schedule like a meal plan, knew I had over an hours worth of work ahead of me and two tired and hungry boys.  So I re-vamped the recipe, which cut the time in half, and will never make the original again.  As in, I threw the old recipe card away and wrote out a new one.

Oh, and the end product: still tastes just. as. good.

Zucchini Quinoa Casserole [re-vamped]
serves 4-6
  • 2 large zucchini, cut in half length-wise and then sliced into thin half-moons (4 cups)  quartered if they are especially rotund zucchinis. 
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup of your favorite spaghetti sauce -- we use the 365 brand's Roasted Vegetable
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed well
  • 1 TBLS dry basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • s & p to taste
-- Combine everything in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, cover and simmer 20-30 minutes until the quinoa is cooked fully and the liquid has been absorbed -- stir occasionally.

-- To make this stretch to ensure 6 people are fed, add in a can of black beans (rinsed and drained) 

-- Feel free to sprinkle cheese on each individual serving

Monday, August 19, 2013

DaVinci Pasta Sauce

If you've ever been to The Cheesecake Factory, no doubt you know about their extensive selection of meal choices and their desire to accommodate your eating preferences.  It's not somewhere our family typically eats, but we happened to be there a few weeks back and my husband, who has the knack for always picking the best possible option, ordered the DaVinci Pasta, sans chicken.

Once again, he struck it rich where flavor was concerned.  Rich and complex, subtly sweet and wholesome all at the same time.  It was incredible. So once again I set out to recreate the dish, but in a healthier way.  I scoured the internet for look-a-like recipes, settled on the 2 that looked the most promising, merged them together and "healthified" the whole thing.  Scot thoroughly enjoyed my rendition, and really, that's all that matters, but in case you'd like to try it, too, here's the recipe.

DaVinci Pasta Sauce
serves 4

  • 3/4 cup sliced red onion
  • 1/2 cup marsala or madeira wine (cooking wine is just fine)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth 
  • 2 1/2 - 3 cups whole wheat penne or rotini
  • 8 oz chopped baby bella mushrooms
  • 1 TBLS minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 TBLS brown sugar
  • 2 TBLS fresh chopped cilantro
  • salt and pepper to taste
-- Caramelize onions, sauteing them for 15-20 minutes until they are nice and golden brown and, well, caramelized
-- Reduce wine and broth by mixing and boiling them for about 10-12 minutes.  Remove from heat.
-- Boil pasta according to directions
-- Meanwhile, start sauteing mushrooms.  Once soft (10 minutes about) add onions and garlic and saute 3-5 minutes.
-- Add reduction, milk, cilantro and sugar.  Simmer 5 minutes.
-- Drain pasta and add into the sauce and stir to coat. 
-- Season with salt and pepper to taste

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Corn Chowder Quinoa Casserole

This dinner was a cinch to throw together.  Seriously, it was easier than I thought it would be, and the directions made it look super easy.  Dreena Burton is amazing with pretty much everything she puts out -- if you haven't gone and scoped her blog out, you should.  I got Let The Eat Vegan a couple months ago and let's just say, the recipes I tweak slightly will be on this blog (fully giving DB credit, of course) -- the other recipes of hers you'll have to find in the cookbook itself.  I'm loving the cookbook and highly recommend it.

This recipe, though, was one I had wanted to try and was so happy when I did.  It's comfort food at its finest and with fall right around the corner (I know, I said it!), you should file this recipe away for the first cold snap.

I changed a few things around, but not much to alter the taste.  If you like corn chowder, you'll love this dish.  It needs the salt and generous amount of fresh cracked pepper, but no chowder is complete without it, so this should come as no surprise.

I realize I don't re-make enough of my meals.  My sons, in the middle of finishing off his bowl, looked me strait in the eye and said "Mom, this is really good.  Can you make it again -- but soon?"   Yes, son, I'll make it again, and soon, it's too easy not to!

I served this with some steamed broccoli and a green garden salad.

Corn Chowder Quinoa Casserole
Serves 4-6

  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 1/2 cups sweet corn (2 cups frozen and thawed) OR 2 cup finely diced red/new potatoes 
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed well
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped red or yellow onion
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 15 oz can white kidney, or any white, bean, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tsp dry basil
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 TBLS fresh cilantro, chopped fine
  • salt and pepper to taste
-- Preheat your oven to 400
-- Puree 1 cup of the milk with 3/4 cup of the corn
-- In a 2 QT oven-safe baking dish (8x11 or 9x9) combine the puree with all other ingredients (except the cilantro).  Stir well.
-- Cover with foil and bake for 50-60 minutes, mixing halfway through. Remove when quinoa is all cooked and most of the liquid has been absorbed.
-- Remove bay leaf, add cilantro, and stir well. Season with salt and pepper as desired.

-- You can add 1-2 TBLS of fresh lime juice if desired.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Dressings Galore

I know summer feels like it's almost over with school just around the corner, but the truth of the matter is that it's only half over and there's still a lot of heat left.  Which means, a lot of salad is still left to consume.

If you're like me, salad is just salad until you add some dressing.  Also, if you're like me and you eat a lot of salad, buying salad dressings from the store can begin to wear a hole in the budget.

Simple solution: make your own.

If you don't know where to start, here are some very simple, easy to play around with, easy to double or half if need be.  I usually pick one, make a good sized batch, and use it until it's done and then make a different one and repeat.  Buying a nice dressing "mixer" from Pampered Chef or even Target is a good suggestion. Although, a mason jar with a tight lid works just as well.


Scot's Sunset [Oil-free] Dressing

My dear husband likes to stay away from extra oil when possible.  Seeing how we eat so much salad, I decided to make an oil-free salad dressing.  This is so simple to throw together and the balance of the citrus and the vinegar is just right for us.  If you, too, are looking for an oil-free salad dressing, now you have one!

Scot's Sunset [Oil-free] Dressing
Serves 4 (½ cup)
Active time: 5 minutes

What you'll need:
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 TBLS honey OR other sweetener

What you'll do:

  • Mix all together until honey (or sweetener) is dissolved.
Will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for over a week.

Simple Balsamic Dressing

I went to a wedding once that served salad with only olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a blend of spices on the table.  It was amazing and I started dressing my salads that way at home.  I finally took the time to measure things out so others could enjoy the simple combination, too.

Please note that you can very easily half or even quarter this recipe to suit your immediate needs.  It keeps for up to a week.

Simple Balsamic Dressing
Serves 8 1/2 cup total
Active time: 3 Minutes

What you'll need:
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp Herbs de Province

What you'll do:
  • Whisk together (or put in a jar with a lid and shake) and drizzle on your salad.

    Spicy Apple Cider Dressing

    Not spicy in the true sense, but it does give a little bit of kick, especially if you use a good grainy mustard with some horseradish in it!  Easy to half or double.

    Spicy Apple Cider Dressing
    Serves 6 (1/3 cup total)
    Active time: 5 minutes

    What you'll need:
    • 2 TBLS olive oil
    • 2 TBLS apple cider vinegar
    • 2 tsp sugar OR honey
    • 2 tsp grainy mustard

    What you'll do:
  • Combine all ingredients and whisk (or shake) together

  • Sweet Balsamic Dressing

    This is my personal favorite and the one that is usually in the "shake it up" bottle I have for my dressings. It's simply wonderful.

    Sweet Balsamic Dressing
    Serves 6 (2/3 cup)
    Active time: 5 minutes

    What you'll need:
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
    • 2 TBLS honey
    • 1 tsp Dijon mustard (preferably one made with white wine)

    What you'll do:
    • Combine all ingredients and drizzle over salad

    Red Berry Vinaigrette

    If eating salad is so good for us, then I'd like to have delicious and healthy dressings on them to change things up a bit.  This incredibly simple dressing is so tasty and you'll be shocked it only has 3 ingredients!  All the combinations are great, but the raspberry jam with the red wine vinegar is our favorite.

    Red Berry Vinaigrette
    Serves 2 (2.5 TBLS) **
    Active time: 5 minutes

    What you'll need:
    • 1 tsp olive oil
    • 1 TBLS red wine vinegar OR apple cider vinegar
    • 1 TBLS + 1 tsp raspberry jam OR strawberry jam*

    *the dressing is best, and healthiest, if you can find a jam with minimal "fillers" - so 100% fruit, or fruit-only jams work best.  Also, some people prefer seedless jams for dressings, but we leave that to your discretion
    ** this serving suggestion is very small, if you would like to make this for a group, or to have some in your fridge, then the following proportions will yield 1 1/4 cups:  2 TBLS olive oil, 1/2 cup vinegar, 1/2 cup + 2 TBLS jam.  

    What you'll do:
    • Whisk all ingredients together.

    Italian Vinaigrette

    My mother is famous for her salads--a salad is her standard potluck contribution, and folks frequently ask what her secret is.  She nearly always uses Good Seasons Italian Dressing packets as her base, but plays with the oil/vinegar combination.  Because buying the packets can get pricey, it has been my goal to come up with a simple seasoning blend that can hold its own against Good Seasons.

    Italian Vinaigrette
    Serves 8
    Active time: 10 min

    What you'll need:
    • 1½ tsp sugar
    • 1 tsp table salt
    • ½ tsp garlic powder
    • ½ tsp onion powder
    • ¼ tsp dried basil
    • ¼ tsp dried oregano
    • ⅛ tsp dried parsley
    • ⅛ tsp black pepper
    • a pinch to ⅛ tsp paprika, for added color (optional)
    • ¼ cup vinegar (white, or your favorite vinegar/combination of vinegars*)
    • ⅓ cup water
    • ⅓ cup oil (canola, olive, or a combination of the two*)
    *Note: My favorite way to prepare this dressing is with a combination of half apple cider vinegar, half balsamic vinegar AND half canola oil, half extra virgin olive oil--this mixture seems to prevent any one flavor from overpowering the others.

    What you'll do:
    • In a glass jar with a lid, combine sugar, salt, herbs, and spices.
    • Add vinegar and water.  Close lid, shake, and let it rest 5 minutes to allow spice blend to dissolve and re-hydrate.
    • Add oil, replace lid, shake well.
    • Refrigerate until you are ready to serve (chilling for several hours or overnight allows the flavors to combine nicely, but is not essential).  
    • Shake well just prior to each use.  

    Thursday, August 8, 2013

    Black Rice and Lentil Salad

    My dear mother found this recipe in a magazine somewhere, tweaked it a little, and brought it to one of my son's birthday parties.  Everyone loved it and Scot practically demanded I get my hands on the recipe.

    I did a few tweaks of my own (and try as I can, I can not find an online version of the original recipe to link to!) and we love it.  I had never cooked with black rice for and I'm so thankful my mother warned me to rinse the rice really well.  Let me repeat that for you: rinse the rice really well! The lentils and rice cook the same amount of time, so that saves a step, and the add-ins and dressing are just enough tart-sweet and crunch-soft to get you addicted.

    The salad is better if it's been left in the fridge overnight or all day -- something about the lentils and rice absorbing the wonderful flavors and all that jazz.

    Scot's favorite way to eat this: in a tortilla with a little lettuce.  Mine: in a bowl with a salad on the side.


    Black Rice and Lentil Salad
    serves 6-8 (9 cups)

    • 4 cups cooked black rice and lentils (1 cup dry of each + 4 cups water, cook together)
    • 1 8oz can sliced water chestnuts, drained and chopped
    • 3/4 cup thawed peas
    • 3/4 cup chopped carrots
    • 1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
    • 1/2 cup chopped green pepper
    • 1/2 cup craisins
    • 1/4 cup sliced scallions
    • 1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro
    • 1/3 cup cranberry juice
    • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar (or a blush)
    • 3/4 tsp dry basil
    • 3/4 tsp sugar (opt and to taste)
    • salt and pepper to taste
    --  Mix all salad ingredients (rice through cilantro) together in a large bowl.
    -- In a smaller bowl, mix the dressing together (cranberry juice through sugar) until the sugar disolves and then pour over salad and stir to combine.
    -- Let chill overnight or all day.
    -- Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    Monday, August 5, 2013

    One-pot Pasta Dinner

    This is one of those meals that seems simple enough there doesn't need to be a recipe -- it's just pasta, broth and some extras, right?  But my goodness, it's amazing what happens in that pot while the simmering is going on.  There is nothing fancy about putting this dinner together, but sometimes a simple pasta dinner is what a busy day calls for, and this hit the spot.  I also happen to think the sauce is a little "fancy" just because it doesn't come out of a jar -- and I'll admit the addition of white wine in there may help the fancy factor out a little, too.

    Literally, you throw it all in the pot, bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. The starch leaches out of the pasta and makes a rich, warm sauce for the noodles. The other ingredients cook right along with the pasta.  Can't get better than that, huh?  Feel free to play around with the spices, type of canned tomatoes, and even throw some white beans in there at the last minute for a heartier dinner.  Next time, I'm adding some mushrooms!

    One-pot Pasta Dinner
    serves 6
    • 12 - 14 ounces whole wheat pasta - I like a shorter pasta, but long would work, too
    • 1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes with liquid
    • 1 large sweet onion, cut in thin strips
    • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
    • 3/4 cup diced roasted red pepper (jarred variety)
    • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    • 2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
    • 2 large sprigs basil, chopped OR 1 1/2 TBLS dried
    • 4 1/2 cups vegetable broth (regular broth and NOT low sodium)
    • 2 TBLS white wine (or more to taste)
    • 1 can white beans, rinsed and drained (optional for more protein)
    • Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional) OR 1/4 cup, or to taste, nutritional yeast stirred in to the pot or sprinkled individually
    • salt and pepper to taste

    --Place pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, and chopped red pepper in a large stock pot. Pour in vegetable broth. Sprinkle in the basil and oregano. 
    --Cover pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low, simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes or so. Cook until almost all liquid has evaporated – leave an inch of liquid in the bottom of the pot or reduce as desired. (Add beans here to warm through if using)
    -- Add white wine and stir thouroughly
    --Season to taste with salt and pepper, stirring pasta several times to distribute the liquid in the bottom of the pot. Serve garnished with Parmesan cheese if using, or nutritional yeast.

    Friday, August 2, 2013

    4 Weeks of FALL Meal Plans

    4 Weeks of Fall Dinner Meal Plans

    Week 1

    Week 2

    Week 3

    Week 4