Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Winter Sangria

Another sangria, this time modeled for the winter holidays. The juices in this version are sweeter so little to no sugar is needed, but feel free to add it if you like a sweeter drink. It goes together very quickly; if you’re short on time or need something last minute for a party, this is perfect -- you may even have these ingredients at home!

I love the orange slices and cinnamon -- they add fresh flavor and a bright burst of color. I decided to throw in some cranberries at the last minute for a little extra visual appeal, but they won’t add any flavor since they’re still whole. These could potentially be a choking hazard, so when I put it out to serve, I either serve in a pitcher with a straining lid, or remove them all together.

I love this served warm as well, as a mulled wine on a chilly evening – not that we get that many in Florida!

winter sangria


Winter Sangria

Makes 6-8 servings


1 orange, sliced

2 large cinnamon sticks

4 whole cloves

1 750 mL bottle of medium bodied red wine (Merlot works well)

1 1/2 cups orange juice

1 1/2 cups cranberry juice

1/2 cup brandy

1/4 cup triple sec

1/2 cup sugar, optional

Additional cinnamon sticks as garnish, optional


Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher (at least 64 oz.). Chill at least 4 hours, though it may be served immediately if needed. Keeps for up to 4 days, so it may be prepared well ahead!

Serve over ice with a cinnamon stick for garnish, or add sparking water to make a lighter drink. This recipe is easily doubled, tripled, or more for larger parties.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Maple, Mustard, and Pecans

I love the fall and winter for the abundance of produce available. There are so many combinations of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and grains that the weather turns warm again before I run out of ideas!
In the last few years I've re-discovered Brussels sprouts. When I was growing up, my mom loved Brussels sprouts but boiled them to death, so I only knew them as army-green balls of nastiness. Because of that, I avoided them for a long time, until I had them browned instead of boiled. Caramelizing the Brussels sprouts brings out the natural sweetness and cooking for a shorter period of time reduces the amount of sulfur compounds released and increases the amount of vitamins retained during cooking. Since Brussels sprouts are a member of the cabbage family, they benefit from similar treatments – broccoli and cauliflower are delicious when roasted, and cabbage itself is best when cooked over a short time.

An easy way to try out Brussels sprouts on those who are uncertain about them is to shred them. I clean and trim the sprouts and run them through the slicing blade on the food processor. In one of my favorite recipes, I like to pair what I think of as "typical" fall flavors with Brussels sprouts, so I add mustard, pecans, and a touch of maple syrup. The mustard also compliments the sprouts as they are in the same biological genus (Brassica).

shredded brussels

Brussels Sprouts with Maple, Mustard, and Pecans

Serves 4 as a side dish


  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed
  • 1 cup pecan halves, toasted
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp whole grain mustard
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Shred sprouts using the slicing blade of a food processor. This can also be done by hand using a very sharp knife. Heat a large skillet over medium-high and add pecans. Stir occasionally for 5 minutes or until toasted. Remove pecans to a dish, then heat olive oil in the skillet. Add the shallot and cook for 1 minute. Add sprouts and thyme, and cover for 1 minute. Remove cover, turn heat to high, and cool for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in remaining ingredients and reserved pecans, and heat through, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lightened Up Spinach and Artichoke Dip

There is still a mystery sickness abounding in the household; I lost my voice on Monday-Tuesday and went to the doctor. No confirmed diagnosis but I have a just-in-case prescription for antibiotics in case I get worse, since we’re driving to Mike’s parents tomorrow.

So with that, I need to get back to bed but here’s a lightened up version of my “famous” (to my father in law, at least) spinach and artichoke dip. This is one of the most processed, unhealthy, convenience food dishes I make, but I make it once a year at Thanksgiving. I decided to lighten it up this year as I realized just how incredibly heavy and rich it is – it really needed some thinning.

Note: this is a pre-bake picture, as I’m not baking it until I get to the in-laws. You can make this ahead and it’ll keep for two days. Great for a holiday appetizer! If you need the room in the oven, you can microwave this as well. (Forgive the dish it’s in, it’s a disposable/portable one to take down south.)


Lightened Up Spinach and Artichoke Dip


10 oz. box of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained well

3 oz. package of cream cheese, softened

2-10 oz. cans of artichoke hearts in water, drained and chopped

8 oz. package of shredded Italian six cheese blend

15 oz. jar of roasted garlic alfredo sauce

6 cloves of garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

Milk, for thinning


Preheat oven to 375 F and spray a large baking dish with non-stick spray. Combine first six ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour into prepared baking dish and cover with aluminum foil.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil, raise oven temperature to 425 F, and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until top is browning. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. If the dip is too thick, add milk one tablespoon at a time to desired consistency.

Serve with crackers, chips, bread, vegetables, etc.!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving Edition: Pecan, Sage, and Cherry Stuffing and Vegetarian Gravy

Now it’s been my turn to get sick! At least I got my flu shot earlier in the year, so hopefully I don’t get the death flu this year. A couple days late due to sickness and then my computer dying yesterday, but I have two recipes just in time for Thanksgiving.

Mike and I have settled into a routine where we visit his family for Thanksgiving and my family for Christmas. Since his family always has dinner at home, I bring a few of my own things down; it’s a large but very, very laid back gathering and no one cares as long as they get to bring their usual dishes. (As an aside, one thing I don’t get is having the same meal/recipes each Thanksgiving, but I like variety!)

This year I’m bringing down a Field Roast Celebration Roast (look at all those amazing food-service only products on their site!); pecan, sage, and cherry stuffing; vegetarian gravy; Brussels sprouts, and a lightened up version of my spinach and artichoke dip that I still have to work out. And some kind of sangria or mulled wine, of course. In the photo below you’ll see the Celebration Roast, gravy, stuffing, and Brussels sprouts with pearl onions and chestnuts.

Stuffing is one of the few times I miss meat, to be honest. Not because of the whole “cooking it in the turkey” thing, since I didn’t grow up with that – my family stuffing was a potato/sausage dish that we cooked on the side. It’s more that there’s a certain umami/unctuous/savory/richness that I can’t seem to coax out of vegetables or meat substitutes. I definitely have my share of liquid smoke, soy sauce, and Maggi seasonings, though! But I get around that somewhat with the gravy that I make and ladle over Celebration Roast slices and stuffing.

If you have additional time, deeply caramelize an onion over slow heat and add it to the gravy, then puree the gravy in a blender – it’ll give the gravy a much richer flavor. However, the quick gravy below is delicious as is.

The stuffing components can be substituted with other breads, fruits, and nuts: sourdough, cornbread, dried apricots, cranberries, pears, walnuts, pine nuts, Brazil nuts. Sourdough, dried apricots, and pine nuts would be an especially delicious combination – I may try that this year!


stuffing and gravy1

Pecan, Sage, and Cherry Stuffing

Serves 12 or more


2 loaves of whole grain bread

1 stick of butter

8 stalks of celery, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 cup chopped fresh sage

2 Tbsp fresh thyme (or 2 tsp dried)

2 Tbsp fresh tarragon

2 cups of pecans

2 cups of dried cherries

2 eggs

2 cups of vegetable broth

Salt and pepper


The day before: cube both loaves of bread and spread over a large baking sheet. Leave overnight to stale. If made the day of, place the cubed bread in a 200 F oven for 20 minutes or until dried out.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a large baking dish with butter, oil, or nonstick spray.

Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the celery, onion, and garlic and sprinkle with salt. Cook for 10 minutes. Add sage, thyme, tarragon, and pecans, and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Turn off heat, stir in cherries, and let mixture cool. Stir in salt and pepper to taste.

When the cubed bread and vegetable mixture are cooled, combine in a large mixing bowl. Beat eggs in a large measuring cup; add vegetable broth. Pour liquid mixture over bread and vegetables, and mix well to combine.

Pour stuffing mixture into baking dish and cover. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until browned.


Vegetarian Gravy

Makes 2 2/3 cups


2 cups “No-Chicken” vegetarian broth

2 tsp dried thyme

2 Tbsp sherry

2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp onion powder

3 tbsp butter

4 tbsp flour

Salt and pepper


Combine first five ingredients in a large measuring cup.

Heat butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until melted. Quickly whisk in flour and let cook for 1 minute. While whisking continually, slowly pour in liquid mixture. Turn heat to medium high, bring to a boil, then return to medium.

Add salt and pepper and adjust seasoning as needed. If a thinner gravy is desired, add more broth. If a thicker gravy is desired, make a slurry of 1 part flour to 2 parts broth and stir into gravy, briefly bringing to a boil. Adjust seasoning after changing thickness.

Note: if the gravy ends up lumpy, it’s easily fixed. Either use an immersion/stick blender in the saucepan, or move the gravy to a blender and very carefully blend. This will remove lumps and make the gravy smooth. This will work for any lumpy gravy!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Golden Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with Arugula Pecan Pesto

One of my favorite things about autumn is all of the fantastic flavors that are available and how well they come together and make some of my go-to recipes. Once I discovered I liked beets, they’ve become one of my favorite fall flavors. The arugula idea came from one week when I had a bunch of arugula and no ideas, so I tried out making a pesto with the greens. The peppery flavor paired perfectly with the sweetness of the beets and the richness of the goat cheese, and a new recipe was born!

Now, I admit that beet and goat cheese salad can be somewhat cliché these days, but I’ve converted quite a few people into liking beets with this recipe – even my dad, a confirmed beet-hater. The golden beets are milder and have less of the “soil” flavor that turns many people off, and the best part – they don’t stain fingers like red beets do. As well, this recipe takes advantage of a very easy way to peel the beets. Simply trim the root and greens, wash well, wrap in foil, bake, let cool, then wipe the peel right off with a paper towel.

This recipe can also be made with red beets, which I often do if it’s just Mike and I, since I’ve convinced him to at least somewhat like red beets. But anytime I’m making it for someone new, I always use a mild beet. Candy cane beets are also a mild variety of beets, but can be harder to find.

This salad can also be arranged any way you’d like, just sliced and placed on a plate, or molded into a timbale to make it a bit more fancy. The entire recipe can be served on top of a bed of greens tossed with a mild vinaigrette to make a more substantial salad.


beet goat cheese2


Golden Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with Arugula Pecan Pesto

Serves 4 as a first course or 2 as an entrée


4 large (or 8 medium) golden beets

1  large bunch of arugula

1 cup unsalted pecans, toasted

2 oz. Parmesan cheese

3 cloves of garlic, peeled

1/2 cup mild olive or walnut oil

6 oz. soft goat cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Additional toasted pecans as garnish, optional


Preheat the oven to 375 F. Trim and wash the beets well. Wrap individually in aluminum foil, place on a large baking sheet, and bake in the oven for 60-90 minutes, depending on how large the beets are. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Once cooled, peel each beet by wiping off the peel with a paper towel. This step can be done up to two days before, refrigerating the beets once they cool.

Chop the arugula coarsely and wash well, as arugula may contain a lot of sandy soil trapped in the leaves. You may have to wash three times to remove all of the sand.

While the arugula is being washed, add the pecans, Parmesan cheese, and garlic to a food processor. Pulse several times or until everything is finely chopped. Add the washed arugula in batches, pulsing in between. Turning the food processor on, slowly stream in the oil until the mixture has a smooth consistency. If it is too thick, add water to thin. Add additional garlic to taste, if needed, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Once the pesto is ready, slice or chop the beets as desired. Divide the goat cheese into individual portions on plates, arrange the beets as desired, and drizzle the pesto over each dish. Sprinkle with additional toasted pecans if desired.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Today’s Post

Having a tiny bit of a “family crisis” – family just made reservations to come up for Disney on Christmas and I’ve been having to scramble to make their plans. I’ll have today’s post up first thing in the morning!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Honeycrisp Autumn Sangria

At least that’s what I’m calling it for now. I’m not quite sure that I want to label it a sangria, but I don’t want to just call it a “punch” or “cocktail,” either.

A couple weekends ago two of our good friends, Josh and Jenn, came up for the day to bum around, eat some lunch, and play some Rock Band. We had an as-always delicious late lunch at Shipyard Emporium, then we stopped at Fresh Market to pick out some snacks and drinks for sustenance during serious Rock Banding. I noticed a bottle of Honeycrisp apple cider and snagged it, figuring that I could do SOMETHING interesting with it. Honeycrisps are my favorite cultivar of apple for eating out of hand; I think they have a great balance of sweet and tart, along with a perfect texture. I was hoping that the cider made from the apples would be just as delicious.

Luckily, not only was the cider very tasty on its own, but we had some ingredients around at home that lent for some mixology magic. A bottle of Riesling was chilling in the fridge, and we had also picked up a couple Honeycrisp apples and a Meyer lemon at the store. We mixed the cider in a large pitcher with the wine, an apple, and the juice from the lemon. This mixture alone was nearly perfect, but it was missing something. After consulting the liquor cabinet, I tested a bit of bourbon in my glass and that neatly pulled everything together. No sweetener is needed due to the natural sweetness of the apple cider!

Just to make sure, I took some to a friend’s housewarming party and it also went over very well there. And so now, to complement my winter sangria, I have an autumn themed sangria! I believe this one will be making the trek down to my in-laws for Thanksgiving this year!

Much thanks and love to Jenn to helping me develop this one!!

honeycrisp sangria2

Honeycrisp Autumn Sangria

Makes 10-12 cups


1 half gallon bottle of Honeycrisp apple cider

1 750 mL bottle of Riesling wine

1 large Meyer lemon, juiced, with the fruit chopped and set aside

1 large Honeycrisp apple, chopped

8 oz bourbon

1/4 tsp cinnamon


Combine all ingredients in a pitcher large enough to hold one gallon and stir well. This mixture may be served immediately, or held overnight. Serve as is, over ice, or topped with club soda to make it sparkling.

Notes: if you can’t find Honeycrisp cider or Meyer lemons, you can make this with regular apple cider and lemons, but add 1/4 cup of orange juice as well. The taste and appearance will be slightly different.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Meal Plan for the Week of October 31

Still on my pantry/freezer challenge, which for me means coming up with things on the fly as I go. To make it a little more interesting, I’ll try posting a quick blurb about what I do end up making each day. I’d like to whittle the freezer down at least to the point where I “reboot” it.

Mike has been feeling under the weather for the last few days, so I’ve been trying to keep it simple, hot, and nourishing. I guess the delivery pizza on Saturday wasn’t terribly … healthy, but it seemed to make him feel a bit better. Yesterday was split pea soup, which ended up being very tasty and apparently soothing for my sick spouse.

The recipe this week is a beverage this time. It started off as an autumn sangria, but with the addition of bourbon I’m not quite sure if it’ll keep that name. More later!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Vegetarian Coq au Vin

First, to apologize to all those that like it, I finally developed this in response to the coq au vin at Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival this year. I personally thought it was bland, “gloppy,” and tasted like beef stew instead of coq au vin. (yes, for the interests of science, I did taste it!)

So that said, I’ve had this planned in the back of my mind and finally decided to put a recipe together. It actually went through 1.5 iterations before the final output – my seitan-making still leaves a lot to be desired. After making terrible homemade seitan and simmering it in the sauce, it ended up tasting mushy. The vegetables and the sauce were very good, but the texture of the seitan was taking away from it. I ended up picking out the pieces of seitan, stirring in sliced Gardein scallopini (my favorite), simmered, and it’s in a much better place. I’m not claiming this is anywhere near authentic – without chicken thighs, it definitely is not. But it’s a hearty, filling, and tasty vegetarian dish that’s perfect for the cooler nights ahead.

I decided to serve this over a half and half mixture of pureed cauliflower and mashed potatoes. I’ve loved pureed cauliflower since I discovered it in a cookbook, not for its potato replacing ability, but for its own flavor. On my own, I can easily steam a bag of frozen cauliflower, add a little butter and Parmesan, spin it in the food processor, and eat the whole thing. Since Mike’s a little more iffy on that, and I wanted something that could “absorb” flavors a bit more, I added one enormous potato to the pureed head of cauliflower, which met with his approval. I’ll be putting it in its own post, so I can keep it separate from the vegetarian coq au vin. You can also serve it over just about any carb you like: regular potatoes, egg noodles, even a thick slice of crusty bread would be lovely.

And if I may, I do think it tastes better than Epcot’s!

The next time I make this, I want to garnish it with gremolata (lemon zest, minced garlic, minced parsley) even though that’s Italian, and this is French – I think it would add a little brightness.


Vegetarian Coq au Vin

Serves: 6 with accompanying carb; 3-4 without


1 package Gardein Chick’n scallopini

6 slices tempeh bacon, sliced (I used Tofurky brand, since that’s what our local store sells)

2 tbsp olive oil

10 oz. pearl onions, peeled

4 cloves of garlic, smashed

2 stalks of celery, sliced into 1 inch slices

4 medium carrots, sliced 1/4 of an inch

8 oz. cremini mushrooms, washed and quartered

2 tbsp flour

1 bottle of dry red wine (yes, a bottle! I used Cabernet)

1 cup vegetable or vegetarian chicken broth

1 tsp dried thyme

8 large sprigs of fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp brandy

Salt and pepper to taste


Heat a large, stainless steel skillet over medium heat. Partially thaw the scallopini and slice it into 1/2 inch thick slices. Add both scallopini and tempeh; cook for 5 minutes or until browned on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add olive oil, onions, garlic, celery, carrots, and mushrooms to the pan. Sprinkle with salt and cook for 5 minutes, or until softened and the mushrooms begin to give up liquid.

Sprinkle flour into the pan and stir quickly. Cook for an additional minute, then add wine, broth, dry and fresh thyme, bay leaves, and reserved scallopini and tempeh. Turn up heat and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaves and stir in the butter and brandy. Add salt and pepper to taste, and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve over carb of choice.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Meal Plan for the Week of October 17

Breakfasts: Mini veggie quiches – these worked well last week, and Mike enjoyed them as well.

Lunches: Leftovers, as usual. Probably some egg salad for me here and there.

Dinner 1: Pizza and side salad – going to be working on improving my bread-making ability, of which I have near-zero.

Dinner 2: Japanese golden curry with tofu and vegetables, rice (whoops, didn’t get a chance to make this last week)

Dinner 3: Vegetarian version of 1905 salad – from the Columbia Restaurant, in my hometown area of Tampa

Dinner 4: Hot pot (COLD night for us this week! 70F for a high and 52F for a low!)

I have a lot of odds and ends in the fridge and freezer that I need to use up, so a low key week this week. Friday will probably be a nebulous “other” but I’ll make something warm and hearty for our mini cold front.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Beefless Stew

This was supposed to be a post about seitan au vin, but as I’ve been having issues with my homemade seitan and had to spend extra time fixing the recipe, Mike encouraged me to write up and post about the “beefless” stew that I made over the weekend.

We had a rare, completely rainy, sort-of chilly weekend this past weekend. I’m starting to crave cooler temperatures and comforting food, so I took this as an impetus to make a vegetarian version of beef stew.

(I’ll take this time to make an aside note – I really do generally dislike using processed food and rarely buy any, but I love Gardein products. I usually keep some in the freezer because they make it easy to make a healthy, protein-rich, and quick meal. And sometimes I really don’t feel like making homemade seitan or taking the time to press and bake tofu to the texture that we like. And no, I’m not being paid to talk about their products.)

All that said, I’ve used the Gardein Beefless Tips a few times in various dishes, but I don’t feel as if they’re as versatile as their “Chick’n Scallopini” product. However, I had the craving for a rich stew and crusty bread and knew that I could use the Beefless Tips well in that application.

I started off with the recipe developed by Tal Ronnen, Gardein’s chef, that was apparently showcased on Ellen’s show. It had a lot of basic elements that I would have put into a recipe like this, but I used it as a jumping point to make the recipe my own. When I cook, I probably never actually follow a recipe (which can be good or bad!) and the ingredient list and method is really never completely written until after I take the first bite at the table. That was absolutely the case with this stew.

I knew I wanted plenty of leftovers, so I immediately doubled the ingredient list except for the oil. I also added quartered cremini mushrooms, since I think they pair well with the deep, rich flavors that I was looking for. I kept the vegetables in larger, heartier pieces and ended up using much more flour as I and Mike both agreed the liquid was too thin. I did use pearl onions, and resigned myself to peeling fresh ones while the TV was on in the background. I’ve tried frozen ones and find them watery; I’ve tried the “fast” peel method I’ve read online, and that never really worked for me. I made sure to use waxy red potatoes, as they keep their shape when boiled.

As I’ve encountered sometimes, at the end the stew was missing “something” but I couldn’t place it; I couldn’t think of any other herbs or spices to try. In these cases, I have three things I try: salt, fat, or alcohol. I felt the salt level was fine, so I tried adding a little extra oil, then a little butter. Neither of those fixed it. Scanning the pantry, I finally remembered the bottles of marsala and sherry I keep for cooking, and took those down. A splash of each went into the pot, I stirred and let it cook a few more minutes, and that was it! And, as I hoped, the stew only got better after sitting in the fridge a couple days. I actually had a small bowl for breakfast today and it tasted great!

If you can’t find or don’t want to use the Gardein Beefless Tips, try seitan instead, or double the amount of mushrooms.

(As usual, brown dishes don’t tend to be the most photogenic.)


beefless stew

Beefless Stew

Serves: 8

Note: if the butter is substituted with an additional tablespoon of vegetable oil, this dish is vegan


2 Tbsp Olive or vegetable oil

2 packages of Gardein Beefless Tips

10 oz pearl onions, peeled

6 stalks of celery, sliced into 1 inch thick pieces

4 cloves of garlic, minced

4 medium carrots, sliced into 1/2 inch thick pieces

8 oz cremini mushrooms, washed and quartered

2 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried rosemary

1/2 cup flour

6 cups vegetarian “beef” broth

2 cups dry red wine

6 small red potatoes, washed and quartered

1/4 cup marsala wine

1/4 cup sherry

1 Tbsp butter

Salt and pepper to taste



In a large pot, heat the oil over medium high heat and add the Tips. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned on all sides or about 5-10 minutes. Remove from the pot and set aside.

Add onions and celery and sprinkle with salt. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Add garlic, carrots, mushrooms, thyme, and rosemary. Cook for another 10 minutes. Slowly sprinkle in flour, stirring briskly to avoid clumps. Allow to cook for one minute. Slowly stir in broth and wine, then add potatoes. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 45 minutes. Add Beefless Tips back in and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in marsala, sherry, and butter; salt to taste.

If the stew is not as thick as you’d like, make a slurry of 1/4 cup cold water and 2 Tbsp flour and slowly pour into the pot. Bring the stew to a boil once more and reduce heat.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Meal Plan for the Week of October 10

I’m trying to get back in the swing of making set meal plans each week. It keeps me on track cooking-wise, makes my shopping times and bills shorter, and helps me waste less produce.

Because our schedule can change during the week, I’m not making a set meal for each day, but rather choosing four dinners and making them when it’s the easiest. Lunches are almost always leftovers, and I want to also get back into the swing of using our Laptop Lunchboxes for Mike’s lunch at work.

In general I use my own recipes/brainstorming, but I’ll link to a recipe when I use something else.


Breakfasts: Mini veggie quiches

Lunches: Leftovers from dinner

Dinner 1: Seitan au vin with mashed cauliflower and potato

Dinner 2: Veggie sausages, roasted sweet potato wedges, Brussels sprouts

Dinner 3:Jerk seitan, onions, and peppers

Dinner 4: Japanese golden curry with tofu and vegetables, rice

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash Bisque

Sorry for the short hiatus! Had to take some time off to celebrate Mike’s and my birthday, and it was a busy week. Back on schedule now!

This is a slight variation on the first recipe I developed from scratch, many years ago. The original is a curried butternut squash bisque, so I wanted to bring it back home to a simpler recipe that could have the curried version as a variation, but also be used for other variations as well.

The vegetables are roasted to reduce the water content and bring out the rich flavor through caramelization of the sugars. The final dish has a sweetness that generally doesn’t require apples or added sugars.

If I’m busy, I start this recipe the day before to get the vegetables roasted. In fact, the recipe can be up through the last step of adding the half and half and gently heated on the stovetop the next day. You can even freeze the vegetable puree base and thaw and add the half and half.

For the puree, I prefer to use the countertop blender because it gives a smoother puree, but feel free to use a stick blender inside the stock pot for less cleanup and one less step.

This is my grandmother’s favorite soup!


Roasted Butternut Squash Bisque

Serves 8-12


1 large butternut squash

1 medium sweet potato

1 large onion

1 head of garlic

Olive oil

1/4 cup of fresh sage, finely chopped

2 tsp dried thyme

8 cups of vegetable broth

1 cup of half and half (or for a more decadent dish, light or heavy cream)

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 375 F.

On a sturdy surface and with a very sharp knife, carefully cut the butternut squash in half vertically. Scoop out the seeds and strings and set aside. Drizzle a baking sheet with olive oil, place the squash cut side down, and put into the oven.

Peel the sweet potato and cut into large chunks. Cut the onion into quarters and peel. Slice the top 1/4 off the head of garlic, place in a sheet of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil, and wrap tightly. After the squash has been in the oven for 30 minutes, turn over to peel side down and place the sweet potato, onion, and garlic on the baking sheet as well.

Check the vegetables after 30 minutes and turn the onion and sweet potato if they are beginning to brown too quickly. The vegetables should be ready after another 30 minutes, a total of 90 minutes.

Optionally at this point, bring the vegetable broth and the reserved seeds and strings to a simmer in a large pot. This step is not required but does bring out a little extra fresh squash flavor.

Remove the vegetables and allow to cool enough so that the peel can be removed from the butternut squash. This usually can be done easily at this point, but the flesh can be scooped out if needed. Squeeze the garlic cloves from the head. Add the vegetables to a blender and puree until very smooth, adding broth if needed to encourage blending.

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the sage and thyme and cook for 1 minute. Strain the broth and discard the solids if it has been simmering with the seeds. Add the broth and vegetable puree to the pot and bring to a gentle simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the half and half (or other cream) and nutmeg, and adjust seasonings. Serve immediately with crusty whole grain bread.


Curried Butternut Squash Bisque

Substitute 1-2 tbsp curry powder and 1 tsp chipotle powder for the sage and thyme. Cook the spices for 2-3 minutes to bring out the flavors.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Summer Salad with Tarragon Honey Mustard Vinaigrette


Just a short one today on a mini project I’ve been trying to kick into gear for a while now. I came up with the idea of an autumn salad a couple years ago now, and it’s always been one of my favorite recipes. In a few weeks when it’s more “autumn-y” out (the highs are still in the upper 80s-low 90s here!), I have to go back and tweak it and photograph it.

I love the seasonal combination of fresh fruit, dried fruit, crunchy nuts, and flavorful cheese in my autumn salad, and it’s tied together perfectly with the maple mustard vinaigrette. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to expand that to making a salad for each season. So at the tail end of the summer, here’s my summer salad!

I’m going on the same lines as the autumn salad, incorporating fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts, and a good strong cheese all with a nod towards what’s in season. And thankfully, I’ve made up a template and started to plug in ideas for the other two seasons, so it shouldn’t take me as long this time to bring them to fruition. No pun intended!

For dinner, I increased the protein by adding a Gardein chick’n scallopini for each serving, and used Jarlsberg cheese for Mike’s portion because he hates blue cheese.  If you have or are a blue cheese hater, try it with goat cheese instead. Unfortunately, another thing Mike doesn’t like. Silly guy!

summer salad


Summer Salad with Tarragon Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side or starter.


1 head of butter lettuce, washed and chopped

1 large shallot, thinly sliced

1/3 cup dried cherries

1 medium nectarine, thinly sliced

2 oz blue cheese, crumbled

1/3 cup sliced almonds


3 Tbsp walnut or other nut oil

2 Tbsp white wine vinegar

3 Tbsp honey

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

1/4 cup fresh tarragon, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste


Combine first six ingredients in a large salad bowl.

Blend dressing ingredients together well, adjusting to taste (I used a mini food processor here to incorporate the tarragon). This will make more dressing than needed, so use to taste.

Toss together salad and dressing, and serve immediately.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Caramelized Corn with Cilantro and Queso Fresco


When I was young, I liked corn – I even would mix corn kernels in with my mashed potatoes on my dinner plate to make what I called “corn mashed potatoes.” Very creative, I was.

For some reason, I stopped liking corn for a long time. Then in college I decided to force myself to like the last few veggies that I hated: corn, green beans, asparagus. I just made myself eat them over and over, in different ways, until one day I loved each one. I’m not sure if this is a technique that would work for others, but I’m glad I did it to myself – I wouldn’t have discovered the beauty of caramelized corn kernels.

I’m not sure exactly when I first browned corn at home, but I do know that it was a small life changing discovery for me. While barely steamed or boiled corn is quite nice itself, I think that browning corn over high heat really brings out the best flavors.

I usually call this esquites when I’m making it, it is a little different from traditional esquites in that I don’t add mayonnaise – I tend to be one of those anti-mayo people! Esquites is a Mexican street food that usually consists of corn kernels, lime juice, mayonnaise, chile powder, and crumbled fresh cheese served in a cup. I much prefer it minus the mayonnaise because I think the mayo tends to muddy the fresh flavors of the corn, lime juice, and cheese; it also tastes lighter and you can eat more of the beautiful corn!

This is best made with fresh corn shaved from the cob in season, one of the great things about it is that frozen corn can stand in for fresh all year round. Unlike some frozen vegetables (broccoli, I’m looking at you), corn tends to hold its structure and sweetness when frozen (as well as its nutrition, but that’s true about pretty much all frozen vegetables). You can make this with fresh corn in August or frozen corn in March and it’ll still taste pretty darn good.

The cilantro is optional because I know there are some unfortunate people out there who taste soap when they eat cilantro!


Caramelized Corn with Cilantro and Queso Fresco

Serves 4 as a side dish (or 1 corn lover)


1 tbsp peanut oil

4 medium ears of fresh corn, shucked (or one 16oz package of frozen corn kernels)

2 Serrano peppers, finely minced

1/2 bunch cilantro, washed and chopped (optional)

Juice of 1 lime

4 oz queso fresco

Salt and pepper to taste



Cut the corn kernels from the cobs over a shallow bowl or plate to catch the corn “milk.”

Heat the peanut oil in a large stainless steel skillet until the oil is shimmering. Carefully add the corn to the skillet and cook until most of the kernels are partially browned, or 5 minutes, stirring every minute. (Note: if you are using frozen corn, cover the skillet for about one minute after adding the corn to allow the kernels to defrost, then remove lid.) Keep a small amount of water next to the pan in case it browns too quickly and you need to deglaze the pan while the corn is cooking.

Stir in peppers and cilantro and turn off heat. Pour the lime juice over the corn to loosen the fond from the bottom of the pan. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle queso fresco over the corn and serve.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Guilty Pleasure Salad


…aka the “Don’t Judge Me” salad. I stumbled upon this idea one time after we had people over for a barbecue. Mike and I don’t keep potato chips around the apartment to keep away temptation, but when we have some left over from having company, we feel obligated to use them.

One day last year I was making a “buffalo chick’n” chopped salad and though I usually toss in slivered or sliced almonds for a bit of a crunch, I thought to add in a small handful of crushed potato chips instead. Slightly less healthy, but wow, what a change in flavor! I only added 1/2 oz of chips for a single serving, but it made a nice change of pace for one of my favorite quick salads. To balance out the addition of chips, I try to use a lower fat salad dressing and plenty of veggies.

This weekend we had a few people over, and again have some chips leftover, so I rummaged around and put together a new version of this salad. I also gave it a quick name and decided to commit it to a recipe! It’s honestly not that unhealthy, 1/2 oz of potato chips is only about 60-80 calories, but it’s so tasty that we have to be careful about portions.

This idea can be extended to pretty much any type of chopped salad, just change the chip type accordingly! I had Kettle Sweet Onion chips and paired them with other ingredients I thought would go well. With the buffalo chick’n salad, I’ve used barbecue flavored chips and sour cream and onion chips with great success.



Guilty Pleasure Salad

Serves 2


1 tbsp grainy mustard

2 pieces Gardein chick’n scallopini

1 head of romaine lettuce, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 oz Swiss cheese

1/2 cup green onions, sliced thinly

1 oz sliced almonds

2 Tbsp low fat ranch dressing (I love the Bolthouse yogurt ranch)

1 oz onion flavored potato chips



Spread the mustard over both sides of the Gardein chick’n and cook in a nonstick skillet according to directions.

Combine the remaining ingredients and toss well. When the chick’n is cooked, chop into small pieces and combine with the salad. Add a little cracked pepper on top and serve.


Substitute the mustard with your favorite hot sauce and the Swiss cheese with cheddar or blue cheese for a “buffalo” flavored salad.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Balsamic Grilled Portabellas Topped with Rosemary White Bean Mash and Grilled Chopped Zucchini

Well, that’s a mouthful.

I was originally going to grill portabellas filled with a kasha pilaf mixture, but I wasn’t in the mood for something grainy like that. I wish I had a better explanation for how these flavors came together, but I just brainstormed about what I had in the pantry and the refrigerator and what would be vaguely Italian. I love thinly sliced, gently charred grilled zucchini (and had lots in the refrigerator!) and had provolone cheese. How about some protein and fiber? White beans mashed into a spread with garlic, rosemary, olive oil, and Parmesan.

I made a light spread for the buns as well (onion burger buns from Publix) with mayo, red wine vinegar, garlic, and a sprinkle of herbs from Penzey's.

These were huge and delicious with the combination of flavors from the grill and the fresh garlic. No need for anything on the side, either, with all the veggies and protein in one sandwich!

As an aside, if you don’t feel like dragging out the grill or if it’s too cold, you can also make this in a broiler, but you’ll be missing out on the wonderful grill flavor.

portabello sandwich

Balsamic Grilled Portabellas Topped with Rosemary White Bean Mash and Grilled Chopped Zucchini


4 large portabella caps

2 medium zucchini

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil plus 1 tbsp, divided

1 tsp dried thyme

1 cup cannellini beans, rinsed

3 tbsp shredded Parmesan, divided

2 tsp chopped dried rosemary (or 1 tbsp chopped fresh)

3 cloves of garlic, minced, divided

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp dried mixed herbs (or 2 tbsp fresh)

2 tsp red wine vinegar

4 slices of provolone cheese

Onion sandwich buns

Salt and pepper


Wash the portabella mushrooms and zucchini. Scrape the gills from underneath the mushrooms as they can make the mushrooms taste bitter. Slice the zucchini into four slices lengthwise. Mix the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl or storage container and add the vegetables. Set aside to marinate for at least one hour.

Prepare the grill or broiler.

While the grill or broiler is heating, mash the cannellini beans with 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp of the Parmesan, the dried rosemary, and 2 cloves of garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste. Warm the mixture briefly on the stovetop or in the microwave.

Combine the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, herbs, red wine vinegar, and remaining Parmesan and garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste.

When the grill is ready, brush the grates with additional olive oil and grill the vegetables until done to your liking. I prefer mine with a little char! Keep an eye on the zucchini because it can go from raw to burnt in a second.

When the vegetables are ready, remove from the grill. (If you like grilled buns for your sandwiches, this is a perfect time to grill them.) Chop the zucchini slices.

To assemble the sandwiches, spread the top and bottom buns with the herb garlic mayonnaise, place a mushroom on the bottom bun, 1/4 of the bean spread, 1/4 of the chopped zucchini, and the provolone cheese.
The vegetable stack can be stored overnight for lunch the next day, and can also be served without the bun or herb garlic mayonnaise.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Simple Gardein Chick’n Chinese Chopped Salad


While it’s a ubiquitous item on many American-style restaurants today, the “Chinese” chopped salad is one thing I miss being able to order when I eat at restaurants since going vegetarian. More often than not it was a fresh-tasting salad with lots of vegetables, protein, and what Mike and I love to call “crunchies” – the fried noodles.

Luckily it’s also something that’s easily made at home. It’s a great post-gym meal because with this version, it can be thrown together in a matter of minutes. I keep the fried noodles but use just a few of them, broken up, and add toasted sliced almonds to boost the crunch factor. I like to toss in whatever extra vegetables I have in the refrigerator as well – red peppers, cucumbers, thinly sliced zucchini. However, I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of the mandarin orange slices, so I do omit those but add unsweetened coconut shreds and a tiny squeeze of dark honey.

I use coleslaw mix partly because of convenience, but also partly so that the leftovers can be saved. Add the fried noodles at serving time if you’re going to be making this ahead of time.


chopped asian salad

Simple Gardein Chickn’n Chinese Chopped Salad

Serves 4


1 bag of Gardein Chick’n Scallopini

1 bag of coleslaw mix

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 cup chopped mint

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

1/2 cup fried noodles

1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds

1/4 cup unsweetened coconut shreds

1/2 tbsp dark honey

Asian-style dressing of choice to taste



Cook chick’n scallopini as directed in a non-stick skillet.

While the chick’n is cooking, combine remaining ingredients in a large salad bowl and toss. Divide between four plates and add sliced chick’n.

Since this salad isn’t made with delicate lettuce, leftovers can be refrigerated and served at a later time. If this is desired, add fried noodles when the salad will be served.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Just a picture today! Note to self, June tomatoes aren’t the best.



Monday, June 6, 2011

Braised Cabbage

It’s a little late for cabbage dishes, I know. But I’ve had a head of cabbage sitting in my fridge, a pack of Tofurky kielbasa, and a vacation coming up so I threw together one of my favorite easy side dishes.

It’s barely a recipe, more of a technique – it reminds me a little of making potstickers, and if done right, rewards you with caramelized and meltingly soft layers of cabbage. You brown one side of wedges of cabbage, deglaze with a little liquid, cover and braise the cabbage until it’s nearly cooked, and then brown the other half. I’ve been able to convert many people to the Brassica family with the use of caramelization!

I served this with the afore-mentioned Tofurky kielbasa, quickly browned, with a little spicy mustard on the side.


Braised Cabbage


1 medium head of cabbage

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

Water, broth, or white wine

Salt and pepper


Slice a clean and trimmed head of cabbage in half through the root; then half again, and again, to equal 8 wedges. Remove the core from each piece.

Heat a large, stainless steel skillet over medium high heat. After the pan is heated, add the olive oil and the butter, and as soon as the butter is melted, the wedges of cabbage. Arrange each piece so that the bottom (which has thicker leaves) is in the center. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes or until browned on the bottom.

Add the liquid, then cover the skillet and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 10 minutes, remove the lid, turn the heat to medium high once more, and flip each wedge of cabbage carefully. You may add a little additional oil or butter at this time. Let the other side of each wedge brown, then remove from the skillet and serve.

Monday, May 30, 2011


Since Mexican and all the variations (Tex-Mex, Cal-Mex, etc) are Mike’s favorite style of food, I usually keep ingredients around so I can quickly whip up something in a pinch.

On Sunday night we had one of those pinches, so I threw together a simple meal of tostadas. There are multiple steps, but they can be done concurrently and the finished dish goes together quickly once each ingredient is prepared. To make it a little quicker, convenience versions can be used, as noted.

These can also easily be turned into huevos rancheros by adding eggs in any style you like. This makes a great brunch spread because you can put out a toppings buffet and let guests make their dishes as they please.





Olive oil or nonstick spray

8 corn tortillas

1 red pepper, sliced

1 green pepper, sliced

15oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

¼ Tbsp chipotle powder (or more to taste)

1 package Gardein chick’n scallopini

6 oz cheddar cheese, shredded

Sour cream, cilantro, green onions, salsa


Heat the oven to 425 F. Spray the corn tortillas with non-stick spray, or brush with a little olive oil. Place directly on the oven rack and cook until lightly browned on both sides, about 10 minutes total, turning the tortillas over after 5 minutes. (Alternately, buy pre-made corn tostadas)

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat, and add 1 Tbsp olive oil. Add peppers to the pan, sprinkle with salt, and cover. Cook 10 minutes or until softened and starting to blacken, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, mash the pinto beans with a little water, 1 tbsp olive oil, and chipotle powder and heat over medium heat until warmed through. Set aside.

Cook the Gardein chick’n pieces in a nonstick pan over medium heat, browning on each side, about 7 minutes on the first side and 3-4 on the second. Remove from pan and cut into small pieces.

When all of the components are prepared, layer the tostadas on a plate: tortilla, refried beans, peppers, chick’n, shredded cheese. Add whichever other toppings you’d like: sour cream, cilantro, green onions, salsa, tomatoes, olives, etc.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Plaza Park Gardens in Winter Park

Lately, my favorite meal of the week has been brunch. It's a nice way of making Sunday feel a little more special, as well as giving me a day to look forward to rather than dread (because of Monday anticipation!)

This weekend we tried a new-to-us restaurant, Plaza Park Gardens in Winter Park. We've lived in Orlando for over 10 years now and I'm wondering why I've just noticed this restaurant, let alone visited it! Luckily we were able to snag a table for two in the atrium dining room, though they recommended that we make reservations next time because it does get busy.

The atrium is spacious, with artificial trees lit with white lights on strings, and a translucent ceiling that allows some sunlight through. The high was in the upper 90s that day, so it was nice to have the appearance of dining outside with the convenience of air conditioning! A gentleman was unobtrusively playing the piano in the center of the room, which added a bit of a romantic air to the atmosphere even though there was a steady hum of other diners enjoying their brunch. We were attended to by Robbie, who was just delightful, attentive without hovering, and answered every question we had (and I always have too many).

I selected the Sunday champagne brunch special, an appetizer, entree, and mimosas, while Mike decided to eat a la carte. I went with the goat cheese and beet salad, the grits-minus-shrimp-plus-mushrooms-and-a-poached-egg, and orange juice mimosas. (I was happily surprised to find out that they use Florida Naturals orange juice and Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice for their mimosas - the quality brands really made a difference!) Mike had the turkey, brie, apple, and bacon sandwich substituting provolone for brie, herbed fries, and an orange mimosa as well.
Each brunch entree is started off with a basket of mini-muffins, biscuits, and butter - regular and cinnamon. The butter was decoratively piped onto the plate and served softened - a very nice touch. The biscuits were pleasantly crumbly and tasty, though the muffins were a little bland.

My beet salad was served on top of chopped mixed baby greens which had been tossed with balsamic vinaigrette and a touch of truffle oil. I appreciated that the greens were chopped; no large, unwieldy pieces of greens here! The goat cheese and beets were served a little differently than I have had in other restaurants -
cubes of beets mixed with goat cheese and formed into a cylinder. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that the cylinders of goat cheese and beets were pre-formed and stored to make serving easier, due to the utensil marks on the cheese. Even so, this was a delicious version of the salad and a large portion to boot. The
truffle oil gave just a hint of flavor, not enough to overwhelm the rest of the dish. My only other comment was that the ratio of cheese to beets was a little higher than I like, and I ended up picking out cubes of beet and leaving some of the cheese.

(I did forget to take pictures after this point, oops!)

My brunch entree was fairly amazing, with a large bowl of cheese grits topped with sauteed mushrooms and a perfectly poached egg, and two fresh drop biscuits with peppers. The grits were wonderfully creamy, seasoned just right, and were only made better when I stirred in the mushrooms and poached egg. Grits with a poached egg on top are one of my favorite breakfast dishes, and I can't imagine it executed much better than this.

I can't comment much on Mike's sandwich because of all the meat, but he loved the combination of flavors. The apples were thinly sliced green apples, which I was pleased to see because I think their flavor and texture suit a sandwich more than mealy Red Delicious. The croissant was nicely toasted, which I don't see often on restaurant sandwiches. I did sample his french fries, which were a little thick and perhaps a bit under done and under seasoned, though that didn't stop Mike from eating them all.

Overall we had a wonderful time at brunch at Plaza Park Gardens, from atmosphere to service to the food. There were plenty of vegetarian choices, and our server didn't bat an eye when I asked to modify a non-vegetarian dish. PPG will definitely be going on my list of brunch do-agains!