Basil & Walnut Pesto

6 10 2010

pestoAfter a longgg summer of waiting, I finally grew enough basil (from seed – [cheer!]) to make a batch of homemade pesto. So, of course, I did! I used walnuts not just for their flavor (I do really like the flavor), but also because I always seem to have tons of walnuts on hand and pine nuts can be so darn expensive!


Ingredients:

pesto 1•4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
•1 cup compacted fresh basil
•6 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
•3 Tbs shredded romano cheese
•3 Tbs raw walnuts
•pinch of kosher salt
•1 tsp fresh ground pepper


Directions:
pesto 2
1. Place all ingredients in food processor.
2. Pulse to start chopping and incorporating the ingredients.
3. Blend until you have a fine, pesto consistency. May take a minute or two once it gets going.
4. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.


Recommended Serving Instructions:

Use this however you want! Great as a spread, on pizza, with pasta, mix with mayo for sandwiches or cream cheese for bagels, mix into your eggs… the options are literally endless!


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Homemade Waffles

3 10 2010

Here is a simple recipe for delicious homemade waffles. It comes from Alton Brown, one of my favorite Food Network personalities. He turns food into a science, so you know you’ll get a perfect dish every time.

waffle


Ingredients:

•2 cups unbleached flour
•1/2 tsp baking soda
•1 tsp baking powder
•1 tsp kosher salt
•3 Tbs sugar
•3 large eggs, beaten
•1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
•2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
•vegetable spray, for waffle iron


Directions:

waffle 21. Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl and mix wet ingredients separately in a medium bowl.
2. Combine wet and dry ingredients in large bowl until well mixed. Let stand for 5 minutes.
3. Heat waffle iron and cook according to the iron’s directions.


Recommended Serving Instructions:

These are great with some walnuts and maple syrup, but also with apple butter or fresh fruit.


Tips:

•The only thing I do differently is I use regular milk or almond milk in place of buttermilk. It’s healthier and still tastes buttery with the half-stick of butter you add anyway.






Homemade Veggie Burgers

3 09 2010

While MorningStar is pretty much a staple in my household, it’s always better to eat food that is minimally processed. That is why this veggie burger recipe is great – you see and taste all of the ingredients that go into them. Plus, they taste amazing! The only way to make them more natural would be to make your own beans…and maybe ferment some soy beans to make your own soy sauce…

burger


Ingredients:

burger ingredients•3 cups cooked brown rice
•15 oz. can of black beans
•15 oz. can of red kidney beans
•1 Tbsp unsalted butter
•1 medium cooking onion, finely chopped
•1 medium carrot, shredded
•1 cup breadcrumbs (preferably unseasoned)
•3/4 cup roasted unsalted sunflower seeds
•1/2 cup dried parsley
•4 large eggs, lightly beaten
•1/4 cup soy sauce
•1/4 vegan Worcestershire sauce
•garlic powder
•salt and pepper to taste


Directions:

burger 11. Make brown rice in advance. It works best in this recipe if you let it cool to room temperature or slightly warmer.
2. Rinse and drain the black and kidney beans. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and add beans. Cook thoroughly until they are soft and then mash with a wooden spoon.
burger 23. Combine everything on the list from rice to parsley. Stir until everything is evenly combined.
4. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl and combine with the soy sauce and vegan Worcestershire sauce. Add to the main mixture and stir until fully incorporated.
burger 35. Form into 1/2-inch thick patties, roughly 4 inches in diameter.
6. Heat large skillet over medium-high heat. Coat with nonstick cooking spray and cook each patty about 4 minutes per side, until outsides are thoroughly browned and the insides are cooked through.


Recommended Serving Instructions:

Serve however you like to eat your burgers. I enjoy these with homemade guacamole, pepper jack, lettuce, tomato and red onion on sesame buns.


Tips:

burger 4•The burgers can tend to be on the fragile side. One thing you can do to help the cooking process is make the patties in advance and chill for 20-30 minutes (or up to 2 hours) before cooking.
•This recipe makes about 1 dozen burgers – way too many burgers for the normal dinner crew. I have found that the burgers last longer if you just cook them all at once and then freeze the leftovers. If you refrigerate the mixture to cook later, it tends to dry out.
•Another option for the excessive veggie burger mixture is to make however many burgers you want and make a vegetarian meatloaf with the rest. Sometimes I make 4 burgers and put the rest in a 2-quart square ceramic baking dish (spray with non-stick spray first). Pack the loaf into the dish and cover in foil. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 375º F. After about 20 minutes, remove the foil and cook an additional 5-10 minutes until the top is browned and the inside is cooked through (should be barely moist).






It’s Guacamole Time!

5 08 2010

I sometimes wonder if I am a pregnant woman stuck in a man’s body. I get cravings ALL the time! Right now, I’ve been craving guacamole pretty regularly. This recipe is just how I like it: simple, chunky, mashed avocado with a few other veggies, some light spices and a little heat. It’s super easy and refreshing to eat during these hot summer days!

guacamole


Ingredients:

•4 avocados
•juice of 1 lime
•1 medium jalapeno
•4 cloves of garlic
•1/2 large red onion
•1/2 pint of grape tomatoes
•large handful of fresh cilantro, finely chopped
•1/2 tsp cumin
•salt and pepper to taste


Directions:

1. Finely chop the jalapeno (remove seeds if you want a milder guacamole), garlic, red onion and tomatoes. Set aside.
2. Cut avocados in half, de-pit (whack sharp knife into the pit and twist out), scoop out the flesh and mash in a large bowl, leaving fairly chunky.
3. Squeeze the juice of 1 fresh lime over the avocado to prevent browning.
3. Add the chopped vegetables, cilantro, cumin, salt and pepper and mix with a fork until well incorporated.
4. Cover with plastic wrap or move into sealable container and chill for at least 30 minutes. This will allow the spices and heat to bleed into the dip.
5. Serve and enjoy!


guacamole tacosRecommended Serving Instructions:

Obviously, guacamole is great with tortilla chips or as a condiment for most any Mexican dish. However, when I’m craving guacamole (like I am now), I love making guacamole tacos (see below). It’s a great alternative to typical grilled veggie or fake meat tacos. Serve with some fresh brown rice and homemade refried black beans – easy, filling, balanced and delicious!






Vegan Chili

3 08 2010

This vegetarian chili is a little non-traditional in that A) it has a nice Middle Eastern/Indian flavor, and B) it is actually quite good for you. Every spoonful will deliver hearty beans and chunks of veggies, and the only fat in the dish is what comes naturally from the beans (which is fairly minimal). But this isn’t one of those veggie soups that you love because it tastes okay and is really good for you. This stuff tastes really good! Meat- and non-meat-eaters alike have fallen for this chili, and I hope you will, too!

veg chili


Ingredients:

•5 garlic cloves
•3 medium cooking onions
•3 celery ribs
•1 green bell pepper
•1 red bell pepper
•1 orange or yellow bell pepper
•2 small zucchini
•2 small yellow squash
•2 cups yellow corn kernels (fresh, canned or frozen)
•28 oz can red kidney beans
•28 oz can black beans
•28 oz can garbanzo beans
•15 oz can pinto beans
•28 oz can diced tomatoes
•15 oz can tomato sauce
•4 Tbs tomato paste
•2 tsp chili powder
•1 Tbs cumin
•1 Tbs coriander
•2 tsb cayenne pepper
•salt and pepper to taste


Directions:

1. Finely chop the garlic. Chop the rest of the vegetables so that they are roughly the same size (you want them to cook at the same speed). I generally chop into larger pieces so you can bite into the vegetables, but smaller pieces will cook faster.
2. Rinse and drain all beans (and corn, if canned).
3. Combine all ingredients in a large (8 quart) saucepan.
4. Once all ingredients are thoroughly combined, cover and heat over medium heat. Stir occasionally.
chili 35. Once the chili begins to simmer, turn the heat down to medium-low and cook until vegetables are tender. Stir regularly to make sure the bottom does not burn.
6. It should take about an hour from the time you turn on the burner to when the vegetables become tender, but timing will depend on your pot, stove and size of vegetable pieces.


Recommended Serving Instructions:

chili 4My preferred way to serve this chili is with a dollop of plain yogurt, and if I want a little extra spice, a dash of cayenne pepper. The cool dairy and little extra spice go well with the cumin and coriander. However, don’t worry! You can still sprinkle with chopped onion, shredded cheddar cheese and/or some sour cream and serve with corn tortilla chips. Or even serve in a bread bowl. The traditional chili accompaniments work quite nicely!


Tips:

•Where’s the liquid? When you first combine the ingredients, you’ll notice there is very little liquid/sauce. Don’t worry, as you cook the vegetables, water will be released and it will get cooked into the sauce. You don’t want to add any additional liquid because it will become too soupy. This should be fairly thick.
•The timing for cooking the chili is really more of a suggestion. About an hour is the bare minimum of what you should do. If you want something lighter and crunchier, do less time (just note the flavors may be less cohesive). I tend to let it simmer a little longer (an additional 20 minutes or even more), to make sure the flavors fully develop. You’ll be surprised how long the veggies will hold up before becoming too soggy or overcooked.
•This dish is freezer friendly. It makes 4 to 5 quarts. When I was living alone I would make it and freeze in several single-serving containers and it would last several weeks.






Easy, Cheesy, Cream Sauce

27 07 2010

gnocchi and cheeseThis recipe is my standard go-to for when I crave something creamy and rich. I just whip up this sauce and add it to pasta with some fresh veggies, or make a quick and easy mac n’ cheese. The great thing about this sauce is that (in terms of cream sauce), it’s relatively not bad for you. It is thick and rich and tasty, but predominantly low-fat milk with a little butter, oil and cheese.

Sundried tomato gnocchi in cream sauce pictured above.


Ingredients:

•2 Tbs butter
•1 Tbs olive oil
•3 cloves of garlic, minced
•2 Tbs flour
•1/2 cup parmesan cheese
•2 1/2 cups low-fat milk
•4 large leaves of fresh basil, finely chopped (plus extra for garnish)
•salt and pepper to taste


Directions:

cheese sauce1. In a large saucepan, heat butter and olive oil over medium heat.
2. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute.
3. Combine flour and heat for 3 minutes (stirring constantly), until it forms a golden brown paste.
4. Stir in parmesan until it begins to melt.
5. Begin slowly adding milk, whisking constantly from now on. Begin with just a splash, then up to 1/2 a cup at a time. After each addition, keep whisking and wait to add more until sauce is heated again and slightly thickened.
6. After all milk is added, reduce heat to medium-low and add basil and salt and pepper to taste (you won’t need much salt at all).


Recommended Serving Instructions:

While the sauce is still warm and over the burner, add your favorite cooked pasta (or sundried tomato gnocchi – pictured above). Mix until evenly coated and heated. Immediately serve and sprinkle with some fresh basil and/or cracked black pepper. If you add macaroni, ziti, penne (or any other similar tube pasta) you can then place in a baking dish and make a delicious, white, baked mac n’ cheese. Sprinkle the top with more parmesan and/or bread crumbs, cover with foil, and bake at 400º F for about 20 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake until the top is browned to your liking.


Tips:

•Try mixing this up by replacing the parmesan cheese with some other kind of cheese (chevre, brie, gorgonzola, etc.). Just be conscious of the fact that you may need to alter the amount of cheese you add depending on the kind. If you add a stronger cheese (gorgonzola), you may need less, or if you use a more mild cheese (chevre), you may need more.
•A little goes a long way! You’ll find you just need to lightly coat your pasta with this sauce, so you’ll likely have leftovers. That’s fine – it keeps relatively well. Just refrigerate or freeze in plastic containers, or even jar it.






Tomato Sauce

24 07 2010

tomato sauceHere is an old family recipe for tomato sauce. I sure hope my family doesn’t mind me posting this, but it’s so delicious and straight-forward, I just want to share it with everyone! The key here is to use the best ingredients you can find, and to cook it slowly. It will pay off with large amounts of tasty sauce that you can use for all sorts of dishes!


Ingredients:

•2 28-oz. cans whole tomatoes
•2 15-oz. cans tomato sauce
•1 small can tomato paste
•2 Tbs parsley
•1 Tbs oregano
•1/2 tsp anise
•salt and pepper to taste
•2 Tbs olive oil
•4 garlic cloves, minced


Directions:

tomato sauce 11. In a large blender or food processor, blend all canned tomato products, parsley, oregano and anise. Don’t over-blend, you will want to keep some body (this shouldn’t be super chunky, but you don’t want a runny, thin sauce either).
2. Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add and sauté the garlic until it starts to brown.
3. Add the blended sauce to the pan and bring to a simmer. Simmer on low heat for at least 30 minutes, stirring often. Be sure not to let the sauce boil.


Recommended Serving Instructions:

This sauce is great by itself on any pasta dish. I also particularly like making this sauce for delicious, real homemade lasagna or baked ziti. It brings a nice, fresh, bold flavor to these dishes that you just can’t get with jarred sauces.


Tips:

•The sauce gets better the longer you let it simmer and the longer it sits. If you aren’t sure you can get a good hour of simmer time (or more), you will likely want to make the sauce ahead of time.
•This sauce freezes really well. Whenever I make it, I often double the recipe (note – this already makes a hefty portion!) and freeze several large containers worth.
•This was originally meant to be a meat sauce (used to simmer meatballs, bracciole, sausage, pork ribs, etc.). As a vegetarian, I have found that the sauce really does work on its own. However, particularly because of the anise, it lends itself nicely to masking (or complementing) fake meats. I once made a great lasagna with fake meatballs and Italian sausage that was quite “meaty.”
•If at all possible, use jarred tomatoes instead of canned. The combination of the acidity in the tomatoes and the chemicals in the can is apparently a very bad one. I have a hard time finding it, so still use canned most of the time, but try to find jarred, jar some yourself, or try to find organic canned tomatoes that were just recently canned.