Category Archives: VEGETARIAN RECIPES

CREAMY BAKED PASTA PRIMAVERA

In my quest for vegetarian options to offer family and friends, I threw caution to the wind and glommed together this recipe for a primavera in the form of a casserole/lasagna want-to-be. (Too lazy to use lasagna noodles, so used fusilli instead.) (Coincidentally, using fusilli pasta is easy to serve. That always works for me!)

Now, at first glance you might think this recipe very time consuming to fix. But if you study the preparation instructions you will find that actually this dish comes together relatively quickly. Nothing fancy happening in any of the steps. And oh the results. If you are a veggie and cheese lover like I am, this is a dish you will love from first bite.

Now I’m not going to tell you that just because veggies are the star of this show, that this is a nutritionally perfect pasta dish. Yes the veggies are marvels of nature, but the butter, whipping cream, and various cheeses offset some of the benefits gained by “eating your veggies”. But once in a while, every mouth deserves a break from the mundane. And if you are going to indulge every so often, at least you can eat something with some nutritionally redeemable qualities at the same time. (That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it!)

So chop us some of your favorite veggies. (Be inventive and use the veggies you like best.) Grate some cheese, and al dente you up some pasta. (Use your favorite pasta. Doesn’t have to be fusilli.) Stir them all together, throw the whole mess in the oven, and serve yourself up a treat.

Perfect served with a nice crisp green salad and some chewy Italian bread. 

  • 3 T. extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 sm. carrot, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced into half rounds  
  • ½ yellow onion, chopped
  • ¼ red onion, chopped
  • ½ bunch asparagus, sliced into diagonal ¾-inch pieces
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips
  • 14-16 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 sm. yellow summer squash, cut into ¾-inch pieces
  • 1 med. zucchini, cut into ¾-inch pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 c. halved small cherry or grape tomatoes
  • ½ c. unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 1 c. heavy whipping cream
  • 1 c. whole milk
  • 4 oz. (½ lg. pkg.) cream cheese
  • 1½ tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 c. frozen petite peas
  • ¾ lb. fusilli pasta, cooked al dente  
  • vegetable broth or pasta water, as needed
  • 1 c. grated mozzarella cheese

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrot and sauté for about 4 minutes. Add the yellow onion, red onion, asparagus, red pepper, and mushroom slices. Sauté until all the veggies are crisp tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add the squash and zucchini and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, and tomatoes; cook for 1 minute. Remove pan from heat; set aside.

In a saucepan set over medium heat, whisk together the butter, heavy whipping cream, milk, and cream cheese until the butter melts and the sauce is smooth and starting to thicken, 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the Italian seasoning and grated Parmesan cheese. Adjust seasoning.

In a large bowl, combine the peas, cooked veggies, sauce, and al dente pasta. If the sauce needs a little more liquid, stir in a small amount of vegetable broth or pasta water.

Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking dish and scoop in the pasta mixture. Pat down a bit and sprinkle with the grated mozzarella.

Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until the entire dish is heated through and the mozzarella is melted and turning a light golden brown.

Please Note: If you are making this dish ahead of time, let each part of the recipe come to room temperature before mixing together. Cover and refrigerate until about an hour before you place in pre-heated oven.

 

 

OLD FASHIONED MEATLOAF

Having just returned from a month long trailer trip that was relaxing and invigorating at the same time, I decided that the JazzVox lunch menu for this past Sunday would be comfort food. (And yes, I cook a lot of comfort food, but that’s just who I am.) And it turns out – I am not alone. Many of our guests thanked me for cooking a couple of classic comfort dishes that brought back memories of days gone by.

So this meatloaf is my recipe for one of the dishes I prepared regularly for my children as they were growing up.

Now after you look at the ingredients, you will notice that not all are fresh. Dried parsley and granulated garlic are not only perfect for this recipe, they are also easy. Take the lid off a jar and measure. Simple. You could of course use fresh parsley and garlic, but this is comfort food, and part of the comfort for me is in the ease of preparation!

Then of course, there’s the topping. Now if that isn’t retro, I don’t know what is! But it works. And it has lasting appeal.

Now, if you haven’t used savory before, you are in for a treat. Savory is native to the Northwest and can be described as a cross between thyme and mint, with a bit of marjoram thrown in for good measure. It has an earthy flavor and is absolutely perfect in soups, stews, meat dishes, and stuffing.

So give this simple meatloaf recipe a try. It will take hardly any time to prepare, and you probably will have planned-overs. That too is comfort my friends. Talk about a win/win situation!

(BTW – Creamy Mac and Cheese was the other comfort food I served. Check it out too.)

  • 1 c. finely chopped onion
  • ½ c. dried bread crumbs (I use Italian breadcrumbs)
  • 1 T. dehydrated parsley
  • 1 tsp. seasoned salt
  • 1 tsp. granulated garlic
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp. ground savory
  • 1 lg. egg
  • ¼ c. milk
  • 1 lb. bulk sausage (breakfast or sweet Italian)
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 2 T. brown sugar
  • 1/3 c. ketchup

In a medium large bowl, stir together the onion, bread crumbs, parsley, seasoned salt, granulated garlic, pepper, savory, egg, and milk. Gently stir in the sausage, then the ground beef. (Don’t overwork the mixture.) Form into 2 loaves and place on a small rimmed baking sheet.

Bake for 30 minutes in a pre-heated 350 degree oven. Remove from oven and spread with brown sugar and ketchup that have been stirred together. Return pan to oven and bake for another 20 – 25 minutes. (Don’t over bake.) Internal temperature should be 155-160 degrees.

FRIED TOFU AND SHRIMP OR CHICKEN CHOW MEIN

Yes I know, I already have an Asian inspired recipe on this site that is very similar to this one. However, it (Seafood and Fried Tofu Low Mein) has a few different ingredients and takes a bit longer to prepare. (It’s really good too!)

So one evening a few days ago I was in a hurry. I wanted chow mein but I didn’t want to spend much time in the kitchen. (You know, there are just some days like that!) So I went to one of my favorite sites for inspiration. And Nagi didn’t let me down. Of course I changed things up from her original recipe, but I still felt it only fair to acknowledge her contribution. You too might want to check out RecipeTin Eats. But back to this recipe.

I loved how easy this one-dish meal came together. And man was the chow mein good! But then I am absolutely crazy about fried tofu. I could eat it almost every day. And in combination with either a bit of shrimp or chicken, this dish is like the best chow mein you could ever hope to find in a restaurant. And not greasy. Not in the least!

So if you need to create a quick one-dish meal some evening, give this chow mein a try. It really is easy and fairly quick to prepare. Plus you can add as many veggies to this basic recipe as you desire. Don’t like tofu, leave it out. Want the chow mein to be meat free, leave out the chicken or shrimp. (The dish as written won’t ever be strictly vegetarian because oyster sauce actually does contain oyster extract or essence.) Want to make the dish GF, use rice noodles and make sure your soy sauce is GF. (GF Tamari is really good for that purpose.)

Anyway you prepare this dish, you are going to be pleased with the results. And this dish warms up beautifully. Which BTW, is almost essential here at Chez Carr. We simply don’t eat as much as we used to and planned-overs are now a regular part of our life.

Note: If you are still cooking for a large family, you just might want to double the recipe. And even then you still might not have any leftovers to warm up for lunch the next day. Believe me, I understand all too well. I still remember feeding my kids when they were teenagers. Leftovers! Huh! It was only a distant dream in those days. Now I’m living the dream, in many more ways than leftovers! Happy cooking my friends.

  • ¼ c. soy sauce
  • generous 1/3 c. oyster sauce
  • ¼ c. dry sherry
  • 2 T. cornstarch
  • 1½ tsp. sugar
  • 1 T. sesame oil
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp. Sriracha, or more to taste
  • 1 pkg. firm tofu, sliced and cut into cubes
  • 2 T. vegetable oil
  • 4-5 c. thinly sliced napa cabbage
  • 1 sm. carrot, chopped fairly small
  • 5-6 lg. uncooked shrimp, shelled and cut in thirds or ½ chicken breast, cut into small pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 oz. chow mein noodles, cooked al dente
  • 4 green onions, sliced diagonally
  • 2 c. bean sprouts

Whisk the soy sauce, oyster sauce, dry sherry, cornstarch, sugar, sesame oil, black pepper, and Sriracha together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Gently combine the tofu cubes with 3 tablespoons of the chow mein sauce while you chop the veggies and shell the shrimp or cube the chicken.

When all of the ingredients are prepped, heat the oil in a wok or large non-stick fry pan over medium-high heat. Add the tofu cubes and fry until brown on at least 3 sides. (Reserve the sauce mixture remaining in the bowl after you remove the tofu.) Remove the browned tofu from the pan and set aside. Start noodles cooking.

Add the cabbage and carrot to the pan and stir fry until the cabbage starts to wilt. Add the shrimp or chicken and cook just until done. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add the cooked noodles, (I lift them directly from the pasta water into the fry pan with a pair of tongs), fried tofu, green onions, bean sprouts, and sauce. (Don’t forget the sauce in which you marinated the tofu). Gently stir fry until the noodles are warmed through and sauce is thickened, about 1 minute. Don’t over-cook. Serve immediately.

 

CURRIED LENTIL AND VEGETABLE SOUP (VEGAN)

Most of the time I prefer some kind of meat in my soups, stews, and chowders. But as we are getting a bit older and health issues are starting to raise their ugly little heads here at Chez Carr, I have decided to (for the 3,659th time), try to direct our taste buds toward a more vegetable and meatless protein rich diet. Don’t get me wrong. We eat a lot of veggies already, and both of us love beans and interesting grains, but I could do better. (I say I, because I’m the one in the apron!)

So, in that vein, and because I needed a vegan dish for this Sunday’s JazzVox pre-concert meal, I came up with this soup loosely based on a recipe from the Happy Healthy Mama website.

First of all, we both love Indian curry. So why not start with curry powder. Then some turmeric (super good for us), and a few other spices and lots of veggies. Throw in some lentils and garbanzo beans, and you have a soup that is both delicious and ultra-healthy.

So if you too are trying to eat healthier, but absolutely refuse to give up the quality of the food you put in your mouth, give this recipe a try. The soup is creamy and chunky, with a wonderful mouth feel. (You know, that lovely feeling in your mouth when the consistency and flavor of whatever food you are eating feels so perfect you almost don’t want to swallow.) OK, maybe my definition of “mouth feel” falls into the category of a personal idiosyncrasy. Regardless, this soup is wonderful and perfect for a cold winter evening meal. Enjoy.

And remember, buy all the lovely spices featured in this soup in bulk. You will save yourself so much money. Which only means you can make this soup more often. See how that works!

  • 2 T. curry powder
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/8 to ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (I start with 1/8 teaspoon because I’m a wimp!)
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lg. carrot, small dice
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, plus leaves, small dice
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 T. finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 c. dry lentils, washed and rinsed
  • 8 c. vegetable broth (I use Better Than Bouillon Seasoned Vegetable Base and 8 cups water, or strained cooking water from garbanzo beans and enough tap water to make 8 cups)
  • 1 lg. sweet potato, cut into small chunks
  • 3 c. cooked garbanzo beans (see cooking recipes below) or 2 cans garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15 oz.) can lite coconut milk
  • ½-1 tsp. garam masala, opt.

In a small bowl, combine the curry powder, turmeric, cumin, crushed red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Set Aside.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy large covered soup pot. Add the carrot, onion, and celery. Cook until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and ginger; cook 1 minute. Add the spice mixture and lentils; cook for 1 minute. Stir in the veggie broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring periodically.

Add the sweet potato, and cook for 20-30 minutes or until the lentils and sweet potato chunks are tender. Add the cooked garbanzo beans, coconut milk, and garam masala. Bring to just below a boil. Remove from heat and adjust seasoning. Great served with warm sourdough bread. Reheats beautifully. (Actually this soup is even better the second day.)

Instant-Pot or Pressure Cooker Garbanzo Beans  

  • 1 c. dried garbanzo beans/chickpeas, washed but not pre-soaked
  • 4 c. water
  • ½ tsp. salt, opt.

Add washed chickpeas along with the water to the Instant-Pot insert. Add salt. Close the lid with vent in sealing position.

Set the Instant Pot to High Pressure, and adjust the timer to 35 minutes. When the cooking time is up, unplug the Instant Pot and do a 20 minute NPR, which means if necessary, release the pressure manually 20 minutes after the beep. Strain the liquid and use it to make the vegetable broth. Add the cooked beans to the soup per recipe instructions.

Note: As much as possible I prefer to use cooked dry beans rather than canned beans. But of course, there are just those days when I gladly grab a can of beans out of the pantry. Consistency has always been my motto!

Regular Top-of-the-Stove Cooked Beans (Quick Soak Method)

  • 1 c. dried garbanzo beans/chickpeas, washed
  • water
  • ½ tsp. salt, opt.

Place the washed beans in a large pot, cover with several inches of water and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes then take the pot off of the heat and let the beans sit in the water for 1 hour.

After the beans have been soaked, drain and rinse them well. Add them to a large pot, cover with several inches of water, and bring everything to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered 90 to 120 minutes or until tender. Add the salt after the beans have been simmering for about an hour. Remove from heat, allow to cool a bit, then strain the liquid and use it to make the vegetable broth. Add the cooked beans to the soup per recipe instructions.

 

 

YUKON GOLD POTATO GRATIN WITH PEPPER JACK AND WHITE CHEDDAR CHEESE

So, what do you do when you have company coming for dinner, 2 pints of heavy cream left over from Christmas, and a partial loaf of Pepper Jack cheese in your refrigerator desperately needing to be used? Not to mention eight beautiful Yukon gold potatoes longing to know how they fit in to the whole dinner party menu? Well, the answer is obvious. You make a gratin!

So yesterday, as I was contemplating the “potato” portion of my already twice changed menu, I decided to go on line and see if anyone else had possibly ever thought of using Pepper Jack cheese in a potato gratin. Once again I was reminded that there isn’t a combination of ingredients out there that hasn’t already been considered! I tell you, the internet is not good for my ego. I think I have an original idea, and then there in black and white for everyone to read is my idea already conceived and brought to fruition. Of course, hoping I could find a recipe already written was why I searched the internet in the first place! But logic has no place in this rant. So I’m just going to wallow in feeling once again usurped! But in all fairness, I do have to thank Wegmans, a grocery store chain back east for their recipe. I made a couple small changes, but I felt they were necessary not only for the outcome of the dish but also to help heal my bruised ego.

I was a bit skeptical of Wegmans recipe because I have had problems with potato casseroles in the past not getting done in the time reflected in the directions. So I did add some time, and it worked out perfectly.

Now this is not a low calorie gratin. This is a special occasion potato dish. But I am telling you true, for that once-in-a-while treat, you could not prepare an easier or more delicious side dish. Last evening I served the potatoes with Prosciutto Wrapped Pork Tenderloin, Spinach Salad, and Caribbean Cornbread, all of which are on this site.

So do yourself a favor and fix this gratin next time you have a dinner party or special occasion feast. It is so creamy and delicious. And as strange as it may seem, it isn’t as rich as you might think from reading the recipe. It’s actually just a lovely potato dish. Thank you for the recipe Mr. Wegman, wherever and whoever you might be. And sorry for the slight changes I made.

  • 3½ c. heavy cream, divided
  • 12 oz. (3 c.) grated pepper Jack cheese
  • 4 oz. (1 c.) grated white cheddar cheese
  • 1½ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly grounds black pepper
  • 4 lbs. peeled Yukon gold potatoes, sliced 1/8-inch thick* (about 8 medium sized potatoes)

Pour 2½ cups of the cream in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the cheeses, salt, and pepper. Add the potatoes and using the best tool in your kitchen, your hands, mix until each slice of potato is coated with the creamy mess. (If you can do this step without using your hands, you are a much more coordinated person than I am!) 

Transfer potato-cheese mixture to a lightly buttered shallow ovenproof baking dish. Press down on the mixture to make sure all the potatoes are firmly in place. Pour as much of the remaining 1 cup of cream over the whole mess just until the potatoes are totally covered.  

Bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour. Remove from oven. If the top is already a nice golden brown in spots, loosely tent the dish with aluminum foil to prevent the top from getting too brown. Return pan to oven and bake for an additional hour or until the potatoes are fork tender. Remove from oven and let rest 15 minutes before serving.

*I use the 4MM slicing disc on my Cuisinart food processor

 

MEXICAN PINTO BEANS

I love dried beans. They are so terribly multitalented and the best part – they are really, really good for us. Let me count the ways! Source – Huffington Post, Bonnie Taub-Dix

  1. Beans contain an abundance of soluble fiber, which can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. In other words, they are heart healthy.
  2. Beans are low in fat (only 2-3 percent) and contain no cholesterol.
  3. Beans pack protein. Half a cup provides 7 grams of protein, the same amount as 1 ounce of chicken, meat, or fish. Beans are a terrific source of protein for vegetarians and vegans.
  4. Beans balance blood sugar. With a low glycemic index, beans contain a beautiful blend of complex carbohydrates and protein. Because of this, beans are digested slowly, which helps keep blood glucose levels stable, which in turn helps curtail fatigue and irritability.
  5. Beans cut the risk of cancer and chronic diseases. Scientists recommend that adults consume 3 cups of beans per week to promote health. Beans contain an abundance of antioxidants which prohibit (and in some cases even prevent), the oxidation of other molecules in the body. The benefits of antioxidants are very important to good health, because if free radicals are left unchallenged, they can cause a wide range of illnesses.
  6. Beans help our bodies stay regular. Filled with fiber, beans can promote regularity by preventing constipation. To maximize the benefit, always accompany high-fiber foods such as beans with ample amounts of water.
  7. Beans give us that “full” feeling. Because beans are metabolized more slowly than other complex carbs, they may aid in weight loss by keeping us feeling full without being excessively high in calories.
  8. Beans are convenient and inexpensive. Canned or dry, beans are a breeze to purchase, prepare, and store. They are also the least expensive source of protein, especially when compared to fresh meat.
  9. Beans are rich in nutrients. They contain a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals, such as copper, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, and zinc. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans refer to many of these important nutrients as “shortfall nutrients,” meaning most of us aren’t getting enough of them.
  10. Beans are very versatile. They can be incorporated into a main dish (chili), side dish (rice and beans), appetizer (soup) or snack (dip). It’s easy to be creative when you have pinto beans, kidney beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), split peas, and lentils, etc. etc. in your pantry.

Now that you know the health reasons behind incorporating more beans into your diet, let me share with you the real reason I eat beans. They are just plain delicious! And this recipe, which is really simple to prepare, is a good example. But before you get too excited, I need to mention that this dish is never going to be the star of any Mexican meal. Think of this dish like you would the back-up singer in a band. Creates another level of enjoyment for the audience, would be missed if not on the stage, but not the reason you came to the concert in the first place.

Or think of how you order a meal in a Mexican restaurant. You never order “whole beans with an enchilada on the side”. Of course not. You order an enchilada which almost always comes with a side of beans! So this is that side of beans that is good on its own, but is really on the plate to compliment the enchilada, or tamale, or whatever!

And that’s exactly what happened last evening. I made Cheese Enchiladas with Red Chili Sauce, (on this site) and served these beans on the side. What a yummy meal. BTW, the Red Chili Sauce for the cheese enchiladas is absolutely the best Mexican red sauce I have ever tasted. I’ve been making it now since the mid 70’s, and like I said, I have never tasted one better. Even the restaurants in New Mexico, Arizona, or Colorado can’t make a red sauce as flavorful as this one! (And yes, I can boast about this sauce, because I didn’t invent it. I received it from my late friend Jan W.)

So, break out the tequila, put on a mariachi CD, and whip up a Mexican dinner for your family and/or friends. Don’t forget the Guacamole! (Recipe also on this site). Salud!

  • 1 lb. dry pinto beans (about 2½ cups)
  • 8 c. water, divided, or more as needed
  • 1 lg. bay leaf
  • ½ tsp. cumin
  • ½ tsp. smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp. granulated garlic
  • ½ tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper (not too much)

Pour beans into a colander. Run water over the beans and remove any rocks, dirt, or misshaped beans. Add beans to a large covered pot. Pour in 6 cups of the water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on low for 1 hour. Stir periodically.

After an hour, add the remaining 2 cups water, bay leaf, cumin, smoked paprika, granulated garlic, onion powder, chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper; stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer on low heat for an additional 60 to 90 minutes, stirring occasionally. Beans are done when they are soft and the liquid is creamy. (Add more water if the beans aren’t tender but most of the liquid has evaporated. If you have too much liquid, remove the lid and simmer gently until you achieve desired consistency.) Adjust seasonings as required.

 

CHILI RELLANOS CASSEROLE

OK, there are days (I hate to admit this) when I simply don’t want to cook dinner. All I want is to go out to eat! Practically anywhere! Just – out! And really, there need be no good reason for my lethargy towards dinner preparation on these days. I just know I don’t want to cook, mainly because my inspiration level is on empty.  Plus nothing sounds good. On those days what I need is for someone else to give me dinner suggestions (menu), do the prep work (cook), and clean up the mess (kitchen help). Not that Mr. C. doesn’t do the dishes after meals. He does. Actually, he is a marvel at efficiency when it comes to meal clean up. It’s just that some evenings I don’t even want him to spend time in the kitchen. I know – crazy.  So usually, on these occasions, we simply go out.

But then there are the times when I can’t even decide where I want to go. And the thought of putting on lipstick and driving more than 15 minutes seems way too onerous to even contemplate. (There aren’t an abundance of good restaurant choices near our home you see.) So when this happens, and it’s happening more regularly the older I get, I usually bite the bullet and fix the easiest and most delicious thing I can think of to prepare. And this dish fits the bill perfectly.

Now after looking at this recipe you are going to want to say to me “Patti, that looks like the most fattening conglomeration of ingredients I can imagine putting in my mouth”. And you know what? You’d be right! It is a cholesterol bombshell! But you know what else; it is heaven in a pan. And this heavenly concoction can be thrown together in under 15 minutes. (Of course there is the baking time. But who cares. While the casserole is in the oven you’ll have plenty of time to relax and have a nice adult beverage.)

So what to fix to go along with this caloric wonder? Well how about chicken dinner sausages, fresh from your freezer? And a simple little green salad with olive oil and vinegar dressing. Again, quick, easy, and delectable.

So the other evening when inertia had me firmly in its grip, I fixed this casserole, grilled some defrosted sausages, and made a simple little salad of romaine, red onion, tomatoes, marinated black olives, and lots of basil tossed with a simple vinaigrette. The whole meal took less time to prepare than the time I had already spent thinking about where I might want to go for dinner. Isn’t that pathetic?!?! (The things you learn about me through this blog.) Luckily for you, whatever I’ve got can’t be transmitted through the internet. So you can safely catch my drift, but not my silliness! Tiddely Pom*

  • 3 c. (12-oz.) grated Monterey or Pepper Jack cheese
  • 1½ c. (6-oz.) grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 (7-oz.) can diced mild green chilies, drained if packed in water
  • 1 T. flour
  • 2 T. milk
  • 2 eggs

Combine the cheeses and place half of the mixture in a lightly greased 9×13-inch pan. Sprinkle the green chilies over the cheese. Sprinkle on the remaining cheese.

Whisk together the flour and milk. Add the eggs and beat until smooth. Pour over the cheeses and egg mixture.

Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 50-60 minutes or until firm and brown on top, sides, and bottom. Remove from oven and let sit for 5-8 minutes. Cut into small pieces for appetizer bites or larger pieces when serving as a side dish or main course.

*Don’t know the term Tiddely Pom? Look it up.

BRIAM (GREEK VEGETABLE BAKE)

For any of you who routinely hear “you should eat more vegetables” or say to yourself “hey dummy – you really need to start eating more vegetables”, this is the dish for you! This Greek favorite is sooooo tasty that you or any vegetable challenged family member or friend who might be partaking at your table won’t even notice that this dish contains 6 different types of vegetables and two healthy herbs. (Oregano – contains potent antioxidants and anti-bacterial properties, as well as fiber, iron, manganese, vitamin E, calcium, omega fatty acids, and vitamin K. Parsley – vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, and iron.) They will be so busy gulping it down, that before you can ask if they like the dish, they are going back for seconds.

And the best part, the dish is actually better the day after (or two or three days after) it is prepared. Perfect for someone who wants to do a bunch of cooking on the weekend for dinners throughout the week. Also perfect for dinner parties when other dishes you are planning might require last minute attention.

You just throw this dish in the oven for a short time before you plan to sit down to dinner. Lovely.

So do yourself and your family and friends a favor. Go Greek for an evening. Fix some Greek Ground Turkey Meatballs with Tzatziki, Hummus, Pita Bread, Briam, and Greek Marinated Olives. Spread your table with a cheerful table cloth, and sit down for a leisurely meal together. (No cell phones, etc. allowed!) If you can eat “al fresco” – all the better! And even if you make this dish just for yourself, consider yourself blessed. You get to eat every delicious morsel of this veggie dish all by yourself. (Kind of like me with fried zucchini. But that’s a story for another day!)

  • ¾ c. extra-virgin olive oil, divided plus more for drizzling
  • 1 lg. red onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes with juice (Italian, if possible)
  • 2 tsp. tomato paste
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 T. finely chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
  • 2 peeled Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced 1/8-inch thick
  • 2 medium sized zucchini, sliced ¼-inch thick diagonally
  • 2 small eggplants, partially peeled, cut in half lengthwise, and sliced ¼-inch thick
  • ½ basket cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • crumbled feta

Heat ¼ cup of the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet and add the onion. Cook gently until the onion is tender and translucent, about 20 minutes. Add the salt and pepper; stir in the garlic. Cook for another minute or two, until the garlic is fragrant. Remove from heat and whisk in remaining ½ cup olive oil, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, and parsley. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning. You may need more salt. (Don’t worry if the sauce appears oily. That’s what you need for this dish.)

Lightly oil a deep (approximately 9×13-inch) baking dish. Spread a very thin layer of the tomato mixture in the baking dish and top with half of the potato slices, half of the zucchini, and half of the eggplant. Spread half of the tomato sauce over the veggies. Repeat the layering – again ending with the sauce. Arrange the halved cherry tomatoes over the top, cut side down. Finish by drizzling a small amount of olive oil over the cherry tomatoes, followed by a light seasoning of salt and pepper.

    

Cover with foil or a lid and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 75 minutes. Remove the foil or lid and bake uncovered an additional 30 minutes, or until the potato slices are tender.

Cool to just above room temperature and serve, or refrigerate overnight. (Best served slightly warmed the next day.)

Wonderful sprinkled lightly with crumbled feta cheese.

 

EASY CHINESE DUMPLINGS/POTSTICKERS ANYONE?

I love good Chinese food. (I know, I’ve said it before!) But in all honesty, what I enjoy the most is Dim Sum (點心). According to Wikipedia, dim sum is described as “a style of Chinese cuisine (particularly Cantonese but also other varieties) prepared as small bite-sized portions of food served in small steamer baskets or on small plates. Dim sum dishes are usually served with tea, and together form a full tea brunch. Dim sum traditionally are served as fully cooked, ready-to-serve dishes. In Cantonese teahouses, carts with dim sum will be served around the restaurant for diners to order from without leaving their seats.”

When we lived in Bellevue, going to a Chinese restaurant that served dim sum was easy. Just a short 20 minute ride from our house to the International District and we were in dim sum heaven. But now that we live (on a good traffic day) 75 minutes away from the district, we are not so prone to jump in the car for a lunch time excursion.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t still love dim sum. It just means that if I want dim sum, I pretty much have to make it myself. And believe it or not, as frightening as that sounds, it’s doable! All you need is a little time, confidence, and a few readily available ingredients. (Well, at least in the 3 recipes I’m sharing with you today!)

So go ahead. Be brave. Put on your big kid pants and get out to your kitchen and prepare a treat that everyone will love. Just make enough while you’re at it. They freeze beautifully. Just don’t cook them before you freeze them. Simply lay them out on a lightly greased baking sheet. Allow them to freeze solid individually, then bag them up. Then any time you want dim sum for lunch or have a yen for appetizers before dinner, take a few out, steam as directed below, and enjoy. (No need to defrost before placing in the steamer.)

And please know that if you live close by, I am always available as a taste tester. I take great pride in being considered approachable and I’m always more than eager to assist in the quest for fine cuisine.

CHINESE PORK AND SHRIMP SHU MAI (DUMPLINGS) WITH GINGER-SOY DIPPING SAUCE 

  • ½ lb. ground pork
  • ½ lb. chopped fresh shrimp
  • 4 diced water chestnuts
  • 2 green onions, very finely minced
  • 3 fresh shiitaki mushrooms, minced
  • 3 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes, then drained and minced
  • 1 T. rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1½ T. cornstarch
  • ½ tsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. low sodium tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper (not too much)
  • 24-30 round won ton wrappers 

Combine pork, shrimp, water chestnuts, green onions, and mushrooms together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the rice wine, cornstarch, sugar, tamari, sesame oil, salt, and pepper. Add to the pork mixture. Place a tablespoon of the mixture in the center of each won ton wrapper. Gather the sides up around the filling so that it looks like a tiny purse. Allow some of the filling to show at the top. If you have trouble, dab a little water on the skin so that it sticks together better.

Place onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Repeat until all the filling and wrappers have been used. Place shu mai in the refrigerator or freezer for 1 hour. Lightly coat your steamer rack(s) with cooking spray. Place the cold shu mai onto the prepared steamer racks, 1-inch apart. Cover steamer, and cook dumplings for 15-20 minutes or until the wrapper is tender and the filling is cooked completely. Serve with Ginger-Soy Dipping Sauce.  (See recipe below)

VEGETABLE POTSTICKERS WITH GINGER-SOY DIPPING SAUCE (Vegetarian)  

  • 3 T. vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. minced ginger
  • ½ lg. onion, finely chopped
  • 1 lg. garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1 c. shiitake mushrooms, chopped (you can use part re-hydrated dried mushrooms)
  • ¾ c. finely shredded green cabbage
  • ¼ c. finely shredded carrot
  • 2 green onions, finely minced
  • ¼ tsp. white pepper
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 5 tsp. Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
  • 1 T. GF tamari or soy sauce
  • ½ tsp. sugar
  • 1 pkg. round won ton wrappers

In a wok or large skillet over medium heat, add the oil and ginger. Cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the onions and stir-fry until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the chopped mushrooms and stir-fry for another 3-5 minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender and any liquid released by the mushrooms has cooked off.

Add the cabbage and carrot and stir-fry for another 2 minutes, or until the veggies are tender and all the liquid released has been cooked off. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

When cool add the minced green onion, white pepper, sesame oil, Shaoxing wine, tamari, and sugar. Taste and adjust seasoning.

To assemble, scoop 1 scant tablespoon of filling onto the center of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper in half to form a half circle. Using a fork, crimp the edges together. (Make sure to seal as tightly as possible.)

Place onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Repeat until all the filling and wrappers have been used. Place potstickers in the refrigerator or freezer for 1 hour.

Lightly coat your steamer rack(s) with cooking spray. Place the cold potstickers onto the prepared steamer racks, 1-inch apart. Cover steamer, and cook dumplings for 12-14 minutes. Serve with Ginger-Soy Dipping Sauce. (See recipe below)

Thanks to the Woks of Life website for the main gist of this recipe.

SHRIMP SHU MAI (CHINESE SHRIMP DUMPLINGS) WITH GINGER-SOY DIPPING SAUCE

  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • ¼ tsp. lime zest
  • ½ lb. lg. uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined, and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tsp. low sodium tamari or soy sauce
  • ½ tsp. rice wine vinegar
  • ½ tsp. sesame oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 tsp. white pepper
  • 1 green onion, very finely minced
  • 20-24 round wonton wrappers

Place garlic, ginger, and zest in a food processor and pulse 6 to 8 times or until finely ground and well combined. Scrape down sides of bowl.


Add half of the shrimp, Tamari, vinegar, sesame oil, salt, and pepper to the food processor and process until a smooth paste just comes together. Pour mixture into a mixing bowl and fold in the minced green onion and remaining shrimp.


Place scant tablespoon of the mixture into the center of a wonton wrapper. Gather the sides of the wonton skin up around the filling so that it looks like a tiny purse. Allow some of the filling to show at the top. If you have trouble, dab a little water on the skin so that it sticks together better.

Place onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Repeat until all the filling and wrappers have been used. Place shu mai in the refrigerator or freezer for 1 hour. Lightly coat your steamer rack(s) with cooking spray. Place the cold shu mai onto the prepared steamer racks, 1-inch apart. Cover steamer, and cook dumplings for about 20 minutes. Serve with Ginger-Soy Dipping Sauce. (Recipe below.)

GINGER-SOY DIPPING SAUCE

  • ½ c. low sodium tamari or soy sauce (use GF tamari or soy sauce for vegetarian)
  • 2 T. rice vinegar
  • 1 T. sesame oil
  • pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 finely minced green onions
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 T. finely minced fresh ginger

Combine all ingredients.

 

MEXICAN BLACK BEAN AND RICE CASSEROLE

Basically, I don’t like Mexican rice. Of course, as with almost everything, there are exceptions. One exception is my recipe for Mexican Rice (on this site) because it contains no tomatoes. (I don’t particularly like the taste of rice and tomatoes together.) So mainly when I place my order in a Mexican restaurant, I request no rice. But I do dearly love the combination of rice and beans. So recently I decided to work up a rice and black bean dish (sans tomato) with a decidedly Mexican flavor. And this recipe is the result.

Of course I have known for decades that rice and beans form a complete protein, so obviously this dish is perfect for vegetarians. But for those of us who are omnivores but appreciate a break from meat periodically, this dish is so filling and delicious, the lack of meat is not even noticed. And as a replacement for the mandatory Mexican rice and blob of refried beans served on every gigantic “be careful the plate is hot” entrée platter in America, there are very few rivals. (Well maybe in the Southwest, but sure as shootin’ not here in the Pacific NW!)

So next time you get a hankerin’ for Mexican food, give this dish a try. It is creamy and full of flavor. Absolutely perfect for children and adults alike. And please feel free to add your own spin to this dish. Just don’t add tomatoes. That would defeat all the hard work I put into researching and refining this dish, and that would make me sad.

  • 2 tsp. butter
  • 1 c. uncooked long grain white rice, washed thoroughly and drained  
  • 1½ c. vegetable broth
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 c. finely chopped onion
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper (small amount)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 can black beans – rinsed and drained
  • ½ c. sour cream
  • 1 (4-oz.) can diced green chiles  
  • 1 c. shredded cheese, divided (I use a combination of mozzarella and sharp cheddar)
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano (Mexican oregano is the best)
  • 2 tsp. chili powder

Heat butter in a medium sized covered saucepan. Add rice and sauté until all the rice is covered with butter and starting to brown. Add broth, garlic, onion, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes or until liquid is almost absorbed. Add lime juice to rice, re-cover pan and continue to simmer for 2 additional minutes. Lightly fluff rice with fork and stir in black beans. Cover and heat additional 3 minutes or until beans are heated through. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, whisk together the sour cream, green chiles, ¾ cup of the cheese, oregano, and chile powder. Gently stir into the rice mixture. Adjust seasoning. Scoop into a buttered casserole dish and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup cheese. Bake in a pre-heated 350 oven for 30 minutes or until the cheese on top is melted.

(And yes I know brown rice is better for us than white rice. But under the circumstances, I believe you should cut me some slack because of all the nutritional value contained in the black beans. Thank you.)