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Polenta Pizzette

DSC_0146I whipped up this pizzette recipe in my head, and then in my kitchen, and it is a winner winner pizzette dinner. Although I finally mastered making polenta on the stovetop, I still like the prepared polenta that comes in a tube. Call me lazy, but it’s one less pot to scrape clean after a night of cooking. I had my tube of polenta on hand, some pizza sauce, soy mozzarella, and some sliced portabella mushrooms so I whipped up little baby polenta pizzas, or pizzettes!

DSC_0149First I preheated the oven to 350 degrees. I sliced the polenta about1/3” rounds and placed them on a greased pan. Next I put on about a tablespoon of pizza sauce on each round, and a slice of soy mozzarella. Then I popped these pizzettes in the oven.

Meanwhile, I sautéed my sliced mushrooms til they were nice and soft, about 10 minutes. Once they were done, I brought my pizzettes out of the oven and topped them with the sautéed  mushrooms, and kept cooking them for another 20 minutes (30 minute total cook time). 

DSC_0150They came out perfectly, with the cheese starting to toast and turn golden colored. The polenta acts as a “crust” but is still soft, unlike pizza crust, and more like solid mashed potatoes. You’ll just have to try it for yourself to taste!

Sweet Potato Bar

Many of my clients are looking for quick, family-friendly meal ideas. One idea I go back to over and over with them is the idea of a bar. Think taco bar, pasta bar, sweet potato bar, etc. Kids can choose which toppings they enjoy and feel like they have control over their meal, which also makes them more likely to eat it. Also, if one family member loves jalapenos in their taco, and the other can’t take the heat, the meals can be customized and everyone is happy with their creation.

On Friday night Funk and I enjoyed a sweet potato bar together at home. I started by cooking two sweet potatoes in the microwave for about 8 minutes to get them soft. Then I cut them in half to get the taters ready for all the toppings:

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  • Vegetarian Refried Beans
  • Peach Salsa
  • Shredded Soy Cheese
  • Guacamole

Those Trader Joes (veg) refried black beans with jalapenos were incredible! They were so flavorful, lightly spicy, and made a great topping on the potatoes. I’ll be buying these more to use interchangeably with hummus as a sandwich or cracker spread.

A lot of people think potatoes are a “bad” food. Wrong! Potatoes actually have more potassium than a banana and hold much of their nutrients, including loads of fiber, in their skin. Sweet potatoes are stuffed with vitamin A. So enjoy your potatoes – stick with a small-medium sized tater – with the skin on.

We topped the potatoes and put them in the toaster oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese, then scooped some guacamole I had made on the side. It was a delicious complete meal, easy, and easy to please.

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Mushroom Mozzarella Panini

DSC_0021With Passover starting this week, we decided to use up some bread that was taking up space in the freezer. So Sunday night I whipped up some grilled Mushroom Mozzarella Paninis for a quick dinner.

I started by grilling portabella mushrooms on our grill pan for a DSC_0023 few minutes on each side. Next I spread some BBQ sauce on either side of the bread, topped it with some fresh basil leaves, and a thin slice of soy mozzarella. When the mushrooms were  soft and grilled, I placed them in the sandwiched which I then grilled whole for a few minutes. Voila! I enjoyed this sandwich paired with a spinach salad, while Funk ate it in the other room in the midst of his Fantasy Baseball draft. He did yell from the living room, “This is awesome!” Simple success! DSC_0026

I dined while reading Jillian Michael’s Master Your Metabolism book, which was recommended by my friend Nicole. I love Jillian Michaels, but was skeptical because she’s no dietitian, and I haven’t agreed with everything she’s said about food on the Biggest Loser. Here’s a little blurb about her book from Amazon.com:

Michaels (Making the Cut; Winning by Losing), the strength trainer for television’s The Biggest Loser, here addresses the influence that hormone balance—affected by estrogen, insulin, testosterone, cortisol, epinephrine, leptin, and others—has on weight loss. Various internal and external influences can cause hormones to over- or underproduce, resulting in not only weight gain but serious illness. Michaels’s plan emphasizes natural foods, organically grown and unprocessed. She describes which foods affect which hormones and how plastics and pollutants in our air and water and additives in many different products can also cause imbalances. She makes a good case for not using bioidentical hormones.

I’m just about finished the book and it is very informative, blunt and realistic, and has some darn good information about taking the crap out of our diets. It’s made me more aware of all the lurking plastic, hormones, and junk in our diets. Even my whole mushrooms I bought for the sandwich were wrapped in plastic on a styrofoam tray. Unnecessary! I’d recommend this book to anyone looking to clean up your diet, get your hormones in check, and all-around eat better. 

Broccoli Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

The other night I opened our veggie drawer to find a head of broccoli and two portabella mushrooms. I didn’t have a plan in mind for these tasty vegetables, which is rare for me. Usually I hoard recipes for weeks, flag them in my inbox, and put their ingredients on our grocery list. Not this time! So somehow I came up with what was an amazingly good dinner of broccoli stuffed portabella mushrooms. Yep, good enough to brag about them, and easy DSC_0204enough too.

Ingredients

1 head broccoli, florets chopped
a few tablespoons wheat germ
maybe half a cup whole wheat bread crumbs
a dribble of canola oil
some shredded soy cheese
sea salt
2 portabella mushrooms

I could never write a cookbook with random measurements like these!

DSC_0206I chopped the broccoli and microwaved it on high for 2 minutes to soften up the florets. Then in a large bowl I mixed in the wheat germ and bread crumbs. I added canola oil as needed (maybe 2T worth) to moisten the breadcrumbs a bit so they’d mix well. Then I added in the cheese and salt to taste.

I washed the mushroom caps then scooped out the brown gills, and topped the inside of the mushroom caps with heaping scoops of my broccoli mixture, and patted it down.  

I baked the mushrooms in a 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes, until the filling started to brown.

DSC_0210They. were. perfect. This recipe is a keeper. Who doesn’t love the combo of broccoli and cheese? Stuff that into a mushroom and you have yourself a fantastic meal or even side dish. We paired ours with some smooth, dark beer to toast St. Patrick’s Day…from the two least Irish people around.

FFVK’s Polenta with Lemony Asparagus and Chickpeas, er, black beans

As soon as this recipe hit my inbox last week, I planned on making it ASAP. I’m a huge fan of Susan’s FatFree Vegan Kitchen recipes (she was one of the very first blogs I read when I went veg!) and this one intrigued me. Especially since it took me slightly out of my cooking comfort zone to cook polenta. I’m used to slicing open the tube of pre-cooked polenta. I decided to tackle it for dinner.

There I was with my cornmeal simmering in the pot when I went DSC_0165on to step 2, which involved chickpeas. Chickpeas. You know, that pantry staple I have all the time, without fail? Yeah. Not this time. I yelled some explicit words and phrases that I will not repeat on this blog as I dug through the cabinets for the chickpeas we always have on hand. I couldn’t just stop my polenta mid-simmer so I took the next best thing: black beans. My apologies to Susan and her glorious sounding recipe with chickpeas. But a girls gotta get dinner on the table.

Here’s the recipe, with my edits:

Polenta (I used the stovetop method)
2 1/4 cups water
2 cups vegetable broth or “no-chicken” broth
1 cup polenta
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried basil

Note: I was extra excited about the dried basil ingredient. Lately my
AeroGrow has been sprouting basil rapid fire so I decided to dry it in the dehydrator so it wouldn’t go to waste. The basil I used was fresh off the drying rack!

Chickpeas (I mean, black beans)
1/2 medium onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (or canned, drained and rinsed)
1/2 cup vegetable broth or “no-chicken” broth
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon lemon zest (peel), freshly grated
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon arrowroot or cornstarch
1/4 cup water
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Asparagus
12 ounces asparagus, ends trimmed and stalks cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon lemon peel, freshly grated
lemon juice, to taste
coarse or flaky salt (such as Maldon), to taste
4 teaspoons pine nuts (lightly toasted) – I omitted these

For the instructions and nutrition information, head on over to Susan’s Fat Free Vegan Kitchen and check out some of her other delicious creations while you’re there.

DSC_0168The meal was fantastic, even with the black beans. The polenta was warm and comforting like a nice winter meal, but had a touch of spring with the fresh asparagus. I guess that’s kind of where we are with the weather right now…leaving winter behind, and pining for spring -  and the amazing produce that comes with it.

DSC_0171 I had this dinner over candlelight, not because it was a romantic dinner with Funk (in fact, he was working late and I dined solo) but because I got an awesome new bamboo ginger candle. And, you may notice the new placemats! I decided to make some blog image improvements and was getting tired of photographing on my white countertops or wooden table. I’m guessing you were getting tired of it too. And I have to add, my photography skills haven’t improved, but my camera has. My friend Katherine loaned me her Nikon to practice with an SLR camera before I get my own (birthday present coming soon!). What a difference an SLR makes.

VegNews Moroccan Simmer

This recipe for Moroccan Simmer from VegNews showed up in my inbox and had some sweet ingredients I couldn’t resist. Though we use cinnamon by the spoonful on berries for a sweet dessert treat, I hadn’t used it recently in a dinner entree. I headed out to Trader Joe’s to pick up some parsnips only to find they aren’t in stock. So I swapped them for another white veg -cauliflower – and got to work.

Let me digress in this post to talk about peeling whole carrots. The other day we were at Funk’s parents’ house and saw a new carrot peeler, one that slips on your finger like a ring and with a few quick swipes of the hand, you have a peeled carrot. Funk was as excited about this gadget as I am with…well…just about any kitchen appliance. He couldn’t wait for us to get one of our own and start peeling carrots. I have to say, I was excited too. I shouldn’t admit I’m so lazy to think peeling carrots is a hassle, but we snack on those ready to go baby carrots all the time. And as a lefty, I find those darn peelers so cumbersome! However, the taste of fresh, whole carrots is unbeatable and when you compare them to those bland, tasteless baby carrots (which are really just a tool to scoop up the hummus), they win hands down. Over the weekend while at Target, we found our own carrot-peeling-ring and scooped it right up…after paying of course. I have to say, I think Funk was more excited about getting this ring for carrots:

…than this ring with carats: I kid, I kid. But it did make peeling whole carrots a breeze.

With the exception of the cauliflower for parsnip swap, I followed this recipe to a T. The sweet aroma filled our apartment and for a moment, I felt like I was in Morocco. Ok, I have no idea what that feels like. I felt like I was at least in a Moroccan restaurant. Check out the instructions – they’re so simple! You can have this dish on the table in a flash.

What You Need:
1 teaspoon canola oil
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1-1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1-3/4 cups orange juice (preferably calcium-fortified)
6 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
8 parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced (I used a bag of cut cauliflower)
1/2 cup dried figs, chopped
1/4 cup raisins
Pinch of cayenne pepper

What You Do:
In a large nonstick saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, and cumin; cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add orange juice, carrots, parsnips, figs, raisins, and cayenne. Simmer covered for 20 to 25 minutes, and serve with rice or couscous.

I made a big batch of whole wheat couscous and mixed it in with the veggies as they simmered to allow the grains to soak up some of the sweet juice. I didn’t miss the parsnips and think the cauliflower made a good stand-in. It was a sweet dinner dish that we’ll be making again.

Eggplant Provencale from Vegetarian Times

I was away with my girlfriends this weekend for a friend’s batchelorette trip, where we indulged on cupcakes, sweets, chips, and bubblegum vodka (yes it exists and it’s amazing). When I came home Sunday night, I scoured my recipe files for the most veggie-packed meal I could come up with, and this Eggplant Provencale recipe from Vegetarian Times was the winner. I’ll eat veggies in any form, but this recipe also include capers and olives which I love. There’s something about that salty, briney flavor that just changes an entire recipe. Unfortunately for Funk, capers and olives are two of his least favored ingredients, but he ate the meal like a champ the first night, and left the leftovers for me to enjoy all week.
If you’re craving a warm, vegetable-heavy meal or side dish, give this a whirl.
What’s your best veg-packed entree?
Ingredient List
4 Servings
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 small eggplants (about 1 lb. each), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes (8 cups)
2 medium green bell peppers, diced
2 cups chopped ripe tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (I used fresh basil instead)
1/2 cup pimento-stuffed green olives, sliced
2 Tbs. drained capers
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano (didn’t have this)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Bread Crumb Topping
1/3 cup dry seasoned bread crumbs – I did a mix of bread crumbs and wheat germ
3 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese – I used soy cheese
1 1/2 Tbs. soy margarine or butter, melted
Directions
Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray; heat over medium heat until hot. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add eggplant, bell peppers and tomatoes. Cook, stirring often, until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.
Add parsley, olives, capers, herbs, salt and pepper. Spoon mixture into an 11- by 7-inch baking dish. (If making ahead, allow casserole to cool completely, cover tightly and refrigerate until 30 minutes before serving.)
Topping: In small bowl, combine all topping ingredients and mix well. Sprinkle casserole evenly with topping mixture. Bake, uncovered, until mixture is bubbly and top browned, about 30 minutes.
Nutritional Information
Per serving: Calories: 205, Protein: 6g, Total fat: 8g, Saturated fat: 2g, Carbs: 30g, Cholesterol: 3mg, Sodium: 533mg, Fiber: 5g, Sugars: g