06.29.12_Spring Veggie Pasta

Phillip and I always try to eat something a little more substantial on Fridays before going out for the night. Too many nights in college taught me light meals (ex: soup, sushi, etc) do not cut it when you plan on drinking. One of the things I like about vegetarian cooking is that typically the meals are lighter, but when the objective is a heavy meal it can be tricky. I turn to pasta a lot when I want something more substantial, and this dish, though light with all its veggies, was definitely filling. I think I even saw Phillip eat a mushroom or two...

Spring Pasta with Snap Peas
Serves 3-4
  • 1/2 pound farfalle
  • 1/2 pound sugar snap peas, halved
  • 1 TBSP olive oi
  • 1 lb mushrooms roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • a few handfuls fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, chiffonade
  •  1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1) Boil a large pot of water then cook pasta. When there's about one minute left, add snap peas and cook 30 more seconds. Drain and reserve 1 cup pasta water.
2) In same pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Sautee the mushrooms until they become tender. 3) Add cream and wine and cook for about 2 minutes, then add the Parmesan and spinach. Stir until the spinach wilts.
4) Return the pasta and peas to pot and slowly add the pasta water until the sauce is at your desired consistency.
5) Finally toss in the basil and season with some S&P.

06.25.12_CPK Copycat BBQ Chik'n Chopped Salad

So I am obsessed with the Original BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad at California Pizza Kitchen. When Caitlin Skyped me from Thailand to tell me she was going vegan one of my first responses was, "What about CPK?" It was a devastating blow to hear that she and I could no longer split the BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad and the BBQ Chicken Pizza (can you tell I love BBQ Chicken...really its BBQ sauce which is in my top 5 favorite foods). Anyway if you haven't had it, this salad is amazing. It has sweet corn, black beans, jicama, cilantro, basil, tortilla strips and Monterey Jack tossed in homemade herb ranch dressing. Topped with BBQ chicken, tomatoes and scallions (add Avocado for an additional charge).

 Throughout college (before Caitlin was vegan) we tried to recreate this salad on many occasions. One time I went as far as Googling copycat recipes for the salad dressing and made it. Since then I have come up with a simplified version of the salad that used to be a go-to meal. We don't eat salads that often since Phillip is not a fan of salad dressings (or any condiments for that matter) but the other day I decided it was time to have this. Obviously I had to come up with a chicken substitution so I thought we should give seitan a try because he had not used it yet in any of our recipes. All I did was cut up all the veggies, heat up the seitan on the stove then toss it in a store bought BBQ sauce before assembling the salads. I always drizzle Ranch dressing and a little extra BBQ sauce then sprinkle with cilantro before serving. It definitely satisfies my craving and saves me a trip to CPK!

P.S. If you haven't used seitan before I highly recommend it. I like the taste of it before even dousing it in the BBQ sauce. The texture was great which is always my biggest issue when it comes to tofu or fake meats. I will definitely be using seitan a lot more in the future.

CPK Copycat BBQ Chik'n Chopped Salad
Serves 2-3

  • Lettuce (amount depends on how big of a salad you want)
  • 1/2 a tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cup corn (I used canned)
  • 1/2 cup black beans (strained and rinsed)
  • 1/2 jicama (I subbed cucumber this time because we already had some in the fridge)
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 package of seitan
  • BBQ Sauce
  • Ranch Dressing
  • Tortilla chips (for garnish)
  • Cilantro (for garnish)
  • Monterrey Jack cheese (we used mozzarella, again, because we had it on hand)
1. Dice the tomato, jicama, and avocado. 
2. Heat seitan in a skillet (only takes a minute or two), toss with BBQ sauce and season with salt, pepper (as needed) and some dried cilantro.
3. Assemble the salads (lettuce, tomato, jicama, beans, corn, seitan and avocado). Drizzle salad with Ranch Dressing and extra BBQ sauce (if desired).
4. Top with crushed tortilla chips and a some cilantro.

06.21.12_Pesto Pizza

I ended up going to two Nats games this week, one for Father's Day and one with coworkers. If you know me at all you know going to one baseball game is a lot for me so this was a kind of big deal. The game on Thursday was a night game so Phillip and I decided we wanted to eat a little something before we went to the game so we could just buy snacks and beer rather than our entire dinner there. I did a quick survey of things we had around the house and decided that a Pesto pizza would be the quickest and easiest solution. 

As I've written about in past blogs (see Pineapple Pizza) I love these pizza dough packages from Kroger where all you have to do is add 1/2 cup of water and voilà you have pizza dough. I always spruce it up a bit by adding some grated Parmesan cheese and cracked black better into the dough, and this time I added a little dried basil as well to go along with the pesto theme. Obviously you can make this pizza with a pre-made crust like Boboli, use store made dough from Whole Foods, or be really ambitious and make your own dough if you aren't in a hurry like we were. After I readied the dough, I used leftover pesto from when we made the White Bean Kale and Pesto soup for the sauce. I mixed in a little extra olive oil to make it more easily spreadable, then topped the pizza with a combination of mozzarella and shredded four cheese blend, and finally sprinkled some pine nuts and a little more dried basil to finish. I always keep my pine nuts in the freezer so as Rachael Ray taught me, the oils won't spoil. Into the oven for 10 minutes at 475º and we had a perfect pre-game pizza!

06.19.12_Giada's Campanelle with Spicy Mint Sauce

Phillip has been getting a lot more alone time now that I have to stay at work until a normal time while he continues to get off at 4:00pm. One day while I was stuck at work, he watched the Food Network without me (I found this somewhat surprising) and he saw Giada making this Campanelle with Spicy Mint Sauce. He found the recipe and sent it to me. It looked super simple (per usual) and sounded really good. I'm always intrigued by savory dishes that use mint since we typically associate mint with dessert. Anyway we added it to the list and decided to make it one weekday when I didn't get off right at 5:00 since it seemed so simple to make.  Basically you boil pasta and then make a sauce similar to pesto, but instead of using basil and pine nuts, you use mint and a Serrano pepper. Delicious. We'd recommend adding a little salt and pepper to help season the pasta as well. A little S&P never hurts!

As a side I decided to make some homemade garlic bread since we had leftover bread from when we made the White Bean Kale and Pesto soup. I took a few slices of crusty bread, and lathered both sides with a mixture of melted butter and garlic powder. I sprinkled some dried parsley onto both sides and then baked them in a 400º oven for about 8-10 minutes.

Giada's Campanelle with Spicy Mint Sauce

  • Salt
  • 1 pound campanelle pasta
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 ¼ cups chopped fresh mint
  • ½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large serrano chile, stemmed, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes.

2. Combine the mint, cheese, oil, chile and garlic in a food processor. Blend until smooth.

3. Drain pasta and transfer to a serving bowl. Add the cheese and toss until coated.

4. Add the sauce to the pasta and toss until coated.

06.15.12_Veggie Tales' Lo Mein

Lo mein is one of my favorite dishes to order when we get Chinese carryout. Something about the endless takeout box of greasy noodles is just so good. I decided I would try to make my own Lo Mein and did a little Googling to see if I could find a recipe. Each recipe had something I didn't like or wanted to sub out so in the end I just merged several different recipes to create my own. I didn't realize it at the time but that the dish is actually vegan (except for the honey we used was not).

Like spaghetti, the name actually refers to the noodle, not the actual recipe so this dish ended up being less like Chinese restaurant Lo Mein than I had hoped for, but it definitely had good spice and tasted great. The dish was sweet but had a nice kick from the cayenne and an unexpected flavor from the curry. We had our friend McKinsey over for dinner that night and she brought over some vegetarian egg rolls as a side.

Veggie Tales' Lo Mein
Serves 5-6

  • 1 package Lo Mein noodles (can sub spaghetti)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup sliced red bell peppers
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup fresh bean sprouts 
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger 
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 cup veggie stock
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder

1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook lo mein noodles according to directions on package (approximately 8 to 10 minutes).

2. While noodles are cooking, heat oil in a large wok or saute pan. Stir fry carrots, peppers, onion, ginger and garlic until tender.

3. Mix cornstarch and chicken broth in a large mixing cup or small bowl. After cornstarch has disolved, stir in honey, tamari, cayenne pepper and curry powder.  Add to vegetable mixture and cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. 

4. Remove from heat and stir in bean sprouts and add sesame oil. If you add the beans sprouts too early they will basically dissolve.

5. Finally, toss the cooked noodles with the stir fry and dinner is served!

06.13.12_White Bean Kale and Pesto Soup

I know I say this in every blog post but talk about easy. Seriously I don't know why people don't make homemade soup more often. It is so simple, tastes great,  and there are endless possibilities. I have bookmarked a lot of soups but never really got around to making them (except for the Roasted Corn Soup and Matzo Ball Soup) but when I saw this recipe for White Bean Kale and Pesto Soup I knew we had to try it sooner than later. 

Normally on Wednesdays during the summer Phillip has softball with his colleagues after work. He had asked me to come watch this week so I decided I would go ahead and make the soup the night before so that when we got home from the game, dinner would just need to be heated up. I thought this would be a good recipe to make the night before since soups and stews always seem to get better the longer they sit as the flavors marry.

All I had to do was cut up 4 carrots, dice an onion, and mince 4 cloves of garlic. After that laborious (italics=sarcasm font) prep work was complete, I put a couple of TBSP of oilve oil in a big stock pot over medium heat. I dropped in the carrots and onions and cooked them until they started to soften, about 5-8 minutes. Next, I added in the garlic, oregano, parsley, and cooked for another minute until until everything was nice and fragrant. Finally I poured in 4 cups of veggie stock, the white beans (which I had strained and rinsed), and the kale. Whole Foods had frozen kale so I opted for this so that I would be able to use as much as I wanted without worrying about left overs. So often kale is sold in those massive bags so I thought the frozen would be a better option since I didn't have a need for 2lbs of kale today, but I digress. Finally, I brought the mixture to a boil, lowered the temp and let it simmer for 15 minutes.

Normally what you would do next is remove the soup from the heat and mix in 1/2 cup of grated cheese and 1/2 cup pesto, top it off with some fresh nutmeg and you'd be all set. Since we weren't eating it until the next day I stopped here, then when we were ready to eat it the next night, I reheated the soup on the stove, and mixed in the cheese and pesto then. I used store bought pesto because I was being lazy but obviously you could use fresh and it would probably taste even better. I would have never thought of mixing pesto into a soup like that but it added that extra flavor to make the soup special. We served the soup alongside some crusty bread for dipping. Scrumptious. Here's the recipe.

White Bean Kale and Pesto Soup
From Katie at the Kitchen Door

Serves 4 to 5
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley
  • 4 c. veggie stock
  • 1 1/2 c. frozen kale (I ended up putting in almost 3 cups of frozen kale because it just didn't seem like enough/we love kale)
  • 1 can cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 c. pesto
  • 1/2 c. grated pecorino cheese
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  1. Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium heat.  Add onion and carrot, and saute, stirring occasionally, for 5-8 minutes, or until vegetables have begun to soften.  Add garlic, oregano, and parsley, and cook 2 minutes more, stirring.
  2. Add chicken broth, kale, and beans, bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes, until kale and carrots are tender.  Remove from heat and stir in pesto, cheese, and nutmeg.  Serve hot with additional grated cheese.

06.10.12_Soba Noodle and Raw Veggie Salad

For our monthly dinner party last month our friend Katie made us these Soba Noodles and Raw Veggie Salad. She told us that it was super simple and that she makes it pretty often in large batches because the leftovers are great for lunch. This weekend after a lot of time in the sun and a lot of drinking, Phillip and I were both in the mood for something light and refreshing. We thought these soba noodles would be a perfect detox dinner. As if the recipe weren't easy enough, I got super lazy and bought shredded carrots and red cabbage from the salad bar at Whole Foods to speed up the process. Seriously, this could not have been any easier.

Here's the recipe:
  • 8 ounces soba noodles (we used the entire package which was 9.5oz)
  • 1/2 cup tamari
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch green onions (I halved this and only put it into part of the noodles since Phillip isn't a big fan) 
  • 3/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced thin
  • 1/4 head of red cabbage, thinly sliced (I used about a cup, cup and half pre-shredded)
  • 3 whole carrots, shredded with vegetable peeler (again I used about a cup, cup and half pre-shredded)
  • 2 cups shelled edamame, steamed
  • 1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds
  • one lime juiced (optional) 

Cook the soba noodles in a big pot of water. They do not take long at all, usually 3-4 minutes. While the noodles cooked I whisked together the tamari, sesame oil, canola oil, rice wine vinegar and red pepper flakes. I quickly toasted the sesame seeds before I chopped the onions and red pepper since I bought everything else shredded and then when the noodles were done tossed everything together. They noodles were just as delicious as we remembered and were even better cold the next day for lunch. Definitely a great go-to easy meal when you want something super quick but super delicious.

06.08.12_Korean Bibimbap over Rice

Jonathan got a new job a month or two ago. You may have noticed a quick dip in our content around that time, but we are definitely back on track. Though his new job is a great opportunity for him, it sometimes keeps him at work late. The disparity in our schedule was very obvious on Friday, as I got off work at noon, and he left at 6 p.m. I was feeling rather daring, so I decided to take on the Korean Bibimbop.

I have never had this dish, but it took one look at the ingredient list on the wonderful blog, Queen of Quinoa, for me to know how much I'd love it- Carrots? Zucchini? Asparagus? A FRIED EGG? Yes, please, on all accounts.

We made very few modifications to this dish. We doubled all of the ingredients, and (after realizing we did not have any quinoa in the house) served it over rice instead of quinoa. My friend Meghan left work early to come over for our periodic "wine-time" - does anyone but Jonathan work until 5 on Fridays? - and ended up staying for dinner, which is why I doubled the recipe.

I started by prepping all of the vegetables. I could have used a mandolin for this, but I was content using our knife. After julienning the carrots and zucchini, I removed the ends of the snap peas and set these vegetables aside for later. Finally, I chopped the asparagus into 1" pieces and tossed them in olive oil, S&P and red pepper flakes, and laid them out on a baking sheet.

I roasted the asparagus at 400 degrees for ~20 minutes. While that was cooking, I set up the rice cooker to make four servings of rice. I threw the peas, carrots and bean sprouts into the steamer basket and let them cook above the rice.

Once the asparagus and the steamed vegetables were cooked, I sauteed the zucchini for a few minutes. I then added the asparagus, steamed vegetables and tamari to the pan, along with a couple teaspoons of Sriracha for some much needed heat. I let this cook for a minute or two.

To prepare each dish, I put the cooked rice in the bottom of each bowl and placed the vegetable mixure on top and added some scallions. For the finishing touch, I cooked three delicious sunny-side-up eggs and laid them over the vegetables. Traditionally, this dish is served with each vegetable in its own separate section of the bowl, but let's be honest- we're going to stir them all together anyway.

This was an incredible dish. It takes a lot of prep and includes many different cooking methods, but it is definitely worth it. Our guest Meghan enjoyed it, too. It's always a good sign when two midwesterners - she and I - go crazy about an asian veggie stir fry!

I selected this post to be featured on my blog’s page at Vegetarian Blogs.

06.05.12_Spinach and Ricotta Whole Wheat Empanadas

There is a place down the street called Julia's Empanadas that is A-MAZING. They are super cheap and we love getting them late night after going out. They have two vegetarian options there, one of which is this Spinach Empanada. When trying to come up with meals for the week we remembered that we had some whole wheat dough from Whole Foods leftover from another night. I decided to try and recreate Julia's empanada, but make it a little healthier by using the whole wheat dough and baking them instead of frying. Obviously if we had fried them they would have been even more delicious, but they were still really great baked, just not as flaky and buttery as a normal empanada. They were super easy to make since I used the store bought dough. If you're feeling extra adventurous you could definitely make the dough yourself.

Spinach and Ricotta Whole Wheat Empanadas
Makes 4 empanadas
  • 1/2 package of refrigerated whole wheat dough (if you want to use the full package just double the rest of the ingredients)
  • TBSP olive oil
  • 3/4 cup of frozen spinach
  • 1/2 cup ricotta
  • 1/4 grated Parmesan 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • Salt and pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 egg (I didn't have an egg so I used a mixture of butter and milk instead of an egg wash)
1. Preheat oven to 450°.
2. Defrost the spinach and ring out the extra spinach.
3. Heat a TBSP of olive oil in a saute pan. Add the onion and cook until they begin to get translucent. Add the garlic and defrosted spinach and cook until the spinach is heated through. Set mixture aside to let cool.
4. In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan and the spinach mixture. Add in salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. Taste the mixture to adjust seasoning as necessary.
5. Roll out the dough on a floured surface until its about 1/8-1/4" thick. Use a small bowl to cut out circles of dough. Half a package should easily make 4 empanadas.
6. Scoop 2-3 TBSP of the spinach and cheese mixture onto each circle of dough. Fold the dough in half and crimp the edges of the empandas with a fork.
7. Place the empanadas on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. Brush each empanada with an egg wash. Cut an X into each empanada to let steam escape while baking.
8. Bake the empanadas for about 15 minutes and then enjoy!

06.04.12_Oven Parmesan and Pea Risotto

Ok, so the coloration of this picture is terrible. I'm not sure what happened. But trust me, it was delicious. Anyway, several months ago I saw an episode of Barefoot Contessa where she made "risotto" in the oven. I had been waiting to make it because I did not have pots that were oven-safe. Now that I have my new Calphalon pots though it was time to try this recipe out! We invited our vegetarian friends, Eric and Horia, over for dinner so I thought this would be a perfect recipe to try.

Technically speaking it was not a risotto since risotto actually refers to a cooking technique. Regardless, the end product came out creamy and delicious like a real risotto but was so much easier. Literally there is no way to mess this one up and no one would ever know you cheated. All I had to do was put 1.5 cups of arborio rice and 4 cups of stock (the recipe called for chicken but I subbed veggie for obvious reasons) while the oven was preheating to 350°. The pot went into the oven for 45 minutes until almost all of the stock was absorbed. I then mixed in 1/2 cup of white wine, another cup of stock, 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, 2 tsp salt and 1 tsp of black pepper.  I'm sure Ina would have been disgusted by the wine I used since it wasn't a goooood white wine but Whole Food's Three Wishes Chardonnay did the trick for us. I stirred everything together for 2-3 minutes then added a cup of frozen peas and stirred until they were defrosted.

After plating I added a little extra cheese and fresh cracked black pepper before serving. Eric and Horia brought a baguette and a bottle of wine and it made for a perfect meal! I was really surprised how good it was and how insanely easy it was. If you have been afraid to make a classic risotto definitely give this one a try. I think I'll be using this technique from now on just because it was so easy and then I can add in whatever I want. Maybe I'll make Butternut Squash Risotto again this way...