Friday, January 30, 2009

Baked Parmesan Dip

For a recent dinner party, I was making Happy Hour Mushrooms, and needed a second appetizer. A spinach-artichoke dip seemed like a possibility, but I just didn't feel like it. I wanted to try something new.

Tim and I LOVE cheese. I can't tell you how many times during our initial days of dating we had a cheese, cracker and wine dinner. Heaven. Now, we still slice some parmesan cheese to enjoy with a glass of wine before dinner. Especially on lazy weekend days.

When I saw this recipe in a holiday e-mail a couple months ago, I tucked it away, knowing I would want to make it sometime soon. And soon enough, my dinner party came up! Baked Parmesan Dip - yep, my perfect second appetizer.

I originally made the recipe exactly as stated, but have adjusted it below based on feedback and my preferences. First, it was tasty, and super easy! It received rave reviews, people ate it up. Yay! Second, while I really like mayonnaise, I also like to pretend I'm a healthy person and not overdo it... hence, I reduced the mayo from 1 cup to 3/4 cup in the recipe for future. Wont be a drastic change to the taste/consistency, but hopefully slightly healthier. If only by a small amount. A very, very small amount. I also used regular mayo, and while using reduced-fat would also help my conscience, I prefer the taste of regular.

Definitely a contender for super bowl party dips! Enjoy.

Baked Parmesan Dip
adapted slightly from Safeway

1 package (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed
3/4 cup reduced-fat (or regular) mayonnaise
1 package (3 oz) cream cheese
3/4 medium onion, peeled and minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 Baguette, thinly sliced diagonally

Squeeze spinach to remove liquid.

With a mixer, beat spinach, mayonnaise, cream cheese, onion, garlic, 1 cup of the parmesan cheese, and pepper until thoroughly combined.

Mound mixture in a 3- to 4-cup baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with 2 tbsp. parmesan cheese and paprika.

Bake in a 350° oven until hot in center and lightly browned on top, 25 to 30 minutes.

Serve hot to spread on baguette slices.

More interesting parmesan recipes:
- Parmesan Poppy Seed Crackers, from White on Rice Couple
- Butternut Squash and Parmesan Dip, from Apartment Therapy
- Crispy Baked Parmesan Crusted Tilapia, from Green Lite Bites

Guten appetit!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Polenta Casserole

This was a wonderful comfort food to make when we had guests (shout out to Jamie and Chria!) staying with us. It also made a lot. Perfect for a 4-adult dinner, and 2-3 leftover lunches the next day. Was also a fairly fast supper to whip up on a weeknight - takes about 20 minutes of prep/cooking, and then 30 minutes to bake. You have dinner on the table in less than an hour. Serve with a salad, and you're doing pretty darn good!

Now that I've made polenta a couple of times, it also doesn't seem so scary. That may sound silly to some of you, but polenta never seemed 'easy' to make. If you've thought the same thing and have yet to try it, never fear. If I can do it, so can you! The only trick is to add the polenta to your water in a slow, steady stream while you are whisking it. Otherwise, you get clumps. Also, you might not have to do this, but while it's cooking, I usually stir it almost constantly to avoid burning it on the bottom.

If you like Italian pastas and tomato based foods, I definitely recommend this recipe - filling, tasty and easy.

Polenta Casserole with Fontina and Tomato Sauce
from Simply Recipes

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup finely chopped carrots
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes (with basil if you have it)- I used canned crushed tomatoes with basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley - I omitted this, didn't have it
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano (or 1 Tbsp fresh, chopped)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil - I used 1 tablespoon dried basil
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup polenta, or coarse cornmeal
2 cups grated Fontina cheese - I couldn't find Fontina, so I used Gouda

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan on medium heat, add the onions, carrots, and celery. Cook until onions are translucent and carrots just tender (5-10 minutes). Add the garlic and cook a minute more. Add the tomatoes and their juice (break up tomatoes as you put them in), parsley, and oregano. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat and cook for 15 minutes, uncovered, until sauce is reduced to about 3 cups. Mix in fresh basil, season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a large saucepan bring a quart of water to a boil, add a teaspoon of salt. Slowly whisk in the polenta (very important!). Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until thick and cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Prepare a baking dish, brush 8x8x2 pyrex or ceramic baking dish with olive oil. Spread 1/3 of the sauce over the bottom of the dish. Pour half of the polenta over the sauce. Sprinkle with half of the cheese. Pour another third of the sauce over the cheese. Pour the remaining half of the polenta over the sauce. Sprinkle with remaining cheese, cover with remaining sauce. Let stand for 2 hours at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake until completely heated through, about 25 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6.

Want to try other polenta recipes? Check these out:
- Tomato Braised Beans with Polenta
- Zucchini Polenta Tart, from Chocolate & Zucchini
- Creamy Maple Polenta Succotash, from No Recipes
- Rosemary Polenta Triangles, from Gluten-Free Bay

Guten appetit!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Bloggy Carnival - Welcome!

Giveaway closed, Congratulations commenter #95: Victoria.
* Victoria has been emailed and will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen. Thank you to all the Bloggy Carnival participants for visiting The Vegetarian Hausfrau!

Welcome to my vegetarian cooking blog. Today is a special, non-recipe post... why?

It's CARNIVAL time!!

If you are new to my blog, welcome. If you are a regular reader, you get an extra special treat today...

I'm having a GIVEAWAY.

As part of the Bloggy Carnival, hosted by Bloggy Giveaways, I will be giving away a $5 gift certificate to Starbucks.

Yes, it's a shout out to my hometown and something everyone loves (...or should love. If you don't like Starbucks, what's wrong with you?!).

This gift certificate was FREE for me. How?? (I know, it's nice to get free stuff)

I participate in Swagbucks.

Swagbucks is a search engine that rewards you with points for using them instead of yahoo, google, etc. Web searches are something we do everyday, multiple times a day. So, for no extra effort or changes to my daily routine, simply using the Swagbucks search engine (btw, swagbucks uses google as their search engine), I earn points that I use in their Swag store for FREE stuff. Gift certificates, electronics, video games, sports memorobelia, band/music swag, etc.

Search & Win

If you haven't tried Swagbucks before, I encourage you to check it out! They've been very reputable, fun to use, and are catching on like wildfire. After only a couple months, I had enough points for this gift certificate. Again, I'm doing nothing different, but getting free swag. Score!

To learn more about Swagbucks, and/or to start earning your own points towards free stuff, click here.

Now, now, I know what you want... INFO ON HOW TO WIN THE $5 STARBUCKS GIFT CERTIFICATE. Hold on to your Swagbucks, I'm getting there... (wink)

To enter :

  • Leave a comment on this post. Tell me: Whether you use Swagbucks, AND what your favorite drink is at Starbucks. That's it!
  • Make sure there is a way for me to contact you. If your email address is not in your blogger profile, or you are not a blogger, you MUST leave it in your comment.
  • One comment per person.
  • US entries only. I'm sorry, my international friends.
  • Contest ends January 30th at midnight (PST).
  • Winner will be drawn using
After your done commenting, grab your favorite mocha, latte or hot chocolate, and (I hope) enjoy perusing all the yummy vegetarian recipes I have posted here, on my cooking blog. I love to cook, and love to share great recipes. If you're vegetarian, or have some picky eaters in the house, I have a lot of good food for you!

Special note: This post will stay at the top of the blog all week. New recipe posts on Tuesday and Friday, can be found as you scroll down. This week, I have some tasty treats lined up... Tuesday is Polenta Casserole, and Friday will be Baked Parmesan Dip (gearing up for the Super Bowl!).

Guten appetit, and enjoy the carnival!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Oatmeal, Chocolate Chip and Pecan Cookies

Smitten Kitchen, Smitten Kitchen... how I worship and love thee! When I saw these cookies posted by Deb in November, I was sold. Hook, line and sinker. I think I may have drooled while looking at the screen (don't tell anyone, and sadly, this happens all too often). I've been thinking about them for 2+ months though because I hadn't the opportunity to make them. Well, no more! After all, January is Oatmeal Month. If that isn't a special, good enough reason to make these, I don't know what is.

Slide over Mrs. Fields, there's a new lip smacking cookie in town: the Oatmeal, Chocolate Chip, Pecan Cookie. Oh my.

Soft, with a little crunch. A winning combination of oats and chocolate. Then, add the nutty flavor and some spices... mmmm. Truly a great cookie. I ate 3 immediately out of the oven (darn this pregnancy sweet tooth!).

They're chocolate chip cookies kicked up a 1,000 watt notch. Make. These. Soon.

Just for fun, consider making these into ice cream sandwiches this summer! Easy kid-friendly project, and oh so tasty. I know what you're thinking though, "How can I possibly be thinking of summer and ice cream sandwiches when it's so cold outside?!". The answer is, I think about ice cream all the time.

Oatmeal, Chocolate Chip and Pecan Cookies
thank you Smitten Kitchen!

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground clove
1 cup quick-cooking oats
2 cups chopped pecans
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest (optional) - I did not use
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment or a Silpat (rubber nonstick baking mat).

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla, and beat until well mixed, about 3 minutes. Stir in eggs, one at a time.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove in a separate bowl. Add half of the flour mixture to the butter with the mixer on low speed. Once the flour has been incorporated, add the second half.

Stir in the oats, pecans, orange zest, and chocolate chips.

Drop the dough, by the tablespoon, onto the cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and cool the cookies on a rack. Store at room temperature in a cookie jar or other airtight container.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

More on the oatmeal cookie blogger front:
- Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies, from La Cuisine d'Helene
- Oatmeal and Dark Chocolate Cookies, from La Tartine Groumande
- Agave and Oatmeal Honey M&M Cookies, from The Recipe Girl
- Cranberry, Pistachio and White Chocolate Chip Cookies, from Closet Cooking

Guten appetit!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Chocolate-Bottom Banana Squares

Have you finally come down from the holiday sugar-rush? Are you ready for more? More! More! More!

This is a good one for the person craving something sweet, but who doesn't like it TOO sweet. The delicious taste of banana bread, combined with chocolate. How could something so good, be wrong? It can't, so go ahead, give in. You've earned it for surviving the holidays, the winter weather and whatever else is going on in your life. Treat yourself.

Chocolate-Bottom Banana Squares
from Tammy's Recipes

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups mashed banana (about 3 medium bananas)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup baking cocoa
1 cup chocolate chips (I only used 1/2 cup, but will use more next time as they sink in during baking)

In mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add egg, vanilla, and bananas, beating thoroughly.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, soda, baking powder, and salt. Add to creamed mixture and mix well.

Divide batter in half. Add the cocoa to one portion of the batter. Spread that portion in the bottom of a greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Spoon remaining batter on top, swirling gently with butter knife if desired, and sprinkle with chocolate chips.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until batter tests done with a toothpick or fork. Cool and cut into 24 squares.

Guten appetit!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Easy, Sweet Cornbread Muffins

Nothing goes better with a delicious bowl of warm chili, than cornbread muffins. Nothing. (In my humble opinion)

In combo with the easy veggie chili, these muffins make a full meal that is super fast and super good. Two very important considerations for me lately, as I enter my 9th month of pregnancy. Serious or complicated cooking is not high on my list of interests right now.

For this recipe, you probably have all ingredients in your kitchen (bonus!). Start to finish, the muffins will take you 10 minutes of prep and 15-20 minutes of cooking time. Done in a flash.

Plenty of variations are also discussed in the reviews (add sour cream, change the sugar to brown sugar, add shredded cheese, etc). But I like them just the way they are, and only add some canned corn. I'm sure the recipe is very forgiving, as it's quite basic, so try your own alternatives and let us know how it goes.

They have a slightly sweet flavor, hold together well, and are both moist and fluffy. Paired with some yogurt butter and your chili, or butter and some honey... divine! Equally good as leftovers, and/or freeze well for future chili batches. Hope you like these as much as we do!

Serve with Easy Veggie Chili

Cornbread Muffins
from allrecipes

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup milk
1/4 cup canned/fresh corn kernels (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

Grease muffin pan or line with paper muffin liners (I use muffin cups to avoid extra clean-up).

In a large bowl, mix together corn meal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add egg, oil, milk; stir gently to combine. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.

Bake at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.

More cornbread recipes:
- Iron Pan Perfect Cornbread, from Homesick Texan
- Pumpkin Cornbread, from The Recipe Girl
- Southern Buttermilk Cornbread, from Andrea's Recipes

Guten appetit!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Easy Veggie Chili

There are so many reasons to love veggie chili: it's easy to make, it freezes great, it's delicious and warming on a cold winter day, it's a great take-along dish (tailgating, etc).

This recipe in particular is a favorite, just because of how easy it is. I am sure there are fancier recipes to knock your socks off (see list at bottom). But I stick to my favorite, because when I'm making chili, I am not usually in the mood to put in extra 'knock your socks off' effort. This is warm (not spicy) and delicious, and hits the spot every time.

If you have time and feel like putting in some extra effort, make cornbread muffins to go with the chili. This combo will make you very happy.

Veggie Chili
adapted from CookingLight

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1/2 cup diced green peppers
2 carrots, chopped (chunky)
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 small can of corn kernels (approx. 1/2 cup)
1 1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can black beans
1 can chickpeas
2 cups of water, divided
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, for topping (optional)

Chop/dice all your vegetables.

Heat oil in large pot, then add onion through garlic and saute 7-8 minutes.

Add corn through beans, and 1 1/2 cups water, bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. Add additional water as necessary, so the chili doesn't dry out or burn on the bottom of the pan. Serve warm, with shredded cheese sprinkled on top.

* You can use up to 4 cans of beans (and almost any variety you want: kidney, cannellini, butter beans, etc), but Tim doesn't like chili too 'beany' and therefore I use only 2 cans. Tastes great either way!
* Additional vegetables to add/substitute: diced celery, zucchini, red/yellow/orange bell peppers

More great chili recipes:
- Spicy Vegetarian Chili, from Simply Recipes
- Butternut Chili, from Karina's Kitchen
- Quick Vegetarian Chili with Avocado Salsa, from CookingLight

Guten appetit!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Did you know...

...that January is:

* National Oatmeal Month
* National Slow Cooking Month
* National Soup Month
* National Wheat Bread Month

I'm going to look up an oatmeal cookie recipe, right now!

(I found this fantastic piece of miscellaneous information here)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Fruit Coffee Cake

I've been wondering lately what the blog will turn into after the baby is born (due end of January, so we're in the home stretch!). Will I keep up with all of these sweet recipes that have been satisfying my pregnancy cravings? My guess is, yes. At least, more than I used to pre-pregnancy. I seem to have caught a baking bug. I still think cooking is my preference and I 'cook' more often than I 'bake'. But I have a lot of fun trying out new cake, bread, or general baking recipes. A new era has dawned on me. Glad you could join me for the ride!

I had been wanting to make a coffee cake for quite a while. A rhubarb recipe caught my eye a few months back, but I missed rhubarb season. When I saw this recipe and it's flexibility of the fruit used, I decided to give it a go.

As you can kind-of see, I chose to use cranberries. Simply because they've been in season recently, and I was able to buy a fresh bag. Also, I'd never cooked with cranberries. I wasn't even sure what they tasted like. As it turns out, they're tart. Who knew?! (probably you, but no need to rub it in)

This recipe makes a very traditional, light and fluffy, not a lot of sweetness, fruit with crumble on top, coffee cake. For me, it was too bland. But I've never been a HUGE fan of coffee cakes, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

For those who do not like overly sweet breads, this would hit the spot. The topping gives it a mildly sweet flavor, and it had a nice texture when it baked into and covered the cake. I think this recipe would hold it's own in a brunch, when paired with other savory breakfast foods. I don't think it's best served on it's own, with a cup of coffee or tea.

And in truth, I may have liked it better if I used a different fruit. Yes, back to the cranberries... I wasn't a fan of the tart flavor. It somewhat overpowered the cake and the slight sweetness of the topping. Next time I make this, I plan to use blueberries.

Make no mistake, the cake was eaten up and enjoyed. My mom's husband loved it. I just have a different preference for texture and taste in my coffee cakes, if I eat one at all.

Fruit Coffee Cake
from Tammy's Recipes

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk
1 cup blueberries, cranberries*, or raspberries
Topping Ingredients:
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup softened butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

In another bowl, beat eggs until frothy. (We use an electric mixer for this.) Mix in oil and milk.

Pour milk mixture into dry ingredients and stir. Fold in fruit. Pour batter into a greased 8-inch square baking pan.

Mix topping ingredients together (should be coarse crumbs/lumps of topping) and sprinkle over batter.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes, until cake tests done in the middle. Cover cake loosely with foil if the top starts browning too quickly (I usually place foil over the cake after about 45-50 minutes).

Serve hot, or cool in pan.

Coffee cake recipes that caught my eye:
- Raspberry Walnut Coffee Cake, from Alpineberry
- Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Chocolate and Nuts, from Bake or Break
- Strawberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake, from Serious Eats
- Moist and Marbled Coffee Cake, from Cookbook Catchall

Guten appetit!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Oatmeal Apple Pancakes - Taste & Create

If you are a food blogger, or food blog reader, you've probably seen various food groups/monthly events around. There are the Daring Bakers, Tuesday with Dorie, No Croutons Required, Presto Pasta Nights, the Cake Slice Bakers, and many more.

I finally decided to jump in, and joined Taste & Create for December/January.

I was really excited to be paired with Hanne at Supper in Stereo. Her blog is beautiful - well laid out, fun posts, great pictures and very organized. And the recipes? Delicious! I had a hard time choosing just one. Some of my favorites that I contemplated: Rosemary Walnut Butter Cookies, Ciabatta bread, her Daring Bakers Party Cake, and the Pumpkin Pecan Madeleines.

In the end, I went with my breakfast craving (I can't tell if this is a pregnancy craving or not, since I simply love pancakes!) and made Oatmeal Apple Pancakes.

I read through the reviews and a couple other apple pancake recipes, to make sure I'd cook them to perfection. First tip I followed was to cook them on low heat. It may take a few extra minutes, but probably due to the oatmeal, you really need the extra time to cook them through. Second, I made the oatmeal thick. The two probably go hand in hand. If you try to cook too quickly or make runny oatmeal, you are bound to end up with a pancake that is mushy. These are not fluffy, but instead are delicious and filling, and a fun twist to your mom's buttermilk pancake!

And look at the reward:

Yum! Yum! Pile on the butter and syrup, please. I'm ready to feast!

Thanks for the great recipe Hanne. This will be a fun one to break out when bisquick (gasp!) just wont cut it!

Oatmeal Apple Pancakes
from Supper in Stereo

1/2 cup flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups cooked oatmeal (I use instant oatmeal, but this would be great with rolled oats)
1/2 cup milk
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated
unsalted butter

Preheat a skillet on medium heat.

Mix together flour, salt and baking powder. Add wet ingredients and mix gently.

Melt a pat of butter onto the skillet and pour batter in 1/4-1/2 cup servings onto skillet.

Allow to cook until bubbles show on one side (I waited until bubbles showed and when they popped, stayed open. I also waited for the edges of the pancake to start looking dry), then flip and cook on the other side until both sides are golden. Serve warm.

More for the pancake lovers:
- Fluffy Ricotta Pancakes, from Apartment Therapy
- Eggnog Pancakes, from Erin Cooks
- IHOP Copycat Pumpkin Pancakes, from Dine & Dish
- Banana Pancakes, from Food 4 Tots

Guten appetit!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Product of the Month: Crockpot

Do you use a crockpot?

I admit, I do not. I had my grandmothers hand-me-down for a while, but I never used it and Tim kept wondering why I kept it around. I believe I kept it in part for the sentimental value, but I also have dreams (yes, dreams) of using a crockpot one day... in the not too distant future... maybe. But the dreams are there!

I think it's just a fear of the unknown. I've never used a crockpot, so it's taking the first step. Making that first recipe. The idea of a slow-cooked recipe where the spices and flavors meld, and that you simply toss together in the morning and have a fully-done meal by evening... Quite impressive.

If you crockpot, do you have any favorite recipes? Maybe I'll make 2009 the 'year of the crockpot'. (Dont hold me to that, as it's very unlikely)

If you DO crockpot though, here is an interesting recipe site where the author committed to using her crockpot every day of the year in 2008. Now that's commitment.

I hope everyone has had a wonderful 2008, and is looking forward to an even greater 2009. We have many happy days and changes awaiting Tim and I this year, and I can't wait to experience them. With, or without, a crockpot.

Some recipes from A Year of CrockPotting:
- White Bean and Pesto Spread
- Sundried Tomato and Caper Pasta Sauce
- Moroccan Lentil Soup
- Indian Curry
- Sweet and Sour Tofu
- Brownies in a Mug
- Crockpot Chocolate Mousse

Guten appetit!