Friday, August 28, 2009

Zuchinni and Chickpea Ratatouille

For breakfast, lunch or dinner, I could eat Zucchini and Chickpea Ratatouille. (True, I prefer blueberry pancakes for breakfast, soooo delish. But this was beyond good, to where I actually though I could eat it for breakfast.)

Since we're on the subject, I will make a confession. Aside from the very occasional blueberry pancakes, I've been making Eggos a lot for breakfast. And quite often, frozen pizza for dinner. Hey, I told you that I have been tired! I wasn't exaggerating.

This recipe really did help pull me out of my recent cooking funk. After I made it for the first time about 2 months ago, I sent it to some friends as a 'must try' recipe. When I decided to make it again this week, I got excited. Excited to cook, and excited to share it on the blog. Yay, maybe my old self really is coming back!

This recipe is olive oil, tangy goodness. A delectible mix of tomatoes, zucchini and rice. The chickpeas are a great addition, and help add depth and protein.

Rice helps soak up the sauce, mmmm.

One of my new favorite summertime dinners. I don't even make a side dish for this one! Treat yourself to dessert instead. This recipe has the veggies, protein and starch, all rolled into one. Love it.

Zucchini and Chickpea Ratatouille
from Family Circle

2 med zucchini, about 1 1/4 lb, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large red pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 T olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cans (14 1/2 oz each) Italian-seasoned diced tomatoes
1 can (15 1/2 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 t salt
1/8 t black pepper
1/8 t red pepper flakes
3 cups cooked brown rice

Heat oven to 425.

Coat baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Add zucchini and red pepper; toss with 1 T olive oil. Bake at 425 for 30 min or until tender.

Heat remaining 1 T oil in a large nonstick skillet over med-high heat. Add garlic, cook 30 seconds to 1 min. Stir in tomatoes and cook for 5 min. stirring occasionally. Add zucchini, peppers, chickpeas, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Cook an additional 5 min, stirring occasionally. Serve with cooked brown rice. Makes 4 servings.

Another rat-a-tat-touille:
- Pasta with Halibut and Oven-Roasted Ratatouille

Have a bumper crop of zucchini? Make enchiladas:
- Black Bean, Corn and Zucchini Enchiladas

Guten appetit!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Baked Penne with (Faux) Sausage and Spinach

Folks, I feel bad. Last week, I left you with a food dish I can't recommend and a cook book (although, the cook book I'm pretty excited about). Where are all the delicious dinners?! I know, I know. I hear you.

I'm pulling out all stops today... this is a winner! And I've got more coming up. Honestly, I probably could have gotten back into regular blog posting and more on track sooner, just with regard to the time I have. But it's not just about having the time to post, or cook. I simply haven't been motivated to cook. I've been tired (mentally and physically). I see the light at the end of our tunnel though. In addition to our big move, we've been readying our rental house for new tenants who move-in later this week (yay!). With that additional project done, I'm starting to get my groove back and have been doing my usual drooling over yummy recipes online. Doesn't this peach pie look divine?!

Dinner before dessert though... and this Baked Penne with (Faux) Sausage and Spinach recipe is a delish dish for your next main meal. It originally called for chicken or sausage, and I swapped that out for the soy crumbles found at the grocery store next to the tofu and pre-packaged lettuce. Worked like a charm! My meat eating dinner guests didn't have any problems with it and all gave it a thumbs up. The pasta sauce had such a nice flavor (mixing pesto and tomato, genius!) and was so easy, I plan to use it on spaghetti when I want something with more pizazz.

More, please!

Even my 'greens hater' husband liked the spinach in this dish. You can lessen or increase the spinach amount as you see fit. I used the recipe amount and found it perfect. Remember, spinach wilts A LOT when cooked, so you'll end up with 1/4 (or less) of what you see fresh.

Enjoy my friends. I'm back!

Baked Penne with (Faux) Sausage and Spinach
adapted from In Good Taste

Canola or olive oil, to cook with
3/4 cup Smart Choice soy crumbles (aka - Faux Sausage)
1 onion, chopped
3-5 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 28 oz. (540 mL) can diced tomatoes (undrained)
1 can tomato paste
1/4 cup pesto (out of a jar)
3 cups uncooked penne, rigatoni or rotini pasta (preferably a whole wheat or brown rice variety)
1 10 oz. bag baby spinach leaves
1 ½ cups grated part-skim mozzarella
1/2 - 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Getting ready for the oven

In a large saucepan, heat a drizzle of oil over medium-high heat and cook the soy crumbles, onion and garlic until heated through and onion begins to turn translucent (approx. 4-5 minutes). Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Stir in the pesto and some salt and pepper.

Cook the pasta until al dente, drain it well and toss it with the spinach (coarsely tear the spinach up with your hands as you add it), mozzarella and about half the Parmesan cheese in a large bowl. Stir in the hot tomato sauce, which will slightly wilt the spinach.

Divide among portion size baking dishes (you could eat half and freeze half*), aluminum containers (to gift a serving size, nice folks that we are - ha), or one 9x13 baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.

*At this point the dish can be cooled completely, covered with foil (I also like to add a layer of saran wrap on top, pressed directly onto the pasta to avoid freezer burn. But don't forget to remove it before you bake the dish!) and frozen for up to 3 months. Bake from frozen.

Bake at 350 F for about 30 minutes (40 if frozen - so the recipe says. I usually find frozen pasta takes at least 30 minutes extra to cook through, but test it yourself after 15 minutes and keep going until it's done) until bubbly and golden. Serves 6-8.

Guten appetit!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Fix, Freeze, Feast

Even before we had the little chef's helper, I had my lazy nights, where I did NOT want to cook. Or maybe I was just busy, and/or got home late. Cooking can be the last thing I want to do on certain days.

I've learned ways to get around cooking on those nights. I love to double our pasta casserole recipe and freeze half for later. Sometimes I'll make 'brinner' (breakfast for dinner - french toast is usually my favorite). Or we have (gasp) a frozen pizza at all times in the freezer.

But here's a cookbook devoted to making large portions of a dish, freezing it in smaller dinner portion amounts, and then feasting on your hard work at a later date! I love it. (Wish I'd thought of it, actually)

Fix Freeze Feast by Kati Neville and Lindsay Tkacsik

AND, they have sample recipes! Wish they had a vegetarian sample recipe, but that's ok. Most of the book looks to be meat related, but there's a whole section for vegetarian MAIN DISHES. That's key, as a lot of cookbooks have vegetarian meals, but they're pretty much side dishes. Um, that's not enough peeps. We like to eat a full meal, thanks.

If you don't want to buy the whole book though for one section of recipes, perhaps you can peruse the book at Barnes and Noble and take your iphone with you to copy a few of the veggie recipes. Shhh, did I say that?

Since my sister bought the book, I've already perused it (and plan to use it. ha, that rhymes!) Here are some of the recipes included that I'm excited about: Asparagus and Potato Frittata, Thai Red Curry with Vegetables, Teriyaki Sauce, Raspberry Vinaigrette, Cheese Biscuit Mix, Five-Spice Cookies, and Ginger Cookies. There were a number of portobello mushroom recipes, but as you may know, I'm not a fan. However, I do realize, you might be.

Aaaaand, get ready for another gasp... I might as well tell you now, we are going to feed our chef's helper meat (no, this wont change the blog to a meat blog!). However, we happen to think that he should make his own choice in being vegetarian, or not. So, in the meantime (as he's only able to drool and coo right now, and not hold a conversation about vegetarianism), we'll give him meat so that he gets acquainted with it and knows the taste. When he's old enough, we can talk to him about why mommy and daddy don't eat meat.

Have a great weekend, and guten appetit!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Parmesan Roasted Potatoes

Fast, easy, and... not worth making again. Darn. Don't you just hate when you try a new recipe and you're excited at how simple and delicious it sounds, and then, it doesn't deliver? Double darn.

The owner of these potatoes raved about them, so I hate to say otherwise. Maybe if I used a different Parmesan or added some extra herbs (but then it wouldn't be the fast, easy side dish I was hoping for). Darn, darn, darn.

I'm still going to post the recipe, and I'm not telling you to never make these. Maybe they will strike one of you as a tasty side dish, who knows. Maybe my taste buds were simply on strike. Yeah, maybe that was it.

What went wrong?! You LOOK so good....

Ho hum. My quest for a simple, yummy roast potato recipe continues. (Not that I'm searching in earnest, mind you)

Although the potatoes were not my fav, I have many, many more recipes to try from For the Love of Cooking. She has some great dishes posted and 106 vegetarian recipes! Go check her out.

Parmesan Roasted Potatoes
from For the Love of Cooking

9-10 small baby Dutch yellow potatoes
3-4 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp olive oil
Garlic powder, to taste
Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste
Fresh chopped parsley, for garnish (Notice I didn't use parsley! Maybe that was my downfall)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil a large pot of water and boil the potatoes for 4-5 minutes. Remove from water and let cool. Once cooled, slice into quarters and combine with olive oil, garlic powder, sea salt and black pepper as well as the Parmesan. Mix thoroughly and place in a baking dish that has been sprayed with olive oil cooking spray.

Place into the oven and roast for 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and taste, re season with sea salt, cracked pepper, or garlic powder if needed. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

Guten appetit!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Moms 7 Layer Dip

When the sun is shining, parties are happening. And when it's August 11th, there's usually a birthday party for me happening! Ha. Yep, it's my birthday. Hooray! Party, party, party!

This is my favorite and staple party appetizer. Perfect pick for my birthday post, don't you think? I wont be making it today, but I will likely be making it soon. Or maybe my mom will be making it for me this weekend. She's awesome like that.

It makes a large amount (or you can easily scale it back), always pleases the natives, and it's a great take-along too. I'm guaranteed to make it, if my friend Kelsey is going to be at the party. She says it's her favorite (and, since it happens to be mine too - why not indulge us both?).

One warning: It's filling. People usually like it so much, that they eat most the dip and get full before dinner! My sister makes it a habit of eating appetizers for dinner (bah!).

I would make this for our housewarming party in September, but since we're pretty sure we're having a German theme, I don't think it will fit. Rest assured though, it will be made soon. Even if it's just for Tim and I to enjoy on a lovely sunny weekend.

Moms 7 Layer Dip

1 can vegetarian refried beans (I usually don't use the entire can)
1 large ripe avocado, mashed
1 cup sour cream
1 package dry taco seasonings
3 medium vine ripened tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 small or medium can sliced black olives
2 cups shredded mexican cheese blend (using all cheddar is also ok)
1 bag tortilla chips

* Measurements are approximate. Use more of what you like, and less of what you don't.

Mix the sour cream with 1.5 tablespoons taco seasoning mix. Stir until well combined, then refrigerate at least 10 minutes. This can also be done the day before to let the flavors blend. Keep in refrigerator until ready to use.

On a large serving platter, spread the beans in an even layer to approximately one inch from the edge of your platter. Dollop the mashed avocado on top and carefully spread evenly across all of the beans. Next, layer your sour cream (same way you did the avocado).

Now, sprinkle the black olives evenly on top of your sour cream layer. Next, the tomatoes. Again, sprinkling evenly across all your black olives. And lastly, the cheese. The cheese should almost completely cover your dip. Sometimes I like to let some tomato and olives peek out of the cheese, it looks nice. As with all ingredients, use as much or little cheese as you like.

Done! Serve with tortilla chips in a bowl next to the dip and let your friends and family feast.

If you want to make the dip ahead of time (although, it's super fast to whip up the day of), it will keep 1 day in the refrigerator: Follow the steps through the olives, then cover with saran wrap and refrigerate. When ready to serve, cut and add your tomatoes and the cheese on top. It also makes decent leftovers for lunch the next day. Mmmm.

Shhh, don't tell anyone. But my 7 layer dip is only 6 layers! I leave out the green onions, since I don't like them. But if you do, feel free to add the 7th layer. Our secret, ok?

More dip love:
- Spinach Artichoke Dip
- Baked Parmesan Dip
- Crab Dip, from Al Dente (Tom Douglas recipe! Yum)

Guten appetit!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Penne with Potatoes and Rocket

What? This doesn't look like Penne pasta to you?

Ok, ok. You caught me. I used a different pasta. Don't remember the name, but... I don't recommend it (so who cares what it's called, ha!). Looks good though, eh?

This was a scrumptious dinner. The only trick is, you need to have the right mix of pasta and potatoes. I thought these oversized tubes would look good and be great for the dish. Not so. Created too much pasta for the overall taste. The potatoes are soooo good, and the combo is very tasty. Just be sure to make a 50-50 split with pasta and potatoes. I think I could have used more greens too, but Tim is not a fan of 'green things', so I went light on them.

Note: I did not use Rocket. Couldn't find it at our grocery store. Instead, I used another green called 'field salad'. Not sure what it was, but it worked. I think most greens would be good, so mix it up!

Geez, did I even follow the recipe?! Yes, I did. I swear. And it's good. A definite keeper for weeknight suppers.

Penne with Potatoes and Rocket
adapted from Chez Panisse Vegetables by Smitten Kitchen

1 pound firm boiling potatoes (I’d recommend fingerlings, even though we couldn’t find them)
About 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 bunches rocket (about a half pound)
1 small red onion
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 sprig rosemary (optional)
3/4 pound penne or other tubular pasta
1/2 lemon

Preheat the oven to 400. Slice the potatoes about 1/3 inch thick and toss them with a small amount of the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread them in a single layer in an ovenproof dish or on a baking sheet (I like to line mine with parchment, to make everything — and clean-up, easier) and roast in the oven until they are golden brown and cooked through, about 15 minutes. (Mine took a bit longer.)

Meanwhile, wash the rocket (older, larger leaves are preferable to the tender sprouts), drain, and set aside. Slice the red onion thin. Peel and chop fine the garlic cloves and the rosemary leaves. Put a large pot of salter water on to boil for the pasta.

When the potatoes are done, remove them from teh oven and put the pasta on to boil. Heat a saute pan, add some of olive oil, and saute the sliced onion until it is soft and translucent and starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the rocket and garlic, and saute both until they just begin to wilt and soften. Lower the heat, add the potato slices and rosemary and toss together for a minutre or two. When the noodles are done, drain them and add them to the potatoes and onion. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and toss everything together. Drizzle with a little olive oil and serve.

Like the potato and pasta combo? Try these:
- Potato and Pasta Bake, from Green Gourmet Giraffe
- Pasta with Roasted Sweet Potato and Beurre Blanc , from Not Eating Out in New York
- Potato and Leek Sacchettini with Goat Cheese and Fresh Herbs, from Once Upon a Feast

Guten appetit!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Vegetarian Times

I'm skimping out on you today... but, I'm offering something VERY exciting, in lieu of a recipe. A new recipe is coming on Friday though, I promise. Once I get my head on straight and a few more things put away after the move, I'll be back to my usual posting self.

In the meantime...

Here is an AWESOME deal for you! Get a 2 year subscription to Vegetarian Times for only $7.14. I signed up a couple months ago and got my first magazine this weekend. I love it.

As with any magazine, there are subscription renewals and offers inside, which say 1 year (9 issues) for $19.95. $7.14 is a scream of a deal.

You can also search through Magazine Deals Now to see if more of your favorite magazines are on super sale.

Happy reading!