Categories
Pasta Vegetarian

Creamy Tomato Pasta Bake with Fresh Mozzarella

Now that it’s fall and it’s starting to get dark earlier, I am in full comfort food-craving mode. All I can think about is rich, satisfying, warm meals that make me feel cozy and smell amazing while they’re cooking. There’s something so special about eating a comforting meal with a glass of wine and your loved ones after work. Maybe even – gasp- in front of the TV, with a blanket on your lap. Heaven. Hey, we eat at the table most of the time, so a little TV time is an indulgence once in a while.

This creamy tomato pasta bake with fresh mozzarella is one of those meals that you think about all day at work before you even make it because you know it’s going to be so good. It’s rich, flavorful, and oh-so-cozy. Just writing about this meal makes me want to make it again.  

Ingredients:

1 lb. rigatoni pasta

2 c. marinara sauce

2 Tbsp. tomato paste

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 c. heavy whipping cream

8 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced

¼ c. Parmesan cheese, grated

2 c. chopped tomatoes or cherry tomatoes

2 tsp. fresh oregano, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and place the pasta in a large baking dish. 

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Cook the onions for about 5 minutes, or until they are soft and lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Add the marinara sauce, tomato paste, and fresh tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes become soft, about 6-7 minutes. Add cream and season with salt and pepper. Stir, and heat through quickly. 

Pour the sauce into the baking dish with the pasta and mix thoroughly so that the sauce and pasta are well combined. Top with mozzarella slices and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. 

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cheese is lightly browned and bubbly. Top with fresh oregano, serve, and enjoy!

Categories
Vegan Vegetarian

Coconut Curry with Chickpeas and Zucchini

In today’s episode of the overly-scheduled teacher/mom/friend show, our heroine (me, of course) needs to whip up a delicious, healthy, and lightning-fast dinner. Something that can be eaten between school pickups, volleyball games, high-school football games, homework, and all of the other craziness that goes on when school is in full swing. Enter this amazing vegan coconut curry with chickpeas and zucchini. It’s scrumptious and ready to eat in under 30 minutes. 

Not only is this meal incredibly easy to prepare, it’s healthy, warm, and is even more delicious the next day when you get to eat it for lunch. Who says leftovers aren’t the best thing ever? Not me! Just don’t tell my kids or they’ll start taking my secret stash of amazing leftovers. 

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. coconut oil

1 onion, finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 inch piece of ginger, minced

2 tomatoes, pureed 

1 Tbsp. garam masala

1 tsp. turmeric

½  tsp. cayenne pepper

½ tsp. ground black pepper

1 15 oz. can of coconut milk

1 15 oz. can of chickpeas

1 small zucchini, cut into small pieces

Salt to taste

Serve with:

Lime wedges

Chopped cilantro

Steamed basmati rice

Heat the coconut oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. Add the onion and cook, being sure to stir frequently, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute. Add the garam masala, turmeric, cayenne, and black pepper and cook for 30 seconds. 

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the tomatoes and stir until combined. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the tomatoes are soft. Stir in the coconut milk and combine. Add the chickpeas and zucchini, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 10-15 minutes so that the flavors and meld together. Season with salt to taste. 

Serve with steamed rice, lime wedges, and cilantro. Enjoy!

Categories
Vegetarian

Easy Palak Paneer

I used to think that palak paneer was some sort of magical meal I could only get at a proper Indian restaurant. I never imagined that I could make this incredibly delicious vegetarian meal at home in very little time and with so little effort. I’m not sure why I used to think this meal would be so difficult to get “just right,” but after many rounds of practice (and admittedly, some failures), I think I’ve got it! 

This recipe for palak paneer includes a subtle blend of decidedly-Indian spices, fresh, bright green spinach, salty paneer, and plenty of flavor-boosting add-ins, like onions, tomatoes, garlic, and ginger. All of these items married together make the most yummy meal that leaves behind just enough sauce to soak up with some fresh naan. Yes, please. 

Ingredients:

6 cups of fresh spinach leaves

3 Tbsp. butter or ghee

2 small onions, pureed

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 inch piece of ginger, minced

2 tomatoes, pureed

1 tsp. cumin seeds

2 tsp. coriander

2 tsp. garam masala

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 c. paneer, cut into cubes

Salt to taste

1 Tbsp. heavy cream

Boil water in a large pot. Add the spinach leaves and blanch for one minute, or until the leaves are soft and bright green. Remove the spinach and drain. Then, puree the spinach in a food processor until it is smooth. Set the spinach aside in a bowl.

Puree the onions in a food processor and set aside in a bowl. Puree the tomatoes and set aside in a bowl. 

Heat the butter or ghee in a large skillet and add the cumin seeds. Add the pureed onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they are lightly browned. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for one more minute. 

Add the pureed tomatoes, coriander, garam masala, cumin, and cayenne. Stir and simmer on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. Add the pureed spinach and stir to combine. Season with salt to taste. Then, add the cubed paneer and cook until it is soft, about 2-3 minutes. 

Remove from the heat and stir in the heavy cream. 

Serve with basmati rice, naan, and additional heavy cream, drizzled on top, if desired. 

Categories
Vegan Vegetarian

Sesame Tofu with Steamed Broccoli

This healthy, baked version of sesame tofu is perfect for those hectic weeknights when you need to come up with a dinner that is both simple-to-make and tasty. In this version of sesame tofu, no animal-based products are included in the recipe, making it an all-vegan meal that is substantial, flavor-packed, and super satisfying.

Ingredients:

Baked tofu:

2 blocks of extra-firm tofu, pressed and cut into cubes

2 Tbsp. soy sauce or tamari

1 Tbsp. sesame oil

2 Tbsp. corn starch

Sesame Sauce:

½. soy sauce or tamari

3-4 cloves of garlic, minced

¼ c. maple syrup 

¼ c. rice vinegar

¼ c. water

1 Tbsp. sriracha sauce

2 Tbsp. corn starch

2 tsp. sesame oil 

Serve with:

Steamed rice 

Steamed broccoli

Green onions

Sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. About 30 minutes before cooking, drain the tofu, wrap it in a kitchen towel and press it. You can do this by placing a plate on top of the tofu, and then a heavy item, like a stock pot, on top of the plate for about 10 minutes. This will help remove excess water from the tofu. 

Cut the tofu into cubes and place them in a large glass bowl. Add the sesame oil, soy sauce, corn starch, and mix together carefully with your hands. Spread the tofu cubes evenly on a lined baking sheet and cook for 25-30 minutes, or until browned and crispy. 

Combine the soy sauce, maple syrup, garlic, rice vinegar and sriracha in a large skillet and allow it to simmer. Combine the water and corn starch in a small bowl and combine to make a slurry. Add the mixture to the sauce in the skillet and simmer for 1-2 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Stir in the sesame oil and remove from heat. 

Toss the baked tofu in the sesame sauce until it is coated. Serve with rice, steamed broccoli, green onions, and sesame seeds. 

Categories
Sides Vegan Vegetarian

Classic Provençal Ratatouille

Ratatouille is an old-school French dish that is made of stewed late-summer vegetables and served with crusty, country bread. It’s comforting, rich, and harkens back to a time when slow-cooked food was the norm. Ratatouille is what your French grandma would have made especially for you as a child because she knew you loved it, even though it took a very long time and lots of labor to make. 

The traditional method of cooking ratatouille requires the slow cooking of each ingredient in separate pans in order to cook each ingredient perfectly. Those ingredients are then combined and stewed together to meld the flavors. You can imagine that this process is extremely time-consuming and requires constant babysitting. Ain’t nobody got time for that in today’s world.

My version of ratatouille deviates a bit from the traditional method because I roast the veggies and then allow them to stew together. The result is a balanced and delicious ratatouille that takes much less time and attention to prepare, which is always a good thing. I think grandma would actually approve. 

Ingredients:

5 large heirloom tomatoes

1 medium eggplant, or two small, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

2 medium zucchini, diced

1 large yellow squash, diced

1 yellow onion, diced

4-5 cloves of garlic, minced

¼ c. olive oil

2 bay leaves

2 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped

1 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped

1 tsp. fresh oregano, chopped

Salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Prepare two large baking sheets with parchment paper or foil.

Remove the cores from the tomatoes and pulse them in a food processor until they are saucy, but still a bit chunky (think the consistency of a chunky salsa). 

Place the eggplant on one baking sheet. Coat with olive oil, mix with your hands, and place the pieces in a single layer on the baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the red pepper, zucchini, and yellow squash on the other baking sheet. Coat with olive oil, mix with your hands, and place the pieces in a single layer on the baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. 

Place both baking sheets in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes. 

While the vegetables are roasting, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Cook the onions for about 10 minutes, or until they are soft and lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme, organo, rosemary and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Turn the heat down to low, and allow the sauce to simmer. 

Remove the vegetables from the oven and stir. Place them back into the oven, and cook the eggplant for 10-15 minutes, or until soft. Remove the eggplant and add to the tomato sauce. Stir to combine. 

Roast the red pepper, zucchini, and yellow squash for another 10 minutes while the sauce simmers. Remove from the oven and add to the sauce. Allow the ratatouille to simmer for 10 more minutes so that all of the flavors can meld together nicely. 

Remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper. Top with a little olive oil. 

Serve in a bowl topped with Parmesan with a baguette, on top of polenta, or mixed into pasta.  

Categories
Breakfast Vegetarian

Shiitake Mushroom and Goat Cheese Quiche

This earthy and rustic shiitake mushroom quiche is positively dreamy, and it will have you fantasizing about it like a teenage crush for a long time after the pie plate is empty. The difference, thankfully, is that you won’t have the agony of waiting for your crush to text you back. You can just go back to the store and buy the ingredients, and the obsession can continue without the anxiety of waiting by the phone. Can you tell I have teen daughters?

The depth of the shiitakes are enhanced by the luscious, slightly caramelized shallots, onions, and garlic. The delicate and creamy quiche envelops the beautiful ingredients with its soft warmth and is freckled so perfectly with the crumbled goat cheese. All of that loveliness is cradled by a flaky pastry shell. In my humble opinion, some of the earth’s most special ingredients are all wrapped up in one dish. 

For a complete meal, serve with a lightly-dressed salad and a baguette. 

Ingredients:

1 pre-made pie crust (store bought or using recipe below)

6 eggs, beaten

1 c. whole milk or heavy cream

1 c. creme fraiche 

2 shallots, sliced

2 green onions, sliced

1 clove of garlic, minced

4 oz. goat cheese, crumbles

2 c. shiitake mushrooms, chopped

1 Tbsp. olive oil

Salt and pepper

Pastry:

1 ½ c. all purpose flour

8 Tbsp.unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small squares

5 Tbsp. cold water

Pinch of sea salt

In a food processor, mix the flour and salt. Then, add the butter pieces evenly throughout the bowl of the food processor. Process, using pulses, until the butter is mixed into the flour and the mixture resembles cornmeal. Add water and pulse until the pastry forms large clumps. Take the pastry out of the food processor and roll it out on a floured surface. 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat and add the shallots. Cook for 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the green onions and cook for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Add the mushrooms and cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat. 

Place the pie crust in a lightly greased pie pan. Sprinkle mushroom mixture and goat cheese into the bottom.

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, milk and creme fraiche. Season with salt and pepper. Make sure the mixture is well mixed and is smooth. Pour into the pie pan over the mushrooms and goat cheese. 

Bake until the quiche is cooked in the center and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean (about 30-40 minutes). Check if often, as nothing ruins a quiche faster than overcooking the eggs! Let the quiche rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Categories
Salads Vegetarian

Armenian Jajukh (Cucumber Yogurt Salad)

Armenian cucumbers are popping up in American gardens more and more, which is very exciting because they are delicious and easy to grow. These funny-looking, light green, floppy “cucumbers” are not really cucumbers at all. They may resemble super-long cucumbers in appearance and taste, but they are actually members of the muskmelon family. Armenian cucumbers taste a lot like a combination of a crispy cucumber and a fresh, sweet-ish melon. They are truly special. 

Because these fruits are so cool and refreshing, they are very popular in Armenia and other middle eastern locations. Most often, Armenian cucumbers are mixed into a garlicky yogurt sauce and served alongside grilled foods or as a light, healthy snack. This recipe for traditional Armenian jajukh combines all of the best elements of sweet, salty, briny, and refreshing flavors  to result in a simple, tasty salad that can be enjoyed by all. 

Ingredients: 

1 Armenian cucumber (make sure to remove the skin and scrape out the seeds) or English cucumber

2 Tbsp Greek or Bulgarian yogurt

1 small clove of garlic, minced

2 tsp. fresh mint or 1 tsp dried mint

Pinch of salt

Mix together all ingredients in a large serving bowl. Season with salt, chill in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes, and serve.

Categories
Salads Vegetarian

Summer Mexican Corn Salad

Sometimes during late summer, I find myself feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of veggies growing in my yard and piling up in my fridge because what can I say, I love farmers’ markets and gardening. While I do realize that an overabundance of healthy, colorful, fresh food is hardly a problem, sometimes I feel like there are so many veggies and so few meals. 

For this reason, I love recipes like this one for a lovely summer Mexican corn salad. All of the veggies included in this salad are fresh, bountiful during this season, and taste so perfect all together. The creamy, spice-touched dressing seamlessly pulls together the freshness of the corn, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and herbs, giving it a decadent edge. The cotija cheese rounds out all of the sweetness of the veggies with a salty, tanginess that is perfect for a summer side dish. Serve with grilled meat, chicken, or fish for a quick and delicious meal that is ideal for enjoying those last few weeks of summer. 

Ingredients:

4 c. fresh corn, cut from the cob

2 fresh tomatoes, diced

1 serrano pepper, seeded and chopped

½ c. green onions, chopped

¼ c. cilantro, chopped

¼ c. mayonnaise

¼ c. cotija cheese, crumbled

2 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. cumin 

1 tsp. smoked paprika

Juice from one lime

Salt and pepper 

Combine the corn, tomatoes, serrano peppers, green onions, and cilantro in a large serving bowl. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, chili powder, cumin, paprika, and lime juice until it’s the consistency of a salad dressing. Pour it into the corn mixture and stir to combine thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Top with cotija cheese, mix again, and serve.

Categories
Sides Vegetarian

Panfried Lion’s Mane Mushrooms with Sriracha Mayo

If you haven’t entered the amazing world of exotic and gourmet mushrooms, what’s holding you back? There are so many types of glorious mushrooms readily available in grocery stores now. Back in the day, it was button mushrooms or nothing – but my, how times have changed. I’m a HUGE fan of mushrooms of all types, shapes, and sizes. I have even started foraging for them recently, and what an amazing world full of mushrooms we live in! 

So naturally, when I was at the store last week, I saw some locally-grown lion’s mane mushrooms and jumped at the chance to buy them because they are so, so delicious. If you have never tried them, they taste like really stellar mushrooms with a crab-like texture (lion’s mane cake recipe to come soon).  I whipped up this appetizer version of lion’s mane mushrooms served with a side of sriracha mayo, and what a match made in heaven! 

Ingredients:

½ lb. fresh lion’s mane mushrooms

2 Tbsp. butter

1 tsp. garlic powder

Salt and pepper

Sriracha Mayo 

3 Tbsp. mayonnaise

1 Tbsp. sriracha sauce

1 Tbsp. lemon

Cut the bottoms off of the mushrooms and then slice them thinly into strips. 

Mix the ingredients for the sriracha mayo in a small bowl and set aside. 

Heat the butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 2 minutes, or until browned and crispy on one side. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder while they are cooking. Flip the mushrooms over with tongs and cook for another 2 minutes, or until both sides are browned and crispy. Note that if the mushrooms aren’t crispy on both sides, they can be bitter, so it’s important to get that crispiness!

Remove and place on a plate. Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired. 

Serve as an appetizer with sriracha mayo, or on a baguette for a yummy sandwich!

Categories
Pasta Vegetarian

Penne alla Caprese

Pasta is always a wonderful treat and so is anything with the word “Caprese” in the title, so why not combine them to make a super-fresh, super-delicious pasta dish? This time of year, many of our gardens are full of all of the beautiful fruits of our gardening labor, especially tomatoes and mounds of fresh basil. If you don’t have a garden like this, chances are you have a friend who does and is willing to part with a little bit of their bounty. You know, because you’re such a great friend. 

This truly lip-smacking penne alla Caprese comes together in no time, is loaded with ingredients most people adore, and is even healthy. The aromatic garlic, wine, fresh tomatoes, and basil are so delicious mixed in with the toothsome pasta and the tangy fresh mozzarella. It’s simple, and just right. “Less is more” isn’t just a clever saying after all. 

Ingredients:

1 lb. penne pasta

2 Tbsp. olive oil

¼ c. dry white wine

3 cloves of garlic, minced

3 c. cherry tomatoes, or fresh diced tomatoes

½ c. fresh basil leaves, torn

8 oz. mozzarella pearls or diced fresh mozzarella

Salt and pepper

Cook the pasta according to package directions and drain. 

Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. Add the garlic and cook for one minute, or until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and white wine and cook until they are soft and tender, about 5 minutes. Break the tomatoes up as you cook with a rubber spatula so that they become a bit more “saucy.” 

Combine the pasta and tomato sauce in a large serving bowl and toss to combine. Add the fresh basil and fresh mozzarella and combine quickly. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Drizzle with additional olive oil and top with Parmesan cheese, if desired.