Tag: vegetarian

Breakfast Cookies

It’s been too long since posting, but rather than look back, I’m looking forward.

I have a friend in Austin, the Maple Syrup Lady, who produces maple syrup in Michigan, then hauls and sells it here in Texas. Part of her business is blogging about recipes. This week she tried a new ‘breakfast cookie’ recipe and I had the pleasure of sampling the results.

Let’s just say my bag of 6 cookies lasted 2 days, and that took restraint. They’re soft and fluffy, moist, tangy, and just the right amount of crunch. They’re like less refined Lara Bars, only WAY less expensive. Not to mention that they’re chock full of fruits and grains, no refined sugar, no butter, no eggs – and potentially gluten free. (If you’re into that). Who doesn’t want to eat cookies for breakfast?!

maple breakfast cookiesIngredients
1 Cup Unsweetened Applesauce
2 Mashed Bananas
2 Tbsp Pure Michigan Maple Syrup
1/2 Cup Raisins or Dried Cranberries
1/4 Cup Chopped Almonds
1 Cup Fresh Strawberries, Diced
1 Tsp Cinnamon
1/4 Tsp Sea Salt
1 1/2 Cups Rolled Oats

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine the applesauce, mashed bananas, and maple syrup in a medium sized bowl. Add in the dried fruit, nuts, strawberries, cinnamon, and sea salt. Fold in the rolled oats.

3. Use an ice cream scoop to make 16 cookies. The dough will be loose so pack them together and press down on the middle to make a cookie shape. Place on a prepared baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.

And yes, the Maple Lady has an online store and ships!

The recipe makes 16-18 cookies per batch – 80 calories per cookie.


Baked Pea and Spinach Risotto

Generally I’m not a fan of Real Simple recipes; they’re bland and dull. Simple taken too far = boring. However, with the addition of my trusty cooking sidekick, Lemon Pepper seasoning, this baked risotto comes together easily. Plus, there’s a fair amount of veggies you can add to risotto to keep nutrients high. And the best part? No standing at the stove sweating for an hour, hoping the broth incorporates!


4 TBS butter
2 shallots, chopped
salt and black pepper
1 tsp lemon pepper seasoning
1/2 cup dry white wine
6 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups Arborio rice
1 package frozen peas
8 ounces baby spinach, roughly chopped (about 4 cups)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Asiago, plus more for serving


  1. Heat oven to 425° F. Heat the butter in a medium Dutch oven or ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add the shallot, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper and cook, stirring often, until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until almost evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Add the broth and rice and bring to a rolling boil. Add 1/2 tsp lemon pepper. Stir briefly.
  3. Cover the pot and transfer to oven. Cook until the rice is tender and creamy, about 25 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven. Add the peas, spinach, Parmesan, 1/2 tsp lemon pepper, and ¼ teaspoon pepper to the pot and stir to combine.
  5. Return to oven for 5 more minutes. Remove and stir. If the risotto is too thick, add up to ¼ cup hot water. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan before serving.

You can half ingredients, and adding protein is always an option. As is, it made 6-8 servings. Now we have leftovers for days!

The Best Vegetarian Chili

This is no ordinary, ho-hum watery veggie bean chili. This recipe is smoky, complex, rich in flavor and texture. We made this for a pumpkin party and everyone RAVED, then asked for the recipe and for seconds. I’m on day 3 of leftovers and am still happy to eat this. I recommend serving it with Pumpkin Cornbread and all of the garnishes your heart desires. Really, make this chili. The recipe serves 12-15. It can be halved, as in the original version from from Saveur.

2 cans dark kidney beans
2 cans pinto beans
1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
24 cloves garlic, minced (I totally used the pre-minced stuff in a jar)
1 can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (Chop all the chiles except for 3. Reserve the adobo sauce for extra heat if desired.)
4 bay leaves
1 large white onion, chopped
1 large red onion, chopped
1-2 jalapenos, minced
16 oz. button mushrooms, quartered
12 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 cans canned hominy, drained
1 cup tomato paste
4 TBS. red wine vinegar
4 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp. dried oregano
3 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. chili powder
1 package sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Kosher salt, to taste
Sour cream, to garnish
Minced cilantro, to garnish
Minced red onion, to garnish
Queso fresco, to garnish – Any cheese will work, but this salty, semi-firm option crumbles nicely and looks pretty against the dark colors of the beans and tomatoes.

1.      Put kidney beans and pinto beans into a large pot and cover with 3″ water; bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, about 45 minutes. Set pot aside.

2.      Heat oil in a VERY large pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic, chipotle chiles, bay leaves, onions, and jalapenos and cook, stirring often, until onions are golden, 12–15 minutes. This smells awesome.

3.      Add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 8 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring, about 5 minutes. Stir in reserved beans and their cooking liquid, stir to combine.

4.      Add the hominy, tomato paste, vinegar, thyme, oregano, cumin, chili powder, sun-dried tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until chili thickens and flavors meld, about 1 hour. Turn off the heat to help thicken, and/or add more tomato paste.

5.      Serve chili topped with sour cream, cilantro, queso fresco and red onions. Prepare for double helpings – and filling tupperwares!

5 Minute ‘Pickles’

I sometimes whine about cooking when it’s hot, and I’m clearly not alone. In fact, Cooking Light  ran a piece in their July issue about 5-minute sides along with all sorts of shortcuts to avoid the kitchen. It’s not just me!

I made their recipe for Greek Salad Cucumbers for an impromptu picnic dinner. It’s less like a salad or a side and more like super-fast pickles. And they are awesome: crunchy, salty and satisfying on a sticky evening. Plus they’re apparently quite healthy.

  • 1 English cucumber, cut into quarters lengthwise and then crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 ounce feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and swirl around to coat the cucumbers. I misread “red wine vinegar” as “rice vinegar,” only to realize 1/4 tsp of the way through that I was out of rice vinegar. I switched to white vinegar before realizing it actually listed red wine vinegar. And I failed to measure anything. Ya know what? It didn’t matter one bit; they were still delish.

Taste and adjust to preference. The leftover liquid made a nice cracker dip too.

The Lazy Man’s Eggs: Frittata

I admit it; I can’t make an omelet. But I love dressed up, flavorful, fluffy eggs full of color and vegetables. Enter the frittata. A frittata is an egg-based dish similar to an omelet or crustless quiche, with additional ingredients such as meats, cheeses, vegetables or pasta.

It looks complicated and impressive on the table, but is really super easy to prepare. I started with a basic recipe then played around a bit using what I had on hand. You can double it easily enough, depending on your crowd and skillet size. Check it:

frit 2 Ingredients
5 eggs + 1/2 cup egg whites (just 5 eggs is fine, too — the whites make it a bit puffier)
2-3 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
3-4 oz. baby spinach
1/2 tomato, sliced/diced
4-5 baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
1/4 onion or 1 clove garlic
1-2 TB vegetable oil
1 TB olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Crack eggs in a bowl. Add salt and pepper and whisk to blend.
2. Heat oils in an oven-safe skillet. TIP: I used a cast iron skillet, so if you have a nonstick skillet you might use less oil.  When oil is hot, add mushrooms and onion/garlic, sauteing until slightly tender. Add spinach and stir to wilt.
3. Pour in eggs, top with tomatoes and goat cheese. Allow to sit on the stove cooking for about 5 minutes.
4. Transfer pan to oven and cook for 10-12 minutes, or until springy to the touch. Allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.

I made another frittata the next day, using Parmesan and orange bell pepper. Delish! This is a good recipe to keep on hand for weekends and company. Oh, and don’t forget to pair it with a Bloody Mary.

Superbowl Leftovers Revamped

I don’t know about you, but our Superbowl Party averaged at least 1.5 bags of chips per person and awesome amounts of nachos, hummus, baby veggies, bean dip (two kinds!) and beer. Needless to say, we brought home leftovers. Up for a challenge of re-purposing cheese dip for something other than consumption with  corn chips, I created the following recipe.

Before: Half a crock-pot of cold Rotel dip, which – for the uninitiated – consists of a block of Velveeta cheese + 2 cans of Rotel

After: Spicy  Macaroni and Cheese with Broccoli

Process: I bought 2 boxes of elbow pasta (buy one, get one free!) and brought one box to a boil. With about 6 minutes left, I dumped in a bag of frozen broccoli. Why use an extra pot when it’s all mixing together anyway?

I drained the pasta/broccoli mix, and scopped out half of the leftover Rotel dip into the bottom of pot. I topped this with the pasta/broccoli mix and then added the rest of the leftover Rotel dip on top. I let it sit about a minute or so to start melting. Stir, stir, and viola! 5-6 servings of mac ‘n cheese with a side of broccoli thrown in for healthy good measure.

Rating: 5 stars. I ate 3 bowls of this before pulling down the Tupperwares and freezing the rest.  Quick, easy comfort food.

TIP: You could thrown in other vegetables or meat you have on hand, and use any dried pasta that’s languishing in your cabinet.

Hmm, apparently I’m not all that innovative. Check out this list of recipes for macaroni and cheese with Rotel.

Stuffing So Good You’ll Forget It’s Vegetarian

My family is comprised of solid omnivores. We hail from a state that exports chicken, folks. Come a holiday meal, there may be bacon, sausage, duck or chicken in every dish — often several at once when gumbo graces the table. Last Christmas we made an English goose and fried everything in goose fat. We’ve adopted The Barefoot Contessa’s stuffing recipe as the gold standard.  My dad recently killed a deer in the backyard with a crossbow and is busy crafting new venison stew recipes. We are meat-o-saurauses.

This Thanksgiving, however, I spent the holiday with two meat eaters and one vegetarian. To keep  it inclusive, we made everything except the turkey vegetarian friendly. I chose stuffing and mashed potatoes as my dishes, which offered the challenge of how to create a delectable stuffing that wouldn’t make me notice the lack of meat. I’d also never made stuffing from scratch thanks to Pepperidge Farm’s bags of dried bread bits. After much hemming and hawing, I settled on this recipe for Vanishing Stuffing by Vegetarian with Benefits.

All I can say is that this was the first dish of leftovers we polished off — in under 24 hours. There were rave reviews by vegetarians and carnivores alike. If I’d known how well it’d turn out, I’d have doubled the recipe to bring home a tupperware for myself!  As is, this makes one 9×13 pan of 6-8 servings, depending on the size of your appetites. It took about 90 minutes start to finish, mostly because my knife skills leave something to be desired.


  • 1 loaf Italian or French bread
  • 8 TBS butter (1 stick)
  • 16 oz mixed mushrooms, chopped – include shiitake if possible
  • 2-3 large carrots, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/3 cup cranberry sauce, whole berry or jellied
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped finely
  • 10 leaves fresh sage, chopped finely
  • 8 leaves fresh basil, chopped finely
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, chopped finely
  • 4 TBS parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 TBS+ olive oil


1. Preheat the oven to 350 F

2. Cut the bread into small cubes, aiming to keep them under a square inch. Spread the bread cubes evenly on 2 baking sheets. Toast the bread in the oven until browning – careful not to burn! This took about 10 minutes, with checks every few minutes.

3. In a large stock pot or large sauce pan fry the onion with a couple TBS of butter and a couple TBS of olive oil. Saute onions until translucent. Add mushrooms and carrots. Saute on medium low head until mushrooms are soft, about 5 minutes. Add more butter and olive oil to keep bits from sticking and over-browning.

TIP: Since you’ll be chopping and stirring for a good bit, keep a glass of wine handy. The art of pairing wines with food is largely a matter of personal preference however, some safe bets for Thanksgiving wines are Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel. We enjoyed all three!

4. Add the thyme, sage, basil, rosemary, and 3 TBS of the parsley. Add 2 cups of vegetable stock. Allow to simmer for a couple of minutes then add the bread cubes. Turn off the heat. Stir from the bottom up, folding the contents like soft whipped cream to keep the cubes from getting too broken up or drenched. Add additional butter and/or olive oil as needed. Mix in the cranberry sauce and dried cranberries. Salt and pepper to preference. Sample. Yes, grab a spoon and taste it!

5. Transfer the stuffing to a buttered baking pan. Top with thin slices of the remaining butter before putting it in the oven. Bake until the top is golden brown and crunchy – about 40 minutes.  When it’s done baking, top it with remaining 1 TBS parsley. Indulge!

Like any new recipe, this one could be tweaked with additional ingredients and experimentation: toasted pecans, green apples, chopped celery…sweet Italian sausage…

Cheesy Spaghetti Squash Bake

I love spaghetti squash. It’s like you’re eating a bowlof comforting carb-loaded noodles,  when actually it’s a vegetable!  But in case you haven’t hung out with the gourd lately, spaghetti squash doesn’t really taste like much. Or anything at all.

Determined to enliven a healthy, albeit boring, bowl of spaghetti squash, I stumbled across this recipe from Once Upon a Chef and tried it out on two unsuspecting dinner guests. Here’s my take on it – which was a success considering that only 2 servings remained at the end of dinner.


1 large spaghetti squash
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
2 cups jarred marinara sauce – pick one with bold flavor
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
8 oz fresh spinach
1 TBS Italian seasoning blend
3 TBS chopped fresh basil
1 cup shredded cheeses  (Mozzarellla, Asiago and/or Parmesan)
½ cup Panko breadcrumbs – cuz they’re the best kind
Black pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving


1. Fill a large pot with about 2 inches of water and bring to a simmer. Place spaghetti squash in pot, cover with lid and simmer, turning once, for about 30 -40 minutes, or until squash is tender and easily pierced with a fork. While it’s cooling, preheat oven to 425 degrees.

TIP:  For those impatient cooks, you can also just slice the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, cover with Saran Wrap and microwave each half– cut side up– for 6-7 minutes each. )

2. Cut squash in half and remove seeds. It will be hot! Use a fork to pull out the flesh,  shredding and separating the strands like noodles  (it is best to go from side to side, rather than lengthwise). Place strands in large bowl.

3. Add the olive oil, marinara sauce, 1 TBS salt, 2 tsp pepper, Italian seasoning and basil to bowl. Toss gently until squash is well coated with sauce and seasonings. You’ll have to pull the strands apart to get sauce inside. This is your noodle mixture.

4. Transfer half of the noodle mixture to a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Layer the spinach, then mushrooms and then half of the cheese. Top with remaining noodle mixture. Sprinkle the remaining cheese evenly over top. Sprinkle the panko breadcrumbs evenly over top of cheese. Top with fresh Parmesan. TIP: Your layers from the bottom up will be noodles/veggies/cheese/noodles/cheese/panko/Parmesan.

5. Place pan on a cookie sheet to catch drips, and bake for 25-35 minutes, or until top is golden and sauce is boiling. Let sit ~20 minutes before serving. Serve with additional grated Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.

For a full-on fall feast, follow the squash bake with this dark Gingerbread cake. One of my dinner guests brought this and I most certainly indulged in 3 squares of  spicy warmth. Don’t be fooled by its basic appearance; this cake packs a wallop of comforting flavor. The chef-ette recommends omitting the cloves, and skipped any toppings.

Growing up we slathered hot gingerbread with Cool Whip so that it melted and slid off the side. This time I let a pat of butter sit and melt on the top for a cold, salty contrast. Other ideas: whipped cream, lemon glaze, cream cheese, powdered sugar…

Gazpacho-esque Soup

I’m not entirely certain what constitutes “gazpacho,” and the internet is full of dissenting opinions. But the chilled tomato-based soup I made with friends last night was so freaking good – who cares what it’s called? It’s dairy free, gluten-free, raw, vegan happy and oh-so-satisfying!

12 vine-ripened tomatoes (we used 22 home-grown Roma tomatoes), seeded
1 bunch cilantro, chopped (yes, the entire bunch)
1/2+ jalapeno, seeded and minced
3 bell peppers, seeded and cut into chunks (we used stoplight colors, but yellow and red would be lovely)
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 onion, peeled and cut thick
1 TBS olive oil
1 TBS minced garlic, or to taste
2 TBS freshly grated ginger
salt and pepper

The instructions couldn’t be easier:

Combine everything except the salt and pepper into a large bowl. Toss the ingredients together. Using a blender or food processor, blend in batches until pureed. (They’re stupid expensive, but Vitamix blenders last for 30 years!) Combine the batches, then salt and pepper to taste. Chill for at least 30 minutes. Garnish with fresh cilantro and avocado.

Zesty, tangy and smooth – I recommend serving it with rustic bread as you’re gonna wanna sop this up. You can also add seafood for a complete meal. As for wine, we enjoyed a chilled red sangria that was surprisingly smooth – Eppa (pictured at righ).

Adapted from Quick Cooking with Pacific Flavors.