Tag Archives: vegetarian

Blush Mac and Cheese with Tomatoes

Pasta? What’s pasta? I haven’t had it in so long, I think I’ve almost forgot. How crazy it is to me that I eat so little pasta these days when it was my dinner EVERYDAY when I was a vegetarian ten years ago. When people would ask what my favorite meal was? The answer was easily pasta. Now? I don’t even consider it. How did this happen? I don’t even recognize myself anymore. It’s amazing how when you are careful with what you eat, your tastes can change when you aren’t looking. I’ve dabbled in low-carb diets for years. Initially, they were impossibly hard. But now, I’ve found that I feel better and have fewer cravings so it’s easier. I still eat carbs, clearly, but now I can have pasta once in a while and truly enjoy it. This Blush Mac and Cheese with Tomatoes is a fun way to make an old classic pasta dish new again.

A creamy cheese sauce is made vibrant with additional flavors of tomato, shallot, garlic, thyme and spinach before being mixed with corkscrew pasta and topped with juicy, roasted grape tomatoes. The cheese sauce isn’t as cheesy as typical mac and cheese but the addition of the tomato paste and spinach make this feel more like a grown-up version of our childhood classic. I used quinoa pasta instead of regular pasta (but only because I couldn’t find whole-wheat) so my overall texture was a bit different than expected but still good nonetheless. The roasted grape tomatoes add a burst of sweetness and the spinach provides a nutritional boost. While I wouldn’t necessarily consider this mac and cheese, it didn’t disappoint.

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Preheat broiler to high. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain. While pasta cooks, place tomatoes on a jelly-roll pan lined with foil. Broil 8 minutes or until tomatoes are beginning to blacken.

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While tomatoes cook, heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add diced shallots, minced garlic, and thyme; sauté 2 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently.

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Add tomato paste; cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add flour; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in milk, black pepper, and salt; bring to a boil. Cook 4 minutes or until thick and bubbly, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.

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Add spinach, stirring constantly until spinach starts to wilt.

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Add shredded cheddar cheese, and stir until smooth.

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Stir in cooked pasta.

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Top with the roasted tomatoes.

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Additions: None

Omissions: None

Substitutions:

  • Quinoa pasta

Overall Rating: Like It

Source: Cooking Light magazine

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Peanut-Butter Banana Bread

Is February, and winter for that matter, over yet? Since it snowed all day on Saturday, I had no motivation to do anything but watch a Parks and Recreation marathon and bake. I’ve been on a random peanut butter kick lately and realized that I have four – yes, four – different kinds of nut butters in my cabinet. And that isn’t even counting the powdered peanut butter I put in my protein smoothies everyday. Since there were a couple of bananas hanging out on my counter and today is National Banana Bread Day, I pulled out one of those jars of peanut butter and decided since it was cold and snowy outside that I needed to bake this Peanut-Butter Banana Bread.

Peanut butter is not just mixed into the batter but it is also mixed into the sweet drizzle that coats the soft, warm banana bread. I mean, bananas and peanut butter isn’t just for Elvis. This banana bread was insane. And I say was because I may or may not have eaten the entire loaf over the coarse of the weekend. Good thing I’m hitting the gym today. But seriously, since most people have peanut butter hanging around, next time you make banana bread, give this a try. And just try to eat only one piece. Elvis knew what he was doing.

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Preheat oven to 350°F.To prepare bread, combine peanut butter, yogurt, bananas, butter and eggs in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed. Add granulated and brown sugars; beat until blended.

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Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, flaxseed, baking soda, salt and spices in a small bowl. Add flour mixture to banana mixture; beat just until blended. Stir in nuts.

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Pour batter into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350°F for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven; cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Remove bread from pan; cool.

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To prepare glaze, combine powdered sugar, milk, and 1 tablespoon peanut butter in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle glaze over bread.

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Additions: None

Omissions:

  • Flaxseed

Substitutions: None

Overall Rating: Love It

Source: Cooking Light magazine

Broccoli-Cheese Soup

I’m really into going to the produce stand lately because the produce at my grocery store isn’t so great. I don’t like how the peppers, apples, and zucchini at the store are twice as big as the produce at the stand. What in the world are they putting in those fruits and veggies anyway? Well, the good part about getting produce at the stand is that it’s inexpensive, quality, and abundant. The problem? It’s abundant. What do I do with so much broccoli? It’s cold out who might as well make soup! This Broccoli-Cheese Soup is a perfect way for me to use up some leftover veggies while still eating healthy.

Broccoli, carrot, and onion are simmered in broth (substitute veggie broth for a vegetarian option) before being blended together and mixed with a little half-and-half and cheese. The result is a creamy, warm, and healthy soup that is cheesy enough to be satisfying but not enough to be unhealthy. I have to admit that at the end of blending this, I decided to throw in a handful of baby spinach just because. I mean, why not? The soup is already green and plenty healthy but because I throw spinach in my smoothies, it doesn’t seem natural for me to not add spinach to whatever is in the blender. You don’t have to add spinach, obvi. This soup is perfectly satisfying just the way it is.

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Combine stock, broccoli, onion, carrot, garlic, salt, and pepper in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until broccoli is tender.

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Pour soup into a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters).

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Blend until smooth.

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Return soup to pan. Stir in half-and-half and 2 ounces cheese. Top evenly with remaining cheese and parsley.

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Additions:

  • Handful of baby spinach

Omissions: None

Substitutions: None

Overall Rating: Like It

Source: Cooking Light magazine

Herbed Corn Muffins

So what do you do when your Thanksgiving leftovers are all gone but yet you still have leftover ingredients in your fridge? Leftovers from leftovers? Ugh! This happens to me all the time when I’m cooking. Really, unless you are making a parsley pesto, who ever needs more than a few tablespoons of parsley? Yet you can only get a big bushel in the grocery store. I hate throwing out herbs but it happens all the time. I’m sorry. I hate to say it, but it’s true. I refused to do it this time and sat down specifically looking for a recipe that I could use these herbs in. Thank goodness for these Herbed Corn Muffins.

Cornmeal batter made with buttermilk (also a leftover in my fridge that I never use up) gets a fresh kicky spirit from three leftovers in my produce drawer: thyme, parsley, and scallions. Oh, and some pecorino cheese! Talk about a perfect use for those random Thanksgiving hangers-on. Considering I always have baking items on hand (for when that cookie dough breakdown occurs), muffins are an easy way to use up leftover herbs because not only are they really easy and quick to make, they freeze so well. You can bake them and put them away for when you want them the next time you make soup or chili. And these muffins have such an amazing flavor from the cheese and herbs, you’ll be so happy that you made them now and have them later. It’s thyme to bake those herbs away, friends. Sorry…I had to. 🙂

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Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine buttermilk, olive oil, and egg; stir well with a whisk. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, pepper, and pecorino Romano cheese in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk.

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Make a well in center of flour mixture. Add milk mixture, and stir just until moist.

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Gently stir in green onions, parsley, and thyme.

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Spoon into 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray.

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Bake at 400°F for 13 minutes.

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Additions: None

Omissions: None

Substitutions: None

Overall Rating: Love It

Source: Cooking Light magazine

Asparagus with Tomato and Feta

Here we go again with Thanksgiving. Where does the time go? Well, hopefully you’ve got some fun and happy plans. Me? I’ll be keeping it small but my day is planned: coffee, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, eat a little food, watch football, eat a little more food. Oh and drink bourbon or wine somewhere in between, depending on how I feel. Well, I struggle with vegetables sometimes and rather than steamed broccoli or boring green beans or roasted Brussels sprouts, how about something untraditional like this Asparagus with Tomato and Feta instead?

Grape tomatoes and asparagus are roasted in the oven and topped with white balsamic vinegar and feta cheese, adding tons of flavor and color to these healthy spears. Sure, this dish may look a little more like Christmas than Thanksgiving but so what? ‘Tis the season, right? Whatever veggie you dish up with your turkey tomorrow, I certainly home you enjoy it, eat a bunch, pop a button on your pants, and appreciate every second of it. Be thankful, because I’m thankful for each one of you.

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Preheat oven to 425°F. Place tomatoes and olive oil on a jelly-roll pan; toss. Bake at 425°F for 4 minutes.

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Add asparagus; bake 9 minutes.

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Top with vinegar, salt, pepper, and crumbled feta cheese.

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Additions: None

Omissions: None

Substitutions: None

Overall Rating: Love It

Source: Cooking Light magazine

White Bean Spread

When you are eating healthy, you need healthy snacks, right? So you buy some baby carrots to have on hand to snack on here or there but after a while you just want to dunk it into some creamy or cheesy dip. Carrots are my quickest go-to when it comes to quick-grab veggies but sometimes, I just can’t eat another one plain. And since I hate cooked carrots more than anything and don’t particularly care for light dressings, I’m left to find myself another way to eat these little guys. Luckily for me, I usually have cans of beans on hand so when I came across this recipe for White Bean Spread, it was like an aha moment.

Canned cannellini beans are whirled together with nothing more than lemon juice, fresh thyme, salt and pepper, producing a fiber and protein-filled snack. This vegetarian dip is simple but complex in flavors and one of the easiest things you can make. The lemon juice gives it a real vibrancy and the thyme shines through subtly. I didn’t process the beans all the way so I could have some chunky bites here and there (for those of us who like lumpy mashed potatoes) which made this feel more like a small meal than a snack. This dip is thick and only gets thicker if you put it in the refrigerator but can easily be thinned out with water or additional lemon juice. If you are sick of hummus, give this fresh dip a try.

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Combine beans, oil, lemon juice, thyme, salt and pepper in a food processor.

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Process until smooth.

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Additions: None

Omissions: None

Substitutions: None

Overall Rating: Like It

Source: Family Circle magazine

Cheesy Penne with Broccoli

I’ve mentioned this before but I’m shocked by how little I eat pasta anymore. When I was a vegetarian, it was all I ate. Which may be why I never lost weight. Now, I appreciate a good pasta meal but I don’t crave it (thankfully). I had some milk and cheese in my refrigerator that I didn’t know what to do with and some lingering penne that just never seemed to go away. This is typically how I decide what foods to make – by looking at what’s left in my fridge/pantry. Because even though I love to cook, I don’t love to spend a lot of money at the grocery. This Cheesy Penne with Broccoli was an easy way for me to use up some leftover staples I had hanging around my kitchen without having to spend a dime.

Cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, and cheddar cheese are all melted into an easy milky cream sauce and poured over cooked penne and boiled broccoli. The result is this hearty dish which will satisfy any pasta craving you have. The cheese sauce, even with it’s three cheeses, it light and thin enough to be a backup singer to this song. And even though I get weak (in a good way) when mustard is added to cheese sauce, the best part (in my opinion) is the broccoli. I mean, broccoli and cheese? Yes please. I have to point out that broccoli being my favorite anything is something that never would have come out of my childhood mouth. My how things have changed. Now, I won’t even consider pasta unless it has a veggie in it.

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Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. During the last 3 minutes of cooking, add broccoli to pan; drain. Place pasta and broccoli in a large bowl.

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Combine milk and flour in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Cook 5 minutes or until slightly thickened; remove from heat.

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Add 2 tablespoons Parmesan, cream cheese, Dijon, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cheddar cheese, stirring with a whisk until smooth.

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Add cheese mixture to pasta mixture; toss.

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Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan.

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Additions: None

Omissions: None

Substitutions:

  • Whole-wheat penne
  • Whole grain Dijon

Overall Rating: Like It

Source: Cooking Light magazine

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