A Vegetable Salad

Last Sunday we picked up a raw vegetable salad at a local market. It was really good and after a close look I realized how easy it would be to make! Tonight I tried to recreate it without following an actual recipe and its pretty much the exact same thing we bought last weekend.

This is basically a relish tray as a salad, with a quinoa like quality. Its a great way to use up the vegetables in the bottom of the refrigerator at the end of the week! I’d recommend using broccoli or cauliflower as a base and then whatever else you’d like. You’ll also need some sort of dressing, again, whatever you would normally prefer on a relish tray or in a salad would be perfect. The one we bought in the store came with ranch, tonight we used sesame ginger vinaigrette.

I used broccoli, cabbage, bell pepper, carrots, onion, and leftover grilled corn kernels. All you have to do is throw it all in the food processor. The green onions I just sliced and threw in, the corn, I also just threw in.

Here is the texture you will be going for, my broccoli base:

All Done!

Grilled Balsamic Portabello Mushroom Burgers

I really am not a huge mushroom fan so for years I have avoided any sort of burger with a giant mushroom in place of the meat. But when one of my sisters made a delicious marinade for mushrooms and grilled them, and they were really, really good, I thought maybe it was time to try a portabello (is it portabello or portabella?) burger. I used her marinade, another sister’s hamburger recipe, and a complete stranger’s bun recipe to make this.

If you are at all concerned about having to eat an enormous vegetable when what you really want is beef, please trust me, you will love it. It doesn’t feel like its missing meat, its not a chore to eat for you non veggie lovers. Its delicious. It is so juicy and wonderful, I could honestly eat these every day.

One important tip, when it comes to cleaning the mushrooms, do not just rinse them in water before attempting to remove the gills. I did this on my first try, the mushroom soaked up all the water and turned to mush in my hands as I tried to scrape off the gills. Instead, remove the gills with a spoon before washing them. To wash them, I used a wet paper towel and gently wiped them clean to keep the mushrooms from acting like a sponge and soaking up a ton of water.

Despite these tips, I still hate cleaning the mushrooms. I feel clumsy and like I am mutilating it. The gills are edible but will give the finished burger an ugly color. If there is a better way to clean and remove the gills, I would love to hear! But in the very end, after marinading in a dark marinade and then being grilled, they really don’t look like I did a terrible job cleaning them. But still, I am unhappy with how they look before they go in the ziplock bag, so I’d really love to hear from you if I am doing it wrong.

For the marinade:

  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 balsamic vinegar
  • 2 1/2 tsp. finely chopped garlic
  • 1/3 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/3 tsp. pepper
  • 4 portabello mushrooms, cleaned and gills removed

Note my clumsy, half destroyed looking “cleaned” mushroom:

In a ziplock bag add all marinade ingredients. Shake to mix, add mushrooms, toss to coat, refrigerate for 4+ hours (can be marinated overnight.)

Heat grill and prepare toppings. For my burgers went with tomato, onion, asiago cheese, fresh basil, arugula, this aioli, and these buns.

Grill for about 8-10 minutes, 4-5 on each side. Don’t worry if it looks like it may be burned, it isn’t, the balsamic is very dark and the mushrooms has just absorbed all the color. Just don’t burn them for real and make a liar out of me!

Ready to go on the grill!

And the cheese getting all melty and perfect:

Grilled Corn on the Cob

Here’s another easy-peasy one, one of our summertime favorites. I’m working on finding the perfect sauce recipe to accompany this, but really, plain old salt and pepper and butter are fantastic on these.

  • Corn on the cob, shucked
  • water
  • salt and pepper (optional)
  • butter (optional)

Soak the corn in water for about 10 minutes. Don’t cook it in water! Just soak it.

Then throw them on the hot grill for 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally as the kernels blacken. Serve with salt, pepper and butter!

Simple Coleslaw

I used to think I didn’t like guacamole. Turns out, I just didn’t like that green stuff that Taco Bell calls guacamole. I don’t know what that stuff is, but its not guacamole. Then my friend Suni made a bowl of fresh guacamole and forced me to try it against my will. It was delicious, and from then on I vowed to always try anything once. And I learned how much better things were when they were with real, fresh ingredients. Now before you think I’m nuts to have never tried real guacamole, I was about 15 at the time and an exhaustingly picky eater. Hmm, maybe that’s where my kids get it.

I also I used to think I didn’t like coleslaw. That’s because I don’t like what KFC calls coleslaw and I had never had it any other way. While I was pregnant last summer, I had a hankering for pulled pork. I went to the booth on Treat Street at the county fair and ordered one and they asked if I wanted the slaw on the side or on my sandwich. Gross! On the side! No, I don’t want any at all! I thought. As I waited for my sandwich, I over heard 90% of the people behind me also refuse the coleslaw. “Its how they do it in the south,” the booth worker explained each time someone gave him a weird look.

So I went and ate my slaw-less sandwich and thought about it. A curious thing about pregnancy, although it can make to most delicious things sound revolting, like coffee or In and Out, as in may case, it can also make weird things sound good, and coleslaw sounded good. So when I went to order my second sandwich (Hey! I was eating for two!) I got the coleslaw on it. The texture was amazing. The crunch to counter the tenderness of the pork, ahhh.

From that point on, I wanted a simple coleslaw recipe for when I make my pulled pork. I am still rather picky and don’t think things like sugar belongs in salads, slaws, and spaghetti sauce, to name a few. That made narrowing the list of recipes down quite easy. I also knew to run from anything titled “KFC’s Coleslaw Recipe” or anything that called for miracle whip. (What on earth is that nasty stuff? Mayonnaise with sugar? Who actually eats it? On purpose?)

Once I narrowed my search down, I found this little gem. Simple, delicious and so perfect on my pulled pork. You could add a few vegetables and maybe some chicken to take a great salad in a different direction. But for the foundation the perfect, simple coleslaw, here you go.

  • 4 cups, unpacked shredded cabbage, red, green, or both
  • 1/2 large carrot, julienned
  • 2-4 green onions thinly sliced

For the dressing:

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. seasoned (or plain) rice vinegar
  • salt
  • fresh pepper

Combine cabbage, carrots, and onions in a large bowl. Add olive oil, toss to coat. Add vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Serve on pulled pork or as is!

Curry-Spiced Noodles

Hello again! I apologize for my long absence. Something about being 9 months pregnant just makes cooking about the last thing I want to do, so we’ve been living off of a lot of non-blog worthy quick and or frozen meals. My newest issue of Cooking Light arrived and it inspired me just enough to go to the store for the ingredients to try a new recipe tonight. I only snapped one picture at the end cause, well I just didn’t feel like it. But its a pretty simple recipe so I think you’ll do ok without 10 more pictures of ingredients and my stove top.

This recipe called for a few things I couldn’t find at the store tonight so I made a few substitutions and I think it turned out well anyway. Shiitake mushrooms were 3 times the price, so I cheated and used baby bellas. I also searched up and down the aisles for red curry paste and gave up and just used red curry instead.

  • 8 ounces dry udon noodles (thick, round Japanese wheat noodles) or spaghetti
  • 4 tsp peanut oil, divided
  • 2 cups julienne-cut carrots
  • 2 cups julienne-cut red bell pepper
  • 1 cup julienne-cut green bell pepper
  • 4 cups thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps (about 8oz)
  • 3 TBSP  chopped, peeled, fresh lemongrass
  • 1 TBSP grated, peeled, fresh ginger
  • 1 TBSP red curry paste
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tsp lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped dry roasted, unsalted cashews

Cook noodles according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Set noodles aside, keep warm.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over med-high heat. Add 2 tsp peanut oil to pan, swirl to coat. Add carrots, cook 2 minutes. Add bell peppers, cook 2 minutes.  Remove carrot mixture from pan, set aside.

Heat remaining 2 tsp oil in pan over med-high heat, swirl to coat. Add mushrooms cook for 2 minutes. Add lemongrass, ginger, curry paste, cumin, turmeric, and garlic. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Add broth, water, soy sauce and salt. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes or until slightly thick.

Add noodles, carrot mixture, onions, cook for 2 minutes, toss to combine.

Divide noodle mixture among 4 bowls, top with cilantro and cashews. Yield 4 servings, 402 calories per serving.

How to prepare lemongrass:

Spinach Salad with Pears, Pecans, and Goat Cheese

This dressing is incredible! It takes about 10 minutes to make this salad and it makes the perfect side to any meal. If the pears aren’t ripe and ready in your area, strawberries, melon, or apple would be a great substitute. I omitted the pecans in my salad but it was still great. Play around with your favorite fruits and nuts to create your own perfect salad!

  • 1/2 cup of pecans
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp white wine vinegar or rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tbsp chopped red onion
  • 2 large red or green pears quartered, cored, and cut into thin slices
  • 2 tbsp raisins
  • 1 bag of prewashed baby spinach
  • 3 oz crumbled goat cheese

Toast the pecans in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, stirring often, for 3-4 minutes or until lightly browned. Set aside and let cool.

Whisk the oil, vinegar, honey, and salt and pepper in a bowl.

Whisk in onions.

Then pears and raisins.

Add spinach and toss to coat. Divide salad onto 4 plates top each with pecans and goat cheese.

Barley Risotto with Eggplant and Tomatoes

Here is another one from Cooking light. This recipe taught me how to make risotto and it is delicious with the roasted eggplant and tomatoes but can be completely customized. Add whatever vegetable you like, whatever cheese or nut, I doubt you can go wrong! Risotto is cooked with broth that is added gradually while being stirred constantly to release the starch, which gives the dish a wonderful creamy texture, unlike regular rices that are covered and steamed.

  • 6 cups diced eggplant
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper, divided
  • 5 cups fat-free, less-sodium broth (you can use chicken, beef or vegetable)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup uncooked pearl barely
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 dry white wine
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup crumbled soft goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced basil
  • 1/4 pine nuts, toasted

Preheat oven to 400. Combine eggplant, tomatoes, 2 tbsp oil and 1/4 tsp pepper in a bowl, toss to coat. Arrange mixture on a baking sheet in a single layer, bake for 20 minutes. Set aside.

Combine broth and water in a saucepan, bring to a simmer but do not boil. Keep warm over low heat. Heat remaining oil in a large non stick skillet over med-high heat. Add onion, Saute 4 minutes.

Stir in barley and garlic, cook 1 minute.

Add wine, cook 1 minute or until liquid almost evaporates, stirring constantly.

Add 1 cup broth mixture to pan, bring to boil, stirring frequently. Cook 5 minutes or until liquid in nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add remaining broth mixture, 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of broth mixture is absorbed before adding the next cup. (about 40 minutes total.)

When risotto is done, gently stir in eggplant mixture, remaining pepper and salt. Top with cheese, basil and nuts.

When in Rome, Have the Gnocchi

I’ve always love these tasty little potato dumplings, but it was on my honeymoon that the love affair began. I must have tried 15 different restaurant’s gnocchi and never once did I get sick of it. Potatoes and pasta. Or is is pasta and potatoes? One thing is for sure, its a carb lover’s dream. And the variety! You can do meat sauce, pesto, alfredo, whatever you like!

I was so excited, yet very intimidated when I found this recipe, once again thanks to my subscription to Cooking Light. Gnocchi just seems like the thing you mess up if you don’t know what you are doing, and so there was a frozen pizza for back up, just in case. But in the end, my husband was impressed, I was in heaven and this recipe made it into the almost weekly rotation and the whole process was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be.

Here its with a lemon thyme sauce. According to me, you can’t have too much citrus and you can never have too many shallots, that is why this sauce is the best. But try something different if want, any sauce will do. Gnocchi is very inexpensive to make and and can be a great Sunday afternoon activity for the whole family.

For the Gnocchi:

  • 2  (10-ounce) baking potatoes
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tbs all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4  tsp  kosher salt, divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 1  gallon water

For the Lemon Thyme Sauce:

  • 4  tsp  butter
  • 4  tsp  extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2  cup  finely chopped shallots
  • 1  tbsp  grated lemon rind
  • 2  tsp  chopped fresh thyme
  • 2  tsp  fresh lemon juice
  • Dash of kosher salt
  • 2  tbsp  shaved fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4  tsp  freshly ground black pepper

First, wash poke and bake the potatoes at 400 for 1 hour. Allow them to cool enough to handle and then peel them and pass them through a potato ricer. Lightly spoon flour into a measuring cup. Add flour and 3/4 tsp. salt and stir to form dough.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Divide dough into four balls, cover the dough you are not working with to keep it from drying out.

Roll a 20 inch rope out of the ball.

Cut rope into 20, 1 inch pieces.

Roll each piece into a ball.

Using a lightly floured fork, use your thumb to roll each piece down the tines of the fork.

Gnocchi should have ridges on one side and an indentation from your thumb on the other. Repeat process with remaining 3 balls of dough.

Place gnocchi on a baking sheet coated in cooking spray, cover and set aside.

In a Dutch oven, bring 1 gallon (16 cups) of water and 1 tsp. kosher salt to a boil. Cook half the gnocchi at a time for about 1 and half minutes. Gnocchi will float when it is cooked. Remove with a slotted spoon and strain. Remember to only cook the half of it at a time or the water will cool down too much and the gnocchi won’t cook properly.

While the water is heating you can start the sauce. Heat butter and oil in a pan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook for 10 minutes or until tender, do not brown.

Stir in lemon rind, thyme, juice and a dash of salt. Combine with gnocchi, cheese and pepper in a large bowl and gently toss to coat.

Quinoa with Corn, Mint, and Scallions

If you are not already on the quinoa bandwagon, you should be. This South American grain-like super food makes the perfect side to any meal or can be enjoyed as a main dish. Its light, refreshing, has great texture, is vegan and vegetarian friendly and so very healthy. There are a thousands of different ways to prepare it, here is one of my favorites.

  • 4 ears of corn
  • finely grated lemon zest from 2 lemons
  • 2 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup unsalted, melted butter
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • two cups quinoa
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped, fresh mint

In a pot, bring corn to a boil and remove from heat, let sit for 5 minutes, covered. Remove corn, when cool enough to handle, cut kernals off cob.

In a bowl, wisk lemon zest, lemon juice, butter, honey, salt and pepper, set aside.

In a pot, combine 2 cups of quinoa and 5 1/2 cups of water, cover, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until quinoa is tender and water is absorbed.

Allow quinoa to cool, mix in lemon mixture. Mix in mint, scallions, and corn. Add more salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. Chill in fridge, best when served cold. You can cut the recipe in half its only for a 2-3 people, the leftovers are only good for 1-2 days max before the quinoa starts to dry out.