Grilled Artichokes

Here in Michigan, we are about to start peak artichoke season. They are available at every grocery store and usually very inexpensive to purchase. I picked up 2 yesterday and we grilled them for dinner last night. They may look scary, but whole artichokes are like candy to us. Here is how to grill an amazing whole artichoke:
Ingredients
1 whole artichoke
2-3 garlic cloves chopped
1 lemon (1 teaspoon of lemon zest and the juice of the lemon)
1 teaspoon of black pepper
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of melted butter (real butter or Earth Balance)
Directions
Fill a large stock pot with water (more than halfway) and bring to a boil. Trim the artichoke stem; leaving 1 inch. Cut the artichoke in half. Take a paring knife and cut just below the choke (the little hairs inside). Take a spoon and scrap out the choke. Add the de-choked artichokes to the water and boil for 20-30 minutes.
Take the artichokes out and let them drain. Mix the remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Grill at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes, marinating the artichokes with the lemon and garlic mixture.

*We did not bother to trim the leaf prickers, but you may want to.

Vegetable Strudel

Am I the last one on the planet who has used puff pastry? It is elegant looking and easy to work with. I found some puff pastry packages in the back of my freezer. I have no idea why I have them or when I bought them. But what the hell, I am up for an experiment! I watched a chef make apple strudel on You Tube yesterday and I was inspired. So here it goes:

I took out one sheet of dough and left it to thaw on the counter for 45 minutes. While this was happening, I proceeded to make the filling:

1 eggplant chopped

1/2 bunch of lacinato (or Tuscan) kale (ribs removed and chopped)

4 cloves of garlic- chopped

1 small onion- chopped

8 oz. baby bella mushrooms- chopped

1/2 c. grated parmesean cheese

1 egg- beaten (used for egg wash)

1. I sautéed all of the above (minus the cheese and egg) until very tender. Set aside to cool before placing onto  dough.

2. After the dough is thawed. Unfold onto a lightly floured surface. Roll out dough (with the steams, not against) to about 16 x 20 inches.

3. Egg wash the edge of the entire sheet and about one-third of one short side (preferably the one closest to you).

4. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over that one-third egg wash. Leaving at least one each of the edge to allow for seams to seal.

5. Pour the sautéed vegetables onto the dough.

Now, roll a bit of the dough over the mixture and pull in a bit of the sides:

And then flip it again, pulling in the sides:

Until it looks like this:

Place it on a greased cookie sheet and make slits in the top (every inch or so):

Don’t forget the egg wash:

Bake for 40-45 minutes at 375 degrees.

Let it cool for 15 minutes on a wire rack. Slice and serve:

 So there you go! It was so good. I am pretty sure you could fill puff pastry with any combination and it would come out great. Broccoli and cheddar. Samosa filling. Nutella? The mostly vegetarian husband is already asking me to thaw (the other box I found) and make apple strudel. I think that is enough buttery flakiness for a while. My thighs and behind thank me for that……

 

Spinach and Artichoke Lasagna with Tofu Ricotta

Weekends are busy for us. The mostly vegetarian family and I actually ate this for dinner last night. I made it Saturday and didn’t bake it until Sunday. We had a play date scheduled for late Sunday afternoon and I had no idea what time our company would be leaving. Most families would probably opt for pizza or some sort of take out. This was much better than take out, mostly vegetarian, and cheaper than ordering out. The catch? Planning ahead. Which is why I assembled it on Saturday.

Ingredients:
1/2 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
one box of uncooked thin pasta (I used Barilla)
large bag of frozen chopped spinach
large bag of frozen artichoke hearts
2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
8 oz. package of extra firm tofu (pressed and crumbled)
1 T. lemon juice
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
Directions:
1.) Crumble pressed tofu into a mixing bowl. Add lemon juice, dried basil, oregano, and 1 chopped clove of garlic; to create “ricotta”.

2.) In a large skillet, cook onions until clear. Add the rest of the garlic cloves. Add frozen artichokes and spinach (will thaw in skillet).

3.) Layer the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan with pasta sheets. Add tofu ricotta and a few scoops of the spinach/artichoke mixture. Sprinkle with a bit of mozzarella. Add more sheets of pasta and repeat. Cover the last layer with mozzarella and cover. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes to lightly brown the top.

This lasagna would be a good way for non-tofu eaters to try it. This version does not have a sauce either. I personally don’t think it needs it. Some people might want to add a tomato or cream sauce. Feel free!

Blackened Tofu and Butternut Coconut Rice

Last night,I made two recipes from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s book; Appetite for Reduction pages 147 and 80. Yum! Yum! And more YUM! I do not make tofu often, but I will be making this again. I did switch up the rice dish a bit by using Hubbard squash instead of butternut.

This dish has inspired me to create a dish of my own. Something with lime zest, ginger, garlic, coconut milk, red pepper flakes, sweet red pepper, onion, rice noodles and tofu. Stay tuned for that.

In the mean time, I am going to try my hand at some chocolate chip cookies. I don’t know what has been going on lately. I have been baking. And no, I am not pregnant and doing some wacky nesting thing.

Spinach and Orzo Salad

This is what is for lunch! It makes quite a bit, so we will have enough for a few days.

Spinach and Orzo Salad

Ingredients
1 (16 ounce) package uncooked orzo pasta
1 (10 ounce) package baby spinach leaves, chopped
1/2 pound crumbled feta cheese
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup slivered toasted  almonds
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Directions
  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Add orzo and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain and rinse with cold water.  Transfer to a large bowl and stir in spinach, feta, onion, almonds, basil and white pepper.  Toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Refrigerate and serve cold.

 

Nothing to Eat?

Do you ever find yourself standing in front of the fridge, the doors wide open, and saying, “we have nothing to eat!” I have done it often. I have watched my husband do it. I have witnessed the kids starting to do it. They tend to turn to me in horror (as if I am trying to starve him). My solution? VEGGIE BAGS! They are so convenient and better than most alternatives (chips, microwave popcorn, candy, and especially pizza rolls). They are easy to assemble. They are inexpensive and healthy. Pair a bag of some fresh-cut veggies and some homemade humus and you have a perfect snack!

I cut up a head of broccoli, 6 or 7 carrots, some celery stalks, a green and a sweet pepper and individually bag them for a ‘grab and go’ snack. They also made for a quick, in-a-pinch, dinner when I added a few whole grain crackers and a glass of wine.

Misconceptions

It has been a year and I believe that vegetables have become a lifestyle. Anyone who is vegetarian or vegan gets the question, “what do you eat?” As if vegetables aren’t food???? There are so many misconceptions about the veg lifestyle. I feel like I have become a free-lance teacher on behalf of vegetables. It comes up almost daily. I usually get quizzed at the grocery check out. The cashiers seem to be fascinated by the items in my cart. My husband just received the most recent questioning at the dentist. The hygienist grilled him with the usual:

Here are the most common misconceptions that we are asked:

1. What do you eat?

I might have missed something, but vegetables are food right?

2. Where do you get your protein?

This is where I tend to step onto my little imaginary soap box and offer a bit of education. Animals are not the only place that you can find protein. Beans, lentils, nuts, plants, and several grains all offer protein also. This is where my husband likes to bring up seitan. He LOVES seitan! As a former meat and potatoes guy, he loves to proclaim that seitan has the same amount of protein as a beef filet (ounce per ounce). It is far cheaper (if homemade) than any meat at the grocery store.

3. It is so expensive

Not if you plan accordingly. I could list all the cost comparisons of a pound of beans compared to a pound of chicken, but you don’t want to hear that. I highly suggest purchasing dried lentils, beans, grains, and rice in bulk. I also suggest cooking a huge pot of beans and freezing them. I place my beans in freezer bags and take out what I need. Its faster and cheaper than thawing a chicken breast or pork chops any day!

4. Do your kids eat what you do?

This is usually followed by, “my kids won’t eat vegetables.” ?????????? This is my favorite question. My kids would starve if they didn’t eat vegetables! They prefer beans to meat! This is one of the reasons why we moved toward a vegetarian lifestyle. They never liked the texture of meat. They would chew on meat like gum until we made them spit it out. It was a waste. I started giving them beans to ensure they had enough protein. Of course if given the option, our kids would pick pizza over black beans, but they don’t plan the meals, pay for groceries, cook, or clean up. When they are old enough to do all those things, I hope we have already provided them with a healthy education and they can make their own decisions.

Prepping for post Christmas Detox

As I emerged from a mostly restful night, I must have been anticipating a weekend full of excess. My brain was already prepping me for “detox” next week. I must be expecting to chow down on un-Godly amounts of Christmas cookies, candy, and more than a glass of wine (or 4). I was two sips into my morning cup of coffee when I found myself on the website of a holistic nutritionist, Meghan Telpner. I found her post (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/meghan-telpner/healthy-detox_b_1129846.html?ref=food&ir=Food). The recipe sounds amazing, but equally as interesting, her blog: http://meghantelpnerblog.com/. I am not sure that I will be purchasing any of her books just yet, but I am always interested on incorporating more veggies to my family’s diet.

Before I log off for a few days, I want to wish everyone a happy and healthy holiday weekend. Merry Christmas! Go easy on the cookies and cocktails! Be safe!

Talk to you next week. I will be back to report on our first meat free Christmas. Let you know who was naughty or nice, who complained about the addition to tofu in the spinach dip, and who ended up face down in the snow (let’s hope it’s not me and my 4 glasses of wine!).

Take care and cheers!

Test drive

The mostly vegetarian family just finished dinner. I felt that I needed to report the verdict on Trader Joe’s Meatless Meatballs. I test drove them in a skillet of homemade spaghetti sauce served over whole grain noodles. The kids didn’t complain, but they don’t know that they aren’t eating meat (that is another whole post in its self). The mostly veg husband said, “not too bad.” Personally, I think I could still try to master the homemade veggie meatball. I am not impressed with the $2.00 bag of “meat”balls from Trader Joe’s. They do look good though.

The texture was ok. They were very bland. The directions say that they should sit in sauce for 10 minutes. I believe they would have fallen apart if they sat in the sauce any longer. This is the same problem that I keep having with the homemade ones. The ingredients include TVP and wheat gluten. I have yet to try the combination at home. And, I can’t fathom spending even a few dollars on a sodium filled store-bought meatball.  I am going to keep experimenting and see what I come up with. I am not trying to create a true replacement for a good MEATball, but I am still on the hunt for a meatless ball that can hold up to a killer sauce.

Has anyone had any luck trying to create a meatless meatball? I am not against throwing an egg in the mix…….if not; I can always go back to various versions of my killer sauce (beans, zucchini, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, roasted peppers, leftover roast veggies, etc.)

Reindeer food

This is a fun idea that I have seen posted all of the internet lately. Ok, this isn’t for people, but the kids get a kick out of it. Reindeer food! Cute idea huh? I made a bunch of these for the oldest mostly vegetarian kid’s kindergarten class. They are fairly inexpensive to make and don’t fill the kids full of sugar.

They turned out pretty cute too! I found place setting cards on clearance at Michael’s craft store. They also had the little baggies there too. I just dropped a few tablespoons of the mixture into the baggies, folded them over and stapled the place card over it. Viola! Instant cuteness! I printed out the little saying on folder labels and stuck them on each one. The important part is probably the mix:

-rolled oats (I ran out and used instant too)

-a bunch of glitter (I used silver)

-and a few raisins for good measure

The idea is to have the kids sprinkle the mixture onto the lawn on Christmas Eve. The glitter is supposed to help the reindeer find their house first this year.

On a more important note- what have we been eating since I haven’t posted in a few days. One word- LEFTOVERS. I will often make double amounts of some dishes and freeze half. We have been living off of that for a few days. It is fairly fast and easy. Kale salad, burritos, leftover seitan pot roast, and spinach/ tofu/ artichoke heart lasagna. Tonight, we are having the last of the seitan on sandwiches. Kind of a make shift reuben/dinte moore sandwich. I made a little potato salad too.

The week before Christmas is always really busy in our house. We may be tapping into my frozen soup/ stew supply this week.

What’s on your menu this week? Cookies?