Archive for vegetarian

Grill Unity Week: When a Veg Head shows up to MeatFest 2014

Ahhh, grilling season. You’ve taken the cover off the grill, cleaned up the grates, seasoned the meat and sent invites to your friends. But then…. a VEGETARIAN rsvps, and suddenly you’re panicking, trying to figure out whether it’s easier to just throw your grill into a ravine and pretend this was never happening than to make MeatFest 2014 amenable to a plant eater.

Look, most vegetarians are totally reasonable people who don’t expect you to reverse engineer your entire menu or else they’ll pull a Lisa Simpson at your barbeque.

So what, then, can be done to make a place for everyone at the picnic table? As a member of the No Meat Tribe myself, I offer a few general rules of thumb:

Don’t bother with Processed Industrifood Fake Meats. Just, no. Does that weirdly textured, grayish huck look appealing to you? Yeah, it doesn’t to me either.

Do get double duty from your vegetarian grilled dishes. No one likes cooking a different main dish for every person at a meal (see also: dinner with my 7-year-old and my carnivore husband). So try out grilled recipes that can be a main for the veg head and a side to someone’s burger (like my grilled stuffed Portobello mushrooms), or that can be easily adapted as a main for both (like the grilled tofu tacos from Love & Lemons, where you could easily swap some grilled meats in place of the tofu).

Grilled stuffed portobello mushrooms

When all else fails, go off-grill for a vegetarian entrée. I, personally, am not picky about my food being prepared on a meated-up grill. But if your guests are—or if you’re just running out of room next to the burgers and dawgs—just head into the kitchen to make something like vegetarian chili or a beans & rice combo that everyone can enjoy.

See? Nothing to panic about here; just a week’s worth of recipes that should help you achieve unity around the grill:

  • Grilled eggplant parmesan sandwich from Delish (here)in smaller sizes, these would be a good side or appetizer for everyone.
  • Grilled beet & hummus pitas from Naturally Ella (here)add some grilled meat into one batch to feed the carnivores
  • Grilled tofu tacos with avocado cream from Love & Lemons (here)
  • Grilled stuffed portobello mushrooms from Eating the Week (here)
  • Black bean and butternut squash chili from Epicurious (here)
  • Tandoori grilled broccoli cauliflower kebabs from Veggie Belly (here)make some skewers with chicken or other meat, and you’ve satisfied everyone!
  • Grilled corn salad with black beans & rice from Eating Well (here)


Eat With Your Eyes Week: Tahini gets dressed up

You’ve heard how we “eat with our eyes?” If not, then a quick tour of Pinterest – which is saturated with food porn – will support the idea that we love us some good-looking food. Why, then, is that my jumping off point for tahini, a plain beige paste with just about zero visual zing?

Quite possibly the worst photo I've taken of food.

Quite possibly the worst photo I’ve taken of food.

Well, tahini is sort of the plain white shirt of food. On its own, not much to look at. But it is can be dressed up and used in seemingly endless combinations that, when you catch a glance, are sure to whet the appetite.

Beet tahini salad

These roasted beets with orange-tahini dressing are what first caught my eye, thanks to the far-better photographs included in the original Roasted Root post. And then I found all sorts of other attractive tahini recipes, like a rainbow slaw with sweet tahini dressing, a Mediterranean-style pizza with minted tahini, and even chocolate tahini shortbread (hellooooo, gorgeous).

Lest I go too far down the road of objectification, let’s point out here that tahini is also beautiful on the inside – like, inside your body, where it delivers omega-3 and -6 fats, a reasonable amount of protein, and a good dose of copper and manganese. And it has an undeniably earthy smell and nut-like flavor that adds some depth and interest to a lot of vegetarian foods, in particular.

But if your food needs to pass your eyes before it gets anywhere near your mouth, go check out this week’s worth of recipes and the photos of good-looking tahini therein:

  • Roasted beets with orange-tahini dressing from The Roasted Root (here)
  • Rainbow slaw with sweet tahini dressing from Lunch Box Bunch (here)
  • Roasted butternut squash with tahini & bulgur from Foolproof Living (here)
  • Chickpea-stuffed eggplant with tahini sauce & couscous from Dishing up the Dirt (here)
  • Sweet potato veggie burgers from Love and Lemons (here)
  • Middle eastern pizza with minted tahini sauce & spelt crust from Just Eat Love (here)
  • Chocolate tahini shortbread bars from Spabettie (here)


Recipe ReDux: Stacking patties

March is well-known for its green-themed, leprechaun-y, gold & clovers holiday, so for this month’s Recipe ReDux I’m bringing you the luck o’ the Indians!

Wait, what?


Our task this month was to play off St. Patty’s with a healthy stackable patty recipe, but while we started in Ireland, I looked around on the other side of the globe for my stackspiration (wow, that’s bad, even for me). Garam masala – a spice mix originating from Northern India – is one of my all-time favorite flavorings, so I worked up a breakfast? lunch? recipe that combines it and curry powder with stacks of quinoa, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, and eggs.

How do those nutritional powerhouses stack up? Here’s the recipe so you can see/taste for yourself:

Curried quinoa, sweet potato, egg and spinach stacks

(6 servings)

2 cups cooked quinoa
2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
½ red onion, roughly chopped
2-3 cloves garlic
1-inch piece of fresh ginger
2 tsp garam masala
1.5 tsp curry powder

Stacking layers:
4 hard-boiled eggs
½ red onion, chopped
Olive oil for sauté

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all the patty ingredients – quinoa, sweet potatoes, onion, garlic, ginger, and spices – in a food processor, and process until the large pieces are well-chopped and combined.

Lightly oil a baking sheet, or spray it with cooking spray. Dust your hands with some flour, and form the processed mixture into 12 patties, each a little smaller than your palm. Those of you playing along at home will note I just un-gluten-freed this recipe; but if you want to avoid the flour, a little oil or water on your hands will help keep them from sticking, too.

Arrange the patties on the prepared baking sheet, and put them in the oven for 15-17 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the hardboiled eggs into slices. Heat some olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat, and sauté the spinach and remaining onion until just cooked.

When the patties are ready, carefully lift them off the baking sheet (sticky little buggers), then build each stack with a patty, egg slices, another patty, sautéed veggies and a few cashews on top. Grate some fresh black pepper over top, and then demolish that tower you just built.


If you want to play more patty-cake, my fellow Recipe ReDuxers have a bunch more recipes for you:

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No-Theme Week: Goat cheesy, roasted zucchini pasta can’t be penned in, man

Pasta with roasted zucchini, goat cheese and basil just doesn’t give a damn about weekly food themes.

Roasted zucchini & goat cheese pasta

It’s a standalone. It follows the beat of its own drummer. Could it be part of a Simple Veggie & Pasta Dishes post? Sure. A New Ways to Use Goat Cheese post? Yep. Is it going to play any of those games?


This pasta is just doing its own cheese-creamy, lemon-squeezy, roasted zucchini thing, thank you very much. And sure, you can rope it into a list of Things A Blogger Ate This Week, but it’s not even going to break stride for that.

So while the pasta keeps on keeping on, here’s the list of weekly hangers on just trying to get a nod from the main attraction:

  • Pasta with roasted zucchini, goat cheese and basil (recipe follows below)
  • Butternut squash & black bean enchiladas, from Wendy & Brian Tie the Knot (here)
  • Curried lentils and sweet potatoes, from Smitten Kitchen (here)
  • Mushroom & black bean tortilla casserole, from Martha Stewart (here)
  • Egg, avocado, tomato & basil breakfast salad, from Seasoned to Taste (here)

Pasta with roasted zucchini, goat cheese and basil

(2 servings, approx. 400 calories each)

2 servings bite-size pasta (like penne), dry – depends on the pasta, but usually 1.5 cups dry
1 zucchini
1 summer squash
½ Tbs olive oil
Pinch of salt
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
Juice of ½ lemon
4-6 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
Ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Quarter the zucchini & squash lengthwise, and cut into bite-size pieces. Toss with the olive oil and salt, pour into a foil-lined pan and roast for 25 minutes or until the edges jus start browning.

Roasted zucchini

Meanwhile, put a pot of water on high heat & cook the pasta per package instructions. When the pasta is done, reserve ½ cup of the water and drain the rest.

Return the pasta to the pot, and add the roasted vegetables, goat cheese and lemon juice. Stir to melt the cheese and add reserved pasta water as necessary to get the cheese well-distributed.

Divide the pasta between two bowls, and top each with the basil and some freshly ground black pepper.

Stir-Fry Week: Tempeh, mushroom & cabbage stirflunk

Stirflunk is the sound made by a recipe that didn’t quite cut it.


After a weekend of successful stir fries thanks to Kate Sherwood’s recipes in the most recent Nutrition Action newsletter, I decided to try my hand at it with tempeh. I love that protein-y, fermented brick of soy, but it tends to taste acrid if only quickly cooked.

So there was the dilemma, because quickly cooked is the crux of stir-frying. I thought instead I’d give the tempeh separate treatment in the slowcooker, where I could also make the rice. The veggies and sauce got the standard fast, hot, constantly-moving stir-fry treatment in the pan.

veggies cooking

When everything came together in the bowl, though, it wasn’t quite as rich-tasting as I’d hoped, although the tempeh did mellow out considerably. It wasn’t sad-trombone bad; it was a mild stirflunk.


So I’m a little hesitant to share this, but since I did end up eating this for several meals, maybe I’m being a little hard on it. Give it a try and let me know how it tastes (and sounds):

Tempeh mushroom stir fry

(4 servings, approx. 410 calories each)

1 cup short grain brown rice, uncooked
3.5 cups water
1 package tempeh, cubed (or rectangled, if that’s a thing)
2 + 1 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs rice wine vinegar
2 tsp molasses
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbs dry sherry
1 + 1 Tbs peanut or canola oil
2-3 cups mushrooms, diced
4 cups finely cut red cabbage
6 scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces

Add the rice, water, tempeh, 2 Tbs soy sauce, vinegar and molasses to a slowcooker. Cook on high for 3-3.5 hours, stirring occasionally.

Combine garlic, sherry and 1 Tbs soy sauce in a small bowl.

Heat 1 Tbs of oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic/sherry/soy sauce to the pan along with cabbage and scallions. Cook, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes. Remove contents from the pan.

Heat another 1 Tbs of oil over medium-high heat. Add the cooked rice and tempeh; stir fry for 1-2 minutes. Combine with the veggies to mix and heat everything through. Remove from heat and serve in 4 bowls.

If that recipe also lands with a thud in your kitchen, here’s a week’s worth of stir-fry recipes to make up for it:

  • Coconut curried pork, snow pea & mango stir-fry from Cooking Light (here)
  • Mushroom, pepper & basil stir fry from The Simple Veganista (here)
  • Bay scallop stirfry from Martha Stewart (here)
  • Ginger coconut peanut tofu & veggie stirfry from Lunch Box Bunch (here)
  • Cantonese-style shrimp and cabbage from Cooking Light (here)
  • Three-pea, cashew & tofu stir fry from Eating Well (here)

Recipe ReDux: Chipotles are red, corn can be blue, slowcooker cornbread is ready for you

The Recipe ReDux crew are taking advantage of fall(ing) temperatures to break out the slowcookers. We were charged with steering clear of the casserole zone, and to instead use the low & slow treatment roast a chicken, bake bread, make homemade yogurt or for other creative dishes.


I’d seen several recipes for avocado cornbread recently and thought, what a great way to add fiber and healthy fats, followed immediately by whoa, you need how much oil and butter? So in Recipe ReDux fashion, I took the added fats down a notch, and spiced things up with chipotle peppers to make a loaf of chipotle avocado cornbread in the slowcooker.


On a whim, I used blue cornmeal, which seems to taste the same but gives the cornbread an added color dimension along with the peppers’ red, corn kernels’ yellow, and the green from bits of not-fully-mashed avocado. In my original attempt, I only used 1 chipotle pepper and it wasn’t enough kick for my liking, so I’ve suggested 2 in the following recipe:

Chipotle avocado cornbread in a slowcooker

(8 servings, approx. 225 calories each)

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup cornmeal
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 Tbs butter, melted
1 avocado, diced
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, diced
½ cup frozen corn kernels

Mix the flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Whisk the egg into the milk in a separate bowl.

Add the melted butter to the avocado in yet another bowl, and mash them together until creamy (but leave some of the avocado a little chunky).

Add the milk/egg and butter/avocado mixes to the dry mix in the large bowl, and mix until the batter is well combined. Fold in the chipotle peppers and corn.


Line a slowcooker with parchment paper (or grease the sides), and pour the batter in. Cook for ~3 hours on high. Lift the parchment paper out to remove the cornbread; slice into 8 wedges and enjoy!

But don’t stop there – my fellow ReDuxers came up with another ~60 recipes to keep your slowcooker busy! Just follow the links below:

Recipe ReDux: A Trend in Every Pot – BBQ tempeh slowcooker chili

Slow-aged meat, raw winter vegetables, barrel-aged hot sauce and artisanal soft serve – the recipe for the weirdest sundae ever? Thankfully, no. These are some of the food trends the New York Times predicted will change up our plates in 2013 (but ideally not all combined together).

For January’s Recipe ReDux, the group was asked to jump on a new-year food trend with an original dish prepared in a single pot, slowcooker, etc. So I skimmed the (meat heavy, foodie-focused) list and found one a nutrition nerd could get behind: fermented foods.

We’ve tackled these in a previous ReDux, where I made pickled-jalapeno-topped sweet potatoes with egg. The trend seems to be gaining steam, fueled by the gut-health benefits of consuming “friendly” microbes.

This time, I’m promoting some probiotics in the new year with tempeh, or fermented soy bean. According to Wikipedia, this firm-textured, whole-bean food originates from Indonesia. The fermentation process binds the beans together and gives it an earthy, nutty flavor that is much heartier than that better-known soybean product, tofu. To play off tempeh’s “meatier” texture, I combined it with butternut squash and some BBQ flavor to make a quick and simple slowcooker chili.

The sweetness of molasses, brown sugar and bell peppers rounds out the tang of the fire-roasted tomatoes and tempeh, while the squash lends a nice hearty chunkiness. Sweeten things up for your GI flora with this easy-to-assemble recipe:

BBQ tempeh and butternut squash chili

4 servings, approx. 315 calories each

1 package tempeh, cubed

1 red onion, chopped

2 red, orange or yellow bell peppers, seeded and chopped

1 1/12 cups butternut squash (about1 lb), peeled, seeded and diced

2 14.5-ounce cans fire-roasted tomatoes

3 Tbs brown sugar

2 Tbs molasses

3-4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 ½ tsp paprika

½ tsp chili powder

2 ½ Tbs apple cider vinegar

1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce

3 Tbs ketchup

1 cup water

Combine everything in a slowcooker and cook on high for 4 hours, or low for 6-8 hours. Add small increments of water as necessary to achieve your desired consistency.

Ready to take on some new trends in the new year? Check out the links to more recipes from my fellow ReDuxers:

Re-Chewing Week: Curried lentil shepherd’s pie

The Chew recently asked Cooking Light Blogger’s Connection members to take on a holiday challenge:

“Select one of the tasty recipes or cute craft ideas from The Chew, and make it your own by adding 1-3 different changes to the process.”

We had Edible Ornaments, Chocolate Pumpkin Pie, Holiday Apple Brown Betty and more to choose from, but my eye was drawn to Christine’s Shepherd’s Pie. Simple, hearty and tasty, shepherd’s pie has only one drawback from my perspective: the meat. So I decided to tweak the original recipe to make it vegetarian-friendly, and came up with curried lentil shepherd’s pie.

It only took a few simple alterations: 1) de-meat the recipe by swapping in lentils and taking out beef, beef broth and Worcestershire sauce; 2) spice things up with curry and garam masala; and 3) top the whole thing off with sweet potatoes for some added flavor and color.

The result is a sweet-and-savory dish that will welcome vegetarians to your holiday table (or at any time of year a warm hearty meal is in order!).

Curried lentil shepherd’s pie

Adapted from Christine’s Shepherd Pie recipe on The Chew

(6 servings, approx. 340 calories each)

1 cup dry black lentils
4 cups water
1 tsp curry powder
3 medium sweet potatoes
3 Tbs butter, divided
1 ½ tsp garam masala
1 red onion, chopped
½ pound sliced mushrooms
1 bag frozen peas and carrots
Salt, pepper and garlic powder, to taste

Preheat oven to 400F degrees.

Cook the lentils: Combine the lentils, water and curry powder in a pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 20-22 minutes. Drain water and set aside.

Cook and mash the sweet potato: Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into 1-2 inch chunks. Boil in salted water for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain the water, then combine potatoes, 2 Tbs butter and garam masala in a large bowl. Mash until smooth.

Sauté the vegetables: Heat 1 Tbs butter in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the onion and mushrooms, and cook for 8-10 minutes. Add the bag of peas and carrots and cook until defrosted. Add salt, pepper and garlic powder, to taste.

Put it all together: In a large baking dish, combine the lentils and cooked vegetables. Smooth the mashed sweet potatoes over the top, then rough up the surface with a fork. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. If you want a nice browned top, finish under the broiler for 1-2 minutes.

Multi-Layered Week: Pepper Jack and veggie strata

I recently submitted a short piece to be included in an upcoming cookbook, waxing poetic about our new-ish tradition of hosting New Year’s Day brunch that centers around soft, sometimes savory, often sweet stratas.

Sure, the brunch menu always include scones and fruit salad, coffee and juice, but everyone’s really there for the strata (our friend Annie, for example, has moved over the years from “Soooo, what are you making?” to “Seriously, make the strata.”). I’m all too happy to oblige, because they are a cinch to serve at brunch – I pop it into the oven before my traditional New Year’s Day run, and a few miles and a shower later, my family and our friends are gathered around the good stuff.

When the folks at Cabot sent me their reduced fat cheeses to show off their recent package re-design, it was a no-brainer to use the pepper Jack in a vegetable strata I knew would bring people running (in my case, literally). The cheese gives it just enough kick to keep things interesting alongside the sweet bell peppers, tomatoes and savory mushrooms.

Photo courtesy of Cabot Coop

The recipe for my pepper Jack and veggie strata follows below, and if you want to round out the week with stratas every morning, here are six more recipes I found around Teh Internets. Where some of these (the Martha Stewart and Oprah recipes, for example) use whole milk and a bazillion whole eggs, you can save a few calories by using lower fat dairy and using roughly 1.5 egg whites instead of each whole egg:

  • Pear gruyere cinnamon swirl strata from Cooking Light (here)
  • Savory bread pudding with kale and mushrooms from New York Times (here)
  • Tomato spinach dinner strata from Eating Well (here)
  • Portabello asparagus goat cheese strata from Whole Foods Recipes (here)
  • Sausage and swiss chard strata from Martha Stewart (here)
  • Raspberry goat cheese strata from Oprah (here)

Pepper Jack and veggie strata

I don’t actually measure how much bread goes into this, but it’s probably about 5 cups of bread cubes.

(8 servings, approx. 270 calories each)

½ Tbs olive oil
1 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bell peppers, chopped
4-5 oz sliced mushrooms (~1/2 a box from the grocery store)
1 ½ cups shredded reduced-fat Pepper Jack cheese like Cabot Pepper Jack Light
1 baguette, roughly cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 ½ cups 1% milk
5 egg whites and 4 whole eggs
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp chili powder
½ tsp dried oregano
¼-1/2  tsp ground black pepper
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
Salsa to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Once it gets shimmery, add the onion and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the bell pepper and mushrooms, and cook for another 4-5 minutes or until the mushrooms have released most of their water. Remove the pan from heat.

Spray the inside of an 8×11-ish casserole dish with cooking spray. Inside the dish, layer ½ of the bread cubes, ½ of the vegetable mixture, and ½ of the shredded cheese. Follow that with a layer of the remaining bread cubes and then the remaining vegetable mixture. Arrange the tomato slices to cover the top, and then layer on the remaining cheese.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the milk, egg whites, whole eggs, cumin, chili powder, oregano and black pepper. Whisk together and pour over the contents of the baking dish. Press down gently on the top with a spatula, to compress the layers and allow the liquid to soak into all the ingredients.

Cover with foil and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes but ideally overnight in the fridge.

When ready to bake, heat the oven to 350. Bake the strata at 350 with the foil on for 25 minutes; then remove the foil and continue baking for another 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Slice into 8 pieces and serve with salsa of your choice!

Recipe ReDux: Orange you glad it’s fall?

Do you know any nutrition nerds, in particular the card-carrying expert kinds called RDs? When I was doing some informational interviews, trying to decide if I was interested in the profession, I asked one RD how she would characterize the people working in dietetics. Her answer (“We’re all very… organized.”) was an understatement – what she meant is that dietetics is full of whip-smart, ambitious, detail-oriented over achievers.

Since I’m not yet an RD but play one on TV, I followed in those type A footprints for this month’s Recipe ReDux. We were tasked with creating recipes that feature fall’s plentiful, orange-hued, carotenoid-rich foods like pumpkin, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes and golden beets.

Butternut squash came right to mind – I love these tasty, versatile gourds, which have something like a billion percent (slightly less) of your vitamin A needs, and a nice chunk of vitamin C, potassium, manganese and more. But why stop a just one orange ingredient, or even two? So I backed those squash and stuffed them full of dried apricots, carrots and lot of other goodies.

The result is a baked stuffed squash with cinnamon-infused barley, tart apricots and cranberries, healthy little legumes and a sweet-tart dressing.

I angled for some extra credit with this triple-orange dish, and if you want to boost your kitchen grades too, have a go at the recipe:

Roasted butternut squash stuffed with cinnamon-infused barley, apricots & carrots

2 servings, approx. 500 calories each

1 cup pearled barley

3 cups water

1 cinnamon stick

1 butternut squash

1 carrot, peeled and diced into very small pieces

1/3 cup dried apricots

¼ cup dried cranberries

¼ cup sliced almonds

½ cup chickpeas

1 Tbs apple cider vinegar

½ Tbs olive oil

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp maple syrup

1/8 tsp nutmeg

Grated cinnamon to taste

Bring barley, cinnamon stick and water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 45-50 minutes (until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the top off the squash near the stem, then cut it in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and membranes, and use a paring knife, melon baller, or whatever other kitchen wizardry you’ve got going on to make a good-sized “bowl” from each half.

Put the squash cut side down in a large baking dish with ½-1 inch of water, and bake for 30-40 minutes (more for larger, thicker squash).

While the squash is baking, mix ½ cup of the cooked barley, apricots, cranberries, almonds and chickpeas in a mixing bowl. In a small bowl, combine the apple cider vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, maple syrup and nutmeg. Pour the dressing over the barley mixture and toss to coat.

When the squash has finished baking, remove the pan from the oven and turn the heat down to 375 F. Carefully remove the squash from the pan. Empty the water from the pan, line the bottom with foil and spray with cooking spray.

Put the squash back in, cut sides up, and spoon half the barley mixture into each half. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon, return the squash to the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes. Remove, let cool for 5 minutes or so, and serve.

I’m not the only one orange-minded over-achiever, so check out the links to recipes from my fellow ReDuxers: