Monday, June 27, 2011

Orzo with Lemon and Capers, Italian Seasoned Green Beans

Tonight for supper we had Orzo Pasta with lemon and capers.  This is one of those really, really fast recipes that you can throw together in the morning or afternoon and let sit in the frig until you are ready to eat.  Very simple.  I put this recipe in the K.I.S.S. category (keep it simple stupid).  Don't mess with it, don't add a bunch of stuff.  Resist the urge to "spice it up" a bit.  Make it. Let it sit in the frig and meld a bit.  Eat it.  It's good.

Also, we had a couple pounds of fresh green beans, so I steamed those up and seasoned for a side.  Extremely quick and simple supper tonight served with fresh fruit.  The picture is a kid plate, so the servings are a bit small.  I went with a ginormous mountain of orzo and surrounded it with the beans.  Hope you test this one, it's worth giving it the ol' college try.

And if you need a suggestion as to what to do with that extra half a lemon, I recommend squeezing it into some ice and topping it off with some amaretto.  That's what I did, and it was mmm, mmm good.  I may have another...

1 box orzo pasta, cooked according to directions to al dente and cooled
1 1/2 lemons, zested and juiced
1 jar capers, drained
1 small bunch fresh parsley, chopped
3 green onions, chopped (white and green parts)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (don't be shy with these)

Toss all ingredients together and let sit in the frig for at least a couple hours.  Serve chilled.  The onions tend to over-power it a bit, so don't add too many.  I've left them out before and that was fine, too.

1 pound fresh green beans, steamed to crisp tender
1-2 T. olive oil
1 bunch fresh basil, chopped
1/2 t. dried oregano (or small amount fresh, chopped)
1 t. garlic powder
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Croutons or toasted bread crumbs to top

Toss all ingredients except croutons together well.  Serve with crumbled croutons on top.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Experimenting with Recipes--Your Feedback Needed

It's no secret around the elementary school that Eli's house is a great place for sleepovers.  We camp out in the yard, dance like fools until the wee hours of the morning, have water fights and (most importantly) Eli's mom makes the best homemade donuts in the whole world for breakfast.

Well, Eli's been begging for a sleepover and that means it's time to start thinking about a re-vamp on the donut recipe.  My original recipe is made with sour cream and eggs and It. Is. Awesome.  Really.  Kids I've only met once or twice before in my life have been known to hug me uncontrollably over those donuts.  One young boy even looked me straight in the eye with total seriousness and told me he really, truly loved me. 

So I'm debating over making the same donuts or trying something vegan.  Thus the ginormous mess in my kitchen right now.  I've printed off numerous recipes from numerous vegan sites trying to find something that is not "good enough," but that is worthy of the same reaction my non-vegan donuts get.

And, by golly, I think I've got it.  I ended up taking a couple different recipes and merging them together.  Then I changed the cooking method and ended up with a big platter of donut holes this morning that Gracie would NOT share with me.  Her exact quote was, "This plate is mine.  You can eat cereal." 

I am not going to share the recipe with you just yet.  I will make it again later this week (when we've scheduled a sleepover) and I will photograph the process for you.  It requires a little bit of work, so I want to be sure I've got the recipe just right before sending it off to cyber-land.

But today has me thinking.  What are some of your favorite foods you grew up eating and just can't live without?  I love experimenting with recipes and I'd like to take on a new challenge or two.  If there's something you'd like me to run through my test kitchen, let me know.  Of course, I'm sure I won't be able to replicate your grandmother's famous fried chicken or your dad's grilled ribeye steak, but give me a reasonable request and I'll see what I can do.  I'm willing to take on both vegan and gluten-free challenges.  I can't make any promises that it will end up the same, but hopefully I can find a healthier version of your favorites that satisfies your cravings. 

I look forward to hearing from you!!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Acorn Squash (vegan and GF)

I wouldn't normally run the oven for an hour on a June night since it heats up the house so much.  But the weather has been dreary and cold, and it seemed like a good warm-you-up kind of meal. I have a picture of the squash before it's filled and baked, and another one after it was devoured by a hungry, athletic kid.  Sorry I don't have a finished product picture for you.  These are hearty enough to be a main dish, and sweet enough that even my 3-year-old likes to eat these "pretty, flowery" squash.

Our menu tonight was Baked Acorn Squash and a simple spinach salad with tomatoes and croutons.  (My son made the salad and was very proud.  He's getting to be quite the little chef.)


For each ONE acorn squash, use:
1 T. Earth Balance or other vegan butter
2 T. Brown Sugar
1 T. Maple Syrup

Preheat oven to 400°F.
Cut the acorn squash in half using a large, sharp knife.  Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff in the center of each half. Score the insides of each half several times with a sharp knife. Place each half in a baking pan, cut side up.  You may need to cut a small slice off the bottoms to make it stand upright. Add about a 1/4 inch of water to the bottom of the baking pan so that the skins don't burn and the squash doesn't get dried out.

Coat the inside of each half with about half a tablespoon of vegan butter, and salt each squash.  Put brown sugar and maple syrup into the cavity of each half.  Bake in the oven for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, until the squash is very soft and the tops are browned. Do not undercook. When finished, remove from oven and let cool a little before serving. Spoon any buttery sugar sauce that has not already been absorbed by the squash over the exposed areas. Serve in the shell.

Pasta Pomodoro

Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato.  I love tomatoes, and so does my family.  I remember a time when my son was spending the afternoon at a friend's house and they were all working in the garden.  She said that he just picked the biggest beefsteak tomato and sat in the dirt eating it like an apple.  My daughter has been known to finish off an entire plant of cherry tomatoes in one sitting.  We love tomatoes.  We could be the pomodoro family.  (Maybe not, that sounds a little mob-ish.)

We also love all the fresh herbs that are starting to sprout this time of year.  So we went light and fresh for lunch today, and it was a big hit with all the daycare kids and my hubby.  They ate a mountain of it! This is a very quick recipe to make.  It took longer to bring the water up to a boil than to cook the whole meal.  We served ours with garlic bread (made by the girls), pears and carrots with dip.  It was a good lunch!

Keep in mind that this is one of those recipes where fresh ingredients are required--no canned tomatoes or dried herbs.  You could substitute other fresh tomatoes of your choice.   If you don't have fresh basil, try buying the Gourmet Garden herbs.  They are fresh chopped and in a little tube, usually found near the fresh herbs or with the organics.  You just squeeze out what you want and you don't need to worry about fresh herbs wilting and going to waste.  Most importantly, be careful not to overcook your tomatoes and basil in this recipe.  Keep it fresh and bright.  (Some restaurants actually serve the pomodoro sauce cold.  Your choice.)

I attempted to measure and write down how I cooked this.  But my cooking method is to just use what I have.  So I used some cherry tomatoes in with the Romas, and I used precisely "the rest" of my fresh basil. I think I would have added a touch more if I could.  I used about 1/2 t. of crushed red pepper since I was cooking for kids.  I would have added more for the family if this was a dinner meal.  So use seasoning to your taste. Feel free to use this recipe as a guide and make it your own. 


1 (16 ounce) package whole wheat angel hair pasta (or spaghetti or other pasta)
2-3 T. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. Roma (plum) tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 T. white cooking wine (you could use balsamic vinegar is you like)
1 (10.75 ounce) can low-sodium No-Chicken broth or vegetable
½ - 1 t. crushed red pepper (to taste)
½ - 1 t. freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
3 T. chopped fresh basil

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook about 1 minute less than directions call for, and drain. Keep in mind that it will cook a little more in the warm sauce.  If you keep your sauce cold, then cook your pasta to al dente according to the package directions.

Pour olive oil in a large deep skillet over high-heat. Saute garlic until soft.  Add in white wine and broth and cook about 4 minutes.  Stir in tomatoes, red pepper, black pepper, basil and cooked pasta, tossing thoroughly with sauce. Simmer for 1-2 more minutes.  You only want to heat the tomatoes and basil through, but you don’t want them to cook and wilt.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Corn and Black Bean Salad (A.K.A. Corn Salsa)

This dish is good as a salad or as a corn salsa for chips, tacos, fajitas, etc.  I take this to a lot of potlucks and always have requests for the recipe.  It is not spicy at all, just good and flavorful.  Kids like the sweetness from the corn.  I always make extra for lunch left-overs.


1 can   black beans, drained and rinsed
2          Roma tomatoes, cored and diced (or whatever tomato you have on hand)
1 c       fresh or frozen corn
1 T       olive oil
1-3       cloves garlic, finely chopped
¼ c   fresh oregano, or 2 T dried oregano
1 ½ t    ground cumin
2 T       red wine vinegar
½ t       salt
         green onion, chopped
¼ c       fresh parsley, or 1 T. dried parsley

Combine all ingredients and mix well.  Let sit 1 hour before serving. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Shredded Wheat Peanut Butter Bars

This recipe is from the side of a box of cereal. I used Post Shredded Wheat, Wheat 'n Bran.  It was great as is, but I thought it was a little sweet.  Maybe process the raisins and eliminate a some of the brown sugar next time.  The kids loved this one and I plan to make it in bulk for post-workout snacks.  Good proteins, good fiber/carbs, and really very yummy.  Took about 5 minutes total to make, too.  The only bad news is that I used the rest of the cereal, and Wheat 'n Bran with almond milk is my favorite.  I may send the boys to store to restock tonight!

Grab ‘n Go Peanut Butter Bars
From Post Shredded Wheat

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup honey (or you cold use maple syrup or agave nectar)
1/2 cup reduced fat peanut butter
3 cups
Post Shredded Wheat Original Spoon Size Cereal, coarsely crushed
3/4 cup raisins

Mix sugar, honey and peanut butter in large microwavable bowl. Microwave on High 1-1/2 to 2 minutes or until bubbly at edge; stir until well blended. Stir in cereal and raisins. Press firmly into 8-inch square pan sprayed with cooking spray. Cool. Cut into bars. Store in airtight container. Makes 16 servings, 1 bar each.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Nanette's Pasta Salad

I'm not a big fan of salad dressing, never have been.  I don't like to dip my carrots and celery sticks in ranch, and I don't like globs of dressing on my salads at restaurants.  I made up this pasta salad years ago to appease my need for a salad with flavor that isn't covered in dressing.  It's an original, and I hope you enjoy it.

This is an easy, throw-it-all-together recipe that we make all summer long.  I mix and match the ingredients sometimes, and sometimes I put in just about everything.  It makes a HUGE amount, and we tend to eat on it for a few days at a time.  But it never goes to waste because it's good and everyone likes to grab a bowl.

This pasta salad has about 2/3 veggies and 1/3 pasta.  So if you start with a whole box of pasta, that's a crapload of salad. (One box of pasta will make enough salad for about three days here, and that includes day care kids.)  It travels well since it has no milk products, so take it to church or family potlucks.  It's a whole meal in itself, but we serve ours up with some fresh fruit on the side.  We had fresh peaches tonight. 

This PASTA SALAD has only four major ingredients:

Whole-Wheat or Multi-Grain Pasta
Olive Oil
Dry Italian Dressing Mix

Cook the pasta according to directions and then run under cold water and/or refrigerate until cool. 

Let the dressing mix sit in the olive oil while you chop veggies.  For one whole box of pasta, I use two packets of seasoning and about 1/4 - 1/3 c. olive oil.  (Find the dressing mix usually on the top shelf above other salad dressings in your grocery store.)

Add whatever veggies you like.  I'll just make a list of what I've used in the past.  It's great for those days when you have too much of something out of the garden.  We like the "garbage" version that has a ton of different veggies, but you could make it specific to what you like or change it up a bit by mixing and matching veggies. 

Red, Green, Yellow and/or Orange Sweet Peppers
Green Onion and/or Red Onion
Frozen Peas
Cherry Tomatoes (or any tomato you like)
Garbanzo Beans
Red Beans
Sun-dried tomatoes
Zucchini and/or Yellow Squash
Peperoncinis (I just put mine on the side)

Let it chill through for an hour or two and then enjoy!

Feel free to experiment with it.  It's so easy, but it's one that I constantly get asked for the recipe.  It's so light and flavorful, and I always leave it chunky enough that you can pick out what you do or don't like.  Cheap, quick, easy, and makes a TON of food!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Vegan Ice Cream that really is So Delicious

(Side note:  I'm going back and re-title-ing my blogs to include the recipe titles for easier searching.)

Found this at Super Wal-Mart.  About $4 each, so a little pricey compared to some others.  But I honestly like it BETTER than most ice creams.  I would choose this over Baskin Robbins (which is my all-time fav).  Even if you are not vegan, I recommend this ice cream. 

I would really like to make some homemade coconut milk ice cream this summer.  Anyone have any good recipes?  Maybe I'll just see what I can pull out of my, ummm, thin air. 

I ♥ Summer!!!!!!!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Simple Supper (Boiled Red Potatoes, Steamed Green Beans, Marinated Cherry Tomatoes)

One thing I like about cooking vegan is how fast I can get 'er done. We were in a hurry tonight to go run some errands, so I threw together a few quick items and called it a meal.  Twenty minute dinner, and it was pretty good.  We had fresh fruit on the side, too.  Both my kids ate a ton, and there were no leftovers.  I got high-fives for such an awesome dinner! : )

BABY RED POTATOES--cut in half or quarters, boiled about 10 minutes (until fork tender), tossed with garlic, Earth Balance Butter, salt, pepper and parsley.

FRESH GREEN BEANS--steamed about 4 minutes in the microwave, tossed with a little Earth Balance Butter and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, salt.

MARINATED CHERRY TOMATOES--yellow and red tomatoes sliced in half, tossed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and basil.  (Served on the spinach we had left over from last night.)