Friday, March 21, 2014

Recipe ReDux: Portobello Mushroom Burgers

This past week was finals week for me, and the week before was everything-is-due week, so needless to say, I’ve been a little short on time recently. I’ve learned that I need to meal plan like crazy to avoid spending massive amounts of money each week on what ends up being wholly unsatisfying food. As a result, I’ve been focusing on quick and easy recipes that can be thrown together in minutes (hello peanut butter sandwiches!) and massive casseroles that can feed me for several meals (I made a banging shepherd's pie for a pie-themed Pi Day dinner and ate the leftovers for 4 whole meals!).

The point is, I’ve been trying to keep things simple lately. Simple, wholesome, easy, and stress-free. So when I heard that the Recipe ReDux’s theme this month was “A Play on Patties" I knew that I would be cooking up my favorite burger substitute - portobello mushrooms!

These “burgers” require minimal prep. In the morning, I pour my marinade ingredients into a plastic bag, add the mushroom caps, swish everything around, and stick it in my fridge until I come home for dinner. Easy peasy, right?. The mushrooms need a quick trip to the grill, grill pan, or if you somehow find yourself with neither of these (like me), as cast iron skillet will do the trick.

A few minutes on each side, a few slices of red onion thrown in the pan, a bit of tomato, and a bun are all you need to put together a juicy, delicious, satisfying sandwich. I like to add avocado to mine because, um, it’s avocado. I also put in some arugula for a little bite. A little fresh mozzarella would also be a lovely addition. I assemble the rest of the sandwich while the mushrooms and onions are in the pan and suddenly I have a great dinner ready in just a few minutes.

What I love about using mushrooms here is that it keeps the ingredients whole and simple and really celebrates the vegetables you use. I’ve made veggie burgers in the past, and they’re great, but they require more time, more effort, more tweaking. This recipe is perfect for someone with minimal prep time available.

What’s your favorite patty?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Spinach Salad with Tomatoes, Avocado, and Hearts of Palm

Last month I shared my favorite salad dressing. Today I have a favorite salad for it to go on! This salad is full of things I pretty much always have on hand (avocados, tomatoes, leafy things), and it totally follows my three rules of salad making. It’s light, refreshing, and full of some of my favorite things! I make this salad, or a variation of it, at least every other week. It never gets old!

Like my go-to vinaigrette, this salad is simple and delicious, but it also provides an excellent base if you want to beef it up. Add some cannellini beans for extra protein to make it a meal, or add sliced almonds or sunflower seeds for a little more crunch. I used spinach leaves this time around because that’s what I had on hand, but I usually use arugula (my fave). You could even use some massaged kale and it would still be delicious!

What’s your go-to salad?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Recipe ReDux: Mulled Wine

“Ooooh, we should make mulled wine!”
“Mold wine?!”
“No, mulled wine!”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had this exact conversation.  It’s usually followed by me trying to explain the beauty that is hot wine.  Apparently it’s not so mainstream yet.  But as soon as I heard that this month's Recipe ReDux theme was "Beverages Are Hot," I knew that this was what I was going to make.

I was first introduced to mulled wine when I was 19 and travelling around the world.  About this time of year, the group I was with was in Prague where there was definitely still a chilly bite to the air.  One night a few friends and I decided to get dessert.  I noticed that the drink menu at the restaurant included hot, spiced wine and I just knew I had to try it.  It was deliciously warm with hints of cinnamon, citrus, and nutmeg.  I was instantly in love.  Lucky for me, I soon realized that all those stands on the street weren’t selling Styrofoam cups of coffee; they were actually selling cups of hot wine!  Needless to say, I spent the rest of that trip sipping on mulled wine and feeling much warmer as a result.

Since then I’ve ventured into making it myself.  I’ve decided that simpler is better, and I tend to keep my mulled wine spices to just cloves and cinnamon.  I also like to add a little citrus, and this time around I just happened to have some blood oranges in the fridge.  One of my friends mentioned that just a dash of gin at the end makes for an exceptional cup of mulled wine, and I have to say, I completely agree.  And, of course, I keep the sweetener down to a minimum.  The truth is, I like my regular wine dry and red, and I see no reason to have mulled wine any other way, so I tend to add just a little squeeze of honey into my mug.

Next time you find yourself snowed in or watching a cold rainy day go by, you should try making some hot, mulled wine.  If you’re a wine fan, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Balsamic Dijon Vinaigrette

I’ve gained a bit of a reputation among my friends.  I’m known for my salads.  I know, it sounds soooooo cliche: the vegetarian always brings salad to potluck meals.  The truth is, I’m always happy to make a salad that people enjoy and remember because I think it’s important to cultivate a good relationship with your vegetables.  Also, I secretly love showing people that salad can be so more than bland rabbit food.

I have a few rules about salad. First, if I’m making a leafy salad, I almost always, with very few exceptions, use dark leaves. I tend to opt for spring mix, baby spinach, arugula, or kale over iceberg or romain lettuce. I happen to like the flavors of these darker leaves much more, and they provide more nutrients than their more anemic-looking counterparts.

Second, 95% of my salads involve avocado. You simply cannot go wrong with avocado. I once (ok, fine, it was twice) dated a guy who didn’t like avocado and I honestly didn’t know how to deal with it. Avocado belongs in everything. Period.

Third, it’s all about the dressing. I honestly cannot remember the last time I bought a bottle of salad dressing. I much prefer to make it myself. I tend to like my dressings more acidic, which pairs very nicely with the copious amounts of creamy avocado I usually put in my salads. It also means that I tend to use a 1:1 oil to vinegar ratio, as opposed to the commonly used 1:2. My signature salad dressing is a balsamic vinegar and dijon mustard combo. Add a little olive oil, a touch of garlic powder, and a drop of honey and you have the perfect salad dressing. It goes with pretty much everything, and the flavor is strong enough that you don’t need much dressing. Plus, with just a little variation, it makes a great marinade.

What’s your favorite way to dress a salad?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Recipe ReDux: Sweet Potato, Mushroom, and Kale Pizza

Mmmmm, pizza.  Who doesn’t love a good pizza?  When I heard that this month’s Recipe ReDux was pizza, I might have flipped out a little bit.  It was the most exciting announcement of the year!  When I started to plan what kind of pizza to make, I decided to make it all about the colors and the big flavors.

This pizza is not a throw-it-together-in-a-minute kind of pizza.  It most definitely should not be started at 10 pm (not that I did that or anything…).  This pizza takes its time to come together, but it is totally worth it in the end.  The sweet and savory mix of the sweet potato “sauce” is balanced by the earthy mushrooms and caramelized onions.  And since my life involves sprinkling a bit of kale over everything, I added some of that in, too.  All the components can be prepared a day or two before, and then thrown together at the last minute to produce a beautiful pizza.

What’s your favorite pizza?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Creamy Tomato Pasta

I know, I know. It’s the New Year. We’re all about losing weight and healthy eating now, right?’s freezing outside. I mean, there was a polar vortex going on this week! Basically, instead of hitting the gym and drinking juice, I really just want to curl up with a big bowl of comfort food. There is just something about the chilly weather that makes me crave a large bowl of mac and cheese or fettuccini alfredo. I’m such a sucker for creamy, cheesy pasta dishes.

This is sort of an alfredo sauce. Except not really. But it is creamy and dreamy, and full of the amazing flavors of sun dried tomatoes. Oh, and basil. Because I bought too much basil and then didn’t use it for a brunch I hosted. But that’s another story. The point is, sun dried tomatoes and basil make for a heavenly combination. Add a few red pepper flakes for a kick and it's perfect.  And, because it’s me, this isn’t actually all that unhealthy. It just tastes like it. You’re welcome.

We’ll have salad next week, ok? Or up you can bulk this dish up by throwing in some roasted broccoli or mushrooms. For now, I just want to be toasty warm, in my pajamas, in front of a fireplace (my space heater will do), eating something I probably shouldn’t. Is that really too much to ask for?

What do you crave in this cold weather?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Hazelnut Pumpkin Bread

I received free samples from Cumberland Packing Corp., maker of Monk Fruit In The Raw. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Cumberland Packing Corp. and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

On a particularly dreary and rainy day last week, I decided to treat myself to a day of cooking and baking (yes, this is what I consider a treat).  I was planning on making banana bread because what could possibly make a rainy morning better than freshly baked banana bread and a hot cup of coffee?  Somehow, I managed to not have any bananas (whaaaaaaat?!?!).  But I did have pumpkin puree.  So much pumpkin puree.  So instead, I opted for pumpkin bread.

Let me just take a moment here to discuss pumpkin with you.  I love all things pumpkin.  Pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin muffins – if it has pumpkin in it, I am a happy girl.  I eat pumpkin things all year round.  I stock up on cans of pumpkin puree every fall and pray that they will last me through the spring and summer until the next September when they finally appear on the shelves again.  I just can’t get enough pumpkin.

Pumpkin bread happens to be one of my favorites, but I’d never actually made it before, so this was an experiment to begin with.  Then I decided to use my sample of Monk Fruit in the Raw for a Recipe ReDux contest.  Monk Fruit in the Raw is a no calorie sweetener made from monk fruit, which is a fruit that is (weirdly) naturally calorie free.  I probably should have used it on a recipe I was already used to, but I ignored the basic rules of good baking and went on with the experiment.  The result was a pumpkin bread full of spices and crunch and lower in calories, but it’s also totally delicious