Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Veggie on the run

Sometimes you simply need a quick and easy dinner. Other times you're dreaming that dinner will practically prepare itself as soon as you step foot in the door. Here's your solution:

My cousin clued me in to Morningstar Farms Spicy Black Bean Burgers, and now I almost always have a box of them in my freezer. I also usually have a package of tortillas in my fridge. What does that mean? Instant meal! The burgers cook in the microwave in about 1 minute and 30 seconds. All you have to do after that is chop it up. Use whatever toppings you have available - tonight I added avocado, shredded cheese and a little bit of picante sauce - roll it all up in the tortilla and there's your dinner! I also love bringing this to work because it's a super easy and quick lunch.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Lazy Girl Dinner

Tonight's Lazy Girl Dinner - asparagus, crab fries and Morningstar Farms "chicken."

Still enjoying the vegetarian lifestyle (I don't like calling it a "diet" - I'm not on a diet). NOT enjoying this "chicken." I've tried to eat it twice since I bought it, but it's really gross. The texture is not pleasing, I don't have good luck with getting it to cook well, and the taste is less than tasty. The ground "beef" on the other hand (I used it in my tacos - pictured in an entry from a couple months ago) is fantastic...and that comes from a person who doesn't like/eat beef. Oh, the irony.

Crab fries. What are these you ask? The are a mid-Atlantic, East Coast staple. French fries seasoned with Old Bay. What could be better?! They are famous at Chickie & Pete's in Philly, but when I want them for dinner, I make them myself with crinkle fries.

How does everyone else cook asparagus? I put it in a glass dish with a little water, cover with wax paper and steam in the microwave. I can't think that I've had it any other way. I know some people grill it. Thoughts on your preference? I haven't had asparagus since Thanksgiving, but bought two bunches at the Italian Market last weekend and have been trying to use it up.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The smoothest smoothie

I love fresh avocados - they have a smooth texture, a fresh taste and can be added to a lot of dishes: top a pizza, stuff in a pita with falafel, add to a salad or make a smoothie. Last weekend I tried a banana avocado smoothie. This week I added a little something extra.

What you need:

  • 1/2 a large banana
  • 1/2 an avocado
  • a few spoonfuls of yogurt (I use Stoneyfield Farms organic fat free French vanilla)
  • 2 or 3 ripe strawberries
What you do:
  • Peel and slice the banana and avocado
  • Wash and slice the strawberries
  • Add to a hand/stick blender cup or blender pitcher
  • Blend, pour into a glass and enjoy!
This makes enough to fill one small drinking glass, which is a good for one person's large breakfast portion. The end result isn't the most vibrant smoothie color, but it is delicious!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Cheesy Cream of Broccoli Soup

This had become one of my favorite soups and is probably one of the easiest and quickest to prepare. It's hard to believe now, but at one point I never even wanted to try cream of broccoli soup. My mom used to make it all the time, and it wasn't until late in college that I started eating it and making it for myself. This recipe is tried and true, from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. I've made a few slight modifications to adapt it to my taste, and that is the version of the recipe that I am posting here. Enjoy, and feel free to make your own changes!

What you need:
  • 1.5 cups fat free half-and-half
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup vegetable broth (you can also you chicken if you prefer)
  • 1 bunch of fresh broccoli (should be 3 stalks with decent sized crowns. If you need measurements for frozen broccoli, use 4 cups)
  • Bag of shredded Colby-Jack cheese
What you do:
  • Cut broccoli florets from stalks and wash; steam in a covered pot.
  • Use a food processor or hand/stem blender to finely chop the broccoli. Add a little bit of the vegetable broth if needed. If you'd like larger pieces in your soup, you can set aside a portion that does not get blended.
  • In the same pot you used to steam the broccoli, melt the butter and stir in the flour. Add all of the half-and-half and stir until bubbling and slightly thickened. Continue to cook and stir for one more minute.
  • Add the broccoli and vegetable broth and stir until broccoli has been thoroughly heated.
  • Once entire soup mixture is heated, add desired amount of shredded cheese. When it comes to cheese, I always think more is better!
  • Serve bowls of soup with a little additional shredded cheese sprinkled on top.

Smells like summer

In my mind, one version of summer smells like fresh basil. This is for sunny days with a little bit of a breeze - the ones when the sunlight is brighter than all the lights in your house could ever be. Basil has such a fresh, clean smell which is why I probably associate it with sunlight and fresh air coming in through open windows. To compliment the day, I made this light afternoon snack. The weather in Philly has been iffy for the past couple of days, leaving me with an incredible headache I can't kick. With that said, I haven't had much of an appetite today, so a little before 5 p.m., this Caprese Salad is my first meal of the day...

What you need:
  • Vine-ripened tomatoes (bonus points if they're from your garden this summer!)
  • Balls of fresh mozzarella
  • Fresh basil (bonus points again if they come from your herb garden)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
What you do:
  • Wash and slice the tomatoes into desired thickness (I used one tomato - 4 full slices)
  • Slice fresh mozz into desired thickness - one slice of mozz per tomato slice
  • Rinse the basil leaves and mince. If you want extra flavor, you can bruise the leaves with the back of a spoon before mincing.
  • Drizzle with EVOO
  • Enjoy and be refreshed!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Eggplant not-quite Parmesan

A couple summers ago, I ate my first eggplant. My friend picked it out of his garden and prepared it with other fresh veggies and quinoa. Since then, I have tried making eggplant a few different ways. I made a great eggplant parmesan last winter, only to discover that I don't like breading - must be a leftover bad taste from when I was a kid and my mom would make her homemade, healthier version of chicken nuggets. So here is my latest attempt - a super simplified version of eggplant parmesan.

What you need:
  • Eggplant
  • Salt
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • Tomato sauce - I buy organic sauce and add garlic and onions that I sautee in EVOO
  • Block of mozzarella cheese (or bag of pre-shredded to save time)
  • Glass baking dish
What you do:
  • Slice eggplant (width-wise to make circles) and sprinkle lightly with salt; let sit for 30 minutes (this takes away the bitterness eggplant can have).
  • When the eggplant has "sweat," rinse off the slices.
  • Lightly cover the bottom of your glass baking dish with sauce
  • Place your eggplant slices on the sauce and drizzle/lightly rub with EVOO
  • Cover eggplant slices with sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake at 375 for 30-45 minutes (this was enough for a pie plate of eggplant slices)

Toffee Dip

Last Friday was my birthday, and I was surprised during lunch at work with a tray of fresh fruit, devil's food mini bundt cakes and this incredibly toffee dip, which was served with Granny Smith apples. If you're a fan of Fiddle Faddle or Crunch 'n Munch, you will be addicted to this after one bite. I ate it on just about everything on Friday - apples, strawberries, grapes and chocolate cake. When I made it at home, I bought pretzel rods for dipping and it's great on those as well. So here's the recipe, thanks to our superstar receptionist.

What you need:
  • 8 oz. package of cream cheese - softened (fat free did not work as well as regular, unfortunately)
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup Heath toffee bits
What you do:
  • Stir them all together if the cream cheese is soft enough, or use a blender on the lowest setting
This dip is perfect for being a portable treat - scoop it into a container and take it with fresh fruit, pretzels, cookies or anything else you might like. Bring along to a party or picnic, work function, etc. It's easy and inexpensive - two things we all love!