Not Epic but Pretty Good

Don’t you hate it when a recipe sounds epic and you slave away in the kitchen to prepare it, only to find that it’s just OK?

I suppose OK is better than awful.

I was pretty excited to try out this Pesto Veggie Gratin recipe from “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian,” and was even more excited that it called for goat cheese (which I discovered via an appetizer at Mas Tapas in Charlottesville and recreated at home via this Artichoke and Goat Cheese Dip). I think goat cheese is delicious when I’m on the non-vegan bandwagon… sorry, goats. At least I don’t eat you…

The recipe called for couscous, pesto (another obsession of mine… see The Magic of Pesto for my favorite pesto recipe), asparagus, goat cheese, and another vegetable (I chose a yellow squash). Sounds epic, right?

Pesto Veggie Gratin

Pesto Veggie Gratin

Looks pretty epic, right?

I must admit one instance of user error in preparing this recipe: I mistook scallions for shallots (I always get those two mixed up). I should’ve used shallots, but instead, I used green onions. So maybe there was a flavor depth thing missing.

The dish wasn’t bad. It was just a little bland… until I dolloped on more pesto! Next time, I’ll just add more pesto to the sauce and I think it’ll cross over into greatness, if not epicness.

Pesto Veggie Gratin plate

Pesto Veggie Gratin plate

So, chins up, people! They can’t all be epic meals… but one can dream!

Roasted Green Bean Fries

Roasted and Grilled

Vegan MoFo Week 1, wrapping up! Here goes…

It’s recommended that we eat 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily (which would translate roughly to 3-5 servings of veggies and 2-4 servings of fruits daily). Suffice it to say, most people don’t eat that much produce in a day. Me – well, I almost always hit 5 per day (though sometimes with 3 fruits and 2 veggies), and often hit 6 or 7 servings a day. It takes a little work, though!

Where do I sneak in the veggies? My staple 2-servings come in the form of a giant bowl of greens every day, often with some extras in there – carrots, red peppers, cucumber, etc. Beyond that, I’ve got to make a little extra effort. The easiest way for me to sneak in more veggies is via side dishes.

Enter: roasting and grilling.

This past year, I’ve added 2 devices to my kitchen arsenal that have become invaluable in my attempts to get more veggies on my plate. They are the Griddler grill/panini press, and the KitchenAid countertop convection oven. Let’s face it – when you have to fire up the giant oven just to roast a few broccoli stalks, it just rarely seems worth it. My countertop toaster/convection oven preheats nearly instantly and makes it super-easy to bake and roast things without waiting for preheating or heating up the whole house.

Of course, you can always throw some veggies in the microwave and steam them, but personally, I find the flavors from grilling and roasting to be so much more delicious and satisfying.

These days, I’ll grill or roast just about any veggie. Butternut squash, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, kale – you name it, and I’ve probably tried to roast or grill it. My go-to’s are asparagus, broccoli, and green beans. I have fresh produce of one of those 3 in my fridge at all times, and will grab one or two of them to fill half of my plate at dinnertime every day.

Asparagus!

Asparagus!

Asparagus works best on the grill. Break off the rough ends, spray with a little olive oil, sprinkle with your favorite seasoning (I either go bare with salt/pepper, or use some Perfect Pinch veggie seasoning), and grill on medium for 4 minutes or so – until the asparagus is bright green and just starting to get grill marks.

Asparagus on the Grill

Asparagus on the Grill

My other new favorite is roasted green beans. Trim the ends, spray with some olive oil, and toss with your favorite seasonings (again, salt and pepper work well – but I often throw in some garlic powder too), and roast at 425F for 12-15 minutes. I eat ’em like french fries!

Roasted Green Bean Fries

Roasted Green Bean Fries

The rules for grilling/roasting most veggies are about the same, but if you like more hard-and-fast guidelines, google is your friend for temps and times. Most good all-purpose cookbooks have roasting guidelines in the front too (like Veganomicon). I usually just throw stuff in at 400-425F and check it after 10 minutes or so, adjusting till it looks good!

So, no more excuses for why you can’t get all of your veggie servings in each day. Eat a big ol’ salad every day, and fill half of your plate with veggies at dinner and, you’re there!

Pesto Pasta, Broccoli and Chickpeas with Mmm Sauce, & Asparagus

Let the Freezer Eats Begin

I told you it was about to get all crazy up in this hizzouse!

Pesto Pasta, Broccoli and Chickpeas with Mmm Sauce, & Asparagus

Pesto Pasta, Broccoli and Chickpeas with Mmm Sauce, & Asparagus

Ha!

You’re like, what the heck is that?!

Eatin’ good in the freezer-hood, my friends!

Gotta. Empty. Freezer. Can’t. Waste. Food.

(No worries – what I don’t eat or take with me will be bequeathed upon family members’ freezers).

It all started with a bag of frozen asparagus spears. I don’t even remember buying them, but when I saw the bag, I thought, “Genius! Frozen asparagus spears! Like, in spear form!” Too bad I didn’t realize they existed sooner. I could’ve eaten them when my fresh asparagus went limp way too soon last week.

So, I steamed that frozen asparagus (5 minutes in the micro – will probably go 5:30 next time), and coated it in my current obsession, Perfect Pinch veggie seasoning.

Then, I decided to make another batch of pesto. (I’m obsessed. What can I say?). Made the pesto, then realized I did not have the ingredients on hand to make my favorite Pesto Veggie sandwich.

Heavens, no! What would I do?!

OK. Change of plans. What’s in the fridge? I went for a big ol’ salad to use up the rest of my leftover spicy roasted chickpeas, and then realized I was out of salad greens. Well, heck. I need more greens!

I’ve got pesto. I’ve got asparagus. What can I do with pesto and asparagus?

I hobbled together an idea: in honor of the release of Mama Pea’s new cookbook (Peas and Thank You, which had just arrived at my door), I would try a recipe from her web site that I’d been meaning to make forever: Mmm Sauce. I’d mix that with the rest of my spicy roasted chickpeas, mix in some pasta and pesto, and throw some steamed broccoli in there. (I was too lazy to roast or grill anything – my preferred veggie cooking methods).

I got to work making Mmm sauce, only to realize I didn’t have the right spices on hand. Instead, I used oregano and basil and parsley. Italian Mmm sauce? I guess so!

So that, my friends, is what you’re looking at in the photo above. Frozen asparagus, steamed, with veggie seasoning. Whole wheat pasta topped with pesto. Steamed broccoli with chickpeas and Mmm sauce.

A weird plate – yes. But it was pretty darn tasty! So much so that I just had it again for lunch….

Stay tuned for more adventures in freezer eats!

Avocado Spinach Sandwich and Asparagus

Lies of Omission

So, I’ve been keeping something from you.

It’s a sandwich – one that I’ve now eaten 3 days in a row.

I didn’t mean to. I thought about sharing. The first time, I was just too hungry to stop and grab the camera.

The second time, I started to prep the sammy for picture time, but it just wasn’t photogenic enough to bother.

Well, the sandwich still isn’t very photogenic, but it’s so darn tasty that I was overcome with guilt today as I made it for, yes, a third time.

So here you go – my current crush of a sandwich:

Avocado Spinach Sandwich and Asparagus

Avocado Spinach Panini and Asparagus

It’s the Avocado Spinach Panini [recipe], inspired by the recipe in the July/Aug 2011 issue of Vegetarian Times.

My version is a slight modification on the original. It’s essentially (for one sandwich):

  • half an avocado, mashed
  • 1/8 of an onion, diced
  • a generous smear of garlic hummus
  • a small handful of baby spinach
  • some sundried tomatoes
  • smashed between two slices of bread and pressed for 4 minutes on the panini press

I’m currently enjoying the High Five Fiber loaf from Great Harvest Bread Company in Palos Heights, IL. If you’ve never had Great Harvest bread, you MUST check to see if there’s a GH near you. Their breads use simple, real food ingredients and fresh whole grain flours – ground daily! The flavor is incredible, and I’m so glad that I found GH at my local farmer’s market. I’ve been looking forward to shopping at GH Charlottesville once I get to Virginia, but it has been so delicious enjoying it here in the meantime!

Of course, I still suck at cutting bread loaves, so my slices are WAY huge. So, people, do not take these photos as an example of how much in grains you should eat at a meal. Leave that to MyPlate! My slices probably end up being 2.5 servings, at least!

But just look at this hot, gooey mess…

Avocado Spinach Panini

Avocado Spinach Panini

Oh, it is so good.

Mashing the avocado is definitely key. I had trouble in my first two attempts with the avocado slices falling out on the panini press or when I tried to eat the sandwich. The mashing also adds to the gooey-factor.

Side note: I’m eating asparagus like french fries now. Loooooove asparagus!

Fave way to prep asparagus: trim off the rough stems. Spray with a little olive oil spray. Sprinkle with veggie seasoning (I’m currently in love with McCormick’s Perfect Pinch Vegetable Seasoning. Yeah, the ingredient list is less than whole-foods-stellar, but it is mighty tasty). Then grill for 3 minutes. (Ahh, this is where having the Griddler is awesome sauce!)

So, as we embark upon this holiday weekend, I urge you to enjoy a tasty sandwich, grill up some veggies, and share some good times with the ones you love. 🙂

Veggie Sushi

First Attempt at Sushi

I’m nothing if not ambitious, my friends!

Veggie Sushi

Veggie Sushi

My family’s Easter gathering is tomorrow, and as a vegan (and even as a vegetarian), if I don’t want to starve, I have to bring at least one dish I can eat. It’s all good; I don’t expect anybody to bend over backwards to make sure there’s something for me to eat. This holiday, I decided to try something new: veggie sushi.

I’ve never had sushi before. In fact, I spent the first 36 years of my life misinformed, thinking that “sushi” meant “fish.” (It doesn’t; sushi is actually the rice). What gets wrapped in that rice? Anything you want! Including veggies.

So I got myself a $4 bamboo sushi rolling mat, and set to work.

First, I prepped (way too many) veggies.

Sushi veggies

Sushi veggies

I had red peppers, sundried tomatoes, avocado slices, green onions, carrots, and cucumber slices. I also had some shiitake mushrooms and steamed asparagus on the side, and a small batch of buffalo tempeh and a small batch of ranch tempeh spread (inspired by PPK’s Spicy Tempeh Rolls).

I got to rolling. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be – though the rice is super sticky (keep your hands wet!), and it seems I was over-stuffing my sushi rolls a bit. Still, it all seemed to work out. I need more practice getting the rice to the ends of the nori sheets, though.

This roll was a simple avocado, carrot, and green onion roll.

Rolling up sushi

Rolling up sushi

My 10-pack of nori sheets only had 9 sheets in it! Gypped! That’s OK… since I was over-stuffing the rolls, I only had enough rice for 9 rolls anyway.

9 Uncut Veggie Sushi Rolls

9 Uncut Veggie Sushi Rolls

(Please pardon the “well seasoned” cookie sheet. I need new ones). I left some of the ingredients sticking out of the ends, because in the very first episode of the Post Punk Kitchen, Isa did that, and the end pieces looked cool with stuff sticking out. I’m not sure mine will look quite as cool, but can’t blame a girl for trying.

Next, I discovered just how not-sharp my formerly-awesome-sharp-knife is. Not so good for cutting sushi. I cut up one roll and taste tested it (pretty good!), but I’ll cut the rest up tomorrow.

The result: my very first veggie sushi:

Veggie Sushi

The result: veggie sushi, first try

Not so bad, eh?!
I made a couple buffalo tempeh & cucumber rolls, a couple ranch (actually, Sanctuary Dressing) tempeh and avocado rolls, and a variety of mish-mosh veggie rolls.

I feel like something in there probably needed some salt, but maybe that’s where the soy sauce for dipping comes in.

I’m definitely stoked about sushi now! Can’t wait till July for my Vegas trip, where I will be checking out some Vegas sushi.

What’s your favorite sushi filling?

Creamy Basil Pasta with Asparagus

Twofer

Vegan Yum Yum’s got a two-fer going on!

Dinner:

Creamy Basil Pasta with Asparagus

Creamy Basil Pasta with Asparagus

This is the Creamy Basil Pasta from the Vegan Yum Yum cookbook. What makes it creamy if it’s vegan, you ask?

Cashews!

I know, right? I wouldn’t have believed it either. But there it is. I wanted to eat the entire pot of this.

Since my long run got delayed due to rain, I figured I might as well carb up with some pasta tonight. Will run tomorrow. See how that works? 🙂

This sauce is not only delicious, but super easy to make. Very few ingredients – a couple tomatoes, a little tomato paste, cashews, and some seasoning. Really! I love my food processor! (I have a KitchenAid 7-cup model).

Toss with pasta (organic whole wheat pasta, in my case!) and nom!

My friend asparagus came along for the ride. I love to have asparagus with pasta. Every time I think of Italian food, I want asparagus. Is that normal? At any rate, it’s just steamed and sprinkled with a little sea salt.

Good eats!

Grilled Asparagus

Another Frankfort farmers’ market find this week was boatloads of fresh asparagus! I’ve been on a roasting kick with asparagus, but with the official kick-off of summer last weekend, I decided to get with the season and fire up the grill!

(Of course, that meant first I had to *clean* the grill…)

Grilled asparagus is so easy to make and so delicious that I have a feeling I’m going to be firing up the grill a lot more often this summer! Go figure – I will likely use my grill more as a vegetarian than I ever did as a meat eater. Oh, the irony!

First, marinate the asparagus in a ziplock bag full of yumm (I used garlic-infused olive oil, a dash of balsamic vinegar, some Garlic Gold garlic sea salt nuggets, and a pinch of pepper).

marinate asparagusThen, pop the asparagus on the grill. I’ve read suggestions including the use of a small wooden skewer to make it easier to handle the asparagus and prevent it from falling through the grill grates, but I didn’t have any trouble with mine (and I also didn’t have any skewers handy).

asparagus on the grillI threw a veggie burger on the grill as well. I found some great veggie burger recipes, but this is just your run of the mill out-of-a-box frozen variety. Sometimes, convenience beats nutrition.

grilling asparagusI let the asparagus cook a tiny bit too long, and some of the smaller pieces charred, but overall, it turned out wonderfully delicious!

grilled asparagusI will definitely be making asparagus on the grill again!

[recipe-show recipe=grilled-asparagus]