Category: vegetarian

Labor-Inducing Spinach Artichoke Dip

Just kidding. Sort of.

While there’s no scientific evidence that a particular food can jump-start labor, my water broke within one hour of eating this dip.

Adapted from Slate’s “You’re Doing it Wrong,” I threw this together for Thanksgiving. At 33 weeks pregnant, my husband and I made the short drive to Houston for the holiday. My 94-year-old grandmother lives there, and some other family drove in from Arkansas.

We left Austin with the uncooked dip in tow, compression stockings squeezed onto my swollen legs. I napped most of the way (Aside: I have a superhuman ability to fall asleep anywhere, anytime, within moments. It’s great for me; not so great for whomever I’m roadtripping with).

We exchanged hugs and a few jokes about whether my grandmother’s or my ankles were more swollen, and then the seven of us sat down with paper plates of dip, veggies, pita chips and Panettone bread. We’re not the kind of people to postpone eating for decorum’s sake.

I sat on a scratchy old, yellow chair with my legs stretched out in the living room, talking with my big sister. Something must have registered on my face, as she suddenly asked if I was okay. I nodded, and excused myself. I can only describe the feeling as unexpected dampness.

Surprise! I’ll leave out the details, but suffice it to say my water broke on that ragged yellow chair while my husband was jogging and my dad was sleeping. A few phone calls and we headed to a Houston ER.

742
Happy Thanksgiving from the Houston hospital! This is about four hours after eating dip. If I’d known it would be the last I could eat for 20 hours, I’d have consumed the entire pan.

My big sister graciously blotted up the poor chair, and grandmother is still none the wiser. Our son was born at 6:30 a.m. the Friday after Thanksgiving. No word yet on whether he likes spinach.

So if you’re pregnant and feeling ready to pop, why not give this recipe a whirl? Or just make it to enjoy; it’s easy and delicious.

Ingredients
8 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 3 lemons
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper – to taste
Salt and black pepper
2, 15-oz cans marinated artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

Directions
Heat the oven to 450°F. Put the cream cheese, Parmesan, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and crushed red pepper in a large bowl. Season with salt and black pepper, and stir to combine. Stir in the artichoke hearts, spinach and mozzarella. Transfer to an 9×13 pan or a gratin dish and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve warm with crisp crackers and crunchy veggies.

 

No Cook Main Meal: Chicken Caprese Salad

It’s summer. They tell me we’ll hit 100 here in Austin for the next 3 months. For the sake of our electric bill and my sanity, I’m hunting for low-to-no cook dinners. I found this lil’ beauty on The Skinny Chick Can Bake, and made a few changes.

You’ll spend time on the prep side with chopping and dicing, so pour a glass of wine and carry on.

Ingredients:1823189

  • 2 pounds fresh tomatoes, chopped (or halved grape/ cherry tomatoes )
  • 12 – 16 oz. fresh mozzarella, cubed
  • I.5 cups diced celery – this sounds odd but it’s necessary for the crunch and color
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cubed
  • 1 cup sliced basil (or combo of dried, paste and nearly-dead leaves from your patio plant)
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup+ balsamic vinegar
  • Salt to taste (like guacamole, don’t under-salt)
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups diced, cooked chicken (optional)

Instructions:

1. Chop tomatoes, mozzarella, celery, cucumber and basil. Combine them one bowl. If adding chicken, put it in too.

2. In a smaller bowl, combine garlic, vinegar, salt, pepper and olive oil. Whisk together and pour over vegetables and chicken. Toss gently.

3. Eat! We ate it straight up with forks, but pita pockets or naan would also work well. I might add avocado or chilled pasta next time. Taste and see what you think. A pinch of sugar?

Fajita Marinade

I recently faced a total food fail while attempting Baked Spaghetti Squash with Cheese. I figured it’d be the perfect healthier mac ‘n cheese. Truth? It was downright terrible. My roux never thickened, I burned my hands pulling out the ‘noodles,’ the whole thing came out a liquidy wet blob lacking flavor. Not to mention that I wasted $14 on cheeses! I tried reinventing the leftovers by making little cheesy noodle ‘pancakes’ in the skillet. Nope. I don’t know what went wrong in those 2 hours but I know it did not go right.

Given that disappointment, my level of cooking effort is greatly diminished of late. Sometimes I just need a break from planning meals.

Aligned with that mindset, here’s an easy marinade that worked really well for chicken fajitas, and I imagine would be great for steak, pork or tempah too. I put 2 chicken breasts in a gallon ziplock and added these ingredients, smooshing them around to blend and then allowing the chicken to marinate for 1 hour in the fridge:

  • 1/4 cup worchestire
  • 4 TBS olive oil
  • 1 TBS brown sugar
  • 1 TBS minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp celery seeds
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle chile powder
  • 2 TBS cumin
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

We sliced the raw chicken and added it with the ziplock sauce to a cast iron skillet. When the chicken was cooked, we removed it and added diced onions, bell peppers, jalapeno and more chopped cilantro for a quick stir-fry. Because the marinade boiled while the chicken cooked and then boiled again with the veggies, I wasn’t worried about raw chicken bacteria.

Coconut Curry Salmon

After rocking out a bear-sized portion of epic BBQ at the famous Salt Lick BBQ, I wanted some fish this week as a counterbalance. Who would have guessed that Kraft would have a great recipe for coconut curry salmon? Of course, my revisions excluded the one Kraft ingredient, but I give them kudos for inspiration. This took maybe 25 minutes to prepare, resulting in full flavors that belied the quickness of the dish. We gave it 2 thumbs up and decided it’s a keeper recipe!

Ingredients
1 can (13.5 oz.) regular or lite coconut milk
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
3 tsp curry powder, divided – I used yellow but red or green would work too
4 salmon fillets (1 lb.), with skins
Juice from 2 limes
2 tsp oil
1 bell pepper, cut into strips
3 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped OR 1 can diced tomatoes
1 onion, cut lengthwise in half, then sliced crosswise
2 TBS chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and Pepper to taste
Extra lime for garnish

Directions
1. Heat oven to 375ºF. If you’re making rice, start that now. TIP: For extra oomph, add a touch of coconut milk,  salt and some sugar to the rice before it cooks. 

2. Blend the coconut milk, cumin, red pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp salt and 2 tsp curry powder with immersion blender until smooth. Set aside.

3. Place the fish, skin-sides down, on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Mix lime juice and 1 tsp curry powder; brush onto fish. BAKE 8 to 10 min. or until fish flakes easily with fork.

4. Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet on medium heat. Add the bell peppers, tomatoes and onions; cook 5 minutes. Stir in coconut milk mixture, then taste and season per preferences. We added more heat and curry powder and lime juice at this stage. Cook 5 minutes or until heated through, stirring frequently. Stir in cilantro.

Serve the salmon with sauce and jasmine rice. Sprinkle with cilantro and an additional squeeze of lime juice. TIP:

The Best Vegetarian Chili

This is no ordinary, ho-hum watery veggie bean chili. This recipe is smoky, complex, rich in flavor and texture. We made this for a pumpkin party and everyone RAVED, then asked for the recipe and for seconds. I’m on day 3 of leftovers and am still happy to eat this. I recommend serving it with Pumpkin Cornbread and all of the garnishes your heart desires. Really, make this chili. The recipe serves 12-15. It can be halved, as in the original version from from Saveur.

INGREDIENTS
2 cans dark kidney beans
2 cans pinto beans
1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
24 cloves garlic, minced (I totally used the pre-minced stuff in a jar)
1 can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (Chop all the chiles except for 3. Reserve the adobo sauce for extra heat if desired.)
4 bay leaves
1 large white onion, chopped
1 large red onion, chopped
1-2 jalapenos, minced
16 oz. button mushrooms, quartered
12 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 cans canned hominy, drained
1 cup tomato paste
4 TBS. red wine vinegar
4 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp. dried oregano
3 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. chili powder
1 package sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Kosher salt, to taste
Sour cream, to garnish
Minced cilantro, to garnish
Minced red onion, to garnish
Queso fresco, to garnish – Any cheese will work, but this salty, semi-firm option crumbles nicely and looks pretty against the dark colors of the beans and tomatoes.

INSTRUCTIONS
1.      Put kidney beans and pinto beans into a large pot and cover with 3″ water; bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, about 45 minutes. Set pot aside.

2.      Heat oil in a VERY large pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic, chipotle chiles, bay leaves, onions, and jalapenos and cook, stirring often, until onions are golden, 12–15 minutes. This smells awesome.

3.      Add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 8 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring, about 5 minutes. Stir in reserved beans and their cooking liquid, stir to combine.

4.      Add the hominy, tomato paste, vinegar, thyme, oregano, cumin, chili powder, sun-dried tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until chili thickens and flavors meld, about 1 hour. Turn off the heat to help thicken, and/or add more tomato paste.

5.      Serve chili topped with sour cream, cilantro, queso fresco and red onions. Prepare for double helpings – and filling tupperwares!

Red Lobster Cheesy Biscuits

Recently given a  choice between dining at a hole-in-the wall Cuban restaurant, a Mom ‘n Pop Indian food spot and a local Irish pub, I chose Red Lobster. It’s inexplicable. Folks, I haven’t been to Red Lobster in…[counts on both hands]…6 years? Yet all I wanted in that moment were baskets of cheddar bay biscuits.

After appropriately stuffing my face with four course for $14.99 including unlimited biscuits, I was quite happy –  and also curious. How hard is it to make their famous biscuits? A Google search reveals a host of copycat recipes but I wanted one with instant gratification. Enter this super easy recipe from Love Bakes Good Cakes.

raw biscuits
Faux cheese, plus biscuit dough topped with margarine.

Drawback: that whole lactose intolerance thing means I don’t keep dairy milk or shredded cheddar cheese around. Turns out, it doesn’t matter! The almond milk and veggie shreds incorporated perfectly, along a few tweaks for personal preference.  I just ate 3 of these babies, 2 with ham and mustard and honey, and one straight up. Ho boy, this is going in the stack of new favorites:

Ingredients
2 cups Bisquick mix
⅔ cup milk – I used almond
½ cup cheddar cheese, shredded – I used Go Veggie! Parmesan, Mozzarella and Romano blend
1 TB butter, melted
2 TBS margarine, divided
1 tsp. olive oil
⅛ tsp. Old Bay seasoning
1 tsp. parsley flakes
⅛ tsp. salt
⅛ tsp. garlic powder – I used onion powder

finished cheese biscuits
Picture 2: Ta da! Finished, delicious cheesy biscuits

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the Bisquick, milk and cheese until a soft dough forms. Drop by 9 spoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet. Top each biscuit with a spread of margarine (see picture 1).
3. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown on the tops and sides. Remove from oven. top each biscuit with another sliver of margarine. (I’m not going for health here, people, and these biscuits need salty tops).
4. In a small bowl, combine the melted butter, 1 TBS margarine, olive oil, Old Bay, salt, garlic or onion powder and parsley. Brush the butter mixture over the warm biscuits.
5. Eat! Repeat.

Next time I’ll probably use faux cheddar cheese to obtain that classic orange color, and garlic powder in the butter topping blend. But I am very pleased overall. To boot, the entire process took 15 minutes!

I wonder how many I can eat before the bf notices?

The Lazy Man’s Eggs: Frittata

I admit it; I can’t make an omelet. But I love dressed up, flavorful, fluffy eggs full of color and vegetables. Enter the frittata. A frittata is an egg-based dish similar to an omelet or crustless quiche, with additional ingredients such as meats, cheeses, vegetables or pasta.

It looks complicated and impressive on the table, but is really super easy to prepare. I started with a basic recipe then played around a bit using what I had on hand. You can double it easily enough, depending on your crowd and skillet size. Check it:

frit 2 Ingredients
5 eggs + 1/2 cup egg whites (just 5 eggs is fine, too — the whites make it a bit puffier)
2-3 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
3-4 oz. baby spinach
1/2 tomato, sliced/diced
4-5 baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
1/4 onion or 1 clove garlic
1-2 TB vegetable oil
1 TB olive oil
salt and pepper

Process
1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Crack eggs in a bowl. Add salt and pepper and whisk to blend.
2. Heat oils in an oven-safe skillet. TIP: I used a cast iron skillet, so if you have a nonstick skillet you might use less oil.  When oil is hot, add mushrooms and onion/garlic, sauteing until slightly tender. Add spinach and stir to wilt.
3. Pour in eggs, top with tomatoes and goat cheese. Allow to sit on the stove cooking for about 5 minutes.
4. Transfer pan to oven and cook for 10-12 minutes, or until springy to the touch. Allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.

I made another frittata the next day, using Parmesan and orange bell pepper. Delish! This is a good recipe to keep on hand for weekends and company. Oh, and don’t forget to pair it with a Bloody Mary.