"Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life - well, valuable, but small - and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave?" - Kathleen Kelly (You've Got Mail)

Monday, August 30, 2010

It's been too long!

I miss my blog and I apologize for my lack of posts these last couple weeks! I have been in the kitchen, cooking and baking as usual...but I haven't had any "blog worthy" meals lately. I was starting to fear I was losing my touch! I don't see the point in posting the recipes of the meals we didn't love, so I won't, I will just tell you about them here. A few things turned out, which I'll post later...but here are the things that didn't work:

Baked Lemon Pasta. I was really excited to make this because it was my first Pioneer Woman recipe but it just didn't work for me! I made it for some guests so I was especially bummed it didn't turn out. I'm not sure where I went wrong but the dish came out really dry :( Pretty though!

Double Bean Burritos. I can't remember where I found the recipe for this. It was simple to make, using pinto beans, black beans and a few other ingredients but I wasn't happy at all with the texture or flavor.

Spicy Black Bean Burgers. I've been dying to try black bean burritos since we started eating vegetarian and I found this really good looking recipe on Allrecipes.com that had high ratings and good reviews. These were fairly easy to make and the flavor was fabulous...but they completely fell apart! I have no idea what I did wrong, but we could hardly eat them because they were crumbling all over the place. I'll have to try different recipe next time I guess!

I made a Pineapple Upside-Down Cake for my brother-in-law's birthday party and it was a total flop....literally! It fell apart once I took it out of the pans and I managed to put it (mostly) back together but in the car ride to the party it fell apart again, even worse than before. I think it tasted alright though!

I also tried to make Hummus for the same party and found out that my tahini paste was bad, after I was finished mixing everything, ruining the entire batch! Boo!

See why I was getting scared?? That's a lot of food gone to waste. Hopefully this won't continue happening. Oh and here's a quick little update on our month of eating vegetarian: I'm loving it (cooking it so much easier and more fun!) and I plan to continue with it for sure. Randy has really enjoyed it too, believe it or not and plans on eating vegetarian like 90% of the time :) I may post more about this later....


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Mexican Pizza

One ball of pizza dough
16 oz. can vegetarian refried beans
1 c. of your favorite salsa
1 c. corn kernels (fresh canned or frozen)
3.8 oz. can sliced black olives, drained
1 1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
Shredded lettuce for garnish (optional)
Sour cream for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 and roll out pizza dough onto a pan. Spread the refried beans onto the dough, followed by the salsa. Place the corn kernels and olives evenly over the beans and salsa. Sprinkle with cheese and bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until the crust is no longer doughy and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Slice into 8 pieces and serve immediately topped with shredded lettuce and sour cream (if using).

Notes: This pizza was like a giant tostada! Delicious. We will definitely eat this again and maybe try some different toppings next time :)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Greek Orzo Stuffed Peppers

4 bell peppers (preferably orange, yellow or red)
1/2 c. orzo
15 oz. can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
6 oz. fresh spinach leaves, chopped
1 tsp. dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 c. crumbled feta cheese, divided
1/3 c. sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar 

Wash peppers and half them lengthwise. Remove the stems, seeds and white membrane. Place the peppers cut-side down in a microwave safe dish. Add half an inch of water, cover and microwave on high for 9 minutes, or just until softened. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil, add orzo and cook according to the package directions. Lightly mash chickpeas with a fork or pastry blender, leaving some whole.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add spinach, oregano and cook until the spinach is wilted, about 1 minute. Stir in the orzo, chickpeas, 1/2 cup feta, tomatoes, vinegar, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until heated through.
Divide the filling among the streamed pepper halves. Sprinkle each pepper with the remaining 1/4 cup of feta.

Notes: Before I was a vegetarian you'd never catch me eating bell peppers but they're really growing on me and I  loved this recipe! My sister-in-law, Jessica turned me onto eating stuffed bell peppers and when I came across this recipe on EatingWell.com I knew I had to try it! The only changes I made was I added a little more sun-dried tomatoes than it called for and a threw in some black pepper with the salt...otherwise, I followed it and it was great!!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Watermelon Ice Cream Bombe

5-6 c. lime sherbet
4-5 c. vanilla ice cream
5-6 c. strawberry or raspberry sherbet
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips

Line a gallon sized bowl with plastic wrap, making sure wrap hangs over the sides of the bowl at least 4 inches. Spoon the lime sherbet into a mixing bowl and beat until smooth. Press into the sides and bottom of the prepared bowl using a large spoon or your hands. Freeze for 30 minutes. Repeat the same process with the vanilla ice cream, pressing on top of the frozen lime sherbet in a thin layer. Freeze for another 30 minutes.

Spoon strawberry or raspberry sherbet into a mixing bowl and beat until smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips. Fill the remaining space in the bowl with this mixture, cover tightly with plastic wrap and freeze at least 6 hours. To unmold, remove the top plastic wrap and dip the outside of the bowl into warm water until the bombe begins to loosen, about 15 seconds. Place a serving platter over the bowl, flip over and shake to release bombe. Peel away the plastic wrap and slice into wedges with a large knife dipped in warm water. Serves 14-16.

Notes: I thought of my brother Stefan when I saw this recipe because he loves sherbet. It was his birthday and he was out of town. BUT I finally made it for him this week (only 3 months late!) and it was a hit. Everyone really liked it...including me, and I'm not the biggest sherbet fan. I had a hard time getting a good picture of the bombe. This shot is the best I could get...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tofu Stir Fry

1 tbsp. olive oil 
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/2 c. teriyaki sauce
1/4 c. low sodium soy sauce
1/4 c. hoisen sauce
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. firm or extra firm tofu, cut into strips
1 c. sliced carrots
1 c. snap peas or snow peas
1/2 c. frozen green peas

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add the onion and saute until tender. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the teriyaki, soy and hoisen sauces along with the minced garlic. Add the sliced tofu and toss to coat.  Add all the tofu and sauce, carrots, snap peas, green peas into the skillet with the onion and turn heat up to medium/high. Stir fry for 15-20 minutes or until most of the sauce has concentrated and the tofu begins to brown. Serve on a bed of hot quinoa, brown rice or noodles.

Notes: Randy and I were both unsure about trying tofu....but we did. And we actually really enjoyed it! The texture is different but it didn't bother us enough to go back for seconds :) You can use any veggies in this recipe! I had carrots and peas on hand so that's what I threw in.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Fresh Basil Pesto

1 c. fresh basil leaves, packed
1 c. fresh spinach leaves, packed
1/3 c. pine nuts
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor, combine the basil, spinach and pine nuts, pulse a few times. Add garlic, pulse a few more times. Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while food processor is running. Stop and scrape down the sides of the food processor. Add parmesan cheese and pulse again until blended. Add salt and pepper to taste, pulse one last time. Makes 1 cup. 

Recipe adapted from here

Notes: I had pesto for the first time when my aunt Linda made it while I was visiting her in California many years ago and I fell in love! This recipe from Simply Recipes is awesome and I've seen it in many different food blogs so I had to give it a try. It originally calls for 2 cups of basil but I thought that would be a little strong for me so I used half spinach and it was perfect! This stuff is strong...a little goes a long way!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Spinach and Cheese Enchiladas

1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 a large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
10 oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
Salt and pepper to taste 
1 c. ricotta cheese
1/2 c. sour cream
2 c. shredded monterrey jack cheese, divided
10 6 inch corn tortillas
10 oz. can red enchilada sauce

Preheat oven to 375 and grease a 13x9 baking dish and set aside. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat and saute the onion until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute another minute or two. Stir in spinach, stirring well to break apart. Season with salt and pepper to your liking.
Remove from heat and mix in the ricotta, sour cream and 1 cup of monterrey jack. Spoon about 1/4 cup of the cheese and spinach mixture into each tortilla. Roll up and place seam side down in the prepared baking dish. Pour enchilada sauce over the top of all the prepared enchiladas and top with remaining 1 cup of monterrey jack cheese. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Allow to cool 10-15 minutes before serving.

Recipe adapted from here

Notes: Don't let the ugly photo fool you. These enchiladas were super good! I tried and tried to get a pretty picture but it wasn't happening! In the pan, out of the pan, it just didn't matter. Anyways, back to the food: This was one of our first nights eating vegetarian and we both agreed with didn't miss the meat at all. These enchiladas were sooo yummy...I think we each ate 4 ;)

Summery Veggie Couscous

2/3 c. whole wheat couscous
1 c. water
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 small yellow summer squash, quartered lengthwise and diced
1 small zucchini squash, quartered lengthwise and diced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
6 oz. grape tomatoes, halved
salt and pepper to taste
3-4 large fresh basil leaves, chopped

Place the water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, remove from heat, quickly stir in the couscous and cover with a lid for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a skillet and saute the squash for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and saute another 2 minutes. Add tomato and saute just until heated through. Season vegetables with salt and pepper to your liking. Once couscous is finished, fluff with a fork and combine with the vegetables. Garnish with fresh basil. Makes 4 generous servings.

Notes: I was pleasantly surprised with how good this came out! I threw it together for lunch today and it totally hit the spot! Try it, please! ;)

I needed to hear this...

I was reading this morning in a devotional book a friend gave me several years ago and I came across this amazing little quote:

"The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety" 

-George Mueller

God has really been teaching me lately about giving over my worrisom spirit and how to truly cast all my cares on Him. I so badly needed to hear this today. I hope it will bless in some way, too :)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Attempting Vegetarianism

After much research, talking, collecting recipes and more talking, Randy and I have decided to try eating vegetarian for the month of August...longer if it goes well. I just wanted to give my (few) readers a heads up in case you notice a change in the recipes I post. I'm still gathering as many recipe ideas as I can...and starting to wonder how we'll ever stay full without meat in our diet! I know people do it all the time and I just need to learn how to plan a meal around something besides a piece of meat. I honestly think it will be fun and challenging! If you have a favorite vegetarian dish (or several!) please share it with me! I could use all the help I could get :)

There are several reasons we decided to do this. Mainly for my health. I have PCOS and with that comes weight gain...mostly around the mid-section of my body. I've lost count of how many people have recently asked me if I'm pregnant, when my baby is due, etc. Each time it gets harder and harder to take. I have a good friend who also has PCOS and she decided to give up meat when she was diagnosed and her weight is most definitely under control now. She is one of my inspirations for trying vegetarianism. I'm also walking every day now and I love it! I hope that helps a little, too.

I've done a lot of research on how animals are slaughtered and prepared for food. Honestly, I'm disgusted. Here is a quote that stuck out to me from GoVeg.com: "Animals on today's factory farms have no legal protection from cruelty that would be illegal if it were inflicted on dogs or cats: neglect, mutilation, genetic manipulation, and drug regimens that cause chronic pain and crippling, transport through all weather extremes, and gruesome and violent slaughter. Yet farmed animals are no less intelligent or capable of feeling pain than are the dogs and cats we cherish as companions". They are given drugs to fatten them up and are genetically altered to grow faster. So by the time they go from the farm to our dinner plates they are not the way God intended for us to "enjoy" them. I'm not becoming a PETA advocate or anything, but these facts have given me more reason to want to try vegetarianism.

Randy is totally supportive of all this (and excited to get started!) which made it a lot easier for me to make the decision. We are also going to cut down on carbohydrates, fat and sugar...which is highly recommended for women with PCOS. We feel like this is a good time in our life to make this change and to raise Margot eating well, too. I could keep listing more reasons we want to do this...but I will leave you with these couple main ones.

It's not going to be easy (I looooove my carbs and sugar!) but we know it's the best thing for us. If the month of August goes well, we will most definitely continue with it.