Category: Vegetarian

Skewered Appetizers

Pinterest has infiltrated the minds of so many women ages 20-35 it’s almost scary.  I have even found the term pinteresting or pinterest-y come out of my mouth in reference to something in a mason jar, a chalkboard, or for example these two appetizers.  I have found the pinterest is both a really amazing revolution and also the most obnoxious site to waste time on, there are so many crafting, food, or outfit ideas that it can really be a great way to get ideas for a party but I also have realized that I don’t want to walk into a party and have the first person’s comment on my food be “oh did you get that from pinterest!?”

With all of that off my chest I really enjoyed making these, Watermelon feta skewer with a lemon mint dressing and a caprese skewer.  It started last January when I cooking all the food for my dad’s birthday, I made a mediterranean skewer that was quite enjoyable.  So when it came down to choosing something to bring to a graduation party I was going to with a friend, there was no question…it had to be skewers.  My favorite was definitely the watermelon feta combo, and since making it as a skewer, I have made it as a mixed serve yourself salad and it was just as much of a hit so tailor the presentation to your needs as you see fit.

I got the recipe for the Caprese Skewers from THIS blog and used the same concept for the watermelon combo.

Watermelon Feta Skewer 

Ingredients (makes about 40-50 skewers)

  • 1 medium watermelon cut into bite size (skewer size) squares, Cut as many squares as skewers you are making
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 bunch of mint
  • olive oil
  • 1 block of feta (crumbles will work if you are mixing it, but you need the block for the skewers)
  • toothpicks

Recipe 

  1. In a blender or food processer blend the mint, lemon juice and about 2 tbl olive oil until it is blended well.  Place about 1/4 c of the vinaigrette in a large bowl
  2. Add the watermelon squares to the
  3. If you are making the skewers, cut the feta into small cubes (smaller than the watermelon squares) Feta is pretty strong so a little square is plenty
  4. Assemble the skewers by stabbing a piece of feta and a piece of watermelon.  (you might have to figure out what works best for you, if the feta seems to be crumbling too much I would stab the watermelon first)

{The fixin’s}

{Not the prettiest picture but damn they tasted good}

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Fried Goat Cheese Stuffed Squash Blossoms

So, there are few ingredients that I anticipate as much as squash blossoms.  With current farming and greenhouse practices there are many many ingredients that are available year round.  But squash blossoms are an ingredient that I know come towards the end of summer and only shows up briefly at the farmers market so I try to swoop on them whenever I can.

This was the first recipe I tried with these blossoms and since they were so freaking delicious I was an instant believer.  Since then, I have used them fresh in salads and of course again as fried squash blossoms. Since the batter for this recipe is so easy the whole process and end product seems much more complicated than in really is.

The recipe is from one of Giada de Laurentiis’s cookbooks that came out a couple summers ago.  I was living then in Santa Barbara and happened to see one day that at a local William Sonoma, she was going to come for a book signing!! Well, I’ve never been to a book signing let along a cookbook signing so therefore I HAD to go.  I went with a friend and waiting in the line around the store along with the fancy Santa Barbara housewives and got my cookbook signed by the one and only Giada. I’ve made a bunch of recipes from that cookbook so far and have some of them posted on this blog.  But whenever I feel like some italian I make a bee line for that bright pink cookbook.

This appetizer really just means summer to me, give me a crisp glass of white wine and I am in seventh heaven.  Give them a try and ENJOY!

I used this recipe from Giada 

{Me waiting in line for the signing!– 2010}

{Beautiful squash blossoms}

{All you have to do is slightly twist the tops and the cheese will stay in fine}

{Things I want to eat right now…these}

Summer Panzanella Salad

So I grew up in northern california, which most of you know, and let me just say it gets blazing hot in the summer.  When it gets to be over 100 degrees multiple days in a row there is not many types of food your body will willingly consume besides heavily iced drinks.  Well, salad happens to be one of them.  I’ve described the nostalgia of salads like my chinese chicken salad recipe in a previous post, but there really is nothing that makes it feel like summer to be than actually craving a salad multiple days in a row due to the overwhelming heat.

I’m going to be quite honest with all of you, I have absolutely zero idea where I got the idea of making a panzanella salad.  Seriously, sometimes people ask how I decide what to make and in all seriousness I think some it I think up in dreams.  So after deciding I wanted to make a panzanella salad, which for the record is a salad with fresh vegetables and big cubes of toasted bread…no leaves, I began scouring my favorite food blogs and of course pinterest to find a good recipe to follow.  Well after my thorough research I came to the conclusion that there really is no recipe for a panzanella salad, ok there obviously is if I found it on food blogs and such but what I mean by that is, you just throw whatever fresh vegetables you want together with some bread and voila!

*Sidenote*: I discovered squash blossoms about a year ago and love adding them to salads.  I also have a         fantastic post to come for goat cheese stuffed, fried squash blossoms…but thats for later.  The whole blossom is edible and I also added the mini zucchini that you see at the end of the blossom in the picture to this salad.  I have never seen the blossom in a market (maybe a specialty market) but they are reliably at the farmers market until mid august.

This salad, being so easy and more ‘hearty’ with the chunks of bread is a recipe you must make this summer. Whether you make it as a main course of a side salad is up to you but with a salad so fresh and light but also filling, youll start dreaming about it too.  And if by some change I havn’t convinced you….just look at the pictures.

Summer Panzanella Salad 

Ingredients

  • 3 c diced baguette or rustic loaf
  • 15 mini yellow squash  cut in half
  • 15 mini zucchini (see picture of squash blossom above) sliced lengthwise
  • 15 squash blossoms (from the mini zucchini) chopped
  • 2 medium sized tomatoes (you can substitute cherry tomatoes too)
  • 1/2 shallot sliced thin
  • 1-2 tbl capers
  • 2 tbl olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • Lemon mustard vinaigrette 

Recipe

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Place cubed bread on cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil and put in the oven to toast, about 20 min.  Rotate halfway to make sure the bread is toasted evenly.  Remove from oven when toasted, set aside.
  3. In 1 tbl olive oil saute the mini zucchini and mini yellow squash until just under fork tender, about 10 min. Remove and set in large bowl to cool.
  4. Chop the tomatoes into chunks or slice the cherry tomatoes in half if you are substituting.  Add the the cooled squash.
  5. Slice the shallot thin and add to the large bowl.
  6. Add the capers to the bowl.
  7. Mix up the vinaigrette and add to the large bowl, toss to coat.
  8. When you are ready to serve, mix in the toasted bread and toss again to coat the bread in the vinaigrette.  Top with chopped squash blossoms and enjoy!

{I got both of these mini squash at the farmers market but I have seen the mini zucchini alone and the mini yellow squash at the supermarket}

{Slightly blurry saute action}

{The finished plate!}

Breaded Eggplant and Polenta Parmesan

Everyone should have a go to meal that does not take a lot of work to make but is reliable every single time.  Usually it doesn’t include fresh produce, I like to keep certain things stocked that I know I can make when I run out of fresh produce but haven’t gone to the grocery store.  For some its frozen meals, for others is mac n cheese, for me its sliced polenta.  About a year ago I discovered this polenta at Trader Joes and have been buying it ever since.  Slice it up, pop it into the oven and throw some marinara over it and thats a meal!

Now eggplant can be a tricky beast, its weird looking and has a weird looking inside too.  The first couple times I used eggplant I didn’t cook it long enough and was thoroughly disappointed.  However, now I have come to learn the best ways to cook eggplant, and sliced, breaded and pan fried is by far the best method.  The trick though, is to crisp it up in a pan with a little olive oil but then after its golden brown on both sides, you put it into the oven to finish cooking.  If you tried to keep it on the stove until it was cooked the breadcrumbs would be a charred mess.  The same goes for breaded chicken, if the chicken is really thick it takes much longer to cook through than to nicely brown the outside.

Breaded Eggplant 

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

  • 1 eggplant, sliced evenly
  • about 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • about 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3-4 tbl olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Recipe

  1. Set up a breading station.  Place the flour on a plate with salt and pepper, then place the beaten eggs in a shallow bowl, then finally the breadcrumbs in a shallow dish (pie dishes work great for this)
  2. Take the sliced eggplant and for each slice, coat each side in flour first and shake off any excess, then dip into the egg and let the excess run off, then place in the breadcrumbs and lightly press the breadcrumbs onto each side of the eggplant slice and shake off any excess.  Place to the side and continue with the rest of the slices
  3. If you need more flour or breadcrumbs simply add more and continue.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  5. Heat 1 tbl olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat, when hot add 2-3 eggplant slices depending on the size of the pan, when the first side is starting to brown, flip and brown the other side. About 5 min on each side.
  6. Continue browning the rest of the slices.  When done, place them all on a baking sheet and place in oven to continue cooking for about 30 min.  (the eggplant should be fork tender and easy to slice with the side of a fork)

Crispy Polenta

Ingredients

  • 1 tube polenta
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 2-3 tbl olive oil

Recipe

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Slice the polenta evenly
  3. Place on a baking tray and sprinkle with fresh ground pepper, brush with olive oil.
  4. Bake for about 15 min, flip the slices and continue baking for another 15-20 min or until the outside is firm.

* Feel free to eat the polenta plain, with marinara, with pesto, with eggplant etc.

{Breading Station}

{After oven time}

{Sliced polenta tube}

{Finished plate, with a side of balsamic green beans}

Creamy Mac n Cheese with Roasted Scallions

Who doesn’t love mac n cheese? The cheesy noodl-y goodness, and the moment I realized oven baked mac n cheese with breadcrumb topping was maybe the best moment of my life.  There seems to be a move in a lot of restaurants to bring comfort food back and make it stylish, well I couldn’t be more on board with that movement.  Today you can find so many different types of mac n cheese, the oddest though might have to be the blue cheese mac n cheese my sister ordered one time.  That was a little strong.

I added the scallions to this recipe and to be honest, they could have been there or not but roasting them for a bit was a nice touch.  And the key to getting that oven baked goodness is definitely the crispy breadcrumb topping, and even more so when you mix in a little parmesan cheese.

HERE is the recipe I followed (minus the broccoli, however if you like broccoli that would be a delicious addition)

** for the roasted scallions, use about 5 whole scallions, trim each end and place in oven safe dish.  Add 1 tbl balsamic vinegar and raost at 350 for about 20 min or until wilted.

** Feel free to use whatever block cheese you have or want to add

***after the sauce is mixed with the pasta, place in oven proof dish and top with about 1 cup breadcrumbs.  Bake at 400 for 15-20 min or until topping gets golden brown.  (you might want to put the dish on a baking tray in case the cheese sauce bubbles over a bit)

ENJOY!

{I love my stackable measuring cups}

{Two cheeses}

{Before it went into the oven to crisp up}

{Melty oozy cheesy}

{The finished plate}

Sweet Potato Quinoa Cakes

I have to admit something.  It’s pretty terrible and nearly unforgivable.  I hope you all learn from my mistakes… I almost forgot the site that I found this recipe on.  There you go, I just put it all out there for your judgement.  Ok, but really if you learn anything, let it me to write down where you find recipes, especially if they are as good as this one… and double especially if you blog about what you eat.

I made these when my mom was visiting recently really for no other reason than I wanted to make a lighter dinner and that my mom loves sauce.  Yea, it sounds weird I know.  She just loves different sauces over chicken or, in this case, over quinoa cakes.  I used THIS recipe for the quinoa [Keen-waa] cakes and they came out great!   Halfway through you will feel like everything is going to fail but true to the blog post I followed it reinforces your panic attack and then gives you great satisfaction when they turn out well.

You can pair these cakes with any vegetable really.  I decided to put them over mixed greens as more of an accompaniment to a dinner salad with a thin yogurt dressing (to appease the mom).  But they would be just as good by themselves served next to roasted vegetables or something similar.

I ended up having a lot of leftover quinoa sweet potato mix so the next couple nights I would top a bit of the mix with an egg and bake at 350 for about 20 min.

For the yogurt sauce this is what I came up with:

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt (if you use greek yogurt it will just be a thicker dressing/ dip)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbl chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbl olive oil
  • 1.5 tbl red wine vinegar

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Whisk together.
  2. Adjust ingredients until it tastes like you want it  to (i.e more pepper, more vinegar, etc.)

ENJOY!

{Quinoa in the raw}

{The quinoa sweet potato mix}

{The finished plate}

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Sweet potatoes are somewhat of a roller coaster craving for me.  I have to say that I go through fazes of wanting to eat only vegetables, which usually lasts about a week maybe a week and a half and then I don’t even want to look at a salad.  Usually when I am on that kick I buy the bag of sweet potatoes from Trader Joes, which I love mainly because they are small sweet potatoes so I can cook one for my meal and its the perfect side or snack.

While I was growing up we went to our fair share of Italian restaurants, but I would never get the gnocchi (probably because there isn’t even a hint of a clue of what gnocchi could be).  Also my mom isn’t one that loves rich filling dishes and since gnocchi (as I finally learned) usually comes with a creamy sauce she would never order it, so together those reasons never exposed me to the wonder of gnocchi.  However, as my cooking passions developed as well as the insane amount of food blogs, I started looking up dishes that I wouldn’t think to make or that I didn’t know how, just to see how oen would make it if they had the ambition.  I have to say though that the recipe for gnocchi sounds much less complicated than it is.  In reality there are not a ton of steps to making the delicious potato chunks but the labor that goes into it is much more intense.

If there is one thing I have learned throughout my culinary adventures it is to admit when someone is not worth the trouble.  I would love to sit there and make everything from scratch but the reality is, that somethings are just not worth the labor of love.  Gnocchi, as I found out, falls into that category.  However, I’m glad I tried to make it, and they actually turned out quite delicious! So if you find that wave of ambition somewhere along the line, THIS RECIPE is for you.  I would make a brown butter sage sauce to drizzle over the gnocchi like the one in THIS pumpkin gnocchi post.

ENJOY!

{Annoying computer problems so I can’t rotate the images. My apologies}