Tag Archives: quick

Quick & Easy Weeknight Dinner – Grilled Vegetables & Rice!

1 Sep


Two staples that will pretty much always be found in my kitchen: vegetables and rice. Since we haven’t ventured to the grocery store in far too long, dinner had to be whatever we had on hand! After a rather laborious dinner the other night, I was in no mood for drawn-out dinner shenanigans, so N got some rice cooking while I was on my way home. I whisked together a quick+simple marinade for the vegetables (soy sauce, ginger, sesame seed oil, LOTS of garlic, agave nectar, & chili paste), sliced some zucchini and green bell pepper and let sit for a few minutes while the grill was heating. The awesome thing about vegetarian marinades? They can also be used as sauce after everything is cooked without worrying about contamination from raw meats! Nom nom nom. While the vegetables were grilling and the marinade was looking a little lonely, I sliced up some beefsteak tomatoes and let those soak up the lovely sauce for a bit. No need to grill the tomatoes, these tasted great raw! Once done, everything gets thrown in a bowl to commence devouring.

Notes:

  • Need protein? Use Quinoa instead of rice. Thought of doing this after the rice started cooking, unfortunately…
  • Turn this all into a wrap! Add some beans & cheese and you got yerself a burrito.

Grilled Vegetable Salad & Fruit Smoothie

17 Aug

We have a problem. The significant other and I tend to buy way too many Groupons & Livingsocial deals…and then forget about them until right before they expire. We bought a voucher for $30 worth of organic, local vegetables delivered to our door like three months ago…and got out veggies this morning! The tub was packed full of leafy greens, potatoes, corn, broccoli, eggplant and carrots. Now to find a way to use all this!

Lunch was easy to throw together. I salted and let eggplants slices sweat for about 30 minutes. I sliced some zucchini squash and heirloom beefsteak tomatoes and let those marinate in garlic powder, salt+pepper, balsamic vinegar and olive oil while the eggplant was sweating. The grill was then fired up and everything thrown on for about 10 minutes. Grilled Vegetable Salad!  The great thing about marinating vegetables is that the leftover marinade doesn’t go to waste, unlike when you marinate meat stuffs. Leftover marinade = lazy man’s salad dressing. The salad was gorgeous and bright BUT unfortunately, the eggplant was SO BITTER! Such a bummer. I know salting/sweating helps with the bitterness, but wow, it was pretty much inedible. It made my mouth hurt so much! Oh well! I devoured the rest of the salad and ended up pitching the eggplant. Not sure what went wrong, maybe just a bad aubergine?

I also made a fruit smoothie to add a bit of sweetness + daily serving of fruits to the meal. LOVE smoothies, especially on hot summer days! We try to buy and use fresh fruit as much as possible, but sometimes it’s too expensive or not available! When fruit is on sale, we buy a lot of it and freeze it. Perfect for smoothie making because you don’t need to add any ice. This smoothie consisted of: pineapple slices, strawberries (with the greens still on top), blueberries, and orange juice. Simple, but so sweet and refreshing!

 

Super excited to be seeing one of my all-time favorite bands, Incubus, at Red Rocks Amphitheatre tonight! Just hoping the thunderstorms roll right on past us :) Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Quick, Easy Zucchini, Spinach & Tomato Pasta

16 Aug

I was in no mood for a laborious, time-consuming dinner tonight. I found the solution sitting on my kitchen counter. I’ve been making an effort to buy much of the produce we love locally. There’s a small farm stand across the street from the library that I frequent and they have amazing heirloom beefsteak tomatoes. We also go to the farmer’s market at City Park on Sundays ($.25 jalapenos? awesome.), where we also get to pick up our share of the ELA Family Farms fruit CSA that we are a part of. ELA Family Farms is located in Hotchkiss, CO (about 240 miles away from Denver) and grow a variety of organic fruits and vegetables. We picked up our first share this past Sunday consisting of a bag of heirloom tomatoes, a bag of peaches and applesauce made from their own apples! As the season progresses, we will be expecting different varieties of tomatoes, peaches, plums, pears, apples and CIDER! For the entire month of October, we will receive a half gallon of cider every week. I love fall and cider and pumpkins and apples and orchards! If there’s one thing I miss about Michigan, it’s the sunny, brisk Fall days spent apple picking and devouring freshly made donuts at a cider mill.

With little inspiration or motivation toward making a grand meal tonight, I whipped up an easy, flavorful vegetable pasta dish that took about 20 minutes. The dry sherry used really helped bring the dish together and mellow the balsamic vinegar. This can be thrown together using pretty much any vegetables you have on hand, though I highly recommend some fresh, juicy beefsteak tomatoes as the main ingredient.

Quick, Easy Zucchini, Spinach & Tomato Pasta

  • 3 Fresh beefsteak tomatoes (also threw in a couple of romas we had on hand)
  • Half a zucchini squash, sliced and then cut in half
  • Fresh baby spinach leaves
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt/pepper to taste
  • About 1/4 cup of dry sherry
  • a few splashes of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 servings of whole wheat pasta

pretty pyrex :)

Boil water! Cook pasta! Meanwhile…in a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and minced garlic (since I didn’t have any on hand, I just threw in some garlic powder later on). Wilt the spinach leaves by covering the pan for a few minutes. Add zucchini and beefsteak tomatoes, stir and let simmer for 5 minutes. Add spices to taste (basil would be a great addition). Add sherry and balsamic vinegar and simmer for about 5 more minutes until the sherry flavor has mellowed a bit. Taste and make sure it is savory and everything you hoped and dreamed for. Throw on top of the cooked pasta and, if you have any, garnish with fresh basil leaves.

 

I was super excited to see the tea towels I ordered from Etsy seller Zen Threads waiting for me in the mail today. I love functional, vintage-looking tea towels and these are super high quality. Look out for them in upcoming food pictures :)

I’m loving these cool summer nights…Autumn is in the air! My favorite season. Can’t wait for the Aspens to start changing colors because you know what that means…WINTER IS COMING! I’m already itching to slap my skis on and tear down the mountains. But it’s still August. And it’s still in the 90s during the day. Reality check.

Three Bite Brownies with a Peanut Butter Cookie Middle

15 Aug

CHOCOLATE! One of my major weaknesses. Don’t get between me and a chocolate bar. I will fight you for it. For some reason I had a craving for some chocolatey, peanut buttery goodness this weekend and needed to find a unique way to combine the two. I came up with a brownie with a peanut butter cookie in the middle…but haven’t thought of a better name. These are only three bite brownies if you have a large mouth and like to just dive in and devour your food. I didn’t want something overwhelmingly sugary and really hate using refined, white sugar. I used the glorious and versatile maple syrup to sweeten this treat up. Also, applesauce replaced butter, reducing the fat and contributing to the sweet moistness of the brownies.

Brownie Recipe (adapted from here)

  • ¼ cup Applesauce
  • ¾ cup Maple Syrup (or try honey, agave nectar, stevia, etc)
  • Egg replacement equivalent to 1 Egg (1 tbsp flaxseed ground with 3 tbsp water = 1 egg!)
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla (I ran out of vanilla, but they still tasted great without!)
  • ½ cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp. Baking powder
  • ½ tsp. Salt
  • 4 tbsp. Cocoa
  • ½ cup Chopped nuts (optional)

Thoroughly mix all wet ingredients first. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa. Slowly add to wet ingredients, but do not overmix. Slowly fold in nuts, if using. Time to make the cookie dough!

Peanut Butter Cookies (adapted from here)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup peanut butter (I used a mix of crunchy and smooth…mainly because I ran out of crunchy.)
  • 3/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup almond milk

Mix wet ingredients and dry ingredients separately. Then dump into one bowl! Dough will be thick and pretty dry. You will definitely have some leftover, so make them into cookies! Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll about a tablespoon of dough in your hand and flatten with a cup. With a wet fork, make criss-cross marks. Sprinkle some sugar on top and pop into the oven for about 11 minutes.

To assemble the brownie/cookie things: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray/grease a muffin tin. Spoon about a tablespoon of brownie batter into each muffin groove. Take about a tablespoon (or slightly less) of the peanut butter cookie dough, roll into a ball and flatten in your hand. I made mine slightly smaller than the muffin circle so that the brownie part could encompass the peanut butter cookie completely, hiding it from the world! Place the peanut butter cookie onto the already spooned brownie batter, then cover with another 1.5 tbsp of brownie batter (or however much you want!) Just make sure the cookie is completely covered in the brownie goop. Bake for about 25-30 minutes. It’s a little hard to tell if they’re done, but really, you can’t go wrong because there’s no egg! No worries! :) If you really have a sweet tooth, sprinkle some powdered cane sugar on top. Now, go find someone who doesn’t know what you were concocting in your kitchen and surprise them with a bite!

This was a great dessert that didn’t make me feel too guilty to indulge in! The maple syrup was a “barely-there” flavor and didn’t make you feel like you had just stuck your tongue into a bag sugar. Of course, this might not be appealing to everyone, but I enjoyed the light sweetness and didn’t feel like I had to go take a nap after eating. Applesauce kept these moist and they’re still moist even a day later! Just remember to wrap them up or store them in a bag. Great additions to these would be some chocolate chips, carob chips, or some broken pretzels (salty+sweet=amazing).

Lemon Cream Sauce Pasta Topped with Basil and Roma Tomatoes

29 Jul

This hot summer night called for something with a zip and fresh flavors! I whipped this easy, filling dinner up in just under 30 minutes. The lemony sauce wasn’t overwhelming, but even with the juice and zest of 2 lemons, it could have used more! Maybe I just had wimpy lemons? The newly cut basil and fresh romas mixed nicely with the sauce. I just wish I had had a chilled glass of chardonnay to go with it (and perhaps in the sauce? intriguing…) The recipe definitely has room for tweaking and I look forward to coming up with new ways to improve it!

The cream sauce is just a basic white sauce (bechamel) made from a roux. I really enjoy how the white sauce can pretty much be turned into whatever you fell like creating! It’s very flexible and simple to make, as long as you don’t mind standing over a hot stove for a little while. Want a step-by-step breakdown of making a roux, bechamel or mornay sauce? Read this very informative article!

all it needed was a glass of wine...

(Vegan) Lemon Cream Sauce Pasta Topped with Basil and Roma Tomatoes

Start by getting some water boiling for your noodles! You can pretty much whip up the sauce while the water boils and noodles cook.  I used about 1/3 box of whole wheat Rotini noodles. Just pour the sauce over the noodles, cut some fresh basil, chop some tomatoes and you’ve got a meal!

Lemon Cream Sauce

  • 2 tbsp Earth Balance
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tbsp garlic powder
  • a couple dashes of salt & pepper
  • 1 cup original almond milk (or whatever milk you prefer–not sure how the acidity of the lemons will react to them though!)
  • Zest & juice from 2 lemons

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the Earth Balance and add the garlic powder, salt and pepper. With a whisk, incorporate the flour and cook for a couple minutes until slightly brown and bubbly. This is a roux! Over medium heat, add a small amount of the almond milk and whisk until mixed and beginning to thicken. Continue stirring and adding the rest of the milk slowly. Sauce should be nice and thick now! If not, there’s always cornstarch ;) Remove from heat.

With a microplane grater, zest the lemon straight into the sauce. Add lemon juice and stir! This freaked me out, but I noticed that my sauce started getting all bubbly and crazy looking (pretty sure it was the lemon juice reacting with the almond milk). I was worried things might start heading south and curdle, but all settled down and continued being smooth. Success.

Notes:

  • I might try to somehow make this more lemon-y! Perhaps adding the lemon directly into the melted better? Drizzle more lemon juice over the finished dish? Hmm.
  • Some toasted sliced almonds over the top of this adds a nice crunch!
  • For a green, more basil-centric sauce, whiz the sauce and a handful of basil in the blender
  • Instead of basil, try this with fresh thyme

TGIF! :)

Leftover Surprise

26 Jul

It’s always fun to take whatever you have in the fridge, throw it in a blender and hope for the best. Quite the adventure! I had some leftover mashed potatoes from the pierogies last night and a crap load of vegetables just on the brink of the point of no return. Since I have yet to get a food processor (definitely would have made this a bit easier), I used our trusty, ridiculously powerful VitaMix to create a mash of vegetables: broccoli, red bell pepper & zucchini. I came up with a sort of hybrid vegetable fritter/potato pancake thing. Super easy and quick to make using any vegetables sitting around in the fridge. I don’t have any sort of real measurements, mostly just winging it!

These were great complemented with some ketchup and hot sauce! And a side of iced chai tea... :)

Potato/Vegetable Fritter Pancake (Pancatter? Fritcake?)

  • Leftover mashed potatoes (These had chives, garlic powder, almond milk and some Earth balance buttah)
  • A variety of hearty vegetables (In this case, I had zucchini, broccoli and red bell peppers)
  • Garlic!
  • A tablespoon or two of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Salt/pepper to taste

Place all the vegetables (except the potatoes) in your food processor or blender. Blend until you get desired consistency (if ya like chunks, go for it). This should be kind of a thick paste.

Dump vegetable paste in with the mashed potatoes and mix until it becomes an even thicker paste! How exciting. Add any more spices you like to the mix. Next, add the flour and baking powder. Mix with your hands (more fun) until you are able to make them into patties that don’t completely fall apart on you. They shouldn’t be super sticky, but somewhat moist. If too wet and falling apart, slowly work more flour in until they stick.

Have a skillet ready on medium heat sprayed lightly with canola oil. Form the fritterthings into balls then flatten in your hands. They turn out with a nicer consistency the thinner you make them! Let cook in pan for a few minutes each side or until they are brown and smelling amazing. EAT.

Notes:

  • Mine held together pretty well, but if you find yours falling apart too much, Vegetarians can add an egg to the mix and Vegans can use water + flax seed blended together to bind the mix a little better.
  • Shredded carrots would add a bit of sweetness and great color
  • Might be interesting grilled…
  • Used minced garlic instead of powdered
  • Onions would give a flavor boost
  • Try adding some jalapenos and cheddar cheese! Mmm spicy!
  • Cholula (hot sauce), ketchup, and sour cream pair well with these

Hearty, easy breakfast, my favorite. Looks like it’s going to be another hot one today. Hopefully the air conditioning at the library won’t be on the fritz again! It was 84 in there yesterday! I’m surprised the books didn’t melt.

To the library I go!

Avocado Sushi Makes Everything Better

25 Jul

One of my favorite things to make when I have an abundance of avocados!

Yum! I had two very ripe avocados sitting on my counter just waiting to be turned into something delish! Rolling sushi takes some practice, but it’s definitely worth it. It’s crazy how expensive simple rolls like avocado or veggie can be at some sushi bars! This is cheap. and tasty. Great lunch!

I have to mentally prepare myself for work on Mondays. It’s always crazy at the library after the weekend! The children seem to be especially insane since they don’t have access to our computers/internet for the ENTIRE weekend (OH THE HORROR!) Mondays also mean that I’m ready to check out more cookbooks. I have a complete library of my own, made up of library books. I have a problem with checking things out and not returning them! Good thing I tend to check out unpopular books so I can renew and hoard them for a long long time (one of the perks of being a staff member!)

I hope the garden is ok, I completely forgot to water it yesterday! Can’t wait for the little jalapenos to be ready to become SALSA!

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