Tag Archives: low fat

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.

First Time Trying Polenta!

25 Aug

My tastebuds no longer find polenta shrouded in mystery. I’ve seen polenta in so many vegetarian recipes, but have had yet to try it and experiment with it. At its most basic, polenta is just corn grits that is boiled until a thick paste and can pretty much take the form of whatever dish you’re thinking of (sweet or savory!) I just picked up a bag of Bob’s Red Mill corn grits, googled for some general advice/ideas on what to do with polenta and pretty much just made it to see if I would even like it. This really isn’t a recipe or specific dish per se because I just wanted to use up some veggies I had sitting around. And the avocado was staring deep into my soul, beckoning me to devour it. So it goes. I am loving all the roma tomatoes I keep picking from our garden! They are small, sweet and beefy and I seem to be eating them with every meal. Yay lycopene! Overall, I really enjoyed the polenta! It was creamy and I can see it having much potential to develop into any sort of dish. I baked my polenta because I wasn’t too in the mood for mush! This went well with some roasted veggies on the side.

Basic Polenta

  • 1 cup corn grits / meal/ polenta stuff
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cups milk of choice (I used almond)
  • Salt/pepper to taste
  • Spices of choice (i.e. onion powder, garlic, chili powder, sage, rosemary…depends on the dish you’re looking to make!)
  • 1 cup of shredded vegan cheddar cheese (optional)
  • Tbsp of favorite sweetener (this was an afterthought to the dish–just a hint of sweetness would make this even better)
Bring liquids to a boil in a large pot. Slowly whisk in corn grits and simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until thick, being sure to avoid lumps. Remove from heat and stir in cheese. The polenta can be eaten this way or fried in a pan for a few minutes, spread into a thin layer on a greased baking sheet and cooked for about 10-15 minutes, flipping once during that time. There are also many other ways to prepare polenta! Just do some googling and experimenting. Leftover polenta is awesome. I think I will be slicing some of mine up and grilling it! Yum.


First week of fall semester has been conquered! Just 14 more…eeek! I really think I’m going to enjoy my “Religious Movements of the US” class. I am constantly fascinated by the objective study of religions, their ideologies and effects on society and truly get sucked in by learning about cultural taboos, similarities between all religions and their historical background, whether rooted in fact or fiction. This can be a touchy subject for many people, but I love this sort of controversy and seeing what it stems from. Thank you, anthropology! πŸ™‚ My professor for the course is definitely a button-pusher–from the moment she made her grand entrance into the classroom, she’s been dropping f-bombs, pushing boundaries and forcing us to think about our own beliefs. I really feel I learn the most from eccentric, critical professors that force your to think outside the box. Classes such as this one make me feel like the amount of money I’m putting toward my education is worth it. πŸ™‚ But now, it’s late and I have to get up early! Goodnight moon!

Butternut Squash Gnocchi with a Creamy (Cashew) Rosemary/Garlic Sauce

18 Aug

The only things getting me through the day today were coffee and the thought that I will be heading to Palisade, Colorado this weekend and then running the Warrior Dash on Sunday! Super excited for Palisade because this weekend is the Palisade Peach festival and Palisade is known for their orchards and vineyards. Looking forward to sipping on some wine and unwinding a bit. Even though I was thoroughly tired after getting home from work, I was in the mood to make something that would be satisfying and make me feel accomplished!

I’ve made gnocchi quite a few times in the past, sometimes without much success. Not the easiest dish to make, but I can’t get enough of those fluffy clouds of goodness. Making gnocchi really makes me want to buy a potato ricer…definitely a good thing to have. My gnocchi have always been made with the very basic of ingredients: potatoes, salt, flour and a bit of oil. Tonight? Butternut squash was on the menu. I love the color! There was also a hint of sweetness in the gnocchi, so it could definitely go well with a variety of sauces.

Creamy Cashew Rosemary/Garlic Sauce

  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked for a few hours
  • Garlic powder, dried rosemary, onion powder
  • Water!

Drain the cashews. Place everything in a high-quality blender and blend to desired consistency. Mine was super thick, should have added more water. Use vegetable stock for extra flavor instead of water. Warm up in a saucepan and add whatever flavors you like! Another approach to this would be to make a roux, bechamel or mornay sauce to go with this dish. Simple white sauces are amazingly versatile!

Butternut Squash Gnocchi

  • 1 Medium Butternut Squash, halved
  • Salt+Pepper to taste
  • A few sprinkles of garlic powder
  • All-purpose flour

Bake butternut squash at 375 degrees until soft (this takes awhile, about 40 minutes). Scoop soft squash and spices into a blender and and blend until thick and pasty. Place the squash paste into a large bowl and begin working flour into it. I don’t have an exact measurement, since I just kept adding flour until it had the correct consistency. You want the dough to be soft and smooth, not dry nor sticky. Let dough rest for a few minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Take a small hunk of the dough and roll it into a thin, round tube. Cut into 1/2″ long bits. Using a fork, smoosh the gnocchi into fun shapes. Experiment! Who cares if it’s authentic or traditional! Make bunny heads or stars! πŸ˜‰ Make the gnocchi in small batches. Place in boiling water and when they float to the top, they are done! Fish them out with a slotted spoon and set aside. Top with tasty sauce of your choice!

 

obligatory schnozz action.

I made my gnocchi quite large and beefy, so they were more chewy than fluffy. Still filling and delicious! I served this with fresh heirloom roma tomatoes that I picked from the garden today. It’s true–vegetables/fruits that you grow yourself taste so much better.

Not sure if I will be able to post tomorrow since I have much to do before leaving, so have a great weekend everyone! Cook some good things while I’m gone…

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!Β  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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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)

  • ΒΌ cup Applesauce
  • ΒΎ 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!)
  • Β½ cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp. Baking powder
  • Β½ tsp. Salt
  • 4 tbsp. Cocoa
  • Β½ 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! πŸ™‚ 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).

French Bread / Grilled Vegetable & Pesto Paninis

11 Aug

Ah, the beloved crusty french bread. A seemingly difficult task to recreate this fluffy/crispy dichotomy, it turns out to be a rather simple recipe with a few basic ingredients. When I stumbled across this recipe at “Gourmet Mom On the Go”, I immediately knew I had to try it. Such an easy approach to making something I would typically buy in the store. I pretty much followed her recipe exactly, except I made it even easier…by utilizing by bread maker. Lazy lazy, I know, but it got the job done without me worrying if I had killed the yeast! I also didn’t roll the dough out like she did…I just kind of blobbed it together until it was a nice shape. Sidenote: shape it into a boule and you have an AWESOME breadbowl for a hearty soup! Might have to try this in the winter… This bread was perfect for what I had in mind for dinner: PANINIS!

We’re getting to that awkward point in the week where it’s too soon to go to the grocery, yet you have to use some creativity to figure something out for dinner. Zucchini squash, heirloom beefsteak tomatoes, bell peppers, and a quick spinach pesto make these hearty paninis. The squash and bell peppers were tossed in some olive oil + salt/pepper and grilled for a few minutes. I whipped up the spinach pesto using a couple handfuls of fresh baby spinach (feel free to sub some fresh basil in there), walnuts, garlic, salt+pepper, and olive oil. Whizzed it in the VitaMix until pasty and spread it on the sliced french bread. I bought a couple heirloom beefsteak tomatoes the other day from a little farm that’s across the street from the library I work at…in the middle of the neighborhood! Such a neat little farm. The tomatoes tasted SO good fresh, no need to grill or prepare them any other way. Layered the grilled vegetables on top of everything and whipped out the panini press. It’s always nice to kind of feel like you’re justifying having a ridiculous amount of kitchen gadgets by actually using them. If you don’t have a panini press, just make them like you would a grilled cheese. Or even throw them on the grill if you’re looking for those authentic grill lines. Quick and easy dinner using ingredients I already had. Love it.

The bulk of my day tomorrow will play out as such: up early to go to a couple intriguing estate sales to scope out some Pyrex, whip together a fruit salad for a pot luck at work tomorrow, work, rejoice at being one day closer to having the children out of the library and back at school, and finally, come home. Relax. Possibly do something with the butternut squash that’s been sitting on the counter. Perhaps. But now? TO BED!