Tag Archives: Vegetarian

Fire-Roasted Pesto Summer Shells

Roasted tomato pesto shell pasta

Summer has a taste. An awesome taste, for sure, but a taste that varies from person to person. For some this means sizzling hot dogs at the ballpark, others can’t get enough butter-dipped grilled corn, and, perhaps the most puzzling, there are people who crave early-morning salted nut rolls on the golf course (I know this from personal beer-cart girl experience). Truth be told, I’ve never craved a hot dog, I choose to slather my butter onto things more decadent than corn, and every morning I’d give a middle-aged man a look of disgust when he asked me for a salted nut roll in my beer-cart girl days. But, to each their own, because this girl has her own ideas about summer food.

For me, the first summery foods that come to mind are roasted veggies and tangy margaritas. So naturally, when we were enjoying 90+ heat in Minnesota this weekend, I asked the boy to fire up the grill and go buy some limes. After all, I had my first Minnesota sunburn, my first crazy 80’s hair day of the humid season, and that sleepy, relaxed, and intoxicating overheated high. It was time for a lime-filled adult beverage and an insanely wonderful combination of roasted veggies, fresh basil, and big ‘ol pasta shells. So, in other words, it was time for summer magic.

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Peanut Crusted Tofu Transformation

Peanut crusted tofu 2

Hey meat eaters – stay with me here. I know tofu has a bad wrap outside of the veg world, but the problem is that most people don’t know how to prepare it. Heck, I’ve even had gross tofu in restaurants. Yes, I’m admitting that it can definitely be gross, which is why you should trust me that I can make it awesome.

Another barrier to tofu acceptance – its appearance. I know that the block it comes in looks unnatural, but I assure you that tofu is as natural as it gets. Tofu is simply soybeans, water, and a coagulant of some sort. Then, it’s pressed into the signature block shape. What you do with that shape, well that’s where the fun begins.

I’ve used tofu in a couple of recipes on this blog, but as a supporting ingredient, like in Pad Thai or Lettuce Wraps. In this post, I’m going to give you a way to prepare tofu so it’s the star of the show. Vegetarians should get to have a big chunk of protein shine on their plates once in a while too, you know?

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Quick and Crispy Asparagus Flatbread

Crispy Asparagus Pizza 4

I really love simple food. Sure, there’s a time and a place for complex meals, but that time is not during the week, and that place is [usually] not in my tiny apartment kitchen. This past Tuesday, I knew I needed to cook, because multiple recent impulse purchases had resulted in a stocked crisper. Yes, I impulse buy vegetables, because I’m a nerd about Spring and fresh produce. Fresh asparagus? I can put that in ANYTHING! Leeks? I love leeks! I’ll take four!

While both of these statements are true, because I DO put asparagus in everything, and I DO love leeks, my excitement blinded the rational part of my mind where I could have told myself, “Katie, you really don’t have time to cook this week.” Time shmime, I’d make it work.

Fortunately, leeks and asparagus go wonderfully together, and with a touch of lemon, some cheese, and simple seasoning, I had myself a completely delicious, perfect pizza in about 20 minutes. Sure, you need 2 hours for the dough to rise, but you can make it in under 10 minutes, then have it to use for 10 FULL DAYS with this recipe. 10 days of quick pizza at my disposal? That’s the kind of schedule I can work with.
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Big n’ Tall Toasted Quinoa Burgers

Quinoa burger sandwich 1

People often comment on the size of my meals. “Oh wow, that’s a ton of soup! And you’re having that bread too? Wow, rock on” or, “That’s a HUGE sandwich, I’m impressed” or the occasional, “Did you eat that entire pizza?” Yes, I did, okay? I ate the whole damn thing. I’m a small person who needs a lot of food. Get over it. Uffda, anyway, the takeaway from my rant is this: I like big meals. I like the act of eating, so I’m sad when it’s over quickly. Because of this, I like to eat HUGE bowls of soup or BIG  sandwiches or, yes, the occasional ENTIRE pizza. BUT, here’s the kicker, I [usually] like to make my large meals full of healthy stuff, like tomato spinach zucchini soup, or sandwiches piled high with avocado and tomato, or pizzas topped with so many veggies you can’t even tell what’s on them. That way, I can just eat the whole damn thing and still be that small chick who eats an absurd amount of food…and maybe the occasional ridiculously indulgent dessert, but that’s another post altogether.

And that brings me to my quinoa burger. While shopping at Trader Joe’s, I picked up a bag of their new Tri-Color Quinoa, and staring back at me was a recipe for quinoa burgers. I wasn’t feeling the recipe’s black bean/southwest vibe, but the idea of a quinoa burger had gotten into my head, and I wasn’t going to give it up. After all, quinoa is packed with all kinds of healthy stuff, so I could make a gigantic patty, with an awesome texture, and a main ingredient that comes together in 15 minutes. Plus, for someone like myself who’s a bit of a veggie burger aficionado, coming up with a new homemade patty sounded like a fun challenge.

I’m fortunate that the boy is supportive of my random food challenges, and actually enjoys quinoa. Sure, he’ll act skeptical when I serve it, use his sarcastic voice, and make fun of its appearance, but he eats [nearly] as much as me when we have it, so I figured he’d happily hop on board the quinoa burger train…with a bit of an attitude, per usual, but I’ll take it.

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Rekindling the [Lettuce Wrap] Flame

Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps

The boy’s place has spoiled me. It’s sky-high, with huge windows that show downtown in the distance, and we can watch the sunset right off his balcony…it’s just beautiful. While I do enjoy taking in these sights of the city when I’m over there, I also tend to focus on, well, a different sort of beauty: the P.F. Chang’s across the street. It’s just sitting there, looking at me, whispering, “What happened to us? Remember in college when you, me, and your friends would hang out and eat lettuce wraps? How can we ever get back to that place?”

It’s not that the boy and I never go out to eat, it’s just that P.F. Changs and I have grown apart. When we dine out, I gravitate towards local eateries, or new restaurants, or diamond-in-the-suburb spots. So, somehow, I ventured away from P.F. Chang’s, and you know what? When I look out that window and across the street to the welcoming, horse-guarded doors, it makes me sad.

We will inevitably venture across the street in the near future, but this week I decided to take dinner into my own hands, literally. I knew I couldn’t emulate the P.F. Chang’s lettuce wrap experience perfectly, because honestly I don’t even know what they put in there (I suspect crack), so I decided to do my own spin. Maybe it wouldn’t fix my P.F. Chang’s relationship, but I’d settle for rekindling my lettuce wrap flame.

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Falafel Burger Flirtation

Falafel Burger

My blood may be mostly Scandinavian, my appearance may be Irish-dominant, but in my heart I’m way more exotic. Sometimes my heart is Greek, sometimes it’s Italian, and every now and then it flirts with the Middle East. This Middle Eastern flirtation began, as with many food discoveries, in my college cafeteria. The hit-or-miss “Grains” (read: vegetarian) line was suspiciously popular one day, so I decided to investigate. The overwhelmed student worker filled my plate with the donut-hole sized fried balls that my classmates were clamoring after, topped with a mysterious tangy white sauce.

It was love at first falafel. With some googling, I learned that my dear falafels were just a magically balanced blend of chickpeas and spices, rolled into balls and fried to a golden brown. The mysterious white sauce, tzatziki, would later become an obsession of mine on a study-abroad trip to Greece, but this first taste in my MN homeland was what started the tzatziki and falafel fever.

Post-graduation, there were several attempts at recreating the cafeteria falafel experience: boxed mixes that tasted…boxed, scratch-made recipes that made my falafel balls collapse and break so they were balls no more, and an overly fried, poorly seasoned falafel stick at the MN State Fair. Nothing was up to snuff. In fact, nothing even came close, until one fateful day when I stumbled across a falafel burger recipe from Rachel Ray. So, today I bring you the best falafel recipe I’ve found over the past 4 years, along with a quick tzatziki lime sauce that, when drizzled over top, is sure to make your heart feel Middle Eastern, even if you are but a petite Irish Scandinavian.

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Throwback Barley Risotto Bake

Barley Casserole Sundried Tomato

I haven’t always been a big cook. In high school, I rotated between phases of grilled peanut butter sandwiches, tortillas filled with cheddar and nuked in the microwave until crispy, and nighttime bowls of cereal. In college my palate expanded a bit, due to the blessing of a well-stocked cafeteria, but it’s not a stretch to say that I never so much as looked at an oven for those four years. Post college, I found myself living in an apartment with no cafeteria, and since there are only so many nights you can eat cereal for dinner before you realize you have a problem, I decided I needed to learn a thing or two.

One of the first recipes I learned and loved involved sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, and barley, which happen to be three of my favorite things (“favorite things” post high school, of course). Until recently, I hadn’t made the recipe in a couple of years, and decided it needed to be brought back, but adapted to fill the needs of my super sophisticated taste. See, my “sophisticated taste” had gone through a cereal-for-dinner relapse while feeling sick for a couple weeks, so I wanted some extra veggies to make up for the nutrient deficit (In my mind this is how things work…don’t ruin it for me). To provide some vitamin oomph, I added a couple more of my favorite things: spinach and artichokes… Remember how I feel about artichokes? Yeah, it’s an intense love. Anyway, read on for a throwback recipe delicious enough to convert a kitchen novice into, well, someone who tries really hard.

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