Vegetarian Cooking Class

This week I took my first-ever cooking class with my friend, colleague and pescatarian-inspiration, Ramonna. It was all I wanted it would be and I am hopeful that many more are in my future. The class was held at the newly relocated Sur la Table store in Cherry Creek North. The kitchen at the back of the store is large, bright and gorgeous.

The class was entitled “Elegant Vegetarian.” Think meatless that is deserving of the good plates.

Pictured on the bottom left is an Herb Marinated Tofu Niçoise Salad with Lemon-Caper Vinaigrette. On the right is our Baked Polenta with Mushroom and Sage Ragout. The tips we learned for searing tofu and prepping quick-cook polenta were worth the $69 alone. We also made our snack – Pan-Fried Halloumi with Oregano and Truffle Oil – and a second salad, Pear, Gouda, and Kale Salad with Walnuts and Sherry Vinaigrette.

Can we talk about truffle oil drizzled over seared Halloumi cheese? I’d be willing to do two-a-days at the gym for the rest of time to eat this daily. I treated myself to a tiny bottle of truffle oil and cannot wait for some decadent drizzles in the coming weeks and months. It’s worth all 120 calories per serving – no question.

Cooking classes aren’t cheap but boy are they fun, and educational. Have you ever taken one? And, any suggestions for how to best enjoy my new truffle oil?

Quickie Salmon Pick Me Up

Since giving up meat about six or seven months ago my fish intake has doubled. I never even tried to pursue a true vegetarian diet because I love fish too much, and trying to cook for Mike without meat is hard enough. I’m constantly trying new recipes, from super simple to more complex, to broaden what we eat in this newly no-meat household. For Labor Day I treated myself to a Whole Foods shopping trip with big plans for an evening grill session. Come dinnertime however, we discovered we were out of propane. How convenient. So we forged ahead in the kitchen and seared two pieces of fresh salmon on a piping hot cast iron Le Creuset oval skillet while roasting fresh veggies in the oven and heating pre-cooked slices of polenta.

To make the salmon a bit more special, I followed a very easy creamy (i.e., decadent and not diet friendly) dill sauce recipe from one of our Williams-Sonoma cookbooks. The result of topping otherwise ho-hum salmon with a cool and refreshing dill sauce was tremendous. The dinner, while so simple, quickly became a summer favorite.

Creamy Dill Sauce from Williams-Sonoma Cooking Essentials Cookbook:

Ingredients

  • 1/4 lb fresh goat cheese
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh dill
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Salt and ground white pepper

The amounts above are for a serving size of 6 – 8 so I cut back dramatically since it was just Mike and me. You simply mix all of these ingredients in a small bowl and chill until the salmon is ready. Voila! Fancy up your salmon in an mere instant, and go one step further by garnishing with lemon slices if you so choose.

What recipes will you be making while it still feels like summer?

Pin of the Week: Healthier Creamed Corn

Summer means enjoying sweet, fresh corn. Lots of it. I really love corn.

Most often we just have it steamed on the cob with a pat of fake butter spread and a bit of salt. Nothing fancy. But when I saw this picture of Mexican Creamed Corn from Whole Living, I knew it must be delicious and healthier. I can’t wait to give it a try soon!

 

What is your favorite way to enjoy sweet summer corn?

Quick Homemade Tabouli

Thank god my friend and colleague Ramonna let me borrow her Student’s Vegetarian Cookbook. Lately I haven’t been motivated to do anything complicated for dinner. Blame it on a hectic work schedule or a bit of cooking fatigue. But everything in this cookbook is ridiculously easy so I’ve been able to forge ahead with my new meatless lifestyle.

I suggest prepping a big batch of this salad for lunches and dinner. On Monday I served it alongside shrimp with Singapore seasoning from Penzey’s Spices and some corn on the cob. Perfection.

Tabouli Salad Ingredients

  • Bulgar wheat (I used the quick cooking variety)
  • 2 tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Fresh or dried mint, about a teaspoon (more/less based on taste)

Cook the Bulgar according to the instructions. I made enough for four servings, about one cup dry. Once all the water has been absorbed transfer to a bowl and stir in all of the remaining ingredients. Chill for about 30 minutes in the fridge. Devour.

What cold summer salads do you love to prepare?

Pin of the Week: We All Scream for Ice Cream

We received an ice cream maker as a wedding present last year and I have to say, there is simply nothing more fun (and decadently delicious) than making ice cream at home. It’s a little discouraging to discover just how bad ice cream is for you – that much heavy cream clearly isn’t healthy – but who cares. I will go to five kettle bell boot camp classes a week if that means being able to enjoy more creamy goodness.

On my list for this summer is to try my hand at homemade ice cream sandwiches. I’ll need a little patience and a lot of time, but I was immediately inspired by these lovelies below (Lemon Almond Coconut Ice Cream Sandwiches courtesy of the beautiful Sacramento Street blog). Maybe I can recruit Mike’s sister Kelly to help me, as she has witnessed my inability to follow a recipe, no matter how simple, correctly from start to finish.

Three cheers for ice cream!

Tofu and Cabbage Stir Fry

Since giving up meat I have been wanting to experiment with tofu but continually avoid it for fear of screwing it up royally. I know that is hard to do but some recipes are a little intimidating. But on Monday I decided to get over it and selected a simple tofu and cabbage stir fry recipe from the Student’s Vegetarian Cookbook. Idiot proof, right?

In this case I am happy to report, it was super simple!

What you’ll need:

  • 1/2 head of small cabbage, chopped
  • 1/2 block extra firm tofu cubed (to prep, sandwich the tofu between two plates and top with a heavy book for about 20 minutes to squeeze out all the excess water)
  • Chopped garlic (I opted for two cloves)
  • Teaspoon of fresh ginger (ours was moldy so I used powdered ginger instead)
  • Vegetable oil

Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a pan over medium/high heat. Add tofu and cook, stirring often, until the cubes are slightly browned. It took about 5 minutes for me. Add the garlic and ginger and combine for about a minute. Transfer to a plate.

Add another splash of vegetable oil to the pan and cook the cabbage until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the tofu/garlic/ginger mixture and quickly combine with the cabbage before removing from the heat. Serve with a dash of soy sauce and sesame seeds if you have time on hand.

The verdict? Even Mike cleaned his plate and declared it (as someone who does not love tofu) very tasty. Major success in my book.

Do you cook with tofu?

Quick Meatless Monday Pasta

Most Monday nights I take a yoga class that doesn’t end until 6:45 p.m. So unless I prepare something on Sunday, we’re usually in a rush to eat. This Monday I had hoped Mike would be able to get dinner started before I got home but he only beat me by a few minutes, so at 7 p.m. it was looking like a frozen pizza night.

Instead, I got creative and decided to kick regular pasta up a notch with whatever I could find in the fridge. I’m telling you — spend a few extra minutes enhancing store-bought pasta sauce and you have a really yummy meal.

Simple “kicked up” Meatless Monday pasta dinner:

  • Prepare whole wheat pasta according to directions
  • In a small frying pan, sauté fresh mushrooms, fresh basil and freshly chopped garlic (I went for three decent sized cloves)
  • In a separate small sauce pan, heat a small amount of pasta sauce
  • Once the pasta is cooked and drained, grab a serving bowl and first toss the sautéed mixture, before folding in just a bit of sauce (keep it light!) and a few pinches of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Stir and serve hot with a side salad

What is your favorite recipe that you fall back on when rushing to get dinner on the table?

 

Sunday Blog Love ~ March 25

Love is all aroundExcuses, excuses. I have plenty of those for why the Sunday Blog Love series has fallen by the wayside. Those aside, it is one of my favorite posts to write so since I’ve found myself with a moment of “me” time, I thought I’d bring it back.

Enjoy…

Have a lovely Sunday!

Meatless Monday: Shrimp & Orzo Salad

My colleague Ramonna let me borrow a few of her favorite vegetarian cookbooks for inspiration. This delicious dish comes from The Fishes & Dishes Cookbook ~ Seafood Recipes and Salty Stories from Alaska’s Commercial Fisherwoman.

Shrimp & Orzo Salad with Pesto, Roasted Tomatoes, and Snow Peas

Ingredients

  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon EVOO
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups orzo
  • 8 ounces fresh snow peas, trimmed of strings
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, for garnish
  • 1 lb shrimp (peeled and cooked)

Pesto Sauce Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup pine nuts or walnuts
  • 2 cups fresh packed basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup EVOO
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Place the cherry tomatoes in an oven-safe dish and toss with EVOO, sea salt and garlic. Roast for approximately 20 minutes, tossing at about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

While tomatoes are roasting boil a large pot of water and cook 2 cups orzo according to directions. While water is boiling also steam the snow peas in a colander over the boiling water for approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Rinse orzo and snow peas under cold water to avoid over cooking.

To make the pesto, blend the pine nuts, basil, garlic and Parmesan cheese in a food processor. Add the olive oil to the pesto sauce in a slow drizzle, then add the lemon juice.

Toss orzo, tomatoes, shrimp, snow peas and pesto together in a large bowl.

Put on stretchy pants because you are going to want seconds and thirds! Mike was working on a project in the basement as I got dinner ready and when he walked upstairs exclaimed, “it smells amazing!” I love that validation in the kitchen. Despite the dish being pasta based it was very light yet still filling. Because it was getting late I didn’t even make a side salad, and it wasn’t missed. I forget about how nice the crunch of a snow pea can be in a dish so I want to use them more often.

Got a Meatless Monday recipe for me to try? Let’s swap!

Vegetable Casserole

Whatever little eating experiment I’m exploring right now is pretty interesting. I haven’t had meat since last Thursday afternoon and I don’t miss it at all. While I am not interested in becoming a vegetarian, I am interested in the whole new world of fruits and veggies that I’ve been ignoring for the quick fix of frozen meals and sweet treats.

I also read Michael Pollan’s Food Rules this weekend and am inspired by some of the research and information he shares. A lot of it is common sense, but other points stick with you–like why the “Western diet” yields double the heart disease rates compared to other cultures. Cancer rates also come up a lot in the book, and I am hard pressed to find anyone who hasn’t been touched by some form of cancer lately. It’s everywhere.

Mike is less excited about my meatless adventures but agreed to keep the chicken in the freezer tonight so that I could make Bean and Spinach Casserole. I found the recipe on Door to Door Organics and had all of the ingredients delivered today. So simple!

I couldn’t resist taking this picture of Mike. He was such a good sport about the meal and in the end, gave it two big thumbs up. Success!

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches spinach, rinsed and stems removed, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • ½ cups fresh thyme, leaves minced
  • 3 15oz cans cannelini beans
  • 1 cup diced canned tomatoes, drained
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onions, chopped small
  • ½ cups olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat ¼ cup of the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium high heat.  Sauté the onion, garlic and ¼ cup of the thyme until the onions are softened.

In a greased roasting pan, mix the onion mixture, spinach, tomatoes and beans.  Season the casserole with salt and pepper and place in the oven to cook for 25 minutes, or until the spinach is wilted and the mixture is hot throughout.

While the casserole is cooking, heat the rest of the olive oil in the sauté pan over medium high heat.  Add the bread crumbs and the rest of the thyme.  Sauté until the mixture is wet and season with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle on top of the casserole and bake for 5 minutes, or until the top is a nice golden brown.

I’d love for you to share your favorite meatless (and boy approved) recipes with me!

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