Ja cię kocham…

….simple, healthy, and with lots of love.

Spaghetti Squash with Red Bell Peppers and Basil

May 03, 2009 By: kristi Category: Main Dish, Side Dish, Vegetables

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I discovered this Godsend in college.  I struggle with meal-making decisions because I want something light but I want something that fills me.  Normally an hour after a light meal I’m already hungry, and I end up snacking my face off until bedtime.  Yeah, I know.  The light meal was pointless if I am going to snack all night. :o )

But then my Mom came to the rescue with a fantastic recipe.  It was fantastic in so many ways.  Being young, I didn’t really know how to cook, but this recipe looked simple enough.  It was fantastically inexpensive, which was great because I worked in the school library for pennies.  And all in all, spaghetti squash is simply a fantastic vegetable.  It has all the qualities of pasta without all the pasta.  Make sense?  You could fill up on this stuff, eat some more, then eat some more and there is no guilt.    It’s light because it’s all veggie, but for some reason it fills you up for hours.  No need to snack after this meal.  I’m satisfied.

Feel free to add your favorite pasta fixings to this dish.  It’s very versatile and super easy to make, and its bright contrasting colors make this particular recipe irresistible to the eye and to the mouth :o )

Spaghetti Squash with Red Bell Peppers and Basil

Serves 4 as main dish; serves 6-8 as side dish

Ingredients:

1 large spaghetti squash
3 cups of veggie or chicken broth
1 cup sweet onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
Parmesan cheese
Salt to taste (if broth is not overly salty)
Fresh basil, for garnish
Red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions:

Poke several holes in the spaghetti squash.

Microwave for 10 minutes.  Using an ovenmit to protect your hand, slice in half and allow to cool so that it’s manageable to touch.

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Scoop and discard the seeds.  Then using a fork, scrape the insides of the squash into a large skillet.

Add veggie broth and onion, and peppers to skillet.

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Cook uncovered on medium-high until all of the broth is absorbed by the squash, about 10 minutes.  Add desired amount of cheese, red pepper flakes and salt.

Upon serving add basil.  The heat of the squash browns the basil quickly so make sure to add the basil immediately before serving!!

Enjoy!

Stuffed Peppers with Pineapple Rice

April 28, 2009 By: kristi Category: Main Dish, Side Dish, Vegetables, Vegetarian

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Forgive my absence on here.  Life has created a whirlwind that has picked me up, whooshed me around, and before I knew it, it was the end of April.  Where has the time gone??!

No worries, though.  I have plenty of recipes to be posted in the next few days or week….  I won’t let you down.  Promise.

Lucky for me red peppers are on mega sale this week.  They are always so painfully expensive, but THIS week they were more than 50% off!  SCORE!  As soon as I saw them, I piled them into my cart with a huge grin on my face.  Stuffed peppers dinner!  Yes!

This recipe was literally thrown together with whatever I had in my fridgie and cabinets.  Don’t you just love those experimental meals?  You hope and pray that it turns out okay since there is absolutely no recipe in sight.   And guess what.  These stuffed peppers were delightful!   The pineapple gave them a hint of summery sweetness while the red beans gave them the heartiness I need in a meal.

Get creative with your pepper stuffing.  Throw in whatever you would love to eat in your rice!  Or do what I do and just throw in whatever you got.  You won’t be disappointed.

Stuffed Peppers with Pineapple Rice

Ingredients:

Extra virgin olive oil or cooking spray
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 3/4 c. vegetable stock (or whatever amount of liquid that your rice calls for)
2 c. instant brown rice
1 c. diced pineapple (Dole has the Pineapple “tidbits” that are perfect!)
1 can small red beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 c. part-skim mozzarella cheese
2 Tbs. fresh rosemary, chopped
Pepper to taste (If your veggie stock isn’t salty, then add salt to taste)
3-4 red bell peppers with tops cut off and discarded, seeds and ribs removed

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat oil on medium in large skillet.  Saute garlic until fragrant.  About 3-5 minutes.

Add veggie stock to skillet, bring to a boil.  Add rice and cook according to directions.

Toss in the rest of the ingredients except for the peppers.

Fill a baking pan with an inch of water.

Divide the rice evenly among the peppers and fill them to the top.  Place stuffed peppers into the baking pan with water and cook for 30-45** minutes or until peppers begin to wrinkle and rice begins to brown on top.  Feel free to top the peppers with cheese with about 5-7 minutes left to cook.  I opted not to because I was looking for a more low-fat meal.

**IMPORTANT FYI – Many recipes call for 40-50 minutes but my peppers were done in 30 so use your judgment.  It doesn’t hurt to check them at 30 minutes.

Enjoy!

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Hot & Sour Noodle Salad

April 16, 2009 By: kristi Category: Main Dish, Pasta, Salad, Side Dish, Spicy

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To all of my quirky friends out there, this dish was made with Soba Noodles.  My beautiful puppy, Noodles, was not boiled, tossed in oil, and served in a bowl.  She is alive and well, still loving her fluffy pillows and eating carrots and peanut butter.

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Noodles loves her pillows…

Moving on to the soba noodles…  I’ve been really trying to find easy recipes using only the ingredients in my cabinets.  Often, these meals are what I would post on here because they are simple, no brainers, but this recipe is totally post-worthy.  From the time that I put the water in the pasta pot to the time I mixed the sauce in finished noodles, this meal took all of 10 minutes.  Fan-flipping-tastic!

And, I discovered that soba noodles are now my all-time favorite pasta.  I could eat them when they are crunchy and raw – yeah, I know, I’m weird.  The closest thing that I can compare it to is an angel hair pasta as far as consistency goes.  Regardless (or should I say, irregardless?  JUST kidding.  That word drives me nuts!), this meal is a winner.  It’s fast, it’s light, and it’s inexpensive to make.  Oh, and Jay gave me the HUGEST hive-five after his first bite!

Hot and Sour Noodle Salad (without my puppy)

Source: The Vegetarian Cookbook, p. 155

Serves 4

Ingredients:

12 oz. thin pasta (I recommend rice vermicelli or SOBA NOODLES!)
4 Tbs. sesame oil (canola or vegetable works well if you don’t have the sesame)
3 Tbs. soy sauce
juice of 2 limes
1 tsp. sugar
4 scallions, finely sliced (use any onion if you don’t have these on hand)
1-2 tsp. hot chili sauce (any hot sauce is perfect)
2 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:

Prepare the noodles according to the package instructions.  Drain, put in a bowl and toss with half the oil.

Mix the remaining oil, soy sauce, lime juice, sugar, scallions, and chili/hot sauce together in a bowl.  Stir into the noodles.

Toss in the cilantro and serve.

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Layered Tex-Mex Salad with Creamy Cilantro Lime Dressing

April 08, 2009 By: kristi Category: Main Dish, Salad, Sauce, Side Dish

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Please pardon the horrible picture with the enormous shadow.  It was pretty late at night, and the lighting was non-existent.

Omigosh, this salad was SOOOO good.  My favorite part is the Creamy Cilantro Dressing.  I used fresh limes, and it is absolutely divine.  I’m typically a ranch girl, but this dressing has swayed me away from ranch.

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Another not so pretty picture, but it’s so delicious that I want to lick my computer screen!

This salad is really fun because I used a glass trifle dish to expose all the colorful layers of the salad.  It’s perfect for a small gathering of friends and family.  This baby makes you look like you know what you’re doing, and it’s so simple.

Aside from the fact that it is quite tasty and presentable, there are a few changes that I will definitely be making.   There was simply not enough lettuce.  I felt like I was eating a cheese salad.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love cheese, but I need some other flavors and textures incorporated in there.  Next time I’m going to add an additional layer of lettuce after the first layer of cheese.

Secondly, inasmuch as the cornbread croutons look amazing nestled on top of the salad, there were simply too many of them!   My plate was full of cornbread and I had to put them back in the trifle dish.  It’s a shame because that’s what really makes the salad look beautiful.  I say either bake half of the amount of cornbread mix the recipe calls for or just bake all of the mix, put half on the salad, and serve slices on the side as well.

With minor alterations, this salad is extraordinary!  It’s fresh, vibrant, and oh so yummy.

Layered Tex-Mex Salad with Creamy Cilantro Lime Dressing

Source: Cooking for Real by Sunny Anderson

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

Butter, for preparing 8 by 8-inch glass pan
1 (8.5-ounce) box cornbread mix (recommended: Jiffy)
1 large egg
1/3 cup milk
1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 packet sazon seasoning (It’s made by Goya, but 1-2 tsp. ground coriander and 1-2 tsp. cumin work well if you don’t have sazon.)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup salsa
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 large head romaine lettuce, cut into strips
Creamy Lime Dressing, recipe follows*
1 1/2 cups grated Monterey jack Cheese
1 1/2 cups grated Cheddar Cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Grease an 8 by 8-inch glass pan with butter.

Stir together the cornbread mix with the egg and milk. Evenly spread into prepared pan and bake on the middle rack for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan to cool completely.

Mix together the beans with the sazon (or cumin and coriander) and season with salt and pepper.

Toss the salsa with the tomatoes.

When ready to serve, cut the cornbread into 1/2-inch croutons.

Toss the lettuce with 3/4 cups of the dressing and split into two piles.

In a clear trifle dish, layer the Tex-Mex Salad beginning with the black beans followed by the Monterey jack cheese, one pile of lettuce, the tomato salsa mixture, the Cheddar, the remainder of the lettuce and top with the cornbread croutons. Serve the remaining dressing on the side.

Creamy Lime Dressing*

Yields 1 1/2 cups

2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon lime zest
1/4 cup lime juice (I recommend FRESH!!)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Blend all the ingredients except the olive oil until smooth. While machine is running, slowly drizzle in the oil until incorporated. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

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Soooooo good!!!

Couscous Cakes

April 07, 2009 By: kristi Category: Appetizer, Side Dish, Vegetarian

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Couscous is an awesome food.  I have made it several times, and it always comes out perfectly, AND it takes all of 5 minutes.  The person that invented couscous deserves a kiss from all of the busy people around the world…

Normally I just whip up a batch of couscous as is…maybe adding some cheese or something, but last night I decided to try someting a little different.

I was watching Giada at Home on the Food Network, and besides sitting there in complete awe and shock of her enormous house (that I KNOW she doesn’t have to clean), her hot tub, her patio, and her KITCHEN, I was in awe of her couscous cakes.   They looked simple enough, and her recipes always taste good so I decided to give them a try.

And they were pretty fantastic tasting although I had immense trouble keeping the little buggers intact while cooking them.  As I watched Giada make them I remember thinking how messy they looked and how all of a sudden they turned out so perfectly on her plate.  That’s TV for you.  I had to add an extra egg and some bread crumbs for a more suitable stickiness, and they still somewhat fell apart.   I think it’s because I used more couscous than the recipe called for.  It didn’t stick together with one egg and one yolk.   No worries, though.  It was my oversight, and they still tasted great!

Couscous Cakes

Source: Giada at Home

Yields: 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked couscous, prepared according to package instructions and cooled
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 lemon, zested
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup mild mango chutney – (I used my Homemade Pineapple Chutney)

Directions:

In a medium bowl, mix together the couscous, cilantro, egg, egg yolk, coriander, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture. Mix until combined.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Form 1/4 cupfuls of the mixture into 8 patties. Add 4 of the patties to the pan and cook for 3 to 4 minutes each side until golden. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining couscous mixture.

Serve the couscous cakes with mango or pineapple chutney.

Simply Roasted Vegetables with Fresh Thyme

March 27, 2009 By: kristi Category: Side Dish, Vegetables

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This recipe posting is more for me than anyone.   I tend to make things and then forget how I made them, and this recipe is definitely one that could easily fall through the cracks.   This dish is unbelievably easy to throw together, but I really enjoyed these roasted veggies more than others that I have made in the past.  This is why I am posting it.  So I will REMEMBER.

Obviously you can throw any veggie in to roast, but I strongly recommend sweet onions and red beets.  There is something magical that happens to them while in the oven.  They become so sweet and so tender… and it took virtually no effort at all.

So here is another no-brainer recipe that I must post so I can reference it in the future.  So good, so bright, so easy….

Simply Roasted Vegetables with Fresh Thyme

Serves 8

Ingredients:

1 white onion, chopped into large chunks
1 sweet onion, chopped into large chunks
5 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 red beets, peeled and chopped
3 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
4-5 springs of fresh thyme, stems removed

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

In a large bowl, add 1 Tbs. of olive oil.  Add the onions, carrots, and beets.  Toss gently.

Add remaining olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme.  Again, toss gently.

Pour vegetable mixture into roasting pan and top with pads of butter.

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Place in oven and cook for 45-60 minutes, occasionally stirring.

Enjoy!!

Chickpea Salad with Curry and Leeks

March 18, 2009 By: kristi Category: Side Dish, Vegetarian

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I have this crush on chickpeas.  They are light, nutty, and filling, and I could easily eat bunches of them in one sitting.  I have stashes of them in my cabinet in case I have a sudden craving.  I find myself tossing them in a hot oven with cumin, coriander, and salt for a few minutes for a fantastic treat.   Chickpeas are quite delightful when they have a crispy skin after being baked or sauteed.

During one of my huge chickpea cravings, I came across a recipe from 101 Cookbooks for a chickpea salad.  I already had all of the ingredients in my kitchen making this dish perfect for the evening.

Chickpea Salad with Curry and Leeks

Serves 2-4 as a side

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon clarified butter, olive oil, or coconut oil
2 cups cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans), pat them completely dry with clean dish towel
1 cup of chopped leeks
1 medium clove of garlic, minced
zest of one lemon
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons Indian-style curry powder (or to taste)
scant 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 or 2 tablespoons warm water
1/2 cup of loosely packed fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup red onion or red spring onions, chopped

Directions:

Heat the cooking oil in a large skillet and add the chickpeas. Saute over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until they start getting a bit golden in color. Stir in the leeks and cook until the chickpeas are more golden and the leeks have browned a bit as well, roughly 7 – 10 minutes total. At the last minute stir in the garlic and the lemon zest. Remove from heat, and set aside.

While the chickpeas cool (I like to serve this salad at room temperature), make the yogurt dressing by combining the yogurt, curry powder, and salt in a small bowl. If you need to thin it out a bit, particularly if you are using Greek yogurt, whisk in warm water a tablespoon at a time. Taste, adjust, and set aside.

When you are ready to serve the salad, toss the chickpea mixture with most of the cilantro and most of the chopped red onion. Add about 1/2 of the yogurt dressing and toss again. If you like more dressing, keep adding until you are pleased. Serve on a platter sprinkled with the remaining onions and cilantro.

Jasmine Green Tea Rice with Orange Zest

March 15, 2009 By: kristi Category: Side Dish

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Typically I am a coffee drinker.  Almost nothing can keep me from my Gevalia Coffee straight out of the french press.  Since I am the lone coffee drinker in the house, I make it myself.  When my sister spends the night, however, I get the pleasure of waking up to the aroma of freshly brewed coffee.  Amazing.

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Mind you, I said ALMOST nothing can keep me from my coffee….

Jasmine Green tea is my all-time favorite tea.  Its floral scented leaves make it a unique blend to have in your cup.  Add an orange slice to it, and you’re in business!  After water, green tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world.  Green tea leaves have many uses in the kitchen besides tea.  They can be used for rubs, marinades, or added directly into a dish.  Sounds good to me.

I tend to eat brown rice at home, or red or purple…. just about any color but white.  But I do have a bag of Jasmine Rice in my cabinet just waiting for a special occasion.  And tonight was it!  The special occasion was that Jay and both got home from work early (by 6pm) – ha.  We like to make special occasions out of the most normal of days.

Since we were home a little earlier, I had time to make a more time-consuming dinner. My rice tends to take all of 5 minutes to make, but I was ready for rice that took 30 minutes to make.  Bad girl.

Jasmine rice has a mild floral scent to it that I wanted to be heightened.  That’s why I added Jasmine Green Tea to it!  I found a recipe in Vegetarian Times magazine that was the inspiration to my side dish.  It called for mixed vegetables, but I already had a veggie side dish so I omitted that part.

The taste is suttle but distinct.  And it doesn’t hurt to throw some antioxidants into your meals.  :o )

Jasmine Green Tea Rice with Orange Zest

Serves 8

Ingredients:

4 jasmine green tea bags
1 c jasmine or basmati rice
1 bunch green onions (which I didn’t have at the time but wish that I did – I only had cilantro)
1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds
1 Tbs. butter (or more depending on your liking)
1 tsp. fresh orange zest
sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Place tea bags in 3 cups of water and steep for 7-10 minutes.  Discard tea bags.

Combine rice and tea in a medium sace pan and bring to a boil.  Cover pan and reduce heat to low simmering for 15-20 minutes or until all tea has been absorbed.

Stir in almost all of the green onions, all of the sesame seeds, butter and zest.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the remaining green onions on top for garnish.

Baked Zucchini “BTM”

March 10, 2009 By: kristi Category: Side Dish, Vegetables, Vegetarian

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Basil, Tomato, and Mozzarella are a classic powerhouse of flavor.  By adding these three ingredients to pasta, pizza, or veggies you are guaranteeing yourself a winning dish.

I found this recipe in The Vegetarian Cookbook, which I recommend to everyone!  I needed something quick, simple, and FRESH – this side dish was all three.  Once again, this dish was used with “clean” ingredients making it light, healthy, and DELICIOUS.

This is a must-try, folks.  Very easy to whip up, and it will most definitely be a crowd pleaser!


Baked Zucchini “BTM”

Source: The Vegetarian Cookbook, p. 94

Serves 4

Ingredients:

4 zucchini
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
4 oz. mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
2 large tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 tsp. fresh basil, chopped, plus extra leaves for garnish

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Slice the zucchini lengthwise into 4 strips each.  Brush with oil and put in ovenproof baking dish or cookie sheet lined with foil.

Bake zucchini for 10 minutes or until softened but still holding their shape.

Remove from oven.  Arrange cheese slices on top, sprinkle with tomatoes and basil.  Return to oven for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Carefully place zucchini on a serving platter and garnish with basil leaves.

Grilled Pineapple with Agave Nectar and Coconut Flakes

March 03, 2009 By: kristi Category: Dessert, Fruit, Side Dish

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Okay, I have mentioned in the past that when I make something particularly delicious my husband gives me a huge smile and a high five after his first bite.  Well, today I was ready to give myself a high five.

I tell you why…

…I typically get home from work around 7pm and even though it’s late, I want to have a nice meal with the hubby.  My problem is that I am usually SOOOOO hungry that I gnosh my way through my cabinets before dinner is ready.  To alleviate this problem I need to make something quick and easy.

On my way to work I stopped and picked up a pineapple.  Basically because it was on sale for $1.99.  So after work, I poured myself a glass of red wine (or two) and decided that I wanted to grill my pineapple.  I took a moment to reflect on my Maple Ginger Salmon and how deliciously caramelized it turned out because of the maple syrup that was put on top.  Well why can’t I do that with pineapple!?  I didn’t have any maple syrup or honey left (gasp!) but I definitely have some agave nectar on hand, which is a similar consistency to honey so I was happy.  Time for some grilled fruit!!

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Agave nectar resembles honey in its consistency but is more water soluble.  It is actually derived from the tequila plant and is a natural sweetener that many use for their baking, hot beverages, and so on as a substitute for processed sugar.  I recently bought it from Trader Joe’s and will never look back.  (Thanks, Nikki!)

If you happen to find Agave Nectar (otherwise known as Agave Syrup) in the organic section of your local grocery store or at your local Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.  It’s not super sweet in flavor but has a distinct presence in dishes and drinks.

If you can’t find Agave Nectar, honey works just as well in this recipe.  :o )

My grilled pineapple took all of 10 minutes and was so unbelievably juicy and sweet that I wish I had bought TWO!

Grilled Pineapple with Agave Nectar and Coconut Flakes

(Serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

1 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 pineapple, trimmed, cored, and sliced into 1/2-inch slices
4 Tbs. agave nectar or honey
1 tsp. lime or lemon juice
freshly cracked pepper
Coconut flakes, to garnish

Directions:

Add oil to indoor grill pan and place on high heat.

Mix nectar or honey, lemon/lime juice, and pepper in a small bowl.  Brush on both sides of sliced pineapple.

Grill for 3-5 minutes or until grill marks appear.  Flip pineapple and repeat.  Make sure not to overcook otherwise pineapple will fall apart.

Garnish with coconut flakes.