Category Archives: veggies

Easy Marinara Sauce


This is going to be a recipe sans photo, since it got gobbled up too quickly by the two of us for me to photograph it.  But since I posted about the deliciousness of it on Facebook, my friends have been demanding I post the recipe, so here goes.

I got a food mill for Christmas, which I’d been wanting to put to use.  Not being consumers of mashed potatoes, baby food or applesauce, there were few things I could make using this shiny new tool.  I’d wanted to make my own tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes, since many sauces have onion powder added to them, which SB is allergic to.  On top of that, jarred pasta sauces are something I like to use for certain recipes, although after this recipe, I don’t know that I’ll ever buy a jarred sauce again.  Many jarred sauces have added corn syrup in addition to onions, neither of which SB can eat, so I set out to make my own.  I needed the recipe to be easy, tasty, and something I could make regularly.  I’ll say this:  as long as I have access to fresh Roma tomatoes, I’ll make this recipe over and over.

Here’s how I did it.  You will need:

  • about 2 pounds Roma tomatoes, cut lengthwise
  • non-stick cooking spray
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 extra for sauteeing the garlic
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped into small pieces but not minced (I like mine a bit more rustic)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil (you can increase this as you like)
  • kosher salt

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.  Meanwhile, prepare a rimmed baking sheet by spraying it with a bit of non-stick cooking spray.  Arrange the halved tomatoes in rows on the sheet, and drizzle the olive oil over the tomatoes so that they are lightly coated with the oil.  Sprinkle salt over the tops of the tomatoes, and place the pan on the middle rack of the oven for 30-45 minutes, or until the skins just start to brown and the tomatoes are nice and soft–keep an eye on the tomatoes, because you don’t want them to get too brown.

Remove them from the oven, and allow them to cool for about 30 minutes.  For the next step you can elect to use either a food mill, or a blender.  I didn’t want skin or seeds in my sauce, so the food mill was perfect.

I put the fine grinding disc into my food mill because I wanted a smooth sauce.  Placing the food mill over a bowl, put the tomatoes in (carefully so you don’t lose any juice!) and turn the handle so that you can get as much lovely puree as possible.  If you use a blender, just put all the roasted tomatoes in the blender and puree.

Finally, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan or other pan (I used a Dutch oven since I was going to heat meatballs in it with the sauce) and lightly saute the garlic.  Once the garlic softens, add the puree, tomato paste, and basil.  Stir over medium heat so that the sauce thickens up a bit.  Cook over medium-low heat so the flavors meld and serve with your favorite pasta.

This recipe made about 2 cups of sauce, which I served over homemade meatballs and al dente spaghetti.

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Super Easy Vegetable Soup


The week of Ash Wednesday, I decided I’d eat meatless for every meal. I figured since Lent was about sacrifice, I should give up something for the short term, and something for the long term. So I decided that meat would be nixed for the week, and that I’d give up diet sodas for the duration of Lent. The challenge was trying to eat enough different things without getting bored with my food (which I did, quickly), and while getting enough protein (which I didn’t do). I started that Sunday before Ash Wednesday, and finished up on the following Saturday. By the time that next Sunday rolled around, I was ravenous for meat–my body craved protein, and specifically, I craved meat-derived protein. Needless to say, I don’t think I could be vegetarian, and I certainly could not be vegan.

Last week, I had a craving for a really good vegetable soup. I decided while I was doing the shopping that I’d put together a big pot of it and eat on it all week long. Since SB is trying to eat a Paleolithic-style diet, which eschews legumes and tubers, he wouldn’t be eating this soup, so I was able to put onions in it. The final product was outstanding, and was great for lunches and dinners all week long.

A really simple, flavor-packed vegetable soup that could easily be made vegetarian with the substitution of vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth used here.

Here is how I did it. You will need:

  • 8 small creamer potatoes, skins on, washed and cut into quarters
  • 1 24-ounce jar/can tomato puree, plus water to rinse out the can/bottle
  • 5 carrots, washed, cut into coins (about 3 cups)
  • 4 cups cabbage, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cups frozen green beans
  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 1 package frozen chopped spinach
  • 2 cups diced onions
  • 2 cups diced celery
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons chicken base
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt, to taste

In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add your onions, celery, garlic and parsley. Saute these vegetables until they are soft, but do not brown them. Next, add your chicken stock and tomato puree plus water to rinse out the jar/can–you want all that yummy tomato flavor in the soup.

Add the potatoes, green beans, corn kernels, carrots, cabbage, spinach and pepper. Add enough water to cover everything and stir thoroughly to mix. The soup will be very thick, almost like a stew. Allow this to come to a slow bubble, and then add in the chicken base. Stir this in and allow it to blend in with the soup. Reduce your heat to low-medium-low and allow the soup to simmer for about an hour.

Serve while hot. I cooked mine in a 6-quart stockpot, and had more than enough soup for the week. In fact, I froze what I did not eat (about 2 1/2 quarts) for later. This soup reheats beautifully, and is quite good. It could be made completely vegetarian with the substitution of vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock. Really, you could use any vegetables you like…your palate is your limit!

Decadent Scalloped Potatoes


You know how once or twice a year, you find yourself either eating or cooking something you don’t normally eat or cook on an everyday basis?  This dish is one of those things.  When I was growing up, if we had ham for dinner, it was a special occasion.  My mom would make scalloped potatoes from the Betty Crocker mixes you can buy at the store as a side dish, and we’d have some vegetable too, usually green beans.  Friday, my dad called to let me know what we needed to bring over to his place today as we were celebrating Christmas with him and his wife and her sister.  We’d be having ham and prime rib, he said, along with a vegetable tray, pickled beets, and baked beans.  I asked him if he’d like me to bring something potato-y to accompany the meat, as my dad (like many of his generation) is a meat and potato eater at heart.  He said, “I’d like some scalloped potatoes.”  I agreed to make some, as I had the ingredients at home for them.

So this morning before the gift opening began, I got to work making what was possibly the unhealthiest thing to come out of my kitchen in a long time.

I'll be honest, the only healthy thing about this dish is the calcium in the cream. Otherwise, it's super decadent, and will make your cardiologist rich if you eat this every day.

But I’m not going to lie:  it was worth every last bite.  This recipe is stupidly easy, and if you make it, you will NOT have leftovers.  It’s the kind of dish where people will fight for the last bite–it’s that good.  The recipe I made was for a large group, so scale down as appropriate for your own needs.

Here’s how I did it.  You will need:

  • 6-7 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled*
  • 1 quart plus 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3-4 whole sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh nutmeg, ground
  • salt
  • pepper
  • butter

*I used Yukon Golds because they hold up really well to baking in dishes like this.  They are waxy-fleshed and not as starchy as Russets, which you can also use if you like.  The consistency of the final dish will be more mushy should you use Russets.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.  In a large saucepan, heat the cream, thyme, rosemary and nutmeg over medium to medium-low heat.  You just want to warm it, not boil it.  Stir periodically to prevent a skin from forming on top of the cream mixture.

While the cream is warming, peel the potatoes and slice them into 1/4″ slices.   Use the butter to grease the bottom of a large glass casserole dish, and begin forming an overlapping layer of potato slices on the bottom of the dish.  Sprinkle the layer with salt and pepper.  You may want to salt liberally, as potatoes really need salt, but feel free to go light on the salt so your guests can salt the dish as they like.

Remove the cream mixture from the heat, and remove the thyme sprigs.  Using a ladle, cover the potato slices with the cream mixture.  Repeat the layers of potatoes and cream until you have used all of each.  This should give you about 3 layers.  Bake uncovered in the oven for 50-60 minutes, or until the top is brown and bubbly and the potatoes are cooked through.  Use a fork to test for doneness.  Let the dish cool for about 10 minutes before serving to allow everything to set up.

This recipe filled a 3 quart baking dish.  It was entirely gone by afternoon’s end.  These potatoes will only make an appearance once a year, even though they are really easy to make!  They are super rich, and definitely not something you’d want to eat on a weekly basis lest you drive your cholesterol sky-high.

 

 

Shepherd’s Pie


Today was the last day of the semester, and for that I was grateful.  As I’ve mentioned before, this semester has been particularly trying, and I am just thankful to have made it to the end!  I have the next two weeks off on holiday, during which I plan to rest, relax, and do a fair bit of cooking.  I started this evening with our dinner–we’d been eating out all week long as the end of the semester usually is so busy that I don’t have much time to cook, so we resort to going out.  This week we also had a few social engagements that involved dinner, so eating at home happened very rarely this week at dinnertime.

Sometimes you just want a meal that soothes and comforts.  And sometimes you just want something that is easy and quick to fix that doesn’t require a terrible lot of work.  This dinner is both.  We’d been out earlier in the week to one of our neighborhood favorite joints, the Allen Wickers.  It’s a great pub/restaurant that we frequent, and the food there is quite good and includes a few British pub favorites such as fish and chips and shepherd’s pie.  Their version is ground beef with mixed vegetables, topped with mashed potatoes and a bit of cheese.  There isn’t a gravy or sauce, so while it is good, there isn’t anything that really holds it together.  I decided I’d make a remixed version of their recipe for dinner tonight, with a few modifications to accommodate for SB’s onion allergy.

Comfort food at its best: shepherd's pie. Easy to make, full of vegetables, and sure to be a repeat guest at your dinner table.

Now I’d made shepherd’s pie before, but it had never turned out anywhere near as good as this one did.  As SB said while he ate, “This is off the chain.”

Here’s how I did it.  You will need:

  • 1 pound ground sirloin
  • 1 package steamable frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1 package Alexia Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes (about 3 cups)*
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • salt to taste

*you can always make your own mashed potatoes; I used these because they were in my freezer and cut the prep and cook time significantly.  Additionally, this particular brand of steamable mashed potatoes is really good and tastes homemade–SB couldn’t tell the difference!

In a Dutch oven, brown the ground sirloin.  While the meat is cooking, steam cook the mixed vegetables according to package directions (about 5 minutes).  Drain the fat from the meat and add in the garlic.  Carefully open the package of cooked mixed vegetables, and add them to the pan, stirring them in with the meat to combine.  While you are cooking the vegetables with the meat, cook the mashed potatoes according to package directions (about 10 minutes).  Add the dried spices to the meat-vegetable mixture and cook for about 5-6 minutes to allow the spices to flavor the mixture.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

After this has cooked, sprinkle the flour evenly over the mixture to lightly coat it and stir to distribute the flour.  Stir in the milk so that a gravy is created, and turn the heat off of the meat and vegetables.  After the mashed potatoes have finished cooking, carefully remove them from the package using a rubber spatula and spread them over the surface of the meat and vegetables so that you create a mashed potato “crust.”  Sprinkle the cheese on top and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.  Allow the pie to set for about 5 minutes before serving.

This recipe made 4 large servings, but would make 8 small servings if eaten with other vegetables or side items.  We elected to eat it as a solo dish.

Stufffed Zucchini in Tomato Sauce


This past week, I’d been craving pasta like nobody’s business.  I think it was because the previous week, we’d gone out with a friend to Olive Garden for the endless pasta dinner special, where I ate some whole wheat linguine with roast chicken and marinara (which was good, but I won’t do it again).  I think having that gave me an Italian food jones something awful, and so I thought about things I could make at home with the ingredients I had access to.  The week before, I’d bought two large zucchini squash and had picked up some hot Italian sausage at Central Market.  I decided to make stuffed zucchini–it was easy, filling and really tasty.

Stuffed zucchini: easy to make, delicious to eat and full of antioxidants and fiber! The meat used can be changed to ground chicken or turkey sausage as well; pork was what I happened to have on hand. Serve with a salad and crusty bread, and you've got a filling dinner.

You will need:

  • 2 large zucchini, sliced lengthwise and cut in halves
  • 3/4 pound hot Italian sausage*
  • 1 cup instant brown rice, uncooked
  • 1 1/4 cups part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 3 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 28 ounce can tomato puree

*certainly, ground chicken or turkey sausage could also be used here as well; pork sausage was what I had access to.  For vegetarians, I think I’d probably mince up 3 cups of Portobellos sautéed with onions, garlic and red pepper flakes.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large skillet, cook the sausage over medium-high heat until completely done. While the sausage is cooking, cut the zucchini in half vertically, then slice them lengthwise.  Take a grapefruit spoon or melon baller (or something that scoops that has a sharp edge to it) to scoop out the pulpy middle of the squash.  Reserve this pulpy goodness in a bowl.  Lay the hollowed zucchini quarters in a 13 x 9 baking dish.  You do not need to grease the dish, as there will be plenty of liquid to prevent the zucchini from sticking to the bottom of the dish.

Once the sausage is done, drain it and return to the pan, and add the garlic, stirring to distribute it evenly throughout, cooking at medium-high heat.  Add in the zucchini pulp, again, stirring to evenly distribute it throughout the meat, cooking for about 10 minutes until the pulp really isn’t so visible.  You are adding the pulp back in to add moisture to help the rice cook and to add a bit more fiber.  Add in the half cup of water and then stir in the instant rice until it is well-distributed.  Stir in 3/4 cup of the mozzarella cheese until it melts throughout the mixture.  Turn off the heat to the skillet, and stuff the zucchini quarters, mounding the filling into each quarter.  Pour the can of tomato puree over all the zucchini quarters, and sprinkle the top of the baking dish with the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese.  Bake at 350 for 45 minutes, or until the cheese is nicely browned.

This recipe serves 4, or two really hungry adults, as it did the night I made it.  It is lovely with a bit of garlic bread and a salad.  You could serve it over pasta if you wanted.