Category Archives: Gluten Free

Pesto Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

I hardly ever make appetizers since I don’t entertain much and I just don’t think to make appetizers for everyday meals. But when the opportunity presents itself, I love to make little bites of deliciousness. I made these little tomato bites last time I hosted my book club. So simple, so yummy. They didn’t last long!

Obviously making these at the height of summer when the tomatoes and basil are ripe in the garden is the optimal situation. But luckily, cherry tomatoes and basil are available in the store year round and even in the winter, the cherry tomatoes are pretty tasty! I make my own pesto, but any store-bought variety would work as well in a pinch.

Pesto Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

Pesto Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

Pesto Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

Basil pesto (click here for my recipe or you can use whatever pesto floats your boat)
Cherry tomatoes

Cut cherry tomatoes in half. Use a melon baller or spoon to scoop out the tomato guts and discard them. Spoon or pipe in pesto (a ziplock bag with the corner cut off works great for this if you don’t have a piping bag).

And that’s it! You can chill these or leave at room temperature. Refrigerate any leftovers if you have any.

 

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Farmers Market Frittata

Not sure what you guys do with your Saturdays but mine usually start at farmers market. I go and get a mocha from the coffee cart and then start my rounds. This usually includes eating enough samples to qualify as breakfast and filling up my giant market bag so full I can barely carry it back to the car.

For this frittata, you can put just about anything in it that you happen to have on hand. This week I had purchased zucchini, cherry tomatoes, goat cheese and red onions. And eggs! Don’t forget the lovely eggs from happy happy chickens who wander around and peck things and live like chickens should. Feel free to substitute ingredients if there is something you like better or need to use up!

This makes a dandy breakfast, but I’ve also been known to serve it with a giant green salad and call it dinner.

Farmer's Market Fritatta

Farmer’s Market Fritatta

Farmer’s Market Frittata

1 zucchini, sliced
Handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup red onion, sliced
Goat cheese
Parmesan
5 eggs
Salt & pepper

Chop veggies. Beat eggs with a bit of salt & pepper in a bowl. Set aside. Heat 10″ skillet over medium heat. Add a bit of olive oil. Add onion and cook for a minute or two. Add zucchini and tomatoes. Sprinkle with a dash of salt and pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes until zucchini is barely tender.

Veggies in the pan. Just a quick saute is all they need to bring out the flavor!

Veggies in the pan. Just a quick saute is all they need to bring out the flavor!

Pour eggs over veggies. Swirl to cover veggies evenly. Dot with goat cheese and sprinkle with a bit of parmesan.

If some of your veggies stick out don't worry about it, it will all come together just fine.

If some of your veggies stick out don’t worry about it, it will all come together just fine.

Cover and turn heat down to medium low. Cook for 5-10 minutes until eggs are set on top. Cut into wedges and serve hot. Pairs perfectly with a side of fruit or salad.

 

 

 

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Summer Eating, Lazy Cooks, and Tomatillo-Corn Sauté

Someone asked me today if this was the end of the Hungry Monkeys. Definitely not! I’m still here. Admittedly I’ve been excessively lazy this summer when it comes to writing my blog, or cooking, or well, lots of things. It’s summer, and it’s hot. The kids are out of school, we have been out and about (mostly trying to stay cool since our house has no air conditioning) and cooking has just not taken a high priority lately.

I’ve been doing about 75% of my grocery shopping at farmers markets. Most of my shopping trips look something like this:

Summer shopping.

Summer shopping.

And most of the meals I make at home look something like this:

Veggies, fruit, sauteed peppers and poached eggs. Breakfast, lunch or dinner of champions!

Veggies, fruit, sautéed padron peppers and poached eggs. Breakfast, lunch or dinner of champions!

Or this:

Tomatillo-corn sauté, three bean salad and sliced tomatoes with goat cheese.

Tomatillo-corn sauté (recipe below), three bean salad and sliced tomatoes with goat cheese.

If I’m eating like a rabbit, why am I not jumping up and down at having reached my fitness and weight goals this summer, you might ask?  Because…in between my very healthy and wonderful farmer’s market meals I’ve been eating out waaaaay too much, and the other 25% of my grocery shopping is mostly made up of Trader Joe’s buckets of cookies and other goodies.

So. Kids go back to school next week, a regular routine will once again be established to some degree, weather will be getting cooler and my oven will once again be in constant use. And I am looking forward to all of that!

In the meantime, as I look through the photos on my camera that I’ve accumulated over the few times I have cooked something this summer (ahem, 124 photos, yikes!) I will endeavor to remember how I made the delicious food pictured therein and post a few blogs.

For now, I’ll give you the very simple but delicious recipe for the tomatillo-corn sauté pictured above. This is a recipe invented by my Aunt Debi which she made for us when we went to visit her and paint on her wall a few weeks ago. It was so delicious I just had to make it two or three more times when I came home. I add a little red onion to my version. The three bean salad was something that Trader Joe’s was sampling the other day that I was all too happy to copy at home. Simply a can of garbanzo beans (drain and rinse), a can of kidney beans (drain and rinse), and raw green beans chopped up. Combine all three kinds of beans and add a generous splash of rice vinegar and some salt and pepper.

Tomatillo-Corn Sauté

Tomatillo-Corn Sauté

Tomatillo-Corn Sauté
(slightly modified from the original recipe by Debi Hiltenbrand)

6-8 ears of sweet corn
1 cup chopped tomatillos (about a half pound)
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
Salt & pepper
1 heaping spoonful of coconut oil

Heat coconut oil over medium heat. Add onion and tomatillo to pan. Using a sharp knife, slice kernels off of corn cobs. Add corn to the pan. Add paprika and salt & pepper to taste. Sauté over medium heat for at least 1/2 hour, stirring occasionally, until tomatillos and onions are very soft.

And there you have it! Am I the only lazy cook out there this summer? What have you guys been making on hot days?

 

 

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Forget the Lettuce Veggie Salad

When you eat a lot of vegetables, which we do at my house, you get sick of the traditional salad. Sometimes I just don’t want to see another leaf of lettuce, even though I really like salad. But never fear, when salad boredom happens, I tend to just start combining random ingredients in the hopes of inventing something new that everyone will actually eat. It usually works.

I would describe this as a Mediterranean-ish veggie extravaganza. Filling and flavorful, it stands well on its own, or is the perfect side dish for just about anything. As an added bonus, it works well at room temperature which makes it terrific for potlucks and picnics.

No Lettuce Veggie Salad

Forget the Lettuce Veggie Salad

Forget the Lettuce Veggie Salad

1 can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 can olives, cut in half
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 zucchini, diced
2 green onions, sliced
1 small can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered or coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup feta, crumbled
2-3 tbsp. olive oil
2-3 tbsp. vinegar
Salt & pepper

Combine all ingredients. Eat.

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Roasted Pepper Black Bean Chili

I know, I know. It’s 80 degrees and I’m making chili. You might think I’m odd, but for me, chili is not just a winter food. One reason is I like it too much to confine it to just one season. The other is that I planted ten pepper plants and I have to find ways to use them, assuming I don’t kill them off before they produce anything. Besides, this is a recipe for the crock pot, which means no heating up the house with the oven!

The basic recipe for this is actually quite similar to my regular chili, but this time I used dried beans and roasted peppers and wow! it tastes completely different. Deeper, smokier, wonderful! You can use whatever combination of peppers you like or happen to have. I’ll list the combo I used, which resulted in a fairly mild but flavorful batch. Feel free to toss in some hotter ones if you are a five-alarm sort of person.

Plan ahead and soak your beans the night before to ensure they get done in the slow cooker. Or you can use canned beans in a pinch. This works well as a vegetarian recipe too, just leave out the ground beef.

Roasted Pepper Chili

Roasted Pepper Chili

Roasted Pepper Chili

2 cups dried black beans
4 cups water
2 poblano peppers
3 anaheim chiles
1 red bell pepper
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans fire-roasted tomatoes
1 pound ground beef
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
2-3 tbsp. chili powder
2-3 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. oregano
Salt & pepper

The night before, rinse dried beans. Place in a bowl with at least six cups of water. Let soak overnight. In the morning, drain beans and put in crock pot. In a skillet, brown ground beef and add to crock pot.

Remove seeds and stems from peppers and lay skin-side up on a large cookie sheet. Place under broiler 4-5 minutes, until skin turns black. Remove and put in a paper or plastic bag to cool.

Add onion, garlic, tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili powder, oregano and cumin to crock pot.

Remove peppers from their bag, chop and add to the crock pot. Cover with about 4 cups of water, give it a stir. Cook on high for 6-8 hours until beans are soft. Add salt & pepper to taste.

This was even better the next day!

So good.

So good.

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Polenta Veggie Bowl

I have so many recipes picked out and marked on my weekly menu, and yet…they sit there mostly ignored lately. The reason is that fresh produce is happening, and when I go to farmer’s market, I don’t really make a list. I just buy whatever looks great and is priced right. Usually whatever is coming off the plants is not only the tastiest, but also the cheapest, since it is ripe and plentiful. Of course I buy more than I plan to, because everything looks delicious and then I have a pile of stuff that needs to be used pretty quickly. Aside from the veggies, there is hummus, and fresh goat cheese and oh my, so many wonderful things. And all of this lives in my kitchen during these months. Which all adds up to ignoring my recipes and throwing random ingredients together.

This is a terrific weeknight meal, since it only takes about 15 minutes from start to finish and uses no weird ingredients (if you consider any of these ingredients weird you can swap it for something more “normal” if you’d like). As far as vegetarian meals go, this one is very satisfying.

So set aside your Pinterest recipe board and your cookbooks and magazines, and join me by throwing together whatever random veggies and cheese YOU like and using them to top off a bowl of piping hot and creamy polenta. Mmmm. This is the combo I made, but feel free to substitute. I don’t mind a bit.

Polenta Veggie Bowl

Polenta Veggie Bowl with Goat Cheese. 

Polenta Veggie Bowl
(serves 2)

1 cup polenta
Olive oil
1-2 zucchini
6 (or more) cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
6-8 olives (I used green castelvetrano olives, but any kind is fine)
Basil
Salt & pepper
1 tbsp. butter
1/4 cup milk
2 oz. goat cheese, divided

Bring 2 1/2 cups of water or broth to a boil. Add polenta and a pinch of salt. Give it a stir, cover, and turn down heat to low. Cook for 10-15 minutes until liquid is absorbed and polenta is soft and creamy. Remove from heat. Add butter, milk, half of the goat cheese and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk into the polenta until creamy.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil. Add onion and cook 2-3 minutes until softened. Add garlic and cook another 30 seconds or so. Add zucchini, tomatoes and olives. Cook 2-3 minutes until zucchini is softened but still firm. Taste and season with salt & pepper if needed.

Scoop polenta into a bowl and serve the veggies on top. Sprinkle with remaining goat cheese.

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Sesame Stir Fried Broccoli

I’ve heard some people say they don’t like broccoli because of the way it smells when they boil it. I say don’t boil it at all! A quick sauté in a saucepan is going to give you bright, crisp-tender broccoli that will be far more appetizing than any boiled broccoli mush you’ve eaten in the past.

If you aren’t crazy about how a vegetable (or anything) smells when you are cooking it, one of the best ways to combat it is to cook it with things that smell wonderful. I’ve combined my broccoli with garlic and sesame, both of which smell absolutely divine. Toss in a little crushed red pepper and a splash of soy sauce and you are good to go.

I would put this on a bowl of rice or noodles and call it dinner, but feel free to toss some shrimp, chicken or tofu with it, or just serve it as a veggie side for your favorite main dish.

Sesame Stir Fried Broccoli

Sesame Stir Fried Broccoli

Sesame Stir Fried Broccoli

1-2 heads broccoli, cut into bite size florets (I chop up the stems and include those too)
2 tsp. sesame oil
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. soy sauce
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

Heat large skillet or wok over medium high heat. Add sesame oil, garlic and crushed red pepper. Cook and stir 30 seconds until fragrant. Add broccoli. Cook, stirring often, over medium high heat for 3-5 minutes, or until broccoli is bright green, tender but still crisp. Toss with soy sauce. Add a bit of salt if needed. Garnish with sesame seeds if desired.

 

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Fruity Salad with Basil Vinaigrette and Roasted Polenta

It’s that time of year again when salad becomes an every other night menu item in my house. This is partially due to the no air conditioning equals minimal cooking policy. And partly because I’m trying to fit into my summer clothes from last year.

In any case, salad doesn’t have to be boring. This one has an easy, bright vinaigrette, fresh fruit and yummy roasted polenta rounds to go with it.

The first time I bought polenta in a tube I was leery to say the least. It’s weird. It doesn’t look appetizing. And good food usually doesn’t come in a tube of any kind. BUT. Polenta is one of those weird foods that you cook and then as it cools it will form whatever shape you happen to put it in. The tubes of polenta generally are minimally processed with no extra ingredients. It’s such a wonderful convenience, especially if you are wanting to fry it up like this. Simply take it out of the tube, slice it up and bake it (or you can pan fry it instead). It’s delicious and soooo easy.

To easily get the seeds out of your pomegranate, score around the center (don’t cut all the way through), pull the two halves apart, turn one half over in your palm and beat on it with a wooden spoon. In about 10-15 seconds, you will have a bowl full of pomegranate seeds. Try not to hit your hand with the spoon. For you visual types, check out this video if you don’t believe me or need to see it before attempting. If you like pomegranates, this will change your life. Seriously.

basilvinaigrettesalad3

Salad with Fresh Basil Vinaigrette and Roasted Polenta

6-8 cups salad greens (I used 1/2 leaf lettuce and 1/2 spinach)
1-2 cups sliced purple cabbage
2 ripe pears, seeded & sliced
1/2 pomegranate
1/2 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup walnuts (I lightly toast mine in a skillet but it’s optional)

For the dressing:
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. dijon mustard
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup fresh basil, sliced into thin ribbons or chopped
Salt & pepper

1 tube prepared polenta

Preheat oven to 400˚. Slice polenta in rounds about 1/4 inch thick and spread out on a cookie sheet. Very lightly drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Bake 20-30 minutes until a lightly browned and a bit crispy on the edges. They will still be tender and chewy in the middle.

Polenta "croutons", disks, rounds...whatever you call them, they are crispy, chewy, wonderful good!

Polenta “croutons”, disks, rounds…whatever you call them, they are crispy, chewy, wonderful good!

In a large salad bowl, combine greens, cabbage, pears and pomegranate.

In a small bowl whisk together dijon, vinegar, salt and pepper. While continuing to whisk, add olive oil very slowly, just a tiny drizzle. Stir in basil, taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

Whisk, whisk, whisk to get a dressing that stays together!

Whisk, whisk, whisk!

Add feta, walnuts and dressing to salad bowl and toss gently to combine. Serve with polenta rounds.

If you're going to eat salad, you should definitely eat this one!

If you’re going to eat salad, why not eat this one?

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Pesto Potatoes with Poached Eggs & Spinach

Any meal that is centered around potatoes is going to be a winner in my book. There is no better way to get me to eat a whole bunch of spinach than to pile some wonderful potatoes on top of it.

I’ve been known to make this particular meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner (sometimes more than once in a day if I have leftovers). Not only that but the potatoes used in this regularly show up as a side dish for dinner or breakfast as well.  Now that summer is approaching, I already have one pot of basil growing with more to join it soon, which means pesto in my fridge ALL SUMMER LONG!

If you have your favorite pesto recipe or store brand, feel free to use that. For my fresh basil pesto, click here. Or for something slightly different, try my recipe for hazelnut pesto.

Pesto Potato Masterpiece!

Pesto Potato Masterpiece!

Pesto Potatoes with Poached Eggs & Spinach
(Serves 2-3)

2-3 cups red potatoes, quartered
2-3 tbsp. basil pesto
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper
Eggs (1-2 per person)
3 cups spinach
Handful of kalamata olives, pitted

For sauce:
1 tbsp. mayonnaise (or olive oil if you don’t like it creamy)
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. pesto

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook about 10 minutes until fork tender (but not mushy). Drain potatoes. In a bowl, whisk together 2-3 tbsp. pesto, 2 tbsp. olive oil, 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar and a pinch of salt & pepper. Add potatoes and toss to coat.

Divide spinach between two plates.

Spinach

Spinach

 

Top with potatoes.

Then potatoes. Mmm.

Then potatoes. Mmm.

Bring a small pan of water with 1/2 tsp. of vinegar to a boil. Gently break eggs into the pan (1-2 per person). Turn heat down to simmer. Cook 3 minutes until whites are set. Remove with a slotted spoon and lay on top of potatoes.

Perfectly poached eggs on top. If you prefer your eggs a different way, do your own thing here.

Perfectly poached eggs on top. If you prefer your eggs a different way, do your own thing here.

Mix together sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Scatter a few olives on top of the eggs & potatoes. Drizzle everything with sauce, add a grind or two of fresh pepper and eat!

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Spaghetti Squash Gratin

I’m not a squash fan. Or at least, I didn’t use to be. I’ve been gradually teaching myself to like it. The main trick I have learned in teaching myself to like new foods is to start by cooking it in a similar recipe as foods I do like.

I like spaghetti. With red sauce and cheese.  Now I’m not going to tell you that spaghetti squash tastes exactly like spaghetti. It doesn’t really. In fact, it doesn’t really taste like much at all. When you cook it with cheese and spaghetti sauce, mostly what you taste is cheese and spaghetti sauce. But the spaghetti squash has a nice texture (a little firmer than an actual noodle but not that different) and it’s a great conveyance for your favorite flavors.

The star of this dish – for me – was the ricotta topping. It’s hard to feel like you are missing out when you are eating something so rich and creamy. And here’s the kicker. My daughter ate SQUASH and it was all because she loved the ricotta stuff so much. I gave her a tiny spoonful of this dish (I have a rule that you have to at least try everything once) and told her if she hated it she could make herself a sandwich. Normally she hates squash, so this is how I was expecting it to go down. But instead she went back, loaded up her bowl and ate it all. It was some sort of squashy miracle.

One note on cooking the squash: some people cook it whole, some cut it in half. It will cook faster if you cut it in half (in about 45 minutes or so), but wrestling these things into submission when they are raw is not always easy. I found it much easier to break this sucker down when it was cooked and tender, so I left mine whole.

Spaghetti Squash Gratin

Spaghetti Squash Gratin

Spaghetti Squash Gratin
(from Recipe Sweet)

1 spaghetti squash

Sauce:
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or minced
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 (28 oz.) can whole tomatoes, drained and smooshed with your fingers or coarsely chopped (or you can use diced ones)
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 basil leaves, coarsely chopped or torn

Gratin Topping:
1 (15 oz.) container part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 400˚. Poke your squash with a fork or knife a few times and place in the oven whole (I put mine on a pan just in case it leaked some juices). Roast for 1 – 1 1/2 hours until tender. Let it cool just a bit so you can handle it. (You can do this the day before or earlier in the day if time is an issue).

Slice it in half, scoop out the seeds in the middle (discard the seeds), and then using a fork, comb through the squash, creating “spaghetti” strands. Place these in the bottom of your baking dish. Drizzle with just a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Toss a bit with your fingers to combine.

Looks like spaghetti!

Looks like spaghetti!

In a saucepan, heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil. Add garlic and crushed red pepper.  Cook and stir for a minute. Add tomatoes, salt & pepper, Italian seasoning and wine. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer for 15 minutes. Pour over the top of the squash and spread out so all of the squash is covered.

Smother anything in this sauce and it will be good.

Smother anything in this sauce and it will be good.

In a small bowl, combine ricotta, parmesan and seasonings.  Carefully spread ricotta mixture over the top of the red sauce.

Ready to cook!

Ready to cook!

Bake at 400˚ for 40-45 minutes, until lightly browned. Dig in!

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