Tag Archives: vegetarian

Black Bean Enchilada Stacks

What to make for the birthday dinner for one of my dearest friends of all time?  Well…Mexican food of course.  And something vegetarian for this particular friend. She was literally doing a happy dance in her chair while she was eating these enchiladas.

I first saw enchilada stacks in New Mexico, when I had huevos rancheros served this way in a little cafe outside of Taos.  I fell in love with these little towers of tastiness.  They are so much easier to make than rolled enchiladas but you still have individual servings which is a nice touch.  For me the highlight of this recipe is the amazing verde sauce.  It’s incredibly easy to make and so much better than anything you will find in a can.  Next time I’m making a double batch so I can use it on about a dozen other things.

Black Bean Enchilada Stacks with Homemade Verde Sauce.  Yum!

Black Bean Enchilada Stacks

Verde Sauce:
12 oz. tomatillos (7-8 large)
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/3 cup fresh cilantro
1/3 cup chopped roasted green chiles (canned works fine)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup chopped green chiles (canned is just fine)
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/4 cup sour cream
Juice of 1/2 lime
Salt & pepper

Other Ingredients:
16 corn tortillas (for 4 stacks, add more tortillas for more stacks)
2 cups shredded jack/cheddar cheese
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1/2 cup chopped red or orange bell pepper

Make the sauce first. Remove husks and stems from tomatillos and wash.  Add tomatillos to a sauce pan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes until tender.  Drain. Put tomatillos and other sauce ingredients in a blender and puree.  Set aside.

In a bowl mix black beans and other filling ingredients.  In a large casserole dish or jelly roll pan (use 2 pans if needed), spread 1/4 cup sauce on the bottom of the pan.  Create 4-6 enchilada stacks (I made five), starting with a tortilla, then 1/3 of bean mixture, cheese, then tortilla, then 1/3 bean mixture, cheese, then tortilla, then 1/3 bean mixture, cheese, ending with a tortilla. Pour remaining sauce over the top of the stacks.  Cover with the remaining shredded cheese.  Garnish each stack with feta and peppers.

All stacked up and ready to go in the oven.

Bake at 375˚ for 20-25 minutes, until cheese is melted and tortillas are starting to brown on the edges.  Serve entire stack on a plate with extra sauce from the bottom of the pan spooned over the top.  For lighter appetites, you may want to cut these in half, but we didn’t have any problem polishing off a whole stack each!  This recipe will make 4-6 stacks.

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Quinoa-Stuffed Portobellas

What do you make when you have one dinner guest who’s a vegetarian and one who’s watching the carbs?  It’s a challenge, but not insurmountable.  For this meal I combined these stuffed mushrooms with a big Harvest Salad.  I love portobellos, and they are perfect for stuffing with whatever strikes your fancy.  I gave these a little Greek spin with some feta and kalamata olives and if I do say so myself, they turned out great!  If you’re going “no carb” instead of low carb, add more veggies and ditch the quinoa.

Quinoa-Stuffed Portobella

Quinoa-Stuffed Portobellos

6 portobello mushroom caps
1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
2-3 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups spinach
1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup feta cheese
Salt & pepper
1/4 cup chopped basil

Cook quinoa according to package directions.  Preheat oven to 375˚.  Remove stems from mushrooms.  Turn upside down on lined cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with salt & pepper and drizzle with a bit of olive oil.  In a little more olive oil, saute onions and garlic until soft.  Add spinach right at the end and saute a minute or so until wilted.  In a bowl combine quinoa, onion and spinach mixture, olives and tomatoes.  Season with salt & pepper.  Scoop into mushrooms.  Top with feta and basil.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Serve hot.

Quinoa-Stuffed Portobellos, ready to pop in the oven.

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Eggplant Parmesan

I’ve never really embraced the eggplant.  Oh believe me, I’ve wanted to.  They are pretty.  They look delicious.  But I’ve just never been a huge fan.  I don’t hate it or anything, but I would like to like it more.  So…I’ve been eating more eggplant.

Eggplant parmesan is one of the few eggplant dishes where I think, “okay, I can get into this.”  However, I’ve never made it myself. I’ve had it several different ways in restaurants; it seems like everybody has their own little method.  So I had an idea of what I liked and didn’t like about the ones I’ve had.  Mushy eggplant, no thanks.  Greasy…eh. Crispy…mmmm.  But do I have to fry it to get it crispy?  Maybe not.  I looked at 5 or 6 different recipes.  Took tips and hints from here and there, tossed in my own marinara sauce and gave it a go.

And the results?  6 thumbs way up!

Crispy, crunchy, savory, yummy.  Great texture, just enough sauce to add flavor without swamping the eggplant.  Cheesy, melty wonderfulness.  I think I might be an eggplant fan.  Who’d have thought?

Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan

2-3 medium eggplant, sliced into disks about 1/4 inch thick
1 tbsp. salt
2 cups panko
1 cup shredded parmesan
1 cup flour
1 tsp. black pepper
3 eggs
1/2 cup half ‘n half
6 tbsp olive oil
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. capers
1/2 cup red wine
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
8 oz. mozzarella, sliced
1/2 cup parmesan
3-4 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped or sliced into ribbons

Slice eggplant, toss with 1 tbsp. salt and put in a colander set over a large bowl.  Let sit for 30 minutes to drain out excess moisture.  Lay out a couple of paper towels, lay the slices on it, cover with another paper towel and press out any additional moisture.  Wipe off any excess salt.

Sliced eggplant. I was surprised at how much liquid came out of these!

While eggplant is draining, make sauce.  Use a blender or food processor to grind up the can of tomatoes.  In a pinch you can always just squeeze them up with your hands or a potato masher.  In a large skillet, heat a drizzle of olive oil, add garlic and crushed red pepper.  Stir and cook 1 minute or so.  Add canned tomatoes, wine and 1/2 tsp. salt. Cook on medium heat for 20 minutes or so to reduce the sauce down a bit.  Stir in capers, cherry tomatoes and basil and set aside.

In one shallow dish, combine panko and 1 cup parmesan.  In another shallow dish whisk eggs with half ‘n half.  In a large ziplock bag combine flour and black pepper.  Set up a little assembly line for yourself.  Shake each slice in the flour bag, shake off excess flour, then dip into the egg mixture.  Coat both sides and lift out, letting the extra egg drip off.  Then into the panko mixture.  Coat both sides well and set on wax paper.  Continue until all slices are ready.

Eggplant assembly line.

Heat oven to 425˚. Put 2 cookie sheets in to preheat on two racks.  Take them out and coat each pan with 3 tbsp. of oil. Lay out the eggplant slices in a single layer.  Cook for 10 minutes.  Switch pans and cook another 10 minutes.  Flip all the slices with a spatula.  Cook another 10 minutes (30 minutes total cooking time).

Spray or oil a 13 x 9 casserole dish.  Start with 1/3 of the sauce.  Then layer half of the eggplant (overlap a bit if needed).  Then another 1/3 of sauce.  Dot with half of the mozzarella slices.  Then layer the other half of the eggplant slices.  Top with the remainder of the sauce. Dot with the rest of the mozzarella.  Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of shredded parmesan.  Bake 15 minutes until cheese is melted.  Serve hot!  Makes at least 6 servings.

Eggplant Parmesan.  Where’s my fork?

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3 Pepper Sauté

When I was young I didn’t like any peppers at all.  Strange that now I can’t seem to get enough of them, especially this time of year.  My favorites are the sweet red, yellow and orange ones, but I’ll eat any of them that come my way.  The poblanos in this add a little kick and more complex flavor, but if you don’t want that, just use regular green peppers as a substitute.

This is a simple recipe that I usually make as a side dish for tacos, or chicken or well…whatever.  It also works great in a bowl by itself, as a burrito filling, or folded into an omelet for breakfast the next day.

3 Pepper Sauté


3 Pepper Sauté

1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup sliced red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Poblano peppers, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 tbsp. lime juice
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
Salt & pepper

Sauté onions, garlic and peppers in olive oil until the veggies are tender.  Add corn, beans, lime juice and seasonings and mix well.  Stir and cook a couple of minutes until it’s all heated through.  Serve hot or cold.




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Make Like A Rabbit

One day my kids went to visit a friend who is a vegetarian.  When they came back they reported that she was doing great, but that she was eating a “bowl of weeds.”  Upon further investigation I found out what she was eating was kale.  And really, I couldn’t argue in kale’s favor.

I’ve never been a big fan of your leafy green things.  I love salad, and have embraced the spinach (especially the baby variety) but collard greens, mustard greens, kale, etc. leave me baffled.  I don’t really know what to do with them, and truthfully, I’ve never really liked them.  When I have had them, they have been cooked to slimy lumps of science project green that leave me with no appetite.


One of my goals in the last year has been to teach myself to like some new foods.  Foods that I have previously either disliked or really never eaten.  Especially foods that are really good for you. Like your dark leafy green things. Hello, Kale.

So I was watching a food documentary the other day, and Rip Esselstyn, author of the Engine 2 Diet, was showing some people a few recipes and one of them was a kale salad.  I was actually intrigued.  It looked good.  Kale looked good?  Yep.  So with this new revelation and very simple recipe in hand, I ran to the store and bought myself a wad of kale.

I will not say that kale will be on my menu every day from now on.  I didn’t looooooove it. But I liked this recipe.  It was simple, crisp and refreshing.  I ate this one day as my lunch and then again as a side dish with pasta the next day.  I’ve made my peace with kale and I have a feeling we’ll be meeting again soon, maybe even with a little heat involved.

Kale & Avocado Salad

Kale & Avocado Salad

1 small bunch of kale (I used dinosaur kale)
1 avocado
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt & pepper

Chop up the kale into small pieces.  Stop when you get down to the stem area unless you want to do some extra chewing; the stems are tough.  Put the chopped kale in a bowl.  Peel the avocado and scoop out the insides into the kale bowl.  Squeeze the lemon juice in with it.  Add some salt & pepper to taste.  Using your hands, mash the avocado and kale together like you were making a meatloaf.  The mashed avocado and lemon juice make a sort of salad dressing consistency that should coat all the greens.  Adjust the seasoning if needed and make like a rabbit.

This will make 2 main dish servings or 4 side dish servings.


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You Say Tomato, I Say Potato

I haven’t gone to the grocery store in a month.  Mostly out of pure laziness, but also because I’m enjoying throwing together all of my farmers market goodies and calling it dinner.

So this is what I had that I needed to use up.  Does it look like dinner to you?

New potatoes and the yummiest, juiciest heirloom tomato ever. And pretty flowers, just for ambiance.  I also had some goat cheese and fresh dill hiding in the fridge that paired so nicely with these!

One of my favorite compliments is when someone says I look “smashing.”  I love that word.  It’s got such pizazz. Plus I like words with more than one meaning.  Yes, you’ve discovered my geeky secret.  I’m a word nerd.  But hey, at least I’m a word nerd who cooks.  Things could be worse.  Anyway, I decided I wanted to make some “smashing” potatoes.  And by smashing, I mean they will look and taste amazing, and I will also get to do some actual smashing!  And what could be more fun than that?

One note on the actual smashing of the potatoes:  we are not reinventing the sledge-o-matic here.  Smash gently or you will have potato bits everywhere.  I used the flat side of a meat tenderizer hammer thing, but anything will work to flatten these babies.

The farm fresh heirloom tomatoes with goat cheese and dill were the perfect complement to the potatoes and made for a simple, rustic meal that was quite satisfying.  You can eat the tomatoes raw if you prefer, but I popped them under the broiler for a few minutes just to get warm and melty.

Smashing Potatoes. These were so dang good.

Smashing Potatoes

1-2 pounds small new potatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
Juice of half a lemon
Salt & pepper

Boil the potatoes until they are fork tender.  Drain and let cool a bit.  On a lined cookie sheet, place the potatoes and smash gently.  I used the flat side of a meat tenderizer hammer, but you could use a regular hammer, the bottom of a glass, really anything you’ve got will work.  Just don’t go too crazy with it or you will have flying potatoes instead of smashing potatoes.

Combine all other ingredients in a small bowl.  Spoon olive oil and dill mixture over potatoes, making sure each one gets a little love.  Bake for 20 minutes at 400˚ until they are a little crispy on the bottom and edges.

Broiled heirloom tomatoes with goat cheese and dill.

Broiled Tomatoes with Goat Cheese & Dill

1-2 large heirloom tomatoes
Goat cheese
Fresh dill
Salt & pepper
Olive oil

Slice tomatoes into thick (around 1/2″) slices.  Place on parchment on a cookie sheet.  Top with goat cheese, some chopped fresh dill and a sprinkle of salt & pepper.  Drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil.  Broil for 2-3 minutes, until cheese is melted and tomatoes are warm.

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Greek Salad Wraps

Just a quickie post today, highlighting a quickie dinner!  I’m short on time because I’m starting my kickboxing classes today!  More on that later as I complain about my aches and pains.

These easy, no-cook wraps have everything you like about Greek salad, without even needing a fork.  I especially like them because I usually have most of this stuff in my fridge anyway and they are a snap to make.  Any time I can throw things in a wrap and call it dinner, I laugh a little, since it’s still considered “cooking.”

Greek Salad Wraps

Greek Salad Wrap

1 tortilla or sandwich wrap
2 tbsp. hummus, any flavor you like
celery, sliced
leaf lettuce
tomato, diced or sliced
mild banana peppers
1-2 tbsp. crumbled feta cheese
3-4 kalamata olives

Spread hummus on wrap, top with other ingredients in a pile going down the center.  Fold up the bottom and roll up like a burrito.  Stick a toothpick in it if it doesn’t want to stay put.  I served these with simple sweet potato fries, which aren’t Greek at all, but still made for a tasty pairing.

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Lettuce Wraps with Hoisin-Peanut Sauce

Can you center a whole dinner around sauce?  Oh, yeah.  Especially if it’s this incredible peanut sauce.  In fact, the lettuce wraps are really more of a garnish in my opinion (although they were very yummy).  I could eat this sauce with a spoon.

If you had told me a few years ago that I’d be liking tofu I would have called you crazy.  I was never a huge fan.  After a couple very bad recipe failures early in my cooking experiments, I went many years without touching the stuff.  But my recent foray into vegetarian cooking has led me to venture into tofu territory again and oddly enough, I find myself developing a genuine like for it.

I’m definitely getting my money’s worth out of my Cooking Light subscription lately.  I think this is the third or fourth dish I’ve made out of the most recent issue.  I’m loving the fresh, seasonal dinners and this one was no exception.

This is the first recipe I’ve made with the tofu crumbled, and I found the consistency appealing, very similar to scrambled eggs in texture, but taking on the flavor of all the yummy ingredients mixed with it.  These were delicious and a huge hit with the kids too!

Lettuce Wraps with Hoisin-Peanut Sauce. As you can see, I’m a serial over-filler when it comes to lettuce wraps and tacos. Have extra napkins ready.

Lettuce Wraps with Hoisin-Peanut Sauce
(from Cooking Light)

Sauce ingredients:
1 tsp canola oil
1 tbsp minced shallot
1/3 cup water
2 tbsp creamy peanut butter
4 tsp hoisin sauce
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tbsp fresh lime juice

Filling ingredients:
1 (14 oz.) package extra-firm tofu, drained and crumbled
1 tbsp dark sesame oil
5 thinly sliced green onions (about 2/3 cup, divided)
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro, divided
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp Sriracha (hot chile sauce)
1 cup matchstick-cut cucumbers
1 cup matchstick-cut carrots
2 cups cooked rice
8 (or more if they are small) Bibb lettuce leaves

To prepare tofu for filling, spread crumbled tofu in a single layer on several layers of paper towels.  Cover with additional paper towels.  Let stand 20 minutes, pressing down occasionally.

Meanwhile, to prepare sauce, heat a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add canola oil to pan, swirl to coat.  Add shallot and cook for 2 minutes.  Add water, peanut butter, hoisin sauce and crushed red pepper and stir with a whisk.  Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute.  Remove from heat and stir in lime juice.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add sesame oil to pan; swirl to coat.  Add 1/3 cup green onions, saute one minute.  Add tofu, saute for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add 2 tbsp.cilantro, soy sauce, ginger, sugar and Sriracha.  Saute one minute.  Remove from heat.  Stir in cucumbers, carrots and remaining green onions.

Spoon 1/4 cup rice into each lettuce leaf.  Top with about 1/2 cup tofu mixture.  Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with sauce.

Serves 4.


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Roasted Vegetable Strudel

Phyllo dough is a fairly new discovery for me.  Other than for a couple of specific recipes it’s not something I think of in my day to day cooking. But that is going to change because every time I use it I love it even more.  Crispy, crunchy, flaky, versatile.  It’s everything I love about pastry without all the evils of pastry.

I came across a recipe on the “Proud Italian Cook” blog not too long ago for roasted vegetable strudel.  I didn’t do mine exactly the same but I thank that lovely lady for the inspiration because this turned out fantastic!  I can’t wait to experiment more with different variations, since I think you could use just about any combo of roasted veggies and cheese in this.  This first time I kept it pretty basic.  Delicious.  Feel free to mix and match your favorite veggies in your own version.

Roasted Vegetable Strudel and Fresh Fruit

Roasted Vegetable Strudel

12 sheets of phyllo dough
Cooking spray
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 zucchini, diced
1 yellow summer squash, diced
1/2 cup sliced carrots
1 cup sliced mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
Olive oil for drizzling
Salt & pepper

Spread veggies out on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with salt & pepper and drizzle with olive oil.  Roast at 400˚ for about 20 minutes, until tender.  I added the tomatoes about halfway through since they don’t need to cook as long.  Remove from oven.

Roasted Veggies

On a clean, dry work surface, lay out your first sheet of phyllo dough.  Keep the rest of the sheets covered so they don’t dry out.  For each roll I used 6 sheets.  On the first sheet, spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with a cheese (I used about 1-2 tsp for each layer).  Lay out another sheet on top and repeat until you have 6 sheets.

Prepping the phyllo dough.  Just a spray and a sprinkle on each layer.

Spread half of the roasted veggies over the surface, leaving about an inch all around.

Top the phyllo with the veggies.

Roll up carefully.

Roll it up like you’re making cinnamon rolls.

Repeat with the other 6 sheets of dough and the rest of the veggies so you have 2 rolls.  Crimp the ends so things don’t fall out.  Sprinkle rolls with the remaining parmesan.  Drizzle with olive oil.

All dressed up and ready for the oven.

Bake at 400˚ for about 20 minutes, until golden brown and crunchy.  Let cool for a minute or two and slice with a serrated knife.  Serves 4.

Crispy, crunchy and ready to eat! Let’s slice these babies up!

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Greek Salad with Roasted Chickpeas

One of the challenges when you go crazy at farmer’s market is using all the stuff up that you bought.  This week I not only went nuts at farmer’s market, but also at Trader Joe’s (they had a sale, who could resist?).  I came home with all my goodies, sat down and made a list of all the stuff I picked up, and then made a somewhat creative menu for the week to use it all up (beet pasta, anyone?).  So, at least one main dish salad was definitely in order.  Best of all this recipe was a good excuse to make roasted chickpeas again, and use them in place of croutons.

Greek Salad with Roasted Chickpeas

Greek Salad

4-6 cups mixed greens
Kalamata olives
Cherry tomatoes
Feta cheese
Mild banana pepper rings
Roasted chickpeas (I used oregano and garlic powder for the seasonings for these)

I don’t measure anything when I make salad.  If you like tomatoes, use lots of tomatoes, and so on.  Combine all ingredients.  Toss with Herbed Vinaigrette (see below).

Herbed Vinaigrette

1/4 cup cider vinegar (or apple jalapeno vinegar!)
1/4 cup  extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup crumbled feta
2 tbsp. chopped parsley
2 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 tsp. dijon
Salt & pepper

Combine all ingredients, whisk well or shake up in a jar.  Toss with salad.

Greek Salad with Herbed Vinaigrette & Roasted Chickpeas

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