Archive for the ‘Vegetarian’ Category

Lidl + Travel = Pasta Friday!

February 16, 2018

An impending trip always prompts some interesting meals as I try to use up vegetable odds and ends and other perishables.  Tonight’s fridge exploration resulted in a few broccoli crowns; some medium cheddar; the last of some Iberico ham; and a quart of milk that needed a purpose.

So what does Lidl have to do with it?  Last weekend I went to Lidl for the first time.  This is a dangerous, and somewhat frustrating, place for me.  Frustrating because I can’t possibly do the entirety of my grocery shopping there.  I have too many brand loyalties.  Some things Lidl sells only in larger quantities than I need. (I’m looking at you ramen noodles and green onions).  Some things I need, Lidl doesn’t carry at all.  (Um, decaf coffee, please)!

For me Lidl is an expensive place.  That’s the dangerous part. I bought all kinds of stuff I didn’t need.  It’s an amazing place to shop for European meats and cheeses.  Thus the Iberico ham.  I also picked up some lovely feta and Irish butter at a very good price!  Lidl also has lots of “special” items that are advertised at a special price with a sign that says something like “get it before it’s gone!”  I’m a sucker for that stuff.  So I also came home with some frozen scallops.  (What?!  I’ve never bought such a thing in my life).  I bought some truffle oil.  Now, that was a good deal and I do really like it.  I bought a package of orecchiette pasta with a seasoning packet attached.  Ridiculous.  I never buy seasoning packets except for taco seasoning!  So, I went in to look around and pick up eggs and milk.  I came out $42 later with my eggs and milk and a lot of other stuff.  Which brings us to tonight’s dinner.


It’s Pasta Friday!  I didn’t want to do anything too complicated.  I did want to use the broccoli and the ham rather than toss them before I leave town.  I had milk and cheese.  You see where I’m going with this.  Macaroni and cheese with some extras!  Alas, no macaroni.  Searching the cabinet – ditalini? Nope, too small to have with the broccoli.  Farfalle?  Nope, the cheese sauce kind of falls off.  Spaghetti?  Um, no.  Wait!  I have a bag of fancy orecchiette – little ears perfect for holding cheese sauce!  The seasoning packet is in the cabinet and likely to make an appearance mixed in olive oil and served with bread.

I thought we’d discussed cheese sauces in the last few weeks so I didn’t take any pictures, but I was wrong!  I’ll have to do another cheese sauce soon and do a better job.  There’s a lot of satisfaction in being able to make a good cheese sauce.  Here’s the basic idea.

Make a roux:  melt butter; whisk in flour; whisk in a small amount of milk;  whisk in a little more milk; whisk in a little more milk.  Getting it?  A little milk at a time, whisking constantly.  The whisking will make sure you don’t have lumps.  Bring the heat up enough to make the sauce bubble. This is how it thickens.  If it gets too thick, whisk in a little milk.  If it gets too thin, let it bubble until it thickens.

Tip If you put in too much milk and it won’t thicken enough by bubbling, make a slurry and add it in.  A slurry is a little flour mixed with a little milk or water.  That’s how you can add more flour and not end up with lumps.

Salt and pepper to taste.  That’s a white sauce.  To your white sauce add grated cheese.  I used medium cheddar tonight.  I like sharper cheddar so I have no idea why I even have it.  To add a little more tang I added some dijon mustard.  YUM!

Tip Grate your own cheese.  The pre-grated cheese is fine for topping tacos, but not for melting.  Manufacturers have to use an additive to keep the shredded cheese from sticking together in the package.  The coating keeps the cheese from melting smoothly.  You’ll have little uneven dots in your sauce where the cheese didn’t quite melt.  That might be a trade you’re willing to make to avoid having to grate your own cheese.  Fair enough.

For the pasta and broccoli save yourself the trouble of dirtying two pans.  Just make sure you have a large enough pot and enough water to accommodate both.  Bring the water to a boil and add the pasta.  When the pasta is about half done add the broccoli.  Drain them together and return them to the cooking pot.

Add your cheese sauce and fold it in.  Folding instead of stirring will help keep the broccoli whole.  Unless you’ve overcooked it, which is what happened to me.

You’ll see below that the broccoli does have plenty of whole pieces, but there’s also an awful lot of teeny tiny floret pieces spread throughout.  I underestimated the time it would take for the pasta to cook and I added the broccoli too early.  In a cheese sauce, where you’re going for something pretty smooth anyway, it’s not a big deal.  In a pasta primavera or something light like that it would be a bigger problem.

I just heated the ham in a pan until it started to crisp and chopped it.  Add the ham at end.  Save some for the top.  It just looks nice.  Or leave it out if you want a vegetarian meal.

So that’s how Lidl + travel produced my pasta Friday this week!  Hard to beat macaroni and cheese no matter how you make it!



Malai Palak (Indian Creamed Spinach)

February 11, 2018

Another recipe from my Rasika cookbook, it’s been on my list for a couple of weeks. I had just a little of the chicken curry left and this was nice to have alongside.  It’s nothing like the creamed spinach you may be used to, served with steak and filled with cheese and cream and butter.  I’m not knocking that, but this is definitely not that.  No cheese and with much less cream.  It turned out slightly more like spinach sauce or soup than I expected.  It tastes good and the onions give it some texture, but it still might be nice for it to be a little bit toothier.

I did make a couple of substitutions.  I used part of a jalapeno instead of a Thai green chili, less heat and a pepper slightly easier to come by.  I looked for fenugreek leaves and fenugreek leaf powder, but no luck.  Of course I combed the interwebs looking for a suitable substitute.  Here’s what’s weird. Some sites listed maple syrup and some sites listed fennel and others celery leaves.  Odd.  Maple syrup seemed kind of out there.  You have to buy a whole fennel bulb or a jar of fennel seeds.  I’m not a huge fan of fennel so I wouldn’t have a lot of use for the leftovers.  That left me with celery leaves.

For the spinach:

  • 1 large clamshell of spinach (10oz)
  • handful celery leaves
  • 3/4 C water

Blanche the spinach in boiling water and transfer immediately into a bowl of iced water.  That’s how you keep the bright green color.  Drain.  Add spinach, celery leaves, and water to a blender.  Process until smooth.


Here’s the spice/aromatic part of the ingredients list: (my photo disappeared!)

  • 1/4 C canola oil
  • 1/2 t cumin seeds
  • 2 T minced garlic
  • 2 1/2 C diced onion
  • 1 T minced ginger
  • 1 t diced jalapeno
  • 1/2 t turmeric
  • 1/4 C cream
  • salt to taste

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat the oil in a large pan.  When it shimmers add the cumin seeds and garlic. Brown the garlic.  30 seconds.
  • Add the onions.  Cook until the onions are brown. 5 minnutes
  • Add the ginger, jalapeno, and turmeric.  Stir 30 seconds.  Add the spinach.
  • Stir constantly for 5 minutes.  Be careful of the splatter.
  • Reduce the heat.  Add cream and salt.  Bring to a boil  Cook another 5 minutes.

Here’s how it went:

Other than the fenugreek, this recipe is pretty easy and pretty good.  It’s beautifully bright green.  It has a toasty flavor with just a little heat.  I did end up with a green polka dotted kitchen.  There’s a LOT of splatter when you add the spinach.  It’s a great side dish.  I imagine it will be good served over rice.  The cookbook offers adding cubed paneer  or potatoes as good variations.  Palak paneer makes a good entree and adding some potatoes would give some weight to the spinach as a side.  All in all, two thumbs up!  My array of Indian food at home is increasing!


UPDATE:  This is absolutely a multi-use vegetable side.  It makes a fantastic topping for scrambled eggs and an amazing sauce for pasta!

Pile O’ Vegetables

January 23, 2018

On Tuesdays I run with friends at 6am and am usually showered and ready to roll by 7:15.  Sometimes I grab some breakfast and start my workday by 7:30 and other days I try to get some household stuff done before the workday begins.  Today was the latter.  TV watching got in the way of my usual weekend trip to the grocery store, so I made the grocery run this morning.  First, let me tell you that early Tuesday morning is not a good time to hit the Kroger.  Apparently it’s restocking time.  Many shelves were sadly empty and many aisles were blocked by boxes and pallets.  I forged ahead though and bought mostly vegetables.

I still had some time after I got home so I chopped cauliflower, radishes, broccoli and mushrooms for roasting.  I halved an acorn squash for the same.  My day ended with a pile of roasted vegetables and zero plan.  Zero.  I spent about 30 minutes looking for recipes for roasted vegetable casseroles and roasted vegetable pot pie.  I don’t even like pot pie.  Again, a big fat zero.  So this is a completely made up dinner, which is why there aren’t so many pictures.  I’ll do better next time.

In the end I decided to pull together a sauce for the vegetables to serve on top of mashed acorn squash.  I purposely stayed away from cheese sauces and mustard sauces.  I ended up with a white sauce, a bechamel, flavored with vegetable stock, milk, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.  It’s pretty good really.  I only made one serving of the complete mixture so I can still do whatever I want with the leftover vegetables and sauce.


We’ve covered roasting vegetables already, so no mystery there.  And I’ll do a better demo of making a white sauce later, but here’s the idea.  Once you master a bechamel you can do just about anything with it.  It’s a great base for a cheese sauce; a mustard cream sauce; a lemon sauce.  And for this sauce.

Melt butter.  Stir in flour.  Add liquid a little at a time, stirring constantly.  That’s how you avoid lumps.  We’re talking about gravy here, really.  Tonight I added the vegetable stock first and then some milk.  Stir, stir, stir.  It will bubble and thicken as you go. If it gets too thick add in a little more liquid.  If it’s too thin let it bubble up and thicken.  But keeping stirring!  If you don’t it will seize up and you’ll have glop.  Once I had just about the consistency I wanted I stirred in some balsamic vinegar.  Tasted.  A little more.  Tasted.  A little salt.  Tasted.  Done.

I have no doubt that some herbs would do this sauce a lot of good, but my brain just wasn’t firing tonight.  This is a super good sauce for these vegetables.  It’s a nice balance for the sweet squash too.  I’d make one change.  I love the shiitake mushrooms.  And they’re fantastic in the sauce.  They aren’t so good with the acorn squash.  I think for the leftovers I’ll separate the vegetables from the squash.  Maybe a little honey for the squash.

The last part of this is frizzled onions.  I saw this in one of the recipes I perused today.  I’ve never frizzled an onion. And I might not have tonight either except that I’d already sliced the onion and poured the oil in the pan.  Basically you heat the oil until it shimmers and add a handful of onion strings.  No flour needed.  Stir them around until they start to brown.  Get them out quickly or they’ll burn in the blink of an eye.  Wait for the oil to come back to temperature before adding the rest of the onion strings.  These are a lovely topping for pretty much anything.

So, I’ll definitely eat the leftovers, just in a slightly different configuration.  I can’t say that you’re missing a ton by not having a recipe that would allow you to replicate it exactly.


Greek Butternut Squash Salad

January 13, 2018

Hey vegetarian friends, and those looking for a Meatless Monday dish, and those looking for something to take to a picnic, party or potluck – this is for you!  After the Singapore Noodles debacle yesterday, I approached this with some trepidation.  I’m familiar with all of these ingredients though, so it seemed pretty low risk.

I had a butternut squash in the pantry that’s been here for a while.  Sometimes it takes me a while to work up the energy to cut one up.  But I’m really trying to eat a little better and butternut squash salad is as good a start (re-start) as anything.  And I had half a red onion left from yesterday.  And half a sweet onion left from some other day.  And the ends of a block of feta in brine.  I actually only had to buy a 99 cent bunch of parsley for this.  Everything else I already had in the house.

Roasting vegetables is easy.  Here are the things to remember.  Use high heat.  Cut everything roughly the same size so it will all be done at the same time.  Keep everything in a single layer so that every piece has contact with the pan.  Don’t stir more than once.  It’s the contact with the pan that gives you that yummy caramelization.  Salt the vegetables.

If you’re planning to use your squash (or potatoes or carrots) in cubed format, keep an eye on them.  If you let them roast too long they’ll be so soft that they won’t hold their shape when you stir them into whatever else you’re using.


What we love about these kinds of salads is that they’re mostly dump and stir, and they can be served as a main dish.  I added some bulgur to this to give it some extra heft and left out the walnuts.  I hate walnuts.

Here’s what you need: (minus the olives, which I did use, but left out of this photo)


  • 1 small butternut squash diced and roasted with olive oil and salt
  • 1/2 red onion and 1/2 sweet onion, diced and roasted with the squash
  • 1- 1 1/2 C cooked bulgur
    • 1/2 C bulgur and 1 C water or vegetable stock
    • Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer 10-12 minutes
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1/2 C pitted kalamata olives, chopped
  • 2 t red wine vinegar
  • 1 t lemon juice
  • 1 t honey
  • 1/2 t dried dill weed
  • 1/2 t dried oregano
    • Whisk the above 5 ingredients (vinegar through oregano) together in a small bowl to make dressing
  • 1/2 C chopped or crumbled feta
  • 2 T chopped fresh parsley

Here’s what you do:

Combine chickpeas and olives in a large bowl.  Drizzle with the dressing.  Add cooked bulgur and roasted vegetables.  Stir in feta and parsley.  Salt and pepper to taste.

That’s it!  Easy!

Here’s what I thought:

This is good stuff.  And good for you stuff.  It can be served at room temperature so would be great to take to a potluck or dinner party.  No worries about keeping it hot.  It’s got no mayo or yogurt so good for an outdoor event as well.  It’s good as a single dish meal or as a side for chicken or pork chops. It’s pretty.  It’s healthy.  It’s yummy.  What more could you ask?

Here’s the original recipe.


I made this bowl cozy today.  This bowl wasn’t hot so I didn’t really need it, but it’s so cute I wanted to use it anyway.

Luck and Money for the New Year!

January 1, 2018

Happy New Year everyone!

New Year’s Day here means few things for sure:  a First Day 5K; the end to 2 weeks of eating junk and drinking too much, otherwise known as the Fat Fortnight; collards and black-eyed peas for dinner.

It’s a Southern thing.  Collards and black-eyed peas for the new year to represent luck and money.  The whole truth is that this is filling food for cheap.

Most years I start these with a pot liquor made with smoked turkey wings or ham hocks.  This year I went vegetarian and I’m not sorry.  These were easy, didn’t make a mess and tasted great.  I’m looking forward to leftovers!

Here’s all the stuff you need:


1/8 cup canola oil

1 yellow onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 lbs. collard greens, stemmed and chopped

1 tsp. red pepper flakes, toasted. (Toast the pepper flakes in a dry sauté pan over medium heat, tossing constantly.  Leave this out if you’re heat averse.)

1/2 cup white wine

2 cups cooked black -eyed peas

1/2 an onion, diced

1 garlic clove, minced

1 1/2 C vegetable stock or water (enough to cover the peas)

salt to taste


1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 T butter

1 tomato, chopped

Hot sauce to taste

If you haven’t worked with collards before just know that this is a sturdy leaf.  They have to be cooked a long while to make them tender and cook out some of the bitterness.  They’re available chopped and bagged at the grocery store.  I don’t buy them that way because they have the stems in them.  I prefer to remove the stems.  More industrious people than I pickle the stems to use as garnishes.  I just toss them.

I like to chop these kind of small.  They work better in soups that way and they mix better with rice and peas.  Place the leaf face down on your cutting board.  Run your knife down either side of the stem and stack the two leaf halves on top of each other.  Set them aside.  Stem all of the leaves before you begin the chopping.

Stack 4-5 leaves on top of each other and roll them up together.  Slice the roll in half longways, turn it and slice longways again.  The roll is now in four sections.  Cut it crosswise in small pieces and you’ll end up with something that looks like a dice.

Normally you cook these in enough liquid to cover them, but this recipe is fairly dry.  The collards are easier to use when you don’t have to drain them.  Just be sure that you use a pot big enough for the collards and then to add the peas to.

Start with oil, I use olive oil for nearly everything, but canola or safflower or whatever will work here just as well.  I sauteed the onions and garlic together.  This saved me the trouble of making the roasted garlic butter that the recipe calls for.  You may need to add the collards in batches to make them fit.  Once they’ve started to cook down add the wine.  If you don’t want to use wine use vegetable broth here.

You’ve got 30-40 minutes to cook these until they’re really tender.  If the collards start to stick to the bottom of the pot add a little water and stir.  Cook them with the lid off the pot.


While the collards cook, start the black-eyed peas.  In this part of the world you can get fresh peas for New Year’s, so I recommend that.  If you can’t, frozen are the next best thing.

Again, start your pot, a small one this time, with a little oil.  When it’s hot, but not smoking, add some onion and garlic.  Saute until the onions are soft.  Add the black-eyed peas and enough water or vegetable stock to cover them.  Salt the water to taste.  Bring them to a boil and then cut the heat back to simmer.  It’ll take 15-20 minutes to cook these.  I like mine pretty soft, but be careful that they aren’t mushy.  You want them to hold their shape when you mix them into the collards.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the black-eyed peas from the cooking liquid.  Save that liquid for cooking the rice.  Add enough water to the cooking liquid to make 1 1/2 cups.  Add the rice to the small pot with the liquid, bring to a boil, and simmer, covered, until it’s done.  About 15 minutes.

And, back to the collards.  Add the cooked peas and vinegar to the collards.  Throw in the butter and salt to taste.  Cook everything another 10 minutes.  Serve over the rice.  Garnish with a few chopped tomatoes.  Add a few dashes of Tabasco or Siracha or other hot sauce if you like

I had this as my dinner tonight, but later this week it’ll make a great side dish and maybe some breakfast hash.  Stay tuned!

This is based on a recipe from Garden and Gun magazine.  Check it out here!

Hope the new year brings you all the luck and money you need!

Chickpeas in Curried Coconut Broth

February 25, 2013

Well folks, it’s been a while!  I’ve been traveling for work for most of the last two weeks and trying to empty the fridge in the days leading up to the travel-thon.  I’ve eaten some very nice meals in the last couple of weeks, but you know how it is when you travel – too much food and too much booze.  I’m awfully glad to be home and in control of my meals again.  I’m trying to shock my system back into healthy eating so I’ve been on a vegetarian kick.  Two days of lentil soup and now this chickpea dish.


I have to confess that I’m not a big fan of the chickpea in its non-hummus form.  I picked this dish from a list of Cooking Light slow cooker recipes because it fit the easy and cheap criteria and because I love pretty much anything with coconut milk in it.  It far exceeded my expectations.  You have to love crockpot recipes.  Dump everything in and walk away.  This recipe suggests that you saute the onions and garlic first, but I bet it would be really fine to dump them in raw.  The recipe also calls for chopped fresh cilantro.  I’m sure that would be great, but I was too tired and too lazy to chop it.  I did manage a dollop of plain Greek yogurt though.  Yum.

Not much to add in terms of cooking tips.  I used one of my last remaining jars of home canned tomatoes.  With so few ingredients I believe they make a difference here.  I also used homemade curry powder.  I’d give you the recipe, but I have no idea what it is or where I got it.  Curry powder is just a combination of spices so making your own is easy and absolutely worth it if you use it a lot.  If you don’t make curries often just buy a good quality commercial curry powder.  Otherwise you’ll spend a ridiculous amount of money on the individual spices and not get a lot of use out of them.

I always think that things made with coconut milk will be a little bit sweet.  Not so.  This is tomato-ey and a touch briny with a little heat.  The chickpeas provide a nice neutral balance and the yogurt adds a little creamy and a little tangy.  Yum.  Remember that this is a broth and not a sauce or a stew.  It’s thin, but not weak.  The rice soaks up a lot of the extra and stretches the chickpeas even further.  You could serve it like soup and serve it with naan I suppose, but I recommend the rice.

I’m guessing this will be one of those dishes that’s even better leftover.  Tomorrow is supposed to be cold and rainy so this will make a perfect lunch!

Good? Really good.
Easy? Crockpots make everything easy.
Good for company? Eh. Better for a weeknight dinner after a busy day.
Special shopping? Nope. Curry powder is everywhere and you can find pickled jalapenos in the pickle section of any decent sized grocery store.

Chickpeas in Curried Coconut Broth


2 teaspoons canola oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 (19-ounce) cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1 quart whole peeled tomatoes (or 1 28oz can, undrained)
1 (13.5-ounce) can light coconut milk
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeño pepper
1 teaspoon salt
hot cooked basmati rice
plain Greek yogurt for garnish


Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and garlic; sauté 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Place onion mixture, chickpeas, and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a 3 1/2-quart electric slow cooker; stir well. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours. Serve over rice. Top with yogurt.

Butternut Squash and Smoky Black Bean Salad

January 8, 2013

Finding time to make dinner isn’t easy.  Finding something new isn’t easy.  Hitting the right balance between ‘healthy’ and ‘tastes good’ isn’t always easy either.  This recipe solves all three problems.  It’s quick and new (at least to me) and lands squarely in the sweet spot between healthy and yummy.  This one’s a keeper.

Butternut and Black Bean Salad

I followed the basics of this recipe.  Here’s where I strayed:  no adobo sauce, no arugula, no walnuts and no goat cheese.  Instead:  smoked paprika and tomato paste, fresh spinach, no walnuts and no goat cheese.  I hate walnuts and just didn’t see the need to add the fat and calories with the cheese.  The original recipe also calls for seven teaspoons of olive oil.  I don’t know that you need all that.  Maybe half that much.  The key to this whole thing is the dressing.  It’s a smoky, tomato-y, tangy, honey-mustard type dressing.  It’s thick enough that it sticks to the spinach, but not nearly so heavy as a creamy dressing.  It’s good stuff.  Would be great on chicken or pork too.

It took about 35 minutes to pull this together, but some of that time is just waiting for the squash to finish.  If you want to shorten it even more do the squash and the dressing ahead of time.  You reheat the squash when you heat the beans anyway.  You’ll probably want to bring the dressing to room temperature as well.  Or, if you’d like the spinach to wilt slightly then warm the dressing before you put it on.

You end up with a hearty vegetarian main dish salad.  Orange vegetables, leafy greens, vegetarian protein and just enough dressing to make it interesting.  I’m pretty excited to be having it for lunch tomorrow too!

Good? Very good.
Easy? Very easy.
Good for company? For family. Or to take to a pot luck.
Special shopping? Nope.

Butternut Squash and Smoky Black Bean Salad


4 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
5 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (9-ounce) package baby spinach


1. Preheat oven to 425°.
2. Arrange squash on a jelly-roll pan coated with 2 t olive oil. Bake at 425° for 25 minutes or until tender.
3. Combine 1 tablespoon olive oil, vinegar, mustard, honey, paprika and tomato paste in a bowl; stir with a whisk.
4. Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add squash, remaining 3/8 teaspoon salt, pepper, and beans; cook 3 minutes or until heated through. Remove from heat; stir in 3 tablespoons dressing; toss to coat.
5. Combine remaining dressing and spinach; toss to coat. Divide spinach mixture evenly among 4 plates; top with bean mixture.

Spaghetti Squash with Lemon and Capers

December 31, 2012

The holiday season is finally wrapping up so I’m looking for ways to, without suffering too much, rid myself of the few pounds I gained.  I’ll be turning to soups and vegetables over the next few weeks to help with that.  I started with a spaghetti squash.  I’m not a huge fan of spaghetti squash, particularly not as a substitute for actual spaghetti.  I did have one serving of this with spaghetti sauce on it, reminding me what a poor substitute it is for pasta.  Had to find something else to do with the rest.  And there was a lot of “the rest.”  Fortunately I was invited for an impromptu pot luck with a couple of friends so I had a chance to try this out on them without risking a lot of leftovers.

Spaghetti squash

Turns out leftovers were not a worry.  This is really good.  Well, of course it’s really good.  It’s a brown butter sauce.  Not so much a health food, but I maintain that butter sauce on spaghetti squash is still better for you than butter sauce on most other things.  Really I think this is more of a summer dish.  It calls for a little zucchini and a little chopped tomato.  It’s December and those things just don’t taste good so far out of season so I left them out.  To be completely honest I was going to include a few diced canned tomatoes, to the point that a friend went to pick them up for me and dropped them by the house (thank you!!), and then I forgot them.  I think that was fine, maybe even better.  I halved the spaghetti squash and most of the other ingredients, but kept full amounts, plus a little, of the red bell pepper and parsley.

There’s only one thing that makes this the tiniest bit tricky – browning the butter.  You have to watch it every second.  If you don’t it will burn and you’ll have to start over.  There’s no saving burned butter.  Swirl it around the pan occasionally as it browns.  Keep the heat relatively low.  Be patient.  There’s no rushing browned butter.  It’s worth it though.  It has a much richer flavor than just melted butter.  I used salted butter, as I do with everything, which is fine. I still added a touch of salt. You need it for balance.

The flavors in this are fantastic.  You get citrus and brine from the lemon and capers.  You get sweetness from the squash and red bell pepper.  You get a pop of fresh green flavor from the parsley.  A little salt and a little fresh cracked black pepper.  Done.  And awesome.  And pretty.  And a little bit sophisticated.  This definitely goes in the list of things to serve to guests.

Good? So much better than I dared hope.  Really good.
Easy? Yep, just watch the butter.
Good for company? It sure went fast at dinner, so yes.
Special shopping? Nope. Capers will be on the aisle with the pickles in any grocery store.

Spaghetti Squash with Lemon and Capers


1 large spaghetti squash
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons sweet butter
1 tablespoons capers, drained
1/3 cup diced red bell pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 C chopped parsley leaves
Salt and pepper


Cut squash in 1/2 lengthwise and scoop out all seeds. Place the squash cut side down on a sheet pan or cookie sheet and cover with foil. Place in the oven and cook until the rind is slightly soft or gives with a little pressure, about 20 minutes. When it’s done, scrape the meat out with a fork and reserve, keeping warm.

In a hot skillet, melt the butter, add the olive oil and continue to cook until dark brown. Add the capers and bell pepper to stop the butter from cooking any further, and cook, stirring, until tender. Stir in the lemon juice and parsley and season with salt and pepper.

In a large mixing bowl mix the squash and butter sauce and serve.

Vegetarian Black Beans and Collards

December 17, 2012

It’s vegan night!  I thought I was having company for dinner and my planned guest is a vegan, at least temporarily.  By the time I found out he wasn’t able to make it dinner was mostly done.  After yesterday’s pork fest (ribs at football and pulled pork at dinner) I can definitely use something on the lighter side.  I usually put a little meat in my black beans and in my collards so this is new for me.  Good for me!  And just plain good.

Vegetarian Black Beans and Collards

I didn’t have a ton of time for cooking today and I didn’t plan ahead so I used canned black beans instead of soaking my own.  I have no problem with that.  Canned beans are perfectly acceptable.  It’s what you do with them that counts.  I cooked mine with bell pepper, onion, garlic, poblano pepper, vegetable stock and Goya seasoning.  Super yum.  The collards I did do from scratch, but with a very different pot liquor than my usual ham hock/smoked turkey variety.  I used olive oil, vegetable stock, garlic powder, salt and Tabasco.  Again, yum.

I served these side by side over rice, but by then end of the meal I just mixed everything together and added a little extra Tabasco for some kick.  I gotta say, this was a really good dinner.  And my arteries thank me!

Good? So good.
Easy? Absolutely.
Good for company? Definitely. It’s just as easy to make a lot as a little.
Special shopping? Nope. You’ll find the Goya seasoning in the int’l section of most grocery stores.

Vegetarian Black Beans and Collards


6 T olive oil, divided
3 C vegetable stock, divided
1 large onion, diced, divided
2 bunches collards, stemmed and chopped
1 t garlic powder
1 T Tabasco
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 poblano or jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 packets Goya seasoning


Add 3 T oil, 2 C stock, 1/2 of the chopped onions, garlic powder and Tabasco to a large stock pot. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Add the chopped collards and simmer, covered, 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Heat remaining 3 T oil in a large saute pan. When the oil begins to shimmer add bell pepper, poblano, remaining chopped onion and garlic. Saute 5-7 minutes, until vegetables soften. Add black beans, remaining cup of stock and Goya seasoning. Simmer uncovered 30 minutes.

Serve everything over rice, white or brown. Top with Tabasco to taste.

Potato, Turnip, and Black Kale Baeckeoffe

October 5, 2012

It’s Fall! (In spite of this week’s fairly Summer-like temps in central VA).  And it’s October so we’ll say that this recipe is in honor of Oktoberfest.  It’s also in honor of the fact that I’m home and actually had time to cook.  Good thing – this takes a long time.  Here’s the ‘baeckeoffe’ explanation from for those of you who are a little rusty on your Germanic Alsatian dialects.  “Translated from the Germanic Alsatian dialect, baeckeoffe means “baker’s oven,” as it was traditionally a dish that was brought to the local baker to cook in his oven. Classic versions are loaded with meat, but our vegetarian riff is equally hearty and rich.”  I’ve never had a version loaded with meat, but I’d be willing to give that a shot.

Let’s start with the substitutions.  I try not to make many subs on dishes that are new to me and generally unfamiliar as a combination of ingredients.  The original recipe called for spinach. That seemed a little wimpy with the potatoes and turnips.  I bought some lacinato kale at the farmers’ market last weekend that I still needed to use.  That seemed like a good fit.  I also didn’t have any heavy cream.  Seemed silly to buy an 8 ounce container when I only needed 2.  I substituted 2% milk with just a little low fat cream cheese melted in.  I think both substitutions were fine, but with the kale I probably could have used more of the milk mixture.  It was just a little tough even after an hour in the oven.

Flavor wise this dish is a tiny bit on the bitter side.  Kale, turnips and Gruyere are all on the sharp side.  Clearly the idea is that they will balance with the potato, mushrooms and carmelized onions.  Not quite.  I didn’t have nearly enough mushrooms and onions.  They represent the creamy and sweet parts of this dish, respectively.  I made about 1/2 a recipe of this dish, but only had 1/4 of the mushrooms I needed.  I won’t make that mistake again.  And given how much onions cook down when they carmelize I would have been happier had I used the amount called for in the full recipe.  Ditto the milk mixture.  Of course the other way to cut down on the bitterness would be to use 2 layers of potatoes instead of one potato layer and one turnip layer.

One note about managing the time it takes to do this.  First, note that it bakes for an hour after it’s all put together so account for that before you start.  I’d guess you could put the whole thing together a day before you bake it. Also, while the recipe calls for you to do the mushrooms, wipe the pan and then start the onions.  That’s silly.  Use two pans and do them simultaneously.    Definitely you could make the onions and the mushrooms ahead of time – a day or two.  That will reduce your prep time a lot.  You’ll just want to warm the mushrooms before you try to spread them in the dish.

Overall this dish is a lot of trouble to make.  I knew that going in which is why I waited until a Friday.  Still, I’m not convinced that the trouble you have to go to is made up for by the enjoyment of the dish.  I’m not quite ready to write it off, but I’ll admit to some disappointment.  The reviews just raved about it.  No rave from me.  Just an “ok with potential.”  Maybe I’ll try to find one of those recipes with some meat in it to add a new dimension to the flavor.  That said, I’d make the mushrooms over and over again.  They’d be amazing in little gratin dishes.  You could mix them into cooked pasta.  You could stuff chicken with them.  That’s worth taking away from this even if you never try the whole thing.

Good? Ok, but has potential
Easy? Not so much
Good for company? As a side, maybe
Special shopping? Nothing exotic here

Potato, Turnip, and Black Kale Baeckeoffe


1 tablespoon butter, divided
8 oz sliced mushroom caps
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 tsp thyme 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 tablespoons 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, divided
2 cups vertically sliced onion (about 2 medium onions)
1 small Yukon gold potato, peeled and cut into (1/4-inch-thick) slices
2 cups black kale, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 small turnip, peeled and cut into (1/8-inch-thick) slices
1/4 cup milk
1 t neufchatel cheese
1/4 cup shredded Gruyère cheese


Preheat oven to 350°.

Melt 1/2 T of butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms to pan, and sauté 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in garlic; sauté 30 seconds. Add wine; cook 2 minutes. Add parsley, thyme, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Uncover and cook 6 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates. Remove from heat. Add 1 T cream cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Set aside.

As you start the mushrooms, heat pan over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 T of butter, melt. Add onion; saute for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium; continue cooking for 25-30 minutes or until deep golden brown, stirring frequently. Set aside.

Heat milk and remaining tablespoon of cream cheese. Whisk until smooth. Keep warm.

Coat a lidded baking dish with cooking spray. Arrange potato slices in dish, and top with kale. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper evenly over kale. Spoon the mushroom mixture over black pepper, and arrange turnip slices over mushroom mixture. Top with caramelized onions; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Pour milk mixture over onions and sprinkle evenly with Gruyère cheese. Cover and bake at 350° for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender and cheese begins to brown.