Category Archives: vegetarian

We Gotta Get Out of this Place

One would think with all the food making and sugar baking and what not that goes on around here, I would be the kind of person that really loved the grocery store.

Yes. A lazy afternoon wandering the aisles, admiring the colors, the textures, the tastes. It’s so inspiring. It’s so relaxing. It’s foodie heaven, right?

No. No no no. Wrong.

I love to cook. I love to gather ingredients and manipulate them into something tasty and tempting. But I loathe (and I mean loathe) the grocery store. Eric always wondered why I come home from the store in a sour mood until he lived on his own earlier this year before I arrived in our new location and he had to shop for himself for the first time since college. He got it. Quickly.

The grocery store is crowded and annoying. It’s full of maniacs wielding giant metal baskets on wobbly wheels. It brings out the worst in people. I nearly got my arm ripped off reaching into a freezer bin full of sale-priced baby back ribs earlier this summer. Relax, folks. Okay. It’s ribs.

The grocery store. The words taste bitter on my tongue when I announce to Eric that’s where I’m headed. It is one of my least favorite chores. I end up stranded behind someone waiting 10 minutes for another car to pull out of a parking space so they can take it. I will inevitably pick the wrong the checkout line. After I empty my cart it’s pretty much guaranteed the register will spontaneously combust and I’ll be left waiting just a little bit longer.

The grocery store. I almost can’t deal with it. Here’s the top 5 reasons why…

5. Chatty Cathy Cashiers – I’m not anti-social. I swear. A friendly “Hi, how are you?” is always appreciated when approaching the counter. I can smile and be cordial with the best of them. But when the cashier is so busy asking every customer about their weekend plans that she forgets to scan, I can’t help but get antsy. Every single additional second I have to spend in that place, especially when I’m so close to escaping…oh boy. Is my eye twitching? Just. Might. Lose. It.

4. The Lonely Drifter – This person walks directly down the center of cereal aisle, stops, then zigs and zags all over the place. Oblivious. May or may not be dragging two carts.

3. Failure to Yield the Right-of-Way – When you’re driving your car, you don’t come to an intersection and just blow on through without even looking to see if anyone is coming. Same rules should apply at the store. Nothing quite like getting run down by someone who plows out of an aisle with their cart like that their pants are on fire. An excuse me would be nice, it’s hard to see around those corners after all. People should try it. It’s the conversational equivalent to the rear view mirror courtesy wave. It’s always appreciated.

2. The Stop and Chat – Do people in big cities get the pleasure of the stop and chat at the store, or is this a small town thing exclusively? Let me set the scene for you. Two friends descending down an aisle approach each other from opposite directions, after a jovial hello, maybe a hug, they proceed to stop and have a deep, meaningful conversation – all while completely blocking the thoroughfare.

“How’s Bob doing?”

“Oh, he’s great. He just got a promotion at work – Head of Collating and Stapling.”

“Oh, that’s fantastic!”

“We think he’ll be supervising the Three Hole Punch Operators by the end of the year. How’s your mom?”

“Oh, pretty good. You know she fell off the roof again….”

There’s no getting around that. This is important stuff and it can’t wait. Sometimes even an excuse me doesn’t quite do it. Drives me batty.

1. The Big Empty Space – More so than any of the assorted grocery characters you meet along the way, nothing irritates me more than approaching an item I’m after only to find the shelf completely void of what I need. I make a list, people. I plan my meals! When I can’t get an item I need, it throws a giant wrench in my entire week. When it’s a funky or specialty ingredient, something I’ve never bought before, that’s different. But when there’s no pure almond extract, or red onions, or caffeine free diet….Ugh. You know that defeated feeling that just pours over you when you can’t find what you need? It makes me want to cry.

Yeah, yeah. Just stop at another store and look there, right? Well, I don’t WANT to stop at another store. I’m already AT the store. I can’t go through all these headaches again at another store. I just can’t. *Quiet sobs.*

This here’s a dish that’s a snap to prepare. Like let’s say, it’s Saturday morning and you’re in a sour-puss mode because you just came from the grocery store and the absolute last thing you want to do is make lunch. You can be on your way to sweet yet savory, melty, gooey, crunchy, comforting bliss in about ten minutes.

This grilled goat cheese and strawberry quesadilla is inspired by this lovely sandwich with the same ingredients I first saw over on Josie’s blog Pink Parsley. I had been putting off going to the grocery store and didn’t have any bread around. But I was hungry had everything else plus whole wheat tortillas. Turns out, the tortilla was a perfect substitute!

In this unexpected dish the goat cheese, strawberries and basil combine into this halleluiah chorus of simple flavors that totally satisfies. It’s another one of those combinations that leaves you scratching your head wondering why it’s so good. It just is. It’s fresh and creamy and warm and sweet. It’s a little bit main course, a little bit dessert, and all wonderful. The original recipe calls for red pepper jelly which I couldn’t find (Ha ha. OF COURSE!) so I subbed this really yummy local raspberry jalapeno jam I bought at the farmer’s market. The jam’s subtle sweetness blends well with the strawberries and the little kick of spice a the end is tamed by cheese. It’s great for a quick lunch or a fun twist on a meatless dinner.

You can’t be in a bad mood and eat this, it’s impossible – even if you’ve been held up at the store by an epic Stop and Chat. 😉

STRAWBERRY GOAT CHEESE QUESADILLA (Recipe source: Adapted from Pink Parsley, originally from Southern Living, March 2011)

*Note:* I didn’t measure any of the ingredients here – just layered ’em up until it looked right. When I make a quesadilla for myself, I’m a one tortilla girl. You may like to use two so it’s a bit bigger, that’s cool. Whatever you fancy works just fine.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Whole wheat tortillas
  • Raspberry jalapeno jam, red pepper jelly, or your favorite spread
  • Crumbled goat cheese
  • Sliced strawberries
  • Fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced.
  • Butter or olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the outdoor grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Spread a thin layer of jam or jelly on tortillas. Add goat cheese, then top with a layer of sliced strawberries. Sprinkle basil over the strawberries. Either fold the tortilla into a half moon or top with a second whole tortilla. Butter each side of quesadilla (or brush with olive oil) and grill until the cheese is melted and the tortilla is golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Let sit for a minute before slicing into wedges. Serves as many or as few as you want it to, yo!

ENJOY! 🙂

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Filed under fruit, vegetarian

Simple Things

Coming out of the office after a long, hard day and turning on the car just in time to catch the beginning of a favorite song on the radio.

An unexpected drink special at a favorite restaurant.

Stepping into a fitting room and discovering it fits, it makes you look smokin’ hot and it’s on sale.

The perfect candid photo.

Celebrating the good news of family and friends, even the little things.

Waking up early on a Saturday morning and realizing there’s no such thing as an alarm clock that day.

Warm, gooey chocolate chip cookies and ice cold milk.

A baby’s laugh.

Finding a piece of jewelry you thought was long gone.

Beautiful weather on the day of an outdoor event.

New recipe success.

Pushing a little bit harder during a workout. Then feeling like a rock star afterward.

A book that stays with you long after you turn the last page.

Finding a favorite movie on TV on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Comfortable heels.

A plate of pasta topped with a homemade tomato sauce and just sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

You may think that last one isn’t simple at all. Homemade tomato sauce? Doesn’t that take…like hours? Isn’t there lots of like…onion chopping and garlic mincing? Isn’t there all these herbs to deal with and stuff? Ugh. Who has time for that? That’s what those jars at the grocery store are for.

This here’s a recipe that is as simple as it gets. Not only is it simple, it’s good. Really good. I’m talking about good in The Best Sauce I’ve Ever Made kind of way. I try not be overly effusive when describing the food in my blog because, let’s face it, not every single thing can be the best thing ever. But this sauce…this really is the best tomato sauce I’ve ever made at home. Seriously. Honestly. Cross my heart and hope to die.

Here’s a needle. I will stand here quietly and let you stick it directly in my eye if you make it and don’t agree. If that’s not a promise I don’t know what is.

Let me walk you through the ingredients. I hope you’re taking notes. There may be a quiz. Here’s what you need: 1 can whole tomatoes. 1 yellow onion. A little bit of butter. Salt if ya need it.

Don’t worry about pureeing the tomatoes. Just pour them into a stock pot. Don’t even think about dicing that onion. Just lop it half and remove the peel and plop it in the tomatoes. Don’t cut the butter into tiny pieces or melt it carefully over low heat until it clarifies. Just drop it right down in there with the others.

Turn on heat. Simmer. Stir occasionally. You can totally go do something else. Just come back every now and then and give it a whirl with your wooden spoon. Crush the tomatoes against the side of the pot while you do it. This is far from a chore because you get to stand there and just inhale the yumminess on the stove top. How can three ingredients smell so good? Tell me. HOW? It shouldn’t be! But it is.

I’ve had my eye on this recipe ever since Deb posted it at Smitten Kitchen. I’m not sure what took me so long to get around to making it but now that I have, I’ll be making it all the time. It’s so easy, there’s no excuse not to!

A couple of notes here. The recipe recommends San Marzano tomatoes. These are tomatoes grown in a specific region of Italy and (supposedly) the best canned tomatoes out there. I can’t speak for those in them-there-big-city-fancy-pants-places 😉 but out here in my much smaller Midwest market, I have never seen these at the regular grocery store. I happened to have the San Marzanos around this time around because I picked some up the last time I was at Whole Foods in the Chicago area. That was kind of a fluke, since the closest Whole Foods is two hours from me, so I will probably be trying this sauce with a good old grocery store tomatoes some day soon. I’ll let ya know how it turns out!

And also, check the ingredient list on your can of tomatoes to see if they come pre-salted. Mine were unsalted so I added kosher salt until I like the taste of it. If your tomatoes are salted, I’d taste before adding salt to see what you think.

Now go make this simple recipe and make it dinner tonight!!

TOMATO SAUCE WITH ONION AND BUTTER (Recipe Source: Originally adapted from: Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, as seen at Smitten Kitchen)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 – 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes (San Marzano, if available)
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
  • Salt to taste (if needed)

DIRECTIONS:

Combine tomatoes, onion and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring the sauce to a simmer then lower the heat. Cook the sauce at a steady simmer for about 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat float to surface. Stir occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat, discard the onion, and add salt if needed. Serve with hot pasta and grated Parmesan if desired. Serves 4 as a main course.

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago: Texas Caesar Salad with Grilled Sirloin
Three Years Ago: Candy Kiss Cupcake Bites

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Filed under pasta, vegetarian, veggies

Bean Me Up

A few weeks ago there was a wonderful gathering of food bloggers in Atlanta for a yearly conference known at BlogHer Food. As the Twitterverse popped and sizzled with exciting tweets from conference goers makin’ friends, takin’ names, soaking in swag and learning from the best, I found myself, as one might imagine, quite jealous.

I wanted to be one of the cool kids who does cool things with cool people. Perhaps for the first time EVER. Cool people go to conferences. Obvs.

Of course, there is one slight problem. If I were to attend a conference like that I believe my name tag would read:

Hello, my name is:
The Most Socially Awkward Person in the World
Author of: A Mediocre and Mostly Forgettable Food Blog

I’m really not good at things like…talking to people I don’t know. I’m thinking something like a blog conference would involve a lot of that. And here I thought all bloggers are quiet, sensitive, writer-types full of angst and adjectives.

No? Just me? Okay, got it.

I’d probably spend the entire weekend standing in a back corner staring down at my phone like I’m texting Big and Important People when really I’m just checking the extended forecast. Again.

Even so, I do wish I could have attended for no other reason to meet one my absolute faves who just happened to be there. I would have spotted her across a room, awkwardly called out BRANNY! even though that’s totally not her real name.*

*She would have turned around though. We all call her that. ‘We’ being all us food bloggers. 😉

Branny is kind of fantastic. And I kind of have a tiny girl crush on her even though we’ve never met. She and her husband live on this amazing farm where they learning all about the wonderful world of horses. How cool is that? She also cooks up some of the most unique (and mostly vegetarian) eats of the web. The way she combines different cuisines, unique ingredients and bold flavors into tasty veggie dishes even her meat-loving husband adores is straight up genius. She’s creative, funny, and has a heart as big as the sun. I’m pretty proud to say I “know” her! 🙂

I sure am glad she’s around because, if left to my own devices, there is no way I would have discovered the awesomeness that is sweet potatoes and black beans smashed together and stuffed into a tortilla. Thank you, Branny, introducing me to these wonderful Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos!

These are so good. With just a few ingredients, all of which can be prepped ahead of time, these tasty treats are becoming one of my favorite quick dinners. The ingredients are so simple, but the combination of sweet potato and black bean is so flavorful. The sweetness of the potato plus the smokey bite of cumin and kicked up coriander makes the filling really stand on it’s own without the typical burrito add-ins like rice and cheese. The leftovers are perfect for freezing and make a great lunch on the go. Thanks again, Branny, for another great meatless meal to add to the rotation. Oh, and also for being awesome. 😉

SWEET POTATO AND BLACK BEAN BURRITOS (Recipe Source: As seen at Branny Boils Over, originally adapted from a Moosewood recipe)

*I didn’t have burrito-sized tortillas on hand so I rolled them up taquito style in taco-sized tortillas. Whatever you’ve got around works.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2.5 cups cooked sweet potato, cubed (about 2 medium potatoes)
  • 2 cups cooked black beans
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp cumin
  • 4 tsp lemon juice
  • 8 tortillas (whole wheat preferred, not what I had on hand this time around)

DIRECTIONS:

Pulse the onions and garlic in the food processor. Add onions and garlic to a skillet and cook on the stove top with coriander, salt and cumin until softened.  Return ingredients to food processor with cooked sweet potatoes and beans. Add lemon juice.  Pulse to combine.  Stuff the mixture into tortillas and roll up. Place on a baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven until golden and hot all the way through; about 30 minutes.

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago: One of my absolute favorites – Tequila Lime Tart!
Two Years Ago: Pasta with Creamy Red Pepper Sauce
Three Years Ago: Fried Vermicelli with Green Onions

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Filed under vegetarian, veggies