Tag Archives: easy vegetarian recipes

Spinach Crostini: A Recipe of Sorts

Gentle Readers, the best vegetable is the one that is eaten without complaint. Though I’m very fortunate to be raising a couple of foodies who don’t run screaming from green things, crostini is a secret weapon in the war for nutrition and good taste.

Spinach Crostini: Sauteed spinach, goat cheese, toast.

Spinach Crostini: Sauteed spinach, goat cheese, toast.

Bread (toasted), cheese (goat, in this case), and garlicky sauteed spinach. Done. It’s an appetizer, it’s a vegetable, it’s a miracle. You can mix this up at will. I served these the other night, and we consumed an entire bag of baby spinach between the three of us. It was unbelievably delicious, and we all ate it not just without complaint, but with joy.

Try cream cheese and roasted red peppers, or sauteed broccolini with goat cheese. Change the bread from loaf to baguette. Use what’s at hand, stack it, and cut into manageable pieces.

Crostini with Broccolini

Crostini with Broccolini

This is the perfect lead-in to a pasta meal, or to soup. It stretches what’s being served, and it is so very easy. Spinach on bread, Popeye would be proud.

What’s your favorite green vegetable? Post a comment below! It is easy AND fun.

Send deep thoughts, kitchen confessions, and actual questions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up on Friday: Bachi Burger, I Think I Love You.

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Quinoa Melange Plus Chickpeas (a Recipe of Sorts)

Gentle Readers, rarely does the opportunity to use the words “quinoa” and “melange” in a title present itself. For anyone unsure how to pronounce quinoa, here you go. “Melange,” you are on your own. This fine, protein-packed product is found, where else, but at Trader Joe’s.

Quinoa Melange from Trader Joe's (frozen!)

Quinoa Melange from Trader Joe’s (frozen!)

They do a great job of marketing, and TPC’s Junior are fans of samples, so there you have it. We bought this as a sample and served it as a meal.

Here’s how: prepare the quinoa according to the stovetop instructions. Watch it carefully, as it will get pretty hot and stick to the pan. Meanwhile, rinse one can of chickpeas (also known as garbanzos, thanks to the Eldest TPC for pointing this out). Add chickpeas to the pan. Stir. Serve.

Quinoa melange with added chickpeas. Nom!

Quinoa melange with added chickpeas. Nom!

I am a big quinoa fan, but the Jrs were not before. This blend is a little sweet from the sweet potatoes, a little toothsome from the quinoa, and nicely nutty from the chickpeas. It packs a good nutritional punch, and it is obscenely easy to serve on a school night.

This is a run don’t walk situation, I would recommend getting at least two bags. It would work very well as a side to poultry, pork, or fish, if you don’t swing veggie. Are you a quinoa fan? Post your two cents in the comments section.

Send your questions, comments, and dinner ideas to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Friday, The Halal Guys: NYC Mobile Food Review!

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Not Quite Carbonara Recipe (Vegetarians Welcome)

Gentle Readers, sometimes The Practical Cook winds up in the kitchen in less than perfect circumstances. This past week, the days were perfect, time spent on vacation in the mountains. But we had so much fun we failed to really grocery shop, and got home tired. What to do?

Not Quite Pasta Carbonara with Spinach

Not Quite Pasta Carbonara with Spinach

Work with what you’ve got. In this case, we were feeding a vegetarian, and there was not a strip of bacon in sight. But there was pasta, and spinach, and eggs. Go!

Not Quite Carbonara Recipe

Please note that absolutely everything about this is an approximation. I was trying to feed people, not document each step.

olive oil
garlic (2 or 3 cloves, whole or minced)
baby leaf spinach

fresh pasta (dried will do), 1 pound will feed a crowd
3 eggs
lemon juice (depends on how potent it is, at least a teaspoon or two)
salt and pepper to taste
grated Parmesan

1. Put pasta water on the stove to boil. Meanwhile, heat olive oil and garlic over a strong medium heat until you smell garlic. Toss in the spinach and saute quickly until leaves are coated with garlicky oil and just starting to wilt. Pull off heat.

2. Scramble the 3 eggs with lemon juice and a splash of olive oil. Blend thoroughly.

3. By this point the pasta water should be boiling. Make the pasta according to direction (we used fresh black pepper spaghetti, but anything will do). Cook until just al dente. Drain and toss in heatproof serving bowl with the egg mixture immediately.

4. Toss thoroughly to coat and cook the eggs a bit. Add in garlicky spinach. Toss and top with a bit of Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Remember, with enough garlic and Parmesan, you won’t miss the bacon. That much. 🙂 This egg sauce technique will work with many other combos. Enjoy! Special thanks to Waldorf for allowing me to co-opt the idea and technique.

S'mores solve the dinner dilemma too.

S’mores solve the dinner dilemma too.

What’s your go-to dish when things are looking bare in the cupboard? Post a comment below!

Send your pasta, wisecracks, and actual questions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Summer is flying by, it’s time for Weekly Menus again this Sunday!

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Weekly Menus: Week of 3/4/2012 (bonus recipe)

Gentle Readers, with life’s hectic pace, and the winter months upon us, The Practical Cook must confess she did not go to the Farmer’s Market for a long time. Yesterday, driven by a cause (bacon), she went with the Juniors. Hog wild barely describes the scene. And that was just the Juniors. We came, we saw, we tasted and bought. We also learned.

Sing with me: "You're the inspiration!" (Bread, I Love You.)

Sing with me: "You're the inspiration!" (Bread, I Love You.)

If you haven’t located or visited your local Farmer’s Market lately, make a point of doing so. Interesting things are starting to happen again in most climates, and the baked goods are not to be missed. In fact, I’m so inspired, I’m making bread tomorrow. I have a partner in crime, though she doesn’t know it yet. Thanks CV Tall in advance.

Farmer's Market = Potential, my equivalent of mainlining

Farmer's Market = Potential, my equivalent of mainlining

I’ve included my Farmer’s Market purchases on the grocery list, though retroactive, as proof that I don’t exist solely on bacon. Especially since, irony of ironies, I’ve gotten multiple requests for veggie recipes lately: salad, grains, etc. I am here for you. Look to the bottom of the post for the bonus recipe inspired by today’s shopping trip.

Without further delay, here is this week’s Weekly Menus:

Weekly Menus: 3/4/2012

Weekly Menus: 3/4/2012

And the Four-Square Grocery List (still very spartan, still trying to eat down my unfreakingbelievably large pantry warehouse + my assault on the Farmer’s Market = fresh veggie overload):

Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 3/4/3012

Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 3/4/3012

Which translates into:

Sunday:Salmon and kale
I think I’ll do something orange-ish, as I have a few oranges lingering in the crisper drawer, and pair it with Quinoa or couscous salad (recipe research!)

Monday: Butterbeans, cornbread, and beets, et al TBD
I’m looking to do a serious veggie meal, as the Juniors are developing a bacon withdrawal problem.

Wednesday: Sausage and Chard
Of course, then we’ll eat more pig, but as part of a cassoulet-like dish, with white beans.

Thursday: Bacon and Egg Sammies with Salad
Maybe I’ll have nailed the homemade bread by this point . . .

Friday: Soup and Sammies!
I’ve got some beef stock I need to use, so it may be time for a French Onion soup of some stripe.

Saturday: Dine Out!
Field research is so necessary. I’m scoping some new spots, let’s see if I can gather a research team. Volunteers? Mission: Chinese.

Breakfast for Dinner: I almost forgot, I bought more grits too.

Breakfast for Dinner: I almost forgot, I bought more grits too.

Bonus Recipe: Spinach Salad with Cherries, Pecans, and Goat Cheese

This is too obnoxiously easy to be a true recipe, but it permits me to lecture on what to keep in your pantry/fridge, so you’re salad-ready at all times.

baby spinach (don’t be without this, for real)
dried cherries
chopped pecans, lightly toasted
goat cheese, fresh is best and way less goaty
good quality Balsamic vinegar and olive oil

Combine in portions that work for you. My Youngest, a notoriously picky salad eater, literally wiped the plate with her spinach leaf. She would walk on hot rocks to get to goat cheese, so I crumbled a heftier portion on her salad. The basics here are sweet, crunchy, and salty. Spinach is a good salad back-up. It stays fresh longer in the fridge, is less bitter than some greens, and packs a serious nutritional punch. Keep dried fruit always. Raisins are good, but red dried fruit (cherries and cranberries) look more festive in salads. Nuts or seeds, also keep on hand. Of course, if you’re me or have a nut allergy, you can sub bacon bits. And though I’ve got both feta and goat cheese in the house, I find goat is way more versatile. If you hate it, go with feta, but you want creamy/salty here. It melds with the oil and vinegar.  End of lecture. Salad on!

What are you eating between seasons? Post a comment with your meals or your cravings!

Send salad suggestions, vegetarian challenges, and lucrative book contracts to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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For Wednesday, we’ll be testing one more round of M&Ms: Pretzel vs Peanut!

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Veggie Nachos Perfected! (Recipe Included, Additional Napkins Are Not)

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook takes good ideas where she sees them. Having made nachos for years, in many variations, I have a new version that was met with wild applause by The Practical Cooks Junior. It’s not easy being cheesy. And even less easy being a sweet potato. Read on.

Hello beautiful sweet potatoes.

Hello beautiful sweet potatoes.

Veggie Nachos Perfected (A recipe and a method to the madness)

The key here is layering. I’ll leave exact proportions to your specifications, but don’t be shy about the cheese. The order of operations is actually important here. It is the thing that transforms this from idle snack to actual recipe.

These veggie nachos come loaded.

These veggie nachos come loaded.

1 bag of high-quality tortilla chis (I specify, because wimpy chips simply won’t stand up here)
2 cups or so cheese of choice, shredded (we used the shredded Mexican blend from Trader Joe’s)
olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (or to taste)
salt
1 can black beans, rinsed well
1/2 of something tomatoey (use red salsa if you want more heat or diced tomatoes for milder)
1 small to medium sized sweet potato, peeled and diced small
2 or 3 handfuls of baby spinach
green onions, sliced
1 avocado, diced

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put foil over a pizza pan or baking sheet, put a layer of tortilla chips on it. Quantity depends on size of crowd and the preferred ratio of stuff to chip. Cover with a generous layer of cheese (half of what you’re using), bake until cheese melts, remove pan from the oven and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat a splash of olive oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan. When hot but not smoking, saute the garlic and the onion briefly, toss in the cumin and a sprinkle of salt, then add beans. Stir well.

The veggie nacho rainbow: black beans, sweet potatoes, and some spinach for good measure.

The veggie nacho rainbow: black beans, sweet potatoes, and some spinach for good measure.

3. Add the tomatoey item of choice, and the sweet potatoes. Stir, cover, and cook at medium to medium-low for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are cooked but not mushy. Add spinach and cook till it wilts, a couple of minutes more.

This is not the time to hold back the cheese.

This is not the time to hold back the cheese.

4. Pour bean mixture over cheesy chips, spread out to cover the chips. Leave no chip behind. Cover with remaining cheese. Return to oven and bake until cheese melts, another 5 to 7 minutes.

5. Remove from the oven, and immediately sprinkle with the green onions and avocado, so that they stick in the glorious melty cheese.

Veggie Nachos Perfected! With pickled jalepeno on top, for good measure.

Veggie Nachos Perfected! With pickled jalepeno on top, for good measure.

Serve promptly with sour cream, salsa, and a whole lot of napkins.

What’s on your nachos? Post a comment below, or Tweet!

Send your avocados, your kudos, and your cooking challenges to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Up next, The Great Sweetener Race: Molasses vs. Honey!

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One Ingredient, Three Ways: Parmesan Rinds

Gentle Readers, nothing is more satisfying than using an ingredient to the last drop. Especially when it’s a costly one. If you’ve been throwing away your Parmesan rinds, today is the day to stop doing so. And if you have no rinds because you’re using a certain green can, get thee to a cheesery. Ahem, as I was saying, Parmesan rinds are bursting with flavor, and you can drop them in all sorts of dishes.

Parmesan Rinds: Endless flavor possibilities!

Parmesan Rinds: Endless flavor possibilities!

To save them, just grate to your desired end point, wrap, and freeze. That’s it. Best to label them so you use oldest first. I drop them right into the dish, but if you think of it, set it out on the counter while you’re prepping. Could not be easier!

One Ingredient, Three Ways: Parmesan Rinds

1. Cooked Greens. As a bacon or pork substitute, the Parmesan rind was an outstanding performer. The Collard Greens for Haters Recipe, Vegetarian Version featured one such rind, and it added a depth of flavor even I didn’t expect. I’m so proud to say it converted one hater on the spot. This will work with other leafy greens, but works best when you cook them for a while, not just a fast saute.

Vegetarian Collards for Haters, Order Up!

Vegetarian Collards for Haters, Order Up!

2. Beans and Soups. Coming tomorrow, I’ll share a Vegetarian Down-Home Black-Eyed Peas recipe that features a Parmesan rind as a substitute for a ham hock, which I find too hoofy for my taste. I know, I just lost 2 Southern points, but hopefully my love of Fried will redeem me. Add a Parmesan rind to any pot of beans, peas, or soups for a rich, salty, cheese flavor. Minestrone would be awesome that way.

Vegetarian Down-Home Black-Eyed Peas: Delicious!

Vegetarian Down-Home Black-Eyed Peas: Delicious!

3. Risotto. I really love risotto, and I’ve done it a few ways, with red and with white wine. Regardless, I love the deep, layered flavors it provides, and the mouthfeel. I find adding a Parmesan rind to the process (the stock, the rice, either way) enriches the flavor further. This is on my to make list soon, so apologies for the lack of picture/recipe. I’ve got a LOT of cooking to do this year.

How do you use your Parmesan rinds? Do you save scraps in the freezer for future use? Confess here in the comments section, or Tweet!

Send your cheese rinds, your challenges, and your gentle reminders to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Up next, Vegetarian Down-Home Black-Eyed Peas, Or Move Over Porky.

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Indian Veggie Burger: Product Review

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook is on a mission to find the best veggie burger in the land. All contestants welcome. I’ll be trying them in restaurants, from the freezer case, and from scratch recipes. Today’s entry is a most delightful twist on the theme: Trader Joe’s Vegetable Masala Burger

Trader Joe's Vegetable Masala Burger

Trader Joe's Vegetable Masala Burger

These frozen gems are a bit on the spicy side, and remind me of samosa filling or loosely packed pakora. Either way, that adds up to delicious in my book. I fully intend to use them as a cheating chaat the next time I serve Indian food.

Trader Joe's Vegetable Masala Burgers contain lots of visible veggies.

Trader Joe's Vegetable Masala Burgers contain lots of visible veggies.

They are a bit luscious (aka, greasy), which I also dig. The Practical Cook abhors a dry veggie burger. For our taste test, I served them in pita with lettuce, with yogurt on the side for cooling.

Half a masala burger fit nicely into the mini pita.

Half a masala burger fit nicely into the mini pita.

The Practical Cooks Junior liked the flavor, but found them to be too spicy. I basically ate the whole box, and then bought some more to try with the Mom’s Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls featured earlier. Wow, I love them.

Vegetable Masala Burgers in Pita with Lettuce

Vegetable Masala Burgers in Pita with Lettuce

For the vegetarians looking for something new, give these a shot.

Have you made veggie burgers from scratch? If you’ve got a recipe, send it my way. Post a comment below to nominate a veggie burger for the taste test!

Send in your requests for future blogs by emailing practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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For the love of Fried Pickles, up next.

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