October is Vegetarian awareness month. There's no question that a plant based diet is one of the healthiest ways to eat but what does that look like? I'll be the first to admit that when someone suggests that I go vegetarian, I picture myself sitting at the dinner table in classic Fred Flintstone style nibbling on a giant kale leaf instead of a ginormous rack of dinosaur ribs. Am I just too narrow minded to come up with new and delicious ways to enjoy the plants that I should be consuming? After all, some of my favorite meals are vegetarian. Black bean burgers, sweet potato bowls and homemade ramen are arguably some of the most delicious things that I make.
So why is there such a stigmatism around the label "vegetarian"? I'm always more anxious about the menu that I serve when I invite a vegetarian over for dinner. What kind of protein will I serve? Will I have enough vegetables to fill them up? What kind of vegetarian are they? Do they eat eggs, dairy, fish? It's all very confusing for the non-vegetarian.
So I'm here to simplify things for you. Whether you are or you've got a friend who is a lacto-vegetarian, a lacto-oco-vegetarian, an ovo-vegetarian or a vegan, I've got a sandwich just for you. The fact is that we could all use a little more vegetables in our lives and this is a delicious way to consume a lot of them. (It sure beats nibbling on a giant kale leaf.) Serve this yummy sub along with some baked corn chips and salsa and you'll never miss the meat.
1 eggplant, cut into 1/4" rounds
1/2 t. salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon stone ground mustard
1 Tablespoon horseradish
1/3 cup kalamata olives + 1 teaspoon brine
8 slices whole grain bread
1/2 cup hummus
1 cup roasted red pepper, sliced
1 ripe avocado, sliced
1 Roma tomato, sliced
2 Persian cucumbers, sliced
1 cup spinach
Spread mayo on top half of bread.
Top with remaining bread.
I admit that I was a little apprehensive about serving this meatless club sandwich to my carnivorous husband but I was shocked at how well it was received. He liked this veggie filled sandwich so much that he bragged about to friends the following day. He never complains what about the vegetarian meals that I serve him but hearing him talk positively about it meant that he didn't just tolerate it - he actually liked it!
Best Ever. How exactly does a recipe achieve "best ever" status? Has it been tested up against every other recipe in its category? Are there panels of judges who sit around tasting food and awarding only the top contenders the "best ever" award? What is the standard for which each recipe is judged? Most buttery? Creamiest? Perfect blend of flavors? And who's to say which foods deserve the coveted title of "Best Ever"?
In general, I think that bakers attach the words "best ever" to any recipe that is so common that they feel that they need to distinguish their recipe from all of the others. I myself have been known to get caught up in more than one "best ever" brownie recipe. How could I resist? Clearly, if the recipe claims to be the "best ever" it must have some super secret ingredients or baking technique that no other brownie baker is aware of.
Everyone knows and loves Rice Crispy Treats. What's not to like, after all? Following the recipe on the back of the cereal box results in some universally acceptable crispy cubes. Kids love them. Adults love them. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the standard Rice Crispy Treat recipe but with just a few simple tweaks, you can really take them to exceptional and dare I say "best ever" status. Yep, I said it. I would put these crispy rice cereal treats up against any other Rice Crispy treat cereal bar in a cereal bar taste test. Maybe you need to conduct a taste test of your own. Bake a batch of my cereal treats and a batch using the recipe on the box. Decide for yourself, which recipe deserves the title of "best ever".
Cereal Rice Crispy Treats
8 Tablespoons butter
20 ounces large marshmallows
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 cups crispy rice cereal (12 ounce box)
Flip out of pan and slice into 12 equal squares.
Enjoy those chewy, buttery cubes of cereal goodness.
Ever play jenga with rice crispy treats? (Asking for a friend.)
I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Only one of us indulged in the delicious meal that is pictured above. Oh, we all ATE the Bolognese but there was only one us who had this artfully arranged, picture worthy bowl placed in front of them. The rest of us enjoyed the same scrumptious meal on our everyday, scratched, chipped and well used dinner plates. I didn't take the time to wipe the edges of our bowls, perfectly position the forks in the pasta or garnish our dishes with the freshest and greenest parsley. Who has time for all that?
Even though all of the meals on the table tasted the same, as you can imagine, having only one picture worthy plate can cause some tension among dinner eaters. When my kids were younger, they used to argue over who would get the "picture plate." I may or may not have even used the prized picture plate as a bargaining tool to get my kids to do their chores. Maybe it wasn't my proudest parenting moment but with the added motivation of a beautiful dinner plate, my kids got their chores finished in record time. Despite the fact that all the meals tasted the same, the recipient of the prized plate always gave a little victory celebration at the table - proof that we eat with our eyes.
Now that I've ruined all your expectations that these skillfully prepared and styled meals adorn our dinner table nightly, I feel like I can move on. Just trying to keep it real. I only have the time to make one meal look pretty enough to photograph - the rest of us eat a much less visually appealing version of the same meal.
1 pound 93% lean ground beef
2 Tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
4 cups beef broth
6 ounces pancetta
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon oil
3 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 pound tagliatelle
Add pasta to pot with sauce. Toss to combine.
I served my pasta with a fresh crescent roll and a salad. Easy Peasy.
I'll never be a food stylist because I always shoot real food instead of camera worthy substitutes. I feel like I need to attach a disclaimer to my pictures that says "all of the food in this photos was actually consumed."
I'm not sure how or when this happened but I find myself serving side dishes as main dishes now more than ever. Maybe it's because I'm cooking for 2 and I've gotten a little lazy but I've got to say - there's something to this side dish cooking. It's quick and easy and it can be really satisfying.
Macaroni and cheese with a few slices of smoked sausage stirred in, pasta with a spoonful of tuna or a cabbage salad topped with shredded chicken are all good side/main dishes. So the question is, if I add protein to a carbohydrate or a vegetable, does that make it main course worthy?
The recipe for these loaded baked potatoes called for brisket and blue cheese but Ben and are very different, and we like our potatoes different too. I loaded half of the potatoes with shredded smoked chicken and blue cheese (for me) and the other half with brisket and cheddar cheese (for him). You could really top these potatoes with anything that you like. The possibilities are endless.
Loaded Steakhouse Baked Potatoes
4 russet potatoes
1/4 cup milk
2 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1 Tablespoon oil
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 cup beef broth
2 teaspoons sherry
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
10 ounces baby spinach
8 ounces shredded brisket
1/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup crispy fried onions
Top with brisket, cheese and onions.
Have you served side dishes as main courses? Send me your recipes and your ideas. I'd love to give them a try.
Ever run across a recipe that makes you question whether you've been cooking something the wrong way for your whole life? That is how I felt the day I realized that I should be steaming my hard boiled eggs instead of dropping cold eggs into boiling water. If you haven't tried steaming your eggs - you need to give it a try - mind blowing - and way easier to peel. (By the way, the instructions for steamed eggs are in this recipe as well.)
When I read through this recipe for Pasta with Pistachios and Lemon, I also started to question the pasta cooking techniques that I've been using for the past 30 years as well. Is it possible that I've been cooking pasta the wrong way, my entire life? Bringing the concept of risotto cooking to a pasta dish was so intriguing. Toasting the noodles and slowly adding hot broth was a technique that I had never explored or even considered, for that matter. This could be a game changer. Maybe I'll start cooking all of my pasta this way from now on.
I'm not sure whether it was because this recipe was just so unconventional or because I just really love pasta that drew me in but you better believe that I could not wait to make this amazing meal. I love the creative cooking techniques and my husband likes everything that I put an egg on top of so this was destined to be a win-win for us.
Pasta with Pistachios and Lemon
3 Tablespoons chopped pistachios
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 cups chicken stock
3 cups water
3 Tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces spaghetti
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
5 ounce package fresh spinach
Sprinkle with pistachio lemon mixture.
Maybe it was just my imagination, but it sure seemed like this pasta that I cooked risotto style was better than traditional boiled pasta. It had more of a texture and a chew to it not to mention the fact that it absorbed all the flavors of the warm broth. If you're a pasta fan - this recipe is worthy of a second look. Trust me.
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