Go Green Vegetarian Bake

In last week’s post, Less Meat!,  I told you that I wanted to try going meatless a few days a week. Today was a meatless day. My breakfast and lunch were not creative, but I made up a vegetable bake for dinner. Maybe I should call it an “everything but the kitchen sink” bake. I had a lot of vegetables that needed to be used before they spoiled, so I grabbed everything green in my refrigerator.

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I loosely based the recipe on one I found on Pinterest for spinach artichoke chicken and my own chicken, mushroom, and broccoli casserole. They have become favorites around my house. It has made multiple appearances, so I keep artichoke hearts on hand. I added those to the green veggies above.

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So, what do I have in this mixture? It included:

1/4 cup chopped onion

2 minced garlic cloves

1/2 chopped green pepper

1/2 chopped jalapeno

1 cup kale

1 can artichoke hearts

1/2 head of broccoli

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Next, I added three heaping tablespoons of greek yogurt and 1 cup of mozzarella cheese. I mixed it until everything was coated with yogurt and cheese.

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Next, I made a crumb topping:

1/2 cup of italian bread crumbs

3 tablespoons parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon cumin

a handful of chopped almonds

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I sprinkled the topping on the bake and baked it at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.

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I thought the dish turned out pretty well. The jalapenos, garlic, cumin, and cilantro gave it a lot of nice flavors and it wasn’t too spicy. I think next time I will try to add a little yogurt to the topping to make it a little pasty before baking it. It just didn’t get that shell like consistency and brown the way I had imagined before putting it into the oven. The only thing in it that could be considered unhealthy was the cheese, but it wasn’t that much cheese per serving. Also, the only thing that would prevent this from being paleo would be the bread crumbs, which could easily be replaced with a coconut flour mixture or a flax seed and almond mixture as the topping. I want to keep working on this one to perfect it, but I think it will eventually be a keeper. And there were leftovers for my other veggie only days this week!

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Balsamic Marinated Pork and Hearty Fruit Salad in Pepper “Boats”

The new season of Master Chef started a few weeks ago so I am find myself newly inspired to keep up with my food challenges. Today marks my 70th post! This weeks challenge included pork chops, plantains, kiwi, and papaya.

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My first thought was that this would be way too much sweetness for dinner. I grew up on meat and potatoes and dessert or fruit always came after dinner. So, I immediately decided that I wanted to use the fruit and make something that was a little more substantial. While I thought about what in the world to do with the fruit, I put the pork chops into a black cherry balsamic marinade. I’ve used this black cherry balsamic in two recipes (sweet potato caprese and salad dressing) now and I am loving it!

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I chopped one plantain, one kiwi, and about 1/4 of the papaya into bite sized chunks. I have only cooked with plantains one other time and tried to make a sweet and healthy dessert with them. I took the plantains in a completely different direction this time.

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I then explored what we had in our own refrigerator to add to it. I chopped about 1/4 cup of red onion, 8 cherry tomatoes, and one jalapeno to add to the mix. I seasoned it with 1/2 teaspoon each of paprika, garlic powder, cumin, and cayenne pepper. I sauteed this in olive oil butter until the plantains were golden brown and the flavors had mixed well.

image(138) While it sauteed, I did two things. First, I cut a green pepper in half to serve as the “boats” for my hearty fruit salad. Second, I started searing the pork chops.

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Next, I stuffed each pepper with the hearty fruit salad. Once the pork had a nice sear on each side. I put both into the oven and baked them at 300 degrees for about 25 minutes.

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The final dish was so good and so filling! I worried about the mix of spicy and sweet in the fruit salad, but it really did taste hearty and not at all like fruit salad. It seemed to be a relatively healthy meal and it meets the paleo diet standards.  Even the plantains are paleo, which surprised me!

As a side note: My life with my cats is always an adventure…Dropping papaya seeds in the floor will result in consumption by cats. Twelve hours later and it does not appear that consuming papaya seeds is harmful to cats. Here are some foods that are dangerous to cats though. Whew!

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ENDIVE-ing into my first Challenge

I was very excitd about my first challenge today. I’d been playing the “What If” game all day. What if I get lamb? What if I get peppers? What if I get honey? The list of “What Ifs” is endless of course.

So, what did I get?

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I will admit that shrimp and mushrooms crossed my mind as they are relatively normal staples in our house. But I never would have guess Kale or Endives. I have NEVER cooked or worked with either. And yes, that is dark chocolate on that plate.

True to Master Chef Mystery Box rules , I was not requried to use all of the ingredients and I was allowed to shop in the pantry. I had 60 minutes to create only one dish. And of course, I chose not to use the chocolate.

So, I turned on my cooking music choice of the night: The Fray. This is what I did:

First, I finely chopped one white endive and one tomato and mixed them together. I dropped this into a saute pan with olive oil and 2 cloves of minced garlic.

While that sauteed, I cut the stems and centers out of the mushrooms and placed them on a foil lined pan.

After sauteeing the vegetable mixture, I spooned it into the mushrooms and popped the into the over at 350 and set a timeer for 15 mintues. I need to study other ways to cook endives. This website should be a great starting point. If anyone out there has other ideas for endives, please send them to me!

While the stuffed mushrooms cooked, I rinsed and dried the shrimp. I used about 1/4 cup of conconut flour, a handful of crushed macadamia nuts, a teaspoon of ginger, and a teaspoon of chipotle powder to lightly coat the shrimp. These ingredients are Paleo Diet friendly, which is a diet we try to follow about 75% of the time.

I placed the Kale in a steaming basket. While that steamed, I began a homemade dressing. I used about 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, and a touch of spicy mustard. I used Maille mustard which we bought while we were in France. I haven’t had much luck finding it here, and I don’t want to pay the prices on Amazon, but any spicy mustard should work.

Next, I pulled the mushrooms out and added a dollop of goat cheese to the top (leftovers from a goat cheese and roasted red pepper topped burger over Labor day!). I put them back in the oven to continue cooking.

Finally, I sateed the shrimp in coconut oil for about 5 minutes. Side note: Coconut flour doesn’t really get crispy, it absorbs too much liquid. Just be prepared for that. While it cooked I pulled a few leaves off of the red endive, and turned them into dressing boats.

I plated the dinner, and this is how it came together:

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Overall, it was a tasty and generally healthy meal. The only thing I would change is the spice combination on the shrimp. Actually, the combination was fine, maybe just more spices would be more to my taste.

The verdict from my husband: “Yum, yum, yum!” His favorite part was the shrimp and my favorite part was the stuffed mushrooms.

We created our own rule for our version of Master Chef: If I fail a challenge (don’t finish on time, or it isn’t very good), I have to do dishes. If I finish on time and the dish is good, he has to do dishes. Guess who is doing dishes tonight…

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