Flexitarian Favorites…so far

It has been almost a month since I decided to start replacing the meat in my diet for a couple of days a week. I shared this new lifestyle decision with you in my post titled “Less Meat!” I set the goal for two days a week and that has been completely manageable. In fact, I’ve even gone three days in some weeks. If you’ve been following along, you’ve seen posts about my Go Green Bake and my Eggplant and Heirloom Lasagna.

Those were my most involved veggie fixes so far, but I have a few other very simple but tasty favorites too.

I found a recipe for curried egg salad and I can’t get enough of it! I keep forgetting to take pictures of this one, but you can see the finished product in the original post. I’ve also used this as a filling in lettuce wraps instead of on toast just to mix things up a bit.

I am also a fan of flat bread veggie pizzas. Pictured is a pizza margherita. You can make so many different combinations and usually I just use this to finish some odds and ends veggies that are in the refrigerator before they spoil.

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I also tried a recipe from Martha Steward for a Tortilla and Black Bean Pie. It was very tasty! I suggest adding a little extra hot sauce to it. I also replaced the scallions in the original recipe with cilantro. This is what I’ve made for my food swap event coming up next week!

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I had leftover black beans from the pie, so I made Buffalo Black Bean Stuffed Peppers the next night. Basically, I just used 1/4 cup chopped red onion, 1 cup of black beans, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 6 chopped cherry tomatoes, and 3 tablespoons of buffalo sauce for the filling, and topped it with mozzarella and baked it until heated through. A great way to use the black beans in a different way!

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Roasted Eggplant and Baby Heirloom Lasagna

There are lots of things to love about summer. But one thing that always tops my list is the farmers market. I love the fresh foods, sights, the variety of colors, the smells, dogs, and all of the people who gather in one place to support the local farmers. It is a great excuse to get up early and enjoy the summer morning before it gets too hot and other duties pop up for the day.

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On my most recent visit to the Lexington Farmers Market, I decided to turn it into a cooking challenge. I found some tasty peaches, blackberries, and local hot sauce (not pictured or used in the dinner challenge). For dinner, I picked up an eggplant, baby heirloom tomatoes, and an onion. I didn’t know where the heirloom tomato name came from until working on this post, but an heirloom tomato is any variety or strain of tomato that is over 50 years old.

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The first thing I thought of was Eggplant Parmesan, but I had already made it in a previous cooking challenge post. I rummaged around my cabinets and refrigerator to see what else I could add to the ingredients. I decided to make a roasted eggplant and baby heirloom tomato lasagna. First, I sliced and salted the eggplant. I layered the eggplant between paper towels and added some weight to help get the water out of the slices. I let it drain for about four hours.

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Next, I brushed each slice with olive oil and placed them on baking pans. I seasoned them with a few sprinkles of black pepper and italian seasoning. I roasted it at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

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While the eggplant roasted, I minced two cloves of garlic, chopped half an onion, and quartered each baby tomato. I started to gently sautee this in olive oil. I started boiling the whole wheat lasagna noodles.

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I layered the lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan, followed by the eggplant, and then topped with half of the tomato mixture. I only had enough noodles for two layers.

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I also only had enough cheese for the top layer. I added about 3 tablespoons of parmesan cheese, 3/4 cup of mozzarella, and 1/2 cup of goat cheese crumbles. I baked it at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes covered and 5 minutes uncovered.

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I don’t have a picture of it on the plate, because it fell apart and wasn’t very pretty. Even though it wasn’t pretty, I loved how it tasted! I would add another layer and I would add more cheese (there is never enough cheese!). But I am definitely making this dish again.

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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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Less Meat!

I tried to go vegetarian once after watching a documentary about meat processing. It only lasted about a week.

There has been a recent movement called “Meatless Mondays.” Despite the name suggesting that this is only happening on Mondays, you can go meatless on any day of the week. There are lots of reasons for cutting the meat including health reasons and environmental reasons. I have come to terms with the fact that I will never be able to go fully vegetarian, but I do think I can pull off at least two days a week without meat to improve my overall health.

Sounds easy, right? It is a little more difficult with my attempts at following the Paleo diet about 75% of the time. So, no veggie pastas, veggie tacos, veggie pizza, or other easy go-to ideas that may immediately come to mind.

Today was my first attempt at being a vegetarian. I personally find it hard to think of a variety of ways to spice up my diet without the proteins I grew up on, so I thought I’d start sharing my attempts at making vegetarian fun and healthy.

My first meal was breakfast and I had a boiled egg and cantaloupe (and coffee of course!)

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For lunch, I used portabello mushroom caps, brushed them with olive oil inside and out, and added a slice of tomato, red onion, and mozzarella fresca. “Fresca” is Spanish for “fresh.” Every ingredient used was fresh, so I’ll call this my Portabello Fresca Pizza. I baked it at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.

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Finally, for dinner, I tried a recipe I found on Pinterest for Kale and Butternut Squash Saute. I did not have the dried cranberries, but it still turned out to be pretty good. In past posts I’ve made Butternut Squash and Chicken Curry and Butternut Squash Soup.

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There are lot of types of vegetarians (as I often hear in my students’ speeches). Because of the egg and cheeses used in today’s meals, I’d be considered a lacto-ovo-vegetarian. I found that the most vegetarians have trouble getting enough protein, so I think the egg and cheese is necessary. I also had an apple with peanut butter (more protein) for a snack.

And apparently the term for someone trying to be vegetarian sometimes, like my two days a week, is a flexitarian. So many terms! We’ll see how long this lasts…

Flexi-Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarian signing off.

Kohlrabi Curry

Have you ever heard of Kohlrabi? Yeah, me neither. Until today. I do nearly all of our grocery shopping. How do I miss all of these things that Joe brings home for me to cook with?? For my challenge tonight, Joe brought a unique vegetable, kohlrabi, to be my challenge. He already had a recipe in mind because he was in the mood for curry. I was able to use the internet, but had to make at least one change to the recipe I used.

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I found the recipe for Kohlrabi Curry at Tasty Kitchen.

First, I diced and roasted the kohlrabi in olive oil and minced garlic.

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While it roasted, I wanted to know a little more about kohlrabi. It is a German vegetable that supposedly tastes like broccoli stems. I should have read this first, apparently you are supposed to peel it. It turned out fine unpeeled though. I was not looking forward to the dish when I read the description. You may remember from my last cooking challenge – Chicken Broccoli Casserole – that I don’t really like the taste of broccoli. I think this is a poor description – it tasted nothing like broccoli to either of us.

My secret ingredient for this recipe was finely chopped home grown and preserved peppers (thanks, Nancy and Troy!). This is the second post that included ingredients from our friends. Nancy and Troy also contributed to my Southern Surf and Turf.

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I sauteed onions, the peppers, mustard seeds, lemon juice, curry powder, garlic, chili powder, cumin, and tomatoes. I made two other small changes. I added green chiles and tripled the curry powder required in the recipe. We REALLY like curry. After everything was tender, it simmered for another 10 minutes.

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I served the final dish over rice. It was very tasty. We both agreed that it needed more spice and that we’d like a little more curry sauce to pour over it. We really liked the kohlrabi and plan to eat it a lot more. It is cheap and nutritious!

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I found a few other ideas for cooking with it.

Roasted Kohlrabi

German Stuffed Kohlrabi