New meatless favorites

Every time I transfer all the pictures from my camera to my computer (which I no longer do on a daily basis!), I’m reminded of how wonderful some of the meals have tasted. It’s amazing how an image can instantly bring back the taste, the smell, and often even the emotions associated with, a particular meal. My next task is then to decide how I’d like to share these experiences with you. So many meals… so little time. :)

For this post, I decided to group all of my recent favorite meatless meals. Really, that’s the majority of my cooking these days. We signed up for a meat CSA and get 5lbs of meat per month, and I’m trying to limit any additional meat purchasing. So far so good. :D I’m sure my vegetarian readers will appreciate the links to some of the recipes I’ll share below (you really should try them!!) but to my omnivore friends (or those with hardcore omnivore significant others), I want to tell you that these were all Adam approved. These meals were not only meatless but also incredibly satisfying. A winning combo in my book. Without further adieu, let’s get to it!

ELOTE + TOMATO BASIL TOPPED GRILLED AVOCADO

I have been seriously obsessed with fresh corn lately and could be happy eating it every day of the week this summer (prepared different ways of course… variety is the spice of life ;) ). With that said, this first recipe was inspired by our brunch at Toro a few weeks back. Adam LOVED their maiz asado (claiming this was the best corn on the cob of his life!) so when I saw Chels post a recipe for elote (which looked very similar to it) I couldn’t take it off my mind until I finally recreated it. Feast your eyes on this beauty:

I used nonfat greek yogurt instead of sour cream and scaled down a bit on the mayo so as you can see my corn is not completely covered in the cheese mixture. I enjoyed the creaminess of the mayo/yogurt, the mild bite of the cotija cheese (if you’ve never had it, it tastes similar to ricotta salada if you’re familiar with that… or a much milder feta) and of course the sweetness of the corn. Oh corn. <3 Adam said it wasn’t quite as good as Toro’s (I’m sure copious amounts of butter were involved there) but satisfied his craving for it nonetheless. I’ll take it! :)

Since corn (even cheesy corn) does not make dinner, we also grilled some avocado on the side. For that, just brush the halves with a bit of EVOO and brown them on the grill. Easy!

To cut the creaminess, I topped these with some leftover tomato/basil bruschetta topping, which was a fabulous move. The tomatoes added so much freshness to this dish! Let’s get closer…

Mmm. Great dinner!

GRILLED EGGPLANT AND TOFU WRAPS

I subscribe to Cooking Light and love browsing through the magazines I receive in the mail on a monthly basis. I always mark the recipes that sound good… and then promptly forget about most of them. What a shame! Last July (that’s July 2009!) I was feeling particularly organized and input all the names of the marked recipes into a spreadsheet with their respective page numbers. For some reason the past few weeks I’ve decided to finally take a stab at going through that list. It’s been a great move because otherwise I’d never taste the amazingness (is that a word?) of the phyllo pizza with tomatoes, feta and basil or the next 2 dishes. Let’s start with this recipe for grilled eggplant pita sandwiches with yogurt-garlic spread. I decided to convert it into a wrap, replace the onions with tomatoes and added some zaatar rubbed pan fried tofu for some staying power (and deliciousness!). Here are the wrap insides:

Quick side note – I still get quite a few questions about pressing tofu so I took some photos for you. Here is what the process looks like…

Slice the tofu block down the side so you get 2-3 thinner blocks. Lay them flat over some paper towels.

Top with another layer of paper towels and a protective layer (I use another cutting board).

Top with something heavy, like a cast iron grilling pan (a few heavy books or cans of beans works too).

Let it do its thing for at least 30 minutes. Your paper towels will be soaking wet by the end and the tofu should be a lot more dry (great for getting that nice crust on the outside!). As mentioned, I rubbed mine with some zaatar thereafter and pan fried it with maybe 1t of EVOO. Enjoy in your favorite sandwich. This wrap was pretty awesome (the garlic yogurt spread was fantastic – cool, creamy, very flavorful).

SPINACH, RICOTTA, TOMATO PIZZA

This was another gem from the same July 2009 issue (recipe here).  both Adam and I agreed it was out of this world. I’ve been a fan of ricotta in my pizza for a while but this was the recipe that finally made Adam a convert too. I used TJ’s pizza dough (I always use 2/3 of it and freeze the rest), 4oz of organic skim mozzarella but whole milk ricotta instead of part-skim – the two cheeses worked so beautifully together. The mozzarella melted into the crust while the ricotta added that creamy feel. I prebaked the crust before adding the toppings for a few minutes, then baked the pie with the cheeses for another 8 minutes or so and finally topped the pizza with the tomatoes and let them bake into the cheese for a few more minutes. The result:

That’s a meatless meal my husband will never complain about! (He said to give this recipe an “unlimited number of smiley faces” lol)

I had some lightly dressed greens with pine nuts on the side for some brightness and bulk. :)

So much good stuff, I want to have all these again this week. :lol: What are your favorite meatless meals?

Operation “no food shall go wasted”

Again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for all the incredibly thoughtful and supportive comments on my last post. I am still in awe at how amazing of a community I’ve been able to become a part of. Thank you, thank you! And for those of you who could really relate to the message in the post, I hope you stay strong and create your own set of coping mechanisms. We are our own worst enemies. It’s time to become our own best friends. :)

On another quick logistical point, in case you somehow missed it – I’m hosting a Siggi’s yogurt giveaway. Click here to enter!

Ok, now on to the fun stuff… operation “no food shall be wasted.” You see, I HATE wasting food. That means that I never care about expiration dates on packages (real food will “tell” you when it’s gone bad) where Adam tosses things in the trash without a second thought; I also sometimes eat foods of questionable freshness (yeah yeah, sometimes it’s right on that edge, my stomach and immune system never failed me ;) ) but mostly, I make sure to plan my meals around open cans of beans, wilting greens, drying bread and try to reuse these ingredients in fun new ways (the freezer is also a big help)! In this spirit, I did a few quirky things this week and realized that it would be fun to share them with you. Ready?

STALE BREAD

After our bbq last Saturday, we had quite a bit of stale bread left. And when I say stale, I mean the stuff was rock hard. Definitely not something you’ll be excited (or even able) to make a sandwich with.

This girl doesn’t throw away food though. I decided to make some mushroom, roasted red pepper and goat cheese bread pudding with most of it (microwaved it first to be able to slice it – note: a good knife is key!!). Here is the Cooking Light recipe I followed – it was delicious!

Quick side note: bell peppers are on the dirty dozen list, which means that they have the highest pesticide residues and purchasing organic varieties reduces your exposure to them. I haven’t seen jarred organic roasted red peppers in stores (and I bet they would be crazy expensive anyways) so I roasted my own. It’s really easy! You can grill the peppers or just broil them – really make sure the skin is nice and burnt; don’t be afraid. It probably took about 15 minutes all together, turning the peppers every 3-5 minutes. Here is what they looked like after broiling:

After that, cover them completely for another 15 minutes. Basically during this time they’ll sweat…

… and you’ll be able to very easily separate the skin from the flesh with a fork or even just your hands (toss the skin). Easy! You now have roasted red peppers with no sodium, vinegar or other unwanted ingredients! :)

And you are ready to make this bread pudding recipe! ;)

This bread pudding was fantastic! The herbs were wonderfully flavorful (I used fresh basil, fresh thyme and dried parsley) and the combination of roasted veggies and goat cheese is indisputably a winner. Try it! Best stale bread use I know! :mrgreen: (Actually, baked french toast is another good one. Any recipe that basically rehydrates the bread in the process is great!).

After making the bread pudding, I had a few more brioche buns left. Into the food processor they went to make bread crumbs. :)

Chop, chop, chop – voila!

I froze them in a baggie for future use.

LARGE CANS, SMALL USES

Have you ever noticed how chipotles in adobo sauce always call for a whole can but have you use only 1 (mostly 2) peppers. I have the same pet peeve with tomato paste as well. Are you supposed to just throw away the rest and buy a whole new can next time? I don’t! This is where my body freezer comes in handy. All you’ll need is a freezer tray.

Basically put 1 or 2 chipotles in each compartment, with a little bit of sauce and freeze. I also put about 1.5T of tomato paste into another tray. After they’re nice and frozen, I transfer them into little baggies for easier storage (in the freezer) and when the recipe calls for one chipotle with a bit of sauce or some tomato paste, I microwave a “cube” for a few seconds and it’s ready to go.

I think they look kind of cute. :)

Freezer is of course also great for overripe bananas, and I even freeze random chopped veggies that I know I won’t have time to use up. They all go great in green smoothies. :)

PICKLE JAR

I’m hardcore. I have a hard time even tossing an EMPTY pickle jar, mostly because it still has a lot to give. ;) Sometimes I throw more cucs in it, top it with water to the top, and put it back in the fridge (shake it every day to let the spices redistribute) – the cucs will become more pickled every day. This time I decided to make pickled zuchinni.

Most of the pickling job was already done, I just added a bit more garlic (1 large clove, pressed), a little dried dill and hot pepper flakes. Cut up your zucchini, add more water, refrigerate.

You’ll have pickled zucchini in just one day – it’s perfectly pickled days (maybe even weeks?) thereafter too. Oh how I love pickled veggies!

What about you? Do you find ways to prolong the life of some foods? Share your wisdom with us in the comments!! :grin:

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