Mushroom & Artichoke Lasagna

Mushroom Artichoke Lasagna

A common misconception of vegetarians is that we took on this diet because we really love vegetables. As in, you could just steam up a bunch of vegetables and serve them on a plate and we would be happy as clams. This is probably why so often the token vegetarian dish in restaurants has the generic “vegetable” in the title, like “vegetable pizza” or “vegetable lasagna” or ” pasta w/ vegetables.”  They’re basically saying, we’re not even going to tell you what exactly you’ll be eating, but it’s veggies and clearly that’s all that matters.

The truth is that most of us non-meat eaters like vegetables as much as anyone else, we just happen to not be big fans of meat. So yes, we end up eating more vegetables as a default, but it isn’t like our taste buds have changed. When I became a vegetarian, I didn’t suddenly decide that I just LOVED eating my pizza with squash on it, or that lasagna tastes so much better when it’s stuffed with broccoli and carrots. If you’re cooking for a vegetarian, here’s something to keep in mind: if you think it sounds weird and gross, there’s a good chance they will too, but they’ll suck it up politely because being called out as a picky eater is never fun, not even the 100th time.

So look, if you want to make a vegetarian lasagna, that’s awesome. But don’t take it as a chance to finally clean out your vegetable drawer in your kitchen. Think that shit through for a second. This recipe actually works. First off, save yourself some trouble and buy no-boil noodles and a jar of good marinara sauce. Vegetables do not have to be difficult. Then you’re mixing some meaty sauteed mushrooms with the marinara and pairing it with artichoke hearts in heavenly ricotta.   No broccoli. No carrots. No yellow squash. This is how you do vegetables.

Mushroom Marinara 2

Mushroom Marinara Continue Reading →

Risotto with Roasted Asparagus and Poached Egg

Asparagus Risotto

As a kid, I had major issues about my foods touching each other. As in, everything-has-its-own-spot-on-my-plate-and-if-they-touch-even-slightly-I-will-cry, kind of issues. In hindsight, my parents could have saved themselves a lot of trouble if they had just served me each item on a separate plate altogether; there would have been far less meltdowns at our dinner table.

As an adult, however, I’m a lover of meals served in bowls, with ingredients layered over top of each other, and I find myself making bowl-friendly meals more often than not. Soups are restricted no more than twice a week, or my husband will begin to complain, as he is more of a knife-and-fork meals kind of guy. When I can’t have soup, one-pot meals are a favorite, as are casseroles that can be scooped into bowls, with spoons and forks serving as equally qualified options for eating.

When I’m feeling slightly more ambitius, dinner will look something like this. It starts with a base, something creamy like a basic risotto, or you could go with polenta as well. Top it with vegetables, preferably some that have been roasted to the point of browned crispiness, aka, the best possible way to eat them. (To date, I have not yet found a vegetable that I don’t love after it’s been roasted in the oven and comes out with crispy edges.) The key to finishing off any bowl is to top it with a poached egg. Always. There are few foods that aren’t made better by the broken yolk mixed in. These are just facts people. Continue Reading →

Spiced Apple Butter

Apple Butter

For anyone that knows me from my time at A Cozy Kitchen, you may remember when I first attempted apple butter. Let’s just say, that post was one long rant about how apple butter was without a doubt the most difficult thing I had ever made, and that while it was delicious I had no intention of ever making it again. I handed out the those first few jars to family members at Christmas members by saying, “Hope you enjoy this, I’m never making it again.” And then they all said it was wonderful and would I please make more and I was like, “No chance in hell.”

Fast forward 5 years later, and in the same way that most women forget the pains of childbirth so that they can procreate once again, I got it in my head that I would attempt apple butter once again. I rationalized that perhaps it was my tiny kitchen in LA that made the process of stirring the mixture for 2 hours so difficult, and things would surely be different in my current, roomier cooking space. This doesn’t actually make any sense so please don’t think on that logic for too long. Also, Chase’s dad LOVES this stuff and has done all this work on our house for free, so I figured the least I could do is stir some pureed apples for an afternoon. And hey, I could hand out the jars at Christmas and everyone would love them and look forward to my apple butter every year. What could go wrong?

Well, it’s now well past Christmas, and of the 20 jars that I made, about 15 are still in my kitchen. Why, you ask? Because that shit is every bit as hard to make as I remember (and every bit as delicious), and I have no intention of creating a demand for it. So I’m rationing it out slowly and sporadically, and completely downplaying that I had a hand in making it.

All I’m saying, is this stuff is really good. And if you have an afternoon that you would like to devote to standing over a stove and stirring until your arms feel like butter, then knock yourself out. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Fall Apples Continue Reading →

Hoe Cakes with Black Eyed Pea Salsa

Remodeling a house can sometimes feel like Christmas. You pick out that special gift you want, let’s say it’s a flooring tile, and mark your calendar for the day that it’s going to be installed. The days drag by slowly as you imagine a shiny new bathroom, and the dirty old broken tile will finally be forgotten as you gaze at the new. And then suddenly – the big day is here! You wake up giddy with excitement knowing that TODAY IS THE DAY that your new floor will be installed!

Unfortunately, some of these days do not go exactly as planned, like yesterday, when halfway through an installation I checked on the progress only to realize that they were installing the wrong damn flooring. I then had to sheepishly tell the workers that, “ummm, excuse me, but it seems as though you’re installing something ugly and could you please take it up and come back another day with the flooring I actually wanted? Please and thank you.” And then I realized that Christmas had not come early for me, and I have house guests coming this week that are going to have to use a bathroom with exposed broken tile, and then I wondered exactly how inappropriate it would be to have a vodka tonic at 11am.

But instead, I’m turned to the next most comforting thing besides vodka: pancakes. Well, a version of them. Hoe cakes are a simple Southern classic, where essentially you take your favorite cornbread batter and instead of baking it in skillet, you fry it up like a pancake. And let’s be clear – this is Southern style cornbread, not that weird sugary stuff the Northerners eat. To top it off I loved this black eyed pea salsa – it’s fresh, light and adds a bit of crunch to the soft hoe cakes.

Look, the lesson here is when life doesn’t go your way, don’t turn to vodka. Turn to pancakes. They don’t have rehab for pancakes. Fact.

Continue Reading →

Curry Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad

This post is totally misleading. Anyone visiting my blog for the first time would be under the impression that I’m one of those smart, grown-up types that eats a plate of vegetables for lunch on a regular basis, instead of the grilled cheese that is so often in its place. They would have no idea that every time there’s cake in my house I will rationalize eating it for breakfast. (Eggs! Milk! Healthy ingredients!) They might even suspect that I’m one of those people that gets up early on Saturday morning to get the best produce at the farmers market, when really I sleep in late and swear I’ll be at the market next weekend.

But hey, every now and then I get my shit together, roast some veggies, and love every second of eating them. I feel superior to everyone around me for approximately 4 hours, until I open the fridge to make dinner and realize that the only vegetables I currently have on hand are limp celery and pickled jalapenos. But those 4 hours were totally amazing.

This dish is so easy, and on the few occasions that I do go to the grocery store and buy fresh foods, these are items that always make it in my cart. With the sweet roasted carrots paired with the cool avocado and spicy curry powder, you love eating a plate of vegetables, and not just because you feel like a real adult for a few hours.

So hey, roast some carrots. Slice an avocado. Feel superior to everyone else. It’s totally cool.

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Broccoli and Cheddar Whole Wheat Pasta

Sometimes I need comfort food. Sometimes I need food that is dripping in cheddar cheese. Sometimes I need pasta. I need to eat food that is served in a big bowl that I can curl up with.

The only problem is that sometimes I also need to be in bathing suit condition. As much as I love mac and cheese, it just isn’t an option a week during the summer, when a trip to the pool could happen at a moment’s notice. So I do what I usually do: take the dish I’m craving and beef it up with some whole grains, fresh veggies, and hope it balances out the cheddar cheese.

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Strawberry Panzanella Salad

“You better go buy some strawberries tomorrow, don’t wait another day.”

This was the ominous warning Henry gave me yesterday when I plucked a particularly perfect berry out of a basket in his kitchen. Apparently the local J&D produce place in town had warned him that due to high rainfall this year, the local strawberry fields were flooded and berries were rotting early. So today was the LAST DAY to get any local berries, which is what led me to almost getting in a fight at the J&D parking lot when 4 cars were all trying to cram into the one little spot left. If I had been at Target I would’ve been like, “screw this” and just headed on home, but strawberries are worth putting up a fight. Fact.

I have been trying for the last hour to figure out a way to fully express my love of strawberries and have finally concluded: it can’t be done. It just cannot be expressed in words. Especially during the summer, I would eat them every day and with every meal if possible. Strawberries make everything better, from salads to biscuits to pie. Mojitos? Make mine a strawberry mojito, please and thank you.

Traditional panzanella is made with chunks of crusty bread and tomatoes, and is a dish that has long eluded me. See, everyone falls into two categories: those that love raw tomatoes, and those that don’t. I am of the latter variety. So, although it looks so pretty and inviting, I just know that I’ll never be able to get over the bitter raw tomato taste of a traditional panzanella.

Strawberry panzanella, however, is a whole new ball game. Same pretty look, but a far sweeter taste. If you’re reveling in summer berries where you are,  this salad is a must. And yes, it will make that fight over the last basket of berries totally worth it.

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Baked Tomato Risotto

I didn’t think I would enjoy making this as much as I did. When it comes to cooking, I’m really into the “under 30 minutes and less than 5 steps” category. Once you start adding in multiple processes and using scary words like “bechamel,” I begin slowly backing away. I mean, do you realize that multiple sauces and mixtures means more dishes to clean? Haven’t you people heard of one pot wonders? Why can’t every recipe read, “Add all ingredients to bowl. Stir. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.”*

*note to self – great idea for a cookbook

However, when I saw this dish on Giada’s show, it seemed too delicious to pass up. But I was shocked at how easy this was to prepare. And it included a lot of stirring, which if you’ve had a stressful week can be very relaxing, in a hippie, zen-like sort of way. Let’s break it down. Continue Reading →

Roasted Okra

You know in “Bridget Jones’ Diary” when Colin Firth is like, “You’re a total mess but I like you, just as you are,” and you can’t help but be all, “awwwww he’s so sweet! He loves her even though she’s kinda chunky and has a terrible case of mouth diarrhea!”?* Well….okra, you are green, fuzzy on the outside, a little slimy on the inside and I love you, just as you are. (awwwww)

A lot of recipes involving controversial ingredients will come with a disclaimer of, “Even if you normally hate spinach, you will still love this recipe.” To be clear, this is not one of those. If you aren’t a fan of okra, you won’t like this. If you only like okra when it’s breaded and deep-fried, proceed with caution.

Although I love fried okra just as much as the next Southern gal, and firmly believe that any form of gumbo that doesn’t include okra is a crime against humanity, I feel that all too often it becomes hidden away in these recipes. It’s there of course, but all dressed up in breading or Cajun spices, when really it deserves the chance to be the star of its own recipe. Just like Olive in “Little Miss Sunshine,” sometimes you just have to let okra be okra. (Apparently okra inspires me to think of movie analogies. Or I’ve just been watching too many recently. Tough call.)

If you’re a die-hard fan of okra, I hope this hits the spot like it did for me. If you love fried okra, maybe try this recipe first. If you hate okra, please try back next week. Thanks for reading. xoxo

*I’m not sure, but it’s probably unadvised to include the word “diarrhea” in a recipe post…twice…my apologies…

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Kale Salad with Lemon, Parmesan and Breadcrumbs

Things I have learned in the past 24 hours:

1. If a company gives you your very own business credit card, put it into your wallet immediately. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT put it on your desk right before your sister helps you do a major cleaning of your home and you get all trigger happy with throwing away trash. Eventually the line that divide “trash” from “credit card” becomes blurry.

2. Always keep a nice change of shoes & shirt in your car. Inevitably there will come a time when you will decide to go to work in “comfy” clothes, i.e., jeans, a T-shirt and ripped Toms. This is the day you will forget you have a networking function after work with no time to change in between.

3. Do not drop your phone into bowls of soup. This might seem obvious but apparently I need a refresher lesson.

4. A perfect Bellini after work will always make you feel better. Always.

5. If you go home, change into sweats, and eat a big bowl of this kale salad, it’s basically like you worked out. Science. Plus – this salad is insanely addictive and you will love every moment. Just do it.

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