Category Archives: Meatless Main Dishes

Build a Better Salad

Build A Better Salad

We love salads…BIG salads. Whole meal salads are what I’m referring to here. These are complete meals in a bowl and not just with a little lettuce, tomato and cheese. These salads are filled with assorted vegetables, protein sources, and fruit. What’s even better is the fact that they are totally flexible in what is put in them, so they can be tailored to individual likes and dislikes as well as what’s available at the moment. These salads are better (to us) than any salad we can get in a restaurant because they’re made the way WE like them, with ingredients WE prefer! You too can build a better salad, YOUR way. The following are the basics of how I build a better salad…

Start with a lettuce bed of mixed greens. Use a mixture of assorted greens as the foundation of your salad. Use whatever you can get and mix them up…iceberg, Romaine, green and/or red leaf lettuces, arugula, baby kale, spring mix, spinach, red or green cabbage, etc. Get creative!

Add a big assortment of fresh veggies. Again, get creative. Use what you have available to you and don’t be afraid to try something new. Suggestions include: cucumber, tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini squash, celery, red, green, and/or yellow bell pepper, fresh broccoli and/or cauliflower, lightly steamed (and cooled) asparagus, jicama, red or yellow onion, scallions, chives, minced garlic, lightly steamed (and cooled) green beans, roasted (and cooled) Brussels sprouts… Explore the produce isle of your favorite grocery store and let your imagine run wild!

Add a protein source (or two…or three). I always add thawed frozen green peas to our salads. They make a nice addition to any green salad and are packed full of protein. They’re for starters. From there, I add garbanzo beans (to my salad), diced cheese, assorted nuts of choice, and sometimes sliced hard boiled egg. If you’re a fan of meats in your salads, thinly sliced grilled steak or chicken breast would be a flavorful addition. Grilled salmon would be a prized addition, too. Whether you add meat or not, there are plenty of options to choose from so that your salad will provide enough protein to meet anyone’s needs.

Build a Better Salad

Build a Better Salad

Add fruit for color, sweetness and eye candy. We started adding fruit to our meal salads after my husband returned from a trip to Hawaii with his college jazz band. He found that restaurants there added fruit to their salads and he really enjoyed it. Thanks Hawaii! Good fruits to include are fresh or canned pineapple, chopped fresh apple, blueberries, strawberries, tangerine (Clementine) sections, grapes (seedless would be preferred). Even diced pear would make a good addition! Try fresh raspberries for added sweet/tang!

Dress your salad…but don’t overdo it. Dressings are added to salads for flavor, moisture and binding properties. The problem with dressings is that many people simply add too much. This can make salads unhealthful to eat. The veggies and fruit are not the culprits. It’s the dressing. The above salad suggestions would go well with just about any dressing you choose. Just strive to go light on the dressing and still enjoy the wonderful flavors of the vegetables, fruits, and protein foods you used to construct your meal. If you can’t taste the other components, then you have too much dressing. Make it your goal to avoid using too much dressing. This will keep your salads healthful and calorie-controlled.

We usually use oil and vinegar as our salad dressing. The ratio will vary according to individual tastes, but a general rule of thumb is 2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. A lot of flavor variation can be obtained by using different vinegars at different times: red wine, apple cider, tarragon, raspberry, and rice vinegars all lend different flavors to a salad, so experiment. Added herbs can also bring a new flavor to your salad. Suggestions include: oregano, dill, parsley, and tarragon (used individually, not all in the same salad). Get creative!

Here’s a video showing the construction of the salads in the featured photo. Enjoy! Judi

 

Homemade Marinara Sauce

Homemade Marinara / Spaghetti / Tomato Sauce

My mother was a first generation American. Both of her parents were from Italy. Since I started cooking at a very early age, she taught me how to make homemade marinara / spaghetti / tomato sauce (whatever you want to call it) when I was in elementary school. Really! After all these years I had not put this recipe in a written form. I thought it was about time I did that, if for no other reason than to pass it along to my children. So, lucky you! You get to share in this recipe too!

Below is the recipe, followed by a video where I demonstrate making it. Of course, it’s very flexible with the seasonings. Feel free to adjust to your taste.

Enjoy!
Judi

Homemade Tomato / Marinara / Spaghetti Sauce
Makes About 2-1/2 Quarts
(No worries…freeze the extra in small containers)

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 tsp dried garlic powder)
1/2 medium onion, chopped (or 1 to 2 Tbsp dried minced onion)
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot, peeled, left whole or finely grated (recommended, but optional)
2 (28 oz) cans crushed or diced tomatoes
1 (12 oz) can tomato paste
1 (12 oz) can water (or more if needed)
1 tsp granulated sugar
1-1/2  to 2 tsp dried basil
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
1 Bay leaf
1/4 tsp black pepper
Salt to taste

Preheat a large pot over medium heat. Add olive oil and vegetables (garlic, onion, bell pepper, celery, and carrot). Stir and saute the vegetables until they start to soften. Add the remaining ingredients; stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low to low and cover the pot. Allow sauce to simmer gently for about 2 hours or more if you want a thicker sauce. Stir sauce occasionally as it cooks so it does not burn on the bottom. Taste after 30 minutes and adjust seasonings, if desired. Continue cooking until sauce is thick and flavors are blended well. Serve with pasta, stuffed cabbage or peppers, chicken cacciatore, Swiss steak, and use on pizza, or in any dish calling for a tomato-based sauce. Cool extra sauce and freeze in small containers, enough for one meal at a time.

Note: If you want to add ground beef or sausage to this sauce, brown the meat in the pan you plan to cook the sauce in. Drain excess fat and proceed as directed. If a little fat is left in the pan, you can omit the olive oil.

If you want to add meat balls to the sauce, it is best to prepare the meat balls and precook them before adding them to the sauce. This avoids having excessive fat in the sauce. Add them to the sauce after combining all ingredients. Allow the meat to simmer in the sauce as it cooks.

When time is short, this sauce cooks well in a slow cooker. Simply place all ingredients in the slow cooker early in the day, and cook on low until supper time. You’ll have homemade sauce, ready to go!

Meatless Stuffed Peppers

Meatless Stuffed Peppers

I love bell peppers, any way they’re fixed…raw, added to a salad, sauteed, and stuffed. Here’s a recent recipe I’ve developed that’s quickly become one of our favorites! The recipe is below and that’s followed by a video showing the making of this delicious vegetarian  dish. Enjoy! Judi

Meatless Stuffed Peppers
Makes 3 Servings

3 bell peppers, washed, tops and cores removed
1 can beans of choice, rinsed and drained
(or 1-3/4 cups cooked dried beans of choice)
1-1/2 cups cooked brown rice
1/4 to 1/3 cup diced fresh tomato
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped vegetable of choice
(ie fresh or frozen kale, spinach, zucchini, yellow squash), optional
2-3 tsp dried minced onion*
1/2 to 3/4 tsp garlic powder*
1/2 to 3/4 tsp dried basil leaves
1 to 1-1/2 tsp dried parsley flakes
1/4 to 3/8 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Tomato sauce of choice
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Prepare bell peppers and place them in a deep casserole dish that has a lid; set aside. In a food processor, coarsely process 2/3 to 3/4 of the cooked beans, leaving the remaining beans whole; set aside.

In a large bowl, add the prepared beans, cooked rice, diced tomato and other vegetable of choice, the herbs, and salt and pepper. Add grated Parmesan cheese, if desired. Stir to combine. Spoon in tomato sauce until ingredients bind together, using about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the tomato sauce.

Spoon filling into prepared bell peppers. Place another tablespoon or two of tomato sauce on top of the peppers and place about 1/3 cup of the sauce around the peppers in the bottom of the casserole dish. Place lid on casserole.

Bake at 350°F for 45 to 50 minutes, until peppers are tender and filling is very hot. Remove from oven and put the peppers onto serving plates. Spoon sauce from the bottom of the casserole onto peppers as a garnish. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

*If preferred, fresh onion and garlic may be used. Use 2 or 3 large cloves garlic, minced, and about 1/4 to 1/3 cup finely chopped onion. Saute briefly in 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil until barely tender. Add to mixture as per instructions above.

Homemade Pizza Crust

Homemade Pizza Crust

I don’t know too many people who don’t enjoy pizza, at LEAST once in a while. There is SO much you can do with a pizza in addition to the usual tomato sauce, cheese and assorted toppings. It’s truly limited only to one’s imagination.

I started making homemade pizza crust for my family years ago when we first bought a bread machine. A fabulous recipe came in the little booklet that accompanied the machine. Well, the machine is now long out the door from being used for so many years. Since then, I started my bakery and made breads “en-mass” in a quantity NO bread machine could ever handle. Hence, I developed my own recipes.

Here’s a delicious basic pizza crust recipe. Once you master this, it would be easy to get creative with it by adding herbs or other flavorings to enhance whatever pizza you’re making. Give it a try if you haven’t made your own crust before. It truly IS well worth the effort because homemade crust has a flavor far better than any store-bought pizza could possibly have.

Homemade Pizza Crust
Makes One Thick 14″ Crust OR Two Thin 12″ Crusts

3 cups (15 oz) bread flour
1 pkg (1/4 oz) Rapid Rise yeast
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup water, warmed to 120-130ºF
2 Tbsp vegetable oil

Butter or other grease for pan
Cornmeal

Note: The following instructions are designed for a stand mixer. The dough may also be mixed and kneaded by hand. Be sure to knead very well until the dough is smooth and elastic.

In a stand mixer bowl, add bread flour, yeast and salt. Stir to combine and set aside. In a small bowl or mug, add warmed water OR place water in a mug and heat it briefly in a microwave oven until it has warmed to the appropriate temperature. Add vegetable oil to the warmed water. Pour liquid mixture into the flour mixture. Stir to moisten the flour.

Place mixer bowl on the stand mixer and attach a dough hook. Turn the mixer on low speed and allow the mixer to knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Remove bowl from stand. Cover the bowl and allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the baking pan(s) by lightly greasing the pan with butter, then sprinkling cornmeal on the pan. Spread the cornmeal around the pan by tilting the pan in different directions to lightly coat the greased area with the cornmeal. Set aside.

After the dough has rested, form the pizza crust either by placing it on a VERY lightly floured board and rolling the dough into the desired size circle, then place the dough on the prepared pan. Alternately, you could place the dough ball on the prepared pan and spread the dough into a circle with your fingers. Dock the dough by poking holes in the dough with a fork to prevent air bubbles from forming as it bakes.

Preheat oven to 400ºF and prebake the dough for 5 to 7 minutes, depending upon the size and thickness of the dough. (Be sure to remove the crust from the oven before it starts to brown.) Remove pan from oven. Spread crust with desired toppings and return it to the oven. Bake pizza until the cheese is bubbly and toppings appear cooked. (Note that the time to finish the baking process will vary depending upon the size, thickness and toppings used.) Serve.

Check out my video below to SEE how the crust is made! Enjoy, Judi

Blackeye Peas with Rice and Vegetables (Meatless Hoppin' John)

Blackeye Peas with Rice and Vegetables

This is a fabulously delicious version of a meatless Hoppin’ John with a twist. We lived in the South for a lot of years, and this is Hoppin’ John like I’ve never had before…AND FAR BETTER than any version I ever had! It’s the peas, rice and veggies all in one dish, packed with yummy flavor from the seasonings and herbs. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever fix blackeye peas any other way from now on.

If you’re looking for a tasty meatless meal or are tired of the same old beans and rice, let me highly urge you to give this dish a try! It’s not hard to make–really. Here’s the recipe, followed by a video of my making the dish. Enjoy! Judi

Blackeye Peas with Rice and Vegetables
(Meatless Hoppin’ John)
Makes 4 to 6 Servings

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup corn (fresh, frozen or canned)
1 cup sliced carrots (fresh, frozen or canned)
1/2 of a green bell pepper, diced
4 medium cloves garlic, minced (or 1 tsp garlic granules)
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 stalk celery, sliced
1-1/2 tsp dried parsley flakes (or to taste)
1 tsp dried thyme leaves (or to taste)
1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
Dash black pepper (or to taste)
Pinch of red pepper flakes (or to taste)
Up to 3 Tbsp water, divided
1 can (14-1/2 oz) Italian diced tomatoes, NOT drained
1 cup cooked rice
1-3/4 cups cooked blackeye peas (or 1 each 15-1/2 oz can, rinsed and drained)

Preheat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and allow it to heat briefly. Add corn, carrots, bell pepper, garlic, onion, celery, and seasonings. Saute briefly until vegetables are aromatic. Cover skillet and add water, one tablespoon at a time to enable vegetables to soften somewhat. Stir often as they saute. When carrots are crisp-tender, add tomatoes, cooked rice and cooked blackeye peas. Stir to combine. Cover skillet and allow the mixture to cook a couple minutes, until everything is heated through. Serve.

Serving suggestion: This would be excellent served with a slice of crispy French bread. If bread is not preferred, a wedge of warm buttery polenta would also be a good accompaniment. Enjoy! jk

EASY Vegetables with Pasta

We’re told to eat more vegetables and that most Americans aren’t getting enough of such foods. This is no issue for me because fruits and veggies are my favorite foods. (Yep, I know I’m unusual!) We’re also told to cut back on processed foods of all sorts. Pasta is included in that list. However, I for one am Italian. I don’t see any way I could live without my pasta! I was raised on the stuff! It makes me feel good and satisfied when I eat it, so I don’t think I’m about to eliminate it from my food list.

However, that doesn’t mean that I can’t cut back on it. Hence, this dish was developed. It’s vegetables with pasta…not pasta with vegetables. It’s a lot of vegetables with a little bit of pasta. Just enough pasta to tell you it’s a pasta dish and to satisfy that pasta urge. It’s a light dish, yet satisfying. You can eat a lot of it without feeling bloated or bogged down.

Furthermore, it’s extremely flexible and easy to prepare. Make it YOUR way…with the array of vegetables that you want and have on hand. The key to the dish is the herb combination, lending a yummy flavor to no matter what veggies are included.

Use about half the pasta you normally would per person and double up on the amount of vegetables you’d normally fix per person. The recipe/video below are geared for an individual serving. Increase the amounts accordingly per your taste and vegetable preference.

Vegetables with Pasta
Makes 1 Serving (Increase as needed)

1 oz dry pasta of choice
Extra virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 to 3/4 tsp dried parsley flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
Small pinch of dried red pepper flakes, optional
1-1/2 to 2 cups vegetables of choice

Vegetable Combo Suggestion:

Large handful of fresh spinach leaves
1/2 Roma tomato, chopped
1 to 1-1/4 cup frozen California blend of vegetables (not thawed)
1/2 cup red kidney beans, optional
Parmesan and or shredded Mozzarella cheese

Gather vegetables of choice and herbs. Put water on for pasta. When water boils, add pasta and cook according to directions.

As pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add about 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil and allow it to heat briefly. Add garlic and onion and allow them to saute for about 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients except cheese. Stir to combine.

Cover vegetables and allow them to cook for 3 to 5 minutes over medium heat until slightly tender. Stir occasionally while cooking. If they start getting too dry, add a little of the boiling pasta water (a couple tablespoons at a time) to keep them moist. Reduce heat to low to keep them warm until the pasta is finished.

Drain cooked pasta and top with vegetable mixture. Add more olive oil if desired for moisture. Toss pasta with vegetables. Top with grated Parmesan and/or shredded Mozzarella cheese.

Note: This dish would also be good served with chicken or meatballs. They may be cooked in the skillet before the garlic and onion are added.

Enjoy!
Judi

Pineapple Green Tomato Stir-Fry (soy free)

Here’s yet another something different to do with those extra green tomatoes from

Pineapple Green Tomato Stir-Fry

Pineapple Green Tomato Stir-Fry

the garden. I’ve been hungry for a stir-fry and this one fit the bill. It includes pineapple, green tomatoes, cabbage, and other stir-fry veggies. It’s made WITHOUT soy sauce for those who need to stay soy-free. Yet, it’s as tasty as any stir-fry should be.

This is a real “convertible.” It can be used as a side dish served over cooked rice. Or, easily transform it into a hearty main dish by adding chicken, beef or pork. Or keep it vegetarian by adding cannellini beans, cashews and sesame seeds, as I did in the video below. Here’s the recipe. Enjoy! Judi

Pineapple Green Tomato Stir-Fry (soy free)
Makes about 6 Servings

1 to 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/4 cup chopped bell pepper
2 cups chopped green cabbage
2 cups chopped green tomatoes (about 2 medium tomatoes)
1 (20 oz) can pineapple chunks, packed in juice
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar (or balsamic vinegar)
Salt to taste

Optional ingredients:
1 (15 oz) can cannellini beans, rinsed, drained
1/3 cup cashews
Sesame seeds

Drain pineapple, reserving liquid. Set aside.

Heat wok or a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil, chopped onion and garlic. Saute about 2 minutes, until the onion and garlic begin to get translucent.

Add carrot, bell pepper, cabbage, green tomatoes, (drained) pineapple chunks, vinegar and salt to taste. Stir to combine ingredients. Cover and allow to steam about 2 minutes, until vegetables start to get crisp-tender, or to your desired texture. Flavor may be adjusted if needed by adding more vinegar, pineapple juice, and/or salt.

If using this as a side dish, sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired. Serve over cooked rice of choice.

If making this into a vegetarian main dish:
Stir in the rinsed and drained cannellini beans and cashews. Continue cooking only until the beans are heated through. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired. Serve over cooked rice of choice.

Note: This stir-fry would also be delicious served with (especially) chicken, and also beef or pork.

Green Tomato and Herb Pasta Topping

Green Tomato Pasta Topping

Green Tomato Pasta Topping

Like many people right now, I have an abundance of green tomatoes on hand from my cleaned up tomato plants. Fried green tomatoes are always good. But, I was wanting something else for a change. I always love pasta dishes, so I got creative with those green goodies. I concocted the following recipe.

It’s amazingly simple and FAST to prepare. So fast, in fact, you could start the water for the pasta as you’re cutting up the tomatoes, onions and garlic for the topping. Everything should be done about the same time. It’s THAT quick!

If you’re wanting something different to do with those green tomatoes, give this a try and let me know how it works for you! Judi

EASY Green Tomato and Herb Pasta Topping
Makes 2 to 4 Servings

2 cups chopped green tomatoes
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 tsp dried basil leaves
2 Tbsp lemon juice
Salt to taste
1 to 1-1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Cooked pasta of choice

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and allow it to heat up very briefly. Then add onion and garlic and allow them to saute for about 1 minute. Add tomatoes and remaining ingredients. Stir; place cover on skillet. Allow it to simmer 3 to 5 minutes, until tomatoes are at desired consistency. Serve immediately over cooked pasta.

Note: This topping would be excellent capped with grated Parmesan cheese.

Recipe: Delicious Lentil Burgers

Lentils seem to be gaining in popularity these days as more people are striving to improve their eating habits. I’ve enjoyed lentils for years in a number of ways and am happy to see that others are catching on to this ultra-healthy legume. The following is a recipe that I came up with forming cooked lentils into a “mock” burger. They are easy to make, hold up well in a sandwich, and are versatile in that they can be used in a variety of dishes. Following the recipe is a link to my YouTube video demonstrating making them. Try them sometime. See serving suggestions below. Enjoy! Judi

Lentil Burgers
Makes 8 Burgers

1 cup dried lentils, rinsed, drained
2-1/2 cups water
1/2 cup diced onion
1/4 cup chopped bell pepper
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs of choice
1-1/2 tsp granulated garlic
2 tsp dry celery flakes OR 1/2 stalk celery chopped OR 2 Tbsp chopped fresh celery leaves
4 tsp dried parsley flakes
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp dried onion powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup cooked brown rice, divided

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Place lentils in a medium saucepan with water, onion, bell pepper, garlic and salt. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, for 20 to 30 minutes until liquid is absorbed and lentils are tender.

In a large blender or food processor, place about 2/3 of the cooked lentils with remaining ingredients, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooked brown rice. Process until ingredients are mostly pureed. Place processed ingredients in a bowl with the remaining 1/2 cup of cooked brown rice and cooked lentil mixture. Stir to combine well. Portion mixture into 1/2 cup increments.

Warm a nonstick skillet over medium heat, then add 1 tablespoon of oil. Place lentil mixture by 1/2 cup increments onto hot skillet. With a spatula, shape as for a burger. Allow to cook until firm and brown on one side, about 15 minutes. Then carefully flip and allow the second side to cook until firm, about another 15 minutes. Serve.

Serving Suggestions:
* These burgers are fabulous served in a sandwich garnished with ketchup, mustard and/or mayo with lettuce, tomatoes and even pickles or hot peppers.

* These are also excellent served with mashed potatoes and vegetables, just like you would a standard meatball or ground beef patty.

* A brown gravy would also be a wonderful topping for these burgers.

* Sauteed onions and bell peppers would be another excellent accompaniment

http://youtu.be/M-IJNqsDb7Q