Category Archives: Meatless Main Dishes

Lentils with Vegetables Over Spaghetti Squash

Lentils with Vegetables Over Spaghetti Squash

If you’re wanting to give meatless meals a try once in a while, this is a good one to start with. Yes, there are a lot of ingredients, but don’t let that stop you. The lentil vegetable topping cooks in about the time it takes for the squash to roast, so there’s little time wasted in making this dish. It’s a delicious recipe of (oil-free) roasted spaghetti squash topped with a lentil and vegetable mixture. It’s delicious and makes a wholesome and light meatless meal. Below is a video demonstration with the written recipe below that.

Enjoy!
Judi

Lentils with Vegetables Over Spaghetti Squash
Makes about 4 Servings

1 medium spaghetti squash

Lentil vegetable mixture:
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup diced onion
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup diced carrot
½ cup brown or green lentils, rinsed and drained
1-1/4 cup vegetable broth
1 (14.5 oz) can petite diced tomatoes, with juice
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried oregano
Pinch red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast, optional topping

Cook the spaghetti squash:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper; set aside. Wash the squash and cut it in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds, scraping them off with the tip of a spoon; discard the seeds. Place the prepared squash, cut side down, on the parchment-lined baking tray. Place on middle rack of the preheated oven. Roast about 30 minutes, or until the squash can easily be pierced with a sharp knife or a fork. Remove from oven to cool enough to be handled.

Meanwhile, prepare the lentil vegetable mixture:
In a medium-large saucepan with a lid, add the oil and briefly allow it to warm up. Add the onion and sauté it briefly until it begins to turn translucent. Add the mushrooms and garlic, stir, and sauté briefly until they just begin to cook. Add the remaining ingredients, except the squash and Parmesan cheese.

Stir the mixture and bring it to a boil. Then reduce the heat to simmer and cover the pot. Stir it occasionally, as it cooks. Adjust flavorings if needed. Simmer for about 25 to 30 minutes, until lentils are tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Meanwhile, as the lentil mixture is cooking, prepare the squash:
After the squash has cooled down enough to be handled, turn the squash halves over and gently release the strands with a fork. Remove them to a serving bowl.

When everything is ready, place some squash noodles on each serving plate. Top with lentil mixture and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast, if desired. Enjoy!

Note: The lentil mixture would also be delicious served over traditional pasta, rice, quinoa, or mashed potatoes.

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Lentils

Lentils 101 – The Basics

The whole-foods, plant-based diet is increasing in popularity. So, lentils, beans, and seeds are being enjoyed by many. Even if you’re a meat eater, having a meatless meal at least once a week is encouraged. Lentils have been around for thousands of years and many people enjoy them. Yet, many others are new to lentils and just aren’t sure what to do with them. Here’s some help for you. Below is a lot of basic information about lentils, covering what they are, the various types of lentils, the nutritional and health benefits of lentils, how to flavor them and what other foods pair well with them, recipe suggestions, and more! Let me know if you need further information about lentils and I’ll do my best to help!

Enjoy!
Judi

Lentils 101 – The Basics

About Lentils
Lentils are in the legume family. They are actually pulses, which are the edible seeds that grow in pods containing only one or two seeds per pod. They are believed to have originated in central Asia, and have been eaten since prehistoric times. They are one of the first foods be cultivated. Lentil seeds dating back 8000 years have been found at archeological sites in the Middle East. Today, most lentils are grown in India, Turkey, Canada, China and Syria. There are many varieties with the most common types in American grocery stores being brown, green and red (but actually more orange in color). There are also yellow, black, and puy lentils.

The brown lentils are the variety most commonly found in American grocery stores. They have a mild, earthy flavor, and hold their shape well when cooked. Brown lentils are “universal” in the lentil family as they can be used in whatever recipe that calls for lentils. They can be mashed and used in meatless burgers, blended into soups, used in salads, and used in casseroles and literally any recipe calling for lentils. They pair well with grains.

Green lentils have a bit of a peppery flavor. This makes them particularly suitable to add to salads or any dish where a pepper flavor is welcome. They take a little longer to cook then the brown variety, but still hold their shape well while maintaining a little firmness. This type of lentil is not as commonly found in American stores as the brown lentils, and can be a little more costly.

Red lentils have a sweet, nutty flavor. They cook up faster than other varieties because they are actually split and the seed coat has been removed. This makes them soft and mushy when cooked, making them a natural thickening agent for soups, purees, and stews.

Yellow lentils are split like red lentils. They have a sweet-nutty flavor, like their red counterpart. Since they are split, they also cook up quicker than brown or green lentils, in 15 or 20 minutes. Yellow lentils are commonly used in Indian cuisine.

Black lentils are also called beluga lentils. These are the most flavorful lentils. They have a somewhat thicker skin than brown lentils, so if you want them tender, they may need to cook a little longer like the green lentils, perhaps up to 40 minutes. If you want to maintain some of their crispness, cook them for less time, about 30 minutes.

Puy (pronounced pwee) lentils come from the French region of Le Puy. They look like green lentils, but are smaller and have a peppery flavor.

Nutrition Tidbits
Lentils are an excellent source of molybdenum and folate, and a very good source of dietary fiber, copper, phosphorus and manganese. Also, they are a good source of iron, protein, Vitamin B1, pantothenic acid, zinc, potassium and Vitamin B6. Lentils contain no fat. One cup of cooked lentils provides about 1/3 of our daily protein needs (18 grams) and 230 calories.

Lentils are a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. The soluble fiber helps to keep our cholesterol in check (by binding with bile in the digestive tract, removing it from the body and forcing the body to use cholesterol in the system to make more bile). The insoluble fiber in lentils helps to prevent constipation while reducing the risk of irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis.

The fiber in lentils not only helps to regulate cholesterol levels, but also regulates blood sugar. This helps in controlling diabetes, insulin resistance and hypoglycemia. Research has confirmed that eating lentils as part of a high fiber diet helps to release energy slowly and steadily, showing dramatic effects in diabetics by controlling blood sugar and lowering cholesterol levels.

The fiber content, combined with its folate and magnesium content, works wonders in helping to lower the risk of heart disease by lowering homocysteine levels and improving blood flow around the body. Homocysteine is an important amino acid needed in certain metabolic reactions. When our folate level is low, homocysteine levels increase, causing damage to arterial walls and raising our risk for heart disease.

Lentils are also a good source of iron, with one cup of cooked lentils providing over a third of our daily needs. Iron is critical for carrying oxygen throughout the body in the bloodstream. Eating lentils on a regular basis can help keep our energy levels up and prevent iron deficiency.

How to Select Lentils
Most lentils available today are either found in bulk bins or are prepackaged. When buying lentils, make sure there is no sign of moisture or insect damage. Look for ones that are whole and not cracked.

How to Store Lentils
Store lentils in an airtight container in a dry, cool, dark place. They should keep for about a year.

How to Preserve Lentils
Once cooked, lentils will keep in the refrigerator for about one week. Cooked lentils can be frozen and should be used within three months.

How to Prepare Lentils
Compared to other beans or legumes, lentils are very easy to prepare since they need no presoaking. Before cooking them, check them for stones or debris and remove anything as needed. Place the dry lentils in a strainer and rinse them under cold water, then cook as desired.

How to Cook Lentils
When boiling lentils, use one part lentils to three parts water. It is not mandatory, but bringing the water to a boil first before placing the lentils in the water helps to make them more digestible. When the water returns to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes until tender. Brown lentils usually take about 30 minutes to cook. Red lentils take about 20 minutes, and black lentils may take up to 45 minutes to cook. Some recipes call for slightly more firm lentils, requiring a little less cooking time, while other recipes call for very soft lentils, requiring a little more cooking time.

Some suggested ways to use lentils:
* Try mixing lentils with rice or another grain. The combination will make a complete and very digestible protein. Vegetables can be added to make a simple meal. Suggested vegetables include dark leafy greens like kale or spinach, or crunch vegetables like carrots or bell peppers.

* Add cooked lentils to stir-fries or casseroles.

* Use pureed cooked lentils in hummus.

* Cook lentils in your favorite broth to add more flavor to them. Add some herbs to flavor them to your liking.

* Add lentils to soups and stews for a protein boost.

* Use lentils in a curry served over rice.

* Serve chili-spiced lentils with cheese and nacho chips or use them as a taco filling.

* Stuff sweet potatoes with your favorite cooked lentils. Top with cheese.

* Try a creamy red lentil soup.

* Try a lentil salad. Many can be served warm, room temperature or cold…a perfect addition to a summer gathering (or any time for that matter!).

Herbs/Spices That Go Well with Lentils
Bay leaf, cardamom, chili powder, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry, garam masala, garlic, ginger, mint, oregano, paprika, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, turmeric

Other Foods That Go Well with Lentils
Meats and other proteins: Beef, eggs, fish, lamb, sausage

Grains: Rice, pasta and any just about any grains or grain product

Vegetables: Carrots, celery, leafy green vegetables, mushrooms, onion, tomatoes

Dairy: Cheese

Recipe Links
Lentils with Mushrooms and Carrots https://www.judiklee.com/2019/06/04/lentils-with-mushrooms-and-carrots/

Sweet and Savory Lentils https://www.judiklee.com/2019/05/28/sweet-and-savory-lentils/

Lentils with Vegetables over Spaghetti Squash https://youtu.be/_wrLM_1s-ZI and https://www.judiklee.com/2019/08/27/lentils-with-vegetables-over-spaghetti-squash/

Mexican Lentils and Rice https://www.lentils.org/recipe/mexican-lentils-rice/

Roasted Spring Vegetable Medley with Crispy Lentils https://www.lentils.org/recipe/roasted-spring-vegetable-medley-with-crispy-lentils/

Teriyaki Stir-fry with Lentils and Quinoa https://www.lentils.org/recipe/teriyaki-stirfry-with-lentils-quinoa/

Instant Pot Lentils Braised with Beets and Red Wine https://www.lentils.org/recipe/instant-pot-lentils-braised-with-beets-red-wine/

Shrimp with White Wine, Lentils and Tomatoes https://www.lentils.org/recipe/shrimp-with-white-wine-lentils-tomatoes/

Quick Pasta with Lentils https://www.lentils.org/recipe/quick-pasta-with-lentils/

25 Ways to Turn Lentils into Dinner https://www.thekitchn.com/25-ways-to-turn-lentils-into-dinner-248332

10 Delicious Ways to Eat Lentils https://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/delicious-ways-to-eat-lentils/

Warm Winter Greens with Balsamic Lentils and Roasted Pears https://producemadesimple.ca/warm-winter-greens-with-balsamic-lentils-and-roasted-pears/

8 Surprisingly Fast and Delicious Lentil Recipes https://www.foodandwine.com/blogs/8-surprisingly-fast-and-delicious-lentil-recipes

25 Creative Lentil Recipes That Go Way Beyond Soup https://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/slideshow/lentil-recipes

Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Curry https://www.cookinglight.com/recipes/sweet-potato-and-red-lentil-curry

15 Best Lentil Recipes https://www.acouplecooks.com/best-lentil-recipes/

Mediterranean Lentil Salad https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/14260/mediterranean-lentil-salad/

Lentil Salad https://www.skinnytaste.com/lentil-salad/

Greek Lentil Salad https://cookieandkate.com/greek-lentil-salad-recipe/

Sexy Lentil Salad https://www.recipetineats.com/sexy-lentil-salad/

Lentil Salad https://simpleveganblog.com/lentil-salad/

Lentil and Rice Salad https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/lentil-and-rice-salad

Quinoa Lentil Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette https://www.asweetpeachef.com/quinoa-lentil-salad-lemon-vinaigrette/

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Resources
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=52#descr

https://www.lentils.org/about-lentils/

https://www.weightwatchers.com/util/art/index_art.aspx?tabnum=1&art_id=82311&sc=3022

https://www.livestrong.com/article/528308-how-to-spice-up-lentils/

https://www.simplyhealthyfamily.org/lentils-taste/

https://kitchenbyte.com/what-do-lentils-taste-like/

https://www.cookinglight.com/cooking-101/different-types-lentils

https://www.wideopeneats.com/5-different-types-of-lentils/

https://www.bonappetit.com/story/types-of-lentils

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/lentils#types

https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-5488/7-Health-Benefits-of-Lentils.html

https://www.thekitchn.com/flavor-combinations-beans-herb-75364

Sweet and Savory Lentils

Sweet and Savory Lentils

If you’ve never tried lentils, this is a great recipe to start with! It’s delicious, easy to make (just dump everything into the pot, stir and cook), versatile, and can be adjusted to your taste preferences (regarding “heat”). Give it a try and let me know how you like it! The recipe is below the video demonstration. Enjoy!

I hope this helps!
Judi

Sweet and Savory Lentils
Makes About 8 Servings

1-1/2 cups dried lentils, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup raisins
4 cups water (or more, if needed)
1/3 cup chopped bell pepper of choice
1 tsp garlic powder (or 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced)
Pinch dried hot red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
½ tsp dried basil
2 tsp blackstrap molasses
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste

Place all ingredients in a large saucepan. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil then lower heat to medium-low and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 30 to 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, and add more water if the mixture becomes too thick before the lentils are tender. It is helpful to lower the heat as the mixture thickens, so it won’t burn and to keep it from splashing on you as it bubbles.

Serving suggestions: This can be topped with shredded cheddar cheese and served over brown rice or used as a taco or burrito filling in place of a meat mixture. It’s also wonderful topped with cheese and served with chips. Some folks even enjoy this over cooked noodles or pasta. Enjoy!

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Quinoa with Vegetables Over Tomatoes

Here’s an easy dish that makes a lovely presentation and is refreshing on a warm day. Because quinoa is a good source of protein, it can be used as a meatless main dish or also an excellent side dish. Either way, it’s yummy! Here’s a video showing how I made this dish. Below the video is the recipe!

Happy eating!!
Judi

Quinoa with Vegetables over Tomatoes
Makes about 4 Main Dish Servings
Makes about 6 Side Servings

1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 to 1/3 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped
4 oz button mushrooms (about 6 each)
1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 tsp dried parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups + 2 Tbsp water
1-1/2 to 2 cups chopped fresh spinach
2-4 medium fresh tomatoes, sliced into wedges*

Optional garnishes (use one or any combination desired):
Basil, parsley cilantro, sesame seeds, juice of ½ lemon or lime

In a medium-large saucepan (with a lid), heat the butter and oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté briefly. Add the garlic, carrot, and mushrooms, and sauté briefly until the vegetables begin to cook. Stir in the (uncooked) quinoa, parsley, salt and pepper, and allow the quinoa to toast briefly.

Add the water and stir to combine, making sure all the quinoa is in the water. Cover the pot and turn the heat up to bring everything to a boil. Turn the timer on for 15 minutes as soon as the water comes to a boil. Then turn the heat down to medium low and allow everything to simmer until the timer goes off.

Turn the burner off; stir in the spinach. Cover the pan and remove it from the hot burner. Allow the mixture to rest for 5 minutes in the covered pan. Fluff with a fork and serve over tomato wedges that were arranged in a pinwheel design on the plate.

*Another option: Rather than serving the quinoa over tomato wedges, you could reserve one whole tomato per person and do the following: Slice off the top and remove the seeded area of the tomato. Spoon the quinoa mixture into the tomato, filling it to the top. Place the top of the tomato back in its place. Place filled tomatoes in a glass baking dish (not greased) and into a preheated 400F oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until the tomatoes JUST begin to cook. This would make a lovely side dish with many types of meals. It’s delicious!

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 first 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, and the meatballs will stay together better. They can be pan-fried, baked or broiled before being added to the sauce. Add them to the sauce after combining all the sauce ingredients. Allow the meat to simmer in the sauce as it cooks. Stir gently, so as not to break up the meatballs.

When time is short, this sauce cooks well in a slow cooker. You can sauté the vegetables first, then add them to the slow cooker. Or, simply place all ingredients (omitting the oil) in the slow cooker early in the day and cook on low until supper time. You’ll have homemade sauce, ready to go!

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

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