Meatless Monday: Balsamic Roasted Veggie Wrap

Published February 24, 2014 by jenmatteson

I am getting really tired of this winter.  All these veggie sandwiches makes me excited to start planting my garden and having fresh produce at my fingertips daily!  But alas, it’s still awful cold out :(  To try to get into the spring state of mind, I wanted to try another veggie option for my friend’s baby shower, and this time, it’s a roasted wrap!  This takes a bit longer than the hummus supreme sandwich, as you have to first salt the eggplant and let the excess water drain, then wait for the vegetables to roast :(  But don’t worry, the wait is worth it.

Balsamic Roasted Vegetable Wrap

The veggies are soft and sweet and the arugula adds a little crunch and extra freshness.  I would make a large batch of the roasted veggies so you can have this wrap every day for lunch, ready to go.  Cold or warm, it’s delicious.  You could use lavish, pita or tortilla wrap, like I did.

Balsamic Roasted Vegetable Wrap

Roasted Vegetable Wrap

Source: Inspired by Vegan Soul Power
Servings: Makes about 4 wraps

Ingredients:

1 large eggplant (or 2 small), peeled and cut into 1/2″ dice
kosher salt
2 zucchini, cut into 1/2″ dice
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 pint button mushrooms, rough chopped
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (I used blood orange balsamic, but use what you like/have)
fresh cracked pepper
16-20 basil leaves
1 cup arugula
4 tortilla wraps

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Prepare baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.  Place diced eggplant in colander and sprinkle generously with salt.  Toss to coat evenly.  Set over bowl or sink and let sit for 10-15 minutes.  Excess water will begin to drain from eggplant.

2. To a large bowl, add eggplant, zucchini, cherry tomatoes and mushrooms.  Drizzle with olive oil and half the vinegar.  Add salt and pepper and toss to coat evenly.  Transfer vegetables to prepared baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes.  Halfway through, flip vegetables.  With 5 minutes remaining, drizzle additional vinegar over vegetables.  Remove from oven and cool slightly.

3. Divide basil and arugula among tortilla wraps, and top with roasted vegetables.  Wrap as desired and enjoy!

Meatless Monday: Supreme Hummus Sandwich

Published February 17, 2014 by jenmatteson

Do you ever get sick of your same old boring lunch?  Maybe not.  But maybe you want to try something new, possibly a little healthier or fresher than that café in your building that serves pre-wrapped sandwiches.  Do you even know when those sandwiches were made?

Supreme Hummus Sandwich

I wanted to try out a few vegan sandwich recipes to serve at my girlfriend’s baby shower in a few months.  Yes, I’m already planning!  One of the best things about this sandwich is that there is absolutely no cooking.  Use store-bought hummus if you like to make this even quicker  (I made a classic creamy hummus, though a roasted red pepper hummus would be fantastic!).  I also used a store-bought 8-grain bread, but this would be even better with a thick cut gourmet bread.  Don’t forget to lightly salt your veggies before assembling your sandwich; you wouldn’t believe how much of a difference it makes.

Supreme Hummus Sandwich

The original recipe calls for pomegranate molasses, but my grocer didn’t carry it, and I didn’t want to make a special trip to find it.  I just went with regular molasses, and I thought this sandwich was absolute heaven!  Even Nate liked it, so don’t be afraid to feed it to your meat loving kids or hubbies!  The thinly cut crisp veggies paired with the smooth savory hummus is awesome.  The drizzle of molasses really brings it all together and knocks it out of the park.  I know it sounds a little weird, but trust me – it adds SO MUCH with just a tiny drizzle.

Supreme Hummus Sandwich

Supreme Hummus Sandwich

Source: Inspired by Vegan Soul Power
Servings: Makes 1 sandwich

Ingredients:

2 slices hearty wheat or grain bread
4 tbsp. hummus
4 thin slices cucumber
4 thin slices tomato
thin sliced red onion
1/4 tsp molasses

Directions:

1. Lightly toast bread (this is optional, but I like a little crisp and warmth in my bread).  Spread each slice with hummus.  Layer one slice of bread with arugula, cucumber, tomato and red onion.  Drizzle lightly with molasses and top with second prepared slice of bread.

Homemade Ranch (and Chipotle Ranch) Dressing and a Trick for “making” Buttermilk

Published February 13, 2014 by jenmatteson

I make a lot of salad dressing, mainly vinaigrettes, which are generally pretty simple.  However, one dressing I’ve never attempted to make before was ranch.  We always just buy it in the bottle – basically the only dressing I buy in the bottle.

Ranch Dressing

I’ve always been a vinaigrette girl, but when I first met Nate, he put ranch on everything.  And I seriously mean everything (pizza, sandwiches, cereal…okay, maybe not cereal).  Being that it was always around, it sorta turned me into a ranch person, too.  But just on my salad ;)  One thing I have a severe weakness for is anything with a chipotle ranch.  Any salad or sandwich with this on it, and it’s a sure bet that’s what I’m going to order.  So, in deciding to make homemade ranch dressing, I thought I better throw in a chipotle ranch, too.  Good thing I did, because it’s soooooooo good.  The ranch is great, too, but man, the chipotle ranch is the bomb!  Try it on tacos instead of Greek yogurt or sour cream.  It’ll knock your socks off!

Play around with the seasonings, and feel free to substitute fresh for dried or dried for fresh, depending on what you have in the fridge.

Homemade Ranch Dressing

TIP: Oh, and a quick tip about buttermilk.  I don’t usually have this in my fridge, and I hate buying some to only use a few tablespoons and let the rest go to waste.  So whether you’re in a pinch or you’re like me and hate buying the stuff, you can easily make your own at home with things you probably already have, milk and white vinegar.  To a liquid measuring cup, add one tablespoon vinegar, then fill with milk to the 1 cup line.  Let the mixture sit for at least 5 minutes before using, and viola!  Buttermilk.

Homemade Ranch Dressing

Homemade Ranch Dressing

Source: Adapted from Pioneer Woman
Servings: Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients:

1/4 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise
dash of Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp fresh dill
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
1 tbsp. fresh chives, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/4-1/2 cup buttermilk (see tip above if you don’t have any)

Directions:

1. Combine all ingredients in food processor, except buttermilk.  Slowly add buttermilk to desired consistency.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  This will last in your fridge in an airtight container for about a week.

To make chipotle ranch dressing, add 1/2-1 tsp (depending on preference) McCormick chipotle chili pepper.

Meatless Monday: Keep warm with this White Bean-and-Leek Soup

Published February 10, 2014 by jenmatteson

I accidentally bought a few leeks at the supermarket the other day.  Not like they jumped in my basket, onto the conveyor belt and into my bag unnoticed.  I was picking up ingredients for a new scallop recipe, and thought it called for leeks, when truly, it was fennel.  Oops!  So, seeing as though I had these perfectly good leeks in my fridge, begging to be used, I decided to help them meet their destiny with a soup.

Whit Bean-and-Leek Soup

While I was making this soup, I was thinking, this is very simple.  As in, there isn’t much to it, I sure hope it tastes good.  But don’t worry, it does.  The practically melted leeks with a hint of thyme have a perfect savory-sweet pairing.  The beans give it a needed heft, and the croutons add a nice crisp.

Whit Bean-and-Leek Soup

The recipe calls for fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, but I made mine without (except for garnishing in the picture).  I also used pretzel bread to make the croutons, which tasted absolutely amazing.  This soup comes together in less than 30 minutes, so it’s an easy weeknight meal, and is perfect warming agent during this polar vortex hulla-ballew.

White Bean-and-Leek Soup

White Bean-and-Leek Soup

Source: Adapted from Food and Wine
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

2 1-inch thick slices rustic bread, cut into 1-inch dice
1 tbsp. olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 leeks, white and light green parts, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 sprigs thyme
1 8.5-oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (vegetable broth would be fine if you want to keep it vegan)
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  On a foil lined baking sheet, toss bread crumbs with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Bake until bread crumbs become golden brown and crisp.

2. In a large saucepan, melt butter.  Add leeks and thyme and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until leeks are tender, about 10 minutes.  Add beans and chicken broth, cover and simmer until leeks are very tender, about 10 minutes more.  Season to taste.  Remove from heat, stir in Parmigiano-Reggiano if desired.  Serve and top with croutons.

Skip the Restaurant, Cook and Home: Scallops with Fennel Grenobloise

Published February 6, 2014 by jenmatteson

My girlfriend was coming over for dinner last Friday night.  She had originally suggested going out for seafood, but seeing as though I’m not working, I countered with cooking in.  I know, not quite as exciting (though, it can be with enough wine and Just Dance).  But I did splurge a little and get us some scallops, which was perfect, as I had this recipe waiting for use.  Unfortunately, she had some car trouble so she wasn’t able to make it.  Fortunately for Nate, that meant he got leftovers :P  The scallops with the fennel was absolutely outstanding.  I amped it up slightly by serving them over a parsnip puree, and drizzled with truffle oil.  It wasn’t necessary by any means, but why not add a little luxury into our simple lives? Sorry the pictures are so gross – not very good lighting late and night, but this was too good not to share with you!

Scallops with Fennel Grenobloise

Oh, and what the heck is a “grenobloise”?  It’s just a fancy French term for “sauce of brown butter, capers, parsley, and lemon”.  It makes for a much shorter recipe name: Scallops with Fennel Grenobloise vs. Scallops with Fennel, Brown Butter, Capers, Parsley and Lemon.  Yeah, I’ll take the first one.  But how do you pronounce it so you don’t sound like a dope?  You really can’t, but if you must try, here’s a little help: “grewn-o-blwahz”.  Seriously.

Scallops with Fennel Grenobloise

This is the second time I’ve made scallops at home, and they are so easy to make.  Don’t be scared to try!  A few key tips: 1) Make sure the scallops are very dry before placing in a hot pan.  I laid mine between paper towels in the fridge a few hours before I planned to make them.  2) Get your pan nice and hot.  3) Be patient and don’t move once you get them in the pan.  This will get that nice crisp sear on the outside while keeping the middle warm and opaque.  4) Don’t overcrowd your pan.  Placing the scallops too close together will steam them instead of searing them.  YOU DO NOT WANT THIS.  I promise, follow these tips, and you can’t screw them up.  The simple taste of the scallops paired great with the rich taste of the fennel.  Open a nice bottle of wine and make this for your honey this Valentine’s Day instead of braving the crowds and overpriced menus.

Scallops with Fennel Grenobloise

Scallops with Fennel Grenobloise

Source: Adapted from Food and Wine
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 lb sea scallops
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 tbsp. capers, drained
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving
2 tbsp. flat leaf parsley

Directions:

1. In a large non-stick skillet, heat olive oil over moderately high heat.  Season both sides of scallops with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat until golden brown on the bottom, about 3 minutes on each side (DO NOT move in the pan – this will allow them to sear properly).  Transfer to platter and keep warm.

2. Melt butter in same skillet.  Add fennel and capers and cook over high heat, stirring until the fennel is crisp-tender and lightly golden, about 2 minutes.  Stir in lemon juice and parsley, and season with salt and pepper.  Spoon fennel around the scallops and garnish with chopped fennel fronds, serve with lemon wedges.

Soft and Thick Peanut Butter Crunch Cookies

Published January 30, 2014 by jenmatteson

I’m 100% positive I found my very favorite peanut butter cookie recipe!  I often find they get too crisp, or flatten out to chewy crackers or potato chips.  This is the second time I’ve used this peanut butter cookie recipe, and it was no fluke that I loved them the first time.  I honestly think the second time was better.  That could also be because it’s January, and we’re all watching what we eat now, right? ;)

Soft and Thick Peanut Butter Crunch Cookies

Let me go back to the first time I used this recipe.  It was for our drink tasting party, and I had a hankering for peanut butter blossoms.  I honestly thought my grandma made the best, but I was wrong.  I made half the batch with peanut butter cups – I didn’t have kisses and wanted to use up what I already had in my baking cabinet.  The other half I got kind of creative with.  I have almost a case of Nestle Crunch bars (thanks, Dad!), so I figured I’d try chopping a few up and putting them in.  Yeah, it was the bomb.

Soft and Thick Peanut Butter Crunch Cookies

I made a double batch for my husband and his boys, who left me for the weekend to go on his annual ice fishing trip.  Too bad for him it’s -20 degrees, probably colder where he is going.  But maybe the cookies will help keep him warm, or the booze.  You decide.  Anyway, these cookies stay nice and thick, but remain soft and chewy – and not just for the day you baked them.  They stay soft for days, which is awesome!

Soft and Thick Peanut Butter Crunch Cookies
Soft and Thick Peanut Butter Cookies

Source: Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
Servings: Makes 24 cookies

Ingredients:

1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Directions:

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar at medium speed.  One at a time, mix in peanut butter, egg, then vanilla, scraping down sides as needed.  Slowly mix in baking soda and flour until just combined, careful not to over-mix.  **This is where I added two chopped up Crunch bars.  Use your own add-ins (chocolate or white chocolate chips, raisins, M&Ms, Kisses, caramel, or anything else you like) or just keep them deliciously plain.  Wrap dough tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare baking sheet with foil, parchment paper or cooking spray.  Roll dough into approximately 1-inch balls, about 2 tbsps., and place on prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes (mine took exactly 10 to be perfectly soft, but this will vary based on ovens and size of cookies).  Remove from oven, and if desired, press fork crosswise into each cookie softly.  Let cool slightly on baking sheet, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Pesto Chicken and Quinoa Salad (Gluten-Free)

Published January 23, 2014 by jenmatteson

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with the amount of odds and ends in your refrigerator that are on the edge of going bad?  Maybe ‘overwhelmed’ isn’t the correct word – terrified seems more like it.  At least for me.  I hate wasting, and I despise throwing food away because I’ve let it go bad.  In fact, it even irks me when other people let food go bad and have to throw it away.  I know, this is a bit of an issue.  But, there are starving kids in ….  well, you know.  Don’t get me wrong, if it has gone bad, throw it out.  But, my point is that you should be aware of what you’ve got and what needs to be used up before meeting it’s demise.

Pesto Chicken and Quinoa Salad

I truly just threw this salad together one day with a ton of leftover stuff in my fridge (cooked quinoa, shredded chicken and shredded cabbage), and it was so good, I had to re-create it and share it with you.  This is a fantastic, healthy, fresh salad.  It is packed with flavor, it’s quick, and is a perfect weekday lunch!  It’d even be great to bring camping, on a picnic, or even to a potluck.  Bonus, it’s gluten-free! Don’t have these leftovers in your fridge, it’s okay, you could use rice or couscous instead of quinoa (of course, these alternates aren’t GF); turkey or beans instead of chicken; and broccoli slaw, arugula or spinach instead of cabbage.  Get creative!

What has been your favorite recipe you’ve made with leftovers?

Pesto Chicken and Quinoa Salad
Pesto Chicken and Quinoa Salad

Source: Pigzilla Original
Servings:

Ingredients:

1 cup cooked quinoa
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cooked and shredded
1/2 cup shredded cabbage (broccoli slaw would be great, too!)
2 tbsp. basil pesto
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
2 green onions, chopped

Directions:

1. In a medium bowl, mix together quinoa, chicken, cabbage and sun-dried tomatoes.  Stir in pesto until evenly coated.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar and olive oil.  Pour over salad a little at a time until coated as desired.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with green onions.

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