Archives

Pimento Paroxysm

By definition, paroxysm means any sudden, violent outburst.  In my mind, with summer just around the corner and today being Father’s Day, it’s time to break out the summer dishes and just let the flavors explode all over the palette.  So, given that definition, I think paroxysm works well in my title!

Today I am trying two comfort food dishes that include pimentos but changing it out a little.  Pimentos are just chopped up red peppers that can be pickled and smoked.  I love the flavor they add to dishes and the color just adds a beautiful pop to any dish!  The first dish is a revamping of my favorite summer dish: potato salad.  Who doesn’t love potato salad on a hot day?  There are so many ways to make this dish, but I just kept it simple using what I had in the pantry.  The second dish is: pimento cheese spread.  Another dish that has fifty million different ways of making it, I again chose to keep it simple and the recipe is based on one from a co-worker.

 

Summer foods 002

First step: peel and chop potatoes.  Probably the least fun part of the whole thing!  I took 5-6 large Idaho potatoes, because that’s what I had in the kitchen!  After peeling and washing them, I put them into a large bowl of water.  It’s been said that soaking them in water will help remove some of the starch.  I guess it’s true, because when I came back a little later to chop them, their texture was very different!

Second step: cook the potatoes.  In a large pot of salted water, boil the potatoes until just softened.  You don’t want to overcook them because the potato salad will be mushy.  Once cooked, drain and rinse the potatoes.  Rinsing them helps to stop the cooking as they will continue to cook until cool.

For the sauce, you will need your favorite mayonnaise or salad dressing.  To keep it vegan, use Veganaise or another similar vegan mayo.  I had some light Miracle Whip on hand and decided to just use that.  Next add some yellow mustard, freshly ground black pepper, healthy pinch of paprika, pimentos, shallots and some Vidalia onion.

Mixing it all together, chill in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight so the flavors meld together.  See the recipe below!

Summer foods 003

Cyn’s Pimento Potato Salad

5-6 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and cooked until just tender

1/2 Vidalia onion, diced

1-1/2 purple shallot, diced

2-1/2 tbsp. pimentos

3 tbsp. yellow mustard

3-4 tbsp. salad dressing or mayonnaise

1 tsp paprika

freshly ground black pepper

Peel and soak potatoes in a large bowl of water for about 20-min.  While they are soaking cut the Vidalia onion, purple shallots and place in a bowl together with all the other ingredients.

One the potatoes are chopped, cook until just tender in a large pot of boiling salted water.  Drain and rinse to slow the cooking process.  Toss altogether and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour or overnight so the flavors will meld.

Summer foods 010

*******************************************************

Now for the second dish!  I love pimento spread, but sometimes the store-bought has so many extra ingredients in it and while I like cream cheese, using it in pimento spread makes the spread so much heavier, in my opinion.

This recipe was inspired by a co-worker who brought in her pimento spread for a birthday party luncheon that we had recently.  I basically followed what she told me, except for the choice of cheese.  She uses Velveeta process cheese and I chose sharp cheddar.

The end result is basically the same = creamy, light, flavorful.  Perfect.

Summer foods 006

Doesn’t that close up photo just make you want to dig in?!? 

Here’s the recipe:

Cyn’s Pimento Cheese Spread

1 cup freshly grated extra sharp cheddar cheese

2-3 tbsp. pimentos, including the juice from the jar

your favorite mayonnaise or salad dressing

(I added some freshly grated white Mexican melting cheese that I had because there was just a tiny bit of it left.  I think it came to about 1/3 cup or less)

Mix all together in a large bowl until well combined and creamy.  You may have to add more mayonnaise or salad dressing until it’s the right consistency.  Chill for at least an hour to allow the mixture to set.

Serve on bread or crackers or use as a dip with your favorite dipping chips.

Summer foods 009

 

Bon Appetite!

Stuffed Zucchini Boats

This is probably my favorite time of year when it comes to fresh food.  Gardens are in full swing and every weekend weeds must be evicted from them.  Despite the weeds, the bounty that a garden yields can last the rest of the year if planned in advance.

The other day a friend of mine gave me a big bag of zucchini and summer squash from her garden.  And while watching my weekly recordings of cooking shows, I was inspired by Jamie Deen’s zucchini boats.  He stuffed his with Vidalia onions, sausage and tomatoes and cheese.  Mine are a vegetarian version, but all in all, they are so good that it didn’t take long to wolf mine down!

Suffed Zucchini Boats 7-13 001

Begin by roasting your zucchini in the oven.  Wash and cut them lengthwise – I snipped of the stem ends as well.  Spray your baking sheet with non-stick spray then drizzle a small amount of extra virgin olive oil.  Lay the zucchini flat down, sprinkle a little grey sea salt over them and roast just until tender.

Suffed Zucchini Boats 7-13 002

Set the zucchini aside for a few minutes until cool to the touch.  Using a small spoon, gently scrape/scoop out the center until they resemble long boats and set aside.  See the photo above.

While these are cooling, get your stuffing ingredients together.

Suffed Zucchini Boats 7-13 004

Finely dice a Vidalia onion and sauté in extra virgin olive oil.  One the onions have sweat and turn clear, add the finely diced sweet bell pepper.

Suffed Zucchini Boats 7-13 006

Then add your veggie burger or other choice of meat.  Add a pinch of onion powder, a couple shakes (dashes) of Worcestershire sauce.  Cook until meat is done.

Add a pinch of grated parmesan and cheddar cheeses and a handful of Panko bread crumbs.  Stir together and begin stuffing the zucchini boats.

Suffed Zucchini Boats 7-13 008

Return them to the oven and bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Suffed Zucchini Boats 7-13 011

I served these alongside roasted potato halves and yellow squash that I topped with diced up fresh tomatoes and a little parmesan.  The actual recipe is below.  Keep in mind that the measurements are approximate as I do not measure when I cook.

Stuffed Zucchini Boats

2 Large Zucchini, washed well, ends trimmed and cut lengthwise

1 small Vidalia onion, finely diced

1 small Sweet Bell pepper, finely diced

Choice of ground burger, turkey or veggie burger

(I used about 1/4 cup of veggie burger crumbles)

Grey Sea Salt, to taste

Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste

1/4 cup Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

1/4 cup Freshly grated Cheddar Cheese

A couple dashes of Worcestershire Sauce

Pinch of onion powder

1-2 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs

Set oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash zucchini well, trim off stem ends and cut lengthwise. Spray baking sheet with non-stick spray and drizzle with olive oil.  Lay zucchini face-down and sprinkle lightly with a pinch of grey sea salt.  Roast until just tender.  Remove from the oven and let cool to the touch.  While still warm, using a small spoon, scoop out the centers making boats.  Set aside.

Sauté the onion and green bell pepper in extra virgin olive oil, add meat of choice and cook thoroughly.  Add a handful of Panko bread crumbs, big pinch of grated cheddar and grated parmesan cheeses.  Stir well and let cheese melt a little.  Spoon into zucchini boats and top with a sprinkle of grated parmesan and cheddar cheeses.  Put back in the oven and bake until the cheese melts.

For serving size, you can have one big zucchini half or two small halves per person.

Serve up and enjoy!

Vegetable Tian

What is tian, you ask?  During the summer there are plentiful tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant and many other summer foods in abundance.  Provencal cooking celebrates the traditions of France’s countryside.  And a tian is a layered baked vegetable dish that originated in Provence.  Unlike a gratin, a tian does not include bread crumbs or cheese, which allows the juices of the vegetables to evaporate, thus allowing a deep concentration of the flavors.  Tian is usually served around the holiday Bastille Day during the peak of the summer when all the vegetables are readily available.

While I didn’t have all the ingredients of a traditional tian, I made my own version of it with the vegetables on hand and it was delicious!

Some tian calls eggplant, leeks, zucchini, plum tomatoes but I think you could take any of the summer vegetables that you enjoy and make this dish.  I only had summer squash, zucchini and potatoes on hand, so that along with onions and garlic is what I used.  The simplified recipe that I found follows at the end of this post, however, there are many more authentic recipes that can be found online.

First gather together the vegetables that you will want to use.  Finely chop your onion and sauté in extra virgin olive oil, adding your garlic at the end.  I pushed 2 large cloves of garlic through a press.

Aubrey July 4 2013 visit 006

While your onion and garlic sauté, spray an 8×8″-inch square baking dish with non-stick spray or lightly butter and set aside.

Aubrey July 4 2013 visit 005

Next, thinly slice all your vegetables, potatoes, whatever it is that you will be using. Since I used zucchini, summer square and potatoes, I sliced them into thin coins.  And since many vitamins and nutrients are found close to the skin, I did not peel my potatoes.  I just scrubbed them really well when washing.

Aubrey July 4 2013 visit 004

A friend of mine has an overabundance of vegetables in her garden this year and was nice enough to give me some and that is what I used in this dish.  Look at the size of the summer squash! 

Aubrey July 4 2013 visit 009

Spread the softened onion and garlic sauté into the bottom of the prepared baking dish.  As you can see, the steam fogged up my baking dish!

Aubrey July 4 2013 visit 008

Now take the thinly sliced vegetable coins and neatly stack them, alternating between each veggie per row.  I stacked my vertically for a different look.  If you are using a round dish, layer in fans, working from the center.  Either way, it makes a beautiful display.

Aubrey July 4 2013 visit 010

Sprinkle with sea salt (I use Celtic Gray Sea Salt), freshly ground black pepper and thyme.  Now since I did not have any thyme, I used a little pinch of sage.  And because I like it, a nice sprinkle of paprika.

Aubrey July 4 2013 visit 011

 

Cover the dish with buttered parchment, or foil if you have that.  Bake in a 400-degree Fahrenheit oven for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.  You can then add a sprinkling of cheese and bread crumbs if you wish, especially if you have kids or picky eaters in the house.  Traditionally this dish does not include it.

photo

Vegetable Tian

 

1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 tsp finely minced garlic – or 2 cloves pushed through a garlic press

1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced into coins

1 medium yellow squash, thinly sliced into coins

1 medium potato, thinly sliced into coins

1 medium tomato, thinly sliced

1 sprig of Thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme

sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 cup shredded cheese – optional

about 2 handfuls Panko bread crumbs – optional

Preheat the oven to 400-degrees Fahrenheit.  Finely dice the onion and mince the garlic.  Sauté both in a skillet with extra virgin olive oil until softened.

While the onion and garlic sautés, thinly slice the rest of your vegetables.

Spray your baking dish and spread the softened onion and garlic in the bottom of the dish.  Arrange the vegetable slices, alternating them, in vertical rows.  Sprinkle generously with sea salt and fresh ground pepper and thyme.  Cover and bake for 30 minutes until tender.  Top with optional cheese and bread crumbs and bake until the cheese is golden brown.

Serve as a delightful side dish with rice or noodles and your choice of main dish.

Enjoy!

Grapenut “Meat” Loaf

Growing up, my diet was very strict and completely vegetarian.  While some may turn their noses up at such a lifestyle, many more are now adopting a plant-based diet as they attempt to be the healthiest that they can be.  More people realize that a diet rich in plant-based foods with less emphasis on meats is actually better for you.

This recipe is about 35+ years old, so there can be a lot of tweaking to bring it up to date.  Further, I personally know that earlier vegetarian recipes were often loaded with ingredients that a strict vegan would not consume and sometimes are not the healthiest of options either.

However, the flavors in this loaf are so full, that it makes a wonderful addition to any meal!Try this entrée on your next Meat-Free Monday!  You may find a new dish that your family will enjoy!

Fall 2013 130

Grapenut Loaf

1-1/4 c grapenuts cereal

1 c chopped nuts (I prefer raw pecans)

1 c chopped celery

1 large onion, diced

1 cup mushroom soup

1/2 tsp salt (may omit)

2 beaten eggs

2 tbsp melted butter

1 tsp Savarex (I find Bragg’s Liquid Aminos works well)

Combine all together in a large mixing bowl until well mixed.  Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake at 375F for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Serves 6.

001

What I like most about the flavor is the crunchiness of the little celery bits and the full bodied nuttiness that the pecans provide.  Serve it like you would regular meatloaf and it’s also very good with a light brown sauce/gravy!  It’s also good by itself!

Enjoy!

Easy Leftover Lentil Cheddar Patties

Digging through my fridge, I came across some bits and pieces of items that needed to be used up and decided it was time for some homemade veggie burgers!  Since we had lentils a couple days before, it just made sense to use up the little bit that was left.

If you keep your refrigerator stocked and your pantry stocked with certain staples all the time, you can create something “new” for dinner!  So, as you may already know, I don’t measure when I cook, so these measurements are approximates and you may need to adjust for your taste.

Lentil Cheddar Patty 001

Ingredients:

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

1 medium carrot, sliced on the diagonal, julienned and chopped into small pieces

1/4 green bell pepper, finely chopped

1/4 red bell pepper, finely chopped

1/2 cup leftover lentil stoup (very thick soup)

3/4 of 1 package Town House crackers crumbled OR 2-3 slices whole wheat bread torn into fine pieces

1/2 cup finely grated cheddar cheese or whatever cheese you have

1/2 tsp. garlic powder or 2-cloves fresh garlic finely chopped

1/2 tsp. onion powder

large pinch parsley leaves, dried – if you have fresh, finely chop about 1/4 cup

(since the stoup and crackers are already seasoned, you won’t need to add any further salt)

2 farm fresh eggs

In a large bowl (see photo above) mix together all the ingredients until well blended.

Taking a quart size canning lid, spray with non-stick spray.

Spoon patty mixture into the canning lid. Press into the lid to shape the patty.

Lentil Cheddar Patty 004

Turn into a heated cast iron past that has been lightly oiled with pure extra-virgin olive oil.

Lentil Cheddar Patty 002

Cook on each side until lightly browned. 

Lentil Cheddar Patty 006

This recipe made me six patties that fit perfectly on a medium sized hamburger bun or as we did, eat it as your protein side-dish that can be served alongside a salad and dinner as pictured below.  This dinner plate has garlic shells and corn paired with the lentil patty.

Lentil Cheddar Patty 007

 

Enjoy!

Tofu Vegetable Lasagna

Many times I’ve gone through the frozen foods section at the grocery store and come home with a single serving of that wonderful brand that makes a vegetable lasagna.  Throw it in the microwave and zap it for a few and then enjoy every morsel until its gone. 

Unfortunately, lasagna can be a not-so-good food if you aren’t careful about what goes into it.  I’ve been messing around with my recipes for years tweaking here, substituting a little there, trying to make them healthier but keep all the taste  and textures that we all love.

This is my version of that frozen entrée! This is a fabulous way to get veggies in for your otherwise really picky eaters! The recipe follows at the end of this post.

In a food processor using the grate plate:

Grate 1 medium carrot, 1 zucchini

move to a bowl and set aside

Christmas 2012 070

Take a whole pack of fresh organic baby spinach – like the packs you find in the salad and produce section of your store.  Sauté it with finely diced onion in a little extra virgin olive oil.

Take a block of tofu – I used organic extra firm tofu and pulsed it in the food processor with the “s” blade until it was smooth like ricotta cheese.  It gets really thick just like the real ricotta.

Transfer the spinach mixture and the tofu mixture to a bowl.  Add the grated carrots and zucchini, sea salt, onion powder, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and parsley flakes.

Christmas 2012 071

Now time to layer the noodles!  You can pre-cook your noodles, but I am far too impatient for that when it comes to lasagna!  I just put enough sauce in to cook the noodles while the dish bakes.  Works good as they come out perfectly al dente.

Spray your baking dish with non-stick spray coating the bottom and sides well.  Start with a layer of noodles, then filling, shredded skim mozzarella, pour some white sauce (recipe at end of this post). Then repeat your layer until you run out of filling.  This made two layers which is perfect for us.

Christmas 2012 074

Finish off the top by pouring the white sauce over the noodles covering well.  Then top with Panko bread crumbs and a little shredded skim mozzarella.

To help with potential baking overflow, I’ve place my baking dish on a cookie tray lined with foil.  This makes for easy clean up and helps keep my oven cleaner.

Christmas 2012 075

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until bubbly and the Panko has browned.  Let set for 10 min before serving!

Christmas 2012 076

 

Tofu Vegetable Lasagna

1 block of organic tofu, drained

1 medium carrot, peeled and grated

1 medium zucchini, grated

1 small onion, finely diced

1 package baby spinach, organic preferred

1-2 tsp onion powder

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp Italian herbs, dried

1 tsp dried parsley

pinch of French Grey Sea Salt

Lasagna noodles

 

Sharp Cheddar White Sauce

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1-2 tbsp of flour

Make into a roux and once the flour is well saturated with the oil

Add about 1-2 cups un-sweet nut milk or skim/low fat milk.  Make into a thick white sauce, constantly stirring with a whisk.

Add 1 cup shredded Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar and Monterrey Jack.

Continue to whisk until the cheese is melted.

Pour over the noodles as indicated above.

 

Enjoy!

It’s a “Pizza” Tomato Pie!

Cooking shows are some of my favorite and in order to catch them, I have to DVR all the time.  They are full of great ideas and some of my favorite shows include Pioneer Woman, Not My Mama’s Meals, French Food at Home and Luke Nguyen’s Vietnam.

With an abundance of tomatoes from our garden, I decided I need to do something with them! Last week I made fresh marinara using my immersion blender and paired it with spaghetti for a wonderful meal. This week I was trying to decide what to do.  I had seen Bobby Deen remake his Mama’s Tomato Pie and while the Paula Deen’s tomato pie looked wonderful, I didn’t want all the calories of it.  And I didn’t want the “Pizza” version that Bobby made, even though it looks absolutely delicious! (And it’s absolutely because I have not mastered yeast breads yet and my pizza crusts are incredibly awful!)

I decided to make is more like a stacked pie sans crust.

Cyn’s Tomato “Pie”

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Slice 6 tomatoes fresh from the garden into extra thick slices

Stack them in a colander in a single layer and sprinkle lightly with sea salt to drain for about 10 minutes. I really had quite a bit more than the picture shows! You can use a really large colander and stack a lot at one time.

004

I sprayed my casserole dish and set it aside

Next whisk together 3 eggs, 1 cup of milk, 3-4 turns on the grinder of sea salt and black pepper, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp. paprika, a big pinch of Cyn’s Dried Herb blend (sweet basil, parsley, thyme & oregano from my garden)

006

Grabbing the Panko bread crumbs I started stacking starting with a layer of tomatoes sprinkle the Panko and cover generously, stacking until you run out of tomatoes.

003

Once stacking is complete, pour your egg mixture over the entire dish until it fills up to the top, added shredded cheese to the top: Cheddar, Pepper Jack, and Havarti. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned.  Remove from your oven and let set for about 5 minutes before serving.

008

I took a spoonful of this out and tasted it. It was absolutely delicious! The Pepper Jack cheese gave it just enough bite.  Pair it up with grilled chicken, steak and salad or any vegetarian dishes for a tasty summer meal!

Bon Appetit!