Category Archives: Cooking

Recipe – Lemon Drizzle Cake

I haven’t shared a recipe in so long on this blog because there is such access to great recipes via the internet, especially on Pinterest.  However, since I found this recipe and had to convert it from metric measurements, I figure that it is pretty safe that it hasn’t hit every kitchen in America yet.  It was one of those afterthoughts to a great meal that I made, but ended up taking center stage in both our tastebuds and memories.  I hope that you get a chance to try it, and end up loving it!

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Lemon Drizzle Cake

8 T. butter (1 stick)
1 cup sugar, finely ground (meaning that you take regular granulated sugar and process it finer by putting it in a food processor or blender, or coffee grinder)
3 eggs
3 1/2 T fresh lemon juice
1 lemon rind, grated
1 2/3 c. self-rising flour
1/3 cup Almonds ground (You can buy almond ground from Bob’s Mill at most stores, but it is pretty expensive. I ended up putting almonds in our coffee grinder until it formed a powder.)

For the Syrup:
Juice of 1 1/2 lemons
1 cup powdered sugar

For the Glaze:
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Cream together the butter and sugar.  Add the eggs one at a time, and then add in the lemon zest and lemon juice.  In a smaller bowl, blend the flour and the almond flour.  Slowly sift the flour mixture into your bowl and gently blend.  The batter will be on the thick side.  Pour the batter into a loaf pan and bake for 45 – 50 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.  Leave in the pan until it completely cools.

As it is cooling, mix the ingredients together to make the syrup.  While the cake is cooling, poke small holes in the top and pour the syrup over the cake, trying to aim for the syrup to go into the holes.  (I did this with a wooden skewer to get the holes big enough to take the syrup.)  Continue to let the cake cool.  When it is cooled, mix together the glaze and pour over the top.  As the glaze sets, you can sprinkle the top with extra powdered sugar for a little decoration.

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Recipe – Mediterranean Orzo Salad

Holy cow, I just stumbled upon this really great salad that serves as a great main dish.  I just had to pass it on.  It is really easy to prepare.

I found this recipe in a Cooking Light magazine as I was purging some really old back issues.  I was just ripping out pages that I thought looked promising, and this was one of my picks.  Therefore, I can only report that it was some issue of Cooking Light, but I don’t know in what month or year it was published.

Surprisingly, my whole family liked it.  (There are very few dishes that I can say that about.)  I hope you like it, too!

Mediterranean Orzo Salad with Feta Vinaigrette

1 cup uncooked orzo (about 8 ounces)
2 cups bagged pre washed baby spinach, chopped
1/2 cup chopped, drained, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
3 T. chopped red onion
3 T. chopped pitted kalamata olives
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1  6oz. jar marinated artichoke hearts, undrained
3/4 cup  (3oz) feta cheese, crumbled and divided

1. Cook the orzo according to package directions, not adding oil or salt.  Drain, rinse with cold water.

2. Combine orzo, spinach, and the next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl.

3. Drain artichokes, reserving marinade.  Coarsely chop artichokes and add artichokes, reserved marinade, and feta cheese to orzo mixture.  Toss gently to coat.

Yield:  4 servings
Calories:  338
Protein:  11.9g
Carbs:  52g
Fiber:  5.1g

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Recipe – Creamy Fettuccine with Leeks, Corn and Baby Spinach

Just this week, I cooked this recipe for some dear friends.  It is easy to double as well as has an easy place in the cooking process to stop/start again so that the food is hot when your guests are ready to eat.

Creamy Fettucini with Leaks, Corn and Baby Spinach

16 oz. box fettuccine
4 leeks sliced thin (white and light green)
8 cloves garlic, pressed or sliced thin
salt and pepper
2 c. frozen corn
1 c. dry white wine
1 c. heavy cream
4 c. baby spinach (or arugula)
1 c. grated pecorino or parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the leeks, garlic salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until tender, about 3- 4 min.  Add the corn and wine and simmer until corn is tender, about 2-3 min.  Stir in the cream.

Add pasta, season with more salt/pepper and toss to combine.  Fold in the spinach.  Sprinkle with cheese before serving.

OR…

If you don’t know exactly when your guests are arriving, switch the order.  What I do is put a large pot of water on to boil and begin that process, but don’t put the pasta in yet.  Prepare the sauce as stated above, but stop just before you add the cream.  Take the sauce off of the heat (or reduce to very low temp) and wait for your guests’ appetites.
As soon as you all are ready, throw the pasta in the boiling pot of water, put the sauce back on the heat, add the cream, (you can add some parmesan cheese to the sauce to thicken it up if it looks too runny).  From that point on, continue with the recipe as written.

If you try it, let me know what you think!

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Recipe – Garlic, Chickpea, and Spinach Soup

This is a good, hearty, cold-weather soup that is easy to prepare for one of those chilly spring evenings.  It serves 6 people, but can easily be doubled for a larger group.

Garlic, Chickea and Spinach Soup
4 T. olive oil
8 garlic cloves
2 onions, chopped
4 tsp. ground coriander
4 tsp. cumin
10 c. vegetable stock
24 oz. potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 15 oz. cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 T. cornstarch
1 1/3 c. heavy cream
4 T. tahini
4 oz. spinach, shredded
cayenne pepper
salt and pepper

Heat oil in a large saucepan and cook garlic and onion for 5 minutes.

Stir in cumin and coriander and cook for another minutes. 

Pour in stock and add chopped potatoes to the pan.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 10  minutes.  Add the chickpeas and simmer for 5 minutes more or until the potatoes and chickpeas are just tender when pierced.

Blend together the cornstarch, cream, tahini, and plenty of seasoning.  Stir into the soup.  Add the spinach.  Bring to a boil, stirring.  Simmer for another 2-3 minutes.  Season with cayenne pepper and salt and pepper. 

Serve hot.
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Recipe – Mushroom and Bean Pasta

Entertaining non-vegetarians can be a little tricky.  You always have to have a go-to recipe that you feel confident in serving folks in which they won’t miss the meat.  Kind of an advertisement for vegetarianism – or at least not an offense to their carnivore senses. 

This is my go-to dish.  It is really easy to prepare, can really be stalled in case the guests run late, and has flavors that distract from the absence of meat.  I hope you enjoy it!

Mushroom and Bean Pasta

8 oz. pasta (a curly shape, such as fusilli, campanelle, rotini)
2 T. olive oil
4 T. butter
2 shallots, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, pressed
1 1/2 lb mixed mushrooms, sliced
6 pieces sun-drived tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
6 T. dry white wine
15 oz. can kidney, pinto, or borlotti beans, drained
3 T. Parmesan cheese
2 T. fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

Heat the oil and butter in skillet and fry shallots until soft.

Add the garlic and mushrooms and fry for 6 – 7 minutes, or until the mushrooms cook down a bit.  Stir in sun-dried tomatoes, wine and seasonings to taste.

Stir in beans and cook for about 5-6 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated and the beans are warmed through.
(It is at this point that you can stop the cooking process if your guests are running late.  Simply reheat when they arrive.)

Stir in Parmesan cheese.  Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately over pasta.

Serves 4

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I always use a little more wine than suggested, and this recipe is easily doubled or tripled for guests. 

Let me know what you think when you try it, or how you adapted it!

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Recipe – Vegetable Wellington

This is another of my go-to suppers when guests are coming.  The flavors are amazing, and it makes a beautiful presentation.  However, it is a bit more work and requires a little planning. 

Vegetable Wellington
1 T. olive oil
1 lb. asparagus, cut into 1/2″ pieces
2 medium red bell peppers, cut into thin strips
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 5 oz. pkg baby spinach leaves
1 10 oz. log goat cheese
1 4 oz. jar prepared pesto sauce (or you can make your own for you over-achievers out there…)
1 large egg
2  17.3 oz. pkg frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 16 oz. jar tomato sauce

Preheat oven to 425.  Coat baking pan with cooking spray.

Heat 1 T. oil over medium-high heat.  Add asparagus, bell peppers, and onion and saute 5-10 min, or until vegetables begin to soften.  Add spinch, remove from heat, and stir until spinach wilts.  Cool.

Combine goat cheese and pesto in a bowl. 
Beat egg with 2 tsp. water in a separate bowl.

Lay 1 sheet of puff pastry on a baking pan.  Cut into 5 rectangles.  Brush the edges of rectangles with egg.  Scoop 2 T. of vegetables into center of each rectangle, keeping edges clear.  Top with pesto-cheese mixture.  Cut remaining pastry sheet into 5 more rectangles, place on top of veggies, stretching gently.  Press edges tightly.  Brush top with egg.  Chill 10 minutes.

Bake 25 inutes.  Meanwhile, heat tomato sauce in a pan until warm.

To serve, spoon some tomato sauce onto each plate and top with the Wellington.

Serves 4

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You can substitute out asparagus for other vegetables if they’re not fresh or in season. 

As always, let me know what you think when you try it, and let me know what substitutions you made!

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Recipe – Mexican Rice Soup

In 2010, my aunt collected recipes from our family and compiled them in a cookbook.  It was so well done, and was SUCH a gift to our family.  I can’t imagine the hours she put in to collect all of the recipes and to organize them into a book that is lovely and represents the heart of our family.  It is a collection of great food, but it is also a gathering place for sweet memories spent at Grandma’s kitchen table, a guide on how to recreate sights and smells from my childhood, and a time capsule of treasures from the past

One of the recipes that I submitted to her is one of my go-to soup recipes.  I thought I’d share it with you.  I hope you like it!

Mexican Rice Soup
1/4 c. olive oil
1 med. onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 c. low-sodium vegetable broth (can use boillon cubes)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 T. grated lime zest
2 whole thyme sprigs
1/2 c. arborio rice
2 small tomatoes, seeded and diced or 1 can of diced tomatoes
(if using diced tomato can, strain extra liquid out first)
1/2 c. fresh or frozen corn
salt & pepper
1 avocado, diced
1/2 c. chopped cilantro

Heat oil in a stockpot over medium heat; add onion and saute 5 – 7 minutes.  Add garlic and saute 1 minute more.  Add broth, bay leaf, oregano, lime zest and thyme sprigs.  Bring to boil, cover, and reduce heat to low.  Simmer 10 minutes.  (All of the above steps are to season the broth). 
Strain broth, discard solids and return to stockpot.  Add rice to broth.  Bring to simmer over medium-low heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes.  Stir in tomatoes and corn and season with salt and pepper.  Simmer 10 more minutes.  Simmer 10 more minutes.  Place avocado and cilantro in bowls and ladle soup on top.

This should feed 4 people. 
I always add more corn and rice – however, the arborio rice really soaks up the broth, so if you add too much, you might have to add a little vegetable broth to thin it out a bit.

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The Vegetarian Road Less Traveled

Could you live life without meat, as a complete vegetarian?

 

I never thought I’d be asked that question.  I grew up in Nebraska, being taught that cattled raised in Nebraska were the ultimate food – the best you could find.  The best grasses upon which to graze and the best climate in which to live.  The phrase “corn-fed beef” was synonymous with elite steaks, and cattle in Nebraska were corn-fed. 

Meat and potatoes.  That was the epitome of a good meal.  In fact, since my mom didn’t really cook, we didn’t experiment with other genres of food.   Even our local fast foods didn’t celebrate varieties of culture.  Our fast food taco joint was called Taco John’s.  Not Taco Juan – just good old John.

  

So when my 10 year old son came to me and announced that he wanted to be a vegetarian, I was thrown for a tail-spin.  What?  A vegga-what?  And immediately after it sunk in that he wanted a different kind of food preparation, my older son came to say that he’s going to be a vegetarian, too!

When his father and I determined that the reasons were from a deep conviction and that they were sure about this, I started researching vegetarian meals.  As a family, we talked about the decisions and agreed that we would all be vegetarian in the home.  We wanted to respect the boys’ choice.  If this was the way they were choosing to test their own limits, to learn how to follow their convictions, then we could support them.  The girls, both dancers, went along easily because they wanted to eat a little healthier.  My husband, however, had the hardest time.  He is and forever will be an omnivore. 

My problem was that, before vegetarianism invaded my home, my biggest cooking goal had been to get in and out of the kitchen as quickly as possible.  That meant mostly prepackaged, convenience foods.  I knew that if my boys were going to eliminate meat from their growing body diets, I had to have the most fresh foods possible.  I had to completely relearn how to cook.

I started researching the internet, listening to podcasts, buying magazines, and traveling 35 minutes to get to the closest Whole Foods to buy the “exotic” ingredients that were required in my new recipes.  Just for the record, by exotic, I mean an eggplant.  Before vegetarianism, I had never cut into an eggplant.  And I thought that an artichoke heart came from some weird animal.  No joke…

Let me pause in my story for just a minute to explain the younger son’s reasons for eliminating meat from his diet.  He had been studying in science about our digestive systems.  He learned that our teeth weren’t ideal for eating meat, our stomachs weren’t suited for processing meat, our digestive system was way too long and twisted for digesting meat efficiently, etc.  At the same time, he was studying in his Bible the Garden of Eden story.  He read that Adam and Eve were originally vegetarian, only eating the fruits and vegetables of the garden.   

He put the two things together and decided that, if our bodies weren’t made to eat meat, and if the original humans weren’t meat eaters, then he wouldn’t be a meat eater either.  As I said, he is a kid of great conviction.  Whether I agreed with him completely or not, he felt really strongly that the facts, as they presented themselves to him, left him with no other alternative than to cut meat out.

The reason I share this story is that cooking vegetarian has been a huge facet of my life the past few years.  Living with the inconveniences of our choices, learning how to deeply support our kids in their journeys, and studying how to make compassionate decisions in our food choices, have all led me down a long trail that I’d never trade.  Over this blogging walk, I’ll be sharing some vegetarian stories and some of my best meat-less recipes.  Stay tuned!

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