Thursday, September 16, 2010

Gotta Make Money Pasta

I made-up a new recipe for dinner last night, and have officially named it "Gotta Make Money Pasta". Why? Because it's GREEN!  And finding new ways to use the prolific zucchini this time of year is always helpful.

This is Vegan and Vegetarian.

Cost is probably 50-75 cents per serving.  I got the pesto at Trader Joe's and the artichoke hearts are from Costco.  Start to finish, this is about a 15 minute dinner.

Prepare 1 pound of rotini-shaped Pasta (or penne)

While pasta is boiling, cut 2 zucchini into bite-sized pieces (little chunks, not round slices).

Take about 1 & 1/2 cups of marinated artichoke hearts and cut into bite sized pieces.

Scoop a little of the oil from the artichoke hearts container into a saute pan. Add another 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Heat up to medium-high. Add 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper and 1 teaspoon salt.  Saute the zucchini until almost cooked through. Add artichoke hearts. Cook together another 1 or 2 minutes.

Drain pasta when finished. Add 2-3 Tablespoons of pesto to the bottom of the pasta pot. Add veggies and mix. Add more pesto to tase.

Serve with fresh parmesan.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Cucumber Salad

Summer is the ONLY time to eat cucumbers!  They are super cheap - and they are delicious.  I never buy cucumbers in the winter, when they are bitter and stale and travel 2,000 miles to get to our grocery store.

Nearly all the produce I buy is in season for several reasons.  My favorite reason is that it is the least expensive way to buy produce.  I saw plums at my produce market this week for just 49 cents/pound! 

Another important reason I buy in season is that it is more likely to be local.  Local food means less fossil fuels are burned, and it is better for the environment.  It also supports local farmers and the local economy.

Lastly, in season produce comes to you faster from the farm so it is fresher and more vitamins are inside!

So today, I'm sharing two of my favorite recipes for cucumber salad.  They are super simple and very delicious.

Sweet German-style Cucmber Salad

  • 3 cups cucumbers, thinly sliced

  • 1/2 cup of onion, very thinly sliced
Place cucumbers and onion in a large collanderand sprinkle with salt (about 1 tablespoon).  Shake the collander to cover everything with salt.  Let drain for one hour.  Rinse of salt, lay on a clean kitchen towel, and pat dry.

  • 1/3 cup raw sugar or turbinado sugar (evaporated cane juice)

  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar

  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
Mix together in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil, cook and stir until sugar is dissolved.  Pour over cucumbers.  Cover and marinate in refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Persian-style Cucumber Salad

  • 3 cups cucumbers, thinly sliced

  • 1/2 cup of onion, very thinly sliced
Place cucumbers and onion in a large collanderand sprinkle with salt (about 1 tablespoon). Shake the collander to cover everything with salt. Let drain for one hour. Rinse of salt, lay on a clean kitchen towel, and pat dry.

  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt (see my easy homemade yougurt recipe here, or store bought)

  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint or dill weed
Place cucumbers/onions, yogurt, and mint or dill on a bowl.  Mix well.  Chill at least one hour.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Whole Wheat Flax Bread

Once you start making your own bread at home, I doubt you will stop!  It is soooooo easy and healthy.  There is nothing sweeter than the smell of bread baking.

Think about it.  A loaf of organic, whole-grain bread will set you back about $5 in the market.  You can make it at home for $2/loaf or less. 

This recipe is Vegan if you don't use the optional whey and if you replace the honey with raw sugar.

I get my organic flax meal and yeast at Costco in bulk.

Wheat flour can spoil fairly quickly, so I buy mine in bulk at the natural food market near our home.  Bulk flour turns over in the store much faster than bagged flour, so it is fresher.  Plus, you only need to buy the amount you really need so you won't waste anything!

I have never had this recipe fail.  Every loaf has been perfect.

Whole Wheat Flax Bread

3 cups fairly warm water (or whey left over from yogurt/cheese making, warmed in the microwave)
2 tablespoons (2 packages) active dry yeast

Combine in a mixing bowl and stir until dissolved.  Set aside until bubbly, 5 minutes.

3 cups organic whole wheat bread flour
3 tablespoons honey (for vegan, replace with raw sugar or agave syrup/stevia to taste)
3 tablespoons oil (neutral oil, like safflower or canola)

Add and stir until smooth.

2-3 cups organic bread flour
1 1/2 cups flax seed meal (sometimes called milled flax seed)
1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds (optional - but highly recommended)
2 tablespoons poppy seeds (optional)
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup flax seeds (optional)

Add, stirring in enough flour to make a stiff, smooth dough.  Knead about 10 minutes.  Place in a greased bowl, turn to grease both sides, cover with a damp dish towel, and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down, divide in half, and let rest 5 minutes.

Shape into loaves and place in greased loaf pans (grease with oil for vegan) or shape into round loaves and place on a greased baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal.

Cover with damp dish towel, and let rise again, about 1 hour.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes.  You will know the loaves are done when you tap on the bottom and they sound hollow.

This freezes beautifully!

Adapted slightly from Simply in Season, by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert (page 288).

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Toasted Herb Rice with Shiitake Mushrooms

DH really liked this one!  It has protien if you use the Bragg Amino Acid, but you could also add tofu or chicken.  We added chicken.  I was asked to put this on in the standard dinner roatation!

I also like the effect of toasting the brown rice before cooking it.  It gave a slightly nutty flavor.
Toasted Herb Rice with Shiitake Mushrooms

About 75 cents/serving.
Vegan, Vegetarian, and Gluten-free*.

6 servings.

*The Bragg Amino Acid is gluten-free, but the tamari/soy sauce option may not be.

3 cups short-grain brown rice
3-1/4 cups water
1-3/4 cups plus 1/2 cup vegetable broth
3 cups fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced (or 1 cup dried, rehydrated in hot water)
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dired marjoram (or oregano)
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, toasted in a dry skillet
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
Bragg Liquid Amino or low-sodium tamari, to taste (high quality soy sauce)

In a large saucepan, bring the water and broth (except 1/4 cup) to a boil.

In a small bowl, combine the dill, sage, marjoram (or oregano), and rosemary.

In a large, heavy skillet, toast the rice and half the herbs over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the rice is a shade darket (about 5 minutes).

When liquid comes to a boil, add the toasted sunflower seeds and the toasted rice-and-herb mixture.  Cover, lower the heat, and simmer until all of the liquid is absorbed, about 40 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let stand covered about 10 minutes.

Add the reserved 1/4 cup of vegetable stock, garlic, and Bragg Amino Acid (or tamari or soy sauce).  Cook covered over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are tender and heated through (7-10 minutes).

Add to the cooked rice, stir, and serve immediately.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Zesty Cous Cous with Black Beans and Carrots

Zesty Cous Cous with Black Beans and Carrots

About 60 cents/serving when ORGANIC.  Salad additional.
Serves 3-4
Vegetarian and Vegan as written.
For a Gluten-free option, replace cous cous with quinoa or rice.

1-1/4 cup vegetable broth (increase to 2 cups for gluten-free)
1 cup whole grain cous cous (replace with rice or quinoa for gluten-free)
15-ounce can of black beans, rinsed (or 6 oz. dried, soaked overnight, and boiled 1 hour)

1 cup carrots, finely diced
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

In a large saucepan, combine the seasonings and broth.  Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat.  Stir in the cous cous, followed by the beans and carrots.  Let sit, covered, for about 10 minutes.  Serve with a salad that has lots of crisp greens.

Gluten-free Instructions:
Pre-cook the rice or quinoa with vegetable broth.  When cooked, combine with all other ingredients.  Serve with crisp salad.

Source: Recipes for Healthy Bliss: Using NatureFoods and Lifestyle Choices to Rejuvinate Your Body and Life, by Susan Smith Jones, Ph.D.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Spinach Pie

As my friend Lisa recently put it, "Sandi", she said,"You need to start writing your food blog again.  You are really letting that slide".  She's right.  I'll admit it.  So I'm back.  Thank you for the kick in the butt, Lisa!

Spinach Pie

Vegetarian, as written.  Filling is vegan and gluten-free, but be careful about the crust you choose as it may not be.  About 75 cents/serving. (6 servings)

10-ounce box frozen spinach (defrosted and drained)
1 & 1/2 cups onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons oil
3 cups crumbled tofu (if silken) or finely diced (if firm)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (adjust to taste)
Salt and pepper
1 pre-made pie crust (frozen OK)

Pre-heat overn to 350 degrees. 

Cook spinach according to package directions (drain well).  Saute onion and add garlic in a large pot over medium heatfor 3 minutes.  Ad spinach, tofu, lemon juice, and seasoning.  Continue cooking fo 5 minutes.

Pour mixture into pie crust. 

Bake for 15-20 minutes until crust is brown.

Source: Meatless Meals for Working People: Quick and Easy Vegetarian Recipes by Debra Wasserman & Charles Stahler, 1998.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Stuffed Rice Balls (Arancini)

OK.  This was a HUGE hit the two times I served it this month.  So, by popular demand, this recipe is about to be blogged.

It's messy, it's time consuming, and it's a hassle - I'll be honest.  But if you want something that your 2 year old and your 87-year old grandmother will both rave about this is a 100% guranteed crowd pleaser.

Arancini (Stuffed Rice Balls)
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup pecorino or parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsely
  • 2 tablespoons salami, finely chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 3/4 cup finely ground bread crumbs
  • Olive oil (for frying)
In a large saucepan over high heat, add stock or water.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Add rice and salt, and stir.  Cover, lower heat, and simmer for 15 to 17 minutes or until rice is tender but not mushy.  Remove from heat, mix, and let air dry, uncovered, for 5 minutes.  Add the pecorino or parmesan cheese, parsely, salami and one egg.  Set mixture aside until it is cool enough to handle.

In a medium-sized bowl, add remaining egg and water and beat well.  Put breadcrumbs in a separate flat dish.

Using a small scoop or measuring spoon, place 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of rice into the palm of one hand.  Roll into a ball.  Press thumb into the center and tuck in a square of cheese.  Roll to seal cheese securely.  If rice is too sticky, dredge hands with flour before forming ball.  Put rice ball on a cookie sheet and repeat process until rice is all used up.

Roll each rice ball in the egg bath and then in the bread crumbs and return to cookie sheet.  Repeat until all are coated.

In a large heavy skillet, over medium-high heat, add about 1 inch of olive oil.  It is ready when the surface of the oil shimmers.  Fry the rice balls a few at a time; do not crowd the pan.  Turn constantly and cook until golden brown, about 1-1/2 to 2 minutes.  Do not leave unattended.  Drain on a paper towel and serve hot or warm.

Recipe source: Cucina di Calabria: Treasured Recipes and Family Traditions from Southern Italy, Mary Amabile Palmer.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

Wow.  Chocolate and Olive Oil really do go together.  I didn't believe it at first either, but wow.

I'm most excited to discover this recipe because it takes longer to grease and flour the pans than it does to assemble the batter.  Awesome!  This cake freezes well (unfrosted).

About 25 cents per serving: Vegetarian

Torta di Ciccolata all' Olio d'Oliva

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (organic, if possible)
  • 2 cups sugar (organic & unbleached, if possible)
  • 6 tablespoons cocoa (high quality)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (high quality)
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups cold water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans (or springform pans) and set aside.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

With a hand mixer on slow speed, beat in the wet ingredients until smooth.

Pour equally into prepared pans.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted inside comes out clean.  Do not overbake.  The cake should be firm to the touch.

Place the cake pans on a cooling rack and cool for 15-20 minutes, then remove the cakes from the pans to cool completely.


Idea 1: You could whip together 16 ounces of cream cheese (at room temperature) with 3-4 cups of confectioners sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon oil (or 1 tablespoon almond extract).  Frost.

Idea 2: Serve torte-style with raspberry jam.

Idea 3: Serve torte-style with plain yogurt and seasonal berries (or ice cream).

Recipe Source: Ciao Italia in Umbria: Recipes and Reflections from the Heart of Italy, Mary Ann Esposito (2002).

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Chicken Cacciatore

Last night we were celebrating the Feast of St. Joseph, and as it was a feast day we broke from our "No Meat During Lent" fast.  This recipe was hands-down everyone's favorite dish.  It is typical of peasant food from southern Italy -inexpensive, simple, and delicious!

We served it over polenta*.

Chicken Cacciatore
Serves 4-6 in 30 minutes

Gluten-free: Roughly $2 per person if you use chicken breast, less expensive if you use thigh meat.
  • 2 tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, or more
  • 6 boned chicken breast halves, cut into 2-inch-wide strips
  • 1 onion, peeled and minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 ribs celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium green pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 1 28-ounce can tomatoes
  • Juice of 1 lemon
Combine the salt, celery seeds, oregano, pepper, and pepper flakes in a plastic bag. Add the chicken strips, close the bag and shake to coat them in the mixture.

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan large enough to hold the breast strips in a single layer. If you don't have a large enough pan, brown them in batches.

As they brown, transfer them to a dish. Add the onion, garlic, celery and green pepper to the pan and cook until the mixture softens.

Raise the heat to high and pour in the wine and allow most of it to evaporate. Lower the heat and stir in the tomatoes and lemon juice. Return the chicken strips with their juices to the pan. Cover and simmer the mixture for 15 minutes. Use immediately or refrigerate. Reheat slowly.  Serve over polenta.

*Polenta instructions:  Bring 4 cups of low-sodium vegetable broth to a boil.  In a steady stream, slowly pour in one cup of polenta (cornmeal).  Continue stirring briskly until polenta grians start to swell - about 3 or 4 minutes.  Stir often, finished in 15 minutes.

From Ciao Italia Pronto!: 30-Minute Recipes from an Italian Kitchen, by Mary Ann Esposito (2005).

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Homemade Yogurt Demystified

When I lived at a Co-op in Berkely, I was terrified by the concept of homemade yogurt.  "What do they mean they let the milk ferment and incubate?  How can that be safe?", I thought to myself.

After a month of not seeing my housemates keel over, I worked up the courage to try it.


Now that DH and I are settled into our condo, I finally decided to try it for myself.  I take the basic process from Simply in Season, page 322.

Homemade Yogurt

Difficulty Level: Can you boil water?  Then you can make yogurt.  SUPER EASY. 

Equipment Needed:
  • 1-quart thermos dedicate to yogurt making (do not use for anything else)
  • Pot large enough to hold 1-quart of milk
  • A digital food thermometer (you should have one of these anyway - go get one!)
  • Cheese bag, fine cheese cloth, or coffee filters (optional)
  • Funnel (optional, but very helpful)
  • 1-quart of good quality milk (organic is best, raw milk is great if you can find it)
  • 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt with active cultures (called the 'starter')*
The whole yogurt making process is very basic.  Yogurt has good bacteria inside - active cultures, probiotics, whatever label you give them they are simply a healthy-for-you live bacteria.  In making yougurt, simply put you are going to create a breeding ground for these good bacteria. 

Choose a starter yogurt you like and want to re-create.  Do not start with a low-fat or fat-free yogurt, and make sure it has active cultures (the label will say this).  Use plain yogurt only.

Step 1
Fill the pot with 1-quart of water.  Bring to a boil.  When boiling, using a funnel pour the boiling water into the 1-quart thermos and close.  This serves two purposes.  First, it serilizes the pot and thermos so only the good bacteria (which you introduce with the starter) will grow.  Second, it heats up the thermos so that it maintains the proper incubation temperature for the yogurt.  If you are going to use a funnel to add the yogurt later, make sure you use it with the boiling water so it becomes sterile.

Step 2 (can do this while waiting for water to boil in Step 1)
Reserve two tablespoons of the starter yogurt. Take the rest of the starter yogurt and put 2 tablespoons at a time into the sections of an ice tray. Freeze. When frozen, take the individual yogurt-cubes and put them all in a ziplock bag (or other freezer-safe container) and return to freezer.  You can use these to start yogurt batches later.  Making yogurt requires the introduction of live cultures.  While you can buy live cultures through mail order, the easiest and cheapest way is just to start with another yogurt container.  Once you have your own production up and running, you can reserve some of your own yogurt as the next starter.

Step 3
In the now-empty pot, pour in 1 quart of milk.  Turn up heat to medium-high.  Stir with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom while it is heating.  Scald the milk (that is, bring it to a point where bubbles form around the edges but it is not quite boiling.  Temperature should be 180 degrees.  Any hotter, and it will burn to the bottom of the pan.)  Remove from heat.  This kills any bad bacteria that may be lurking.  Because of this step, it is safe to use raw milk for yogurt making since you are pasturizing it yourself.

Step 4
Let the milk cool to 105-110 degrees.  Add the reserved yogurt 'starter' and stir.  Pour the boiling water out of the thermos, and using a funnel pour the milk/starter mixture in.  Close tightly and shake a couple of times.  Walk away for 6 hours and do not disturb the thermos in this time.

Step 5
After 6 hours, PRESTO - you made yogurt!  Open and pour into a bowl to let it cool before putting in the fridge. 

Immediately rinse the thermos with very hot water until clean.  It is normal to see some yogurt stubbornly sticking to the side of the thermos so cleaning it immediately is critical.  NEVER use soap in this thermos as soap residue may interfere with the good bacteria growth.  You will sterilize it with boiling water every time you make yogurt so it will be safe.

Step 6 (Optional)
The yogurt you buy in the store is very thick because gelatin is added.  Your homemade yogurt will be runny, but you can easily thicken it up yourself.  Pour the entire batch of yogurt into a cheese bag or into a collander lined with fine cheesecloth or large coffee filters.  Let it drain for about an hour.  It will be much thicker when you are done.  You can reserve the liquid that drains off (the whey) and use it to bake bread.  It's full of protien and will add a nice sourdough-like tang!

Flavoring the Yogurt
One of the nicest things about plain yogurt is that you can flavor it however you like!  My DH and I perfer different things.  He eats it plain with his homemade granola, I like it with honey and blueberries. I've seen people add boysenberry syrup, maple syrup, strawberries, all kinds of flavors!  It's up to you!  You can flavor the entire batch, or flavor it a little at a time for variety.  Whatever you choose - ENJOY!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Chickpea Curry with Fresh Dill Leaves served with Marathi Yellow Fried Rice

Whew!  That's a long title. 

This dish consited of two parts.  One: the curry itself and Two: the flavorful rice it is served over.

I made the rice first.  Let me tell you, this was hands down the most deliscious rice I have ever eaten in my entire life!  I am serious.  I didn;t want to waste my time making the curry, but since I figured we needed the protien from the chick peas I went ahead and finished cooking.

The curry is good, a strong dill flavor that I liked, but the original recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of cayanne.  This was too much!  It is not that the cayanne made the dish to hot, rather the heat from the cayanne did not mesh well with the dill.  In my version below I am halving the cayanne, but I think you could omit it completely if you like.

Chickpea Curry with Fresh Dill Leaves
Serves 4 in 20 minutes

$1.50 per serving: Vegan, Vegetarian, and Gluten-free

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil

  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)

  • 1/2 teaspoon cayanne

  • 1 teaspoon ground corriander

  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (about 2 large cloves)

  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root (about a 2-inch piece)

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric

  • 1 medium tomato, finely chopped (or a 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained)

  • 3 cups finely chopped fresh dill including stalks (about 2 bunches)

  • One 15.5 ounce can low-sodium chick peas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed

  • 1/4 cup water

  • 1 teaspoon salt
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and saute the onion over medium heat until it has softened, about 5 minutes.  Add all the spices (except salt) and stir for 3 to 4 minutes.  Mix in the tomato and cook until it is soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the dill, chickpeas, water and salt.  Simmer until the dill is soft and tender, about 5 to 8 minutes.  Serve warm, over rice.

Marathi Yellow Fried Rice
Serves 4 in 15 minutes

$0.50 per serving: Vegan, Vegetarian, and Gluten-Free 

  • 1/4 cup canola oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

  • 2 medium green serrano chilies, sliced into 1/8-inch thick rounds

  • 1 medium red onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 1 1/2 cups)

  • 1/2 tespoon ground tumeric

  • 5 cups cooked white rice, pre-cooked and at room temperature

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 teaspoon salt*

  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

  • 1/4 cup tightly packed cilantro leaves, minced (optional)
*Use leftover rice.  If you salted the rice when you originally made it, use 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.  If not, use 2 1/2 teaspoons salt.

Heat the oil in a large wok over high heat.  When the oil begins to smoke, add the mustard seeds and cover the pan immediately.  After the seeds have stopped sputtering, add the chilies.  When the chilies are toasted, add the onion and stri-fry until the onion is golden around the edges.  Add the turmeric, stir well, and take off the heat.

Add the rice, lemon juice, salt, and sugar to the pan, and toss until all the ingredients are yellow.  

Return the wok to low heat, cover, and steam until the flavors have blended, about 5 minutes.  Garnish with cilantro, if desired.

Both recipes are from 5 Spices, 50 Dishes by Ruta Kahate.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pasta with Garlic and Olive Oil (Spaghetti Aglio e Olio)

A filling dinner in 10 minutes for 25 cents/serving!

I have made two versions of Spaghetti Aglio e Olio.  Both are delicious, super-cheap, and very filling.

The first version is the one we served last night, by Lidia Bastianich.  She was kind enough to post it on her Facebook Fan Page a few weeks ago.  This recipe follows below.

The second version is by another PBS chef, Mary Ann Esposito (another specialist in rustic Italian cooking).  I own her book Ciao Italia in Umbria, and later this month I shall attempt its recipe for Mezzalune (Almond Crescent Cookies).  Tragically, I have lost my copy of her version of Spagetti Aglio e Olio, but I hope it is coming in the copy of Ciao Italia! I just ordered.  As soon as I am reumited with Mary Ann's version, I will be sure to share it!  UPDATE: I found a link to Mary Ann's version of the recipe here.

The primary difference between these versions is the amount of garlic used. 

I never thought I would say this, but Lidia's version almost has too much garlic!  It may be that I used especially strong garlic, but it was a lot to handle.  You can try this version as-is, or reduce the garlic by about 25-50%.

Spaghettini with Garlic and Olive Oil
Serves 6 as a main dish, or 8 as a side dish
Time to prepare: 10 minutes

$0.25 per serving: Vegan (omit cheese)
$0.50 per serving: Vegetarian (include cheese)
$2.00 per serving: gluten-free (make the sauce as described below, saute chicken breast in the sauce then serve over polenta)

  • Salt

  • 1 pound spaghettini or vermicelli* (nothing thicker than spaghetti)

  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 10 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

  • 1/2 teaspoon (or more to taste) crushed red pepper

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley (MUST be fresh)

  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or Pecorino Romano (optional)

  • Gluten-free only: one pound boneless chicken breast and cooked polenta
*Spaghettini is very similar to vermicelli, and both are somewhere between cappellini and spaghetti when it comes to thickness. Because they cook quickly, it’s best to remove them from the boiling water when they are still undercooked, and to let them finish cooking in the sauce. Lidia finds this pasta very delicate but zesty and wouldn’t serve it with cheese. But if you love cheese in your pasta, have it.

Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat. Stir the spaghettini into the boiling water. Return to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until tender, but still very firm, about 6 minutes.  Gluten-free: start cooking polenta instead.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, shaking the skillet and stirring, until pale golden, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper.

Ladle about 1 ½ cups of the pasta cooking water into the sauce (gluten-free: add 3/4 cup hot tap water instead). Add the parsley, the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and salt to taste.

Gluten-free: skip to alternate last step, below.

If the skillet is large enough to accommodate the sauce and pasta, fish the pasta out of the boiling water with a large wire skimmer and drop it directly into the sauce in the skillet. If not, drain the pasta, return it to the pot and pour in the sauce. Bring the sauce and pasta to a simmer, tossing to coat with sauce. Cook until the pasta is coated with the sauce and done, about 1 minute. Remove the pot from the heat and toss in the grated cheese, if using. Check the seasoning, adding salt and crushed red pepper if necessary. Serve immediately in warm bowls.

Gluten-free last step: Cut the boneless, skinless chicken breast into 1-inch cubes.  Add to the sauce, and saute over medium heat until fully cooked.  Serve the chicken over polenta and serve imemdiately.

Squash with Bulgar Pilaf 2/28

This dish is my tastiest new discovery this year!  It is packed with flavor and is the perfect dish to warm you up on a cold night.

Squash with Bulgar Pilaf

Cooking time: About 45 minutes, maybe less
Makes about 2 quarts (12 Servings)
This will freeze very nicely - make it once and serve it twice!

$0.77 per serving: Vegan (omit yogurt topping and use olive oil)
$0.90 per serving: Vegetarian
$0.90 per serving: Gluten-free (replace bulgar with rice)

For purely organic incredients, add 25 cents per serving.
  • 1 large butternut squash or equivalently sized pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onions plus 3 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil plus 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 fresh New Mexico chili, seeded and finely diced (about 1/3 cup)*
  • 3/4 pounds cherry tomatoes (or a 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes)
  • 2 teaspoons dried red pepper flakes
  • Salt, to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 3/4 cups bulgar wheat (for gluten-free, use rice instead)
  • 3 cups plain yogurt, drained to 2 cups* (omit for vegan)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic
Peel the squash/pumpkin and cut the flesh into 1-inch chunks.  You should have about 2 quarts (8 cups).  This can be done ahead to save time (I pumpkin that I had roasted and frozen in the fall).

In a deep skillet, heat 4 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat.  Add the 3 sliced onions (reserve the copped onions for later) and saute until golden and crisp (about 8-10 minutes).  Drain and set aside.

In the same skillet, add 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil and the chopped onions.  Stir to coat.  "Sweat" the onions over medium-high heat for 2 minutes.  Add the cubed squash and cook, stirring it to lightly sear it on all sides, for 2 minutes.

Add the chili, tomatoes, crushed red pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and 1 cup water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, partially cover, and cook for 15 minutes.

While the squash/pumpkin mixture is boiling, bring vegetable stock to a boil.  Add bulgar (Gluten-free: replace with equivalent rice), cover the pan, and simmer over very low heat for 15-20 minutes until liquid is fully absorbed.

Add the bulgar/rice to the pumpkin mixture and mix gently but thouroughly.  Let it rest for at least 10 minutes so the grain absorbs some of the juices.

Serve the pilaf topped with yogurt and the sauted onion slices.

Adapted from Mediterranean Cooking, by Paula Wolfert (1994).

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cauliflower Pumpkin Pasta 2/25

Yumm-o.  Rachael Ray doesn't focus on vegetarian recipes, but some really great ones can be found in her cookbooks, including this one!

This pasta has an unusual combination of flavors, and it works very well.  The fresh sage really stands out.  If you wanted to serve this as a side dish I think the flavors would blend beautifully with rosemary roasted chicken.  You could also add sausage for a heartier meal.

Pumpkin is packed with carotenoids (as are carrots - that's why they are orange), lutein and zeaxanthin which all attack free radicals (nasty molecules that can attack cell membranes and leave the cells vulnerable to damage).  Lutein and zeaxanthin scavenge free radicals in the lens of the eye, which may help prevent the formation of cataracts and reduce the risk of macular degeneration, a serious eye problem than usually results in blindness.  You can learn more about the benefits of pumpkins here.

In short, pumpkins are very, very good for you.
Cauliflower Pumpkin Pasta
Serves 4 in under 30 minutes.
$1.00 per serving: Vegetarian or Gluten Free (if served over polenta)

  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves, chopped

  • 1 large head cauliflower

  • 1 cup vegetable stock

  • Salt, to taste

  • 1/2 pound cavatappi (hollow corkscrew pasta) or other shaped pasta (replace with cooked polenta for gluten free)

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree* (found on baking aisle, careful NOT to get pie filling)

  • 1/4 cream or half-and-half

  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (grate your own and avoid a shake jar if possible)

  • A dash of ground nutmeg

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • 3 tablespoons fresh sage leaves (dry will NOT work at all, get the fresh)
Preheat a large skillet (one with a tight fitting lid) over medium heat.  Add the oil and garlic and cook for 1 munite.  Add the cauliflower and turn to coat in oil.  Add the vegetable stock and bring up to a boil.  Place the lid on the pan and simmer the cauliflower for 15 minutes, or until very tender.

Place a pot of water on to boil for the pasta, when boiling add some salt to the water for seasoning and add pasta.  Or, start the polenta, for gluten free.
When the pasta is cooked and the cauliflower florets are very tender, remove the lid from the cauliflower and stir in the pumpkin puree and cream.  Heat through, then drain off the pasta and add it to the cauliflower and pumpkin.  Add the cheese, nutmeg, pepper, and sage.  Toss, then season with salt to taste.  Serve with extra cheese to pass at the table with a salad on the side.
Gluten-free last step: complete all the same steps above, except do not toss together.  Serve the sauce over the finished polenta.  You might want to add a little sage and parmesan cheese to the polenta while it is cooking so the flavors blend.
Adapted from 30-Minute Get Real Meals, by Rachael Ray (2005).
NOTE: I had my leftovers topped with ricotta cheese and that was AWESOME.

*We bought a 25+ pound pumpkin back in November and tokk a few hours one Saturday to process it into puree and roasted pumpkin squares.  This one pumpkin yielded over 30 cups of pumpkin!  To make homemade puree, peel the pumpkin and remove seeds.  Cut into 1 inch cubes.  Put on a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and toss.  Roast in a 350 degree oven for about 20 mnnutes, check regularly until it is cooked through.  Let it cool.  Freeze as is (for 1 inch cubes) or puree in a cuisinart until a desired texture is achieved.  As it is, unseasoned, this is the perfect baby food!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Adas be Sabanekh, Lentils with Spinach and Lemon 2/24

This is a refreshing change of pace from standard winter fare - the lemon finish makes this so tasty I guarantee you will eat at least two bowls. It might even be possible that you can even get you children to eat spinach this way!  Maybe...

This is filling by itself, but you can serve it over rice for a more substantial meal. This recipe is of Lebanese origin.

Adas be Sabanekh (Lentils with Spinach and Lemon)
Serves 6.

$0.83 per serving: Vegan, Vegetarian, and Gluten-free
Organic, add $0.25 per serving
  • 1/2 pound lentils
  • 1 cup sliced onion
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled & finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh corriander (cilantro)
  • 10 ounces frozen spinach leaves*, completely thawed, drained, and roughly chopped
  • 2 medium waxy potatoes, peeled & sliced
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste
*I prefer fresh spinach but I don't buy pre-washed bagged spinach because of the nasty chemicals they use to wash it. To easily and effectively wash your own fill a sink or tub with cold water, float the spinach in the water & mix up slightly, come back in 10 minutes and the sand/grit should have all fallen to the bottom!
  1. Wash and pick over the lentil. Place in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Cook, covered, anbout 20 minutes. Add water if needed so the lentils stay covered!
  2. Meanwhile, brown the onion in a large casserole. Stir in the garlic and corriander. Add the spinach and saute 5 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the potatoes, lentils, and enough lentil cooking liquid to cover (for more broth, add more tap water). Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and cook at a simmer until potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. For a thicker, more stew-like consistancy, you can simmer up to one hour.
  4. Immediately before serving, stir in the lemon juice. Taste and, if needed, add more salt and ground black pepper.
Adapted from Mediterranean Cooking, by Paula Wolfert (1994).

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Vegan Chili and Cornbread 2/23

You don't need a slow cooker for this wonderful and easy chili. You just need to remember to start the beans early. This is not a very hot chili, rather it is rich and tomoato-flavored. The bulgar gives a texture very similar to ground beef.

Chili is vegan and vegetarian. Follow Alternate Step #2 to make it gluten-free.

Estimated Chili cost is $1.23 per serving with purely organic ingredients, or $1.00 per serving non-organic.

Cornbread recipe below is vegetarian, estimated cost is $0.35/slice (yields 9 slices).

I found a promising vegan cornbread recipe here and a gluten-free variation here, but I have not tried these (yet).

Vegan Chili (Cornbread follows below)
Serves 6.

  • 2 1/2 cups dry kidney beans, soaked at least 8 hours
  • 1 cup tomato juice
  • 1 cup uncooked bulgar wheat
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 6 to 8 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 2 teaspoons each of cumin, basil, and chili powder (more, to taste)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt (more, to taste)
  • black pepper and cayanne, to taste
  • 1 medium bell pepper, chopped*
  • 1 can tomatoes (about 15 ounces)
  • 3 tablespoons tomoato paste (1/2 a small can**)
Optional toppings
  • Finely minced presh parsley or cilantro
  • Grated cheese (cheddar is best)
  1. Place the soaked beans in a large heavy pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Partially cover, turn heat down to a simmer, and cook until tender (about 1 1/4 hours). Add water as needed to beans stay covered. When done, drain off excess water and set beans aside. ALTERNATE: If you have one, and are not afraid to use it, cook beans in a pressure cooker instead for exactly 12 minutes (start timing only when fully pressurized).
  2. Heat the tomato juice to boiling. Add it to the bulgar in a small bowl, cover, and let stand for 15 minutes. Add this to the cooked beans.
    ALTERNATE: For gluten-free version, replace barley with 2/3 cup quinoa (rinse it first). Add 1 cup water with the tomato juice. Simmer for 15 minutes (will need to cook longer than barley).
  3. Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized skillet. Add onion, half the garlic, carrot, celery, and seasonings. Saute until all the vegetables are tender.
  4. Add the sauteed vegetables, tomatoes (with their juice), and tomato paste to the beans. Simmer over lowest possible heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes or longer. After about 15 minutes, add remaining garlic. Taste to adjust seasonings, and serve hot. Don't forget to add your toppings!
Adapted (very slightly) from Moosewood Cookbook, by Mollie Katzen (1992 Revised Edition).


*Since bell peppers are out of season I used jarred Roasted Red Peppers, from Trader Joe's.

**NEVER ever store unused tomato paste in it's metal can after opening. Instead, spoon 1 tablespoon at a time onto a small square of plastic wrap, wrap up, take all the little tomato paste pockets and scoop them into one freezer storage bag then freeze until you need later.

CornbreadYields 9 slices.

I like my cornbread quite moist and just a little sweet. I have tried many versions, this is my favorite.
  • Butter for greasing the pan
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch square pan (or a 9- or 10-inch cast iron skillet) with butter.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Combine the wet ingredients (including honey) separately. Stir the wet mixture into the dry, mixing just enough to thoroughly combine. Spread into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the center is firm to the touch. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.
Adapted (very slightly) from Moosewood Cookbook, by Mollie Katzen (1992 Revised Edition).

Onion & Egg Yogurt Egg Curry 2/22

Onion and Egg Yogurt Curry
Served with brown rice and broccoli
  • Serves 4
  • 20 minutes
    (excludes time cooking hard boiled eggs, which can be done ahead)
Note: I used organic ingredients including cage-free organic eggs, this added 75 cents per serving to my costs.

$0.74 per serving: Vegetarian and Gluten-free
$1.20 per serving: Vegan (substitue firm tofu for egg)

If you aren't used to cooking curries, this may be a very easy one to start with. It is super yummy, with a nice spicy kick. All the spices used are readily available in most supermarkets now.
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons corriander seed, finely ground
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 2 closes garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cayanne pepper
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (whole or low-fat), whisked
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar (vegan-omit or substitute turbinado or agave)
  • 8 large eggs, hard boiled*, peeled and cut in half
*I had to look up the hard boil process, so I will share it (forgive me if like most people you already know how to do this simple process). Put the eggs in a pan, cover with water about an inch over the top of them, bring eggs and water to a boil together, turn heat off when they reach a boil, come back in 10 minutes.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and saute the onion until it turns very dark brown (carmelizing the onion this way adds a sweet, nutty flavor).

Add the spices (exept salt and sugar) and stir constantly over medium heat until the mixture turns golden brown, about 3 minutes. This will happen quickly so be careful it doesn't burn.

Whisking constantly, add the yogurt into the onion mixture. Turn the heat down to low and simmer until the yogurt thickens and the oil separates and begins to float on top. Add the water, salt, and sugar and bring to a boil again, then turn the heat down to a simmer.

Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet over medium heat, add the remaining tablespoon of oil, and place the eggs (cut side down) in the pan. When they brown slightly, turn them over and repeat on the other side. This step helps seal the yolks in so they don't fall out in the curry later. Vegans - do the same with firm tofu instead.

Add the browned eggs (or tofu) to the curry sauce and simmer for an additional minute to heat through. Serve immediately over rice.

Source: 5 Spices, 50 Dishes: Simple Indian Recipes Using Five Common Ingredients, by Ruta Kahate (2007)