Saturday, January 30, 2010

Veggie Quesadillas 1/28/2010

So this was one of those nights that I was feeling super-lazy at dinner time.

This dinner took about 10 minutes from start to finish. It's a Sandi original - not from a cook book!

It's interesting to note this costs about twice what my dinners usually do - I guess it pays (literally) to plan ahead and not be lazy.

Vegetarian Quesadillas

$2.25 each quesadilla: Vegetarian
$2.25 each quesadilla: Gluten-free (replace flour tortilla with corn)

  • 4 flour tortillas
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1 roasted red pepper, chopped large (I use jarred from Trader Joe's)
  • 1 small onion, chopped large
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup sliced jalepenos (I used jarred, fresh taste better)
  • Neutral oil (canola or safflower - don't use olive oil)

Add 1 tablespoon oil to a skillet, and warm it over medium heat.

When the oil is ready, add the onions. Cook, stirring, until translucent. Add the jalepenos, garlic, and red peppers and cook until warmed through (if using raw jalepenos, add them when you start to cook the onions instead).

Remove from skillet and set aside.

Add another 1-2 tablespoon of oil the skillet. Place one tortilla in the skillet. Layer 1/4 cup cheese, half the pepper mixture, another 1/4 cup cheese, and top with a 2nd tortilla.

Let cook for 2-3 minutes until tortilla is lightly browned. CAREFULLY flip over (trial and error will teach you the best method). Cook for another 1-2 minutes on this side and remove to a plate.

Cut into quarters. Garnish as you like! I use sour cream and cilantro. David likes hot sauce. In the summer guacamole is a must!


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Liberian Pumpkin 1/27/10

You may have noticed a recent trend of pumpkin recipes.

This is not because I believe the Charlie Brown's Halloween special with the Great Pumpkin changed my life (though it did - a true masterpiece). This is because DH and I bought an ENORMOUS "Fairy Tale" pumpkin at our local produce store ( in Nov. They were clearing these babies out - I think we paid 39 cents/pound! This one pumpkin could easily have weighed 25 pounds.

I now have 22 cups of pumpkin puree in the freezer (literally), and another 5 cups of cubed pumpkin (roasted before frozen). This doesn't account for the additional 6 cups of pumpkin I used in recipes this week!

Good thing 1) we really like pumpkin and 2) pumpkin is super healthy - full of anti-oxidants and beta-carotene!

Liberian Pumpkin 1/27/2010
Serves 4

$1.27 per person: Gluten-free (I don't have vegan or vegetarian option)
  • 2-3 cups pumpkin or butternut squash (peeled & chopped in 1-inch pieces)
  • 1 onion, organic (chopped)
  • hot chili peppers (chopped) or hot pepper sauce to taste (SEE NOTE)

In a large saucepan, sautee in 2 tablespoons oil until onion is translucent. Cover and cook until pumpkin is cooked, 10 minutes.

  • 1 cup chicken, beef, or vegetable broth

Add and cook for 10 minutes.

  • 1 cup browned sausage

Add and cook uncovered until liquid is absorbed. Serve with rice or noodles.

OK - so we ignored the instructions and served with polenta. Oops!

NOTE: I added a small can can of diced chilies, one chopped jalepeno pepper, and I finished with a couple dashed of hot sauce. This was a weeeee bit too hot. I recommend trying either diced chilies or hto sauce (but not both).

Recipe from Simply in Season, page 213.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Home-made Gnocchi with Home-made Marinara Sauce 1/26/10

Happy Birthday to me!
I'm not cooking tonight...

For those nights when I'm just not going to cook, I always try to have instant dinners stored in the freezer.

Tonight is one of those nights!

A really fun (seriously!) weekend project is making home-made gnocchi. Preparing the dough is actually very fast, it just takes a while to shape the pasta. But this is soooooooo easy to do, you can get spouses and kids involved! This can be a fun and productive way to spend time together as a family.

$0.55 per portion: Gnocchi and Marinara combined (vegetarian)

I use Lidia Bastianich's gnocchi recipe, and I wouldn't dare alter it. For that reason I am giving you the link direct to her site.

This is a vegetarian dough, but as it contains egg and flour I do not have a vegan or gluten-free option for tonight. Sorry!

The cost per person for home-made, organic gnocchi is probably about $0.30!

If you are going to take the time to make this recipe, do yourself a favor and make a triple batch. You can freeze in dinner-sized batches so you make a few meals ahead at once!

I garnished with a dollop of Ricotta Cheese and Fresh Basil, steamed chard is on the side with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

Here is a really good hint: First freeze the gnocchi in a single layer on a cookie sheet (about 15 minutes per batch). After the gnocchi are individually frozen, then scoop them together into Tupperware or Ziploc freezer bags and put back in the freezer. If you don't freeze in a single layer first you get a gloopy mess when you cook them later. This freezing trick works great for berries, too!

To cook when frozen or fresh: Drop gnocchi into a pot of water at a rolling boil. When the gnocchi float to the top, they are done: it takes about 1-2 minutes. Do not thaw gnocchi, cook immediately from a fresh or frozen state only. Do not overcrowd the pot, either.

Here is the recipe for Lidia's Home-made sauce (or gravy, if you prefer):

Marinara Sauce 1/26/10

Makes about 1 quart, enough to dress 6 servings of pasta.

$0.25 per serving: Vegan, Vegetarian, and Gluten-Free

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • One 35-ounce can crushed Italian plum tomatoes (San Marzano, if possible)

  • 8 cloves of garlic, peeled

  • Salt to taste

  • Crushed red pepper to taste

  • 10 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
Heat the oil in a 2- to 3-quart non-reactive saucepan over medium heat. Whack the garlic with the flat side of the knife, add it to the oil, and cook until lightly browned on both sides (about 2 minutes).

Carefully slide the tomatoes and their liquid into the oil. Bring to a boil and season lightly with salt and crushed red pepper. Lower the heat so the sauce is at a lively simmer and cook, breaking-up the tomatoes/garlic with a whisk or a spoon, until the sauce is chunky and thick, about 20 minutes. Stir in the basil about 5 minutes before the sauce is finished. Taste the sauce and season again (to taste) with salt and red pepper if necessary.

NOTES: It does not take any longer to cook a triple batch than it does to cook a single batch, so I ALWAYS triple the recipe. Then I freeze the extra sauce into 2-cup portions in the freezer. It freezes beautifully. In the summer, you can use fresh tomatoes but any other time of year use the canned for best flavor.

HELPFUL HINT: Where I live, Costco sells #10 cans of crushed and diced tomatoes for about $3 each. This is the main reason I only make triple batches, because then the sauce costs $1.00 per batch, or $0.25 cents per serving!

Both Recipes are from Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen, by Lidia Bastianich. Gnocchi is page 170, Marinara is page 150.

Monday, January 25, 2010

North African Pumpkin Stew 1/25/10

A harmless dish, but not very exciting.
This may have been the fault of my execution. I took a shortcut by using frozen, pre-cooked pumpkin so I only stewed it together for 5 minutes, instead of the 30 minutes called for. If I make this again, using pre-cooked pumpkin, I will probably increase the amount of spices. (I also tossed in some left-over cauliflower.)

North African Pumpkin Stew 1/25/10Serves 4.
Prep time: 15 minutes. Cooking time: 15 minutes. Total time: 30 minutes.

$1.19 per person: Vegetarian & Gluten-free as published.
$1.19 per person: Vegan (replace brown sugar with 1 tablespoon maple syrup)

  • 1 tablespoon safflower or canola oil

  • 1 large onion, cut into 1/2 inch dice (organic)

  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced

  • 1 or 2 small, fresh, hot chilies (seeded and chopped)

  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

  • Salt and pepper, to taste

  • 2 pounds cooking pumpkin, seeded, peeled, and cut into bite-sized cubes (about 5 cups)

  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar (organic)

  • 2 cups cooked kidney beans (organic, see note)

  • 2 cups cooked brown rice (organic)
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, cover, and cook until tender but not browned, about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic, chilies, ginger, cinnamon, cumin, allspice, and cloves, and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes.

Add the pumpkin and toss until evenly coated in the spices.

Add 1 cup of water, the brown sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

Add the beans, and cook until heated through, about 10 minutes.
Serve over brown rice.

NOTES: I generally use dried beans. They take up less storage space and are MUCH less expensive. One pound of soaked beans costs about 40 cents (organic). When is the last time you paid 40 cents/pound for meat as a protien source? Beans usually triple in size when soaked, so for 2 cups cooked beans soak 2/3 cup dried beans overnight. After soaking, simmer covered in water for 1 hour, or in a pressure cooker for 15 minutes. Cooking after soaking will help eliminate bean gas.

From Some Like it Hot: 200 Spicy Vegetarian Recipies from Around the World (1998), page 124.  While this particular recipe didn't excite us very much, it is a very good cookbook.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Apple Quinoa Salad 1/24/10

Quinoa (pronounced keen-whah) is an ancient grain that has been continually in the diet of people living in and around the Andes for over 6,000 years! These super-cute seeds are extremely high in protien (12-18%) and it is considered by many to be a complete proitien (i.e., it has a balanced set of essential amino acids).

This super-easy, super fast, super nutritious salad can be served as an entree or as a side dish. It makes a great lunch!

Apple Quinoa Salad 1/24/10
Serves 4 as a side dish.
Prep time: 10 minutes. Cooking time: 10-15 minutes. Total time: 20-25 minutes.

$1.00 per person: Vegetarian, Vegan, & Gluten-free

  • 1 cup quinoa, well rinsed

  • 2 cups water

  • 1/2 small red bell pepper, chopped (I used Trader Joe's roasted red pepper in a jar)

  • 1/3 cup red onion, chopped

  • 1/2 cup carrot, grated

  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (I used raw, organic, & unfiltered)

  • 2-3 tablespoons vegetable broth

  • Salt and pepper, to taste

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • 1 large organic apple, chopped (I forgot to buy aples, I used 2 small pears)
Combine the quinoa and water in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once the water boils, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, combine the red bell pepper, red onion, grated carrot, parsley, cider vinegar, vegetable broth, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and garlic.

Add to the cooled quinoa and stir to mix well. Add the chopped apples.

Recipe from Gluten-Free, Sugar Free Cooking by Susan O'Brien, page 150

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Mmmmm. Homemade Pizza! 1/23/10

Tonight is a classic - Homemade Pizza! Our toppings were mozzarella cheese, fire roasted red and yellow peppers (from Trader Joe's), fresh mushrooms, fresh basil, and dried oregano.

This is awesome - make the crust once and get enough crust for 2 pizzas!

Basic Pizza Dough
Serves 6 slices (per 12-inch pizza).
Prep time: 5 minutes. Rest time: 1 hour. Cooking time: 12-15 minutes.

Crust only = 3 Weight Watcher points per slice (assumes 6 slices per crust)

The following values are for the crust only (toppings not included).

$0.41 per slice: Vegetarian (given recipe is Vegetarian)
$0.41 per slice: Vegan (replace honey with agave syrup or turbinado sugar)

Sorry, I don't have a Gluten Free option!

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (105-115 degrees)

  • 1 tablespoon honey

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 2 1/2 teaspoon (1 packet) active dry yeast
Combine the water and honey. Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until foamy (under 5 minutes). Stir in the oil.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (unbleached & organic, if possible)

  • 1 1/4 cups wheat flour (organic, if possible)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (sea salt, if possible)
Stir flours and salt thoroughly.

Add the yeast/water mixture to the flour mixture and stir until combined. Knead slightly (only about 1 minute). Put in a bowl, cover with a towel, and let the dough rest in a warm area for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, punch the dough down (deflate) and cut in half. At this point you can freeze 1/2 the dough for later use (SEE NOTES).
Pre-heat your oven as hot as it can go without using the broiler (usually 450-500 degrees).

Put the pan/dish/tray you will use for cooking the pizza into the oven at this time as a hot pizza tray can help prevent sticking.


Take the remaining 1/2 of the dough and roll it our to a 12-inch round on a lightly floured surface.

To prevent sticking, sprinkle a handful of cornmeal on the pre-heated cookie sheet (or whatever you are cooking it on) then put the pizza onto the cooking surface.


Use whatever topings you like! Spread a thin layer of sauce, then your cheese (I like shredded Mozzarella, but good provolone is also VERY tasty), then your toppings. When ready, put the pizza on the lowest rack of your oven and cook for 12-15 miutes.

The pizza is ready when the cheese is fully melted and has a hint of brown.
Let the pizza rest for 5 minutes before slicing.


Notes: To freeze 1/2 the dough, wrap it twice with saran wrap or put it in a freezer Ziplock bag. When you are ready to use it later, defrost by putting wrapped dough in microwave on high for 30-45 seconds, then work the dough with your hands for a minute to re-mix and even out the temperature.

This pizza dough recipe is adapted from Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook (2006), page 300.

Pumpkin & Black Bean Burritos: 1/22/10

Whenever possible, we use organic ingredients. They taste better, and are better for you!

These are not typical Mexican flavors. The cinnamon makes you think of pumpkin pie! This could be a great way to trick you kids into eating fresh winter vegetables (hee hee hee!!!).

Pumpkin and Black Bean Burritos
serves 4.
Prep time: 15 minutes. Cooking time: 15 minutes. Total: 30 minutes.

$2.32 per person: Vegetarian
$1.00 per person : Vegan (If omit cheese)
$2.07 per person: Gluten Free (Replace tortillas with brown rice)

  • 3 cups pumpkin (peeled and chopped small)
  • 1/2 onion (chopped)
Saute in onions large frying pan in 1 tablespoon neutral oil (canola or sunflower) until they start to turn translucent, then add pumpkin and cook until just tender. Add water or apple juice as needed to prevent sticking.
  • 2 cups cooked black beans (see note below)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (sea salt if possible)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped very fine (optional)
Add and cook until heated through.
  • 1 large green onion (scallion) or 2 small
Chop fine and add, mix well. Remove from heat.
  • 8 flour tortillas or 2 cups cooked brown rice (gluten free)
Warm 4 tortillas at a time in microwave for 30 seconds per batch.
  • 1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese (omit for vegan)
Divide bean mixture and cheese among the tortillas and roll up. Garnish as desired (ideas: sour cream, more cilantro).

I always use dry black beans, as they are the least expensive and take up the least amount of storage, but canned black beans are OK too! If you use dried beans, soak 2/3 cup (4 oz.) beans overnight then simmer for 1 1/2 hours before adding to dish. If using canned black beans, rinse well then simmer for 30 minutes before adding to the dish.
You can substitute other winter squash, or even sweet potatoes, for the pumpkin. If you use sweet potatoes, start them cooking when you start the onions as they need longer to cook.

This is adapted from the "Black Bean & Sweet Potato Burritos" from Simply in Season, page 259.