Black Bean, Pineapple & Avocado Salad

I’ve been obsessed with black beans and pineapple lately. In the past couple of weeks we have had friends over a couple times, and both times I have made a delicious pineapple & black bean guacamole. Unfortunately I haven’t taken pictures either time, but I will make it again and get it on the blog soon! Another great pinterest find.

Since I found that recipe, I have been putting pineapple and black beans together more often. Since Ric is at work it’s just me for lunch today. I wanted something easy, so this is what I came up with. I don’t usually make a lot of salads, mainly because I think a really great salad has a lot of ingredients that I don’t usually have in the house or am too lazy to prepare. I love going to salad bars and having all kinds of things already chopped up and laid out before me. Those salads, I love. But the thought of doing all that prep work myself — bleh. No, thanks.

Fortunately this salad was easy to throw together, and I had everything I needed. It made for a big salad that filled me up. Exactly what I needed after splurging on pancakes for breakfast.

Black Bean, Pineapple, and Avocado Salad (1 Serving)
1/4 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 medium avocado, chopped
1/4 – 1/2 cup pineapple, chopped (put in as much as you want!)
1/4 cup salsa
1 Tbsp shredded cheese of your choice
Lettuce
A squeeze of lime juice
Dash of cumin

Toss everything together, and you’re done! What could be easier?

On another note, for anyone doing Weight Watchers, I have been doing it online for the past couple of months and it works great for me. I’ve found that I really need structure in all areas of my life — meals included. WW helps give me that structure, keep track of my eating, and make much healthier choices. All of that to say, I will now try to include the WW points plus value to my recipes. This filling salad is only 4 points! Hurrah!

I enjoyed mine with some fresh pineapple and watermelon.

Portobello Caprese Salad

Ric and I have spent the last couple of weeks getting settled in our new apartment. We are now officially residents of the northwest suburbs, which is kind of weird. It’s so different from the city. Sidewalks are a rare sight, which makes walking anywhere difficult. And Ric was used to biking to work every day, which is now much more difficult. These roads were not made to accommodate bikers. But, there are some lovely aspects of the ‘burbs as well.

1. It’s quiet. Like, really quiet. In the city, we would hear ambulances/police/fire trucks about every 5 minutes. I think maybe I’ve heard one in the two weeks we’ve lived here. It’s awesome.

2. We live right next to a big forest preserve, which is beautiful. Yesterday we biked about 6 miles of it, and it was so nice. I often felt claustrophobic in the city… I just need some nature in my life. And now I have it, right across the street.

3. We have a balcony at our new place, which we both love. It’s so nice to sit out there, and read or eat and enjoy the sunshine. One of the things we both really want one day is a garden, and while that’s not quite possible here, we made our own little garden with a balcony planter.

Isn’t it pretty? These little flowers make me so happy every time I look at them. In addition to the two kinds of flowers you see, we also planted basil, rosemary, cilantro, mint, and oregano. Yay! Our little basil plant is thriving.

I love basil so much. I could use it in everything. One of my favorite summer recipes is caprese salad: tomato, basil, fresh mozzarella, and a drizzle of olive oil & balsamic.

Yesterday Ric and I went to the farmers market and stocked up on tons of fresh veggies and fruits. We had some tomatoes and portobello mushrooms, so I decided to make a caprese salad with a twist. I give you portobello caprese salad. You’re welcome.

Ingredients:
Portobello mushrooms (small-medium size, 1 for each person)
Tomato, sliced
Fresh mozzarella (I can’t stress the importance of fresh enough, it makes a world of difference)
Fresh basil
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Fresh ground pepper

Preheat your oven to 350°, then get your mushrooms cleaned. Run them under the faucet making sure to clean off any dirt.

Now cut off the stems, take a spoon and scrape out the gills. You can skip this step if you want, but I would recommend it. Sometimes there might be dirt hiding in the gills, and you don’t want your salad to be gritty.  This is a pretty quick and easy step.

Drizzle a little bit of olive oil on both sides of the mushrooms. Place them on a pan with aluminum foil and bake for 15-20 minutes. I pulled the sides of the foil up over the mushrooms to make a little tent so they didn’t get burnt.

Once your mushrooms are done, put a slice of tomato on each, a fat slice of mozzarella, a sprig of basil, and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil and balsamic. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Enjoy this yummy summertime treat!

Black Bean, Tomato, and Feta Pasta Salad

Yeahhh… so, this is kind of a summer recipe.

Turns out, it’s not summer. But I wouldn’t know that judging by the weather the last couple of weeks. Last week was beautiful — in the 80s and sunny almost every day. Only now has the temperature gone back to normal spring temperatures. Boo. I was getting used to the no coat thing.

Well, last week being what it was, I was feeling a little inspired to make some summery-feeling recipes. We didn’t get to this one ’til tonight, when, alas, the hot weather is long gone. But it still tasted delish. I got this recipe from a friend a few years ago, and it has proven to be a summertime favorite. The beans and tomato combined with the spices, citrus, and heat of the tabasco sauce give this salad a kick.

This is such a simple recipe. The only annoying part is seeding and dicing all the tomatoes. But once you get through that, there’s really not much prep work at all.

Black Bean, Tomato, and Feta Pasta Salad
1/3 cup olive oil
2-4 large garlic cloves, minced (the more, the merrier… or garlicky-er)
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed well
2 lbs. fresh tomatoes, seeded and diced (I prefer roma tomatoes)
Grated zest of 2 limes (Or a splash of lemon or lime juice)
2-3 teaspoons tabasco sauce
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt, or to taste
——————————
16 oz. bowtie or wagon wheel pasta
8 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Combine all of the ingredients above the dotted line in a large bowl and set aside to warm to room temperature.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta and combine with other ingredients in the bowl. Add cilantro and feta cheese, mixing well so everything is evenly coated.

I suggest pairing this with a margarita, or some other fun, summery drink. You can pretend it’s summer, while the springtime weather catches up with you. Slowly but surely. Hopefully we’ll get some more warm weather again soon. Enjoy!

Mashed Potatoes with a Twist

There’s almost no better comfort food than mashed potatoes (except maybe gnocchi mac ‘n cheese!). Creamy, buttery, delicious, YUM.

Seriously, who doesn’t love mashed potatoes?

Horrifying flashback to my childhood — I used to make and eat instant mashed potatoes all the time. Sure, it was easier, but it definitely doesn’t taste as good as the real deal. Plus, after the potatoes have been through so much processing, they lose some of their nutritional value. Potatoes have nutritional value, right?

OK, so maybe potatoes aren’t that great for you, but I still love ’em. I assembled this easy little recipe one night with random ingredients found in my fridge.

Exhibit A: Random ingredients that really need to be used up.

Exhibit B: my growling stomach. Sorry, don’t have a picture of that.

Sadly, I was without milk, so I thought I would just use a little bit of veggie broth for a little flavor and that creamy texture. I figured the broth mixed with some cream cheese would make a good enough consistency.

I only had two potatoes on hand, but you can make this with as many taters as you wish. I apologize for the lack of precise measurements. Mashed potatoes is just one of those things where you add a little bit of this, taste, and add a little bit of that. Go with your gut. And your growling stomach.

Rosemary, Leek, and Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes (2 servings)
2 large potatoes, scrubbed clean (and peeled, if you prefer) and cut into 1 inch pieces
1-2 Tbsp. cream cheese
1-2 Tbsp. veggie broth
1 Tbsp. Earth Balance butter substitute. (Feel free to use real butter.)
1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
1 leek, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

Chop up your leeks and rosemary. Be sure to put the leeks in a colander and rinse thoroughly after chopping — dirt could be stuck between the layers.

Dice up your potatoes and stick them in a saucepan. Add cold water until potatoes are completely covered. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, 15-20 minutes or until done. Done = you can easily stick a fork through the potatoes.

While your potatoes are cooking, get a sauté pan and add a little bit of olive oil, or whatever oil you’ve got laying around. Turn heat to medium and add leeks and rosemary. Sauté, stirring frequently, until leeks are soft (just a few minutes). Remove from heat.

When your potatoes are done, drain the water from your pan and transfer potatoes to a large mixing bowl. Add 1 Tbsp. each of the broth, cream cheese, and butter, and mix with a hand mixer or mash with a potato masher — whatever floats your boat. I like to use the mixer because I’m lazy like that. Possibly the reason why Michelle Obama-like arms are always out of my reach. Sorry — tangent. Seriously, though, I would kill for those arms!

Anyway, back to the potatoes.

Once you’ve mixed everything, taste to see if it is creamy enough and flavorful enough. Feel free to add more of the cream cheese, broth, or butter — whatever it needs. Season with freshly ground salt and pepper.

Once you are satisfied with the taste and consistency, add your leeks and rosemary, and mix in with a fork.

Serve piping hot, and enjoy this satisfying dose of comfort food.


 

The Ultimate Comfort Food

This past week wasn’t the greatest, so, naturally I found myself craving comfort food. Comfort food could mean a lot of different things to different people, but to me it usually involves cheese. Sorry, vegans. Like the title of the blog implies, I am not quite vegan. And that, my friends, is because of cheese. It’s just so good! Anyway, I came across this recipe on Pinterest a couple of weeks ago and I knew I had to try it. (Side note: I now have a fancy new Pinterest button on the sidebar if you would like to follow me!) As this week came to an end, I found myself thinking about this recipe. A lot. I just had to make it.

So what is the recipe? Prepare yourself…

Gnocchi Mac ‘n Cheese.

OK, so I guess it’s not mac n’ cheese if it’s not made with macaroni. So maybe this should be called gnocc n’ cheese. Hmm… doesn’t quite have that same ring to it. I’m actually not a huge fan of regular macaroni and cheese, so the idea of gnocchi and cheese sounded so delicious — little bit of a heartier meal. Gnocchi, if you’ve never tried it before, are little dumplings, usually made out of potato flour. You can find it in the pasta section, but it’s not sold everywhere, so you might have to hunt around. If  you’re wondering how to pronounce gnocchi, it’s like nyokey. I consider myself a gnocchi-pronouncing expert because I used to work for a guy from Italy, and that is how he said it.

Anyway, the recipe can be found on The Cutting Edge of Ordinary. You can also check out her beautiful/drool-worthy pictures, because I of course had horrible lighting and my pictures did not turn out so wonderfully.

It looks so good, right? Mmm… and it was.

She used basil in hers, but I did not have any so I chopped up some fresh rosemary to add to my cheese sauce. But they’re both optional.

Speaking of the cheese sauce, if you’ve never used gruyere or fontina, fear not — they are DELICIOUS. Or at least I thought so. It was my first time trying them, and I was a little nervous I wouldn’t like them, but I. loved. them. I have leftovers in my fridge and I will relish every last bite.

Gnocc’ & Cheese
1 lb. gnocchi
2 Tbsp. butter
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. all purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp. dijon mustard (I used spicy brown)
1/4 cup shredded gruyere cheese
1/4 cup shredded fontina cheese (except fontina is a little too soft to shred, so i chopped mine into small pieces)
Salt & white pepper to taste (regular pepper would be fine, too)
1/3 cup shredded parmigiano-reggiano (or regular parm would be fine, too)
Rosemary or basil for garnish (chopped and added to cheese sauce)

Preheat oven to 375° F. Prepare gnocchi according to package directions. If you’ve never used gnocchi before, they cook super fast — they only need to boil for 2-3 minutes before they are done. You will know they’re done when they all rise to the top of the water, like this:

Drain your gnocchi in a colander, and add to a greased 1 1/2 qt. baking dish.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add your garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds — until your kitchen smells wonderful (if you like the smell of garlic, that is… but who doesn’t?) Whisk in flour until it gets a bit thick and bubbly, then add your milk and mustard. Whisk away. Keep on whiskin’ til’ it gets slightly thick, about 3-5 minutes.

Combine your gruyere and fontina, and add into your saucepan one handful at a time. Whisk cheese in until it melts before adding the next handful. Once it is all cheesey, gooey, melty, and delicious, season with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over your gnocchi, and sprinkle parm cheese over the top. Bake until golden and a little bit crispy — about 30 minutes. Let sit for a few minutes before serving.

Ohmygoshyes.

I am so sad I don’t have leftovers in my fridge right now. This baby only serves about three. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Thinking Outside of the Can

I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up we ALWAYS had cranberry sauce from a can at Thanksgiving. Nobody ever bothered to make the real thing. And so, until yesterday, neither had I. I didn’t realize how stinkin’ simple it is! (and how much more delicious it is!) I chose to go with something a little different than your typical cranberry sauce. It’s got ginger in it for a little kick.

If you were planning on going with the can, but want to try something new, this is the recipe for you. You can do it! Think outside of the can! It only takes about 15 minutes of your time. Although you might be crazy to go to the store today, I’m sure you won’t be the only one running out for last minute things. Luckily, this recipe requires very few ingredients. It’s another Pinterest find — this time from Martha Stewart. Thanks Martha!

Cranberry Ginger Relish
1 bag (12 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar

Lately, instead of buying fresh ginger, I’ve been using this ginger from a tube. OK, that sounds weird and gross, but I found that in the past whenever I needed ginger for a recipe, I would hardly ever use the entire thing, and it would almost always go bad. The tube from the store (which really is just ginger and something to preserve it) tastes the same and lasts much longer in the fridge! Here’s a link to a pic so you can hunt it down at the store.

OK, on to the recipe.

Combine cranberries, sugar, ginger, and 2 Tbsp. water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. If you’re like me, you might be wondering, ‘umm…. this is hardly any liquid, how is all of this going to boil?’ Well, it does. The water combines with the sugar and ginger, and it boils. Trust me. (P.S. My apologies for the crappy pictures in this post… I was running around with 8 million things to do before we left town, trying to make this sauce, take pictures, pack, etc, etc… Thus, no time to get the perfect shot.)

When it comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until most of the cranberries have popped — about 10-15 min.

Look at that gooey mess!

Stir in the vinegar. Remove relish from the heat, let cool to room temperature, and serve. You can’t tell from the pictures, but the sauce is a beautiful, deep, ruby red, and oh-so-delicious!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Simple Thanksgiving Side Dish

Seeing as Thanksgiving is in just a few days, I thought I would do some extra posts this week and share a couple of ideas for what to bring if you’re not hosting, or what to make if you are. If you are looking for a super easy side dish, look no further.

Since becoming a vegetarian, sometimes people assume I’m missing out on all of the Thanksgiving delicacies, but this is just not the case. Trust me, I can fill my plate with side dishes galore, and I enjoy my meal every bit as much as others enjoy their turkey. I can also enter into a food coma without the turkey tryptophan. Impressive, right?

There are so many delicious vegetables and fruits that are in season right now: sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, sunchokes, rutabaga, winter squash, pomegranates, pears… and these all make for some incredible side dishes.

The other night I wanted to make something quick and easy for dinner, so I thought I would glean some inspiration from my ugly lentil soup recipe, and use some of those ingredients for a side dish. I combined sweet potatoes, onion, apple, and spices for a really yummy side. I’m not actually making this for Thanksgiving, but you could!

Sweet Potato Side Dish (Serves 3-4)
4 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces
2 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1 onion, diced into small pieces
1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. cumin
A few pinches of cinnamon
1/4 tsp. fresh grated ginger
A sprinkle of chili powder
Salt & peper to taste

Preheat oven to 375° F. Mix all ingredients in a baking dish, cover and bake for 30-40 minutes (until potatoes are soft).

I chose to eat it as is, but I bet it also would be good if you mashed it up. I think I’ll do that next time. Let me know how yours turns out!