Zucchini and Pesto Pita Pizza

This is one of those throw-together-whatever’s-in-the-fridge type of recipes that turned out  to be really tasty!

I am a huge fan of pizza, but after joining weight watchers and realizing how many dang points a slice of pizza is, I try to find creative ways to still get my pizza fix without all the points (the bulk of which come from the dough, FYI. Boooo).

Here is one such way: using a whole-wheat pita in place of dough.

I didn’t have any pizza sauce, but had a ton of basil so I decided to make my own pesto. If you’ve got a food processor, fresh basil, garlic, olive oil, and nuts (walnuts or pine nuts) you’re in business. Pesto is really easy to make. The only annoying thing, of course, is cleaning up the food processor after.

Homemade Pesto
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan (optional)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine basil and nuts in food processor; pulse a few times to mix. Add garlic, pulse a few more times. Add olive oil while food processor is running. Add the cheese if you want it, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stop and scrape down the sides of the food processor, and pulse a couple more times. Voila! This makes about a cup of pesto, which will keep for a week or two in the fridge. You can also freeze it if you want to keep it for longer!

In addition to the delicious fresh basil, I had ground cherries and zucchini from the farmers market! I had never heard of ground cherries before, have you? Here’s what they look like. Kinda like baby tomatillos. They actually are in the tomatillo/tomato family. You just pop them out of their little husk and eat them. Now, I am not a fan of eating straight up tomatoes, even cherry tomatoes. But these are sweet enough that I really enjoyed them. So yummy just to snack on. They would be a really good addition to homemade salsa, too.

For my little “pizza” I used pesto, baked zucchini, ground cherries, goat cheese, and mozzarella cheese. So good. This was just what I had, though. Feel free to use whatever you’ve got. It would be great with mushrooms, regular tomato, spinach, broccoli, squash, whatever. Also, if you want to cut down on points/calories, you could use tomato sauce instead of pesto.

Pita Pizza (serves 2)
1 whole-wheat pita, divided (cut all the way around the edge so you end up with 2 circles)
1/2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
Pesto
Olive oil
Ground cherries
1 oz goat cheese
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (part-skim)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Slice up some zucchini and toss with just a little bit of olive oil (1 or 2 tsp). Season with salt and pepper. Place the slices on a baking sheet and bake at 350° for about 10 minutes. (Just until they are softened up.)

Pop your pitas in the toaster oven, and toast halfway. You’re going to put it back in the toaster oven (or in the real oven) to melt the cheese once you’ve added your toppings, so you don’t want it completely toasted yet.

Spread each pita with pesto (about 1 to 1 1/2 Tbsp per pita). Top with zucchini slices, ground cherries, goat cheese, and just a little bit of shredded mozzarella. Put it back in the toaster oven to melt your cheese, and serve right away!

1 serving = about 9 PointsPlus

Advertisements

Sweet Potato Black Bean Burgers

Ever made your own veggie burgers? We had always bought pre-made until we found this recipe last summer. Now this is our go-to burger. It’s really flavorful, packed with sweet potato, black beans, and spices. Even our meat-eating friends loved them! And for you vegan and/or gluten-free people, this burger is safe. Original recipe here.

If you think making your own veggie burger is going to be complicated, don’t worry. This recipe is really easy. The prep work is a little bit time consuming, but nothing too crazy.

Sweet Potato Black Bean Burgers (Makes 6-8 burgers)

  • 15 oz black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 c cubed sweet potatoes (skin on)
  • 1/2 c frozen or fresh corn
  • 2/3 c finely chopped onion (1/2 medium onion)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/2 c cooked quinoa
  • 6 Tbsp rolled oats, partially ground (we use our coffee grinder to grind them)
  • 2 Tbsp sunflower seeds (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

Before doing anything else, you’ll want to cook your quinoa, and steam your cubed potatoes. For the quinoa, just follow the directions on the box. To cook the potatoes, I usually put them in the microwave sprinkled with a tiny bit of water and microwave for 5+ minutes, until tender.

Preheat the oven to 375° when you’re done cooking your quinoa and potato.

Wondering what quinoa is? First things first, it’s pronounced keen-wa, and it is really good for you! It is a great source of protein, and contains all 8 essential amino acids (I don’t really know what that means, but it’s probably good). You should be able to find it in any grocery store. Try it as a substitute for rice in any recipe; you can also substitute it for the pasta in my pasta salad.

Back to the recipe!
1. After you’ve rinsed and drained your beans, mash half of them in a bowl until it is paste-like. After they are good and mashed, add in the rest of the beans, and very lightly stir/mash just until combined. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, mash your cooked sweet potatoes, but leave it a little bit chunky. While each cube should be mashed, you don’t want the creamy texture of mashed potatoes.
3. Stir in the salt, pepper, oregano, coriander, chili powder, cayenne (if using) and olive oil, until combined.
4. Mix in the onion, garlic, corn, black beans, quinoa, sunflower seeds, and ground oats, until just combined. Feel free to taste at this point and add more spices if you think it needs more kick.

Using your hands, form the mixture into balls and flatten into patties, between 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick. We usually make 6 patties, but you can make up to 8.

Place the patties on a pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping the burgers halfway through.

We usually serve on a bun with pepper jack cheese and ketchup. It’s also good with avocado and/or roasted red peppers!

If you make 6 patties, each burger (without bun & toppings) is 4 PointsPlus. If you make 8 patties, each burger is 3 PointsPlus.

Summer Squash & Black Bean Tacos

Hi, remember me? …. Me either. Yes, I’ve been gone forever! Forgive me! It’s been a crazy summer, one whole month of which was spent traveling to four different states, all over the country (Washington, Maine, Massachusetts & Tennessee, if you’re curious).

I’ve been meaning to update my blog  for weeks, but me being a classic 9 on the enneagram (if you’re not familiar with the enneagram, google it! It’s fascinating. I am a 9 down to a tee!), I have trouble getting things started back up once I haven’t done it for awhile. But thanks to the encouragement of many friends, I’m back in action.

For a quick lunch today, I rustled up some leftovers: black beans, summer squash, zucchini, salsa, and corn tortillas. It made for a delicious, easy, and filling lunch. I didn’t measure anything, so these are rough estimates. Change it up as you please.

Squash & Black Bean Tacos
1/2 a can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 – 1/2 cup salsa
1/2 small-medium summer squash, diced
1/2 small zucchini, diced
1 Tbsp plain greek yogurt (you can use sour cream if you don’t have yogurt)
1/2 medium white onion, diced
1-2 Tbsp fresh cilantro
Corn tortillas
Dash of cayenne pepper
Pinch of cumin
Dash of chili powder
1 Tbsp canola oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Sauté squash, zucchini, and onion with the oil. Add some salt & pepper, and your spices. Cook for a few minutes, stirring often, until onions are soft. Stir in the beans, salsa, and yogurt. Turn the stove off and keep the pan on the burner to stay warm.

Now grab another pan to heat the tortillas, and turn heat to med-high. Heat each corn tortilla on each side until soft. If you have a gas stovetop, you can actually just hold each tortilla over the flames for a few seconds so they get a little crispy. My friend grew up in Ecuador, and he tells me this is how they do it in South America… much more auténtico.

Fill each tortilla with a little bit of the squash & black bean mix. Top with cilantro and shredded cheese. Enjoy!

Bacon, Pizza Two Ways, and a Little Life Update

It’s been far too long! I confess I have been distracted by many things in the past month. I know life updates are not my usual blog post topic, but last weekend Ric and I graduated from seminary, Ric recently got a new job, and we will be moving to the ‘burbs in a few short weeks!  Lots going on around here. In the midst of all this, my poor blog has been forsaken. I do apologize.

I also have a confession to make…

I ate meat for the first time in four years.

Bacon … the gateway drug  meat.

Let me explain. The main reason I am a vegetarian is because I do not want to support the majority of the meat industry, whose business practices are shady, and who treat farmers horribly, and sell questionable meat packed with antibiotics, growth hormones, steroids, and who knows what else. (Google probably knows.) Animals are raised in CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation); they are packed in with hundreds or even hundreds of thousands (in the case of chickens, for instance) of other animals, with no room to move around. This negatively impacts the environment, pollutes waterways (potentially harming people), and harms the animals themselves. They get sick easily, which necessitates the antibiotics, and are basically standing in their own filth. Disgusting. For more information about the whole dang meat industry, I suggest watching the documentary Food, Inc. OK, done ranting.

For the past few years, my church has had a partnership with a local farm. We personally know the farmer, and we often buy eggs from her. She comes to our church a couple times a month and sells meat and eggs. We know that she has a small family farm and they are dedicated to raising hogs in their natural environment. They do not use growth hormones, antibiotics, or steroids. And it makes a difference. They produce quality meat that tastes great. If you’re in Chicago, you can find C&D Farms at farmers markets and other locations, listed on their website. We had bought some bacon from Crystal, the farmer, for a big family brunch. I figured I knew exactly where it came from and that I could trust its quality, so I ate it. And it was delicious.

All of this to say, I still consider myself a vegetarian, but you may find me eating some meat from a local farm once in a blue moon.

OK… confessions of a bacon-eating vegetarian out of the way. Time for pizza.

If you know me, you probably know how much I love pizza. I think I could eat pizza every day. I might if it was in any way healthy.

I’ve got two pizzas for you. The first, Ric made, and the second was my creation. I wasn’t very specific with amounts for ingredients, because you can decide for yourself how much you want on your pizza. That’s the great thing about pizza — you can throw whatever you want on some dough and call it good!

Pizza #1: Tomato and Asparagus with Goat Cheese (yum)

Look at that beauty!

Ingredients:
pre-made pizza dough
asparagus
cherry tomatoes
goat cheese
olive oil
garlic (optional)
herbs for flavoring (oregano, basil, or we used herbes de provence)

Before making the pizza, you’ll need to blanch your asparagus. Blanch is just a fancy word for giving your asparagus a quick bath in boiling water. Blanching helps preserve the yummy flavor, crisp texture, and bright green color. First, prepare a bowl with ice and cold water and set aside.

Next, Bring a pot of water to a boil on medium-high heat, drop your asparagus in, and cook for 2-5 minutes (until it turns bright green). Remove the asparagus with tongs or a slotted spoon and put them in the bowl of ice water. This will stop them from cooking any further.

Now, get your dough and stretch it out. We get our dough from Trader Joe’s (of course). And even though I know wheat is healthier, we usually get the white dough because it’s easier to work with and tastes better.

Drizzle your dough with olive oil. Spread with minced garlic if you’re into that. Top with asparagus (you can cut them up if you want; we just left them whole), crumbled goat cheese, tomatoes and herbs. Consult the dough packaging for cooking instructions.

Pizza #2 Potato and Asparagus Pizza (mmm, carb-y)

Ingredients:
pre-made pizza dough
1 large potato, boiled and thinly sliced
asparagus
1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream or creme fraiche
2 tbsp. olive oil
garlic
parmesan cheese
goat cheese, aka the love of my life (sorry, Ric)
herbes de provence (a blend of rosemary, thyme, and marjoram)
salt and pepper

Boil your potato until soft, and cut into thin slices. Blanch your asparagus using the directions above.

Stretch out your dough. Drizzle with 1 tbsp. olive oil and cover in garlic slices. Season liberally with fresh cracked pepper, and just a little bit of salt.

Cover the dough with potato slices and drizzle those with the remaining oil and the cream. I consulted another recipe for the amount of cream and it suggested 1/2 cup, but I used just under that amount. I suggest starting with 1/4 cup and adding more as needed. Once you’re done with the cream, season the potatoes with herbes de provence.

Lay the asparagus over potatoes, and sprinkle goat cheese and parmesan cheese over everything. Use as much or as little as you like.

Bake at 425° for 35-40 minutes, until cream is bubbling and dough is golden brown around the edges.

Voila!

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.


 

Tortilla Soup

As part of lent, I’m trying to do less time wasting. Which means no facebook (except to link to new blog posts) and instead of just spending wasteful hours on pinterest, pinning things that I’ll probably never do or wishing for things that I don’t have, I’m making an effort to actually spend time making some of the recipes and crafts that I pin. I really would like to be more creative and spend time doing things that I love instead of spending all of my spare time with my face in front of a computer. I get enough of that at work every day, thank you very much.

All of that to say, this lovely tortilla soup recipe caught my eye on pinterest (originally from the Cooking Photographer) and I am so glad that I tried it! It was pretty dang easy, made for a ton of leftovers, and was oh-so-delicious topped with avocado, a bit of cheese, and tortilla chips.

I also had been lookin’ for a good soup recipe so I could use up some of my homemade veggie broth. It has just been hanging out in my freezer for a few months now, waiting to be used up on something delicious. Well, veggie broth, your time has come. I had wondered if it would taste any different than store-bought broth, but it tasted great. It also felt good knowing exactly what went into it – no preservatives or ingredients that I could barely read the names of – just vegetables and water. I think I also had been delaying using it because I thought that it might take forever to defrost and I would have to leave it out overnight before using it (of course, you could heat it up to quicken the process), but it wasn’t a problem. I just set the container out on the counter around lunchtime and most of it had thawed by the time I was ready to make dinner.

Anyway, enough about the veggie stock. Onto the soup…

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons sweet paprika (or regular paprika will do)
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons light colored oil
1 large onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (4 ounce) can diced mild green chiles, drained
2 (10 ounce) cans RoTel Diced Tomatoes with Lime & Cilantro*
1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
4 cups vegetable broth
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
Juice of 1/2 a lime

*I couldn’t find the diced tomatoes with lime & cilantro. Instead, I got regular canned tomatoes, and added a couple tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro and the juice of 1/2 a lime to the soup (In addition to the 1/2 a lime that the recipe already calls for).

1. In a small bowl, mix together cumin, paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, coriander, salt and black pepper. Set aside.

2. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and peppers. Sauté until soft, stirring occasionally. Add the spices and garlic, and cook for 2 minutes.

3. Add the green chile peppers, diced tomatoes, corn, and veggie broth. Cook until warmed through.

4. Add the black beans and cook for 2 minutes before serving. Squeeze in lime juice. Serve in bowls and garnish as desired.

Yum!

I apologize for the horrid lighting. The soup, on the other hand, is anything but horrid. It’s the perfect winter meal, loaded with veggies and some spice (but not too spicy)! Enjoy it!