Saturday, September 19, 2015

"Love and Lemons": a fun new food blog discovery!

I am eating almost exclusively plant-based these days and therefore am frequently trolling the internet for inspiration.  This will be a helpful resource for me since I live right "down the road" from Austin in San Antonio.  That means that she will be cooking with the same things that are fresh for me.

I found this post today and loved the blog so much I decided to share it.  Please stop over to the Love and Lemons website to check out all the great recipes she creates using fresh food.

This recipe really grabbed my attention.  I love that it can be adjusted in a variety of ways, vegan, vegetarian, or omnivore:


Roasted Vegetable Tacos with Creamy Avocado Tomatillo Salsa /
I know – another taco recipe already? Well, I like tacos. I’m sure you do too because you are here after all. In all honesty, these were originally going to become enchiladas until I stopped short. Which is why they’re in a baking pan. Plus, it was a convenient way to get floppy tacos to stand up for the photo.
The plan was to make something similar to this creamy poblano enchilada sauce, but using avocados, pepitas, spinach and tomatillo salsa instead. The end result? I couldn’t stop eating this awesome sauce straight from the food processor with a spoon.
It’s so fresh and bright and I knew I’d wreck it if I tried to cook it. So taco night it was – with extra green sauce on the side.
Creamy Avocado Tomatillo Salsa /
I roasted patty pan squash, eggplant, a red pepper, and cherry tomatoes. But you can roast whatever vegetables you have – anything goes. If you’re craving fall foods, roasted sweet potatoes would be delicious here instead. I stuffed my tacos with black beans and topped them with serrano slices and a little cotija cheese. Skip the cheese if you’re vegan, (it’s not all that necessary).
Roasted Vegetable Tacos with Creamy Avocado Tomatillo Salsa /
This taco recipe serves about two with lots of extra sauce – double your taco count to serve four. Or save the leftover sauce and eat it yourself the next day.
Roasted Vegetable Tacos with Creamy Avocado Tomatillo Salsa /

Friday, September 4, 2015

Kale Pesto Stuffed Squash Blossoms

If you have never prepared squash blossoms you are in for a wonderful treat.  I adore them!  I have prepared them a variety of ways including simply dredging them in egg, then cornmeal, and quick-frying them.  I love to stuff them with goat cheese or ricotta blended with freshly-chopped parsley and a bit of sea salt.  You just can't go wrong with them.
Now that I'm eating mostly plant-based food I am experimenting with all these different food combos and it is pretty exciting.  When I stumbled on this recipe I just had to bring it over to our blog.  I can't encourage you enough to go over to the "What's Cooking Good Looking" blog and check out all Jodi's other posts.  Lovely food and photography awaits you!

kale pesto + rice stuffed zucchini blossoms with a herbed cashew cream

kale pesto + rice stuffed zucchini blossoms with an herbed cashew cream | what's cooking good looking
kale pesto + rice stuffed zucchini blossoms with an herbed cashew cream | what's cooking good looking
My mom would go nuts over squash blossoms. I think that we grew zucchini in our little garden when I was growning up, just so that we could make stuffed zucchini flowers all (mid)summer long. And as an adult, when my mom would come visit me in the summertime, she would always bring a basket full of blossoms for us to stuff and fry  .... her favorite activity and her favorite way to eat them. 
Every time I see a squash blossom, it reminds me of my mom.  One time I remember going out to dinner with her, she was so excited that they had zucchini blossoms on the menu that she ordered the stuffed zucchini blossom appetizer as both her starter AND her  main course. She loved them that much. You can tell where my love and enthusiasm for vegetables, especially the special ones, comes from. 
My FAVORITE delicacy of summer are squash blossoms. For me, squash blossoms are to summer what ramps are to spring. You will never find them out of season because they are delicate and  highly perishable. You cannot freeze a squash blossom, and thankfully there are no gmo-versions that make them last a million years on a shelf. You use them right away or you lose them. And once the zucchini peaks, the squash blossoms are no more (and a big sad face because we are on the other side of summer .... the side that makes me scared that the weather will be cooler soon). 
Recently I posted a pic on my instagram of some squash blossoms and asked you what to make. I got lots and lots of "stuff them with cheese and fry them", which is undoubtedly delicious. But, this time around, I was looking for something different. A little healthier, but something that would still be just as delicious and something that still felt like an indulgent treat.  A lovely person suggested stuffing them with rice, which is how they are typically prepared in Greece.............Yes. That was it. Some rice, some pesto, bake them in the oven. Done and delicious ..... my new favorite squash blossom preparation. 
kale pesto + rice stuffed zucchini blossoms with an herbed cashew cream | what's cooking good looking
kale pesto + rice stuffed zucchini blossoms with an herbed cashew cream | what's cooking good looking
kale pesto + rice stuffed zucchini blossoms with an herbed cashew cream | what's cooking good looking
kale pesto + rice stuffed zucchini blossoms with an herbed cashew cream | what's cooking good looking

kale pesto + rice stuffed zucchini blossoms with a herbed cashew cream

This recipe might make a little extra pesto and/or rice, but that is hardly a bad thing. I used the extras in a salad for lunch but you can also save them for when you find or harvest more blossoms. Also, I made this cashew cream unintentionally without a recipe ... and didn't realize how good it would go with these blossoms, but they were delicious together.  I found a recipe that was very close to what I made ----> HERE
10-12 blossoms
for the kale pesto:
1 bunch / 10 leaves / about 3 cups of kale, ribs removed + chopped
¼ cup of pine nuts, toasted
1 clove of garlic, minced
½ teaspoon of salt
¼ - ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil 
for the rice:
½ cup of cooked white or brown jasmine rice
10-12 zucchini blossoms, pistol removed

olive oil, salt, pepper
(opional) - bread crumbs for sprinkling
Cook the rice + make the pesto:
  • Cook the rice according to your personal method, or instruction on the package. 
  • For the pesto, start by bringing a large pot of water to a boil. Prepare an ice bath and have it waiting next to the boiling water. Add the kale to the boiling water and blanch for 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, remove the kale from the boiling water and add it to the ice bath. Leave it in the ice bath for 1-2 minutes, then strain and squeeze the kale to get rid of any excess moisture. 
  • Place all of the ingredients for the pesto, except for the olive oil in a food processor and pulse a few times until everything is chopped. Then add in the olive oil in a slow stream until it is emulsified. 
  • Add a couple of spoonfuls of the pesto to the cooked rice, and stir to combine. Taste and feel free to add as much or as little pesto as you like to the rice. When your rice has the amount of pesto that you like, store any unused pesto (if there is any) in an air-tight container in the fridge for another use. 
Prepare + stuff + bake the blossoms:
  • Pre-heat the oven to 350º.
  • Be sure you've removed the pistol by reaching inside the blossom and snapping it off. 
  • Gently spread open the petals. Then, using a small teaspoon, take a spoonful of the rice and carefully stuff the blossom. Twist the tops so they stay closed and lay the stuffed blossom onto a baking sheet. Do this until all of your blossoms are stuffed. You might have extra rice which you can enjoy on it's own, or save to stuff more blossoms with. 
  • Brush the tops of the blossoms with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt, pepper and the bread crumbs (if you're using). 
  • Bake for about 10 minutes, and enjoy immediately. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015


I have been doing some experimental cooking since the holidays using eggplants and some other less commonly used (for me) ingredients.  I got a one pound package of ground goat (!) at the farmer's market a couple weeks ago and decided it might be good as part of a moussaka casserole.  I haven't made moussaka in decades.  When looking online for ideas for using the ground goat, moussaka was recommended.  I spotted a Bobby Flay recipe for moussaka and was inspired by his recipe but took quite a number of liberties based on the ingredients I had available.  Here is a link to his recipe.  
First, some of these things can be assembled in advance. I would recommend mixing the cheese ingredients (except for the Manchego) in advance and refrigerate.  Also, I think you could cook the ground meat mixture in advance and refrigerate (or even freeze!) until the actual assembly of the dish.  There are a lot of ingredients, so be sure to look over the list before you dive in (unlike me).  
A note about spices:  if you haven't updated your spice shelf in a while, do it!  It makes all the difference.  I pulled out a container of ground allspice and opened it.  I couldn't even smell the spice.  Then I opened a package of whole allspice and ground them in my spice grinder.  Oh my goodness.  Night and day. It is worth updating them every 6 months.  You won't believe the difference it makes in the quality of your cooking.

One pount ground lamb, beef goat, or pork (or a combo)
Olive oil
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp ground cardamom (optional)
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
½ onion thinly sliced
1 red pepper, chopped
5 garlic cloves finely minced
1 cup red wine
3 Tablespoons tomato paste

1 eggplant, peeled & cut crosswise into ¼ inch slices and brushed with olive oil.

ricotta or similar cheese, about one cup
goat cheese, about 1/2 cup or use what you have..
fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley to taste and appearance
¼ cup pesto
2 or 3 egg yolks

1 cup of semi hard cheese such as manchego, or similar.

Combine the ricotta, goat cheese, chopped parsley, pesto, and egg yolks and set aside. 
Sautee the ground meat(s) in a pan with the various spices and salt. Remove from the pan and allow the juices to drip into a bowl.  Discard juices.
Add a bit more olive oil and sauté the onions until translucent.  Add garlic and continue cooking for one minute.  Add meat back into the pan, and add the wine and the tomato paste.  Cook until most of the fluid is evaporated.  Remove from pan into a bowl and cool.

In a skillet heated to medium-high add a bit more olive oil and sautee the  eggplant slices until golden brown on each side.  Remove to a paper towel to drain and allow to cool.

Coat the inside of a casserole with olive oil.  Layer half of the eggplant slices, then half of the meat mixture, then half of the cheese mixture.
Scatter half of the lemon zest over the top.  Repeat.

On the surface scatter the grated cheese.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for 45-50 minutes.  Allow to cool for 20 minutes before serving.
Eggplant slices are brushed with olive oil before browning in a skillet.

Here the meat is being mixed with the sautéed onions and garlic.

First layer of sautéed eggplant going into the casserole dish.

First meat layer.

Then the cheese-egg layer.

More eggplant and I put half of the lemon zest over it (because I forgot to do it on the cheese layer!)

Spreading the final cheese-egg layer

Now sprinkling the layer of Manchego cheese on the top.

I served it with a tossed green salad. 
It was delicious!  I was pleasantly surprised about the ground goat:  it was really good.
I think ground lamb or beef would have been very tasty in this dish, too.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Steve's World Famous Spaghetti Recipe

My husband, Steve, makes the best spaghetti, so I thought I would share his famous recipe with all of our readers.  It's a double batch.  He's made it for our family, friends, big dinner parties, and everyone loves it.  Enjoy!


4 Lawry’s Dry Spaghetti Sauce Seasoning Packets

2- 4 oz. cans of Tomato Paste

2 – 14.5 oz. cans Diced Stewed Tomatoes

1 Red or Orange Bell Pepper

2 sweet onions, diced

2 boxes of mushrooms or more

1-1/2 lb. Sweet Italian Sausage and 1-1/2 lb hamburger meat

Put water in large pot or Dutch oven at low heat.  Stir in the 3 packets of dry seasoning until dissolved (ignore the directions on the seasoning package).  Stir in the 2 cans of tomato paste until dissolved. 

Pour the 2 cans of stewed tomatoes and stir.  Stir in the sugar, and start with ½ T, tasting the sauce as you go.  Dice the bell peppers and onions, slice the mushrooms and peel the garlic.

Put enough oil in a frying pan to coat the bottom on medium heat.  Add the bell peppers and sauté until they are translucent.  Throw into the sauce pot and stir.

Add some olive oil and butter to the frying plan.  Sauté the onions until translucent, stirring to make sure that they don’t get over cooked.  Garlic.  I use a garlic press, but you can finely chop them.  Add the garlic to the pan in the last few minutes from the onions being done, otherwise the garlic burns.  Stir to blend in with the onions, and then add the onions and garlic to the sauce pot.  Butter the frying pan, and sauté the mushrooms, and then add to the sauce pot.  TASTE THE SAUCE.

Brown the ground beef (I salt and pepper it).  Good meat stays in ¼ inch clumps.  Drain off the oil, and add the meat to the sauce pot.

Cut the casing off the sausage and tear the sausage into ¼ inch clumps.  Brown and add to the sauce pot.

Note:  Sometimes when I made this, 3 packets of Lawry’s spices works perfectly.   However, the last time

I made this, in tasting the sauce, I got a sharp tomato taste when I tasted it before I put the meat and sausage in.  I ended up adding almost a fourth package of Lawry’s Seasoning, more than a tablespoon of oregano and almost another tablespoon of sugar.  The sugar cuts the acid taste in the tomatoes, but you want to be careful so that it is not too sweet.  Getting to the right flavor is somewhat of an adjust as you go.  A little bit of Italian seasoning doesn’t hurt, but the sauce does not have to taste perfect before the meat goes in, because the meat and sausage increase the taste, so final adjustments should be made after all of the ingredients are in the spaghetti.  I have also added some parmessan cheese in the past to mellow the flavor.  

You can make the spaghetti sauce the day of your dinner, but you can also make it the day before because letting it sit overnight in the refrigerator actually improves the flavor.

If there is a reddish oil on top of the sauce, spoon it off and get rid of it.  TASTE THE SAUCE.

Note:  Variations: You can make veggie spaghetti by just adding chopped zucchini and more, and different mushrooms, instead of meat.  

Freezing:  I always make a double recipe so I can freeze the rest.  I put enough for two in freezer containers (usually 3 or 4).  It freezes with no problem for up to six months.

8 cloves of garlic

4 – 4-1/2 cups water

Olive Oil


Salt, Pepper

Dry Oregano, Bay Leaf, if you want

Shredded Parmesan Cheese

Up to 1 Tablespoon of sugar

Friday, July 18, 2014

Saving Heirloom Tomato Seeds

The following is derived from a post originally at The Sustainable Food Center:
Every heirloom tomato you buy at the Farmers' Market comes with a fairy-tale prize inside: generation after generation of tomato plants, neatly packed away within each one! Heirloom tomatoes are treasured for their flavor and variety, and, like the keys to a kingdom, their seeds are shared and passed down from grower to grower like the priceless inheritance they are. With just a little effort and knowledge, you'll be starting your own tomato dynasty soon enough. Read on for the basics of what you need to know to start saving seeds right now! (hint: now is the time--once tomatoes go out of season, you'll have to wait another year)

  1. Harvest seeds: Cut the tomato in half. Use your finger or a knife to scoop out the seeds and juice from their cavities, or squeeze the tomato over a glass jar. Use a small jar, such as a jelly jar, if you are only saving seed from one or two tomatoes. Once the seeds and all their juice is in the jar, add no more than 25% water and slosh it around.
  2. Let them sit: Place the jar somewhere warm for two or three days, stirring occasionally.
  3. Check for readiness: After a few days (depending on the weather), a mold should form on the top. This method mimics the rotting of the tomato in nature or the actions of the digestive system of an animal and breaks down the clear gel coating around the seeds, which prevents the seed from sprouting inside the tomato. Once the mold covers the entire top of the liquid and the seeds have begun to sink, the gel coating has been broken down and they are ready for cleaning.
  4. Separate: You know seeds are ready for their final cleaning when most of them have sunk to the bottom of the jar. Add water to fill the jar and slosh it around. Let it settle for a moment. Carefully pour the water out of the jar. The mold, pulp, and immature seeds should sink and stay in the jar.
  5. Clean: Repeat this decanting process two to five times until you have only clean seeds and clean water. Pour out as much water as you can without losing the seeds or pour it through a fine mesh strainer.
  6. Dry: Pat dry through the strainer and then scoop the seeds out onto a small plate (like the lid from a yogurt container). Allow to dry without intense heat.
  7. Store: When they are very dry, store the seeds in a moisture-proof container in a cool, dry place. It is very important to label the container with variety and date. Tomato seeds can last for ten years or more if stored in a cool, dry spot.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Heirloom Tomato Love

The following post is reposted from The Sustainable Food Center, in Austin Texas.  Please visit this wonderful site/blog as it is a wealth of information about food:  growing it and preparing it!
I adore heirloom tomatoes and get excited when I start to see them in the local farmer's market and at our beloved Central Market store.  They are what tomatoes are "supposed" to taste like.
I grew up in the midwest with a garden in my back yard that always had a bountiful supply of tomatoes, among other things, all summer long.  I didn't realize that a lot of people didn't grow vegetables and eat fresh things until I got a bit older.  How sad!
When I saw the photograph contained in this article I just had to share.  A follow-up to this post will be information on how to save the heirloom tomato seeds.

What's so special about heirloom tomatoes? In a world where flavor and color are sacrificed for uniform, homogenous tomatoes bred for their ability to withstand the rigors of long-distance shipping, locally-grown, proudly diverse, and shockingly flavorful tomatoes are a precious rarity. And they're worth the wait. We are willing to forgo fresh tomatoes (often sad, forgettable rounds of pale pink on a sandwich or in a salad) all year for the pleasures of a sun-ripened, carefully-tended real tomato, either tart or a little sweet, dripping with juice and full of character and complexity. Farmers have their favorite varieties, and they'll tell you all about them. Here's a list of some of our favorites we've spied recently at SFC Farmers' Markets--now is the time to visit, try them all, and choose your favorites!
  • Black Krim - Dark reddish-purple, juicy heirloom tomato from the Black Sea area in Russia. Tangy, rich, and sweet. 
  • Brandywine - A big, beefsteak, "pink" tomato, dating back to 1885, Brandywines are fantastically sweet with a mild acidity. 
  • Cherokee Purple - An old Cherokee heirloom with a deep, dusky red hue; sweet, dense, and juicy.
  • Green Zebra - Bright chartreuese with darker green stripes, these tomatoes are rich and sweet with a tangy zing.
  • San Marzano - An Italian heirloom, first grown in the volcanic soils under Mt. Vesuvius, San Marzanos are a "paste" tomato, best for making sauce. 
  • Sungold - Actually a hybrid and not an heirloom, we included them here because their thin skins mean you probably won't find them in the grocery store--and because we love them so. These small, bright tangerine-colored cherry tomatoes are explosively sweet and flavorful--we guarantee you can't eat just one! 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Yummy Sugar Free Tart Frozen Yogurt

I fell in love with tart frozen yogurt many years ago when I had my first bite of tart gelato in Italy.  This is not exactly gelato, but it is extremely tasty.  Since I'm watching my sugar intake I took a recipe I found online and modified it.  The following recipe is the original, and includes my modifications just in case you prefer not to use sugar substitute.
Tangy and creamy Tart Frozen Yogurt 
    8 ounces (1 cup) 2% plain greek yogurt
    8 ounces (1 cup) nonfat vanilla greek yogurt
    5 3/8 ounces (5/8 cup) lowfat buttermilk
    4 1/8 ounces (1/2 cup) heavy cream
    2 5/8 ounces (3/8 cup) granulated sugar
    1 tablespoon vodka
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    pinch of salt
1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir together until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.*
2. Churn in an ice-cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Once done churning, transfer to an airtight container with a layer of plastic wrap placed directly on top of the frozen yogurt, under the lid of the container.
Take frozen yogurt out of freezer 10-20 minutes before serving, allowing it to soften at room temperature until scoopable. Makes about 1 quart
My modifications:
*I added 1 tsp vanilla to 16 oz plain whole milk yogurt.  Beware of "low fat" yogurt if your concern in sugar, as the low fat varieties that are flavored have more carbohydrates.
*buttermilk was made from adding 1 T lemon juice to milk and allowed to stand for 5 minutes.
*sugar was substituted with same amount of combo (erythritol, stevia, splenda).  I need to 
mention that, if I were strictly using stevia or Splenda, I would reduce the amount as I find it quite a lot sweeter in amounts equal to sugar.  Erythritol is my favorite:  more closely resembles sugar and about 70% as sweet as sugar.  Hard to find in stores, but you can get it on amazon.  Link here.

(for the 2nd batch I bought some at the grocery store!)

Why vodka?  At first, I thought it was to help keep the frozen yogurt a bit softer.
I am not convinced it matters.

Sugar substitute added.

This is a Cuisinart ice cream maker.  I have had the base in the freezer for several hours 
prior to adding the ice cream ingredients.

The ice cream maker ran for 20 minutes...
After it finished blending I put the frozen yogurt (still in the blending base) back in the freezer for an hour before serving.
Here is my first batch!  Yum!

I served it with slices of a fresh peach.

In the second batch I mashed about 1/4 cup fresh blackberries and used the zest of a Meyer lemon and about 2 tablespoon of the juice, added right at the end of the blending.

This, too, is absolutely delicious.  It still has that tart yogurt taste, but the fruit and zest 
give it a little "zing"!