Category Archives: Dinner

Spinach “Meat” Balls and Spaghetti (Squash)

spinach "meat" ball Spaghetti and Meatballs… a classic. When I was a kid, this was one of my favorites. Before I converted to vegetarianism as a defiant 11 year old, I was all about Sunday Night Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs. The smells of a simmering pot of sauce gently cooking little orbs of deliciousness are deeply ingrained in my mind. So last Sunday, when I asked Mark if he wanted spaghetti and meatballs for dinner he looked at me with disbelief. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve made him spaghetti and meatballs in the past 4 years. Since I no longer eat meat, I go lighter on the pasta and I’m lactose intolerant, this recipe differs from that of my childhood. The spinach balls sit atop spaghetti squash, a vegetable Mark and I have been obsessed with for the last 6 months.spaghetti squash with roasted veggies and cauliflower tomato sauce

Top those squash noodles with some balls of spinach and I’m in vegetable heaven! The “meat” balls are made of spinach, a bit of bread crumbs (gf if need be), quinoa, a binder (egg or flax egg,) onions, garlic and spices… you won’t even miss the meat. But because I’m a nice girlfriend I made Mark some pork and turkey meatballs.

Spinach “Meat” Balls over Spaghetti Squash

makes about 10-12 balls and enough spaghetti for 2-3 people

Quinoa

1 teaspoon of oil

1/2 cup of uncooked quinoa

1 1/4 cups of water

Spinach Dumplings (makes about 10)

1 tablespoon of oil

1 12 oz package of frozen spinach, defrosted and all excess water squeezed out with an old kitchen towel

1/4 cup of bread crumbs (gf if need be)

1 egg or flax egg (1 tablespoon of ground flax seed mixed with 2 tablespoons of water and allowed to sit in the fridge for 15 minutes.)

1 clove of garlic, minced

1/4 of an onion, diced

1/2 teaspoon of cumin

1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (or less if you don’t like spice)

1/4 cup of cooked quinoa (from above)

1 cup of your favorite tomato sauce

1/2 cup of water

1 spaghetti squash, cut in half lengthwise

Start by cooking the quinoa. Add the oil to the bottom of a small pot. Let it heat up for a minute over medium high heat then add in the quinoa and water, stir and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down, put a lid on the pot and let simmer for 15-20 minutes or until all of the water is absorbed, stirring occasionally.

While the quinoa is cooking, start to prepare the spinach balls…take a medium sized bowl and add in the spinach, bread crumbs, egg, spices, garlic and onion. When the quinoa is cooked add 1/4 cup to the spinach mixture, and stir it to combine all of the ingredients. Heat a mediums size pan over medium heat and add in about a tablespoon of olive oil. This is also a good time to preheat your oven to 375 F for your squash.

Form the spinach mixture into 10-12 balls with your hands. Place the spinach balls in the pan and brown on all sides. Once nicely browned, add in the sauce and water and cover the pan with a lid, let it simmer gently for at least 45 minutes, but I think the longer the better. Stir it around occasionally

While the spinach balls are bubbling away, line a cookie sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Place the spaghetti squash, cut side down on the cookie sheet and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. The squash is ready when the flesh can easily be pierced with a fork. When it is done let it cool a little bit, then scrape a fork along the inside, from stem to stern. The squash should come apart in strings that resemble spaghetti (hence the name). Plate up your squash and top with spinach balls and sauce.

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Slow Cooker Vegetable Curry

The weekend before last, my dad threw my mom a surprise milestone birthday party. 75 people, fabulous food and an open bar… my dad sure pulled off a party, and my mom was completely surprised… what a good man!

Sadly, I couldn’t make it home for the Sunday afternoon bash, so I went home this past weekend for a long weekend. One perk of my job is that when the Federal Reserve is closed, I get the day off. And they like their holidays!

It was a gorgeous weekend. On Saturday, I went for a walk down along the water with my parents and the dog. It was great to feel that salty, sea breeze on my face; I’m a beach kid, what can I say. Later on, we had my cousins over for dinner. On Sunday, I went for a long hilly run, met my best friend for breakfast and then went for a hike up Bluffs Head with my parents.

Sunday night, I went to meet my cousins’ new puppy, Scout, he’s so cute. On Monday, I volunteered at the Branford Community Dining Room, the soup kitchen where I used to volunteer at though high school and my summers home from college. It was great to see the CDR Ladies! Then I headed back up to Vermont.

It was an awesome weekend home and just what I needed! I mean who wouldn’t want to hang out with their family and this sleepy puppy… 14 years young! Love that Dexter dog.

The other morning I made this curry recipe in my slow cooker. I just threw everything in, turned it on low and left it while I went to work. 5 minutes before we were ready to eat dinner, I added a few splashes of coconut milk and a few handfuls of chopped baby spinach and that was it! While I waited for the spinach to wilt, I cooked up some whole wheat couscous. It was pretty darn good and so easy!

Slow Cooker Vegetable Curry

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 cup baby carrots, sliced 1/4 in thick
2 tablespoon curry powder
2 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Serrano chili, minced fine
1 can of chickpeas
1 russet potato cubed, peel if you want, I didn’t
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup of vegetable stock
1 cup of water
3 cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 to 3/4 cup light coconut milk
 

Heat oil in a sauté pan over medium heat, add in onions and cook for 1 minute, then add in carrots and sauté for 4 more minutes. Add in curry powder through Serrano chili, and sauté for an additional minute. Transfer the mixture to your slow cooker and add in the remaining ingredients through the water. Stir and cover. Cook on low for 10 hours or high for 6, stirring occasionally. Five minutes before serving, stir in chopped spinach and coconut milk. Serve over rice, couscous, or your desired grain.

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Buttercup Squash and Cranberries with Toasted Breadcrumbs

We were lucky enough in Vermont to escape the wrath of Hurricane Sandy; however, my heart goes out to all of those affected by the superstorm. Having grown up on the Connecticut shoreline, family members and friends have been in my thoughts constantly.  My parents fared well, but if you’ve met my dad, you know they were ready. Others in my hometown were not so lucky. The day after the storm, on my way to work, I saw a rainbow. I stopped to snap a pic and sent it to my mom, with the caption “a good omen.” Peoples support for one another this past week has been astounding, and has shown what the human spirit is truly capable of.
On another non-related note… Mark and I filed for domestic partnership and it was approved by the state of Vermont this week. Oh to be financially interdependent! How romantic!
 
Saturday night we met Mark’s parents for dinner at the Home Hill Inn.
It’s an old inn on the Connecticut river, with a restaurant that focuses on the use of local ingredients. Mark’s parents brought gifts: cheesy kielbasa for Mark and a stalk of brussels sprouts, from their garden, for me. Thanks for the dinner and gifts!
Naturally I had to find something to do with the brussels sprouts, so for lunch yesterday I had brussels sprouts with buttercup squash, cranberries and toasted breadcrumbs. Buttercup squash was new to me; I’ve been seeing it at the store and finally gave it a try. It’s a sweet, dry squash, with orange flesh and green skin. It tastes kind of like a sweet potato.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Buttercup Squash and Cranberries with Toasted Breadcrumbs 
 
1/2 lb of brussels sprouts
 
1 buttercup squash, peeled and cubed (you could sub any other winter squash
 
1/4 cup of cider vinegar
 
1 tablespoon of olive oil
 
1 tablespoon of mustard
 
2 teaspoons of maple syrup
 
Black pepper to taste
 
1/4 teaspoon dried garlic
 
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
 
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
 
3 tablespoons of whole wheat or gluten-free breadcrumbs
 
Cooking spray or oil for drizzling
 
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Combine all ingredients through red pepper flakes, tossing to coat. Spread out evenly on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes, tossing occasionally. Once browned and cooked through, add cranberries and divide evenly between 4 ramekins. Divide bread crumbs evenly over the top of the ramekins and spray with a little cooking spray or drizzle with a little bit of olive oil. Return to oven for 5 minutes, turning the broiler on for the last minute to brown the breadcrumbs. Remove from the oven and enjoy!

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Falafel Stuffed Eggplant

 

I said last post that I had big plans for the farmer’s market haul I got last week… And I did. One night we had pasta with “creamy” pumpkin sauce and roasted delicata squash. Another night we had quinoa stuffed pattypan squash. And a third we had falafel stuffed eggplant. Mark asked if it was a mix from the store (code for “it tasted authentic”) and nope, I whipped it up in my food processor.

I also made Baked Chili Cheese Fries for the Pats game last weekend, recipe courtesy of Joy the Baker… and they were delicious. (Did you know Cabot Cheese is lactose free? I didn’t)

This week was interesting at work… I’m still riding the steep learning curve of a new job  and a new computer system. It’s a little overwhelming and it doesn’t help that my supervisor is not the nicest human on the planet. It’s all making me a better person, right? But the rest of my co-workers have been super nice!

Today, after I rode my bike to the Farmer’s Market (15 miles round trip), through gale force winds, Mark and I had a date day. We  picked apples at Shelburne Orchards and noshed on apple cider donuts, just beating the rain. The Orchard has views of Lake Champlain, so pretty! After purchasing 7 pounds of apples, 3 cider donuts and a pumpkin, we headed on over to Shelburne Vineyards for a tasting. Though they were a great little vineyard, we quickly realized that spending 4 years in Finger Lakes Wine Country has made us wine snobs. I MISS GENEVA!

I’m planning some apple treats with those 7 pounds of apples.

On to falafel, this recipe is adapted from Cooking Light Magazine. The pictures didn’t come out too well, with the sun setting earlier and earlier, it’s been hard to find good lighting in our apartment. The fact that the house was built in 1900, means there is a lack of overhead lighting.

Falafel Stuffed Eggplant

1 eggplant
Cooking spray
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs ( I ground up Stacy’s Italian herb pita chips, you could use gluten free crackers to make it gluten free)
1 tablespoon tahini (roasted sesame seed paste)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup egg substitute
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 can no-salt-added chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Toppings

Chopped tomatoes
Sliced scallions
Lemon wedges

Preheat the oven to 475°F. Slice the eggplants in half lengthwise and score the cut sides with a crosshatch pattern. Place the eggplant halves, cut sides down, on a baking sheet lined with foil and coated with cooking spray. Bake for 8 minutes or until slightly tender and browned. Remove from oven; carefully scoop out pulp, leaving a 3/4-inch shell. I used the pulp in the couscous I prepared to go with the eggplant.

Combine onion, through chickpeas in a food processor and blend until smooth. Divide the mixture evenly between the two eggplant shells. Bake at 475° for 25 minutes or until eggplant halves are tender and chickpea mixture is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and top with tomatoes, scallions and a squeeze of lemon.

I served mine with couscous that had the same spices as the chickpeas, scallions, and the left over eggplant pulp that was scooped out.

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Spicy Kebabs over Farro Salad

Summer is starting to wind down… I woke up this morning and it was COLD. Nights of leaving the windows wide open might soon be put on hiatus. One might think that would mean that grilling should start to wind down as well, but I love grilling into the fall (and winter). I’ve been known to grill in knee deep snow.

We are at that time in the year when summer veggies are still around but fall veggies are starting to emerge as well. It’s the best time of year for a veggie lover like me!

These kebabs are smothered in a spicy, creamy, belly warming sauce that bridges the gap between summer and fall foods. I served it over a hearty yet light farro salad.

Spicy Kebabs

makes 6 kebabs

1 bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 medium onion, cut into 1 inch pieces

4-6 large white button mushrooms, sliced 1/3 inch thick, and cut in half to keep them similar in size to the other veggies

2 zucchini, sliced 1/3 inch thick

4 tablespoons of spicy hummus, I used Cedars Spicy Pepper

4 tablespoons of kefir, Greek yogurt sour cream (use non-dairy if you like, if using yogurt or sour cream you might need a tablespoon or 2 of water to thin it out)

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 hot cherry pepper, minced super fine

1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes

Black pepper to taste

6 kebab skewers, I used bamboo

First soak the skewers in water for at least an hour, but preferably longer, so they don’t catch on fire

Preheat your grill. Slice up the veggies and place them on the skewers, I put mine on in a repeating pattern.

In a large shallow dish, combine the remaining ingredients with a whisk, add a bit of water if it’s too thick. Then roll the kebabs in the marinade. Place the kebabs on the grill, 2-4 minutes on each side.

Farro Salad

1/2 cup of farro

1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes

1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved

2 cups of spinach, shredded

1/4 cup of fresh basil, chifonaded

2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar

1/2 tablespoon of olive oil

Black pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon of Italian seasoning

Preheat the oven to 350.  Line an 8×8 pan with foil. Place the tomatoes halves in the pan and top with the balsamic, oil, pepper, and Italian seasoning, toss to coat and place in the oven. Turn them occasionally and bake for about 20 minutes.

Then bring a pot of water to a boil, then add in the the red pepper flakes. Once boiling, add in farro and cook for 20-25 minutes or until al denete. Place the spinach in the bottom of a colander. Pour the farro into the colander and the hot water will wilt the spinach. In a large bowl, combine fresh basil, tomatoes (making sure to scrape all the yummy goodness from the tinfoil into the bowl), farro and spinach. Add in more black pepper or balsamic vinegar is you want.

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Roasted Vegetable and Farro Salad

Mark and I have exciting news… We built a Kegerator! A kegerator is a device that dispenses draft beer in your home. Ours is comprised of a chest freezer that has been set to refrigerator temperatures, with a tap coming out of the top. We also have a CO2 tank that keeps the beer from going flat. It only took a peruse of the internet and a few trips to Lowe’s to get our rig up and running. And let me just say, it was quite the engineering feat… Luckily engineering is in my blood, my dad is an engineer.  Our first keg is Harpoon IPA (one of my favs!) Mark is beyond excited, he has been dreaming of building one for years… and now we have the space. He drank out of a 4oz glass last night just so he could keep using the tap.

Fun Fact: Mark and I met 4 years ago, this weekend, at our freshman orientation at Hobart and William Smith. I also met my best friend from college, Tracy, that same weekend. Little did I know that I was meeting two of the most important people in my life. I’d be lost without them!

 

Tracy and Me, Sept 2008,

Don’t ask what I was wearing, I think I was trying to change out of that dress. We have no normal pictures together…

Mark might be excited about beer, but I have been excited about farro, (I know, I’m weird). Farro is an ancient grain, thought to be the first grain cultivated by humans. It is rustic, hearty and nutty. It looks kind of like a puffy brown rice grain. It’s great because in one serving (1/4 uncooked) there are 7 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. Topped with roasted veggies and some balsamic vinegar, it is delicious and it feels hearty yet light on a summer night.

I used edamame, corn, tomatoes, onion and kale, but you can use whatever veggies you’d like. I found farro in the bulk section at the local co-op (for cheap!)

Roasted Veggie and Farro Salad

1/2 cup of farro

2/3 cup of corn kernels

2/3 cup of deshelled edamame

12-15 cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 a medium onion sliced

1 hot cherry pepper (optional. but we have hot peppers growing out of control)

1/2 cup of kale, shredded

1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, divided

1/2 teaspoon of Italian seasoning

1 clove of garlic, smashed

Black pepper to taste

3 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, divided

1 tablespoon of olive oil, divided

Preheat the oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with tin foil. Place the edamame, corn and tomatoes and cherry pepper on the baking sheet, top with 1.5 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and 1/2 a tablespoon of olive oil, Italian seasoning, 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes and black pepper. Toss the veggies around to coat. Place in the oven for about 25-30 minutes, tossing occasionally.

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. While you are waiting for the water to boil, heat the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add in onions and let sauté for 10 minutes, only moving them around occasionally. Back to the farro, once the water is boiling, add in the farro and remaining 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Let the farro cook for about 20 minutes, it should still have an al dente bite when done, and there should still be water reaming in the pot. Back to the onions, after 10 minutes, lean back and add in the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Do not keep your face over the pan when you do this. Stir it, add some black pepper, and let it cook for another 5ish minutes, until the balsamic vinegar reduces and becomes sticky.

For the kale, I covered mine with a little water and microwaved it for 45 seconds to wilt it. You could steam it if you’d like. Place the kale in the bottom of a large bowl. Top with onions, and roasted veggies (the veggies are done when they are browned a bit on all sides and make sure you try to scrape the reduced balsamic vinegar off the pan and into the bowl). For the cherry pepper, run it under cool water for 30 seconds and remove the skin, it should come off rather easily. Then mince it finely and add it to the bowl. When the farro is done, pour it into a colander, run cool water over it for 30 seconds to stop the cooking process and add it to the bowl. Toss everything around to distribute everything evenly and enjoy

This dish is a good potluck or picnic dish because it can be served warm, cold or room temp, the flavors meld the longer it sits, and it looks pretty fancy.

 

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Corn and Potato Chowder

The pace of life has picked up a little bit lately, hence the lack of blogging. Here’s a little recap: 2 weeks ago, Friday, I got a call asking if I could start the coming Monday at the Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Research and Development Lab as a Test Technician… um yes? They are a temp-t0-hire company, so as of now, until I can prove my skills in the lab and work hard, I’m a “temporary” employee. Which for me, is fine, I am still on my parent’s health care and after 2 months off from work, I’m not really in need of a paid vacation. It’s been going well, I’m enjoying it a lot, but it is a 30 minute commute each way…  which means that 6 am runs are now a part of my life.

On Saturday, to celebrate my employment, we went to Vermont Brewers Fest. You paid 30 dollars, got a souvenir tasting glass and 15 drink tickets. There were 40 craft brewers from Vermont, New England and beyond. It was an awesome time, but let me just say that when you start drinking at 11:30 am and all you’ve had to eat was a banana, you get toasted pretty fast. Needless to say, Mark was more than happy to use up the rest of my beer tickets. Here’s our fav’s of the day:

The next weekend I went home for the weekend for a family reunion, and my mom and I did a 16.5 mile bike ride to meet my friend, Ali, for breakfast at Sunny Side Up Cafe. It was great to hangout with my family for the weekend, especially since my brother is leaving for college in 2 weeks.

On Tuesday, Mark’s Parents came up for dinner and brought us a cooler full of veggies from their garden… it was like a CSA delivery. They brought: yellow squash, zucchini, spaghetti squash, broccoli, cauliflower, and cucumbers. Here’s a look at our veggie packed dinners using their veggies:

And they took us out to the Farm House Tap and Grill for dinner.

Now that I’ve filled you in on the happenings, let me rant about sweet summer corn… can you say Yum?!? We picked up a ton of corn at the farmers market and man oh man was it good. I made a corn and potato chowder after seeing a recipe on Taylor’s Blog.

Corn and Potato Chowder (serves 2 to 3)

1 Hungarian wax pepper

2 tablespoons of olive oil, divided

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

4 ears of Corn

2 potatoes, cubed, skin still on (you can use russet or red or Yukon)

3 cups of water (plus more, depending on how starch everything is)

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Lots of black pepper

15 basil leaves

Place the Hungarian wax pepper under the broiler or over a gas burner and char on all sides until the skin becomes blistered. Place in a zip top bag for a few minutes and then run under cool water, removing the skin with your fingers. Pull out stem and seeds. Slice thinly and set aside. While the pepper roasts, remove the corn from the cob, I found that if you invert a small bowl in a larger bowl and place the corn cob on top of the inverted bowl, using it as a stand, you can use a sharp knife and cut down the sides of the cob, and the kernels will be caught by the big bowl instead of going all over your kitchen. Make sure you keep an eye on the pepper though.

In a large pot, add in one tablespoon of oil; add in the garlic and onion and sauté for 2 minutes. Then add in the corn (reserve one cup of kernels for later), cubed potato and water. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

While the soup simmers, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a small frying pan, add in in the basil leaves and 1/4 of the wax pepper slices. Sauté until the basil is crisp. Scoop them out of the oil, and onto a paper towel. You can save the oil for pizza sauce or spaghetti, as it’s been flavored quite nicely.

Once the potatoes are tender, remove from heat. Add in the red peppers flakes, black pepper, and the remaining Hungarian wax pepper. Let it cool a bit then, using and immersion blender (or regular blender), blend until smooth. Return to the heat, add in the 1 cup of reserved corn kernels and simmer for 15 minutes.

Serve up garnished with fried basil leaves and wax peppers slices and a few grinds of fresh black pepper. I served mine with a side salad and a thick slice of homemade beer-rye bread. (Yes that’s right, BEER-RYE bread, it contains one bottle of lager)

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