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Posts Tagged ‘vegetarian’

Before making this dish, I had never cooked or eaten polenta. Honestly, I had no desire – I thought it was a boring vegetarian food, high in calories in carbs. It is vegetarian, and it is high in carbs… but it’s not as high in calories as I previously thought, and it doesn’t have to be boring! It’s one of those wonderful foods with endless possibilities – it can take on multiple flavors, and even textures! Immediately after cooking, it has a mashed potato-like consistency. But place it in a baking dish in your refrigerator for a few hours and you’ll get something resembling yellow brownies.

If you’ve never tried polenta – you need to! I loved this dish and polenta has become a new pantry staple for me.

And for those of you wondering, “WTF is polenta?”… it’s just cornmeal!

(You’ll need to plan ahead and prepare the polenta either in the morning or the day before)

Polenta Wedges with Asparagus and Mushrooms
adapted from Everyday Food, January/February 2010

1 cup instant polenta
4 cups water
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 pound white mushrooms, sliced
coarse salt and ground black pepper
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 pound asparagus, trimmed

To make the polenta:

Bring 4 cups of salted water to a boil. Gradually pour in 1 cup instant polenta, stirring continuously for about 3 minutes. Pour into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours, or overnight – you can even do it days in advance. (To boost the flavor of your polenta, you may use milk or chicken broth – or both – instead of salted water. The original recipe used a combination – try 1 cup skim milk + 3 cups chicken broth)

prepared polenta

Once the polenta is ready:

1. Heat broiler and position the rack 5 inches from the heat. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add broth and cook until reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Stir in milk and cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

starting to cook the mushrooms

2. Place a rimmed baking sheet in oven to heat. Slice polenta into wedges; pat dry with a paper towel and spray with cooking spray. Spray asparagus with cooking spray.

preparing the polenta and asparagus

3. Carefully remove hot baking sheet from oven. Place asparagus on one half and place polenta on the other. Season  both with salt and pepper.

before going into the oven

4. Broil until polenta is golden brown and asparagus is crisp-tender, about 6 minutes, rotating sheet and tossing asparagus about halfway through.

5. Serve polenta wedges with asparagus and mushrooms.

finished dish

Serves 4

1 serving = 4 Weight Watchers points

calories:224
fat: 4.5g (0.9g sat)
carbs: 39.1g
fiber: 4.5g
sugar: 4.8g
protein: 9.5g

That was way too vegetarian and low-calorie for Stas, so I didn’t make him eat it. Instead, I took a portion of the prepared polenta and pan-fried it in vegetable oil. I served it with sliced flank steak:

fried polenta

They look like Twinkies, don’t they?!

fried polenta and steak

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Christmas Eve is tomorrow… can you believe it?! The holiday really crept up on me this year – especially since we spent the end of November/beginning of December in New Zealand.

This year, my mom has asked me to bring 2 appetizers to the family get-together. Unfortunately, I have to work the first half of the day tomorrow, so today I pre-made 1 of them – the crispy butternut wontons.

I probably should have doubled the recipe, but there will be so much other food there, so I’m not too worried about it.

I’m pleased with how easy this recipe was, and the wontons certainly smelled good while in the oven. No taste-test until tomorrow!

The second appetizer is a simple prosciutto and mango salad, which I’ll have time to make tomorrow – and eventually blog about.

(The original recipe for these wontons also included a recipe for a spicy tomato sauce. To save time and money, I just bought some  tomato-basil sauce at the store!)

Crispy Butternut Wontons
from Cooking Light, November 2003

1  small butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/2  cup  water
1/2  cup part-skim ricotta cheese
3  tablespoons  grated Parmesan cheese
2  tablespoons  dry breadcrumbs
1/4  teaspoon  sea salt
1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
1/8  teaspoon  ground nutmeg
1  teaspoon  water
1  large egg, lightly beaten
24-30  wonton wrappers
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375°.

To prepare wontons, cut the squash in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membrane. Place the squash halves, cut sides down, in a 2-quart baking dish; add 1/2 cup water. Bake at 375° for 45 minutes or until squash is tender when pierced with a fork; cool. Scoop out pulp to measure 1 cup, and reserve the remaining pulp for another use. Combine 1 cup pulp, ricotta, Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg, stirring until well combined.

Combine 1 teaspoon water and egg, stirring with a whisk. Working with 1 wonton wrapper at a time (cover remaining wrappers with a damp towel to prevent drying), spoon about 2 teaspoons squash mixture into center of each wrapper. Brush edges of dough with egg mixture; bring 2 opposite corners together. Press edges together to seal, forming a triangle. Repeat procedure with remaining wonton wrappers and squash mixture.

Place the wontons on a large baking sheet coated with cooking spray, and brush lightly with remaining egg mixture. Bake at 375° for 17 minutes or until golden and crisp. Serve with the sauce.

Serves 8

(Note: I actually forgot to brush my wontons with the egg mixture, so they didn’t come out as nice and shiny as the recipe’s picture)

(the following nutritional information comes from the original recipe, which called for whole ricotta and included the spicy tomato sauce)

1 serving = 3 Weight Watchers points

Calories: 157
Fat: 4.6g (2.1g sat.)
Protein: 6.8g
Carbohydrate: 22.3g
Fiber: 2g

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I love creamy soups – but I very rarely eat them, because they’re often loaded with heavy cream (helloooooo calories!). But I was pleasantly surprised to flip through the October 2009 issue of Martha Stewart Living and see this recipe – no cream!

And what’s better than a warm, “creamy” soup on a cold fall or winter day?! You could eat a large bowl of it as your main meal, or have a small bowl with a sandwich (maybe a warm panini – yum!).

(To be honest, I made this back in October – but was just too damn busy to blog about it!)

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
adapted from Martha Stewart Living, October 2009
3 2/4 pounds butternut squash, halved and seeded (you could also use a sugar pumpkin)
1 onion, peeled and quartered through the stem
2 shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps wiped clean
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 cups low-sodium vegetable stock

1. Preheat Oven to 450 degrees. Cut squash into 2-inch pieces. Combine squash, onion, mushrooms, and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet. Add oil and 2 teaspoons salt; toss to coat, then spread in a single layer. Roast until squash is tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, about 30 minutes, rotating pan and tossing vegetables halfway through. Let cool, then remove skins.

2. Transfer vegetables to a medium saucepan; heat over medium. Pour in 2 cups stock; puree with an immersion blender until smooth. With the blender running, slowly add remaining 3 cups stock, and puree until smooth. Bring soup just to a simmer. Remove from heat, and season with salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm.

Serves 4.

I served mine in my pumpkin-shaped soup tureen – isn’t it cute?! It’s from Crate & Barrel:

my pumpkin-shaped tureen

dig in!

The magazine doesn’t provide nutritional information, but I used a recipe analyzer and estimate that each serving is around 232 calories or 4 Weight Watchers points.

Calories: 232
Fat: 7.2g
Carbs: 44.2g (7.5 g fiber, 9.3g sugar)
Protein: 4g

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zucchini-bread-cut

The first time I made zucchini bread was in high school, in my Food & Nutrition class. When the teacher gave us the recipe, I remember thinking that it was going to be the most disgusting bread ever. I mean, how could anyone possibly incorporate zucchini into a sweet and tasty bread?!

One taste of the finished product and I was convinced; I loved it! But I never made it again…. until last week…

This time, Stas was the skeptical one (and I don’t blame him… he doesn’t even like zucchini much). But he liked it too – and even took some to work. (or maybe I made him take some to work :))

The zucchini doesn’t add any strong taste to the bread. I think it serves mostly for moisture and a nice, chewy texture. Whatever purpose it serves, it does it well!

the finished loaf

the finished loaf

Zucchini Bread
from Cooking Light

2 cups coarsely shredded zucchini
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup applesauce
1/2 cup egg substitute
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Place shredded zucchini on several layers of paper towels, and cover with additional paper towel. Let stand 5 minutes, pressing down occasionally. Set aside.

3. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder in a large bowl and stir well; make a well in center of mixture. Combine zucchini, applesauce, egg substitute, oil, and vanilla; add to dry ingredients, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.

4. Divide batter evenly between 1 large 9 inch loaf pan (or 2 smaller 7 1/2 x 3-inch loaf pans) coated with cooking spray.

before going into the oven

before going into the oven

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let cool in pan(s) for 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan(s), and let cool completely on wire rack.

straight from the oven

straight from the oven

Serves 28

1 serving = 3 Weight Watchers points

I used 1 large loaf pan for my bread. I think this way, the center of the bread stays more moist- and you get that yummy section of almost-but-not-quite-fully-cooked part… the part that’s extra moist and chewy… the best part!

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dilled-zucchini-1

I found a zucchini recipe that Stas likes!

It wasn’t a huge surprise, though – this dish contains dill and sour cream (the 2 components of what I call ‘Russian crack’). If I haven’t mentioned this before in my blog, I have a theory that no Russian can resist dill or sour cream. This irresistableness (is that a word?) increases tenfold when the two are combined.

Anyway, on to the recipe…

Dilled Zucchini

equivalent of 6 small zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch slices
3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
1/2 cup sour cream (I used a combo of 1/4 cup fat free and 1/4 cup regular)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, sliced and separated into rings
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt
pepper

1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini, garlic, and onion and cook for 8-10 minutes (or until zucchini is light brown), stirring occasionally.

IMGP4489

zucchini and onions, before going into the pan

zucchini and onions: before

zucchini and onions: before

zucchini and onions: after

zucchini and onions: after

2. Season to taste with salt and pepper; remove from heat.

3. Mix the sour cream and dill; stir into the zucchini mixture.

sour cream and dill mixture

sour cream and dill mixture

dilled-zucchini-6

the finished side dish

4. Serve warm or at room temperature.

serves 6

(Weight Watchers points will depend on the type and amount of sour cream you use – adjust accordingly)


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baked-zucchini-sticks-5

As soon as I laid eyes on that massive zucchini, I started Gooling zucchini recipes. This was one of the first ones I found, and I knew right away that I’d love it. This is a great healthy alternative to mozarella sticks. I didn’t have any marinara sauce on hand to dip them in, but I plan on buying some and making these again!

I loved these – but Stas hated them… I ended up eating all of mine, PLUS his.

But in all fairness, he doesn’t care much for zucchini to begin with.

Baked Zucchini Sticks

  • equivalent of 3 medium zucchini, sliced into 3″ x 1/2″ sticks
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (or whatever cheese you have on hand)
  • cooking spray (or parchment paper)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • salt
  • fresh pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2. In a small bowl, beat egg whites and season with salt and pepper. In a ziplock bag, place breadcrumbs, garlic powder, and cheese; shake well. Cove cookie sheet with parchment paper (or spray cookie sheet with cooking spray) and set aside.

baked-zucchini-sticks-2

zucchini slices

baked-zucchini-sticks-1

breadcrumbs and egg white

3. Dip zucchini sticks into eggs then into bread crumb and cheese mixture, a few at a time and shake to coat. Place the breaded zucchini in a single layer on parchment paper (optional: spray cooking spray on top).

zucchini sticks pre-baking

zucchini sticks pre-baking

4. Bake at 425 degrees F for about 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm.

baked-zucchini-sticks-6

baked zucchini sticks, plated

Serves 3

Here is the breakdown of Weight Watchers points:
zucchini = 0
1 egg white = 0
1/3 cup bread crumbs = 2
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese = 2

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imgp3814

I loooooooove mushrooms!

Growing up, I actually hated them… I think the turning point came around the time I went vegetarian back in college (I was vegetarian for about 4 or 5 years, but not anymore). Once I learned that mushrooms were a good source of protein, and super-low in fat and calories, I just started making a lot of grilled portobello ‘burgers’ and stuffed mushrooms.

So that was when I started liking mushrooms. I started loving mushrooms in 2007, when I went to Ukraine for the first time. This was when I experienced the magic that is marinated mushrooms! Oh, I went crazy for them… I literally ate every last marinated mushroom in Stas’ parents’ house. When I came home, I bought a whole bunch of marinated mushrooms from the Russian stores in the neighborhood, but nothing compares to the ones I had in Ukraine 😦

Besides marinated mushrooms (yum!), I also love mushroom soups. I typically make mine with only dried porcini mushrooms – no fresh mushrooms. In Ukraine (and probably most of the former Soviet Union, although I can’t say for sure), porcini mushrooms are readily available, both fresh and dried. They’re called “white mushrooms” and are very affordable. Here in the States, I don’t think I’ve ever seen them fresh; they’re available dried, but are a little pricey. What we call “white mushrooms” here are really button mushrooms.

For this soup, I used dried porcini mushrooms and fresh “white” (button) mushrooms. It was gooooood – a mushroom lover’s dream!

One of these days, I’d love to try it with fresh porcinis…

imgp3810

Porcini Mushroom Soup
from Gourmet, December 2008

3/4 oz dried porcini mushrooms (1 cup)
6 cups warm water plus 2 cups hot water, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 lb fresh white (button) mushrooms, sliced or quartered
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 (15-oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped dill


1. Soak dried porcinis in 2 cups of hot water for 15 minutes.
2. Heat a heavy medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add onions, butter, and salt; cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden brown. Add celery, carrots, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer porcinis to the pot. Strain the porcini soaking liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into a  separate bowl. Add the fresh white mushrooms to the pot, along with with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
4. Stir in tomatoes, remaining 6 cups water, and porcini-soaking liquid. Simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes.
5. Purée 1 cup of the vegetables and 1 cup of the liquid in a blender (use caution when blending hot liquids), then return to the pot. Stir in parsley, dill, and salt to taste.
serves 8
imgp3808

what a beautiful pot of mushrooms!

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