side dish

Veggie Burgers and Polenta Fries- Meatless Monday week 3

Posted on March 22, 2010. Filed under: side dish, Vegetarian |

Week 3 of meatless Monday. We are going strong. My favorite night to cook now is Monday nights because it is food generally that I love. The other nights I stick to foods my husband loves, to make up for Monday nights and the experimental veggie recipes. Sometimes experimental meals can go TERRIBLY wrong. And other times they surprise me and I can’t help but grin, and then my husband sees my grin and says, “You are pretty proud of yourself, huh?” YEP. Yep I am.

This meal gave me that grin. I have never made a homemade veggie burger or polenta before. So I was a tad bit nervous. I was also nervous because friends were coming over for dinner, to eat my experimental meal. The couple coming over has specific eating restrictions: the wife is vegetarian and the husband is gluten free. Which isn’t crazy difficult, but I think people assuming that if someone is vegetarian, just make a veggie filled pasta and a salad and call it a day. Ya, well that won’t fly with a gluten free diet. And, knowing myself, I won’t just go by brown rice pasta to make it a gluten free meal. I will go over the top and make my own veggie burgers and fries. Healthy, delicious, picky diet friendly, vegetable hater friendly, meat lover friendly.

Sometimes my husband won’t even touch some of the veggie stuff I make. Or he will take 1 bite and say, “this isn’t your best dish,” and he won’t finish it. But not this one, he finished it. He said he didn’t love it, but he finished it, which means it was good just not a real burger so he didn’t love it. The 3 of us on the other hand devoured ours, and gluten free husband went back for seconds on the burger (we all went back for seconds on the fries). So I would say my experimental vegetarian/gluten free meal was a HIT and totally worth of a Meatless Monday meal.

Tofu and Bean Burgers
makes 6 veggie brugers
1 15 ounce cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 14 ounce packages firm tofu, drained and patted dry
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 egg
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup chopped mushrooms (Chop them into little pieces, but not minced)
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
hamburger buns, lettuce, tomato, cheese, grilled onions

Place beans and tofu in a food processor; process until fairly smooth. Add flour, egg, cornmeal, cumin, cilantro, salt, pepper and garlic. Process until well combined. Stir in the mushrooms.
Spoon mixture into 6, slightly flattened, balls on individual pieces of parchment paper and put on a large plate and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours before cooking.
*The mixture WILL be sticky. I just sort of formed them into shapes that slightly resembled some sort of round object and placed them on little individual sheets of parchment paper (I cut squares that were about 3×3 inches). If you put them on their own little square of parchment, it helps when you put them in the pan. Kind of the same effect as those hamburger patties you buy at the store with sheets of paper in between? You got it.

Heat a skillet pan over medium heat. Coat pan with non stick spray. Form each ball into a 4-inch patty about 1/2-inch thick. Place the patties in pan and cook until browned and heated through.
*To heat them through, I cook the patties on the skillet with the lid on for about 12 minutes on the first side. Then I flipped them and cooked them with the lid on for about another 10 minutes. Trick: Put the burgers on when the fries go in the oven. Your meal will all be done at the same time!

Polenta Fries

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup of water
2 cups of milk
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

In a saucepan, bring the water and the milk to a boil, add the polenta and stir frequently (The mixture will get very thick, just muscle through it).
Reduce heat to low and let polenta simmer, about 10-15 minutes. Stir every few minutes to make sure polenta does not stick to the bottom of the pot. Add the mozzarella, garlic, and salt & pepper about 2 minutes before you will take the polenta off the heat..
Cover a cookie sheet (9×13) with parchment paper. Pour the polenta on to the paper and spread out with a spatula. Let cool down for about 5 minutes, then transfer to the fridge for another 60-90 minutes.
*Don’t skip this step. The polenta becomes firm in the fridge which makes you able to cut them into the frie shape and they will still hold up to it. If you miss this step the polenta will break apart and you wont get fries, you will get crumbly polenta pieces.

Preheat your oven to 450ºF.

Take the parchment paper off the cookie sheet and cut it in strips (about 14 inch wide and 3 inches long).
Place the polenta strips on the sheet and spray with Extra Virgin olive oil.
Bake in the oven for about 20-30 minutes or until golden brown, turn once after 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with a little salt & pepper and serve!

Cilantro Aioli (Lightened up)
2 tbsp reduced fat mayo
1/4 cup nonfat plain yogurt
2 tbsp reduced fat sour cream
2 tsp chopped cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and spread on the burgers and use it to dip with the fries.

Or you can go bunless, and make this a completely gluten free meal. That’s what my friend did, and it still looks so tasty!!

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Vegetable Terrine for Meatless Monday (Week2)

Posted on March 15, 2010. Filed under: side dish, Vegetarian |

Last week we participated in our first Meatless Monday. You can read about the campaign on their website to see how just 1 person making the choice to go meatless just 1 day a week can make a HUGE impact on our world and on your body, all in positive ways.

Last weeks dinner was sub par. I thought it was fine, but Jon hated it. It was chili, with no meat. Lots of beans and mushrooms for texture, and a side of cornbread. Again, I liked it and if there would have been meat in it, I bet he would have liked it too 🙂 He is getting used to the idea of not having meat on that one day, it is an adjustment for him, for sure. But we will continue on, persevere on this journey.

This Monday will be different. Creative ways to incorporate veggies is my goal. Like this Roasted Vegetable Terrine. Delicious. My friend Bonnie ate it and said, “This is the best thing in my life.” She said it with eggplant and cheese practically falling out of her mouth b/c she was inhaling it (it is that good). You can make it on Sunday and enjoy it on Monday. In fact, if there are only 2 of you in your house, this is enough for each of you to have some for lunch and dinner.

I think a lot of people get stuck on what to eat if they aren’t eating meat. They automatically assume it will be a meal filled with carbohydrates: pasta, rice, pizza. It doesn’t have to be. But I understand that it is hard to think outside of the box. Maybe the ideas below will help you think creatively about removing some of the meat from your diet and replacing it will flavorful produce.

Here are some lunch and dinner ideas to compliment the Roasted Vegetable and Goat Cheese Terrine:
Roasted Pear Salad
Pizza: Margherita, Greek or Butternut Squash
Sweet Potato Raviolis

I got the idea for the terrine from Once Upon a Plate. Beautiful pictures!!

Roasted Vegetable and Goat Cheese Terrine
Makes 8 slices
1 eggplant
Olive oil cooking spray
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 large red bell peppers, roasted
1 large yellow bell pepper, roasted
3 large zucchinis, sliced lengthwise
5 tomatoes
6 ounces goat cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste (you won’t need a ton of salt and pepper though. Roasting the vegetables brings out tons of flavor)

Remove both ends of eggplant; slice eggplant lengthwise into 8 slices. Place eggplant on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Coat eggplant with cooking spray; sprinkle with salt and pepper (only a little). Bake at 450° for 15 minutes or until tender. Remove from oven; brush with balsamic vinegar, and set aside to cool.

Place sliced zucchini on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Bake at 450° for 12 minutes. Brush with balsamic vinegar and set aside.

Cut the ends off of the tomatoes and slice them in third. Season with salt and pepper. Place on a foiled lined baking sheet, seed side down and roast for 25 minutes at 450 degrees. Remove from the oven and cool.

Combine goat cheese, parmesan, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, and basil leaves in a bowl. Stir in ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Line an 8- x 4-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, allowing edges of plastic to overhang.
*Make sure all your veggies are at room temperature or only slightly warm when you start to layer your terrine.

Gently press 3 eggplant slices crosswise into loaf pan, balsamic side up (facing you), allowing top of slices to be even with pan. Press 1 slice up against sides of each end of loaf pan, allowing top of slice to be even with pan (you are essentially living the pan with eggplant slices).

Spread half of cheese mixture over eggplant; top with yellow pepper and half of the zucchini slices. Spread the remaining half of the cheese mixture over the zucchini. Repeat procedure with remaining veggies: zucchini, peppers, tomatoes. Top with remaining slices of eggplant, balsamic side down.
*It doesn’t matter the order it is layered in. The point is to have layers of roasted veggies and cheese.

Cover with plastic wrap that is hanging over the sides, and place a weight on plastic wrap. (We used 3 cans of soup.) Chill in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight (I chilled it for about 1 hour and it tasted great, so if you don’t have the time to chill it for 8 hours, don’t let that stop you from making this.)

Uncover and invert loaf onto a cutting board; carefully remove plastic wrap.
*It comes out of the pan really easily and holds it form really well. So don’t be worried, you can do this!

Cut into 8 slices using a really sharp knife and serve along side almost any dish.

If there is any excess liquid, just use a paper towel to blot it up when you serve it.

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Not quite Eggplant Parmesan

Posted on November 24, 2009. Filed under: side dish, vegetables |

In the past month or so I have been loving eggplant. I wanted to make some eggplant parmesan at home. But it is just so heavy. And since it is the week of Thanksgiving, all heavy food is off limits until Thursday. Then.It’s.ON! But I still have an eggplant I need to use. Soooo…I made a very healthy eggplant dish. I used eggplant parmesan as my inspiration. But I am not even going to sit here and call this anything close to eggplant parmesan. It was just my inspiration.

Serves 4 (as a side dish)
1 eggplant
4 zucchini
4 tomatoes, sliced
1 cup marinara sauce
parmesan cheese, about 1 cup
1 cup fresh basil, julienned

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Slice eggplant into 1/2 inch slices. Sprinkle salt on both side of eggplant slices. Place in a colander to allow the moisture to be removed from the eggplant. Let the eggplant sit for about 30 minutes, then pat the moisture off of it.

Sprinkle the top of each slice with 1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes. Until the top is brown and bubbly.

Meanwhile, slice the zucchini into ribbon this slices. Then cut each of those slices into strips, to have a similar shape to linguine. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Boil the zucchini strips for about 6-8 minutes. Until they are tender. Drain and place on a plate in a small circle.

Lay 1 slice of cooked eggplant on the zucchini, then the slices of 1 tomato, another slice of eggplant, then spoon about 1/4 cup marinara and sprinkle with 1/4 cup fresh cut basil. Serve immediately.

*I forgot to add a picture of the eggplant with the marinara on it, oops…

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Velveeta Mac and Cheese

Posted on November 12, 2009. Filed under: Pasta, side dish |

So I have this problem. I can’t ever make a recipe the way it says too. I lied, sometimes I can. But rarely. And if the recipe has many ‘bad for you’ ingredients I almost always try to replace them. Well, this recipe is no different.

I am so weird. I made this for a ‘White Trash Wine Party.’ So you would think I would go with the theme and make this truly white trash, which means not including any type of ingredient that would even mildly reflect health. But of course I kept thinking, “I need more vegetables in here, more vegetables.” So I had to…

*On a side note, my grandma (Actually my step grandma, but whatever) said I should decorate the house with a clothes line and hang under wear on it. And then she went even further to say, “I can give you some of grandpa’s old underwear to hang.” WHAT? Okay, that just crossed the line. I’m all for poop and fart talk. But I DO NOT want to talk about my grandpa’s old underwear.

Anyway, back to the mac and cheese. I replaced the rue (flour and butter mixed as a thickening agent in a sauce) with pureed butternut squash. It changes the flavor, but not in a bad way. Honestly no one will know you added it. But you will know you omitted some of the fat and replaced it with vegetables. You can also puree some steamed carrots too. Which I will do next time. Pretty much anything orange you can cook and puree and mix it in. Because butternut squash is a little sweet, I had to balance out the sweetness with some extra salt. Look, I’m 27 and don’t have to worry about my salt intake. But I am 27 and do worry about gaining weight. So I take the good with the bad. In any case, I love this recipe. And if it weren’t for the white trash party, I would have replaced the velveeta with real cheese. Probably romano and brie. Next time…

Serves 10
16 ounces whole wheat shell pasta
16 ounces low fat velveeta cheese
1 can(15 ounces) pureed butternut squash (use pumpkin is bn squash isn’t available)
1 cup 1% milk
1/2 cup low fat cheddar cheese
1 cup non fat greek yogurt
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg
4 hot dogs, sliced into bite sized
12 ritz crackers, crumbled

Cook the pasta according to box instructions. Rinse and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat the velveeta, butternut squash and milk. Stir until melted and smooth.

When it is melted add the shredded cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir until smooth. Then add the cooked shell noodles and sliced hot dogs. Pour into a greased 4 quart casserole dish. Sprinkle with ritz crackers.

Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes. Until the top is golden brown and bubbly.

*I didn’t even take a picture of this with my new camera. What was I thinking? I’m not sure. Everyone loved it though. Not gonna lie, Hebrew National Hot Dogs would have tasted the best in here. But of course I used Trader Joe’s turkey dogs, which are low fat. This would be a great side dish on Thanksgiving, with a few modifications; no hot dogs, and use really cheese, not velveeta.

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Spinach Mushroom Risotto

Posted on November 9, 2009. Filed under: side dish |

One of Jon’s top 5 favorite foods is risotto. The great part is, he likes the stuff from the box. I was shopping at Henry’s a couple weeks ago and came across an Organic Spinach Mushroom Risotto. Perfect, throw that guy in the cart.

I was in the kitchen baking something (ha, go figure); a pound cake, or loaf cake, or something along those lines. And I realized the man probably wanted some dinner. So I browsed the fridge to see what extra veggies and meat I could throw into the risotto. And so the dish was created… he loved it! Cheap, easy, quick, so I loved it too.

Serves 2-3 (2 as a main dish, 3 as a side dish)
1 box Risotto (I use vegetable stock instead of water)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 cups spinach, chopped
2 sausage links, cooked
1/2 cup grated romano cheese

Cook the risotto according to package directions. Once the rice is simmering in the water, add the mushrooms.

Cook the sausage in a separate pan until browned. Set aside.

About 2 minutes before the risotto is done, toss in the spinach, cooked sausage and romano cheese. Serve immediately.

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Roasted Butternut Squash and Carrots

Posted on November 9, 2009. Filed under: Fall Favorites, side dish, vegetables |

I love every ingredient in this dish. I mean love love them! Like I could eat them every meal and be perfectly content.

The squash and carrots become soft but with a somewhat crispy outside. And the roasted garlic becomes sweet and just delicious. After the garlic is roasted, the peel will just sort of slide off of each piece. But if the peels are all tossed in with the dish, it won’t taste funny, so don’t worry about that part (I was, that’s why I say this). If you really hate maple syrup, try honey instead. But it really doesn’t have a strong maple flavor at all. The maple just brings out the natural sweetness of the vegetables.

Serves 6
Adapted from Ina Garten
1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1/2 lb carrots, cut diagonally
1 head garlic, top cut off, unpeeled
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp ground sage
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and spread on a cookie sheet.

Bake for about 30-35 minutes. Toss 2 times during cooking.
Serve immediately on a platter.

MMM, look at that steam. And the glisten from the olive oil and maple syrup.

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Butternut Squash and Apple Salad

Posted on September 2, 2009. Filed under: Fall Favorites, Salads, side dish |

I bought a butternut squash at the store 3 days ago. I bought it on a whim. Not knowing what exactly I would make. I always do that though; buy a couple random items at the store that I use during the week to conjure up something that we wouldn’t ordinarily eat. I LOVE butternut squash. And I LOVE dried cranberries. And recently I have been enjoying curry, so this dish is just a collaboration of some things I really enjoy. And sure enough, the combination of them is incredible!
It smelt like fall in our house as the butternut squash was baking. And it tasted like a hint of fall as well. I couldn’t stop tasting little spoonfuls. It is light, but hearty, and sweet, yet savory.
You can add blue cheese crumbles also. I just didn’t have any on hand and was too lazy to go to the store to get some. But it would be a fabulous addition.
* I tried to take pictures, but I royally SUCK at photography. It is blurry, or too dark, or too bright, or to far. I need serious help in the camera/picture taking department.

Serves 6
1- 2 lb butternut squash, seeded, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
pinch curry powder
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 tbsp brown sugar

3/4 cup non fat greek yogurt
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp curry powder
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3 gala apples, medium diced
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
2 strips turkey bacon, cooked and diced
1 cup red grapes, cut in half
4 cups spinach (optional)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Toss the squash,cinnamon, pinch of nutmeg, pinch of curry, brown sugar and 2 tbsp olive oil on a baking sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, until the squash is lightly browned and tender, about 30 minutes. Cool.

Whisk the yogurt, curry powder, vinegar, honey, lemon juice, pinch of salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the apples, cooled toasted walnuts, cranberries, grapes, bacon and cooled butternut squash.
Serve chilled over a bed of spinach or just by itself.

*the squash might mash up a little as you stir the salad. That’s okay. It tastes amazing like that. It just spreads a little of the butternut love over every part of the salad.

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Lentil Salad

Posted on July 28, 2009. Filed under: Salads, side dish, Trader Joe's |

I was at TJ’s yesterday doing some random grocery shopping. Sometimes they have samples out, and yesterday’s sample was a lentil salad. It was fantastic!!! Just that day I had been researching how I can incorporate more protein into my primarily vegan/vegetarian diet. This salad is so easy and so delicious! I made some immediately when I got home and put it over baby spinach for my lunch today.

Serves 6
1 package pre-cooked lentils
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
1 1/2 cups julienned carrots
1 small red onion, diced
salt and pepper
Mix everything together in a bowl and serve.

See, so easy!!!!

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Brown Rice Salad

Posted on July 2, 2009. Filed under: side dish |

I made this salad for our 4th of July BBQ. I made it a day in advance and it was perfect! It tastes healthy, refreshing and is satisfying.

Serves 10
2 cup of brown rice
4 cups water
1 cup silvered almonds
1 cup dried cranberries
2 large apples, peeled and chopped into small pieces
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt (optional)
2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar
1/4 cup finely chopped green onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 can mandarin oranges, drained


Rinse rice thoroughly. Bring it to a boil with 2 cups of water, then cook over low heat with the lid on for approximately 30 minutes or until rice is tender.

Combine cooked rice with all other ingredients in a large bowl. Toss well and season according to taste.

This delicious rice dish is best served warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!

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Polenta Topped with Brie and Mango Chutney

Posted on June 24, 2009. Filed under: Appetizers, side dish, Trader Joe's |

This is an incredibly easy and flavorful appetizer. You can also layer the ingredients in a casserole dish and bake it for 20 minutes and serve it as a side dish. It is incredible either way! All of the ingredients can be purchased at Trader Joe’s for less then $10.
1 tube pre-cooked polenta
1 small wheel of goat cheese brie
1 jar mango ginger chutney from Trader Joe’s

Slice the polenta into 1/4 inch slices. Brush with olive oil and grill on each side for 3 minutes.
Top it with a slice of the cheese and place it in the broiler so it melts, about 2 minutes. Then top it with a spoon full of the chutney. Serve with a sprig of mint.

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