Crudité for the Holidays

It’s that time of the year again, when everyone seems to invite you to one event or another. For those events where you are not spared of bringing along a dish, or perhaps you sincerely yearn to contribute something, may I suggest a crudité platter. It’s a visually impressive dish, yet extremely simple to make. It only requires enough patience on your part to rinse, dry, and chop a few vegetables. Honestly, you can include just about any sort of vegetable that tickels your fancy. There are no real rules, at least in my opinion, to crudité, other than you must include some sort of spread to dip your lovely pieces of veggies into. I tend to make a hummus or yogurt based dip, such as tzatziki.

For the above picture, use:

1/2 bag baby carrots
2 sliced yellow peppers
2 sliced red peppers
3 sliced Israeli cucumbers
1 small head of broccoli, chopped into florets
1/2 package of grape tomatoes
8 oz. green beans, ends trimmed
10-15 Kalamata olives (or mixed)
2 large green peppers, for dip bowls
1/2 c. hummus
1/2 c. tzatziki
1/2 head of green leaf lettuce for bottom garnish


Rice, Nut, and Seed Loaf

This is a nice meat-alternative dish that is hearty enough to please even the meat and potatoes crowd.  In fact, my very carnivorous husband sometimes even requests this!  Served like a meatloaf, it does well as the centerpiece of a meal, or as an accompaniment to pasta and veggies.  It also freezes well, uncooked, so if you have a large enough mixing bowl, consider doubling the ingredients for an easy meal another day.

This is also a great recipe for the novice cook – it simply requires a bit of chopping and shredding, and if you have a food processor, those steps are a snap.

We realize that this is not the most visually appetizing dish, but it does taste good!


  • 3 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups shredded cheese (more or less depending on your taste) — cheddar or mozzarella, or a combination of the two
  • 4 lightly beaten eggs
  • 1 medium chopped onion
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesano Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup chopped sunflower kernels
  • 1/8 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/8 cup flax seeds
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning, or 1/2 teaspoon of each of the following dried herbs: thyme, oregano, basil, marjoram, parsley

Combine all the ingredients and pack into a greased 9″ loaf pan.  Bake at 350°F for 50-60 minutes or until firm.  Let cool in pan for 10 minutes.  Serve in slices and top with warm marinara sauce.

Mexican flavor variation — instead of Italian seasoning, use chili seasoning (cumin, paprika, chili powder, and oregano) and replace some of the cheese with shredded Pepper Jack or Monterey Jack.  Top with your choice of traditional red tomato salsa or salsa verde.

An Indian Feast

I believe there’s a common misconception regarding Indian food in the U.S., and curry flavors in general. Many people complain that Indian food is hard on the belly, causing mild to severe gas buildup and tend to blame it on the spices used in Indian cooking. Once upon a time, I, too, believed this, although I still would eat Indian cuisine as much as I could because I have always loved it. Then a friend of mine with Indian roots, revealed the secret to this gaseous dilemma: the spices are not to blame, but rather, the cook. If you do not thoroughly cook the spices prior to assembling the dish, the spices will indeed cause a lot of gas once they pass into your intestines. You may be pleasantly surprised that one simple step in the cooking process, could allow you to eat Indian fare without having to worry about post gas or cramping again.

I’ve included three recipes in this post, but feel free to make them separately or all together for an Indian feast worthy of a lovely weekend gathering of friends. If you’re truly feeling festive, make some delicious paratha bread to accompany your feast.

Both recipes incorporate curry, or garam marsala. Which combination of spices you will use will ultimately be up to your taste buds. During your preparations for either of these dishes, you will want to take one heaping Tbl. of spice (to turn up the heat, just add more), and place it in a small bowl or ramekin dish. You will then slowly add some water to the spice to form a paste, such as in the picture to the right. Set aside.

Curried Channa

2 c. dried chickpeas*

1 small yellow onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1″ piece of fresh ginger, grated (optional)
1 heaping Tbl. curry or garam marsala, turned into paste
salt to taste

*You could use canned, fresh chickpeas, however, you won’t be able to cook the chickpeas as long to meld the flavors together.

If you own a pressure cooker, the process of reconstituting the dried chickpeas is less time-consuming. However, if you don’t have a pressure cooker, not to worry. Instead of placing the dried chickpeas with some salt and water (according to your pressure cooker’s instructions) and allowing them to soften, you would need to cover the chickpeas with 2-3 inches of water in a large pot and allow them to soften some overnight. After the long soak, you can then begin to simmer the chickpeas for about 30-40 minutes. Once cooked, but not mushy, drain and set aside. Reserve some of the cooking water, which you will need while making the channa recipe.

In a large stock or sauce pot, on medium high heat, add a good glug of olive oil or clarified butter. Add the onion, garlic, curry paste, and ginger (optional), and allow to sauté until the aroma of the curry paste is noticeable. Add the chickpeas and salt. Give everything a stir, and pour about 3/4 c. of the reserved chickpea cooking water. Allow the dish to cook for about 30-40 minutes, or until the chickpeas are tender. Do not overcook, or the chickpeas will turn mushy. You want them to retain their shape. Serve in a large serving bowl with a little chopped cilantro on top.

Long Bean with Mushrooms

Let me begin this recipe by telling you that I have never been more amazed by a vegetable than when I laid my eyes on these elegantly long beans! Of course, if you don’t happen to have an Asian market near your home, the likelihood of getting your hands on these elongated beauties is pretty slim. Regular green beans will work nicely, too, so no need to fret.

1 lb. long beans, or string beans, cleaned of ends and chopped into 2-3″ pieces
8 white button mushrooms, clean and sliced into 1/4″ slices
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
curry or garam marsala paste (see above recipe)
salt, pepper to taste
olive oil or clarified butter for cooking

Wash the beans and dry in a colander. Chop into 2-3″ pieces; set aside. Prepare the mushrooms; set aside. Chop the onion and garlic; set aside. Heat a large sauté pan (preferably one with a lid) on medium-high heat. Add some oil or butter. Add the onion and garlic. Allow to cook for about 2 minutes before adding the curry paste. When the aroma of the paste is noticeable, add the mushrooms. Allow this mixture to cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the beans with some salt and pepper. Give the veggies a good stir or two, then turn the heat down to low and cover the pan. If the mixture seems to be getting to dry, add a glug or two of olive oil, or a little water. Allow the vegetables to cook through, about 20 minutes. Make sure not to overcook the beans, as you want them to retain their shape and not become too mushy. (For a finished photo of this dish, look above to the first picture on this post.)

Fish with Coconut Curry Sauce

I absolutely love this sauce, because it can be used on top of just about any fish you like. It even compliments chicken or meat for that matter. Not only is it versatile, but it can also be tweaked to your liking. Like freshly grated ginger?….add some in. Like dried chili?….add some of that too. I think you get the point. Coconut milk happens to be one of my all-time favorite ingredients. It adds a lovely sweetness, and helps to counterbalance the spiciness of the curry in this sauce. So without further ado, I’ll give you the recipe.

2 lbs. fish (for 4 people)

For the Sauce:
1/2 small onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 pc. ginger (1-2″), grated (optional)
8 oz. coconut milk
curry or garam marsala paste (see recipe at the top of the post)
salt, pepper to taste
1/4 c. olive oil
chopped cilantro for garnish

In a small saucepan, on medium-high heat, add a glug or two of oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and garlic. Add the curry paste. Cook until the onion and garlic are softened, stirring occasionally. Pour the coconut milk into the pan. Stir to combine. Turn the heat to low and allow the sauce to cook for about 10-15 minutes.

Set your oven to broil. Rinse and pat dry the fillet(s) of fish. Place the fish on an ovenproof pan. Drizzle it with some olive oil and sprinkle both sides of the fish with salt and pepper. From one corner of the pan, gently pour a little bit of water into the pan. You don’t want to remove all the lovely seasonings you just placed onto the fish. You should have about a 1/2″ of water filling the bottom. When the oven is ready, place the fish into the oven. Periodically, every 2-3 minutes, check the fish and brush the top with some more of the cooking liquid. Depending on the thickness and type of fish you are broiling, the cooking time will need to be adjusted. Most fish cooks in about 8-10 minutes. The best way to check to see if your fish is cooked through, is once there is a nice golden brown hue on top, poke a fork into the flesh. If it goes through easily, your fish is ready. If there is even a slight resistance, it’s not. If you’re not accustomed to cooking fish, the main thing you don’t want to do is overcook it, which many people do. There’s nothing quite as unappetizing as eating a piece of rubbery fish.

When the fish is cooked, remove from the oven and transfer to a serving platter. Pour the coconut curry sauce on top of the fish and sprinkle with some chopped cilantro.

$8 Meals: Use it or Lose it Soup

We are back with another fine $8 meal. (Actually this dish may come in under $8, considering that you aren’t going to be buying any ingredients you don’t already have lying around in your fridge.) “Use it or Lose it Soup” is composed of all those slightly neglected veggies on the verge of spoiling in your fridge. Please don’t freak out on me…I am certainly not asking anyone to use slightly moldy, slimy veggies. Perhaps slightly wrinkly, but certainly not squishy! I often am an overzealous shopper at the farmers market, leaving me with a few vegetables or fruit that need attention by mid-week.

The last time I made this soup, I happened to have a zucchini, some mushrooms, a few carrots, a few stalks of swiss chard, an onion, and some garlic on hand. But feel free to experiment. Honestly, it really doesn’t matter what you have on hand. I also incorporated some amaranth, which is a tiny, high protein grain. I love to add it to soups and stews because it retains its crunchiness even when cooked in liquid. If you have some chicken stock handy, it also makes a nice addition to this soup, but it certainly can be left out, creating a strictly vegetarian dish.

I also added some turmeric, which provides a lovely rich yellow color to the soup. Turmeric is a natural cleanser of the body and an immune system stimulator, and may even aid in a faster metabolism. Just make sure that you wipe up any drippings while cooking, as turmeric does stain clothing and countertops easily. While it does provide color, its taste is minimal, making it a great healthy addition to many recipes without compromising taste. Of course, if you like the taste of curry, it is another great addition to the “Use it or Lose it Soup.”

1 large zucchini, grated
3-4 mushrooms, finely chopped
3 large carrots, peeled, halved, and chopped
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
3-4 stalks swiss chard, de-veined (remove the thick stalk) and chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled
3 bay leaves
1 heaping Tbs. turmeric (or other spice of your choice)
salt, pepper to taste
10-12 c. water
1/4-1/2 c. olive oil

Heat a stock pot, or large casserole dish on medium-high heat. Add the oil. Add the mushrooms, carrots, onion, and garlic. Stir to coat with oil and allow the veggies to soften, about 3-4 minutes. If you plan to use turmeric or curry, add it to the cooking vegetables, as these spices need to sauté before adding any water. Add any grain you may be using, giving another good stir to the pot. If you are using grated zucchini, add it to the pot. Add the salt, pepper, swiss chard, and bay leaves. Add the water (and  optional chicken stock). I usually boil my water prior to adding it to the soup so the cooking process doesn’t halt in any way. Give the pot another good stir or two, cover, and bring down the stove range to low. Allow the soup to gently simmer for about 30-45 minutes.

When the soup is finished cooking, taste it to make sure the seasonings are to your liking. You can always add more salt at the end, but if you put too much in at the beginning, you most certainly can not take it back out! Feel free to add some chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley or cilantro, which gives the soup another great dimension of color and flavor. Serve with some warm, crusty bread and a cheese of your liking. Happy, healthy, (and slightly cheaper) eating!!

Stuffed Tomatoes & Peppers

I am going to continue my Greek dish series (I hope you all don’t mind!) throughout my stay in this beautiful Mediterranean country. With that said, I would like to present to you a very typical Greek dish, which can be found on practically any Greek restaurant’s menu. While this dish is a bit labor intensive, it certainly isn’t complicated. There are numerous variations prepared throughout Greece, and almost every home cook will have his/her favorite variation, not unlike the notorious Greek meatball, which everyone seems to have an opinion about! Just when you think you have finally mastered the recipe, someone comes along and tells you that you, in fact, have not.

In addition to the typical stuffed tomato and pepper, I have seen stuffed zucchini and eggplant. Some variations include ground meat in the stuffing, but I must tell you that I prefer this dish to be made strictly vegetarian. I think the meat overpowers the delicate taste of the vegetable, but feel free to try it and taste for yourself. If you have children who are not particularly inclined toward eating many vegetables, you may also like to add finely chopped pieces of carrot or grated zucchini into the rice stuffing. Feel free to experiment with whatever herbs you may have growing in your garden. If you happen to have mint on hand, I think it compliments this dish nicely; however, I have had to use a combination of basil and oregano when fresh mint was unavailable.

This dish is quintessentially summer, incorporating so many of the abundant seasonal vegetables and herbs available. However, it can be made with peppers from the grocery store throughout the winter months. Living in New York City, I have yet to come across a good tomato large enough to use in winter, but if you happen to live in a climate that lends itself to winter tomatoes, go for it!

A dear friend of our family’s, who lives on the Greek isle of Aegina, has, in my opinion, perfected this dish. The following recipe is a version of her “Yemista” recipe, and I am sure that if you give it a try, you too will be won over.

6 ripe tomatoes
2 green peppers
8 large spoons of Arborio rice (pearled rice works best in this dish)
3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into large wedges
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed and finely chopped
¼ c. raw pine nuts
¼ c. dried currants (raisins may be substituted, however, currants add a more delicate touch)
½ c. fresh mint
Olive oil
Salt, pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375° F.
Prepare the tomatoes: turn the tomatoes upside down and cut off the bottom off each one, forming a cap to enclose the rice mixture. Set aside the cap. Scoop out the insides with a spoon and reserve in a food processor. Sprinkle the inside of the tomatoes with a little bit of sugar. Set aside. In the food processor, add the mint to the insides of the tomatoes. Process until smooth. Add about ½ c. of water to the tomato mixture. Set aside.
Prepare the peppers: cut off the top about an inch from the stem; set top aside. Scrape out the seeds. Sprinkle the inside with a little bit of sugar. Set aside.
Prepare the rice mixture. You will use one large spoon of uncooked rice per vegetable you intend to stuff. For example, if you are going to cook 4 tomatoes, you will use 4 large spoons of rice. In a large sauté pan, on medium high heat, pour about ¼ c. of oil into the pan. Add the onion and garlic, stirring occasionally as not to burn your contents. After about 2 minutes, add the rice, giving a good stir to coat with olive oil. Add ¾ c. of the tomato mixture you previously processed to the rice. If the mixture is too dry and begins to stick to the pan, pour in another glob or two of olive oil. Add the pine nuts and currants. Sprinkle with about 1 large spoon of sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 4-5 minutes, adding more water if the rice requires it. Remove from the heat source. Set aside.
In a baking pan, large enough to hold all your vegetables close together, (you want the vegetables to touch each other, which will allow them to hold their shape nicely throughout the cooking process) arrange your tomatoes and peppers. Fill each vegetable ¾ of the way full with the rice mixture. Pour the rest of the tomato mint mixture into each vegetable. You want to put as much moisture into each stuffed vegetable so that the rice cooks through. Cap each vegetable with its top. Arrange the potato wedges in between the stuffed vegetables, filling up any unused space in the baking pan. Sprinkle some salt and pepper over the potatoes, and sprinkle some sugar over the tops of each vegetable, which will give them a beautiful caramelized effect. You may also sprinkle the tops with bread crumbs, if you desire, however, I usually skip this step. Pour any left-over tomato mint mixture gently into the bottom of the pan from a corner of the pan. You don’t want to disrupt the seasoning on the top of the vegetables. Pour a bit of olive oil over the entire dish.

Place in the oven, allowing to cook until the tops of the vegetables have a slightly burned effect on their tops, about 1-1 1/2 hrs. Make sure the rice has cooked through, as well as the potatoes. Allow to cool. Serve with wedges of feta cheese. This dish is lovely right after cooking, but I must admit that it tastes just as good the following day straight from the fridge.

TDB Homemade: Roasted Red Peppers

Roasting red bell peppers on your own is not particularly difficult.  It takes some time, but not a lot of work, and, WOW, are they delicious – way better than what you get in a jar.  A gas stove or a lit grill is a must because you need an open flame, but, otherwise, the process is easy.

Step 1:  Clean and thoroughly dry your red peppers.

Note:  this method can be used with other peppers, such as yellow and orange bell peppers, or even poblano chilis. 

Step 2:  With large tongs that can withstand high heat, hold the red pepper directly in the open flame of your stove or grill.  I find it helpful to remove the grate from the stove burner, if applicable.  Allow the flame to char, or blacken, the skin entirely and evenly — be thorough — it’ll make things easier later on.  Choosing red peppers with a smooth body and not a lot of deep crevices helps to achieve an evenly charred surface.

Note:  peppers can be placed directly under the broiler in a gas oven, if the stove top is not an option.  It takes a little longer, and the peppers don’t blacken as evenly, but some people prefer this.  Place pepper(s) on a cookie sheet as close to the flame as possible and rotate every minute or two until they are done.

Step 3:  Place charred pepper(s) in a large heatproof bowl and cover with a lid or plate.  I have a Pyrex bowl with a lid that works very well for this.  Allow them to cool and finish roasting for at least 30-40 minutes.

Step 4:  By scraping with the blunt side of a knife or with your hands, remove the charred skin from the cooled peppers.  This is a bit messy, but resist the urge to rinse the skin off the pepper with water — you’ll wash away a lot of the flavor.

Step 5:  Cut peppers open and remove the seeds and small amount of pale ribbing that remain.  Now they’re ready to eat!

Step 6:  If you don’t plan to eat them right away, cover them with olive oil and store them in a non-porous container.  They will keep in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks.  However, in my house, they disappear within 1-2 days!  When they’re gone, be sure to retain the oil that is now infused with that wonderful roasted red pepper flavor.

Roasted Red Pepper Cooking Ideas

Roasted red peppers can be used in many ways.  Sliced or chopped, they can dress up salads and sandwiches.  Puréed, they make a great base for sauces and dips.  One of my favorite recipes is for this Roasted Red Pepper Dip by Jacques Pépin.  My version is as follows:

Roasted Red Pepper Dip / Sandwich Spread

1 roasted red pepper, cut into strips or chunks, about 3/4 cup

3-4 ounces cream cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons sesame seeds (toasting is optional and alters the flavor)

salt and pepper to taste

If toasting the sesame seeds, place them in a dry frying pan on medium heat for several minutes.  Toss them occasionally so that they don’t burn, and remove them from the heat when they turn a nice golden-brown color.

Place all the ingredients into a food processor and purée until smooth.

Serve with cut veggies, crunchy bread sticks, crackers, or on bread for a sandwich.

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Sauce

2 roasted red peppers, chopped, about 1 1/2 cups

2-3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped, plus more for garnish

2 cups chopped tomatoes with the juices, or one 15-ounce can

1/3 cup half and half

1/3 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated

salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sauce pan or straight-sided frying pan, sautée the red peppers and garlic with a sprinkling of salt and pepper over medium heat for about 4 minutes.  Add the basil and sautée for one more minute.  Stir in the tomatoes and another pinch of salt and heat to a slow simmer.  Cover and cook for about 15 minutes, until the tomatoes have cooked, and the sauce has darkened.  If the sauce seems watery, remove the lid and allow some of the liquid to evaporate.  Add the half and half and the Pecorino Romano cheese and return to a simmer for one minute.  For a smooth texture, purée the sauce with a wand blender, or carefully transfer it to a standing blender.

Serve over pasta, ravioli, or gnocchi and top with freshly chopped basil.

Vegetarian Chili At Its Best

As a vegetarian, I’ve tried quite a few versions of veggie chili in my days, and this one is my absolute favorite.  It holds such depth and complexity in the flavor, and it makes a super satisfying meal, even to the meat-and-potatoes crowd.  It’s easily adaptable for vegans (just a couple ingredients to omit), and this recipe is great for parties because it makes enough to feed a crowd.  Freeze half for a quick meal another time — it’ll taste even better than the first time around!

Hearty Vegetarian Chili

(recipe based on Mike’s Black Eye Chili from the Marlboro Cookbook: Chili Roundup)


  • 1/3 oil (olive, sunflower, or canola work well)
  • 5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced
  • 2 large red onions, halved and sliced
  • 1/2 cup dried black beans (or 1 1/2 cups cooked, or one 15-ounce can)
  • 1/2 cup dried pinto beans (or 1 1/2 cups cooked, or one 15-ounce can)
  • 1/2 cup dried red kidney beans (or 1 1/2 cups cooked, or one 15-ounce can)
  • 1/2 cup dried garbanzo beans (or 1 1/2 cups cooked, or one 15-ounce can)
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 orange bell pepper, cut in 1-inch slices
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut in 1-inch slices
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut in 1-inch slices
  • 2 carrots, julienned
  • 1/2 cup dried lentils
  • 3 cups chopped tomatoes (or a 28-ounce can)
  • 1 12-oz. bottle of beer — use whatever kind you like to drink, however, I don’t recommend beers that are very light or very dark.  My favorite in this recipe is Yuengling.
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1-2 cups water
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (optional)

Spices:  alter this according to your tastes.

  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • pinch of ground red pepper (cayenne)

For Garnish:

  • sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
  • chopped cilantro
  • avocado slices
  • fresh lime juice
  • chopped scallions


Pre-cook any dry beans that you are using.  First soak them overnight in salted water.  Drain and rinse them.  Then cook them in water at a 3:1 ratio of water to beans for about 1 hour.  A sprinkling of salt and a splash of oil can be added to the cooking beans, if you so desire.  The salt will enhance the flavor, and the oil will help prevent the beans from foaming and boiling over while cooking.  Test them to be sure that they are almost done.  It’s okay if they’re not completely cooked because they will finish cooking in the chili.

Prep all your vegetables.  Measure out all your spices into a small bowl and stir to combine.  Heat oil in a large soup or stock pot.  Add garlic, onions, and 2 teaspoons of the mixed spices.  When the onions have softened slightly (after 3-5 minutes), stir in the wine, and allow the alcohol to burn off.  Add the jalapeño pepper, bell peppers, and carrots and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add tomatoes, beer, honey, lentils, one cup of water, beans, corn, and the rest of the spice mixture and bring to a slow simmer.  Stir in the chocolate and cilantro.  Taste and add more seasoning, if needed.  Cover and simmer for 30-45 minutes.  Stir the chili occasionally, and add more water if it gets too thick.  Remove from heat, and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to properly mix.

Eat this alone or over rice, and add the garnishes as you see fit.  If desired, add more heat by using 1 chopped habañero pepper, or by adding more cayenne powder.

Tip:  there is no one ingredient that will make or break this recipe.  Only two varieties of bell peppers or beans instead of three?  No biggie.  No beer?  Just add more water and increase the spices.  Conversely, you can add more of any ingredient that you like.  This chili is very adaptable.

Background:  I found this recipe in a book called the Marlboro Cookbook: Chili Roundup.  Somehow I was fortunate enough to get on a mailing list during a chili recipe contest being conducted by Philip Morris around 2000 or 2001, and I was sent this book for free.  The book contains 50 of the top recipes that had been submitted by people from all over, including 7 that are vegetarian (see the photo of the index page below).  If you come across this book online, don’t hesitate to buy it, or if you want more info about it or a copy of one of the other recipes it contains, contact us at

Emeril’s Marinated Vegetables

A great thing about telling people that I’m vegetarian is that they then like to tell me about their favorite vegetarian dishes.  A coworker gave me this recipe several years ago, and it’s always a hit.  The original recipe is by Emeril Lagasse and can be found at  It’s delicious and very simple to make.  My version has taken quite a few turns from the original, so I’m going to share with you what I like to do.

8-10 small red potatoes, quartered, boiled fork tender then bathed in cold water to stop the cooking

1/2 pound baby carrots, blanched*

1 head of broccoli, florets only, blanched (save the stems for another meal)

1/2 bunch of asparagus, blanched

6 oz. haricots verts, blanched (regular green beans are also fine, frozen or fresh)

6 oz. sugar snap peas, blanched (frozen or fresh)

4-6 oz. artichoke hearts, quartered

1/2 medium red onion, sliced

1 red pepper, sliced

1 c. Kalamata olives, pits removed

1/2 pound fresh Mozzarella (I like to use the small balls – boccaccini)

1/4 c. chiffonade of basil**

1 c. olive oil

1/2 c. balsamic vinegar

1 T. minced garlic

salt and pepper

* If you happen to be unfamiliar with blanching, this is just a process of boiling vegetables briefly, then transferring them to cold water to stop the cooking process.  This preserves the vegetables’ color, texture, and flavor, and it’s a good method to use for a recipe like this which is served at room temperature.

** I like to stack 10-15 large basil leaves, roll them from tip to stem, then slice through the roll with a sharp knife.  You end up with nice strips of basil leaves that are not crushed.

Place all the vegetables in a large bowl or sealable container (I have a nice clear Pyrex bowl with a lid that is perfect for this).  Whisk together the oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic, and basil and pour over the vegetables.  Gently mix it together so that all the veggies are coated.  Refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight, tumbling the veggies from time to time to re-coat them with the oil.  Add the cheese in shortly before serving.

This recipe makes a large amount, and it’s best at room temperature, which makes it a perfect side dish to take to parties or potlucks.  It can also be served as an appetizer with a baguette or some nice crusty Italian bread.  It’s a tasty and colorful addition to the dinner table that people will absolutely love!

Cheddar Cheese and Lentil Loaf

This recipe came from my husband’s Aunt Maria.  Every time I make it, I vary the ingredients, depending on what I have and for experimentation, so I encourage you to change things up, if you want.  The original recipe goes as follows:

1/2 lb. cheddar cheese, shredded

2 c. cooked lentils

1/2 small onion

2 t. thyme

1/2 t. salt

1/4 t. freshly ground pepper

1 c. soft bread crumbs, packed

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 T. butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the cheese, lentils, and onions, then add the salt, pepper, and thyme.  Next, add the bread crumbs, egg, and butter and mix thoroughly.  Bake in a greased loaf pan for 45 minutes to an hour (when cooking other things at the same time, it will take a bit longer).

A few notes:

This is great served with winter squash and rice.  I also like to serve it with pasta and marinara sauce (in which case I replace most or all of the cheddar with mozzarella).  Speaking of the cheese, you can use less if you’re looking for something lower in fat.  Just add a couple tablespoons of liquid (e.g. vegetable stock or water) to keep it from getting too dry.  Speaking of dry, if you cook your own lentils for this, be sure that they are fully cooked, or the loaf will turn out dry.  I’ve never used canned, but I’m sure they’re fine, just don’t include the canning juices.  When I make this, I usually make a double batch and freeze half of it to pull out on a busy night.  It’s a great substitute for meat as a main dish.  In fact, my carnivorous husband started craving this recently after I’d been out of the house for a couple weeks while our bathroom was getting remodeled.  So I made it the first week I was back home….I hope you love it as much as we do!

Confessions of a Vegetarian

People often ask me “So why did you become a vegetarian?”  I started on the herbivorous path nearly 20 years ago, in my early teens, and back then that question was asked with total perplexity, especially in the rural mid-western community where I had spent my entire life.  These days, however, that question is usually posed with genuine interest and curiosity, often from people who want to cut down on the amount of meat in their own diets, particularly the growth-hormone-packed, mass-produced meat that dominates so many dinner plates in our country today.

Confession #1: I’m not really a Vegetarian.

I prefer to say that I “don’t eat meat”, and I’ve never been totally vegan.  During high school and college my diet came close, but these days I eat dairy and eggs on a daily basis.  For years I have gone through an on-again, off-again relationship with seafood.  And these days, since I’m the primary cook for my family, which includes my very carnivorous husband, I allow the occasional veggie-meat cross-contamination, and I don’t always insist that soups be free of chicken stock.  But no worries – none of that fleshy stuff makes its way onto my plate.  So, you might wonder, what do I eat?

Confession #2:  Vegetarians have a way of making others stress out over what to serve at dinners, which restaurants to visit, how to select a menu for parties, and even what foods to prepare while we’re hanging around.

First, I’ve got to say, my friends and family are great about this.  Although I’m usually the only intentional vegetarian, the people around me are always willing to try new meatless dishes.  I often hear the normal round of harmless jokes about my herbivorous ways, but that doesn’t bother me.  However, believe me that there are still a lot of people out there to whom the idea of excluding meat from one’s diet is completely radical and foreign.  In the early years my grandmother would often implore me to just “look at a piece of steak like it was a piece of cake”.  Don’t worry, Grandma, I turned out okay!  But, seriously, I’ve actually had the experience of telling someone who invited me for dinner that “I’m vegetarian”, and the response was something like “That’s okay – we’re serving chicken!” (Remember that scene from the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”?  It was exactly like that.)  I’ve even been met with scorn and borderline ridicule about what I eat from the more ignorant sort.  In fact, many acquaintances, strangers even, expressed deep concern while I was pregnant with my son about how he was going to turn out without ever having tasted meat while in utero.  I know they meant well, so I simply assured them that my son and I were very healthy and well-nourished.

Confession #3:  My son is not a vegetarian.

I understand that my dietary habits put me in the minority.  And to me, being vegetarian is a personal choice and not something that I want to force upon others.  Humans have been eating animal flesh for thousands of years, just not nearly as much as is consumed by the average American today.  In our house, meat is not served every day, but rather a couple times a week.  And instead of quantity, we focus on quality – natural and organic poultry, grass-fed beef, etc., purchased from local farmers when possible.  The funny thing is that my kid almost always prefers fruits, veggies, and legumes over meat.  I often have to bribe him with green beans to finish his chicken!  With or without meat on the table, our meals are comprised of a variety of protein sources, and over the years I have built up a pretty decent repertoire of vegetarian, seafood, or meat-optional dishes that are high in nutrients and protein, but are still palatable to the omnivores in the house.

So getting back to the original question – why did I become a vegetarian?  One might expect a clear, concise answer to this – reasons of morality, environmental concerns, a religious mandate, or perhaps a health restriction?  No, not me.  Religion has nothing to do with it, and there’s no one way for me to answer this.  I started shying away from meat as a young environmental and animal-rights advocate when I began learning about the conditions under which much of the livestock that fed our country was grown and slaughtered.  This was also around the time that red meat was being blamed for about every health problem known to man.  I had also recently entered puberty and found my more mature body to be less compatible with my life in the ballet studio, so I jumped on the bandwagon of an animal by-product-free diet that was probably more destructive than anything else (no offense to the Vegans – I just didn’t know enough at the time about how to properly supplement my diet).  So burgers and other bovine products dropped out of my life entirely, and I began to mistrust the sources of other meat that I ate.  Over time, I pretty much lost all taste for meat, so that by the time I reached adulthood, it was out of my life completely.  I still, however, had an aching fondness for fish and other seafood that, my mother explains, began well before I was born (she says she craved it constantly when pregnant with me).  Anyway, enough about me…..whether you are vegetarian, know a vegetarian, or just want to start eating less meat, I want you to know a few things:

1 – I have found many meals and dishes that are satisfying to both meat eaters and non-meat eaters alike, which I intend to share with you over time.

2 – If you stay away from the large chain restaurants, most eateries these days do offer vegetarian dishes, or at least they will be willing to come up with something that is veggie-friendly.  In fact, I find it to be helpful when I look at a menu with a hundred choices to know that my options have already been narrowed down for me.

3 – I like living a vegetarian lifestyle.  I focus of eating the best foods I can find and afford, and I believe that I am healthier for it.  I hope that you will find some value in the tips and recipes that I want to share with you so be sure to subscribe to our blog so that you don’t miss a thing!