Category Archives: Vegetarian

Veggie Sub

I love a good sub sandwich and when I was a wee little teenager I was partial to Subway. They used to have these delicious giardiniera peppers that were so good that I swear I could’ve eaten them with only some melted cheese and that signature Subway bread. Of course back then I scoffed at the notion of eating any sandwich, let alone a sub, sans meat.

Then in college it was either Jimmy John’s or Blimpie’s and honestly I have no idea of either of these chains are still in business. But I will say that Jimmy John’s will always have a special place in my heart thanks to the owner (in Charleston, IL) who often made the after-hours food fix more memorable by playing old school TV show theme songs while hoards of drunk college students yelled out their best guess. To this day I get a craving for bean sprouts and turkey breast when I heard the first few beats of the Saved by the Bell theme song. And before you ask, no I don’t often hear that song these days, but when I do…I salivate. Continue reading Veggie Sub

Simple Marinara Sauce

When I’m in the mood for something quick and easy, pasta is one of my favorite ‘go to’ dishes. It doesn’t have to be complicated with a multi-ingredient Bolognese or with the precision of the perfect cream sauce. Sometimes it is best to follow the KISS principle: keep it simple stupid.

With the right pasta, by that I mean whole wheat pasta, you don’t need a bunch of ingredients to make the pasta palatable. All you need are just a few ingredients, along with a well-stocked spice rack and you’re ready to whip up a classic Italian dish without the fuss.

Back in the day before I quick smoking and made my health a priority, I was just like most people: convinced I just didn’t have the time to cook a proper meal and made do with the “sauce” in a jar. I use the term ‘sauce’ very loosely here because while I’m sure some tomatoes were harmed in the making of that product, it just doesn’t taste the same. At all. I find the stuff in a jar is very salty and acidic, and while I know that tomatoes have a certain degree of acidity to them, I can eat a tomato without getting heartburn…can’t say the same for Ragu or Prego or even the store brand.

mamas marinaraThis isn’t me being a food snob, but rather me giving my body what it needs. My body does not need heartburn, that’s for sure. Besides, if I want to pump crap into my body I’d still rather have a cigarette even after 9 years of being nicotine-free. With bad food your body has a negative reaction, and because of the lack of nutritional value you’ll still be hungry later…and that’s after consuming hundreds of calories worth of “food”.

Honestly I’d rather take an extra 20 minutes and make a proper meal that way my leftover calories & fat can go to something I’ll truly enjoy like a nice glass of wine or Irish Whiskey or even my famous (if in my own head) fudgy walnut brownies.

Maybe it’s my too logical (or illogical if you ask the hubs) way of thinking, but I’d rather put in a little effort so that I can have the things I love rather than suffer through something that is easier, but not as good.

Plus if you really think about it; do you really trust what a huge company says it puts into its sauce? I’m not anti-corporation—well, maybe a little—but I certainly am not going to believe any entity who’s main goal is to make a little bit more money by any means necessary. If you knew your doctor was getting a kickback from a pharmaceutical company, would you really believe you were getting the best medicine available or that he’s trying to secure a golf outing in St. Tropez?

Enough with my diatribe; let’s get back to this super simple marinara sauce.

Ingredients

  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 5 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 yellow or white onion, chopped
  • 2 anchovy filets
  • Sea salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste (in a jar NOT a can)
  • 2 tbsp. chopped parsley
  • 2 tsp. each; basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme
  • Whole wheat pasta (enough for 2-4 people)
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

simple marinara sauce

Once you have assembled your ingredients you’ll need a large pot for the pasta and a small sauce pot or pan for the sauce. Get the salted water boiling for the pasta and follow cooking instructions.

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in sauce pan over medium-high heat then add anchovies. Most of the time they come in oil so you can always use the oil from the anchovies. You can also skip this step if you want, but it adds an unmistakable earthiness to the sauce you will love.
  2. Once filets are nearly fully dissolved, stir in onions and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Cook onion about 5 minutes or until translucent and add garlic.
  4. After 2 minutes has elapsed, stir in tomatoes and reduce heat to medium.
  5. Season with salt, pepper, herbs and spices.
  6. When the water begins to cook out of the tomatoes, add the tomato paste and stir until blended.
  7. Reduce heat to simmer until you have a thick marinara, continue to season to taste.
  8. Plate the pasta and serve marinara on top, or blend it all together and serve.
  9. Add Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano to the top if desired.

Since this is a pasta dish you might want to have wine with it, but I’m of the mind that you can have whatever you want to drink with your meal whether its water or milk, beer or tequila.

Guten apetit!

Faux Spaghetti & Sauce

In my quest to learn about new things or just to try foods I’ve never eaten, I recently stumbled upon spaghetti squash. I’d heard of it but I really hadn’t seen it up close before. So last week I spotted it at the grocery store and targeted it as my next culinary feat. I went online and did my homework to see what it looked like on the inside (self-explanatory) and how to cook it. Satisfied with my research I had the perfect idea that was both simple and brilliant: spaghetti-less spaghetti!

spaghetti squash cuSince it looked so much light spaghetti and by all accounts has a pretty mild flavor I figured this was an easy way to introduce my taste buds to the natural wonder that is spaghetti squash.

Since it would take some time to cook the spaghetti I decided to skip time with a traditional protein and opted to use chickpeas in my sauce. Years ago when I tried hummus for the first time, I fell in love with chickpeas. Then I had falafels and that love was solidified. Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, have a really unique and earthy flavor. I love’em so much that sometimes I rinse and dry them, pop them in the oven with some spices and eat them like beer nuts!

So yeah, chickpeas served as our main protein for this meal and I have to say I was more than pleased with the results. Then, there was the entertainment value of serving it to my husband without telling him what it was other than “spaghetti”. His response was classic, “it doesn’t taste like spaghetti, what is it?” Turns out he loved it though so now I just have to find more ways to use it because when autumn comes in Germany it is a veritable feast of squash!

Ingredients

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 15 oz. chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans)
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • ½ tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1/3 tbsp. olive oil
  • Sea salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 cups marinara sauce, homemade
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Poke holes into shell of squash and slather with olive oil. Place on baking sheet and cook for 30 to 45 minutes or until soft.
  3. Meanwhile, heat olive oil over medium high heat and add onion and bell pepper.
  4. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until transparent.
  5. Add fennel seeds and garlic, cooking for another 3 to 4 minutes.
  6. Stir in marinara sauce and tomato paste and bring to a boil.
  7. Add chickpeas and reduce to a simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
  8. When spaghetti squash is soft, remove from oven and let sit for 15 minutes or until it is cook to the touch.
  9. When read you will have to split the squash in half and use a fork to scrape the insides until you release the ‘spaghetti noodles’ from the body. As you scrape it out, place it in a large mixing bowl so you can season with salt, pepper and herbs as you see fit.
  10. You can mix it together with the sauce or serve it underneath as pictured.

faux spaghetti

Sweet & Savory Bulgur Salad

I am not one of those people who hate salad. Whether it is the lettuce and dressing variety or the pasta variety, I love a good salad. In fact I am such a salad lover that I don’t need lettuce or pasta, and often I forego both when I’m feeling adventurous or simply tired of them.

I don’t look at a bowl of arugula and tomatoes and see some restrictive diet food…unless of course you try to feed me iceberg lettuce. Contrary to what some of my dear friends believe, iceberg lettuce is crap. Sure it has almost no calories, but it also has almost no nutrients and if I’m gonna nosh on salad then I’d like some nutrients to go with my leafy greens. Continue reading Sweet & Savory Bulgur Salad

Crispy Zucchini Cakes

Lately I have had a major hankering for crab cakes. Not fake surimi cakes but honest to goodness crispy crab cakes with little bits of color and that tang of Old Bay seasoning. Unfortunately finding crab—at a reasonable price—around these parts is about as easy as finding Unicorn meat so I had to improvise.

At first I was hopeful I could find canned crabmeat, but alas in Germany most of their canned seafood does not fit the bill. Canned tuna, while not awful, tends to dry out a lot as I learned years ago in a failed attempt to sate a crab cake craving. The rest of this aisle is filled with mackerel, sardines and tuna, but packed in a variety of flavored oils. Needless to say it didn’t fit.

 zucchini cakes recipe

Plus I was sick of using beans so I decided to get some deliciously fresh zucchini. I never was a big fan of zucchini if I’m being honest but when I was about 12 years old our neighbor Rosemary made zucchini pie. And I was thinking “yuck” until I slid a piece off the fork and I decided it was some of the best pie I’d ever eaten. Of course Rosemary made a superb crust that was the perfect blend of flaky and buttery, but the cinnamon, nutmeg and what I later learned was cardamom made zucchini pie taste a whole lot like apple pie. Continue reading Crispy Zucchini Cakes

Dirty Rice & Beans

When I was younger I guess I was like most kids and teens, equating good food with, what I now know is unhealthy crap. As such whenever there was a dish that contained both beans and rice—and no meat—I looked at it as Third World food. I would turn my nose up at it and once I got my first job at White Castle I’d use my own money to buy food I found more palatable.

These days as meat makes a more infrequent appearance in my meals, not to mention time spent in Louisiana and Los Angeles, I’ve learned to appreciate the subtle nuances of rice and bean dishes. Whether it’s dirty rice or Mexican style rice & beans I’ve discovered how delicious and healthy beans can be. Continue reading Dirty Rice & Beans