Meatless Monday: Avocado, Corn and Quinoa Salad with Warm Shallot Vinaigrette

Fluffy quinoa is tossed with chunks of creamy avocado and sweet pieces of fresh-off-the-cob corn in this warm summer salad. Toss the grains with a shallot-infused olive oil and apple cider vinaigrette that takes less than 2 minutes to whip up. Ta-Da! Dinner in less than 30 minutes.

The husband and I are getting ready to go on vacation this week, which means we are eating up whatever is left in the fridge, pantry and garden. (Expect to see some recipes that are heavy on red and green peppers ;-).)  I saw a half empty box of quinoa that really needed to be used up, one thing led to another, and yumminess ensued. My husband actually like this dish- he usually eschews anything with quinoa- and scarfed down a second helping.  Score!

Before getting started, here is a tip: let the shallots cook low and slow for about 15 minutes. This allows them to turn golden brown delicious and infuse the oil without creating any bitterness.

Avocado, Corn and Quinoa Salad with Warm Shallot Vinaigrette

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 ear of corn
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar

Prepare the quinoa according to package directions and measure out two cups worth; put into a medium bowl to cool. Cut the avocado into cubes and slice the corn kernels off the cob, set aside. You do not need to cook the corn, it is sweet and juicy and can be eaten as is.

Meanwhile, put the shallots and oil into a medium saucepan and cook on low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until shallots are browned and fragrant. During the last 3 minutes of cooking, add in the cumin. Remove from heat. Pour the shallots and oil into a small bowl and add in the salt and apple cider vinegar. Using a whisk, whip vigorously for 2 minutes until the ingredients combine.

Add the corn and avocado to the quinoa in the medium bowl. Toss.  Drizzle the shallot dressing over the quinoa and gently toss to coat. Serve warm or at room temperature.  This can be a main dish for one or a side dish for two.

Enjoy!

- Erin

P.S.: Next time a post goes up, we’ll be in the Emerald Isle- Ireland! Wish me luck :-)

Meatless Monday: Baked Stuffed Tomatoes

Ripe, juicy tomatoes are stuffed with shallots, red peppers and a fresh egg  then topped with grated parmesan cheese to make a healthy and summery meal perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I stopped by the farmers market this weekend and came across the most gorgeous  jumbo sized tomatoes. Needless to say I was inspired to find a way to incorporate them into a yummy dish that would let their natural summer goodness shine through. Don’t overstuff the tomatoes, save any additional filling to serve on the side as a warm salsa with tortilla chips- you can snack on them while the tomatoes bake! :-)

Baked Stuffed Tomatoes with Egg and Cheese

  • 1 large tomatoes
  • 1 medium shallot
  • 2 tablespoons red pepper, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 2 eggs
  • grated parmesan cheese
  • blue corn tortilla chips

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9×9 inch baking dish, set aside. Core the tomatoes, discard the cores. Slice the tops off the tomatoes, not too much, just enough the give it an open ‘mouth’. Chop the tops and set aside in a bowl. Using a melon baller, scoop out the inside of the tomatoes, chop, and set in bowl.

Heat the olive oil in a large sautée pan. Dice your red pepper and shallot and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add in the reserved tomato parts, the cumin, salt and marjoram. Stir to combine and heat, about 2 minutes.  Divide the tomato mixture between the shells of the two tomatoes. Set aside the leftover to use as a warm salsa during the meal.

Crack an egg into each of the tomato shells. Fully cover the top of the egg with fresh grated parmesan (don’t use the stuff in the green can, it won’t work as well). Bake for 15 minutes or until egg is fully set.

Serve with corn tortilla chips on the side, you can use these to scoop out the goodness from inside the tomatoes. You could also serve the tomato on top of a flour tortilla, which will soak up the juices from the tomato.

Enjoy!

- Erin

Seared Sea Scallops with Fresh Peach Salsa

Plump sea scallops are seared to perfection and served with a fresh and juicy salsa starring peaches, red pepper and cooling cucumber in this quick summer entrée.

The trick to getting a perfect sear every time with your scallops is to start with fresh ingredients and a very hot pan.  If you’ve ever tried making scallops and had them stick to the bottom on the pan, it is probably because it wasn’t hot enough and they were flipped too soon.  There is no need to rush here, these scallops will cook in less than 5 minutes.

Perfection!

The fresh peach salsa is colorful and a perfect companion to these scallops, but you could also serve it with chicken or tilapia.

My husband is allergic to shellfish, so the recipe below is for dinner for one. I’m sure you can easily double it for you and a friend.  This is also a pretty impressive thing to whip up for a date, so boys and girls, take note!

Fresh Peach Salsa

  • 1 large peach, peeled and chopped
  • 1 heaping tbl finely diced red pepper
  • 1 heaping tbl finely diced, peeled cucumber
  • pinch of sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 lemon wedge

For scallops:

  • 5 large sea scallops
  • olive or vegetable oil
  • salt
  • 1 lemon wedge

Peel and dice the peaches and cucumber, toss in a bowl and sprinkle with a pinch each of salt and sugar. Finely dice the red pepper and toss into the peaches. Squeeze the juice from one lemon wedge onto the peach mixture, toss to coat and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Liberally salt the sea scallops, and place into the hot pan. Now don’t touch them!!! If you move them before that side sears, it will rip the scallop.

Cook for about 2 minutes and 30 seconds, you will see the undersides begin to brown.  Flip using a pair of tongs. Cook the other side for the same amount of time.  Immediately remove from the heat and plate with the peach salsa. If desired, squeeze the second lemon wedge onto the scallops.

Enjoy!

- Erin

Daily Question: Do you have a go-to dinner for date nights?

Summer Lasagna

It’s b-aaack. Meatless Monday post that is.

My garden is literally overflowing with ruby red chard so I tried to think of a new way to incorporate the veggie into something seasonally delicious.

Spinach lasagna is good, so why not sub in chard, it works really well!

I threw in some thinly sliced zucchini, another abundant summer veggie.

See, thin slices

I think this is a healthier version of your traditional lasagna because it isn’t swimming in cheese, bechamel sauce or ground beef. It’s overflowing with yummy fresh veggies, light and healthy. Enjoy!

Summer Lasagna

  • 6 no boil lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups part skim ricotta
  • 24 oz tomato basil marinara sauce
  • 2 generous tbls Penzey’s Pasta Sprinkle (a mix of basil, oregano and garlic)
  • 1 tsp grated lemon peel
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 6 generous cups of Swiss chard, chopped
  • 1 small/medium sized zucchini 
  • Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 400°. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, egg, spices, lemon peel and salt and pepper, mix well.  Chop the swiss chard and very thinly slice the zucchini, I used a mandolin to get the right thinness. Quickly sauteé the Swiss chard until it begins to wilt and reduce in size. It should cook down to about 2 cups. This step is important because it releases the excess water from the chard, which would otherwise come out during baking and make the lasagna soggy.

Fill a large baking sheet with hot tap water. Soak the noodles for 5 minutes. This helps the noodle retain a good texture without drying out the lasagna. Spray a 9×9 inch baking pan with cooking spray. Spoon some marinara sauce and ricotta cheese on the bottom, then top with two lasagna noodles. The noodles should overlap in the center a bit and will not reach to the edges of the pan. That is ok, they will expand during baking.

On top of the first layer of noodles, 1) spread ricotta cheese, 2) then swiss chard, 3) then zucchini slices and 4) finish with some marinara sauce. Add another layer of lasagna, then repeat the layering as above.  After you’ve layered the last of the noodles, finish the top of the lasagna off with zucchini slices and then cover with Parmesan cheese.

Cover the pan tightly with tinfoil. Put the pan on a foil lined baking sheet (because it may bubble over and make a mess if you don’t) and place in the oven. Turn the oven down to 375°. Bake  for 50-55 minutes. Remove the tinfoil, and bake uncovered for 10 more minutes, the cheese will brown a little. Let the lasagna stand for 10-15 minutes before slicing.

Enjoy!

- Erin

Sweet and Spicy Shrimp Skewers

Hi readers!

I have a confession. I’ve been a bad blogger friend. Jess, over at A Lot on Your Plate, was kind enough to give me the One Lovely Blog Award… about three weeks ago and I still haven’t done anything about it!

But I will procrastinate no longer, I want my week to get off to a good start. So officially, here is a BIG THANK YOU to Jess for sharing the love with me!

Part of the One Lovely Blog award entails passing it to another blogger- I choose Putney Farm, a truly lovely food and garden blog- and sharing 7 things about yourself people probably don’t know (no promises). Here goes…

1. I have filled an entire Ikea bookcase with novels I’ve read

2. I hate driving

3. I’m 15 years older than my little sister

4. I’m obsessed with Bojangles biscuits (must be eaten with honey)

5. I had an appendetomy on my 26th birthday (emergency)

6. I can speak Haitian creole

7. I love video games, especially Harvest Moon (a virtual farm on Wii)

Hey, I never said this would be interesting. Now you know I’m a nerd and boring…if you judge please do so silently. ;-)

Quick distraction: Shrimp…

Yum, sweet and succulent.

Perfectly light and healthy with tons of flavor.

Sweet and Spicy Shrimp Skewers

  • 1/2 lb to 3/4 lb shrimp (I used precooked 31/35)*
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tbl water
  • 1 tbl Chinese five spice powder
  • 1  tsp sriracha sauce, or more to taste
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 inch piece of ginger, grated
  • sesame seeds

Turn the broiler to 400° and move your oven rack to the uppermost position. In a small bowl, combine honey, water, spice powder, salt, grated ginger and sriracha. Whisk the sauce until well combined. Thread your shrimp onto skewers and brush both sides with the sauce; sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Lay the skewers on a foil lined baking sheet and put under the broiler. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes, depending on the size of your shrimp. Remove and rotate the skewers, brushing them with the remaining sauce.  Cook for another 2 or 3 minutes. Don’t overcook them, if they are pre-cooked you are basically just heating them through.

Serve with rice and edamame, or your vegetable of choice. Makes 4 skewers.

Enjoy!

*Note: The numbers are shrimp sizes, see here for a size chart of shrimp in the U.S.

- Erin :-)

Daily Question: Ever had an awkward moment involving over-sharing? Don’t hide in shame, leave me a comment about it.

Pasta ‘Carbonara’

Hello my dear readers.

We are going “Italian” for today’s Meatless Monday recipe.

Why the quotations? I know, I know… quotations in posts can be as annoying and pretentious as air quotes, but I’m trying to stave off a barrage of angry emails pointing out that this recipe isn’t truly a carbonara.

Hahaha, just kidding, I don’t ever get angry emails from my readers. Err, or any emails really.

But I digress. Carbonara, is a pasta dish made with eggs, cheese and pancetta.

My take on the dish is just as creamy, rich and flavorful as the traditional recipe, but has the added benefit of being speedy, simple and oh-so-satisfying.

Sub out the pancetta (I am so sorry pork, you know I love you) for fresh broccoli…

Tossed with fresh ground pepper and grated Parmesan cheese

and add a fried egg on top….

Mmm, the creaminess of the yolk acts like a warm sauce for the pasta

and you’ve got the perfect Meatless Monday dinner!

Finish the dish with crunchy breadcrumbs

 

Pasta ‘Carbonara’ 

  • About 4 ounces angel hair pasta
  • 1 small broccoli crown, sliced
  • 1 egg (or 2 if you are sharing)*
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid, reserved
  • 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2-3 pinches of Panko breadcrumbs

Slice off the tops of the broccoli into bite size pieces, boil or steam until tender-crisp, then set aside in a medium bowl.  Meanwhile, prepare the angel hair pasta according to package instructions; reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid before draining.

Drain pasta well, then add to bowl with broccoli. Toss in the grated cheese, salt and pepper and the reserved cooking liquid. Toss to coat.

Now fry your egg. Do not  overcook the yolk, you want it to be runny to act as a sauce for the pasta. When finished, about 3 minutes, set on top of plated pasta. Break yolk, top with a couple pinches of breadcrumbs.

Enjoy!

*Note: This dish probably serves two, however I was super hungry and ate the whole thing myself. So if you plan on sharing, you need a second egg.
Daily Question: Is there a meatless recipe you would like to see me cook for next time?

Leave me a comment below with your ideas!

- Erin :-)

Warm Orzo and Mushroom Salad

Greetings from Michigan my dear readers!

Yup, I’ve flown home for the long Memorial Day weekend to enjoy spending time with family and it has been awesome!

The weather up here has been all sunny skies (a little rain Saturday morning) and in the high 70′s so we’ve spent our days outside going for walks, riding bikes and putting our feet in the kiddie pool. :-)

I love my family so much and really miss them down in DC. As with all the people I love, I show them how much I care with FOOD, so I’ve also been busy in the kitchen. Stay tuned for pictures and recipes from my week at home.

Moving on…. Meatless Memorial Day.  Today’s recipe is for a warm orzo salad.

Orzo is a tiny pasta that looks like long grain rice and it cooks up in hot minute which makes it a perfect grain substitute on busy nights.

Sauteè up some baby cremini mushrooms and swiss chard, toss with cooked orzo and finish with fresh squeezed lemon juice and cracked pepper.  It is warm and comforting without being ‘heavy’.

It makes a perfect main dish for one, or a side dish for two.

Warm Orzo and Mushroom Salad

  • 1/3 cup dry orzo, prepare according to package directions
  • 2 cups chopped swiss chard
  • 8 ounces baby cremini mushrooms
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tbl butter
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbl chopped parsley (optional)

Melt the butter in a large skillet and sauteè the mushrooms over medium heat for 10 minutes. Once the mushrooms start to look tender and shrink in size a bit, throw in the chard and sautee for 5-7 more minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare orzo according to package instructions and chop parsley.  When the veggies and orzo are done, combine both in a large bowl with the parsley and toss to combine.

Season liberally with salt and fresh cracked pepper. Plate the salad and just before serving drizzle with olive oil and the lemon juice. Serve warm.

Enjoy!

Today we honor the servicemen and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, have a peaceful  Memorial Day.

- Erin

Avocado Egg Salad

Today’s Meatless Monday post is good enough that you may want to always keep some in the fridge for weekday lunches or snacks.

The creamy avocado and tangy lemon dance on your taste buds while fresh celery provides that classic crunch you expect from egg salad.

I like this because it tastes a million times healthier than traditional egg salad made with mayonnaise.

Serve in a wrap or over a bed of fresh and peppery arugula. It’s so yum, you’ll never want to go back to boring egg salad again.

Avocado Egg Salad

  • 1 ripe Haas avocado
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 green onions, chopped (white parts)
  • 2 celery stalks, split lengthwise then chopped
  • 4 hard boiled eggs
  • salt and pepper

Chop your veggies and put them in a medium size bowl. Chop your eggs by slicing egg in half lengthwise, then place yolk side down on cutting board. Slice in half again lengthwise and then slice widthwise 4 or 5 times. Add to the bowl with the veggies. If pieces of yolk fall out, set them aside to blend with the avocado.

Scoop out the flesh of the avocado into a food processor. Add in any yolks set aside earlier; squeeze the lemon juice into the food processor. Blend until smooth and creamy, no chunks should remain.

Using a spatula, add the avocado mixture to the veggies and eggs. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Gently fold the veggies and eggs into the avocado mixture. Chill and serve! This will keep in the refrigerator for a few days and will not turn brown because of the addition of the lemon juice.

Enjoy!

Daily Question: Do you have a favorite traditional recipe that you’ve spiced up with a modern twist?

- Erin

 

Meatless Monday Stacked Tostada Salad

Hello to all my readers and welcome to week three of my blog! Yes, this is a happy milestone for me, hopefully one of many to come as I go along on this food blogging journey.

A friend and I were chatting a couple weeks ago and the subject of Meatless Monday came up. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this concept, Meatless Monday is an international movement started in association with Johns Hopkins University in 2003 to promote personal and environmental health by cutting meat out of your diet one day a week.

This concept isn’t entirely unique, during both World Wars Americans at home went ‘meatless’ or ‘wheatless’ once a week to help out with the war effort. At my house, we don’t go vegetarian every Monday, but I do make a meatless dish a least once a week. It just may be on a Thursday instead of Monday! So what is the significance of going meatless on Monday? Read more here!

In the spirit of the MM movement, today’s recipe is for a salad that is anything but boring. It’s infused with Mexican spices like cumin and smoked chipotle pepper and has an amazing crunch from homemade tostadas. Intrigued? Read on!

Start with some diced onion and garlic

And add them to a skilletfull of your favorite beans, along with some cumin and chipotle pepper.

Simmering the beans and spices is key to a bold flavor

Now for the freshness- grab some tomatoes on the vine and shred some lettuce

While the beans slow cook, place a small tortilla into hot oil

Notice how it is puffing and bubbling up, that means it is time to flip

Lightly browned and crunchy in all the right places! :-)

DON’T turn your back on the tortillas, or else this will happen to you:

A sad, burned tortilla. It happened so fast...

By now the beans should be getting thick and creamy

Start breaking up some of the beans by smushing them with the back of a large spoon. This makes the dish creamier.

Now you are ready to assemble your salad.

Start with one tortilla and top with beans, lettuce and tomato

Then repeat with a second tortilla

Then top it off with some sour cream and shredded cheese. You can add salsa or guacamole if you want too :-)

By using sour cream, you don't even need salad dressing

Isn’t it pretty?

Get your knife and fork and dig in :-)

Stacked Tostada Salad

  • 1 15 oz can of beans, undrained (I like black or pinto)
  • 2 tomatoes from the vine, diced
  • 1 cup or more shredded iceburg lettuce
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ground chipotle chili powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 small tortillas (will make two salads)
  • 1 to 3 tbl vegetable oil
  •  Optional: Salsa, sour cream, shredded cheese, guacamole


In a large skillet, combine beans, garlic, onion, water and spices. You could sautee the onion and garlic first but I just threw them in raw to simmer along with everything else. Bring the mixture to a quick bowl, then turn heat down to low and simmer for about 30 minutes. Occasionally, break down some of the beans with the back of a large spoon and stir. Shred your lettuce and dice the tomatoes now, set aside.

Heat 1 tbl vegetable oil in a medium skillet over high heat. Add a small tortilla to the oil and cook until bubbles begin to puff up and it looks browned around the edges. Turn to cook other side. When finished, place tortilla on a paper towel covered plate. You may need to add more oil, a tbl at a time, as you cook the remaining tortillas.

Once the beans and tortillas are done, place one  tortilla each on your serving plates and top with beans, lettuce and tomato. Repeat with a second tortilla. Top the salads with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkle of cheese and other optional ingredients.  Perfection. On a plate. :-)

Enjoy!

Daily Question: Do you have a favorite Meatless Monday recipe?

- Erin