Category Archives: Vegetarian Main Dishes

Salads I Have Known & Loved: Eat-the-Rainbow Roast Veggie Salad, with Asian Flair

Good enough to eat all day!

I had a hard time coming up with a title for this salad recipe, as I couldn’t decide to showcase the roast veggies in the name or to emphasize the (very mildly) Asian aspect of it. It’s a riff on a salad available from Panera, which is a soup-and-sandwich joint in my neck of the woods. A co-worker bought a salad from there for lunch one day, and it smelled so good that I had to replicate it on my own.

The salad base (as I re-envisioned it) is a mixture of romaine lettuce and spinach, which is then tossed with oven-roasted veggies, shavings of real parmesan, mandarin segments, and sesame seeds, and then finished with a homemade Italian dressing.

The roast veggies are what take this salad to the next level — ever had eggplant, zucchini, baby tomatoes, all oven-roasted and tossed with slightly charred roast peppers? Oh, so good! If you’re thinking blech, roast veggies, then you DEFINITELY need to try this dish, as it will change your mind and make you a roast veggie convert for life! The roasting of the veggies caramelizes them and makes them soft and crispy and sweet and savoury all at the same time. I could happily eat roast veggies on toast with a dash of salt for many a meal (and have done so).

But aside from tasting really, truly yummy, the dish is obviously healthy and a great way to get a whole lot of veggies packed into a single plate. So let’s make some!

Eat-The-Rainbow Roast Veggie Salad, with Asian Flair

(serves 4)

  • 1 head romaine lettuce
  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 1 pint baby tomatoes
  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 bunch baby spinach
  • 2 red peppers, halved
  • shavings of (real) parmesan to taste
  • 1 can mandarin segments
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1/2 c. vegetable oil, plus two tbsp. oil
  • dressing of choice (Panera uses a sweet onion dressing, but I used a homemade Italian dressing)

The first (and very important) step is to slice the eggplant into thin slices and salt them liberally. Stack on a plate and wait for an hour or so for the salt to draw out all the bitter juices. Then rinse off the salt and bitter juices.

Place all the vegetables (except the lettuce and spinach) on two cookie trays, and put 1/4 c. of the oil on each tray. Toss veggies to coat. Bake in a 400 degree oven until crispy and golden, about 30-40 minutes, making sure to flip the veggies with a spatula halfway through the cooking. When you flip the veggies, brush the remaining two tbsp. of oil on the veggies. When fully roasted, the eggplant and zucchini will look golden and caramelized, the peppers will be slightly charred, and the tomatoes will look shrunken. Let cool.

While veggies are cooling, toast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan over medium high heat until golden brown (very quick). Let cool.

Slice romaine and toss with baby spinach and mandarin segments. Divide over four plates and divide veggies and place on top. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top, and top with parmesan shavings. Add dressing of choice.

Close-up, sans dressing.

This salad is SOOOOO good! I served it for dinner this weekend, and while it looks all healthy and light (and is!), it was also enough to keep my taste buds happy and my stomach full.

I imagine it would taste even better with a sweet onion dressing, and plan to try that next time. I honestly didn’t think roast veggies would go well with mandarin segments, but it really, truly does. Plus, the vitamin C in the mandarin segments helps your body absorb the iron from the spinach, so win-win! If the health benefits of this salad don’t convince you to try it, do it because it just tastes so darn good! You’ll thank me, you’ll see!

Next Post: Three-Ingredient Blue Cheese Pasta…or Strawberry Custard and Cream Cake? I’m leaning towards the cake because of my sweet tooth, but…I do like my carbs, so it’s a toss-up! Any preferences? Let me know in the comments!

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday, and at Happiness is Homemade!

Spinach Salad w/ Faro & Roasted Grapes: Memories of Meals Past + Salads I Have Known & Loved MASHUP

Lunchtime at my workplace! Salad, with a side of soup.

Know what time it is? It’s time for a Memories of Meals Past Post! (Also know as a ‘What-I-Ate-And-You-Can-Too’ post.)

As much as I love baked goods, I also like being healthy. As such, I like to balance my sugar/baked good intake with lots of whole grains and veggies. (And fruit, because my sweet tooth has a say even when I’m menu-planning healthily.)

So, that’s whole grains, veggies, and fruit. What can I make with those ingredients? And ideally it has to incorporate salad, since a) healthy and b) salad helps keep my IBS symptoms at bay. Hmm…oooh, ooh, I know!

Spinach Salad with Faro, Caramelized Onions, & Oven-Roasted Grapes! In other words, I took a Martha recipe and modified it slightly (Queen of Substitutions style) and voila! Lunch is served!

How did this recipe come together?

  • I boiled the faro (a type of whole wheat kernel, essentially) with a bunch of dried rosemary (this gave it a lovely flavour)
  • I caramelized the onions in a pan
  • I roasted the grapes (with a bit of salt)
  • I mixed it all together with some baby spinach
  • I added Martha’s vinaigrette
  • I ate it, dear reader. Actually I packed it for lunches for several days, and it was yum.

What did I switch up? I didn’t use concord grapes because it’s the wrong season for that and I’m not going to fork out an arm and a leg for imported concord grapes. Plus, I used spinach because arugula wouldn’t stay fresh once mixed with the vinaigrette. The spinach wilted a little, which was fine by me, as wilted spinach is still considered all foodie, and anyway, Martha’s specified arugula wouldn’t have held up to being packed in a lunch container.

The verdict? Nice. Nicer than the individual ingredients make it sound. But not uber-spectacular. Nice enough to make again? Yeeeees, but the biggest take-away for me from this recipe was that boiling faro with rosemary makes it AWESOME! And slightly chewy and better than rice, both in health benefits and taste. So, up with healthy grains! And salad. Because, really, health is precious. (As is sugar. Cue…*my precioussssss*)

Next Post: Sugary goodness in the form of easy yet delectable Chocolate Chunk Whipped Shortbread? Or Three Ingredient Blue Cheese Pasta? That’s right, it’s time for some carb-y goodness!

Fake-It-Til-You-Make-It Fattoush Salad, & Boosting Nutrition Profiles

Salad looking lovely! (Was promptly eaten, fyi)

Salad looking lovely! (Was promptly eaten, fyi)

The days after Christmas are always filled with delicious foods, and oftentimes, with self-recriminations over eating all those delicious foods (not that I speak from personal experience or anything). So I developed this recipe to be a) delicious and b) healthy! And I made it using only what I had in the house, hence the name: Fake-It-Til-You-Make-It Fattoush Salad!

Fattoush is a Mediterranean salad, made with crunchy bits of pita. I suspect that it originated as a way to use up stale pita — toss it with olive oil, vinegar, a few herbs, and some veggies! These days it’s made with fresh pita, usually dabbed with oil and baked until crispy. I didn’t have any pita in the house, but whipped some up myself using this recipe. (Who knew it was so easy?)

My dad, who is of Mediterranean origin, will shake his head if he reads this post, because fattoush usually contains some dried sumac as a seasoning. Do I have it in the house? No! Am I the Queen of Substitutions? Yes! So I just mixed up a dressing that seemed vaguely Mediterranean-ish (heavy on the olive oil and garlic), sprinkled on some pomegranate seeds, and called it good. The DH called it delicious!

Make some fattoush yourself, and modify the ingredients to match what you have in the house! Then feel virtuously healthy and enjoy another Christmas sweet! (Hey, it’s all about the balance, is it not?)

Fake-It-Til-You-Make-It Fattoush Salad

Serves 2

  • 8 baby tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 head Romaine lettuce, sliced
  • 1/2 English cucumber, cubed
  • 1 pita
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 c. pomegranate seeds

Dressing

  • dash of salt
  • 1 tsp. blackstrap molasses
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. high quality olive oil, plus extra to drizzle over the finished salad
  • 2 tsp. dried parsley
  • dash of dried thyme
  • pinch of dried tarragon
  • 1 tbsp. vinegar

Split pita in half, spread 1 tbsp. oil on each half, and toast in oven on high heat until it starts to get crispy. Let cool, and break into bite-sized pieces.

Mix dressing ingredients together and set aside.

In a bowl, mix the vegetables together, add in the pita pieces, pour the dressing over it all, and toss to mix. Plate immediately, and drizzle with more olive oil.

Enjoy!

Pita from scratch! (So cool to see it puff up in the oven when baking!)

Pita from scratch! (So cool to see it puff up in the oven when baking!)

But…didn’t I write something about a nutrition profile in the title of this post? Indeed I did! While salad for a meal is in and of itself healthy, why not bump up the nutrition level? Which is exactly what I did! I used blackstrap molasses in the dressing instead of regular molasses, because it’s higher in iron and lower in sugar.

Plus, when I was making the pita breads, I sprinkled either side of the pita with freshly ground flax seeds (omega fatty acids, baby!) as well as ground psyllium husk (up with fibre!). Ideally, the pita would have been whole wheat, but again, I was working with what I had in the house.

Had I had more time, I probably would have made some lentil sprinkles to add to the salad as well, just to make sure there was some protein in the dish, but hey, one does one’s best. When I make this dish again though, those lentil sprinkles are IN! (Totally picturing my culinary purist father throwing his hands in the air at the addition of lentils to fattoush. Tee hee hee!)

Next Post: Those peppermint chocolate candy cane cupcakes that I mentioned last time! Probably. Unless I make some chocolate whoopie pies with peppermint buttercream. Hmm. Any strong feelings either way? Let me know in the comments!

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday! And at Clever Chicks Blog Hop!

Memories of Meals Past: Pack-n-Go Lunch Burritos

Totally not posed. I just plated it and snapped a quick photo before eating. I mean, it was lunchtime! A gal's gotta eat!

Totally not posed. I just plated it and snapped a quick photo before eating. I mean, it was lunchtime! A gal’s gotta eat!

So I was planning on writing a post about growing sprouts from lentils. And then…I realized I had eaten all the lentils in the house when I made my last batch of lentil sprinkles to add to my lunchtime salads. Huh. Ok, well, I am nothing if not the Queen of Substitutions, so I just replaced the lentils with peas! I mean, lentils, peas, same dif yo’! Except not.

Because my pea sprouts did not grow. They grew…and then stagnated. Ugh. I have no patience sometimes, so I didn’t bother to figure out where I went wrong. I just wanted sprouts and when I want my sprouts, I want them now. So I dispatched the DH to the local bulk store to pick up some lentils. I asked for 1/4 c. of dried lentils. He came back with 1/2 c. of dried lentils, because the DH is generous like that. Cost him all of 36 cents. Which means…a double batch of lentil sprouts! Have I mentioned that the DH isn’t into sprouts? Ha ha! Too bad, so sad, because it’s lentil sprouts for everyone!

But not in this post. Because my sprouts are still sprouting, so instead let’s talk lunch!

This here’s a picture of one of my super-yummy lunches from last week. It’s a super-healthy burrito, packed the night before, and quickly assembled for lunchtime consumption.

Why was it so easy to assemble? Because it was all prepped previously!

Les ingredients:

  • Spanish rice n’ beans. I used this recipe, except that I added a whole bunch of white beans for protein. Spanish rice is very forgiving, so just make it up as you go along. It’s basically rice and tomatoes, cooked together with some flavourings like onion and oil, and for those who don’t care about authenticity, taco spice. You know I added taco spice, right? 😉
  • lettuce, chopped
  • cheddar cheese, grated
  • green salsa Or red salsa or guac or whatever you crave. I had green salsa in the fridge so that’s what I used. But I’ve got some avocados ripening on my kitchen counter — they’re next up on the chopping board, because I’m craving some burritos with guacamole now!
  • sour cream This really added to the delicious mouth feel of these burritos.
  • homemade tortillas What? You’ve never made tortillas? But this must be rectified! Use this recipe, it’s super-easy. And if you don’t have time, don’t bother. But if you have time, definitely do it! They taste ah.maze.ing! So pure and fresh and oh, just make them, seriously!

Package in containers, bento-box style (or Tupperware-style, more like) and pop in the fridge. Bring to work and make all your colleagues jelly that they don’t have the fresh, tasty, healthy lunch that you do! Also, the mouth-gasms? Totally worth the work of making the Spanish rice and the tortillas. (Am drooling as I type this, just remembering. Plus, the rice and tortillas are really easy to make. And cheap, incidentally.)

The official taste tester. Or sniff-tester, rather. Because these burritos are mine, all mine!

The official taste tester. Or sniff-tester, rather. Because these burritos are mine, all mine!

In case you were wondering if the burritos were appetizing, I present Exhibit A. The local office cat, checking out my lunch. (FYI, they passed the cat sniff test, and were rapidly consumed by me before said cat could get her paws on them. I gave her a kibble instead, poor kitty.)

Next Post: Ok, so lentil sprouts, for realz! They’ll have grown by them, and been omnomnom’d by me. After being photographed for you, so stay tuned! Mmm…dreaming of crunchy sprouts now. And chocolate, because when am I ever not?

Linking up at Meal Plan Monday!

Memories of Meals Past: Dumplings Two Ways

Served with a nice crisp green salad!

Served with a nice crisp green salad!

Last year I decided to start a Cookbook Supperclub with some friends, and hold dinner parties where we all cooked a dish from the cookbook-du-jour, ending up with a number of appetizers, mains, sides, and of course dessert. We cooked our way through a number of cookbooks before the group dissolved due to well, life and other schedules.

One of the cookbooks was Martha Stewart’s Appetizers book, and one of the appetizers I made was a soup dumpling (albeit veggi-fied, because that’s how I roll). It turned out slightly differently from how it was supposed to, likely because I used agar-agar for the first time instead of gelatin and made it way too weak to be gelatinous. I tramped around the city looking for dumpling wrappers and agar-agar, and while I found the agar-agar in a crunchy-hippie type store (a very cool store, btw) I couldn’t find the dumpling “skins”, and didn’t want to go to literally across the city to a genuine Chinese store to get some.

So I made some. From scratch. *blows on nails and buffs nails on shirt*

I should have started there, because it was sooooo easy! Would have saved me hours. And it’s only a few ingredients! Here’s the recipe I used, albeit just for the dumpling wrappers.

As for the filling, here’s my own creation:

Quick n’ Easy Dumpling Filling

  • 2/3 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 pkg veggie ground round
  • 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1/2-3/4 c. chopped dried mushrooms, rehydrated with 1/2 c. boiling water

Mix all ingredients together. Use 2 tsps. of filling in each dumpling (the dumpling dough recipe makes 34 dumplings, or at least my batch did).

Feel free to add in additional ingredients to make it extra savoury, although I think using actual meat would make it savoury enough for the meat-eaters.

You can freeze the dumplings in single layers for later use, or you can use them right away. I’ve done both and they’re both delicious!

Plate o' dumplings. Excuse me, I'm off to nom.

Plate o’ dumplings. Excuse me, I’m off to nom.

As for the dumpling dip, I came across a recipe in a Buzzfeed article (also where I got my new favourite smoothie recipe, but that’s a post for another time!) and used that. Basically, it’s 2 parts vinegar to one part soy sauce, with grated ginger added in. It’s salty and sweet with a little kick. Puckerlicious!

Ok, so far we have the dumpling skins, the dumpling filling, and the dumpling dip. But…how to actually cook the dumplings? Well, here are three ways:

  1. steam the dumplings – put a tsp. of oil in a frying pan, dab the bottom of the dumplings in the oil and fry until slightly brownish on the bottom. Add in enough oil to just cover the edges of the dumplings, and put a lid on the pan. Steam until thoroughly cooked (i.e. the top of the dumpling is no longer doughy). This is my version of steaming, though. True steaming is when you place the dumplings on a steamer over boiling water. Meh, to each her own!
  2. boil the dumplings – pretty self-explanatory (I made some like this but didn’t photograph it, so you’re out of luck if you wanted to see them!)
  3. fry the dumplings – also pretty self-explanatory. Fry the dumplings in oil on the stove-top until the bottom and sides are crispy and golden brown. Crunchy and yummy!

The verdict? I’d totally make these dumplings again! I might change up the filling to use up whatever I have in the fridge, but the basic filling I outline above would be my starting point. These dumplings are great to serve fried with a green salad, or steamed/boiled for an appetizer or a side dish. If you make some yourself, let me know what filling you use!

Next Post: Either a fancy-pants strawberry cake, or a post about how to make mini Skor cupcakes! Mmm…I do love dessert!

Linking up at Meal Plan Monday!  (And again!)