Category Archives: Main Courses

Zucchini & Tomatoes Oh My!

I wasn’t going to write a post until I ate this cold dish for lunch.  This is the what I had left when I remembered it was so good, I should post it.  When it was hot last night, it was a healthy tasting dinner.  One of those dinners where I can eat past the point of being filled (don’t feel like moving) and not feel like I have harmed myself with the contents.  The past couple of weeks, zucchini and tomatoes have crept into just about every meal.  As a cold dish, I highly rate as a recipe for using up those ingredients and making a delicious dish!  The following is very much adjustable with ingredients. ** Note the lovely polka dot tablecloth.  My mother just sent it to me and although this picture doesn’t feature it well, I thought I would note it as I really love it.

olive oil to coat your pan

2 medium zucchini

1 yellow summer squash

20 cherry tomatoes halved

3 cloves garlic

1 can cannellini beans rinsed well

1 handful of herbs (I used some parsley, basil and oregano)

sea salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons good balsamic

1 pound whole wheat pasta

Begin boiling water for pasta.  Meanwhile, over medium heat on a fairly large skillet, saute squash that is chopped into pieces about 1/2 inch thick.  Saute until tender and add a little salt.  Toss in the tomatoes & garlic for about 5 minutes then add the cannellini beans.  When ingredients are warm, add chopped herbs and toss for another minute or two with the balsamic.  Remove from heat and serve on a bed of pasta if you are going to eat it warm.  Otherwise, toss and refrigerate for a delicious cold dish (and I usually deplore leftovers!)

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Haystacks

One of the meals I like to keep ingredients around so that I can treat friends to an impromptu meal is Haystacks.  This is an ideal meal for summer because if you already have the beans there is very little to prep involving heat.   I generally make up a large batch of refried beans and freeze it in 4 serving sizes.  Then all you need to do is microwave it or warm them on the stove.  When canned refried beans go on sale at our food co-op, I stock the pantry with a dozen or so for camping trips or unexpected guests.  The Eden brand does not use BPA in their can liners so that makes me feel better about opening up a can.  Refried beans, scrambled eggs a tortilla shell and some salsa also make a quick & impressive breakfast.

Boucci’s family has always called this dish “Haystacks”.  I’m not certain where the “hay” part of it comes from…perhaps the high piling on the plates like you do with a barn or trailer at harvest time?  Nice, big smiles abound from friends when they load up their plates like Scotty here Scotty Q works up a healthy appetite by being a bike frame maker extraordinaire and cyclist.  He and Boucci have been great friends since they met in a class in junior high.  Scott’s life revolves around his passion of bicycles and he has had many brilliant wins during his racing career.  All of the cool riders I know have one of his sweet custom rides.  Here is a link to wet your appetite.  Alas, I dream of the day that I can join the cool ranks.  🙂  Right now I am only half-cool since I stoke our custom tandem.  They say your happiness goes back to normal within a week of a new purchase, but I can say that every time I ride the tandem, my happiness quotient goes up and I appreciate it.  My kneecaps are also thankful since they don’t bang the handlebars like our old steed.

These are the goods you need in order to transform hungry bellies into satiated ones:

corn chips*

cheese (I generally use pepper jack or a combo of it w/ a nice melting cheddar or mozzarella)

refried beans

guacamole

lettuce

tomato

salsa

*These Michigan made corn chips are what we have been grooving on lately

Just to forewarn you, Scotty was right on when he said “What!  Do they put nicotine in these things?”

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Sandwich Bread

I have been thwarted the last two times I have purchased sandwich bread from the local Stonehouse Bakery.  They use good ingredients but their bread has been afflicted with bread mold the last two times.  This last time, I bought it the day it was made and it still had 4 days left on the exp. but before I could eat a slice – low and behold – spores were growing right under the label.  Boucci recommends something w/ a sourdough starter for longer life expectancy but there are days where I want a nice, soft sandwich.  Not, a sandwich that requires me to gnaw on it or burn a lot of energy chewing.  Yes, some days I am lazy like that and just don’t want to work my jaw muscles.   Mine are pretty toned and all but I just don’t feel like that is an area I need to strength train daily.

I decided no more throwing good bread to my worms.  (Yes, we are proud worm farmers – more on that another day).  So here is my go-to loaf for soft, sandwich bread.

1.5 cups of warm water (102-105 degrees)

1 tablespoon dry yeast

1 heaping tablespoon of honey or sugar

1.5 teaspoons salt

1/4 cup oil (I have used various types with good results.  DO NOT use a high quality olive oil as they do not like heat).

2 3/4 cup all purpose flour

1.5 cups whole wheat or white whole wheat flour

* King Arthur Flour is my favorite.  They are now making organic versions.

1.  Combine first 4 ingredients and allow to sit 5 minutes

2.  Add oil then flours and knead for a few minutes

3.  Let your dough sit in a nice, warm place for 45 minutes – 1hr.  It should double in size.   Meanwhile put a little oil in a 6 cup loaf pan and grease it up.

4.  Gather your dough and form it into a loaf.  Be gentle with it but it should de-poof and you can stretch the top and tuck the sides under.

Let it sit there while your oven warms up to 375 degrees

Bake for 35-40 minutes until it has a lovely brown color.

Let it sit for 10-15 minutes in the pan and then remove and set to cool on a wire rack.

Being around hungry cyclists has been good for my cooking ego.  They have so much gratitude after long rides.  🙂  Young Stephen here recently completed the Lumberjack 100.  Even though he had a mechanical after 5 miles and had to run back and re-start, he churned out an admirable time.  Here’s to completing what you start, hearty appetites and big, soft sandwiches.

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Spring Delights! Asparagus and Morels!

This time of year is filled with so much goodness.  I have been busy with my garden and all of the other 101 distractions that come with spring.  I just love this time of year with all of the plants awakening and blooming.  All of this has led me to neglect posting my recipes.  There are many days where I fix a meal and take a picture but then don’t have the energy to summons writing about it.  Amigo here pretty much captures how I often feel

The other day we took a tandem mountain bike ride through Arcadia.  It was loaded with Trillium and other spring flowers.  It is truly an outstanding trail.  I feel like I am riding through someone’s flower garden for miles and miles.  One of the nicest things about the ride was when we were taking a break, I spotted a morel!  Then we started looking around and found a load of them.  We were with some friends and we all filled our jersey pockets as much as possible.  I think our load was well over 20.  We also picked some wild leeks and with our bounty, I ended up preparing a tasty spring dish.

Here is how I went about the preparation.

1.  Sauted up 4 leeks with a sweet yellow onion for about 5 minutes

2.  Added chopped morels and sauted for another 10 minutes

3.  Then I tossed in some local asparagus until it was tender – 4/5 minutes

Meanwhile I boiled some pasta.

4.  I tossed it together w/ some good olive oil, about 1/2 cup of cream, cherry tomatoes for a little color and a little Parmesean for a touch of decadence.  

More happy things to report are that my Aunt has a new puppy!  He is extremely sweet, smart and adorable.  It was pretty amusing as I haven’t seen her in a while and we both ended up wearing matching skirts 🙂Hope you are enjoying spring’s bounty as well!

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Lentils…failure to fabulous

Last night I was scrounging around in my refrigerator and pantry for a dinner idea.  I had already done a fair amount of exercise mentally and physically and so I didn’t feel like doing something very rigorous in the kitchen.  Plus, I was feeling like there was a lack of inspiration in my pantry.  I finally decided upon lentils and rice.

Lentils are cheap, tasty and very versatile.  It turned out great even though I thought for a couple of minutes I had a failure on my hands.  Sometimes it is hard to believe I can think there is nothing to eat when my shelves have lots of ingredients on them.  According to the Global Poverty Facts, around 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 per day.  My guess, they would easily find many, many meals in my house.  There are times when I don’t appreciate how fortunate I am.

Well, last night there was high drama in the kitchen.  I was intently listening to Boucci, although now for the life of me I cannot recall what he was talking about, when tragedy struck.  I dumped 2 cups of the water I was pouring in for the rice into the lentil pot that really only needed cooking time, NOT more water for the creamy concoction I was anticipating.  After an expletive and doing a bit of crying internally, I was able to deal with my failure.  Among the reasons I love cooking is due to the fact that greater than 95% of the time, I really enjoy the results plus it makes others around me happy.  I like to please people plus I’m a bit of a hedonist especially when it comes to food.   I can’t think of too many things I must do on a daily basis that provide me this much control and pleasure over the outcome.

I ended up turning my soupy mess into a delicious meal by simmering it for an extra 30 minutes and throwing in some extra spices.  For lunch today, I think it was even better.

Here is my recipe – multiple versions to choose from

1 large onion – chopped

3 carrots – chopped

3 celery stalks chopped

6 cloves of garlic minced

3 teaspoons curry powder (if adding 2 cups of extra liquid include an extra 1/2 teaspoon of coriander, cumin and 2 cubes of a decent veggie bouillon)

2 cups of dried lentils

5-7 cups of water, your choice

1 can of coconut milk

1 can of diced tomatoes – I used fire roasted which added depth and flavor

olive oil

salt

1.  Saute onion for about 5 minutes over medium heat.  Add the carrots and celery and continue to saute for another minute or two.  Then add spices and garlic and toss until fragrant – about a minute.

2.  Add lentils and water

3.  Depending on the amount of water you use, simmer for 30 to 60 minutes.

4.  Add coconut milk and tomatoes for the last 10 minutes

5.  Taste and adjust flavor with salt

If you want a soup add an additional cup of water to thin.  If you want a more creamy sauce use 5 cups of water. 7 cups of water with the 60 minutes of cook time yielded a saucy mixture that was great over rice.  Overnight it thickened even more.  See what I’m talking about with them being versatile?

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Dinner Pronto

Breaking news!  I’m so excited.  I went for a walk tonight after 6 p.m. without a headlamp.  Ye-haw!  Okay, I’m not usually one for using ye-haw in a conversation but the extended daylight and a good dose of sunshine to boot really pleased me.  Snow is in the forecast tomorrow and it is calling for single digits…but still March 1st goes down as being sublime.

When you have one of those days when dinner is running late or you want to stay outside until your stomach rumbles, here is something I like to toss on the table when I need dinner pronto.

Gnocci or in this case it was Gnocchetti, are little balls of potato (sort of like mashed potato dumplings) that cook in just a couple of minutes.  I kid you not, they cook in 2-3 minutes tops.  They float to the top of boiling water when they are cooked.  They come vacuum packed so they keep well in your pantry.  When I shop in a city, I pick up a pack or two as back-up for those nights when I need a meal but time is of the essence.  Pair them with your favorite sauce, a loaf of good crusty bread

and a salad

and you will have happy dinner companions.  In my book, this is also a company worthy dinner.  This gets a multiple fork rating from me because of the easy and quick preparation and the tasty little potato balls are filling and delicious.  I don’t know if it due to my excessive hunger when filling my plate but this is one of the few meals I usually overestimate my portion size and end up having to package up my portion for lunch.  In general, I like voluptuous servings and eat my plate clean sometimes to the point of my tummy pressing on my lungs 🙂  Have I mentioned I love to eat?

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Baked Falafel

With Egypt in the news so much these past weeks, it had my brain thinking about some of my favorite Egyptian foods.  Falafel fritters are one of my favorite foods especially when they are fried up by someone else.  However, given that I live in an area where I can’t run down to a street vendor or a restaurant, I was left to my own devices.   I decided to try out a non-traditional and healthier preparation method by baking rather than frying.   These delicious little burger balls were much lighter but I will say that fried falafel still holds a special place in my heart.  With the condiments I added to my wrap such as sprouts, tomatoes, pickles and tahini sauce, I will say they contributed to the tastiness of the dish and it would be difficult for me to dislike anything with all of those goodies in it.  Here is how I created my heart healthy falafel:

1 can of chickpeas rinsed well

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 onion finely minced

2 cloves of garlic

1 handful of fresh parsley chopped

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

About 2-3 tablespoons of all purpose flour (you may need a little more/less to get your mixture to combine)

1. Preheat oven to 425

2. Pulse chickpeas in a food processor until they are in coarse pieces.  Pulse to combine the other ingredients.  You may need to add a bit of water or adjust the flour to get the mixture to come together.

3.  Place patties on a baking sheet lined with parchment and bake for 20 minutes flipping halfway through.  They should be lightly golden.

4.  Assemble in a wrap or pita with your favorite additions.  Some of my favorites are sprouts or lettuce, pickles, tahini sauce, hot sauce and tomatoes. The tahini-yogurt sauce I made is definitely a keeper and it really adds to the deliciousness of the falafel.

Combine 1 cup plain yogurt, 1/2 cup tahini, 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, 1 clove garlic, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/4 teaspoon salt and hot sauce to taste.

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