Monday, May 30, 2011

Veggie Tacos

This is a twist on my mom's traditional ground beef & potato tacos. I used a veggie substitute ground beef. I also used a soy cheddar cheese to go dairy-free. This is a great recipe and I wouldn't be posting it if it wasn't at least as good as the meat version. I love this recipe, it's so good and I didn't miss the meat one bit!

-Heat large pan or wok over medium heat with a couple tablespoons of oil
-Dice 4-6 peeled potatoes
-Dice half of 1 white onion
-Mince a few cloves of garlic
-Toss all these items along with 1/2 package of tofu ground 'meat' into the hot pan with oil
-Sprinkle 1/2 tsp. of garlic salt and pepper over mixture in pan
-Simply stir mixture every couple minutes to keep it cooking even, covering with a lid to trap heat
-While that's cooking, chop cilantro, tomato, lettuce and avocado for topping
-Shred some soy cheddar 'cheese' for topping as well
-I also like to top my tacos with La Victoria's red taco sauce, it's great
-Cook mixture for 20 minutes until potatoes are tender, don't undercook or potatoes will be too hard
-Heat up some tortillas and spoon cooked mixture into them as top with toppings. Now just eat!
Serves about 4

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Summer is fast approaching and this brings lots of amazing seasonal veggies and at low prices, woohoo! It's a common thing for our family to roast corn on the grill quite often and it's well know that my husband likes to give us a scare of something catching fire too. A few years ago he almost set our house on fire when the corn husk caught on fire and was burning the fat drippings. Well now we don't leave the husks on just to tell you. 

Tonight was an easy dinner roasted corn and BBQ turkey burgers. We put our turkey burgers (Kirkland brand) in Hawaiian rolls and threw tomatoes and cilantro on them, yum! I also made my own version of a brown Betty, it satisfied my gooey apple craving.

Tips for roasting corn
  • We take the husks off- it really doesn't taste any different.
  • soak the naked cobs for at least 1 hour before throwing on the grill, it helps them to not burn quickly
  • Good old butter, salt and pepper is the best. But try your hand at some herb butters or even cilantro and chili butter. Take any combo you like and mix it into softened butter and let chill in the fridge to hold its shape until you are ready to use it.
  • While they cook on the grill close the lid for a few minutes so that it creates steam and a nice all over grill effect.
  • Now dive into this splendor of summer.

Brown Tally

3-4 Large Golden Delicious Apples, peeled and sliced to 1/4 inch thick
10-12 graham crackers- or any leftover french loaf toasted and cut into small crouton size
10 Tb. sliced butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 whole lemon- you'll just need all the juice
2 Tsp. cinnamon
1/2 Tsp. Nutmeg

Mix the sliced apples with the lemon juice, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl. In your lightly greased baking dish crush up half the graham crackers into the bottom and lay 5 of the slices of butter down on top. Add your apple mixture on top of cracker crumbs. Add the last crumbled crackers on top of the apples and lay the rest of the butter down over the crumbs evenly spread out. Cover with foil and bake at 425 for 35 mins. Take the foil off and let bake for another 10-15 mins. until the top is golden brown and the dish is bubbling! 

Really it can't get any easier than this. If you have a gooey apple craving like me and didn't have time to make a pie crust and get fancy this is great. I mention if you wanted to use any other crumb mixture, go for it! It really needs to be crunchy but able to absorb the juices and get caramelized. I had a vision of toasted chunks of brioche or a nice french baguette. You let me know how it comes out!!! Serve with homemade whip cream or of course ice cream.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


This is a great and simple recipe that has a ton of variety of flavors and textures.

-Preheat oven to 350
-Dice up one eggplant and saute in oil and salt and pepper until in begins to get tender and brown. Don't fully cook, or it will get mushy in oven when baked.

- Coat bottom of 12" casserole dish with 1 Tbsp. of oil
-Fill bottom of casserole dish with sauted eggplant 

-Sprinkle layer Parmesan cheese, I used Soy Mozarella. 
-Spread 2 sliced zucchinis in an even layer next. 
-Lightly salt and sprinkle with a little more cheese. 

-Continue layering in this fashion, with 1 sliced onion, 2 cups sliced mushrooms, 1 sliced bell pepper, and 2 sliced tomatoes, covering each layer with a sprinkling of salt and cheese. 
-Top casserole with final layer of cheese.  
-Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hello, Meatloaf!

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Some people might turn their nose up at Meatloaf because it seems old or boring. Some people look at meatloaf as a thing to accomplish,make it bigger, better, add bacon, add super secret ingredients. Whatever! But the key to my meatloaf shaped heart is simplicity. Keep it simple and it will get you every time. 

This meal is special because I made a side sauce to go over the mashed potatoes and meatloaf that I recreated from a version of a sauce I recently had in Bermuda. My husband and I recently went on an amazing Bermuda Holiday ( Kerry-Leeism;) and came home with unfortunately only a few good things to say about the food. This sauce we had the last day at the hotel brunch was a staple of the Bermudian people and we loved it. I poured mine over a boiled potato and a slice of prime rib, but this sauce can top really anything you want. This is my interpretation- at least I hope any Bermuda loving person will appreciate it.

Looks like worms- oops! you get the idea!

Bermudian Tomato Goodness

1 Whole Onion sliced
1 can crushed tomatoes-with the juice- or whole tomatoes
3 garlic cloves diced
1/4 cup beef stock or any kind you like
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Again keep it simple. Put a few tablespoons of the olive oil in the pan and add the onions and garlic when hot. The onions should cook down until they are slimy and clear about 15 min on low-med heat. Add the can of tomatoes and the stock. Add salt and pepper to taste. After 15min or so when the sauce has reduced and it's like a tomato paste add the rest of the olive oil. The sauce should be chunky with the onions and tomatoes, if you feel it gets too thick add a little more broth. Now this can be served over potatoes and meatloaf, or anything your heart desires!

Now for the Meatloaf! 
A plate of Happiness

"Mama says knock you out" Meatloaf ( it just sounds right)
1lb. really good beef, grass fed if you can afford it
1 egg
1 can whole tomatoes- Juice and all-I used the Italian style
1/4 cup crushed matzo crackers- this is what I had in my house but you can use any cracker crushed into crumbs
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon pepper
 5 tablespoons ketchup

I have no special method, I actually put all the ingredients in my kitchen aid with the paddle attachment on low and drop the ingredients in one at a time and when it was all combined it went into the loaf pan. Make sure you spray your pan first. Put the meat mixture in and top it with the ketchup. Bake for 45 at 350. Dig into that juiciness and tell me you don't love meatloaf-
Our meatloaf was served with mashed potatoes mixed with real butter and sour cream and salt and pepper- I also cut up some broccoli and topped it with olive oil and salt and pepper and roasted in the oven at 375 for about 10-15 mins. Yum!!!!

Extreme makeover- Broccoli Edition- Before pic-

  • Just a side note for parents- my kids won't eat a slice of meatloaf because it looks, well, like a log of meat, but they will eat anything formed into a ball- Meatballs!!! Shape some of the meat mixture into balls a bake on a sheet pan for 15-20 mins.- yeah they have no clue and thank God they can't read this blog yet, Ha!
  • My advice with ground beef in any dish is not to over mix, it will become tough and dry. Only add what you need and mix until it's well combined. 

  • Canned tomatoes should be a staple in your house, or if you're awesome you can jar them yourself. But really they can make a quick  meal juicy and  a stew flavorful. I didn't realize how much I use them until I was speaking to my mother-in-law about them and I sounded like an infomercial for Costco packs of canned tomatoes

I can't wait for you to make real comfort food and deliberately make time daily for your family, to love on them in this simple way!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Mikey's Vegetarian Breakfast Quiche

"I like quiche."
"I thought real men didn't like quiche?"
"Well, it seems my reputation had preceded me here."
"You not a real man?"
"Not lately." -Swingers

I had to preface this recipe with that quote from one of my all-time favorite movies, Swingers. I too, like Mikey from swingers, am a man that likes quiche. Since going vegetarian, I'm trying to find great recipes that are tasty and offer nutritious alternatives to their meat versions. I'm a big breakfast eater and fan of it all around. I work early so making breakfast before work is impossible on those mornings I just can't get out of bed. This is a great recipe to make ahead of time and be able to heat a slice up each morning for breakfast.

-Bake a frozen pie crust in oven according to instructions. Usually you defrost for 10 min. then cook for 10 min. at 400 degrees (bring oven down to 375 to bake quiche after pie crust is done)
-While that's baking, saute 1/4 package of vegetarian ground sausage, 1/4 cup chopped onion in tbsp. of oil and add to baked pie crust
-Next, beat 3 eggs, 2 cups Almond or Soy milk (original, Vanilla flavor will come through in quiche) thoroughly and pour into pie crust
-Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, adding soy Cheddar cheese 10 minutes before it's done to melt it
-Goes great with a few slices of avocado and some salsa over the top of each slice!
Serves 4-6

Friday, May 20, 2011

Mama Mia!

Homemade pizza has been on our weekly schedule for quite a few years. As a family we only really order pizza when we are in a pinch because the end result of homemade pizza makes us so happy and full! My brother and sister-in-law recently started to not eat meat, they also aren't too keen on dairy much like in our house. Well, Long story short we made a few vegetarian pizzas and my brother made a combo of his tofu parmigiana on the pizza with soy mozzarella. We had a blast and stuffed ourselves silly!
This bottle is for my Olive Oil- I converted an old Evian bottle! I Love It!

Toppings: Turkey pepperonis, red peppers, marinated artichoke hearts, FRESH mozzarella

Now I must tell you an amazing take on this homemade pizza, BBQ the pizzas on the grill!!!!! Yes, this is the most amazing outcome, and really I think I only tried once. I was at a bridal shower for a great friend and one of the quests gave the bride a pizza dough recipe and told me the only way she cooks the pizzas is on the grill. Um, yeah, revelation in my mind. So we did it!!! It did take two people to help put them on but coming off was super easy!

Another must for Pizza is fresh mozzarella- those are the weird balls you see floating in water at the grocery cheese section, the freshness tastes amazing and it melts super pretty too. Plus you'll wanna munch on it while your cooking too! 

We are grillin'

The Dough- dun dun duuun!!!! I pretty much was angry at the world because my dough recipe I tried first time bombed, luckily I had my parents grab some store bought on the way home. But just to spite that recipe I tried another one so then we could have it in the house- Of course this came from Julia Child's cook book, "From Julia Child's Kitchen". It's sort of the long way around, but it happened to be the book I picked up from the library the other day.  I will do my best to update soon with a really simple recipe for dough- In fact I know my sister-in-law has one!

 Speaking of her... She arrived with these amazing homemade marshmallows for a S'more surprise for the kids!!! I didn't get to have one but even the dog was licking up the gooey goodness. Alton Brown's Recipe for yummy Marshmallows !
"How can I have S'more of something if I haven't had anything?"- Sandlot

I served the pizza with a easy greens with a lemon vinaigrette, I even had to concoct my own Dijon Mustard! This is a good go to in a pinch and very flavorful- You can add fresh shaved Parmesan on the greens to look real fancy too!

Lemon Vinaigrette:
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
 6 servings

 Happy Pizza Making- And don't hate the world if the first dough doesn't work- Thank God flour is cheap!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Brother's Tofu Parmigiana

I'm a foodie and love to eat and cook well. There's nothing better than cooking a meal and honestly saying "that's the best meal I've ever had". Here is a recipe I decided to try today. For all you lovers of eggplant parmigiana I ask you to try this recipe and not be amazed at how much better it is with tofu. Something about the texture of the tofu makes it so different and better than eggplant. If you have a favorite eggplant parmigiana recipe all you have to do is replace tofu for eggplant. If you don't have a recipe yet, try this one...

-Slice 14oz. of firm Tofu into 1/4" slices.
-Dip them in a bowl one slice at a time into one egg that's been beaten.
-Each slice then gets dipped into another bowl of 1/2 cup of seasoned bread crumbs and coated generously.
-These will then go into a pan of 1 tbsp. of oil on medium heat for a couple minutes on each side until golden brown.
Tofu cooking away
-Place these into an 8"(small) casserole dish that already has a layer of tomato or spaghetti sauce on bottom. For an amazing home-made tomato sauce, you can use this sauce for a lasagna recipe HERE.

Layer #1
-Cover this layer with more sauce and cheese of your choice. I used a mozzarella flavored tofu cheese.
-Do another layer with remaining cooked tofu. Cover with more sauce and cheese.
-Bake in preheated oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
Recipe serves 4 (or two if you like it as much as I do)
...and done. Mangia bene!
-Levon The Lights

Busy Day= French press and Short Bread Cookies

Mondays and Tuesdays I have two of my three kiddos home for Home-school days, and let me tell you what a coffee break really is at 4pm! It truly is these little breaks that keep me sane- well saner than normal. My mom had requested cookies to go along with coffee a few days ago and I fancied that idea too, so of course my go to lady is Ina Garten from Barefoot Contessa. If you have a chance to have one of her cook books in your hands give yourself permission to read it like a novel. I am cheap so I use the local library, which means I have two weeks to read an amazing cook book front to back and remember which recipes I really love and want to keep in my files. Although this short bread recipe is from her website don't let that be your only venue. Books are a slice of heaven.  So here is the link  Ina Garten Shortbread Cookies. She rocks and I am still so cheap that I can't commit to buying her books, but my library has them all so what's the point?

Oh and while your delving into the slices of Heaven, two words- French Press- Yeah it takes time, different grinds, and having inconceivable patients that you didn't know you had. But the result is nothing to describe but Goodness.
I think I hoped on a coffee blog when I first got mine just to make sure I wasn't producing mud when guests came over- I'll remember soon which one it was!

This mug pictured is one of my parents collection, they have mugs from years ago and I selected this one and I love that it say, "I Love my Husband". Nice-

Well remember to take the coffee breaks in life, I live off them!

Can't await to see my Brother's first post- Coming Soon!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mama's version of tacos

Tonight was taco night. There is nothing like cooking the same tacos for yourself that your mom did when you were growing up. It's the nostalgia that really is important. The Spanish rice is also a staple, something perfected over the years. Really I think I have been cooking this since I was 12 or so. I was paid a great compliment when a friend's husband wanted me to teach his wife to make Spanish rice, I knew I had done good!
Unfortunately like any cook I really don't have an exact recipe for this rice, most of the time its great and if I am in a hurry, well things get chaotic. But I do have some tips to perfect this rice over the next years of your life.

Rice tips:

  • The long grain rice is poured into heated oil and browned until the rice become almost toasty or opaque. This is the trick for it not getting too mushy or sticky.
  • Add less water first and gradually add water to it as you see the top grains still are not cooked.
  • Tomato sauce or tomato bouillons are the best flavoring for the color, I prefer a little oregano,salt and pepper, just keep it simple. But I suppose you can add anything you want, my grandma used to add little peas and carrots.
  • And Lord have mercy, DO NOT STIR THE RICE- this is even for white rice. You break down the grain and yes, mushy again. You can pull a little from the sides just to make sure it isn't sticking but no more.
  • Once you get the water to a rolling boil lower it all the way down and this cooking will take 15-20 min. Good things take time- Hence "FAST FOOD"
Just a side note- I have used a rice cooker before and sorry doesn't do it for me, the time and the diligence is tasteful, you might even get a Husband compliment!

Now the Tacos- nothing special here but the potato is a lifesaver if you need to stretch the budget. Dice and cook in a little oil before adding the meat. Yes, I own a big Costco size taco seasoning and I add that and a little water and let it simmer til it's good and juicy. This is under no special diet recipe so I will truthfully say I buy dang good natural lean beef and I don't drain the meat! So health nuts be warned, it tastes so good without being drained. But if your conscience or buddy at the meeting makes you feel guilty, drain the fat!

Other than that they're my favorite tacos, my family loves them too, case closed.

Oh and my favorite shot is the meal on our very fancy paper plates, oh yeah!
If you want Mama to cook and be happy about not cleaning, your eating on paper plates. They are recycled if that helps!