Category Archives: Munchies

Vegetarian Friday: Vegetable stock

Remember a few weeks ago, when I told you to start saving vegetable scraps in a freezer container? It’s time to get out that container and reap the rewards.

This won’t be the prettiest thing we ever make, but vegetable stock is the basis for so many winter recipes, it only makes sense to prepare a batch now and keep it on hand as we head toward soup season.

You can buy vegetable broth at the store, but it’s usually outrageously expensive, comes in packaging that’s difficult to recycle, and often includes a lot of excess salt and preservatives. Vegetable bouillon is cheaper and involves less packaging, but the sodium content is through the roof, and many brands are made with monosodium glutamate or other chemicals that trigger problems for people with certain food sensitivities.

Our DIY version is free, tastes better, uses little to no packaging, and takes less than 10 minutes of actual work to prepare.

Ingredients

At least 2 c. vegetable scraps
Water

That’s all you need. The scraps can be mushroom stems, celery trimmings, onion peels, herb stems, baby carrots left over from a veggie tray, bell-pepper cores, or just about anything else you have on hand. Every time you cook, instead of tossing these leftovers into the compost bin, throw them in an old ice-cream tub or similar container and keep it in the freezer.

The Crock-Pot turns vegetable scraps into broth with minimal effort.
The Crock-Pot turns vegetable scraps into broth with minimal effort.

When the container is full, take two minutes to dump it into a Crock-Pot and cover the contents with water. Turn the Crock-Pot on and let it cook at least 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low. The longer it cooks, the more concentrated the flavor will be.

Shut off the Crock-Pot and leave it alone until the broth is cool enough to handle safely.

When the stock cools, freeze it in ice-cube trays, then store the cubes in a ziplock bag.
When the stock cools, freeze it in ice-cube trays, then store the cubes in a ziplock bag.

Strain the finished broth into a large pitcher, pour into ice-cube trays, and freeze. Pop out the finished cubes and store them in a ziplock bag or other freezer-safe container to use in any recipe that calls for broth. Compost the cooked vegetable scraps.

Emily

Vegetarian Friday: Frozen fruit pops

Packed with phytonutrients, my anti-inflammatory fruit pops are a great recovery snack after a hard workout.
Packed with phytonutrients, my anti-inflammatory fruit pops are a great recovery snack after a hard workout.

As an erstwhile distance runner, I (usually) (sort of) try to eat sensibly(ish). You can train for a marathon on Krispy Kremes and MaggieMoo’s, but it’s not pretty.

A few months ago, I read an article somewhere about foods with natural anti-inflammatory properties and how they help tired muscles recover after a long run. As summer was just getting started, I decided the best way to incorporate such foods into my postrun snacks would be to freeze them into popsicles, giving me all the inherent benefits of the foods themselves, plus an easy way to bring my core temperature down quickly without having to stop and make a smoothie while doing the dear-calves-please-don’t-cramp dance.

With that in mind, I picked up a popsicle mold similar to these at World Market and hit the grocery store for ingredients I could run through the blender. Here are the two best recipes I came up with.

This isn’t an exact science, so I didn’t get too specific with the amounts. Base your proportions on what you like, what you have on hand, and the capacity of your popsicle mold. My mold has 10 openings that hold about 2 oz. apiece, so I aim for 20 oz. of liquid in the blender when I’m done.

In a pinch, you can use ice-cube trays or small Dixie cups with lollipop sticks in them, but molds are much easier to work with and pay for themselves in a few batches. Also, frozen fruit works fine for this (obviously) and is usually cheaper than fresh.

Anti-Inflammatory Fruit Pops

About a cup of red raspberries
About a cup of strawberries
About a cup of cranberry or grape juice (or a blend)

Puree fruit in blender. Add enough juice to make 20 oz. (or whatever your popsicle molds require) and blend briefly to mix. Pour into molds and freeze. Unmold, wrap individually in waxed paper, and store in a big freezer bag.

The phytochemicals in the fruit make these a good choice after long runs or hill training.

Spicy Electrolyte Pops

2 c. seedless watermelon, diced
About a cup of orange juice
Chile-lime salt (available at Mexican grocery stores)

Puree watermelon in blender. Add juice as indicated above and blend briefly to mix. Pour into molds and freeze. Unmold pops. Lay each pop on waxed paper, sprinkle with chile-lime salt on both sides, wrap in waxed paper, and store in a big freezer bag. (Work quickly, as the salt will melt the surface a little bit.)

With the potassium from the orange juice and the sodium from the chile-lime salt, these are a good source of electrolytes after a hard workout on a hot day.

Vegetarian Friday: Cheesy cauliflower mess

I am not one of those people who will swear to you that cauliflower tastes “just like [insert thing that is not cauliflower],” because it doesn’t. Cauliflower tastes like cauliflower. It can be made to approximate the texture of various other substances — most notably, mashed potatoes — but it’s not going to fool anybody, and if you try, you will only annoy your dinner guests.

What cauliflower will do, if prepared properly, is taste good without costing you as many calories as some of the other foods you might like to prepare in a similar manner. For this recipe, we’re going to puree cauliflower and then add a bunch of crap you’d expect to find on a baked potato, which will give you something that bears exactly zero resemblance to a baked potato but still tastes good and is a nice way to eat cauliflower.

Ingredients

Bag of frozen cauliflower
2 tbsp. water
2 tbsp. butter
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 c. sour cream or your favorite onion dip
1 tbsp. snipped chives (fresh is best if you have some on hand)

Put the cauliflower and water in a microwave-safe dish, cover, and nuke until tender (about 7 minutes in my tired old microwave, but your mileage may vary).

Drain cauliflower. Place cauliflower, butter and 3/4 c. of the cheese in a food processor and puree until smooth.

Divide puree between two bowls and top with the rest of the cheese. Nuke briefly to melt cheese.

Top each bowl with sour cream or dip and chives. Serves 2.

Non-vegetarians: You can add a couple of strips of bacon to this list if you feel like messing with it. Fry to your liking, crumble them up, and sprinkle on top along with the chives.

Vegetarian Friday: Pasta e lenticche

Despite growing up in a town full of Italians, I had never heard of pasta e lenticche until a friend of mine posted this recipe for it on Facebook a few months ago.

I took a Crock-Pot shortcut with the lentils and riffed on it just a little, ending up with what has become one of my favorite vegetarian meals. It’s easily veganized if you skip the milk, which I personally don’t think adds much.

Ingredients
2 T. olive oil
Small onion, chopped
Two small carrots, chopped (I used a couple of colorful ones from the farmers’ market)
Clove of garlic, minced
1 c. brown lentils
1 T. tomato paste
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 T. Italian seasoning mix of your choice
Water
8 oz. ziti or mostaccioli
1/3 c. milk
Parmesan
Hot sauce
Salt

auté the onion and carrots in olive oil about 5 minutes until the carrots soften. I started the carrots first, then added the onion a couple of minutes in. The original recipe says not to brown the onions, but I ignored that because caramelized onions always taste better. When vegetables are soft, add garlic and cook about a minute.

Put onion mixture, lentils, tomato paste, tomatoes, bay leaves, red pepper and seasoning in Crock-Pot, cover with about a quart of water, and let simmer overnight.

Just before you’re ready to serve, dump the contents of the Crock-Pot into a deep saucepan, add another cup of water and the milk, and bring to a boil. Add pasta and simmer 10-12 minutes until pasta is al dente and liquid has thickened and reduced a bit.

Serve in bowls with Parmesan, salt, and — if you’re me — plenty of hot sauce. (Note that I never add salt to dishes while I’m cooking them. Good chefs disapprove of this approach, but whenever I salt food as it’s cooking, the heat seems to break down the flavor so much that I end up having to add more at the table. Knowing how terrible excess sodium is for my body, I just can’t see salting my food twice to taste it once, so I just cut out the middleman and salt everything when it hits my plate. YMMV; plan accordingly.)

Serves four. I like this recipe because it tastes rich and hearty but contains very little fat and gives you a big nutritional bang for your calorie buck.

Emily

Vegetarian Friday: Cheese-stuffed mushrooms

You guys. This might be the best recipe I’ve ever come up with.

Several weeks ago, we had lunch at a great little bar and grill here in Cape. I ordered stuffed mushrooms, which were delicious, but which I am pretty sure also had approximately seven million calories and 42 grams of fat apiece.

I decided to riff on the basic recipe, using ingredients with a little better ratio of protein to fat. This is what I came up with:

Cheese-stuffed mushrooms. These were amazing.
Cheese-stuffed mushrooms. These were amazing.

Ingredients

1 lb. mushrooms
1 pkg. low-fat cream cheese (I used Green Mountain’s Greek-yogurt blend)
1 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella
Handful of fresh basil
Three or four fresh chives
2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

Wash mushrooms. Remove stems and save in a freezer container for later. (We’re making vegetable stock in a few weeks, so start freezing your veggie scraps.)

Fresh mushrooms are a beautiful thing.
Fresh mushrooms are a beautiful thing.

Snip up herbs with kitchen shears. (If you don’t have fresh on hand, dried will do in a pinch. I pulled these out of the garden.)

After rinsing, I scrunched these up in a paper towel to dry, which also bruised the leaves -- thus releasing more flavor -- and made them easier to snip up quickly.
After rinsing, I scrunched these up in a paper towel to dry, which also bruised the leaves — thus releasing more flavor — and made them easier to snip up quickly.

In a big bowl, use a potato masher to mash together cream cheese, herbs and 1 c. of the mozzarella.

A potato masher makes quick work of this part.
A potato masher makes quick work of this part.

Grease a baking pan (I use a Misto full of olive oil for this). Using a spoon, your fingers, or both, fill each mushroom cap with cheese mixture. Mound it up — the more, the better — and set the caps in the pan.

mushrooms4

Sprinkle remaining mozzarella over the tops of the caps and bake at 375 degrees until cheese melts — about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on your oven. Sprinkle with Parmesan and bake another 5 to 10 minutes until cheese starts to brown.

Serves two as a main dish or four as an appetizer or side dish.

Enjoy!

Emily

Vegetarian Friday: Stuffed breadsticks

You thought I’d never post another recipe, didn’t you?

Wrong.

Well, sort of wrong. This is basically just sticking three prefabbed products together, so I’m not sure it counts as a legit recipe, but it’s a good snack, appetizer or lunch option that’s relatively high in protein, so I’m posting it anyway. I trust you’ll approve once you try it.

Ingredients:
1 can crescent rolls (reduced-fat is fine)
4 pieces of string cheese
1/2 c. of your favorite marinara sauce (we like Viviano’s store brand)

Step 1: Unwrap each piece of string cheese and cut it in half.

Step 2: Wrap each piece of string cheese in a crescent roll, like this:

Lay the cheese on top of the widest part of the crescent roll.
Lay the cheese on top of the widest part of the crescent roll.
Fold the corners over so they cover the ends of the cheese.
Fold the corners over so they cover the ends of the cheese.
Roll the rest of the dough around the cheese and mash down the seams to seal them.
Roll the rest of the dough around the cheese and mash down the seams to seal them.

Step 3: Bake according to the directions on the crescent-roll package.

Following the baking instructions on the crescent-roll can. I spritzed mine with olive oil when they came out of the oven to make them look pretty for the picture, but you don't have to.
Serve with your favorite marinara sauce for dipping. 

Step 4: Serve with warm marinara sauce for dipping. I spritzed mine with olive oil when they came out of the oven so they’d look pretty for the picture, but that step is totally optional. You could sprinkle them with Parmesan and Italian seasoning if you wanted to add more flavor, but I think they’re just fine plain.

If you’re a full-time vegetarian, be sure to read the label on the crescent rolls; some brands may contain animal fat.

I made a batch of these the other night to try to use up some of the string cheese I bought at Costco before it expires. I’ve got enough cheese left for another batch, so we’ll probably have some next week. They make a quick lunch, and they bake just fine in the toaster oven if you don’t want to heat up the whole oven just for a snack.

Emily

Vegetarian Friday: Roasted asparagus with mushroom-walnut couscous

Yes, I know we just talked about asparagus and mushrooms a couple of weeks ago. I enjoyed that batch of pasta so much that I bought another round of ingredients with the intention of making more, only to realize I was out of linguine. Undaunted, I found some couscous in the cabinet and went another direction that’s probably a little more health-conscious. Consider this one a two-fer.

Ingredients
For the asparagus:
1 bunch asparagus, washed and trimmed
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp. water

For the couscous:
1/2 lb. mushrooms, washed
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 c. whole-wheat couscous
1 1/2 c. water
Butter to taste (optional)
1/2 c. chopped nuts (I used black walnuts, but pecans or English walnuts would work as well)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Arrange asparagus in one end of a large baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and water and sprinkle with garlic.

Arrange mushrooms in the other end of the dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic as you did the asparagus.

Oven-roast until the asparagus is bright green and tender and the mushrooms turn dark and start to shrink a little. This will take about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on your oven.

While vegetables cook, combine couscous and water in a microwavable dish with a lid and nuke, covered, for 5 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes and fluff with a fork. Toss with butter, chopped nuts and roasted mushrooms and serve with asparagus.

Makes about three big servings.

Emily

P.S.: Here are days 19-24 of my Lent project. I figured you were tired of T-shirt pictures, so I just stacked them all up in a single shot.

Most of these don't fit any more. Also in the stack: a pair of souvenir singlets I bought with good intentions and promptly forgot I owned.
Most of these don’t fit any more. Also in the stack: a pair of souvenir singlets I bought with good intentions and promptly forgot I owned.