Category Archives: Munchies

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.

Belated Vegetarian Friday: Seven-layer nachos

As usual, my week got away from me. I’ll do an Eco-Saturday and a catching-up-on-Lent post shortly. In the meantime, here’s a good recipe for a quick meal on a busy night. Not exactly health food, but probably better for you than the version you’d get at a Mexican restaurant, and it comes together easily. I’ve listed amounts only for the refried beans (which double easily if necessary) because the amounts depend entirely on your personal taste and the number of people you need to feed.

Ingredients
2 tbsp. olive oil
Small onion, diced
Can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
Can of tomatoes
Taco seasoning
Tortilla chips
Shredded cheddar or colby-Jack cheese
Salsa
Avocado
Lime juice
Sour cream
Sliced black olives

Saute the onion in olive oil until clear. Add pinto beans, tomatoes and taco seasoning to taste and mash together. Cook, stirring frequently, until thick and bubbly.

Mash avocado. Stir in a couple of tablespoons of salsa, a tablespoon or two of lime juice and a healthy sprinkling of taco seasoning.

Layer tortilla chips, a scoop of beans, and a handful of cheese on plates. Microwave each plate 20 seconds to warm the chips and melt the cheese. Top each plate with salsa, guacamole, sour cream and olives and serve immediately.

If you want an extra protein boost, stir some taco seasoning into a handful of frozen TVP, microwave until hot and layer between the beans and cheese.

Not quite the same as Del Taco’s “Macho Nachos,” but probably as close as I’m going to get between now and my next vacation.

Emily

Vegetarian Friday: Mushroom-asparagus pasta

My mother-in-law makes a terrific pasta dish with mushrooms and asparagus. Her version contains ham and is a bit more labor-intensive than this vegetarian variant I pulled together one night while trying to use up some asparagus I picked up at the farmer’s market.

Ingredients
1/2 box linguine
1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch fresh asparagus, cut into bite-sized chunks
3 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 stick butter, cut into pats
1/4 c. heavy cream
Half a cup or so of grated Parmesan

Prepare linguine according to package instructions, drain and toss with butter to keep the noodles from sticking together. While pasta cooks, put asparagus and about a tablespoon of water in a casserole dish, cover and nuke for five minutes or so. Ideally, you’ll end up with asparagus that’s bright green, crisp-tender, and not shriveled up. If you don’t live on my in-laws’ farm, you’ll probably have to use some tired old asparagus that’s been sitting around the grocery store for a few days, as I obviously did — hence the slight shriveling you see in the picture. It still tastes OK, but the fresher asparagus is, the better.

Saute mushrooms in olive oil and toss pasta with mushrooms, asparagus, cream and Parmesan.

Makes four reasonable or two ginormous servings.

Emily

P.S.: Here are days 8 through 10 of my Lent project:

Theoretically a space-saving way to burn calories without leaving the house or spending a lot of money on a stationary bike. In practice, this doesn't work well on hardwood floors, so we ended up buying a real exercise bike and assembling it in the basement -- but this might be just what someone living in a carpeted apartment needs. Onto the giveaway pile it goes.
Day 8: Theoretically a space-saving way to burn calories without leaving the house or spending a lot of money on a stationary bike. In practice, this doesn’t work well on hardwood floors, so we ended up buying a real exercise bike and assembling it in the basement — but this might be just what someone living in a carpeted apartment needs. Onto the giveaway pile it goes.
I think the author of this book wants to be Jenny Lawson when she grows up. I don't think she's going to succeed. Maybe somebody else will think she's funny.
Day 9: I think the author of this book wants to be Jenny Lawson when she grows up. I don’t think she’s going to succeed. Maybe somebody else will think she’s funny.
I really like this fruit basket and its built-in hook for keeping bananas unblemished, but it took up a lot of real estate on my counter, so I replaced it with a set of hanging baskets a couple of weeks ago. It'll look great on somebody's kitchen island, though.
Day 10: I really like this fruit basket and its built-in hook for keeping bananas unblemished, but it took up a lot of real estate on my counter, so I replaced it with a set of hanging baskets a couple of weeks ago. It’ll look great on somebody’s kitchen island, though.

Vegetarian Friday: Pesto pasta

From the “faster and better than McDonald’s” files: I swiped this idea from the late, great Piatto in Tulsa.

This isn’t as nice as Piatto’s version, because they made their pesto from scratch, but as usual, I’m giving you the 15-minute version. If somebody will remind me in June, when I’ve got fresh basil taking over the garden, I’ll make a batch of homemade pesto and post the recipe. In the meantime, the kind you buy in little jars at the grocery store will work just fine for a quick dinner that still tastes better and costs less than whatever you were going to buy from a drive-through.

Ingredients
Box of linguine
Small jar of pesto
Carton of gorgonzola or bleu cheese crumbles

Cook linguine according to package instructions. The big challenge with linguine is to stop cooking it before it turns to mush. I find al dente linguine a bit tricky, as it tends to cook very slowly compared to other pastas, but the line between “not done” and “overcooked” comes down to a matter of seconds, and there’s so much variance from one brand to the next, you really have to start tasting it about 8 minutes in and keep tasting every 30 to 60 seconds until it’s done. (I’ll own the possibility that this is simply lack of experience on my part; if I made linguine as often as I make capellini, I’d probably find it as easy to work with.)

Drain pasta, toss with pesto immediately, divide into bowls and top with cheese. Makes four hefty servings.

In unrelated news, here’s Day 3 of my giving-things-up-for-Lent project:

lent3

I love the Blue Swallow. And I love most of my Blue Swallow-themed merchandise. But this particular shirt — which I got several years ago — doesn’t fit quite right, so into the giveaway bin it goes. (I’m always happy to release Swallow merchandise into the world so other people can see it and find out about the coolest motel on Route 66.)

Emily

Vegetarian Friday: Lasagna

If you’re trying to go vegetarian, and some concern troll in your immediate circle of friends or family starts fretting that you’ve doomed yourself to a life of culinary asceticism, a plate of lasagna is really the most gracious way to shut him up.

Where I come from, a pan of lasagna is also widely considered the most gracious way to extend condolences after someone dies, celebrate the birth of a child or help a family in the wake of an emergency.

My version involves plenty of mushrooms, onions and mozzarella and is both grownup and teenager-approved. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Red Fork Hippie recipe if it didn’t lend itself well to improvisation, and this one certainly does.

The basic ingredients:
1 box lasagna (do NOT get the no-boil kind)
2-3 cups of your favorite marinara sauce*
1 lb. mushrooms, sliced
2 small onions, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil
2 big bags shredded mozzarella
Grated Parmesan

Things you can add if you want:
Any kind of white cheese you like (ricotta, Asiago and Romano are traditional, but if you’re feeling decadent, swap the ricotta for manouri or grate a little myzithra over the finished product)
Fresh or sun-dried tomatoes
Sliced zucchini
Spinach

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Boil noodles according to package instructions. While the pasta cooks, saute the mushrooms and onions in olive oil until the onions are clear. Add garlic, saute for 30 seconds, and remove from heat.

Layer ingredients in the pan as follows: pasta on the bottom, then vegetables, then sauce, then cheese. Repeat until you reach the top of the pan.

Cover baking dish with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes (double that if you’re using no-boil noodles). Remove foil and bake another five minutes to brown the edges if you like. Serve with an I-told-you-so smirk and plenty of grated Parmesan.

Emily

*I usually cheat and use the store brand from Viviano’s Grocery in St. Louis, because it’s as good as anything I’m likely to make, but there are plenty of good marinara recipes online. Just don’t trust anything too complicated. Marinara sauce should be a simple affair, with no more than a handful of ingredients: tomatoes, garlic, basil, oregano and a little red wine and olive oil. (Too much time in New Mexico has taught me the merits of red chile wine, which is an excellent base for arrabbiata sauce if you like a bit more kick.)