Appetizers

Mini Breakfast Casseroles

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The process of creating a miniature breakfast casserole was simple. We love breakfast, breakfast foods are delicious and easy to cook. We love miniature versions of things, they’re cute, this is just a fact. When these two ideas are joined together they yield a wonderful, flavor-packed, and easy-to-make breakfast delight.

An additionally exciting note is that with breakfast casseroles, you can truly tailor them to your own taste preferences. It’s honestly really hard to go wrong with flavor combinations when it comes to these. The final thing to keep in mind is, to have fun while making them because these little breakfast dishes aren’t just adorable, they’re delicious too!

 

Mini Breakfast Casseroles
(makes 4)

Ingredients
Two, thawed hash-brown patties (we love to use Trader Joe’s brand frozen patties)
2 tablespoons yellow cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons white cheddar cheese
8 strips Morningstar veggie bacon (this could be substituted with real bacon if desired)
4 eggs
splash of milk (we used around 2 tablespoons)
1 Serrano pepper
4 tomatoes
1/3 cippolini onion
salt and pepper to taste

To start, preheat your oven to 350° F.

We made these using four small to medium sized ramekins. Grease the bottom and sides of your ramekins with either butter or some type of cooking spray. Then, cut your hash-brown patties in half and squish them into the bottom of your ramekin. Dust them with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Place these in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, we want these to start getting crispy so they add a nice textural note to your little egg nests.

While the hash-browns are baking, this is a perfect time to start prepping your filling. Dice the tomatoes, the pepper, and the onion. You can either grate your cheese or just chop it into small cubes. Whisk your eggs together with the milk and set them aside in a bowl.

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Once your hash-brown filled ramekins have been taken out of the oven, you can start the assembly. First, place two strips of bacon in the shape of a cross on top of your ramekin and then push them in so that they are both touching the inside of the ramekin and the top of your hash-brown.

Single ramekin with bacon

All ramekins with bacon

Second, distribute your filling (tomatoes, pepper, and onion) evenly among your four ramekins.

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Third, pour your whisked eggs into each of the ramekins making sure to fill them evenly (that way they all cook at the same speed).

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Finally, top with your grated cheese!

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Place the ramekins back into the oven for another 20-22 minutes or until the egg is fully cooked. Take them out and enjoy!

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4-Ingredient, Vegetarian Sausage Balls

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Growing up, my family ate a ton of breakfast foods. One of the things we commonly ate on special occasions were sausage balls. These are tiny bites of absolute heaven. Cheesy goodness and spicy sausage held together with a little breadiness from a Bisquik box. Little did I know at the time- those were basically the only ingredients in the entire snack!

Now that I no longer eat actual sausage, I still like to revisit recipes like this from my childhood. Recently, I began experimenting with the creation of a vegetarian sausage ball. I was looking for a super easy way to make these nostalgic treats for an only slightly healthier diet.

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Perhaps the most amazing thing about these is that they can be frozen! They can be frozen for long amounts of time and then, for long amounts of time, you have a stash of delicious sausage balls that you can reheat at any moment for a quick, but still tasty breakfast! Every time we make ours we make them a little bit bigger. If you make them about the size of a golf ball, you don’t get as many servings out of it, but you can truly have a single one for a solid breakfast on-the-go. It’s a great option for busy families who still like to do some meal prep and have food that feels more homemade!

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This is such an incredibly easy recipe- it only calls for 4 ingredients (one of which is water, I mean, does that even count?)!

4-Ingredient Soy Sausage Balls
(makes about 27, medium-sized balls)

Ingredients
1 lb soy sausage (I always use Morningstar’s regular brand, and simply use 12 patties)
3 1/2 cups Bisquik
1 lb extra-sharp cheddar cheese (I highly recommend shredding cheese off of a block for this, it makes the moisture content more accurate so you will not need to add as much water as you will if you use pre-shredded cheese)
1/4 cup water

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First, microwave all of the soy sausage patties on a plate for 4 minutes. You want them to be soft and easy to tear apart, but not to the point of being fully crisped or cooked. Chop the patties into a crumble. You can chop them as finely as you like. It really depends on your preference.

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Combine the cheese and Bisquik in a large bowl. Stir together carefully. I like to use my hands because it can be a messy process and I prefer to have complete control over it!

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Add in the sausage crumbles. Mix together entirely. It helps to have a very large bowl here, and to use your hands as you stir.

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Finally add in the water. It will not seem like enough water at first, but keep working the “dough” until it finally comes together. You should not need to add more than a 1/4 cup of water if you use freshly grated cheese. If you are using packaged, shredded cheese, it will be drier than the fresh kind. As a result, you will want to add additional water. I recommend doing this by the tablespoon until your dough comes together. You want to avoid adding too much water. The dough will be fairly dry, but still cohesive enough to keep shape.

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Cover a baking tray in parchment paper. Form the balls, trying to keep them as regularly shaped as you can. It’s up to you how large or small you make them. We have never done larger than roughly 1/4 cup sized. Arrange them on a baking tray. Rest the baking tray in your freezer for 15-20 minutes.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Bake for 20 minutes! They do stick to parchment paper and aluminum foil, so you will just need to let them cool and then peel them off carefully!

Any balls that you would like to freeze, you can plop them all in a large plastic bag and put them in the freezer! When you are ready to eat them later, simply follow the baking instructions listed here!

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Enjoy!

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Bruschetta con Burrata

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Rich, Italian foods are always immensely satisfying and this is one of them. Savory olive oils, tart tomatoes, milky burrata cheese, and fresh basil– it all makes for one delicious bite! Pretty much anyone can make a good bruschetta with a variety of ingredients, but this particular combination has become our go-to. We have tried tons of different kinds of breads and different ingredients, but we landed on this recipe and we haven’t changed it in about a year. We make it probably once a month (it is incredibly delicious, but it’s not really very healthy).

Bruschetta is a fairly traditional Italian dish that has become popularized all over the world. In Italy, there are many, regional variations. The Toscana region often prepares a simplified version with salt, pepper, and olive oil. This fettunta is usually more of a vehicle for tasting the first batches of olive oil for the season. In the Campania region, the dish has been served for a very long time and, unsurprisingly, it has evolved. Often, you will see bruschetta here with mushrooms, squash, and even sausages. There are many other variations, but here in the States, we usually see it with basil, tomatoes, and olive oil. I’ve added burrata in the Campanian style to counter the acidity of the tomatoes, and I believe it works very well.

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You can eat these as a snack or a full meal. We usually opt for the full meal with a glass of white wine. It doesn’t take much time, and the full recipe makes about 24 pieces. Each slice is around 115 calories, as I said, it’s a treat! However, every piece does have 3 grams of protein (which is pretty good for a vegetarian bruschetta). Obviously, there are tons of changes you could make to this recipe to spice it up or simplify it!

Enjoy!

Burrata Bruschetta

Ingredients
1 Trader Joe’s herb loaf
1/2 cup olive oil (I use dark, flavorful varieties, but if you prefer a lighter oil, go for it!)
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 lb cherry or grape tomatoes (I usually do half red cherry, half multi-colored, mini heirloom)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
fresh basil (several stems, enough to chiffonade about 2 tablespoons)
1 carton Trader Joe’s burrata (equivalent of 2 burrata balls, about 8oz total)
optional
truffle olive oil drizzle to finish (adds a nice, savory flavor that works especially well if this is to be an entree)

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First, prep a baking sheet. Cover it in tin foil and preheat the oven to 375°F. Slice the herb loaf into 1″ strips and then cut each strip in half.

Mix the olive oil and garlic salt in a small dish. Brush each side of every slice with the garlic olive oil.

Next, begin chopping the tomatoes. You want to cut them into fairly small pieces that still retain their shape and some of their juices. Either quarter or sixth each one. Put them in a medium-sized bowl. Add in the salt and pepper and stir it all together. Next, chiffonade the basil. Mix it in with the tomatoes carefully. Taste the mixture to make sure it is to your liking, and make any adjustments necessary. I usually add in a bit more basil.

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Bake the olive oil bread for about 5 minutes. Watch it carefully, you want it just lightly toasted but not too crispy.

Next, slice the burrata carefully and arrange a little bit on each slice of bread. Some pieces will have more cheese than others, but that is okay! You can stretch the cheese by spreading some of the creamier inner part onto a few slices. Bake the cheese + bread for another few minutes. Do not wait for the cheese to melt, you just want it to warm up.

Finally, arrange about a spoonful of the tomato mixture onto each slice.

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You can also add extra basil and truffle oil to the top! Serve immediately and enjoy!

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Rosemary-Mozzarella Pretzels

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I am the biggest fan of huge, soft pretzels that ever existed. I know that is a hefty statement to make, but it’s true! These massive, buttery pretzels outrank their crunchy, baked cousins in every possible way… except maybe standards of healthiness. No, these are not clean-eating pretzels that you got in your lunchbox as an alternative to chips. These are big, fluffy, cheesy, salty pretzels- the kind you salivate over at ballparks and stadium events.

Truth be told, the existence of soft pretzels is really my only motivation for ever attending stadium sporting events or visiting overcrowded malls. These soft pretzels are a fabulously souped-up version of their ballpark counterparts. We stuff them with a deliciously cheesy filling and top them with butter and parmesan.

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This is based off of a great recipe by Baker by Nature! It includes a great explanation of yeast and the chemistry behind it, and why some people proof it and some do not. I proof yeast every time I bake with it. It is second nature to me, and I think it’s a good habit to get into. Because of this, I include the proofing process as part of the recipe here.

Growing up, my mom taught us very early how to bake bread from scratch, and she always proofed the yeast before making the dough. I have never had this method fail on me (unless, of course, the yeast is dead). It is super easy to follow, and it creates the fluffiest, moistest breads! If you’re totally confident working with yeast and breads, you don’t have to do this part, but I would certainly recommend it!

 

Rosemary-Mozzarella Pretzels

makes 8 large pretzels

for the dough
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 tablespoons Rapid Rise yeast
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 1/4 cups AP flour
3 tablespoons minced, fresh rosemary
6 tablespoons salted butter, softened
parchment paper

for the pretzel cooking liquid
10 cups water
3/4 cup baking soda

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for the filling
1 1/2 cups shredded, mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded, parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg + 1 tablespoon water for egg wash

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for the topping
4 tablespoons salted butter, melted
1/2 cup grated, Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

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Begin by proofing the yeast. Preheat an oven to 200°F. After it preheats, turn it off. Mix the sugar with the water in a small bowl (the water should be slightly warm to the touch, around 110°F). Pour in the yeast and agitate slightly to ensure that all of the yeast is moistened by the sugar-water. Place the bowl in the oven and leave the oven open. Let it sit in that warm environment for 10 minutes.

While the yeast is proofing, measure out the flour and salt into a large bowl. Mix them together. Add in the softened butter until it is completely mixed in with the flour (no big chunks).

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Wash, de-stem, and mince the rosemary.

Add the proofed yeast and rosemary to the dough. Use a rubber spatula to mix everything together by folding dough and scraping the bowl.

Cover the bowl with a warm, damp paper towel and place it back in the oven (with the oven door closed this time). Let the dough rise for about an hour (it should double in size).

While the dough is rising, prepare the filling. Mix the mozzarella cheese with the parmesan, pepper, and salt.

When the dough has risen, remove it from the oven and roll it out in a ball onto a floured work surface. (I usually cover my counter with parchment paper and add a bit of flour on top for this process.)

Using your sharpest, unserrated knife, cut the dough into four equal pieces.
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Next, cut each of those slices into two, so that you have 8 pieces in all.

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To make each pretzel, roll one dough ball out into a long string. You want it to be about 1 1/2 feet long.

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Use your hands or a rolling pin to flatten it.

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Place about 2 tablespoons of the mozzarella filling on the dough, along one edge.

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Slowly and carefully, roll the dough back into a circular tube. Be sure to press down on the dough to create a seal around the filling!

Make the shape of the letter ‘U’ with the tube.

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Cross the two, top ends of the ‘U’.

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Flip the crossed ends down over the loop, and you’ve got a traditional pretzel!

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Do this with each dough ball, and in the meantime, set a large pot of water mixed with baking soda on the stove to boil.

As you are forming your pretzels, feel free to have some fun with it. You can even do a double twist, like so:

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After the pretzels are formed and the baking soda water is boiling, prepare two cookie sheets by covering them in parchment paper. Next, place the pretzels in the water one-at-a-time. Let it float there for about half a minute before carefully lifting it out of the water using slotted spoons.

Do this with each pretzel, until they are all partially cooked from the water. This might create a bit of a mess with baking soda residue on the range, but it is super easy to clean, so do not worry too much about it now!

Preheat the oven to 425°F. While the oven is preheating, do a quick egg wash on the pretzels to help them brown.

Whisk together 1 tablespoon of water with an egg. Using a brush, coat each pretzel generously in the egg wash. After the oven is preheated, let the pretzels bake for 15 minutes, or until they are golden brown on top!

Finally, prepare the topping!

Melt about 4 tablespoons of salted butter. Brush the top of each pretzel with the butter.

Measure out the extra parmesan and chop up another tablespoon of rosemary. Mix those two together in a small bowl along with the garlic salt and pepper. Sprinkle this on top of the pretzels!

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Enjoy with tomato sauce for dipping or by itself!

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Squash Blossom Frittata

 

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I love frittata for weird reasons. I find that there is a bit of nostalgia in this lovely, Italian dish. I remember Auburn tailgates and family brunches that always included a frittata of some sort, and although I could seldom partake (they usually included sausage), I always loved how neat and beautiful they looked in their pan. Frittata is an Italian word that means “having been fried”. Oddly enough, we don’t really fry this dish– it’s baked!

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The frittata is such an incredibly elegant dish to have for breakfast, and it is SO easy. This particular frittata variation is inspired from one of my new, most favorite Southern cookbooks: Root to Leaf by Steven Satterfield. I really recommend this book for anyone interested in new and delicious Southern cooking with a bit of a twist.

The cookbook follows the seasons, so each recipe features a local and seasonal ingredient. Squash blossoms are intriguing, though, because they can be summer or fall ingredients as you eat with the seasons. Right now, the squash blossoms we eat from the farmer’s market (even in California) are from mostly summer squash (zucchini) plants. In a few month’s time, we will see pumpkin squash blossoms, as the seasons transition!

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As a vegetarian who is interested in eating natural and whole foods, I am so in love with this concept of eating with the seasons, and I commend Satterfield on his creative use of vegetables. Although the cookbook is not vegetarian, it is based off of a food philosophy that advocates for more vegetables and less meat overall (think Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food— which just so happens to be one of my favorite books of all time).

Being able to pick these ingredients up at the farmer’s market, and then make the dish the same day is especially useful when dealing with something like squash blossoms. They go bad very easily, so you truly need to make the frittata within a day or two of buying them.

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Squash Blossom Frittata
serves 6-8

Ingredients
8 eggs
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1/4 red onion (1/3 cup chopped)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sliced mozzarella or ricotta cheese
2 green onions
8 squash blossoms (cleaned and washed)

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Preheat the oven to 400° F.

First, whisk together the eggs and whipping cream in a medium-sized bowl.

Chop the red onion and add that into the egg mixture along with the salt and pepper.

In a large, heavy pan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the egg mixture into the pan and stir continually over low heat for about 7 minutes or until the mixture is warm, but not cooked.

Remove from heat and add in the sliced cheese. Sprinkle the white parts of the green onions into the pan.

Next, arrange the squash blossoms in the pan. Make sure their insides have been cut out and the stems cut off. Coat them in the egg.

Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes.

Serve immediately topped with added cheese and green onion.

Enjoy!

Smashed Potatoes

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This was a dish that I had seen many times but had always been hesitant to attempt. One of the worries I had was that the potatoes would dry out and end up tasting chalky, this recipe solves that problem and in doing so imparts a spectacular flavor on these potatoes.

This dish was made vegetarian but you could easily make it either vegan or meaty with a few swapped ingredients.

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Ingredients
1 lb baby butter potatoes
2 cloves garlic
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh sage
2 sprigs fresh oregano
1 Knorr veggie broth bouillon cube
4 tablespoons salted butter (divided into single tablespoons)
2 cups water
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Optional Ingredients
chopped rosemary (topping)
grated Parmesan cheese (topping)

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To start, combine the water and the bouillon cube in a wide pot (be sure it’s large enough, this is where I made a mistake) over high heat until it begins to boil. Feel free to help the bouillon cube dissolve by crushing it with your spoon and stirring the pot. At this point, add in your herbs and two tablespoons butter to help season the broth and let it stew for about 5 minutes. It’s this delicious broth mixture that gives the smashed potatoes so much flavor and at the same time allows them to stay moist.

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After the butter has melted, gently add your potatoes, making sure they are partially covered with liquid and have enough space around them. As you can see in my picture, the pot I used was a bit too small and I ended up having to change to a larger one later. Making sure they have enough space is crucial, as they will need to spread out when you gently smash them.
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Let these cook, covered, until tender enough that a fork will somewhat easily pierce a potato (about 15 – 20 minutes). At this point remove the cover and gently press down on each potato until you feel the skin give way. Don’t push too hard or the potatoes will not hold together and you’ll have a mess on your hand!

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Cook these until the liquid has completely evaporated, and after for an extra 3 – 5 minutes to get a nice crispy edge. At this point, remove your pan from heat and gently remove the potatoes from the pan.

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Scrape out the contents of your pan before returning it to the stove top.

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Upon returning the pan to the stove-top, add in the last two tablespoons of butter. This will help the other side of the potatoes get nice and crispy.

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After the butter melts, add the potatoes back in with the previously crisped side facing up.

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Cook these for another 3 – 5 minutes or until browned. Remove them from the pan and serve! We added extra chopped rosemary, some grated Parmesan, salt, and fresh black pepper to ours.

Vegetarian Tamales

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Tamales (pl.): masa-wrapped, cheesy-vegetable goodness cooked in a corn husk. The actual nomenclature is a hotly debated issue, but I will chalk it up to import error and just give y’all both terms! Spanish singular: tamal; English singular: tamale.

Tamales really are such a treat. They are often considered to be extremely difficult to make, but honestly, this recipe did not take us more than two hours. Many tamales have meat fillings, which require extensive cooking of their own, and that is what makes them so difficult. However, these vegetarian versions were easy enough that we even decided to make two varieties, which made eating them really fun!

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As a history buff, I can’t neglect the tamal’s incredible origins. This is such a cool food in that you can truly see its origins (even in the modern dish). Aztec and Mayan populations are known to have eaten tamales. You can imagine corn being picked and milled for flour, with the husks being saved for later use. Clearly, this dish is about utilizing every bit of a plant, and this was a great technique for doing so.

In ancient Mesoamerican cooking, a common technique for steaming involved digging a pit in the ground, lighting a fire, and covering the food with brush and leaves to let it slowly cook. Many people still use this technique today all across the globe, and there are tons of names for it: the New Zealand hangi, Samoan umu, Mayan pib, and the Peruvian huatia. Although today most of us will use a steamer or double boiler to cook tamales after they are wrapped, the ancient technique of using the corn husk remains.

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As a side note: if you are interested in global food connections, look up zongzi. These are essentially an ancient East Asian version of tamales, which use rice products instead of corn products!

 

Vegetarian Tamales

makes roughly 17-25 tamales, depending on the size of corn husk 

for the masa dough
2 sticks salted butter
4 cups masa harina
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons ground pequin chiles (alternatively: chile powder)
4 cups vegetable broth (pre-make if using bouillon cubes)

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for the fillings
1 zucchini
3 green onions
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 bunch cilantro
2 roma tomatoes
1/2 lime
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon pequin chile
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 poblano pepper
6 ounces queso fresco
kosher salt and pepper to taste

for assembly/cooking
corn husks
string
steamer/large colander

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First, place 20-30 corn husks in a large bowl filled with water. Weigh them down and let them soak for at least 30 minutes.

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Next, prepare the masa dough. Take the butter out to soften, and combine the masa farina, baking powder, salt, cumin, and chili powder in a large bowl. If you are using dried pequin chilis, you can use a coffee or spice grinder turn them into a powder. Personally, I prefer them because that have a more complex flavor and add a little bit more heat to the dough!

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When the butter is soft enough, mix it in with the dry ingredients to create a crumble. (You’ll probably need to use your hands!) Finally, slowly add in the vegetable broth until everything is combined.

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Next, prepare your fillings! Wash and chop the zucchini and green onions. Mince the garlic. Combine these in a pan with the olive oil and sauté for 3 minutes.

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After the zucchini has cooked a bit, add in the vegetable broth.

While the zucchini mixture is cooking, wash and chop a bunch of cilantro. I find it easiest to simply chop off the stems en masse and mince from there. Wash and chop the tomatoes, and squeeze the juice out of your 1/2 lime! Add the cilantro, tomatoes, and lime juice into the pan. Stir everything together, adding in the cumin and chili powder.

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After much of the liquid has cooked off (this might take a bit of patience), stir in the cheddar cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

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For the second, milder filling: simply chop the poblano pepper and queso fresco. Stir them together with salt and pepper to taste. I found this filling a great contrast to the heavier zucchini filling, and it was really nice to be able to have one of each with my meal.

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Now you are ready to assemble your tamales! For each one, you want to take a corn husk and spread some masa dough onto it. We found that it was easier to spread with fingers than a spoon.

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Be generous with the masa, as it will bake around the filling and keep it from spilling out.

Top the masa with a tablespoon or two of your desired filling.

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Next, carefully use the corn husk to wrap the filling in the masa dough. I will say that we did not start off using this technique (we just closed the corn husks like burritos). Making sure that the masa dough is actually encasing the filling will make your final product prettier, and yummier (in my opinion!). Cover the tamal with the husk and wrap it in string to keep it closed.

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At this point you can place the tamal in a colander or your steamer.

Continue this process with each tamale, until you run out of filling or masa!

 

1: Spread masa dough onto corn husk with hands.

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2: Add filling on top of masa dough.

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3: Wrap dough around filling.

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4: Fold in corn husk, however you prefer and tie with string.

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Place all of your wrapped tamales into a colander or steamer.

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If you have a steamer, steam them for 90 minutes. If you don’t, you can use this neat trick from Tasty Kitchen: put two quarts of water in a large pasta pot, over medium-high heat. Put the colander with the tamales in over the top (we got lucky and ours sealed perfectly!). If there is not a great seal, you can use tin foil to fix this. The tamales should not be touching the water. Cover the pot and steam for 90 minutes, checking every now and then to ensure your water hasn’t all boiled off.

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After 90 minutes, cut them open and enjoy!

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I later made a chile sauce to go on top, but they are delicious even without it!

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Piaju with Dill Raita

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Ramadan is coming to an end soon, but I thought I’d go ahead and post this awesome snack! I know I’m about a month too late, but hey, you can have delicious snacks like this after Ramadan too! From what I’ve read, piaju is a pretty standard snack during this month of fasting. They are excellent because they’re small, but filling. Also, they’re fried and delicious!

I used a basic recipe and then changed it up to make it what I want, so this is by no means a standardized version. Also, when I decided to include a “raita,” I totally made up the recipe, so I can’t promise that it stays true to traditional Indian (or Bangladeshi) cooking. The raita is not vegan, but the piaju are still delicious without it!

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Piaju (also known as dahl pakora) are little fried lentil-onion balls. They function as a snack, but obviously during a time of fasting such as Ramadan they essentially become a meal. The lentils really do fill you up. I will typically have a few piaju and then a small salad as a meal.

This recipe is supposed to make about 20 balls, but the American in me just couldn’t resist supersizing them, so I only got about ten out of it. This was a perfect meal for two people, but they are sharing portions and easy to eat on the go, so you really could serve this up as a party food. It all depends on your circumstances, but the flexibility is great.

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Note: you’ll want a food processor for this recipe.

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Ingredients

for the piaju
3/4 cup dried, red lentils
1/4 teaspoon fresh, grated ginger
3/4 large, yellow onion
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 serrano pepper
1/2 jalapeño pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon asafoetida

piaju

for the “raita”
1/4 cup plain, Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon minced, fresh dill
1 small clove garlic
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon poppy seeds

lemon slices for serving

piaju

 

First, wash the lentils and soak them in a bowl of hot water for thirty minutes.

While the lentils are soaking, peel and grate the ginger (you’ll want an inch or two of fresh ginger to get 1/4 teaspoon). Put the ginger into your food processor.

Next, chop the onion. I’d recommend chopping it pretty finely, let’s call it diced. You don’t want it to be too thick because the frying will not cook this mixture all the way and raw onion can be strong in large bites. Wash and de-stem the cilantro. You’ll want to chop it a little bit, but it doesn’t need much. Clean and mince the peppers. [I always cover my hands in olive oil when I am doing this, it protects your skin from pepper burns.] Combine the onion, cilantro, peppers, and spices into a large bowl.

piaju

After the lentils are done soaking, rinse them and put them in the food processor with the ginger. Puree these together, until you have a slightly coarse/thick paste.

piaju

 

I had to work slowly, stopping every now and then to push the paste back to the bottom of the food processor.

piaju

Once that is done, scoop the paste into the large bowl and mix with the cilantro and onions. Now you have your “dough”!

Form the dough into little balls (you can make them whatever size you want). Place them in the freezer for about half an hour.

piaju

 

While the piaju are chilling, make the raita. Place the yogurt in a small bowl. Rinse, de-stem, and mince the dill. Mince the garlic. Add the dill, garlic, and spices into the yogurt and mix thoroughly. If you like your raita to be less thick, you can also add in a little bit of lemon juice.

piaju

 

After the raita is made, you can begin prepping your oil for frying the piaju. I used a very tiny pot for this, because I hate frying things. I hate the way it makes the apartment smell, and I hate the mess it creates. Using this small pot helped a lot. We used only 1 1/2 cups of vegetable oil, and had very little odor or splatter. You want the oil to be fairly hot (throw a crumb in and if it begins frying vigorously, you’re good).

piaju

With the hot oil, you’ll want a slotted spoon for placing the piaju in the pot and getting them out. Also have ready a plate with paper towels for draining. We kept our pakora in the freezer and just took them out one at a time for frying and this worked very well.

piaju

When you fry them, a few bits will come off naturally, but don’t worry too much about this. Just keep the oil hot. When you first place the piaju in the pot, you want to move it so it does not get stuck to the bottom, but then just leave it alone! This is difficult, but give it a minute to brown and finish frying, then take it out of the oil and place it on the plate to drain. Repeat this process with each ball, until they are all fried. If you make more, smaller balls, you can fry more than one at a time.

piaju

 

Serve fresh with raita and enjoy!

piaju

 

 

Vegetarian Dirty Grits

Dirty grits with hot sauce

Honestly, this first came about as a warm, filling, sick person, comfort food.  However, as the sickness subsided, we noticed the depth of flavor and the pure deliciousness that we had stumbled upon. There are so many different ways to make grits and with this hodgepodge creation, all of the ingredients just clicked.

Another thing to note is that there is a level of flexibility granted to the dish as well; if you want to make it carnivore friendly, you can easily add real sausage or use chicken broth during the cooking process. Aside from having a multitude of options for toppings, this recipe’s leftovers can easily be used to fry up some amazing grit cakes!

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Ingredients
(makes about 3 entree or 9 appetizer servings)
1 cup grits
3 cups water
1 Knorr veggie broth bouillon cube
1 slice Swiss cheese
2 slices Monterey jack cheese
1 slice cheddar cheese
1 slice Colby jack cheese
1-2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
cracked black pepper
kosher salt

optional items
Morningstar breakfast sausage patties (cooked)
hot sauce

 

dirty grits ingredients

To start, add your water and the bouillon cube to a pot over high heat until it begins to boil. Feel free to help the bouillon cube dissolve by crushing it with your spoon and stirring the pot.

veggie broth

While this is heating up, start preparing your cheeses by tearing or chopping them into smaller pieces. This will make it easier for them to melt and to be evenly distributed throughout the mixture.

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Once the broth begins to boil, add in your grits and immediately turn down the heat to low so that it simmers. Be sure to keep stirring continuously; if this mixture boils or is not being stirred it will sputter and hot grits will go flying everywhere.

grits closeup

After this has cooked for about five minutes, add in your butter and stir for another two. At this point the mixture should become fairly thick. Add in your cheeses and mix thoroughly.

cheeses added to grits

Once the cheese has been completely melted, remove the pot from heat and let it cool. While this is happening add in salt and black pepper as they are a necessity in almost everything delicious.

season the grits

Finally, you should chop your sausage to adorn  your portion of the grits.
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Add in any additional toppings you would like and enjoy!

cheesy grits

 

 

 

 

Bomb-Ass Potato Salad

potato salad

I call this bomb-ass potato salad, because I know that nobody will be interested in making or eating it if I title this post “vegan potatoes.” Bleh. Whenever people hear the word vegan, they walk the other way! Let’s just say that this is a dish that just so happens to be vegan, but you can easily sub regular mayo for the vegenaise and add bacon bits to make it carnivore-friendly! I think it’s nice to make available a sneaky vegan dish like this, because at picnics and other large gatherings there will always be friends and family with dietary restrictions- and we want everyone to enjoy the food together, so why not make it inclusive?

This is a great recipe that we discovered while on the Daniel Fast. It’s a vegan potato salad that is sooo tasty! The celery gives it a nice crunch, the potatoes a good creamy texture, and the dill and mustard provide bright flavors! It works well with veggies but can also be good on crackers. I have never put potato salad on a sandwich before, but I don’t see why you couldn’t! It is a great recipe for BBQ’s and picnics that is yummy, but also accessible because, as I said, anyone with dietary restrictions is likely to be able to enjoy it.

There are so many ways to get creative with this one; I would highly recommend that you taste it along the way to get the exact flavor you like! Plus, getting a little snack in makes the cooking process more fun!

potato salad

 

Potato Salad

(makes about 5 servings)

Ingredients
2 pounds red potatoes
2 stalks celery
1 tablespoon minced, fresh parsley
1/2 cup minced, fresh dill
juice from 1/2 a lemon
2 tablespoons vegan mayo
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
kosher salt and pepper to taste

potato salad

 

First, scrub those potatoes clean and put them up in a pot of salted, boiling water. You want to boil them, skin-on, until a fork slides easily through (let’s call it 10 minutes, though it might take a bit longer).

Cube the potatoes and throw them into a large bowl. I like to keep the skin on because I love having potato skins in my potato salad, but if you’d rather lose them- peel the potatoes first!

potato salad

Wash and slice the celery, adding it into the potatoes.

potato salad

Wash and mince the parsley and dill. Throw those in with the potatoes.

potato salad

Juice the lemon and add the juice to the mix.

potato salad

 

Finally, mix in the mayo and mustard. You can also add salt and pepper to taste, I recommend about 1/2 a teaspoon of each (but you should taste test before you throw it all in there, unless you know that you like salty foods!).

potato salad

Serve with crackers, vegetables, or even bread!

potato salad

 

Enjoy!

potato salad