Showing posts with label vegetable ninja. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vegetable ninja. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Cheddar Broccoli Bites

I received free samples of Cabot Cheese mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe challenge sponsored by Cabot Creamery and am eligible to win prizes. 
I was not additionally compensated for my time.

These Broccoli Bites are the perfect hearty appetizer for every party goer tired of raw veggies and dip. The Broccoli Bites are crunchy, nutty and have a surprise center - a cube of delicious Cabot cheddar!

Bake these bites for your next party, game day or as an entree for your next veggie-focused dinner. I'm more of a board game player than sports team watcher, but I am sure that these bites are applicable at all party types. And better yet, they're loved by vegetarians and meat eaters alike!

Cheddar Broccoli Bites
  • 4 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons pesto
  • 4 ounces Cabot cheddar cheese, cut into 16 even cubes
  • 2 large eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment (VIP!)
  2. Steam broccoli florets for 10 minutes or until vibrant green and tender. 
  3. Pulse almonds in food processor until finely ground. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. 
  4. Pulse steamed broccoli in food processor until chopped. Add to bowl of almonds and add Parmesan, pesto and eggs. Season with salt and pepper if you wish. 
  5. Grab a golfball-sized scoop of the broccoli mixture and form it around one cube of cheddar, squeezing tightly to ensure broccoli mixture holds shape. Place on prepared baking sheet and continue with the remaining broccoli bites. 
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and crunchy. 
  7. Serve plain, or dipped in your favorite warmed spaghetti sauce. 

An InLinkz Link-up

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Dinner in a Flash: Buttercup squash saute

Thank you to my dear friend Sarah at WhyFoodWorks for this delicious recipe! I got to try a buttercup squash for the first time. Sarah and I are both dietitians and both agree that peeling winter squash is a bit this recipe just eats the whole squash! Open the squash with your biggest knife, scoop out the seeds (a great use for the ice-cream scoop!), dice and saute with apples and onions. you'll have dinner on the table in no time.

I am of the opinion that almost anything can be topped with a "fried" egg and eaten for breakfast. This squash saute is no exception. I added a bit of extra-sharp shredded cheese and thought the sweet-savory-salty combination was divine. Let me know if you try it. The sharp cheese is great because with a small portion you get a big bunch of flavor and skip the excess calories.

I love trying winter squash in ways "outside the pie". I love pie, but that needs to be a treat! Winter squash has that nice stick-to-your ribs quality of mashed potatoes, with significantly fewer calories.

Buttercup squash saute
  • 1 buttercup squash
  • 1 apple
  • 1 onion
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup apple cider, apple juice, water or broth
To take it up an notch:
  • Shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 "fried" egg - over easy egg with minimal added fat
  1.  Give the squash a quick rinse and then carve into wedges using your largest knife. Proceed with confidence. 
  2. Use your ice-cream scoop or a hefty spoon to scoop out the seeds and guts of the squash (sounds gross, right?). Chop into cubes and discard any wonky bits.
  3. Core apple and dice - no need to peel. Dice onion (you do have to peel this one).
  4. In a large skillet, warm over medium-high heat and add oil. Cover with a lid and saute garlic, onions, squash and apple 20-25 minutes or until soft. Make sure to poke your fork through the squash peel to see that it is tender too.
  5. Add a splash of cider, salt and pepper and stir to evenly distribute. Serve as is, or with egg and cheese.
Have you seen a buttercup squash before? Beautiful!
A healthier use for your ice-cream scoop!
Did you know that cooking in cast iron pans increases the iron content of your foods?

Reader Poll: What is your favorite way to eat winter squash? Have you tried something other than pie?

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Smash it: moving beyond the mashed potato

The vegetable ninja is back! We're using delicious mashed potatoes as a basis for trying (and liking!) new fruits and vegetables. 

I don't think I've met someone who dislikes mashed potatoes. And what's not to like? They're creamy and delicious. Turns out that many vegetables are really delicious mashed. With a variety of vegetables, leafy greens and even fruit, you can make a multitude of tasty side dishes. Do add some fat for flavor and absorption of the fat soluble nutrients (the beta-carotene that makes carrots and pumpkin orange, for example), but don't go overboard. Too much fat can tip the calories too high (and tip the scale!).

There is a pretty big range of calories, sugar and fiber. Notice too, that if you include the skins from you reproduce, the fiber is higher. By skipping the peeler, you need less time to prepare the food and gain better nutrition - great! Also notice that the applesauce is unsweetened. The basic applesauce for most brands is loaded with added sugars and the calories usually double. Check the label!

1 cup mashed
White potato
(no skin)
White potato
(with skin)
Sweet potato
Applesauce, Unsweetened
Fiber (g)
Carbohydrates (g)
Sugar (g)

Next time you are planning mashed potatoes, try something new. Maybe you skip peeling and get dinner on the table faster - you're doing better in the fiber category. Maybe you mix your white potatoes with cauliflower - you save on calories big time! Perhaps you want to try half carrot, half sweet potato; I'll bet you like it.

Mashed veggies are also a good way to get more greens - the Irish staple Colcannon is delicious and filling, not to mention cheap! 

I've written about this before, but cooking fruit vegetable purees or mashes is a great way to introduce new flavors. When someone is having a new food for the first few times, they're experiencing both a new flavor AND a new texture. When you remove the texture part of the equation, the reluctant eater is only focused on the flavor. Build from there. Sneaking in vegetables and fruits into foods is sometimes controversial amongst my peers. I think that they are one tool to improve intake of fruits and vegetables, but they aren't the whole solution. Get your household on board with new flavors and then build upon that with the vegetables and fruits in other forms.

Reader poll: Do you have a favorite mashed fruit or vegetable?

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Monday, October 8, 2012

Slow Cooker Savvy: Mile high vegetable lasagna

I love lasagna! It is delicious, filling and great to warm your belly on a cold winter night. If you're a sneaky vegetable ninja, you can load up your lasagna with gobs of vegetables. Pair that with whole grain noodles and reduced fat cheese, you've created a nutrition powerhouse. Did you know that you never have to boil the noodles? Follow your favorite recipe, don't cook the noodles, add 1/2 of extra water and cover the pan with foil. Once the noodles are soft, remove the foil for a few minutes in the oven to let the top brown. This saves a lot of time!

I used to baby-sit for my cousin and cook dinner for the family. Her four year old son and I would make several batches of lasagna at once - one pan for dinner, and several more for the freezer. Did you know that kids love to help in the kitchen? While he was standing on a kitchen chair and stirring the huge bowl of the cheesey-veggie filling, he suddenly looks up at me and excitedly asks, "Holly, do you know what we're making?". "Lasanga?" I reply, not sure if this was a trick questions. "Witches Brew!", he corrects.

Is that not the cutest thing?

I usually make lasagna in the oven, but wanted to try using the slow cooker. I gathered the usual vegetable suspects in my kitchen and reviewed several recipes for slow-cooker lasagana when I realized that they were also using much larger crocks; 4 to 6 quarts. Mine is a much smaller 3-quart slow cooker. Well, I like a challenge and so just gave it a try. The result? A very delicious, and very TALL lasagna! Perhaps not traditional, but dinner will be on the table none-the-less.

Mile-high vegetable lasagna
  • 15 ounces reduced-fat ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese)
  • 1 1/2 cups reduced-fat mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup thawed frozen spinach, water squeezed out
  • 2 cups chopped broccoli, frozen and thawed, or fresh
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup basil pesto (or 1/4 minced fresh basil, or 1 tablespoon dried basil)
  • 24 ounces marinara sauce
  • 1 package whole wheat lasagna noodles, uncooked (not no-boil kind) - about 9 noodles
  1. In a large mixing bowl, add ricotta Parmesan and 1-cup of mozzarella cheese. Add eggs, pesto, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
  2. Thaw spinach in microwave; use hands to squeeze our excess water. Add to cheese mixture. 
  3. Chop broccoli, if using fresh, or thaw if using frozen chopped. Add to cheese mixture, along with minced onion. 
  4. Pour half of marinara sauce in the bottom of the crock. Make an even, single layer of noodles on top of sauce, breaking as necessary. Spread 1/3 of cheese mixture on top of noodles.
  5. Layer the rest of the noodles and cheese mixture, pressing down on noodles after each noodle layer. You should have four layer of noodles and three layers of cheese, ending on the noodles. Tip: if you alternate the direction when layering the noodles, the lasagna will be easier to cut.
  6. Pour the remaining marinara sauce on top of the last noodle layer and top with the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. 
  7. Cover and cook on low heat for 4 to 6 hours or until hot, bubbly and noodles are tender when poked with a knife. 
  8. Turn off heat, remove lid and let lasagna rest for 10-20 minutes - this will make it much easier to cut.
Note: if using a larger crock, make three layers of noodles and two layers of cheese for a not-so-tall lasagna. Cooking time should remain about the same. 
Note: if you don't have lasagna noodles, use macaroni or ziti noodles, uncooked, instead.  

I served the lasagna with this salad - yum!

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Cooking class: ideas for spaghetti squash

I recently had the chance to raid a friend's garden that was overflowing with vegetables. What a treat! I came home with the mother load of monster beets, plump tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, zucchini squash, a beautiful boquet of zinnias and a special treat; spaghetti squash!

The vegetable ninja is back; once again we have vegetables standing in for a higher starch counterpart without sacrificing flavor. Wham bam shazam! Bring on the veggies!

Spaghetti squash is a really delicious and fun summer vegetable. I discussed how to cook it yesterday (so simple!) and wanted to share a few topping ideas today.

Once your squash is cooked, get ready to load it up with yummy toppings! Simple butter, salt and pepper are great, as is a dollop of fresh pesto. This would also be good topped with creamy peasto-pesto.
Chopped 1-2 fresh tomatoes and warm in a saute pan with some olive oil. Bring to a simmer and then toss in a big handful of fresh chopped basil. Toss this speedy sauce with the spaghetti squash and grate some fresh parmesan cheese on top. Divine!
I also tried the squash topped with scrambled eggs and pesto. Unusual, yes, but very delicious and good anytime of the day. Vegetables for breakfast, anyone?

For another splendid idea, I would recommend you check out my dear friend Kelly's blog, Off The Wall  for her take on a turkey meatball sub using spaghetti squash. Brilliant!

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cooking Class: How to cook spaghetti squash

Ready for toppings!
Spaghetti squash is a super summer vegetable that tastes great, is in season now and is hiding a little secret: underneath that creamy yellow rind are strands of squash that look (and taste) like spaghetti!

Spaghetti squash is much lower in calories than its whole grain counterpart. Plus, this is a great time to make use of your microwave to cook dinner without heating up your entire kitchen. You can also cook spaghetti squash in the oven, but I'd rather save that for winter when we're seeking more heat in the house.

Kids of all ages could get a fun kick out of serving the spaghetti squash right in the rind; no dishes needed!

 1 cup
 Whole wheat spaghetti
 Spaghetti squash
 6.3 grams
2.2 grams
 7.5 grams
1 gram
 37 grams
10 grams

Using the microwave makes quick work of dinner (or lunch, or breakfast) prep. Simply rinse off, poke with a knife a few times and microwave about 5-10 minutes or until tender. Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds and "guts" and discard. Then, use a fork to fluff up the strands of spaghetti squash. If the squash isn't cooked enough, don't panic. Simply toss back in the microwave for another minute or two and try again. This comes down to personal preference as well; just like regular wheat spaghetti, some of us like it al dente while other like it more tender. Up to you!

Give your squash a quick rinse and poke with a sharp knife a few times to prevent explosions

After microwaving for 5-10 minutes, cut in half
Scoop out the seeds and "guts" and discard them
Fluff up the squash strands with a fork and add any topping you'd usually use for spaghetti; marinara sauce and pesto are both delicious!

Now, what to fill the spaghetti squash with? Give these ideas a try! 

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Vegetable Ninja: homemade zucchini "pasta"

Vegetable Ninja: homemade zucchini "pasta"
Zucchini "pasta" topped with turkey meatballs and sauce

Prepare yourself for some real kitchen ninja action; we are about to turn zucchini into PASTA! This is a great way to satisfy your Italian taste buds without boiling water or going overboard with your carbohydrate intake. And if you're lucky enough to live near a zucchini plant? Here is a great new recipe beyond the usual zucchini bread.

There are a couple of ways to be a zucchini ninja; you can use your chefs knife to cut your zucchini into long planks and then cut those planks into thin strips; you get a rustic homemade zucchini pasta. You can take it up a notch using a julienne peeler; they're available at bit box stores and online for about ten bucks. If you really want to take it up a notch, you can also use a mandoline slicer if it has the julienne blade.

Once you have your zucchini in pasta-like shapes, all you have to do is sprinkle a bit of salt on top and let it sit for a few minutes. The salt will help draw out excess water creating an al dente pasta. This can be served hot or cold!

1. Trim ends from zucchini
2. Julienne zucchini using knife, peeler or mandoline
3. Place "pasta" in bowl and lightly salt; wait 10-20 minutes or until zucchini is softened
4. Quickly rinse "pasta" under running water and then squeeze to remove extra moisture

Your pasta is ready! You can quickly saute in a pan with sauce, serve cold or nuke in the microwave. I made turkey meatballs in marinara sauce on the stove and warmed the "pasta" in the microwave.

*Note: my taste testers were my two roommates; they both thought that this zucchini was mixed with real pasta; the zucchini is that close to the real deal! Try it!

*If you're trying to trick reluctant kids or a picky spouse, you could first peel the zucchini to remove the green color

Two small zucchini was enough for my dinner
Using the julienne peeler

Freshly julienned and salted

Salt drawing out water

Zucchini "pasta" topped with turkey meatballs and sauce

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