Vegan BBQ Sliders

   

It’s summer time, which means picnics and barbecues are in full swing. These vegan sliders are perfect for all of the warm weather festivities, or even just a weekend at home when you’re craving something different. They are simple to make, portable, and will satisfy any hungry monster’s hankering for smoky goodness. 

Vegan BBQ Sliders

It looks pretty dang meaty doesn’t it? Well it’s not! And it’s not soy beef or seitan or tofu or anything else you may expect. It’s an ingredient many people have never even heard of – jackfruit! Well informed vegans may already be aware that there is a number of pulled pork style jackfruit recipes out there, but I find that type of BBQ to be too sweet. As an alternative, I made this recipe to simulate more of a brisket style of sandwich that my dad used to make when I was growing up. You can eat it on soft slider buns, stuff it into a hoagie, or even make tasty tacos out of it. The base recipe is simple and open to many delicious adaptations. So… where do you get this mysterious jackfruit? You can buy cans at your local Asian grocer, or order it from Amazon if you don’t have an Asian market available. Stock up because you’ll probably want to make these again!

Vegan BBQ Sliders

Vegan BBQ Sliders
Serves 5
Smoky, salty brisket-style vegan sliders made from jackfruit.
Print
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 cans of young jackfruit (packed in brine or water, not syrup - very important)
  2. 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  3. 2 tablespoons vegan Worcestershire sauce (also available at the Asian market)
  4. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  5. 2 tablespoons dill pickle juice (I prefer a pickle with a saltier, more acidic brine - I use Vlasic)
  6. 1 teaspoon liquid smoke (sometimes I put in another 1/2 teaspoon for extra smokiness - but start low because this stuff is potent)
  7. 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
  8. 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  9. 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  10. 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
  11. Additional olive oil for drizzling
  12. Soft slider rolls
  13. Preferred toppings (BBQ sauce, Vegenaise, relish - whatever floats your boat!)
Instructions
  1. Drain the jackfruit and using your fingers shred the pieces into a medium sized bowl. There might be a few chunkier pieces and that's ok.
  2. Whisk together all of the remaining ingredients for the marinade. Pour over the jackfruit and let sit for 10 minutes or so.
  3. In a medium to medium-high heat skillet throw in the jackfruit. You're going to let this cook for a while to evaporate most of the liquid. You want to "dry" it out a bit. Limit stirring because a big part of the flavor comes from the sear you get from cooking on high heat. The sugars in the marinade will caramelize and create sort of a "bark" that I feel makes it taste more like authentic BBQ.
  4. Once it's cooked put a drizzle of more oil over the top just to make it a bit more rich and fatty like a nice raunchy southern sandwich should be. :) You've just cooked out a fair amount of moisture so this gives it a little more life again.
  5. Pile high on rolls and combine with whatever toppings you love.
Notes
  1. Make sure to purchase only YOUNG jackfruit in a can, unless you're lucky enough to have a market that serves pre-cut young jackfruit. Fresh and frozen jackfruit tends to be ripe - and therefore sweet, so it won't work well in this recipe.
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/
Vegan BBQ Sliders


Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Bars

   

 H.B. Reese, the creator of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup (originally named “Penny Cups” for their price of one cent), arrived at this ingenious combination of ingredients while trying to support his wife and 16 children. He was almost as good at making sweets as he was at making kids. Little did he know that his successful basement experiment would go on to become one of the most popular candies in the U.S.  And little did you know that you can make an indulgent chocolate peanut butter treat of your own in about 12 minutes prep time. You don’t even need a truck load of kids to help you.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

 

 There are plenty of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup knock-off recipes out there, but that’s not what this is. Oh no no. I consider this to be a more grown up version of the famous novelty, made with higher quality ingredients. The best part though? No fussy molds to deal with. If you can operate a microwave (and a spoon) then you can make these delicious bars.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Bars

 

 Given the simplicity of this recipe I feel like I should issue a warning to my readers. These are good. Damn good. You will eat more than one five of them. I cannot be held responsible for any self induced tummy aches that may occur as the result of gorging on these addictive confections. But… is that really a warning though? Maybe it’s more of a tease, gently beckoning you to enjoy these decadent bars with a glass of cold milk. I won’t notify anyone if you slice the pan in half and tell your friends you only ate “one”.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Bars

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Bars
Serves 30
Smooth, rich peanut butter fudge with dark chocolate ganache. Easy to make, easier to devour!
Print
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
1 hr 15 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
1 hr 15 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  2. 8 ounces unsalted butter
  3. 1 pound powdered sugar
  4. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  6. 8 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
  7. 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
Instructions
  1. Line a 9x13 inch pan with parchment paper, leaving overhang at the edges so you can easily lift the fudge out when it sets.
  2. Microwave peanut butter with unsalted butter for 2 minutes.
  3. Stir well and microwave 2 more minutes. Mixture will be molten hot so be careful with it.
  4. Add vanilla and salt, stirring to combine.
  5. Combine peanut butter mixture with powdered sugar and stir well with a wooden spoon. Mixture will be incredibly thick.
  6. Spread mixture across the bottom of the prepared pan. I like to lay another sheet of parchment on top and use my hands to help level it out.
  7. Transfer to the refrigerator to chill while you prepare the ganache.
  8. Heat the cream to just below a simmer. If you have a thermometer and want to be more precise you're aiming for around 185F. You can do this in a saucepan on the stove, but a couple of minutes in the microwave should do the trick. Just watch it closely to make sure it doesn't boil.
  9. Pour the hot cream over the finely chopped chocolate and walk away for 10 minutes to give the chocolate time to melt. Gently fold the chocolate and cream together until smooth and glossy. If your chocolate wasn't chopped finely enough you may have a few stubborn pieces that refuse to melt. Pop the mixture in the microwave at 10 seconds intervals until the ganache is smooth.
  10. Spread over the peanut butter fudge. Sprinkle the top with sea salt if desired. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are quite salty, so I find this adds a pleasant finish that people love. Return to the refrigerator to finish setting up completely. The bars are not too thick and tend to be ready to eat in an hour or so.
  11. Run a sharp nice around the edge of the pan to loosen the fudge if needed. Using the overhanging parchment, gently lift the bars out. Slice into squares and serve.
Calories
  1. 171
Notes
  1. Calories vary depending on the size of the bars. Cutting into 20 squares puts it at 256 calories each, cutting into 40 smaller sized pieces would put it at 128 calories each.
  2. As an optional step, sprinkle chocolate chips over the top of the peanut butter layer before you've added the ganache. Gently press them into the fudge to keep the bars flat and smooth on top. The texture of this ends up being akin to chocolate chip cookie dough and is so good!
Adapted from Alton Brown's Peanut Butter Fudge
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/
Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Bars


Chewy Coconut Cookies

   

Greetings, humans. This is your friendly neighborhood Gouda Monster. You may remember me from such cookie recipes as Eyeball Butter Cookies and Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal Cookies. I have been out of the public eye for a time, lurking in the shadows and sharpening my teeth, but now I have returned to you with a gift of sweetness and simplicity.  For all you coconut fans – chewy coconut cookies! Chomp chomp!

coconutcookie1

As is often the case in my kitchen, I find myself throwing things into a bowl with the hopes that the resulting concoction won’t be a total disaster. One afternoon I was craving cookies but I didn’t have many ingredients on hand to work with. In the back of my pantry I eyed a hermetic glass jar packed full of sweetened coconut and figured I’d roll with it. I’d never made coconut cookies before so it was going to be a fun experiment. Imagine my surprise when I had perfectly sweet, chewy cookies with a slightly crispy edge on my first attempt!

coconutcookie2

The following day I made them again, doubling the recipe so that I could hand them out to friends. The reviews I received were overwhelmingly positive, someone even going so far as to say they could see the endorphins being released from their brain as they ate them. That’s the kind of response I like to hear! Several people asked me for the recipe so I knew these would have to make their way onto my blog, pulling me out of my lengthy hiatus.  Given how quickly this recipe comes together I think it will be a hit for parties or functions where you want to impress a group with a small amount of effort. 

coconutcookie3

Chewy Coconut Cookies
Serves 36
A simple to make coconut cookie with a chewy center and slightly crispy edges.
Print
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
18 min
Total Time
33 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
18 min
Total Time
33 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup white sugar
  2. 1/4 cup brown sugar
  3. 2 sticks room temperature butter, unsalted
  4. 2 teaspoons Ener-G egg replacer mixed with 3 tablespoons water (or 1 large egg)
  5. 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract (optional, but nice for a little more coconut oomph)
  6. 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  7. 2 cups coconut (I used a mix of shredded and shaved coconut for the textural interest)
  8. 2 cups flour
  9. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  10. 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  11. Fleur de sel for finishing (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Cream together butter and sugars until lighter in color.
  3. Add extracts and egg replacer (or egg) and beat for about 30 seconds. Stir in coconut.
  4. In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, and kosher salt. Add to the coconut mixtures in thirds, combining well after each addition.
  5. Using a melon baller or small cookie scoop, scoop out rounded balls of dough and place about 2 inches apart on parchment lined sheet.
  6. Bake for 17-19 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies just start to brown. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with fleur de sel if desired. Allow cookies to sit for 10 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.
Calories
  1. 210
Variations
  1. For an extra decadent treat, drizzle or dip each cookie with tempered dark chocolate.
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/

coconutcookie4


Spring Garden Pasta

   

Living in Texas it can sometimes be a little difficult to look forward to the oncoming summer, what with its droughts and relentless heat waves. That anxiety is quickly diffused once I glimpse the new crop of garden fresh veggies at the grocery store. Here is a crisp, healthy pasta dish to embrace spring’s bounty and warmer months.   

Spring Garden Pasta

This is a wonderful dish to prepare if you’ve blacked out in a farmer’s market and awoken in your kitchen to find yourself staring hazily at mountains of fresh produce. The first time I prepared this I was craving pasta primavera, but wasn’t wanting something heavy. I cut calories by removing half of the pasta and replacing it with loads of vegetables. Serving the dish slightly warm rather than piping hot really allows the texture and flavors of the vegetables to shine. 

Spring Garden Pasta

Spring Garden Pasta
Serves 4
A healthier pasta dish absolutely full of crisp, fresh veggies.
Print
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 tablespoons salted butter
  2. 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  3. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 2 broccoli crowns, cut into florets (about 2-3 cups)
  5. 1 cup carrots, sliced
  6. 1 cup frozen green peas
  7. 10-12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  8. 2 tablespoons flour
  9. 1/2 cup milk (I used flax milk)
  10. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  11. 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  12. 1/4 cup fresh basil
  13. 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  14. 1 1/2 cups Maffei fussili (or whatever pasta you like)
Instructions
  1. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in high sided skillet. Add minced garlic and sliced mushrooms, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and cover until the mushrooms release their juices.
  2. Stir in chopped broccoli and carrots, cover and let steam for about 7-8 minutes until crisp tender. Transfer veggies to a bowl (reserve any liquid in the pan if there is some) and leave covered while you prepare the sauce.
  3. Meanwhile cook pasta in well salted water according to package directions. I used a refrigerated pasta by Maffei which is 180 calories per 1/2 cup. You want it perfectly al dente or just a hair shy of al dente - you want the pasta to stand up to the crisp veggies.
  4. While pasta is cooking - in the same pan you cooked veggies in melt the other tablespoon of butter. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of flour - it will be very thick. Let cook for a minute or two to cook off the raw flour taste and then add milk, black pepper, fresh thyme. Remove from heat and whisk well.
  5. Transfer pasta plus 1/2-3/4 cup (depending on how thick you want your sauce to be) of the pasta cooking water to the pan along with all of the veggies, the green peas, and your grated parmesan. Toss well and cover to let the peas warm through. This will also slightly cool down the pasta and veggies. This is ok as the slightly cooler pasta maintains the fresh flavor and texture of the tomatoes.
  6. When the peas are warm add fresh basil and chopped tomatoes, toss well and serve immediately. Ideally your pasta water should have been salted well enough that you wouldn't need additional salt, but feel free to add more if needed.
Calories
  1. 358 calories for 1/4 of the pan as I've prepared it.
Variation
  1. Cooking the mushrooms in a bit of dry white wine (maybe 2 ounces) adds lovely flavor to the dish.
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/
Spring Garden Pasta

 


Tomato Asparagus Panzanella Salad

   

It’s been over a month since my last post, which means I have all kinds of things I can talk about this time around. A little while back Jah presented me with 3 seats to a local cheese-making class with The Dallas Mozzarella Co.  Jah and I brought my friend Leanna and we had a great time making fresh ricotta, mozzarella, oaxaca, and a fresh olive stuffed mozzarella roll. Of course with all of that unbelievably fresh cheese in my fridge, how could I resist making something like this beautiful tomato asparagus panzanella salad?

 Before I delve too much into the details of salad making (not that this salad has many – it’s so simple), I thought I’d talk a little about springtime in Texas. The telltale sign of spring is when the bluebonnets carpet the landscape. Not wanting to miss one of the prime spots for this surreal display of color, I drove out to Ennis, TX with my friend Chris to be able to photograph the fields at sunrise. Needless to say it was a worthwhile adventure!

Ennis Bluebonnets

After enjoying the brisk air (ok I was freezing ) we hopped back in the car and roamed the country side looking for more lovely photo ops. Along the way we stopped and snacked on the moist double chocolate zucchini muffins I packed for the trip (a recipe I’ll definitely have to share later). We saw deer, rabbits, horses, longhorn cattle, and even a grumpy minidonk! After a brief detour into a local winery we found a gorgeous field blanketed with bright red Indian paintbrush and had to get a shot.

Ennis Indian Paintbrush

Texas has a bit of a reputation for being a large expanse of dessert… essentially the prototype for every old western ever made. Believe it or not there is green stuff here too! 

But enough about all of that. You’re here for juicy, ripe tomatoes, aren’t cha? Me too, man… me too.

Tomato Asparagus Panzanella Salad

Panzanella is an Italian salad made with bits of bread, often as a means to use that day old loaf you’ve got sitting around. With such simple ingredients quality is really going to make a difference, so make sure to get the best tomatoes you can find. I love to mix varieties for a more colorful presentation, plus it adds a little complexity to the overall flavor. I make this style of salad fairly often whenever I’m preparing food for a large group of people, because it is so easy to multiply out to serve more. 

Tomato Asparagus Panzanella Salad

Tomato Asparagus Panzanella Salad
Serves 6
A simple Itaian salad tossed with cubes of toasted day old bread.
Print
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 small Italian baguette, cut into 1 inch cubes
  2. 1 1/2 pounds of mixed tomatoes, chopped (or about 2 pints of cherry tomatoes, halved)
  3. 1 bundle fresh asparagus, tough ends removed and cut into bite sized pieces
  4. 6-8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes
  5. 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  6. 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  7. Salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Toss bread cubes with about a tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with a little bit of sea salt. Bake at 425 for about 8 minutes until nice and toasty. Keep an eye on them as oven temps may vary. I give them a shake in the pan about halfway through.
  2. Combine olive oil, tomatoes, asparagus, fresh basil, and mozzarella in a large bowl and toss well to coat. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
  3. A few minutes prior to serving combine the tomato mixture with the toasted bread crumbs.
Calories
  1. Calorie count for this dish will vary a bit since the measurements are thrown together rather loosely. I find it often falls between 320-370 per serving whenever I make it.
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/
Tomato Asparagus Panzanella Salad


Avocado Salsa

   

I’m pretty excited because I inherited Jah’s old laptop and Chris got it all set up for me over the weekend. Now I’ll be able to pop into a coffee shop to write my blog posts (hopefully with a little more frequency) whenever I feel like a change of scenery. The laptop even has Photoshop installed so I can do all of my photo editing and monster doodles when I’m out as well. Today’s post of Avocado Salsa has been brought to you by welcome secondhand technology!

Avocado Salsa

Sometimes you just know when a recipe is good, and this time it was because I made it four days in a row and everyone still loved it. The first time I made this it was simply an experiment – something I needed to throw together in a very short period of time to get dinner on the table quickly. It was well received and requested for dinner again the following night. Once I decided that Avocado Salsa was worthy of its own post, I needed to make it yet another time to get photos… then the battery managed to fall out of my camera, losing most of the pics from the shoot. That of course meant I needed to make it a fourth time, to ensure I had enough shots to share with my readers. I figured I’d take the opportunity to change the mood as well, which is why this photo is dark but the ones from the second session photos are bright. I appreciate both sets in different ways.

Avocado Salsa

Each night we ate the salsa a little bit differently than the last. Day one was on vegetarian chicken fajitas, day two was dolloped over the top of black bean soup, day three was spooned over nachos with queso, and day four was rolled up into soft tacos. Then of course we’d just dip tortilla chips straight into it as well. I love it when a recipe this simple has so many uses.

Avocado Salsa

Avocado Salsa
Serves 4
A satisfying southwestern dip with avocado, cherry tomatoes, and cumin.
Print
Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 20 grape tomatoes, quartered (about two handfuls)
  2. 1/4 onion, diced (raw or cooked - see notes)
  3. 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
  4. 1/2 tsp olive oil
  5. 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  6. 1/2 tsp salt
  7. 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  8. 1 avocado, diced (choose a ripe but firm avocado)
  9. 1 tablespoon lime juice (I got this much from half of a small lime)
  10. 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Instructions
  1. Combine tomato, onion, jalapeno, olive oil, salt, cumin, and garlic powder in a medium sized bowl. Stir well to combine.
  2. While the tomatoes are releasing their tasty juices, you can chop up the avocado and cilantro. Gently toss them with the tomato mixture and fresh lime juice.
Calories
  1. 83
Notes
  1. If anyone you know is susceptible to indigestion, cooking the onions first will make them very happy - plus it tastes delicious! I broil or grill my onion in the oven before dicing it up if I know I have an onion-sensitive friend eating over.
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/
Avocado Salsa


Heirloom Tomato Burrata Baguette

   

I’ve wanted to make something like this for a while, and whenever I saw the pile of vibrant heirloom tomatoes at the grocery store I knew the time had come. The beautiful variegation is simple to do, but any color of tomato will taste amazing. Only good things happen when you combine fresh tomato, basil, and burrata cheese.

Heirloom Tomato Burrata Baguette

The first time I made this we basically stood over the counter eating it slice by slice until it was gone, accidentally spoiling our dinner. I wasn’t super happy about the photos I took the first time around, so I made this recipe again the following night. We told ourselves that we couldn’t inhale the entire loaf like we did before. Our intentions were good, but so is this bread. The baguette won us over and we ate the whole loaf again. Fans of bruschetta will undoubtedly love it as much as we did. Or just fans of tomato.

Heirloom Tomato Burrata Baguette

If you’re unfamiliar with burrata, it’s basically a pouch of soft stretched mozzarella stuffed with even softer mozzarella and fresh cream. Its flavor is subtle, milky, and awesome. If you can’t find burrata you could always use buffalo mozzarella or even something like ricotta if you prefer to have a spreadable consistency.

Heirloom Tomato Burrata Baguette

Heirloom Tomato Burrata Baguette
Serves 8
A beautiful appetizer made with colorful heirloom tomatoes, burrata, and fresh basil.
Print
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
10 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 loaf french bread, cut in half length-wise
  2. 8oz burrata cheese
  3. 4 heirloom tomatoes, sliced
  4. 4 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  5. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  6. Salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. Brush the tops of each half of the french bread with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Place in oven for about 5 minutes until lightly toasted. If you prefer your bread more toasty just leave it in a little longer.
  3. Spread burrata over each half of the toasted bread. I use my fingers to break up the outer pouch of stretched mozzarella into little pieces. Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle lightly with a little salt and fresh black pepper.
  4. Scatter chopped basil over the top of the cheese and then arrange sliced tomatoes on top of that. I used four tomatoes (I got about 4 slices out of each, two for each half) in a purple eggplant color, deep red, orange, and yellow. You could also alternate two colors or just use one color across the whole thing.
  5. Season with a little extra salt and pepper, slice, and enjoy!
Calories
  1. 243
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/
Heirloom Tomato Burrata Baguette


Spicy Avocado Pizza

   

Sometimes when you’re running low on ingredients, you’re forced to improvise. To make unusual decisions resulting in things you might not ordinarily try if you had say… some tomato sauce or mozzarella cheese around. The results of this culinary ad-libbing has a name… and that name is spicy avocado pizza.  

Spicy Avocado Pizza

Don’t let the spicy part frighten you. While this pizza definitely packs some warmth, the avocado is surprisingly effective at mellowing the heat out once it hits your tongue. The first time I made this pizza I made it with a whole avocado, pepper jack cheese, and no jalapeños. After revisions the pepper jack cheese was upgraded to habanero jack cheese (oh yes), the avocado was cut in half, and sliced jalapeños were scattered across the top.  Cranking up the pepper dial to 11 and halving the avocado resulted in just the balance I was looking for.  So if you have a pizza crust lying around but only have ingredients on hand for guacamole – fear not! This pizza will save you.

Spicy Avocado Pizza

Spicy Avocado Pizza
Serves 3
A perfect balance of peppery kick and cool, creamy avocado - on a pizza!
Print
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 prepared pizza crust (I like thin crust)
  2. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  3. 1/2 avocado
  4. Juice from 1/2 of a lime
  5. Salt, to taste
  6. 3 ounces habanero jack cheese (pepper jack will work as well)
  7. 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  8. 1 jalapeño pepper, sliced
  9. 6 cherry tomatoes, quartered
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven according to package instructions for your prepared pizza crust.
  2. Blend avocado with the olive oil, lime juice, and a pinch of salt. Spread evenly over the crust.
  3. Sprinkle half of the cilantro atop the avocado, then top with shredded cheese.
  4. Scattered sliced jalapeño and quartered tomato over the pizza. Transfer to oven and bake according to package instructions.
  5. Remove pizza from oven and top with remaining fresh cilantro. Slice and serve.
Calories
  1. 301
Note
  1. Calorie information is based on using the prepared pizza crusts by Pizza Romana.
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/
Spicy Avocado Pizza


Crunchy Mediterranean Grain Salad

   

So it’s been almost 3 weeks since I made my last post, but not without good reason! Of course the holidays have a way of absorbing up all of your free time, but that’s not the real excuse. I’m sure that by looking around this page a bit (at least if you’re familiar with my blog from before) you can notice that I have a new awesome site design! For Christmas my boyfriend began this project as one of his gifts to me and when I saw the preview of what was in store by the time it was done, I nearly exploded with excitement. He put a ton of his free time into seeing it through and I couldn’t be happier with the result.

Once I realized the new design was incoming I really wanted to wait to make a new post. I have a few more recipes lined up as a result of the mini hiatus (including roasted cauliflower soup and limoncello), but I knew that my first post of 2014 had  to be something healthy. This is, after all, the one time of the year that the human race unanimously decides to improve their well being (at least for a couple of weeks until someone caves and shows up at the office with donuts).

Crunchy Mediterranean Grain Salad 

A while back someone commented on how much they enjoyed looking through my blog. She pointed out that she particularly loved the Mediterranean influence she often sees in my recipes. I thought, “Wow… I guess I do have a tendency to cook with lemon, chickpeas, parsley, etc…” And who wouldn’t? The fresh flavors so commonly associated with Mediterranean food are incredible. This salad brings some of those influences together into one filling dish for under 350 calories. There is protein. There is fiber. There is nutrient dense broccoli. It’s definitely a recipe to ring in the new year and kick start your healthier eating habits.

Crunchy Mediterranean Grain Salad

Crunchy Mediterranean Grain Salad
Serves 4
A quick, healthy lunch inspired by the fresh flavors in Mediterranean cooking.
Print
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
3 min
Total Time
13 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
3 min
Total Time
13 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups of pre-cooked whole grain blend (I used the red quinoa and brown rice blend by Village Harvest, which is found in the freezer section)
  2. 3 cups raw broccoli, chopped
  3. 1 can chickpeas, drained
  4. 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  5. 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  6. 1/2 tablespoon water
  7. 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  8. 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  9. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  10. 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  11. 1/4 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
  12. 1/4 cup chopped pecans
Instructions
  1. Prepare grain according to package instructions. In my case I just popped it in the microwave for about 2 minutes.
  2. Place broccoli in a bowl and microwave a couple of minutes until no longer raw, but still crunchy and green. I combined my broccoli with the grain to save time while heating.
  3. Whisk together olive oil, lemon, water, and spices to form the dressing.
  4. Combine all ingredients with the dressing in a large bowl and toss well to combine.
  5. Eat slightly warm as is or transfer to the refrigerator for about 15-20 minutes first (my preference).
Calories
  1. 341
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/

Crunchy Mediterranean Grain Salad


Roasted Root Vegetables

   

Many people are susceptible to impulse purchasing – myself included. If I walk past a sassy pair of high heels I will make a mental note of their appeal and move on. If I’m in the electronics department and I see an immersion blender that I’ve been needing since mine broke, I will pass by and wait to do some review comparisons and price checking online. If a game on my Steam wishlist goes on sale then I… ok well I might buy that. The one thing I can’t resist though? Well, apparently it’s a bundle of beautiful, vibrant, purple  baby carrots (and all of the additional veggies to accompany them into the oven).

 

Roasted Root Vegetables

I just don’t know if there is a better way to prepare vegetables than roasting them. The caramelization of those natural sugars and the ease of preparation? It’s hard not to love it. For this meal I used baby purple carrots, parsnips, yellow and purple baby potatoes, parsley root, garlic, onion, and fresh rosemary. You can use whatever root veggies you can get your hands on, whether it’s layer of simple russet potatoes or a spectrum of multicolored carrots arranged in a heart on your roasting pan. I can’t resist going the colorful route myself. I swear that pretty food tastes better.

Roasted Root Vegetables

Roasted Root Vegetables
Serves 4
An easy, rustic side dish that works for a weeknight dinner or holiday table.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
34 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
34 min
Ingredients
  1. 9-10 young purple carrots
  2. 12-15 fingerling potatoes (I used yellow and purple)
  3. 2 parsley root
  4. 1 parsnip
  5. 1 red onion
  6. 3 cloves of garlic
  7. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  8. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  9. 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  10. 2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. Prepare your veggies for roasting by chopping them all at a roughly uniform size. It’s important to have them similar in size so that they finish cooking through around the same time. I left my carrots and most of my fingerling potatoes whole. The larger potatoes I split in half. I quartered the parsley root lengthwise and sliced the parsnip into thick disks so that they could be differentiated from one another on the plate. The onion I simply cut into large chunks and split apart the segments with my fingers. The garlic cloves were cut into quarters. I also cut my rosemary sprigs in half.
  3. Toss everything in the olive oil, salt, and pepper. I find that using my hands works best for this and I also do it right on the pan on a sheet of parchment paper.
  4. Layer the veggies evenly on the parchment lining baking sheet and transfer to the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes and then test for doneness with a fork. If they need a little more time, just pop them in for another 10 minutes or so. The smaller your veggies are chopped, the less total time they will take to roast.
Calories
  1. 159
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/

Roasted Root Vegetables


Whipped Feta with Herb Oil

   

While I generally prefer cows’ milk cheese to those made with goats’ or sheep’s milk, feta has always been one of my favorite cheeses. Whole Foods even makes a really nice (and lower priced) cows’ milk feta that I love. One of the things that’s so great about feta is that its pungent flavor means you only need a small amount to perk up a wrap or salad. Of course feta is also crumbly… a little bit messy even. Did you ever want to take that salty, tangy deliciousness and turn it into something more manageable? Something you can spread on toast or eat in a tortilla without it falling out of the ends? Well then – I have just the thing for you!

Whipped Feta with Herb Oil

When I first tasted a dollop of this right out of the food processor, a grin immediately spread across my face and I exclaimed, “YUM! This is GOOD!” It’s got all of the flavor that you love from feta cheese, but in a smooth, creamy consistency that is perfect for dipping and spreading. The drizzle of herb oil over the top adds a dimension of freshness that slightly counters the saltiness of the cheese. In my opinion it’s even better if you add something slightly sweet on top of it, like fresh diced tomatoes (my favorite), sun-dried tomatoes, a balsamic reduction, honey, or whatever else your creative mind can think of. I also absolutely loved the addition of toasted pine nuts for a little bit of texture.

Whipped Feta with Herb Oil

With this being the season for parties – and limited time to prepare for said parties – this appetizer is a quick and elegant option for guests. And hey, if you’re not the party going type (raises hand) then this is still awesome to spread on toast at breakfast, on a Mediterranean wrap at lunch, or to toss with a bit of cooked pasta and steamed veggies at dinner. As far as flavor is concerned, a little goes a long way.

Whipped Feta with Herb Oil

Whipped Feta with Herb Oil
Serves 16
The wonderful flavor of feta and fresh herbs in a simple, elegant spread.
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Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup fresh basil
  2. 1/2 cup fresh parsley
  3. 1 clove garlic
  4. 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  5. 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  6. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  7. 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  8. 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  9. 8oz feta cheese
  10. 4oz mascarpone cheese
  11. 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  12. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Instructions
  1. In a food processor combine fresh herbs, garlic, lemon zest and juice, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Blend well and transfer to another container – I used a liquid measuring cup so it would be easier to pour out over the cheese later.
  2. If you want your cheese spread to remain white, wipe out the residual oil and herbs from the food processor basin.
  3. Add both cheeses to the food processor and blend until smooth. Once smooth add the heavy whipping cream and black pepper. Pulse until mixture is creamy and light.
  4. In a serving bowl alternate adding the cheese and a drizzle of herb oil, ending with the herb oil on top. If desired top with toasted nuts (the addition of nuts isn’t factored into the calorie count below).
  5. Serve with crackers, crostini, chips, fresh veggies, or whatever else you like.
Calories
  1. 139
Notes
  1. This robust spread pairs well with something sweet. Having fresh tomato slices, sun-dried tomato, balsamic, or honey available to drizzle over the top is awesome.
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/
 

Whipped Feta with Herb Oil


Pumpkin Pecan Ice Cream

   

Inspiration struck me as I was pondering the sort of dessert I’d wanted to bring to my parents’ place for Thanksgiving. Given the simplicity of the recipe I was thinking I would make my semifreddo. Then I thought it might be fun to do a twist on a pumpkin pie and change the vanilla ice cream to pumpkin, then pour it into a pastry crust instead of the chocolate. The idea rolled around in my head for a few days when I finally decided I wanted to simplify it further. An easy no-churn pumpkin spice ice cream dotted with sugary praline frosted pecans. Heck yeah.

Pumpkin Pecan Ice Cream

Now that I’ve been introduced to the world of no churn ice cream, I find myself eager to experiment. The whole thing comes together in about ten minutes and is just a matter of whisking together a few wet ingredients and spices, then folding them into whipped cream. It doesn’t get much easier than this to make ice cream.

Pumpkin Pecan Ice Cream

I added a tablespoon of rum to the mix, because it imparts a small amount of flavor – but also because the alcohol helps keep the ice cream a little bit soft. You’re welcome to omit it, or to substitute another liquor of your choosing. I also managed to get my hands on some really tasty praline frosted pecans that were folded into the final mixture. You can use whatever candied nuts available to you, regular toasted nuts, or of course no nuts at all.

Pumpkin Pecan Ice Cream

If you can’t tell by now, this recipe is so simple that I don’t even have much I can say about it! What I can tell you is that if you want a twist on the comforting, autumnal flavors of pumpkin pie with very little hassle – this recipe is a lot of fun. I served scoops of ice cream with crumbled up shortbread cookies to mimic pie crust and to further play up the pumpkin pie feel. I think it would also pair nicely with a slice of warm pecan pie. Or try a scoop of it in a shot of espresso for a pumpkin spice affogato. Many pumpkin possibilities to be had – so enjoy!

Pumpkin Pecan Ice Cream

No Churn Pumpkin Pecan Ice Cream
Serves 12
This no churn pumpkin pecan ice cream is a fun dessert that’s quick to assemble.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
12 min
Total Time
22 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
12 min
Total Time
22 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
  2. 3/4 cup pumpkin puree (wondering what to do with the rest of the can? how about pumpkin scones!)
  3. 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  4. 1 tablespoon spiced rum
  5. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  6. 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  7. 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  8. 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  9. 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  10. 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  11. 1 cup praline frosted pecans (regular pecans are fine if you don’t have them)
Instructions
  1. In a medium sized bowl whisk together all ingredients except for the whipping cream and pecans.
  2. In a food processor or stand mixer, whip the whipping cream until soft peaks form.
  3. Fold the pumpkin mixture into the whipped cream and then fold in the pecans.
  4. Transfer to a loaf pan and put in the freezer. Carefully cover the top of the pan with a sheet of plastic wrap, making sure to push it right up against the mixture to get out excess air. This helps prevent the formation of ice crystals. I find this step can look neater if you do it after the pan has been in the freezer for 15-20 minutes and the top has solidified slightly.
  5. Freeze at least 6-8 hours, but preferably overnight.
Calories
  1. 337
Variations
  1. Bake a traditional graham cracker crust into the bottom of a spring form pan and allow to cool before pouring the ice cream mixture over the top. Freeze as usual, release the ice cream from the spring form pan, and slice into wedges. Serve with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream.
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/

 

Pumpkin Pecan Ice Cream