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.
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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.
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Vegan BBQ Sliders


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.
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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.
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Spring Garden Pasta

 


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!
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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.
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Spicy Avocado Pizza


Roasted Cauliflower & White Cheddar Soup

   

I’m going to blunt when I start off this post today – I love this soup. It contains caramelized roasted cauliflower, potato, sharp white cheddar, sour cream, and fresh parsley. If you know anyone that is on the fence about cauliflower, throw a bowl of this soup at them and knock them down. Onto the cauliflower loving side of course.

Roasted Cauliflower & White Cheddar Soup

You can break the steps of this recipe into two parts if you prefer. The cauliflower can definitely be roasted ahead of time so you only need to worry about the soup itself when dinner rolls around. I find that the entire process overlaps pretty well though, and that if I get the cauliflower in the oven first everything else is ready by the time it’s done cooking. I believe it would also be pretty simple to cut the calories in the recipe by using skim milk, a reduced fat cheese, and reduced fat sour cream.  I personally find this soup is hearty enough to eat as a meal with a chunk of good bread, and at less than 350 calories per bowl I don’t feel too bad about going full fat for really good cheesy flavor. I don’t call myself the Gouda Monster for nothing!

Roasted Cauliflower & White Cheddar Soup

Roasted Cauliflower & White Cheddar Soup
Serves 6
Print
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  2. 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  3. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  4. 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  5. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  6. 1 large russet potato, peeled and diced
  7. 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
  8. 5 cups stock
  9. 1 bay leaf
  10. 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  11. 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  12. 1 cup milk
  13. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  14. 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  15. 4 ounces sour cream (creme fraiche works well too)
  16. 5 ounces shredded sharp white cheddar
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425F. Toss cauliflower florets with the 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the cauliflower starts to brown on the edges.
  2. Heat the other teaspoon of olive oil in a nonstick pan and lightly cook your onion and garlic for a couple of minutes, before adding in the diced potato. Cook the potato for 2-3 minutes, pour in the stock, add the bay leaf, and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and allow to cook until the potatoes are fork tender. This happens more quickly if your potatoes are finely diced.
  3. When the cauliflower is roasted, add it to the soup pot with the potatoes. I recommend reserving a few pieces for garnish because they are just so tasty on their own. Keep soup covered while you make your roux.
  4. In a small sauce pan melt your butter down. Once hot sprinkle the flour over the top and whisk until smooth. Cook for about a minute and then add your milk. Season with black pepper and nutmeg. Continue whisking the mixture until it thickens slightly - about 5-8 minutes.
  5. Remove soup from heat. Using an immersion blender puree your soup to desired consistency (I like to leave it a little bit chunky). If you don't have an immersion blender you could transfer the soup to a regular blender to puree in batches.
  6. Stir in the thickened milk sauce, sour cream, shredded cheese and fresh parsley. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed.
Calories
  1. 339
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/
Roasted Cauliflower & White Cheddar Soup

This giveaway has ended – Thanks to everyone that participated!

And now of course for the contest information! I’m really excited to finally be able to have my first giveaway on Gouda Monster. For Christmas I got two immersion blenders – what a lucky break for my readers, right? My hand blender is probably one of my most coveted kitchen gadgets. After mine broke I felt lost without it – there is definitely no easier way to quickly puree a soup or whip up small batches of sauces, dressing, or salsas. I also use mine to create smoothies in the morning because I find cleanup to be far simpler than a full sized blender. The particular model up for grabs is the Cuisinart CSB-75BC Smart Stick 2-Speed Immersion Hand Blender in Brushed Chrome, which holds a glowing 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon.  There are several ways to enter and entries will be open for two weeks, however due to shipping costs I will only be able to ship to people that live within the United States & Canada. The winner will be announced by the end of the month – good luck!

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Immersion Blender Giveaway


Autumn Minestrone

   

Few dishes are more comforting than a piping hot bowl of soup during the chilly months. I love making soups and stews; not only are they almost completely foolproof, they are also easily customizable. Whatever leftover veggies are in the fridge can be tossed into a pot and transformed into a hearty meal – it’s awesome.

Autumn Minestrone

For this minestrone I used Pomi brand boxed tomatoes because I love the flavor as well as the fact that they are not cooked with salt. One box of Pomi tomatoes is about the same as two 14oz cans, and you can substitute accordingly. Keep in mind that you may want to tweak the salt in the recipe if your canned tomatoes contain sodium. Also feel free to use more pasta. I choose to go fairly light to focus on the vegetables and keep the calorie count low.

Autumn Minestrone

Autumn Minestrone
Serves 6
A warm, comforting soup that is full of vegetables and low in calories.
Print
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 teaspoon olive oil
  2. 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  3. 2 stalks celery, diced
  4. 1 cup carrots, chopped
  5. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  6. 4 cups stock
  7. 1 28oz carton chopped tomatoes (or 2 14oz cans)
  8. 1 can cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
  9. 1/4 teaspoon salt (adjust depending on the sodium content of your stock and tomatoes)
  10. 1 sprig of rosemary, stem removed and leaves minced
  11. 1 bay leaf
  12. 1 teaspoon black pepper
  13. 1/2 cup small, dry pasta (I used cavatelli)
  14. 2 cups kale, chopped (or other green of choice)
  15. 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
Instructions
  1. In a deep soup pan heat olive oil on medium high heat. Add onion, celery, and carrots and cook until onions are slightly translucent – about 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add stock, tomatoes, and all of your seasonings. Bring soup just to boiling, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  3. Add pasta and kale, cooking for another 10-12 minutes (or however long your pasta needs to cook based on package instructions).
  4. Just before serving stir in fresh parsley.
Calories
  1. 148
Optional olive bread crouton topping
  1. Cut olive bread into 1 inch pieces and toss with a small amount of olive oil to coat. Spread onto a nonstick baking sheet and put into a 400F oven for about 15 minutes or until the croutons are dry and crunchy.
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/

Autumn Minestrone


Cilantro Lime Potatoes

   

When you break down the ingredients in your average breakfast burrito, potatoes are pretty common – especially for vegetarians. While they are delicious in the morning, adding potatoes to your filling options on taco night is just as good. These potatoes roast unattended while you dance around in your living room or top your previous record time for bathing a cat. By the time you’re done cleaning your wounds and applying bandages you just need to give them a quick stir and then go spend another few minutes practicing on the oboe. It’s really quite simple to make, and you have a complete, no fuss dinner when you stuff them into a couple of warm tortillas with canned black beans, fresh avocado, and (if you eat dairy) some crumbled queso fresco.

Cilantro Lime Potatoes

Whenever I buy canned black beans I like to tweak the seasoning to suit my tastes. It almost always involves a bit of oregano, ground cumin, garlic, and chili powder. I will also stir in a tablespoon of tomato paste for an extra punch of flavor. If you want your beans to have a sort of slow cooked, smoky, “meaty” flavor – bacon salt is an awesome (vegetarian friendly) way to accomplish this. I love adding a touch of bacon salt to my bean recipes; it’s not enough to taste bacony but it provides a really nice savory undertone.

Cilantro Lime Potatoes

This is a smaller yield recipe that is ideal for 3-4 people (depending on the other ingredients going into your tacos) but it is easily doubled to accommodate more. Cilantro haters need not fear – this would work nicely with whatever herbs you enjoy. Lemon and parsley would be a bright, fresh flavor for a weeknight side dish if you don’t feel like getting all Southwesterny. And of course you can always eat them for breakfast!

Cilantro Lime Potatoes

Cilantro Lime Potatoes
Serves 3
Tender potatoes roasted in a dressing of fresh cilantro and lime.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  3. 1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper
  4. 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  5. Pinch of white sugar (maybe 1/8 of a teaspoon, just to cut the tartness of the lime a little)
  6. 1lb potatoes, diced (I used Yukon gold)
  7. 1 teaspoon olive oil
  8. 1 clove garlic, minced
  9. 1/4 teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. Whisk together 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil, lime juice, pepper, cilantro, and sugar. Set aside.
  3. On a cutting board, sprinkle salt over minced garlic and scrape it down with the flat side of a broad knife. Continue crushing the garlic with the salt to make a paste.
  4. Whisk garlic paste together with the teaspoon of olive oil and toss with your diced potatoes.
  5. Arrange potatoes on a parchment lined cookie sheet and transfer to the oven for 10 minutes.
  6. Toss potatoes with the prepared dressing and transfer to the oven for another 8-10 minutes.
  7. Season with additional salt and pepper if desired.
  8. Serve with warm corn or flour tortillas, black beans, fresh avocado, and queso fresco.
Calories
  1. 188
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Cilantro Lime Potatoes


Mediterranean Veggie Burger

   

I have conflicting emotions whenever I go into a restaurant and see they have a veggie burger on the menu. On one hand I get excited – hoping for a hearty, flavorful patty made in-house by someone that understands not all vegetarians are out to eat fat-free, gluten-free, low-sodium rabbit food. I mean I’m going there for a burger after all. On the other hand I get an overwhelming feeling of cynicism, as I know I’m much more likely to be presented with one of those mass-produced hockey pucks from the freezer aisle of the local grocery store. Then on another hand (I can have three hands; don’t judge me) I’m just thankful there is a vegetarian option at all. One thing I can always count on though is a super delicious veggie burger made in my own kitchen.

Mediterranean Veggie Burger

For me, a well-crafted veggie burger needs to hit on three major points: pronounced flavor, contrasting textures, and the ability to make me lean back and pat my belly in sated bliss upon consumption. Having the recipe be quick and easy certainly doesn’t hurt either. This vegan patty whips up in the food processor in just a minute or two, but then it meets all of my requirements for an excellent burger as well. When paired with the olive and tomato relish, a smear of bright lemon basil pesto, and warm feta cheese (or not if you’re vegan) it all comes together into a savory, complex combination of flavors that truly satisfies a rumbling tummy.

Mediterranean Veggie Burger

There are two key factors that contribute to the texture of these burgers. Obviously one of them is going to be the ingredients. I blend farro into the mix for a nice bit of chew throughout, and at the last minute I also add in roasted, salted pumpkin seeds for just a little bit of crunch. The second factor is properly combining the ingredients. Don’t go crazy and pulverize your ingredients into an nondescript, beige paste. Small pieces of chickpea, bits of chewy grain, and whole seeds will give your burger a much nicer bite. When your patties are formed you should be able to identify most of the recipe’s components. If it looks like a chunk of slice-and-bake sugar cookie dough you’ve definitely gone too far.

Mediterranean Veggie Burger

Mediterranean Veggie Burger
Serves 4
Quick to make and packed with flavor, these vegan burgers make a great weeknight meal.
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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 15oz can of chickpeas, drained
  2. 1 cup cooked farro (I use a pre-cooked farro/rice blend by Village Harvest, but whatever hearty grain you have on hand should work fine)
  3. 1 garlic clove, chopped
  4. 1 tablespoon tahini
  5. 1 rounded tablespoon nutritional yeast
  6. 1/2 tablespoon egg replacer powder or corn starch
  7. 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  8. 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  9. 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  10. Salt, to taste (amount varies depending on whether you’re canned chickpeas are salted – I used about 1/4 of a teaspoon)
  11. 1/4 cup roasted, salted pumpkin seeds
Instructions
  1. Place everything except for the pumpkin seeds into the food processor and pulse until combined, but still chunky.
  2. Add pumpkin seeds and pulse a little bit more. I personally prefer most of the seeds to remain intact, so one or two quick blitzes does the trick for me.
  3. Divide mixture into four equal pieces and shape into patties. If desired you can cover and transfer to the refrigerator to cook later.
  4. Heat a small amount of olive oil or cooking spray in a nonstick skillet and sear your patties on each side.
  5. Serve on toasted bun with tomato olive topping (recipe below), pesto spread, greens, and if you’re not vegan, melted cheese (I used a blend of havarti and feta).
Calories
  1. 236
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Olive Tomato Relish
Serves 4
The combination of sweet tomatoes and salty olives is a perfect addition to the smoky flavors in the burger.
Print
Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 16 cherry tomatoes, diced
  2. 8 kalamata olives, minced (about half the size of your tomatoes)
  3. 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  4. Fresh black pepper
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in bowl.
  2. Serve on top of your burger.
Calories
  1. 34
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/

Mediterranean Veggie Burger


Handmade Potato Gnocchi

   

The first time I tried gnocchi was from a vacuum-sealed pack I picked up at my local grocery store. At first bite I immediately wondered how I had gone so long without even once consuming these tasty little dumplings. Seriously, what was I doing with my life? You can imagine how I felt the first time I ordered a plate of fresh, handmade gnocchi from a reputable Italian restaurant. I was floored by how much more light and pillowy they were than their prepackaged cousins. With that meal I decided that I needed to learn how to make gnocchi myself… which unfortunately led to a series of failures that never measured up to the quality I came to expect from an Italian kitchen. Through trial and error, plenty of research, and a bit of patience, I’m happy to say that I’ve finally married each of the elements needed to making a soft, delicious gnocchi!

Handmade Potato Gnocchi

Making a dish like this is certainly a labor of love, but the results are very much worth it. Even though the entire process is rather lengthy, the majority of that process is waiting. Handling the dough is arguably the most tedious step, particularly if you choose to roll your gnocchi on a gnocchi board or a fork to get the iconic grooves in each dumpling. The nice thing is that you don’t have to roll your gnocchi. It’s perfectly fine to simply cut up the pieces and cook them as is. There is a benefit to the grooves however – they provide a lot of “grip” for holding onto sauces. If you want a compromise you could simply press a small indentation into each dumpling and forgo the grooves.

Handmade Potato Gnocchi

Here is a list of the things I’ve learned when it comes to making quality gnocchi:

  • Choose the right potato. You want a mealy, starchy potato (such as a russet).
  •  Make sure your potato flesh is dry and lump-free. I use a ricer to get an even, fluffy texture.
  • Use only enough flour to bring the dough together.
  • Do not over handle the dough. This runs the risk of producing dense, heavy gnocchi.
  • Cook your gnocchi at a gentle boil, not a rapid one that will throw them around in the pot.
  • They cook quickly, be ready to scoop them out as soon as they float to the surface.

I started by boiling 3 medium sized russet potatoes in well-salted water. Once fork tender (about 30 minutes) I took them out and removed the skins with the help of some paper towels. The potatoes were still warm and the paper towels not only have an uneven texture that pulls the skins away easily, it also makes it possible to handle the hot potatoes. The naked tators were pressed through a ricer onto a cookie sheet lined with paper towels. This is a step that I made up myself after having experienced problems with too-wet potatoes in the past. I preheated the oven to 200F, put the cookie sheet in the oven, left the door cracked open, and turned off the heat. The potatoes were left there to cool completely and the residual warmth from the oven helped dry them out a little further. Once cool, the riced potatoes were put onto a lightly floured surface and sprinkled with about 3/4 cup of cake flour. One recipe I read suggested 1 cup of flour per pound of riced potatoes – 3/4 cup ended up being the right amount for me. I used cake flour because of its lower protein content, which during my intense gnocchi studies I learned helps promote a lighter texture in the end. Work the flour into the potato until it become a soft, pliable dough. Cut dough into 3-4 equal pieces and roll the pieces into ropes. Line the ropes up next to one another and cut your gnocchi into approximately 1″ pieces. You can either cook them this way or choose to roll your gnocchi on the back of a fork (or gnocchi board) to get the grooved texture. Place the gnocchi at the top of the fork tines and gently press down, rolling it across the fork with your thumb. It will be slightly curled with the indentations on the opposite side.

Handmade Potato Gnocchi

That’s all there is to it! Yeah ok, I know it is kind of a lot of take in. The only way to really master the technique is to buy some potatoes, flour up your hands, and get to practicing! The beautiful thing about gnocchi is that once you’re done making them, they cook in a flash, and there are dozens of super quick ways to serve them. Gnocchi have a very simple flavor on their own, making them ideal vehicles for rich, flavorful sauces. I prepared (and photographed) my finished gnocchi three different ways to give you some ideas for serving. Each of these preparations took under 10 minutes.

The top image on the page is the vegan option where I sauteed garlic in a bit of olive oil and threw in the gnocchi (straight from the pot it was boiling in) with some pine nuts. Just before serving I squeezed lemon juice over the top and tossed it with fresh parsley and black pepper. The second dish shows one of the more common ways of serving gnocchi. Browned butter with sage. It’s hard to beat a classic! The final image (at the bottom) shows an oven-baked variation. I sauteed some garlic in a bit of butter, threw in my cooked gnocchi to get a quick sear, added chopped tomato, torn basil, and cubes of soft, fresh mozzarella. Popped it under the broiler for a few minutes to brown the top and it’s done. Now all you need is some fresh handmade gnocchi and you’re good to experiment on your own!

Handmade Potato Gnocchi

Handmade Potato Gnocchi
Serves 3
A soft, fluffy gnocchi prepared without any eggs.
Print
Prep Time
2 hr
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
2 hr 10 min
Prep Time
2 hr
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
2 hr 10 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 small to medium sized russet potatoes
  2. 3/4-1 cup cake flour (amount used depends on the size of your potatoes)
  3. Salt, both for boiling and for seasoning the gnocchi
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 200F.
  2. In generously salted water, boil potatoes until fork tender (about 30 minutes for the potatoes I used).
  3. Remove potatoes from boiling water and carefully remove the skins. Press potatoes through ricer. If you do not have a ricer I’ve heard that grating the potatoes works quite well too.
  4. Transfer potato to cookie sheet lined with paper towels and place in oven. Turn off heat, crack open the oven door, and allow potatoes to cool completely.
  5. Put fresh pot of salted water on to boil while you make your gnocchi.
  6. Spread cooled potato mixture onto lightly floured surface. Sprinkle with a bit of salt (maybe 1/4 teaspoon) and cake flour. Work flour into the potato until it becomes a smooth, pliable dough.
  7. Cut dough into 3-4 equal pieces and roll into ropes. Line ropes up side-by-side and cut your gnocchi into roughly 1″ pieces.
  8. If desired roll your gnocchi on the back of a fork for added texture.
  9. Put cut gnocchi into gently boiling water (if the boil is too rough it can bounce them around more than necessary). When they float to the surface they are cooked. Remove immediately from water and toss in hot oil, butter, or other prepared sauce of choice.
Calories
  1. 217
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Handmade Potato Gnocchi

 


Rosemary Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese “Fries”

   

The classic pairing of grilled cheese and tomato soup is one of my all time favorites. It’s something that I – and most other people I know  – grew up eating, so as adults it has evolved into no-fuss comfort food. Nostalgia aside, it’s incredibly easy to make a more grown-up version of this dish that will make you want to throw away your can opener and forget the name Campbell’s (except don’t toss the can opener because you need it for the tomatoes). I grow basil on my balcony because I love it so much and it’s almost always the flavor used in tomato soup, but if you’ve never made your tomato soup with rosemary you’re in for a real treat. It’s particularly wonderful when fall starts to roll around because rosemary has a savory, evergreen-like aroma that reminds me of the upcoming holidays. The soup itself is very low calorie (less than 80 per bowl) but I still wanted to find a way to trim down the calories on the grilled cheese front. In the end I decided to make open-faced grilled cheese “fries” so that each person only got one slice of bread instead of two. Not only is it a little bit healthier, but they are the perfect finger food for dunking into a piping hot bowl of soup. But yeah… I still ate two slices of bread because the fries were too delicious. Oh well… I tried!

Rosemary Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Fries

While making this for lunch today I didn’t remember until the very end that my immersion blender was broken. I ended up transferring the soup to the food processor to puree it which made me realize how much I LOVE my immersion blender. If you don’t have one of these and you find yourself making a lot of stove-top soups and sauces I highly recommend getting one. It makes your life so much easier! Doing it in the food processor or in the blender works fine though, just make sure that you’re careful as the hot liquid can splash around and make a mess – especially if you overfill the basin.

For the grilled cheese sticks I think using a combination of cheeses is the best way to go, but use whatever you have around. For mine I used a mix of sharp white cheddar, a colby-swiss blend, and mozzarella. The sharp cheddar gives it a nice pungent flavor while the other cheeses give an ooey gooey melty consistency. I used a total of 5 ounces so it would be a little under a serving of cheese per person – another area where I was trying to skim off a few calories. The bread I used was a white Italian bread with a subtle open crumb. The shallow holes end up creating yummy cheesy pockets of awesomeness, and in some cases the cheese oozed through and browned a little on the bottom when grilling – perfect.

Rosemary Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Fries

Rosemary Tomato Soup
Serves 6
Warm, comforting tomato soup infused with the scent of fresh rosemary.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
35 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
35 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 teaspoon olive oil
  2. 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  3. 1 cup grated carrots
  4. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  5. 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  6. 1/8 teaspoon salt
  7. 5 cups vegetable stock
  8. 1 31.5 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes (I used San Marzano)
  9. 1 bay leaf
  10. 1 teaspoon black pepper
  11. 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  12. Salt, to taste (use more or less depending on the sodium content of your stock – I didn’t need any extra salt for mine)
  13. 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in soup pan on medium high heat. When hot add onions, carrots, garlic, rosemary, and the 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Let cook for several minutes until the onions are just slightly caramelized.
  2. Pour stock into the pan, making sure to stir well to get all of the caramelized bits off of the bottom. Add entire can of tomatoes, bay leaf, and additional seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for about 20 minutes.
  3. Remove bay leaf and rosemary sprig from the soup. It’s ok if any rosemary leaves fell off while cooking, as they will be blended in when you puree the soup. Turn off the heat.
  4. Using either an immersion blender or food processor, puree soup to desired consistency.
  5. Transfer back to pot stir in the heavy cream. Serve immediately.
Calories
  1. 79
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Grilled Cheese "Fries"
Serves 6
Fun twist on traditional grilled cheese – perfect for soup dunking!
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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. 5 ounces shredded cheese (I used a blend of sharp white cheddar, colby-swiss, and mozzarella)
  2. 6 slices of good bread
  3. 2 tablespoons butter, melted
Instructions
  1. Preheat a skillet on medium high heat and turn on your oven’s broiler.
  2. Brush each slice of bread with the melted butter on one side. I had a little extra butter leftover and just poured it into my soup pot – yum!
  3. Place your bread, butter-side down, onto your hot skillet. Put shredded cheese on top and allow it to get nice and seared on the bottom.
  4. Transfer the bread slices to your oven to brown the cheese. It happens pretty quickly so take care not to let it burn.
  5. Put cheese bread on cutting board and let cool a couple of minutes before slicing into sticks. Top with fresh black pepper.
Calories
  1. 191
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/

Rosemary Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Fries


Taco Pizza

   

For those times when you can’t decide between taco night or pizza night, may I present for your consideration – Taco Pizza Night! I love this recipe because it’s high in protein and easy to throw together. Not only that, but you can scale the calories back to 170 calories per slice (340 calories for 1/3 of a 10-inch pizza) by using a reduced fat cheese and leaving off the avocado. Personally I think the 205 calories per slice is totally manageable in my diet though… and I never like to forgo the real deal when it comes to cheese! If you’re looking for a simple weeknight meal that can be whipped up in under half an hour, then this pizza should make its way into your oven and then into your mouth.

Taco Pizza

One of the things that makes this meal so easy to prepare is the use of a pre-made pizza crust. For the longest time I used whole grain lavash sheets to make a lower calorie variation on traditional pizza – like with my Quick Low Calorie Flatbread. Then I made an awesome discovery. One evening while doing my grocery shopping I came across the par-baked crusts from Pizza Romana and was shocked to see that the entire crust was only 300 calories. For comparison, a Boboli 8″ personal pizza crust is 380 calories while the 12″ pizza crust is over 1000 calories. The Pizza Romana crusts are about 10″ wide and made with very basic ingredients (flour, yeast, salt, oil). It makes for a perfect blank canvas to host an array of pizza toppings, and of course it worked wonderfully in this taco pizza. I’m able to find these at Central Market in Dallas – other HEB stores may carry them as well. If you cannot find these crusts in your area, Amazon happens to sell them by the 6-pack but the shipping cost is kind of ridonkulous. Another option would be making use of lavash as I did in my previous pizza recipe, or any other thin flatbreads that are readily available to you. And of course if you don’t care about the calories… by all means use whatever crust you want! Just make note that this could affect the overall cooking time.

Taco Pizza

Taco Pizza
Serves 3
A simple-to-prepare weeknight pizza that’s full of flavor.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 premade pizza crust (I used the one by Pizza Romana)
  2. 1 teaspoon olive oil
  3. 1 small yellow onion, diced
  4. 1/2-1 jalapeño pepper, diced (remove seeds for less heat)
  5. 1 mini sweet red pepper, diced (or 1/2 bell pepper)
  6. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  7. 1/2 package or 1 1/2 cups vegetarian burger crumbles, thawed (I used Morningstar Farms)
  8. 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  9. 1/4 cup water
  10. 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  11. 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  12. 1 tablespoon chili powder
  13. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  14. 2 1/2 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  15. 8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved
  16. 1/2 avocado, sliced (or cubed depending on your preference)
  17. Chopped cilantro & green onion for garnish
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450F (or whatever temperature your packaged crust suggests.)
  2. Using half a teaspoon of your olive oil, rub it along the outer edge of your prepared pizza crust. Lightly sprinkle with salt if desired. I find this gives a nicer texture and flavor to the crust when it comes out of the oven.
  3. Heat the remaining half teaspoon of olive oil on medium high heat in a nonstick skillet.
  4. Put onions, peppers, and garlic in the oil and let cook for a few minutes until soft and fragrant.
  5. Add burger crumbles, tomato paste, water, and seasonings to the pan. Let simmer for about 5 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle about half of the cheese onto your pizza crust. Since there is no sauce the cheese will act as a “glue” to hold your toppings in place. Evenly distribute the taco crumbles over the top of the cheese and then top with the remaining shredded cheddar.
  7. Place pizza directly on the oven rack and bake for 6-8 minutes or until the edges of the crust are crisp and golden. Use your crust’s package instructions as a guideline for cooking time.
  8. Remove from oven and top with fresh tomato, avocado, and herbs.
Calories
  1. 415
Notes
  1. Calories listed are for 2 slices or 1/3 of the whole pizza.
Variations
  1. Non vegetarians can brown 1/2 a pound of ground beef in place of the crumbles. Make sure to drain off excess grease before seasoning. I calculated the calorie info subbing in 80% lean ground beef and the calories/protein content were almost exactly the same as the original.
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Taco Pizza

 

 

 


Asparagus & Green Pea Risotto

   

I think quite a few people are intrigued by the vegetarian lifestyle. A really common question that arises when people learn I don’t eat meat is, “Well what DO you eat?” There is a misconception that vegetarians survive on microgreens, tofu, and a cocktail of multivitamins… but in my experience this is rarely the case. Since becoming a vegetarian I still enjoy almost all of the dishes I loved when I ate meat – chili, tacos, stew, biscuits & gravy, pot pie – I just prepare them a little differently now. There are also a remarkable number of everyday entrees that are veggie-friendly without any ingredient changes – macaroni and cheese for instance. Or in this case… risotto! Not quite so easy to find in restaurants due to the fact that it’s usually simmered with a meat-based stock, but that is a great example of one of the minor adjustments you can make in a recipe that doesn’t affect the quality of the finished dish. You could even take it a step further and easily make it vegan by omitting the Parmesan and cooking with olive oil instead of butter. It will still be creamy and flavorful and awesome.

 

Asparagus & Green Pea Risotto

Many people dread the idea of cooking risotto from scratch because it requires a certain level of dedication. Sure it’s not a simple crock pot recipe that you can toss together and ignore for an hour, but I think the effort of risotto cooking is a little blown out of proportion. If you make risotto you’re going to be actively cooking for most of the process – but don’t let that deter you from giving it a try. The focus needed is minimal (whirling a spoon around while watching the TV in the other room) and the outcome is so worth it. Risotto is one of the ultimate comfort foods and it can be as rustic or as elegant as you like. Maybe you prefer a soupier consistency or maybe you want a pile of rich, starchy goodness that you can mound up on a fork. There is a lot of room for play once you have the basic technique down.  Just make sure that before you start you have your stock warmed up and nearby so you can easily ladle it into the rice. I use the two front burners on my stove – one for the stock and the other for the risotto. Ready to try it? Of course you are!

Asparagus & Green Pea Risotto

Asparagus & Green Pea Risotto
Serves 5
Creamy, comforting risotto – it’s not as hard as you think!
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 5 cups warm vegetable stock (I only ended up using 4 while cooking, but better to err on the side of caution)
  2. 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  3. 1/2 small onion, diced
  4. 3 cloves garlic, minced
  5. 1 1/2 cups uncooked arborio rice
  6. 1/4 cup white wine
  7. 2 cups chopped fresh asparagus
  8. 1 cup frozen green peas
  9. 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  10. 1/4 cup good quality parmesan cheese, grated
  11. 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  12. 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
  13. 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg, optional
  14. Salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a high sided skillet and cook onions and garlic until warm and fragrant. Stir in arborio rice and allow to cook for a couple minutes to absorb the flavors in the pan.
  2. Pour white wine over the rice, stir well, and cook until liquid is absorbed.
  3. Add 1/4 cup of your vegetable stock and cook until absorbed, giving it a good stir every now and then. Whenever the liquid has almost absorbed (don’t let it get dry) into the rice it is time to add another 1/4 cup of stock. You will repeat this process until the rice is al dente.
  4. While the risotto simmers away you can cook up your asparagus. Melt about a teaspoon of butter in a nonstick pan, toss your chopped asparagus with it, and cook 8-10 minutes. It should still be bright green with a little bit of bite to it. Turn the heat off.
  5. Stir frozen green peas into the asparagus and cover. The residual warmth of the asparagus will thaw and cook the green peas while the chill from the green peas will keep the asparagus from continuing to cook in the pan. It works out great.
  6. When the rice is done (taste it to be sure, it took about 20-25 minutes for me) stir in the additional tablespoon of butter, parmesan cheese, cooked veggies, parsley, walnuts, and any additional seasoning. You may find you don’t need to add salt if the sodium content of your stock is high.
Calories
  1. 395
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Asparagus & Green Pea Risotto


Sausage w/ Chickpeas & Kale

   

Even though I’m a mega cheese beast, I do occasionally make a vegan entree. This is a really hearty dish with lots of protein, and the kale provides lots of vitamins as well. I’ve used Tofurky brand sausage links, but use whatever brand you like – or if you’re not a vegetarian try using turkey sausage or something of that sort. One half of the entire dish as I’ve listed it below (which is a lot of food) comes in under 500 calories and has a nice 38g of protein. I really love making this because it comes together in one skillet in a very short period of time. Prep and clean up is incredibly easy with this one!

 

Sausage w/ Chickpeas & Kale
Serves 2
A vegan meal chock full of protein and nutrient dense kale.
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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. 2 Tofurky Polish sausage links
  2. 2 cups chopped kale
  3. 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  4. 1/2 onion, diced
  5. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  6. 1 teaspoon olive oil
  7. 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  8. 1 teaspoon dried sage
  9. 1/2 teaspoon paprika
Instructions
  1. Cook the onions and garlic in the olive oil until slightly translucent.
  2. Add the chickpeas, dried seasonings, and a couple of tablespoons of water. Cook until the chickpeas are warmed through and starting to caramelize around the edges.
  3. Stir in the sliced sausage and continue to cook until warmed through.
  4. Put in your chopped kale, a couple more tablespoons of water, and cover to allow the kale to wilt. Once it’s wilted, but still nice and green, salt and pepper to taste.
Calories
  1. 481
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