Vegetarian

Hobo Egg Grilled Cheese

Naturally I ponder about my favorite foods multiple times throughout the day so it is no surprise that I also fantasize about ways to make them even better. To make the ultimate version of all your favorite foods, now that is the dream.

When I stumbled upon this ingenious idea to elevate my family’s beloved hobo egg I almost couldn’t breathe from the excitement. A. Hobo. Egg. Grilled. Cheese? Must. Make. One. Now.

And of course my list of recipes to try is so long I didn’t get to it until many months later, years even, but I’m so happy I finally did. Combining the best of breakfast and lunch this is a spot-on lazy Sunday brunch meal.

Cheese and eggs have been a classic combination since the stone age when a caveman accidentally knocked a bowl of cheese curds onto his sizzling dinosaur egg omelette, or so I imagine, so before even taking a bite you know this sandwich is about to blow your mind.

And it does, again and again with every bite until you find yourself standing over the stovetop already making a second one. I hope you enjoy as much as I did, and don’t forget the bacon!

Hobo Egg Grilled Cheese
 
Yield: 1 serving
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 slices bread
  • 2 slices cheese, preferably cheddar, American, or any cheese that melts well
  • 1-2 slices cooked bacon
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Meanwhile prepare your grilled cheese by covering one of the slices of bread with the cheese and bacon then sandwiching the other slice of bread on top. When placing the bacon on the sandwich try to keep it around the corners of the bread so it doesn’t get cut out when you later cut out the circle from the middle.
  2. When the butter is melted and the pan is hot carefully place the grilled cheese in the skillet. Place a pan lid or tent a piece of foil over-top the sandwich in the skillet to help the cheese melt.
  3. When the cheese has started to melt and the bread is very lightly browned, about 2-3 minutes, carefully flip the grilled cheese. Cook until the other side of the bread is very lightly browned, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from the pan.
  4. Using the rim of a glass or a 2” cookie cutter cut a circle out of the center of the grilled cheese. Enjoy as a pre-meal appetizer. Press down on the sandwich to flatten it slightly.
  5. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in the skillet over medium heat and return the sandwich to the pan. Carefully crack an egg in the hole of the sandwich. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 3 minutes then carefully flip over. Cook until the egg is no longer jiggling, but still feels soft to the touch, about 3-4 minutes. You want to make sure the whites are cooked through, but the yolk is still runny. Remove from the pan, cut in half and serve dipping the sandwich halves into the runny yolk.

 

Pumpkin Risotto with Roast Asparagus

As excited as I am for the light and fresh ingredients of spring, I will definitely miss the cozy meals and rich flavors of winter. I decided to create a dish that would be a farewell to winter, as well as a welcoming hello to spring, if it ever decides to show itself up here in New England.

This pumpkin risotto with roast asparagus is creamy, robust and bright. The pumpkin flavor makes an appearance without overpowering the dish and the crisp asparagus complements the texture of the risotto. Now I’m about to get all product placement on you, but you’re used to my obsessive ravings by now. It is duly noted and acknowledged that I have an outrageous infatuation with food that has blessed me the ability to spout for hours about the topic. It is not limited to ingredients and meals, but also extends to restaurants, cooking methods, food science and news, appliances, food trucks, tableware and the occasional Costco sample discussion.

One of my absolute favorite appliances, courtesy of my stepmom, is my Breville Risotto Plus. What is this contraption you ask? Well the real question is, what isn’t it? Well actually it’s not a lot of things because an appliance can only be so many things out of the realm of all things, so lets stick to the original question.

This beauty is a slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, saute-er and a risotto maker. You can cook brown rice while your broccoli is steaming. You can saute onions and garlic for a slow cooker meal without getting a second pan dirty. You can make risotto without constantly adding liquid and stirring. I’ll let that soak in for a second.

So Risotto Plus or no Risotto Plus, you should make this creamy risotto today and experience the flavors of winter and spring coming together.

Pumpkin Risotto with Roast Asparagus
 
Yield: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1¾ cups Aborio (risotto rice)
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 3 cups hot vegetable stock
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • ½ cup fresh grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 1 pound asparagus
  • ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  1. reheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. In a large pot over medium heat melt the butter and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil until hot. Add the shallots and crushed garlic. Cook until the shallots have softened, about 4-5 minutes.
  3. Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes. Stir in the white wine, cover and let simmer until the wine has mostly been absorbed, about 5-6 minutes.
  4. Stir in 1 cup of the hot vegetable stock and let simmer until the liquid is mostly absorbed, stirring frequently. Repeat with the second and third cups of hot vegetable stock. When the third cup has been mostly, but not completely absorbed by the rice, stir in the pumpkin puree. Stir in the Parmesan cheese until melted then season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. While the risotto is cooking, roast the asparagus. Remove the thick ends of the asparagus, cutting or snapping the bottom inch or two off each spear. Lay the asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle with the other tablespoon of olive, then season with salt, pepper, and the Italian seasoning. Roast until the asparagus are tender, yet still firm, about 10 minutes. Cut each spear into thirds or fourths, depending on the length, for serving.
  6. To serve, top each bowl of risotto with some cut asparagus spears and freshly grated Parmesan.
Notes
*If you are using the Breville Risotto Plus, follow these simple changes. Instead of sautéing the shallots and garlics in a large pot, sauté them in the Risotto Plus on the sauté setting. Then, don’t complete step 4. Instead, after the wine has been absorbed, stir in the vegetable stock, which does not have to be hot, and the pumpkin puree. Cover with the lid and turn the risotto setting on. When it switches to warm, about 20-30 minutes later, stir in the Parmesan cheese, season with salt and pepper to taste, then continue onto step 5.
*Use whatever white wine you have on hand for the recipe. I usually recommend to not use your best white wine, but still one that you wouldn’t mind drinking a glass of.

Recipe adapted from the manual for the Breville Risotto Plus.

Ratatouille Napoleon

I received several fantastic cookbooks around the holidays and I have been so over-the-top excited about each of them that I can’t believe I have waited this long to share them with you. I have spent the last couple months cooking away and trying different recipes from each of the cookbooks. But one of the ones I was most thrilled about diving into, The Southern Vegetarian, was one that began as a gift to someone else. I purchased this book for Christmas for my fellow foodie friend and once it arrived I determined that I needed my own copy right away.

Thankfully my parents got it for me for Christmas so I could start drooling over all the pages without dirtying someone else’s copy. This book proves, if you didn’t believe it already, that eating vegetarian can be exciting, surprising and absolutely drool-worthy delicious. Matt and I previously ate vegetarian about once a week, although it was mostly for cost-saving purposes.

After the holidays were over, a scale had been purchased and we both had picked our jaws up from the floor (ok, it wasn’t that bad, but still a minor reality check moment), we decided to increase our vegetarianism for health concerns as well. Reduce your grocery bill and slim down? No, I’m not talking about starvation, I’m talking about eating (partly) vegetarian!

This ratatouille napoleon is an easy and delicious multifaceted meal that will undoubtedly impress your family and friends. The layering of the crunchy phyllo dough, hearty sautéed vegetables, savory olive tapenade, refreshing ricotta and slightly sweet balsamic reduction will perform a cohesive symphony of flavors on your taste buds. So veggie lovers and meat snarfers alike: make this dish, eat it, repeat, but don’t forget to share.

Ratatouille Napoleon
 
Yield: 6 stacks
Ingredients
for the napoleon
  • 2 cups peeled and diced eggplant
  • ½ yellow onion, diced
  • ½ red bell pepper, diced
  • ½ yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 5 ounces crimini mushrooms, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 8 sheets phyllo dough
  • ¼ cup olive tapenade, plus 2 tablespoons
  • ¼ cup reduced fat ricotta cheese, plus 2 tablespoons
  • Salt and pepper
for the balsamic reduction
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Line a large rimmed baking sheet then spread the eggplant, peppers, onions and mushrooms in an even layer. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Toss to coat then lightly season with salt and pepper. Bake for 16 minutes then remove from the oven.
  3. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  4. Carefully lay a sheet of phyllo on a clean work surface. Lightly coat with cooking spray. Top with another sheet of phyllo. Repeat the process until all 8 phyllo sheets have been laid on top of one another. Using a pizza cutter, cut the phyllo stack into 12 equal squares.
  5. Place half the squares on the baking sheet. Use a medium ice cream scoop to place ¼ cup of the vegetable mixture on half of the phyllo squares. Bake the squares for 18 minutes or until they are golden brown.
  6. Repeat with the remainder of the squares.
  7. Spread olive tapenade on each of the un-topped squares.
  8. To serve, scoop a spoonful of the ricotta onto a plate then layer a tapenade square followed by ratatouille square. Follow with a drizzle of the balsamic reduction.
for the balsamic reduction
  1. Heat the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until it has been reduced to a couple tablespoons.

Recipe adapted from The Southern Vegetarian.

Spinach Salad with Fried Goat Cheese, Pears, Toasted Walnuts and a Pomegranate Molasses Vinaigrette

I often get inspired by dishes I have out at restaurants. Sometimes it is because the dish was so fantastic that I dream about it day and night. I develop an obsessive nonstop craving for it and must recreate it myself to satisfy this craving. Sometimes the dish wasn’t all that great, but in theory it sounded amazing. That is when I know I must recreate it to help the dish live up to its potential. The later was the case with this salad. A spinach salad with fried goat cheese, pears and toasted walnuts. The minute I saw it written on the menu my mouth started watering.

I have an affinity for goat cheese with its creamy texture and tangy taste so the thought of adding a crispy exterior had me over the moon with delight. Then adding pears for sweetness balanced by the toasted walnuts for crunch and an earthiness? Genius workings of a perfect salad in my eyes. But then it came to the table and the first bite was a serious letdown. The dressing was bland and the fried goat cheese was overpowered by breading. I knew the salad was meant to be amazing so a week later I set out to help it reach its full potential.

This spinach salad with fried goat cheese, pears and toasted walnuts with a pomegranate molasses vinaigrette exceeds expectations beyond what my wildest dreams had imagined. The fried goat cheese has a very light yet crunchy exterior which pairs perfectly with the refreshing spinach, pears and toasted walnuts, but what really makes this salad sing is the pomegranate molasses vinaigrette. Sweet and tangy this dressing packs a punch and is anything but bland. You only need a small amount so make sure you don’t overdress the spinach.

Typically, a salad is the last meal choice on my list, but that week I ate this salad every day, oftentimes for lunch and dinner. Now if that testament isn’t enough to get you to make this salad right this minute, then I’m not sure what is.

Spinach Salad with Fried Goat Cheese, Pears, Toasted Walnuts and a Pomegranate Molasses Vinaigrette
 
Yield: 4 servings, 1 cup dressing
Ingredients
for the fried goat cheese
  • 8 ounces goat cheese or goat cheese with honey
  • 2 egg whites
  • ⅓ cup panko bread crumbs
for the dressing
  • ¼ cup pomegranate molasses
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
for the salad
  • ⅓ cup chopped walnuts
  • 8 cups fresh spinach
  • 2 pears
Directions
for the fried goat cheese
  1. Place a small cooling rack over a baking sheet small enough to fit in your fridge then set aside.
  2. Beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl. Place the breadcrumbs in a separate small bowl. Set aside.
  3. Slice the goat cheese into ½” thick slices. The best way to cleanly cut goat cheese is with a small piece of dental floss.
  4. Carefully dip each slice of goat cheese into the egg white mixture then the breadcrumbs before placing on the cooling rack. After all the pieces have been dipped let them chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
  5. When the goat cheese rounds have chilled, heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  6. Cook 2-3 minutes per side then remove from the heat.
for the dressing
  1. Whisk together the pomegranate molasses, vinegar, mustard and honey until combined. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
for the salad
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Evenly place the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 3-5 minutes or until lightly browned.
  2. Thinly slice the pears.
  3. Toss the spinach with some of the salad dressing. Divide dressed spinach onto 4 plates then top each plate with the ¼ of the toasted walnuts, ½ of the sliced pears and 2 pieces of warm fried goat cheese.

Vinaigrette from Bobby Flay.
Fried goat cheese from Ina Garten.

Roast Cauliflower and Garlic Soup with Crispy Kale Chips and a Balsamic Drizzle

Hang onto your hats folks, we’re in for a whirlwind! My excitement over this soup is bursting out of me and it cannot be contained. The best thing for you to do is to hold on, take it all in and then get cooking. I first cooked this soup a couple years ago, but every time I make it I wonder to myself why I wait so long in between whipping it up.

I love creamy vegetable soups, but they are usually laden with heavy cream and high fat milk. A creamy soup that is low in calories and fat, but high in nutrition and flavor? Definitely a win. But a soup that also has added protein? Now that is the ultimate trifecta! A tasty tender trifecta.

Roasted cauliflower and garlic soup topped with kale chips and a balsamic drizzle. No, you don’t have to go to some fancy farm-to-table restaurant to enjoy this cozy dish; you can make it in your kitchen right this minute. Cauliflower is roasted to add depth to its flavor and tenderize it. Roasting the garlic mellows it and causes it to develop a creamy texture. While the vegetables are roasting a light roux is created then mixed with onions, carrots, celery and seasonings.

The sautéed vegetables brown and release their inner juices just before being combined with rich vegetable stock and white wine. The roasted vegetables are added to the pot and everything is pureed to a rustic creaminess. Nonfat plain Greek yogurt lends to the creaminess and provides a very subtle tang. Finally the soup is topped with kale chips for crunch and an easy balsamic drizzle for continued depth of flavor. Go make this. Now. I’ll be running to the kitchen for more leftovers before I pass out from excitement.

Roast Cauliflower and Garlic Soup with Crispy Kale Chips and a Balsamic Drizzle
 
Yield: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 heads cauliflower
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 heads garlic
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon italian seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon oregano
  • ⅛ teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 12 ounces fat free plain Greek yogurt
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 batch crispy kale chips
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
Directions
for the soup
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with tinfoil and set aside.
  3. Cut the cauliflower into similar sized florets and evenly place on the baking sheet. Toss the cauliflower with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Cut the tops off both heads of garlic so that almost all the cloves are exposed. Place each head of garlic in a little square of tinfoil and curve up the sides. Lightly drizzle the garlic heads with olive oil then season with salt and pepper. Seal up the tinfoil to make little packets of the garlic heads.
  5. Place the cauliflower and garlic packets in the oven. Let the cauliflower roast for 25 minutes then remove from the oven. Let the garlic continue to roast for another 10 minutes.
  6. While the cauliflower and garlic are roasting, heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add two tablespoons of olive oil and the flour and whisk to combine. Continue to whisk until the mixture is light brown in color, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add the celery, onion and carrot. Stir to combine and cook until the onions have started to brown and the vegetables have started to soften.
  8. Add the salt, pepper, italian seasoning, paprika, oregano and chili powder, stirring to combine. Add the wine and water. Bring to a slow boil then cook for 5 minutes.
  9. When the heads of garlic have cooled, squeeze out the garlic cloves and add them to the soup along with the vegetable broth. Cook for 10 more minutes.
  10. Add the cauliflower and cook for 5 more minutes. Using a food processor or immersion blender puree the soup until smooth. Add the greek yogurt and puree until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.
for the garnish
  1. Heat the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Continue to heat until it has reduced to a 2-3 tablespoons.
  2. Top each bowl of soup with kale chips and a drizzle of the balsamic reduction.

Recipe adapted from The Novice Chef.