Saturday, September 29, 2012

Zucchini "Meatballs" with a Tomato Ragu over Creamy Polenta

I think it's safe to say I am obsessed with Joanne's blog Eats Well With Others. Her main dishes are hearty and healthy. She cooks with whole grains and seasonal fruits and vegetables. Many of her recipes are vegan (always a bonus). Best of all, her recipes are the kind that are healthy enough to eat for dinner one day and then for several lunches and dinners after that.

Joanne certainly eats well, and whenever I look at her pictures I wish I was eating with her.

The barley risotto with roasted brussels sprouts that she posted is just what I want on a winter/spring/summer/fall evening. These poached eggs with chickpeas and swiss chard would coax me out of bed any day. She's got this fig and ricotta pizza that's been calling my name for weeks.

And she's even got a collection of layer cakes that will make your mouth water.

Needless to say, I couldn't have been happier when Joanne posted this recipe for zucchini "meatballs" with a curry tomato sauce over a creamy polenta base. I pinned it a few weeks ago (a bit of a new obsession), and every time I visit my Pinterest page, it calls out to me.

Joanne's original recipe was 100 percent vegan, but I went the vegetarian route and added butter and Parmesan cheese to my polenta. I also omitted some spices that I just don't have, and I made some substitutions for things I wasn't quite willing to splurge on (like chickpea flour).

I ended up with a hearty, healthy vegetarian dinner. And I ate well with others--my cousin and his wife joined me for dinner.

I'm linking up with Bookmarked Recipes, a monthly foodie challenge held on Tinned Tomatoes. Visit to see all the recipes bloggers bookmarked a while back and revisited this month!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Lemon Pudding (Dairy-Free)

At a dinner party a few months back, I overheard one of my closest friends say, "You know Katie only has us over for dinner because she wants to make a new dessert."

I laughed, but there's definitely truth to that statement.

Dessert usually comes first in my menu planning.

This chocolate peanut butter brownie cheesecake inspired a meal. So did this tuscaloosa tollhouse pie. And this chocolate mousse cake.

To name a few.

For the past few weeks, I've been trying to go dairy-free in all my baking and cooking at home (butter is an exception, of course). I feel happier and healthier than I've been in a long time.

But I've got a MAJOR concern: dessert.

Yes, I can make dairy-free desserts, but they're rarely the desserts I crave (visit my Pinterest board to see the desserts I really want). I like my desserts to be full fat, filled with heavy cream and cream cheese and all the chocolate you can squeeze in.

And I'm concerned that to make desserts dairy-free you have to omit all my favorite things. So I set out on a mission to find some dairy-free desserts that I truly find delicious.

This lemon pudding, adapted from Joy the Baker, is certainly a good start. It's smooth and creamy, and the lemon flavor really shines through, aided by both a generous amount of lemon zest and lemon juice.

Finished off with a sprinkle of homemade granola, coconut, crushed nuts or crushed cookies, each bite of pudding has the perfect combination of crunchy and smooth. I think I could sneak a dish in front of friends who don't read this blog, and they'd never even guess they were mostly eating tofu.

Now I'm off to find similar recipes but with chocolate, because it's really not a dessert if there's no chocolate.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Layered Tomato, Zucchini and Eggplant Pie

It's hard not to be inspired by a beautiful garden.

My parents' garden certainly falls into that category. It towers over our backyard. The produce is fed by nutrients from our compost pile. It's overflowing with just about every fruit and veggie you could want. Heirloom tomatoes hang from tall plants. Green beans form a canopy you can walk under. Potatoes, sunchokes and radishes hide underground, just waiting to be dug up. Tomatillos and choke cherries burst out of their wrappers.

Ever-bearing strawberry plants occupy the back portion of the garden, and they're still in fruit this late in the year. In another corner, butternut squash that popped up all on their own (perhaps from rouge seeds from the compost pile) are thriving. Harvested garlic hangs from the rafters in the basement. You'll just need a bit. It's potent stuff. 

For the better part of the summer, my parents were out in the garden every day, and they almost always came back with a bowl of goodies.

You can't get much more local than this, and I had to get my my hands dirty while I was visiting last weekend. With my parents proudly showing off their hard work, I harvested the tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant in the afternoon while my whole wheat pie crust was chilling in the fridge.

Minimal cooking and seasoning really ensures the integrity of the vegetables is preserved. The eggplant and zucchini are salted to remove some of the moisture, and then the vegetables are layered in the pan. The veggies get a sprinkling of minced garlic, a drizzle of olive oil, and a dash of salt and pepper before heading into the oven.

Eaten warm, with pan-fried walleye (locally caught by dad) and a raw kale salad from the garden prepared by mom, the pie was just perfect. Each bite exploded with freshness. I went back for seconds. Then I had the leftovers for breakfast. It was that good.

This pie is being submitted to Not Eating Out in New York's Seasonal Pie Contest, where New York City bloggers (and bloggers who can make it to the city) are encouraged to make pies using seasonal ingredients and blog about the pies they make. Check out the post for opportunities to win two tickets to the upcoming Let Us Eat Local fundraiser.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Baked Oatmeal with Mixed Berries and Plums

I have such vivid memories of the first day of kindergarten. I remember getting off that yellow school bus after an hour-long ride, and my neighbor Mike taking my hand. He was a few years older and must have been encouraged to make sure I made it to my classroom in one piece.

We walked in, past the main office and the gym, and we turned left toward my classroom.

I remember that Mike didn't leave me at the door. He certainly could have. My teacher was there greeting us as we came in. Instead he followed me in. He led me to my cubby and helped me hang up my backpack. He made sure I was all set before leaving me in that new environment. When he left, I didn't feel so alone.

I'm holding that story with me as I set my alarm for 6:30 a.m. and prepare for the first day of school tomorrow, despite the fact that my position is quite different now.

I want to hold onto that little girl who took strength and encouragement from someone taking a few minutes to show her that he cared. I hope she reminds me to smile, to be alright with people taking the time that they need to get adjusted, and to start establishing those personal relationships from moment one.

Luckily, I'll have this baked oatmeal to fuel me through. Sliced plums and mixed berries are layered on the bottom and toasted walnuts are mixed throughout. The oatmeal is only ever-so-slightly sweetened, so all the individual flavors of the ingredients shine through.

I baked up a big batch of it right before I was due back to work. It reheats easily in the morning, and it gives me the energy I need to get through the day.

Tomorrow morning when I dig in, I'll think about that little girl stepping off the bus to someone making her feel safe and at home. I want to give my students that same experience.