When I became a vegetarian at age 12, my mom supported me in my decision in many ways. She did not pause in her response, and said she would help me. She taught me how to cook to empower me. She explored new dishes outside of her comfort zone to help me create a balanced diet. My mom helped me find articles and books which helped me learn how to eat a balanced diet. She even defended my diet to extended family and friends who might have not understood me 22 years ago. As time progressed, she continues to learn and grow in her understanding of my vegetarian diet, and now my young family’s vegetarian home. I love her for many things, but mostly her endless support with her unique dose of adorable curiosity is definitely up there.
This dish is something I remember my mom making for me in high school. When she tried to find vegetarian food for me, she reached back to her mother and even her grandmother’s cooking. I enjoyed lentils, sturdy greens, white beans, risotto, mushroom ragout — all before they were trendy. My favorite addition to our family menu was the recipe below. Next time you are in the Italian food section, pick up a roll of pre-made polenta. I enjoy making polenta from scratch, but the reality is that this working mom does not have the time to do that often. Polenta rolls are an easy, but healthy convenience food. AAM really loved this dish, and I recommend it from an every day meal to a special occasion.
Thank you mom. I appreciate how you supported my efforts to be true to my beliefs, while also empowering me to grow as a person. You are an amazing mother, role model, and person. Happy Birthday!
Polenta and Sauteed Baby Spinach
- 1 Polenta roll, cut into 10 slices, 1 inch each.
- olive oil, divided
- salt and pepper
- 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 4 cups of baby spinach
- splash of vegetable broth
- 1 cup of warm tomato sauce
1. Preheat the oven to 450. Grease a baking dish with olive oil. Place the polenta in the dish, sprinkle with kosher salt, olive oil, and a generous amount of black pepper. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden.
2. In a sauce pan, heat garlic in 2 tb of olive oil over medium heat. Once the garlic starts to lightly brown, add the baby spinach. Pour a splash of veggie broth on top. Cook until the spinach until it is a bright green and shrunk to a 1/4 the size. Turn off heat, and cover.
3. Serve with spinach on the bottom, polenta, and top with red sauce. Enjoy warm!
Fried Zucchini Blossoms were very trendy last summer. Zucchini blossoms sound strange to eat, but I promise these are phenomenal. They make a nice appetizer or side with Italian food. Unfortunately, last summer, our blossoms in the garden met an untimely death due to my squash plant rotting. So at the very end of the season, I picked some blossoms up at the Falls Church Farmers Market and brought them to my parents. We made a vegetable casserole, roasted oregano potatoes, and these blossoms on the side. Serafina loved them so much, that I hard to start grabbing extras for my plate so she wouldn’t hog the delicacy. Because I loved the recipe so much, I saved it for the beginning of this summer, so all of you can plan ahead!
Fried Zucchini Blossoms
- 1 cup of olive oil
- 2 cups of zucchini blossoms
- Eggwhite from one egg.
- 2 cups of flour
- 1 tb kosher salt
- 1 tb ground pepper
1. In a skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Hot, but not so much that oil will splash outside the pan.
2. Put the egg in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and pepper. Dredge the blossoms in the egg. Then transfer it to the dry ingredients and stir around.
Many people I know can’t stand mayo, which has helped me explore beyond traditional summer salads. Additionally, I have always been uneasy with mayo drenched salads at BBQs. I have heard that foods with dairy can stay out for four hours, but in the DC summer heat, that just seems wrong. So, the past few years, I have been building an arsenal of dairy-free summer salads. Feel free to try one of these awesome salads for Memorial Day weekend
- Cucumber Salad
- Black Eyed Pea Salad
- Asparagus and White Bean Salad
- Chickpea and Corn Salad
- Panzanella: Italian Bread Salad
- Pantry Bean Salad
The other day, without the ingredients for the salads above, I made a last minute Summer Pasta Salad to our first neighborhood BBQ of the summer. Having old friends across the street, means a summer of walking dishes back and forth with toddler in hand. We may have moved farther from downtown in order for a house with a yard, but it has brought us endless fun outside. Five different toddlers loved this dish, and the adults too. It is so simple, I am almost embarrassed to post it. However, because it had a strong kid-approval rating, I thought it might be good to share.
Summer Pasta Salad
- 1lb Whole Wheat medium shell pasta
- 1 cup of reserved pasta water
- 1 pint of grape tomatoes, mixed variety, sliced
- 1 cup of roasted asparagus, chopped
- 1/2 cup of roasted red peppers
- 1/4 cup of vidalia onion, chopped
- 1 can of black olives, chopped
- 2 lemons, juiced
- 4 tb olive oil, divided
- 1/4 cup of fresh basil
- 1/4 cup of parsley
- salt/ pepper
1. Place a stockpot on the stove, boil the water, then cook your pasta. Meanwhile prep your veggies.
2. Drain the pasta, save a cup of pasta water to throw back on the pasta, then mix in the vegetables. In a separate bowl, stir together the lemon juice, 2 tb of olive oil, basil, parsley, salt and pepper. Drizzle over the salad and toss. Add more olive oil if it is dry.
This is a simple spring/summer dish. We love risotto, and it really isn’t as hard as people make it. Be sure you keep the heat at medium low, and add in broth every few minutes. This is definitely a kid pleaser!
- 2 cups of Risotto
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 cup of yellow onion, diced
- 1 cup of carrots, diced
- 2 tb olive oil
- 6-8 cups of vegetable broth
- 1 cup of frozen peas, or fresh
- 1 cup of chopped, roasted asparagus (olive oil+salt+pepper@425 degrees for 20 minutes)
- salt/pepper to taste
1. Before you start the risotto, begin roasting your asparagus.
2. In a saucepan, saute the risotto, carrots, garlic, onion, and olive oil over medium heat. When the rice and garlic start to slightly brown, lower the heat, and add 1 cup of broth. Stir the broth in, then add more. Repeat this until you have put in six cups.
2. Add the peas, asparagus, salt and pepper.
3. Stir in more broth, until the risotto is soft. Enjoy warm
Hope you are enjoying Spring! Although things have been a bit busy at work, we have been finding ways to garden and enjoy the Spring weather. Serafina helped me put in our lettuces, herbs, and our early batch of tomatoes. As she gets older, she seems to love the dirt and helping more. A definite bonus. Spring also brings easy meals filled with chopped veggies. Toddlers can love veggies, but it helps to have them fresh and tasty. Luckily, after a long day, this quick meal can satiate Serafina and my concerns over a balanced vegetarian diet. This is fast food in our house:
She followed with a yogurt and banana. However, if I put those on the plate in the beginning, there would be no veggies consumed.
One hallmark of the coming Spring can be firing up the grill. I have spent a good amount of time trying different packaged veggie burgers, but we decided to try making our own with sweet potatoes the other weekend.
With some forethought, this veggie burger can be a simple dish for dinner. We made them the day before, then froze them to help them maintain their shape. The curry may appear to be an unusual addition, but I find that it can be the perfect match with the blander flavors of beans and potatoes. Also, curry is mild enough that children usually love it. In fact, I use recipes like this and my Curry Egg Salad to broaden Serafina’s tastes. Also, the pearled couscous in the photo was a perfect healthy compliment to the burgers. Just add garbanzo beans, frozen veggie mix, and olive oil.
Curry Sweet Potato Burgers
- olive oil
- 2 Sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 1 can of white beans, drained and cleaned
- 2 tb tahini
- 1 tb maple syrup
- 1/4 cup of dried oats
- 1/4 cup of panko bread crumbs
- 2 tb of curry
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- ranch dressing (we used the vegan dressing from Organicville)
1. Preheat the oven to 425. Slather the sweet potatoes chunks in olive oil and roast for 40 minutes. Remove and let the potatoes cool a tad.
2. When cooler, add in the beans, tahini and syrup. Mash the ingredients together.
3. Once the majority of the beans are mashed, add the remaining ingredients. Stir together so they mix evenly. Add more or less breadcrumbs based on how dry your mixture is. Add more syrup if it seems to be drying.
4. Take a 1/3 cup of mixture and shape into a round burger shape. Place on freezer paper and layer in a freezer safe container. Place burgers in the freezer for at least 24 hours.
5. When ready, defrost the burgers. We cooked the burgers on our Cuisinart panini press, but they seemed to hold together enough that I might trust them on a grill.
6. Grill until cooked through. Serve with ranch dressing, romaine lettuce, vidalia onion, and tomatoes.