Archive for the ‘vegetarian’ Category

French Toast Casserole

French Toast Casserole

French Toast Casserole

French toast casserole is good any time of the day (or night!) A meal, a snack, a guilty pleasure. Call it what you want – I call it delicious!

This is a variation on the original recipe by Ree Drummond, sometimes known as The Pioneer Woman on Food Network. She cooks for her family, which includes a crew of cowboys working at the ranch. Me? Often it’s just two of us so a recipe like this would last us a week of breakfasts. Fortunately, we had the monthly United Methodist Men’s Breakfast at church this morning. There were no complaints and not many leftovers.

Serves: 12-14

Pairs well with fresh blueberries on the side, plus a healthy serving of scrapple for those foolhardy adventurous enough to try it.

Ingredients

1 big loaf of French bread (or the bread of your choice, just nothing too flavorful like pumpernickel or rye)

8 eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups of milk (I used 2 percent instead of Ree’s whole milk. Trying to be healthy, right? Umm. Yeah. That’s the ticket.)

3/4 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract. Don’t bother with the imitation stuff. Not.the.same.at.all.

1 Tablespoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Topping Ingredients

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup light brown sugar (be generous here)

1 more teaspoon of cinnamon

and a 1/2 teaspoon more of nutmeg

8 Tablespoons (113 grams) of butter. Unsalted is fine, not required here. Unless you have that extra stick of unsalted butter you bought last Christmas for that one recipe. And then you went out to eat at the pub instead because your brother insulted your sister’s boyfriends and soon enough people were fighting, lamps were broken and then the third time the police were called… Anyhow – a stick of butter.

Maple syrup to taste, no more than a cup.

Directions

Treat a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish with either butter or cooking spray

Tear the bread into little bite-sized bits and place in the casserole dish.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Pour the egg mixture over the bread. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In a smaller bowl, combine the flour, light brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Add the butter, blending it with the dry ingredients using a fork. You can stop once the mixture has that grainy, crumbly, sandy type of texture.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

…the next morning…

An hour before the herd awakens, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. / 177 degrees C. / or gas mark 4 if that’s how your oven rolls.

Take the breading and the topping bits out of the refrigerator. Uncover the breading and evenly sprinkle the topping bits on top. (Where else would topping bits go, I wonder?)

Bake uncovered for one hour.

While the casserole is baking, make yourself a nice cup of coffee and enjoy the quiet.

Ten minutes before the casserole is done, warm up the cup of maple syrup. Not too hot, just warm enough to make you want to stick your finger in and get a taste. (I won’t tell if you do it.)

Ding!

The casserole comes out of the oven and you now get to drizzle the warm maple syrup all over the lightly browned topping. I made criss-cross patterns when I did it. Be creative. It all sinks in so don’t stress on the artistic merit of your drizzling technique. But have some fun, right?

Serving techniques: you can slice this casserole into squares, or you can just let everyone scoop out what they want using a large spoon.

This is a popular dish. Make sure you get some.

Good job, chef!

Bon appetit!

 

 

Savory Zucchini Quiche

Savory Zucchini Quiche

Savory Zucchini Quiche

Zucchini or courgette, it matters not. The important fact is the taste – and this quiche has it in abundance!

Derived from a recipe found on Facebook (See? Facebook is good for something besides photos of cats) here is a tasty rendition of a zucchini quiche everyone should enjoy.

Ingredients

9 inch pie crust shell (make your own crust if you want – I took the lazy way out and used store bought. But it worked and dinner was ready before the moon rose above the trees.)

4 cups thinly sliced zucchini. Our slices were about an eighth of an inch thick. Too thin and you end up with mush.

And no one likes mush.

1/2 cup of diced onion

2 cloves minced garlic

3 Tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon parsley flakes

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

2 eggs

2 cups shredded Colby-jack cheese

1/4 cup shredded Bruschetta Jack

2 Tablespoons sharp and creamy mustard

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. (gas mark 4)

Bake the pie crust for about 10 minutes or until slightly brown. Burning the crust is right out.

Once done, set on wire rack to cool.

In a large sauce pan, saute the zucchini slices in butter; season with the minced garlic. Once the zucchini starts to brown, remove from heat.

Using a large bowl, mix the spices.

Add the two eggs, whisking them into the spices.

Add the shredded cheeses. Mix well.

Add the zucchini and onions; gently fold into the egg-y cheese-y stuff. (You know, stuff. That may be a culinary term.)

Spread the sharp and creamy mustard inside the pie crust.

Fill the pie shell with the zucchini mixture. Level out somewhat so it is evenly distributed inside the shell.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, then start checking the quiche every five minutes.

Once the cheese on top starts to brown, the quiche – she is done!

Take out and let rest for 10 minutes.

Ha! Who can wait that long? Pour yourself a glass of chilled white wine and slice that quiche up and dig in!

Happy eating!

Azar’s Market and Cafe

The Maza Appetizer from Azar's.

The Maza Appetizer from Azar’s.

As a line cook, I would often receive a request for a substitution, i.e. potato salad instead of fries. Not a big deal, really; happens all of the time in restaurants all around the world. Sometimes these requests were made for dietary reasons, other times to avoid allergy issues. It was all good, although one time I had to ask the server to double check the request when the ticket stated 1 quesadilla, 86 (remove) the cheese. Since the root of the word was queso, Spanish for cheese, I wanted to make sure the guest understood they would be receiving a grilled tortilla stuffed with a few sauteed vegetables. They did so that’s what they got.

In the food service business, it all about food and service. To survive, you have to serve great food and offer even better service. Makes me wonder why Burger King has just dropped it’s slogan Have It Your Way. I guess you can’t have it your way anymore?

Regardless of BK’s reasoning, the point is this: successful restaurants have to have a great concept, a menu to satisfy everyone from Atkins-style carnivores to vegan/gluten free Eat to Live folks, and  flawless execution in both the kitchen and the front house. No secret to many of you, but finding a place that hits the mark in all categories is becoming more difficult these days.

Azar’s Market & Cafe (subtitled Natural Foods and Mediterranean Specialties) is just such a place.  Recently, we had an awesome dinner at the Virginia Beach restaurant, located in the Hilltop area. I had always been a fan of the Norfolk cafe of the same name and found the sister restaurant to be equally as nice, with attentive service that was not over-intrusive and excellent food plated in a most appealing fashion. And for a Saturday early-evening, the place was not too crowded making the ambiance perfect for conversation.

While I usually order the can’t-miss felafel, this particular evening I decided to be adventurous and order something new (for me.) Taking advice from the server, I chose the Maza appetizer. The menu will tell you the Maza serves 2 – 4 people, but the dish is used as an entree quite often. I gave it a try. Here’s what was presented:

Hummus – made from chickpeas, of course, and seasoned with tahini, not too much lemon, and a bit of garlic. The best in the city, IMHO.

Baba Ghanouj (pronounced bah bah gah-noosh) – think hummus made from roasted eggplant instead of chickpeas.

4 Stuffed Grape Leaves – available either cold or warmed, these are stuffed with rice, vegetables and chickpeas.

Tabouli – a light salad of chopped parsley, mint, tomato, and onion, tossed with some Bulgar wheat, lemon juice, olive oil and sea salt.

Lebane Tzatziki – a dab of dip made from strained yogurt (Greek yogurt before it was cool to be Greek yogurt,) garlic, a touch of mint and olive oil.

The plate was garnished with olives (watch out for those pesky little pits) and bite-sized slices of pickle and tomato.

All this was served with a basket of light, soft but not too chewy grilled flatbread.

The verdict?

I wasn’t a fan of the baba ghanouj. I am sure it was made correctly, and Azar’s version is probably among the best around. I’m just not a baba ghanouj kind of guy.

Everything else was a hit to my taste buds. When the server came to remove our dinner plates, she saw I had only tried the B.G. and commented that next time I could always ask for a substitute. More hummus, more grape leaves, whatever I wanted. This substitution policy was not a one-off deal made in an attempt to garner a higher propina (tip, sorry – thinking in Spanish for a moment) but the normal restaurant policy.

Great food and even better service, remember? This is what it looks like.

And for you vegans out there? This means you can order the Maza and sub more hummus for the Lebane Tzatziki dip.

For carnivores, split the Maza since it’s really a large appetizer plate, and order one of the grilled kebab plates.

Azar’s has great food and even better service – for everyone.

And no matter what you order for lunch or dinner – you have to get the pistachio baklava for dessert. I think it’s a law. If it’s not, it should be.

Happy eating!

 

 

 

Zucchini Planks

Zucchini Planks any Pirate would Love!

Zucchini Planks any Pirate would Love!

A quick and easy lunch, or even a light dinner, zucchini planks taste great – and they probably aren’t half bad for you, either!

Here’s what you need:

(creates four planks with toppings)

2 medium zucchini

1 shallot, finely chopped (green onion will work, as well)

1 clove of garlic, minced

black pepper, freshly ground, to taste

2 Tablespoons of olive oil

1 cup of fresh mozzarella, cubed to the size of dice

1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in halves

Here’s what you do:

Slice the zucchini lengthwise, creating two planks per zucchini, each about a half inch thick. Take the remaining zucchini and spoon out the pulp. Using a chef’s knife, finely chop the pulp, then place in a bowl.  Set the planks aside for the moment.

Add to the finely chopped zucchini: the chopped shallot, minced garlic, black pepper, and olive oil. Mix well and let sit while you cube up the mozzarella cheese.

After preparing the cheese and the grape tomatoes, add both to the bowl of marinating zucchini. Turn a few times with a wooden spoon. No need to bruise the tomato. Just kidding. But you don’t need to be mean about it. Just  gently mix. There you go!

Now, place the zucchini planks on a microwave safe plate and micro-bake them for 30 seconds to a minute. The exact time will depend on the power of your microwave. If they are steaming, they are done. Smoke?  Start over. With new zucchini.

Using a fork (because steaming zucchini planks are hot) place two planks on each plate. Then, spoon the mozzarella/tomato mixture over the planks.

Try them! You get the warm, soft and delicate taste of fresh zucchini – and the robust flavor and creamy texture of the mozzarella cheese accompanied by all of its friends.

Pairs well with a light red table wine. And cookies.

 

Black Bean Corn Salsa-nated Lentils and Peppers

Black Bean Corn Salsa-nated Lentils and Viggies

Black Bean Corn Salsa-nated Lentils and Peppers (with stir fried vegetables)

After you cook several “big” dishes, such as Mango Lentil Dal, or Artichoke Lentil Loaf, you may come to realize you still have uncooked lentils left over. Looking in the soak pot, I found we had “a lot” of lentils left. If the zombie apocalypse started today, and all access to the grocery store had been cut off by the horde of brain-eating walking dead, we would be fine with the one bag of dried lentils. It never seems to run out. But since the Eastern Shore, for the moment at least, is devoid of zombies, it would be poor form to leave said lentils to slowly die a horrible death inside the refrigerator.

What to do. Hmmm.

Why not take those lentils and add some left over bell peppers and a snit or two from the jar of Amy’s Black Bean & Corn Salsa? You know, the jar that always seems to be in the door of the refrigerator? Could end up with a tasty meal, me thinks.

Turned out to be a great idea! I also stir fried some fresh cut vegetables to give the meal a little more bulk and color. Here’s the easy lentil recipe:

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked lentils (uncooked but soaked overnight, then drained)

Water – enough to cover the lentils once they are in a sauce pan

1 each – red, green and yellow bell pepper. cored and seeded, then rough chopped

1 snit of Amy’s black bean corn salsa (no ‘snit’ mark on your measuring cup? 6 Tablespoons is about the same amount)

1 Tablespoon cumin

Directions

Put the uncooked lentils in a medium sauce pan.

Add water, enough to cover the lentils by a half inch or so.

Add the chopped bell peppers, salsa, and cumin.

Stir gently, then cover.

Heat over medium high until the liquid starts to boil.

Once boiling, reduce heat to medium. You want a simmer only.

Uncover and stir occasionally.

The goal is to allow the liquid to soak into the lentils and to create a “salsa reduction.” In other words, as the liquid cooks down, the salsa and cumin flavor will be brought out for the better. Once you stir the lentils and don’t see any more liquid at the bottom of the sauce pan, you are done!

Remove from heat and cover until the rest of your dinner is done cooking.

(I stir fried veggies while the lentils were cooking. There are a plethora of options for you. Go with your favorite!)

This lentil recipe makes 3 good sized main servings or 4 side servings.

Enjoy!

 

Mango Lentil Dal

Mango Lentil Dal

Mango Lentil Dal

Tried a new recipe tonight for Mango Lentil Dal. This turned out very well. The only change I might consider for the next time is to sub curry for the turmeric. But that’s only because I love curry. And I might add a little coconut milk. And some slice pineapple chunks. But other than that – this recipe is great!

No, really. It is very good. I was just thinking out loud.

Giving credit where credit is due, this recipe comes from the tome Eat to Live Cookbook, by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. It’s on page 172. Naturally, due to copyright issues I cannot legally (or ethically should I) post the actual recipe. It’s a great book. You should buy a copy. You don’t have to go on his diet / health plan, just try the recipes. We have yet to find one that wasn’t great tasting.

What I can do is give you a list of ingredients:

Lentils

Water (to cook the cup of lentils in, of course)

Turmeric

Chopped onion

Minced garlic

Fresh grated ginger

Ground coriander

Ground cumin

Cracked black pepper

A couple of ripe mangoes (learn how to peel and cut a mango here)

Chopped fresh spinach

and last but not least:

Chopped fresh cilantro.

I suppose you could try to cook this yourself, without the book, and just using quantities “to taste.” However, I highly recommend buying the book.

And no, I receive no remuneration (of any kind) from Dr. Fuhrman or anyone else for that matter. I could only hope…

Live the exotic life for a day – try Mango Lentil Dal!

 

 

 

Dr. Lucy and the Cookies

Gluten Free Vegan Ginger Snaps

Gluten Free Vegan Ginger Snaps

Have food allergies? Need to be gluten free? [Gasp] Vegan, even?

A tough road to live on, but it can be done. That said, there is one problem remaining:

Where are the cookies, right?

Of course. Who doesn’t like cookies? Everyone like cookies. Those in the UK even have a different word for them: biscuits. And I’m sure the Brits love their biscuits just as much as we love to snarf down our cookies here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

Since changing my eating habits last month, I’ve lost over 20 pounds and three inches off my waist line. But nary a dessert has made it onto my plate. Alas, no cookies for this guy.

Until a few days ago.

That’s when I came across Lucy’s Cookies.”  The cookie’s namesake, Norfolk Virginia medical doctor turned cookie entrepreneur Dr. Lucy Gibney and (I presume) her daughter were at my place of business the other day, handing out samples. When I introduced myself as a gluten free/vegan person they let me know that all of their products would work for me. Wow!  All means more than one – and I don’t even have to check the label. Although I did for fun. You should, too.

The package spells it out for you: all natural; non-GMO; no peanuts, tree nuts, milk, or eggs; gluten free; zero cholesterol; and zero trans fat. But what about taste?

I have had the chocolate chip cookies, the chocolate cookies, and the ginger snap cookies so far. And the have all been great. The ginger snaps even have a tiny bit of Tabasco in them to bring out a nifty bite at the end of the crunch. Who knew? Good choice, ladies.

Full of flavor, a great crunch, wonderful aftertaste. These cookies have it all. And with 3 – 4 cookies per package, you get enough to satisfy your sweet tooth, but not too many calories – in case you are counting them.

Check the website; order some cookies! And, they are available in over 7,000 stores and specialty shops through the US and Canada. You are probably near a package right now and don’t even know it!

* Legal disclaimer: I have not received any remuneration (of any kind) from Dr. Lucy or her cookie company. The review above is based simply on my desire to have cookies that meet my dietary restriction and Lucy’s Cookies satisfying that want.

** If, by chance, Dr. Lucy would like to send me some cookies for a more comprehensive evaluation, I would be more than happy to entertain the idea.

DrLucys dot com – check it out, people. Good health and nutrition doesn’t have to be bland!

Here's the package!

Here’s the package!

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