Make It Vegetarian

One of the hardest parts about being a vegetarian (for me) has been the fear of missing out on delicious food. As a self proclaimed food lover, I like having the ability to try anything and everything. But as a vegetarian, that obviously leaves out a lot of things I can try. When I first decided to take the plunge I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to come up with enough creative ways to eat the meat-centric things I loved before. It isn’t always easy, but thanks to a lot of meat substitutes I’ve been able to have my fair share of faux meat favorites (albeit sparingly, since they’re usually on the highly processed side).

One thing I haven’t had in awhile is a cheesesteak… obviously. I’ve seen quite a few recipes on Pinterest for a “low carb” version of them with green peppers instead of rolls. So even though I love carbs like no one’s business, I liked the idea of swapping out the bread for green peppers since it meant more veggies. Of course the original recipe called for thinly sliced roast beef, so I decided to swap it out for seitan instead. For those of you that haven’t had (or haven’t even heard of) seitan, it’s made from vital wheat gluten (so it’s out for anyone that’s gluten-free), and has a chewy texture that is very similar to meat. You can make your own, or buy it at the grocery store (usually found with the tofu and tempeh). While I used regular cheese, you could always use a vegan cheese to make the entire meal vegan. I’ve since used the sietan concoction with sautéed onion and peppers on rolls, and it really is the closest you can get to “the real thing.”

It’s a really easy dinner that comes together quickly, and you won’t miss the meat. So whether you’re a vegetarian (or vegan) that has a hankering for a meat-centric classic, you’re looking to cut back on the amount of meat you eat, or you just want to try something new, make these! And of course, report back to let me know what you think.

Vegetarian Green Pepper Stuffed Philly Cheesesteaks

Vegetarian Philly Cheesesteak Stuffed Peppers
– makes 2 servings (one whole pepper each) –

2 medium green peppers, cut in half length wise and de-seeded
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, sliced in half moons
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari
8 oz. Seitan (strips or cubes work)
8 slices provolone or swiss cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
2. In a medium sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion. Sauté until the onions are caramelized. This takes time!! (at least 30 minutes). If you’re pressed for time, you only have to sauté them until they are translucent and soft, about 5-10 minutes. 
3. Add the sietan, minced garlic, and soy sauce. Sauté for an additional 5-10 minutes, until the seitan is heated through and everything is combined nicely. 
4. Take the halved green peppers, and add a slice of cheese to each. Fill the pepper with the sietan and onion mixture until it’s overflowing. Top with another piece of cheese. 
5. On a sprayed baking sheet, bake in the oven for 15-18 minutes, or until the cheese is golden and bubbling. 

Meatless Monday: White Bean Basil Burgers

One of the things I miss most about no longer eating meat is a good hamburger. I can easily turn down a steak, chicken (even wings!), and seafood. But I won’t try to pretend that I don’t miss a juicy hamburger (well, 99.9% of the time it’s a cheeseburger) from time to time. There was even an period when I was in middle school that my go-to order when out to eat was some type of burger and fries. It wasn’t because I was picky eater – it was simply because I loved them that much! So now that I’m a vegetarian, I think it’s natural that I find myself making some type of veggie burger frequently.

In the past my go-to base for a veggie burger has been black beans… partially because I love black beans, and partially because they seem to be the default for most restaurant and packaged veggie burgers. As I’ve delved more and more into a vegetarian diet and cooking in general, I’ve come to realize that you can really transform almost anything if you’re willing to take a little time and get creative.

These particular burgers came about due to a craving for both falafel and a veggie burger. I knew I had white beans at home (but no chickpeas), so my first instinct was to try and make a generic falafel based on white beans instead of chickpeas. While trying to remember what else I had laying around at home, I remembered the fresh basil from the previous week’s fresh box that was definitely on its last legs. That’s when I realized I could use the white beans and basil together, and satisfy my veggie burger craving; enter the White Bean Basil Burgers!

With the perfect combination of basil, red onion, and fresh sliced tomato and mozzarella, these burgers are a great end-0f-summer treat. I didn’t have mine on a bun simply because I didn’t have any, but they would be great on an Italian roll!

White Bean Basil Burger |

White Bean Basil Burgers
– makes 4 burgers –

1 15 oz. can white beans (cannellini beans), drained and rinsed
1/4 cup Italian style breadcrumbs
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 small red onion, diced
10 leaves fresh basil, chiffonade (just chopped works too)
1 tsp rosemary
2 tsp oil for cooking
Optional: Sliced tomato & fresh mozzarella cheese to top the burgers

1. In a large bowl, mash the white bean burgers with a potato masher or a fork.
2. Once the white beans are mashed, add in the rest of the ingredients: bread crumbs, garlic, onion, basil, and rosemary, stirring to make sure everything is combined well. Form into 4 patties.
4. Heat 2 tsp of oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the burgers and cook on each side for about 6-8 minutes, flipping once.
5. Serve with sliced tomato, mozzarella cheese, and additional fresh basil if desired.

Meatless Monday: The TALT

There is something magical about a good sandwich. For me, it’s a little bit crunchy, a little bit creamy, and a whole lot of delicious. I’m a huge fan of club sandwiches, paninis, tortas, subs (also known as “hoagies”), and any other sandwich-like food. I grew up eating a sandwich pretty much every day for lunch, and I couldn’t complain – my dad makes a mean turkey and cheese with lettuce!

I had been craving a BLT for quite some time, but decided to make it meatless. Enter the TALT – tempeh, avocado, lettuce, and tomato. So simple, and so delicious. I used LightLife’s “Fakin’ Bacon” which has a smoky almost bacon-like taste when quickly fried in a little oil. For the rest of the sandwich, I just toasted some grain bread and topped the “bacon” with lettuce, tomato, and half an avocado. Perfect for a Monday night.

With the realization that sandwiches are perfectly acceptable dinners, I’m looking to incorporate them more in our weekly meals. If you happen to have any good sandwich “recipes” (I put this in quotes because sometimes, like above, sandwich making is a no-brainer), please feel free to pass them along!

I just recently ordered and received the Peas and Thank You cookbook, and also Appetite for Reduction. I’ve already bookmarked a bunch of recipes I can’t wait to try, and have been inspired to try and create my own concoctions from them. Hopefully this month will be full of cooking (and baking!), now that I’m finally a married woman with slightly more time.

Breakfast for dinner: Huevos Rancheros

I finally got around to making the huevos rancheros I had planned for last week, on Monday. It was yet another edition of breakfast for dinner. We still had a bunch of corn tortillas left from when I made fish tacos, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try and finally use them up. For whatever reason, ShopRite doesn’t sell ripe, or almost ripe avocados (at least at the one near me). So, if you want a ripe avocado you need to buy it at least 2 weeks in advance. Unfortunately this meant no avocado on our huevos rancheros, but at least I’ll be able to use them in two weeks… So frustrating!

This is a quick and easy dinner, but can definitely be made any time of the day. I don’t really know much about “traditional” huevos rancheros, so I kind of just did my own thing, based on the flavors I tend to enjoy most in burritos, tacos, etc. I really like the idea of being able to customize the meal depending on what you’ve got in your pantry, and how you feel that day. These would be great for brunch, with a whole bunch of toppings laid out like a finxin’s bar so everyone can pick and choose. I should have a brunch party soon!

Huevos Rancheros
– Makes 4 –

4 small corn tortillas
4 eggs
1/2 cup shredded blended cheese
1/4 cup chunky salsa
1 Tbsp cooking oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1 chipotle in adobo, diced
1 serrano chile, sliced

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Meanwhile,  preheat oil in skillet. Add onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Add green pepper, serrano, and chipotle chile, cooking for an additional 5-10 minutes. Set aside.
3. Once oven is heated, place tortillas directly on the highest oven rack; warm for 3 minutes.
4. Using the same greased skillet, cook each egg over-easy, leaving on either side just until it begins to crisp.
5. Remove tortillas from oven, and spread salsa evenly between four tortillas. As each egg is cooked, add to each tortilla, top with onion and pepper mixture, and finish off with a sprinkle of cheese.
6. Once all tortillas have been topped, put back in the oven for 5 minutes.

Cooking creme and kitchen time

On Monday, I had grand plans of whipping up some huevos rancheros for Meatless Monday, but my plan was foiled when on top of my stressful day, I came home to a note from a professor telling me that my latest homework assignment was incorrect, and in order to get points, I should consider doing it over again. After a serious breakdown (the original assignment took me 4 hours!), I got crackin’ while the fiancé threw together some tortellini for us. I took a break for dinner, and then got back to the homework, finishing in about 2ish hours. So, hopefully I’ll get to try my hand at the recipe I had brewing next week.

I always hate when I miss a day in the kitchen, so I was happy to have time to make something on Tuesday night. After seeing quite a few commercials for the new Philadelphia Crème, and also receiving a $1 off coupon, I decided to pick some up. Of course, I gravitated towards the “Santa Fe” style, and thought it would make a great creamy and cheesey (and quick!) pasta dish. I’m always up for trying new things, and I think this cooking crème is a nice substitute for a healthier version of an alfredo. It comes in four different flavors, so it’s really versatile. The little tub even came with some recipe ideas attached, which was pretty neat!

I’m happy to report that since I started running last week, I’ve tackled 2, 3, and 4 miles! Even though it’s been extremely difficult to breathe (apparently my lungs forgot how to work under pressure), I’ve been able to keep it under 9 minute miles, without pushing myself. It’s nothing spectacular, but considering I really haven’t run since January, and throughout December only ran maybe 3-4 times, I can’t complain! The discomfort in my foot isn’t completely gone, but it goes away within a mile or so of starting the run, and isn’t a pain so much as it just feels “weird.” I’m hoping this means I can finish the race on April 17th (hey, I want that medal!), and then take a little time off before starting again to train for the big guy, the Philadelphia Marathon. Fingers crossed!

But back to the food… I highly recommend checking out the Philadelphia Crème if you’re looking for a quick dish that easily adds a lot of flavor. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty skeptical (and a little weirded out) of the idea at first, but I’m glad I decided to give it a try. It was quick and easy, which has been all I can afford to devote my time to the past few weeks. The semester is thankfully coming to a close in the next few weeks, so hopefully before the next one starts up (it’s never ending!) I’ll get to spend some more time in the kitchen. If only there were more hours in the day…

Baked Southwestern Pasta Skillet
-Serves 4-

2 cups pasta (I used elbow, you can use any kind you’d like)
3/4 cup black beans
3/4 cup corn
1 can diced tomatoes & jalapenos
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 Tbsp cooking oil
1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used a jack and cheddar combo), plus another 1/2 cup
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp Philadelphia Crème – Santa Fe style
1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2. Prepare pasta according to package
3. Meanwhile, heat oil in skillet, add onion, and cook for 5 minutes. Then, add black beans, tomatoes, and corn, cooking for an additional 5 minutes. Set aside.
4. Once pasta is fully cooked, combine in skillet with sauteed mixture, add Philadelphia Crème and 1/2 cup of cheese, making sure to combine evenly.
5. Transfer pasta to a greased baking dish, top with bread crumbs and bake for 10 minutes. Top with remaining cheese, and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

Meatless Monday: Black Bean and Broccoli Pasta

When I got home from work on Monday, I realized that my favorite part of the day during the week is when I pull into our development and swing around into my spot. It means I can get started in the kitchen, relax and enjoy some TV, workout, and also exercise my brain just a little more for the day with homework. I oftentimes wonder how I fit so much into so few hours, and day dream about what I could do if there were more hours in the day… or at least more hours spent not at work. Even though I’m all for three day weekends all the time, it doesn’t seem like corporate America agrees.

This recipe was inspired by one I found on The Nest. I’m one of those people that subscribes to, or at least puts my e-mail address wherever anyone asks. That results in a LOT of automatically deleted messages every day, but sometimes I find a gem. Enter this recipe, for Black Bean Orecchiette with Spicy Pork and Broccoli. I modified the recipe quite a bit (of course omitting the pork) and it was really good!

I’d like to say per the usual that it was quick and easy. For the most part, it was. But, I had some trouble opening the wine bottle. We don’t have the best openers, so I was left with this, until my fiancé came home to save the day:

The past few days have been about trying new things. On Sunday, I tried my hand at fish tacos. Then on Monday,  for this recipe, I got to cook with wine – another first! And aside from my little mishap in opening the wine bottle, it was easy and yummy, with enough leftovers for lunch the next day.

Black Bean & Broccoli Pasta inspired by this The Nest recipe
– Serves 4 –

8 oz. pasta (I used elbow, but you can use any kind)
2 medium broccoli crowns, separated into florets
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
1 Italian long pepper, diced
1/2 cup black beans
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup white wine
1 tsp red pepper flakes

1. Bring a pot of salt water to boil. Meanwhile, fill a medium bowl with cold water and a few ice cubes.
2. Once water is boiling, add broccoli for 1 minute to blanch. Then, using a slotted spoon, transfer broccoli to bowl of ice water to cool.
3. Keep the water from the broccoli, and add the pasta to it. Cook for 10 minutes until al dente. Drain and rinse, and set aside in a separate bowl.
4. Dry out the pot, and coat with oil. Once oil is heated, add garlic, onion, pepper, and black beans, and cook for 5 minutes. Then, add white wine, cooking for an additional 2 minutes.
5. Add broccoli and pasta into pot, sprinkle in red pepper flakes, and combine, making sure to heat through, about 5 minutes.

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Anoter Meatless Monday: Balsamic Roasted Veggies with Cous Cous

This particular recipe I saw on Cate’s World Kitchen, and knew it’d be a great beginning of fall dish. My fiancé and I are both big fans of balsamic vinegar, to the point where sometimes we use just that as our salad dressing. I wound up omitting the mushrooms because he isn’t a big fan, and instead of Japanese eggplant, I just used regular. Of course I threw some spices on it as well to warm it up a bit!

I’ve been spending more time in the kitchen the past week and a half thanks to my latest and greatest running injury. I somehow managed to out-do myself, and have had trouble walking since last Thursday (the 9th). While running in our Vibram Five Fingers, at about mile 5 I felt pain in my achilies and ankles, so I stopped. Walking helped a lot, and I didn’t feel too awful on the drive home. However, as soon as I got out of the car, I could barely walk – that 20 minute drive gave my muscles and tendons the perfect amount of time to tighten up, and swell. The next day I could barely walk; I shuffled myself through the office awkwardly. I’ve been icing it daily, and my canckles are slowly going down. I’m anxious to get back to running, but realize I need to wait until I have absolutely no pain when walking before doing so. I had a little breakdown on Saturday night from sheer frustration and discomfort, as I have a 5k race in just 3 weeks that I was hoping to PR at. I’m hoping to get in a mile or two today, as I’m slowly feeling better. But we’ll see.

But back to the food! The recipe was straightforward and easy; it was nice to chop up the veggies, coat them in the balsamic vinegar, throw them in the oven, and leave them for a bit to do homework. I always appreciate meals that don’t require constant attention. I decided to use a package of cous cous that my parents actually gave me over the weekend. I have no idea why they even have cous cous in the house, because my dad loathes it. Cous cous and ginger are on his hate list, which I think is so weird, because other than that, he loves pretty much everything. Oh, and he hates chocolate and mint combined, but so do I so I’m okay with it! It was a pine nut cous cous, which was a nice change of pace from our regular whole weat cous cous. I’d recommend getting some flavored cous cous every so often just to jazz it up.

Balsamic Vegetables with Cous Cous
(adapted from Veggie Belly)

Balsamic Dressing
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic minced
salt and pepper

Roasted Vegetables
1 medium Japanese eggplant, cut into 1″ cubes
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1″ cubes
1 small red onion, cut into wedges
3/4 cup cherry tomatoes
10 button mushrooms, halved

1 3/4 cups water
1 cup couscous
1/4 cup basil leaves, cut chiffonade

1. Preheat the oven to 475 F.
2. Whisk the dressing ingredients together.
3. Toss all the vegetables in a large bowl, and add half the dressing. Mix so that all the vegetables are coated, then spread onto a rimmed sheet pan and roast for 25-30 minutes, or until everything is tender.
4. While the vegetables are roasting, bring the water to a boil in a medium covered saucepan. When it boils, turn off the heat and stir in the couscous. Let stand, covered, for about ten minutes. Transfer the couscous to a large bowl and fluff with a fork.
5. Add the roasted vegetables, remaining dressing, and basil, and mix well before serving.

Curried rice: where the spice is nice

This week’s trend can simply be labeled, “fire in the hole,” fondly relating to the feeling my poor little mouth has had all week. Believe me, this isn’t a complaint, rather a way I wish I could spend (almost) every day!

Since we procured a pretty large bag of dried red chilies at the Asian market this past weekend, I figured I would put them to use with a curry dish I had found earlier last week. Plus, since I was planning to make it on Meatless Monday, it worked out perfectly. The recipe actually called for shrimp, but I left them out. After my last experience with shrimp, I didn’t really feel like dealing with them.

I’ve come to feel like I sautée onions and peppers on an almost daily basis. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an complaint but rather a mere observation. I could have sauteed onions and pepers on everything; pasta, pizza, rice, in burritos, mixed with eggs, you get the drift. So naturally when this recipe suggested carrots but also left wiggle room for replacement veggies, I immediately swapped the carrot for red bell pepper. Aside from that swap and the shrimp omission, I stayed true to the recipe, and it was delicious.

The smell of curry cooking is one of those smells that I think are aquired, and I love it. Throw in a little heat and mix it up with some brown rice and sauteed veggies and you’re good to go! I also really enjoyed the fresh basil leaves; it reminded me of some of my favorite Thai dishes, so of course adding a ton of dried red chilies was necessary.We were definitely feeling the burn, but in a good way; it wasn’t unbarable, kind of like the stuffed hot peppers were. I think I’ll need to lay off the heat next week to give my insides time to recover!

Curried Rice (with or without Shrimp)
Adapted from Real Simple

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 cup long-grain white rice
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 1/2 pounds peeled and deveined large shrimp
1/2 cup fresh basil

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 6 to 8 minutes.
2. Add the garlic and curry and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 2 minutes.
Add the rice, 2 ½ cups water, and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
3. Season the shrimp with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and nestle them in the partially cooked rice. Cover and cook until the shrimp are opaque throughout, 4 to 5 minutes. Fold in the basil.

Meatless Monday: Fajita Mac ‘n Cheese

As I’ve been trying to incorporate a more veggie friendly diet, I’ve found quite a few delicious and wallet friendly meals along the way. This past Monday, in honor of “Meatless Monday,” I whipped up Fajita Mac ‘n Cheese from Naturally Ella‘s blog. I actually found the recipe from a cart I was following on KartMe, and as soon as I saw the word fajita combined with macaroni and cheese, I knew it had to be good.

Quite a few months ago I made a Buffalo Chicken Mac ‘n Cheese which was absolutely amazing. The only thing was that it was pretty time consuming, so I haven’t made it since. Since this recipe was meatless and had quite a few less ingredients, I figured it would be an acceptable Monday night dinner, especially since we had the luxury of not running (hello rest day!).

The recipe calls for fresno peppers, but I grabbed two jalapenos instead. It also notes queso fresco, but I used just a regular Mexican blend of cheese, and that worked well. The only other modification I made was adding some spices while sautéing the onions and peppers. It didn’t call for anything, so I added my usual arsenal of spices; chili powder, chipotle flavored taco seasoning, and spicy adobo. I also didn’t sauté the jalapenos with the onions and peppers, to try and keep some of the heat. I’m finally getting the hang of making roux-like sauces, and this cheese sauce had a perfect consistency! Slicing up some fresh avocado added a nice extra creamy touch as well.

As usual there was enough for lunch for both my fiancé and I, and we definitely made our co-workers jealous with our yummy re-heats. I’ll take that over a Lean Cuisine or Smart Ones any day!

Fajita Mac ‘n Cheese
– Serves 4 –

1 medium onion
1 green pepper
2 fresno peppers (or any other hot pepper you like)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup cilantro
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups queso fresco
1 cup cheddar cheese
8 ounces pasta
1 avocado and cilantro for topping

1. Pre-heat oven to 375˚.
2. Prepare pasta according to box and drain In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook peppers and onions until they begin to soften. Stir in cilantro and cook for 1-2 more minutes. Set aside.
3. In a small sauce pan, melt butter over medium low heat (be careful not to walk away- you don’t want browned butter.) Whisk in flour and salt/pepper- create what looks like a paste. Finally, whisk in milk and turn the heat up to medium. Continue to whisk, making sure you get the edges of the pan, until the mixture begins to thicken. The sauce should look slightly creamy. Remove from heat and stir in the queso fresco.
4. Mix pasta and veggies together in a 9 x 11 baking dish(or feel free to use whatever baking dish you have around.) Stir in cheese sauce and sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes until cheese is bubbly. Remove from oven and top with avocado/cilantro.

Meatless Monday!

I had been reading about Meatless Mondays for awhile, and recently started following them on Twitter. Though I don’t necessarily do it every Monday, I do go meatless a few times a week. Yesterday I stuck true to the name, though, and had a meatless Monday by making a Tex-Mex summer squash casserole. It sounds kind of weird, but it was really good.

I actually found the recipe on, which I had joined right after graduation to ensure I didn’t blow up, post-college 15 style. The site is actually pretty decent to track calorie intake and what you burn, but it’s a lot of upkeep so I abandoned it. Before I did, though, I grabbed some user-posted recipes including what I made last night.

I’ve been leaning more and more towards vegetarian dishes, for a bunch of reasons. They’re healthy, flavorful, and really versatile. Plus, since I’m almost always just cooking for two, they last longer. It’s much easier to ensure that the veggies haven’t gone bad instead of meat. And I feel better about myself and my choices when I eat an all veggie meal. However, I still can’t pass up the occasional burger, salmon, and things like that. But like my fiancé says, when given the choice, I’ll choose veggies and tofu over meat. So I’ll stick to my claim of being a halfetarian!

The recipe is for 10 servings, but I cut everything in half, which required some serious math. Since it was our main dish, we each had two servings and had enough left over for lunch the next day. The jalapeño added really nice spice, and the chunky salsa added some more veggies which are always welcome. I would definitely make this again, as a main dish or even a side dish. After cutting all the veggies I just had to put it in the oven and wait… Nice and easy!

Tex-Mex Summer Squash Casserole
– Makes 10 Servings –

10 cups of summer squash, sliced
4 1/2 oz. green chilies, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup flour
4 scallions, sliced
2/3 cup yellow onion, chopped
4 1/2 oz jalapeños, chopped (about 2)
2 1/4 cups shredded Mexican/taco blend cheese
3/4 cup chunky salsa
1/4 cup red onion, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2. Coat 9 x 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray
3. Combine squash, yellow onion, chilies, jalapenos, salt and 3/4 cup of cheese in a large bowl. Sprinkle with flour, and toss to coat. Spread mixture into dish and cover with foil.
4.. Bake the casserole until bubbling and squash is tender, 35-45 minutes. Spoon salsa onto the casserole and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 cups of cheese.
5. Bake, uncovered, until golden and heated through about 20-30 minutes.
6. When ready to serve, sprinkle with scallions and red

Happy veggie nomzing!