Balsamic Roasted Portobello Mushrooms & Red Peppers with Feta and Avocado

Balsamic Roasted Portobello Mushrooms

I like to think of Portobello mushrooms as the steak of the vegetarian world. These mushrooms are thick with a meaty texture and, unlike other mushrooms, they can stand on their own as a complete meal. Or, you can serve them as a hearty side dish or slice them up in a serious salad.

Portobellos can seem a bit intimidating because you clean them differently than other vegetables. This is how I prepare them:

  1. Remove the stem by simply pulling it out with one hand while gently gripping the cap with the other hand.
  2. Scrape out the gills on the underside of the mushroom with a spoon. The gills are safe to eat, but tend to have a slimier flavor and lead to ‘dirtier’ looking dishes.
  3. Use a damp paper towel to wipe down the entire mushroom.

There are some great YouTube videos showing the step-by-step process, too. It only takes a few minutes, I promise!

Why you should eat mushrooms: The benefits

  1. A Portobello mushroom has about as much potassium as a banana.
  2. They’re chock-full of antioxidants – and don’t lose their cancer-fighting power when cooked, so you can enjoy them however you like them!
  3. They also don’t lose their minerals and nutrients when cooked – which include niacin, selenium and copper.
  4. They’re delicious.

Balsamic Roasted Portobello Mushrooms & Red Peppers with Feta and Avocado

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Ingredients:

4 Portobello mushrooms, cleaned and gutted as described above

1 red pepper, cut length-ways into four large slices

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/8 cup balsamic vinegar

1 tsp chopped garlic

1/4 tsp rosemary

1/4 tsp thyme

Crumbled Feta cheese

1/2 avocado, sliced, to garnish

Directions:

  1. Marinate the mushrooms and peppers in the olive oil, balsamic, garlic, rosemary and thyme for  at least one hour (but no more than six or the mushrooms will break down).
  2. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
  3. Place mushrooms and peppers on an oven-proof pan and cook for about 20 minutes. You will notice that the mushrooms bleed out much of their moisture – this is normal.
  4. Sprinkle feta cheese on each mushroom – I like to put the cheese on the underside of the mushroom to make use of the natural cup shape.
  5. Once cheese is melted, serve. Place one piece of pepper on the bottom, followed by a Portobello and garnished with avocado slices.
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Carrot Soup with Ginger, Cumin and Thyme

Hurricane Sandy swept through New Jersey this week  – which meant it was time to use up anything perishable in the refrigerator while we still had power. I had almost two pounds of carrots in my fridge, because every time I go to the supermarket I convince myself that carrots could become my favorite afternoon snack… which it never does. This soup, on the other hand, is much more appealing – the ginger, cumin and thyme add a depth in flavor that makes boring old carrots more exciting. And it’s a warm, hearty soup for a cold, rainy day. Stay safe, everyone!

Carrot Soup

Ingredients:


1 3/4 pounds carrots, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
6 cups vegetable stock or broth
1/4 cup half-and-half
1 small sweet onion, chopped into small pieces
2 gloves of garlic, minced
1/8 tsp ginger powder
1/8 tsp thyme
1/8 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to broil.
2. Place carrots and half the olive oil in pan, mix, and place in the oven. Broil for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.
3. While the carrots are cooking, bring the broth to boil. Add the ginger, thyme and cumin and simmer.
4. While the broth is heating up, brown the onions in the remaining olive oil. Add the garlic and brown.
5. When the carrots are ready, combine the carrots, onion and garlic and broth mixture.
6. Use an immersion blender to combine the mixture until smooth.

Garlic Almond Pesto

I’m not a big fan of condiments like ketchup or mustard, but I love sauces – particularly pesto, which you can use on sandwiches, pastas, roasted potatoes, with fresh mozzarella and tomato salad, even on scrambled eggs. I decided to whip up a batch of my own, but didn’t want to splurge on expensive pine nuts. This recipe uses almonds instead, and doesn’t taste very different from the pine nut version. This is a smooth, garlicky pesto sauce adapted from this version posted by the Food Network.

Garlic Almond Pesto

Garlic Almond Pesto

Ingredients:
1/2 cup almonds
8 cloves of garlic
5 cups fresh basil leaves, washed and thoroughly dried
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Directions:
1. Mince garlic cloves in food processor. Sautee in 1/2 tsp olive oil until browned.
2. Put the almonds and garlic into the foot processor and blend until chopped (20 seconds).
3. Add the basil, salt and pepper and chop for 15 more seconds.
4. Pour in the olive oil slowly until the sauce reaches your desired consistency. (You may not need all of the olive oil.)
5. Add the Parmesan and blend for 60 seconds.

You can use it right away, or store it in an airtight container with a layer of olive oil on top.

Southwestern Quinoa – Vegetarian and Gluten-free

I love, love Mexican food. Beans? Good. Peppers? Yum. Avocados? Pile ’em on! Rice? …Eh… can kinda take it or leave it. Today I decided to leave it behind by substituting quinoa for the rice in the typical burrito bowl. Deliciosa! 

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Southwestern Quinoa
Makes 4 servings 

1 cup pre-rinsed quinoa
2 cups vegetable broth
2 red peppers, washed and chopped into bite-size pieces
2 small onions, washed and chopped into bite-size pieces
2 ripe avocados, sliced into bite-size pieces
1 can of black beans, mostly drained (leave a small amount of liquid for flavor)
1 tbsp. olive oil  
Optional: salsa, shredded cheese, sour cream, cayenne, chili powder.

 

  1. Combine quinoa and vegetable broth in saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed.
  2. While quinoa cooks, heat the olive oil for 1-2 minutes in large frying pan. 
  3. Add peppers and onions to frying pan. Stir consistently, and cook until the vegetables reach your desired consistency and begin to brown.  
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  4. Add beans to quinoa and mix; cook for 1-2 minutes until heated through. (If you like a bit of heat to your food, add some cayenne or chili powder at this point.)
  5. Combine vegetables, quinoa & beans and avocado pieces.
  6. Top with desired garnishes – I definitely recommend the cheese! 

Cilantro Cumin Potato Salad

It’s not very often that I am inspired by a meal I have during a meeting at work, but today was an exception. An outside caterer brought us a salad in a cilantro cumin dressing, and it was such a great combination that I had to make my own version. Here is a southwestern spin on the classic potato salad, made with Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise to save some calories and add protein.

Cilantro Cumin Potato Salad

Cilantro Cumin Potato Salad

2 sweet potatoes, cubed
6 red potatoes, cubed
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 avocados, cubed
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved long ways (I also squeezed the juices out)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

Dressing Ingredients
1 5.3 ounce container of Greek yogurt
2 tbsp half and half cream
1/4 tsp cumin
5 tbsps fresh cilantro, minced
1 tsp minced garlic (you may want more, but start with this)
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp white vinegar
juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper to taste

Cilantro Cumin Lime Potato Salad

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Put the red potatoes and sweet potatoes in a roasting pan. Cover with the olive oil. Roast for 25-30 minutes, until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork and slightly brown on the edges.
  3. While the potatoes are roasting, make the dressing by combining all dressing ingredients and whisking until smooth.
  4. When potatoes are done, combine all ingredients, cover with dressing, and mix until evenly distributed.
  5. Serve at room temperature and enjoy!

Creamy Quinoa Primavera

Quinoa is my latest obsession – it’s a delicious grain-like seed with a slightly nutty flavor and satisfying, crunchy texture. It’s also ideal for vegetarians since quinoa is high in protein compared to other grains.

Quinoa can be used to make an assortment of salads and dishes, but tonight I was craving something creamy and hearty. This recipe cooks the quinoa in vegetable broth instead of water, which adds creaminess without adding many calories or any fat. The cream cheese and parmesan together make this a satisfying quinoa alternative to fettucine alfredo.

Buon appetito!

Creamy Quinoa Primavera
Makes 3-4 servings

Ingredients:
1 cup pre-washed quinoa (if it’s not pre-washed, rinse it before use)
2 cups vegetable broth
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
3 caprese tomatoes (seeded)
half head of broccoli
1 tsp. minced garlic
3 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup shaved or grated parmesan cheese

Instructions
1: Clean vegetables and chop into bite-size pieces.

2a: Combine quinoa and vegetable broth in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 12 minutes, or until nearly all of the liquid has been absorbed. Stir periodically.

2b: While the quinoa is cooking, heat olive oil in medium frying pan.

3: When oil is hot, add garlic, broccoli and peppers. Cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender (about 10 minutes). The vegetables will be a more vibrant color than when you first added them, and the garlic will be fragrant.

4: Add tomatoes to vegetable combo. Cook another 4 minutes.

5: When quinoa is done, add cream cheese and parmesan. Melt using a low flame and stirring constantly, until your quinoa looks like this:

6: Now, combine quinoa and vegetable mixtures.

7: Serve and enjoy!

**Adding some extra parmesan on top can only make it more delicious**