Summer Veggie Mac and Cheese

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I know it’s not quite the season yet but I couldn’t pass up the zucchini and corn in the grocery store this week. Zucchini is probably my all time favorite vegetable, actually they might tie with tomatoes I’m not sure I can pick one over the other. Anyway, I had this idea of roasting all these vegetables together and adding them to a mac and cheese. You know me, I love a good mac and cheese so why not add some vegetables to it??

After roasting the vegetables they looked and smelled so good I was tempted to skip the rest and just eat them right out of the dish. I continued with the plan though and I’m glad I did. I debated over which cheese to use and ended up deciding on a cheddar and gruyere mix. The sweetness of the corn really makes this dish.  Now I have a feeling I’ll be making similar mac and cheese dishes for every season.

And of course I’m bringing this dish to Fiesta Friday! I had a great time co-hosting last week’s Fiesta Friday with Angie, Jhuls and Selma. I can’t wait to see what everyone else brings today!

Summer Veggie Mac and Cheese
2 ears of corn
2 zucchini
1 red bell pepper
1 onion
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 box medium shells pasta
3 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons flour
2 cups of milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded gruyere cheese
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Carefully cut the sides of the corn to remove the kernels and place them in a bowl. Cut the zucchini, pepper and onion into bite sized pieces and add them to the bowl with the corn. Toss the vegetables with the olive oil, salt, paprika and pepper. Pour the vegetable mixture into a large baking dish and bake for 35-40 minutes until the vegetables have softened.

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2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta into a strainer.

3. Add the butter to the pot on low heat. Once the butter has melted add the flour and whisk until combined. Next add the milk. When the milk begins to warm up, turn up the heat slightly, to about medium. Then add the cheeses and stir constantly until the cheese melts and you have a thick sauce.

4. When the vegetables are done take them out and add the cooked pasta to baking dish. Then add the cheese sauce on top. Combine the sauce with the pasta and vegetables until everything is combined. Add the breadcrumbs on top.

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5. Turn the oven down to 350 and bake the mac n cheese for about 25 minutes, until the top has browned. Enjoy!

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Fiesta Friday #17 and Quinoa Burgers

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Happy Friday everyone! I’m super excited to be co-hosting Fiesta Friday today along with Selma and Jhuls and of course the lovely Angie! I hope many of you have a long weekend coming up and can kick it off with today’s Fiesta! For anyone who doesn’t know or who hasn’t joined yet Fiesta Friday is a weekly blog party. Please join us, it’s tons of fun to see what everyone is making and bringing to the party! You can check out all the details here. I hope you join us!

Today I’m bringing quinoa burgers to the party. Yes, I’ll be that person that’s bringing the healthy dish, but I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy it! I really like these burgers because you can change them up however you like. Add different vegetables or spices to either use up what you have in the fridge or put your own spin on them!

You can of course eat these with a bun like a regular burger, but I prefer them with just lettuce, tomato and a little chipotle ketchup. Add a side of sweet potato fries and you’ll feel like you’re eating at your favorite burger joint!

Quinoa Burgers
Yield: 10 Burgers
3 cups water
1 1/2 quinoa
3 carrots
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

1. Preheat oven to 350. Add the water and the quinoa to a pot and bring to a boil. Once it begins to boil lower to a simmer and continue to cook until all the liquid has evaporated. Add the cooked quinoa to a bowl and let it cool off a bit.

2. Chop the carrots and parsley in a food process, or by hand if you don’t have one. Add the carrots, parsley and chopped green onions to the bowl with the quinoa.

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3. Add the eggs and spices to the bowl with the quinoa and combine them all together.

4. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper. Form the mixture into 10 good sized burgers and place them on the baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, until the top starts to brown. Enjoy!

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Roasted Red Peppers

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Sometimes I’m really amazed at how the simplest of ingredients can make the best tasting dishes. These peppers are a true example of that. This past Christmas, my mom gave me Stanley Tucci’s cookbook. His recipe for roasted red peppers immediately caught my eye. They looked so soft and delicious, I knew I had to make them. I’m actually surprised it took me this long to try them.

Once these peppers got cooking, I was immediately disappointed that I only had five peppers to roast and kicking myself for not buying more. These peppers will fill your kitchen up with the most wonderful smell, I can’t even explain it you just have to try them! These are great on their own, with some bread and cheese or as an accompaniment to many other dishes.

Roasted Red Peppers Recipe adapted from The Tucci Cookbook
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1 tablespoon olive oil
salt
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1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 400. Place the whole peppers on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Roast them for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, turning them slightly every 15 minutes to make sure they roast evenly.

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2. Remove the peppers and let them cool for about 30 minutes. Once they’ve cooled, carefully peel off the skins. Tear the peppers into strips, removing any seeds and place them in a bowl, trying not to get any excess liquid in the bowl.

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3. Toss the peppers with the olive oil, salt, pepper and parsley. Enjoy!

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Breakfast Bites

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I have to admit, these aren’t the prettiest little things but they came about out of necessity. I usually start my mornings with a large coffee and a yogurt. Unfortunately, the past couple months I haven’t been feeling great after eating my morning yogurt. I’m not sure if I’ve developed some type of lactose intolerance (is that possible?) or what, but I’ve decided I need to switch out my yogurt for something else at least a few days a week.

While trying to figure out what else would be a good morning snack, I rummaged my cupboards for healthy ingredients. I also knew I would need a little bit of sweetness in this to make it just as appealing as my delicious creamy yogurts, hence the chocolate chips. These little breakfast bites only take a few minutes to make and you can add whatever you like into them. If you don’t have wheatgerm, feel free to leave that out. Add some dried fruit or try another kind of nut if you want.

Breakfast Bites
1/2 cup almonds
2 teaspoons water
1/4 cup oats
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 teaspoons wheat germ
2 Tablespoons chocolate chips
2 Tablespoons honey
pinch of cinnamon

1. Place the almonds in a food processor and pulse them a couple times, then add the water and continue pulsing them until you get a sticky mixture. It should be a little soft but still have tiny bits of almonds in it.

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2.  Add the almond mixture and the rest of the ingredients to a small bowl and mix to combine.

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3. Roll the mixture into bite-sized balls and store in the fridge until you’re ready to eat them, enjoy!

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Sweet and Spicy Beets

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I feel like beets are a vegetable that don’t get the attention they deserve. I only recently started cooking with whole beets and they are delicious! Not only do they taste great, but their color is so beautiful, they can make a really pretty side dish.  Also, besides their great looks and taste, they’re very good for you.

Beets can be prepared very simply. This recipe highlights their sweetness while adding just a little kick from the chili herb vinegar. The vinegar I used here was one I received in my oh so great farm basket a few weeks ago. If you don’t happen to have chili herb vinegar in your kitchen (which I’m assuming most people don’t) you can get a similar effect by adding just a little bit of siracha or any hot sauce to apple cider vinegar – basically you just want some tang and some spice. These are great on their own as a side dish, or as a topping for a salad or flat bread.

Note: This recipe only makes enough for 2 people (or 1 very hungry person!) so you’ll want to double or triple if you’ve got a crowd.

Sweet and Spicy Beets
3-4 whole beets
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon chili herb vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Wash your beets and peel them using a potato peeler. Then cut each one into 1 inch sized chunks – I find it’s easiest to cut the beet in half, then cut each half into small pieces.

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3. In a small bowl add your olive oil, brown sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper and whisk to combine.

4. Toss your beets in the mixture and pour the entire bowl evenly over a baking sheet.

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5. Bake at 400 for about 40-45 minutes, until you can easily stick a fork in the beets, enjoy!

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Tabbouleh

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I love making dishes that I can make a big batch of and bring to lunch every day for a week. This helps prevent me from going out and buying lunch. It also gives me a lunch I can look forward to – not just some sad sandwich that I don’t really want to eat. Tabbouleh is an excellent example of this, this recipe makes enough for nearly a week’s worth of lunches and paired with a nice warm pita it’s a lunch you’re sure to look forward to!

If you haven’t used bulgur before it’s a type of wheat that’s common in Middle Eastern cooking. You can find it in most grocery stores near the rice or the international aisle. Unlike other grains, you cook it by pouring boiling water over the wheat and letting it sit and absorb.photo(33)

This recipe is very light and fresh while still being filling. I definitely suggest making some pitas to go with it. This King Arthur recipe works every time! You can also substitute some of the flour for whole wheat if you like.

Tabbouleh
1 cup bulgur wheat
2 cups boiling water
1 pint cherry tomatoes, each cut into quarters
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup dried mint
6 green onions, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped (optional)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1. Place your bulgur in a heatproof bowl, boil your water and add the boiling water to the bowl with the bulgur. Cover the bowl with aluminum foil and let it sit for about 30 minutes, until the water has evaporated and the bulgur is softened. Fluff the bulgur lightly with a fork.

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2. While waiting for your bulgur, chop your tomatoes, parsley, cucumber and onions and add them to a separate bowl. Next add the mint. Once the bulgur has cooled, add the chopped vegetables and mint to it and stir to combine.

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3. Finally, make the dressing. Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Pour the dressing over the bulgur mixture and stir it thoroughly to combine.

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4. Chill for at least an hour before serving, enjoy!

Roasted Stuffed Tomatoes

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These roasted tomatoes are a very quick and easy appetizer or snack. They’re the perfect combination of the soft roasted tomato, slightly crunchy baked breadcrumbs and melted mozzarella – you pretty much can’t go wrong!

These were also a great way for me to incorporate an awesome lemon bergamot balsamic vinegar I bought and can not get enough of. My mom and I discovered an olive oil and balsamic tasting room in Alexandria, VA that any foodie in the DC area should check out! Olio has tons of different oils and vinegars for you to try out – flavors I never would have even thought of. I ended up purchasing the lemon bergamot because it has a nice citrus note to it. I’ve been looking for more and more ways to incorporate this balsamic into my dishes (so let me know if you have any suggestions)!

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Roasted Stuffed Tomatoes
6 Roma tomatoes
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small red onion finely chopped
1/4 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut each tomato in half lengthwise and scoop out the center. Place the hallowed out halves on a paper towel to draw out some of their moisture.

2. While the tomatoes are drying prepare the filling by combining the remaining ingredients in a small bowl.

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3. Place your tomato halves on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Carefully spoon the filling into each tomato.

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4. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the filling starts to look crisp and golden, enjoy!

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Quick Broccoli and Feta Pasta

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I feel like I’m always coming up with quick pasta dinner ideas for weeknight meals.  The process usually involves rummaging through the fridge to see what vegetables I need to use up and then deciding what shape of pasta and which cheese to pair with them.  These quick pastas are perfect for days when I get home from work and I’m too tired and hungry to start cooking anything too involved.

I actually came up with this broccoli and feta combo in college, probably because they were the only two things in the fridge at the time.  However it began, it has definitely become one of my favorites.  You might think feta is an odd choice for this dish but it’s creaminess actually works really well.

Broccoli and Feta Pasta
3-4 Tablespoons of olive oil
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 head of broccoli
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
3/4 lb of pasta (I used spaghetti but I also love this with farfalle)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1. Chop the head of broccoli into florets.

2. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to pan on medium-low heat and add the garlic, after about 1 minute add the broccoli and season with salt and pepper.

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3. Let your broccoli cook until it’s tender, about 6-8 minutes, lower the heat if it seems too hot. While your broccoli is cooking, boil a pot of salted water for your pasta.

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4. Once your water is boiling add your pasta and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta.

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5. Turn off the heat on the broccoli and add your pasta, toss to combine. Then add the cheese and toss again. Top it with a bit more salt and pepper and another 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil if needed. Enjoy!

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Tomato Soup

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While I absolutely love over indulging myself during the holidays, there always comes a point where I hit a wall and need to stop constantly eating heavy foods and sweets. I was lucky to enjoy a full week home with my family this year and along with that comes lots and lots of great homemade food. On our first night back in DC I decided to make a simple and light tomato soup to help us adjust. There are few meals that have the simple deliciousness of a good tomato soup. With some great crusty bread or a nice grilled cheese sandwich, this is definitely the perfect winter meal.

Tomato Soup
1 can crushed tomatoes
16 oz vegetable stock
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1/3 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
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1/2 cup grated mozzarella and a slice of good bread for garnish (optional)

1. Add the olive oil and chopped garlic to a saucepan on medium-low heat. Let the garlic cook for just about 2 minutes.

2. Add the crushed tomatoes, basil, parsley, oregano and pepper to the saucepan and stir. Let these all cook together for about 30 minutes, stirring every few minutes.

3. After cooking the tomatoes and spices for about 30 minutes add the vegetable stock and continue to cook until the soup begins to get bubbly.

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4. About 10 minutes after adding the stock add your heavy cream and cook for another 5 minutes. Garnish with cheese and crusty bread, enjoy!

Arancini

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These arancini have quickly become a holiday favorite with my family. While we don’t do the full blown out Italian seven fishes dinner, we do avoid meat on Christmas Eve and make at least a couple of fish dishes. My mom introduced these rice balls to our vegetarian Christmas Eve menu a few years ago and they were an instant success.

This year I took on the arancini duty and am happy to have this recipe under my belt now.  While I usually shy away from things that need to be fried, these are totally worth the effort (and I usually make my husband do the frying part for me)!

Arancini
2 cups uncooked rice
1 container of small fresh mozzarella balls, cut in half
2 cups breadcrumbs
6 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
vegetable oil for frying

Note: I’ve found that it’s easier to make this recipe in thirds (as described below) to get the right texture for your rice mixture.

1. Cook the rice according to the instructions on the package and let it cool completely once cooked.

2. Place 1/2 cup of the breadcrumbs in a small bowl.

3. When the rice has cooled, add 1/3 of the cooked rice, 1/2 cup of breadcrumb, 2 lightly beaten eggs, 1/3 cup of grated cheese and 1/3 of the chopped basil in a bowl and stir to combine. The mixture should be just a little sticky, so you can easily roll it into a ball. If it’s too sticky, add a bit more rice.

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4. Take a small amount of the rice mixture and form it into a ball. Make a small indent in the middle of the ball and place half of one of the small mozzarella balls in it, cover it with a bit more of the rice mixture and roll into a ball.

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5. Roll each ball in the bowl of breadcrumbs and then set aside.

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6. Continue the same process until all of your rice is used up.

7. Heat about 3 inches of vegetable oil in saucepan on medium heat to 350 degrees. When the oil has reached 350 degrees carefully fry the arancini in small batches for about 4 minutes each, until brown.

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8. Place each arancini on a paper towel to drain and serve warm. These pair great with some marinara sauce, enjoy!

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