Monday, November 23, 2009

Meatless Monday: Spinach Calzones with Blue Cheese

A couple of weeks ago, both my husband and I were really busy with work. With our limited time, I knew putting together dinners for the week was going to be a challenge. My solution was to find and print out a bunch of yummy sounding but simple recipes with limited ingredients lists. I did all the shopping at the beginning of the week. Then, each night when Matt called to say he was on his way home, I'd take a break from work and prep the ingredients for one of the recipes. When he got home, he'd take over doing whatever mixing, constructing, sauteing, etc. that was needed to finish the recipe and I'd go back to work. In this manner, we put together some tasty dishes that neither of us had to exert too much effort to make.

This next dish is one of the one's from that week's menu. It only calls for 7 ingredients, two of which (cooking spray and garlic) you'll likely already have in your pantry!

Spinach Calzones with Blue Cheese

When I think of calzone, I think of the traditional calzones I grew up eating in a very Italian suburb of Boston, the kind that look like large flat logs that you cut into slices to eat. The calzones we made with this recipe looked very different from those traditional ones, but I liked them because they were very pretty (see pic) and were sized for individual consumption.

We used gorgonzola (an Italian blue cheese) because we had it left over from two dishes we'd made the previous week. And we drizzled some fresh pizza sauce from a local Italian market on top. They were pretty good! When I make these again though, I will probably try a more traditional cheese like mozzarella or provolone and a bag of fresh pizza dough from the bakery. I thought blue cheese might be a little too strong a choice for a recipe like this, and, while the canned pizza dough is quick and convenient, real pizza dough has a better taste and texture.

Another option you might consider - make much smaller versions of these as hors d'oeuvres for your next gathering!

Got any favorite vegetarian or vegan recipes?? Please share!

Other Meatless Monday posts

Monday, November 9, 2009

Meatless Monday: Ginger Ale

I'm not very fond of ginger, but I love ginger ale. Weird, I know. Doesn't make much sense, but I guess I rarely make sense . . . .

At the sushi bar, I always leave the neat little pile of sliced ginger on the corner of my plate untouched, and I often leave out ginger when making Chinese dishes, but, for some unknown reason, I think ginger ale is just delicious. Maybe I've been subconsciously brainwashed by marketing campaigns, but I really do find ginger ale a very crisp and refreshing drink.

I don't have ginger ale all that often, but when I do, I've always been more than happy with a can of Schweppes or Canada Dry to sate my craving - that is until this past week when my husband made me ginger ale from scratch!

Simple Syrup
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 c water
Boil until dissolved. Let cool and refrigerate.

Ginger Liquid
  • 1/2 c grated fresh ginger
  • 1 c water
Boil 5 min. Let stand 40 min. Strain out ginger and retain liquid. Let cool and refrigerate.

You can store the simple syrup and ginger liquid separately or stir them together in one container, making 2 c of flavoring. If you mix them together, you can pour the flavored mixture about 2 fingers high in your glass. Then add ice and club soda and stir. Alternatively, you can adjust the ratio of ginger to sugar if you've kept them separate. Either way, bottoms up!

The nice thing about making ginger ale yourself using this recipe is that you can control the proportions of the ingredients per glass. For instance, my husband likes his ginger ale a little less sweet than I do, so he uses a little less simple syrup in his glass.

Another cool thing about ginger ale? Its salutary digestive effects. I know I'm not the only one who was given a glass of flat ginger ale when I was a kid with an upset stomach, right? To this day, when my stomach isn't reacting well to food but I'm still hungry, I immediately reach for ginger ale and saltines. Nothing more reliable or comforting.

I also have great memories of drinking Shirley Temples (which are non-alcoholic drinks made with ginger ale, grenadine, and maraschino cherries) at my grandparent's 50th wedding anniversary as a child. My cousins and I felt like "big kids" because we got to order drinks at the bar.

And, of course, ginger ale is a caffeine-free drink, which is great for me because my system is super sensitive to caffeine. If I have 1/2 a can of Diet Coke early in the day, I won't sleep that night, and I run the risk of getting addicted. And let me tell you, the migraines I get associated with caffeine withdrawal are UG-LY.

So, ginger ale - a nice go-to drink for all kinds of reasons. And now you can make some at home!

Got any favorite vegetarian or vegan recipes?? Please share!

Other Meatless Monday posts

Monday, November 2, 2009

Meatless Monday: Pasta with Mushrooms & Pumpkin-Gorgonzola Sauce

Back when I was reading Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma (see an earlier post), I came across this sentence in the "Gathering: The Fungi" chapter:

"Mexicans call mushrooms carne de los muertos - 'flesh of the dead.'"
"Greeeaat. Thanks, Mike," I thought. "Way to ruin one of my favorite foods for me." But, turns out, give me enough time and, like a proverbial goldfish*, I forget all about the 'flesh of the dead' and return to shoveling forkfuls of mushrooms into my mouth at every opportunity. (Yay for bad memory!)

I was reminded of the whole 'mushroom/rotting flesh' thing today because it is the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead (or El Día de los Muertos), during which Mexicans celebrate and honor their deceased relatives and friends. I thought, what better way to celebrate than with a mushroom dish? And, since we're fresh off of Halloween and it's in season, why not a recipe with pumpkin in it too?

Pasta with Mushrooms & Pumpkin-Gorgonzola Sauce

I don't have much to add to the recipe instructions other than to say that:
  • Shitake mushrooms taste great and really complement the gorgonzola, but definitely feel free to substitute the mushroom of your choice;
  • Freshly ground nutmeg will taste so much better than jarred pre-ground nutmeg;
  • Use however much onion suits your taste; personally, I think 4 cups is overkill;
  • However, I don't think 4 cloves of garlic is overkill - again, depends on your taste; and
  • Remember to only use about 1/3 of what the recipe calls for if you're going to use dry, jarred sage; again, as with the nutmeg, fresh is better.
The cool thing about this recipe? If you've got leftover gorgonzola cheese, pumpkin, and sage (and you will if you get the usual package sizes), later in the week, you can always make the following recipe, which is also great.

Pumpkin Ravioli with Gorgonzola Sauce

This isn't as good as ravioli made from real, homemade pasta, but, on the plus side, it's also not as difficult or time-consuming to make and it should sate your craving for ravioli.

Got any favorite vegetarian or vegan recipes?? Please share!

Other Meatless Monday posts

*I say 'proverbial' because goldfish memory actually isn't as bad as the common saying would suggest.