Alley's Recipe Book
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Veggie Stir Fry - total time 25 minutes

A stir fry is a great way to get a lot of veggies (and a lot of variety) into one meal really quick.  And you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand really.  I always have garlic and onions in my pantry (well, sitting in a basket on my counter) and always have a bag of carrots for snacking, juicing, and cooking (I love carrots!  Eating a lot of them will give you skin a healthy glow and keep your eyes in tip top shape.).  I noticed at the grocery store that snow peas were starting to come in season, which always makes me think of stir frying.  So I gathered up my veggies, heated up my wok, and started chopping.

2 tbsp sesame oil, divided
3 tbsp soy sauce, divided
1 cup soba noodles or brown rice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion
variety of chopped veggies

1.  Cook soba noodles or rice according to package instructions.  While your grain is cooking, heat up 1 tbsp of sesame oil in wok or large pan.  Saute garlic for 1 minute.  Add vegetables and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and cook any where from five to 15 minutes until desired tenderness (I cooked for 12 minutes).
2.  Add remaining soy sauce and sesame oil to noodles/rice to flavor.  You can either serve your veggies on top of a bed of noodles/rice or add the grains to the wok to get everything combined.

Buckeye Bark - total time 45 minutes

So every year for Christmas I make buckeye candy, among other treats and cookies of course.  Buckeyes are pretty labor intensive for something you don't have to bake or cook.  Rolling the balls, refrigerating  making sure the 'eye' is just right, not having too much chocolate that it pools while cooling... it's enough to make you give up before starting!  And then... I saw this idea on Pinterest!  So I took my buckeye recipe and made it into bark... easy, poppable, and just as delicious!

2 cups dark chocolate, melted
1 cup peanut butter
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar

1.  Melt chocolate in double boiler or microwave.  Spread thin layer of chocolate on parchment paper and put in freezer for 3 minutes to set chocolate.
2.  While the chocolate is in the freezer, combine the peanut butter, melted butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar to make the peanut butter 'dough'.  Spread peanut butter over the frozen chocolate and place back in freezer for 2 minutes.
3.  Pour remaining chocolate over top of the peanut butter and spread evenly.  Place tray back in freezer for 20 minutes.  
4.  Cut bark into one to two inch chunks.  Bark is best kept cold to prevent the peanut butter from oozing out of the chocolate.. but peanut butter and chocolate is good no matter the temperature.

Weekly Menu

One of the things about limiting how much processed foods you buy is that it goes bad quickly.  It really makes you think about all the chemicals and preservatives that are in our 'normal' food.  How can something stay in our pantries for a year and still be safe to eat?  Eating unprocessed foods only increases the importance of menu planning because you can't just buy ingredients you might use since it won't last long.  Sometimes I forget how quickly fresh food can go bad... I bought some freshly baked french bread for grilled cheese sandwiches and the bread was stale and moldy within a few days.  You could probably have a loaf of Wonder bread sitting on your counter for weeks.  Any way, I had to swap out the grilled cheese sandwiches for cheesy avocado toasts from last week's menu...

Here is this week's menu...

Spinach Enchiladas
lasagna bites with salad
taco pie with spanish quinoa
asparagus soup with poached egg
peanut chickpea soup
grilled cheese and tomato parm soup (since I didn't get to it last week)

Blackberry and Nutella Pancakes - total time 20 minutes

What is better than a stack of pancakes on Saturday morning?  A stack of pancakes with sweet blackberries  and melty Nutella, that's what!  Last spring we got so many blackberries from our CSA share that I had to freeze some.  I kind of forgot that they were in the freezer (they were under a pile of frozen peaches, also from our CSA).  Memories of late spring came flooding back as I scarffed the stack down while looking out at our snow covered back yard.  Our spring flowers are starting to pop up, so it can't be too much longer...

BTW, I love this pancake mix!  It is called Kodiak Cakes and I found it at Target of all places.  I love Target's grocery section... it is so small you would think it was only convenience foods that you could get at any normal grocery, but they really do have a variety of stuff I have never seen before.  Like individual packs of tomato sauce and peanut butter (great for hiking!), freeze dried fruits of all kind (I might make my own cereal mix), and these Kodiak Cake pancake mixes.  The pancakes are whole grain (but don't taste like it) and all you need to do is add water.  Of course you can get fancy and add things like blackberries and lemon juice, but all you really need is water!

1.5 cups Kodiak Cake pancake mix
.5 cup water
.75 cup blackberries, halved
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp Nutella
1 tbsp butter

1.  Combine pancake mix and water.  Add blackberries and lemon juice.  Cook pancake batter in butter over medium heat.  Flip after about 3 minutes or until golden.
2,  Spread a half tablespoon of Nutella on top of each warm pancake and stack.  

Cheesecake Stuffed Churros - total time 20 minutes

Cheesecake Stuffed Churros

I don't know what rock I have been living under for so long... but I had never heard of churros until last year.  I love cinnamon sugar, how could I have never heard of these delicious treats?!  And there is a super easy way to make them, well, something very similar.  Add some cheesecake filling and you're in heaven.

1 cup cream cheese
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 pkg puff pastry
.5 cup sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
3 tbsp butter, melted

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Combine cream cheese, egg, and vanilla and beat together.  Roll out pastry dough and cut each sheet into 6 sections. 
2.  Scoop a little over a tablespoon of cheesecake mixture on top of the pastry.  Fold pastry and press closed with a fork.  Bake for 10 minutes.  While baking, combine sugar and cinnamon.
3.  Brush pastry with melted butter and coat with cinnamon sugar mixture.

Cheesecake Stuffed Churros

Cheesecake Stuffed Churros Cheesecake Stuffed Churros

Cheesecake Stuffed Churros

Cheesecake Stuffed Churros Cheesecake Stuffed Churros

Vegetarian Hot Pockets - total time 30 minutes

Eggs are not just for breakfast and baking.  They are a great source of protein in a vegetarian diet.  Quiches, souffles, stratas, frittatas, or poached on a sandwich or in soup are all great ways to incorporate eggs into meals after noon.  Some day I want to have a few chickens and we could have eggs every day... 

Any way, this recipe is kind of like a Hot Pocket... well, only in that it is hot and a pocket of food.  Quality and taste are way better than any Hot Pocket.  But you get the point.  The puff pastry is buttery, flaky, and tender.  The filling tastes fresh and a little spicy.  Really you could put pretty much anything inside these pockets, like ham and cheese or broccoli and cheese or something else and cheese (guess I really want a cheesy pocket).  As long as it is fresh ingredients, it will be good!

1 pkg puff pastry, thawed
5 eggs, divided
4 oz. cheese
1 avocado
.5 cup salsa
salt and pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Scramble four eggs with salt and pepper.  Roll out puff pastry and cut into six sections.  Lay puff pastry on parchment paper lined baking sheet.
2.  Layer eggs, cheese, smashed avocado, salsa, and chives on half of the dough.  Fold dough over top of the filling.  Press edge close with fork.
3.  With remaining egg, brush a thin layer of egg over each dough pocket.  Bake for 18 minutes or until crust turns golden and flaky.  

Weekly Menu

Last week we kicked off the 40 Day Vegetarian Challenge with mostly some tried and true recipes with Tortellini Soup and Baked Ravioli as well as a new recipe that I will post this week.  We went out to eat for Valentine's Day where I had Tofu Lettuce Wraps and Seaweed Salad which were both delicious and I will try an replicate after the 40 day challenge (since I would be repeating a meal).

This week's menu includes several 30 minute meals because some of the "from scratch" stuff is already made.  This helps get dinner on the table faster after a long day at work, which help prevent drive thru meals (pink slime and grease, no thanks!).

Veggie Burgers with Stuffed Potatoes (black and bleu burger for him)
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Tomato Parm Soup
Broccoli Avocado Pasta
Pesto Stuffed Shells for me and Pesto Shrimp Bowties for him
Baked Potato Soup
Purple Baked Gnocchi

And for a protein snack a couple times this week will be Avocado Hummus.

Peppermint Patty Brownies - total time 1 hour

Happy Valentine's Day!  I hope everyone had a great day celebrating with the loved ones in your life.  We don't really do a lot for V-day, but I did want to acknowledge the holiday with a little chocolate!  

Confession, I have never made brownies from scratch.  I have always bought the box mix, added the eggs and oil, and that was pretty much it.  So when I was looking through different brownie recipes to come up with this one I was surprised at how different the process was from making cake.  I figured it would be pretty similar since a brownie seems like a dense cake.  It is not that it is necessarily hard or time consuming, just different than expected.  

Any way, I love peppermint patties, and chocolate and mint go together almost as well as chocolate and peanut butter.  So I topped these fudgy brownies with a peppermint filling and a layer of dark chocolate for a brownie oh so decadent!  I colored the mint filling pink and used some heart sprinkles since it is Valentine's Day, but green, blue, or red coloring would work too for other holidays.

1.75 cup dark chocolate chips, divided
.5 cup butter (1 stick)
.333 cup brown sugar
.666 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
.75 cup flour
1 tbsp cocoa powder
.5 tsp salt

Peppermint Filling
2 tbsp cream
1 tbsp butter
1.5 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp peppermint extract
2 drops food coloring (pink, red, or green)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt .75 cup chocolate chips, butter, and brown sugar in double boiler.  Once melted, add sugar and combine.
2.  Transfer chocolate to mixing bowl and allow to cool (10 minutes).  Add eggs and vanilla and whisk together.  Fold in salt, cocoa powder, and flour.  Transfer to baking dish lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 15 minutes.
3.  While brownie is baking, combine cream, tbsp butter, peppermint extract, and powdered sugar together. Once to desire consistency, add food coloring.  Flatten minty layer with rolling pin.
4.  Allow brownie to cool.  Once cooled, add layer of minty filling, then top with melted chocolate.  Add sprinkles if desired and then cool in fridge to set chocolate.

40 Day Vegetarian Challenge

16 easy vegetarian recipes

Yesterday was Mardi Gras, which means today is Ash Wednesday the start of Lenten season.  It is customary to give up something or even fast for the 40 day period prior to Easter Sunday.  I am giving up meat again this year.  

So here'e the 40 day vegetarian challenge!  Not only am I going vegetarian, but I am doing a different meal for dinner all 40 nights.  There is a common misconception that there isn't a lot of variety in vegetarian meal planning, but that is not true at all.  It is even easier to be vegetarian in the summer when so many vegetables are in season.  So I have started compiling my list of recipes for my challenge which include 16 or my favorite (links below) as well as 16 I have been meaning to make (list below the links).  That only leave 8 recipes I still need to think about!

I hope you'll join me in this challenge or at least try out some of these recipes!

Red Pepper Latkes
Tortellini Soup
Stuffed Shells

Other vegetarian recipes I plan to try...
Breakfast Hot Pockets
Vegetarian Lasagna Roll Ups
Tomato Parm Soup
Veggie Fajita Quesadillas
Baked Mac and Cheese
Pesto Baked Spaghetti
Homemade Gnocchi
Vegetarian Burritos
Spinach and Cheese Manicotti
Carrot Soup
Veggie Burgers
Avocado Hummus with Homemade Pita Bread
Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers
Egg Curry with Rice
Root Vegetable Gratin
Asparagus Soup with Poached Egg
Broccoli and Goat Cheese Souffle

Pepper Seared Steak - total time 15 minutes

When I make all vegetarian meal plans, I occasionally make things for my husband that he enjoys, but I do not.  One of those things is steak.  Since I don't like steak, I don't make it... so on the rare occasion that I do, I have to look up how to cook it.  I would think there would be endless recipes and instructions online, maybe it is just so simple or people make it so often that they don't need instructions.  But for my benefit, I am posting the directions so in six months I can make it again.  Hopefully it will be helpful to you too!

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Heat pan to medium high.
2.  Cover each side of steak with 1.5 tablespoons of cracked pepper and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in pan (it will smoke at the high heat).
3.  Sear each side of steak for 3 minutes.  Finish cooking the steak in the oven for 5 minutes.  Let rest for 5 minutes.

Cheesy Chard Biscuit Poppers- total time 45 minutes

Weekend mornings are the best!  You get to sleep in and everything is at your pace, so I can make whatever I want for breakfast and not be worried about time.  Pancakes, eggs, bacon, french toast, breakfast sandwiches... mmm, I love breakfast foods.  Lately even weekend mornings seem a bit rushed, so this morning I took full advantage of my laid back schedule and made some cheesy chard biscuit poppers.  The remind me a little of the biscuits you get at Red Lobster (I assume they still have those, I haven't been to Red Lobster in years).  It is really hard to stop popping them in your mouth... yum!

2 cups swiss chard, chopped and steamed
2 eggs, remove one yolk
1 cup creme fraiche
1 cup flour
2 tbsp parm, shredded
2 tbsp butter, melted
2 oz. brie
salt and pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Chop chard and steam stems for four minutes.  Add chopped chard leaves and steam an additional four minutes.  Lay chard out on kitchen towel to absorb moisture.
2.  Beat eggs together, add creme fraiche, and melted butter combine.  Mix in flour, salt, pepper, and parm.
3.  Fold in chard and brie.  Spray muffin cups with olive oil.  Divide dough among cups.  Bake for 15 minutes.


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