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40 Day Vegetarian Challenge Complete! and Weekly Menu

Happy Easter!  We reach the end of the 40 day vegetarian challenge.  Actually, Lent is more than 40 days, but who is counting (oh yeah, my husband, who really didn't sign up for this challenge, oops!).  After 46 days, I repeated one or two meals, forgot to write down three of them, and plan to work on perfecting a few of recipes before posting them.  We also went out to eat about ten of the days, so even though I didn't make the meals, they were still unique in the challenge.  Besides, everyone goes out to eat on occasion and there are great vegetarian options just about everywhere!

Here is the 46 day summary with links to recipes...

Day 1 - February 13: baked ravioli
Day 2 - February 14: tortelini soup
Day 3 - February 15: vegetarian hot pocket
Day 4 - February 16: tofu wraps & seaweed salad (Haiku)
Day 5 - February 17: veggie burgers
Day 6 - February 18: baked purple gnocchi
Day 7 - February 19: broccoli avocado pasta
Day 8 - February 20: pesto stuffed shells (same recipe minus chicken)
Day 9 - February 21: ???  oops, forgot to write it down!
Day 10 - February 22: cheesy avocado toasts
Day 11 - February 23: white pizza (Mellow Mushroom)
Day 12 - February 24: spinach enchiladas
Day 13 - February 25: baked lasagna (homemade) raviolis
Day 14 - February 26: veggie stir fry
Day 15 - February 27: peanut butter soup - Thai style
Day 16 - February 28: eggs benedict with hash browns
Day 17 - March 01: mac and cheese and power spinach salad (Panera)
Day 18 - March 02: veggie taco pie
Day 19 - March 03: avocado hummus and pita (and some leftovers)
Day 20 - March 04: creamy asparagus soup with poached egg
Day 21 - March 05: baked spinach alfredo (sub in spinach for broccoli in recipe)
Day 22 - March 06: naan pizza
Day 23 - March 07: asparagus ricotta tart
Day 24 - March 08: vegetarian piada (Piada)
Day 25 - March 09: homemade mac and cheese
Day 26 - March 10: cauliflower croquettes
Day 27 - March 11: vegetarian taco salad
Day 28 - March 12: leftovers (there were too many!)
Day 29 - March 13: veggie stromboli
Day 30 - March 14: ???  oops, forgot to write it down!

Day 31 - March 15: ???  oops, forgot to write it down!
Day 32 - March 16: creamy sundried tomato pasta
Day 33 - March 17: vegetarian shepard's pie
Day 34 - March 18: roasted corn & tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons
Day 35 - March 19: veggie sushi with miso soup
Day 36 - March 20: rosemary chips (Fado's)
Day 37 - March 21: veggie burrito (Chipotle)
Day 38 - March 22: deep dish spinach artichoke pizza (BJ's Brewhouse)
Day 39 - March 23: 4 cheese lasagna (Fazoli's)
Day 40 - March 24: broccoli cheddar pot pies
Day 41 - March 25: baked burritos (recipe coming soon)
Day 42 - March 26: manicotti (recipe coming soon)

Day 43 - March 27: fajita tacos (recipe coming soon)
Day 44 - March 28: the vegetarian (Jimmy Johns)
Day 45 - March 29: Buddha Bowl with tofu (North Star Cafe)
Day 46 - March 30: Striker Zone (DP Dough)

So I thought I would have a list of meals that I would want to eat as soon as the challenge was over, but... not really.  My husband did though (of course).  So he is really driving this week's menu for being a (sorta) good sport throughout the challenge.

pretzel chicken and asparagus
pulled chicken sandwiches and potaoes
prosciutto and gruyere pinwheels
stuffed chicken parm and spinach salad

Roasted Corn and Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons - total time 40 minutes

Cutting out meat has meant cutting out a lot of my favorite foods.  But not to worry, many meals can be made meatless!  Chicken tortilla soup is one of those soups that I love to make and also get at restaurants.  Is has a lot of southwestern ingredients which is perfect for someone who loves Mexican food as much as I do.  This soup is not really a meatless version of chicken tortilla soup, but takes a lot of the southwestern flavors... with grilled cheese croutons on top!  When I saw that on Pinterest I thought it was complete genius.  Grilled cheese is a perfect pairing with just about any tomato-based soup.  Yum!

2 cups vegetable stock
2 cups tomato juice
1 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 avocado
1 cup corn
.5 cup dry white wine
.5 cup cream
.5 cup sour cream
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper

For the croutons use these grilled cheese tips.

1.  Heat butter in large pot.  Add chopped onions and saute for three minutes.  Add juice and broth, bring to a simmer.
2.  In a separate pan, heat corn on medium heat and add spices.  Add tomatoes and roast for three minutes.
3.  Add corn, tomatoes, and wine to simmering pot.  Continue to simmer for five minutes.  Add cream and sour cream, stir to combine.  Bring back to a simmer and serve, add avocado and grilled cheese croutons.

Broccoli Cheddar Pot Pies - total time 45 minutes

In the mood for the ultimate comfort food?  I certain am.  The calendar says it is Spring, but the weather says otherwise.  Everyone is tired of the cold at this point.  Even people who love winter.  So this pot pie is a great way to warm the soul while we wait for Spring to really get here (and hopefully the Spring flowers survive through the dustings of snow).

Veggie Sushi - total time 30 minutes

As soon as you give up something, you start craving it almost immediately.  Giving up meat made me miss sushi.  My husband and I frequently have Friday night sushi at our local sushi place and we haven't been since Lent began (they are probably wondering if we are okay).  So, since I was missing this Friday night tradition (well, not every Friday), I took it into my own hands and made my own sushi!

It is really pretty easy to do.  Great for raw foodies, pregnant ladies, and vegetarians alike.  It is pretty inexpensive too (unlike sushi restaurants, but you are skipping the most expensive, skill-intensive part, the raw fish).  You can go for pretty much any vegetable you can cut into thin slices (asparagus, green beans, sweet potato, bell pepper, etc), but I went pretty traditional.

Weekly Menu

We're in the home stretch of the 40 day vegetarian challenge and my husband couldn't be happier (he didn't really sign up for the challenge).  The hardest part has been not being able to repeat some of our vegetarian favorites, like stuffed shells, baked ziti, or vegetarian enchiladas.  Not eating meat has been pretty easy really.  I think it would be harder in the summer when the grills are out, but there are also lots of summer vegetables for fresh salads or even lightly grilled themselves.

So here is the last menu for the challenge, but certainly not the last vegetarian meal plan...

veggie fried rice with egg rolls
broccoli cheddar pot pies
carrot soup
fajita tacos
baked burritos

Veggie Stromboli - total time 30 minutes

There is this place called Sarefino's at North Market in Columbus that serves up the best strombolis I've ever had.  So delicious, we get some every time, even if it is to take it home and eat later.  There are a couple must stop at vendors at North Market... I always come home with a bag full of tasty treasures after even a quick trip.  

Any way, I know I could never recreate their veggie stromboli perfectly, so I made some modification (not to improve upon their recipe, but to prevent mine from turning out soggy).  I used the same concept I did for my Italian Chicken Braid, but used most of Sarefino's ingredients (I know they use ricotta, but I have no idea how they make that work).

Cauliflower Croquettes - total time 45 minutes

Cauliflower Croquettes Recipe

Some times you just get a craving for fried potatoes.  Does that mean you have to run out to the nearest fast food place that sells greased up french fries?  Actually, my french fry craving default is usually crispy roasted potatoes... but these croquettes are pretty awesome. And since I am not a huge fan of cauliflower, but still like to get a variety of vegetables in my diet, this recipe is perfect.  Kids will love it because it is potatoes, crispy, and finger food... you could serve them as appetizers, a side, or as a main dish with a salad.  And they are cute!

Vegetarian Taco Salad - total time 20 minutes

Whenever I think about taco salads I remember this Bud Light radio spot from way long ago (apparently there was a TV commercial that went along with it).  It was about how taco salads have crazy amounts of calories, but because it is a salad, people think they are being healthy.  That commercial kind of stuck with me over the years and I don't think I've ever really had a taco salad since even Bud Light thinks it is an unhealthy option.  Well, here's one that is light on calories, full on flavor, and completely meatless!  It was so good wanted to go back for seconds despite being completely full.

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie - total time 50 minutes

Most traditional Irish food includes meat, but that doesn't mean it can't be transformed into a satisfying vegetarian meal.  Filled with root vegetables, this is a perfect winter meal or to celebrate the end of winter with Saint Patrick's Day.

Happy St. Patrick's Day & Weekly Menu

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!  In Ireland, today is actually a religious holiday celebrating Christianity coming to the country.  After honoring the saint at church while wearing a shamrock that symbolizes the holy trinity, traditional Lenten restrictions were lifted.  At one point, the celebrations got a little out of hand and pubs in Ireland were actually closed in observance of the holiday. Since then, the pubs are back open and the wee bit of Irish in all of us comes out to celebrate.

We are celebrating the day with food!  Some eggs and potatoes with Irish coffee for breakfast and vegetarian shepherd's pie, a pint of Guinness, and car bomb cupcakes for dessert.  Yum!

And here is this week's menu (a couple carryover from last week, since I didn't get to them).

veggie sushi and miso soup
sundried tomato fettucine
roasted corn and tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons
fajita rice casserole
broccoli and cheddar pot pies
vegetarian lasagna rollups

French Toast King Style - total time 20 minutes

I really don't know much about Elvis, but he knew what he was talking about when it came to peanut butter and banana sandwiches!  He would have loved this melty, ooey gooey french toast.  Good thing it is quick and easy because I am really not a morning person even though I love breakfast.  So easy that even if my brain is still half asleep it still comes out delicious!

Homemade Mac and Cheese - total time 45 minutes

I finally did it!  I finally made mac and cheese from scratch!  After many failed attempts... for some reason I just cannot get cheese sauce to cooperate... I found a technique that actually makes the whole process a little faster!  So if you ever tried to make mac and cheese before and it just didn't turn out right, or you want to ditch the boxed stuff and make it homemade for the first time.... this method seems to be fail proof.

10 oz noodles, shells or elbows
.5 cup milk
.5 cup cream
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp butter
1 cup white cheddar, shredded
1 cup gouda, shredded
1 tsp chili powder
salt and pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Boil noodles according to package directions.  Melt butter over medium-low heat and saute garlic and onions for three minutes.
2.  Add milk, cream, chili powder, salt, and pepper to sauteed garlic and onions and heat for two minutes.  Drain noodles (do not allow noodles to cool) and toss into pot with milky mixture.  Add a half cup of shredded cheese at a time, stir until cheese melts and incorporates.  Repeat.
3.  Transfer mac and cheese into a casserole dish and bake for 20 minutes (optional, add bread crumbs on top for a crispy, crunchy layer).  Add a sprinkle of chili powder on top and serve!

Creamy Asparagus Soup w/ Poached Egg - total time 50 minutes

You know it is asparagus season when there are two recipes posted in one week with the vegetable as the star ingredient!  To get the best tasting asparagus, look for very green, slender stalks.  The thicker the stalk the more woody the taste.  And the less green the asparagus is means the less sun, the less photosynthesis happened, and the less nutrients.  So steer clear of the unique looking white asparagus, the traditional colored ones, or purple if you can find it, are packed with more fiber, folate, and vitamins!

20 asparagus stalks
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp butter
28 oz vegetable broth
1 tbsp lemon juice
.5 cup cream
salt and pepper
2 eggs
toast for dipping

1.  Melt butter in large pot over medium heat.  Saute garlic and onions for about three minutes.  Remove woody ends from asparagus and chop into one inch pieces.  Add asparagus and continue to saute for another two minutes.
2.  Add vegetable broth, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to pot, bring to a boil, and simmer for 20 minutes.
3.  Remove soup from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.  Transfer portions of soup into blender or food processor.  Pulse soup until smooth.  Repeat until entire soup has been blended.  Return soup to pot and pot to stove.  Heat on low heat to bring soup back up to temperature.  Add cream.
4.  Poach egg for instructions, click here and toast bread.

Asparagus Ricotta Tart - total time 45 minutes

Spring hasn't officially started yet, but it is certainly starting to feel like Spring (or at least I am ready for it to feel like Spring).  My snowdrops and crocus are starting to bloom.  Daffodils and tulips were actually trying to come up all winter (except when they were buried under snow for a while), but they are growing leaps and bounds now.  I can see the glimmer of yellow petals ready to emerge (daffodils are my favorite flowers and I have hundreds planted).  Along with all these spring flowers come asparagus spears also sprouting up in the garden.
While asparagus is definitely delicious on its own either steamed or sauteed in butter, this little tart has a flaky crust, creamy center, and the asparagus and lemon flavor taste like springtime.

20 asparagus stalks
1 cup ricotta
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
.25 cup parm
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 egg
.25 cup cream
salt and pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Roll out puff pastry into tart pan (if you don't have one, use a parchment-lined baking sheet like I did).  If you have pie weights, spread them over the puff pastry to keep it from puffing.  Otherwise, place a dish on top of the pastry after it has baked for ten minutes to flatten the crust.
2.  While pastry is baking, remove woody ends from asparagus and steam for five minutes.
3.  Combine ricotta, cream, lemon juice, egg, salt, and pepper in small mixing bowl.  Spread creamy mixture over the bottom of the tart crust.  Lay asparagus lengthwise into the creamy mixture.  Top with shredded parm.
4.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Allow to rest for at least five minutes.  Enjoy!

Weekly Menu

Did anyone watch SNL last night?  I didn't either, but apparently a lot of people did.  SNL had their best ratings because Justin Timberlake was hosting and he always makes for some funny skits.  The ratings headlines picture was Justin dressed as tofu... kind of caught my attention!  I have to say, the Veganville Skit was hilarious!  If you haven't watched it, go to the link and get your laugh on!

Just three weeks left of the vegetarian challenge.  Researching for this challenge has been really interesting finding all kinds of vegetarian meals that do not include 'fake' meat.  And since I really don't know how to cook tofu yet and don't like mushrooms or beans, I thought this challenge was going to be a little harder.  I do have two more weeks of recipes to come up with though... but so far, it hasn't been too hard!

This week's menu...

Veggie Taco Salad
Miso Soup & Veggie Sushi
Tortilla Soup (no chicken)
Vegetarian Lasagna Rollups
Veggie Stromboli
Vegetarian Shephard's Pie

Peanut Butter Frosting on Brownie Cupcakes - total time 1 hour

Oh snap!  (Do people still say that?)  When I saw this buckeye brownie cupcake recipe by six sisters stuff on Pinterest, I thought it was a perfect solve for the fact that I don't like cake but have fun making cupcakes. I do like brownies!  Problem solved!  But that isn't the best part of this recipe... the star is definitely the frosting!  I had to hold myself back from piping the stuff straight into my mouth.  :)  

You should probably get in the kitchen and make some of these, now.  I took pictures of the process, but didn't change the recipe at all... so head over to six sisters stuff to get the details.

Baked Purple Gnocchi - total time 1 hour

I feel like I say this all the time, but I just tried gnocchi for the first time two years ago.  Just like pretty much every other recipe or ingredient that is now commonplace in my kitchen today (like pesto, chard, taquitos, pierogies, winter squash, zucchini... I could keep going).  I think your palate is really shaped by your parents preferences until you are out on your own and you decide you want to try new things.  I was convinced bell peppers were spicy until senior year of college when I finally decided to try one (after some convincing from my roommate).  It is kind of crazy to about how much other people's opinion and preferences can shape our own opinions and preferences, even without trying it for ourselves.  It just reminds me to keep trying new things.  Your favorite meal, sport, hobby, etc could still be out there waiting for you to come try it!

So, if you want to impress someone with your chef skills, make your own gnocchi!  It really isn't hard, it is just a little time consuming.  But you have the satisfaction of knowing you made the little dumplings from scratch.  You could go ten steps further and make your own tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese (I haven't yet, but I hear it is one of the easiest cheese to make yourself).  

2 lbs potatoes (cut into one inch squares if not fingerlings)
2 eggs
3 garlic cloves
1 stem rosemary, minced
1 cup flour
salt and pepper

1 cup tomato sauce
.5 cup fresh mozzarella
2 tbsp parm, shredded

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Boil potatoes for about 15 minutes or until tender.  Remove from water and let cool.  Skin should easily peel off (the skin helps keep nutrients and color in the potato while boiling).
2.  Use the grater attachment on food processor to grate the potatoes.  Saute garlic in pan with a little olive oil.
3.  Combine grated potatoes, eggs, garlic, minced garlic, salt, pepper, and one cup of flour in a medium mixing bowl.  Stir together until dough forms.  If dough is still sticky, add about two tablespoons of flour at a time until it is no longer sticky.
4.  Roll dough with hands into thin strips, between a half inch to one inch thick.  Cut off piece that are about the size of your thumbprint.  Shape the little dough ball with fork tines to give the sauce something to stick to.
5.  Sprinkle flour over the dough balls and boil for about two minutes.
5.  In four ramekins, spoon enough tomato sauce to cover the bottom.  Fill ramekin with gnocchi, cover gnocchis with half cup of tomato sauce, and top with fresh mozzarella and a sprinkle of parm.  Bake fore 25 minutes or until mozzarella starts to get golden brown on top.


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