Friday, January 31, 2014

Portobello Mushroom Sandwiches

My husband decided to try eating a vegan diet this week.  Last night, we had portobello mushroom sandwiches, which are so delicious.  His was 100% vegan, but I added cheese to mine.  My husband had the Hummus version, and I had the Pesto version.  We both loved our sandwiches.

Either sandwich can be 100% vegan.  Bonus with the hummus version is that I have recipes in this blog for both the bread and the hummus.  That makes the hummus version not just vegan but also a great recipe if you're into clean eating.

I've included the ingredients for both portobello mushroom sandwich options below.  In both cases, I've included the ingredients you'd need to make one sandwich.  You can easily multiply the ingredients to make more sandwiches.

Portobello Mushroom & Hummus Sandwich

2 slices whole wheat bread (make your own bread with this easy recipe!)
1/4 cup hummus (make your own hummus with this easy recipe!)
1/2 roma tomato, thinly sliced
1 portobello mushroom
spray butter (omit for a vegan sandwich)

Portobello Mushroom & Pesto Sandwich

2 slices rye bread
1 tbsp pesto
1/2 roma tomato, thinly sliced
1 portobello mushroom
1 oz shredded white cheddar cheese (optional, omit for a vegan sandwich)
spray butter (omit for a vegan sandwich)

Cut the stem off the portobello mushroom and remove the fins with a spoon.  Discard.

Heat a skillet or griddle over medium high heat.  Add the portobello mushroom and cook on both sides until tender and cooked through.

Remove the mushroom from the skillet and add the tomato slices.  Cook until heated throughout.

Spray both sides of the bread with spray butter. (Omit this step if you eat a vegan diet.)  Place the bread on a griddle over medium heat, and heat one side of each slice of bread until toasted.

Put the bread on your plate toasted side up.

For the Hummus sandwich, spread the hummus evenly on the toasted sides of the bread.  Sprinkle TexJoy on the mushroom and tomato slices, and then layer them on top of the hummus.  Close the sandwich so that the hummus sides of the bread are on the inside of the sandwich.

For the Pesto sandwich, spread the pesto on the toasted side of one slice of bread.  On the toasted side of the other slice of bread, add half of the cheese (if using cheese).  Then sprinkle TexJoy on the mushroom and tomato slices and layer them on top of the cheese.  If using cheese, sprinkle the rest of it on top of the tomato slices.  Close the sandwich so that the pesto is on the inside of the sandwich.

For either type of sandwich, place the sandwich back on the griddle and cook until the bread is toasted.  Carefully flip the sandwich over with a spatula to toast the other slice of bread.  If using cheese, cook until the cheese is melted.

Cut in half, and enjoy!

Happy eating!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Zucchini Stew

*Special guest post from my wonderful husband.  So glad he's such a great cook!  This is one of my favorite recipes.  I particularly like it with french bread on the side, or for an even more impressive presentation, serve it in a French bread bowl.  You can find balls of French bread in the bakery/deli section of your local grocery store.  This recipe is also vegan if you leave out the chicken bouillon.  Or, if you want to add meat, chop up a few ounces of grilled chicken or turkey sausage to mix into the stew.  Eating your vegetables has never been so delicious!

I think the only reason Jayne married me was because I liked to cook.  There may have been a few other things I had going for me, but I think the main one was that I can be creative when cooking.  I don't remember the first time I made zucchini stew, but it's been a fairly regular meal for us.  It's also super easy to make, if you like to chop, which I love.  You can pretty much throw in whatever vegetables you like (I don't always do mushrooms, but we had some and they sounded good, so I threw them in).  So here it is.

Zucchini Stew
Makes 2 large servings

10 oz sliced mushrooms, roughly chopped
1.5 cups (12 oz) chopped onions
3 medium zucchinis, diced (quartered lengthwise, and then cut in 1/4 inch pieces)
2 cans (14.5 oz each) diced tomatoes (any variety works - roasted, Italian, etc)
1 tsp TexJoy
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp smoked chipotle flakes (optional)
2 tsp chicken bouillon (omit for vegan recipe)
4 oz grilled chicken or turkey sausage (optional)

In a hot pan, cook the mushrooms, onions, and zucchinis until tender.  Stir periodically, as needed so it doesn't burn.  

Next add the 2 cans of diced tomatoes, juice and all.
Add the seasonings, and simmer for 10 minutes, covered.  If you want it less juicy, you can simmer uncovered.  If you want more juice, just add water, a 1/4 cup at a time until you get the desired consistency.  Add meat, if desired.

Tip:  You might need to use a pot, if you don't have a big enough frying pan.
Zucchini stew without meat on the left and with turkey sausage on the right.  French bread is great for sopping up the juice!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Traditional French Toast

It's Sunday morning, and what's for breakfast?  How about french toast?  I had some leftover french bread from dinner last night, and there's no better bread for making french toast than day old french bread!  I think the saying about lemons and lemonade could easily be converted to "if you have french bread, you make french toast!"

This traditional breakfast is surprisingly easy to make and is open to creativity and substitution.  I've included a basic recipe below, but you can jazz it up by adding a dash of cinnamon and/or nutmeg if you want a slightly spicier flavor.  If you're lactose intolerant or just don't like dairy milk, you can substitute soy milk or almond milk.  This morning, I used Silk Light Vanilla Soy Milk.  It's my personal favorite.  You can also substitute your favorite sandwich bread for the french bread.  I've made this recipe many times with basic white bread or even whole wheat, but, like I said, when you have french bread, you make french toast!

The recipe below makes one serving, but you can easily double, triple, or octuple the ingredients to make as many servings as you want.  When made as directed, the recipe only has about 350 calories per servings (more if you use whole milk or cut your bread thicker, less if you use egg whites or diet bread.)  This may be a Sunday morning treat, but it can still fit nicely in a healthy diet; just add a bowl of fruit on the side.

Traditional French Toast
Makes 1 serving, 3 slices french toast

1 egg
1/3 c milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 slices french bread (about 1/3-1/2 inch thick)

Whisk the egg, milk and vanilla extract in a wide and shallow container.  A small pie pans works well.

Dip the first slice of bread in the batter, pressing down to encourage the batter to seep into the bread.  Flip the bread over and repeat.

Heat a frying pan or griddle over medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray.  Carefully, take the slice of bread out of the batter and set it on the pan.  (The bread will be soggy and may tear, so be careful.)  Repeat with remaining bread.

Cook the french toast until golden brown.  Flip over and cook on the other side as well.  When both sides are golden brown, transfer to a plate.

Serve with powdered sugar, fresh fruit, or my personal favorite, butter and syrup.

Happy eating!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Easy Cheese Danishes

Last night, I was in the mood for something sweet for dessert, but I didn't want my usual go-to sweets - ice-cream and chocolate.  I really wanted something with cream cheese, like a cheese danish or the cheese rolls from Porto's.  I even thought about running out to get a frozen cheesecake from the grocery store, but I knew I wanted pastry more than cheesecake.

I decided to google "easy cheese danish recipes" and was pleasantly surprised when I came across a recipe at that used Pillsbury cresent rolls for the dough.  I happened to have some in my refrigerator along with a package of Philadelphia cream cheese.  Actually, I had all the ingredients on hand.  The only thing I didn't like about this recipe was that they wouldn't look like danishes.  I wanted the traditional round shape like you get at a bakery.

Then I found another recipe at the food blog Love, Pomegranate House where the results actually looked like danishes.  I combined these two recipes to create one all my own.  It's so easy, and they're so good!  The best part?  Since I use Splenda instead of sugar, they only have about 210 calories each!

Easy Cheese Danishes
Makes 8

1 package Pillsbury butter flake cresent rolls
1 package Philadelphia cream cheese
1/2 c Splenda (plus a tbsp extra)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, divided

Preheat oven to 350.  Put parchment paper on a baking sheet.  Open the can of cresent rolls.  Press the cresent rolls together in sets of two, so you have 4 rectangles of dough.  Cut each rectangle in half so that you have 8 squares of dough.  Roll out slightly with a rolling pin.

In an electric mixer (love my Kitchen Aid!), whip together the cream cheese, vanilla extract, egg yolk and the 1/2 c Splenda.

Put a dollop of the cream cheese mixture in the center of each square of dough, dividing the mixture evenly among the squares.  Spread the mixture out with a spoon or spatula.

Fold the corners and sides of the dough up around the cream cheese mixture, pinching to secure.

Mix 1 tbsp water with the egg white to make an egg white wash.  Use a pastry brush to brush the edges of the dough with this egg white wash.  Then sprinkle the edges with the remaining tbsp of Splenda.

Bake for 15 minutes or until the cresent rolls are golden brown.  Let cool.  Refrigerate leftovers.

My husband and I definitely enjoyed eating this quick treat for dessert last night, but the leftovers were even better for breakfast since the cream cheese was cold!

Happy eating!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Kicked-Up Tuna Melt

Oh, canned tuna.  It's one of the healthiest and most inexpensive sources of meat you can buy.  My mom always used to make tuna salad mixed with mayo, and I hate mayo (it just makes things taste soggy), so I wasn't a huge tuna fan growing up.  However, as an adult, I've created my own version of a tuna melt that I truly love.  I used to replace the mayo with ranch dressing, but now I replace it with enchilada sauce from Trader Joe's.  Yeah.  It's awesome.  Here's my easy and delicious recipe.  It's not like any tuna melt you've ever had before, and it's the only one I've ever had that I loved.  In fact, I just ate the sandwich pictured here, and I'm totally thinking about making another one.  It's just that good.

Kicked-Up Tuna Melt
makes 1 sandwich

1 can chunk light tuna in water
1 egg white
2 tbsp chopped onion
1 tsp chopped jalapeno peppers
1 peperoncini, sliced (about 8 slices)
2 tbsp Trader Joe's enchilada sauce
1 oz shredded cheddar cheese
2 slices rye bread
spray butter
butter flavor Pam

Spray Pam in a non-stick skillet.  Add onion and jalapenos.  Cook until caramelized.  Meanwhile, drain the water from the can of tuna.  (I let my cats drink the tuna water...they love it!)  Add the tuna, and mix with the onions and jalapenos.  Add the egg white, and mix together until fully cooked.  Turn off the heat.  Add the enchilada sauce, a sprinkle of TexJoy (or salt and pepper) and stir to combine.

Spray both sides of bread with spray butter.  Spray Pam in another non-stick frying pan or on a griddle.  Put the bread inside-down on the griddle and cook until the bottom is toasted.

Remove the toast from the pan, and put one slice toasted-side up.  On top of that slice, add half the cheese, half the peperoncini slices, all of the tuna mixture, the other half of the peperoncini slices, the rest of the cheese, and the other piece of bread, toasted side down.

Spray the frying pan or griddle with Pam again.  Put the sandwich on the griddle and cook until the bottom piece of toast is toasted on the bottom.  Then carefully flip the sandwich over with a spatula and cook until the bottom piece of toast is toasted on the bottom.

Transfer the sandwich to a plate, and cut in half.

This sandwich would be great with Baked Sweet Potato Fries or my Everyday Salad, of course, I think any sandwich would be great with these sides!

An easy variation of this sandwich is to make it with canned salmon instead of canned tuna.  Salmon has so much flavor that it makes this sandwich even more delicious.

 You can also use a tortilla instead of 2 slices of bread and make the sandwich into a quesadilla.

However you choose to make it, Happy Eating!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Pinot Grill

Last night, my husband and I went downtown L.A. to see Peter and the Star Catcher at the Ahmanson Theater.  Unlike in New York, there aren't a lot of pre-theater dining options within walking distance, so we usually eat at Pinot Grill, which I believe is only open for pre-theater dining.  It's basically a couple see-thru tents set up outside at the Music Center.  There are heaters outside the tents and around the bar area with plenty of seating.  Thankfully, the weather is always pretty nice in southern California, but even during wind and rain, we have had a pleasant dining experience inside these tents.

This was our third time eating at Pinot Grill.  The menu is different every time we're here, which is kind of nice.  It almost makes it feel like we're eating somewhere different.  I tend to get a "usual" at restaurants, and an ever-changing menu prevents me from getting stuck in my usual rut.  The menu is also pretty small, which makes it easier to make a decision and which also means the food comes out of the kitchen fast! We've never made a reservation, and we've never had trouble being seated right away.  Last night, we arrived around 7pm, an hour before showtime, and we had no problem having plenty of time to eat and relax and still be in our seats 15 minutes early.

The atmosphere is very pleasant.  We were seated near the fountains, which were fun to watch while we ate.  There are also speakers throughout the tents playing soft music, and there are lights strung up along the roof of the tents.  It's really pretty romantic.  The chairs are comfortable, and the tables aren't too close together.

There's a full bar, wine and cocktail list, but we decided just to stick with water.  After placing our order, our waitress brought over a basket of french bread and butter.  I had forgotten about the bread basket.  It was delicious, but then, I love bread and butter.  My mom used to joke that sometimes that's all I'd eat as a kid.

I mentioned the fast service, right?  Well, we had each just finished eating one piece of bread, and our order arrived at our table.  It was so quick that my husband seemed a little confused, wondering if this order was meant for another table.

I had decided to make a meal out of starters.  I ordered the soup of the day, which happened to be Butternut Squash with creme fraiche and a balsamic reduction, and the Wood-Fired Flatbread, which was described on the menu as "wild mushrooms, sottocenere, fontina, mozzarella, red onion, and thyme."  I was expecting a cup of soup and a small, maybe 9" if that flatbread.  Turns out, it was a bowl of soup and flatbread at least the size of a CPK pizza!  Good thing my husband was able to help me with the flatbread!

I love butternut squash, and the soup didn't disappoint.  It was rich and creamy.  I didn't need to add any salt or pepper.  Potato soup is probably my all-time favorite, but I would definitely order this again.

The flatbread was huge, as I mentioned earlier, and it had a great flavor.  The flatbread itself was soft and crispy, not overly cooked and not chewy either.  It had the right amount of cheese, and was slightly greasy, but not too much, just enough to be delicious.  My husband and I ended up splitting it in half.  Half of that combined with the soup was a great meal.

My husband ordered the Porchetta Sandwich which was described on the menu as a "brioche bun, slow-cooked pork belly, spicy coleslaw, crispy shallots, and mustard aioli."  The bun was toasted and buttery yet nice and soft.  The crunch of the cabbage contrasted nicely with the tender pork, and he loved the creamy aioli.  He said he would definitely order it again.  It came with a side of potato wedges.  I tasted one of the wedges and didn't care for it.  Apparently my husband didn't like them either because he didn't finish them, or maybe he was too full from helping me with the flatbread. 

We looked at the dessert menu out of curiosity, but we decided not to order anything.  As I mentioned, we had ordered too much food already.

The meal was the best part of our date night.  The play definitely disappointed me.  I think it must be geared towards a gay audience, so as a straight white lady, it wasn't my thing; however, the gay men in the audience seemed to find it hilarious.

Happy eating!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Simon Pearce

In October 2012, I visited the Simon Pearce Restaurant in Vermont with my husband, mother and grandmother.  My uncle had told us about it and mentioned good food and scenic views.  In October in New England, everywhere you look is a scenic view with the leaves changing, but at Simon Pearce, there's a waterfall just outside the restaurant, which is a lovely addition to the already beautiful surroundings.

Simon Pearce is a glass factory, and they sell exquisite bowls, wine glasses, etc.  This is a great place to find a wedding present for someone you love!  We put our name in at the restaurant and wandered downstairs to watch a glass blowing demonstration while we waited.  It was quite fascinating watching a piece of glass become a champagne flute.

When our table was ready, we were very pleased with the location.  It was right next to the windows where we had an excellent view of the waterfall outside.  I also loved the rustic decor mixed with the gorgeous hand blown glasses on the table.

It was a Sunday, so we ordered off of their Sunday Brunch menu.  I just looked up the current Sunday Brunch menu, and although our options were similar, I think they've changed slightly.  While we waited for our order, we snacked on the bread and butter that our waitress brought to the table.

We decided to treat ourselves to their locally made beverages.  I ordered sparkling apple cider, which came in a wine glass.  My husband ordered the Rugged Mountain Root Beer, which came in a bottle, and my mom ordered the Spindrift sparkling orange mango juice, which also came in a bottle.  I tasted all of the beverages, and I think the consensus was that they were good but not amazing.  Next time we'd order something else, but it was fun to try something different.

Mediterranean Lamb Burger
My husband ordered the Mediterranean Lamb Burger.  He's always a fan of lamb.  He thought it was juicy but a little gamey, although he's not against the gamey taste.  It came with a baby spinach and feta salad.  He put some of the feta on his sandwich, and loved it.

Shepherd's Pie
My mother and grandmother both ordered the Shepherd's Pie.  It was hearty and delicious.  My mom couldn't finish hers, so my husband helped her out.  It came with a green salad, which was a nice light complement to the rich entree.

Vermont Cheddar Soup
I ordered a bowl of Vermont Cheddar Soup and a Butter Lettuce Salad.  I honestly can't say enough about that soup.  It was white cheddar as only Vermont can make it, and I haven't stopped thinking about that delicious, creamy taste ever since.  I always forget how filling soup is, and this was no exception.  It was probably the best bowl of soup I've ever had.  The salad was delicious as well.  There's truly no better combo than soup and salad.

I honestly haven't stopped thinking about this soup.  I keep telling my husband we need to go back to Vermont just so we can eat at Simon Pearce.  Just yesterday, my husband came home with Vermont White Cheddar from Trader Joe's.  I guess that's a cheaper option than flying to Vermont, but I know I'm not going to be able to recreate that soup at home.  That said, it's really delicious on a grilled roast beef sandwich, which is how we ate it last night.  To recreate this sandwich, refer to my Rye Bread recipe.  At the end of that post, I describe how I make Pastrami & Swiss sandwiches on Rye.  Just substitute Roast Beef and White Cheddar for the Pastrami & Swiss.

Roast Beef and White Cheddar on Rye
If you haven't had white cheddar, you're really missing out, but make sure you get white cheddar that was made in Vermont.  As I mentioned above, you can find it in the cheese section at your local Trader Joe's.  Or, if you happen to be in Vermont, make sure you stop at Simon Pearce and enjoy a delicious meal while you drool over the beautiful blown glass.

Happy Eating!