Back to the Corner

Mexican Corn Dip

Corn Salsa

It’s the first Monday of the month which means that once again it’s time for the Secret Recipe Club!!!!  I was so excited to see that I had been partnered up with Jessie – aka The Vanderbilt Wife.  After all, how can you not like a blog that sponsors so many amazing charities!  For the longest time I was planning to make her delicious peach cake, which would have been perfect for my pit fruit entry but I couldn’t move past a certain dish with “magically delicious” in the title.  I’m a sucker for a good dip, as evident from past secret recipe club posts, and since I was hosting a day of board gaming I just couldn’t pass up her Corn Dip.  The only change I made was to up the spice level since everyone attending enjoys things on the hotter side.

Back to the Corner

Serves: Makes 3 cups

Ingredients

  • 3 ears of corn
  • 1 green pepper, diced (optional)
  • 1 can Rotel
  • 8 oz cream cheese (tofutti or dairy)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne powder (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Cut the corn off the cob and then mix in with the remaining ingredients in a large casserole dish.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes, then stir, allow to sit for 5 minutes and Enjoy!
http://www.dancingveggies.com/blog/2014/07/back-to-the-corner.html

Yes – this recipe is magically delicious and magically quick to put together!  While most of it was killed the day of serving there was just enough left to serve on top of some chilaquiles the next evening.  The corn dip added the perfect crunch along with a bit of heat which was perfect.  I also took advantage of some local “early corn” at the market, instead of the canned corn – and while it’s a pain to cut the kernels off I’m a sucker for local produce.   I also tossed in a green pepper for color and extra crunch, which worked perfectly with the corn and tomatoes.  I served this dip hot and cold, and both ways was a hit!

Speaking of local produce I’ve now harvested three cherry tomatoes, with another 40+ on the horizon, and one jalapeno.  At last check there were 10 (!!!) fairy eggplants growing and fingers crossed will be able to pick some this week!  The cold snap we had the other day also brought some life back to my arugula so maybe that’ll give up another harvest?  So far so good – just have to hope the weather continues to cooperate.   Thanks again for stopping by for another awesome SRC!

Sock You

Spicy Kale and Tomato Sauce

Spicy Kale Sauce

It seems the end of one growing season is already here as I look outside to see lots of wilted greens that weren’t picked in time.  I’m hopeful that the farmer’s markets but have some for at least the next week or two – but soon I’ll be forced back to the grocery store in order to get one of the staples of my diet: kale.  It wasn’t too long ago that I was living a kale-free existence, unaware of this amazingly healthy and tasty treat.   Now that I know it’s there – I essentially add it to everything!  It adds the perfect crunch with just a hint of bitter, which is perfect for me since I’m allergic to the more common acids (aka citrus).  I also understand that kale is not for everyone but I firmly think that’s just because everyone hasn’t tried kale!

Sock You

Serves: Makes 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1/2 vidalia onion, diced
  • 5 roma tomatoes, peeled and halved
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 basil leaves, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp fresh oregano, diced
  • 1 cup kale, torn

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 10 minutes, or until golden brown.
  2. Add the roma tomatoes, seed side down and cook for 7 minutes, then flip and use a spatula to break down the tomato. Add the fresh herbs and continue cooking for 5 minutes before adding the kale, half at a time.
  3. Once the kale has cooked down, cover and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Then Serve and Enjoy!
http://www.dancingveggies.com/blog/2014/07/sock-you.html

I served this sauce over some whole wheat pasta but spaghetti squash or polenta would also work well.   What’s next? Kale cookies? Kale Cake?? Probably not, but I plan to continue this love affair as long as possible – unless I turn my skin green in which case I might back off.

Now for other gardening news: first red tomato has been picked!  There is one more that’s on the verge of ready and another 3 dozen or so close behind.  I’ve also jumped up to 8 fairy eggplants and 5 jalapenos :-) I have a feeling July is going to be a delicious month!!!

For What

Avocado Tomato Grilled Cheese

Avocado Tomato Grilled Cheese

I’m thrilled that summer has finally arrived, yet sad that days are already getting shorter.  It seems like winter just ended, and yet I’m already seeing stories advertising “back to school” and “fall fashions”.  If it’s alright with them I’m going to stay in a firm state of denial until at least labor day – I need my long hot day of sun!  Today’s recipe features my favorite summer ingredient (which won’t come as a shock to anyone): tomatoes.  To say that I’m stoked about the emergence of tomatoes at the local markets doesn’t begin to cover it as few things are as awesome as a summer tomato.  Since I’ve only been able to harvest a few little cherry tomatoes so far I needed to figure out a recipe where I only needed a few in order to make a big POP.  As an added necessity I had half an avocado and a bit of fresh bread that needed to disappear before heading to visit family in NYC.  What better way than a lazy (but delicious!) grilled cheese sandwich?!?

Tomato Avocado Grilled Cheese

Ingredients

  • 4 slices of your favorite bread
  • 2 tbsp yogurt spread (or unsalted butter)
  • 2 roma tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • 4 slices of favorite "cheese" or cheese (I used Colby)

Instructions

  1. Evenly distribute the butter on all sides of the bread.
  2. Heat a large griddle over medium heat and place two slices of bread on it, allow to cook for about 2 minutes then remove and set aside. Place the other two slices on the grilled, cook for two minutes, and then flip.
  3. Place a layer of cheese on the toasted side of the bread, then add half of the tomato and avocado slices. Place one last layer of cheese then top with the reserved pieces of bread - toasted side down.
  4. Continue cooking for 5 minutes, then gently flip, and press sandwich down for 30 seconds. Cook on the final side for 7 minutes, or until desired browning level.
  5. Remove and enjoy!
http://www.dancingveggies.com/blog/2014/06/for-what.html

I served this up with some fresh coleslaw – the recipe for which is forthcoming – and it was the perfect summer dinner.  Heck, this would also make the perfect summer lunch, or brunch, or linner or whatever!

In gardening news the new tally is:  41 tomatoes (only 1 is close to picking), 4 jalapenos, 7(!) fairy eggplants, and the fine beginnings of a rosemary bush.  My containers might not give me the same options as my awesome box garden in VA but it’s certainly doing its best to give us in fresh veggies.

The Power

Cheesy Toast

cheesy_toast

I totally blame Becca over at Amuse Your Bouche for today’s post – when I saw her cheesy toast variation the other week I got a total craving.   I don’t remember the first time I had cheesy toast but I’m going to guess it was a case of my mom not having enough bread for grilled cheese sandwich and going with an open-faced variation.  Also should note as this point that I’m a HUGE fan of open-face sandwiches so thanks mom :-)  This extends as far as stripping my burgers which is why I tend to load up my cheesy toast with all sorts of goodies.  I want the bread to just barely be hanging on so in part it does become a balancing act of figuring out how many toppings a piece can handle. I also used two different spreads (or smears) as I couldn’t decide which one would work best, one being vegan and one being not so vegan.  That is of course assuming that vegan bread is being used, something I can assume since I made my own peasant bread using dairy-free stick “butter”.

Cheesy Toast

Serves: Serves 4, as a side

Ingredients

  • 1 cup kale, chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 4 slices bread (assuming 1 per person)
  • 2 tbsp tofutti cream cheese (or dairy cream cheese)
  • 1/2 tbsp chives
  • 2 tbsp yogurt spread
  • 2 roma tomatoes, sliced
  • 4 pieces Daiya slices, provolone variety (or dairy variety)

Instructions

  1. Place the kale in a small bowl and massage in the olive oil over 5 minutes, toss in the pepper and set aside.
  2. In another small bowl, blend together the cream cheese and the chives until well mixed. Set aside and allow to continue softening.
  3. Preheat oven to Broil - Low
  4. Spread the cream cheese chive mixture over half of the bread pieces and then layer on the tomatoes and the massaged kale. Top with a slice of cheese.
  5. Repeat the process with the yogurt spread on the other two pieces. Then place all the slices on a cookie sheet.
  6. Broil for 5-7 minutes, or until cheese has melted and has started to bubble. Allow to cool on the sheet for another 5 minutes then Serve and Enjoy!
http://www.dancingveggies.com/blog/2014/06/the-power.html

The more I use Daiya, the more I’m starting to enjoy it in the melted form.  The texture still drives me crazy when it’s raw but that all goes away once it melts.  I’m also hoping to find some more varieties of cashew cheese as there are occasions where I can’t melt the cheese but would still like to have some, such as cold salads.  I’m also sending this open faced cheese sandwich over to 52weeksofcooking for their historic foods challenge since this Depression Era treat has become a comfort classic over the past (almost) 100 years.   Also cool to note that the original version was open-faced and it wasn’t until the 60s that the top piece was added.  Important to note that the cheese on toast is historically different than an open faced cheese sandwich, something that has been around since the 15th century – the toasting makes all the difference!

In gardening news, I have a good dozen green cherry tomatoes growing and today my first little pepper joined the party.  I’ve also got lots of purple flowers on my fairy eggplant but so far no lil eggplants, fingers crossed that will change.  I’ve never done a container garden before so I’m looking forward to seeing how it does in comparison to my awesome box garden.  I’m also hoping that the guy who bought my place appreciates the awesome box garden and is using it.

Red Sky Shone

Vegetarian on Vacation: Pittsburgh, PA

There aren’t enough words to describe how much I love Pittsburgh, if not for Maryland’s awesome infertility coverage we most likely would be living in PA right now.  While part of the reason are the large number of friends I have in the area, the food also has something to do with it – and man is there a lot of it!!!  Pittsburgh is one of those cities where I know I can easily find something vegetarian without much effort, which can be shockingly hard to do (DC, I’m looking at you).  While I tend to go in the Asian direction, there are options that cover the globe and every time I visit I find another (dozen) places to eat.  This post is dedicated to my top 5, which was really hard to come up with.

1.  Spice Island Tea House - The name does not give this place credit since at first glance it sounds like a place to go for high tea, when in fact it’s an incredible restaurant full of delicious treats for everyone to enjoy.  They are also able to accommodate large groups of very hungry book readers – which is always a plus.  They have a large vegetarian selection and also offer the option to switch most other dishes to the vegetarian variety, making this restaurant perfect for vegan, vegetarians, and meat-eaters!  The location is also slightly off the beaten path and the outside doesn’t match the inside but it really is worth the adventure.

2. Ramen Bar –  There is something to be said about a restaurant that can make almost every dish on the menu vegan, beyond just saying YUM!  I also have to add a notation about their kimchee as apparently it’s some of the best available in the Pittsburgh area but while I enjoy saurkraut I can’t do this spicy version of fermented cabbage.  When switching out the meat I highly recommend the fried eggplant, it was melt-in-my-mouth tender with no hint of bitterness.

3. Noodlehead – At first glance the menu doesn’t seem veggie friendly, after all only a few entrees are veg*n but this is the ONE restaurant that I have to go to on each visit.  Their bok choy noodles are beyond incredible and when they say spicy they really (really) mean it.  I’m hopeful that one day they will add a tofu bun dish to the app list, but until then I really happily slurp down my noodles along with gallons of water.

4. Square Cafe – Two words: Tofu Scramble!  Square Cafe is what convinced me that tofu scrambles are THE key to a happy morning, along with their lattes.  I love that they have a seasonal menu, and as a bonus they feature local ingredients.  Outside of breakfast they serve two different veggie burgers, one of which features chickpeas which isn’t the normal burger bean.  As an added bonus they have milkshakes and fruit smoothies – again featuring local ingredients when in season!

5. Istanbul Sofra –  Once upon a time this was another awesome restaurant, that wasn’t so veg*n friendly.  With that I’m beyond thrilled that the new restaurant is: delicious, affordable, and vegetarian friendly!  From a large list of veg*n apps (hot & cold) to Turkish Dumplings, there’s something for everyone at this Regent Square location.  As an added bonus they have some of the best baklava I’ve ever had, just the right amount of sweet and nutty – plus the portion sizes make them easy to share…which you probably won’t want to do.

There is honestly no bad area to eat in Pittsburgh, every corner offers something different – and I would 90% of those corners are vegetarian friendly.  From the water front to the point to the little neighborhoods that make Pittsburgh so awesome it is well worth the visit.  I’m already counting down to my next visit and can’t wait to find more places to eat!