Veggie Heaven: Recipes, Bay Area Restaurant Reviews, Life, and more!


RECIPE: Stuffed Pumpkin

I'm not sure if anyone else shares my unnatural affinity for pumpkins, but I can't get enough of them. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin spiced latte, and of course pumpkin pie....I'm all about the orange squash. I start getting excited about them in October, but I continue to bake with them all the way through the holidays.

I love this savory take on pumpkin, which is almost always featured in dessert dishes. I found this recipe on Dorie Greenspan's blog, and I've served it annually at my Halloween/birthday dinner party. The version that I do is fairly large, but this can easily be adapated for a weeknight meal for two. Besides the chopping and cooking time, it's really fairly easy. Try adding your own ingredients and see what happens! It's hard to go wrong with bread and cheese.

Finally, if you're making a large pumpkin like this, I'd really, REALLY recommend cooking it in an uncovered dutch oven. It gives the sides of the pumpkin some support, and it makes it much easier to take into and out of the oven. The one that we use is Le Cruset-style, and it works great. Any sturdy, oven-safe pot will do.

Stuffed Pumpkin
Serves 6-10, depending on portion size

1 pumpkin, about 10 inches in diameter. Make sure it fits into your oven!
16 oz. day-old bread, torn into1/2-inch chunks (I prefer sourdough)
12 oz. cheese, cut into small cubes, or coarsely shredded (I prefer swiss and smoked cheddar)
8 cloves garlic, minced (don't forget that I'm a garlic lover, so adjust accordingly)
1 granny smith apple, cut into small cubes
4 leaves kale, coarsely shredded
1/4 c. toasted almonds or pecans, chopped
approx 1/2 cup heavy cream or whole milk
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. salt 
1 t. sage

1. Prehead oven to 350 degrees. Adjust rack to fit pumpkin and dutch oven.
2. Wash pumpkin and cut off a lid, as you would to make a jack-o-lantern. Remove seeds and pulp, saving for future use if you like toasted seeds. Scrape insides of pumpkin with an ice cream scoop until you've removed all the squishy threads. Rub inside of pumpkin with olive oil, if desired.
3. Chop all ingredients down to cream and mix together inside pumpkin. Be sure to stir well so spices are distributed evenly.
4. Add cream until ingredients are just moistened. Stir again.
5. Place pumpkin top back on and bake for about two hours, or until flesh of the pumpkin can be gently pierced with a fork. Remove top and bake an additional 15-30 minutes, or until ingredients are golden brown. Be sure that flesh of the pumpkin doesn't get too soft!
6. Mix filling around with spoon, scraping some of the soft pumpkin and stirring into the mixture. Serve and impress everyone with your creative culinary presentation skills.


RECIPE: Acorn Squash with Thanksgiving-style Quinoa Stuffing

I know that Halloween has yet to pass and that Thanksgiving is still a month away (although by the look of every Santa-heavy department store, you'd swear it was late December). However, my love of sage- and thyme-flavored dishes lasts year-round, and recently I had a craving for Thanksgiving stuffing. As most vegetarians know, there's no possible way to eat stuffing that's not homemade around the holidays. Even if it wasn't crammed into a turkey cavity, getting meat juices all over it, the store-bought stuff contains chicken (or even beef) broth. So, if you want real stuffing, you have to make it yourself!

This version can be served as a main vegetarian dish at any holiday event, thanks to its quinoa-rich stuffing. Quinoa is a complete protein, with many amino acids that are rarely found in plant-based proteins, so eat up!

Acorn Squash with Thanksgiving-Style Quinoa Stuffing
Serves 4, or 2 with leftover stuffing for lunch tomorrow

1 or 2 acorn squash (each squash yields 2 servings)
1 c. quinoa (I prefer red)
2 1/2 c. vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. butter (sub in olive oil to make vegan)
2 t. thyme
1 t. sage
1/2 t. sea salt
1/2. roasted almonds, walnuts, or pecans, coarsely chopped
1/2 c. frozen yellow corn, thawed (optional)
2 T. parmesan cheese (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice squash in half and remove seeds and stringy parts. Rub with olive oil and arrange, cut side up, in a baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes or cover and microwave 7.5 minutes (baking yields a nicer texture, but microwaving is great to save time).
2. Heat butter on medium heat in a pan. Add onion and garlic and saute until onion becomes translucent. Add thyme, sage, salt, and almonds, and saute 1-2 minutes. Add corn, if desired, and cook until heated through.
3. Scoop a generous amount of the stuffing into the squash, sprinkle with parmesan cheese if desired, and bake for 5-10 minutes until golden. Remove carefully from pan and enjoy!

Fall Recipe Festival!

For those of you who know me personally, you know that the last few months have been a delicious whirlwind of new jobs, new schedules, new friends, and very few days home to play on the internet! To be clear, that's an explanation and NOT a justification for my shameful slacking in the blogosphere. To atone for my misdeeds, I'll be posting the best of my fall recipes over the new few weeks. Since I have a passion for pumpkins, squash, and anything that can be stuffed, you'll see a lot of stuffed such-and-such recipes that can be adapted to other vegetables or filling that can be eaten alone.

I'm also going to share the recipe for the Best Vegetarian Chili EVER. Yes, "EVER" must be written in all capital letter when you share this recipe.

So, enjoy, and stay warm!


RECIPE: Beet Soup with Potatoes and Beet Greens

When I received a farm box including beets, I wanted to find a recipe that would allow me to use not only the popular purple superstar but also the lesser-known leafy sidekick. I've always composted the greens (or, when possible, fed them to my awesome guinea pigs), but I know that they're rockstars nutritionally and are supposedly tasty. They're more tough than most greens that I'm familiar with, so I have to admit that I was a bit intimidated.

When I found Cooking Light's soup recipe, it seemed like a winner. I'm scarfing down my second bowl right now, and I'm impressed. I made a few modifications, but as always, customize away! I served it with lightly toasted sourdough and creamy goat cheese.

Beet Soup with Potatoes and Beet Greens
Serves 6 (or, in my case, 3 servings for one really hungry girl)

1 T. olive oil 
1 c. chopped onion 
1 c. diagonally sliced carrot 
1 1/2 c. finely chopped peeled beets
1 1/2 c. finely chopped red or purple potatoes 
1 1/2 c. water 
2 T. tomato paste (Didn't have any, so I pureed one tomato in my food processor) 
1/8 t. black pepper (I hate black pepper, so I omitted it) 
21 oz. vegetable broth (the recipe calls for beef broth, which would give a heartier taste) 
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained (I only had the kind with green chiles, which I liked) 
4 c. coarsely chopped beet greens
1 T. brown sugar

1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté 5 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently.
2. Stir in beets and next 6 ingredients (beets through tomatoes). Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 35 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
3. Stir in beet greens and sugar; cook 5 minutes.

Slow-cooker directions
Complete Step 1 in a small frying pan. Transfer to slow-cooker, add all ingredients except sugar and greens, and cook on low 5-6 hours. Stir in greens and sugar, cover, and allow to cook until greens are tender (about 15 minutes).

Nutrition Information (per 1 1/3 c. serving): Calories: 135, Fat: 1g, Carbs: 22g, Fiber: 2.8, Protein: 6g


Zombie Blog

Question: how long must a blogger be away from his or her blog before said blog becomes officially dead? One month? One year? Well, in my case, I'll take my three-month hiatus and call it a temporary death of my blog. Work, play, and the increasingly beautiful San Francisco weather drew me away from my blog, and its youth was not enough to sustain it. Now that I've returned, I'm going to classify my blog as coming back to life, which would make a zombie. Sure, I know that zombies are all hip and stuff now, but I was totally into them before they became popular. Anyway.

My husband and I recently joined Eatwell Farms, a Bay Area-based CSA, or community-supported agriculture. Every week, we receive a box from the Sacramento farm containing a variety of fruit, vegetables, eggs from happy chickens, and the occasional bunch of lavender. For less than the price of a Safeway produce run, we get to experience fresh, organic produce from only a few miles away. For anyone who knows me and my affection for animals that can border on the absurd, it's important to me to only eat eggs that come from "happy" chickens. If I were a chicken, I wouldn't be happy being cooped up (pun actually not intended) in a sad little wire cage, cannibalisticly eating the remnants of my other fellow chickens (it's true, look it up).

The Eatwell chickens get to hang out and enjoy the beautiful sunshine, breeze, and fresh water as they commune with their brothers and sisters. Basically, they get to enjoy a 24/7 free-range chicken party. Knowing this makes me feel pretty darn good about buying their eggs and therefore fighting for the chicken's right to party. But I digress.

Each week, I'm going to find and post a recipe that I've never tried before that incorporates some of the produce that we receive. Some of the items I'm pretty familiar with (squash, strawberries), some I'm familiar with but haven't cooked with much before (beets, basil), and some I've never eaten or didn't even know you could cook (lavender, turnips). I'll stretch my culinary knowledge and share any triumphs (or failures) in the process.

So, I hope you enjoy this resurrection.


RECIPE: Amazing Veggie Quiche

In our apartment, brunch reigns supreme. I think I've already demonstrated my affection for lentils and passion for thick, chunky soups, but brunch ranks right there for me. One of my all-time favorite brunch dishes comes from Lakewinds Natural Foods in Minnetonka, Minnesota. The combination of spices and vegetables is delicious, and the smooth eggy custard base is decadent but not heavy.

I use a basic frozen pie crust when I make this, but you could easily substitute a homemade version (perhaps whole-wheat?).

Lakewinds Quiche
Serves 12, yield 2 quiches


2 pie crusts, uncooked
1/2 cup sun dried tomato
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/2 onion diced
1 15 oz. can artichoke hearts, quartered
1/4 teaspoon thyme
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup spinach leaves chopped
1 cup milk
3/4 teaspoon dried mustard
dash nutmeg
7 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese shredded
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese shredded

1. Defrost, bring to room temperature, and unroll pie crusts. Place each crust in a 9" pie pan and crimp edges of dough.
2. Hydrate tomatoes in a bowl of hot water for 5 minutes or until soft. Drain, cool, and cut into mediium size pieces.
3. Sauté onion, mushrooms, and thyme in olive oil until onions are transparent. Add remaining vegetables and sauté 1-2 minutes. In a large bowl, combine milk, eggs, cheeses, and spices. Whisk smooth. Add vegetables and tomatoes.
4. Pour into crusts. Bake at 350°F for 30 - 40 minutes or until the middle of each quiche is set (doesn't wiggle). Cool slightly and serve.

To make mini quiches, use a muffin pan and cut dough into circles using a cookie cutter or rim of a water glass. Use 1 pie crust per 12 mini quiches, and you will need 3 crusts (36 mini quiches) to use all the filling.


RECIPE: Golden Gate Bridge Lasagna

I've had my share of tasty veggie lasagnas over the years, from my mom's butternut squash lasagna with a delicate cream sauce to a friend's gourmet vegetable lasagna. They're all worthy variations, and I'll post some in the future. However, I wanted to start out with a basic recipe that my husband and I created a few weeks ago. I'm sure that there are tons of similar recipes out there, but this one can be whipped up in a flash and contains a scant 280 calories per large piece (!!!). Keeping the red pepper raw before baking adds a nice texture and keeps it from becoming mushy.

The title of the lasagna comes from the day we made it. My husband and I were getting ready to make the chilly, foggy, 8-mile round-trip from our apartment across the Golden Gate Bridge and back, but we also wanted to cook something that we could eat throughout the week. So, we assembled the lasagna before our walk and popped it into the over when we got home. It was the perfect thing to scarf down after returning home!

Golden Gate Bridge Lasagna
Serves 12 (or 6 really hungry people)

1 package no-boil lasagna noodles (we like Trader Joe's)
2 jars of your favorite pasta sauce (we like Trader Joe's Arrabiata Sauce for a little spice)
1 15 oz. tub fat-free or low-fat ricotta cheese
2 c. shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese
1/2 c. + 2 T. shredded parmesan/asiago blend
1 heaping t. nutmeg
16 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
3 c. chopped mushrooms, your favorite variety
2 red peppers, seeded and chopped
1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 T. olive oil

1. Combine ricotta, mozzarella, and 1/2c. of the parmesan/asiago in a medium bowl. Set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion, cook on medium heat 3 minutes. Add garlic and mushrooms, and cook until mushrooms are light golden brown and have just started to shrink. Remove from heat and place into a bowl. Set aside.
3. Spray the bottom of a lasagna pan with no-stick spray, and spread a thin layer of sauce over the bottom. Place a layer of lasagna noodles, breaking pieces if necessary to completely cover the layer. Spoon 1/3 of the cheese mixture over the noodles, then 1/3 of the vegetable mixture over the cheese. Sprinkle pieces of the raw red pepper over the cooked vegetable mixture.
4. Continue the sauce-noodles-cheese-veggies-red pepper layers until you run out, finishing with a layer of noodles with sauce on top. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 T. parmesan/asiago blend.
5. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until the top is golden brown and sides are bubbly. Let cool 15 minutes, serve, and enjoy!