Summer vegetable and watermelon salad

This simply dressed salad bursts with all five layers of flavor: sweet from the watermelon, a hint of bitter from the cucumbers, salty from the cheese cubes, sour from tomatoes and a little balsamic vinegar and garlic for umami

tomatoes, cheese, peppers, watermelon and cucumber salad

Serves many
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 large cucumber, quartered
1/2 personal size seedless watermelon, cubed
1 cup muenster or cheddar cheese (or both!), cubed
1/4 tsp. dry basil or several leaves diced fresh basil
1/2 sweet bell pepper, sliced and diced
1 clove minced garlic
A few splashes of balsamic vinegar (maybe 2 T?)
Salt to taste (1/2 tsp perhaps?)

Combine ingredients, let rest for at least 30 minutes and serve.

Sick of cutting watermelon? Try this hack.


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Quinoa, kale and apple bowl

A simple, fast and nutritious meal where the kale is the star and the apples and grains supporting players. Serves 2

1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup vegetable broth
3 cups fresh kale leaves, broken into pieces
1 chopped apple
1 large clove minced garlic
2 T apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp mustard
salt and pepper
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1/8 cup chopped dried apricots (optional)

Thoroughly rinse quinoa in a sieve/strainer (or colander lined with cheesecloth). Add to a medium sized pot with vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Lower to simmer, cover and cook until liquid is mostly absorbed, about 15 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to rest while you prepare the kale. 

Add a little oil to a wok or large pan. Over medium high heat, add kale, garlic, apple cider vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Stir often until kale just begins to soften. Add apples, walnuts and quinoa (including any leftover liquid). Cook until kale is wilted, but still an appealing bright green color. 

Serve in bowls topped with the chopped apricots.

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Coconut and Chik’n Asian Risotto

This was an interesting weekend for fusion-style dishes. First came the refried beans, salsa and cheese stuffed wontons. Topped with a sliver of butter and baked at 375 for 12 minutes, I served them as an appetizer to black bean soup as a substitute for grilled cheese sandwiches. For dinner was this dish I’m calling an Asian risotto. I didn’t think it was half bad!

2 tsp. vegetarian fish sauce (nước mắm chay)*
1 T. lime juice
4 Quorn chik’n cutlets
1 cup uncooked Jasmine rice
2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 inch ginger, grated**
1-15 oz. can coconut milk
1 dried Asian chili (Ớt hiểm), optional
3-4 leaves Asian basil (húng quế)

De-thaw Quorn cutlets, cut into strips. Toss with vegetarian fish sauce and lime juice, set aside.

Bring rice, broth and ginger to a boil in a big pot. Stir once, reduce to simmer, cover and cook for 10-15 minutes until rice is almost cooked, but still al dente. Stir in coconut milk, chik’n and peppers. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until liquid is nearly gone and rice takes on a creamy texture, about another 10 minutes. Stir in basil and serve.

*Yes, vegetarian fish sauce exists and you may buy it online. Or you can have an overseas relative bring it to you from Vietnam, which is what I did.

**I keep buy ginger fresh, then wrap it in aluminum foil and freeze it. That way I always have it on hand for grating into recipes.

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Lentil rice loaf

I became a vegetarian in 7th grade and prior to that was raised on a diet of mostly Vietnamese food, Slim Jims and Happy Meals, so some classic American meat dishes elude me completely. In this category is meatloaf, a comfort food stuffed together by 1950s housewives and haunting American kitchens ever since. (I’m making this part up – I have no idea about the origin of meatloaf.) By removing the ground beef and replacing it with tasty vegetables and soy protein, we can improve upon this classic and make it palpable for both vegetarians and omnivores alike (I’m also making this part up as I don’t know what meatloaf is supposed to taste like. I do know I tried a Bobby Flay recipe once and it was not edible.)

1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
1/2 cup uncooked lentils, rinsed and picked through for any small stones
4-5 cups vegetable broth
1/2 small diced onion
3 cups finely diced vegetables – whatever is in your fridge. Carrots, broccoli, celery, green pepper, squash, it’s all good. Use at least two.

1/2 cup oats
1 T. soy sauce
1 T. Sriracha sauce
1 T. steak sauce, make sure it’s anchovy-free if you’re a vegetarian
3/4 cup Morningstar crumbles, dethawed
1 tsp. black pepper
1 egg

2 T. ketchup
2 T. dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 350.

Bring rice, lentils and 4 cups of vegetable broth to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, stir, cover and cook undisturbed for 10 minutes. Add the diced vegetables, stir and cover for another 10-15 minutes until lentils and rice are al dente. May need to add more broth along the way, but try to keep lid on as much as possible. After cooking, add 1/2 of the mixture to a food processor and blend.

Meanwhile, add 1/4 cup oats to your food processor and blend until fine, then remove to a mixing bowl. Mix in remaining 1/4 oats, and the rest of the ingredients, including all of the lentils/rice/vegetables. Press into an oiled loaf pan, cover and bake for 30 minutes.

Combine ketchup and dijon. After 30 minutes, remove loaf, spread with half of the ketchup/dijon sauce and bake uncovered for 15 more minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving with more sauce on the side.

Recommended side dish: cucumber salad.

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Chickpea Bulgar Burgers

I’ll admit that I read the name of this recipe wrong. It was supposed to be “chickpeas with bulgar,” but I read it as “chickpea bulgar burgers.” Then when I went to cook it I was so disappointed not to have food in patty form that I changed the recipe and whipped out my electric grill. All turned out well.

1/4 cup uncooked bulgar
1/2 cup boiling water
1 can garbanzo beans (AKA chickpeas)
1/4 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup grape tomatoes, diced
1/2 cucumber, diced
1/2 cup mayo
1 egg, slightly beaten
A few leaves of fresh mint, chopped
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. olive oil
salt and pepper

Add bulgar to a heat safe bowl, pour in bowling water, cover and rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat a skillet or electric griddle and drain and rinse the garbanzo beans. In a separate bowl, chop the beans using a potato masher. When bulgar has absorbed the water, add beans and all remaining ingredients. Cook on medium low for approximately 5 minutes per side until golden, brown and delicious. Serve as-is or with sour cream.

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Vegetarian Tater Tot Casserole

Serving this at my table was not my proudest moment in terms of healthy content, but hey, sometimes you just have to put a meal on the table.

3/4 bag frozen tater tots
1 15 oz. container of sour cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 diced onion
1 clove minced garlic
Frozen peas

Preheat oven to 375. Combine sour cream, onion and garlic. Pour 1/2 of the frozen tater tots into a greased casserole dish. Top with sour cream and peas. Pour remaining tater tots on top, layer again with sour cream, peas, and top with cheese. Bake for 55 minutes until cooked through.

Alternatively, this can be made in a Crock Pot/slow cooker on low for 4 hours.

What to do with that remaining 1/4 bag? Turn it into breakfast casserole!

1/4 bag frozen tater tots
1/2 cup Morningstar crumbles
1/4 diced onion
2 eggs
1 cup milk

Arrange tater tots, crumbles and onion in a greased casserole dish. Combine eggs and milk, beat lightly and pour over tot mixture. Bake at 375 for 55 minutes until eggs are mostly cooked through. Rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

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Tucker’s Tabbouleh

A co-worker brought this to our office potluck today and it was so great it broke my recipe funk of the past few months.

1 cup bulgur wheat
1 cup water
juice from two lemons
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 cup chopped green onions
1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1 cup chopped cilantro (or parsley)
1 cucumber, unpeeled, diced
2.25 oz. can sliced black olives
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic salt

boil water and pour over wheat in a mixing bowl
stir and let stand for 30 minutes
add other ingredients and stir thoroughly
refrigerate overnight

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