Sunday, July 31, 2011
I love chain restaurants-- TGI Friday's, Outback, you name it. Even though their menu isn't necessarily vegetarian-friendly, they have meals. Full meals that take a relatively short amount of time to create and then scarf down with the help of some good-old mall tap water. My favorite place for the past few years has been Chili's. Chili's became my frequent. I remember, during my first break home after being away at school for a few months, Chili's 2 for $20 meal was the bomb! This is where I fell in love with the Quesadilla Explosion Salad (without the chicken of course). My mother constantly tried to recreate my favorite meal at home, but it was never the same--always too watery or the dressing wasn't just right. But I have recently befriended Google. When people used to tell me just Google it, I would find myself looking at them like they were nerds or technologically savvy aliens. But they weren't kidding, you can literally "Google" anything. I've only recently began reaping the benefits of the 21st century. Anyway, I Googled my favorite Chili's salad, and POOF! There was my recipe. Everything was store-bought. I didn't want to stray from the processed ingredients that I knew Chili's was serving me. I wanted this meal to be authentic! Interestingly enough the salad used the Marie's Chipotle Ranch dressing I had used from a previous recipe, so I didn't need that. But I did need the shredded taco cheese, few meals are complete without the queso. I threw together the canned beans, corn, and tomatoes that the web chef found necessary Unfortunately I could not find prepackaged cilantro, so I had to make a quick stop at the produce section before exiting my local Stop n Shop. The only ingredient that required the stove was the can of beans. After cooking they were rinsed and tossed into the giant bowl with all of the ingredients--including a heart of Romaine lettuce. Close but no cigar...
When I came across this recipe, I had to admit it sounded incredibly boring:"Summer Vegetable Sandwich" but the picture made it look easy--so I chose it. The finished product turned out to be anything but boring. Thyme, lemon zest, italian seasoning, and lemon juice were just a few of the flavors added to the marinade for the vegetables. My mom thought that pomegranate vinegar would be more interesting than cider vinegar that the recipe called for so I tried it out--that and just a little bit of canola oil and the sauce was complete! I was sure that it was going to turn into some herb-ified disaster. It sounded like too many different flavors for grilled vegetables. Since I love color, I decided we'd use both red and yellow peppers. I also used white onions, zucchini and summer squash. It was so simple. I chopped the veggies in long pieces and dipped them in the marinade. I put the them on the grill (325 degrees) and watched over them (too carefully) until they turned slightly golden, about 5-7 minutes. After everything was grilled, I sliced mozzarella and cut a loaf of multi-grain italian bread into pieces. Using one loaf, two peppers, half an onion, a zucchini and a giant squash I was able to feed five very hungry adults. We chose to use Marie's Chipotle Ranch dressing as a dip. It was a great touch. The sandwich was light but filling and really tasted like something from Panera Bread. Highly recommended.
Since I over-thought last night's meal (Which was DELICIOUS--I had the remains for lunch.) I found myself with a ton of left over ingredients. So for tonight's meal I decided to combine two recipes that I came across. Both dubbed "vegetarian stuffed peppers" but it was clear one favored Spanish ingredients and the other Italian. So I found a happy medium! I incorporated the can of black beans that the Spanish recipe called for, while still using the oregano and basil that the Italians love. Spatalian! I've always loved fusion restaurants, so why not? I was a little less intimidated today since no one was in the house or kitchen. I found the 4 left over peppers from yesterday, some already cut--but I played with the knife and worked it out so that they all could be stuffed! Then I brought out the mixing bowl. 1/4 of a red onion (all of last night's Spanish onion was used), one tomato, ten oz brown rice, three garlic cloves, one tbs oregano, basil, garlic and onion powder, one cup of mozzarella cheese, and one can of black beans later...I had my filling. The only ingredients that I cooked before the mixing bowl were the beans. I sprinkled some parmesan on top of the mix and stirred until all of the ingredients looked evenly spread. I then put the filling in each pepper, shocking I know! I placed them in a baking dish with a little extra mozz. and put them in the oven. So simple. Hopefully time and effort are not necessary for taste when it comes to this dish. Pictures later!
Vegetable enchiladas. I had to have Mexican, my favorite kind of food, on my first day. The enchiladas are vegetarian-friendly. The first and very necessary step was to befriend the chopper--my new favorite tool. I started off by taking three cloves of garlic (one more than necessary but hey, who's watching) and inserting them into the Glad chopping machine. Afterwards I also chopped Spanish onion, and cilantro (to use later). I followed the recipe exactly and used olive oil to sautee the garlic and onion. The recipe calls for 1 red pepper, sliced. I chose to use a equal parts of red, yellow and green pepper. I thought that this would look prettier in my mixing bowl. Plus, I've always been a huge fan of Reggae music. The aroma from my medium sauce pan was to die for, it even got grandma off the couch and into the kitchen. After several minutes, I emptied the remains of the sauce pan into a mixing bowl, followed by two cups of steamed broccoli and a can of black beans. I then added the cilantro--the leafy substance that I will now add to anything and everything. A few twirls with my spoon and then it was cheese time, two cups of shredded mozzarella were added to the mix. I have to admit, I believed that the filling would be a little salty due to all of the sodium in the ingredients, but it wasn't at all. (I shamefully took a few spoon fills, but again who's watching). I heated the oven to 350 degrees and filled five whole wheat tortillas with the filling; I topped them with bright red salsa (the original recipe called for green, but I'm not a huge fan) and sprinkled them with cheese. Fifteen minutes in the oven and VOILÀ! Presentation...Perfect with a dollop of Daisy. Well, except for the fact that the filling began to spew out like a volcano. Regardless, meal #1 went smoothly--besides the wrestling that took place with disobedient can of black beans.