Simple and Elegant Vegetarian Dinner for Two

Garlic-roasted acorn squash stuffed with quinoa and orange balsamic pan-glazed tempeh, topped with cranberries and fresh basil. Mmm, easy weeknight gourmet!

This lovely little meal would be a nice, easy vegetarian (or vegan!) date night dinner, or just a fancy-ish entree for no occasion at all. I’m so happy with the way this turned out. All the flavors blend just beautifully, and it just has that “special meal” feel to it.Β It makes great leftovers for lunch the next day too!

Note: The glaze was inspired by my favorite salad dressing, orange balsamic vinaigrette. However, here the vinegar and soy sauce seemed to overpower the orange flavor a little, so I added a few drops of orange oil to bring out that flavor. If you don’t have that on hand, try adding orange zest or a tablespoon or so of orange juice concentrate.

Ingredients

  • 1 package tempeh – sliced, cubed, or crumbled
  • 1 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbs soy sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, coursely chopped
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tsp olive oil + more for brushing
  • 2-3 drops orange oil (see note above)
  • Pinch of cumin (I used a little less than 1/8 tsp)
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa (or other grain such as brown rice, millet, or spelt berries. Or no grain at all, even)
  • 1 small acorn squash
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Directions

First, get that squash roasting. Halve it, scoop out the seeds, pierce the flesh with a knife, brush with olive oil, top with coarsely chopped garlic, place in a baking dish with 1/4 inch of water, and roast until soft and golden at 400 F, about 30-40 min. (Whew, sorry about the long sentence! πŸ˜‰ )

Meanwhile, sautΓ© the onion in oil until soft. Add the tempeh, orange juice, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, cumin, black pepper, and orange oil. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat down a bit, and let it simmer until all the liquid has disappeared. (About 10 minutes) The tempeh and onions should have a nice glaze. Stir in the cranberries.

While the tempeh simmers, cook the quinoa or grain of your choice. I combined the quinoa with 1 cup water in a pot with a dash of salt. Bring to a boil, cover, and let simmer until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is soft, about 15 minutes.

When everything is done, fill the acorn squash cavity with quinoa, then top with the tempeh and basil.

This would be lovely with a green salad or steamed asparagus, and glass of red wine. Enjoy!

.

Flatbread Appetizers with Garlic-Roasted Butternut Squash, Rosemary, and Walnuts

There was much deliberation about titling this one. I don’t actually even know what they are. Appetizers? Tartines? Flatbreads? Topped crackers? Mini pizzas, even? Call them what you will. They are delicious.

I know it’s not quite the season for squashes anymore, but I’ll post this one and one more delicious squash recipe before they disappear from the produce markets for summer. If you don’t have squash, try carrots or sweet potato instead!

Also, I didn’t really measure anything — amounts are approximate. I used some of my rosemary olive oil flatbreads, and some store-bought. Both worked great, although I liked my rosemary flatbreads better πŸ˜‰

Ingredients

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 3 large round flatbreads, or about 6 rosemary olive oil flatbreads
  • 2 tbs dried rosemary, or 1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 3 cloves garlic, coursely chopped
  • A little olive oil for brushing
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

First, roast the butternut squash.

I halve it, scoop out the seeds, pierce the flesh with a knife, brush with olive oil, and put in a baking dish with about 1/4 inch of water (I’ve heard it prevents the skin from burning.) Sprinkle the chopped garlic on top and roast at 400 F until soft and brown around the edges. Or you can “cheat” and microwave the squash for 10 min, though it doesn’t get that nice roasted taste.

Meanwhile, toss the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast them in the 400 F oven until browned, about 10 minutes. (They do burn quickly!) Also, steam the spinach while you are waiting. Place the fresh spinach in a steamer or colander above boiling water just until it brightens up a bit and begins to soften.

When the squash is done, assemble the flatbreads! Put a thin layer of steamed spinach on the bottom (not too much or the spinach will overwhelm the other flavors), add a few slices of butternut squash (keep the roasted garlic on top too!) and top with toasted walnuts. Sprinkle with rosemary, salt, and pepper.

I also added some feta cheese on a whim, and it turned out well!

Serve as a side dish, an appetizer, a light entree, or as tapas style finger foods. Enjoy! πŸ™‚

Sweet Potato Runner’s Recovery Smoothie + a Running Tour of San Francisco

Photo Courtesy of zoonabar. Click to see the original.

I am a runner. And I live near the gorgeousness that is the San Francisco Bay area. If you ever come visit, bring your running shoes. And a good pair of lungs.

There’s a beautiful bay-side pedestrian/cycling path that brings you through some of San Francisco’s iconic landmarks — Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, views of Alcatraz, Fort Mason, the Presidio…complete with lots of lush greenery, beaches, and views of the bay with all the yachts, cargo ships, and ferries that populate it. And Golden Gate Bridge in all its glory.

Photo courtesy of http2007. Click to see the original photo.

I love running this route. It’s a real treat, except that getting there require summiting several of San Francisco’s infamous hills, the steepest kind where there’s no sidewalks, just stairs. Oh, and today there were 25 mph head winds that all but render you motionless. Altogether, I think I ran 16 miles, but they were 16 miles that were extra…punishing. I was bonking hard by the end!

What’s a girl to do when she runs out of calories?

Why, she crams as many as she can in a blender, and makes this smoothie of course!

My goal here was to pack as much superfood nutrition as I could in a smoothie. It’s chock full of protein, fiber, low glycemic carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals…it’s got it all. Of course, you don’t have to run 16 miles to enjoy it. πŸ™‚

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh kale
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup cooked sweet potato chunks (I used canned)
  • 1/4 ripe avocado
  • 1 tbs ground flaxseed
  • 1 tbs chia seed
  • 1 heaping scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 1 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • dash nutmeg
  • Granola for topping (optional)

Directions

Starting with the greens and ending with the sweet potato and banana, put all ingredients in a blender. Blend until it reaches your desired consistency. Add more milk as needed.

Now to enjoy my runner’s high, wind burn, and sweet potato recovery smoothie topped with granola!

How do you like to refuel after a tough workout?

Chard Veggie Wraps with Garlic Dijon Spread

Happy Memorial Day weekend everyone! For me, the best part about this weekend is that it signifies the beginning of summer.

And one of the many wonderful things about summer is the produce at farmer’s markets. Here’s the colorful armful with which I left my neighborhood farmer’s market this morning:

Of course, the fun part was coming up with ways to use the veggies! My solution — wrapping vegetables in vegetables and making it delicious. πŸ™‚

Ingredients

  • 1-2 leaves swiss or rainbow chard, washed
  • your choice of chopped, washed veggies (I used 1 zucchini, 2 carrots, 1/4 cup chopped onion, and 1 red bell pepper)
  • 2 tbs mayonnaise or non-dairy mayo
  • 1 tbs dijon mustard, or to taste
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried onion flakes
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Combine the mayo, mustard, garlic, onion flakes, salt and pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Cut the chard into strips. At the point on the leaf when the stem gets too big, discard it and use the leaves around it.

Chop the veggies into strips.

Spread the garlic mayo on a chard leave, and pile up with about 1/4 cup chopped veggies arranged vertically.

Wrap up the chard leave, and enjoy!

You could also add a little olive oil or lemon juice to the mayo spread, to make it more liquidy, and use it as a dip!

Can you tell that they were really fun to take pictures of? πŸ˜‰

Fro Yo Berry Bites

I totally love the new trend of soft-serve frozen yogurt (fro yo) shops. I guess that’s what inspired this creations…that and my love of chewing on frozen fruit when it’s hot out! πŸ™‚

Given that Memorial Day Weekend is coming up, here’s one to get you in summer mode.

I didn’t measure anything, but this is simple enough where you don’t really need a recipe. Have fun experimenting with different frozen yogurts! I used vanilla nonfat greek yogurt. They were creamy and just a little sweet. Feel free to add more sweetener if you want them more dessert-like. Frozen grapes would also work well!

Ingredients

  • Your choice of yogurt
  • Sweetener (optional, to taste)
  • Small fresh berries like blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, or cut strawberry slices
  • Chopped nuts (optional)

Directions

Dip each berry into the yogurt so it is coated. I used a toothpick inserted at a diagonal into the berry, and it worked well! Roll in the chopped nuts if you like.

Lay them on waxed paper and freeze for 20-30 minutes, or until frozen. Yum!

Mango Spinach Smoothie + Blog Award Nomination!

Another green smoothie for you. The other day I woke up craving this so much, that I walked all the way to the grocery store to get bananas and mangoes, even before my morning coffee. True story.

My point — this is a good one. πŸ™‚

But first, the Food Stories Blog Award Nomination! Erin at Recimplicity kindly nominated me for this award. Thanks Erin! If you haven’t checked out her blog, you really should! She posts the best recipes – healthy, simple, fresh, and doable! She gave me the idea to add quinoa to my oatmeal and I’ve been doing that since. She also has some exercise ideas posted — ones that don’t require a million steps. Great blog!

According to the contest rules, here’s a random fact about me. I love reading Aristotle. And Plato, and Seneca…actually, all the Ancient Greek philosophers. That might label me as a nerd but that’s what I do in my free time…when I’m not cooking, running, at yoga class or outside, that is. πŸ™‚

The blogs I nominate are:
In Pursuit of More
Food and Foto
Simply Dish
Things My Belly Likes
Food Life Passion

Ingredients

  • 3-4 cups spinach, kale, or both
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 1/4 cup milk of choice
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder (optional)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen mango chunks
  • ice

Directions

Toss everything into a blender, spinach first.

Then blend. Yum.