Monthly Archives: March 2012

Portabella On A Pretzel Roll

Sometimes, right in the middle of life and completely out of nowhere, you have a thought that seems like it’s not really connected to anything else going on but really when you think about it further it kinda is.  This is exactly what happened to me Sunday morning, and it all started with Mick jumping up and down asking, “why”, everytime his feet hit the ground!  “Why do I have to take a shower?”, Mick kept asking.  Looking at my kid, with dirt and mud (and probably even old food) all over his arms and legs all I could think was . . . . really??  “Because you haven’t had one in three days”, I said. 

So Mick stomped off and got into the shower and the next thing I know he’s singing and whistling and all is right again with the world!  I love that about Mick.  Not that he gets mad at me when I ask him to take a shower, but that he’s so engaged in life that it doesn’t occur to him for 3 days that his body hasn’t seen a bar of soap!  That’s when I thought about my favorite Emily Dickinson quote, “to live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.” 

What does this have to do with a portabella mushroom you might ask?!  Absolutely nothing.  See what I mean!  But it’s Meatless Thursday Week #4 and it occured to me how I’ve been seeking and trying new recipes that might stretch my kitchen skills a bit (including today’s grilled portabella), and how much fun I’ve had doing it! 

It’s been a good National Nutrition Month!  I’ve discovered new cooking techniques I know I’ll use again (can’t wait for amazing summer veggie frittata’s) and flavors and food combinations that I’m excited to cook for my clients, family members and friends.  Engaging with food is a little like engaging in life, I think.  You gotta let go of the oh-my-gosh-I-have-no-idea-how-to-do-that thinking sometimes and just go for it.  It’s ok if it doesn’t work, at least you pushed up your sleeves and had a little fun!  There’s always another recipe, vegetable or bag of beans calling your name.  If it’s awesome you get to enjoy something fresh and delicious and the shear joy of having tried something new!!  I like it that way.  I want to live like that . . . fully engaged . . . mindful . . .  and a little dirty, just like Mick!            

So here’s the grilled Portabella on a Pretzel Roll.  PK’s not a fan of mushrooms, but Mick and I loved this sandwich!! 

Getting Ready . . . .

Portabella On A Pretzel Roll
2 large Portabella Mushroom Caps
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Garlic Cloves, chopped
2+ Tbsp Basil Pesto
2 Slices Provolone Cheese
Pretzel Rolls
Tomato Slices
Fresh Lettuce Greens
Salt & Pepper to taste

1.   Gently rinse mushroom caps and set aside.  Combine chopped garlic and olive oil and let this stand for about 10-15 minutes or so. 
2.   In the meantime, start your grill and set to a medium low heat and wash and “ready” fresh lettuce greens and tomato slices.  
3.   Lightly brush garlic-infused olive oil onto sliced pretzel rolls (for toasting) and then on the outside of the mushroom caps.  Drizzle the remaining oil on the underside of the mushrooms.  Let the mushrooms soak up the flavors for a few minutes. 
4.   Grill the Portabella’s for approximately 7-8 minutes, turning occasionally (adjust grill heat if necessary).  The sides of the mushrooms will start to pull inward and they will darken as they cook.  The mushrooms, though still a bit solid, will ‘gently give’ when you try to slice into one as they finish cooking. 
5.   Flip the mushroom caps so the underside is up (almost like a small bowl).  Spread a generous tablespoon of the basil pesto over mushrooms and top with a slice of provolone cheese.  Allow the cheese to melt over the pesto.  At the same time you can quickly ‘toast’ the pretzel rolls.   
6.  Remove everything from the grill and build sandwiches toping the mushroom caps with tomato slices and leafy lettuce greens.

Surprise . . . . delicious portabellas on a pretzel roll . . . . Enjoy!!

Prep Notes:  I was originally going to use a whole grain roll for this sandwich until I spotted the soft pretzel rolls and had a brief flashback to an amazing grilled chicken sandwich that I once had at a local restaurant.  It was served on a pretzel roll and I couldn’t shake the thought, but I’m sure this sandwich would be great on whole grain!  Also, I used a wonderful already made pesto from Trader Joe’s found in the refrigerator section along with red oak lettuce greens!

I’d love to hear of your food ventures this National Nutrition Month!    


Spring Green And Feta Frittata

There’s this car parked in a driveway along my running route with a bumper sticker that reads, “Life is like a corndog.  I don’t know why it is, it just is!”  It makes me smile every time I see it.  I keep thinking, why can’t life be like a piece of cheesecake or a field of sunflowers.  But then it wouldn’t be so quirky . . . and it probably wouldn’t keep me thinking about what life is like day and night . . . .  

Well I don’t know about you but I’ve been spying a lot of asparagus at the market these past few weeks.  Together with the WAY above average temperatures we’re having in Cary (think outside BBQ’s for St. Patrick’s Day) it’s clear that Spring has arrived!  The daffodil’s are blooming and the tree’s are turning green and it’s amazing! 

Ok – so back to the asparagus.  I’ve been reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – A Year of Food Life, (my second time) and came across a recipe for a Veggie Frittata.  My mind quickly moved to the asparagus I’ve been seeing and that’s how I came upon the recipe for Meatless Thursday Week #3!

Now you need to know that this is my very first frittata!  Yep, I’ve always wanted to make a frittata but they always look like one of those things that you have to time just right, so that it puffs up and gets golden brown yet doesn’t flop or come out runny.  So I’ve been waiting for just the right time, when a little inspiration shows up right along with the perfect recipe . . . . and it did!  This frittata (don’t you love saying this word) is super simple and the perfect meatless meal for Spring!  The veggies were my inspiration!

Here’s the recipe, and if you’ve never made a frittata because you’re a little intimidated – you gotta push that aside and give this a try!  I guarantee it’s the perfect way to give your culinary confidence a boost!!  You can add any combination of vegetables and cheese that speak to you.  I just happen to be craving feta. . . . and it tips in the lower fat cheese direction too!   Enjoy!! 

Spring Green And Feta Frittata
6 eggs
1/3 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp olive oil
sweet onion slices, approx. 3 very thin swips across the onion
8 asparagus spears, sliced into 1 inch pieces (tough ends removed)
1 cup spinach, gently torn and densly packed down
1/2 cup (heaping) feta cheese chunks
freshly ground pepper, to taste

1.   In a medium bowl beat the eggs, milk, salt and freshly ground pepper (according to taste).  Set aside.  Turn oven on to broil.   
2.   In a 10 inch cast iron (or oven-safe) skillet heat the olive oil over medium-low heat and saute the onions for 1 minute.
3.   Add the asparagus and continue to saute for 4 more minutes, until asparagus is bright and crisp tender.  Next, add the spinach and gently toss with the asparagus and onions for about 30 seconds, until it just begins to wilt. 

4.   Next, add the beaten egg mixture and the feta cheese chunks.  Gently stir a time or two to combine and then leave it to allow the eggs to set-up, approximately 3 minutes. 

5.   Transfer the frittata to the oven and place under the broiler to finish setting, approximately 2-4 minutes.  Remove once the eggs have fully set and the frittata turns golden brown.

This recipe is definitely fresh and simple . . . in fact it’s kinda got me thinking life is like a Frittata . . . . and I think I know why!    

Recipe Inspired  By, Veggie Frittata
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – A Year Of Food Life, Barbara Kingsolver

Simple Angel Hair Pasta

Hi Everyone! 
I hope it was a great weekend!  Here in the midwest it was sunny and warm!  Spring is just peeking out from every direction.  I took a new running route on Saturday and was treated to cardinals and bluebirds and the beautiful call of sandhill cranes!  Awesome!  If you haven’t already, it’s definitely time to move a workout or two outdoors . . . . it will absolutely infuse a bit of fresh into your routine!

Ok, so on to some food talk and Meatless Thursday Week #2! 
Mick and I were at the market a few weeks ago when I spotted an angel hair pasta salad behind the deli counter.  Hmmmm  . . . . . It looked great with lots of tomatoes, cheese and herbs.  Right away I started thinking about a variation on the theme, something tasty and hot for supper!  With our family focusing on more meatless meals this month I thought it the perfect time to experiment –  and all I can say is, ‘where has this recipe been all my life’!?

I realize tossing pasta with herbs and vegetables isn’t anything new . . . so it must be the medley of a few simple flavors that come together perfectly, combined with my passion for a bowl of pasta deliciousness that make this my new favorite dish!  I know, last week I discovered my new favorite Chili recipe. 
Isn’t this an amazing month!!

So here’s how it all came together.  Maybe next time I’ll add some seasonal fresh asparagus . . . . .   

Simple Angel Hair Pasta
14-16 oz angel hair pasta (I used whole wheat – see notes below)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes in juice, diced (I used organic plum tomatoes)
4 Tbsp olive oil
4 Tbsp fresh basil, gently shredded
4 Tbsp fresh parsley, gently chopped
1/4 – 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
parmesan cheese, shredded 
kosher salt, (2 pinches)

1.   Prepare pasta according to box directions and set aside.  
2.   In a large skillet, heat olive oil and saute garlic, tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and kosher salt.  Let simmer, stirring occasionally, approximately 5-7 minutes (be careful not to burn the garlic). 
3.   Add drained pasta to the skillet and toss with the sauce until well coated.
4.  Add the basil and parsley and continue to toss until all is combined.
5.   Transfer to plates and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. 

Recipe Adapted From:

Cooking Notes:  I used Barilla Plus Angel Hair pasta that comes in a 14.5 oz box though this recipe works fine with a full 1 pound box of pasta as well.  Also, this dish has a ‘kick’ to it so adjust the pepper flakes to your preference.  I used a full 1/2 tsp.  One last thought – If you’ve never tried it, this is the perfect dish to try Parmesan Reggiano as it really seems to elevate the flavor!   

Black Bean Sweet Potato Chili

Hi Everyone!

Well it’s Meatless Thursday Week #1 and I’m excited to share my favorite Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili recipe.  Actually, I’ve never had Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili before Friday night – but it is now, most definitely, my favorite!  

It all started a few weeks ago when my new friend and blog follower Mary suggested I try Rancho Gordo beans from Napa.  Rancho Gordo specializes in Heirloom beans that are known for their unique varieties and flavor!  Since I’m always looking to add a new adventure to my culinary experience I decided to place an order. 

Early last week and in perfect time my beans arrived!    I had discovered this new chili recipe and the Midnight Black Beans were exactly what I needed.  I’m still feeling kinda hip about it all, I mean, beans from Napa on my doorstep!  Ok, so the inspiration for this recipe came from something I found on  The original recipe called for butternut squash.  Though I like butternut squash, I love sweet potatoes and this is what I had on hand.  So with a few adjustments this is what I came up with! 

It’s really quite simple to assemble though takes a few hours to simmer.  As you might imagine my concern was that PK would enjoy our meatless venture.  It was important that the first of our recipes WOW him with possibility!  I think it worked – but without a doubt the Pepper Jack cheese we shredded on top of our chili helped sway him!!    

Black Bean Sweet Potato Chili
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 1/2 Medium Onions, chopped
6 Garlic Cloves, chopped
2 1/2 Tbsp Chili Powder
1 Tbsp Ground Coriander
2 (14.5 oz) cans Fire-roasted Tomatoes
1 Pound Dried Black Beans, rinsed
1 (4 oz) Can Mild Green Chile Peppers, diced
2 tsp dried Oregano
3 cups Sweet Potatoes, diced
1/2 cup dry Bulgur
3/4 tsp Kosher Salt
Pepper Jack Cheese, optional
Light Sour Cream, optional
Red Onion, optional  

1.   In a large pot heat the olive oil and saute onions and garlic until soft (about 8 minutes)
2.   Sprinkle chili powder and coriander over the onions and garlic and stir for about 1 minute.  Add tomatoes in their juice, green chile’s, beans, oregano, kosher salt and 10 cups water. 
3.   Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low, cover the pot with lid a bit ajar and simmer until the beans are  tender, stirring occasionally, about 21/2 – 3 hours.  Be sure to monitor the tenderness of your beans keeping in mind that the sweet potatoes and bulgur will be added next for some additional cooking time.         
4.   Add sweet potatoes and bulgur to chili, and simmer over medium heat until they are tender, approximately 30 more minutes.  The chili will continue to thicken.  Season with additional kosher salt to taste. 

Prep Notes:  Most certainly it’s the add-ons that can pump up the flavor (not that this chili needs too much pumping up).  You might want to try pepper jack cheese, light sour cream, jalapeno peppers (from a jar) or red onion! 
Bulgur wheat can be purchased in bulk at a variety of markets or in a box in the natural foods section of the store. 
And my thoughts on the Rancho Gordo Midnight Black Beans?  They were fantastic!  Soft yet firm enough to hold their shape and a wonderful rich flavor!  I’m excited to try the rest!  A treat indeed . . . .

Here’s to the adventure! 

Recipe Adapted From, 
Rancho Gordo Site,