Vegetable Wellington (Easter Practice)

i’m a big fan of chef gordon ramsay and i watch every season of Hell’s Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares.  there are two dishes that are part of the Hell’s Kitchen menu every season and almost every seating: risotto and beef wellington.   i’ve have several opportunities to try different risottos as it isn’t difficult to find vegetarian versions.  beef wellington i had not even heard of until i’d already gone vegetarian. juicy, soft, red meat melting in your mouth enveloped in a buttery, flakey, pastry crust.  *drool* hey i didn’t give up meat because i didn’t like the taste!  but anyways i always wanted to try a wellington but thought that would never be happening.  until my mom told me about a place that had a fantastic salmon wellington.  i will on very rare occassions eat tuna, tilapia, or salmon… very rare.  this was an occassion i was willing, except she couldn’t remember where the place was and so we never went.  but that opened up an awareness that it could be made with other stuffings.  i eventually started to see mushroom wellingtons pop up on catering menus when i was doing wedding vendor research.  ding ding ding!  i love mushrooms! i love portabellos! oh but those are so expensive!  so the search continued for a wellington that would satisfy my vegetarianism and wallet.  intro vegetable wellingtons.  most have extensive ingredient lists, which isn’t a bad thing, except being a newb at this i wanted to KISS (keep it simple, stupid).  Vegetarian Time’s came through for me!  today i bought the ingredients for and began making their Vegetable Wellington Redux.  my hope is that it will turn out fantastic enough that we’ll want it again for Easter dinner.

oh and on a side note, gordon ramsay hates vegetarians for some reason so i find it humorous that it was one of his shows that inspired me to seek out and try this dish.  take that gordon, ya donkey!

issues during making: i’ve learned that i am not good with puff pastry sheets.  it seemed as though i had too much stuffing and i couldn’t really fold the sheets over the filling.  also, i’m cheap and don’t like paying more than $2 for anything hehe so paying about $4 for frozen phyllo dough, over $6 for the goat cheese, and $3.50 for a jar of pesto was not my cup of tea but hopefully it’s all worth it!  my dough wrapping skills need some work, the side split though, on the plus side, that gave me a cool picture!  oh and you might want to use two sheets of wax paper… mine stuck to the wellington a bit and was difficult to take off especially since it got soft from soaking in yummy juices.  perhaps some Pam spray?  also the recipe calls for bell peppers, which i used, but i think next time i’ll use artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers because i’m really not a bell pepper fan.  for your cooking pleasure, i’ve provided the recipe i used and any changes i made in blue.

Vegetables Wellington Redux

Ingredient List
Serves 8

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 lb. asparagus, cut into 11/2-inch pieces
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, cut into thin strips (i used 1 red bell pepper and 1 green bell pepper)
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced (11/2 cups)
  • 1 5-oz. pkg. baby spinach leaves
  • 1 4-oz. jar prepared pesto sauce (smallest jar i found was 8 oz so i used half)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 17.3-oz. pkg. frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 10-oz. log fresh goat cheese, softened (could only find 5oz logs, i bought 2 and choose the “herb flavored” ones for extra pop)
  • 1 16-oz. jar prepared tomato sauce, warmed (seems stores around here sell only 15oz cans/jars, not 16 so i was an oz short… oh well!)

Directions

1. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add asparagus, bell peppers, and onion, and sauté 5 to 10 minutes, or until vegetables begin to soften. Add spinach, and cook 3 to 4 minutes, or until spinach wilts. Stir in pesto. Cool.

2. Whisk egg in bowl, and set aside. Cut 15- x 10-inch piece of parchment paper, and set on work surface. Place 1 sheet puff pastry on parchment paper. Lift parchment with puff pastry, and place parchment-side-down in 9-inch loaf pan. Press pastry into pan, being careful not to let folds get caught in parchment and allowing excess parchment and pastry to hang over sides. Cut squares from second puff pastry sheet, and press onto short sides of parchment-covered pan to make dough shell. Prick bottom of puff pastry all over with fork.

3. Spread goat cheese over bottom of puff pastry (when it says “softened” in the ingredient list, it means it!  work it a little before spreading it on to make sure it’ll spread well.  i didn’t and wish i had). Top with asparagus mixture. Fold excess puff pastry over vegetables, and brush edges with egg.

4. Cut 91/2- x 51/2-inch piece of puff pastry from remaining sheet. Set on top of asparagus mixture, pressing to seal edges. Refrigerate 30 minutes, along with unused pastry scraps and egg.

5. Preheat oven to 425°F, and place oven rack on second-lowest level. Brush top of Wellington with egg, and poke 2 or 3 holes in top. Cut decorative leaves and stems from remaining pastry, press onto top of Wellington, and brush with egg. Use tip of small knife to score leaves and top with decorative touches.  (i didn’t do the decorative florishes… that’s beyond my current level… for now!)

6. Bake Wellington 15 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 350°F, and bake 45 minutes more. Cool 15 minutes.

7. Use parchment to lift Wellington from loaf pan. Remove parchment, and transfer Wellington to flat serving plate. Slice, and serve with tomato sauce.

Nutritional Information

Per serving (1 slice wellington and 1/4 cup sauce):
Calories: 405
Protein: 15g
Total fat: 29g
Saturated fat: 11g
Carbs: 25g
Cholesterol: 48m
Sodium: 657mg
Fiber: 4g
Sugars: 6g

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Trader Joe’s Breaded Eggplant Cutlets

i’d love to cook every meal, every night, from scratch but i’ll be honest – i’m lazy and cheap.  oh sure i get it, spend $50 on groceries but when you break down cost per serving, a meal for two might be less than $4.  that’s not a lot of money, i know! but it’s that initial expense that adds up, especially when i can’t think of other things to make with the same ingredients.  laziness… that’s just me.  sometimes i just want quick and easy!

however, i try to cook something that’s not pre-made at least once or twice a week.  one of the meals i’ve been wanting to make is eggplant parmesan, which i used to make all the time and everyone always loved.  i went to Trader Joe’s to get Raisin Bran, Trader Ohs, and queso.  while there i figured i’d pick up something frozen for din-din.  they have so many things that i love eating!  i put back risotto and polenta before i saw this box of beauty: Eggplant Cutlets!!  yes! they took the time consuming part out of eggplant parmesan!  no peeling, no salt water bathing, no breading, no seasoning, just baking!

so tonights dinner, a real crowd pleaser, was baked Trader Joe’s eggplant cutlets, stacked, covered in leftover vodka spaghetti sauce, and covered with a slice of melty cheddar cheese then served with a side of green peas.  okay, not exactly eggplant parmesan, but fantabulous none-the-less!  and the box was less than $4 and i didn’t even bake it all!  so if you’re looking for something fast, cheap, and tasty then i highly HIGHLY recommend these cutlets.  oh and one more quick note… if you do weight watchers, it has 6 points plus per serving!  not too shabby!

Fat Tuesday Dinner – Vegetarian Jambalya & Biscuits – February 21, 2012

since i couldn’t go to New Orleans for mardi gras, and i didn’t want to spend my fat tuesday getting fatter on margaritas  in the bar, i decided that tonight i’d cook a dinner for us befitting of the holiday – meatless jambalya and spicy cheese biscuits.  when i was in my early 20’s i worked at an elementary school.  we had pot lucks often and for a couple of these pot lucks, our principal would make and share jambalya.  i fell in love! it was fantastic!  but since then, i haven’t met a jambalya that i’ve enjoyed even close to as much.  since going vegetarian, i’ve had a hard time even finding a jambalya i can eat!  so when i saw this recipe on MeatlessMondays.com i thought “what the hell… why not?”  after all i’m trying to become a better cook, that isn’t going to happen if i’m too intimidated to try anything!  and the recipe looked fast and simple enough with relatively few ingredients compared to other recipes i’d found.

i can say that this was the first jambalaya i’ve actually enjoyed since those pot luck days!  it was flavorful but not over powering, and it got better the longer it sat.  my second helping (yep, good enough for seconds!) was even tastier than the first because the rice had soaked up even more of the juicy tomatoey goodness.  yes these are real words… i’m an english teacher, i can say whatever i want!

so i’m providing the recipe below for both the jambalaya & biscuits and, best part of all, pictures!!

Meatless Jambalaya & Spicy Cheese Biscuits

Meatless Jambalaya – c/o meatlessmondays.com

1 can (28 ounces) Italian plum tomatoes (i used garlic flavored from Target)
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup quick cooking brown rice (i used Target brand multi-grain blend 8.8oz packets.  i don’t usually like the taste of most plain brown rices but i didn’t want to sacrafice too much nutrional value.  only 1 g carb more and less 1 g fiber so it seemed like an okay substitute.  nutrition and flavor ftw!)
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. dried basil leaves
1 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1 tsp. hot pepper sauce, or to taste (Tapatio)
1 large green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup diced yellow squash
1 can (16 ounces) black eyed peas, drained (hard to find *not* flavored with bacon so you may want to consider buying dry and soaking all day)
Chopped parsley or chives, for garnish

Directions: Combine tomatoes, onion, broth, rice, garlic, bay leaves, basil, thyme and hot pepper sauce in a large saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. While rice is cooking, cut green pepper into 1-inch pieces and dice yellow squash. Stir into stew and reduce heat to medium. Stir in black eyed peas, cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes, stirring once. Remove and discard bay leaves. Sprinkle with parsley if desired.

Bisquick Biscuits 

Spicy Cheesy Biscuits

2 1/4 cup Bisquick mix
2/3 cup 1% milk (use any % you want)
splash in hot sauce (Tapatio) to taste
drop in shredded cheese to taste

Pour all ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix until dough is formed.  I did not measure either the hot sauce or the cheese since I was just experimenting around.  But I suggest using a lot of both!  Box directions say to knead the dough but it was too messy so I didn’t heh Instead, I used a dinner spoon sprayed with Pam cooking spray to scoop out dough and drop it into a cupcake tin.  You can also use a regular baking sheet, but again there was a directions I didn’t feel like following (cutting out circular shapes) so I used the tins 😀  As you can see, they turned out fantastic!

Red Tulle Flower Hair Fascinator

The past two days I’ve been browsing a lot of crafting sites, blogs, and forums.  I guess I caught the crafting bug because I decided to start and finish a project I’d been contemplating taking on for a couple of weeks now.  It all started a couple of weeks ago when I realized that I forgot to bring any cute hair decorations with me when I moved in January.  I’ll be picking everything up in March for the official “big” move, but until then, I had no way to cute up my hair!  So I found some hair clips at the dollar store and snapped them up.  I knew I had some tulle and a glue gun with me, and I had made a tulle flower to decorate a box for holding my wedding RSVPs last year.  So I thought, why not make another and stick it on a hair clip then stick it in my hair!

So, with the influence of a thousand craft forums, I got to work!  I’m not great at tutorials so I’ll just give a quick run down of how I did it.

1. cut circles out of tulle.  i cut two sizes: large and small.

2. use a lighter to lightly singe the edges of each circle.  edges will curl up which is a good thing! that gives depth and texture to the look.

3. stack singed circles (now petals) in a nice arrangement then sew all layers together through the center.

4. sew a small button to the center of the flower.

5. cut a small circle of out felt, about half the diameter of the biggest tulle circle.  hot glue the felt circle to the back of the flower.  sew through center again for extra support if you want (i did).

6. cut a rectangular strip of felt just a touch smaller than the widest part of the felt circle.  hot glue the very edges of the strip to the felt circle.  you should be able to slip your finger right behind the felt strip.  this is where you can slip through any type of hair clip you want to use!

Viola!  Tulle Flower Hair Fascinator FTW!!

Update: i wore my flower pin out today and got complimented on it!  so awesome! i almost didn’t say it, but then i did because i thought “what the hell?! why not take some credit?” and said thank you, that i’d just made it yesterday! 😀 that felt nice

First Married Valentine’s Day Dinner – Vegetarian Spinach Lasagna

Cross section of Spinach Lasagna made using Spinach Ball recipe as filler.

 This is a recipe given to my mother by my grandmother (dad’s mother).  My mom makes these for most large family occassions and celebrations – Christmas, Summer BBQ, Thanksgiving, whenever!  People always rave over them.  They’re absolutely fantastic!  The first time I asked my mom for the recipe, she emailed it to me but forgot to put the stuffing mix on the ingredient list.  So I made the recipe up until the ball forming part and didn’t know what to do! But I thought the mixture looked perfect for a lasagna.Here I am, nearly 8 years later giving that a try for the first time.  Below is the Spinach Ball recipe, but tonight I am making a lasagna using this recipe (sans stuffing mix) as a filling.
SPINACH BALLS

2 boxes frozen chopped spinach 1 cup chopped onions 3/4 cup margarine dash of garlic powder or to taste dash of pepper or to taste 1/2 cup parmesan cheese 5-6 beaten eggs 1 bag stuffing mix 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 2. Cook spinach according to package directions.  Drain well, squeezing access water from spinach.  Transfer to medium mixing bowl. 3. Saute onions in margarine on medium heat until brown – about 8 minutes.  Add to spinach in bowl. 4. Add all remaining ingredients and mix together well. 5. Form mixture into 1” – 1 ½” balls and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Freezes well. Serving Size: unknown

Results of Mission Vegetarian Spinach Lasagna: YUM!

Reese's Tiger preparing to pounce on our lasagna! Grrrrrr!!!

My cousin asked me for the lasagna recipe so since I had to type it up anyway, I thought I would just post it here too!
How to Turn Spinach Balls into
Vegetarian Spinach Lasagna
2 boxes frozen chopped spinach 1 -1 ½ onions, chopped 3/4 cup (175 ml) margarine dash of garlic powder or to taste – I just shook the shaker all over dash of pepper or to taste – I just shook the shaker all over 1/2 cup (115 ml) parmesan cheese 5-6 beaten eggs 1 box lasagna noodles (buy the “no-boil” kind to save time!) 2 jars of your favorite spaghetti sauce a lot of shredded cheese – I didn’t measure, I just used a lot!  I jused a mix of cheddar and mozzerella.Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. 1. If you are using regular lasagna, start boiling them first according to package directions. 2. Cook spinach according to package directions (I boiled it in a cup of water for 10 minutes).  Drain well, squeezing extra water from spinach.  Transfer to a medium mixing bowl cooled and drained. 3. While spinach is cooking, saute onions in margarine on medium heat until brown – about 8 minutes.  Add onions to spinach in bowl. 4. Add garlic powder, black pepper, parmesan cheese, and eggs then mix together well. 5. In your baking dish, spread about half a cup to a cup (115 ml – 230 ml) of spaghetti sauce on the bottom of the dish.  Then layer cooked lasagna noodles on top of the sauce.  Next spread the spinach mixture over the noodles.  Next layer more noodles on top of the spinach mixture.   Cover the noodles liberally with more spaghetti sauce.  If you still have room in the dish and more ingredients, then repeat the layers with what you have.  When you are done, make sure the top layer is spaghetti sauce.  Now spread as much shredded cheese over the top of the lasagna.  Cover baking dish with foil and bake for 50-60 minutes or until heated all the way through and cheese on top is bubbly.EAT AND ENJOY!!