After a week without eating solid foods, you certainly want to maintain your system as clean as possible. We are encouraged to eat only fruits and salads after we finish our spiritual retreats.
This was the salad I made right after we came back to the “land of the eaters”… it was improvised by what was freshest at the market on New Year’s Day, but it turned out to be so delicious, that we prepared it exactly the same for a few days after because I got so enamored of the flavors.
This is my way to get you enamored with salads too… hope it works!!!!
MIXED GREEN SALAD
2 large handfuls of Baby Arugula
1 large handful of Baby Spinach
1 handful of Alfalfa sprouts
1 Tomato, sliced
¼ cup sliced Almonds
¼ cup dried Cranberries
Lemon Vinaigrette – Lime juice, Extra Virgin Olive oil, Salt and Pepper
- Combine the first 6 ingredients in a large salad bowl. Squirt the juice of ½ a lemon, drizzle some olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss all the ingredients with your hands to combine well.
- Eat immediately… as the lettuces will wilt if you let this salad sit for too long.
I prefer stove-top mac and cheese recipes to mac & cheeses you bake in the oven…
Why?? After the pasta is cooked and the cheese sauce is made, why do we need to cook it all over again??? I like a cheesey topping just like the next person, but I also like to have my macaroni with lots of sauce and unfortunately, baking dries much of the sauce out.
So this is a recipe that came about with no recipe in mind at all… My aunt likes when I make pasta in cheese sauces. I was in the supermarket and I started buying ingredients without knowing how I would make them in the end. The result was a great pasta dish that delighted not just the people who ate it with me initially, but my friends on the internet as well. So to all of you who were drooling over the pic on FB, here’s the recipe!!!!
This is a large recipe for me… I rarely ask you to make the whole box of pasta at once. This will feed about 8 people or 4 people with leftovers. You can certainly halve this recipe… I do it aaaaaaalllllllll the time.
SPINACH, TOMATO AND CHEESE MACARONI
1 box of whole wheat macaroni
½ bag of frozen chopped spinach
1 small onion, diced
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tbs olive oil
2 cups diced tomatoes
2 cups half and half
4 oz cream cheese
2 cups Italian blend shredded cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste
Parmesan Cheese, grated to garnish
- In a large pot, much larger than you think you’ll need, bring about a gallon of water to a boil. When the water reaches it’s boiling point, salt the water and add the pasta. Stir a few times so the pasta won’t stick together. Cook the pasta according to pasta directions until al dente.
- While the pasta cooks, we make the sauce… they’ll be done at about the same time.
- In a medium sauce pan over medium heat add some olive oil, the onions and garlic. If you have sofrito, you could add a tbs if you want as an added bonus. Sautee them for a few minutes so the onion softens. Avoid the garlic getting burned.
- Add the spinach still frozen… the heat from the pan will thaw it. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the sauce pan for a few minutes. This will help the spinach thaw quicker.
- When the spinach is thawed and looks more cooked, add the diced tomatoes and cream cheese. Stir well to combine. Afterwards, add the half and half and allow it to softly boil so the sauce will thicken in consistency. Season again lightly with salt and pepper. Stir a few times as the sauce is thickening to avoid any scorching on the bottom of the pan.
- When the sauce has gotten a tad thicker, but is still runny, turn off the stove and add the shredded cheese in small batches. Stir consistently and allow the cheese to melt into the sauce.
- When the pasta is done, drain it well… but even if a little water is kept it’s no big deal. Return the pasta to the larger pot and add the sauce to it. Stir well to combine. Try to stir carefully to avoid breaking up the pasta…
Serve with grated parmesan on top with your favorite salad ( we had to have avocados in Miami) and baked sweet plantains.
Tell me what you think… Are you brave enough to “invent” a pasta dish on the fly like that??? I want to hear from all my friends on FB that were ohhhh-ing and ahhh-ing when they saw the picture initially. Have you made it?? Tell me what you think. Gracias!!!
I firmly believe that God or the Universe, however you prefer to say it, puts the right people in our path for us to learn and grow… And Annie Mariel has been a real blessing in my life. It’s as if God, in his all-knowingness, understands and knows exactly the type of person you need in your life at a certain time in your life.
We got along almost immediately since we met each other about 5 yrs ago in a conversational French class. We have lots of things in common – we’re both consultants, we both enjoy anything French, we both enjoy to travel, we follow yoga and spiritual practices, we are both vegetarians… bueno, almost vegetarians because Annie Mariel still eats seafood and shellfish on occasion. But she gets my idiosyncrasies of being vegetarian. She has passed on to me her love of running and we even applied to run the Amazing Race together… (oh boy!!!)
Annie Mariel is a great supporter and fan of KarmaFree Cooking… and for my last supper of 2012 she wanted to contribute by bringing a salad. She knew I was going to cook pasta. She asked me to make it as light as possible, so I pleased her by making the sauce all tomato, instead of mixing it with some cream or half and half, like I like to do on other recipes. She told me she would surprise me with the salad… and that she did.
This salad had a little bit of everything… and it was delicious! I asked Annie Mariel if I could feature her salad in KarmaFree Cooking and she agreed. I hope I make her proud. Try it for yourself…
ANNIE MARIEL’S COMPOSED SALAD
Sliced Red Onions
Crumbled Blue Cheese
Toasted Almond Slices
Crispy Fried Onions
Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
- In a large bowl add all the ingredients. Toss lightly to combine
- Dress the salad with vinaigrette.
Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup extra virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Sal and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- Place all the ingredients in a empty glass or mason jar. Shake well to combine. Let rest for 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to combine well.
- Serve on top of your favorite salad.
I planned the menu for my niece’s baby shower last week. As you know… I only plan vegetarian parties, so this baby shower would be no exception. Last time we catered a lunch, but after all that was left afterwards, I decided this time around I would do the catering myself.
Over the next few posts you’ll enjoy some of the creations I prepared for the event. I am pretty audacious because I am not afraid of trying a new recipe onto 20-30 unsuspecting guests. Some are really not that new… but new twists on old favorites. Some are just improvisations at the last minute. Like this stuffed shell recipe for example…
The main course for the baby shower menu was Broccoli/Cauliflower Stuffed Shells. You’ve already read about it here. Pastas are so popular among non-vegetarians and so easy to make in advance that I decided this would be the dish to wow once again some vegetarian lifestyle non-believers. I didn’t want to make lasagna like I did for my nephew’s birthday just a mere 6 weeks ago. But stuffed shells give you the same make-in-advance advantages but in a very different presentation. People just feel is something completely different, when in reality, it isn’t.
I was making 2 baking dishes of stuffed shells… so my instinct was boil two boxes of large pasta shells. I never knew how many shells that would yield. When I was halfway thru my broccoli/cauliflower filling I knew that I was going to run out of filling before I would run out of shells. So my instinct was to make a cheese/spinach stuffing with some extra cheese I had bought. My family always teases me that I exaggerate… maybe it’s the Cuban in me. But I always want to err on the side of caution… we have a saying in Spanish – “Pa’ que falte, que sobre.” which translates to that I prefer to have more food than we need than to be short. So I always buy a few extra cheeses and things when I am cooking for a party. Sometimes I don’t need them, but this time it came in extra handy.
CHEESE AND SPINACH STUFFED SHELLS
About 30 brown-rice pasta shells – I use the Tinkyáda brand
2 tbs olive oil, divided for the filling and the tomato sauce
15oz ricotta cheese
8oz package 1/3 less fat cream cheese
8 oz cottage cheese
1 cup parmesan cheese, divided
4 large handfuls of fresh baby spinach, chopped
1 handful of basil leaves, chopped for filling
Another handful of basil leaves –chopped for sauce
28oz of diced tomatoes
About 1 tbs apple cider vinegar
4 oz of crème fraiche
4 oz of sour cream
½ cup of milk
6 Slices of fresh mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
- Bring a large pot filled with salted water to a boil.
- While the water boils, add the pasta shells. Cook for about 5-7 minutes until they have grown in size a bit, are flexible to the touch, but still not fully cooked. Drain the pasta shells and rinse with cold filtered water to stop the cooking process and cool them enough to handle. Set aside.
- For the filling, mix together the ricotta cheese, cream cheese, cottage cheese, ½ cup of parmesan cheese, baby spinach and basil leaves for the filling. Season with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. It helps when the ingredients are at room temperature.
- For the tomato sauce, mix together the diced tomato, salt, pepper, vinegar, basil leaves and a small drizzle of olive oil. Set aside.
- For the white sauce that goes on top, mix together the crème fraiche, sour cream, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and season with some salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Now we assemble… in your baking dish 9 x 13 glass baking dish pour the tomato sauce on the bottom. Using a small spoon, fill each shell with the cheese mixture and place in the baking dish. I can accommodate about 3 rows of 10 shells each.
- After all the shells are filled and placed on the baking dish, spoon the white sauce over the shells. Now sprinkle some additional parmesan cheese on top of the white sauce and finish with pieces of fresh mozzarella on top.
- Now we bake at 400F for 25-30 minutes or until the top crust is golden brown. If you find the top is not browning, just turn the broiler on and watch the oven until it starts getting golden. Turn the broiler off and wait a few minutes. It’ll brown a little bit more with the oven off, you’ll see. As always… leave it there for about 10-15 more so it finishes cooking with the residual heat in the oven.
You can certainly assemble everything the night before your event, cover completely and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake. I usually take out of the fridge about 30 minutes before I want to bake… or before pre-heating the oven. Then bake as directed above.
This dish was such a hit!!!! Both, these shells and the original broccoli/cauliflower ones, were all a great success. Even my cousin has asked me to show her how to make the recipe. It’s simple, no?? She’s excited I am posting here, but she wants a full-on demo in her kitchen. So now I know what I am eating the night before the Miami ½ Marathon I am running next month!!!!
Have you ever come up with a recipe “on the fly” that was as successful as your original recipe???? Please share…
I get these cravings sometimes… it could be anything, but lately it’s been of Mexican food. And not always I can get to Los Pioneros to get a fix of Tacos de Nopales. So I have to make do at home…
The easiest fix is to make quesadillas. A tortilla and cheese glorified into something special… When I visited Guadalajara and when I once traveled to NYC with my friend Guillén, I learned the best quesadillas need to be fried.
But I am trying to watch what I eat, because even when you’re vegetarian, I can add up some unwanted pounds. So I devised a way to get the feel and taste of the fried quesadilla without using lots and lots of oil.
Here’s how I make them…
4 white corn tortillas, organic preferable
8-12 thin slices of pepper jack cheese
- Brush tortillas with a little olive oil… as little as possible. I stack the tortillas and lightly oil the first one on top on one side, flip it and oil on the other side. This will slightly oil the second tortilla… then flip the second tortilla and so on until all tortillas are slightly oiled on both sides.
2. Warm a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. You can do this with a small skillet, but it’s easier to make these quesadillas 2 at a time if you have the larger skillet. Place 2 tortillas side by side. They will overlap slightly… but don’t worry about that. Warm them on both sides for them to become pliable and somewhat charred on both sides. They will shrink a little…
3. When tortillas have been warmed up on both sides, place 2- 3 cheese slices on one half of tortilla and fold over the side without cheese to create a half circle/half moon. Flatten the top of the tortilla with a spatula a bit to allow the top side of the tortilla to fuse to the cheese inside. Flip once or twice until both sides are toasted/charred a bit and the cheese has melted completely.
4. Set aside on a plate to allow to cool a bit before serving. Repeat with remaining tortillas and cheese.
These are quesadillas to eat with your hands… not with a fork and knife. The corn tortilla is heartier and it will make it challenging to cut them up. So bite into them and enjoy.
Serve them with a side salad of tomato and avocado, guacamole or a fresh tomato salsa.