laurenlikestocook

Say “Cheese”

In Beans, CSA, Italian, Pasta, Pizza, Quick Meal, Soup, Vegan, Vegetables on July 31, 2012 at 5:06 pm

I really love me some cheese, as do most people in the civilized world.  Whether it’s the mozzarella of Italy, the queso fresco of Mexico, brie of France, or paneer of India, many cultures showcase their love for cheese throughout their cuisine.  As an Italian-via-osmosis, I tend to gravitate more towards mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan, and pecorino for cooked dishes.  However, I enjoy all cheese in any form (except American cheese), and it was the hardest food to give up when I adapted a vegan diet.  Now that I have reintroduced dairy to my daily consumption, cheese is back in rotation!  I even ordered some through my CSA for the first time, and I’m super excited to try it this coming Saturday.  I try to limit the fattier varieties, opting for low fat cheddar or airy goat cheese.  However, a glass of wine or two will tend to loosen my rule’s grip.

Speaking of CSA, I’ll be gone for most of August and September’s distributions, so I swapped one August pickup with somebody’s alternating pickup this past Saturday.  One of the many reasons I was crazily using up all the lingering fruits from the prior week.  My swapee also had a flower/egg share, so I lucked out with some purty flowers this week.

There were tons of veggies:

  • 2 zucchini
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 1 bunch chard
  • 1 bulb fennel with frands
  • 1 stalk dill
  • 1 root basil/leaves
  • 2 ears sweet corn
  • 1 onion
  • 1 bunch beets
  • 1 bunch carrots (4 large)

Fruit included:

  • 1 pint blueberries (looks like those are almost over for the season:()
  • 2 lbs donut peaches (about 14)
  • Yellow melon (I think it’s Thai or Japanese – similar taste to honeydew)

I washed and put everything away rather quickly, so I didn’t take too many photos.

Red chard.

Yellow melon on top, beets in large container, chopped fennel in the small container, carrots/zucchini/cucumber in a ziplock.

I was really excited to get theses carrots because they had their greens attached.  I washed the greens, set to dry in a towel, and completely forgot about them as I went about my busy day!  I had a wedding that night, so I spent the day beautifying myself in preparation, followed by more liquid than solid food.  There was some cheese though :).

I think only 2 drinks in at this point.

Speaking of cheese, let’s get back to the subject at hand.  After a night of drinking, I crave cheesy carbs and gatorade.  The latter I consumed after running 6 miles in the morning.  I resisted a cheesy egg sandwich post-run and went with fruit, egg white/spinach/mushroom/onion omelet and whole wheat toast.  I slept off the rest of the hangover, but still had a hankering for some pizza or mac n cheese.  Instead of ordering overly cheesy mac, practically negating my run from earlier, I made a quick healthy(ish) version of baked macaroni and cheese.  It also allowed me to use up all the extra zucchini I liberated from last week’s distribution leftovers.  I would have made more, but then I could have possibly eaten more.

Spicy Baked Zucchini Mac

Serves 2-4

6 oz whole wheat elbow macaroni
1/2 cup reserved pasta water
3 cups chopped zucchini
1/4 cup green onions, sliced thin
5 sundried tomatoes, diced
Onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and red chili flake to taste
1/4 cup grated parmesan
2 egg whites
Nonstick Spray
3 oz fresh mozzarella
10 basil leaves

I cooked the pasta 1 minute shy of al dente while I chopped zucchini and preheated the oven to 375º.

When the pasta was done, I added the 1/2 cup pasta water to a large bowl, and combined all the other ingredients except mozzarella and basil.  I sprayed a square nonstick baking pan with nonstick EVOO spray and emptied out the mac mixture.

Then I topped the pasta with the mozzarella and basil, covering with tin foil to bake for 20 minutes covered.  Then I raised the temp to 425 to cook uncovered for 10 minutes.

Before.

After.

I behaved and only had 1/4 of the tray.

It really helped satiate my craving for mac n cheese, and all without the regret and lbs I’d gain from ordering out.

Cheese doesn’t have to be the enemy.  It can also be an ally to veggies trying to win the war against diseases and free radicals.  All of the vitamins and minerals in vegetables provide you with the equipment to live a long and healthy life.  Take dark leafy greens for example.  Vitamins A, K, and C are abundant in greens, as well as calcium and iron.  However, not everyone LOVES the taste of greens.  Of all varieties, Nick can most tolerate Swiss chard, just as long as it’s properly prepared (preferably with tons of oil, garlic, and salt).  To avoid using a lot of oil and salt, I decided to use cheese to mask -I mean flavor – the chard from this week’s share.  I also had some leftover whole wheat pizza dough in the freezer, so I experimented and made some chard calzone.  Mmmmmmmm.

Swiss Chard Calzone

Makes 4

1 bunch Swiss chard (I used red)
3-4 cloves garlic
Nonstick EVOO Spray (or 1-2 tsp of regular EVOO)
8 oz whole wheat pizza dough (half lb)
3/4 cup part-skim ricotta
water for sealing
1 egg beaten

I preheated the oven to 425 and got to work.  Luckily I had pre-chopped the chard, so it was rather quick to cook.  I just tossed in some garlic and sauteed with some EVOO spray in a nonstick pan.

At the same time, I divided the dough into 4 equal(ish) parts, and rolled one part into as much of a circle as I could.  BTW, I suck as that.

Then I layered a quarter of the chard with 3 tbsp ricotta.  I forgot to salt both, but you should do that.

After wetting my fingers to surround the edge near the mixture, I folded over the other half of the dough and folded the bottom over the top.  Not sure if that makes sense, but this is how it looks.

I sprayed my pizza stone with some EVOO spray, arranged the calzones as I prepared them, and brushed on some egg wash.

15 minutes and 3 rotations later, they were done.

Normally, calzones are served with a side of marinara sauce.  In an attempt to use up even more zucchini, I made vegetable soup that was mostly zucchini based.  In Italy, vegetable soup usually has zucchini, carrot, onion, potato, and tomato.  Mine had all of that, but used canned crushed tomatoes instead of fresh.   I didn’t use broth, just water.  Lots of water.  And lots of salt and pepper.

I also added some chickpeas.

3-4 hours later, the soup is perfect.

Fresh basil for good measure.

Paired with the calzone, it was perfect.

Soup. Calzone. Can you say dunking contest?

Seriously, could you imagine eating that many veggies and it tasting so delicious?  This dream can become a reality for you, too.  Just make sure to have some cheese on hand.

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  1. Everything looks so delicious, I don’t even know where to begin!

    Come and link up to this week’s party when you get a chance…http://inherchucks.com/2012/07/25/whats-in-the-box-36/. Looking forward to seeing you there 🙂

  2. That zucchini mac looks awesome! Such a great idea.

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