Use What Your Garden Gave Ya: Meatless Monday Meal

I’m a huge proponent of home veggie gardens. There are many advantages to growing your own food, but my favorite aspect is being able to walk out my kitchen door into a glorified pantry of freshness all year long.

This evening, I found a ripe ‘Black Beauty’ eggplant, basil that needed to be used or lost to the heat and rain, scallions, and just enough parsley that the butterfly caterpillars left for me to enjoy. I knew I wanted to do a quick stir fry with my finds and the rest of whatever was in the fridge that needed to be used up. I can’t stand food waste and will  frequently concoct some strange combinations just to use whatever I have on hand. This time, it actually all made came together and made sense.

The look of the food, from the prep to the plating, is important to me and I believe affects the entire experience of the meal. Presentation was something I learned while working in kitchens and it has carried over to homemade meals even when only cooking for myself. I like pretty food and that means a lot of color. Eating all the colors is also the easiest way to have a healthy diet without dieting.

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Back in the house, I pulled out the leftover red cabbage, the butt of a zucchini, half a yellow pepper, red onion, garlic, and extra firm tofu to add to my garden finds. I was craving vegetables after a weekend of many meats and carbs. Meatless Monday feels slightly hippy to me, but I’m going with it. No, I won’t be doing any yoga after dinner. I can’t even touch my toes and I like it that way.

I do try to stick to an anti-inflammatory diet to help with my syndrome, but I definitely get off course sometimes. This past weekend was one of those times and my joints told me all about it today. Starting Monday off with this meal will get me back on track to make better decisions the rest of the week.

wpid-wp-1440459274049.jpgInto the medium-heated pan went about two tablespoons (I don’t actually measure) of coconut oil along with the tofu, eggplant, yellow pepper, and a few dashes of salt. Once the eggplant started to become slightly transparent, I threw in the red onion and zucchini. At this point, I spiced it with cumin, cayenne, turmeric, and red pepper flakes (I just eye it to my preference). I cooked the red cabbage in a separate pot–to prevent it from turning everything purple–with a little water, cumin, and turmeric, and added that to the mix at this point along with garlic, basil, and a few splashes of apple cider vinegar. With the veggies and tofu browned, I drizzled a bit of olive oil over everything, added the parsley and tossed it all together to pour into a bowl and garnish with the scallions.

The tofu and eggplant soaked up all those spices so well and complemented the sweet crunch of the pepper and onions. I ate two big bowls without anything else, but this stir fry could easily be put over rice, quinoa, or wrapped up in tortillas. I just wanted all the veggies and I was pleased. It was fresh, spicy, and delectable.

ALL. THE. VEGGIES.

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So I finished this Monday on a good note and hope to continue to make healthy decisions throughout the week. Having fresh produce in my backyard is an advantage to making better choices. While I’m enthusiastic about my fall tomatoes coming in and more peppers, I’m really looking forward to getting the winter garden going and all the greens and root and tuber vegetables that will be flooding my kitchen for soups and stews, which also means the end of 90% humidity, mosquitoes, and a break from weeding. Bring on the cooler weather! I’m ready.

Boatloads of Flavor

Calling all vegetarian friends! Tonight, I decided to try a recipe that I saw somewhere online this past week.  Here’s the catch: I did not save the recipe. This didn’t deter me though because I remembered it being simple enough and I knew I would have adjusted it to my liking anyway. So I set out to replicate this mysterious zucchini boat recipe.

SavedPicture-2014711211848.jpgStarting with the ingredients, I used tofu crumbles instead of ground beef. I have been avoiding red meats for personal health concerns and with enough of the right seasonings, I knew these crumbles would work. The goat cheese mozzarella is also a switch up. Otherwise, I think the rest is pretty darn close to that missing recipe.

I drizzled about two tablespoons of olive oil into a pan with the diced onion, I cooked those for a few, threw in the thin-sliced garlic and let that ride while I opened the can of fire-SavedPicture-2014711211854.jpgroasted tomatoes and organized. Next I poured the canned tomatoes into the pan and added half a can of water, bourbon-smoked paprika, cumin, oregano, red-pepper flakes, and black pepper. Set that to a simmer while I prepared the boats and toppings.

I found some dark green, fat zucchinis that were locally grown and knew they would be perfect. After spooning out the seeds and soft flesh from the center of each half, I very lightly sprinkled them with sea salt and set them aside. Then I got to work quartering the plum-sized, yellow tomatoes, grating the cheese, and chopping the chives for a garnish.SavedPicture-201471121192.jpg

The filling had simmered long enough to heat the crumbles through and allow the seasonings to permeate, so it was time to fill build the boats! I started with a little cheese at SavedPicture-2014711211918.jpgthe bottom, then the filling, a layer of tomatoes, and a healthy coating of cheese on top. Popped those babies uncovered into a 350 degree oven for 25 mins. While they were baking, I cut the fresh corn off a couple cobs and cooked that in a frying pan with a little water, butter, and black pepper.

Ding! It was time to pull it all together. I plated up half the corn and one zucchini boat on my favorite bunny plate, snapped one last picture, and dug in. All of the flavors really did come together beautifully. Here’s where I want to reassure all my meat-loving friends that this recipe could most definitely be done with ground beef, turkey, or chicken. Likewise, I feel it could easily be adapted for vegans.

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It really is versatile and overall healthy in any variation. If you try it, let me know           what you do differently and tell me how it goes!

Enjoy!