Zucchini “Pasta”

When making zucchini pasta, you’ll want to have 1 to 2 zucchinis per person.  You’ll also need the proper tools.  You can use a vegetable spiralizer to cut your zucchini or one of these bad boys:

Veggetti Vegetable Slicer

Veggetti Vegetable Slicer

 

The gadget does all the work!  It’s as easy as the following:

1. Rinse and dry your zucchini. (I used both zucchini and yellow squash.)

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

2. Cut off both ends of each zucchini.

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

3. Use the Veggetti or spiralizer as directed to create your veggie spaghetti “noodles”.

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

4. To cook, heat a sauté pan over medium high heat.  Add 2-3 Tbsp. of olive oil. Sauté 5-6 minutes or until zucchini softens. Season with salt and pepper.

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Voila! It’s THAT easy.  You can also steam or boil the zucchini if you’d prefer.

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Quick Dill Pickles

It’s summertime and farmer’s markets are popping up everywhere.  I love farmer’s markets because they’re great exposure to veggies and other produce you might not normally see in the grocery store (I’m talking to you, weird-looking squash.).  Enter: pickling cucumbers.  When I first saw them, I naively thought “Aww, look – little baby cucumbers! How adorable!” Then I saw the sign, “Pickling Cucumbers: $2.oo/lb.” and I knew what had to be done: homemade pickle experiment.

I started scouring the internet for articles on how to make pickles at home and let me tell you – there are a TON of different recipes out there.  However, the basic formula is the same: pickling liquid + herbs and spices + cucumbers.  So, I grabbed all the spices in my arsenal and started sniffing around, deciding which ones I would want to flavor my pickles with. Most folks seem to be partial towards one particular pickle flavor. I’m a dill pickle kinda girl, myself.  So I decided to go with some of the basics: black peppercorn, coriander, garlic, and dill.  I also decided to add a pinch of fennel seed and crushed red pepper because… well because why not, I suppose?  This is just my first pickle experiment, after all.  Eventually I’ll figure out what works for my palette and what doesn’t.

Below is the recipe I used (but feel free to add or subtract herbs and spices, as you see fit). Happy pickling!

Quick Dill Pickles, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Quick Dill Pickles, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Ingredients

6-8 Kirby cucumbers

3 c. water

3 c. distilled white vinegar

2 Tbsp. kosher salt

2/3 c. sugar

2 tsp. black peppercorns, divided

2 tsp. coriander seed, divided

1 tsp. fennel seed, divided

1 tsp. onion flakes, divided

1 tsp. red pepper flake, divided (optional)

4 Tbsp. fresh dill, divided (I actually just cut a small handful of dill sprigs from my potted dill plant. However, if I had chopped it up it probably would have been about 4 Tbsp.)

4 garlic cloves, cut in half lengthwise

2 large mason jars

Directions

Quick Dill Pickles, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Quick Dill Pickles, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

1.  Rinse off your cucumbers and set aside to dry.

Quick Dill Pickles, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Quick Dill Pickles, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

2.  Add water, vinegar, salt, and sugar to a pan and bring to a boil. Then, let simmer for 15 minutes. This is your “pickling brine”.

Quick Dill Pickles, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Quick Dill Pickles, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

3. While your pickling brine simmers on the stove, add the black peppercorns, coriander seed, fennel seed, onion flakes, red pepper flakes, dill, and garlic cloves to your two mason jars, dividing the ingredients equally between the two jars.

Quick Dill Pickles, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Quick Dill Pickles, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

4. Slice the ends off of each cucumber. Then slice each cucumber in half, lengthwise.  Divide the sliced cucumbers equally between the two jars.

Quick Dill Pickles, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Quick Dill Pickles, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

5.  Pour the pickling brine into each jar, making sure there is enough liquid to cover the cucumbers. Wait a minute or two and then close the jar lids.  Allow the jars to sit and cool down to room temperature before putting the jars in the refrigerator.

Quick Dill Pickles, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Quick Dill Pickles, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

6. Refrigerate for about 24 hours before eating.  This will give the flavors a chance to really meld.  The pickles should keep for about a month.  That being said, if anything starts to taste off or “funky” about them, it’s probably a good idea to just go ahead and get rid of them.

 

Meatless Monday: Southwestern Stuffed Peppers

Making stuffed peppers is exciting because you are basically working with a blank canvas!  This dish is endlessly customizable.  You can stuff them with anything and everything you want!  ANY meat, ANY vegetables, and ANY rice, pasta, grains, etc.  They make the perfect “whatever’s in the cupboard/fridge” dinner option.

My inspiration for today was to essentially build a tortilla-less burrito.  So I filled the peppers with brown rice, black beans, diced tomatoes, diced jalapeño, corn, cilantro, and lime.  I was also craving some avocado so I decided to top the peppers with a drizzle of creamy avocado-lime ranch dressing. Lastly, I finished each pepper with a sprinkle of Mexican cheese. I also made sure to make a TON of extra salsa so that I could enjoy it throughout the week with some homemade tortilla chips. (Healthy snack! High five!)

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Ingredients

For the salsa:

  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can corn, drained
  • 1 small container of grape tomatoes
  • 2 Tbs chopped cilantro
  • 1 lime (zest + juice)
  • 1 jalapeño
  • salt and pepper (to taste)

For the stuffed peppers:

  • 4 or 5 bell peppers (any color you like)
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1/4 c. shredded Mexican cheese blend

For the avocado-lime ranch dressing:

  • 1 avocado
  • 1 lime (zest + juice)
  • 1/3 c. ranch dressing

Directions

To make the salsa

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare the brown rice according to package directions.
  2. While the oven is preheating and the rice is cooking, begin to prepare the salsa.  Add the corn and black beans to a large mixing bowl.
  3. Chop up the grape tomatoes and add those to the mixing bowl as well.  (I quartered the grape tomatoes in order to get nice small chunks.)
  4. Zest and juice one lime directly into the bowl. Add the chopped cilantro. Season the mixture with salt and pepper (I used 2 pinches of salt which is probably just shy of 1 Tbsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper).
  5. Dice 1 jalapeño pepper.  If you don’t want your stuffed peppers to be insanely spicy, make sure to remove the jalapeño seeds before you dice the jalapeño. Add this to the mixing bowl.
  6. Stir gently to combine ingredients.
Southwestern Stuffed Peppers, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

 

To make the stuffed peppers:

  1. Slice the top off of each pepper and remove the meat and seeds from the middle.  Then, gently cut a small sliver from the base of each pepper.  This will help the pepper sit upright without tipping over.

 

 

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

 

2. Prepare the filling for the peppers.  In a large bowl, combine the 2c. of cooked brown rice with 1 1/2 to 2 cups of the salsa mixture.

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

3. Spoon the filling into each bell pepper. Pack the filling tightly and add enough filling so that the pepper is well stuffed. In the bottom of a baking pan (any pan big enough to fit your peppers) add just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan.  Place the peppers into the pan and cover with foil.  Bake for 30 minutes or until peppers are cooked through.

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

 

To make the avocado-lime ranch dressing:

  1. Cut the avocado in half and scoop the meat into a food processor. Puree for 30 seconds.
  2. Add 1/3 c. of ranch dressing to the food processor with the avocado.  Blend until smooth (30-45 seconds).
  3. Pour the avocado ranch dressing into a bowl. Add the zest and juice of one lime, as well as a pinch of salt. Stir to combine.
Southwestern Stuffed Peppers, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

 

To finish the peppers:

  1. Once the peppers are done cooking, remove them from the oven. Sprinkle the tops of each pepper with Mexican cheese blend.  Return the peppers to the oven for a few minutes so the cheese can melt.
  2. Once the cheese has melted, plate each stuffed pepper. (I usually serve them in bowls because once you start cutting into it, it can get a little messy!)
  3. Drizzle each pepper with avocado ranch dressing and serve. Bon appétit!

    Southwestern Stuffed Peppers, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

    Southwestern Stuffed Peppers, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Meatless Monday: Mediterranean-Style Stuffed Eggplant

I’m not sure when exactly it happened, but orzo has become a staple in my kitchen.  And lately I’ve been loving various combinations of orzo, kalamata olives, feta, tomatoes, spinach, artichokes, etc. So when I sat at my desk daydreaming about what to make for “Meatless Monday” tonight I knew it was going to involve something that I could stuff with orzo goodness and Mediterranean flavors.  Enter: eggplant.

I chuckle a little any time I whip up eggplant anything because as a kid eating eggplant was my nightmare.  I HATED it. Trying to eat it, I would gag and everything. Fast forward 20 years later and it’s one of my favorite foods!

Last week’s “Meatless Monday” recipe was also dedicated to eggplant so I promise next week I’ll step away from the purple fruit.  But I’m happy to say that this week’s dish was a great success!

Mediterranean-Style Stuffed Eggplant

Mediterranean Style Stuffed Eggplant, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Mediterranean Style Stuffed Eggplant, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup orzo
  • 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 roma tomatos, diced
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper for seasoning
  • 2 medium eggplants

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Prepare the orzo according to the directions on the box.  Drain and dump in a large bowl.
  3. Add the tomato, olives, pine nuts, basil, and olive oil to the large bowl.  Season with about 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Stir to combine.
  4. To create your eggplant “boats”, slice the eggplants in half, lengthwise. With a small knife, cut around the edge of the interior of the eggplants leaving about a 1/2 inch rim; make sure not to cut all the way through. Using a spoon (or your hands), gently remove the meat of the eggplant. You can either slice it up into small chunks and add it to the bowl with the orzo mixture or simply discard it.
  5. Place the hollowed out eggplant halves (your “boats”) onto a cookie sheet.  Drizzle the eggplants with some olive oil and season with about 1-2 teaspoons of salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.
  6. Spoon the orzo mixture into each eggplant “boat” and lightly press to pack it in.
  7. Cover the eggplants lightly with some aluminum foil.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the eggplants are tender. Enjoy!
Mediterranean Style Stuffed Eggplant, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Mediterranean Style Stuffed Eggplant, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Mediterranean Style Stuffed Eggplant, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Mediterranean Style Stuffed Eggplant, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

(Is that a paper plate? You’d better believe it. It’s Monday, my friends. Ain’t nobody got time for dishes!)

Meatless Monday: Eggplant Parmesan with Parsley Orzo

With swimsuit season fast approaching, the beau and I have decided to take dieting a little more seriously.   Portions will be smaller and pasta, potatoes, and rice will be taking a backseat to heaping helpings of veggies. That also means “Wing Wednesday” will be on hiatus for a while.

In case you haven’t already heard of “Meatless Monday”, it’s not something I invented.  “Meatless Monday” is a movement geared towards encouraging people to forego at least one meat-centered meal a week.  It’s by no means meant to convert anyone to vegetarianism, rather, it’s to expose people to the health and global benefits of a diet more evenly balanced between meat and plants.  See the video below to learn a little more about it or visit the Meatless Monday website:

I’ve taken the Meatless Monday pledge and will be consciously planning one or two meals a week that don’t involve meat.  And because I believe in the movement, I’ve decided to spread the word and feature Meatless Monday meal options from now on.  This week’s featured dish: Eggplant Parmesan with Parsley Orzo.  The recipe is featured in the May 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Eggplant Parmesan with Parsley Orzo

Eggplant Parmesan with Parsley Orzo, Photo Credit: Cooking Light magazine, May 2014

Eggplant Parmesan with Parsley Orzo, Photo Credit: Cooking Light magazine, May 2014

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour *
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 2 large eggs *
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs *
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano *
  • 1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (about 1/4 cup)
  • Cooking spray
  • 6 ounces part skim mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced or shredded *
  • 1 15 oz. can of diced fire-roasted tomatoes *
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

* I took liberties with the original recipe.  See original recipe here.

Preparation

  • Arrange oven rack 10 inches below broiler element. Preheat broiler to high.
  • Cook orzo according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and return to pan. Add parsley, oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; toss.
  • While orzo cooks, cut top and bottom off eggplant. Partially peel eggplant lengthwise with a vegetable peeler, leaving long purple stripes. Cut eggplant crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Place flour in a shallow dish. Combine 1 teaspoon water and eggs in another shallow dish, stirring with a whisk. Combine panko, oregano, and Parmigiano-Reggiano in another shallow dish.
Eggplant Parmesan with Parsley Orzo, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Eggplant Parmesan with Parsley Orzo, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

  • Dredge eggplant in flour, dip in egg mixture, and dredge in panko mixture, gently pressing mixture to adhere. Arrange on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Coat tops of eggplant slices with cooking spray.
Eggplant Parmesan with Parsley Orzo, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Eggplant Parmesan with Parsley Orzo, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

  • Broil 3-4 minutes on each side or until browned and tender but firm. Top evenly with diced tomatoes and mozzarella; broil 1 minute or until cheese melts and begins to browns.
Eggplant Parmesan with Parsley Orzo, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Eggplant Parmesan with Parsley Orzo, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Eggplant Parmesan with Parsley Orzo, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Eggplant Parmesan with Parsley Orzo, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

  • Arrange 1/2 cup orzo mixture on each plates; top each serving with 2-3 eggplant slices. Sprinkle evenly with pepper.
Eggplant Parmesan with Parsley Orzo, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Eggplant Parmesan with Parsley Orzo, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

 

If you’re wondering how I managed to get the cheese to melt in a perfect little circle on each slice of eggplant: I bought sliced mozzarella cheese from the grocery store and used a large circular cookie cutter to cut out circles of cheese. I figured it’d be more aesthetically pleasing that way. It’s still got nothing on the perfection photographed by the Cooking Light professionals, though. So to do the dish justice I made sure to include the photo from the magazine.  Bon appétit!