Meatless Monday with Quinoa Cakes

If you caught my recent 32 in 32 post, the first item on the list was to be Vegetarian. Truth be told, I transitioned to a Vegetarian lifestyle a few weeks ago, but it’s been a struggle. I don’t miss meat, at all. In fact my diet previously was primarily vegetarian, but I apparently psyched myself out. Since saying the words, “I’m Vegetarian”, I’ve gone blank on meal ideas. I’ve been eating lots of homemade Pita chips and hummus…but a girl can’t live on hummus alone (no matter how delicious it is).

Enter Plated…and no, this is not a sponsored post or a referral link. I signed up with Plated months ago and have made a few meals from them, all delicious. So when I needed meal ideas, I ordered a few vegetarian meals from Plated to try out. They send you nearly every items you need to make the meal and the recipe card. The only thing I had to supply was some water, an egg, and some olive oil. I will admit this can be an expensive option which is why I don’t use it regularly, but it was incredibly helpful to have some help when I needed it this week.

Quinoa Cakes_Plated1

This particular meal was Quinoa Cakes with Pan Roasted Mushrooms. Simple. You can probably find hundreds of similar recipes on Pinterest…in fact, check here, I did a quick search for you.

Plated provided the mushrooms, quinoa, onion, breadcrumbs, pecorino cheese, chives, thyme, and a pad of butter.

While the Quinoa was cooking with the onions, I used the butter to pan roast the mushrooms. Then added some fresh thyme near the end of cooking.

 Quinoa Cakes_Plated2

Once the quinoa was cooked, it was mixed with an egg, garlic, pecorino cheese, chives, and breadcrumbs; then formed into 4 patties (this recipe was service for 2).

 Quinoa Cakes_Plated3

Sautéed in a little oil for about 4 minutes per side. I was worried they would fall apart when flipping, but they stayed together surprisingly well.

 Quinoa Cakes_Plated4

Finished cakes topped with mushrooms, chives and a little sour cream (I added the cream, it was not in the recipe).

 Quinoa Cakes_Plated5

It was delicious and filling. Exactly what I needed to break out of my hummus rut. I can’t wait to eat the leftovers tomorrow for lunch. I plan on making some more cakes, with my own twist on the recipes which I hope to share on here in the near future.


What are some of your favorite vegetarian/vegan meals? Feel free to link your own blog below in the comments if you have Vegetarian/Vegan friendly posts that I can check out! Or share your favorite Vegetarian/Vegan blogs, those would be helpful too.

Adding Veggies to Macaroni & Cheese

I have a confession.

I wanted to eat Macaroni and Cheese for dinner tonight. That’s it, just Mac and Cheese. I didn’t want any little green veggies filling up the plate, I just wanted some old fashioned comfort food…from a box (I’ve never made homemade Mac & Cheese, that just seems too dangerous). I wanted to eat a dinner of boxed Kraft Mac and Cheese.

This is not a fact I’m proud of…

Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese Cups_1

However, I am proud of these, because I have three veggies shoved in those little suckers!

I decided that I could justify eating Macaroni and Cheese if I found a way to add some veggies. I also thought it would be a good time to try making Mac and Cheese cups, since that would help with portion control.

  Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese Cups_4

As my base I used the Kraft Home-style 4 cheese blend kit. It comes with everything to make the Macaroni and Cheese. While the pasta was cooking, I steamed some broccoli and spinach, then chopped it into small pieces. I set this aside to add later. After the pasta was cooked, I mixed the cheese with some butter and milk, then I added 1/2 cup of Pumpkin puree.

Yes, I said pumpkin.

After the pumpkin was incorporated into the cheese, I folded in the pasta, spinach, and broccoli. Using an ice cream scoop I spooned the pasta mix into a greased muffin pan, and topped each cup with a little shredded cheddar and the breadcrumb mix from the Kraft kit. Baked at 350 degrees for 7 minutes.

Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese Cups_5

Verdict: They were pretty darn good. I’m honestly not a fan of the Kraft Home-style kits, but this turned out pretty well. There was a slight pumpkin flavor, but not too strong, and the Spinach/Broccoli were so finely chopped that I didn’t taste them. There were also filling, I only ate 2 (which is unusual for me and Mac & Cheese).

I won’t lie to myself and say it was healthy simply because I incorporated some veggies; however, it has potential. I think next time I’ll try a homemade Macaroni recipe to lighten the overall calories, then I’m thinking butternut squash instead of pumpkin. Oh the possibilities…


What are your favorite Mac & Cheese mix-ins? I have a few other ideas floating around my head…like white cheddar and pesto…


*Funny Fact – That’s arugula on the plate in the first picture and without thinking I too a huge bite. It was like a mouthful of pepper weeds, just awful. I meant to mix it with some spinach and totally forgot. Oh well, it looked good in the picture at least.

Recipe: Butternut Squash & Pea Risotto

This has absolutely nothing to do with this recipe, but can’t stop myself from pacing this morning. I had to make an appt for my dog to go to the vet this afternoon and I’m more anxious about his appt than I get about my own (which is saying a lot since I get incredibly anxious before almost all doctor visits). Hopefully it’s a quick visit to get some antibiotics to make him feel better. Ever since I took my last dog in for what I thought was a routine visit and was told to put her down, I get obscenely worried before every vet visit with this dog. I just can’t handle that kind of unexpected news again.


Putting that all aside, let’s talk risotto! Namely the Butternut Squash & Pea Risotto that I made for dinner last night. Yesterday I did mention hat I thought it was a bit bland, but looking back that’s entirely my fault. I was out of parmesan cheese and forgot the thyme (doh!) so no wonder it tasted a little off. Here’s the full recipe (including the cheese & thyme).


Butternut Squash & Pea Risotto

Butternut Squash & Pea Risotto

Adapted from Health Magazine, via MyRecipes

Serves: Generous 6

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 cups water

2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 (3-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 teaspoon salt, divided

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1 1/2 C frozen Peas


  • In a medium saucepan, bring the broth and water to a simmer. You will use this for the rice, so heat it on a back burner and start working on the squash. 
  • In a large saucepan, heat 1 Tablespoon of oil over medium high heat. Cook the squash with the ground pepper and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Stir occasionally until squash is golden (about 8-10 minutes).

Butternut Squash & Pea Risotto

  • Add the thyme to the squash and stir to combine. Add 1/2 cup of the broth and to the skillet, reduce to simmer and cook until the squash is tender and broth has evaporated (another 8-10 minutes). Pour the cooked squash in a bowl and set aside.

Butternut Squash & Pea Risotto

  • Meanwhile, in a heavy pot over medium heat, cook onion using the remaining oil with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook for about 5 minutes until onion is softened, stirring occasionally.  Add rice and toss to coat with oil; cook 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook until almost completely absorbed (about 2 minutes). If prefer not to use wine in this recipe, swap it for the same amount of broth.
  • Stir 1/2 cup simmering broth into rice and cook at a strong simmer, stirring frequently, until broth is absorbed. Continue simmering and adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding more, until rice is creamy-looking but still al dente (about 20 minutes total); mixture should be the consistency of thick soup. (There may be leftover broth.)
  • Add in the peas in the last 3-4 minutes of cooking to allow them to defrost in the rice mixture.

Butternut Squash & Pea Risotto

  • Once the peas are warmed throughout, add in the butter, cheese, and squash.

Butternut Squash & Pea Risotto

  • Serve immediately. Crusty French bread is recommended but not required. (who are we kidding…break out the bread!)

This meal does make a very generous amount and I’ve found that it reheats well. It can also be frozen in single servings to be reheated at a later date. For a variety, mix in a protein or serve of a bed of spinach.

Butternut Squash & Pea Risotto

*Some of these instructions are directly from the MyRecipes site as they are far better than I at providing instructions on the basic risotto steps.

Baked Ziti Marsala

I’ve always considered myself a pantry cook. Meaning, I don’t really create recipes, I grab and dump. I’ll stare in the pantry for a few hours minutes then come up with some random meal. If all goes well, it turns out pretty good.

My recipes always have a little of this and a little of that.

This one has a surprise ingredient…Marsala Wine.

You may be thinking that I’ve lost my mind…but it adds the perfect kick to the sauce.

Baked Ziti

Here lies the problem of my pantry cooking method, I don’t write down how much of something I put in the recipe. I tell you this, because it’s really hard to screw up any of my recipes. If you really like garlic, add more. Have a date later? leave it out. Don’t have fresh onion? Used dried.

You get the point.

Hell, you’ll probably just make it better! (If you do, I want to hear about it!)

Baked Ziti Marsala

Serves: 2-3

1/2 Box Ziti, uncooked [I used Rigatoni, but any tube pasta will work]

2t Garlic Powder

1t Dried Oregano

1t Dried onion

1/2 Jar Pasta Sauce

1T Marsala Wine (Or any red wine)

1/4 C Parmesan Cheese, shredded (1T reserved for before baking)

3 Cups Fresh Baby Spinach

1/2 C Shredded Mozzarella

Dash of Panko (Or any breadcrumbs)

Step 1:

Cook the pasta according to the boxed instructions.

While the pasta cooks, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Warm some pasta sauce over medium heat. I added dried onion, garlic powder, and dried oregano while it was warming up.

Once the pasta sauce starts simmering, add about 1 Tablespoon Marsala wine or other Red Wine. Allow the sauce to simmer until the alcohol cooks down and the sauce thickens. Add the parmesan cheese. Allow to simmer a few more minutes.

Baked Ziti Marsala

Step 2:

Once the pasta is done cooking, drain and add back to the pot. Stir in 3 cups Spinach and keep warm until the Spinach has wilted.

Baked Ziti Marsala

Once wilted, add the sauce and toss to coat.

Baked Ziti Marsala

Step 3:

Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray and add pasta mixture.

Baked Ziti Marsala

Add mozzarella, the remaining 1T Parmesan, and a sprinkle of breadcrumbs (I used Panko). I also sprinkled a dash of dried Italian herbs over the top. Bake for about 15-20 minutes. You want the cheese to melt and start to brown.

Baked Ziti Marsala

Serve and Enjoy!

Baked Ziti Marsala

*By the way…this makes great leftovers. If you have any left, that is.


Linking To: Remodelaholic, The Shabby Creek CottageAddicted 2 Decorating, The Crafty NestThe Shabby Nest

Buckets of Corn

The first day of vacation has been a complete success! Of course my version of success included sleeping in, gardening, cleaning the kitchen, flipping through some magazines and catching up on my DVR.

Ok, so maybe my version of vacation may differ from yours just a bit.

Truth is, I recently spent a long week in Boston & NYC, so I wanted to keep it low key this week. Sometimes it’s just nice to relax at home.

After waking up without an alarm clock, which was glorious, I spent an hour in the backyard. The heat lately has been painful, often reaching the 100’s each day, so my plants have been suffering. Everything needed to be weeded, watered and some poor plant souls had passed on…we observed a moment of silence then chucked them in the trash.

The highlight was my new corn plants! The heat worked them over this week so hopefully they will survive in their new home.


I’m all for fancy planters, but big pots are a budget breaker. So on a recent trip to Home Depot I picked up a big plastic bucket in the trash can aisle for less than $6. It was easily turned into a proper planter by popping some holes into the bottom with my handy dandy screwdriver.


They look a little sad, but I’m sure they’ll perk up with a little love. And they’ll have plenty of room to breathe as they get older.


Prior to the house, I lived in a little apartment with only a balcony. There wasn’t any room to grow fruits or vegetables and I longed for some sort of patio garden. I only wish I had heard of Life on the Balcony sooner, but there are a ton of ideas that I’m going to try in the backyard since it’s completely covered in concrete. I’m especially loving these. Now I just need to get my hands on some pallets.


Last weekend I was at Trader Joe’s picking up a few things when the kind lady at the food counter handed me a bite of fish taco. I was hooked! It was incredible, and I immediately picked up all the fixings. Last night when I picked up my celebratory bouquet, I couldn’t help but buy the taco fixings again. I’ve been a little obsessed. It’s only 4 items and can be ready in less than 15 minutes.


While the fish is cooking (you can easily use unbreaded fish too!), mix the coleslaw shreds and the Cilantro dressing. Try not to eat it all out of the bowl, cuz it’s THAT good.


Trader Joe’s actually sells something called Fish Nuggets, which are smaller than breaded cod. If you can get past the concept of Fish Nuggets, they work well for these tacos because you can use 1 chopped nugget per taco. The breaded cod is bigger so I used 1 piece of cod for 2 tacos. The nuggets also cook faster, in about 10 minutes as opposed to the larger cod which took about 20 minutes.


I used corn tortillas and toasted them with a little spray of oil in a sauté pan.

Assemble and Chow Down!


Now I’m off for a relaxing evening. Word is I’m BBQ shopping tomorrow! This beauty shall soon be MINE!!

Source: Crate and Barrel