Vegan Kebabs

Recipes

Spring is finally here! I love the change in the weather because it means that I get to spend more time outside. Not only that, Daylight Savings makes the days longer giving me even more time to enjoy the sun. One of my favorite things about the changing of the seasons is being able to cook outside. Last year my husband and I moved into a new house with a good sized backyard. One of our first new home purchases for spring was a new barbecue. We opted for a gas style to make it faster and easier to use the barbecue whenever we had a craving for cooking outdoors. You can make almost anything on the barbecue, and as a vegetarian it’s great that almost every vegetable tastes better coming from the grill. A simple way to incorporate several of your favorite vegetables at once is the kebab. There are so many different combinations to choose from. Throw on a little bit of vegan sausage and you’ve got yourself a filling and delicious meal that might be more fun to assemble than to eat (who am I kidding, both parts are the best!).

Grilling kebabs is a quick and easy way to have a healthy and delicious meal. You throw all of your ingredients on a skewer and let cook on the grill for only a few minutes. Luckily, my mom bought me a brand new metal skewer set for Christmas. It even came with a rack to place all the skewers on which made them so easy to turn and take off the grill once they were finished. You don’t need metal skewers to make kabobs, but if you buy the wooden skewers there’s a couple things to keep in mind. First, is you need to soak wooden skewers in water. Soak them in water for 10-30 minutes before assembling, otherwise you may end up with a bunch of firey skewers in your barbecue. Trust me, I’ve done this, it’s not as fun as it might sound. The water soaks into the skewers which keeps them from burning on the grill during cooking. Metal skewers are great because they can be used over and over again (hello, sustainability). Remember not to touch them with your bare hands when they are on the grill (yes, I’ve done this too). We use pot holders to turn them or you can use tongs or something else to pick them up to avoid burning your hands.

Kebabs can be made with any combination you like. For this particular recipe, I used the Tofurky Beer Brats, red onion, and a combination of colorful bell peppers. I also put baby bella mushrooms on mine which I thought were extra delicious. Simply cut each item into pieces and layer onto the skewer. The order of the ingredients really doesn’t matter, but it is fun to play with different patterns and hey, it makes for a good photo-op. Other ingredients that would be tasty are pineapple, cherry tomatoes, squash/zucchini, white onions, corn, tofu and shrimp (if you’re pescatarian like me). Kebabs are great as a vegan offering as well because they’re so simple and can use only vegetables if you or your guests prefer. I suppose you could also marinate these if you wanted to. I prefer to let the flavor of the vegetables stand on their own. But to marinate simply soak your cut ingredients in the sauce or marinade of your choice at least 30 minutes before grilling.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I hope it inspires you to have a colorful dinner outdoors! It really is one of my favorite things about this time of year. What are you favorite items on kebabs? And do you have any other yummy recipes for cooking outside?

Vegan Kebabs

1 pack of Tofurky Beer Brats, sliced into about 1.5″ chunks

1/2 red onion, sliced into chunks

1 green bell pepper, sliced into chunks

1 red bell pepper, sliced into chunks

1 yellow bell pepper, sliced into chunks

1 orange bell pepper, sliced into chunks

Baby bella mushrooms, I used 10

Olive oil, for drizzling on skewers

Salt and Pepper

  1. Take your chunks of ingredients and layer onto skewers. You can do this in whatever order you like. I did all vegetables, then a piece of sausage or mushroom and then repeated until the skewer was full.
  2. Place finished skewers on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle salt and pepper on them as well.
  3. Heat up the grill.
  4. Place skewers on the grill and close the grill.
  5. Let them cook for 5-10 minutes or until the vegetables start to blister and brown.
  6. When they are cooked to desired texture, remove from the grill and place back on the baking sheet.
  7. To serve, use a fork to push all ingredients off the skewer.
  8. Serve with a baked potato and a side salad for a filling meal that’s sure to please!
  9. Enjoy!

Until next time!

MelissaRose

Vegetarian Honey Lime Sweet Potato Tacos

Recipes

These honey lime sweet potato tacos are a serious staple in my house. Whenever we have people over and I want to make a vegetarian recipe that will shock and awe my meat-eating friends, these tacos are my go-to. They have the perfect amount of spicy and sweet while also being filling and providing a good source of protein. Need something completely vegan? Easy peasy – substitute the honey for agave and leave out the feta cheese (or use a vegan feta sub). The other great part about this recipe is how easy it is to make as well as clean up. All you need is one large skillet on the stove and a baking sheet which you can line with foil for even easier clean-up.

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This recipe is adapted from Cooking Classy with a few differences. As with some of my other recipes, I often substitute onion powder for the real thing (hubby is not a fan of onions, and let’s be real, dicing them sucks). I also leave the skins on the sweet potatoes for some extra health benefits including extra fiber and potassium (and because I’m lazy). I also don’t take the extra step to heat my corn tortillas in oil on the stove. Usually I just use the microwave, or turn on my gas burner and heat them up directly on the stove. Both options work fine for me and are much easier and less messy than the alternative. I make white rice as a side with salt, cilantro and lime – this is a little Chipotle copycat trick I use fairly often. If you have leftovers from dinner, the sweet potatoes go amazingly on top of the rice as lunch for the next day (heck, I’ve even made that solely for meal prepped lunches). Top it all off with a little cheese. I’ve used cotija and feta interchangeably as they are fairly similar in texture and flavor. I do find the feta cheese to a bit more snappy so I do prefer that one myself, but I know alot of people don’t care for feta so definitely use cotija if you don’t. I’d imagine you could also just use monterey jack if you’re not a fan of smellier cheeses. You can also top these with avocado which is a nice addition. These can be harder to find this time of year even in California. I mean, you can find them, but you bring them home and BAM the next day you’ve got rotten avocados, which to me is the absolute worst.

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I hope you enjoy this recipe. I would definitely recommend using it to impress your meat eating friends. Anyone I’ve ever made these for was super skeptical at first (“sweet potato tacos? say wha?”) but each of them ended up loving the flavor in the end. I think it’s a surprising combination for a fairly standard meal. Don’t forget your favorite Mexican beer and you’ll be on your way to a delicious Taco Tuesday!

Honey Lime Sweet Potato Tacos

2 large sweet potatoes (sometimes called yams), cut into smallish cubes – about 1/2in

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 Tbsp onion powder

Salt and pepper to taste

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 can sweet corn, drained

3 limes, 1 for garnish 2 for juicing

2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Olive oil – for drizzling over sweet potatoes, and cooking your garlic, I’d say a few Tbsp at least

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with foil and place diced sweet potatoes on the baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil (a couple Tbsp) over the top and season with cumin, paprika, coriander, cayenne pepper and salt and pepper. Toss with hands to coat evenly.
  3. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
  4. While the sweet potatoes are cooking, heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil to a large skillet and cook minced garlic and onion powder for about a minute.
  5. Once garlic is slightly browned, add the beans, corn, honey and about 2 Tbsp of lime juice (plus salt and pepper to taste). The other lime you can save to slice and squeeze on top of your tacos. Let sit at low while potatoes finish cooking, stirring occasionally.
  6. When the sweet potatoes are finished roasting, remove them from the oven and add to your skillet. Stir to combine.
  7. Add cilantro when you’re ready to serve and stir to combine.
  8. Heat your tortillas however you wish and fill with the sweet potato-bean mixture. Top with your choice of cheese and toppings. Squeeze lime slice over the top to finish.
  9. Crack a beer and sit back and relax with a tasty taco treat!
  10. Enjoy!

Easy Salmon Foil Packets with Wild Rice

Recipes

I decided about 3 years ago now to stop eating poultry, beef and pork. Much of my decision was based on how the meat industry works as whole, but another huge factor is my love for animals. I grew up having chickens, pigs, cows, goats and other farm type animals. I knew that each one had personalities of their own not unlike our beloved house pets. And if I’m really being honest with myself, I never really enjoyed eating meat anyway. I didn’t go full vegetarian however, I decided that I would still allow myself to eat fish. This makes it a bit easier when making food at home, since my husband does still eat meat when we go out. Seafood also doesn’t make me feel like garbage after I eat it and I always try to purchase fish that is sustainable. This salmon foil packet recipe is one of my go-tos because it’s easy to make, tastes great and presents as a meal that takes way more effort than it actually does.

Foil packet meals are a great way to make an impressive meal with little effort and very little clean up. You simple put your ingredients into foil then place on a baking sheet also lined with foil. This means that when dinner is over, you’re able to toss the foil into recycling and all you’re left with is the dishes you ate on (and the pot you cook the rice in if you decide to do so). When purchasing your salmon, be sure to look for the sustainable sticker and try and get the kind that does not have color added whenever possible. I find that these packets of fish taste fresher and are of course cleaner since no chemicals are added to enhance the color. Asparagus is a great option in the winter months as it is in season, but you can always substitute your other favorite vegetables later in the year. The winter months are also a great time to make this dish since fresh lemons are usually readily available.

The seasoning I use on this fish was purchased from my local farmers market from a company called The Herban Wild. This particular recipe uses their Herban Provence which contains organic non-GMO ingredients directly from the owners’ home garden. The most surprising and delicious ingredient to this mix in my opinion is the lavender. I had never cooked with lavender before using this spice blend, but I love the way it goes with the fish and provides a fresh but aromatic flavor to the salmon. You can check them and all their products out on their website linked above. I’d also recommend taking a look at their loose leaf teas and lotion bars. If you don’t have this spice mix, I’d recommend using a mixture of thyme, oregano, lavender and marjoram and of course salt and pepper. You could also always forgo this mixture altogether and just use the trusty salt and pepper shakers. Unfortunately, when I made this recipe last night, my lemons (that I got from a neighbor) actually ended up being unripe grapefruits, so I left them out this time which you can also do if you don’t have them available. But I do recommend using them if you can get your hands on them. Other vegetable options I’ve tried are broccoli, green beans and various squashes. Simply adjust your cooking time for whatever you’re substituting. You can always pull the packets out of the oven and give them a quick peek for done-ness.

The wild rice side in this recipe has become one of my new favorite pairings as of late. It’s a tasty and simple side that doesn’t compete too much with the flavors of the salmon or the asparagus. It’s also fairly easy to make (as rice usually is) and gives an even more impressive look when compared to the white or brown rice alternatives. If you don’t have wild rice, you can always use white or brown with a little bit of butter, or you can substitute this side altogether with your favorite side dish. Some others we like in our house are mashed red potatoes, roasted red potatoes (which you can cook on the same baking sheet as the foil packets) or pasta noodles with garlic and butter. Each is a delicious and fairly easy option for this meal. Also, I apologize for the sub-par photos. I only realized the next morning that I had only taken video for my instagram and didn’t really get any appetizing photos (sad face). I’ll include the videos to hopefully shed a better light on this dish. Let’s get into the recipe. (This recipe serves two people.)

Easy Salmon Foil Packets with Wild Rice

2 8oz salmon filets, thawed (skin and bones removed, if applicable)

1-2 lemons, sliced thinly

20 stalks of asparagus, washed and trimmed

Herban Provence spice blend form The Herban Wild

1 cup of wild rice

1 3/4 cup water

2 Tbsp butter

Olive oil, to drizzle on salmon and asparagus before cooking

  1. Make wild rice according to package directions. Mine requires 1 cup of rice, 1 3/4 cup of water and 1 Tbsp of butter. While rice is cooking, prepare the foil packets. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with foil and pull two more pieces of foil for packets. I usually pull about an 8″ square piece to make sure they are large enough to fold over the ingredients.
  3. Lay the prepared asparagus in the foil squares, 10 each, and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Lay prepared salmon filets over the asparagus and drizzle with olive oil. Season with spice blend and salt and pepper. Lay sliced lemons on top, I usually use about 3 slices per packet.
  5. Fold packets up so that you can pinch the tops of the foil over the top of your ingredients. Seal all edges so the juices won’t leak out and lay on top of your foil lined baking sheet.
  6. Once oven is preheated, bake salmon for 15-20 minutes, checking for done-ness. You want the fish to be opaque and flaky. If you check the salmon, simply open the packets and check with a fork. If they’re not done, reseal the packets and place in the oven for another 5 minutes or so.
  7. Once everything is cooked, place a spoonful of rice on a plate and top with 1/2 Tbsp of butter, season with salt and pepper. Lay the asparagus and salmon filets on top of the rice. Sit back and relish in your beautiful masterpiece before eating. This pairs lovely with a crisp, chilled chardonnay.
  8. Enjoy!

Grown Up Grilled Cheese

Recipes

I love to cook. I find it relaxing, methodic in a way and of course, I love to eat. About a year ago, I had fallen into a slump. I felt like I was cooking the same recipes again and again, and felt like I needed to mix things up a bit. I tried looking on Pinterest and saving anything that piqued my interest, but felt like even then I was pinning all the same things. In other words, I was very uninspired. So, I tried one of those meal service kits – Blue Apron (not sponsored). The first few weeks were great because as a new customer I was able to get a screaming deal to sign up. The meal boxes were new and fun. I’d come home after work to find a large box full of goodies on my doorstep just waiting to be cooked into something delicious. Having my meals planned and ingredients at the ready was a great way to become re-inspired and to cook things I may have never considered before. It also gave me the ability to think outside the box (no pun intended) when it comes to my ingredients and the endless combinations you can create. This grilled cheese recipe is from one of those first boxes.

Now of course, making this now on my own, I don’t follow the recipe card exactly. I purchase the most expensive cheeses I can find, and have even substituted some ingredients when these particular ones aren’t readily available. However, this recipe is fully inspired if not copied by that Blue Apron meal kit, so I thought it necessary to include that information.

This grilled cheese is like nothing you’ve ever eaten before. Well, maybe you have, I can’t say for sure, but I know it was a combination of ingredients I had never considered before. Sweet peppers and fig spread? Say wha? But let me tell you, this sandwich is SO incredibly satisfying. It pairs well with a good tomato bisque (which I will post about the next time I make it), or is great with a green salad. The richness of the cheese is perfectly balanced by the sweetness of the spread and the balsamic vinegar lends an interesting kick to the overall flavor. I recommend using the sweet peppers as stated in the recipe, but you could also substitute for bell peppers if you don’t have sweet peppers available to you. I can’t wait to try other cheeses and ingredients as well. I think my next grown up grilled cheese will have bri and apples on sourdough – YUM – but that’s for another day. For now, let’s get into this delightful take on a grown up grilled cheese.

Grown Up Grilled Cheese

(Ingredients listed are for two sandwiches)

4 pieces of sourdough bread (I like the big pieces that come in the rounds from San Luis Sourdough)

8 mini sweet peppers

Fontina cheese (you want about 4 slices per sandwich, my grocery store sells this by the pound, so I usually get a small wedge and eat whatever is leftover as a snack)

Gouda cheese (see note above about cheese, you also want about 4 slices of this per sandwich)

2 Tbsp fig spread

1/4 c. balsamic vinegar

Olive oil, for cooking the peppers and sandwiches (you could also use margarine or butter for this)

  1. Begin by slicing your peppers and cheese into thin pieces.
  2. In a small pan, heat about 1 Tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat. Once warm, add the peppers. Cook until slightly softened, about 4-5 minutes.
  3. Once the peppers are finished cooking, add the balsamic vinegar and turn off the heat. Stir to coat the peppers and be careful as the liquid you just added may splatter. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
  4. Pull the peppers out of the pan and put aside. Wipe the pan out with a damp paper towel (careful because it’s hot) and return to the stove.
  5. Assemble your sandwiches in this order – bread, spread, peppers cheese, salt and pepper, bread.
  6. Return to your pan and heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat (you could also cook these the old fashioned way with some butter or margarine placed directly on the bread, I find that the olive oil lends a good flavor to the sandwich).
  7. Once the oil is heated, place your sandwich in the pan. Cook until the bread is a golden brown (or however you like your grilled cheese cooked) and flip to repeat on the other side.
  8. Once sandwich is cooked to your liking, remove the pan and serve immediately.
  9. Enjoy!

Easy Vegan Chili

Recipes

If you didn’t know by now, I am a huge fan of all Beyond Meat products. Their chicken-free strips are amazing as a chicken substitute in enchiladas and “chicken” noodle soup. The new Beyond Famous Star at Carl’s Jr. is my first ever fast food obsession, and their Beyond Beef crumbles are great in just about anything that calls for ground beef. I particularly love using them in spaghetti and pasta recipes and this chili recipe. I suppose I should also mention that this post is not sponsored, nor am I sponsored in any way by Beyond Meat (hello! that’d be awesome though!). I sincerely very much appreciate their products and the versatility of them and love how easy they’ve made the transition to vegetarian for me (well, mostly – will do another post on that entirely at some point).

It seems like most of the United States lately has been cold, cold, cold. And not just a little cold, but like polar vortex cold. Luckily, I live in California where cold to me is not the same as cold to most people; however, that doesn’t stop me from thinking it’s as cold as it’s ever been here. In order to counteract that on a gloomy Superbowl Sunday, I made this vegan chili with some super hot, hot, hot baked potatoes. My plan was to make a big baked potato bar with all the fixings, but once I tasted this chili I sort of forgot about the rest of the things that were supposed to be options (sorry, guests). This chili was the perfect amount of spicy kick and cuddly warmth to battle not only the cold outside but also the terribly lackluster football game inside.

It’s a fairly simple recipe to make, and for those of us who aren’t completely vegan, it’s surprisingly no-fuss and tasty too. Most of the ingredients are items I typically have in my pantry as well which makes it an easy weeknight dinner that doesn’t usually require a trip to the store, because who likes that. Also keep in mind, that if your local grocery store doesn’t offer Beyond Meat products, you can always substitute with your favorite ground beef alternative or leave that part out entirely. Serve with your favorite chili accoutrements, we like cornbread (who doesn’t), sour cream, cheddar cheese, mustard (yes, I’m a weirdo), or throw it on top of a baked potato for an extra filling meal. Also, I don’t have photos for this, because, life, but will try to get some once I make this again.

UPDATE!!! PHOTOS ADDED – I really do make this pretty often and FINALLY remembered to take a pic. Doesn’t it look delish!?

Easy Vegan Chili

2 28 oz cans diced tomatoes

1 15.5 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 15.5 oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 15.5 oz can sweet corn, drained

1/2 large yellow onion, diced

1 10 oz bag of Beyond beef crumbles, the unseasoned kind

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 cup water, or depending on desired consistency

2 Tbsp chili powder

1 Tbsp cumin

1 Tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or more to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

1 Tbsp olive oil, or vegetable oil for cooking onions and garlic

  1. Add olive oil to the bottom of a large sauce pan along with onion and garlic. Cook on medium-high heat until onion starts to brown on the edges.
  2. Add all other ingredients and bring to a boil.
  3. Once chili comes to a boil, turn down the heat and let simmer for at least 1 hour. This allows all the ingredients to really cook in together and give you a good depth of flavor.
  4. If chili is too thick after simmering, you can add more water to reach desired consistency.
  5. Add desired toppings or use on top of a big baked potato.
  6. Enjoy!
homemade pizza with vegetables

Easy Pizza Dough

Recipes

Good pizza can be hard to find. With so many restaurants offering low-cost carry-out and delivery pizzas, it can be difficult to sift through what’s delicious and what’s just cheap. The worst is when you pay a higher price for a pizza and are disappointed when you bite into it. A fool-proof way to avoid either of these instances? Make your own. I think pizza dough can be as daunting as making bread because of the yeast, kneading and rise time but it’s really quite easy once you try it out. And the results are so worth it! Making your own pizza is cheaper, more tasty and more satisfying than buying it from a chain restaurant. And not only that, I find that it’s usually more filling too.

Another great and unique thing about homemade pizza are the toppings. You can put whatever you like on them! I’ve done honey sauce, with arugula and pears, the basic caprese style with pesto and tomatoes, and huge vegetable pizzas with almost every kind of veggie you can think of. The options are endless! You can use this dough recipe to make any kind of pizza that suits your taste. It stays great as leftovers if wrapped in foil or kept in a plastic bag. This particular recipe makes two rather large pizzas with thick crusts. You can split in half if you want smaller pizzas or just one large one. Like many of my other recipes, I use a stand mixer which makes this so much easier, but you can always make it by kneading by hand. The photo posted is a pizza topped with homemade pizza sauce (maybe I’ll post a separate recipe for this), mozzarella cheese, spinach leaves, grape tomatoes, baby bella mushrooms and chopped green bell peppers. It was absolutely scrumptious and I can’t wait to make it again!

What’s your favorite kind of pizza? Does pineapple belong on pizza 😉 ?

Easy Pizza Dough

2 cups warm water

1 Tbsp yeast

5 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp salt

Olive oil, enough to coat a bowl and baking sheets and to brush on the crusts before baking – shouldn’t take more than a few tablespoons

  1. Place yeast in warm water and let sit until foamy (about 5 minutes)
  2. Add 2 1/2 cups of flour and stir to combine.
  3. Add remaining flour and salt and knead with dough hook until a dough ball is formed.
  4. Place in a bowl coated with olive oil, cover with either plastic wrap or a clean dish towel and let rise for 30 minutes.
  5. While the dough is rising, wipe the baking sheets down with olive oil and preheat the oven to 400°F.
  6. Once the dough has risen, split into two equal parts and roll out onto the baking sheets pinching around the edges to create a crust.
  7. Place dough in the oven for about 6-8 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and brush outer crusts with olive oil.
  9. Place toppings as desired and place back in the oven for 18-20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and cheese is melted.
  10. Let cool and slice; enjoy your homemade pizza!

Recipe adapted from Chef In Training

Slow Cooker Hot Chocolate

Recipes

Christmas this year was extra special to my little family for a couple of reasons. First, it was basically our one year anniversary in our new house. The previous Christmas we had moved in only a couple days before and so we were only able to accomplish minimal decorations and a small Christmas breakfast. This year was the complete opposite. The house was filled with decorations (actually, still is), a giant tree and the smell of fresh bread and Christmas cookies. I even had time to make a dried orange garland – more on that in another post. Not only was our house filled with Christmas spirit, but our hearts were as well as we were able to host not only my family but my husbands family as well. Christmas Eve was dinner with my in-laws, their other children, their children’s children and a couple other in-laws of the in-laws (phew!) that tagged along. I cooked a big prime rib dinner per my husbands request and let the festivities begin. Since I knew children would be present, I wanted to make a special after-dinner drink for them (and the kids at heart).