Best of Basic: Oven-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Best of Basic: Oven-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

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Every so often, when I’m feeling a little sluggish, or feeling like I’ve been particularly indulgent lately, I like to reset my routine and get back on track. This detox, as I like to call it, could last for a couple days, or if I’m feeling super motivated, a few weeks. With summer just around the corner, I thought it a good idea to do a lengthy detox to kick off swimsuit season… lose the bloat, gain some energy, reset my metabolism and maybe even shed a few pounds. Sounds great, right? You might be thinking “no, that does not sound great”, but I honestly love my detoxes because not only do they make me feel amazing but they’re also quite fun and delicious, when you do it my way.

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Even when I’m detoxing, I refuse to sacrifice flavor or give up on my favorite foods entirely. I hate eating just for the sake of eating. I like to always enjoy and feel good about what I’m eating. So I find creative ways to make detoxing enjoyable. And these roasted cherry tomatoes are a great example of how I add flavor and interest in a light and healthy way. Roasted tomatoes are delicious in salads, on sandwiches, and in pasta, but are equally as yummy when used as a simple side dish to meat, tofu, or fish. I could seriously eat the entire batch in one sitting with only a spoon.

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Roasting tomatoes is super simple because I keep it very basic. There’s simply no need to make it implicated here. Just add a little bit of quality olive oil, some garlic, sea salt, and black pepper to the halved tomatoes, and then roast for 30-40 minutes. Perfection. Roasting brings out the natural sweetness of the tomatoes and makes them super soft and juicy. They are the perfect way to add moisture and intense flavor without adding excess fat or dairy.

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This batch of Roasted Cherry Tomatoes is for stuffing into pita pockets along with flavorful white bean dip and fresh spinach. This pita sandwich is simple, light, balanced, and will make a perfectly detox-friendly lunch this week. And don’t worry, my upcoming posts will focus on daily detox meal plans and recipes, including this delicious sandwich. Stay tuned!


Oven-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
Serves: 4   Start to Finish: 45 minutes

Ingredients

2 pints Cherry Tomatoes
4 cloves Garlic, crushed, peeled, roughly minced
1/2 tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt (plus more)
1/4 Black Pepper

To Make

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

Combine tomatoes, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper in a medium size bowl. Spread out onto a lined baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and toss, re-spreading tomatoes out into a single layer. Bake for an additional 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Allow to cool slightly, sprinkle with an additional 1/8-1/4 teaspoon salt and toss. Serve warm, cold or at room temperature.

*for simplicity’s sake, I often roast the tomatoes whole and also leave out the garlic and black pepper – cooking time for uncut cherry tomatoes will be slightly longer – bake until most of the tomatoes have bursted and the skins are browning – these tomatoes are super delicious with just olive oil and salt

Vegan Verde Crack Sauce

Vegan Verde Crack Sauce

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For awhile now I’ve been wanting to recreate the Mexican Goddess Dressing from the infamous Chop’t restaurant, a fast casual, create-your-own-salad chain that has pretty much taken over the lunch scene in New York City. Although it moves fast, between the hours of 12 and 2pm on a week day, the line is literally out the door. And it’s easy to understand why. Chop’t is seriously amazing for so many reasons. A friendly and efficient staff, fresh and high-quality ingredients (many of which are locally sourced), and the most amazing salad dressing of all time, their totally addictive Mexican Goddess Dressing.

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Because of their Mexican Goddess, I actually get the same exact salad every single time I go. Every. Single. Time. This tart, slightly spicy, super flavorful vegan dressing is more like a thick sauce. Not only could this sauce be used as a salad dressing, but it would also work beautifully as a dip for tortilla chips, as a salsa in burritos or as an enchilada sauce. I’ve seriously dreamed of all the possibilities, so naturally I made my own version of it (finally!).

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The base of my Verde Crack Sauce is freshly roasted tomatillos. Tomatillos are similar to green tomatoes in appearance and have a refreshing tart flavor. Along with the tomatillos, I also roasted the jalapeño pepper to add some depth and heat. You can control the heat by using one or two jalapeños and removing or keeping the seeds (the seeds are where the heat is). Cilantro, garlic and lime juice are added for even more flavor, and finally, I throw in a rich and creamy avocado.

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This is a great sauce to keep in the archives. In the last week I’ve used it as a salad dressing, a dip and as a suave for my scrumptious, tortilla-free zucchini enchiladas (recipe coming soon). I have a feeling I’ll be making this vibrant sauce all summer long.
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Vegan Verde Crack Sauce
Serves: 4-6 (as a dip or dressing)  Start to Finish: 20-30 min

Ingredients

1 lb Tomatillos
3-4 tbs chopped Cilantro
1 Avocado
1 tbs Lime
1-2 Jalapeños (depending on desired heat level)
2 cloves Garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp Olive Oil
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2-1 tsp salt (to taste)

To Make

Remove papery tomatillo skins and rinse under cold water. On a foil lined pan, broil tomatillos and jalapeño (whole) until the skins are blistering and partially blackened, and the tomatillos have released some juices. I broiled for about 20 minutes, flipping once half way through. Every broiler is different though so refer to my picture.

Add tomatillos and juice to a food processor. Remove the stem of the jalapeño and remove seeds if desired. I left half of the seeds in to give a bit more spice. Add jalapeño, cilantro, lime juice, garlic and olive oil to the tomatillos in the food processor. Process for 10 seconds or until smooth. Add avocado, process for 5 seconds or until well blended. Season with salt and pepper (to taste). Process for 5 seconds.

Use as a salad dressing, as a sauce for smothering just about anything, or as a dip with any of your favorite Southwestern and Mexican dishes.

*Makes about 1.5 to 1.75 cups

Cheap & Easy: Eggplant Parm Melts

Cheap & Easy: Eggplant Parm Melts

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Moving is the worst. It doesn’t matter how exciting the prospect of a new home is, when it comes time to move, misery is the prevailing emotion. That’s how it is for me, at least. Also contributing to the misery is the fact that I need things to be perfectly organized and scheduled, and when it comes to moving, even the most meticulous planning will no doubt unravel. It’s exhausting, frustrating and overwhelming. Needless to say, the last two weeks of packing and moving and unpacking have been non stop crazy.

Im so happy to say that we’re all moved in, pretty much set up, and absolutely loving our new apartment in Williamsburg, a trendy Brooklyn neighborhood of NYC. This is my 5th neighborhood since moving to New York in 2011, and I have a feeling it’s going to be my favorite. Although there is still a lot to do, I feel as though I can finally fall back into my usual routine and I couldn’t be more ready.

In honor of the move, I’m sharing a super simple, cheap and healthy dinner idea that came in handy during the moving process. I actually first made these delicious eggplant parm melts while in Florida a few weeks ago with my family. When trying to use up items in the fridge one afternoon, we used leftover grilled eggplant discs, fresh mozzarella cheese, jarred tomato sauce and my favorite Ezekiel English Muffins to make a light and simple lunch. I knew immediately that this would be a new go-to for us. Now let’s fast forward to the whole packing and moving process, when lack of time, saving money and staying healthy were all on my mind when coming up with dinner every night. My answer to these concerns on more than one occasion over the past couple weeks was to make these eggplant parm melts, and now I feel an almost emotional attachment to them.

DSC_0173I changed up the recipe slightly from Florida to be even more economical. I replaced fresh mozzarella with regular mozzarella and used the Whole Foods brand canned tomato sauce instead of a fancy jarred marinara. The beauty of this recipe is that you can really use whatever you have on hand, the brands you prefer, or items on sale at the moment. I do find that using a simple canned sauce tastes better with some simple seasoning action, like dried basil and garlic powder. I further add flavor with the technique of rubbing raw garlic onto the lightly toasted base English muffins before adding the toppings. This is optional but highly recommended.

Finally, I have a quick note about cooking eggplant, but then I’ll get to the recipe. Cooking eggplant is sometimes seen as intimidating, probably because so many recipes require removing some of the moisture with salt or soaking the eggplant in water before cooking. These steps are important to remove the slight bitterness inherent in eggplants. But never fear, eggplant is rather forgiving and these small steps before cooking take minimal effort. And sometimes, I ignore these pre-cooking steps completely. It’s not the end of the world, depending on the recipe.

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When it comes to cooking the eggplant for this recipe, there are a few options. Using leftover grilled eggplant like I did in Florida, or grilling eggplant for this specific recipe, makes these melts insanely quick and easy, like under 30 minutes. But not everyone has a grill pan for the stovetop and grilling outside can often become a production. In this case, I recommend roasting the eggplant. Roasting the eggplant takes a little longer, but it’s really just as simple. Make dinner time even easier by roasting the eggplant in advance.

And without further ado, my simple recipe for Eggplant Parmesan Melts, perfect for those days you want an easy dinner that won’t blow your wallet or your diet.

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Cheap & Easy Eggplant Parm Melts
Serves: 4    Start to Finish: 45 minutes

Ingredients
1 Italian Eggplant, about a pound
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
Salt
4 English Muffins, split (I used Ezekiel Sprouted Grain English Muffins)
1 14-oz can Tomato Sauce (I used Whole Foods 365 brand)
4 ounces Part-Skim Mozzarella, shred while eggplant cooks (I used Whole Foods Brand)
1/4-1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese (I used Whole Foods brand)
1 clove Garlic, kept whole and peeled, optional
Dried Basil, optional
Garlic Powder, optional

To Make

Trim ends of eggplant. Slice lengthwise into 1/2 inch discs. Season both sides of each disc with salt. Allow to sit for 20 minutes. Use a clean towel to remove the excess moisture.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees to roast eggplant.

Spread eggplant slices out on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush each side with olive oil and season with black pepper. Roast eggplant for 25-30 minutes, flipping once half way through cooking.

While eggplant cooks, brush each muffin half with olive oil. Lightly toast English muffins in a toaster oven or in broiler. Peel a clove of a garlic and cut in half. Rub the cut side over toasted English muffins (doing this gives a slight garlic flavor, this step is optional).

When eggplant is finished, assemble the melts. Top each muffin half with 2 spoonfuls of sauce. I like to season the sauce layer with salt, garlic powder and dried basil (optional). Top sauce with 1 or 2 slices of eggplant, depending on size of slice. Top eggplant with 1 or 2 more spoonfuls of sauce, 1 or 2 tablespoons mozzarella, and then 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese.

Using a broiler or toaster oven, broil muffins until cheese is melted and golden brown. Season with salt and liberally sprinkle on some dried basil.

Serve with fresh fruit or simple salad.

*The baking method takes about 30 minutes. You could also grill the discs over medium-high heat, using an outdoor grill or stovetop grill pan, for about 4 minutes per side (saves time).

Easy Homemade Whole Wheat Tortillas

Easy Homemade Whole Wheat Tortillas

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I try really hard to eat fresh, whole foods as much as possible. And if I do purchase packaged foods, I like them to be made with only recognizable ingredients. For example, pasta isn’t difficult to buy prepackaged because it’s easy to find organic pasta made with only 100% whole wheat flour and water. But I love carbs and I don’t stop at pasta. Sandwiches, pizza, bagels, and burritos are also very important to me. So what’s a girl to do? The answer is simple. I just have to make my own doughs. Continue reading “Easy Homemade Whole Wheat Tortillas”

Vegan “Mounds” Cake (a.k.a. Chocolate-Coconut Cake)

Vegan “Mounds” Cake (a.k.a. Chocolate-Coconut Cake)

Mounds Cake

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day. Sure, it’s a little cheesy and totally commercialized, but allow yourself to look past all of that, and it’s just an excuse to celebrate, over-eat, surround yourself with heart-shaped everything, and to let friends and family know how much you care. Continue reading “Vegan “Mounds” Cake (a.k.a. Chocolate-Coconut Cake)”

Everything Bagel Sausage Rolls with Bloody Mary Ketchup (Vegan Optional!)

Everything Bagel Sausage Rolls with Bloody Mary Ketchup (Vegan Optional!)

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Cooking together is an almost daily ritual for my boyfriend, Matt, and me. Although Matt didn’t grow up addicted to Food Network and spending hours cooking like I did, he’s actually quite skilled in the kitchen. He often says that I critique too much and that I don’t fully trust him the kitchen, but that’s just because I’m a perfectionist who likes to have control, especially when it comes to food. In any event, Matt deserves all the credit for this genius breakfast/brunch dish, which is a delicious twist on classic Pigs in a Blanket. Continue reading “Everything Bagel Sausage Rolls with Bloody Mary Ketchup (Vegan Optional!)”

Mexican Black Bean Queso Dip

Mexican Black Bean Queso Dip

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As most probably know (except my very own sister who called on Saturday from St. Louis without a single clue what was happening), the east coast was hit hard with snow on Saturday. Really hard. As someone who grew up in St. Louis and went to college in Wisconsin, you can trust me when I say, this was one of the heaviest snowfalls I’ve ever experienced. We are lucky in that we were able to fully enjoy our snow day comfortably hunkered down indoors, except for a couple hours spent exploring the blizzard in Prospect Park, conveniently located across the street from our Brooklyn apartment. Continue reading “Mexican Black Bean Queso Dip”

Jalapeño Popper Mac & Cheese

Jalapeño Popper Mac & Cheese

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February is just around the corner, and for many, that means the climax of the never-ending football season…the super bowl. However, I am most definitely not one of those people. I may be a fool to admit this, but I don’t care about football. It just doesn’t do it for me. But because Super Bowl Sunday is considered a national holiday in my household, which is pretty much a real life version of “the new girl”, I feel obligated to enjoy something when it comes to this classic American pastime. And, to no one’s surprise, that something is the food. I can definitely get on board for football Sundays when that means yummy bar snacks and fun finger foods. But when I’m in charge, these classic game day dishes need a makeover to meet my two standards, meat-free and wholesome (even if indulgent). And that’s where Jalapeño Popper Macaroni and Cheese comes in. Continue reading “Jalapeño Popper Mac & Cheese”

Yukon Gold Latkes with Cran-Apple Sauce & Scallion Cream

Yukon Gold Latkes with Cran-Apple Sauce & Scallion Cream

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Today marks the first day of Hanukkah 2015, and for the first time ever, I’m really getting into the celebration. I don’t want my long term love, Christmas, to feel abandoned (I will, as always, be giving you plenty of attention). But I can’t deny that I am so excited to fully throw Matt’s Hanukkah festivities into the mix from now on. Continue reading “Yukon Gold Latkes with Cran-Apple Sauce & Scallion Cream”

Rich Brown Gravy with Mushrooms (meat-free)

Rich Brown Gravy with Mushrooms (meat-free)

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I have something quite special to be thankful for this year. My second nephew was born just 3 days ago, and I am so looking forward to these next five work-free days filled with straight-up family time and bonding with the newest member of our family.

With that said, Thanksgiving is dinner less than 48 hours away. Hard to believe. But 48 hours away it is, so it’s time to share another holiday classic, vegetarian-style. This simple recipe for rich and flavorful mushroom gravy is a must-have at the table. Personally, I like to drench my entire plate in gravy, so of course I’m going to have a perfect recipe for a veggie-friendly gravy. Continue reading “Rich Brown Gravy with Mushrooms (meat-free)”

Classic Homemade Biscuits

Classic Homemade Biscuits

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Biscuits. A family favorite in my house, and in most other households, if I had to guess. Every holiday in my family includes biscuits; always has and always will. But not all biscuits are created equal. Homemade biscuits are not only simple to make, but include very few ingredients. All of which you probably have stocked in the kitchen already. On the other hand, the store-bought, pre-made brand biscuits that come out of a tube often include transfats, preservatives, and other unnatural additives. I guess using the store bought brand shaves off a few minutes, but for me, it’s not nearly enough of a time saver to convince me to use them. So homemade biscuits is it. Fresh, hot, buttery biscuits, ready to be drizzled with honey and jam, stuffed with eggs and cheese, or smothered with rich gravy. Take your pick. Continue reading “Classic Homemade Biscuits”