Crispy Nachos with Vegetarian Refried Beans and Cheese

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Finished nachos

When our kids were young, a number of them were picky eaters. We would constantly brainstorm—trying to come up with new ideas of what to cook for dinner. It was out of these brainstorming sessions that our nachos recipe was born! So simple, they require just a handful of ingredients—deliciously crunchy homemade tortilla chips spread with refried beans and topped with melted, mild, Monterey Jack cheese. Now that most of our formerly finicky eaters are teenagers, or in their twenties, they still ask for these nachos when they are home. They are crispy, cheesy, and pleasingly addictive.

Prepped ingredients nachosThe three main ingredients: corn tortillas, cheese, and refried beans.

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 7.02.43 PMThe tortilla wedges are cooked until crisp.

Tortillas on baking sheet with beans and cheese 2We spread a thin layer of beans and add a small tablespoon of cheese to each wedge.

Avocado and salsa for nachosWe are big fans of salsa and avocado and like to serve them with our nachos.

Nachos with Vegetarian Refried Beans and Cheese
4 to 6 servings

Vegetable oil for frying
9 corn tortillas each cut into 4 wedges
8 ounces organic refried beans (about ½ of a can)
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
½ cup shredded romaine lettuce
½ cup shredded radicchio
½ cup home-made or favorite store-bought salsa
1 ripe avocado, sliced

Line 2 large plates with paper towels.

Set a rack in the top third of the oven.

Heat 2 inches of oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. (To test if the oil is hot, place a small piece of tortilla in the oil and if it sizzles it’s hot enough). Add a handful of the tortilla wedges into the skillet, being careful not to overcrowd and fry them for about 1½ minutes. Using tongs, flip the tortillas and fry for an additional 1½ to 2 minutes or until the tortillas are crisp. Remove them from the oil and place the tortillas on the paper towel—lined plate. Cover the wedges with a paper towel and pat lightly to absorb any additional oil.

Repeat with the remaining tortilla wedges.

Place the tortilla chips in a single layer on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Spread a thin layer of the beans on each, then sprinkle on the cheese, covering each nacho.

Turn the oven on to broil.

Put one of the baking sheets in the oven and broil for about 2 ½ minutes, until the cheese melts and bubbles and the tortillas are lightly browned. Rotate the baking sheet midway so all the nachos cook evenly watching closely so they do not burn. Remove the pan and repeat with the second baking sheet.

Place the nachos on a platter, top with a handful of the romaine and radicchio and serve. Pass salsa and sliced avocado separately.

1st finished nachos

Crispy Parmesan Roasted Chickpeas

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Parmesan chickpeas 1

These Parmesan chickpeas are so addictive that when we make them our family and friends cannot stop eating them until the bowl is empty. And that’s OK — they are so delicious and nutritious. Only three ingredients (plus salt and pepper), and so easy to prepare––Serve these as a snack, a side, or a party hors d’oeuvre.

chickpeas and parmChickpeas, Parmesan cheese, and extra virgin olive oil––what could be simpler.

Crispy Parmesan Roasted Chickpeas
Makes 3 cups

1 1/2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
Two 15-ounce cans organic chickpeas, drained, rinsed well, and patted dry (or 3 cups cooked chickpeas)
1/2 cup firmly packed, finely shredded Parmesan cheese (not pre-grated or it will not melt)
Sea Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425° F.

Pour 1 1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil into a large baking dish. Place it in the hot oven.

In a small mixing bowl combine the chickpeas, 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil, the Parmesan cheese, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper. Mix well until the chickpeas are thoroughly coated.

Carefully remove the hot baking dish from the oven and pour the chickpea mixture in. Use a wooden spoon to spread the chickpeas into a single layer. Roast for 10 minutes; stir them once with the wooden spoon. Continue to cook until crispy and golden brown, an additional 7 to 10 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper as desired, and serve hot or at room temperature. (Do not drain on paper towel or they will lose their crispiness.)

*Once cool they also make a great salad topping.

Parmesan Chickpeas2 crop

Baked Mozzarella Sticks

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finished mozzarella sticks

These mozzarella sticks are ideal as a meal for young kids, or as a finger food or appetizer for adults. They are baked–not fried–and have a crispy, golden coating outside while the inside is soft and gooey. They are especially good dipped in marinara sauce. And the best part–they can be made in advance and stored in the freezer–perfect if you are limited for time. Bake them in the oven for about ten minutes and they are ready to serve.

cut mozzarella sticksWe cut each mozzarella stick in half, crosswise.

Combine the breadcrumbs, parsley, Parmesan, garlic, and pepper.

Breadcumbs, parsley, garlic for mozzarella sticks copy

mozzarella sticks uncookedAfter coating each cheese stick in the flour, egg, and breadcrumb mixture, we freeze them for at least 30 minutes.

Baked Mozzarella Sticks
4 to 6 servings, makes 24 sticks

12 sticks organic low moisture, part-skim mozzarella string cheese, each cut in half
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons plain breadcrumbs
2 ¼ teaspoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon finely chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
Organic olive oil cooking spray
1 cup homemade or favorite store bought marinara sauce

Place the flour in a wide, shallow dish. Place the eggs in a second wide, shallow dish and beat until blended. In a third dish, combine the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, parsley, and garlic, and season with pepper to taste. Mix well.

Line a large tray or container with wax or parchment paper. One at a time, lightly dip the cheese sticks in the flour on both sides (shaking off any excess), then in the egg, and next the seasoned breadcrumbs. Then re-dip each stick in just the egg, and the breadcrumb mixture and place on the lined tray or container in a single layer. Freeze until hard, about 30 minutes. This will keep the cheese from melting too fast while the coating gets crispy. (You can also keep them frozen until you’re ready to bake them.)

When ready to bake, place a rack in the bottom third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and lightly spray the bottom with the olive oil cooking spray. Place the cheese sticks on the sheet in a single layer and lightly spray the tops with oil. Bake for 4 to 5 minutes, turn the sticks over, and cook an additional 4 to 5 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are golden and the cheese is soft, watching closely so they don’t melt.

Meanwhile, heat the marinara sauce in a small saucepan.

Arrange the mozzarella sticks on a plate, and serve with marinara sauce on the side.

second plated mozzarela sticks

Spiced Sweet Potato Crisps

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Sweet potato crisp1Sliced very thinly and with just the addition of your favorite spice, these sweet potato crisps become a delicious, nutritious stand-in for high calorie potato chips. Serve them with soups and sandwiches, or just as a healthy snack.

 

whole and sliced sweet potatoSlice the sweet potato as thinly and uniformly as you can.

sweet potato with spiceSeason with the spice or spices of your choice.

Spiced Sweet Potato Crisps
1 large sweet potato (about 1 pound), peeled and very thinly sliced (use a mandolin if you have one)
Organic olive oil cooking spray
1 teaspoon seasoning of choice (paprika, smoked paprika, cumin, cinnamon, or 1/2 teaspoon chili powder)
Sea salt

Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 375° F.

Lightly spray two rimmed baking sheets with oil. Arrange the rounds in a single layer on the baking sheets (taking care not to crowd or overlap.) Spray the tops with a fine mist of oil and lightly sprinkle your spice of choice on each (do not salt yet as this releases moisture.)

Place one of the baking sheets on the middle rack and bake for 15 minutes. Flip the rounds, sprinkle additional spice to taste on top, and rotate the pan in the oven. Bake until the rounds are lightly browned around the edges, and tender in the middle, an additional 7 to 10 minutes. Watch them closely in the last 5 minutes as they go from golden to burnt quickly. Remove any rounds from the baking sheet that have browned and place on a cooling rack to continue crisping. Return the rest to the oven to continue baking. Once the first batch is done season with salt to taste.

Repeat with the second baking sheet and serve.

Sweet potato crisps close up

 

Green Split Pea and Zucchini Soup with Rutabaga

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Better first plated split pea soupPulses are getting a lot of hype lately and for good reason. They are rich in nutrients and fiber, a terrific source of protein, and they are available all year long. Our split pea soup is made with zucchini and rutabaga- a root vegetable that is a cross between a cabbage and a turnip. The combination adds an unexpected sweet and savory flavor to this hearty soup. We top each bowl with garlicky, crispy croutons giving each bite a delectable crunch. This soup is a meal in itself.

IMG_2669Rutabaga
The rutabaga adds a unique flavor to this soup.

croutons for soupWe make the croutons while the soup simmers.

Green Split Pea and Zucchini Soup with Rutabaga

6 servings

For the Soup:
1 ½ cups green split peas, soaked in water overnight or for several hours. Drained, rinsed in cold water and drained again
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ cups chopped yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup peeled and diced rutabaga, cut into ½-inch cubes
2 ½ cups diced zucchini, cut into ½-inch cubes
7 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
½ teaspoon turmeric
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the Croutons:
½ baguette cut into ½-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

For the Soup
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Lower the heat and add the garlic and stir for 1 minute. Add the rutabaga and stir for 2 minutes more. Add the zucchini and sauté for 1 minute. Pour in the broth, add the turmeric and mix well.

Raise the heat to high, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 55 minutes or until the split peas are tender. Add 1½ teaspoons of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper.

For the Croutons
Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine the bread, oil, and garlic and mix together (hands work best for this) until the bread is coated. Spread the bread out on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until golden brown and toasted, about 18 minutes, flipping with a spatula halfway through.

Ladle the soup into individual bowls, top each with a handful of croutons, and serve.

3rd plated split pea soup

Perfect Kale Chips

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kalechips2 copy

Only three ingredients and so delicious. We were weary of burnt or wilted kale, so we worked on this recipe to perfect our crisp, addictive, and healthy chips. The three keys to success––make sure your kale is completely dry, spread it in a single layer on the baking sheet, and do not salt until after they are done cooking. Delicious as a snack or hors d’oeuvres, these kale chips are also wonderful in lieu of croutons in soups and salads.

kale washedIt’s very important to dry the kale completely.

kale on sheetMassage the oil into the kale before placing it on the baking sheet.

Perfect Kale Chips

4 cups packed curly kale, stemmed and torn into 2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 425° F.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the kale (completely dry) in a large mixing bowl and add the olive oil. Using your hands, massage the oil  into all the leaves. (Do not add salt before you cook. *)

Place the kale in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast until browned and crisp, 12 to 14 minutes, flipping once halfway through. Season with salt to taste and serve.

*Salting before roasting will bring out the moisture in the kale leading to less crispy chips.

kalechip close up copy

Mushroom and White Bean Bruschetta

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Cover Photo 2 plated shitake bruscettaIMG_2648

Whether hors d’oeuvre, appetizer, or first course—bruschette are one of the easiest starters to prepare for entertaining. Toast baguette slices, rub with oil and garlic, top with sautéed vegetables and/or a spread and you are ready! For these bruschette, we made a simple and delicious white bean spread and topped each one with a rich and flavorful spoonful of sautéed shitake mushrooms, seasoned with parsley and thyme. Biting into these crunchy toasts, with their creamy bean spread and meaty mushrooms, make these starters a savory treat.

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 8.42.50 AMScreen Shot 2016-01-27 at 8.43.03 AMThe white bean spread is so easy to make and it is loaded with antioxidants.

Suateed shitakes in panIMG_2641We thinly slice the mushrooms and season them with fresh parsley and thyme.

Mushroom and White Bean Bruschetta
8 to 10 servings

For the toasts:
1 baguette sliced into 3/4 inch slices
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, halved

For the beans:
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
One 15-ounce can organic cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the mushrooms:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
20 ounces shitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425°.

Lightly brush both sides of the bread with the oil and place them on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 6 minutes. Remove and rub one side of each toast with the garlic halves and set aside.

For the beans:
In a small saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons of oil over medium-low heat. Add the 2 cloves of minced garlic and sauté for 2 minutes, taking care not to burn. Add the drained beans and raise the heat to medium. Cook the beans for 2 to 3 minutes, until softened. Mash with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add ½ teaspoon of salt, ¼ teaspoon of pepper, and mix well. Remove from the heat and set aside.

For the mushrooms:
In a large nonstick pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add the 2 cloves of minced garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, stirring frequently for about 7 minutes, until lightly browned.
Add the parsley, thyme, ¼ teaspoon of salt and a pinch of black pepper and mix well.

Generously spread each toast with the bean mixture. Top each with 1 tablespoon of the cooked mushrooms. Arrange the bruschette on a platter and serve.

Final Photo Mushroom and Bean Bruschetta

Creamy Avocado and Chickpea Bruschetta

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Plated Avocado Bruschetta crop

These Creamy Avocado and Chickpea Bruschette are a perfect hors d’oeuvres for entertaining. They are ever so easy to make, delicious, and remarkably healthy. The lime juice along with avocado, chickpeas, and cilantro, combine to make a delightful and unique spread.

Both breadWe brush olive oil on both sides of the bread and bake it in the oven.

Chickpea and avocado in food processorIMG_2494All the ingredients are added to the food processor.

Creamy Avocado and Chickpea Bruschetta
8 to 10 servings

1 baguette, cut into ¾-inch slices
5 tablespoons, plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, each cut in half
One 15-ounce can organic garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 ripe avocado, halved and pitted
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 small bunch baby arugula

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Place the bread slices on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush both sides of the bread with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Bake in the oven for 6 minutes. Remove and rub the surface of each toast with 2 halves of the garlic cloves and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a food processor combine the chickpeas, 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of olive oil, the 2 remaining garlic halves, and the lime juice, and pulse until the mixture turns into a stiff paste. Scoop out the avocado flesh and add it to the chickpea mixture. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/8 teaspoon of pepper, and the cilantro, and pulse again until smooth. 

Spread the avocado and chickpea mix generously on each toast. Top each one with a few of the arugula leaves and serve.

Plated avocado chickpea bruschetta touched up (1)

Pesto and Parmesan Stuffed Mushrooms

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Stuffed mushroomsThese healthy mushrooms are quick and easy to prepare, yet impressive looking and real crowd pleasers.

Basil, Pinenuts,Parm CropMake fresh basil pesto or you can use your favorite store bought.

mushrooms_criminiYou can use either cremini or button mushrooms.

Pesto and Parmesan Stuffed Mushrooms
8 to 10 servings

1 cup basil pesto
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons plain breadcrumbs
24 medium-size button or cremini mushrooms, stemmed
24 pine nuts
Organic olive oil cooking spray

Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 375° F.

Combine the pesto, Parmesan cheese, and breadcrumbs in a mixing bowl. Using a small spoon stuff the mushrooms with the pesto mixture, being careful not to overstuff, and place a pine nut in the center of each.

Lightly spray a rimmed baking sheet with the olive oil and arrange the mushrooms on it in a single layer. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven, let cool for 5 minutes, and serve.

Stuffed mushrooms copy

Mini Vegetarian Caesar Salad Parmesan Cups

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Mini Caesar crop

We took one of our family favorites, our Vegetarian Caesar Salad, and made it into a delicious and delightful party appetizer. The crispy Parmesan cup serves as the bowl for the crunchy romaine, tangy dressing, and mini croutons. Here’s a salad you can happily eat by hand.

 

Parm on Silpat

Parm shaping

Parm cupsMelt and mold, then let the Parmesan cups cool.

coutons processMini croutons.

Mini Vegetarian Caesar Salad Parmesan Cups
6 to 8 servings

For the Parmesan Cups
1 cup finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese (do not use pre-grated)

For the Croutons
1 cup day old bread (peasant, baguette, or multigrain) cut into 1/4-inch cubes
3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced

For the Dressing and Salad
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon vegetarian steak or Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon capers
2 cups chiffonade romaine hearts (or cut into thin strips)

For the Parmesan Cups
Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Set out 6 shot glasses, small water bottles, or miniature muffin tins.

Working in 2 batches, spoon 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of the grated cheese onto the mat or parchment paper, creating 6 mounds, spaced 1-inch apart. Gently pat down the top of the cheese with your fingers.

Bake for 7 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Turn off the oven, open the oven door and, leave the sheet pan on the rack until the cheese stops bubbling, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a spatula, quickly remove each Parmesan round (one at a time) and place on the reserved glass, bottle, or tin, shaping it with your hands to form a cup. Let cool and remove the cups to a platter.

Set the oven back to 350° F. and repeat for the second batch.

For the Croutons
Preheat the oven to 350° F.

In a medium size bowl, combine the bread cubes, olive oil, and garlic. Mix together until the bread is coated. Spread the bread on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, until golden, flipping once halfway through. Set aside.

For the Dressing
In a small mixing bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, garlic, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of pepper. Very slowly pour the oil into the bowl, whisking until the mixture has emulsified. Whisk in the lemon juice and steak sauce, and stir in the capers.

To Assemble
Fill each Parmesan cup with some of the romaine, top with 1 teaspoon of the dressing, sprinkle with 3 or 4 croutons, and serve.

Parm cup close-up