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Couscous Stuffed Tomatoes

 

When in need of an extra vegetable that can sub as a main meal for the vegetarian coming to your party, reference back to this recipe.  I made these for Christmas and was in no way missing out during dinner.

 

What you’ll need:

 

  • 8-10 medium tomatoes
  • 1 box couscous
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 cup 2 different kinds of mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup fresh spinach
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1 package mozzarella cheese

 

Wash the tomatoes then start by cutting the tomatoes in half and spooning the center out into a bowl.  I used a melon baller, which worked perfectly for this task. Set aside for later.

 

Next, fry the onions, mushrooms and garlic together with a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a frying pan.  Cook until the mushroom turn dark brown in color and the onions become translucent, about 5-8 minutes. Everything should smell of garlic.

Toss in your greens and spices (spinach, basil, pepper, cayenne, Italian seasoning) next then cook until the basil shrinks, about 2-4 minutes.

 

While your vegetables are cooking you can start the couscous. Cook according to the directions replacing the water with vegetable broth.  When the couscous is almost complete, stir in the sun-dried tomatoes until thoroughly heated (I used canned sun-dried tomatoes that were already softened).  When I made this I used two boxes of couscous because I doubled up on the amount of tomatoes, but this is not necessary.  One box was plenty and the condensed vegetable medley would have provided more flavors.

 

Next mix together your vegetables, couscous and tomato pulp in a mixing bowl.

 

Stuff the couscous blend into the tomato halves and place on a roasting pan.

 

Top each tomato shell with a healthy amount of cheese. Here you can experiment using parmesan, mozzarella, white cheddar or even fresh mozzarella slices. Another tasty option would be to mix parmesan inside the couscous mix and top with mozzarella.

 

Bake in the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 25-30 minutes.

 

To brown the top, broil for 3-5 minutes.

 

This was an excellent main course for Christmas for the vegetarian in our small group (me).  My uncle stated that when he spooned in a piece of basil with his grains it made a huge difference in adding much-needed flavor to the boring couscous.  The tomatoes mush, somewhat, when cooked allowing your fork to slice right through scooping up bits of grains, cheese, vegetables and tomato. 

 

I took both the left over couscous medley, tasty just on its own, and whole tomatoes to lunch for the next week. Two was more than enough to keep me going until dinner. The couscous, similar to when you cook it, puffs up in your stomach keeping you full for quite a while with a healthy carbohydrate. To make this gluten-free simply substitute in quinoa for the couscous.

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Portobello Quinoa Burgers with Chipotle Mayo

My mood yesterday screamed cook, cook cook. But what?  Tobi sent me a recipe from Epicurious which I changed around a little and I highly recommend this to everyone, meat lovers or veggie’s like me.  Also, I recommend the Epicurious app.  Now that I have been introduced, I can’t stop searching delicious looking and sounding recipes.

This recipe calls for:
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup coarse kasha (whole roasted buckwheat groats) or quinoa
1 pound portobella mushrooms, stems discarded – or the sliced baby bella’s with stems.
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper – or a mix of green, red, orange, and yellow
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 1/2 cups fine dry bread crumbs, divided
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Tabasco chipotle sauce, or to taste
8 large oval slices rye bread, cut into 4 1/2-inch rounds if desired, lightly toasted

First chop everything up while you cook the quinoa or kasha according to the bag.  I used The Chopper Machine from the Pampered Chef to quicken the time it would take to chop everything, but a food processor will also work as well as simply sharpening your favorite chopping knife and cleaning off the cutting board.  I am still unsure of what kasha is, but they didn’t have it at the grocery store, so I stuck with Quinoa as it’s small like couscous and healthy with 100% whole grain while still being versatile enough to cook sweet with apples and raisins for breakfast or throw in some soy sauce and Sriracha like you might with rice.

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Toss the chopped mushrooms in a bowl and set aside.  Heat up a 10-12 inch skillet and add in the onions and peppers cooking for approximately five minutes or until the onions start to become transparent with butter.  My mom made fajitas a few nights ago and pre-cut up red, yellow, green, and orange bell peppers, the color and different tastes to each pepper really accentuated the taste of the burger. Then add into the pan the mushrooms, garlic, a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Cook these on medium high for anywhere from 8-10 minutes until the mushrooms have exerted all of their liquid and it has evaporated.

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While your veggies are cooking go ahead and make the chipotle mayo sauce.  It is simply mayo and Tabasco thrown together.  I added a little more Tabasco for a real kick.  Set aside to spread on your rye bread later and let the flavors meld together .

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When your vegetables are complete add the quinoa or kasha, soy sauce, parsley, half a cup of the bread crumbs and set aside for 10 minutes to cool. When cooled add the lightly beaten egg.

Form a patty to desired size (I went with about a half-inch thick and the size of my hands).  To coat in bread crumbs, I poured the remaining crumbs into a unrolled aluminum foil piece with the sides folded up.  Then simply drop the patty into one portion of the crumbs and shake around until enough coat the top.  Continue until you have made all the patties.  Here the recipe suggests the patties chill, loosely covered, for an hour. This will probably help them to stick together and stay formed when cooked later.  For time’s sake, I chose to go ahead and cook them after this step.  image

To cook the burgers, simply fill the cleaned off skillet (or your remains will burn) with a fourth cup of oil (preferably olive oil for your health and a cleaner taste).  Fry each patty for approx 2-4 minutes per side. They will cook quickly, so watch them.

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Place your hot burger in between two slices of already chipotle mayo spread rye bread.  The mayo makes the rye bread less of a shock to your taste buds and the sour spice of the Tabasco eats it’s way into the burger squishing with the bread in each bite.  The garlic, soy, salt and pepper surprisingly add to the burger patty enough that there is no need for any other spice.  The quinoa’s sticky nature adheres to the veggies to keep the burger in one piece.  Add a tequila sunrise to pair with the spice of the chipotle mayo.

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North of the Border

A local restaurant to Bartlett, IL, North of the Border is a favorite in our household. My mom and I both bought a Groupon to here when it was available. Monday’s are 65 cent Taquitos, so we had a few of both avocado and refried bean fried and stuffed sticks, a couple of chicken tacos for my mom, and this monstrous, made-for-catering Nacho platter.  My mom ordered the ultimate nachos not expecting to get an entire tin that will last us three days if we eat it for breakfast, lunch AND dinner stuffed with all the goodies you can imagine.  Ours was the meatless version, and was it ever mouth-watering.  On top of the chips, they tossed refried beans and hot, melting white Mexican cheese.  It’s topped with tomatoes, black olives, and onions.  North of the Border threw a large dollop of both sour cream and guacamole on the very top with some jalapeno slices for an extra bite.  If you are keen to spice I suggest mixing the two salsa’s they provide and sprinkling this on top of everything.  If spice is not your cup of tea, the green salsa is a mild, tasty addition.  I highly recommend this little location on 59 for both catering, delivery, and a eat-in meal.  Everything I’ve tried ends in a food baby belly and a smile.image

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