Category Archives: Vegetarian

Venezuelan Arepas

Did I ever tell you that I was a super picky eater when I was younger?  I pretty much only ate Kraft Mac and Cheese and sugar on top of more sugar (but not necessarily together).  My mom made all of these amazing gourmet meals—that I now want all of the recipes for—and I would turn my nose up at them and tell her I just wanted mac and cheese.  My parents always made me try everything and kept telling me that someday I would like all of these foods, but in the meantime, they let me be picky.

My mom always bought crunchy peanut butter—because that’s what my dad likes—and whole wheat bread, but bratty little me told her I would only eat creamy peanut butter and white bread.  I later admitted to my mom that I really did like all of those things, I just told her I didn’t because at Amanda’s house they ate creamy peanut butter and white bread—and I wanted to do everything Amanda did.  What a little brat I was!

Luckily I grew out of those habits and now love all of those gourmet meals my mom makes—well, most of them.  I still don’t like salmon and I’m sorry to say Mom and Dad, but I don’t know if I’ll ever like salmon.  Thanks for making me try all of those other ‘weird’ things though because I now consider myself to be quite a good eater.

Many of the things that I used to classify as ‘weird’ were foods from other countries.  My dad owned a stained glass studio for 40 years and during that time we had many artists come and stay with us.  During my childhood, there were always people living with us, which meant that we always had people cooking all sorts of foods I had never heard of.  On top of that, both of my parents have done a lot of traveling and both have lived abroad, so we were always trying foods from other countries.

While we were growing up, Amanda’s family had many foreign exchange students.  These students often made us some of their favorite foods from their home countries.  Some of the foods we loved and others we weren’t so crazy about, but Venezuelan arepas (pronounced ah-ray-pas) are one thing that we have really grown to love and continue making to this day.  Amanda and I even made them for Mother’s Day when we each picked something to make to honor our moms J.  Amanda chose arepas because her mom lived in Venezuela when she was in high school.

Making arepas for Mother's Day

Showing off our arepas and strawberry pie (recipe coming soon!!)

Arepas are made out of white corn meal.  We use the brand called P.A.N.  I have found it in the ethnic food aisle at Safeway in both DC and CA.  I’m sure they carry it at Hispanic Food Markets too.  (I’m sorry to say Oki friends, but I’ve never seen this at the commissary.  If you want to try them though, you’re more than welcome to come to my house and I’ll make them for you!)

Arepas can be baked, fried, or grilled.  We usually brown them in a pan on the stove and them bake them the rest of the way.  Amanda said they are excellent when grilled so I’m going to try that next time.  They can be eaten open-face or as a sandwich as you’ll see in the pictures below.  We always top them with ham, cheese, and perico (scrambled eggs with tomatoes and onions), but the possibilities are endless.  Amanda and I like them with cream cheese and I had some avocado on hand so we used those this time too.  Amanda’s dad loved to eat them with peanut butter (to her mom’s dismay)!

I know they might sound kind of strange, but they are so tasty—crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.  The white corn flavor provides such a nice background for the ham, cheese, and perico.  They are also really easy to make so don’t be afraid to go out and try them!

Venezuelan Arepas with Perico

*Recipe from the back of the P.A.N. bag

The spread (plus some roasted veggies on the side)

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups lukewarm water

2 cups PAN corn meal

1 tsp salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Pour the water in a bowl, add the salt and slowly add the corn meal.  Knead the dough a bit until smooth.  Set aside for about 10 minutes.

Form the dough into round patties.  Saute the arepas in pan until golden on both sides.  Transfer to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes (**This will vary depending on the size and thickness of your arepas.  When the arepas are done they should sound hollow when you tap them.)

Remove from oven and fill with toppings of your choice.  (They should definitely be served warm, but can be reheated the next day in the microwave or oven.)

Perico (serves 2-4)

1 medium to large tomato, chopped

1/2 medium onions, diced small

4 eggs

Melt butter or oil over medium to medium-high heat.  Add the onions and tomatoes and cook until the onions are soft.  Add eggs and scramble until no longer runny.

**I promise you that these are very easy to make and are a fun alternative to the norm!

Question: What is your favorite food from another country?

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Filed under Vegetarian

Roasted Eggplant and Feta Dip

Before I get started on tonight’s post, I want to let you all know that tomorrow we will be starting a regular series on Mind Your Bees and Trees with an awesome guest blogger so stay tuned.  I promise—you don’t want to miss it!

It’s summertime and summertime means BBQ season.  Who doesn’t love a good BBQ?  My favorite part about BBQs is, of course, all of the great food!  There are always so many great appetizers, side dishes, salads, and desserts, not to mention the meat, but honestly I’m usually much more excited about all of the other goodies.  It is a rare occasion when the meat at a BBQ wins me over.

When we go to BBQs, I almost always make a dessert (or two!).  Dessert is my specialty—a trait I inherited from my mom.  As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I love to bake and I love to share my baked goods with others.  As my mom always says, “the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach” :).

Since I’m not eating any processed sugar this summer, I can’t turn to my old favorites when I’m looking for something to make for a BBQ.  I told Amanda that I thought going to BBQs and not eating all of the yummy desserts would definitely be the hardest part of this challenge for me.  Well so far we have been to a few BBQs and parties this summer, and although it has been a little hard not to eat any dessert, it has not been as bad as I imagined it would be—especially when there are delicious savory goodies to munch on like the Roasted Eggplant Dip I made for a 4th of July party at our friend’s house.

The cake I made for our 4th of July party last year. It looks like it's waving in the wind because I dropped it on the floor before I frosted it! It landed right-side up, but I lost a big chunk from the middle. Oopsie!

I saw this recipe on Courtney’s blog and immediately knew I had to try it.  Giff and I pretty much love anything with eggplant in it (and I love anything with feta) so I figured it would be pretty awesome.  If you think you don’t like eggplant, then you probably haven’t had it cooked very well because eggplant is excellent when it’s cooked well.  I promise to post some more of our favorite recipes using eggplant in the future, but for now, let’s focus on this dip.

Last summer I made Ina Garten’s eggplant dip for a party and it was a huge hit.  I loved that dip so much that I was slightly worried that this new eggplant dip might not live up to the other one, but it definitely did.  Ina’s dip is pureed and although it has an excellent flavor, you can’t specifically taste the eggplant since everything is mixed together.  The eggplant and feta dip is not pureed so it’s more salsa-like.  I loved the chunky texture of the dip and it was excellent with either fresh veggies or crackers (side note: I was excited to find some crackers at the store that don’t contain sugar!).  Although I pride myself on always bringing awesome desserts to parties, I think I could get used to the savory thing too.  My dip was one of the first savory items to go so I’m going to go ahead and say that it was a hit :).

Roasted Eggplant and Feta Dip

*Recipe adapted from Sweet Tooth Sweet Life

Ingredients

▪       1 medium eggplant, (about 1 pound)

▪       2 tbsp lemon juice

▪       3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

▪       1/2 cup reduced fat feta cheese, crumbled

▪       1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

▪       1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped

▪       2 tbsp chopped fresh basil

▪       1/2 tbsp dried parsley

▪       1/4 tsp chili powder

▪       1/4 tsp cumin

▪       1/4 tsp smoked paprika

▪       1/4 tsp garlic powder

▪       1/4 tsp salt

▪       Drizzle of honey (optional)

Directions

  1. Position oven rack about 6 inches from the heat source; preheat broiler.
  2. Line a baking pan with foil. Place eggplant in the pan and poke a few holes all over it to vent steam. Broil the eggplant, turning with tongs every 5 minutes, until the skin is charred and a knife inserted into the dense flesh near the stem goes in easily, 14 to 18 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board until cool enough to handle.
  3. Put lemon juice in a medium bowl. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and scrape the flesh into the bowl, tossing with the lemon juice to help prevent discoloring. Add oil and stir with a fork until the oil is absorbed. (It should be a little chunky.) Stir in feta, onion, bell pepper, basil, parsley, spices and salt. Taste and add honey if needed.

Question: What is your favorite thing to bring to a BBQ?  What is your favorite thing to eat at a BBQ?

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Filed under Appetizers, Vegetarian

Confession

I ate sugar…..not once, not twice, but three times! Oopsie.  Each time it was an accident so hopefully I’m forgiven :).  Rather than stress about it, I’m just using these times as a reminder to myself that I really need to think about what I’m eating and what it might have in it.  It’s amazing how many products are made with sugar!  It makes me grateful that I don’t have a food allergy because I realize how easy it is to forget—or not think about it—and eat something I’m not ‘supposed’ to eat.  I guess if I had an allergy I would me more cautious, but you get the point.

On to my slip-ups.  The first time happened on day two when I made some delicious homemade veggie burgers for lunch.  I have been wanting to try the Temes Family Carrot Burgers for a long time after my friend Lindsay as been ranting and raving about them for so long.  The burgers called for breadcrumbs and without thinking, I dumped a handful of breadcrumbs from my pantry into the bowl.  As soon as I mixed them in I realized they probably had sugar and sure enough, I was right.  Despite my goal of not eating sugar, I am not willing to waste perfectly good food, so I cooked them and ate them anyway.  In addition to the breadcrumbs in the burgers, the recipe also says to coat the burgers in breadcrumbs before they are cooked so that time around I remembered to use panko breadcrumbs that don’t have any sugar.

Anyway, these burgers were a nice break from any other veggie burger I’ve had before.  Other than the fact that the burgers are shaped into patties, they aren’t trying to be a burger in any other way.  Some veggie burgers I’ve had in the past try too hard (in my opinion) to resemble a regular burger, and usually don’t taste that great.  These burgers were totally different—savory with a hint of sweetness.  I ate them topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon and topped with applesauce.  I also dipped each bite into some balsamic vinegar—ala Amanda—yum!

My other slip-ups happened on days three and four.  While substitute teaching the other day, a teacher offered me a Ritz cracker at snack time.  I was pretty hungry so I ate it, but afterward I realized that it probably had sugar in it.  I came home and checked the box of Ritz that has been sitting in my pantry for months on end (I think I bought them for a project with my English students) and saw that they certainly do have sugar in them.  Busted again.  At least I stopped after the one, right?!

Last, but not least, my husband and I went out to eat at a Turkish restaurant last night.  We love their hummus and without thinking I dove right in to the warm, homemade pita bread and slathered some hummus on it.  For dinner I had a chicken kebab wrap.  Honestly, it wasn’t until this morning that I realized the pita and wrap probably both have sugar in them.  I have already decided that I’m not going to worry too much about not eating sugar when I go out to eat, but I still plan to be conscious about what I order and try to avoid ordering things that I know are made with sugar.  Last night’s slip-ups could have easily been avoided had I thought about it.  I’m going to blame the fact that I have two big finals due this week for grad school and was focused much more on them than whether or not my pita was made with sugar!

And now for the delicious carrot burger recipe thanks to the Temes family:

1 cup cottage cheese

1 cup shredded carrots

1 slightly beaten egg

1 cup bread crumbs (plus ¼ – ½ cup additional crumbs to roll patties in)

2 tbsp finely chopped onions (or a handful of dried onion flakes)

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp worcester sauce

½ cup sunflower seeds (optional)—I used walnuts because that’s what I had on hand.

Combine all ingredients (including the 1 cup bread crumbs, but reserve extra). Form mixture into four balls and shape into patties. Coat patties with additional bread crumbs. Fry/cook in butter in a saute pan, until browned (they often burn a little, or get kind of black, but thats ok).

Serve on buns and/or topped with cinnamon and applesauce.

*Also delicious dipped in balsamic vinegar.

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Filed under Main Courses, Vegetarian