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blue cheese

Creamy Butternut Pasta with Blue Cheese and Toasted Walnuts

Butternut Squash Pasta with Blue Cheese and Walnuts

I’ve been cooking and shooting a lot in the dark. Well, not complete darkness, but under dimly lit kitchen lights that just can’t compare to the sunshine of my dreams. Welcome to the work world, where everyday can’t be a sunny Sunday afternoon spent in the kitchen. That’s okay. That makes those Saturdays and Sundays that much more appreciated.

My weeknight photos, however, are starting to bear a slight resemblance to a late night murder scene. Though, perhaps this feeling takes hold of me not from the harsh lighting bestowed upon my squash, but from the fact that this past week, I killed the last remains of my parents’ summer garden. Tears. No more homegrown garden cooking will be going down in my kitchen until spring arrives. My last leftover item now lay roasted, among other ingredients, in the leftovers of my fridge.

Butternut Squash


Luckily, this year I found a spot in the city to yield my own plants. The thought of that puts a smile on my face. Rather than travel to my parents’ house to workout in their garden and tow a bunch of produce home, I’ve finally found a place to start my own growing. Fortunately, one of my friends has a spot in a local community garden that she’s willing to share with me. Time to put my days as a full-time summer farmer to work. I can’t wait.

In the meantime, I’m savoring the last of last summer’s squash in this light and creamy pasta dish. It’s nuttiness, paired with that of the toasted walnuts and the sharpness of a good blue cheese, makes this one dish worthy of a final farewell to 2012. The cream sauce is light, but where it lacks, the butternut squash sweeps in. Its softened flesh from a pre-roast in the oven melts itself onto the pasta, eliminating the need for a heavier sauce here. Make sure to dry toast the walnuts in a skillet or cast iron pan prior to topping off your plate. It really pulls the whole dish together.

Click here for recipe…

Grilled Black Bean Burgers

When my friend told me this was the first intentional vegetarian meal that he’s ever cooked, I was shocked. What I wasn’t too surprised about was how well the meal turned out.  When it comes to summertime grilling and bean burgers, I’m generally satisfied.

However, when he sent over the recipe for his first debut on my blog, and I saw where it came from, my initial shock value tripled.  I was told the recipe was picked up from the Food Network. What I was not told was that it was a Sandra Lee original. It’s probably for the best that that tidbit of information was left out prior to eating.

To put it shortly, I’m not a Sandra Lee fan. She’s carved out her own signature approach to cooking, which is fine, but it’s just not my style. I generally don’t like using packaged foods, which is the key to her semi-homemade meals.

That’s exactly why I would’ve never guessed this was originally her vegetarian creation! The only processed component of this recipe was the food processor working its magic on the fresh ingredients that made these taste so good. Sandra Lee, you actually use real ingredients?

We decided to throw some blue cheese on top for an extra punch of flavor. Brie and arugula would be a nice duo, too. Or maybe grilling the tomatoes before using them as a topper. With a grill, the options really are endless, so let whatever veggies you have on hand be your inspiration.

Click here for recipe…

Arugula Blue Cheese Egg Sandwich

McDonald’s buys 2 billion eggs per year in the U.S. alone, and you can guarantee a large percentage off those are landing on their popular breakfast sandwiches. While you won’t find me grabbing a McMuffin at any of the nearby golden arches, I do find that sometimes there’s nothing more satisfying than a simple egg sandwich.

When eaten in moderation, eggs provide a great source of protein that can leave you satisfied all morning long. For vegetarians, they’re an important source of B12, a vitamin needed for proper functioning of the nervous system and blood formation and absent in all plant sources of food. (Although, vegans, rest assured, B12 is pumped into nearly all fortified cereals).

My favorite part about egg sandwiches? They can be made from start to finish in less than 10 minutes. Even fancy schmancy, gourmet-sounding ones like this require very minimal effort. With just 5 ingredients, this egg sandwich will have you feeling like you’re dining out at your favorite brunch place, but without the 60 minute waiting time. The key here is quality. Cage-free (local if you’re lucky!) eggs, fresh arugula, blue cheese with a flavor-depth tailored to your preference, and chewy, bakery-caliber bread. This is the kind of breakfast I want to eat all day long.

Click here for recipe…

Arugula Salad with Pomegranate and Blue Cheese

Pomegranate season is back in action.  With a huge box intersecting the first few steps of my most recent grocery store trip, I threw one into my basket without hesitation.  A rarity in my diet, I always look forward to using pomegranate seeds.  The antioxidant-rich fruit is significantly unique with its citrusy, cranberry-resembling flavor and crunchy, seed-like texture, and adds a nice touch to a variety of dishes.

In the following recipe, faintly sweet pomegranate seeds pair perfectly with peppery arugula and creamy blue cheese.  I toss the salad with a simple dressing and add a few pumpkin seeds for an extra element of crunch.  These are the kinds of easy to make, restaurant-esque salads that make me adore greens.

Arugula Salad with Pomegranate and Blue Cheese

(Per salad)

For the dressing:

-1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
-2 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
-1/2 tsp. agave
-Rounded 1/4 tsp. thyme
-Rounded 1/4 tsp. salt
-Rounded 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper

Whisk oil with vinegar until combined.  Add remaining ingredients, whisking until dressing is creamy and light.

For the salad:

-2 cups arugula
-1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
-1 wedge of Laughing Cow Light Blue Cheese (You can substitute any variation of your favorite blue cheese, but Laughing Cow Light adds a lighter, extra creamy touch)
-2 Tbsp. roasted pumpkin seeds
-1 1/2 Tbsp. vinaigrette (see above)

Toss arugula with vinaigrette.  Top with pomegranate, blue cheese, and pumpkin seeds. Serve.

Eggplant Arugula Pizza

Pizza is undoubtedly a classic American favorite.  Often even the smallest of towns have a mom and pop pizza joint, whipping up pies to feed the insatiable pizza appetites of locals.  There’s just something about the simple combination of lighty, airy dough, rich cheese, and fresh toppings that makes pizza a timeless treat.

While finding a slice typically isn’t too hard, making your own pie guarantees a great time.  After a little fun in the kitchen, a crowd-pleasing, homemade pizza, topped with any ingredient of your desire, can be in your hands in less than an hour.

The following recipe revamps pizza into an adult version, loaded with quality ingredients and a ton of flavor.  Starring a variety of fresh, flavorful ingredients, you won’t even notice that the crust holding these toppings is whole wheat.  For pizza crust connoisseurs, well, feel free to ditch the healthier crust and stick with you own favorite dough recipe.  Either way, get ready for the show full of taste rocking out on top.

Eggplant Arugula Pizza
-1 large eggplant, cut into 1/4 – 1/3 inch slices
– 3 garlic cloves, minced
– 1 loosely packed cup arugula
– 1 cup asiago cheese, grated
– 1/4 cup fresh gorgonzola, crumbled
– 3 tsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing/drizzling
– 1 tsp. lemon juice
-1 16-ounce ball whole wheat pizza dough
– Salt and pepper, to taste

Place eggplant on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.  Brush both sides with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Place on top rack of oven, and broil 4-8 minutes on each side, until golden brown and tender.

Heat 1 tsp. olive oil in a small saute pan.  Add garlic, and saute until golden.

Preheat oven 450F.  Spread rolled out pizza dough onto a lightly greased circular pizza pan.  Bake for 5 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Sprinkle asiago cheese across entire crust.  Cover with baked eggplant and sliced tomato, overlapping the slices around the dough.  Sprinkle garlic on top.

Place pizza back in oven and bake 8 minutes.  Meanwhile, toss arugula with 2 tsp. olive oil, 1 tsp. lemon juice, and salt and pepper, to taste.

Remove pizza from oven.  Add arugula and crumbled gorgonzola.  Return to oven and bake another 3-5 minutes, until arugula just begins to wilt.  Serve.