Plant-Based Dinner: Mushroom and Spinach Panini


This week is supposed to be Plant-Based Food Week here on the good ol' blog, so bear with me while I share with you another plant-strong recipe.  See the first here

This, my friends, is a mushroom, spinach panini.  (Originally saw the recipe here when we first started our new eating habits, discussed here).  Sounds so simple, but I really think you will be blown away by the flavor and simplicity. 

Here's what you need for 2 sandwiches: 
1 pound of white mushrooms, sliced
1 handful of spinach
4 slices of whole wheat or multigrain bread (we like Wheaty Wheat or the Motown Multigrain both from Avalon)
A bit of vegetable broth
2 stalks of green onions, chopped
A handful of cilantro, chopped
Hummus (try to get an all natural hummus, or if you can't find one, just make it yourself.  All I do for hummus is puree in a food processor the following ingredients, which I eyeball:  a can of chickpeas, tahini sauce, olive oil, fresh lemon juice, a clove of garlic and a bit of sea salt). 

Here's what to do: 
Cook the mushrooms in vegetable broth in a deep skillet.  (If you'd like specific instructions for that...add a bit of vegetable broth (about 1/4 of a cup) to a skillet over medium heat.  Add the sliced mushrooms.  Stir to coat.  Cover the skillet and let cook until mushrooms begin to soften, about 5-10 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to the mushrooms.  Let cook uncovered for about 5-10 more minutes, or until the liquid almost fully evaporates).  Take mushrooms out of skillet with a slotted spoon and transfer into a bowl and set aside.  Get rid of any excess liquid in your skillet and turn off the heat.  Layer all 4 slices of bread with a thick layer of hummus.  On 2 of the slices, add cilantro and green onions.    Pile on a bit of spinach and top with a generous helping of cooked mushrooms.  Cover the sandwich with the other slice of hummus covered bread and press down firmly.  Re-heat the skillet over medium heat.  Place both sandwiches in the skillet and put a heavy casserole dish on top of the sandwiches to squish them down.  Cook until brown, for about 5 minutes, on each side.  (Be careful when you flip so all of the stuffing doesn't fall out).  Cut in half for ease of eating.  Enjoy!  

I usually serve the sandwiches with roasted potatoes and whatever vegetable we have on hand. 

See those potatoes in the background?  They're kind of the best thing ever.  So good that I think you should know how to make them.  

The Best Crispy, Roasted Potatoes:  (America's Test Kitchen approved, so you know it's legit). 
Move oven rack to the bottom most position.  Place a cookie sheet on the bottom rack and preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Slice about 1 - 1.5 pounds of baby potatoes or red-skinned potatoes into 1/2 inch thick slices.  Place the potatoes in a dutch oven or heavy pot and top with 1 tablespoon of salt and cover with 1 inch of cold water.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Drain the potatoes.  Toss potatoes in a large bowl with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.  Mix well with a rubber spatula.  Add another tablespoon of olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and mix together for about 1 to 2 minutes, until fully coated.  Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and drizzle with a bit of olive oil.  Working quickly, arrange potatoes in a single layer on the cookie sheet (place end pieces skin side up).  Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.  After cooking for 20 minutes, gently flip each potato over with tongs.  Bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes.  Salt and pepper and serve. 

One remix to this recipe that I love is to place a few slices of lemon on the cookie sheet and bake along with the potatoes.  Sure, they'll burn, as you can see here, but the lemon juice lightly infuses the potatoes and gives them a fresh, interesting taste.  

The potatoes immediately above are baby potatoes and the ones pictured at the beginning of this post alongside the sandwich are red-skinned potatoes.  (Alessandro said he liked the red-skinned potatoes better).  I'm pretty sure I cooked them both for the same amount of time, but you can see how the baby potatoes browned up a bit more than the red-skinned potatoes in the same amount of time.  Even so, I would not adjust cooking time and I wouldn't mess with the potatoes when they're in the oven.  Keep the oven closed and trust the cooking times.  There's no such thing as an overly crispy potato is there?

Stay tuned for more Plant-Based recipes this week and next.  I've still got great recipes for delicious vegan pancakes, steel cut oats, lettuce wraps and a kale dish to share.  

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P.S.  I'm fully aware that oil is not plant-based and I feel bad every time I use it.  I have used oil when cooking pesto, hummus and potatoes because I do not see vegetable broth being an appropriate substitute.  But, whenever I think vegetable broth will do the job instead of olive oil, I do use it.  I'm just doing the best I can! 


Plant-Based Dinner: Tempeh Bean Bowl

Ever heard of tempeh?  Alessandro and I hadn't either until I ran across the recipe here.  

To be honest, when I saw tempeh and touched it for the first time, I was kind of grossed out.  It looks offensive (sort of like brain), so I didn't really know what to expect.  We were pleasantly surprised though.  Not only is tempeh edible, but it's actually really really good.  We were like, "Gimme more tempeh!"  So, in case you want to try it for the first time, or if you're already a die hard tempeh fan and would like to try a new recipe, give this tempeh bean bowl a go. 

Tempeh Bean Bowl For Two: 

Necessary Ingredients: 
One package of tempeh  (found near the tofu and veggie dogs at the grocery store)
One avocado
One lime
Your favorite salsa (we use Honey Bee salsa)
Your favorite hot sauce (we use Sriracha) 
Can of black beans (always try to get salt-free if that's available to you)

Optional Ingredients: 
Trader Joe's Corn and Chile Salsa 

What to Do: 
Crumble the tempeh into a bowl.  Mix in a few generous spoon fulls of your favorite salsa.  Add a few splashes of your favorite hot sauce and the juice from half a lime.  Mix together.  Heat this up in a skillet over low-medium heat until heated thorughoughly, about 7 minutes, stirring occassionally.  While that's heating up, rinse and drain a can of black beans and heat up in the microwave for about a minute and a half.  (You could also toss them into the skillet to heat them up along with the tempeh, but be careful not to smash them while you're stirring).  Chop up a handful of cilantro and slice up one avocado.  Once the beans and tempeh are heated, mix them together (if you haven't already) and split into two serving bowls.  Top with avocado slices, cilantro, the juice from half a lime and the corn and chile salsa.  Add a few splashes of your favorite hot sauce.  Voila!  

This is a very easy, fast and tasty meal that Alessandro and I enjoy for lunch or dinner a few times each month.  It takes about 15 minutes from the time you decide "I'm hungry" to the time you are chewing it and it's in your belly.  That's my kind of low maintenance meal.  I hope you try it and like it!  Let me know if you do.  

Any questions?  What do you think about tempeh?  Do you have a favorite tempeh recipe?  (I have a few more great ones that I will share here).     


Summer in the D: Sleepover with Saverio

Our nephew, Saverio, slumbered at our place last month.  We had the best time together!

Saverio greeted me with this smile when I met him and Alessandro down at the pool.  

I had been on a photography excursion with some friends at Belle Isle, and Saverio and Alessandro were patiently awaiting for me to come home so we could have dinner.  Aless and I wanted Mexican, but Saverio wanted pizza.  Hmm...what is one to do in such dire circumstances?  Tell the child that Mexican food involves dipping (his favorite food related activity), so he was easily swayed. 

We went to our favorite Mexican joint, El Rancho.

I told you the kid likes to dip and he took over the chips and salsa.  Here he is hijacking the tortilla chips with a look that says, "These are mine! I dare you to try to grab a chip!"

The three of us ate so much chips and salsa that I told Saverio that he had to ask our waiter for another basket of chips since I was kind of embarrassed that we wanted more.  So when our waiter came by, Saverio simply continued to chew on his chips and pointed repeatedly at the chip basket, indicating that he needed a chip refill.  It was not what I had in mind, but pretty funny nonetheless.

Our waiter was awesome!  He was so nice and even allowed us to order off of the lunch menu for the little buddy.  

Saverio did the funniest thing while we were at home getting ready to head out for dinner.  He kept on repeating what he wanted to eat as soon as it was official that we were getting Mexican.  "I want soft chicken tacos with just cheese and salad (aka lettuce) and no tomatoes."  And on the drive there, he kept asking, "Auntie, do you remember what I want?" and would make me confirm that I knew his order.  I guess he really didn't want anything getting in the way of his chicken tacos.

He surprised us by eating both of his tacos, which were fairly large.  Alessandro had enchiladas suizas (topped with a special tomatillo sauce), and everything looked good to me, so I asked the waiter what his favorite dish was.  He recommended the steak milanesa ranchero, so I ordered that.  It was delicious!  Definitely ordering that again sometime.  (Update:  went there this weekend and I enjoyed the same dish again). 

After getting home from dinner, we were pretty pooped, so we watched Scooby Doo and went to bed.

Saverio brought Car-Car over to visit us!  He's really into Mario right now, so Alessandro told him to nickname Car-Car "Super Cario" and Saverio thought that was the funniest thing.

In the picture above, he's on a bed of blankets on the floor of our bedroom.  He asked if he could sleep in our bed with Alessandro instead, and because I wanted a full nights sleep, I just gave in and said sure...I would just sleep on the couch.  But he wasn't in our bed long before he said, "This bed actually isn't that comfortable so I'm going to just sleep on the couch with you."  (Little did he know that if he was on the couch, I was getting back in my bed!)  I think he wanted to sleep in the living room because it was brighter than our bedroom with all of the city lights shining through the windows.  (He doesn't like the dark).  He asked me if I could lay on the couch with him until he fell asleep and then he said, "But I never ever fall asleep."  He fell asleep shortly after that and slept all night. 

The next morning, the boys were super cute and smiley. 

Saverio played telescope.

Then we headed to the park behind our apartment.  It was still barely 8:00 am, so it was very peaceful, quiet and quite beautiful.  (The binoculars were needed to check for ghosts).

Saverio's a little bit of a scaredy cat, so he wouldn't go down the slide without pushing his arms and legs up against the side of the slide, which would prevent him from going down the slide too quickly.  His skin kept screeching up against the sides and hurt him a bit, so I was trying to get him to tuck his limbs in, but he didn't want to because that made him go too fast.  So, to help him enjoy the slide a bit more, I went down with him on my lap a couple of times so he could get the full experience.  He loved it! 

He also didn't want to go too high on the swings, so he just mostly played with the binoculars instead.

I wonder how many pictures I have of Alessandro yawning.

After the park, we went to breakfast at my all time favorite breakfast place:  The Flytrap in Ferndale.

I ordered the BACT omellete (bacon, avocado, cheese, tomato) with garlic home fries, Alessandro had the crab cakes and eggs and Saverio had the gingerbread waffles.  We all loved our meals.

Saverio took these cute pictures of Alessandro!  He's such a good photog--he even knows the rule of thirds.  

Saverio needs to teach Alessandro a thing or two.

After breakfast, we came home and played.  Saverio drew this picture of him and Alessandro.  Notice Alessandro's cane.  I thought that was the cutest.  

Then, Saverio fell asleep and napped for over 2 hours!

When he left, I noticed that he left his mark on our home: 

We can't wait for our next sleepover with Saverio.  He was so smiley the whole time and really was a joy to have around.

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Notable things about 5 year old Saverio:
  • He LOVES Alessandro. 
  • He HATES kisses.  If someone says, "Okay everyone a hug and a kiss goodbye," He always says quickly, "Um, but I don't do that."  And if you even try to sneak a kiss on him, he wipes it off defiantly.  
  • He calls Alessandro's walker a "double cane." 
  • His favorite place is Downtown Detroit.
  • He refuses to go underwater in the pool.
  • He thinks he IS Mario.  
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P.S. More niece and nephew sleepover stories here, here and here.


Dinner in the D: Greendot Stables

One time, we ate at Greendot Stables.

We liked it.  You should go there.  Here's why.

Front row from left to right:  Curry Chicken slider (learned that I don't like curry, so I wouldn't order it again), Au Poivre slider (peppery and good), Hot Brown (good).

Sidenote:  I wanted the Au Poivre slider, but didn't know how to pronounce it so I asked Alessandro to order. (Alessandro thinks he is a French food connoisseur and always makes fun of me because I have the most trouble pronouncing French terms).  After ordering, the waiter told him that he was the only person all day to pronounce it correctly.  That didn't help any trying to bring his ego down.  (By the way, it's pronounced "oh pwauve.")

Back row from left to right:  Shredded Pork (he liked), BBQ bacon (he liked), Korean (he liked).

We also ordered fries - Al had the poutine and I had plain.  The fries are shoestring fries, really crispy and really good.  I didn't photograph them because they were just the tiniest portions and I didn't want the fries to feel inadequate.  

(We went back to GDS a week or so after this with new friends and I ordered the truffle and herb fries...DELICIOUS.  Get those if you go). 

Atmosphere:  good.

Alessandro:  happy.

Alessandro had a draft Bell's ($3) and I had a moscow mule ($3).  My bro-in law is the master of moscow mules...he's got the recipe down...and I was expecting more of a familiar taste, but it was a bit too gingery  for me and a bit hard to drink.  

The view upon exiting:  beautiful.

Update:  Went there again and had the buffallo chicken slider (delicious), cheesburger slider (delicious) and bbq bacon slider (delicious).  And did I mention you have to have the truffle fries?


Rhubarb and Rose Syrup

On the same day I made the strawberry rhubarb crumble, I also made rhubarb and rose syrup.  This syrup recipe was also from 101 Cookbooks and can be found here

Click over to her site for the recipe, but just to summarize, you'll combine 4 stalks of chopped rhubarb with 2 cups of white sugar in a saucepan. Stir it well and leave it for 45 minutes (unheated) where it will become a sugary paste type mixture.  Add 2 cups of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Continue simmering for 15 to 20 minutes.  Then, strain the mixture through a cheesecloth and fine mesh strainer.  (I don't have cheesecloth so I used paper towel, which worked fine).  Discard the solids.  Transfer the liquid into a clean saucepan and add a bit of freshly squeezed lime juice. Simmer for 15 more minutes, until the syrup has thickened, and remove from heat, letting it cool completely.  Stir in a splash of rose water and thassit!  

Al ate it with waffles the next morning.

It's really tasty and very easy to make.  Let me know if you try it!


Alessandro's Fantasy Come True

I made a strawberry rhubarb crumble a couple of weeks ago.  And as I was making it, Alessandro said, "You know you're fulfilling one of my fantasies right now.  I've always wanted something strawberry rhubarb."  

Wow, I know.  Anyway, let's move on. 

I was inspired to make a strawberry rhubarb crumble after seeing the plentiful supply of rhubarb at Eastern Market and after seeing a pretty straightforward recipe one of my new favorite food blogs:  www.101cookbooks.com.   Click here for Heidi's recipe, which I followed very closely.  Here's what I did after she told me to:  


3/4 cup spelt flour
2/3 cups pine nuts, lightly toasted
1/2 cup instant quick rolled oats
1/2 cup sugar in the raw
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar in the raw 

1/2 lb (8 oz) of strawberries, hulled and cut into quarters.  (I cut the bigger strawberries into eighths).  

3 stalks of rhubarb, ends cut off and cut into 3/4 inch pieces

Before I told Alessandro what I was planning on making, he had told me that our food budget for the week was pretty tight so to only pick up the essentials.  "Can pine nuts be essential?" I asked.  "No," he replied.  But good thing I didn't listen to him.  Instead, I went to Rocky's in Eastern Market where they sell pine nuts by the pound.  Pine nuts were $17.99/lb at Rocky's, so I ordered 1/4 of a pound and left with a little over that (0.30 lbs) for a total of $5.40.  I thought that was a nice compromise for Alessandro and I.  

The recipe was pretty easy.  Here's how it went down for me:

How To

Preheat oven to 375 with a rack in the middle.  Spray a 10 inch round pie dish with Pam (baking style, not vegetable style).  

Combine flour, pine nuts, oats, sugar, salt and pepper together in a bowl and mix together.  Stir in the butter using a fork.  Once combined, squeeze the mixture into several balls (about the size of meatballs) and place in the freezer to chill for at least ten minutes.  I found that the mixture didn't form into balls as easily as I thought it would.  It was rather dry.  So I kind of forced it into neat little tight stacks within the bowl and put it in the freezer.  After 10 minutes, the mixture was sufficiently solid enough for me to later "crumble" it on top, which I did later on in the recipe. 

For the filing, whisk together the cornstarch and sugar in a large mixing bowl.  Add the strawberries and rhubarb and toss to evenly coat.  Wait 3 minutes magic to happen to that mixture.  Then transfer the filling into the prepared pie pan.  Get your topping from the freezer and crumble it across the top of the filling, leaving big pieces and small.  (That's why having something substantial to crumble is important). 

Bake for 40 minutes until the top is deep golden brown.  Let it sit for 20-30 minutes before serving. 

Heidi's recipe says that it will serve a small crowd of 8-12, but Alessandro and I ate the entire thing, not sharing a single bit of it, in 3 days. 

Heidi and the company she keeps must eat like birds. 

Make it, I think you'll love it!  

Stay tuned tomorrow for one more rhubarb recipe...also from 101 Cookbooks.


Terra Terra Terrarium

Long story short, for this edition of the Pinterest Challenge, I wanted to make a terrarium for my office.  

I had two inspiration pins...the first was this one originally from here

And the second was this one from my girl, Martha. 

So, I started by gathering my supplies.  

I got the glass vase from Goodwill for $1!  (It was marked $1.99, but it was half off green sticker day so I lucked out).  The pink sand was on clearance at Michaels for $1.69 (originally $4.99), I scored the bag of variety moss from Michaels for $3.49 with a 50% off coupon and the black gravel rocks were $2.49 from Michaels.  

I bought the beautiful plants from Eastern Market.  The tall aloe plant was $1.50, the succulent on the left  was $2 (look familiar?) and the other three small plants were $1 for a total of $6.50.  (Not pictured is soil, which I already had on hand). 

Total project cost was under $15, so already things were looking up. 

I filled the vase with about an inch of rocks, then 3 inches of soil.  (If I had to do it again, I would only do 1.5-2 inches of soil because the end result looks a little soil heavy since the rocks blend right in).  Then I dug a few holes and planted each plant individually, starting with the biggest.  I played around with the placement a bit to get a configuration that I liked and once I found their permanent spot, I patted them down nice and tightly in the soil.  

Next, I sprinkled a thin layer of pink sand over the soil.  To get the sand layered evenly throughout, I blew the sand around lightly through a straw until it landed where I wanted it to.  Then, for more color and texture, I added a few pieces of the moss.  Then I sprinkled it with a few drops of water (and will do so every two weeks).  That was it!  

Here it is on its way to work with me:

And here it is on my windowsill at work:

If you can't tell by how many pictures I took of it, I really like it!  The project was really fun and fast and I  can already see more terrariums in my future.    

Did you participate in the Pinterest Challenge?  If so, what'd you make?  If not, will you next time?  

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Read all about the Pinterest Challenge here at Katie's blog.  Katie started the Pinterest Challenge as a way for us bloggers to stop pinning and start doing.  Visit her blog today to check out whatever she created for the Pinterest Challenge and to share your own Pinterest project.  While you're at it, visit Katie's partner in crime, Sherry's, blog to check out her project and to share.  

Katie and Sherry run the Pinterest Challenge seasonally, so be on the lookout for the next round in the Fall.  This season, they selected two bloggers, Michelle from Ten June and Kate from Censational Girl, to co-host the Pinterest Challenge, so be sure to check and share on their blogs too!

You can follow me on Pinterest here if you'd like.

And if you didn't already, please watch this South Park clip, which Alessandro and I watched repeatedly while I was writing this post, because seriously, this is supposed to be a long story short.