Savory Vegan Succotash-Stuffed Zucchini

Here’s what I had:

  • A beautiful heirloom round yellow zucchini
  • 4 ears of white sweet corn
  • 1 pt of fresh shelled lima beans
  • 1 lb. of baby purple-skinned potatoes
  • A few red onions
  • Leftover fresh baby spinach
  • Various pantry odds and ends

Here’s what I made:

Vegan Succotash-Stuffed Zucchini with Roasted Baby Purple-Skinned Potatoes


Here’s what I did:

I sliced the potatoes thin, coated them with oil and some Spike’s Veg Magic and baked them at 425F for 15-20 mins.  Wanted to get the taters done first so I could snack on them while cooking the rest!

While the potatoes cooked, I scooped out the middle of the zucchinis and mashed up the insides with 2-3 Tbsp of nutritional yeast and some Kosher salt.  I sauteed 2 small red onions and a clove of garlic in some coconut oil and then added the limas.  I put a lid on the pot and left them alone until the lima beans were bright green and tender (about 3-4 mins).  Once the limas were tender, I added the cheesy squash and the corn.  I let that get happy for another 2-3 mins before tearing up some spinach and letting it wilt in.  The zucchini and corn were both sweeter than I was feeling for dinner, so I had to taste and adjust the seasonings a few times.

Suffering Succotash! …Couldn’t help myself

Meanwhile, I gave the round zucchinis a massage in some evoo, Kosher salt, and black pepper.  I reduced the heat on the oven to 375F (the potatoes were long-since done and already being snacked on).

It’s like they were calling my name!

I baked the zucchini for about 15 mins, or until just short of tender.  Then, I stuffed the zucchini halves and baked them for another 5-7 mins, or until the squash were tender and juicy (but not at all mushy).

Little heirloom boats of awesome waiting for the oven

At the end, I layered the leftover potatoes in a casserole dish and topped them with the juicy leftover succotash.


What would you have made with these ingredients?  Do you prefer to plan out your meals or just jump in the kitchen and see what happens?  Does your cooking style change from season to season like mine?



Potatoes and Shallots Baked in a Basil, Garlic Vinaigrette

Well it’s January, and if you live in the northern hemisphere, that means it’s likely that you’re enjoying a few more potatoes this time of year than normal.  I happen looooove potatoes.  They’re especially helpful as satisfying alternatives to bread in this chilly weather for those of us with gluten sensitivities.

The only problem with many of the potato recipes I know and grew up on is that they’re loaded with cream and/or cheese.  This extra fat coating around a potato’s carbs can quickly lead to the dreaded food-coma.  When it’s winter time and sheer availability means potatoes in every meal, then the last thing I want is to have that “I shouldn’t have” feeling after everything I eat!  So, this week I thought I’d post some light and healthy potato dishes that are satisfying and for both my taste buds and my waist.

This potato dish is loaded with cauliflower, spinach, carrots, and shallots.  To keep it light, the sauce is a tangy vinaigrette that is a complete 180 from your typical creamy potato bakes.  This dish is an awesome example of how to cook for some with dietary restrictions (like my gluten-intolerant vegan self): Innovation > Imitation!

Potatoes and Veggies in a Tangy Basil, Garlic Vinaigrette:

Mmmmm that's a bowl of hot, steamy goodness


  • Measuring cup (at least 1 cup), med/large casserole dish with lid or dutch oven, fork or small whisk, measuring spoons, knife, cutting board, oven.


  • 8-10 medium red new potatoes, sliced into 1/4″ slivers
  • 2 carrots, sliced into thin rounds
  • 5-6 small shallots, halved and sliced thin
  • 1/8-1/4 lb of spinach, cleaned
  • 1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into big chunks/florets and then sliced into 1/4″ pieces
  • 5-6 fresh basil leaves, sliced into ribbons
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp white wine
  • 3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 heaping tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup vegetable stock
  • 1/3 cup evoo
  • Additional salt and pepper to season


  1. Preheat the oven to 450 F.
  2. Prep your veggies.  Combine the basil, garlic, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, wine, vinegar, mustard, veggie stock, and evoo in a mixing cup.  This should come out to be about 1 cup of vinaigrette.  Whisk well with a fork/whisk until combined.
  3. Splash a small amount of the dressing on the bottom of the casserole dish.  Cover the bottom with a layer of sliced potatoes.  On top of the potatoes sprinkle a layer of carrots, then cover with a layer of sliced cauliflower, and a thick layer of shallots.  Splash more dressing to give the veggies a nice coating.  Top with a full layer of spinach.  Season the spinach with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
  4. Repeat until all of the veggies are used and/or the casserole dish is full. Potatoes –> Carrots –> Cauliflower –> Lots of Shallots –> Vinaigrette –> Spinach –> S&P.

    I love that moment when I open the lid, look down, and think "Oh, thank God that worked."

  5. Top the casserole with a layer of potatoes and then pour all of the leftover dressing on that top layer, making sure everybody’s feeling the love.  Bake, covered at 450 F for 1 hour or until the casserole has sunk a bit, the dressing is bubbling, and the potatoes are soft (my dish shown above was filled to the brim before baking). Serve hot.
  6. Enjoy!!

Black Bean, Ranch, and Spinach Pizza

This is how a meal plan should work!  This recipe is made entirely from leftovers from the week before, plus a few pantry items.  All I had to make specifically for this recipe was the dough. I just love it when stuff works out!  I wish it would happen more often…

This combo is loosely inspired by an item on this restaurant’s menu. I put this pizza together, and last night, I gave it the ultimate test.  My 16 year-old sister declared this to be “Sooooooo good!! Best pizza ever!” So, I can’t help but give myself a pat on the back (teenagers are pizza experts, of course!).

Granted, this pizza is not exactly low-calorie, but it is insanely nutrition-packed – so much so that one slice each was plenty for both of us and kept us full the entire night without the dreaded junk-food coma.

Black Bean, Ranch, and Spinach Pizza:

A pizza that takes left-overs to another level


  1. Make your garlic pizza dough.  I actually used light buckwheat flour in an attempt to make it whole grain.  I now know that this flour does not rise, so the dough was very dense and it only produced enough dough for one pan pizza.  But! Despite the dough being dense, it was still flavorful and easily edible.  It actually made the dough richer, and I kinda liked it better this way.
  2. Before you precook your pan-style dough, drop 6-8 pea-sized dabs of butter on the crust.  Then precook your dough as directed.
  3. Once your dough is ready to be topped, give a nice layer of ranch dressing.  Then add on a generous layer of raw, cleaned spinach (which I bought to go on top of my black bean sandwiches).
  4. Top with left-over grated cheddar and jack cheese from the fajitas.
  5. Then, crumble up some black bean patties and sprinkle on a generous layer.
  6. Top once again with any left-over cheese (I also had a local bell pepper laced cheddar on hand which I grated up to use on top).  Bake as directed (425 F for 15-20 mins, or until cheese is golden brown and the spinach has clearly wilted).
  7. ENJOY!!

My small pizza yielded 8 servings.

7 Minute Lunch

Since I’m on break this week, I planned a labor-intensive dinner for tonight.  But the weather is so nice today, I didn’t want to spend all day inside making lunch too.  I’m posting this to show how keeping the right ingredients in your pantry can allow for both variety and serious nutrition in your menu – without taking up your whole day (I know I said that I only cook 2-3 big meals a week, but I do cook smaller meals too, and this post will hopefully help you appreciate how much variety I really do get by shopping at local markets for so little $$).

Strategically keeping my shelves stocked with things I know I like to use off the cuff helps me support local farmers (rather than giving in to the “always low prices” of the mart that shall not be named), even when I’m craving something other than what I made a few nights ago (e.g. I always have  whole wheat couscous that came from a farmer’s store who sells bulk organic grains).  Start keeping a mental inventory of your pantry and notice what foods make you happiest to have on hand.  If you take the time to plan, your budget will reward you!

Spinach Couscous: (serves 4)

7-Minute Spinach Couscous


  • Medium saucepan, knife, cutting board, dry measuring cup, clean cloth towel, fork, stove


  • 2 cups chicken stock + 1/2 cup water (optional – for a vegetarian dish, use 2 1/2 cups veggie stock or 2 1/2 cups salted water with 1 Tbsp butter)
  • 2 cups whole wheat couscous
  • 1 tsp kosher salt (big pinch), plus more to taste
  • 2 tsp dried basil (2 big pinches)
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley (pinch)
  • 2-3 oz. fresh spinach, ends trimmed off and ripped into large strips
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely minced
  • Evoo


1) Bring chicken stock, water, salt, basil, parsley, and a couple dashes of ground black pepper to a boil in the saucepan over high heat.  While that’s warming up, trim, clean, and tear the spinach.

2) Once the stock is up to a boil, throw in the spinach and let boil 30 seconds.  Remove from the heat and add the couscous.  Cover the pan with a clean towel and let the couscous sit for 5 mins.  While the couscous sits, chop your garlic.

3) Fluff the couscous with a fork, and mix in the raw garlic and a drizzle or two of evoo. Re-season with salt and pepper as needed.  Serve hot, or leftovers can be eaten chilled.

4)  ENJOY!!

What to Drink? Iced herbal tea

Pepper and Spinach Penne

This weekend, bell peppers had invaded my local market with a vengeance!  It seemed like each stand had piles of huge bell peppers of all colors.  So, I’m sure you can guess what’s on the menu this week!

I had never made this recipe before, but it came out really well.  Please keep in mind that the ingredient amounts below (specifically for spices) are only approximate because the first couple times I make something, I go by taste and pinches.  So, as always, play with your food and use this version as a starting point (next time, I’ll likely add an extra 1/4 tsp more of paprika)!

Pepper and Spinach Penne:

Pepper and Spinach Penne


  • Large pot, large saute pan, spatula or wooden spoon, strainer or colander, knife, cutting board, stove


  • 8 oz. uncooked penne pasta
  • 1 generous bunch fresh spinach (close to 3/4-1 lb.), washed, stems trimmed off, and leaves roughly shredded
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut into a large dice
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into a large dice
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into a large dice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp evoo, divided
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • dash of crushed red pepper (or more as desired)
  • 3-6 oz. goat cheese (amount as desired – I ended up going closer to 6 oz and it was really good)
  • salt and pepper to taste


1) Cook the penne in the large pot filled with boiling salted water until penne is al dente (about 8-9 mins).  While the pasta is cooking, prep your veggies and make sure to carefully wash your spinach.  To prep the spinach, just pinch off the stems and then shred the leaves by ripping them with your hands 2-3 times.  Once the pasta is done cooking, strain it, and drizzle 1 Tbsp of evoo over the hot pasta.  Stir the pasta so it’s well coated in the oil and the penne won’t stick together.  Set aside.

2) Heat the other 2 Tbsp of evoo in the saute pan over medium high heat.  Add the peppers and garlic and cook for about 1 minute.  Add the spinach to the pan, and stir for 5-6 mins until the spinach is fully wilted down.  Continue to cook the peppers and garlic in the water the spinach released for another 1-2 mins.

3) Before the water is totally evaporated from the pan, add the paprika, salt, and crushed red pepper and stir in.  Then, add the ground black pepper and the dried basil.  Stir to make sure everything is well incorporated.  Taste one of the peppers to make sure they are somewhat soft, but still have a bright flavor and texture.

4) Add the penne to the pan, and toss the veggies and pasta together.  Top with crumbles of the goat cheese before serving. Stir in the goat cheese to make a creamy sauce, otherwise just let the crumbles sit on top and get warmed through.

5)  ENJOY!!

What to Drink? Vodka Tonics

Au Gratin Potatoes with Caramelized Onions

This potato bake is one of my favorite recipes!!  Looking around online, I found a lot recipes for au gratin potatoes that called for gobs of cheese, cream, butter, and salt.  Putting calories aside,  most sound pretty darn bland.  Here’s a good tip, if a recipe calls for salt and not pepper, no other herbs or seasonings, or only one clove of garlic that will not be served raw, then there’s a good chance that recipe will not be as delicious as it boasts.  A large part of tasting is through smell, and aromatics can make or break a dish.

This au gratin recipe is not only packed with flavor, but vegetables as well.  It makes a great winter dish that’s warm and filling.

Au Gratin Potatoes with Caramelized Onions:

Au Gratin Potatoes (tastes better than it photographs!)


  • Large saute pan, wooden spoon or silicon spatula, deep casserole baking dish (with a lid if you’ve got one, otherwise use aluminum foil), measuring spoons, knife, cutting board, cheese grater, 1 large and 1 medium bowl


  • 8 red potatoes, cut into 1/4″ slices (Yukon Golds work well too)
  • 2 cups of Muenster cheese, grated
  • 6 oz. spinach
  • 8 large button mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 onions, cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • The florets from one small head of broccoli (stems removed or thoroughly scored)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup margarine or butter
  • 2 cups chicken stock, divided
  • 3 Tbsp AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • A dash (1/8 tsp) dried parsley
  • 1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt, divided; 1/2 tsp ground black pepper, plus more to taste


1) Prepare all of the ingredients ahead of time.  Add the raw potatoes and spinach to the large bowl, making sure they’re mingling and that not all the potatoes are on the bottom and spinach on the top and then set aside.  Over Medium heat, melt the margarine in the large saucepan.  Add the onions and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add 1 tsp of salt, and continue to stir and saute the onions until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

2)  Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Add the garlic, mushrooms, and broccoli to the caramelized onions in that order.  Add the rest of the salt, the pepper, the dried parsley and the dried basil.  Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes until the mushrooms are just beginning to shrink down.  Stir in 1 cup of the chicken stock, and once the chicken stock starts to bubble, stir in the flour 1 Tbsp at a time (you won’t need a whisk, it’ll make a paste around the veggies).  Let the mixture thicken and cook for 2 minutes before adding the other cup of chicken stock and the cream.

3)  As soon as you add the cream, reduce the heat to Med Low.  Scrape up the bits on the bottom of the pan with the spoon, and heat the mixture until the broth starts to bubble, about 1 min.  Carefully taste for seasoning (don’t burn yourself! It’s HOT!!) and then stir in all but 1/4 cup of the Muenster cheese.

4) Once the cheese is melted and well incorporated, spoon a couple of spoonfuls of the sauce onto the bottom of the casserole dish, and spread it around to coat the bottom of the dish.  Add half of the potatoes and spinach to the casserole dish, then cover them with 1/2 the sauce.  Stir around to make sure everyone’s well coated in the sauce.  Add the other half of the potatoes and spinach, then pour the rest of the sauce on top.  Stir to make sure everyone’s well coated.

5) Cover with the lid or tightly wrapped aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven for 60 mins (my lid is glass and therefore, insulated.  This initial cook time may need to be reduced to 35-40 mins if you’re only using the aluminum foil).  Remove from the oven and take off the cover.  Sprinkle on the remaining Muenster and bake, uncovered, for another 20 mins.

6) Remove from the oven and let stand at least 10 mins before serving.

7) ENJOY!!

What to Drink? Hot Chocolate