Tooth Extraction and Comfort Food

So, a week ago, I had one of my molars extracted. Apparently it is very painful to live with a cracked tooth, made even worse with an abscess. Ouch. So, I’ve been doped up on antibiotics, probiotics and pain meds. I’ve also been living off of oatmeal and pudding for the last week.

So, apologize that I haven’t posted anything new for a couple of weeks.

But fear not, dear reader, I’m back with a Bang! This weeks lunch is going to be epic. We’re talking bigger than big. Flavor-packed Italian Stew.

Zucchini, and eggplant, and onions, oh my! Throw in some red and yellow peppers some whole tomatoes,  fresh basil, and fresh oregano and a dash of olive oil…..and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into an Italian Kitchen.

Oh yeah, it’s totally vegetarian, Bonus!

Without further adieu, may I present

Italian Vegetable Stew (a.k.a. – Ciambotta)

courtesy of Sweet Peas Kitchen20160221_162029-1.jpg



For the Pestata
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
For the Stew
  • 12 oz eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 tsp salt, divided plus more to taste
  • 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste (no salt added variety)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 (28 oz) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained with juice reserved and chopped coarse
  • 2 medium zucchini, seeded and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 yellow bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 cup shredded fresh basil


To make the Pestata: In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process all ingredients until finely ground, about a  minute.

For the Stew:

  1. In a large bowl, toss the eggplant with 1 1/2 tsp of salt.
  2. On a microwave safe plate, place two paper towels and spread eggplant in a single layer.
  3. Microwave eggplant, uncovered, until dry to touch and slightly shriveled, 8-12 minutes, tossing once halfway through.
  4. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in large Dutch oven over high heat, until shimmering. Add eggplant, onion, and potatoes; cook stirring frequently until eggplant browns and surface of potatoes becomes translucent.
  5. Push vegetables to sides of pot and add 1 Tbsp of oil and tomato paste to clearing. Cook paste, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes.
  6. Add 2 cups of water and chopped tomatoes and juice. scraping up any browned bits, and bring to a boil.
  7. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and gently simmer until eggplant is completely broken down and potatoes are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 Tbsp of oil in skillet over high heat until smoking.
  9. Add zucchini, bell peppers, and 1/2 tsp of salt; cook for 10 to 12 minutes.
  10. Push vegetables to sides of skillet and Pestata and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  11. Stir Pestata into vegetables. Cook another 3 minutes.
  12. Transfer vegetables to Dutch oven and remove from heat.
  13. Cover and let set for 20 minutes to allow flavors to meld.


Fire-Roasted Vegetarian Gumbo and Mardi Gras

slightly adapted from allrecipes20160209_065647.jpg

Happy Mardi Gras, y’all! Here is a spicy, warm little number to get your taste-buds dancing. Oooooie! Dat’s some good cookin’!


  • 1 Serrano pepper
  • 1 banana pepper
  • 1 small jalapeno chile pepper
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil ( I used Sunflower oil)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 green bell peppers, chopped
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp Cajun seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 cans fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled and cubed
  • 1 can red kidney beans
  • 1 can black-eyed peas
  • 1 bag of frozen cut okra


  1. Preheat oven to broil.
  2. Arrange Serrano, banana, and jalapeno chile peppers on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Watch carefully and broil until the skins turn black and blister, about 4 to 5 minutes. Turn the peppers and continue broiling until all sides are blackened. Remove the peppers and put in an small sauce pan with lid to steam (about 10 to 15 minutes). Remove peppers from the sauce pan and peel off the crispy black skin. Remove stems and seeds from the peppers, coarsely chop and place in a bowl.
  3. In another small sauce pan, heat 1/4 cup vegetable oil over medium heat until a pinch of flour starts to bubble. Whisk the rest of the flour into the oil and cook, whisking continuously until the mixture is well-blended and dark brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Once it turns dark brown, remove from heat.
  4. Put 2 Tbsp of vegetable oil in a deep soup pot and heat over medium-high heat. When hot, add celery, half of the onions and half of the green peppers. Cook and stir until the vegetables are tender and the onions are transparent, about 5 minutes. Stir 1/4 cup of the vegetable broth into the pot. Cover and simmer until almost all the liquid is gone, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Stir the Serrano, banana, and jalapeno chile peppers, along with the uncooked bell peppers, onions, garlic, Cajun seasonings, smoked paprika into the cooked bell peppers and onions. Stir in the roux (dark brown sauce) and 1 cup of vegetable broth into the vegetable mixture until the roux dissolves. Cover and simmer 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, sweet potato, parsnip, red beans, black-eyed peas, okra and remaining vegetable broth. Simmer covered for 15 minutes. And then, simmer 20 minutes uncovered.

Tip: To bump up the heat a notch, add a teaspoon of File’ Powder to the pot in step 5.

Slow Cooker Tuscan Lentil Sloppy Joes

courtesy of Slender Kitchen20160207_105150-1.jpg

Ok, I just have to say, this is my new favorite vegetarian lunch. It tastes awesome. Very close to sloppy Joes, but better.


  • 1.5 cups lentils, uncooked
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped small
  • 2 green peppers, chopped small
  • 2 cups of mushrooms, chopped or sliced
  • 2 cups of vegetable broth (low sodium)
  • 2.5 cups crushed tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1.5 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
  • 1.5 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1.5 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp Kosher
  • 1 tsp pepper


  1. Add all ingredients to the slow cooker and stir.
  2. Cook on High for 3-4 hours, on Low for 7-8 hours.

Tip: If you notice the mixture getting dry, add extra vegetable broth.

Chipotle Cauliflower Hot Wings

courtesy of Simple Seasonal


OK, you guys, this may be the best snack…..EVER!!! And really easy! Just look at those lovely cauliflowers swimming in the spicy chipotle sauce. That’s Hot!


  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup water, divided
  • 1 Tbsp Olive oil
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3/4 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp corn starch
  • 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar


  1. Preheat oven to 450°.
  2. Cut up cauliflower into bite-sized pieces and then blanch them – boil the cauliflower and then ice water bath. Transfer to paper towels to dry.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together flour, 1/2 cup water, and oil. Toss the cauliflower in the flour mixture and toss to coat. Place cauliflower onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until the batter begins to turn golden brown.
  4. While the cauliflower is baking, make the chipotle sauce.
  5. In a small sauce pan, over medium-high heat, bring all ingredients except the apple cider vinegar to a simmer. Simmer for 1 minute.
  6. Remove from heat and add apple cider vinegar.
  7. Once the cauliflower is finished baking, keep it on the parchment paper baking sheet, coat with the chipotle sauce and then place cauliflower back in the over and bake for another 2-3 minutes.
  8. Serve immediately.

Lunches this week -Chickpea Stew

Adapted from The First Mess20160131_133901-1.jpg

What can I say about this stew? How about “get in my belly”. There are a ton of spices melded in with onions and chickpeas, and then enveloped in a creamy coconut sauce. Heaven, I say, heaven. I have to admit, I had a spoonful or five of this while cooking, it’s a wonder I have any left for my lunches. Let’s take a closer look at this luscious, velvety goodness.20160131_134307-1.jpg

Did I mention how good this is? Did I mention there are spices…20160131_131030-1.jpg

And so, here are the ingredients. Drum roll, please!


  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced small
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 cans chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 cups chopped fresh spinach
  • sea salt and ground pepper to taste


  1. In a deep cast iron skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add onions to the pan. Saute 5-6 minutes or until translucent and soft.
  3. Add all the spices – cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, turmeric, oregano, red pepper flakes, and cinnamon. Stir to coat onions completely.
  4. Add tomato paste to skillet. Stir to mix with onions, spices and oil.
  5. Add garlic and chickpeas. Stir for 30 seconds.
  6. Add the balsamic vinegar and tomatoes, stir.
  7. Add the coconut milk to the pan and season the stew with salt and pepper.
  8. Bring the stew to a boil, and lower the heat and let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
  9. Remove stew from heat, and stir in spinach. Let set for 5 minutes, or until spinach is wilted.


Philly Cheesesteak Stew

slightly adapted from The Cozy Apron20160124_153512-1.jpg

So, if you haven’t noticed on this blog, we really like our Philly Cheesesteak. We’ve done Philly Cheesesteak Stuffed Peppers, straight up Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches, and now I present to you Philly Cheesesteak stew. And boy, this is an awesome stew. 20160124_153616-1.jpg


  • 1 lb. of sliced roast beef, roughly chopped
  • Salt
  • Cracked Black Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 4 Tbsp all-purpose flour, divided use
  • Olive oil
  • 2 onions, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 10 oz white mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 4 cups beef stock, heated
  • 4 slices of provolone cheese


  1. In a large bowl, combine roast beef, a couple of pinches of salt, cracked pepper, plus the onion powder, and toss to coat.
  2. Sprinkle 2 Tbsp of flour in bowl, and toss to coat.
  3. In a large pot, heat 3 Tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat.
  4. Once hot, place roast beef in pot. Heat for about 3 minutes. Place cooked meat on a plate and put aside.
  5. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to pot and add sliced onions, sliced green pepper, a pinch of salt and cracked pepper. Cook about 6 minutes until onions and peppers are soft, stirring frequently to prevent burning.
  6. Add mushrooms, and continue sauteing with onions for another 6 minutes, continuously stirring.
  7. Add dried thyme and garlic, stir to incorporate.
  8. Once the garlic is aromatic, sprinkle remaining 2 Tbsp of flour over the onion/mushrooms, stir well to combine.
  9. Slowly add the hot beef stock, stirring to avoid any little flour lumps from forming.
  10. Reduce heat to medium-low, simmer gently for about 10 minutes uncovered until sauce thickens.
  11. Add roast beef and let simmer for another 10 minutes.
  12. Ladle into oven-safe bowls, place one slice of provolone over the top and broil in over until cheese is melted and beginning to brown.
  13. Serve with crusty french bread.

Pie-Style Spanakopita

20160110_170847-1.jpgcourtesy of Skinny Mom

This is one of those dishes that I have loved since I was in college. I went to an International Festival in Muncie, IN of all places and fell in love with the Greek cuisine. I really like Baklava, but the Spanakopita Triangles (little phyllo dough pillows stuffed with feta, spinach, onions) just stole my heart and my palate.

Later, when I moved to MN, I stumbled across the Spanakopita casserole, which was basically the same ingredients, except easier to make. I didn’t have to spend hours perfecting rolling everything into tiny triangles, instead the time from prep to my mouth was considerably decreased. That makes a happy Megan!

And then I came across this recipe, promising less calories and fats of the original recipe, with less prep time as well. Booyah!


  • 10 oz. fresh spinach (or frozen)
  • 5 scallions (white end of the green onion), minced
  • 2 green onion stalks, chopped
  • 1 cup part skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup fat-free feta cheese crumbles
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, snipped
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 10 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed


  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. In a large frying pan, add half of the spinach and cook on low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
  3. Add the remaining spinach and stir occasionally for another 5 minutes.
  4. Spray a 9 inch pie pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  5. In a large bowl, combine ricotta, feta, dill, egg, scallions, green onions, lemon juice and salt. Mix well.
  6. Add spinach to mixture, and mix together well.
  7. Lay 1 sheet of phyllo in prepared pie pan and allow it to extend over the rim. Lightly coat with cooking spray.
  8. Repeat with 4 more sheets of phyllo, placing corners at different angles and lightly coating each sheet with cooking spray.
  9. Press down the dough to form the shape of the pan.
  10. Spread spinach mixture over the dough in the pan.
  11. Carefully layer the remaining sheets of dough as previously done on top of the spinach mixture.
  12. Roll excess dough around rim of pie pan, creating a pie crust.
  13. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.
  14. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Chicken Wild Rice Soup

This chicken wild rice soup is chock full of chicken, onions, wild rice and is warm and filling. 20160108_180731-1.jpg

Courtesy of My Recipes

I love a thick, flavorful, and warm soup. It warms me to the core. And living in the upper-Midwest warmth is a hot (pun intended) commodity!

Just look at that luscious, velvety goodness!


  • 1 cup uncooked quick-cooking wild rice
  • Cooking Spray
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups fat-free, low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 ½ cups peeled and cubed baking potato
  • 3 cups 2% milk
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 10 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups cooked,skinless, boneless chicken breast roughly shredded
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt


  1. Cook rice according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.
  2. Heat large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray.
  3. Add onion and garlic, saute 3 minutes.
  4. Add broth and potato; bring to a boil.
  5. Cover and reduce heat, simmer for 5 minutes or until potato is tender.
  6. Combine milk and flour, stirring well with a whisk.
  7. Add the milk mixture to potato mixture; cook 5 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring constantly.
  8. Remove from heat; add cheese, stirring until cheese melts.
  9. Stir in rice, chicken, pepper, and salt.

Lunches this week – Kale, Mushroom and White Bean Stew

Kale, Mushroom and White Bean Stew

Slightly adapted from Love and Lemons

This weekend has been one of the coldest in MN all winter. We have been at sub-zero temperatures for the last 4 days. Last night the temperature dipped to -18 with a wind-chill of -30. It’s just Brrrrr outside with a capital B! A great time to hunker down and spend the day cooking. 🙂

This week I’m all about the kale. And, what’s not to love? It’s a beautiful vegetable, it’s good for you, it’s got a great texture, and it’s so versatile. Pairing it with mushrooms, onions, carrots, and beans….all I can say is “YUM”20160117_150552-1.jpg

This stew was really easy to make. The hardest part was chopping the vegetables. Oh, and by the way, the aroma that wafted through the kitchen while I cooked literally had my mouth watering – true story. 20160117_153925-1.jpg20160117_155828-1.jpg


  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 8 oz Baby Bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 4-5 cups kale, roughly chopped
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 can cannelli beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup apple juice or white wine (I used apple juice since I didn’t have any wine)
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp rosemary, minced
  • fresh basil, for garnish
  • freshly shredded Romano cheese


  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add onions and a pinch of salt. Saute until translucent.
  3. Add garlic, carrots, mushroom, and rosemary. Cook, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms have released their water (3-5 minutes).
  4. Add apple juice/wine. Cook for about one minute.
  5. Add balsamic vinegar, tomatoes, beans and broth. Turn the heat down and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Add kale and simmer for another 5 to 7 minutes.
  7. Top with basil and cheese.

Mushroom and Chickpea Stew

Mushroom and Chickpea Stew (Vegetarian)


slightly adapted from Love and Lemons

I guess I should admit this, I have an addiction. A chickpea addition. I love chickpeas. Chickpea salad, chickpea stew, chickpea burgers, everything and anything chickpea. So, when I came across this recipe, I just had to make it.

It serves 4-6, so it’s perfect for leftovers.


  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cups sliced baby bella mushrooms
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt, pepper
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 1 small sweet potato, diced
  • 1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh sage
  • 1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 cans chickpeas
  • 2 cups kale, chopped
  • pinch of red pepper flakes


  1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion and a pinch of salt. Cook until tender.
  2. Add mushrooms, stir and let them set for a few minutes.
  3. Add garlic and soy sauce. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally until mushrooms are browned and tender.
  4. Add balsamic vinegar and tomato paste. Stir to combine.
  5. Add the chopped sweet potatoes, zucchini, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Let cook for a few more minutes (about 3 minutes).
  6. Add vegetable broth, water and chickpeas. Bring to a boil.
  7. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally for 20-30 minutes, until sweet potatoes are softened.
  8. Add kale and continue to cook for 15 – 20 minutes, until you are ready to eat.