Broccoli Cheese Curd Frittatas

Cheese curds are delicious nuggets of freshly made cheddar cheese that actually squeak in your mouth, when you eat them soon after they are produced. There are cheese factories throughout Wisconsin where you can find warm cheese curds made daily. All cheddar cheeses actually begin as curds before they are formed into blocks or wheels and aged.

After a recent Wisconsin visit, I brought home some cheese curds and decided to explore cooking with them. I paired these with broccoli and eggs for individual frittatas with gooey gobs of fresh cheese in each one. If you cannot find cheese curds, you can substitute cubed cheddar.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and diced
1 bunch broccoli, trimmed and chopped
1 cups cheese curds
8 eggs
1 cup skim or low-fat milk
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly spray a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté a couple of minutes, until it starts to soften. Add broccoli and sauté until vegetables are tender and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. You may need to add a couple of tablespoons of water to the skillet to prevent sticking.
  3. Break large cheese curds into bite size pieces and place in a medium bowl. Stir vegetables in with cheese curds and fill the muffin tin with an equal amount of the mixture.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the broccoli and cheese curds, filling each cup to the rim.
  5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until frittata tops are lightly golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: An ice cream scoop is a great tool to use for adding the frittata mixture to the muffin tins. Fill each cup with one scoop and avoid messy spills.

Strawberry Salad with Baked Brie and Champagne Vinaigrette

You can skip the cheese plate and go straight for the salad, because these leafy greens are served with creamy and decadent baked Brie with a sweet and nutty bourbon glaze. This salad is elegant enough to delight your dinner guests, but quick and simple to prepare. Add grilled shrimp or chicken to turn this side salad into a main dish.

Baked Brie Ingredients:
9.5 ounces Brie
2 tablespoons finely chopped pecans
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon bourbon

Strawberry Champagne Vinaigrette Ingredients:
2 tablespoons strawberry jam
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper

Salad Ingredients:
1 head green leaf lettuce, washed and torn
1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place brie in a Brie baker or small baking dish. In a small bowl, combine pecans and brown sugar. Spread pecan and sugar mixture on top of cheese and drizzle with bourbon. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes.
  2. In a mason jar or small container with a tight-fitting lid, combine strawberry jam, champagne vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. With lid securely tightened, shake vinaigrette until well combined. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  3. Serve lettuce and strawberries on salad plates and top with a wedge of baked Brie. Drizzle with strawberry champagne vinaigrette and serve.

Servings: 4

Kale, Apple and Cheddar Panini with Strawberry Jam

Sautéed kale is not just for side dishes. Give it a try as a sandwich base and you will forget all about lunch meat. This Kale, Apple and Cheddar Panini with Strawberry Jam is a hearty vegetarian sandwich with seasonal farm-fresh favorites. It is comfort food that packs a nutritious punch and takes less than 15 minutes to prepare.

Ingredients:
2 sub sandwich loaves (5 to 6 inches each), cut from a whole-wheat baguette
1 medium bunch kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons water
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 small apple, cored and thinly sliced
2 slices white cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons strawberry jam

Directions:

  1. Preheat a panini maker to medium-high. Slice sandwich loaves in half and set aside.
  2. Remove stems from kale and roughly chop. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add kale and water. Sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, until wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Add balsamic vinegar and cook or another minute, tossing to evenly coat.
  3. Layer apple slices, kale and cheddar cheese on the bottom bread slices. Spread strawberry jam on the top bread slices. Stack together and place sandwiches in the panini maker, closing the top. Grill until the bread is crusty and golden and cheese has melted. Slice sandwiches in half and serve.

Note: If you do not have a panini maker, use a grill pan or skillet and flip the sandwich to grill both sides. Placing a heavy skillet on top of the sandwich will give you the panini effect.

Servings: 2

Grilled Pizza with Asparagus, Brie and Caramelized Onions

Nothing says spring like fresh asparagus, and warmer days inspire me to fire up the grill. With sweet caramelized onions, earthy asparagus and creamy brie, this is a unique take on a vegetarian pizza that celebrates the season. Make this meal a quick one to prepare on a busy night by caramelizing the onions and roasting the asparagus the night before. You’ll have a homemade pizza on the table in around 15 minutes.

Caramelized Onion Ingredients:
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons butter
1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
½ teaspoon sugar

Pizza Ingredients:
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and sliced into 3 inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 homemade or store-bought pizza dough ball, about the size of a grapefruit
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
4 ounces brie, sliced

Directions:

  1. To make the caramelized onions. Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet, over medium-low heat. Once butter has melted, add onion slices and sprinkle with sugar. Stirring occasionally, let the onions cook about 20 to 25 minutes, until caramelized and golden brown.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle with ½ tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle salt and pepper over asparagus and toss with a spatula to evenly coat. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on thickness, until slightly tender.
  3. Roll or stretch (I do a combination) the pizza dough to a thin layer, about ⅛ inch thick and 12 to 14 inches in diameter. Prepare the grill for medium-high, indirect heat. For a gas grill, leave one or two burners off and for a charcoal grill, place coals on one side and use the coal free side.
  4. Place crust on the grill (a pizza peel comes handy here) and cook for about five minutes, until top of crust starts to bubble and light brown grill marks appear on the bottom of the crust. Remove crust from grill. Top cooked side of crust with remaining ½ tablespoon olive oil, spreading evenly. Add mozzarella cheese and top with roasted asparagus, caramelized onions and brie.
  5. Return pizza to the grill and cook for about five minutes, until mozzarella cheese has melted and bottom of crust has light brown grill marks. Remove from grill, slice into wedges and serve.

Servings: 4

Cauliflower and Mushroom Tacos

Make it a Meatless Monday with these hardy vegetarian tacos, stuffed with mildly spiced cauliflower and mushrooms and topped with sweet bell pepper sauce. This mostly hands-free meal is perfect for a busy week night, because you get 20 extra minutes to relax while dinner is roasting. Round out this meal with a side of pinto or black beans and Mexican hot chocolate for dessert. This is also a great make-ahead meal, especially if you are entertaining. Reheat the vegetables, make a pitcher of margaritas and you are ready to host book club.

Taco Ingredients:
1 small head cauliflower, roughly chopped into bite-size pieces
8 ounces white button mushrooms, quartered
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons chipotle chili pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
8 soft flour tortillas

Roasted Sweet Pepper Sauce:
2 bell peppers (yellow, orange or red), seeded and cut in half
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
⅛ teaspoon salt

Optional Taco Toppings:
grated smoked cheddar cheese
avocado slices
chopped cilantro

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Place cauliflower and mushrooms on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and add garlic to the tray. Season with cumin, chipotle chili pepper, salt and pepper, and toss with a spatula to evenly coat. Roast vegetables for 20 minutes.
  2. Place bell peppers on a baking tray, cut side down and roast for 20 minutes, until lightly charred. Place peppers in the bowl of a food processor with the chopping blade attached. Add cayenne pepper and salt, and pulse to chop until slightly smooth with fine chunks of pepper.
  3. Serve cauliflower and mushroom filling in tortillas and top with roasted sweet pepper sauce and optional taco toppings if desired.

Servings: 4

Winter Vegetable Tacos

Say goodbye to the season on this last day of winter with my vegetarian tacos, featuring winter squash, a comfort food you can feel good about devouring. Butternut or kabocha squash make excellent choices, but any winter squash will work well paired with Tex-Mex spices and heart-healthy beans. Enjoy as a meal or serve as tapas for your next gathering. Leftovers are excellent the next day or could be transformed into a delicious salad served over your favorite leafy greens with a few crushed tortilla chips for a little crunch.

My slow and spicy pinto beans are a great option for these tacos if you make them in advance. If you are pressed for time, simply use no-salt-added canned pinto beans.

Taco Ingredients:
1 medium winter squash, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon salt
2½ cups cooked pinto beans
1 lime
¼ cup chopped cilantro
12 soft corn tortilla shells

Topping Ingredients:
¼ cup sour cream
½ cup plain, low-fat Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 avocado, peeled and cubed
4 ounces cotija cheese, crumbled

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place squash cubes on a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil. Add chili powder, cumin and salt and toss to evenly coat. Roast for 20 minutes, flipping with a spatula halfway through.
  2. Meanwhile, make smoky cream sauce by combining sour cream and yogurt in a small mixing bowl. Add smoked paprika and garlic, stirring until well mixed. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  3. Add beans to roasting pan with squash and toss to combine. Continue roasting for 5 more minutes, until beans are heated. Drizzle the juice of one lime and sprinkle cilantro over squash and bean mixture.
  4. Warm a couple of taco shells at a time in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for about 30 seconds per side. Fill corn tortillas with an equal amount of squash and bean mixture and top with smokey cream sauce, avocado and cotija cheese.

Servings: 6

Slow and Spicy Pinto Beans

Top these Slow and Spicy Pinto Beans with a little shredded mozzarella and you have the perfect side dish for your fish tacos or chicken enchiladas. They also make a great vegetarian protein for your main course. Try them in veggie tacos or simply add them to a cheese quesadilla or on top of a salad.

Dried beans are extremely simple to prepare and the slow cooker does most of the work in this dish. If you have leftovers they freeze well for a ready-to-eat protein on a busy night, just defrost and reheat.

Ingredients:
1 cup dry pinto beans
7½ cups of water, divided
2 garlic whole cloves
1 teaspoon chipotle chile pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions:

  1. Wash and sort beans, removing any small stones, dirt or damaged beans. Place beans in a large stock pot and cover with 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover and remove from heat. Allow beans to soak for up to 4 hours.
  2. Drain beans and place in a slow cooker set to high heat. Add garlic, chipotle chile pepper, cumin, smoked paprika, salt and cayenne pepper to the beans and cover with 2½ cups of water.
  3. Cook for 4 hours, until beans are soft and tender. Discard garlic cloves and serve.

Servings: 6

My Heart Beets for You Risotto

I love a good vegetable pun and this one is perfect for Valentine’s Day. This is a delicious and easy meal to make for your sweetheart and it pairs well with an earthy Pinot Noir. Nothing says I love you like this bright and beautiful, heart-healthy meal.

Since garlic scapes are not in season in February, I use frozen pesto that I have stashed away for winter meals. If you don’t have garlic scape pesto, simply use any store-bought pesto and add some garlic to your dish when you are sautéing the onion.

Ingredients:
3 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup arborio rice
½ cup red wine
2 medium to large roasted beets, diced
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon garlic scape pesto
Parmesan cheese, grated for serving

Directions:

  1. Warm vegetable broth in a small stock pot over low heat.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent.
  3. Add the rice and stir to combine with the onions. Add red wine and continue stirring until absorbed.
  4. Add a ladle full of broth, stirring constantly until absorbed. Continue, slowly adding broth and stirring for about 25 minutes, until all broth has been added and the rice is soft but still has a bite.
  5. Add diced beets, salt and pepper, stirring to combine until risotto is bright red in color. 
  6. Spread garlic scape pesto around the edge of the plate, making a full circle. Fill the center of the circle with risotto and top with grated Parmesan cheese.

Fall Harvest Overnight Oats

I enjoy a healthy and hearty breakfast every morning, but busy mornings leave me with little time for food prep. Overnight oats are one of my favorite go-to meals for hurried weekdays. They are almost effortless to assemble the night before and in the morning you have a delicious breakfast just waiting for you to open and enjoy. Preparing this recipe in a mason jar makes it a great portable breakfast option.

Pureed butternut squash is a fresh alternative to cooking with canned pumpkin, and it is extremely easy to make. After roasting the squash, simply puree in a food processor. If you have extra on hand it freezes well for future use, saving even more time when making these nutritious Fall Harvest Overnight Oats.

Ingredients:
½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
½ cup pureed butternut squash
½ cup skim milk or non-dairy milk of choice
¼ cup non-fat Greek yogurt or non-dairy yogurt of choice
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts, toasted
1 tablespoon maple syrup
½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Directions:

  1. In a pint-sized mason jar, add all ingredients and gently stir to combine. Place the lid on the jar and refrigerate overnight. Enjoy as a cold cereal for breakfast in the morning.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Hazelnuts

I love the way the leaves fall off Brussels sprouts when you quarter them, resembling flower petals and creating a beautiful centerpiece for your plate. This cooking method caramelizes the vegetable, bringing out its natural sweetness. If your family members don’t love Brussels sprouts, this recipe may just change their mind.

This dish is so simple and mostly hands off, which is why I love roasting vegetables. You can step outside and grill your favorite lean protein while your Brussels sprouts roast. Pair this side dish with grilled salmon, a simple salad, fresh whole grain bread and your favorite white wine for an elegant and easy stay-at-home, date-night meal.

Ingredients:
2 pounds Brussels sprouts
1½ tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
⅓ cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Trim the ends off the Brussels sprouts and cut into quarters, keeping the leaves (or as I like to call them, petals) that fall off.
  2. Place Brussels sprouts on a large baking pan and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle minced garlic, salt and pepper on top and toss with a spatula to evenly coat.
  3. Roast for 30 minutes, tossing halfway through the cooking cycle. Brussels sprouts will be tender with dark brown outer leaves. Sprinkle with hazelnuts, toss and serve.