Gourmet Grilled Cheese (It Comes With Veggies!)

Yeah, I know.  It's not the healthiest thing in the world.  And grilled cheese.  Come on Basil, really?  Yes- I would sink so low as to make a grilled cheese sandwich and post about it.  But... this is much MORE than your average grilled cheese sandwich.  It's got... veggies in it!  Yeah- some onion and bell pepper.  So that makes it unique.  Perhaps I am not original.  In fact, I know this is not original, beause I got the idea from Happy Healthy Life.  But whatever.  I have been craving a grilled cheese for quite some time, so this was something that was a compromise between unhealthy and healthy.  As we all know, grilled cheeses are not all that good for a person.  There's the bread first of all, which is not your most heathly food in the intire world.  I  think, though, I have minimized that because I used thin slices of homemade, whole wheat, fat free bread in this sandwich.  Secondly, I used low fat cheese, so that got rid of some fat there.  Finally, I know that 99% of those grilled cheeses out there on various recipe sites slather the outside of the bread with butter or oil, or something along those lines.  I decided to totally omit that part, and let the bread do its stuff as far as browning goes.  Plus, the addition of veggies made me feel much less guilty about eating this sandwich; moreover, (haha, I feel so sophisticated.. I used a semicolon) they added an extra boost of flavour and interest.  So, yes.  I was very satisfied with this little indulgence, and it went very nicely with a tomato-based soup for a rather... perked up traditional dinner, if I do say so myself.  Another major added bonus was that this was so quick to make.  I had come home from a summer cap totally exhausted, as usual (more on this in a later post), and this took very little effort to throw together. 

Gourmet Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Adapted from Happy Healthy Life

Serves 1

1 slice low fat cheese
A few slices of onion and red bell pepper
2 slices whole wheat bread

Heat a small frying pan over medium heat with a bit of nonstick spray. Sauté the onion and bell pepper without water, stirring almost constantly, until they start to burn/brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven broiler. Lay the slice of cheese on one slice of bread, then top with the veggies when they are done. Cover with the other slice of bread, and bake in the oven for about 3 minutes each side, or until each side begins to brown. Eat hot, with some tomato-based soup and a big salad!


I love summer break.  I really do.  I don't know what I would do without a three-month break from all of that greuling school-work and homework.  But, seriously, sometimes I just get so bored because there seems to be nothing to do.  I would love to be able to drive myself around to places (cough, grocery stores, cough), but I am too lazy to actually get in the car and learn to drive.  Plus, M is always working and can't really take me anywhere.  Isn't that pathetic?  So I end up mooching around food blogs for a couple hours a day.  Oh yeah, so productive.  What does everyone do on a lazy summer day?
But, come dinnertime I normally get really excited because there is always something for me to do.  Which is why there are always so many leftovers in the fridge, and I am panicking because they all need to be used up.  I've actually ended up making several rounds of this soup, too, because it is soooooo goooooood.  Don't ask me why I can't live without a giant, thick bowl of soup on a day when the temperature is upwards of 100 degrees. I'm just weird like that.... 
So, about the soup.  It originally was this sort of braised beef thing that I spotted on a non-vegetarian blog that looked rather good.  So I decided that I could add some ingredients and turn it into a pretty good soup.  And, yes, it did turn out to make a pretty good soup, if I do say so myself.  The balsamic vinegar adds a very nice tangyness that I have never had in soup before.  This is certainly a very filling dish, and very versatile as to what you put in it.  I think fresh herbs are a very nice addition too, so, if they are on hand then toss them in the pot!

Balsamic "Beef" Soup

Adapted from A Dash of Flavour

Serves 8

1 large onion, roughly chopped
3-4 large carrots, coined
3-4 cloves garlic, pressed
3-4 cups chopped cabbage
5 yukon gold potatoes, diced
½ lb dried pinto beans, soaked overnight
14.5 oz can tomato sauce
¼ cup balsamic vinegar or black rice vinegar
1 tbsp each chopped fresh oregano and thyme
1 tbsp brown sugar
4-6 cups water
1½ tbsp vegetarian beef bullion
3 cups vegetarian beef
2 tbsp corn starch mixed with ¼ cup water
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat a large Dutch oven, coated with nonstick spray, over medium high heat with a bit of water. Sauté the onion and carrots for 2 minutes. Add in the garlic and cabbage, and continue to sauté for 5 more minutes, until the cabbage becomes wilted. Add in the potatoes though bullion, and bring to a soft boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cover. Cook for 45 minutes, until beans are tender. Add in the remaining ingredients, and heat though. Serve piping hot.


Simple Grilled (Baked, whatever) Sweet Potatoes

So, I have been wanting an indoor grill for quite some time now, because all the other bloggers that I know are making kabobs or other grilled things of some sort.  Since I live in an apartment, I obviosuly don't have a real grill.  But you would think that one of those small grilling thingies would be alright... right?  But there's just the little problem, which also comes along with living in an apartment- there's noooo room whatsoever.  And I have already filled up the entire kitchen with stuff.  Literaly, all of the little gadgets that I have gotten over the past few yearshave taken up all the available nooks and crannies in there, and I honestly don't really want to throw anything away.  (How am I going to survive college?  I guess that is a bridge I will cross when I get there...)  In fact, things have gotten so full that I am keeping the bread machine and popcorn popper in my closet.  Isn't that sad?  So, obviously M is not likely to let me have an indoor grill.  Boohoo.  But the oven does work as a rather decent replacement, so that is what I would recommend to anyone who is not fortunate enough to have a legit grill.  (Yes, let's all commiserate and cry together, and perhaps we can get past this huge barrier to our personal happiness eventually.) 
Ok, enough about my woes.  Like I have written in the title, these are some pretty quick and easy sweet potatoes.  Well, I mean, they are quick to pop in the oven.  Not to bake in the oven.  But it's super fast to peel, chop, and stir up the sauce for these potatoes, and within an hour of baking you will have a dish that is a great addition to any meal.  I love to use wine in cooking because of its unique flavour, especially after baking/simmering for a long time.  I woudn't really call this dish all that sweet, but then I don't really know how to classify this flavour.. perhaps savoury?  I'll just leave it up to the imagination.  Another thing I loved about this dish, that never really occured to me as I was chopping the bell peppers- you end up with roasted red bell peppers at the end of the day.  And roasted bell peppers have got to be some of the most heavenly foods on earth, so that's another major benefit of this dish.  Plus they're really pretty, along with the basil.  Can you see both of them in the pictures?

Simple "Grilled" Sweet Potatoes

Adapted from Kalyn's Kitchen

Serves 3-4

3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch coins
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup mirin
2 tbsp rouchly chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1/2 small bell pepper, finely chopped
Shredded cheese, opt

Preheat the oven to 375.  Coat a casserole dish with nonstick spray.
In a small bowl, mix together the wine, mirin, basil and thyme.  In a large zip-lock bag, put the sweet potatoes and wine mixture with the bell peppers, and shake well to coat.  Put the sweet potatoes with the extra sauce in the casserole dish, and spread in an even layer.  Bake for about 45 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.
Serve hot, sprinkled with cheese if desired.


Honey "Chicken" Stir Fry

I haven't really made an official stir fry in such a long time, and I figured that last Friday was the perfect night to make the stir fry that had been waiting on my list for so long.  By the way- the list of recipes that I want to cook is probably about 3 weeks worth of food.  I am never going to catch up, even if I eat five thousand calories a day... sigh.  Anyway, so I went with this quickie dish that night, and it surpassed my expectations by quite a bit.  There was that lovely hint of honey (alliteration!), along with the usual soy sauce.  I wouldn't say that the flavour was very complex or involved by any means- in fact, it was a rather simple recipe as far as stir frys go.  But there was certainly enough flavour to make it taste really really really good.  And I mean really good.  I still hold my firm belief that corn starch is one of the most amazing substances that I have ever used in the kitchen, because of the amount of intensity it can add to a dish.  Amazing stuff!  You should try it some time...
All in all, I would certainly make this dish again (if I every get a chance to make something again), and I was very satisfied with this filling and colourful stir fry.

Honey "Chicken" Stir Fry

Serves 2

2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp soy sauce plus extra
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp corn starch
2 large carrots, cut on the diagonal
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 medium head broccoli, cut into florets
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
1/3 lb snap peas, trimmed
4 green onions, chopped
2 cups vegetarian chicken
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
Cooked rice, to serve

Mix together the honey though corn starch in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Heat a wok coated with nonstick spray over medium high heat.  Add a bit of water with the carrots.  After a minute add the broccoli, garlic, and ginger, and stir fry for another 2 minutes.  Add the bell pepper and snap peas, and stir fry for another 2 minutes.  Add in the remaining ingredients except rice and heat through for another minute or so.  Serve over cooked rice with extra soy sauce.


Mexican Tomato Rice

So, here’s a very simple, very hands-off sort of recipe that will satisfy carb cravings, and will still provide at least a serving of veggies, if not more. Sound good? Yeah, that’s what I thought. I think I have totally fallen in love with those taco seasoning packets. They are so useful, and have just the right mix of spices to give whatever dish a burst of great flavour. Taco-y flavour, too. Who doesn’t love that lovely taco-y flavour, with its good taco-y-ness? Come on, don’t tell me that you don’t like it…

If you even care what my favourite brand is for taco seasonings, it would certainly have to be the Taco Bell. Yeah, I know it’s kind of weird to be using a restaurant brand. Buuut… it’s sooooo much cheaper than all the other brands that I see next to it on the shelf. And I am perfectly happy with it, and see no need to switch. But really, I’m just cheap. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just implies that I will be very successful later in life because I am cheap. Yeah. Whatever.

So back to the food. Like I said, there is quite a heap of flavour in this little rice dish. And I know it is very watery to begin with. Trust me, it will get less soggy, especially the leftovers. The tomatoes give it such a nice rich, robust flavour, and really do lend a nice red hue. I love the olives. Like, really love the olives. Probably because they are really high in fat, but what the bananas. They taste flippin’ good, and add that nice little burst of flavour every now and then. Which is totally down with me. Also, the rice seemed to be a little spicy, but I have no clue why. There weren’t really any spicy ingredients, soooooooo… Hm. A mystery? Oh, I love mysteries! Food mysteries… Yeah. Anyway, here’s the recipe, in all its glory.
Mexican Tomato Taco Rice

Adapted from I Eat Food

Serves 6

1 small-medium onion, finely chopped
1 small red bell pepper, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, pressed
2 scant cups brown rice
14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes
1 ½ tbsp tomato paste
1 cup water
1 taco seasoning packet
A splash red wine vinegar
2 tbsp chopped parsley
½ cup thickly sliced black olives

Heat a large pot over medium high heat. Add a bit of water, and then the onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes or so, until the onions are turning translucent. Add in the rice through vinegar, reduce to low heat, and simmer for 35 minutes. Stir in the olives and parsley, and simmer for another 15 minutes, until the rice is tender. Serve hot.
As leftovers, this will become dryer.