Category Archives: main dish

renewed inspiration, right on time.

The last six months have overwhelmed me with clinical, wellness, and food service rotations of my dietetic internship, leaving me little time for the testing of new recipes. I’ve survived these hectic months with dishes whose recipes are well-known to my repertoire: vegan chili, kale and white bean soup, refried beans with brown rice and spicy kale, etc.

Since early February I have on a temporary hiatus from supervised practice, and with this more open schedule has come time to explore new recipes and create new dishes. On a visit to Nevada last month, my dear music educator friend and I found comfort from the cold in this shepherd’s pie. Last week I ventured out of my soup/stew comfort zone into the world of casseroles with Fat Free Vegan’s broccoli rice casserole and a vegan lasagna. Having grown up in a household where any lasagna other than that of my Italian aunt’s recipe was considered sacrilegious, I never dreamed that vegan lasagna could come close to meeting my standards. A classmate’s referral to this recipe found me skeptical at best; all I needed was one bite to be convinced that delicious vegan lasagna is possible!

My renewed excitement for being in the kitchen, trying new recipes and exploring new cuisines is right on time for National Nutrition Month®. This year’s theme is “Eat right, your way, every day.” According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ website, the theme “encourages personalized healthy eating styles and recognizes that food preferences, lifestyle, cultural and ethnic traditions and health concerns all impact individual food choices.”

The hectic nature of my student lifestyle, preference for fresh, local food and culturally influenced foods and family health history are all factors that contribute to the food choices that I make on a daily basis. As an advocate of a plant-based diet, friends, family members, and acquaintances frequently ask me, “What is it that you eat?!” Throughout this month, I will be posting my meals on Facebook and Twitter and occasionally posting on Hunting & Bargaining to provide an example of how I eat right, my (plant-based) way, each & every day.

This morning, I wasn’t feeling like eating my usual oatmeal for breakfast, so I indulged in 2 freezer gluten-free waffles with my favorite local Krema peanut butter and 100% pure syrup. Feeling inspired by this weekend’s trip to visit my blogger friend and our Sunday brunch of curry scrambled tofu, eggplant bacon, and baked grapefruit, I decided to try baking my own citrus! This morning, orange halves.


I absolutely love  Constant Comment – black tea with orange and spice – and these baked oranges reminded me of this well-loved hot beverage. I followed Becca’s instructions for the baked grapefruits, except I did not cut along the orange sections (mistake) and I sprinkled the halves with cinnamon and ground cloves.

This afternoon for lunch, I munched on celery sticks and Baba Ghanoush while my newest creation bubbled away in the oven. I roughly based my recipe off of Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s tamale shepherd pie  and Prevention RD’s chickpea pot pie with cornbread crust. The outcome was fantastic.


MexiPotpie with Cornbread Topping


For the filling:

1/2 yellow bell pepper, roughly chopped

1/2 red bell pepper, roughly chopped

1 medium red onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 oz)

1/2 cup frozen corn

8 oz mushrooms (preferably cremini), thinly sliced

1/4 cup dry red wine (optional)

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

2 tbsp hot sauce of your choice (I used Tabasco Smoked Chipotle)

3 cups cooked black beans (About 2 cans, drained and rinsed)

For the topping:

3/4 yellow cornmeal

1/2 cup oat flour

1/4 cup ground flaxseed

1 tbsp baking powder

1.5 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

Several turns freshly ground black pepper

1 serrano pepper, finely diced

1 cup almond milk

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or other vegetable oil (canola, safflower, vegetable oil)

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Heat pan over high heat until water sprinkled over hot pan sizzles. Add onions, sautéing 2-3 minutes or until translucent. Add peppers, sautéing 2-3 minutes longer until onions are beginning to caramelize. Add minced garlic. If vegetables are sticking to pan, add slight amounts of water or vegetable stock to help keep them from sticking.

Add mushrooms and sauté until they begin to release their moisture. At this point, add canned diced tomatoes, corn, wine (if using), and spices. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer about 5 minutes.

Add hot sauce and beans, remove from heat. Set aside.

To prepare cornbread topping: Combine dry ingredients (flours, ground flax, baking powder, sugar, salt, black pepper) in one bowl and almond milk, oil, and diced serrano in another bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir to combine.

Transfers vegetable & black bean mixture to a large casserole dish. Forget about the non-stick cooking spray – you don’t need it! Top with large spoonfuls of cornbread mixture. Bake at 400 F for 20 – 25 minutes, or until cornbread topping is golden brown.

Enjoy while waiting for yet another Ohio snowstorm. [Is it really March?]



things that must happen: spicy turkey burgers

As much as I have enjoyed and been challenged by eating a mostly-vegetarian diet this summer, I’ve been cheating – I made turkey burgers this week. I’ve been craving a charred, grilled burger for a while now – it’s one of those things that is quintessentially summer to me. Grill + apartment dweller + subletter doesn’t exactly go together, however. What’s the next best thing? Turkey burgers: a healthy alternative, accessible in price (ground turkey meat can be the same price as or just slightly more than ground beef), convenience, and flavor.  They freeze amazingly well, and my favorite way to serve is over a bed of tortilla chips (see here how to make chips in the MICROWAVE, what!), topped with salsa and cheese. Below is a variation on my mother’s recipe, much beloved by my family:


1lb ground turkey meat

1 jalapeno

1 egg

1 heaping tbsp cornmeal

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp pepper

1 tbsp canola oil

salsa, frozen corn, and fresh cilantro for topping/garnish

Slice the jalapeno lengthwise and use your knife to seed and then mince the jalapeno into very small pieces. Combine the meat, the egg, cornmeal, and all the spices in the bowl; combine until well blended and the egg is evenly distributed throughout the meat. Pat down the meat and divide into five even sections; shape each section into burger patties and place on a plate. Heat 1tbsp canola oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet; add all burgers at once. Let the burgers simmer for 3-5 minutes; watch closely. The burgers should be lightly browned on one side before flipping – you’ll want to minimize the flipping in order to maintain the flavor from the juices. In total, depending on your stove, it should take about 10-15 minutes to completely brown them on medium heat.

While the burgers are browning, heat salsa (I used basic bottled salsa just for convenience), corn, and cilantro on the stove on low heat. Cover and let simmer.

Serve burgers on a bed of tortilla chips, and top with salsa/corn mixture and cheese! Yum.



“greek-style” shrimp scampi

As a part of my love affair with pasta, I am forever trying to find new ways to make different sauces and combinations to avoid constantly eating the same old “red sauce” pasta dish. Enter my recent obsession with pesto, of course! Pesto also gets old too, though – so, “greek-style” shrimp scampi, using a can of diced tomatoes and other flavoring in place of the butter and oil, was born.

Because of my complexion and hair color, I’ve been asked throughout my life: “are you Italian?” “are you Greek?” “are you Mediterranean?” No, no, and no – but my affinity for certain flavors in food does tend to stray toward the Italian/Mediterranean side. Like this dish, I guess, I can “fake it.” :-).

This dish is simple enough to make for a quite night at home – but it’s also different enough – and bursting with flavor – to bring out when expecting guests. Enjoy!



1lb vermicelli/angel hair pasta

1 14oz can petite diced tomatoes with garlic and olive oil

12-16oz frozen shrimp

3 cloves garlic

1 handful fresh basil

1/2 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp pepper

1 tbsp olive oil

olives, if you like them!

feta cheese, for topping

salt to taste

(note: I made this dish with frozen white fish and mozzarella cheese in place of the shrimp and feta – at the one small grocery store I have access to right now without a car, they did not have feta cheese, and shrimp only came in huge bags of 120+ shrimp. This girl can’t eat 120+ shrimp during the two weeks left this summer in D.C.! You may also want to make these substitutions for budgeting purposes as well.)

Put a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta. While the water is boiling, chop up the 3 cloves garlic and basil so the garlic is minced and the basil is roughly chopped. Break the pasta and cook according to package directions once the water is boiling. Heat the 1 tbsp olive oil in a large pan on the stove over medium-high heat for one minute; saute the garlic in the pan until fragrant for 1-2 minutes. Empty the entire can of tomatoes into the pan (do NOT drain); add the pepper, salt, and oregano, and stir. Distribute the shrimp throughout the pan, lower the heat,  cover, and let the entire mixture simmer for five to seven minutes. When the pasta is done cooking, strain the pasta and let cool but reserve the starchy pasta water. After the shrimp mixture is done simmering, add 1/2 cup of the pasta water to the mixture to make a little more “sauce.” Make sure the shrimp are cooked through. Serve the shrimp mixture, with 5-7 shrimp per plate, over the pasta, and top with olives and feta cheese if desired. Serves four.


pesto potato bake: welcome, here’s a casserole.

Hello–and welcome to Hunting and Bargaining!

As students, adventurous cooks, and vegetarian/”flexi” tarians (I don’t know if I can ever not eat chicken!), we hope to write about our adventures “hunting and gathering” food in our twenties–food that tastes good, is healthy, has variety, and doesn’t break the bank. No ramen allowed, of course.

And with that, my first foray into broadcasting my kitchen adventures begins with a casserole: the perfect “welcome home” food, comfort food, I-know-you’re -sick -and-here’s sustenance food.

But do all casseroles have to be calorie-laden cream of mushroom/chicken concoctions? Of course not. Add starch + veggies + some type of sauce + cheese = casserole. That’s it.

BY FAR the best investment my kitchen this summer are my $3.00 basil and cilantro plants. I’m obsessed with putting fresh herbs on EVERYTHING–my wraps for lunch, pasta, chips, etc. Think about it–it usually costs $3.00 at least to buy a package of fresh herbs in the grocery store – for the same $3, I’m enjoying flavorful freshness all summer. I make this “Beggar’s Pesto” with my basil plant – but I wanted to use the pesto on something different than pasta. The pesto potato bake was born.



2 large russet potatoes

1/2 vidalia onion

1/2 green peper

handful of fresh spinach

1 batch Beggar’s pesto


salt, pepper, and oregano to taste

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Make the pesto first and set it aside. Wash and slice the potatoes thin, like you’re making scalloped potatoes for a big family dinner. Chop up the onion and green pepper (or whatever other veggies you desire!) roughly. Then –  make a “potato parfait”! Lay one thin layer of the potatoes over the bottom of the dish (I used a small round one); then add some onion and pepper. Next, layer a few spoonfuls of pesto over the veggies. Then add another layer of potatoes, the spinach, and more pesto. Repeat until the dish is full! Top with shredded cheese. (one way to cut calories and add flavor – cut the cheese from the inside of the recipe and only top the casserole with cheese!) Bake for 45 minutes or until potatoes are not crunchy.

Serves 4 – or is the perfect recipe for packaging up in individual portions and freezing for later!