Meatless Monday Recipes for Starters!

IMG_20140916_203133One of my favorites: Spinach, Feta & Potato Gratin with Carrot Salad (#4 below)


I started doing Meatless Mondays after watching the documentary Food, Inc. and continued research into America’s farm industry. If you haven’t seen the documentary on Netflix, here are the highlights. My mother grew up on a farm; her family raised their own cattle, pigs and chickens, which were slaughtered by a local butcher. She would tell me how the cows were like dogs, with big brown eyes and wagging tails. Betsy lived a good life before her slaughter. Those days seem to be long gone, and Americans are eating more meat than ever. To keep up with this demand, the family farm has transformed into the industrial farm.

What really bothers me most about industrial farming is the conditions animals are kept in, and the fact that they are not respected as animals, but are considered food from day one. They stand in their own manure, live in cramped areas, eat food unnatural to them, and are pumped full of hormones and antibiotics. We are becoming too far removed from what we eat. There are also many other reason’s (more facts & sources) for going meatless: the environment, your health, and the welfare of farmers.

As much as Food, Inc. and other documentaries (Forks over Knives, Vegucated, Fresh) have convinced me that there are a multitude of issues surrounding meat production, I still love meat. Especially bacon. I’m an omnivore, and I don’t think I can change that. So, instead of beating myself up about not being a vegetarian, I decided that Meatless Monday was my answer. It has now progressed into about 2-3 days per week where our dinner contains no meat.

Most of the recipes here were successful for me and my meat-loving significant other for one BIG reason: we did not substitute the meat. No soy crumbles, garden burgers, or tofu. We just embraced the dishes we loved without meat. And boy were we surprised!!! Here are our favorites so far…

*most all of these are on my Pinterest boards

  1.  French Onion Soup with Gruyere-Sourdough Bites and a side salad
  2. Cracker Barrel Hashbrown Casserole and Pioneer Woman’s Fresh Green Beans
  3. Nachos with cheese, black beans, refried beans, Mexican rice, avocado, pico de gallo, and sour cream
  4. Spinach, Feta & Potato Gratin and Carrot Salad
  5. Southern Dinner (one of my faves!): Pintos, cornbread or hoe cakes, yellow squash & onions, and greens. I do not have recipes posted for these, but if you want them, just comment below or search on Pinterest or the internet.
  6. Quesadillas with goat cheese, spinach, & caramelized onions and a side of black bean or corn salsa and sliced avocado
  7. Paula Deen’s Corn Casserole and a vegetarian chili
  8. Eggplant Parmesan with spaghetti and a side salad
  9. Homemade pizza (the vegetable & cheese topping combinations are endless!)
  10. Mediterranean “Tacos”: pita, hummus, artichokes, red onion, black olives, feta cheese, cucumber, tomatoes, lettuce & Greek dressing
  11. Caprese Summer Salad with Cannellini Beans and baguette
  12. Pad See Ew or Pad Thai without the meat
  13. Cheese Ravioli with Lemon Basil Butter Sauce and a side salad
  14. Vegetarian curry with noodles, rice or Naan bread (there are a bazillion recipes for these! My favorites are Thai and Indian)
  15. Cuban Black Beans & Rice and Spicy Sweet Roasted Butternut Squash
  16. Vegetable Kabobs with baked beans and macaroni & cheese
  17. Thai Coconut Soup  (without the chicken) and vegetable spring rolls or dumplings

That is all for now! I will be updating this page as I develop new favorites! For me, the key to getting on board with meatless was to embrace the dishes you already love instead of trying to substitute with fake meat. Think of it as Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner without the ham or turkey. We all love those sides and veggies, and I often wish during Thanksgiving that I could just load up on green bean casserole, cheesy squash, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, and cranberry sauce without even touching the turkey. Maybe give it a try once a week and see how it goes?

Please feel free to share your favorite meatless meals in the comments below!



North Carolina Pulled Pork BBQ


I have lived in North Carolina for all of my 29 years, until just over a month ago when I moved to Arizona for graduate school. I knew before I left that NC bbq would be the one food I missed the most. After moving here, I realized that the term “bbq” applied to all things cooked on a grill, while in NC it is synonymous with pulled pork dredged in an hot and vinegary sauce. I have been working on this crockpot version for several years now, and while it does not compare to a smoked pig, it comes just close enough to satisfy my bbq cravings.

I decided to introduce this deliciousness at a recent potluck with my new friends in Arizona who had never tasted NC bbq. I ordered my favorite sauce from North Carolina, however, it did not arrive in time due to poor customer service. This forced me to make my own bbq sauce, which I’ve also included the recipe for here. It turned out pretty close to what I prefer, but you may alter it depending on how sweet or hot you like your sauce. Pulled pork is often eaten as a sandwich, on a hamburger bun with coleslaw and a side of hushpuppies.


           for the pork

– 3-4lb pork shoulder roast (also called Boston Butt)
-2tbsp brown sugar
-2tbsp chili powder
-2tbsp paprika
-2tbsp garlic powder
-1tbsp salt
-1tbsp pepper
-1tbsp Liquid Smoke

for the sauce

-1 cup apple cider vinegar
-1 cup white vinegar
-2 tbsp brown sugar
-1 tbsp red pepper flakes
-1/4 cup hot sauce (Texas Pete or Frank’s Red Hot)
-1tbsp salt
-1tbsp pepper



  1. Mix together all dry ingredients for pork. Rub this all over the pork shoulder.
  2. Place into crockpot with the skin-side up. Drizzle liquid smoke over roast, cover, and cook on low for 8-10 hours.
  3. In a small saucepan, mix together all sauce ingredients and simmer on medium-high until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Remove from heat and let it set for as long as possible. It is best to make it the day before, but if you can’t, make it when you put the roast on so it has a good 8+ hours to mingle the flavors.
  4. When the pork is done, pour out all of the liquid. Using two forks, shred the pork apart. You shouldn’t have to use much effort and it should fall apart easily. If your roast has a shoulder bone, be sure to remove that.
  5. With the shredded pork in the crockpot, add some of your sauce and mix well. Let this absorb the flavors for at least 30 minutes. You can use your crockpot’s “keep warm” setting. Serve the pork with extra sauce to drizzle on top.


*Note, this is not one of those recipes where you can half the time by cooking it on high. You cannot get fall-off-the-bone pork this way.

**Another side note–some crockpot aficionados are probably asking Where is the liquid? since this roast uses none. The pork will make it’s own liquid, as you can see in the photo above. Do not add any extra broth or water, or you will end up with soggy pork.

Caramelized Pork Bánh mì


In my humble opinion, the pork bánh mì is the best sandwich EVER. Yes, ever. I know you’re already drooling over this photo, but let me explain! This sandwich is packed with layers of flavor that will seriously make you look at your sandwich after you take the first bite. As if staring at it would help you understand it’s deliciousness. The name bánh mì refers to the bread used, which was influenced  by the French baguette. Influenced is probably too nice a word, considering I actually mean that France colonized Vietnam and was like here, bread. Nonetheless, a good airy French baguette is where all the goodies should rest!

My bánh mì sandwich is comprised of marinated pork which is caramelized, and placed (in all it’s sticky goodness) onto the mayo’d French baguette. It is then topped with cucumber, red onion, jalapeño pepper, cilantro and pickled carrots. Explosion of flavor in your mouth…that is all you need to know. It’s so good that we let it stand alone–serving it completely by itself. However, I have served it with grilled pineapple when I make it for guests.















for the sandwich–

-French baguette
-rice vinegar (or white vinegar)
-jalapeño pepper
-red onion

for the pork–

– 3/4 – 1 lb country-style pork rib meat or pork shoulder roast, sliced into thin, 2in pieces
– 1/4 cup ketchup
– 1/4 cup soy sauce
– 1/4 cup brown sugar
– 2 tbsp fish sauce
– 2 tbsp sesame oil
– juice of 1 lime


  1. Mix together marinade ingredients; add pork and marinate for at least 1-2 hours.
  2. Slice cucumber, jalapeño pepper, and red onion to your liking. Pick off leaves of cilantro.
  3. Shave carrot into a shallow bowl; cover with rice vinegar and set aside.
  4. Remove pork from fridge and set a large, shallow pan on medium-high heat. Once heated, add each piece of pork to the pan with tongs, shaking off excess marinade. You don’t want too much liquid in the pan, because the pork won’t be able to caramelize.
  5. Let the pork cook on one side for at least 4-5 minutes; turn each piece with tongs and cook for 4-5 minutes more.
  6. The timing from here is up to your stovetop. Continue to stir pork around with your tongs. Watch as the sauce thickens and the pork starts to look sticky. Once it has thickened, turn off the stovetop and let the pork rest.
  7. Cut your piece of baguette in half. Scoop out the bread in the top half. Spread mayo on the bottom half.
  8. Place the pork on top of the bottom half, and layer with cucumber, jalapeño pepper, red onion, cilantro, and pickled carrot. Place top on and try not to die as you take the first bite.

Thai-Inspired Sweet & Spicy Chicken Kabobs


Since moving from Arizona about a month ago, Ben and I have used many opportunities to grill. Most days here are sunny and perfect cook-out weather! Ironically, when we made these sweet & spicy chicken kabobs last night, the wind and rain started up just as we got our charcoal going. But we were able to finish them in time and boy were they delicious!! You can use any veggies you like, but we enjoyed the mixture of sweet pepper, red onion & pineapple. Now…on to this amazing marinade!












-chicken (I prefer thighs)
-veggies (here I used sweet pepper, red onion & pineapple)
-juice of 1 orange, or 3-4tbsp orange juice
-2tbsp fish sauce (you can substitute with soy sauce)
-2tbsp hot chili sauce (like Sriracha)
-1/2 cup sweet chili sauce



Mix all marinade ingredients together. Set aside a small amount for brushing onto kabobs while grilling. Add chicken to marinade and let set for about 20 minutes. Put together kabobs of chicken & veggies, and grill.

Linguine with Salami & Zucchini


My variation of this rich pasta dish comes from a Frugal Gourmet recipe that my father made for us growing up. The original recipe called for capers, which my father never used, thus they never made it into my version. Salami, zucchini and a creamy sauce may sound like a strange combination, but I promise you’ll love it! Because it’s so simple to make, this was one of the first dishes I learned to make for myself when I was living on my own. If you don’t know how to make your own cream sauce–this recipe shows you. It’s so simple you’ll want to hit yourself for not attempting it earlier! I carried this knowledge over to making other cream sauce pasta dishes, but I wouldn’t advise too many since it’s so fattening. I try not to have this dish more than once a month–it really is a treat! Feel free to try it with other pasta noodles–I also like it with penne, farfalle, and campanelle.


-8oz linguine (or other pasta)
-4 to 6oz hard salami, cut into small pieces
-1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2in chunks
-6 to 8 cloves of garlic, minced
-1 tsp fresh ground pepper
-1 pint heavy whipping cream
-1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese


  1. Boil water for pasta. Heat saucepan to medium and add salami. Sautè until lightly crisp. Add zucchini and sautè for 3 minutes. Add garlic and sautè for another minute or two.
  2. Pour the pint of heavy whipping cream over the salami/zucchini mixture. Bring to a low bubble and simmer for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. While the cream is simmering, cook pasta al dentè.
  4. After 10-12 minutes of simmering the cream mixture, stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and fresh ground pepper and let simmer for another minute.
  5. Serve over pasta with additional Parmesan if desired.

Flatbread Pizza Night!


As part of my Snack Night Initiative , I bring to you…make-your-own flatbread pizza night simplicity! This has to be one of the easiest, most versatile recipe ideas. All you need is a pack of flatbreads and some toppings! In the colder months I make these on the pizza stone in my oven, but in the summer try throwing them on the grill!

Here are some of my favorite combinations:

  • Tomato, fresh basil, red onion & mozzarella
  • Ricotta, baby spinach leaves, garlic & red pepper flakes
  • BBQ sauce, grilled chicken, Gouda cheese, pineapple, jalapeno, red onion & cilantro
  • Marinara sauce, Italian sausage, sweet peppers, onions & mozzarella
  • Goat cheese, roasted zucchini & squash, garlic, fresh parsley & Parmesan cheese
  • Marinara sauce, roasted eggplant, sweet peppers, mozzarella & Parmesan cheeses
  • Ricotta, bacon, caramelized onions & roasted red peppers


What can you come up with?

Buttermilk Chicken Pie


I have been eating this chicken pie (rather, a variation of it) since I was about 10 or 12 years old. My mother got the recipe from a friend and made it for us often. I remember making this when I got my first apartment and was living by myself, and eating it for three days straight. It’s seriously that good. However, I have made one important change to the original recipe, which called for cream of chicken  chemical soup. This isn’t a conventional chicken pie–there are no veggies in it (very shocking for me, I know), and rather than a pie-like crust on the bottom, it’s made in a casserole dish and is topped with a flaky buttermilk crust. Enough talking, time to make this delicious chicken pie!



-2-3 chicken breasts or legs
-1 1 /4 cups and 2 tbsp flour
-1 cup milk
-2 packets Herb-ox chicken bouillon
-1 stick butter
-1 1/4 cups buttermilk


  1. Boil chicken and shred. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Melt 2 tbsp butter in small saucepan. Add 2 tbsp flour and whisk until bubbly. Whisk in 1 cup of chicken broth-water (from boiled chicken). When flour is dissolved, whisk in both packets of chicken bouillon and 1 cup milk. Heat on medium-low until thickened.
  3. Melt remaining stick of butter in microwave bowl. Mix in 1 1/4 cup flour and 1 1/4 cup buttermilk until smooth.
  4. Put shredded chicken and chicken “soup” mix in glass dish, mixing together. Pour flour mixture over top. Sprinkle with salt & pepper.
  5. Bake at 425 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.