[Recipe] Four Cheese Jumbo Shells

It’s Meatless Monday and to celebrate this amazing day, I made Four Cheese Jumbo Shells.

Jumbo shells are to me what water is to fish…essential. You just can not go wrong with stuffed shells. They are big, filled and topped with incredible cheeses, and utilize just the right amount of vegetables to make it still feel like it is as healthy as a salad. Obviously I know this isn’t the case, but it really doesn’t matter when you are eating stuffed shells.

This recipe easily feeds a family of 5 with abundant leftovers, and I hope you enjoy it as much or more than I do! Without further ado, Four Cheese Jumbo Shells.

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Ingredients

  • 1 pound jumbo shell pasta (~40 shells)
  • cooking spray
  • 1 (12 oz) carton low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1 (15 oz) carton ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup (4 oz) shredded Asiago cheese
  • 3/4 cup (3 oz) grated, fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped, fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoons chopped, fresh parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (10 oz) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 6 cups Marinara
  • 1 cup (4 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

Instructions

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions (avoid adding salt) then drain and set aside
  2. Preheat oven to 375 F
  3. Place cottage cheese and ricotta cheese in a food processor; process until smooth. Combine the cottage cheese mixture with the Asiago, Parmesan, chives, parsley, black pepper, salt, and spinach
  4. Spoon 1 tablespoon cottage cheese mixture into each shell. Place half the stuffed shells, seams up, in one prepared dish. Pour 3 cups of marinara over the shell, sprinkle with 1/2 cup mozzarella
  5. Repeat step 4 with the remaining stuffed shells, marinara, and mozzarella in a second dish
  6. Cover with foil, bake at 375 F for 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated

Until next time,

The Part Time Vegetarian

Grilled Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are part of many delicious lunchtime meals as a vegetarian. They are quick, easy, and quite filling. The biggest problem that I have run into with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is that it gets old quickly. The cold jelly, sticky peanut butter, and dry bread all lead to a lunch which goes from enjoyable to boring after only a couple of days.

So today I aim to fix this.

While still in school, I was introduced to grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and there really is no going back after having one. Although it is still simple to make, by “grilling” the sandwich as one does a grilled cheese sandwich the entire sandwich changes.

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Ingredients

  • 2 slices sandwich bread
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter (Skippy of course)
  • 2 tablespoons jam (strawberry)
  • ~1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Instructions

  1. On a plate place the slices of bread down and spread the peanut butter on one slice of bread and the jam on the other.
  2. Combine the two slices of bread to create the sandwich, then coat each side of bread with enough butter to coat their surface.
  3. Place the sandwich in a medium sized frying pan over medium heat. Continuously check the bottom side to see if it has reached the golden brown phase seen in the picture above, then flip the sandwich and repeat.
  4. Transfer the sandwich to a plate and serve immediately.

 

Until Next Time,

The Part Time Vegetarian

A 75 Mile Bike Ride

This blog was named The Part Time Vegetarian very intentionally. Although it started as a way to document my experience of becoming more vegetarian, I wanted to be able to expand and share other experiences in my life as well. The end goal of this blog is and always has been to make my life more exciting and environmentally friendly while also convincing others to do the same. So recently when work gave me off two days in a row (something that happens rather infrequently at my job) I wanted to take advantage of every moment of that free time and truly escape my comfort zone. I didn’t know what to do at first, but then I considered one of my life long dreams…to bike across America. You see, despite having this long term goal I have never biked more than 10 miles in a single sitting. That was to change.

The Interurban Trail

From its inception in 1905 to the end of its operations in 1951 the Interurban was to be a rapid transit electric railway system connecting Milwaukee, WI to Sheboygan, WI. This approximately 60 mile railway went through the majority of the cities and towns between its two end points. Although it was a helpful form of transportation, use of the Interurban began to decline and as a result the railway eventually closed. Since the closure of the railway the trail has been converted into The Interurban Trail, a wonderful way for travelers (primarily by bike) to get between the two cities while remaining off road and away from vehicles.

I took advantage of this perfect transit route and went north on a bike with only a change of clothes, some money, and a phone in case of an emergency. It was one of the greatest decisions in my life. Something about biking a long distance alone while surrounded entirely by the beautiful country I live in was both peaceful and exhausting. It showed me parts of my state I hardly see. Little towns with small populations, farm fields as far as the eye could see, and numerous animals who seemed to use the trail as much as the other people I met along the way.

The Journey

The biking started off easy, every few minutes I passed another mile marker and felt like I was cruising. 5 miles in I kept thinking, “this is going to be a breeze”. After 10 miles I realized I probably should have brought a seat which was a little more comfortable. 15 miles, and I could really feel the strain on my muscles. My thighs burned, my chest was heavy, and so I decided to take a break for lunch. A small sandwich (peanut butter and honey) and two kiwis were enough to get my energy back up and they pushed me the next 5 miles with ease. I was cruising along at about 27 miles in when I realized I had taken a wrong turn. Instead of going into the town I planned on spending the night, I had gone up and around.

This route, although beautiful, made me go an extra 15 miles more than I intended. It was stressful at the time, but entirely worth it for the views I received in return. The blue of Lake Michigan, bridges, boats, and people just going about their daily lives with a smile on their face. My legs weren’t happy, but it made the trip what it was. As a result of this turn, I arrived at my hotel close to dark, checked in, and immediately jumped in the pool to help my body recover. It turns out jumping into a 45 mile bike ride without any practice exhausts your body, and I fell asleep soon after I got back to my room.

The next day I woke up a little sore, and in checking the weather realized I had to leave by 8 AM to get back before it began to rain. This second day was much easier (likely because I avoided the extra 15 miles I went the first day). I grabbed a quick breakfast from the hotel, hopped on my bike and began pedaling. Having seen the surrounding terrain already, I decided to put my headphones in and listen to The Lumineers the whole way back. This time it WAS a breeze…except I still wish I had a more comfortable seat.

I arrived home, exhausted, and felt better than I’ve felt in a long time. To top it off, it started raining 15 minutes after I arrived home! Talk about timing. I only was given off for two days, and I was gone for less than 24 hours, but something about taking the little time I had and making the most of it reminded me of my connection to the world. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything in the world.

Until Next Time,

The Part Time Vegetarian

 

 

An alternative to instant oatmeal

I have always loved oatmeal. It’s delicious, filling, and a very nice start the day. Recently though I discovered exactly how much sugar most instant oatmeal contains. For instance, my previous favorite, Quaker Oat’s Apple & Cinnamon contains 12 grams of sugar per serving. It may not seem like a lot, but for contrast a single Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut contains only 10 grams of sugar. I never thought of my oatmeal as having more sugar than a doughnut, but that is the case.

After realizing this, I decided to search for a less sugar filled alternative to my favorite breakfast. That is when I discovered steel cut oats. Steel cut oats are groats (the hulled portion of the oat) that are loosely chopped into several pieces instead of rolled with a rolling pin device, which is how instant oats are processed. As a result, the oats are randomly shaped, but could best be described as rice cut in half. Steel cut oats, in addition to being less processed than instant oats, have less ingredients added to them. As a result, the steel cut oats I purchased have less than a gram of sugar per serving.

The downside to the steel cut oats size is the length of time it takes to cook these oats. The long cook time resulted in me looking for a simple alternative. This is exactly what I found, and can be seen below.

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Steel Cut Oats with peaches and a cup of hazelnut coffee (and some invasive grounds…)

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup steel cut oats
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • (optional fruits) peaches, blueberries, raspberries

Instructions

  1. Combine the steel cut oats, honey, and milk into a bowl
  2. Thoroughly mix the three ingredients to create a homogeneous mixture
  3. Place the bowl in the fridge overnight
  4. Retrieve the bowl the following morning (aim for 8 hours), top with fruit, and enjoy

Until Next Time,

The Part Time Vegetarian

Kale Pesto with Linguine

So today is Meatless Monday, and I have every intention of having a delicious vegetarian meal today. I have leftover kale from a dish I made yesterday, and I wanted to eat what was left before it was wasted. That is why I chose to make a kale based pesto.

Pesto has always been one of my favorites because it is so versatile. Once the pesto I made today was completed, I started by simply putting a light spread on a slice of whole wheat bread. It was great, and I was already hungry so it helped tide me over while the noodles were still cooking. The recipe you see below will make a relatively large amount of pesto, more than I can eat in one sitting as an individual, but you need not worry! The pesto is easy to store and can be eaten in the future.

So now, without further ado, Kale Pesto with Linguine.

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Ingredients

  • 3 oz pine nuts, toasted
  • 3 oz Parmesan, coarsely grated (plus extra to serve)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 oz kale
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Juice 1 lemon
  • Linguine, to serve

Instructions

  1. Combine: pine nuts, Parmesan, garlic, oils, kale, and lemon juice in a food processor and blend to a paste. Season to taste
  2. Cook desired amount of linguine following the instructions supplied by the box.
  3. Stir the pesto through the hot pasta to serve, topping with extra Parmesan and oil, if you like

Storage

Place the pesto in a container or jar, cover the surface with a little more olive oil and keep in the fridge for a week, or freeze for up to a month.

Until Next Time,

The Part Time Vegetarian

Why Parmesan Cheese is not vegetarian

Parmigiano-Reggiano (or for the average American like myself, Parmesan) is not vegetarian. If you’ve been a vegetarian for a long time, this may not come as news to you, but if you are new to the vegetable diet like myself, this may be a shock to you. You see, Parmesan cheese is made up of a differing amount of ingredients which can be combined in a whole host of different ways depending upon who is making it. The only exceptions to this are three main ingredients which are required in order to actually call Parmesan cheese…well…Parmesan.

These three ingredients are cow milk, salt, and calf rennet.

The first two of these ingredients are very clear and so I won’t go into detail with them, but rennet, for those who do not know is, “an enzyme derived from the stomachs of calves, lambs or goats before they consume anything but milk” (Cheesemaking.com). It is used to curdle the milk to turn it into cheese, and as I have mentioned, is a required ingredient for Parmesan cheese. I won’t fully describe how rennet is obtained (if you wish, it is easily found online) but the animal does in fact have to die for the rennet to be acquired. This fact alone is enough for me to know I no longer wish to consume products which utilize rennet.

For those of you who still wish to be vegetarian AND eat Parmesan cheese, fear not! There is an alternative that exists for people just like you…and me. It turns out rennet can be created using fungi, or other genetically modified micro organisms instead of using the enzymes found in a calf’s stomach. The three main rennet producers are Rhizomucor miehei, Endothia parasitica and Rhizomucor pusillis, and it is now relatively easy (although slightly more expensive) to purchase a Parmesan cheese which is made from one of these three organisms instead of calf rennet.

In fact, I have done this now, and to be entirely honest I cannot even tell the difference. You can now continue eating your spaghetti and other Parmesan covered plates knowing full well that no animals were harmed in the making of your fine dish…As long as you quickly replace your Parmesan with the vegetarian alternative…

Until next time,

The Part Time Vegetarian

 

Stuffed-Baked Potato

I just began a training schedule for a half marathon, and the consistent running has left me more hungry than normal. That is why today, after getting done with my 4 mile run, I decided to cook up something that would be easy to make, but fill my empty stomach. Since just last week I prepared a large amount of parsley I knew that I wanted to include that in the post today. That is why, as I am sure you have noticed, I decided to make a stuffed-baked potato. Simple, delicious, and filling.IMG_1413

Instructions:

  1. Rinse and remove any debris from the potato
  2. Lightly coat the potato in sea salt, then wrap the potato in foil
  3. Bake at 375 F for 30 minutes (longer if more than one/large potato)
  4. Remove from oven, cool for 10 minutes with the foil pulled back
  5. Slice the potato down the middle, in the long direction, then squeeze the potato from the long ends to open the potato further
  6. Insert tomatoes, steamed broccoli, steamed cauliflower, onion, carrots, and/or any other vegetable you may have on hand, then cover in cheese
  7. Place the potato back in the oven for 10 more minutes/until the cheese melts. Place one or more dollops of sour cream and sprinkle with parsley

This quick and easy potato is especially useful if you have excess vegetables you need to use. It will fill you completely, and can be either a filling lunch, or in portions used for dinner. More than anything, it was the perfect thing to fill me back up after my run, and make sure I have the energy to keep going the rest of the day.

The Part Time Vegetarian