Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Vegetarian Dinner Delight

My mother and father in law have been eating nothing but restaurant food for the last two months, with so much going on in their lives, and tonight I wanted to give them a delicious home cooked meal that filled their bellies and treated them to something different than they've been eating lately.

Since they're vegetarians, this was a great time to introduce meatless meals into my family's week.  Old fashioned Italian minestrone and spinach artichoke stuffed white mushrooms.  I stuffed myself silly, and never even noticed the lack of meat.

3 tablespoons olive oil
 4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 red onions, chopped
2 cups chopped celery
5 carrots, sliced
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
4 cups tomato sauce
1/2 cup red wine
1 can  kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups baby spinach, rinsed
3 zucchinis, quartered and sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 package medium shells, cooked
Freshly grated Parmesan for topping

Heat olive oil in a stock pot.  Saute garlic on medium low for about two minutes.  Add onion and cook for another 4-5 minutes.  Add carrots and celery, mix well, and cook for five minutes.  Stir in water, broth, wine, and tomato sauce. Mix well and cook to a simmer.  Add in kidney beans, zucchini, baby spinach, oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Mix well and cover. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 40 minutes. While waiting, boil 1/2 a package of shells to al dente. When the soup is ready, put about 1/2 a cup of pasta in the bottom of a soup bowl.  Ladle minestrone over the top.  Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan and fresh basil.

Spinach and Artichoke Stuffed Mushrooms
25 white mushrooms, stems removed and gills scraped out
4 ounces cream cheese
2/3 cup mayonnaise
14 ounce can of artichoke hearts, excess liquid squeezed out and finely diced
1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
3 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp sugar
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Pinch ground red pepper

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine softened cream cheese, mayo, artichoke hearts, spinach, garlic, sugar, Parmesan, and red pepper.  Mix well.  Stuff mushrooms and place in a baking sheet with sides (the mushrooms will secrete excess liquid while baking) and grate some extra Parmesan over the top. Bake 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned.

I hope they enjoyed dinner as much as I did.  I served sliced Italian bread with a balsamic/olive oil mixture beforehand and the soup alongside a mozzarella, pesto, and sun dried tomato grilled cheese brushed with olive oil.  It doesn't get much better than this.

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