Stuffed Mushrooms, Easy Appetizer

Easy Stuffed Mushrooms

There’s that classic movie moment where a guy is shooting a gun and runs out of bullets. He looks at the gun as it goes ‘click’, and then proceeds to throw it at the guys rushing him. And we all know that is a stupid move. That is me with these stuffed mushrooms.

When The Man gets home from work late and he’s starving, I try to have something for him to snack on if dinner isn’t completely ready. I can hear his stomach rumble as he casually saunters into the kitchen under the guise of seeing what’s for dinner, his eye on the tortilla chips. I usually pull the mushrooms out of the oven and wave them at him with the same unrealistic hope as the guy that throws his gun when he runs out of ammo. It’s more nutritious than chips, and it keeps him busy trying to eat something delicious but super hot.

The fun thing about these mushrooms is that you can get creative and change the stuffing depending on what you have on hand. And you can make as many or as few as you need. And they are super easy to prepare.

I use baby bella mushrooms (immature portobello), but you could get away with any of the small capped mushrooms that have a thicker flesh and cup shape. Clean them and gently remove the stem. Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil into a baking dish, and sprinkle that with garlic powder, Italian seasonings, and black pepper. Carefully set the mushrooms top down in the oil so they are nestled together, then salt and pepper them again. I like to put a few drops of lemon juice into each cap, a sprinkle of more Italian seasonings, then a small chunk or sliver of fresh garlic.

If you have the pre-crumbled blue cheese, you can put a few good size chunks of soft cheese into each cap, or any kind of softer cheese would work nicely. Then on top of each little cup, lay a slice of melty cheese just to generally cover the top. Sharp cheddar is a standard, but if I have a gouda, I like that best. A little more garlic powder and pepper on top of the cheese, and maybe a dusting of parmigiana or pecorino. Pop that into a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and the caps look a bit wrinkled from the moisture baking off. Let them cool before tossing them at the hungry people rushing you for dinner.

Mushrooms are a good source of protein, as well as a few other vitamins and minerals. And then when you add good stuff like garlic, you’re practically a health-food nut when you eat these. (Keep telling yourself that!) Plus these are fast and easy but look great as an appetizer or finger food.

Instead of lemon juice and garlic, try a base of tomato sauce (great if you’re already making pasta for dinner), pesto, or even a touch of ginger and thinly sliced apple (omitting the Italian seasonings and garlic for more pepper and lemon juice). I’ve put in thinly sliced fresh spinach, olives, fresh basil, caramelized onions, or even a few drops of hot sauce or mustard depending on the flavors of the main dinner menu. And of course you can play with the cheese options. Because cheese is always welcome.

They do store and re-heat well but are best served fresh out of the oven to a hungry audience. Have a peak in the package when you’re buying them so you don’t get the huge ones that will cause some poor sod to look like a trout while trying to eat the whole thing though.

[Girl21]

Universe Smoothie

Universe's Best Smoothie

When you’re single, there’s that thing that’s just not very fun to do alone on a regular basis. Cook.

There’s something unglamorous about eating black beans from the can while standing over the kitchen sink. You could always invite yourself over to couple-friends houses for meals, but they tend to catch on eventually and move without telling you where. If you’re on a budget, eating out is not an option. And no, anything with a drive-thru is not food. So what to do? I engineered the universe’s best smoothie to combat the drudgery of eating alone while single. It’s simple, nutritious, tastes good, and isn’t very expensive per serving.

Of course, it’s now a stand-by meal on a rushed morning, great for that after-workout protein shot, and ideal for the hot, hot summer months when the stove is the enemy. It’s easy to double up to serve two also. <3 <3 <3 [gratuitous smootchie love hearts to The Man]

Feel free to juggle the ingredients of course (alternatives and additions suggested below), but put these in the blender in this order to prevent a peanut butter mess:

1 cup yogurt (vanilla; or plain and a tablespoon of honey, yum!)
1-2 tablespoons peanut butter (real peanut butter of course)
1 banana
1/3 cup frozen fruit (cherries, or berry mix)
2/3 cup orange juice

Blend until frozens are integrated. Yum!

I sometimes put 1/4 cup of oatmeal into the blender first to chop fine, and then add back into the mix with the OJ. A friend freezes kale and crumbles it into hers for added healthiness. Another friend stealthily adds veggies to her toddler’s. If you are ridiculously organized and creative, you can make your own yoghurt, pick and freeze your own fruit, juice your own oranges, and become an apiarist. Don’t laugh. My dear sweet sister is amazing like this, but it’s sometimes exhausting to watch her get through her day.

For the yogurt, I prefer Stonyfield Farm when I’m feeling super optimistic, or Dannon natural vanilla. When I start reading the ingredients list of simple products and they are more than five items long, it makes me nervous. What is it and why does it need to be in my food? This is becoming one of my tedious rants in my old age, I suppose.

Because bananas can be tricky and people have issues of too-ripe or too-green (I think bananas are only edible while still bright yellow with only a few freckles, but people have very strong opinions about this), I suggest waiting until a bunch are the right age for you, peeling them and breaking them into chunks, and freezing them stored loosely in bags so they don’t become a solid lump. That way you can toss them into your smoothie as needed and not end up with bananas that look like a cat snuck up onto your kitchen counter and did its business.

Once again, here is something on our ‘Cooking’ list that has nothing to do with actually cooking. I do cook, believe it or not. But as we hurtle towards summer and all of its steaming glory, I look for ways to avoid sweating like a priest at a Boy Scout convention. So keeping the stove off is a priority. It’s tough to do this and still get all the necessary daily nutritional requirements in a form that is also tasty. I love food, and I love eating yummy food. But I also put a priority (especially as a vegetarian) on eating responsibly.

[Girl21]