grilled vegetable sandwiches

Summer is ending.  Fall is arriving…slowly, but arriving.  We had a couple of evenings recently where we sat on the patio and enjoyed what had the makings of a cool breeze.  I think we’ve survived another desert summer!  Which is good and bad, because that means summer veggies are going by the wayside.  But it also means fall root veggies, key to many comfort foods and soups, will be in abundant supply.

While flipping through a cookbook looking for something entirely different, I came across these grilled veggie sandwiches which sounded (and looked) delicious.  My usual cooking routine includes incorporating a meatless meal or two each week.  And, since no one has put up too much of a fight, I’m not rocking that boat.  These veggie sandwiches were the perfect meatless meal, and made for a tiny celebration of the end of the season by using the last of the summer veggies.  For those of you in colder climates, the benefits will be two-fold: enjoying the last of summer vegetables and lighting up the grill one more time – before the lid is frozen shut!  Enjoy!!

Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches (recipe courtesy Cooking Light Superfast Suppers, Oxmoor House Publishing)






  • 2 Tbsp light mayo
  • 1 Tbsp fresh chopped basil
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into eighths
  • 1 (1 lb) eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 sweet onion, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
  • Cooking spray
  • 4 ciabatta rolls, sliced in half
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced


  • Prepare grill.
  • Combine mayo and minced basil; cover and chill.
  • Combine oil and next 3 ingredients in a large bowl.  Add bell pepper, eggplant, onion, and zucchini to dressing mixture;; toss vegetables to coat.
  • Place bell pepper and eggplant on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill about 6 minutes.  Add onion and zucchini; grill 5 minutes.  Turn vegetables often, baste with dressing, and cook just until tender.  Remove from grill and keep warm.
  • Place bread on grill, cut side down, and grill 2 minutes.  Turn bread, cut side up, and place half of cheese slices on bottom half of bread.  Grill 1 minute or until cheese begins to melt.
  • Spread mayo mixture over top half of bread.  Top bottom half with vegetables, remaining cheese slices, and top half of bread.
  • Serve immediately.

sandwich©zouptonuts***Cook’s Notes:  I used a grill basket for the veggies, which made worries about losing vegetables through the grill grates a non-issue.  Choose a nice, hearty roll.  The ciabattas are great because they hold up well to the moisture from the dressing, grilled veggies, and melted cheese.  Also, I came across this little gem while working on the post; the website for the book Simply in Season, which offers a fruit and vegetable guide for tips on how to choose, store, prepare, and use selected fruits and vegetables.  Good stuff!

orange julius

It’s hot.  While I was frittering away time in the air conditioning going through some of my mom’s old cookbooks, I came across an undated version of God’s Country Cookbook, a compilation of recipes from the women of Central United Methodist Church in Traverse City, Michigan.  My brother-in-law’s dad, Dean Bailey, was formerly the senior minister at Central United Methodist.  I’ve lost track of the years he served, now, but I’m guessing this cookbook to have been put together sometime in the early 1990s.

During that time, I spent a few Sundays at CUMC.  My oldest niece was baptized in the sanctuary there; the younger two each on the shores of East Grand Traverse Bay during CUMC Worship in the Park.  Last summer, only months after my own mom passed away very suddenly, my brother-in-law’s mom, Jan, passed away unexpectedly, as well, and during our annual pilgrimage to the Leelanau Peninsula last July, we celebrated her life with family and friends in the sanctuary at CUMC.

So it was with a bittersweet, tear-stung desire for relief from the heat I came across this recipe in this particular cookbook…memories of my mom scrawled in handwritten notes in the margins, and the realization of the upcoming anniversary of Jan’s death.  And also, by golly, that Methodist women bake a lot of casseroles!

That just needed to be said.  Things were getting a little heavy there.

Now, back to the heat, and ice cubes, and frozen concentrate, and relief from an already oppressive summer when summer hasn’t yet begun.  These were so fun to make and are the liquefied version of a Good Humor™ Creamsicle.  Delicious!!  For the record, this is not a thirst-quenching beverage.  If you want to quench your thirst, drink a glass of ice water or a frosty beer.  An Orange Julius is all about the pretty, and the fun, and beating the heat on a hot day with your kids during summer vacation.  Our forecast is creeping up on 110°.  I think it’s safe to say I’ll be making these again.  Enjoy!


Orange Julius


  • 12 oz can frozen orange juice
  • 1 c. water
  • 2 c. low-fat milk
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 10 or 12 ice cubes


Blend all ingredients in a blender.  Serve immediately.  This can also be frozen and re-blended for serving at a later time.  It doesn’t get any easier than that!



meat-of-choice teriyaki

This recipe came from one of my many, many Pinterest pins (can you say, “Get a life?”).  Actually, it’s so easy to pin from anywhere now that killing time at gymnastics or swim lessons or waiting for school to let out is a lot more productive.  (You can follow my pins here, if you’d like).  And Pinterest is absolutely overflowing with amazing recipes I can save for later, or a rainy day, or the day my husband comes home from the doc and tells me his cholesterol is too high.  Huh??  Ok, that’s just genetic, but to the extent I can make my already healthy cooking healthier?  Yeah, I’m in.  I kinda want to keep him around for a while.

The original recipe was for Teriyaki Turkey Tenderloins (say that three times fast), but my butcher was out of turkey tenderloins.  And, hey, it’s teriyaki.  Doesn’t that pretty much go with everything?  So, while I ended up using chicken breasts, any meat will do: chicken, turkey, pork, your choice.  It was also a little different from my standard teriyaki with the addition of sesame oil and chili-garlic paste.  The chili-garlic gave this version a nice kick and a little heat, but not overpowering.  I’ll definitely use it again – maybe on the last of the shrimp in the freezer now that my healthy cooking just got healthier.  Enjoy!

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Teriyaki Chicken


  • turkey breast tenderloins, chicken breasts, or pork tenderloin (meat-of-choice), approx 1 – 1 1/2 lbs
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbps fresh ginger, grated
  • ½ c  low-sodium soy sauce
  • ½ c orange juice
  • ½ Tbps sesame oil
  • 2 Tbps rice vinegar
  • Juice of one lemon
  • ½ Tbps chili garlic paste (optional, or cut back quantity to taste)
  1. Place meat-of-choice in a resealable plastic bag and set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients and pour in to resealable bag containing your meat-of-choice.
  3. Marinate at least 30 minutes or overnight.
  4. Pre-heat grill to medium high heat.
  5. Place your meat-of-choice on the grill and cook to recommended temp (have a meat thermometer handy).
  6. Let rest at least 5 minutes before slicing.


mediterranean-style stuffed pork tenderloin

Let me start by saying I’m particularly challenged when it comes to stuffing food with other food: tortillas, burritos, lettuce wraps and, apparently, pork tenderloin.  While I’m incredibly diligent about portion sizes when I’m eating, I seem to lose all sense of proportion during preparation.  So, while it was clear to  me I had more than enough stuffing to fill my tenderloin adequately, I used all of it.  Every last morsel.  I hate to waste, you know, and if I didn’t use it I’d probably have just sloughed it  into the trash.  Senseless, I think.  Because when push comes to shove, I’ll just make it fit (as you’ll see in the photos below).  Hey, this isn’t a professional photo shoot, here.  I make it, I shoot it, we eat it.  I don’t have time to “style” my food.

Ignoring the obvious over-stuffing, this recipe is fantastic. super healthy, and brimming with an incredible array of flavors.  Since pork is a super lean meat, the dish comes by that flavor via lots of other good-for-you ingredients.  The red pepper, capers, pine nuts, and feta cheese play off each other perfectly and give the meal a truly Mediterranean flair.  It’s heart-healthy, low-fat, and high in protein.  I served it with a mixed grain rice and a small salad since the stuffing is full of veggies, anyway.  We love it.  Hope you try it and enjoy!

Mediterranean-style Stuffed Pork Tenderloin


  • 1 lb pork tenderloin, butterflied and pounded flat
  • 1 red pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 6 oz spinach
  • 1/4 c pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp capers, depending on preference (you can also use pitted Kalamata olives)
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 c low-fat Feta cheese, crumbled
  • kitchen twine
Heat olive oil in pan over medium heat. Add finely chopped red pepper and saute for several minutes.  Add garlic and saute until fragrant.  Be careful not to scorch the garlic.  Add spinach, cooking until wilted, then remove from heat.
Butterfly the pork tenderloin (cut vertically down the middle but not entirely through the pork), and use meat hammer to flatten, being careful not to break through the pork. Place hammered pork over three or four long strands of kitchen twine.  Add the spinach and red pepper mixture, spreading across the flattened meat.  Next, add nuts, capers, and Feta cheese.  Gently roll the pork together and secure with the kitchen twine.
Rub the pork with olive oil and bake at 375° F for about 40-60 minutes (depending on the size of the pork roll).  I usually check with a meat thermometer and pull the meat from the oven when internal temp reaches 140.  Let rest for 5 minutes, slice, and serve.

lentil soup with beef

We went up to the mountains last weekend to celebrate my (ahem) 29th birthday…again!  When I told non-Arizonan friends we went “up north,” I was questioned about what it means, exactly, to go “up north” in Arizona.  Personally, it’s pretty much anywhere it isn’t 90 degrees on my birthday.  For us, that meant stealing off to Pine, AZ, located about 110 miles northeast of the valley and tucked into the mountains just below the Mogollon Rim.  At 5,500 feet of elevation, it meant I got to wear jeans and socks and real shoes.  With closed toes!!  Ahhhhh…

It also meant I didn’t have to cook because, you see, it was my birthday weekend, and those duties were off-limits to me.  I got to sit on the porch and drink red wine and read.  I got to relax and hike and see some pretty spectacular scenery.  Perfect for a birthday weekend, if you ask me.

We did eat a couple of meals out, including lunch one day at a cute little mom-and-pop restaurant called The Randall House.  The air was cool, the fall leaves were crunchy underfoot, and the sun was shining brightly in a gorgeous blue sky.  The day called for lunch in the shade on the patio and a cup of their homemade Beef and Lentil Soup.

Needless to say, I was disappointed at the end.  Disappointed it was gone.  Disappointed I hadn’t ordered a bowl instead of a cup.  Disappointed they wouldn’t give me the super-secret recipe!!  So, of course, when we got home I set out to replicate the amazing soup I’d had at The Randall House.  It had to be done!  It was of such urgency, I didn’t even photograph the prep work.

This recipe was super easy and came courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis at The Food Network.  If I set out to recreate a really good bowl of homemade soup, this recipe was spot on.  The soup is incredibly flavorful and hearty.  My only adaptation to the recipe was to reduce the amount of beef stock.  I have a pretty large Dutch Oven, but the original recipe called for 84 ounces (more than 10 cups) of beef stock.  I think I used about 6 cups of beef stock.  This made the soup a bit thicker, but I prefer heartier to too-thin broth.  Eyeball it.  If it looks too thick, add more stock.


Lentil Soup with Beef


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 large celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 6 (14-ounce) cans low-sodium beef broth
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 2 cups (about 11 ounces) lentils, rinsed
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves (optional)


Sprinkle the beef with salt and pepper.  Heat the oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat.  Add half of the beef and cook until brown, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining beef.

Add the celery, carrots, onion, garlic, rosemary, and oregano to the pot. Saute until the onions are translucent, about 8 minutes. Return the beef and any accumulated juices from the bowl to the pot.

Add the broth and tomatoes with their juice. Bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the meat is just tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.

Add the lentils. Cover and continue simmering until the lentils are tender, about 40 minutes. Stir in the parsley. Season the soup, to taste, with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.