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Stuffed portabellas

August 7, 2012
By Wendy Monro - Simply Food Writer , The Journal

One of my very best friends, Jules, and her children spent last week with us here in Las Vegas. We had an amazing time. I loved pretending to be a tourist.

We ate appetizers and sipped wine at Sedona, our local bar. We spent the day at the Golden Nugget pool where the children slid through a tube slide in the middle of a giant shark tank. The kids spent a day at The Adventure Dome while Jules and I visited a psychic.

We also encountered a few things that were new to me. We sniffed flavored oxygen while watching the Freemont Street Experience light show. Jules hated it although she laughed the whole time. I was happy to have tried it but probably wouldn't do this again. We took pictures in front of the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign. I see people doing this all of the time but never stopped to do it myself. We strolled through the World's Largest Souvenir Store. Jules kept calling it Silverneer instead of souvenir. Now, it will always be a "silverneer" shop as far as I'm concerned. I always wondered what they had in there. Now I know. We also ate at Oscar's, which is an incredible restaurant and was the setting for one of the scenes in the movie "Casino". Claud ordered the small cut of prime rib. It was so big when it arrived that we had to ask the waitress to make sure this was the small portion. It was! The sauted garlic spinach was the best I had ever tasted.

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Stuffed Portabella Mushroom

We did prepare homemade meals too. I made a traditional English breakfast for her since she is from the U.K. We made a huge feast one night with roasted chicken, spaghetti squash, spaghetti with marinara sauce, a spring salad with truffle oil and fettuccini alfredo. I was trying to please everyone (all four kids especially). I think it worked as we ate everything. While we cooked this dinner, Jules and I talked about mushrooms as I poured truffle oil over the spring greens. She told me she couldn't stand the texture of mushrooms but loved the flavor. She loves truffle oil but couldn't eat a slice of mushroom on its own. I remembered that I too didn't like mushrooms years ago. I love them now.

In fact, last week, I made these delicious stuffed portabellas. Good thing I didn't make them for Jules. She wouldn't have been able to eat a whole huge portabella. Daphne and I loved them. We loved them so much that we didn't save any for Claud to try when he came home from work. We ate all four pieces. We couldn't help it. I was trying to come up with a different version of stuffed mushroom, something that was a meal in itself. First, I marinated the mushrooms in balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and basil. Sometimes, I marinate the mushrooms this way and just grill them. This is a delicious way to enjoy portabellas. This time, I wanted to take it a bit further. Instead of grilling them, I placed them into the oven.

While they roasted, I prepared the filling. I have been using a lot of cashews lately in my recipes. They are a great way to naturally sweeten up dishes and to make sauces creamy without the use of cream or butter.

Fact Box

Recipe

Serves: 4 (unless you are gluttonous like Daphne and I were)

Time: 45 minutes

Marinated portabellas:

6 portabella mushrooms

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1/4cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon basil, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking dish with foil. Coat the mushrooms in olive oil. In a small bowl, mix remaining ingredients. Pour this mixture into the mushroom caps. Heat in oven for fifteen minutes.

Cashew Paste:

1 1/2 cup cashews

(soak in water for an hour)

1/4 cup nutritional yeast (optional)

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 clove garlic, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients into food processor and blend well. Fill mushroom caps with this mixture. Return to oven for 5 7 minutes.

Pesto:

2 cloves garlic

1/3 cup pine nuts

3 cups basil

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup vegan mozzarella or regular

Parmesan cheese

Dash of salt and pepper to taste

Mix garlic, pine nuts, and basil into a food processor and blend well. Slowly pour in the oil while it mixes. Pour into a small bowl and mix in cheese, salt and pepper. Place a dollop onto each mushroom.

Although cashews are high in calories (ten nuts contain 160 calories), they are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and raise good cholesterol (HDL). Cashews have high fiber content and have loads of vitamins and minerals. In this version of stuffed mushrooms, I create the stuffing with a creamy garlic cashew paste. I filled the roasted portabellas with this creamy mixture and placed them back into the oven.

I decided to incorporate some basil since this is the only thing that seems to be growing in my garden and I have lots of it. Yes, my desert garden is a failure. When I was in California, something came and ate everything, except the basil. I picked a bunch of basil leaves, tossed them into the food processor and made some pesto. Once the cashew paste was heated up, I topped them off with the pesto and a twig of parsley. Daphne and I grabbed a couple of plates, knives and forks and dug right in. I thought one would be enough. I thought wrong. We each ate two. They were so good! I couldn't believe how much Daphne enjoyed them. Who knows, some day Jules might get over her distaste for the texture of mushrooms like I did. Then, I could make these for her when she comes out to visit another time. Until then, Daphne and I will eat them all.

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