Stuffed Artichokes, and I love Trader Joe's

Last weekend, when I was in Spokane visiting my parents and friends, I stayed with my good friend from high school, April, who lives on the South Hill of Spokane.  Earlier this fall, or maybe it was summer, a Trader Joe's opened up on that side of town.  I had never been to one, but had heard that I would be someone who would love it.  Little surprise when April and I went last Sunday morning, I LOVED IT!  Granted, it's not as cool as some farmer's markets and co-ops I've been to, but it had great prices on their produce, and an awesome selection of products in their other sections.   I got one thing I have been looking for for a good price forever: whole, fresh artichokes.  So I decided to do a recipe on artichokes today (since some of my final projects for school are wrapping up, and I finally have some time to cook).  Today I am making Dr. Fuhrman's Stuffed Artichokes.

Dr. Fuhrman's Stuffed Artichokes

4 medium artichokes
3 stalks of fresh basil
1 c walnuts
1/2 c non-dairy milk
1 t dried oregano, or parsley
1t garlic powder

Directions:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Trim the stems and small leaves from the bottom of the artichokes.  Cut about one inch off the top so that it is flat.  Using a steamer basket and 1 inch of water in a large pot, steam the artichokes for 15 minutes, or until a fork can easily pierce the outer leaves.  (for this I used my microwave steamer, and steamed the artichokes for 8-9 minutes, checking on them periodically)  In a food processor, blend together the basil, walnuts, soy milk, and oregano or parsley.  Place the steamed artichokes up right in a small casserole dish, and separate the leaves outward to expose the inner area for the stuffing (pictured below).  Spoon the mixture into the artichokes, making sure to get into all of the crevices.  Sprinkle with garlic powder.  Bake in the casserole dish for 15 minutes.

Amy's Notes:  This dish turned out fairly well.  The stuffing was a bit bland, so I added fresh ground black pepper to the top.  In the future, I would want to make the original stuffing, then mix it with pre-cooked quinoa before stuffing it into the artichokes.  Also, I would probably drizzle on some balsamic vinegar after baking for a bit more of a zing, since the stuffing was a bit bland.  I didn't want to go overboard with adding too much to spice up the stuffing the first time for the recipe, as I tend to overdo it.  As for serving size, this would be a great add on to a meal with another dish for four people, or most of the meal for two.  I ate two of them and felt plenty full.  Make sure, when you do eat them, to not only eat the whole hearts of the artichokes, but also to scrape the bottoms of the outer leaves for their edible flesh.  Also, you don't want to eat the "fuzzy" part near the base and inside where the heart leaves are.

I have sometimes had the problem with recipe's from Dr. Fuhrman's website being too bland, although they are great nutritarian recipes at the core.  I've tried to stray away from adding any salt, so I find myself adding fresh ground black pepper, balsamic vinegar, or cayenne pepper to dishes to spice them up, and make them more interesting.  After all, eating a nutritarian, plant-strong diet is all about making vegetables the center of your meal, but also enjoying them!  I've been thinking about other ingredients I could add to dishes to make them more interesting and enjoyable.  I've seen a few recipe with a "smokey flavor" extract added, or nutritional yeast to give dishes a cheesy taste.  Maybe I will have to try one of those.

What are some of your go-to ingredients to kick-up the flavor of a more bland recipe?

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