Wednesday, January 18, 2017

| hearty spiced lentil and spinach soup |

Started to make one of my favorite soup recipes tonight and then experimented and ended up with something else entirely. This turned out to be one of my favorite soup creations ever, so I'm going to write down the recipe for once.

2 T butter (oil, if you'd prefer)
1 diced onion
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
1/4 c dry lentils (I prefer French)
3/4 rice (I used a mixture of wild rice and white cause that's what I had on hand)
2 t smoked paprika
1 T curry
6 c vegetable broth
2 T tomato paste
1 can of coconut milk
10 oz frozen spinach
Salt and pepper to taste.

1) Sauté the onion in the melted butter or oil. When the onions are soft, add the garlic, lentils, rice and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until fragrant.
2) Add spices, broth, tomato paste, and coconut milk.
3) Add spinach and bring back up to a simmer. Cover and stir occasionally until rice and lentils are cooked (about 30-45 minutes)
4) Salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

| vegetarian mushroom stroganoff |

I was craving comfort food and sour cream, so this seemed perfect on a chilly fall night. I looked around at several recipes online and then made it up as I went. It turned out SO good.....and the whole thing came together in less than 30 minutes. Enjoy!

3 T butter
1 large onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T smoked paprika
Salt and pepper
16 oz sliced mushrooms
2-3 T flour
4 oz red wine
2 T ketchup
Dash vegetarian Worcestershire
4 oz sour cream
½-¾ c chopped fresh parsley
Noodles or rice for serving

  1. Melt butter in large skillet or sauce pan. Start boiling your water for noodles or rice in another pot. 
  2. Once butter is melted, add onions and sauté over medium heat until they start to soften. Add garlic (MEDIUM heat so it doesn’t burn). Cook 1-2 minutes. Add smoked paprika, salt, pepper. 
  3. Add mushrooms. Stir often while they cook down. Once they are about ½ the size of when they were raw and you have a fair amount of liquid they are swimming in, add your flour and whisk.
  4. Add the wine and turn up the heat. Allow to cook, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes. 
  5. Turn back down to medium heat. Add the ketchup, Worcestershire, sour cream. Cook until warmed through. 
  6. Add parsley. Stir. 
  7. Serve over rice or noodles. I also added some crispy chickpeas for protein. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

| cucumber time |

Whenever I have produce and I'm not sure what to do with it, Farmer John comes to the rescue. I bought this cookbook a few years ago. It's organized by fruit/vegetable, so you can just bring in whatever you have from the garden and find a good recipe that features it. Our cucumbers are just starting to come in and I needed a quick and easy way to use up three fresh ones yesterday. I was delighted to find this simple recipe. The end result is very similar to bread-and-butter pickles. Yum.

Serves 6-8

3 large cucumbers (about 2 pounds), peeled, very thinly sliced
1 T coarse seat salt or kosher salt
2/3 c white or apple cider vinegar
1/2 c water
1/2 c sugar
1/4 t salt (note: I didn't add this, as I felt they were already salty enough)
1/4 t pepper
2 T finely chopped fresh dill or 1 T dried dill

1) In a large bowl, use your hands to thoroughly but gently mix the cucumber and salt.
2) Place a plate on top of the cucumbers, then place a 2-3 pound weight (like a large can of vegetables) on the plate to weigh it down (this helps release the salt). Set the cucumbers aside to marinate at room temperature for several hours or in the refrigerator overnight.
3) Drain the cucumbers thoroughly in a colander and pat them dry on a clean dish towel. Rinse and dry the bowl, then return the cucumbers to the bowl. (Note: I tasted my cukes here and they were waaaaay too salty. So I rinsed them thoroughly.)
4) Mix the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, and pepper in a small pot over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring often, until the sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
5) Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the cucumber slices. Sprinkle with the dill and mix to combine.
6) Chill for at least 3 hours. Drain and serve.

Ideas: I think these would also be good with some garlic and/or crushed red pepper added to the vinegar mixture. The recipe also suggests replacing the dill with the feathery leaves from a head of fennel. Yum.

Friday, January 1, 2016

| the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever made |

For Christmas, one of my co-workers gave me a jar of cookie mix. You know the stuff. I was amazed, when I made them, to discover they were the BEST chocolate chip cookies I've ever made. Ever. They were crispy on the outside and gooey-chewy on the inside. Perfection.

The ingredients are nothing special, so I think it must have been the odd technique I used to make them. Read on for details....

Layer in a wide-mouth pint jar, pressing each layer firmly before adding next ingredient.
1/4 c white sugar
1/2 c chocolate chips
1/2 c firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/4 c flour, mixed with 1/2 t. baking soda, 1/8 t. salt

Instructions on the gift:
1) Empty cookie mix into a large mixing bowl. Use your hands to thoroughly mix it all together.
2) Add: 6 T butter VERY soft, 1 small egg, 1/2 t. vanilla.
3) Mix until completely blended. You can use a pastry cutter or fork to help you mix in the butter. You will need to finish mixing with your hands. Squish, squish.
4) Shape into balls the size of walnuts and place 2'' apart on a baking sheet with parchment paper.
5) Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. Cool 10 minutes on baking sheet, then move to rack.
Makes about 18 cookies

That's it. It's almost like making biscuits, the way I cut the butter in. I'm never getting out the stand mixer again.

| seitan breakfast hash |

I recently tried making my own seitan. Turns out, it's incredibly easy and way cheaper than buying seitan. One batch of this recipe makes about 8 times as much as what you would find in a package of seitan at the grocery store. I freeze them in plastic baggies in their broth and that seems to work really well. Side note on that recipe: I've made it without nutritional yeast and it was fine. I've also made it without chickpea flour and, again, fine.

I love this stuff. Especially at breakfast. I often dice it and mix it with whatever veggies I have in the fridge and then just eat a pile of it. Yum. I've also made some excellent biscuits and gravy with it. SUPER YUM.

Here's a recipe for some quick and delicious vegetarian hash that I made up.

1) Saute some diced onion in olive oil. As they're cooking, dice up some new potatoes - very small. Add to the mix and let them cook until the onions are soft and the potatoes are starting to get crispy in some spots.
2) Salt generously and add a dash of smoked paprika. I like to add some minced garlic, too.
3) Add some liquid so the mix can simmer (this helps the potatoes cook). If you have seitan broth, use that. Meanwhile, dice up your seitan into little chunks and a bell pepper, too, if you've got one.
4) Cook the potato and onion mix in the broth until the broth is basically gone and the potatoes are starting to get soft. Add more broth as necessary and stir occasionally.
5) Add the peppers and seitan to the mix. Cook until the peppers are starting to soften. I like to add some butter along the way to help keep things from sticking and max out the flavor.
You're done. Enjoy! I like to put some sliced avocado on top.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

| perfect brussels sprouts |

I have perfected my method for preparing Brussels sprouts. I used to do dumb stuff like steam them, which was fast, but not as tasty. Or I'd just full-on roast them, which was yummy but took forever. This method takes about 15 minutes from start to finish and they are toasty on the outside, smooth on the inside. Perfection. If you've always been scared of Brussels sprouts, give this a try. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

  1. Turn on your oven to 400.
  2. Heat a cast iron skillet with a good high-heat oil in it (i.e. not olive oil) on the stovetop. My preference is coconut oil, but canola works fine, too.
  3. As the oil melts, you can pop small sprouts in whole. Cut the larger ones in half and toss them in as you go. 
  4. Stir as it heats so things will get evenly browned. I like to add a small nob of butter here, too, but you don't have to. 
  5. Once they've been cooking for about 5 minutes, you are ready for the oven. 
  6. I like to season mine with salt, pepper, and some red pepper flakes before they go into the oven. 
  7. Let them cook in the oven for 10 minutes. 
  8. Stir. Squeeze a little lemon on and let them cool a bit. 

Fun story about Brussels sprouts: I can still clearly remember the first time I ever saw/ate one. I was probably 14 or 15 years old and visiting my grandma in the hospital. The options in the cafeteria were limited and my mom told me the Brussels sprouts would taste like cabbage. I loved cabbage, so I got some. They were AMAZING. I was instantly in love. I'm pretty sure they were just boiled or heated from frozen or something, so, in retrospect, probably not the best ever. But I was enamored. I told my husband this story and he said, "Some people are just destined to become vegetarians, I guess."

Monday, August 4, 2014

| method: soup |

I love soup. Always have. Once I figured out the basic method for making soup, I was in soup heaven. Here is my basic technique. It's a great way to use up whatever you have in the fridge and make a hearty meal or two or four. I love to make a big pot of soup at the beginning of the week for my lunches. I take a mason jar full of soup and my favorite easy salad for lunch all week long. (Sidenote: favorite easy salad is arugula with a diced hardboiled egg, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.)

Okay. Soup-making time.

1) Fat and aromatics.
Get some fat going in a big pot. Olive oil, coconut oil, canola oil, butter, whatever. 
Add in your aromatics. Things like onion, leeks, shallots, garlic, carrots, celery. Whatever you want. Tip: if you're doing garlic, don't go too hot or it will burn. Keep on a medium heat.
Saute until they start to get soft.
(Meanwhile: heat up your broth. I usually heat water in an electric tea kettle and add the liquid veggie bouillon to it. You could also just heat broth in a separate pot, of course.)

3) Other veggies and seasonings (maybe).
Rule of thumb: if you're using dried seasonings, add them now. If you don't know what kind of herb to put in, I find oregano or thyme are often a good bet. I also love to add just a hint of crushed red pepper to almost anything. (If you're using fresh herbs, save for later.)

Another fun option is to add in some wine here. A cup or two of your favorite and then save the rest of the bottle for dinner.

Add in other veggies in order of hardness. So if you've got things like cabbage, peppers, zucchini, potatoes add them sooner. Save stuff like kale, spinach, or other greens for later. Cook for a while until it starts to get softer. 

4) Protein, broth and simmering. 
If you're adding a protein, now is the time. Beans, cooked lentils, etc.

Add enough broth to cover everything. This is also a great time to add something like a can of diced tomatoes or tomato paste. 

Simmer for a while to let the flavors start to mix together. (Side note: now is also a good time for grains if you're into that: small pasta, rice, bulgur, quinoa, couscous.)

5) Finishing.
If you have remaining fresh herbs, now is the time. Salt and pepper, too. When in doubt, fresh parsley is never a bad bet. 

It's also a great time to finish with other options:
- dash of vinegar (red wine vinegar or rice white vinegar are often lovely)
- dash of lemon juice
- milk is a good option (temper* it first so it won't curdle)
- plain yogurt adds nice tang, or sour cream (again, temper*)
- a can of evaporated milk makes things really creamy
- note: do NOT mix acids with dairy or things will curdle

*Tempering is when you try to bring the dairy up to a similar temperature as the soup. So put your dairy in a separate container and then ladle in some of the broth and stir until the milk mixture starts to get pretty warm. Then stir it all into the soup slowly. Make sure the soup is either on low or off by the time you do all of this.