Simple vegan winter squash soup

September 30, 2021 at 10:04 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot)) ()

This is another base recipe from Amy Chaplin’s Whole Food Cooking Every Day. Compared to the Cook’s Illustrated butternut squash soup recipe I used to make, it’s much simpler, and much less rich.

All you do is saute some onion in a large pot, add some garlic and salt, then the squash (unpeeled if you’re using red kuri as I was, and cut into large cubes) and water. You simmer the squash until it crushes easily against the side of the pot (around 12 to 15 minutes). You let it cool slightly then puree in batches in an upright blender. Done. The soup had a lovely smooth texture, bright color, and a simple, clean taste. It reminds me a lot of the squash soup I got years ago at Hangawi in New York City. The flavor was just a tad boring, but I guess that’s what I get for making the base version. It was better when we added chili flakes to it. Roasted pepitas or a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil would have also been nice. Next time I should make one of the variations, like squash soup with ginger, turmeric and miso or rosemary squash soup with toasted-hazelnut milk. You can find the base recipe and the hazelnut variation here.

This recipe made a ton of soup. (The recipe says it makes 2.5 quarts.) The three of us ate it for dinner, then Derek and I each had a bowl for lunch, and I still had quite a bit to freeze. It says it freezes well, so I’m looking forward to pulling it out one night when I’m in a rush and need a hot vegetable-based appetizer or side dish.

Alma seemed to enjoy it. At least she ate it without complaint and had a small bowl for seconds.

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No-bake sesame chocolate squares

September 30, 2021 at 9:48 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Brownies and bars, Granola & energy bars, Website / blog)

In one of my parenting groups someone was raving about these no-bake chocolate sesame squares from the book Sugarproof. I love sesame in desserts, and I love chocolate, so I had to try them.

The recipe is pretty simple, you just dump 8 oz of pitted dates in a food processor along with 3/4 cup sesame seeds, 1/3 cup tahini, 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1/3 cup cocoa powder, 2 Tbs. water, and a pinch of salt. You pulse it all until the mixture starts to pull away from the sides of the food processor and collect towards the center. My mixture didn’t pull away, even after quite a while. I had to add quite a bit more water to get it to congeal into a solid mass. But other than that the bars came out well. They remind me a lot of Lara bars, just sesame flavored. I’ve tried to make “halvah balls” before without so much success. These had a better texture, if less halvah-esque.

I gave one bar to Alma in her school snack and she told me it was very good. I’m going to freeze the rest and bring them out occasionally when we are in the mood for something sweet and chocolatey.

Also, one more note. A full 8oz of dates is a lot! I guess if you don’t use refined sweeteners you need a lot of dates to make it taste sweet like a dessert.

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Detailed review of the LunchBots Medium Trio snack container

September 22, 2021 at 10:59 pm (Equipment reviews)

Years ago I bought a big “Laptop lunch box” with four separate compartments that Chickpea used last year in Kindergarten, but it’s a pain to clean and I think four compartments are too many for a mid-morning snack. It’s also big— 9x9x2.5 inches! I wanted something smaller and simpler to pack. I also wanted something stainless steel not plastic. I read various reviews of small stainless lunch boxes. Of the reviews compendiums I read, I found the lunchbox reviews from kidseatincolor the most helpful.

85F00F0D-9F0F-4E8B-91BB-68FF9A74053AI ended up choosing a LunchBots Medium Trio snack container, which is stainless steel and dishwasher safe. It’s relatively expensive, but I’ve read good reviews and heard they last forever. And compared to the Planetbox Rover, which many people rave about, it’s positively cheap! I thought about buying the lunchbox medium duo (with two compartments) instead, but I figured the trio’s three compartments are good for my “one fruit, one veggie, one filling thing” approach. Below I give more details on the size and organization, leakage and useful accessories, and durability and ease of cleanup.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Packed lunchbox ideas for school snack, school breakfast, or school lunch

September 22, 2021 at 9:59 am (Monthly menu plan)

Now that Alma has started school, she has to bring in a morning snack. They call it “breakfast”, but she actually eats breakfast at home, so I think of it more as a snack. She eats breakfast at home sometime between 7 and 7:30am, snack from 10-10:15am, and lunch around 1:15pm I think. Since she only has about 15 minutes to eat snack, I can’t pack anything too ambitious. [Update: She’s since told me that on days they don’t have theatre or gym class, they are usually allowed to eat more of their snack when they come in from recess, at 11am.]

So what do I pack? I’ve been trying to stick with the general pattern of a fruit, a vegetable, and something filling (with protein or fat or both), and occasionally something extra yummy (which may be the filling thing, or may be in addition). I downloaded the free “veggie exposure shopping list and menu planner” from Kidseatincolor, but I didn’t find it all that helpful or comprehensive. So I decided to make my own list that I can look at when I needs some ideas. Below I’ve listed my ideas so far, along with Alma’s assessment. But if other people have more ideas for me, please post a comment!

I’m also taking pictures of many of the snacks (and some breakfasts) that I pack, with before and after photos (when I remember!). You can see them here.

For a while Alma was finishing her snack in the car on the way to after school care (when I picked her up at 12:30pm). But lately she has stopped doing that. I assume that she is now more confident in the after school lunch, and is waiting for that instead. Sometimes she finishes her snack if she’s hungry before dinner.

I’m going to post a separate post shortly about the lunchbox and accessories I’ve been using. Read the rest of this entry »

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Delicate, delicious, gluten-free, low-sugar muffins

September 19, 2021 at 10:45 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Monthly menu plan, Muffins and quick breads, Other) ()

This is the second recipe I’ve tried from “Whole Food Cooking Every Day: Transform the way you eat with 250 vegetarian recipes free of gluten, dairy, and refined sugar” by Amy Chaplin. I’m always looking for muffin recipes that don’t just feel like (a) more wheat in our lives, and (b) dessert in disguise. Chaplin has three base muffin recipes in her book—a vegan gluten-free recipe, a gluten-free recipe with eggs, and a grain-free recipe. Then she has a bunch of flavor variations that you can combine with any of the base recipes. I made the gluten-free recipe with eggs as my base, and tried two different flavor combinations: spiced seeded winter squash muffins and zucchini, lemon, and walnut muffins. Read the rest of this entry »

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Salad dressings from Whole Food Cooking Every Day

September 11, 2021 at 10:03 pm (B_(2.5 stars, like), Other, Sauce/dressing) ()

My Kindle recommended the book “Whole Food Cooking Every Day: Transform the way you eat with 250 vegetarian recipes free of gluten, dairy, and refined sugar” by Amy Chaplin. It was free to borrow on Kindle Unlimited so I decided to check it out. I am intrigued by the cookbook’s sthtick: each section has a number of “base recipes” that are meant to be staples, plus several variations for each one so that you feel like you’re getting variety even if you’re basically making the same recipes over and over. I would like to try some of her breakfast porridge recipes, and her muffins and granola. (I really need more breakfast ideas), but for most of those recipes I need to get some additional ingredients. So instead I decided to try one of her salad dressings, for which I already had everything on hand. Plus I’ve been wanting to find a new salad dressing that everyone likes. I decided to start with the first dressing in her book, which is for a raw zucchini dressing. I made the base recipe then removed half and made one of the variations by adding mint and dill and shiso leaves. I didn’t love it at that point and added some fresh basil, and at that point I thought it tasted good.

Ingredients for zucchini dressing (base recipe):

  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch chunks (about 1 3/4 cups)
  • 1 (3-inch) piece scallion, white and light green parts only, coarsely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil or cold-pressed flaxseed oil
  • 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt, plus more to taste

Instructions:

Combine the zucchini, scallion, lime juice, oil, and salt in an upright blender and blend until smooth, starting on a lower speed and gradually increasing it as the dressing comes together. Use a rubber spatula (with the blender off) to help move the ingredients around as necessary, or use the tamper stick if using a high-powered blender. Adjust the seasoning to taste—some variations with lots of extra herbs will need more salt. Scrape down the sides and blend again. Use immediately, or store in a glass jar in the fridge for up to 3 days. Shake well before using. The dressing will thicken once chilled; thin it out with a little water if needed.

My notes:

I had the herbed zucchini dressing on my salad and it was fine but I didn’t love it. I think maybe it was just too much lime? Later I tried the dressing on tofu and I thought it was delicious, and then after that on falafel. Also a winner. I think it’s so acidic it goes better on salty savory protein-rich foods, rather than salad. Derek liked the original version better than the herb version. But he also didn’t like it on his salad. Alma wouldn’t try it on the salad, but ate it happily on pan-fried tofu slices and on zucchini. Zucchini dressing on zucchini. Funny. I am curious to try it as a dipping sauce for spring rolls. The zucchini dressing in the book comes with a number of variations, including this golden citrus zucchini dressing, which sounds interesting.

The author says the dressings can’t be frozen. I wonder why. Mom, do you know? Is it the raw zucchini?

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Fava, spinach, potato burgers

June 21, 2021 at 10:17 pm (Beans, Beans and greens, B_(2.5 stars, like), Dark leafy greens, Ottolenghi)

We wanted to try a new burger recipe and chose this recipe for fava bean burgers out of the cookbook Plenty by Ottolenghi. It was a lot of work! It has a lot of steps and gets a lot of dishes dirty:

  1. Dry-fry some spices then grind them. (Skillet 1, spice grinder)
  2. Wilt the spinach, let it cool, squeeze out the water and chop it. (Skillet 1, sieve 1)
  3. Blanch the fava beans in boiling water then peel off all the skins. (Pot 1, sieve 1)
  4. Boil the potatoes. (Pot 1, sieve 1)
  5. Chop garlic, a green chile, and cilantro.
  6. Mash up the fava beans, potatoes, ground seeds, green chile, garlic, turmeric and oil, then add in the wilted spinach, chopped cilantro, breadcrumbs, and a egg. (bowl 1, maybe can be done in pot 1?)
  7. Chill the mixture for at least 30 minutes.
  8. Make patties and fry them in a skillet for 5 minutes on each side. (Skillet 2, or clean skillet 1)

So you can see that this recipe uses at a minimum a skillet, a pot, a sieve, a spice grinder, and a bowl, and probably a bit more than that. Oh man, if I had read the whole thing through carefully I don’t think I would have made this recipe! I thought I was skip peeling the fava beans, but I had some frozen ones from our local Turkish store and they just wouldn’t mash with the skins on, and they were bitter, so I ended up peeling most of them. Derek and I thought the burgers tasted reasonably good, but Alma wouldn’t touch them, even with ketchup.

In the end, I don’t think the recipe is worth all the trouble or oil. (The recipe calls for 3 Tbs. olive oil for the batter and another 1/2 cup sunflower oil to fry the burgers in.)

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Orange almond cream of wheat

May 13, 2021 at 12:34 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast)

I bought semolina to make a semolina gratin a while back, and was trying to figure out what to do with the leftover semolina. Alma was advocating for oatmeal but I decided to use some of the leftover semolina to make cream of wheat for breakfast, or as it’s known in Germany, Grießbrei. The semolina package from Alnatura had a recipe for Orange-Grießflammerie on the side of the package. I’m not sure what Flammerie means. I thought maybe you are supposed to caramelize the top, but I don’t see anything about that in the instructions. I didn’t have an orange to zest so I used some homemade bitter orange marmalade that a friend gave us. It added a wonderful orange flavor that complemented the almonds nicely. And the ground almonds added some interesting texture to the dish. Everyone liked this recipe. Alma mixed in some of her hot cocoa to turn hers into orange almond chocolate cream of wheat.

The recipe as published has you make a sauce with fresh orange, orange juice, and Schmand (sour cream?), but I didn’t have any of those ingredients so I served the dish plain.

Ingredients:

  • 500 ml whole milk (I used 500g)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons of honey (I didn’t measure, just used the very end that was left in a jar. I poured the hot milk in then shook.)
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 1 pinch salt
  • zest from half an orange (I didn’t have any, so I used a big spoonful of bitter orange marmlade)
  • 100g semolina
  • 1 package vanilla sugar (I added a dash of vanilla extract)
  • 150ml orange juice (I left this out and added a bit more milk instead)
  • fruit of an orange, cut into slices
  • 200g Schmand (I think this is sour cream, but I didn’t have any so I left it out)

Instructions:

  1. Add the milk, honey, ground almonds, salt, and orange zest (or marmelade) to a 2-quart pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  2. Whisk in the semolina and turn the heat to very low. Keep stirring until the semolina turns into a mass. Turn off the heat, stir in the vanilla, and let cool a bit. Add more milk to thin to your desired consistency.
  3. If you want something a bit fancier, make a sauce out of the orange juice, Schmand and orange pieces and serve the cream of wheat with a dollop of sauce on top.

The recipe says it serves 4 but we ate the entire pot for breakfast along with some fruit salad and cottage cheese (which only I ate). The plain Grießbrei recipe on the other side of the package also says it serves 4 but calls for 200g semolina and 1 liter of milk.

  • 1 liter whole milk
  • 40g butter
  • 4 teaspoons raw sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 200g semolina

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Tofu and veg in turmeric lemon grass broth

April 20, 2021 at 9:04 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Deborah Madison, East and SE Asia, Silken tofu, soup, Tofu)

This is a quick thai-inspired recipe from the cookbook Vegetarian Supper from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen. It’s basically tofu and quick-cooking vegetables simmered in just a small amount of vibrant yellow, flavorful liquid. The first time I made it I added a few tablespoons of coconut milk, and both Derek and I really enjoyed it. It’s like a really quick thai curry without much broth at all. For my veggies I used asparagus and snow peas (from the freezer). But I used more than a handful. Maybe a few cups? I bought somen noodles for this recipe, but then forgot to cook them ahead of time, and was too hungry to wait, so we just ate the dish without rice or noodles.

I didn’t measure all that carefully. I bought 3 lemongrass stalks and used all 3, and more than one slice of ginger, and kaffir lime leaves instead of lime zest. Rather than just throw out the veggies after straining them I decided to try simmering them again, and the second batch of broth also turned out very flavorful. So I think I’d probably use more of the broth veggies and quite a bit more water—maybe 4 cups? Or at least make a second batch of broth after the first one.

Alma tasted one bite and said she didn’t like it. It was a little spicy, but even if I had left the jalapeno out I doubt she would have eaten it. I wonder how I can get her used to the flavors of a thai curry?

The recipe:

First make the broth. In a small sauce bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until reduced to about 3/4 cup:

  • 3 Tbs. chopped fresh or frozen lemon grass
  • 2 slices fresh ginger
  • grated zest of 1 lime (I couldn’t find organic limes so used a few kaffir lime leaves)
  • 2 cilantro sprigs
  • 1.5 cups water
  • big pinch of salt

Strain the broth and add

  • 1 Tbs. soy sauce or fish sauce
  • 1 Tbs. brown sugar or maple syrup

While the broth is simmering, make the tofu and veggies.

  • 2 garlic cloves thinly sliced
  • 1 carton soft tofu, drained and cubed
  • 1 tsp. toasted peanut oil (I didn’t have any so used toasted sesame oil)
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 scallions, including 2 inches of the greens, diagonally sliced
  • 1/2 jalapeno chile, finely diced
  • a handful of quick cooking vegetables, like sugar snap peas, edamame, asparagus tips, baby bok choy, or even diced cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • a dash of coconut milk (optional)
  • 1 cup cooked sticky rice or 1 oz. dry somen noodles, cooked (optional)
  • 2 Tbs. cilantro leaves (for garnish)
  • lime wedges (for the table)

Heat a medium skillet, add the oil, and when it’s hot add the garlic onion, scallions and chile. Stir-fry over high heat for 30 seconds, then add the veg, turmeric and tofu. Pour in the strained broth, then simmer until the veg is brigh green and tender-crisp and the tofu is hot, usually a few minutes. Taste for salt. Add the rice or noodles to the dish, if using, then garnish with 2 Tbs. cilantro leaves and serve with lime wedges.

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Swiss chard and herb fritters

April 2, 2021 at 8:25 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Dark leafy greens, Monthly menu plan, Ottolenghi, Turkish)

This is another recipe from the cookbook Jerusalem by Ottolenghi. The fritters are basically pureed swiss chard and herbs mixed with eggs and a little flour and feta cheese. You make them into little pancakes and pan-fry them. They are a great way to use up a random selection of leafy greens and herbs. Read the rest of this entry »

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Roasted cauliflower and hazelnut salad

April 1, 2021 at 8:14 pm (Cruciferous rich, Ottolenghi, Salads, unrated, Winter recipes)

Derek chose this recipe from Ottolenghi’s cookbook Jerusalem. It has you roast the cauliflower, then mix it with roasted chopped hazelnuts, parsley, pomegranate seeds, allspice, sherry vinegar, maple syrup, and celery. Derek left out the pomegranate seeds and I couldn’t find any decent cauliflower, so we used romanesco instead. But the instructions say to roast the cauliflower for 25 to 55 minutes, and I forgot to mention to Derek that romanesco cooks more quickly than cauliflower. So when he checked it after 25 minutes it was overdone. He made the salad anyway, and said it was pretty good. Alma, predictably, didn’t like it, and I found it quite strange. The sweet dressing with maple syrup and allspice just didn’t work for me. We’ve made a classic Italian dish with cauliflower and raisins and olives before, and I haven’t liked that combo that much either. The one thing that both Derek and I liked in this recipe was the crisp celery. It was the best part.

Maybe we should try the recipe again, using cauliflower and not overcooking it, and adding the pomegranate seeds. But I’m still worried about all that allspice. A generous 1/4 tsp. is quite a lot of allspice.

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Red lentil and chana dal

March 4, 2021 at 10:05 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, From a friend, Indian)

My sister told me recently that she tried one of the chana dal recipes on this blog and she wasn’t too impressed. She said it was okay, but it just wasn’t right somehow. So when a friend of mine (Satnam Singh) posted his own red lentil and chana dahl recipe on Facebook, we decided to give it a try. Satnam said the recipe is based on one this his mom (Dalip Kaur) makes, but he modified it a bit based on the Tadka dal recipe in the Bombay Brasserie cookbook. We made it (albeit with much less chili powder than called for) and enjoyed it. Alma, predictably, wouldn’t touch it.

Satnam gave me permission to share it on my blog. Below I’ve modified his recipe to use typical American spelling and terms. 

Lentils 

  • 300g masoor dal (peeled and split red lentils)
  • 150g chana dal (split gram)
  • 3 tsp. turmeric 
  • 2 tsp. chili powder (Indian, not Mexican!)
  • 2 ½ tsp. fine salt
  • 8.5 cups water
  • fresh cilantro to garnish
  • Frozen curry leaves (optional)

Tempering 

  • 4 Tbsp. oil
  • 4 large onions (about 1.2 kg), chopped 
  • 2 tsp. whole cumin seeds 
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed or chopped
  • 1 cm ginger, chopped
  • 4 green chilis, seeded and chopped (optional, we used 2 jalapenos without seeds)
  • 4 tsp. Kashmiri chili powder (we couldn’t find any Kashmiri chili powder, plus the dal was spicy enough for us, so we just omitted this!)
  • 4 tomatoes, coarsely chopped or a 400g can of chopped tomatoes (total weight should be 400g, not drained weight)

 Instructions: 

  1. Mix masoor dal, chana dal, turmeric, chili powder, salt, and water in a large (4 to 5 quart) pot. Bring to a boil. This takes about 10 minutes on a large burner.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low (3 of 9 on my stove) with lid slightly ajar. Simmer vigorously until the liquid is absorbed and the chana dal is breaking down. Stir occasionally to avoid the dal sticking to the bottom of the pot. This takes approximately 50 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, chop your garlic, ginger, chili peppers, and onion.
  4. Heat the oil in a frying pan. When hot add the cumin seeds and fry until they crackle.  Add garlic and continue frying, stirring occasionally until the aroma of cooked garlic is evident. 
  5. Add the onion and continue frying on medium until the onion soft, very lightly browned around the edges, and starting to become sweet (but not caramelized).
  6. Stir in the green chillies, ginger and chilli powder and continue frying for 1.5 minutes. 
  7. Stir in the tomatoes. 
  8. Pour tempering over lentils and stir. 
  9. Mix in the cilantro leaves. Garnish with a few dried red chilies if you’re trying to impress your date.

Note: Satnam says he doesn’t bother to rinse the dal—he just checks it for stones. He also doesn’t bother to skim the foam off the top when it comes to a boil. He said you can omit the tomatoes if you want—his Mom doesn’t use them. The tomatoes are inspired by the Tadka Dal recipe from the Bombay Brasserie cookbook (a cookbook written by the the chef at a fancy Indian restaurant in London). He said they add raw chopped fresh tomatoes at the end, but lightly blended canned tomatoes are a fine substitute. Satnam advises that if you want to freeze the dal, not to add the tempering. Instead, make and add the tempering for each batch of lentils when they are needed.

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Double chocolate peanut butter cookies

December 25, 2020 at 11:25 pm (Cookies, Derek's faves, Website / blog)

Over our winter break this year we decided to bake cookies. We decided that each of us would get to pick out which kind of cookies we wanted to make. Derek chose almond crescent cookies, and Alma chose double chocolate peanut butter cookies. We’ve made a vegan version in the past, but Derek wasn’t so excited about them, so he picked this Food 52 recipe to try instead.

The recipe is pretty easy, as it has you melt the butter and the peanut butter together in a pan, making it easy to incorporate the peanut butter into the batter. Other than that step it’s basically a one-bowl recipe.

It calls for black cocoa powder, but I couldn’t find it so I just used our regular dutched cocoa powder. The amount of sugar seemed quite high, presumably to compensate for the bitterness of the black cocoa powder. I cut it down a bit by not filling the 1/2 cup measuring cup with sugar all the way, but I didn’t measure that carefully. Maybe I used 80% of the sugar? When I went to add the chocolate chips, 8 ounces seemed like a huge amount. I still import my chocolate chips from the U.S., and I didn’t want to use up so many, so I cut it down slightly to 6 ounces.

The recipe says to use a 1.5 ounce scoop, and I used my large scoop, which is labeled 2.5 Tbs. I think. The technique is slightly odd. After you bake the cookies you are supposed to drop the pan onto the counter a few times to flatten them. But I guess it worked because the cookies came out well. Alma flattened her batch before putting them in the oven and they were dryer and not as good.

In general, I didn’t love the texture of these cookies. They had a slight stick-to-your-teeth quality. And they were definitely too sweet for me. Next time I’d try cutting the sugar further, maybe 2/3 of the original amount, and leaving the chocolate chips at 3/4 of the original amount.

Derek said they were absolutely great (probably because they are quite salty), and Alma said they were good not great.

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Latkes with half-baked potatoes

December 17, 2020 at 11:03 pm (breakfast, B_minus (2 stars, okay), Fall recipes, Jewish, Root vegetables, Starches, Website / blog)

Derek wanted to make latkes for Hanukkah this year, and he found a New York Times recipe that called for pre-baking the potatoes (well, partially) then grating them. The recipe looked really simple. The only ingredients were the potatoes, salt and pepper, and the oil for frying.

But we found the recipe a bit challenging because it called for 4 large Idaho or Russet potatoes, and although we can get similar starchy potatoes they are not nearly as large. We weren’t sure how many pounds that should be, or how to adjust the cooking time. The recipe says to cook “until they are hot throughout but still raw in the middle.” That wasn’t so easy to ascertain, but we did our best.

Other than that, the recipe seemed to work okay, but we found the latkes bland. We want to add onions and maybe egg next time. Perhaps we will try this more traditional recipe.

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Vegetarian Posole in the Instant Pot

December 14, 2020 at 8:10 pm (Beans, Grains, Instant Pot, Jill Nussinow, Mexican & S. American, One pot wonders, Uncategorized)

My Mom sent us a pound of hominy in a Chanukah package, and I decided to try to make posole from it. The package said you should simmer the hominy for 1 to 2 hours, which seemed like a long time, so I decided to make the posole in my Instant Pot. I looked in my “Vegan Under Pressure” cookbook but they don’t list any cooking times for dried hominy. But I looked in the index and found posole. Success! But when I actually turned to the recipe I discovered it with calling for pre-cooked, canned hominy. I guessed that the hominy would cook in about the same amount of time as dried beans, so I soaked both overnight, and then roughly followed the recipe. Except I wasn’t sure exactly how much hominy to use for the 1 can of hominy the recipe calls for. I had soaked the whole pound of dried hominy so I decided just to use the whole thing. I also had soaked 500g of cranberry beans. So that’s where I started. I sauteed some aromatics, then cooked both the soaked beans and hominy together in the instant pot for I think about 12 minutes (but that’s a guess, I didn’t write it down and now I’ve forgotten), followed by a natural release. But at that point the hominy was clearly undercooked. I cooked the beans and hominy for a bit longer under pressure, at which point the beans were definitely soft enough but the hominy was still a bit underdone. Whoops. Maybe I should have put the soaked hominy in with unsoaked cranberry beans instead, and cooked them together for 35 minutes under pressure + NR? In any case, despite the hominy being a tad firm, the posole was yummy. Derek and I both really enjoyed it, but Alma said it was too spicy for her and she really didn’t like the texture of the hominy.

I don’t remember exactly what I did, but here’s my best guess:

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound cranberry beans, soaked overnight
  • 1 pound dried hominy, soaked overnight
  • 4 large cloves garlic, mined
  • 2 cups finely chopped onion
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. ground cumin
  • 1 Tbs. chili powder + 1 Tbs. ancho powder
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • 1.5 tsp. salt (total guess)
  • whole tomatoes (maybe 1.5 cups?)
  • tomato puree (maybe 1 cup?)
  • frozen corn (maybe 1 cup?)

I sauteed the onion over medium heat, then added the garlic, ground cumin, chili powders, and smoked paprika and sauteed another minute. I added the soaked hominy and soaked, drained beans, and added I think 5 cups of vegetable broth and salt. After the beans and hominy were cooked (see note above) I added some whole tomatoes from a jar, about a cup of tomato puree, and maybe 1 cup of frozen corn. I locked the lid back on and let it sit for 3 minutes. I seasoned with lime juice and cilantro to taste.

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Chanukah Cabbage and Kohlrabi Salad

December 13, 2020 at 8:28 pm (C (1 star, edible), Cruciferous rich, Derek's faves, Ottolenghi, Salads)

I got a kohlrabi and a cabbage in my CSA box last week, and I was looking for something to make with them. I found this recipe in the cookbook Plenty. (It’s actually directly opposite the recipe for the Thai green curry that’s the last recipe I blogged.) Ottolenghi says it’s his favorite use of kohlrabi. It calls for alfalfa sprouts, which I can’t get here, so I soaked some seeds and sprouted them myself. When they were finally ready I made this salad out of my kohlrabi, cabbage, and sprouts, along with a large bunch of dill and a whole cup of dried sour cherries from my local Turkish store. The dressing is made out of a lot of lemon juice and olive oil, 1 garlic clove, the zest of 1 lemon, and lots of salt.

I made this salad on the first night of Hanukkah, and when Alma asked what I was making, I told her it was “Chanukah Salad.” We were on a Skype call with my family and everyone thought the idea of a Chanukah salad was very funny. But it does have a lot of olive oil, and you are supposed to eat a lot of oil on Chanukah, so I think it fits.

Alma didn’t like the salad at all. She took one bite and said “bäh“. I also wasn’t very excited by the combination. I felt like not only wasn’t it better than the sum of its parts–it was worse than the sum of its parts. But my big problem with the salad was that the dressing was so acidic it hurt my tongue badly. (I have geographic tongue syndrome, and certain acidic foods are highly problematic. Normally a little lemon juice doesn’t bother me, but I guess this was just too lemony.) Derek, however, loved the salad. He said it tasted like something he’d get in a 3-star Michelin restaurant in some nordic country.

If you choose to make this, I’d only add the sprouts to the portion you plan on eating in one sitting. After sitting overnight in the dressing they got rather limp and unappealing looking.

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Thai green curry from Ottolenghi’s Plenty

December 12, 2020 at 2:38 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Cruciferous rich, East and SE Asia, Ottolenghi)

This recipe was based on the recipe for “Purple sprouting broccoli with rice noodles” from Ottolenghi’s cookbook Plenty. It’s basically a green thai curry served over broccolini and rice noodles. We made the sauce and served it with brown rice and whatever vegetables we had around. (We couldn’t find broccolini, so used tofu, broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, zucchini….) I thought the recipe for the spice paste worked well. I’d make it again. I am curious, however, to compare it to our old recipe for green curry paste from Nancie McDermott’s Thai Vegetarian cookbook. Derek said he thought the paste turned out smoother than that one, probably because I blended it up with coconut milk to get the spice grinder to blend.

Ingredients:

Spice paste:

  • 3/4-inch piece of galangal or fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1.5 medium fresh green chilies, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1.5 lemongrass stalks, outer layer and tough ends removed, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/2 shallot, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 Tbs. coriander seeds, finely ground
  • 12/ tsp. cumin seeds, finely ground
  • grated zest and juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 small bunch of cilantro (with stalks and roots)
  • 2 Tbs.
  • vegetable oil (I used maybe 1 to 2 Tbs. of coconut milk instead, just enough to get the mixture to blend)

Rest of sauce:

  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbs. vegetable oil (I used maybe 1 tsp.?)
  • salt
  • 1 tsp. palm sugar
  • 7 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 3/4 cups coconut milk

Instructions:

  1. Place all the ingredients for the paste in the small bowl of a food processor. (I used a spice grinder.) Blend to a paste. You might need to stop once or twice to scrape the mixture back down from the sides of the bowl or add a little extra lime juice or oil. (Instead of oil I used coconut milk.)
  2. Saute the onion in 1 Tbs. of oil in a medium saucepan for 2 to 3 minutes, or until translucent. (I used less oil than this since the sauce is rich enough from the coconut oil.) Add the spice paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add 1 tsp. salt, the palm sugar (I used a natural brown sugar), lime leaves, and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and gently simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. To serve: He says to drizzle 3 to 4 Tbs. of the sauce over warm rice noodles tossed with toasted sesame oil and lime juice and the broccolini, and finish with fresh basil or cilantro and a squirt of lime juice.

We had to add quite a bit more lime than the sauce calls for. But otherwise we thought the recipe was good, and actually pretty easy, especially if we can freeze the paste. Next time I will make a double batch maybe, eat 1/3, and freeze the rest in two portions.

Alma (age 5.75) wouldn’t even try the curry sauce. She had her rice and veggies and tofu plain.

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Smoky cauliflower frittata

December 11, 2020 at 9:04 pm (breakfast, B_minus (2 stars, okay), Cruciferous rich, Necessarily nonvegan, Ottolenghi)

This is yet another Ottolenghi recipe from Plenty. We make a broccoli feta frittata pretty often, and everyone likes it, so I figured it made sense to try this cauliflower frittata.

I found the recipe instructions a bit odd. It has you first simmer the cauliflower for 4 to 5 minutes, then fry it in a frying pan for 5 minutes, or until brown. I was worried that the cauliflower would be way too soft at that point. Plus, is it really necessary to use another whole pot to simmer the cauliflower? Can’t you just add a little water to the frying pan and steam it in the pan? Despite my reservations, I followed the recipe.

It calls for 1 small cauliflower, and I think my florets weighed 1 pound after removing the leaves and tough stem. The egg mixture includes 6 eggs, 4 Tbs. creme fraiche, 2 Tbs. dijon mustard, 2 tsp. paprika, and 3 Tbs. chopped chives. In addition, the recipe calls for 2 oz. of mature cheddar (grated) and 5 oz. smoked scamorza, grated (including the skin for extra flavor). So it’s a pretty cheesy recipe. You put 3/4 of the cheese in with the eggs and scatter the remaining 1/4 on top.

The final frittata was quite cheesy and smoky tasting. I liked it but found it quite intense. I think I would have preferred to have just a small piece with a big salad, rather than the frittata comprising our entire brunch. Alma didn’t like it at all. Derek liked it quite a bit, more than me. I’d probably give this 2.5 out of 4 stars, and Derek would give it maybe 3 out of 4?

If I make this dish again I will just cook the cauliflower in one pan (not simmer it first) and I will serve it with a salad or some plain green bitter vegetable.

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Koshari rice with butternut squash and sunflower seed dukkah

December 7, 2020 at 11:20 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Fall recipes, Grains, Pasta, Winter recipes) ()

This is another recipe we selected from Home Cookery Year by Claire Thomson (page 231). The header says that Koshari rice is an Egyptian method of cooking rice along with lentils and small pasta, but this recipe doesn’t call for any lentils and uses wheat vermicelli instead of a small pasta. The butternut squash is simply coated in ground cumin and ground coriander and roasted in the oven until tender. The Sunflower seek dukkah is a mix of sunflower seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and sesame seeds.

I really liked this dish! It was homey tasting but different than our normal food. The combination of the rice and toasted vermicelli with the slightly browned onions, cinnamon and bay leaves was delicious. I served mine with lentils on the side, and next time I think I would just try adding lentils to the dish. The butternut squash was a nice accompaniment, but not essential. The dukkah was good, but made a ton. I think I would probably halve or even quarter the amount of dukkah, unless you want it around to put on other dishes.

Derek also liked the dish, but slightly less than me. Alma (at age 5.75) wouldn’t eat any of it. The rice and vermicelli part is really quite plain tasting, so I thought she would eat it, but she didn’t like the texture. The butternut squash turned out too soft for her. (She’s quite picky about butternut squash—it’s got to be perfectly cooked or she doesn’t like it.) And the dukkah she wouldn’t even try. Sigh.

I think I will look around to some other koshari rice recipes, and try a few more variations.

Update April 5, 2021:

The original recipe I described above has three parts: the roasted butternut squash, the koshari rice, and the sunflower seed dukkah. Today I decided to try to find a koshari recipe that includes lentils. But when I went looking I couldn’t find anything that obviously looked right. I ended up choosing this online recipe, but it has you cook the onions and lentils separately from the rice/noodles, then mix everything together at the end. That seems like a pain. So instead I made a combination of the online recipe and the koshari rice portion from the cookbook.

The online recipe has you cook 2 large onions separately in 2 Tbs. olive oil, then use 3 Tbs. butter (40g) for the vermicelli and rice. Home Cookery Year has you saute 1 large onion first and then add the rice and vermicelli to the onion, without adding any additional fat. The amounts of rice are about the same but Home Cookery Year calls for way more vermicelli (185g / 6.5 oz vs. 50g / 1.75 oz) and double the broth (800ml vs. 400ml). Both call for cinnamon but the cookbook calls for 1 cinnamon stick and the online recipe 1.5 tsp. cinnamon. The online recipe adds 1/2 tsp. nutmeg whereas the cookbook calls for 2 bay leaves. Here’s my attempt to combine the two recipes.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced [I used one very large onion, about 11 oz diced, maybe 2.5 cups diced]
  • 4 oz. wheat vermicelli, broken into 5cm (2 in) pieces
  • 1 cup basmati rice (about 185g  / 6.5 oz) 
  • 2 bay leaves, scrunched a little
  • 1 tsp. salt [I reduced this since my broth was salted]
  • 600 ml hot stock or water [I used a mix of the lentil cooking liquid and a homemade veggie broth]
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 cinnamon stick or 1.5 tsp. cinnamon [I used 1.5 tsp.]

Instructions:

  1. Rinse the rice well in cold water and leave to drain.
  2. Heat 2 Tbs. olive oil in a heavy casserole pan over moderate heat. Add the onions and fry for 10 to 12 minutes, until soft, translucent, and just beginning to turn brown.
  3. Add the pasta and toast in the pan for about 3 minutes, until the pasta turns golden brown. Add the rice, bay leaves and cinnamon and stir to coat the rice evenly with oil and continue cooking for another minute or two to bring out the flavor of the spices.
  4. Add the teaspoon of salt and all of the hot stock or water, reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting, cover with a lid and simmer for about 12 minutes. At this point all the liquid should have been absorbed.
  5. Turn off the heat, remove the lid, place a folded kitchen towel over the top of the pot and return the lid. Leave the rice to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. (The towel absorbs the steam coming off the rice so it can finish cooking without extra moisture dripping back on to the grains- this makes it nice and fluffy)

Notes:

This combined recipe worked fine. The rice and vermicelli was cooked well, but somehow I didn’t like it as much as last time. Not sure why. We still had leftover dukkah from last time, so that was the same. And I served it with lentils again. Maybe next time I will omit the nutmeg and use the cinnamon stick? Or add more onions? Maybe I was just missing the roasted butternut squash? This recipe made quite a bit, and it’s quite heavy on the noodles. I think next time I will use less noodles, maybe just 2 or 3 ounces instead of 4? Butternut squash season is over, so I served it with roasted cauliflower and israeli salad. I loved the israeli salad with it. The bright, fresh, lemony flavor really helped balance out the meal.

The cookbook says to serve it with yogurt seasoned with salt and garlic, and chopped parsley. I think that would also have gone well. The online recipe has you make a tomato sauce. Apparently this is quite typical as a bunch of online recipes add this component. But it just seemed like one more step, and I didn’t have the energy. Maybe next time.

Again Alma wouldn’t touch the dish. Nor would she eat the plain lentils. She just had roasted cauliflower and Israeli salad for dinner.

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Sweet and sour wild rice and sauerkraut soup

December 3, 2020 at 10:55 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Grains, Rebecca Wood, soup, Spring recipes, Winter recipes)

I cooked up a big pot of my last bag of Minnesota wild rice, and neither Derek nor Alma was that into it. I love it, but was looking for something that they might like too. I looked in Rebecca Wood’s cookbook The Splendid Grain and found a recipe for this strange Hungarian-inspired sweet and sour soup. It almost tastes Chinese to me, but it has wild rice and sauerkraut in it. I loved it, but neither Derek nor Alma was a big fan.

You saute leek and garlic in a pan, then add a stalk of celery and then the cooked wild rice. You add vegetable stock, a cup of sauerkraut, 2 Tbs. light Sucanat or light brown sugar, and soy sauce to taste. After it’s simmered a bit you beat an egg with a little water, then slowly stir the egg mixture into the hot soup. Finally, you garnish it with dill.

Bizarre, right? The dill didn’t do much for me, but I loved the sweet and sour broth (egg + sugar + soy sauce combination). And the sauerkraut and wild rice added some nice varied texture. I’d definitely make this soup again next time I have extra wild rice around.

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Red lentil and roasted carrot soup with za’atar

November 8, 2020 at 4:02 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Fall recipes, Middle East / N. Africa, Other, soup, Spring recipes, Winter recipes) ()

This is another recipe from the cookbook Home Cookery Year by Claire Thomson. I chose it because I had a lot of carrots to use up, and because I have very few recipes that call for zaatar. The recipe is pretty simple. You toss carrots and onions with ground cumin and coriander and olive oil, then roast them in the oven in a covered roasting tin until tender. Meanwhile you cook the red lentils. When the veggies are cooked you puree them with the cooked red lentils. The final soup is drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with za’atar.

The recipe calls for 500g carrots, which sounded like a lot, but actually was only like 3 of my very large carrots. I decided to make 1.5 times the recipe, but when I went to start the lentil I discovered I actually only had 300g of red lentils, enough for slightly more than 1 recipe (which calls for 250g). So I used mung dal for the last 100g or so of red lentils. I don’t know how that changed the flavor. I quite liked the recipe. The soup by itself I found rather plain and uninspiring, but when drizzled with olive oil and za’atar it really popped. I loved the herbal note the za’atar added.

Alma begged me not to make this dish, and refused to even try it at first. So I put hers through a sieve. (My stick blender didn’t get the soup all that smooth, and the little textured bits bothered her.) Then she said she *loved* it, even though she wouldn’t let me add any olive oil or za’atar to hers. She had two small bowls of sieved soup, but then when I served leftovers for lunch a few days later she refused to have any.

Derek said he thought the base soup was fine…. pleasant. Not thrilling but solid. He said it tasted like something he’d get at Cafe Schrill. He wasn’t so excited about the za’atar on top. He didn’t disliked it, but he didn’t think it added all that much. Weird. He rated it a B.

I think this is a nice mostly-pantry-ingredients recipe. Carrots aren’t strictly pantry ingredients, but I usually have them around, and all of the remaining ingredients truly are from the pantry. This soup would make a nice starter before some very tasty but hard-to-make-a-lot of recipe, or before or tasty but lighter main dish.

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Sesame fried tofu, bok choy, and quick pickled carrots

November 1, 2020 at 11:05 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Cruciferous rich, East and SE Asia, Tofu) ()

A friend gifted Derek a copy of the cookbook Home Cookery Year by Claire Thomson (thanks Satnam!) and I went through it on Friday and chose a couple of recipes to try. The first one we tried (for lunch today) was a recipe for sesame fried tofu, bok choy, and quick pickled carrots.

Overall, the results were mixed.  Derek felt it mostly tasted pretty good (though a bit like something you would get at an upmarket “healthy Asian” fast food place, “healthy Asian” is a joke — it involved 6 Tbsp oil for what is supposed to be a “light lunch”).  I felt it was too acidic and unbalanced and somehow made me feel icky afterward (a bit like the Ottolenghi recipe with soba, mango, and eggplant that everyone raves about).  Alma barely touched it (but we kind of expected that).  We both agreed that the fried tofu didn’t have much flavor on its own had a distinct note of raw cornstarch.  It mostly just tasted crunchy.  Our usual method of sauteing tofu in the pan would have been preferable.  This could indicate we did something wrong, but since the frying instructions were not detailed, it’s hard to know what.

We had some issues with the recipe:  1. It seemed to call for a huge amount of cornstarch and sesame seeds.  We were not surprised when the tofu ended up tasting like cornstarch and somewhat raw sesame seeds.  2. It said to drain the carrots after adding some salt, but no water came out even after letting it sit for quite a while.  And even after adding the lime juice the carrots didn’t really taste pickled to me. They just tasted like grated carrots with lime juice on them. 3. The recipe called for “2 bok choys, halved” but we had enormous bok choys from our CSA farm (about as big as Derek’s head!), so it was hard to know exactly how much to use or how to cook them.  4. We didn’t know what light soy sauce was (so we our regular soy sauce and cut the amount in half and it was still plenty salty), and we didn’t know what “runny honey” was, so we just used regular honey.  5. The recipe called for 3 Tbsp oil for frying the tofu, but this mostly got absorbed by the first batch, so we had to add additional oil for the second batch.  Also, we didn’t have sunflower oil, so used olive oil. Could this have affected the absorption?  Seems unlikely.

Overall, Derek thought the combination of flavors was good and would make it again except with our normal sauteed tofu preparation.  I thought the flavor profile was broadly similar to the “tofu steaks” and bok choy dish from Peter Berley, but I much prefer that recipe.

If we were going to try to make the sesame crusted tofu again I think I would toss it with just a little big of cornstarch (not 100g!) and sesame seeds and bake it on a pan in the oven.

The recipe says to serve it with avocado (optional), but we didn’t have any. I doubt the addition would have changed my overall opinion.

Derek: 3/5
Rose: 2/5

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One bowl, flourless peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

October 1, 2020 at 6:28 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Cookies, Website / blog)

Alma’s preschool was closed today, and she asked if we could make peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. We had made some a few months ago, but I forgot to write down what recipe we used. I think it was this one from the Ambitious Kitchen blog, but I’m not sure. But we tried it today and this time I’m going to blog it before I forget whether we liked it!

Ingredients
  • 240g / 1 cup natural creamy peanut butter (just peanuts + salt)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar + 1/2 Tbs. molasses (original recipe called for 2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 extra-large eggs (German large eggs, about 50g each without the shell, original recipe called for 2 large eggs)
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (original recipe called for 2/3 cup)
  • Flakey sea salt for sprinkling on top
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes and remove when edges barely begin to turn a golden brown. The cookies may look a little underdone, but they will continue to cook once you remove them from the oven.
  3. Cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Sprinkle each cookie with flakey sea salt.

My notes:

The original recipe has you use two bowls, but I just made it in one.

A few of the cookies in the corners ended up too brown, despite me rotating the pan halfway through the cooking time. And I think I cooked the cookies a tad too long. I cooked them for 9 minutes I think, opening the oven halfway to rotate them. The original recipe said 9 to 12 minutes, but my cookies were a bit smaller, and I think 8 minutes would have been sufficient, especially since I forgot and left the fan on in the oven.

The original recipe calls for more sugar and chocolate chips, but the author commented that she has used 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup chocolate chips and they turned out great. So I decided to try that.

The cookies are good, but definitely not as sweet or rich-tasting as typical American peanut butter cookies. Alma seemed happy. I don’t love the texture the rolled oats add. Maybe next time I will grind up the oats? And I wish the cookies were slightly moister, but maybe that’s just because I cooked them too long. Derek said that the cookies weren’t rich enough for his taste. He thought they needed butter. But I think he didn’t add any salt to his, and he prefers his cookies salty. Next time I think I will add the salt to the cookies before they go in the oven.

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Black-eyed pea cakes with salsa

September 26, 2020 at 11:49 am (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans) ()

Alma and I like black-eyed peas, but Derek is not a huge fan. I made a huge batch a while back and still have several jars of the peas in the freezer. Derek was unenthusiastic about me serving them plain, so I decided to try this recipe for black-eyed pea cakes with salsa mayonnaise from the cookbook Sara Moulton cooks at home. Note that the recipe has you chill the mixture for 2 hours. Plan ahead!

The recipe has you coat the patties in cornmeal, but I haven’t tried that step yet, because I was out of cornmeal. I also didn’t put any mayonnaise in my salsa, because I didn’t have any and it seemed unnecessary. The salsa is really more of a pico de gallo. It’s good but it needs way more cilantro than Sara calls for.

I’ve made this recipe twice now, and it’s solid if not stellar. Alma ate the black-eyed pea burgers happily the first time (with no salsa but a lot of ketchup) and less happily the second time (with no salsa).

Ingredients:

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 2 cups cooked black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed if canned
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Tobasco sauce or other hot sauce to taste
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup oil for frying

Instructions:

  1. Mince your garlic, and chop the onion, bell pepper, and jalapenos.
  2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper. Cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and jalapenos and cook for 1 minute longer. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
  3. Place half of the peas in a large bowl and crush them thoroughly with a fork. Stir in the other half of the peas, along with the onion mixture, cilantro, and cumin. Taste the mixture, season with salt and pepper and Tabasco sauce, then stir in the egg yolks. Starting with 1/2 cup of the bread crumbs, add just enough to form a mixture that will hold its shape. Cover and chill the mixture for 2 hours.
  4. Working with 1/4 cup of the pea mixture at a time, make 8 to 10 1/2-inch-thick patties. Coat the patties in the cornmeal and shake off the excess. Heat half the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Fry the patties in 2 batches, adding the remaining oil for the second batch. Do not flip until a brown crust has formed on the first side, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Remove the patties from the pan when uniform in color. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in a 200ºF oven until ready to serve. Repeat until all the patties are cooked. Serve hot topped with the mayonnaise.
Salsa recipe

Ingredients:

  • 4 plum tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro (I use much more. Maybe 1/3 cup?)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (I omitted this)
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Toss the tomatoes with a pinch of salt and drain in a colander for 15 minutes. (I skipped this draining step. I like the tomato juice!) Combine the tomatoes with the onion, jalapeño, lime juice, cilantro, and cumin in a large bowl. Mix in the mayonnaise (if using) and season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill until ready to serve. (The salsa mayonnaise can be made up to a day in advance.) You should have about 2 cups.

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Beet and potato gratin with rosemary and walnuts

September 20, 2020 at 11:29 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Derek's faves, French, Root vegetables, Winter recipes)

I first made this beet and potato gratin recipe back in 2010. I have since forgotten where the recipe originated. I’ve modified the recipe quite a bit in the intervening years. (The original recipe is at the end of this post if you want to see it.) Here is my current recipe. It has more cheese and less butter and cream than the original, and I’ve added walnuts and rosemary and omitted the breadcrumbs. The recipe is not really hard, but it is somewhat labor-intensive. I usually make it once a year, twice at most.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds beets, unpeeled
  • 1.5 pounds potatoes, unpeeled
  • 1 Tbs. butter (or however much you need to grease your pan)
  • 1 cup / 4 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (or use another cheese like aged gouda)
  • 1/2 cup / 2 oz. grated gruyere cheese (or use another cheese like comte or tete de moine)
  • 1 tsp. salt (I’m totally guessing on the amount. I just sprinkle a little salt on each layer.)
  • 1 tsp. pepper (ditto)
  • 3 to 4 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
  • 200g / 0.85 cups heavy cream
  • lots of walnuts, pretty finely chopped (I think I use about 3/4 cup chopped walnuts maybe?)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Steam the beets and potato until tender when pierced with a knife. Note that even though the gratin cooks for another 30 minutes in the oven, you need the veggies to be tender before they go in the oven. They don’t really soften up otherwise. You can steam the veggies on the stovetop, but beets take a while, so I usually steam my veggies in my Instant Pot. I put the beets in first and cook them until they are about 3/4 done. (The exact time depends on their diameter–tables are online.) Then I add the potatoes and finish cooking both. Ideally you should do this well in advance so the veggies have time to cool and you aren’t trying to peel or slice boiling hot beets!
  3. When the beets and potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel the beets. Depending on your potatoes you might want to peel them after they are cooked, but I usually don’t bother.  Cut both the beets and potatoes into 1/4-inch-thick slices, still keeping them separated.
  4. Choose a gratin dish large enough to hold four layers of the sliced vegetables. (I use a 9×13 inch pyrex pan.) Grease the dish.
  5. Build a gratin with 4 layers: beets, potatoes, beets, potatoes. After each vegetable layer sprinkle one quarter of the parmesan, gruyere cheese, salt, and pepper on top of the vegetable layer. After each layer sprinkle on 1/3 of the walnuts and rosemary. (I don’t put walnuts and rosemary on the top layer of potatoes because I’m afraid they will burn, but maybe it would work if you put them under the cheese?)
  6. When all four layers are assembled, pour the cream evenly over the top.
  7. Place in the oven and bake until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese on top is golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes.  Remove from the oven and serve hot or warm, scooping out portions with a spoon.

Update Oct 11, 2021:

Alma has never liked this dish, but today she said it was “delectable” and ate thirds. I thought it came out really great as well. Derek said it was tasty but needed more cheese.

Notes from Sept 20, 2020:

I shattered my 9×9 inch pan a few months ago, so we used a 9×13 inch pyrex dish. It was bigger than necessary, but worked fine. I think next time maybe I’ll increase the amounts of veggies to make more gratin in the same pan. I forgot to measure my beets this time but I know I used almost 2 pounds of potatoes. I think maybe I used 5 medium/small beets (about 2.5 inches in diameter), so maybe only about 2 pounds?

I cooked the beets in the instant pot for 10 minutes under high pressure, left them for a bit, then did a quick pressure release and added the (medium-large) potatoes and cooked them for another 10 minutes under high pressure with a natural release. The beets came out perfectly–easy to peel but not mushy. But 10 minutes was too much time for the potatoes. They were way too soft. The skins were falling off and they were hard to slice. I couldn’t use the mandoline at all. They would have been great for mashed potatoes, but next time maybe I’ll try 15 minutes for the beets + QR and then only another 5 minutes extra once I add the potatoes.

This time we forgot to add walnuts but I definitely want to try adding them next time!

Definitely make sure your potatoes are on the top layer. They get nice and crispy, which doesn’t happen to the beets. And maybe reserve a bit more than 1/4 of the cheese for the topping?

I’ve made some version of this recipe a few times in the last couple of years, and Alma has never liked it. She will take a few bites of the cheesy top, but then rejects it. (She’s never liked non-crispy potatoes.) Tonight (at 5.5 years) she had a bit more than she has in the past, but we had challah on the table, so she mostly focused on that and wasn’t interested in the gratin.

My original notes from Nov 6, 2010:

Derek and I went to a local German restaurant a while back and I got a beet and potato gratin that had walnuts in it.  I really loved the beet and walnut combo, so I decided to try adding walnuts to this French recipe.  The recipe says to steam the beets and potatoes separately, then peel and slice them.  That was a huge pain.  I also don’t like peeling potatoes, as the skin is the best part.  The steaming instructions confused me because they say to steam until tender but then you bake the gratin for another 30 minutes or so.  I was worried that the veggies would get overcooked, so I didn’t let them get totally tender.  That was a mistake, as the beets in the final dish were just a tad undercooked.  Once the veggies are steamed you slice them and then make a layer of beets, a layer of potatoes, and a final layer of beets.  Between the layers you sprinkle salt and pepper, rosemary, small amounts of parmesan and gruyere cheese, and dotted butter.  You then pour a mixture of cream and milk over the whole thing, and top it with bread crumbs and 1 Tbs. dotted butter.  But 1 Tbs. of butter is not enough to cover a 9×13 pan, and the bread crumbs ended up just like dry, sandy breadcrumbs.  Derek said he liked the topping though, despite its dry, sandy quality. He liked the dish a lot, actually.  He kept saying how flavorful it was, and tried to eat all the leftovers for breakfast.  My guests seemed to like it too, and even asked for the recipe.

I used less butter and added walnuts.  I used a light cream not heavy cream, and lowfat milk.  If I made this again I would double the rosemary and try it without pre-cooking the vegetables.  Steaming the beets and potatoes separately is a pain.  I might also try adding more cheese and skipping the cream altogether–just using milk.

And here’s the original recipe:

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds beets, unpeeled
  • 1.5 pounds potatoes, unpeeled
  • 4 Tbs. butter
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated gruyere cheese
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup fine dried, bread crumbs, preferably homemade

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Steam the beets until tender when pierced with a knife, 20 to 30 minutes.  Set aside.  Steam the potatoes separately in teh same way;  they should also be tender in 20 to 30 minutes.  (You can also boil instead of steaming.)  When the beets and potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them and cut them into 1/4-inch-thick slices, still keeping them separated.
  3. Select a gratin dish just large enough to hold three layers of the sliced vegetables.
    1. Layer 1:  Grease it with 1 Tbs. of the butter.  Arrange half of the beets in the bottom of the dish.  Sprinkle with one third each of the parmesan and gruyere cheese, salt, pepper, and rosemary.  Dot with 1 Tbs. of the butter.
    2. Layer 2:  Arrange all of the potatoes in a layer atop the beets.  Sprinkle with half of the remaining cheeses, salt, pepper, and rosemary.  Dot with 1 Tbs. of the butter.
    3. Layer 3:  Layer the remaining beet slices on top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese, salt, pepper and rosemary.
    4. Final topping:  In a vessel with a spout, combine the cream and milk and pour the mixture evenly over the top.  Strew the bread crumbs over the surface and dot with the remaining 1 Tbs. butter.
  4. Place in the oven and bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes.  Remove from the oven and serve hot or warm, scooping out portions with a spoon.

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Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango

September 13, 2020 at 10:10 pm (Derek's faves, Pasta, Website / blog)

This Ottolenghi recipe from Plenty has been lighting up the internet for years now. Serious Eats loves it. 101cookbooks has blogged it. Epicurious has posted it. Several friends have personally raved to me about it. So back in 2018 I tried it.

I didn’t love it. The eggplant was greasy. The whole recipe seemed overwhelmingly sweet and not salty/acidic/spicy enough. I didn’t think the eggplant and mango really did much for each other. Don’t get me wrong, it was fine. It didn’t taste bad. But it was a lot of work for a recipe that was only meh. I told this to one of the friend’s who had recommended it and she thought maybe I had screwed something up. She came over a few weeks later and we made it together. It tasted about the same. Still meh. Derek again loved it, but it just wasn’t for me.

Then this weekend another friend invited us over for dinner and served it as our first course. It was definitely better than when I had made it. The eggplant was cooked much better—more uniformly cooked through and much less greasy. And the whole dish just looked more professional and refined. But my overall impression was the same—too sweet, not enough salt or punch. Derek said he thought there was plenty of acid in the dressing, but I couldn’t detect it. He normally adds salt to the food I cooked, but he thought the dish was plenty salty. For me the sugar overwhelmed all the other flavors. I really wanted more of a dressing like the one that goes in a Thai green papaya salad, where by the end smoke is coming out of your ears. Derek said this isn’t supposed to be that kind of a dish, and I know that’s not what was intended. But if I were going to make a noodle dish with eggplant and mango and chilies and cilantro and basil, that’s what I would want.

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Zucchini flaxseed muffins

September 8, 2020 at 10:06 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Muffins and quick breads, Website / blog)

I accidentally ground up way too much flax seed and was looking for something to do with it.  This zucchini flaxseed muffin recipe from the Thriving Home blog looked perfect, as I also had zucchini and carrots from our CSA, and I had accidentally bought quick-cooking oats and had no idea what to do with them.

The recipe calls for 1 cup of brown sugar, but I didn’t have any brown sugar so I used 3/4 cup of white sugar and a little bit of molasses (didn’t measure). For the nuts Alma added a mix of pecans and almonds. I didn’t see her measure them, and I think she might have actually put in quite a bit more than 1 cup? The final muffins were quite nutty, which I enjoyed.

The main mistake I made was not realizing that the recipe is for 24 muffins, not 12. (The instructions don’t say anything about using two muffin tins, so the only way to tell is by reading the header which says how many servings it makes.) I filled all my muffin tins about 3/4 of the way full, but still had quite a bit of batter left (although not nearly half). At that point I went to double check the recipe and realized my mistake. But I thought, eh, I don’t really want to have to clean out the muffin tins and butter them again to make a second batch. So I just poured the rest of the batter in. The muffins took a bit longer to bake (maybe 17-18 minutes instead of 13-15?). But they came out great. Everyone liked them. They were big muffins, but Alma ate I think 2.5 muffins! Of course, the next week she didn’t want to look at the muffins. I froze most of them but Derek and I each had one for breakfast the next day. They were still really good. They are moist without being doughy inside, and they have a lot of flavor. I could definitely taste the flax seed, but neither Derek nor Alma said they noticed it. I cut down the sugar slightly and Derek thought they needed to be more sweet, so he ate his with jam. Alma and I thought they were fine as is. Next time I might try cutting the sugar down to 2/3 cup and adding some raisins.

Calling these “zucchini” muffins is a bit of a stretch. The recipe calls for 1 cup of grated zucchini, which wasn’t even 1 whole zucchini for me. So each of my huge muffins only has less than 1/12 of a zucchini in it, and only about 1/24 of a carrot. If you want to eat some veggies, just make yourself a side of sauteed zucchini and carrots to go with the muffins. If you want a yummy, filling breakfast that freezes well (I think–haven’t tested it myself yet) and that you can grab when you’re in a rush, try this recipe. Although it doesn’t really have much vegetable in it, it does have lots of nuts, lots of flax seed, some oats, and a bit of egg. I think those ingredients help make the muffins quite filling and satisfying.

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Roasted Eggplant and Black Pepper Tofu

September 1, 2020 at 11:35 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Derek's faves, East and SE Asia, Ottolenghi, Summer recipes, Tofu, Website / blog)

This is Smitten Kitchen’s riff on Ottolenghi’s black pepper tofu recipe. You roast the eggplant and tofu in the oven, then toss them with a sauce made from shallots, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, lots of butter and black pepper. Smitten Kitchen reduced Ottolenghi’s original 11 tablespoons of butter down to what seemed a more reasonable 3 to 4 Tablespoons. Well, so I thought until I realized that the recipe calls for another 4 tablespoons of oil to cook the tofu and eggplant! It seemed way too rich for my taste, so I only used 1 tablespoon of butter to cook the onion in. (I was out of shallots.) I didn’t have any low-sodium soy sauce so I added 1 tablespoon of regular soy sauce (instead of the 8 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce) and it tasted plenty salty to me. The tofu and eggplant cooked pretty well in the oven, but some of the smaller eggplant pieces ended up burnt and some of the tofu on the outside of the pan was a bit too dry.

I liked the dish, but even cutting down the butter I found it way too greasy. It tasted like restaurant food, which to Derek was a very good thing, but is not really what I want from home cooking. I think I will try to make this dish again, but I suspect that I can use just 2 Tbs. of oil to roast the eggplant and tofu in (1 for the pan and 1 to toss the eggplant with), and 1 Tbs. of butter for the sauce. The trick will be getting the eggplant nicely cooked without it burning or getting greasy. If anyone has any tips, let me know.

Even though I left the black pepper off, Alma didn’t like this dish at all (too much garlic and ginger and onions I guess). She ate some of the roasted eggplant and tofu plain without the sauce. Derek and I ended up adding a lot of black pepper to our own bowls. Yum.

 

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Super Simple Quick Zucchini and Almond Saute

September 1, 2020 at 11:14 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Other, Quick weeknight recipe, Summer recipes)

Last week I tried this quick zucchini saute with sliced almonds from Smitten Kitchen. It’s a super simple recipe. I julienned the zucchini quickly using my mandoline, toasted the sliced almonds, and then cooked the zucchini for 1 minute. I wonder if my heat was too high, because my zucchini released a lot of water. In any case, I enjoyed the dish, but found it just a tad boring. It was better after I added some fresh basil. I would say B+.

Alma had a few bites then said she didn’t like it. Derek said it was fine but he wasn’t excited about it. Given how easy it was, I will definitely try it again.

Last month we also tried Smitten Kitchen’s zucchini fritter recipe. I don’t remember the details, but I think I had trouble figuring out the right heat level, and I probably didn’t use enough oil, so they ended up a little dry. But still we enjoyed them. Derek liked them a lot and I thought they were fine. Alma wouldn’t eat them.

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Conquer the kitchen chaos: Feeding a family without losing your mind or wallet

August 5, 2020 at 12:36 am (Cooking tips, Monthly menu plan, Uncategorized, unrated)

Feeding a family is hard. It’s a challenge to figure out how to keep a family fed with nutritious, tasty meals without spending your entire life in the kitchen or spending a fortune. I also cannot meal prep to save my life! Alma (at now 5.5-years-old) still doesn’t like most “mixed” dishes or dishes with lots of flavor/spice, so making big one-pot stews or curries or soups or things doesn’t really work for us. And I’m a vegetarian but Derek and Alma are not. Feeding us all is hard! Over two years ago I wrote a time-saving kitchen tips post. This is really a sequel to that post, so let’s call it “time-saving kitchen tips part 2.”

I definitely don’t have everything figured out but some things that have been working well for us:

1. Meal plan, but not for a whole week: Plan 3 or 4 days at a time, rather than an entire week at once. When I try to plan a whole week out I inevitably end up wasting food. Life happens and a planned dinner often doesn’t get cooked. Maybe I’m too tired, or it’s too hot, or we stayed out too late at the park and there’s not enough time. Or we ate a super late lunch and no one is very hungry. There are many reasons my plans just don’t end up working. If I only plan 3 to 4 days at a time, I can just push everything down a day (or two) and the purchased food still doesn’t go bad. I do try to schedule the more perishable produce at the beginning of the plan, so I’d plan something with fresh spinach or broccoli on day 1 or 2 and something with cabbage or sweet potatoes or jarred tomatoes on day 4. That way if day 4 gets shoved to day 5 or 6 it’s no problem. We usually plan on Friday evening (right after we get our CSA veggies for the week, so we know what we have to work with) and shop on Saturday. We usually plan dinners for Saturday-Tuesday night. Then Derek and I do another shorter planning session on Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday (depending on how much the original plan got pushed) to get us through Friday.

2. Eat leftovers for lunch. With the whole family at home due to Covid I just couldn’t handle cooking three meals a day, so I decided we will do leftovers for lunch. Occasionally we eat everything at dinner and have no leftovers, but usually Derek and I can still manage to put together a meal from whatever is in the fridge. Alma usually refuses to eat leftovers, so we came up with a weekly lunch plan that she can have instead if she doesn’t want the leftovers. Her “lunches” are pretty easy, and based on things we always have in the pantry or freezer (see a list at the bottom of this post).

3. Make a list of standbys. Make a list of your family’s standby recipes that everyone likes and are reasonably fast/nutritious/cheap. When menu planning choose items off that list. If you don’t have enough items on your standby list, try to try one new item each week to see if it’s a keeper. I can’t do the “taco Tuesday” thing. It just doesn’t work for me. I need more flexibility in terms of scheduling than that. But I do try to have my standby recipes sorted by themes, like Mexican, Asian, Pasta, Soup/Salad/Burger (choose 2). Then when menu-planning I try to choose one from each category that I haven’t made recently. So for Asian for example we have stir-fry, okonomiyaki, sesame noodles, spring rolls… For pasta we have pasta puttanesca, lasagne soup, pesto pasta with veggies, beans and greens, ravioli with chard, hazelnuts, and caramelized onions…, for Mexican we have black bean and sweet potato burritos, bean bowl with frozen corn or sweet potatoes, taco salad, … But I’m not strict about it. Some weeks we might not have any Asian dishes, and some weeks we might have two. Here are some of our standby items. It’s a work-in-progress. I’m always looking for new additions.

4. Make extras and freeze. I can’t seem to meal-prep ahead of time but I sometimes do manage to make extra and freeze it. For example, we all really like lentil beet salad with walnuts and tahini dressing, so when I make it I make extra lentils, cook extra beets, roast extra walnuts, and make a ton of dressing. I can freeze the whole dinner in a glass jar and then I just have to wash some lettuce and dinner is on the table. We also all love black bean and sweet potato burritos, so I also plan to make that recipe on a Sunday and triple the recipe, so we can freeze a bunch of burritos. Then I use these frozen “dinners” on days when I know I have no time to cook or on days when my plan fell through and I need something fast. For other dishes I might just freeze a component. For example, for sesame noodles I just make extra sauce and roast extra sesame seeds, then freeze them so the next time the whole meal goes faster. When I make pesto I make a huge batch and freezer it in small jars. More things I freeze.

5. Have a backup plan / backup meals. Have a handful of super easy, no-shopping-required meals in my back pocket for those nights the plan falls through. Our backup meals are bean tortillas, pasta puttanesca, and roasted veggies with chickpeas.

Bean tortillas we eat at least once a week. Whenever I make beans I always make extra and put them in jars in the freezer. And I always have whole wheat tortillas around. So I can easily defrost a jar of beans and throw in whatever veggies we have on hand. Spinach, chard, kale, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, parsnips, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, sprouts, … I find that most vegetables work great in a bean tortilla. Throw in some sharp cheddar and salsa and everyone is happy. Even if I put in veggies Alma doesn’t usually love (like mushrooms) she doesn’t mind. If I don’t have any fresh vegetables than I use frozen spinach or frozen butternut squash or things like that, which I always have in the freezer.

Another fallback plan is pasta puttanesca with whole wheat pasta. If I have salad veggies I might serve it with a salad or with a side of beans or fruit or frozen broccoli or green beans or whatever other fresh veggie with have on hand. But sometimes it’s just pasta puttanesca for dinner. Derek cooks it so it’s a good fallback when I’m just too beat or busy to make what we planned. We always have jarred tomatoes and capers and parmesan around, and we keep olives in the freezer just so we can make this dish.

Our third backup meal is roasted veggies and chickpeas. I always have jarred chickpeas in the pantry, and I usually have potatoes or sweet potatoes in the cupboard. If I have carrots or turnips or jerusalem artichokes around I will roast some of those as well. In the summer I might add eggplant or mushrooms or tomatoes or bell peppers, or just use some frozen root-veggie mix. It’s easy, super quick to clean up, and cheap.

I have a friend whose “fall back” meal is scrambled eggs and good bread with raw or frozen veggies or fruit. Cheaper than going out and probably at least as nutritious. Derek and Alma wouldn’t go for it (“eggs are breakfast food!”), but it works for her.

6. One last thought for those with little kids. Don’t feed your toddler/preschooler a separate meal. To avoid this, either feed the toddler a later/bigger snack or move the whole dinner earlier. Or feed the toddler an appetizer that’s basically a component of the meal you are preparing. Alma is often hungry before dinner is ready and then she can have leftovers from the fridge, raw veggies, or whatever component of the meal is ready. So if we are making sesame noodles with broccoli for example, I will make the broccoli first so it can cool down and she can have that as an “appetizer” if she wants, which she usually does.

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Arugula, chive, parsley pesto with farfalle and mixed vegetables

May 5, 2020 at 9:05 pm (Cruciferous rich, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Italian, Monthly menu plan, Pasta, Quick weeknight recipe, Spring recipes, Website / blog, Winter recipes)

Derek and Alma harvested a huge bag of arugula and random herbs from our CSA farm on Saturday, but they only brought one bag so everything got mixed up together. I’ve been trying to use up the herbs over the last couple of days. I pulled out all the scallions and added them to our spicy tofu dish on Sunday. Then I threw a couple big handfuls of arugula into a pan of escarole and beans. Yesterday I pulled out all the cilantro and used it in our simmered vegetable tacos last night. But I still had a pretty big bag of stuff left. I separated out the dill and used the rest of it to make a mixed herb pesto. I roughly followed this Bon Appetit recipe for parsley and chive pesto, but I think I used a couple cups of arugula, a big handful of parsley, and a small handful of chives, as well as some miscellaneous oregano, thyme, and cilantro leaves mixed in. I didn’t roast my almonds because I was in a rush, and I think in pesto you don’t normally roast the pine nuts. I didn’t measure the olive oil, just kept pouring it into the food processor until the pesto came together as a cohesive paste. The pesto wasn’t really saucy at that point, more of a thick spoonable paste. But it tasted good so I stopped and called it a day. I couldn’t really taste any of the individual herbs. I don’t think I could have told you that it was made from arugula, chives, or parsley. But it was bright green and very fresh tasting, with some underlying floral (oregano?) and peppery (arugula? chives?) notes. Yum.

Derek said it was way better than the storebought pesto we’ve been using since we ran out of homemade pesto made from our summer CSA basil and frozen. Alma said she preferred the storebought pesto, and had some from the freezer instead of my homemade version.

We served the pesto with whole wheat farfalle noodles and steamed vegetables: broccoli, carrots, zucchini, and red bell peppers. Last time I put in mushrooms but no one but me liked them all that much. This time I threw a few chickpeas and kohlrabi slices into my dish, and quite liked the crunch that the raw kohlrabi added. Both Derek and Alma were happy with the dinner, and we have a jar (maybe two?) full of pesto to freeze for a quick dinner some other week. I steam my veggies in the same pot I cook the pasta in it, so if the pesto is made it’s basically a one-pot supper.

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Homemade sauerkraut, how much salt?

April 29, 2020 at 10:50 pm (Cruciferous rich, Spring recipes, unrated, Website / blog, Winter recipes) (, )

I usually follow this no pound no fail recipe for Sauerkraut in Fido jars, but somehow I can’t fit nearly as much cabbage in my jars as he says.

Also, I can never remember exactly how much salt I should add, so I’m saving this very useful link here: https://www.makesauerkraut.com/salt-by-weight/

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Can’t find brown sugar in Germany? Make your own

April 29, 2020 at 10:31 pm (Cooking tips, Uncategorized)

We can’t find American-style brown sugar in Germany. You can get unrefined sugars, but not the white sugar + molasses style sugar we typically call “brown sugar” in America. So when we are following American recipes we usually make our own brown sugar substitute:

For light brown sugar pulse 1 cup of granulated sugar in the food processor with 1 tablespoon of molasses.

For dark brown sugar, use 2 tablespoons of molasses for the same 1 cup of granulated sugar.

If there are liquid ingredients in your recipe you can just add the molasses directly to the liquid ingredients and skip the pulsing step.

Sometimes we use date syrup instead of molasses. It doesn’t seem to make a big difference in terms of the flavor, and it’s easier to come by.

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Best ever chocolate pudding

April 29, 2020 at 10:28 pm (Dessert, Pudding, unrated, Website / blog)

Way back in 2013 my friend Nev sent me this chocolate pudding recipe from A Cup of Jo and indeed it was great. I think I made it twice then promptly forgot about it. But then this week a Smitten Kitchen ad for Best Chocolate Pudding popped up on Facebook and made me want to try it.

So Alma and I made it together last week. She said it was not quite as good as the chocolate pudding they serve at preschool. I thought it was much, much too sweet. And oddly, even though I used 85% chocolate my pudding was quite light in color, nothing like the dark brown color on the photos on the website. Strange. In any case, I wasn’t very impressed and next time I want to make pudding I’m going to return to the Cup of Jo recipe. Here’s the difference in ingredients, in case you’re curious. Basically the SK recipe doubles the cornstarch and omits the egg, uses more sugar and less salt, and twice the amount of chocolate (but no cocoa powder).

A Cup of Jo Recipe Smitten Kitchen Recipe
3 cups (710 ml) whole milk 3 cups (710 ml) whole milk
1/3 cup (75 grams) granulated sugar 1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
2 tbsp. cornstarch 1/4 cup (30 grams) cornstarch
2 large egg yolks
1/4 tsp. salt 1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
3 oz. (85 grams) dark or semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped 6 ounces (170 grams) semi- or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 tsp. vanilla extract 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract

 

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Cauliflower Tikka Masala

April 27, 2020 at 11:05 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Cruciferous rich, Indian, Instant Pot, Quick weeknight recipe, Website / blog)

I wanted to make an Indian cauliflower dish, but I wasn’t in the mood for my usual dry curry, plus Alma hasn’t liked it the last couple of times I made it. I decided to make this recipe from veganricha.com instead, since you roasted the cauliflower in the oven and make the sauce separately in the Instant Pot. I figured Alma could eat the cauliflower plain if she wanted.

So I made the sauce, except I used whole tomatoes instead of chopped, and I didn’t have any fresh cilantro or dried fenugreek leaves. Also, I didn’t have vegan yogurt or cream so I used regular dairy products. Maybe I needed more cream though because my sauce came out much brighter red and not as creamy-looking as it does in the picture? In any case the sauce was good. It tasted Indian, but subtly—much brighter, simpler flavors and much less spiced or rich than the food I get in Indian recipes. Both Derek and I liked it, but I put in too much chili and it was too spicy for Alma.

I didn’t simmer the cauliflower with the sauce, just served them separately. I also roasted some chickpeas along with the cauliflower, and I cut up some seitan and served it on the side with basmati rice. Alma ate the lightly spiced roasted cauliflower and chickpeas with plain seitan (but no rice), and Derek and I mixed the seitan and cauliflower together with the basmati rice and the tikka sauce. Yum. I’d definitely make this again, but next time I will leave out the chili and see if Alma will eat it.

If you make the sauce ahead of time (can you freeze it?) then this would be a quick weeknight dinner.

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