Protein-powder free chocolate vegan protein smoothie

August 19, 2019 at 9:26 pm (breakfast, B_minus) ()

I am on the hunt for new smoothie recipes that everyone in my family likes. Ideally I am looking for a recipe that is filling, healthy, and easy to make. I found this chocolate shake recipe on the minimalist baker website, and decided to make it for breakfast this morning since Derek is out of town. He’s usually not into the chocolate smoothies, but Alma likes them. The author says the smoothie (she calls it a shake) is creamy, chocolaty, filling, and delicious. Sounded good! I followed the recipe carefully except I added a bit too much peanut butter and used 4 very small dates. I used 1.5 cups of almond milk and a bit more than 1.5 Tbsp. of cocoa powder.

The report. First of all, although it has no protein-powder in it it tasted to me like it did! The smoothie was powdery and dull tasting. (Maybe it would have been less powdery if I had a better blender? I have a good blender but it’s no Vitamix.) The taste wasn’t awful but it wasn’t great. Alma tasted it and agreed it needed something. She suggested lemon juice. I thought yogurt. We both seemed to think it needed some acid. We ended up adding some orange juice, which definitely helped. Then we added a big pinch of salt and a big spoonful of vanilla. Better, but it was still too one-note for me. And I didn’t like that there was no fruit or vegetables in it other than banana.

We ended up eating it as a smoothie bowl with raspberries and granola. That worked pretty well. The raspberries added some more sourness, which it needed, and the granola and raspberries both added some texture, which helped distract from the powdery texture. In the end it was fine, but I’m not sure I’d make it again.

The recipe says it serves 1.  What? Alma and I both had seconds and we still had a ton leftover. I think the author says it serves 1 so that she could claim it has 23g of protein in it. Sneaky devil. I would say it serves 3, at least if you add OJ and eat it with raspberries and some granola on top, like we did.

I’m curious what made it powdery. I’m guessing it’s the oats and/or the cocoa powder. I’m curious to try a smoothie with hemp seeds and chia seeds and no oats or cocoa powder, and see if it ends up powdery.

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Zucchini scallion chickpea-flour pancakes

August 18, 2019 at 10:31 pm (Alma's faves, breakfast, Summer recipes, unrated, Website / blog)

I know I’ve tried making zucchini pancakes before, but I can’t find anything about it on my blog. Weird. My memory is that the zucchini pancakes I’ve made in the past were fine, but not exciting. But then Dreena Burton posted a new recipe for vegan zucchini fritters that sounded easy and like something Alma would like. Plus I had a big bag of zucchinis in the fridge and some chickpea flour to use up. Perfect.

I grated my zucchinis, but then when I went to get the chickpea flour I realized I only had about half a cup left, not the 3/4 cup to 1 cup the recipe calls for. So I added another 1/4 cup of buckwheat flour plus one egg, in case the buckwheat flour didn’t bind as well as the chickpea flour. The original recipe is vegan and oil-free, but mine ended up non-vegan (because of the egg) and with oil (since I added a little oil in the pan that I was frying them in). I also didn’t have any dill seed, so I added 1/4 tsp. cumin seed. It’s not much, but I could definitely taste the cumin seed. I didn’t love the way the flavor worked with the zucchini, until I added some fresh cilantro to the batter. Yes. Much better. I thought Alma might complain since she usually doesn’t like cilantro, but she was so enamored of her ketchup that I think I could have put jalapenos in and she wouldn’t have noticed. The recipe also calls for 3 to 4 Tbsp. scallions or chives. I used scallions and I think I could have used even more than the recipe calls for—maybe 1/2 a cup? Alma certainly didn’t complain about the ones that were in there.

I had a little extra zucchini left and ended up throwing it in the batter at the end. It didn’t seem to make a difference (maybe because of the egg?).

I ate my fritters dipped in a (not-yet-seasoned) mung and red lentil dal. The dal didn’t have any spices in it yet, just turmeric, salt, and a little yogurt. It made a delicious dipping sauce, but Alma wouldn’t try it. (It couldn’t compete with ketchup.)

I think this recipe would make a great breakfast, especially if you use dal as your dipping sauce. You’d just have to make the batter up the night before, then leave it in the fridge. It would make a pretty fast and filling breakfast with some vegetables and beans (of a sort).

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Best Green Smoothie for Beginners

August 11, 2019 at 10:19 pm (breakfast, B_minus, Website / blog) ()

I make smoothies pretty often, but almost never green smoothies. The few times I’ve tried to improvise one Alma wouldn’t drink it. So I went looking for a kid-friendly green smoothie recipe. I found this Beginner’s Luck Green Smoothie recipe on the simplegreensmoothies.com website. It claims it tastes like a “tropical treat”. I happened to have all the ingredients, and Alma likes mango a lot, so I gave it a try.

I thought it was fine. I tasted a lot of pineapple. It wasn’t a very complex flavor, but it was pleasant enough. Alma drank a little of it, but wasn’t too into it. Derek said it was fine but not exciting. He thought it needed peanut butter, but I didn’t think that would really go with the pineapple. I then tried to jazz it up by adding some roasted sunflower seeds that I had lying around. That made it just taste like roasted sunflowers seeds.

The hunt continues.

 

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Instant Pot Mushroom Risotto

August 4, 2019 at 9:14 pm (Alma's faves, B plus, Fall recipes, Grains, Instant Pot, Italian, Jill Nussinow, Monthly menu plan, Spring recipes, Uncategorized, Winter recipes)

I tried making risotto in the instant pot a few months ago, and I got distracted and forgot to release the pressure immediately after it was done cooking. The result: mush. It tasted good but the texture was awful. Derek wouldn’t touch it. But I finally got up the nerve to try it again.

Alma and I looked at various combinations in the book Vegan Under Pressure and she chose the spinach risotto, but then I forgot to make spinach and had some mushrooms to use up, so I decided to make the mushroom risotto instead. I didn’t really follow the Vegan Under Pressure recipe, but I did use it for inspiration. Below I list my recipe, and explain how it diverges from Jill Nussinow’s

Ingredients:

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced (original recipe calls for 1 cup diced leek)
  • 2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice (original recipe calls for 1.5 cups)
  • 2 cups sliced crimini mushrooms (original recipe calls for 1 to 2 cups)
  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (original recipe called for 1/2 ounce soaked)
  • 4 sundried tomatoes (original recipe calls for 3 to 4, rehydrated)
  • 1 Tbs. porcini mushroom powder
  • 5.5? 6.5? cups veggie broth (original recipe calls for 3.5 to 4 cups)
  • salt plus 1 (or 2?) tsp. veggie bouillon powder
  • a knob of butter, maybe a Tablespoon or two?
  • parmesan cheese, grated
  • 8 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (original recipe calls for 3 Tbs.)

Instructions:

  1. Mince the garlic. Chop the onion.
  2. Set the instant pot to saute. When hot, add the oil and onion and saute for a few minutes. Add the garlic and saute another minute or two. Stir in the rice to coat with oil.
  3. Add the sliced mushrooms, the dried porcini mushrooms, the sun-dried tomatoes, the broth, and the bouillon powder. Lock on the lid. Cook at high pressure for 3 minutes. As soon as the 3 minutes are up, immediately release the pressure. (Don’t get distracted!) Carefully remove the lid.
  4. Stir in more stock to get a creamy texture, then stir in the butter and parmesan if desired. Season with salt and pepper, and add a touch of lemon juice if you like.
  5. Serve with fresh parsley and more parmesan.

My notes:

Nussinow’s recipe says to cook under pressure for 5 minutes, but I was nervous about getting mush again, so I decided to start with 3 minutes. And 3 minutes was definitely enough. Derek said it might be worth trying 2.5 minutes next time. And this was with almost boiling vegetable stock. If your stock is not hot, I imagine you’d need even less time under pressure, since it will take longer to come to pressure.

It took me about 4 minutes for the pressure to drop completely, and the risotto at that point was cooked well, but the risotto was quite dry. I had to add more than a cup of broth at that point to get the right consistency.

I forgot to time how long it took to come to pressure. Maybe it was 5 or 10 minutes? So maybe 10 minutes + 3 minutes + 4 minutes + a few minutes to stir in the broth and butter and parmesan and serve it. So once you get it in the pot it seems like the risotto would be ready approximately 20 minutes after you press start? But that time is almost entirely hands off. It’s definitely an improvement over stovetop risotto.

I didn’t have real dried porcini mushrooms but some local French mushrooms from the farmer’s market. The man who found them and sold them to me told me that they’re cheaper than porcinis but taste similar.

Everyone liked this recipe. Alma scarfed it up, which shocked me because she’s never eaten more than one bite of risotto before, and when we were looking at recipes she was dead set against the mushroom variation. Derek and I both enjoyed it as well. Now I want to try some of the other variations, like the spring saffron risotto with peas and asparagus, the summer risotto with green beans and tomatoes, or the winter squash and kale risotto. Yum.

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Vegetarian lettuce wraps ala P.F. Chang’s

June 12, 2019 at 9:50 pm (Chinese, Tofu, unrated, Website / blog)

When we were in Bordeaux a few weeks ago I ordered chilaquiles at some organic cafe. What I got was not at all chilaquiles, more of a bowl of chili beans with a side of salad and guacamole on top, with a few chips sticking out of the top. But Alma, who hadn’t really been eating anything but bread on our trip, really loved it. I would give her bites of the beans wrapped up in lettuce or spinach leaves. She thought the lettuce wraps were so fun. So when I got home I decided to try to make Asian-style lettuce wraps. I found this wellplated recipe for a P.F. Chang’s copycat recipe, and it looked interesting and pretty easy.

I followed the recipe except I used olive oil instead of canola, I used more than 8 ounces crimini mushrooms, I used regular soy sauce not low-sodium (but just half the amount), and I minced my ginger rather than grating it. I also only added 1 scallion, and left the rest on the side. I left the chili flakes out as well.

The recipe works. I think it came out exactly how it was supposed to. I don’t know what P.F. Chang’s lettuce wraps taste like, but I can imagine that this is reminiscent. When Alma first tasted the filling she said “yum” and happily ate several lettuce wraps, despite the ginger and scallion (both of which she is normally super-sensitive to). Derek said it was good but gave up on the lettuce wraps pretty quickly, and just ate the filling with a spoon.

I think this dish is better as an appetizer than as a main dish. I served it with a mushroom, white bean, miso soup, which was pretty tasty, but was too salty in combination with the lettuce wraps. Derek thought maybe the lettuce wraps would be a good appetizer to serve with sesame noodles. I’m not sure.

I liked this recipe, but didn’t love it. I think maybe it was just a tad too sweet for me? Maybe it depends on which hoison sauce you use.

I’m not sure I’ll make this recipe again, but I might try using the filling for something else. Dumplings maybe?

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Chickpea flour crepes with tofu “ricotta” and roasted spring vegetables

June 3, 2019 at 10:23 pm (B plus, Peter Berley, Spring recipes, Starches, Vegetable dishes)

I made this recipe from Peter Berley’s cookbook Modern Vegetarian Kitchen (pg. 264) last night for dinner and really enjoyed it. I am usually lazy when it comes to asparagus and just make it plain (either roasted or pan-steamed), but I really wanted to try one of the 10-million asparagus recipes in my cookbooks before asparagus season is over.

I picked this one because I thought Alma (at 4.25 years) might like it, since she likes asparagus and pancakes and tofu and will often eat shiitake mushrooms. In the end, however, she wouldn’t try the tofu (presumably because it is mixed with herbs). She ate her first crepe happily with just asparagus and shiitakes, and her second one with just asparagus. Then she asked for something else. So I’d say it was a mild preschooler success.

Unlike Alma, I loved the dish. It hit the spot and I found it very satisfying. I liked the combination of the salty, sour lemon-y tofu with the savory roasted veggies. The crepes themselves didn’t have much flavor, but they were a good delivery device for the veggies and tofu.

Ingredients:

For the crepes:

  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat)
  • 3.5 cups cold water (I used 3 cups water + 2 eggs)
  • 2 Tbs. light sesame oil (I used 1 Tbs. olive oil, but none on the pan to cook the crepes)
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt (I used 1/4 tsp. table salt)

For the tofu:

  • 1 tsp. minced garlic (I used a bit more)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (I used around 1 or 1.5 Tbs. I think)
  • 1 Tbs. chopped mixed herbs (I used a bit more, mostly chives, rosemary, and parsley, with a bit of marjoram. Next time I’d like to add basil and/or oregano or thyme.)
  • 1 pound firm tofu
  • 6 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used 4 Tbs. and it was sour enough for me)
  • freshly milled black pepper

For the vegetables:

  • 1/2 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and saved for another dish
  • 1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed and peeled) (I used a 500g bunch, so more than double)
  • 2 bunches scallions (I used 3 large spring onions, they were delicious, except for the ends that burned)
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil (I didn’t measure, just used enough to lightly coat all the veggies)
  • salt

The instructions say to strain the crepe batter through a sieve. I skipped this step. Maybe my crepes were a bit lumpier than intended? I think by making the crepe batter a few hours ahead of time, all the lumps had time to hydrate and dissolve?

The tofu is basically raw, but you do saute the garlic and herbs in the olive oil for a minute, just to tone down the garlic and incorporate the herb flavors into the oil a bit.

Berley says to fill the crepes with the tofu filling, top with the roasted vegetables, roll them up, and serve. But I just put everything on the table and let everyone fill their own crepes.

The three of us ate all the veggies, about 2/3 of the tofu, and only about half of the crepe mix. So if we were going to make this again I’d either make less crepe batter or more veggies and tofu.

I wonder if there is a way to give the crepes more flavor. Maybe more chickpea flour and less wheat flour? Or incorporate some herbs into the crepes themselves?

This was a lovely dish for Spring, but I think it might be nice in the autumn or winter too, but I’m not sure what would be a good replacement for the asparagus. Winter squash? Carrots?

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Ravioli with chard, hazelnuts and caramelized onions

May 1, 2019 at 11:11 am (101 cookbooks, A minus, Dark leafy greens, Derek's faves, Pasta, Spring recipes)

I first made this 101cookbooks recipe for hazelnut & chard ravioli salad last fall, except I wasn’t sure how Alma would do with the raw chard so I cooked the chard lightly. Both Derek and I really liked the flavor combinations and the textural contrasts, but Alma wouldn’t touch it. She wouldn’t even eat the ravioli out of it.

Then this week I got a beautiful bunch of rainbow chard and decided to make it again. This time I chopped the onions finely, in case it was the stringiness that Alma hadn’t liked I also left the caramelized onions and lemon zest separate, since Alma is pretty finicky about onions. she will happily eat them if she doesn’t notice them, but if I give her a bite of cooked onion she always says “bäh.”

Alma actually ate the dish this time, with the lemon zest, but without the onions. I thought that it was kind of boring without the caramelized onions. It really needs the sweetness to contrast with the very slightly bitter hazelnuts and greens. But with the onions…yum. Derek also loved it.

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Turmeric-Roasted Cauliflower with Pistachio Gremolata

March 28, 2019 at 12:21 pm (B_minus, Cruciferous rich, Website / blog)

I saw this recipe on food52 and was instantly sold. A “low-effort, high-impact dish” that’s suitable for weeknights and company? Sounds great. I’ve actually never used fresh turmeric before, but I was intrigued after reading reading “how the freshly grated bits of turmeric get deliciously caramelized on the hot sheet pan, and how its earthiness complements the mild sweetness of cauliflower.”

Unfortunately, the dish was only meh, and not as easy and fast as the author makes it out to be. I think I followed the directions pretty closely. It calls for one large head of cauliflower. I wasn’t sure how much that was, and ended up using 2 pounds of cauliflower. Later I noticed that one of the comments mentions a large head weighing 850g (exactly two pounds). I’m not sure if that was weighed before or after trimming, but I don’t think I was so far off. The recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of olive oil, which seems like a lot, but the final dish didn’t actually seem that rich.

Even with all the olive oil, the fresh turmeric never seemed to get “deliciously caramelized”. I’m not sure why. I’ve never used fresh turmeric before, and was surprised at how mild it was. And how sticky. It’s been several days, and I still can’t get the yellow residue off of my microplane, or my fingernails.

And we were a bit mystified by the dates. They are nice and soft and sweet, but they didn’t really meld with the dish. When you got a date it was very sweet and date-y, but when you didn’t get a date you didn’t taste it. I felt like if you’re going to put in super sweet dates you need something salty and briny to counteract all that sweetness.

Then there’s the gremolata. It was fine, but expensive. (1/3 cup of shelled pistachios cost quite a bit.) And I’m not sure the pistachios added all that much. I think just lemon zest, parsley, and garlic would have been just as good. The pomegranate didn’t add much either, in my opinion.

Alma wouldn’t taste the dish at all. She was scared of the fresh turmeric. Derek said that the flavors didn’t really meld and was missing something. All in all we were quite disappointed.

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Instant Pot Lasagna Soup

February 17, 2019 at 11:50 pm (Instant Pot, Italian, Menus, Monthly menu plan, One pot wonders, Pasta, Quick weeknight recipe, soup, Spring recipes, unrated, Website / blog, Winter recipes) ()

I am a member of the Instant Pot Vegan Recipe group on Facebook, and almost every week someone raves about this recipe for Lasagna Soup from Vegan Richa. I like lasagna, but it always takes so long to make. A fast version in the pressure cooker? Sounds good to me!

I’ve made the recipe twice now, with a few modifications (see below). The recipe is pretty fast. You basically just have to chop the onions and other veggies and measure out all the ingredients. Everyone liked it pretty well (even 4-year-old Alma who is normally very suspicious of new “mixed” dishes and Derek who typically disdains soup). It’s surprising how filling it is given that it only calls for 5 ounces of noodles for 2 to 3 servings.  Normally Derek alone will eat at least 4 ounces of noodles! The first time I made it I think we even had a little bit of leftovers! I guess the lentils and veggies and broth make it filling. Read the rest of this entry »

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Moroccan Spiced Millet and Lentil Salad

February 9, 2019 at 10:08 pm (B plus, Beans, Instant Pot, Middle East / N. Africa, Salads, Website / blog) ()

A friend suggested I try this Vegetarian Times recipe for a Moroccan Spiced Millet and Lentil Salad, but I was nervous about making it since Derek normally hates millet. I will never forget the time he took a bite of millet and then made a terrible, disgusted grimace “What have you done to the rice?” he asked. “This is the worst rice ever!”

So I waited until he was out of town this summer and then I invited my friend over to make it with me. We made a somewhat deconstructed version of the salad, and other than the fact that I totally overcooked the millet, everyone enjoyed it. Alma (at 3.5) also really liked it. Finally last weekend I got up the nerve to make it for Derek and he liked it as well. He didn’t even complain about the fact that I was serving him birdseed for dinner. Score! Read the rest of this entry »

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Arroz non Pollo

January 21, 2019 at 9:55 pm (Beans, Grains, Instant Pot, Jill Nussinow, Mexican & S. American, One pot wonders, unrated)

This Arroz non Pollo recipe from Jill Nussinow’s Vegan Under Pressure cookbook gets rave reviews in the Instant Pot Vegan Recipes Facebook group. Other than the cilantro, all the ingredients seemed like something Alma would eat. So I decided to give it a try.

The technique is interesting. You first dry-saute mushrooms. I was impressed to see that the water very quickly came out of the mushrooms and they started to cook without burning. Then you add carrots, garlic, turmeric or a pinch of saffron (I used both), and cayenne (I omitted it for Alma). You saute them briefly (without oil) and then add brown rice, vegetable broth with 1 bunch of cilantro blended into it, and soaked pinto beans. You cook the rice and let the pressure release naturally, then at the very end you throw in red bell pepper, peas, and corn.

I forgot to soak any pinto beans so I reduced the amount of broth by 1/4 cup and threw in some already cooked kidney beans at the end with the final veggies.

I wasn’t sure how much 1 bunch of cilantro was. My bunch looked really big so I only used 2/3 of it. I wish she would have given a weight measurement.

And 1 cup of sliced mushrooms only seemed to be 2 ounces? That’s just a few mushrooms. I doubled it and added 4 ounces.

I kept looking for tomatoes in the recipe, but couldn’t find any. Instead, the cilantro and turmeric turn the rice a yellow greenish color. It’s very pretty. And the texture of the rice came out perfect.

Unfortunately, Alma refused to eat it and Derek didn’t like it very much. He said it tasted “muddy”. I think he didn’t like the flavor of the very cooked cilantro? Normally we throw cilantro in at the very end and it’s a much greener, brighter flavor. But I liked how the blended cilantro colored the rice. If I wanted to keep the basic idea but cook the cilantro less, how could I do it? Would I soak the rice first? Would that cut the cooking time substantially? Would I cook the rice for 15 minutes and then quick release and then add the cilantro only for the last 5 minutes of cooking?

Also, maybe my homemade vegetable broth was too strong and funky? Maybe I need to use a more mild vegetable broth? Maybe make a simple one with just onions and carrots and cilantro stems?

I liked the combination of veggies and rice but I actually wanted more veggies and less rice. And it made a *huge* amount. I think if I make this again I will leave the veggie amounts the same (except use 8 ounces of mushrooms and a whole bell pepper), but cut the rice amount back by 25%.

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What to do with a lot of lemon or lime zest?

November 12, 2018 at 8:44 pm (Uncategorized)

I still remember years ago when I attended the vegetarian summer fest and Dr. Michael Greger admonished us (his audience) for regularly throwing away the healthiest part of the lemon—the zest. So now I try to remember to zest my lemons (or other citrus, as long as I bought organic) before I juice them. But what do you do with all that zest?

My Mom had to pick all her Meyer lemons this weekend because they’re expecting a freeze . She asked me for ideas on how to use the zest. Here are my ideas for what to do when you have a lot of lemon or lime zest to use up. Anyone else have great ideas I’m missing? Read the rest of this entry »

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How to roast jerusalem artichokes

November 3, 2018 at 10:42 pm (Uncategorized)

I’m adding a brief post here because I keep forgetting how I roast sunchokes, and then I have to do a search all over again.

I basically follow the directions from Brad Farmerie, chef at Public and Saxon + Parole in NYC. He says that there’s no need to peel them. You just need to rinse them and cut them into finger-sized pieces, then blanch them for four minutes in heavily salted water. Toss them in olive oil and roast them in a 450 F oven until they’re soft and gooey on the inside and roasted crisp on the outside.

I don’t quite understand why, but he says that blanching them actually makes them crispier? In any case, we’ve tried it this way, and always like it. And I agree that trying to peel jerusalem artichokes is torture.

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Chard parsnip patties

October 10, 2018 at 3:44 am (Dark leafy greens, Fall recipes, Root vegetables, unrated, Website / blog)

I had both chard and parsnips from our CSA a few weeks ago and decided to try a new recipe. I decided to try this recipe for chard and parsnip patties, since the author says her kids like them, and I was hoping that Alma might like them. They have a bit of flour and cheese, but mostly the patties are just veggies.

The first time I made the recipe I had a really hard time getting the patties to stick together. I think I didn’t chop the chard up finely enough. I ended up doubling the flour to get them to stick together at all, and still it was a challenge getting them to form into patties. The recipe says the chard should be “chopped” but I think it really needs to be more minced. The second time I made the recipe I used my food processor to mince the chard  and it worked much better. I also used the food processor for the onions and garlic, and to grate the parsnips.

Derek and I thought the patties were really tasty. I could taste both the parsnip and the chard well. The only problem was that I used quite a bit of oil to cook them. Also, Alma wouldn’t eat them. Maybe because of the cilantro? The second time I tried dividing the mixture into two halves and making one big “pancake/hashbrown” in my cast iron skillet. It was certainly much faster, but it didn’t get as nicely crispy and browned. But Alma ate them the second time around—not sure why.

This is definitely a recipe I would like to keep playing around with, especially in the autumn when we’re getting lots of chard from our CSA.

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Simple chard or turnip green quiche

October 8, 2018 at 10:52 am (Alma's faves, B plus, Dark leafy greens, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Spring recipes, Website / blog)

Tonight I made a chard quiche, roughly following a Martha Stewart recipe, except instead of making her homemade chard-crust I just used a store-bought quiche crust. Everyone liked it. Alma was especially enthusiastic.

The crust wasn’t great, but was okay. I have to either find a better one to buy or learn how to make one myself. I greased the pie pan with butter first and cooked the quiche at the temperature the crust said on the package for about 45 minutes. I didn’t pre-cook the crust, and the bottom ended up soggy. But Derek and Alma said they liked the soggy crust. I did not. Is there any way to get it to not be soggy? Pre-baking it? Putting something down before the filling? Moving the crust from the bottom layer to the top layer?

This is the recipe I roughly followed. (Update: Since I originally posted this entry the recipe has disappeared, so I’ve copied it here for safekeeping.)

Ingredients for crust:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
  • 3/4 cup toasted wheat germ
  • 1/4 tsp. coarse salt + freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 ounces Swiss chard (1/2 large bunch), leaves chopped, stems minced

Ingredients for the quiche:

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, minced
  • 8 ounces Swiss chard (1/2 large bunch), leaves chopped, stems minced
  • 1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese (2 ounces)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1 pinch ground mustard powder

Instructions for the crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, wheat germ, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside. In a medium skillet, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium. Add half the chard to skillet, season with salt and pepper, and cook until chard wilts and releases liquid. Wipe skillet, set aside.
  2. Add the cooked chard to the flour mixture and mix with fork to incorporate. Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate; firmly press mixture into bottom and up the side of pan. Bake until golden and firm, about 25 minutes. Cool.

Instructions for the filling:

  1. In a medium skillet, heat remaining tablespoon oil over medium. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add remaining 8 ounces of chard to skillet, season with salt and pepper, and cook until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Transfer chard mixture to a colander. Press firmly with the back of a spoon to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Top prepared crust with chard mixture and cheese; place on rimmed baking sheet.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, nutmeg, mustard powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Pour custard over chard mixture. Bake until custard is set, 40 to 45 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

My notes:

I used 8 ounces of red chard leaves (a few of the very skinny stems, but probably at most an ounce). I didn’t notice the chard stems in the final dish. I sliced them very thin and cooked them with the onion. I think next time I could use a bit more stems.

I used the cup of whole milk and 4 (German large) eggs.

I didn’t have gruyere so I used 2 ounces of parmesan grated + 1.25 ounces of some soft tangy cheese from the biofrischmarkt. I used the full amount of salt in the mixture plus some in the chard. The quiche tasted good but I think it was too salty, probably because I used fine and not coarse salt. Next time I’d cut the salt down a tad.

I used pepper and nutmeg but was out of ground mustard. I would add a bit more nutmeg next time, as I couldn’t really taste it.

The recipe says it serves 6, but we actually almost 7 pieces out. We were all hungry and had almost 2 pieces each for lunch. (Alma and I had small pieces for seconds.) There were 3 medium sized pieces left, which we will reheat for breakfast.

Update Feb 9, 2019:

Made this kale quiche recipe from Naturally Ella today. I only had 1.5 cups of milk but still I think it would have been way too much filling for my normal pie crust. I ended up using my larger enameled pan, but then there wasn’t as much crispy crust sticking out 😦

I didn’t love it, but I was out of cheddar. I used a little mozzarella and a lot of parmesan. It was a tad boring I thought. Derek said it was very good. He said the texture was more like quiche than the chard quiche recipe.

Update May 8, 2019:

I had a ton of Rübstiel from my CSA to use up, and wasn’t sure what to do with it. It seems that it’s basically baby turnip greens with lots of stems. I found this recipe for Rübstielkuchen, which is basically a quiche. So I decided to adapt the chard quiche recipe above to use the turnip greens instead.

The German recipe calls for a tart pan with a 26cm diameter, which is much larger than my pie plate.

For comparison, it calls for

original recipe x 2 german recipe
8 eggs 4 eggs
1 onion 2 onions
1 pound chard (454g) 500g of Stielmus
2 cups whole milk (500 ml) 150 ml milk + 250 ml cream + 100g creme fraiche
4 ounces (113g) grated gruyere cheese 100g gruyere cheese, grated
2 Tbsp. olive oil 1 (German) teaspoon of oil
1 tsp. salt + 1/4 tsp. black pepper salt and pepper to taste
2 pinches ground nutmeg + 2 pinches ground mustard powder

I used just over a pound of turnip greens combined with the turnip stems, but only 1/2 an onion. I used 4 eggs, 1/2 cup of milk, 1/2 cup of cream, no creme fraiche, and 3 ounces (85g) comte, plus 1/2 tsp. fine salt and two pinches of nutmeg and some black pepper.

The quiche was quite tasty, but it was quite full and it didn’t hold together great. Also the bottom crust ended up super soggy. Maybe I should have squeezed the liquid out of the greens? Or maybe it was just too much greens for that much milk eggs/dairy? I thought the chard recipe above also called for 1 pound of chard, but I forgot that half of it goes in the crust. I’ve updated it above to make it clearer what goes in the crust and what goes in the filling.

Everyone loved the quiche, probably because it was quite salty and very rich. Alma had 3 (small) pieces and asked for another one. Derek and I talked about how we also wanted more because it’s so tasty, but we would probably get a stomachache if we ate more. We all decided to save our last piece for the morning. Of course, the next morning Alma wasn’t interested. She gave her piece to Derek and asked for oatmeal instead.

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Instant Pot Refried Beans

June 28, 2018 at 10:32 pm (Alma's faves, Beans, Instant Pot, Mexican & S. American, Monthly menu plan, unrated, Website / blog) ()

I used to make refried beans on the stovetop, but now that I’ve gotten an Instant Pot I wanted to figure out how to make them in the electric pressure cooker instead. I started with this recipe for creamy-dreamy pinto beans from Julie and Kittee, but I changed a few things.

First of all, if I’m going to the trouble of making refries I’m going to want to use more than 2 cups of dry pintos! I figured the maximum that would fit in my 6-quart Instant Pot would be 4 cups, so I doubled the recipe. Also, I wanted to take out some of the beans as whole beans before making refries, so I soaked my beans overnight and reduced the cooking time, so that the beans would come out soft but not falling apart. Then I tweaked the seasoning a bit. Below is my modified recipe.

These days I usually serve my refries with salsa and homemade plantain chips. Alma, at 3.5 years, is a big fan. I’ll try to add a post about how I make the plantain chips next. Read the rest of this entry »

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Healthy vegetarian breakfast ideas

June 18, 2018 at 10:10 pm (breakfast, Monthly menu plan, Uncategorized)

I know a lot of people eat the same breakfast every day. Here in Germany it’s often muesli or bread with jam or fresh spreadable cheese. But we get bored of the same thing. I like to mix it up. Here are some of our regular breakfast ideas. Some are quite fast, some are moderately time consuming,  and others are either ones we make ahead of time or we reserve for the weekend.

Porridge or cereal. I usually serve these with fruit (fresh or from the freezer) and flax seeds or sometimes nuts. If they’re too hot for Alma I’ll cool them off with a splash of soymilk or almond milk.

  1. Oatmeal. I often make steel cut oats, either using the overnight method or in my instant pot. Derek prefers oatmeal from rolled oats though, so sometimes we use them instead. I usually serve oatmeal with fresh or frozen fruit and sometimes nuts or nut butter. We have tried the uncooked overnight oats recipes, but no one likes them. I’ve also tried various baked oatmeal recipes, but I haven’t found one that’s reasonably healthy that everyone loves.
  2. Amaranth porridge or parfaits. Derek isn’t a big fan but Alma and I like amaranth porridge (especially with a warm blueberry sauce), and it makes a nice change of pace. Lately I’ve been using leftover amaranth in a “parfait”: the bottom layer is sliced bananas and almond butter, the second layer is amaranth (sometimes room-temperature), then frozen raspberries, and finally I pour milk or coconut milk or soymilk over the top. Alma loves it.
  3. Creamy millet porridge (often with baked pears or apples). I usually make this on the weekend and freeze the leftovers, but next time I want to try to make it in my instant pot.
  4. Muesli. Sometimes I buy it, and sometimes Alma and I mix our own. I try to buy ones with grains and nuts and dried fruit, but not wheat. German muesli often has wheat in it, not sure why. We eat enough wheat. So I prefer the ones made from oats, rye, barley, puffed amaranth or quinoa, etc. I try to serve it with yogurt but Alma vastly prefers it with soy milk. So I do a mix, or serve the yogurt plain on the side. Often we add some granola for a little crunch. Derek isn’t a big muesli fan, so often he turns his into “oatmeal” by cooking it in the microwave for a few minutes.
  5. Granola. I make it myself, so I can use good-quality oils and keep the sugar content low and and the nuts and seed content high. I have a recipe that I like but it’s very much a work in progress.
  6. I’d like to try other porridges. When I visited China I really enjoyed having congee for breakfast. Maybe I should try congee with bok choy and scallion oil again? Or instant pot green congee? I used to make a barley quinoa porridge that I liked, but I haven’t made it since Alma showed up. Other ideas? Maybe broccoli polenta for breakfast? Or maybe some kind of a dal would be a nice change? Not sure if Alma would go for it though. Maybe kichadi?

Bread-based breakfasts. I try to buy good-quality hearty whole-wheat or rye bread for breakfasts. Toppings vary. Whatever I serve, we usually have fresh or frozen fruit on the side.

  1. Bread with nut butter, and sometimes jam or honey or date syrup, or just mashed berries. If we’re in a big hurry I’ll make sandwiches that we can eat on the run. But normally we have them open-faced at home. We prefer these with whole-wheat bread, but we’ll use whole grain rye if that’s all we have.
  2. Savory toast. Usually on 100% rye bread. Sometimes we just eat just avocado toast with fruit or a smoothie, but if we have more time I will serve the toast with pan-fried tofu slices or what Alma calls “yolky eggs.” I usually top mine with sauerkraut as well. Alma often eats her sauerkraut plain and Derek usually skips it entirely. In the summer, if we have good tomatoes I will use those instead of sauerkraut. If we have sprouts on hand, I might add those as well. Sometimes we don’t have avocado and then we have our toast with just tofu or eggs and sauerkraut.

Egg-heavy breakfasts. Sometimes eggs are a quick breakfast for us, but other times they’re more of a weekend thing.

  1. Broccoli feta lime frittata. This is another Sunday brunch item that everyone likes. We usually have enough leftovers for one more weekday breakfast. I’ve never tried freezing it. I wonder if I could freeze a whole frittata?
  2. Chard and onion quiche. This is something I’ve just recently started making. I always thought quiches were full of heavy cream and cheese, but this recipe is actually reasonably light. It’s got eggs and milk and some cheese, but not a huge amount. If I make the quiche for dinner then we’ll have enough leftovers for one breakfast a few days later. Everyone was very happy the last time I made it. I still need to blog my recipe. Stay tuned.
  3. Scrambled or fried eggs. Derek loves scrambled eggs but Alma prefers “yolky” eggs. We mix it up. We usually serve them with fruit of some sort, and sometimes with chia pudding or chestnuts or smoothie or toast (see savory toast idea above). I’d like to figure out how to make poached eggs, but no matter how many how-tos I read, I always find them a pain and error-prone.
  4. I’d love more veggie-heavy, but still quick and easy breakfast ideas. For a weekend breakfast I really want to figure out some sort of egg in tomato sauce recipe. I’ve tried this shakshuka recipe a few times, but Alma mostly ends up eating white bread, and Derek is never excited. I’ve also tried Italian baked eggs in tomato sauce, but I have trouble cooking them to the right degree, and the ramekins are a pain to clean.
  5. I occasionally try one of those egg vegetable breakfast muffin recipes, but so far I haven’t found any we’ve really liked.

Sweet breakfasts.

  1. Pancakes. I try to make healthier pancakes, but I still consider them more cake than truly healthy breakfast. But Derek and Alma love them, so we have a Sunday pancake breakfast about once a month. I make a double or triple batch and freeze extras for a midweek breakfast. We usually make banana oat pancakes with eggs and ground oats rather than wheat flour, or some variant of the “two-ingredient” banana egg toddler pancakes. Sometimes Derek makes these vegan banana nut pancakes.
  2. My mother says she prefers waffles to pancakes, but I don’t have a waffle iron. And no, Mom, I DO NOT WANT ONE. Sorry for yelling, y’all. I just want to be clear that I am not in the market for any new appliances at this time.
  3. I don’t have any muffin recipes or quick bread recipes that I make regularly for breakfast, but I’d like to add one or more to my repertoire. Most of the recipes I’ve seen are really just dessert in disguise. The blogger will rave about how the muffins are “chock full of vegetables” and then you actually do the math and each muffin contains like 1/12 of a carrot or 1 tsp. of pumpkin puree or 1 spinach leaf. Oy. Does anyone have any suggestions for a muffin that’s tasty, but not dessert in disguise?

Other vegetable-included, time-intensive breakfasts. We either have these on the weekend or make them on the weekend and store the leftovers in the fridge or freezer for a midweek breakfast.

  1. Stuffed hashbrowns with steamed veggies, avocado, and/or cheese. This was one of my favorite breakfasts when I was a kid. Everyone loves it, but it’s a lot of work and doesn’t scale well. We only make it about once every six weeks as a Sunday brunch.
  2. Another vegetable-containing breakfast we occasionally make is quinoa spinach croquettes. I’ll make them for dinner and them leave some out for a breakfast two days later, and also freeze a batch for a breakfast at some future date. They take a while to make, but I like that I get enough for several meals out of them. And everyone likes them. They have both eggs and cheese in them, so they’re not at all vegan.
  3. A somewhat similar recipes I occasionally make for breakfast is cauli-tots. I’ll either make them for a weekend breakfast and have leftovers, or a weeknight dinner and have leftovers. Like the croquettes, they satisfy a desire for something warm and comforting and finger-licking good. They freeze well and reheat well in the oven. The main downside of these is that they contain quite a bit of  cheese. I’ve tried reducing the cheese content but then everybody is less excited about them.
  4. Bean tortillas with melted cheese or mashed avocado and salsa. If I have tomatoes or bell peppers or lettuce or sprouts or cucumbers on hand, I might add those as well. I also often add in any leftover cooked vegetables (especially leafy greens, winter squash, sweet potatoes, parsnips, cauliflower, and zucchini). Everyone in my family is happy with this breakfast. I usually use refried pinto beans or black beans that I’ve made in advance. I sometimes make a more breakfast taco version with scrambled eggs. If I am lucky enough to have corn tortillas, I make an open-faced corn tortilla tostada-ish breakfast. These don’t need cheese. Just refried or mashed beans and mashed avocado + salsa.
  5. Refried beans with crispy polenta squares or homemade plantain chips. This is something I’ll serve for breakfast if we have leftovers from dinner. It works well as a breakfast. I’d like to figure out a way to get some veggies in though. I once made parsnip chips, which Alma liked but Derek found a bit too sweet in combination with the beans.
  6. I occasionally try one of those tofu vegetable muffin recipes, but so far I haven’t found any we’ve really liked. Nor do I have any savory muffin recipes that I make regularly for breakfast, but I’d like to add one or more to my repertoire. Any suggestions?
  7. I thought a veggie burger might work well as a make-ahead breakfast, but I don’t have a recipe I’m happy with yet.
  8. Sweet potatoes. Sometimes I have leftover baked or roasted sweet potatoes that I serve for breakfast. I also found an interesting recipe for sweet potato peanut butter toast, but our first try wasn’t a success. You’re just supposed to slice the sweet potato and put it in the toaster and spread it with peanut butter like you would regular toast. But the texture wasn’t right. Next time I’m going to try to cook the sweet potatoes about halfway before slicing and toasting them.
  9. Another idea I’d like to explore is veggie fried rice or cauliflower fried rice. Any other ideas? I know we can just eat standard lunch and dinner foods (or leftovers) for breakfast, but right now this is still a hard sell. Plus we usually barely have enough leftovers for lunch, never mind breakfast too.
  10. I use to do miso soup for breakfast, but I stopped, not sure why.

Other ideas, to mix and match, sometimes with some of the above items, sometimes with each other:

  • Banana and nut butter. This one is so trivial is seems not worth mentioning, but we’ll often eat it along with one of the other items below and call it breakfast.
  • Yogurt and fruit. Again, pretty basic, but easy. We most often serve yogurt with frozen berries.
  • Chia pudding. I usually make my mom’s super easy recipe with just almond milk and a tad bit of date syrup, but sometimes I make my pumpkin chia pudding recipe instead (with winter squash or sweet potato puree). With fruit this makes a quite light breakfast. I usually serve it with something else as well. I always make the chia pudding the night before.
  • Roasted chestnuts. I buy bags of pre-roasted chestnuts for quick breakfasts. Alma loves them, and they’re a nice unprocessed starch source to fuel her for the day. This year I plan to learn to roast them myself, but I’m not sure how much work it will be to peel them.
  • Pan-fried tempeh strips. I get a nice gyro-flavored tempeh at my local organic store. Alma doesn’t love it, but she will eat a few of the crispier pieces. Goes well with sauerkraut.
  • Scrambled tofu. When I was growing up my Mom made sliced pan-fried tofu or scrambled tofu just about every morning. We don’t eat it that often for breakfast, but it is another idea to throw into the mix.
  • Smoothies. I don’t have any recipes that I use regularly. I just throw in whatever I have on hand. I generally prefer to chew my food, but smoothies do have some nice pluses. They’re a good way to use up fruit that otherwise wouldn’t get eaten (e.g., that peach that won’t quite ripen before going bad, the pear that somehow got a bit overripe, the banana that’s starting to turn brown…). I often throw this fruit in the freezer and save it for my next smoothie. Also, lately Alma hasn’t been very big on yogurt or flax seed, but she doesn’t mind them in a smoothie. I also make extra smoothies whenever I get the blender dirty and freeze them in regular drinking glasses or small glass juice bottles (with lids). When we’re really in a rush I put one glass in the fridge the night before and Alma drinks it in the car on the way to daycare. If the smoothie is all we’re having for breakfast, then I like to make it a bit more substantial by adding hemp seeds or hemp protein powder or flax seeds, as well as whatever nut/seed butter I have on hand. Or a bit of leftover porridge.
  • Dried fruit and nut bars. When we’re really in a rush I pull out the Lara bars. But they’re expensive. I want to try my hand at making them myself again. I’ve done it before (homemade Lara bars), but have gotten out of the habit. Clearly, real food is preferable, but if we’re really in a rush than a Lara bar is better than eating total junk.

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The best pesto, and sore arms

June 17, 2018 at 9:13 pm (Cooking tips, Italian, Sauce/dressing, Summer recipes, unrated, Website / blog)

I got a ton of fresh basil from my CSA this week, so I decided to make pesto. I followed this “best pesto” recipe from Serious Eats. Wow was it hard work! I like that it gives the amount of basil leaves by weight, but the recipe did not prepare me for how much work it would be. It took a huge amount of effort to grind all those basil leaves down by hand. Maybe it was because I was using a big thai mortar and pestle instead of the little white (marble?) one they show in the video? By the end I could barely grip the mortar any more. And I never did get my basil leaves as fine as they show in their photos. The pesto did taste really good though (even though I didn’t have any Fiore Sardo, and used all parmesan, and left out the final 2 tablespoons of olive oil).

Alma tasted the pesto but wouldn’t eat it. I froze the bulk of it in two small glass jars.

I have more basil. I might try making the same recipe in the food processor, and see how different it tastes to me. Maybe I’ll even freeze my basil overnight first.

I’m out of pine nuts though. Maybe I’ll try making the next batch of pesto with sunflower seeds instead? Or maybe I’ll just freeze my basil (in oil?) and save it in the freezer for some other recipe.

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Amaranth porridge with blueberry sauce

May 27, 2018 at 11:24 pm (Alma's faves, breakfast, Fall recipes, Grains, Monthly menu plan, Spring recipes, unrated, Website / blog, Winter recipes) ()

About once a month I make this recipe from Naturally Ella for Blueberries ‘n’ Cream Amaranth Porridge. Derek won’t eat it, but Alma and I like it a lot. Amaranth has a somewhat odd sticky, grainy texture, but the addition of the creamy blueberry sauce helps transform it into more of a traditional tasting breakfast porridge.

I usually make it on the weekend, since it takes about 30 minutes to make. I always make extra amaranth and freeze it for a quick mid-week breakfast. Here’s how I cook the amaranth.

In a 2-quart pot, soak 1.5 cups of amaranth overnight. In the morning, drain the amaranth, and return it to the pot with 3 cups of water and three pinches of salt. Bring the amaranth to a boil, turn the heat as low as it will go, and reduce to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 more minutes. Stir to mix in the extra water on the top of the amaranth.

Alternately, I’ve had success making amaranth in my instant pot electric pressure cooker. Lasttime I tried 1 cup of amaranth with 2 cups of water on high pressure for 3 minutes + natural release. It came out well, although it was sitting on keep warm for about an hour. Alma and I ate more than 2/3 of it for breakfast, so next time I’d try 2 cups of amaranth with 3.75 cups of water for 3 minutes + NR. I’m also curious to try a pot-in-pot method, so I don’t have to clean the large insert, but I suspect the cooking time will go up.

To make the blueberry sauce I follow the original recipe but cut the maple syrup down a tad and use vanilla extract instead of a vanilla bean:

  • 1 cup blueberries (I always use frozen, I wouldn’t waste fresh in this dish!)
  • 2 tsp. maple syrup (or 1 ripe pear, see note below)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream (I haven’t tried coconut milk yet)
  • pinch of salt

Note: I’ve also left the maple syrup out and added a ripe pear to the sauce. Once I just finely diced it (with skin on) and let it simmer with the blueberries. Another time I had a bunch of overripe pears and I cooked them into pear puree first (simmering them then pureeing them with my stick blender). I then used the puree in the blueberry sauce. Alma and I enjoyed both versions.

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Banana Oat Nut Pancakes

May 27, 2018 at 11:13 pm (Alma's faves, breakfast, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, unrated, Website / blog) ()

We have tried a lot of banana pancake recipes. This recipe from Cookie and Kate is currently one of our favorites. I usually add pecans as well.

The pancake batter has a lot of coconut oil in it, so I find you don’t need to use much oil in the pan. The oil could probably be cut down. The teaspoon of sweetener seems unnecessary if you eat them with maple syrup. I assume the lemon juice is there to activate the baking soda? I haven’t noticed any lemon flavor.

The recipe says it makes 8 pancakes, but they must be larger than ours, because for me it makes at least 9, usually more.

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Beluga lentil and beet salad with walnuts

May 27, 2018 at 11:03 pm (Alma's faves, Beans, Fall recipes, Instant Pot, Monthly menu plan, My brain, Salads, Spring recipes, unrated, Winter recipes) ()

This is not really a recipe so much as a dinner idea. I basically serve beluga lentils and sliced cooked beets on a bed of salad greens, and drizzle with Annie’s dressing. If I have extra time I will roast some walnuts or pepitas to sprinkle on top. Occasionally we will skip the Annie’s and use feta instead.

I make this at least once a month, and everyone is always happy. When I tell Alma (at 3 years old) what we’re having for dinner, she says “oh, yum, I like that.” Derek is less excited about the idea (it sounds too boring) but once he actually eats it he’s always happy. I like it too. Plus it’s relatively easy to make and can be (mostly) frozen for a quick weeknight meal. Both the lentils and beets freeze well, as does Annie’s dressing. So all I have to do is pull out all the frozen components the night before, and then wash some salad greens.

I usually cook up a big batch of beluga lentils in my instant pot (see below for details). If you don’t have one, you could use a stovetop pressure cooker or just make them in a pan. I always make extra and freeze the leftovers in a glass jar.

I also usually cook beets in the instant pot. Roasted may be tastier, but the instant pot is so much easier and more reliable. Sometimes I am in a rush and then I buy the pre-cooked beets that are in every German supermarket. But they don’t taste as good as the ones I cook myself.

How to cook beets in the Instant Pot

Here are the instructions I used. My beets were big — just under 3 inches in diameter — so I cooked them for 20 minutes on high pressure. They came out perfectly—super easy to peel and the texture and flavor were great. In the past when I’ve boiled, steamed, or baked my beets, I’ve always had trouble getting them cooked consistently and getting the peels to come off easily. So this was a nice change of pace.

Here is her time chart with general guidelines (assuming 1 cup of water and quick release not natural release):

  • <2-inch diameter: 10 minutes under high pressure
  • 2-inch diameter: 15 minutes under high pressure
  • 2 to 3-inch diameter: 20 minutes under high pressure
  • >3-inch diameter: 25-30 minutes under high pressure

How to make beluga lentils in the Instant Pot.

I usually use a pot-in-pot method to cook lentils in the instant pot. I put 1.5 cups of water in the base of the instant pot, then put down the trivet and insert my small (3 quart) instant pot base. I fill it with 500g beluga lentils, 900g of water, and 1 tsp. of salt. I cook the lentils on manual (high pressure) for 12 minutes plus natural pressure release.

I have also tried setting the lentils up in the morning before work, and setting the timer so that the lentils would be done at dinnertime. Since the lentils would be soaking all day I lowered the cooking time, maybe to 5 minutes? I think it worked fine, but I’m not positive. I also don’t recall how long before dinner I set the start time. Maybe 10 minutes to come to pressure, 5 minutes to cook, and 15 minutes for pressure to come down, so 30 minutes before dinnertime?

If you don’t have the 3-quart insert, you can cook the lentils directly in the large 6-quart base. Jill Nussinow says to cook them with 1.5x water for 6 to 7 minutes plus natural release. But others say 2x water and still others say only 4 minutes natural pressure release. I tried a couple of different ways, but I was never happy with how they turned out. Unfortunately I didn’t keep notes. but I generally found that the lentils cooked unevenly. The ones on the bottom end up overcooked and the ones on the top end up underdone. If you have a a 7-cup pyrex bowl you could use that, but then 500g lentils will likely be too much, causing your bowl to overflow during cooking. Maybe 450g (1 pound) lentils and 800g water would fit? I’ve also heard that some people soak the lentils overnight and then cook them in the instant pot in a steamer basket. I haven’t tried it that way yet.

Also a note on cooking regular (greenish/brownish) lentils in the instant pot. Last time I did 2:1 water to lentils (by weight not volume, so a bit less than 2:1 by volume) in the main pot. I think I cooked them on high pressure for 5 minutes and released pressure after about 15 minutes, but the pressure was just about up. They came out not bad, but a tad unevenly cooked. I think next time I will try using the pot-in-pot method instead.

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My time-saving kitchen tips

March 15, 2018 at 10:20 pm (Cooking tips, How to cook, Monthly menu plan)

There is never enough time. I thought life was busy before, but now that I have a toddler I really need all the extra time I can get. I’ve been striving to optimize our cooking routines, so that we spend less time planning, shopping, cooking, and cleaning up. I’m still struggling, but here are a few strategies we’ve started using to save time in the kitchen. The vast majority of them involve the freezer, which is why we recently upgraded to a massive five-drawer freezer! Read the rest of this entry »

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Toddler-approved hummus

January 27, 2018 at 10:07 pm (B plus, Beans, Derek's faves, Middle East / N. Africa, Monthly menu plan, Quick weeknight recipe, Website / blog) ()

Alma likes storebought hummus, but never likes my regular homemade hummus. So I decided to try a new recipe. I did a google search and picked this random recipe for “Better than Storebought” hummus from www.inspiredtaste.net  I chose it because it had over 700 reviews and an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars. Plus it’s a relatively simple recipe, with a slightly different technique than I usually use. It has you blend the tahini and lemon juice first, before adding the chickpeas.

I doubled the recipe:

  • 2 (15-ounce) cans of chickpeas or 3 cups (500 grams) cooked chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) fresh lemon juice (about 2 large lemons)
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) well-stirred tahini
  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tablespoons (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons (60 to 90 ml) water
  • Dash of ground paprika, for serving

Instructions:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the tahini and lemon juice and process for 1 minute, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl then process for 30 seconds more, until the tahini is whipped, smooth, and creamy.
  2. Add the garlic, cumin, and salt to the whipped tahini and lemon juice. Process for 30 seconds, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl then process another 30 seconds or until well blended.
  3. Add half of the (drained) chickpeas to the food processor and process for 1 minute. Scrape sides and bottom of the bowl, then add remaining chickpeas and process until thick and quite smooth; 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Keep adding bean cooking liquid 1 or 2 Tbsp. at a time, until the hummus is the desired consistency.

I think I followed the recipe pretty closely. I added a tad more than 3 cups of chickpeas (maybe 530g?) and a little more lemon, and used the bean cooking liquid to thin it out instead of water. I also put in only about half the cumin, just in case it would cause Alma to not like it.

The hummus came out well. Derek loved it. He said it was bright and creamy and perfect. Alma wouldn’t eat it on carrot sticks, but did deign to eat it on spelt crackers. And a few days later she ate it happily on cucumbers! I liked it. It doesn’t taste like storebought, but it was yummy. I’d make it again. I might use slightly more tahini and less olive oil.

Update as of Feb 25, 2018:

I cut out the olive oil and cumin, and added more tahini than last time. I made a double batch:

  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (122g)
  • 1 cup tahini (227g)
  • 4 garlic cloves (mine weighed around 7g, but I think 12g would be more average)
  • 1.25 tsp. salt
  • 4 cup salted chickpeas (should have been about 656g, but mine weighed 725g)
  • about 7 Tbs. bean juice (I used 111g)

I first added the lemon juice and tahini to the food processor until fluffy. Then added the garlic and salt, then the chickpeas, and finally the bean juice. I thought it wasn’t quite as tasty as my last batch, but I’m not sure what the difference is. Maybe a tad too thick? Needed a little bit more liquid maybe?

It made about 5.5 cups maybe? I left 2.5 cups in the fridge and froze 2 cups. It’s kind of a pain to clean the food processor, so if it freezes well I think next time I’ll make an even bigger batch. Maybe 6 cups of chickpeas.

How I cooked the chickpeas: I cooked 1 pound 12 ounces chickpeas in my instant pot. I hot-soaked them over the morning in about 70 C water, to fill to the 3 liter mark. I also added about 1 3/4 tsp. of salt. I left the instant pot on keep warm.  When they seemed fully hydrated I cooked them under pressure for 17 minutes. They ended up soft (maybe a tad too soft for chana masala) but not quite as soft as last time. Maybe next time do 16 minutes, take some out, then cook the rest for hummus another few minutes? I used the still very warm chickpeas in the hummus, because I heard that makes a creamier hummus.

To decide how much tahini to use, I compared a few recipes.  This nytimes Zahav-inspired recipe calls for 3 cups of cooked chickpeas and a full cup of tahini!, but no olive oil (except to garnish). That said, the nytimes version seems to be a bastardized version of the chef’s original recipe. The version of Zahav’s recipe on food52 calls for 3 cups of cooked chickpeas and only 2/3 cup of tahini, and the technique is different. Odd. This Ottolenghi recipe calls for 3 cups of chickpeas and 13.5 Tbs. (.84 cups) of tahini .

For reference, the amount of tahini for 4 cups of chickpeas ranges from 10.67 (Better than storebought recipe), 14 Tbs. (Zahav), 18 tbs. (Ottolenghi), to 21.33 (NYT version of Zahav’s). Lemon juice ranges from 4 Tbs. (Ottolenghi), 7 Tbs. (Zahav), 10.67 Tbs. (Better than storebought). And salt ranges from 1.33 tsp. salt (Better than Storebought), to 1.5 tsp. salt (Ottolenghi).

Update as of April 14, 2018:

I cooked 1.5 pounds of dry (unsoaked) chickpeas with 1.5 tsp. of salt in my instant pot for 55 minutes, and then went out and they ended up sitting on keep warm for around 3 hours I think. They ended up quite soft. Next time maybe I should add a bit less salt, just 1.25 tsp for 1.5 pounds of chickpeas or 1.5 tsp. for 1.75 pounds of chickpeas.

I made an even larger batch of hummus than last time (4x the original recipe), but I think it was too much for my food processor motor to handle, and also probably a bit too much for the freezer. Next time I’ll probably go back to the 4-cup of chickpeas version. Or divide it and make it in two batches.

  • 3/4 cup lemon juice (183g)
  • 1.5 cups tahini (341g)
  • 6 garlic cloves (around 16g)
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin (I didn’t add this at first, but it was quite bland. Was better with the cumin.)
  • 1.5 tsp. (but see note below on the bean juice)
  • 6 cup salted chickpeas (984g)
  • about 10-11 Tbs. bean juice (about 173g) [I ended up needing to add way more liquid, maybe double? That’s probably why I needed less salt, since the bean juice was salted]

Here’s the original “Better than Storebought” recipe x4, for comparison:

  • 1 cup (240 ml) fresh lemon juice (about 4 large lemons)
  • 1 cup (240 ml) well-stirred tahini
  • 8 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 4 (15-ounce) cans of chickpeas or 6 cups (1kg) cooked chickpeas
  • 1 cup to 1.5 cups of bean cooking liquid

Update as of March 23, 2018:

How I cooked the chickpeas: I soaked just shy of 1 pound of chickpeas with plenty of salt and kombu for about 24 hours, drained them, then put them in the instant pot with a bit over 2 cups of water, so they were just barely covered. I cooked them on high pressure for 14 minutes, plus natural release. They came out well—salty and soft but not falling apart soft. I maybe could have done one more minute for hummus-soft beans.

When the beans were still warm I made one batch of hummus, but I was a bit short on tahini so I cut down on the lemon juice a bit too. My beans and aquafaba were quite salty, so I cut back on salt in the hummus. The hummus came out well.

  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (122g) [I used a bit less, maybe 105g?]
  • 1 cup tahini (227g) [I ran out, and only used about 170g]
  • 8 or 9g of garlic
  • about 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 cup cooked salted chickpeas (should have been about 656g, but mine weighed about 700-something grams)
  • about 8 or 9 Tbs. bean juice (more than 111g)

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Cauliflower fried “rice” with carrots, peas, and corn

January 18, 2018 at 10:41 pm (breakfast, B_, Cruciferous rich, East and SE Asia, One pot wonders, Quick weeknight recipe, Soy and seitan, Website / blog)

So I haven’t been blogging much lately. We have been cooking, but we haven’t been making so many new recipes. Blame my toddler. Alma (at almost 3) is not what I would call a super picky eater. She will eat most vegetables, and almost all types of beans, whole grains, fruits, and nuts. That said, in comparison to Derek and I, she is soooo picky. She doesn’t yet like most spices and herbs, she’s adverse to many “mixed” dishes, and she’s generally nervous about anything new. It’s hard to get up the energy to try a new recipe, when you know that with high likelihood it will be rejected, at least on the first attempt.

But I am still in need of quick, healthy weeknight recipes as well as healthy, vegetable-containing breakfasts. So I went on a search for “kid friendly” recipes. Most of what I found was either a dessert, non-vegetarian, or flour-, dairy-, or grain-based, with few to no vegetables. Not what I was looking for. Then I came across this recipe for a one-skillet cauliflower “fried rice” on the Super Healthy Kids blog, and it reminded me that I’d been meaning to try making fried rice out of cauliflower for a while. This particular version looks a little wan — there’s no scallions, no ginger, no chilies. But I figured it would be a good first version to test on Alma (who won’t touch scallions or chilies, and isn’t a huge fan of ginger). Read the rest of this entry »

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Why I’m ditching my stovetop pressure cooker

July 12, 2017 at 2:39 pm (Beans, Equipment reviews, Instant Pot) ()

I have a nice Fissler pressure cooker that I use occasionally (mostly to cook beans). I like it, but I don’t love it. Recently I got an Instant Pot electronic pressure cooker. Even though I’ve only made four things in it so far (black beans, chana dal, sweet potatoes, and beets), I can already tell that I like it much better than my stovetop pressure cooker. Here’s why. Read the rest of this entry »

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Asparagus, pea, fava bean, and barley ragout

May 31, 2017 at 9:37 pm (101 cookbooks, Alma's faves, Beans, Grains, My brain, Pasta, Quick weeknight recipe, Spring recipes, Starches, unrated, Vegetable dishes) (, )

I am embarrassed to admit that I have never cooked with fava beans. All that boiling and husking and peeling of individual beans … Seems like a lot of work. So I thought I’d start easy with basically ready-to-eat frozen, pre-shelled fava beans. But what to do with them? I found this recipe for a spring ragout on the 101 cookbooks blog, and it looked good, and toddler friendly. Alma likes asparagus and peas and pasta, so hopefully she’d like the dish. And she did. I decided to make it a second time, but then Alma got pasta at lunch at daycare, and I didn’t want to serve pasta twice in one day, so I subbed in barley instead. She loved it!  Read the rest of this entry »

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Easy toasted overnight steel cut oatmeal

May 29, 2017 at 8:55 pm (Alma's faves, breakfast, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Grains, Monthly menu plan, unrated, Website / blog, Winter recipes)

Normally Derek doesn’t like oatmeal made from steel cut oats that much, but today he really liked it, and he asked me to write up what I did. I mostly followed this recipe from Marin Mama Cooks for toasted overnight steel cut oats, but I made a few changes. Read the rest of this entry »

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Red lentil and spinach pancakes

May 16, 2017 at 2:45 pm (Beans, Dark leafy greens, Uncategorized, unrated, Website / blog) ()

Alma does not like red lentils. She will happily eat brown lentils, green lentils, and black lentils, but if I give her a bite of red lentils she invariably spits them out. I think it’s a texture thing, so I thought I’d try this recipe from the Healthy Little Foodies blog for red lentil and spinach pancakes. The recipe is really simple — just soaked (not cooked) red lentils, garlic and spices, and fresh spinach. Read the rest of this entry »

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Baked Cauli-tots

May 15, 2017 at 8:44 pm (Alma's faves, breakfast, Cruciferous rich, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, unrated, Website / blog) ()

There are a million recipes online for cauliflower “tots”. They’re a fun change of pace from simple roasted cauliflower, and they’re easy to make in advance when you need a quick breakfast. Serve the cauli-tots with some already cooked beans and some fresh fruit and they’ll make a great breakfast. Read the rest of this entry »

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Restaurant-style sesame noodles

April 30, 2017 at 9:58 pm (Alma's faves, Chinese, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, Pasta, Sauce/dressing, Tofu, Uncategorized, Website / blog) ()

I already have two sesame noodle recipes on my blog. The first recipe is from Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East cookbook, and uses tahini. The second recipe is from Nancie McDermott’s Quick and Easy Chinese cookbook, and uses peanut butter. But lately we haven’t been making either of these recipes. Instead we’ve been making a version of the takeout-style sesame noodles recipe from Sam Sifton on the New York Times website. It uses both tahini and peanut butter. It’s clearly the winner. We make a whole meal out of it by adding pan-fried tofu, steamed broccoli, and various raw veggies. The last few times we’ve made this for dinner, Alma has scarfed it up. Read the rest of this entry »

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Homemade Progresso-style Lentil Soup

April 19, 2017 at 2:54 pm (Alma's faves, Beans, Fall recipes, Monthly menu plan, My brain, soup, unrated, Winter recipes)

The first food that Derek ever cooked for me was a bowl of lentil soup. He very carefully opened up a can of Progresso lentil soup, and then worked long and hard to “cook” it. And cook it he did, not in the microwave but in a real pot on the stove! It was piping hot and delicious.

Both of us still love Progresso vegetable classics lentil soup, but we can’t get it here in Germany. It’s probably for the best though, as I try not to buy canned foods, plus the sodium levels are through the roof. Still, we miss it, and so I decided to try to make it myself. I looked online for a copycat recipe, but couldn’t find anything that seemed promising. So I just took a look at the ingredient list and nutritional label and gave it a crack. I haven’t had the real thing in years, so I could be off, but to both Derek and I my soup tasted just like the real thing.

The first time I made it Alma wouldn’t touch it (too brown and goopy I guess), but at some point she finally tried it and really liked it. Then the next time I served it she again rejected it. I reminded her that last time she had scarfed it up and that she had even chastised me for finishing all the leftovers. She tried it again and again happily polished off her bowl.
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Creamy millet porridge with baked, spiced pears

February 19, 2017 at 1:44 pm (Alma's faves, breakfast, B_, Cook's Illustrated, Fall recipes, Grains, Monthly menu plan, Website / blog, Winter recipes) ()

Derek is not a millet fan. I remember him happily digging into a millet pilaf I made many years ago, and then almost doing a spit-take. “What did you do to the rice?” he asked with a look of intense disgust on his face. “This is the worst rice you’ve ever made!” So as you can imagine, I don’t cook a lot of millet. But Alma likes porridge, and I’m not the biggest oatmeal fan. I wanted to make some alternative-grain porridges, and I came across a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated for creamy millet porridge. They say “slightly overcooking millet causes the seeds to burst and release starch, creating a creamy consistency that makes this grain ideal for breakfast porridge.” Sounds good! I think Derek’s main problem with millet is its somewhat dry, gritty texture, so I thought maybe he’d be willing to eat millet in a porridge. And he is! Alma likes it too, and for me it’s a nice change from oatmeal.

When I made this porridge for breakfast today, I served it with my Mom’s Ayurvedic baked, spiced pears. Alma isn’t normally a huge pear fan, but she likes these baked pears, which are seasoned with cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg. And unlike with baked apples, she doesn’t even complain about the skin. Read the rest of this entry »

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Vegetarian Okonomiyaki (Japanese Cabbage Pancakes)

February 5, 2017 at 1:50 pm (101 cookbooks, Alma's faves, B plus, breakfast, Cruciferous rich, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Japanese, Monthly menu plan, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, Spring recipes, Winter recipes) ()

I was looking for a green cabbage recipe that a toddler would like, and I came across this pretty simple (albeit quite Americanized) vegetarian Okonomiyaki recipe on the 101 cookbooks blog. Alma generally likes pancakes, so I decided to give it a try. Below is a doubled version of the original recipe, with a few modifications. Derek and I like them a lot, and it’s a relatively quick recipe, so suitable for a weeknight dinner or a Sunday lunch.

One thing I was concerned about in terms of making this recipe kid friendly is the name. Luckily Alma doesn’t know the word “yucky” yet (she’s only learned the German “bäh” at daycare so far). But if she did I’d be worried about her thinking the name was Okonomi-yukky. Maybe if you’re serving this to kids for the first time you should call it Okonomi-yummy instead.

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Broccoli, feta, lime frittata

December 10, 2016 at 3:28 pm (Alma's faves, breakfast, B_, Cook's Illustrated, Monthly menu plan, Necessarily nonvegan, Uncategorized) ()

The frittata is called the lazy cook’s omelet. Sounds perfect, no? I like omelets but I’m definitely lazy. I’ve tried various frittata recipes before, but neither Derek nor I ever like them. They’re always a bit too dry and rubbery. Or over-browned. Or just meh. But I’ve always thought that maybe my technique was just wrong. So I decided to give it another go, when Cook’s Illustrated came out with a new frittata series this year. And I thought it came out pretty well! Definitely better than my previous attempts.

And Alma really likes it (at least as of September 2017). I’ve since made it several times and she always really enjoys it. The magic of feta cheese perhaps? Read the rest of this entry »

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Wintry root vegetable risotto with red beans

November 12, 2016 at 11:35 pm (B plus, Beans, Fall recipes, Grains, Peter Berley, Uncategorized, Winter recipes)

A friend served us this recipe from Peter Berley’s cookbook The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen, and both Derek and I really liked it. Shredded carrots and parsnips add a bit of sweetness, turnips add a slightly funky note, while the beans add an earthy, hearty feel. Ginger and tomato paste add even more flavor. The original recipe also calls for burdock, but we can’t get it here, so we left it out. I’m sure it would make the dish truly stellar. Read the rest of this entry »

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