Instant Pot Chana Masala

February 26, 2020 at 10:58 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Indian, Instant Pot, Website / blog)

Yes, I am on an Instant Pot kick. I bought the pot but still don’t use it for all that much other than cooking beans and (occasionally) breakfast porridge. I really would love to find more Instant Pot recipes that the whole family loves. So I printed out a bunch of recipes and we’ve been working our way through them.

This recipe for Instant Pot Chana Masala is from the blog Spice Cravings. It’s interesting in that it has you cook the dry (but pre-soaked!) chickpeas in just a little water along with the onions, tomatoes, and spices that becomes the gravy. I would have thought you’d need more liquid to cook the beans, and it would come out too soupy. But it worked.

I followed the recipe pretty closely, but I wasn’t sure what crushed ginger is. I used minced ginger. I only used 1 seeded green chili, so Alma would eat it. I used the paprika option instead of the Kashmiri red chili powder. I used jarred tomatoes instead of fresh, and maybe 4 or 5 since they were quite small. I didn’t have any fennel so I left that out. (It’s optional in any case.) Finally, I forgot to add the roasted cumin powder at the end. I was also surprised the author says to add the garam masala at the beginning of the cooking. All my other Indian recipes always have you add it at the very end? I decided to be conservative and added it after I opened the instant pot.

Derek and I both really liked this recipe. Derek said it tasted better than most restaurant Chana Masalas. He said it needed spice though, and added cayenne to his bowl.

Alma refused to try the dish. She ate plain chickpeas instead.

It only calls for 1 cup of chickpeas. Next time I’d definitely double the recipe. Derek and I were fighting over the leftovers.

(I’m giving this the same rating as the Tortilla Soup recipe I just blogged, but we actually liked it quite a bit more. But it seems wrong to give it 4 stars after just trying it once.)

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Instant Pot Tortilla Soup

February 23, 2020 at 10:48 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Instant Pot, Mexican & S. American, One pot wonders, Quick weeknight recipe, soup, Website / blog, Winter recipes)

On the vegetarian Instant Pot Facebook group, this Peas and Crayons recipe for Vegetarian Lentil Tortilla Soup gets rave reviews. It seems like every week I see someone posting it and gushing over it. And it looks good in the photo. So I decided to give it a try. If you have the black and pinto beans cooked already, it’s a pretty quick recipe. You just saute up some onions and peppers, then add the beans and lentils, tomatoes and salsa, corn and spices. I was out of corn so I skipped it, but I did add some sliced corn tortillas, because what kind of tortilla soup doesn’t have tortillas in it?

I was a bit distracted when trying to make this recipe, and I ended up adding the lentils too soon, and some of them stuck to the bottom and were starting to almost burn. So I added the water and gave it a good stir, and figured that would work. But when the Instant Pot almost got up to pressure I got the “Burn” warning and it wouldn’t come to pressure. I let it sit for maybe ten minutes, then quick-released it and try to scrape the bottom of the pot well (but didn’t actually wash it out). I tried to bring it to pressure again and got the same burn warning. Again I let it sit for a while and this time the lentils were cooked enough to eat, even though it never came up to pressure. I think there are some comments on the blog about how to prevent getting the burn warning. I’ll definitely read them next time I try this recipe. (I suspect that the soup was too thick because of the tortillas I added, and I should have added more liquid to compensate.)

Despite never coming to pressure, the soup turned out well, although it tasted nothing like any tortilla soup I’ve ever had. It was more like a thick bean stew, almost like chili, except there wasn’t that much chili powder in it. It was yummy over some corn tortilla chips. I like the idea of making a Mexican bean stew with lentils in it. I don’t usually combine pinto/black beans with lentils. It worked well.

We found the cream unnecessary, especially if you are eating the soup with sour cream. The pickled jalapenos were essential–the soup needed the acid and salt.

Alma wouldn’t try it the night I made it (after I referred to it as tortilla soup), but she did have a little bit when I served it another night (when I just called it “beans”). The wasn’t a big fan though.

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Gingerbread granola, oil-free

February 17, 2020 at 10:58 pm (Alma's faves, breakfast, Website / blog)

I’ve never made oil-free granola before, but this recipe by Dreena Burton gets rave reviews in one of the vegan Facebook groups I’m in, so I thought I’d give it a try.

I followed the recipe pretty closely. I used hemp hearts but also threw in some halved pecans towards the very end of the baking time. I used all 4 tablespoons of maple syrup, but had to use regular molasses as I was out of blackstrap.

Alma was happily eating the granola even before I baked it, and then once it was done she ate it plain/dry (no soymilk). Derek tried it with soymilk but said it tasted sweeter plain/dry. Neither of them wanted any dried cranberries (or fresh fruit) in their granola, but I added some dried cranberreis to my bowl. I liked the tartness they added.

I liked the spices. They were definitely noticeable, but not at all overpowering. I didn’t notice the hemp hearts at all. I will definitely add them to my normal granola recipe. I liked that by cooking at 300 F the granola doesn’t burn as easily. I will try lowering the temperature for my normal granola recipe.

Burton says the rice syrup is critical, as it is stickier than other sweeteners, and helps the granola clump. In the past I haven’t liked the flavor of rice syrup, but I didn’t notice it in this recipe. Maybe I will try adding some to my normal recipe and cutting down on the oils.

My baking sheet wasn’t that full with only 3 cups of oats. I wonder if I could multiple the recipe by 1/3 and use a full 4 cups of rolled oats instead, or if that would negatively affect the texture? Or maybe it would be safer to try 5 cups of oats and cook it in two batches? I wonder if you can bake two cookie sheets simultaneously?

This recipe kind of feels like dessert for breakfast. Also, it feels like a waste of expensive almond butter. I think I will try it again with 3 tablespoons of maple syrup and using tahini for the nut butter.

To make clean-up easier, I recommend mixing the dry ingredients in a smaller bowl and the wet ingredients in a big bowl, and then pouring the dry ingredients into the wet ones, so that only one bowl gets sticky.

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Instant Pot Golden Lentil Soup with Spinach

February 13, 2020 at 10:40 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Beans and greens, Dark leafy greens, Instant Pot, Monthly menu plan, soup, Website / blog, Winter recipes) ()

When we were menu-planning this week, Alma suggested we make lentil soup. But rather than make one of the ten lentil soup recipes on this blog, I decided to try a new one. Someone on my Facebook Instant Pot group said this kitchentreaty recipe for golden lentil and spinach soup is their all-time favorite Instant Pot recipe. And we all liked it, even Alma.

Important caveats: Make more than one recipe, at least 1.5x! Cook the lentils much longer than she says (maybe 17-18 minutes under pressure), and make sure they are cooked before adding the spinach. If they aren’t, cook them under pressure for a few more minutes. You may also need a bit more broth than the recipe calls for.

Update April 1, 2020: 

The second time I made it I made only one recipe and we finished it all at dinner, even though Alma ate barely any of it. I would definitely make more next time. The soup was quite thick. I think it needed more broth. I cooked it for 15 minutes under pressure and even waited a few minutes before releasing the pressure, and still the lentils were undercooked. Alma didn’t like it much this time, I’m not sure why. I didn’t use the parsnip or zucchini. Maybe that was why?

Original Notes from Feb 13, 2020:

The recipe as written says it makes 4 servings, but I wanted to have leftovers so I made 1.5x to make 6 servings.

This recipe is in many ways similar to my Mom’s lentil soup recipe, but it calls for a lot of turmeric (1/2 tablespoon for 6 servings). I liked the combination of turmeric, thyme, and cumin.

When I started to prep the veggies for the recipe I discovered I only had one carrot left, so I used one carrot and one parsnip and one zucchini. I couldn’t actually taste the parsnip in the final soup. I was also perhaps a bit low on celery, since Alma snacked on some of the celery I was saving for the soup. I didn’t want the zucchini to turn to mush, so I cooked it separately while the soup was cooking. I quickly sauteed up the finely diced zucchini and we threw the zucchini in the soup right before serving it. I liked the extra texture the zucchini added, but it didn’t add much in terms of flavor. I think I could leave it out next time. We served the soup with goat yogurt, which everyone enjoyed.

For 6 servings the recipe calls for 12 ounces of spinach, which is 340 grams. I think I’d actually use a bit more, maybe even a pound. I’d add half on the first day, and save the other half of the spinach for the leftovers, so that the spinach is freshly cooked and not sitting around in the fridge for days then getting reheated.

My one complaint with the recipe is that my lentils were not at all cooked after 12 minutes under high pressure + quick release. I think they needed more like 14 or 15 minutes maybe? I did make 1.5 times the recipe, but if anything I would think that would mean I need to cook it for less time, not more, since it would take longer to come to pressure?

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Instant Pot Saag Aloo with sweet potatoes and chard

February 13, 2020 at 10:26 pm (C (1 star, edible), Dark leafy greens, Indian, Instant Pot, Root vegetables, Website / blog)

I have been craving Indian food, and so I printed out a bunch of new Indian Instant Pot recipes to test. I gave Derek the stack of recipes and he picked this Vegan Richa recipe for Instant Pot Saag Aloo, which was convenient because I happened to have a lot of chard and sweet potatoes. Also, we really like Vegan Richa’s Instant Pot lasagne soup, so I was hoping for another great dish.

Unfortunately, it was not a success. Alma (at age five) took one bite and then wouldn’t touch it, and even Derek only ate a few spoonfuls. It ended up very watery, not sure why. Maybe I mis-measured the water? But even ignoring the wateriness, nobody liked the flavors. Too much cinnamon maybe? Derek said it was just too sweet tasting. Did I screw it up, or is it just not for us?

To try to improve the texture, I pureed it all together and then served it with pan-fried paneer for breakfast this morning. That was okay, but we still didn’t like the sweet potato / chard / cinnamon combination very much.

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Mini chickpea flour frittatas (vegan)

February 13, 2020 at 10:19 pm (breakfast, B_ (2 stars, okay), Website / blog)

I am looking for ideas for breakfast (as always) and was intrigued when someone posted this recipe for mini chickpea flour frittatas to a Facebook group I’m a member of. They said that everyone in their family enjoyed them. I have quite a bit of chickpea flour that needs to get used up, so I thought I’d give the recipe a try.

I followed the recipe pretty closely (except I didn’t have any chives and I used regular salt). I cooked the frittatas for 30 minutes, at which point a toothpick came out clean so I figured they were done.

They were not a success. Alma (at age 5) would not eat them, and Derek and I only ate them because we didn’t want to waste all that food. And we had to add salt and some olive oil to make them somewhat palatable.

I greased the muffin tins but still they frittatas would not come out (when they were hot). When the frittatas cooled down they came out a little more easily, but still the muffin tin was a pain to clean. The “frittatas” were very soft and squishy in the middle and the flavor was just … meh. I feel like the batter needed more seasoning and some fat.

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How to make a stir fry

February 4, 2020 at 9:39 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Cooking tips, Derek's faves, East and SE Asia, Monthly menu plan, Other)

I’ve always been terrible at stir-frying. You can see many of my previous stir-fry posts for evidence. When I try to wing it, it just doesn’t taste right. And when I try to follow a recipe, most of the time the result is disastrous. I’ve tried many recipes for “stir-fry sauces” over the years and they are almost always terrible, or full of processed store-bought sauces with very strange unpronounceable ingredients. So when one of Derek’s students made us a pretty yummy stir-fry , I asked him to come over and show me how to make it. It was a while ago now, so I’ve probably forgotten part of what I learned, but I’m going to try to record my lessons here.

  1. Tofu: He had me boil the tofu briefly, and it made the texture spongier and more absorbent, a bit more like frozen tofu.  He also had me cut the tofu into huge cubes, but Derek said I should cut them smaller next time. I just pan-fried them in my cast iron skillet the same way I usually do.
  2. Seasoning: We minced a lot of garlic and added some thinly sliced shallots. We also chopped up some cilantro, although I got some grief for getting the wrong (apparently not so flavorful) kind. That was it for seasoning, other than salt and soy sauce. We started by heating my 12-inch stainless steel skillet on high (as high as my oven goes, on the largest burner). When quite hot, we added quite a small amount of oil (1 tsp?) to it, then immediately threw in most (but not all) of the garlic and scallions. After a few seconds we added the slowest cooking vegetable (in our case carrots).
  3. Amounts and timing: We had to make two batches to have enough for all four of us (3 adults + Alma). But I was surprised at how quick it was to make the second batch, especially since we used all the carrots (the slowest veggie) in the first batch. The second batch (with pre-steamed broccoli and other quick cooking vegetables) just took a couple of minutes to make. I think if I was just cooking for Derek and Alma and myself, I could make one batch for dinner and a second batch to have “leftovers” for lunch the next day.
  4. Carrots: We had to add water to the pan in small amounts to get the carrots to cook not burn. Whenever the pan started to brown a bit we added some water.
  5. Broccoli: He said broccoli is a bit tricky, so we steamed it first, until it was almost cooked, and then we added it once the carrots were almost done cooking. That worked well and the final texture came out pretty good.
  6. Mushrooms: He said that the criminis I got weren’t so good for stir-fry, and shiitakes would be better. I think we added the mushrooms too soon, as they ended up a tad overcooked. I think they actually take less time than bell peppers.
  7. Bell peppers: These we cut into quite large pieces and added around the same time as the broccoli.
  8. Salt and soy sauce: We seasoned a bit as we went. I thought the soy sauce would burn since the pan was so hot but it didn’t seem to. He wanted me to taste it as we went for seasoning, but I didn’t want to. I hate tasting food before it’s done. I know, bad, bad cook.
  9. Final seasoning: When all the veggies were just about cooked we threw in the cooked tofu and the rest of the garlic/scallion mixture, along with the chopped cilantro. I was surprised at how tasty it ended up given that there was almost no oil and essentially no sauce.
  10. Cashews: He said they never put cashews in stir-fry, but we like them so I threw a bunch in the oven on low before we started cooking. They were nicely browned by the time the stirfry was ready, and Derek and Alma and I all thought they made a very tasty addition.
  11. Ginger and chilies: There was no ginger in our stirfry, but I missed it. The next time I made a stirfy I julienned some ginger into very thin batons and added them with the garlic and scallions. That way Alma could pick them out. I also ate my stir-fry with some Sambal Olek. I missed some spice.

Other veggies to try: bok choy, bean sprouts, snow peas, green beans, ???

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Sweet potato chickpea kale tahini buddha bowl

January 3, 2020 at 4:23 pm (Beans and greens, B_ (2 stars, okay), Cruciferous rich, Dark leafy greens, Fall recipes, Quick weeknight recipe, Root vegetables, Sauce/dressing, Vegetable dishes, Website / blog, Winter recipes)

I like the idea of a buddha bowl, but I’ve never figured out a combination that (a) everybody likes, (b) isn’t a ton of work, and (c) doesn’t get a million dishes dirty. But I found this recipe on the Minimalist Baker website and it looked like it might be quick and easy. Alma likes chickpeas and kale and sweet potatoes and tahini, so I figured there was a good chance she would like the recipe.

I couldn’t find any broccolini, so I just left that out. I cut my sweet potatoes into quarters so they’d cook a bit faster. I cooked the veggies on a baking sheet covered in tin foil, to reduce cleanup time. The recipe only calls for a few handfuls of kale, which didn’t seem like much, so I steamed the remainder. I roasted the kale in the oven for about 5 minutes and it was starting to brown (burn?) in places. I don’t care for kale once it’s turned brown, and Alma didn’t even liked the non-brown portions of the roasted kale, although Derek liked the roasted kale a lot. Alma and I preferred the steamed version.

The method for cooking the chickpeas wasn’t great. I don’t know if I screwed up or not, but they never really got crispy. And I got a big skillet dirty. The seasoning was fine, but I think next time I might try throwing them on the baking sheet with the sweet potatoes (or maybe even before the sweet potatoes).  To save on cleanup, maybe I could mix the chickpeas with the spices in the same pot I use to steam the kale. Then I’d just have to clean that one pot and steamer basket.

We didn’t love her tahini sauce. It was too sweet and a little bland. The sauce doesn’t have any salt in it even. Maybe I added more maple syrup than I was supposed to, but still. It’s boring. I added a lot of extra lemon to try to perk it up, but we still didn’t love it.

We had a lot of ripe avocados languishing in the fridge, so we added some avocado to replace the missing broccolini. Radishes might also have been good, but I forgot I had them.

Alma didn’t end up eating a buddha bowl. She ate everything (except the onions) separate with no sauce. Typical.

Derek said everything tasted good but afterward he felt unsatisfied.

Another buddha bowl non-success? Still, with my modifications it’s a pretty easy, colorful meal. Maybe I’ll try it again sometime. How could I make it more satisfying?

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Baked oatmeal cups

December 31, 2019 at 1:10 pm (Alma's faves, breakfast, B_ (2 stars, okay), Grains, Website / blog)

I was looking around for more make-ahead breakfast ideas, and decided to try to make baked oatmeal cups. Alma hasn’t been very into oatmeal lately, so I thought this might be a good way to make it more exciting. I searched for a recipe and I first came across this recipe for tender baked oatmeal cups on thekitchn.com., which I had bookmarked a long time ago. But Google says it only gets a rating of 2.8 out of 5 stars (from 482 voters!) So I kept looking. I found this recipe from Tasty.co, which gets more than 4.5 out of 5 stars (from 281 voters). But when I looked at that recipe, it looked surprisingly similar to the kitchen.com recipe. I compared them side by side, and they are almost perfectly identical! Funny. One advantage of the Tasty.co recipe is that is has weight measurements, which I prefer for measuring sticky ingredients. But I had already pulled up thekitchn.com recipe, so Alma and I followed that one. We used peanut butter for the nut butter, honey for the sweetener, raisins for the dried fruit, and almonds for the nuts. I didn’t have any plain applesauce so we used apple apricot sauce. We mixed the nuts and raisins into the batter instead of sprinkling the toppings on top, because I was afraid that they would burn. The muffins still looked quite wet at 25 minutes, so I ended up baking them for the full 30 minutes.

The recipe worked pretty well. The oatmeal cups didn’t hold together quite as well as the ones in the videos, and they stuck a bit to the tins despite me greasing them (with olive oil, I didn’t have any spray). I think I might have added a tad too much honey, and also my eggs were larger than American eggs. So the batter might have been a little bit too wet.

Alma said she loved the recipe (4 stars), but she did pick out all the raisins (which is ironic, since yesterday she just ate the raisins out of her Tassajara red cabbage). Derek and I thought the muffins were okay. The internal texture was a lot like the oatmeal Derek makes out of rolled oats, but the tops were a bit crisper. I found them a bit too sweet. I think if I make them again I will double the walnuts and cut out the raisins. And measure the honey by weight instead of by tablespoons (which wasn’t so precise I fear). I also think they’d be better with a different nut butter. Maybe peanut butter would go well with banana puree, but with applesauce they’d probably go better with almond butter or maybe sun butter (for a cheaper option).

We ate 6 of the muffins for brunch today, and have 6 left for another day.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs (100g out of shells)
  • 1 ½ cups milk (360 mL)
  • ½ cup applesauce (125g)
  • ¼ cup sunflower butter (60g), or nut butter of choice
  • ¼ cup maple syrup (55g), or honey maybe?
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups old fashioned rolled oats (300g)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 cup of walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit, or other toppings like coconut or chocolate chips?

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
  2. Place milk, applesauce, nut butter, maple syrup, vanilla, and eggs in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk until combined.
  3. Add oats, baking powder, cinnamon, walnuts, and salt. Stir quickly to make sure everything is well-hydrated.
  4. Pour batter into the greased muffin tin, and add toppings of your choice. Bake for 20–25 minutes or until the middle springs back when gently pressed.
  5. Oatmeal cups can be enjoyed immediately and/or frozen in an airtight container (once completely cool) to be enjoyed later by microwaving for 2 minutes.

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Roasted chestnuts

December 26, 2019 at 12:48 pm (Alma's faves, breakfast, Fall recipes, Starches, Website / blog, Winter recipes) ()

Alma has been begging me for a while to buy some chestnuts to roast. We often get a bag of hot, roasted chestnuts when we’re at the farmer’s market on a Saturday morning. But she wanted us to roast some ourselves. So I bought some about a month ago, and then (of course) proceed to not roast them. They just sat on the counter next to the bananas and apples. Finally this morning I said “Today’s the day! I’m going to figure out how to roast those darn chestnuts.” I looked up instructions online. I preheated the oven to 425 F and got out a paring knife. Unfortunately, though, the one paring knife I own isn’t particularly sharp, and I failed to use it to cut an x in the chestnuts. I had to use a serrated knife instead, which wasn’t ideal. I was a bit worried that I was going to slip and cut the hand holding the chestnuts. Eventually I finished cutting x’s into all the chestnuts without cutting myself, but there must be a better way.

We roasted them on a baking sheet for about 15 minutes and they looked done. A few were really good, but unfortunately most of them were moldy. I guess we should have roasted them as soon as we bought them, or at least not have left them sitting in a plastic bag for a month near the radiator.

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Peanut butter oat chocolate chip cookies

December 25, 2019 at 9:27 pm (B_ (2 stars, okay), Cookies, Website / blog)

When my Mom was visiting this summer she made these vegan cookies with Alma. I thought they were pretty tasty. We had her take them out of the oven when they were still soft, and they had a nice soft peanut butter consistency. Yum. We put the leftovers in the freezer and enjoyed them for about a month after my Mom went back home.

So when Alma and I decided to bake cookies today (a nice Christmas Day activity), I immediately thought of these cookies. Derek wanted to make almond crescent cookies, but those are so much work, and it was already 4pm. I wanted to do something quick and easy. So we decided to make a small batch of these cookies today and then make almond crescent cookies tomorrow when we have more time and energy.

Here is the recipe as my Mom wrote it down.

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F (177 C).

In a medium bowl mix well:

  • 1/2 cup (129g) peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup (3.79 oz) maple syrup
  • 2 Tbs. warm soymilk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Then mix together the dry ingredients in a small bowl:

  • 3/4 cup (93.75g) flour
  • 3/4 cup (60.75g) rolled oats
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/3 tsp. salt (I used 1/2 tsp.)
  • 1/3 cup (60g) chocolate chips

Add the dry ingredients to the large bowl with the wet ingredients and fold them together until just mixed.

Make small cookies on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 12-14 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes then enjoy.

My notes:

I checked our cookies at 11 minutes and they looked raw. Also, they hadn’t flattened at all. They were still almost perfect balls. Weird. We cooked them for another 2 minutes, but I think that was a mistake, as the cookies ended up quite dry. I think since they were quite small I should have taken them out at 11 minutes, and maybe also added a tad more liquid to the recipe, maybe 1 egg would be good?

Here’s a similar recipe (in terms of ingredients) that I might try next time, but it calls for more milk, an egg, peanuts, baking powder instead of soda, and less flour, less peanut butter, and less maple syrup: https://www.natalieshealth.com/peanut-butter-oatmeal-cookies/.

After searching around briefly on the internet, I think the source for this recipe is this Vegan Richa cookie recipe. It says on the website that it makes 12 cookies, but I think we made maybe 24? Maybe even more. We made quite small cookies. She says to use a 1.5 Tbs. cookie scoop and I think ours was maybe 3/4 of a Tbs. We did fit them all on one large cookie sheet. She also says to flatten the balls down before baking, which I didn’t do. Vegan Richa says to bake for 15 minutes, and 14 minutes for softer cookies. But I guess since my Mom was making smaller cookies she reduced the cooking time to 12-14 minutes.

Vegan Richa says to use a mix of white and whole wheat flour, but I used all white because that’s what my Mom’s version called for.

 

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Simple parsnip puree

December 25, 2019 at 9:25 pm (A (4 stars, love), Fall recipes, French, Other, Root vegetables, Spring recipes, Winter recipes) ()

If I find nice parsnips at the store then about 90% of the time I roast them. I find that if you try to roast them directly them end up dry and burnt. They turn out the best if they are steamed first, then roasted. But occasionally I get a big bag of parsnips from my CSA and I’m not in the mood for roasted parsnips. Then what? I like to grate them and use them to make chard parsnip patties. Occasionally I’ll serve them mashed with potatoes and topped with balsamic-roasted seitan. But sometimes I just want pure parsnip flavor, and then this is the recipe I turn to. I first made it last fall and since then I’ve made it at least four times.

Unlike mashed potatoes, parsnip puree reheats well. I’ve even brought it to a potluck before. The recipe is pretty easy, but somehow tastes much fancier than it actually is. This recipe is based on a recipe from the cookbook Sara Moulton Cooks at Home, but I’ve changed it to reduce the cleanup a bit. Moulton says she got the idea of reducing the cooking liquid from Julia Child.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds parsnips, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick.
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter or 4 Tbs. cream
  • freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste

Instructions:

  1. Peel and slice the parsnips. (Save the stem ends and peelings for vegetable broth.) Place the peeled and sliced parsnips in a large saucepan (3 to 4 quarts) and barely cover with boiling water. (The parsnips on top don’t have to be entirely submerged.) Add a few pinches of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-high and simmer (uncovered) until tender. If your top parsnips aren’t totally submerged, give them a stir about halfway through. Moulton says this step should take about 25 to 30 minutes, but I think it’s closer to 10 minutes? Max 15.
  2. Drain the parsnips, but reserve the cooking liquid! Leave the parsnips in the colander and return the liquid to the pan. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil rapidly until reduced to about 3/4 cup. Turn off the heat.
  3. Return the parsnips to the pan and add the butter or cream. Use a stick blender to puree the parsnips. (For a finer, perfectly smooth puree you can use a food processor, but I find that a stick blender works well enough and is much easier to clean.) Season with salt and pepper. If you need to, need to return the pan to very low heat to warm the puree up again before serving it.

This recipe makes about 3 cups, or about 4 large side servings.

Tonight I made the parsnip puree and green beans (steamed from frozen). Derek had them with duck, and I had some chorizo veggie sausages. I really liked the combination of the spicy, salty veggie sausages with the sweet parsnip puree and slightly chewy, moist green beans.

Last year Alma would never eat this dish. (She doesn’t like mashed potatoes either—something about the texture I think.) But tonight (at almost 5 years old) she ate her entire (small) serving! We’ll have to see what she thinks next time, but for now I’m marking this recipe preschooler approved.

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Instant Pot Creamy Wild Rice Soup

December 9, 2019 at 9:27 pm (B_ (2 stars, okay), Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Grains, Instant Pot, soup, Website / blog, Winter recipes)

I’m in a couple of vegetarian Instant Pot groups on Facebook, and I keep seeing people rave about a recipe for wild rice soup. I decided to try it, but when I went to look for the recipe I actually found 6 different recipes! Which to try? I asked the group and they voted as follows.

I went and compared the two recipes with the top number of votes, and they’re actually almost identical. Both call for carrots, celery, onions, and mushrooms in addition to the wild rice, and make the soup creamy by adding a roux made with butter, flour, and milk after the soup is cooked in the Instant Pot. The only difference is that Pinch of Yum calls for slightly more vegetables and broth than the Belly Rules the Mind recipe, and poultry seasoning and thyme vs. Italian seasoning, but otherwise they are the same.

The Cooking Carnival recipe is vaguely similar—it also has you make a roux, but calls for coconut milk.

In contrast, the Cardamom and Coconut recipe uses triple the mushrooms, even more broth than Pinch of Yum, and instead of making a roux with flour and milk and 6 Tbs. butter it calls for sour cream and cornstarch to thicken it and only 1 Tbs. of butter. The only herb is thyme.

The Life is No Yoke recipe is the most different. It uses pureed cashews to make it creamy and calls for white beans.

I decided to try the Pinch of Yum recipe, because it got a lot of votes, I like poultry seasoning (and don’t have Italian seasoning) and more vegetables sounded good.

The soup came out pretty well, but was a tad goopy in texture, even though I added an extra cup of broth. I think I might make slightly less roux next time. And I would add more herbs, but that might just be because my poultry seasoning was very old. Overall I’d say a solid B.

Derek really liked it, rating it B+ or A-. He said he wouldn’t change anything.

Alma (at almost 5) ate about half a small bowl then said she didn’t want anymore. She preferred the roasted vegetables I served on the side, especially the Jerusalem artichokes.

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Bean breakfast burgers

November 19, 2019 at 9:24 pm (Beans, breakfast, B_ (2 stars, okay), Website / blog)

I want to serve beans for breakfast on days when we don’t have any beans with dinner, but I haven’t yet figured out a way to convince Alma that they are an acceptable breakfast option. I thought maybe some sort of breakfast burger would go over, and so I decided to try this recipe for vegetarian black bean breakfast sausage. Unfortunately, however, Alma was begging me to play a game with her the whole time I was trying to make dinner, and I was distracted and ended up not following the recipe so carefully.

I used ground flax seed not whole and didn’t measure it very carefully. I just dumped in a bunch of black beans without measuring them either. I used 1 tsp. fine salt. I didn’t have any of the fresh herbs so instead 1/2 tsp. dried thyme and a bunch of poultry seasoning. I left out the cayenne and chili flakes for Alma. I did put in the fennel seeds, even though adding whole fennel seeds seemed odd. I also added all the bread crumbs.

The final mixture was quite firm and solid. It was easy to form into balls and then patties. The brown sugar and fennel were both quite noticeable. I liked the sweet fennel-y flavor pretty well, but Derek thought the burgers were strange tasting, and the texture mushy. Alma ate the burgers with ketchup (actually, vice versa) and was happy. I froze the remaining burgers and I’m hoping to serve them for breakfast sometime.

I’m not sure I will make this recipe again, but it wasn’t a total failure.

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Millet sweet corn fritters

November 14, 2019 at 12:05 am (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Grains, Website / blog) ()

I was looking for some new recipes to eat with beans for breakfast, and I decided to try this recipe for millet sweet corn fritters from Naturally Ella. We eat millet porridge for breakfast sometimes, but other than that I don’t make millet too often because Derek is not a fan of the texture. But in this recipe it’s ground up with corn and pan-fried, so I figured he wouldn’t mind it.

Unfortunately, life happened and I didn’t manage to follow the recipe all that well. I used frozen corn, maybe a bit more than a cup. I made more millet than I needed because I wanted to have extra, and then Alma ate some as an appetizer, and I wasn’t sure how much of the cooked millet I was supposed to add. I think I ended up using less cooked millet than I was supposed to, I used the whole egg, didn’t measure the cheese, and didn’t have any chives. Also, I didn’t realize until the last minute that you’re supposed to puree the whole thing in the food processor. I didn’t want to get my big food processor dirty so I tried to do it in my mini one. Eh. That didn’t work so well. Nor did I get a chance to make the harissa yogurt sauce, although that does sound good. Nonetheless, despite my failures, everyone liked the fritters. They tasted more like corn than millet, but the millet and millet flour made them really thick and starchy and satisfying. I’m curious to try adding some vegetables and/or beans and seeing if they still stick together. Black beans and red bell pepper maybe? Then I could make the batter in advance and just fry up the fritters for a one-stop breakfast.

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Oven-roasted Ratatouille

August 31, 2019 at 10:22 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Cook's Illustrated, Italian, Summer recipes, Vegetable dishes)

Before I got pregnant with Alma I hated eggplant. So I never tried making ratatouille. But since my pregnancy I’ve learned to like eggplant. And I got eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and bell peppers from my CSA this week. It was time to try making ratatouille.

I chose the “Walkaway Ratatouille” recipe from Cook’s Illustrated to try.

Ingredients:

  • ⅓ cup olive oil + 1 Tablespoon
  • 2 large onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons herbes de Provence
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 ½ pounds eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 pounds plum tomatoes, peeled, cored, and chopped coarse (or one 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes that have been drained and chopped coarse)
  • 2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

Instructions:

  1. Crush and peel your garlic and chop your onion.
  2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees F. Heat ⅓ cup oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and starting to soften, about 10 minutes. While the onions are cooking, cut up the eggplant.
  3. Add herbes de Provence, pepper flakes, and bay leaf and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Stir in eggplant and tomatoes. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and stir to combine. Transfer pot to oven and cook, uncovered, until vegetables are very tender and spotty brown, 40 to 45 minutes. While you’re waiting, cut up your zucchini and bell peppers.
  4. Remove pot from oven and, using potato masher or heavy wooden spoon, smash and stir eggplant mixture until broken down to sauce-like consistency. Stir in zucchini, bell peppers, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and return to oven. Cook, uncovered, until zucchini and bell peppers are just tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
  5. Remove pot from oven, cover, and let stand until zucchini is translucent and easily pierced with tip of paring knife, 10 to 15 minutes. Using wooden spoon, scrape any browned bits from sides of pot and stir back into ratatouille. Discard bay leaf. Stir in 1 tablespoon basil, parsley, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to large platter, drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil, sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon basil, and serve.

My notes:

I mostly followed the recipe except I used “only” 5 Tbs. olive oil total, halved the salt (since I was using fine salt not kosher), was a little bit short on eggplant, and didn’t have fresh parsley so used some extra basil. Also, I forgot to add the sherry vinegar at the end, which was particularly sad since we all made a special trip to France this morning to get it! (I can’t find sherry vinegar in my German grocery stores.). Also, I added a bit more herbes de provence then the recipe called for. I didn’t use my fresh CSA tomatoes (seemed a waste). Instead I used two German jars of whole tomatoes. I drained them and crushed them right into the pot. I also shorted all the cooking times a bit because I started cooking dinner too late and was in a rush.

Derek and I liked it. Alma ate a little of the ratatouille, but she found it a bit too spicy (even from just a 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes!).

I thought that the flavors were balanced with a nice mix of roasted and fresh flavors.  And the combination of texture was also nice, with the mashed eggplant and onions and tomatoes contrasting with the less cooked zucchini and bell peppers. I particularly liked that the bell peppers were almost still crisp, but our zucchini was a tad on the raw side. I think next time I’d cut the zucchini a bit smaller and the bell peppers a bit bigger. Since I halved the salt it was a little bit undersalted, but I served with an oversalted polenta (not sure how that happened), so it balanced out. I really liked the combination with the polenta, but Derek said he thought it would be better on pasta. When I looked online people recommended eating it on bread, or as a side with meat or fish. Derek added parmesan to his.

The recipe did take a while to make, but it felt pretty simple. And it only got one pot dirty, which is a big plus in my book! Most of the work is just roughly chopping some vegetables, and you can chop a lot of the veggies while the earlier veggies are cooking.

The recipe made a lot, but I actually wish it had made a bit more! I think next time I make this I will try using a little more of all the vegetables, but cut the oil down to 1/4 cup. And I won’t peel the eggplant. That was just depressing seeing the beautiful purple eggplants turn into wan white spongy fruits, sad and embarrassed in their undressed state. Finally, I will make it on a cooler day! Turning the oven on really heated up the kitchen.

I’m also kind of curious to compare this recipe to Alice Waters’s ratatouille.

If you don’t have any herbes de provence, you can make your own using equal parts of rosemary, thyme, and marjoram and 1/3 as much fennel seeds. If you want a floral blend, also add 1/3 as much dried lavender. So for this recipe, for example, you could use 1/2 tsp. of each of the herbs and 1/6 tsp. each of fennel (and lavender if you want).

Update October 2019: About six weeks after posting this I made a different roasted ratatouille recipe from a new cookbook I just got: River Cottage Veg: 200 Inspired Vegetable Recipes by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Instead of roasting the veggies in a dutch oven, you do it on a cookie sheet. The regular version has you make a tomato sauce on the stovetop, but the variant I tried has you omit the tomato sauce and instead roast a bunch of tomatoes on a separate tray from the other veggies and then mix them all together at the end. Both Derek and I really liked the recipe. It was extremely rich, with tons of olive oil, but therefore also very satisfying. And it didn’t seem greasy. Derek thought he liked it more than the usual ratatouille because of the lack of tomato sauce. Alma wouldn’t eat it, as usual with ratatouille. I can’t really compare this recipe to the Cook’s Illustrated recipe, since they were six weeks apart. But my best guess is that this one was simpler and tastier? But I did use all the oil, whereas I halved the CI oil, so maybe it’s not a fair comparison.

 

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Protein-powder free chocolate vegan protein smoothie

August 19, 2019 at 9:26 pm (breakfast, C (1 star, edible)) ()

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, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, Summer recipes, 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.

Here’s my current recipe, as of September 28, 2019

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of grated zucchini, about 1 large zucchini or 3 small zucchinis (do not peel, just trim ends; use large hole of a standard cheese grater)
  • 1 Tbs. of tahini (14g)
  • 1 Tbs. of lemon juice (15g)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp. fine salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin seeds
  • black pepper, freshly ground, to taste
  • 1/2 cup sliced scallions
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 Tbs. oil (for pan-frying)

Instructions:

  1. Grate the zucchini into a large bowl. Add the tahini, lemon juice, and one egg and mix the three together in a corner of the bowl. Sprinkle the salt, cumin seeds, black pepper, scallions, and cilantro over the zucchini and mix everything together well. Add the buckwheat flour and chickpea flour and mix again until the batter is uniform in texture. Allow mixture to sit for at least 10 minutes, so that the flours absorb all the zucchini’s moisture. Do not taste the batter! (Raw chickpea flour–bleh!)
  2. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add a 1/2 tsp. of oil and turn the heat to medium-low. Immediately add the zucchini batter to the pan. Use a small ice cream scoop to drop several small balls onto the pan. (The exact number will depend on how large you make the balls.) Use a spatula to flatten them. When golden brown on the first side, flip them and cook them until golden brown on the other side. Repeat until all the batter is used up.
  3. Serve with dal.

Original notes form Aug 18, 2019:

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).

Update Sept 2019: I made these again with one large zucchini. Grated it weighed 17 ounces and was about 3 cups of tightly packed zucchini. I added the full cup of chickpea flour and 1 egg. But no buckwheat flour this time. Instead of cumin seed I tried 1/4 tsp. fennel seed. I added 1/4 cup (loosely packed) scallions but it didn’t look like enough so I doubled it to 1/2 cup, but it still didn’t look like that much, so I added a bit more. The scallions weighed 1 ounce.

The pancake texture wasn’t as nice as last time — more doughy than zucchini maybe? I think it was too much chickpea flour. And I didn’t care for the fennel seeds. Alma still happily ate them with ketchup and Derek said he loved the lunch (again I served them with dal). But I was less excited than last time. I definitely missed the cilantro flavor.

Update Sept 28, 2019: I made these again with 3 small to medium zucchinis. Grated they weighed 17 ounces. This time I went back to 1/4 cup buckwheat flour and 1/2 cup chickpea flour and 1 egg, 1/4 tsp. cumin seed, lots of scallions (forgot measure), and some cilantro. Derek agreed they were better than the last batch, and loved them with the over salted dal I pulled out of the freezer. Alma ate them happily with ketchup, but pooh poohed the dal. She ate hers with a side of soybeans instead.

Derek’s rating (with dal): A-/B+

My rating (with dal): B+

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Best Green Smoothie for Beginners

August 11, 2019 at 10:19 pm (breakfast, C (1 star, edible), 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 (3 stars, like a lot), Fall recipes, Grains, Instant Pot, Italian, Jill Nussinow, Monthly menu plan, Spring recipes, 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 buy spinach and had some mushrooms to use up, so I decided to make the mushroom risotto instead. (Sorry Alma.) 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
  • 1 large onion, finely diced or 1.5 cups finely chopped leek (original recipe calls for 1 cup diced leek)
  • 8 oz (425g) crimini mushrooms, half chopped and the other half sliced (original recipe calls for 1 to 2 cups sliced)
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice (original recipe calls for 1.5 cups)
  • 1/2 to 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, not soaked (original recipe called for 1/2 ounce soaked, but more doesn’t hurt)
  • 5 sun-dried tomatoes, unsoaked, torn or cut into pieces (original recipe calls for 3 to 4, rehydrated)
  • 1 Tbs. porcini mushroom powder
  • 5.5 cups veggie broth (original recipe calls for 3.5 to 4 cups)
  • 1 (or 2?) tsp. veggie bouillon powder + salt to taste
  • a big 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. Prep: Mince the garlic. Chop the onion or leek. Let the garlic and onion sit while you wash and slice the mushrooms. If you need to defrost vegetable broth, do it now.
  2. Saute: Set the instant pot to saute. When hot, add the olive oil and onion and saute for a few minutes. While the onion is sauteing, measure out your rice, your mushroom powder, and your dried mushrooms. When the onion is translucent add the garlic and saute another minute or two. Stir in the rice to coat with oil, then add a quarter cup of red wine (if using). When the wine has mostly evaporated add the vegetable broth.
  3. Next, add the dried porcini mushrooms, crushing them into small pieces with your hands as you drop them into the pot. Add the the sun-dried tomatoes, using scissors to slice each one into about 4 pieces as I drop them into the pot. Finally, add the sliced fresh mushrooms and the bouillon powder.
  4. Cook: Lock on the lid. Cook at high pressure for 2 minutes 40 seconds. (You’ll have to set a timer as soon as the Instant Pot comes to pressure, as it only allows whole minutes). As soon as the  timer goes off, immediately release the pressure. (Don’t get distracted! You do not want to leave it any longer than this!) Immediately (and carefully) remove the lid.
  5. Adjust: If the risotto is not cooked through all the way, add a little more boiling hot broth and leave on saute for another few minutes, but make sure to keep stirring so it doesn’t burn on the bottom. When the rice is al dente, stir in more stock as needed 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.
  6. Garnish: Serve with fresh parsley and more parmesan cheese.

My notes:

Timing: 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. Maybe next time I will start with ice cold broth and try 2.5 minutes.

On a second attempt I used warm (not hot) broth and cooked it for 2.5 minutes and it was definitely not cooked through. I had to saute quite a bit and it ended up burning on the bottom. On a third attempt I released slightly before the 3 minutes were up and it still wasn’t cooked (but the brand of rice was different). Maybe the right approach is to use almost boiling broth and cook under pressure for 3 minutes?

It took me about 4 minutes of venting for the pressure to drop completely, even with the quick release. At that point the risotto was cooked well, but quite dry. I had to add more than a cup of broth after I opened it up to get the right consistency.

I forgot to time how long it took to come to pressure. I think it took somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes? So maybe 5-10 minutes + 3 minutes + 4 minutes + a few minutes to stir in the broth and butter and parmesan and serve it. So once you get do your prep, saute the onions, add all the ingredients, and get the lid on the pot it seems like the risotto would be ready approximately 15 to 20 minutes after you press start? But that time is almost entirely hands off. It’s definitely an improvement over stovetop risotto in my book.

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

Rehydrating the vegetables: Nussinow has you soak the porcinis and tomatoes to rehydrate them, but I figured if the rice can go from rock hard to soft in the pressure cooker in 3 minutes, then shouldn’t the vegetables be able to do the same? I skipped the soaking step and it worked out fine. Maybe I needed a bit more broth though.

Review: 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 (B_ (2 stars, okay), Chinese, Tofu, 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 (3 stars, like a lot), 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 (4 stars, love), Dark leafy greens, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, 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 (C (1 star, edible), 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 (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Instant Pot, Italian, Menus, Monthly menu plan, One pot wonders, Pasta, Quick weeknight recipe, soup, Spring recipes, 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 a couple of times 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 (3 stars, like a lot), 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, B_ (2 stars, okay), Grains, Instant Pot, Jill Nussinow, Mexican & S. American, One pot wonders)

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 (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan)

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.

Update Dec 2019: Derek and Alma (at almost 5 years old) both love jerusalem artichokes cooked this way. I made roasted vegetables this week with carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, sweet potatoes, and jerusalem artichokes, and the jerusalem artichokes were the first to go.

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Chard parsnip patties

October 10, 2018 at 3:44 am (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Dark leafy greens, Fall recipes, Root vegetables, 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 (3 stars, like a lot), Dark leafy greens, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Monthly menu plan, 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, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Instant Pot, Mexican & S. American, Monthly menu plan, 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, Menus, Monthly menu plan)

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 (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Cooking tips, Italian, Sauce/dressing, Summer recipes, 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, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Fall recipes, Grains, Monthly menu plan, Spring recipes, 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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