Oatmeal cottage cheese banana blueberry pancakes

October 24, 2021 at 10:53 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, Other)

I often make the banana oat nut pancake recipe from Cookie and Kate, and I have another oatmeal walnut pancake recipe from the McCann’s oatmeal box. But today I was in the mood for something different. My friend Qi recommended this high-protein pancake recipe, which she got from her son’s preschool teacher. I like cottage cheese a lot, but Derek and Alma usually don’t. I thought maybe it’s a texture thing and if I grind it up they won’t mind it. I changed the recipe a bit, swapping the original 3/4 cup of whole what flour for 1 cup of rolled oats ground to a flour, and adding blueberries to one half of the batter and chopped walnuts to the other half. (Qi says she often adds chocolate chips, but I’m not sure I’d like that with the sourness of the cottage cheese.)

Both Derek and Alma liked these pancakes. In fact, Derek not only loved the “sour taste” but he preferred them with blueberries over walnuts! What has happened to my non-fruit lover?

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of rolled oats (I might even need a bit more? If the batter is too thin I add a bit of whole wheat flour, but maybe I should just up this amount.)
  • 3 medium eggs (150g? out of shell)
  • 400g cottage cheese? (originally 1 cup, which I think is a bit less than 400g)
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 to 2 Tbs. maple syrup or honey
  • the oat flour above (originally 3/4 cup whole wheat flour)
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. fine salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup of blueberries, fresh or frozen or 1 cup of chopped walnuts or pecans, or a mix
  • butter for the pan

Instructions:

  1. Grind rolled oats to a flour consistency.
  2. In a blender, blend together all the ingredients except for the blueberries in butter. Start with the liquid ingredients (eggs, banana, cottage cheese, and sweetener) then add the oat flour and spices/baking powder, and finish off with the vanilla.
  3. Once the batter is well blended gently stir in the blueberries and/or nuts (You may prefer to do this in a bowl rather than the blender.)
  4. Preheat a griddle or skillet to medium heat. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, pour batter onto the heated, buttered skillet. Cook until bubbles form, then flip. Cook for another 1 to 2 minutes.

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Granola from Whole Food Cooking Every Day

October 14, 2021 at 10:35 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Grains, Other) ()

No one has been a big fan of the last few batches of granola I’ve made, so I wanted to try something new, and I decided to try the base granola recipe from my new cookbook, Whole Food Cooking Every Day. The author, Amy Chaplin, says it makes 15 cups, so I decided to just halve the recipe in case we didn’t like it. I successfully halved everything except the salt. Oy. The granola was inedible. I ended up making another half recipe with no salt and mixing them together, but the final product still tasted quite salty. She calls for fine sea salt and I used table salt. Maybe the sea salt is coarser, and next time I should cut back on the salt? With the saltiness caveat aside, I think I quite like this recipe. Read the rest of this entry »

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Simple vegan winter squash soup

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

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

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

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

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

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No-bake sesame chocolate squares

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

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

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

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

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

Update Jan 18, 2022: We finally finished the whole batch of frozen bars. Although Alma said they were very good on her first try, she never liked them after that. Oh well. I still really like them, especially when they have been sitting out for a while. Cold from the freezer they aren’t as gooey and chocolatey. I will definitely make these again for myself!

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Orange almond cream of wheat

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

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

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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

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

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

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Tofu and veg in turmeric lemon grass broth

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

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

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

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

The recipe:

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

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

Strain the broth and add

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

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

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

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

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Swiss chard and herb fritters

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

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

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Red lentil and chana dal

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

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

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

Lentils 

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

Tempering 

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

 Instructions: 

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

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

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Thai green curry from Ottolenghi’s Plenty

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

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

Ingredients:

Spice paste:

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

Rest of sauce:

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

Instructions:

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

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

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

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Koshari rice with butternut squash and sunflower seed dukkah

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

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

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

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

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

Update April 5, 2021:

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

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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

Notes:

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

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

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

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Sweet and sour wild rice and sauerkraut soup

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

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

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

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

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Red lentil and roasted carrot soup with za’atar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Black-eyed pea cakes with salsa

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

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

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

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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

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Beet and potato gratin with rosemary and walnuts

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

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions:

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

Update Oct 11, 2021:

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

Notes from Sept 20, 2020:

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

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

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

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

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

My original notes from Nov 6, 2010:

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

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

And here’s the original recipe:

Ingredients

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

Instructions:

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

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Zucchini flaxseed muffins

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

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

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

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

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

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Super Simple Quick Zucchini and Almond Saute

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

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

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

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

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Cauliflower Tikka Masala

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

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

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

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

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

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Simple spinach omelet with fresh herbs

April 19, 2020 at 11:10 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Dark leafy greens, Derek's faves, Menus, Monthly menu plan, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, Spring recipes)

Now that Covid has forced us to stay home for all meals, we are trying to simplify our cooking / menu planning so we don’t spend all of our day in the kitchen. We have a weekly breakfast menu, with one or two choices for each day of the week.

  • Monday: amaranth porridge with blueberry sauce or amaranth almond raspberry parfaits
  • Tuesday: almond chia pudding with sour cherries and granola for crunch
  • Wednesday: tempeh or scrambled tofu with mango or a smoothie
  • Thursday: homemade granola with chopped apple
  • Friday: oatmeal or millet porridge (with grapefruit or another fruit).
  • Saturday: müsli with mixed berries and yogurt
  • Sunday (brunch): banana oatmeal pancakes or spinach egg omelet on an English muffin

We don’t always stick to our plan, but at least it gives us some rough ideas / structure.

Normally Derek makes the omelet, but he was taking a nap so I had to improvise. I washed a bag of baby spinach and then sauteed it in a little olive oil in a nonstick skillet. I beat three eggs in a bowl with a little milk and salt and pepper. When the spinach was wilted I made sure it was distributed evenly around the pan and then poured the eggs on top of them and let the eggs sit a bit, then gave them a quick careful stir/fold and let them firm up on the other side. I sprinkled a little grated cheddar cheese on them when they were still hot and transferred it to a plate.

I decided to skip the English muffin since we were having a starchy dinner, but when I set the omelet on the table Alma wasn’t looking so excited about the lunch. I suggested making it a little more fun by doing a blind taste. I got a bunch of herbs out of the fridge. I happened to have a lot of fresh herbs at the moment. I pulled out basil, parsley, oregano, cilantro, dill, mint, chives, and scallions. I am embarrassed to admit that I mis-classified cilantro as parsley. Alma thought it was hilarious. We had a lot of fun doing our blind taste tests and rating various combinations. Alma decided her favorite combination by far was the dill. She thought the oregano and cilantro were terrible, and I agreed with her. She said mint was pretty good, and chives, scallions, parsley, and basil were all okay. I agreed with her that the dill was good, but I didn’t care for the mint. I liked the scallions and basil and chives, but the basil and chive were both extremely subtle–almost impossible to notice if you weren’t told there was an herb there. I thought the parsley was unobjectionable but uninteresting.

For lunch we have been trying to do leftovers, to avoid cooking too many times a day, but Alma is often anti-leftover. To try to appease her accomodate for reheated food while keeping my life easy, we have tried to come up with some alternative but very easy lunches she can have if she doesn’t want leftovers. So far we have six ideas: 1) bean tortillas (with any leftover cooked veggies like greens or mushrooms or squash, or with fresh veggies like avocado, sprouts, bell peppers, cucumbers,…), 1) tofu sandwiches with sprouts and pickles, 3) a bean bowl with corn, beans, avocado, and sprouts, 4) apple and peanut butter or ants on a log, 5) edamame and mixed berries from the freezer, and 6) avocado sardine toast. (Alma eats fish, but I don’t, so this one I make Derek fix for her.)

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Black-eyed peas smothered with leeks and tarragon

March 7, 2020 at 10:46 pm (101 cookbooks, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Fall recipes, French, Quick weeknight recipe, Spring recipes, Winter recipes, Yearly menu plan)

I first tried this 101cookbooks recipe for black-eyed peas with leeks and tarragon a few years ago, but apparently I never blogged it. I make it probably once a year. Derek’s father loves tarragon, so I always make it when he’s here. It’s a lovely (albeit rich) way to serve black-eyed peas. You saute up a ton of thinly sliced leek until golden, then throw in the cooked black-eyes and the tarragon. If you have cooked black-eyed peas on hand, it’s a pretty fast recipe. Today I served it with the maple-mustard brussels sprouts I just blogged about and a side of wild rice.

The recipe calls for dried marjoram and tarragon, but I never have either on hand. Instead I just chop up lots of fresh tarragon and sprinkle it liberally into the dish. And I put more tarragon on the side for those who like it extra-tarragony.

Derek and I both really enjoy this dish, but Alma doesn’t like the tarragon flavor, and always asks for plain black-eyes instead.

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Instant Pot Chana Masala

February 26, 2020 at 10:58 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Derek's faves, 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.)

Update Jan 17, 2022: I made this recipe again but I doubled it. It didn’t come out perfect but Derek still said he loved it. I quick-soaked the beans and cooked them under pressure for I think 50 minutes but then I forgot to release the pressure after 10 to 15 minutes of natural release, and the chickpeas ended up extremely soft. There was also a huge amount of sauce. (I think I doubled the 2.5 cups of water, but next time I will try just using 4 cups total? Or maybe I will use totally dry/unsoaked chickpeas with the full 5 cups of water and 60 minutes cooking time and see how that works? Doubling it made quite a lot. I wonder if I can freeze it. If not then maybe I should just make 1.5x next time.

I put the garam masala in early and also added ground fennel, but still didn’t have any fenugreek and I forgot the paprika this time, but the dish was plenty flavorful.

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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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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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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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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, Yearly menu plan)

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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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, Peter Berley, Summer recipes, Website / blog)

Below I give my current version of Dreena Burton’s zucchini scallion chickpea-flour pancakes, as well as some notes on Peter Berley’s curried chickpea pancakes with scallions and cilantro. Read the rest of this entry »

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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) ()

Making risotto on the stovetop is a pain, but in the instant pot it’s truly hands off. I’ve been making risotto much more often since I got my Instant Pot. This recipe is our favorite so far. I like to serve this risotto for dinner with lemon juice, parmesan, lots of basil, and green beans. I eat the green beans mixed into my risotto. I like the textural contrast they provide, as well as the pop of color. They also balance out the meal by providing a little more fiber, protein, and vitamins. I think it makes about 6 servings. Read the rest of this entry »

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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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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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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, Monthly menu plan, Root vegetables, Website / blog) ()

I chose this recipe for chard and parsnip patties because the author says her kids like them. They have some flour and cheese, but mostly the patties are just veggies. Alma (at 5 years old) likes them. She usually dips them in yogurt. I like to call them charsnip patties. Derek groans and Alma giggles at my bad joke.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch chard [I used the thick stems from two chard leaves and all six leaves from one bunch of chard]
  • 1 large parsnip [about 200g edible portion should make about 2 cups of tightly packed finely grated parsnip]
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese [1/4 cup grated]
  • 1 ounce Cheddar cheese [1/4 cup grated]
  • 3 ounces finely chopped onion [about 1/3 cup]
  • 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 55 grams (0.44 cups) flour
  • 3/4 tsp. fine salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 very large eggs [I use German size L]
  • 2 to 4 Tablespoons of oil (for shallow frying)

Instructions

Below are my instructions for how to make the patties in the food processor. You could also grate/chop everything by hand, but it is a pain to chop the chard small enough.

  1. Prep the veggies: Clean, wash and pat dry the chard. Roughly chop the stems. Peel the parsnip.
  2. Grate: Using the fine grating blade in your food processor, grate the parmesan and cheddar cheese. Grate the parsnip and then transfer the parsnip and cheeses to a medium mixing bowl.
  3. Chop: Switch the blade of the food processor to the chopping blade. Add the onion, garlic, chard stems, and cilantro. Process until everything is finely chopped. Add the flour, salt and pepper and process briefly to mix well.
  4. Mix: Transfer the ingredients to the bowl with the parsnip and cheese and mix well. Finally, add the 2 eggs and use a spoon to distribute the eggs evenly.
  5. Cook the patties: Heat a cast-iron frying pan. When hot, turn the heat to medium and add about 2 tsp. of oil to the pan. (You can use more or less depending on your personal preference.) Using your hands form the mixture into golf-ball sized balls, and carefully drop them into the hot pan. Use a small spatula to flatten them into a disk shape. Cook them on medium for about 5 to 6 minutes on each side. Keep a close eye on the heat — the veggies are raw so you want to cook them on both sides slowly without the patties getting too brown. When the patties are done cooking, transfer them to plate covered with a paper towel to absorb any excess oil. Repeat for the remaining 3 batches.

Update from 4/17/2020: I made these tonight to go with lentilish chili and Alma and Derek scarfed them up. The only issue was that they were a tad undersalted. I think I used about 1.25 ounces of cheddar and 1/2 tsp. of fine salt. Next time I want to try a bit more salt. I might also try including one more chard stem (my bunch had 6 thick stems and I only used 2 of them) and see if the patties still hold together. Finally, I want to try to skip peeling the parsnip.

Notes from first attempt 10/10/2018:

I had both chard and parsnips from our CSA a few weeks ago. I decided to try this new recipe for chard and parsnip patties, since the author says her kids like them, and I was hoping that Alma might like them.

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) ()

Ingredients (to try next time)

  • 1 prepared pie crust
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (an 8 oz / 226g onion, about 1 cup chopped)
  • 1 medium/large bunch of chard (a 14 oz / 400g bunch), ends trimmed, leaves chopped, stems minced
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese (4 ounces / 113 g)
  • 6 large eggs (300g of egg without the shells)
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 tsp. salt (1/2 tsp. in the eggs and 1/4 tsp. in the chard)
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/8? tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. ground mustard powder (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the pie crust in a 26-cm tart pan and crimp the edges. Chop your onion and chard.
  2. In a medium skillet, heat the tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add the onion and chard stems and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the chard leaves to skillet, season with 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper, and cook until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Original post from Oct 8, 2018:

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 got 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.

ingredients:

  • 1 crust
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium shallot (4 ounces)
  • 3 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1/2 pound lacinato kale (roughly chopped)
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 ounces sharp cheddar (shredded)

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.

Here’s a comparison of the three recipes:

original recipe x 2 german recipe naturally ella recipe
8 eggs 4 eggs 8 eggs
1 onion 2 onions 4 oz shallot + 3 cloves garlic
1 pound chard (454g) 500g of Stielmus 1/2 pound Lacinato kale
2 cups whole milk (500 ml) 500 ml dairy (150 ml milk + 250 ml cream + 100g creme fraiche) 2.5 cups whole milk (625 ml)
4 ounces (113g) grated gruyere cheese 100g (3.5 oz) gruyere cheese 4 ounces cheddar
2 Tbs. olive oil 1 (German) teaspoon of oil 1 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. salt + 1/4 tsp. black pepper salt and pepper to taste 1/2 tsp. salt + 1/2 tsp. black pepper
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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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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