Three recipes from River Cottage Veg

July 24, 2022 at 10:29 pm (Beans, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, Quick weeknight recipe, River Cottage) ()

Years ago a friend invited Derek and I over to her house for dinner, and everything she made was absolutely delicious. That doesn’t happen very often! It turns out that most of the recipes she made came from the cookbook River Cottage Veg from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (whew, that’s a mouthful). I recently I saw the cookbook on sale on Kindle and I snapped it up. Over the past few weeks I’ve tried three recipes.

Our favorite of the three was for a very simple, vegan roasted cauliflower with lemon and smoked paprika. You basically toss a head of cauliflower florets with olive oil, 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika (he says hot but I used mild), and the juice of 1 lemon. The cauliflower is roasted at 220 C for 25 to 30 minutes. You also cut a second lemon into slices and roast it with the cauliflower. I’m not exactly sure why. It wasn’t clear to me if that actually added any flavor. He says to squeeze the juice from the roasted lemon segments over the cauliflower, but (1) they were hot! and (2) when I tried no juice came out. I actually started this meal by making my mom’s recipe for roasted chickpeas. While they were roasted I cut up and seasoned the cauliflower then dumped it on top of the chickpeas in the oven. Everyone liked it. We had neighbors over for dinner and they enjoyed it as well. They brought over a beet risotto, which at first I thought would be an odd combination, but the two dishes actually went really well together. We roast cauliflower pretty often. Normally I use curry-ish spices (cumin, coriander, turmeric,…) but I think I might start alternating that spice mix with this lemon/paprika combo.

I also tried a dish of roasted beets with walnuts and yogurt dressing. You’re supposed to roast baby beets in the oven with garlic, thyme, and bay leaves, but it was too hot to turn on the oven, and I had big beets. If baby beets take an hour to roast I was afraid of how long my big beets would take, so I just steamed them in the instant pot. The peeled beets are cut into pieces and then tossed with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. You then toast walnuts and make a simple dressing out of yogurt, 2 Tbs. sour cream, garlic, salt and pepper. I always like beets with walnuts (and indeed we eat this combo often with beluga lentils and Annie’s dressing). I enjoyed the yogurt dressing as a change of pace, but Alma and Derek seemed less enthusiastic about it.

The last recipe we tried was a pretty simple recipe for garlicky minty mushy peas. You sauté shallots or onion in butter for 15 to 20 minutes until very soft, then add 3 or 4 garlic cloves. Cooked peas are then pureed with the shallots, garlic, chopped mint, and a bit of the pea cooking water. Our peas ended up extremely garlicky. Maybe Derek used 4 extremely large cloves of garlic? He loved the peas. He said they reminded him of escargot. Alma wasn’t a fan, and I found them a tad too garlicky.

 

 

 

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Simple veggie fried rice

July 24, 2022 at 10:11 pm (Chinese, Cruciferous rich, East and SE Asia, Grains, Monthly menu plan, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, Tofu, unrated, Vegetable dishes)

When I have leftover rice in the fridge and I want a quick lunch or dinner I often make veggie fried rice. Alma likes hers pretty plain, so sometimes I made a first batch pretty plain, with just carrots, tofu, peas, and red cabbage, then I make a second spicy batch with celery, garlic, ginger, chilies, scallions, basil, etc. Then we mix the two together in whatever proportion we prefer.

For the spicier fried rice, I usually start by mincing ginger and garlic, then dice celery and carrots. After that prep is done I start the celery and carrots sautéing in olive oil in my cast iron skillet. While the carrots and celery are cooking I finely cube some tofu and throw that in as well. When the tofu is lightly browned on all sides I add some thinly sliced red cabbage (or green, or napa), the garlic, and the ginger. I might throw in some roasted peanuts as well. After about a minute I add the brown rice and wait for it to brown a little. Once it’s a little bit browned I add frozen green peas until they are warmed through, then I add 2 eggs (beaten as below). Finally, I top the fried rice off with sliced scallions, julienned basil (thai basil if I have it) and chili sauce. That’s my go-to combination but if I don’t have celery or carrots or cabbage or scallions it’s not a problem, I just leave them out. If I have other veggies around (like zucchini, mushrooms, cauliflower, bok choy, bean sprouts, or broccoli) I might chop them finely and add them as well at the appropriate time.

I don’t usually measure anything, but if you want to see some possible amounts there is one more detailed recipe below. Read the rest of this entry »

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Summer Rolls / Spring Rolls

July 24, 2022 at 4:32 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Cruciferous rich, East and SE Asia, Monthly menu plan, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, Salads, Spring recipes, Summer recipes, Tofu, Winter recipes) (, )

Summer rolls (the non-fried rolls, which we usually just refer to as spring rolls) are delicious, healthy, fresh, kid-friendly, and most importantly, a perfect springtime antidote to winter-induced “vegetarian mush syndrome.” It’s amazing how quickly spring rolls can be made. If I restrain myself, and prepare only a few items for fillings, I can have dinner on the table in under 15 minutes. (Of course, depending on how many fillings you make it could take hours!)

Spring rolls are versatile as well. Although they’re typically served as appetizers, I generally use them as a main course. My sister was visiting recently and when I told her I was making spring rolls for dinner she was skeptical that they would be filling / satisfying enough for a main course, but after she tried them she was pleasantly surprised. Spring rolls also work well as a light snack, and they can be made the night before and packed in a lunch box. You can also prep some fillings and sauce and leave them in your fridge for several days, making yourself a spring roll whenever you need a quick bite to eat. Read the rest of this entry »

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My favorite vegetarian sheet pan dinners

March 21, 2022 at 10:10 pm (Alma's faves, Beans, Cruciferous rich, Monthly menu plan, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, Root vegetables, Seitan) ()

When I’m feeling beat at the end of the day I often turn to a sheet pan dinner. It just feels easier than making a “recipe”. Just throw a bunch of ingredients onto a baking sheet, drizzle with oil and spices, and bake until crispy. The main challenges/drawbacks are:

  • We usually don’t have that many leftovers. One baking sheet of food usually just makes enough for one meal for the three of us. Probably I should double the ingredients and just put half in the fridge so that I can bake a second pan for lunch the next day. Or bake two pans at once?
  • Sometimes different ingredients cook at different times, so I have to regularly check the oven and take out / rotate anything that is getting overdone. I try to prevent this by cutting the quicker cooking items into large chunks or putting the slower cooking items on the edge of the pan, but I usually can’t quite make everything cook at the same time. Still, it’s a relatively mindless activity, so even though it’s technically “work” it doesn’t feel hard.
  • It can be hard to find a combination that feels satisfying, and like a full meal. Most sheet pan suppers I see online incorporate meat or fish. Figuring out satisfying vegetarian combinations seems harder.

I don’t actually have that many variations I make. I most often make cauliflower, chickpeas, and seitan. I’ll give a rough recipe for it below. I’d really like to find more combinations we like. There are lots of recipes for vegetarian sheet pan dinners online. Perhaps I will try to make one each week for the next couple of weeks and see if I can find any combos I particularly like. Read the rest of this entry »

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Quick weeknight thai curry

March 2, 2022 at 10:37 pm (B_(2.5 stars, like), Cruciferous rich, Deborah Madison, East and SE Asia, Monthly menu plan, Seitan, Tofu, Vegetable dishes)

For a while now I’ve been wanting to add a thai curry to our monthly menu rotation. But Alma won’t yet eat thai curry, and my existing recipe is a little bit complicated when I’m in a rush. When I saw this “Bare-bones tofu curry” in Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen, I decided it was worth a try. Read the rest of this entry »

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Superhero muffins

January 5, 2022 at 8:03 pm (breakfast, Monthly menu plan, Muffins and quick breads, Website / blog) ()

I still don’t have a non-dessert muffin recipe I love. I really want something I can freeze and pull out for a quick breakfast on busy mornings. Someone in one of my online parenting groups recommended some “superhero muffins” from a cookbook for runners, and I thought they looked worth a try. I’ve now tried the originals superhero muffin recipe, the chocolate banana superhero muffins, and the vegan red velvet (beet chocolate) muffins. I liked all of them and would make all of them again. There are over 20 more variations to try. Maybe I should buy the cookbook!

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

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

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

I think pretty typical in Germany is that parents send bread with salami or cheese or something like that, along with a raw fruit or veggie. But Alma is not so excited about getting bread everyday, plus she often has bread with lunch and sometimes for breakfast, so I’d prefer that she gets more variety. So what do I pack? I’ve been trying to stick with the general pattern of a fruit, a vegetable, and something filling (with protein or fat or both), and occasionally something extra yummy (which may be the filling thing, or may be in addition). To get some new ideas I downloaded the free “veggie exposure shopping list and menu planner” from Kidseatincolor, but I didn’t find it all that helpful or comprehensive. So I decided to make my own list that I can look at when I needs some ideas. Below I’ve listed my ideas so far, along with Alma’s assessment. But if other people have more ideas for me, please post a comment!

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

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

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

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Orange almond cream of wheat

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

Cream of wheat, or Grießbrei, is very popular here in Germany. It’s usually just a porridge made from finely ground semolina cooked with cow’s milk, which is tasty but I personally find to be a bit lacking in flavor/fiber/antioxidants. This version adds ground almonds for a bit more fiber and orange marmalade and/or orange zest for a bit more flavor/antioxidants. Alma and Derek both love this cream of wheat / semolina porridge recipe. The original recipe is more complicated (see below), but here’s how we’ve been making it lately. If you want something a bit fancier, make a sauce out of orange juice, Schmand and orange pieces and serve the cream of wheat with a dollop of sauce on top.

Read the rest of this entry »

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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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Zucchini flaxseed muffins

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

Although these muffins are called zucchini flaxseed muffins I think they are more flaxseed, walnut, oat muffins with a touch of zucchini and carrot. The muffins are pretty tasty and filling, and make a reasonable quick breakfast. I keep them in the freezer for mornings when we’re in a big rush.

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Arugula, chive, parsley pesto with farfalle and mixed vegetables

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

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

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

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

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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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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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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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Ravioli with chard, hazelnuts and caramelized onions

May 1, 2019 at 11:11 am (101 cookbooks, A (4 stars, love), Dark leafy greens, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, Pasta, Spring recipes)

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

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

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

Update July 5, 2020: I made this again but only roughly followed the recipe. I first sauteed the chard stems and then threw in a lot of chard. (I need to weigh it, as measuring chard by cups is a fruitless endeavor.) I added a little of the cooking water from the raviolis to the chard when they were getting to dry. I added the lemon zest and hazelnuts directly to the dish this time, with no complaints from Alma. I did leave the caramelized onions on the side, but convinced her to do a blind taste test with and without onions. She said the bite without onions was way, way better. What?? The onions make the dish. Derek and I were very happy.

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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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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. Read the rest of this entry »

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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) ()

This is the only quiche I make regularly. I probably make it once every couple months. In the fall I use chard and in the spring when I can get them I use turnip greens / turnip tops or other dark leafy greens. Both Alma and Derek like this recipe a lot.

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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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Nutritious, delicious, practical vegetarian breakfast ideas

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

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

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Amaranth porridge with blueberry sauce

May 27, 2018 at 11:24 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Fall recipes, Grains, Monthly menu plan, Spring recipes, Website / blog, Winter recipes) ()

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Banana Oat Nut Pancakes

May 27, 2018 at 11:13 pm (A (4 stars, love), Alma's faves, breakfast, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, Website / blog) ()

We have tried a lot of banana oat nut pancake recipes. This recipe from Cookie and Kate is currently one of our favorites. We probably make it once every couple months. I usually add pecans as well. It’s not really a light and fluffy pancake — more hearty and dense, especially if you add blueberries. Read the rest of this entry »

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Beluga lentil and beet salad with walnuts

May 27, 2018 at 11:03 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Fall recipes, Instant Pot, Monthly menu plan, My brain, Salads, Spring recipes, Winter recipes) ()

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

I make this salad at least once a month, and everyone is always happy. When I tell Alma (at 3 years old) what we’re having for dinner, she says “oh, yum, I like that.” Derek is less excited about the idea (it sounds too boring) but once he actually eats it he’s always happy. I like it too. Plus it’s relatively easy to make and can be (mostly) frozen for a quick weeknight meal. Both the lentils and beets freeze well, as does Annie’s dressing. (You could even toast your walnuts and freeze them I suppose, although I haven’t tried it yet.) So all I have to do is pull out all the frozen components the night before, and then wash some salad greens. Read the rest of this entry »

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Asparagus, pea, fava bean, and barley ragout

May 31, 2017 at 9:37 pm (101 cookbooks, Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Grains, Monthly menu plan, My brain, Pasta, Quick weeknight recipe, Spring recipes, Starches, Vegetable dishes) (, )

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

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Easy toasted overnight steel cut oatmeal

May 29, 2017 at 8:55 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Fall recipes, Grains, Monthly menu plan, Website / blog, Winter recipes)

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

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Baked Cauli-tots

May 15, 2017 at 8:44 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Cruciferous rich, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, Website / blog) ()

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

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Restaurant-style sesame noodles

April 30, 2017 at 9:58 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Chinese, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, Pasta, Sauce/dressing, Tofu, Website / blog) (, )

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

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Homemade Progresso-style Lentil Soup

April 19, 2017 at 2:54 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Monthly menu plan, My brain, soup, Winter recipes) ()

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

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

The first time I made it Alma wouldn’t touch it (too brown and goopy I guess), but at some point she finally tried it and really liked it. Then the next time I served it she again rejected it. I reminded her that last time she had scarfed it up and that she had even chastised me for finishing all the leftovers. She tried it again and again happily polished off her bowl. Now, however, at almost 5 years old, she isn’t so excited again.
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Creamy millet porridge with baked, spiced pears

February 19, 2017 at 1:44 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Cook's Illustrated, Fall recipes, Grains, Monthly menu plan, Website / blog, Winter recipes) ()

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

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

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Vegetarian Okonomiyaki (Japanese Cabbage Pancakes)

February 5, 2017 at 1:50 pm (101 cookbooks, A (4 stars, love), Alma's faves, breakfast, Cruciferous rich, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Japanese, Monthly menu plan, Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, Spring recipes, Winter recipes) ()

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

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

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Broccoli, feta, lime frittata

December 10, 2016 at 3:28 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Cook's Illustrated, Monthly menu plan, Necessarily nonvegan, Uncategorized) ()

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

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

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