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 first tried what I think was the original superhero muffin recipe, which makes a zucchini carrot nut muffin. The recipe calls for 1 cup grated zucchini from 1 zucchini, but I only used about 1/2 of a zucchini. I wish the recipe gave amount in grams! The recipe calls for 2 cups of almond meal, which is a lot! I used a 200g bag of dried almonds. It also has 1/2 cup of maple syrup, so 2 tsp. per muffin. That’s not as much sugar as a dessert muffin, but definitely enough to make them taste sweet. The recipe is quite rich. Along with the 2 cups of almond meal it has 3 eggs and 6 tablespoons of butter (so 1/2 Tbs. per muffin). But they didn’t end up greasy like the other muffin recipe I tried. Derek liked them—he didn’t even add jam or butter! Alma’s opinion was less clear. She just picked at her muffin at breakfast, but at lunchtime asked for another one and ate the whole thing. I froze the rest and will see how they do defrosted.

One thing I didn’t like—the recipe says it makes 12 muffins but it made a bit too much batter for 12 muffins. The muffin papers were so full the batter leaked under the papers and then got baked on in the oven. It took forever to clean the muffin tin.

Apparently they’ve since updated the original recipe. Here’s the superhero muffin version 2.0. Comparing it to the original it looks like they’ve changed quite a bit. They lowered the cost by changing from 2 cups of almond flour to 1 cup almond flour and 1 cup oat flour, increased the rolled oats from 1 cup to 1.5 cups (not sure why? there was too much batter already!), reduced the maple syrup from 1/2 cup to 1/3 cup maple syrup (or honey), switched from 6 Tbs. of butter to 1/4 cup coconut oil, dropped the nuts from 1/2 cup to 1/3 cups (or use chocolate chips), swapped the 1 cup grated carrot for 1 cup grated sweet potato, increased the salt from 1/2 tsp. to 3/4 tsp., dropped the optional 1/2 cup currants or raisins, and instead of the 1/2 tsp. nutmeg they also offer cardamom or ginger as options. They also seem to have dropped the vanilla?

Their newest cookbook, Rise and Run, has about 24 different varieties of muffins, and I recently tried (by Alma’s request) the chocolate banana superhero muffins. They call for 1/4 cup of honey instead of the 1/2 cup of maple syrup in the original recipe, but also have bananas and chocolate chips for sweetness. Again the recipe made slightly too much batter, but this time instead of overfilling the tins I made a 13th muffin in a ramekin. They didn’t spill over and the muffin tin was much easier to clean. I also left the muffin papers underneath the foil muffin “papers” and that might have helped as well. I thought these muffins were pretty good. I’d definitely make them again. They’re chocolatey and satisfying and quite filling. Alma said they were too filling, and next time I should make them into mini-muffins. I agree. When I just wanted something chocolatey and yummy I don’t necessarily want a huge super filling muffin.

There are a ton more variations to try—24 in the new cookbook. I’m curious about the vegan red velvet (beet) muffins. The lemon blueberry chia and spelt blueberry yogurt both look good, but Alma doesn’t usually like fruit in her muffins. I’m also curious to try some of the savory variations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Arugula, chive, parsley pesto with farfalle and mixed vegetables

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

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

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

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

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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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Baked oatmeal cups

December 31, 2019 at 1:10 pm (Alma's faves, breakfast, B_(2.5 stars, like), Grains, Monthly menu plan, Website / blog) ()

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

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

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

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

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs (100g out of shells)
  • 1 ½ cups milk (360 mL)
  • ½ cup applesauce (125g)
  • ¼ cup sunflower butter (60g), or nut butter of choice
  • ¼ cup maple syrup (55g)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups old fashioned rolled oats (300g)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 cup of toppings of your chocie, like chopped nuts, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, coconut flakes, chocolate chips, raisins, dried apricots or cherries or cranberreis, frozen blueberries, sliced bananas, …

Instructions:

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

There are other variants online as well, like these six variations. The orange cranberry version sounds yummy to me, as does the carrot cake one. Lemon poppyseed sounds intriguing. That page also suggests adding in 1 to 2 Tbs. ground flax seed, chia seeds, hemp hearts, or protein powder.

Update April 2021:

On a second attempt I used soymilk for the milk and hazelnut butter for the nut butter, forgot the cinnamon, and left out the walnuts. The oatmeal cups (or “muffins” as Alma called them) turned out reasonably good. Again they reminded me of Derek’s oatmeal he makes from rolled oats, just with toppings and a crispy crust on top.

For toppings we tried a number of combinations. My favorite toppings were the pecans. I loved the flavor they added. Alma loved the muffins topped with shredded coconut and mini chocolate chips. We topped a few with chopped up dried apricots and the apricots tasted intensely apricot-y, like fresh apricots. The frozen blueberries and raisins were both fine but unexciting.

The texture of the top is better than the middle of these muffins. I think if you have one of those muffin top pans that would work great, or maybe we should just make mini muffins. Derek said they could use a bit more salt.

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Zucchini scallion chickpea-flour pancakes

August 18, 2019 at 10:31 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, Summer recipes, Website / blog)

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

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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

Original notes form Aug 18, 2019:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derek’s rating (with dal): A-/B+

My rating (with dal): B+

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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.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 quite large onion, finely diced or 2 cups finely chopped leek
  • 500g (just over a pound) crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 4.5 to 5.5 cups veggie broth
  • 2 cups (400g) arborio or carnaroli rice
  • 1/2 ounce dried porcini or other flavorful dried mushrooms, not soaked
  • 1 Tbs. porcini mushroom powder
  • 6 sundried tomatoes, unsoaked, not rehydrated
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/3 cup red or dry white wine (optional)
  • 2 tsp. veggie bouillon powder + salt or soy sauce to taste
  • a big knob of butter, maybe a tablespoon or two? or creme fraiche
  • parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
  • lemon juice (optional)
  • lots of fresh basil (original recipe calls for 3 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley)

Instructions:

  1. Prep: Mince the garlic. Chop the onion or leek. Let the garlic and onion sit while you wash and slice the mushrooms. If you need to defrost vegetable broth, do it now.
  2. Saute: Set the instant pot to saute. When hot, add the olive oil and onion or leek and saute for a few minutes. While the onion is sauteing, measure out your rice, your mushroom powder, your dried mushrooms, and your sundried tomatoes. When the onion is translucent add the garlic and saute another minute or two.
  3. Make some room in the Instant Pot by pushing the onions and garlic to the side of the inner pot. Stir in the rice to coat with oil, and toast the rice in the Instant Pot for 2 to 3 minutes to give the dish a really nice nutty flavor. (Keep stirring, don’t let the rice stick.) You don’t want to brown the rice. You want the edges of the arborio rice to become translucent, while the center remains white.
  4. Add a third a cup of wine (if using). Stir to deglaze the bottom of the pot. When the wine has mostly evaporated add 4.5 cups of vegetable broth. (Reserve the last cup of broth to adjust the consistency once the risotto is finished cooking.) Next, add the dried mushrooms, crushing them into small pieces with your hands as you drop them into the pot. Add the sundried tomatoes, using scissors to slice each one into about 4 pieces as you drop them into the pot. Finally, add the sliced fresh mushrooms, the bouillon powder, and the porcini powder. Give it a quick stir and make sure that no rice is sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  5. Cook: Lock on the lid. Cook at high pressure for 2 minutes 30 seconds. (The instant pot only lets you set it for 2 or 3 minutes, not in between. So I usually set it for 2 minutes and then wait 30 seconds before doing my quick release. Note that it will take about 10 minutes for the pressure to build before the timer starts counting down.) As soon as the 2.5 minutes under pressure is complete, immediately release the pressure. (Don’t get distracted! You do not want to leave it any longer than this!) Immediately (and carefully) remove the lid. Don’t let it sit on keep warm with the lid on as it will over cook. It’s fine for it to sit on keep warm once the lid is removed.
  6. Adjust: When you open the pot the risotto will look very runny, almost like soup. Just give it a stir and wait a minute, and the texture should be loose but not soupy or dry. If the risotto is not cooked through all the way, add a little more boiling hot broth and leave on saute for another few minutes, but make sure to keep stirring so it doesn’t burn on the bottom. When the rice is al dente, stir in more stock as needed to get a creamy texture, then stir in the butter and parmesan if desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add a touch of lemon juice if you like.
  7. Garnish: Serve with fresh parsley or basil and more parmesan cheese.

My original notes from August 4, 2019:

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

Alma and I looked at various combinations in the book Vegan Under Pressure and she chose the spinach risotto, but then I forgot to buy spinach and had some mushrooms to use up, so I decided to make the mushroom risotto instead. (Sorry Alma.) I didn’t really follow the Vegan Under Pressure recipe, but I did use it for inspiration. The recipe above is based on Jill Nussinow’s original recipe, but it is changed in quite a few ways. I use way, way more fresh mushrooms and I don’t pre-soak my mushrooms or sundried tomatoes. I also cut the cooking time in half.

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

On a second attempt I used warm (not hot) broth and cooked it for 2.5 minutes and it was definitely not cooked through. I had to saute quite a bit and it ended up burning on the bottom. On a third attempt I released slightly before the 3 minutes were up and it still wasn’t cooked (but the brand of rice was different). On a fourth attempt I used warm (not hot) broth and cooked it for 2 minutes + 40 seconds before starting quick release and it was cooked plenty, maybe slightly overcooked. Maybe it depends on how much liquid you use? I used 5 cups on this last attempt. Maybe with 4 cups you need more time? Almost all online recipes I can find call for 5 minutes + 4 cups of broth for a mushroom risotto with 2 cups of rice. Weird. If you prefer your dente more al dente then to be on the safe side just cook it for 2 minutes under pressure, and finish any last cooking that is necessary using the saute function.

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

I forgot to time how long it took to come to pressure. I think it took somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes? So maybe 5-10 minutes + 2.5 minutes + 4 minutes + a few minutes to stir in the broth and butter and parmesan and serve it. So once you do your prep, saute the onions, add all the ingredients, and get the lid on the pot it seems like the risotto would be ready approximately 15 to 20 minutes after you press start? But that time is almost entirely hands off. It’s definitely an improvement over stovetop risotto in my book.

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

Rehydrating the mushrooms and sundried tomatoes: Nussinow has you soak the porcinis and tomatoes to rehydrate them, but I figured if the rice can go from rock hard to soft in the pressure cooker, then shouldn’t the vegetables be able to do the same? I skipped the soaking step and it worked out fine. I thought I might need to compensate with extra broth, but I used extra fresh mushrooms (which are mostly water), so I think it evened out.

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

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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.

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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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.

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

  1. Oatmeal. I often make steel cut oats, either using the overnight method or in my instant pot. Derek prefers oatmeal from rolled oats though, so sometimes we use them instead. I usually serve oatmeal with fresh or frozen fruit and sometimes nuts or nut butter. We have tried the uncooked overnight oats recipes, but no one likes them. I’ve also tried various baked oatmeal recipes, but I haven’t found one that’s reasonably healthy that everyone loves.
  2. Amaranth porridge or parfaits. Derek isn’t a big fan but Alma and I like amaranth porridge (especially with a warm blueberry sauce), and it makes a nice change of pace. Lately I’ve been using leftover amaranth in a “parfait”: the bottom layer is sliced bananas and almond butter, the second layer is amaranth (sometimes room-temperature), then frozen raspberries, and finally I pour milk or coconut milk or soymilk over the top. Alma loves it.
  3. Creamy millet porridge (often with baked pears or apples). I usually make this on the weekend and freeze the leftovers, but next time I want to try to make it in my instant pot.
  4. Cream of wheat. I’ve made this orange almond cream of wheat recipe three times now, and each time everyone liked it. I think cream of wheat doesn’t have much fiber compared to something like oatmeal, but maybe the almonds and whole milk help to slow down the digestion and make it more filling for a longer time.
  5. I’d like to try other porridges. When I visited China I really enjoyed having congee for breakfast. Maybe I should try congee with bok choy and scallion oil again? Or instant pot green congee? I used to make a barley quinoa porridge that I liked, but I haven’t made it since Alma showed up. Other ideas? Maybe broccoli polenta for breakfast? Or maybe some kind of a dal would be a nice change? Not sure if Alma would go for it though. Maybe kichadi?

Cold cereal.

  1. Muesli. Sometimes I buy it, and sometimes Alma and I mix our own. I try to buy ones with grains and nuts and dried fruit, but not wheat. German muesli often has wheat in it, not sure why. We eat enough wheat. So I prefer the ones made from oats, rye, barley, puffed amaranth or quinoa, etc. I try to serve it with yogurt but Alma vastly prefers it with soy milk. So I do a mix, or serve the yogurt plain on the side. Often we add some granola for a little crunch. Derek isn’t a big muesli fan, so often he turns his into “oatmeal” by cooking it in the microwave for a few minutes.
  2. Granola. I make it myself, so I can use good-quality oils and keep the sugar content (relatively) low and and the nuts and seed content high. I used to have a recipe that I liked but the last couple times I’ve made it nobody has loved it. Maybe I cut the sweeteners back too much (even though they still seem quite high to me), or maybe I just need to start over from scratch with a new recipe?
  3. Corn flakes or cheerios. We don’t eat these cereals all that often, but we usually have one around. When I serve them I try to add slivered almonds and/or fruit to it to slow the digestion a bit and make them a bit more filling.

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

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

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

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

Sweet (mostly flour-based) breakfasts.

  1. Pancakes. I try to make healthier pancakes, but I still consider them more cake than truly healthy breakfast. But Derek and Alma love them, so we have a Sunday pancake breakfast about once a month. I make a double or triple batch and freeze extras for a midweek breakfast. We usually make banana oat pancakes with eggs and ground oats rather than wheat flour, or some variant of the “two-ingredient” banana egg toddler pancakes. Sometimes Derek makes these vegan banana nut pancakes.
  2. My mother says she prefers waffles to pancakes, but I don’t have a waffle iron. And no, Mom, I DO NOT WANT ONE. Sorry for yelling, y’all. I just want to be clear that I am not in the market for any new appliances at this time.
  3. I have made these baked oatmeal cups (which Alma calls oatmeal muffins) a few times now. And if I let Alma put chocolate chips and shredded coconut as the toppings on hers they are a hit. She’s also happy to eat them for snack. The recipe is sweetened with apple sauce (2 tsp. per muffin) and maple syrup (1 tsp. per muffin), so they’re not super sweet. Derek eats them with jam.
  4. Muffins. I quite like these zucchini flaxseed muffins. I’ve made them twice now and they’ve been pretty successful both times. They don’t really have enough zucchini in them to consider them a serving of vegetables, but they do have quite a lot of flax seed and (if you choose) nuts. So that makes them quite filling and satisfying I think. The original recipe calls for 4 tsp. added sugar per muffin, but I’m pretty sure you could cut that back if you want to use less added sweetener. Another new discovery is these gluten-free, low-sugar muffins, which you can make in all kinds of flavor combinations. So far we’ve tried zucchini lime and sweet potato nut. They have only about 1 tsp. of maple syrup per muffin, but are much richer than the zucchini flaxseed ones. They have a very tender, golden crumb.
  5. I don’t have any other muffin recipes or quick bread recipes that I make regularly for breakfast, but I’d like to add one or more to my repertoire. But most of the recipes I’ve seen are really just dessert in disguise. The blogger will rave about how the muffins are “chock full of vegetables” and then you actually do the math and each muffin contains like 1/12 of a carrot or 1 tsp. of pumpkin puree or 1 spinach leaf, along with a tablespoon or two of sugar. Oy. Does anyone have any suggestions for a muffin that’s tasty, but not dessert in disguise?

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

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

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

  • Banana and nut butter. This one is so trivial is seems not worth mentioning, but we’ll often eat it alone or along with one of the other items below and call it breakfast.
  • Yogurt and fruit. Again, pretty basic, but easy. We most often serve yogurt with frozen berries and ground flax seed.
  • Chia pudding. I usually make my mom’s super easy recipe with just almond milk and a tad bit of date syrup, but sometimes I make my pumpkin chia pudding recipe instead (with winter squash or sweet potato puree). With fruit this makes a quite light breakfast. I usually serve it with something else as well. I always make the chia pudding the night before.
  • Roasted chestnuts. I buy bags of pre-roasted chestnuts for quick breakfasts. Alma loves them, and they’re a nice unprocessed starch source to fuel her for the day. This year I plan to learn to roast them myself, but I’m not sure how much work it will be to peel them.
  • Pan-fried tempeh strips. I get a nice gyro-flavored tempeh at my local organic store. Alma doesn’t love it, but she will eat a few of the crispier pieces. Goes well with sauerkraut. (Update 2021: Alma now really enjoys pan-fried tempeh!)
  • Scrambled tofu. When I was growing up my Mom made sliced pan-fried tofu or scrambled tofu just about every morning. We don’t eat it that often for breakfast, but it is another idea to throw into the mix.
  • Smoothies. I don’t have any recipes that I use regularly. I just throw in whatever I have on hand. I generally prefer to chew my food, but smoothies do have some nice pluses. They’re a good way to use up fruit that otherwise wouldn’t get eaten (e.g., that peach that won’t quite ripen before going bad, the pear that somehow got a bit overripe, the banana that’s starting to turn brown…). I often throw this fruit in the freezer and save it for my next smoothie. Also, lately Alma hasn’t been very big on yogurt or flax seed, but she doesn’t mind them in a smoothie. I also make extra smoothies whenever I get the blender dirty and freeze them in regular drinking glasses or small glass juice bottles (with lids). When we’re really in a rush I put one glass in the fridge the night before and Alma drinks it in the car on the way to daycare. If the smoothie is all we’re having for breakfast, then I like to make it a bit more substantial by adding hemp seeds or hemp protein powder or flax seeds, as well as whatever nut/seed butter I have on hand. Or a bit of leftover porridge.
  • Dried fruit and nut bars. When we’re really in a rush I pull out the Lara bars. But they’re expensive. I want to try my hand at making them myself again. I’ve done it before (homemade Lara bars), but have gotten out of the habit. Clearly, a real sit-down breakfast is preferable, but if we’re really in a rush than a Lara bar is better than nothing.

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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 pancake recipes. This recipe from Cookie and Kate is currently one of our favorites. I usually add pecans as well.

The pancake batter has a lot of coconut oil in it, so I find you don’t need to use much oil in the pan. The amount of oil in the recipe could probably be cut down, but I haven’t tried it. The original recipe calls for a teaspoon of sweetener, but I omit it since we usually eat the pancakes with maple syrup. I assume the lemon juice is there to activate the baking soda? I haven’t noticed any lemon flavor.

The original recipe says it makes 8 pancakes, but they must be larger than ours, because for me it makes at least 9, usually more. The recipe below is actually 1.5x the original recipe, so it should make 13 or 14 pancakes. (I like to freeze the leftovers for a second breakfast.)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1.75 cups mashed bananas (about 4.5 small bananas, mashed, or 14.25 ounces)
  • 1.5 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 medium-small lemon, juiced)
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil or butter, melted
  • 3 eggs
  • 1.5 cups oat flour (from 1.5 cups of rolled oats ground in a food processor or blender)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • heaping ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans

INSTRUCTIONS for making the batter

    1. Remove the eggs and lemon from the fridge in advance so they have time to warm up.
    2. Mix the dry ingredients: In a blender or food processor, grind the oats. When they have a flour-like consistency, add in the baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg and blend again.
    3. Mix the wet ingredients: In a large stainless steel bowl, mash the bananas. Juice the lemon and add 1.5 tablespoons of lemon juice to the bananas. Beat in the eggs. In a very small glass bowl melt the coconut oil on low in the microwave. Add it to the large bowl and mix.
    4. Mix together the wet and dry ingredients and the chopped nuts: Form a well in the center of the wet ingredients and pour in the dry ingredients. With a big rubber spatula, stir just until the dry ingredients are thoroughly moistened. Add the nuts and stir again. Let the batter sit for 10 minutes. You may want to thin out the batter a bit with a touch of milk or water.

Instructions for cooking:

    1. Heat a heavy cast iron skillet/non-stick pan over medium-low heat, or heat an electric griddle to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly oil the surface with coconut oil, butter or cooking spray. (If you’re using a non-stick electric griddle, you might not need any oil at all.)
    2. Once the surface of the pan is hot enough that a drop of water sizzles on it, pour ¼ cup of batter onto the pan. Let the pancake cook for about 3 minutes, until bubbles begin to form around the edges of the cake.
    3. Once the underside of the pancake is lightly golden, flip it with a spatula and cook for another 90 seconds or so, until golden brown on both sides. You may need to adjust the heat up or down at this point.
    4. Serve the pancakes immediately or keep warm in a 200 degree Fahrenheit oven.

 

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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 dressing. If I have extra time I will roast some walnuts or pepitas to sprinkle on top. Occasionally we will skip the Annie’s and use feta instead.

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

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

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

How to cook beets in the Instant Pot

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

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

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

How to make beluga lentils in the Instant Pot.

I usually use a pot-in-pot method to cook lentils in the instant pot. I put 1.5 cups of water in the base of the instant pot, then put down the trivet and insert my small (3 quart) instant pot base. I fill it with 500g beluga lentils, 900g of water, and 1 tsp. of salt. I cook the lentils on manual (high pressure) for 12 minutes plus natural pressure release. It’s best to let the lentils cool a bit after opening the lid, because if you are scoop them when they’re still really hot they just turn to mush. Note: Next time try 500g lentils, 825g of water and 10 minutes plus natural release! I think 825g is 3.625 cups of water and 500g is about 2.6 cups, so this is not quite 1.5x water, more like 1.4x.

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

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

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

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My time-saving kitchen tips

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

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

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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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Modern Succotash with Fennel and Scallions

November 12, 2016 at 8:49 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Cook's Illustrated, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, Quick weeknight recipe) ()

So far Alma does not like fennel. I was looking for a recipe for fennel that she might possibly like, and I found this Cook’s Illustrated recipe for a modern succotash with corn, white beans, and (a little) fennel. She loves corn and generally likes white beans, so I figured it was worth a shot.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Curried cabbage, potatoes, and peas

July 2, 2016 at 8:51 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Cruciferous rich, Derek's faves, Indian, Monthly menu plan, Other, Starches)

This is a relatively straightforward recipe from the cookbook “660 Curries”. Both Derek and I really enjoyed it. It tasted authentically Indian, without being overwhelmingly rich.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Tassajara warm red cabbage salad with sunflower seeds and raisins

July 2, 2016 at 2:56 pm (101 cookbooks, A (4 stars, love), Alma's faves, Cruciferous rich, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, Other, Quick weeknight recipe, Spring recipes, Winter recipes) ()

I’m trying to get more “purple” in, and wanted to use red cabbage, but never know what to do with it. I tried this Tassajara warm red cabbage recipe by way of 101cookbooks. Heidi says her version is less cheesy, less fruity, and less rich, but it still tasted plenty cheesy, fruity, and rich to us. Both Derek and I enjoyed it. Now that Alma is two, she likes it too. It’s a pretty sweet-tasting (and hence toddler-friendly) dish, due to the use of the raisins and balsamic vinegar, plus all the natural sugars in the cabbage and onions.
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