Roasted cauliflower and hazelnut salad

April 1, 2021 at 8:14 pm (Cruciferous rich, Ottolenghi, Salads, unrated, Winter recipes)

Derek chose this recipe from Ottolenghi’s cookbook Jerusalem. It has you roast the cauliflower, then mix it with roasted chopped hazelnuts, parsley, pomegranate seeds, allspice, sherry vinegar, maple syrup, and celery. Derek left out the pomegranate seeds and I couldn’t find any decent cauliflower, so we used romanesco instead. But the instructions say to roast the cauliflower for 25 to 55 minutes, and I forgot to mention to Derek that romanesco cooks more quickly than cauliflower. So when he checked it after 25 minutes it was overdone. He made the salad anyway, and said it was pretty good. Alma, predictably, didn’t like it, and I found it quite strange. The sweet dressing with maple syrup and allspice just didn’t work for me. We’ve made a classic Italian dish with cauliflower and raisins and olives before, and I haven’t liked that combo that much either. The one thing that both Derek and I liked in this recipe was the crisp celery. It was the best part.

Maybe we should try the recipe again, using cauliflower and not overcooking it, and adding the pomegranate seeds. But I’m still worried about all that allspice. A generous 1/4 tsp. is quite a lot of allspice.

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Koshari rice with butternut squash and sunflower seed dukkah

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

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

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

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

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

Update April 5, 2021:

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

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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

Notes:

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

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

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

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Sweet and sour wild rice and sauerkraut soup

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

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

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

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

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Red lentil and roasted carrot soup with za’atar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Beet and potato gratin with rosemary and walnuts

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

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions:

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

Update Oct 11, 2021:

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

Notes from Sept 20, 2020:

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

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

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

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

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

My original notes from Nov 6, 2010:

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

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

And here’s the original recipe:

Ingredients

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

Instructions:

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

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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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Homemade sauerkraut, how much salt?

April 29, 2020 at 10:50 pm (Cruciferous rich, Spring recipes, unrated, Website / blog, Winter recipes) (, )

I usually follow this no pound no fail recipe for Sauerkraut in Fido jars, but somehow I can’t fit nearly as much cabbage in my jars as he says.

Also, I can never remember exactly how much salt I should add, so I’m saving this very useful link here: https://www.makesauerkraut.com/salt-by-weight/

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Black-eyed peas smothered with leeks and tarragon

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

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

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

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

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Instant Pot Brussels Sprouts with Maple Mustard Sauce

March 7, 2020 at 10:37 pm (Cruciferous rich, Fall recipes, Instant Pot, Jill Nussinow, unrated, Winter recipes)

We almost always cook brussels sprouts the same way, pan-fried and dusted with parmesan cheese. But I was in the mood for something different, and I kept seeing people rave about this recipe from Vegan Under Pressure for brussels sprouts with maple mustard sauce. Pressure cooked brussels sprouts? Seems a bit worrisome, but so many people said they loved it I decided to give it a try.

The sprouts didn’t end up overcooked, as I had worried they might, but they were definitely wet and soft, not crisp or browned. I thought the sauce was quite tasty (tastier than I expected), and I enjoyed it on the sprouts. Still, I missed the texture of the pan-fried brussels sprouts. And the look of the dish was not so appetizing. Maybe next time I should pan-fry the brussels sprouts then pour the sauce over the top?

 

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Instant Pot Tortilla Soup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Instant Pot Golden Lentil Soup with Spinach

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

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

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

Update April 1, 2020: 

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

Original Notes from Feb 13, 2020:

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

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

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

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

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

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Sweet potato chickpea kale tahini buddha bowl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derek said everything tasted good but afterward he felt unsatisfied.

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

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Roasted chestnuts

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

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

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

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Simple parsnip puree

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

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

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

  1. Peel and slice the parsnips. (Save the stem ends and peelings for vegetable broth.) Place the peeled and sliced parsnips in a large saucepan (3 to 4 quarts) and barely cover with boiling water. (The parsnips on top don’t have to be entirely submerged.) Add a few pinches of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-high and simmer (uncovered) until tender. If your top parsnips aren’t totally submerged, give them a stir about halfway through. Moulton says this step should take about 25 to 30 minutes, but I think it’s closer to 15 minutes? Max 20.
  2. Drain the parsnips, but reserve the cooking liquid! Leave the parsnips in the colander and return the liquid to the pan. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil rapidly until reduced to about 3/4 cup. Turn off the heat.
  3. Return the parsnips to the pan and add the butter or cream. Use a stick blender to puree the parsnips. (For a finer, perfectly smooth puree you can use a food processor, but I find that a stick blender works well enough and is much easier to clean.) Season with salt and pepper. If you need to, need to return the pan to very low heat to warm the puree up again before serving it.

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

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

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

Update Sept 23, 2020: I made this dish tonight, but I think I cut my parsnips too thick, and they took a long time to fully soften. By the time they were really soft almost all of the cooking liquid had boiled away. So I skipped the draining / liquid reducing step and just pureed the parsnips right in the pan. I ended up adding a bit of milk to think them down a bit. They turned out great. No lumps at all. Even Alma, who at first said “yuck,” admitted they were really good. Derek said the meal tasted like something he would get at a fancy restaurant. 🙂 I also made a butternut squash puree. (I cooked it in the same pan as the parsnip, but it cooked much faster.) Alma said the butternut squash puree was fine, but she preferred the parsnip. Derek said he though the butternut squash puree would be better in a burrito. Maybe I put too much nutmeg in it.

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Instant Pot Creamy Wild Rice Soup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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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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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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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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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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.
Read the rest of this entry »

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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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Wintry root vegetable risotto with red beans

November 12, 2016 at 11:35 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Fall recipes, Grains, Peter Berley, Uncategorized, Winter recipes)

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

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Kasha casserole with mushrooms, parsnips, carrots, and chickpeas

November 10, 2016 at 2:38 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Fall recipes, Grains, Peter Berley, Uncategorized, Winter recipes)

When my mom was visiting she made me kasha with mushrooms, and I quite enjoyed it. I have quite a bit of the toasted groats leftover, and so when I was looking for something to do with parsnips last night, I was excited to come across this recipe in Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast. It came out a bit soupy, but I really liked it! Read the rest of this entry »

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Saffron cauliflower with raisins and olives

July 2, 2016 at 3:09 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Cruciferous rich, Fall recipes, Italian, Ottolenghi, Quick weeknight recipe, Spring recipes, Winter recipes) ()

This is a standard Sicilian combination that I’ve seen in many cookbooks. Sometimes the recipe also includes pine nuts, anchovies, garlic, basil, tomatoes, pasta, and/or parmesan. I’ve tried many different variants, but I’m never that excited by the dish. It’s flavorful, but somehow just not my preferred flavors. But a student of mine from Iran gave me a ton of saffron as a gift and I was trying to figure out what to do with it. I came across this Ottolenghi recipe in Plenty, and was surprised to see that—unlike other recipes which usually call for only a pinch or 1/8 tsp. of saffron— his version calls for 1.5 teaspoons (!?!) of saffron. I decided to give it a try. 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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My mom’s toddler-approved chana dal

April 14, 2016 at 11:13 am (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, breakfast, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Indian, Mom’s recipes, Spring recipes, Winter recipes) ()

My mom visited us in January and made us her favorite chana dal recipe for dinner one night. It was a hit, but we ate it all up immediately. So before she left she made us a second, doubled batch and froze it. We defrosted it a few weeks later and again it was a hit with everyone, including my 1-year-old. Since then I’ve been making a quadrupled batch of chana dal every two weeks. We eat it for dinner, freeze some of it, and eat the rest for breakfast a few days later. Then we defrost the frozen portion and have it for a dinner and a breakfast the following week. Sometimes we serve it with yogurt, but often we don’t. My now 14-month-old always eats it happily. When we have it for breakfast, I try to serve it with a piece of vitamin C rich fruit, often a grapefruit, an orange or clementine, or a kiwi. The only problem with the recipe is that it doesn’t have any vegetables in it. I’m curious to try adding some vegetables — maybe a bit of spinach or carrots? In the meantime, if I have leftover roasted or curried cauliflower, I will serve that as a side dish.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Borlotti bean mole with winter squash and kale

January 7, 2016 at 5:03 pm (101 cookbooks, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Beans and greens, Cruciferous rich, Dark leafy greens, Fall recipes, Mexican & S. American, One pot wonders, Uncategorized, Winter recipes)

I made this 101cookbooks recipe right before I left for Israel last month, when I wanted to use up some steamed kale and some roasted squash.  I only had one serving, but I quite enjoyed it. I thought the dish was extremely hearty and flavorful, and made a great one-pot dinner. Beans and greens and chocolate. How can you go wrong?  I’ll definitely be trying it again. Read the rest of this entry »

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Brown rice supper with tofu, peanut sauce, and stir-fried carrots

December 31, 2015 at 12:07 pm (C (1 star, edible), Deborah Madison, East and SE Asia, Fall recipes, Grains, Root vegetables, Sauce/dressing, Spring recipes, Tofu, Uncategorized, Winter recipes)

In the 70s and 80s many vegetarian restaurants offered some kind of brown rice bowl, which consisted of some combination of borwn rice, tofu, beans, veggies, and a sauce. In NYC in Angelica Kitchen they called it the Dragon Bowl. It’s simple, hearty, co-op food—nothing fancy, but tasty and filling. So when I asked Derek to pick a recipe for dinner last night, he picked this “brown rice supper” menu from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Suppers cookbook. Read the rest of this entry »

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How to improve your salads — add parsley

September 26, 2015 at 8:32 pm (Cooking tips, Fall recipes, Salads, Spring recipes, Winter recipes)

When my mom was here a few weeks ago she made an excellent parsley salad. It was made from parsley leaves (lots!), grated carrots, red onions, and a simple lemon dressing. Then she added roasted pepitas, which are optional. Delicious. I’ve never been a big fan of taboulleh, so I didn’t realize how tasty a simple parsley salad could be.

My mom had more parsley leftover after making two parsley salads, and so just threw it into a regular green salad. Sooo good. I really miss having a variety of green leafy vegetables available, and so adding parsley to salads is a great way to get more dark green vegetables into my diet. Plus it’s cheap and delicious. I highly recommend it.

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Celeriac and lentils with hazelnuts and mint

September 12, 2015 at 1:53 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Fall recipes, Ottolenghi, Root vegetables, Salads, Winter recipes)

This is another recipe from Ottolenghi’s Plenty cookbook. My mom picked it to make last week, as she had never tried celeriac before. I’ve mostly eaten celeriac pureed in soups or raw in salads, so I was also excited to try this recipe—the celery root is boiled but not pureed.

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Cabbage and leek gratin with mustard cream

May 10, 2015 at 2:04 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Cruciferous rich, Deborah Madison, Winter recipes) ()

This is another recipe my sister decided to try while she was here last week, this time from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Suppers cookbook. Madison describes it as a “homey gratin”. You boil the cabbage and leeks, and then mix them with flour, milk, sour cream, eggs, salt, and finely chopped parley and/or dill. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sweet caramelized tofu with shredded brussels sprouts and pecans

January 19, 2015 at 3:17 pm (101 cookbooks, Chinese, Cruciferous rich, East and SE Asia, Fall recipes, Tofu, unrated, Winter recipes)

I wanted to use up some brussels sprouts and cilantro, and found this recipe for a tofu, sprout stirfry on 101cookbooks. It looked interesting, and we had all the ingredients on hand, so Derek and I gave it a try for lunch yesterday. Read the rest of this entry »

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Roasted butternut squash & red onion with tahini & za’atar

January 9, 2015 at 4:09 pm (A (4 stars, love), Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Middle East / N. Africa, Ottolenghi, Vegetable dishes, Winter recipes, Yearly menu plan)

I had a butternut squash that was starting to go bad, and I asked Derek to choose a recipe to use it up. He chose this Yotam Ottolenghi recipe for roasted butternut squash and red onion with tahini and za’atar, which I was happy about, because it would allow me to use up some of the zaatar I bought to make the last Ottolenghi recipe we tried (this za’atar spiced beet dip). You can find more comments about the recipe (and a photo!) on this seriouseats page. Read the rest of this entry »

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