No-bake sesame chocolate squares

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

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

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

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

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

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Double chocolate peanut butter cookies

December 25, 2020 at 11:25 pm (Cookies, Derek's faves, Website / blog)

Over our winter break this year we decided to bake cookies. We decided that each of us would get to pick out which kind of cookies we wanted to make. Derek chose almond crescent cookies, and Alma chose double chocolate peanut butter cookies. We’ve made a vegan version in the past, but Derek wasn’t so excited about them, so he picked this Food 52 recipe to try instead.

The recipe is pretty easy, as it has you melt the butter and the peanut butter together in a pan, making it easy to incorporate the peanut butter into the batter. Other than that step it’s basically a one-bowl recipe.

It calls for black cocoa powder, but I couldn’t find it so I just used our regular dutched cocoa powder. The amount of sugar seemed quite high, presumably to compensate for the bitterness of the black cocoa powder. I cut it down a bit by not filling the 1/2 cup measuring cup with sugar all the way, but I didn’t measure that carefully. Maybe I used 80% of the sugar? When I went to add the chocolate chips, 8 ounces seemed like a huge amount. I still import my chocolate chips from the U.S., and I didn’t want to use up so many, so I cut it down slightly to 6 ounces.

The recipe says to use a 1.5 ounce scoop, and I used my large scoop, which is labeled 2.5 Tbs. I think. The technique is slightly odd. After you bake the cookies you are supposed to drop the pan onto the counter a few times to flatten them. But I guess it worked because the cookies came out well. Alma flattened her batch before putting them in the oven and they were dryer and not as good.

In general, I didn’t love the texture of these cookies. They had a slight stick-to-your-teeth quality. And they were definitely too sweet for me. Next time I’d try cutting the sugar further, maybe 2/3 of the original amount, and leaving the chocolate chips at 3/4 of the original amount.

Derek said they were absolutely great (probably because they are quite salty), and Alma said they were good not great.

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Latkes with half-baked potatoes

December 17, 2020 at 11:03 pm (breakfast, B_minus (2 stars, okay), Fall recipes, Jewish, Root vegetables, Starches, Website / blog)

Derek wanted to make latkes for Hanukkah this year, and he found a New York Times recipe that called for pre-baking the potatoes (well, partially) then grating them. The recipe looked really simple. The only ingredients were the potatoes, salt and pepper, and the oil for frying.

But we found the recipe a bit challenging because it called for 4 large Idaho or Russet potatoes, and although we can get similar starchy potatoes they are not nearly as large. We weren’t sure how many pounds that should be, or how to adjust the cooking time. The recipe says to cook “until they are hot throughout but still raw in the middle.” That wasn’t so easy to ascertain, but we did our best.

Other than that, the recipe seemed to work okay, but we found the latkes bland. We want to add onions and maybe egg next time. Perhaps we will try this more traditional recipe.

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One bowl, flourless peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

October 1, 2020 at 6:28 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Cookies, Website / blog)

Alma’s preschool was closed today, and she asked if we could make peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. We had made some a few months ago, but I forgot to write down what recipe we used. I think it was this one from the Ambitious Kitchen blog, but I’m not sure. But we tried it today and this time I’m going to blog it before I forget whether we liked it!

Ingredients
  • 240g / 1 cup natural creamy peanut butter (just peanuts + salt)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar + 1/2 Tbs. molasses (original recipe called for 2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 extra-large eggs (German large eggs, about 50g each without the shell, original recipe called for 2 large eggs)
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (original recipe called for 2/3 cup)
  • Flakey sea salt for sprinkling on top
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes and remove when edges barely begin to turn a golden brown. The cookies may look a little underdone, but they will continue to cook once you remove them from the oven.
  3. Cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Sprinkle each cookie with flakey sea salt.

My notes:

The original recipe has you use two bowls, but I just made it in one.

A few of the cookies in the corners ended up too brown, despite me rotating the pan halfway through the cooking time. And I think I cooked the cookies a tad too long. I cooked them for 9 minutes I think, opening the oven halfway to rotate them. The original recipe said 9 to 12 minutes, but my cookies were a bit smaller, and I think 8 minutes would have been sufficient, especially since I forgot and left the fan on in the oven.

The original recipe calls for more sugar and chocolate chips, but the author commented that she has used 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup chocolate chips and they turned out great. So I decided to try that.

The cookies are good, but definitely not as sweet or rich-tasting as typical American peanut butter cookies. Alma seemed happy. I don’t love the texture the rolled oats add. Maybe next time I will grind up the oats? And I wish the cookies were slightly moister, but maybe that’s just because I cooked them too long. Derek said that the cookies weren’t rich enough for his taste. He thought they needed butter. But I think he didn’t add any salt to his, and he prefers his cookies salty. Next time I think I will add the salt to the cookies before they go in the oven.

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Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango

September 13, 2020 at 10:10 pm (Derek's faves, Pasta, Website / blog)

This Ottolenghi recipe from Plenty has been lighting up the internet for years now. Serious Eats loves it. 101cookbooks has blogged it. Epicurious has posted it. Several friends have personally raved to me about it. So back in 2018 I tried it.

I didn’t love it. The eggplant was greasy. The whole recipe seemed overwhelmingly sweet and not salty/acidic/spicy enough. I didn’t think the eggplant and mango really did much for each other. Don’t get me wrong, it was fine. It didn’t taste bad. But it was a lot of work for a recipe that was only meh. I told this to one of the friend’s who had recommended it and she thought maybe I had screwed something up. She came over a few weeks later and we made it together. It tasted about the same. Still meh. Derek again loved it, but it just wasn’t for me.

Then this weekend another friend invited us over for dinner and served it as our first course. It was definitely better than when I had made it. The eggplant was cooked much better—more uniformly cooked through and much less greasy. And the whole dish just looked more professional and refined. But my overall impression was the same—too sweet, not enough salt or punch. Derek said he thought there was plenty of acid in the dressing, but I couldn’t detect it. He normally adds salt to the food I cooked, but he thought the dish was plenty salty. For me the sugar overwhelmed all the other flavors. I really wanted more of a dressing like the one that goes in a Thai green papaya salad, where by the end smoke is coming out of your ears. Derek said this isn’t supposed to be that kind of a dish, and I know that’s not what was intended. But if I were going to make a noodle dish with eggplant and mango and chilies and cilantro and basil, that’s what I would want.

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Zucchini flaxseed muffins

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

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

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

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

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

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Roasted Eggplant and Black Pepper Tofu

September 1, 2020 at 11:35 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Derek's faves, East and SE Asia, Ottolenghi, Summer recipes, Tofu, Website / blog)

This is Smitten Kitchen’s riff on Ottolenghi’s black pepper tofu recipe. You roast the eggplant and tofu in the oven, then toss them with a sauce made from shallots, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, lots of butter and black pepper. Smitten Kitchen reduced Ottolenghi’s original 11 tablespoons of butter down to what seemed a more reasonable 3 to 4 Tablespoons. Well, so I thought until I realized that the recipe calls for another 4 tablespoons of oil to cook the tofu and eggplant! It seemed way too rich for my taste, so I only used 1 tablespoon of butter to cook the onion in. (I was out of shallots.) I didn’t have any low-sodium soy sauce so I added 1 tablespoon of regular soy sauce (instead of the 8 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce) and it tasted plenty salty to me. The tofu and eggplant cooked pretty well in the oven, but some of the smaller eggplant pieces ended up burnt and some of the tofu on the outside of the pan was a bit too dry.

I liked the dish, but even cutting down the butter I found it way too greasy. It tasted like restaurant food, which to Derek was a very good thing, but is not really what I want from home cooking. I think I will try to make this dish again, but I suspect that I can use just 2 Tbs. of oil to roast the eggplant and tofu in (1 for the pan and 1 to toss the eggplant with), and 1 Tbs. of butter for the sauce. The trick will be getting the eggplant nicely cooked without it burning or getting greasy. If anyone has any tips, let me know.

Even though I left the black pepper off, Alma didn’t like this dish at all (too much garlic and ginger and onions I guess). She ate some of the roasted eggplant and tofu plain without the sauce. Derek and I ended up adding a lot of black pepper to our own bowls. Yum.

 

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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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Best ever chocolate pudding

April 29, 2020 at 10:28 pm (Dessert, Pudding, unrated, Website / blog)

Way back in 2013 my friend Nev sent me this chocolate pudding recipe from A Cup of Jo and indeed it was great. I think I made it twice then promptly forgot about it. But then this week a Smitten Kitchen ad for Best Chocolate Pudding popped up on Facebook and made me want to try it.

So Alma and I made it together last week. She said it was not quite as good as the chocolate pudding they serve at preschool. I thought it was much, much too sweet. And oddly, even though I used 85% chocolate my pudding was quite light in color, nothing like the dark brown color on the photos on the website. Strange. In any case, I wasn’t very impressed and next time I want to make pudding I’m going to return to the Cup of Jo recipe. Here’s the difference in ingredients, in case you’re curious. Basically the SK recipe doubles the cornstarch and omits the egg, uses more sugar and less salt, and twice the amount of chocolate (but no cocoa powder).

A Cup of Jo Recipe Smitten Kitchen Recipe
3 cups (710 ml) whole milk 3 cups (710 ml) whole milk
1/3 cup (75 grams) granulated sugar 1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
2 tbsp. cornstarch 1/4 cup (30 grams) cornstarch
2 large egg yolks
1/4 tsp. salt 1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
3 oz. (85 grams) dark or semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped 6 ounces (170 grams) semi- or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 tsp. vanilla extract 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract

 

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Cauliflower Tikka Masala

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

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

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

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

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

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Instant Pot Chana Masala

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Instant Pot Tortilla Soup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gingerbread granola, oil-free

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Instant Pot Golden Lentil Soup with Spinach

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

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

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

Update April 1, 2020: 

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

Original Notes from Feb 13, 2020:

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

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

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

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

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

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Instant Pot Saag Aloo with sweet potatoes and chard

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

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

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

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

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Mini chickpea flour frittatas (vegan)

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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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Roasted chestnuts

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

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

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

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Peanut butter oat chocolate chip cookies

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

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

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

Here is the recipe as my Mom wrote it down.

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F (177 C).

In a medium bowl mix well:

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

Then mix together the dry ingredients in a small bowl:

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

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

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

My notes:

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

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

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

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

 

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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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Bean breakfast burgers

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

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

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

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

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

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Millet sweet corn fritters

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

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

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

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Zucchini scallion chickpea-flour pancakes

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

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

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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

Original notes form Aug 18, 2019:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derek’s rating (with dal): A-/B+

My rating (with dal): B+

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Best Green Smoothie for Beginners

August 11, 2019 at 10:19 pm (breakfast, C (1 star, edible), Website / blog) ()

I make smoothies pretty often, but almost never green smoothies. The few times I’ve tried to improvise one Alma wouldn’t drink it. So I went looking for a kid-friendly green smoothie recipe. I found this Beginner’s Luck Green Smoothie recipe on the simplegreensmoothies.com website. It claims it tastes like a “tropical treat”. I happened to have all the ingredients, and Alma likes mango a lot, so I gave it a try.

I thought it was fine. I tasted a lot of pineapple. It wasn’t a very complex flavor, but it was pleasant enough. Alma drank a little of it, but wasn’t too into it. Derek said it was fine but not exciting. He thought it needed peanut butter, but I didn’t think that would really go with the pineapple. I then tried to jazz it up by adding some roasted sunflower seeds that I had lying around. That made it just taste like roasted sunflowers seeds.

The hunt continues.

 

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Vegetarian lettuce wraps ala P.F. Chang’s

June 12, 2019 at 9:50 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Chinese, Tofu, Website / blog)

When we were in Bordeaux a few weeks ago I ordered chilaquiles at some organic cafe. What I got was not at all chilaquiles, more of a bowl of chili beans with a side of salad and guacamole on top, with a few chips sticking out of the top. But Alma, who hadn’t really been eating anything but bread on our trip, really loved it. I would give her bites of the beans wrapped up in lettuce or spinach leaves. She thought the lettuce wraps were so fun. So when I got home I decided to try to make Asian-style lettuce wraps. I found this wellplated recipe for a P.F. Chang’s copycat recipe, and it looked interesting and pretty easy.

I followed the recipe except I used olive oil instead of canola, I used more than 8 ounces crimini mushrooms, I used regular soy sauce not low-sodium (but just half the amount), and I minced my ginger rather than grating it. I also only added 1 scallion, and left the rest on the side. I left the chili flakes out as well.

The recipe works. I think it came out exactly how it was supposed to. I don’t know what P.F. Chang’s lettuce wraps taste like, but I can imagine that this is reminiscent. When Alma first tasted the filling she said “yum” and happily ate several lettuce wraps, despite the ginger and scallion (both of which she is normally super-sensitive to). Derek said it was good but gave up on the lettuce wraps pretty quickly, and just ate the filling with a spoon.

I think this dish is better as an appetizer than as a main dish. I served it with a mushroom, white bean, miso soup, which was pretty tasty, but was too salty in combination with the lettuce wraps. Derek thought maybe the lettuce wraps would be a good appetizer to serve with sesame noodles. I’m not sure.

I liked this recipe, but didn’t love it. I think maybe it was just a tad too sweet for me? Maybe it depends on which hoison sauce you use.

I’m not sure I’ll make this recipe again, but I might try using the filling for something else. Dumplings maybe?

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Turmeric-Roasted Cauliflower with Pistachio Gremolata

March 28, 2019 at 12:21 pm (C (1 star, edible), Cruciferous rich, Website / blog)

I saw this recipe on food52 and was instantly sold. A “low-effort, high-impact dish” that’s suitable for weeknights and company? Sounds great. I’ve actually never used fresh turmeric before, but I was intrigued after reading reading “how the freshly grated bits of turmeric get deliciously caramelized on the hot sheet pan, and how its earthiness complements the mild sweetness of cauliflower.”

Unfortunately, the dish was only meh, and not as easy and fast as the author makes it out to be. I think I followed the directions pretty closely. It calls for one large head of cauliflower. I wasn’t sure how much that was, and ended up using 2 pounds of cauliflower. Later I noticed that one of the comments mentions a large head weighing 850g (exactly two pounds). I’m not sure if that was weighed before or after trimming, but I don’t think I was so far off. The recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of olive oil, which seems like a lot, but the final dish didn’t actually seem that rich.

Even with all the olive oil, the fresh turmeric never seemed to get “deliciously caramelized”. I’m not sure why. I’ve never used fresh turmeric before, and was surprised at how mild it was. And how sticky. It’s been several days, and I still can’t get the yellow residue off of my microplane, or my fingernails.

And we were a bit mystified by the dates. They are nice and soft and sweet, but they didn’t really meld with the dish. When you got a date it was very sweet and date-y, but when you didn’t get a date you didn’t taste it. I felt like if you’re going to put in super sweet dates you need something salty and briny to counteract all that sweetness.

Then there’s the gremolata. It was fine, but expensive. (1/3 cup of shelled pistachios cost quite a bit.) And I’m not sure the pistachios added all that much. I think just lemon zest, parsley, and garlic would have been just as good. The pomegranate didn’t add much either, in my opinion.

Alma wouldn’t taste the dish at all. She was scared of the fresh turmeric. Derek said that the flavors didn’t really meld and was missing something. All in all we were quite disappointed.

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Instant Pot Lasagna Soup

February 17, 2019 at 11:50 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Instant Pot, Italian, Menus, Monthly menu plan, One pot wonders, Pasta, Quick weeknight recipe, soup, Spring recipes, Website / blog, Winter recipes) ()

I am a member of the Instant Pot Vegan Recipe group on Facebook, and almost every week someone raves about this recipe for Lasagna Soup from Vegan Richa. I like lasagna, but it always takes so long to make. A fast version in the pressure cooker? Sounds good to me!

I’ve made the recipe a couple of times now, with a few modifications (see below). The recipe is pretty fast. You basically just have to chop the onions and other veggies and measure out all the ingredients. Everyone liked it pretty well (even 4-year-old Alma who is normally very suspicious of new “mixed” dishes and Derek who typically disdains soup). It’s surprising how filling it is given that it only calls for 5 ounces of noodles for 2 to 3 servings.  Normally Derek alone will eat at least 4 ounces of noodles! The first time I made it I think we even had a little bit of leftovers! I guess the lentils and veggies and broth make it filling. Read the rest of this entry »

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Moroccan Spiced Millet and Lentil Salad

February 9, 2019 at 10:08 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Instant Pot, Middle East / N. Africa, Salads, Website / blog) ()

A friend suggested I try this Vegetarian Times recipe for a Moroccan Spiced Millet and Lentil Salad, but I was nervous about making it since Derek normally hates millet. I will never forget the time he took a bite of millet and then made a terrible, disgusted grimace “What have you done to the rice?” he asked. “This is the worst rice ever!”

So I waited until he was out of town this summer and then I invited my friend over to make it with me. We made a somewhat deconstructed version of the salad, and other than the fact that I totally overcooked the millet, everyone enjoyed it. Alma (at 3.5) also really liked it. Finally last weekend I got up the nerve to make it for Derek and he liked it as well. He didn’t even complain about the fact that I was serving him birdseed for dinner. Score! Read the rest of this entry »

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Chard parsnip patties

October 10, 2018 at 3:44 am (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Dark leafy greens, Fall recipes, Monthly menu plan, Root vegetables, Website / blog) ()

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

Notes from first attempt 10/10/2018:

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

The first time I made the recipe I had a really hard time getting the patties to stick together. I think I didn’t chop the chard up finely enough. I ended up doubling the flour to get them to stick together at all, and still it was a challenge getting them to form into patties. The recipe says the chard should be “chopped” but I think it really needs to be more minced. The second time I made the recipe I used my food processor to mince the chard  and it worked much better. I also used the food processor for the onions and garlic, and to grate the parsnips.

Derek and I thought the patties were really tasty. I could taste both the parsnip and the chard well. The only problem was that I used quite a bit of oil to cook them. Also, Alma wouldn’t eat them. Maybe because of the cilantro? The second time I tried dividing the mixture into two halves and making one big “pancake/hashbrown” in my cast iron skillet. It was certainly much faster, but it didn’t get as nicely crispy and browned. But Alma ate them the second time around—not sure why.

This is definitely a recipe I would like to keep playing around with, especially in the autumn when we’re getting lots of chard from our CSA.

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Simple chard or turnip green quiche

October 8, 2018 at 10:52 am (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Dark leafy greens, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Monthly menu plan, Spring recipes, Website / blog) ()

Ingredients (to try next time)

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

Instructions:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the pie crust in a 26-cm tart pan and crimp the edges. Chop your onion and chard.
  2. In a medium skillet, heat the tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add the onion and chard stems and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the chard leaves to skillet, season with 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper, and cook until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Transfer chard mixture to a colander. Press firmly with the back of a spoon to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Top prepared crust with chard mixture and cheese; place on rimmed baking sheet.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, nutmeg, mustard powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Pour custard over chard mixture. Bake until custard is set, 40 to 45 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Original post from Oct 8, 2018:

Tonight I made a chard quiche, roughly following a Martha Stewart recipe, except instead of making her homemade chard-crust I just used a store-bought quiche crust. Everyone liked it. Alma was especially enthusiastic.

The crust wasn’t great, but was okay. I have to either find a better one to buy or learn how to make one myself. I greased the pie pan with butter first and cooked the quiche at the temperature the crust said on the package for about 45 minutes. I didn’t pre-cook the crust, and the bottom ended up soggy. But Derek and Alma said they liked the soggy crust. I did not. Is there any way to get it to not be soggy? Pre-baking it? Putting something down before the filling? Moving the crust from the bottom layer to the top layer?

This is the recipe I roughly followed. (Update: Since I originally posted this entry the recipe has disappeared, so I’ve copied it here for safekeeping.)

Ingredients for crust:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
  • 3/4 cup toasted wheat germ
  • 1/4 tsp. coarse salt + freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 ounces Swiss chard (1/2 large bunch), leaves chopped, stems minced

Ingredients for the quiche:

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, minced
  • 8 ounces Swiss chard (1/2 large bunch), leaves chopped, stems minced
  • 1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese (2 ounces)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1 pinch ground mustard powder

Instructions for the crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, wheat germ, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside. In a medium skillet, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium. Add half the chard to skillet, season with salt and pepper, and cook until chard wilts and releases liquid. Wipe skillet, set aside.
  2. Add the cooked chard to the flour mixture and mix with fork to incorporate. Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate; firmly press mixture into bottom and up the side of pan. Bake until golden and firm, about 25 minutes. Cool.

Instructions for the filling:

  1. In a medium skillet, heat remaining tablespoon oil over medium. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add remaining 8 ounces of chard to skillet, season with salt and pepper, and cook until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Transfer chard mixture to a colander. Press firmly with the back of a spoon to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Top prepared crust with chard mixture and cheese; place on rimmed baking sheet.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, nutmeg, mustard powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Pour custard over chard mixture. Bake until custard is set, 40 to 45 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

My notes:

I used 8 ounces of red chard leaves (a few of the very skinny stems, but probably at most an ounce). I didn’t notice the chard stems in the final dish. I sliced them very thin and cooked them with the onion. I think next time I could use a bit more stems.

I used the cup of whole milk and 4 (German large) eggs.

I didn’t have gruyere so I used 2 ounces of parmesan grated + 1.25 ounces of some soft tangy cheese from the biofrischmarkt. I used the full amount of salt in the mixture plus some in the chard. The quiche tasted good but I think it was too salty, probably because I used fine and not coarse salt. Next time I’d cut the salt down a tad.

I used pepper and nutmeg but was out of ground mustard. I would add a bit more nutmeg next time, as I couldn’t really taste it.

The recipe says it serves 6, but we actually got almost 7 pieces out. We were all hungry and had almost 2 pieces each for lunch. (Alma and I had small pieces for seconds.) There were 3 medium sized pieces left, which we will reheat for breakfast.

Update Feb 9, 2019:

Made this kale quiche recipe from Naturally Ella today. I only had 1.5 cups of milk but still I think it would have been way too much filling for my normal pie crust. I ended up using my larger enameled pan, but then there wasn’t as much crispy crust sticking out 😦

I didn’t love it, but I was out of cheddar. I used a little mozzarella and a lot of parmesan. It was a tad boring I thought. Derek said it was very good. He said the texture was more like quiche than the chard quiche recipe.

ingredients:

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

Update May 8, 2019:

I had a ton of Rübstiel from my CSA to use up, and wasn’t sure what to do with it. It seems that it’s basically baby turnip greens with lots of stems. I found this recipe for Rübstielkuchen, which is basically a quiche. So I decided to adapt the chard quiche recipe above to use the turnip greens instead.

The German recipe calls for a tart pan with a 26cm diameter, which is much larger than my pie plate.

Here’s a comparison of the three recipes:

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

I used just over a pound of turnip greens combined with the turnip stems, but only 1/2 an onion. I used 4 eggs, 1/2 cup of milk, 1/2 cup of cream, no creme fraiche, and 3 ounces (85g) comte, plus 1/2 tsp. fine salt and two pinches of nutmeg and some black pepper.

The quiche was quite tasty, but it was quite full and it didn’t hold together great. Also the bottom crust ended up super soggy. Maybe I should have squeezed the liquid out of the greens? Or maybe it was just too much greens for that much milk eggs/dairy? I thought the chard recipe above also called for 1 pound of chard, but I forgot that half of it goes in the crust. I’ve updated it above to make it clearer what goes in the crust and what goes in the filling.

Everyone loved the quiche, probably because it was quite salty and very rich. Alma had 3 (small) pieces and asked for another one. Derek and I talked about how we also wanted more because it’s so tasty, but we would probably get a stomachache if we ate more. We all decided to save our last piece for the morning. Of course, the next morning Alma wasn’t interested. She gave her piece to Derek and asked for oatmeal instead.

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Instant Pot Refried Beans

June 28, 2018 at 10:32 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Instant Pot, Mexican & S. American, Monthly menu plan, Website / blog) ()

I used to make refried beans on the stovetop, but now that I’ve gotten an Instant Pot I wanted to figure out how to make them in the electric pressure cooker instead. I started with this recipe for creamy-dreamy pinto beans from Julie and Kittee, but I changed a few things.

First of all, if I’m going to the trouble of making refries I’m going to want to use more than 2 cups of dry pintos! I figured the maximum that would fit in my 6-quart Instant Pot would be 4 cups, so I doubled the recipe. Also, I wanted to take out some of the beans as whole beans before making refries, so I soaked my beans overnight and reduced the cooking time, so that the beans would come out soft but not falling apart. Then I tweaked the seasoning a bit. Below is my modified recipe.

These days I usually serve my refries with salsa and homemade plantain chips. Alma, at 3.5 years, is a big fan. I’ll try to add a post about how I make the plantain chips next. Read the rest of this entry »

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The best pesto, and sore arms

June 17, 2018 at 9:13 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Cooking tips, Italian, Sauce/dressing, Summer recipes, Website / blog)

I got a ton of fresh basil from my CSA this week, so I decided to make pesto. I followed this “best pesto” recipe from Serious Eats. Wow was it hard work! I like that it gives the amount of basil leaves by weight, but the recipe did not prepare me for how much work it would be. It took a huge amount of effort to grind all those basil leaves down by hand. Maybe it was because I was using a big thai mortar and pestle instead of the little white (marble?) one they show in the video? By the end I could barely grip the mortar any more. And I never did get my basil leaves as fine as they show in their photos. The pesto did taste really good though (even though I didn’t have any Fiore Sardo, and used all parmesan, and left out the final 2 tablespoons of olive oil).

Alma tasted the pesto but wouldn’t eat it. I froze the bulk of it in two small glass jars.

I have more basil. I might try making the same recipe in the food processor, and see how different it tastes to me. Maybe I’ll even freeze my basil overnight first.

I’m out of pine nuts though. Maybe I’ll try making the next batch of pesto with sunflower seeds instead? Or maybe I’ll just freeze my basil (in oil?) and save it in the freezer for some other recipe.

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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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