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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Super Simple Quick Zucchini and Almond Saute

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

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

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

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

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

August 5, 2020 at 12:36 am (Cooking tips, Menu planning)

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

I definitely don’t have everything figured out but below are some things that have been working well for us. Read the rest of this entry »

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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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Can’t find brown sugar in Germany? Make your own

April 29, 2020 at 10:31 pm (Cooking tips, Uncategorized)

We can’t find American-style brown sugar in Germany. You can get unrefined sugars, but not the white sugar + molasses style sugar we typically call “brown sugar” in America. So when we are following American recipes we usually make our own brown sugar substitute:

For light brown sugar pulse 1 cup of granulated sugar in the food processor with 1 tablespoon of molasses.

For dark brown sugar, use 2 tablespoons of molasses for the same 1 cup of granulated sugar.

If there are liquid ingredients in your recipe you can just add the molasses directly to the liquid ingredients and skip the pulsing step.

Sometimes we use date syrup instead of molasses. It doesn’t seem to make a big difference in terms of the flavor, and it’s easier to come by.

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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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Simple spinach omelet with fresh herbs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Black-eyed peas smothered with leeks and tarragon

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

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

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

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

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Instant Pot 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 Chana Masala

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Instant Pot Tortilla Soup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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How to make a stir fry

February 4, 2020 at 9:39 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Cooking tips, Derek's faves, East and SE Asia, Monthly menu plan, Other)

I’ve always been terrible at stir-frying. You can see many of my previous stir-fry posts for evidence. When I try to wing it, it just doesn’t taste right. And when I try to follow a recipe, most of the time the result is disastrous. I’ve tried many recipes for “stir-fry sauces” over the years and they are almost always terrible, or full of processed store-bought sauces with very strange unpronounceable ingredients. So when one of Derek’s students made us a pretty yummy stir-fry , I asked him to come over and show me how to make it. It was a while ago now, so I’ve probably forgotten part of what I learned, but I’m going to try to record my lessons here.

  1. Tofu: He had me boil the tofu briefly, and it made the texture spongier and more absorbent, a bit more like frozen tofu.  He also had me cut the tofu into huge cubes, but Derek said I should cut them smaller next time. I just pan-fried them in my cast iron skillet the same way I usually do.
  2. Seasoning: We minced a lot of garlic and added some thinly sliced shallots. We also chopped up some cilantro, although I got some grief for getting the wrong (apparently not so flavorful) kind. That was it for seasoning, other than salt and soy sauce. We started by heating my 12-inch stainless steel skillet on high (as high as my oven goes, on the largest burner). When quite hot, we added quite a small amount of oil (1 tsp?) to it, then immediately threw in most (but not all) of the garlic and scallions. After a few seconds we added the slowest cooking vegetable (in our case carrots).
  3. Amounts and timing: We had to make two batches to have enough for all four of us (3 adults + Alma). But I was surprised at how quick it was to make the second batch, especially since we used all the carrots (the slowest veggie) in the first batch. The second batch (with pre-steamed broccoli and other quick cooking vegetables) just took a couple of minutes to make. I think if I was just cooking for Derek and Alma and myself, I could make one batch for dinner and a second batch to have “leftovers” for lunch the next day.
  4. Carrots: We had to add water to the pan in small amounts to get the carrots to cook not burn. Whenever the pan started to brown a bit we added some water.
  5. Broccoli: He said broccoli is a bit tricky, so we steamed it first, until it was almost cooked, and then we added it once the carrots were almost done cooking. That worked well and the final texture came out pretty good.
  6. Mushrooms: He said that the criminis I got weren’t so good for stir-fry, and shiitakes would be better. I think we added the mushrooms too soon, as they ended up a tad overcooked. I think they actually take less time than bell peppers.
  7. Bell peppers: These we cut into quite large pieces and added around the same time as the broccoli.
  8. Salt and soy sauce: We seasoned a bit as we went. I thought the soy sauce would burn since the pan was so hot but it didn’t seem to. He wanted me to taste it as we went for seasoning, but I didn’t want to. I hate tasting food before it’s done. I know, bad, bad cook.
  9. Final seasoning: When all the veggies were just about cooked we threw in the cooked tofu and the rest of the garlic/scallion mixture, along with the chopped cilantro. I was surprised at how tasty it ended up given that there was almost no oil and essentially no sauce.
  10. Cashews: He said they never put cashews in stir-fry, but we like them so I threw a bunch in the oven on low before we started cooking. They were nicely browned by the time the stirfry was ready, and Derek and Alma and I all thought they made a very tasty addition.
  11. Ginger and chilies: There was no ginger in our stirfry, but I missed it. The next time I made a stirfy I julienned some ginger into very thin batons and added them with the garlic and scallions. That way Alma could pick them out. I also ate my stir-fry with some Sambal Olek. I missed some spice.

Other veggies to try: bok choy, bean sprouts, snow peas, green beans, ???

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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 (breakfast, B_(2.5 stars, like), Grains, 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. Read the rest of this entry »

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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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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. I add them to soup, like lentil soup or matzoh ball soup. 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.

This recipe makes a lot. If you’re not having company then I’d probably just make 1 pound of parsnips. Last time we made the whole recipe just for us we ended up throwing out half of it because everyone got sick of it.

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.) Note that the diameter of the disks isn’t as important as the thickness. The thinner they are the faster they will cook.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 very large servings, 6 normal servings, or 8 smaller servings.

What to eat it with: 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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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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Oven-roasted Ratatouille

August 31, 2019 at 10:22 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Cook's Illustrated, Italian, Summer recipes, Vegetable dishes, Yearly menu plan)

Before I got pregnant with Alma I hated eggplant. So I never tried making ratatouille. But since my pregnancy I’ve learned to like eggplant. And I got eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and bell peppers from my CSA this week. It was time to try making ratatouille.

I chose the “Walkaway Ratatouille” recipe from Cook’s Illustrated to try.

Ingredients:

  • ⅓ cup olive oil + 1 Tablespoon
  • 2 large onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons herbes de Provence
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 ½ pounds eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 pounds plum tomatoes, peeled, cored, and chopped coarse (or one 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes that have been drained and chopped coarse)
  • 2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

Instructions:

  1. Crush and peel your garlic and chop your onion.
  2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees F. Heat ⅓ cup oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and starting to soften, about 10 minutes. While the onions are cooking, cut up the eggplant.
  3. Add herbes de Provence, pepper flakes, and bay leaf and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Stir in eggplant and tomatoes. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and stir to combine. Transfer pot to oven and cook, uncovered, until vegetables are very tender and spotty brown, 40 to 45 minutes. While you’re waiting, cut up your zucchini and bell peppers.
  4. Remove pot from oven and, using potato masher or heavy wooden spoon, smash and stir eggplant mixture until broken down to sauce-like consistency. Stir in zucchini, bell peppers, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and return to oven. Cook, uncovered, until zucchini and bell peppers are just tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
  5. Remove pot from oven, cover, and let stand until zucchini is translucent and easily pierced with tip of paring knife, 10 to 15 minutes. Using wooden spoon, scrape any browned bits from sides of pot and stir back into ratatouille. Discard bay leaf. Stir in 1 tablespoon basil, parsley, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to large platter, drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil, sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon basil, and serve.

My notes:

I mostly followed the recipe except I used “only” 5 Tbs. olive oil total, halved the salt (since I was using fine salt not kosher), was a little bit short on eggplant, and didn’t have fresh parsley so used some extra basil. Also, I forgot to add the sherry vinegar at the end, which was particularly sad since we all made a special trip to France this morning to get it! (I can’t find sherry vinegar in my German grocery stores.). Also, I added a bit more herbes de provence then the recipe called for. I didn’t use my fresh CSA tomatoes (seemed a waste). Instead I used two German jars of whole tomatoes. I drained them and crushed them right into the pot. I also shorted all the cooking times a bit because I started cooking dinner too late and was in a rush.

Derek and I liked it. Alma ate a little of the ratatouille, but she found it a bit too spicy (even from just a 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes!).

I thought that the flavors were balanced with a nice mix of roasted and fresh flavors.  And the combination of texture was also nice, with the mashed eggplant and onions and tomatoes contrasting with the less cooked zucchini and bell peppers. I particularly liked that the bell peppers were almost still crisp, but our zucchini was a tad on the raw side. I think next time I’d cut the zucchini a bit smaller and the bell peppers a bit bigger. Since I halved the salt it was a little bit undersalted, but I served with an oversalted polenta (not sure how that happened), so it balanced out. I really liked the combination with the polenta, but Derek said he thought it would be better on pasta. When I looked online people recommended eating it on bread, or as a side with meat or fish. Derek added parmesan to his.

The recipe did take a while to make, but it felt pretty simple. And it only got one pot dirty, which is a big plus in my book! Most of the work is just roughly chopping some vegetables, and you can chop a lot of the veggies while the earlier veggies are cooking.

The recipe made a lot, but I actually wish it had made a bit more! I think next time I make this I will try using a little more of all the vegetables, but cut the oil down to 1/4 cup. And I won’t peel the eggplant. That was just depressing seeing the beautiful purple eggplants turn into wan white spongy fruits, sad and embarrassed in their undressed state. Finally, I will make it on a cooler day! Turning the oven on really heated up the kitchen.

I’m also kind of curious to compare this recipe to Alice Waters’s ratatouille.

If you don’t have any herbes de provence, you can make your own using equal parts of rosemary, thyme, and marjoram and 1/3 as much fennel seeds. If you want a floral blend, also add 1/3 as much dried lavender. So for this recipe, for example, you could use 1/2 tsp. of each of the herbs and 1/6 tsp. each of fennel (and lavender if you want).

Update October 2019: About six weeks after posting this I made a different roasted ratatouille recipe from a new cookbook I just got: River Cottage Veg: 200 Inspired Vegetable Recipes by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Instead of roasting the veggies in a dutch oven, you do it on a cookie sheet. The regular version has you make a tomato sauce on the stovetop, but the variant I tried has you omit the tomato sauce and instead roast a bunch of tomatoes on a separate tray from the other veggies and then mix them all together at the end. Both Derek and I really liked the recipe. It was extremely rich, with tons of olive oil, but therefore also very satisfying. And it didn’t seem greasy. Derek thought he liked it more than the usual ratatouille because of the lack of tomato sauce. Alma wouldn’t eat it, as usual with ratatouille. I can’t really compare this recipe to the Cook’s Illustrated recipe, since they were six weeks apart. But my best guess is that this one was simpler and tastier? But I did use all the oil, whereas I halved the CI oil, so maybe it’s not a fair comparison.

 

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Protein-powder free chocolate vegan protein smoothie

August 19, 2019 at 9:26 pm (breakfast, C (1 star, edible)) ()

I am on the hunt for new smoothie recipes that everyone in my family likes. Ideally I am looking for a recipe that is filling, healthy, and easy to make. I found this chocolate shake recipe on the minimalist baker website, and decided to make it for breakfast this morning since Derek is out of town. He’s usually not into the chocolate smoothies, but Alma likes them. The author says the smoothie (she calls it a shake) is creamy, chocolaty, filling, and delicious. Sounded good! I followed the recipe carefully except I added a bit too much peanut butter and used 4 very small dates. I used 1.5 cups of almond milk and a bit more than 1.5 Tbsp. of cocoa powder.

The report. First of all, although it has no protein-powder in it it tasted to me like it did! The smoothie was powdery and dull tasting. (Maybe it would have been less powdery if I had a better blender? I have a good blender but it’s no Vitamix.) The taste wasn’t awful but it wasn’t great. Alma tasted it and agreed it needed something. She suggested lemon juice. I thought yogurt. We both seemed to think it needed some acid. We ended up adding some orange juice, which definitely helped. Then we added a big pinch of salt and a big spoonful of vanilla. Better, but it was still too one-note for me. And I didn’t like that there was no fruit or vegetables in it other than banana.

We ended up eating it as a smoothie bowl with raspberries and granola. That worked pretty well. The raspberries added some more sourness, which it needed, and the granola and raspberries both added some texture, which helped distract from the powdery texture. In the end it was fine, but I’m not sure I’d make it again.

The recipe says it serves 1.  What? Alma and I both had seconds and we still had a ton leftover. I think the author says it serves 1 so that she could claim it has 23g of protein in it. Sneaky devil. I would say it serves 3, at least if you add OJ and eat it with raspberries and some granola on top, like we did.

I’m curious what made it powdery. I’m guessing it’s the oats and/or the cocoa powder. I’m curious to try a smoothie with hemp seeds and chia seeds and no oats or cocoa powder, and see if it ends up powdery.

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Zucchini scallion chickpea-flour pancakes

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

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

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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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Instant Pot Mushroom Risotto

August 4, 2019 at 9:14 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Fall recipes, Grains, Instant Pot, Italian, Jill Nussinow, Monthly menu plan, Spring recipes, Winter recipes) ()

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

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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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Chickpea flour crepes with tofu “ricotta” and roasted spring vegetables

June 3, 2019 at 10:23 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Peter Berley, Spring recipes, Starches, Vegetable dishes)

I made this recipe from Peter Berley’s cookbook Modern Vegetarian Kitchen (pg. 264) last night for dinner and really enjoyed it. I am usually lazy when it comes to asparagus and just make it plain (either roasted or pan-steamed), but I really wanted to try one of the 10-million asparagus recipes in my cookbooks before asparagus season is over.

I picked this one because I thought Alma (at 4.25 years) might like it, since she likes asparagus and pancakes and tofu and will often eat shiitake mushrooms. In the end, however, she wouldn’t try the tofu (presumably because it is mixed with herbs). She ate her first crepe happily with just asparagus and shiitakes, and her second one with just asparagus. Then she asked for something else. So I’d say it was a mild preschooler success.

Unlike Alma, I loved the dish. It hit the spot and I found it very satisfying. I liked the combination of the salty, sour lemon-y tofu with the savory roasted veggies. The crepes themselves didn’t have much flavor, but they were a good delivery device for the veggies and tofu.

Ingredients:

For the crepes:

  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat)
  • 3.5 cups cold water (I used 3 cups water + 2 eggs)
  • 2 Tbs. light sesame oil (I used 1 Tbs. olive oil, but none on the pan to cook the crepes)
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt (I used 1/4 tsp. table salt)

For the tofu:

  • 1 tsp. minced garlic (I used a bit more)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (I used around 1 or 1.5 Tbs. I think)
  • 1 Tbs. chopped mixed herbs (I used a bit more, mostly chives, rosemary, and parsley, with a bit of marjoram. Next time I’d like to add basil and/or oregano or thyme.)
  • 1 pound firm tofu
  • 6 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used 4 Tbs. and it was sour enough for me)
  • freshly milled black pepper

For the vegetables:

  • 1/2 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and saved for another dish
  • 1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed and peeled) (I used a 500g bunch, so more than double)
  • 2 bunches scallions (I used 3 large spring onions, they were delicious, except for the ends that burned)
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil (I didn’t measure, just used enough to lightly coat all the veggies)
  • salt

The instructions say to strain the crepe batter through a sieve. I skipped this step. Maybe my crepes were a bit lumpier than intended? I think by making the crepe batter a few hours ahead of time, all the lumps had time to hydrate and dissolve?

The tofu is basically raw, but you do saute the garlic and herbs in the olive oil for a minute, just to tone down the garlic and incorporate the herb flavors into the oil a bit.

Berley says to fill the crepes with the tofu filling, top with the roasted vegetables, roll them up, and serve. But I just put everything on the table and let everyone fill their own crepes.

The three of us ate all the veggies, about 2/3 of the tofu, and only about half of the crepe mix. So if we were going to make this again I’d either make less crepe batter or more veggies and tofu.

I wonder if there is a way to give the crepes more flavor. Maybe more chickpea flour and less wheat flour? Or incorporate some herbs into the crepes themselves?

This was a lovely dish for Spring, but I think it might be nice in the autumn or winter too, but I’m not sure what would be a good replacement for the asparagus. Winter squash? Carrots?

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Ravioli with chard, hazelnuts and caramelized onions

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

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

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

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

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

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