Category Archives: Grains

Chickpea and Quinoa Salad with Cashew Chutney

Chickpea and Quinoa Salad with Cashew Chutney

Well, it’s been a little while!  I’ve been busy, busy, busy.  This past weekend I had a Dinner With Aura booth at the Grand Rapids Public Library’s Green Market Expo.  It was so much fun!  I sold some granola and biscotti, raffled off Super Natural Everyday, and met so many awesome people who were interested in eating healthier.  Several folks mentioned that they were simply trying to reduce the amount of meat they ate, replacing a few meals a week with vegetarian options.  That got me so excited.  I truly believe that small changes add up.  It can be really intimidating to be expected to change everything about your eating habits.  Eating is such a personal and habitual experience so I believe that tackling one change at a time is the key to long-lasting change.  I met a lovely woman who wanted to start by eating vegan three days a week.  I’m so excited to hear how that goes for her and excited to see what new foods she will discover in the process.

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I’ve also been busy moving my honey into my house.  Having lived alone for three and a half years, this has been a big change!  We are in the process of merging our things and getting into a routine.  I’m excited to see what the future holds for us.

This weekend was so busy that I just ate really simple dishes.  I was cooking for myself this weekend so things were back to my usual one person meals, quinoa with sauteed kale, zucchini, carrots, etc.  I really don’t mind eating like that most of the time but it is fun to have someone to cook for and I tend to make more substantial meals when I’m not on my own.

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Today, I was so happy that at about 7:00 I finally had time to cook up the recipe for the Food Matters Project.  I was even more happy that it is finally spring and we have daylight at 7:00!  This dish was so easy to put together and so tasty.  All I can say is thank you for the awesome pick, Jess!  Once again, I had a hard time imagining what this salad would end up looking and tasting like.  The result was such a pleasant surprise.  It had so many flavors I love all in one bowl.  I modified the dish somewhat, adding quinoa, radishes, and peanut to the mix.  The chickpeas and quinoa provide protein and the nuts provide healthy fats.  This salad is a great main dish meal.  If you are looking for something a little different and very, very easy, try this!  You won’t be disappointed.  If you want the original recipe, head over to Jess’s site.  And to see the variations everyone came up with, head over to the FMP website.

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Chickpea and Quinoa Salad with Cashew Chutney;adapted from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Project

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 small dried hot red chile or ¼ tsp of red chili flakes
  • 1/3 cup cashews (raw are fine)
  • ¼ cup peanuts
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 3 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, drained
  • 1 and ½ cups quinoa
  • 1 cup chopped fresh mangoes (can also use apricots)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Olive oil as needed
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 radishes, cut into matchsticks
  1. To make chutney:  In a small, dry skillet, combine cumin seeds, chili, cashews, and peanuts. Heat over medium heat, shaking pan frequently for 3 to 5 minutes or until everything colors slightly and becomes fragrant.
  2. Transfer to blender or food processor. Add garlic and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Process, stopping machine to scrape down sides if necessary, until finely ground but not as smooth as peanut butter.
  3. To assemble salad: In a salad bowl, toss chickpeas, quinoa, and fruit with chutney. Add lime juice and a little oil if needed to help bring everything together. Stir in cilantro and radishes. Taste. Adjust seasoning. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.  Enjoy!!!

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes with Michigan Maple Syrup and a Lovely Easter Weekend

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes

This weekend we finally got a taste of spring for one day before it got cold again. My sweetie and I seized the opportunity to get outside after a long winter and opted to head to the Blandford Nature Center to celebrate just being outside without freezing our nose hairs off.  Michiganders are funny creatures.  You know you are in Michigan when it’s the first 40 degree day and you see a convertible with the top down.  True story.

Anyway…I want to tell you about this great place.  The Blandford Nature Center is just outside of Grand Rapids and has almost 150 acres to explore.  It is also home to an amazing environmental school that any kid would be lucky to attend.  I love the perspective they take:  Blandford Nature Center believes children and adults learn best through personal experience. Our job, and our passion, is to invite our community to get their hands dirty in nature – whether that be standing knee-high in water to learn about stream ecology or planting squash seeds to start a garden.

We walked the trails for a couple of hours, visited all of the injured animals (mostly birds–the owls were adorable!) that have found a permanent home at Blandford, and took a ton of photos.  The trails were great and I was THRILLED to be walking around outside in the sunshine.  Can you tell?

Walking through the woods--and just so happy to be outside!

Walking through the woods–and just so happy to be outside!

The best part, though, was visiting the sugar shack to watch maple sap boil down into maple syrup.

The sugar shack at Blandford Nature Center

The sugar shack at Blandford Nature Center

 Every 6th grader at the three environmental schools in Grand Rapids gets their own tree to tap at the nature center.  What a cool learning experience.  We saw both the modern method of making maple syrup and the native way of making maple syrup.

Native Americans used wooden spiles to tap their trees.

Native Americans used wooden spiles to tap their trees.

Native Americans boiled their sap in cauldrons over fire.

Native Americans boiled their sap in cauldrons over fire.

When I was a kid my family tapped all of the trees lining our property, which gave us enough maple syrup to get through the year.  Did you know it takes forty gallons of maple sap to make one gallon of maple syrup?  As you can imagine, that take a lot of time and a lot of boiling.  I very fondly remember standing outside in the snow around the barrel stove fitted with a stainless steel pan, waiting as the sap boiled down.  The aroma of the boiling sap is a scent memory I will never forget and one that I am at a loss for words to describe.  When we walked into the sugar shack and smelled that amazing aroma, I was on cloud nine, transported back to the U.P. in early spring.

Inside the Sugar Shack watching sap boil into maple syrup.

Inside the Sugar Shack watching sap boil into maple syrup.

As you can imagine, we simply had to buy a quart of this syrup after watching it being made.  We couldn’t wait to try some and decided that Easter morning we would make buckwheat blueberry pancakes and douse them in this liquid gold.  And we sure did.  It was everything a Sunday should be.  Sleeping in, eating pancakes after noon, listening to the Archers Omnibus (the longest running radio drama, aired in the U.K.–I am hooked!), and making a Ukranian egg.  Although Easter was decidedly un-Eastery I must say it was still a lovely, lovely day and truly a beautiful weekend.

Psanky Easter Egg I made on Sunday.  I grew up with this great tradition.

Psanky Easter Egg I made on Sunday. I grew up with this great tradition.

For the pancakes, I just pulled a recipe from the Food Network website.  The only difference was that I used frozen wild blueberries instead of fresh (fresh taste so icky to me out of season).

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes adapted ever so slightly from The Food Network

  • 3/4 cup buckwheat flour
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup nonfat milk
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, divided
  • 1/2 cup real maple syrup
  1. In a large bowl whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  2. In another bowl, beat together the buttermilk, non-fat milk, honey, eggs, and oil.
  3. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, mixing only enough to combine them. Stir in 1 cup of fresh or still-frozen berries (if you are using frozen berries, thaw the other cup of berries at this time so they are thawed for serving but make sure the blueberries you add to the batter are still frozen otherwise they will turn your batter blue!).
  4. Preheat a large nonstick griddle or skillet over a medium flame. Ladle the batter onto the skillet with a 1/4-cup measure. Flip the pancake when it is golden brown on the bottom and bubbles are forming on top, about 1 1/2 minutes. Cook the other side until golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes.
  5. Serve topped with more blueberries and the maple syrup, your favorite book, and your coziest PJs.

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ellie-krieger/blueberry-buckwheat-pancakes-recipe/index.html?oc=linkback

Parmesan Polenta with Honey Roasted Root Veggies and Pistachio Goat Cheese

Parmesan Polenta with Roasted Root Veggies and Pistachio Goat Cheese

Alright, the secret’s out.  I love polenta.  I’ll take a big gob of polenta any day over a bed of pasta or rice.  And so many dishes taste fantastic spooned over polenta that it is hard to go wrong.  Some of  my favorite ways to eat polenta are:  with marinara and goat cheese, with roasted vegetables, with Provencal vegetables en papillote, with fried eggs and spinach, with fried eggs and avocado, with a tomato-vegetable stew…the list goes on.  Polenta is also gluten-free.  And really beautiful, if you ask me.  It makes for a quick meal that is impressive enough to serve for guests.

Polenta With Roasted Root Veggies and Pistachio-Goat Cheese

The recipe I’m adding to my polenta-files today is Parmesan polenta with Roasted Root Vegetables and Pistachio Goat Cheese.  This is a simple meal to make but the results are creamy, filling, and decadent.

Parmesan Polenta with Roasted Root Veggies

Parmesan Polenta with Honey-Roasted Root Vegetables and Pistachio Goat Cheese

Serves 4

For the root veggies:

  • 1 large beet
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 parsnip
  • 1/2 celery root
  • 1 leek, white part only, sliced 1/4 of an inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • generous pinch of sea salt

Heat oven to 400°.  Put veggies in a covered baking dish and drizzle with olive oil, honey, and a generous pinch of salt.  Bake for 30 minutes and test for doneness.  The veggies should be silky but still hold their shape.  Pop back in the oven for 10 minutes if the veggies need more time.

For the polenta:

  • 4 cups water
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup medium-grain yellow polenta
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • pepper to taste
  1. Heat water to a boil over high heat.  Have a whisk ready and quickly whisk in the polenta.  Whisk for a moment to discourage clumping.
  2. Lower heat to a simmer, add the butter, a large pinch of salt, and a small pinch of pepper.
  3. Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, for 25 to 30 minutes.
  4. Taste the polenta and add salt or pepper to your preference.  Stir in the Parmesan cheese.

For the pistachio goat cheese:

  • Olive oil
  • 6 ounces fresh goat cheese
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios
  • Pepper
  • Salt
  1. Combine the goat cheese and pistachios in a food processor. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and, with the machine running, drizzle in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. If the mixture doesn’t come together, add more oil until the filling is smooth and fluffy. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper if needed.
  2. Transfer the goat cheese mixture to a pastry bag or a zip-lock bag with the corner cut off (or you can just use a teaspoon for this). Squeeze or spoon dabs of the filling onto the roasted root veggies. 

Provencal Vegetables En Papillote with Creamy Polenta

Creamy Polenta with Provencal Vegetables en Papillote

This was a stand-up meal.  Let me explain…sure it’s nice to have a “sit-down dinner.”  But a stand-up meal can be even better.  Sometimes I have every intention of sitting down to eat but take a first bite and forget about everything else.  I just stand in the kitchen at the counter and eat until it’s gone.  This was that kind of a meal.

Creamy Polenta with Provencal Vegetables en Papillote

I must admit, I had low expectations going into this.  The last time I cooked a meal en papillote (meaning to bake ingredients wrapped in a foil or parchment paper pouch) I made a beautiful arrangement of light and bright vegetables, drizzled them with olive oil, lemon, and parsley, and topped with rainbow trout.  Sounds great, right?  Well, it turns out that this girl does not…I repeat, does NOT like trout.  And even after I decided to push the trout to the side of my plate, I found the beautiful veggies to be too trouty for my tastes.  Beautiful idea, bad execution.

This week, my friend Nancy (hi, Nancy!!!) from Texas, proud contributor to the fun and funky food blog, Funkytown Foodies, chose Provencal Vegetables and Chicken in Packages for the Food Matters Project recipe.  I almost thought about skipping it or even concocting something with similar ingredients but in a different format.  I’m so glad I didn’t!!  I know a lot of you would say that this looks good…if only it had meat.  Well, you are in luck!  This dish is really easy to make with chicken or fish.  To see how Nancy, did it, head over to her blog for the instructions.

Cooking “en papillote” is basically just baking ingredients in a pouch, usually made of folded parchment paper.  You can buy parchment pouches if you’d like (they are way overpriced, though, in my opinion) or just take two sheets of parchment paper and crimp the edges.  That’s it!  Cooking this way is very easy and the cleanup is the best part (hint:  there is no pan cleanup!).  This is a great way to cook just veggies or veggies with chicken or fish.

Provencal Vegetables Ready to Bake

 

Provencal Vegetables Ready to Bake en Papillote Provencal Vegetables en Papillote

I devised a vegetarian version, using Provençal vegetables (zucchini, summer squash, potato, eggplant, red bell pepper, onion, and Kalamata olives ended up in mine), drizzled with some olive oil, a touch of balsamic glaze, pepper, sea salt, and some parsley.  Once the pouch was crimped, I stuck it on a cookie sheet in the oven for 35 minutes and the result was marvelous…it exceeded my expectations.

Provencal Vegetables en Papillote

I decided to serve mine on top of creamy polenta.  The combination was crazy delicious.  I barely got through taking photos before digging in.  One of the most pleasant surprises was that the potato slices, which I had placed on the bottom, got browned and flavorful.

Crispy Potatoes en Papillote

This is a dish that will be made time and time again!  Guaranteed.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Creamy Polenta with Provencal Vegetables en Papillote

Provencal Vegetables En Papillote with Creamy Polenta; Serves 4

For the vegetables:

  • 1 red bell pepper, cored and sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
  • 1 baby zucchini squash, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
  • 1 summer squash, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
  • 1 baby eggplant, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds (I recommend salting the slices, letting sit for 20 minutes, then rinsing and dabbing dry.  This reduces the bitterness)
  • 1 russet potato, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch thick rounds
  • 1 small onion, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 10-15 kalamata olives, pitted
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic glaze (or just a little splash of balsamic vinegar will do)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh parsley leaves (I left the leaves whole)
  • Generous pinch of flaky sea salt
  • Generous sprinkling of ground pepper
  1. Heat oven to 375°.  For this amount of veggies, I make two pouches.  Tear 4 pieces of parchment paper (about 14″ x 14″ for each piece).  Arrange once piece onto a cookie sheet and stack your veggies, olives, and garlic onto the paper.  Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic and season with parsley, salt, and pepper.
  2. Once all the veggies are stacked nicely on the paper, add another sheet of paper to the top of the veggie stack.  Taking the bottom piece of paper and the top piece of paper together on one edge, begin crimping around the stack until you have a completely enclosed pouch that looks like a round pasty (yoopers, you know what I am talking about!).  Do the same for the second pouch.
  3. Place the pouches on a cookie sheet and bake for 35 minutes.  In the meantime, make the polenta (see recipe below).
  4. Pull out of the oven and let sit for a moment.  For a dramatic presentation, have everyone’s bowls ready to go with polenta and cut these pouches open on the middle of the table.  Steam and the fragrance of these veggies will pour out.  Your guests will be delighted!  Top the polenta with some veggies and a drizzle of olive oil.  You can add some fresh grated parmesan to the top if you like.  Sprinkle with some fresh herbs and enjoy!

For the polenta:

  • 4 cups water
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup medium-grain yellow polenta
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • pepper to taste
  1. Heat water to a boil over high heat.  Have a whisk ready and quickly whisk in the polenta.  Whisk for a moment to discourage clumping.
  2. Lower heat to a simmer, add the butter, a large pinch of salt, and a small pinch of pepper.
  3. Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, for 25 to 30 minutes.
  4. Taste the polenta and add salt or pepper to your preference.  Stir in the parmesan cheese.

 

Brown Rice and Lentil Burgers With Homemade Sriracha Mayo

Brown Rice and Lentil Burgers

March 11.  Daylight savings time has passed.  Another cold and dreary day in Grand Rapids but despite the weather, I have hope!  Hope that spring will be here soon.  Hope that if I keep putting one foot in front of the other I will trudge to happy destiny.  On days like today, I love being able to turn my attention to cooking.  Cooking is the ultimate form of creativity for me.  It calms my mind and turns a bright light on inside of me.  I get so excited to see how things will turn out but the process is, in an of itself, often enough for me.

Today happened to be Food Matters Project Monday.  Evi and Sam from Fifth Floor Kitchen chose the recipe for us this week…brown rice and lamb burgers with spinach.  As you know, I’m not a huge fan of cooking with meat so I opted to make lentil and brown rice burgers with lots of veggies.  I already had a pot of lentils cooked up for who-knows-what-I-would-want-to-do-with-them.  I always have a use for lentils and have a deep fondness for them.  I also happened to have cooked brown rice on hand, having cooked it for quick weekend meals.  Score!

Next came the bit where I decided how I wanted to flavor these bad boys.  I sautéed diced onions, celery, mushrooms, scallions, garlic, a couple of leaves of shredded collard greens, and some fresh parsley with some olive oil and salt.  When they were cooked up I tossed in a handful of sunflower seeds for crunch.

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Next, I blended some lentils with some rice and two eggs in my Breville blender (you may need to use a food processor if you don’t have a heavy-duty blender).  After that, I mixed the lentil-rice-egg mixture with the vegetables, stirred in some miso paste for flavor and some brown rice flour for texture and holding power.  The result was a flavorful, healthy patty with just the right texture and really nice umami flavors.

This recipe made about 15 small patties (I’m trying to remember how many I ate and how many I started with….hmmmm).  I made them small because my buns were small but you can make these any size you want.  I experimented with baking vs. pan-cooking and I found that cooking these in the pan were easier because they stuck to the baking sheet for me a little bit.  Next time, if I chose to bake them, I would use my silicone baking liner and that method would work out just fine.

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These measurements are not exact…and you can add the seasonings you want if you don’t have some of the things I added.  No biggie.  Just make sure you can form these into patties and that they hold together and you are good to go!

I served mine on a wheat bun with sliced avocado, thinly sliced onion, swiss cheese, and homemade sriracha mayo.  I cannot WAIT to post about the sriracha.  I am highly recommending you all try to make it at home–it’s easy and delicious and tastes even better than the store-bought kind.

To see what the other creative takes the Food Matters Project cooks came up with, head over to the website.

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Brown Rice and Lentil Burgers with Homemade Sriracha Mayo

Makes about 15 small patties

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 5-6 mushrooms, diced into small bits
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 leaves of collard greens, chopped into small pieces (you can substitute any green)
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
  • Small handful of sunflower seeds (about 1/4 cup)
  • 2 cups cooked brown lentils
  • 1 and ¼ cup cooked rice, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 heaping Tbsp miso paste
  • about 1/2 cup brown rice flour
  1. Heat olive oil in a pan and add all of the ingredients through parsley.  Saute for about 5-7 minutes on medium heat, stirring frequently.  When vegetables soften, turn off heat and add sunflower seeds.  Transfer to large bowl.
  2. Put lentils, 1 cup rice, 2 eggs, salt, and miso paste into a blender or food processor and pulse until combined.
  3. Pour lentil-rice-egg mixture onto the vegetable mixture along with the remaining 1/4 cup of rice and combine thoroughly.  Add flour until the mixture is thick enough to form into patties that hold their shape.
  4. Heat one teaspoon oil in a non-stick skillet and add patties to the pan, cooking in batches on low heat until the patties are browned lightly on the bottom, about 5-7 minutes.  Flip and cook on the other side for about 5 minutes until browned.  Transfer to a plate and cook the rest of the patties in batches.
  5. Serve on a bun with any toppings you would like!  I love avocado, lettuce, onion, dijon mustard, sriracha mayo, cheeses….mmmmm….I think I might have another!

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Homemade Granola with Fruit and Nuts

Homemade raisin almond granola

A while back I taught you all how to make your own yogurt.  I recently also shared this how-to with updated photos on the Grand Rapids Cooking School Blog.  Now that you know how to make your own yogurt, wouldn’t it be great if you knew how to make your own granola to eat with that yogurt?  Granola is a great breakfast and a great snack but is often so expensive to buy in stores and is often much higher in calories than it needs to be.  The good news is that it only takes about 40 minutes (only 10 minutes hands-on) to make a large batch of granola.  Not only is it considerably less expensive, it is so much tastier and you can put anything in it that you want.

Below is a basic granola recipe that can be easily adapted to suit your needs.   For the oil, you can experiment with olive oil, coconut oil, or canola oil.  For the sweetener, you can try maple syrup, agave, or honey.  For the fruit and nuts, try any combination that you like.

If you are still not satisfied with your options (I thought I had perfected granola until my sweetie begged for clumpy granola), read on past the recipe to learn how to make CLUMPY granola!

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups rolled oats (be sure not to use quick oats)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup dried fruit (I switch it up depending on what I have on hand.  I have used raisins, dried apricots, currants, cranberries, or diced prunes–I bet dried blueberries would be great too!)
  • 1 cup nuts and seeds (I usually do a mix of chopped walnuts, sliced almonds, raw pumpkin seeds, and raw sunflower seeds…but any combination of nuts and seeds will work!)
  • 5 tablespoons melted coconut oil or olive oil
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract
  • ½ cup real maple syrup, agave, or honey if you aren’t vegan
  • Optional:  sesame seeds, flax seeds, coconut flakes…anything else you want to add!

 Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300°
  2. Mix together oats, cinnamon, salt, nuts and seeds in a big bowl.  Please note:  I have added fruit to the mix at this point mostly with success…but due to burning the fruit a couple of times during the baking process I now choose to add it at the end!

Granola in bowl 3.  In a separate bowl, whisk together maple syrup, oil, vanilla, and salt until smooth.

4.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, stirring until all dry ingredients are well coated. Spread mixture onto two oiled baking sheets (make sure they are rimmed sheets!).Spread evenly and press down firmly into a single layer with a spatula.  You can leave an empty space in the middle of the pans to create another “edge” to prevent an uncooked middle.

Granola Spread Out in Baking Sheet

5.  Bake in preheated oven for 25-35 minutes until granola is golden brown and crisp at the edges. You can bake it to your preference.  One time I made the granola lightly browned:

Golden Brown Granola

And the next time I baked it a little longer:

Browned Granola

6.  Add fruit to the granola while still warm.  Allow to cool for 15 minutes on baking sheet before eating and at least 30 minutes before storing (allow to cool completely).  Store in an airtight jar.

Finished Granola

Now, since you’ve been so patient, I’m going to tell you the secret to making clumpy granola…egg whites!  I’m not sure yet how to make a vegan clumpy granola but so far, as a non-vegan, egg whites are doing the trick for me.  If you want clumpy granola, mix 2 egg whites into your wet mixture before adding to the dry.  When you bake the granola, be sure not to stir it while baking.  This will break up the clusters.  When the baking is complete, allow to cool completely before breaking the granola into nice big chunks.  There will be some chunks and some free bits too.

Now enjoy your amazing homemade granola and yogurt!

Homemade Granola and Yogurt

Cabbage or Collard Greens Stuffed with Lentils and Rice

Cabbage Rolls Stuffed With Rice and Lentils

Welcome to Food Matters Monday!  This week, Keely Marie chose the recipe for us–stuffed cabbage rolls!  Keely Marie has some really great food on her blog–a couple of my favorites are her homemade naan (so brave–I haven’t tried making my own naan yet because I’m afraid I’m going to ruin it…) and her take on the polenta cake we all made a while back.

The stuffed cabbage recipe in the Food Matters Project Cookbook has meat in it and I’m a once-in-a-while meat eater (and a never ground beef eater) so chose not to include it in this recipe.  Wanting to stay with Bittman’s approach, though, I headed to my cookbook collection and grabbed his How To Cook Everything Vegetarian book.  And there it was.  A vegetarian version.  This reminded me of stuffed grape leaves quite a bit.  With the advantage of being able to use only pantry items I already had.  I always have cabbage on hand and ended up having collard greens on hand to test (with great results!).  The filling reminded me of mujadarrah, one of my favorite dishes, and one I will make when I know I’m going to have a busy workweek ahead of me.  Mujadarrah is basically rice and lentils with cumin, topped with fried onions and plain yogurt.  It was all I could do to not use the lentils and rice to make mujadarrah today and knowing this, I made extra so I could make the dish tomorrow!

If you prefer, you can also “deconstruct” the dish, serving it as a lentil/rice/cabbage bowl with some crumbled feta and a drizzle of olive oil.   Equally delicious, though not nearly as fun to eat.

Deconstructed Stuffed Cabbage with Lentils and Rice

I’m so glad I got to try this recipe because now I know that I can use cabbage and collard leaves to make cool “burritos” with any variety of fillings.  I’ll take this healthy option over a flour tortilla any day!

Cabbage or Collard Greens Stuffed with Cumin-Scented Lentils and Rice; adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian Cookbook

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus a little for garnish
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 1/2 cup brown, white, or Basmati rice (I used short-grain brown and Lundberg Farms is my favorite brand)
  • 1/2 cup dried brown lentils
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 large cabbage or collard greens, see below for preparation
  • Feta, Gruyere, Fontina, Gouda, or mozzarella cheese slices or butter (optional–leave out the cheese and this recipe is vegan)
  1. Put the oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat.  When hot, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it’s soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute, then add the stock and bring to a boil.
  2. If you’re using brown rice, add it to the pot along with the lentils.  If you’re using white or basmati rice, add the lentils and cook them for 5 minutes, then add the rice.  Turn the heat to medium-low so that the mixture bubbles gently, cover, and cook until the lentils and rice are tender and the liquid is mostly absorbed (you don’t want it completely dry), 25 to 30 minutes.  If there is excess liquid, take the cover off, turn the heat to high, and boil it off, being careful not to burn the bottom.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, use a thin-bladed sharp knife to cut a cone-shaped wedge out of the bottom of the cabbage, removing its core.  Pull off 8 to 12 large, untorn leaves and put in a steamer above a couple inches of salted water.  If you are using kale, simply Cover and cook until the leaves are just flexible enough to bend.  Make a V-cut in each leaf to remove the tough central stem.
  4. To stuff the cabbage or kale leaves, put a leaf, curved side up, on a counter or cutting board.  Put 1/4 cup or so of  filling in the center of the leaf, near where you cut off the stem.  Fold over the sides, then roll up from the stem end, making a little package.  Don’t roll too tightly — the mixture will expand as it cooks.  Skewer the rolls with a toothpick or two to hold them together or just put them seam side down.
  5. Put the cabbage packages in the steamer and cook until the cabbage is tender, 10 to 15 minutes.  Top with a slice of cheese and run under the broiler until bubbly if you like or drizzle with olive oil or melt a pat of butter on top.  Sprinkle with herbs and serve.

Paella with Lots of Vegetables

Vegetarian Paella

Welcome to Food Matters Monday…your weekly reminder that you are what you eat!  This week the awesomely adventurous foodie (and fellow oatmeal lover), Meg, from Fledgling Foodie, chose the recipe, a “pared down” paella with peas, clams, and chorizo.  Meg actually lived in Spain for four months in college so has a leg up on the art of paella making (and eating!) because she knows what a good paella should be.  I’ve only had paella once, at a wonderful Cuban restaurant named Cabana Nuevo Latino in my old neighborhood in Queens, NY (there are five locations and I have been to two–one in Forest Hills, Queens, and the other in Delray Beach, FL–I’ve been to both!).  I just had a couple of bites from my friend’s plate and that is what I picture now when I think of paella, a generously sized dish of crisp-bottomed rice, soaking up a saffron-tomato broth with seafood intermingled in it all.  Six years later, I finally got around to trying my hand at paella for the first time, thanks to the Food Matters Project.

Paella with Vegetables

I’ve mentioned this before, but one of my favorite things about the Food Matters Project is that it forces me to try new things.  I don’t get too excited about rice dishes (I’ve had risotto rice sitting untouched in my pantry for two years–Gordon Ramsey would be so disappointed!).  Paella never really popped out at me as a must-make dish.  But the FMP pushed me to try it and I’m glad I did.  I bought saffron for this dish and (gasp!) it was my first time using saffron.  I think saffron is an acquired taste (do you all agree?) and it was probably what I liked the least about the dish.  Otherwise, I found the paella to make for a hearty main dish, a good side dish, and overall, a healthy way to eat a ton of vegetables.  Oh, and though the saffron wasn’t my favorite flavor, the color it imparted was marvelous!!!

My version is a vegan version and also gluten-free.  It was very easy to pull together and I listened to Lynn on the Splendid Table while making it and wished I could pick her brain about what she thinks makes a good paella!

I made mine in a dutch oven and was able to achieve the crispy rice bottom that is characteristic of paella.

Making Paella

If you haven’t tried paella yet, I say go for it!  I think it would taste great with some shrimp, mussels, and chorizo.  To see what everyone else came up with, head over to the Food Matters Project website.  To get the original recipe with clams, chorizo, and peas, head on over to Meg’s blog!

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Paella with Lots of Vegetables; adapted from the NY Times

  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • Generous pinch saffron threads
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 red, yellow, or orange pepper, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups short or medium-grain rice
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 heaping teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes with juice
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 1 small summer squash, diced
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed, or 1 1/2 cups fresh or thawed frozen lima beans
  • 1 cup shelled fresh or thawed frozen peas
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Bring the stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Crush the saffron threads between your fingertips, and place in a small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon warm water, and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a dutch oven or a paella pan. Add the onion. Cook, stirring, until the onion is tender, about five minutes. Add the garlic, peppers and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until the peppers begin to soften, about three minutes. Add the tomato paste, paprika and rice. Cook, stirring, for one minute until the grains begin to crackle.  Be very careful to keep an eye on the pan during this phase so you don’t burn the rice!  I burned my first batch :(.  Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring, until they cook down slightly and smell fragrant, about five minutes. Stir in the saffron with its soaking water. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Add the stock, zucchini, summer squash, and chickpeas. Bring to a boil. Stir once, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer without stirring until the liquid has just about evaporated, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the peas. Continue to simmer until the rice is dry, another 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve.

Rice Congee (a.k.a. Jook) With Vegetables and Baked Hoisin Tofu

Rice Congee with Vegetables and Baked Tofu

I’m officially getting caught up with life this week.  It’s been a pretty hectic couple of weeks for me!  Where to begin?  Chronologically?  In order of importance?  Most exciting?  Yes.  I’ll start there.

I am very excited to share the news that I am going to be blogging for the Grand Rapids Cooking School!  My first post (just an introduction to me and my blog) went up today!  Check it out here.  I am so excited to be working with Molly Clauhs and Kelly Lecoy on this new project.  We are going to start out with a “Back to Basics” series then move into a “Spotlight on Produce” series once spring and all of the wonderful Michigan produce we love to cook with come back to us!  Stay tuned…I’ll be sharing my Grand Rapids Cooking School blog posts with you all too.

Next, I’m so excited to share that I stepped out of my comfort zone and attended StartUp Weekend Grand Rapids two weekends ago.  This is what it is all about:  “All Startup Weekend events follow the same basic model: anyone is welcome to pitch their startup idea and receive feedback from their peers. Teams organically form around the top ideas (as determined by popular vote) and then it’s a 54 hour frenzy of business model creation, coding, designing, and market validation. The weekends culminate with presentations in front of local entrepreneurial leaders with another opportunity for critical feedback.”  The event was just wonderful.  I spent the weekend on a team with 7 brainiacs developing the first draft of an app called The Diet Sherpa.  The app would help anyone find restaurants, stores, and farmer’s markets that offer foods that fit their dietary needs (gluten free, diabetic, paleo diet, vegan, etc.).  Stay tuned–we are fine tuning our prototype and I’ll share with you all when it is ready.

I’m happy to share that my boyfriend returned last week from a three week music tour to Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma.  I was still cooking meals for myself, of course, but having him back gets me all excited to cook up new and exciting dishes.  He is a very gracious guinea pig for my new recipes and an excellent sous chef, I must say.  We whipped up an Indian meal for friends last week and I was overjoyed standing at the stove, stirring our respective dishes (his contribution was Chicken Tikka Masala and mine was Channa Dal).  We also got a ginger bug started, which we feed every day and will use to make ginger beer once it is ready!  My heart warms when I think of how happy I am to be hanging out with a lovely man who loves spending time in the kitchen with me.  My cup runneth over!

I am also excited (and sad and nervous) to say that my little sister is going to South Korea in a few weeks and came to visit me this weekend.  It was interesting getting to know about the town she will be living in (Changwon) and what she needs to pack.  I just got a little camera for her and am really looking forward to her sending some photos once she gets there.  I’m also really sad that I won’t see her for a whole year!  We enjoyed the weekend together, hanging out and cooking a few dishes.

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One of the dishes we enjoyed was this rice congee, or “jook”.  Congee is basically a rice porridge that has cooked for a long time, allowing the rice to soften and create a thick and creamy consistency.  This was last week’s Food Matters Project recipe, chosen by Erin from The Goodness Life.  Follow Erin on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.  Check out what everyone else made here on the FMP website or here on the FMP Pinterest Board.

This recipe was a very comforting dish on a cold Michigan Sunday in January.  It did not blow me away or excite me too much, I’ll be honest.  But if you are looking for a healthy and satisfying dish that will stick to your ribs and warm you up, this is a good one to try.  The original recipe includes chicken and can be found here.  Although my vegan version was satisfying, I can picture the chicken version potentially being even moreso!

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Rice Congee (a.k.a. Jook) with Vegetables and Baked Hoisin Tofu; adapted from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Project Cookbook

Makes:  4 servings; Time:  About 3 hours, largely unattended

From Bittman:  This creamy Chinese rice porridge—also known as congee—is a perfect cold-weather soup, and a fine vehicle for delicious add-ins.  It takes a while for the grains to break down and thicken the water, but luckily you have options:  Jook cooks perfectly in a slow cooker (see the sidebar on page 119), or you can make the soup a couple days ahead and simply reheat it.  It also requires virtually no attention as it simmers, so making it on the stove is not all that much work.

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 1 fresh chili (like jalapeno or Thai), minced
  • ½ cup chopped scallions, plus more for garnish
  • 1 cup short-grain brown rice
  • 2 cups cabbage sliced into very thin ribbons
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 1 container of extra firm tofu
  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 8 oz of baby bella mushrooms (you can also use white button mushrooms)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce, plus more for serving
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
  • Fish sauce for serving (for non-vegetarians)
  1. Put the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  When it’s hot, add the garlic, ginger, chile, and ½ cup scallions and cook until they are soft, just a minute or 2. 
  2. Add the rice along with 6 cups water.  Bring to a boil, then adjust the heat so it bubbles.  Partially cover the pot and cook for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally to make sure the rice is not sticking to the bottom. The congee should have a porridge-like consistency; if it becomes very thick too quickly, turn down the heat and stir in more water.  When it is done, the congee should be soupy and creamy but still have a little chew.
  3. In the meantime, when the congee has about 1/2 hour left to cook, bake the tofu.  Drain the tofu and wrap it in a clean towel. Place a small plate on it and let sit for a half hour to extract some of the liquid.  Heat oven to 300 degrees. Lightly oil a baking pan.  Slice the tofu into 1/2 inch slices. and place on baking pan. Brush with hoisin sauce on both sides and bake for 20-30 minutes.  Click here for images on draining and baking tofu from my post on soba noodles with baked tofu.
  4. Stir in the cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, 4 tablespoons soy sauce and sesame oil; cook until the vegetables are just tender, another 5 minutes.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.  Serve, passing the cilantro, additional scallions, fish sauce (if using) and additional soy sauce at the table. Enjoy!

 

Baked Polenta With Garlicky Mushrooms and Delicata Squash

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Sorry for the technical issues, everyone!  You should be able to access this post now.

Welcome to another Food Matters Monday!  This dish is a spin on Mark Bittman’s Polenta with Garlicky Mushrooms.  The recipe this week was chosen by Sandra at Meadows Cooks.  She made her polenta cakes in the shape of hearts–adorable!  I made mine without any wine (subbed Sherry Vinegar) and added some roasted delicata squash for a heartier dish.  I also made this dish a second time, adding heavy whipping cream and a little cream cheese to the mushrooms.  And while it wasn’t nearly as healthy, boy was it good!

Polenta is such a versatile food–if you haven’t made it before, I highly recommending giving it a try.  It tastes good topped with any number of foods.  You can do a cream sauce, a marinara with cheese and veggies or meat, a nice eggplant sauce, a chickpea curry, pesto…the possibilities go on and on!  Polenta is basically just cornmeal cooked up, pressed into a pan and chilled, and then cut into shapes and pan-fried or baked.  Let me know if you end up making this dish or a variation–I would love to hear from you!

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Polenta Cakes with Garlicky Mushrooms and Delicata Squash;

Makes: 4 to 8 servings;  Time: 3 hours, mostly unattended

  • 1 cup coarse cornmeal
  • Salt
  • ½ cup 2% milk (or use water)
  • Black Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 pound mushrooms, preferably an assortment, sliced (I used baby bella mushrooms this time)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/8 cup Sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic, or more to taste
  • 1 delicata squash, seeded and sliced
  1. Put the cornmeal and a large pinch of salt in a medium saucepan; slowly whisk in 2 and ½ cups water and the milk to make a lump-free slurry. Set the pot over medium-high heat and bring almost to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and bubble gently, whisking frequently, until thick, 10 to 15 minutes. If the mixture becomes too thick, whisk in a bit more water; you want the consistency to be like thick oatmeal. Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary and plenty of black pepper.
  2. Grease a large baking sheet with some of the oil while the polenta is still hot, pour it onto the sheet and use a spatula to spread it out evenly at least ½ inch thick. Brush the top lightly with oil, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate the polenta until it sets up, about 2 hours (or up to a day).
  3. Heat the oven to 400°F.  Lightly spray or drizzle a baking pan with olive oil and lay squash onto the baking sheet, taking care not to overlap. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper and roast, about 20-30 minutes, flipping each piece halfway through.
  4. Lower the heat in the oven to 375°F. Grease a clean large baking sheet with some of the oil. When the polenta is set, cut it into at least 12 squares or diamonds or use a round cookie cutter to make disks. Put the cakes on the baking sheet, brush with a bit more oil, and bake until they are warmed through and the edges begin to brown (the outside should be nice and toasted while the inside should stay soft), 20 to 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, put the 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the mushrooms and thyme and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender and dried out a bit, about 10 minutes. Add the Sherry Vinegar and let it bubble away for a couple of minutes; turn the heat to medium-low and add the garlic.  Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve a spoonful of mushrooms and a few pieces of squash on top of each polenta cake.  I served mine on a bed of mizuna–love mizuna!