Tag Archives: food matters project

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!!!

Lubia Chalow–Afghan Lemony Kidney Beans

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I’m happy to be hosting the Food Matters Project this week.  This was the perfect dish to make this Saturday on what was yet another rainy, cold April day in Michigan.  I have become accustomed over the last two months to the shared misery of a cold and rainy spring here (I have to remind myself that I am not alone in hoping for spring, lamenting every snow flake that falls–yup, we even got snow yesterday on April 14).  There is a sense of solidarity here in Michigan–we are in this together!  Because of this shared empathy about the weather, I kind of forgot that a lot of other areas of the country are having splendid spring weather, almost summery in fact.  So, here is to hoping that this dish is as satisfying in the warmer regions as it was here in the land of rain and snow.

I chose this dish for this week’s Food Matters Project because it is something that I normally might not make and I was really curious about it.  Bittman called it “Super Lemony Kidney Beans” and it sounded like it could either be really bad or really good.  Thank goodness it is the latter because this one, although requiring little hands-on time, takes a good chunk of time in the oven.  One thing that is really interesting about The Food Matters Project cookbook is that there are no photos so every recipe is kind of a surprise.  While I can usually imagine what the dish will taste like, I have a hard time imagining what it will look like.  This dish is based on an Afghan dish called lubia chalow and the best way to describe it is a bean stew with preserved lemons and plenty of spices (spicy-flavorful, not spicy-hot).  Having never cooked anything from Afghan cuisine, I was excited to try.  It used a lot of the same spices that I love to use in my cooking…cardamom, mustard seeds (I could write a blog post on how many ways I use mustard seeds in my cooking!), cumin seeds, cinnamon, chile, and garlic.

Spices for Lubia Chalow

It resembles a big pot of chili with the exception that rather than simmering slowly on the stove, it spends a couple of hours in the oven.  You’ll need a nice, heavy pot or Dutch oven–I used a Martha Stewart enameled cast iron Dutch oven.  A thinner pot might burn the food on the bottom in the oven.

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I am staying at my friend, June’s, beautiful little house in the country.  It is so cozy in her house and, having been a little damp and cold after running through pouring rain into the house, I decided to plant my chair right by the oven and work on my computer in the warmth.  I also took some breaks to take some photos of the birds (through the window, of course)! 

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After smelling cardamom, cumin, and cinnamon wafting through the air for the better part of two hours I could hardly wait to try this.  It was satisfying and very unique with the preserved lemons.  Oh, one thing I should note is that the recipe for the lemons makes a ton of preserved lemons (about 3 cups or so).  You can easily halve the recipe for the lemons and have enough for this dish with a little leftover.  Oh, and be sure to stop on by and see what everyone else on the Food Matters Project ended up creating here.

And just so you don’t think it’s all gloom and doom here, the sun finally came out Sunday (after the snow, sleet, and rain had made their point during the morning and early afternoon).  I finally got out for a walk with the pup.  It felt wonderful to get outside, breath in the fresh air, pick some daffodils, and stretch our legs.  I think my dog sums up perfectly how I felt yesterday–no words needed.

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Enjoy this dish and enjoy the springtime, wherever you are.

Lubia Chalow--Afghan Kidney Bean Stew

Lubia Chalow (Super-Lemony Kidney Beans); from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Project Cookbook

Serves 6 to 8; Takes about 3 hours, largely unattended

Based on an Afghan dish called lubia chalow, this soupy bean stew begins with quick preserved lemons, a staple of Middle Eastern cooking.  Usually the lemons are left whole or halved, heavily salted, and set aside to cure in a mixture of spices and their own juice.  Chopping the fruit helps speed the process considerably with delicious (if not entirely authentic) results.  Six lemons are enough so that you can use some of the mixture for the beans and store the rest in a jar in the fridge for later.  (They get better and better with age.)  These beans are good served over Basmati or jasmine rice with a dollop of yogurt.

  • 6 lemons
  • Salt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (I reduced to about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 4 cardamom pods (I did not have cardamom pods so I added 1 tablespoon cardamom–I love cardamom though–if you aren’t sure, you may want to add a teaspoon, then adjust at the end of cooking)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 dried mild chile (I used ancho)
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 pound dried kidney beans, rinsed and picked over; don’t bother to soak them (I used cranberry beans, which are very similar)
  • Black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint, for garnish (I used cilantro)
  1. Heat the oven to 325°.  Trim the ends from 4 of the lemons; quarter them, remove the seeds, and put them (rind included) in a food processor.  Add the juice of the remaining 2 lemos to the food processor (again, without the seeds) along with 2 teaspoons salt.  Pulse several times to chop the lemons into bits but don’t puree.  Put the mixture in a jar and leave it on the counter while you cook the beans; shake it every once in a while.
  2. Put the oil in a large ovenproof pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot, add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for about a minute more. Stir in the cumin, mustard seeds, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, and dried chile; cook, stirring, for 30 seconds or so.  Stir in the tomato paste.
  3. Add the kidney beans and water to cover by about 3 inches.  Bring to a boil, cover the pot, and bake for 90 minutes (you can ignore the beans this whole time).  After 90 minutes, stir the beans and check to see if they are tender.  If they are, add water if necessary to keep the beans covered by about 1 inch and stir in 1/2 cup of the pickled lemons. Cover and continue baking for another 30 minutes.  If the beans are not yet tender, make sure they are covered by about 2 inches water and don’t add the lemons yet.  Cover the pot and check again in 30 minutes; repeat this step as necessary until the beans are tender enough to add the lemons.
  4. When the beans are completely tender and the liquid has thickened, fish out the cinnamon stick and chile if you like (and the cardamom pods if you can find them easily).  Then taste and adjust the seasonings, adding pepper and some more of the lemons if you like.  Serve, garnished with the mint (you can make the beans ahead and refrigerate them for up to several days; gently reheat before serving.

Tropical Fajitas With Jicama and Pineapple-Lime Glaze

Seitan Jicama and Pineapple Tacos

I don’t know what the weather is like in your part of the world but here it is the Winter-That-Never-Ends or the Spring-That-Never-Comes (there are still 3 feet of snow where my poor mom lives in the Upper Peninsula so I’ll hush now).  Today was dark and rainy, so dark that I had to turn on the lights in my house as though it was nighttime.  I needed a pick-me-up.  Pronto.  So I made this lively and lovely fajita recipe, courtesy of Mark Bittman.  Thanks to the darling Margarita at Let’s Cook and Be Friends for choosing this recipe as the Food Matters Project recipe of the week.  The original recipe is called “Not Your Usual Steak Fajitas” and can be found on Margarita’s blog by clicking here.  This being a vegetarian blog, I ended up making mine with seitan (seasoned wheat gluten) instead of steak.  But if you prefer, you can substitute meat or any meat substitute in this recipe and it will still be delicious.  If you want to check out what the other FMP bloggers came up with, head to the Food Matters Project website for more.

Browned Seitan

Browned Seitan

This recipe uses jicama, an often forgotten vegetable in my cooking repertoire.  Jicama tastes a little bit like a green apple when it is uncooked.  Cooked, it retains a pleasant crunch and light sweetness.  The pineapple and limes in this recipe really bring out the tropical flavors of this dish.

Radishes, Jicama, Onions, Bell Peppers, and Limes ready to go in the skillet.

Radishes, Jicama, Onions, Bell Peppers, and Limes ready to go in the skillet.

I tried these in taco-form initially but really ended up coming to the conclusion that this is just as good as a stand-alone or served over a bed of rice.

Deconstructed Fajitas

Deconstructed Fajitas

Each bite is a reminder of the summer that I know will eventually come.  It was a great pick-me-up today and along with my chaser of hot yoga, by the end of the day I was sitting pretty.  I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

Tropical Fajitas With Jicama and Pineapple-Lime Glaze
Adapted from “Not Your Usual Steak Fajitas”; Mark Bittman, The Food Matters Cookbook
Makes: 4 servings        Time: 40 minutes

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 8 ounces of seitan, thinly sliced (don’t feel limited by this–if you prefer you can use steak, chicken, tofu, or any other protein you want–this dish would also be great with veggies alone if you don’t have protein on hand)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 or 2 fresh hot chiles (like jalapeno or Thai), seeded and minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 8 ounces jicama, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 3 radishes, cut into matchsticks
  • 2 large carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 cup cubed fresh pineapple
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • ½ cup water
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
  • Warm corn or whole wheat tortillas, for serving, optional
  1. Put a large skillet over high heat until it smokes, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and, a few seconds later, the seitan/protein. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir immediately. Cook, stirring every 20 seconds or so for just a minute or 2 until it has some nice charring on it. Transfer to a plate.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil to the skillet and reduce the heat to medium-high. Add the onion, bell peppers, chile, and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the plate with the seitan/protein.
  3. Raise the heat to high again and add the jicama, radishes, and carrots. Stir immediately, then cook, stirring every 30 seconds or so, until the vegetables soften and begin to char slightly, 3-5 minutes. Transfer everything to the plate with the seitan/protein.
  4. Add the pineapple, lime juice, and water to the skillet. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring to scrape any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, until the glaze thickens a little. Return all the vegetables and seitan/protein to the pan and toss to coat with the lime and pineapple mixture. Garnish with cilantro and serve with warm tortillas.

Roasted Vegetables with Cheese Sauce and Toasts

Roasted vegetables with cheese sauce and toasts

Welcome to another Meatless Monday with the Food Matters project!  I say that half-joking because everything on my blog is meatless, Monday or not.  This week Lexi from Lexi’s Kitchen chose “Reverse Fondue” for the Food Matters pick of the week.  If you have a minute, check out Lexi’s blog.  She grows her own vegetables and has tons of tasty recipes.  I have been meaning to try her baby spinach salad with dates and almonds for a couple of weeks.  It looks amazing and I can’t wait to try it.

I had such a busy, busy day today and had about 30 minutes to whip together lunch (and exactly 7 minutes to eat it!).  This no-fuss recipe was easily done in that span of time.  All I had to do was rough-chop some veggies, drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast for a short time.  While that was happening, I mixed together the cheese sauce, which was a five-minute-max project and pretty impossible to screw up.  Slice up a few pieces of bread from a baguette and toast a moment, and voila!  Roasted Vegetables with Cheese Sauce and Toasts.

Veggies Read to Roast

Feel free to experiment.  This recipe is hard to go wrong with.  Use any veggies good for roasting, use any cheese you want, any kind of bread you want (or skip the bread if you want).  Piece of cake.  I couldn’t help thinking when I made this that this trick is how parents get their kids to eat veggies (broccoli with cheese sauce, anyone?).  I felt a little childlike digging into this dish myself.  Not a bad thing in the middle of a hectic workday.

Roasted Vegetables with Cheese Sauce and Toasts

Roasted Veggies With Cheese Sauce and Toasts, adapted from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Project Cookbook

  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • Stem of broccoli, shaved then sliced on the diagonal
  • 2 carrots, sliced diagonally in about ½ inch pieces
  • 1 turnip, cut into wedges
  • ½ medium onion, cut into wedges
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 oz vegetable broth or chicken broth if you aren’t vegetarian
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 4 oz cheese (I used a combination of Swiss and goat cheese)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat oven to 450°.  Cut all of the veggies roughly—they don’t need to be perfect.  Spread on a large, rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with some salt and pepper and toss to coat.  Roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until crisp-tender and beginning to brown. 
  2. Meanwhile, cut a few ½ inch thick slices of baguette and place in the oven on another sheet or move the veggies over to make room for the bread if you only have a few slices.  Toast until browned but still soft in the middle.  This should take less time than the veggies, about 10 minutes. 
  3. While the veggies and bread are in the oven, mix cornstarch with broth in a small saucepan.  Bring to a soft boil and add cheeses.  Stir continuously until all of the cheese has melted.  Pour into a small bowl and put a pinch of pepper on the top if you like. 
  4. Serve the cheese sauce with the roasted veggies and the bread on the side. 
  5. Dip away to your heart’s content!

Indian Cooking At Home: Easy Red Lentil Dal

Red Lentil and Vegetable Dal

Welcome to another Food Matters Project/Meatless Monday!  Today, Anita from Cooking Poetry chose Dal With Lots of Vegetables from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Project Cookbook.  I love making a quick and easy dal and have been meaning for some time to show everyone what I typically do for a quick and easy weeknight supper.  You can add whatever vegetables you want.  Today I kept it simple, adding just carrots and onions.  Cauliflower, eggplant, tomato, potato all work well in this dish also.  You can fiddle with the combination of spices to find something that you like and that works with your current pantry contents.  I served mine with whole wheat naan and basmati rice. This dish is hard to mess up so have fun with it and enjoy!

To see the other FMP cooks’ takes on this dish, head over to The Food Matters Project website.

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Easy Vegetable and Red Lentil Dal adapted from Mark Bittman The Food Matters Cookbook

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 tbsp butter, ghee, or olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tbs minced ginger
  • 1 tbs minced garlic
  • 1 cup carrots, cut into little chunks
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 2 dried mild chilis
  • 1 cup dried red lentils, washed and picked over
  • Salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar, optional
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
  1.  Put the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, ginger, garlic, and carrots and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the cardamom, cumin, mustard seeds, garam masala, cinnamon, and chilis and stir until the spices are fragrant but not burning, just a minute.
  2. Add the lentils and cover with water by about 1 inches. Cook until lentils and vegetables are tender and the mixture is thick, about 35-45 minutes.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and serve.

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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Berry Crisp with Pine Nut and Hazelnut Topping

Berry Crisp With Pinenut Hazelnut Topping

Another Food Matters Monday has snuck up on me!  And thank goodness it has, because this was a recipe worth making.  Thanks to Laura for choosing this recipe. Laura is a personal chef (I’m so jealous!) so I knew this would be a good one.  Check out Laura’s creation on her blog, Chef Laura At Home.

This is the second time I have used pine nuts in a dessert…and the second time I’ve been impressed with the results.  The first time I used pine nuts in a lighter lemon bar recipe from Cooking Light Magazine and they were fantastic.  If you want to try that recipe, and I hope you do, click here!  The lemon bars were under 120 calories per bar and were the brightest and tastiest lemon bars I’ve tasted.

Anyway…I digress…this dish was also quite good.  Lightly sweetened and topped with a crunchy topping, this dish is great for dessert, or would even be good at breakfast with some yogurt.  Thanks again to Mark Bittman for giving us a reminder that dessert doesn’t need to be sickeningly sweet to be satisfying.

I made some of mine in a pie dish and the rest in 4 souffle cups to give to my sweet neighbors that let me park in their driveway when the plows haven’t done a good job on the slushy roads.  Whether you are using small souffle cups or a large pie dish, you’ll know its done when it gets bubbly and your kitchen smells of summer.  Enjoy!

Berry Crisp With Pinenut Hazelnut Topping

Berry Crisp with Pine Nut and Hazelnut Topping; adapted from The Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman

Makes:  6 to 8 servings                                  Time:  40 to 50 minutes

  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 4 to 6 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, raspberries, or a mixture of the two
  • 1 cup pine nuts
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom
  • Pinch of salt
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  1. Heat the oven to 375°F.  Grease an 8- or 9-inch square or round baking dish with a little butter. If you’re using frozen berries, set them in a colander to thaw for a bit while you prepare the crust.  Mix together the pine nuts and hazelnuts.  Put ¾ cup of the pine nut/hazelnut mixture in a food processor along with the 4 tablespoons butter and sugar; let the machine run until the nuts are finely ground and the mixture is creamy and fluffy.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add the rest of the pine nut/hazelnut mixture, flour, nutmeg, cardamom, and salt and stir with a fork until crumbly.  (You can make the topping ahead to this point, tightly wrap, and refrigerate for up to a day or freeze for up to several weeks; thaw before proceeding.
  3. 015 Spread the berries in the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the top with the lemon zest. Crumble the topping over all and press down gently.  Bake until the filling is bubbling and the crust is just starting to brown, 30 to 40 minutes.  Serve immediately, or at least while still warm.

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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.