Tag Archives: vegan

Roasted Carrot Soup with Cilantro and Coconut Milk

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What an incredibly gorgeous weekend it has been.  The weather was perfect.  And by perfect, I mean 70 degrees, crisp, sunny, and chock full of fall fun.  On Saturday we headed about an hour and a half southeast to Bellevue, MI, to Crane Fest.  It was well worth the drive.  Each year, thousands of sandhill cranes migrate to Florida for the winter.  They happen to stop off for a rest at the Baker Sanctuary in Bellevue each year in October.  Sandhill cranes are amazing and beautiful birds.  They are the oldest living species of bird, having existed for over 9 million years.  They are graceful, lovely, and have a gorgeous rolling trumpet song that fills the air as they join together for the evening at the sanctuary.  If you’d like to read more about Crane Fest and about these beautiful birds, click here.

Now, at the end of the weekend, cozied up with my sweetie, the pup, and our brand new calico kitty (!), I’m thinking of the week ahead and what I’ll make for dinners.  I’ve got plenty of squashes and root vegetables and not much time this week so I’ve got a hunch I’ll be making some soups.  This time of year is perfect for soups.  You’ll be seeing a lot of soups posted here over the next several months.  As gorgeous as Michigan is in the spring, summer, and fall, winter is (though beautiful in its own way) long and cold.  Perfect for warming bowls of soup.

This soup is a creation of mine.  Most of the time I see carrot soup, it is carrot-ginger soup.  Carrot-ginger soup is great but it’s everywhere so I wanted to make something a little different.

This soup is so easy and takes only about 15 minutes hands on.  You roast the veggies in large chunks until soft, add to a soup pot with broth, coconut milk, cilantro, and spices, and give it a whirl.  Easy, warming, and delicious.  And healthy to boot.  I hope you enjoy!

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Roasted Carrot Soup with Cilantro and Coconut Milk

  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 and ½ lbs. of carrots, scrubbed
  • 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced into thick slices
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 6 cups of vegetable broth or water with bouillon if you prefer
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. garam masala spice blend
  • 1 small bunch of cilantro, stems and all
  • 2 tsp. good quality olive oil to garnish, optional
  • Cilantro to garnish, optional
  • 4 tbsp. goat cheese to garnish, optional
  • OR 4 tbsp. plain yogurt to garnish, optional
  • Pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds) to garnish, optional
  1. Heat oven to 375°.  Lightly oil a 9 x 13 baking dish.
  2. Roughly chop carrots and sweet potatoes into pieces about 1 inch in size.  Slice onions into thick slices.  Peel garlic clove (you can leave the garlic clove whole).  Place all into baking dish and cover.  Roast vegetables for 45 minutes to an hour, until tender.
  3. Pour roasted vegetables into a heavy stock pot or Dutch oven and turn heat to medium.  Add vegetable broth, coconut milk, cumin, coriander, garam masala, and cilantro.  Be sure to save a little cilantro for garnish.
  4. Using an immersion (stick) blender (see note below), blend the contents of the soup pot until smooth.
  5. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and a few leaves of cilantro.  If you are in the mood, sprinkle some goat cheese onto the soup.  Or plain yogurt.  Or pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds).  Whatever you fancy!  The version in the photos is cilantro and olive oil.  Simply delicious.
  6. This makes a large batch of soup—you can enjoy it for several days and freeze any leftovers.

Kitchen Tip:  If you don’t have a stick blender, you should get one!  It is one of my favorite kitchen tools.  It helps you avoid having to pour hot liquids into a blender.  All you need to do is place the stick blender in the soup and whirl away.  You can also use it for smoothies, hummus, salsa, and so much more! But if you don’t have a stick blender today, you can use the ol’ blender method, just be careful!  And put a stick blender on your wish list…!  And no.  Cuisinart Smart Stick does not pay me for this endorsement 🙂).

Cold Oats with Dried Fruit and Nuts

‘He looked at his watch, astonished how the months had fallen out of it.”  –The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx

This summer has flown by in a happy, hectic whirl.  Amidst the excitement and busy-ness, there have been a few constants.  Warm, heavy evenings interrupted only by the crack of the bat and the roar of a crowd while listening to the Detroit Tigers on the radio.  Letting the dog out, then in, then out again.  The slow summer rhythm of the neighborhood, with neighbors spilling out on porches and long, spontaneous chats while walking the pup.  Drew’s wet waders slung over the white pipe railing of the back porch to dry, oozing tales of trout or simple tales of a good wade down a stream (“That’s why they call it fishing, not catching,” he reminds me).   The communion of friends sharing meals and stories under the twinkle fairy lights on our back patio.  Saturday mornings bumping into friends and talking with our farmers at the market.  The sweetness of a good night kiss shared.  Cold oatmeal for breakfast.

We have eaten cold oatmeal nearly every morning over the last four months.  And yet, each day I wake up looking forward to it in its many variations.  Soon the warm months will have moved on and we’ll be switching back to oatmeal in other forms, oat bran, cooked rolled oats, baked oats, oatmeal griddle cakes.

Cold oats can, and have, been enjoyed in our household in every which way.  On a Saturday morning in summertime, in a patch of sunlight on the back stoop, glasses still on, hair wild, eyelids heavy, one hand thumbing through a cooking magazine.  On a Tuesday morning, racing to get out the door to work, spoon in one hand, blow dryer in the other.  At the desk at work, typing with one hand, eating a greatly anticipated breakfast with the other.  At the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula at a campground, coffee bubbling in the percolator on the camp stove, a morning fire in the fire pit, reading the What’s U.P.? paper, a hodgepodge of odd news and Upper Peninsula real estate.  On a Sunday, listening to our BBC radio drama, The Archers, and drinking our pour-over coffees.

Cold oatmeal (aka Muesli) has been a constant in these moments over the warm spring and summer months.  It has been both a breakfast made for the simplicity and the quickness of it, and a breakfast made for the enjoyment of it.  Some of the best meals are the simplest and this is an excellent example.

Because oatmeal is such a constant in my life, it has become the unsung hero of my mornings.  I have not thought to post about cold oats until this post came about, opting to write about more savory, later-in-the-day meals instead.  But how could I not share this beloved meal with you?

Cold oatmeal can be made in a huge variety of ways, whatever suits your tastes or pantry at the moment.  The formula I usually follow is oats, almond milk, dried fruit, nuts, maple syrup.  Occasionally if the fruit is good I’ll stir in some fresh peaches, blueberries, raspberries, figs, or plums but usually I enjoy dried fruit, soaked in the oat mixture over night.

One of the best things about this breakfast is that it is a huge time saver.  The night before, you simply put old-fashioned rolled oats into a jar or bowl, cover with just under twice as much plant-based or animal-based milk, any additions you want, and place back in the fridge overnight.  In the morning, you don’t need to lift a finger (or turn on the stove if the day is a hot one) to enjoy a filling and satisfying breakfast.  Convinced?  Follow the easiest-recipe-in-the-world below and you’ll be singing its praises too.

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Cold Oats With Dried Fruit and Nuts

  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 and 3/4 cup almond milk, soy milk, or cow’s milk
  • 3-4 dates, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup, optional (some folks are happy with the sweetness of the fruit without additional sweetener)
  1.  Mix all ingredients into a jar or bowl.
  2. Let sit overnight in the refrigerator.
  3. Grab a spoon, stumble to the fridge, grab cold oats, and dig in.

Serves 2

Variations:

  • Substitute raisins, cranberries, dried plums, dried cherries, or any other favorite dried fruit.
  • Add fresh fruits when in season.  Blueberries, peaches, nectarines, prune plums, raspberries, blackberries…all are good options.
  • Cook up some apples with cinnamon and stir into the mix.
  • Substitute yogurt for some or all of the milk.
  • Experiment with raw pumpkin seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, or any other nuts you love.

 

Quinoa Salad with Corn, Black Bean, Avocado, and a Chipotle-Lime Dressing

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Wow wow wow….this summer is flying by!  July is drawing to a close and I have barely caught my breath.  But it’s been such a good summer…I dare say the it may be best I’ve had.  I’ve gone for many summer walks, the temperatures have been wonderful other than one intense week of 90’s, my pears are growing like crazy on the tree in my yard, we’ve gone trout fishing (catch and release) in some gorgeous Michigan rivers, and we have had some wonderful dinners with friends.  It’s pretty magical to sit outside on the patio until the sky is dark and the fireflies come out.

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It has been a summer of music!  We’ve taken the ferry to Manitowac, WI for Acoustic Fest (photos above!) and enjoyed Buttermilk Jamboree, NorEaster Festival, and Roots on the River.  I have met so many incredible people at these festivals and feel so invigorated by these new friendships.

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My work has begun to feel more routine and I really enjoy getting to know my coworkers.  I’ve flown around on the corporate plane doing research in stores in Indianapolis, Michigan, and Ohio and feel like I’m making a difference for a company I believe in.  Yes, things are turning up.

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I’m really excited to share the good news that Grand Rapids Magazine plans to publish an article about me in their October issue this year.  I’ve been interviewed for content and in two days a great local photographer is going to do a photo shoot with me!  I can’t tell you how excited I am!  I’ve never had a photo shoot before!  Wish me luck!

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A couple of weeks ago, I whipped up this quinoa salad after having one at our friend’s camp, the Tosebo Camp For Boys, over the fourth of July weekend.  The salad is very healthy and has the perfect combination of textures and flavors; crunchy, soft, sweet, and spicy.  It was the perfect meal for hot days when I stayed far, far away from the stove.  This is a great dish for potlucks, one dish dinners, and lunch and is easily adaptable to your taste preferences.  Enjoy!

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Quinoa Salad with Corn, Black Beans, Avocado, and a Chipotle-Lime Dressing; Serves 4-6

  • 1 cup multi-colored quinoa (red, black, white)–or any color
  • 2 cups water
  • 1.5 cups black beans (I cook my own but you can use canned)
  • 1.5 cups corn kernels, frozen or fresh
  • 1/2 roasted red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 green onion, chopped (or you may use red onion, finely diced)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 chipotle in adobo sauce, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 1/2 avocado, cubed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Put quinoa and water into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Immediately turn down to a low simmer and cover.  Simmer the quinoa in the water until the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.  I’d check it as it cooks–sometimes I feel that the water absorbs better than other times and I’ve burnt it from time to time!
  2. Mix the quinoa, black beans, corn, red pepper, onion, and cilantro in a large bowl.
  3. Mix the oil, lime juice, chipotle, adobo sauce, cumin, agave nectar, and salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  4. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss.  Serve topped with more cilantro and cubed avocado.

 

Road Trippin’ and Newfangled Carrots and Peas

Happy Memorial Day!  I’m thrilled for the extra day of this weekend.  It’s been a busy few weeks.  Today I want to share a great recipe I found in Cooking Light’s May issue for another use of pea shoots, which I featured last week in my pea shoot and beet salad.  The recipe I am sharing today is a carrot and pea shoot salad with spring onions and is the epitome of spring.

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But first, I want to tell you about a few of the BIG changes going on and some of the things we saw on the trip we just returned from.

One of the first BIG changes is that I will be going from working remotely in my home office to working at (gulp) an office five days a week.  I will be leaving my job as a research manager at a market research company and joining forces with Meijer’s Consumer Insights team.  I’ll be working on internal research to help improve the retailer and it’s brands.  Very exciting stuff.  My life will be much more structured but at the end of the day I’ll have more time each week because I’ll be going from a 50-60 hour workweek to a 40 hour workweek.

Another BIG thing is that Cooking Light added my profile to their Bloggers’ Connection site and I’m thrilled!  Check it out here.  You’ll notice that I’ve added the Cooking Light Bloggers’ Connection badge to my page and I’ll just be sharing with you all a couple of the things I read about in Cooking Light each month.  I have subscribed to Cooking Light for years and have shared their recipes with friends and family during those years.  Now I’ll be sharing some of them with you!

Now onto this trip.  We went on a tour of America’s Heartlands and into Colorado for two weeks.  It was an amazing trip.  Though I have flown into several of the towns we visited, I have never driven to them.  It was a wonderful experience to drive and see a sliver of Indiana, then lots of Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Denver.  Iowa was surprisingly beautiful, with rolling green hills spotted with black cows and windmills.  Did you know that Iowa gets 20% of all the energy in the state from wind?  They have committed to generating 40% of their energy from wind, a goal that may be achieved as early as 2015.  How cool is that?

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The first night, we stayed in a beautiful apartment full of antiques that is set up for traveling musicians.  It was right behind the stage at the Legion Arts Center in Cedar Rapids.  The Legion Arts Center is a wonderful building that showcases both artwork as well as some phenomenal musicians.  It is right across from the Newbo Market, a mini-Pike’s Place of sorts that was opened just 6 months ago.  In the morning, we had a great cup of coffee from the coffee shop on the first floor of the building and looked at art in our pajamas.  The folks in Cedar Rapids were so wonderful–one couple even called ahead and bought our lunch at a funky diner called the Bluebird Diner in Iowa City on our drive to Topeka.  It was an act of incredible hospitality and we are so grateful for it.  Drew had Huevos Epsteinos and I think it went down as one of his top ten meals…at least that’s what I gathered when he ate them with his eyes closed most of the time.  One of the few souvenirs we brought home was a bag of the Bluebird Coffee, which I think is worth special-ordering.

In Topeka, we hit up the Topeka Zoo, where I fed a baby giraffe!  We also saw gorillas, tigers, lions, black bears, eagles, and this photogenic flamingo.

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We also saw the Westboro Baptist Church compound (from the outside, of course).  There was a bright side to it–across the street from the compound, the organization Planting Peace purchased a house and painted every piece of siding a different color of the rainbow.  A member of the Westboro church was on a ladder looking over the fence and praying against the house but that didn’t take away from the delightful presence of this house that promotes peace, fights bullying, and helps with orphanages, de-worming, and rain forest conservation.  It’s wonderful to see this organization stand up for peace and this bold act gave me hope.

And then…the Rockies.  Oh my goodness…the Rockies.

Mountains

I had never driven in the mountains and I must have said “wow” every minute or two for the four hour drive from Denver to Carbondale.  This is the view when you get into Carbondale:

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Even though it was cold and sometimes snowy, the breathtaking views made me forget about having to bundle up!

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That night, we ate at a wonderful new restaurant called Town. (with a period) and had a great experience sitting at the community table and getting to know a few folks.  Their clams were excellent as well as the roasted carrots and cauliflower.

East of Carbondale, I had my first fly-fishing experience in the world-famous Frying Pan River.  Standing in the water with the current pressing against my waders and looking at the incredible red rock cliffs that surrounded us, I started tearing up with the joy of being in such a beautiful place.  My weepy moment passed quickly, though, because a rainbow trout came up to my leg and used my boot as a break from the current for about a half hour, joined by three of his pals for several minutes at a time.  I learned how to cast, watch the strike indicator, and mend my line that day, all while staring down at my feet off and on to look at the pretty rainbows swimming by me.

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The drive from Carbondale to Westcliffe on Highway 24 was incredible.  The terrain seemed to change every five minutes.  Rocky and desert-like at one turn, snow-covered pines the next.  My favorite view on that drive was the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, a mountain range that is almost 250 miles long.

Mountain Range

Over the next weekend, we went fishing in the Colorado River where I got a great casting lesson from Shaggy, the awesome shaggy-bearded best friend of my sweetie.

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And then in the Blue River, Drew’s other buddy, Romano, taught me more about casting, mending the line, and setting the hook.  And all of that coaching paid off!  I caught my first trout by myself!  The boys were so proud of me when they saw me mending  my line, watching the strike indicator (bobber), setting the hook, and reeling the fish in.  It’s catch and release out there, and that’s what we would do anyway, so no trout for dinner.

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It was incredibly hard to leave the mountains behind to drive back to Michigan but we had much to do upon our return.

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After just a couple of days of being home my poor sweetie had a major surgery on Friday to correct a nerve-related motility disorder called Achalasia.  The muscle between his stomach and esophagus was clenched so tight that most food could not make it through the tiny tube.  It’s been such an irony that the boyfriend of a foodie/food blogger like me could not eat most foods for several months.  But the surgery was so successful and slowly we are introducing foods back in.  In a couple of weeks he will be able to eat everything I am eating, which will just be so wonderful.

On Saturday, I ran home to let the pup out and decided to stop at the Farmer’s Market on the way home.  I was in the mood for more pea shoots, one of my favorite spring vegetables.  I made a pea shoot and yellow beet salad a couple of weeks ago and loved it.  On the trip, I thumbed through the May issue of Cooking Light Magazine and found another pea shoot recipe to add to the repertoire.

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This recipe was quick, just what I needed for my quick break, and delicious to boot.  I had to use big carrots because there were no carrots ready at the farmer’s market so I just cut them on an angle for a nice presentation.  The spring onions soaked up the sugar/vinegar glaze and were marvelous.  I may just cook up more spring onions with a little sugar, vinegar, salt, and pepper to mix into quinoa or spoon over crusty bread.  Mmmmm!

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Stay tuned for more recipes from Cooking Light Magazine–I’m going to make a healthier version of biscuits soon once my honey can eat them.  I’m picturing them with some fresh local butter and creamed honey……!  But I am getting ahead of myself.  I hope you enjoy this great springy peas and carrots recipe as much as I did!

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Newfangled Peas and Carrots from Cooking Light Magazine; May 2013 Issue

4 servings of ¾ cup each; about 30 minutes total, 15 minutes hands-on

  • 6 cups water
  • 12 ounces baby carrots
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cups vertically sliced spring onion, white parts only (about 9 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 cups pea tendrils or watercress
  1. Bring 6 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add carrots; reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain; rinse under cold water. Rub carrot peels off with a clean, dry kitchen towel.
  2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat; swirl to coat. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes or until slightly tender. Add carrots, sugar, vinegar, salt, and pepper; cook 2 minutes or until sugar dissolves and carrots are thoroughly heated. Stir in tarragon. Top with pea tendrils.

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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.

Lentil “Sloppy Joes” and Food Bloggers Against Hunger

Welcome to a very special Monday!  Today 200 food bloggers will dedicate their posts to raising awareness about hunger.  I am so happy to be participating in this great cause.  In addition to providing some information about hunger and links for more information, we will all post budget friendly recipes on our blogs today.

Hunger is a close personal issue to me.  My family was very low income and had to scrape to get by many weeks.  We had a very large vegetable garden that helped a great deal (and 5 kids to provide all the labor!).  If we ran out of groceries before the next paycheck came, we would eat big bowls of popcorn for dinner.  Us kids didn’t care–popcorn nights were the best!  But as an adult, I can now see and understand the worry my mom and stepdad faced week to week, paycheck to paycheck.  I still remember the embarrassment on my moms face when I blurted out that we sold our horses so we could buy winter boots.  My mom had to be pretty savvy about cooking on a limited budget.  One of her go-to recipes was lentil sloppy joes.  With this recipe, you can feed a family of four for less than $1.50 per person (this amount figures in pantry staples as well as fresh ingredients)!  Not only is it budget-friendly, this recipe is very healthy to boot and is comprised primarily of pantry staples.

I call attention to the amount spent per person for the lentil sloppy joe recipe because this figure is very important to many families, especially those who participate in SNAP, the nation’s food stamp program.  The Giving Table (organizer of the Food Bloggers Against Hunger) states that SNAP recipients are limited to an average of $3-$4 per person each day to supplement their food budget.  Additionally, the government subsidizes products like soy beans, wheat, and corn instead of fresh produce, so the most affordable food is often the unhealthiest.  Furthermore, 1 in 4 families are skipping healthy food purchases often or always due to price (click here for more info).  Overall, more than 50 million Americans face food insecurity.  In a nation of such abundance, this sad fact is difficult to believe and even more difficult to ignore.

The issue of hunger among children is especially heartwrenching.  Children who do not get the proper nutrition are not as healthy as other children (see here) and have lower academic performance.  When you are thinking about how hungry you are, it is difficult to focus on school work.  Much has been done in schools to ease this issue.  Free lunches are provided to children who qualify based on income.  Our family received free school lunches, which we took advantage of several days a week.  Despite measures being taken to provide school lunches to all children in need, this does not address the issue of children showing up to school hungry or going home to a house with limited food.  3 out of 5 teachers say they have children in their classrooms who regularly come to school hungry (from the Hunger In Our Schools Study).  Many teachers bring food to school to help children who arrive hungry to school in order to help them concentrate through the morning.  If you want to help protect funding for federal nutrition programs, click here.

Fresh foods are often more expensive than processed foods, preventing some families from buying fresh produce.  Organic produce is even more expensive.  I have hope that this issue can be eased.  In fact, in Grand Rapids, MI, where I live, I’ve seen progress toward this issue.  The Fulton Street Farmer’s Market is one place of progressive change.  They offer the Double Up Food Bucks program.  When a person eligible for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) uses his or her SNAP Bridge Card to shop for food at a farmers’ market, the amount of money that he or she spends is matched with Double Up Food Bucks bonus tokens. The tokens can then be exchanged for Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables.  For more information on this wonderful program, click here.

Shoppers who do not have a farmer’s market or a program like Double Up Food Bucks, can still take advantage of lower-cost produce.  With some tasty recipes, a home cook can transform inexpensive produce and pantry staples into fabulous meals.  There are several budget-friendly dishes that you can find on my blog; several can be made for $4!  For example, for just $4, a family can dig into this silky, gingery cabbage dish.  For just $4, you can also make these lentil-rice stuffed collard greens.  This red lentil dal is another quick and inexpensive recipe, relying primarily on pantry ingredients.  Finally, my favorite!  Polenta is a cheap, filling, and healthy meal base.  Serve with oven roasted vegetables and you have an inexpensive, healthy, and filling meal.  Click here for my polenta with roasted vegetables en papillote recipe.

So what can you do?  

  1. Please join the No Kid Hungry campaign in standing up for kids in need. Urge your members of Congress to protect federal nutrition programs that feed our nation’s hungry kids.  Just click here to get started.  It only takes a minute at most.
  2. Head over to the No Kid Hungry website to donate or to find local and national organizations in your area.  These organizations are always looking for helping hands.
  3. Watch A Place At The Table to understand more about our nations food crisis.
  4. Try to live off of $4 for one day to put yourself in the shoes of a food insecure person.
  5. Make the lentil sloppy joe recipe below!  I think it is way better than “real” sloppy joes.  I promise–you won’t miss the meat.

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Lentil “Sloppy Joes”

  • 1 cup lentils, rinsed
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 4 oz tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon mustard powder
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar (white or apple cider is best)
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 hamburger buns, split (preferably whole wheat)
  1. Put lentils and water in a small pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until tender.  This will take about 30 minutes.  
  2. While lentils are cooking, heat olive oil in a large skilled over medium heat.  When hot, add onions and green pepper and cook until the onions have softened somewhat, about 4 minutes.  Add tomatoes, garlic, tomato paste, ketchup, mustard powder, chili powder, molasses, and vinegar.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Turn heat to lowest setting and simmer 10 minutes until thickened.
  3. Stir cooked lentils into sauce mixture.  Serve on toasted buns.  This recipe is vegan as-is but you can add a slice of cheese to the top of the mixture on the bun and melt it under the broiler if you are not vegan.
  4. Serves 4.

How To Make Homemade Croutons

Simple Herbed Croutons

You know the saying “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime?”  Well, this week I’m going to show you how to make your own croutons.  You’ll never want to buy a box of croutons again once you know how easy this is and how much better homemade croutons taste!

This is one of those very non-fussy cooking projects, where just about anything goes.  All you will need is some bread, olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs.

Ingredients for croutons

A note about the bread:  you can use just about any bread that you like to make these.  I prefer a whole wheat bread but the preferences end there.  You can start with a rustic loaf with, a light loaf, a dense loaf.  Even stale bread works beautifully here.  You should never have to throw stale bread out again–this is a perfect use for it.  Although I prefer whole wheat for everyday croutons, you can also use a rustic white bread, roughly torn into pieces.  It will make for a slightly less-healthy but really tasty version, great for panzanella (a bread salads).  For this batch, I used Stone House Bread’s Honey Wheat Sandwich Bread.  You can pick it up at Meijer for $3.39, a steal!  And this bread is what bread should be, made simply and locally with a few, high quality organic ingredients.

Bread for croutons

Just cut the bread into strips, turn the other way, and cube it!  You can also roughly tear it into pieces.  Either way the results will be great.

Strips of bread

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For the herbs, I prefer fresh parsley or basil but in a pinch, you can use dried if need be.  You will mix the herbs with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Mix:

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Put the bread cubes into a large bowl and pour the olive oil, herb, salt, and pepper mixture over the croutons.  Spread onto a large baking sheet, making sure to avoid overcrowding:

Bake in a 300° oven for about 15 minutes.  Check to see if they are browned and crispy.  If not, bake for another 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let sit until cool.  This will also harden the croutons further so they are nice and crispy.  Once they are completely cool, place in an airtight container.  They will keep for a couple of weeks at room temperature.

Simple Herbed Croutons

Simple Homemade Croutons

  • 6 slices of whole wheat bread
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley, basil, or other fresh herb
  • generous pinch of salt
  • generous pinch of pepper
  • Optional:  1 minced clove of garlic or 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • Optional:  2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 300°
  2. Cube bread or tear into pieces.  Place into a large bowl.
  3. Mix together the olive oil, herbs, salt, and pepper, and garlic or cheese if you are using them.
  4. Pour the olive oil mixture over the bread and stir to coat well.
  5. Scatter the coated bread pieces onto a large baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes and check for browning and crispness.  If needed, put back into the oven until done.  Mine usually take about 20 minutes.
  7. Let cool completely, then store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
  8. Enjoy on salads, soups, or right out of the jar!

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.