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Now that the wonderful burst of Spring that the Midwest saw last week is over, let’s talk soup. Broccoli soup that is.

I have to admit that upon reading this recipe I didn’t think “Man, I need to go out and buy some broccoli to try this soup.” I mean who gets excited about pureed broccoli soup anyway?

My thought process was more like, “I have leeks and thyme that I need to use. What can I make?”

Fortunately, it did not disappoint, especially with a fresh loaf of crusty French bread.

Adapted from Bon Apetit.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp butter (I used yogurt butter.)
  • 3 cups chopped leeks (white and pale parts only, about 3 leeks)
  • 6 tsp chopped fresh thyme, divided
  • 1.5 lbs broccoli crowns, chopped
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth

Directions:

  • Melt butter in large pot over medium-high heat.
  • Add leeks and 4 tsp thyme, then sauté until the leeks are almost soft, about 8 minutes.
  • Transfer 1/2 cup leeks to small bowl; reserve.
  • Add broccoli and 4 cups broth to pot; bring to boil.
  • Cover; boil until vegetables are tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Puree soup in blender until smooth.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Garnish with chopped thyme and reserved leeks.

Servings ~ 4
Calories ~ 110, Fat ~ 2 g, Carbohydrates ~ 19 g, Protein ~ 7 g

After touting the benefits of meal planning last week, I failed at it miserably this time around.

Over the weekend we headed to not so sunny Southern California to visit Chris’ family. I went, armed with a purse full of “food” magazines, ready to knock out a meal plan on one of our four flights, but it never happened.

Wait, not so sunny?

Each winter as we get hammered with snow, frigid temperatures, and ice cold gusts of wind tearing across Indiana, Chris extols the virtues of the weather in Los Angeles. He is right. Sort of.

I closely followed the weather for days before we left. I fantasized about basking in the sunshine and considered that it might even be too hot for me to get in my long run on Saturday.

As usual, the temperature dipped just before our arrival. I even got to do my Sunday run in chilly rain.

The State of California should consider paying for me to move there because I can solve all of their drought problems. You see, it gets cold and rainy every time I visit.

Then again, maybe they don’t want me there as I would spoil their near perfect climate. On the upside, the weather was a perfect 55 degrees for my long run and the cool rain felt pretty good during my recovery run.

I apologize to all of the Angelinos for ruining your weekend weather. The song is a lie, it sure does rain in Southern California.  

Ingredients (per serving):

  • 1 slice of whole grain bread made into bread crumbs
  • 5 tsp Dijon mustard, divided
  • olive oil spray
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 8 oz fresh spinach
  • 3 tbsp half & half (I used fat-free.)
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 eggs

Directions:

  • Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Spray bread crumbs with olive oil, then toss them with 2 tsp Dijon mustard and mustard seeds, then spread in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  • Bake until golden and crisp, about 7 minutes.
  • As bread crumbs are cooking, add enough water to a skillet to coat the bottom, add the spinach, and toss over a high heat until the spinach wilts, about two minutes.
  • Strain the spinach, transfer it to a sauce pan, then stir in 3 tsp mustard, half and half, and chopped thyme.
  • Stir the spinach over a medium heat for several minutes until it thickens, season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Lightly spray a skillet with olive oil, crack two eggs into the skillet, then cook over a medium-high heat until the whites have cooked through.
  • To serve, layer the spinach, eggs, and bread crumbs.

Servings ~ 1
Calories ~ 334, Fat ~ 15 g, Carbohydrates ~ 25 g, Protein ~ 21 g

Last fall I was lucky enough to get a free year subscription of Bon Apetit. I am always looking at cooking magazines in the checkout line at the grocery store, but I try not to buy them unless I see a really compelling recipe because I know that once I get them home it is quite unlikely that I will actually read them.

Don’t get me wrong, I like to read. I especially like magazines because they are low commitment. You know, unlike the two books that I have had in progress since last winter. But we have such a backlog of magazine reading to do that even these short reads seemed like a daunting task.

Finally, I broke down and decided to start whittling down the pile. On our way to the ski slopes last weekend, I decided to go through all of our cooking magazines and…

…wait for it…

 …menu plan.

Crazy concept around here. First up: Black Bean and Butternut Chili.

Adapted from Bon Apetit.

Ingredients:

  • olive oil spray
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves elephant garlic, minced
  • 2 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 2-14.5 oz cans fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 lb. black beans, dry
  • 2 chipotle chiles in adobo, diced (Optional, these are pretty spicy!)
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • salt to taste
  • 2.5 lbs butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • Sour cream and cheese for garnish (optional)

Directions:

  • Lightly spray a heavy pot with olive oil spray, then cook onions over a medium-high heat until they begin to lightly brown.
  • Add garlic and cook for about one more minute.
  • Stir in chili powder and coriander and continue to cook for one more minute.
  • Add tomatoes with juice, beans, chipotles, oregano, and 10 cups of water.
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer.
  • Cover the pot with the lid slightly ajar and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally for about two hours or until beans have softened.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper, then add butternut squash. Cook uncovered for about 30 minutes or until the squash is soft.
  • Serve with typical chili toppings such as sour cream, shredded cheese, and cornbread (or better yet yeast-rised cornbread).

 Servings ~ 15 -1 cup servings
Calories ~ 162, Fat ~ 1 g, Carbohydrates ~ 30 g, Protein ~ 8 g

Southern Indiana is almost the least snowy place that I have ever lived. Indiana in general is far less snowy than anywhere else that I have lived.

“But wait, that’s a good thing, right?”

Not so fast. You see, each place has had essentially the same winter temperatures.

Place Avg. Yearly
Snowfall
Avg. January
Temperature (F)
Southern Indiana 15″ 20
Upstate NY 65″ 9
Northern Indiana 14″ 16
Southern Tier NY 55″ 15
Happy Valley, PA 46″ 19
Northern NJ 41″ 17

Data Source

If we could equate lack of snowfall to balmy warm weather, the “no snow is a good thing” argument would hold some water. But, when we have to deal with chilly temperatures but not receive enough snow to do anything fun outside…

…well, that’s just a bummer.

Lucky for me, we are experiencing record snowfall here this winter and we have already made two trips to our local “mountain” for snowboarding. After a long day on the snow, this warm, comfort-foody dish really hit the spot!

My only complaint is that the cooking time is a bit long to follow a day out on the ski slopes. Definitely a lazy day meal. (Or should that be not a lazy day meal due to the cooking time?)

Adapted from Cara’s Cravings.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb dry cannellini beans
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 lb peeled, diced rutabaga
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 tbsp yogurt butter
  • ~ 1/4 cup milk, as needed (I used skim.)
  • 1 pound bitter greens, such as dandelion, broccoli rabe, collards, or turnip greens

Directions:

  • Prepare beans by soaking them overnight in several inches of water.
  • Drain and rinse the beans, then begin to boil them in a large pot covered by a few inches of water over a high heat.
  • Add the rutabaga and a sprinkle of salt and reduce the temperature to medium-high.
  • Stir occasionally as the beans and rutabaga continue to boil, adding water as needed.
  • While the beans and rutabaga cook, prepare the greens.
    • Wash and chop the greens, then place them in a large pot and cook them over a medium-high heat, covered, for about 30 minutes until they have wilted.
    • Stir the greens occasionally, adding water as necessary to keep them from burning.
    • When they have finished cooking, drain the water off of the greens, season to taste with salt and pepper, then set them aside. (Try to keep them warm for serving.)
  • After about an hour, the beans will begin to break down and the rutabaga will become tender.
  • Continue cooking until the water has evaporated.
  • When the consistency has thickened, remove the pot from the heat.
  • Add the butter, then beat with a hand mixer until smooth adding milk as necessary.
  • Add salt to taste.
  • Divide the cannellini and rutabaga purée into five bowls, and top with the warm, tender greens.

Servings ~ 5
Calories ~  235, Fat ~ 3 g, Carbohydrates ~ 40 g, Protein ~ 15 g

After last winter’s love affair with Mac and Cheese with Squash and Peas and my obsession last fall with Pumpkin Ravioli, I knew that I had to try this recipe as soon as possible. It is essentially a hybrid of my two favorite pasta dishes and it did not disappoint.

Sunday afternoon I spent a few hours attempting to cook enough meals to last us for the whole week. It worked out pretty well. As of Thursday morning we still have two portions of food remaining for Thursday night dinner. For a long time, I did a weekly Sunday cooking marathon. I can’t quite remember why I stopped.

It may have come to and end during a phase of grocery list apathy. Cooking everything on Sunday means writing all of the necessary ingredients on the same grocery list in time for weekend grocery shopping. 

Another theory is that I stopped doing it when we joined our CSA. The CSA seemed like a nice idea, but the Wednesday produce pickup did not fit in all that well with our Saturday grocery shopping scheme. It had me going to the grocery store on Wednesdays and Saturdays which was far too often for my taste.

Whatever the case, I may need to revive that ritual so we can have another week mashed potato free.

Adapted from Meet Me on the Corner of Peachtree and Peachtree.

Ingredients:

  • 1 13.25 oz box whole grain pasta
  • 2 tbsp reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 1.75 cups pumpkin purée
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 2 oz blue cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 5 big handfuls of baby spinach
  • heavy-handed sprinkles of salt, pepper, garlic powder, basil
  • dash of nutmeg, cinnamon, dried marjoram

Directions:

  • Cook pasta, drain, then return to pot.
  • Set burner to a low heat, then mix in the remaining ingredients.
  • Cover and let it sit on low heat until the spinach is completely wilted.
  • Add additional milk as needed.

Servings ~ 8
Calories ~ 264, Fat ~ 5.4 g, Carbohydrates ~ 42.3 g, Protein ~ 12.2 g

Do you get much snow where you live?

I would typically say that we do not get much snow here, but this winter may prove me wrong. We have gotten measurable snow at least three times so far this season and if this trend continues it will likely be our snowiest winter in Southern Indiana to date.

“Much snow” is a pretty relative thing, isn’t it? Chris saw snow falling from the sky for the first time about four years ago whereas I just always remember having snow.

I was lucky enough to witness Chris’ first snow day from school while we were at Purdue.

He literally went out to play in it. Well, he took his monster truck of a Jeep out in the snow anyway.

Chris had a lot of newish cold weather experiences that year. He had been snowboarding before, but wasn’t exactly a snowboarder until that winter. He went for his second ice skate. You get the idea.

This is a picture of Chris and I during his second ice skating experience…my nose looks a bit cold.

Do you prefer a white Christmas or do you like for it to be warm enough to eat Christmas dinner outside? Chris and I are definitely split on this one!

Adapted from Peasant Cuisine.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into rounds
  • olive oil spray
  • 1 medium head of bok choy, washed and chopped (stalks and leaves)
  • 64 oz vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce

Directions:

  • Sauté the onions, garlic, ginger and carrots using a bit of olive oil sprayed into the bottom of a large pot until the onions turn transparent.
  • Stir in the bok choy and continue to cook until it begins to wilt.
  • Add vegetable broth and soy sauce, then simmer until the carrots become tender.
  • Optional: Stir in some soba noodles to make it a meal, just be sure to stir them in one bowl at a time so that they don’t become soggy.

Servings ~ 6
Calories (without soba) ~ 62, Fat ~ 1 g, Carbohydrates ~ 11 g, Protein ~ 4 g

This was not my planned side dish for our Chicken Curry, but I am happy to report that it was an excellent alternative.

Originally, I thought that we would have cauliflower with our curry, but no dice. Cabbage it is.

Cabbage may be better anyway, although I never would have guessed that growing up. My family didn’t eat much cabbage. It is one of those vegetables that must be prepared correctly for it to really knock your socks off.

Cauliflower is kind of the same way in that it needs to be prepared well for me to get excited about it. Perhaps I should get my act together and try the Indian Spiced Cauliflower sooner rather than later.

Chris, do you believe that I like the Indian cookbook that you so kindly brought home for me now? I hope so, because I’m obviously going to be trying to buy an African cookbook.

I wonder if finding the ingredients to cook things from an African cookbook will be as difficult as using my Peruvian one? I am leaning towards as, if not more difficult.

Although we live in a small town, we are really lucky to have two fantastic Asian ethnic grocery stores, a Japanese one and a pan-Asian store. I have had pretty good luck with them having most Asian ingredients that I am looking for, but the Peruvian ingredients are either not available here or I am running into many lost in translation situations with the book. Bone-in guinea pig anyone?

Speaking of our Asian grocery stores, I made another attempt at Char Sui Baos recently, but they weren’t quite right. I need to get some five spice powder. I am fairly sure that I can get it here, I just haven’t made my way to the correct store yet. Until then…let’s talk cabbage.  

Adapted from 50 Great Curries of India by Camellia Panjabi.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb cabbage, shredded
  • 2 medium onion, finely  chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/2 green chili, finely chopped, seeds removed
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • olive oil spray
  • 1/16 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder

Directions:

  • Saute onion, ginger, and chili pepper in a heavy skillet with olive oil spray for 20-25 mintues or until the onion begins to turn brown.
  • Add cabbage and remaining spices, combining well, then cook for an additional 10 mintues.
  • Next combine tomatoes with the cabbage mixture and continue cooking until the tomatoes have softened.

Servings ~ 4

Calories ~ 44, Fat ~ 1 g, Carbohydrates ~ 8 g, Protein ~ 2 g

As promised, another idea for leftover mashed potatoes. Or another excuse to make mashed potatoes. I suppose it is all a matter of perspective.

I specifically promised more mashed potato breakfasts. I’m not sure if this counts. We ate it for breakfast, but Chris and I are both pretty flexible in that regard. Neither of us has very strong meal/time-of-day connections.

Pancakes for dinner? Hamburgers for breakfast? Sure. Whatever. If Duke would be happy with it, chances are that either of us would be also.

It is interesting to see what people consider normal breakfast food in different places. I’m curious what we will see in Africa for breakfast foods, although I have a feeling that it might be influenced to some degree by colonialism there.

Most places we have gone, the egg seems to be pretty standard. Although the color of the yolk has been surprising in some cases. I’m pretty sure that the Chinese eggs I ate were salted duck eggs, they had a bright orange yolk.

In Japan, the breakfast appeared to be nearly the same as the other meals except that it often came with a side of fermented soybeans (natto). Thankfully, I do not recall having natto at any other meal. It must be an acquired taste.

My favorite region for breakfast is Northern Europe. What can I say, I like fish for breakfast. I suppose that Japan had that to offer, but one of my all-time favorite breakfasts is smoked fish on toast with a soft cheese and capers.

What do you like to eat for breakfast? Can dinner pass for breakfast at your house?

Adapted from Meals and Miles.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup cooked lentils (I cook lentils in chicken or veggie broth in a 1:2 ratio, lentils:broth) 
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth + a few splashes for mashing (I used 99% fat free broth)
  • 1 tablespoon whole wheat flour
  • 1 dash Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 glugs red wine
  • 1/4 cup corn (frozen works)
  • 1/4 cup peas (frozen works)
  • 1 medium potato (The original recipe called for a sweet potato.)
  • 1/2 oz cheese, shredded (I used Manchego)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • oregano
  • garlic salt

Directions:

  • On the stove top heat up the lentils and onion. (I combined 1/2 cup lentils, 1 cup chicken broth, and onion, then simmered until the lentils softened since my lentils were not pre-cooked. I then took 3/4 cup of the cooked lentil and onion mixture for this dish.)
  • In a small bowl mix the chicken broth and flour.
  • Pour chicken broth mixture, Worcestershire sauce, and red wine over the lentils.
  • Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 -10 minutes or until sauce reduces.
  • Once sauce appears thick add the corn, peas and spices.
  • Poke several holes in a potato and microwave for ~4 minutes until soft. (Alternatively, use leftover mashed potatoes.)
  • Mash the soft potato with some chicken broth
  • Place the lentil combination in an oven safe bowl, then layer mashed potato on top.
  • Bake at 375 for 10 minutes, then remove, top with cheese and broil for 5 more minutes.

Servings ~ 2 (Chris and I split this) or 1 huge serving (Chris would have been happy to eat this all by himself)
Calories (based on 2 servings) ~ 275, Fat ~ 3 g, Carbohydrates ~ 47 g, Protein ~ 14 g

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, we have returned to the reality of having to feed ourselves every day. ::Gasp::

This has become more and more challenging with our lack of daylight as we approach the winter solstice.

Only 21 days until things begin to look brighter! ::haha::

In addition to the early sunset resulting in crummy photographs, there is also the issue of not feeling very inspired to make dinner at all when it looks like bedtime outside before I even leave work.

So what does this mean? What is the point of this table?

It is dark out when I leave for work. It is dark out when I get home from work. Motivation is at an all-time low.

Moving all of Indiana to the Central Time Zone would at least allow me to have daylight on one end of my day. Clearly, even the Indiana “experts” do not know what time it should be here. Notice the shifting time zones over the past 92 years.

In spite of my dissatisfaction with our time zone, I knew that it was time to end our streak of “grazing” dinners and make some real food. Asian Lentil Soup, here we come!

I bookmarked this a while back, but I never managed to get all of the ingredients on my grocery list at one time. With the temperatures dropping quickly, I knew it was time. Chris and I had a run planned for last night, and I had a feeling that warm soup would hit the spot after our cold, windy, flurry-filled run.

The result: Another win in the weekday meal department. Easy to make. Minimal prep/cooking time. I bet we see a repeat of this dinner within one week.

When I came home from work, I quickly chopped and sautéed the veggies, then dumped all of the ingredients into a big pot. I turned up the heat and brought the soup to a simmer as I got changed into my running clothes. As we were about to leave the house, I turned the stove off and covered the pot of soup hoping that the lentils would soften while we were out.

Just as I had hoped, the soup only needed a little re-heating when we returned from our run, then we were good to go! This was the perfect dinner after our coldest run of the season so far.

From Kath Eats Real Food.

Ingredients:

  • 2 carrots, peeled into ribbons
  • 2 celery stalks, matchstick cut
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 bunch bok choy, chopped
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 cup lentils, dry
  • 28 oz chicken or veggie broth
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp  minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Sauté carrots, celery, bell pepper, and chopped stalks of the bok choy in oil until tender.
  • Add all other ingredients, bring to boil, reduce to simmer, and cook 20-30 minutes, or until lentils are soft.

Servings ~ 4
Calories ~ 151, Fat ~ 4 g, Carbohydrates ~ 22 g, Protein ~ 9 g

I am happy to report that I survived the onslaught of Halloween candy and managed to only eat 15% of the goods (but 45% of the Butterfingers). I’m not sure if that is particularly impressive considering that we had 30 full-size candy bars and I ate 4.5 of them in 36 hours. Wow, that sounds gross.

I love Butterfingers.

Thankfully, Chris brought the remaining 20 some-odd candy bars to work with him to eliminate them spread Halloween cheer to his co-workers and gain popularity in his water cooler circle. Ok, we don’t really have water coolers at work, but Chris does have a cubicle right next to his local printer, so he gets pretty heavy traffic at his desk and never has a problem giving away candy or baked goods.

In addition to my Butterfinger binge this weekend, Chris and I also had Mexican Pizza.  We had leftovers from fajitas, but not enough leftovers to have fajitas again, so…

Ingredients:

  • pizza crust
  • Mexican pizza sauce
  • 3 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 2 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 oz leftover steak from steak fajitas, diced
  • 1/3 cup sauteed onions
  • 1/3 cup sauteed bell peppers
  • 1/4 cup corn kernels
  • 1/4 cup black beans
  • 1/4 avocado, diced
  • 1/2 small tomato, chopped and drained
  • sour cream for dipping

Directions:

  • Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees with a pizza stone inside.
  • Roll out pizza dough and sprinkle it lightly with cornmeal on both sides to prevent it from sticking to the pizza stone.
  • Top the pizza first with Mexican pizza sauce, then with cheeses, steak, onions, peppers, black beans, and corn.
  • Place the pizza in the oven on the pizza stone, the easiest way is to use a pizza peel, and bake until the crust begins to brown and the cheese is fully melted, usually 10-12 minutes.
  • While the pizza is baking prepare any additional cold toppings such as avocado, tomato, and sour cream.
  • Remove pizza from oven, top with any cold toppings, then enjoy!

Servings ~ 2-3
Calories ~ I’m not even going to attempt this one, it depends on your toppings and your pizza crust.