Tofu Curry with Bok Choy and Peanuts

All day long it looked like it was dusk. Low gray clouds straddled the mountain tops and the fields virtually disappeared in fog. It had been a long week, I was tired, and I wanted a home-cooked meal, but one that didn’t take a lot of effort. A vegetarian meal with a spicy sauce that uses mostly kitchen pantry staples was the perfect recipe!

I love Thai food and always order red curry sauce as opposed to green curry, but now I’m not sure why. I’m a convert! While comparing the bottles of red and green curry paste I have in the fridge (I buy Thai Kitchen brand), the only difference between the two is red and green chilis, everything else is the same. Though I think the green curry is a bit milder (note to non chili heads!), I found it gave just the right amount of warmth I wanted. Paired with coconut milk, the blend of lemongrass and tangy lime made a flavorful sauce. I don’t know how to cut a baby bok choy into a “wedge,” so I just chopped them. And no need to fry the tofu in advance, put everything in a Dutch oven and stir. That’s all the effort you’ll have to do.

I made a pot of brown rice, and had thought about making it fancier, adding some coconut milk, flaked coconut, and chopped fresh ginger, but decided against the extra effort, but that would be a great addition. And this received a rousing thumb’s up from The Eater of the House; upon his second helping, he declared this the BEST dish I’ve EVER made! “You better write about this!” he said. And so I am.

This warm, bright emerald-green sauce took the day’s gray color away and was the perfect end to the week and start of the weekend!

green curry

Tofu Curry with Bok Choy and Peanuts

This recipe first appeared in the September 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.
Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 3/4 cup rice and 1 1/2 cups curry)

1 1/4 cups packed fresh cilantro leaves, divided
3 tablespoons green curry paste
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 (15-ounce) can light coconut milk
1 (14-ounce) package firm water-packed tofu, drained and cubed
12 ounces baby bok choy, cut into wedges
1 (8-ounce) can sliced bamboo shoots, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce, divided (use tamari for gluten-free)
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
2 (8.8-ounce) packages precooked brown rice (such as Uncle Ben’s)
1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts, chopped

1. Combine 1 cup cilantro and next 4 ingredients (through coconut milk) in a blender; process until smooth.

2. Bring curry mixture and tofu to a boil in a large Dutch oven over high heat; stir gently. Add bok choy, bamboo shoots, 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce, and salt to pan. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer 4 minutes.

3. Heat rice according to package directions. Divide rice among 4 bowls. Top evenly with curry mixture; sprinkle evenly with peanuts and remaining 1/4 cup cilantro. Drizzle servings evenly with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce.

MVK’s Like of the Week: The Doughnut Project, West Village, New York City
doughnuts 2 I had made plans way back in June, and the time had finally come to meet my girlfriends in New York City on Halloween. We didn’t have much on our itinerary, lots of walking, bookstores, and doughnuts were at the top of the list; Jana’s friend, Troy Neal, recently opened The Doughnut Project in the West Village and we were going to check it out!

Now, anyone who knows me well knows that doughnuts and pie are my weaknesses; offered a nice fluffy glazed doughnut I have a hard time saying no. But walking around the city for the day allowed me to feel a little bit better about having a late afternoon indulgence!

I admit I was skeptical having my first test bite of an Olive Oil and Pepper doughnut. Who would have thought it would be delicious, but it was! We decided to sample three: Beet Stuffed with Ricotta, a Maple-Bacon Bar, and Salted Chocolate.

doughnuts 1I love beets and wondered what those who don’t like these ruby reds thought, but they seem to be their most popular doughnut. I can see why; the rich ricotta with a bright red sweet topping was my favorite. The dough itself is very nutmeggy so it actually has flavor as opposed to other bakery sweets. Do you know what a maple bar is? I didn’t, but I do now as I was educated on Seattle’s maple bars, which is a doughnut shaped like a bar. We don’t have anything like that on the East Coast (it’s not a cruller), but The Doughnut Project has them! A thin layer of a maple frosting with a piece of bacon, it was decadent! And the chocolate doughnut was out of this world. And it was real chocolate glaze, not like a cake frosting you find on some other doughnuts. Paired with the nutmeg dough it was SO good.

Coffee is the only hot drink sold, but they have a non-compete clause with the tea shop next door, so I was able to buy a cup to have with my sweet snack. You can find them on online in all the usual places, http://www.thedoughnutproject.com/, on Facebook, Twitter (#TDP_NYC), and on Instagram. I have plans to go back to New York in the spring and I know I’m going to take a long walk so I can stop off for another visit!

The Doughnut Project
10 Morton Street
New York City

Can’t-Believe-It’s-Veggie Chili Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

I couldn't resist stopping and taking photos of the foliage on my way home. The light was just perfect reflecting off the orange leaves!

I couldn’t resist stopping and taking photos of the foliage on my way home. The light on the orange and red leaves made the colors pop out!

Chili is one of those meals that is so easy to make that you can fix it on a weeknight without a recipe and it can be ready to eat in well under an hour. A little bit of beef with some small beans, onions, garlic, and spices, you can throw everything in a pot and it will always be delicious. But my veggie chilis in the past have been less than mediocre, lacking in flavor and texture. Besides some beans and vegetables, I’ve never been able to make a decent pot. But this is one veggie chili I can believe in! Seasoned with lots of spices, with beans and wheat berries as a “meat replacement,” this chili is one for the books and has convinced me that you can make a good veggie chili at home!

Although the ingredient list is long, you definitely can make this on a weeknight, just don’t do like I did and postpone cooking by 30 minutes because you forgot a critical ingredient and had to run out to the store! The veggies can be prepped in advance and the wheat berries can be cooked early, too. The only change was I substituted one tablespoon of tamari in place of the amino acids, since I didn’t have a bottle on hand.

I noticed the “(Meat) Eater of the House” had seconds so I take that as a resounding thumbs up! Topped with a little bit of cheddar, avocado, red onion, and sour cream, it made excellent leftovers for lunch, and enough to pop in the freezer for another meal!

chili

Can’t-Believe-It’s-Veggie Chili
This recipe first appeared in the October 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Serves 6 (serving size: about 1 1/4 cups chili, 2 1/2 tablespoons cheese, 4 teaspoons onion, and 2 1/2 teaspoons sour cream)

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced peeled carrot
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons unsalted tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (14.5-ounce) can stewed tomatoes, undrained
2 cups water
1 cup lower-sodium vegetable juice
1/2 cup uncooked wheat berries
1 cup water
1 cup lager beer (such as Budweiser)
2 tablespoons liquid aminos (such as Bragg)
1 (14.5-ounce) can unsalted kidney beans, rinsed and drained
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream

1. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and next 6 ingredients (through garlic); sauté 10 minutes or until liquid evaporates and vegetables begin to brown. Add tomato paste and next 5 ingredients (through red pepper); cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Using kitchen scissors, cut tomatoes in the can into bite-sized pieces. Add 2 cups water, vegetable juice, and tomatoes to pan; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat; simmer 30 minutes.

2. Combine wheat berries and 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Add wheat berries, beer, aminos, and beans to chili; cook 20 minutes. Serve with cheese, red onion, and sour cream.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Candy Corn Cookies
I thought with Halloween just a few days away, I would bring to you one of the most popular recipes I ever posted on my blog for any new readers: candy corn cookies! These tiny sugar cookies are about an inch high in height and are adorable and make lots to share!

Aren't these adorable? And this was cookie sheet #1, so my batch definitely made more than 5 dozen cookies!Candy Corn Cookies
From PBS Food’s Fresh Taste blog, recipe by Jenna Weber

2 sticks of butter, softened
½ cups powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 egg
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
Red food coloring
Yellow food coloring

1. Cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and continue to beat until incorporated.

2. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients to the butter sugar mixture and mix until a soft dough just forms. Remove dough from mixer bowl and separate into three equal pieces (use a food scale to weigh each piece if you want to be exact!). Mix together a little bit of red and yellow food coloring to make orange and then add the orange coloring to one of the dough pieces. Make another dough piece yellow and leave the third plain.

3. Place a piece of plastic wrap or tin foil inside a loaf pan and pat down the white dough inside. Place the orange dough on top (pat down firmly) followed by the yellow dough. Remove dough from pan, wrap up in either tin foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least four hours.

4. When you are ready to bake your cookies, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut 1/4th inch slices down the width of the dough. Continue cutting each slice into small triangles.

5. Place triangles on a lined baking sheet (line with parchment paper) and bake for 6-8 minutes until tops are puffy and bottoms are golden.

Yield: 5 dozen tiny cookies

Italian Chickpea Salad Plus the Endorsement of the Week

Don’t have time to make dinner? Too hot outside? All of the above? This recipe will fit both of these scenarios. All you need is a can of beans, some veggies, olives, basil, and some dressing and you are well on your way to supper! And trust me, this takes about 15 minutes to put together!

I play trivia every Tuesday night (don’t ask how my team “Loose Lips” does; while we are usually at the bottom of the leader board, we always have lots of fun) and on these evenings, if I don’t eat in town, I end up eating when I get home close to 9 p.m. And even I don’t want to fix something for dinner that late, so it tends to be an egg, some cereal, or a glass of milk before I head up to bed. A couple of weeks ago, I started to feel this was bad nutrition; I really needed to eat a light dinner. I had in my mind a bean salad with a tangy vinaigrette would be a simple and healthy dish to serve on top of some greens. So before I headed out the door, I created this dish that was ready to eat when I got home!

Leaving it in the fridge for an hour or two to let the flavors marry is perfect, but you can also eat it right away. If you serve later, add the basil right before serving. I’ve made this with sweet onions in place of the shallots, and black olives in place of kalamatas, it’s all good. Whatever you have on hand (or don’t) will work. Add extra cucumber if you don’t have the tomatoes, or vice versa. And if you don’t have basil, fresh oregano would be a lovely alternative. Substitute white beans or another light bean if that’s what you have in the cupboard. And while this salad is vegan and gluten-free, I don’t think adding some tuna packed in olive oil is such a bad idea. Or some crumbled feta or ricotta salata cheese. It will all taste delicious!

Happy Eating!

italian beanItalian Chickpea Salad

I realized after I started working on the ingredients for this salad that it is reminiscent to one I posted last summer, Cucumber and Tomato Salad with Chickpeas, with a few additions and subtractions. Either salad is a quick and nutritious meal, whether it’s for lunch or dinner!

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed, or roughly 2 ½ cups
2 small tomatoes, diced
1 cucumber, peeled, cut horizontally, seeded, and roughly chopped
¼ cup chopped kalamata olives
1-2 TBS finely chopped fresh basil

Dressing

1 tablespoon finely minced shallot
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

In a mixing bowl, add the chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumber, and olives. In a small bowl, whisk the oil, vinegar, mustard, and shallots. Add to the chickpea mixture and toss gently. Add the basil before serving if you’re letting it sit for a couple of hours. Or eat immediately.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Picnic in Provence, a Memoir in Recipes by Elizabeth Bard

provenceIn 2011, it was just dumb luck that I came across Elizabeth Bard’s first food memoir, Lunch in Paris, A Love Story with Recipes, while I was perusing the food memoir section at a bookstore. A story of living in Paris, meeting the man of your dreams, it was a truly fun story and one of the better food memoirs I’ve read. So imagine my delight when I was in the same section of the same bookstore (the Northshire in Manchester, Vermont. It has the BEST food memoir selection I’ve ever seen!) to find that Bard has continued writing and has moved to Provence!

Picnic in Provence, a Memoir in Recipes is a true delight. Now married to Gwendal and in tow with tiny Alexandre, Bard retells the story of finding the small town of Céreste in the heart of Provence, where she and her family move into the home of poet René Charr. Now she’s not a visitor, she is entrenched in day-to-day village life. And what I liked about this is Bard shows us life in another country as well as her vulnerable side; as a new mother, she writes about her questions and fears with her son when it appears he prefers his father to her. The back and forth of should she give up her U.S. citizenship to become a French citizen? (She does.) What it’s like to be an American living in a country where there is a certain “style,” ie. French women don’t get fat. One of my favorite chapters was when her friend, Courtney, visited. A woman who suffered from bulimia and binge-eating, Bard turns to look at her own eating habits and those of France vs. the U. S. “A French diet is a balancing act. If you eat a little extra dessert at dinner, you have a bowl of soup or a plate of steamed vegetables the next day for lunch. I call it the quiet diet. It’s nobody’s business but mine.”

Throughout it all, Bard gives us mouth-watering recipes and food descriptions. “There’s something a little greedy about roasted tomatoes. Slick with olive oil and mellowed with garlic, pulpy like a supermarket romance novel, they are my attempt at pleasure hoarding. I want to be able to peek into the freezer in December and know I can use this spark of sunshine to light up a winter pasta sauce or guarantee a sensational base for braised veal shank or white beans.” (I’ll be doing that this summer.) French cooking isn’t about fancy cooking with sauces, most of it is simple, local, fresh food since you go to the market regularly throughout the week. White Beans with Tomatoes and Herbs, Zucchini Gratin, Lentil and Sausage Stew, Arugula Salad with Chicken, Fresh Figs, and Avocado, Mulled Wine Roasted Plums. (Is your mouth watering yet?)

I won’t spoil the ending for you like the book jacket did for me (grrr), but I have a feeling in the next few years I will find yet another chapter in Bard’s food life on the shelf of a bookstore. If I’m lucky enough.

MVK’s Burrito Bowl

A couple of months ago, I went to a Chipotle for the first time. Am I the last person on earth? While I’d heard about the healthy fast food chain, I’d never been to one; Vermont just barely got its first a few years ago. But on a cold January day, I decided to treat myself to lunch. And while it was delicious, I knew I could make a healthier and less expensive version at home. And I have!

This dish is so easy and healthy that it’s become a staple for Wednesday night dinners. When it’s the middle of the week, I don’t feel like cooking or I get home late and don’t have the time, so this is something you can make with kitchen and fridge staples or with a quick stop at the supermarket on the way home from work.

Before you leave the house in the morning, put a cup or so of frozen corn in a bowl and let it thaw in the fridge. (If you forget this step, just put it in a bowl when you get home, as it thaws pretty quickly.) When you get home that evening, start boiling water in a saucepan to make a batch of rice, preferably brown. While that is cooking, take out a mixing bowl and add to it a can of black beans, the thawed corn, a few halved grape tomatoes, a tablespoon or so of scallions, and if you like heat, chopped jalapeno, and mix. Add a dash of salt, a couple of tablespoons of fresh cilantro, some lime juice to taste, and a little bit of cumin. In a deep dish bowl or plate, add about a half cup of rice, add some of the black bean salad, and top it with avocado, salsa, sour cream, more cilantro and/or scallions, lime juice, or your favorite topping.

You can really make this dish your own. I thought about adding black olives next time or perhaps some shaved cabbage or sliced radishes. Instead of black beans, you can use another kind of bean or shredded chicken, pork, beef, or even fish. If you don’t like rice, you can leave it out or substitute another grain. Instead of cumin, use coriander or another favorite spice.

It was interesting that as I was working on this recipe, this story was printed in the New York Times. So now I know my version has fewer calories and is definitely healthier! (Although I will add, the restaurant can be healthy if you make the right choices!)

mvk burrito bowl

 

MVK’s Burrito Bowl

1 can of black beans
About a cup of grape tomatoes, sliced in half vertically
A couple of tablespoons chopped scallions
1 cup of thawed frozen corn
A dash of salt
One jalapeno pepper, chopped (optional)
Lime juice, to taste
A couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro
A dash or two of cumin powder
Cooked brown rice
Toppings: avocado, cilantro, sour cream, salsa, cilantro

1. In a bowl, add the black beans, tomatoes, corn, scallions, jalapeno pepper (if using), and to taste, salt, cilantro, cumin powder, lime juice, and mix. To a plate or bowl, add a half cup of rice, top with the salad and added condiments.


eggsMVK’s Endorsement of the Week: The Government’s Bad Diet Advice
Bravo, albeit a few decades late, to the U.S. government who finally realizes that low-fat food is not good for you! This article from the New York Times last week focuses on a new study, which is linked in the article. The government has said that cutting fat and cholesterol may have worsened Americans’ health, because by clearing our plates of meat, eggs, and cheese they were replaced with more grains, starchy vegetables, and pasta. The real takeaway is to eat real food, not processed or manufactured.

Chickpea and Vegetable Tagine

While last week I extolled the virtues of extending summer a wee bit, I am now head over heels in love with autumn. The apple orchards are open, squashes are filling the produce departments, and for the first time this season, we turned the heat on to take the chill out of the living room. I’ve discovered something about myself recently; despite loving summer and summer cooking, I truly am a cold-weather cook. Even on a cooler than normal day in August, my thoughts went to roasted chicken, chili, homemade bread, anything to warm the house and soul. So I am thrilled that the season is finally upon us (although not too thrilled about the idea of snow, the dark days, and really cold weather), and that the weather is now perfect for making warm, comforting stews like this one.

I’ve made this recipe twice and both times it was a hit. The first time I substituted grape tomatoes for the Sun Golds and rice instead of quinoa, and it was just as good. The second time I followed it to the letter (served with red quinoa cooked in chicken broth–yum!) and it was delicious. It’s a perfect fall dish, served with a simple green salad, you can rest assured you won’t be adding to your waistline. And it’s quick! Chop everything ahead of time and you just stand and stir. Plus it makes fabulous leftovers!

tagine
Chickpea and Vegetable Tagine
This recipe originally appeared in the July 2014 issue of Cooking Light.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 1/2 cup quinoa and 1 cup zucchini mixture)

1 cup water
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
4 garlic cloves, chopped
3 cups Sun Gold or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 (15-ounce) can unsalted chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring 1 cup water, quinoa, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 13 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.

2. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add onion to pan; sauté 4 minutes. Add cumin, coriander, cinnamon, turmeric, and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add tomatoes; cook 2 minutes or until tomatoes begin to release their liquid. Add chickpeas and zucchini. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook 5 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Serve zucchini mixture with quinoa.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Eating Well on a Budget
Perhaps it is the same everywhere, but I’m finding food, that is, good for you food, more and more expensive in the past few years. This question of how to eat healthy on a tight budget recently was posed on www.thekitchn.com. I am always looking for helpful hints on how to lower my grocery bill. While I’m familiar with most of the suggestions I know, I still found a few new ones that I’ll try! What are your best hints? I like to buy dried beans instead of canned and cook them up, as well as buying spices in bulk so I get as much–or as little–as I want. Plus, they are fresher!

Eat well on a tight budget.

Mid-Winter Chili: Vegan Style

It's amazing how things can change in just a couple of weeks. The birds have come out of hibernation and we've been graced with bright, sunny days! Spring is indeed coming!

It’s amazing how things can change in just a couple of weeks. The birds have come out of hibernation and we’ve been graced with bright, sunny days! Spring is indeed coming!

In an effort to wile way the long winter, signed up for a seven-week online class at Vanderbilt University through Coursera: “Nutrition, Health and Lifestyle: Issues and Insights,” taught by Jamie Pope, MS, RD LDN. Each week has a different focus, and I have been learning even more about nutrition, food labeling, supplements, and more to add to my cooking arsenal. Last week’s focus was on plant-based diets. And in a twist of serendipity, I had made this vegan chili a day or two earlier!

Chili is one of the easiest and quickest meals to make, basically you put everything in a pot and heat it until it is warm and the flavors have mingled. And this recipe is no different. After going to two stores, one of them the co-op, which has most everything vegetarian and vegan, I came up empty-handed on the sausage. So I substituted a bag of Boca meatless ground crumbles, which will change the flavor of the chili (and also adds gluten), but it was still delicious.

This dish is perfect if you have a group of ravenous teens, a potluck, or another large group of people to feed because it makes a mountain! My freezer is full of containers for later lunches and dinners. And for those watching pennies, I figured this cost roughly $10 to make, and at 10-15 servings, give or take, less than $1 per serving!

DSCN4261
Can’t-Believe-It’s-Vegan Chili

This recipe originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Instead of sour cream or cheese topping, go vegan all the way and top with some diced onions, creamy avocado, and/or sweet potato!

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 (12.95-ounce) package vegan sausage, chopped (such as Field Roast Mexican Chipotle)
2 cups chopped tomato
1/2 cup white wine
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried ground sage
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
6 cups Vedge-Style Vegetable Stock or unsalted vegetable stock
3 (15-ounce) cans unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
2 (15-ounce) cans unsalted kidney beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
2 cups chopped kale
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

Preparation
Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and next 3 ingredients (through sausage); sauté 4 minutes. Add tomato and next 5 ingredients (through red pepper). Bring to a boil; cook until liquid is reduced by half (about 1 minute). Stir in stock. Combine 2 cans cannellini beans and 1 can kidney beans in a medium bowl; mash with a potato masher. Add bean mixture and remaining beans to pan. Bring to a simmer; cook 5 minutes. Add kale; cover and simmer 5 minutes. Sprinkle with oregano.

Yield: Serves 10 (serving size: 1 1/2 cups)

Total: 35 Minutes

A Comforting Vegetarian Casserole For a Chilly Night

Thanksgiving morn. Started out chilly and ended up being in the 50s! The kitchen windows were opened to let out some of the heat!

With the Thanksgiving holiday over but Christmas right around the corner, I find now is the time to delve into lighter meals for dinner. I try to make this time in between the holidays to be about healthy, yet comforting meals. Less on the meat, more on the fruits and vegetables. Your waistline will thank you in April!

A couple of months ago I noticed a picture of a dish in a copy of Eating Well magazine that looked very similar to my own Chris’s Chi-Chi Beans with a few additions. I didn’t bother looking at the recipe, I decided to add those extra ingredients and try it! The dish I created was a warm and comforting vegetarian recipe (and gluten-free, too) that will be good on any night. Plus, it made lots of leftovers for lunches!

“Frost” the top of the casserole with the squash!

Chickpeas and Squash Casserole with Quinoa
I like to have a box or two of frozen squash on hand in the winter. Along with being a quick side dish, I find it utterly comforting; it’s much smoother than I can ever get squash I roast. With no additions, it’s just pure squash and it’s delicious!

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, diced
1 can chickpeas, rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup cooked quinoa*
1 package of frozen winter squash, thawed
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium-sized saucepan, warm the olive oil. Sauté the onion, garlic, and carrot until the the carrots are soft and onions soft and translucent. Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, quinoa and stir to combine. Place in a casserole dish and top (or “frost”) with the thawed winter squash. Place in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until you’re ready to serve dinner.

*To cook just one cup of quinoa, add one cup of water to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add ½ cup of quinoa and cook until soft and the water is absorbed.

Cook’s note: When setting some of this aside for my lunch, I thought a dash of cinnamon would be a welcome spice and it was! Just a tiny bit really gave it much more flavor and melded well with the beans and tomatoes.

Thanksgiving Redux

I thought I’d check back with this year’s Thanksgiving recipes. I made four new dishes (including the aforementioned Astor House Rolls), some were repeaters, some not. (For those of you wondering, I chickened (turkeyied? yuck yuck!) out and cooked the stuffing on the side instead in the bird; I didn’t want to take any chances!)

I followed most of my pre-dinner tips, although I skipped making the pie on Wednesday afternoon in favor of seeing “Lincoln” (which was great, by the way). Along the way amongst the many cooking podcasts, websites, and magazines, I also collected a couple more tips to add to my entertaining arsenal!

More tips

• When making pie crust, put the stick of butter in the freezer for a little while and take out your hand grater and grate it like you would cheese or a carrot, thus making small pieces of butter to start making crust! This worked great; I keep butter in the freezer, so my stick took some elbow grease to shave, but it certainly beats chunks of butter that you need to work into the flour. This tip came from Amanda Hesser of Food52.

• Take out the crock pot! With just four burners and an oven, I heard on “America’s Test Kitchen Radio Show” to use your crock pot for whatever needs warming, leaving one more available burner. I decided to do this with mashed potatoes; not wanting to make them at the last minute, I made them the night before with the intention of warming them in the crock pot. I just added a little liquid and they tasted like they were just made!

• Remember the paper towels! Noticing the windows in the November light hadn’t been cleaned in months, I used up most of my paper towel roll and had just a couple of sheets left. Lucky for me, my dad carries them in the car, so we were saved!

Madeira-Sage Turkey Gravy

I thought I was lucky when I snatched a 2012 holiday catalog from Williams-Sonoma. I love perusing and dreaming of all the cookware and they sometimes have recipes interspersed. And this recipe for a dark coffee-colored turkey gravy in a turquoise Dutch oven looked really yummy. Unfortunately, mine wasn’t that dark and the flavor was just ok. But full admission, I made this before the turkey was done, so I didn’t get a lot of pan drippings, probably less than a quarter cup, and it was quite thin. And I found the Madeira was on the strong side. If I make this again, I will definitely follow instructions!

Canal Street’s Cranberry Port Gelée 

If you have a bag of cranberries, some sugar, and ten minutes, then you can make this recipe! This came together quickly, although once you start to serve it, I noticed the “gelée” sort of lost its gel. This was definitely one of the better homemade cranberry sauces I’ve made, with just the right amount of sugar to lose the sourness and bitterness of the cranberries. I used Madeira, since I had it on hand and they said that was a worthy substitute.

Bourbon Pecan Pie

This recipe, from The Essential New York Times Cookbook was the sparkling gem. Frankly, I don’t know if I’ve ever had a bad pecan pie, but this was tops. Just those two tablespoons of bourbon lent just a slight flavor in the rich filling. I’m not sure what happened, but the tart totally collapsed, so my fluted edges sank. It wasn’t particularly pretty, but it was delicious! A definite repeater, but perhaps an ending for a less filling and rich meal!

While delicious, my beautiful fluted crust sank when put in the oven.

 

The Wonders of Miso

When a friend and reader asked me to do a post on miso paste, I happily obliged; miso was on my grocery list and miso soup was on this week’s menu!

Miso paste is used in Asian cooking that is made from rice and/or soy and can be used as the base for soups and dressings. A 13 ounce tub can be on the pricey side, I paid a little more than $6, but I buy a tub one about every two years, so you never have to worry about it going bad. It adds a nice nutty flavor to whatever you are cooking. It is fairly salty, so be sure to taste before adding any additional salt. You can buy it in white or brown rice; I usually buy white or yellow, but this time I bought brown, since the only difference on the label was a lower sodium content.

I used miso in my recipe for Asian Chicken Salad, found here. It adds a really nice flavor to the chicken, pasta, ginger, and scallions.

Another recipe I make with it is salad dressing. Many a summer evening when we’re starving and need to eat NOW, I place some cooked steak or chicken on top of some greens with tomatoes and scallions, and whisk up the dressing to put on top. Mince some garlic and place in a bowl, add about a teaspoon of miso paste, and the juice of a lemon until it is thin. Add freshly grated pepper and taste test to make sure the flavors are all balanced. Serve and eat!

But of course, the most popular way to use miso is to make soup. Here is a recipe given to me by a co-worker years ago. It’s always been my go-to recipe when I’m in the mood for this soup. This recipe is incredibly inexpensive, flexible,  and forgiving; I usually mince my ginger, and frequently leave out the seaweed. You can add other veggies if you want or leave out the veggies and just add onion and tofu. Or leave out the tofu completely and just have veggies. Any way you make it, it’s going to be delicious and warm on a cold December’s day! And this is the last soup recipe, at least for a couple of weeks!

Miso Soup
Place two or three strips of wakame (or other kind of seaweed) in very hot water to soak. Gently simmer 6 cups of water and two tablespoons of tamari (soy sauce can be substituted. Use gluten-free tamari if needed). Add 1 carrot julienned (you can cut baby carrots into fourths), 1 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger, and 1 cup thinly sliced onion. Add diced tofu, if desired. Drain wakame, chop, and add to broth. Gently simmer for 30 minutes.

Using two tablespoons of miso, make a paste with a small portion of the broth. Add the paste to the soup and stir. Continue to simmer gently for a few more moments. Added touches: chopped fresh scallions, roasted sesame seeds just before serving.

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Any of you who have read the page about my favorite cooks know I adore Mark Bittman. So imagine my surprise when I read he was in Vermont on Black Friday! He was in Burlington with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders at the Intervale, a community supported farm. He writes about his experience here. A dream of mine is to cook for Mr. Bittman, so maybe next time he’s in town, he can come south about 30 minutes!

Smothered Broccoli with Peppers, Onions, and Raisins

One of my favorite cookbooks from the last year or two is The Splendid Table’s® How to Eat Supper by Lynn Rosetto Kasper and Sally Swift. From the National Public Radio show of the same name, these are easy dinners, perfect to make on a week night. I think there has been only one or two recipes that weren’t repeaters. (If a cookbook has a lot of dishes I want to repeat, I know it’s really good!)

The other evening after work, we took a late afternoon walk and then home for dinner. I was tired, hungry, and wanted dinner pronto! I had planned to make this dish for dinner, which is found under the “Sides” section of the book. Of course, I took liberties with the recipe. The original recipe serves 6-8 people, I didn’t have 1 ½-2 pounds of broccoli, I had about 2 cups or so. But that’s the beauty of vegetable stir fries, it doesn’t really matter the amount, everything tastes good together! Served over a toasted baguette with some olive oil, most of this didn’t make it to the table; it was so good, I ate my portion standing up!

This is the second time I’ve made this for dinner  and I thought it was yummy, but adding some leftover meat or beans would make an attractive and delicious addition if you wanted a bit more. If you don’t have any rosemary, I think any fresh herb would make it delicious!

Smothered Broccoli with Peppers, Onions, and Raisins
Based on the recipe of the same name in The Splendid Table’s® How to Eat Supper

• 1-3 cups broccoli florets, steamed
• 2 teaspoons, extra virgin olive oil
• 1 medium red pepper, cut into thin strips
• 1 small red onion, sliced thinly
• Roughly  2 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
• 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (Note: Kasper calls for 1/8 teaspoon, I added ½. Let’s just say it should be somewhere in between, ½ was a bit on the SPICY side!)
• ¼ cup raisins (Note: Kasper says golden are preferred, I’ve never used anything other than Thompson and they are delicious)
• 2 Tablespoons pine nuts, toasted (Note: I realized the pine nuts I had in the fridge had an expiration date of November 2010, so I chopped some almonds and walnuts instead, untoasted, and this was a great substitution.)

In a saucepan, steam the broccoli florets until just done. Set aside in a serving bowl and top with salt and freshly ground pepper.

In the same saucepan, add the olive oil and warm until it shimmers. Add the red pepper, onion, rosemary, and red pepper flakes and cook at medium heat until everything starts to get soft. Stir in the raisins and add to the broccoli. Top with the pine nuts or nuts. Can be served at hot or at room temperature, or from the fridge. Serve on top of toasted bread with olive oil, rice, or by itself. Add leftover meat, tofu, or beans if you want a more substantial dish.

Happy Cinco De Mayo!

I don’t know about where you live, but it’s been nothing but rain, rain, rain here all spring in Vermont. April was the rainiest on record ever, and the first week in May hasn’t been any different. It’s eye-popping green outside, but no sunshine to enjoy it. My tulips sadly hang in the garden; I don’t think they dare to bloom for fear of drowning. Although Cinco de Mayo is celebrated on Thursday this year, I got home on Wednesday night, cold and wet. I needed something warm and spicy to shake the chills, so I came up with this.

I already had soaked and cooked a pot of black beans Saturday evening and had kept the beans with their cooking liquid in the fridge, but you can easily make this with canned beans and water. I mashed the beans with a potato masher for a more rustic version, but you leave them intact the dish will be even quicker to make! My version was on the table in just about 30 minutes. If you are vegan, just warm the tortillas and skip the cheese.  Served with a side salad and you’re good to go! Olé!

Black Bean Tostadas
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 small onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 cups black beans
Cooking liquid from beans or water
Dash of oregano
Dash of cumin, coriander, or a mixture (to taste)
Salt and pepper

4 corn tortillas or burrito shells (whichever you prefer)
Cheddar cheese (I like sharp)

Fresh lime juice
Avocado slices
Salsa or sriracha hot chili sauce, if desired

In a skillet, heat olive oil until fragrant. Add garlic, onion, and carrot and sauté until just soft. While that is cooking, preheat oven to 350 degrees, slice or grate cheese, and place atop the tortillas. Pop in the oven when you’re ready and bake until cheese is nicely melted and bubbly, pull out of the oven and set aside.

Add the beans to the skillet and spices to taste.

Version 1: If you’re not going to mash them, stir to heat through and you’re done!

Version 2: Add a bit of water to the beans and stir. For a  more rustic version, like refried beans, take a potato masher and mash the beans. (This is also a great way to get out some of your aggression if you have any at the end of the day!) Eventually the water will get absorbed. Keep adding water until you feel the beans are done, or completed to how you want to eat it. With the still-warm tortillas, top with beans, lime juice, avocado, and sriracha, if desired.*

*My newest find these days is sriracha sauce. It is everything I’ve been looking for in one bottle! It is a hot chili sauce, with garlic, sugar, salt, and vinegar. I love anything spicy, so this brings a little kick to everything. Note, it took me a little while to figure out exactly how much to use, it is potent with a capital “P,” so start out with just a tiny bit and go from there. I made polka dots on my tostadas, so you know how spare you need to be, but it is so good! You can find this in the Asian food section at your grocery store; I find the font very faint, but you can identify it with a rooster on the front of the bottle.