Asparagus Soup

You can either find humor in stereotypes or not.

For me, it’s a combination of the two.

When I’m driving around Boston and a fellow Asian driver cuts me off or stops short, I become livid, usually exclaiming, “this is why we have this stereotype!” I may have road rage.

Yet when my mother insists that the television remote control be covered in saran wrap, I accept this as totally normal. Surely every household has remote controllers covered in saran wrap, that are wiped off every evening with a paper napkin.

“Your father, he has such greasy hands!”

Surely.

I never get annoyed with my mother when she says, “so cheap!” at the grocery store.  Instead, I nod my head, sometimes adding a few of those oranges she found on sale into my own shopping basket.

When I catch up with my friend J, hearing about the hundredth time his mother surprised him, showing up at his apartment unannounced with two suitcases full of Korean groceries, I can’t help but share when my mother does the same (last time with a pound of green tea and a kitchen sink strainer).

J and I also have this ingrained, core value of trying to never disappoint our mothers.  Growing up we were pushed hard to achieve the most academically.  And now that we’ve graduated college (it’s been a few years actually), our mothers are asking about the next phase of our lives.

“Why aren’t you in grad school?”

“When are you getting married?

“When are you having children?”

Even though J and I are opposite sexes, our inquiries are the same.

For a while, J and I were able to push them to the wayside, but the last time we spoke, he told me he was applying to medical school for 2013.  His mother and aunt recently visited and basically had an “intervention.”

For once I’m glad my mother is an only child.

I’m not ready to answer any of those questions.  I’d rather put my focus elsewhere, in the kitchen.

Hitting up the local produce stand is something I look forward to every weekend.  Johnny D’s is closed on Sundays, so Saturdays are usually the best time to go when looking for last minute deals.  And when I saw bunches of asparagus being sold for 99 cents each, I knew I had a winner.

So cheap!

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Mushroom and Wheatberry Soup with Kale

Some New Year’s resolutions may be to lose weight this year.  Others may want to quit smoking.  And maybe a few would like to spend less money.

I on the other hand, would just like to keep the crew from Hoarders from showing up at my apartment doorstep.

My kitchen cupboards are full, full of pantry staples like flours, dried beans, sugars, canned tomatoes and the like.  Unfortunately, it goes beyond that.

Various dried mushrooms? Shitake, porcini and woodman’s blend (whatever that means…)

Hijiki? Shacking up with arame.  They’re besties.

Dates? Sure, but to get to them you gotta push aside the dried cranberries, raisins, golden raisins, apricots, dried cherries…hold on a sec….where did these cacao nibs come from!?

And with the cupboards being filled to the brim, some items have found “homes” in re-usable grocery bags on the floor.  It just needed to stop.

Soup, was the answer.

The flux of warm, re-circulated, dry air in the lab to a drastically different, wet, cold and sometimes windy Boston side-street, has brought on sniffling noses, stiff joints and knuckles begging to be cracked.  Perhaps it’s a lingering bug, but I’m convinced that the constant change has left my body tired and hungry; hungry for warm bowls filled with hearty ingredients and dunkable broth.

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Vegetable and Pearl Barley Soup

I’ve been living with Roo for over a year now, and I feel like I have enough data to say that he’s probably a serial killer.  Or an alien…but better looking than Powder of course.

*The fact that I mentioned Powder and “data,” should be far enough evidence to prove something’s wrong with him for staying with me.

Anyways…

1) When I discovered a few grey hairs and told him about it, he said, “I bet you’d look hot with salt and pepper hair.”

Who says that?  No one wants a 30 year old female to go gray.

Except for serial killers.

2) He always tells me I’m beautiful when I wake up in the morning, despite my insisting that I more resemble a Kraken.

Let me state, I am not “beautiful” when I wake up.  My face is oily, my hair that I put in a bun to keep myself from choking on it in my sleep is all mussed up and sitting on the top of my head, and I have the. worst. breath.  Hence, Kraken.

3) When I come home from the yoga studio, always after a practice where I sweat with such ferocity that it goes into my eyeballs (probably the worst thing to experience since you go both blind and your eyes itch), he’ll hug me even tighter saying that I “just smell like Lys.”

What does that even mean?!

I’ll tell you, it means he’s trying to memorize my scent so when he’s hunting me in the woods he can track me better.

4) Whether we’re sitting on the couch in private or at a bar amongst friends, he always has to have some part of his body touching mine.  At first I thought it was sweet when we were first dating, but now I know it’s just to make sure that when his head is turned he knows I haven’t fled the scene as he can feel me beside him.

Oh, I’m onto you Roo.  But for now, I’ll make you a pot of vegetable and pearl barley soup on this windy December day, insisting that it was made with love, despite my hand rattling the ladle against the bowl.

Chunks of potatoes and carrots, amongst the tender chew of pearled barley, net in by sweet kale makes this soup fit for winter.  This dish has hints of earthiness from the addition of rosemary, only to be paired with two other favorite herbs of mine: thyme and bay.  Adding a big hunk of bread to your plate will practically leave little else to be desired for supper.

Except for my freedom from a serial killer.

Roo is not really a serial killer or alien but a really good boyfriend despite my being a giant pain in the ass.

Adapted from Orangette

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients

2 – 3 tablespoons of olive oil

1 large onion, diced

Half cup of pearl barley

4 stalks of celery, diced

4 carrots, peeled and diced

4 potatoes (about the size that can fit in the palm of your hand), peeled and cut into one inch cubes

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon of dried thyme

1 teaspoon of dried rosemary

Quarter teaspoon of chili powder

6 cups of low sodium stock (I used homemade)

2 – 3 bay leaves

1 bunch of kale (about a pound), leaves removed from stems and torn into easily edible pieces

Salt and pepper to taste

Equipment

A sharp knife

A vegetable peeler

A very large pot (or a dutch oven)

Add the olive oil to your large pot or dutch oven and place on a burner over medium high heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onion and pearl barley.  Stir the ingredients together, coating them with oil.  When the onions start to soften, and the pearl barley starts to brown, add the celery, carrots and potatoes.  Stir the ingredients together so that they’re well combined.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until they are softened.  Add the garlic, thyme, rosemary, and chili powder, stirring them into the other ingredients till well combined.  Cook them for about about a minute, till well fragrant.  Add the stock slowly, just a little at first, to allow the brown bits to come off the bottom of the pot with a spatula.  Scrape them off the pot’s surface, then continue adding all the stock.  Add the bay leaves and bring the liquid to a boil.

Once at a boil, reduce the heat so that the liquid is at a simmer.  Cover the pot and cook for about fifteen minutes, then add the kale, stirring it into the liquid.  Continue to simmer the ingredients for five more minutes, then check to see if your barley and potatoes are cooked through.  The potatoes should be soft to the touch (be able to poke a fork through easily) and the barley should have a little bit of chew to it.  Season with salt and pepper if desired, then serve.

Quinoa with Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Parsnips, Carrots and Butternut Squash

Did you…

come home to see that the cats had knocked down your Christmas tree?

get your hands covered in wretched, sticky sap after putting the tree back up?

curse under your breath as you were washing off your hands, because you forgot that this also happened last year?

hysterically accuse your cats of hating Christmas while they just stared at you?

then find two green beans in your sneaker the next morning?

Coming home to a disaster in the living room isn’t exactly what I want to deal with before making dinner.

Instead, it makes me want to pour myself a glass of wine; throwing some items onto a baking sheet and into a pot, being just an after thought.

Thankfully this recipe is just that (sans wine).

Most of the work comes from prepping the veg: peeling, cutting, tossing with a bit of olive oil.  Then throwing them onto two baking sheets and roasting them while the quinoa cooks in a pot.  (Or rice cooker. And if you’re lucky, it’ll sing to you when it’s done.)

It’s also very easy for it to look lovely in presentation: quinoa placed on a platter with assorted roasted veg on top; all their caramelized edges facing outward, just asking to be snatched up and popped into hungry mouths.  It’s quite possibly the easiest way to impress guests for a meal that took less than an hour to make.

I love the sweetness from the roasted veg and golden raisins, crunch of the toasted almond slivers, and basically any excuse to eat quinoa.

It’s so good that it almost makes me forget that the cats tried to ruin Christmas.

Serves 4

*This recipe is so simple to add flavors to that you’re craving during the winter months. Feel free to add, for example, a sprig of rosemary to your quinoa as it cooks. Or for example, for added richness, a tablespoon of butter.*

Ingredients

One cup of quinoa, rinsed

Two cups of low sodium stock (I used homemade vegetable) (*if using a rice cooker, fill the bowl to the “1” with stock after adding the quinoa)

2 – 3 tablespoons of mild tasting olive oil (basically enough olive oil to lightly coat the veg before going into the oven)

1 teaspoon of fine sea salt salt

Half a small butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and cut into half inch pieces (the smaller the chop, the faster it’ll cook!)

1 pound of brussels sprouts, halved

1 large parsnip, peeled and chopped into one inch chunks

Two large carrots, peeled and chopped into one inch chunks

One third cup of golden raisins

One third cup of almond slivers, toasted

Salt and pepper to taste

Equipment

A small pot to cook the quinoa with a lid, or a rice cooker (this is what I used)

A sharp knife

A vegetable peeler

(At least) Two cookie sheets

Two large bowls (or one, and after tossing the veg with olive oil clean it out and use it to serve the meal with)

A small pan (to toast the almonds with)

A spatula

A platter/very large plate to serve the dish on

Place your oven racks to the middle upper and middle lower positions in your oven.  Preheat your oven to 400F.

In a small pot add the quinoa and stock.  Place over a burner on medium high heat and bring the liquid to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer the ingredients for about ten to fifteen minutes, covered, or until the curly-q tail (you’ll know it when you see it) is visible.  Remove the pot from heat, fluff the quinoa with a fork and set aside.

If using a rice cooker, add the quinoa and then stock, filling the bowl to the “1 cup” marker.  Cook on “quick cook,” or whatever similar setting you have on your rice cooker.  When the quinoa is cooked, fluff it with a fork and set aside.

In a large bowl add the brussels sprouts, parsnips, carrots and butternut squash.  Add the olive oil and salt.  Toss all the ingredients together (I used my hands) till well coated with the oil and salt.

Throw all the veg onto your cookie sheets and place in the oven on the upper middle and lower middle racks.  Roast for about thirty minutes.  Halfway through roasting turn all the veg over so that they can be browned on both sides, and rotate the cookie sheets, placing them on different racks.  The veg will be done when they’re browned and soft when pierced with a fork/knife.  Remove the veg from the oven and set aside.

In a small pan add the almond slivers and place over a burner on medium heat.  Watching the nuts closely, swirl them around over the heat until they are browned.  Remove from heat.

In another large bowl (or the one you tossed the veg with, cleaned), add the quinoa, roasted veg, raisins and almond slivers.  Toss the ingredients together till combined.  Taste and add salt and pepper if desired.

Scoop out the quinoa onto a platter then place the roasted veg on top.  Serve immediately, being sure to scoop up all sorts of veg and quinoa onto your plate.

Veggie and Dumpling Soup with Oven Roasted Cauliflower

Roo and I live in a part of the city where many college students sublet apartments throughout the school year.  By living in an area heavily populated with undergrads, we have easy access to many locally run restaurants within walking distance.  However, one of the businesses across the street from our apartment is a chain restaurant.  And this particular chain loves to receive deliveries at 4 in the morning, with the semi-truck right parked in the middle of the road, complete with the engine running for the entire time.  The truck is usually there for 30 minutes to an hour, complete with hissing from air being released from the brakes and sometimes if you’re really lucky, a blast of the air horn, to let the employee stashed in the back know that they’ve arrived.

Usually Roo and I can sleep through it, as after living on a busy road for a while, little wakes you up.  But this morning was different, as the truck driver decided to use a cart to move items in and out of the restaurant.  Clickity clack clack clack, is what I woke to at 5 a.m.  As I rolled over to whine to Roo about the noise (because whining is totally appropriate couples’ communication when you’re pre-coffee and the sun isn’t up yet), I found that he wasn’t there.

Where was he?

When I turned the light on in the living room, I found Roo asleep on the couch, and Evil Monkey, obviously caught red-handed in some sort of master plan.

(Seriously, she’s an evil genius.)

I asked him what happened, and apparently I told him in the middle of the night, “stop coughing or get out.”

Wow.

I know what you’re thinking, because I am too: he’s so lucky to have. all. this. (crazy.)

All joking aside, I felt incredibly guilty that I forced Roo into exile, and knew I had to make it up to him.

When I’m sick, all I want is a warm, hearty soup that I can eat while wrapped in a blanket and my feet tucked up under me.  (Spooning a soup bowl is like my hobby when I have a cold. That and using every conceivable paper product in the house to blow my nose.  Really.)  I knew Roo wasn’t a fan of brothy soups, so I decided to do an adaptation of an old favorite of mine: chicken and dumplings.

While Roo and I are now eating plant based meals, I felt that that was no reason to stop eating the comfort foods we had grown up with.  There is always room for adaptation.

Simmering in my dutch oven, were flavors of woodsy thyme, onions, practically melted into the olive oil, with chunks of carrots and a peppering of celery throughout, all enveloped by a rich and creamy soup.  What I especially loved was that the oven roasted cauliflower placed at the bottom of the bowl, gave a slight crunch, from the caramelized bits that had cooked up against the baking sheet, only to end with a smooth and silky taste, coupling perfectly with the soup.

This meal does well as leftovers, as overnight, the flavors truly meld together, and make a lunch all your co-workers will be jealous of.

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients

For the oven roasted vegetables

1 – 2 tablespoons of mild flavored olive oil

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into bite sized florets (*if you don’t like cauliflower – gasp! – you can always roast broccoli)

1 big pinch of fine sea salt

For the soup

3 to 4 tablespoons of mild flavored olive oil

2 medium onions, diced

6 carrots, peeled and chopped

4 ribs of celery, thinly sliced

Half teaspoon of red pepper flake (optional)

1 teaspoon of dried thyme

Quarter teaspoon of tumeric

Five and a half cups of low sodium stock/broth (I used homemade vegetable)

2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast (this adds to the creaminess of the soup)

Half cup of apple cider (apple juice also works if that’s all you have)

2 tablespoons sherry

Half cup of unflavored unsweetened almond milk (or any other non-dairy milk)

Half cup of water

Half cup of all purpose flour

For the dumplings

One and a half cups of all purpose flour

Half cup of cornmeal

1 heaping tablespoon of baking powder

Half teaspoon of fine sea salt

Three quarters of a cup plus 2 tablespoons of unflavored unsweetened almond milk (or any other non-dairy milk)

2 tablespoons of mild flavored olive oil

Equipment

A sharp knife

2 medium sized mixing bowls (can hold about 4 cups), or you can wash out the mixing bowl and use it again

One to two cookie sheets with (optional) parchment paper to line

A large dutch oven or a large pot with lid

A spatula

A blender or immersion blender…you may be able to get out the lumps when mixing the almond milk/water/flour with a whisk/shake a lidded jar

A whisk

A tablespoon (to scoop the dumplings with)

Place the oven racks to the middle and lower position in your oven.  Preheat your oven to 425F.

In your first mixing bowl, add the cauliflower florets, olive oil and big pinch of sea salt.  Toss the ingredients together till the cauliflower is well coated with the olive oil.  Place the cauliflower on one to two (optional, lined with parchment paper) cookie sheets, depending on how much cauliflower you have.  If using only one cookie sheet, place it on the bottom rack.  Otherwise, place both cookie sheets on individual racks in the oven, and roast for 20 to 30 minutes, switching position of the sheets halfway through.  Roast the cauliflower until it is tender and the outside is beautifully browned (it does not have to be browned all over, if leaving it in the oven for too long makes you nervous about burning).

Pour 3 – 4 tablespoons of olive oil into your dutch oven/large pot and place over a burner on medium heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onion.  Cook, stirring occasionally until the onion starts to become translucent.  Add the carrots and celery, and cook, stirring occasionally until the onion has browned.  Add the red pepper flake (if using), thyme and tumeric.  Stir the spices into the ingredients until combined.  Cook until fragrant (about a minute).  Pour in the broth/stock slowly.  Using your spatula, scrape up any brown bits at the bottom of your dutch oven/large pot (this is the good stuff).  Continue to pour in the broth/stock and stirring the ingredients.  Add the nutritional yeast, stir till combined.  Add the apple cider.  Stir till combined.  Add the sherry.  Stir till combined.  Cover the dutch oven/large pot and simmer the ingredients while you make your dumplings.

In your second (or cleaned) mixing bowl, add the all purpose flour, cornmeal, 1 heaping tablespoon of baking powder and half teaspoon of fine sea salt.  Whisk the dry ingredients together.  Add the almond milk and olive oil.  Stir the ingredients together, being careful not to over mix.  The dough should be slightly damp.  If it’s too wet, add a bit more flour.  If it’s too dry, add a little bit more almond milk.  Set aside.

In a blender (or if using, an immersion blender and bowl, whisk and bowl, or jar with lid, maybe?), add the half cup of almond milk, half cup of water and half cup of all purpose flour.  Mix the ingredients together until no longer lumpy.  Add the almond milk, water, flour mixture to the dutch oven/large pot.  Stir till combined.

With a clean tablespoon, spoon out the dumpling dough and drop it onto the soup.  Continue adding dollops of dough into the soup until you run out.  Partially cover the dutch oven/large pot and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Check the seasonings and add salt if needed.  Let the soup sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

Butternut Squash Pasta with Braised Kale

I’ve had two butternut squashes taking up shelf space in my kitchen for the past couple of days.  Thoughts of throwing them into another soup and maybe even a cake crossed my mind, as every time I went to make a cup of coffee, there they were.

One of my favorite after work dinners as of late has been pumpkin pasta, and when I made it again on Tuesday, I asked myself, why not a pasta dish with butternut squash?  They were both from the same vegetable family, and have a lovely mellow flavor with a hint of sweetness.  The pasta dish was also a way to use a winter squash variety as a main component, something that Roo insisted he disliked.  But the sneakiness paid off, and like a kleptomaniac, I was absolutely addicted to the idea of getting away with it.

Yes, he is so lucky to have all. of. this. (crazy.)

There are many ways to prep butternut squash, but I prefer roasting, as I can allow it to cook while I work on the rest of the meal.  Roasting also brings out a great flavor in the squash, as the sugars in it naturally caramelize at high temperatures.  Of course, Roo’s main complaint about squash is that it is too sweet, in a dish he believes should be savory.  While I knew roasting the butternut squash would bring out its natural sugars, balancing it out with something bright and acidic, like freshly squeezed lemon juice, was a just another trick I had up my sleeve.  I could not wait to plate up my little brainstorm for Roo and just smile, (for the sake of the relationship, never say I told you so.  Smiling though, totes acceptable.) eagerly waiting for him to tell me it was delicious.

As I’ve said in the past, I love the element of greens swirled in with a creamy pasta dish.  Braised kale isn’t the end all, as you could easily add roasted broccoli or even cauliflower to this and make it just as delicious.  The kale however, works quite well, as the liquid you cook it in can be used to thin the pasta sauce if needed.  However, if you are using a sturdy pasta like penne, then thinning out the sauce may not be necessary (I used spaghetti as that’s all I had).  Also, you may just like thick sauce!  As always, cooking is something I love that people can use as an expression of themselves.  All of our tastes are different, and it’s up to you to use your own senses of smell, taste and sight, to decide what you’d like the final meal to be like.

Pasta Sauce Adapted from Oh She Glows

 

Braised Kale Adapted, a little, from My Recipe

Ingredients

For the squash

One small butternut squash, peeled and chopped (about 3 cups uncooked)

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 pinch of fine sea salt

For the kale and sauce

2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil

2 medium onions, diced

8 cloves of garlic, minced

2 teaspoons of red pepper flake (this is a bit of heat to be shared for both the kale and butternut squash pasta sauce, so if you’re sensitive to spice, start off slowly, with half a teaspoon)

For the sauce

Three quarters of a cup of cashews

1 cup of unsweetened unflavored almond milk (and extra if you’d prefer to thin out your sauce with this)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 teaspoons coarse sea salt

4 – 6 tablespoons of Nutritional Yeast

Half teaspoon of dijon mustard

Half teaspoon of dried Italian seasoning

Quarter teaspoon of ground tumeric (optional)

Pepper to taste

1 bunch of kale, leaves pulled off from stems and torn into easily edible pieces  (make sure to wash it well!)

One and a half to 2 cups of low sodium broth (I used homemade vegetable)

One box (about 12 ounces) of pasta (I would recommend something like a penne, something substantial to stand up to the thick sauce, ie not spaghetti…don’t make my mistake!)

Reserved liquid from braised kale

Equipment

A medium sized mixing bowl (can hold about 4 cups)

A cookie sheet (line with parchment paper if you hate cleaning dishes)

A large saute pan

A spatula

A sharp knife

A food processor

A big pot

A colander

Place the oven rack to the middle position in your oven.  Preheat the oven to 400F.

In a medium mixing bowl, add the chopped squash, olive oil and salt.  Toss (I used my hands) until the ingredients are well combined.  Place the tossed butternut squash onto your (lined) cookie sheet, and roast in the oven for about 30 to 40 minutes, depending on how hot/temperamental your oven is.  Check on it halfway though, flipping the squash to ensure both sides get browned.

Pour the olive oil into your large saute pan.  Place the pan on a burner over medium heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onion, and stir into the olive oil so that all of it is well coated.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned.

While your onions are cooking, throw your part of your pasta sauce together.  In a food processor, add the cashews and process until the nuts become a fine crumb (like corn meal).  Add the almond milk, lemon, salt, nutritional yeast, mustard, italian seasonings, tumeric (if using), and pepper to taste.  Process the ingredients till smooth.  Set aside (in the food processor).

When the onions are lightly browned (oh no, did you forget the about the onions?), add the garlic and red pepper flake.  Stir until well combined.  Cook, stirring occasionally for about another two (until the garlic becomes lightly browned) to four minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and add half of the caramelized onions, garlic and red pepper flake to the pasta sauce in the food processor.  Set the pan back on the burner, and give the pasta one or two pulses to mix the ingredients back together.

Now it’s time to add the kale and “let the magic happen” (I love the sound kale makes in a sizzling hot pan).  Add the kale in batches (ie only adding enough kale to form a single layer in the pan), tossing it around in the ingredients, covering it in the oil, onion, garlic goodness.  When all the kale has been incorporated (and wilted), add the broth.  The liquid should reach halfway up your greens.  Again, toss the kale in the pan so that it’s been splashed around by all that goodness in there.

When it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to very low to keep the liquid at a simmer.  Cook the kale until it’s no longer bitter and tender.  The broth will be reduced to more than half.  When the kale is done, remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

Cook the pasta according to the box’s directions.  During this time your squash should be ready.

Add the squash to your food processor and process until the sauce is smooth.  Taste.  Does it need more salt?  Pepper?  Adjust the seasonings to your liking.

This. Sauce. Will. Thicken.

So don’t fret dear reader, if it’s not super thick for you yet, just wait.  It’s going to happen.

When the pasta is ready, remove it from heat, drain and rinse with cold water.

No seriously, do this or else your sauce will break when you add the hot pasta to this.

Add the pasta back to the pot.  Add the sauce and kale to the pasta.  Mix.  Is your pasta sauce too thick?  Add either the liquid from the braised kale or almond milk to it.  Taste.  Do you need more seasonings?  Adjust accordingly.

If the pasta is too cold, you can warm it up in its pot on a burner over very low heat.

Potatoes, Beans and Cabbage, Oh My!

It’s getting colder here in Boston.

So cold, that I’m starting to chase after the cats in the apartment, scooping them up and insisting that they fall asleep on me on the couch, because it’s much cheaper than turning the heat on.

Found you!

What, you don’t want to move?  Please?

Yesssssss.

As the days grow shorter and with the cold starting to creep in through our poorly insulated windows, Roo has been requesting one of his favorites a lot lately: potatoes.

“Can we have potatoes tonight?”  “You know what I love?  Those oven roasted potatoes you make.”  “Did we get potatoes in our CSA this week?”

While I can’t in good conscience make Roo a plate of oven roasted potatoes for dinner, I did find a dish that seems equally as hearty as one, and packed with flavor.

It also resulted in my first time cooking with nutritional yeast, a staple in vegan cooking (and source of vitamin B12).  “Nooch” brings a cheesy flavor to whatever dish you add it to.

I didn’t go overboard with it this first time, as the main flavors of caramelized onion, aromatic garlic and warm red pepper flake still shine through, but I like that it brought everything together.  I also love that the potatoes still seem oven roasted, as they’re cooked in the pan with a bit of olive oil, and that some of the caramelized onion grab onto them, knowing that by being BFFs, it would mean something.  Lastly, the beans and cabbage, for those who are a little afraid (as Roo was), I can only say, they. are. essential. The cabbage, while softened a bit in the pan, keeps a lovely texture and remains a bit sweet, perfect when wound around a bean or too.

Adapted from Super Natural Every Day

Serves 4

Ingredients

3 tablespoons of olive oil

2 potatoes, peeled and diced

1 Big pinch of salt

1 onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon of red pepper flake (if you’re sensitive to spicy food, start with a quarter teaspoon and go up from there)

1 (15 ounce) can of white beans, drained, rinsed very well and drained again (I used a combination of chick peas and black beans as that’s all I had. I bet this would be even better with cannellini beans)

3 cups cabbage, practically shredded (I used purple as that’s what I received from my CSA this week)

1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast (I used 1, but if you love the “Nooch,” go for whatever you want) *optional, as it’s not really a pantry staple for most*

Equipment

A very sharp knife

A large saute pan

A spatula

Pour the olive oil into your saute pan and place over a burner on medium high heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the diced potatoes and a big pinch of salt.  Stirring occasionally, cook the potatoes about eight to ten minutes, until they start to brown.

Add the diced onions.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to brown, about seven minutes.

Add the red pepper flake and minced garlic.  Stir until fragrant, about thirty seconds.

Add the beans and stir into the ingredients until well combined.  Let the beans settle in a single layer in the pan, allowing them to brown a bit before moving again.  After they brown a bit, stir the ingredients again, allowing them to brown on the other side (you want crispy beans).

Add the cabbage after the beans have browned on both sides.  Stir the cabbage into the ingredients until well combined.

Add the nutritional yeast, if using.  Stir until well combined with the ingredients.

Allow all ingredients to cook for another minute, or until the cabbage becomes a bit soft.

Serve warm.

30 Minute Marinara Sauce: For The Busy College Student and The Tired-After-Work-Cook In Us All

There are some days when I come home from work, absolutely exhausted from the lab politics of “my grant is bigger than yours,” and “what do you mean you don’t have x when clearly you only have y?”, I don’t want to go from stepping off the bus, straight into the kitchen.  While it takes me on average of an hour to cook from pan to plate, most of America doesn’t have this luxury.  The majority of my friends are now are married, with children who require constant supervision no less, and they cannot just leave them to have some “alone time” in the kitchen.

I’ve also noticed that the yoga studio is more popular than ever with college students.  No longer are they flocking to the gym to the once over-popular spin class, but are now rolling out their mat next to me, as they too probably love the “everyone can do yoga” mantra, that got me there in the first place.  These same students I know, also don’t have the time after a full day of classes to spend an hour cooking dinner.  Exhausted, and just wanting to refuel their tired body and minds, they often turn to take-out.  I did.

This afternoon I came home, mind absolutely full from what our PI (head of the lab) told us in our weekly meeting, and just wanted some good ol’ comfort food.  Warm, hearty, and to make me feel that I really was home, bringing my mind back to the “family” that I love and out of the lab.

Plans of making a soup were out, as that would take an hour to make.  But I have been toying with the idea of making a 30 minute meal (please don’t sue me Rachael Ray for using your probably trademarked phrase) for a while now and figured the best place to start was a marinara sauce.

It all starts with a good base.  The elements of sweet, almost jammy, caramelized onions, garlic, and a bit of heat from red pepper flake, compliment the loads of roughly chopped baby bella mushrooms that are thrown in.  There’s just something magical about onions, mushrooms and garlic.  When they hit a hot pan, the rich, earthy and sweet aromas fill our entire apartment, and often cause Roo to get off the couch and into the kitchen to ask, “what are we having?”

But there is a secret.  Butter (like Earth Balance).

One to two tablespoons of it adds a creaminess that brings everything all together.  You’re not going to need cheese, and you may not even need real pasta (we love roasted spaghetti squash with this).  It’s all about the sauce.  And I hope you’ll feel that way too.

Serves Four People, With Leftovers

Ingredients

Two to three tablespoons of olive oil

Two to three medium onions, diced (it seems like a lot, but it really makes the sauce)

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon of red pepper flake (this gives substantial heat, if you just want a little bit, start with a quarter, and go up from there)

1 box (about 12 oz) of baby bella mushrooms, roughly chopped, stems removed (I find their stems super woody, so I remove them)

1 large green pepper, diced

One jar of good marinara sauce (I use Newman’s Organic basil marinara sauce)

One to two tablespoons of butter (like Earth Balance)

Salt and pepper to taste

Equipment

A very large saute pan (with tall sides) or a pot

A sharp knife

A spatula

Add the olive oil to your large saute pan.  Place on a burner over medium heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the diced onions.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions become lightly browned.  Add the garlic and the red pepper flake.  Cook, stirring frequently, keeping an eye on the pan so that the garlic and red pepper flake do not burn.  When the onions become browned (versus lightly), add the mushrooms (this is around the ten minute marker from start).  It’s going to look like a lot of mushrooms, and you may question my sanity as to how many I made you put in there, but like the onions, they’ll cook down.  Add about a pinch of salt.  Stir the ingredients till evenly distributed in the pan.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until they have cooked down and are tender (about seven minutes).  At this point it’ll be around 18 minutes into cooking.  Add the green peppers.  Stir till combined, getting all that hot oil/onion/mushroom flavor over the peppers.  Cook for about a minute.  Add the sauce, and you’ll probably be 20 minutes in.  Stir till combined.  Add the butter (like Earth balance).  Stir till combined.  Reduce the heat to very very low, so that the sauce is simmering (or burping, in my case, as I had a very veg-dense sauce).  Cook for about eight minutes.  Taste and season with more salt and pepper if necessary.  Simmer for another two minutes.  Taste, and you should be done.

Time: 30 minutes, you can do it!

Pumpkin Pasta, Two Ways

Sometimes girlfriends have to be a little sneaky.

I’m not saying, “be a ho-ho behind his back,” kind of sneaky, but when it comes to boys and their “dislikes” of certain foods, I’m convinced that they don’t like it “just ‘cuz.”

First, there was cauliflower.  It was amongst the many on a list of veg that Roo told me about that he disliked.  He said it smelled like something Evil Monkey would leave for us under our bed.  While I can’t fault him (I am not a fan of it steamed either), after slicing it thinly, tossing it with olive oil and salt and pepper, then roasting it in the oven, he couldn’t help himself.  Caramelized bottoms, silky and creamy insides, the boy didn’t stand a chance.

There were also peas.  Peas that he insisted he absolutely hated because of the consistency, taste, and just the plain old look of them.  “Why should I put something in my mouth that looks like that?”  But after two distributions of peas from our CSA, I knew it was a sign to get Roo to like peas.  Pea pesto was the answer.  A good quality olive oil, garlic, and farm fresh peas whirred all together in a food processor, made the perfect accompaniment to shelled pasta.

But then there was squash.  I unfortunately had a giant swing-and-miss with it this month.

While the oven roasted acorn and butternut squash soup was probably one of my most favorite recipes I’ve made during VeganMoFo, it tasted, well, like squash.  It captured the squash in it’s best state: roasted, salted and folded with herbs.

He hated it.

Thankfully all my other squash-loving friends gladly took on the leftovers, but I was left feeling burned.  I had been dethroned as the ‘Queen of Sneak.’

I was sad that I didn’t get to see Roo, in typical fashion, nod his head and say, “Babe, this is really good,” while I would just smile and say nothing.  (For the sake of your relationship, say nothing.  Always.  Sitting across from them at the kitchen table while you have, “the church giggles,” though, totes acceptable.)  After two bites of the soup, he said “I’m sorry, I just can’t,” and proceeded to pile on the oven roasted cauliflower and broccoli I had made as a back-up, onto his plate.

So. Sad.

But, tonight, I’ve reclaimed my throne.  This pasta recipe can be tweaked so that it tastes like it’s been folded into a rich, creamy “cheese” sauce, or that it’s been taken straight out of a harvest festival, full of hay rides, auburn leaves, and crisp air.  All it takes is editing the amount of pumpkin puree.

The caramelized onions add a lovely luscious component (um hello, when do they not?), that completes this dish.  They’re sweet (but not “squash sweet” as Roo would say), almost jammy, and just bring so much flavor to the sauce.  I love that the pasta gets folded into something so incredibly smooth and not over-the-top rich.  And once it’s eaten with a side of braised kale, you’ll wonder why families don’t have the two together for dinner more often.  If there’s anything you need for a frosty night, but aren’t willing to acknowledge that winter is on it’s way (seriously, who wants to do that?), then this is what you need.

Adapted from Simply Stardust

Serves 4 Generously, With Leftovers

Ingredients

2 tablespoons of mild tasting olive oil

2 tablespoons of butter (like Earth Balance)

2 tablespoons of all purpose flour

1 cup of almond milk (or other unflavored, unsweetened non-dairy milk)

1 large onion, diced

6 (for more of a cheese-sauce quality) to 12 (for utter pumpkin mania) heaping spoonfuls (tablespoons) of pumpkin puree

Eighth of a teaspoon of nutmeg

13.25 ounces (a box, like Barilla) of your favorite pasta (in our case, it’s whole wheat penne)

Salt and pepper to taste

Equipment

2 medium saute pans (or use one, put the caramelized onions into a small bowl to set aside, and clean out the saute pan to use for a second round)

A spatula

A sharp knife

A large pot

Fill your large pot with water and cook the pasta per the directions on the box.  When the pasta is al dente/to the texture that you like, drain the water and place the pasta back in the pot.  Set aside.

Add your olive oil to your saute pan.  Place the pan on a burner over medium heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onions.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are deeply browned (this takes about seven to ten minutes, depending on how hot your burner is).  Set aside.

In another saute pan, add the butter (like Earth Balance) and place over a burner on medium heat.  When the butter has melted, add the flour, and stir till the ingredients are combined.  Slowly add in the almond milk and stir in until there aren’t any lumps left in the pan.  Add the pumpkin puree.  Again, six heaping spoonfuls gives you a lovely, rich, “cheesy” quality.  More than that will yield and obvious “pumpkin sauce.”  As long as you’re not dating Roo, you should be ok to decide how far you want to go with pumpkin.  Stir in the pumpkin puree until the ingredients are combined.  The sauce will thicken as it continues to cook.  I tend to be satisfied with its consistency as soon as I get the pumpkin puree stirred in.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Add the nutmeg and the caramelized onions (including the oil that they were cooked in).  Stir until the ingredients are combined.  At first it’ll look like an oily mess, but keep going, it’ll come together.

Add the pumpkin sauce to the pasta in the pot.  Stir till every bit of pasta is coated with the deliciousness.  I mean, sauce.  Serve immediately.

These make excellent leftovers, and Roo and I love eating it with a side of braised kale.  There’s just something magical about mixing greens and “cheesy” pasta.

Apple Topped Pancakes

With there being 31 days in October, today marks the halfway point for LLN in VeganMoFo!

I’m happy to say that I haven’t been very tempted this month to stray from the plant based diet that Roo and I decided to do.  However, it never felt like we were really alone in this, as The VeganMoFo community is incredibly informative and supportive.  There are so many people who are eating plant based meals for the same reasons Roo and I are.  Also, I came to learn that the authors of some of the most popular vegan blogs, are actually more accessible than others (omnivore) that I have read. @Mama_Pea and @IsaChandra of Peas and Thank You and Post Punk Kitchen, have always replied back to my questions on Twitter, and get this, were nice about it.  While I’ve received replies back from authors of other types of blogs, the majority, have been from the vegans, who responded, every time.

I can honestly say that I can only hope my blog can become even half as popular as theirs.  But it should be noted that their work ethic of always getting back to the people who visit their blogs, is something to be admired, blog stats aside.

On that note, this morning I saw that @IsaChandra tweeted her Apple Pie Pancake recipe.  I had just rolled out of bed, fed the cats (because they wouldn’t let me get onto my laptop without a proper “exchange”)

and in a pre-coffee haze, started to scroll through my emails and twitter account.

“Apple pie for breakfast?” I asked Roo.

“When have I not wanted pie for breakfast?” he replied.

It was true, how could I not make it.

Unfortunately when I went through my cupboards I realized that I didn’t have everything.  Not to be one to endanger the shoppers of Market Basket with my pre-coffee state, I hoped that I could get away with adapting the recipe a bit.  While I was nervous, as pancakes, in my opinion, are a hybrid of baking and cooking, with baking being oh-so-finicky in adjustments, and cooking, the forgiving, almost begging to be done on the fly, I figured if that they didn’t work out, Roo could defrost the sweet potato spice cake I had squirreled away in the freezer.

People, let this be the reason to do your breakfast making pre-coffee.  It worked.  And it was awesome.

The apple topping wasn’t oh-so-sweet that you felt like you needed an insulin shot after (which I has been a common complaint from my friends who still worship the Ihop every weekend…why???).  There were even hints of citrus, as the apples were able to cook down into the apple juice, simmering, stewing, creating an incredibly lush, soft, warm, reduction-like topping.

The pancakes were slightly nutty from the ground flax seed, and full of spice, as I piled on the cinnamon, nutmeg and spice into the flour-mix.  I also loved that in Isa’s original recipe, she mixes the apple cider vinegar into the almond milk, which creates a pseudo-buttermilk, if you will.  This added to the lightness of the pancake, which I just loved.

If you’re looking for a great breakfast to properly introduce you to fall, this is it.  Grab your apples and start peeling!

Adapted from Post Punk Kitchen

Makes 6 pancakes

Ingredients

For the Apple Topping

2 apples, peeled and diced into easily edible pieces

Half teaspoon ground cinnamon

Half cup of apple juice

Half tablespoon of cornstarch

For the pancakes

Half cup unsweetened almond milk (or other unsweetened non dairy milk)

1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds

Three quarters of a cup of white whole wheat flour (or all purpose flour if that’s what you have)

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Half teaspoon of ground ginger

One eighth of a teaspoon of ground nutmeg

Quarter teaspoon of fine sea salt (I use Diamond)

1 tablespoon of mild tasting olive oil

One third of a cup of apple juice

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 tablespoon of maple syrup

Grease for your pancake pan (I like 1 tablespoon of olive with 1 teaspoon of butter, like Earth Balance, melted and then swished around to coat the pan)

Equipment

One medium mixing bowl

A 1 to 2 cup measuring cup (Like a pyrex with a spout that can sit on the counter and hang out)

A whisk

A spatula

A Quarter cup measuring cup, cleaned and saved for batter pouring

A sharp knife

A medium pot (about 3 quarts)

A large saute pan

A cookie sheet, warmed in a 250F oven to keep your pancakes warm

Place a cookie sheet onto an oven rack, in the middle position of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 250F, to keep your pancakes warm.

Now start with your topping, as while it cooks, you can prep the pancakes.

In a medium pot, add the apples, cinnamon, apple juice,and cornstarch.  Mix till combined with a spatula.  Place on a burned over medium heat.  Bring the ingredients to a boil, then lower the heat down to a simmer and cook for about 20 more minutes.  Basically by the time you’re done with the pancakes, the apples should also be fork tender.  Remove from heat and serve generously over pancakes.

While your apples cook down, pour the almond milk, apple cider vinegar and ground flax seeds into your measuring cup.  Stir ingredients together till combined.  Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, add the flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon and nutmeg, and salt.  Whisk the ingredients together till combined.  Scoop out a little well in the center of the dry ingredients, and add the milk mixture, olive oil, apple juice, vanilla extract and maple syrup.  Stir till just combined (a couple lumps are ok).  It’s going to look like a mess at first, but it’ll come together.  Set aside.

Add your preferred grease to your pancake pan (some people are devout to oil, some think if you don’t use butter (like Earth Balance), you’re insane, and some, like me, use both, because they love both).  Place the pan on a burner over medium.  When the grease starts to shimmer, use your quarter cup measuring cup to scoop out the batter, and pour it into the pan.  My pan can fit 3 pancakes at a time, so this is what I work with.

When the pancake starts to bubble (and you can peek to see how brown the side faced down in the grease is with a spatula, I won’t tell anyone) and the sides start to set, flip your pancake.  This takes about 2 to 3 minutes.  Cook the second side for about 2 to 3 minutes more, depending on how crazy-hot (yes, I said it) your burner is.  I always peek at the side face down on the pan, so I can control how brown the pancakes get.  There is no shame in this.  Seriously.  When the pancakes are done, set aside on your cookie sheet in the oven, to keep warm.

Repeat the above process until you run out of batter.

When ready to eat, serve with the apple topping.