Although I’ve tried a lot of lentil soups, there’s only one that I’m a big fan of. I come back to this recipe time and time again. It’s healthy and delicious, and incredibly simple to make. It also happens to be vegetarian/vegan. It has simple spices (cumin and mustard seeds) and lots and lots of lemon juice. Don’t skimp on it.
I originally got the recipe from 101 Cookbooks years ago. It was tasty, but took a few more steps than I liked. Here’s my simplified version. It’s originally a red lentil soup, but I always use plain brown lentils I find in the grocery store. (That said, the soup in these pictures used red lentils since they were the same price at the store. I also forgot cilantro.) I usually use bottled lemon juice rather than juicing lemons. Often I use frozen spinach (I usually microwave it first) in the soup rather than fresh greens. Since it’s a pureed soup, we always serve it over brown rice. We usually get 4+ generous bowls of soup from this recipe.
To demonstrate how much I like this soup, and how forgiving it is: Once I didn’t have enough lentils, and used chickpeas instead. It reminded me a little of hummus, and it was still tasty. Sometimes I’m out of turmeric, and it turns out okay (although it is better with it). Sometimes I use kale in the soup instead of spinach, and sometimes I forget about leafy greens entirely; the soup still turns out delicious. Sometimes I forget it takes cilantro. Even when I have to make substitutions, I love this soup.
This recipe, Chickpeas with Spinach, has been one of my favorite quick meals to make recently.
Originally an appetizer, I decided it looked substantial enough for a meal. I felt the same way about the version of it I made several years ago, too. That version had more liquid than this, and took more time to make. Smitten Kitchen’s version as well had a few extra steps that I didn’t feel like doing. So I simplified it so it’s a one-pot dish, that involves no cutting (unless you slice your bread), that takes no more than 20 minutes to make from the time you begin to measure your ingredients to the time you place it on the table. This adaptation of Smitten Kitchen’s version omits the bread that you blend into it, uses tomato paste instead of sauce (which the bread used to soak up), and wilts the spinach in the pot at the end instead of cooking it first. (I tried frozen cooked spinach, but it wasn’t as good.) Oh, and this version uses much less olive oil.
The sauce is balanced with a dash of vinegar (I’ve used balsamic instead of red wine vinegar since that’s what I have), and there’s not so much sauce that it turns your toast to mush, which I can’t stand. It has negligible heat from the dash of red pepper, though you could boost that if you wanted to. You could probably omit the smoked paprika in a pinch, and the dish would come out fine. And you’re eating chickpeas and spinach, on toast – very healthy. This likely isn’t as rich as the tapas-version of Chickpeas with Spinach should be, but it’s very satisfying as a meal.
Summer has been very hot in New Jersey this year. I don’t think it’s usually quite this hot, although I don’t know for certain as it’s only our second summer here. When the heat rivals summer in the Midwest, meals for us usually consist of whatever Alex has grilled that day, leftovers from when Alex grilled, pancakes (because I use an electric griddle), or BLTs, which are really cooling if you (perhaps heretically) microwave your bacon and don’t heat up your oven or a frying pan.
This Eggplant and Barley Salad from Smitten Kitchen is really very nice in the summer, once you get past the steps of roasting vegetables. I first made this salad a few years ago, and I really liked it. Alex doesn’t like eggplant, but he enjoys this salad. Roasting the eggplant makes it a little less eggplanty and more delicious. The barley is tender yet chewy, flavored with cumin and coriander. The grain is surprisingly good cold. I usually don’t like salads because dressing is too vinegary or assertive, but this salad is dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic, all of which I like. Tomatoes and roasted zucchini (and olives, if those are your thing) give the dish extra flavor. I love the balanced flavors in this dish.
This is a delicious, flavorful summer salad. It works great as a make-ahead vegetarian/vegan meal and is perfect as leftovers on a lot summer day. We had 4 dinner-sized servings plus some for a toddler, but it would yield more as a side dish.
One-Pan Farro with Tomatoes is one of my favorite new dishes. I’ve made it several times already since I first tried it. It involves minimal prep – maybe about 10 minutes while you cut everything up and heat the pot. It’s easy enough to do with a toddler playing at your feet, or sitting on the counter watching you. It’s ready after 30 minutes of hands-off cooking. It smells amazing by the time it’s done, more amazing than you think anything with this few ingredients can be.
This will serve two and a toddler as a vegetarian meal, or more as a side dish.
The soup itself is lightly spiced. Do not skip the sesame-lemon drizzle! It provides a definite punch of flavor, making the soup anything but boring. The addition of chickpeas also makes this more interesting than your usual blended veggie soup. In some ways, it’s like eating a soup version of hummus. As a meal, this soup is light but filling. It’s also vegetarian and vegan!
I hated cauliflower as a kid. My mom forced me to eat broccoli and I tolerated it, and even grew to like it once I began cooking it as an adult. But I drew the line at cauliflower. I wouldn’t touch the stuff. As an adult, though, I tried it in curries at Indian buffets and realized that it wasn’t bad if treated properly.
So nowadays, I enjoy cauliflower in Indian food, and that’s still about it. I wish I could like the vegetable more, because I know it’s good for me. I just find it difficult to care.
This curry has a short ingredient list and is easy to make. Honestly, the most unusual ingredient to me is the cauliflower! I particularly like that I don’t have to have my ingredients ready before I start cooking. While I saute onions, I can blend the spices with the remaining onion. While the pureed onion cooks, I can chop up the cauliflower. And I can set my timer and go downstairs to bike for a short time while dinner finishes up.
The other day I made a delicious Butternut Squash, Cranberry, and Sorghum Salad. I’d never used sorghum before, but I had to try it when I saw an inexpensive bag of it at a supermarket a few months ago. I decided to try it when I had a squash around that I wanted to use. I cooked the sorghum while I roasted the squash. In addition to the cranberries, the salad also included pecans and pumpkin seeds (which you can toast while you dice squash) and a few bites of dates. The dressing was a touch of olive oil and salt – nothing more. This salad is nice in that you can prepare all your ingredients in advance and assemble it hot or cold.
This was pretty good. I didn’t know what to expect from the sorghum, but it was a very mild, soft grain. The flavors went together well. This was a great place to use a good, fruity olive oil as you can really taste it, since it’s the only dressing on the salad. The cranberries and dates provided lots of sweetness for the salad. You could probably go with cranberries only for simplicity. I enjoyed both the pumpkin seeds and the pecans, but you could also go with one to make the ingredient list shorter. I had more squash and sorghum than the recipe called for, so I tossed it all into the salad after we tried it. It was still tasty with the extra ingredients.
I really enjoyed the simplicity of this dish. It was tasty and easy to make, and I can see myself making it again – perhaps with a squash I already have. I might try barley or another chewy grain in it next time.
I made a fantastic pecan pie last weekend – and it just happened to be vegan. You heard that right – an egg-free and dairy-free pecan pie. It was quite good. Just as sweet and flavorful as the original.
We had Friendsgiving over the weekend, and one of our friends is vegan. She requested that I make a vegan dessert, and while I enjoy simplicity, I don’t always go the easy route. I thought about a fruit pie or cobbler, which is pretty easy to veganize, but if I wondered, what is something that my friend wouldn’t usually be able to have? Pecan pies came to mind. It’s easy to substitute shortening or oil for butter in a recipe, but the eggs that go in pecan pie would be much harder to replace.
I came across this Best Vegan Pecan Pie recipe, and without trying other recipes, I suspect that it might be the very best. It has a half-whole wheat crust and a filling that you boil on the stove briefly, and then bake. Without eggs, what thickens it? Applesauce, cornstarch, and a secret ingredient – saltine crackers.
Now that fall is decidedly here (and winter too, it nearly seems), I can’t put off the urge to bake and make other autumn recipes. I regrettably haven’t had much time to cook within the past couple of months. I decided to take a class on nutrition, and while I’m enjoying learning (and will hopefully be able to apply it to my cooking, in some form or fashion), it sure takes up more time than I thought it would. Add to that a busy few months at work, a regular running schedule, friends’ weddings, concerts, and other fun things, and you can see why I haven’t cooked or written! I hope that I’ll have more time soon, since it’s getting too dark and cold to run in the evenings, and my race is this Sunday.
I made the time this evening to try a recipe I just found yesterday, and I’m glad I did. Sweet Potato and Peanut Stew sounded wholesome and warm, a nice contrast to the cool rainy weather we had today. This recipe is delicious, satisfying, and vegan. It came together easily, and was hands-off while it simmered, meaning I could do other things while it cooked. It was tasty enough that I put off my class reading for a change – I couldn’t wait to share this!
I’ve given up dairy for the past few weeks, cutting all butter and milk from my cooking and my diet. It’s more than just not eating obvious foods like butter and cheese and milk and ice cream, though. Milk is an ingredient in so many things!
I don’t miss much overall. I can pass up most goodies that appear at work – although one hungry day someone brought in donuts, which I eyed them longingly all morning. But in general, I cook enough that I usually have tasty, satisfying food around. It’s still summer in St. Louis, though, so what I do seriously miss is ice cream.
I didn’t feel like bothering to make sorbet, which would be fruity or chocolatey at best. I wanted something more vanilla-y, something more creamy, something with a little more heft than a fruit ice. I knew that I wouldn’t be satisfied with sorbet right now.
While looking for dairy-free or vegan ice cream recipes, I stumbled across this Blueberry Crisp Ice Cream recipe that sounded promising. Blueberry sorbet had been my goal before I’d decided I needed ice cream. I expected the high-fat coconut milk would be a very satisfying replacement for actual heavy cream.