Horchata

My friend Kate had a vegan taco night at her house. There are a number of delicious vegan foods – like salsa or guacamole – that I could have made to take that night. Instead, I decided that it was the perfect time for me to make Horchata.

That’s right – horchata is dairy-free. Really. The beverage is basically a rice-almond milk.

refreshing Horchata
refreshing Horchata

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Curried Lentil-Stuffed Squash

Now that the weather has convinced me that it’s fall, I’ve begun making seasonally-appropriate recipes.

I’m not generally one for dishes that require presentation. I don’t put effort into how my food looks, as long as it looks tasty, and I’m more likely to make rustic-looking food than pretty, decorative food. I thought that Curried Lentil-Stuffed Squash sounded good, though, so I decided to try it, presentation and all.

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Black Bean Soup

My friend Theresa had a favorite recipe for black bean soup to share with me before I left my job last October. In an effort to eat healthily (and inexpensively – beans are cheap!), I decided I would go ahead and try it!

Black Bean Soup

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Lentil Soup with Lemon

I want to like lentils. They’re inexpensive, healthy, and quicker to cook than any beans around because you don’t have to soak them. I don’t use them often in part because I don’t know what to put them in. I’ve made a few lentil soups in the past, and I’ve generally found them to be boring. I’ve only ever made one that I really enjoyed, and that one had a liberal amount of curry powder in it.

But this week, I found another lentil soup I like! I was hopeful about the recipe for Red Lentil Soup with Lemon from the moment I saw it. It sounded healthy and simple to make.

I didn’t realize it when I decided to make the recipe, but it didn’t take broth – just water. I decided to try it with regular brown lentils you find in the grocery store. I simmered them with water, the tablespoon of butter (which I would probably omit next time), tumeric, and about 1.5 teaspoons sea salt. They were done after 20 minutes. Once they were done, I used a hand blender to puree the soup. While the lentils cooked, I sauteed onion with cumin and mustard seeds in olive oil for about 15 minutes. I added the cilantro and stirred the onion mixture into the soup. I added 6 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice to the soup, but I even might add a little more next time.

I sauteed some kale in olive oil to serve with the soup. We had brown rice with it. We got 6 servings from this recipe.

Lentil Soup with Lemon

This was a good soup. It was filling, flavorful, and bright from the lemon. Although the soup has Indian flavors, there’s nothing spicy about this soup. It’s vegetarian (and it doesn’t even need broth!), but you don’t miss meat. I really enjoyed this, and so did Molly and Jen, who we had over for dinner. I’d definitely make this soup again.

Quinoa with Latin Flavors

I found the recipe for Quinoa with Latin Flavors a while ago, and after making it tonight, I’m sad that I waited this long to try it.

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is a South American grain; it’s gluten-free and a great source of protein. I’ve had some in my pantry for a while now (they sell it at Trader Joe’s), but I’ve generally been at a loss of what to do with it. I know that I could cook it just like I would rice or couscous, but honestly, brainstorming side dishes isn’t a strong point of mine.

This quinoa recipe was easy to make. First, you toast a cup of quinoa in a skillet for about 5 minutes. Next, you saute chopped onion in a tiny bit of oil for a few minutes; add garlic and a small can of green chiles, and then add broth and the toasted quinoa. (They call for a 14oz can of chicken broth; I used 14oz water and 1.5 cubes of vegetable bouillon.) Simmer until the quinoa has soaked up all the liquid; the recipe says this will take 20-25 minutes, but mine took less time since I had my gas range turned higher. Remove the quinoa from heat, and toss with lime juice, cilantro, scallions, and roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds). I had plenty of time while the quinoa cooked to chop up the cilantro and scallions. I used squash seeds that I roasted a few days ago in place of pepitas.

Quinoa with Latin Flavors

Alex and I really enjoyed this dish. It was bright from the lime, but not too bright. I enjoyed tasting the cilantro and scallions distinctly as well. The roasted seeds really added a nutty flavor to the dish; however, they were a little stale and chewy after two days so I would (re)toast them if you’ve got fresh seeds you’re using. This dish had green chiles in it, but it wasn’t spicy. You could serve the quinoa with chicken or fish, but we served it with… nothing, since I made a dessert for later.

This recipe was fast, easy to make, and delicious. It’s definitely a keeper. I wouldn’t do anything different except to make sure I toast my pumpkin/squash seeds right before making the dish (or buying some that were already toasted). If you want to experiment with quinoa, I recommend you give this recipe a try.

Stovetop Fideos

At some point before we moved, I finally had the time to read through my backlog of cooking magazines. I made a short list of recipes that I actually had all of the ingredients for, and that would thus be good to make to use up things in my freezer and pantry.

The recipe for Stovetop Fideos was a good contender. I’d never heard of fideos, but it’s a kind of toasted pasta or pasta dish in Spanish or Mexican cuisine. This vegetarian recipe was very easy to make and doesn’t take any special ingredients (unless you wanted to use the cheese that the recipe calls for – I made mine vegan). This recipe was just toasted pasta, cooked in broth with standard supermarket frozen vegetables.

The fideos cooked up quickly. I sauteed plain refined-wheat angel hair pasta (the recipe calls for whole wheat), broken into small pieces in olive oil and transferred it to a plate. Next, I sauteed onion, (thawed) green beans, and garlic for a few minutes, and added thawed corn, a can of tomatoes, and oregano (Mexican since I had it). I added bouillon and the pasta, brought the dish to a boil, and let it simmer for about 10 minutes, perhaps less.

Stovetop Fideos

I enjoyed this recipe more than I expected to. Pasta with vegetables doesn’t sound very exciting, but this was simple and nourishing. It felt healthy, and it felt like comfort food. I enjoyed it as leftovers the next day. I’m not sure if toasting the pasta really added anything to the dish – I may have to try making it without toasting the pasta first to see how that turns out. This was a great way to use up some odds and ends, and was pretty fast and simple to make. I’ll definitely give it another shot.

Meals, meals, and more meals

Although I’m lumping these several recipes together in this post, I didn’t actually make them together. I just realized that I hadn’t blogged about any recipes since last weekend, and I want to get a couple more out there while I’m thinking about it.

I hadn’t planned to let so much time lapse between blog posts. I’ve still been cooking at home – quite a bit, actually – and I’ve made several new recipes. I just haven’t written about them.

Frankly, I know that a lot of the things I made last year weren’t that exciting. Some were variations on other dishes I’d made. Some I made primarily just so that I’d have a source to site on this blog. I’m still looking through blogs and cooking websites and magazines and finding recipes to make – it’s a habit I can’t (and don’t necessarily need to) break. I don’t necessarily feel the need to recommend everything I make, but I do feel like it’s worth having feedback out there on recipes if someone wants to look for it. That said, I’m trying to resist the urge to write about the recipes unless there’s something really worth saying about them.

So, I made 3 recipes this past week (4 weeknights). I made a few recipes the week before that as well. So here’s a dinner round-up!

*****

I made Pork and Wild Rice Soup a little while ago. Since Alex isn’t eating many carbs, this was my own exclusive meal. I cooked my beans for the soup in the crockpot rather than use canned; and I soaked regular brown and wild rice since that’s what I had, and I knew they wouldn’t cook in 15 minutes otherwise. The result of these changes? My beans disintegrated (after they cooked a little too long in an untimed slow cooker), yielding a murky broth instead of the original clear; and I still had to cook the soup longer, by 15-20 minutes or more, to get the rice to be done, even though I’d soaked it.

The flavor of this soup was pretty good, and it went well with chips. The rices really didn’t do much for me, though, and I was suffering from soup burnout after eating (the similarly-themed) Mexican Chicken-Hominy Soup for a few days before making this.

*****

I didn’t realize this until I looked it up just now, but Salisbury steak was actually invented by an American; I always assumed it was British and named after a place, not a person. Now and then when I was growing up, we would have Salisbury steak for dinner. This was always a convenient, frozen entree that would serve the entire family. I don’t remember ever liking this. This makes sense, when you know my tastes. Salisbury steak is basically just seasoned hamburger patties in gravy, and while I like hamburgers just fine, I find gravy to be relatively boring. The texture of the meat in lots of frozen entrees can be a little off, as well, and I also am very picky about texture (a major reason why I don’t eat eggs, even when they’re delicious like in flan).

The December issue of Cooking Light had a Salisbury Steak recipe, and I decided to try it for two reasons. First, it sounded likeable (quick sauce/gravy made with wine; just onion and seasoning in the hamburgers), and second, it didn’t have many carbs so Alex would be able to eat it, especially if I ended up not liking it. This was simple and quick. After cooking the hamburgers and removing from the pan, I sauteed mushrooms and made the quick sauce. I substituted .25 cups water for the same amount of broth since I was using bouillon cubes, but this didn’t hurt the flavor at all.

Salisbury Steak

I should have made the patties smaller and more steak-shaped, but that’s mostly an aesthetic issue. This tasted good. If Salisbury steak had tasted this good when I was a kid, I would have enjoyed it. Of course, the delicious part of this was the gravy. The hamburger itself was fine, but nothing particularly special. I wouldn’t make this often, but it’s nice to know there’s a version of the dish out there that I liked.

*****

Alex may be eating a lot of meat, but I still enjoy my vegetables and having vegetarian meals. I kept the ingredients to make Chickpeas and Spinach with Smoky Paprika on hand. Spinach was the trickiest, but I decided that I would use frozen spinach in place of the fresh. I made a few other substitutions to the recipe in addition, so it may not be the most faithful representation of the original recipe. I did buy fire-roasted tomatoes, which had a nice flavor. I thought that 4 cups of onion was excessive, so I used 2. I used water in place of vegetable broth. I used frozen spinach, and added red wine vinegar instead of sherry vinegar. This recipe was originally called an appetizer, but I thought it sounded like it would make a nice meal. I ate it for 3 meals, each one with a toasted ciabatta roll.

Chickpeas and Spinach with Smoky Paprika

This was pretty good. Since I used frozen spinach, it ended up being more of a chickpea and tomato dish than a chickpea and spinach dish. I’m very glad I used only half of the onions it called for. It did go well with toasted bread, but it was pretty good on its own too. The smoked paprika smelled so good as it went in, and gave the dish a nice flavor; it’s definitely worth spending money on to use in vegetarian dishes. I might make this again sometime.

*****

Tonight I made Sizzled Shrimp for dinner. Yes, it’s another appetizer that I decided to have for dinner. I wanted to make something low-carb, since shrimp is pretty good for Alex’s diet. Otherwise, though, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with the shrimp; I’d originally thought I’d try a healthy shrimp scampi. But, I came across this recipe, and decided I wanted to eat garlic bread with it rather than pasta. Shrimp is really fast to cook. This couldn’t have taken more than 15 minutes. Honestly, I think it only took 7 – the exact amount of time it takes for me to make garlic bread the way I like it in the toaster oven.

Sizzled Shrimp

These were also pretty good. The classic combination of garlic, pepper, lemon, and white wine goes well with many things, and shrimp is definitely among them. I was a little surprised that there was so much liquid with the shrimp – I guess I expected a little more of it to cook off than it did. It would have been good with a single serving of pasta. This was tasty and easy, though, and I might make it again.

*****

I think that pretty much wraps up everything I’ve eaten in the past week or two. Nothing particularly exciting, but I think it was all healthy and relatively tasty!

Mushroom and Barley Risotto

Last night I found myself at a loss. It was a Monday night at home, and I didn’t have any blogging backlog to try to catch up on. I didn’t have any recipes I wanted to look up. I didn’t have anything new to review. It’s nice to have the free time again, but it felt strange to not have something food-related that I wanted to try to tackle.

Now it’s 4 days into the new year, and I finally made my first new recipe. Tonight I made Mushroom and Barley Risotto from Cooking Light for dinner. I cut this recipe in half, so that I could eat half tonight and have another half for lunch later this week.

This was a simple recipe, although barley takes a while to cook. Although it’s called a “risotto,” there was no stirring involved, like with a real risotto. First, you cover porcini mushrooms (which I had leftover from an earlier recipe) with boiling water and soak for 20 minutes. You saute onion, add cremini (baby bella) mushrooms, and add the soaked porcini mushrooms (minus liquid) and garlic. Add barley, then deglaze with a little brandy. Add the soaking liquid, water, and a little chicken broth (although you could easily use vegetable broth), bring to a boil, and simmer covered for 55 minutes. Mine was actually done after 40. Garnish with parsley (and cheese, if you like it).

Mushroom and Barley Risotto

This was okay. The barley was nice and chewy, like barley should be. Overall it was nothing particularly special. Although this was suggested as a meatless meal, I honestly wouldn’t want to eat it without something else accompanying it (like the cubed steak I had for dinner with it tonight). The half recipe yielded a lot of food, though – my lunch leftovers will be very filling.

I wish my first recipe of the new year had been something a little more exciting, but at least it was healthy. You can make this recipe if you’d like, but I think it needs something else to make it a little more exciting.

334: Curried Potatoes and Squash with 335: Indian Chapati

I managed to find a few vegetarian recipes when I came up with the list of recipes to make this month. I thought the recipe for Curried Potatoes and Squash sounded simple yet different, so I picked up the ingredients I needed and planned to make it on the weekend when I’d have the time to cut up butternut squash.

I used oil in this in place of butter. I didn’t have fresh ginger to use in this so I used some dried ginger from my pantry. I used 3 cups (unpeeled) potatoes and 3 cups butternut squash, diced tomatoes rather than whole, bouillon in place of broth, and petite green peas. Although I used chicken bouillon, you could easily use veggie instead. The recipe came together pretty easily, as per the instructions. The most difficult thing I had to do was peel and cut up the butternut squash.

As I cut vegetables, I realized that I’d planned on making or buying some flatbread to go with the curry, since it had suggested having some to soak up the sauce. I didn’t have time to make anything too complicated, but after a few fruitless web searches, I remembered that chapatis were a quick and easy Indian flatbread. I found the recipe for Indian Chapati, which took both white and whole wheat flours and would be done in time to eat dinner.

I started the chapati recipe before I started the potatoes and squash, and I halved the recipe for the chapati since we wouldn’t need many for just me and Alex. The dough was very simple to make. I mixed the flours, salt, olive oil, and water together with a fork, and kneaded in the rest of the flour by hand. I continued to knead it until smooth (just a few minutes of folding the dough between my hands while I walked around the house – it wasn’t a ton of dough). I divided it into 5 pieces, rolled them into little balls, and let them rest during the 20 or 30 minutes it took to cook the rest of the food.

I rolled out the chapati as thinly as I could – about as thin as a tortilla would be. This actually wasn’t that hard to do with the dough. About 10 minutes before the curried potatoes would be done, I pulled out a skillet to cook the chapati. I did a few over medium heat, but I didn’t get quite the look I was wanting. I had better luck when I put my skillet up to medium high. The chapati started to puff up properly then, and I got some browned areas on them. It just took a minute for each chapati once I had the skillet at the right temperature.

Curried Potatoes and Squash with Indian Chapati

This was pretty good. The curried potatoes were a little spicy, but overall they were pretty satisfying. It was a pretty hearty vegetarian meal, and we definitely got 4 servings out of it. The chapati were pretty good too, particularly when used for the curry. I really liked the taste of the ones that had puffed up. You couldn’t really get an easier flatbread recipe.

Overall, this was a pretty good meal. The Indian Chapati were very simple to make on the spur of the moment, so I highly recommend trying them. The Curried Potatoes and Squash was also a simple, quick dish (aside from peeling the squash) worth giving a try.

331: Mushroom Stew with Spaetzle

I must preface this entry with a note that I wasn’t in the best mood when I got home to make this recipe. I’d planned to make Mushroom Stew with Spaetzle, and so that’s what I decided to do, regardless of how I felt.

Now, there are some hints that this isn’t a recipe to make when you’re prone to frustration. You make spaetzle (German egg noodles), and then you make the mushroom stew. Neither of these should be that difficult, but doing both back-to-back is a little time-consuming.

I don’t make pasta very often, and I’ve never made spaetzle. Basically, you mix together flour, salt, milk, and eggs, and let the mixture set for 10 minutes. Then you push the sticky dough through a large-holed colander into a pot of boiling water. You scoop the spaetzle from the water once they float to the top. I didn’t have a colander with 1/4 inch holes, but one of the reviews of the recipe said they pushed the dough through the slats of a broiler pan. That sounded reasonable, and it worked okay, but I found that the spaetzle floated practically as soon as it hit the water. It was pretty messy to do as well. It worked, but I got frustrated while doing it. I just didn’t find the spaetzle appetizing once I cooked them.

The mushroom stew was pretty straightforward to make, although you had to soak dried mushrooms to start. Saute onions and garlic, add various mushrooms, and cook until most moisture has evaporated. Add flour and paprika, then red wine, and then broth and mushroom soaking liquid, and cook about 15 minutes until thickened. Add balsamic vinegar salt and pepper, and parsley, stir in spaetzle, and serve.

Mushroom Stew with Spaetzle

This was okay. I wasn’t in the mood for it once I was done cooking it, so I was unimpressed. Alex liked the chewy spaetzle, and liked that the meal tasted hearty even though it didn’t have any meat in it. He said that he thought it tasted similar to beef stroganoff, except without the beef. He liked it, and went back for seconds. There was probably nothing wrong with this recipe; I was just tired and not in the mood to eat it. It’s probably a solid recipe. Give it a try if you’d like, because Alex liked it.