New Choices, New Blog

There's some breaking news in terms of my blog and my diet. After a lot of back and forth in my own mind, research and reading, and some general soul-searching, I've decided to adopt a vegan diet. This may not come as a huge surprise, as the vast majority of my recipes in this blog have been vegetarian, and many of have been vegan or easily vegan-ized. So, in honor of my decision, I've started a new blog, Runs on Plants. I plan to chronicle the food and fitness aspects of my life, and maybe include some musings on larger news and events related to those topics. And of course, I'll include lots of tasty recipes. I hope you'll continue to read and follow me on my new blog! Happy eating!


Seasonal Soup

As evidenced by my many posts on the topic, i LOVE soup. There is just nothing like curling up with a big steamy bowl of a comforting soup. Even better is when I can use super seasonal ingredients in them. I decided that this fall and winter I will attempt to work my way through every kind of winter squash I can reasonably get my hands on. Butternut squash is a no brainer; I love it, and use it in everything. Tonight, my squash of choice was acorn squash. I got some inspiration for this soup by poking around some various recipe search engines and coming up with something that worked for me. As usual, I served this with a green salad and homemade lemon vinaigrette and some toasted Italian bread. You'll be happy to know this soup recipe is quick, nutritious, and large; be ready with your Pyrex because you will have leftovers!

-olive oil
-salt and pepper
-2 leeks, washed and chopped (don't use the tough outer green parts)
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1 acorn squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped
-5 cups vegetable stock or water
-a bouquet garni* of a few parsley stalks, a few sage leaves, a thyme sprig, a bay leaf, and a few black peppercorns
-1 16 oz. can canellinni beans, drained

-Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat.
-Add leeks and cook for 7-8 minutes, then add garlic and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for another 3-4 minutes.
-Add the squash to the pot, and cook for about 5 minutes.
-Pour the stock or water in the pot over the vegetables. Place the bouquet garni in the liquid and stir.
-Bring the soup to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. Add the drained beans, and continue to cook for another 10 minutes or so, until the squash is fork tender.
-Remove the soup from the heat, and use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Put the soup back on the heat to bring up to temperature, and serve, garnished with chopped parsley.

*A note about the bouquet garni. We've all seen the pictures of the cute little bundle of herbs tied up in twine. There is a shortcut. I use loose leaf tea filters. These are just little porous bags you'd normally steep your tea in, but I've found they are perfect for stuffing with herbs and simmering in soups and sauces. Just take out and throw away (or better yet, compost) the package when you're ready to finish the dish. Way easier than trying to tie up a bunch of herbs so none fall out!


Decadent Dessert, No Guilt

Tonight I made a stir-fry for dinner, but sorry everyone, it will just have to wait until tomorrow. Dessert tonight took center stage and I just can't wait to share it. This is super easy and so delicious, and you will think you are enjoying something so sinful; but you're not! This makes one 16 oz. serving, so multiply as needed.

-1 cup cold almond milk
-1-2 frozen bananas, in chunks (depending on how thick you like your shake)
-1 tbsp chocolate syrup of your choice

-Combine all the ingredients in the blender.
-Blend until smooth. Serve right away.

Sorry about the lack of a photo, I drank this down too quickly to get one. You won't blame me once you try this. Next time you want a sweet, rich treat, give this shake a shot.

Warming Risotto

There's not much I like better on a fall evening than a big bowl of risotto. It's also one of those dishes that I like to make when I feel like being over a warm stove in a cozy kitchen. Unfortunately, I have spoken to any number of people who think of risotto as a "restaurant" dish; it's just not something they make at home. Maybe all the stirring is intimidating, or they have a fear of over or under cooking it. Well, I want to dispel the myth that risotto is a hard dish to make. I would even go so far to say that it's pretty easy!

As you may know, I'm a big fan of the Recipes for Health series in the New York Times. Even if I don't follow the recipes exactly, I can always find some inspiration here. The recipe I made last night, Risotto with Roasted Winter Squash, didn't need any changes (except of course the usual swap for vegetable stock). I opted to use butternut squash, since it's my favorite. The roasting really brings out the natural sweetness of the squash and that really made for a unique risotto. The dish is usually savory through and through, but the sweet squash provided a nice sweet/savory contrast here. So please, try this recipe! I am sure it will be a success. And work from the base here. Get creative with your veggies and herbs and you'll have plenty of tasty options.


Vegetarian's Delight

After a few days of being stuck eating crummy restaurant and take out type food, I felt the need to make a really tasty, healthy dinner. This is one of the few times my meals actually looked like a "normal" meal; the burger, the veggie, and the starch! I made chickpea walnut burgers, served on lettuce leaves and topped with avocado and tahini sauce. On the side I made sauteed brussels sprouts in mustard sauce along with honey roasted sweet potato wedges.

-1 15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed
-1/2 onion, chopped
-4 cloves garlic
-1/4 cup parsley
-1/2 cup breadcrumbs
-1 tbsp cumin
-half a lemon worth of juice
-3/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
-1 egg

-Pulse onion and garlic in the food processor.
-Add chickpeas, parsley, bread crumbs, cumin, and lemon juice and pulse until combined.
-Stir in the egg and the walnuts.
-Form into four patties. At this point it's a good idea to chill the patties for at least 15 minutes so they are easier to work with. If you can chill them for up to an hour, even better.
-In a skillet, add some oil and heat to medium. Cook the burgers until browned on both sides and heated through, about 10-12 minutes total.
-Serve over romaine lettuce leaves and top with whatever you like (I used avocado and tahini sauce).

I had a couple extra patties, so I froze them, and I'm looking forward to heating them up for an easy lunch. I think I will put the patties over a salad this time, and maybe add some more raw veggies and a homemade vinaigrette. These patties can also be eaten more true to burger form; sesame seed bun, tomato slices, and red onions would work.


Red Lentil Soup and Walnut Salad

We are full swing into soup weather. When I grocery shopped last weekend, I included ingredients for a big batch of red lentil soup on my list, and I've been looking forward to it ever since. I first made this recipe last year when I found it in the New York Times. I don't deviate much at all from the original recipe. I make my own curry powder using cumin, coriander, turmeric, paprika, and cinnamon, so I just make enough to total the 6 tsp of spices the recipe calls for. I also swap vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock, and skip the lime juice. Finally, I garnished with fresh parsley and some homemade curried croutons (so good, just sprinkle cubed bread with curry spices, a drizzle of canola oil, and bake at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes).

I usually work in some raw veggies to my meals, especially if the main course isn't heavily vegetable based. I had some walnuts kicking around since I had purchased a big tub of them to make walnut bread last week, so I decided to work them into a fresh salad to jazz it up. The recipe below makes enough for 2, so multiply as needed.

-1 large romaine heart, chopped
-2 stalks celery, sliced
-1 carrot, sliced
-3/4 cup walnut halves or pieces
-2 tbsp brown sugar
-2 tbsp water
-dash cayenne pepper
-2 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
-1 tsp mustard
-1 tsp honey
-2 tbsp red wine vinegar
-3 tbsp walnut oil

-Divide the lettuce, celery, and carrots between two salad bowls.
-Make the candied walnuts. Heat the brown sugar over medium high heat in a saucepan. Once it starts to melt, add the water and stir to make a syrup. Add the walnuts and stir constantly until the walnuts have picked up most of the syrup. Add a dash of cayenne pepper, stir, and remove from the heat. Spread the nuts out on a sheet pan covered in foil, and bake for about 5 minutes (until just fragrant and lightly colored) at 450 degrees. Remove the nuts, let them cool, and then divide them between the salads.
-Make the walnut vinaigrette. Whisk together the parsley, mustard, honey, and vinegar. Drizzle in the walnut oil while whisking and continue to whisk until emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and divide evenly over the salads.


Pantry Staple Pasta, with some Green

As some of you may know, my husband and I are renovating our 100+ year old house. It's rewarding, but it's also time consuming. On top of that, pretty much any extra dollars we have go to the house. Needless to say, now more than ever it is important for us to be able to make quick and inexpensive (and of course, healthy) meals. Pasta is a go to for dinner that fulfills these needs, and I cook it about once a week. But like any main ingredient, it's easy to get in a rut making the same old dishes. Today I decided to make a pasta dish with a sauce I've never tried. I have Epicurious to thank for the recipe inspiration; you can find it here. The great thing about this recipe is that I had every ingredient in my pantry except the spinach.

If you compare the inspiration recipe and my recipe below, you'll see I made just a few tweaks to the recipe since it already sounded really good. I swapped the type of pasta, skipped the onions, and left out the pine nuts (wish I didn't have to, but they are quite pricey). And get this. Somehow I managed to totally forget about the Parmesan cheese. I have a deliciously fragrant block sitting in my fridge, as always, and I just neglected to take it out tonight. I'm sure this dish would have been even better if I'd remembered it!

-1 tbsp flour
-1 tbsp butter
-2 tbsp olive oil
-5 garlic cloves, minced
-1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
-1 tsp crushed red pepper flake
-3/4 cup white wine
-1 1/4 cup vegetable stock
-salt and pepper
-1 bag fresh spinach
-1 jarred roasted red pepper, sliced
-1/2 pound penne, cooked
-freshly grated Parmesan cheese to taste (I forgot it, but you should use it!

-Heat the olive oil and garlic in a saute pan up to medium heat and cook the garlic for 3-4 minutes until fragrant and just starting to brown.
-Add the thyme, crushed red pepper flake, wine, and vegetable stock. Bring to a gentle boil and cook until reduced by about half.
-In the meantime, mash the flour and butter into a paste. Once the liquid in the pan is reduced, whisk in the flour/butter paste. Continue to cook the sauce for another 1-2 minutes until it thickens. Season with salt and pepper.
-Toss the spinach and roasted peppers in the sauce, coating well and cooking until the spinach wilts.
-Toss the cooked pasta with the spinach mixture, coating well. Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, toss again, and serve.

Wondering what to do with that extra white wine? Well of course, you could always drink it. I'm a beer girl myself, but I use wine to cook at least a few times a month so I always end up with a open bottle in the fridge. Wine won't last forever. Instead of letting it go to waste, fill an ice cube tray with the leftover wine and freeze it. My trays give me 1/4 cup of wine with 2 cubes; use a measuring cup to see what yours are. Once the cubes are frozen, put them in a plastic bag in the freezer and you'll never have to run out to the store again when you want to cook with wine.