August 29, 2012
Red Lentils with Fresh Herbs and Yogurt

Good god lentils are delicious.  Quick, easy, and deeply satisfying, I’m not sure why I don’t make them more often.  Something tells me I’m going to be eating a LOT of lentils in the coming weeks.

In a sturdy soup pot, sauté 3/4 of an onion (diced) in a 1-2 tablespoons butter, salting to sweat.  When softened and translucent, add a generous pinch of paprika and cumin, stirring to combine.  Cook for 30-60 seconds longer, until fragrant.  Add 1 1/2 cups lentils (I used red, but any will do) and 3 cups water (or stock of your choice).  Stir to combine and cover with a lid.  Simmer, covered, over low heat for 20-25 minutes, until lentils are tender and water is absorbed.

Once cooked through, add the juice of 1 lemon and season to taste.  Scoop into bowls; garnish with a drizzle of good green olive oil, heaping spoonfuls of Greek yogurt, and fresh herbs (basil, mint, or cilantro are all bright and delicious complements).  Serve immediately.

Simple, hearty, and tasty as can be.  They’ll make you wonder why you aren’t eating more lentils too.

May 22, 2012
Roasted Curried Cauliflower

Cauliflower is one of those vegetables that some people love and other people don’t get.  It’s white.  It’s crunchy.  It’s innocuous on the taste spectrum.  Roasting cauliflower in homemade curry, however, takes it from nothing special to yum-o.

Ingredients:
1 head cauliflower, cleaned and cut into florets
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons madras curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon ground paprika
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
the juice of half a lemon
cilantro, for garnish

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400F.

In a cast iron skillet over medium-low heat, cook the shallots for 2-3 minutes, until translucent.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the curry, cumin, and paprika and mix until it resembles a paste.  Remove from heat and whisk in heavy cream until spices dissolve.  Season with salt.

Add cauliflower and gently toss, coating each floret in curry.  Transfer skillet to the oven and bake for 17-20 minutes, until toasted and tender.  Garnish with a generous squeeze of lemon juice and fresh cilantro.  Serve immediately.

Spicy, flavorful, and a delicious break from the status quo, this curried cauliflower is the perfect antidote to a rainy day.  Serve it alongside juicy chicken or a delicate white fish.  Scrumptious.

Recipe adapted from A Cozy Kitchen.

May 4, 2012
Homemade Refried Beans

Refried beans are something I love.  LOVE.  They aren’t supposed to be all that good for you because, well, they’re fried.  But they’re beans!  Beans are superfood superstars.  How bad can they be?

These refried beans are fast, easy, and nutritious — no deep frying or excess fat to speak of.  Kick the health factor up a notch by soaking and cooking dried beans from scratch (I took the last-minute way out and popped open a can).

In a greased skillet over medium-low heat, combine half an onion (chopped), 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, a generous pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (about 1/4 teaspoon, depending on how spicy you like your beans), and a pinch of sea salt.  Sauté until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes.

Add 2 cups beans (I used kidney beans; pinto or black or other beans would be fine too) and 1/2 cup vegetable stock, stirring to combine.  Cook for another 5 minutes, until beans are heated and flavors have melded.

Remove from heat.  Blend with an immersion blender until smooth, adding an extra splash of vegetable stock if needed (keeping in mind less is more).  Season to taste.

Subtly sweet, spicy, creamy, and deeply satisfying — this is like the whipped version of baked beans.  Pair refried beans with rice and salsa, spoon into tortillas, or enjoy them on their own.  As Pops says, these beans are tasty bueno!

April 27, 2012
Fresh Tomato and Squash Curry

I should call this refrigerator curry.  Essentially the curry version of the refrigerator soups I make so often, this curry was born of produce that screamed “use it or lose it” from the crisper.

First I diced and sautéed half an onion over medium heat in a splash of olive oil.  I seasoned the onion with salt, cumin, and some phenomenal homemade garam masala that was a gift from Marlene.  I allowed the onions and spices to cook together for a good 5-10 minutes, until the onions were thoroughly browned and fragrant.  I then added two large diced tomatoes.  Ordinarily one might use canned tomatoes, but why use canned when you have fresh?  The onion and tomato mixture cooked for another 5 minutes or so, allowing the favors to meld and the sauce to thicken.

I then added one large chopped zucchini and the bulb part of a butternut squash (leftover from the squash fries), cubed.  I added a healthy splash (1/4 cup or so) of vegetable stock and simmered, covered, for 20-25 minutes, until the squash was tender and cooked through.

I topped the curry with a dollop of Greek yogurt and some fresh cilantro.  It was out of this world delicious.  Aromatic, wholesome, and robust without being heavy, this squash curry was perfect for the wet and chilly spring weather we’ve had lately.

April 20, 2012
Power Breakfast

As a vegetarian, you learn to scoff at people who question whether your diet provides sufficient protein.  Beans, eggs, dairy, fish (for those of us that are pescatarians), whole grains, tofu — the list goes on and on.  Sometimes, though, it can be difficult.  I find breakfast the most challenging.

I don’t want to eat eggs more than three times a week, and that includes when I eat eggs for lunch or dinner (which is far more often than I eat them for breakfast).  I have a package of Morningstar veggie sausages that I can nuke as I run out the door, but I rather eat those only on an absolutely necessary basis — they’re processed and greasy and salty and can’t be all that great for you.

A piece of fruit is always my go-to choice for “first” breakfast; something to fire up my metabolism and hold me over for an hour or so.  Late morning is when I have the real deal, typically around 10:30am.  It’s then that I’m really looking for something with protein and fiber and substance.  An egg over-easy with crunchy asparagus is a favorite of mine.  As are green smoothies.  But I tire of smoothies easily, and don’t often want them on consecutive days.

When Greek yogurt entered the mainstream several years ago, it was a game changer.  Since then, I’ve found second breakfast to be a cinch (even in an office setting).  Packed with tons of protein, I pair a couple heaping spoonfuls of Greek yogurt with a squeeze of honey, a handful of oats, and sliced fruit or berries.  A healthy yogurt parfait in a snap.

Today I opted for homemade museli: oats, goji berries, and cacao nibs.  Paired with Greek yogurt the museli made a gorgeous, nutritious breakfast.  Fresh sliced pineapple rounded out the meal.  Delish.

What do you eat for breakfast?  Share your (meat-free) protein and fiber fixes!

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