Quinoa and Black Bean Stew

So I said this week that I was going to experiment with some new recipes since Mr. Little Sis was home. What I should have said was that I might even make him cook some of them. Wasn’t that nice of me? Hey sweetie, can you cook dinner while the kids and I are at violin? Great, here’s the recipe. We should have everything for it… Yeah, it was inspired. Good thing he’s a good sport.

So while I listened to Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star played in about 5 rhythmic variations on a violin and viola, Mr. Little Sis dug in and did his best in a kitchen that is organized to someone else’s liking. I have to confess that it strikes me as unclear who got the short end of that stick. With a few texts about “we don’t have…” answered by “just use this with a little of that,”  Mr. Little Sis was off to the races.

The time estimate on this fantastic Quinoa and Black Bean Stew from Vegetarian Times is “under 30 minutes.” I think the estimate was pretty close given the aforementioned substitution advice via text and the “where does she keep the…” problem. The procedure was easy and the ingredients were not outlandish. We didn’t have fire roasted tomatoes so subbed out regular diced and added some smoked paprika. I admit that was genius, and it added just the right flavor. All of those fundamental flavors bubbling away with a smoky edge… coming home to this stuff already cooking was a heavenly moment for sure.

The stew is flavorful and interesting, even with a little less chili powder than called for (a concession to the children). The avocados added just the right amount of fat. And yes, you want the lime. It was so great little man requested leftovers in his lunch and ate every last piece of quinoa. As for Ms. Picky Pants? Well, you can’t win them all; she predictably did not care for the stew and that’s really all I can say about that. 75% approval around the table is an A- in this house, or at least a really strong B+. Given how much I personally enjoyed it and how I mourned the end of the leftovers, I have to say the non-super taster grade for this stew is an A.

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Weekly Meal Plan 6/8-6/14

Strawberries, strawberries everywhere!! My own patch has been super productive this year and WOW are they sweet and delicious and red all the way through. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, try some homegrown or farmers market berries. Many of those available in the store have been bred to last a long time, but have lost some of their essential strawberry-ness. I am a strawberry freak and will happily even eat the bland cousins of my own garden strawberries when they are at their lowest price in early summer. I watch all my little strawberries closely (I mean the ones I’m not eating or putting in food) and when they get dusky (a little too dark, just pre-rot), I freeze them for use in smoothies. More on making the most of strawberries here.

So this week, since I’m inundated with strawberries, I thought it might be fun to experiment a little. Some savory strawberry dishes sound like just the ticket. Add to that a warm week and the annoying continuation of the cabinet renovation project and some cool dishes sound like a good way to go.

Monday: Strawberry Pistachio Quinoa with Lemon Oregano Vinaigrette, grilled corn, sautéed green beans

Tuesday: Strawberry Tomato and Fennel Gazpacho, Mixed Grain Bread, Smoky Baba Ghanoush, green salad

Wednesday: Vegan French Toast with Balsamic or Rosemaried Strawberries (working on the details there but thinking something like this)

Thursday: Asian Varia-Bowls (good for hot weather), chopped veggies, pickled carrots

Friday: Homemade Pizza, cut veggies

Saturday: Cucumber Soup with Herbed Cucumber Relish, Mixed Grain Bread,

Sunday: Homemade Kale Pasta with Basil Pesto, Massaged Kale Salad

Lunchbox Treats: Yeah, we have 8 school days left. I’m not baking right now. Sue me.

Adult Lunches: We will be meditating in the remaining quiet for lunch (and eating leftovers)

 

I hope it is a little less sultry and steamy where you are, and that your strawberries are plump and plentiful. Eat well, be well friends.

Lentils, Potatoes, and Tomatoes – So Simple, So Good

The other day when I entered the kitchen to attempt to follow my meal plan for the week, I discovered that despite all my careful planning, I was missing a key ingredient for the dish I planned to make. What’s a Mom of hungry children to do? Divert from the plan is the only answer, but the question is what level of diversion. Rather than coming up with a whole new game plan, I decided to simply make some changes to the recipe based on the ingredients I DID actually have on hand. This is a common strategy on my part, and has nearly always resulted in some level of success. My success at making these change ups is likely because i don’t just replace the missing item with any old thing.( Read here for my suggestions on adapting, changing, and experimenting with recipes in ways that are more likely to create a successful outcome.)

On this particular occasion I was short the chickpeas required to make Chickpeas with Potatoes and Tomatoes according to Deborah Madison’s recipe in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (see my thoughts on Deborah Madison). I know, I know – me out of chickpeas, it’s almost too much to believe, but I tried not to linger on that ridiculous reality and moved quickly to surveying what I DID have available. And what I DID have was some already cooked lentils (always cook extra of staples – see here for why). Yay! I pulled the lentils out as well as the other ingredients and got down to business. It occurred to me that while the lentils were going to play the same nutritional role as the chickpeas (protein, fiber), they are so radically different in size and texture I supposed there may be some consequences for the switch. But I proceeded and just sort of kept my eyes open for things that needed tweaking.

As it turned out, the lentils did give the dish a very different flavor and overall feel. They also seems to take up some of the liquid from the dish, even though they were already cooked, I added to the tomatoes called for in the original recipe and then added some extra seasoning to make up for the additional volume. It was a delicious dish and scored a 75% percent approval rating in our house, Ms. Picky Pants was, not surprisingly, not a fan. I was a simple dish with delicious flavors and while it was nice and warming on a chilly day, I’m told it can also be served cold with lemon wedges and black olives. I have some ideas for summer!

Lentils, Potatoes, and Tomatoes – inspired by Deborah Madison’s Chickpeas, Potatoes, and Tomatoes in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

  • Olive oil for the pan
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 red potatoes, peeled and diced (I went slightly larger than a dice and used the three small russets I had on hand – I also didn’t peel them, I know I’m bad)
  • 2 carrots cut into small rounds (less than 1/2 and inch so they cook in a reasonable amount of time)
  • a pinch to 1/2 t chili powder or smoked paprika, depending on your heat preferences
  • 2 smashed garlic cloves
  • 1 t ground coriander
  • 2 1/2 c diced tomatoes (I used cans and did not drain them)
  • 2 1/2 cups cooked lentils (I used French as that’s what was in the fridge waiting to be used)
  • 1/2 c raw cashews (or 1/2 c more beans)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 c water (or enough to make a broth to simmer in)
  • 1/2 c chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 c chopped parsley

Warm oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until onions are beginning to color – 5 to 10 minutes. Add potatoes, carrots, chili, and garlic and cook for a few more minutes. Add the tomatoes, lentils and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and bring to simmer. Simmer until veggies are tender. About 25-30 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Stir in fresh herbs and cashews if using.

  

We served ours with lemon wedges and quinoa. Absolutely delish!

Weekly Meal Plan 2/9-2/15

I’m told that it was on this day in 1870 that the National Weather Service was established (then called something else and under the war department). While I’m generally glad to have weather forecasting information; today’s forecast does not exactly put me in a celebratory mood. While last winter we had a lot of snow and I confess to having grown weary with the constant uncertainty about the school schedule in that situation, I have come to the conclusion that snow is preferable to the usual mid-Maryland winter weather event offering: wintry mix. While we have rain at the moment, temperatures will drop and tonight we’ll have our beloved Mid-Atlantic travel boondoggle that includes sleet and snow, and over time maybe also some freezing rain. Not quite cold enough for graupel. If you live somewhere warmer, you get rain. If you live somewhere colder, you get snow. Here, we get about 12 variations on slippery snow/rain – let’s call it snain. With the grey skies and no hope of a lovely blanket of snow and sledding, I am quite tempted to take comfort in my non-snow blanket and just hibernate for a few days until the temperatures change again. Comfort food and experimentation might help keep the wheels turning.

Monday: Lentil Casserole (we didn’t have this last week because the stomach bug spread), sautéed green beans, green salad

Tuesday:  Roasted sweet potatoes and plantains (similar to Naturally Sweet Sweet Potatoes), Spicy Hemp Breakfast Sausages, spinach and orange salad

Wednesday: Lentil Bulghur Burgers, roasted potatoes, cut veggies and freezer pickles

Thursday: Korean BBQ Tofu Tacos, green salad

Friday: Homemade Pizza, cut veggies

Saturday: Dinner Out

Sunday: Homemade Pasta, green salad

Lunchbox Treat: Healthy Pumpkin Cookies

Adult Lunches: Cold Kickin’ Soup – no we’re not currently sick, but I think a little immunity boost would do us some good right now.

  

I feel better already just from talking about all that yummy food. Pair that with another night of good sleep and I’m sure things will seem much brighter. I have been getting more sleep (generally, not necessarily consistently) and I have to say that it’s pretty clear how much difference an extra hour makes for me. It’s easier to wake up in the morning. I’m more productive when I’m awake. I’m more patient and more resilient in the face of a problem. I am working on shoring up my resolve and continuing to eliminate or sideline the obstacles that prevent me from getting enough sleep, interfering with my Year of Well-Being. Hope you are rested and enjoying a sunny day in spirit if not in reality. Eat well, be well friends!

Three Sisters Savory Cobbler – Cuz Baby It’s Cold Outside

As a direct result of my weekly meal planning initiative, when food magazines show up at my house, I actually read them looking for delicious, frugal, easy meals to include in the plan. This little number showed up in a recent Vegetarian Times. Yeah, I had to change it up a little, so I’ll share my non-dairy version with you. This is a winner – if you and your tribe like delicious stews with bread dumplings on top. Is there someone who doesn’t like such things?

This savory cobbler is essentially a vegetable stew that has cornbread baked on top of it. In addition to the ingredients that you will need, you’re going to need a Dutch Oven of some kind (no I don’t mean the horrible smelly thing that your big brother did to you when you were little – wait, was that just us?), but a large pot that can go in the oven as well as being on the stovetop. We received a beautiful La Creuset version many years ago, but this market has really grown and now Cuisinart and many other reputable brands make some kind of enameled cast iron cookware. Lodge makes one without enamel that is very affordable, and if you keep it seasoned, also nice and non-stick. It is far more affordable but, I should warn you, VERY heavy. If you are going to buy a dutch oven, please be sure that handles are also oven safe so you don’t get a melty mess.

We enjoyed our savory cobbler very much. Well, okay 75% of us did – and those of you who’ve been playing along know that this is a winning number for my household. Ms. Picky Pants enjoyed the cornbread dumplings and then stirred the stew around a lot. So, really it’s more than 75% but I’m not going to get too technical. It’s a lovely recipe and has the added bonus of some built in flexibility so you can score at least a 75% at your house too. 😉 Next time I will try to make the stew in a slow cooker – and I’ll give some speculative instructions on how I think that should be done in the recipe itself… shall we get on with it already?

Three Sisters Savory Cobbler (adapted from this version in Vegetarian Times) 

The Stew

  • Olive oil for the pan
  • 2 medium/large onions chopped to whatever fineness you like in stews
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced or mashed
  • 1/4 c flour (I used WW pastry)
  • 2 cups beans (I used kidney and black because I prepped them for another meal, so they were already soaked
  • 6 c veggie broth or stock
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 2 sprigs fresh or 1 t dried: thyme, rosemary, sage, marjoram
  • 1 medium butternut squash, chopped in about 1 inch pieces
  • 3 T dijon mustard
  • 6 oz (about 4 c) deep greens (we used kale)
  • 1 1/2 t smoked paprika (you could use a hotter alternative such as chipotle pepper or even a hot sauce if that works for you – I was attempting to get 100% approval)

The Topping

  • 1 c coconut milk (or whatever kind you like)
  • 1 c whole wheat pastry flour (or GF flour)
  • 1 c cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 t baking powder (I am realizing as I type that I left this out and it was still great, although the dumplings were a little dense and would have been more biscuity)
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 3/4 t salt
  • 1 egg (I used flax)

Procedures

For the stew, if you are working from dried beans, you will need to soak them overnight before hand (and you will not need the full 2 cups as they expand) AND precook them a bit so you don’t have to cook the stew for a terribly long time. Warm olive oil in a dutch oven. Add onions and a sprinkle of salt. Saute until they are just starting to brown. Add red pepper and cook for another minute. Add garlic and give it a couple of stirs. Then sprinkle flour in and stir to coat the veggies in flour. Cook for a minute or two but stir constantly so flour doesn’t burn. Add water, beans, tomato paste, herbs and paprika (If I were going to use a slow cooker, I’d do it here and add the squash and mustard, leaving the greens to add at the end). Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes or until your beans are tender (time will vary according to canned vs. dried, how long you precooked if dried, etc.). Remove herbs if you used fresh. Add squash, mustard and greens. Return to simmer until squash is tender.

  

While simmering, preheat the oven to 425 (arrange racks so there’s enough room for the Dutch Oven). Combine dry ingredients for topping in medium sized bowl. Whisk milk and “egg” together in smaller bowl. Add wet to dry and stir until just combined. Remove filling from heat. Use cookie scoop or soup spoon to drop topping on top of the filling. Bake uncovered for 12-15 minutes or until topping is browned.

Serve a few dumplings with a hearty ladleful of stew and be warm head to toe. We enjoyed ours with a green salad. Delish!

Weekly Meal Plan 1/19-1/25

Don’t know if you’ve noticed… or if I’ve even mentioned it, but my meal plans rarely go entirely as planned. Truth be told there’s a lot around here that doesn’t go entirely as planned, but I think this has more to do with our family culture than with some sort of underlying deficiency with the plans themselves. I CAN report that even though plans have often required at least one last minute modification, since I’ve been planning our weekly meals there has been 1) a huge reduction in the number of trips to the store which means 2) lower spending on food, and 3) less stress in the critical after school timeframe. I already know what I’m cooking and can work on that while nagging (I mean advising, yeah that’s it advising) about homework and piano practice and hang your coat up and whose sock is that… You can imagine that making a decision in the middle of all that advising could be a little daunting.

This past week, as a result of invitations we could not refuse, our regular Sunday night pasta has not yet been made and eaten. So, the planning and cooking for me is a little lighter than usual as we will return to our regularly scheduled pasta next Sunday. We could eat pasta every night with great pleasure. If this is not true for your family and you’d still like a plan, feel free to peruse plans from past weeks or to scroll through some of our recipes in search of a replacement. Me, I’m glad to be eating it, and even more glad that Mr. Little Sis will be playing chef for all that pasta. I will be taking on some additional paid work this week, so we’ll be relying on a slightly different division of labor, and putting our bare bones 15 year old CrockPot to good use. And so without further ado…

Monday: Homemade Pasta with the Easiest Tomato Sauce Ever

Tuesday: Miso Soup with Rice Noodles (leftover from last week)

Wednesday: Slow Cooker Herbed Beans and Barley

Thursday: Slow Cooker Burrito filling in taco shells (they’re in love with tacos), chopped veggies and green salad

Friday: Homemade Pizza, cut veggies

Saturday: Three Sisters Savory Cobbler (from December’s Vegetarian Times) 

Sunday: Homemade Pasta with Pesto, green salad

lunchbox treats: Dark Chocolate Dipped Wheat Pretzels

Adult lunches: leftover Nutshroom Burgers from last week

 

In other news for the week, I will continue to attempt to get more sleep as part of my Year of Well-Being, which may be extra hard (and extra necessary) with a loaded schedule. Big challenge ahead. I’ll let you know how it goes… unless I blow it and I’m too tired, in which case I’ll post something like brm;kjasdkhjfklja;hzzzz.  Eat well, be well friends. If you need help with that first one, check out our e-book: Baby Steps to Better Health: Winning the Battle with Junk Food for Families and Individuals. Have a great week!

Weekly Meal Plan 11/10-11/16

And then we got sick… I joked about last week’s menu looking like one written by someone who had a cold… I was apparently seeing the future. Our family has been passing around the most delightful illness. By midweek I was fevered and dizzy. The plan did not necessarily go as planned. The reality of that happening from time to time reminds me that it is always a good idea to have some fall back positions, especially the kind that only require heat in order to make food happen. Freezer food is your friend, especially if you have small germ factories in your house that make a daily deposit and withdrawal at the local public incubation system. We relied heavily on earlier efforts last week and as a result ate reasonably well in spite of my being completely out of commission. Mr. Little Sis is quite culinarily capable, but is strapped for time, so our freezer stock served us well. I will, over the next few weeks, make a concerted effort to include at least one very freezable meal (we have lots of ’em here) in the plan and double the amount so I can restock for the next round. In the meantime, while I am still coughing, I am at least able to stand up and move around, so life goes on, and that means food. On with the weekly plan.

 photo 554b547c-c3c4-4c40-a2a6-51f6ad6ad77b.jpgMonday: Potato Pancakes (Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone) with Cashew Cream, Applesauce, Green Salad

Tuesday: Pakistani Lentil Kima, Spice Marinated Cherry Tomatoes(from Vegetarian Times), salad

Wednesday: Lentil. Mushroom, and Sweet Potato Soup, Wheat Bread, Salad

Thursday: Zucheezy Noodles (didn’t happen last week and I really need to throw Ms. Picky Pants a bone here), sautéed green beans, cut veggies

Friday: Homemade Pizza, cut veggies

Saturday: Roasted Vegetable Chili, cornbread, green salad

Sunday: Homemade Pasta with spinach, green salad

Grown-Up Lunches: Cold Kickin’ Soup

Aspirational Dessert (If I am up to it, IOW): Mango Coconut Bread Pudding… yeah, it sounds great, but don’t count on it. I’m not.

That’s my plan for the week. I’d say I’m excited, but it would be more honest to say I’m just hoping this week I can actually do it. 😉 Hope you are virus free and all your meals are healthful and delicious!

Oats, They’re Not Just for Breakfast

I told you a week or so ago (okay, it could have been last year, I have no idea) that I had become intrigued by the fact that people the world over eat some form of porridge and that they have it for lunch and dinner. Let me tell you what time of year is a good time for porridge for lunch and dinner – the time where it’s starting to give you lots of reason to believe that this winter may just well be as cold as the last, when leaves are crunching under foot (and blasting by in 40 mph gusts), and you’re digging in your sock drawer for that special pair you actually slip over other socks when things are really bad (just me?). I am a fan, a convert, and a chilly advocate of savory porridge.

 photo IMG_0915.jpgOur last porridge attempt was polenta, because I knew the mediterranean leaning would make it more approachable for my crew. This time I decided to go a little more full-on porridge by using oats.  In this preparation an ‘oats risotto.’ Let me confess right here that pretty much anything with ‘risotto’ in the title will get my interest, add oats to it and I’m downright intrigued. This particular oats risotto had mushrooms, walnuts and leeks. The original recipe can be found on this little treasure trove for those trying to increase their plant-based intake (or decrease their other), Meatless Monday. Continue reading

Slow Cooker Herbed Beans and Barley

The weather has been doing its transitional season flip flop around here. One week it’s summer, one week it’s fall with a little scent of winter in the mornings. And with the change of seasons comes the change of activities that makes the challenge of family dining a very real one. While I limit my kids to one after school activity, because there are two of them, we are still on a wacky schedule for two of the five weekend nights. Monday Ms. Picky Pants does gymnastics from 5-6 and Tuesdays my increasingly gigantic son plays T-Ball from 6-7. These times bookend our usual dinner time.

Because there’s no way my gentle giant of a boy could make it through T-Ball without dinner, we simply eat early on those days. Monday is more challenging as there’s no way we could eat in time for a 5 o’clock practice. And so, given these complications AND the drop in temperature, there is no better time than now to bring the slow cooker out of the corner cabinet and keep it in semi-permanent residence on the counter. Preparing the meal the night before, or in the morning and letting it cook all day allows us to eat at whatever time and frees me up during the crucial times for chauffeuring and cheering responsibilities (I especially like the cheering part).

Our favorite new slow cooker recipe was an improvisation of mine, a pantry wonder that is sure to become a regular in our house. I’ve used kidney beans because I had them on hand, and because I think they’re so good looking (that’s weird, isn’t it). I imagine just about any bean would work here, although this one time I’d steer you away from lentils as they do tend to mushify a bit and the pearl barley is already providing a creaminess that benefits from a little more substance in the bean department. White beans, black beans, chickpeas would all be great. This dish was so simple and satisfying. The gentle giant just LOVED it.

Slow Cooker Herbed Beans & Barley

 photo IMG_0823.jpg

  • olive oil for the pan
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or mashed
  • 3 c kidney beans (soaked overnight or quick soaked*)
  • 1 1/2 c pearl barley
  • 5 c veggie broth
  • 1-2 t thyme
  • 2 t red wine vinegar
  • 2 T Bragg’s or soy sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste

Warm olive oil in pan on stove. Add onions and celery. Sauté until onions are nearly translucent. Add garlic and sauté for an additional minute or so. Place sautéed veggies in crock pot with all the other ingredients. Turn on low. Cook for 5-6 hours. Yes, that’s it. Stir, season to taste, and serve on a bed of deep greens. Spicy fans may enjoy a little hot sauce. I like it both ways. Delish.

 photo IMG_0800.jpg  photo IMG_0810.jpg  photo IMG_0817.jpg

* Quick soaking beans requires bringing the beans to a boil, allowing them to really boil for 2 minutes, and then leaving them in the hot water for an hour, then rinse and use for cooking. They will not be tender as they are not fully cooked yet, but will not be little rocks anymore.

Cold Comfort in a Hearty Salad

The heat is on! Summer is finally really here and so far it’s been lovely. Only brutally hot for a couple of days at a time, lots of play, and good friends all around. While I wouldn’t go so far to categorize my summer as all play and no work, I have been really making the most of time and effort saving cooking strategies to maximize fun time. Let’s face it, when it’s 95 degrees outside and everyone’s been playing as hard as they can for hours, the last thing you want to do is turn on the oven.

Big Sis and I have many times highlighted the importance of cooking extra when we cook in order to create leftovers or to create ingredients that can be used in a later meal. I especially like to do this in the summer. Whenever I cook grains in particular, I try to make twice what I would normally make so that I have some in the fridge for later, and colder dishes.

All of this is leading up to a lovely recipe mash I put together last night, with leftover quinoa playing a secondary, but much appreciated role. The inspiration came from a great dish I made with a great friend last week. She shared a cookbook with me that she had found and after we finished drooling over the pictures (Fresh from the Farm: A Year of Recipes and Storiessuch great pictures), we skimmed for a dinner and came across a quinoa and bean salad that looked like just the ticket. We made it, and it was great, and we had the summer joy of eating it cold for several lunches and dinners.

 photo IMG_0478.jpgUpon my return home, I remembered my big bag of sprouted beans, and a recipe on that bag. It was similar to the quinoa salad, and so I decided to use it as a loose guideline to recreate the quinoa and bean dish. This recipe results in a generous amount, good for a summer cookout or for several days of lunching and munching from the fridge.

Sprouted Bean and Quinoa Salad

  •  photo IMG_0488.jpg2 cups dry beans (any beans would work here, the sprouted bag I have has a nice variety of sizes which contributes to texture for the dish)
  • 1 c cucumber, chopped
  • 1/3 c chopped scallions
  • 1/3 c olive oil
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 c chopped tomatoes (I like cherry or grape for cold salads)
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 c cooked quinoa or other grain
  • 3/4-1 t cumin
  • 1 t salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • hot sauce if desired

Cook your beans according to the bag or standard bean cooking procedures. As usual, I highly recommend lentils for quick cooking time. Rinse with cold water to cool off. Add to large bowl with the other ingredients. Stir gently to combine. Yup, that’s it. Delish.

 photo IMG_0481.jpg  photo IMG_0479.jpg  photo 12887a73-1bbf-447e-a2e7-4b8dfc6b5073.jpg

Oh, and what’s that cool thing that squeezes the lemons (even the strangely large ones) without getting seeds in the food? Yeah, that’s a very cool and sturdy tool very cool and sturdy tool given to me by one of my absolute favorite people in the world. You can have one too, if you don’t like lemon seeds in your salad.