Not Your Mother’s Warm Potato Salad (and Miso Dressing)

Spring is invigorating. Spring is beautiful. Spring holds so much hope and promise as fresh veggies begin to emerge… and yet…. so far in Mid Maryland Spring has been a bit of a weather disappointment. It’s been cold. More recently it’s been cold and wet. I’m not exactly complaining because, after this last winter, I continue to be grateful that it’s not snowing. But I have to admit that as soon as the landscape begins to green up, my taste buds begin to turn to raw fresh produce, and for the most part this is not much of a reality yet.

While I’d love a dinner comprised solely of raw, fresh veggies, the 45 degree rain dampens and chills that thought. And so I turn to comfort food. Comfort for my cold self, comfort for my sore foot, comfort for my impatient soul that is so ready to be outside playing in the sun. I realize I may be strange in this one, but for me, comfort often involves potatoes.

We sling a lot of spuds around here, in part because they make a nice foundation for a meatless meal that all four of us enjoy, and admittedly because Momma loves potatoes. In facing the 45 degree rain, some roasted potatoes sound like just the thing, but how to scratch that super veggie itch? I envisioned a plate – a salad in the sense that it has a lot of veggies combined, but warm and comforting. A potato salad, without mayonnaise or baked beans or any other picnic fare on the side, but with spring veggies in a warm comforting, nutritious medley.

For this potato salad, I don’t really have a “recipe” to offer as I simply combined foods, but I’ll tell you what I did. This is another situation where I would strongly recommend switching things out to meet YOUR preferences.

Not Your Mother’s Warm Potato Salad

My simple roasted potatoes are cut in chunks (probably around 1.5 inches), tossed in a little olive oil, salt, paprika and pepper to taste). Roasted in 450 oven on baking pan (single layer, spread out as much as possible) for about 25 minutes or until the outsides have browned and crisped and the insides are tender and heavenly.

IMG_0322To create our salad, I used the braised greens as a base, added a small pile of potatoes and added peas and mushrooms in my own personal pleasing ratio. Dressing is optional, but we found that this was delish with miso dressing. A creamier dressing or aioli would also pair beautifully with the potatoes.


Miso Dressing

  • 1 T yellow miso (would likely work with other kinds, but I can speak with authority on the yellow)
  • 1 T Bragg’s or soy sauce
  • 2 T rice vinegar
  • 1 T sesame oil

Combine ingredients and whisk until smooth. This dressing is light in flavor and works well with both warm salads like the one above and more traditional fresh green salads.

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Sun is peeking through this morning. Spring really is here, I know it, even if my feet are still cold. Perhaps it will be warm enough for a green salad for lunch.

Veggies Au Vin

Many years ago Mr. Little Sis and I were fortunate enough to enjoy a few cooking classes at an excellent cooking school. Our culinary skills improved, our foodie horizons expanded and evolved, and we both were forced to admit our undying affection for French cuisine. Play a little Edith Piaf and we both begin drooling and placing our napkins in our laps… okay it’s not that bad, but you get the drift.

Many of the classic dishes that we learned to make during our cooking school days are not exactly on the menu in this food era of ours, but they need not be cast aside. There are ways to apply those fantastic flavor profiles, scratch that culinary itch. Mr Little Sis’s most frequent Frenchie cravings involve chocolate croissants (I’m not even going to think about it), French bread (he’s done that one), and coq au vin (chicken and wine). While tripping around the internets looking for culinary inspiration for dinner, I came across this recipe which gave me hope that we could approach this classic in our own meatless way. Continue reading

Sweet Potato Patties with Black Beans and Greens

Every now and again I find myself in a food rut. After all the holiday hullaballoo (which officially ended with twin birthday number 7 last week), it seemed that I had forgotten how to cook all but a few of our standard and semi-standard recipes.  Once I cycled through those a couple of times, I confess even I was having trouble finding my enthusiasm for our usual healthier fare.

Thusly uninspired, I applied my tried and true tactic for waking some enthusiasm for healthier eating.  I went to the library and found my way into the aisle with healthier cookbooks, looked for a couple that I knew of and found a couple of new titles to peruse.

One of the books I picked up this time was The Cleaner Plate Club: Raising Healthy Eaters One Meal at a Time by Beth Bader and Ali Benjamin. I should say, before explaining how this led to dinner, that this is a lovely book for a home cook who’s trying to get out of the habit of relying on processed food and who needs some sage advice on how to make that shift, what kinds of foods to purchase, and what to do with those ingredients.  It also includes a section that describes the way that children, in particular, eat and how to more comfortably address dietary change with kids. A great book, that also includes lots of yummy recipes, as well as a slew of non-recipe suggestions, one of which led me to create this fabulous dinner.

IMG_0116 The authors suggested baking sweet potatoes and then topping them with black beans.  I had cooked sweet potatoes on hand (for baking purposes)… and so, I admittedly made it more complicated, but with surprisingly fabulous results.

Sweet Potato Patties with Black Beans and Greens (DF, GF)

The Black Beans

  • olive oil for the panIMG_0100
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped fine
  • 2 1/2 c cooked black beans or 2 cans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1 t Bragg’s or soy sauce
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • dash garlic powder

In a small pot, warm olive oil on low-medium heat.  Add onions and cook for a few minutes, stirring periodically.  When onions are translucent, add the other ingredients and simmer over low heat while you prepare the rest of the meal.  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.  Add water if necessary to get the consistency you prefer.

The Patties

  • 2.5 cups sweet potato (cooked until VERY soft)IMG_0097
  • 1 c cooked grain (I used quinoa)
  • 1.5 c chickpea flour
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 c rolled oats
  • 1 t orange zest
  • 1/2 t paprika
  • 1/4 t garlic powder
  • olive oil for the pan

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.  Warm oil in the pan at slightly less than medium heat.  Preheat the oven to 225. Use a mixing or soup spoon to spoon large dollops (sorry for the technical term) into the pan.  Allow to cook for about 5 minutes per side, or until brown.  Flip and brown the other side.  Transfer to a baking dish and allow to rest in oven while cooking the rest of the patties.

The Greens

  • olive oil for the panIMG_0116
  • about 8 ounces of your preferred dark green leafy
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • toasted nuts (opt)

Warm the olive oil on low-medium.  Add minced garlic and cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds).  Add greens and cook until wilted, stirring to ensure all greens make contact with the hot part of the pan. Remove from heat when they are just starting to look ready.  Add nuts (we used walnuts).

When it was all said and done, we served the beans over the patties, added a dollop of Annie’s cashew cream, a spoon of our favorite salsa, and added the greens to the plate.  The dish tasted best when all the elements were on the fork together, regardless of what Ms. Picky Pants (who would dearly love to have a plate with sections) says.  Delish.

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Creamy Mushroom Stroganoff (DF, GF Option)

In the wake of our visits with friends and family and being besieged by ridiculously cold temperatures, I have found myself craving super warming comfort foods.  I frequently turn to soups in these situations, and in fact during our coldest day of the polar votex, I let the slow cooker do the work for me and we had some lovely Vegetable, Bean and Barley Stew.  With that said, I do have my limits, and this is true even for soup.  I wanted something warm and comforting that was a little more… solid.

For inspiration I flipped through a few cookbooks, and landed on Kathy Hester‘s Chik’N Mushroom Casserole.  I liked the sound of the creaminess with the mushrooms, but it was a little late in the day for me to start a slow cooker meal, and I didn’t want to use a meat substitute…  So I read through her recipe a couple more times and re-imagined it a bit, borrowing from one of my other favorite cooks to mash those recipes together and make the dish I had in mind, Creamy Mushroom Stroganoff. Continue reading

30 Minute Bean and Bulgur Chili

We finally made it through the fall crud.  This tenacious little virus swept its way through all four of us, Mr. Little Sis being the final victim.  I was long done with soup, but he still needed a little respiratory assistance.  Mr. Little Sis’ favorite form of respiratory assistance is spicy. And so, I whipped up some lunch (to avoid sharing with the ungrateful spicy-hating children) to give him a leg up. 30 minute bean and bulgur chili made a quick, spicy, and satisfying lunch for both of us.

Bean and bulgur you say? Those who’ve been playing along with us for a while will be familiar with the bean and bulgur combo, but if you’re new, check out this earlier post. The short version is that beans and bulgur together make a cheap, easy, and tasty substitute in a lot of recipes that traditionally use ground meat. I’ve found that making up a batch of bean and bulgur allows me to use it in a couple of dishes in the same week  with tasty and speedy results.  This chili was the second bean and bulgur dish of the week, after these burgers, so admittedly the 30 minutes does not include cooking the lentils and bulgur.  You could, however, use any bean and grain combo successfully – leftover rice and canned pintos? Great! This recipe is very forgiving and you should, as always, feel free to tweak according to your preferences and the ingredients you have on hand.

30 Minute Bean and Bulgur Chili

  • olive oil for the pot/panIMG_0323
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 c lentil/bulgur mixture
  • 1/4 t ground sage
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 can drained and rinsed black beans (or 1 1/2 c soaked and cooked)
  • 2 large cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 t chipotle chili powder
  • 1 t chili powder
  • 1 t oregano

Warm olive oil in skillet over medium.  Add lentil bulgur mixture to skillet and LET IT SIT.  You are going for a little browning and crisping here.  If you stir too much, you will get neither. Check after you’ve given it a few minutes, add sage and 1/4 t salt to lentil/bulgur,  then stir/flip to brown the other sides. Warm olive oil in large pot.  Add chopped onions and saute until onions have softened and become a bit translucent.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add green peppers. When lentil/bulgur mix is browned to your liking, transfer to pot with onions/peppers. Add spices and diced tomatoes.  Stir to incorporate.  Bring to simmer and let cook to meld flavors, about 15-20 minutes.  30 minute bean and bulgur chili.  Done and delish!

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Nutshroom Neatballs (GF,DF): Endless Possibilities

I’ve shared with you my serious leaning toward the burger as a warm, satisfying handheld meal.  My experiments in veggie burgering are many and I’ve enjoyed every one; however, there are only so many warm satisfying handheld meals one can consume in a single week (this is what I’ve inferred from my crew, mind you, not my own opinion).  Far be it from me, however, to simply leave the flavors of my beloved veggie burgers behind.  What better way to get the flavor I’m looking for and make it LOOK like I was inventing a whole new meal just for my little one’s picky little palate than to make veggie burger neatballs?  How awesome am I? And neatballs? Small, yummy, cute, warm.  What picky pantser could possibly resist?

IMG_0223This meal has some of my favorite qualities. Delicious, easy to make, easy to double or triple for freezing, perfect leftovers, and super flexible. Being a competent and happy cook often has more to do with re-imaging something you already know how to do than with learning how to make something new every night – who has time for that? So, we make do. And sometimes that making do, that little twist, that sneaky trick, turns out to be quite delightful, like Nutshroom Neatballs. Continue reading

Spinach Chickpea Burgers w/Cumin Cashewnaise (GF,DF)

I CANNOT believe I’ve not shared these burgers with you. They are an absolute favorite of mine and they are Ms. Picky Pants’ favorite veggie burger.  If THAT isn’t a recommendation, I don’t know what is. I came across the recipe a few years ago in The Washington Post, and after quite a bit of experimentation, we’ve found the version of their version (ha) that appeals most to us.  If you’re a fan of Lynne Rosetto Kasper (of American Public Media’s The Splendid Table fame), you should know she has also claimed a version of these as HER personal favorite veggie burger.  If you’re not yet impressed I’ll go out and fine some more people who love them… okay, you’re right I won’t.  You should just give them a try.

If you’ve got a food processor, these babies are ingredients to table 35 minutes.  If you don’t serve on bread (or choose your bread wisely), they’re gluten free. They’re packed with nutrition between the chickpeas and the spinach and if you pantry stock, the only fresh ingredient you need is greens – and yes, you can sub out frozen there. These babies also keep and freeze beautifully.  I double the recipe (except when I forget, which I did tonight and I am oh so sad). The flavor is satisfying and while they are not remotely burger-y (you should try these Nutshroom Burgers if that’s what you’re after), they work beautifully with typical burger treatment and really satisfy that hot handheld entree craving. Enough with the sell – let’s get down to some quick and delicious dinner. Continue reading

Tofu Bahn Mi: Plant Strong Vietnamese

When our twins were 6 months old we moved from our inner ring suburb to what is geographically known to those in our former metro area as the “exurbs.” We are fully ex-ed from the “urb.” The Our exurb, ironically, is just outside of a lovely town. There are restaurants here, and thankfully an increasing number of options for ethnic food; however, lately I find that I simply feel better when I cook at home, even if I am sacrificing a real chef’s authentic dish in favor of my approximation that serves to satisfy a craving.  I often “make do.” This time, I wasn’t “making do.” This dish was fabulous. Continue reading

Tapas for Two, or Four

Miss Picky Pants (known for the remainder of the post as MPP) is a grazer.  She is easily overwhelmed by large portions (with the exception of cake, of course), and loves to have just a bit of as many things as possible.  In a desperate attempt to have dinner out a few years ago, Mr. Little Sis and I took the twins to a Tapas joint here in our little burg.

Don’t know if you’ve ever walked 4 year old twins into a restaurant before, but I can tell you it’s the rare restaurant staff that greets this moment with true enthusiasm.  Weren’t they surprised to find out that as long as they kept the bread and little plates coming, MPP and her all cuisine loving brother would be just fine, thank you very much.  To be fair my little MPP, she comes by the small plate thing honestly.  I love having bits on the plate to choose from , tie together, nibble on, mop up with bread.  Yum. Tonight we had just such a plate.  If there had been sections dividing MPP’s food, everything would have been perfecto.  All of it was simple, hearty, and super yummy.  Perfect for these increasingly cool evenings.  A little preview of autumn’s heartier fare. The highlight of the meal, for me, was garlic mushrooms, a classic tapas favorite. The beauty of this dish is its simplicity and its versatility. Want it with rice – rock it out. Over quinoa? Keen. With pasta? Perfection. Garlic mushrooms, a foodie’s best friend. Continue reading

Simple Pakistani Fare (GF,V)

A few years ago I got a cookbook. It was a life changer. I know that sounds a little melodramatic – and it is I guess, but food can change us, and the way that we look at food can change us.  Before my kids were born I started thinking about simplicity a bit, and was immediately attracted to the idea behind More-With-Less. This cookbook encouraged me to think about the role of processed food in my home, to think about my relationship with meals and food, and to slow it all down a little.

Over the years I’ve used this book to explore international cuisine from a non-restaurant perspective, international cuisine that regular people in other countries actually eat in their homes. Before we made all of our dietary changes, this was the perfect companion to simpler and yet more interesting meals. And now, I find the simple recipes in this book so very easy to adapt and the philosophy behind them is so peace creating for me that I wanted to share it with you.

IMG_9673Tonight I returned to an old favorite of ours, and made a little switcheroo so I could still eat it on a weekday. The author shares a recipe for Pakistani Kima, made with ground beef.  When I made it in the past, I used ground turkey.  Tonight, I made lentils the star of this simple curry show. Surprise! Another fabulous lentil dish.  Perhaps we really should call ourselves the Lentil Lodge… At any rate, this easy curry was fantastic and just the thing for the half of my crew fighting a nasty little end of summer bug.  Lentils, curry spices, fresh green beans, potatoes, onions and tomatoes.  Fantastic.

Pakistani Lentil Kima – adapted from More with Less by Doris Janzen Longacre

  • 3 T coconut oilIMG_9681
  • 1 c chopped onion
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 potatoes, rough cut 1 inch pieces
  • 1 T curry powder
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • dash pepper
  • dash each cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric
  • 2 1/2 c diced tomatoes
  • 2 c fresh green beans, cut in half
  • 2 c cooked lentils

Warm coconut oil in pan (I used cast iron). Saute onions on med heat until they are at least translucent.  Add garlic and stir until fragrant.  Add potatoes and stir to coat with coconut oil.  Add spices and stir to coat. Let cook for a minute or so.  Add tomatoes. Turn heat down to simmer and cover.  Cook about 15 minutes; check potatoes for doneness and simmer until nearly cooked through. Add green beans and cover.  Simmer for an additional 5 minutes (more or less to your green bean doneness preference). Add lentils and stir.  Heat until lentils are warm. Serve over rice (or whatever gran you have on hand). We garnished with a little coconut and fresh cilantro.  So easy and so delish.

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