Why I Am Posting These Recipes

I believe that it is healthier for an individual and for the planet to reduce the consumption of animal products in the human diet. However, I love to eat all kinds of delicious food, and find it really, really difficult to go totally vegetarian. Also, my family protests if I serve too many vegetarian meals in a row. So I am committed to making an effort to move towards a vegetarian diet without wholly doing so. I will post recipes several times a week that represent my philosophy of eating well, eating healthy, eating local. Most recipes will be easy to prepare, as I have a busy life. So I expect my followers to be people who love to cook and eat well, want to try to help the planet through their eating (by eating local foods and trying to reduce the use of meat in our diets), and have many other things to do each day besides cook.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Quinoa Salad

The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warning about the necessity of making rapid changes in order to prevent catastrophic effects of global climate change is sobering.  It is also frustrating, as an individual, to lack control of many elements contributing to climate change.  One thing we can control is how and what we eat.  Agricultural practices relating to meat production lead to large amounts of carbon emissions.  One big reason is because the earth cannot absorb all the animal waste concentrated on large farms.  By eating less meat we reduce the demand for large scale animal farming and create a higher demand for plant production.  These actions, if taken by many people, can have a positive impact on carbon emissions.  That is what I am trying to help along with this blog, by providing ideas for people to prepare meals using less meat.

Quinoa is a high protein grain that can act as the base for a vegetarian entree because it is filling and nutritious.  When cooking quinoa, always rinse it first in a fine mesh strainer, as this will remove some of the bitter coating.  I find that, in salads, quinoa tastes best when combined with some ingredients which have natural sweetness, such as fruit.  This salad is hearty enough to act as a main course, but you could also use it as a side dish.

2-3 cups cooked quinoa (I used leftovers--if making fresh, use 3/4 or 1 cup dried quinoa and cook according to package instructions)
½ yellow pepper, diced
2 scallions, diced
½ orange, pith removed and sections cut into smaller bite-sized pieces
1 avocado, diced
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 TBS fresh Italian parsley, chopped
approximately ½ cup peeled diced jicama
½ cup toasted pine nuts

1 small shallot, chopped
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground coriander (preferably freshly ground)
freshly ground sea salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup orange Muscat champagne vinegar (I use Trader Joe’s)

Toss all salad ingredients together.  Mix dressing ingredients together and pour over salad and mix everything up together.  Serves 2-3 as main course.

Note:  to toast pine nuts, place in dry cast iron skillet and heat over medium heat, stirring, until nuts just begin to turn brown, about 5 minutes or so.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Langostino Tails and Vegetables in Creamy White Wine Sauce Over Pasta

I picked up some frozen langostino tails from Trader Joe's, which are sourced from Chile and already cooked, because I thought they would be good to have on hand for a quick and easy meal.  Langostino sourced from Chile is relatively sustainable due to the Chilean government's strict oversight of its fisheries to prevent overfishing. This is a quick and tasty sauce to serve over pasta, and includes local veggies (in my case the mushrooms, green beans, shallots and tomatoes were farmed locally).

1 garlic clove
1 shallot
1 TBS butter
1 TBS olive oil
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 1/2 cup green beans, cut into 1" pieces
1 tomato, diced
1 cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
12 oz. cooked langostino tails
handful of fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

1 lb. pasta, cooked

Chop together garlic clove and shallot. Saute in butter and olive oil over low heat. Stir in mushrooms and cook for a few minutes, then add green beans and tomatoes and continue to cook and stir.

Add white wine and cook until wine is reduced by half.  Add heavy cream and cook, stirring occasionally,  until thick, about 20 minutes.  Add langostino tails and cook until heated through, about two minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve over pasta. Garnish with chopped parsley.  Serves 4.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Baked Stuffed Eggplant with Ginger and Mushrooms

Although summer has passed, local farmers are still producing lots of nice vegetables.  This recipe uses several items I bought from local farmers:  eggplants, onions, sweet peppers, and wild mushrooms.  By supporting local farms, you can have a positive impact on your local economy and on the overall environment.  Local farms tend to have a less negative impact on the planet than large industrial farms that supply most of our grocery stores.  By supporting farmers who live close by, you encourage their existence and reduce our dependence on large industrial farms that pollute the environment more.  Your food will likely taste better, too!

2 small eggplants, halved lengthwise
1/4 cup sherry
1/2 cup dry brown rice (or 1-2 cups of cooked rice, perhaps leftover from a previous meal)
grapeseed oil
1 small onion, diced
1 garlic clove, pressed
1/2 sweet pepper, diced
1 cup chopped wild mushrooms
1 TBS finely chopped ginger
1 TBS soy sauce
2 TBS mirin
1 tsp ume plum vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Oil baking sheet and put eggplant halves face down on it. Pour 1/4 cup sherry over eggplant halves.  Cover baking sheet with foil, sealing tightly around edges.  Bake for 45-60 minutes.

Cook rice according to package instructions. (You could also use 1-2 cups of leftover rice, instead of cooking fresh rice.)

Meanwhile, heat grapeseed oil in 10" frying pan.  Saute onions over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they start to become translucent.  Add garlic and continue to stir for a minute or two.  Stir in diced peppers, then mushrooms, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften. Stir in ginger and cook for a few minutes.  Turn off stove until rice and eggplant are cooked.  Mix soy sauce, mirin, vinegar, sesame oil, and sugar together in small bowl or cup and set aside.

When rice and eggplant are cooked, scoop out eggplant flesh from shells and add to vegetables in frying pan.  Stir in rice and mix all together.  Add soy sauce mixture and stir until everything is combined. Spoon mixture into eggplant shell halves.  There might be some mixture leftover that will not fit in shells.  (You can eat the leftover mixture as is or try stuffing another scooped out vegetable--such as any kind of squash or bell pepper-- for lunch tomorrow!)

Put stuffed eggplant halves on same baking sheet back into oven and heat for 5-10 minutes.  Garnish with chopped cilantro before serving.  Serves 2 as main course or 4 as side dish.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

A Big Pot of Black Bean Soup

By using a slow cooker to cook the dried black beans for this soup, you can spend 5 minutes in the morning getting it going, then finish it off just before dinnertime without too much trouble.  It took me about a half hour or so to chop the vegetables and get everything into the pot, then another half hour or so to cook while I cleaned up and did other stuff around the kitchen.  Pretty easy! This makes a big pot of soup, about 6 quarts, which is enough to share with friends or a big family, or to last a small family all week long! It is hearty and flavorful, a bit spicy but not really hot spicy. Environmentally friendly because 
a) no meat
b) you are using dried beans instead of canned (less garbage, fewer resources used to produce the food) 

First, cook the black beans, starting in the morning.  This will only take about 5 minutes, so do not be intimidated! 

Combine in 6 qt or larger slow cooker:
5 cups dried black beans (no need to soak them!)
½ large yellow onion, peeled but not cut up
1 piece dried kombu
1 garlic clove, whole
1 tsp ground chipotle pepper or 1 whole dried chipotle pepper
water to cover all, leave a couple inches at top per slow cooker manufacturer instructions to allow optimal slow cooking

Cook on low temperature for 8-10 hours.

Then, in the evening, drain beans, discarding the onion, garlic clove and kombu that flavored them.

extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ large yellow onions, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 large green pepper, diced
3 garlic cloves, pressed
26.5 oz. container chopped tomatoes (I like the kind in cartons, rather than cans)
4 cups water
1 ½ tsp salt
1 TBS dried oregano
1 TBS ground cumin
Chopped cilantro and sour cream or cashew cream to garnish

In large pot (at least 6 quarts, bigger is better), sauté onions in olive oil over medium heat until translucent, then reduce heat to low, stir in celery, carrots, green pepper and garlic and sauté a few minutes more.  Add drained beans, tomatoes, water, and spices to pot.  Stir everything together.  Cover and raise heat to bring contents to a simmer.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes (or more makes flavors blend even better). Puree with stick blender. Garnish with chopped cilantro and sour cream or cashew cream. Makes about 6 quarts, enough for a crowd.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Pasta with Mushroom, Leek and Tomato Cream Sauce

Mushrooms have a meaty taste and texture, making them a very good ingredient for vegetarian main courses.  Pasta dishes with mushrooms in them seem substantial enough that even meat eaters walk away satisfied.  So here is a good way to have a meatless dinner without sacrifice.  And it is pretty quick and easy to prepare.

One evening, about 20 years ago, my father-in-law made a delicious pasta dish with a mushroom sauce.  I have thought about that dish many times over the years with my mouth watering.  I have looked for recipes that put a mushroom sauce over pasta, but none has come close to the beautiful taste of that dinner so many years ago.  I have asked him for the recipe, but unfortunately he does not remember how he prepared it.  While I still have not duplicated his recipe, I have experimented with tastes that I particularly enjoy with pasta and tried to come up with my own delicious version.  While developing this recipe, I first prepared it using 1/4 cup of white wine, but I thought it lacked something, so I decided to try it with brandy instead.  I have a good story about brandy in cooking:  once I ate a chicken supper prepared by a friend.  The chicken was unbelievably good, and apparently the reason was that she used an expensive brandy--she just looked in the liquor cabinet and grabbed what was in there, not really thinking about how expensive it was.  That was when I realized how much of a difference high quality ingredients can make in cooking.  Today, I used Remy Martin cognac, which is a very nice cognac, but since I only used a couple of tablespoons I don't feel that it was too wasteful. Anyway, this recipe makes enough for 2 generous portions.  If you are making it for more people, just increase the ingredient measurements proportionately. It is very good!

1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 TBS butter
½ cup chopped leeks
1 cup chopped shiitake mushrooms
1 cup chopped tomatoes (about 3 small)
1/8 tsp red chili flakes
2 TBS brandy
¼ cup heavy cream
scoop of water from pot of pasta cooking
¼ cup parmigiano reggiano cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste
handful of fresh parsley, grated

½ pound dried pasta, such as linguini, cooked OR 1 pound fresh gnocchi, cooked

Heat butter and olive oil together in medium skillet over medium low heat.  When butter has melted, sauté leeks for a minute or two, stirring, then add mushrooms and cook until leeks and mushrooms have softened, stirring every so often.  Add chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, and cook until tomatoes seem cooked and liquid has mostly evaporated.  Add brandy, stir everything together, then add cream and cook for a couple more minutes, stirring.  When sauce appears thick and creamy, turn off heat and taste for salt and pepper.  Add a scoop of water from the pot of pasta cooking before you drain the pasta.  I use one of the metal measuring cups that I used for the sauce ingredients, sprinkle a little water into the sauce and stir.  You want it to be a nice consistency, not too thin, so you need to just use your judgement about how much water to sprinkle in.  (You might need to turn the stove back on to make it the right consistency.) Put drained pasta into a serving bowl and toss with the sauce and the grated parmigiano reggiano cheese. Sprinkle chopped fresh parsley on top. Serves 2.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Wild Mushroom Broth in Slow Cooker

The last recipe I posted, Vegetarian Borscht, was so delicious, but the wild mushroom broth I made as its base took awhile to cook.  I was lamenting the time-consuming nature of the soup preparation last week as I savoured bowl after bowl of the soup throughout the week.  I was afraid that many of my followers might never try making the soup if the broth took so long to make.  But I really think the broth was key to the wonderful flavor of the borscht.  The wild mushroom broth gave it more complexity and depth, so that I think the soup would have suffered if you made it with canned vegetable broth or instant broth.  So I decided to test out a slow cooker version of the broth.  When you make the broth in a slow cooker, it only takes 5 minutes of your time to put a bunch of veggies in the slow cooker and then just let them cook for about 4 hours.  You can do it the night before you want to make the borscht (or any other soup or stew), or you can do it in the morning and just leave it until it is time to finish cooking at dinnertime (in this case you will cook it longer than 4 hours, you can cook it all day, but it does not take any more of your time in the kitchen).  Making your broth this way can use up odd bits of vegetables that might otherwise get thrown away, so by reducing your garbage you are taking a small step towards improving the condition of the planet.  That is my mission, to give you small ways for you to do your part to preserve the environmental integrity of our Earth.

Although I list ingredients below for stock, you do not have to follow it exactly; you should adapt it to accommodate veggies you have on hand, and include whatever scraps you might have. As a general rule, though, you will always want to include some form of onion, whether yellow, vidalia, leeks, or another type. Of course, mushrooms are required to make it a mushroom broth, and they will give it a meaty flavour that gives the finished product, such as borscht (though do knot limit yourself to only using this for borscht; you can make any kind of soup!), a more complex flavour. I also pretty much always include carrots in any broth, as they impart a pleasant, sweet flavour. Celery is another favourite veggie to include, for pleasant, sweet flavour.

1 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
Dark green leaves and ends from 2-3 leeks (parts that are not usually used when cooking with leeks)
1 large onion, quartered (no need to peel)
2-3 carrots 
2-3 stalks celery, plus leaves and hearts from center of celery bunch
1 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves
Handful fresh herbs, such as parsley and/or thyme (optional)

Place dried mushrooms in 6 quart or larger slow cooker. Pour boiling water over them to cover. Add other vegetables to pot, then add water, leaving approximately 2 inches free at top of pot, or amount of space recommended by slow cooker manufacturer. Cook at high temperature for about 4 hours or low temperature for 8 hours or more. Strain before using broth as base for a soup. I use a colander to strain the broth, straining liquid into a large bowl that the colander rests into. Makes about 8 cups.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Vegetarian Winter Borscht with Wild Mushroom Broth

The most delicious borscht I had ever eaten, until maybe now, was from a recipe in The Silver Palate Cookbook. The only problem with it is that it uses beef broth.  I have been craving beets recently, and especially I have been craving that borscht.  So I wanted to see if I could adapt the Silver Palate recipe into a vegetarian version. One of the things I really liked about the original recipe was the extra dimension of flavor from the beef broth.  Another thing I liked was the texture, with small chunks of beef as well as chopped vegetables.  Since mushrooms have a sort of equivalent texture and flavor to beef, I often find that I can use them as a substitute for beef when adapting recipes to vegetarian versions.  So I decided to try this here.  I made a wild mushroom broth full of flavor from dried wild mushrooms as well as various vegetables and vegetable trimmings.  Using vegetable trimmings is very kind to our planet, as it reduces garbage as well as the need for other food items that would provide flavor. I later added chopped fresh mushrooms to provide some of the meatiness that I like in the Silver Palate recipe.  I think this is really delicious, maybe even as good or better as the original Silver Palate version--and definitely better for the planet. It is hearty, nutritious, and can be a simple meal by itself, perhaps with some whole grain bread on the side. And this is definitely great comfort food for a cold winter's day--or night.

Wild Mushroom Broth:

approximately 1 cup dried wild mushrooms (such as half porcini, half shiitake)
1 vidalia onion, cut in half, include peels
2 carrots
3 stalks celery, including leaves
dark green part and stem of leek
beet peels and ends from beets used for borscht (see below)
any additional vegetable trimmings
2 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
approximately 14 cups water

The Borscht:

approximately 2 pounds beets (about 6 medium), peeled and grated or chopped finely (a Vitamix will work well for this task).  Use peels and ends in broth above.

2 carrots, diced small
1 head cabbage, chopped
1 large Vidalia onion, chopped
26 oz. carton chopped tomatoes
approximately 10 cremini mushrooms, finely chopped

a little extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
handful of fresh dill, chopped
sour cream to garnish

Pour about 2 cups boiling water over dried mushrooms and let soak for ½ hour to an hour.

Meanwhile, place beets in a pan with enough water to cover.  Simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes, or until tender.  Turn off heat and set aside.

After dried mushrooms have soaked, combine them with their soaking liquid in a large pot with vegetables (no need to chop carrots and celery) and trimmings, bay leaves and salt.  Pour at least 12 cups water in pot, or a little more.  Make sure all solids are covered with water.  Cover, bring to boil, then simmer for about 2 hours.

After mushroom broth is finished cooking, strain all solids out.

Saute chopped onion in a little olive oil in a stock pot until translucent. Add other chopped vegetables, mushroom broth, and cooked beets in their cooking liquid to the pot and simmer for about an hour, or until all vegetables are cooked and tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add chopped dill and serve with a dollop of sour cream in each bowl.  Garnish with additional chopped dill if desired.  Makes approximately 12 servings.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Two Kinds of Quiche

Quiche is a mainstay of my cooking repertoire, and has been for many years.  I usually try to make two at a time, one for dinner the evening I cook it and the other for the freezer.  Also, I use frozen pie crust.  My favorite is Wholly Wholesome (brand) Organic Traditional pie crust, which I find at specialty grocery stores.  It tastes like homemade (in my opinion), and makes quiche a very easy meal to make. My mother always made quiche without a recipe, so that is how I have always done it.  It was always a guessing game as to how much cheese to use, how many eggs, how much cream.  Sometimes I would have leftover egg/cream mixture, while other times there would not be enough.  I finally got around to measuring everything and figuring out the exact right amount of ingredients to use. I am sharing a couple of recipes with you today, but you can substitute whatever vegetables you like for what I have selected for these recipes.  You can also try using different cheeses, though I tend to prefer gruyere and cheddar for my quiches.

Broccoli, Tomato and Pepper Quiche

1 pie crust
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
3/4 cup gruyere cheese, grated
1 cup chopped broccoli florets
¼ cup diced red pepper
7 cherry tomatoes, quartered
4 eggs
heavy cream (less than 2 cups)
 1/4 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
1/8 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper to taste

Line pie plate with pie crust.  Do not bake crust first, as sides will shrink and cause liquid to spill out later, when you add cream etc.

Whisk 4 eggs in glass measuring cup.  Add enough cream to make 2 cups liquid.  Add salt, pepper and herbs.

Sprinkle cheese somewhat evenly in bottom of crust, then sprinkle vegetables on top of cheese, then pour in liquid.  Bake for 45 minutes at 375 degrees. Test for doneness by sticking tip of knife gently into middle of quiche to make sure it has set. If it is still liquid, let it bake for a few more minutes. Cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Mushroom Quiche

1 pie crust
1 3/4 cups gruyere cheese, grated
1 ¼ cups sliced mushrooms
4 eggs
heavy cream (less than 2 cups)
1/8 tsp salt
¼ tsp thyme
¼ tsp marjoram
¼ tsp paprika

1 TBS freeze dried shallots
freshly ground pepper to taste

Line pie plate with pie crust.  Do not bake crust first, as sides will shrink and cause liquid to spill out later, when you add cream etc.

Whisk 4 eggs in glass measuring cup.  Add enough cream to make 2 cups liquid.  Add salt, pepper, shallots and herbs.

Sprinkle cheese somewhat evenly in bottom of crust, then sprinkle mushrooms on top of cheese.  Pour liquid over all.  Bake for approximately 45 minutes at 375 degrees. Test for doneness by sticking tip of knife gently into middle of quiche to make sure it has set. If it is still liquid, let it bake for a few more minutes. Cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

White Bean Soup with Wheatberries, Potatoes and Spinach

This soup takes a little time spread over the day to make.  It is easy to make, but you should make it on a day when you are home much of the time.  It is delicious, hearty and a wonderful vegetarian meal to eat on a very cold day.  Pairs well with red wine and good bread, and tastes even better the next day!

When cooking the beans, I used a half onion and dried chipotle pepper to flavor the beans.  I find that the dried chipotle pepper gives the same kind of flavor to beans that a ham hock provides, which is what I used to use before trying to eliminate meat. If you want to make this but don’t have all day, you could use canned beans instead of dried, and cook the soup for a shorter amount of time. 

2 1/2 cups dried white beans, such as Great Northern or Cannelini
1/2 cup wheatberries
Dried chipotle pepper
Half onion
Extra virgin olive oil
3 leeks, sliced in half lengthwise then sliced
3 carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
3 potatoes, such as white, red or yukon gold, diced into 1/4"-1/2" pieces 
Handful fresh sage leaves, chopped
Handful fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
10 cups vegetable broth (I use water and appropriate amount of vegetable broth concentrate)
3 cups baby spinach leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan
Flavored olive oil, such as rosemary infused, for drizzling (optional)

Soak beans overnight in plenty of water (water should be about 3 inches above beans). After soaking, drain water and cook beans in fresh water, about 3 inches above line of beans, with half onion and dried chipotle pepper: bring water to boil, then simmer for about 2 hours or until just soft. Add about a teaspoon of salt after beans have begun to soften but before they are done. (If you add salt at beginning of cooking, beans will not soften). When beans are soft, drain beans and remove onion half and dried pepper. 

Soak wheatberries for 3 or 4 hours before adding to soup.

Meanwhile, sauté leeks in olive oil for several minutes, then add diced carrots, celery, and chopped herbs. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then stir in chopped garlic and cook for another minute or two. Do not allow garlic to burn. Turn off stove. 

When beans and vegetables are cooked, it is time to combine them in soup pot with potatoes, 10 cups broth, or water and vegetable broth concentrate, and soaked wheatberries. Cover and bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer and remove cover.  Simmer uncovered for 2-3 hours. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add spinach for last half hour of cooking. When it’s ready, the soup will have thickened from the wheatberries and beans cooking in the broth. To serve, grate Parmesan cheese and drizzle flavored olive oil over servings in bowl. Serves 10-12 as main course.