Sweet Potato Egg Rolls With Love

sweet potato egg rolls 1

I remember the very first egg roll I ever had.

I was raised by a single mama who worked and went to school; we didn’t have a lot of splurges.  I was 12 or 13, maybe 14, and my mom dropped me off at the mall.  I don’t remember why–maybe she was doing something at school, and the mall was nearby.  Anyway, I had some time to walk around by myself, window shop.  I got hungry, and I thought I’d just wait until I got home, when it finally occurred to me that I could buy something for myself!  I looked around at my options and an Asian place looked the best to me.  I didn’t have enough babysitting money for a full meal, but I did have .99 cents plus tax for an egg roll.

The egg roll was hot, amazingly crispy and crunchy on the outside, melty and sweet, sour, salty on the inside.  I’d never had anything like it, and instantly loved it!  Mind you, fries, chicken nuggets, and eating out in general were not on our usual list of things to do.  Egg rolls quickly made it to the top of my most wanted list, and I got one every chance I had from then on!  The problem is that every subsequent egg roll wasn’t nearly as good as that first one.  They were dry, stale, had bland filling, or very little filling in ratio to fried wrapper–you name it, egg rolls fell off my list as soon as they went on.

Then I decided to try my hand at them.  I had some leftover sweet potatoes and rice noodles and thought that would make a great base for some additional veggies.  They turned out sweet, fresh, citrusy, and crispy crunchy!  The sweet potato mix did make the wraps soften the longer they sat, so eat them right away, or just reheat them in the oven to crisp them up a bit.

A little flavor…

sweet potato eggroll ingredients

Some veggies…

sweet potato eggroll veggies

Assembly line magic…

sweet potato eggroll assembly line

sweet potato eggroll wrap up

And a spicy soy dipping sauce and coconut cilantro rice on the side…

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sweet potato egg rolls 2


 

SWEET POTATO VEGGIE EGG ROLLS

  • Servings: makes one full pack of large square egg roll wrappers
  • Difficulty: medium-ish
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 baked sweet potato, peeled and mashed
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups rice noodles, prepared according to package directions
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red pepper, about 2 inches in length
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced snow peas, about 2 inches in length
  • 1/2 cup peeled carrot (peel the carrot stick, then just keep on peeling), about 2 inches in length
  • 1/2 cup sliced scallion, sliced on the diagonal, about 2 inches in length
  • 1 package large square egg roll wrappers
  • 1 egg, beaten

INGREDIENTS FOR THE DIPPING SAUCE

  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sambal oelek chili paste (more if you want more heat)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Mix the first seven ingredients (the sweet potato through salt and pepper) in a bowl, mix well.
  2. Set up the assembly line:  Bowl of sweet potato mixture, bowl of rice noodles, plate of sliced veggies, egg roll wraps, and beaten egg.
  3. Place a wrapper on the diagonal on the plate.  First scoop 3 teaspoons of sweet potato mixture and place in the center of the wrap.  Layer with 1/4 cup rice noodles and a few slices of each veggie.
  4. Brush the edges of the wrap with the beaten egg.  First fold the bottom triangle over the veggies, then fold the two side triangles and roll.  You may need to seal the final triangle edge with a little more egg wash.  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  5. Heat 4 inches of canola oil in a pot to 365F.  Fry each egg roll until golden brown on each side.
  6. Stir together all the dipping ingredients and serve with the egg rolls.

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Pesto Pasta with Pan-Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans

green bean potato pesto

I am drooling just looking at this meal; aren’t you?  Homemade Pesto?  Check.  Pasta?  Check.  Caramelized potato hash browns and green beans?  Check.

Pesto pasta with potatoes and green beans is an old Italian classic.  Traditionally, it is a one-pot meal, all boiled in sequential cook times then drained and stirred together with pesto.  I turn this into a one-pot, one-skillet meal, pan-roasting the potatoes and green beans in the skillet.  And, frankly, if I get hash browns out of the deal, I’m okay with a two-pot meal.


PESTO PASTA WITH PAN-ROASTED POTATOES AND GREEN BEANS

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 pound short pasta
  • 2 medium potatoes, diced in 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 cups green beans, trimmed and cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2-3/4 cup basil pesto

DIRECTIONS

  1. Fill a large stockpot with water and bring to a boil.  Salt the water, add the pasta, and cook until al dente, about 8-10 minutes.
  2. While the water is heating, coat a large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat.  Add the potatoes, salt and pepper to taste, and roast, stirring until all sides are golden, about 10 minutes.  Add the green beans and stir with the potatoes, until the green beans are golden browned.
  3. Drain the pasta, return to the pot, and add the potatoes and green beans.  Stir in the pesto.  Start with 1/2 cup, taste, and add more according to your taste.
  4. Serve sprinkled with parmesan cheese, or nutritional yeast to keep it vegan.

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Sesame-Ginger Jackfruit: A Review

Sometimes I look at a fruit or vegetable, especially those with a really thick, barky exterior, and think, “How in the world did the earliest folks on earth decide this thing was edible?!”  Enter the Jackfruit:

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What?!

I have exactly one cookbook that has one recipe in it using jackfruit.  The book recommends finding canned jackfruit in an Asian specialty grocery store, and, after reading that, I thought, “Well, there’s a zero chance I’ll be making and trying that recipe.”  You know how it goes, you read a recipe, and it’s either an “Ooooo, that’s gonna be gooooood!” moment, or a, “Um, yeah, I’m gonna pass on that one…” moment.

If you google this fruit, you’ll find some typical facts: It is native to Southeast Asia; on its own, its flavor is a mixture of apple, pineapple, mango, and banana; it is fibrous, and nutritionally speaking is full of fiber, rich in vitamin C, B6, potassium, calcium, iron, and its seeds are rich in protein.  It’s a powerhouse!  It’s traditionally eaten as itself, a fruit, in sweet applications, or the seeds will be cooked down and added to curries.

If you google The Jackfruit Company, you will discover an amazing company that has revolutionized the jackfruit, making it so accessible for your next quick weeknight dinner.  Forget the canned stuff and Asian specialty grocery stores!  Because of The Jackfruit Company, you can find this fruit in four different flavors and in ready-to-eat packages.  If you’ve had a busy day, you can still have Jackfruit BBQ sliders, Jackfruit TexMex tacos, Jackfruit Curry with rice, or a Sesame-Ginger Jackfruit Salad ready within minutes.

{As a side note, you’ll more likely find it in a “health food store” than a typical grocery store–for my local friends, I found it at Sprouts–but for only $5 for a 10oz package {which meant 4 meals for us!}, it might be worth it to find your nearest health food store and try it out.  Also, this item is in the refrigerated section, I found it around the vegan cheeses and tofu hot dogs.}

jackfruit stir fry 1

jackfruit stir fry 3

I decided to go with the Sesame-Ginger Jackfruit, and paired it with rice noodles and veggies for a delish stir fry.  I wasn’t sure how strong the already-sesame-ginger-flavored jackfruit would taste, and I didn’t want to overpower it with other flavors and seasonings, so I treated the veggies very minimally, just sautéed with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Feel free to make a stir fry with whatever veggies you have on hand; I sautéed broccoli, orange pepper, carrot, snow peas, and stirred the jackfruit, chopped cilantro and sliced green onion into the cooked, warm rice noodles.  Garnish with sliced cucumbers, and you have a happy bowl, happy belly.

jackfruit stir fry 2

jackfruitstirfry

I am definitely going back for more jackfruit!  I loved my experience–it was sweet, flavored and seasoned just right, and it worked perfectly with the veggies–it wasn’t too heavy, like meat can be, it wasn’t stringy, and didn’t get caught in my teeth.  This was the most melt-in-your-mouth stir fry I’ve had!  Thanks, Jackfruit Company!

Mushrooms and Fungal Growths

Although I do not think of myself as a picky eater, the husband thinks I am.  There are things I’d prefer not to eat, but still do if served to me…and then there is that One Thing I try to avoid and definitely not eat if I can help it:  Mushrooms.  The husband loves all things earthy, so mushrooms are right up his alley.  I, however, can’t stomach the thought {literally and figuratively} of eating something defined as a “fungal growth”.  Check it out.  That’s what your dictionary calls those little things growing on the underside of decaying woodland logs and germinating in the dark, damp rural outback.

From a nutrition standpoint, I understand why those following a plant-based lifestyle would seek mushrooms out as “little gems” to add to their diet–they have B Vitamins and is the only item you’ll find along the produce aisle with its own store of Vitamin D.  Thepowerofmushrooms has a pretty great write-up, if you are interested in learning more nutritional facts and benefits about these little beasts.

Despite the nutrition, and fully due to being a fungus, I have no qualms passing up the little white buttons in the grocery store.  I will make an ingredient exception, however, when I come across a “gourmet fungus” I know the hubs would enjoy for dinner.  {Usually when I want to get something out of him…Oh man, now he knows my secret…}

So when I found a small box of golden Chantrelles, known for their beautiful hue and fruity and peppery flavor, I knew risotto was on the menu.  Mushrooms don’t require much in the way of cleaning–just get a damp paper towel and brush off the extra dirt.  Coming from its own habitat, any dirt left on there is clean dirt, right?  Give them a rough chop, sauté with onions, add the rice, and gently cook to make a silky and earthy mushroom risotto.  I even got the hubs to eat a side of broccolini with this dish.

{And what did I get out of it, you ask?  A Clearance Williams-Sonoma shopping spree}

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mushroom risotto 2


MUSHROOM RISOTTO

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: fairly easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup chantrelles, gently cleaned and roughly chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 4-6 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese {or nutritional yeast, to keep it vegan}
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Coat a medium-sized pot with olive oil and heat over medium.  Add the mushrooms and onion and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and continue to sauté until the mushrooms are soft-tender, about another 5-7 minutes.
  2. Add the rice, stirring to coat, and add enough stock to just cover the rice.  Let come to a soft boil then reduce the heat to low.  Simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, and add more stock to just cover the rice.  Continue this adding-stock-and-simmering process until the rice is soft and comes together as a thickened mixture.
  3. Off heat, stir in the parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast and divide evenly among the serving bowls.  Garnish with toasted, chopped walnuts and parsley.

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Green Lentil Salad with Roasted Cauliflower, Green Beans, Cipollini Onions and Walnuts

I feel really torn about the change in weather.  Don’t get me wrong–I love summer, sun, running outside without all those winter layers…but I will desperately miss sweaters, soups, and roasted vegetables that somehow seem too heavy when the thermometer stretches above 75 degrees.

For this weather I love “In-Between Salads”–a whole grain mixed with roasted veggies.  Warm enough to hit the spot on a still-cool evening, but light enough to be a quick lunch before heading off for a sunny afternoon jog.  This salad is made of green lentils and wonderfully roasted cauliflower, green beans, and the most amazing, sweet and melty cipollini {pronounced Chee-poh-lee-nee} onions.

If you’ve never had a cipollini onion, you’ve been missing out big time.  They are small, cute as a button, have more sugar than regular yellow or white onions and none of the crazy tongue-biting raw onionness.  The folks at Thekitchn wrote up a pretty great description here–full of juicy details like how to best peel them, why caramelizing them works wonders, and links to other great cipollini onion recipes.

Super simple, this green lentil salad comes together within 30 minutes, and can be served warm or cold.  green lentil salad 1


GREEN LENTIL SALAD WITH ROASTED CAULIFLOWER, GREEN BEANS, CIPOLLINI ONIONS, AND WALNUTS

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup green beans, trimmed and cut 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup cauliflower florets
  • 1 cup cipollini onions, skins peeled but left whole
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup green lentils
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.  Place the green beans, cauliflower florets, and cipollini onions in a large bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste and spread over a large baking sheet.  Roast for 30 minutes, stirring halfway to evenly brown all sides.
  2. Prepare the lentils:  coat the bottom of a medium pot with olive oil, heat over medium-high heat.  Add the lentils and salt and pepper to taste, and quickly toast before adding the vegetable stock.  Let come to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes until the lentils are tender.
  3. Toss the lentils together with the roasted vegetables and add the chopped walnuts and serve.

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Homemade Cupboard Pasta

If there’s anything I love using the rest of the squidgy remains from the bottom of the mixed greens bag, it’s for making homemade pasta.  Not all the greens are smooshy, but they are definitely more smoothy or pasta worthy vs. a fresh, crisp salad.  Homemade pasta is such an easy pull-together cupboard meal:  Homemade pasta isn’t as daunting as you might think, and there are a variety of toppings or sauces that will elevate your meal so no one will know it’s a pulled-together-cupboard meal.

Fresh: 2-3 cups mixed greens, a few sprigs of Italian parsley.  Cupboard:  butternut squash, yellow onion, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts {I keep winter squashes and onions in my pantry, and walnuts in my freezer, so I consider these “pantry items”}.

Things are always a little more fun when you have a pair of helping hands.

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Roasted butternut squash, caramelized onions, and toasted walnut gremolata…Who says a Cupboard Meal has to be a brown and tasteless meal stirred together from a box?

spinach pasta with roasted butternut squash 1spinach pasta cupboard meal


SPINACH PASTA WITH ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH, CARAMELIZED ONIONS, AND TOASTED WALNUT GREMOLATA

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: medium, for the homemade pasta
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I follow Bob’s Red Mill Semolina Flour Basic Pasta Recipe, adding sautéed mixed greens to the dough 

INGREDIENTS FOR THE PASTA

  • 2 cups spinach or mixed greens
  • 1 1/2 cups semolina flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

INGREDIENTS FOR THE ROASTED SQUASH AND GREMOLATA

  • 2 cups butternut squash, diced
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs

DIRECTIONS

  1. Coat a large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat.  Sauté the spinach or mixed greens until wilted, drain all excess liquid in a colander, pressing the greens to ensure all liquid drains.
  2. Mix semolina flour and salt into a large bowl and make a well int he center.
  3. In the blender, mix the spinach, eggs, water, and olive oil until blended to a smooth consistency.  Add to the semolina flour and stir together until a rough dough forms.
  4. Use all-purpose flour to cover the work surface and dump the dough out onto the flour and knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough is elastic and soft, not sticky.  You will add up to 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour into the pasta dough while kneading.  Once a smooth ball forms from kneading, cover with plastic wrap or a towel and let rest for 20-30 minutes.
  5. While dough is resting, prepare the butternut squash.  Coat the large skillet with olive oil again, heat on medium-high heat, and sauté the butternut squash until soft when poked with a fork and golden around the edges.  Set aside in a bowl.  Add olive oil to the same pan and add the sliced onion, maple syrup, and salt and pepper to taste.  Reduce the heat to low and cook the onion until golden and soft.  Add to the same bowl with the butternut squash and set aside.
  6. Press the dough through your pasta maker according to factory instructions.  Let the pasta dough rest on parchment paper and fill a large pot with water to boil.  Salt the boiling water; the fresh pasta will take just 3-4 minutes to cook.
  7. Drain the pasta and add the pan-roasted squash and caramelized onion with the pasta back into the large pot.
  8. Add just a sprinkling of olive oil into the large skillet, heat on medium, and add the walnuts and breadcrumbs, toasting quickly.  Off heat, add the parsley.  Toss all together with the pasta and squash.
  9. Serve with a sprinkling of olive oil, and extra gremolata toppings.

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Tuscan White Bean Soup and Whole Wheat Biscuits

On soup night my husband always says he feels like he’s being cheated out of a real dinner.  I don’t know what to tell him; in my book there’s nothing more comforting than a hot bowl of homemade soup with biscuits on the side.  It’s been pretty sunny and warmish in our neck of the woods, but I think we’ll still have a few cooler days around the corner, at least one or two for another good soup night.

tuscan white bean soup ingredients

The secret to a good biscuit is to keep the cold ingredients really cold, bring all the ingredients together as quickly as possible, and gently knead no more than 10-12 times.  That combination will ensure the flakiest, softest biscuit on your side of the Mississippi.

A note on wheat flour.  I purchase whole wheat berries and grind them to make my bread.  I happened to run out of hard white wheat berries (which has a softer wheat flavor, and yields a softer, spongier bread), and only had hard red wheat berries (which has a “harder” wheat flavor, and yields a heavier, denser bread).  I thought I’d try my hand at whole wheat biscuits instead of cutting them with half wheat flour/half all-purpose white flour.  They were true to hard red wheat form, and had a really wheat-y flavor that worked well with the rustic soup.  Feel free to cut half and half for a softer biscuit, if you’d like!

tuscan white bean soup biscuitstuscan white bean soup biscuits 2tuscan white bean soup biscuits 3tuscan white bean soup 2


TUSCAN WHITE BEAN SOUP

  • Servings: 4-6 bowls
  • Difficulty: easy
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Soups aren’t hard to pull together, and are a great busy-night-dinner-fixing.  Soup can be served right away, but if you let it all simmer for at least an hour, you’ll draw out deeper layers of flavor. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups mixed chopped carrots, celery, and yellow onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and sliced on the diagonal
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups short pasta
  • 1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups mixed greens
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Coat the bottom of a large stock pot with olive oil and heat to medium-high.  Add the mixed chopped carrots, celery and yellow onion and salt and pepper to taste, and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant.
  2. Add the diagonally-sliced carrot, sun-dried tomatoes, bay leaves, and vegetable stock and water.  Let come to a boil and add the short pasta.  Let cook for at least 8 minutes, turn the heat down to low and let simmer until the carrots are tender, about 15-20 minutes.
  3. Add more water as needed for the soup-y consistency you want, then add the beans and greens and stir just until the greens are wilted.
  4. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

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WHOLE WHEAT BISCUITS

  • Servings: makes 10 biscuits (using a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter)
  • Difficulty: easy
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This recipe is from The Complete Guide to Country Cooking.  While the recipe calls for 2 cups all-purpose flour, I used 2 cups whole wheat flour.  Feel free to use half white, half wheat flour.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; cut in shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in buttermilk.  On a floured surface, knead 10-12 times.  Roll to 1/2-inch thickness; cut with a 2 1/2 inch biscuit cutter.  Place on a greased cookie sheet (I use a sheet of parchment paper).  Bake at 450F for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

 

Roasting 101

Roasting vegetables is my most favorite preparation.  You get a huge return on a very minimal preparation:  Roasting coaxes such a deep, sweet flavor from your veggies that easily elevates your main dishes, soups, stews, salads, and sauces–and all you have to do is slice, drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper {and optionally maple syrup, lemon juice/zest}, and place in a hot oven for an hour or so.

One of my go-to meals is roasting a winter squash and filling it with some sort of whole grain+veggie stuffing.  {Here’s an example} I love it because I can throw the squash in the oven and forget about it for an hour, and the stuffing takes just 20-30 minutes to prepare.  Roasting whole or sliced veggies adds sweetness and depth to a salad–throw your veggies in the oven, forget about them for 20-60 minutes, and toss your salad ingredients once the oven is off.  Super easy.  {Try this salad, or this one}  I love roasting garden  tomatoes and onions to make my fresh summer tomato sauce, or tomatillos and poblanos for fresh tomatillo sauce.  {I’ve also been known to use green tomatoes in the place of tomatillos for a Faux Tomatillo Sauce}.

I will use one of my “Food Prep Days” to load up pans of veggies/foil-wrapped sweet potatoes, roast them, then scoop out the flesh and measure into a freezer storage bag to use later for flavoring homemade pastas, pizzas, soups, biscuits, enchiladas, etc.  This is a great preparation method to still get homemade deep flavor if you have an especially busy week ahead of you–spend an hour or so roasting over the weekend, freeze, and pull out the bag at the beginning of your day so it’s a ready-to-go-quick-addition your dinner.   roasting beforeroasting after


ROASTING 101

  • Servings: you decide
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • Vegetable of choice

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Prepare your vegetable by slicing, dicing, halving, scooping out seeds as needed.  Lay on a large baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper, or other ingredients as needed.  Flavors will concentrate while roasting in the oven–maple syrup, lemon juice/zest, other ground spices are great additions.
  3. If using large chunks/slices of vegetables, place them in a large bowl after preparing, and add olive oil, salt and pepper, and stir to evenly coat all sides.  Then place on the baking sheet.  Make sure your sheet is large enough–you don’t want to crowd the vegetables or they will steam instead of roast.
  4. For large cuts, like halved winter squashes, roast for at least one hour.  If they are very thick, they may take 1 1/2-2 hours, just keep an eye on them.  They will be golden brown and soft when poked with a fork or knife.
  5. For slices or smaller cuts, like sliced winter squash, carrots, or sliced vegetables for a sauce, roast for 20 minutes, flip slices to the other side, or stir the combined sauce veggies, and roast for another 20-30 minutes.  You want nice caramelized (or golden brown) edges, not burnt edges.

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Vegetable Stock and Veg Mix

About once a year I load up on HUGE amounts of carrots, celery, onions, parsley, and garlic, and I spend a couple days making vegetable stock and chopping celery, onions, and carrots to freeze for a pre-made, ready to grab veg mix to use throughout the year.

I store everything in freezer quart bags, label them, and throw them in the deep freeze, laying flat so I can stack them easier.  The chopped mix usually lasts me a whole year, and the stock usually 6-8 months, then I restock my stock {…haha} as I need until the next Veg Day.

{Let me welcome you into the deep insides of my freezer}

vegetable stock and mirepoux.JPG

As far as chopping vegetables, that’s it.  Chop them all up into equal-sized bits and pieces, stir in a big bowl to evenly distribute, scoop into a freezer bag.  End of story.  I usually just do the carrots, celery, and onion, and add garlic later when I’m cooking, if I need it.  {My mom loves to do things for me when she visits.  You know, like clean my floorboards or fan blades, all the little things I normally don’t get to.  She once grated an entire Costco-sized bag of whole, peeled garlic cloves for me, and scooped the gratings into an ice cube tray to freeze so I could use later.  She only stopped when she said her fingers were starting to burn.  Moms are awesome.}  Last tip:  Don’t add parsley, it will get goopy and gross hanging out in the freezer then defrosting.

Vegetable stock couldn’t be easier.  Your stock will taste like what you put in it.  For a Basic Vegetable Stock, I always use carrots, celery, onions, parsley, garlic, and salt and pepper.  For a little zing, I’ve added lemon to that mix.  For sweetness, I’ve added parsnips and apples.

Just sauté your roughly chopped ingredients in a large pot, cover with water, and let simmer for about 45 minutes.  Let it cool to room temperature and divide into freezer bags {I usually do anywhere from 2-4 cups per bag, because I know those are my go-to stock amounts I always use}.  Label, lay flat, freeze, and pull out at your leisure for a deeper flavor in your soups, stews, rice, grains, etc.

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BASIC VEGETABLE STOCK

  • Servings: 5 1/2 quarts, made in a 6 quart stock pot
  • Difficulty: super easy
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Salt and Pepper to taste…what does that mean?!  Your taste is different from mine.  For such a large batch, I usually add 1 tablespoon of each.  It’s better to start with small amounts–remember the water is reducing, concentrating the salt.  You can always add more salt and pepper, but you can’t take it away once it’s been cooking.  One half of cooking is cooking, the other half is tasting as you cook and adjusting flavors as needed during the cooking process.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 yellow onions, quartered
  • 3 carrots, cut in 2-inch chunks
  • 3 celery stalks, cut in 2-inch chunks
  • 1 cup whole, peeled garlic cloves
  • 1 handful fresh Italian parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste (you can use whole peppercorns or ground pepper)
  • 7-10 cups water

DIRECTIONS

  1. Coat a 6-Quart stock pot with olive oil and heat over medium high to high heat.  Add the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic, and salt and pepper to taste.  Sauté until the vegetables are just starting to turn golden brown.
  2. Add the parsley and add enough water to cover the vegetables with 1-2 inches of water.  Let the stock come to a boil, and reduce heat to low.  Let the stock simmer for 20-30 minutes.  Add more water to raise the stock level to 1-2 inches above the vegetables, and let simmer for another 20 minutes.
  3. Turn off heat and let cool to room temperature.  Pour through a strainer into  a large pitcher or measure cup with a spout, for easy-less-mess pouring into freezer bags.  If you use a large measuring cup, you’ll also know how many cups per bag you’re pouring.  (Isn’t experience nice like that?)
  4. To freeze, label the bags with the date and amount, lay flat on a large baking sheet, and freeze overnight.  Once they are frozen you can stack them to make more room in your freezer.

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Cupboard Meals

I go grocery shopping once every two weeks.  I wish it were more often; my most favorite place in the world is strolling the aisles of international sauces, bulk whole grains, and smelling produce to bring home with me.  Forget new shoes or clothes, give me groceries!

Toward the end of the two weeks, I have to admit, I’m throwing dinner together with pretty slim pickin’s.  It’s a grab-and-go from my cupboard, supplemented with fridge-produce-scraps.  Admit it, you do the same thing.  If you don’t, I’m super embarrassed right now.  On the other hand, here’s an idea for your next Cupboard-Grab-N-Go Meal: Roasted Acorn Squash with Garbanzo Bean Lentil Stuffing.  Fresh: mixed greens, an apple.  Cupboard: Acorn squash {I’m counting this as a “Cupboard Item” because I keep winter squashes in my pantry through the winter}, canned garbanzo beans {I always think of these in Italian: “ceci”}, craisins, green lentils, bread crumbs, sunflower seeds {I keep a big container in my freezer}, “veg mix.”

About once a year I load up on HUGE amounts of carrots, celery, onions, parsley, and garlic, and I spend a couple days making vegetable stock and chopping celery, onions, and carrots to freeze for a pre-made, ready to grab veg mix to use during the slim-pickin’s time.  The chopped mix usually lasts me a whole year, and the stock usually 6-8 months, then I restock my stock.  {…haha}

cupboard meal roast squash 3

Roasting is super easy: Cut the squash, clean out the seeds, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast at 400F for an hour.  I added a drizzle of maple syrup with this squash.

Before:

cupboard meal roast squash

After:

cupboard meal roast squash 2

Pull together the stuffing in a pot while the squash is roasting, and you’re good to go.

cupboard meal roast squash 4


 

ROASTED ACORN SQUASH WITH GARBANZO BEAN LENTIL STUFFING

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: pretty easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 acorn squash, cut in half and cleaned of seeds
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup combined chopped carrot, celery, and yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup green or brown lentils
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 apple, chopped (peeled or leave the peel on, up to you)
  • 1/4 cup craisins or currants
  • 1/2 can Garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • handful of mixed greens
  • sprinkling of sunflower seeds

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat oven to 400F.  Prepare acorn squash on a baking sheet: Drizzle with olive oil, divide the maple syrup between the two halves, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast for at least 1 hour.  If the squash is very thick, it may take longer, just watch it.  The squash will be soft and golden brown when it’s done.
  2. While the squash is roasting, prepare the stuffing.  Coat a large pot with olive oil and heat over medium high heat.  Sauté the chopped carrots, celery, and onion with salt and pepper to taste.  When the onion is translucent, add the lentils and sauté for another 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add the vegetable stock, apple, and craisins, and let come to a boil.  Lower heat and let simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the lentils are tender and all the stock has been absorbed.
  4. Off heat, add the garbanzo beans, breadcrumbs, and mixed greens, and stir until well combined.  Cover with a lid and keep warm until the squash is done.
  5. For 2 servings, this will be a meal, just fill each acorn squash half with the lentil stuffing, sprinkle with sunflower seeds, and serve.  For 4, this will be side-sized, and will be great served with salad or soup.  Just cut the acorn squash into 4 equal portions and divide the lentil stuffing evenly.  Sprinkle with sunflower seeds and serve.

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