Saving up Tokens and Potstickers

Another change I instituted when starting grad school was tokens for chores.  We’ve had a chore chart for a while, and initially paid quarters and nickels and dimes for chores.  My boys’ interest in the money jar lasted just a month or so, and the chore chart subsequently lost its value.  When my boys got into Star Wars {and my husband introduced them to Star Wars video games}–and I started grad school and needed help around the house–I knew the chore chart was about to get dusted off.  For each chore they check off on their chart, they get one 5 minute token.  They add up tokens and turn them in for screen time–video games, shows, games on a phone, etc.

We’re going on four months now, and the novelty hasn’t worn off yet!  My boys get up, {mostly} check off their morning chores without me asking, ask if they can check off the afternoon chores, and always check off the evening and count out their tokens for the day before going to bed.  Ok, well, there are some mornings with lingering dishes on the breakfast table, and some nights with toys on the floor, but it’s a vast improvement from before.  It’s been great to watch them count the tokens at the end of the day and put them in their jar, and then count by 5’s to turn them in for a 20 minute show or game time, share the price of a show by joining tokens together, or tell me they want to save up their tokens for an hour of game time.  And let’s not forget the power of the token in terms of punishment or reward–or how cool you become when you say they can have some free time on you.

Tokens for me?  Freezer meals.  Dinner prep was seriously crunched during the semester, and it helped so much to have freezer meals to pull out and all I’d have to do was heat up the oven.  You have to devote a chunk of prep time–when you have time–but you’ll thank your cool self later when the only prep you have to do for dinner is heat up the oven or a skillet.

A couple hours one afternoon made a few lentil potsticker meals down the line.  Lentils only take about 20 minutes to make, mash them into a paste, add a finely chopped vegetable medley, herbs and asian seasonings, and your wrappers are ready to be wrapped.

Just about 1-2 teaspoons is enough for the small circle wrappers, then you just seal with water and crimp the edge by folding the wrapper over on itself.  And repeat.

You can cook some right away {because who can resist a good potsticker} and flash freeze the rest to pull out on a busy day.


LENTIL POTSTICKERS

  • Servings: makes one full package of small circle wrappers
  • Difficulty: medium, just for the time
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup brown lentils, cooked and mashed
  • 1/2 cup each finely chopped carrots, snow peas, red pepper, fresh cilantro, green onion
  • 3 teaspoons Szechwan seasoning
  • 1-2 teaspoons sambal oelek with garlic

DIRECTIONS

  1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Prepare an area to fill the wrappers (I like using a cutting board for easy clean up), and a bowl with water to seal the wrappers.
  3. Using a teaspoon, scoop the filling onto one wrapper at a time.  brush water along the wrapper edges and fold in half, sealing closed by pressing with your fingers.  To create the crimped edges, fold the edges over itself and seal by using water as needed.
  4. To cook, place two tablespoons oil and 1/4 cup water in a skillet.  Place the potstickers in the skillet, base-down, cover, and heat to medium-high.  Let cook for 7-8 minutes, then remove the lid and let the liquid evaporate or until the bottoms of the potstickers are golden brown and crispy.  Serve with your favorite dipping sauce (mine is a little soy sauce, sesame oil, lime juice, sambal oelek, and green onions).

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Farm Stand Harvest

My oldest started kindergarten a couple weeks ago.  He’s done fantastically well, no tears at all, and comes home every day with a grin on his face.  After his first week, though, he did ask if he was done.  So we had the conversation about what the school year means vs. summer break, and “first kid school” {elementary school}, “second kid school” {middle school}, and third kid school {high school}, and then there’s even more school–“adult school” {college}, and then more adult school, for more specialty {graduate school}!  Yesterday my son said to me, “Mommy, when you grow up you’re going to be a cooker, right?  You love to cook.  Are you going to cooker school when you grow up?”

I just smiled and said, “Yup.”

You don’t need cooker school for this recipe–just a Farmer’s Stand–Run and get some corn, zucchini, and tomatoes, and you’re halfway there to making a fresh summer succotash!  The rest:  leftover rice, a can of cannellini beans, breadcrumbs…and you have a crispy rice cake to have with the succotash.

summer succotash with rice cakes 1

Chop up all your succotash ingredients about the same size and start sautéing,

summer succotash with rice cakes 2

summer succotash with rice cakes 3Add chopped tomatoes and parsley for a little freshness,

summer succotash with rice cakes 4Pan-fry your rice cakes, and voilá!

summer succotash with rice cakes 6 summersuccotashwithricecakes


RICE CAKES WITH SUMMER SUCCOTASH

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy, but there are two different components you have to keep and eye on
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INGREDIENTS FOR THE SUCCOTASH

  • 4 ears fresh corn, shucked and kernels cut off into a bowl
  • 2 small to medium zucchini, diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2-3 small tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons butter

INGREDIENTS FOR THE RICE CAKES

  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups bread crumbs

DIRECTIONS

  1. Start with forming the rice cakes.  Prepare two shallow bowls, one with  2 eggs, beaten, and the other bowl with the breadcrumbs.  Place a sheet of parchment paper on your work counter to place the rice cakes on to rest.
  2. Mix the rice, 1 cup of corn, the other beaten egg, and salt and pepper to taste in a mixing bowl.  Divide the rice mixture into 4 or 6 equal balls, and press each ball firmly together.  Gently flatten to form a patty.  First cover the rice cake with egg, and then pass to the breadcrumb bowl and cover both sides.  Lay on the parchment paper to rest.
  3. Prepare the succotash:  Coat a large sauté pan with olive oil and heat to medium high heat.  Add the remaining corn, zucchini, onion, and beans, and salt and pepper to taste.  Sauce until the onion is translucent, and the other vegetables are crisp tender, about 7-10 minutes.
  4. Add the water, tomatoes, and parsley and let simmer until the broth has reduced by half.  Reduce heat to low, add butter and stir until a thin sauce develops.  Let the succotash stay warm on low heat while pan frying the rice cakes.
  5. To pan-fry the rice cakes, coat another sauté pan with olive oil and heat to medium.  Add the rice cakes, 2-3 at a time, and fry on each side until golden brown.  To serve, place a rice cake on the plate and top with a few spoonfuls of the succotash.

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Fava Bean Succotash and Camping with Dinosaurs

We just ended a weeklong vacation camping trip.  In a tent.  Without a fridge.  We camped through dinosaur country, checking out dinosaur fossils, dinosaur tracks, 10,000 year-old petroglyphs, and rockhounding.  My husband and boys love this stuff.  I’ll be honest, my happy place is not in a tent, un-showered for five straight days.  {My happy place is more along the lines of a beach, crystal blue waters stretching to the horizon, something all-inclusive would be great–because then I don’t have to do the dishes…and it’ll have a shower…}  I will tell you from personal experience that squeeze cheese + crackers, raisins + cream of wheat, and non-perishable fruit containers in heavy syrup do not satisfy a fresh food craving.  I am high-tailing it to a Farmer’s Market tomorrow, and drooling while writing today’s post.

One of our camping nights was pretty chilly and rainy, and other than hot chocolate, I kept thinking of a dish I’d made a few weeks ago:  A warm bowl of creamy polenta topped with succotash.  Succotash is traditionally a Southern dish cooked with corn and lima beans.  I substituted fresh fava beans in place of the lima beans {lima beans never were my favorite growing up}, and asparagus tips I had on hand.  I am going to have to figure out how to turn this meal into one of those “Just Add Water” camping meals and pack it along next time!!

Fava beans are like lima beans in size, but where limas are kind of starchy, dry, and flavorless, favas have a sweet flavor and juicy texture.  They are also packed with a nutritional punch:  Per 1 cup of favas, you get 10 grams of Protein (20% of your daily nutritional need), 418 mg of Potassium (11% daily need), 9 grams of fiber (36% daily need), and throw in some Vitamins A and C, Iron, and Magnesium for good measure.  And, when mixing a legume with corn, you are also getting all the protein essential amino acids in one bite.

There are only a few beans per pod, so count on purchasing at least one pound of fava pods per person/serving.  You open the bean pod by pulling the “seam” of the bean from the top down, like opening a zipper on a jacket.  The beans are encased in a white, waxy shell.  That shell is removed by boiling for about 5-7 minutes, then running under cold water to stop the cooking process.  I cook mine in a colander for the easy pull-out-and-run-under-cold-water method.

fava bean succotash 1 fava bean succotash 2

The succotash is super easy to make–just get the fresh corn shucked, the fava beans shelled, and the asparagus tips cut up, and sauté everyone together, adding water halfway through the cook time, and then some butter at the very end to make a buttery succotash sauce.  I served this meal on top of creamy white polenta–it was filling, sweet, savory, and Farmer-Stand-Fresh.

fava bean succotash 3 fava bean succotash 4 favabeansuccotash


FAVA BEAN SUCCOTASH WITH WHITE POLENTA

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: pretty easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup white cornmeal
  • 1 cup milk (optional)
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese (or nutritional yeast flakes to keep vegan)
  • 4 pounds fresh fava bean pods, shelled from the main pod
  • 4 ears fresh corn, shucked and cut from the cob, reserving 1 fresh cob
  • 1 small bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut in thirds
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 tablespoons butter (or vegan butter option)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Prepare the polenta.  Stir 1 cup cornmeal, 1 cup milk (or water), and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a mixing bowl and set aside.  Heat 3 cups water to boiling in a large pot.  Once boiling, add the cornmeal mixture and stir vigorously to keep the mixture smooth and lump-free.  Turn the heat to low and continue cooking for another 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently.  You may need to add another 1/2 cup-1 cup of water, 1/4 cup at a time, while cooking, depending on the consistency you like.  Adding more water while cooking will give the polenta a looser consistency, less water will make a thicker polenta.  Once done, add the parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast flakes and put a lid on the pot to keep warm while preparing the succotash.
  2. Place the fava beans with the waxy, white exterior shell in a large pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and let cook for 5-7 minutes.  Drain and run under cold water for 2-3 minutes.  The beans will pop right out of this waxy exterior with a little pinch.  Completely shell the beans into a bowl.
  3. Coat a large sauté pan with olive oil and heat to medium-high.  Add the fava beans, corn, asparagus, and onion, and salt and pepper to taste.  Sauté, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent and the beans are just tender, about 5-7 minutes.
  4. Add 1 cup water and the cob, and allow to come to a gentle boil.  Lower the heat and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half.  Remove the cob and add the butter, stirring until a smooth, velvety sauce has brought all the vegetables together.
  5. To serve, divide the polenta evenly among the bowls or plates, and top with the succotash.  If desired, sprinkle with more parmesan cheese.

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Crostini Trio

I’ve always loved sandwiches–one of my favorite memories is going to visit my Grandparents and Aunt and cousins for a couple weeks every summer, and the first thing we did after tumbling out of the hot and sticky East Coast summer car was run into my Grandparent’s kitchen and pull out all the sandwich fixings.  Rye and pumpernickel breads, crispy, cool lettuce, lunch meats and cheeses, mustard and mayonnaise.  I’ve always regarded the sandwich as a comfort food and associated it with happy times.

Oh, Sandwich!  Such melodrama!

I decided to make a trio of crostini one Saturday–little pan-fried bread slices topped with three different toppings.  Maybe it was due to my having just run a 12-mile trail run, and my husband cycling 40 miles around a mountain, but this meal was a smashing success!  One crostini {crostino?} topped with a cannellini bean spread with fresh cucumber slices; one topped with creamy guacamole with olive oil tomatoes; one topped with pistachio basil pesto with fried potato rounds.  These toppings are simple enough for a family gathering, or sophisticated enough for a dinner party.

crostini trio collage 1 crostini trio collage 2

This was a perfect meal for the two of us {although I admit we ate as much as a dinner party would have}.  We treated the pan-fried breads like tortilla chips and dipped away!  I have to warn you–if you ever come over for chips and dip, or crostini, for that matter–we liberally and unabashedly double dip.

crostini trio 7


CANNELLINI BEAN SPREAD WITH CUCUMBER SLICES

  • Servings: makes 1 1/2 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 15oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 3 mini sweet cucumbers, finely sliced
  • 1 baguette, if serving as crostini

DIRECTIONS

  1. Smash the Cannellini beans with a fork or a potato smasher to a rough paste.  Add the lemon zest and juice and parsley, salt and pepper to taste, and a swirl or two of olive oil.  Stir together and serve with breadsticks, crackers, or crostini.
  2. To make crostini, slice a baguette on the bias.  Brush with olive oil and bake in a 400F oven until browned on each side, or pan fry in a skillet with olive oil, turning until each side is golden.

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CREAMY GUACAMOLE WITH OLIVE OIL TOMATOES

  • Servings: makes 1 1/2 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 avocado, peeled and pit removed
  • 1/4 cup red onion, very finely chopped
  • 2 scallions, green ends finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes
  • 1 baguette, if serving as crostini

DIRECTIONS

  1. Smash the avocado with a fork or potato smasher to a rough paste.  Add the red onion through the lime zest and juice and gently stir together.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. For the olive oil tomatoes, slice the grape tomatoes in half or in quarters, if they are larger in size, and place in a small bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and stir.
  3. To serve with crostini, slice a baguette on the bias.  Brush with olive oil and bake in a 400F oven until browned on each side, or pan fry in a skillet with olive oil, turning until each side is golden.

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PISTACHIO BASIL PESTO WITH FRIED POTATO ROUNDS

  • Servings: makes 1 cup pesto
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup pistachios
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2-3 small red, white, or yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 baguette, if serving as crostini

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender, add salt and pepper to taste and start with 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Pulse the blender until slightly mixed, clean the sides of the blender with a spatula, and blend again, adding more olive oil while blending until the pesto comes together in a smooth consistency.
  2. Slice the potatoes very thinly.  Coat a large skillet with olive oil and heat to medium-high.  Place the potato slices in a single layer in the skillet, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and pan fry until golden on each side.
  3. To serve with crostini, slice the baguette on the bias.  Brush with olive oil and bake in a 400F oven until browned on each side, or pan fry in a skillet with olive oil, turning until each side is golden.

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Chickpea Zucchini Burgers and Sriracha “Just Mayo”

chickpea zucchini cakes 1

chickpea zucchini cakes 2

Three common concerns I hear about eating a meatless meal is first, it takes too long to prepare, second, eating so much produce is too expensive, and third, that it doesn’t taste as good as a meal with meat as the main star.  This meal will not just change your mind, but it will blow your mind {and not your bank account}.  Big Time.

If you have time to pat together ground meat for burgers, you have time to make these chickpea zucchini burgers–and you’ll be impressed at how filling and delicious and not greasy these burgers are.  I ate these patties with a salad, and my husband dressed them up as a full-fledged burger, but we both had baked sweet potatoes on the side, and we both topped them with Hampton Creek’s Sriracha Just Mayo.

{In case you haven’t tried Just Mayo yet, here’s the big plug:  Hampton Creek is bringing down the house with their eggless, plant-based products!  This “vegan spread has rattled the egg industry“, it will rattle your world, and it will rattle your ham chickpea burger!  The Sriracha Mayo has just enough zing to add enough flavor without too much heat–so it makes your meal taste better instead of totally overpowering your tastebuds.  It’s The Best.}


CHICKPEA ZUCCHINI BURGERS

  • Servings: makes 6 patties
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Meatless

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • zest and juice of 1/2 of a lemon
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked (vegan option: substitute with 1 tablespoon ground flax seed, 3 tablespoons water mixed together)
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Grate the zucchini and let drain in a colander to remove extra liquid.
  2. Meanwhile, place chickpeas in a large mixing bowl.  Mash with a potato masher until you have a mostly homogenous mixture.  Add the grated zucchini and the rest of the ingredients, and stir until well-mixed.
  3. Separate the mixture into 6 equal portions, and form each portion into a ball, then flatten into a patty.  Alternately, I used 2 scoops with a #40 scooper to make a patty.
  4. Coat a large skillet with olive oil and heat to medium.  Sauté patties until golden and crisp, about 3-4 minutes on each side.
  5. Enjoy with a salad or with your favorite burger toppings.

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BAKED SWEET POTATO FRIES

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1-2 large sweet potatoes, peeled
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Slice the peeled sweet potatoes into large wedges and place in a large mixing bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Spread on a large enough baking sheet so the wedges don’t overlap or touch each other.  Bake for 20 minutes, stir/flip/spatula-ize the wedges and bake for another 10-15 minutes until golden and crispy.
  4. These are so yummy if served with Sriracha Just Mayo!!

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A Little Closer to Home

My aim in creating this blog is to showcase satisfying meatless main dishes you can easily throw together without having to totally change your pantry.  I knew I would have a small target audience who already ate in this manner and would have ingredients readily available, but I was hoping to reach out to the “Average Kitchen” and maybe inspire more meatless meals in their weekly prep.

It has recently come to my attention that what I consider “normal pantry items” and a “throw-together meatless meal” is a bit far-fetched for the Average Kitchen.

The last thing I want is for your kitchen to be a scary place.  At the same time, I’d love for your kitchen to become a place where you learn new techniques, new flavors, and try a couple meatless meals, because it’s worth it!  I really, really want eating meatless to be yummy, satisfying, filling, and very not-daunting!!  It really is  easy and can be throw-together, and doesn’t have to be just photos you thumb through in a Williams-Sonoma book and regard as meals prepared in another stratosphere or even another life.

So.  Dialing back the stratosphere…Sandwiches are always good for dinner, right?  Quesadillas?  And there’s nothing wrong with adding some veggies to a quesadilla, is there?  Butternut squash…Poblano pepper…Black beans…Fresh salsa…Cilantro…Drooling yet?

butternut squash poblano quesadilla ingredientsSauté the squash, beans, red onion, and poblano together, layer in the skillet with cheese, and serve it up with fresh salsa and a squirt of lime.  I used Pepper Jack cheese, but if you’d like to keep it vegan, make cashew cream and add cilantro, a diced up jalapeño, red pepper flakes, and some salt and pepper to give it a spicy kick.

butternut squash poblano quesadilla 1

 

butternut squash poblano quesadilla 3

butternut squash poblano quesadilla 2


BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND ROASTED POBLANO QUESADILLAS

  • Servings: serves 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Simple Weeknight Favorites

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 poblano chiles
  • 4 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup Pepper Jack cheese, shredded
  • 8-12 corn tortillas
  • Serve with fresh salsa and lime wedges

DIRECTIONS

  1. First roast the poblano peppers.  If you have a gas stove, you can roast them right on your open flame of the cook top.  Rotate the peppers every few minutes to evenly char all sides of the pepper.  Once charred, place peppers in a large container with a tight-fitting lid, cover, and let the peppers steam for 5-10 minutes.  Allowing the charred peppers to steam will help the skins peel off easier.  Peel all the skins off and scrape out the seeds, then dice up the peppers.  (This Gal Cooks has a great in-the-oven poblano pepper roasting tutorial.)
  2. Coat a large skillet with olive oil and sauté the diced butternut squash with salt and pepper to taste for 5-7 minutes.  Add the red onion and diced poblano pepper, a little more salt and pepper to taste, and stir everything together.
  3. Add the chopped cilantro to the Pepper Jack cheese.
  4. Stacking the quesadillas.  I always add a splash of olive oil to the skillet to get the corn tortilla a little crispy.  Layer:  Corn tortilla, Sprinkling of cheese/cilantro mix, a couple spoonfuls of the butternut squash/bean/poblano mix, another sprinkling of cheese/cilantro mix, top with another corn tortilla.  Toast until golden brown, then flip, adding another splash of olive oil to toast the other side.
  5. Serve with fresh salsa and lime wedges.

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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.

 

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
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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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What Do I Do With ALL THOSE BEANS??!!

Scenario 1: You purchase a bean mix, thinking you’ll make a great batch of chili with it, and soup, and maybe…something else (it’ll come to you later)…then….it just sits in your cupboard until next year’s chili season.  And every time you open your pantry door, you see that huge container of mixed beans, still three-quarters or seven-eighths full, and feel a little guiltier each time you see it.  “What do I do with ALL THOSE BEANS??!!”  You ask yourself every.time.you.open.the.pantry.

Scenario 2: You were using those beans to make a large pot of Tomato Bean Chili for a multi-family chili pot luck, so you followed the container instructions and soaked a BUNCH of beans overnight, thinking you’d make two huge batches of chili.  You always forget how far beans go!  Sure, it was great to use up over half the container of beans, but you only used a third of those soaked/pre-cooked beans in the chili.  So now you have a bunch ready-to-use beans for….?

Meatless Main to the RESCUE!  Here are three recipes for the price of one bean:  Tomato Bean Chili, Full O’ Beans Shepherd’s Pie, and Beanie-Veggie Burgers!

My bean mix is from Epicurean Specialty, and includes dried kidney, white, pinto, and black beans, split yellow and green peas, and lentils.  I love this mix!  It’s hearty, versatile, warm, and as you’ll see, works great in more than just soup or chili!

bean mix chili


TOMATO BEAN CHILI

  • Servings: One Large Pot, about 6-8
  • Difficulty: medium, for time
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INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups dried bean mix
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 1 cup parsley, roughly chopped
  • 2 poblano peppers, seeds and ribs removed, and chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried wheat berries {or farro, barley, or other whole grain of choice}
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2(two) 8 oz cans tomato paste
  • 2(two) 15 oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 limes, squeezed
  • 1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 6 cups vegetable stock

DIRECTIONS

  1. For the beans:  Soak beans in three times their volume of cold water at least 8 hours, or overnight.  Drain.  Pre-cook the beans according to package directions:  Coat the bottom of a large stock pot with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, carrot, celery, salt and pepper to taste, and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the beans, parsley, and fresh water, roughly double the volume of beans.  Bring water to a simmer and cook beans, uncovered, until tender, approximately 1.5-2 hours.  Drain.
  2. For the chili:  Coat bottom of a large stock pot with olive oil and heat over medium heat.  Sauté the poblano peppers, whole grain of choice, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add the pre-cooked beans, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, and lime juice and let cook for another 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients, minus the vegetable stock, and continue to stir and cook for about 5-7 minutes.  Now add the vegetable stock, allow to come to a boil, and reduce heat to low and let simmer for at least one hour, adding water as needed.  Test the beans for doneness, and continue to simmer as needed until the beans are creamy and the chili has come together, another 30-60 minutes.  Add water or stock as needed for desired consistency.
  5. Serve with chopped red onion, cilantro, green onions, and any other favorite chili toppings.

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On to the Full O’ Beans Shepherd’s Pie.  This is so hearty and warm–and topped with smashed sweet potatoes adds the perfect amount of subtle sweetness.  {I usually add a sweet potato to my regular potatoes if I’m making mashed potatoes–it adds more flavor, nutrients, and a fun orange color!}

bean mix shepherds pie 1

bean mix shepherds pie 2

bean mix shepherds pie 3


 

FULL O' BEANS SHEPHERD'S PIE

  • Servings: Makes One 9-inch or 1-Quart Baking Dish, serving 4-6
  • Difficulty: medium, for time
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This is a snap to pull together if you have about 3 cups pre-cooked beans ready to go.  If you are busy during the week, soak and pre-cook your beans over the weekend, and just pull them out of the fridge to throw this together and heat up for dinner.

INGREDIENTS FOR THE BEANS:

  • 1 cups dried bean mix
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 1 cup parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and thinly sliced on the diagonal and set aside
  • 1/2 cup barley, farro, wheat berries, or other whole grain of choice, cooked and set aside

INGREDIENTS FOR THE SMASHED POTATOES:

  • 2 medium potatoes (any variety is fine), peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and roughly chopped

INGREDIENTS FOR THE GRAVY:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2-2 cups vegetable stock

DIRECTIONS

  1. For the beans:  Soak beans in three times their volume of cold water at least 8 hours, or overnight.  Drain.  Pre-cook the beans according to package directions:  Coat the bottom of a large stock pot with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, carrot, celery, salt and pepper to taste, and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the beans, parsley, and fresh water, roughly double the volume of beans.  Bring water to a simmer and cook beans, uncovered, until tender, approximately 1.5-2 hours.  Drain any extra cooking liquid.
  2. Stir in the whole grain of choice with the beans in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. For the smashed potatoes: Put the chopped potatoes in a large stock pot and cover with two inches of water.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat and let simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10-15 minutes.  Reserve about 1 cup cooking liquid, then drain the rest, and put the potatoes back in the pot.  Roughly smash the potatoes with a smasher, fork, or spoon, adding the cooking liquid as you need.  You can also add a dollop of butter, vegan butter, sour scream, kefir, or any other potato-enhancing ingredient to your smashed potatoes.  Set aside.
  4. For the gravy: In a small sauce pan, heat the oil or butter over medium heat, then add the flour, whisking the entire time to incorporate and “cook” the flour.  Once it’s bubbling, add the vegetable stock, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.  Continue to stir until the gravy thickens and comes together.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.  Set aside.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  6. For assembly and bake: Spoon the bean/whole grain mixture into a greased casserole dish.  Next evenly layer the carrots on top of the beans and pour the gravy over the carrots and beans.  Spoon the smashed potatoes on top.  Drizzle with a little olive oil and bake, uncovered, for 45-60 minutes, until gravy is deliciously bubbly and smashed potatoes have crispy golden tips.

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Last but not least:  the Beanie-Veggie Burger.  Who doesn’t love a burger, right?!  The beans make a great base for any of your favorite additions.  I used 1/2 cup leftover cooked barley, chopped walnuts, fresh parsley, Worcestershire sauce, and ground flax seed as a binder.

bean mix veggie burgers 1

bean mix veggie burgers 2

I had {believe it or not} 6 cups of leftover beans to use for burgers, even after using a ton of beans for that pot luck chili dinner, and about three cups of beans I used for the Shepherd’s Pie.  I think I initially soaked 6 cups of beans, and used that huge pot of pre-cooked beans in all three recipes!  Dried beans go a loooooooong way!!

Back to the burgers…using 6 cups of smashed beans will make 9 burgers, using a #6 {about 3.5oz} cookie/ice cream scooper.  I cooked a few up for dinner, and froze the rest to cook up for a quick weeknight dinner later.  They were amazingly burger-iffic.

bean mix veggie burgers 3bean mix veggie burgers 4


 

BEANIE-VEGGIE BURGERS

  • Servings: makes 9 burgers
  • Difficulty: medium, for time
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This is a snap to pull together if you have about 6 cups pre-cooked beans ready to go.  If you are busy during the week, soak and pre-cook your beans over the weekend, and just pull them out of the fridge to throw this together and heat up for dinner.

INGREDIENTS FOR THE BEANS:

  • 2 1/2 cups dried bean mix
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 1 cup parsley, roughly chopped

INGREDIENTS FOR THE BURGERS:

  • 6 cups precooked beans
  • 1/2 cup cooked barley {or farro, wheat berries, or another whole grain of choice}
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seed
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. For the beans:  Soak beans in three times their volume of cold water at least 8 hours, or overnight.  Drain.  Pre-cook the beans according to package directions:  Coat the bottom of a large stock pot with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, carrot, celery, salt and pepper to taste, and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the beans, parsley, and fresh water, roughly double the volume of beans.  Bring water to a simmer and cook beans, uncovered, until tender, approximately 1.5-2 hours.  Drain any extra cooking liquid.
  2. Spoon half of the pre-cooked bean mix into a blender and pulse until the consistency of guacamole, sort of chunky-smooth.  Pour into a large mixing bowl and add the remaining whole beans and the rest of the ingredients.  Stir until well mixed and fully incorporated.  Let rest for a few minutes.
  3. Line a cookie tray with parchment paper.  Using a scooper to ensure equal-sized patties, scoop bean mixture and form into patties.  The mixture will be wet; press well to keep the mixture together and well-formed.  If you use a #6 {about 3.5 oz} scooper, you will make 9 patties.  Let rest to help bind everything together before cooking or freezing.
  4. These are great cooked in a skillet, indoor/outdoor grill, etc.  Without any meat or eggs, you just need to heat through and get a crispy exterior, about 5-7 minutes on each side.  Serve with your favorite burger toppings!

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The Mighty Cruciferous

I know we’re always told to “Eat Our Rainbows”, and that usually white foods lack nutrients.  Usually.  Cauliflower is white, but one cup has tons of Vitamin C, Vitamin K, the B Vitamins, Fiber–in short, it’s a fantastic nutrient-dense choice to add to your dinner plate.

In combination with Potassium, Vitamin C, Magnesium, and Protein from Cannellini Beans, Potassium and Vitamin C from Yellow Onions, and Potassium from Garlic, your dinner plate will make for one happy and healthy meal.

cauliflower noodles ingredientsThis is a two-pot meal; one for the pasta, and a large sauté pan for everything else.  I love grating garlic on a medium-ribbon grater–it’s a quick and easy addition to your pot or skillet.

cauliflower noodles garlicStir together the pasta and cauliflower, add some julienned basil, and you have a big bowl of healthy happiness for your dinner table.

cauliflower noodles basilcauliflower noodles basil 2cauliflower noodles finished


PASTA AND PAN-ROASTED CAULIFLOWER

  • Servings: 4 large bowls
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 head of cauliflower, cut in florets
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can Cannellini Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3-4 large basil leaves, julienned

DIRECTIONS

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. While pasta is cooking, coat a large sauté pan with olive oil and heat to medium-high.  Sauté onion, cauliflower, and minced garlic with salt and pepper to taste.  Add 1/2 cup water while sautéing to help the cauliflower soften.
  3. When cauliflower is tender-crisp and the pasta is done cooking, drain the pasta and stir everything together, including the drained Cannellini beans in a large bowl.  To serve, sprinkle with basil and, if desired, grated parmesan cheese.

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