Tangy Golden Beets over Bell Pepper & Brown Rice

To my lone loyal reader (Hi Mom!), I wanted to start this with a quick explanation about what I’ve been up to and why my recipe posts have come to a complete stand still.  Summer’s here, and that means I’ve been able to cook lazy.  The bounty of amazingly colorful and delicious produce that’s available during the summer means I don’t need recipes!  I just layer whatever veggies were available at the market in a casserole dish with some salt and pepper or throw them in a pot with some fresh made stock and voila! Good eats every time.

There’s something so organic about cooking this way.  Maybe it’s because I’m now going into my 3rd year of giving up the pre-packaged foods and I’ve got some cooking chops now, but I love how confident I can be with my food without any of the meticulous meal-planning I have to do the rest of the year.  I thought this recipe would be a good example of my lazy summer cooking style.  It combines tangy vinegar with a mishmash of sweet earthiness from beets, bell pepper, and brown rice.  Love!

Tangy Beets and Greens over Bell Pepper Brown Rice:

I can’t get over the colors! Mmmmmmm!

Equipment: This is not a one-pot meal because the cook time for everything is long! 

  • 2 medium sauce pans with lids, 1 medium saute pan, 1 large sauce pan (or small ss pot) with lid, colander, stove top

Ingredients:

  • 1 red onion, half cut into thin slivers, half diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, small dice
  • 1 bunch (4-6) beets with greens
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • (Brown) rice vinegar
  • Lemon or lime juice
  • Coconut (or other high-temp) oil
  • Evoo
  • Water
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Bring the brown rice, a hearty pinch of salt, and 2 cups water to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat and let simmer on low until the center of the rice is translucent (white center = raw rice).
  2. Meanwhile, scrub the beets and cut off the greens.  Trim both ends off the beets, add to a saucepan, over with approximately 2 inches of water, and bring to a boil.  Let the beets boil until they’re fork tender (30-45 mins depending on the size of your beets).
  3. Over medium high heat, warm the coconut oil in the large saucepan.  Add the sliced onion and a pinch of salt.  Saute for 1-2 mins, until starting to soften and then add one clove of chopped garlic.  Saute another minute until starting to brown.  Make sure the beet greens are well cleaned.  Add the wet greens and 1/4 cup water to the hot pan and close with a lid immediately (try to do this all in one movement to capture the flash of steam).  Reduce the heat to medium and let the beet greens steam.  After about 7-10 minutes, you’ll notice most of the water has evaporated off and the bottom of the pot should have a nice golden brown caramelization on the bottom.  Quickly add another 1/4 cup of water to the pot.  After 2-3 mins, you’ll see that the beet greens are completely wilted and have started to soak up the browned pan drippings (yum!!).  Remove the greens from the heat.  Give them a dash of salt, a generous pinch of black pepper, a drizzle of rice vinegar, and half a drizzle of lime juice.  Use a wooden spoon to scrape up all the delicious brown bits on the bottom (creates a deliciously tangy sauce with the leftover water).  Set aside.  This is hands-down my favorite way to cook dark leafies – works great with kale, chard, spinach, etc!
  4. Meanwhile, over medium heat, heat a light drizzle of coconut oil in the saute pan.  Add the diced red onion with a small pinch of salt and saute for 1-2 mins.  Add the second clove of chopped garlic, and saute 2-3 more mins until both are just starting to brown.  Stir in the diced bell pepper with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Once the green bell pepper is just tender but still has some crunch (2-3 mins), remove the veg from the heat.  Once the brown rice is done, stir it in with the bell pepper and onion.  This would be great with some fresh chopped parsley!
  5. Once the beets are tender, strain them, and run them under cold water while peeling them (the skin is tender enough to easily rub off with your fingers – no peeler needed!).  Halve/quarter them, drizzle with a touch of evoo, and sprinkle on another drizzle of rice vinegar, half a drizzle of lime juice, a pinch of kosher salt, and a big pinch of black pepper.  I’ve noticed that the golden beets are sweeter than red beets, so an extra hit of vinegar and citrus help balance out the intensely earthy sweetness.
  6. Enjoy!!

Special thanks to my friend Janet for teaching me how to properly enjoy beets! 🙂

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Caramelized Onion and Lentil Stew

This week, the humidity left the air, the temperatures at night began to fall back down below 70, and my annual excitement for the return of Autumn has left me pumped for pumpkins, casual jackets, and apple cider!!  Fall is hands-down my favorite season, packed with the best of Summer’s thunderstorms, Spring’s tranquil temperatures, and the heavily-spiked ciders of Winter – Not to forget the colors of the trees, the return of AC-free electric bills, everybody starts wearing an acceptable amount of clothing again, and the general buzz of excitement and uncertainty as kids and adults alike get ready for another school year.

In order to celebrate the re-opening of windows and nights spent sweat-free on the porch, today I made a cool-weather stew that is filling but not too heavy (since it’s not really that cool yet).   This is a low and slow soup with a short ingredients list and a big  flavor pay-off.  Tonight, I’ll say goodbye to Summer with one last battle with my charcoal grill, but for lunch, this soup is a comforting bowl of Fall food awesomeness.  The picture doesn’t do the layered flavors of this stew justice.  I guess if you want to make it look prettier, you could use red lentils, but I personally like green lentils better in soups because they hold their shape where red lentils tend to disintegrate (and then I can’t see what I’m eating).  If you want to make it look a little fancier, I really like a small bunch of toasted almond slices on top (plays well with the hint of smokiness the caramelized onions give too).

Caramelized Onion and Lentil Stew:

Savory with a touch of spicy - This stew makes me grateful I don't have to eat cafeteria food anymore.

Equipment:

  • Big stainless steel soup pot with lid, large saucepan, wooden spoon, knife, cutting board, stove top
Ingredients:
  • 2 large yellow onions, slivered into half-moons
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2-3 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/3 cups lentils
  • 1/2 cup brown rice
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • Evoo
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste
Directions:
  1. Warm the stock in the saucepan over medium heat.  Keep it warmed (or just barely simmering).
  2. Drizzle a Tbsp or two of evoo in the bottom of the soup pot and warm it over medium heat.  Add the slivered onions and saute 3-5 mins.  When you notice the onions are translucent, add the thyme and the red pepper flakes.  Continue to saute the onions over medium or medium low heat until they are a rich golden brown and thoroughly softened, or 15-20 mins.  If you’re worried they’re burning, don’t be afraid to lower the heat!  The name of the game with this stew is low and slow.  Stir frequently to prevent burning the onions or spices, and to keep the bottom of the pot from getting crusty.
  3. Once the onions are caramelized, add the chopped garlic, and cook about 1 minute.  Then add the warm stock, lentils, and rice to the pot.   Cover and let simmer 30-40 mins, or until the rice and lentils are tender.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  If you used good stock, the soup should have a nice depth of flavor (not be flat at all) and shouldn’t need more than a big pinch or two of salt.
  4. ENJOY!!

Vegan Sloppy Joes

I’m not a fan of fake meat products.  As a protein substitute, I’d rather use tofu than “Chik’n” and textured vegetable protein over “Vegan Ground Beef.”  I stopped eating meat because of all the shit they put in it (literally, the number one ingredient of most factory-farmed cattle feed is factory-farmed chicken shit.  Bon appetit!).  So, to me it doesn’t make much sense to replace it with something even more artificial and potentially equally chemical-packed.

So try this one on for size – put down the cans of Manwich, and give this veggie-packed alternative with a classic comfort-food taste a try.  These sandwiches are an awesome main dish with some cold potato salad on the side.

Vegan Sloppy Joes:

A deliciously messy food

Equipment:

  • Large saute pan with lid, couple of different-sized bowls (small-med) to help stay organized, wooden spoon, liquid measuring cup, measuring spoons, knife, cutting board, stove-top
Ingredients:
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil (evoo works if coconut oil isn’t in the budget this week)
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 stalks celery with leaves, halved and diced
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 1/2 lb crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 very large (or 3 medium) tomatoes, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • Fine sea salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 cups veggie stock
  • 1/4 cup Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (or tamari/soysauce)
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1-3 Tbsp vegan sweetener to taste (like agave syrup)
  • 1 1/2 cups textured vegetable protein
  • Vegan hamburger buns or toast
Directions:
  1. Heat the cubed tomatoes in the skillet over medium heat.  Once they start getting hot, add the garlic, give it a good stir, cover and let simmer 5-10 mins or until the tomatoes start to lose their shape.  Mash any of the leftover larger cubes with the wooden spoon.  Remove the tomato sauce from the heat.  Set aside in a small bowl.
  2. Heat the coconut oil in the saute pan over medium high heat.  Once the oil is liquefied and hot, add the bell pepper and celery to the pan, and cook 2-3 mins.  Add in the onions and let cook another 5 mins, stirring occasionally.  Add the mushrooms, and let cook another minute, or until all the veggies are start to soften.
  3. Once the veggies are softened, stir in the chili powder, 1/2 tsp sea salt, 1/4 tsp ground black pepper, and let the veggies cook in the spices for about 2 mins.
  4. Add the tomato sauce, Bragg’s, ketchup, veggie stock, and 1 Tbsp of the agave syrup and stir until well incorporated.  Stir in the textured vegetable protein, and let come back up to a simmer.  Reduce the heat to med-low and let the sauce simmer for 15-20, stirring occasionally.  Taste-test and add more sweetener, salt, and pepper as desired.  I grew up on sweet Southern-style sloppy Joe’s, so the sweetener is a necessity for me to get that home-style comfort feel.
  5. Toast you buns/bread, and serve open-faced, covered in a generous mound of the veggies.
  6. ENJOY!!

Pan-Seared Spring Veggies

This was an incredibly easy dish made from what was beautiful at the market this weekend, and my absolute favorite dish I served at Easter.  Simple and delicious – nothing more to say!

Pan-seared Spring Veggies:

Pan-Seared Spring Veggies

Equipment:

  • Large saute pan, spoon, knife, cutting board, stove top

Ingredients:

  • 6 cloves of garlic, smashed or quartered (keeping the pieces big means the garlic won’t be as pungent as you may think!)
  • 5-6 spring onions, halved, ends trimmed, and carefully cleaned
  • 3 gigantic portabellas, cleaned with a damp cloth
  • 1/4 lb. shiitake mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, and halved
  • 2 cups freshly shelled peas
  • 2 Tbsp evoo
  • 1 bunch chopped fresh parsley (about 2-3 Tbsp)
  • 4 large leaves fresh basil, chopped
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. After prepping your other veggies, use a spoon to scrape the gills from the portabellas, but keep the stems attached (a personal preference).  Slice the mushrooms into thick, 1″ slices, and cut those slices in half cross-ways (so, you still have a thick 1″ slice, but it’ll be small enough after it cooks that you can eat each piece in a big bite).
  2. Heat the evoo in the saute pan over medium heat.  Saute the garlic for 1-2 mins so it can start to soften and infuse the oil a bit.  Be careful not to burn the garlic.
  3. Toss in the spring onions and portabellas.  Sprinkle on a pinch of salt and couple shakes of black pepper.  Saute 2-3 mins, or until the spring onions start to soften.  Add in the shiitakes and chopped parsley.  Saute another 3-5 mins, or until you think the veggies are almost to your desired doneness.  Stir in the peas and the basil and cook another 1-2 mins.  Re-season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. ENJOY!

Pantry and Leftover Friendly “Paella”

I’ve never had an authentic paella.  I’ve never been to Valencia, Spain (where paella is the pride of the people). So, I call mine “paella” (with quotes) simply because I used the cooking techniques found in traditional paellas and did my best to match the flavor profiles I found online, but cannot guarantee that I did the authentic recipe justice.  I just know it tastes really good, and I needed to find another way to eat some of these leftover black bean patties because I didn’t want them to go to waste.  I had a couple peppers, some garlic and lots of onions on hand, so here’s what I decided to try with them!

Oh, and those who have read this blog before, know that I’m on a budget.  So, unfortunately, the prized ingredient in paella, saffron, is not included in my recipe because I simply can’t afford the world’s most expensive ingredient (when measured by weight). I also wish I had had some Arborio rice and some tomatoes to make the paella a little creamier, but overall, I’m really happy with how this dish came out – especially since I already had everything and just had to throw it all together!  My biggest goal with my paella was to make sure I got that special crusted rice on the bottom that paella is famous for.

Pantry-Friendly “Paella”:

Pantry-Friendly Paella

Equipment:

  • Large, heavy-bottomed skillet with lid (I used enameled cast-iron; if your skillet doesn’t have a lid, then you can use a couple clean towels to cover), medium saucepan, wooden spoon or spatula, knife, cutting board, measuring cup, measuring spoons (optional), stove top

Ingredients:

  • 1 red and 1 green bell pepper, cubed (my peppers were huge, so 2 worked out well) – feel free to add as many vegetables as you can!
  • 4 small yellow onions, cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 4-5 black bean patties, crumbled
  • 4-5 Tbsp evoo
  • 6 cups veg. stock
  • 2 cups uncooked brown rice
  • Juice from 1 lemon, keep the rinds for garnish
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • A couple sprigs of fresh rosemary (can be optional, but it’s not the same without them!!)
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. In the medium saucepan over med high heat, warm the stock so that it’s simmering and hot when you need to use it.  Over medium heat, give the skillet a good even coating with evoo.
  2. Once the oil is hot (it’ll ripple), add the onions and saute the onions 2-3 mins on their own and then add in the garlic and 2 big pinches of kosher salt.  Saute the onions and garlic for 5-7 mins, or until the onions are soft and translucent.
  3. Add the chopped bell peppers, a couple dashes of the black pepper, the paprika, basil, and lemon juice.  Let the flavors combine and cook the peppers about 2-3 mins, and then add the crumbled black bean patties. Your stock needs to be getting close to hot and simmering now.
  4. Stir in the uncooked brown rice and give the pan another drizzle of evoo.  Mine looked a little dry, so I added just enough to moisten it again, probably about 2 tsp.  Cook the dry rice with the veggies and stir for about 1 min.
  5. Stop stirring, but let the veggies and rice cook about 1-2 mins.  Watch it carefully and waft the steam to your face to smell it often.  You want to get a good crust on the bottom, so you will smell a slightly toasted rice smell, but you don’t want to burn it!! As soon as the smell starts to have a toasted scent, slowly start to add the hot stock, about a cup at a time.  The stock should continue to simmer in the hot skillet.  Try your best not to disrupt the rice and veggies by pouring too much stock too quickly.
  6. Let the stock simmer with the rice and veggies uncovered over medium heat until almost all of the stock is gone, or about 30-40 mins.  Once it looks like most of the stock is gone, but there’s still some little bubbles, you’re at risk for burning your rice again, so remove the paella from the heat.  If you’ve got fresh rosemary, add a couple of sprigs now, and throw in the lemon rinds you got your juice from (this garnish will add a seriously delicious aroma when you serve it!).  Let the paella sit covered another 15-20 mins, or until all of the liquid is absorbed.
  7. ENJOY!!

Vegetarian Fajitas

No Meat? No Impact? No Problem!!

Fajitas are an easy way to get fresh veggies into your diet, and if you’re trying to cut back on (or cut out completely) meat, then this flexible recipe should be on your next meal plan!  Unlike tacos or other Tex-Mex fair, fajitas are all about clean and surprisingly simple flavor combos that are easy and classics.  The only way you’ll miss the meat is if you tell yourself you do!

Vegetarian Fajitas: (Sizzling Skillet optional 😀 )

Vegetarian Fajitas

Equipment:

  • Large saute pan, spatula, knife, cutting board, stove

Ingredients:

  • 2 red and 2 green bell peppers, cored and cut into strips
  • 4-5 shiitake mushrooms, cut into strips
  • 3 small yellow onions, cut into 1/4″ slivers
  • 1+ diced jalapeno (more to taste)
  • 4 cloves roughly chopped garlic
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp lemon pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1-2 Tbsp chopped cilantro (optional)
  • Grated cheddar and jack (optional)
  • Evoo
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In the large saute pan, drizzle about 2 Tbsp of evoo and heat the oil over med. high heat.  Add the onions and give them a generous pinch of salt and a dash of black pepper.  Saute for 2-3 mins and then add the garlic and jalapeno.  Cook another minute.
  2. Add the mushrooms and all of the spices.  Cook another 3-5 mins or until the mushrooms are sweating and the onions are soft and clear.
  3. Add the sliced peppers to the pan and saute until the peppers reach you desired cooking level (I like mine to still have a little bite to them but be soft, or about 10 minutes).  Stir in the cilantro.  Serve over steamed tortillas and top with cheese.
  4. ENJOY!!

Italian Dream Team

Sausage, peppers, and onions never tasted so good!  You will not believe how little work goes into this dish for the amount of flavor you get out!  The tomatoes are sitting this one out, and they’ve been replaced by white wine.  If you thought you knew sausage and peppers before, try slopping this on a thick, crusty roll and be taken to a whole new level of Italian deliciousness!

Baked Sausage and Peppers with White Wine:

Baked Sausage and Peppers

Equipment:

  • Large baking dish, large saute pan, spatula or wooden spoon, slotted spoon, knife, cutting board, stove, oven

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs small new potatoes, quartered
  • 4 small yellow onions, quartered
  • 1 lb spicy pork sausage links, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 2 large red bell peppers, cut into large chunks
  • 2 large green bell peppers, cut into large chunks
  • 8 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup hot chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3 Tbsp evoo, divided
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper (as desired)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt (plus more to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Directions:

1) Preheat the oven to 400 F.

2) Heat 1 Tbsp of the evoo in the saute pan over medium high heat.  Brown the sausage, and once cooked (about 5-7 mins), use the slotted spoon to move the sausage to the baking dish.

3) In the sausage drippings and evoo, cook the potatoes with the kosher salt and ground black pepper for about 10 mins or until they start to brown.  Use the slotted spoon to move the potatoes to the baking dish.

4) As needed, add 1-2 Tbsp evoo and cook the onions, garlic, and peppers until starting to soften (about 5 mins).  Use the slotted spoon to transfer the baking dish.

5) Pour the hot chicken stock, white wine, basil, thyme, parsley, oregano, and crushed red pepper in the baking dish.  Stir to make sure the sausage and veggies are well coated in the spices.  Bake 25-30 mins.

6) ENJOY!!

What to Drink? Your favorite white wine