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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Potatoes and Shallots Baked in a Basil, Garlic Vinaigrette

Well it’s January, and if you live in the northern hemisphere, that means it’s likely that you’re enjoying a few more potatoes this time of year than normal.  I happen looooove potatoes.  They’re especially helpful as satisfying alternatives to bread in this chilly weather for those of us with gluten sensitivities.

The only problem with many of the potato recipes I know and grew up on is that they’re loaded with cream and/or cheese.  This extra fat coating around a potato’s carbs can quickly lead to the dreaded food-coma.  When it’s winter time and sheer availability means potatoes in every meal, then the last thing I want is to have that “I shouldn’t have” feeling after everything I eat!  So, this week I thought I’d post some light and healthy potato dishes that are satisfying and for both my taste buds and my waist.

This potato dish is loaded with cauliflower, spinach, carrots, and shallots.  To keep it light, the sauce is a tangy vinaigrette that is a complete 180 from your typical creamy potato bakes.  This dish is an awesome example of how to cook for some with dietary restrictions (like my gluten-intolerant vegan self): Innovation > Imitation!

Potatoes and Veggies in a Tangy Basil, Garlic Vinaigrette:

Mmmmm that's a bowl of hot, steamy goodness

Equipment:

  • Measuring cup (at least 1 cup), med/large casserole dish with lid or dutch oven, fork or small whisk, measuring spoons, knife, cutting board, oven.

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 medium red new potatoes, sliced into 1/4″ slivers
  • 2 carrots, sliced into thin rounds
  • 5-6 small shallots, halved and sliced thin
  • 1/8-1/4 lb of spinach, cleaned
  • 1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into big chunks/florets and then sliced into 1/4″ pieces
  • 5-6 fresh basil leaves, sliced into ribbons
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp white wine
  • 3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 heaping tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup vegetable stock
  • 1/3 cup evoo
  • Additional salt and pepper to season

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 F.
  2. Prep your veggies.  Combine the basil, garlic, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, wine, vinegar, mustard, veggie stock, and evoo in a mixing cup.  This should come out to be about 1 cup of vinaigrette.  Whisk well with a fork/whisk until combined.
  3. Splash a small amount of the dressing on the bottom of the casserole dish.  Cover the bottom with a layer of sliced potatoes.  On top of the potatoes sprinkle a layer of carrots, then cover with a layer of sliced cauliflower, and a thick layer of shallots.  Splash more dressing to give the veggies a nice coating.  Top with a full layer of spinach.  Season the spinach with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
  4. Repeat until all of the veggies are used and/or the casserole dish is full. Potatoes –> Carrots –> Cauliflower –> Lots of Shallots –> Vinaigrette –> Spinach –> S&P.

    I love that moment when I open the lid, look down, and think "Oh, thank God that worked."

  5. Top the casserole with a layer of potatoes and then pour all of the leftover dressing on that top layer, making sure everybody’s feeling the love.  Bake, covered at 450 F for 1 hour or until the casserole has sunk a bit, the dressing is bubbling, and the potatoes are soft (my dish shown above was filled to the brim before baking). Serve hot.
  6. Enjoy!!

Mushroom Brown Rice

Mushroom brown rice is another excellent food-memory from my childhood that I strongly associate with Summer (the ultra-herbaceous French potato salad is on tonight’s menu as well).  My mom would make this quick dish with white rice and beef stock (together, making “brown” rice) as a way to use up mushroom stems leftover from kebabs.  Today, I use actual brown rice and veggie stock, but this recipe is still a great way to use up mushroom stems from another recipe.  I’ve also added in some seared tofu, making this side dish hearty enough to stand on its own, but if you’re not amidst tofu-friendly company, feel free to leave it out.

As soon as these scattered showers clear, I’ll be grilling up some marinated veggie kebabs, but for now, I’m enjoying this dish for lunch with some homemade hummus and crunchy veg.  Oh, and one more thing: you can use Evoo or another oil instead of vegan butter if you’re not a fan of substitutes.

Mushroom Brown Rice with Tofu:

A tremendous improvement over the beefy white rice version (sorry Mum!)

Equipment:

  • Large saucepan with lid, medium saute pan, two plates and a weight (like a jar of almond butter or a can of beans), paper towels or cheesecloth, knife, cutting board, stove-top
Ingredients:
  • 1/2 lb crimini mushrooms, stems diced and tops sliced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy, non-hydrogenated butter + 1-2 Tbsp more (as needed)
  • 1 block extra firm Tofu, cubed
  • 2 cups uncooked brown rice
  • 4 cups veggie stock
  • Thyme
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Directions:
  1. Add stock and brown rice to the saucepan.  Cover and bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Once boiling, reduce to a low simmer and let cook until all the liquid is absorbed, about 30 mins.
  2. Open and drain the tofu.  Wrap the tofu block in paper towels or a clean cloth, set on a plate, cover with another plate, and place your weight on top to press the excess liquid from the tofu.  Let sit about 15 mins.
  3. Prep the veggies.  Dice the tofu into smaller-than-bite-sized pieces and set aside.  Heat 1/4 cup of vegan butter over medium heat in the saute pan.  Add the diced onion to the pan.  Stir and saute 2-3 mins, or until it starts to soften.  Stir in the chopped garlic, and let the two cook together until the onion is translucent, or about 2-4 more minutes.
  4. Stir in the mushroom bits, and season with salt and pepper.  Cook 3-5 mins, or until all veggies are cooked through.  Spoon the veggies onto one of the plates, trying to keep as much of the juices and butter in the pan as is possible.  Return the saute pan to the stove, and increase the heat to med-high.  Add the tofu cubes, a generous pinch or two of thyme, and another hit of salt and pepper to the saute pan.  Fry the tofu in the oniony-garlicky butter and thyme until the tofu is golden brown and crispy (or to your personal preferences), about 7-10 mins.  Add a Tbsp more butter to the frying tofu as needed to prevent scorching.
  5. When the tofu has reached perfection, stir the mushroom and onions back in and let everybody mingle.  When the rice is done cooking, stir the veg into the rice.
  6. ENJOY!!

Quick and Easy Mexican-Inspired Millet

In my ongoing quest for cheap, healthy, and environmentally-friendly eats, I have no idea how I’ve missed out on millet until now.  I had heard of millet as a veg-friendly grain, but it never seemed to make it onto my grocery list. Then, I saw it on the shelf of a local bulk grains store and couldn’t believe that this “nutritional powerhouse” I had read about was cheaper than rice!

Anyway, I’ve got a couple of dishes planned to cook today, but I thought I’d start off with a quick lunch before I dive into this week’s meal plan.  As I was making this dish, I realized that it would have been really good with some black beans thrown in, but since I didn’t have any ready, this time I went without.  I also used a couple of yellow baby bell peppers, because that’s what my garden’s cranking out right now, but a jalapeno or two would be excellent in here too!

Mexican-Inspired Millet:

Lunch in under 30 minutes with minimal clean-up? Yes please!!

Equipment:

  • Large saucepan with lid, medium saute pan with lid, knife, cutting board, plate, wooden spoon, stove top
Ingredients:
  • 4 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced,
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 ears of corn, cut off the cob
  • 1 bell pepper/mild chili or jalapeno(s) to taste
  • 1/2 cup cooked black beans
  • 1 cup uncooked millet
  • Cumin
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Dried/fresh cilantro to taste (I hate cilantro, but I know sometimes it’s necessary, so I usually use dried because its much milder and easier to control than fresh cilantro)
  • Evoo
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Directions:
  1. Add millet and 2 cups room temp water to the saucepan and bring to a boil over med-high heat.  Lightly salt the water, cover, and reduce the heat.  Let the millet simmer until all the liquid has evaporated, or about 15-20 mins.  Fluff with a fork and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, prep the veggies.  When cutting the corn off the cob, do so over a plate to catch all the juices so you can add that in with the kernels.  Heat a small amount of evoo in the saute pan over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook until they just start to sweat, or about 2 mins.  Add the garlic and cook another 2 mins.
  3. Add the tomatoes to the saute pan, cover and let simmer 5-7 mins, stirring occasionally.  Then stir in 3-4 generous dashes of cumin, 2-3 hits of cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, and cilantro to taste (if using fresh cilantro, I’d probably wait until the very end – like step 4 – and just mix it in last minute to let the fresh herb just wilt in with everything else).   Stir in the fresh corn kernels.  Cover and let simmer 2-3 more mins.
  4. Taste the sauce and re-season as needed.  Fold the hot sauce into the millet.  Serve hot.
  5. ENJOY!!

French Potato Salad (Sorry Germans, No Mayo Here!)

I grew up on this mayoless version of potato salad, and it is one of my all-time favorite cool summer sides.  This recipe is super easy, and can be served warm (but I really like it chilled, personally).  My mom got this recipe from one of Ina Garten’s cookbooks, and some of the original ingredients are way out of my price range, so I’ve changed it up just a bit.  I’ve played with the proportions of the sauce a bit so it’s more to my tastes (amped up the herbs and wine, cut down the salt and oil).

This recipe makes an awesome vegan, hot-weather and picnic-friendly alternative to traditional mayo-covered mush.

French Potato Salad:

Cool and Tart French Potato Salad, Pictured above with Blue and Red Taters

Equipment:

  • Large pot with lid, colander, clean kitchen towel, measuring spoons, large bowl, large spoon, whisk, knife, cutting board, stove-top
Ingredients:
  • 2 lbs small new potatoes (red and/or white, as much as you need)
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh dill, chopped
  • 10 leaves fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced (including green parts)
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable stock
  • 3 Tbsp dry white wine
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 5 Tbsp evoo
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Directions:
  1. Place potatoes in the pot and fill the pot 3/4 of the way with cold water.  Cover and bring to a boil for 20-30 mins or until potatoes are cooked through.  Strain into the colander and let sit in the strainer, covered with the kitchen towel, to steam another 10 mins and get really soft.
  2. Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them in large bite-sized pieces (halves and quarters) and put them in the large bowl.  Pour the veggie stock and white wine over the still warm potatoes, and give them a good stir.  Let them sit 3-5 mins, so the freshly cut potatoes can soak in the flavors.
  3. Meanwhile, chop the herbs.  Whisk together the white wine vinegar, dijon mustard, salt, and pepper.  Add the evoo one Tbsp at a time, and whisk until well incorporated.
  4. Add the scallions, dill, parsley, basil, and dressing to the potatoes and give it a good stir to make sure everybody’s feeling the love.  Serve warm or chilled.
  5. ENJOY!!

Classic Homecook Combo – Broccoli, Lemon, Garlic Pasta

This recipe is yet another simple, straightforward combo that highlights the natural flavors of each ingredient.  My favorite pasta to serve this over is usually linguini (for the omnivores out there, try this with shrimp instead of broccoli and you’ll never go back to Olive Garden again!), but fun shapes like farfalle or rotelle are good here too because the grooves catch the garlicky sauce.  Today, I’ve got some work to do and wanted a quick lunch with minimal clean-up, so I’m enjoying mine over whole wheat couscous.

I’m serious about trying it with shrimp.  Before I developed a seafood allergy, this dish was my hands-down favorite meal!  I used to take it pot lucks at my local historical society, and I got compliments on it every time!  One lady said it was the best pasta she’d had outside of Italy because it’s so fresh and simple.  The broccoli makes an ideal veg substitute for the seafood.

Broccoli, Lemon, Garlic Pasta:

Whole wheat couscous - pasta's easier, faster, healthier cousin

Equipment:

  • Veg. steamer/steaming basket and saucepan with lid, small sauce pan, large mixing bowl, fork, knife, cutting board, kitchen towels, stove top

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces with an “X” cut into any trunks (so they steam super quickly)
  • The juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 6 Tbsp evoo
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 cups whole wheat couscous (or 1 lb of favorite pasta)
  • 2 1/2 cups veggie stock (use oiled, salted water if cooking pasta)
  • 1 pinch of red pepper flakes (more to taste)
  • 1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Bring stock to a boil (or salted water if cooking pasta).  Put the couscous in the large mixing bowl and add the hot stock.  Cover with kitchen towels and let sit for 5 mins.  Fluff the couscous with a fork and set aside. OR Cook pasta until desired texture, strain, and set aside.
  2. At the same time, bring a small amount of water to a boil in the saucepan with a lid.  Place the steam basket in the pan, and add the broccoli.  Steam 5 mins.  Remove from heat and add to the now cooked and fluffed couscous.  Repeat, if you’re like me and have a tiny steamer basket, until all the broccoli is cooked
  3. While the last round of broccoli cooks, heat the evoo in the small sauce pan over med or med-low heat.  Add the sliced garlic to the hot oil.  Swish the garlic around to keep it from burning.  Keep a close eye on it, swirling as needed, and let the garlic cook 2 mins or until softened through.  Season with two generous pinches of salt (Remember! This is the sauce for the whole dish, so it’ll seem like a lot of salt in the pan, but once mixed with the pasta and broccoli it’ll be lighter) and a generous few hits of black pepper.  Add the pinch of red pepper flakes (or more if you like a real kick).  Let cook another minute so the pepper flakes can give the sauce some of their delicious spicy oil.
  4. Add the lemon juice.  Let cook another 30 secs-1 min or until the sauce is bubbling.  Pour the sauce over the couscous and broccoli.  Top with the lemon zest and parsley and mix well to make sure everything is evenly distributed.  Serve hot.
  5. ENJOY!!

Roasted, Herbed New Potatoes

To round out the last side dish I served at Easter dinner, here was our main starch.  A quick and easy side that you can prep, put in the oven and forget about for 45 mins.  Tent with foil after baking and this dish will be ready to serve with no fuss.

The fresh herbs are not only pretty, but they take this easy potato dish to another level!

Roasted, Herbed New Potatoes:

Roasted Herbed New Potatoes

Equipment:

  • Large baking sheet, small bowl, knife, cutting board, oven

Ingredients:

  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 pint-boxes of new potatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 bunch chopped parsley
  • 1/2 bunch chopped thyme
  • 2 Tbsp evoo
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt (it sounds like a lot, but this makes 8+ servings)
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Prep the garlic first, and add it to the evoo in a small bowl.  Then chop the herbs and let them sit in the oil too and infuse while you prep your potatoes and let the oven heat up.
  2. Toss all the ingredients together on the sheet pan with your hands.  Make sure all the potatoes are well coated.
  3. Bake at 400 F for 45 mins.
  4. ENJOY!!