One Pot Wonders for Winter Warmth

It’s reached that point in the winter when it seems it may never thaw and I may never see those Dandelions in the spring again.  Perhaps a bit melodramatic.  A few good, calm winters have us spoiled in the northeast so the snow, bitter cold and new terms like polar vortex sting that much more.  The only way to combat this seasonal slump is in the kitchen, with comforting soups and stews.

I’ve been making soups and a side salad for lunches since returning to work after the new year.  Isa Does It has a pretty awesome soup section that should keep me inspired (and warm) through the winter and hasn’t disappointed yet.  Chunky Miso Vegetable Soup was a perfectly pleasing lunch dish.  Much like the chicken noodle soup of your childhood, there is something very satisfying about miso soup despite it’s simplicity.  This version is turned into a chunky vegetable soup by the addition of carrots, celery, green beans and cauliflower.  I’ve come to love cauliflower roasted or in Indian dishes but otherwise it is not my favorite vegetable so I decided to rice the cauliflower in the food processor rather than leave it as chunky florets.  Beans make it a heartier fare; though I did still pack a small side salad to complete my meal.  This soup is very easy and quick to prepare, delicious, and will most definitely get added to the rotation.

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Continuing my winter comfort foods theme I went to the Stews, Chili’s & Curries section of the book and chose Meaty Beany Chili.  I already have a vegetarian chili recipe that I absolutely love, an Emeril recipe I happened upon and have made a number of times (varying the spices and beans to change it up).  The Emeril recipe is a veggie-ful chili that uses portobello mushrooms for meatiness.  The Isa Does It recipe gets it’s meatiness from lentils and, as it’s name suggests, is more beany than veggie; it contains black beans and kidney beans in addition to the the lentils.  It was a bit faster to pull together than the Emeril chili that requires a bit of knife work to prep the vegetables.  Hearty, spicy, and satisfying it was a dinner well suited for a cold January night.  I add in some avocado for creaminess, and garnish with scallion and cilantro.  To complete my meal I made the Cornbread Muffins, which somehow landed in the Breakfast, Brunch & Bakes for the Morning section of the cookbook.  Despite their placement, they are not overly sweet at all (Isa suggests add-ins such as berries and vanilla extract for a sweeter muffin).  A simple base of whole wheat pastry flour and cornmeal, mixed with corn kernels bake up to a nice texture with plenty of corny flavor.

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Isa Does It Recipes: 8

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Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes

I’m still adjusting to the blog format for the 2014 Challenge and have a few posts in draft as I’m testing recipes and working with my new kitchen toys.  I thought I’d take to today to catch up on two new to me dishes that I hadn’t gotten around to writing up.  I have probably been doing Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s new cookbook, Isa Does It, a bit of a a disservice by not blogging it’s full title – Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week.  You can see why I’ve shortened it in my previous posts!

The dishes I’ve made so far have come together quite simply, yet still have depths of flavor that you expect out of the Post Punk Kitchen.  So far I’ve discovered Scrambled Chickpeas that have replaced pancakes for weekend breakfast routine (leftovers make great breakfast burritos for the office) and  Vegan Briny Caesar Dressing, which is so awesome it should be bottled.  Of course, there was also the oddly amazing Black Eyed Pea and Collard Tacos with Apple-Avocado Salsa.  There were two dishes that I hadn’t written up yet.  These were the simplest I’ve made so far,  Chicky Tuna Salad Sandwiches and Olive Angel Hair with Seared Brussels Sprouts.

Smashed chickpea sandwiches are something I make for lunch all the time because they are an easy, satisfying lunch to throw together and I usually have everything on hand to make them.  My version started out as a replacement for chicken salad and typically includes celery, onion, dill and paprika.  Isa’s version is a tuna salad replacement with optional kelp suggested to season the chickpeas.  In addition to onion and celery, Isa’s dish has shredded carrot and sunflower seeds.  I was never a tuna salad fan so chose to leave out the kelp and added my usual dill instead.  I found the sunflower seeds a nice addition in texture and nuttiness but the carrot was a little too much texture for my sandwich and I’ll probably leave them out next time.

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The Olive Angel Hair with Seared Brussels Sprouts was a quick dinner to throw together.  This is one of the dishes where the recipe includes tips to be more efficient while cooking and to limit extra dishes.  It was suggested to steam the brussels sprouts over the pasta water before cooking the pasta.  The brussels sprouts are then seared quickly stovetop.  The brussels sprouts, kalamata olives, and garlic were a nice combination of flavors and toasted walnuts added some texture.  Leftover the dish needed a boost in flavor so I added another splash of white balsamic before reheating.  Though steaming then searing the brussels sprouts was a good time saver I love the flavor of roasted brussels sprouts and may try roasting them for more caramelization next time.

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It seems I may be cooking my way through Isa Does It this year!

Isa Does It Recipes: 5

Whole Food Plant Based Butternut Squash Ravioli with Cranberry Sage Sauce

It was easy to decide the first dish to work out a recipe for in the 2014 Challenge.  I’ve made some version of this dish at least three or four times a year for a few years now.  The inspiration was an awesome dinner at Sprig & Vine restaurant in New Hope, Pennsylvania.  Typically, a visit to Sprig & Vine is a lunch affair; Fried Oyster Mushroom Po Boys are a rare fried treat eaten after a morning in the fields picking berries or apples.  I’ve been there for dinner only once, for a friend’s birthday.  I had butternut squash ravioli and it was absolutely delicious.

There are certain things that I find are just not worth making from scratch.  I made ravioli from scratch one time; I can officially say I tried.  Unlike other items I was happily surprised to see are quite easily made at home, unprocessed, I find ravioli to be difficult and time consuming.  Luckily, I found a minimal ingredient, low-fat butternut squash ravioli in the freezer aisle.  Rising Moon Butternut Squash Ravioli are wonderful and amazing.  I’ve taken inspiration from Sprig & Vine’s dish to dress up the frozen fare.  Apples and walnuts provide a texture while fresh cranberries, sage, rosemary and roasted sweet potato add dimensions of flavor.  The first challenge in sharing recipes was the realization that I don’t usually measure things when I cook.  A couple of attempts and I’m ready to share!

Recipe (serves 2)

IMG_57501 package Rising Moon Butternut Squash Ravioli
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 sweet potato (or yam, parsnip, butternut squash), diced
1/2 medium red onion, sliced thinly
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
3/4 cup fresh cranberries, chopped coarsely
1/2 granny smith apple, peeled and diced
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 400.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Whisk one tablespoon whole wheat pastry flour with 1 cup of vegetable broth and set aside.

Chop sweet potato.  This time I used NJ Sweet Potato, which was already roasting when I took the photo above; I’ve used parsnip or yams in the past.  Spray potato lightly with cooking spray and add fresh ground pepper to taste.  Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes at 400.

Cook ravioli per package directions.

Add a few tablespoons of water to a medium pan and sauté red onion over medium high heat 5-7 minutes until translucent, adding water 1-2 tablespoonfuls as needed to prevent sticking to the pan.  Add garlic (I usually just use a microplane), sage, rosemary and sauté another minute.  Add cranberries, apple, roasted sweet potato, and vegetable broth mixture to pan.  Bring to boil and turn heat off.  Allow sauce to sit a few minutes to thicken.  Add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

To serve plate ravioli, top with sauce and sprinkle with walnuts.

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Vegan Briny Caesar Dressing – Good Enough for Dessert

The New Year has resurrected inspiration to eat and live more conscientiously.  I’d been slipping into lazy habits by the end of the year: bagels for breakfast, too many cafeteria or take out lunches, processed snacks (life in Philly means an abundance of soft pretzels that are all too inciting at 2 pm when the workday seems it may never end).  It was time to reclaim my pantry and my diet.  The Instant Pot made breakfasts easy (stay tuned), but snacks…If you have a sweet tooth there are an abundance of WFPB muffins, cookies, and other sweet treats to choose from. However, I would rather have french fries and hot sauce, salt and vinegar potato chips, or the ultimate in gas station comfort foods – Andy Capp’s Hot Fries.  Salty treats require a bit of thought.  This week I replaced my afternoon snack with homemade tomato soup and my evening snack with salad.

Isa Chandra Moskowowitz’s Briny Caesar Dressing, from Isa Does It, is a gift from the Lords to help you want salad for dessert.  This is not to imply that salad is a replacement for the aforementioned Hot Fries.  It is not and I always hate those ridiculous infographs “want a cookie, have a banana”.  No.  That said if you are making a conscientious decision to choose a healthier alternative, this is a salty, savory, satisfying addition to make your veggies delectable.

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The creaminess of this dressing comes from soaked cashews.  Raw, unsalted cashews soaked in water are commonly used in vegan dishes to make them creamy.  Here the cashews are pureed with roasted garlic, capers, lemon juice and nutritional yeast to make a caesar dressing.  The recipe makes about 1.5 cups of dressing and calls for only 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  The end result is a lovely, delicious dressing, thick enough to coat your greens quite nicely ensuring every bite is flavorful.  It is quite garlicky; the recipe calls for a whole head of garlic, but that is roasted garlic making it less abrasive.  I did not make the caesar salad the dressing was meant to accompany per the cookbook.  Instead my salad was mixed greens of arugula, spinach and radicchio with tomato, cucumber, hot banana peppers and radishes.  I haven’t had radishes since I was young (my father loves the peppery vegetables), but the adorable bunches at the grocery were calling to me and they added some texture and peppery goodness to the salad.

New Recipes 2014: 2

Week 1: Happy New Year 2014!

Somewhere around Week 42 of 2013’s Julie & Julia inspired project there came the realization that the weeks left in 2013 were approaching single digits and I started thinking about what to do with Dandelion Wishes for 2014.  The initial thought was to move the blog towards posting my own new recipes weekly; this would be a giant leap from preparing and testing new to me recipes written by others.  When considering the steps needed to make this plan a reality – conceptualizing a dish, testing, tweaking, re-testing etc – I decided this was too substantial an endeavor for a weekly post, but monthly…

Christmas arrived quite suddenly and I had new tools to add inspiration.  I received an Instant Pot programmable electric pressure cooker and Isa Chandra’s new book, Isa Does It.  As I was writing the 2013 Challenge Report Card post I was still contemplating what next, but think I’ve finally settled on a plan.  The goal is quite simple and remains the same as 2013: to live healthier through eating better, try new foods and recipes, and do more of what I love.  The Plan for 2014:

  1. Write (at minimum) a weekly blog post
  2. At least 12 posts will be dedicated to my own recipe attempts, Test Kitchen posts.  I imagine the remainder will continue to be new to me recipe/cookbook reviews as the 2013 posts were (I did just receive Isa Does It after all, and Happy Herbivore Light & Lean was not that long ago either), or Instant Pot (or other technique driven) posts
  3. Master a vegan, and (this is the big one) whole food plant based Jam Thumbprint.  I know, it seems silly but the Jam Thumbprint and I have been together for a long time and this will be the year to recreate my signature cookie.

My first recipe of the new year?  Black Eyed Peas and Collard Greens of course.  I am not one to believe in luck or superstition.  I believe we make our own luck and that we have to work and persist through the failures to achieve our goals.  That said, as I near the two-year mark of this plant based lifestyle change creating new food traditions is symbolic of how far I’ve come (and good meal plan inspiration).

Last year, I made Creole Black Eyed Peas and Spicy Greens.   As I was perusing Isa Does It after Christmas I saw a recipe for Black-Eyed Pea and Collard Tacos with Apple-Avocado Salsa and my Lucky Dinner was chosen.  Don’t get me wrong, I did not think these words (or these foods) belonged together in a recipe – black-eyed pea and collard…tacos, apple with avocado…hmmm.  I was, however, very intrigued.

As odd as the recipe sounded to me, it was amazing.  There is not a spoonful left nor was a bite thrown away.  The black-eyed peas are seasoned with everything you would expect of a taco – cumin, garlic, and coriander.  Hot sauce adds some spice.  The texture is creamy, not quite a taco “meat” texture like you would get from a lentil taco, but quite nice nonetheless.  The black-eyed peas are topped with collard greens that were cooked down simply with garlic in broth.  The salsa on top adds crisp and acid from sour apple and fat and flavor from avocado and green onion.  Initially, I served Happy Herbivore Arroz Amarillo on the side.  Leftover, I decided to make a burrito with the rice as the base then layering the other ingredients. This was also delicious and a little less messy and more texturally pleasing.

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New Recipes 2014: 1