Meatless Monday – Lentil & Quinoa ‘Meatballs’

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Meatballs are a perennial favorite, one of America’s most common comfort foods.  Serve them dipped in a spicy barbecue sauce as an appetizer or over zoodles for dinner.  This gluten free version uses red quinoa, brown lentils and whole oats which make a surprisingly delicious meatball with the help from a few spices and some TLC.   This is a vegetarian recipe with vegan alternatives.

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I have made vegetarian meatballs before using eggplant, breadcrumbs and parmesan with good results Check out Eggplant Meatballs.  This time, my goal was to make a meatless, gluten free meatball that has a similar texture and flavors of the meatballs and meatloaf I used to make when I still used ground beef. I have a frequent guest at my table who is gluten intolerant so, whereas I never worried about gluten before (just empty carbs) my priorities have changed.

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I know there are faux meat beef substitutes  but not everyone has access to them, so I prefer to experiment with normal everyday foods.  In this recipe, I used red quinoa which has been a great stand in for ground beef in taco and chili recipes. Check these out: Quinoa Black Bean Tacos with Chili L:ime Sauce and Black Bean Chili Con Quinoa.

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I like red quinoa (or multi colored), as opposed to white for this recipe because it has a heartier consistency and flavor. Plus the color helps create results that look more like we are used to seeing when cooking with red meat.  I paired the quinoa with cooked brown lentils which add a creamy consistency and raw oats to absorb liquid and give it bulk.

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So these vegetarian/vegan meatballs are pretty satisfying and delicious but how do they stack up nutritionally speaking?  Both lentils and quinoa are high in protein and fiber with virtually no fat. Both are also rich in nutrients. The third part of the meatball triumvirate is oats which also has protein and fiber. Although oats are hulled, the bran and germ are not stripped away, as is common with other grains, which means the bulk of their nutrients are retained.  If you serve them over zoodles, you’ve got a low calorie, low carb, low fat meal that is nutrient rich. Win Win!

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TIPS: I made this recipe twice.  The first time I used cooled quinoa and lentils and oat flour.  The second time I used cold, refrigerated quinoa and lentils and raw oats.  Hands down, the second meatballs won.  They were easier to roll and maintained their shape.  So I recommend making the lentils and quinoa the night before or in the morning to speed things along. The second meatballs also had a better consistency which I contribute to the oats.  You could also use panko bread crumbs which won’t give you the same nutritional boost and they are not gluten free.  Store meatballs and sauce separately for best results.

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LENTIL & QUINOA MEATBALLS

  • 1/2 cup dried brown lentils (or 1 cup cooked)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 1/2 cup red or tri color quinoa (or 1 cup cooked)
  • 2-3 Tbsn olive oil or spray (divided)
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 egg or 1 flax egg (1 Tbsn ground flax seed + 2 1/2 Tbsn water)
  • 1 Tbsn soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos (GF) or vegan Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 Tbsn ketchup or steak sauce
  • 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning or oregano
  • 1 tsp each salt and pepper (or to taste)
  • 3/4 – 1  cup oats (GF) or bread crumbs
  • 2 cups tomato sauce (optional for serving)
  • 4-6 large carrots or zucchini, or 12 oz pasta (optional for serving)

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  • Rinse and drain the lentils. Bring vegetable broth or water to a boil in a large saucepan,  add the lentils. Reduce heat and cook for about 15 or20 minutes until the water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let cool completely.

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  • Rinse and drain the quinoa and cook as directed for about 20 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the ‘tails’ are visible. Remove from heat and let cool completely.

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  • If you are making a flax egg, combine the flax seed and the warm water in a mug or small bowl. Mix and let stand for several minutes until it becomes a gel.

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  • If you are making veggie noodles, wash and remove the stem ends and slice into ‘noodles’ using a spiralizer, a mandolin or a potato peeler. Set aside

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  • Saute onions in a heavy cast iron pan until transluscent and slightly browned, 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

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  • Put the lentils, onions, egg, parsley and spices in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Or you can smash with a potato masher. The mixture should be chunky not smooth.

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  • Transfer the lentil mixture to a large bowl and mix in the quinoa.

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  • Mix in half of the oats and try to roll a ball.You want the consistency to feel firm, like a meatball. If it feels too moist, add more oats. I used a whole cup

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  • Put the meatball mixture into the fridge for 20 to 30 minutes to allow the oats to absorb liquid and make it easier to roll into balls.

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  • Take the bowl out of the fridge and scoop up some of the lentil mixture and roll it into a ball with your hands. This recipe makes 3 dozen 1 inch meatballs. Make them whatever size you like but make them all the same size so they cook evenly. Roll it until it feels sturdy.

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  • Place them on an oiled baking sheet and spray the tops with olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. You can broil for a few minutes to brown the tops.

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  • Wipe out frying pan and pour in tomato sauce.  Heat on medium until bubbling and then turn to simmer.

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  • Remove meatballs from the oven and place in tomato sauce.  Spoon sauce over to cover.

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  •  Saute the noodles in oil or butter with a pinch of salt, if you prefer.  If you are using regular pasta, follow the cooking instructions on the package. Or you can par boil Zucchini noodles for 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.

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  • Serve over hot noodles with fresh parsley and a sprinkle of parmesan, if desired.

 

Lentil & Quinoa Meatballs

  • Servings: 36 1 inch meatballs
  • Time: 90 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
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  • 1/2 cup dried brown lentils (or 1 cup cooked)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 1/2 cup red or tri color quinoa (or 1 cup cooked)
  • 2-3 Tbsn olive oil or spray (divided)
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 egg or 1 flax egg (1 Tbsn ground flax seed + 2 1/2 Tbsn water)
  • 1 Tbsn soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos (GF) or vegan Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 Tbsn ketchup or steak sauce
  • 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning or oregano
  • 1 tsp each salt and pepper (or to taste)
  • 3/4 – 1  cup oats (GF) or bread crumbs
  • 2 cups tomato sauce (optional for serving)
  • 4-6 large carrots or zucchini, or 12 oz pasta (optional for serving)
  1. Rinse and drain the lentils. Bring vegetable broth or water to a boil in a large saucepan,  add the lentils. Reduce heat and cook for about 15 or20 minutes until the water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
  2. Rinse and drain the quinoa and cook as directed for about 20 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the ‘tails’ are visible. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
  3. If you are making a flax egg, combine the flax seed and the warm water in a mug or small bowl. Mix and let stand for several minutes until it becomes a gel.
  4. If you are making carrot noodles, scrub the carrots and remove the stem end. Or cut ends off of zucchini. Slice into ‘noodles’ using a spiralizer, a mandolin or a potato peeler. Set aside
  5. Saute onions in a heavy cast iron pan until transluscent and slightly browned, 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
  6. Put the lentils, onions, egg, parsley and spices in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Or you can smash with a potato masher. The mixture should be chunky not smooth.
  7. Transfer the lentil mixture to a large bowl and mix in the quinoa.
  8. Mix in half of the oats and try to roll a ball.You want the consistency to feel firm, like a meatball. If it feels too moist, add more oats. I used a whole cup
  9. Put the meatball mixture into the fridge for 120to 30 minutes to allow the oats to absorb liquid and make it easier to roll into balls. Take the bowl out of the fridge and scoop up some of the lentil mixture and roll it into a ball with your hands. This recipe makes 3 dozen 1 inch meatballs. Make them whatever size you like but make them all the same size so they cook evenly. Roll it until it feels sturdy. Place them on an oiled baking sheet and spray the tops with olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. You can broil for a few minutes to brown the tops.
  10. Wipe out frying pan and pour in tomato sauce.  Heat on medium until bubbling and then turn to simmer.
  11. Remove meatballs from the oven and place in tomato sauce.  Spoon sauce over to cover.
  12. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add carrots and boil for 2-3 minutes. Zucchini noodles will only take 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.  Or you can saute the noodles in oil or butter with a pinch of salt, if you prefer.  If you are using regular pasta, follow the cooking instructions on the package.
  13. Serve over hot noodles with fresh parsley and a sprinkle of parmesan, if desired.

Meatless Monday -Thai Red Curry Soup

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So you might have noticed that I am still on a soup kick.  It may have something to do with the constant deluge of rain blown sideways by strong gusts of wind.  This soup, in particular, is designed to use winter veggies like sweet potato, squash and mushrooms with fresh ginger  in a deliciously spicy red curry, coconut milk broth. I added tofu for extra protein and millet, brown rice ramen noodles to make a pretty hearty meal in a bowl.

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I love the spicy but comforting flavors of this soup. It’s loaded with vegetables that make it a nutritional feast but also provide interest.  Each spoonful is a different culinary adventure, from the creaminess of the sweet potato, to the earthy mushrooms and the just tender bok choy all swimming in a yummy coconut curry broth.

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What really makes it though, is the garnishes of sliced red onion and fresh cilantro (or parsley if you’re not a cilantro lover), so don’t skip this step. You can use whatever vegetables you prefer or have on hand.  Japanese eggplant would be a good choice.  Just keep in mind that some veggies take longer than others to cook.

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TIPS: I used whole grain ramen noodles which I was trying for the first time.  They had a good flavor and texture but broke into small pieces which made it easier to eat but not quite as pretty as intended.  Rice vermicelli or spaghetti would hold it’s shape better.

This recipe calls for several Thai spices which are easy to find in my grocery stores. I’ll admit that the list of ingredients is pretty long but each adds an important flavor to the mix.  If you don’t have the ingredients or can’t be bothered to buy them, you may be lucky enough to find a curry soup base in your market.  Just add the fresh ingredients and you’re done.

Draining the tofu isn’t absolutely necessary, especially if you are pressed for time, since it’s going into a liquid base, but I prefer to squeeze out the water it was packed in to allow the flavors of the broth to be absorbed.  It makes the tofu more flavorful.

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THAI RED CURRY SOUP

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 2-3 Tbsn Thai red curry paste
  • 2 tsp red chili paste (optional)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 13oz. can coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsn fish sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos (GF)
  • 1 Tbsn lime juice
  • 2 Tbsn brown or white sugar
  • 1 block extra firm tofu, drained and diced
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and sliced or diced
  • 1 cup winter squash or zucchini, sliced or diced
  • 4-5 shitake or criminy mushrooms, sliced
  • 2-3 sliced baby bok choy, 1 cup shredded Napa cabbage or 1 cup shredded leafy greens
  • 6 oz. whole grain ramen noodles or rice vermicelli noodles (GF)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion

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  • Drain tofu on papertowels, cover with papertowels and gently press water out by hand or with a heavy pan.  Let sit while you prepare the other ingredients. Add garlic, ginger, red curry paste, red pepper paste, vegetable broth, coconut milk fish sauce and half of sugar to a large soup pot and bring almost to boiling. Reduce to a simmer. Taste and add rest of sugar if desired and more

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  • Add sweet potato, tofu and squash (If you are using zucchini, add with the bok choy) and simmer for about 10 minutes.

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  • Add bok choy, mushrooms and noodles and cook another five minutes.

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  • Serve topped with sliced red onion, chopped fresh cilantro and maybe a drizzle of sriracha.

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Thai Red Curry Soup

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 2-3 Tbsn Thai red curry paste
  • 2 tsp red chili paste (optional)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 13.5 oz. can coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsn fish sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos
  • 1 Tbsn lime juice
  • 2 Tbsn brown or white sugar
  • 1 block extra firm tofu, drained and diced
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and sliced or diced
  • 1 cup winter squash or zucchini, sliced or diced
  • 4-5 shitake or criminy mushrooms, sliced
  • 2-3 sliced baby bok choy, 1 cup shredded Napa cabbage or 1 cup shredded leafy greens
  • 6 oz. whole grain ramen noodles or rice vermicelli noodles
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion
  1. Drain tofu on papertowels, cover with papertowels and gently press water out by hand or with a heavy pan.  Let sit while you prepare the other ingredients. Add garlic, ginger, red curry paste, red pepper paste, vegetable broth, coconut milk fish sauce and half of sugar to a large soup pot and bring almost to boiling. Reduce to a simmer. Taste and add rest of sugar if desired and more
  2. Add sweet potato and squash (If you are using zucchini, add with the bok choy) and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add bok choy, mushrooms and noodles and cook another five minutes.
  4. Serve topped with sliced red onion, chopped fresh cilantro and maybe a drizzle of sriracha.

 

Meatless Monday -Breakfast Tacos

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I was tired of toast for breakfast, so decided to ratchet it up a notch with breakfast tacos.  I love Mexican food so this was a no brainer, and even though these tacos are vegetarian, they even satisfied my husband who went back for thirds. Warm corn tortillas loaded with Mexican Chipotle ‘vegan sausage’, scrambled eggs (or tofu), jalapenos, black olives, tomatoes and shredded cheese were a great way to start the day. I’m pretty sure you will like them too. We had them for Sunday morning breakfast but I would eat them for dinner too…

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Those that follow me know that I’m not a fan of fake foods, i.e. fake ‘meat’.  I usually prefer to make my own substitutions, or just not eat it at all, so I have pretty much stayed away from store bought ‘meat’.  Luckily for me (and vegetarians everywhere), our choices are getting better all the time and I decided to give the Field Roast Grain Meat ‘sausages’ a try. I chose the Mexican Chipotle because I thought the flavors would be great in a taco. Well, I loved it.  My husband loved it. I will definitely be trying the other flavors too.

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For those like me that don’t know, grain meat is a combination of grains and vegetables that are ground up like a traditional sausage.  The links are encased in plastic, which must be removed before cooking, in contrast to natural casings which are made from animal intestines. Sausage is sometimes enclosed in artificial casings made of cellulose, collagen or synthetic materials, so know what you are buying.

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I have 12 chickens, most of whom have been rescued from  factory farms so I am lucky enough to have plentiful and beautiful eggs from happy hens who have been given a second chance at life.  If you don’t have access to eggs from your own backyard or a farmers market, look for Pasture Raised eggs in your supermarket.  All the other labels like Cage Free and Organic are misleading.  I have written about this before so won’t repeat myself.  For those that haven’t read my egg rant or are still confused about egg labeling, click  HERE for more info on how to decipher egg labels. They are designed to keep people from making informed decisions. (i.e. organic may not mean what you think it does).  The bottom line is DON’T BUY CHEAP EGGS. My chickens, ambassadors for factory farmed animals, have their own Facebook page,  Mrs Vs Rescue Chickens .Check them out. They love new followers.

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*If you are vegan or don’t eat eggs, tofu makes a good scramble.  You can buy boxed tofu scramble or you can make your own using extra firm tofu.  Click HERE for a Basic Tofu Scramble Recipe.

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BREAKFAST BURRITOS

  • 2 Field Roast Mexican Chipotle Sausages (vegan)
  • 1/2 block firm tofu or 3 pasture raised eggs*
  • 1 Tbsn olive oil
  • 1 tsp vegan butter or butter
  • 6 corn tortillas

Suggested Toppings:

  • 1 small tomato, chopped (or several cherry tomatoes cut in quarters)
  • 1/2 avocado, chopped
  • Sliced black olives
  • Sliced or chopped jalapeno peppers
  • Shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack Cheese (vegan options available)
  • Sriracha or other hot pepper sauce

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  • Remove the plastic casing from the sausages and break into pieces with a spatula or fingers (it’s a bit messy).  Saute in olive oil on medium for about 5 minutes.  Reduce to low. (The sausage can get too crispy if overcooked)

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  • While sausage is cooking, prepare your toppings. You don’t need very many.

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  • If using tofu, follow suggested recipe* or your own.  If using eggs, add 1 teaspoon cold water and scramble in butter until done and remove from heat.

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  • Heat tortillas. My favorite way is to wrap in papertowels and microwave about 30 seconds.  Keep warm in foil or a cloth, or a tortilla warmer if you have one.

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  • Fill tortillas with a spoonful of sausage and egg

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  • Add the toppings of your choice.  Top with hot sauce, if desired.  Goes well with fruit.

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Breakfast Tacos

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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  • 2 Field Roast Mexican Chipotle Sausages (vegan)
  • 1/2 block tofu or 3 pasture raised eggs*
  • 1 Tbsn olive oil
  • 1 tsp vegan butter or butter
  • 6 corn tortillas

Suggested Toppings:

  • 1 small tomato, chopped (or several cherry tomatoes cut in quarters)
  • 1/2 avocado, chopped
  • Sliced black olives
  • Sliced or chopped jalapeno peppers
  • Shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack Cheese (vegan options available)
  • Sriracha or other hot pepper sauce
  1. Remove the plastic casing from the sausages and break into pieces with a knife or fingers (it’s a bit messy).  Saute in olive oil on medium for about 5 minutes.  Reduce to low. (The sausage can get hard if overcooked)
  2. While sausage is cooking,
  3. If using tofu, follow suggested recipe* or your own.  If using eggs, add 1 teaspoon cold water and scramble in butter until done and remove from heat.
  4. Heat tortillas. My favorite way is to wrap in papertowels and microwave about 30 seconds.  Keep warm in foil or a cloth.
  5. Fill tortillas with a spoonful of sausage and egg and the toppings of your choice.  Top with hot sauce, if desired.  Goes well with fruit.

Spicy Black Eyed Pea Soup (Vegan)

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You have heard that ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’.  Well, this yummy soup was a brainchild of a recent severe rainstorm, on a day we lost power for 4 or 5 hours due to heavy rain and high winds.  Our lights came back on around 6:30pm so I went around blowing out candles and then had to come up with something for dinner, now that I had no excuse not to cook.  I found a bag of frozen black eyed peas and a few veggies in my refrigerator.  Threw in a few canned items from my pantry and I ended up with a big pot of some pretty tasty hot soup.  I didn’t take any photos because I didn’t think those humble ingredients would amount to much.  Boy was I wrong!  The fire roasted tomatoes and peppers combined with cumin and enriched with a splash of Worcestershire sauce (or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos) add a savory and slightly spicy backdrop for the veggies.  Luckily for my family, I had to make it again just to take photos – such a hardship…

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Black eyed peas are not peas (which are actually seeds in a pod).  They are legumes (beans) and the seed we eat is called a pulse.  There you go, that was the vocabulary lesson for the day. Black Eyed Peas are a good source of protein (at 6.7 grams per half cup), fiber and a host of vitamins and minerals, including iron, zinc, potassium, Vitamin A and Folate.  They are also low in fat and have zero cholesterol, making them an ideal food. They also have a mild flavor and firm texture which makes them a popular choice in soups and stews.

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Frozen black eyed peas are just fresh peas that have been frozen with no additives, so they are my preference if you can find them.  Occasionally, I am lucky enough to find them fresh in the produce section and consider it a great find. For those that live in areas where you can’t get good fresh produce year around, I recommend stocking your freezer with fresh frozen beans,  dark leafy greens and pre-cut veggies.  You won’t regret it, especially on nights where you are searching the kitchen for dinner ideas. Add whatever veggies you have on hand.  I used kale, zucchini, carrots and celery.

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TIPS: If you are using canned black eyed peas, drain and rinse them before adding them to the soup.  Just in case you’re wondering about that slimy liquid with them in the can, it is mostly water and salt  and/or calcium chloride (both of which are preservatives ) along with natural starch given off by the beans.  Some recipes call for the starchy liquid to thicken dishes but I usually rinse because I don’t care for the texture or the flavor which is sometimes metallic from being in the can. Those watching sodium in their diets will also benefit from rinsing the extra salt from the beans.

If you are using dried beans, I would recommend soaking one and a half cups of them overnight in cold water.  Drain and follow the recipe but increase cooking time to about an hour, or until beans are soft.

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SPICY BLACK EYED PEA SOUP

  • 32 oz bag frozen black eyed peas (or 2 14 oz cans)
  • 1 Tbsn olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, scrubbed and chopped
  • 1 large stalk celery, trimmed and chopped
  • 8 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 16 oz can fire roasted chopped tomatoes
  • 1-2 4 oz can fire roasted green peppers
  • 1-2 tsp cumin
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1-2 tsp Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce or liquid aminos (GF)
  • 1 small zucchini, chopped
  • 1 cup lacinato kale, stems removed and thinly sliced

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  • Saute onion, carrots and celery in olive oil until softened (about 5 minutes)

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  • Pour in vegetable broth and add all remaining ingredients, except zucchini and kale.  I recommend adding 1 can of peppers, 1 teaspoon cumin and 1 teaspoon of your chosen sauce to begin. Simmer about 30 minutes.  Add more broth or water, if necessary.

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  • Taste broth and add cumin, soy sauce, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste. If you want more zing, add another can of fire roasted peppers.  Stir in zucchini and kale and cook another 5 minutes.

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  • Serve with crusty bread or a fresh green salad.

Spicy Black Eyed Pea Soup

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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  • 32 oz bag frozen black eyed peas (or 2 14 oz cans)
  • 1 Tbsn olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, scrubbed and chopped
  • 1 large stalk celery, trimmed and chopped
  • 8 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 16 oz can fire roasted chopped tomatoes
  • 1-2 4 oz can fire roasted green peppers
  • 1-2 tsp cumin
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1-2 tsp Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce or liquid aminos (GF)
  • 1 small zucchini, chopped
  • 1 cup lacinato kale, stems removed and thinly sliced
  1. Saute onion, carrots and celery in olive oil until softened (about 5 minutes)
  2. Pour in vegetable broth and add all remaining ingredients, except zucchini and kale.  I recommend adding 1 can of peppers, 1 teaspoon cumin and 1 teaspoon of your chosen sauce to begin. Simmer about 30 minutes.  Add more broth or water, if necessary
  3. Taste broth and add cumin, cayenne pepper, soy sauce, salt and pepper to taste. If you want more zing, add another can of fire roasted peppers.  Stir in zucchini and kale and cook another 5 minutes.

 

 

Meatless Monday – Hot and Sour Soup

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If hot soup equals a warm belly, what about hot soup that is also hot-spicy? As you can see, I’m still on my hot soup bender – and judging by the forecast for seven days of rain next week, it’s not ending any time soon. My husband is in bed with the sniffles so I decided that Hot and Sour Soup would be the perfect antidote. I am a true believer in the medicinal power of soup.  I used to rely on chicken soup but now I’m looking for vegetarian options and it looks like this one will do the trick.  Hot and Sour Soup contains anti inflammatory aromatics, like red chile and ginger, lending some truth to the old saying, that ‘soup is medicine in a bowl.’

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This soup has all the healing properties you need to fight infections, help digestion and boost both your immune system and your metabolism.  It’s also a great way to warm up on a cold winter’s day. The soup’s warm and silky texture feels great on a sore throat, and its hot and sour flavors help clear a stuffy nose and sweat out toxins. Plus the combination of mushrooms, tofu and bamboo shoots swimming in a flavorful broth that tickles your tastebuds is reason enough to enjoy this satisfying dish.

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Photo Credit:  Wikimedia.org

 

Here’s your fun fact of the day:  Bamboo Shoots are not just an empty filler only found in Chinese food.  They are rich in dietary fiber, vitamins (including B vitamins) and minerals, especially copper and iron which are used to produce red blood cells and potassium, important for healthy heart and blood pressure. They also contain 2.5 grams of protein per 100 g serving for the low price of 27 calories. Not bad for such an innocuous little veggie…  The photo above is of a young bamboo shoot just peeking above the ground.  I decided to look it up because I didn’t know what they look like in nature.  You’re welcome.

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I have made this soup once before but this time I’m perfecting it.  It is based on a Tyler Florence recipe which I veganized and added a bit more spice (because I love it). Here is the original Food Network Recipe which was my inspiration. Don’t forget to try a few drops of sesame oil on the top. Mmmm…

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TIPS:  Most Hot and Sour recipes call for Chinese mushrooms like wood ear or cloud ear which are easier to find dried than fresh.  However, any kind of mushroom can be used.  I used a combination of fresh criminy and maitake which provides good flavor and texture. If you use dried mushrooms, pour boiling water over them and let sit for about a half hour to reconstitute, then slice.  The scallions, cilantro and sesame oil are optional garnishes but I think they add a lot.  I liked the sesame oil so much that next time I may add it right to the pot.

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HOT AND SOUR SOUP

  • 2 Tbsn light oil (avocado or canola)
  • 1 Tbsn fresh ginger, finely grated (or ginger paste)
  • 2 Tbsn red chili paste
  • 2 cups criminy mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small clump maitake mushrooms(optional)
  • 1  block extra firm tofu, cubed
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (or liquid aminos for GF)
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 quarts vegetable broth
  • 3 Tbsn cornstarch + 1/4 cup water
  • 1 large egg, room temperature (optional)
  • scallions, chopped (optional)
  • cilantro, chopped (optional)
  • sesame oil (optional)

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  • If you are using dried mushrooms, put them in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand for 30 minutes to reconstitute. Drain and rinse and discard any hard clusters in the centers.  Wipe fresh mushrooms clean with a paper towel and slice.  Pull apart Maitake mushrooms.

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  • Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high flame. Add the ginger, chili paste, mushrooms and bamboo shoots; cook and stir for 1 minute to infuse the flavor.

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  • Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar in a small bowl and add it to the mushroom mixture.  Gently stir in the tofu taking care not to break the cubes apart.

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  • Add the vegetable broth and simmer for 10 minutes. Dissolve the cornstarch in the water and stir until smooth. Slowly pour it into the soup and continue to simmer until the soup thickens.

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  • Remove the soup from the heat and stir in 1 direction to get a current going, then stop stirring. Slowly pour in the beaten egg in a steady stream. It should feather and spread out in the broth.

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  • Serve with chopped green onions and cilantro, and drizzle with a few drops of sesame oil, if desired.

Hot and Sour Soup

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 30 minutes or less
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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  • 2 Tbsn light oil (avocado or canola)
  • 1 Tbsn fresh ginger, finely grated (or ginger paste)
  • 2 Tbsn red chili paste
  • 2 cups criminy mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small clump maitake mushrooms(optional)
  • 1  block extra firm tofu, cubed
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (or liquid aminos for GF)
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 quarts vegetable broth
  • 3 Tbsn cornstarch + 1/4 cup water
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • scallions, chopped (optional)
  • cilantro, chopped (optional)
  • sesame oil (optional)
  • If you are using dried mushrooms, put them in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand for 30 minutes to reconstitute. Drain and rinse and discard any hard clusters in the centers.  Wipe fresh mushrooms clean with a paper towel and slice.  Pull apart Maitake mushrooms.
  • Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high flame. Add the ginger, chili paste, mushrooms and bamboo shoots; cook and stir for 1 minute to infuse the flavor.
  • Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar in a small bowl and add it to the mushroom mixture.  Gently stir in the tofu taking care not to break the cubes apart.
  • Add the vegetable broth and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Dissolve the cornstarch in the water and stir until smooth. Slowly pour it into the soup and continue to simmer until the soup thickens.
  • Remove the soup from the heat and stir in 1 direction to get a current going, then stop stirring. Slowly pour in the beaten egg in a steady stream. It should feather and spread out in the broth.
  • Serve with chopped green onions and cilantro, and drizzle with a few drops of sesame oil, if desired.

Meatless Monday – Butternut Squash Barley Risotto

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20161207_194811 Risotto is so rich and creamy that it seems fancy and somewhat decadent.  Well this version is no different, even though it is made without meat or dairy and I used barley instead of the traditional Arborio rice which adds flavor and interest. If you are intimidated by making risotto at home, don’t be.  It’s actually a pretty easy (mostly) one pot dish.  Yes, you do have to stir it but not constantly.  You don’t have to be a slave to the stove but it is the technique of slowly adding broth and allowing it to absorb into the barley which creates the rich and creamy almost sauce-like texture which is the result of the barley releasing starch into the broth. Starch is that magic ingredient that helps marry the ingredients.  (This is same reason I always save a cup of cooking water when making pasta). The barley risotto is a wonderful, slightly chewy consistency and the butternut squash is sweet and perfectly accented by the lovely ‘sauce’ and fresh tangy sage. The end result is worth the extra attention, however, I have a short cut in TIPS below for those who can’t be bothered but still like the idea of butternut squash and barley.

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Risotto is traditionally made with Arborio rice which lends itself to a creamy consistency but I decided to use pearl barley instead to give my risotto a heartier, winter ‘stick to your ribs’ feel and to boost the nutrition. So what exactly is pearl barley?  Pearl Barley, or pearled barley, is barley that has been processed to remove its hull and bran. All barley must have its fibrous outer hull removed before it can be eaten; pearl barley is then polished to remove the bran layer.  Although pearl barley is not a whole grain, it still has twice as much fiber than white and brown rice. Adding fiber to your diet helps prevent cardiovascular disease and diabetes and keeps your digestive system running smoothly. Pearl barley also has almost four times the amount of calcium than white rice but white rice, surprisingly has a bit more iron and more protein.  Go figure. You can also buy hulled barley, which still has the bran, for even more nutrition.  It may not make as creamy of a dish and will take about 20 minutes more to soften.  To read more on Livestrong, click HERE

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TIPS:  If you like this combination of ingredients but don’t have the patience to add the broth a half cup at a time, just saute the onions and squash, then add 3 cups of broth, the squash and half the sage, cover and cook on low heat about 25 minutes. Stir in parmesan and remaining sage.  It won’t be as creamy but should still taste pretty good.  Since the squash will continue to steam, it may fall apart but that is probably okay.

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BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND BARLEY RISOTTO

  • 4 cups vegetable broth plus 2 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil, butter or vegan butter (0r half and half)
  • 12 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cups butternut squash, diced into bite sized pieces
  • 1 cup pearl barley (or arborio rice)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped or 12 teaspoon dried
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese (optional)

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  • In a small saucepan, bring the broth to a boil. Cover, and reduce heat to low. Heat oil in a medium sized pot and saute onion over medium heat until tender.

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  • Add squash and sauté for another 5 minutes.

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  • Add barley and stir to coat. Add 1/2 cup of the boiled broth, and chopped sage. Simmer, stirring often until broth is absorbed, about 5 minutes.

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  • Add remaining broth slowly, about 1/2 cup at a time, allowing it to be absorbed each time before adding more.

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  • Cook until the barley is tender but still firm, about 35-40 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

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  • Remove from heat and stir in parmesan and remaining sage.

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  • Serve with fresh sage or parsley, if desired.

Butternut Squash Barley Risotto

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

 20161207_194811

  • 4 cups vegetable broth plus 2 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil, butter or vegan butter (0r half and half)
  • 12 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cups butternut squash, diced into bite sized pieces
  • 1 cup pearl barley (or arborio rice)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped or 12 teaspoon dried
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese (optional)

 

  1. In a small saucepan, bring the broth to a boil. Cover, and reduce heat to low.
  2. Heat oil in a medium sized pot over medium heat.
  3. Add onion and sauté until tender.
  4. Add squash and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add barley and stir for 2 more minutes.
  5. Add 1/2 cup of the boiled broth, and chopped sage. Simmer, stirring often until broth is absorbed, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add remaining broth slowly, about 1/2 cup at a time, allowing it to be absorbed each time before adding more.
  7. Cook until the barley is tender but still firm, about 35-40 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
  8. Remove from heat and stir in parmesan cheese. Serve with fresh sage or parsley, if desired.

Meatless Monday – Creamy Mushroom Soup (Vegan)

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Calling all mushroom lovers!  My husband declared this the BEST MUSHROOM SOUP HE’S EVER HAD – and I have to agree with him.  I have had some pretty delicious mushroom soups in restaurants but I think this one, stocked with a blend of earthy mushrooms and a rich and creamy base, beats them all.  Best of all it is very easy, ready in less than 30 minutes and requires few ingredients.  It’s vegan too! Many soups are made delicious by adding thick creamy ingredients that add fat and cholesterol and actually mask the natural flavors of the main ingredients.  I substituted the traditional heavy cream with almond milk and veggie broth, thickened with a bit of flour, which really cuts calories without losing flavor.  This soup was wonderful served immediately after cooking, but the small bowl that was leftover that I ate for lunch a couple of days later was even better.  So this is a great soup to make a day or two ahead and reheat when needed.  What could be easier? For other soup ideas, check out last week’s blog post, 12 Vegetarian Winter Soups.

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The stars of this soup are the mushrooms, so choose your favorites but make sure they are good quality. I love a combination of mushrooms to deepen the flavor and add texture.  I prefer brown criminy mushrooms over white mushrooms, also called button mushrooms, since I think they are more flavorful but how do they compare from a nutritional standpoint? White button mushrooms have more vitamin C and slightly more iron but criminy mushrooms are the clear mineral winner.  Criminy mushrooms have twice as much calcium and significantly more potassium and selenium than white mushrooms.  The two mushroom varieties contain similar amounts of vitamin B12, vitamin B6, riboflavin and niacin. Surprisingly, white mushrooms contain slightly more fiber and protein than criminis, although criminis are slightly lower in fat, however they are both extremely low in fat.(Livestrong) So nutritionally speaking, it’s really a toss up, so go with your tastebuds or better yet, use a combination for the ultimate in flavor and nutrition.

TIPS: I have provided substitutions in this recipe for gluten free people.  For more information on gluten free thickening agents, check out this article from SF Gate.  I would like to offer one word of caution for those who are not used to cooking with almond milk, make sure you buy unsweetened, not original flavor, or your soup stock will have an underlying sweetness that is hard to cover up.

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CREAMY MUSHROOM SOUP

  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 Tbsn olive oil, butter or vegan butter ( like half oil half butter)
  • 1 carton criminy or brown mushrooms (about 10 oz or 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 carton Portobello mushrooms (2 large or 10 small)
  • 1 generous Tbsn flour (or cornstarch, arrowroot or tapioca flour for GF)
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1-2 cups almond or cashew milk (unsweetened)
  • 2 tsp soy sauce (or liquid aminos for GF)
  • salt and pepper to taste

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  • Saute onion in olive oil or butter in a large soup pot until translucent.

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  • Wipe mushrooms with a damp papertowel.  Don’t rinse or they will get soggy.  Cut smaller mushrooms in half and slice larger mushrooms. Really large Portobello slices might need to be cut in half.

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  • Add mushrooms to onion mixture and saute about 5 minutes or until the mushrooms start to lose their water.

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  • Stir in flour until absorbed by the juices and add thyme.  Let cook several minutes.  If you like really thick soups, add another tablespoon of flour.

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  • Add vegetable broth, soy sauce and 1 cup almond milk and stir to combine.  If you want it creamier, add the remaining almond milk.Cook about 10 to 15 minutes stirring occasionally until soup thickens and flavors develop.   If your soup is not as thick as you would like, dissolve another tablespoon of flour in a quarter cup of water, stir in and allow to simmer. Taste (as broths can vary in saltiness) and add salt and pepper as needed.

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  • Serve hot with a sprig of fresh thyme

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 Tbsn olive oil, butter or vegan butter
  • 1 carton criminy or brown mushrooms (about 10 oz or 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 carton Portobello mushrooms (2 large or 10 small)
  • 1 generous Tbsn flour (cornstarch, arrowroot or tapioca flour for GF)
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1-2 cups almond or cashew milk (unsweetened)
  • 2 tsp soy sauce (or liquid aminos for GF)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Saute onion in olive oil or butter in a large soup pot until translucent.
  2. Wipe mushrooms with a damp papertowel.  Don’t rinse or they will get soggy.  Cut smaller mushrooms in half and slice larger mushrooms. Large Portobello slices might need to be cut in half.
  3. Add mushrooms to onion mixture and saute about 5 minutes or until the mushrooms start to lose their water.
  4. Stir in flour until absorbed by the juices and add thyme.  Let cook several minutes
  5. Add vegetable broth and 1 cup almond milk and stir to combine.  If you want it creamier, add the remaining almond milk.
  6. Cook about 10 to 15 minutes stirring occasionally until soup thickens and flavors develop. If your soup is not as thick as you would like, dissolve another tablespoon of flour in a quarter cup of water, stir in and allow to simmer 10 more minutes. Taste (as broths can vary in saltiness) and add salt and pepper as needed.
  7. Serve hot with a sprig of fresh thyme

 

12 Vegetarian Winter Soups

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picmonkey-collage-1 SOUP GLORIOUS SOUP! Soup is the ultimate comfort food for cold, rainy or snowy days.  It’s hot, steamy goodness warms you up from the inside out. As promised, here is a collection of twelve of my favorite soups. Mmm, so good!  All soups are vegetarian or vegan (or easily adapted for vegans) and gluten and wheat free.  Since they are meat free, they are naturally low in calories but nutrient dense, so dig in!  Each link will send you to the recipe and original blog post. Sharing is caring. -J

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Tuscan Bean Soup with Squash and Kale

Cauliflower Leek Soup2

Creamy Cauliflower Leek Soup

Black Bean Soup1

Spicy Black Bean Soup

CArrot Sweet Potato Soup1

Carrot, Sweet Potato Soup with Turmeric

Mushroom Barley Soup 1

Mushroom and Barley Soup with Cannelini Beans

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Fall Harvest Minestrone

Autumn Harvest Soup11

Butternut Squash and Potato Soup with Crispy Fried Sage

Black and White Chili

Black and White Chili with Garlic Toast

White Bean and Swiss Chard Soup

White Bean and Swiss Chard Soup

Carrot Coconut Soup with Marinated Tofu Triangles

Butternut Squash Soup and Polenta Tower2

Butternut Squash Soup with Polenta Towers

Dhal Lentil Sou[p

Dhal Lentil Soup with Quinoa Cauliflower Cakes

 

12 Vegetarian Thanksgiving Recipes

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Thanksgiving is celebrated as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest, and in that spirit our festivities rightly revolve around food and lots of it.  I have collected a dozen of my favorite vegetarian and vegan dishes which would be perfect for your Thanksgiving dinner as main courses or side dishes. In keeping with the theme, most of them are stuffed or roasted and they are all deliciously vegan or vegetarian (that can easily be made vegan). I have thrown in a couple of my favorite seasonal salads to complement the roasted dishes and add a splash of color to your festive table.

Luckily, most of these recipes are healthy and naturally low fat so won’t add to the ‘winter layer’ we seem to start putting on this time of year. Clicking on any link will take you to the recipe and original blog post. Next week I will post a collection of My Favorite Soups so check back or Follow so you don’t miss it. Lots of sharing buttons below too… Share with your friends!

Happy Thanksgiving!  xoxo J

 

Acorn Squash with Wild Rice Stuffing

Roasted Acorn Squash with Wild Rice Stuffing

Brussels Sprouts1

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Shallots and Toasted Pinenuts

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Mason Jar Veggie Pot Pies (Vegan)

Acorn Slices1

Acorn Squash Rings with Cornbread Stuffing

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers3

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Root Vegetable Tian3

Root Vegetable Tian with Goat Cheese and Crispy Shallots

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Wild Rice, Mushroom and ‘Sausage’ Stuffed Pumpkin

Roasted Acorn Squash1

Roasted Maple Glazed Acorn Squash with Apples and Pecans over Rainbow Quinoa

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Roasted Artichokes Stuffed with Garlic, Parmesan and Quinoa

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Spice Crusted Whole Roasted Cauliflower

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Honey Glazed Winter Squash with Pomegranate

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Portobello Mushrooms Stuffed with Eggplant, Tomatoes and Mozzarella

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Kale Salad with Apples, Pecans and Goat Cheese

Black Rice Dish

Black and Wild Rice with Roasted Squash and Pomegranate

 

 

 

Meatless Monday – Penne with Butternut Squash, Mushrooms & Spinach

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There is a reason pasta is a fan favorite.  It’s fast, versatile and oh so satisfying.  It’s easy to adapt ingredients to feature the best of the season when you know the most abundant fruits and veggies are at their peak freshness and also their least expensive, due to good old supply and demand. Right now winter squashes and mushrooms crowd our supermarket shelves and dark leafy greens are still readily available. So stock up and do yourself a favor; whip up a quick batch of this yummy pasta. You won’t be disappointed.

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I love the colors of this dish.  As you know, via the concept of Eating the Rainbow, the more colors you can include in your food, the more likely you are to have a vast array of vitamins and minerals.   Any time you can sneak dark, leafy greens into meals, you’re adding important vitamins and minerals, but did you know that both butternut squash and spinach are good sources of fiber and Vitamin C and excellent sources of Vitamin A?  Mushrooms also add great nutritional value and help provide the feeling of fullness without adding unnecessary calories, fat or cholesterol.

20161101_195227TIPS:  Whatever you do, don’t forget to scoop out the pasta water which is a magic elixir.  It turns non-tomato based pasta sauces into velvety deliciousness and ‘loosens’ up a dry or too thick sauce.  Regular water just doesn’t give the same results.  Feel free to substitute the spinach for any dark leafy green.  Swiss chard or kale are good choices but may take a bit longer to wilt.

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PENNE WITH BUTTERNUT SQUASH, MUSHROOMS AND SPINACH

  • 12 ounces whole-wheat or multigrain penne
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups diced peeled butternut squash (or other winter squash)
  • 6-8  crimini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 large shallot or 1/2 onion, small dice
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups spinach or other leafy green
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried
    • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook as directed. Scoop out 1 cup cooking water and set aside before draining pasta. Leave pasta uncovered to prevent overcooking.  If it looks sticky, add a bit of pasta water.

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    • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the squash in a tablespoon of olive oil with half of the salt and pepper, stirring occasionally, until golden and tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

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    • Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, and saute the mushrooms with the remaining salt and pepper, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 4-5 minutes. Transfer to the plate and set aside.

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    • Add the garlic, onion and red pepper flakes, adding a bit more oil if necessary . Cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent, about 3-5 minutes.

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    • Stir in the spinach and saute about one minute until slightly wilted.

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    • Add the pasta, squash, mushrooms and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water to the spinach/onion mixture. Cook, stirring, until heated through,1 to 2 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup parmesan and the oregano. Add more of the cooking water, if desired, to make a juicier sauce.

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    • Serve with remaining parmesan and fresh oregano.

    Penne with Butternut Squash, Mushrooms and Spinach

    • Servings: 4
    • Time: 30 minutes
    • Difficulty: easy
    • Print
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    • 12 ounces whole-wheat or multigrain penne
    • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 2 cups diced peeled butternut squash (about 8 ounces)
    • 6-8  crimini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
    • 1 medium shallot or 1/2 onion, small dice
    • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
    • 2 cups spinach or other leafy green
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/4 tsp pepper
    • 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (optional)
    • 3 tablespoons fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried
      • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook as directed. Scoop out 1 cup cooking water and set aside before draining pasta.
      • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the squash in a tablespoon of olive oil with half of the salt and pepper, stirring occasionally, until golden and tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
      • Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, and saute the mushrooms with the remaining salt and pepper, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 4-5 minutes. Transfer to the plate and set aside.
      • Add the garlic, onion and red pepper flakes, adding a bit more oil if necessary . Cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent, about 3-5 minutes.
      • Stir in the spinach and saute about one minute until slightly wilted.
      • Add the pasta, squash, mushrooms and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water to the spinach/onion mixture. Cook, stirring, until heated through,1 to 2 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup parmesan and the oregano. Add more of the cooking water to make a juicier sauce.
      • Serve with remaining parmesan.