Monthly Archives: April 2011


Cornbread is a silly and deceptive name for such an indulgence—it sounds like it’s a vegetable, with the “bread” part as an afterthought.  Of course, cornbread—oozing with butter and honey, mmmm–is about as far from a vegetable as you can get while using mostly plant-based ingredients.  I’m sure you can guess where this is going—to an easy, low-fat, much more healthful version, with even more flavor than the indulgent original.  The result is both sweet and savory, and equally delicious topped with honey or hot sauce.

I found the inspiration for this recipe on 101 Cookbooks, which is a great site for recipes (both vegan and not).  The original uses caramelized onions and parmesan, which would be delicious.  Next time, I’ll caramelize some onion and enhance the sweet aspects of the bread.

Crunchy Sweet and Savory Cornbread

1 1/2 cups cornmeal (I used Bob’s Red Mill polenta)


1 red bell pepper, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

2/3 cup frozen corn kernels

Cinnamon, cayenne, salt

Splash olive oil

3 cups water

  1. Preheat oven to 400
  2. Combine 1.5 cups water with the cornmeal and a dash of salt; set aside.
  3. Heat splash of olive oil in a pan.  Add peppers and cook on medium-high heat, until the peppers start to soften and char a bit.  Add corn and heat through.  Set aside.
  4. Heat remaining 1.5 cups water to a boil.  Add the cornmeal mixture and return to a boil, stirring and cooking until it thickens quite a bit (like a heavy batter).
  5. Combine cornmeal and veggies in a bowl.  Add spices like cinnamon, cayenne, additional salt, until it smells delicious.  If you want to enhance the sweet side of things, you could try adding a tablespoon or two of brown sugar.
  6. Pour into an oil-sprayed 9×12 casserole, smooth the top, and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the bread is browning and getting crispy on the sides and edges.  Expect the bread to be thin–only 1/2″ thick or so–which makes each piece seem like a thick cookie, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.  YUM!

I treated this as a dessert and topped it with honey.


Hummus Yummus

Hummus!  I love you.  Spinach Hummus from that random local food company whose name I can’t remember!  I love you even more.  I may not have done you justice, but I tried.  Behold…

Lower-Fat Spinach Hummus

Olive oil (or water)

6 handfuls spinach

Garlic to taste, crushed or minced

2 cans (or 3 cups cooked) garbanzo beans – I think organic tastes better

1 or 2 Tbsp tahini

Lemon juice

Water to thin

Spices – salt, pepper, cumin, cayenne

  1. Heat a splash of olive oil in a large pan.  You can replace the oil with some water and “steam fry” the spinach, but I do like a bit of oil in my hummus.  You won’t add it later, so go ahead…
  2. Add the spinach to the pan, in stages if necessary, and cook for 1 minute while stirring.  Add garlic to taste and continue wilting the spinach, but don’t let it get too super duper soft.  Toss in some salt and set aside.  (Hint: you want the spinach here to taste like a sautéed spinach side dish, so add salt and garlic in the amounts you would add if you were just going to eat the spinach on its own.)
  3. Put garbanzos, tahini, a few tablespoons of water, 2 big squirts of lemon juice, and the spinach in the food processor and process until smooth.  If it’s dry, add a bit more water (or lemon juice if you like it).  I used only 1 tablespoon of tahini because I wanted to keep it low-fat, but tahini is good for you and super-tasty, so I think I’ll use 2 tablespoons next time.
  4. Add spices: definitely salt, then a bit of cumin.  Keep tasting as you go (the fun part!).  I also added a pinch or two of cayenne pepper, because I like a little heat.  Even a pinch or two did not make it spicy, just added depth.


I ate this with red bell peppers, carrots, and flatbread for lunch, and snacked on it later with some zucchini slices (which I think are so much better for dipping than cucumber).

Colorful lunch!

Smiling snack! I should have added olives for the eyes.

Sisterly Smoothies

I am a bit of a creature of habit, at least when it comes to my food choices.  Though this blog has made me a bit more creative with dinner recipes, I still make the same smoothie for breakfast almost every morning.  It’s delicious; don’t mess with it.

Fortunately for me, my sister’s refrigerator stopped working last week.  That meant I needed to deliver a friend’s mini-fridge to carry them through the week until repairs could be made.  It was breakfast time, and Sister asked me to help her make one of my smoothies.  She had spinach and bananas, but no frozen berries, so we had to come up with a new recipe using the going-to-spoil-soon produce she had lying around the kitchen.  It worked!  Sister generously shared, and it was delish.  Here it is, along with another smoothie her experimenting inspired:

Sister Smoothie:

2 cups spinach (less than I usually use, but it was all she had left, and it helps to try new recipes with less green)

1.5 cups water

1 banana

1 large Clementine, peeled and separated into chunks

Blend the spinach with the water until smooth.  Add the banana and the Clementine, separately and in chunks.  Blend!

Sister-Inspired Smoothie:

4 cups spinach

2 – 2.5 cups water

3 big spoons full of my leftover fruit salad (apple, banana, strawberry, Minneola/tangelo)

a few frozen berries (what was left in the open bag)

Follow the instructions for Sister Smoothie, blending in stages.  This smoothie was more tart because there is much less banana in it (probably ¼ of a banana total), and super delicious.

A note about greens – There is some debate about whether one needs to “rotate greens.”  Some believe that eating a bunch of the same leafy greens every day will cause a build-up over time to a level that will make you sick, and that people should therefore rotate at least weekly, switching from spinach to kale to chard, etc.  I’m pretty lazy about rotating greens (shocker), and spinach is my favorite for smoothies.  I’ve never experienced any ill effects, but you might want to look into this yourself if you start making smoothies every day.

Not-So-Soupy Soup

Soup always makes me feel like I’m on a diet, in a good way.  That sounds crazy, yes?  In the words of Inigo Montoya, “Lemme ‘splain.  No, there is too much.  Lemme sum up.”

There’s just something about eating a bowl of hearty, warm, and healthy soup that makes me feel both nourished (like a bowl of mac-n-cheese) and health-nutty (like a salad).  This soup—courtesy of my wonderful friend Jo, and altered a bit to my taste—nails both of those components perfectly, and is excellent for those rainy days when you want comfort food, but you need to keep your eye on the ball of upcoming summer clothes-shopping.

Note: I think you could easily make this soup with canned beans if you’re pressed for time—it’ll cut an hour or more off the simmering time—but I went with dried beans because I was doing stuff around the house this day.

White Bean and Kale Soup

1lb dried cannellini (or small white) beans

12 cups water (original recipe said 10 cups, but I found I needed a bit more)


1-2 Tbsp olive oil

2 onions

3 carrots

6 garlic cloves (I used jarred organic minced garlic, and a lot of it–might use more next time!)

2 bay leaves

4 cups veggie stock

4 cups kale

red pepper flakes

  1. Place beans, one of the onions (roughly chopped), and a bit of salt in a large pot, cover with 12 cups water, and get boiling.  Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour.  Remove from heat and let sit (in the cooking water) for 20-30 minutes.  Drain, reserving the cooking water for later.
  2. Heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add the second onion (chopped or sliced), garlic, and bay leaves.  Saute until the veggies start to soften.
  3. Add cooked beans and onions, veggie stock, and 2 cups of the reserved cooking liquid.  Bring to boil and reduce heat to simmer for 1-1.5 hours.  One hour was enough for me.  Stir occasionally to avoid sticking, and add more reserved cooking liquid if needed.
  4. Remove bay leaves and use a hand/immersion blender to puree the soup until it’s half-pureed, half-chunky.  You can also pour half the soup into a blender, then return it to the pot.  Keep the soup on low heat, but beware of popping bubbles of soup, especially if it’s pretty thick.
  5. Add more cooking liquid if needed to thin it out.  I didn’t add much, and my soup was thick.  I dug it, but you do it howevs.
  6. Optional step – blanch the kale in boiling water for 2-4 minutes to soften it.  I didn’t do this and just threw the raw kale in the soup pot.  It was great for my purposes—a chunkier and chewier soup/stew—but again, if you want something more slippery and soupy, blanch the kale first.  (You may use spinach instead, but in that case you should definitely not blanch the greens.)
  7. Add kale to soup and season the whole thing to taste.  Let it all simmer a bit longer to soak up the spices. I just used salt and pepper, and added the red pepper to my individual serving.

This makes a bunch of soup—next time, I’ll cut it in half.  Wife and I ate it for dinner that night with some crusty sourdough bread; I then ate it for both breakfast and lunch for the next two days, and I still had to toss some leftovers after a few days.  If you have a big family, though, this is a great way to make an easy, pleasing dinner for a bunch.

Lazy Day Hash

As you may have gleaned from previous posts, I can be a bit of a lazy cook (and blogger, for that matter).  Normally, I love finding an interesting recipe, messing around with it to fit my tastes or know-how, and shopping for the ingredients.  Howevs, all the rain combined with my busy schedule has made me somehow less adventurous these days, and I haven’t been all that creative.

For those days when I just can’t muster the energy to shop or to be creative in the kitchen, I throw together all the good stuff in the house and make a hash of sorts–a mash-up of ingredients that sound like they’ll go together well, usually thrown on top of a bowl of greens. The neat thing is that these hashes usually end up tasting great, and they have the added benefit of making Wife happy–she hates when I don’t go through the food we have in the house.

An ingredient that is always present is beans, so often my hashes have a Mexican flavor going on (which, as you know, I dig).  Here’s an example of one I made this week, and a glimpse of another I threw together today.

Tuesday’s Hash

1/2 cup diced yellow onion

1 large zucchini, chopped into 1/2″ pieces

1 tsp minced garlic

Salt, pepper, cayenne

2/3 cup frozen corn kernels, warmed in the microwave

1 15-oz. can of black beans

Salsa and guacamole

Mixed greens

1. Start by sauteeing the onions, zucchini, and garlic on medium-high heat.  Cook until the onions start to soften just a bit, and the zucchini starts to char.  Add spices to taste.

2. Drain and rinse the beans, and add them to the pan.  I discovered the corn in my freezer at the last minute, thawed/cooked it in the microwave for 2 minutes or so, then added it to the pan to continue heating–extra color and bulk for my hash.  Toss everything together and add your favorite salsa–a few good spoons full.

3.  Once everything is hot, spoon some of the mixture onto a bed of greens.  Top with salsa and guac and enjoy!

After I ate this bowl of hash-n-greens, I ate another cup or so of the hash on its own, which was just as good.

Today’s version (even better) – zucchini, red bell pepper, broccoli, black beans, spices, salsa.  Yum!

A Rare Pasta Dinner

Ah, pasta.  So many pastas are vegan, you’d think I’d be all over them.  Alas, no–I think pasta really impedes my little battle against extra pounds in a way that other carb bases (quinoa, couscous, etc.) do not.  I tend to avoid noodle-based dishes unless there’s something really special going on.

Last night, I finally got to whip up just such a special dish.  When we were in Seattle, Wife and I picked up some ridiculously tasty (even uncooked) Rosemary Garlic Linguine from Pappardelle‘s in the Pike Place Market.  I used that deliciousness to put together a vegan combo that turned out sooo yummy, if a tad dry.  Any dryness would have been easily solved with a splash or two of olive oil before serving, but I figured the pasta was my splurge for the evening, and the dryness didn’t bother me (or Wife).

Flavored Pasta Hash

I called this a “hash” because I threw in ingredients I already had in the house, rather than crafting the dish in my head first.  Try this with any flavored pasta you’d like, so long as it’s in the general Italian family of spices (garlic, basil, etc.).

1/2 lb. long pasta, broken in half or thirds

Splash of olive oil

1/2 cup diced yellow onion

4 cups broccoli florets (or more!)

1 Tbsp minced garlic

Salt, red pepper flakes, extra garlic powder to taste

1 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (I love them, so feel free to reduce this amount if you’re not likewise besotted)

1. Get the pasta boiling, and make sure not to overcook.  Follow package directions for al dente noodles.  Meanwhile, start on the veggies.

2. Heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and cover.  Cook until the onions just start to soften.  Add broccoli florets–I like them on the small side–and continue cooking, uncovered, until the broccoli starts to char just a bit.  Mix in the garlic.  Cover and continue cooking for a few minutes, until the broccoli is just a shade less tender than you like it.

3. Add salt and other spices to the veggies to taste.  If you’re using unflavored pasta, try rosemary, extra garlic, basil, whatever floats your boat.  Mix everything together and allow it to keep warm in the pan until the pasta is ready.

4. Once the pasta is cooked to your liking, drain it and immediately rinse with cold water.  This stops the cooking process, which is important if 1) you’re not eating right away and b) you’re not adding a sauce.  Otherwise un-sauced pasta can get kind of gummy.

If you’re serving to kids, this might be a good place to chop the pasta into smaller chunks (or, of course, you can start with a kid-friendly noodle–I like the longer pasta for this dish because everything gets kind of wrapped up together).

5. Get the pasta back in the pot and add the veggie mixture and the sun-dried tomatoes.  Toss everything together (with some oil if it’s too sticky) over medium heat until heated through, and add any other spices you’d like.  I added red pepper flakes here.

Voila!  This was a big hit.  It’s also good cold.  For non-vegans, this would be great with some parmesan cheese.  You could also add just a bit–maybe 1/2 cup–of your favorite red sauce at the end, especially if your pasta is unflavored or seems too dry.  Next time, I’ll try adding roasted red pepper, zucchini, and/or chopped bell pepper to up the veggie:pasta ratio.


Green Beans & Gremolata

So, I thought about naming this recipe something cute, like “Gremlin Beans,” but then I remembered that I hate cutesy recipe names.

When I was little–say, younger than 10–the only vegetable I can remember eating with regularity is frozen green beans.  My mom would microwave them in a bowl with a little water, then top them with a pat of butter.  To me, that was BIG.  I was Eating My Vegetables, and a very good girl.  Now, when I spy those bags of frozen green beans in the grocery store, they seem like the Chef Boyardee version of veggiespasty and made for people who don’t eat real food.

Fortunately for me, my amazing mama became a wonderful vegetarian chef basically the day after I got home from summer camp and announced I was never eating meat again because of a video I saw about veal.  (This was super dorky summer camp.)  No more frozen green beans for me–she started serving all sorts of amazing veggie-based meals.  I’m so lucky!**

Also fortunately, I have re-discovered green beans, grown-up style.  I adapted the following recipe from a Weight Watchers Thanksgiving article.

Green Beans with Garlic Gremolata

4 cups or so trimmed green beans – check out my lazy version below

1 cup thinly sliced shallot or yellow onion

Olive oil

1 Tbsp minced garlic

1 Tbsp minced parsley

1 big squirt of lemon juice, or 2 tsp lemon zest if you feel like working for it

Salt and pepper

1. Steam green beans until pretty tender–they’ll cook a bit more in Step 3, but they should be basically done here.  If you are lazy like me, buy the bag of washed and trimmed green beans from Trader Joe’s and microwave steam them in their bag for 3-4 minutes.

2. Heat a splash of olive oil over medium heat and toss in the shallots.  Cover them for a while so they get nice and soft (but not mealy and overcooked).

3. Add the green beans and toss with salt and pepper to taste.  Heat through if the beans have cooled.

4.  Make the gremolata: combine garlic, parsley, and lemon in a small dish.  I often choose to use a squirt of lemon juice because it’s easier than zesting a lemon, but I do like the zest version a bit better.  Your choice!

5. Move the green beans to a serving dish and toss with the gremolata just before serving.

It looks oily, but it’s really not–the onions get nice and moist when cooking under cover, and they kind of spread that love around.  This totally qualifies as comfort food if you add a little extra salt, and it’s even good when it cools down.  Wife loves this dish!


**I should note that my parents later told me that they took me to Roy Rogers on the way home from summer camp and allowed me to order mashed potatoes and gravy, chuckling because I scarfed it without realizing that gravy = meat.  So, my parents rule for basically adopting vegetarianism along with their 10-year-old, but they also have sick senses of humor.