Baked Bean Nachos

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We’ve been making nachos for dinner regularly these days. I think this is in part because we joined Costco earlier this year and the two items we most commonly get there are a huge bag of organic tortilla chips and a big bag of avocados. In addition to the chips and guacamole, we usually add a tofu and black bean mixture and some sort of vegan cheese sauce. In this version we changed it up by adding fried seitan and “baked” beans. The beans were based on a recipe from Robin Robertson’s slow cooker book that we made in the Instant Pot. We’ll have to do this more often because it was all quite tasty!

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Apple and blackberry grunt

appleblackberrygrunt01I love fruit desserts and in particular ones with apples. We are getting apples from our CSA fruit share and the kids love baked apples with cinnamon. I thought about making a pie but decided I wanted to make something easier and quicker. I then thought grunt. Lovely little flour dumplings in steaming fruit. Yum! The name is really fun also and you know that is what is really important. At least for kids that is the case anyway. So I had the brilliant idea of making the grunt in the Instant Pot. I wasn’t sure if I could do it all one step or if I would have to first make the filling and then add the batter. Well, only one way to find out. It turns out I can add everything at once. So this experiment anyway was a success. I made an instant grunt. If you don’t have a pressure cooker then you can definitely make this the traditional way by cooking the filling first and then adding the batter. It is really quick though to make in the Instant Pot so you may want to buy one just so you can make instant grunts. Feel free to add any fruit you like also. I have plans for many more versions of this one. Also you can add more or less sugar. I had really tart apples and blackberries so I added a bit more. On to the recipe.

Apple and blackberry grunt

Filling

6 cups peeled and slice apples

2 cups frozen or fresh blackberries

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup coconut palm sugar

1 tablespoon white whole wheat flour

3/4 cup water

Dumpling Batter

1 1/2 cups flour (I used 1/2 cup ground oats, 1/2 cup ground buckwheat groats, 1/2 cup white whole wheat)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 cup coconut palm sugar

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1/2 cup nondairy milk

1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Add all of the filling ingredients to the Instant Pot or a pan and mix well. If you are using regular pan then heat the filling on the stove until it is bubbly and the apples have softened. Mix the dry ingredients for the batter in a bowl. Mix the wet ingredients together in a measuring cup. Add the wet to the dry and mix. The batter should be fairly thick. Add spoonfuls of the batter to the filling covering the top. If you are using the instant pot then add the batter on top of the uncooked filling. See the lovely photo below. Cover and cook for 4 minutes using the manual setting on low pressure and use a quick release. If you are using the stove top then cover the pot and steam for 14 minutes until the dumplings are firm. Enjoy! Darlene

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Ikarian Stew

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A while back I read this fascinating article titled “The Island Where People Forget to Die“. I’ve read other articles more recently about what have been dubbed the “Blue Zones” – places in the world where people live extraordinarily long lives. These places have a few things in common, one of which is that their residents tend to eat a mostly plant-based diet. When another article about the Blue Zones came out recently in the New York Times I was intrigued by the description of the Ikarian Stew, especially since we’ve been getting fennel from our CSA and I’m never quite sure what to do with it. I found the recipe easily on-line and made it for dinner last night. It was super simple and really delicious. And it was a great way to use some additional CSA veggies, like onions and tomatoes. I cooked this in the Instant Pot – 18 minutes on high pressure – and it came out perfect but the stove top method is simple as well. I have to admit, a half cup of olive oil seemed like a lot so I didn’t use that much but still it was great. We enjoyed ours over whole wheat penne and I’m sure we’ll be making it again!

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Southwest Lentil Stew

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Our seven-year-old loves chili so I make some version of it quite often. I love using our Instant Pot for this type of stew but if you don’t have a pressure cooker this can easily be done on the stovetop or in a slow cooker. It’s tomato season and we’re getting lots of fresh tomatoes (along with onions and peppers) from our CSA but you could use a medium can of tomatoes as well. I pureed the tomatoes in a blender before adding them but it’s not necessary.

What you need:

1 Tbs. olive or canola oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 large bell pepper, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

6 medium tomatoes, diced

1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

2 medium carrots, sliced

1 cup diced seitan

1 tsp. chili powder

2 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. dried marjoram

1 tsp. salt

1 Tbs. lime juice

1 cup brown rice

1 cup brown lentils

3 cups water

What you do:

Heat oil in a pressure cooker and add onion and bell pepper. Cook for a few minutes then add garlic and cook for another minute. Add remaining ingredients, mix well then cover and bring up to pressure. Cook on high pressure for 22 minutes and allow for a natural release. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, simmer over low heat on the stove top, covered, for about an hour. We garnished ours with avocado slices and fresh oregano. Also note that we make these types of meals mild for the kids but feel free to add as much hot sauce as you want either during cooking or when serving.

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Barbecue Seitan with Coleslaw and Kale

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When we got our Instant Pot we also got a copy of JL Fields’ Vegan Pressure Cooking and the recipe we’ve used the most so far is the Pulled Jackfruit Sandwiches. We’ve only made it with jackfruit once or twice but the recipe works equally well with seitan or tempeh. Here we used seitan (from one of our favorite seitan recipes that I also mentioned last post). It’s really convenient to do this in the Instant Pot but you could easily do it on the stove top as well. Just saute a small diced onion and minced clove of garlic in a little oil, then add 3 Tbs. tomato paste, 1 tsp. vegan worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp. cider vinegar, 1 Tbs. maple syrup, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. yellow mustard seeds and about 3/4 cup water. Mix in about 1 pound diced seitan the cook on high pressure for 3 minutes (or cover and simmer for 20 minutes or so on the stove top).

We often like to have coleslaw with our barbecue and I don’t usually use a recipe but this is what I did tonight. Just mix all this stuff together:

1/2 head green cabbage, shredded

2 carrots, shredded

1/4 c. vegan mayo

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. cider vinegar

And we rounded out the meal with some sauteed kale. What we do with kale most often is just give it a quick saute in a little olive oil with garlic, then add salt and a bit of lemon juice.

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Almond Cashew Yogurt

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We’ve been experimenting with making our own yogurt for quite a while now and are making it more often now that we have our Instant Pot, which has a yogurt making setting. If you don’t have a yogurt maker though, no worries. When we started we were just wrapping our yogurt in a big insulating blanket and that worked alright. It’s been easy enough to make yogurt that tastes good; the challenge is getting the consistency right. We still have our ups and downs in the consistency department but this recipe comes out fairly thick and creamy.

What you need:

4 c. water, plus more for soaking

2/3 c. raw whole almonds

1/2 c. raw cashew pieces

1/3 c. cornstarch

3 Tbs. sugar

2 Tbs. soy or almond yogurt, or a package of yogurt starter

Note also that you’ll need a long stem instant read kitchen thermometer because temperature is key here.

What you do:

In separate bowls, cover almonds and cashews with water and soak for several hours. Drain the almonds then add to a blender with 3 cups water. Blend at high speed for a good minute or more then strain through a fine mesh sieve to filter out some of the solids. (You can use this leftover almond pulp in baked goods or in granola.)

Congratulations. You’ve just made almond milk. Now put the almond milk in a saucepan and whisk in the cornstarch and sugar. Heat on medium-high, whisking frequently, until thick and creamy then remove from heat. Now add the cashews to your blender with one cup of water. Blend at high speed until creamy and well blended. You don’t need to strain this mixture; just pour it into the almond mixture.

Here’s where  you’ll need the thermometer. You’ll need to wait to add the yogurt or starter until the mixture is between 108 and 112 degrees Fahrenheit. Check the temperature frequently (stir it first) and when it gets below 112 you can mix in the yogurt or starter. If you’re using a yogurt maker you can get away with the temperature getting a little low because the yogurt maker will bring it to the right temperature and hold it there. If you don’t have a yogurt maker you definitely need to be vigilant about checking the temperature and adding the yogurt or starter when it’s on the high side of the range above.

You can culture your yogurt in whatever vessel works for you. We go through a lot of applesauce in our house and save the glass jars. They hold 24 oz. and two of them are just right for this amount of yogurt and also fit well into our Instant Pot.

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Whatever container you’re using, just put them in your yogurt maker or wrap them in a big blanket or winter coat in the warmest part of your house. Don’t touch them for 8-10 hours then put them in the fridge without disturbing the yogurt. We’ve found that the yogurt will thicken a bit more if refrigerated for a while.

Enjoy!

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Split Pea Soup

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It’s not the most photogenic thing and I don’t have time to expound eloquently on its virtues but this split pea soup really hit the spot on a cold winter’s night. This is the first time I’ve made split pea soup in our pressure cooker and it worked out quite well. If you don’t have a pressure cooker this can easily be done on the stove top; it’ll just need to simmer for at least an hour, perhaps more.

What you need:

1 Tbs. olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

2 medium carrots, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. salt or to taste (depends on how much sodium is in your broth)

fresh ground pepper to taste

1 tsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. smoked paprika

1 bay leaf

4 c. vegetable broth

2 c. water

2 c. split peas

What you do:

Saute onions, carrots and celery in olive oil until they’re just starting to get soft. Add garlic, salt, pepper, coriander and paprika and cook another minute. Then add the remaining ingredients, stirring to combine. Cover, bring to pressure and cook on high pressure for 30 minutes then allow for a natural release (though if you’re pressed for time a quick release should be fine). You could certainly do this in a slow cooker or on the stove top as well. We had ours over brown rice but you could serve it with any grain or just a nice piece of crusty bread.

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Using what you’ve got, Part 1 – Just throw stuff together

While we love thumbing through cookbooks for new recipes to try (or pulling out our old favorites), the reality is that we just don’t have the time to do that very often. We’ll certainly post here about cookbooks or recipes we’ve found that we really like but our day to day meals are often whipped up on the fly with whatever we have on hand. I’ll admit that I tend to be one to cook more from recipes but Darlene is a master of cobbling together whatever we have in the fridge and the pantry and making it into a great meal. She’s taught me that meals don’t have to be elaborate to be satisfying and nutritious. Let’s take a look at a couple of recent examples of what I’m talking about. First up, the bowl (or plate in this case), which generally consists of a grain, a vegetable and some beans or tofu (or both) with a sauce or dressing of some sort.

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Here’s what’s on the plate, along with some ideas for how you could change it up.

  • Brown rice. We often cook a big pot of brown rice on the weekends and use it for a couple of meals during the week but if you haven’t done that and you don’t have the time to cook brown rice, how about quinoa?
  • Black beans. Just plain ‘ol beans that we cooked in our Instant Pot. Don’t have a fancy schmancy pressure cooker? No worries, just open up a can of any beans you have on hand.
  • Tofu, diced and fried in a little olive oil. You could leave this out entirely but if was a nice addition here.
  • Roasted butternut squash. A baked sweet potato would make a fine substitution, or change it up entirely and use steamed broccoli or roasted brussels sprouts or sauteed kale or any other vegetable under the sun. If you’re really in a rush, microwave some frozen broccoli. We almost always keep a bag of frozen broccoli on hand to add to a quick meal and frozen vegetables are still very nutritious.
  • This was all tied together with a ranch style dressing from Terry Hope Romero that Darlene found on-line. We almost always make our own dressings and you should too, if for no other reason than you’ll save money. Dreena Burton has quite a few dressing recipes in her cookbooks, as does Isa. And if you don’t want to go to the trouble of looking for a recipe just whisk together some olive oil, cider vinegar or lemon juice (or both), a bit of prepared mustard and salt and pepper to taste.

Here’s another example of throwing stuff together for a quick, satisfying meal – burritos.

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We almost always have tortillas on hand because the kids love burritos and quesadillas. And while there’s no shortage of burrito recipes available, I don’t think I’ve ever followed a recipe for a burrito. Here we have the black beans and rice again, cooked beforehand and at the ready, along with avocado, mango salsa and cashew sour cream. You could certainly use salsa from a jar and we do so regularly (especially in winter with a dearth of fresh tomatoes), but here Darlene made a nice quick salsa with a small can of diced tomatoes (drained), some frozen diced mango, diced onion, plus a little oil, cider vinegar, oregano and salt. For the “sour cream” we used the Cashew Crema recipe from Viva Vegan! and it’s very similar to this one from Oh She Glows. (One tip on this front: if a recipe calls for soaked cashews but you don’t have any that have been soaking, you can boil them for a few minutes and get similar results.)

Hopefully this post has inspired you to move beyond cooking from a recipe and into whipping up a quick meal with whatever you have on hand! (Just remember to always keep rice in your pantry and you’ll be well on your way.)

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Mitch’s Vegetarian Chili

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Here’s a recipe that goes back a very long time but we still make it on occasion – vegetarian chili from Mitch’s Tavern in Raleigh, NC. Tonight I experimented with making it in the pressure cooker. Check out our post on our previous blog for the original recipe (or get it straight from the Mitch’s Tavern site). If you have a pressure cooker it’s even easier. Here’s the variation I made tonight. I just put all these ingredients into our Instant Pot and cooked on high pressure for 20 minutes.

1/4 c. split peas
1/4 c. brown lentils
1 1/2 c. dried red beans, soaked for several hours and drained
4 c. chopped green cabbage
1 medium onion, cut into 1/2″ dice
4 c. water
4 medium carrots, diced
5 stalks celery, diced
1 tsp. dried basil
1/3 c. chopped fresh cilantro
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbs. chili powder
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes

The chili was fabulous and so was the appetizer. We just got a good deal on a big bunch of plantains and I made tostones for the first time. I’ve fried ripe plantains many times before but I’ve never used them green. They’re less sweet this way but equally delicious. I used the recipe from Terry Hope Romero’s Vegan Eats World, but if you don’t have that one just Google tostones and you’ll find many recipes.

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Happy New Year 2015

I don’t consider myself a Southerner but I’ve lived in Virginia long enough that I eat black-eyed peas and greens on New Year’s Day. Last year was a nice twist on that tradition but this year was perhaps more straightforward. The black-eyed peas I cooked in our fancy schmancy new Instant Pot. They were cooked with onions, celery, carrots and garlic and seasoned with smoked paprika, cumin and oregano. I do like the pressure cooker because I put in dried black-eyed peas and they were done (a little over-done in fact) in 15 minutes of cooking time.

We didn’t do collard greens this year only because we had a big bunch of kale we needed to use up. That was simply cooked with garlic, salt, pepper and a little lemon juice. And we rounded out the meal with brown rice and cornbread. I just mentioned our go-to cornbread recipe and I experimented with this one a bit by using all whole spelt flour in place of the wheat flour (so it was wheat free though not necessarily gluten free since spelt has some gluten in it). It came out slightly more dense but still very good. We’ve been experimenting with using grains other than wheat and this was a nice change-up.

Happy New Year!

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