Simple Lentil Pilaf

Even though a good deal of my last post talked about lentils, I’m talking about them again today because I actually found the time to create and cook a recipe, albeit a very simple one.  But sometimes simplicity is all you need.

Andplusalso, yay for MOAR LENTILS!!!!!1!!1!  [I am very sleep deprived.]

Simple Lentil Pilaf
This pilaf tastes great hot or cold and makes a really nice side to almost any entree.
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Serves 4

Ingredients
1 tablespoonolive oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 cups cooked lentils
2 cups cooked brown rice
1/8 teaspoon garlic salt (or just use garlic powder and add salt to taste)
1/8 teaspoon thyme

Directions
In a large saucepan, saute shallot and garlic in olive oil for 5-8 minutes over medium-high heat until soft and slightly browned. Add lentils, garlic salt, and thyme, and stir well. Lower heat and add rice. Stir to warm through. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.

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In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I used the pre-cooked lentils from Trader Joe’s in this dish. But really, lentils are so easy and quick to cook from dry that you won’t be ceding any of your laziness cred if you cook your own to use in this dish.

Enjoy!

Easy Weeknight Meal: Potato Mash Bowls

Now that it’s December, this baby thing is suddenly starting to feel really, really real. With my due date less than 5 weeks away, I’m experiencing a real struggle between my insane, compulsive desire to get everything ready on one hand, and various aches, pains, and (at times overwhelming) exhaustion on the other.

I haven’t been doing a whole lot of what I would consider to be “real” cooking, but I have been making strides toward my goal of cleaning out our freezer, fridge, and pantry to clear out some stuff that’s been hanging around a bit too long, and make room for some easy, convenient items and pre-prepared meals that H and I can turn to in the first few weeks after Baby H comes home.

One thing that has been really working for me as a dinner option has been what I call Potato Mash Bowls, and it’s really as simple as baking a potato in the microwave, mashing it up, and putting some veggies and protein on top. These bowls are really quick to prepare, easy to adapt to whatever ingredients (or leftovers) you have lying around that need using, and importantly are really, really tasty and satisfying to eat.

The base:
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Here, I mashed up the potato with some Earth Balance and Slap Ya Mama Cajun seasoning.

Then, I added steamed broccoli (from the freezer!) and black beans:
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I also did one topped with veggie chili (also from the freezer! I feel so accomplished!) and a heap of nutritional yeast:
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I love these bowls!!

I will have more freezer meals to share with you in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I’d love to hear any ideas you have for stuff I can make and freeze to have on hand when baby comes home. I am thinking about chili and soups, but would love suggestions for more casserole-type entrees if anyone has any. Thanks in advance 🙂

Vegan Snacking from a Prego Pro

Hey there! I’m still here…things have just been super-crazy. Does anyone else feel like time is just racing by? I can’t believe we’re only a week from Thanksgiving!

Aside from being crazy, things have been pretty great on my end. At 33+ weeks, Baby H is continuing to grow, and as s/he gets bigger and bigger, there is less and less room for other things…like, y’know, my lungs and stomach.
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It will be at *least* another 3 weeks until s/he drops, so until then I have been taking it slow to try to avoid shortness of breath, and eating small meals and snacks throughout the day to avoid feeling too full.

Fortunately I just so happen to be a master of vegan snacking. Aside from obvious choices like fruit and nuts, here are some of my pregnancy-approved snacks:

Non-dairy yogurt with hemp seeds:
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This was my first time trying So Delicious almond milk yogurt and it was pretty good, but didn’t taste much different to me than soy yogurt. It also suffers from the common yogurt pitfall of having way too much sugar, so this has only been an occasional one for me.
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Sriracha popcorn:
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This one is a bit more of a guilty pleasure. H and I bought a bag of this at the NYC Hot Sauce Expo earlier this year, and it had been hiding, unopened and forgotten, in our cabinet ever since. I remedied the problem pretty quickly.

Barbara’s peanut butter Puffins with almond-coconut milk [it won’t let me load my own photo for some reason so here’s a nice stock image from the Barbara’s website for ya]:
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I have always loved Puffins but am now officially obsessed with them. The supermarket by my work almost always has them on sale at 2 boxes for $6, so I’ve been buying them up like mad. Plus, between this snack and my morning coffee, I’m now going through almost a gallon of almond-coconut milk each week. I’m not even sorry.

Carrots and hummus:
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The tried and true classic. I grabbed a few of these little individual sized hummus cups at the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival a couple of weeks ago, and love how convenient they are.

Also, has Cedar’s changed their recipe? I find myself *loooooving* their hummus recently, where previously I thought it was only okay.  It’s creamier or something.
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I enjoyed it so much in the little travel packs that I went out and bought a giant 16 oz. container of it, which I’ve been using to enjoy…

Hummus and olive tapenade on crackers:
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So…this is the one that I truly cannot get enough of. I buy the olive tapenade from Trader Joe’s and if you haven’t had it, I’m telling you it’s a must-try. So salty and delicious. Baby H approves.

Trader Joe’s roasted plantain chips:
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These are cheap and great in a pinch. I keep a bag in my desk drawer to keep afternoon hunger pains at bay until I can get home and fix myself some hummus and tapenade 🙂

In the next few weeks as the countdown to Baby H’s arrival continues, I’ll be turning my attention to clearing out our freezer in the hope of restocking it with meals that will be easy for H and me to thaw and eat in our first few weeks as new parents. Hopefully I’ll come up with some fun concoctions to share with you all!

Thick and Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Soup

Has fall weather hit you yet?  It has certainly come to us.
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A few weeks ago I bought the most beautiful head of orange cauliflower at the farmer’s market and had one of those moments where I was so excited to eat it that I didn’t know where to start.

Of course, I was 25 weeks along at that point and the “experts” say that at 25 weeks a developing baby is roughly the size of cauliflower, so obviously the first thing to do was to take a belly comparison pic.
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Don’t mind the frumpy PJ’s…it’s getting harder and harder to find comfy clothing!

But after that there were actual choices to be made.  Finally, in the interest of simplicity and seasonally-appropriate fare, I settled on a hearty soup.
Cauli Soup
This soup is rich and filling with a deep, savory flavor that will warm you from the inside out!

Thick and Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Soup
Serves 4
Vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free

1 head cauliflower, chopped into florets (about 4-5 cups)
5 whole cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 small (or 1 large) russet potato, peeled and diced
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 turmeric
4 cups vegetable broth (or reconstituted bouillon)
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
1/8 cup nutritional yeast (optional but highly recommended!)
Couple dashes cayenne (optional)

1. The roasting: Preheat the oven to 425.  Place cauliflower and garlic cloves on a large rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and toss to coat.  Roast for 25-30 minutes, stirring or flipping at least once about halfway through, until cauliflower is tender and nicely browned.  Take out of the oven and let cool slightly, then remove the garlic cloves and set aside.  Also set aside about a cup of cauliflower.

2. Warm some oil (or a thin layer of water) in a stockpot over medium-high heat and saute onion until tender and beginning to turn translucent.

3. Add potatoes, cumin, and turmeric, stir to combine, and cook 1 minute.

4. Add broth and bay leaf, stir, and bring the mixture to a boil.

5. Once boiling, lower the heat and simmer about 10 minutes or until potatoes are soft enough to be easily pierced with a fork.

6. Add cauliflower and garlic, stir to combine, and simmer another 5 minutes.

7. REMOVE THE BAY LEAF, then puree, either in the pot with an immersion blender, or in batches in a food processor.

8.  Stir in the reserved cauliflower florets, salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast and cayenne if using.  Taste and adjust spices as necessary.  Enjoy!

This soup doesn’t take long to pull together, but if you are really short on time, you could consider skipping the roasting step. The flavor will be a little less deep, but the soup will still come out delicious. For the unroasted version, peel and finely chop the garlic and saute it along with the onion in step 2.  In step 3, add the cauliflower along with the potato and simmer both in the vegetable broth (steps 4 and 5) until tender.  Once tender, use a strainer to remove some of the florets to set aside, if desired.  Then blend and season as indicated in steps 7 and 8.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Carbs and Updates

Well hello there!

Sorry I’ve been a bit MIA the past week or so.  Between work, traveling around for the High Holidays, and baby stuff, I haven’t had a whole lot of time for cooking or blogging.

Rest assured I am still eating very well!  Today I did something that was LONG overdue and paired PB & Co.’s White Chocolate Wonderful with my mother-in-law’s homemade raspberry jam.
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Oh my God, this was heaven.
 photo WhiteChocWonderful015_zpsf0e4219b.jpgWhite Chocolate Wonderful is nothing new, but it’s not something I’ve bought all that frequently in the past due to the high potential for overindulgence.  Now that I am on a blessed (albeit temporary) break from calorie counting, however, I can embrace that it’s something that’s right up my alley, and just enjoy.

 photo WhiteChocWonderful013_zpscba2297d.jpgSpeaking of calories…I’ve also been eating a lot of bagels. Like, a lot. H and I stocked up on the world’s best bagels (from Bagel Station in Red Bank, in case you’re curious) when we were down in New Jersey for Rosh Hashanah two weekends ago and they have been my go-to ever since.

These bagels are outrageous.  They are giant and fluffy and doughy–no exaggeration, some of them are the size of your head.  Most of them don’t even have a hole because the dough bakes up so high.  Yum!!

With Daiya cream cheese and some sliced farmstand tomatoes (the classic):  photo WhiteChocWonderful001_zps0b7968f2.jpg

With Daiya cream cheese and sliced baby beets (new to me and SO SO GOOD–try this if you haven’t before!!):
 photo Nurseryand26weeks012_zps63efba90.jpgNow let’s just hope I pass my glucose test next Thursday after all this carbo-loading.

While I was in NJ, I also got to try these wonders of human creation for the first time, courtesy of my dear sister M:
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They are as good as I’d imagined.  I am still impatiently waiting for them to show up on shelves in Massachusetts.

Finally, today I officially start my third trimester!  I can’t believe how close we’re getting to meeting this bouncy/jabby/rolly future Pats fan.
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Simply Perfect Weeknight Dinner: Vegan Tacos!

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In many ways, tacos embody the concept of Simply Perfect.  They are cheap, extremely easy to prepare and assemble, a great vehicle for leftovers, and endlessly customizable.

In short, a taco dinner makes a perfect weeknight dinner!

The only *musts* are a filling and some shells.  After that, you can get creative with the rest of the fillings!  Vegan cheese shreds (if that’s your thing), fresh tomato, salsa, lettuce, guacamole or diced avocado…you name it.

Shells
Because I almost always set up a “taco bar” when we have parties, I am a frequent purchaser of those taco kits you can buy in the supermarket.  This means that H and I usually have leftover taco shells (both hard and soft) and seasoning packets in our kitchen.

If you are not a taco kit hoarder like me, though, you can buy individual boxes of taco shells at the store (I used these beautiful non-GMO Garden of Eatin’ shells in the tacos pictured below), or you can just use soft corn tortillas (I like the ones from Trader Joe’s).

Filling
I have two favorite go-to fillings, both of which are extremely easy and delicious.

The first one uses Beyond Meat’s Beyond Beef crumbles (in either the original “Beefy” or the “Feisty” flavor…both work great in this).  To make this filling, I lightly saute some finely chopped red onion and red bell pepper.  Once they are softened, I add the frozen crumbles and cook everything together until warmed through.  Lastly, I stir in about 1/3 of a packet of taco seasoning.
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If you do not have pre-made taco seasoning, you can easily make your own by combining some salt, chili powder, cumin, and oregano (and anything else that tastes yummy to you!).  Have fun with it!

The second filling uses ultra-cheap and readily available black beans. I simply rinse a can of beans, then add it to a pan with a couple of spoonfuls of tomato sauce and some taco seasoning, and cook it until warm.
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I LOVE these taco beans and the leftovers never last long.

Once your filling is ready, you can stuff tacos and eat them neatly as shown above, or you can break up the shells and serve yourself a big ol’ taco mess like I did here:
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It isn’t pretty but man did it taste good.

Either way, they’re super-fun to eat!

DIY Frozen Banana Pops

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H and I recently caught up on the fourth season of Arrested Development on Netflix, and ever since then I have been thinking about how easy it would be to make some Bluth Bananas right in my own home.

Then, as fate would have it, I stumbled onto this Simply Perfect recipe from MoFo blogger Vegan Eats and Treats for Frozen Banana Pops with a nod to the Make 12 Banana Pops product of yore.

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Mine didn’t turn out as smooth and pretty as hers, but they sure were tasty! I made some with chopped up roasted peanuts and some without. H and I both preferred the ones with nuts, but I will warn you that it’s a little hard to get them to stick since the warm chocolate seizes up so quickly on the frozen banana.

This is a super-simple dessert that feels decadent but is actually kinda good for you. Hell, I wouldn’t even feel that bad about having it for breakfast. Definitely give it a try!