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!

Blogging With Baby

Oh my goodness.  That blogging once a week goal I set a few weeks ago didn’t exactly pan out, did it?

In terms of time management, this baby business is so much harder than I expected it would be!  Turns out Baby H is a pretty clingy little guy and wants to be held almost all the time.  Now that he’s almost six weeks old, he’s becoming more aware of his surroundings and is more interested in playing, so I have increasingly more opportunities to put him down while I play with him, but he still seems to prefer to spend the majority of the time in my arms.
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I’ve discovered that he loves to be in his baby carrier, so at least once a day I try to strap that on and get some stuff done around the house.  Eating and tidying up his areas usually comes first, followed by catching up on emails (especially as we continue our search for a nanny for when I go back to work in just six short weeks), followed by trying to finish up the endless amount of thank you cards and birth announcements I still have to send out.  After that, I would probably next turn to blogging, but unfortunately, I have to consider it a victory if he sleeps long enough for me to do even one of these things.

Nevertheless, today I find myself with a few extra minutes and dying to check in with the blog world!

As you can imagine, my eating habits have been less than ideal during these whirlwind past few weeks. Sometimes I don’t even realize I haven’t made time to eat at all until I find myself absolutely ravenous while breastfeeding at 3:00 a.m. and have to make myself a quick bag of microwave popcorn just to stay upright. The majority of the time, I just eat whatever is available, quick, and *clean* (take my word on this one…trying to eat spaghetti with one hand while holding a sleeping or nursing infant in the other does not end well).

One thing I’ve been eating like they’re going out of style lately is lentil dishes.   They’re cheap, filling, and taste good warm or cold…all wins for me at the moment. Finding time to cook has been one of my biggest challenges of all, so I’ve been buying most of my food pre-made, but I did also actually make two dishes myself!

Store-bought:
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So good. Exactly what you’d expect from TJ’s.

I also got a really tasty lentil soup from a local cafe called La Provence, which has a bunch of great veg options:
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And finally, I whipped up a batch of the tried and true Veganomicon classic, Snobby Joes.
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These were a lifesaver, as I was able to scoop them up with tortilla chips using only one hand. I definitely want to make another batch ASAP.

I also made a Lentil Celery Root Soup using this recipe from Fit Pregnancy.
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To veganize, I just subbed agave nectar for the honey and left off the parmesan cheese. The soup came out pretty good–it’s pretty sweet (in fact, you could probably leave out the honey/agave entirely), and very thick. Definitely best enjoyed with some crusty bread. The recipe also made a TON so my freezer also found itself with some new additions.

I’ll be back again just as soon as I can find the time 🙂

Pre-baby Pantry Plunder, part 1

Over the past few months, I have been making gradual progress toward getting the house ready for Baby H’s arrival, which will be any day now (my actual due date is tomorrow-eek!).

Obvious important projects, such as assembling the crib, have been checked off the list:
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And I have been hard at work trying to use up/clean out older items from our freezer and pantry in order to restock them with prepared meals that we can turn to in our first few weeks as new parents.

This has been an ongoing project, and I’ve been keeping track of some of my fun (and sometimes, surprisingly delicious!) concoctions so that I can share them here.

For part 1, I’ll start with some of the packaged, brand name foods that had been taking up residence in the freezer for quite some time. All of these were simply heat-and-eat, so very easy and convenient, but nothing too creative or earth-shattering.

Gardein meatless buffalo wings:
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I had exactly three of these, most likely left over from some lazy football Sunday, most likely in the 2013 season (yeah I need to clean out my freezer more!). They still tasted awesome, but three tiny “wings” do not a meal make, so note to my future self: if you’re going to open the package, use it all in one go!

Tofurky pepperoni pizza pockets:
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I bought these months ago because my curiosity was killing me. They taste eerily similar to the Hot Pockets I used to heat up for an after school snack back in the day (so healthy, I know), and definitely benefit from the liberal addition of hot sauce.

Trader Joe’s stir fried vegetable rolls:
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These are delicious and filling and I love them. This might be one that I buy more of to restock the freezer for baby time.

Amy’s baked ziti bowl:
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As you can see from the state of the box in the photo, this one had been bashed around in the freezer for some time. It was really, really yummy but unfortunately (as seems to be the case with many such frozen entrees) rather small. You’d want to pair it with a side salad or some bread to make it a more complete meal.

Trader Joe’s Vegetable Pakoras:
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I absolutely love this tasty, spicy appetizer and tend to keep some in the freezer to serve if company should happen to come by. But, since I don’t expect to be entertaining much in the coming months, I’m using these up as well.

Stay tuned for part 2!

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 🙂

Amazing Vegan Garlic Bread

Garlic bread is really a no brainer that doesn’t need a recipe. However, last week I tried a new-to-me method of making it, and it came out SO GOOD that I had to share it with you!
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I discovered the method (again, hardly want to call it a “recipe”) on PureWow. The only change required to veganize it is to use Earth Balance (or similar) to replace the butter (duh).

Basically, you warm whole cloves of garlic in olive oil until tender, then mash them up into a paste that you spread over the bread before baking. I’m telling you, it’s freakin’ delicious.
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Bon appetit!

P.S. – Don’t forget to enter my Ecolissa giveaway!  It is open until Wednesday night.

Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Bread – Veganized to Perfection!

It’s no secret that I enjoy taking shortcuts with my cooking from time to time.  Usually I’ll only do it if the shortcut way is just as good as, if not better, than its more labor-intensive counterpart.

For me personally, pumpkin bread falls into the shortcut category.  I’ve made it from scratch a bunch of times and it’s really good, but I have to say, Trader Joe’s boxed mix yields an equally-delicious result.  It’s one of my favorite fall treats!
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The box instructions tell you to combine the boxed mix with two eggs, 1/2 cup of oil, and 1 cup of water.  Fortunately, quick breads like this are ideal candidates for veganizing with egg substitutes, because their dense texture and full flavor easily mask the fact that substitutions have been used.
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I used to do this bread with two flax eggs (1 tbsp ground flax + 3 tbsp warm water), but over the weekend I tried it with one flax egg and one mashed banana, and I have to say it was WAY better.  I’ll go as far as to say that it’s the best combo for veganizing this particular product (of course, if you have an even better way, I’d love to hear it in the comments!).

The banana flavor is undetectable but it gives a gooey, sweet consistency that is just sooooo appetizing and pleasing to the palate.
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Oh, and you’ll notice that I also added half a cup of chocolate chips, of course 🙂  I have my priorities straight.

BOWLS! by Becky Striepe – Review and Recipe for Chai Spice Oatmeal

Hi there!

Today I am super-excited to share with you my thoughts on BOWLS!, a brand new cookbook by my friend Becky Striepe.

You may already be familiar with Becky’s amazing blog, Glue and Glitter, where she shares mouthwatering recipes, beautiful crafts, and lots of tips and tricks for living a simple, green, vegan lifestyle.  Becky is also the author of 40 Days of Green Smoothies.

In this new book, we are promised a collection of “mix-and-match recipes to fill your favorite vessel,” and BOWLS! certainly delivers!
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BOWLS! starts out with a genius, yet foolproof, formula for constructing the perfect meal: a bottom layer (consisting of potatoes, grain, pasta, or salad greens) + a middle layer (of raw or cooked veggies) + a top layer of protein, and then an optional “tippy-top” layer of add-ons and sauces.

From there, you get a chapter full of Breakfast and Brunch bowls (such as Chai Spice Oatmeal [get the recipe below!] and Cheesy Stovetop Grits).  Next are Lunch and Supper bowls (like the Roasted Veggie Bowl with Tahini-Miso Sauce and Peanut Butter Tofu Bowl), followed by Soups & Stews (including such gems as Creamy Curried Tomato Soup and Green Lentil & Potato Stew).

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Sort of Cheesy Broccoli Bowl (so scrumptious!)

After that, there is an entire section devoted to Sauces and another to various Layers.  The Layers section is particularly invaluable, because it not only contains recipes for toppings that can be used in multiple way (such as Vegan Bacon and Perfect Mashed Potatoes), but also instructions on Basic Grain Cooking and Cooking Dried Beans.

I love this, because not only does BOWLS! give you a bunch of great recipes as a starting point, but it also arms you with everything you need to be able to mix and match components to create your own bowl of vegan goodness at a moment’s notice.

Becky’s friendly, approachable style shines through in every page of BOWLS! This book is a treasure trove of quick, simple-to-prepare yet insanely tasty recipes and meal components that you can and will use over and over again.  The bold, colorful photos only add to its appeal.  I’ll also add that it displays absolutely gorgeously on a tablet.

Becky has generously offered to share a recipe from BOWLS! with you all today.  I’ve chosen the Chai Spice Oatmeal, a recipe I’ve made probably about a dozen times since receiving the book for review, because it is so incredibly delicious, without being too sweet, and perfect for fall of course!

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Chai Spice Oatmeal
reprinted with permission from BOWLS! by Becky Striepe, copyright 2014 by Cattington, Inc.

Ingredients for 1 serving
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup water or almond milk
1 small handful dried cranberries
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
1 tablespoon brown sugar

1. In a small saucepan, combine all of the ingredients.  Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.  Serve immediately.

2. Alternate cooking instructions: Combine all of your ingredients in a very large bowl with high sides.  Microwave for 2 1/2 minutes, stir, and microwave for 2 1/2 minutes more.  Serve immediately.

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Dry ingredients, measured ahead to be microwaved at work–how’s that for convenient?

BOWLS! is available in print or as an ebook.  Details on how to order BOWLS! can be found at the bottom of this post.

Do yourself a favor and snag a copy today!