Savory Oatmeal

Need to mix up your breakfast routine? I certainly did. I’ve been eating the same breakfast almost every day since….I don’t know, 8th grade? Oatmeal, raisins, cinnamon, a few nuts. As an adult, I started adding a tablespoon of ground flax or chia seeds and occasionally changing up the fruit or spices, but overall, it’s been the same meal for about 15 years.

I’m over it.

I’ve been toying with this unorthodox dish for a while now and I’ve finally decided to share it with the world. It may sound a little strange, but embrace it! Breakfast needs a new flavor.

Savory Oatmeal for One

Ingredients:

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup frozen shelled edamame (or other small beans or peas)

1 small sweet apple, diced

1 or 2 scallions, sliced about 1/4 inch

1 cup water, divided

1 Tblsp ground flax seeds

1 tsp or more of your favorite miso, or a tsp of soy sauce

1.  Put the apple and edamame or peas in a large microwaveable bowl with about 1/2 cup of water.  Microwave on high for 3 minutes.

2.  Add the oats and other 1/2 cup of water.  Stir, and microwave on high for 2 more minutes.

3.  Remove from the microwave and stir in miso or soy sauce, flax, and scallions.  Stir until miso is dissolved and oatmeal has started to thicken up.  Add more miso or soy sauce, or even salt and pepper, too taste.

If you are someone who eats eggs, may I recommend a sunny side up egg on top?  The gooey yolk is shockingly good all mixed up in the oats.

Other tasty additions include kim chee, sauerkraut, salsa, leftover cooked greens, and leftover caramelized onions.  If you have leftover caramelized onions, please let me know because I want to know what kind of person doesn’t eat them all at once.

Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew

Earlier this week I got a happy little surprise at work:  a $40 gift card for Giant Eagle for doing a good job!  I don’t live near a Giant Eagle, but just a short bus ride away is a fancy-shmancy Market District one.  I’ll just be honest here and tell you that I spent well over $40.  There were so many things!  Bulk bins full of seeds and beans and spices!  Some of the prices were on the high side, but there were also plenty of things I wouldn’t be able to get at my local Shop N Save like red lentils, wheat berries, fennel seeds, and coriander.  It was very exciting.  The sale items were great too, like $.89/lb for kale and collards and $.99 boxes of mushrooms.   By the time I had gotten through half the store (didn’t even get to the frozen foods), I was starving and had to quickly come up with a hearty, guest-worthy dinner for two that would cook up fast since I turn into an angry beast when I get hungry. Inspiration struck in the maze that was the produce section, so I stuffed my canvas bags to the brim and hauled them home on the bus with a little help from my handsome man-friend.

Dinner was to be baked potatoes, sauteed beet greens, and this red lentil soup.  All chosen for ease and speed of cooking.  I turned on the oven and started the water boiling before I even unpacked the bags.  While the lentils simmered, I chopped the sweets and onions.  Once the sweet potatoes were in the pot, I sauteed a shallot for the greens and washed them well (beet greens are impressively dirty).  All the while, russets were baking in the oven.  Altogether, the entire meal took less than an hour to prepare and we were satisfied before I got too hangry.

This is a warm, filling stew that is perfect for crisp autumn weather.

Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew

Ingredients:

2 cups red lentils

2 medium onions

1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes

1 bay leaf

1 inch piece of fresh ginger

Spices:

I think I used about half a teaspoon each of cardamom, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, red pepper flakes, and smoked paprika.  Use what you have.  Curry would also be good in this soup.

Salt and pepper to taste

1.  Start by bringing a large pot of water to a boil, with the bay leaf in it.  Once it’s boiling, add the lentils and simmer.

2.  While the lentils are cooking, peel and finely mince the ginger and add it to the pot.  Then peel and dice the onion and sweet potato and add them.  Put in all the spices, 1/4 teaspoon at a time.  Let it cook a little longer before adding an additional 1/4 tsp or more of all or just some of the spices according to your taste.

3.  Simmer the whole thing for about 40 minutes beginning to end, or for as long as it takes for the lentils and sweet potatoes to soften and the spices to blend.  This is even better leftover because the flavors continue to develop, so feel free to double it to eat all week.

Note about the spices:  If you have the time and feel like dirtying another pan, toast the spices in a skillet over medium-high heat for a minute or so before you add them to the stew.  They taste better that way.  I was too hungry to think about it at the time, but it really does add to the flavor of the soup.

This stew is pretty hearty and would be great served with pitas and a green salad rather than baked potatoes and cooked greens.

Penny Parsnip in Pittsburgh

Hello Readers! I’ve been on hiatus for a while now, moving to and getting settled in to my new home: Pittsburgh, PA. This hasn’t left much time for fun creative cooking. I’ve been eating old favorites like black bean stew and endless combos of beans, rice, and fresh veggies. All the while, I’ve been wearing the soles of my shoes thin by walking all over this beautiful city. Pittsburgh is a pleasant mix of yesterday and today. Old factories and warehouses and falling down houses dot the landscape, while folded in are new buildings, brightly painted townhouses, hip small businesses and cheery murals.

Gorgeous store in The Strip District

Gorgeous store in The Strip District

Nearly two months later, I’m finally feeling at home:  I’ve got a room in a big old house with some other women and a fluffy cat, complete with a giant kitchen.  My dear friend Dorothy the food processor is out of storage, and as the days cool into crisp autumn weather, I’ll be back to whirring vegetables into little bits and boiling big pots of beans.  I have a job I like, doing fundraising for non-profits, and my neighborhood is very much like Brooklyn.

I spent last weekend with my family in the country, baking pies for our church festival.  Not too many, just four dozen ;).   And since I still had some energy left after baking the pies, I whipped up a birthday cake for my older brother and sister using my grandmother’s recipe.  It has eggs in it, so I won’t share it here, but I used soymilk in place of cow and no one knew the difference.

Silver-white layer cake, topped with fruit because I am terrible at at making icing look good.

Silver-white layer cake, topped with fruit because I am terrible at at making icing look good.

But now that that sugar-rush weekend is done, it’s back to healthy eating again.  I’m making my daily green smoothies again, and cooking stir-fry for lunch.  I’ve got kombucha brewing in hopes of finding some new customers.  Right now I’ve got a big batch of chickpeas bubbling on the stove to make hummus for our house party on Friday (and some for my little brother who is bringing the tahini.)  Plus I’m revamping some chili into a pot of quinoa and spinach laced glop for tonight’s dinner at work.  I’ve also developed a mild obsession with peanut sauce dumped on all of my veggies, so I’ll share with you a loose approximation of how to make it.

Peanut Sauce

Ingredients:

big blob of peanut butter (I like all-natural stuff, but Jif and Skippy are fine too)

Soy sauce

Rice vinegar (or whatever you have, apple cider is fine too)

a bit of sugar (maple syrup, honey, agave, etc)

Something hot like red pepper flakes, cayenne, or Sriracha

finely minced ginger and/or garlic 

a little water to thin, if needed

1.  Whisk it all together until combined and season to taste.  Sorry for the lack of measuring here, I just eyeball it and keep adding and tasting until it’s good.

More great recipes to come!  I’ve been challenged to make a healthy hot-pocket, so stay tuned!

Emptying the Cupboards

Dear friends, I have not had the time to do much writing in a while and I think it’s fair for you know why, since I hope that the reason will eventually lead to better content.

In a few short weeks I am leaving Brooklyn, my beloved home of nine years, for Pittsburgh, the city of my birth.  My reasons are many and diverse, but I’m hoping that I’ll find a stronger sense of community there as well as much much lower rent.  Brooklyn has been good to me.  I’m eternally grateful to so many people I have met over the years, all of the friends, teachers, children, and employers – many of whom have become like family to me.  All of you have taught me so much and made me into the woman I am today.  I will miss you.

So now that I’ve got the heartfelt sappy stuff out of the way, let’s talk about food!  For the past month I’ve been slowly stuffing things into boxes and trying to use up the contents of my freezer and pantry.  I successfully emptied the liquor cabinet by throwing a party, but I didn’t realize just how much real food I had been stockpiling.  I’ve still got a lot to eat (or give away) in the next five days before I abandon my apartment.  There are even things I can’t eat!  Namely a box of frozen salmon patties and some frozen raspberries. 

 It’s been a real adventure in eating finding ways to combine these things!  There have been grain pilafs with a variety of frozen veggies, soups and stews, innovative pasta sauces, oddly colored smoothies, and countless bowls of grits (why do I have so much cornmeal???).  Today I came up with a particularly good pot of glop stew that I’d like to share with you.

Quinoa Chili Glop  Stew

Ingredients:

1 big onion, diced

a few cloves of garlic, minced

1 big can of crushed tomatoes

2 cans of beans, drained and rinsed (I used kidney and black beans)

4 or 5 carrots, chopped

1 or 2 cups quinoa (or in my case, however much was in that jar (I didn’t measure))

cumin, chili powder, oregano, crushed red pepper, whatever spices you like in chili

1.  Saute the onions and garlic in a little water or broth until they are soft. Add the cumin and chili powder and saute a minute more.  Dump in the tomatoes and one can of water.  Cover and bring to a simmer.

2.  After about 10 minutes of simmering, add the carrots, quinoa, and beans and cook covered until most of the water is absorbed by the quinoa and the carrots are tender, about 20 minutes

3.  Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more water if necessary.  

There you have my lunch for the rest of the week!  Good stuffed into corn tortillas with some sliced avocado and hot sauce.  Who knows what I’ll do with it once I’ve run out of tortillas!

Warm Bulgur and Chickpea Salad with Broccoli

I can’t take full credit for this concoction.  The mama I work for got me hooked on this simple dish shortly after I began taking care of her two girls almost two (!) years ago.  The kids LOVE it.  The tahini sauce is my own variation, untested on the little ladies, so if you don’t have or like tahini, just leave it out and dress the salad simply with lemon juice.  It’s good either way.

Ingredients:

1 c bulgur, cooked according to package directions (cooks the same as white rice)

1-2 c cooked chickpeas or other bean of your choice

Big bunch of broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets and steamed to your liking

Handful of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

Dressing:

1 1/2 lemons, juiced (more to taste)

1 clove garlic

1-2 Tbsp tahini

pinch of cumin, salt and pepper to taste

Minced fresh parsley for garnish

1.  In a blender or food processor, combine all dressing ingredients and blitz until smooth.

2.  Toss everything in a big bowl until well-combined.  Sprinkle with parsley and an extra squeeze of lemon if desired.

Ta-da!  Good while everything is still warm from cooking, or leftover cold the next day.  Don’t hesitate to substitute another grain or bean or vegetable if you don’t care for one of these.  The variations are endless, and because it’s so simple you really can’t screw it up.

Mediterranean Bean Burgers

Mediterranean Bean Burgers

Make these!  They are from Dreena Burton’s wonderful cookbook, Let Them Eat Vegan.  Quite similar to my own Salsa Burgers, but with a different flavor twist.  Penny Parsnip makes them without olives, because olives are yucky 😉  I’m planning to eat these for dinner tonight with a side of pasta tossed with some steamed spinach, seasoned with lemon and lots of garlic.

Much love to all of my readers!  I’m  getting some things worked out for the better right now and hope to start posting my own recipes again soon.

Split Pea Soup

It’s March, the weather is cold (then warm!  then cold again!), and St. Patty’s Day is around the corner.  Time to eat green things!  Kale, spinach, peas, and green beer (gag!).  Split pea soup is one of my favorite comfort foods.  It’s easy to make, very inexpensive, and super nutritious.  Plus, the variations are endless.  You can give it an Indian flair by using yellow peas and curry, or add different vegetables to stretch it out.  Swap the potatoes for barley or rice!  Add a dash of balsamic vinegar when serving for a bit of zest.  Deep down, though, I really prefer the most basic of recipes, which is what I’m sharing with you today.  Enjoy.

Ingredients:

1 lb split peas (green for St Pat! but yellow ones are nice too)

1 bay leaf

2 large onions

3 stalks celery

4 medium carrots

garlic, anywhere from 2 cloves to a whole head

4 medium potatoes.

Herbs: I like 1T each of dill, sage, and thyme, with some fresh parsley added at the end, and a healthy dose of black pepper

Optional: a big blob of miso paste, or salt to taste

1.  Bring the peas and bay leaf to boil in a large pot with enough water to cover.  Simmer while you prep the other veggies (or take a shower, or make phone calls, or whatever).  They should cook 30-60 mins.  You may need to add more water at any point if the pot gets too dry or the peas start to stick.

2.  Dice the onions, carrots, celery, and potatoes.  Size is up to you; I used my food processor to slice them into neat little disks because I’m lazy.  You could also grate the carrots, or chop everything roughly and puree the soup when it’s done.  Just a matter of preference.

3.  Once the peas have softened up quite a bit, you can add the veggies and herbs. Simmer until all the vegetables and peas are soft and flavors are blended.  Add miso or salt to taste (miso will take a few minute to dissolve).  If you’re planing to puree the soup, just sure to remember to take out the bay leaf!  Actually, take the bay leaf out either way.  I once told my kiddos that if you get the bay leaf in your bowl, it’s good luck.  I made that up to cover up the fact that I always forget to remove it.  Just don’t eat it.

Bon apetit!  Next task:  Green pancakes, without artificial coloring!  Wish me luck (of the Irish, that is)!