Easy Peasy Pilaf

Spring is a funny time of year in Pittsburgh. It’s either blazing hot and humid or cold and drizzly, and it’s nearly impossible to predict when the weather will change. So some days are worthy of light salads and avocado toast and bowls of strawberries, and other days I end up curled up under blankets with a bowl of soup bubbling on the stove and something toasty in the oven.

I know I haven’t posted in a while; my attention has been on crafty projects rather than writing, including a rag rug I started more than a year ago, as well as making progress on an embroidered tablecloth I started when I was 10 or 12 or something. I figure I’ll finish that by the time my grandkids are in college (optimism!)

I have been doing my usual experimenting in the kitchen, of course with my usual mixed results. Over the winter my manfriend and I discovered The Great British Baking Show on PBS and were immediately hooked. This inspired some wonderful, tasty, cold-weather experiments, including a savory pie that leaked, but was delicious and somehow free of the dreaded soggy bottom:

Pie! Tender pastry filled with layers of carrot, peas, and something tomato-based that hemorrhaged out the side.

Pie! Tender pastry filled with layers of carrot, peas, and something tomato-based that hemorrhaged out the side.

I also made Irish soda bread that was dense and leaden but had a pleasantly crunchy crust, and more recently I attempted pizza in spite of my fear of yeast doughs. It was shockingly easy and turned out great. If you want my recipe, go to Aldi and buy some instant yeast. That’s what I used, the yeast package recipe and jarred sauce.

Pre-oven: mushroom and walnut whole-wheat pizza

Pre-oven: mushroom and walnut whole-wheat pizza

Baked, sprinkled with lots of fresh basil.

Baked, sprinkled with lots of fresh basil.

And finally last weekend I made crepes filled with fresh strawberries, mango, and banana, drizzled with homemade vegan chocolate ganache, which were a lot of work, but positively scrummy, as Mary Berry would say. We inhaled the crepes before I could photograph them. They weren’t pretty anyway.

All of those recipes are still works in progress and decidedly too wintery for June (except the crepes), so allow me to share today’s one-pot healthy cheap-tastic meal that required few ingredients and minimal time at the stove. I’ve got it all packed up for this week’s lunches at work. I might add a side of baby carrots and broccoli to round it out, but more likely I will pack them and not have time to eat them till after work anyway.

Easy Peasy Pilaf

Ingredients:

1c millet (or quinoa, or bulgur, or that 10 minute barley or spelt from TJ’s, or probably steel cut oats would work (if you try that, let me know))

Onion, chopped

Mushrooms, 8-16 oz, sliced (I think I used 1.5 8oz boxes but can’t be sure)

2-2.5c vegetable stock (or water + seasonings)

1c peas (edamame or lima beans would be good too)

3T sesame seeds

1T apple cider or rice vinegar

drizzle of sesame oil

green onions for garnish

1. Start by sauteeing your onion in a saucepan with a little cooking spray or small amount of oil for a few minutes, then add the millet (or other grain) and stir. Let the grain toast, stirring often, for about 5 minutes.

2. Add mushrooms and stir some more. If the grain is starting to get too brown add your stock now. If not, continue to cook the mushroom-millet mixture for a couple minutes, then add the stock.

3. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed. Then stir in the peas, turn off the flame, cover again, and let it stand for at least 5 minutes to cook the peas finish absorbing liquid. You don’t want to overcook them; no one likes mushy peas! If you’re using edamame, you’ll need to add them sooner as they take more time to cook.

4. When your peas are warm and the last of the liquid has been absorbed, stir in the sesame seeds, sesame oil, vinegar, and green onions.

Ready for tomorrow in Tupperware!

Ready for tomorrow in Tupperware!

In other news, you know why green onions are great? They’re yummy and cheap to begin with, keep a long time, are fast and easy to use, and you don’t have to buy them very often because if you put them in a glass of water on your windowsill THEY WILL REGROW!!! Check out my stylish scallion set-up:

I "upcycled" that salsa jar because I am hip and eco-conscious.

I “upcycled” that salsa jar because I am hip and eco-conscious.

In other news, I’ve been doing the Happy Herbivore Yogivore Challenge, which is basically just getting yourself on the mat for a few minutes a day for 21 days. It’s helping a lot with the stiff neck I get from embroidering for hours at a time (I’m determined to finish that tablecloth someday). Plus it’s a not-very-intimidating way for me to get back in shape a little. My desk job doesn’t cut it in that respect; not like chasing children did! Anyway, since you read this far, I’m going to reward you with a picture of my bunny bothering me while I do yoga.

Annabelle thinks yoga time is petting time.

Annabelle thinks yoga time is petting time.

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Buddha Bowl

This week’s lunch has been the usual improvisation: What do I have, and how can I combine it so it tastes good?

Starting with starches, I almost always have some cooked brown rice on hand, which is the basis for such a wide variety of dishes.

Next come vegetables. I have some basics like carrots and celery, as well as loads of kale (it was on sale!) and some raw beets.

I also need something proteiny and some flavor. My options were a little limited this week as I had only dry beans and no time to cook them, and very few nuts. I do always have peanut butter and some frozen peas, which I think are the most budget-friendly and convenient sources of protein you can get, aside from lentils and split peas which still have to be cooked.

So let’s get cooking! I decided to forgo the peas since I had some in my oatmeal for breakfast, and whip up some peanut sauce. Three birds, one stone: Flavor + protein + healthy fats.

Beets and carrots were quickly run through the grating disk on my food processor and tossed with a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and a little salt to make my favorite Easy Beet Salad.

I steamed a couple of stemmed and torn leaves of kale in the microwave in my Tupperwave Stack Cooker, but a covered glass or ceramic dish will also do the trick.

I simply layered the kale, brown rice and peanut sauce on a plate (use a big bowl, it will be easier to stir), and put a hefty serving of beet salad on the side, thinking it wouldn’t be great with peanut sauce. I was wrong; it was pretty good with peanut sauce. There you go, beets are a peanut butter food! Also topped the whole mess with some scallions, since onions are both delicious and good for your heart.

 

I ate half of it before I remembered to take a picture.

I ate half of it before I remembered to take a picture.

Since this is lacking a bean or tofu, I wondered what the actual protein content would be, since folks seem to be obsessed with where vegetarians get their protein. Plugged the ingredients into Google, and based on 1 cup each of rice and vegetables, plus two tablespoons of peanut butter, you end up with around 18g of protein, about a third of what a woman my size needs for the day. Not bad, right?

 

PS – I’ve been eating black bean soup for dinner at work all week.  In case anyone wanted the recipe, you can find a version of it here.

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.

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.

Creamy Beans and Barley aka Accidentally Delicious

I overcooked some beans.

Yes, I know what you must be thinking, “Penny Parsnip made a mistake?  Inconceivable!”

And you’re right.  There are no mistakes, only happy accidents.  I fortunately accidentally ignored my pressure cooker full of black-eyed peas and cooked them into black-eyed mush.  Intending to figure out what to do with them sometime after baking three dozen chocolate-peanut butter cupcakes, I scarfed some down pre-party with leftover sushi rice and a little soy sauce and Slap Ya Mama.  DELICIOUS.  So creamy!  I knew I had something right here, so the next day, this dish was born.

Ingredients

1/2 lb black-eyed peas, soaked and cooked until mushy (10-15 mins in a pressure cooker, or several hours without one)

1/2 lb pearled barley

Vegetable broth or water, probably 4-8 cups (Happy accidents don’t get measured.)

2 medium onions, diced

1 large bell pepper (red or green), diced

6 or more cloves garlic, minced or crushed

1 small bunch of turnip greens, chopped (or mustard, beet, spinach, kale, chard, etc) OR use a box of frozen ones

Seasonings:  salt, pepper, cayenne, thyme, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, hot sauce.  I measured none of these.  Sorry (sort of).

1.  Combine the cooked beans and their thick broth, the barley, and veg broth/water in a great big pot.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 mins or so.  Use this time to chop things.

2.  Add chopped onions, garlic, and bell pepper.  Continue to simmer until barley is tender and vegetables are soft, probably another 20-30mins.  Season to taste.

3.  Continue simmering until the mixture is getting thick and creamy.  Stir in the greens, put a lid on it, and let it sit for a few minutes until they wilt.  Give it a good stir and taste to adjust seasonings, or cook a little longer if the greens are too chewy for you.

Serve with additional hot sauce, vinegar, or some nutritional yeast.  I just ate it for breakfast with some chopped avocado mixed in.  Yum yum yum.  There are no mistakes in the Penny Parsnip kitchen!

Millet Breakfast Porridge

Last week I was browsing the bulk bins at the local co-op for something new and exciting to mix up my whole grain routine and I noticed that millet was a good price ($1.49/lb!). That’s considerably less than quinoa, which usually runs about $3.99/lb at its cheapest.  I didn’t know what I would do with it when I brought it home, but life must be going my way because my latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated featured an article titled “Beyond Rice: A Guide to Other Grains.”  There it was, a millet recipe!  I veganized it and doctored it up for my breakfast this morning.  I often make something similar with quinoa, but this is the holiday season.  Who can afford quinoa this time of year?

Milllet Breakfast Porridge

1 cup millet

2 1/2  cups water

1/2 cup soymilk (or other plant milk)

2 Tbls maple syrup or honey

dried fruit of your choice (I used a combo of apricots, cherries, cranberries, and raisins)

cinnamon, cardamom, and any other spices you like (nutmeg, cloves, ginger, etc)

toasted nuts (optional)

1.  Simmer the millet and water until most of the liquid is absorbed (like making rice or other grains), about 20 mins.

2.  Add soymilk, maple syrup, dried fruits, and spices.  Continue to simmer, covered, for 5-10 more minutes, until the millet is creamy.  Add more hot water or milk if it starts getting dry.

3.  Serve topped with toasted nuts and more cinnamon and milk, if desired.

I did a little research while I was writing this: Millet is an excellent source of many nutrients, including folate, niacin, magnesium, thiamin, and many others!  Eat up!  This is also good leftover.  I made this recipe last three or four days.  Just add some more milk to keep it moist, then microwave it.