Happy New Year, and Veggie Sausage

Please forgive my week-long delay in publishing this.  Now please enjoy the only post I’ve ever written with a massive hangover.

Clean Plates!

Clean Plates!

I’m sipping ginger kombucha and hoping my stomach settles some time today as I write this. I rang in the New Year last night with some of my closest and oldest friends, ate a lot of food, and drank an unknown quantity of whiskey. Hence my stomach’s need to settle.

I did prepare for this situation though, by planning ahead for my first breakfast of 2015: I sent my manfriend to the store for coffee beans and eggs yesterday while I stayed home and made fake sausages and unpacked a gallon of sauerkraut. Sauerkraut is necessary for New Year’s Day so you have good luck in the new year, and as an added bonus it is cheap and easy to make, as well as great for your micro-biome. I’m not sharing how to make kraut today because there are too many other people more qualified than me, but I will share with you how I made my meatless sausages! I made them up as I went along, so understand that the measurements are not precise, but they were awfully tasty.

Veggie Sausage

Ingredients
1 cup cooked lentils, well drained
1 cup cooked white beans, well drained
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup cooked pearl barley (brown rice should also work, I just happened to have cooked barley on hand)
1/4 cup walnuts
1 medium onion
lots of garlic (I used a bunch of those tiny cloves from the center of the head and I didn’t count)
1/2 a medium apple, cored and chopped
3 Tblsp nutritional yeast
1 Tblsp tomato paste
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tsp each of several different dried herbs; I used oregano and thyme and lemon-pepper seasoning blend. Put in sage too. I don’t know why I don’t have it.
1 tsp each of ground coriander, paprika, and turmeric (smoked paprika would be great!)

1. Start by grinding up the onion, garlic, herbs and spices, and walnut in the food processor until you have a chunky paste.
2. Add the beans and lentils, oats, barley, tomato paste, and yeast. Pulse until combined but not totally smooth.
3. Taste for seasoning and once you’ve got it just right, add your apple chunks and pulse a few more times. You want to be able to see some bits of apple.
4. Refrigerate the goop for about half an hour, then shape into links or patties. Actually, make patties because links kind of look like dog turds. Then put them back in the fridge until you’re ready to cook them, even overnight.
5. Cooking method is where I’m not sure what to tell you. I pre-baked mine yesterday at 400 for about 20 minutes (both links and patties), then fried them this morning. They were way too brown and a little dry. I think you’ll get the best results if you fry them in a bunch of oil from raw goop, but that will take forever. So that being said, also feel free to bake them on a parchment-lined pan or greased pan (for more oily sausagey results). Do them like any of my burgers, but perhaps less time since I assume you’ll be making smaller patties. Sorry to be vague. I trust you though. You’re smart people who are probably less hungover than me, and you can figure it out.

We also had grapefruit, grits, bagels, eggs, and coffee for breakfast today with our good-luck kraut and sausage. Put ketchup on the sausage. Why don’t we ever buy ketchup?

Bon appétit! And happy New Year!

2 Meals, 1 Pan

In the interest of using up some leftovers today, I happily created both my lunch to eat at home and dinner to carry to work. In the fridge I found some already chopped onions and peppers as well a box of sliced button mushrooms that needed to be used up before they turned slimy. Additionally, I had a ton of leftover couscous and some lentil soup that I was getting tired of eating. So into the skillet it goes!

Saute until lightly browned and the mushrooms release their juices:
1 small onion, sliced
1/2 box of sliced mushrooms
about 3/4 cup of sliced bell peppers

Add:
2 ladles full of lentil soup, draining off as much of the broth as possible
Heat through.

For lunch at home, I served it over some of that couscous with half of a diced avocado (they were on sale this week for $.49!) and a generous scoop of salsa. An apple for dessert and I’m all set!

For dinner at work, I mixed it with the rest of the avocado and used it with a dollop of garlic hummus to top a microwaved sweet potato.

Yummmm… who says healthy eating is hard?

Simple Skillet Suppers

If last winter was the winter of soup, this is the winter of the skillet.  All my meals lately seem to consist of whatever vegetables I have lying around tossed in a skillet and lightly seasoned.  Some of these meals turn out better than others for sure, but what I am really liking about them is how quickly they come together.  No need to simmer for hours at a time, hovering around near the kitchen lest it scorch or boil over.  Takes about 25 minutes if you chop as you go like I do (a good chef wouldn’t recommend that, but I’m not a chef, so there!)  Here’s one that was particularly delicious.

Southwest Skillet

Ingredients:

2 medium red or other potato (not russets, they fall apart), scrubbed and diced

1 onion, diced

8 oz package mushrooms, sliced

1 large green bell pepper, diced

1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained

1/4-1/2 cup your favorite salsa

salt and pepper to taste

1.  In a large non-stick skillet over medium-high flame, heat enough water to cover the bottom.  Add the onions and potatoes, cover and cook about 5 minutes.

2.  Add the mushrooms and cook uncovered for 5 minutes.

3.  Add the pepper, cover and cook 5 more minutes, adding a little more water if it’s starting to stick.

4.  Finally, add the beans and salsa, give it a good stir and heat through.  Depending on how big you chopped your potatoes, you may need a little more time with the lid on to get them cooked through.

What I liked most about this meal was its versatility.  It made an excellent reheat-able dinner at work, for one thing.  My boyfriend topped it with cheese and wrapped it in a tortilla, and I think he also added some kolbassy when I wasn’t home to wrinkle my nose at it.  I ate the last of it for breakfast today, topped with a fried egg.

Also, the variations are endless!  I’m seeing another version with sweet potatoes, red pepper, and black beans, finished with a squeeze of orange juice and maybe a handful of baby spinach. Yum.  Last week I made one with potatoes, leftover roasted squash, an apple, and some cabbage, finished with lemon juice.  Trust me, that one was much better than it sounds 😉

Green Paste

Today I whipped up some easy healthy soup to (I hope) make up for next week’s impending birthday cake and Christmas cookie binge. One of my coworkers likes to joke that all I eat is green paste, and I’m certainly not proving her wrong tonight. Here’s what I cobbled together in about thirty minutes today.  It isn’t pretty to look at, but it is pretty tasty.

My ugliest meal yet!

My ugliest meal yet!

Green Paste Soup

Ingredients:
1 medium bunch of kale or other greens, coarsely chopped
1 small can tomato paste
1 can butter beans, drained, or any other white bean
3 small onions, or one giant one, or two mediums, chopped
1 bay leaf
4 or more cloves garlic, peeled
whatever herbs you have hanging around
salt and pepper
2 Tbls soy sauce
1/2c whole wheat couscous

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (about half full). Add bay leaf, onions, garlic. Simmer 10 – 15 minutes.
2. Add kale, herbs, and tomato paste, simmer 10 more minutes.
3. Turn off the heat, remove the bay leaf, and puree with an immersion blender until smooth.
4. Add beans and turn heat back up to low, adding soy sauce and other seasonings to taste. If it tastes too acidic, add a spoonful of sugar.
5. Dump in the couscous, stir well, turn off the heat and put a lid on it. Let stand for 5-10 minutes until the couscous is tender.

Enjoy!  I garnished it with some pepitas.  It was also good with nutritional yeast and a dash of hot sauce.

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!

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.

Scattered

If you’ve been looking for new recipes lately and been disappointed, I apologize. I’m exhausted and haven’t had much time or energy to innovate in the kitchen. Between taking on a second job and getting back into painting (my other vocation), there has been little thought put into my food. Naturally, this affects how I feel; I know my energy has waned in part because I’ve been eating wacky meals. My brain is scattered and I end up doing things like overcooking beans (see last post), or cooking them and leaving them on the stove all day, only to have to put the whole pot in the fridge before I dash off to work. Then I forget to do something with them, and end up eating a really stupid meal the next day, like chickpeas with hot sauce and a slice of toast, with some carrots because I don’t have any other vegetables.

Thus, I must tell you about all the quick and easy things I am managing to eat! I managed to make some hummus a few days ago, to eat with raw veggies.  (Turns out I like raw broccoli now. Guess you have to keep trying old things as well as new.)  Good start, as hummus can also go on a sandwich, be thinned out and tossed with pasta, or be jazzed up with new seasonings when you get sick of it after a few days. I’m thinking of turning this batch into baba ghanouj later.

Then there’s soup, that ubiquitous star of my diet.  February in New York requires soup. I’ve been feeling home sick, so I made cabbage soup. My mom makes hers with the ham bone from Christmas. I make mine with loads of veggies, mushrooms, and navy beans. Soup is a good choice for busy people, since you can put it on the stove or in a slow cooker and forget it without doing much harm. I’ve also started chopping veggies in my food processor to save time (I ❤ my food processor).  AND it’s a good thing I made a lot of it since I came down with strep this weekend; I don’t feel like eating much and I definitely don’t feel like cooking.

These things, combined with green smoothies (and dark chocolate!), are rounding out my diet for the moment. Not the most exciting fare, but it gets the job done.

Now, since I’m feeling so uninspired (in the kitchen, anyways), tell me what YOU want to see on The Penny Parsnip. Give me some ideas, I’ll come up with something eventually  (like when I’m done with my antibiotics), I promise! I could always come up with a parsnip smoothie, since that phrase is what leads so many people to my blog. But for the record, a parsnip smoothie sounds gross.

Go forth! Inspire me!

Black Bean Stew with Sweet Potatoes and Collards

This is a hearty, nourishing stew that is perfect for a cold winter day.

Ingredients:

1 lb or so of dry black beans, soaked and cooked, cooking liquid reserved (I removed about 2 cups of cooked beans to store in the freezer for another day)

2 big sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

2 or 3 medium onions, chopped

5-10 cloves garlic (you can leave them whole or mince/crush)

1 bunch of collard greens, stemmed (keep the stems!) and chopped

2 bell peppers, any color, seeded and diced

1 small can tomato paste

Seasoning suggestions:  bay leaf, oregano, cumin, cilantro, cayenne, fresh hot peppers, etc.  A squeeze of lime is nice for serving, too.

1.  Start with your cooked beans simmering in their own broth.  Add garlic, onion, bay leaf, and any other dried seasonings you choose to use.  Save fresh herbs for the end.  Keep it simmering while you chop other things.

2.  Finely mince the stems from the collards.  I did this by putting them into the food processor whole and pulsing until they were in little tiny bits.  I also threw the onions and half the garlic with them, but that’s because I’m lazy, not because it’s necessary.  Feel free to chop everything by hand if you are less lazy than me, or don’t have a food processor.

3.  Add the sweet potatoes, minced stems, and tomato paste to the pot.  You may need to add a little more water at this point too.  Simmer until the sweet potatoes are soft and flavors have melded, 10-20 mins.  Taste and adjust the seasonings, then add the peppers and simmer some more.

4.  Steam the collard leaves until bright green and tender, or if you have a big enough pot (I don’t), just throw them in the soup with the peppers and cook until they wilt.  Add any fresh herbs once all the vegetables are soft.  Serve the stew over the steamed greens and garnish with some hot sauce and nutritional yeast, or a squeeze of lime or a dash of apple cider vinegar.

I like this soup because there’s so little waste.  Why throw those stems away?  When I make collards or kale on their own, I always chop up the stems and saute them with the onions, so I thought, “Why can’t I put them in the soup too?”  The results are delicious, and I hardly had to put any scraps in the garbage.  Bonus of extra fiber!

Healthy Food, Healthy Wallet

Happy New Year!  At a little over a week into 2013, I think it’s time we talked about shopping. I’ve had this post stewing in my head since I started writing this blog back in May.  My own budget is going to be tighter this season as I save up for a possible move in July and continue the never-ending search for the perfect second job.  Thus, I’ll be following my own simple rules for a healthy body and a healthy budget.

First rule for healthy eating:  Avoid packaged, processed foods.  Chances are, if it has more than a few ingredients, it’s really bad for you. Additionally, whatever it is can probably be made at home for far less money (compare the cost of my Black Bean Burgers  to some packaged variety).  My only major exception to this is plant-based milk.  I use it for baking, pancakes, and smoothies and alway get it unsweetened.  The store brands at big health food chain stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are usually the least expensive.  Even at its high price, it still is often cheaper than organic cow’s milk.  Read up on why cow’s milk is bad for you.

Second rule for healthy eating:  Actually, do I need another?  Ummm…Eat more plants!  There are plenty of experts on the internet who can help you with this.  Check out VegSource for more information.  They can link you to all kinds of helpful things.

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Moving along to shopping for those foods…

First rule for a healthy wallet:  Look at the unit price.  That means the price per pound/ounce/gallon/gram etc.  I learned this trick at an early age from my mom, the ultimate bargain-shopping champion.  Unit price is usually printed in tiny letters on the price sticker that’s on the rack at the store.  From there you can tell what’s cheapest for the amount you’re getting.  The bigger package is not always better!  At my local store, black beans are $1.49/lb if you get a one pound bag.  The three pound bag almost always costs more per pound.

Second rule for a healthy wallet:  Shop around and jot down what things cost (unit price!) at different stores.  This is how I know that frozen spinach, edamame, and blueberries are the best price per pound at Trader Joe’s rather than my local grocery.  (I’m a nerd and have a spreadsheet comparing different stores.)  On the flip side, conventionally grown produce is nearly always cheaper at the little Korean market up the street.  That’s a plus, since I like to buy fruits and veggies throughout the week based on what’s on sale.  All I have to do is walk past on my way home.  Pay attention to quality too. Apples are one thing I never fail to buy at the farmers’ market, even though they cost a little more per pound.  They just taste better when they are fresh and local.  To me, that’s worth a little extra money.

Third rule for a healthy wallet:  Keep certain staple items in stock in your pantry and freezer.  For me that means a variety of dried beans (cheaper than canned by a long shot), a variety of whole grains, some canned goods (tomatoes, pumpkin), and frozen produce (always spinach, usually peas and edamame, as well as berries and bananas for smoothies).  I also usually have some nuts and seeds, as well as raisins, whole wheat pasta, root vegetables (potatoes are always a bargain!), and a loaf of frozen sprouted bread.  For beans, grains, nuts, and seeds, I find the bulk bins at a nearby natural food store very helpful.  They are not always cheaper than what I can get at Trader Joe’s, but it’s always worth a look, especially when I want something unusual.  TJ’s is great for brown rice ($1.09/lb!) and nuts, but they don’t have fun things like wheat berries and millet and fava beans.

Getting back to those first two things about healthy eating:  I honestly believe that if you take care of your body now, you’ll save on medical bills later.  Some might attribute my lean figure and low cholesterol to my age, but I don’t.  My family has a long history of weight and heart problems.  I’m determined to beat my genetics.  I’m slim because I eat foods that aren’t very calorie dense and because I walk a lot.  Can’t say for sure why my cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure are so low, but I’ll bet it has something to do with the plants I eat.  Give your body the right fuel and it won’t let you down.

Any questions?  Cheers to your health!

Stretching

Spent too much over the holidays?  Budget shot from too many nights out, plane/train/bus tickets, and gifts for your family and friends?  Yeah, me too.  All will be well when I get paid tomorrow, but in the meantime, I need to make the most of what I’ve got in the pantry.  (Improv Soup, anyone?)

Upon my return to the city over the weekend, I whipped up a red lentil and sweet potato soup with some curry and other spiced.  As I recall, there’s not much in it besides onion, carrots, celery, 2 big sweet potatoes, and half a pound of red lentils.  It’s tasty, but I can make it last longer by doing a few key things:

Adding brown rice (I get it on the cheap at Trader Joe’s for $1.09/lb)

Adding more vegetables (frozen spinach and others are often less than $2/lb)

Adding a can of tomatoes (watch for sales and buy a whole lot!)

I was planning on doing all of these things until I discovered that I am out of canned tomatoes.  Fortunately I had a couple cans of pumpkin, which is a natural addition to sweet potatoes and spices.  I’ve also added cooked brown rice, some frozen green beans, and a 10oz package of frozen spinach.  For more seasoning, I threw in some more spices (fennel, mustard, cumin), minced fresh ginger, and a just starting to shrivel jalapeno.  Some salt too.

Throw it all in a big pot (except for the rice, which you should save for the end so it doesn’t suck up all the broth) and simmer until it tastes good, adjusting the seasonings as it cooks. The only thing I’d change about my soup is that it could use another onion.  What’s really important though, is that I turned three servings of soup into ten.  I’ll eat like a queen until my paycheck clears!

Almost any dish can be stretched into soup this way.  I have a few servings of Wheat Berry Salad that could probably stand the same treatment if necessary.  Just add water, onion/carrot/celery, and some beans or canned tomatoes, simmer, and voila!  Soup.  Even if you’re not broke, it’s a great way to use up leftovers that you’ve grown weary of.