Green Tacos

I needed to use up kale from my garden before it went to seed. And I was in the mood for tacos. So I decided to try this recipe for sweet potato and kale taco filling. The recipe calls for grated sweet potatoes. I was a little skeptical of this, but I was pleasantly surprised. The texture was great in the tacos. The recipe is super fast and easy and very tasty. I made it with this tempeh chorizo recipe and kidney beans. The combo was great. I’ll definitely make this again. In fact I already bought another sweet potato!

https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/green-tacos

Rice Noodles with Eggs, Broccoli, and Dark Soy Sauce

Recently, one of my neighbors was giving away a bunch of vegetarian cookbooks. In the pile was Real Vegetarian Thai by Nancie McDermott, a cookbook I know my mother owns and likes.

The first recipe I tried was this rice noodle dish from page 164. Nancie describes the dish as easy to prepare and indeed it was. I could see myself making this on a weeknight when I want something comforting and indulgent as an alternative to ordering take out.

The recipe calls for a dark sweet soy sauce called si-yu but offers an alternative combo of regular soy sauce and brown sugar. I used this option since I didn’t have si-yu. But next time I go to the asian market I’ll be looking for si-yu so I can try making this again. The other change I made was reducing the oil. Nancie calls for 3 tbsp. I only used 4 tsp. Next time I think I’d try cutting it to 1 tbsp since the dish was still pretty high calorie.

I followed the timing of the dish carefully and the veggies came out crisp, just like I like them. The flavor of the dish was peppery and savory. And the eggs add a creamy aspect. Very yummy. Nancie calls for offering chili vinegar as a condiment, but I didn’t have any. So instead I used about a teaspoon of rice vinegar on each bowl, which added to the flavor. I’d like to pick up chili vinegar for the next time I make this.

Update: So far I’ve made this twice, once for myself and once for my sister’s family while in Germany. It was a hit both times. Easy, tasty, filling, and indulgent. A very good weeknight dish indeed. The only issue we had with the dish was the ratio of pasta to broccoli. Everyone, including my seven-year-old niece, agreed it needed more broccoli. Although I think I messed up the proportions when I made it for my sister’s family, so it probably was more that than the recipe. Still, I’d do 4 cups of broccoli instead of 3 and probably 7 ounces of pasta instead of 8 and see how that went. The other issue I had both times was volume. Flipping this recipe without a big wok is really hard. Next time I’m going to try making it in my cast iron dutch oven and see how that goes instead.

Borlotti Bean Mole with Roast Winter Squash

My sister posted this recipe on her blog. I’ve never actually made mole. Since this recipe just kind of creates the mole in the broth of the stew, it seemed like a good starter mole recipe. I used 85% chocolate instead of the 70% called for. I used two dried red chilies and two jalapenos and there was absolutely no spice in the final dish. It’s possible that somehow I ended up with jalapenos with no spice in them. Who knows. I also used double the kale called for.

The recipe calls for you to cook the dish in the oven for two hours. I did do this, but my sister says she didn’t and the dish tasted fine. So it might be an unnecessary step.

The final dish had a nice flavor, and I enjoyed eating it the first time. But I didn’t want to eat it the next day. It just wasn’t interesting or indulgent enough to hold my interest. I added 8 oz of cubed seitan, and I thought this really helped the dish. With the seitan it felt more indulgent and I enjoyed it for the rest of the week.

Aguadito

I was intrigued by this recipe for the popular hangover cure soup from page 99 of The Peruvian Vegan Cookbook. I liked the idea of a cilantro broth. And the potatoes and peppers in the picture looked so hearty and satisfying.

The recipe warns that the soup should be eaten immediately after making it, because it thickens with time. I actually didn’t have the thickening issue. However, I did find that the soup was much tastier the first night I made it. I suppose with time the cilantro looses some of it’s flavor. If I was rating it from the first niht, I’d give this recipe an A-. It was so flavorful unique, and satisfying. But the score dropped on the second day. Still good, just not quite so flavorful.

Overall, I found the potatoes in the recipe were a bit bland. I think I could enhance the second-day flavor of the recipe by using broth instead of water, which is what this recipes called for. I’m going to try making it again with a high-flavor broth and see if I can up the second-day flavor factor. Overall, even with that issue though, it was very good.

Smoky Lentil Stew with Leeks and Potatoes

The way I cook- making two recipes each weekend that I eat all week- I have to find recipes that are interesting enough that I will want to eat them five days in a row. So I rarely make lentil soup. Usually, I find that I get bored with lentil soup after a couple days and it ends up in the trash. But this recipe from the New York times includes potatoes, leeks, and a lot of spices and seemed interesting enough to possibly eat for a full week.

I was right. The spices created much needed complexity and the potatoes added enough carb-induced instant gratification to make the recipe more satisfying than the average lentil soup. The fresh parsley really helped add extra flavor and texture to an already good recipe. This easy, cheap, and healthy stew is a winner in my book.

A couple notes for next time: It seemed silly to leave half a cup of tomatoes in the can. And after eating the stew, I was confident the extra tomatoes would only have added extra flavor. Next time I’ll just add the full can. Also, I think you could reduce the number of pots by cooking the potatoes in the same pot with the lentils. I’d just add them halfway through the lentil cooking time.

Sautéed Kale, Red Cabbage, and Caraway Seeds

My sister really likes this recipe from Fresh Food Fast, so I decided to try it. But I wasn’t particularly impressed. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good enough to make again. The kale to cabbage ratio seemed off to me. I though it needed another cup of cabbage. Also, I didn’t like that it just said “season with apple cider vinegar”. There was no recommended amount of vinegar to add. I ended up adding too much. Plus, I couldn’t really taste the caraway, so it just basically tasted like vinegary kale with a little bit of cabbage thrown in.

Butternut Squash Soup

I got this Cook’s Illustrated recipe for Butternut Squash Soup off of my sister’s blog. She really likes it. I used 2% milk instead of cream. I’m really not sure what to think about the recipe. On the one hand, the first time I tasted the soup I really liked it. The flavor was rich and complex. On the other hand, I had to force myself to eat it for the rest of the week and didn’t end up finishing it. I’m not sure if it’s the recipe or if I just don’t like butternut squash soup that much.

Vegetarian Pho

I fell in love with pho while living in D.C. A restaurant called Pho 14 in Columbia Heights serves a delicious vegetarian pho made with a broth made from fuji apples. After I moved to North Carolina I found myself craving that pho and unable to find anything like it. Most pho restaurants that attempt a vegetarian pho broth use something that tastes like mock chicken broth to me. Not at all what I was missing. I decided to try to make it myself. I started by googling “fuji apple pho recipe”. This took me to this blog https://southofparadise.wordpress.com/2014/11/03/vegetarian-pho-with-homemade-fuji-apple-broth/. The person writing it was in the same position as me. Trying to recreate a beloved restaurant meal without any recipe. Using this recipe as a starting place, I’ve been tinkering with the recipe for the last five years, adding in some elements from this recipe when it was published a few years ago https://food52.com/blog/19080-how-pho-genius-andrea-nguyen-makes-a-richer-vegan-broth.

Here is the result.

Broth:

7 Fuji Apples (cut in half)

2 Carrots

1 Onion

3 celery stocks

10 peppercorns

1 tsp coriander seeds

3 cinnamon sticks

1 star anise

2 cloves

  1. Put all the ingredients into an instant pot or a 6 quart slow cooker.
  2. Fill it up with water, leaving 1-2 inches of space at the top
  3. Cook on high (if your slow cooker has settings) for 10 hours

The idea behind this broth recipe is to make a concentrated broth so that it can be stores easily or combined with boiling water for a hot bowl of pho without having to microwave the broth. I put the broth in jars in the freezer and enjoy pho all season without having to constantly make more broth. I find that the right combination of water to broth is 1/3 broth 2/3 water.

Once you have the broth made, there’s only one more thing you need to make ahead of time before you’re ready for an almost instant delicious weeknight dinner: the tofu. I played around with various options for recreating the delicious deep fried tofu found in pho restaurants. I’ve actually decided that the best no deep-fry option is to bake the tofu. The tofu comes out crispy and tough. It’s not the same as restaurant tofu but it gives me the same textural satisfaction in the bowl. Here’s how I do it:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 Fahrenheit
  2. Cut a block of medium tofu into 2/3 inch squares
  3. Put 1 tsp of canola oil on a cookie sheet and spread it around.
  4. Put the tofu on the cookie sheet and spread it around flipping it on all sides to make sure all sides get coated in oil
  5. Cook the tofu, flipping it halfway through, until all sides are golden.

Now you’re ready for almost instant weeknight pho. Here’s how I do it. The proportions are for 1 large bowl of pho.

Ingredients:

2/3 cup of pho broth, left out to room temperature

1 cup Broccoli, in bite size pieces

1/2 Carrot, cut into 1/4 inch slices

4 Dried mushroom, in bite size pieces

1/2 cup Vermicelli rice noodles

1/5 block cooked tofu

Basil

Bean sprouts

Siracha

Hoison Sauce

Lime or lemon juice

  1. Boil 3 cups of water (I do this in a kettle)
  2. Put rice noodles into a heat-proof large bowl or pot, breaking them up so that each piece is 2 inches long
  3. Add the veggies to the bowl
  4. Add 2 tsp of soy sauce to the bowl
  5. Once the water is boiling, pour it into the bowl with the noodles and veggies
  6. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, until everything is soft
  7. While ingredients are soaking, boil another 1 1/3 cup water
  8. Put the soft veggies and noodles, along with the tofu, into the bowl with the broth
  9. Pour in the boiling water
  10. Add lemon juice, hoison, siracha, basil, and bean sprouts as desired

Yam and Peanut Stew with Kale

I love peanuts. I love kale. And I love a rich, hardy one pot meal with enough flavor and textural interest to keep me eating happily all week. West African Peanut yam stew with kale tics all those boxes. Which is why it’s a go to for me in the winter. The trick is to add the kale after the soup is turned off so it keeps its texture and color.

https://food52.com/recipes/19854-yam-and-peanut-stew-with-kale

Pumpkin, Pear, and Fennel Soup

I’m kind of iffy on recipe that include pear. Which is probably why it took me so long to try this recipe from page 183 of Fresh Food Fast. But eventually the fennel drew me in. I really like fennel. I was pleasantly surprised by this recipe. It was very easy and quite yummy. The mixture of flavors was complex and soothing. I’ll be making it again once my winter squash is ready for harvest.