Vegetarian Yuletide Stew

Food styling and photography by Nicholas Efran.

My brother Ben Stallings invented this meal last night, and all 8 assembled relatives liked it!  The red and green colors are appropriate to the season.  It’s healthy, inexpensive, and quick to make.

p1040088To make about 10 main-dish servings, you will need

  • 1 small onion
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 45 oz. canned black beans, or 3-4 cups cooked black beans
  • 45 oz. canned diced tomatoes, or 3-4 cups fresh or frozen-and-thawed diced tomatoes, including juice
  • 3 cups shredded kale
  • salt to taste
  • granulated garlic to taste
  • oregano to taste
  • cumin to taste
  • balsamic vinegar to taste

Dice onion and brown it in olive oil in a large saucepan.  Meanwhile, drain and rinse beans.

Combine all ingredients in the saucepan.  Simmer until kale is cooked to your liking.

Serve with rice and grated cheese for each person to add as she prefers.  (The serving in the picture is mixed with a lot of rice, and no cheese.)

Visit Real Food Friday for more great things to eat at your holiday gatherings!

5 Fish-Free Family-Friendly Meals for Lent

It’s the third week of Lent, and if you observe the custom of fasting from land-animal meat on Fridays (or on all the days of Lent) but you normally eat lots of meat, by now you’re probably getting tired of fish sticks and macaroni-and-cheese!  It’s time for something different–and less expensive, too.

Here are 5 legume-based meals my family really likes.  Our kids are 11-year-old Nicholas and 21-month-old Lydia.  Most of these meals also have been eaten happily by Nick’s elementary-aged friends at some point.  If someone you’re feeding doesn’t like spicy food, though, you’ll want to be cautious with the pepper and ginger–maybe try half the amount the recipe specifies, or just leave it out, depending on your sensitivity level.

My family could eat all these meals in a week.  If you’re unaccustomed to eating legumes, don’t start out with too many as they may upset your digestion–but one meal a week should be fine.  Why not legumes on Friday instead of fish on Friday?  (Is it just because legume doesn’t start with F?)

All of these meals are gluten-free and vegan, unless you choose some of the optional embellishments or side dishes. Read more of this post

Cheesy Zucchini Casserole

This recipe came about when my ten-year-old Nicholas rejected the first two ideas I proposed for using the enormous zucchini we got in our farm share: (1) “Nooo! We still have zucchini bread from last time!” and (2) “Nothing with tomato sauce unless it is a pizza.”  Hmmm… I remembered a casserole recipe from some magazine that I made a couple of times in the 1990s but threw out in the transition from recipe cards to our recipe binder because it called for canned soup and saltine crackers and we just weren’t keeping those things on hand anymore.  That casserole had corn in it; Nicholas likes corn, and we have a huge bag of frozen organic corn.  (By the way, zucchini and corn are two vegetables that are important to buy organic to avoid genetically modified organisms.)  Instead of the soup, we could use cheese to hold it together.  What other farm produce did we need to use up?  Garlic scapes and the dill from a couple weeks ago that I’d hung up to dry.

[UPDATE: I made this again in December using frozen zucchini and corn left over from Thanksgiving.  See the note at the bottom for help with frozen zucchini–it did turn out well, but it required some techniques I learned from previous mishaps in other recipes!]

I didn’t measure anything, but I can tell you approximately what you’ll need to make a 10″x15″ casserole:

  • 1 medium-sized zucchini (If you have a giant one, grate the whole thing and freeze excess in appropriate portions for future recipes.)
  • 2 cups corn kernels (If they’re frozen, just measure the 2 cups and set out at room temperature to thaw while you prepare the rest of the food.  It’s okay if they still feel icy when going into the oven; they’re small and will cook well enough in the end.)
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 7 garlic scapes, or 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp. dried dill
  • 1 tsp. dried tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper (Black pepper would be fine if you don’t have white.)
  • 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar or monterey jack cheese (You can grate extra cheese and freeze it, too, or just set it aside for another meal requiring grated cheese.)

Read more of this post

Ginger Black Bean Soup (slow cooker)

Meatless MondayWe got a slow cooker a little over a year ago, and we like it a lot!  It’s a great way to make a lot of food without having to stand over it stirring, which is a relief in hot weather and convenient anytime.  So far, we’ve only made other people’s recipes, as we develop our sense of what ingredients in what proportions will become food (rather than a watery mess or a blackened sludge).

This recipe is merely a change of seasoning for the Vegan Black Bean Soup recipe from Stuffed Veggies.  We made that soup three times and liked it, but the Mexican flavor was too similar to the Bean Burritos and Mexican Pizza that are staples in our diet.  This variation turned out to be just what we wanted!

To make a big pot of soup (8-10 bowls) you will need: Read more of this post

Green Ribbon Lentils

Almost two years ago, I saw this recipe for Garlicky Lentils and Tomatoes, which is very flexible.  We have tried it several different ways, and this variation has become a favorite.

This recipe is easy, cheap, and pretty quick!  It is vegan and gluten-free.  It has lots of fiber, vitamins, protein, and iron.  It can stand alone as a meal or be eaten with bread, over rice, or even on a bun like Sloppy Joe.

It’s a great way to use some of the tomatoes that are so abundant at this time of year–but it also tastes great made with canned tomatoes at any time of year.  It’s also yet another way to use kale, a vegetable that tends to be affordably priced year-round and freezes well.

Best of all, this recipe appeals to our nine-year-old son, and it gets a lot of healthy dark-green vegetable into him! Read more…

Bean Wraps with Smoked Gouda and Pineapple

Meatless MondayUPDATE: Eight months later, I’m sharing this recipe at Meatless Monday.  It’s a great quick meal at any time of year because all the ingredients are shelf-stable except for the cheese and wrapper; it doesn’t use fresh foods that are in season at a particular time of year–unless you live in pineapple country!

Don’t eat cheese?  Baked smoked tofu would be delicious in this, too.

Last Saturday, despite being extremely pregnant, I managed to attend and enjoy both a very nice birthday party at a nature reserve and the springtime celebration of the Edible Schoolyard at my son’s school–but then I was very tired.  On the way home from the school event, I asked nine-year-old Nicholas to help me think of something quick and easy we could make for dinner after I’d had some time to lie down.

He was eager to eat some of the smoked gouda cheese we had bought at Trader Joe’s on the way home from the birthday party.  (To my surprise, it cost only a little more than basic cheeses like cheddar at our supermarket.)  He also remembered that we’d bought tortillas….  “Let’s have a different flavor of bean burritos!”

I felt that cannellini beans (white kidney beans) would be the variety most likely to taste good with smoked gouda.  I thought some kind of fruit might be good with them, but we didn’t have apples or pears, hmmm…

Nicholas found a can of pineapple rings in the pantry and announced that he would grill them on the George Foreman grill.  This went well, although it was kind of smoky–we opened the window!  He used the drip tray to catch the juice that ran off, and used the sort of fingered spatula thing that comes with the grill to scrape off the blackened pineapple juice after each ring.  While he was doing that, I heated and seasoned the beans.

Our bean wraps were delicious!  Very savory, almost bacon-like flavor.  Here’s the recipe we invented!

To make 3 main-dish servings, you will need:

  • 2 cans or 1 1/2 cups cooked cannellini beans (or other mild-flavored beans)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
  • sea salt and white pepper to taste (I used about 1/2 tsp. of each)
  • about 1/5 pound smoked gouda cheese
  • 3 large flour tortillas (Alternatively, I bet this would taste great wrapped in lettuce leaves, for a low-carb/gluten-free variant.)
  • 6 pineapple rings

Peel and slice the garlic.  Saute it in olive oil in a large skillet, not too hot.  Meanwhile, drain and rinse the beans.  When garlic begins to brown, add beans, tarragon, salt, and pepper to skillet.  Cook for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, dice the cheese, and grill the pineapple (or brown it in a smaller skillet or in the toaster-oven) if desired.

Sprinkle cheese over surface of beans.  Cover pan and turn off heat.  Warm the tortillas (or wash the lettuce).  Cut each pineapple ring in half.

Divide bean mixture evenly among wraps.  Arrange 4 half-rings of pineapple atop the beans in each wrap.  Wrap them up.

Visit the Hearth & Soul Blog Hop for more great recipes! Visit Works-for-Me Wednesday and Waste Not Want Not Wednesday for lots of useful tips!

No-Bake Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie for Summer

This is not so much a recipe as an example of how to work with the food, and the weather, that you happen to have.  Last weekend was very hot and humid, and we had some ingredients that needed to be used, including just two potatoes from our farm share–not enough to make a baked potato for each member of our 3-person family.  When I mused to Daniel about what to do with the potatoes, he suggested shepherd’s pie, which has mashed potato as the bottom layer.

The trouble was that shepherd’s pie is baked.  There was no way I was going to turn on the oven in this weather!  We don’t have air conditioning, but even in an air-conditioned house, it’s silly to use the oven in hot weather because it will make the AC work harder and waste energy.  I wondered if I could just make the mashed potatoes (only a small amount, so not too steamy) and briefly cook some other food and put it all together in a casserole dish.

It worked!  My casserole did not hold together particularly well when served, but a baked shepherd’s pie usually doesn’t, either.  All of us liked this main dish, served with a side of grapes.

Our eight-year-old Nicholas took this picture of the starting ingredients:

Read more…

Mexican Pizza

I mentioned in my most recent multi-week menu post making Mexican Pizza, an easy and versatile meal that my mom makes frequently.  As I wrote that, it occurred to me to ask Mom if there is a recipe for Mexican Pizza or she’s just been winging it all along!  She has no written recipe, but with her input, I’ve written some guidelines for making Mexican Pizza.

To make one pan–a meal or main dish for 4-6 people–you will need:

  • 1 batch of freshly mixed cornbread batter, the amount that normally would bake in a 9- or 10-inch square/round pan.  Use your favorite recipe, but consider decreasing the sugar.  You could add a little chili powder if you want.  If you don’t have a favorite recipe, see below.
  • 1 1/2 cups (or 15-oz. can) cooked Mexican-flavored beans.  These might be left over from another meal, prepared by your favorite Mexicanating process, or  just plain beans plus 1 cup salsa.  Mom suggests this: Drain and rinse a can of pinto or red beans; combine with 8 oz. (1 cup) tomato sauce fortified with chili powder, dried diced onion, oregano, garlic powder to taste.
  • 1-2 cups grated cheddar or jack cheese.
  • Optional ingredients: peppers, olives, etc.
  • 9″x13″ baking pan, or cookie sheet with sides.
  • Grease for the pan.  I like coconut oil.
  • Optional cold toppings to add after baking: guacamole, plain yogurt or sour cream, shredded lettuce, cilantro.

Preheat oven to 425F.  Grease the pan.  Pour in the batter and spread it to cover the bottom of the pan.  If using a cookie sheet, start from one end and spread batter toward the other end until you begin having trouble getting it to stay together–it should be about 1/2″ deep and may not fill the whole cookie sheet.

Sprinkle beans and optional ingredients evenly over the batter.  Sprinkle cheese evenly on top.

Bake 10 minutes.  Check to see if you can lift the edge of the crust easily with a spatula.  If not, keep baking and checking every few minutes until it’s done–typically 15-20 minutes.

Cut into squares and serve with optional cold toppings. Read on for the cornbread recipe!

How to Get a Kid to Like Mushrooms

We strive to be the kind of family that shares meals–not the kind that “has to” fix nuggets and fries for the kid every night!  The reality is somewhere in between.  Many of my multi-week menus indicate adaptations for Nicholas: We prepared meal components separately and served his in separate dishes not touching, while we mixed ours together; or we set aside food for him to eat plain, while we seasoned ours in some interesting way; or we served him cucumber or apple slices because he wouldn’t eat our vegetables; or we even fixed a packaged food for him to eat while we ate leftovers of something he hadn’t liked so much.  Different people like different things, and once in a while our menu bends around one of the adults disliking something.

Still, in general we want Nicholas to eat a wide variety of foods for nutritional and politeness reasons, and we want him to like what we like because it’s convenient!  I’ve read–and I remember from my own childhood experiences–that children often come to enjoy a food they previously rejected as their tastes change with time and/or repeated tasting of the food enables them to notice its good aspects more than its bad ones.

Nicholas just turned 8 and just overcame his resistance to mushrooms, in almost exactly the same way as I did at almost exactly the same age.  These are the features of this process: Read more…

What to Do with Bread Heels

Some people consider the ends of a loaf of bread to be the best parts. My family, though, prefers the middle slices. Daniel often will eat the heel that is at the top of the bag, but by the time we get to the bottom of the bag, the other heel is less appealing. (This is despite our policy of keeping the bread in the refrigerator most of the time. That prevents mold, but the last bit of the bread does get very slightly damp so that it isn’t so appealing, especially if a fresh loaf  is available.)

We go through at least a loaf of bread a week, thanks to our seven-year-old’s fondness for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, so every few months I notice that there are a lot of bread bags with one heel in each one, lying around in the back of the refrigerator. What to do with all of them?

Cheesy Vegetable Bread Pudding!

Read more…

7 Delicious Meatless Recipes from Other Sites

Food on Fridays7 Quick Takes FridayHearth & Soul Hop

We enjoy plenty of our own recipes, but I also have fun browsing recipes online and copying down recipes we might like.  Here are 7 that have earned pages in our recipe binder.  If you are vegetarian or vegan or have given up meat for Lent or are observing Meatless Mondays or meatless Lenten Fridays, you’ll appreciate that none of these recipes contains red meat or poultry, only one contains fish, and the last 4 contain no animal foods at all.

1. Lemon Creamy Salmon with Macaroni and a Salad from Crest Cottage Creations

This actually is a recipe for chicken, but we made it with salmon (and vegetable broth instead of chicken broth), and it was fabulous!!  Just open a can of salmon, take out the bones if you prefer, and use it in place of the chicken.  We also used whole-milk yogurt in place of the cream, and the sauce was delicious.  This is a recipe for a full meal: fish in creamy sauce, pasta, and greens with dressing and dried cranberries.  We used kale as our greens–lightly cooked in the oil and vinegar.  My seven-year-old assistant chef appreciated having all his meal components in separate dishes (he even ate the dried cranberries separately) while his parents mixed everything together.

2. Cheesy Walnut Burgers from Taste of Home

This is the recipe my brother found when trying to replicate a burger he’d enjoyed in a restaurant.  These are pretty high in fat but no worse than a hamburger, and boy are they scrumptious!  They are easy to make, freeze well, and after defrosting (or refrigeration) can be reheated on a George Foreman grill.  This recipe works fine with pecans instead of walnuts, if that’s what you have.

3. Creamed Kale with Caramelized Onion from Budget Saving Mom

This is intended as a side dish, but in my enthusiastic opinion, you can stuff a baked potato with it and call it a meal!  The nutmeg really makes it perfect.

4. Brown Rice Salad from My Sweet and Savory

This recipe is ideal for summer picnics or potluck dinners, but it’s also good at any time of year as a side dish or snack that you can make in advance, stash in the refrigerator for a week or so, and eat cold.  The flavor improves as it soaks.  The combination of ingredients may sound odd, but it’s really good.  I’m not a big fan of brown rice, even though I know it’s healthier than white rice, so I was thrilled to find this recipe just after I had bought brown rice on sale.

5. One-bowl Pumpkin Bread/Muffins from Kitchen Stewardship

This is easier than most pumpkin bread recipes yet is the best of any of the several recipes we’ve tried!  Katie’s post includes a “healthy remake” version (that’s the one we use, substituting sorghum syrup for molasses) and helpful suggestions for using up excess pumpkin–although my solution to that problem is just to double the recipe!

6. Garlic Kale Sweet Potato Soup from 365 Days of Kale

This soup is packed with nutritional super-foods and is hearty enough to make a meal all by itself!  (Why, yes, we do eat a lot of kale in our family.  It’s nutritious, it’s cheap, and we’re not worried about it being “goitrogenic.”)  Between the sweet potatoes and the beans, this tasty soup is starchy enough that even I feel full without eating bread or crackers.  We’ve made it several times and think it’s even better with slightly more sweet potato than suggested.  It also works with pinto beans when cannellini beans are too expensive.  It has a rich, tasty, Italian flavor.  Don’t worry about the huge quantity of garlic; it mellows with cooking.

7. Vegan Ginger Cookies from

These are the cookies we baked last fall when one of our son’s friends celebrated his birthday with a cookie competition: Each guest brought a batch of homemade cookies, we all watched as the birthday boy sampled each one and conveyed his impressions, the guests snacked on the remaining cookies while the birthday boy and his parents prepared the award certificates, and then the certificates were presented with much pomp.  Our cookies won Most Crunchy, a high compliment in this boy’s opinion.  He is vegan and allergic to corn, which ruled out several of our favorite cookie recipes, so we were thrilled when this one worked so well.  Now it has joined our favorite cookie recipes!

Spring Sale Vegetables for Supper…and Breakfast!

The sale items in the produce departments of our local supermarkets for the last few weeks have included kale, Vidalia onions (at half the typical onion price–must be a bumper crop!), mushrooms, and sweet potatoes.  We have favorite recipes using all of these ingredients, but I came up with a new one on the spur of the moment that was so good that when I saw the leftovers in the refrigerator the next morning, I just could not convince myself to eat anything other than that! Read more…

Electric Kettle

I love hot drinks.  In addition to my dependence on coffee or caffeinated tea, I drink hot chocolate or herbal tea regularly in cold weather to warm me up–and I sometimes need that even in the hottest weather when my office building’s management chooses absurd air-conditioner settings!  I’m also a big fan of quick oats at home and instant oatmeal as an office snack: It’s quick and easy to make, it’s tasty, a packet has just enough calories to make me feel really full without spoiling my next meal, and Costco recently introduced a Kirkland brand gigantic variety pack of instant oatmeal that’s organic yet very affordable!

I used to make my at-home hot drinks and oatmeal by boiling water in a kettle on the stove burner.  That worked just fine.  But at work, I was heating water in the microwave, which just doesn’t work all that well–it can get too hot without actually boiling, sometimes parts of the cup are different temperatures, and if you screw up (particularly with oatmeal) it can explode and slop all over you!  My new year’s resolution in 2002 was to switch from coffee to tea, but tea made with microwaved water was just not right.  I needed a better boiling method to help me keep my resolution. Read more…

Lentil Rice

This is a recipe that really works for me!  I developed it when I was on maternity leave and wanted hot lunches and needed plenty of nutritious calories for breastfeeding, but I was distracted by the baby and often literally had my hands full.  It takes a while to cook, but it can be left unsupervised for most of that time, and if you need to turn it off for a while and then finish cooking it later that’s not a problem.  It reheats well, so after putting in the effort to make a big vat of it, you’ll have lots of quick meals available!  You can even freeze it to eat a month or two later.  The vegetable-cutting-up can be done in advance, or you can use frozen veggiesLentils and rice are cheap and shelf-stable, easy to keep on hand all the time.  All the cooking water is absorbed by the food, so you don’t pour off any nutrients. Read more…

Spam’s Spinach-ghetti

Don’t worry, this recipe does not include that horrible canned meatlike product!!

Way back in 2001 (whoa, I feel so old every time I say that!) when we bought a share in a CSA farm for the first time, we were baffled about what to do with so much spinach–the first few weeks, we received a pound or two of spinach every week. We’ve since learned many yummy ways to fix spinach (all of our kale ideas, except the crispy one, also work with spinach) but at the time, we were struggling.

Then our friend Spam (his real name is Steve, but we call him by his initials) taught us this easy, tasty way to use spinach:

Start cooking some spaghetti and heating up some sauce. Meanwhile, put a lot of spinach into your colander in the sink–really, a lot of spinach, twice as much as you think you could eat if it was your entire meal, because it’s going to shrink dramatically. Wash the spinach and remove tough stems and any other yucky parts.

When the spaghetti is ready, drain it onto the spinach. The hot water will cook the spinach just the right amount!

Put spinach and spaghetti back into the pot. The spinach will be sort of matted together. Use a pasta claw or a fork to separate the leaves and mix them into the spaghetti.

Serve spinach-ghetti onto plates and top with sauce.

High-Protein, Vegan Pasta Salad

This recipe is an improvement on Becca’s Pasta Salad, which was a staple of our diet for years until our gradually improving eating habits made us more aware of its flaws: It contains no significant protein (pasta has a little bit; whole-wheat pasta has more), and it relies on two condiments that tend to be pricey and full of additives.  We’ve found brands of canned fried onions without additives (Valu Time and Trader Joe’s) but they’re still not a healthy food.

After some experimentation, I developed this ***NEW!!!***IMPROVED!!!*** more nutritious Pasta Salad.  Note that you can reserve some of the cooked pasta and veggies for the Original Recipe treatment and use the Improved Recipe on the rest, thus pleasing a variety of palates or just giving yourself some variety as you eat leftovers. Read more…

Becca’s Broccoli Casserole

UPDATE (January 20, 2012): It’s been 12 years since we posted this recipe, and for some reason it had been about 5 years since we made it.  I recently got a good price on rice by buying a 20-pound bag, so when planning our menu I wanted to include more rice and remembered this recipe.  Daniel cooked it for us last night, and I’m eating leftovers for lunch as I write this, and WOW, IS THIS EVER DELICIOUS!!  We must stop neglecting this recipe!  I’m linking it to the Food on Fridays blog carnival; click on the broccoli (how appropriate!) to see at least 17 other recipes.

We love broccoli but aren’t so crazy about the typical broccoli casserole that contains scary “cheese food” and such, so I came up with this recipe.  It’s a tasty way to turn leftover rice into something completely different, and I bet you could use other cooked grains if that’s what you happen to have on hand. Read more…

Beans & Rice

by Dan Efran

This is our basic “Mexican food” recipe. It is very flexible–add or subtract anything you like, or change the proportions. This reheats very well. You can use leftover beans, leftover rice, or any appropriate leftover vegetables you happen to have. Read more…

Becca’s Pasta Salad

I invented this recipe when I happened to have some ranch dressing and canned fried onions to use up. It quickly became a staple of my diet, and when Daniel and I began living together he immediately became enamored of it. (“This is great! What is it?” “Uhh…it’s just something I cook…I never needed a name for it in my brain….” “Well, think of a name so we can talk about it so we can make it all the time!”) We still eat it often, although I’ve also invented a more nutritious Improved Pasta Salad. Although this recipe contains suspicious processed ingredients, it is an easy way to get your vegetables, and it reheats well in a microwave. Read more…